Sunday, February 26, 2012

Violet Frances West

Violet Frances West joined our family Friday, February 17th at 2:37 in the morning. She weighed 8 lbs 2 ounces and was 22 inches long. She is absolutely perfect in every way, and even has a little dusting of soft brown hair. If that is enough information for you, enjoy this sweet little picture of my darling girl and stop reading now. If you'd like to know the full story of her birth, keep reading. :)

So, many of you know that we planned a home birth with Violet. Here's a brief explanation of why - we had a wonderful hospital experience with Isaac, so I was not coming at this from any kind of trauma or negative experience. What happened was basically that I started learning more about the options available in child birth (several family members and friends had had wonderful experiences birthing either at home or at a center), and the more I learned about birth centers and home birth, the more excited I was about trying it. What most enticed me was options - how to prepare during pregnancy, how to labor, how to push, pretty much every aspect of the experience was completely up to me. I learned about water birth, and I really wanted to try it - go watch some youtube videos if you're curious ;) - it seemed like such a gentle and peaceful way to give birth. Anyway, I said this was going to be brief. Basically, I had decided on going with a birthing center, and then when I learned I could have everything that was at the birthing center at my own home, I decided that was definitely the choice for me.

Ok, on to the birth story. Wednesday (the 15th) I had an appointment with Heather, my midwife, and she checked my dilation. I had gone from a 2 to a 3 in the preceding week, so that was good, but I wasn't feeling particularly positive that Baby was going to make her debut any time soon. Heather offered to "massage around a little" to see if that could help move things on (just try not to think about it too much), and when she did, I dilated another half centimeter. So, hurrah.

I went home and took all my slew of prenatal vitamins and other herbal stuffs (cayenne pills to prevent hemorrhage, evening primrose oil to soften the cervix, red raspberry leaf to tone the uterus - one fun thing about going with a traditional midwife practice rather than a more modern one ;) ). I got the feeling I should clean the house up, so I did (I even mopped!), and went to bed feeling  pleased. The next morning I woke up feeling rather crampy. Isaac and I went about our day, but I had to stop every now and then as cramps started to feel more like contractions, but I wasn't really sure. Around 1, Kathryn and Rachel came over for our craft day. Kathryn brought the most delicious chocolate cake to celebrate my birthday (she also gave me a beautiful book of cakes and a lovely sweater), and we all had a slice while waiting for Laura and Charlotte to join us.

They arrived just as we were thinking about leaving to go over to a little Mexican restaurant by our house. We walked over there, and I decided that I was definitely feeling contractions and not cramps. I had a yummy sope for lunch (I include this detail only so I can remember that I had a lot of my favorite things going on as I labored with Violet - some of my favorite people, foods, and activities). We went back to the house and everyone knitted and talked and hung out. I had been planning on sewing, but instead I just tried to figure out if I was really in labor by sitting very still and trying to pay attention to how I was feeling. After Kathryn had to leave, contractions were coming consistently enough that I downloaded a contraction counter app for my Kindle and started keeping track. By around 3, they were about 30 seconds long, but coming every 5 or 6 minutes. I texted James and my Dad (who was skiing) and let them know what was happening. Laura, Rachel, and Char all offered to stay with me until others arrived (see why these are my favorite people?) and they kept me happy and distracted during this early labor.

James came home, and I decided I should go see if lying down would stop things, or if this was for realsies. Laura, Rachel, and Charlotte left, and lying down did not stop contractions. Neither did showering. Dad came home. They reinflated the birth tub (we'd blown it up a few days before, but it had gone a bit flat) and put in the liner.

My awesome birth team. :)

My little guy - he really thought the tub was cool. Thank goodness he was asleep by the time we filled it.

I called Tracie, my doula, and let her know what was happening. I think we put Isaac to bed at some point, though I don't remember exactly when. Contractions were still really easy to get through, so we decided to go down and watch Pride and Prejudice, which we had borrowed from James's coworker and which needed to be returned soon. I really enjoyed watching that and getting up every five minutes or so to walk or bounce or move through a contraction. It seems for me that moving is the most effective thing, so I would either hold on to James and sway back and forth, or lean up against a wall and kind of bounce on my toes while breathing.

Tracie arrived a little while after starting the movie, and she was wonderful - she brought yummy-smelling spray, and a nice hot pack for my back, and she offered massages, and was all in all really great. We called the midwife and let her know how things were going, and she decided she would come over after putting her kids to bed and just see how I was progressing. She came near the end of the movie, and she checked me. I was dilated to around a 7 about then (yay!) so she decided to stay and she called the midwife assistants to come (Molly and Eve).

Watching the movie with James.

As they were arriving, we finished the movie (favorite line this go-through? Mr. Darcy: Do you talk, as a rule, while dancing?
Elizabeth : No... No, I prefer to be unsociable and taciturn... Makes it all so much more enjoyable, don't you think?), and contractions got a bit harder. I wasn't able to just breathe through them anymore, I definitely had to get up and move and hold on to James.

Eve thought I was looking like I was getting pretty close, so she told me "I really need you to get in the tub soon." So - I did. The hot water had run out so, we had been waiting for the heater to heat some more, but we ended up boiling water on the stove (I know, sounds so old-fashioned, right? :P) and adding that to the water to bring the temperature up. Anyway, once I was in the tub, contractions slowed waaaaay down and got much less intense. It was so incredibly comfortable in there. I was just talking to everyone, stopping every once in a while to breathe through a contraction or bounce my legs or wiggle my toes (seriously, that's all it took). Tracie kept me comfy with a cool rag for my face. It was so chill. At one point I had about four people all around just looking down at me - I was like... "Um... hi?" They asked me if I was feeling a bit like a watched pot. I was indeed. 

Anyway, we decided that the water was probably just too relaxing and this was going to take forever if I didn't get out. So, I got out, dried off, and went to talk to Heather. She checked me again, and I really hadn't progressed much. She said that what was holding me back was the bag of waters, and she offered to break my water and said we'd probably have a baby soon thereafter. Well, I didn't really want to do that - I just thought, my water had broken naturally with Isaac and it would probably do so again if I just gave it some time. This was about 10:45ish. So, James and I talked and we decided we'd wait half an hour and see what happened. We turned off the relaxing music - we were listening to the Pride and Prejudice soundtrack that I made James buy for me after the movie was over ;)

Hanging out in the kitchen. Just waiting for the next contraction.

Here I am working through a contraction. It helped to hold on to the counters and kind of bob my knees up and down.
Well, contractions got harder, but my water didn't break. I decided to wait just a little bit longer. Nothing changed, but then Isaac woke up. We tried to get him to watch a movie downstairs with Grandpa, but he wasn't having it, he only wanted Mommy. Well, his cries were actually doing something weird to me and slowing down contractions, so I decided to try to get him to go to sleep. Picture this - I'm lying with him in the bed, telling him the plot of the first Cars movie (he was insisting on a Cars story), while going through some pretty monster contractions. Finally, I decided I just couldn't do it. I asked Dad to take him for a drive. I felt bad, cuz I knew my dad had wanted to be there for the birth, but it just wasn't in the cards. So, Dad took Isaac off. After all that waiting and trying to get Isaac calmed down, this was about - I don't know 1:30am? Probably a little before. I decided we'd better just go ahead and break the water. 

So, we added some more hot water, and I got back in the tub - probably somewhere around 2am. Heather broke my water - not nearly as bad an experience as I had been expecting. After that contractions were waaay harder. I tried the first couple just sitting in the tub as I had before, but then I found that if I knelt and held on to the side of the tub, that was a better position for me. James was right there with me, holding my hands and talking me through "Low moans, low moans" he kept saying. :) Such a good birth coach. He also told me nice things like "You're doing awesome, you're so great," etc. 

He may have been laughing at some of the noises I was employing as pain-coping techniques at this point.

The next contraction was REALLY hard, and Tracie and Molly did a hip press for me which helped a TON. They were pushing against my hips, James was talking me through, I was growling (yes, growling), and I felt the urge to push. With the next contraction, I pushed and I could feel her moving down the birth canal. With the next, her head came out and with the next, she was out in the world! (Sorry, no picture - everyone was busy. I know you're sad.)

They quickly pulled me back into a sitting position, pulled Violet out of the water and handed her to me. I really am not clear on the sequence of events after that, as I was just staring at my beautiful child and making all sorts of exclamations. James says I have a "funny voice" that he's only ever heard me use these two times right after giving birth to our babies. I just can't help it, they are the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen. I just kept saying, "Hello, Baby. You're so beautiful." 

First moments of life.
She wasn't seeming to want to take her first breath (she was still getting oxygen from the placenta through the umbillical cord, but we needed her to go ahead and breathe), so Heather told me to give her a few puffs of air. She took a few breaths, but she still needed some help, so Heather gave her some air, and she was soon breathing perfectly.

She took a nice big breath and gave us a nice big cry.

After that, the story gets kind of gross as there was stitching and stopping of bleeding and not so much of the memories I really want to treasure forever. The cool thing was that I got to hold her for so long right after the birth. They wrapped her in warm blankets (they had been warmed with a heating pad), wrapped the placenta up and just placed it next to us, and I just held her while all the clean-up was going on.

I even nursed her a bit as they were palpating my stomach and getting my uterus to contract. That was the very un-fun part of the whole business, so we'll just move on.

Molly checking her breathing. Sounds good!
We called Dad and had him bring Isaac back, and it was a really sweet moment. Isaac was a little confused as he'd just woken up being brought in from the car, but he was happy and excited to see baby sister. He came in asking for me, and then when he saw her, he exclaimed, "Baby Sisser!! Cute!" We talked a little bit and he snuggled with us, and then went running off through the house hopping and talking about his "Baby Sisser."

Dad met his granddaughter, and then took her over to the other side of the bed for her newborn exam. Kinda crazy that this is all just happening in my bedroom!

This all seemed to go pretty fast to me, but by the time everything was over it was probably after 5am, and everyone was exhausted. James took Isaac downstairs to sleep on the couch, Dad went to sleep in the guest room, and it was just me and little Vi. This was a little scary, and the only time I missed the hospital in all this. It's nice to have that safety net of a staff of wonderful nurses around to take care of you should anything go wrong. I'll have to think of some way to bring a little of that into the experience next time... It just would have been nice to know that if I needed something, I could have gotten ahold of someone. But, I didn't need anyone, we made it through the night, James came and checked on us around 7 or 8 and took the baby for a bit so I could sleep.

And that's the story of how Violet Frances West joined our lives. Happy Birthday, to me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Waiting for Violet

 My amazing friend Kristal, in addition to being a wonderful mom, neighbor, and friend, is also a photographer. She did a maternity shoot for us, and I thought it would be fun to share the photos and make a little record of some of the fun things that happened as we anticipated the arrival of our little Violet.

We have been trying to prepare Isaac these past few months by pointing out Mommy's growing tummy and telling him about his little sister that was growing inside. We would often ask him, "Where's baby sister?" and he would pat my tummy. Well, one day we asked him "Where's baby sister?" and he looked around, then patted James's tummy. At least he gets that she's inside of someone, right?!

All the talk of "Baby Sister" eventually did stick with Isaac. Lately, he has taken to playing family with his cars, and he names them - Daddy Car, Mommy Car, Baby Car (or Isaac Car, depending on the day), and Baby Sisser Car. It really is adorable to hear him talking to himself and he zooms the cars around the living room, "Daddy wait - wait! Baby sisser! 'Mon, baby sisser!"

Isaac really loved when he caught a glimpse of my crazy poked out belly button - he'd come running over and try to "tickle" me and just say "Belly, belly, belly." Silly kid.

For prenatal care during this pregnancy I have been seeing a midwife in a little practice in Pleasant Grove. It has been so cool - I've loved how personal and individual the care was, and how chill the environment is. Instead of going to a clinic and waiting (for-e-ver) in a waiting room trying to keep Isaac out of trouble, I get to go to a remodeled old mansion, have my measurements and heartbeat checked on a queen size bed, and let Isaac hop around playing with toys and birthing balls, and occasionally coming to see what the heck Mommy is doing.
Well, one day when I was having a checkup, Isaac actually hopped up onto the bed next to me and cuddled into the crook of my arm as the midwife measured my belly. He marveled at the tape "Cool!" and smiled and snuggled. Then she pulled out the doppler (heartbeat monitor), and he sat up to get a closer looked. He was awed as she put the jelly on and held the monitor to my tummy. We heard a nice strong heartbeat (yay!) and Isaac kind of cocked his head to the side, then started bouncing and bopping his head along to the beat. "Loud noisy!" He proclaimed. The midwife asked him if it sounded like horses and he kind of looked at her like, "huh?" I don't think he has a clue what a horse sounds like. Anyway, later, as I was putting him into the car, I asked him if he heard Baby Sister today and he nodded emphatically and said, "Loud noisy! Horses!" Then I asked him if he thought I had a baby horse inside me or a baby baby. "Baby baby," he said. :)

All in all, this time of waiting for our little girl to arrive has been joyful and fun, if a tad uncomfortable for Mommy. I started referring to myself as "The Pregnant Lady" - especially when I wanted something or  was hoping to gain some sympathy from someone. But I really have a lot to be grateful for, as this pregnancy went very smoothly - very little morning sickness (I "lost cookies" so few occasions I actually recorded them in my calendar) and mostly feeling good throughout. But near the end, everything ached, and I'll tell you I was more than happy to go from being the "Pregnant Lady" to being "Mom of Two." :)

Valentine's Day 2012

A very pregnant me did not want to wrestle with crowds or deal with, well, anything on Valentines Day, so I told James not to worry about the holiday and we'd stay in.

Since we were staying in, we offered to watch cousin Laura's sweet little girl, Eloise. It has been really nice having Eloise hang out at our house here and there for the last few months - it has prepared Isaac for baby sister better than I ever could have hoped. He's seen her nursing, so he's prepared for that, and he's learning to play nicely with his toys (he's not spectacular, but he's getting better.) Anyway, we had a lot of fun with Eloise that night. :)

But this wasn't all we did on the "day of love." Luckily, I have the coolest Dad in the universe, and he just so happens to be visiting us right now. So instead of making frozen pizza and doing nothing, I smiled sweetly and batted my little girly lashes at my dad and he totally fell for it and made us an amazing Italian dinner that night. My dad makes an incredibly delicious pasta dish called Spaghetti a la Carbonara, which he very kindly agreed to make for us, and then he went way over the top and made us artisan Italian bread to go along with it.

The entire process takes 16 hours, start to finish, with little steps and lots of resting along the way. The result was delicious - nice and crusty on the outside and just fluffy soft on the inside - it made "Valentines Day In" better than any restaurant we could have visited. I'm so lucky to be my Daddy's girl. :)

And as for the romantic stuff - well, I bought some flowers at Costco and James went and bought us a bunch of Valentine chocolate on sale the next day. It's sort of a Valentine's tradition. I know, we are so not lovey-dovey. Maybe next year. ;)

Once There Was a Snowman

Or "Nowmans" as Isaac would call it. He knows there should be an s on there, but he has trouble sticking it together with the n, so he just tacks it on to the end. It's adorable.

Anyway, we've had a very mild winter so far this year - lots of moderately warm days and hardly any snow. Usually I really appreciate this kind of weather, but I was really hoping to get to take Isaac out in the snow a little more, since he loves the stuff. Luckily, one day late January (the 24th, to be exact - thanks, Camera, for remembering for me) we had a nice little snow fall.

The snow was perfect - probably the best packing snow I've seen since moving here. So I wrestled Isaac into his snow clothes - the tears only lasted until I opened the door to the white wonderland that awaited - and we sallied forth. We made our little snow fellow, or really I did with Isaac acting as my coach :), and lazy mom decorated him with items from the yard. I'm particularly proud of the little curved stick I found to be his mouth and also the way he sort of leans back as if to say, "Behold the glory that is a man made of snow!"

Isaac loved him and proudly pointed him out to visitors, even as he began to look more and more like a freakishly emaciated snowmummy as the days went by. Indeed, as the song prophesies, in the sun he melted, melted, melted, in the sun he melted.