Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Arlowe Jean Nessier

Born April 21, 2014

It toke me six months and one day to write this
I didn't proofread or edit because
that would have taken another month...

My due date was April 17th, but I knew all along that she would come later.  I was uncomfortable and crampy for a few nights before, and could have sworn I was in labor Friday, the 19th, but when I woke up and peed my contractions stopped.  Probably should have removed the toddlers legs from my belly and peed at 1am instead of waiting until 6am...hindsight.

It was the Saturday before Easter and I there were no signs of baby other than the fact that I didn't want her to come that night which in my head meant that she was totally coming that night.  Because you can absolutely tell babies when to be born, right!  The only reason I didn't want her to come during the night was because Caches was excited for the Easter Bunny to eat the carrots he left out and get a basket and I so badly wanted to see his face light up.  I didn't care if I was in full blown labor that morning, I just didn't want to be gone to the birth center.  

She cooperated, and we had such a fun morning opening Easter Baskets and going on Egg hunts with family.  I didn't have much of an appetite all day, but other than that it was a normal day.  We went to my moms house for lunch and yet another egg hunt and while sitting on the patio visiting, I noticed some cramping.  It was not very exciting so I didn't pay much attention, but I did notice that it was somewhat regular so I began to time the cramps and they were 10 min apart.  It was about 4:00pm and with contractions every 10 minutes I decided to take Caches for a walk and see if things picked up at all.

We walked all around the neighborhood closing trash can lids and stopping to watch bugs.  My contractions got stronger but were still far apart.  We even ran into a family friend who asked me when the baby was coming and I played it off like I didn't know.  We finished up our walk and headed home around 5;45pm.  Contractions were stronger and a bit closer together now but still very manageable.  I fed and watered the chickens, fed the dogs, picked up the house and gathered some last minute items for my overnight bag all while telling Caches that his sister was probably coming tonight and that he might wake up to grandma and not mama.

It was about 7:00 now, and time for Caches to go to bed.  Even though contractions were pretty uncomfortable I was determined to put him to bed just the two of us.  We told stories and I draped his lanky body over my belly one last time as we rocked back and forth.  I reminded him again that he would wake up to grandma and I would be at the birth center with daddy.  He took the news surprisingly well, too well, he knew.  Tears streamed down my face as I cradled my baby boy knowing that both of our worlds were about to be turned upside down.

After a while we laid in bed next to each other and I rubbed his back until he drifted off to sleep.  It was difficult to lay still during my contraction but I managed.  I kissed his head and walked out to the living room.  I decided to call the birth center and let them know what was going on and to call my doula.  After getting off of the phone I sat down on the couch next to Ryan for a moment and out of nowhere my contractions all but stopped!  Probably 15 minutes passed with nothing.  Was this a false alarm!?  WTF!?

I grabbed my breast pump and began to pump and walk abound the kitchen.  After pumping for 15 min or so contractions picked back up big time.  They were about 4 minutes apart and I had to stop walking of put all of my attention on them.  I knew it was real.  It was about 9:00 by now and my doula encouraged me to eat even though I was in no mood.  I ate an apple and a string cheese in between contractions and annoying the crap out of Ryan debating if it was time to go to the birth center yet.  Did I mention that the birth center was 40 minutes away!?

I didn't want to get there and be sent away because I was only like 2cm dilated, but I also didn't want to deliver a baby on the side of the road!  I went back and forth and back and forth for a loooong time until finally I decided to go.  If they send us away, we will get a hotel room.  I called my mom to come over and the doula to let her know we would be leaving soon.  My mom arrived just before 11:00 and shortly after we headed out.

Judge me if you must, but there was NO way I was sitting in a seat buckled up for 40 minutes with strong contractions coming every 3 minutes.  I knelt on all fours in the back seat and draped my body over the car seat during contractions.  I thought the ride was going to seem like FOR EVER, but luckily it went rather quickly.  We arrived at the birthing center just before midnight, and even though I joked about taking the stairs, we rode the elevator up to the second floor.

I was checked into triage and told I was going to have to wait to be checked out because there was a birth going on right then.  I changed into a gown and swayed back and forth through contractions.  Some of the positions I thought would be comfortable turned out to be incredibly uncomfortable and I pretty much just stood up swaying back and forth the entire time.  Bending over or laying down caused me a great deal of discomfort.

Moments after midnight our doula arrived and came into triage to be with us.  In between contractions I was fairly comfortable and could move around and chat, but when the wave of a new contraction came I couldn't speak.  I remember thinking, please just be in labor enough to be admitted.  Please don't make me leave.  I also remember wishing I wasn't so darn tired (Caches had some rough nights leading up to this and my hips were ON FIRE, so sleeping wasn't happening).  Finally the nurse came in to check me.  As she checked, she looked at me funny.  Were you dilated at your 40 week apt?  Yes, I was 1cm.  I was waiting for her to say I wasn't dilated at all or that I was still a 1.  She looked at me and said, um, you are 8cm with a bulging bag of water.  You are really calm for 8cm!  We need to get your a room!

We walked down the hall to our room and I remember asking if I could get into one of the birth tubs.  They wanted the doctor to check me first because they don't like babies born in the tubs, but she was still busy with another patient.  Yep, I drove to Santa Cruz for 8 months worth of appointments and met 5 different midwives only to have the on call doctor deliver me.  Ha ha, universe, ha ha!   Luckily she was very laid back and very supportive of me just kind of doing my thing.

While we waited I found it comfortable to hang ALL my weight on my poor, lovely doulas neck during contractions.  Sorry, Michele :)  Finally the doctor came in and checked me and I was still 8cm with a bulging bag of water.  She told me I could keep doing exactly what I was doing, go over to the birth tub and get in the water, or she could break my bag of water and see if that would speed things along.  Originally I was apposed to any kind of intervention, including breaking my bag of water, but after she told me that baby was in the perfect position, I could still get in the tub after she did it, and breaking my water could speed things up, I decided to go ahead with it.

It was just a few minutes after 1:00am when she broke my water.  A TON of fluid gushed out, sorry, but it did, and I could feel baby's head drop what seemed like a good 4 inches down.  I remember thinking what a mess that would have been in the car, and then almost immediately my body was like GAME FUCKING ON.  I had a game changing strong contraction and announced that I already felt like pushing!  Could I really already feel like pushing?  It didn't matter, my body was PUSHING!  I got out of bed and squatted beside the bed leaning over it and holding on.

I could still talk in between contractions and remember making jokes with Ryan, but I kind of blocked out everything else in the room.  I know that nurses were around me and that I made a poop joke, but I don't remember much else during that time.  Then after a contraction the nurse told me I had to get into bed.  Say what?  I refused. Climbing up onto the bed and laying down was out of the question.  You can't have your baby on the floor, she told me.  WHY NOT! THERE IS A TOWEL THERE?  Yeah, I was kind of annoyed.  Anyway, they helped me into bed and I got into a sort of child's position with my butt lifted up.

The doctor who was amazing and calm and was literally just sitting there watching me, told me that she could see baby's head.  What?  I'm that close?  I don't know if they asked me to or if I did it on my own, but I laid down on my side to push and remember reaching down and feeling baby's head.  Oh my gosh.  It's really right there!  The doctor told me one more good push and her head would be out.  I folded my body over my belly with the next contraction and looked down just as her head was coming out.  I saw her head coming out of my body, and it was amazing!

I felt another contraction coming and pushed.  Wait, wait...  The doctor told me that the cord was wrapped around her neck twice and tightly and that she was going to have to cut it in order for her body to be born.  I really wanted to delay cord clamping, but it wasn't going to happen.  She cut the cord and with one final push at 1:34am, Arlowe Jean was earth side.  I was overwhelmed with relief and love and more relief.  I remember thinking how amazing that just one moment ago my body was in intense, purposeful pain, pushing a baby out and then in an instant, calm.  Pain free and so calm!

Our bodies truly are phenomenal.  I remember telling Ryan that I couldn't believe how strong my uterus was.  Seriously, I didn't really even do anything, my body just knew what to do and DID IT!!  Go body!

Of course I wanted that baby on my body immediately, and she was, but only for a moment.  Arlowe aspirated some fluid so they had to suction her a bit.  About five minutes later (felt like forever) they returned her body to mine.  And I can still feel it. The magic in that moment when our eyes met for the first time.  The wonderment of the wold around.  The recognition of life, of love.  Feeling her impossibly soft skin, touching her downy head to my lips over and over again, and breathing in her scent.  On my lord, do babies smell delicious!

We laid together, her skin on mine, for a long time.  There was nursing and staring at each other and the whole world stood still.  After while we had to move into a different room so baby was dressed and wrapped up.  I put on a gown and hopped up out of bed much to the nurses shock.  Um, you just had a baby!  I know, I feel like I could lift a truck!   But they still made me ride in the wheelchair.

Once we were in our room and all was quiet I remember telling Ryan that giving birth was the most amazing thing in the entire world.  I was completely high on hormones, but that I didn't think I was one of those women who was like, I could do it again tomorrow!  Well, some time passed and guess what.  I could totally do it again tomorrow!  But I won't, this womb is closed for business.  I could be pregnant and give birth a dozen more times, I love it, but the minor detail that pregnancy and birth lead to children kind of complicates things.  So for me, this most amazing, healing birth will have to last me a lifetime, and I think it will.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The only one who wants a nap around here is me!

I wish my kids didn't need to nap!  There, I said it, and I absolutely mean it!  I know, I know... Don't say it, don't even say it.  Your kid takes amazing naps.  You love it and you never want them to stop napping!  They napped until they were five years old!  They pass right out in the car and sleep while you drive.  They nap in the stroller while you jog or sip hot coffee.  You use that time to work out or make dinner or save puppies and woodland creatures.  You get a few blissful hours every single day without your children.  Good for you.  I hope your kid does nap until he is five.  And I'm not even being sarcastic right now!  Shocking, I know.

I might be alone here, but I hate naps.  I know if my kids were good nappers I'd be on the other side, but my kids suck at sleeping.  They do.  They excel at many things, but resting the body and closing the eyes, BIG FAT FUCKING F!  The amount of work and stress that goes into getting a measly 30 minutes out of them just seems so futile!  Why even bother!?  Oh right, because if they don't nap they do the uncontrollable overtired baby scream that we all know to make the ears bleed.  So they need naps, but not very long ones.  And since they aren't very long, they need multiple naps a day.  And then my head explodes.  To be clear, I'm talking about Arlowe now and Caches when he was a baby.  Naps for him are so totally last year.

And what's worse, they use naps to fuck with me.  Oh, mom has plans to meet her friend at 9:00 for coffee, let's sleep until 10 even though we never sleep until 10!  Oh, grandma and grandpa are coming to visit!  Mom and dad tell them what a crappy sleeper I am, so I'm going to take a 90 minute nap so they roll their eyes and think she is a pathological liar.  I'm going to sleep a whole hour for two days in a row and get mom thinking that I'm always going to nap for an hour, but then, NO!  And my personal favorite, let's wake up the second mom tries to eat lunch, blog, poop, walk outside, read a book, walk past my bedroom for something, kiss daddy, or do anything that could be considered productive.

Which brings me to my next nap complaint.  I can't even do productive shit when they sleep because of the way my house is designed.  Granted this isn't the kids fault, but still I blame them.  Their bedrooms are right by the kitchen so even though my hands are free for a few moments there will be no dish washing.  Well, there can be, but it is tedious, careful, s l o w, and I always accidentally drop something and hold my breath while watching the monitor praying they don't wake up.  So it's stressful and I don't do it.  Can't vacuum.  Can't cook, you'd be surprised how loud chopping vegetables is!!   And to be quite honest, now that I have two kids, the entire time the little one is napping I'm working my ass off to keep the big one quiet!!!

Caches likes to wait until Arlowe is asleep to give me the big, sad, poor me, I have to share my life with a baby now, puppy dog eyes, and ask to play in the living room or kitchen or hallway outside her door?!  What the??  Seriously kid, you think you can play with a garbage truck and a plastic dumpster constructed of the loudest plastic every made outside of her door!?  Why??  And while I'm asking why, why does the garbage truck (the real one, not Caches' toy), the UPS man, the mail man, the Jehovah's Wittiness, and the sales person who can't read our no solicitation sign ALL come at nap time??  Why???   Don't even get me started on my dogs barking, just don't.

I said don't!


I know I have a few more years living in a napping house, and that's fine.  It may not seem like it, but I have calmed way down on the napping stress with the second baby.  It's likely because she wakes up and is all, oh hi, mommy.  Smile.  And when Caches woke up he was like THE WORLD IS ENDING AND I'M GOING TO PRIMAL SCREAM FOR THREE HOURS!!!  Anyway, the day naps only happen on sick days or accidentally during cozy snuggles sessions on the couch will the one of the happiest days of my life.  I will breathe a sigh of relief so deeply that my curtains will be drawn up with my breath.  And speaking of curtains, maybe when my kids don't nap anymore I can actually open them!!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

All the feelings...

I knew it would be a difficult adjustment bringing home a new baby.  I knew Caches would have an emotional time sharing me with his baby sister.  We have a special thing between us, he and I.  I knew I was going to be mentally and physically exhausted.  What I didn't know was just how much he would struggle, how much I would struggle, or how very empowering that struggle would be for the both of us.

When Arlowe first came home form the hospital, Ryan was home, so managing two kids, one who slept most of the day, was fairly doable.  Caches was feeling things out and I was slowly learning how to balance the needs of two tiny people.  Cache would want me to put Arlowe down and hold him and I would. Arlowe would need to nurse and Ryan would take Caches out to do something fun or play in the other room.  It was going fairly well, but I knew that it wouldn't always be like this.

At some point the reality of it all was going to hit him.  Was going to hit me!  There was going to come a time when I couldn't hold him, couldn't put him to bed, couldn't do what he wanted me to do, and it was going to be because of her, and it was going to suck.  And it did.

He would have minor meltdowns shouting at me to put her down or telling me that he wanted me to hold only him.  I would accommodate to the best of my ability, but almost always to a fault, all the while knowing that I should probably step back a bit and let him experience his upset.  Sometimes this meant I was carrying both babies, standing up at Caches' request, thankyouverymuch, for extended periods of time while in pain, or nursing Arlowe with my left and holding Cache with my right.  It was both a special time of connecting with both of my children and a time of intense mixed emotions for me.

I went through intense feelings of guilt, it was as if my very soul was being drawn and quartered.  I wanted Arlowe to just sleep by herself or be quiet so I could spend time with Caches.  I wanted Caches to leave me alone so I could bond and spend time with Arlowe.  And perhaps most of all, I wanted them both to give me just one second all ALONE!  Keeping it together emotionally was extremely challenging for me those first few weeks when we were all transitioning into a new normal.

I made a point during quiet moments to talk to Caches about how hard it must be to have a sister and how it was okay for him to be upset about it.  I still do this in fact as it is still hard for him and I imagine it always will be.   I want him to feel comfortable expressing his dislike of this new situation, I want him to feel validated, but most importantly I need him to know that he is still loved, he is still just as important as he was before Arlowe was born.  She isn't a new baby coming to replace him, she is another baby coming to enrich all of our lives.

Yeah, easier said than done with an almost three year old.  The first week passed in a blur or soreness and newness, and the second week saw Ryan returning to work and our journey as a trio begin.  The most difficult times, as predicted, were when I needed to be holding Arlowe, she was crying or eating, and Caches also needed to be held or needed my attention. Sometimes it was easy, I'd offer for him to sit next to me and hold my arm and that would satisfy him, but other times where was nothing I could have done to make it right.  And I didn't want to.  Okay, that's actually a lie.  I wanted nothing more than to make him "okay."  I would have bought him a fucking pony that shit cake pops and let him eat ice cream for breakfast and never sleep again if it made everything okay again, but that's not what he needed.  He needed to let out his feelings of anger, sadness and overwhelming change.  He needed an emotional release and it was going to happen pony or not.

Caches was taking a nap, back when he used to nap, and Arlowe was overtired and struggling to fall asleep herself.  I could feel my anxiety rising as each minute passed; he'd be waking up soon.  I can't be holding her when he wakes up.  He will freak!  Of course Arlowe settled into sleep just as I heard him waking up on the monitor.  I knew if I put her down she would wake up screaming so I took a deep breath, played cool, and carried her into his room.  His blurry eyes looked up at me and saw her asleep on my chest, in his spot.  "Hold me, mama.  Hold only me."  I knew it was coming.  I wanted to pick him up, I wanted to hold only him, but I didn't, I couldn't.  I had to hold firm on this boundary, he needed to feel his feelings, and I needed to allow him.  I took a deep breath, "I can't hold only you right now, I'm..."  And before I could even finish my sentence he collapsed into a screaming pile of emotion.  Caches has never been one to hold back and this was no exception.  He was feeling ALL the feelings.

Breathe Anne, breathe...

I told him that I would be happy to sit in the chair and hold him with Arlowe but I wasn't going to put her down. This was met exactly as I imagined, poorly.  He began to scream and yell at me, demanding that I put her down.  Begging me to hold only him.  I had to sit down.  I sat in the glider and tried to remain calm.  He needed me to be calm.  I sat by his side and focused solely on breathing and empathy.  I watched his sweet face turn red with range and tears run down his cheeks as he reached up for me, waiting nothing more than for my arms to hold him as they always had before, without question.  I sat there quietly as my heart shattered into a thousand pieces.  I wondered if it would ever be whole again.

Amazingly enough, Arlowe was still sound asleep as he continued to sob and scream.  He was grabbing at my body and trying to get me to put her down.  I held firm that he could sit with us but I wasn't going to put her down.  He tried to stop crying and through tears and a sniffled voice asked sweetly if I'd please hold only him, please mommy, please he begged!   When I wouldn't, he pounded his fists into the bed, he squeezed his legs and screamed the kind of primal scream that only toddlers seem capable of.  I sat still and quiet only speaking to remind him that he was loved and that I knew this was so hard for him.  He stood up and with everything he had left he tried once more to change my mind; and then he stopped.  Like a deafening hail pounding a tin roof and then giving way to bright sun, it was over.

His voice was still shaking and his body trembling with adrenaline, but I could tell he was relieved.  He walked over to me and with a tear soaked face asked to sit with us on the chair.  Without saying a word I picked him up, kissed his salty face and tucked his body into mine as close as I could.  " I love you, Caches.  I love you always."  "Look mama!" he exclaimed, "You can hold both of us."  And just like that my heart mended together again.  I can hold both of you!

I remember looking at the clock when he first woke up and noting the time.  I walked out of his bedroom holding two babies thirty eight minutes later.  Thirty eight minutes of unrelenting screaming, of raw emotion, of cleansing tears and of personal growth and acceptance.  Thirty eight of the most gut wrenching minutes of my life.  I wish I could say that it only happened this one time, but it didn't.  He had a few more of these emotional releases, though none as intense as the first one.  And I must say, as difficult as it was for me to watch and as difficult as I'm sure it was for him, I bet it felt SO good to get all those yucky feelings out.

For the most part things have settled way down and we are getting into a routine.  It actually does feel like a new normal which is amazing considering there was a time that I thought I'd surely drown in this sea of change.  Caches will still occasionally tell me that he wants Arlowe to go somewhere else or to get the car and drive away from us or to go back in my belly.  He still asks that I hold only him sometimes, and he still gets frustrated that he has to share mama, or daddy or the dog or the window HE IS LOOKING OUT OF, but I wouldn't expect anything else!

The addition of a sibling is the most traumatic thing he has yet to experience.  He loves her, I know he does, but he also wants her to go away and for things to be the way they used to be.  I get it.  I really, really get it.  I can't imagine I'd be all that thrilled if Ryan brought home a new wife and was all, get over it, don't be sad, don't you want to give her a hug.  The bond of siblings is a journey that cannot be willed by their parents.  Sure, I am here to facilitate their bond, but I can't do it for them.  Heads are going to butt, hands are going to hit, ears are going to be pierced with screaming; and I'm looking forward to it, honestly.  I am so lucky to get to watch these two grow closer, and further, and then closer again each and every day.  In the process though, oh, my heart <3

Monday, October 6, 2014

Full of shit...


You know those air plants that they sell at Home Depot?  They are pretty and whimsical looking, but for some reason they always adorn them with brightly colored parrots and affix a magnet so you can hang them on your refrigerator.  Because who doesn't want a plant that lives off of air alone hanging out on their refrigerator door mocking them every time, 23 to be exact, that they open it up and take a bite of leftover cake.  Or is that just me?  Anyway, these plants live off of air, and so does my son.

Of course not 100% air, that would be crazy!  He also chugs a few small glasses of whole raw milk (yay!) some nuts (yay!) and a tiny bit of ice cream (yay?), his treat before bed, pretty much every day.  These are the only things he will eat without fail. Sometimes he will snack on a carrot, a cracker, a handful of granola eaten off the kitchen floor like the dogs, the ONE PERFECT bite of MY food that I was saving for last, fruit snacks, an apple, or some cheese, but these are all wild cards.  Oh and he will cook the shit out of some pancakes.  Cook, not eat!  In fact, he will cook anything at any time, he just won't eat it.  He will have changed his mind by the time it is done cooking.  True story.  And my mind is all, whaa??  And before I know it I'm stuck eating cold eggs again because I don't like to waste.

I don't know why I'm surprised, Caches has never had much time for or interest in food.  I have no idea where he gets all of his energy, but he is full of it.  Full of energy or poop.  Seriously, that's the whole reason I wanted to write this.  My kid eats six bites of food all day and poops like a grown man!  Where is all of this poop coming from?  This morning he woke up at 5:13 am because he had to poop.  He did, it was huge, and yes I looked.  We went back to bed and he had to poop again.  I didn't believe him but he assured me.  And he did, and it was huge, and I looked again!  Back to bed and five minutes later he tells me he has to poop yet again.  I'm like seriously, if you want to get up just get up for the day.  Nope he really did have to poop AGAIN!  And you can bet that I looked at it again in awe.  "Caches!" I asked, "Where is all this poop coming from!?"  "I don't know, I think I ate too much dinner."  "Yes son, three chickpeas and a pretend bite of BBQ chicken is far too much for one man to eat."  "I told you that mommy."

So it remains a mystery where all of this poop is coming from.  Lord knows between four chickens, a cat, two dogs and two kids I'm already up to my eyeballs in shit every day.  I don't exactly need an overachiever in the pooping department.  Hey, maybe I'll get an air plant and hang it in the bathroom.  I'll name it Caches and offer it some ice cream.