Discovering childbirth

 Never, ever, ever have I been a morning person (I’m still not), but luckily for my son, he did not inherit those sentiments from me. Every morning he wakes up with a huge smile on his face, wriggling around in whatever is left of his swaddle that he hadn’t already weaseled out of, and coos at me in anticipation. I sing him our Good Morning Song and free him from the confines of his Swaddle Me, and he stretches so intensely, I feel loosened up just watching him. It’s only an hour before he is ready for a nap again, and his good mood will only slowly decline as that hour approaches, but in those first few glorious moments when he wakes up, life is perfect. I am awed by this amazing little creature. We are more connected to each other in those moments than we are at any other time of the day.

This morning, I woke before my son, who was curled against me like a sleepy kitten, and I ran my fingertips up and down his back for a while, thinking. My eyes landed on two big crayon drawings taped to the wall above my bed. While I was pregnant, a book I was reading suggested creating your own “Birth Art,” depicting your idea of what birth will be like. My husband joined me in my little arts and crafts moment, and he drew a beautiful picture of him and I, holding our little baby, surrounded by love and light. I made a sequence of small drawings in a circle, representing the progression of labor. This morning, looking at that picture, I nearly laughed out loud at how vastly different my labor actually was to what I had imagined.

Technically, if Collin had it his way, he would still be inside my womb to this day. I started showing signs of labor at 38 weeks gestation, so I was braced for an early arrival. Instead, I got 3 and a half weeks of contractions and vomiting. I tried EVERYTHING to induce my labor: acupuncture, long walks, squats, a terrible herb called Black Cohosh that I renamed “Black Fire Death, ” just to name a few. Eventually, I was convinced that birth was a myth, and in fact I was going to be pregnant forever. I knew the situation was desperate when my own mother suggested I have lots of sex (awkward). And as fun as that was, it wasn’t working, anyway, and let me just say nothing puts you in the mood more than your husband maneuvering himself around your bloated, farting, extra fifty pounds of post-date sexy. Yeah, baby.

I ended up finally in labor the morning of my scheduled induction. To properly convey the pitiful irony my birth art turned out to be in comparison to the real thing, I will break it down for you:

Fantasy: I wake up with the sun, knowing I am in labor, happy about it and ready for the challenge.
Reality:  I labored in my sleep until the pain jarred me awake with a feeling of urgency and panic, where I then paced around my apartment, clutching whatever was closest and making a strange, tribal “Oooooooo” sound.

Fantasy: My husband and I stroll, hand in hand, through the lagoon by our apartment and admire the beauty of life as my labor slowly progresses.
Reality: The lagoon was closed because it was so early in the morning, so we tried to walk down town, but a big contraction made me holler like a crazy person and sent us shuffling back to the car at the pace of an urgent snail so nobody would call the cops. We ended up in the parking lot of Jack In The Box, and I labored through bites of a greasy breakfast sandwich, praying I wouldn’t vomit or explode, because both felt imminent.

Fantasy: I take a long, luxurious bath in the comfort of my home to help relax me and ease the pain.
Reality: I park my groaning, cursing self in the tub of the Labor and Delivery unit, because I have already been in the hospital for hours and I’m getting desperate. The bath does feel good for a little while (I dilated two centimeters!), but soon the pain is even worse, and I refuse to get out until I am assured there is a nurse waiting for me in my room with a shot of pain killers.

Fantasy: I am riding through my labor, in the zone and focused, while my husband protects me from intervention-happy hospital staff who try to push drugs on me.
Reality: Five seconds after that shot of pain relief, I ask for an epidural.

Fantasy: I give birth with the power and strength of a goddess, and everyone around me is humbled and quiet.
Reality: I finally manage to push the baby out after almost three hours, delirious with fever and exhaustion, and everyone around me is panicked. Afterward, the anesthesiologist removes my epidural while a tired, frustrated nurse who is held 3 hours past the end of her shift tries to help me pee.

While I gave birth, all I thought about was how I was never, ever, ever going to do it again. However, now that the drama is behind me, I know for certain that I will.

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Discovering Collin’s first summer, and our first family vacation.

It has come to my attention that Collin is growing up so fast, he has actually grown out of much of his early infant shenanigans.

“Remember ‘The Woodpecker?’” I asked Husband last night, as I watched him wrangle the baby into a diaper. The Woodpecker, as it came to be called, was this adorably desperate maneuver Collin would do to Husband basically any time he held him in the first few weeks. His little baby head would bob against Husband’s shoulder and neck frantically, rooting around for any sign of a breast, while he made this pathetically cute “Haaa! Haaa!” sound. It was an impressive display of neck control for such a young infant, but you couldn’t help but think of Woody the Woodpecker. Poor Collin would have this immensely worried look on his face as he did it, as if he were convinced his last chance on earth of getting milk again depended upon locating the hidden nipple on Husband. I could only take watching it for a few minutes before my arms were outstretched for him and he was back on the boob, in his proper place, even though he had just been there ten minutes before (The whole eating every two hours thing is a sham. Collin has cluster fed his whole life). Watching his Woodpecker routine was the comedic break Husband and I truly needed in those delirious first weeks. Come to think of it, Collin would root (search for a nipple with his mouth) on just about anything, not just his father. I used to love holding his tiny, precious little self cheek-to-cheek to me, but it was always just a matter of time before he was bobbing around on my face.

My mother is moving back to Southern California from Virginia next month. She still hasn’t met our son, so it will be a monumental visit when we go down (From Northern California). In fact, Collin hasn’t met any friends or family from Southern California, where I grew up, so we’re all pretty excited for “The Big Trip,” as I find myself calling it. The car ride from Northern to Southern California is a 5-7 hour drive, and considering Collin can’t take a 5-7 minute drive, the car ride is the only part of The Big Trip that I am worried about. That, and the Socal heat, which is always at least 10-15 degrees hotter than our climate bubble in Santa Cruz, and I don’t like to mix babies and bad heat. Back to The Big Car Ride, I’m hoping it will be a day-long venture in exposure therapy, and afterward Collin’s aversion to his car seat will be a thing of the past. What’s more likely to happen is that Husband and I will take turns driving the car and sitting in the back with the baby, singing ourselves hoarse with huge, plastered grins glued to our faces, and by the time we make it to Socal they will be permanently fixed there and everything we say will come out in song. That is already starting to happen to me, by the way, after spending all day singing monologues to Collin. On several occasions, I have nearly answered the phone to the tune of Old McDonald: “Who is calling on the phone? Eee-eye-ee-eye-oh!”

Collin’s first summer is indeed turning into an eventful one. Next week, we are throwing him a “Welcome to Earth” beach party, and so far 22 people have RSVPed. Aside from feeling incredibly blessed to have so many friends who love my son, I am also excited about Collin’s first beach day. I’m pretty sure I will spend it applying sunblock all over him, as all I imagine is his fragile baby skin sizzling like bacon in the sun every time we so much as go for a walk. I’m definitely going to be the kind of mom who chases after her kids with sunblock. Sunblock is the dominant smell around here, and automatically conjures thoughts of me whenever Husband smells it. I’m actually looking forward to winter, when me and my son won’t constantly have an extra layer of sticky, filmy, odorous skin every time we go out.

Instead, we’ll have 30 extra pounds of jackets and hats and gloves and scarves… and I will soon be nostalgic for summer, when all I had to worry about was slapping on some sunblock and grabbing a pair of sunglasses. Who am I kidding? I’m not just the sunblock police, I’m also the hat police, the sweater police, and the blanket police. No season is safe.

Discovering our first post-baby house guest and the mommy-baby bond.

It’s amazing what spending 24 hours a day, every day of your life, with a baby will do to your sense of self. Collin is no longer my baby, he is an extension of myself. When he is gone, a piece of me is missing. His needs and my own needs are one and the same. It is a bond that, until now, I had never experienced and can not explain. I was always timid around babies, until I had one for myself. Now, it feels so natural. I “get” Collin, and he “gets” me. Enough said.

We have a friend from New Orleans staying with us for the weekend, and it has been a really fun experience. We always offer our place for friends to stay while they are visiting, but I’ve never actually had anyone take us up on a night on the floor of a studio apartment with an infant ten feet away waking up to eat every few hours and a giant cat lurking over them. However, so far things have been working out really well. The guest in question is like another version of my husband, very gentle and soft-spoken and kind, and fits in with our family quite well. Collin has been so fascinated by him that he decided he would rather stay awake for hours to stare at him instead of sleep. Luckily, it’s the weekend, so we could sleep in and no one got hurt. My husband and our friend left to go down town for a while, and Collin finally resigned himself to a few hours of slumber after fussing all morning.

In the meantime, I FINALLY got to take a long shower, and though it is only a matter of time before I am once again covered in sun block and spit-up, I will enjoy not smelling like a homeless person for a while.

Discovering why I will never judge another parent ever again.

It’s funny how, now that I’m a mom, everyone else’s parenting moments I have ever secretly judged have come back to haunt me. While I was pregnant, I dreamed of taking my child to the library. I imagined spending many a sunny morning cuddled in a reading corner, taking home a wagon load of books to be read together at home, and joyfully joining other mamas and kids for story time. So, needless to say, every time I’ve taken Collin to the library, something turns him into a howling lunatic and leaves me trying desperately to calm him in one arm while I drag his stroller with the other past innocent library-goers (who were only looking for a quiet place to read) to the nearest exit. It’s humiliating, and humbling. Not long ago, I would have rolled my eyes at such a mother who thought it was a good idea to take a baby to the library. What was she expecting? It’s a baby!

Normally, Collin is truly good-natured, but there is something about the library that truly brings out the psychosis in him. The other day I was strolling him through the childrens’ section, and he was actually smiling and cooing, until he realized what was happening. He’d been had- strolled straight into the library, without so much as a warning! Everyone was so quiet! Where was the chaos of down town that had surrounded him just moments before? Actually, maybe that’s the problem. For a kid who loves to fall asleep in a blaring arcade, maybe a library is just too mellow.

“Why didn’t they warn us?” My friend, V, laments as we talk about what a pain at times this motherhood business is turning out to be.
“They did. We just didn’t listen.”

Discovering sad pets and Buddhaisms

So tonight, we force fed our cat his flea medication, and for the first time, he was too desperate for attention to sulk for hours afterward. Like Eyore, he just seemed to say, “Thanks for noticing me.” I joke that our cat and our friend V’s (also a new mama) dog should form a “Forgotten pets” club. It’s funny, because our cat was practically the center of my universe before the baby arrived. Before the baby, our cat was the baby. I would fuss and fret over him like I do now with Collin, and my poor kitty seems to follow me around a lot these days, looking at me as if to say, “Was it something I said?”

I switched cell phone plans and got a new phone this weekend, FINALLY. Not that I won’t miss the freezing screen and random shutting off of my old phone…ahem…

I have been so absorbed with my new toy that I accidentally stayed up until three in the morning last night (“Night” being a relative term for that hour) downloading apps like Buddha quotes. If you think that was a waste of precious time I should have spent, you know, sleeping like a normal person, you would be correct. However, try this quote on for size:

“What you think, you become.” -Buddha.

Deep, eh?

Anyway, aside from some really fun new applications, I’ve also been enjoying taking videos and pictures. Husband and I have discovered just how much Collin loves watching videos of himself. I mean, loves. I do not foresee any self-esteem issues in the future with this child, as he has also discovered how awesome it is to stare at himself in the mirror. We have a little baby mirror that hangs above his car seat, and he spends quite a bit of time flirting with himself, grinning and half-winking, and you can almost hear him thinking, “Hello, gorgeous! We meet again.”

Discovering (what I hope is) a phase.

 So Monday was Collin’s first 4th of July, and the first major life event that he didn’t completely sleep through. He only partially slept through this one.

We spent it at our friends J & V’s place, enjoying the company of adults without babies in tow, most of whom had been there and done that with their own older kids and thoroughly freaked me out with stories of their teenagers. I enjoyed myself immensely, though, and V, my fellow new mama comrade, and I enjoyed sips of wine and beer in between nursing. Later, she and I escaped outside to watch a few stray fireworks and talk until the sounds of a crying baby inside turned on our mommy alarms (it ended up being hers) and sent us charging back into the house. I find it funny that even though my husband is a great father, perfectly capable of holding a crying baby, I still  rush to the rescue when I hear a little fussing. You’d think by now I would be saying, “Oh, the baby is fussing? 1-2-3 not it!!”
Lately, Collin’s been having a series of, what can only be described as, “Off days.” He woke me up early this morning with projectile vomit to the face (the face, people), and after faking me into believing he was feeling better after his little exorcist moment, he brought on the barf once more in the evening. I’m not a squeamish person, but right now, the smell of spit-up has moved in to my nostrils and set up shop, and I’m starting to feel a little nauseated, myself. I’m not sure what to make of all this new found puking glory, as it is accompanied by desperate clinginess, fussiness, and difficulty nursing (so rare for Collin) and falling asleep. I’m sure anyone who has dealt with a baby that suddenly has trouble eating and falling asleep can testify how insane it makes you feel. As I rocked Collin to sleep tonight, it took so long and I started to get so bored and desperate for a book in my hand that I started looking for the nearest piece of paper with print to help me pass the time. All I found was the manual for the baby thermometer. The clinginess is the worst, though, because on one hand I feel so bad for the poor little guy as he literally digs his fingers into me whenever I try to put him down, but try peeing with a baby in your arms. It gets messy and it isn’t very relaxing, we’ll just leave it at that. Maybe this is just a phase?

Discovering why every day should be Saturday.

I love the weekend in a passionate, desperate sort of way that I haven’t felt since I was in school. The weekend means my husband is home, and there is someone who will do more than stare blankly at me when I speak to them. Today was a pretty nice Saturday. It didn’t officially start for me until nearly two in the afternoon, as Husband is prone to taking the baby out on epic walks around town. Today, they strolled seven miles. Seven! I got to sleep in, uninterrupted, for HOURS. Finally, Husband called to see if I was alive, and I decided it was probably a good idea to get myself out of bed. I felt so good that I got up and vacuumed the apartment.

Later, I finally had time to get something done that I had been dreaming of since I was pregnant: Go through all the pre-pregnancy clothes that I had banished to sit in bags in my closet, AND bag all my hideous maternity clothes. Husband seemed to be inspired by my efforts, and he went through his closet, as well. The evening was spent playing episode after episode of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix while our son slept peacefully through the sounds of gunfire and explosions (I swear, he will be in therapy one day with memories of being in a war zone) and his parents frowned at themselves in the mirror over the clothes that somehow shrank three or four sizes. How did that happen, again? Oh yeah, perhaps the buckets of sugar and salt I ate for nine months. I craved anything sweet or salty, both at once was even better (ahem, chocolate covered pretzels). Luckily, I did uncover a handful of shirts that I can wear in public without looking like I’m still pregnant. Strangely enough, putting away my maternity clothes was not the big victory I always dreamed it would be. In fact, I felt a twinge of sadness as I bagged the shirts I watched my belly grow in, and eventually grow out of. My last few weeks of pregnancy were like a long practical joke from the universe. I got so big, not even extra large maternity clothes fit me.

Here I am, at 41 weeks. This shirt used to extend over my belly just a week before.