It should be obvious at this point that I’m taking a hiatus from blogging. Something about giving birth and having to figure out how to take care of a baby. I don’t when I’ll pick it back up again. Blogging has been very helpful to me, as a kind of public accountability measure. But it does take time, time that is now in much shorter supply. I’m also not sure just how much anyone else benefited. I already have some ideas for future posts (like the total cost for a home birth, and our take on the diapers we tried), so maybe as our schedule settles down I’ll be back.
Thanks for reading,
For weeks leading up to the due date we asked Baby to come maybe a little bit early, but not until grandma Key (my mother) was here. It’s a good thing that we specified a contingent event and not just a date. We picked up my mother at the airport at around 7pm on December 11, one week before Conan’s due date. In the airport Mike leaned over to my belly and told Baby that now that grandma had arrived, it could come at any time. Personally, I was hoping for a few more days before the birth. We picked up dinner on the way home, and my mom and I enjoyed tacos while watching NCIS:LA. Afterwards she went to bed and I started putting away the sheets and baby laundry that I had done that day (all those tiny little socks!). At slightly before 9:30pm I felt a rush of fluid, and then another shortly after. I felt like I had peed my pants, but my bladder was not the cause. I went into the bedroom to check that I didn’t actually need to pee and change my clothes, then went back to putting away the laundry. After another rush of fluid I decided to put on a menstrual pad. I was starting to wonder if this could be my mucus plug or water breaking. The fluid was relatively clear and odorless, so there were no signs of a problem; but I had really hoped that the sack would stay intact for much of my labor to make movement easier for the baby. At 9:47pm I was sitting at my computer and felt what I thought could be a contraction. When I stood up I felt another rush of fluid. At that point I decided that I needed to call one of the midwives to let them know what was going on just in case something happened during the night. I sidled up to Mike and told him with a shaky voice, “Don’t freak out but I’m going to call one of the midwives. I think my water may have broken or the mucus plug may have come out and I may have started going in to early labor.” He was calm, responding that he was excited and the timing was perfect. I was the one who needed the “don’t freak out” admonishment. After all, I wasn’t supposed to go into labor only 2 1/2 hours after my mom arrived in town!
At around 10:15pm I went alphabetical in my phone and called Rachel F-T and left a message, then called Rachel H and talked to her about what had happened. She told me that she’d check in first thing the following morning unless we called her with an update. In the meantime I headed straight for bed to attempt to sleep. Attempt to sleep. Over the course of the night I was woken up at 15 or 20 minute intervals with contractions. I tried really hard to find comfortable positions (or rather positions that made the contractions more bearable): on my side, on my back, and partially sitting up. I kept a rough eye on the clock each time I was woken up so I knew that the time between contractions was variable with 3 or 4 per hour, and they hadn’t really increased in intensity through the night. Come morning I didn’t really want to linger in bed since laying down had not proven to be a very comfortable position during contractions. We got up around 6am, and Mike updated Rachel H over the phone and then called work to let them know he wouldn’t be in and would be starting his FMLA leave immediately. When my mom came out of her room we told her that I had gone into early labor. There were a few tasks that needed to be taken care of first thing, like washing the diapers so we’d have something ready to use! Sometime after 8am Rachel H came to check on me. It was comforting to have her tell me that sometimes the water breaks twice when only the outer membrane ruptures and what comes out is the fluid between the membranes.
Throughout the morning I continued having contractions. I stayed mostly in the living room, and moved from the sofa to one of the birthing balls at intervals to change positions. Walking was not appealing to me, as I felt weak and wanted to conserve my energy. I never had the “happy chatty” phase of contractions that we had been told about; probably because I was asleep for much of my early labor. Instead, during contractions throughout the morning I would stop talking (mid-phrase or mid-word) and focus on breathing and making it through the contraction. The morning is mostly a blur to me. My mom and Mike timed the contractions occasionally during the morning. It was pretty easy for them to do I guess because they could tell by my face, body position, breathing, and/or break in talking when a contraction had started. The contractions gradually increased in frequency over the course of the morning. Mike’s mother came for a while during the morning, then left for a while and came back in the afternoon. Listening to her conversation without joining in was very soothing. Around noon Mike talked to Rachel H again. My contractions were approximately 5 minutes apart at that point, and she told Mike to call her again when the pressure started moving down “like a bowel movement”. Around that point I had started standing up occasionally during contractions, leaning on the window or Mike or someone else. Shortly after 1pm we called Rachel back to let her know that I was starting to feel pressure moving down. The contractions were still around 5 minutes apart. Rachel arrived at the house at around 1:40pm.
At some point in the early morning I had had to rush to the bathroom to throw up the remains of dinner. So for breakfast I had toast. Which soon followed dinner down the toilet. We resorted to warm honey water, since I often do that when I’m sick to provide my body with energy without taxing the digestion. The honey water didn’t stay down either. Rachel H advised that I should stick to not more than 1 cup of room temperature water per hour. In early afternoon we decided to try a little more food since I hadn’t had anything to eat since the toast attempt, and had only been sipping the electrolyte water all morning. I managed to eat 3 pita chips, and 1 or 2 dried apricots. Later my mom fed me a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt with honey mixed in.
I don’t really recall, but according to the labor record by around 2:45pm I started moaning during contractions. I attempted to go to the bathroom sometime after that and just the walk from the living room to the bathroom was exhausting. When a contraction came on as I was returning to the front of the house I got on my knees leaning against the bed. I was feeling weak and scared at that point, on the verge of tears. For some time the world around me had been a blur and I wasn’t really sure what other people were doing as I was so internally focused. When I was kneeling at bedside I thought that I wanted to get into the tub with warm water. Mike helped me stand up and I remember gasping out the question of whether the tub had been filled. I think it took me so long to ask the question that it was interrupted by a contraction. They immediately started filling the tub while I continued kneeling against the bed.
As soon as the tub was full at around 3:15pm, I got in and I didn’t leave it until Conan was born. I don’t think I could have. I floated in the water, sort of sitting on my side at first. The contractions were still around 5 minutes apart, but getting stronger and longer. Rachel F-T arrived not long after I got into the tub. According to the labor record by 4pm the contractions were back to back. I just remember trying to float in the water using as little energy as possible and trying to let the warm water help me relax and ease the pain a bit. I don’t remember it working all that well at the latter. By around 4:20pm I started bearing down at the peak of some of the contractions. When that started I remember again being almost near tears thinking that this just meant several hours possibly of more intense labor. It turns out I’m close to being a screamer when pushing. It took constant gentle reminders to lower my pitch into more productive “oooo” sounds. This is surprising to me as I had expected that I would make similar grunt/groan sounds as when weightlifting. I tried to keep the “I am woman hear me roar” mantra in mind to help me stay low pitched and strong. I remember hearing my mom say that it was really hard to watch me go through this. I was really worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to see the labor through to the end. As dusk fell, other lights in the house were turned on to provide some illumination, but the dining room was left dusky. My world was the tub, Mike or my mom at the head of the tub supporting me and giving me sips of ginger ale between contractions, and the Rachels. Everything else faded into the background. Every once in awhile something would filter through. I remember hearing people talk about lights and suggesting that the entry light be turned on. I remember Marlene’s phone making lots of noise as she got emails about several EBay auctions that were ending. I remember looking up at some point and seeing her and my mom sitting at the dining room table. I remember that my arms and legs felt tingly and heavy.
One of the Rachels suggested that I move to a kneeling position with one leg up at around 5pm. They asked if I wanted to reach down and see if I could feel the top of the baby’s head. I didn’t want to at first because I was afraid of not being able to feel anything, since that would just confirm that I had lots of laboring left to do. When I did finally get up the courage to feel, I felt something smooth and thought I would have a bald baby. I was also frightened by the correlation of the magnitude of pain with how little of the head was visible. I started trying to visualize a blooming rose during contractions and while I was pushing, as a way of trying to visualize the tissues stretching and the head crowning and passing through. Not sure how effective that was. At some point I started praying that I would feel the “ring of fire” soon, if for no other reason than that it would mean I was almost done. Throughout this whole time Rachel F-T would periodically use the doppler to monitor Conan’s heart rate. It was so incredibly comforting to hear her say what the heart rate was since it stayed around 120-130′s. No matter how much I was struggling, I took that to mean that the baby wasn’t being traumatized and was not in any danger.
When I did start feeling the “ring of fire” of course, I just wanted it to be done. I was also afraid at that point that despite a honey straw I had been given shortly before, I’d run out of energy and the baby would be stuck in the birth canal. May seem crazy now, but at the moment… So I pushed long and hard with each wave. According to the birth log there were only five minutes between “almost crowning” and “baby born” notations. Conan Yeager was born at 5:57pm on 12/12/12.
Conan’s birth brought Mike to tears as he got to introduce his son to the world after having kept the gender a secret for so many months. My first thought was decidedly less emotional: “It must be a sea monkey, there’s no way I pushed out anything that big.” In my defense my first sight of him was of his back tinted slightly greenish from the water as he was floated between my legs and up to my arms. (After a water birth the baby is brought to the surface face down.) He was 21.25″ long and weighed 9 lb 2 oz.
Mike and I got to hold him for a few minutes in the tub before I was helped up and out of the tub, dried off, and almost carried into the bedroom by Mike while I held Conan. The placenta was delivered as I rested on our bed and then my mom cut the umbilical cord. Conan rested on Mike’s chest right next to me before he was moved to my chest to nurse. While I was being checked out and stitched up our mothers were sent off to get sushi. It wasn’t my first postnatal meal, since the Rachels had brought “birthday cake” of toast with almond butter and sliced apples, complete with a candle right before I nursed Conan for the first time, and I had finished the honey yogurt and indulged in some snack Bunnies shortly after moving into the bedroom. Some of our friends and family will remember us half joking/half serious that Mike was going to get me sushi while I was in labor, well that was tweaked a bit when we developed our actual birth plan.
When they inspected the placenta they found two holes, so when my water broke it was just the outer membrane that broke and released the fluid between the membranes. Just as I had hoped, Conan was in a fluid cushion until just before emerging. When I felt his head what I was feeling was the inner membrane, not a bald head.
Overall, with the exception of not being able to keep food down, this was a great experience. I am so so so glad we did a home birth. I could not imagine having to pack up in the middle of this to go somewhere unfamiliar with unfamiliar people around me. I do think it is funny that one of my reasons for home birth is that I would be able to move/eat/etc whenever & whatever I wanted; and then I couldn’t keep food down! And while I didn’t necessarily think that I would have a water birth, I knew I would want the tub at some point and am extremely glad that I had that option. I also really liked the fact that no one was tracking my dilation. It was freeing to not know how much time had passed and how much “progress” had been made, and just go with the sensations and experience. Our midwives were awesome, and really calming for me.
In the birth tub
Our new family
Conan, our little grub
For the last several months I’ve been working on catching up on my photo albums/memory books. They were a little out of date. The paper album hadn’t yet left 2004. The digital album really only had 2009 and 2010. Now my paper album is up-to-date (except for the wedding albums), my friends-and-family album is in progress, and the digital album is halfway through 2007. I chose to do this as a first chakra exercise (as well as clearing the mess from the collage table in the living room so that I can do some artwork) prior to Baby coming. I figured that it would be a good first chakra exercise because it reinforces my tribal history, reminding me of the friends and family that have made me who I am today.
I also wanted to figure out a second chakra exercise, since the second chakra is physically located in the sexual organs and it seemed like it would be appropriate as a part of labor prep. For the longest time I didn’t have any ideas what to do. Then a few weeks ago I realized that pregnancy in and of itself is a second chakra exercise. Not only that, but it’s an exercise in letting go control, which is my biggest second chakra issue. Yet another example of how well nature takes care of itself. During pregnancy I am no longer in control of my body/senses, sometimes my mind and emotions play with me and become “unpredictable”, and time after time after time there are circumstances where it doesn’t matter what I want because it’s just not going to happen. I can have the image of the ideal pregnancy: healthy diet, daily supplements, regular exercise, plenty of relaxation, a nursery that is carpeted before the baby becomes full term allowing plenty of time to pull together a nursery, a solid plan… However, that just ain’t reality and the most important thing I can do is let go and accept what is reality. Yes, I know, that’s true in normal life as well, but it’s magnified during pregnancy. Stressing out is not an option. And when I have had breakdowns they need to be resolved asap; repression is not an option, depression is not an option. Most of those breakdowns have been related to either control issues or relationship issues, both of which are second chakra, and have resulted in me being able to work through some significant challenges that I hadn’t been facing. Mentally, conscious pregnancy has been very healthy for me.
And now I think I’m ready for labor and then letting go control of the rest of my life.
I’ve been meaning to write this post for months, and figure that I really need to do it before life turns upside down and I forget everything that I tried on my “deodorant journey”. This journey really started several years ago when I realized that I no longer needed to use an antiperspirant. I was also starting to wonder if there might be subtle health effects from preventing the skin (and major lymph nodes?) from detoxing through the underarm. I was putting a lot of attention on how to best support my body’s natural detoxification systems, and at the best antiperspirant didn’t seem to be something that would be helpful. So I switched to deodorant, buying it at the grocery store. At first I liked the variety of scents much better than those available for antiperspirants, and I found that for the most part deodorant was really all that was needed. But as time went on, I got tired of paying what seemed like a lot of money for these products that have really long ingredient lists and really only provide marginal utility. Plus I was tired of being stuck in between the “feminine” scents and the “masculine” scents.
So a year and a half ago I started a new journey: making my own deodorant. Here’s a list of what I tried and how it worked.
- Nothing (a la “European”). Hey, it’s a baseline. And you know, some days (especially calm days in winter) I found that bare underarms made it through the day just fine.
- Straight baking soda. As far as prevention of odor goes – baking soda is amazing! It worked successfully through a hot July day at the State Fair. It’s cheap and readily available, and doesn’t leave any markings on clothing (as long as it is applied first). It is not, however, easy to apply. I tried dusting it on with a facial powder puff over the sink, but there was no way to not make a bit of a mess. The biggest problem? After a while one of my underarms turned dark pink/purple, started to ache a little, and then the skin peeled off.
- Straight essential oils. Works great, for about an hour. I would put a drop of a safe essential oil (like lavender) directly on each underarm and then rub it in. Smelled great at first, but then wore off and by the end of a work day I think it was worse than nothing.
- Essential oil in a carrier oil. Same problem as the straight essential oils: wears off quickly and then it seemed like the underarm smell was worse afterwards. I was worried that the oil would start to stain my clothes, but that never happened, at least not that I noticed.
- Oil and baking soda. Almost a winner, almost. This was an attempt at combining the benefits of the baking soda and the essential oil in carrier oil. I would apply a layer of oil on the skin first, and then dust on the baking soda. It worked great for odor (courtesy of the baking soda), and the oil prevented the baking soda from making my skin peel off. But there’s still the messiness of applying the baking soda. And turning the application of deodorant into a two-step process is annoying.
- Homemade coconut oil deodorant. I sort-of tried a recipe for homemade deodorant that calls for mixing baking soda and corn starch into melted coconut oil, and then pouring it into an old deodorant stick. I didn’t measure, though, and went purely by consistency. I also left out the corn starch, maybe it would have worked better with the corn starch. There were three problems, all of which could possibly be remedied but I’m not planning to try. (1) The coconut smell isn’t really strong, but it is there, and as I was trying this remedy at the beginning of my pregnancy that was a problem. (2) At temperatures above 70 degrees F coconut oil liquifies and starts to seep out of the bottom of the deodorant tube, making an oily mess. I thought about trying it in old toilet paper rolls with some kind of cap on the bottom where you just tear the paper down from the top. But I got tired of the smell first. (3) After a bit, my underarm peeled again. Apparently mixing the baking soda into the oil isn’t as effective as using the oil as a barrier. Maybe the corn starch would help? I gave up before doing a Take 2.
- Homemade beeswax deodorant. I didn’t actually try this myself since I already discovered years ago that my skin gets red and itchy when beeswax products are applied to it. My friend Brown Thumb Mama tried this, though. If I remember correctly she did encounter some staining on clothes, though.
- Crystal. Jury’s still out on this one. I used to think the rock crystal deodorant was a ridiculous idea, but since baking soda was so successful I figured that maybe the crystal would work. I’m not overwhelmingly impressed, but it’s also not worthless. It didn’t fare quite so well through a day at the State Fair, or stressful days at work, compared to the baking soda. But it works fine on normal days. It really only works when applied on fresh clean skin, though, which is a problem after shaving: it stings! The rock is supposed to last over a year, and I haven’t yet seemed to make a dent in it, so I’ll keep using it. I’m saving a final verdict for when I’m not pregnant, in case that changes things.
I really wanted to run through my pregnancy. Oh well. How some women train for and run in marathons while pregnant is beyond me. I dropped as soon as the first trimester exhaustion train hit me. For a couple of months I could barely go for a mile walk. At one point I thought I had my energy back and I went running. I went on my previous short run route of two miles, and got almost three-quarters of the way before I had to stop and walk because I was afraid I’d collapse. I waited a few weeks before trying again. Then when I finally did have my energy back I got in one run before the temperature shot up into the mid-90′s. Given how difficult it is to stay hydrated while pregnant, and the risks of elevated body temperature to fetal development, I would not run while the daytime temperatures were above the low-90′s. And since we started October in the 100′s, that meant that I’ve only had a month of cool enough temperatures to even think about running. I was hoping to get in one 1-mile run per week, but I’ve only managed two runs in a month. I’ll take it. Unlike all the people who warned me that I wouldn’t be comfortable running with all the relaxin coursing through my body and stretched ligaments in my belly, I’ve had no pain in joints or abdominal region while running. Really intense soreness afterwards, yes, but pain no.
Since I couldn’t run through the summer I tried to figure out alternatives. Walks with the husband are good. Healthy for the body, the mind, and our relationship. Belly dancing, “slow calisthenics”, and light strength training have also been on my list. I’ve been trying to get back into regular strength training for a while now, with no success, so it’s not surprising that I haven’t been able to make it a go in the last few months. Occasionally I’ll do a couple arm exercises and some lunges or wall sits, but it’s been really hit or miss. I’m doing a little better with the slow calisthenics. By slow calisthenics I mean most of the same exercises I did back when I ran track and rowed crew: high knees, butt kicks, shallow jumps, and deep jumps. But what makes them slow is that I’m doing them without the jumping part. Even without the jumping aspect a few minutes of these exercises are both an aerobic and a strength workout. They are also the perfect way to finish off a little belly dancing session, as well. I never managed to drag myself out of the house to take a belly dance class, so I’ve only used the one video that I’ve had for years. At this point I know the basic moves from the video, I just suck at doing them, so I wrote down the list and instead of belly dancing in front of the TV in the living room I’m now belly dancing to a CD in our bathroom where I have a couple mirrors. One thing about belly dancing while pregnant is that I can’t see what my hips are doing, and my perception of what my belly is doing is totally off since in my peripheral vision it looks like my belly is always sticking out. Using the mirrors helps me know what I’m doing, and also helps to make sure that I’m not arching my back.
But what about those exercises that pregnant women are “supposed” to do? Things like pelvic tilts (aka cat and dog), leg lifts, and groin stretches? Well in my opinion slow calisthenics and belly dancing are a more fun way of doing pelvic tilts and leg lift-type exercises. I don’t do them every day, but hopefully it’s enough to keep my muscles toned and ready for the squatting etc of labor. I don’t have back pain, so I’m not worried about not doing daily cat and dog stretches. When I get out of the shower at night and my body is warm I try to remember to do some quick stretches. I’m rather proud of the fact that I can still touch my toes (I don’t think it counts as cheating that I have to spread my legs a bit to make room for the belly). In the next month I hope to focus more on flexibility and stretching, as well as not stressing out and tensing up my muscles. While I’m an expert at making life difficult for myself, I’d really like to have toned and relaxed muscles for labor and not make that any more difficult than it has to be.
One of the questions that came up as I was preparing to sort my trash for this year’s solid waste audit was what plastics should be classified as recyclable and which as non-recyclable. In 2001 when I did my first personal trash sort this was an easy question to answer. This was back in the day when recyclable plastics were only types 1 (PET) and 2 (HDPE). So the “recyclable plastic” category was just plastics with those numbers on them, and everything else was considered non-recyclable. In 2006 and 2012 it’s a little bit different because officially any numbered plastic can be put in our recycling bin. I’m a little skeptical that all types are recycled, though. I’m inclined to think that the commonly recycled plastics are sorted out and the rest are trashed, but that they tell people to put all numbered plastics in the bin to make it easier for the general population and increase recycling rates.
My understanding is that types 3 (PVC aka vinyl) and 6 (PS aka polystyrene) are not commonly recycled because of the potential for release of toxic gases during the process (that would be chlorine gas and styrene). Type 7 is the catch-all number, and includes everything from polycarbonate (of BPA fame) to the new corn starch plastic PLA, and much more. With so much variety inherent in type 7 plastics, there must be a variety of physical properties, which I would think makes it difficult or impossible to recycle type 7 plastics. As far as I know, types 1, 2, 4, and 5 are currently the only commonly recycled plastics, so those are the only ones I throw in the recycle bin. In 2006 that was also how I differentiated between recyclable and non-recyclable plastic. But for 2012 I wanted a little bit more certainty so I tried contacting the company the collects our waste to find out what actually gets recycled. The reply that I got back was confidence inspiring: “As far as I know everything is recycled except for Styrofoam.” (with no name or email signature). Not helpful. Do I take this response at its word? Or do I assume that it was someone who didn’t know what they are talking about? I suppose maybe the various types could be compressed enough combine them and make something new.
For the trash sort I worked out a compromise. “Recyclable plastic” was types 1, 2, 4, and 5. “Non-recyclable plastic, no number” was plastics with no identifying number, so that I’m not even supposed to throw in the recycle bin. “Non-recyclable plastic, 3,6,7″ was plastic types 3, 6, and 7, which are uncertain but assumed to be non-recyclable. But I’m still left with a little bit of a dilemma: do I continue throwing away types 3, 6, and 7 or do I start tossing them in the recycle bin in case the waste management company ISN’T sorting them out and throwing away. So far, we stick with the status quo. But I’d hate to think I’m throwing away what I could be recycling.
What do I consider to be the best gift I’ve ever been given? The gift of college, fully paid by my parents (well I did have a small scholarship). Especially in today’s world I am incredibly grateful to have been able to go to the university of my choice, focus on my classes without needing to work during the school year, and get a college degree without having a loan to pay off afterwards. This is a gift that I really, really, really want to be able to pass on to my children as well. My parents did this using savings in bank accounts and CDs. We’re going to add another investment option to our arsenal: a 529 plan. Years ago when I first heard about 529 plans I didn’t think they were that great because I thought it meant you were picking the state where your kids would have to go to school. Having been given the choice to go anywhere in the country, except for schools located in-state or near home, I couldn’t imagine setting that kind of limitation for my kids. But when I realized that the invested money can be used for qualifying education expenses anywhere, I changed my tune.
To be honest, we’re not fully taking advantage of all the potential benefits of a 529 plan. Really the only benefits we’re taking advantage of are the tax-exempt nature of the distributions and the hopefully higher rate of return than a simple savings account or CD. Depending on the state there are other benefits available (I think typically only to residents) like tax deductions. This will seem kind of random, however, but we’re not enrolling in the California 529 plan, or the New Mexico 529 plan. We’ve enrolled in the DC 529 plan. It’s because SRI (socially responsible investing) is very important to me, and the DC plan is the only one (as far as I know) that is managed by an investment firm dedicated to SRI, Calvert. My Roth IRA is through Calvert and I really like the work that they do. TIAA-CREF, the plan manager for California ScholarShare, has some SRI funds but I don’t know that those funds would be part of the 529 plan. I don’t know if Oppenheimer, the plan manager for The Education Plan (NM) has SRI funds. By investing through the plan managed by Calvert I can rest assured that all of the funds in the plan are SRI funds. And I know that I am comfortable with the positive and negative screens that the company uses, and with the shareholder activism in which they engage.
Now we just have to manage to put enough money into savings in the next 18 years to be able to pay for whatever college will cost in 2030.