Monday, May 31, 2010

Neither the Baby nor the Band

I thought it was time for at least a quick post about homeschooling, which hasn't been *entirely* lost in the shuffle these days....

As I've probably mentioned, in the afternoons George usually has some sort of activity (or two). MWF he has Tae Kwon Do, but he also has Shakespeare class on Mondays, homeshcool play group on Tuesdays, recorder lessons and "library/Barnes and Noble day" on Wednesdays, and cooking/pop culture class with best pal Laurie on Thursdays. He was doing Spanish and swim/gym at the YMCA on Friday afternoons, but we've cut that out since my 9th month of pregnancy--it was just too much!

Anyway, so afternoon is activity time, which leaves mornings for academics. And for the last two months, George has been focusing mainly on an online course he's been taking through Northwestern University's CTD (Center for Talented Development) called Computer Gaming Academy.

At the beginning, the weekly assignments were very brief and easy to complete in a few hours or so. When we had a crazy couple of weeks at home when George's play on campus was running and I was in the hospital having the baby, George and I agreed that he needed a little break from his online class, and his teacher readily agreed that it would be no problem for him to make up the work after his play was over. But there did turn out to be one slight problem: right at that time the assignments got a lot more intense, and he has been running to try to catch up ever since!

I'm not clear on all the details, because I'm barely supervising him in this class at all (although I have tried out most of the games he's made). When he's done online math or reading/writing classes, even though he always has an online instructor, I've usually been right there next to him, encouraging him to push himself and to check his work... and in some cases learning a thing or two myself. But computer gaming really isn't my cup of tea. (It's not that I don't appreciate a good computer game, but I couldn't be less interested in, or knowledgeable about, computer programming and such.) Not to mention the fact that I've been a bit preoccupied! So when he's gotten stuck, I've been completely unable to help him, apart from offering a bit of encouragement.

Anyway, he has been working very hard and enjoying it, and I'm glad, and I'm proud of his progress. But at the same time, I'll be glad when the course ends on Thursday--it's been eating up so much of his time and energy. I'll be happy not to feel the pressure of deadlines with him. It's been nice to have the structure of an academic class again, which I had kind of been missing since we had taken a break from math. I think it's very valuable for him to have that from time to time. But when does have it, it pretty much takes over, and takes away from other things that I think are also highly valuable, such as reading and creative play and writing stories.

Which brings me to the next thing I wanted to write about... but I'm afraid it's going to have to wait until later; time to get on with our day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

"Bad Girl": Song #3

The third song we recorded was actually the first song I wrote. I mean, the first song I wrote to sing with the band, because I actually wrote another one before that, but that's another story for another time.

I wrote Bad Girl before I had even joined the band. It is semi-autobiographical. But the initial inspiration actually came from a TV show called Redemption Song, about these women with troubled pasts competing to win a recording contract. As I was watching it, I was just sort of thinking how there's a little "bad girl" in us all, in some way or other, and I was thinking about how it would be funny to write a song about that, to play with that concept a little bit. About how I'm so bad because I don't always keep up with my dishes, or balance my checkbook, or remember to shut the back door even in the winter (hey, I'm from California!)... that sort of thing. But how none of that matters to Bob--it's all good with him.

I say it's "semi-"autobiographical because a couple of things in the song are not based on me. I'm actually pretty good about RSVPing. In fact, I throw a lot of parties myself, and it's kind of a pet peeve of mine when friends don't bother to RSVP. (You know who you are, people!!! LOL). Also, my mom doesn't really think I'm a jerk. Plus, I would never leave the cap off the toothpaste. The rest of it's all me, though!

I wrote the words in the late fall of 2008. I think I was already singing a couple of songs with the band, and had been coming to practices, but I hadn't officially joined. Bob and I were married but weren't living together yet (we were taking it slow! Ha!); we were at his house and he picked up his guitar and we came up with a melody together. I remember we were rushing at the end because we had to drive back here for band practice. I'm pretty sure we were putting the finishing touches on the song in the car-ride back here. When we got to practice we told everyone we'd written a song, and we worked it up with the band right then.

We debuted the song in May 2009, at the first gig we did with me as a full-fledged band member, at a neat little cafe (that has since closed, unfortunately) called the River Muse. It got a great reaction from the crowd (most of whom were our friends); I was totally thrilled.

It got a slightly different reaction when we played it at a party where I didn't know any of the guests. It was clear that they hadn't really been listening to the lyrics during the verse, because when we got to the chorus ("I'm a bad, bad girl, now, Baby/What they say is pretty much true/I'm a very, very bad girl/but I'm oh so good... with you"), everyone looked sort of shocked and some people even looked a little uncomfortable. A few of the women even left the dance floor. I wanted to stop the song and tell them to listen more carefully to the lyrics! That I'm a bad girl because I don't balance my checkbook! Because I eat too much chocolate! I mean, yes, the song is definitely meant to have a sexy edge to it. But it's not a song about sleeping around.

After that I was careful to introduce the song properly--either by saying something along the lines of, "Before I sing this song I want to state for the record that I am a fine, upstanding member of this community" or by asking the crowd if there are any rebels out there, and then saying this song is for you. Or sometimes Sue, our keyboard player, will joke around before we start about how she has no idea why such a nice girl like me would write a song like this. Any one of those seems to do the trick! Because apart from that one time, this song has pretty much always scored big with the crowd....

So, all you rebels out there... give it a listen. I hope you like it.

Giving dairy-free a go

The sweetest little baby in town has been having digestive discomfort. Pretty much from the get-go. He's so sweet and easygoing that he doesn't cry about it, but you can see that he's in discomfort quite often.

I gave up broccoli and onions and beans and such, but it wasn't having much effect. The doctor suggested trying Baby Mylicon, which we've been doing since Friday evening, but we haven't noticed much of an improvement. So, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and give up dairy to see if that makes a difference.

I don't know why I was resisting this so much; yes, cheese and yogurt are the staples of my diet. And the other day I bought some soy yogurt just to give it a try and I hated it. But yesterday when I was talking about it, George suggested I just replace cow cheese with goat cheese(s), and I felt both relieved (I really, really love cheese!) and stupid for having been so resistant to trying something that might make my baby feel better! Of course I'd do anything for him. What's doing without a little dairy for a while, especially when there really are so many alternatives?

So this morning, full of optimism and resolve, I headed to the most upscale grocery store in town (where I would find the biggest variety of non-dairy alternatives). I was feeling strong and brave, and decided to go with Ben but without Bob or George. For most of the trip, Ben slept peacefully in his car seat inside the grocery cart. But when I was nearly done, my baby-who-pretty-much-never-cries awoke with a start and began screaming his head off. Of course. What to do?

I could tell he was hungry. But I wasn't quite feeling brave enough to nurse him in the middle of the grocery store!

I opted to check out; I was pretty much done anyway. But I just couldn't leave him in his seat screaming his head off while I made my way across the entire store to the check-out, so I picked him up and held him, which definitely helped. The super-humanly loud screaming turned into mere fussing, much to my relief, but the downside was that he kept trying to suck on my neck whenever he got his mouth close enough! Plus it was very tricky to push the heavy cart with one hand while I held him with the other... but somehow I managed. Checking out with one hand was ok, but maneuvering the cart back across the uneven parking lot with one hand was another story. I really should have asked for some help with that from the employees. But you try thinking clearly when your baby is screaming in the middle of the grocery store.

When I got back to the car I quickly got everything unloaded from the cart, but wrenched something in my back in the process. UGH. I didn't fully throw out my back (which I have done many times in my life), but I'm taking it really, really easy; there's no telling if by tomorrow I'll be feeling fine or will be unable to move.

On a happier note, almond milk is delicious, as is raspberry-flavored soy yogurt!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Water Baby

Yesterday Ben was 3 weeks old, and we had a great trip to the doctor. He has put on almost two pounds since birth! And has grown nearly an inch. Way to go, Baby Ben!

I was also happy because I was afraid the doctor was going to say I should try giving up dairy, because Ben has been having some gas discomfort/issues--but instead she recommended trying some baby gas drops. Whew.

The other really exciting thing to come out of the appointment was that we got the go-ahead to take him into our pool or hot tub whenever we want. The doctor said that actually, the sooner the better, because he will still remember floating around in the womb, and he'll be very comfortable in the water if we do it now. (She didn't recommend doing it in a public pool, though.) I asked her about safety and she said just make sure we don't get drunk and forget to pay attention to the baby. Um, ok! I think we can handle that! She also said we should really always have two adults present, just in case. Also very do-able. She also suggested checking out teach-your-baby-to-swim sites online.

You might be surprised that we were eager to try this, given Ben's history with baths. What can I say; we like to live dangerously. (Plus, we had a pretty good swim diaper for him.) And wow, how much fun it was! He absolutely loved it. I got in first and Bob handed him to me; Bob stayed out in case he hated it and wanted to get out right away. We needn't have worried about that. I put his little tootsies in first, then his legs, and still no complaints, so then I held him close to me and put him in up to his waist. He was loving it.

I remember hearing something about how babies can be taught to float on their backs, so I put both hands under him and lowered him into the water on his back, being very attentive of course in case he started to squirm. But he didn't squirm; he totally relaxed. And got his little bath-time half-smile on. I had one hand under his head/neck, and he seemed to be floating so well that I actually took the other hand away, so I was just holding him up with the one hand, and he kept floating, beautifully! And calmly, and happily. It was kind of amazing. I was surprised that he was that buoyant. Bob and I took turns holding him that way, sharing his blissful relaxation.

At one point we decided to try letting go of his head to see if he could float without any assistance at all. He couldn't. He sank down right away. Of course we pulled him right back up! Such a calm little guy; he didn't even cry. He looked surprised but not freaked out. So we went back to the one-handed float.

We didn't stay in too terribly long; we didn't want him to get overheated or anything. And what a cooperative boy: he waited until the moment I got him out of there to fill his diaper! I would not have minded if he had waited until I had dried him off and gotten him out of his swim diaper and into a regular one, but hey, I'm *not* complaining. It was mighty sporting of him to wait as long as he did:-)

Later I did a quick search on YouTube and found out that what we were doing was actually pretty much the right way to teach a baby to float. Here's a very cool video of a young baby floating.

In any case, I think this all bodes very well for a summer of family swim time!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More Bath-time Mishaps

We've decided that Daddy is the bath-time jinx.

I've given Ben several uneventful baths since that famous first one. All without any, um, incidents whatsoever. Mostly with the help of big sis Lindsey.

But Lindsey wasn't around, and I thought Bob might like to try helping with another bath. After all, the last one we did together was so... memorable!

I lowered Ben into his little tub and right away he started to pee (which he really hasn't done since that first time). For a second I was trying to decide if it was worth changing the water right then, or maybe we should just change it quickly at the end... but then the little stream became a fountain that shot up and landed right in Ben's face! Crying bout number 1. No, I could not let that stand! So Bob lifted him up, and we concluded part 2 of the bath as quickly as possible, before any additional bodily functions could come into play.

While I was lifting Ben out of the bath, I noticed that Leo, one of our cats, was sort of running around by my feet where I was squatting. As I stood up to hand the baby off to Bob I looked down to make sure I didn't step on Leo, and what did I see but a little mouse scurrying under the bunched up bath mat!

I probably shrieked a bit as I told Bob to quick, give me back the baby and go after the mouse! He handed me Ben and I started backing up to get out of there and then the mouse, trying to evade Leo, scurried across my foot! Which made me jerk back, and bang poor little Ben's head into the wall!!! Crying bout number 2.

At that point Leo caught up with the mouse, grabbed it in his mouth, and headed up the stairs to the man cave. While Bob took off after them, I consoled and dried off my crying, but clean, little one. Whew.

I'm not even going to ask what's next!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Don't Go Lookin' for Trouble" and "Why": Songs #1 and #2

We finally have some recordings ready! A whole bunch of them at once, actually. I'm going to write about them one or two at a time, but if you click on any one of the band links in the sidebar (under "Voodoo Highway Links") you can listen to all 5 of them anytime. These are actually working drafts of the songs; we're still adding and re-doing parts. But we were eager to get at least something up on sites....

The first two we recorded, back in late February/early March, were "Don't Go Lookin' for Trouble" and "Why", which were both written last summer. Bob and I have co-written pretty much all of the songs, but the process hasn't been the same for each one. As for the lyrics: for some songs I've written most of the words and for some he has; sometimes we'll really contribute equally. As for the tunes, same thing. Sometimes for the lyrics I've written I'll have a tune in mind and he'll help me hammer it out on the guitar; sometimes I won't have any idea for a tune and he'll noodle around until we find something we're both feeling; sometimes he'll have a fully formed tune or set of riffs that we'll match up with some lyrics.

"Don't Go Lookin' for Trouble" was one of the songs where I wrote the lyrics, and we collaborated on the music. I say I wrote the lyrics, but they practically wrote themselves (I *love* it when that happens). In fact, I got the idea for the song when I was walking to my car from my office. By the time I got to my car in the parking lot I had the chorus written. On the 10-minute ride home I wrote two of the verses, and when I got home I raced upstairs to my laptop to write it all down before I forgot any of it, and then promptly wrote the third verse as well.

It's the second of two songs that are about a big fight Bob and I had! Just about a year ago or so. Now, listen, Bob and I hardly *ever* fight. Really. We get along so well that it's almost freaky. But every once in a great while, of course, we put on the boxing gloves, as it were, and go at it. It's usually all his fault. Ha. Kidding. Sort of. What happens when we have a disagreement is he's the one who generally gets more angry and reactive, and I just sort of give him some space until he cools down (and comes to his senses :-). While I was giving him that space during this particular fight, I decided that instead of just sitting around waiting and being annoyed I'd pass the time by writing a song about it. That song was "Why". I left the lyrics in the chorus vague enough that they could apply to any number of situations where your partner slips up or lets you down. It was actually a really fun and empowering experience to write about a fight, and I told Bob to go ahead and be a jerk whenever he wants. LOL

Anyway, Bob loved the lyrics and was happy I'd written them--we had at that point written I think 4 songs which we were performing regularly with the band, and he was very glad to have another one to work on. We didn't write the music right way, but set the lyrics aside, waiting for inspiration to hit.

Not long after that, I was at work, and found out about a situation where some people were gossiping about me. I didn't let it get to me too much, but of course I was not thrilled about it. And on my way to the car that afternoon when I was leaving, I started thinking about how some people just thrive on conflict and drama, and they really enjoy stirring up trouble. I've known people like that my whole life, as I'm sure we all have. They're just always looking for something to stir up. And I was asking myself what makes them that way, and the only thing I could come up with was that maybe it was something from their childhood. And that got me thinking about my mom, and how she used to tell me that you should always pay close attention to what you're looking for because whatever it is, you're bound to find it. So better to be on the lookout for happiness than for trouble. Which then led me back to thinking about the fight Bob and I had recently had (even though it was completely resolved by then), and about how it seemed to me that he had just been sort of looking for a fight with me, and how he'd eventually gotten what he was looking for.... And thus was another song written. The lyrics anyway.

When I called Bob on the phone to tell him about the new song, I prefaced it by saying that it wasn't about him or our fight, really, that it was just in general about people who stand in the way of their own happiness. But he laughed as I read him the lyrics, because we both knew that wasn't exactly the case! Good thing he's so good-natured and has such a great sense of humor, even about himself :-)

Ok, so fast-forward to early August, when we took a trip to Squam Lake, NH, where my sister rents a house on a tiny island every summer and sometimes invites me. It's really beautiful, and also really rustic, with no electricity. We decided to bring the (acoustic) guitars, because we thought it might be nice to play or even write a little music while we were there. Well, it ended up being an incredibly prolific few days for us. We spent much of the time in the lovely gazebo at one end of the island (see several pics below) and wrote a whole slew of songs there, including the music to these two.

A couple of weeks later it was our 1-year wedding anniversary, and we planned a Woodstock-themed celebration (it was also the 40th anniversary of Woodstock). We planned to go first to the town and then the concert venue, spending a day in between at a beautiful inn on a lake. Again we took the guitars with us.

At the inn we sat out on the dock at cocktail hour and ran through all of our new songs, editing/making several adjustments to most of them as we went. When we first got out there the dock was empty, but people began filling the tables during the time we were there. It's really not our style to force our music onto people, so we played quietly, but we also kinda figured if they were choosing to sit down near us they must not hate it! And in fact we got some very nice compliments (and inquiries about the band), which made us feel pretty good.

The next day we went to the Woodstock concert venue, and decided we'd play each of our new songs there as well, to absorb the Woodstock mojo. We sat down on the lawn right in front of where the stage was and started playing and singing, and sort of out of nowhere this really cool hippie appeared with a set of bongos, asking if he could join in with us. He said he'd been waiting there all weekend for someone to come play some music, but that no one else had come. We were more than happy to have him join us, of course. And it was a really neat experience sitting there on that summer day, playing our songs, soaking up the spirit of the place.

A little more on "Don't Go Lookin' for Trouble": my mom really did always used to tell me all of those things, when I was growing up. I wasn't always sure I agreed with her, but now that I'm older and wiser... I do think she's right that we generally find what we look for and get what we wish for, and all that (the law of attraction, before it became so in vogue!). One story she told me from her own youth to illustrate the "be careful what you wish for" thing made a pretty big impression on me. She said that in high school this boy had asked her to a dance and she had said yes, even though she didn't really want to go with him. From the time she agreed to go she started wishing that something would happen so that she wouldn't have to go. Well, on the day of the dance he actually got in an accident and broke his leg! So she got her wish, but felt pretty bad about it.

But I think the funniest part of the story of these two songs is how much our kids love them. When we're driving around town all together in the minivan the kids will often specifically request these songs, and they sing along with every word. Bob rolls his eyes and says, "Great; now I have to listen to my kids sing about what a jerk I am!" But of course I know he secretly loves it ;-)

The gazebo at Squam Lake, where we wrote a whole bunch of songs

Bob hard at work

Another shot of the gazebo... Don'tcha wish you were there right now?!

Ok, this really had nothing to do with the writing of these songs. I just liked the picture. Oh, yeah ;-)

The whole crew at Squam, in front of whom we debuted the songs. (They all joined in on percussion with pots, pans, and wooden spoons.)

Our day in Woodstock, the town. We had our guitars and were going to play our songs on a street corner but decided it was just too darn hot out. It's not that we were chicken or anything.

On the dock at the Chestnut Inn, where we edited the songs and played them for the first time in front of people we weren't related to.

Me on the dock at the inn.... What a fun anniversary weekend this was!

The Woodstock concert venue. The grey area down the hill off to my right was the site of the original stage.

At the front edge of where the stage was, looking up at where the masses were.

My turn to feel like a mega star of 1969

This guy came out of nowhere, almost as if we'd hallucinated him. But we have this picture, so it obviously was *not* the brown acid. LOL

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

For Sale, Cheap: Very Lightly Used Binky

I have just conducted a pacifier experiment. It failed miserably.

With George, I was pretty militantly anti-pacifier. I figured if he was fussing, he was hungry or needed to be changed or held, and I wasn't going to try to substitute a pacifier for any of those things. Plus, I had seen kids freak out when they dropped their pacifier on the ground, screaming and sobbing while their parents frantically washed (or just wiped, if there was no sink nearby) it off as quickly as they could--I kind of figured, why create a dependency like that? Then there was the matter of weaning them off of it when they hit a certain age, if they hadn't dropped the habit on their own. Plus, I had heard a vague theory that pediatric dentists were opposed to them. Honestly, it just all seemed like a bad idea to me.

The second time around I am, predictably, feeling a bit more relaxed about everything. My kid's nursery is in the bathroom, for crying out loud! (No, we don't make him sleep in there, as I'm sure I've mentioned.) What got me thinking about pacifiers this time was that Ben seems to have some gastrointestinal issues--I don't think it's anything serious, but he gets gassy sometimes and he also spits up a fair amount, at least compared to what George did. When Ben is obviously having gas pains, he often acts like he wants to nurse, even if he's just eaten a very full meal. He'll be all squirmy and fussy and will nurse furiously, only to spit most of it right back up. It seems that he wants the comfort more than the food. So in the interests of saving myself the trouble, I started looking into pacifiers.

The consensus among both my friends and most sources on the internet (see for example, the informative "Pacifiers: They don't suck as much as you thought") was that if used properly, pacifiers can be a perfectly legitimate parenting tool, even for parents who aren't planning on abandoning their baby all day in a playpen.

So off we went to Toys-R-Us, to get some more burp cloths (the 6 or 7 I had saved from when George was a baby just weren't enough for this one) and a "Mam" nuk, which had been recommended in particular for breastfed babies by a friend's pediatrician.

It was with slightly mixed feelings that I popped it into his mouth last night, after he was certainly fully fed but was still fussing a bit. I couldn't help feeling a bit like I was cheating, or taking the easy way out, but I pushed all of that aside.

At first he was happy to be getting something in his mouth, but his look of hopefulness soon turned to one of almost disgust as he realized it wasn't what he was expecting. Still, he didn't spit it out. And after probably about 30 seconds the look of disgust/confusion was gone and he was happily sucking away and drifting off to sleep. Score! I settled in myself for what was sure to be a long stretch of sleep.

Only it wasn't. I awoke to the sounds of his fussing and I saw that the pacifier had fallen out of his mouth. So now I'm thinking, am I creating a dependency here? But I was so sleepy I decided not to care, and put it back in. Same look of confusion and disgust on his part, but followed again very quickly by peaceful sucking and drifting back to sleep.

When I awoke to his fussing a couple of hours later, I figured it was feeding time again... and OW! OW! What did he think I was, a pacifier or something?! Clearly, yes. I soldiered on and finished the feeding, and when he was still fussing after over an hour of it, I went against my best judgment and tried the nuk again, hoping that this little chomping problem was just a fluke.

Well, it wasn't. And the rest of the night was quite miserable (for me, anyway).

So, alas, the great pacifier experiment has failed. Oh well; I did get one really nice two-hour stretch of sleeping--and later, a funny photo op--out of it.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bath-time Adventures (etc.) with Baby Ben

Tomorrow Baby Ben will have been with us for two pretty amazing weeks. I have lots to say about him, but much of the time I'm trapped underneath him and can't reach the keyboard with both hands :-) My recovery has been slower than anticipated in some respects (I have not been in much pain at all--just very weak), but I'm not complaining, because there's really nowhere else I'd rather be than resting in bed with the sweetest little baby around.

In addition to being totally adorable, he's also very easygoing, which is *great*. He does not cry much at all, and he's a good sleeper, often sleeping for 3-hour stretches or even a little longer. Of course he makes up for those blocks of time by being very hungry afterwards, but that's all going pretty well, too.

I have to say that I'm finding everything a lot easier the second time around! George was a really good/happy baby, too, so it's not that. Well, it's partly that my life is a lot better now in some very important ways than it was 10 years ago. Everything was sort of crashing down around me when George was born: my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer the very day he was born; soon thereafter George's dad lost his job and it looked very much like I was going to lose mine, plus our relationship wasn't super stable; my physical recovery from the birth was slower and more painful than it should have been; I had a painful skin cancer in my ear.... So when, in those insanely difficult weeks (which stretched out into months), lightning struck a tree right in front of my house, knocking out power and phone lines to my house alone, well, you can see why I was feeling like the universe had it in for me! Ten years later, the story is quite different. I'm very happily married and stably employed, and everyone seems to be in good health (knock on wood)....

But on top of that, it's just easier having been through all of this before. The incredible changes that your body goes through, which I found so disconcerting last time (of course that was compounded by all of the uncertainty all around me); the lack of sleep; the sudden and almost total loss of any personal time and space (which you know about going into it, but you might not realize how overwhelming it can be); even things like having to inhale your own dinner in between baby feedings.... It's just so much easier to keep it all in perspective this time. Having been through it once I *know* these things don't last, and it makes it easier not to be overwhelmed by it all, and also to settle in and relish all of the good parts. Really, if I had known how much easier pretty much every aspect of this would be the second time around, I don't know if I would have waited 10 whole years to do it again!

Back to Baby Ben... We're convinced he's some sort of prodigy, because he turned himself over--back-to-front, no less--when he was two and a half days old. And he's almost smiling already... he came really close yesterday when he had his first bath (more on that in a minute), and it seriously looked like he smiled at Bob twice this evening. Plus, he gained over three ounces during his first week, when breast-fed babies are expected to lose 7-10% of their total weight; I'm feeling a bit proud of myself on that one!

On the less exciting side, he snores and doesn't seem to tolerate onions very well! Hoping that won't last.

So, his first bath was kind of classic. We have this little tub that has a sort of hammock built in to it (one of our cats seemed convinced it was his new cat bed). So we filled up the tub with warm water, and lowered Ben into it... and this look of wonder and rapture spread across his little face! It was so sweet. He seemed to be feeling such joy at having recovered the experience of being in water. He was, as I said, really almost smiling. He was so relaxed that--you guessed it--he peed. So, Bob lifted him up, I dumped out the bath and refilled it, and we started over again. Take two. And it happened again, right away. Ok, so same thing, we dump it out and start again; take three. We're thinking he ought to be good to go now. He's got the same rapturous look on his face. He opens his little mouth as if to smile, and... out comes the spit-up. A lot. Ok. So, Bob lifts him up again (and Ben really has to be wondering why we keep putting him in this wonderful warm water but then lifting him back up into the air!), I rinse and refill the tub; take four. We put him back in and now we're really sure he's good to go. I even take a minute to go get my camera, since we know we should be recording his first bath for posterity.

I start the recording, narrating how it's his first bath, and how we've had three mishaps but won't dwell on those because look-how-content-he-is-and-how-great-everything-is-going, and I'm zooming in on his adorable, happy little face when all of a sudden we hear... you guessed it again... the sound of a big ole baby poop being let loose. Oh noooooo! We laughed and laughed as we cleaned up and got ready for take 5, thinking about all the fun we'll have showing this video in the future if there ever should arise an occasion when we want to embarrass him ;-)

Our little water baby

Happy baby (and mama!)

All clean (whew), and all tuckered out

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Baby Ben is here!

Baby Ben has finally arrived, and boy was he worth the wait. I'm totally enthralled, as is the rest of the family. I have so much to say about him already, but I'm going to start with the birth story, by popular demand. Quit reading now if you're not interested in such things.

So, we arrived at the hospital as scheduled, bright and early last Thursday morning. The plan was this: if he had turned himself back around, we'd do a regular-old-induction. If he was still breech or transverse, we wouldn't mess around with trying to turn him, but would go right for the C-section. It was kind of my way of letting him decide which way he wanted to enter the world.

We registered downstairs at the hospital before heading up to the maternity wing, and when I got up from the registration desk, the baby started to shift in a big way. I wasn't sure he was actually turning himself around, but he was definitely on the move. Not long afterwards we were settled into the room and they got out the ultrasound machine... and lo and behold, he had indeed turned himself around! I honestly felt a little thrown by this, because I had so geared myself up for a C-section. No labor, no pushing, no indescribably excruciating pain going on and on and on (and on...). And sure, you end up with your stomach cut open, but you're pretty much likely to end up cut or torn open the other way, too. Anyway, whatever--it's not that I was totally hoping for a C-section! It's just that it had already been such a roller coaster ride up to that point, and it felt like every time I wrapped my mind around a plan the plan changed, and I was just getting kind of... overwhelmed and exhausted from it all. Little did I know how much more of that was in store for me at that point!

Ok, so, they hooked me right up to the pitocin, and almost immediately I started up with regular contractions. Every two minutes, right on the money. They were mild, but the dosage was low, so we all took this as a great sign, figuring they'd increase beautifully with the dosage. We started placing bets on when the baby would be born. Noon? Three? Four? Whatever; we knew it would be very soon. In the meantime, we passed the time watching a Brady Bunch marathon on TVLand, which felt sort of appropriate, since Bob and I both grew up on that show, and also family and friends have joked, more than once, that we're the new Brady Bunch....

They made me fast all day, and made me walk the halls with my mobile IV and in my hospital gown (which made me feel like a nursing home patient), and even had me bouncing on this gigantic ball, which made me feel quite silly. But I didn't care--I was so excited that we were finally going to meet little Ace, face-to-face.

But my body seemed to have other plans. They cranked that pitocin up on me all day long, and NOTHING. The contractions stayed mild, and I was not even the slightest bit dilated. The doctor said if nothing had happened by about 4pm we'd re-evaluate. Well, by 4pm the contractions were still so mild I was barely tensing up, and I was still all sealed up like Fort Knox. I was quite distraught! I hadn't anticipated that the pitocin wouldn't do anything! Was I ever going to have this baby?

The doctor said if I really had had enough, she'd give me the C-section, but she was recommending taking the night to go with a few applications of cytotec, a suppository that is supposed to make you dilate and get you more ready for labor. In fact, I had the cytotec with George, and it slammed me right into labor, which apparently it does in rare cases. I was pretty much sure that that's what would happen this time, and the doctor agreed it was highly likely. So, we decided we'd go ahead and give it a try, and then if I still wasn't in labor by the morning we'd go for the C-section.

They let me have a little dinner (hospital food never tasted so good) and gave me a sleeping pill so I could get at least a few hours of sleep before my body kicked into labor, which we were pretty sure would happen in the wee hours of the morning.

Except it didn't. By 8am, I had gotten a very nice night's sleep (thanks to the Ambien), but still no labor! I couldn't believe it. However, I had now dilated (drumroll, please) 1 (one, uno, un) centimeter. 24 hours on labor-inducing drugs, and that's all my body had for me. One centimeter. Oh, yes, and still the very, very, very mild contractions (I couldn't really even feel them, but they were showing up on the monitor). Still, it was progress. Soooo, we decided we'd go for one last day of pitocin, and if I hadn't had the baby or at least gone into some further stage of labor by the afternoon, *then* we'd do the C-section!

Back on the pitocin, for one hour... two hours... and still nothing. I was really starting to get discouraged, and was wishing I had opted for the C-section 24 hours earlier! What was the deal? Did this baby just not want to be born?

It was at that point that my husband suddenly figured it all out. He told me that he thought I needed to give my body permission to go into labor. That it wasn't that this baby just didn't want to come out, that it was more that my body was just refusing to go into labor, because it was so traumatic for me last time.

Wow, when he said it, it really clicked. I just knew he was right. As soon as I heard that I tried to grant myself that permission by visualizing it happening, but I really couldn't! Every time I tried to see it happening it was just a complete and total blank, except for a feeling of absolute terror.

I know women have been giving birth since the beginning of people, obviously, and that many, many women have done it multiple times, and that some women even don't mind it. But for me, the last time, it was--well, I don't really want to dwell on it, but let's just say it was beyond traumatic. Unspeakably painful. Inconceivably so. It took me a very long time to recover physically, and mentally/emotionally I obviously still had not recovered. I'm pretty sure I had some sort of PTSD from it, which had remained at least partly unresolved. Seriously, I was terrified. And I was pretty sure that terror was holding me back in a significant way.

Whether the simple acknowledgment of the problem was enough or the cranking up of the pitocin was finally having some sort of effect, at about that point my water broke. It was the coolest thing, actually! I felt the baby drop in there all of a sudden (did I mention he had still been riding *totally* high up to that point?), and then whoosh. The reason I found it to be so cool was that my body was finally doing something to cooperate with this whole plan. It was finally responding. It felt like the sign I had been waiting and waiting for that this was going to happen!

The bad news was there was meconium in the water. If you're squeamish and you're still reading, stop now! Meconium is the baby's first bowel movement, which they usually take in their first 24 hours after being born. The doctors don't like it if the baby takes it while still in the womb, because it can put the baby in distress (it can get in their little lungs). But his heart rate was ok and everything seemed fine, so no rush to a C-section just yet anyway.

Soon after my water broke the contractions started getting stronger, which again, I found very encouraging. Weird to be wanting/waiting for/welcoming pain, but that's just the deal. As the contractions increased, I asked the nurse if she wanted to check to see how dilated I was, and she told me she'd check in a few hours. Hold up: a few hours? I was going to have this baby within a few hours, thankyouverymuch. I wanted to be checked because I did NOT want to miss my window for the all-important epidural that I did not get to have the last time, but this time was GOING. TO. HAVE. At all costs.

I had been talking to my doctor about an epidural pretty much since I had met her, way back in September. She had assured me, repeatedly and in front of witnesses (my mom and Bob) that I could have my epidural WHENEVER I WANTED IT. She does not believe in making women wait for it if they know they want it, especially if they're on pitocin at the time. She had told me this flat out, and I was banking on it. In fact it was pretty much the only thought that was getting me through my absolute terror. And there was NO WAY that I was going to miss my window for it, and I told the nurse as much.

Once the contractions started increasing, they started getting very intense very quickly. Still the nurse refused to check me (they don't want to over-check especially once the water has broken, for fear of infection). But I could tell I was suddenly progressing quickly, and was further along than she thought I was, and I told her so. I mean, I had been through this before! I told her that, too. She told me not to worry, that she'd make sure I got my epidural. But I was worried.

Anyway, I had been walking around the room and bouncing on that darned ball, because that was what they told me would move things along. And when the contractions got really strong, actually the most comfortable position I could find was sitting on that ball, leaning way forward. Except they couldn't get a read on my contractions when I was that way, so they told me I had to get back in bed and lie down so they could get a good contraction pattern going. I didn't like this idea one bit, because when I was in bed before I could feel the contractions much more strongly, and they were, at this point, *quite* intense and painful. But I agreed.

As I lay there, they got really bad. REALLY bad. Like, approaching the point where I really couldn't handle it. I told the nurse that I wanted my epidural, and I wanted it now. I told her that my doctor had PROMISED me I could have it WHENEVER I WANTED IT, and that I was NOT making that up. (Actually, I had already told her that, but I told her again, with great emphasis and insistence.) The nurse clearly thought I was delusional, though she told me she believed me. But she added that I had to be at least 3cm dilated, that they had to follow these guidelines, that it was their policy or something. I told her a) that's not what my dr. said, and b) to go ahead and check me because I was thinking I probably was that dilated by now. She thought I'd gone off the deep end and tried to calm me down. She also told me that the epidural doesn't work completely on everyone, which I knew but thought was just kinda cruel of her to bring it up! It made me start crying and telling Bob that I didn't think I could do this, that I really didn't want to do this, that I hated it and why-hadn't-I-had-the-C-section, etc. etc.

My crying seemed to have gotten her attention at least a little bit, because she told me she'd go get me something for the pain. I said all I wanted was the epidural, but she said this other thing would help, so I let her go.

The second she was out the door I grabbed my phone and pulled up my doctor's number, and thrust the phone at Bob, telling him he *had* to call her and tell her I needed my freaking epidural NOW!

I was afraid the office wouldn't put him through to the doctor (they never let you talk to the dr.), but I guess the magic words are "My wife is in labor right now", so they put him through. He told her: "My wife's water broke, she's in labor, and if she doesn't get her epidural soon I think she's going to kill someone." Atta boy, Bob! My hero!!! The doctor said of course, she'd call the nurses right away.

I couldn't take lying down anymore, and frankly I'd had it with these nurses and their contraction patterns and their no-epidurals-until-we-say-so, so I just got up, which I knew would help at least a little bit. Bob tried to stop me, but I barked that I was not going to let some 20-something who had never been through this herself tell me what to do when I knew what I needed!

Let me state for the record that I actually really liked the nurse. I really did! She was kind of a hippie-chick with a nose ring and a really up-beat demeanor, and was really into the whole visualization thing when we'd talked about it. I had taken an instant liking to her when I'd met her in the morning. And I thought it was awesome that our little rock-and-roll baby had arranged to arrive during the shift of such a cool nurse. But this was a whole new thing at this point. This was just about showtime. This was my labor and it was going to go my way!

Anyway, the nurses came back in with the other medication and their promises that it would make me feel better right away. It was kind of awkward to have to tell them that we had just called the doctor and she was ordering the epidural right then. I could tell they were a bit taken aback that we had gone over their heads like that, and I did not like having any awkwardness added to the mix right then, but what-are-ya-gonna-do. Anyway, I guess this other drug wasn't going to interfere with the epidural and I was pretty much out-of-my-mind with pain at that point so I really didn't question it. And in fact, whatever it was (I still don't know), it was great. It did take the edge off. They made me get back on the bed because they said it would make me dizzy (which it did), but they didn't make me lie down, thank goodness. They did check me for dilation at that point and guess what? I was nearly 3cm. How 'bout that.

Very soon thereafter, the anesthesiologist arrived. The skies opened up and a chorus of angels rang out a Hallelujah. While he was inserting the needle I had to stay still for quite a lengthy time (I mean, staying still at all when you're in excruciating pain will feel like a lengthy time), and I did feel a sense of pride when he praised me for staying so still, telling me I was in the top 10% for not moving. Ever the achiever!

Once the epidural kicked in, I was hugely relieved. The unbearable pain stopped. However, the pain did not stop altogether. I did still feel the contractions and they were pretty uncomfortable. I started to cry again, partly out of relief that I finally had it, partly out of exhaustion from having had to fight so hard to get it, and probably mostly out of fear that when I got to the pushing part it would hurt really badly again. Bob was my rock, and helped me get through that little breakdown.

Finally I was able to relax--so much so, in fact, that I felt I might even be able to drift off to sleep. Now *this* was the way to be in labor! The nurses left me hooked up to the monitors and said they'd be keeping a close eye on them from their station down the hall.

The baby's heartbeat was lulling me to sleep. Ba-boom. Ba-boom. Ba-boom.

And then suddenly, a pause. I jerked to full attention. It started right back up again, but in just a few seconds the nurses came rushing back in and announced that they needed to check me to see if it could be time for me to push. Nine and a half centimeters! We were ready to roll!

I pushed for a total of about an hour and 15 minutes or so, I *think*. I can't remember when exactly the doctor arrived, but I was definitely glad to see her. She had ordered some extra equipment to be in the room because of the meconium, but there had been a shift change with the nurses and the equipment wasn't there. I could tell she was not happy about that and seemed to be kind of worried, but I was just so happy that I was pushing and could feel enough to push but not really enough for it to hurt that it didn't really register. Also I had said something when she got there along the lines of how earlier I had been wishing I had gone for the C-section after all but that it was too late now. She sort of hesitated, as if to say "Not so fast, it could still come to that," and said something like "Well, right, um, we'll see." Whatever. I was so happy that the pushing was going so well--I wasn't going to let anything freak me out or spoil my mood!

But at a certain point it became clear that everything was not ok. It was kind of a blur, but something about the baby's heart rate was dropping significantly with each contraction, and also the worry about the meconium... She started talking about a vacuum and said something about how if that didn't work we might have to even take the next step (which was pretty clearly the C-section). WHAT? WHAT? I had NOT come all this way to have things go wrong now.

She told me I had two more pushes to try, and then she was going to have to intervene. The next push after she told me that I was gearing up to give it everything I had, except then I just burst into tears. I was so worried about my little baby! It was an awful feeling! I couldn't bear to think of him in any kind of danger! Anyway, I pulled myself together and gave the next one every last bit of everything I had, and thank heavens, it was enough. Out he came, my beautiful, precious baby, crying and breathing and everything. They laid him right on my chest and oh-my-goodness, words can only gesture at the sense of relief I felt.

The doctor held up the cord and said it was the longest cord she had ever seen. No wonder he was able to move all around in there, she said!

Pretty soon after they put him on me, they had to take him back and put him on the warmer table next to me, to suction (not vacuum, just suction with the little manual suction thing) him all out to remove as much meconium and fluid as they could get to. This whole process took quite awhile, but I didn't care. I was busy feeling intense relief!

Once he was all cleaned up and given the ok, and was back on my chest, and my mom and Bob's mom and the three kids had come in to meet him and take some pictures and had gone again, I went on this amazing high. I have never felt anything like it. Wow. Wow.

I had heard about women getting a high from a newborn, but I don't know if I really believed it. When I had George, ten years ago, I was filled with an incredible sense of love for him, right away, for sure. I was amazed by him and couldn't get enough of him and thought he was a miracle, the best thing ever. But at the same time, I felt like I'd been beaten senseless and left for dead by the side of the road. Which as you might imagine kind of put a damper not on my feelings for my perfect new baby, but on my mood in general. So I really did not understand this whole newborn high thing.

But this time, I got it. And I was so happy! I was so happy I was getting to experience how great it can be! People had told me that giving birth could be a beautiful thing, but I had always thought "Yeah, for everyone but the mother"--I thought that for the mother it was just truly barbaric. Barbaric, I tell you! But I could see now that it really can be beautiful, and wow, what a feeling. The only thing that made me the slightest bit sad was that Bob and I hadn't started early enough that we could make ten more of these enchanting little creatures.

I stayed up almost the whole night, just holding him and gazing upon him. And I have pretty much been on cloud 9 ever since.

A quick photo-tour of the two-day event...

Me, feeling like a nursing home patient. Bingo, anyone?

It's always a good time for a Brady Bunch marathon.

Bob, on the infamous ball.

Come on, the ball is just too funny to resist. This is my mom having a turn on it.

Our priest came by Thursday evening to bless the baby. Only there was no baby just yet.

Day two (or three, if you count Tuesday, and why wouldn't you, really?!):
Me and my new favorite drug.

Mama with Baby Ben (8 lbs 5 oz, 21 1/2 inches of pure beauty and joy).

Wow, we have four kids!

The grandmas

Me and my boys

Looks like mama's not the only one on a "newborn high"!

Baby bliss :-)