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Le birth.

25 Sep

I am pleased to announce the newest addition to our little family:

Sweet Chuck

born September 20, 2012

9:10 P.M.

9 pounds, 3 ounces

22 1/2 inches long

While the inspiration for her older brother’s nickname, Seabass, is perhaps a bit less lofty, Sweet Chuck (or S.C.) is named after a term of endearment for the Princess of France in Shakespeare’s comedy, Love’s Labors Lost.

…the king would have me
present the princess, sweet chuck, with some
delightful ostentation, or show, or pageant, or
antique, or firework.

I chose this name above all others because there is something in this child’s mild temperament that is so lovely and sweet, I couldn’t go and give her just any funny ole name.

That being said, I’m delighted that her name also references Chuck Norris, because she, like Chuck Norris, can kick something fierce.  I know this from several months’ intimate experience.

Anyway: The birth.

Forget banana bread, enchiladas, castor oil, or twiddling nipples.  The sure-fire way to send an overdue woman into labor is Cumin and Ancho ChickenThis meal involves rubbing chicken thighs with 3 tablespoons EACH ancho chile powder and cumin, then frying it in a little bit of vegetable oil.  Now, I love spicy food, so the heat on this chicken wasn’t a problem for me.  The rest of my family, however, was coughing and sputtering the entire time I fried the thighs, just from the scent of chile powder in the air.  I’m pretty sure the dog even coughed once or twice.

As I slaved away in the kitchen, I took a total of three bites before I realized I was contracting.

“Um, I think I should announce to the group that I’m undergoing contractions,” I said.

“You are not,” replied Jake, who was working on some home improvement project in the living room.  (I seriously think he remained unconvinced that we were having a baby until she slid out of me.  In fact, he even left the garage open later that night, in case he wound up with “time to work on stuff.”)

“MMMMMmmm, yes I am.”

Even so, I managed to sit at the table and share an entire taco of spicy chicken with everyone before feeling the need to walk.  As Jake and I walked the neighborhood, I used a fantastic app called Full Term to record the length of each contraction and average the distance between each of them over time – rather handy when you aren’t sure if you should leave for the hospital.  (E.g. sweet husband asks “Are the contractions two minutes apart and lasting 60 seconds each yet?” To which demon wife yells “I DON’T KNOW I’M TOO BUSY EXPERIENCING THEM AND WANTING TO DIE OH AND P.S. I HATE YOU FOR DOING THIS TO ME.”)

Anyway, after walking for a bit, we returned home so that I could hop in the tub and do my business in a warm bath.  I didn’t realize it, but Seabass was still awake and being put to bed by his Grandma.  As I moaned and swayed through another wave, I felt four eyes boring holes into me.  Sure enough, I looked up and found that Jake and Seabass had snuck into the bathroom to watch me.

“Mama doing?” my precious boy asked, tentatively.

“Oh sweetheart, Mama’s just taking a bath,” I said, “Nothing to worry about!”  But I could tell he was unconvinced.  I gave him a brief kiss, told him I loved him no matter what, and then shooed them out of the room.  I was in labor, after all.

After the bath, I managed to get dressed before heading to the living room to moan on the exercise ball a bit.  Jake decided to call the doctor, who heard our tale and told us to depart for the hospital whenever we were “ready.”

“Are we ready?” asked Jake, pretty well spun-up at this point, but still a little unsure that I was in labor.

“Let’s do this,” I grunted.

From this point on, things are a little bit blurry.  I remember being in the car and having a couple of long contractions, walking up the stairs to the hospital birthing center and trying to smile at the nurses, who whooped and giggled that a baby was about to be born.  (God bless the nurses of French Hospital! What an amazing group of people.)  Our main nurse, Marian, informed us that the tub room would be available after she cleaned it and filled the tub – in about an hour.  Until then, we were welcome to use a temporary room.

Hearing her say that I’d need to wait an hour before going to the tub room was like dying a little death.  I can’t do this for another hour.  It was right around then that my contractions started to get more intense.  And by intense, I mean moaning became yelling.  From my “temporary” hospital bed, the nurses asked me to get up and go to the bathroom to pee into a cup or something crazy.  When I did, my water broke with a vengeance, all over Jake’s shoes (I’m 0 for 2 on that, by the by – yessss, fist pump).  My contraction then went out-of-control painful.  “Should we keep moving toward the bathroom?” asked Jake, trying not to slip in my amniotic fluid.

“Nope – she needs to back in the bed,” said Marian.  “This baby is about to be born!”

Everything started moving really fast at this point.  Someone asked that the midwife be called, even though I’d planned on delivering with a doctor.  Stainless steel tables were wheeled around the bed.  There were A LOT of people in the room.  Oh, and my yelling became screaming.  Like, at the top of my lungs, in the manner of a woman being stabbed repeatedly with a rusty garden spade.

The mysterious Sandra arrived and introduced herself between two soul-crushing contractions.  “We’ve called Doctor M, but he won’t be here in time.  I am the midwife who will be delivering your baby.”  It turns out she was just about to leave the hospital after an earlier birth.  This was to be the last labor and delivery of her 30-year career.

It’s incredible how a light at the end of the tunnel – a finish line – can inspire me to complete a task.  When Sandra told me she would be delivering my newborn child in a matter of minutes, my body and mind rallied in such a way that cannot be described.  One pushy contraction (“GET THIS BABY OUTTA ME!!!!”), two pushy contractions (“UNBELIEVABLE PAIN!!!”) and suddenly the head was crowning.  I refused the offer of a mirror or the opportunity to touch Sweet Chuck’s emerging head, just wanting to be done with it all.

The stinging, searing pain of an emerging baby came upon me as I did a handful of little, grunty pushes.  And the next thing I knew, she was in my arms, crying a lusty, beautiful song of entry into the world.

Fresh from the oven. Note my glistening forehead.

Though it’s been done in much, much less time, I find it incredible that, from start to finish, my labor lasted less than three hours.  First contraction around 6:15pm. Dilated to 8 cm when we arrived at the hospital. Last push, 9:10pm.

Though midwife Sandra delivered the baby, our doctor did finally arrive to do damage control. Here’s a great shot of him discussing my bottom half as framed between my knees after the birth. Did I take this picture?!? What was I hoping to document, exactly?!? And how did I expect it to be received?!?

Emotions of every strain and color are colliding in my little world.  The sheer joy of new life.  The pain of recovery.  The guilt of abandoning Seabass.  And the guilt of sharing that Sweet Chuck is, indeed, so much easier than Seabass was at this stage.  Of course, the fat lady hasn’t sung on that one quite yet.  There’s plenty of time for our little Sweet Chuck to become Chucky instead.

A kiss on the head for sister.

Seabass received a gift from Sweet Chuck when we came home from the hospital, hoping to soften the blow of big changes in his life. This is a shot of him playing his new dog-guitar. Thank you Jesus, he has not yet lost interest in it completely.

A page-turner for the whip-it-out crowd.

14 Mar

Where all my time has gone of late.

I recently continued my tentative foray into self-publishing with a new miniature cookbook entitled The Little Book of Breastfeeding Recipes: Delicious Meals for Nursing Mothers and Their Wee Ones.  It’s nothing fancy – Martha Stewart, it ain’t! – but it’s a very utilitarian little collection of yummy recipes that my friend Carrie Squires and I put together to keep our sensitive-tummied babies happy.  A little glimpse at the forward:

When I gave birth to our son, I did not expect that my eating habits might have to change, to say nothing of my cooking habits. At the hospital, as the nurses walked me through all the many foods I would need to avoid to keep my breastfeeding boy happy, I nearly wilted. No broccoli? No chocolate? No spices?

Doing my best to avoid the myriad do-not-touch foods on their list, I realized that dry turkey sandwiches and pretzels would comprise the majority of my food intake. At a time when everything changes so violently, when sleep is nowhere to be found, and when hormones are in upheaval, it seemed criminal that I should be forbidden from the singular joy of eating well.

Here’s the part where I have to promote myself without shame:

You need this book.  It is a sweet addition to a friend’s baby shower gift, or bundled up with dinner for a family trudging through the first weeks of new babyhood.  Even if the mother doesn’t end up breastfeeding, recipes like Fresh Herb Potato Salad, Grilled Chicken Eggplant Kebabs with Quinoa, and Harvest Flatbread will be appreciated by anyone who simply likes to eat.  In other words, every recipe is adapted for maximum flavor and minimum baby tummy irritation.  To buy the book, follow this link.  And for those of you feeling lucky, leave a comment by Wednesday, March 16 at 9am and be entered to win a free copy!

Okay, I have my shame back.  But seriously: thank you for supporting this project.  All revenue from the sales of this book is going toward getting professional photos taken of our sweet Seabass!  So you know it’s a good cause.

And speaking of Seabass, thank you, little guppy, for all your good napping that allowed me to write this.  I love you.

Good Stuff #6: Moms’ Group, a.k.a. “No way – your nipples do that TOO?!??”

14 Dec

An early shot of some of the babies. Yup, that's ours.

If I had to list on one hand the things that have kept my spirit afloat since I hatched the beautiful Seabass back in May, they would be:

  1. Jake
  2. Trust that God chose me to mother this specific child
  3. Anti-depressants
  4. Writing this blog
  5. My moms’ group

It is no exaggeration to say that, throughout this new thing called motherhood, my moms’ group has buoyed my sense of humor, helped me to process what it means to care for another human being, and given me a treasure of wonderful new friends.  Moreover, Seabass came into this world pre-set with a built-in group of baby buddies.  It’s truly a brilliant arrangement.

The whole thing started as a pre-natal birthing class taught through our OB’s office.  Jake and I met with eight other couples for six weeks to discuss our fears and expectations, and to practice for an event that would, inevitably, go nothing like we planned.  (Did anyone else manage to breathe calmly through their contractions?  Despite how much I practiced those breathing techniques, what came out was just a lot of grunting like an animal caught in barbed wire.)  As each couple had their baby, they e-mailed us their baby photos and labor stories.  Since Seabass and I were near the end of the line-up, it was fascinating to hear everyone’s birth story – and to see new little people that would soon be friends with our own new little person.

Ours is the big one sleeping in the front.

Later, the birthing class became the moms’ group, once again arranged through our OB’s office, and with all the same participants.  And this was where the rubber met the road.  No more abstract talk.  No more what-ifs.  With my transition from bright-eyed pregnant girl to battle-scarred new mom came a desperate need to get real. 

“Is anyone else experiencing pain that feels like a blowtorch on their nipples every time they nurse?”

“I’m in so much pain down there that I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the sitz bath yesterday.  Is that normal?”

“Every time I try to shop for groceries with the baby, he screams like I’m whacking him with a frying pan and everyone stares at us.  Will I ever be able to visit Trader Joe’s again?”

For eight weeks, all of us new mommies talked, mused, cooed, wept a little, and compared notes on nursing bras and sleep methods.  After each session, I went home feeling more at peace in my role and more connected to the outside world (though I also admit to feeling that somehow my baby was missing the QUIET/EASY button that the other babies had).

These days, it’s hard to stay connected as we all have such different schedules.  But this past weekend all of the moms, dads and babies made a point of getting together and had such a wonderful time seeing each other.  Babies rolled, crawled, and gummed toys.  Moms swapped night-waking stories.  And dads drank beer and discussed house projects. 

(Aside: After the little party, I asked Jake if he talked with any of the other dads about being a dad.  He said it never came up.  “How could it not have come up?!?” I asked, flabbergasted.  “Parenthood is your qualification for being in that group!”  Then we both chuckled because we were reminded of this video.)

Anyway, Seabass is, I’m pretty sure, the biggest of the babies, so we passed him around to let everyone in on what it’s like carrying 22 pounds of dead weight love around all the time.  We all marveled at how comfortable we are holding babies now, whereas before having children, holding someone else’s baby was sort of like, “Huh.  Great!  Okay.  Nevermind, it’s too scary. You can have your baby back now.”

By far, my favorite comment of the entire weekend came from one of the dads in our group.  One of the moms was trying to relay a story about their son’s narrow miss overdosing on teething tablets when the father broke in to say, “Don’t tell Jaime that!  She’ll write about us!”  I laughed and assured them that wouldn’t happen.

And here I am, writing about them.  Sorry guys.  It was too good to pass up.

Here’s to Benjamin, Cole, Riley, Hazel, Sienna, Jaelynn, Scarlet, Ciaran and Seabass – the little people who brought us all together.  Thank you, kiddos!

I Grunt Like A Man

14 Jul

Our digital camera is officially toast.  Galldurnit.

At least we got our money’s worth out of it.  We bought the Sony Cyber Shot for our Odyssey and it’s taken well over ten thousand photos in its lifetime.  Between our trip and the new baby, that little machine just couldn’t take anymore adventure.  (Interestingly, we are in an age whose technology moves so fast that there is no existing framework for repair yet.  Jake called around to all the local camera shops, and the best help he received was an offer to send the camera to the manufacturer for us.  Can’t I do as much at the post office?)

Anyway, while perusing the Cyber Shots many photos, I came across something, well…how shall I put this?  It is a video taken in my hospital room the night Seabass was hatched.

I should preface this by saying I am not a big believer in birth videos.  I honestly cannot think of any time that it would be appropriate to watch one, other than maybe in a childbirth preparedness class.  But even that is iffy.  In fact, we knew the person in the video that was screened for our childbirth class.  Let me tell ya: You don’t really know the definition of awkward until you have a front row seat at the birth of your boss’ son.  True story.  Relations with his wife will never be quite the same again.

But what I found on our camera is a little different.  It is a clip taken from my hospital room by Jake while I am laboring in the bathroom.  You can’t see me – you can only hear me.  And that is plenty, I assure you.

The clip kicks off with a shot of the doorway to the bathroom, accompanied by a lovely cadence of very manly grunting, deep, low and percussive.  Coming from ME.  The frame shifts to show Jake’s face, brow furrowed and eyes sympathizing, encouraging me through the camera lens.   Then it’s back to the doorway with a variation on the grunting theme: grunt-SIGH.  grunt-SIGH.  It’s almost enchanting.

Listening to myself on that video is like poking a hole into a trance and having a peek.  Was that really me? It takes a second to recognize what’s going on, but then I remember: I was sitting on the exercise ball and had just started pushing, even though the nurses told me to hold off.  Ha! Like I had a choice in the matter.  Every part of my body – including my lungs and vocal cords – was telling me to strain strain strain as hard as I could to push Seabass out.

While I never sanctioned any videos during my labor, I’m so glad Jake went against my wishes on this one.  It’s the only record I have of C’s birth (all the photos from that day were taken after the baby had already arrived) and it tells the whole story in just a matter of seconds.  The lack of inhibition, the pain, the exhaustion, and the angst of birthing our baby – they’re all succinctly wrapped up like a haiku.  It’s kind of a gross little treasure.

I hesitate to open my life up to the WWW with this video, but after divulging that I’m incontinent and that my dog ate part of my son, an embarrassing birth video seems par for the course.  Enjoy my pain.

Wake Up, Seabass!

6 Jul

Arcade Fire

When Jake and I first discovered we were pregnant with our precious C, we immediately started discussing which song would be perfect for his birth slide show.  The unanimous choice was Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” for its epic grandiosity.

And here we are, nine months later, with a slide show of C’s birth that Jake set to Arcade Fire.  How time flies.  Enjoy – and crank the volume!

Note to the squeamish: As this is a BIRTH slide show, be aware that there are a few shots taken in the hospital that include blood.  Booooooaah-ha-ha-ha-ha!

All-Natural Dog Treat

29 Jun

C’s third week in this world is a blur to me now, but one moment does stand out.

It is 3am and I am nursing our little guy in a sleep-deprived idiot stupor.  I finish up, dim the lights (with the handy remote control dimmer my smart husband installed) and get up to put C down in his crib.  Something falls to the ground with a *clink,* but I can’t see it and frankly, at 3am, a bomb could go off next door and nary so much as an eyebrow would have raised.  The only things that matter: Sleep.  Bed.  No more consciousness.

The next morning, I am sitting in the rocking chair nursing C again and I spy something black and twisty on the floor.  It is C’s umbilical cord, which had been hanging by a thread on his belly button for a lot longer than expected.  Well good, I think.  It’s about time that thing fell off.  I’ll pick it up when I’m done here.

Just then, our dog Murphy (who had been shell-shocked since the arrival of this new, screaming demon) sniffs in the direction of the umbilical cord on the ground.  “No, Murph!” I snap, probably a little too harshly.  He slinks out of the room and I return my attention to nursing.

Minutes tick by.  C is still eating when I notice that Murph is back in the general vicinity of the fallen umbilical cord, and he is chewing.  And chewing.  Something very rubbery is in his mouth and he appears to be enjoying it thoroughly.

“Drop it!” I yell, but it is too late.  The dog has unceremoniously eaten our son’s umbilical cord.  We are now officially one with our dog.