Lately

My friend Gina at Popcorn and Pandas does this great recurring series called “Lately” that she adapted from another blogger (you can check out all of Gina’s Lately posts with links to the inspiration here).  I love the idea of checking in with yourself and creating a record of the things that drive us every day. With that in mind, I’m snagging the idea, adapting a few of the gerunds myself!

Lately I’ve been…

reading A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible; Jesus and the Disinherited; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and Judges. You know, light stuff. I’m about a third of the way through the first year of a four year course affiliated with the Episcopal Church called Education for Ministry, for which these are our texts so far. Here’s a great explanation of the course from Sewanee:

Every baptized person is called to ministry. The Education for Ministry (EfM) program provides people with the education to carry out that ministry. During the Service of Confirmation we ask God to “Renew in these your servants the covenant you made with them at Baptism. Send them forth in the power of the Spirit to perform the service you set before them.” EfM offers an opportunity to discover how to respond to the call to Christian service. 

writing  Descriptions for our new classes, press releases for events, and email after email after email.

listening  Right now, to sweet, sweet silence, but we have a lot of Jack’s Big Music Show on heavy rotation, and I had a major craving for some Tracy Chapman today, so the self-titled album was on repeat.

thinking About how to better organize my time, so that I’m giving my best to myself and others. And also about the fact that’s nearly swimming hole weather!

smelling Lilacs. Everything is in bloom despite the fact that our last frost day isn’t for another few weeks. I can’t get enough lilac, though, since it always seems like they fade far before I am ready for them to go.  

watching The big, blue (and purple and pink and orange) New Mexico sky.  When we first moved here, I was a little overwhelmed by the size of the sky and the intensity of the light, but now I crave it, every day. It’s a wonder, that sky.

wearing  So much linen, y’all. Consignment shops +  Santa Fe ladies that give up their Eileen Fisher wardrobes for the betterment of others have been rocking my world. Linen pants, linen shirts, linen jackets, linen skirts. So many neutrals, so little time.

eating  The leftovers from the popsicles Winnie and I made yesterday: coconut milk, avocado, frozen blueberries and raspberries, and a couple bananas. I filled all the molds, but some of the puree was leftover, and, ya know, somebody’s gotta eat it.

drinking My first ever cup of totally homemade dandelion root tea!  I’m obsessed with roasted dandelion root tea, so Winnie and I dug up some roots in the backyard yesterday (or as Winnie called it, “gardening”) and then I washed, roasted, and ground them today. It’s a whole lot of work for something I can pick up at the store pretty easily, but it was so cool to know that it’s just right at my fingertips like that! And the flavor was spectacular. My liver is giving me a high five right now.

feeling Ready to do some gardening. We have a couple raised beds in the back, and lots of seeds started, so I’m ready to see things get going!  We’re hosting a meetup of local parents and kids next week to do a seed and seeding swap, and I’m really looking forward to it.

wanting For all of my thoughts, actions, and belongings to be organized and purposeful. Is that so much to ask? (In other words, put down your damn phone, Sascha.)

needing  To prep for tomorrow’s coffee and cheese pairing run through. Excited to cup coffee and pair with cheese– totally unexpected, but really delicious.

loving  Our little community. The folks we’ve met here, the people we run into day after day, and the new people who keep popping up at every turn, have totally made our transition to a new place

wishing I were going to to be in Brooklyn when my friend Elizabeth Mangum-Sarach (of BirthFocus) hosts the inimitable respectful parenting guru Janet Lansbury for an intimate tea at Elizabeth’s new space, Nurture(Bklyn). What a cool opportunity!

hoping  For excellent weather for Saturday’s Spring Fair, hosted by Winnie’s preschool. We think this nature-based preschool is just magic, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to connect with other Dragonfly parents and share a little bit of that Dragonfly magic with other folks in the community!

craving  A veggie burrito from the Betterday Coffee Shop: homemade tortilla, red chile, squash, greens. It’s so ridiculously good.

clicking  On todoist.com every other second.  It’s the only way I can keep my to-dos in order, between work, home, Winnie’s school, church, volunteer obligations, our garden, and the like. As soon as it pops in my head, it goes on a list, or I’ll never remember it.

Oh, and in keeping with the Lately theme: since I last posted, we got to hang with a pal from NYC, I went to a spa in the mountains and had no cell reception and soaked in a tub and walked around in a robe and it was AMAZING, we flew as a family of four for the first time to Mike’s sister Jenny’s wedding and it was fabulous– so great to see family and meet Jen’s friends,  we threw a Fleetwood Mac & Cheese party at the shop, we signed a lease on a house, and Winnie has gotten really into shouting ALLELUIA during quiet moments at church, which is totally liturgically appropriate (for now.)

 

Alleluia, y’all!

 

Interests Include Mommy Blogging & Tandem Nursing

Two funny stories

One: About a year ago, I was courted to be a mommy blogger. For real! Like, for money. Lololololol. And I wrote some things, emails stopped, payment never came, etc. I moved on to other things, like having another baby and moving across the country. But I have these funny sort of clickbait-y posts hanging around in my Google Drive that I see every now and then. Titles like, “10 Things You Can Do While Babywearing”, “Why I Vaccinate My Baby (And Why You Should, Too)”, and “5 Things To Consider Before Tandem Nursing”. That last one becomes important with the next little vignette.

Two: When I became pregnant with Georgie, I experienced horrible nursing aversion and agitation when breastfeeding Winnie. I didn’t have enough energy to parent without the boob in my first trimester (seriously, the boob + B6 + magnesium + Daniel Tiger saved me), but in my second, we tried gentle weaning (weaning while cosleeping is no joke, y’all!). Our timing worked out, Winnie was fine with it, and she weaned in three days, with few tears.  I was a little sad, but it felt right.

Georgie is now nearly eight months old. She is just mad about food, and eats three meals a day. Like, full meals. And now, at the age of two-and-a-half, Winnie has decided she needs to nurse again. And I am sort of fine with it. I’m not going to say things like, “You’re a big kid, and big kids don’t nurse” because I don’t believe that. She’s been sick, and she’s going through some HUGE developmental changes right now (she’s been getting herself fully dressed, her verbal skills have gotten crazy, and her physical coordination is growing by leaps and bounds), and it’s comforting to her.  It’s funny because she’s asked to nurse about once a week ever since she weaned– I didn’t want for it to be a point of contention, and frankly it wasn’t that I didn’t want her to nurse occasionally, just that hormonally I couldn’t handle the constant nursing– and I always gave her a nonchalant, “sure”. She would start to latch, and then sort of laugh, and say, “No, thank you!”  Except then one day she didn’t. So here we are. Tandem nursing after a year of being weaned and eight months with a little sister.

It’s… fine. She needs it, and I’m fine with it. Her ability to understand bodies and boundaries has grown significantly, and I’m confident she’ll understand when it’s time for me to stop.  She’ll probably hate it, sure, but she’ll get it. And from that she’ll learn that she can ask for her body to be respected, too.

Anyway, here’s the hilarious blog post I wrote. My notes from actually being a tandem nursing mother in italics. Because writing about parenting issues before they happen to you is the biggest LOL of all time. #noscreentime #nocoffeewhilepregnant #onlyorganicwoolgarmentsforthelittles #weclothdiaperedwinnieforalmosttwoyearstho

5 Things to Consider Before Tandem Nursing

I always knew I would be a nursing mother, but I never guessed I might be a tandem nursing mother! [Because I didn’t ever look at a calendar?] When I found out I was expecting, with a due date just shy of my not-yet-weaned daughter’s second birthday, I found myself faced with questions. [Like “HOLY SHIT WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”]  Should I wean before the new baby arrives?  Would I be able to nurse them both?  Tandem nursing (breastfeeding more than one child, either together or separately) isn’t for everyone– but many mothers find the process incredibly rewarding. [Note: I have yet to meet them. My tandem nursing Facebook group was full of moms on their phones wearing stretched out shirts, lap full of kids like, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.] Deciding whether or not to pursue tandem nursing is an individual decision, but thinking about the following can make that decision easier. [LOL “decision”]

 

Do you want to tandem nurse?  It sounds simple enough, but if you feel like you should tandem nurse out of obligation to your child, partner, or the judgy mom down the block– don’t worry about it!  Your body is yours, and every major health organization advocates breastfeeding as long as it is mutually desired by both mother and baby.  If you don’t want to, don’t! At the same time, don’t let anyone dissuade you by saying it’s weird or impossible– neither of which is true. [Almost everything I do is either weird or impossible, especially re: raising these two humans.]

 

Who is your tandem nursing team? [I don’t know but I would like to subscribe to their newsletter.] Now that you’ve nursed one child (or more), you know how important a nursing support system can be.  Identify people who can help you through your next chapter, like your partner, family members, friends, organizations like La Leche League, or even online support like Kellymom.com [Also, refreshing the Iowa caucus results and FiveThirtyEight.com on your phone can be really helpful online resources for feeling connected to the adult world while nursing a brood.]

 

How can others help you tandem nurse? Once you’ve made a list of those who can support you, think about the ways in which they can do so.  Maybe your spouse can pick up a greater portion of household tasks, or leave the fridge stocked with easy snacks and filling meals (you’ll need the fuel while nursing two!).  Set a weekly date with other nursing moms in your neighborhood.  Plan for family or friends to visit to change diapers, play with your toddler, and give you a break from being “on.” [AHHHH SEND HELP]

 

Does tandem nursing work with your lifestyle? [If not, too bad!] Do you plan to co-sleep or settle your newborn in her own room?  Is your toddler night-weaned?  Will you head back to work soon after the birth and tandem nurse on weekends and after work?  Think about the logistics of your time, sleep, and space, and tweak anything you can now to be prepared for later.  

 

Make a tandem nursing plan– and be okay with letting it go.  After you’ve lined up your team, sleeping arrangements, and identified your motivation for tandem nursing, you’ve got the makings of a great plan!  Now visualize letting it go.  You may nurse your toddler for longer than you plan– or you may decide that you’re too exhausted to nurse more than one baby.  You may prepare for agitation while nursing both children– or it may not be a problem at all.  Stay flexible and in tune with yourself, and you can’t go wrong. [Okay, this part is for real, tho.]

 

How I Cope

It’s no secret to anyone who has known me for any amount of time (or sometimes even to the nice mom I meet in the coffee shop, within about five minutes of chatting–sorry, nice person!) that I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life. Like many chronic illnesses, it ebbs and flows, and I’ve had varying degrees of success in treating it over the last sixteen years. Indeed, it was half a lifetime ago that I booked my first appointment with a mental health professional, and I can’t help but feel some sense of strength and accomplishment from this journey, from what I have learned, and from the nitty-gritty work I’ve put in.

The years have been full of trial and error, and when I first became pregnant in the spring of 2012, it felt as though the rules of the game had changed.  Now, my body (and accompanying hormones) were rapidly changing; now, I had to consider the growing bundle inside of me; now, I scared my psychiatrist, whose experience in treating pregnant women was lacking. Within that time, I lost the pregnancy, which brought a new set of challenges, of grief and hope, for both Michael and me.

All of the bits and bobs of this story, of the journey up and over, around and through the darkness and light warrant another post, or two or three. But through three pregnancies, two births, and many, many, many-many cups of coffee and tea with my fellow mothers-in-arms, I’ve learned a few things. Right now, I am at the point postpartum with Georgie where, with Winnie, I recognized that things had become very dark, and thus I am hyper aware of the challenges I face right now and how I can work through them. I write this in the hope that perhaps my footsteps can serve to help another mother who struggles with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder— but also as a roadmap, a reminder, for myself as I work through the next months and years.

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Mindfulness Practice

Far and away the lowest barrier to entry, most effective, “bang-for-my-buck” if you will, tool in my recovery toolkit has been mindfulness practice, both through dedicated mindfulness meditations and the continuation of those practices throughout my day. Guys, I am not a meditator. Before I started mindfulness meditation, I could barely close my eyes if not asleep nor could I concentrate on breathing if not, you know, gasping for air or something. The suggestion of “deep breaths” was enough for me to never return to see a therapist or psychiatrist. Part of this was, of course, that I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of childhood trauma– closing my eyes and opening my mind to the possibility of re-experiencing the trauma was terrifying. I half-heartedly read The Healing Power of the Breath, which was developed with trauma survivors in mind, and much to my surprise, I found the tangible focus to be helpful; in fact, I used its techniques during Winnie’s birth. Also while preparing for Winnie’s birth, I stumbled on Mindful Birthing, which utilizes mindfulness techniques to help women work through the sensations of pregnancy and childbirth, as well as the postpartum period.

After postpartum depression and anxiety reared all manner of ugly heads when Winnie was around seven months old, I established an exceptionally trusting relationship with a healthcare provider (more on that later) and when she suggested mindfulness practice, I took her up on it and checked out Mindfulness for Beginners from the public library. I uploaded a few meditations onto my phone and began to practice daily. Holy crap, you guys– it worked! Unsurprisingly, I suppose, when you practice something, you get better at it. The dedicated daily time to practice breathing, to practice allowing thoughts to exist without judgement, to practice moving between difficult thoughts and comforting sensations in a safe space reduced the fear I had of my emotions and my ability to co-exist with them. It particularly helped with the heightened emotions I had as a result of hormonal changes during my pregnancy with Georgie, and with the intrusive thoughts that followed a few weeks after her birth. With Winnie, I spent nights awake in a panic, in fear and disgust at such thoughts– how could a good mother think such things? Where were these thoughts coming from? Did intrusive thoughts mean that I would act on them? No, it absolutely didn’t– but my fixation on the thoughts, my judgement of them and my fear of them exacerbated them. Mindfulness practice taught me to allow the thoughts to pass without judgement, and because of this, they resolved quickly, without the panic and terror they had previously caused.

Now, I practice mindfulness daily: I set a meditation goal using the Strides app (my other Strides goal is flossing, in case you were wondering) and use either the Mindfulness Coach app (developed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs for veterans suffering from PTSD, but helpful for anyone) or the free guided meditations from the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA (the Working through Difficulty and Loving-Kindness meditations are my favorite). To me, mindfulness practice is, at its core, a way to practice being the person you want to be, with the brain you want to have.

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Finding My Team

Real talk: finding a mental health team is a pain in the ass. No, it’s worse. It’s nearly criminal. It’s expensive, time consuming, requires a ridiculous level of information literacy and perseverance, all of which is completely overwhelming to someone suffering from a mood or anxiety disorder. When you think you’re worthless, when you think you’re helpless and hopeless, how are you supposed to justify the hours of google searches, phone calls to doctors, messages left, phone menus navigated, “not taking new patients”, “out of network”, ad nauseum? If you’re a danger to yourself or others, go to the ER, otherwise you’ll need to wait months and months in your own emotional hell to see if this provider might– just MIGHT– be a fit for you. It is a dance I have done, and one I wish to avoid for the rest of my life.

Luckily, there are some resources. First, from my own experience: Postpartum Support International. PSI offers a warm-line, online support meetings, free weekly phone support meetings with a postpartum expert, a Facebook group, and– my personal favorite– a resources map with area coordinators. Before we moved to New Mexico, I contacted the PSI coordinator for the area, and she provided me with a list of resources, tracked down doctors, support groups, and therapists. She even called doctors’ offices to see if they had experience treating PMAD. So much footwork done, so many obstacles removed. (PS: PSI has resources for dads, too.)  I haven’t personally used their services, but many recommend Postpartum Progress, as well.

I also can’t stress enough how important a trusting relationship with a mental health provider is, once you’ve jumped through those hoops. I was lucky to find an incredible psychiatrist with training in reproductive psychiatry, who took an integrative approach to my care: she ran blood work to test for nutritional markers and any other physical problem that could interfere with my recovery, she recommended mindfulness practice and respected my desire not to delve into trauma work, instead recommending structured Dialectical Behavioral work. She helped me balance breastfeeding, pregnancy, and medication, giving me the vocabulary I needed to approach the issues with my birthing team. I had never before put in the work that I did with Dr. Hermann, and it was the trust we built that led me to do so.

I was, admittedly, nervous when I moved and changed doctors. Memories lingered of a bad experience following my first pregnancy loss and subsequent pregnancy with Winnie. The psychiatrist I had seen then was less than supportive, reluctant to provide any information about treating depression with medication during pregnancy outside of FDA pregnancy categories, and seemed to think that my decision to get pregnant while still struggling with depression had been a mistake, and that was that. But after the work I put in treating my PPD/PPA after Winnie,  I felt armed with the knowledge that the medications I was taking were safe, that any risks were outweighed by the benefit of having a whole, present mother, and that I deserved answers to questions and treatment as a human.  And lo! The psychiatrist I saw here in New Mexico totally agreed! We discussed each medicine, each supplement, and concrete exercises to overcome a recent flare-up of traumatic experiences, recurring nightmares. We both talked about how if a doctor/patient relationship doesn’t work, you can and should find someone else, but at the end of my appointment, when I expressed relief and my previous apprehension, she smiled sincerely and said, “Don’t worry– I’ll take good care of you.” Isn’t that just what every patient wants to know?

So, I don’t do therapy, and I won’t until I’m in a place to pursue trauma work, but I know it’s so important for people. My other “team” tool, in addition to a capable mental healthcare provider (be it psychiatrist or therapist), is pretty simple: other moms.

For me this meant  a local moms group (shoutout to my Summer13 Cortelyoumoms! woo woo, party people!), full of women who had and hadn’t experienced depression and/or anxiety, full of women who were approaching the same challenges every day, full of women who could go for a walk, or make a joke about diaper on Facebook. Parents’ groups are an invaluable resource– I’m not a joiner, and I was afraid that either I would hate everyone in the group, or everyone in the group would hate me, but it turns out that people are people, and being able to talk about Dinosaur Jr while wrangling a toddler or about Judith Butler while nursing is pretty rad, and definitely helps mental health!

Finding my mom team also meant attending a support group after Georgie’s birth to process my experiences and learn new tools. Hearing the varied experiences of other women, empathizing, and in some cases, even being able to offer my own experience as valuable, as a tool for others, was incredibly empowering. Brooklyn moms, I highly recommend Sarah Moore’s PMAD group as a part of your toolkit.

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Self Care

Okay, here’s the fluffy but oh-so-important stuff:

  • Taking a shower.
  • Brushing my teeth, not once but twice (!) a day.
  • Eating good fats and proteins.
  • Having a hot (or warmish) cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Getting sun on my face.
  • Putting on real pants. If I’m feeling extra in-need, real pants THAT FIT.
  • Listening to WQXR.
  • Calling a friend.
  • Wearing wool socks.
  • Spraying this stuff on my face.
  • Checking out a library book, because it feels kind of like guilt-free shopping
  • Taking my prescribed medicines at the same time, every day
  • Taking the vitamins I need, like B-Complex, postnatal, and vitamin D
  • Turmeric supplements for depression, because it might help, and my doc says it can’t hurt

This list changes, but there is *always* a list, and there must be. I need to start each day with a bank of things that can lift me up if I start to fall. When I was in crisis mode following Georgie’s birth, after Mike had gone back to work, family was all gone, and I was alone with two lovely creatures who desperately needed me and also sometimes hurt me (I struggled mightily with the physicality of parenting) and a rollercoaster of postpartum hormones, I sometimes felt like the sky was (metaphorically) falling. And during those times, I put Georgie in the carrier, Winnie in the stroller, filled up a mason jar with coffee, and walked and walked and walked and walked. Miles. All throughout Prospect Park, where I could find a grassy spot, near people but not too near them, let Winnie sleep in the stroller and Georgie in the carrier, in such a way that they were cared for but I didn’t have to actively engage, and I would just CRY. Quietly, but fully. We were all safe. We were all loved. I’d certainly rather have filled my days with less crying, less emotional turbulence, but there it was. We did it.

We’re doing it. Every day, getting by.

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Georgie, A Birth Story: Active Labor and Gettin’ Born’d

We live ten miles from the hospital, which in New York driving speak means anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and change to get to the hospital. I cranked up the Bach on WQXR and moaned my lowest, calmest om-iest moans. I rolled down the window and let the rain and wind hit me in the face (highly recommended). I did not keep it together for the sake of the toll-taker. Sorry, dude– just bring life into the world and all.

By the time we got to the hospital, my contractions were two minutes apart, lasting about a minute. In case I’d been too charmed by the it-takes-a-village spirit of my local library, the universe sent a dozen DGAF construction workers to exit the hospital using all nearby doors while I was trying to waddle-run inside. New York, New York!

We hustled past the fancy water features in the hospital lobby, past folks in scrubs and white coats and suits and the like (I had changed into clean leggings on our way out– I’m not a monster!) to the elevator bank. I managed to not have a contraction in a packed elevator, which was pretty terrific. Just two more contractions, and I was in my labor and delivery room.

Here’s where my ambivalence comes back into play. After I was settled, my contractions slowed a bit, but continued at a pretty steady clip every 2-3 minutes. I was four centimeters dilated, but Georgie was still quite high in my pelvis. My doctor asked if I’d planned on getting an epidural, and my answer was a completely honest, “I don’t know.” I knew I could do it without an epidural, I just didn’t know if I wanted to. I was feeling pretty in control of my ability to manage my pain and energy, but I didn’t want to take pain relief off the table.

And then there’s this, which I hadn’t fully processed before this birth: as a kid, I suffered some pretty serious physical abuse. It impacts the way I deal with anxiety and pain– my fight or flight response is more of a FLIGHT! FLIGHT! FLIGHT! response. The flip side of this is that I’ve done a lot of self-work over the last fifteen years, which has given me a whole mess of tools and insight that I might not have had otherwise. That awareness, I think, contributed to my ambivalence– what message would I send to myself with the choices I was making? Was I telling myself that it was okay, that I had nothing to prove, that I was strong and capable either way? Or was I telling myself that I could handle the pain, conquer it and rise above it? I mean… yes?

When Winnie was born my grandmother offered me a wonderful piece of parenting advice, which I think applies beautifully in birth, too: don’t just do something, stand there! And so I stood. We’ll see, I said. We lowered the lights, turned on monastic chants and Hildegard Von Bingen, and started breathing into the zone. I think at some point I threw up.

Given that my contractions were so close together and Georgie’s station was still so high, my doctor suggested breaking my water. Looking back, I wonder if I should have consented so enthusiatically, but at the time I felt present and active in the decision. Plus, I kind of love that weird crochet hook they use to rupture your membranes. It appeals to the craftiness in me.

Rupturing my membranes revealed meconium in my amniotic fluid, which could have been indicative of fetal distress, or, more likely, just an innocuous indicator of the fact that my baby was post-date and, you know, when you gotta go you gotta go, even when you’re a fetus. But I forgot that whole innocuous bit and literally threw myself back into my hospital bed, wailing, “Do whatever you have to do to get her out!” Oh hormones, you so crazy.

Cooler heads prevailed, and my doctor reminded me that meconium wasn’t a problem on its own, that all could continue on its own time, though they did want to continue to monitor the baby’s heart rate and my contractions, so no roaming the halls for me. My contractions intensified, and Mike helped me to dig deeper through the breath and guided body scans. I stayed on top of the pain, but the contractions felt as though they were right on top of each other, a feeling confirmed when my doctor and a handful of others swiftly entered the room. It turned out my contractions were more than close; I was experiencing something called uterine tachysystole. On went the oxygen mask and I changed positions, while my otherwise reserved, keeps-her-distance doctor hopped on the bed with me and softened her voice. Everyone stayed really calm, but the pain and stress of what felt like one never-ending contraction were getting to me.

Earlier in the day, my doctor and nurses had been pep-talking me through the possibility of a medication-free birth: you can do it, they said, and I could! We had chosen our practice and hospital because they were supportive of unmedicated, low-intervention childbirth. So I had a good feeling that when my doctor suggested that we go ahead with the epidural to slow things down a bit and give me a chance to breathe, she wasn’t doing it because she was getting paid the big bucks by Big Pharma or had a tee time to make or was just really sick of hearing my version of Moanin’ with the Motets. I threw her a big thumbs up and called a time out.

The anesthesiology resident was soon in the room. Mike hadn’t been able to stay in the room for my epidural with Winnie, but this time I got to clutch his arms during the epidural insertion, which was terrifically comforting. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but the doctor said I had the best back positioning he’d ever seen. That’s definitely going on my résumé.

I regaled the kind doctor with tales of my first epidural during Winnie’s birth, which I’d dubbed “perfect”, “magical”, and “a game changer”– just really trying to set that bar way up high. The epidural did not disappoint– I maintained feeling and movement in my legs, I could move around in the bed, and I still had an awareness of the pressure, and eventually the pain, of my contractions. My contractions slowed down enough that everyone could relax, too. I was able to take a deep breath, gather my strength, and turn my attention to the real work of labor: the myriad juices, jellos, broths, teas, ginger ales, and spoonfuls of honey that the nursing staff and Mike had amassed for me. Clear liquids, for the win!

Mike and I spent the next couple of hours talking, reading, and updating family members. Our friends who were watching Winnie sent us adorable pictures of her visiting the coffee shop and sandwich spot in our neighborhood. We reviewed my labor support Google Docs (no joke– I had a whole folder). I instagrammed a few things, because why not?

On the advice of my nurse, I kept as mobile as I could in the bed.  I wanted to feel as much as I could stand so that I could stay connected to the changes my body was going through as my labor progressed, and luckily my epidural was patient controlled analgesia, meaning that I could administer a certain amount of the analgesic via the epidural by pressing a button.  Because I didn’t know when I would be ready to push, I tried to avoid pressing the button too much so that I could stay as present as possible.

My mom’s plane landed, and I told her to swing by the hospital on her way to pick up Winnie. I thought it might be a while, so I asked her to bring Winnie back up to the hospital.  Hey, mom!  I know you landed minutes ago in this crowded, complicated city, but would you mind swinging back by with my toddler? It’s just like, a train to a train, then a train to a bus or a train to another train. Cool, thanks.

I texted a group of friends to ask them to be on call for my mom’s direction questions (hahaha lol) which set off a wave of texts of, “no offense but are you crazy?” and “uh, do you just want us to bring her?” and “please–no–what–we will pick her up!” all of which had the subtext of “did they put that epidural in your brain, lady?”. My phone was buzz-buzz-buzzing while Mike drew my mom a diagram of the various transit options. “HERE!” I shouted, tossing my phone to Mike while I jammed hard on the button that controlled my epidural.  “You two go out in the hall and figure this all out. It can’t possibly be as hard as having a baby, which is what I’m doing right now, and can you PLEASE TURN UP THE TAIZE CHANTS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?!”

The contractions amped up, and the pressure in my tailbone was growing increasingly painful. My tremendously kind, insightful nurse popped in to tell me she was leaving, and I almost grabbed her arm and begged her not to go.  The world’s most hilarious, gregarious, epically positive nurse had covered for her lunch break, but alas, no such luck now. At around 5:15, a new nurse came in, and started fiddling with the Pitocin drip next to my bed, which I’d been given along with my epidural, set at the lowest dose.

“Oh hi! Whatcha doin’?” I asked.

“Increasing your Pitocin,” she replied.

“Why?” I asked.

“That’s what you do,” she replied. (I am not kidding.)

“Do you have to?” I asked. (‘No,’ I thought.)

“Your doctor ordered it,” she said.

“Oh! Then can I talk to her? I’d really rather you didn’t increase it,” I said. BOOM. STILL GOT IT. I psychically high-fived our doula from Winnie’s birth, Jillian.

My doctor came in, and explained that since I’d been tolerating the Pitocin so far, they could increase it. I said I’d rather we didn’t, as the pain was increasing and also, you know, I don’t have anywhere to be, so let’s just let this whole thing work itself out, yeah? “Can we wait a half an hour?” I asked, at 5:20 p.m. We could, she said.

Things continued on an upswing, and I closed my eyes, centered, and came back to the breath again. Soon enough, things felt different.  Like, different different. I called the nurses’ station. “Hi there, I, uh, I think I have to push? Maybe?”

My doctor came back in the room. It was 5:40.

“You think you have to push?” she asked skeptically.

“Yeah, but I mean, I feel like I could maybe hang on a little longer. It just feels different, you know?” She did not know. I did not know.

She checked my cervix. “You’re fully dilated,” she said– sweet!–“but the baby’s still pretty high.  Do you want to try a test push?” Sure! Why not? I love tests!

Because I had pretty killer symphasis pubis dysfunction (I was advised to not do anything during my pregnancy that involved moving my legs in opposite directions, which is literally everything), my PT had advised a few different positions for pushing. But hey! This was just a test, just for funsies, giggles, kicks. So I just leaned back on my bed a little, and bore down.

My doctor, nurse, and Mike started cheering and coaching like I was about to set a world record for, ah, something or other. GO GO GO GO GO GO YOU CAN DO IT YOU’VE GOT THIS YOU’RE SO STRONG GOGOGOGOGO!

“Okay,” my doctor said, “I’m going to have you stop because you’re having a baby.”

The nurse hit a button on the wall, called for some other folks, and soon enough I was contracting again, and pushing like a madwoman. Despite having just started moments before, pushing was still the most thoroughly exhausting and draining physical work I’d ever done. About thirty seconds into my first push, I was overwhelmed. “I can’t do it!” I screamed. “You already did,” my doctor replied. “The head is out!”

And just like that, Georgette Beatrice Guinn Anderson was born, at 5:45. She went straight in my lap, and the doctor offered Mike the scissors, then reconsidered and offered to let me cut the cord. I deferred to Mike, and then sweet Georgie went straight on my chest. She wriggled and spontaneously cried, and everyone marveled at how gigantic my nine-pounder was (everyone except Mike and me, who couldn’t believe how bitty she was compared to the ever-expanding toddler at home!).

She is utterly, totally Georgie, and we’re so happy to know her!

There’s a bit of a p.s. to this story, where I hemorrhaged and was scared, where Georgie spent her first night in the nursery, but where everything was ok and the hospital food was remarkably good and then I came home on Winnie’s birthday and baked her a strawberry-rhubarb cake.

I’ll probably write that story someday.

Georgie, A Birth Story: Early Labor

As the end of my pregnancy with Georgie approached, I felt tremendously confident in my ideas about all-caps BIRTH–the conceptual, pluralistic, nebulous ideas about the kinds of birth experiences that should be afforded to all women. Evidence-based, empowering, unjudged. Freedom to make decisions and access resources without a shred of fear-mongering of any stripe (Your doctor only wants to cut you open! Your home birth will end in certain death! I know we just met but I have lots of opinions about your VBAC!) A climate in which women are presented with heaps of unbiased information but still encouraged to go with their guts. You know, just like perfect birthing culture.

But I felt utterly, totally ambivalent about my own birth, absolutely pulled in competing, mutually exclusive directions. In the weeks leading up to Georgie’s birth, I waffled back-and-forth about the kind of birth I wanted to have, about what parts of the experience I placed a premium on, about what mattered to me and what I would choose should a choice present itself. Did I want to wait until 42 weeks to schedule an induction? What if I didn’t? Did that mean I was putting my own discomfort with the anxiety of waiting above my trust in my body? And what if I did want to schedule an induction before 42 weeks? Did that mean I was ignoring the teeny tiny smidgen of evidence that tied birth after 41 weeks to an increased risk of stillbirth, without evidence of an increase in improved outcomes? And why didn’t anyone in my seemingly empowerment-based practice of medical professionals seem interested in discussing any of this with me?

After much moaning and groaning, phone calls with everyone I know who would listen, reading and rereading and then reading again articles and opinions and anecdotes, I did call my practice to change the date of my induction from 42 weeks to 41 weeks and four days– just a world of difference, I know.

In the end, it didn’t matter because, unlike with Winnie, I went into spontaneous labor with Georgie. It was utterly thrilling. My ability to wait– which, if translated into a physical size, would be like the speck of dust on the head of a pin made for the world’s smallest doll–was tried with every moment that ticked by after my due date. I was having lots of uncomfortable, unproductive contractions, the kind that didn’t lead to any sort of meaningful change. I was dilated a couple of centimeters, my cervix was soft, and so everything I could do to get the proverbial show on the figurative road was already done. Short of employing an honest-to-God method of augmentation, the changes my body needed to make were made–I just wasn’t in labor. I stayed up late at night, into the early morning, ostensibly “meditating”, which was really just willing myself to go into labor. The night before I went into labor with Georgie I got out of bed after hours of tossing and turning, took a long shower and sipped the world’s ittiest bittiest sip of castor oil. It was something I had told myself I wouldn’t do, the bottle still in the house and sealed from when I purchased it after going postdate with Winnie. I braced myself for a night of gastrointestinal distress – but it never came.

I did, though, wake up in the morning with what I thought might have been contractions. I woke up around seven to some rhythmic cramping, but I didn’t want to jinx myself and so I went back to sleep, willing my eyes closed and my mind quiet. Mike very kindly occupied Winnie without my asking until around nine (legitimately luxurious sleep!), at which point I could no longer ignore the increasingly intense contractions. I started timing them and they were rolling in about every four minutes, lasting just about a minute. This was a few minutes closer together than the interval at which I had been advised to call my doctor, but my water hadn’t broken and the pain wasn’t unbearable so I let Mike know that I thought we were having a baby in the near future, and we started gathering the last few items on our list and pumping Winnie up for a day of fun with the exceptionally kind folks who had offered to care for her. The contractions grew stronger and closer together, and the midwife who returned my call and endured my moaning thought we should probably start heading toward the hospital.

I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe I had gone into labor on my own, at just 40 weeks and 5 days. Somehow, despite the fact that we were “packed”, it took for-ev-er, or approximately one million lady-in-labor hours, to get the last bits gathered and get ourselves out the door. I finally lost it– after at least three entire minutes of patience– and decided I would walk Winnie the block and a half to our friends’ house to drop her off. By myself. In labor. I grabbed her bag and my keys and told Mike to come pick me up when he was done.

It was warm, grey, and gently drizzling outside. A few minutes before 10 on a Saturday morning, the neighborhood was coming to. Families headed to and from the playground with scooters and bikes in tow, a handful of folks sat and waited among the roses and clematis as the public library started unlocking its gates, community gardeners already hard at work in their plots, paper cups of coffee gripped in hands strolling up and down the block.

I stopped for a contraction outside of the house with all the gnomes, a helpful distraction for Winnie. We made it to our friends’ spot, at which point I panicked. I had left my phone at home. Their sweet dog, like so many dogs, hates the doorbell with the fiery passion of ten thousand suns. Making the dog bark might also make the baby cry. Which makes the adult humans have to address them both. Basically the ideal situation to create for our friends who were adding our kiddo to their workload and also for our kiddo to walk into on the day I’m all, BYEEEE SEE YOU IN A FEW DAYS! Walking back seemed like a million miles. Should I just scale the fence and throw rocks at the window? That most certainly wouldn’t disturb anyone. Suck it up and ring the bell, Guinn Anderson. So I did. The world didn’t end.

We clambered inside and I started giving totally unhelpful information about Winnie as another contraction started: “she eats…. FOOD. Please change…her…diaper. MOMMY IS FINE JUST FINE JUST LETTING MY MONKEY DO IT YOU KNOW.” Knowing Winnie was in good hands, I had to leave, get out and fast. I needed to move. I hustled back home, avoiding eye contact with every person I passed lest a contraction hit in the midst of a neighborly hello, contorting my face into that of the Hulk. A couple of contractions slowed me to a stop. I leaned and swayed and moaned, against a brick wall, a fence, an overgrown planter. I hauled up the stairs– to an empty apartment. Because I told Mike to come to me. And I didn’t have my phone.

I have long opined that having a library card is like being registered to vote- it opens an entire world of agency and empowerment, connects you to your community, and it’s terrifically free. We grow food at our library, pass our days at our library, check out books on books on books. Oh, and they have a phone. So I waddled through the front doors and up to the circulation desk. “Hi. I’m in labor and I need to call my husband. May I use your phone?” I called Mike, asked him to pick me up at the library, and briefly considered perusing the new acquisitions shelf. The librarian was over the moon about my labor, and called out her colleagues from the back office to wish me well. Mike swung up to the curb, our giant blue birthing ball taking up residence in the backseat. I hopped in, and we headed to the hospital.

Welcome, Georgie Bea!

On Saturday, June 6, 2015, at 5:45 pm, we welcomed Georgette Beatrice Guinn Anderson to our little family. Georgie was 9 lbs, 2 oz, and 21 inches long.   She was born with dark hair dotted with sweet little stork bites, fingernails that already needed a clipping, all wriggles and squeals.

 

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Georgie’s first hour at home

 

I was pregnant past my due date, just as I was with Winnie, and though I found waiting to be mentally excruciating (the uncertainty!) the extra moments with my oldest, first girl were pure gold.

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When mom is a million weeks pregnant, anything goes.

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I’m sorting through the bits and bobs of Georgie’s birth story now, but below are a few images from our first two days with Georgie.

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Those ears! That hair!

 

 

 

 

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Born with the hands of someone 100 times her age

 

 

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Headed home!

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