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after birth

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The day after Winnie was born, in the hospital

It’s been two months since Winnie was born. Two weird, surreal, exhausting, and educational months.

The first few weeks, especially, were rife with cryinging and overwhelmedness. Shell shocked. Weeping that ranged from a chronic seeping to violent, wracking sobs alone in the car, coming home from Whole Foods, where I had attempted to find a salve that would fix broken nipples.

David took the first 2 weeks of his 12-week paternity leave off at the start, which meant that he was there at the hospital and then home with us for another week and a half. He was crazy in love with the baby right from the start, eager to hold and care for her, to carry her around and show her the light coming in a window. I was jealous that he was getting this great love when I felt nothing.

He was also dedicated to supporting and taking care of me and doing anything he could to make me feel better. He made meals and changed diapers and did the bottle feedings. Anything I wanted that might make me feel like my life was still reasonable and in control, he’d do it. Things like trimming the bougainvillea or cleaning the baseboards. He made coffee.

We had to go into the pediatrician in the early days to get her weighed and they had me fill out a questionnaire, probing for postpartum depression. My answers resulted in more probing, face to face. Nothing like someone asking “are you ok?” when you’re not ok to get the tears flowing. Which resulted in follow-up conversations and calls from other doctors. But no further action, just feeling sheepish and sorry for myself as I had to explain that I didn’t have a strong local support system, but that I was trying to get out of the house, to see people, and connect with other new moms.

Breastfeeding, or lack thereof, was a big source of the sadness. I was so cavalier about breastfeeding before the baby was born. I won’t be crazy about it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. Shrug.
And then, when it didn’t work, I actually felt terrible. Like a failure. All of my doubts about momming, already coming to fruition. So I kept going to a lactation consultant, which would both give me hope that I could somehow make it happen, while simultaneously leaving me despondent as I faced the reality of what I’d have to do to even have a chance of making it work. (Evidently, there’s a name for it: “triple feeding.” It’s when you breast feed the baby, use a breast pump to collect breast milk, and feed the baby with a bottle. Three different things to do, as opposed to the one that you might do if you were just breastfeeding.)

And then David was going back to work and I was home alone. We were trying to figure out how to manage the nights. Me wanting, in theory, to take care of all of the night stuff so that David could function at work, since it didn’t matter how I felt during the day. But I could only really manage to be grossly sleep deprived for one day and then the next night, I couldn’t do it.

So David would get up in the nights, or early in the morning, and I would feel guilty. And David sang songs and made rhymes and wiggled limbs, while I was just waiting for the next time that the baby would fall asleep. And I felt guilty.

At the same time, I felt incredibly lucky and grateful for how much help David was.

Still, it was rough going. No family nearby and no friends who could just come and make it be ok.

Around 3 or 4 weeks in, my mental state started to even out and I didn’t feel quite so irrationally miserable. We developed a bit of a routine. The nights started getting better. Last night, she fell asleep around 9:30 and was down for the count until about 6:30 am. Some nights, she makes enough grunty wake-y noises, that David gets up, usually around 2 or 3 and feeds her while she’s still not quite awake. She falls back asleep and he gets back into bed. It’s rare these days that anyone actually has to get up out of bed with the baby in the night.

She makes a lot more eye contact and even if the expression on her face says that she’s plotting my ultimate demise, it’s helped a lot that we can look at each other. She’s started to smile and sometimes if I try very hard, I can actually coax one out of her. Most days, I manage to accomplish some tasks… loading all of the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, moving laundry into the dryer, vacuuming up the dog hair. I eat lunch and change out of my pajamas. Brush my teeth. Not always in that order.

I don’t cry anymore. Or if I do, it’s just a little tiny bit and only because my little lump of a daughter is just looking at me so sweetly.
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And that David is not without flaw: he has no interest in taking pictures, so I’ve got selfies.

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baby birthing

Seems like the kind of thing one might want to just let fade away into the great forgetting. But in the case that I want to remember or that anyone wants to know these details, here’s the story of how we went from baby on the inside to baby on the outside…

At 37 weeks pregnant, my obstetrician said that I was 1 centimeter dilated and 50% effaced at my weekly appointment. She also said that she guessed that the baby would come early. But then my 38 week appointment came with no change. Nothing at the 39 week. I never made it to the 40 week appointment.

Monday, May 30 — 39 weeks — Memorial Day I started maternity leave this week.

Monday, June 6 — 40 weeks — Due Date
David went to work. I stayed at home and did whatever it was I was doing in the time of pre-baby.
In bed on Monday night, I started feeling paranoid that I hadn’t felt the baby move in a while. So after David had fallen asleep, I drank some more water and lay awake waiting and seeing. She did eventually show some signs of life and I also started to feel some feelings that I thought might be a contraction, but without knowing what that felt like, didn’t really know for sure. It was late then, after 1 am, and I went to sleep. But each time I got up to go to the bathroom, I had another feeling that felt like it might be a contraction.

Tuesday, June 7 — 40 weeks, 1 day
I told David in the morning that I thought I might be having contractions, but I wasn’t really sure. He didn’t go into San Francisco to his office, but decided to work from home, instead. Around midday, I asked him if he could take a break to put up some framed artwork in the baby’s room, because I had a very urgent desire to get that room into a state of finished. 2 pm
We had a visit with our dog trainer, during which I had a few of the feelings that I was getting more and more sure were probably contractions. But they were minor enough that I could hold up a conversation about dog behavior.
4:43 pm
The feelings were getting more and more feely. Somewhen around this time, I’d guess things changed from “early labor” to “active labor.” 4:43 pm is when I recorded a contraction in a contraction-tracking-app for the first time.
5 pm
I tell David that I think this is definitely a thing and it’s time to take the dogs over to their walker’s house, where they’ll be staying for the birthing times.
6:30 pm
Contractions are regularly around a 45 seconds long. Sometimes more, sometimes less. They definitely don’t feel good. I feel a little nauseated during contractions, so I don’t eat any dinner when David does. But I am drinking lots of water.
8:30 pm
Contractions are happening more frequently and regularly. Averaging 5 or 6 minutes apart. The pain is getting pretty good. I do the breathing things that they taught us. Breathing is rubbish. I try some different positions. Some make it much worse. Sitting and leaning forward seems to be the position of least suck. Jiggling my knees up and down helps a little to just get through it.
We watch The Bachelorette. Chad is pretty great.
I keep asking David if he thinks it might be time to go to the hospital and he keeps saying that we should wait. They drilled it into us in our birthing class that we needed to wait until contractions were consistently a minute long and four minutes apart, for at least an hour. If we wait until then, then the cervix should be 6 centimeters dilated and we’d be admitted to the hospital. Less than that and they’d send us home.
It seems impossible to imagine that it could continue in this way. In fact, that it would still continue to get worse.
I’m running essential oils in the diffuser. We’re watching tv and I’m timing contractions. I don’t want David to do anything or say anything, but I sure am glad that he’s there.
11:30 pm
We finally decide to leave to head to the hospital. As we’re parking, I tell David that I’m pretty sure I can’t make it without drugs and that I’m already feeling like a failure for giving in.
Midnight
We get checked into the hospital. Sitting there in the hallway, while David was talking to the admin lady, having contractions.
Going into a triage room. Getting checking out by a nurse there. Only 3 centimeters. But she leaves and talks to the doctor on call and they decide to admit me anyway. More contractions. During a bad one, I throw up several times in a trash can in the triage room. The nurse comes back and I put on a hospital gown. In fact, I think it may have been two hospital gowns—one open in the back and a second open in the front. My clothes are soaking wet from sweat and they get stuffed into a bag that I hand to David, who is managing all of the details of stuff. I shuffle off to a delivery room. I meet our nurse, Courtney, who asks me what my plans are for pain medication. I ask her to tell me about the options again and she gives me the details on the IV opiate and an epidural.
I tell her I’d like to get the IV med. Meanwhile, I’m getting hooked up to some stuff… who knows? A thing on a finger? A blood pressure cuff?
I get the IV and the opiate and it helps a lot. For about 10 minutes. And then I’m calling Courtney back in to say that I want the epidural.
Meanwhile, I’ve started shivering like crazy, uncontrollably, even though I’m actually hot.
I have to get a bag of IV fluid before I can get the epidural, so they get that together. Once it’s finished, the anesthesiologist comes in. He’s tall and sporty and he talks to David about mountain climbing, because David’s wearing a hat from a hiking company that he took a trip with.
I throw up some more while he’s in the room. Into several of the plastic baggy things that  nurse informed David was there specifically for vomiting.
I keep having contractions and I worry about trying to hold still while he’s stabbing my spine. He comments “she’s just not getting a break, is she?” Because they seem to be happening non-stop.
Wednesday, June 8 — 40 weeks, 2 days
3 am
The epidural has been administered. It wasn’t so terrible. The little numbing shot was pretty unpleasant. But otherwise not so bad. And it doesn’t take long before I can wiggle my feet around, but I can’t lift my legs. And the contractions pretty much go away. I’m attached to tubes and cuffs and measuring devices all over and I am basically paralyzed, so I’m definitely bed bound. Everyone leaves. David passes out on the little couch.
I doze off, but wake up every 15 minutes when the blood pressure cuff that I have to wear kicks into gear and squeezes the ever loving shit out of my arm.
4 am
I feel a burst, like a pricked balloon and a release, like I just peed a tremendous volume. I assume that my water’s broke and call David. But he’s really passed out and doesn’t wake up. So I call Courtney the nurse and she comes back in to confirm that yes, my water’s broke and she checks and my cervix is now 8 centimeters dilated. They change my sheets and maybe my gown, too, and I can’t move, so she does this by heaving me around while I try to hold myself off to one side or another with my arms clutching onto the railings of the bed.
And then there’s a bunch of drama because the baby’s heart beat has dropped dramatically and 4 or 5 new people come in and do a lot of bustling about and they put an oxygen mask on me and I can’t really hear over that except for a nurse who is saying something like “breathe in that oxygen for your baby.”
I’m sure that this means I’ll be hustled off for an emergency c-section.
But whatever the alarm is goes away. And then they just want me to get all the way to 10 centimeters. I get turned over on to one side, which I can’t do myself because I can’t move. And then a little bit later, I get turned over on to the other side.
I ask about getting another dose of the epidural, which I can do myself just by pressing a button. She says that I can do it and wants to know if I’m having pain. I’m not, but I’m pretty terrified that the pain might come back, so I press it and take another hit.
They decide that I’m fully dilated at some point and the doctor comes in. I ask about trying to sit up and move into a more upright position. We learned in the birthing class that the beds can be arranged so they’re a bit like a chair, so you can birth in a sitting position, even with an epidural. But no one seems to think this is a good idea and they leave me lying down, just like on TV.
Then with no fanfare, they just decide that on the next contraction, I’ll start pushing.
6:40 am
With Courtney holding up my left knee and David on my right, I start pushing. I take a deep breath, lift up my head and push, like pushing out a poop. Then I stop, take a deep breath and do it again. Maybe a third time, all within that first contraction. It makes me out of breath, maybe because I’m holding it or because it’s exerting. But it doesn’t hurt.
I keep doing it when they tell me to. After a few times, I recognize that there is a deep down feeling that coincides with when they say that I’m having a contraction.
Everyone seems very cheerful and says that I’m doing a great job. I don’t really understand what’s great about what I’m doing, but it seems encouraging.
A few more pushes and they can see the top of a hairy head. I can see David looking. I tell him that he shouldn’t, that it’s gross. But he keeps looking anyway. I don’t really understand how much baby is out. But in between contractions, everything just stops and there’s idle chit chat. I have a strange awareness of lying there, with a baby hanging out of my vagina, in a room full of people, just casually hanging around. I crack some kind of joke.
7:04 am
After 24 minutes, it’s over. The baby comes out. I can feel the sensation of it, but no pain. They put her on my chest and David and I both start crying. Ugly crying, I think.
There are a million people in the room doing stuff. There’s a nurse who attempts to stick the baby on a boob, but I don’t think she really does any nursing.
I can feel the placenta come out.
There’s been a little tearing. 2nd degree laceration, she says. The doctor’s down there doing things, putting in some stitches and that kind of stings.
They take the baby at some point and wipe her off a bit and clean her hair. There’s a lot of hair. They weigh her. 8 pounds 4 ounces. They give her back to me. Her eyes are puffy and tightly shut. She sleeps.
We wait for the epidural to wear off and I’m escorted to the bathroom, where I manage to leave a horror scene of blood and gore after peeing.
And then we get wheeled away to another room for our two-night stay in the post-partem wing. Which isn’t a particularly interesting part of the story (if any of it was at all). We are stunned and sleepy, all of us.

After all of that. Hours and hours. Months and months. Years and years, even. Here she is. Our daughter, Winifred Mary Pickavance, joined our family at 7:04 am on Wednesday morning, June 8, 2016.

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another day

It seems like I can’t write about anything else, until I finish (or even just start) writing about this.

This, this thing that happened, or didn’t happen. Months ago. On Mother’s Day, at 12 weeks pregnant, I miscarried a baby that would have been due today.

It seems like a long time ago now. I remember crying a lot. After a few weeks, I could talk to people and tell them about what happened, without tears. I don’t think about it every day. Although, the constant stream of new babies and pregnant bellies around me have been a regular reminder. I can’t look at Facebook without feeling sad and angry and jealous and guilty for feeling sad and angry and jealous.
Most of the time, it doesn’t hurt any more. I don’t always remember. This month has been a bit tougher. What might have been feels very sharp, right now. Today.

The David didn’t remember about today, about the due date, and I don’t think he’s sad for the lost baby anymore. But he does feel sad, in a more general way, when he considers the possibility that we may end up not being parents at all. It is a strange pill to swallow—imagining what a whole life looks like without a family.

It seems like a real possibility, at 37-years-old, but not a certainty. The not-knowing is hard.

I’d like to think that tomorrow, I’ll have crossed a line in the sand. I lived through the due date. A switch will be flipped and it just won’t be sad. But I’m afraid that it will continue to be unless there’s a new baby. Which makes the not-knowing even scarier.

I hope we get through it, whatever it is. Seems like we probably will. The days keep passing. And while it doesn’t heal all wounds, time does take the edge off.

 

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getting not-robbed

 

Last week, I experienced something pretty awful.

On Monday morning, I was in a line of people waiting for a ride into San Francisco, when three young black kids in hoodies turned up with guns and robbed as many people as they could before running away and getting into a car.

I was not robbed myself, but I was there in the line for casual carpool.

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That sign is the sign for casual carpool. That guy is about to get into that car. In about 45 seconds, I am also about to get into that car.

I happened to be at the front of the line and talking to the women next to me, so I was turned towards the rest of the line facing her. I saw these guys moving through the line in a strange way – why would you pass through a group of people like that when you could just go around?

The line started breaking up and I heard someone say “is this for real?”

As soon as I saw the gun, I backed up a few steps and said to the woman I had been talking to “look out, look out.” She still had her back to them and hadn’t seen anything yet.

She turned around and we backed up some more. I saw the kid closest to me facing a guy from the line, who then slowly took a backpack off his shoulder and give it to the kid.  And then I turned around and ran around the corner.

Having my back to them was terrifying. Would they chase after me? Would they try to shoot me? How far should I go? Could I call the police and run at the same time?

After an eternity or a few minutes, I ran down a driveway and ducked between the back of an SUV and some garbage cans, where I called 911. After a busy signal, I tried again. I listened to some messages in different languages and waited until I finally spoke to a person. I told her that there was a robbery happening and she transferred me to the Oakland emergency line. Then I told someone else that a robbery was happening, where it was, that I had not personally been robbed, and I gave her my name and number.

And then I creeped back down the driveway and saw other people heading towards the carpool spot. Since they didn’t seem to come running back around or anything, I decided to go back to see what was happening, because surely it would be over by now. Plus, I really couldn’t figure out where else I might go.

The kids were definitely gone, and the scene was a bit chaotic. There were people in small groups, one woman was crying hysterically. There was no line. There were cars pulled up, waiting for passengers, but no one was getting in them.  So I got into the first car and told the driver what had happened. There was another passenger who had also been there; she had just run straight across the street when she realized what was going on. The third passenger had just arrived on the scene.

Police were not there by the time we left.

People keep saying that I was so smart to get away. But it wasn’t planned. I just stepped back. And no one stopped me from moving away or told me to do otherwise. I mean, you can only rob one person at a time, right? And I happened to not be one of the first ones. So I managed to just move away.

The kids didn’t yell or make any noise. I’m not sure I heard them say anything. They didn’t point the guns, they just sort of held them, the way you would hold a water bottle in your hand. So it was really, really scary to see a gun and understand that it was a threat, but they weren’t acting particularly threatening. I don’t think they even touched anyone, and no one was hurt. But eight people were robbed of their purses and back packs and laptop bags.

A few days later, the police came to my house after work and showed me pictures to ask me if I could identify any of the robbers. I couldn’t.

They currently have two people in custody, one a 17-year old, who is probably the one who was closest to me.

I’ve been going back to casual carpool since then, but I make sure to keep my phone in my pocket and I’m trying to be more aware. I’m mostly fine; not freaking out all the time. This morning, though, I heard a man’s voice behind me on the sidewalk and my heart started racing. He was just saying hello to someone else he saw.

Once I realized what was happening that morning, I had the thought that at least it wasn’t my birthday today (it was the next day). Because man, it would suck to get robbed on your birthday.

But I didn’t get robbed at all.

 

 

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i think i wanna marry you

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This is pretty old news now, but it’s time to note it for posterity: The David and I are getting married!

And when I say that we’re getting married, I don’t just mean that we got engaged, but literally that we’re getting married. In like 2 seconds. On August 31.

There wasn’t a proposal, per se, but on the couch in our living room, after work on Friday, April 12, there was a conversation that resulted in the decision that we should get married.
The words “we might as well get married” were issued. I almost swooned at the onslaught of romance.

And on the tails of this decision, we learned that the green card The David thought he would be getting through his employer was actually not going to materialize and that since he was almost all out of visa juice, he’d have to leave the country in November of this year.

Hence, the 4 month engagement.

And then we went out and drank beers and ate tater tots with cheese and bacon.

 

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the ups and downs (and flats) of progress

 

There are a bunch of things that I need to blog about.  But for the moment, I’m taking a moment to share a thought about weight loss.

Here is my a line graph of my weight from the past year.

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I’m pretty good at losing weight, when I intend to.

I’m also pretty good at losing track of my intention and gaining it, too.

Lately, things have been going pretty well in that department.  I had that half marathon a few weekends ago, and the training for that (provided one doesn’t use that as permission to face plant into a tub of pub cheese) makes it fairly easy to lose without being overly stringent with diet.

And losing usually begets more losing – for me, anyway – until something happens.

This past week, I had some things happening.  More opportunities for boozing than usual. I took it easy for a few days after the half marathon.  I didn’t get in a long run over the weekend.  We went out for dinner a few times.  It was a good week, with a lot of fun times.  I didn’t do anything I regretted later.  I didn’t make terrible choices.  I just didn’t intend to lose weight.

And I didn’t.

And for the first time that I can remember, it was ok.  I didn’t feel bitter or depressed or unmotivated to continue.  I don’t have to post a loss every week.  And I don’t have to feel badly about it when I don’t.*

 

*I have not turned into some zen acceptance master overnight. When I say that I didn’t lose any weight at my last weigh-in, I mean that I weighed in at the exact same weight as last week.  Had that shown an actual gain, deserved or otherwise, you might be reading about my petulant pity and pie.

 

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more half marathon

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This is Michelle.  We did another half marathon together on Saturday, our third one together now.

We have a fairly complimentary running pace (although she’s faster, but will deny it).  And we live close enough to one another that we can manage to get together some times on weekends for our long runs.  It’s quite handy.

There is a strangeness, though:  our running camaraderie, which I appreciate tremendously, seems to largely depend on an ongoing disagreement we have.

She makes me do what I couldn’t do alone.  She not only tolerates my grumpus attitude, but responds to it with insane optimism and compliments.  When I grovel at her all pitiful and beg her to run with me because I am too full of hate to carry on, she’s all “that sounds awesome!  let’s do it!”

And then!  Then she gets all grateful about what I got her to do.

And so we bicker, about who made whom do what and who should take responsibility for the motivation.

But I am telling you, my time for this grotesquely hot* half marathon would have been at least 30 minutes longer without her.   I would have given in to a laborious jog/walk plod after the first three miles.  It could have been a very long, boring, and sad struggle.

Instead, even though it wasn’t the PR I was hoping for, it was still 20 minutes faster than my worst half times.  And our pace for the first 8 miles was actually surprisingly good.  And she somehow inspired me to all out sprint it at the very end.

I totally owe that woman some bacon.

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*Please don’t judge, but grotesquely hot means about 85 degrees.  When the temperature runs from 58 to 72 degrees all the time  forever, we suffer in any deviation.

 

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