9.29.2005

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My first baby is a two year old American Pit Bull Terrier named Roxie Carol. Though details are sketchy, she seems to have been abandoned by her first family when they moved from their home in Providence, Rhode Island. This compassionate and forward-thinking family chained her to the fence and high-tailed it out of there. Neighbors saw her, but either through negligence or fear that calling the authorities would lead to euthanization (or both), nobody unchained her for two weeks. Finally, when her emaciated body and sad eyes must have been too much for someone to take, she was cut loose and, again, left to fend for herself. It wasn't until she was taken under the wing of a construction worker at a site she frequented upon her release from the fence that things began to improve for Rox. The construction worker knew of a woman named Sue in the Providence area whose calling was to rescue abandoned and abused Pit Bulls, and soon Sue had Roxie set up in a foster home with two other Pit Bulls and two loving foster parents. When her adoption notice was posted on Petfinder.com, I saw the ad and contacted Sue right away. The rest is history.

Roxie loves people with a wild eagerness that defies the fact she was once abandoned to the frigid March winds. Her tail wags ferociously whenever she sees old friends or potential new ones. My husband and I can already see the bond forming between her and our newborn as Roxie lays her head in Tolby's blanketed lap or stands guard next to Tolby's stroller on walks through the park. It breaks my heart to think of Roxie's rocky start, but I am so grateful to have the opportunity to make sure the rest of her life is comfortable--giving her shade when it's hot out, warmth and cuddles when it's cold, and all the dog treats and cheese slices she can handle. We would prefer that she stay out of the garbage cans, though, and ask that she leaves the breast pads and diapers alone :)

9.28.2005

There are a lot of new moms who speak about their baby with an adoration befitting the saints. While I admit that I do think my daughter’s poop doesn’t stink (too bad), I don’t consider her particularly saintly. She’s just a baby. My biggest thrill is watching her gain independence, as low-level as it may be at this juncture. Seeing her lift her head, find her thumb to suck—these little things are overwhelming when I think about how quickly they will be replaced with the next late breaking development.

Part of the whole “fourth trimester” thing is that baby’s aren’t fully ready to be born at the time they actually pop out. For the first three months of their real lives they are still a part of their mother, albeit a part that cries more and has no control over bodily functions. To fully buy into that theory, one would have to put aside any sense of a child’s burgeoning independence, and put one’s own sense of self on the back burner as well. I can see the necessity of the latter part to a degree, but I can’t help but wonder where that leaves the old ME, the one my husband married and agreed to have a child with in the first place. Where am I supposed to draw the line between being a mother and being myself? Perhaps it’s impossible, and counter-productive, to draw any lines through the haze of these new and uncharted post-partum days. Therein lies the difficulty of being a new mom when you also want to be a wife, or a professional, or anything other than a handmaiden to the household’s new ruling class.

Speaking of which, she is beckoning me now :)

9.27.2005

Yesterday my husband and I went to the Big E (or the Eastern States Exposition, otherwise known as the ninth largest fair in the USA, if you please). Because Chris would rather jump off a cliff than indulge in blatant consumerism, it was barely fun. He wasn’t always like this, but now that I am a stay at home mom (from here on referred to as “SAHM” in proper deference to Internet lingo) the lack of a second income has gotten to him. It was a shame, since I had been looking forward to a night out and a day at the fair for weeks. Despite some grumblings and the occasional “So, why do you want to go to this thing again?” he took the day off from work and we made arrangements for my mother to watch our nine-week old. We were off.

In one of the agriculture buildings, we saw a SAHP with approximately 8 out of 10 swollen udders and a pile of piglets basking in the fluorescence. She was beyond ugly, but the piglets were cute. It’s easy to become so enchanted with the wiggly lethargy of a baby piggy that you don’t think about the fact that it will soon grow to resemble Ted Kennedy and grunt similarly, too. I looked down at my own engorged mammaries and thought that I would never feel so connected to that pink, hairy and maternal swine as I did just then. It wasn’t appealing when I thought of it in those terms, so instead I pictured my own smiling baby, soft and cooing, separate from my breasts and years away from any possible runs for senate as a bulbous democrat from Massachusetts.

It was the chicks, however, that won best of show in the cute department. Row upon row of brown eggs incubated atop wire mesh as fine lines developed on the shells, hidden chicks pecking for their lives. The audience of fair-goers, peering in through the glass, were fixated on one particular egg as the crack grew and a few straggly hairs poked out and receded, poked out and receded. This went on for five minutes, then ten, till the girl next to me stated that she had been caught up in this chick’s fight for over a half hour. A woman behind us clucked knowingly and said that most of these little ones die of exhaustion if they are not able to extricate themselves from the albumen within 20 minutes. In the time that this chick worked spasmodically to break through one final piece of eggshell, another egg developed a crack, was pushed open, and heralded the arrival of a newborn chicken, all bedraggled and weak-legged. We were happy for this new little guy, but sad for the other fighter whose birth we were still all caught up in. While I didn’t know if the woman’s ominous foretelling was accurate, it was too depressing to find out. My husband and I traded the shit-filled dome of the agricultural building for the overcast September sky, heading out into rows of vendors hawking wares and fare that we couldn’t nearly afford.

9.23.2005

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THE BIRTH STORY--PART II
Upon waking for another round of fetal monitoring around 5 or 6 AM, my husband began reading to me from Eleven On Top, the latest comedy-crime novel by one of my favorite authors. He had purchased the book, per my suggestion, as a little token of his appreciation for the work I’d be doing on our daughter’s inaugural birthday. That day dawned slow and hopeful as the hospital, too, came awake, carrying a chorus of nurse’s voices from the desk across the hall, along with the smell of slightly burnt bread in the toaster.
Exploiting all available forms of media, we took a break from the book to listen to a CD of Lewis Black’s comedy and flip through the television channels as we waited for the arrival of the midwife-on-call. The TV beamed over photos of a second round of bomb attempts, this time undetonated, that were wreaking confusion all over London. All around us, the world turned, but my husband and I watched each other awkwardly in a sterile pink room that stood still.

The fetal monitor, to which they hooked me up once per hour, indicated a low heart rate, but that didn’t come as a surprise. A week earlier, I had been sent by my midwife to the hospital for a non-stress test that showed the same thing. The midwife on duty that day was not concerned, saying that the baby must just have a low baseline by nature. Nobody seemed too concerned now, either; or, if they were, they weren’t letting on. So we waited, and the mood was early-morning quiet and anxiously reserved.

The midwife’s first order of business when she arrived around 8 AM was to approve breakfast. My little feast arrived in the form of gelatinous egg and cheese on a croissant. Chris took out the video camera and recorded for posterity my ruminations on whether or not the greasy slab would actually stay down when the contractions came on. I had every hope for an unmedicated birth, but the reality of the pain and each twisted turn of events was only naïve speculation at that point.

Our “birth plan,” was shot to hell almost the moment the midwife walked in and saw the results of the fetal monitoring for the first time. “This heart rate really has me worried,” she said as she rocked slowly and contemplatively in the wooden chair across from my hospital bed, watching the low line creep across the computer screen. “I think we’re going to have to put you on an IV and give you some oxygen. We’ll see if that helps the baby out. We’re going to have to keep you on the monitor from now on. You’d better put on a hospital gown.”

I looked down at my comfortable black nightgown and mentally crossed “No IV” and “Intermittent fetal monitoring only” off my birth plan. My husband asked if I could just drink a lot of water instead of receiving fluids through the IV, but that, apparently, was not an option. A cumbersome clip was attached to my finger to record my own heart rate as the IV went in and the plastic-y smelling oxygen mask went over my nose and mouth. This, I thought, sucks. The midwife’s internal exam put me at 2 centimeters’ dilation, which is roughly where I had been for the past couple of weeks.

The fluids and oxygen seemed to help as the baby’s heart rate rose from the low hundreds to the 120s. The midwife was encouraged enough to deal another blow to my birth plan. “Since you aren’t really progressing on your own, I think we’ll start you on Pitocin to see if the baby’s heart rate can tolerate contractions,” she said. I sunk deep into the bed to which I was confined by needles, clips and tubes. My husband patted my hand. He knew my first love was the written word so he voiced his sympathy by picking up where he had left off in his reading of Eleven on Top.

The nurse hooked me up to a bag of Pitocin and upped the dosage several times before it had any effect. When the contractions began they came strong and close. The first two were less than five minutes apart. Each contraction was a long tightening with a distinct center that was almost separate from what built up to it and what came after. That center was excruciating but short lived. From the very beginning I wasn’t able to speak through the hard hills indicated on the monitor, cringing at first, then moaning. The contractions felt huge, but the jagged rise and fall looked so small on-screen. I knew it wasn’t going to get better, and I wondered how bad worse would feel.

The tension was in my shoulders and, strangely, in my ankles as I stretched out my legs and flapped my feet up and down as if trying to kick out the strain. I was further aggravated by the finger-clip that kept falling off and the tubes that made any movement more laborious and less rewarding. Despite the impediments, I took the midwife’s advice to shift from one side to the other and then to move to the chair beside the bed. My husband sat in front of me, taking my two hands in his. Occasionally he would massage my head or back, but it was never long till I would grunt my displeasure and he would have to try something different. We were two very talkative people with the sudden inclination to stay silent. The constant beat of the baby’s slow heart filled the room and made my head pound.

I didn’t necessarily want my husband to do or say anything, but I was fierce in my desire to have him there. When he got up to go to the bathroom for what seemed like the millionth time, I was the one who was pissed. “How many freaking times are you going to go to the bathroom?” I demanded. “Would you just stay here?” Though the bathroom was part of the labor room we were confined to, and was only about three feet from my bed, I couldn’t bear to have him behind closed doors. If he had a typically wise-ass response to my irrationality, it was lost in the wave of the next contraction.

9.22.2005

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There's no going back as Tolby emerges unscathed from the third trimester and continues on her fabulous journey. I'm just holding on for dear life.
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THE BIRTH STORY

Unbeknownst to me, my water broke on July 20th sometime between lunch and dinner, somewhere between the Connecticut shoreline and my home in the northeast corner. I spent my last full day as a mommy-motel (womb with no view) taking my dog for a field trip. We went to a pond where she could swim and, hopefully, not ingest so much water that she would be peeing all the way home. I was nine days overdue at this point and the next night’s moon was going to be a full one, so there was something definitive in the air as I waited expectantly for my life to change. This breaking of the water was an unnoticeable trickle for awhile, becoming more pronounced but still not tell-tale as the day wore on. Don’t ask me what I thought it was or why I didn’t make the connection, but it wasn’t till ten at night that I mentioned it to my husband. He had more faith than myself that I didn’t just suddenly go incontinent and was relatively certain that my old amniotic dam must certainly have burst.

I phoned the doctor on call at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, who directed me to come in so the staff could assess the situation. Once the water breaks, he said, contractions usually begin within 12-24 hours. At the time, I was still contraction-less and feeling fine. My conscious self was a bit paranoid that maybe I could not properly recognize the difference between lax Kegel muscles and an actual rupture of the amniotic membrane; but, at a subconscious level, I knew very well that the baby train was barreling down the track and I was powerless to stop it.

The half hour ride to the hospital at 2 a.m. was black, peaceful and portentous. I was becoming more aware by the second that I was taking a one-way trip out of my old life. I was attuned to every shadow, every curve of the road, every shard of moonlight that lead the way. The Dixie Chicks sung “Landslide” on the radio and I was overwhelmed.

Then the hospital was on my right, and I looked at the elongated glass façade of the state-of-the-art facility that I had driven by so many times, never knowing when I’d end up inside, but always aware that I would not come out the same. We walked in the emergency entrance as directed by the on-call doctor and signed in. A Women and Infants nurse was dispatched as our escort. On our way to the labor and delivery wing, we wound through an emergency ward of moaners, pukers and passed-out invalids presumably drawn in by the pull of that full moon. “This is much worse than usual,” said the nurse. “I’m glad you’re not having contractions so we can just get through here fast.”

We did, and soon I was in my own room, in my own hospital gown, joined by a nurse, a midnight midwife and a medical intern of the Doogie Howser persuasion. The midwife did an internal, inserting a long cotton-tipped swab that turned blue in indication that my water had truly broken. She reminded me that contractions should begin within 12-24 hours of point of rupture (which I arbitrarily assigned a time of 7 p.m., though I was pretty sure the leak started earlier than that). The midwife who would take charge of my active labor was scheduled to come on at 8 a.m. Her name was Sue and she should not be confused with the midwife I had been seeing faithfully for the past nine months--who, of course, was on vacation. That’s life, I thought, and settled into bed per the nurse’s suggestion that I try to get some sleep. Soon the fat moon was replaced by a fat sun visible through frosted windowpanes.

TO BE CONTINUED...