First of all, the place from which I’m writing this – it is now Monday, March 28, 2011 at about 7 in the evening. Kali is holding Alida in the chair next to me – playing with her head, holding her fingers, talking to her, and in general not succeeding in keeping her awake. She just gobbled a bunch of milk and is once again sacked out. Jason is journaling on the other side of me and I’m sitting with the feet propped up typing this. It is just the four of us, after a fun day of some of our family members meeting her. And it was an extra special day because we were home!! But backing up 2 days…
For the last few weeks I’ve known that the birth could happen any time, but I found myself hoping for just a few more days. As of early March our bedroom remodel project was done, which felt like the most essential project to complete on the home front before her arrival. I was eager also to get to a place in my work where I felt reasonably good about leaving my responsibilities to someone else. This past week felt like a gift of time I wasn’t sure I would have, and it included some good family times as well as a huge accomplishment on the work front – when I left the office on Thursday my email inbox was at ZERO (felt like as much a miracle as an accomplishment)! I was rather euphoric when Jason and Kali picked me up to head to our 40 week midwife appointment. And I felt something switch in me – I was ready for this little one to come and was ready for my maternity leave to begin…
I had been about 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced at our previous week’s appointment and at the 40 week one was about 3-3.5 cm dilated and 75% effaced. Still no guarantees on timing, but things were looking favorable! I was having more tightening of my uterus, but nothing consistent or timeable.
We decided we would keep making plans so Tadpole had something to interrupt with her arrival. Friday morning we enjoyed a family hike to the lake. Saturday, our official “due date,” we decided to enjoy the day around home with Jason in the garden preparing the onion bed and me in the house canning sour cherries (pie filling, juice and cherries) with Mom (how we acquired 120 pounds of pitted frozen sour cherries for free is another story).
By about 10 or so that morning I started to suspect that the day was a bit different than those prior to it – but did not want at all to get my hopes up (or anyone else’s for that matter). I noticed that the tightening I was feeling was different in that it started in my back and moved all the way around and it came and went in a bit more of a wavelike pattern. I also noticed they were coming and going so I started to glance at the clock noticing that I was having similar sensations every 5-15 minutes or so. We kept canning cherries …
I made butter from the week’s cream, got bread started, and made a large batch of soup. By about 2 or so in the afternoon I decided to start jotting down what I assumed at this point were contractions. They were now coming about every 3-12 minutes. Sometime in the mid-afternoon I walked down to the garden to let Jason know that I thought that maybe, just maybe, this was the “real thing.” It still felt a little silly to say I was in labor, when they really weren’t all that intense (though clearly noticeable and timeable) and we were able to continue with our day’s plans.
It seemed advisable by late afternoon to start thinking of plans for the evening to include a very probable trip to the hospital and for Kali to join my parents for the night. The 5 of us (6 including Tadpole) sat down to a yummy dinner of lentil burgers on fresh “green” rolls, potato bake, and sautéed wintercress. Jason wanted to make sure we also had time for our dessert of fresh sour cherry pie too! While we ate, Tadpole’s 0th chocolate birthday cake baked.
I made a few calls to midwife friends (one of whom had agreed to be at the birth and the other who was the midwife on call at the time). While not assuring me that I was in active labor, they seemed to suggest that this was likely not going to stop before we had a baby in our arms. Around 7pm Mom, Dad and Kali left for a concert leaving Jason and I to get the rest of our things together in preparation for heading to the hospital at some point that evening. Shortly after that one of our midwife friends came to help us determine the timing of our departure to RMH. I was still unconvinced of the need to go, but also knew that I had received multiple “warnings” that this could go fast – and Jason didn’t think this little one was going to tarry in arriving. Our friend midwife’s suggestion was that we head to the hospital right away. After putting the chickens in and finishing loading up the car we were on our way. On the 12 minute drive to the hospital I had about 4 contractions or so and they were coming regularly and were now getting my full attention, distracting me from paying attention to much else.
Upon arriving at the ER, I still felt a little silly as we cheerfully walked into the ER lobby announcing that I was in labor, only to be greeted by our neighbor and friend who works as a nurse there. It so happened that I was about 9 cm dilated upon arrival, but (thanks to both Nora and Kali) my body was handling labor with amazing ease. We got settled into the room shortly after 8am and Alida made her grand entrance into the world at 9:08pm.
(now Wed, March 30th) While it has now been almost 4 days since Alida’s birth, that final 45 minutes or so before she took her first breath will remain in my memory, along with the births of our other two daughters. I was very grateful to have two friends/midwives there, along with the steady companionship of Jason. And, with the inspiration received from being present for the birth of a friend’s daughter, I tried staying upright for this birth and when my legs got too tired from standing I used the birthing stool for those final contractions/pushes. Alida didn’t wait long to announce her arrival as she let out her first squeal before her shoulders had felt air. I pulled her out and towards my chest but then had to pause until they clamped the cord for Jason to cut it – she did not come equipped with a very long umbilical cord. I’m not sure if that was the reason for my lapse of good judgment but when I pulled her out, I found that the very first thing out of my mouth was, “it’s a boy.” I’m a bit ashamed that it wasn’t “welcome baby” or “we’re so glad you are here” but there is not much control in moments like those to where your mind goes and what it triggers to be verbalized. While we had thought of Tadpole as a boy for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, the second half had definitely included becoming accustomed and excited about a third little girl joining our family. For some reason the cord played a really good trick on me and I was quite certain that our adjustment from boy to girl had been in vain – I was quickly straightened out and soon our little girl was in my arms, expressing her feelings about having been pushed from her warm water world, but before long expressed some interest in her surroundings (particularly the opportunity to try nursing for the first time – she started out a pro and continues to be one!).
The hour that followed included my not so favorite parts of the birth experience – the need to birth the placenta, get a few stitches and endure lots of pushing on my uterus to start its journey back to a more reasonable non-pregnant size. Thankfully I had a baby in my arms for a good part of that time to distract me, as well as the joy of making the first call to my folks who were with Kali to let them know that they didn’t have to attempt to sleep that night before meeting her.
I think Kali was smitten immediately, and it didn’t take a very long “family consultation” there at the hospital for the three of us to agree that she would be “Alida Hazel Sarina Myers.” We came to the hospital with several variations of that name and also an alternate first name of “Tama” in our back pockets. But Jason and I had been getting increasingly attached to the name we finally settled on, and Kali was agreeable though she would have been just as happy, if not happier, to have Hazel omitted. So Alida can only blame her Mommy and Daddy for four names.
Various persons have wanted to know the background of our choice of “Alida Hazel Sarina Myers.” Early on in pregnancy we started talking about names. It was clear that Kali wanted to be very involved in the decision of the in utero name AND the name we would call her after she was born. This seemed a reasonable request, as long as we maintained veto power. I was feeling overwhelmed by internet searching and Jason really wanted to spend time looking at a lot of name options. None of us were feeling attached to names we had considered when expecting Nora that we did not end up using. We kind of wanted to start fresh.
(now Thursday, March 31st) So on one of our trips to the library Kali and I picked up three baby name books. One evening we decided to set the timer for 30 minutes during which we each took a different book and wrote down names that we liked. At the end of the time, we shared our lists with each other. The process had such a good feel to it. Kali had pretty early on ditched her book and had made up a bunch of names. I had made speedy progress through the alphabet in my book and Jason only got through a few letters (he also had chosen the 60,000 baby names book).
There was only one name in common between my list and Jason’s and that was the name “Alida.” On Kali’s list, she had made up the name “Sarena” which she read to us as “Sarina.” We both liked it and upon looking it up also liked it being a variation of Sarah (her Grandma Myers), as well as sounding a lot like Sabrina, a cousin on the Benner side of the family. So those names made it to the short list. Jason continued to spend time in select evenings going through the rest of the alphabet and sharing names along the way. Hazel came from one of those times, though Kali thought the fact that it rhymed with basil was enough reason to not use it – even though we are all big fans of basil!!
So in the end, we couldn’t narrow it down any further and found that we didn’t really want to either. And it seems that it suits her just fine. When the meanings are strung together, one variation of them would mean, “small, winged, powerful one who laughs.” She hasn’t laughed yet, but she is showing signs of contentment in greater proportions all the time. And the strength required to move her little legs out of the way for a diaper change or her ability to lift her head high off my chest and turn it from side to side seems to be an indication that she is going to be a strong little gal.
So she had her name before March 26th left us and we entered the second day of her life. We spent all of Sunday in the hospital, feeling pretty sleepy, entertaining many hospital staff persons working on our discharge in various forms, answering calls and emails from excited friends and family, and adjusting to Alida’s schedule, or lack thereof. By the end of the day we were eager to head home and chose to do so even though a final test had to be done at 24 hours – meaning not started before 9:08pm . It ended up leaving a pretty sour taste in my mouth after once again having a really good experience at RMH. She had to go to the nursery for a PKU screening and a bilirubin test. The bilirubin checked out just fine (to my relief since Kali’s had been high, requiring a repeat test at the hospital a few days after she was born). The PKU, which had been described to us as a simple heel stick, ended up being quite the ordeal to watch from the nursery window and I was near tears, or deciding to bust into the nursery, by the end of it. All I could hear were her muffled screams and see here little appendages flailing about with no one attempting to comfort her as they unsuccessfully tried to get blood from a vein and then proceeded to prick and squeeze her little foot. I can’t help but wonder if that experience is partly why she is very unhappy at some point during every clothing or diaper changing session – which are being required at increasing frequency…
We were tired and happy to get home, and found ourselves walking on a little carpet of red rose petals that marked the path to our front door. Mom and Kali were there waiting for us, as was a bouquet of daffodils from our neighbors, welcoming Alida (and us) home. How good it felt to sit in the rocking chair by the fire that Dad had started to warm up the house for us. And how good it tasted to eat a piece of homemade sour cherry pie before working at winding down for the night.
I snuggled up with Kali while Jason snuggled with Alida in the front room. It wasn’t long after I finished reading to Kali that Alida started wailing. That was the only inconsolable crying we have experienced since arriving home and while it felt like it lasted “forever” it was probably no more than 10 minutes or so until she latched on, nursed heartily and zonked out. It was a big day for all of us! Amazingly Mom and Kali slept right through it all!!!
The last three days have included a lot of a very limited number of activities for Alida: nursing, being held, peeing, nursing, pooping, sleeping, being adored, nursing, sleeping, looking at the ceiling fans, peeing, enduring having her clothing changed, nursing, etc… And she hasn’t been out of someone’s arms for much of that time, and seems to like it best that way. For those that know me well, the change of pace is striking and there really is nothing like a baby in my arms to truly slow me down – even if I still attempt to multi-task like I am doing currently. Despite having held her for hours on end, it is still hard to really let it soak in that this is the little one that I carried in me for nine months and that she is here to stay. She really gets cuter by the hour and her alert times are showing glimpses of future interactions that will melt our hearts (that process is well underway already). She seems to be rather content by nature and interested in her surroundings, when she can keep her eyes open. And there is definitely nothing wrong with her appetite. Yesterday she had a 3 day old check up – mostly to check in on her weight. Supposedly a “typical baby” (who has one of those?) after losing some weight after birth returns to their birth weight by the time she is two weeks old. Kali did not follow that pattern and it seems too that Alida has no desire to fall in the “typical” category. Yesterday she weighed 7 lb 15 oz, about 2 oz above her birth weight. It is nice to know that we don’t have to be worried about whether she is getting enough and I may even ditch the charts where I’ve been tracking her “inputs” and “outputs.”
With some of the initial adjustments well underway, it seems that for all of us the reality of a new baby in our home will slowly start to sink in. Having the first load of cloth diapers hanging here in the front room is a good reminder but it is more the intangible “sinking in” that I’m thinking of.
I often find myself almost calling Alida “Nora.” And I look at Alida as I’m holding her and feeling her little fully formed head and think a lot about the little girl we welcomed into our family before her . Alida does many things that remind us of either Kali or Nora, as well as things that seem unique to her. It is special to experience the familiar and the things that are new to this experience of mothering. And I imagine some of the lessons that both Kali and Nora had/have to teach me will be reinforced by our newest addition and there will likely be other new lessons to be learned.
One of my hopes during pregnancy was to be fully present to all I was experiencing during that time. That remains my hope for these early months of Alida’s life, particularly as I enjoy the luxury of time at home. And between trying to catch naps as I can and keeping up with the needs of our expanded family, I hope to find times to allow this experience to fully seep into my being and change me.