Thursday, June 6, 2013

I had a baby.

So, Scott and I opted for a home birth this time around.  I know that makes me sound like some hard-core crunch-tastic momma, but I'm really not.  More of a realist.  And in my case, the reality is that I've done a natural birth before, and I knew I could do it again.  My labors are really short and straightforward.  I don't even push for very long.  Besides, there's a few things about hospitals that I find really annoying.  I'm not crazy about : (1) the crappy food, (2) the way some nurses make you feel more like a series of tasks than an actual person, or (3) the way the someone always comes in to "get vitals" as soon as the baby or I am asleep.  Plus, (4) the way hospital bills keep showing up in your mailbox for months and months afterward.  (Homebirths can be pretty affordable.  FYI.)

Putting the girls to bed and telling
them to STAY THERE till morning
unless they wanted to be traumatized
for life.  It (mostly) worked.
Because you never know who reads a blog, and because I had moments where I felt very vulnerable about our homebirthing choice, this whole next paragraph is nothing more than me explaining that our choice really wasn't a crazy one.  Skip it.  Homebirths can be both very safe and very rewarding when handled properly.  Many midwives have much better outcomes than hospitals.  I felt perfectly confident that our midwife was an especially experienced professional, a true expert in her field.  She has about a 3% transfer rate, which is much lower than almost any hospital's C-section rate.  Additionally, women laboring and birthing in comfortable environments and while being supported by doulas or midwives have shorter labors, experience less pain, and are more likely to report being truly pleased by their birthing than women who don't have that same kind of support.  In short:  I don't believe hospitals are evil; I don't have the magical, pain-free births other women brag about; I'm just me.  I had a great natural-birth hospital experience with Avie, but I felt confident I could also have a great experience at home with Israel.  So we did.

The only photo of the birthing tub.
Not that it matters -- I didn't get to use
it anyway.  So bummed.
So I was ten days overdue when we started my natural induction.   Richelle, our midwife, always does inductions in the evening, since that's when uterine contractions are the most efficient.  She arrived around 9 pm, but we spent a little while just talking over the plan, making sure we all felt comfortable with the details involved, and (at Richelle's suggestion) offering a prayer.  Then it all started: we stripped membranes; we coated my innards with evening primrose oil;  we took cohosh and homeopathic drops and as if that weren't enough, I also took 2 T of castor oil.

Usually, Richelle goes home for a few hours after getting the induction underway, and comes back once labor has really set in.  Already being 80% effaced and a 3.5, my body took instantly to our efforts, and Richelle never got the chance to leave.  It was 9:30, and labor had begun.

Welcome home.
I labored for the first thirty minutes in bed, and contractions were easy enough.  When the thirty minutes was up, Richelle allowed me to move again as the evening primrose oil had all been absorbed.  She checked the position of the baby.  He was head-down but not in an optimal position, so she asked me to labor in a crawling position that she hoped would encourage him to birth a little faster and easier.  As soon as I was off the bed, the contractions picked up instantly.  I had probably only been laboring on the ground ten or fifteen minutes when I hit transition.  The last thing I remember saying before I lost my ability to speak was voicing all my fears -- fears that he wouldn't turn around and it would complicate pushing; fears that it would go slow; fears that I didn't have enough physical stamina to endure it because I hadn't eaten enough...

Fears always hit at transition.  Every. stinking. time.  That should have been enough to soothe me right there, but it just seemed so fast.  How could I be approaching the end already?  So, I kept laboring but lost the ability to speak -- which sounds crazy, but it happens.  The sum total of my energy, both physical, mental, and, well, probably spiritual, too, is just being used to make it through the moment I'm in.  All I remember doing was ordering people to talk to me when contractions hit.  Internally, I was absolutely annoyed by virtually every word that came out of their mouths, but the irritation kept me focused on listening to them instead of listening to the fear.  Counter pressure on my back helped, too.  At one point I remember Richelle singing to me.  That was really sweet, and since it was a song I'd never heard before, it gave me something new to feel irritated about.

Seriously.  I can't talk much, but internally, I am one heck of a beast.

So I labored for another half-hour or so when I mentioned feeling like I had to push.  If I'm honest, here, I hesitated to say anything, because I was kind-of afraid it was just a bowel movement.  Richelle checked me, and I'd progressed from a 3 to a 6 in the hour and fifteen minutes since things started up, but that was still a long way from the 10 you're supposed to be in order to push.  With great effort, I managed to tell them I was thinking it was a bowel movement and I was going to poop all over everything.

(Isn't this an awesome story?)

They told me not to worry about it, and said that was part of why the whole room had a layer of plastic wrap over the carpet.  But still.  I decided to hang in there and try to avoid the total humiliation that would bring.  That plan lasted about eight minutes, at which time I realized two things: the urge was only getting stronger, and if I didn't poop, it would only prolong the whole laboring thing, as there would be less room for the baby to come out.

Richelle and Michael Israel
So I just started pushing anyway, to heck with being a six.  To heck with only being just over an hour into labor.  To heck with the midwife telling me to hold off if I could.  This was happening: I was either going to have a baby, then and there, or I was totally pooping all over my carpet.  I was gonna do it.  I just (very truthfully) didn't know whether it would be feces or an infant.

So I pushed.  And pushed.  Another eight minutes later, my water broke, and the baby crowned.  And three minutes after that, Scott was delivering our baby boy.

Scott weighing Israel:
8 lbs. 13 oz,
19 3/4 inches
From the first regular contractions to the delivery was an hour and half.  I still can't believe it went that fast.

He's absolutely huge considering our girls were 7 lbs. 2 oz and 5 lbs 4 oz.  Plus, he'd already gained over a pound by his 2 week checkup.  He's been able to hold up his head quite well pretty much since the day he was born, and we've seen enough smiles to assure us his temperament is every bit as endearing as he seemed in the womb.  We've even heard a few giggles as he grinned as big as life.

As to the overall homebirth v. hospital experience, I'll have to write a little more another day.  I also wanted to write a few notes regarding my thoughts on natural birth philosophies.  But this has been plenty long for now, and Israel will be needing to nurse in just a few minutes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A God in my Details

So, Scott got laid off.  You know it's not good when you're a project engineer, and your project is over... and then they announce a company-wide "employment status meeting."  You know it -- or you should.

The thing is, we'd seen all these interesting things come to pass.  I should mention here that the company is based out of Texas, with half a dozen offices in different TX locations.  Scott felt very inspired to apply for his P.E. (professional engineering license) in Texas, which was odd, because he shouldn't have been able to get it for another year, at least not in Utah.  But lo and behold, Texas is a state with loopholes, and we'd never have known about them had he not been prompted to look for them.  So he became a TX professional engineer.  That's kinda a big deal.  He also had the most powerful company man in Utah in his corner, which we thought meant more than it apparently did.

In some ways, it's been a devastating blow.  The way it struck both of us seemingly out-of-nowhere (I guess you could call us foolish optimists?) left us in a state of shock for a few days.  And completely overwhelmed, as we determined we had no hope for getting medicaid or food stamps due to our 401k.

Merry Christmas!  We have no income!
But in other ways, it's reminded me how individual our paths are.  Having other friends whose lives have turned out differently -- especially those who have very stable jobs -- has made me embarrassed to share our situation with them.  So if you didn't get a Christmas card, just know it wasn't exactly the year where we were really all that excited to send them.  Which was a complete shame with the cute pictures.

And after getting over the embarrassment and shock, I've been filled with a bit more understanding about paths, Heavenly Father's great love for us, and what really matters.

On a good day, my routine is: scriptures, journal, then prayer.  Shortly after this happened, I got all the way up to prayer and was still feeling pretty bitter.  And I start my prayer, and I'm listing off how bad everything is, and how much we need a job, and very clearly I could just feel the Lord saying, "Mickelle, you are not forsaken.  You have money.  You just have to spend it," and he made it all sound so simple.  Because it was.

So, living off our nest-egg isn't exactly the stuff of dreams.  But I've learned that what matters is that I am in God's hands.  Which is a much safer place to be than in the government's hands, so I guess they can keep their stinkin' prenatal medicaid.  I've learned it's not important that my neighbors notice or care what kind of job we have, and also that I get to choose how much stress I feel.  The Lord has asked (commanded?) me to lay my burdens at his feet and yolk myself to him.  I find when I give him my burdens, trusting him to take care of me, I have so much more energy to continue with cheer.  And on really good days, I can even lighten others' burdens despite my own.

upon the altar

This post is perhaps the most vulnerable I've ever written on blogger.  So don't judge, k?

Once upon a time, I was quite the girl.  I was the Sterling Scholar at Davis High for Speech and Drama.  I was Oratory Captain in the DHS debate team, and I was invited to the national competition and also took third at state.  I was phoned up by a local two-year college with a heavy debate team and offered a scholarship by their coach.  I had a good GPA, and took and passed the AP US History, AP AB Calc, and AP Psych exams, each with a four.  (It's geeky, I know, but it's as cool as I get.)

I went to college on a full-ride scholarship for three years at SUU.  I then applied for a transfer to BYU, and received a one-year full ride scholarship there.  After having the time of my life, I figured it was time to actually get my degree, so I went back to SUU and finished up.  My graduation was summa cum laude.  Where I was the graduation speaker.

Now I'm a stay-at-home mother of two.  And nobody (even, or especially me) cares about a decade ago.  They care about dinner, clean clothes, and getting to watch as much Dora as they want.  I'm not very good at laundry.  I've learned to cook, but the house is usually less than stellar. (Read: I am lucky to find the floor in the girls' rooms.  I have no deep-cleaning schedule.  There's lots of crevices with dirt, which I only really see and think about when someone is at my house and I start feeling mortified.)

Here's the thing: Anything that most SAHMs judge themselves on, I really, really don't do well.  And, mostly, that's fine.  I know I have "other skills," let's just not make a list or anything.

As I look around on facebook, it seems to me that most of my contemporaries want to be doing something "besides" being at home.  So they start in with selling an MLM product.  Or marketing their photography, starting an Etsy shop, or going back to school.  Or something.  And if there's anything that has remained constant about my personality, it's that I don't do anything half-hearted.  If I pursue something, it usually has to be all-or-nothing.  And so (after having a few of these hobbies that never end, and seeing what it does to my family) I've just got to leave things like that alone, or it consumes me.  I get unhappy that my family takes as much time as they do, and unhappy that my hobbies take as much time as they do.  Nobody else is happy, either.  Not the somewhat-neglected kids, not Scott... no one.

Okay.  I've made my peace with that.  No serious hobbies for the present.

But what about someday?  I want to do something someday, and I want to be good at it.  Really good.  I swear I have that in me.  But without knowing what it will be that I'll want to do in, you know, fifteenish, twentyish years, I struggle with feeling like it will really come to fruition. 

I have laid my gift upon the altar, even if it is no more than saying "I won't get all crazy and pursue some hobby that distracts me from being the best mother I can" and I've told the Lord I'll forsake those things until the time is right.  And today, I have great confidence that He really will see my gift for being as wholehearted as it is for me, even if it's small.  And I feel full of assurance that he will bless me richly.

But sometimes,  the vagueness of the future engulfs me, and I wonder if I'm just done.  If my best days, at least in terms of passion, skill, and accomplishment, are over.

Now, please, despite allowing myself to be this vulnerable, I'd rather not hear vague condolences about how wonderfully talented I still am, even if I've given certain things up for the present.  To be blunt, I simply don't believe that right now, so it just feels empty and not-at-all-reassuring.

What is on my mind, what I do churn around somewhat endlessly in my head, is how do we choose faith over fear in a future that seems so flat?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Don't Like Pain. (Avie's Birth)

Really, I'm kind of a wimp, and a pretty whiny one at that.  But, in a totally unpredictable move, I still chose to birth Avie without an epidural.

I can't really say why.  One of my very good friends strongly encouraged me to look into it after her own convictions had been aroused.  She knew I was crunchy and into the natural world, and perhaps that's part of what made her so encouraging, although to her credit, she's pretty much that way anyway, so I think I was just in the right place at the right time.

She wasn't the first friend I knew who'd studied natural birth.  And, though I figured there was probably "something to it," I didn't want to get involved.  Research always makes me change my mind, and I swear I get weirder every single time I begin another fateful Google search.

But I did.  And things fell into place, in that way they do when you know something bigger than you is at work.  I found a great teacher, who offered to reduce the cost of our birthing lessons to practically nothing.  She also said she'd be my doula, although her back surgery ended up getting in the way of that.

I also found the amazing certified nurse midwives who practiced together at Central Utah Clinic Women's Center with some great practice-sharing OB/GYNs they use if complications arise.  As I learned more about birth, I brought some of my own ideas to the table, and the midwives were always very supportive.  They delivered at two hospitals, one of which was especially friendly towards natural childbirth and made all sorts of accommodations.  I couldn't believe how perfect everything was!  I'd really found an ideal situation!

Later on, quite a while after I'd made the commitment to a natural birth, and when Avie was somewhere around 34 weeks, she was given an IUGR diagnosis.  (Basically, she was underweight, and nobody knew why yet.)  I can't say in what way the epidural might not have been good for my specific birthing situation, but I strongly believe that things worked out just the way they needed to.

Because she wasn't growing as she ought to, it became necessary to induce labor.  Not so much fun.  And not the experience I'd dreamt about, where if I was going to be feeling it all, I could at least begin at home instead of  in some sterile room with an audience.  I mean, labor has some pretty intense sensations, and it's really much nicer to deal with all that misery in the dark.  At home.  With your own cozy blankets and bed.

And my last-minute fill-in for my doula, while being a marvelous human being, was a stranger.  I'd literally met her just that morning.  And labor really isn't a time when you want to have to be nice to anybody, let alone extra-nice the way you should be to a visitor.

Suffice it to say, it wasn't a piece of cake.  The pitocin got knocked up to 15, and I was less-than-cheritable to everybody, including Scott.  Then I got downright mean.  And also, I got naked.  (Your body does these weird temperature shifts at different stages of labor.  Sorry, folks, it's true.)  And then I wanted an epidural.  But my midwife, bless her heart, and my husband, bless his, decided to just ignore me.  So I threatened to get up out of that tub and walk my naked self down the hall to the nearest anesthesiologist.

Since nobody believed me, and there was no way I was going anywhere in that amount of pain, I guess you could say they called my bluff.  But about thirty minutes later, I had my baby.  So that worked out.

For all the changes to my wonderful plans, the most important details couldn't have gone any smoother:
1. Avie was born on my Dad's birthday.  Obviously, I hadn't planned for that, but it's kinda cool.
2. She was our Avie.  She was sweet and a fighter and a special soul I was blessed to get acquainted with long before she left my body. (No, that doesn't sound weird.  You're imagining it.)
3. Scott got to deliver her, just as he wanted to.  And I think it thrilled him even more than he thought it would.
4. Avie needed no time in the NICU or any other special treatment... other than an IV in her head for some lame reason I can't remember.
5. The whole thing was roughly five hours, maybe four.  I can't remember.  But relatively quick.
6. Together, Avie and I were drug-free wonders.  Or survivors, at least.

Yes, Avie came just the way she needed to.  Other babies don't need that.  Other moms don't need that.  But, as hard as it was, there was something very emotional about birthing naturally that I think I especially needed with her.

Did I loooove my drug-free experience?  No, but also yes.  Will I do it again someday?  I think so.  But that's a post for another day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Avie loves

Me:  "Avie, who do you love?"
Avie: "Avie."
Me: "Who else do you love?"
Avie: "Momma."
Me: "Who else?"
Avie: "Daddy Man"
Me: "Who else?"
Avie: "The park."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stell's List of Ten Dreams I Can't Afford

In my head, I call myself Stella.  My mom and all her roommates used to call all the girls Stella and Bertha, and all the boys were Fred.  She never really outgrew the habit, so growing up, I got called Stella and Bertha probably more than Mickelle.  Which was fine by me.  I thought it was an adorable quirk.

After Scott went home to re-meet my family for the first time, he asked me about it.  I explained, and mentioned how much I liked it, and that I really wish I had inherited it, but it never crossed my mind to call anyone anything besides their name.  So he started calling me Stella.  And I still get called Stella more than Mickelle.  (I know I'm in trouble if he actually calls me by name.)

Anyway.  Here's the list.  It's not only a start to my bucket list, which I never made when it was trendy and cool but decided to wait till it was trite and blasé, but a very specific sub-category of said list: it's the list of bucket items which are impossible because they are ridiculously expensive, and additionally even if I was rich are sooooo not happening any time whilst I'm, you know, bearing and raising children and staying home commanding them to eat their protein and reallyboringstufflikethat.

Go on a tour of the Holy Land.  Nice, long, busy, and with an incredible tour guide.  (Really, I'd like to go to BYU Jerusalem for a semester.  But that's impossible for anyone who already has a B.A., as far as I can tell.  But I'd go scrub floors if they'd let me.)

Spend a night in one of those treehouse cabins

Visit Delianova, Taurasi, and a few of the other Italian towns from which my family immigrated  (Oh, and when I do, I want to stay at a Agriturismo and eat in the kitchen of a local.)

Another cruise.  A nice one.  A long one.  And play lots of canasta with my parents aboard.

Go to Disney World with just Scott.  Kinda like a second honeymoon, only bigger and better and with less taquitos

Eat at Club 33

Have my portrait and a family portrait taken by Sue Bryce.  And buy her most expensive package.

See Mandy Patinkin and Audra McDonald in concert (And Mandy has to sing "Children Will Listen")

Swim with the dolphins.  Up close and personal.

Take my children on short trips, just me and them, when they turn 8 (Day trip), 12 (Overnight trip), and 16 (Long weekend trip)

Monday, October 8, 2012

In which I Vicariously Relish Babies

So, my good friend Jami recently wanted some info on baby carriers.  She asked some really good questions, and deserved a thoughtful reply.  (read: I ramble when it's about stuff I love.)  I hated trying to reply in that tiny facebook box, so I thought I'd put it on my blog, where I could also display pictures and links a little easier.  I am not in the habit of answering questions, so no need to worry this will become some terrible reoccurring section of my blog you have to avoid or anything.

A quick note to those who haven't ever used a baby carrier before:  Slings matter, my friend.  Maybe almost as much as cheesecake.  Just hold a sleeping baby next to  you, listen to the tiny breaths, stroke the delicious cheeks -- and then tell me you want to put the baby down because it's time to fold laundry.  That's ridiculous.  Babies are the reason why laundry piles up, and dishes overflow, and dinner isn't made.  Babies don't keep, so you've got to relish it all.

Jami loved my suggestion about the Scootababy for her first child back when he was a squirmy, squishy babe of 6 or 8 months.  There's a lot of reasons to love the Scootababy, and she and I both loved being able to get dinner and clean the house while simultaneously snuggling our bambinos.  I also appreciated that Avie would ride closer to my hip than my front, so I could still actually see what my hands were doing.  Plus it was super comfortable and didn't hurt my back or hips the way carrying her did.

But when it comes to infants, things are a little trickier.  That lack of neck control's kind of a killer.  Jami liked using her Moby last time, but said she was ready to try something else, and what did I recommend...?

I love a good-fitting sling.  It's crazy versatile, and every time the baby grows a bit, you can just put them in a new position.  Newborns love to use it like a hammock, and as the child grows they can sit upright in it.  Here's a few pictures of how you can adjust it for the growing baby.

the hammock

the front-carry (inward)

the front-carry (outward)

The toddler-ish side carry

I also love that a sling is something you can really just throw on.  There's no fumbling, no buckling, no straps. You can get very lightweight, breathable fabric, and also very fancy fabric for nicer occasions.  They range from $30-300, plus there's plenty of online patterns to make your own.

Slings rock.  But they do take practice at first, and you need to figure out the rules of a good fit, since otherwise it can hurt after a while.  They're not the only solution, and this post already looks huge with all the pictures.  So I'll approach the rest of Jami's questions, and alternate soft carriers (SSC)  in a day or two.