Sep 18, 2014

The Beginning: My Own Birth Story (Written By My Mama)

My new little self, sleeping in the bassinet that my dad and all his siblings used,
and the one that I used for Millie and Walter
When, on her birthday, my blog friend Jess had her mom share her birth story, I thought it was a wonderful idea. So today, on my 30th birthday, I'm snagging that idea for my blog. I've heard bits and pieces of this story before, but it means ever so much more now that I'm a mom. And besides, it's always nice to hear a part of your story. This is the very beginning of it. Thanks for writing this, Mom!

The Official Birth Story of Erika

I was a little surprised to hear that women write “birth stories.”  Women tend to verbally share the stories of childbirth with gross exaggerations and lots of histrionics, as though they were unique from the billions of other labors and deliveries and certainly far worse than any other.  But I guess we’re all a little curious about our own stories and have only our parents to tell us about them. And being born is a big deal. Erika, this is your story.

I was in labor for 842 days.  I think that beats all the other stories I’ve heard, but not by much. The real story isn’t as shocking, but I’ll tell the truth.

I worked nights as a nurse on a psychiatric unit and thought it would be a good idea to take off about a week before my due date to readjust to days. Even though I knew that babies, being under legal age, don’t consider the due date as a contract, I still more or less thought that Erika would be born on her due date. I worked the last shift and came home to do some nesting, or cleaning and packing.  At bedtime that night, around 9 P.M., I felt the definite more-than-just-a-trickle of amniotic fluid escaping.  (I chuckled a bit remembering the story of my mother-in-law’s maiden aunt who came to stay for the birth of the baby. My mother-in-law called down the stairs to “Auntie” with the news that her water had broken.  “That’s all right, Alice.  It happens to me all the time,” replied her aunt.)  

I told Erika’s dad that I thought my water had broken and called the hospital maternity ward to let them know.  I was having mild contractions, and though I knew logically it could be quite some time with this being my first, I still felt a feeling of needing to hurry to the hospital.  (Isn’t that how it happens in the movies? The mother-to-be feels a single cramp, and they speed away to the hospital. But she can never get there in time, so the baby is always born in the taxi.)  The nurse told me to come right in, so I checked the suitcase one last time, and we got in the car – a green Chevrolet Impala with a bad transmission.

I wasn’t in the company of an experienced taxi driver who could deliver the baby, so it seemed to be a good thing to hurry a little.  We drove from our little rural subdivision onto the main street safely, while the contractions were becoming pretty uncomfortable and much closer together, about 3 minutes apart.  Maybe things would happen like they did in the movies! We passed a gas station, and Erika’s dad suddenly whipped the car around and pulled in.  I asked why we were stopping, and he said he needed an antacid.  Now, we were on our way to a hospital, and surely, they would have antacids there – rooms of them. Didn’t having a baby overrule indigestion?  

When I arrived at the hospital, it was as a patient this time; it was intimidating to be on the other side of the fence.  Riding in the wheelchair seemed really strange.  The halls looked very different and so “hospital-ish.”  Watching some labor and deliveries of other women when I was in nursing school didn’t prepare me at all for my own.  I thought, “I can’t do this, but there is no turning back now.”  I prayed the whole time.  I was so fearful that I hadn’t eaten right or may have done something to injure the baby in some way, too, and now would come the reckoning.  I thought of those many mornings after work when I could only stand the thought of orange Crush soda for breakfast. (And maybe some toffee.)

My gorgeous mama, pregnant with me
The nurses checked for amniotic fluid, but couldn’t find any trace.  They decided it was a “high leak,” and decided to keep me there.  As the night progressed, the labor slowed somewhat, like it often does.  As midmorning passed, I was getting very tired after not sleeping for so long. Labor picked up after the doctor completely ruptured the membranes, and at that point, I felt that Lamaze was a joke. I didn’t use any pain medicine, afraid that it might hurt the baby. When staff moved me to the delivery room, they placed me on my back with feet up in stirrups, which is probably the worst possible way to give birth.  The time finally came to push, but I didn’t have any energy left.  Nurses were pushing down on my belly, while the doctor kept speaking encouragement. I thought I was pushing, but they kept telling me that I wasn’t.  It seemed to take forever before I heard the doctor announce that “it’s a girl!” It was about noon. He seemed to be thrilled and chattered away for a second, but almost immediately he grew serious.  I heard him call for oxygen.  Erika was whisked away before I really had even a moment to hold her.  

My sister, also a nurse who worked at the same hospital, was there for the birth, but she was somewhat blurry to me then, as was everyone in the delivery room.  I was so tired, but so scared.  The doctor told us that you had a wee bit of Erb’s palsy because of the length of the labor, and that you were a little short of oxygen, all of which resolved very quickly with no permanent damage. What relief it was to hear that Erika was fine! She was truly fine! After knowing you were well, it seemed as though the birth hadn’t really happened in some ways. So much of that night faded away quickly.  A nurse came with a basin of warm water and soap and told me to wash up.  As she left the room, she asked me if I was really going to wash, or was I going to fall asleep.  I told her that I would wash, not to worry, and that’s the last thing I remember for a while.

I was so thrilled to finally have Erika brought to me to nurse.  I couldn’t believe that she could be so tiny.  I was built like a toothpick at 100 pounds before pregnancy, which made for a really funny shape when I was full term, though I only weighed 125 pounds then. People actually laughed at me without even attempting to disguise it! (Just what a nine months’ pregnant woman needs for her self-image, yes?) But even though my belly had seemed so large, there you were, all complete, but so little at 7 pounds, 11-1/2 ounces.  And you were pink, not orange Crush-colored, thank God.

We couldn’t wait to bring you home.  One reason was that wonderful excitement we felt to begin that huge adventure, almost too wonderful to believe.  The other was because the woman next to me kept singing “The Lullaby of Broadway” to her baby.  Don’t ever do that.  If you must sing a lullaby, sing a real one, even horrible songs like “Rock-a-Bye Baby in the Treetop,” which has terrible, frightening lyrics. No show tunes.

There you have it.  You were born, thank God.  He makes the best stuff. And you just keep getting better and dearer all the time.

Sep 6, 2014

On Turning 30

"I am not young enough to know everything." 
— Oscar Wilde

When I turned 29, it felt like a such a sudden, big milestone. All the years before were instantly condensed into "my 20s", and I was standing on the edge of a new decade. It seemed a whole lot more monumental than turning 10 or 20 did.

In twelve short days, my 20s will officially be a thing of the past. When I think about the girl I am now, I can't help but be amazed at all the girls I have been before. I thought I would share a few of the things I've learned these past ten years, along with some photos of my journey so far.

{first day of kindergarten. minnie mouse backpack.}
1. I've learned that being alone is good for me. I used to assume I was a failure because I am never surrounded by 50 friends or because I don't attend parties every weekend. I've realized that the company of my own thoughts is what I crave much of the time. Solitary drives are beautiful. Walks alone are sacred. I am not the kind of girl who needs the noise of others. I need the quiet. I love the quiet.

2. My parents were right. Especially the times I didn't think they were right. (There you go, Mom and Dad.)

3. My self esteem has never been particularly high, but it's a lot higher now than it was when I was 15. I'm thankful for that. I'd hug that beanpole girl if I could.

{bonnet baby.}
4. On the whole, if I get the chance to do something, I should do it. And if I don't, I shouldn't beat myself up about not doing it.

5. I don't have time for relationships that constantly disrupt my happiness. I've learned to value peace above pretending to like someone who doesn't like me. It's okay to have some distance from toxic acquaintances.

6. I like old things. I always have, so this is not a new discovery, but when I wrote that I wanted to do more with my hands, I really meant it. It's important to me that Millie and Walter have a mom who can do things like plant something, embroider something, bake something, read something for pleasure, and fold an origami crane.

7. I had an amazing body when I was 20. And even though I could tell you dozens of things about myself that I wish I could change, I'm trying to appreciate that I probably look better now than I will when I'm 70, so I might as well enjoy it. And enjoying it can mean wearing something that isn't always from the juniors section. I realize the 'grown up section' is actually okay now. I like being a grown up sometimes.

{angelic in saddle shoes.}
8. I have a blog, I only take online college courses, and I use Google with the best of them. But if I could choose, I would go back to the world before the internet. Truly.

9. I've learned that it's stupid to order the largest drink at the movie theater if I want to sit through the whole movie, and I've also learned that it's usually stupid to pay $9 to see a movie when I hate 95% of the ones I see. Spend a dollar at Redbox, wear pajamas at home, pause the movie 50 times, and eat all the snacks I want.
{sitting on the porch with my brother, wearing clear glitter jellies. NBD.}
10. I've learned that I have to prioritize. I don't get a chance to read for pleasure when I'm taking full time college classes. I don't get to clean as much if Millie and I are baking something together. I don't get to bake as much if Walter is having a rough day. Everything has a time and a place, and figuring those out makes everyone a lot happier.

{Christmas presents after my dad's shift at the firehouse.}
11. I will never like math, I will never be great at public speaking, I will never enjoy science, and I should never say never. Except about those things, because yuck.

12. When I think about Millie and Walter turning 30, it makes me a nervous wreck to think about all they will have to go through to get there. But it makes me happy that they will probably arrive in a similar spot as I am, with experiences that taught them the good and the bad in life, and the comfort of knowing that life really does get better with each year- not necessarily the circumstances, but the outlook.

{I like your sleeves. They're real big.}
13. I should always set my standards high. So high. And then give grace when they aren't met, because I've never met everyone's either.

14. I still don't have a clue about what I'm doing when it comes to being a mother, but I am figuring it out a day at a time, and that's all I can do. Millie and Walter unknowingly teach me every day, and those lessons slowly make me a better parent. Sometimes I look in the mirror, and see such an unqualified, too young, foolish girl to be in charge of two little souls. But they love me and I am over the moon for them and, somehow, that is enough to get us where we're supposed to be.

{hugging my brother, which looks like a carbon copy of Walter.}

15. I am much more okay with turning 30 than I thought I would be. Because I wouldn't have learned these things any other way. And because, like the rest of the 30 year olds, I see how young 30 really is, and how I still have so much more to learn. And because I can be 30 years old and still wear cute boots or sparkly nail polish or non-mom-jeans.

30 is not the new 20. Instead, I am the new 30. So out with the old, in with the new, and here's to a new decade of blank pages.
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