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He's here!

Jul. 3rd, 2006 | 11:25 am

Jake was born Wed. night at 11:16 p.m.

10 pounds, 3 ounces.

Like Ashley said in her comment, it didn't go according to my "plan," but we both came through it okay, so all is well.  And thank God I was induced -- if he was 10 pounds, 3 ounces on Wed., how much bigger would he have been on his due date?  Or what if he had been late?  One nurse said, "Any bigger, and he would have had to come out the sun roof."  When I hold him, I'm amazed he fit inside me just a few days ago.

He looks like the trainer "Mick" from the Rocky movies.  Awesome baby.

Will post more details and pictures at some point -- my blood pressure has remained very high and I have to go back to the doctor today, and the poor little guy broke his collar bone on the way out, so I'd appreciate any prayers for both of us.  Probably won't post again until things settle down.

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How do you know what God is saying?

Jun. 24th, 2006 | 07:45 pm

What a roller coaster this is -- from terrified to excited, calm to panic . . .

Recent days have been more on the terror side of things.

Being induced is not what I had hoped for, and I'm scared of all the things that can go wrong when you start off with medical intervention.  But then, there are things that can go wrong if this baby stays inside me too -- he/she could grow too big to come out, and I might need a c-section anyway.  So I've been emotional and stressed out, trying to figure out what to do.  

Dave arrives tomorrow, and that again both comforts and scares me.  It will be so good to see him again, and to have my husband go through this with me.  But I feel like I've turned into a blue whale since the last time he saw me, and he has had no time to adjust to this new body, so I'm scared of how he'll react.

It seems that if I'm going to be induced, Wednesday really is my best bet.  My friend Wendy was telling me that statistically, when women enter the hospital on Friday, there are a lot more c-sections for "failure to progress" because the doctors want to start their weekends.  Monday will probably be the same, because it's the day before July 4, and if I waited until Wed., July 5, that's the day Dave's family arrives, and it's only a few days before the baptism.  It would be better for baby and for me to have a few days to heal and for the three of us to get used to life together before everyone else arrives.

But it troubles me, somehow, to plan these things -- it seems that the timing of births and deaths should be left to God.  (Then again -- it seems strange to think of God getting mad at someone for having a planned c-section.  Or holding a grudge because of a family's decision to end artificial life support).  

Church was once again interesting, because I felt like God was saying something to me -- but what?  The theme of the readings this weekend was God's control over the waters, and the first reading expressly connected this to the imagery of birth:

"Then the Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said:
Who shut within doors the sea,
When it burst forth from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling bands.
When I set limits for it
And fastened the bar of its door
And said:  Thus far shall you come but no father,
And here shall your proud waves be stilled."
Job 38:1, 8--11

This theme continued into the gospel reading, about Jesus stilling the waters (and his disciples' lack of faith):
"A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.  Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.  They woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'  He woke up, rebuked the wind , and said to the sea, 'Quiet!  Be still!'  The wind ceased and there was great calm.  Then he asked them, 'Why are you terrified?  Do you not yet have faith?'"
Mark 4:35--40

And the song, too:
"Be still, my soul, thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, they confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul:  the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below."

So what does this say to the upcoming birth?  If the theme here is God's control over the waters (including the waters of birth) . . . then maybe I need to let go of this worry, forgo the induction, and trust that the right thing is going to happen.  On the other hand, if you take the theme more generally as "do not worry," that God is with us even in scary times, then maybe I need to let go of worry no matter what -- go forward Wednesday with the induction even if it scares me, stop insisting that my birth go according to some non-medicated Bradley plan, and instead accept that there are going to be some storms, and I'm going to get tossed around, but we'll come out of it okay.

Here's hoping that an answer will become more clear in the next several days.  Or even better -- that this baby will decide to show up on his or her own before Wednesday morning arrives.

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Risks/Benefits

Jun. 21st, 2006 | 11:19 pm

My blood pressure has been jumping around these last few weeks of pregnancy -- and after I had a headache that I couldn't shake, last night I went to the drug store to check it at one of those automatic machines.  159/98, which was very high for me.  So I called the doctor today and they wanted me to come in.  It was back down when I came in (and the doctor suspects the machine may have been inaccurate).  But the doctor suggested inducing a week from today -- and there's my dilemma.

I had had some contractions last night for about 45 minutes, and when I told the doctor that, she said she thought something was probably going to happen this week.  I said, "Well, hopefully not until my husband arrives on Sunday . . ."  She asked what I meant, and I explained how he has been in Iraq and only has two weeks here.  She then suggested setting me up for an induction a week from today, on June 28, because I'm "having a big baby" and because my "blood pressure has been so-so."  But because of the context of her remark, it seems that she really means an induction-for-convenience.  (If it were a true medical emergency, wouldn't she set it up for tomorrow instead of in a week?)

She did say that the biggest risk I have of a c-section is the baby being too big to fit -- and the longer we wait, the bigger the baby will get. 

But from everything I've read about Pitocin, it sounds more risky for the baby and it sounds like it'll throw my natural childbirth hopes out the window.  Pitocin makes the contractions harder and longer than they would be naturally, so this can lead to fetal distress.  Because of this risk of distress, you have to be on continuous monitoring, not intermittent monitoring where you can walk around.  If you're tied to the bed (both because of the Pitocin IV and because of the continuous monitoring), this slows down labor.  And whether because of this, or because your body or your baby is just not ready, there's a higher risk of c-sections if you're induced.  And because the contractions are harder and longer than they would be naturally, with no chance for the contractions to build up slowly, the pain is more intense and most people need the epidural.  (The doctor virtually insisted that I would need an epidural -- only after I protested for a few minutes did she say, "We can see how it goes -- maybe you have a high pain threshold and it'll go quickly.")

If induction is necessary for my baby's health or mine, obviously I'm all for it.  But I don't know if that's really the situation we're in.  I have non-medical reasons for wanting the baby to arrive quickly -- wanting Dave to have some time with his baby before he has to go back to Iraq, hoping that we can be discharged from the hospital in time to have the baptism on July 8, hoping that the baby arrives in time for Dave's parents to see him or her . . .   I guess the ideal situation would be if the doctor's initial impression was correct, and something does happen this week, naturally, even before the date of the induction.

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Ready!

Jun. 19th, 2006 | 06:21 pm

I'm packed for the hospital, and have my Xena VCR tapes to inspire me!

I'm feeling much more positive.

And thinking back on what I wrote -- about how my desire to avoid an epidural stems from my fears  . . .   That's in part true, but there are other things too. When Dave jokingly tells people about my enthusiastic personality, he says, "If you tell her, 'Michelle, we're going to stick a fork in your eye,' she'd say, 'Wow!  That sounds great!  I've never had a fork stuck in my eye before!''"

Part of my desire for avoiding medication is that I want to have this *experience* -- my friends who have gone through childbirth and have done it without pain medication seem to come out stronger.  I don't know if I'll have the chance to go through this again -- women in my family go through menopause very early (my cousin is now going through menopause at 37, and my mom at 39!), so this may be the only chance I have to give birth.  I don't want to miss any part of it.  I think if I'm able to get through it, it might help inspire me to get through other challenges too -- like my hope to someday run a marathon.

My friend Tori had a Bradley birth -- a VBAC -- and had a much more positive experience with Bradley.  She said that during the contractions, she just thought of it as muscles working.  She's athletic, and she said it was kind of like lifting weights  -- the muscle is tightening, this is as tight as it can contract, and now it is loosening . . .   I like that.  Muscles working.  I also read somewhere that cross-culturally, the word for "labor" is generally a word for "work" -- not pain. 

It also seems that childbirth could be an intensely spiritual experience -- I seem to turn to God more in times when I am afraid or hurting, and here, I'll be wrestling with fear and pain, and the miracle of a new life entering the world. I found a book called "Angel in the Waters" (by Regina Doman) that really fascinated me -- it's a children's book about life in the womb and childbirth from the perspective of a baby.  I thought it would be sappy tacky, but it wasn't -- it was simple and beautiful.  The baby talks to an angel (depicted not with big fancy wings or a human body -- just a few sparkling stars) and asks where they are.  The angel explains, "This is Mother."  The baby at first thinks of Mother as a place, and is puzzled as Mother seems to be getting smaller . . .    Anyway, it describes the baby's fear of the unknown when the water breaks and it's time for birth.  It made me think -- as scary as childbirth is for the mother, how much scarier it must be for the baby, who doesn't yet have language or any help in understanding what is going on. 

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A little better

Jun. 11th, 2006 | 10:09 pm

I was in church tonight thinking about the things I have to go over with my doctor at my appointment on Tuesday.

I started thinking -- again -- about my c-section fears.  How the biggest thing that upsets me is having both my hands restrained.

I started thinking -- what if I talk to the doctor about having one of my arms free to hold Dave's hand, and the doctor says no?  Is it important enough to me that I would find another doctor?  Would I have time?  Would I be able to get a referral?  Would any other doctor do it differently anyway?  Would I just have to suck it up and deal with it, even if he says no?  Would it be better to not even ask, because asking and having someone say no reminds me that I'm not in control here?  This again had me so upset that during the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, I felt two tears sneak out.

And then I happened to look up at the crucifix.  And seeing Jesus's hands restrained there made me feel like my fears were a little petty; a small sacrifice to make for my baby's health.  And I also felt more peaceful -- like I was meant to look up there -- sort of a reassurance that he knows I'm scared and he's with me.

It was nice -- I know there are people that have day-to-day conversations with God where they hear God talking back.  They have no doubts that God talks to them -- I remember the girl who lived across from me in the dorms my freshman year was like that.  She couldn't believe that I *didn't* hear God talking to me on a regular basis.  But for me, prayer often is like whispering into a dark room.  I often am unsure whether anyone is listening.  I rarely feel certain of what God is trying to tell me.

But there have been a few moments in my life where I have found that reassurance.  Twice, several years apart, during the exposition of the sacrament following Holy Thursday Mass.  When I attended the Alpha retreat.  At my confirmation.

Glancing up at the crucifix wasn't quite like those moments -- it could just as well have been chance -- but it was what I needed tonight.  It feels like being cupped in someone's hands. 

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Scared

Jun. 7th, 2006 | 08:20 pm

Throughout this pregnancy, labor and delivery just haven't scared me.  Motherhood scared me much more than labor -- all the responsibilities of trying to raise a child. I was actually kind of excited to think about labor -- how my body would work to do what was natural.  I felt well-prepared for what to expect in labor by the classes I've been taking on the Bradley Method of natural childbirth.  From the books I read, I knew ways to deal with the contractions, what to expect emotionally, the advantages for both mother and baby if unnecessary medications and interventions are avoided during labor.  I felt a little bit like I did going into the bar exam -- nervous (how will I deal with this when I have no real experience with severe physical pain -- not even a "real" broken bone?), but excited that I'm finally at that last hurdle, I'm prepared, I'm strong, I'm healthy, I'm ready.

But after yesterday's doctor's appointment I feel like the scales are tipping and I'm more afraid of something going wrong in labor than of parenting.  I had an ultrasound yesterday, and got two pieces of bad news.  Not horrible news -- and I feel guilty even saying "bad news" when there are expectant mothers who have to deal with so much more.  But "bad" news in the sense that I feel like my plan is derailed, my confidence gone.  I feel sick and scared.

Okay, first -- I tested positive for Strep B.  Apparently, this is pretty common -- 20 to 25 percent of pregnant women test positive for this.  But it freaks me out for a couple of reasons.  During a Bradley course when we were talking about Strep B, my mom announced that my cousin Stacie's two babies died when they were days old because of Strep B.  Now that I've tested positive, my mom has "no idea" what caused Stacie's babies to die.  I think she has a good idea -- she just doesn't want to say it anymore.  The other thing that freaks me out is that I will have to get IV antibiotics during labor.  This apparently is very effective in reducing the risk of transmission between the mother and the baby -- but it messes up some of the Bradley advice.  For instance, Bradley says one of the keys to a medication-free birth is to get the hospital as late as possible -- you're more comfortable at home, there are more things you can do to deal with the contractions, etc.  We were even taught what to do if we have to deliver the baby on the way.   But if I'm worrying about making sure that I have at least four hours of labor at the hospital so I'm sure to get these IV antibiotics, I'm probably going to be heading to the hospital sooner than I would have hoped.

And then there's the IV.  One thing I've learned about myself in planning for labor and delivery is how many of my fears are rooted in what must be some form of claustrophobia.  My fear of flying, for instance.  I think it's less about flying than being stuck in a constrictive space with no way to get out.  Or the way I sometimes feel short of breath if I get "trapped" in the middle of the aisle at a movie theater (I always try to grab the aisle seat, even if the view is not as good).  So when I started to write my birth preferences and identified what was important to me and what wasn't, I found that everything that caused me to be confined scared me (much more than the pain), and everything that allowed me mobility made me feel in control.

Epidural?  You have a needle in your arm for the IV, a needle in your spine to numb your lower half, a catheter in your bladder because you can no longer feel when you have to pee, and you can't move your legs to walk to the bathroom anyway.  Being chained to the bed with so many tubes terrifies me. The pain of a contraction, no matter how horrible, sounds better than this.

And then, I'm afraid that what happened to my sister-in-law might happen to me -- after getting her epidural, she no longer could feel how to push effectively, and they had to do a c-section.  C-sections freak me out even more than epidurals.  Not necessarily the surgery -- at class, the part about it that scared me the most was when the instructor was describing how they will have to strap down your arms, because some people panic and want to reach for the incision or reach for the baby.  When the instructor talked about this, I felt myself start to panic -- my throat tightened, my eyes teared up, and I had to swallow hard for a few minutes to get control.  Nothing else we've discussed in class has bothered me this much, and we've discussed some pretty graphic things.

In contrast to the things that make me feel claustrophobic, the parts of the labor plan that appealed to me were the things that allowed me to move -- walking during contractions, having a hep lock instead of an IV, trying different positions like squatting (I used to be a catcher, so this sounds good and comfortable to me), moving from the shower to the whirlpool bath (if you're lucky to get one of the rooms with the whirlpool bath) moving around on the birth ball, etc.

So doing a natural birth for me isn't an act of bravery or being tough enough to overcome my fears -- rather -- a natural birth is the best way for me to avoid my fears.  And, where things are going right, it's healthier for mom and baby.  And my friends who have had natural births (especially those that used the Bradley method) tend to have more positive descriptions of labor than my friends who have had epidurals or other medication.

So being attached to an IV to get antibiotics is a little scary for me.  It messes up the plan.  It still might work out -- maybe they can give me the IV through a hep lock during certain times and the rest of the time I can move.  Obviously, I'll do whatever I can to give the baby the best chance of being healthy, so if I have to be hooked up to something, that's how it goes.  But it makes me feel nervous and out of control.  So Strep B -- that's one concern.

But the bigger issue -- as of yesterday, the ultrasound measured my baby at 8 pounds, 9 ounces -- and that's with almost four weeks to go until the due date!  If normal babies grow at about half a pound a week for the last four weeks, and my baby has been growing faster than normal already, this baby could be close to 11 pounds.  Yikes.

Once again, this might derail my natural birth hopes -- how can a baby that big fit through the birth canal?!

And between the Strep B and feeling like it's my fault that the baby is too big (did I eat too much?  Was it the cookies or the cupcakes?), I now have the feeling that my body is hurting rather than helping the baby -- that if anything is wrong with him/her, it's my fault.    One thing I've enjoyed so far in this pregnancy is knowing that my body is sustaining and nourishing this baby -- it is such a good feeling to know that my body can take care of him and her and help him or her to grow.  But now I blame myself for gaining too much weight, and making him/her too big.  And even though I have no control over the Strep B, it bothers me that I know there's something in me that could possibly kill the baby.  My body feels toxic, and I'm scared for him or her.

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PETS Act

May. 22nd, 2006 | 11:32 pm

This is great news -- http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/05/22/pet.evacuations.ap/index.html

When the news showed scenes of Katrina's devastation, people often said, "I just don't understand why they didn't evacuate."  But there are a lot of reasons not to go -- and if evacuating meant abandoning my dogs, I don't think I'd go either. So I'm glad that Congress is helping to make sure that pet owners aren't forced to make that decision.



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Max the Wonder Dog

May. 18th, 2006 | 12:34 am

Max graduated from the second level introductory agility course at the local dog training club, so we're now starting intermediate. I hope we can compete this fall!

He now does the teeter unassisted and does fine on all the other obstacles -- the only place he really needs work is on the weave poles.

I love agility -- so much fun to run through the course with him. And he thrives on it. You can tell how happy he is to work. 

Happy Max

Here's a smiling Max with the tunnel in the background.





Max jumps!

And here's a link to a video of my mom leading Max over the teeter totter.

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I figured it out . . .

May. 16th, 2006 | 11:46 pm

From the beginning of this season of American Idol, I thought Taylor was interesting -- I loved his auditions and his harmonica and his hair. But something about him also annoyed me, and I finally figured it out. When he sings, he looks like he's trying to take a poop. He squats, his eyebrows strain, he twitches like he just can't get it out. Gross. If he holds still, I like him fine. If I close my eyes, I love his voice. But I can't get over the picture of him sitting on a toilet bowl.

But I did love Katherine singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" tonight. She's so much better when her voice is warm and soft. She also annoys me when she tries to sing these shrill songs like the divas. Her quiet voice kind of reminds me of Norah Jones.

Elliott, while he seems to be a nice guy, just didn't knock me down the way the Rainbow did.

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Mirror Mirror on the wall

May. 14th, 2006 | 12:02 am

When I look in the mirror now, I have trouble connecting "myself" with the person I see. In my head, I'm still a kid. It's startling to see a face and body that look so much like my mother.

Dave sent flowers a week or so ago just because, and I wanted to send him a picture of me and the flowers to say thank you. My mom took some pictures, but I haven't sent any. I'm having trouble accepting that the body I see in those pictures is really my body -- I want to hold out for a picture where I don't look like a great blue whale. Of course, between now and the time when I see him, I'm only going to get bigger. So I better go ahead and send the whale pictures, so he can recognize me when I pick him up at the airport. But if I'm having trouble accepting this body as mine, it seems like it will be so much harder for him, since he hasn't had time to get used to it gradually.

Strange mix of emotions. It is an absolute marvel to me that my body is able to support this life. I love to feel him/her moving inside of me (as he/she is doing right now). I am fascinated by the undulations in my belly -- they're better than fireworks. Sometimes at work, he/she will start kicking, and I have to pause to just look down and watch my belly move. When he/she first started moving, it felt like someone was microwaving popcorn inside of me -- little taps and pops. But now I feel rolls, pushes, turns, shoves -- I can look down and see something bulging off the left side of my belly-button. I like to press with my open palm and guess -- what is that? Your foot? Your knee? I love it. I'll miss it when he/she is outside of me.

And yet this changed body seems to be final proof that I'm not young anymore; I'm heavy; life's heavy . . . big responsibilities ahead.

I studied for three years to become a lawyer; I had to pass a background check and sit for a long and stressful exam. But now I'm heading for a more important job, and I feel completely unprepared. No training, no licensing. I almost wish someone would sit me down for a test and say, "Yep, you pass, you're qualified to be a mother." That might give me a little more confidence.

Because I want to breastfeed, I'm supposed to ask for the baby to "room in" with me. But it terrifies me that this little life will be left to my care when I feel so incompetent. Infants scare me. When my friends or my mom's friends have newborns and say, "Do you want to hold him/her?" I usually try to say no. And now I'll have one of my own.

I'm afraid even though we planned for this baby; even though I wanted a child more than anything else; even though I know logically that I must be more prepared for these responsibilities than the kids who have babies when they're in their early teens themselves. The stories of women leaving their babies in dumpsters hit me much harder now -- I am horrified that someone could abandon a life that minutes before was growing inside them, but I have a much stronger understanding of their urge to flee.

I had a dream last night that might be connected to these baby fears. I was in an airplane with Dave and we were supposed to sky dive. The plane was passing where we were supposed to jump, but I wouldn't go. "I don't know where to find the cord that I'm supposed to pull to make the chute come out!" I told Dave. He explained that I didn't need to pull any cord -- the chute would deploy automatically. "But my pack is loose -- it's going to fall off!" He tightened the straps and pulled the pack closer to my back and shoulders. The plane circled back for another pass. He jumped, then I jumped. We landed in the water. Maybe this would be a crisis in real life, but in my dream, this is where we were supposed to land. The chutes somehow disappeared and we swam to shore. We made it.

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