On eulogizing

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Last year on this day I flipped my planner open to a new week and was overcome with an unexpected wave of sadness. I had put Nana’s photo sticker on her birthday immediately after receiving the planner for Christmas, not realizing she wouldn’t live to see her 92nd birthday. In fact, she died little more than a week after I placed that sticker there.

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My last hug goodbye from Nana, Christmas Day a week before she died.

Her death marked the end of a generation on my mom’s side. After her funeral, I visited the house she and my grandfather had shared for 57 years—the house my mom grew up in and I spent much of my childhood at—and just walked the rooms and cried.

That part of my life now feels like another era, encased in gold and far away from the world I live in now. It’s an emotional moment to realize a huge, unchanging part of your life is now a closed chapter, never to be visited again.

That’s not to say losing her wasn’t a great loss on its own. She was a special woman, the kindest person I’ve ever known. I miss her dearly.

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I had the privilege of giving her eulogy. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I knew I could and I should, so I did.

I was a ball of nerves writing it (fact-checking, trying to sharpen fuzzy memories) and wasn’t sure how I would manage to deliver it coherently. But I’m glad I stretched myself and went through with it. Preparing for the eulogy helped me grieve by reminding me of all the joy Nana and I shared and what a full and happy life she led. It actually gave me a great sense of comfort during that sad time.

One thing that helped was that for her 90th birthday I had written Nana a letter recalling fond memories and sharing how much I loved her. I had already told her how special she was; now I just had to share those thoughts with everyone else.

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A drawing from a sketchbook I had as a kid: Nana surrounded by things I associated with her (the bottom left is a jar of Flinstones vitamins, ha!)

So two takeaways here: if you’re in a position to give a eulogy for someone you love, you’ll have to push through the discomfort and the feeling that your words will be inadequate (they will be, but that’s OK). It will be worth it, and may even be good for your grief.

Second, don’t wait for the eulogy to express your love and share your fond memories. Your loved ones would love to hear that from you today!

So on what would have been Claire Fredenburg’s 93rd birthday, here are a few photos of the sweet, affectionate, creative, fun woman I was blessed to call Nana.

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With her mom (Mary) and sister, Eve (right).

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Love this photo and wish I could ask her about it!

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Nana loved to write rhyming poems for any occasion (she even put clever rhyming captions  on an entire family photo album). This one was published in a Carson Pirie Scott employee book of some sort (she retired from there after a lengthy career).

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Dancing during the “who’s been married the longest” dance at our wedding.

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Killing the dance floor with me at my sister’s wedding, exactly four years ago tomorrow.

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My top 5 favorite podcasts of 2015

2015 was a year of creative energy for me. I can pinpoint more than a handful of moments when I felt inspired to do or create in very exciting and diverse ways. These moments stand out as personal highlights of the past year, moments I’ve been bursting with enthusiasm, awe and new perspective.

Music, painting, handwriting, food, hiking, photography, sewing, journalism, Gospel understanding… these are all areas I explored or grew in last year with much excitement. One theme stands out in a huge way: storytelling.

It’s just been everywhere for me this year, an appreciation and love for good storytelling and all the many ways stories are told. I’ve studied it, I’ve thought about it, I’ve been taught about it, I’ve practiced it, I’ve come across it, it’s come across me.

One of my favorite places to go for exceptional storytelling is my podcasts app on my phone. It’s no news that 2015 was the year of the podcast—the medium simply exploded. Podcasting is the new blogging and I have no complaints about that.

The art of audio storytelling is so rich. It has given me daily inspiration and fascination in the past year (thanks to a handy cord my in-laws gave me as a Christmas gift last year that lets me plug my phone into my car speakers and listen to podcasts on my commute). I’ve learned so much from my favorite podcasts and been absolutely captivated by many episodes in 2015.

So as I look back on my favorite feeds, here is a list of my top podcasts and episodes of the year. I could gush about all of them and recommend almost every episode, but I narrowed it down to some favorites.

Mystery Show

This podcast is only slightly about mysteries. It’s mostly about people. In each episode, Starlee Kine takes you on an adventure with twists, turns and fascinating conversations. There are only six episodes so far, so you might as well listen to all of them, but my top three are:

Radiolab

Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich turn science into story with Radiolab. Although it’s clear that from their perspective, science/evolution/nature are the ruling forces in the world, there are many moments when listening that I so clearly see and marvel at God (they don’t see it that way, but the evidence speaks for itself). This year I feel like the episodes have been hit or miss, but when they hit, they are out of the park. Here are my favorite episodes of the year (admittedly, they are the less-sciency ones):

  • Sight Unseen. I cried walking in to work. This was one of the most moving pieces of radio I’ve heard.
  • The Rhino Hunter. This is the kind of journalism I wish every media outlet would do. It tells a story the headlines do not. Fascinating exploration of the topic of hunting and conservation.
  • La Mancha Screwjob. This was so much fun to listen to. Another peek into a culture I never think about: professional wrestling.
  • Smile My Ass. Another fun episode, about “Candid Camera.”
  • BONUS: Three episodes from 2014 are some of my favorite podcast episodes ever so I have to recommend them: Hello (talking with dolphins), Outside Westgate (the Kenyan mall terrorist attack) and Juicervose (autism).

Reply All

Reply All is a self-proclaimed show about the Internet. It took a while to hook me—I don’t think the storytelling is as gifted as with NPR podcasts, but the stories they uncover are just as interesting. It’s one I always look forward to listening to.

Invisibilia

This quickly became my favorite when it was new. It’s similar to Radiolab, but with awesome female hosts. One episode from its first season stuck with me the most:

This American Life

Just incredible storytelling. Almost never disappoints. Here are a few standouts:

  • Put a Bow on It. Multiple “Hamilton” references, plus it’s just fun.
  • Abdi and the Golden Ticket. So many times I’ve been transported across the globe by a podcast. Excellent example here.
  • NUMMI 2015. I heard bits and pieces of the original NUMMI episode (about a GM and Toyota partnership) back in 2010 and it’s always stuck with me. Still fascinating.
  • Same Bed Different Dreams. Part of it’s about North Korea. Enough said.
  • BONUS: The Radio Drama Episode from 2014 is freaking amazing. It was my first exposure to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work (“Hamilton”) and I still sing the songs in my head.

Honorable mentions go to TED Radio Hour, which always inspires or teaches, and Death, Sex and Money, which I’ve just started to listen to. Oh, and, of course, Serial, but I don’t need to tell you about that one.

What are your favorite podcasts?

 

2.5, 9 and 28

What do 2.5, 9 and 28 have in common? They’re the ages Corban, Mara and I all turned this week. Mara was 9 months old on Sunday, I turned 28 yesterday and Corban will be 2.5 this Sunday.

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2.5/9 months/28 and doing all right.

I feel like my age is finally starting to match my stage of life. I got married at 22, had a baby at 25 and another at 27. Statistically speaking, that’s not normal.

Up until the past year, I’d say my mind was still in my early to mid-twenties even if my lifestyle wasn’t. But now, at 28, I actually feel 28. I am not only OK with a night at home with no plans; I look forward to it. I’m happiest sitting on the living room floor laughing with Corban or bouncing Mara in my lap. My focus isn’t as much on doing something all the time, but just enjoying time itself with loved ones.

My aunt sent me a horoscope yesterday describing those born on June 5, and this line is particularly true for me:

These active, mercurial people have a high level of energy and never seem to sit still.

I think the biggest change I’ve seen in myself this past year is that I’m learning to sit still, even preferring it at times. I spend a lot of time doing things and going places and seeing people, and I need that (when I read those “you know you’re an introvert when…” lists I absolutely cannot relate to needing alone time. Let me socialize day and night, please!). But as much as I love and need that, I also have come to treasure my time spent relaxing and playing at home (maybe it’s because with two kids I’m almost never alone).

As I enter the home stretch of my 20s, I’m dreaming of big adventures for the future, but content with the small pleasures of now.

This week’s small pleasures:

Cutie pie Mara at 9 months in our blooming backyard.

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Cousins.

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Birthday lunch date with Peter – downtown dining week special at Coquette Cafe.

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Udon noodle salad for birthday dinner, prepared by our nanny (a.k.a. not me!).

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Corban’s first Oreo (er… Roundy-O. Sorry, kid.) He really savored it.

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Zoo today with friends.

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The Tiny Closet Challenge

I may be the only person to have this feeling, but I was a little bit sad to pack away my maternity clothes after each of my kids were born.

It was actually really nice being limited to such a small number of clothes that fit during pregnancy. I invested in a handful of decent maternity items and could clear out a good portion of my closet for a few months. Sure, it was frustrating at times, when nothing seemed to look or feel right (I think that’s just pregnancy), but if I stuck to my maternity staples, getting dressed was easy. Toward the end of my time being pregnant with Mara, I just resigned myself to the fact that I had about five dresses that I was going to rotate through until she was born. I don’t think anyone noticed or cared, least of all me.

When I pulled my normal wardrobe back into my closet, it was nice seeing some fresh items I hadn’t worn in so long, but it was also overwhelming. I am a clothes accumulator. It seems like no matter how many times I go through my closet and fill bags to donate, I still have so much that I don’t wear, yet I’m afraid to let go of it. And that can wear on me.

Starting June 1, I’m taking a minimalist wardrobe challenge. For six weeks, I’ll limit my entire wardrobe (including shoes, jewelry and accessories) to 33 items. You can read more about the challenge here. I’m going to blog about the experience for Fresh, the site I manage at work.

I don’t anticipate this to be a permanent change for me, but I think it will be a great opportunity to learn and grow, and hopefully make some positive changes to my wardrobe and life.

If you’re looking to simplify and think your wardrobe would be a good place to start, I’d love to have you join me in this! Here’s a form you can fill out to “officially” join the challenge. If you’re scared to commit… know that I am, too. But I think it will be worth it in the end (in fact, I’ve been told it’s worth it by several people who embrace a tiny wardrobe year-round).

Snapshot of right now

I didn’t intend to let this blog sit on a negative note for so long, but somehow days, weeks, months pass and I just don’t get around to posting all that I would like to write about.

Right now I have a few minutes (hopefully a bit longer than that) while both kids nap. This morning we woke up early – 6:30 a.m. is the norm these days, especially for early bird Mara – and read and played in the nursery for a while before breakfast. I’m off work on Wednesdays, and while typically we head to a 9 a.m. women’s Bible study at church, today the study is on “spring break” so we had the morning to ourselves.

After early bird Mara went down for her first nap at 8:30 a.m., Corban and I washed dishes (he could stand on his step stool at the sink all day rinsing things) and made a broccoli salad to bring to a playdate set for later in the morning. He played independently in the sunroom while I blow dried my hair, then we got to work “training” for the Easter egg hunt our nanny is taking him to tomorrow morning. I showed him the concept, then hid some empty eggs around the sunroom and had him search for them while toting around his cloth Easter basket. Instant success in the fun department.

Mara didn’t wake up from her nap until 10:15, so as soon as she woke up I quickly fed her and got us packed up and out the door to our playdate. I’ve been part of a really fun, active moms Meetup group since Corban was 9 months old, and while my schedule doesn’t allow me to make it to a ton of playdates, there’s almost always something planned for the days I’m looking to get out with the kids. This morning it was an Easter party at a fellow mom’s house. The Easter egg hunt tomorrow is organized by a few of the moms in the group, and Friday (my other day off work) we may head to a meetup at a bounce place. Most weeks we are not nearly this active with the group!

The playdate was a hit – there were tons of toys, kids from 6 months to 3.5 years old, brunch food, a craft (which Corban lost interest in after 2.5 seconds so I meticulously finished). I got to catch up with some of the moms I hadn’t seen in a while (I can’t remember the last time we were able to make it to a meetup!). Mara just chilled (as usual) and ate a few bites of egg yolk (the one food besides milk in her diet at this point). It was a really fun morning.

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We didn’t leave till close to 1 p.m., which is Corban’s usual nap time, so I was faced with a dilemma. I needed to stop at the dollar store to pick up a few larger Easter eggs and then drop the eggs off at another mom’s house for the hunt tomorrow. I debated, do I push my luck and get this over with while we’re already in the car, or wait till after Corban’s nap? I pushed my luck, and Corban was overtired and crying by the time we got home at 2 p.m.

Thankfully sweet Mara was (barely) OK with hanging out in the jumperoo while I put out the Corban fire and finally got him to sleep. Next was Mara’s turn to eat and go down. She fell asleep rocking in my arms and I held her longer than I needed to after she was out, just to relax and enjoy her snuggled up there.

Since my last post, I’ve really tried to avoid being out of the house by myself with the kids anytime close to Corban’s naptime. It’s the easiest way to avoid meltdowns and it works – no surprise – because crabby goes hand in hand with exhausted. Today clearly I failed at that (sorry, Corban) but thankfully it wasn’t too bad.

Corban is at such a fun age – he loves to sing, read (by himself and with us), play boat (on any piece of furniture) and airplane (in any small space), wrestle, help me in the kitchen, spot animals in our backyard. He picks up on new phrases and concepts all the time. He loves being outside (spring, we are so ready for you!), stuffed animals, playing with his friends from church and being around people. He’s also able to play independently more and more, which is so sweet to watch. He calls lemons “lemonades” and requests the “teacher song” every time we’re in the car (it’s a song about the 10 commandments on a children’s catechism CD). When I close my eyes and picture him I see his little eyebrows raised in surprise and delight as he gasps, “oh!” at an exciting discovery. Everything is exciting.

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Mara is amazing. She’s along for the ride, whatever it may be on any given day. Her legs are epic-ly chubby and her cheeks are just so kissable. Most people comment on her eyes, which are a striking gray-blue-turning-brown color. She is a happy girl and laughs a lot. She loves shaking rattles and toys, grabbing books and stuffed animals (really, anything), practicing sitting (still wobbly and will occasionally face-plant and make me feel horrible for not catching her) and “flying” up and down in my hands – an excellent arm workout since she weighs probably close to 20 pounds.

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Other notable items in this snapshot of right now: We are now aunt/uncle/cousins thanks to the birth of my sister’s little girl last week, Peter started a new job this week and I got my first Stitchfix in the mail yesterday (I know that absolutely pales in comparison to the first two items, but it made me giddy and if I had more time right now I would blog about it. Maybe later.)

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Hope you’re having a good week and can stop to capture the “right now”… in words, a photo or just in your memory.

Mara’s birth story

I am so happy to share Mara’s birth story with you – a story that didn’t unfold exactly as I expected (how could it?), but ended up even better than I could have imagined.

While my two childbirth experiences share a lot in common (both babies arrived two or three days shy of 37 weeks in labors that were five hours or less), I’m more struck by the differences between them. Corban’s birth story was somewhat dramatic. Mara’s definitely had its moments, but overall it was more like an episode of “Touched by an Angel” than “ER.” I think I prefer it that way!

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The story begins Saturday night, August 31. It was the day after our five-year wedding anniversary. We took advantage of the fact that Peter’s parents were in town and went out to the movies while they put Corban to bed.

At my 36-week doctor’s appointment earlier that week, my doctor had told me the baby’s head was lower than the week before and asked if I could feel the pressure in my pelvis. The answer then was “no,” but as I munched on buttered popcorn and sipped Cherry Coke during “The World’s End,” I definitely noticed it. On the drive home I told Peter I didn’t know how I could handle being pregnant for another three weeks if that were in store. I was just so uncomfortable.

We got home early enough to watch some “House Hunters” with Peter’s parents before retiring to bed. I had been bugging Peter to read a particular section of the Bradley Method book I was reading, so he finally read it while I perused another childbirth book and pointed out that I wanted to write down a birth plan in the next day or two.

At 2:20 a.m., Corban woke us up with a piercing cry. Peter attended to him while I lay in bed and started noticing some pretty strong contractions. I had felt similar contractions over the past several weeks, and thought if I could fall back asleep they would stop. As I dozed in and out of a light sleep for the next hour, never really falling back into slumber, I realized they were consistent, and they weren’t going away.

At that point, I told Peter what was happening. He tried to convince me I was just dehydrated from all the popcorn, and had me drink water and take some Tylenol. My doctor had said Tylenol “won’t touch” labor contractions, so if the pain didn’t go away I’d know it’s real labor. Peter also started Googling how to stop labor and suggested I drink a glass of wine. I did not indulge.

Another hour went by. This entire time, I was focused on remaining relaxed and comfortable through each contraction. I lay on my side on our bed with a pillow between my knees and consciously released tension, muscle by muscle, as each contraction hit. They were strong, and felt like deep cramps. I pictured what my body was doing — the cervix opening up for the baby — and tried to let it do just that.

This whole time Peter was timing the contractions using a phone app. At a consistent 40 seconds long and seven minutes apart, I knew there was no turning back and I needed to call my doctor.

I told myself I’d call at 5 a.m. Then as 5 a.m. approached, I started feeling like I had to use the bathroom. Between contractions and bathroom breaks, it was 5:15 a.m. when I finally made the call. The on-call doctor said it sounded like early labor and instructed me to come on in to the hospital. “Yay!” she groggily squealed to me.

I was excited, but not quite “yay” excited. This wasn’t exactly the timing we had planned on. I left work Friday after telling a colleague I hoped I had a good couple weeks left to iron things out there before maternity leave. And I was a bit nervous about what was coming in the hospital. I wanted a medication-free birth, and now was the time to put everything I’d learned and hoped for into action.

Peter admitted he was nervous — nervous that he wouldn’t be able to remember everything he’d read and be a supportive coach to me. We momentarily reversed roles and I assured him that he had nothing to worry about and had already been a great help.

At this point, contractions were more intense, and getting out of bed seemed to further intensify and encourage them. My hospital bag was packed except for a few last-minute items, so I lay in bed while Peter gathered things together and woke his parents to tell them what was going on (yay for not having to worry about childcare for Corban). I tried to get up to brush my teeth, change into the nightgown I had planned on wearing in the hospital, wash my face, find my glasses, etc., but each time I got out of bed a contraction would take me down or I’d need to use the bathroom. I wished I could just lie there. I finally understood the appeal of a home birth — if the doctor came here I wouldn’t have to pack up and ride to the hospital.

I had Peter take this as we headed out the door because he had refused to take a belly pic of me earlier that day and now this was our last chance. And I'm crazy.

I had Peter take this as we headed out the door because he had refused to take a belly pic of me earlier that day and now this was our last chance. And I’m crazy.

Finally, just before 6 a.m., we were in the car. Rick Jackson’s Country Countdown was on the radio — a show we listen to on Sunday mornings on the way to church. Peter sang along to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” (which always reminds me of this South Park scene in the episode from which our cat Biggles got his name) while I timed the increasingly close and long contractions. They were now more like four minutes apart, and seemed to ebb and flow in longer waves. A wave would wash over me, and just when I’d think it was peaking, another would crash in and prolong it. Peter slowed down at a stop sign and it felt like the longest deceleration in history as the seat belt pressed into my uterus.

The hospital parking lot was hugged in a pre-dawn fog that gave our walk inside from the car a dream-like air. I wished for a wheelchair to carry me down the endless empty hallway from the entrance to our elevator, but powered onward rather than asking for one.

We arrived at the administration desk on the labor and delivery floor around 6:20 a.m., and as I stood there to sign papers, a strong contraction doubled me over. Before I could put pen to paper, my water broke in an unmistakeable gush. “Clean up in aisle four,” Peter joked.

There was no laughing for me though. I needed to get checked into our room so I could lie down. A nurse quickly led us to a room and helped me get cleaned up in the bathroom. I struggled to get the words out to decline the hospital gown she offered while trying unsuccessfully to relax through a contraction that felt different than the others. I was starting to feel the urge to push.

I collapsed on the bed and attempted to resume the comfortable position I used at home. Hospital beds just can’t compare to your own king-size bed, though. Peter filled the nurse in on my desires — no IV, no meds, no interventions, etc. Apparently she had already been preparing whatever initial steps are necessary for an epidural, since (I was told later) about 95% of their patients ask for one. Suddenly her job got a lot easier.

I asked to have my cervix checked, knowing that I had to be frightfully dilated if I was feeling “pushy,” as they say. I asked Peter to get me some water. Then I realized the lights were shining full force and asked to have them dimmed. Anything to bring a bit of comfort. A nurse continued to question us while setting things up around the room and I became annoyed as my requests went unfulfilled, another contraction left me speechless and everyone seemed to be (from my perspective) pointlessly flitting around.

Finally I gathered the strength to insist someone check my cervix. The nurse did, and urgently told another nurse I had “nothing there,” aka 9 and 3/4 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. “Is my doctor on her way?” I asked, only to learn she was just now being paged. At least they now understood how urgent the situation was becoming!

Meanwhile, the resident on the floor, Dr. M (in fact, the same resident who was there for Corban’s birth), came in and we went over some more details with him. I asked if it was bad to hold back on pushing if I felt the urge. He assured me it was actually good to let the baby engage as much as possible before starting to push, but if I couldn’t resist any longer he was there to deliver the baby. I requested a crash course on how to push, and Dr. M obliged.

I really wanted to wait until my doctor, Dr. L, arrived to start pushing, so each contraction I told myself I could wait one more. It was like having to hold it when you really, really have to pee. Not easy! When I finally decided this was it — I couldn’t wait any longer — Dr. L burst into the room (or at least that’s how it seemed to me) and I had a minute or two break in contractions to say hi.

This is the part of the story that seemed the most drastically different from Corban’s birth. During the pushing stage with Corban, I felt like a machine struggling to keep up. When I was told his heart rate was dropping and I needed to push harder, do better and get him out immediately I was (obviously) terrified. My role was to follow directions — when to push, how to push, when to stop.

With Mara’s birth, I felt completely in control. I had no contraction monitor dictating to the nurse when to dictate to me to push. Everyone around me appeared relaxed and no one told me to start or stop pushing. I just pushed when I felt like I needed to and stopped when it didn’t feel right. Peter stood on my right and a nurse on my left, holding my legs, counting through each contraction, dabbing my forehead with a cool cloth and encouraging me. Outside the room’s large windows I could see that the fog had lifted and the sun was turning the sky pink, and I for a split second I felt almost calm.

I focused all of my mind and strength on each push, relaxing my legs, holding my breath, bearing down in the right spot. Delivering a baby is most definitely an athletic endeavor! I knew the harder I worked with each contraction, the sooner it would be over.

I had read that you get about eight-minute breaks between contractions during the pushing phase, but experienced no such thing. After each push/contraction I had to will myself to relax as quickly and completely as possible, because it would only be a minute or less before I’d feel the overwhelming urge to push again. Apparently even this part of my labor experience happens in hyper-speed.

I can’t complain though. It was intense, with hardly a break, but after just 10 or 15 minutes, I was told this was it! Last push!

Of course the last one seemed the longest. After eight months of wondering whether our baby is a boy or girl, with just seconds to go before finding out, time seemed to slow down. The anticipation of knowing was at the forefront of my mind even through the pain, exhaustion and relief of knowing the end was imminent.

At 6:57 a.m., about 40 minutes after we arrived at the hospital, Mara entered the world and Dr. M held her up. “What is it, Dad?” he asked Peter.

Before Peter could reply, I saw the answer and cried, “It’s a girl!” Over and over, through tears, I repeated that joyous phrase. Dr. L made sure Mara came straight into my arms. Her slimy, white, alien body lay on me as Peter and I admired our daughter.

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After a few minutes, the nurses took Mara to be cleaned up and weighed at a station next to my bed. My work wasn’t over, as the doctors delivered the placenta, gave me a shot of Pitocin to jump start my uterus contracting back to its normal size and began to stitch up my minor tear. Mara came back to my arms to nurse while they worked, and continued long after they finished.

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I could have held her like that for hours more. The fact that we have a daughter still felt so novel and unexpected. I couldn’t quite believe it. The concept seemed so foreign.

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When compared to Corban’s first hours of life… talk about night and day (literally and figuratively). Corban was born at the end of the day and whisked off to the NICU, where I had to be pushed in a wheelchair to visit and nurse him every three hours throughout the night. Mara arrived at the dawn of a new day, which we spent in our room snuggling her close and admiring her perfect features in the bright natural light of a beautiful late summer day.

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Of course, there was nothing wrong with Corban, and after he was released from the NICU we enjoyed the same endless snuggles and bliss that a baby’s first day of life brings. But we are so grateful that Mara was healthy and her birth was completely natural and free of complications and interventions. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience and we count it as a huge blessing that it happened as it did.

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I know it may seem easy now for me to be an advocate of natural, medication- and intervention-free childbirth since my labor and delivery experiences have both been very fast, so I don’t feel like I’m in a place to preach. But I do want to encourage anyone who desires to go the natural route. It is so doable if you go in with knowledge, preparation and confidence. I am fully confident that even if my labor was twice as long and even more intense, the methods I learned from reading (no, skimming) one Bradley Method book along with the support of my wonderful husband would have still been all I needed to manage the pain. With my first pregnancy, I went into labor without enough knowledge of the birth process nor confidence in my own ability to effectively cope with the discomfort and unknowns of childbirth. This time I knew what to expect — and not even just from having experienced it once before. Truly, my reading during this pregnancy informed me on what I had experienced with Corban’s birth, and that’s when things started to click. I also owe a lot to my friend Litzy, who has been incredibly supportive and shared a lot of her knowledge to encourage me along this path.

Here is the book that helped me: “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” by Susan McCutcheon. It’s not perfect and I don’t agree with every word in it, but it really was what equipped me the best for a natural birth.

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As with any baby, in the end it really doesn’t matter how she made her debut. As happy as I am with how her birth happened, the true joy is in Mara’s mere existence as my daughter.

Pregnancy #2: Home stretch

Tuesday will mark 36 weeks for baby #2, and I’m definitely feeling like I’m in the home stretch. Nesting has officially kicked in and my perfectly painted nails that I spent so much time on Thursday night are already wearing away from all the scrubbing.

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Since Corban made his debut at 36 weeks, 4 days, I feel like I need to be mentally prepared for this baby to come early too. My doctor has said there’s no indication this baby WILL come early, but after being taken by surprise the first time it’s hard to just relax as I approach 36 weeks!

This means I’ve finally made some good progress on all my pregnancy-related to do lists: got a haircut, had maternity photos taken, went shopping for nursing and hospital supplies, packed my hospital bag, got a maternity massage (more on that tomorrow!), completely cleared out our old office (Corban’s soon-to-be big boy bedroom), did some practice labor relaxation exercises with Peter, opened my disability claim at work for maternity leave, unpacked and washed newborn clothes and did lots of cleaning and organizing around the house (although to an outsider it probably looks just as messy as always). That was all in the past week!

I’m also physically feeling like I’m in the home stretch. I have contractions every day and need (like, *need*) to sit down with a glass of water if I’ve been on my feet too much (see above list…). My lower back has started to ache, and it’s just not easy to carry Corban or keep up with his joyful antics like I used to. Getting comfortable in general is not easy. My feet have definitely started to swell, but thankfully it’s not noticeable to anyone else, and they’re nowhere near as hideous as they were with pregnancy #1. I’ll spare you a link back to that picture.

Here’s a pic from almost two weeks ago. I can’t seem to time the photography and blog posting to line up…

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I was up 18 pounds at my 35-week checkup. That’s definitely less than I gained at this point with Corban, but comparing photos at 34 weeks, the bump is no smaller. Maybe it was all the foot-swelling last time…

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Although we didn’t take a childbirth class with this pregnancy, I’ve thought a lot more about what I would like the labor and delivery to be like this time. I am not at all nervous about childbirth, partially because I’ve been through it before so I know what to expect (in general), but also because I have a better idea of what I can do to make it more comfortable and a more intentional plan for how to make that happen.

I’ve mentioned before that my goal is to have a birth free from medicine or other interventions. The more I read about natural childbirth, the more I realize that Corban’s birth was far from intervention-free, although I felt like it was fairly “natural.” With Corban, I had an IV in the entire time, a tiny bit of pain meds in the IV at the end, an episiotomy and a vacuum-assisted delivery. All of that (except the pain meds) was not by choice, but because I was told it was medically necessary. Of course at the time I wasn’t going to argue with my doctor when she told me the baby was in distress and I would need an episiotomy and vacuum to get him out as quickly as possible. Corban ended up being perfectly healthy, and looking back I have no way of knowing if my doctor was being smart or unnecessarily cautious with those interventions.

This time, I’ve talked with my (new) doctor about episiotomies (she doesn’t do them except in extreme cases where the baby is in distress), IVs, monitors and other interventions. I’ve thought about what was uncomfortable about labor last time, and the IV and hospital gown are at the top of the list of controllable factors. I was super hot and uncomfortable and felt trapped in my jungle of IV cords, contraction monitor and two hospital gowns (why two?!).

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The IV was kind of unavoidable last time since my Group B Strep test results weren’t back yet (I had had the test two days prior) so I needed to have antibiotics administered as a precaution. They also told me I was dehydrated and would need fluids through the IV. This time, I got the strep test done at 35 weeks, and I’m in the clear. I’ve also been very diligent about drinking lots of water – and, to be honest, if they tell me I’m dehydrated when I check into the hospital I’ll decline the IV and just chug water. I think this will make everything SO much more comfortable! I mean… considering it’s childbirth.

I also bought a cute, comfy maternity nightgown that I plan to wear instead of the hospital gown. Such a small thing, but I think it will make a big difference.

I borrowed some books from my friend Litzy, who is a natural childbirth guru after having her first baby in May, and talking with her and reading up on the Bradley Method has made me feel more confident about natural labor. I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book (can someone please write a pregnancy or parenting book that doesn’t spend just as much time bashing people who disagree with their methods as it does explaining what their methods are? I have found this to be the universal annoyance with ALL books on these topics!), but I like how positive the author is that with proper relaxation and pain management techniques you most certainly can have a natural childbirth without a problem. I definitely plan on employing some relaxation tips from the Bradley way of thinking. Peter is not too excited that the book recommends that the husband massage the wife’s lower back for hours on end during labor. He should be thankful that my first labor was way short, which means this one could likely be short too!

I do actually plan on writing a birth plan this time. Not a “this is how my childbirth experience must go!” plan, but more of a “here are my preferences” plan so I don’t forget to communicate something to the nurses.

So, that’s what’s been on my mind this past week or two. Nothing but work (a whole other set of to-do lists!), enjoying summer with Corban and PREGNANCY/CHILDBIRTH.

7 thoughts at 7 months pregnant

My due date is two months from yesterday. That seems like both a very short time and a very long time.

Here’s what’s on my mind:

1) I actually went through the entire day yesterday thinking today was July 24 and telling people my due date was two months from today. I was in serious shock and disbelief to learn that today is in fact July 25. It’s cool to just blame pregnancy brain for being a day behind, right?

2) My excitement to meet this child is growing – a lot. I just want to know – boy or girl? And I want to hold my dear baby and see him or her, and enjoy a sweet, tiny newborn.

3) My fear of being a mom of two babies is also growing. At this point, I just do not have the emotional or physical energy to keep up with Corban after working all day, and I know waking up six times a night with a newborn is 10 times harder than being pregnant. So I’m sure everything will be a bit challenging at first, although I won’t be working… which brings me to my next thought…

4) I keep thinking once I’m on maternity leave I’ll have time to do all the junk around the house that is currently neglected because I have no energy beyond working 40 hours a week and scraping by as a mom. Am I crazy? I also have this idea that I will be able to attend playdates and go out and do typical mom things that happen during working hours. I probably am crazy.

5) I joined a fitness challenge with a few other moms (basically we just set goals for ourselves each week and then get points for meeting them) and it has been really motivating for me to be consistent with what I know I should be doing to prepare for labor and the end of pregnancy. My goals seem really silly compared to my pre-motherhood athletic endeavors, but they are important and make me feel healthier. I’m focusing on walking, squats, pelvic floor exercises, sitting on an exercise ball (yes, sitting is considered exercise for me at this point, haha), drinking water, eating vegetables and getting enough protein in my diet.

6) I really desire to have a natural labor and delivery this time. I almost did with Corban (had a tiny bit of painkiller in the IV at the end), but I didn’t really have any intentions one way or another regarding meds (other than let’s see how I feel and then decide). But now I’m feeling more drawn to do it the old-fashioned way and do whatever I can to prepare myself for that. That means it’s time to check out some natural childbirth books from the library. Any recommendations?

7) I drank a beer tonight. This beer, specifically, and I don’t know if it’s just because I haven’t had a beer in roughly six months, but it tasted amazing. [And no, it will not give my child fetal alcohol syndrome. My doctor has sanctioned an occasional alcoholic beverage in the third trimester.]

But you don’t need a card to tell you that

As I made Corban’s Father’s Day card for Peter last night (praying Peter wouldn’t come walking into the room and ruin the surprise), I felt really grateful.

Here’s the front of the card:

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On the inside I wrote the truth: “…but you don’t need a card to tell you that.”

That simple truth made me smile.

Corban is so in love with Peter, and it’s obvious. Sure, he loves me, too, but right now Dada is number one.

He covers Peter in kisses, plants himself in his lap for story time and bawls his eyes out when Peter goes out the front door just to get the mail.

As adults, I think we often find ourselves using birthday and holiday cards to tell people the things we’re not sure we effectively show them in person. It was special knowing there was nothing I could write in that card that Corban doesn’t already show Peter every day.

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We all had a really fun Father’s Day (although I’m pretty sure every day is really fun for Corban – playtime, storytime, naptime, park, stroller ride… this is his everyday life).

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I hope that as the years go by, Corban’s love is still impossible to hide, and mine becomes so evident that cards do nothing more than state the obvious.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I feel so blessed to have a wonderful mom, lovely mother-in-law and two awesome grandmas. Today I got to spend time with my mom and one of my grandmothers.

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(This is the closest we could get to all four of us smiling in a pic.)

And, of course, the little guy that keeps us endlessly entertained was there, too.

I am so thankful that I get to be not only a mom, but Corban’s mom. I didn’t have too many expectations going into motherhood, but I definitely didn’t realize how much joy it would bring. Cliché as it is, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Corban.

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Every day, he finds new ways to surprise me and make me smile. Of course he is also getting better at bewildering and frustrating me, but even at his worst I really just want to hold him and kiss his head.

Corban said a nice, clear “mama” today — not necessarily in reference to me, but after I prompted him to say it. Nonetheless, it sounded melodic to me.

I’m sure Baby #2 will show me even more dimensions of love and joy (even if he or she isn’t as easy in the newborn days as Corban was). Being a mom really gives me a new appreciation for how my mom feels about me, and her mom feels about her, etc.

Happy Mother’s Day!