Monday, December 21, 2015

Nine Months

My girl, born on the first day of spring, is now nine months (and a day). She's been on the outside longer than she was on the inside.

Her crawling is improving by the day, though it's still not entirely coordinated. It's a sort of one knee, second knee, two knees together hop type thing. But she is determinedly moving forward. If not quickly.

The latest in her verbal repertoire is a sort of yodeling. As if she's imitating an ambulance siren. Still joyfully, enthusiastically shakes her head "no"to most every question. After a clapping hiatus, is loving her clapping skills again.

Separation anxiety has picked up a little, though usually she still doesn't care if I leave the room.

Her thigh rolls have diminished a bit so I'm hoping that's a sign of growing and not just her increased activity levels. We have a nine month check up next week and I'm anxiously awaiting that, hoping for good news. Truth is, I love her little body just the way it is. I figure if she's small, she's my baby for that much longer. I just want to know that she won't be small forever.

Perfect things come in small packages, Mommy!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bath Time With Her Bestie

Go to about 20 seconds to hear the best laughing. I can't help but laugh when I hear it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

First School Photo, and Social Developments

The wrinkly ankles completely slay me. My favorite part of the photo.
Calliope went pretty seamlessly to having a best friend at home, Eleanor, to having a best friend at school, Maya. (Though she still loves Eleanor best of all... though you might not know it from the way the girls fight.) Calliope and Maya met at a pre-preK play date at a nearby playground and quickly hit it off. You know, once Calliope stopped pretending that she was playing alone.

The girls stick together at school, it seems, and all was well. Calliope has always been a kid that does well with solitary play, so I was glad she had a solid friendship to count on.

Well. One day Calliope complained to me about Maya. She didn't like Tight Squeezes. Was very upset about them, in fact. Calliope didn't want me to help her talk to Maya -- and Oh! I was trying so hard to not make suggestions but just ask things like "what do you think you want to do?" because I've read it's critical to do this to prevent kids from shutting us out with future school issues... but it was hard! -- but she wanted her teacher to help.

We marched in to class the next morning, ready to go. We pulled the teacher aside and filled her in. Amy, her teacher, was sympathetic and grateful for the update. She agreed to help facilitate the conversation.

Unfortunately, Maya was out sick that day. A Friday. So Calliope, I guess, kept stewing about the Tight Squeezes all weekend.

On Monday, she was decidedly not looking forward to seeing Maya. On the plus side, I thought, she asked if I would help her talk to Maya, instead of Amy. So I texted Maya's babysitter to stick around the classroom for a few extra minutes. We pulled them aside and with a nod from Calliope, said, "Maya, Calliope is the kind of kid that doesn't like being hugged without her permission. Would you be willing to ask her first before you hug her?"

Maya said, "Sure." Happily enough. Case closed. Maya's mom texted me that night to say the conversation had a big impact on Maya, who was still reflecting on it. And asked if we could have a play date that coming weekend. I readily agreed. Have I mentioned that I really like Maya's mom? A friend for me at school, too! Maya's babysitter, who Calliope adores, also texted and asked for a Friday afternoon playground playdate after school.

When I told Calliope the next day about the weekend plans, she said, "I don't want to have a play date with Maya."

My heart sank. Oh no! Social disaster! My four year old wouldn't have a friend any more! My thoughts went to my own socially challenged childhood. What if Maya lost patience with Calliope and Calliope never had a friend again?

Meanwhile, I had ascribed personalities to the other children in her classroom. Adorable Kay (not her real name) was undoubtedly becoming that pretty but mean girl that excluded me from my group of friends. Igor was becoming that boy that tormented me in high school. I didn't want Calliope to be a loner all through school! What if Kay and Igor sidelined her?

Well, surprising to no one except me, it all worked out. The playground play date went well. Maya and her mom came over on Sunday and it was admittedly not an unmitigated success. Calliope was tired from our Hanukkah party the night before. Calliope mostly sucked her thumb and refused to interact. We moms had to remain fairly involved. My heart sank at the end. Poor Maya. And poor Calliope, too.

The next morning, Calliope and I were in my office, eating breakfast before school started. I got a text from Alex, asking if she and Maya could stop by -- Maya wanted to say hi. I was kind of surprised that Maya wanted to see Calliope after C was such a lousy host. I mentioned it to Calliope. She said, "Oh yes! I want Maya to come in your office while we eat breakfast!"

What??? I thought you didn't like Maya any more? You certainly acted like it yesterday!

So we let them in and the girls started a hilarious (to them) game of pretend sneezing on each other. And apparently all is back to normal.

The social lives of children are mysterious to me. Apparently the memories I hold from seventh grade and beyond don't have all that much to do with four year olds.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Old Flame

Ages ago, a reader asked what happened with Old Flame. I didn't mean to be mysterious! About a year ago now (or was it two years ago? I guess it was, since it was before I was pregnant, and it was definitely in December), I sent him packing.

He was still too emotionally involved with his ex. Not surprising because the divorce still wasn't done at that point. I didn't want to listen to him rant about her. But also, he was just too... socially awkward? I wasn't sure if that was because he was distracted by the ongoing divorce process, or just a matter of his weird engineer self -- just not that great at [successfully] engaging with others. Even while he was very cognizant of the fact that "EQ" is important, and that engineers tend to lack it. But he was that weird awkward way with my friend at a running event, when I was not around, so it certainly wasn't about me. So the divorce situation was a good thing to blame it on. He texted me when the divorce was finalized, and said he regretted that it taking so long had precluded a future with us. I responded blandly without engaging. I don't miss him.

I can't imagine dating anyone right now. I have no energy to give another person. This time in my children's lives is short. I don't want to waste any of it. Not to say that I don't want to miss a minute. I'm fine with taking breaks for me! But I can't waste any on drama, or first dates, or fights with a significant other.

Someday, maybe, I'll meet someone who wants to go on adventures with me or us. Until then, my life is so full. I'm happy. I have no time to be lonely.

Eight and a Half Months

Life has been so busy and now Amelie is nearly 9 months so I am determined to post something about eight months in the next seven minutes.

So, somewhere right around the eight month mark, Amelie started pushing up on all fours. The week before Thanksgiving. I thought it would take a month to start crawling... and then a day later, I thought it would take a week. But she stalled for a while. Or rather, she progressed, but very, very slowly.

But today, at least, intentional forward movement!

It's not true crawling, really, but it's very close. Now that she's moving, I expect her to perfect it into a true crawl very quickly.

I'm pretty happy that this video captures only the second time she did this!

In other news... she's an enthusiastic eater, and has liked everything so far except for a meatball... but then she got a serious case of constipation and I had to exclude a ton of foods from her diet because it went on for a month. It seems better now but after having some noodle kugel yesterday, today was a bad day again. I think wheat is a big trigger for her. I have no idea if this is common and she will outgrow it, or if this is something significant.

She's still nursing but my supply took a big hit over the Thanksgiving week -- I took a full week off of work and the girls and I went to my family's for the week. It was great but I think the total change made it hard for me to pump effectively. So I started pumping again at night and wow, what a difference it makes! I have more milk all day long, and wake up engorged when I pump at bedtime, but man, what a pain to add one more task at the end of the day. So now I'm doing it intermittently again. My supply is caught up and I topped up my freezer stash as well. I'm trying to achieve that impossible balance of just enough, and it never works.

The last few days, it seems like Amelie is eating less, and her thigh rolls are getting whittled away. I'm sure all that busy work on the carpet is contributing, also.

Still, though, this baby is just too delicious for words. Was I this crazy for Calliope at this age? I think so. But maybe there's also a last baby thing going on. I just want to nibble her all over.

As far as last babies go... I was seriously jonesing for a third for a while. Despite how hard the pregnancy was at time, particularly the digestive issues (which caused stomach aches, frequent diarrhea, nausea, occasional vomiting, dizziness, difficulty eating and breathlessness), I still loved being pregnant. Especially when I felt well. The last trimester flew by. And then my delivery was amazing in so many ways. I really wanted to do it all again. And to get to experience infancy again.

But as Amelie grows older, I relish her short babyhood even more while also recognizing that... I wouldn't be a good mother to the children I already have if I had another.

I wish my baby days didn't have to end. But I can't have a third child.

But don't ask if I've stopped paying for embryo storage. That might take many years.

If I met someone -- and I have no desire to do so -- I would totally have a third. You know, if everything else was ideal with this person.

Amelie's first Hanukkah. She is mesmerized by the candles. Also by wrapping paper. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


At dinner, she couldn't do it... At bedtime, to her immense satisfaction, she could!

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Little Gourmand At Seven Months

The best laugh!

(Thanks Amy for inspiring me to write shorts posts on the small milestones!)

First barrette, first pincer grasp, first strawberry, first Cheerios!
A busy day for my girl!

Amelie has been an enthusiastic eater since she started solid foods at 5+ months, a little earlier than originally planned because I was worried about my milks supply. But she was such a sweet little baby about it all, noisily sucking food off her spoon as if it were a nipple. Rather early on, she grabbed the spoon and we traded back and forth -- one spoon for each of her two hands, and one (inevitably sticky) one for me.

Well. A week ago she couldn't do this, at all. But a piece of food dropped onto her tray this past weekend and she handily picked it up with a pincer grasp. A week ago she needed her fruit to be inside a mesh feeder, or else pureed... this past weekend she handily fed herself Cheerios and whole raspberries and large pieces of strawberry. Turns out large pieces are actually a lot easier than little tiny pieces.

I had wanted to do Baby Led Weaning with Calliope, but had to abandon my plan because girlfriend would cry and pull her hands away if I put food on her tray.

But oh, Amelie! She adores food! We went to a brunch last weekend and she out-ate everyone. Just kept on going. Another mom was trying to be restrained in feeding her baby... so her baby just crawled over to Amelie (sitting in her booster seat on the floor) and ate off of Amelie's tray. This other mom had never given her daughter Cheerios, and only gave her the tiniest pieces of food, like a raspberry split into four pieces (and to be fair, I was this way before this weekend)... she watched in awe as her daughter, too, ate whole raspberries and blackberries and Cheerios.

Her joy was a miracle to behold. I love it that I am challenging her by giving her real food! And happy she is getting to enjoy this pleasure at such a young age. So much fun to feed a baby who loves food!

Amazing big sister reads patiently who a squirmy audience who is less interested in
listening and more interesting in eating the book.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"Attainable Goals"

There are times lately that everything is really, really good.  
These past few weeks have not been one of those times.  
I know I'm not alone.  What are your parenting struggles right now?  Feel free to post here or on your own blog if you want to share.

So here's what I'm working on.

One: saying "no" less often. Calliope really wanted to use the sunscreen stick this morning. Never mind that it is a rainy day in November in the northeast. So although it's messy, I said, yes... once she was otherwise ready to go. And when we got to school, I dabbed off the worse of the streaky white mess.

She wanted me to take a picture of Baby Jenna. My first instinct was to say "no, I don't need
a picture of a plastic doll."
Then I realized I could take a cute picture of Calliope with Baby Jenna.
Everyone is happy.

My first instinct is always to say no to more messes. I'm trying to say yes.

And two: not getting stressed and impatient with Calliope moving slowly. This is especially hard when trying to get out of the apartment in the mornings. Weekday mornings are, if not a well oiled machine, at least a lot smoother because we have very regular routines. But weekends... sometimes Calliope gets her screen time. I'm scurrying around trying to get things done and also to have a few minutes to relax on the couch and check email. So it's late morning by the time we are trying to leave, and sometimes, I just want to scream at the maddening pace and the "wait, I need to bring my fill-in-the-blank-which-I-won't-remember-to-play-with-while-we-are-out." And I get really tense. And tend to bark. So I'm trying to work on that.

Laura Markham suggests using "this is not an emergency" as a mantra and I'm trying.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Trip to the Circus

I'm really tired and want to go to bed but have to finish cleaning up the kitchen, which means it's a perfect time to blog, right?

Lately I've been going to bed at 8:30. Just so damn tired, recovering from the bronchitis and trying to get my fitness back up. Until the weekend, when I stupidly stay up late. Leaving me more tired on weekends than weekdays. What is that???

So just a quick post because I never have the energy/time/inclination to blog, but I miss it.

Before the circus (at Lincoln Center): Mommy, Calliope, Auntie Salt Lick (who treated us to the show)

I splurged and bought her one of those expensive (but cheap!) light up toys this year...
It's the little things, right? Especially when you are four.

Dressed up "extra fancy" for the circus. Extra fancy meaning a tutu, worn backwards and pulled up to her nipples, special jewels, and cupcake underwear. Oh, and mismatched socks. When wearing said outfit, it's important to lift the skirt all the way up before sitting on the subway, to ensure the cupcake underwear makes direct contact with the plastic seat, ideally while sitting next to a woman in hijab.

Casually perusing a little Curious George

When I put her on her knees yesterday, she stayed put for a few seconds! And today, she got
up on her knees all on her own a couple of times! Mobility, ready or not, here we come!

Just being her cute little self.

I let Calliope carry Amelie (while walking) for the first time.
Amelie seems untroubled by her new form of transportation.

...But those dangling legs make Mommy a little nervous.

Calliope's thank you note for Auntie Salt Lick (to thank her for the circus): a picture of Calliope. She has three noses. And
pink hair on one side, red on the other. The lines on top of the face are her forehead. Then there's eyes, the aforementioned
three noses, cheeks, mouth, and chin. Perhaps not entirely to scale. I'm tickled that she draws chins and foreheads.
The "MOMOMOM" means "I love you Auntie Salt Lick. Love, Calliope." 

On the back: The artist's signature. And no, she did not want help with spelling her name. There's ice creams underneath.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Seven Months

Seven months is fabulous.

She's the happiest baby on the block. Loves me, loves her sister, loves her nanny... Stranger anxiety has only happened a couple of times, when I've handed her to a stranger and left the room without warning. Today, I propped her in her boppy while I worked out. After my workout, I left her there to continue to play while I showered with her sister. It had been at least 45 minutes at that point. I anxiously stuck my head out of the bathroom as soon as we were done showering... to hear her cackling away to herself in the other room.

My silly girl, laughing at nothing in particular.

I am so blessed. And so is she. What a gift to be so content with life!

Her development is moving along nicely. Amelie learned to shake her head "no" on the day before turning seven months, and learned to wave "bye bye" the following day.

Her biggest interest right now is clapping. Can't get enough of it. But she can't actually clap herself -- those chubby little mitts won't stay open. But she loves holding my hands and clapping them together. At the first words of B-I-N-G-O she breaks into a huge grin.

Her newest accomplishment, as of just a couple days ago, is clapping plastic cups together. As you can see, she's exceedingly proud of herself.

She's not close to crawling but can pivot nicely on her belly and manages to move herself off a blanket rather quickly. I often find her in the crib a full 180 degrees turned from where she started out. Luckily she's just started to purposefully cuddle in the last couple of days, to make up for all this moving away.

First intentional cuddle

She's rolled once or twice from back to front but never does it anymore.

She's embraced solid foods wholeheartedly but still loves bottles and nursing.

She's going to the pediatrician on Monday for a growth check. Hoping she's stretched out nicely or else we are going to the endocrinologist to get things checked out. But there's no doubt she's blossoming...

As for me, it's been a rough couple of weeks. I came down with my first case of bronchitis. What an experience! The strangest part has been lying down at night and having my lungs start up a rattly, ratchety conversation, seemingly completely independently of me. It wasn't really wheezing. I had two days of fever, then was better for a day (I stayed home), then the next day I rode the subway with Calliope and thought I might just give up on breathing. I could. not. stop. coughing. even with an inhaler. I dropped her off at school, completed a half hearted pumping session (I didn't feel well enough to eat but hated to lose my milk supply) and walked slowly to urgent care. One chest x-ray, one nebulizer treatment, one prednisone and a handful of prescriptions later, I felt a little better. But it's been a slow recovery. Two steps forward, one step back. I did my first T25 workout yesterday, and felt good but took it easy. Today I was exhausted from that work out but pushed slowly through another. It's going to take a little while to get back to where I was.

Calliope is doing great. She continues to focus on writing letters, and on drawing face after face after face. We went to a class birthday party today, our first, and were both overwhelmed. It was quite posh and one mother, in particular, is just unfriendly. It's so weird to feel a person's eyes wash right over you. Our kids' birthday celebrations were mistakenly scheduled for the same day in September and I wonder if she resents me for some reason because of it? Lame. But slightly uncomfortable. Pre-kids, this would have bothered me so much more. The host mother, anyway, is gorgeous with this sexy Australian accent but went way out of her way to make sure Calliope and I (and Amelie) were comfortable -- she even took us up to her apartment (with jaw dropping views) so I could nurse the baby in private. But it made me aware of my economic differences from some folks in this community. Time will tell how that plays out.

Oh sorry, that was supposed to be about Calliope! Anyway, it was funny to see her so quiet and standoffish with these kids that she goes to school with every day. But I was kind of reserved too, so I didn't mind her being with me. While our little extrovert, Amelie, lurched and grinned at everyone from my lap. Silly baby!

Wednesday I took a vacation day so that I could travel with Calliope's pre-K class to "Forest School." Based on the example of a school in Vermont, the pre-K classes are spending every Wednesday in Prospect Park at the "natural playspace." There was lots of climbing, seed pod collecting and smashing, getting wet and dirty, and then a picnic lunch, Calliope's favorite. A little boy fell and cut his forehead pretty badly right in front of me, so I even got to be useful, pressing my cardigan against his gash until first aid supplies could be found, then keeping an eye on him until his parents arrived. He only got one stitch -- I sure hope he doesn't have an ugly scar, as it looked to me like he needed more, poor fellow. Unfortunately, I started to feel pretty sick after a couple of hours there -- I think I really needed another day in bed to let my lungs heal -- but it was a gorgeous day and I'm glad I got to see what Forest School was all about.

Dining al fresco with her best school chum, Maya

Getting to ride the school bus was a peak experience for these city girls

PreK lunch in the park

Friday, October 16, 2015

"Where Did They End Up For Haircuts?"

Calliope and I were headed home from school, silently lost in our own thoughts when suddenly from the backseat a smalll voice pipes up,

"Where did they end up for haircuts?"


Patiently, "Where did they end up for haircuts?"

"Who is 'they'?"

Frustrated now, "Where did they end up for haircuts?"

"Calliope, I hear you asking 'where did they end up for haircuts' but I don't know who you are asking about. Can you tell me what you were thinking about?"


I can't help it. I giggle. I say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Can you help me understand what you are asking?"

I hold my breath.

She giggles. For a moment. Then dissolves into sobs.

I turn my head away from her and try to choke down my laughter. It's so hard to not laugh at kids.

But I remember as a young adult, my relationship with my parents suddenly changed. It went from me depending on them for things -- and feeling like they actually liked to threaten to withhold these things from me -- to them suddenly wanting to spend time with me. The power had shifted.

And I was a little disgusted. They had [often] treated me without regard for my feelings, and suddenly they wanted me to regard theirs? To neglect my social calendar to hang out with these, frankly, jerks? No thanks. Not often, anyway.

I had a little more sympathy as we all grew older, but I certainly never felt like I wanted them to be my friends. I felt like that should have started long before, back when they had the power.

And so I think of this often with my own kids. That if I want to be friends with them when they are adults -- and I do want this, desperately so -- I have to start now. I have to treat them as I would want to be treated. Not to neglect my duties as a parent, but to do so gently and with respect. To not laugh at them. As much as possible, anyway. I fail at all my goals on a regular basis, but I'm trying.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why I Try Never To Say "Well That Was Dumb"

I had just finished a twelve hour overnight shift in the NICU where I worked as a nurse. I was riding the bus home in the early Saturday morning hours, bone tired. It was sunny, I think, and I was feeling regretful of my need to sleep before the next night's shift, wishing I could be out in the land of the living, enjoying the beautiful weekend with my boyfriend instead of shut up in a dark room with a white noise machine.

I laid my phone down on the bus seat next to mine. Just for a moment, I thought.

But when I got home a few minutes later, I realized my phone was gone.


That evening, at a pre-work dinner with Scott, my then boyfriend and now dear friend, I confided in him about my lost phone. Although I had a full time job in the NICU, I was also a graduate student, and we were living far above my means. He happily helped support me, no strings attached. But I thought surely he would be frustrated with me, given that I would have to buy a new phone out of my limited funds, meaning I would be less able to pay for something else.

"Oh sweetheart," was all he said, in sympathetic tones.

I looked at him wide-eyed. "You mean you're not mad at me? You aren't going to yell at me that I should have been more careful?" '

After all, this was the model I grew up with. More recently, my mom's water bottle leaked in her purse and ruined her cell phone. My dad berated her for an hour... and she was fully middle aged, successfully running her own law firm while he was... at home, working on his photography, entirely dependent on her income. Yet he castigated her, going on and on, while she meekly absorbed it.

It was his turn to look at me wide-eyed. "Yell at you? Why would I be mad at you? That's about the meanest thing I can think of. You are already so mad at yourself."

And after a pause, he said kindly, "You should go buy yourself a new phone tomorrow. Get a nice one."

This simple conversation changed my thinking forever. I vowed to be that person for my own child someday. The one who was sympathetic when the child screwed up, who let the child figure out mistakes on her own -- after all, I didn't need Scott to tell me not to set my phone down on the bus seat, I could easily figure that out all by myself -- with loving support.

So, JennC, that is why I didn't tell my child, "well, that was stupid," when my child [stupidly] put her leg through the back of the chair, hopped up and down, and fell down. Even though I really wanted to.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Just a Marveling, or a Shameless Mommy Brag?

This is supposed to be at the bottom of the page but Blogger is a hater and won't let me control such things.
I hope this is just a marveling, but it may come across as a shameless Mommy brag...

PreK is rocking Calliope's world. She's transforming overnight. Such a small thing, but she's suddenly started referring to "going to the bathroom" instead of "using the potty." She's holding doors for me. Ever since I started offering a bribe, err, carrot for dressing herself in the mornings, she's been leaping out of bed and dressing herself at 6:30 am.

She continues to work on writing. I'm very proud of myself for almost entirely keeping out of her journey towards literacy. I know that in Finland, children aren't taught to read until age 7, and at 18, they have the highest standardized test scores in the world. So sometimes it causes a little nail biting, but I try to keep my mouth shut and neither compliment or critique her writing.

I do say things like, "Wow, you are working really hard on that" but that's it. She needs to do this for herself, not for me. But I'm still thrilled to see her sit down and practice writing letters of her own accord. A couple of days ago, she crowed, "Mommy, I made an "S"!" and I was able to get excited. She can now write all the letters in her name, but doesn't know how to put them together to spell her name... and I've only once succumbed to the desire to spell it for her. I really want her to figure it out on her own, or to ask on her own, at least. Mostly, she writes "CAE" on all her work -- the first two and last letter in her name. Yesterday, though, she wrote "CALL" so she's getting closer.

Most amazing of all is to see the changes in her artwork. Last school year, she mostly scribbled.

Since she started PreK, she's been making a lot of "pagishes." I think "pagish" is her word for project? It consists of interconnected blobs. She makes these over and over again.

Pagish plus a couple asterisks -- these represent flowers.
The teachers transcribe what Calliope tells them about the pictures. 

You can see the "CAE" signature on this one. (Pinky is her kangaroo. He goes to PreK every day, too.)

And then their art teacher had them do self portraits... with mirrors. I was stunned by the results.

I couldn't believe all the detail. The irises and pupils and eyelashes!
(plus the extra lump on her head... the bow on her headband.)

They were all amazing, not just hers. I never would have thought to give mirrors to four year olds. Incredible.

And then today, she sat down at did portraits of our family. All of her own accord. With zero input from me.
A more abstract rendering of me (yet with toes). Don't worry, that's not me pooping. It's "just" my pubic hair.
I feel better knowing that, don't you?

I'm in love with this drawing. The eyes slay me.

Amelie is busy, too. She's figured out how to successfully maneuver her pacifier into her mouth. And to sit in a grocery cart. 

And to splash. And to shake her head no. We both find that really funny. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Small Worry

We've gone back and forth between two pediatric practices since Amelie was born. The neighborhood one is way more convenient and the pediatrician from there saw us in the hospital. She was warm and lovely there, and spent lots of time  Like an hour with us. Each time.

Then we saw her in the office. And it was still an hour each time. It started to get annoying. She seemed disorganized and easily distractible. Her practice partner, Dr. G, has a terrible reputation -- prescribing twenty "hot steam" treatments a day for my friend's baby's pneumonia instead of antibiotics. And then I had a concern about Amelie's breathing -- she was making loud gasping noises with breathing (inspiratory stridor) from time to time. And I realized I didn't trust this pediatrician with this concern.

So we switched back to our former pediatric practice. Dr. Rita is smart and focused. And lets me text her cell phone with urgent concerns. I email her for less urgent issues. Unfortunately, she's an hour away by public transportation. Driving is faster but parking is pricey in downtown Brooklyn. So to take one of the kids to see Dr. Rita is at least a half day adventure. A full day of missed work.

My friend Amy still goes to the neighborhood practice. She saw the new NP, Kate, there and liked her. Amelie was scheduled to see a doctor in Dr. Rita's practice for her flu shot on a day I was off work for a Muslim holiday... but the practice didn't have their flu shots yet. But the neighborhood practice had flu shots in stock.

So off we went to see Kate. She was focused and caring. Efficient but thorough. Perfect. And she noticed that with their measurements of Amelie (newborn, one month, and now, six months), Amelie had fallen way off her growth curve for length. She told me, "If I were the parent, I wouldn't be worried yet. Let's check her again in a month."

This advice might work on some parents. But "don't worry yet" has yet to work on me.

So when we got home, I dug up Amelie's measurements from her visits to Dr. Rita. And plotted them all on a growth chart. Even more worrying.

See how her heigh measurements (the top graph) are more or less on the same curve, then
suddenly drop to the 2nd percentile line?

I faxed the measurements and the growth chart to Kate. She called me yesterday and is definitely concerned... but Dr. G. is insisting that I bring Amelie back so he can measure Amelie himself. Thing is, she was measured three times in their office last week. The final measurement, Kate did herself, with me helping. They have a special tool for measuring babies, not just lying her on the exam table and making marks on paper at her head and feet. So I am confident the measurement is correct. I'm not squeezing an extra visit to the pediatrician into my already crowded day to appease his ego. I said as much to Kate, though I tried to say it nicely.

So now I am waiting to hear back from Kate. I also emailed Dr. Rita with a copy of the growth chart and asking for recommendations. I'm hoping that Kate will be able to give me names of specialists to see even without my returning to their office... but given what I have heard about Dr. G, I am not confident. Ridiculous.

Meanwhile, I had extreme anxiety, bordering on panic, about this but have now settled into mild to moderate anxiety. Kate wants us to see genetics as well as a pediatric endocrinologist so of course I'm worried that she has some rare syndrome associated with short stature.

To be sure, when Kate mentioned sending her to genetics, I burst out with "Oh my god, you think she has a syndrome???" and she laughed. And said, "No, she's beautiful."

And now Amelie has learned to rock and so I'm worrying that she's autistic. Despite her love of faces and extreme social skills.

I had a bit of growth delay myself as a child, though it was never diagnosed as such. I was just always really short... until everyone stopped growing and I kept on growing. I didn't get my period until I was sixteen and a half! But I was never this short. (I'm 5'5" now; her donor is 6'2". Neither of us have short parents.) Luckily I have my own growth charts from childhood filed away -- I can pull them out and bring them with me to the specialists.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure she's fine but I'm worried nonetheless. I'm not sure I wish that she's "just" super short or that there's some easily solved problem, like needing to give her extra growth hormone.

The first ride in the grocery cart is a thrilling experience!

Early morning snuggles... we love our short baby!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My Own Sweet Spot

Soccer class has ended up being kind of a dud. Just too much for my girl right now.
What started as my taking the girls to soccer turned into an epic eight hour play date.
The girls were so happy to be together (and played so nicely and independently), it made my heart hurt a little.
This is their first year apart after three years of 40 hours a week together since three months old.

Despite all the big changes in our house, I'm finding us in an unexpected sweet spot.

Due to her very long days and early starts, I'm trying to make life as easy for Calliope as possible right now. I wait as long as I can in the mornings, until I'm fully ready and Amelie is taken care of, before I wake Calliope. Then I bring her milk to her bed, and let her drink before I start getting her ready or even talking to her. Once the calories have kicked in, she's generally much more cheerful. Then I dress her, sunscreen her, brush her teeth... the only thing I don't do for her is pee on the potty for her! But I do keep her company in the bathroom if she asks. I find it's both faster and more energy efficient to just do things for her than to harangue her into doing things for herself. I certainly hope that in a couple more weeks, as she acclimates to her new life, she'll want to start doing more things for herself -- this is a kid who insisted on dressing herself at age two -- but for now, I'm trying to conserve energy for both of us.

I'm also trying to avoid conflict with her wherever I can. The rules still stand, but I try to say yes whenever I can -- does it really hurt me to take a minute to be silly with her, even if it doesn't sound fun? -- and when the answer is no, to make it sound like a yes. So if the question is, "can I have some ice cream?" the answer is "Yes, you can have it on Shabbat (Friday)" instead of "no, not tonight." It sounds silly but it really does make a difference.

The surprise benefit of all this is... she's much more agreeable. It's amazing how avoiding conflict whenever possible means we are both more patient with each other. When I ask her to do something, she's much more apt to agree... occasionally after only one request!

And even beyond that, we are just enjoying each other's company more. She says so many funny little things. It's amazing to watch her work to understand the world.

Anyway, it's lovely. Despite all the hardships, I love seeing her little face at work. And she's so thrilled to see me at the end of the day. It kind of makes me feel like royalty.

So things are smooth with her.

And Amelie, well. She's just delicious. Walking home with her today in the baby carrier on my chest, looking down at her downy little head, I feel my heart just overflow with love and joy.

And the last few nights, she hasn't woken up until 5 am, and then goes back to sleep after I transfer her to the RNP... without nursing. So I'm cautiously optimistic that soon she will spend the entire twelve hours in her crib.

I had a scare with my milk supply not nearly keeping up my first week back at work, and burning through my entire freezer stash save one bag of milk... but thanks to herbal supplements and lots of pumping, I'm caught up and have a growing stash again. I've actually been able to drop the bedtime pumping, which is great.

And the girls together... also so lovely. They just adore each other.

And I'm finding my rhythm with work and commuting with Calliope and all the rest. I'm taking shortcuts wherever I can at home, including asking Susie to help a little bit around the house, and paying a little more. I'm trying to not feel guilty about occasionally leaving dishes in the sink. I'm loving not having to get up extra early to work out in the mornings, and instead getting to work out in the afternoons... even if it is hard to not just lounge and play with Amelie instead. Calliope, however, loves to work out with me in the afternoons. So that's a nice activity for us as Susie feeds the babies their dinner -- she lines up their highchairs and feeds them off of a single spoon. So cute! (I tried to feed Amelie her dinner on Friday and Susie gently brushed me off -- she has a system and doesn't want it interfered with! So I folded laundry instead.) She also bathes the babies. Not something we asked for and sometimes I'm sad not to get to do it myself (and sad that she bathes them in the kitchen sink with not enough water to splash around in), but the truth is that my overall quality of life is better without this extra task to complete.

I've been doing physical therapy with a therapist that comes to my home once a week -- so great that she comes to me! -- and I'm thrilled that the last couple of weeks, she's been impressed with my progress. My overall tone is greatly improved and my diastsis recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) is healing! My stiff and sore lower back is 90% better as a result. And all that work on my posture makes me feel better about myself.

Things are good with my family and my sister in law is due to have a baby any day now... I'm so excited for us to have infants together! I think this will be really good for my relationship with my brother.

And I'm dreaming about upgrading to a house some day, but for now, we are making do with our two bedroom apartment and feeling relatively content here.

Now (Amelie and Leo, aka Nanny Share 2.0)

And then. (Calliope and Eleanor, 2012.)

*** Credit to Obernon for her "Sweet Spot" title.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Six Months

A half a year of Amelie!

She's adjusted easily to being with the nanny instead of with me. Truthfully, it's probably easier for her because the nanny can devote the day's schedule to the needs of Amelie and Leo, her nanny share buddy. With me, I'm constantly having to compromise Amelie's naps in favor of Calliope's needs... or occasionally my own. Things like needing to go get an oil change during her nap time.

So she's always pleased to see Susie when she arrives, and screeches with delight at Susie's early morning smiles. She looks a little puzzled when I come home at the end of the day -- "you again? back already?" but then lights up with smiles.

Due to Calliope's repeated entreaties to not sleep alone, Amelie's crib has been moved from my room to Calliope's, err, the girls' room. That was enough for Calliope -- she didn't want to get dressed alone, either. So last Rosh Hashanah (two days off from school), Susie helped me sort baby clothes and then move everything into Calliope's room.

Amelie is in 6-12 month onesies (though the 3-6 month ones often still fit) and 3-6 month pants... and they are still big on her. Girlfriend has got some short stubby legs. But they are covered with delicious squishiness!

She just rolled onto her back from her stomach on her six month "birthday" and is sitting pretty well these days though still needs a pillow behind her because when she gets excited, her arms fly up and she falls backwards. I neglected the pillow the other day to tragic results. Poor baby cried and cried (probably less than a minute though my guilt made it feel much longer) though luckily there was no bump.

She's enchanted by her sister and the feeling is mutual. Calliope asks to hold her every day. Though Calliope positively glows when I sternly admonish Amelie, "No pulling hair, Amelie." It's always good to not be the only one getting in trouble.

I feel bad that Amelie so often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to my attention. But she's so easy going and Calliope needs a lot of attention these days. Soon enough, Amelie will be needier and less accepting of others for attention. For now, though, she basks in the love of anyone who will smile back at her.

Monday, September 14, 2015

September 2015: A New Era

Last Wednesday, Calliope started PreK.

It's a new era for us. Prior to this, she's been home with a nanny (share) and for the last two years, in a part time preschool co-op, also in our home. She's gone to some summer day camps, but they were short term.

But now, she's in school. Real school. New York City Department of Education school. In my building. Which houses more than 1300 children. My school growing up had 400 children for grades 7-12.

So far, I think she's... okay. She hasn't cried at drop off, though apparently she cried several times during the first day or two. But never when I was in sight. It may be more a sign of her physical exhaustion -- she's having to get up way earlier than she's ever had to do before -- than true distress, though being tired always makes her miss me.

After a childcare snafu last week -- daycare suddenly said they couldn't pick her up, on my last weekday before returning to work, ugh! -- and my nanny's son picking Calliope up from PreK one day (which gets out at 9:40 AM for these first few days!), Calliope's been hanging out with another little girl and her nanny during the day until I'm done working. We met this family at a PreK playdate in the park before school started and Calliope and this child, Maya, really hit it off. So that's been working out great.

But this adjustment? It's HARD.

Partly it's coming back from summer, and from maternity leave. That's bound to be hard. And having a kid on a much more rigorous schedule is hard. And putting the both together? Very very hard.

I'm so grateful that we have this Monday and Tuesday off for Rosh Hashanah. Normally I'm annoyed to be forced to use vacation time so early in the year, but this time, I'm profoundly grateful.

My new schedule:

5:45 get up, brush teeth, get dressed (no morning shower, for the first time in my adult life. Also no morning workout, for the first time since I got pregnant with Calliope.) drink a small glass of kefir to tide me over.

6 nurse baby, play with her, gush over her gorgeousness

6:30 wake Calliope, hold her or sippy cup while she drinks and slowly rouses from a deep stupor. dress & sunscreen Calliope, walk her to the bathroom, brush her teeth, load her lunchbox (from the fridge) into her backpack, instruct her to put on her backpack

6:50ish nanny arrives (of her own volition, she started coming early, instead of at 7:15, god bless her). hand her the baby and give a quick update.

7 grab my backpack, breakfast and lunch, breast pump, child. leave the apartment and hurry to the car. (first time commuting by car on a regular basis.) load slow-moving child into car. start driving.

7:35 arrive near work and frantically look for parking, knowing that with each passing minute, it's harder to find, since school starts at 8:10. find parking and practice deep breathing as slow moving child takes twenty minutes to walk two blocks.

8:00 clock in. walk to my office. unpack our breakfasts. hurry slow moving child through her breakfast -- no time to pump.

8:10 walk Calliope to class, four doors down the hall. hang up her backpack, read her a book, give her a hug.

8:25 return to my office. pump. check email. wash dishes and pump parts.

9:00 see a patient or two.

9:38 return to Calliope's classroom. wait impatiently in hallways as class runs ten minutes later than it's scheduled to. hug Calliope and pass her to babysitter.

10 return to clinic. see patients until 12:30.

12:30 pump and eat an unofficial lunch -- we have decided to skip lunch so we can leave an hour earlier. I don't think Calliope could last until my previous end time of 4 pm.

1-2:30 see patients, chart, try to check something off my personal to-do list.

2:30 Calliope gets dropped off. finish charting with her in my lap, or get her to draw pictures with her new-only-at-Mommy's-work-markers. Give her a snack.

3 stop working/trying to be productive. usher Calliope to bathroom, try to pack up and not get frustrated at how long it takes to get out the door.

3:05 -- technically able to leave. sigh as Calliope dances around and does nothing to get us out the door.

3:20 walk out the door and sigh, move slowly towards the car. drive home through worsening traffic.

4:00-4:30 park, head up to apartment, say hi to Susie, cuddle the baby, try to fend off clinginess from Calliope. Try to squeeze in a workout while Susie feeds the baby her solid food (new as of a few days ago!) and Calliope clings. Offer her another snack.

5:15 serve Calliope dinner.

5:30 put baby down for nap

5:45 cajole Calliope to finish eating. She ignores me and generally eats nothing.

6 get Calliope ready for bed, then 10-15 minutes of Special Time -- legos or Littlest Pet Shop

6:30 Amelie wakes up. Read stories to Calliope (and Amelie).

7 Calliope goes to bed. I wish it was earlier. Nurse Amelie and play with her.

7:30 put Amelie to bed. Walk to kitchen and feel overwhelmed by Calliope's dinner sitting out, dirty dishes, and the fact that I need to cook and eat myself. Cook. Eat. Clean up. Make breakfasts and lunches for Calliope and me.

8:30 or 9 Finally finish in kitchen. Sit down to pump while I drink my "dessert," kefir, sometimes with fruit. Pump for 30 minutes then wash the parts.

9:30 Put away milk and leave the kitchen at last. Get into bed.

10:30? Go to bed.

It's a long, long day. I can check email or the SMC Forum while I eat, which is awesome, but otherwise, I try to stay on task.

Complaining about all this and how tired I was, my friend Elizabeth asked, "Isn't there a way you can throw money at this problem?"

That made a lot of sense. So now I'm paying Susie a tiny bit more money to help make breakfasts and lunches and help with dishes (unlikely I will leave dishes -- I feel too guilty -- but I will try). Feeling a little better.

Today she came to work and I didn't have to work so she helped me sort baby clothes and get out the 6-12 month stuff and pull out the 0-3 month things (Amelie is small so she's still wearing mostly 3-6 months stuff at just shy of 6 months) and move them into Calliope's room. Calliope has been eager to have a roommate so Amelie's crib was moved into Calliope's room, which should now be called the girls' room. And now Calliope wants Amelie's clothes in there as well. So today we made good progress. It was amazing to have help with this project. And hard for me to ask. But worth it.

So much more to say and I'm really missing blogging but just too hectic and tired to write any more.

(And I don't know how to post pictures once they've uploaded from my phone to the computer. Where do they go once they are uploaded? Too tired to research it, always.)

So that was totally disjointed but... good night. xoxo

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rolling at Five Months

She's been doing this for a little while now but I finally remembered to capture it on video.

She's typically very very quick but the camera was all too distracting...

Interview with Calliope, Age Four

Normally Calliope will never let me videotape her but seeing Amelie get all the glory apparently didn't sit right with her.

So she said "I want to smile for the camera. For a video."

Hence the grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Saturday Night Date

What's more fun than growling with my daughter?

I started out videoing where she couldn't see me but wanted to capture more of her face... Makes me laugh every time when she notices the camera.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Five Months

Hopefully I'll get back to four months and what she was doing then but for now... Amelie just rolled over for the first time yesterday!

Clearly she's very proud of herself.

In other news... she's 25 inches long (48%) and weighs 13 pounds, 4 ounces (18%). It confounds me that her weight percentile isn't higher because she's all dimply delicious rolls.

Her personality is delicious too. She likes to give suck on my nose, and "talks" all the time -- we've moved on to consonants in the last few days, so I'm hearing lots of "ba ba ba" as well as raspberries. She grins and chortles at everyone. Clearly the extrovert in the family.

Sleep has gotten better since we came back home but we are still working to eliminate a night feeding. Last night she went without but before that, it had been a few days since she hadn't nursed once during the night. So I'm trying to just nurse for three minutes or so on those occasions I can't mollify her with the pacifier or a move to the RNP. Because, oh yes, she's sleeping in the crib now! Well, mostly. Until she won't stop squawking during the night. Then she goes back to the RNP.

The toys are courtesy of her big sister -- obviously she can't do much playing while swaddled.
And I guess I have to stop swaddling her now that she's rolling... sigh. She likes to pull
her pacifier out and then cry in frustration if I leave her hands out.

The question now is when to move her to Calliope's room. Calliope is eager to have her company but I'm nervous about the kids waking each other up, especially in the early mornings. And it might be nice to have a few minutes alone with Amelie in the morning to nurse and cuddle before I get Calliope up and out the door with me (leaving Amelie behind with the nanny, sniff.)

I have just a couple more days with my delectable girl and then I go back to work as of next Tuesday. I know the transition wasn't as bad as I feared with baby Calliope, so I assume it won't be this time either but... I left Amelie at Calliope's daycare yesterday for a few hours so I could take Calliope to the pool and I was practically hyperventilating by the end. Only to get to daycare and find her fast asleep. Apparently she didn't cry the whole time. Until she got woken up to come home with me -- then she screamed bloody murder, a very rare event for my easy going girl.

She's still breastfeeding exclusively but I tipped a couple drops of corn chowder into her mouth the other night (just the milky part, no solids) -- she seemed curious but not enthusiastic. And a few days before that she used a strip of bell pepper as a teething toy, which she enjoyed but didn't consume (not surprising, without teeth). I'm not looking forward to adding solid foods to the routine. It's just one more chore!
Curiously gumming yellow pepper
That fuzzy head! Especially fun after having a rather bald baby the first time around.

Big eyed baby

Monday, August 24, 2015

Birth Story: The Long Version

Thanks to Emily for reminding me to get back to this. I'm typing without editing because I can barely remember parts of this anymore. Luckily I wrote out pages and pages of notes while in the hospital; that lovely day between arrival and departure when I didn't have visitors until the end of the day and just cuddled with my new baby. <swoon>

3/19/15, 11 pm
I'm reading in bed, too late (The Interestings -- a page turner!) when Tree Leaf kicks me hard and painfully -- a first. I feel a little trickle a couple seconds later. At first I think it's discharge, then I wonder if I'm peeing, then I hop out of bed and stand on the (small, washable) rug next to my bed and what feels like gallons of water pours out of me.

It just keeps coming and coming. I say, out loud, "Oh my god." I try squeezing my bladder muscles experimentally but nothing changes -- the fluid keeps coming. Eventually it pauses and I dash to the bathroom with my phone. I peel off my sodden pants, socks and underwear and perch on the toilet to call Chris, my midwife.

I had seen Chris for my weekly appointment just a few hours earlier. She had stripped my membranes at my request  but said she guessed I would go into labor sometime after my due date (I was currently 38w6d), since I had gone late with Calliope (induced at 41w2d), and planned to strip my membranes again at subsequent appointments. At my appointment that day, I was 1 cm dilated and 2/3 effaced, I think. Same as the previous week, though my cervix was had moved from posterior to anterior in that week.)

But instead... here I was, dripping in the bathroom. I was pretty sure, though, that it had been that violent kick from Tree Leaf that got things started and not the membrane stripping.

I called Chris and said shakily, "I think my water just broke." Even though I hadn't peed more than a tablespoon at a time in months, I was too afraid to call it amniotic fluid definitively. Not that I really thought I had just peed a gallon.

Chris said "really?" in warmly surprised tone. She suggested we stay in close touch and that I plan to meet her at her office sometime the next day for a sterile speculum exam, just to confirm that it was definitely amniotic fluid, though she didn't seem to have many doubts and neither did I. I don't remember her suggesting that I might start having contractions, though surely she must have? I remember dumbly asking if I would be missing work tomorrow, whether in labor or not. (She kindly said yes, and laughed.) My mind was still reeling from the shock of this unexpected development. I mean, I figured one way or another, I was definitely having a baby in the next day or two. Wild.

Next I called my sister in Rhode Island. She said she was too tired to make the drive that night but would set her alarm for 6:30 am and we would talk then. While we were still on the phone, my body started shivering uncontrollably. The phone kept chattering in my hand against my earring, no doubt making a racket for my sister. She kindly consulted Dr. Google and confirmed that this was a normal reaction to having one's water break.

After that, I called Salt Lick and we agreed that she would travel 90 minutes via subway to come over right away -- both of us would sleep better knowing that she was already here. (I think she ended up taking a cab.) I also called my doula at some point. She said she would sleep, and wait to hear from me again.

Finally I got off the phone and into a blissfuly hot shower. I think I had my first contraction contraction while in the shower. Not too bad.

I finally got out, dried off and dressed, and went to my computer. My mind was racing a hundred different directions as I rescheduled my grocery delivery from Saturday (two days away) to Tuesday and sent an email to our playgroup alerting them to a possible last minute change in location. I also emailed my boss to alert him that I would be out, alerted my temporary replacement that she had an updated start date!, and sent an apologetic email to my departing medical director that I wouldn't be able to make her farewell party the next day. I also wrote a note to Calliope, just in case I needed to leave before she woke up.

She had been asking for months when our baby would come and I always answered "she will come in the spring."

I had just finished the work at my desk when Salt Lick arrived. I chatted with her a few minutes then retired to my room to let her nap on the couch while I attempted to rest as per my doula's advice.

It's hard to remember but according to my contraction timing app, I started having contractions in earnest at about midnight, one hour after my water broke. At first they were every 5-10 minutes, lasting about 30 seconds. They were manageable, especially once I finally got my Hypnobabies tracks playing -- focusing on them helped remarkably well. I managed to doze in between contractions at times. The only hard thing about that was waking up in the midst of increasingly intense contractions was startling and unpleasant.

The frequency remained frustratingly inconsistent, ranging from every 4-9 minutes, despite the intensity continuing to increase. Or was it just that using the contractions time app versus an old fashioned watch makes the contractions seem more inconsistent?

Shortly after labor started, I stopped feeling the baby move. Chris told me to drink some juice but I didn't realize that watered down Vitamin Water didn't qualify as juice. When she finally realized my mistake, she firmly told me to drink some actual juice. Oops. I found some painfully sweet Shabbat grape juice in the fridge and gaggingly chugged eight ounces. I was on the phone with Chris at 3 am, making plans to meet at the hospital for monitoring, when finally, the baby kicked. Phew. Crisis averted. Back to laboring at home.

By about 4 am, I think, I couldn't lie down anymore -- too painful -- but sitting cross legged was okay. It seemed like I went to the bathroom after nearly every other contraction -- having anything in my bladder set off another contraction. But sitting on the toilet also triggered contractions, and made them even more intense -- a frustrating conundrum.

I called my doula and Chris by about 5:30 am, really done with laboring at home. Whatever the spacing was, and whether the frequency was regular or not, the pain was intense -- I needed to get to the hospital before it got any worse. I started thinking seriously about getting an epidural.

I also called my friend Amy, who lives two blocks away (we share a nanny) and asked her to come to my apartment by 6:30 am in order to definitely be there when Calliope woke up, even if I was still there. But only fifteen minutes later, Calliope woke up crying. She never wakes up that early (5:45) -- and she asked to sleep with me -- something she never asks. I wondered if she could sense the intense energy in the air, even while she was sleeping (she had white noise in her room and I was in my room with the door closed, so I knew she didn't hear anything).

Anyway, I went to her as soon as one contraction ended and did a pretty good job of acting sleepily normal as I kissed her reassuringly and firmly told her to go back to sleep... before rushing back to my room to prepare for the next contraction. As soon as it was over, I texted Amy and then called Chris again. She was on call for the birthing center and needed to call the hospital to prepare them for my arrival before we could leave, so I had to wait. I think I was now having contractions every 3-4 minutes, with intensity that was getting hard to manage.

Chris called back just a few minutes later, sooner than I expected, ready to meet us at the hospital. Then Amy arrived, and Calliope started to cry, so Amy went to her and kept her busy in her room, packing a bag (one of my child's favorite activities). All we needed to do was get the copy of my medical chart that Chris had given me the previous day, and put it in my bag. But we couldn't find it. And my contractions were so intense that I couldn't think straight. I think we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where it was (turns out it was in the bouncy seat, just a few feet from my hospital bag and hidden by a rack of clean clothes hung to dry the previous day by the cleaning lady).

Finally we abandoned hope of finding the chart, even though it was still really bugging me. Getting ready to leave was slow and torturous because at this point, I was in pain even between the contractions, which were all too frequent. I was really scared to have one in the lobby of my apartment building.

Amy quickly brought in Calliope to say goodbye to me, then left her with the nanny (who had apparently just arrived) to help us get downstairs.

Around 7:15, we slowly went downstairs in the elevator. A cab had been waiting for us for ages -- he had been pacified with promises of extra money for his time spent waiting. Amy helped carry the bags. As we were loading the car -- or rather, they were loading as I stood there -- Emily and Annabelle (SMC friend and her six year old daughter) came running over to say hello, clearly excited to see us (I had texted Emily the night before to let her know about my water breaking). I could barely muster up a "hello"for them now.

I carried my quilted "chux" pad to sit on in the cab. Thank goodness the doula had told me to buy "Depends" in advance -- I hadn't felt any any fluid leaking in a while but it picked up again in the cab.

The car ride was painful but mercifully short. It seemed like we hit every pot hole along the way. I kept my eyes closed most of the time but texted the doula that we were on the way (she was frustratingly unwilling to come earlier, and said she would meet us at the hospital). I also texted Chris to ask "can we expedite the epidural?" (I was thinking it would be fabulous if the anesthesiologist could meet us curbside.) She called me and explained that, no, we had to go through triage to confirm that I was at least 4 cm dilated (otherwise I wouldn't get a room and would have to walk the halls) and she had to do a sterile speculum exam to confirm that my water had broken. And then I'd need to do 20-30 minutes of tracings on the fetal/contraction monitor in triage. After that, I would get my own room, then vital signs and blood draws and a half a bag of IV fluid and only then could I get my epidural.

We arrived at the hospital shortly thereafter. I was scared of having a contraction in the lobby but desperate for the epidural, now, so I think I shuffled along pretty efficiently. Though I did have to stop once in the hallway for a contraction. I gripped the wooden handrail along the wall and tried not to moan. As soon as Chris saw me in the hallway she said, "oh yeah, we are getting a room." Thank god. I couldn't bear the thought of being told I wouldn't get a room of my own.

I felt lots of amniotic fluid leaking out, both in the cab and in the hospital hallway now, and was worried my Depends would overflow so Chris sent her wonderful midwifery student, Emily, with me to wait outside the bathroom for me. I had not one but two miserable contractions in the bathroom. I tried to moan quietly but barely resisted crying out to her -- I don't know why I refrained. As it was, I dropped my coat in the middle of the bathroom floor for her to pick up -- afraid of any unnecessary movement triggering yet another contraction.

We went into the triage room -- Chris, Emily, and I -- the doula (who finally appeared) and SL had to wait outside. I bent over the counter in the triage room with the next contraction and cried out, "oh, my back!" -- the pain was suddenly fierce in my back. Emily came to my rescue and pushed strongly on my hips for blessed relief.

The nurse was impatient to get me on the monitor but the thought of lying on that narrow hard bed seemed impossibly intimidating. Emily promised me that I could stand or sit next to the table for the monitoring and she would crouch under me, if necessary, to keep the monitor pressed to my stomach. Someone (Emily?) helped me step into the too-tight band of material that stretched over my belly as I shucked my clothes off and onto the floor.

Chris wanted to do the vaginal exam now and needed me to lie down on the table. That seemed totally impossible to me, too, but Chris was insistent that I had to do this before I could get my room and thus my epidural. So after the next contraction, still in pain, I somehow climbed onto the exam table.

Chris inserted the speculum mercifully quickly and painlessly and confirmed the presence of amniotic fluid. Then she removed it and said she would keep her gloved hand inside me for the next contraction. That sounded like a terrible idea, but apparently it wasn't optional. Then she announced that I was seven cm dilated! Hooray!

Emily continued pressing on my back with every contraction, which was amazing. I remember sitting on the end of the exam table for one contraction and Emily instructing me to hug Chris, who stood in front of me, while Emily stayed behind me to push on my back. It felt a little funny to hug Chris, because I think of that as something a labor support person is supposed to do, not a midwife, but it felt amazing, too -- so supportive.

Then they let SL into the room, to bring me my Hypnobabies, perhaps? and Emily told me to hug SL while Emily continued to press on my back. I was scared I would knock SL over as I draped myself over her tiny frame but she held up well.

Then the nurse announced she had a room ready for me and I immediately abandoned all my people and my belongings (except my precious Hypnobabies, playing on my Kindle), fixated solely on getting to my room and getting my epidural as I shuffled determinedly down the hall behind the nurse who waited patiently.

Then I was on the bed and the pain in my back was so cruel and punishing and someone was pushing on my back -- first Emily, then my doula, who reappeared mysteriously at some point. The nurse said again, rather impatiently, that I had to have my blood drawn and IV fluids started before I could get my epidural, so I clung blindly to the bed rail with my eyes squeezed shut and stuck out my right arm.

She got the bloods drawn and started the IV fluid and I guess Chris stepped out of the room then to go to a computer to start officially admitting me to the hospital. I think just a couple of minutes later the pain seemed like it was maybe dying down when suddenly I screamed and found myself pushing.

Chris was suddenly there again (apparently the nurse quickly left the room and went to Chris in the hallway and said "you'd better come" and when she came in, Emily mouthed "she's pushing" and Chris mouthed back, "good" -- Chris told me this later). Then Chris checked my cervix but told me she wanted to keep her hand inside for the next contraction. That sounded awful and I think I begged again for my epidural. But she insisted. And someone said, "it's too late for an epidural." And I wailed "No! I want my epidural!"

After that, Chris came to my beloved bed rail, which I still clung to like a life raft, and told me it was indeed too late for an epidural. I cried, "No! I want my epidural! Please, Chris! Help me!" I was heartbroken. The pain was so fierce. But there was no changing her mind.

Finally I gave in to the futility of arguing and decided that if I couldn't get an epidural, the only thing left was to get this over. So I pushed as hard as I possibly could when the urge came again.

I'm not sure exactly how long I pushed, a little less than 20 minutes, i think, but it felt like only a few contractions. It's only been a few days but already the memories have faded. At one point, early in pushing, I said, "I want my sister!" but I knew she was en route and wouldn't make it in time for the birth. I was thinking of my mother, wishing for her, too, but knowing she definitely wouldn't be there -- she died about a month before this conception.

I remember the awful feeling of the head in the birth canal -- it felt like she was crowning already, though she wasn't -- and screaming "get it out! get it out!" but Emily gently told me to feel the head myself and was still inside me. Dammit.

I think with the next push Emily said she could see hair. Chris told me that Emily would deliver the baby. They were at the end of the bed together. Then I think there was one more enormous push and it was burning and I was writhing and twisting my hips up off the bed and was I screaming on the outside or only on the inside? I dimly saw SL beyond the end of the bed and was glad she was out of harm's way, far from the carnage. Chris and Emily told me to lower my hips back to the bed. I wanted to know if the head was out yet.

Emily told me to push little pushes with the next contraction. It seemed like there was a little break, then, because I waited a minute then asked, "Wait, one big push, or little pushes?" She again said little pushes. The next thing I remember was the feeling of the body slithering out of me. Thank god. Relief. I could feel the umbilical cord still inside me and it bothered me but still, it was so much better.

Someone -- Emily? -- immediately laid this pink baby on my chest as someone else pushed my gown out of the way. There was no question of doing skin to skin care, and I dimly noticed and appreciated that.

SL appeared at my side and was flushed pink and sobbing as I stared wonderingly at the pink baby. A baby??? Wow. There really was a baby in there. Huh.

I was just so glad that the hard part was over. I didn't feel much about the baby beyond surprise -- with the very slow and uncertain start to the pregnancy, plus it being so close to my mother's death, I guess I was always scared to believe that there would someday be a baby -- so I was glad SL was crying. At least someone was emotional. We called my sister on the phone and I held the phone up to the crying newborn so she would know the news. I didn't get emotional until J arrived and I told her the baby's name, Amelie, for our mother Amy (named for her grandfather, Emil, so a lovely sort of symmetry).

It took a while to get my bleeding under control after the baby was born. The nurse kept pressing painfully, forcefully on my stomach to try to get my uterus to contract to stop the bleeding but instead, with each press, I could feel blood spurt out. Chris inserted a suppository to help with bleeding then said grimly, "I have to feel inside your uterus to make sure there's nothing left [that is causing you to bleed]. This will hurt." That sounded terrifying -- I couldn't imagine a hand inside a body cavity of mine -- so I moved to hand the baby over but Emily waved her away. So the baby stayed on my chest as I focused on my Hypnobabies techniques and magically, the exam didn't hurt, thank goodness, just felt like lots of pressure. Eventually the bleeding diminished.

The bed was beautifully soft and cozy, though I needed to be draped with tons of towels and blankets and sheets because I couldn't stop shivering. I thought I might just never get up again. But an hour later I was ready to use the bathroom and was shocked to find I could stand up and hobble to the bathroom without much assistance. What a difference from my last birth -- four hours of pushing, an epidural, an episiotomy, tons of stitches for a second degree tear and a gigantic postpartum hemorrhage that left me profoundly dizzy and anemic. Versus no epidural, no stitches, no tearing, twenty minutes of pushing and considerably less blood loss (more than normal but technically not quite a postpartum hemorrhage, and certainly not a severe one).

Post script, written at nearly 5 months:

That day of Amelie's birth, I announced to Chris, "I'm never doing that again," but two weeks later I sat in her office and confessed I wished I could do it again! As intense as it was, it was awesome, in the true sense of the word.

Thankfully, that desire has mostly faded again. My family feels complete. It didn't happen overnight, but I'm now completely in love with my little girl. The copious dark hair mostly fell out (everywhere except the nape of her neck) and has been replaced my fawn colored fuzz, and her newborn squints have been replaced by frequent grins and chortles of glee. Her tiny limbs have filled out and everywhere she has delicious rolls and dimples. Truly, I wouldn't change anything about my labor experience. Well, except for having my mom there to meet her namesake. Other than that, it was perfect.