She’s almost ONE!

I must have fallen into the rabbit hole as soon as I gave birth because this (nearly) year has gone by so incredibly fast. The other day when I asked my husband if he could believe our baby girl is about to turn one… he looked stunned (although, of course we know she is and we talk about it all the time). He said, “I remember the day she was born like it was five minutes ago!” and then this faraway look came over his face. Yep. It’s insane how everything pre-baby seemed like f-o-r-e-v-e-r and everything post baby is super time-warped. People can say, “It goes by so fast!” until they are blue in the face, but until you experience it, you – my friend – have no idea.

Our little angel, who used to be so calm and mellow, has turned the proverbial developmental corner and now screams (I mean SCREAMS) the split second she doesn’t get exactly what she wants. And what she wants is often completely arbitrary — or at least, it’s a mystery to us. A few days ago, she was happily playing in her play area in the den. She decided to crawl around and when she arrived at her playpen (which was blocking access to the kitchen) she screamed bloody murder! Two seconds before, she’d been a smiling, happy little muffin (that’s what I’ve been calling her these days). My nicknames go through phases… and I find that they spill over to people I love. So now I call my husband “Muffin” too!

She’s doing so many amazing things (well, to me, they’re amazing!) and I’m such a proud Mommy. She can stand and sit like a champ and can also “cruise” or walk, holding onto furniture. A few times, I’ve seen her stand completely on her own and I’m convinced she’ll be walking by her birthday – squeal! She is so cute that I find it really, really difficult to give her soft kisses. I tend to give big loud kisses and squeeze her all over. I have to fight the urge to just bite chunks of cute baby all the time. Okay, I know that must sound odd, but I’m sure I’m not the only one… right?

We’re planning a small, family only, get together for her on her actual birthday. And, I have to say, this is the first party in my life that I’m actually excited about planning. I don’t think I paid this much attention to my wedding – lol. Yesterday, I was reading a baby article to my hubby as he was washing our dishes (yay, me!) and it said something about toddler behavior. Naturally, we’ve come across the word “toddler” a million times, but neither one of us was sure when exactly toddlerhood began. So, I googled it and it turns out that the official toddler era is from 12 to 36 months. When the realization sunk in that our little bundle of preciousness only had another month of being a BABY, it was just too much to take. Mommy & Daddy had a little pity party for ourselves. We have so loved her babyhood and aren’t even close to ready to say goodbye. I can’t believe she’s going to be a toddler now. This whole growing up thing sure is painful… for the parents!

Birth Story [Part 2… long and graphic]

The doctor says, “Get her oxygen, now!” A nurse straps the oxygen mask onto my face and instructs me to take deep breaths. My doctor says, “Breathe the oxygen down to your baby!” So I breathe, deep, quick breaths, visualizing the oxygen going to the baby. I don’t really know what is going on.

There I am with all five nurses, my doula, my husband, and the doctor (who usually doesn’t show up until the delivery) hovering over either me or the monitor showing the baby’s heart rate & my contractions, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is going on! Someone (I don’t remember who) tells me the baby’s heart rate has decelerated — apparently to a dangerously low level. They decide to insert an internal fetal monitor. I remember seeing one of these at the baby prep class… and a part of it actually goes into the baby’s scalp so they can accurately monitor her heart rate, since the external monitor is not nearly as accurate. It freaks me out a little, but at that point, I want them to do whatever it takes to make sure my baby is okay.

The whole chaotic mess lasts about 5 minutes before my relieved doctor announces that the baby’s heart rate is back to normal and she’s happy that the baby was able to recover so quickly. I still have no idea what happened or what it meant, but my husband has now gone ghost white and is covering his mouth with his hand, as if he’s still in some terrible shock. In fact, the look on his face is scaring me more than anything else. The doctor steps out and my husband rushes after her. This worries me as I wonder if there’s something they’re not telling me.

When they return to the room, the doctor explains that the baby’s heart rate dropped so low that she wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her brain, which is why they gave me extra oxygen. My husband is beside himself because he’s worried our daughter will have some type of brain damage. Our doctor reassures him over and over that the baby has more than a 5 minute supply of oxygen and no damage has been done… but she also stresses that we can’t afford another episode of the same. She says she doesn’t know if the baby’s head is too big for the birth canal or if the baby has a cord wrapped around her neck, but the monitors show that whenever I have a contraction and the baby’s head descends, that her heart rate slows down. She tells me that because she knows how much I want a vaginal birth… and I’ve already worked so long… that she’s going to monitor us for half an hour and see how well the baby tolerates my contractions.

“If she’s not tolerating them well, I’m not going to let her decel again – we’ll get this baby out!” she says. And by that time, I’m so afraid that some last minute tragedy is going to occur and that my husband’s long-time fear of us having an impaired child is going to come to pass, that I actually just want the doctor to wheel me in to the surgery room and get the baby out immediately. But I don’t say anything – partly out of shock and partly because I’ve now mentally/emotionally handed over all decision making power to my doctor. And I pray, with all my heart, that my baby is born healthy. This is the first time in my life that I have known real fear.

The baby doesn’t seem to be doing well, but not poorly enough to rush me into a C-Section, either. Everyone in the room is now staring intently at the monitors. No one is looking at me. Except for my husband, it almost seems like no one even knows I’m there. At a certain point, the baby isn’t tolerating labor even in between contractions. My doctor is trying to wait it out… and then notices that I haven’t had a contraction in a while.

At nearly 29 hours of labor, my uterus has reached fatigue and stopped contracting. There’s nowhere else to go now, and a C-Section is imminent. The nurses have been prepping the surgery room and now they prep me… putting me into a hospital gown and covering my hair with a surgical bonnet… then wheeling me into the O.R. My husband and the doula are given scrubs as well.

I’m in the surgery room and everything feels a bit surreal. Oddly, the operating lights overhead give me a feeling a familiarity – I looked up at similar lights during every egg retrieval. I find this thought strangely comforting. From beginning to end, this entire process seems to come full circle.

The anesthesiologist is there, ready to connect me to the morphine drip. His droll humor is now amusing. It’s something to focus on in the quiet, sterile environment. As he adds the morphine to the epidural, I begin to convulse. I feel like a fish out of water, flailing everywhere. To me, the convulsions feel violent and uncontrollable. My teeth start to chatter. He asks me if I’m cold. I can barely stop them long enough to form the word, “No.”

I take a closer look at the light fixture above me and notice it has a smooth metallic disc in the center, serving as a makeshift mirror, and the way it’s positioned, I can see exactly what’s happening on the other side of the “germ guard” they put up. “The nurses are going to prep you now,” someone says, and I watch them swab Betadine over my belly. I realize that I could watch my entire surgery. How could they not know? I quickly make the decision to close my eyes, fearing that seeing what’s happening to me will somehow make me feel it, too.

My husband and the doula arrive in their scrubs. My husband is seated next to me. He strokes my cheek and tells me I’m doing really well. The doctor’s assistant warns of an unpleasant smell. It’s flesh burning. It’s my flesh, as they cauterize the incision. It’s a very peculiar sensation to be conscious during surgery.

The operation lasts about 15 minutes, with all kinds of minor chatter. The anesthesiologist asks if we have a name for the baby and my husband says, “Yes. Samantha!” I smile. Because we hadn’t officially come to any conclusion, but earlier Friday morning, I had mentioned that I was really leaning toward “Samantha.” I guess 30 hours of labor will get me whatever name I want!

A few minutes later, the doctor says, “Yep, she’s got the cord wrapped around her neck! So that’s what was happening!” Then the doctor says, “Are you ready to meet your daughter? She’s coming!” And she pulls a very pink and healthy baby Samantha out! The anesthesiologist holds up a mirror so I can see my baby over the germ guard. But he doesn’t realize that I can also see behind the baby at the gaping hole in my body. I can see my skin cut open, the blood, the layers of tissue and fat, and the huge open gash. Luckily, seeing it does not make me feel the pain.

I turn my gaze back to my daughter. I’m overwhelmed. Crying. Convulsing. My husband keeps saying, “Oh my God, she is so beautiful!” in a voice that makes me cry even now as I remember it, because it was so full of unadulterated love. Even the doctor says she’s beautiful and quickly adds, “and I don’t say that to all my patients!”

She is beautiful. None of it seems real… but there she is, this beautiful creature of ours. Nurses are cleaning and weighing her. One of them asks my husband if he wants to cut her umbilical cord… yet another aspect of my birth plan goes by the wayside, as they were supposed to wait until the cord stopped pulsating before severing it. But it doesn’t matter… nothing matters other than the fact that we have a healthy baby!

The anesthesiologist arranges for photographs with me, my husband, and Samantha. They bring her close to me and she opens her eyes and gazes into mine. I am so in love already. I’m crying… still shaking… but so happy now that my family is all together and that everything has turned out alright. I tell her I love her. My husband sings to her — the same song he sang every single night when she was inside me: “My Girl.” For a moment, no one else exists. We are in our own brand new cocoon. The world is perfect.

When they take Samantha away, my husband follows her. I am still being sewn up on the table. Later, my husband tells me that when was on the other side of the germ guard, he saw me laying there, wide open, with my guts piled onto two separate tables. He says he’s never seen anything like that outside of a horror film where a zombie gets disemboweled. (Lovely image, no?) No. It’s brutal. This entire process has been remarkably so.

Eventually, I get wheeled to a recovery room. I still can’t move my legs and my belly feels sore. Thank God my doula was there with me, otherwise, I would have been completely alone. It’s a very strange feeling to have gone through all that… to give birth and then not have a chance to hold your baby.

When they finally brought her to me, I was overjoyed. I took her into my arms and marveled at her fine features. Her little nose, her big eyes, her chubby cheeks… and her little hands. And just as I touched her little hand, one distinct middle finger rose up to greet me. I turned to my doula and said, “Is she seriously flipping me off right now?” And she burst out laughing because it was undeniably true. My precious daughter’s very first communication to me was to give me the bird! It was hilarious. And I thought to myself, “Oh, she’s going to love this story when she becomes a teenager!”

Snippets of the 21st week variety

I’ve been blog-absent for a while, but only because things have been busy and I’ve started posts and then decided not to publish them for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that I’m writing this for me, especially when the reality is that other people can read it – and whether I’m writing anonymously or not, I have to acknowledge that it does, in some way, affect what I write.

So… I think this is going to be a “random snippets” post, since I don’t have a clear idea about where I’m going.

Yesterday, I took a yoga class at an actual studio (rather than the pre-natal videos I usually exercise to) and it was pretty good! Only two students showed up for class, so it was very close to getting private instruction. I loved the granola instructor who took the time to point out exactly when I should be moving or holding a position differently to allow room for the baby. I loved the special attention in a way that surprised me. Normally, I don’t like being singled out for any reason – good 0r bad – but it felt right yesterday and she was giving each student equal attention, so I didn’t feel like there was too much attention being paid to me.

Anyway… the positions were challenging to hold and it felt like quite a workout, despite the gentle nature of it. When we finally went into our closing meditation and were lying still on our mats, my baby girl started up a kicking & punching storm! She was jabbing at me harder than I’ve ever felt before. And it occurred to me that she might actually be trying to punch her way out! The visual was just too funny for me and I started giggling (silently, of course) since the sensation and my imagination of what she was trying to do was purely delightful.

Afterwards, I went to thank the instructor for her personalized guidance and support and I told her about the baby kicking during meditation and she said, “I wondered what you were laughing about!” and then added, “The baby loves yoga – yay! A little yogini!”

Last weekend, I met up with a bunch of pregnant women thanks to a Yahoo group for first-time expectant moms here in the Valley. One the one hand, I can’t believe I had to answer an ad, essentially, to meet other mothers… but on the other hand, I do recognize that I need to talk to some other pregnant women just to have someone to talk to who can really relate.

We met at a local coffee shop. There were about eight of us in various stages of pregnancy, but most due within a month of me either way. Most of us appeared to be somewhere in our thirties. We introduced ourselves and a little bit of our stories. Can you believe I was the only one who’d had any sort of trouble getting pregnant? I mean, I thought by sheer age alone, there’d be at least one other person – but, no! One woman described her anxiety about trying for four months. Yeah. Uh-huh. I was very nice, though … I didn’t even laugh.

Now that I think about it, they probably didn’t even know what I was talking about when I told them about my IVF cycles. I’m sure some of them have heard of IVF, but I guarantee you no one knew enough to explain it. That wasn’t all they didn’t know about, either. We talked about delivering the baby and except for two other women (one who worked at a hospital), the terms doula & midwife were completely foreign concepts.

One of the women said, “I really hope I don’t have to have a C-section!” – which gave me pause. I asked her why she thought she might have to have one and she didn’t know. I got up on my mini-soap-box and presented a less-than-two-minute tutorial on some of the things one could do to prevent invasive & unnecessary measures during delivery. Then the organizer of the group said, “Oh, I’m getting an epidural for sure!” I sighed. Not that there’s anything wrong with getting one if you need one, but going in with that mentality just… irks me, I guess. I told her that she could have one if she wanted, but that it would likely slow down her progress and if the doctors then felt she wasn’t progressing enough, they would tell her that her baby was in distress and insist she get a C-section. I don’t think it computed because she gave me a blank stare.

I’m making it sound worse than it was – lol. The women were all very, very nice and friendly. And, I didn’t make a pariah out of myself. It was funny that they all thought I knew so much and that they should start reading more books. (Um, yeah… ‘you think?) Then again, lest I judge too harshly, pregnancy – real or conceptual – is new to these women. They’ve just started paying attention. I’ve been obsessed for nearly three years now. It’s hardly a fair comparison.

I am going to try to forge a friendship with one of the women who’s new to L.A. (by way of London). I know how tough it is to make friends in this city, pregnant or not! And she lives really nearby, so we’ve got a tentative friend-date for coffee or a walk along the lake next week (I’m hoping for both, actually.) Mmmm… a decaf soy latte sounds so good right now!

And, for my final snippet, the topic of baby names is a source of constant consternation in our household. We (okay, I) made the mistake of sharing actual names in consideration with family and a few friends. I’m not going to lie, I knew it was a bad idea before I did it… but it was as if I just couldn’t help myself when asked the direct question about what names we were thinking about!

Hubby likes a completely different set of exotic names than I like. And, at the risk of sounding trite, everyone else agrees with ME! (It’s true.) But still… we have to come to some sort of compromise, which doesn’t seem likely at the moment, but will hopefully occur before our daughter is actually born. Deep sigh. My fear is that she’ll end up with a bland name, only because neither one of us finds it objectionable… and I really want her name to feel special. (Not the kind of “special” that makes people roll their eyes – not “celebrity special” like Apple, or Blue Ivy, or Maxi – wtf?!?!) Just something that is worthy of the precious miracle she is to us.

And to that extent, I must conclude with a mother-in-law story. Let me just preface this by saying that my in-laws are Midwestern, non-interfering folk and are both super sweet. Cut to: phone call Sunday afternoon. I see it’s my mother-in-law, who rarely calls me, so I pick up the phone and her voice bubbles over with excitement. She tells me she thinks she has the perfect name for our baby girl. I’m partly doubtful, but she seems genuinely inspired. She adds that she can’t get the name out of her head and is already calling the baby by this name. (As a side note, my mother is already calling the baby by another name. It’s one I like, but still. I’ve told them both now not to get attached to any names.)

So, I say, “Tell me, what’s the name?” (I don’t know whether to insert a drumroll here or a moment of silence.) She says, “Rhonda Lee!” (Okay, insert moment of silence here.) I think to myself that that is the ugliest name out of all the names I’ve heard so far and that any of my husband’s awful choices would be better than that. I tell mother-in-law that the name is “very interesting” and that we’ll be sure to “add it to the list” of names we’re considering. She goes on to tell me how beautiful she thinks the name is. I tell her she’s very sweet for thinking of us and going through such trouble. She says that she called my husband and told him, but that she wasn’t sure he would “remember” to tell me. And then, she asks me, “Do you like it?” Oh… that is so unfair. Everyone knows you can’t tell your mother-in-law the truth about these things.

So, I say, “Well… I like Lee (which is not true) but Rhonda seems a bit on the old-fashioned side,” and I pause, afraid I’ve said something too negative. She counters with, “Well that’s why I like it – nobody else will have her name!” (I think to myself, “yeah, and for good reason!”) but instead say, “You have a point there!” and assure her the name will go at the top of our list for consideration. I manage to get off the phone and immediately send a text message to my husband as follows:

My Text: “Your mom just called me with her baby name suggestion.”

Husband’s Text: “Ha ha ha!”

(Oh… and, I finally added the latest baby pic on the pix page, just in case.)