Don’t call us, we’ll call you

December 21, 2017

2018: Baby

It’s been a while since I’ve done a proper one-word theme for the new year. I seem to recall that for several years my first thought was Survive, which felt maybe a little too pessimistic to make it official. As I’ve been contemplating 2018 (still can’t believe we’re here now!), not surprisingly, Survive was also what came to my mind first. It’s definitely Neal’s mantra right now.

But as I was tossing and turning this morning, I realized that Baby is a much more fitting theme. Sure, there’s the obvious meaning: that we’ll have a literal baby again in the next week or so. But beyond that, I think there’s a lot of “verbing” to be done with this. I was reminded of this specifically when Addison had a (thankfully mild) flu last weekend. Neal banned me from sitting too close to her or cuddling her for fear I would catch it, but as I sat a distance away from her on the couch, she took my hand off my laptop and held it in hers. I was trying to wrap up my grading and final emails for the semester, but every time I took my hand back to my laptop, she grabbed it again in seconds. Finally, I acquiesced, put my work down, and just sat for the next couple of hours holding her hand while she watched inane cartoons. This simple moment was a clear reminder: even though I need her to be the big sister and helper, she will also need some babying through this transition.

2017 was a rough year for her in a lot of ways; enough that her pediatrician gave us a psychiatrist referral to have some assessments done. Those subsequent meetings with a social worker and therapist felt a little futile and disappointing, but the general consensus from them and the school personnel we’ve worked with has been that the amount of change she’s gone through in one year has perhaps just been a little more than even a gregarious, resilient 7-year-old can take gracefully. It’s certainly not rocket science to think that a new city, 3 different schools, 6 temporary siblings, a new full-time job that takes her dad away for the first time in her young life, and now a new baby is a lot to handle! So we need to baby Addison in 2018. Make sure she has one-on-one time with both of us. Respond to her bids for connection even if it means putting down the baby sometimes or cutting into time I’ve planned for work. Don’t expect too much of her. (Though as I’ve transferred a lot of chores solely to her over the last couple of months of the pregnancy, I can see that it will be difficult to strike the right balance. Some of you will not be surprised — *cough Elizabeth cough* — to hear that I can be a bit demanding.)

Beyond just surviving, Neal’s refrain right now is that this is going to be the hardest year of our life together. (He’s such an optimist!) His new job is often intense and we’re stressed financially . . . but if you know Neal, you know that it’s mostly about the sleep deprivation. That guy does not like to lose a minute of precious sleep, and babies are just the worst about that! I don’t know exactly what babying Neal will look like, but I’m sure it starts with accepting his preferred methods of unwinding even when they drive me crazy (like when I walk into our room and he’s playing two different games on his phone and computer simultaneously. What? WHY??!).

But at least he’s got some self-care and “escape” methods up his sleeve, which it became increasingly clear to me over the last year that I have still failed to adequately develop. I still love to read, but my books always end up being about parenting, education, politics, or economics. And when I sit down and pull up Netflix, I often gravitate toward depressing documentaries. So . . . not exactly escapist fare, or usually even relaxing.

On some level, what I first thought when I pondered babying myself is a bit absurdly basic: I have to eat. Regularly. I know this comes naturally to many, but when I’m tired, stressed, or trying to get some work finished, eating is the first thing to go . . . and I can easily let it go for 8, 9 hours at a time. I’ve never been a snacker, but I’ve also never been one to schedule mealtime into my routine (hence our woeful track record of forgetting to feed Addison lunch during her pre-school years). So while I may not be able to schedule lunch every day, I must eat.

With Neal working full-time, this will also be my first time going it alone with night-time infant care. (I actually did almost no nights at all with Addison per medical advice since I had been so sick for so long by the time she arrived.) So I’m trying to remind myself to sleep when the baby sleeps. I really hate napping; it just doesn’t work well with a long history of insomnia. But I couldn’t have survived this pregnancy without more naps than the rest of my entire adult life combined, and I think I will have to baby myself by continuing to nap regularly.

In some of the pregnancy books I’ve read this time around, they talk about cultures where there is a specifically defined period of “confinement” after you give birth. I’m planning to adopt one of the longer ones: 60 days. I’ll still have to jump right back into a new semester — and I actually have a higher credit load next semester than I have for the last year — but that’s in my pajamas from bed as usual! But beyond that and school pick-up (thankfully, Neal can still do most mornings because of his late start work schedule), I plan to stay pretty unscheduled. I’ve even declared myself on “maternity leave” from my calling at church — some people have laughed so that may not be a thing, but I’m babying myself by acknowledging up front how little I will feel like wrangling 7-year-olds for the next couple of months.

The one problem with the “confinement” idea is that even though I know I will want to stay mostly home-bound, isolation is definitely a risk factor for postpartum depression. I think we all anticipate that it will be an issue again (and maybe worse with Neal gone most days?), so I do wish I had been more proactive in making local friends. I do have some and thankfully, I’ve got my sister-in-law right around the corner but I still really miss the many close friends I had in our mountain town. I will have to persuade some of them to come visit! Luckily, I’ll have a cuddly baby to use as extra enticement . . .

Besides babying myself by eating, sleeping, and seeking help and social support (why do those three simple things sound like such a Herculean feat in my mind?), I want to focus as much as I can on the baby. My last baby! I need to set clear boundaries around my work time and hold her as much as humanly possible. I’m used to exceeding expectations at work and going the extra mile for my students, but this semester, I need to meet their needs but scale back and not go over my contracted hours as I sometimes do. Another Herculean feat of willpower for this workaholic!

Feel free to hold me accountable next year (and ask what I’ve eaten lately as my midwife does in almost every communication now) . . . it’s almost BABY time!

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May 9, 2012

Flashback: My thoughts on April 2

This morning I had a conversation with two of my good friends, a conversation about new babies and first children and postpartum depression. And then quite by accident, I stumbled on this post that I never published. I wrote it on 2 April 2010 (hence the very creative title I picked) when Addison was just about 6 weeks old. I’m not exactly sure why I never published it but I suspect that there was some element of not being completely ready to discuss how I was feeling. I know I did blog about some of my experiences with PPD, but I also know there were some things that I wanted to say but I just could not bring myself to do it. Revisiting those times through conversation with a few friends over the last several months has been surprisingly healing. I’ve told them things without fear or shame (and often with laughter) that I remember feeling so horrible about at the time. I just want to hug them and tell them that we’re good people and good mothers and in the whole scheme of our lives these difficult feelings will be so fleeting and inconsequential and no reflection on whom we really are and what we are capable of. And while I’m telling them all that, I want to tell myself too.

For a little over a week now, Addison has been smiling directly at us, in response to us.  I think this actually started much earlier, but Neal says I was deceived by motherly-wishful thinking (the more I think about it, the more I believe that “motherly-wishful thinking” may be a sort of mental condition — anyone know if it’s in the DSM?).

This new turn of events has made getting her in the morning my favorite part of the day.  She will be rooting around, flailing her arms, making little frustrated squeaks, still partially asleep.  As I walk in the room and start speaking, she calms down a bit and starts to tentatively open her eyes.  By the time I’m in front of her swing looking at her, she has her eyes open and breaks into a smile.  She doesn’t stare at me for long because she still wants to make it clear that she is hungry, but she is very sweet and smiley in the first few moments of her day.

I have yet to get a picture of her wide eyed and smiling, simply because it is so adorable, I can’t pull myself away long enough to get the camera.

***

Speaking of beautiful moments, I used to have so many sacred thoughts and feelings about this baby girl while I was pregnant.  Impressions about her character and personality, about our pre-existing relationship, and my role as her mother.  So it’s been interesting that since she was born those have been fewer and farther between.  There is something so in-the-moment about being with a child.  When they need something, they need it now.  When they are unhappy, they want to be soothed now.  It doesn’t leave me with the kind of contemplative time to which I am so accustomed from years of bedrest and ill health.

Couple this lack of time with exhaustion and add in more mixed feelings than I could have foreseen, and this has been an interesting experiment thus far.  A lot of people talked to me about how hard the first while would be and about postpartum depression and baby blues, but I don’t remember people talking about the mixed feelings.  How you would never go back to life before her, but you will also grieve for the things that you must leave behind.

Why can we not acknowledge that we are losing things too?  Things we would want to grieve.

“Something’s lost but something’s gained in living every day.” [From this Joni Mitchell song I love.]

June 23, 2011

I’ve been a very bad blogger lately . . .

Filed under: Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 1:13 am

Especially when it comes to chronicling Addison’s latest and greatest.  Hopefully, that will all change in the near future since I defend at 3:00 PM.  TOMORROW!  YAHOO!

But in the meantime, I had to note Addison’s newest skill.  This morning we were playing with the talking piggy bank that her honorary uncle Brandon sent for her first birthday.  She put one coin in and the piggy said, “One.”  To which she replied, “Two.”  I did a double take . . . did she just count?  So I held up a coin and said, “One.”  And Addison pointed at another coin and said, “Two.”  My first reaction was, “DANG!  My baby just COUNTED!!”  Which was quickly followed by a much more subdued, “Dang, my baby just counted.”  Because, of course, babies can’t count so it seems that my baby isn’t a baby at all anymore.  Boo.

But she kept counting throughout the day so indeed, at least for today, she can count to two.  And we owe it all to Brandon and the talking piggy bank!

May 10, 2011

Dearest Addison,

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 2:53 am

I’m a little late for your first birthday.  But in my defense, I’ve been busy.  Really, really busy.  You’ve been busy too.  Really, really busy.  You’re one busy girl.  No joke.  You know you have a busy, energetic kid when other parents of toddlers comment on it!  Every time I take you to storytime at the library, you’re a social butterfly. You float from person-to-person, especially kids.  You wave (you have the most adorable, coy, little finger-wave).  You smile. You try to climb into their strollers.  You steal their books.  You go fishing in their bags.  You grab their sippy cups.  And you run away from me when I come to track you down.  The other parents watch in awe at this little girl (because you’re still a shorty) that still looks a baby (because you still have very little hair — blame me for that) but runs like a track star.  It is tiring for a sickie like me.

But oh goodness, you are fun.  F-U-N!  Everyone thinks so.  People comment everywhere we go about how friendly, how good-natured, how adorable, and what a tease you are!  Just this afternoon, we were upstairs visiting Grandma and Grandpa (you love to run around upstairs, by the way, pretending like you are going to get into things you aren’t supposed to — Grandma’s china, anyone? — until I come chasing after you) when this happened: you were running at full speed toward Grandpa’s chair when you stopped suddenly and began to back up.  But you didn’t turn around and run the other way, you just started running BACKWARDS.  It only lasted for a few seconds before you fell on your big-diapered bum.  And we all laughed.  And you saw that we were laughing at you and started to laugh in response; you gave these big, loud guffaws every time you could see that we were laughing at you.  You love to tease.  You love to make people laugh.  And you LOVE to be the center of attention.

I worry sometimes that I won’t be the kind of mom that you want or need.  I just don’t have the stamina for all that running around.  When people ask me about it, I say, “I’m a knowledge worker, not a heavy lifter.  And parenting at this stage feels a lot like heavy lifting.”  And so you go to a babysitter for a few hours everyday.  I miss you when you’re gone; I wish that I could have you with me all the time — I want to see every face you make, every new thing you learn.  But I know that I can’t have you with me all the time.  CAN. NOT.  For reals.  My body just wasn’t built for this stage of your life.  I try not to worry about it too much . . . because my body carried you and nursed you and helped you develop into this healthy-as-a-horse, running-so-hard-you-catch-air-when-you-fall girl that you are.  And because I know I’ve got tricks up my sleeve for the day you can sit still for more than three seconds at a time.  Part of me wants that day to come sooner rather than later, but the other part of me (it wins out every time) wants to keep watching you run like the little 15-month-old maniac that you are forever.  As long as daddy’s there to chase after you.

Love to my dearest baby girl,
Ma-ma-ma-ma (that’s how you say it, unless you are telling me to come here, when it is just a mildly-annoyed “ma”)

January 14, 2011

I’m not one to jump to conclusions, but . . .

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , , , , , — llcall @ 8:18 pm

I’m pretty sure the universe is conspiring against us finishing our project.  We are so so close, but every day seems to bring some new obstacle.  Over the last few weeks there has been illness for me, illness for Addison, intense baby constipation (if that doesn’t sound that bad, let me tell you, it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen), sleep deprivation, severe weather.

But it was only yesterday that I started to think there really must be some conspiracy.  See, we were going to finish the project yesterday . . . we were that close.  Until about 11 a.m. when I was walking down the hall and heard a small waterfall going on in our bathroom.  Apparently, a pipe backed up and before we even knew what was happening, our bathroom was flooded with a combination of water and black crud.  Thankfully, it was nothing like the great sewage flood of 2008 (which necessitated that our apartment be demo-ed right down to the studs and completely rebuilt) but instead of finishing the project, we spent much of the day cleaning, washing, and trying to  contain the water damage.

But still, I was undaunted . . . we would just finish the project TODAY.  No exceptions.  But Addison (or the UNIVERSE) had other plans.  Something seemed a little strange when she wouldn’t nurse in the morning.  And then she spit up a little, which has been such a rare occurrence that Neal and I both just sat there staring at her with no idea what to do.  We thought we ought to hydrate her somehow — it had been 12 hours since her last drink — so we had her suck on a wet washcloth, which she usually loves.  Well, not so much today as a couple minutes later she was full-on vomiting on my bed, on her clothes, Neal’s clothes.  Come to find out, she actually started the vomiting last night in her crib, but was somehow clever enough to vomit on everything but herself and stay asleep in the process, so we had no idea!

So yeah, we had to cancel the babysitting for today . . . and replace work with washing vomit off practically every surface of the house while comforting a sad, sick, screaming baby.

Universe, I’ll get you for this!

December 29, 2010

Addison’s Christmas gift to me

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 4:00 pm

No doubt she was carefully plotting how to melt my heart, and decided that learning to say “mama” was the best way.

Of course, the only downside is that since Neal and I are in a frantic race to finish our consulting project and, in fact, spent a combined 16 hours working on said project on Christmas day, “mama” has thus far mostly been said in near-anguish.  Our little girl is none too happy to be daily turned over to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles for all-day care — especially now that she appears to have come down with the same illness(es) that has plagued me for the past couple weeks.  Poor little girl; I look forward to her adorable mamas when I can just cuddle and love on her all day.

December 14, 2010

Mommy update: 31 years

I learned a very important lesson this week: I should never, never write that I wish I had more time to blog.  I will undoubtedly end up sick and in bed within 48 hours.  At least Neal and Addison seem to be staying healthy for the moment.

So here’s your fair warning that I’m going to cover a lot of territory in this post.  Pretty sure a LONG POST ALERT is in order.

For starters, I’ve alluded to the fact that I am officially a “working mom.”  While I had technically been trying to work on my thesis since the summer, it was always in whatever time I could squeeze out during naps and playtime with daddy or grandparents.  But back in early October, Neal was approached by a tutoring company about designing an SAT preparation curriculum (if you didn’t know, Neal runs a small test-prep business, helping high school students prepare for college entrance exams).  Although taking on the project complicated our lives in numerous ways (adding a 350-hour project with a January 1st deadline to school and a baby turns out to be incredibly difficult) and required a crash course in business law, when you live on an irregular income as we do, you have to take the opportunities when they come.  We started looking into drop-off day-care centers so we could get some uninterrupted time to work, but it was definitely hard to take the leap from never having hired a babysitter before (only a handful of family members had previously watched Addison) to putting her in day-care, even part-time.  By chance, I was visiting my friend Meg one Saturday afternoon when she offered to watch Addison for us.  It ended up being the perfect solution!  Even though Addison does really well with new people and places, it gave me a lot of peace of mind to leave her with someone I know.  Plus Meg is a fabulous mom and her child-rearing philosophy lines up well with what I aspire to, so I feel like I’m learning some tips and tricks along the way.

Working on this project and learning to juggle baby care has turned out to be more of a prelude to the future than I expected.  Shortly after we signed the consulting contract, I was offered a 15-hour per week job for next semester.  Justin, the fantastic-PhD-student-turned-BYU-professor that I worked with in Illinois collecting my thesis data, asked if I wanted to work with him again on a research seminar, helping undergraduate students explore the data we collected in 2008 and hopefully get some publications going from it.  Undergrads + research on incarceration + finally polishing a paper that has been in limbo for a year and half.  Yes, please!

I’m not going to take the time now to address all my conflicting feelings about stay-at-home mothering vs. working/juggling (that is one emotionally-chaotic topic for me), but I can say that I am very excited about this research seminar and seeing what comes out of our data set.  And in an unexpected way, it has been a key part of finally kicking my postpartum depression to the curb.

In fact, I can even point to a specific date — 29 September — that a real breakthrough occurred.  I had gone to campus for the first time in months to meet with my thesis advisor and I ran into Justin as well, the first time I’d seen him since he’d started his professorship.  I was only on campus for about an hour and a half total, and during part of that time I was feeding and wrangling my baby girl, but it was long enough for me to feel a sort of renewal.  Suddenly I was talking about juvenile detention centers and economic socialization, and I realized that even though that part of my life had been mostly dormant for a while, the knowledge was all still there — and the passion too.  And on that day, I noticed something about my postpartum depression that I hadn’t seen before — that it wasn’t just about how hard it is to care for a baby, or post-delivery hormones, or struggling with the loss of autonomy.  It was like a cloud hanging over me, dampening my outlook on everything.  I spent months trying to figure out why I wasn’t making progress on my thesis, even when I enlisted my mom’s practically full-time help over the summer, and it never occurred to me just how much it was affected by the postpartum issues I was having.  I had conceived of them as more compartmentalized, but they weren’t at all.  They were affecting every part of my life, and shaking my confidence even in areas where deep-down I knew I had achieved a high degree of mastery.  I didn’t put all of it together on that day, but I remember feeling somehow more alive and awakened than I had for months . . . and by mid-October, around Addison’s 8-month mark, I felt that the postpartum depression was over and done.  Hallelujah!

Although that day of renewal was a key player in overcoming my postpartum depression, another element that happily coincided was Addison learning to crawl.  For some people, baby mobility complicates life, but for us it has undoubtedly made things much MUCH easier.  Carrying her around, constantly having to hand her toys that had fallen just out of her reach, watching her frustration as she wanted to move and couldn’t quite get where she intended was exhausting.  She still craves near-constant human interaction, but not having to hold her while giving her that interaction has been a lifesaver for me.  So crawling = awesome . . . but I’m still leery about the walking thing.  Hoping to put that off for a couple more months at least!

Still, there is one postpartum issue that still plagues me a bit.  It’s nothing new that I have intense and often disturbing dreams.  Since the baby was born, they often revolve around her: I’ve lost her; I’ve rolled over and crushed her (even though we’ve never slept in the same bed); I’ve let her fall off the bed; I’ve inadvertently used her as a pillow (these dreams usually terminate with me waking up patting and soothing my pillow).  I thought that by the 9 or 10-month mark my psyche would be adjusted enough to motherhood that these nightmares would cease, but apparently not, since just the other day I woke up to find myself in the funniest situation yet.  Picture me, sitting on the edge of my bed at about 3 a.m., leaning over my dresser drawer, shushing and caressing a t-shirt, which I firmly believed to be my baby.  [For the record, I did try to find a picture on Google Images to demonstrate, but appropriate search terms were tough to come by.  It’s probably better this way.]  Still, I’ll take these over my pregnancy dreams any day.

Speaking of pregnancy, I’ve been reflecting on it a lot, as last week marked one year since our pre-term labor/appendectomy/almost having a 30-week preemie extravaganza.  Our life would have been so so different if any number of things during those few eventful days would have gone just a tiny bit different.  Those days and their wonderful aftermath remind me just how mindful of us God and his earthly helpers have been over the past year.  There is no greater gift than such an unexpectedly healthy, roly-poly baby girl.  And we couldn’t have cared for her without so many family and friends stepping in to assist, both in-person and via long-distance encouragement.  Thanks for that.

June 8, 2010

What did your pediatrician recommend?

Filed under: Family, Motherhood, Personal — Tags: , , — llcall @ 6:00 pm

When Addison went in for her two-week appointment, our pediatrician told us not to take her out in public until she was two months old.  This being Utah, he specifically said not to take her to church until then.

Just curious if others were given this recommendation, or if our pediatrician is particularly cautious?

May 24, 2010

Baby blessing, 3 April 2010

Filed under: Family, Personal — Tags: , , , — llcall @ 6:00 pm

In the LDS Church, a new baby is given a name and a blessing through the power of the priesthood, usually at 2 or 3 months old.  It was no small feat to get most of our families together for Addison’s blessing, considering Neal’s parents were coming from Alabama and Baby Evie was set to arrive in April.  But the stars aligned for a wonderful evening!

Probably the most memorable part for us was some alone time that Neal and I took to pray and ponder together beforehand.  Thanks to Neal’s Aunt Karen for keeping Addison calm and comfortable so we could have those special moments!

Neal gave Addison a beautiful blessing, particularly referencing the meaning of her name (which I plan to write more about next week).  He looked quite dapper doing it, no?

Joining him in the circle was his brother Skylar, dad Kevin, our bishopric member and cousin Andrew, my dad Steve, and my brother Chris:

We had representatives from all four of Addison’s family branches to welcome her.

The Calls:

The Skidmores (Neal’s mom):

The Larsons:

The Hortons (my mom):

We were grateful that we could get most of Neal’s immediate family and all of mine together for the event.

Although it is customary for the little one to be dressed in white, we decided to go with this adorable brown-and-pink ensemble Rachel gave her, partly because we didn’t have a white dress and partly because I’m obsessed with the little matching shoes.  [I realize now that these pictures don’t do the outfit justice; I will have to remedy that soon with a photo shoot!]

We’re grateful for everyone that made the trek out here for the blessing, and for those who were there in spirit.

April 29, 2010

Final reflections on my birth experience

And by final, I mean constantly evolving . . .

  • Neal was INCREDIBLE.  A couple weeks later, he told me how even after going through childbirth once, he doesn’t think it would be any less nerve-wracking the second time; that it freaked him out; that it was so hard to see me in more pain than he had ever, ever seen before; that if we ever do this again, part of him wishes that I would just choose to get an epidural as soon as possible so that we could just relax together, watch movies while we wait; that he ultimately felt a little bit guilty that he kept encouraging me and didn’t tell me to get an epidural sooner, as if he prolonged my pain . . . and a million other complex reactions.  But, you know, that day and night, he was so present for me that I honestly didn’t even feel like he was nervous.  I guess it is a true testament to how much he rose above his own fears and emotions because I kind of didn’t realize he had any in the moment.  He never showed it.
  • Although Neal never actually read one of the scripts that we had practiced during labor, and in fact, it seemed at the time like it would have been an incredibly odd thing to do, they helped us enormously.  We had practiced so much that literally when Neal or Melissa or Krisell told me to relax, it triggered a chain reaction where I would go through my face, shoulders, neck, arms, legs, and just relax everything.  Melissa said that it was obvious to her from the first few minutes that we had practiced a lot because of how quickly I could respond to the suggestion to relax.  Who knew relaxing could be such a learned behavior?  I should have started learning it years ago!
  • This is one of my most vivid memories of the whole experience: when the anesthesiologist came in to give me that epidural, they made Melissa and Krisell sit down on the couch.  Only Neal could stay with me to help me get through the contractions.  I think everyone was a little nervous about what would happen because I was not really able to control my body through the aforementioned pushing/spasms.  So Neal had the job of trying to get me to stay completely still while the doctor inserted the needle.  Neal was standing right in front of me, his face just inches away from mine.  He kept telling me to look at his eyes.  Every time I looked away or closed my eyes, he would tell me to open them and keep staring into his eyes.  Out of the corner of my eye I could still see Melissa and Krisell, and I could hear Melissa quietly telling Krisell to watch what a great job Neal was doing, how he was keeping me focused so that I would stay still.  I can’t imagine anyone being a better birth coach than my Neal was.
  • I think there are two things that I’m most proud of about how I handled things: first, I never (not once) got short or snappy with Neal.  This was one of my fears because although Neal had read all the books reminding him not to take comments from a laboring woman personally, there is literally nothing that shuts Neal down faster than a harsh tone or phrase.  He just kind of withdraws when addressed in that way.  Second, I stayed focused and worked hard the whole time.  I think in the end I just felt really prepared because of the process that we went through.  When Heather dropped the c-section possibility, I was not really phased even though that had initially been one of my biggest fears.  I think we were as ready as we could be for any direction that things could take.
  • In case anyone is in doubt, I am very pro-doula!  We paid $440 for childbirth classes and the labor/delivery with Melissa ($350-400 is typical for a doula in this area), and feel like it was worth. every. penny.  I remember at one point when Heather was recommending an intervention that I did not want, I turned to Melissa and asked, “Remind me why we didn’t want to do that . . .”  There was just no way that I could keep everything in my head at a time like that; thank goodness Melissa could talk us through each decision point.  Not only was she great during the actual process, she called to check up on me multiple times postpartum to make sure my depression was under control, I was feeling okay about the delivery, breastfeeding was established, etc.  It was wonderful to have such an understanding and experienced person available to me to talk through things before, during, and after such a huge event.
  • Right after I received the epidural, Melissa said something really funny.  She said, “You know, you went through every part of labor unmedicated: active, transition, pushing, and everything else.  It just doesn’t work as well when you do it out of order.”  I guess I’m just really glad that even after some of the most challenging hours of my life, my sense of humor was in tact and there was a fairly light mood in the room.
  • In one of our follow-up phone calls, Melissa told me that she wouldn’t even really count it as me having an epidural.  She said that no one has an epidural for like one hour and then delivers their baby.  And from the way I was pushing it was clear that I was feeling things down there.  The great thing is that I honestly don’t care either way.  Even though the to-epidural-or-not-to-epidural is one of the key distinguishing factors between so-called natural childbirth or not, I knew that it wasn’t just all about that.  My preparation process was about so much more than that: wanting to be well-informed, to make good decisions, to stay calm, to stay kind.  Really, to try and exert some sense of control over a pregnancy that always seemed to be spinning just outside my control.  In the end, having the epidural was one of those good decisions.  And although it did cross my mind how much pain I went through when I could have had an epidural sooner (!), I know I would make the same choices again because some of the additional risks of the epidural were diminished by the brevity of it.
  • On my midwife Heather: I honestly don’t hold ill feelings toward her.  In fact, we had a nice chat a few days after the birth when I went in because of my bladder and uterine infections.  That encounter really underscored for me that 1) she must have been very tired during my delivery because her bedside manner was much better at the office visit and 2) she is a perfectly nice person with a very different birthing philosophy than I have.  Through a couple of different channels, I have since found out that she went to midwifery school about 10 years ago, but then spent her whole career working with obstetricians.  From the perspective of one midwife that went to school with her, she had a strong desire to be accepted within the OBGYN community and consequently, changed her mind about a lot of common elements of midwifery practice.  In particular, she gets annoyed by “birth plans,” especially birth plans like mine, no doubt.  We also learned that the other midwives at the clinic would have allowed me to get in the tub or shower, so she wasn’t being completely honest about the back-up doctor forbidding it.  There are a few other things, but in the end, it all just underscores for me the importance of knowing everyone at a particular clinic or practice that could possibly deliver your baby.  I’m just a little sorry that Sarah (who I loved) was replaced with her just a few weeks before my delivery.
  • I really wish I had a picture of the way Neal transformed our living room into my own personal laboring room (but I was a little busy at the time ;)).  It was so cute.  Picture a shower curtain spread out on the floor.  Towels on top of that.  Then the birthing ball.  Another towel draped over the top.  Nearby, the crockpot with warm washcloths.  A couple of water bottles within arms reach of the ball.  Our birthing materials on the coffee table.  He tried to think of everything for my comfort (and the cleanliness of the carpet :)).  I’ll always remember that.
  • Probably the best pregnancy/delivery/baby decision we made was having Neal take a very light load during Winter semester.  This gave us a lot of extra time together to prepare and practice for the labor, as well as lots of help for me afterward.  We have a comparatively easy baby (I am well aware of this!) and I feel like I barely survived having a newborn.  I have no idea where I would be if I didn’t have a true partner, in things big and small, in Neal.

And also, don’t you just love rainbow colors?!

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