Saturday, October 31, 2009


The shadows come early here, and they stay late. Even in the warmest breezes of midsummer, there is a slight sour tang to the air that speaks of coolness. A warning: this will not last. So you hold each day as it comes, like a petal that you know will lose it's color and wilt in your hands. But you cannot help it, and you cannot leave. For the brilliant blue sky and the jagged edges of the peaks are as much a part of you as an arm or a foot. When you close your eyes, they make up the landscape of your mind. The hawk soaring--a tiny speck on the currents of the wind. And far down the valley, the river tumbles over rocks, sending up an echo of greeting.

Winter is coming on fast now, the snow creeping steadily closer on it's descent down the slopes. The brilliant blue of the glacier ice on the peaks is disappearing under fresh, white snow, and there is--more often--the crack of an avalanche on some unseen face. The animals grow shaggy under their winter coats, eating voraciously. But still, the sun is warm. You can sit on a rock outcropping, with a roll of hard bread and some cheese, and feel the warmth on your face--turning your cheeks pink. In those moments, you don't feel so alone. Even though the thoughts of the crowds far below, or even the small village on the opposite hillside, fills you with trepidation. It isn't always easy, when the winter comes, to be so alone. Alone in a hut, warm and secure, that hunkers against a hillside. No way to get out, once the snows begin. With all the wood stacked on the side of the house to get through the winter, and the cows nestled in their stalls. The warmth of fresh milk and alpine flowers, hung upside down to dry, holding your hand through another long, lonely winter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The View...

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.

Which explains why I'm sitting in a hotel in Interlaken, Switzerland. Looking out a window. Getting lost in my own thoughts...

Oh, how I can't wait to start writing when I get back.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day 166: Ainsley, Part 7 and Conclusion


I'm not sure how it sunk in, for the Spouse, that he was going to be the one delivering a baby. I know that it only dawned on me, slowly, that we didn't even have time for the paramedics. But at no point did I feel panic, and at no point did I see panic on my husband's face. I think we both knew that it was up to us, and we would do it. He simply set the phone aside, on speaker, and did what the 911 dispatch told him to do.

"Sir--can you see the baby's head?"
"No... yes. Yes. I can see it."
"Alright, now sir, I want you to guide it out slowly... Don't drop it! It will be slippery!... Is the head out?"
"Almost.... yes."
"Okay. Now guide the shoulders..."
"The shoulders are already out."
"Is the baby out?"
"Yes! Yes--the baby's out!"

And there it was. Our baby. Caught by his father's own hands and handed right into my arms. I remember my first look at my baby's face. All wrinkled and tiny.

At that moment, a knock came at the door and the Spouse yelled "Come in!" There was the slightest note of excitement in his voice. I heard my friend, Lisa's, voice answer back "How we doin'?" I remembered then--we had called her to stay with the kids while we went to the hospital. The Spouse answered her by saying "Well, we have a baby!" She gasped and hurried in, grabbed a towel and started rubbing the baby vigorously. I wanted to hear a vibrant, furious cry, but we were getting only baby squawks that worried me a little. Lisa and my husband both assured me that the baby was breathing. Then Lisa realized we were all referring to the baby as "he" and said "Oh wait! Did we look?!?... It's a Girl!!!"

I looked up at my husband and he looked down at me in utter surprise. A girl! We had both been secretly expecting a boy. In all the surprises of that night, we hadn't even thought to check if it was a boy or a girl.

And then the party started, my doula rushed in leading the firemen who had come to our rescue. They knelt down beside the couch and suctioned the baby, cut the cord, and started looking her over and making notes. About 5 minutes later, the ambulance finally arrived with the paramedics. They got right in there with the firemen and began shooting off questions, "What time was she born?" "Uuuuuh... 3:30?" "We'll say 3:28." In all the quiet commotion, I looked up from the couch at my husband, holding our baby girl in his arms--wrapped in one of the bath towels we'd gotten for our wedding, and my eyes met his. In that moment, we both smiled. I was so happy that I cried. It was like we had the greatest secret on earth. We had just brought a child to this planet--just us. We were the only ones present when she was born, in our calm and quiet home. He was my hero in that moment, and reflected in his eyes I saw all the love and strength that I possessed. I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything in the world.

Several minutes later, they wrapped our baby girl up in my arms and loaded us on to a gurney for the ride to the hospital. Dave stayed behind to clean up a little bit and to send a skype message to my friends Tori and Rob in New Zealand that our baby had arrived, at home, and it was a girl. I asked Lisa to please tell them the story, if she had time.

And then we were out the door, in the warm night that was full of stars. They loaded us into the ambulance and I remember my precious baby girl clutching my finger in her fist with a death grip as her eyes looked up into mine. I'd never had a baby quite that strong before.

When we arrived at the Emergency Room they wheeled us through a crush of nurses who had been on alert for us, and all of them wanted to see the baby. We reached Labor and Delivery and met another huge group of nurses who were chattering and excited. It felt like the biggest, happiest birthday party ever. We finally got a weight, however inaccurate, and guessed at an Apgar score. And I marvelled at the whole experience. I had given birth and never been hooked up to a single monitor or I.V. I was amazed at how much I had loved it.

Eventually, we hugged our paramedics goodbye and settled into the night. It was just our little family again--a baby and her parents. I held Ainsley in my arms, with her little pink hat, and I can honestly say: I have never known happiness like that.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 165: Ainsley, Part 6

People tend to raise their eyebrows at me and look skeptical when I say the following sentence, but I want to assure you that I mean it as much as I can mean anything: I absolutely love doing the whole labor and delivery thing with my husband.

Go ahead and scoff, but I think it is one of the funnest, coolest things we've ever gotten to do as a couple, and--since we've gone through this a few times now--it just gets better each time. We are a perfect match in this aspect of our marriage. An ideal team. If Labor was a sport, we could go for the gold. My Spouse knows exactly how to support and comfort me in a way that helps things to move forward and help me keep my cool. He knows when to gently remind me to open my eyes, and when to get in my face and mirror breathe with me. He knows just where to push on my back during a contraction, and when to make me laugh. And every time I look at him, I can see it in his eyes: he knows I can do this, and he is right there with me.

So. I was in the shower, full blast, and the Spouse was there with me (in his swimsuit, thanks) and we were doing just great. He would help me during contractions and then we'd joke and laugh in between. That's something that I love especially--laughing together and being so excited to meet this new little person. Whoever they are.

I remember, at one point, the Spouse saying "Becca--I think these contractions are closer than 5 minutes apart" and I said "No. They're erratic. Wayne said not to call back until they were consistently less than 5 minutes apart or my water broke."

The hot water held out for an entire hour, and then I stepped out of the shower and said that I thought it was time to call my doula and see where she was, and then to call our neighbor and tell her to come over and watch our other kids. The Spouse got dressed and called my doula while he pulled a few last minute things together.

I was in the family room, draped over my exercise ball and feeling very relaxed. I knew things were going great so far, and was absolutely thrilled at the way this birth was going. Then, suddenly, I heard a little "pop!"... and my water broke. I couldn't contain a huge grin--this was a sure fire ticket to Labor and Delivery! There would be no sending me home, now!! I called out that we should call Wayne and tell him we were on our way.

Then, as the next contraction descended, I heard a faint echo of my the obstetrician's voice at my last exam saying "Wow. Your water is never going to break on it's own." But it just had. And at that moment, I looked up at the Spouse, who was waiting for Wayne to pick up, and he looked down at me. And I swore. Because, in that instant I knew--we had missed our window. We had waited too long.

Wayne picked up and the phone was passed to me. I stood up to speak and, in a moment that struck me as too sitcom to be real, I said "I need to push." The voice that came back, calmly, said "Now, ma'am. These things take time." Shaking a bit, "No, sir. I need to hang up so I can call 911. I need to push." Irritated now, Wayne said "Okay. Call 911. But don't get off the phone with me." At which point, with my teeth clenched I said " I need to HANG UP so I can CALL 9.1.1." I threw the phone back to my sweetheart and said "Call 911." He held the phone in his hand and looked at me blankely. "9.1.1. CALL.IT." I ordered as I clutched the back of the couch and slowly moved around to lay on it.

I wasn't even sure where to lay. The couch? Should I get my feet up? Was this going to be messy? Maybe the tub would be better. I could hear that we had 911 dispatch on the phone. I remember my Spouse asking if he should get towels, and an affirmative answer.

As he left the room to go get the towels and I lay there on the couch, it began to truly dawn on me. I wasn't going to make it to Presbyterian Hospital. I wasn't going to give birth in a big suite with nurses and a warming bed. I was going to give birth right here. On my couch. And it was all so "Evening News" that I laughed out loud. But at least the paramedics would be there. Maybe they liked delivering babies. I'll bet they didn't get that many chances to do it. I clenched my eyes and muttered the most fervent prayer of my life: "Oh, Heavenly Father, it's You and me now. Stay with me." That was all I could think to pray.

The Spouse came back into the room and I could here him giving dispatch our information. Again. At this point, I was simply riding each contraction like a wave. I could feel the rise and fall. And I knew that the paramedics better hurry up a bit so, in between contractions, I gasped "We need an ambulance!" He relayed that information to the dispatch and then she spoke these words: "Oh, sir, an ambulance is on the way. I'm here to help you deliver this baby."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 164: Ainsley, Part 5

Tuesday night. My kitchen. I finally, gave in to a much needed nervous breakdown. Crying into my husband's shirt. Copious amounts of saltwater flowing down my face. Hiccuping, gulping sobs.

And then? I felt better. Much better. Prepared to wait another week. To be patient.

My husband tucked me into bed, and I remember smiling as I dozed off. I looked forward to an exhausted but refreshing sleep.

An hour or so later, I opened my eyes. Something was off. I lay there in the dark and looked up at the clock. 11:30. I yawned and rolled over. Then I thought "Oh no. I know this feeling. It's the stomach flu."

At this point, can I just interject and say, is there anything worse than waking up with that feeling? The pre-urp, stomach ache, "green-apple quickstep" kind of feeling??? Because if there is, I have not experienced it yet. Moving on.

Sparing you the details, I made my way to the living room--expecting to spend the night on the couch, alternating between the ever handy huge Tupperware mixing bowl and the porcelain throne. I felt so nasty and crampy, but really low. Not like contractions. Contractions were up high. Like they had been on Friday. I decided to call my mom. She's two hours behind me, so it wasn't all that late where she was. And of course, there was a small nagging voice that maybe, just maybe--this could lead to something? If this was labor, my Mom would be able to tell me. So I got on the phone and chatted with her, aimlessly, as I walked around and straightened the house. The couch was in the middle of the family room, covered with picture frames and fall decorations that had been taken down while I was painting. One by one, I moved them back into their places until the couch was clear. I was starting to wonder if the coming and going of severe intestinal cramping wasn't contractions, and my Mom told me to call the triage nurse over at Labor and Delivery. I hung up with her and lay down on the couch, hesitating. I mean, the cramps were painful, but I really felt like it was a stomach bug more than anything.

I sighed and called L&D triage at my OB office and the call was answered by a nurse named Wayne. I explained to him that I was having pain, but it was really low. He asked if my water had broken--I said no. He asked if I had contractions that I could time--I said no. I told him that the pain did seem to back off sometimes, but it was erratic. He said "Ma'am, I'm going to guess it's probably gas cramps. Take some antacid and call me back if and when your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart, or if your water breaks." I nodded to myself and hung up, although I was feeling more sure that this was the beginning stages of labor.

Around this time, Dave came out of our room to see if there was anything he could do to help me. I told him that I thought I was going to take a shower, and asked him to call my doula Heather and ask her to come over. He did that, and then left a note on the front door. It said "Heather--come on in. We're in the shower. Don't worry, I'm in my swimsuit."

I knew it would probably be several hours, but I gave up on the idea of sleep for the night.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 163: Ainsley, Part 4

6:30 came and went. I wasn't headed back to the hospital. Not all day Saturday. Not all day Sunday. And even though I had a week to go before my due date, I felt overdone. Like insult had been added to injury. Lemon juice in the paper cut.


But I had an appointment on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 with my favorite doctor at the practice. He was my one ray of hope. The single thread that kept me from pitching headlong into a batch of cookie dough.

So I did what any 9 month pregnant woman would do: I grabbed a bucket of paint, a roller brush, and repainted my entire house, ruining all my favorite maternity clothes in the process by brushing my ample anterior (and posterior, come to think of it) against freshly painted walls. By Tuesday at noon, I had sufficiently ignored everything else to the point that I was 3/4 done with the living room, family room, and halls. If that hadn't put me into full blown labor, nothing would.

Feeling optimistic, if tired, I entered my doctor's office early--3:00. I knew my appointment wasn't for half an hour, but I hoped I could squeeze in a bit early. I was hoping for good news and a ticket to Labor and Delivery. As I signed my name at the front desk, the nurse looked up at me with a confused expression and hesitantly said, "We thought maybe you'd gone into labor... when you didn't show up for your appointment this morning at 9:00."

"9:00??" I gasped, zipping open my little wallet and finding the appointment card from last week that read "Tuesday. 9:00 am." I felt the blood rushing to my face as I stuttered an apology, "Is there any way you could get me in, this afternoon?"

She turned to the computer and said "Well, I think we can get you in for a quick visit with the doctor on call. It's [Dr. Doogie.]"

Now my face paled. Not Dr. Doogie. "Isn't there some way--any way--I could see... who I was scheduled with this morning?" I whispered. "I'm sorry. Truly. But he's off. For the rest of the week." I nodded, numbly, and she said to take a seat.

I had not only forgotten my appointment, but I'd missed my one chance to see the doctor that I trusted implicitly. He had been my surgeon. Seen me through a very complicated pregnancy. Induced and delivered my second child. Comforted me through a miscarriage. Rejoiced with me in this current pregnancy. And he was.... off. Only a woman who has stood in those very swollen shoes will know what I was feeling. Like your favorite show has been cancelled, forever. Like when my favorite Ben n' Jerry's flavor, Purple Passionfruit Sorbet, was retired. Like there was nothing between you and a pregnancy that could, and would, go on for 13 more years.

They called my name. I went through the routine of standing on the scale as it groaned and the nurse made her little jokes. Waiting in the tiny office for Dr. Doogie. He showed up, looked over my chart, and said "Yup. Looks good. Make an appointment for next week."

At which point I lost all pride. "Please. I was in Labor and Delivery for hours last week. I'm just... so done. Can't you do anything?" At which he smiled his baby-toothed smile and chuckled "Oh! Don't worry! We won't let you go past 42 weeks."

I have never hated anyone more than I hated him at that moment, however irrational. I nodded curtly and made my appointment for the next week and thought I would rather crawl under a rock than face another week.

It was

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 162: Ainsley, Part 3

Last night, as the Spouse read the latest entry he said "I'm not going to look very good when you tell them that you went to the hospital while I stayed home and slept." To which I replied, "Maybe I won't write about that part."

But then I decided it's kind of essential to the story.

Because when I say "we" decided it was time to head to the hospital, I mean "my doula and I." Dave was tired--understandable. It was 11:00. So we decided to head up and get checked in, and then call him if we were going to be staying. We all know these things can take time.

So we got to the hospital, contractions every 2 to 3 minutes. But I was still smiling. That right there, plus the missing husband, should tell you that things were not quite right. But we checked in, got our nurse, got our bracelet. Answered all the questions. After monitoring contractions for a few minutes, the nurse said "Get comfortable. You're not going home." We called the Spouse to tell him to come--he was watching Bourne Identity. Killing time. Waiting for us to call.

I wanted to get up and move around, but our nurse kept saying "Just a few more minutes on the monitor. Just a few more minutes." The spouse showed up. We were good to go.

Then, suddenly, the contractions stopped. Totally. Utterly. Stopped. I got out of the bed and looked in wonder, with my doula and the nurse, at the monitor tape. We had three hours of good contractions every 2-3 minutes and now... nothin. I waddled around a few minutes. Not even a twinge. The doctor on call was on the floor, so the nurse said she'd go get him. Get me hooked up to some pitocin. Now, I'm a natural girl, but I would've gone for some pitocin at this point.

Enter Dr. McNewbie. Not as recent a graduate as Dr. Doogie... but only by two more months. He'd been practicing medicine for a grand total of 5 months at this point. Nice guy, though. Looked at the readout, turned to our expectant, upturned faces and said "Eh, go home. It's late." The nurse's eyes widened in surprise, "You're... you're sending her... home?" He turned to her, "Yes. I think that's the best course of action." She looked at me, then back at him, then back at me.

I forgot to mention that my nurse was 8 months pregnant. So I knew that she could intuitively sense my palpable, tangible done-ness. Like a turkey on Thanksgiving. Oh yes, she understood. And I could see in her eyes that, if it were her choice, she'd roll in the pitocin cart and crank it up for me. But it wasn't her choice.

Dr. McNewbie laughed heartily and said goodnight. We all stood there for a minute. The nurse said, with a note of false optimism, "Well! I'm sure you'll be back by 6:30 in the morning!" We packed up a few things. I glanced longingly at the little warming bed in the corner... the newborn diapers... the little hat. I thanked my doula for coming. I felt utterly stupid. Foolish. This was my third baby--how could I have performed such a first time stunt??

Birthing ball in our arms, we shuffled back to our cars, and we drove home in the bitter, bitter contraction-less night.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day 161: Ainsley, Part 2

By the first Friday in September, all my headstands had done the trick and we had a head-down baby. Perhaps this was the reason I scheduled myself a pedicure. I can't think of why else that would've been, unless I was feeling really sorry for myself. Also a reasonable hypothesis. But I'm pretty sure there wasn't anyone in the Northern Hemisphere that wasn't feeling sorry for me at this point. I was 50 pounds heavier than I had been 9 months earlier, my thighs were tan but still the size of pylons, and I had to get out of bed to go pee at least 10 times every night--a nearly impossible feat because my sciatic nerve liked to play games with my ability to walk.

So I mustered up the energy to leave my kids home with the Spouse (snort) and plunked myself down in a lovely, cushy pedicure chair and became instantly engrossed in "Days of Our Lives", which I'd never seen before but had no trouble following, while "Allison" from Vietnam went to town on my hairy legs and calloused feet. Because of some miscommunication that was either pregnant brain or the nuances of the Vietnamese language, I ended up getting not only Harlot Pink toenails but an orange salt scrub and paraffin foot waxing as well. Perfect.

It was about the time that the delicious smell of chemical tangerines hit my nose that I began noticing them... contractions. Blessed contractions. Based on the commercial breaks during "Days", they were about 5 minutes apart. Perfect. "Bring 'em on," I thought, as I slipped my now soft and sweet smelling feet into the little foam flip flops.

I drove home, patting my very cooperative belly. My mood was ebulliant. I had never gone into labor, but these contractions felt just like the ones I'd had hooked up to pitocin in my two former deliveries, so I assumed they were a good sign. I grabbed my laptop and brought up every full-term pregnant woman's best friend: Contraction Master. The contractions continued, not painful, but very easy to time. We had dinner. Got the kids to bed. They were now two to three minutes apart.

I called my doula, Heather, and she came over to walk with me. I had showered and put on makeup. I could tell I was headed for the perfect birth. Finally, we agreed that we should head to the hospital. It was baby day.