Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties Labors

In honor of Labor Day, I'm posting my birth story. Read at your own discretion, all ye women in your thirties.  It contains F-bombs.  And poop.

I went into labor on November 17th, the day I took this picture:

I remember being struck by how huge my belly was in my shadow while I was walking Dan around the block that afternoon.  'I'm enormous,' I remember thinking.  'This baby needs to come out.'

It was about 9:00 that night when I started to feel the pains. They were dull and crampy, and mostly in my back.  I tried to sleep, but these were not just-sleep-through-it cramps.  I opened the pregnancy app I'd just downloaded to my iPhone, waddled downstairs, and sat on the couch to time my contractions and watch Avatar.  I think part of me thought they would go away if I watched enough television.

By 3:00am, the contractions were intensifying.  I knew the drill--don't go to the hospital until your contractions are five minutes apart-- consistently-- for an hour.  I watched several episodes of Glee that I had recorded on TiVo, and by 7:00 in the morning I couldn't take one more minute of singing.  L came downstairs, saw me on the couch and said, 'Is it time?'

By 8:00, it was.

Getting sent home from the hospital when you're in labor is humiliating, but that's exactly what happened.  'You're only 1cm dilated,' the nurse said.  'There's no point in waiting here.'

'But my contractions are five minutes apart!'  I cried out.  'Less than that!'  I held up my iPhone with the labor app open like it was vindication. 

They gave me some medicine (placebo, as far as I'm concerned) to take the edge off the contractions and try to rest.  I went home and tried to sleep, but it was no use.  The contractions strengthened hour by hour, and by 8:00pm I was a writhing mess.  All the yoga, all the breathing and meditating, all the 'you're a goddess' nonsense flew out the window.  It was all I could do to use my iPhone app to time my contractions, but when I did they were less than two minutes apart.  I could barely catch my breath between them.

L drove us back to the hospital and dropped me off at the entrance while he parked.  I crouched in the waiting room on a chair, trying to breath, when a security guard came over to me.  'Praise Jesus,' I thought.  'This guy will get me some drugs.'

'First?' he asked me, holding a newspaper. 

I looked up at him like he had twelve heads.  'What?' I said.  'Yeah.  First.'

'My wife was the same way,' he said, shaking his head.  'You've probably got another twelve hours or so.'

Oh, the profane words I had for that security guard.  But I couldn't say them-- it was at that moment that L flew threw the doors and lead me upstairs to the same birthing ward I'd been sent home from earlier that day.

By this point, I'd been awake for 24 hours. I was sure, based on the intensity of the pain, that once I laid down on that table, the nurse was going to shriek, 'Oh my god, you're 10cm!  It's time to push!'  But one look on her face as she checked me told me the truth.

'Tell me I'm more than 1cm dilated,' I said to her, panting and sweating.  'Tell me.'

She looked at me kindly, she really did.  'Do you want me to lie to you?'

A woman in her thirties should remain composed in difficult situations.  She should channel Jackie Kennedy at all times and keep her head high and proud. 

Except when she's in labor.

'What the F*%$!' I yelled, and fell back onto the bed in tears. 

'Honey,' the nurse said, putting her hand on my head.  'Have you had a miscarriage recently?  Have you had a procedure called an HSG?'

Had I?  HAD I? 

'Yes,' I sniveled, turning toward L, who was white-faced seeing me in such pain.  'Both.'

'You have a bunch of scar tissue,' the nurse said.  'I can feel it.  That's why you're not dilating.'

As much as I was mad that no one told me this might happen, the truth was that I was relieved.  I was in labor.  This was real.  And more importantly, drugs were coming.  DRUGS WERE COMING. 

And they came.  I slept through the night, waking up only to get my temperature taken and tell L that my water had broken (a story for another post).  It was a blissful, beautiful, pain-free night. By 8:00am on the 19th, it was time to push. 

There is nothing glamorous about pushing out a baby.  When you get down to it, it's pretty gross (and if you're wondering just how gross I got, the answer is yes, I did).  But it was amazing.  Ah-May-Zing.  I asked for a mirror and watched it all happen, which is the single piece of advice I have for any woman giving birth.  I was able to see Anna's first glimpse of the world, her huge brown eyes and wide open mouth as she cried out for the first time.  'Oh my God,' was all I could say, over and over again.  'Oh my God, oh my God.'

It's true what they say about how women forget how hard childbirth is-- if they remembered all of it they'd never want to do it again.  I think a woman in her thirties might do that when it comes to a lot of things.  What I do know is that now, when I think back on the story, there is one image that comes to the forefront of my mind.

And all of it-- even sitting through Avatar-- was worth it.   

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties Mixes it Up

For those of you who don't know me in the physical sense, I am French, Sicilian, and Maltese. If you're wondering what that looks like, in my case it looks Mexican, apparently. My husband, L, is Chinese. He looks, well, Chinese. One look at our baby, and it's pretty clear who she takes after:I was having lunch with a friend from birthing class when I was first approached by a stranger who asked me when I adopted Anna. I was so taken back that I was speechless. 'Uh,' I sputtered, 'My... uh... husband is... Asian...' I said, almost embarrassed. 'Oh!' the woman exclaimed, and that was that. My friend and I laughed the rest of the lunch over it, especially considering our husbands had 'helped' us deep breathe together when we were swollen and pre-natal . But in some ways, I was saddened by it. Not that someone had thought I'd adopted (I still think that might be in the cards for us, someday), but that someone would be so presumptuous as to assume it, based on how my daughter looks. That, and at the time my nipples were still sore and bleeding.

I thought it was a fluke. I saw myself telling the story to Anna when she's older, when I tell her about our adventures in China and how I once yelled at a taxi driver who was talking about my big nose and thought I couldn't understand him. 'Don't ever assume,' I could hear myself telling her one day.

I would need several hands to count how many times it's happened since. It's almost always in the grocery store, and always by a well-meaning person. 'When did you get back with her?' is the most common question, followed quickly by 'When did you get back from Korea with her?' (Korea?) I've gotten 'Is she yours?' a couple of times. And just yesterday, a young girl in Babies R Us said, 'I don't mean to be mean, but is your baby mixed with something?'

Since this is looking to be a trend, the sarcastic woman in her thirties that I am has thought up of a few comments:

1. What baby?
2. I had a mirror and watched her come out of my own vagina thank you very much.
3. Yes, we adopted her from Sweden.
4. And for the girl at BRU-- 'She's mixed with Amstel Light. Don't judge me.'

However, a woman in her thirties must remember that most of the time there is no need to humiliate. These people are simply trying to make conversation, trying to connect with me and my baby. Sometimes-- sometimes-- the truth is more fun than sarcasm.

'My husband is Chinese,' I now say. 'And we have the most beautiful baby in the world.'

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties is Nine Months

Dear Pookies,

This month has been one of lots of photos. Here are a few of my favorites:The past month has been all about movement. You've figured out how to get from sitting to your belly, and from your belly to pretty much wherever you want to get to in the house. I wouldn't call this crawling, per se. It's more dragging. It's a good thing we have hard wood floors. Often I will leave you in one place and find you in quite another, like under the coffee table:

Where you are exceedingly proud of yourself. Don't worry, Spunkies. Childproofing is coming soon.

Yet despite all this movement, you are still not all that excited about feeding yourself. While other babies your age are shoving anything and everything into their mouths, you are more selective with what you do with your hands:

You could pass the same blade of grass from hand to hand for hours if I let you, that's how intent you are with your examination of things. Preparing for a career in surgery, perhaps? Just a suggestion. Either way, you aren't all that interested in putting things in your mouth.

This is not to say that you don't eat. A lot. I sent this picture out to my girls a few days ago with the caption 'Sexiest legs in Pleasantville.' True, no?Enjoy it, Pookie. You and I worked hard for those dimples.

A woman in her thirties knows that while physical milestones are important, it's the emotional ones that are much... muchier (to paraphrase one of my favorite lines from Alice in Wonderland). You've been smiling and laughing for awhile now, but this month it's different. You think sitting in your high chair is funny. You think Dan is hilarious, particularly in the morning. You can stare at your Ye Ye for extended periods of time, just giggling away. What is so funny, huh?

I guess if I reflect on the last month and all that it's brought us, I see that while you might not be ready to shove a spoon into your mouth, you have developed a love for the world. A woman in her thirties might talk a lot about enjoying every moment, but you, Pookers, actually do it. Sometimes I get so worried about comparing you to other babies or protecting you from what's coming next that I forget that is one of the most important lessons you'll learn in life.

You are developing exactly the way you are supposed to. You bring me so much joy every single day that sometimes I think I might burst with it all. You are much... muchier than anything I could have asked for. You are the muchiest nine month old in the world.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties Reunites

Two reunions happened this weekend. The first one was the family kind, and took place in Canada. Sadly, we were unable to go to this one (though we did dress for the occasion):The second was L's 20th high school reunion. I'll just get it out there right now: I love the idea of a high school reunion. I love reconnecting with old friends, reminiscing about all the stupid stuff you used to do that you thought was cool, and gossiping about what nerdy kid ended up ridiculously gorgeous and successful. L and I are similar in that we both have a very close group of friends that we have known since high school, some even earlier than that, so it was less about finding out what happened to so-and-so, and more about having a good time.

I didn't go to high school in Pleasantville, so I didn't know what to expect. What I did know was that a) L's Mom was happy to come babysit, b) I knew a surprisingly large number of people that were going, and c) I should probably wear high heels. I'm sure you can guess that the only downside was the latter. I missed my ten year reunion because we were in China at the time, so I figured that a woman in her thirties should live vicariously through her husband and make this one count.

There was a lot of this:
(photo clearly captured with an unsteady hand...)

And not a lot of this:
(Dinner: Cheese, watermelon, three unidentifiable objects, and gummy bears)

It's been awhile since I've had a night out like we did last night. A woman in her thirties should probably preserve some dignity and NOT admit that I walked out of the reunion leading a group in chanting, 'TA-CO-BELL. TA-CO-BELL' (which was delicious at 1:00am, might I add). Instead, I will say that I woke up feeling less like a respectable woman in her thirties and more like a woman in her twenties who's just been hit by a bus of Keystone Light.

And then, as if by magic, a voice appeared above me, holding the baby monitor. 'Go back to sleep,' the voice said. 'I'll watch the baby.' But it wasn't a dream. It was real. And I realized as I waited for the Advil to kick in that I might not have known L in high school, and we might not have connected even if we did, but in a room last night full of people who have all gone their own way, I certainly found myself a catch.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Woman in Her Thirties Roughs It

I know lots of women in their thirties who enjoy camping. I am not one of those women. Don't get me wrong-- I'll get as dirty as you want me to during the day. But at night, I want a bed. With sheets that have been recently washed. I want to eat dinner that I haven't cooked on dishes that I don't have to clean. And in the morning, I want a shower. A long, hot one. With soap.

This weekend, we were invited for the second year in a row to a friend's cabin. 'Going to the cabin' is a decidedly Midwestern activity, but this is no ordinary cabin. It is gorgeous. It has a bath house, a kitchen more fully stocked than my kitchen at home, and sits on a beautiful, crystal clear lake.

In other words, my idea of roughing it.

L (nicknamed L the Magical Cucumber by one of the girls that went), Anna, and I left on Friday afternoon. I was a little nervous, seeing how I have her on a down-to-the-minute schedule at home, but I figured if I simulated that same schedule at the cabin that we would be fine. Here we are, on our way:
I was wrong. Let's just say that while I might not have slept in a tent or eaten food from a can, I most definitely 'roughed it' this weekend. I think everyone trying to sleep in our cabin would agree.

I took this photo from the driver's seat of the car on Saturday (while parked, jeez people), in my about-to-lose-my-mind desperate attempt to get her to nap:
That's not to say we didn't have a good time, though. Despite the rain during the day, the evenings were beautiful. Delicious drinks and food was consumed, and lots of good conversation happened. Here is a photo of sleep-deprived Anna playing with Daddy, the Magical Cucumber:
Because no long drive home is complete without stopping for fast food along the way, we took a break at the Burger King in Rush City, Minnesota:
And it was after this stop, bleary-eyed and counting the miles until we could get Anna out of her car seat, that the Magical Cucumber turned to me and said, 'This is our family, beeb.' I might have been delirious with fatigue, but I couldn't help but smile at the thought of it. We'd just had our first weekend getaway as a threesome. For that, and for the 12+ hours Anna slept last night when we got home, a woman in her thirties is eternally grateful.