Wednesday, January 30, 2008

the name game

As I posted here throughout my pregnancy with Elanor, we had a really hard time thinking of a name for a girl. We had our boy name picked very, very early (I think around 20 weeks). It was really easy for us; we both just knew when we heard it.

The girl name, though, was tough. We couldn't agree on our favorites -- he liked one thing, I liked another. We thought we came up with The Name at Thanksgiving, but the more I thought about it, the less I was convinced. 

We talked about it while I was in labor and had our girl names narrowed down to about three choices, including Elanor. Although Elanor was my favorite, and a name that I'd had in mind for a girl for a long time, I knew it wasn't Brett's favorite -- he was holding out for the one we'd talked about around Thanksgiving. 

So when Elanor was born, I called over to Brett, "What are we going to name her?" And he said, "I don't know!"

A few minutes later, when I was still on the table being stitched up, I said, "How is Elanor doing?" And then I said, "Wait, I just called her Elanor. Is that fine; are you ok with that being her name?" And he said he was fine with that. (Like I said before, I think he would have said yes to anything at that point.) 

Here's where the meaning behind her name comes in. And here's where, once again, I prove that I am a huge, huge dork. So please don't make fun of me! :p 

As I've mentioned before, I love Lord of the Rings. I have read the books a gagillion times, and I even took The Fellowship of the Ring to the hospital to read when I was in labor, since it's a comforting, familiar book for me. (Like I said before, I didn't get very far, but at least it was a distraction for an hour or so.)

A few years ago, while I was reading the books, I started looking for names that we could use as names for our kids someday. It wasn't like I actually thought we'd use them, more that it was just an idle activity for me. 

At first, I thought Lorien might be nice for a girl. But it's so obviously from Lord of the Rings, I decided it was too blatant. And then I hit upon Elanor. 

Here's the passage where the word Elanor is introduced. The company have just come through the Mines of Moria and have suffered a crushing loss. They are feeling lonely, exhausted, and confused, and they are grieving the loss of a great friend. 

However, they have just entered into the beautiful and ancient Elven land of Lothlorien, a place of healing, peace, and grace. They have been blindfolded in the tradition of the Elves (non-Elven visitors must wear blindfolds) but their guide, Haldir, has bid them to take off their blindfolds and see the beauty and peace that surround them. (My emphasis in bold.)

"When his eyes were in turn uncovered, Frodo looked up and caught his breath. They were standing in an open space. To the left stood a great mound, covered with a sward of grass as green as Spring-time in the Elder Days. Upon it, as a double crown, grew two circles of trees: the outer had bark of snowy white, and were leafless but beautiful in their shapely nakedness; the inner were mallorn-trees of great height, still arrayed in pale gold. High amid the branches of a towering tree that stood in the centre of all there gleamed a white flet. At the feet of the trees, and all about the green hillsides the grass was studded with small golden flowers shaped like stars. Among them, nodding on slender stalks, were other flowers, white and palest green: they glimmered as a mist amid the rich hue of the grass. Over all the sky was blue, and the sun of afternoon glowed upon the hill and cast long green shadows beneath the trees. 

'Behold! You are come to Cerin Amroth,' said Haldir. 'For this is the heart of the ancient realm as it was long ago, and here is the mound of Amroth, where in happier days his high house was built. Here ever bloom the winter flowers in the unfading grass: the yellow elanor, and the pale niphredil.' " 

Later in the book, one of the main characters, Sam Gamgee, names his first daughter Elanor as well. Sam was always enamored with the elves; it's no wonder he chose it as his daughter's name. 

So that is where we got her name, non-traditional spelling and all. I know, I know, I always said I didn't want to give my kid a name with a non-traditional spelling and doom her to a life of correcting people...but, well, I did it anyway. Sorry, kiddo! 

I hope, too, that by giving her this name I haven't somehow jinxed any love for Lord of the Rings that she might one day have. I hope that she loves the books someday as much as her Mema and I do. 

Anyway, the name just seems to fit her perfectly. She is our golden, star-shaped winter flower, and I can't imagine her being called anything else. 

***Edited to add:
My mom pointed out that I hadn't explained her middle name, Naudain. It was our middle name choice for a boy or a girl, and it is Brett's mom's maiden name. The Naudain name can be traced back to Elias Naudain, the Huguenot, who was the first Naudain to come to America in the 1600's. Brett's late Grandpa Big Al could trace his lineage all the way back to Elias. Pretty amazing, if you ask me. Many of Elias Naudain's descendants have been active all over the country, in both politics and business. 

Neither of Brett's uncles on that side of the family had kids, which means that the Naudain name in that branch of the family is no more. So using Naudain as Elanor's middle name is our way of continuing the name in some way and of honoring Brett's Grandpa Big Al, who I unfortunately never had the pleasure of knowing, as well as a way of honoring his Grandma Dori, who at 90 years old is still going strong, and whom we both love very much. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

a quick photo post

Because I know her aunties and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and cousins and other relatives, at least, would love to see some more photos of her, and I haven't had time to finish the post about her name.

First bath! She actually really liked her bath, and didn't start crying until we took her out at the end to dry her off; I think she was cold by that point.

Papa videotaping while Mama bathes

Angry because she is cold

Soothed by Papa's magic finger. I think this may be one of my favorite pictures of her, simply because I feel like it captures what I think she looks like better than any others. I love the look on her face when she's been upset and finally gets to suck on something, whether it be on my breast or on someone's finger. She just looks so concerned, like she was afraid she'd never get to suck on anything again, and content that she is finally sucking on something.

Almost the same size as the cat

"Hi, my name is Elanor, and I am adorable. What's your name?"

"Don't mess with me; I have wild hair and an expression to match!"

Our week on our own is going well. She is totally asleep in the Ergo carrier now, which I like, because I can lean down and kiss her little head very easily. It's quite nice!

I had my two-week c-section follow-up appointment (geesh, enough hyphens?) yesterday. All is well; I am cleared to drive. Hooray!

I think I am actually going to go out for the first time without Elanor in a little bit; I need to run some errands, like going to the post office to buy more stamps for my many thank-you notes, and going to Kinko's to fax my short-term disability paperwork, and going to the pharmacy to get cream for my oh-so-sore breasts, and possibly going to the kids' consignment shop down in Ballard to see if they have a couple of things we need.

It's daunting to think that I'll be without her for an hour or two...I know she'll be fine with Brett but I have loved having her with me and next to me constantly over the past two weeks. For instance, it's really reassuring right now to feel her warm little body all curled up against my torso and to hear her little sounds and her breathing. I love it.

I'd better get going if I'm going to get back before she needs to eat...

Friday, January 25, 2008

a small victory, and some bonus photos

So, ok, please don't hate me, but for the past two days, I have worn my pre-pregnancy jeans.

Are they uncomfortable? You bet.

Do I have a muffin top? Of course.

Are they two sizes bigger than my ideal? Oh, yes.

But they are, as I've been calling them, real people clothes, with a zipper and buttons and everything, and that feels so good. We went to Target tonight and I couldn't stop looking at all of the cute spring-y clothes, the swishy skirts (my big clothing weakness) and all of the comfy shirts. I didn't buy any of them (nursing bras took priority, unfortunately), but man, was I tempted.

(So what if I'm still wearing mostly maternity shirts, right? They hide my muffin top, and for the most part, they're the only ones that have easy access through the top for nursing.)

I'm working on a post about Elanor's name, and why we chose it. Hopefully it will be done in the next few days. We'll be on our own after Brett's mom leaves on Sunday, so we will see how much Internet time I get after that, when there is no one here to hold the baby.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos. The first one is Elanor's official one week photo. She was not so cooperative, to say the least! The only one we have in which she isn't screaming, she is spitting up. Yeah, not so much.

The other two are from Tuesday night. We went for a walk to the park about two blocks away, which has a view of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. The sun was setting and it was just beautiful.

One week old

Elanor and her papa

Elanor and her mama

Sunday, January 20, 2008

everything I thought I didn't want, and everything I didn't know I needed

Warning: I'm not going to spare details, so if you're squeamish or uncomfortable reading about my nether-regions, be ye forewarned.

There were times in the week before I went into labor that I thought it would never happen, and I would just stay pregnant forever. Last Sunday night, the 13th, was one of those days.

I spent most of the day either in bed or playing Nintendo. Brett had a bunch of friends over to help him shoot a video piece that he wanted to submit for an upcoming show. I felt anything but social so I stayed in bed while everyone was over. I felt bad hiding out, but I just couldn't handle more questions about the baby and the pregnancy and how I was feeling.

After they finished the video, they all left to go have a beer, but a couple of hours later, about 6 people wound up coming back over to have some Thai food with us. I was so mad at Brett for having so many people come back with him; I did not feel up to talking to people and just wanted to hang out with him. I fear I was rather bitchy. So, Arianna, Lailey, and Leah -- I'm sorry I was so grumpy. Please forgive me; I feel bad!

Everyone left and we went to bed pretty early, about 9:45. Brett fell right asleep but I was awake for a long time. I was having contractions but they weren't bad, although they were enough to keep me awake for a while. I finally went to sleep sometime between 11:30 and midnight.

At exactly 1:03 a.m., I woke up to feel a warm gush of fluid. I wondered if my water had just broken or if I'd had one of those unfortunate pregnant-lady accidents. I got up and went to the bathroom and noticed there was some bloody show and that it seemed like the fluid was of a different consistency than pee.

I went back to bed and woke Brett up about 1:15 and told him I thought my water had broken. We decided to time contractions for a while, and he went downstairs to do a couple of things in case it was real labor -- like put away the moped parts he had spread out on our patio, since he'd planned to do some moped work the next day.

After an hour, the contractions were 3-6 minutes apart and were definitely different than any I'd felt before. However, I hadn't had a big gush of amniotic fluid and was questioning whether my water really had broken or not. I called the doctor and she said that it sounded like I needed to come in and get checked, but not to rush as it didn't sound like there was any hurry.

So I took a shower and got the rest of my hospital bag together, and Brett made some coffee (of course) and we headed out to the hospital.

We arrived about 3:30 and went up to triage. The monitor showed that the baby's heartbeat was perfect and that the contractions were, in fact, about 5 minutes apart. However, the nurse had a hard time checking me to see how far dilated I was, and she had to call the doctor to come check me. I was dilated to about 2 and was about 90% effaced -- no real change from my doctor's appointment a couple of days earlier. Also, they did a couple of the pH strip tests to check for amniotic fluid, and both came back negative, but the doctor wanted to make absolutely certain so they did a swab test as well, which she then went to look at under a microscope.

She came back about 4:30 and said that my water had indeed broken and they would admit me, and that after we got settled in our room we should walk the halls for a few hours to help things progress. We asked her if she had any idea how things would go, and she said that it would probably be quite a while yet before I was in active labor and that she'd think the baby would be born late afternoon or early evening.

In a few minutes, we found ourselves walking the halls and looking at all of the artwork on the Labor and Delivery floor, critiquing many of the pieces as a way to pass the time.

At this point, the contractions were definitely getting stronger and closer together, but it was completely managable, although uncomfortable.

Sometime around this point, we called our families to let them know what was happening. It was a bit like herding cats to try to get everyone sorted out in terms of how everyone would get to Seattle and how people would handle their work situations. Finally, we decided that my mom would drive up immediately and that Brett's mom and sister Rachel would ride with her. My dad and stepmom would come up mid-morning, and Brett's dad would come up with Brett's sister Amy and her husband Seth sometime late morning. At that moment, we didn't think my sister was going to be able to come. (Thankfully, she got someone to cover her shift the following day and was able to come that evening with my niece Adeline and nephew Zachary.)

I was relieved to find out I could eat some light food, since it was around 7 a.m. and I hadn't eaten since our Thai food dinner the previous night. I had some Jello, and some graham crackers, and some hot tea. Little did I know that would be the last thing I'd eat for over 24 hours.

At this point, I was still able to focus on other things, so I leaned over the birthing ball on the bed and cracked open the copy of The Fellowship of the Ring I'd brought with me to the hospital. I didn't get very far, but it was a decent distraction for an hour or so.

Around 8:30, the doctor came back and checked me again, to find that I was already 4cm dilated. Active labor had officially begun.

This is where things get much fuzzier for me. I know that I labored for a while all over the room, on the birthing ball, leaning against the sink or the bed, hanging on Brett. The contractions started to hurt quite a bit more and required some focus to get through.

One thing I loved about the hospital we delivered at is that you have one nurse, one-on-one, for her entire 12-hour shift. It was so nice to have that continuity and that level of attention. Our amazing nurse, Angelica, ran a bath for me sometime in this period, and I have to say that the Jaccuzi tub was fantastic. It really helped with the contractions, and I stayed in there for about an hour. It was easily my favorite part of labor.

I was starting to have to vocalize through the contractions -- moaning, praying, even swearing, sometimes all at the same time.

I got out of the tub probably around 10, and our moms arrived shortly thereafter -- sometime around 11. They really wanted to see me so I said they could come in for a few minutes if they were very quiet and calm. I felt self-conscious about vocalizing with other people in the room, so it took a lot of willpower, but I remember being able to be quiet during the contractions while they were standing there.

I think it was around this time (probably around noon, although I have no idea) that they checked me and I was dilated to a 7-8 and was beginning transition.

I remember things got really painful around this time. I had been feeling nauseous for a couple of hours, and I got up to go to the bathroom. While I was sitting on the toilet, I had a horrible contraction and knew I was going to throw up. I just sat there heaving while Brett and Angelica held me up and held a tray for me.

The next couple of hours are a complete blur. Everyone started making comments that I'd have a baby by lunchtime, etc. Our nurse Angelica kept pushing her lunch break back because it really seemed during the early afternoon that delivery was more and more immanent. I remember looking at Brett at one moment and saying how disappointed his sister Amy was going to be, since it looked like I was going to deliver before she and Seth and Jeff arrived.

The contractions were very painful by this time and I kept throwing up. I was starving since I hadn't eaten but a 1/4 cup of Jello and two graham crackers in about 18 hours, and was terribly thirsty, but I was throwing up even ice chips. They'd put one in my mouth, and about 3 minutes later, out it would come.

By around 3, I was feeling the urge to push. The doctor checked me again and I was dilated to 9, but there was one small problem -- I had what's called an anterior cervical lip, which means that because the baby's head was presenting at something of an angle, the front part of my cervix just wasn't dilated to 10, although the rest of my cervix was wide open and the baby was at +1 station.

So around 3:20 I started pushing, and the doctor or nurse would intermittently try to hold the lip of the cervix back during a contraction so that the baby's head could move down. Let me tell you, that hurt like hell. It was horrible.

The next couple of hours passed, with me getting more and more exhausted and incoherent and the contractions getting worse and worse. They were literally coming on top of each other, with no break in between. I'd have 3 or 4 before I would even get any kind of release, and that was brief and still quite painful.

I had been hooked up to the external fetal monitors intermittently throughout the day. These are small plastic discs that are about 3 inches in diameter, and they hook on to your belly via an elastic band attached around the belly. One monitors the baby's heart rate and the other monitors contractions.

They started to really irritate my skin and my belly; the elastic bands were itchy and painful and the monitors themselves were digging into my belly and making the contractions worse. I remember at one point trying to push one of the nurses away when I saw her coming with them because I could not stand to have them on anymore.

The decision was finally made to switch to an internal fetal monitor, which I had been dead set against as it attaches to the baby's scalp using a small screw. The thought of that had set my teeth on edge before I was in labor, but at that point, I didn't really care and was just happy to not have the external monitors on anymore.

Sometime around 5:00 or 5:15, the doctor came back to check on me. I was still having the cervical lip, and the baby had not moved down at all since I started pushing.

By this point, I was so wracked with pain and so exhausted that I couldn't even talk. I remember lying on the bed and feeling a contraction come on, and just moaning to try to let Angelica and Brett know that I was ready to push so they could come hold my legs back.

I remember just sitting there sobbing for part of this time. The pain was so intensely over the top that I thought I was going to break in half, I was exhausted, I was thirsty, I was starving, and I was still throwing up. Oddly enough, I almost began to look forward to throwing up as it gave my mind and body a focus other than a contraction for a minute or so.

My entire body was tense and hard as a rock. I still wasn't getting a break from contractions and every muscle in my body was spasming.

I kept saying, "Oh, I wish I'd gotten an epidural." I thought the point where that was a possibility had long since passed.

I was lying on my side when the doctor came over and sat down right next to the bed and looked me in the eyes. I remember that she said, "You have choices here. You can get an epidural. It's still an option, and it's ok. You're not a failure. This is hard. You've been pushing for a very long time. We can get someone here right away."

I looked at Brett and, crying, told him I think I needed one but that I really didn't want to get one. He said, "Leen, if you need one, then do it."

I said to the doctor, "How quickly can you have the anesthesiologist here?"

And she said, "I'll go find him right now."

We had both been so against epidurals. I felt so disappointed in myself, and if I'm honest, afraid of what our moms would say. Both of them had all of their kids without drugs, and my sister had her three naturally, too. My mom had been telling me practically my whole life how she believes that epidurals are bad, that they slow labor down, that they can pass the drugs to the baby, etc. And Brett's mom, being a doula, had said many of the same things. After my nephew Jacob was born, the two of them sat there telling me all of this together, and how great they thought it was that my sister hadn't had an epidural. So you can imagine it was a very hard decision for me to make in light of that.

The anesthesiologist was in my room almost immediately, and he began working. The hardest part for me was having to stay totally still -- with my contractions coming so close together I had to maintain that stillness throughout the contractions, which was one of the hardest things I've done in my whole life. But Brett and Angelica were, as always, right there holding my hands (and sometimes even holding my legs and arms down), and that made such a difference.

When the drugs took effect a few minutes later, I experienced a feeling of relief that I have never felt before in my entire life. I just sat in bed, crying. It felt so much better. I could breathe again, and I could talk, and I didn't feel like I wanted to jump off the Columbia Center just so the pain would stop.

I really wanted to see my mom at that moment, so Brett went out to get our moms. I saw them come through the door and I just started bawling and saying, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't want an epidural but I just couldn't do it anymore." (I'm tearing up now just writing this...it was a very intense moment of emotion.)

Both of them just came over and hugged me and told me that it was ok and that they were so proud of me and that they didn't care. I really needed to hear that and after they both said that, I felt a lot better.

A few minutes later, Brett's sisters and my stepmom came in, too, while Brett went to get some food since he hadn't eaten anything all day. We just hung out for about 45 minutes. I was able to laugh and joke with them and was able to relax and rest. I needed that time.

They left and we just rested for a while longer, as there was a nursing shift change. So while Angelica updated our new nurse, Joanna, Brett and I just rested. We were both exhausted.

Around 8 p.m., I started to push again. Joanna and Brett were fantastic. They held my legs and talked me through the pushing. I could see everything in a big mirror they had put at the end of the bed, and being able to see what an effective push looked like was really helpful since I couldn't feel much with the epidural.

The doctor said we'd give it an hour or two and then see if the baby had progressed. She said that if the baby hadn't moved down from that +1 station by then, we'd need to talk about a c-section. When she said that, my heart just sank and I felt a sense of disappointment.

I started talking to the baby between contractions, telling it to move down, to come on out, that we wanted to meet he/she. During the worst of the contractions before the epidural, Brett would try to talk me through by telling me to just keep up the good work and we'd get to meet the Snugglefriend soon. But I didn't care. I didn't care that they could see the head, I didn't care that my baby was going to be born. All I cared about was the pain and how horrible it was. I could not focus on the fact or enjoy the fact that we were about to meet our baby.

After the epidural, though, I was excited. I wanted to get the process over not because it hurt, but because then I'd get to meet this little person who had lived inside of me for 10 months. I could use that as a motivator to push -- my mind was in a state where I could accept rational thought, whereas before it had been consumed with the irrationality of the intense pain.

So I pushed and pushed and pushed, and finally the doctor came back about 10:30 and checked me. The baby was still sitting at that +1 station. A bit of the head was coming down to a +2, but the doctor said that it was the soft part of her head that was just getting squeezed through every time I pushed; the bony part was not budging. She said the words I had dreaded: "I think you need a c-section. This baby is just not coming out. If you'd made any progress since you'd been pushing, I'd be fine to let you labor for as long as the baby's heartbeat looked good, but you haven't progressed, and I'm afraid that you could be here all night and not get any further and just get more and more exhausted."

Brett and I looked at each other, and we just knew that a c-section was the right decision. The circumstances were exactly the ones that we'd talked about being necessary for us to accept a c-section -- I'd tried literally everything to get the baby out on my own but the baby just wasn't fitting.

Overall, we feel 100% satisfied with the birth experience at Swedish and my OB's care. We feel like our desires were listened to and honored, but that when it became necessary, the doctor told us what she thought was best for me and for Elanor. The hospital was fantastic, too. Every doctor and nurse who cared for us was amazing, especially Angelica, Joanna, and the anesthesiologist. They were all wonderful and compassionate and real and truly made the experience a good one, even though so many things didn't go the way we thought we wanted them to. We will definitely be going back there when we are someday ready to have another baby.

After we decided to have the c-section, the next half-hour was a blur. The doctor spent a good 10 minutes answering our questions and walking us through what would happen. I really appreciated that she did that. I think we'd blocked out a lot of the details of what we'd talked about at my appointment a few weeks earlier with regard to a c-section, just because both of us believed it wouldn't be necessary.

Brett ran out to tell our families (who had now been waiting in the tiny waiting room for going on 12 hours), and the doctor went to find another OB to scrub in with her on the surgery. The nurses got an anesthesiologist back in, and reserved an OR.

They upped my pain medication, introduced the doctor who would be helping with the surgery, made me drink this vile stuff that is supposed to neutralize stomach acid (which didn't work and I threw it all up, of course, because what better way to end this pregnancy than how I began it: vomiting), and off we went down the hall.

One thing I forgot to mention is that I'd been shaking uncontrollably since mid-afternoon. It's pretty common during transition and pushing for women to shake; the hormones combined with the pain are usually the cause. But in my exhaustion, the shakes had continued after I had the epidural, and they were even coming on and off while we were heading to the OR.

As soon as the doors to the ER opened at the foot of the gurney and I saw the lights and table and equipment, something released in me and I started sobbing and shaking even harder. It wasn't that I was disappointed by the fact I was getting a c-section (honestly, by that time I just wanted it all over) but I was scared to death. I had never had surgery before, and I was already so tired and overwrought that it was just too much.

I tried to whisper scripture to myself, and to pray, but I was so over the edge that I couldn't even get a whole verse out of my mouth and all I could think to pray was, "Oh, God, oh God, oh God, please help, I'm scared."

Brett was overwhelmed at this point, too, and was running out of things to say. I remember opening my eyes to see him standing over my bed with his hands on my head, his eyes closed, and his lips moving, just praying.

Thankfully, the anesthesiologist saved the day. I cannot express my gratitude to this man. He sat with me behind the drape to monitor my pain levels throughout the process, so he was on my right and Brett on my left. He held my hand the whole time and talked to me in order to distract me from what they were doing on the other side of the drape. (Hearing them talk about moving my organs around was probably not a good idea, given how upset I was.)

The plan was that when they pulled the baby out, Brett would stand up and look to see whether it was a boy or a girl, and then he would tell me and go to the baby.

When that time came, the doctor told him to stand up. The baby's head an shoulders were out but they were having a hard time getting the rest out and were pushing on my stomach/torso really, really hard. I remember that I couldn't breathe and that it hurt a lot, even through the drugs.

Finally the rest popped out (at 11:22 p.m.) and Brett exclaimed, in a surprised and incredulous tone, "Oh my GOD, Leen, it's a girl!!!"

I replied, in an equally incredulous tone, "WHAT? Are you serious? A GIRL?!"

We were just so sure it was a boy. I had even bought some boy things and had really gotten into that mindset; I think we both had. So it was quite a shock for about two minutes, and I even admit to being somewhat disappointed. But since we got over that shock (pretty much immediately), it seems so right that she is a girl, and I cannot even imagine her being a boy.

She didn't cry right away, which scared me to death. I really thought something was wrong. Thankfully, she just had fluid in her lungs as a result of having been born via c-section instead of vaginally. (With a vaginal birth, the contractions and trip through the birth canal help squeeze out that fluid.)

I remember calling to Brett, "What are we going to name her?" And him saying, "I don't know!" A few minutes later, I called over, "How is Elanor doing?" and then realizing what I had said and saying, "Wait, I just called her Elanor. Is that ok; is that fine?" And him saying yes. (I think he would have said yes to anything I wanted at that point; he was so awed at what I'd been through that day.)

I couldn't really see her, since the nurses and doctors and Brett were all crowded around the warming table where they'd taken her. It was really hard for me not to be able to jump up and see her right away. Even when they got her all done and bundled up and Brett brought her to me, I couldn't get a good look since I was lying flat on my back. The best I could do was kiss her little head a few times -- I couldn't even touch her since they didn't want me to move my arms.

I remember Brett leaning over me and saying something like, "Here's our little girl," with tears in his eyes. I was crying then, too.

Finally, they got me all closed up. It seemed to take forever. Toward the very end, I started feeling sensation, too, which was very scary. The anesthesiologist immediately upped the dose in my epidural to the max and also added at least 2 narcotics, so by the time they finished, I was very out of it. I couldn't even open my eyes. I could hear everyone talking on the walk back to the room, but it was as though they were very far away.

In the recovery room, they continued taking care of Elanor and I just laid there because I couldn't move. Gradually, I began to be able to talk and move a bit again, and finally, finally, I got to hold her. They brought her to me and helped me get into position, and put her up to my breast, and she just latched right on and began nursing. It was a beautiful moment.

Brett had to go get our families at this point; it was now almost 1 a.m. and they didn't know what was going on. So the onslaught began, and all 12 of them came rushing in to meet her. It was hard for me to let them hold her, since I'd only held her for maybe 10 minutes at that point. But I did it, and I know they were all glad I did. I actually loved seeing them all ooh and ahh over her. I think my father-in-law Jeff's reaction was the best. He was instantly smitten with her and turned from his sometimes gruff self (if this says anything, the current front runner grandpa name for him is Grumps) into this big melty man who would do anything for his little granddaughter. It was really special to see all of the family (except my brother and his wife and kids, who live in Oklahoma) get to meet her right away.

We didn't get moved to our postpartum room until about 3 a.m. The curtains were open when they wheeled me in, and I could see the entire downtown all lit up right there, including my building. It was really pretty.

By the time they got us settled there and left us alone, it was 4 a.m. -- 24 hours since we'd been admitted, it was finally over. We were so tired but were too full of adrenaline to sleep.

That hour or so in the darkened recovery room, with the curtains open to a view of downtown at night, is one of the most special moments in our relationship. Just sitting there in the dark, looking at the city I love, praying and thanking God with Brett for this blessing, talking to Brett and holding Elanor in my arms was so special and intimate and wonderful.

I felt so whole and complete in that moment. Everything was right in my world. Even though the labor and delivery had been pretty much the list of everything I didn't want -- continual monitoring, epidural, c-section -- it was completely worth it to have what I have now, this perfect little girl, who makes my life complete in a way I didn't even know I needed.

It's only been a week, and I cannot imagine life without Elanor in it. Not only is she herself incredible and perfect and amazing, but having her here has brought me closer to Brett in a way that I never dreamed possible. The love I feel for him is so much deeper and stronger now than it was a week ago. His continual, reassuring presence during labor (even though I know it horrified him to see me go through so much), his praise of me afterward, telling me how tough I am and how proud he is of me, his sacrifice of his own needs and his selfishness to care for me this week, and most of all his clear, deep love of Elanor -- all of this has overwhelmed me.

He has truly been Jesus to me this week in a way he never has before, and has completely fulfilled his command in Ephesians 5: "Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ... In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself."

There are so many examples of this; I could list them out here but it would take all day. I'll just say this: I am so in love with my little family, with Brett and Elanor.

It's bittersweet to know that Elanor couldn't have been here without the loss of our first baby. That baby was definitely on our minds and in our hearts on Monday. Still, knowing he or she is in heaven is comforting -- and now, having Elanor...well, I don't want to imagine not having her. I guess I feel like the miscarriage has been redeemed now through her, not that she's a replacement for the baby we lost, but that I can move on in a way now that she is here, knowing she couldn't have been without the miscarriage having happened. It's hard to explain this well; I hope I am making sense.

Our lives will never be the same -- we won't be able to sleep in, or go to the movies on a whim, or any of that kind of thing, but that's ok with me. This new family of three is so much better than before. None of that matters now. We have each other and we have Elanor, and she is worth any sacrifice we have to make in terms of our lifestyles. So while our lives will never be the same, I wouldn't want them to be.

Because this? Is so much better.

I'll end with this verse from Ephesians. It sums up exactly what I'm feeling, that right now I have immeasurably more than I could have asked for or imagined.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

beyond words

I've been sitting here staring at this cursor, trying to find what I want to type. There just aren't words to say what I want to say. My heart is so full of love for Brett and for our new baby, who was finally born on Monday the 14th at 11:22 p.m. Contrary to what everyone (myself included) had guessed, it's a beautiful girl, whom we named Elanor.

She is amazing, and perfect, and snuggly, and sweet, and (in my most likely biased opinion) absolutely adorable and gorgeous.

I am working on a birth story; I'll post it in the next couple of weeks. There is a lot to say, but it's hard to get it written down because the computer is in Brett's studio in the basement, and since I wound up getting a c-section, my time at the computer is very limited these days. Sitting in this chair is not comfortable and navigating two flights of stairs to get from bed to the computer is not pleasant, either. But I am really going to make an effort to get it written down soon, before all of the details fade. There is so much I want to remember.

The synopsis is this: my water broke at 1 a.m. on Monday the 14th. We timed contractions for an hour, they were regular and stronger than they had ever been before. The doctor said to come in, so we got to the hospital and I was checked and was dilated to a 2. They finally admitted me at about 4:30 a.m. By about 8:30, I was dilated to a 4. When they checked me again around 1, I believe, I was at a 7-8. By 3 p.m., I was hovering just around 9 and was dying to push.

And push I did, until almost 6 p.m., with no progress. Around that time I finally caved in and got an epidural. Let me tell you, it was heavenly. More about this decision in the birth story...I have lots of thoughts about it.

I rested for a couple of hours and then pushed again for another two-and-a-half hours. (I'll do the math for you -- that's over 5 hours total that I spent pushing. Yeah. Yikes.)

Around 10:30, the doctor told me that the baby still hadn't progressed down and was essentially in the same place as he/she was at 3 p.m., and she advised a c-section.

So Brett and I looked at each other, and nodded, and within 30 minutes we were on our way down the hall to the ER, where Elanor was born at 11:22.

It was a very. long. day. We didn't get to our postpartum room until 4 a.m. -- suffice it to say we were exhausted. (And still are, really -- she's an amazingly calm baby, and is really fantastic at night, but the cumulative events of the past week combined with normal newborn behavior of needing to eat every two hours...well, it leaves new parents feeling like they've been, well, kept up for days and days on end. Seriously, though, we do not have it bad at all. I'm astonished that she is so good at night and that we're able to get a few longer two or three-hour stretches of sleep each night.)

Those are the bare bones; I have so many thoughts about it all and of course so much more detail to share. It's coming -- I promise!

For now, though, I want to go upstairs and hold my baby girl, smell her head, touch her cheeks, feel her tummy push against mine as she nurses, and just see her beautiful face again.

I'll leave you with some pictures.
Elanor, about 12 hours old

Elanor and her mama

The whole Walker family, Brett's mom and dad and sisters (note: I love how Brett's dad is touching him and Brett is touching Elanor; it is very sweet)

"Um, Papa, there is nothing coming OUT of here!"

Snuggling with her papa

Look closely -- her hands are all tangled in his beard.

This picture makes my heart melt. I can just see how much he loves her.

Friday, January 11, 2008

39 weeks

I'm 39 weeks today, and at my appointment this afternoon, was "almost two" centimeters dilated and about 90% effaced, according to my doctor. The baby is at -2 station and my belly is measuring 42 cm/weeks.

So yeah. That's the update. I have a grotesquely huge belly, I'm tired as can be, grumpy, sore, and soooo ready to not have heartburn anymore.

Otherwise, I don't have much to say -- hopefully I will have a baby soon.

Brett's calling me from upstairs; I think he wants me to come watch a movie with him. If I'm going to be able to stay awake at all, we'd better get started...

Monday, January 07, 2008

an Herculean task

This weekend, I did something that requires an amazing amount of courage, dexterity, and patience. There's no small amount risk involved, that's for sure. And it's not an easy task to begin with, let alone for someone who is nine months pregnant.

What is it, you ask?

I shaved my legs at nine months pregnant, and lived to tell the tale.

I've been contemplating shaving my legs again for about a week (they've been getting pretty fuzzy), but I haven't been able to find the courage to do it. However, during my shower yesterday, I decided it was time. It's vain, I know, but I don't want to go into labor and have really hairy legs. I'm weird like that. So I bit the bullet and got out the razor and shaving cream, and went to town. (I also don't want to have nasty toes, which is why I am going for a pedicure in an hour and a half.)

There are many problems involved with shaving one's legs at nine months pregnant. The most obvious is that you have the equivalent of a watermelon on your front, so the standard prop-leg-on-side-of-tub, bend-over-and-shave manoeuvre doesn't really work anymore, since your belly will hit your leg before you've bent forward more than a few inches, leaving your arms flailing several inches above your leg.

That means you have to shift your belly to the side of your leg and then reach around it to get to your leg -- a problem in the best of circumstances, but add in a slippery shower, a sharp object, and, my own personal problem of short arms...well, it suddenly gets a lot more challenging.

On top of the belly being in the way (solution: perform contortions you didn't know were possible) and the shower likely being slippery (solution: pray a lot), you also have to factor in the problem of loose and/or sore joints -- hips, knees, ankles, etc. Your body doesn't want to stay where you put it...your knees keep threatening to give out and your hips are sending shooting pain up your back and down your leg the entire time you are trying to balance and shave.

Yes, it's a challenging task...but, I am proud to say, I completed it without cutting myself once -- and before the hot water ran out! Hooray! And now for a few days at least, I will have legs I won't mind baring during labor -- if labor ever actually happens, which, at this point, I am beginning to doubt. I just hope it happens soon, before all my work is for naught and I have to shave again...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

fun with speakerphone, or, how to embarass the socks off of Kathleen

After my 38 week doctor's appointment today (for which I waited an hour to see a doctor I'd never met before [my doctor is on vacation] for all of about 7 minutes, in which she told me that I'm still only one centimeter dilated and 75% effaced, and that first babies are often late, but, well, at least I haven't gained much weight -- gee, thanks), I called my mom as I usually do to give her the (rather discouraging) report.

We proceeded to have a two-minute-long conversation about my appointment, my lack of progress with regard to my cervix, my grumpiness, my intense desire to go home and lie down instead of going back to work, etc. -- basically normal mom-daughter 38-weeks-pregnant stuff.

Our conversation was interrupted when I suddenly found myself on hold, listening to an annoying on-hold commercial about how "[Mom's Company] can meet all your construction needs..."

Confused, I waited a minute, then hung up and called my mom back.

"Why did you put me on hold?!?"

Mom, trying to stifle a laugh, said, "I didn't!"

"Well, then what in the heck happened?" I asked.

"Uh, well, you were kind of on speakerphone, so someone else put you on hold," she said, now beginning to laugh uproriously.

"Wait. Wait. Speakerphone?"

"Yeah, speakerphone. So someone put you on hold so people couldn't hear it anymore."

"PEOPLE?! What people!? YOUR ENTIRE COMPANY just heard the recap of my doctor's appointment?!?!?!"

"Um...hahahaha...yeah...You were on all-page to the whole compan-hehehehehe! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA," she said, as she dissolved into gales of laughter and I stood in the lobby of my doctor's building, aghast, fighting back tears at the thought that my mom's entire company now knows the details of my cervix and how much I want to be done being pregnant.

After I hung up in a teary huff, my mom emailed me to say that apparently only a little of our conversation was broadcast to my mom's co-workers, primarily the part about how I'm tired and how I didn't want to go back to work this afternoon. I'm not sure if I believe that...not that I think my mom would lie, but maybe her co-workers didn't tell her everything? I don't know.

Still. Of course, it figures that something like that WOULD happen to me, especially on a day when I'm so grumpy I can barely be civil.

Other than sharing my body's intimate workings with my mom's company, I haven't been doing much lately other than knitting and playing lots of Tetris because, let's face it, I'm effing tired. My main thought for the week is this: Thank God that Friday is my last day of work! Because I really don't think I could make it through the next two days if I didn't have that light at the end of the tunnel.

I'm exhausted, and whiny, and don't want to answer any more questions about how I'm feeling (I'm in pain and grumpy, thank you!), or how far along I am (still over two weeks away from my due date!), or how much my back must hurt (a lot!), or how big my stomach is (ginormous!), and I don't know how much more I can handle people exclaiming, "What?!? What are YOU still doing here?! You haven't had that baby YET?" The snarky part of me really wants to reply either, in a very dry voice, "Clearly, no, I haven't," or else, "Actually, yes, I did have the baby, but I liked having the belly and wearing maternity clothes so much I decided to keep it."

I know, I know, people ask questions and make comments because they care and are curious and are excited. But I'm just tired of talking about it, and there's not much I can say that isn't completely bitchy. So I keep my answers to monosyllables, and smile, and pray for patience -- a lot of patience.

*sigh*

Anyway, moving on to something cheerier...

I had a fantastic visit with Daisy and Claire this weekend. It was far too brief. As we ate our breakfast of organic yogurt & vanilla pancakes topped with as much fresh fruit as we could stand, we talked about how much we would love to live in the same city again, something that hasn't happened since 2001. We decided that if it ever happens (and oh, how I hope it does), we would get together weekly with our kids so they could play and we could talk and just spend time together. Sounds heavenly to me!

Friends like Daisy and Claire are the best kind. We can just fall back into the same easy companionship that we had when we lived together almost eight years ago, and although we are all very different people now, it still works and we still connect in the same deep way.

I miss them both so much. They are truly the sort of life-long friends I always hoped I'd make when I went away to college. I'm very blessed to know them.

Daisy, me, and Claire -- 12/29/07