Monday, May 31, 2010

one month

My beauteous little boy was born four weeks ago today. I guess he'll be officially one month on the third, but I count in weeks, the rhythm of Monday to Monday, the pattern of our days. Four weeks ago at this time I was rolling through contractions in my bathtub wondering ever so slightly if this could actually be it. It was all so simple then. Again I watch myself age. I see a picture of myself before Eliana was born and I look so young. So free. Then I think about four weeks ago when we were just a house of three. Of how I had two hands free most of the time (as opposed to the precarious typing I'm doing, my little man resting in the crook of my arm while I type, his funny, nasal-y snores rhythmic beneath me). Of Eliana and how easy she seemed then. Before the no's and mine's and first's inhabited her vocabulary.

But for every new gray hair, for every new line on my face, there is a new opening in my heart. A new expansion. Because I never knew I could love so much. I never knew that loving so much could be this challenging. I never knew that my heart could almost break so many times during one day. Break for the girl with her wild curls and the reorganization of her identity. How she's growing up in so many ways, her life in all it's vibrant, new complexity.

Break for this chunk of love in my arms. His dreamy sleeps and sweet sounds. The way he looks at me with his pure, wise eyes. The way we are still so close to one, his heavy sleep on my chest, the way he calms in my arms.

Break for my husband. How he wants nothing more than our happiness. The way he takes care of my girl, celebrates our boy. The way our wild, messy life makes us laugh.

Break for my family far away. How I want to share all of this with them. How time together makes me miss them exponentially more.

My sister was here for four days. My first real love. My oldest, closest friend. We were always closer to one person than two. I could watch her hold my baby forever. Watch her laugh with Happy Sad. Drink in the way we laugh together and understand each other so completely. We will join her again soon to celebrate all the new events in her shining life. She makes me feel brave and capable and I'll do what I can to keep us together, keep our lives joined.

It will never be easy being so far from family. Yet as my roots sink deeper into this earth, I can't imagine living anywhere else. The challenge is to keep everyone close to me, regardless of the miles.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

the new perfect

Today has been a perfect day. Perfect in its simplicity. Perfect in that it was just the four of us, doing everyday things together. Perfect because while Jeff held the baby, I felt like superwoman, ready to tackle our messy house and laundry piles with two hands. Perfect because Eliana played independently in her room, dressed herself up in fabulous outfits, hung tight without needing us all the time.

Perfect because it's spring and the colors are vivid and wild, white billowy clouds and bright blue skies, wild yellow dandelions dominating the greenest of green grass. And I don't even really care about the dandelions because right now, they just add color to our wacky little life (and god knows I have yet to find the time to weed...).

And perhaps the big cherry on my spring day was pumping my breasts this morning and leaving my little man with his daddy for 75 minutes while I went to yoga. I go back to teaching in a week and wanted to see if my post baby body could still muster a surya namaskar. And darn tootin', I rocked that class. It felt awesome to stretch, awesome to test my muscles. I kept waiting to feel guilty or sad or leaky, but I felt just great. Things are different with number two. With Eliana it took month for me to even want leave her to do something for myself. She never took a bottle because I never really wanted to give one to her. But little man is different. He took the bottle easily and the two of them sat together in the yard, daddy and son. When I came home they were all blissed out and bonded. Jeff even sent me a text telling me to stay downtown and have a latte, homeboy had finished his bottle and was happily napping. So damn cool. I love getting to do all of this again.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Solomon's birth story

There are few stories that seem to carry the weight of a birth story. I so appreciate the light, honest, breezy tone of this blog when I wrote about Eliana's birth. It allowed me to spill easily and without capital letters.

I've evolved a bit since then but know that my best writing comes when all is raw and fresh. With that in mind, I'd better get the details of this man's passage from my body into the world out. He turned two weeks old yesterday and with each new day, the birth feels further away. So here we go.

Early labor hit me hard this go around. Contractions came for weeks with two distinct experiences of what felt like "real" labor. All signs were pointing towards a baby that would arrive early. He lay low in my body, I was dilated and effaced and the surges continued to gain momentum. But after another Friday of contractions, I was ready to surrender. As my friend Casey said when her daughter was overdue, I was sure I'd be the first person to be pregnant forever. With her words ringing true in my busy, muddled pregnant brain, on Sunday, May 2nd, I was ready to give it my all. Jeff told me that my job for the day should be to hike to the, "Sacred Tree." The Sacred Tree is a hell of a hike for a massive pregnant machine, but it seemed like a good goal. That tree is my special place, the walk my meditative time. With all of Solomon's birth tunes busting in my ears, I set out on Jumbo. The day was beautiful, green, full of spring promise and unpredictability. A few times I almost turned around, wondering what sort of gluestick does a hike like that at 41 weeks. But I wanted to see my tree.

I made it there, focused on the image of that tree, that tree that just pops out of nowhere on a treeless mountainside. A little treat after long switchbacks. A sign of life and all it's unpredictability. After a few deep breaths, I headed back down. Jeff's mom had given me the tremendous gift of a massage and I had an appointment for later that afternoon. It was my day to indulge.

My calm and tuckered self relaxed contentedly on the massage table. I had asked Erin, the beautiful masseuse, about her knowledge of acupressure points known to induce labor. She said she'd apply her knowledge and we'd see what happened. After weeks of walking and spicy food, I figured acupressure couldn't hurt but wasn't a believer in any of these tricks to actually induce a whole lot of anything. Solomon was coming when he was ready.

I left Erin feeling totally full. Totally ready. I don't remember what we did Sunday night. I think by that point, I was ready to embrace a new week, ready to be pregnant for as long as my little man had in mind. I was done with false hopes. Ready to just settle into my big self for a bit longer.

Monday was a normal work day. I was able to finish a Mother's Day project with the kids that I had been stressing about. I enjoyed their energy and humor and creativity, taking in all the special moments we enjoy together, knowing that my time with them was fleeting. I had an appointment with Jeannie over my lunch break. She basically said she didn't want to touch me, because she had stripped another woman's membranes and she would probably go into labor later that day. Okay, I told myself. Stay in there little buddy, there's a line-up and we're still not at the top of the list.

I left feeling fairly light about it all. I called Casey to see if she wanted to meet me at Bernice's for a quick bite before I had to return to work. We sat together, I watched beautiful Ophelia, watched my girlfriend navigate through the world with this beautiful new creature strapped to her chest. I was so happy to be with them, so happy to steal a few minutes with my girl before I went back to work.

Before I went back to school, I remembered some gift credit I had at Betty's. I suddenly wanted something new and special. Something I could wear now, something that would make my round self feel a bit more lovely. Aimee picked these perfect, light silver circle earrings. They were just the thing. We talked about the end of pregnancy and feeling beautiful. We laughed and I thought, like I always do, about how I love where I live. Love frequenting places where the owners are my friends. It makes spending money feel a bit like helping someone else out.

The energy back at school felt a bit hectic, a bit chaotic. I moved through my afternoon lessons but was very happy to head home at the end of the day. Around 4:30 Jeff and Els made it home. I was feeling sort of crampy and nauseous, a bit like I was about to get my period. I told Jeff I need to take a little time out in the tub.

The contractions were the same as they had been for weeks. Light, mellow, consistent. I lay in the tub and read my magazine, sort of paying attention to the intervals, sort of not wanting to because I didn't want to get my hopes up. Jeff's buddy was over and they were hanging out in the other room while Eliana ran around and entertained them. It was a normal Monday afternoon except I was in the tub a few hours early.

I had no appetite and figured it was because of my special Bernice's sandwich that afternoon. I put Jeff on dinner and he promptly began making Annie's mac and cheese for he and Elie. The pungent, disgusting smell of mac and cheese cooking was my first sign that this could be real labor. I abhorred all weird smells when I was in labor with Els and this was the first time I'd smelled something so repulsive since her birth.

I got out of the tub and decided to change my activities. Often a change in routine makes the contractions stop. I shuffled about the house tidying up. The contractions kept coming. I found myself gravitating towards the end of the sofa during a contraction. My arms straight, hands pushing down onto the sturdy end, standing on tip-toe. A weird gravity thing now that I think about it. I was pushing down with my upper body, but elevating with my lower body. Weird.

Jeff was afraid to jump the gun. He didn't want to call Jeannie too early. His mama was on deck to take Eliana, but he also didn't want her to come over too soon, worried that we'd end up in another false labor situation. I wanted more of his attention during contractions, but Eliana and the mac and cheese seemed to be dominating. I called Casey.

Hey. I may or may not be in labor but I need you. I need someone to get on my birthing wave length over here. I'm also out of gatorade. I need you and I need gatorade.

She said she'd be right over. Things were definitely heating up by the time she got here. I convinced Jeff to call Roseann who, like a swift and sturdy angel, swept her into her arms and headed up the hill. Thank God. One of my biggest anxieties involved Eliana and what we'd do with her during the whole home birth thang. Her safe and secure with her Nana and PopPop was perfect. I was full of gratitude that they had decided to postpone their time with their new granddaughter in Portland to be here for our little man's birth. Thank you both!

With Happy Sad out of the house, the mood shifted. I lit some candles and laid out my yoga mat. I put on my, "Birth or Bust" mix that I'd finally completed on Sunday night. It's full of soulful songs. The songs that I play during the end of my yoga class when things get a bit slower, a bit deeper. All my ladies with their beautiful voices that carry me up mountains, that move me with their depth and talent.

In between contractions I'd move a bit on the mat, talk about a particular song and how awesome I thought it was. Jeff began to take position on my back during contractions, his hands pushing deep into me. Casey gathered the rhythm and was ready if Jeff was out of the room. She cut up melon and put grapes on a plate for me. I ate the fruit, drank the gatorade, tried to fuel myself for whatever lay ahead.

At some point Jeff called Jeannie. She said she'd get her things ready, but didn't give us a definitive arrival time. Casey checked in with Richard and Ophelia was up and ready to eat. This is when things shifted in our little home. Casey left around nine and the new crew quickly arrived. Jeannie was first with her gear and focus. Perhaps her midwife sixth sense kicked in and told her that it was time. Thank god she didn't wait for another phone call because she might have not made it in time. Tina, her nurse came. Jody, my doula and friend came (bringing, thank goodness, the doppler that Jeannie had forgotten). Joellen, my girlfriend and our official birth photographer, came. And things started to really move.

This is the point in the story where things lose focus. The contractions began to get more painful. I stayed in my special spot on the sofa, pushing down and elevating with Jeff pounding on my lower back. I don't remember talking too much between contractions. Maybe I was stretching. I wasn't scared, but I wasn't calm. It was kind of like that feeling of being on a giant roller coaster. You know when the cart is clicking up the big hill that shit's about to get wild. It's scary in that exciting, totally of the moment, way. I guess I kinda felt like that.

At some point I tried to walk across the room (which, incidentally, is quite small). I couldn't make it and stopped at this leather chair. I told Jody I was feeling pushy and I remember her voice, Jeannie, she says she's feeling pushy! It was that word, "pushy" that brought a new intensity to the scene. I think I transitioned leaning on that leather chair. Jeff's old leather chair from his room in New Jersey. How these weird inanimate household objects made their mark on this Monday evening.

We all navigated to my bedroom. Now if my living room is small, my bedroom is tiny. One of the things I continue to marvel at is that so many adults actually managed to work together to bring a child out of my body in that tiny room! I was now on the bed, trying to settle into contractions on my back. My bed has this awesome, wooden carved headboard that I've never appreciated more than during those big contractions. I gripped the board behind me and writhed and growled through the pain.

This part is harder and harder to write about. The contractions increased. My body pushed and contracted at the same time. I pooped, perhaps once, perhaps twice. Jody, bless her huge heart, wiped my bum. I apologized to my posse for the smell, but I didn't really care. This was not a glamorous moment. It was hardcore. Warrior-like. Humble. Raw and real. We kept on rocking.

Jeannie wanted me to hold my legs apart. I hated this. Apparently they are pretty strong because I had Jody on one trying like hell with her little frame to hold it open. Tina was on the other. I was not being too compliant. Jeannie's voice was what kept me going. Gillian I see his head. Just a few more pushes. So calm, so in the zone. If there was anyone I was going to listen to it was her.

Eliana shot out like the spritely, skinny little thing she is. Homeboy weighed in at birth a whopping two whole pounds more and I certainly felt it when I was pushing. With Eliana the pushes were involuntary, a sort of bearing down with my body. With Solomon, I pushed. I pushed hard. I say now that any woman who has had to push for any length of time is absolutely amazing. I am extremely blessed because after about fifteen minutes of pushing, with a good five minute or so break in between when I thought for sure he wouldn't actually come out, my body bore down once again and out he slid.

His little arm was out by his head, a fist pump, a glorious victory stance. I didn't cry when he came out. I beamed. I was so relieved. I said something like, thank god I don't have to do that ever again! I felt victorious. I felt so, so very happy.

And that was it. A Monday evening in my house turned to wild birth mania, turned back to sort of normal. I held him. I took in his perfection. His big lips, his little fingers and toes. His perfect head. Jeannie and Tina did all their nurse-y, midwife-y things with measurements and numbers. We were all pretty shocked at his hefty weight, which added to the feeling of badass victoriousness that inhabited me.

And from there, it all gets real again. We called Jeff's mama Roseann and asked her to come down and meet her grandson. Everyone huddled around and watched Solomon's first movements out in the big bad world. They then celebrated, Jeff, Jody, Joellen and Roseann popping beers in the kitchen, toasting to the new man.

I lingered in the birth haze. I bled a lot. I bled a lot on my hard wood floors, which was kinda surreal. I took a shower. Tina stayed and watched my bleeding while Jeannie headed out to catch some Z's because another lucky woman was in labor. I thanked the universe for my lucky timing, for the fact that I had my midwife with me, my daughter with her grandma, my BFF's clocked in at various points, my doula available, my husband ready. But mainly I thanked my little man. For being so compliant. For arriving with such grace. For being so perfect.

The bleeding subsided, the floors were cleaned, the bed re-made. We lay together, the three of us, in quiet, perfect bliss. Our Solomon. Our man of peace. He had finally arrived. And every single minute of wait was so absolutely necessary. We were complete.

Monday, May 17, 2010

two weeks

We've arrived at that magical two week mark. That place where you are allowed to resume normalcy. Where there is sort of a swing of it to get back into. Pregnancy begins to feel like a distant memory. We have taken 148 pictures since Mother's Day and I can see both Eliana and Solomon age with each shot. See Eliana softening into her role as a big sister. See us relaxing a bit, letting her hold him, letting her just be her wild and wacky self.

My mom has been here for almost a week and that has been a tremendous help. She's big on the early morning patrol which allows me some extra hours of rest. She and Eliana love to play with her babies and have made some mighty batches of peanut butter play-doh. She holds the babe when Eliana's sleeping so I can do things (like this blog post). We even made it to Costco today and restocked my fridge so that I can slowly re-resume my role as household meal planner. The future seems way less daunting.

I think I'm going to be able to embrace this stay at home mama gig for a bit. When I realized last night that it hadn't even occurred to me that today was Monday, I saw how quickly one can let go of the five day a week work schedule. Especially when you get to settle into something as cool as new baby lovefest. And as a second time mom, the whole thing feels way less daunting and anxiety producing, more about loving the moments and less about calculating hours of sleep or lengths of nursings.

I am head over heels in love with my little guy. He continues to be very mild-mannered, super into his mama, the boob, and tripping out on shadows and light. He is a big coo-er, grunter and moaner - ever the sensualist. He's strong and sturdy and super manly through and through.

His sister and I have also managed to have some good times, though she still has all sorts of new and weird behaviors that seem directly correlated to Baby Bro's birth. Thank god for Jeff and "Daddy Daughter Days". They are super BFF right now and that is totally cool with me and the lil guy! We'll sit and do our mellow, grunty, milky thing while they play tag and Boots and Dora all over the rest of the house. We are a legitimate family now, always busy fulfilling our duties for our kiddos.

Friday, May 14, 2010

two kids

Maybe I haven't really been paying attention. Or listening. I certainly have selective hearing. Or maybe my friends don't complain. Or they're insanely patient and zen. But I don't remember hearing enough about how hard having two kids is.

Don't get me wrong -- we're doing fine. I called in my mom for emergency support and she's been on Happy Sad duty, which is awesome. But it seems each day has it's moment. Today it was when Solomon woke up from a monster nap starving right as Eliana's was disintegrating into an almost nap meltdown. I kicked the door to her room open (subtly....) with my foot in frustration, her screams filling the hallways. Solomon had barely had enough to eat and I had just settled into the quiet calm that is nursing him. My new favorite past time. As I stood over Elie's crib trying to sing and calm her down, my hungry newborn on my shoulder, breast milk began to soak the front of my dress. With each tear of Eliana's, my milk spilled further, hitting my bare toes like raindrops. This is that two kid moment, I thought. This is so hard.

And I have help! My friends have been amazing and have volunteered to watch Els so that I can have quiet time with the babe. She so needs social interaction beyond us and is super excited to be with her buddies. Plus I have my mom here. And I have an incredibly helpful husband. So why the hell am I bitching?

I sit here typing this and realize why people don't complain as much as I think they might. Because while those moments are tough, ultimately, the whole picture is beautiful. I have two tremendous, healthy, strong children. They love me and need me and I can provide for them. Both. I am blessed in so many ways. Soggy dress and all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

wild walk

Missoula loves her festivals. For years now I've had to participate in the Wild Walk parade as a teacher, always being one of those Saturday work days that is sort of fun, but not really all that. Then your kid gets to be in the wild walk. And it's a whole new ballgame.

Eliana's been talking about being an orange tiger in the parade for weeks. Caroline at her daycare made all the kiddos these awesome little suits and they congregated this morning to get ready. I was totally spent and let Jeff take Elie so Solomon and I could go back to sleep. Jeff rocked her tiger face make-up and was the daddy with the mostest. But when I woke up and they were gone and I realized I was gonna miss Els in all her glory, I had to get in on the action. Without time to do so much as pack the diaper bag (which still needs to be cleaned out of Elie's old junk), Jeff was at the house. I threw a diaper in my pocket and put on lipstick and a headband as to somehow feel put together.

Next thing I knew we were thrust into Missoula kidsville spring Saturday. Everyone and their mothers (quite literally) were in wacky animal outfits waiting to parade through downtown. It felt surreal to be out with my little man. We attracted lots of attention as everyone knew that I had finally had this kiddo. As we walked through the streets friends who were watching the parade yelled and hoot hollered for us. I felt dazed and proud. Proud of my little family. Eliana was so psyched to be walking with her buddies, such a big girl all out and about.

Little honey slept the whole time in the sling and let us even hang for a while on the grassy knoll at Caras Park. Eliana played with her buddies and rolled fearlessly down the hill while I sat with my girlfriends and thought about how much I love them. How much I love Missoula. How much I love my husband and my girl and my boy.

We seem to have lots of zip in the morning, but by mid-day, three of the four of us are always ready for sleep. Sleep is relative, as often it means me staring at Solomon for hours, but at least I'm horizontal, at least I'm resting. Happy woke from her nap and joined us in bed. It was one of the sweeter times we've had as a threesome and for the most part, she loved on her brother like this:

Of course, there were still a few looks shot like this:

Especially when I had to nurse him. I don't want you to do that, mommy! I don't want you to feed my brother! But she gets over it pretty quickly, finds her own Baby to rock and diaper, sing to and cuddle.

Our afternoons gently seep into evenings. We welcome our food bringing friends, so happy not to have to cook, so glad for the company to shake things up a bit. Last night we took a sunset walk at Greenough and Eliana ran and played hide and seek, totally blissed out on spring and being together. I adore this time of year and even if I can't hike the way I want to, a lap around the park brings enough beauty to satiate me for the day.

And soon Happy is asleep and I get to have 100% focused love-hard-on-my-boy time. I could watch him for hours. He is the sweetest, mellowest little dude. He nurses hard and fast and then passes out, making funny little sounds, his eyes rolling back with satisfaction. I love the way his tiny body curls into my chest, love the way we fit together so perfectly....lord only knows we were inseparable for quite some time! So we settle into night and nurse and sleep and nurse and sleep and nurse and sleep. With no other job to go to, nothing to be rested for, the interrupted sleep is really no big deal, just part of the beauty of this part of our journey together. He is perfect. I couldn't ask for a better Mother's Day gift.

Friday, May 7, 2010

a new day

A new day has officially arrived in our home. This new day is vivid and colorful and vibrant. Ever-changing. Busy. Sometimes very loud. Sometimes blissfully quiet and dark. Like the middle of the night. When my little boy wakes and I click on the head lamp as not to wake up exhausted husband. The bright light shines on his little eyes, each flicker bringing a new eyelash to surface, a new angle of his cheek that I hadn't yet noticed. I heave my heavy breasts and check which one seems more ready for him. He finds his way like a little champion, reminding me how only a few days ago, we were just one person. He makes his happy little sounds, settles his body into mine. I smile and wince at the same time. So happy to feed him, to sustain him. So shocked each time at how much nursing hurts in the beginning. When he's done we lay there, his little head on my chest and as tired as I am, I don't ever want to move, don't ever want to try to get comfortable because him on me like that is better than any amount of sleep, any known comfort.

And there are other moments. When Eliana needs so much from both of us, states plainly, "I don't want to share my parents." When the same everyday issues about the potty and TV seem so enormous, so annoying because why can't she just willingly sit on the potty when she wakes from her nap? Why does it have to be such a battle? What is the big deal?

Yesterday had it's share of moments, both beautiful and dissonant, but ultimately found the four of sitting at Rattlesnake Gardens, each of us with his or her own treat (beer for dad, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie for mom, push up for Elie and boob for Solomon, respectively), my eight o'clock at night attempt to finally leave the house. We are a new unit. A new unit trying to find their way in the world, re-navigate our little universe.