The Middle One

I won’t pretend that I try to give my kids equal time on this blog – after all, this started 6 years ago as Ryan’s blog. But my middle, my Finleigh, there’s something extra special about that kid. Maybe it’s my soft spot for 2 year olds (yep, love ’em). Maybe it’s my soft spot for redheads (married one). Maybe it’s just her squishy cheeks. But there’s something about that girl.

She’s fast. She only cuddles on her terms. She likes things HER way, and she don’t give a crap if you have other ideas. We call her Honey Badger. And it suits her. To a “T”.

When she slows down though, oh my, what a sweet heart. I just breathe all her toddler-y goodness in at night, as she’s drifting off to sleep, doing her family roll call (Ryan, daddy, mama, Asher, Finleigh, Zoe, Unca Mike, Annie Allison, Unca Jame, nonna, papa) and naming off all the parts of my face (eyes, eyefrows, lips, ears, cheeks) and pausing with her sweet, slightly sticky, pudgy little hand on my cheek. I melt.

I know I enjoyed this age with Ryan. But I also know I had a lot of other stuff going on then: school, work, the possibility of going back to work, my own inner demons – I had a lot of my own crap. And, hindsight being, as always, 20/20, I know this sweet little moment is fleeting. So fast.
She’ll be 2 in 2 months. And those little hands will lose their pudge, and her cheeks will slim down, and she’ll no longer need me to lay with her at night and give her “nosies”. So, for now, I breathe it all in.

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Happy Six, Peanut

She hates it when I call her ‘Peanut’ now. Tough patoots, I say. It’s your nickname and I’m not giving it up. Oh, and you’re a peanut, so it’s fitting. I’m not a nut, she replies. No, not in that sense…

She’s becoming a truly, truly lovely young lady. She’s sweet, caring, responsible, thoughtful and smart. I’m quite proud of her, and of the choices and decisions she’s making, and learning to make, as she navigates this big world we live in. I think she’s going to make it.

She asked for a “star” party this year. And, well, this mama delivers. Star party it is. Stars everywhere…the cake, the decor, the dress. I’m “that mom” and I think I’m OK with it. I haven’t decided yet.

Whatever the case, Happy Birthday, kiddo. You are my favorite six year old.

And look! Mommy (and Asher) made it into a photo, and wore stars. Just for sissy.

{one}

 

inspired by a favorite blogger: {one} photo from the week. {one} photo that sums it up, offers it up. {one} that somehow captures it. what it is, i’m not quite sure. do you have {one}? share it in the comments.

Welcome Asher Eleanor!

I’ve been debating how to start this story…it seems so typical, so normal, and yet, of course, as with her sisters, she deserves her tale written out. And it is miraculous, like all births are. And it is silly, like births in our house seem to be. And, as is the trend, it is written with a baby in a sling, by a tired, vaguely incoherent mama.

As we’re both sitting here, wondering how we ended up with THREE kids (much less three girls!), I’m literally left wondering how I’ve got this tiny baby in my arms. Again. I know, I’ve been in denial for quite some time about it all, and even blogged over at Motherhood Unadorned about my feelings towards this pregnancy. And I’d LOVE to say it’s all roses and lilies now that she’s here, but I’m not sure. Yes, Asher belongs here, clearly. And yes, much like when Finleigh arrived, and when Ryan arrived, she just fits. But I’m still left wondering – how the hell did I end up with a third child?

We had plans to head to the pumpkin patch on Sunday. I really, really love fall (I’ve surely blogged about that before), and Halloween, and my birthday (on the 24th – you can send presents), and despite knowing I’d be 39w pregnant, I was excited to go to Enumclaw to hang out with some friends and do the patch with the girls. Finleigh was teeny last year, and enjoyed watching it all, but couldn’t partake. Ryan remembered it all and was SO excited to go back. I just love to take photos of it all! We joked that baby better wait, as Enumclaw is about an hour from home, and how would that explanation go to the police/fire/paramedics? “Please drive past 4 hospitals to deliver this woman to her home so she can give birth?” Um, yeah. But, as nothing was happening that morning, we hustled our buns together and got out of the house. I had some suspicions that it would be soon as I’d done a massive grocery trip the night before, and insisted on having chicken chili in the crockpot before we left, but you know, just because I teach this stuff doesn’t mean I recognize it in myself. We’ll get to more of that in a bit.

The girls had a blast at the pumpkin patch, and we had fun warming back up at our friends’ home nearby. They had delicious homemade soup that was a teensy bit spicy (I should have guessed…) and the girls played hard. We got home, all in one piece, and without a newborn, and settled in for our usual crazy, zany dinner/bath/stories/bedtime routine.

I always spend a fair bit of time in my classes talking about what things parents can do at home to kick start labor. It’s an amusing topic and always gets the class laughing: walking, exercise, spicy foods, sex. Yes, sex. What gets your baby in there will get your baby out! And, since I was quite done being pregnant, well, yeah. And as expected, contractions started shortly thereafter. But I expected them to fizzle out…after all, just because the other two came at 39w (ish) didn’t mean I thought this one would. I half expected her to wait until Halloween!

About two hours later, I called the midwives to chat, and see what they thought might be happening with these contractions. See, she’d tried to escape at 37w, and I wasn’t really enthusiastic about calling them back out for nothing again. But, neither of us was really excited about having another unassisted birth, either. Michael was totally amused at this point – this was basically a total repeat of Finleigh’s birth, only with slightly less disbelief from me. We thought, yes, maybe early labor, as I was clearly dealing well and could move and talk through these, but should try to go to bed soon and maybe take a shower to relax. I watched one more episode of Big Love (love that show) and then showered and went to bed.  I remember sort of sleeping through contractions, and feeling them but not waking for them, and thinking that if they didn’t keep me up, then they weren’t anything. Really, at this point? Really, Katy? Now we’re talking about 5 hours of contractions and you still don’t really think you’re in labor?

At 2:30am, I woke up to a stronger contraction, and got up to hit the bathroom. I went back to bed, thinking this STILL wasn’t really it. I laid in bed, drifting in and out of sleep for another hour, and then the contractions got more intense. By 4am, I woke Michael, and we decided it was time to call the midwives back. They asked if I thought they should come, but I had to hand the phone over to Michael to tend to a contraction. I’m sure the conversation was something to the effect of, “yeah, um, you need to come now”.

We moved to the living room, and texted a few friends who wanted to join us. I was still thinking we had a while at this point. Contractions were strong, but not unbearable, and I was dealing well. I kept telling myself that I can do anything for ONE minute (though they felt longer). Of course, doing anything for ONE minute every 30 seconds for any length of time starts to SUCK. And then when you realize you are having an even harder time coping, and you are no longer quietly breathing, and you can no longer stand on your own, and you’ve got to hold on FOR DEAR LIFE to your partner, that yep, this is labor and you’re going to have a baby in the very near future. Of course, at this point, I’m still thinking that I’ve got a while, and why the hell do I give birth at home where there’s nothing stronger than ADVIL??

And then, holding onto Michael and trying to CLIMB to the ceiling, I hear the MW say that she thought I was pushing. Pushing? Brilliant!! I should totally push! That might be fantastic! So I pushed. And I was really glad they got the plastic table cloth under me as I announced that I was peeing. Nice, right? Birth is the great equalizer, folks. One of the MWs said she was taking my pants off (what’s with me trying to give birth in my damn pants?), and I remember her trying to actually get my pants off my ankles and me saying something to the effect of “leavethemthefuckalone”. I was pushing. One LONG push. One LONG contraction that really didn’t seem to end. Except it did. And there was her head. I reached down, instinctively. This was the first time I’d ever done that. I felt her head: soft, hot, velvety. Her cord was wrapped around her neck, and the midwives were working it off. And then I had to push again. I pushed hard. Harder than I did with Finleigh…I worked for this kid. One huge, long, hard push (or four, I don’t remember), and out she popped.

7 pounds, 5 ounces, 20″ long. At 5:20am, October 17th. As the sun was thinking about rising on a beautiful, cold, clear, crisp fall morning. My favorite kind of morning.

I crashed on the couch, exhausted, elated, and still shocked. I’m pretty sure Michael was equally shocked, but I honestly have no idea. We didn’t talk, I hardly talked to anyone. I labored. And then I birthed. With so much wonderful support, but in my own world the whole time. I couldn’t have done it without any of them, but I did it alone. If that makes sense. I just laid there, on the couch, with her on my chest, shellshocked. I had a baby. She’s here. In my arms. Michael went to get Ryan, and we both hoped she wasn’t disappointed that she missed the birth (again). This time, she’d get to see the placenta!

She was elated to see the new baby…her new sister. She asked what we were naming her again. Oh yeah, her name! We’d been quiet on the name this time, since we shared her sex. And because I wasn’t entirely sold on it. But now that she’s here, it’s perfect. It suits her to a “T” and suits our family quite well. It “goes”.

Asher Eleanor.

Asher means “fortunate, blessed and happy”. Eleanor means “light” and is the name of my great aunt, my dad’s Aunt Rene.

We are, indeed, fortunate and blessed to have this sweet girl join our family. We were surprised at her intentions to join our family, but are truly, truly blessed to have her here with us.

We also find ourselves truly, truly blessed with friends and family and friends who have become family. Though no one made the birth (again- we’re just too quick for that), we had so many sweet people be a part of Asher’s first day. Lindsay came to say hi instead of heading out for her morning run, Kirsten skipped half a day of work to feed us and hang out with our big kids, and be a part of a very, very normal birth (which I know was insanely difficult, and also, hopefully, cathartic), Ruth took our biggest sister out for a special outing on her own, and so, so many others have helped in tiny, countless ways. I don’t know that any of you will ever really understand how important our “family” here in Seattle is.

Asher truly, truly is a blessing to us all.

First day of Kinder

Yep, yesterday, we sent our first baby, our Peanut, to Kindergarten. One small step for her, one giant step for mom and dad.

It’s so much more than just a first day of school. It’s the first day of her joining the public school institution; of US, as a family, joining that institution, and is the beginning of the next 13 years of her life.

I did good yesterday. I hid behind my camera, focusing and f-stopping to avoid crying. It worked. I got great shots and held it together. Of course, now, writing this, the tears are pouring. Can I blame it on the pregnancy?

She loved it though. She made a little friend, sat next to some boys on the bus (was disappointed to not find a girl to sit with), and enjoyed her teacher, Mrs. T.

Test Drive

Do you ever feel a little like you’re still test driving the life you’re living? I know that sounds strange, and maybe very un-“live in the moment” but occasionally I feel like I’m still trying it on, seeing if it fits, and tossing it back on the ground as if it doesn’t quite work for me.

Yes, I know, I have 2 kids and one on the way. One who’s a bit of a surprise, and still I sometimes think “oh my, am I really going to have 3 little girls in all of 7 weeks?” Yes, I know I have a house now, which makes me feel rather grown up, but again, like I might be a bit of a poser. Yes, I am a landlord now, again, making me appear much more grown up than I feel I am. And these are only a few of the things that make me feel like I’m still trying on this life. Still test driving it to see if I want to buy in…except someone else (myself, actually) already bought it and gave me the keys. And it’s what I have, so I drive it.

Where the heck did all this come from? It definitely started with test driving minivans last week. Three kids doesn’t really leave you a whole lot of options for toting them around, and though a station wagon could fit all the necessary carseats, it wouldn’t leave a lot of room for groceries. So minivan it is, but man, it felt strange driving one. And will continue to feel strange. Part of me wants to camp it up, embrace it and go all “soccer mom” on it. Part of me wants to RUN to the Audi dealership and buy a TT that I can’t afford and won’t hold all of my kids, but damn, would be fun to drive.

It could be that Ryan started Kindergarten this week. That Finleigh is wanting to learn to use the potty and saying about 10 new words each day. That we are having our house painted. That we found renters for our condo. That I’m due in all of 7 weeks.

Or it could just be that some days, some weeks, I feel like I’m just a kid, trying on the grown up clothes and finding they’re still kinda big, they still look a little silly, and I still have a lot of growing to do before they’ll really fit.

This photo says 773 words.

celestin by ~oye on deviantART.

I stumbled on this image the other day on Pinterest and it’s been haunting me ever since. Likely not so much because I’m pregnant right now (or maybe it is) but moreso because of how much, and how often, I think about the state of maternity care in our nation.

Though I understand the photographer was simply paying homage to another photographer, using her newly born nephew as the subject, I find it speaks VOLUMES about birth in hospitals. And yes, I recognize that this post may piss people off. The good ones usually do. They touch nerves, they elicit guilt, they bring up memories you’d might have rather not remembered. But the truth is that our maternity care is abysmal, we’re doing it to ourselves (yes, even those self-selecting OUT of hospitals), and we can change it, if we just choose to open our eyes to what’s really going on.

Maternal Mortality in the United States falls behind 40 other countries at 11 deaths per 100,000 live births. It’s defined as the death of a mother, from a number of various causes, within 42 hours after giving birth (1). Severe bleeding/hemorrhage is listed as the top cause of death. One of the most used drugs during labor in American hospitals is Pitocin. Why? Because it (can) speed labor up (why, I ask, must labor be sped up and not allowed to go at the pace the woman’s body deems it should go?). One of the side effects of Pit is post partum hemorrhage (2). Ironically, it’s also administered by midwives FOR post partum hemorrhage. The drug works, much like our own natural oxytocin, to create uterine contractions. This can be a good thing, or it can be a very, very bad thing.

The use of Pit often leads a laboring woman towards an epidural a lot faster than she might have gone on her own (if at all). Pitocin contractions are notoriously intense, moreso than oxytocin contractions, and can come on stronger and more suddenly than a woman’s body (and baby) are ready for. So she asks for an epidural. Though epidurals are considered generally “safe” by the medical community, they introduce a whole host of other potential problems to a labor (3). It is extremely controversial to say that the likelihood of a cesarean delivery is greater with an epidural, but it appears more and more that this may be the case. And, though a cesarean is again, generally considered a “safe” surgery, it is still major surgery. And with that comes another host of potential side effects, including blood clots and anesthesia issues, and placenta previa and accreta for future pregnancies (4).

Maternal death is highly preventable. Highly. If modern obstetrics would just LEAVE BIRTH ALONE, and let it develop as it needs to, most of the time, it would be fine. The WHO believes our cesarean section rate should be at 10-15%. It’s currently above 35%. I refuse to believe that all of those are true, true emergencies. Yes, I know, yours was. I understand that, and this post is not to undermine your birth, how you’re processing it, or how it has been retold to you. What’s hard for me to process is how many women are told their c/s was an emergency, needed to happen, baby might die, and it’s largely because of how we care for women in labor in hospitals. Care providers push, nudge, outright force babies out of wombs before they’re ready, and we are left to believe that our doctor saved our sweet baby (and likely ourselves) from the throes of evil, scary, deadly labor. Except that many of the hospital interventions LEAD TO that “life saving” c/s. Again, I DO NOT wish to undercut YOUR experience, how YOU felt about it, or how it makes YOU feel. What I wish to highlight is the culture surrounding birth, and how it’s so much more about an institution (a patriarchal one at that, believe that women are simply not capable of doing this whole “labor thing” without modern science to help it along) rather than an individual. And again, until the institution can change, there’s little hope for women and babies.

So where the hell was I going with this little lesson in the “snowball of interventions”? I was getting to the picture, and what it said to me.

And to me, it shows a newborn, alone, on a hospital bed and I wonder, where’s mama? Because I don’t know of many mamas who’ve just given birth and would voluntarily leave that sweet baby, lying there, alone. That is, quite possibly, the most tragic thing I can think of.

Happy FIVE!!

Five years ago today, I won the jackpot. I didn’t know it then, but giving birth to Ryan Elizabeth would change my life immeasurably. I guessed it, and assumed it would, but I really had no idea the depths and ways it would alter my entire existence. I’ve made lifelong friends, built amazing relationships and grown as a human being.

She is an amazing little girl: sweet, funny (hilarious, really), quirky, loud, and completely perfect as a member of our family.

Happy Birthday Peanut. We cannot believe you’re FIVE already!

One of those days…

No, not THAT kind. The other kind. The wonderful kind where you don’t really do much of anything special, but it’s still a lovely day.

Today was the first day this week I had time to focus on the girls, to not work, to not rush around doing a million things. And I was able to take the time to notice them, and notice what they’re doing right now.

Finleigh is clapping. When we say “yay” she claps. And she beams. She is SO proud of herself, and we’re so proud of her. When the phone rings, she looks around for it, and says, “ello, ello?”. I nearly always answer the phone with a “hello” and it’s so fun to hear her repeating, and so clearly learning from us. She and Ryan have table slap-offs, where they both bang on the table as hard as they can and giggle uncontrollably. Fin signs “more”, “all done” and “milk” and knows what they mean, too. When she’s hungry, we get lots of “more” signs. When she’s done with a diaper change, we get “all done” signs. She can pull herself up, primarily when we’re in the bathroom while Ryan takes her baths. She desperately tries to climb into the tub; she loves the water and her big sister. She’s quite the character. And it’s so fun to watch them interact.

I think the most difficult thing I’m finding about mothering two children, especially two this far apart is trying to celebrate Finleigh’s small milestones without making Ryan’s seem less important. It’s so easy to focus on the cute baby doing cute baby things and overlook the mundane things that a 4.5 year old does. I’ve really had to make an effort to celebrate what I don’t always see as big deals for Ryan, but to her, they are.

But today, there was big stuff. The easy to celebrate stuff. The “make mama tear up” stuff. Ryan’s been trying for weeks to write “real” words. She spells out letters and asks me what it says. It usually says nothing, though she’s been getting closer, and better at sounding out words in attempts to read them. Today though, she wrote a word.

All by herself.

I was in the kitchen when she asked what R-O-L-I-E spelled. I had to stop and think for a minute, and then ran out to the living room…it’s spells rolie, Ryan, you spelled a word!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so excited. She jumped up and ran around the living room shouting “I spelled a word all by myself!” and nearly knocked me over hugging me. I’m having such a hard time believing that she’s nearly five, and nearly reading.

So yeah, today was one of those days. But not one of THOSE days.