Rachel is 2 weeks old today! These are the photos from the first week and a half when my parents were here. I do have a few more recent ones on my camera, but it is in the dining room, and I’m laying here with a baby sprawled all over me, so those will have to wait. I may be prejudiced, but I think she looks cuter every day. 🙂
Let me preface this by saying that labor was a lot harder and more painful than I had somehow expected. I used every muscle in my body and every ounce of courage and strength within me to push our daughter into the world. It was the most powerful moment of my life, but it was also the most exhausting. 12.5 hours of very active labor with no bag of waters, is, shall we say, a very participatory process. And I would not have wanted it any other way!
My water broke at 7:30 pm on the night of Dec 14. I wasn’t remotely in labor yet, so I was really, really concerned by this—I knew that the midwives needed me to be in active labor within 24 hours, or they would have to send us to the hospital. As soon as my water broke, though, I had a few bouts of diarrhea, so I knew that was a good sign for labor beginning sometime soon.
I called my mom in PA to tell her to head on down to FL. Then I swept, did a load of laundry, and dusted a few rooms. We went on our usual after dinner walk at 10 pm, showered, and went to bed. I was having a few intermittent contractions, but nothing more than usual.
At 2:45 am, I was woken up by a contraction that I had to breathe through. About 5 min later I had another one just as strong, and that’s all it took to convince me to get out of bed! How women labor while lying down I cannot fathom.
I got the last minute things prepped for going to the birth center, but it was becoming increasingly important that I start breathing and light moaning at the very start of the contraction or I could not keep on top of the sensation. By 5 am I needed to moan through every one, and I was starting to think that some counter pressure on my back would be a very good thing. I woke Steve up and returned to my yoga/birth ball. I basically labored on that the entire time we were at home. Steve put pressure on my back and he started timing contractions. They were already 45+ seconds long and 3 – 4 minutes apart, as I had suspected. It didn’t take long for them to last 90 seconds and be 3 minutes apart. At 7:30 we decided to head to the birth center.
The transfer there slowed me down a little bit, but not much. I REALLY wanted to get in the tub, but the midwife wanted to observe my labor for a bit first. I practically begged them to check me, but I was only 4 cm and 80% effaced. I cried then. If this is how intense and long and real early active labor was going to be…I shuddered to think of what transition would look like. Steve and I got in the shower and he helped me pull myself together. My labor picked up again once I re-committed to this whole natural birth thing, no matter what.
When they let me in the tub around 9:30 am, I never wanted to leave. And until she was born, I basically didn’t. I spent 90% of the next 6 hours on my hands and knees and only flipped to floating on my back when the midwife insisted. I needed so much counter pressure on my back that Steve’s wrists and forearms were sore for days afterward, and I had bruises on my back. But I seriously do not think I could have made it through labor without him doing that!
I don’t really remember the time in the tub coherently. I remember bits and pieces…I got pushy around noon, and was concerned because I knew my parents would arrive at around 12:30. Turns out I was just stuck at about 7 or 8 cm. That was the toughest part. I was so very, very mentally and emotionally done, and to find out that I still had possibly hours left was very discouraging. I just wanted her out! And was quite vocal about that idea. J I never knew it could take so much effort and energy to relax!
Steve never, ever gave up on me. No matter what I said or cried or insisted, he calmly insisted that he knew I could do it, that I was doing it. He kept helping me to ground my breathing, and remind me that every contraction was one more done out of a finite number, that the harder it got, the closer we were to meeting our little girl. Chris (the midwife) and my mom and the birth assistant Christine were also totally supportive and reassuring that all of this was normal, I was doing great, and yep, this was all part of having a baby. They helped me through the toughest parts with Bach rescue remedy and spoonfuls of honey, too.
My chin and forehead were actually lightly bruised from banging them on the edge of the tub during contractions. I threw up in what I now realize was transition. Christine told me at that point that I was so close, but I started crying because I figured that the worst part was still ahead. They assured me that pushing was way better, but I don’t know. Pushing hurt. And it was such a powerful force that it was almost scary to let it go. Looking back, I feel like I was pretty whimpy, but everyone said I was doing amazing and a great job, and that my breathing was perfect and I was following my body beautifully. I did do a really good job of that—but by that time, my brain had basically stopped functioning, so what else was there to do but keep going till the end? I never wanted to transfer, or have pain medication. I wanted it to end, and I wanted her out. During a few more lucid moments, I thought about why women want pain medication, but even when I cried and said I couldn’t do it, I knew that deep down I could—and that I wanted to.
And I did! During pushing (45 min from complete to baby out) Chris had me flip over and float on my back while holding onto the handlebars in the tub. Steve was behind me the whole time, but not in the water. Chris and my mom held my legs. At one point between pushes I looked down and saw half of her head with all this floating hair just there between my legs. That was pretty mind-blowing. Chris unwrapped the cord from around her neck really quick and I pulled her out of the water. That was by far one of the best parts—being the one to pull her out of the water and onto my chest.
Somehow, with everyone’s help, I got out of the tub and onto the bed, still holding her with the placenta still inside. She got some oxygen because she was still a little blue and grunting instead of crying. The placenta took 45 minutes to deliver—seriously, who wants to push anything out after that, even if there are no bones? I started to hemorrhage so they gave me a shot of pitocin before it got bad at all. After that, I needed blow-by oxygen for what seemed like quite a while. I kept feeling like I was on the verge of fainting. I also drank tons of Gatorade and ate enough to feed an army. She nursed a little bit, but was having such a tough time breathing and grunted for 3 hours. We almost had to transfer to the NICU, but we got a good nursing in, and she started to do much better after that. They kept us for 5 hours after she was born, then we got to go home. Chris waited till she was breathing right to do the newborn exam–Rachel weighed 7 lb 6 oz and was 20 3/4 inches long. I tore in two places and needed stitches, but they were just first degree tears.
I don’t know quite how to end this story…it sounds terribly corny to say something like, “and that was the beginning” but it truly is. Now there are 3 of us. And we are totally in love with this little being.
No, we didn’t name the baby Norbert! Norbert is our Christmas tree.
Norbert is a Norfolk Island Pine that we bought from Home Depot on the first Sunday of Advent. I named it Norbert because I like to name my indoor plants, and Norbert sounded cute and alliterative. I planted Norbert in a nice new, big pot that we had also bought. Between the tree itself and its new container, the total cost was about $40. However, we are hoping that I can keep Norbert alive at least for Christmas of 2011, thus saving us money, a trip to the store, and the environmental impact of a tree imported from Oregon.
If we lived some place where we could cut down our own tree locally, we might very well do that. However, the pickings are slim, to say the least, around here for that kind of thing, and so this is the 3rd year in a row that we have had a potted plant as our Christmas tree. Since we won’t be moving this summer, we hope to reuse Norbert next year, as I said.
We still “trim” Norbert like any Christmas tree. Lights and ornaments festoon his little branches. We decided not to do a tree skirt this year, and instead put some of the heavier ornaments down right in the pot. I just have to make sure to water Norbert a few times a week, since the heat from the Christmas lights is not exactly beneficial to his health and vigor.
And, we cheat. I still love the smell of fir needles and freshly cut wood and pine trees, so I bought this Yankee Candle the accompany our first potted plant Christmas tree, and I pulled it out again this year to go with Norbert.
I am thrilled with how easy these were to construct, and with how great they look! If I do say so myself 🙂 They match the green paint in our room perfectly while still brightening the room and adding some more interest to the walls, especially since we don’t have a headboard or anything.
Here is how I made the drapes:
1. Measure curtain rod and length from rod to bottom of where you want the drapes to be. Write that number down. For me, that was 64 inches wide by 57 inches long. However, I added 6 inches to the width so that there is a little extra fabric to cover the window and block out the light; so let’s call that 70 inches by 57 inches.
2. Divide the width in two for two panels. So I wanted to have two panels that were each 35 inches wide and 57 inches long. I cut 2 pieces from the blackout curtain material that exactly fit these dimensions.
3. However, because of the big double hems that a) look good on drapes and b) help them to hang nicely, you have to do some more work to determine the size you need to cut out of the printed drape material. I wanted a 2 inch double hem on each long side, a 2 inch double hem on the top, and a 3 inch double hem on the bottom. So, I added 10 inches to the length and 8 inches to the width. Therefore, I cut out two pieces of printed material that were each 43 inches wide and 67 inches long.
4. Flip the drape material printed side down. Arrange the piece of blackout material on top of that so that you will get the size hems you want. Roughly, this piece of blackout material is 6 inches from the bottom edge of the printed material, and 4 inches from the edges of all the other sides. Or so. I just eyeballed it rather than measuring it all out.
5. Fold up a section of the long side so that the bottom of the printed piece touches the edge of the blackout material. Fold again, so that you have about 2 inches of “stacked” print material cover the edge of the blackout material. Pin. Do both long sides before doing the short sides (obviously, you’ll have about 3 inches of stacked print material over the edge of the blackout material on the bottoms side).
5. Sew with a 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch seam allowance from the “blackout edge” of the printed material (in picture below).
6. To secure the corners, I sewed diagonally from the corner of my hem to the corner of the material itself. I didn’t draw a line before I sewed because it was a short enough distance that I was confident I could do a straight diagonal line just by looking at it.
7. Attach rings. I decided to buy 3/4 inch plastic rings from the fabric store. The woman who worked there told me to sew them on by hand, but that sounded tedious and hideous. So, I used the horizontal “wrap” stitch that is parts 2 and 4 of the 4 part button hole stitch on my machine. I marked the back of the drape at each of the ends, and then roughly spaced out the rings for every 4 inches.
8. I carefully sewed on each ring, orienting it so that it connects correctly to the hook rings that will actually be on the curtain rod. I had to fiddle around a bit with this to decide how to best do it. I used the handwheel on the side of the machine to do the first few stitches, and to make sure that the ring was in the right spot before trying to barrel through it with the full force of the machine. This was SOOOOO much better than doing it by hand!
As you can see, it doesn’t look all that great from the front. But, that valance covers it up, so no worries on the aesthetics. 🙂
9. Hang curtains!
A few months ago, I decided that I wanted new curtains/drapes for our bedroom. Steve and I LOVE sleeping in the absolute pitch black, so up till now we’ve just had some black out curtains up that we bought a few years ago. They were so long and skinny, though, that we had to use 3 panels to cover the window adequately, and I had to trim them so they would fit lengthwise.
So, I decided to move on to homemade curtains that had a sewn-in blackout material panel. I also wanted to do a small valance that would let light in during the day but still cover up the mini blinds when they were pulled up. Plus, I think a valance looks pretty, and we have a double curtain rod anyway.
I measured the curtain rod rather than the window to get the width that I wanted, then added another inch or so for seam allowance. I didn’t want a flouncy/ruffly valance, and it was also convenient that a flat one is easier to sew and arrange! I didn’t really measure the length (height?) of the valance because I just made it out of a scrap from when I cut out the main curtain material. However, this length ended up being perfect, as it just barely covers the blinds during the day when they are pulled up snugly.
Here is how I constructed the valance. I have a Janome Magnolia machine and used stitch size 2.
1. On one long edge, fold fabric under to create a 1/2 inch hem.
2. On all the other edges, fold fabric under twice to create a 1/2 inch double hem. This will keep everything tucked in neatly, and prevent fraying from use and washing.
3. Sew all hems with a 1/4 inch seam allowance (this is the width of the presser foot on my machine; double check yours).
4. Fold over the single hemmed long edge 2 1/2 inches so that you now have a sleeve to put the curtain rod through. Sew with a 1/4 inch seam.
Well, this was a trial and error garden this year; I have different plans for next year. I did, however, eek out a few green beans. Local, organic, from my front yard! Pretty cool! Oh, and I picked them on Dec 1! 🙂
A few days ago, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a blog that said the health column reporter for the St. Petersburg Times was looking to interview women who had had an elective induction of labor before 39 weeks gestation, or wanted to.
Well. I fundamentally disagree with that notion. So I wrote an email to the reporter offering to be interviewed, since I am 38 weeks pregnant, but making very clear where I stood on the issue of elective inductions, no matter how far along a woman is!
To my surprise, he called me back and interviewed me over the phone. That night, they sent a newspaper photographer to the house to take a picture of me and Steve. Turns out our picture made the front page on Monday, and the story was on A10!
Between this, and Steve’s local news television interview a few weeks ago for a rescue he and his crew made, we are starting to have quite a media presence here in the Tampa area. 🙂
Here is the link to the article I was interviewed for.