The Birth Story (circa 2010)

Psych! That baby is my 2 1/2 year old! Gotcha! The other one is still baking.  Or else, I will be starring in TLC’s newest hit “I Thought I Was Pregnant: Tales of Hysterical Pregnancies.”

I’m five days past that pesky estimated due date now, so I don’t have a 2012 birth to reminisce about yet. But it occurs to me that I never committed the full story of Edie’s birth to print.  And perhaps this new baby wants me to complete all unfinished business before making his/her appearance.  Like a poltergeist! Scary! In the past two weeks, I’ve detailed my car, finished sewing two baby blankets, wrapped up all freelance work for the time being, and even cleaned out my unholy crisper drawers in the fridge.  Perhaps this, however, will actually do the trick! (Also, Edie goes to preschool tomorrow and so I have plans to get a haircut. Then later plans to go out with moms – no kids – in the evening, so I am pretty suspicious that this kid might be the wiser and come tonight on account of my attempts at leisure activities.)

In the days before Edie was born, I was busy trying to get a foothold into life in Munich.  I was taking intensive language classes four days a week.  Mastering the public transit.  Figuring out where to grocery shop (never quite got the hang of this one).  I also had plenty of time to sleep, meditate, take walks, practice yoga, and generally be peaceful.  I truly believed that I would carry her past my due date. My mom arrived a week or so before the birth and we had planned to go to IKEA together on the actual due date.  Well, that didn’t happen, because at around 3 am on January 28, my contractions started.

It wasn’t painful or scary when it all began.  I was surprised how clear it was that, yes, these were contractions.  You have so many sensations when you’re pregnant, and at the end, it’s a good size baby up in there, so the sensations are sometimes intense.  I didn’t have any Braxton-Hicks preparatory contractions during my pregnancy, so until the show began, I didn’t know what it would feel like.  I felt happy and excited when they started, and I tried to sleep.  But I was too jazzed, so I told Will what was going on, that he should sleep, and that I was going to take a bath and then try to return to bed.  My husband was also excited, but a lot more able to fall back asleep.

We both got up between 6 and 7 am, at which time I called my mom to let her know what was going on.  Will made pancakes.  We had a really nice morning.  The birth house (Geburtshaus Muenchen) was called, and the midwives told me to come in at 9.  At the appointment, I got the news so many first time moms get.  Yep, those are contractions! But, no, that baby isn’t coming any time real soon.  2 cm dilated, I believe.  So, I was told to go home and try to stay rested.

I planned a day of knitting and watching TV.  But as the contractions got more intense I couldn’t keep my mind off of them.  Which is a shame, but I doubt uncommon.  Everything was peaceful, but I was getting really tired.  At around 5 pm, a midwife came to my house, said I was still only 2 or so cm dilated, so no need to come in.  At around 9 pm, I came to the decision that if I was going to be moved, it was now or never.  I also decided that I wasn’t going to wait for or get in another cab (we had no car in Munich).  So Will asked our landlord / lower level neighbor to drive me.  Robert, the landlord, was so nice about it. His wife, Tanya, was pregnant at the time too.  About 4 weeks behind me.  Robert was very interested in what I was experiencing and was pop quizzing me about what made me know it was time to go to the Geburtshaus.  I was not terribly responsive at this point.  I believe I said something like “Arghhh…..” … “I just know…..”

We got to the birth house and then I got to climb up two flights of windy stairs.  Fun fact: stairs during labor lead to more contractions!

After reaching the summit, I get in and meet the midwives who will be doing the birth.  It was an on call system.  Normally, I would’ve met all of them before, but I started my care there at 33 ish weeks due to moving to Munich so late in my pregnancy.  So I didn’t make the rounds to everyone.  I ended up with a midwife named Susanne, with another midwife in a more assistant role, Therese.  Susanne’s English was very limited.  Not nearly as limited as my German.  But quite limited. Had I known about this communication problem, I would’ve been nervous.  But as it turned out, as life does, she was the perfect person for me at the time.

I was still only 4 or so cm dilated when I arrived, but it was clear to Susanne that I needed to be there – or at least she was nice enough to say so!  I labored in a tub for, I believe, two or three hours.  Susanne stayed at my side, marking down contractions, keeping the water warm, and probably reading a book.  Will took a nap in a chair, waking up to live-Facebook my labor from my iPhone.  For my end, I sort of slept in between contractions.  It was surreal.  Labor was so much quieter and personal than I ever pictured.  No yelling, no constant monitoring, just waiting.  I was really exhausted at this point.  I hadn’t slept properly since the contractions began early that morning.  But it wasn’t a dramatic or frightening experience at all.

I had packed well for the trip. I brought drinks and snacks, a loaded iPod, various night shirts.  But, it turns out, I was one of those no-noise, no-touch, no-clothes types.  The only thing I did want was a pony tail holder, which I didn’t have, so Therese pulled hers out and gave it to me.  Loved that.  All in all, it was very, very quiet up until the end.

After finally reaching 9+ cm of dilation (they gave up on the Holy Grail of 10 and decided we’d start getting the show on the road a little beforehand), we got down to business.  I tried to psyche myself up a bit, so I proclaimed that I did not want to be pregnant any more.  I sort of chanted it.  It sounds like a strange thing.  But this sense comes over you soon before the birth that, eh, maybe I’ll just come back tomorrow.  This is a little much.  It makes no sense, and I didn’t expect to feel this way, but after talking with other moms and reading some books as well, this is apparently quite normal.  So a little bit of game day talk in this regard seemed to help me.  Therese also told me that she promised her kids she’d be home before they went to school, so I needed to help her out.

I pushed for a long time.  An hour and a half, or thereabouts.  I never had the urge to push, which was another unexpected thing, but Susanne and Therese coached me through that.  I was holding onto Will’s legs, squatting between his legs while he sat behind me on the bed when Edie was born.  Therese, having caught sight of our big Nikon camera, decided to play paparazzi at the end and snapped a goodly number of photos of me in full giving-birth mode.  Now, I am someone who doesn’t like to wear a two piece.  But this, for whatever hormone, I-am-woman, reason, did not phase me.  A class trip could’ve been paraded through and I truly would not have flinched.  So, camera clicking, sun near rising, Edie was born at 6:16 am on January 29, 2010.  She was exactly 6 lb, and 20 inches long.  We didn’t know her sex until she was born, so we’d never really called her by a name, though we had our girl and boy names picked out beforehand.  It was amazing and oddly surprising to see an actual baby before me.

Susanne and Therese lifted me by each arm back onto the bed, propped me up, and put Edie on my chest where she rested for sometime.  After the umbilical cord stopped pulsing, Will was the one to cut it.  Soon after, he held his daughter, and seeing him with her was one of the most profound moments of my life.  It was all such a haze for me. I had trouble settling into reality after the birth.  But seeing Will cradle his daughter was real. And it was so beautiful.

We left only 4 hours later, which was physically difficult to do, but I was so very relieved to be home.  On our way out the Geburtshaus, Will turned to me and told me how amazing the birth was, and how we should have our next baby here as well.  I was really. really. not in the mood to discuss a second baby.  But it was sweet to hear.  And now, number two is just about knocking on our door.

Have a good day, little monkey!

 Ze Monkey Lunch Box

This morning, my little Edie starts preschool.  It’s a part-time gig, from 9-1pm twice a week, but it’s a lot for us.  I am excited for the toddler-free time – though soon enough it will be time filled with a newborn.  And I think that Edie is really going to like it.  My daughter loves to learn. And she relishes stopping foolishness, micromanaging, and speaking her mind.  Perfect teacher’s pet!

Excitement aside, I am really going to miss her!  We’ve been two peas in a pod since she was born.  It took me almost two years to have her baby sat, and we’ve only been apart for entire days for me to take the bar exam and for a couple difficult – but admittedly cathartic – solo vacation weekends away from her during this pregnancy.

Soon after you have your first born, people like to talk about how you “need” to get away, “need” to let someone else care for them.  I really don’t understand this advice.  I felt physically unable to leave Edie in anyone’s care for a long time, and since I was far away from family or friends who would (well-meaningly) insist on babysitting, and also since I have a partner who is arguably a bigger sap than I am when it comes to leaving Edie outside of parental care, I just didn’t leave her.  This is not to suggest that I was never over-whelmed – I was quite often during that first year.  Nor do I mean to imply that I was or am always Mary Sunshine.  More like Mary Partly Sunny with a Chance of Scattered Showers.

I think that my inability to let someone else care for my child has been something, for me, that was correlated not at all to my super-momness, but instead by my insecurity as a mom. I worried everyday about my ability to figure this whole thing out and so I just couldn’t imagine that anyone else could step in and solve the impossible riddle that was my baby.  Seems like it also has to do with the child at hand, and mine was long a mama’s girl.  Separation anxiety just ebbed and flowed, never quite ceasing.  She nursed about 18 times a day for the first six months, as I remember.  Maybe neither one of us was quite confident that the other was going to make it, so we just grabbed on for dear life and didn’t let go.

In a moment of mind-expanding culture (i.e. Will was out for the night and so I did secret things with Hulu), I was watching 16 and Pregnant the other day.  Teen Mom’s mother convinced her that she needed to go out for the night and learn to let someone else care for her newborn baby.  Teen Mom was despondent, frowning and looking into nothing as she answered “Yeah, I guess so.”  I wanted to shout “No! She’s not a competent mom yet and she knows it! Let her learn to trust herself!”  I didn’t shout it, though, because it was an MTV rerun.  And I’m not crazy.

But here we are today.  Edie is almost 2 1/2 and we’re both ready for this.  Not ready a little too.  But mostly ready.  She is still very attached to me, but also very confident and her independence grows by the day.  My little love bug, she recently went around the circle in music class and gave a hug to every last parent there during hug-your-mamma(or daddy or nanny) time, to a chorus of “oooohs.”  I really hope her teacher gives hugs.

I will be sending her off with a meticulously packed backpack, along with a lunch packed in her brand new monkey lunch box – an impulse buy picked out by the lady herself during a Target run.  I have big plans to walk the dogs, bathe the psycho hot spot licking dog, sew a bit, and maybe even some yoga.  Then, pick that big kid up at 1 pm and try not to cry as I hug her for a little too long.  Oh yeah, and maybe shake this other baby loose while I’m at it.

The dogs make their presence known

Worse indignities than a dented, plastic cone?  How about one decorated in rainbow stickers by a two-year old who can pull rank on you.

Hello, Due Date! G’bye, Due Date!  It’s now the morning after and I am really tired.  But not birthin’ tired.  Terrible dogs tired.  Billy has decided to ring in the new family member by giving himself endless hotspots – that is, patches of skin compulsively licked and bitten raw.  First his paws, now his rump.  And hence the cone atop his Schnoodle head.  Edie is very fascinated with the cone.  She would like to try it on, in fact.  Which has caused me to draw an unanticipated line in the sand for my general liberal policy on letting my daughter express herself.  Can she call her mom “Stinky Butt”?  Yeah.  She’s two.  And it was pretty funny.  But when she sits on the floor, sticks her own foot in her mouth, and says “Yookit, mommy! I chew on my foot! I can wear cone now?”  the answer is, I’m afraid, no, dear. 

And then last night, as Will and I began our night’s sleep, both a little excited that maybe, *just* maybe, that baby would come calling pretty soon, we begin to hear a “HACK!! HACK HACK!! *phlegm sounds* HACK!!”  Hmmm.  Doesn’t seem like a labor sign.  But should I google it? No, that’s Sugar.  The decidedly dumber but usually less psychosomatically afflicted dog.  It’s midnight, so I do what every good dog owner does.  I reach over the bed and poke her, saying “Hey! Stop hacking!” She does not. And my poke reveals something far more putrid than the animal herself.  Vomit.  And lots of it.  So we are up.  And we attend to one of the most vile trails of dogs-eat-disgusting-things-and-then-their-people-pay that I have ever had the misfortune to deal with.  There is disinfecting, throwing out of dog beds, mopping, and full dog bathing.  I will say one thing, Will and I really are a good team during moments like this.  We aren’t exactly gazing lovingly at one another, but we are both in there, getting things done, and not giving a lot of guff.

So, HI DOGS! We know you are here.  We will continue to feed and walk you.  Edie will pet you.  PLEASE CALL OFF YOUR CAMPAIGN OF GROSS. 

All your questions, answered.

De Due Date for baby Deux is just about upon us.  Tomorrow, in fact. But no real signs of imminent baby yet.  Maybe s/he is waiting for you all to give your “are you in labor yet?!” questions a rest.  I jest, I jest. I know everyone means well.  But I am a cranky, Michelin-man of a woman who sometimes thinks it’s fun to joke about how close I am to giving birth and sometimes just wants a cookie.  It’s safer to pony up the cookie from the get-go, for the record.

Another favorite question: “Are you ready?”  I am supposed to say, I think, “Yes! I want this baby out! I am soooo ready!”  The real answer? Eh. I am scared of having two kids.  I know it will work itself out. But I fear it, and I believe that fear is legitimate.  I am increasingly uncomfortable, but am not in any severe pain or anything.  Things are really doable right now, and even when they’re hard, I feel equipped to deal.  Once new baby is here, everything is up in the air again.  How will I get Edie to nap?  What wrinkle in time will allow me to care for both a two year old and a newborn while maintaining any semblance of a managed household?  When will I have time to reanimate my meager career?  The answers will make themselves known, but only after a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.  I’m ready but bracing myself. 

Edie and I went to the East Nashville Farmers Market today to pass the afternoon.  And also to shake the baby loose on some of my neighborhood’s many hills while en route.  After buying some berries and a juice, we sat in the shade for awhile and chatted with some other moms.  And I got the same questions.  With a fun twist, though, from a man who overheard that I was going to give birth at home, causing him to wonder aloud whether I gave birth to Edie “standing up? Or squatting, or whatever?”  This is definitely one of the more intimate questions I’ve gotten from a perfect stranger / non-medical professional, and it filled the air with a delightful awkward silence.  I told him that I was in labor for 30 hours, so I’d had time to test out many variations, thanks.  On the upside, the prospect of my pregnant state leading to more public questions of this nature did make me feel a little more ready to get un-pregnant.

This time, I’ll just eat the placenta. AKA, Will and the bloody fanny-pack.

The perfect crime. (Seriously, I hope it wasn’t a crime…)

Because my family has gotten comfortable with my home birthing ways, I felt like I needed to raise the stakes.  I don’t like anyone getting too comfortable.  Especially myself.  Whenever I hear of a practice or theory that aligns with my principles and world view while simultaneously being awkward or divisive to explain to others, I sigh to myself, knowing that there is no backing down.  And somewhere out there, my husband shudders, sensing that a stand has been taken.  Enter: placenta pills.

Once new baby is born, I will be calling over a placenta encapsulation specialist who will come over and get to work making me some very one-of-a-kind vitamins. Really, eating my placenta in tidy capsule form seems almost like a cop out, and I have honestly wondered whether I should be more hard core.  Placenta smoothie?  Maybe I am dulling around the edges a bit with age and am now merely a mainstream weirdo.  All in all, encapsulation seems like a pretty easy way to allow one to say “Oh, I ate my placenta.” for the rest of her life.  Because, after all, sometimes you just want a quick way to end a conversation.

The benefits of this practice are said to be, primarily, easing post partum blues and aiding breast milk production.  If you’ve ever felt the sadness that can come after your baby is born, and I have, there aren’t many remedies that don’t sound doable if they stand a chance at quelling these feelings the second time around.  Maybe they’ll work, maybe they won’t, but I’m hopeful and more than willing to try it with an open mind.

And then there is Edie’s placenta.  Which I did not eat.  But did have a good old time with, way back when.  In Germany, where E was born, it is apparently fairly common to take your placenta home from the hospital and later plant it under a tree.  I don’t know the statistics on this practice, but it’s not a very out-there thing to do.  Edie was born in a birth house, which was a small practice of just two birthing rooms that was not part of any hospital.  Being a little operation, and probably since it wouldn’t be shocking to their clientele, the birth house did not acquire the medical waste license that would be necessary to dispose of placentas and therefore you were required to take yours with you.

While I was given the information regarding my very own placenta pal before the birth, it didn’t really hit me until I was sitting in a cab, four hours after giving birth, with a very tiny baby in the car seat next to me and a warm placenta in a yellow plastic bag in my lap.  Even in my fog, I do remember trying to play hide-the-placenta with the cabbie, thinking vaguely that I was not quite secure enough to proudly display it, and that it could be just freaky enough to get us kicked out of his immaculate Mercedes Benz into the January snow.  So, with a sweatshirt draped over it, our little placenta made it home.  And into our freezer.  Where it stayed for some time.

But it didn’t go totally unnoticed.  We didn’t have a very big freezer after all.  So our conversations might have a “did you check under the placenta?” in them now and again.  Our plan was always to go ahead and do the plant the placenta thing, but the first summer came and went without that happening.

When we were planning for our move back the US, one of us remembered close to the end that something had to be done about our little freezer friend.  It was then summer once more, so Will decided to plant it at last.  We lived in a flat, so we’d have to go into the nearby park to do it.  The Englischer Gartens, to be exact.  Munich’s largest and most renowned gardens.  Searching for a placenta carrying device resulted in Will’s unearthing of his Mountain Smith, a bag that is really just a large fanny-pack for camping types.

And off he then went, running shorts on, shovel and daughter’s 18 month old frozen placenta in tow.  I didn’t see the actual planting.  But I do love imagining it.  Will trying to act casual as he veers off the beaten path to find a place where he won’t be spotted hastily digging up dirt to, you know, dump a human organ in a hole.  Bless his heart, he returned just a little bloody and with a few photos of the tree now dedicated, whether it likes it or not, to my funny little daughter.

Eating it really is not too bad an option, all things considered.