Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Gestation of Blueberry*

Hello! Blueberry is 11 days old today. I have learned a lot about her, myself and Stanley in those 11 days. It was a roller coaster. I had to deal with extreme sleep deprivation, crashing hormones that made me cry with happiness at times and frustration at other times, and trouble with breastfeeding. But the hormones seem to have leveled off; now I just get misty sometimes, which is, I think, the appropriate response to my situation. I got 5 hours of sleep the night before last, and 7 or 8 last night. Not in a row, but I'll take what I can get. And breastfeeding is going great.

Stanley made this video of my belly photos. Enjoy! Let me know if you can't see it.

*Names changed

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blueberry's* Birth Story

At around 5:40 in the morning of Friday, January 15th, a couple of minutes after I woke up, I felt a sound. Yes, I know, impossible, but I felt it. A popping sound a few inches above my belly button but below my rib cage. It kind of alarmed me because that’s where Blueberry was, so the first thing I thought was, did Blueberry break her arm? I lay there groggily pondering how that could be possible. I shifted positions slightly and felt liquid, which made me think, great, now I can add incontinence to the many symptoms I have experienced this pregnancy. So then I lay there pondering (I do my best pondering just after I wake up) how I would deal with being incontinent. Then my pondering kicked into high gear as I pondered the possibility that my water may have broken. I shared this hypothesis, along with my doubts about it, with Stanley, as he had begun to stir by this time.

I called the maternity care center around 8:00 to get confirmation that my water had broken and they contacted my doctor, who suggested I come in if contractions were 5 minutes apart for two hours, or call at 2:00 pm and possibly go in then. I had felt mild cramping, as I had for the last several weeks off and on, and once I realized that I had felt them more than once that morning, I started timing them at 8:50 a.m. I made a spreadsheet with a graph so I could visualize them getting closer together. They started out 7-12 min apart and slowly became more regular so that by 2:00 they averaged out to be 5 min 20 sec apart over 2 hours, and they weren’t getting closer together very fast. But since they were maintaining at over 5 min apart, I hesitated to call the hospital. Stanley talked me in to it. They invited me to come in if I wanted to. It was all so laissez-faire. At this point the contractions were mildly uncomfortable but totally manageable if I just breathed deeply. It was like menstrual cramps that make it hard to get work done because you can’t focus. Or like your average headache.

We arrived at the hospital and Stanley unpacked and got the peaceful music going, while I focused on breathing and relaxing during and between contractions, drinking water, and snacking on nuts, dried fruit, and a thoroughly disgusting overly tart berry-flavored power bar. Stanley urged me to order dinner, which I did, and it was also disgusting. Normally I like most food offered to me, even hospital and airline food, but my appetite was just not on.

We met the nurse on duty, and the charge nurse, both of who ended up annoying me, perhaps due to their personalities, but perhaps due to my being in labor. Every other nurse we met during our 3-night stay was terrific, put us at ease, was great to talk to, and taught us so much valuable information. I think it was fate that I was so annoyed with the first two, because this influenced some of my decisions, I think for the better. Stanley might disagree. The nurse (or someone else, I’m not sure) made an attempt to check my dilation, which would verify the labor stage, but the baby’s head position made that difficult. Or it could have been her short fingers. But since she couldn’t tell, it was likely that I was not very dilated. She also said that my doctor (whom they had called) recommended that since my birth plan specified that I didn’t want unnecessary interventions such as monitoring the fetal heart rate every 15 minutes (it’s been shown that this does more harm than good as it is more likely to end in C-section, but doesn’t improve overall outcomes), and since they were legally required to monitor me that way as long as I was there, that I should go home. I liked this idea. I wanted to be able to walk around in my own home and have nobody bother me so I could focus. I didn’t want an increased chance of C-section. And I didn’t want to have to follow orders if they had no basis in reason. So I talked Stanley into taking me back home and away from those nurses. Stanley was understandably reluctant to pack up everything and go home after we had settled in.

We asked when we should return, and the nurse told us to return to the hospital if:

1. I “absolutely could not talk during contractions”.
2. I was “reaching out” for Stanley to help me.

Spoiler alert: Neither of these things ever occurred.

So around 7:00 pm we packed up and went home, and I dealt with contractions as best I could: sitting on an exercise ball, leaning against the bed, sitting on the toilet, standing in the shower. Different things seemed to feel good at different times, but there was no magic bullet. It was really tiring and I just wanted to sleep but just as I would doze off, another contraction would come on. Around 11:30 the feeling of the contractions changed such that they caused me to push. It wasn’t really an “urge to push”, which I had heard about; I just felt myself pushing involuntarily. I pondered whether this might mean I would give birth kind of soon. I’m not sure of the order of events at this point, but I told Stanley about the pushing feeling, and he asked if I could talk during the contractions, and I could. There were a lot of cursewords, along with the phrase “Yes I can talk.” Other things I was saying around this time were “OH GOD” and “OH F***”. That’s right, I had gained the ability to pronounce asterisks. Between contractions, I said that I couldn’t take much more and if it was going to go on much longer I would need something to make it feel better. In hindsight, I think I was transitioning from active labor to Stage 3 (Birth), which often is characterized by the woman saying that she can’t take it any more. It’s some kind of hormone rush to prepare you for the birth. Throughout all of this, I tried to breathe in slowly for at least a quick count of 20, then out for the same amount of time, as was taught in my Hypnobirthing book. I can’t say for sure that this made things better, but I would hesitate to try it without the breathing next time, even if it would make for a more scientific study.

Stanley convinced me to return to the hospital around 12:00 a.m. As we merged onto Snelling Ave., I asked him if he had turned off the space heater, and he hadn’t. That’s not like him. Something must have been distracting him. His screaming wife, perhaps? So we went back to turn it off, then got on the road again. When we arrived at the hospital, I asked the valet for a wheelchair. I saw Stanley’s glasses fall onto the floor of the passenger side as he got out, and I made a mental note to tell him this sometime. I got that opportunity on the same day that Blueberry temporarily lost the ability to say “I wasn’t born yesterday.”

As they wheeled me back into our room, I told the nurse that even though my birth plan said I didn’t want pain meds, I had had all I could take and I wanted just a little something. I don’t remember what she said in reply. Then Stanley and me were briefly alone in the room, and I was trying to sit on the bed, with Stanley’s help, but before I sat down, I had a contraction and said something like “It feels like it’s coming out!” So, ever the gentleman, Stanley put his hands down below in case he needed to catch her. I asked him about this later, thinking we could have a good laugh, and he had no recollection of it. So, I guess I’m the only one who gets to remember that laugh-riot of a moment. Please note that I talked during that contraction.

The nurses came back. Someone checked and found that I was dilated to 10 cm and her head was at +2 station, so she wasn’t far from being born. I was so relieved to hear this. It gave me a boost of energy and I didn’t feel the need for pain meds anymore. I was the only one who was relieved. Stanley asked if this meant I couldn’t have a water birth, and they said it did; I’m guessing that’s because there wasn’t time to fill up the tub. Stanley was disappointed about this, because it was in my birth plan. I didn’t care. Stanley and the nurses were generally freaked out because no one had called my doctor yet; she was still at home. I think I heard some kind of call on the PA system; code whatever, maternity. Soon arrived a young ER doctor who also seemed kind of freaked out. I was fine with all of it. Well, I was yelling in pain, but emotionally, I was fine. My doctor seemed to arrive soon after. Someone asked if I felt like I needed to push, or maybe they asked this before they checked me; I don’t remember. Then we got started with the pushing. I had different ideas of how to do this than how the doctor instructed me, but I was in no state to discuss this with her, so I followed her instructions, and it worked out fine. Sometimes I hung onto a bar over the bed and squatted to push, and at other times I leaned back and put my legs on the bar. It took a lot of energy, especially the squatting, as I don’t squat on a regular basis. I used every muscle I had, and in hindsight, I should have only used the muscles necessary for pushing, and relaxed all the other ones. Some practice would have been a good idea. I was really sore for the next few days, and my throat was irritated and coughy, which I realized was because of the screaming.

So, back to the birth. I pushed with each contraction for what turned out to be an hour and a half, but it didn’t feel like that long to me. Stanley supported me very well, and everyone encouraged me and told me I was doing a great job. I am a sucker for praise. In the back of my mind I wondered if I was really doing as well as they said I was. I asked something to the effect of “Is this going okay? Is she going to be born soon?” I got positive responses. So I continued. They told me that they could see her head and it felt to me that I was able to push it a bit further out with each contraction. Then suddenly, during a push, I had pushed enough, and I felt her head pop out (it didn’t hurt), and then they told me to push one more time to help her body come out (which also didn’t hurt). It was 3:12 a.m. They placed her on my chest and I changed forever in an instant. She was so beautiful. She didn’t cry, she just kind of fussed as if to say “Is all of this really necessary?” She looked toward Stanley and me and listened to our voices. Then she sneezed in my face, which did not bother me in the slightest.

*Names changed.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Things that Have Inspired Hazel Lately

I received this image a few weeks ago from my sister Jasmine*. She got it from her friend Jackie*, but I'm not sure where it's from originally. I have spent a lot of time looking at it, and I made it the background image on my desktop. It's a composite satellite image of the Milky Way over Mt. Lassen (on the left side) and Mt. Shasta (on the right), in California. The galactic center is over Mt. Shasta. I love how still and peaceful everything is, and how it gives a new vantage point on something so familiar (my old stomping grounds) and its place in the universe. I love how dark it is and yet you can still see the relationship between earth and sky, and I love how you can make out something as small as the roof of a structure (a barn?) and yet still take in something as big as the Milky Way and all the stars and dust clouds, and everything in between. It makes me feel small, which at this advanced stage of my pregnancy, is a nice feeling.

Another source of inspiration is Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac from this past Friday. It motivates me to take on some things I've been putting off for years, and gives me a tool for getting started. Here is the excerpt:

Today, writer Isabel Allende is starting a new book, just as she has been doing every single January 8th for the past 29 years. On January 8, 1981, when Chilean-born Allende was living in Venezuela and working as a school administrator and freelance journalist, she got a phone call that her beloved grandfather, at 99 years old, was dying. She started writing him a letter, and that letter turned into her very first novel, The House of the Spirits. She said, "It was such a lucky book from the very beginning, that I kept that lucky date to start."

Today is a sacred day for her, and she treats it in a ceremonial, ritualistic way. She gets up early this morning and goes alone to her office, where she lights candles "for the spirits and the muses." She surrounds herself with fresh flowers and incense, and she meditates.

She sits down at the computer, turns it on, and begins to write. She says: "I try to write the first sentence in a state of trance, as if somebody else was writing it through me. That first sentence usually determines the whole book. It's a door that opens into an unknown territory that I have to explore with my characters. And slowly as I write, the story seems to unfold itself, in spite of me."

She said, "When I start I am in a total limbo. I don't have any idea where the story is going or what is going to happen or why I am writing it." She doesn't use an outline, and she doesn't talk to anybody about what she's writing. She doesn't look back at what she's written until she's completed a whole first draft — which she then prints out, reads for the first time, and goes about the task of revising, where she really focuses on heightening and perfecting tension in the story and the tone and rhythm of the language.

She said that she take notes all the time and carries a notebook in her purse so that she can jot down interesting things she sees or hears. She clips articles out of newspapers, and when people tell her a story, she writes down that story. And then, when she is in the beginning stages of working on a book, she looks through all these things that she's collected and finds inspiration in them.

She writes in a room alone for 10 or 12 hours a day, usually Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. During this time, she says, "I don't talk to anybody; I don't answer the telephone. I'm just a medium or an instrument of something that is happening beyond me."

She's the author of nearly 20 books published since 1982, among them Paula (1995), Daughter of Fortune (1999), Portrait in Sepia (2000), and the recent memoir The Sum of Our Days (2008). Her work has been translated into 30 languages, and her books have sold more than 51 million copies. She continues to write fiction in Spanish though she's lived in the United States for decades. Margaret Sayers Peden has done the English translations of several of Isabel Allende's books.

I really like the idea of having a start date in mind for a project, as opposed to just having it on your to-do list every day, not getting checked off, like a thorn in your side. I also like the idea of putting everything else aside and focusing only on that one task for most of the day. I usually only do this if there is a deadline fast approaching, and usually this means that I feel a lot of stress while I'm working. But if I have a self-imposed start date, rather than a deadline, that would take the stress away and make it more enjoyable.

I made cookies yesterday, just as I said I would. Pink snowflakes in honor of the impending birth of our snowbaby girl. Here they are:

I thoroughly enjoyed making them, and I'm overly pleased with them, even though they look a bit too much like shuriken ("Chinese throwing stars"):

I had planned to use pink icing for the base, and white piping to accentuate the snowflake design, but it turns out that I don't have red food coloring. I have yellow, blue and green, but no red. I had thought the yellow one was red, because it looks red in the bottle, but I realized that the cap is yellow, so the coloring must be yellow. I'm glad I noticed this before putting it in the icing, because you don't want to use yellow icing on snowflake cookies. Everyone in Minnesota knows you're not supposed to eat yellow snow. Luckily I had some crushed candy canes left over from making peppermint bark over the holidays, so I was able to put pink on them after all. Thank goodness; now the world can continue spinning on it's loopy path across the galaxy.

*Name changed.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Look It's Hazel Again

I've been feeling bloggy lately so I apologize if you are getting tired of hearing from me so often.

It's so pretty out there. Here's last night's sunset, from our front porch.

Here's my belly today, 39 weeks.

This morning I had the first thought I have had since the beginning of the pregnancy that resembles any kind of wishing I weren't pregnant much longer. For a brief moment, I wished that I could bend forward as far as I could pre-pregnancy. Thankfully, I have not much more than 21 days to wait, if that. More likely around 10 days. But who knows. Could be today.

I'm off to make cookies. I made the dough yesterday using a recipe from, which is my favorite recipe site, and found what looks to be an excellent icing recipe as well. I'll let you know. Heck I'll post photos.

I just uploaded photos for the first time on our new PC. I also uploaded a video of Stanley skiing on Christmas Eve, so I'm posting it here just to figure out how to do it and see how well it works on the blog. It's 4 sec long. Eventually I hope to post lots of videos of Blueberry.

Well it seems not to be working now; I'll leave it for now and see if it fixes itself.

And now it seems to work, at least for me. Do let me know.

That's it for today.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pour Yourself a Cup of Tea and Listen to Hazel Ramble

It's currently -1 F in Saint Paul, with a wind chill of -15. The cats are doing what they can to stay warm.

I finished everything on my list yesterday (Yaaay!) except making cookie dough and working on the mudroom. I don't know what my deal is with the cookies. Just make them already. Perhaps I'm putting it off because I ordered 2 sets of 3 stackable cooling racks from Amazon the day before yesterday, which will be a great space saver while baking, allowing me to make way more cookies at a time, and I'd like to be able to use them sooner rather than later. This morning Amazon emailed me to say that it would be shipped (or arrive?) on the 20th. But I can't wait that long, and neither can Blueberry. Or who knows, maybe we can.

With the mudroom, I ran into issues with studs and the lack thereof. But Stanley (himself a stud) helped me figure it out when he got home so I will work on it today. Maybe.

Yesterday I set up the sewing machine and read through the manual. Now I theoretically know how to use it. But there is no substitute for hands-on experience so today I'm going to grab some thread and fabric and see what happens. Here's something I'm adding to the overly-long list of things I want to sew:

It's a bed caddy that is attached by tucking it into the mattress. This particular one is by Ann Gish, costs $65, and I saw it in House Beautiful. I plan to spend way less than $65 on my homemade caddy. I like this idea because it will unclutter the nightstand, and if I should happen to make the bed, you won't see it or the stuff in it. The only issue I have is that the fact that I want it makes me feel kind of old; it's definitely something my mom would have bought if she came across it. I'll do my best to make it look young and hip. Maybe I'll use a skull-and-crossbones fabric. Excellent. So hip.

Thanks to Tanya and Louise for your comments yesterday, and also Lotus* (my sister) for her stealth comment via email. Louise, I'm intrigued about making fitted diapers out of prefolds. I guess fitteds hold leaks better than prefolds? I for sure don't have the sewing skills to do that right now but maybe I will learn quickly. Now more than ever, I'm hoping Blueberry waits until well past her due date (but not too long of course) so that I have a lot of time to learn. But would I really take advantage of the extra time? That wouldn't be like me.

Tanya and Lotus, thank you for suggesting Spirit in Action and The Center for Nonviolent Communication as organizations our church could support. I'm going to bring this up to the group. I think it's an interesting coincidence that you two work for similar organizations. My church supports a variety of charities of different types, but I don't think we currently donate to peace- and justice-oriented groups; that might be a good void to fill.

I feel like doing a little spring cleaning and I am wondering if anyone would suffer if I deleted The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks from the list of blogs I like. They update several times per day and once you've seen a few misuses of quotation marks, you kind of get the idea of what's out there. This is to be contrasted with Cake Wrecks, which is more likely to surprise me. So, I'm deleting the quotes blog. On a similar note, I am thinking of changing the look of this blog a little; mainly just the banner at the top to something I enjoy looking at rather than the peacock with the somewhat self-deprecating alliteration.

*Name changed.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Laundry List

Just checking in, nothing exciting to report. I'm in the process of getting a bunch of crap done today. Here is the rundown.

Accomplished since this morning:
  1. Put away laundry. It was really piling up. Since I like laundry, I am pretty good about washing, drying, folding, and taking it to the bedroom, but then it just sits in the hamper for too long. Not sure why putting it away is such a problem.
  2. Emailed a friend about a movie. We will probably see "Up in the Air".
  3. Did 3 years worth of document shredding. Bank statements, credit card applications, etc. It took quite a while and it feels great to have it done. It was backed up because for a while, until just recently, we didn't shred things as they came in. So I am hoping I won't have to do that much shredding at one time ever again.
  4. Sewed Stanley's belt loop back onto his jeans, and warned him not to use that particular belt loop to hoist them up, because I am an amateur seamstress.
  5. Took down the Christmas tree. The holidays are officially over. Spring is coming!!!

Yet to be accomplished:
  1. Put all the Christmas stuff in the attic crawl space.
  2. Clean out the fireplace.
  3. Transfer files from my MacBook to our new, clean, shiny, desktop PC. I may have to give my MacBook back in April when my appointment ends, and meanwhile, the PC is much more enjoyable to use, except that none of my files are on it.
  4. Send a report to group leader about reputations of all the charities our church supports. I am serving on a board whose purpose is to re-assess the ways the church spends its money and human resources. One charity we support is the Heifer Foundation, which gives cows and other animals to families in impoverished countries so they can raise them for food, breed them and give the offspring to other families. It seems like a great idea. Teach a man to fish, etc. etc. In general, the Heifer Foundation is highly regarded. But I came across articles such as this one and this one that point out that despite our American habits, a meat-based diet is not sustainable, and giving land and grain to livestock animals instead of humans is a wasteful process. Also, a huge percentage of people outside of the U.S. are lactose intolerant, and animals need veterinary resources which are often not available in poor countries. So it's potentially wasteful, and possibly harmful to both people and animals. I'm going to bring up these ideas and see what happens.
  5. Fix up the back hallway as a mudroom. Last night Stanley and I purchased coat hooks, shelves, boot trays, and batteries for the studfinder, so there is now nothing stopping me from my goal of an adorable, organized entryway. Pictures to come, if I like how it looks.
  6. Set up my new sewing machine. I wonder if I will ever use it. I sure hope sew. <----ha ha what a super excellent pun. I have sew many ideas for projects, and they would go sew much faster and washable if I could use a machine instead of doing it by hand. Here is a partial list.
  • case for mini-tripod
  • curtains for basement, kitchen, back entryway
  • diapers and diaper covers
  • table runner/table cloth
  • removable pillow covers
  • hats, mittens using old clothes
  • baby clothes
  • Christmas stockings
  • fabric wall hanger with pockets to hold mail, keys, wallet, etc. Like this one.
  • basket liners
  • pajamas. So I can finally have long-enough sleeves and pantlegs and stop looking quite so silly in pajamas; I may just alter the ones I have by adding appropriate fabric.
7. Make cookie dough. Originally, this item was "make cookies", but despite the fact that I look forward to making them, it's not happening, so I'm lowering the bar. Lots of bar lowering these days. It's very satisfying. My plans for these cookies are to give them to our neighbors who have been delivering the paper for free (except they haven't done it for the last two days...hmmm....) and to the nurses in labor and delivery. If the cookies get too old before I go into labor, I'll eat them and make more. Yes, I would sacrifice myself and eat nearly stale cookies for the sake of the nurses. I would do that. I'm thinking of making cookies like these for the nurses, with maybe not that exact decoration, but something similar. What do you think? Cute? or borderline creepy?
Actually, I'm thinking, kind of creepy. Maybe I'll use a heart or star cutter with pink frosting. And I'll use my foot cookie cutter for some other, more appropriate event, like if a friend has foot surgery. Or if they catch Big Foot. So glad I've got that cookie cutter, just in case.