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March 2009
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May 2009

Sophia's birth

The morning of the day Sophia was born, I awoke in the dark, feeling a mixture of anxiety and excitement bubble in my chest. I was ready - soooo ready - to have this baby, but worried about being induced, and fretting on behalf of my already-borns.

But I didn't see any way to get from "before" to "after" except to just go through with it already.

Clay and I stumbled through getting ready, trying not to wake the boys. Despite our efforts, Max and Raphael soon crept up the stairs. My dad arrived to take charge of the boys, and soon we were passing hugs and kisses and promises all around. It was time to go.

I slipped downstairs to say goodbye to a still sleeping Tre, half expecting him to growl me out of his room (Tre takes his sleep VERY SERIOUSLY in his old age). But instead, when I leaned over him and whispered that I was leaving, he reached out and threw an arm around my neck. Then he bent down and kissed my belly.

"Bye, baby sister. See you soon," he muttered, and flopped back, face-down on his pillow.

And so, with that unexpected benediction, Clay took my hand, and we left.

At the hospital it was the usual hurry-up-and-wait. We were shown to my room and I got into the outrageously voluminous gown, and I paced. My mom and my cousin Melyssa arrived and the four of us chatted while I walked around and around and around in circles. I'd never been induced before - I'd never gone past my due date before. I didn't know what to expect and I was still hoping REALLY MUCH to avoid the Pitocin.

Eventually my doctor arrived, and we went over the plan again. She would break my water, and we would wait a few hours to see if that would get labor going, then talk about "a whiff of Pitocin," as she said. It barely took her a minute with her crochet-hook thing to get the job done, and she was back on her way out the door.

For a couple of hours I walked the halls, talked to Clay, Mom, and Melyssa, and waited for labor to start. Occasionally I would look out the window, observe the movement of the sun across the sky, and wonder how all this was going to work out.

A little before noon, the contractions started. I'd be walking or talking and I'd stop, turn, and lean on Clay. The room would go silent - sometimes it seemed like I was the only one breathing in the room. Was this it? At first I could pick the conversation right back up as soon as the contraction passed.

My nurse came in to check on me. I hated to climb on the bed, I HATED to have that monitor strapped on my belly (it's those elastic belts - those things are torture devices when you're in labor), and I really hated to hear her say, "hmm...still at four centimeters. Do you want to start the Pitocin now, or wait another hour or two?"

I knew I was in labor now. I knew it wouldn't be long. I KNEW I didn't need any Pitocin.

But I'd also had so many expectations shot down already during this pregnancy. I didn't trust myself quite as much as I had nine months ago. So I just shook my head and said, "I don't think there's any reason to start it now."

"Ok," she said, looking at the clock, "it's noon now. I've got a first-time mom in the next room who's ready to push. That should take an hour or so, and then I'll be back to check on you."

Then she was gone, I could get up, and labor began in earnest.

Every contraction, from the very beginning, was back labor, so I quickly dropped out of conversation. I closed my eyes and said nothing, other than moaning and the occasional terse instruction to Clay about where to rub my back. I went from leaning on him to leaning on the bed during contractions. After a while I climbed on the bed and knelt there, resting my arms on the raised head. Back labor hurts. HURTS. And in my experience, it's just, somehow. One moment I was there, in that sunny hospital room, and the next minute I was gone. In labor-land.


I could hear the hushed voices of Mom and Melyssa, and I could feel Clay's hands on my back, providing sweet counter-pressure, and hear his voice whispering encouragement in my ear, but I was elsewhere.

I suppose it was a fast labor, but time doesn't really mean anything when you're in labor. I do remember thinking that I just wanted it to stop for just a little bit, just long enough so I could catch my breath. And even though I SPECIFICALLY instructed myself, beforehand, to remember the fact that panic=transition, I totally forgot that when I started feeling panicky. All I knew, for sure, was that I couldn't do this, it hurt too much, and I wanted to stop.

And know how people talk about having an "urge to push"? I don't understand that phrase. It's an "urge" in the same way that you would have an "urge" to breathe after being held underwater for a few minutes. It's not an urge, it's an imperative. I hit the button to call the nurse, and when her chipper voice asked what I needed, I growled, "I WANT TO PUSH."

She allowed as how she'd send somebody right down. Soon there was another nurse by the bed. I was still kneeling on the bed, leaning against the head of the bed, my face in my hands, my eyes firmly closed. She picked up the monitors, turned to me, and said, "OKAY, let's get you to turn over and lie down, and we'll get these monitors on you and take a peek at baby."

At this point the pressure in my back was excruciating, and the though of turning around and lying flat on my back and having those BELTS strapped around me...well.

"I can't do that right now," I said, rather evenly, I thought.

"Well, we want to see how the baby is - "


She stood there for a moment, monitors in hand, and my mom (bless her) walked up to her and murmured, "She said no."

And indeed I had.

The nurse pondered this a moment, then turned and walked out. She came back with a whole cadre of nurses, with all their noises and brisk instructions to each other. They convinced me to lie down so someone could check my cervix and see if I really was ready to push.

And indeed I was.

The room was suddenly so full of nurses and sounds and lights. I heard my mom whisper to the nurse who was stationed at the foot of my bed, "What station is the baby at?" She whispered back, "The head is RIGHT THERE."

They called in a spare doctor that they keep hanging around for just such circumstances, broke down the bed, and told me to push.

I couldn't catch my breath, from the pace of it all. I couldn't stand the commotion in the room, and when they pulled my legs back to help me push, I got a cramp in my right hip. The pressure in my back was awful, and I was afraid she was going to be born face-up.

I honestly didn't know if I could do it.

Then, through the chaos I heard certain voices.

"You're doing it," Mom said, "you're doing great." Just like she had when Tre was born, she reminded me whose daughter I was.

"She's right there, Kir!" Melyssa called to me, "she's almost here!"

"Honey, you're doing so great," Clay stroked my arm, pushed my hair back. "You're amazing."

And you know what? I sort of was.

There's nothing new about birth, and yet every one is the very definition of new. With a cry that left my throat raw, I delivered my girl into the hands of a random doctor.

Sophia let out a furious wail, and just like that, ''before" was forever over, and life began again in "after."


Did you know?

Did you know that a newborn baby requires A LOT of holding and feeding and changing and admiring?

Did you know that she will somehow produce more laundry than anyone else - EVERYONE else - in the family?

Did you know that one small person who weighs less than eight pounds and can't even form words yet can nonetheless upend an entire family's routine?

Did you know that sleep deprivation can make a person sort of...oh, what was the word?...stupid?

Did you know all that?

I did.

So why am I so surprised, every day?


Oh, hush. You know I'm worth it, Mom.

It's not that I'm tired or anything...

...but tonight, at dinner, I sat and stared, missing half the conversation, trying to figure out how long it had been since I'd blogged. I mean, I knew I'd blogged the day Sophia was born, and she was now 10 days old, but was that last blog on day one? Or was the next day day one? And so was this now nine days since I'd blogged, or was it ten days? Or eleven? Probably not eleven.

So, see, that's why I haven't blogged. Because my mind, she is a slow morass of uninteresting details. I keep having this conversation with people, where they ask, "How is the baby sleeping?" and I launch into a full accounting of her sleep habits. "Oh, last night she slept from 10:30 until about 2:30 or so, which was fabulous, you know," I'll say, "but then she was up for about an hour and a half, then she slept for about two hours..."

I keep missing the subtle cues that my Story of Sleep isn't actually bearable to listen to, like people setting themselves on fire to make me stop talking.

Besides that, I usually blog when the boys go to bed, and that time is Sophia's awake time, so I'm currently busy sitting on the couch with Clay, watching and saying brilliant things like, "I know she's not SMILING, smiling yet, but doesn't it look like she WANTS to?" We're pitiful.

So anyhow, what I wanted to tell you is that this baby girl of ours, she is the most verbal child I've ever birthed. She sighs and coos and squeaks and yells - even nursing requires much muttering and humming. And all that "talking" obviously requires interpreting, right? And as her mother, and the one attached to her mouth ALL THE TIME, I am obviously the person most qualified to do the interpreting, am I right or am I left?

And therefore I present to you the following conversation between me and my 10 day old infant, which I promise you is word-for-word what was said last night, around 3 AM.


Me: (scooping up one angry lump of baby) Hey there, sweetie. Hungry?

Sophia: OH, MOM, it was SO AWFUL! I woke up in that PLACE? You know the one? Where no one is holding the baby? And there isn't any milk? IT WAS THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED IN MY WHOLE LIFE!

Me: (offers breast)

Sophia: SO HUNGRY! (butts breast with her face)

Me: You have to open your mouth.


Me: (tickles her lip)

Sophia: SO HUNGR - oh. Snarf. nom nom nom nom nom nom. MAN, that is the stuff! nom nom nom nom nom nom. SO GOOD. nom nom nom nom. I almost DIED, you know. nom nom nom nom.

Me: zzzzzzzzzzz

Sophia: (head lolls back, mouth slack and dribbling milk) Duuuuuude.

Me: (lifts her to my shoulder to burp)


Me: (shifts her to the other breast)


Me: (tickles her lip)

Sophia: WAAAAAH - oh. nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom

Is it any wonder we're smitten?


Sophia Ann


Born at 1:19 PM, after about an hour and a half of labor.

She is 7 lb. 5 oz. of perfection.

We are, each of us, grateful to see her face.


And a little stunned.

Thank you for all your good wishes, and I'll be back with a complete birth story in a few days.

Preparations and prayers

It's late, and I should already be in bed, because tomorrow is a big day. I'll be presenting myself to the hospital at 7 AM for an induction, which is both the reason I should be sleeping and the reason I'm sitting here, bouncing one knee like I'm trying to shake off clambering insects.

I'm nervous, is what I'm saying.

It's silly, I know. For weeks I've been anticipating this birth any minute. I've even avoided starting a bread dough that had to rise overnight, because WHO KNOWS if I'll be here in the morning, and not in the hospital, inhaling freshly toweled baby head?

And now I know that tomorrow is the day, that she'll be born 4-6-09, and that all the waiting will finally be over.

I'm not sure I'm ready.

It's not ME, for heaven's sake. I'm soooo ready to breathe and eat and stand up in one smooth motion with no flailing or grunting noises. And I was going to say "sleep through the night again" but hahahaha, that's right, newborn. So scratch that idea.

No, I'm just not sure that I've prepared everything and everyone. I've spent the day being acutely aware of how much this baby is going to require of the other kids, how much this means in their world. I've always held to the notion that siblings are a gift, and that gift is bigger by far than the adjustments required. But our kids, from the fierce almost 8-year-old to the beautiful almost 17-year-old, have more layers to view this through than your average kid in your standard intact family. I want to gather each one of them into my arms and hold them until they know it's going to be okay, that there's only going to be more love tomorrow.

More love and diapers. But the diapers don't last.

Today I was driving home, and as I rounded the corner just before my house, I saw a tiny boy, running hell-bent-for-leather down the middle of the street, in bare feet and jammies. It was COLD today. I pulled over and just abandoned my van by the side of the road (complete with keys in the ignition, my purse on the seat, and most stupidly, my cell phone in there somewhere). I chased him for blocks, gasping and waddling and calling out to him in what I hoped was a comforting manner. The little thing was FREAKED OUT.

Finally, with the help of a couple who stopped to aid in the chase, we caught up to him. A man wrapped his jacket around him, and I picked him up and wrapped my arms around him, holding his icy feet in my pregnancy-heated hands until his shuddering stilled. He was three, he said, and he told us he'd woken up and his mommy was gone and so he was going to her store to find her. The man called the police and we waited for them and chatted.

"He could have just missed his mom," I mused. "She could have been in the bathroom or the basement or something. One of my boys was a runner. They get away sometimes. Heck, I WAS a runner when I was a kid, I'm told."

"Oh yeah," he said, "when you think about the crazy things kids do...well. It makes you believe in guardian angels, doesn't it?"

I nodded, mute. Soon the police arrived, and Clay pulled up shortly after. I left the boy in their hands and climbed in the van. I told Clay and the boys the story, then leaned back and closed my eyes for a minute, and prayed.

In this world of chances and changes, Lord, let there be guardian angels for each of our children. Please.

...aaaaand we're back.

After a long, frustrating, and rather exhausting night, we're home again. No baby yet, but I do know at least three things for sure:

1) she's not going to be born in March,

2) I shouldn't assume I know what's going to happen with this child, and

3) I'm going to take a nap now.