June 29, 2008

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by Christy

Our little Nora is 1 week old today! She is doing great. She's been breastfeeding from the start and was already gaining weight by day 3 when she had a checkup. I love the way her eyes get really big when she starts to feed--I can tell that suddenly she's getting the milk. When she really gets into the groove, she clutches at her shirt with her long fingers. She's sleeping a lot, as newborns do, which gives us a little rest during the day as well. Nighttimes have been mixed--several nights she has been a champ, just eating every few hours and going back to sleep. We have had a few late nights, up until 2 am with a fussy baby who just wants to snack and nap rather than eat well then sleep well. I think she's just getting used to life on the "outside." It's pretty overwhelming sometimes, all of this new stimulation after the security of the womb.

The name Nora had been on my list for a long time, and I had said that if she comes out opinionated (and if it was a girl), then she would probably get the name Nora. It's a sweet name, but it's also a strong name. Right after she was born, she definitely lived up to the opinionated part, and still does. She spent a good amount of time immediately after the birth screaming. She did calm down and have some nice bonding time, but when the nurse came to listen to her heart, and took her over to be weighed, we heard about her dissatisfaction loud and clear. She has been that way on her fussy nights too. There is no ramping up to the all out wail, she just lets fly with the screams from the outset. She even gets a girly high-pitched scream going on sometimes. She is teaching us how things are going to be around here!

That's not to say that she isn't sweet too. She goes through lots of practice smiles in her sleep, some wide-mouthed. She has spent at least a few hours being awake everyday and checking out our faces and voices and the light through the windows. She is very strong too; when her arms and legs get going, she can be tough to hang on to. She's practicing holding her head up a little too. When she is just waking up and wants to nurse, she starts out by making little chirping and squeaking sounds, which can sometimes turn into little grunts and snorts, which Anders loves. She opens and closes her mouth looking for the nipple--I think of her as my little bird sometimes. She's learning to get her hands in her mouth, but they don't provide satisfaction for very long.

Anders has been a very proud big brother. When it was time for us to go to the hospital, he went over to Henry's to play and have a sleepover. By all accounts, he had a great time and wanted to stay another night (although Henry wanted to have his parents and bed to himself again. Apparently Anders wanted to snuggle too much!). He calls Nora "my baby." When I sit on the couch and nurse her, he brings me all kinds of things for her--books, his clothes and slippers ("they are big but they are also small"), his cars, whatever comes into his mind that she might need. I'm always surrounded by all kinds of random stuff. He really likes to bring the nursing pillow to us if it is in another room. He is missing his mamma time though. We play cars and read books while Nora is nursing sometimes, and I try to get some moments to play with him, but it's tough right now. Even when I don't have her in my arms, I'm tired and not to interested in sitting on the floor to play. He usually tells me that "I have a special job for you and me to do," which involves his cars or blocks. He kindly gets me a pillow or blanket to sit on, which he did when I was pregnant too, but that doesn't quite fix it for me. It's tough to turn down his kindness though, so I try to play when I can. He is loving having Grandma Sheryl around now, because she gives him lots of play time. Here are a few Anders-isms from the last few weeks:

  • C: "What do you play at school with your friends?" A: "Oh, doctor and dinosaur and everything that I can find in my mind."
  • "Mamma, I love you for my whole life." "Mamma, I love you for the whole world."
  • Nora: Sneeze. Anders: "She bless-you-d."
  • Recent impressive vocabulary: "I have a suggestion," "usually," "I prefer," "it's similar."
  • "It is so [big, flat, etc] you can't believe it."

    I've been feeling ok overall, but I managed to get a sinus infection in the last couple of days, which is the last thing I need at the moment. I went to the doctor today, so I should be feeling better every day now. I'm looking forward to having some energy again. Ted has been amazing with Anders and doing the housework. I've also had to change only 2 poopy diapers so far, he or grandma have done the rest. We also have so many wonderful friends who have brought us dinner every night this week. We haven't had to turn on the stove once. Ted is grocery shopping today for the first time since before her birth (and took Anders with), a testament to the support we have been getting. We feel so fortunate to be so loved and cared for.

    I'll write up the story of Nora's birth and put it below the pictures, so anyone who doesn't want all of the details can skip over it.

    by Ted

    Christy already gave a nice rundown of things at home, but there is one more thing I wanted to mention. Anders has a CD player in his room, just a small cheap CD stereo we got at the Goodwill or something. It has become very useful during "quiet time" (nap time is gone), as he likes to just sit down beside it and listen to music. He knows how to use it completely. He can change CDs, turn it on, and fastforward to the songs he wants. He especially likes a few of the They Might Be Giants CDs, along with a compilation CD we made with The Violent Femmes, Motion City Soundtrack, Semisonic, and Nada Surf. He really loves the Motion City Soundtrack song. It is so cute to peek in his door and watch him just sit and listen, looking at the liner notes. His jazz fascination seems to have subsided a bit, although we still try to listen to Dizzy Gillepsie, Miles Davis, and Charles Mingus a bit at home and in the car.

    Work is going well. I have a big proposal I am working hard on, due in mid-July. I also have another set of conference papers due at the same time. Sheryl has been a big help around the house and with Anders, which lets me get some good work time in. Still there is much to do. It is nice to have the break from class, and I like being on campus when it is quiet, but I am equally, if not more so, busy with research activity. I did have a nice ending to the school year this year. For the spring term I taught a course on hybrid electric vehicles. I was a bit more nervous about the course to start with than usual because I didn't know much about the topic, and I knew that, being the first time, it would be a bit rough around the edges. Looking back, it went well, considering, and the students enjoyed the course. I had a very high enrollment for an elective class, about 75 students.

    At the end of the spring term we have a graduation ceremony for the electrical engineering and computer science students. It is held in the OSU auditorium, and it is fun because all the students and their families are there, the students are in their robes, and all the faculty get to sit up on stage in our robes and hand out diplomas and shake hands. The ceremony has several parts before the actual handing out of diplomas, including faculty awards and a keynote speaker. There are a total of 6 or 7 faculty awards to go to the electrical engineering and computer science faculty. This year, I was lucky enough to receive two awards! I received "Most Enthusiastic Professor" and the IEEE "Teacher of the Year" award, as voted by students. It was quite an honor for me, and I must say very rewarding to feel that all the hard work that goes in to teaching does make a difference to the students.
































































    Nora's Birth Story

    About 1 week before my due date, the midwife said I was 1-2 cm dilated and "nicely" effaced. I got pretty excited, and so did everyone else. But, alas, she was 2 days overdue anyway. I spent the first part of the week frustrated, and after my next appointment the day before my due date, I found out I was in about the same place. Then I relaxed and waited a little more patiently, although I did start to put evening primrose oil capsules at my cervix before bed, because the midwife said that was one of the few natural things that would actually start to ripen the cervix.

    The day before Nora was born, I had quite a few painless contractions through the evening and into bedtime, but when I awoke in the middle of the night they were gone. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions on and off, so I didn't think too much of it. The next morning they started up again, but weren't at all painful. It was Sunday, so we decided to go for a walk along a path in town that includes a covered bridge and the OSU dairy. We stopped at the lovely French bakery for a treat to bring along too. Anders rode bike and Ted and I walked, and I don't remember having contractions so much during the walk, and if I did they weren't serious at all. When we got home, we ate lunch and Anders had his "quiet time," because naps are pretty much out these days. I laid down at 1:00 and decided to keep track of the contractions for 1 hour to see if they were at all regular. They were not painful by any means. From 1:00 to 2:00 I had 8 or 9 contractions, that started about 10 minutes apart and by the end of the hour were about 6 minutes apart. That was promising, but they still weren't painful, just a bit uncomfortable.

    At 2:00 Anders came in to visit me on the bed. Quiet time usually doesn't last that long, so I felt lucky to get a whole hour. I had to go to the bathroom then, which is when things got exciting. Getting off the bed, I felt a "pop" and a little fluid leaked out--it had to be my water breaking! There wasn't a gush, but enough to get the bed a little wet. I peed then got up to get a new pair of underwear, and on the first step away from the toilet there was a rush of something out of me--I expected a big puddle of fluid when I looked down, but there was a big bunch of pure white mucus-like filmy stuff in a pile. I can only think it was the whole mucus plug, but I hadn't ever read about anything like that happening. I scooped it up onto a little bowl, and it must have been about 1/2 cup, and didn't break up when I picked it up. (I later showed Irma, our doula, and she hadn't seen anything quite like that before either.) At that point I told Ted that he had better call Irma, because this was really getting underway. Anders was confused about all of this--he asked if I peed on the bed, and wanted to know what the white stuff was! How fascinating!

    For those that don't know, a doula ("doo-la") is a woman who provides support to the couple during labor. She is not medically trained, but is trained in ways to help manage pain. We wanted a natural birth, like with Anders, but I wanted more guidance and support after all of the work it took to get him out. Irma met with us through the pregnancy and we talked about how to manage the labor, and was with us all of the way. She was really wonderful. Every laboring mom should have a doula.

    The contractions didn't pick up immediately, so I laid on the bed with Anders while Irma was on her way and Ted took a shower. Anders and I looked at the pictures in my pregnancy books and I gave him a brief but true explanation about how the baby would be born. I didn't want him to be afraid or worry. As a side note, he has asked where my pee comes from, since I don't have a penis, and was on a kick for awhile asking me if pee comes out my vagina after he had been told that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina (which he says "bagina"). I never told him before what my vagina was for, only that my pee did not come from there. I think he got some satisfaction in finally knowing what it's for (at least some of the time).

    Irma arrived, Anders headed over to Henry's, and Ted got things together and to the car. The contractions weren't bad for awhile longer, so Irma and I chatted about what had happened so far. I moved from the kitchen table to sitting on the birth ball (those big physical therapy balls), while laying my head down on pillows stacked up on the arm of the couch. They were getting tougher and closer together. Ted stood behind me during contractions and pressed on my lower back.

    Irma had started timing contractions, and before long they were lasting 1 minute and were a few minutes apart. We started talking about going to the hospital, but it was probably a little past 3:30 and this hadn't been going on for long at all. The next contraction was over 1 minute and only 2 minutes from the start of the last one, at which point Irma suggested that we should think about leaving. I agreed. I didn't want to wait around too long, and the process of getting into a room would take a little while, and this was moving fast.

    After this, I didn't have any concept of how much time had passed and I'm relying on Irma's account of the birth for times. We were on our way at 4:00 and into our room at 4:30. It's a short ride, but I opted to walk into the hospital and had to make stops for contractions, then through admission, and up to the labor and delivery department, and walked to my room. I think all of the walking helped in the long run and I'm glad I did it, even it I was slower to get there. They hooked me up to the fetal monitor right away and it was much more uncomfortable to lay on my side than it was to stand or lean over something, so I had to endure that for awhile. It made me realize just how much position matters. When I'm in pain, I usually don't want to move from whatever position that I'm in, but changing can really make it better and more manageable.

    Claire was the midwife on call. I was 5 cm dilated, 90% effaced, and the baby was at -1 (1 cm above the pelvic outlet), in the correct position, and both the baby and I had good vital signs. She let me off the monitor earlier than the usual 20 minutes because everything was fine. Irma emphasized that Claire was very trusting and relaxed, which helps make a good birth with no interventions.

    I got in the tub with the jets on, and that really helped ease the pain, although the contractions were still strong and frequent. Labor didn't slow down at all, but I felt better. Ted and I tried to talk about the baby and names, but I was getting pretty immersed in the labor. The nurse told me to call if I felt any deep rectal pressure, because that could be a sign that I was getting ready to push. About 1/2 hour after getting in the tub, I felt pressure and they checked my progress again. I was up to 6 cm already, which is pretty fast, considering the relaxation of the tub. I felt like I had to pee and got out of the tub and sat on the toilet for awhile because it was hard to relax. The nurse, Irma and Ted were talking about Anders and the nurse's son, who is about the same age and took swimming lessons with us. At one point I had to tell them all to be quiet because it was just too much chatter--and they all immediately were quiet and focused on me again.

    At 5:15 I wanted to get back into a leaning-over position like I did at home, and they suggested getting on the bed on my hands and knees, leaning over pillows and the back of the bed. Once I was there, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for because I was sitting back on my lower legs a lot and they started falling asleep, but that was the least of my worries at that point. I was nice to be able to bury my face in the pillows though. It wasn't long before I felt pressure like pushing again and Claire checked my progress from that position--I was at 8 cm already. Claire told me that I could push when I felt the need because my cervix was very soft and stretchy. I guess it is pretty unusual for the midwife/doc to tell you to push before 10 cm--they usually want you to wait for full dilation. She was trusting of my body at this point too, and let me do what my body told me instead of making me wait until the magic 10 cm. This was the most serious pain of all, really just overwhelming. Ted continued to push against my lower back, which helped provide counterpressure and give my body some other stimulation. Irma was nearer to my head and kept talking me though contractions, reminding me to keep breathing and saying "you are so strong." That's what I remember most, how that helped to keep me going and not giving in to the pain. She also told me when they brought the baby equipment in, which meant that the baby would be born soon.

    Within 20 minutes I was completely dilated and all-out pushing. I visualized using my abdominal muscles to push her down and out with every contraction. I kept thinking how it's really a short passage overall, and trying to think about how far down she moved with each push. I started asking if I was close to being done, and how much longer, even though in real-time it was going fast. I think I kept saying "come on baby" to encourage her out. I was still in the hands-and-knees position, except that I was leaning back against my lower legs instead of being straight up on my knees. No one suggested that I change position at any time, but let me decide what to do. At some times I considered trying to flip over, but I really didn't want to get stuck in a semi-sitting position like with Anders, which I found very ineffective. Ideally I might have squatted, but I was not sure that my legs would support me though such intense pushing. I also was afraid that the process of moving and adjusting the bed would be disruptive and take too long. I had wonderful peaceful moments between major contractions, no pain or thought at all, and I tried to savor them because I wasn't sure how long the peace would last.

    My head was down in my pillows so I don't have any visual memory of the birth, just the voices and everyone telling me what was going on, and the sensations of Nora coming down and out. Claire was vigorously massaging my perineum and smoothing out the vaginal walls to help them stretch. It was pretty uncomfortable in it's own right, and I think it made it worse because my body was confused about all of that extra sensation for awhile until I realized what she was doing. I'm not sure I would want it again, but maybe it helped with the final pushes, I can't be sure.

    Ted was supporting my lower back and watching the baby come out. When he saw the first signs of hair, he told me he could see the baby. That was great, but crowning was killer. That contractions seemed to last forever, and that was the only time that Claire told me to keep pushing because my body really wanted to back off and make the pain stop. One of my birthing books said that the pressure of crowning anesthetizes the nerve endings so the pain subsides after crowning starts--yeah right. The rest happened fast--the sweet relief of her head completely coming out, another one and her body coming out at 6:19. The cord was loosely around her neck; good thing it was long enough to let her come out. Someone said something that made me realize no one had announced if it was a boy or girl, and I asked Ted "is it a girl?" I guess I showed my bias! He told me it was, I realized I had to flip over to hold her! The cord was still attached so I had to keep my foot from being tangled in it.

    They just toweled and suctioned her and put her right in my arms. Ted cut the cord. She was really screaming, and calmed down after they got a warm blanket for her. The nurse listened to her heart and did the other check-ups while Nora was on my chest. Nora screamed again whenever anything else was done to her, and again when Ted took a picture with the flash. She was opinionated from the start. She started breastfeeding shortly after that, and Ted got to hold her. She calmed right down when Ted held her to his chest and talked to her, so sweet.

    Within the hour, Heather brought Anders up to meet his new sister. He was a little shy at first, and took turns sitting next to me in the bed and looking at her, and sitting with Heather or Ted in the chair. I asked him if we should name her Nora or Solveig (pronounced "Soul-vey"), and he said Solveig. I asked him again before he left, and he said Solveig again. That made it a little harder for me to choose Nora, but he didn't put up a fuss when he learned her name, thankfully. He likes being "right" lately. He gave her a kiss before he left, and was so good about going back to Henry's. I was afraid that he would have a hard time leaving with Heather, but we had talked about the sleepover at Henry's for so long that he wanted to go back to see Henry. That really put my mind at ease, it was so wonderful of Heather, Tim and Henry to take him and make him feel so at home.

    So from what I consider the beginning--2:00, when I realized this really was the start of labor that would end with a baby--to the end at 6:19 with the birth of Nora Marie, it was a pretty great labor and delivery. It was still an amazing physical challenge, but I felt strong and in control. Even through it was still amazingly painful it was completely worth it to do it without drugs. Anders was without drugs too, but it was so much harder because it was so long, and in a way I don't really remember the physical pain of him actually being born because of the vacuum extraction and everything that was going on. It was so great to get to push her out myself--that was the climax of the whole event that I really missed out on with Anders.

    For a short birth, this turned out to be a really long story!

    Nora's Birth From Ted's Perspective

    Nora's birth was a remarkable experience, and very welcome after the difficult experience with Anders. As Christy mentioned, things went very fast. The day started quite normally. We went for a walk, and there was no sign of anything impending. Things got started that afternoon, especially when Christy's water broke. I felt remarkably calm about everything. I think it really helped to have Irma there. It was very helpful to have a sort of elder presence, someone you knew had overseen this many times before.

    Christy did a great job of laboring at home, then it was off to the hospital. The hospital staff was very nice and helpful, and they promptly got us situated in a large and comfortable room. I don't remember much of the time between getting to the hospital and getting to the pushing part, other than Christy laboring in the tub. It all went very fast, and each contraction seemed to be noticeably stronger than the last. Irma and I were always there with Christy, holding her hand, and getting her a drink, and giving general encouragement. Once Christy started feeling the urge to push, we took her back out to the bed. The midwife checked her and promptly called for the various newborn tools. That was very encouraging for me as it obviously meant we were getting there fast, and a stark contrast to the experience with Anders, where progress stopped, and a sinking feeling settled in as I knew it was not going to go as we had hoped.

    In no time, Christy was pushing in earnest, and the midwife said she could feel a head of hair descending. This was a sort of milestone for me, mentally. With everything up to that point through the pregnancy, I don't think I really emotionally appreciated the concrete reality of this new child. Of course I knew it was coming, but on an emotional level it was still somewhat abstract. But in an instant the image of a newborn head of hair, that was coming very soon, really impacted me.

    A couple pushes later, and the head was visible. It took a few more really good hard pushes to get the head fully crowned. I distinctly remember that these were the first pushes that I really heard Christy hold her breath and push as hard as she could - really straining. A push later and the head came out. I moved over to Christy's ear and told her the progress. The doctor quickly did one unwrap of the cord around Nora's neck. She mentioned quickly that it was loose, and not a problem. One more push and Nora squirmed out into the midwife's hands. I told Christy the baby was out, and that it was a girl.

    I must say I was surprised that it was a girl. Of course it is roughly a 50/50 chance, but at an appointment a few weeks prior, one of the nurses repeatedly referred to the baby as "he." I had myself convinced that it was not being used as a generic pronoun, but that the nurse had seen the ultrasound pics and just didn't know we didn't want to know. So I was all prepared for a boy. It was nice to be surprised actually.

    Nora was beautiful, and healthy, and alert right from the start, and Christy did an amazing job. It's really quite a feat; a difficult and powerful climax to nine months of hard work. All together, we really couldn't have asked for anything better: a walk, some lunch, a nap, labor in the afternoon, baby by 6:30 pm.