My One Word for 2017: ONWARD

2016 in Review

There’s no doubt that, while the future looks perhaps muddier than ever, 2016 certainly gave us a clearer picture of where we are as a civilization and how much work we have to do.  On that note, here’s my personal review.

One Word for 2016: Identity

It took me to nearly the end of the year to reclaim  the identity I’d intended to reclaim in 2016, but here I am, a Writer once more.  I’m more comfortable in my role as a mother, and also as a mother of a son and a mother of a daughter.*  I also found that 2016 encouraged me to finally embrace some labels (bleeding heart dirty liberal hippie, Democrat) and to re-embrace others with more-thought-turned-into-action (ally, mind-speaker, feminist).

Writing

I didn’t do as much as I thought I would in 2016, which has been par for the course since basically 2012.  But here’s what I did do:

Reading

I also read quite a bit, with a strong emphasis on comics and graphic novels this year.**

  • Novels
    • The Wonder
    • Truly, Madly, Guilty
    • Tales from Moominvalley
    • Modern Lovers
    • Voyager (Outlander #3)
    • The Nightingale
    • Every Exquisite Thing
    • Eligible
    • Everyone Brave is Forgiven
    • The Nest
  • Plays
    • Harry Potter & the Cursed Child
  • Standalone Graphic Novels
    • Ghosts
    • The Exile (an Outlander Graphic Novel)
    • Moominvalley Turns Jungle
    • Troll Bridge
    • The Encyclopedia of Early Earth
    • Daytripper
    • This One Summer
  • Trades
    • Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1
    • Ex Machina, Vol. 1
    • Thor (The Goddess of Thunder), Vol. 1
    • Ms. Marvel, Vols. 1-4
    • Fables, Vol.s 1-3
    • Chew, Vols. 1-10
  • Single Issues
    • Chew #51-60
    • Faith #1
    • Spider-Woman (2015-) #1-5
    • Spider-Women Alpha #1
    • Radioactive Spider-Gwen #7
    • Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! #1
    • Saga #31-40
    • Bitch Planet #6-8
    • The Mighty Thor (2015-) #1-9
    • Ms. Marvel (2015-) #13
  • Nonfiction
    • The Collapse of Parenting (which I do NOT recommend in the slightest)
    • Food Rules

Et Cetera

Other highlights of the year:

  • Family vacation to Indian Rocks Beach, Florida (and Rose’s first beach vacation)
  • Hiking-centric trip to Branson, Missouri, with my sister
  • Anniversary trip to Seattle with my husband
  • Trip to Chicago to see HAMILTON!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Seeing Pippin really get into Halloween and Christmas this year
  • Getting to watch Rose learn how to walk and in general become more and more of a human

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2017’s Goals

Which brings us to 2017. My goals are more or less the same, year in and year out, with only slight variation, but here’s this year’s rendition:

  1. Get in shape.
  2. Write 7,000 words a week or 20 pages/per week.
  3. NaNoWriMo.
  4. Finish my pilot.
  5. Write at least 4 short stories.
  6. Release Still.
  7. Track films and television watched.
  8. Keep submitting stories/screenplays.
  9. Give back (volunteer time, donate money when I can, etc.).

My One Word for 2017: ONWARD

The world got thrown upside down for many of us in 2016, but the silver lining is it made me really think about my priorities and what matters to me moving forward.  That’s my family, writing, and doing what I can to preserve and encourage the progress of humanity while resisting the forces that threaten to turn it backwards.  

So, my word this year is ONWARD.  We don’t accept defeat.  We glean lessons and get stronger and move forward.  We don’t become complacent, and we don’t accept hate and division and inequal rights as normal.  We keep moving forward: Onward, brave soldier.  

For me on a personal level, that means I write even when it sucks, even when I can’t find the passion for a project.  I move forward, switching between projects when necessary, all to keep marching on.  And for myself, I work toward improvements in health and strength, accepting small defeats as they come and using them as stepping stones to achieve better results rather than as weights pulling me down.  For my family, it means making sure our children know who we are and what we stand for, so that they too can be beacons of hope and empathy in the world now and as they grow into their own individual selves.

Best Wishes for 2017 and Beyond

I think it’s going to be another doozy of a year, any way we slice it. So my wishes for 2017 is that we find and cultivate passion for things that ultimately add joy, peace and compassion to the world.  Best of luck to all of us in that endeavor.  There’s so much work to do.

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*I realize that using gendered terms for babies and children carries a lot of complexity these days, and I think there’s a lot I could write on the topic, as well as a lot to learn. We are doing our best to raise children who embrace their gender identity in any way they want.  For the time being, Pip is very adamant that he is a boy (and “NOT A BABY!”), and Rose seems to gravitate toward a traditional female gender while very much holding her own with her brother, especially for a one-year-old. So, I feel comfortable using “son” and “daughter” to describe them, while fully acknowledging they get to (and will be encouraged to) develop their own ideas about gender and gender identity as they mature.

** If you’re wondering what I’d recommend out of those, Ghosts was fantastic, and Daytripper and The Encyclopedia of Early Earth were both very good; Eligible (a modern retelling of Pride & Prejudice) was the most enjoyable novel I read all year; Chew is unlike anything I’ve ever read before; and Ms. Marvel and Thor are both worth your time. You can also see my ratings on Goodreads (along with everything I’ve read since 2009.

A Story About Princess Leia

A Story About Princess Leia

by Elizabeth Ditty

Tonight I read my son a story about Princess Leia.

I did not cry.

(Not really.)

My voice made its way around the lump in my throat

To tell my son

How to be brave

despite dismal odds

(I’ll never tell him the odds)

How to stand against evil

because you know who you are

(I’ll tell him where he comes from and believe it’s enough)

How to defiantly hold onto hope

And find it anew when you have to

(I’ll show him where to find it: in friends, in nature, in the unexpected).

Luke gets the glory,

And sure, he deserves some of it.

But Leia

Princess

Sister

Lover

Mother

General

Never stopped

Never stopped believing

Not even when all was lost

Because she must have known

That all is never lost

Not even when you’re drowning in moonlight

Strangled by your own bra

You can learn to breathe stardust

And travel beyond what you know

What anyone knows.

So now we study the map she left us

The holograms to guide us

Through words and moving images

To find the force already within us.

It’s a five-minute story,

And my son is yawning by the end of it.

The rebellion can wait until morning, I suppose.

I close the book and tuck him in.

After all, the rebellion has already begun.

This is what it takes.

My poor little blog has been dormant for almost a year now, but I guess this is what it takes to wake up.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year, after my first failure in Year 11 last year.  I failed because I stopped writing after my seven-week-old daughter spiked a fever on Day 3, which meant I abandoned all my plans and spent the day in the ER, feeling helpless and terrified as they pierced her brand-new skin with needles to take her blood, held her down to X-ray her lungs, and stuck suction tubes down her nose.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, understandably.  Rose, we found out later, had caught parainfluenza virus, likely from her brother, which is common and not a big deal at all, as long as you’re not a seven-week-old newborn who hasn’t yet had any immunizations.  I spent the next week up every two hours, trying desperately to get my girl to drink milk or at least Pedialyte, to avoid dehydration.

Some things trump writing, but only for a time.

I didn’t work on my novel Tuesday evening.  I still had 1300 words to go to meet quota, but I just couldn’t write about this fantasy world where the biggest problems were two star-crossed lovers who desperately wanted to be with each other.

But I also couldn’t not write.  So I wrote a letter to my children.

8 November 2016

Dear Pippin & Rose,

I’m supposed to be working on my NaNoWriMo novel right now, but I just can’t. I don’t know how to write when the world seems so precarious.  I should say, I don’t know how to write anything other than how I’m feeling.  I think it’s important — vital even — to write and make art and find hope when the world seems like it might be crumbling.

I have to believe that everything will be OK, no matter how this election ends up.  But I do think it’s important for you both to know, for posterity, that your parents stood on the right side of history tonight.  We voted for hope and progress and empathy, and that’s what we’ll keep seeking.  No matter what.

But tomorrow isn’t here yet, and tonight I’m scared.  You’re both asleep and have no idea what’s going on in the world, and I’m thankful that you get to be innocent for a while longer.  I worry about a country that was a paragon of hope and optimism finding itself on the precipice of electing a demagogue, a fascist, a man who has built his empire on the backs of others who deserved better.  He is quite literally the opposite of everything I could ever ask for in a president, and I cannot understand how so many can stand behind him.  It is a wake-up call for us here: there is still so much work to do.

It’s always good to look for lessons, to find out what we can learn from a situation, whether it’s gone our way or not.  And here, I’ve seen ignorance, much of it willful, turn people’s eyes and even hearts to a demagogue.  History has shown us it can happen, but we did not know it could happen here.  So what do we take from that?

My loves, please think critically.  Always question your assumptions.  Always look for the other side.  Always try to find the story behind how something came to be.  Recognize propaganda for what it is, good or bad, and learn to see the facts through the emotions.  Propaganda is a tool, nothing more, but in the hands of the hateful or ill-informed, it is dangerous.

My loves, please find empathy.  Humans are multi-faceted.  Read broadly.  Reading cultivates empathy.  Give people the benefit of the doubt.  Ask them how they came to where they are, and look for a glimmer of yourselves in their stories.  Offer grace and mercy, and accept them when they’re given to you.

My loves, do your best to stand on the right side of history.  Be kind.  Offer help.  Be generous when you can, and sometimes when you can’t.  Consider both the many and the few, and try to do the best you can for all.

My loves, take care of each other.  Protect each other.  Trust each other.  Never lose sight of each other.  Your mama and daddy love you, but you two also share a unique bond that only you can cultivate.  I see how you play with each other, how you get frustrated with each other, and how, ultimately, above all, you love each other.  Keep doing that.

I do not know what tomorrow holds, or what will come after that, but I know this: I love you both an unfathomable amount, and so does your daddy.  That means a lot in this world.  So whatever comes, we’ll be here with you, together, holding you close, and hoping for a better world for us all, but mostly for you.

Love always,

Mama

More than half the country’s voters vote against this, and yet here we are.  We have work to do, and it’s more important than ever that we do it.  Yesterday, after a night spent having panic attacks instead of sleeping, I let myself feel everything I needed to feel.  I let myself be depressed.  I managed to eat a piece of toast but mainly just drank tea all day.

Yesterday, when I went to bed at 6:45 p.m. (because self-care is important), I didn’t know if I would pick up my NaNoWriMo novel again.  I didn’t know if I could.

And then this morning, I woke up, and I felt the fire burning again.  I made coffee, and I WROTE.

I wrote about those star-crossed lovers because passion is important.  Love is important.  Art is important.  How we treat each other, even when — especially when — we disagree, is important.  Finding common ground is important, but also letting people feel how they need to goddamn feel for a moment is important.  Honest and earnest discourse is important.  Speaking is important, but so is listening.  These are things I’m writing about as well as living, as long as I have the opportunity.

The world has not ended.  It has challenged us to rise up and do better by one another.  Now more than ever, my friends, we have work to do.  Let’s go.

 

My #OneLittleWord for 2016: Identity

Since finding out I was going to be a  parent in 2012, much of my energy, quite understandably, has been to feeling out my identity as a mother as well as a life partner (and as of October 18, 2014, a wife).  Adding these layers to my life meant that the strongest part of my former identity — WRITER — had necessarily been sent to the backburner.

I’ve continued trucking along, little by little, and I’ve certainly been writing plenty of words per year thanks to my freelance copywriting business.  But that’s not the kind of WRITER I want to mean when I say, “I am a writer.”

Keyboard

So this year, I’m giving this whole “I am a writer” gig one more full-speed-ahead shot.  If I want to identify as a writer, I need to — plain and simple — write.  I need to write fiction.  I need to write the stories that capture my imagination in the quiet moments, even if they’re few and far between.  I need to write every single day, even if it’s just jotting down a few sentences for a treatment.  The stories need to be on my mind every day.

I won’t ever have the single-minded focus I did when I first started pursuing this dream, and yet I wouldn’t trade my current life for anything in the world.  It’s a gift in and of itself to call myself mother to my two children and wife to my husband, but beyond that, it gives me a deeper set of emotions (for better or for worse) and a broader perspective on what it means to be human.  And making sense of the human experience, as much as we can, has always been the reason for the existence of stories.

So that’s my #onelittleword for 2016.  Identity.  This year, I am a wife, I am a mother, and once again, I am a WRITER.  I am a writer who writes.  I am a writer who makes time to put ass in chair and words on paper.  I am a writer who adores my children and my husband and still understands that I am meant to write stories.  I don’t know what comes after this year, but I do know this: 2016 is the year I love and live and write.

2015 in Review

2015.  Oof.

On the one hand, I made this.


On the other hand, it was probably the least productive year I’ve had in the last 6 or 7 when it comes to writing, creative endeavors and travel.

My 2015 Goals

My goals for the year were similar to what they always are:

  • Read 24 books.
  • Read 12 screenplays.
  • Write 12 short stories.
  • Write two new spec scripts.
  • Rewrite two screenplays.
  • NaNoWriMo.
  • Retain and/or add freelance clients.
  • Submit short stories for publication.
  • Watch 52 films.
  • Visit 3 new/awesome places.
  • Work out 365 days.

So let’s take a look at how those played out.

Writing

I managed only one script rewrite, and I worked on a few treatments/outlines, but that’s really it. I wrote a few short stories, but it really just wasn’t a major focus.

Looking back, I think it was a tough year psychologically and physically, which I’m sure has a lot to do with my lack of creative productivity. My pregnancy, while uncomplicated, felt much more difficult than my first. I started heavier and also had a two-year-old to contend with. Rose liked to stretch out her long legs to the point where I’d have to push her little feet back in lest they break through my skin. And the psychological stress of worrying about how our new addition would a) affect our firstborn, b) fit into our family, and c) how to manage all related logistics was a lot to bear.

(Spoiler alert: While things are totally nuts, they are also pretty darn great most days, and there’s generally much less anxiety this time around. I’ve also seemingly escaped the battle with postpartum depression this time around, which is a HUGE relief.)

NaNoWriMo

And after 10 successive “wins” at NaNoWriMo, I dropped out on Day 3 this year when Rose spiked a fever (at 6 weeks and prior to having received any vaccinations) and spent a day in the ER.


She was a total trooper and recovered just fine, but taking care of her understandably took my focus, and after missing a week, I just couldn’t muster the energy to jump back in, especially given I hadn’t felt all that gung-ho about it to begin with.

Travel

As for travel, we just didn’t get away like we usually do, which is fine. We did take a family trip to the beach during the summer and to Disney World (!) in December, but save a short overnight trip to Lawrence, Kansas, we stayed put.


Pippin got to meet Chewbacca, get reprimanded by a stormtrooper, and see Darth Vader, the Seventh Sister and Darth Maul.


So all in all, it was a pretty great trip (though Rose didn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about).

Reading + Movies + TV

In the most technical way, I did meet my reading goal of 24 books this year, but only if you include the many children’s books I read to Pip for the first time and a few single issues of comics.  I only read a total of 13 non-children’s books, and a handful of those were comic book trades (but I think those still count).  My only defense is that several of the books I read were very long, but I still didn’t read as much as I wanted to in 2015.

The books & comic trades I read:

  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
  • First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (after watching the Starz series)
  • Saga, Vol. 1-3 by Brian K. Vaughan; art by Fiona Staples
  • Humans of New York: Stories
  • Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) by Diana Gabaldon
  • Bitch Planet, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro; art by Taki Soma and Robert Wilson
  • The 4-Hour Body by Timothy Ferriss

I honestly don’t know if I read any screenplays or not, except a pilot for a friend, but obviously I did not read a full twelve.

Movies are hard to get to these days, and to be honest, there were few occasions where the draw of any given film was enough of an incentive to jump through the hoops of getting a babysitter and dropping the cash.  Here’s what I saw in theatres:

  • Me & Earl & the Dying Girl (a better version of The Fault in Our Stars)
  • The Duff (Really good — a new Mean Girls)
  • Cinderella (disappointing)
  • Trainwreck (pretty good)
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (quality blockbuster)
  • Jurassic World (fun)
  • Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (solid)
  • The Martian (very good)
  • Spectre (disappointing)
  • The Good Dinosaur (disappointing to the point of making me angry)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (EXCELLENT)

As for things I caught elsewhere, it was another year of mostly TV, including the following:

  • Outlander (my obsession for the last three months of my pregnancy)
  • Masters of Sex
  • Jane the Virgin
  • My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
  • The Grinder
  • Girl Meets World
  • The 100
  • Californication (Seasons 1-3)
  • Gilmore Girls (again)
  • A Young Doctor’s Notebook and Other Stories (Series 2)
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Orange is the New Black (Season 3)
  • House of Cards (Season 3)
  • Game of Thrones (Season 5)
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The few other movies I watched:

  • Hook (still fun)
  • A Very Murray Christmas (not bad)
  • The Ref (very good)
  • While You Were Sleeping (guilty pleasure)
  • White Christmas (still great)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (a bazillion times)
  • Corpse Bride (better each time)
  • My Best Friend’s Wedding (still good)
  • Chocolat (still great)
  • The Skeleton Twins (not terrible)
  • The Babadook (powerful horror)
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2 (really good)
  • Ever After (still the best version of Cinderella by far)
  • Stand by Me (liked it)

I would like to get back to watching more films next year, but I can’t say I feel bad about watching mostly TV/Netflix — there’s a lot of great writing out there right now.

Freelance Work

My copywriting/blogging freelance business has remained steady, through mostly dumb luck and prior connections, so that’s a plus.

Health & Fitness

The good news: I gained less weight with this pregnancy.  The bad news: I started heavier and gained more than I hoped for.  I actually ran longer into this pregnancy than my first, and I was more careful about how much I was eating, but my body just wanted to hold onto weight.

I did not work out 365 days this year, but, except for my first trimester when I, to put it succinctly, felt like poo, I walked a TON and did my best to stay active.

I had a VERY frustrating appointment with a dietitian/nutritionist who didn’t bother to look at me but just spouted credentials and pooh-poohed my hard-earned knowledge about a) how the body works, and b) how MY body works.  I think at some point the midwives must have put a note on my chart not to mention my weight, because it became a very sore topic.  It was a bit baffling how, when I gained 75 pounds with my first pregnancy, no one batted an eye, but at 25 pounds this time around, it was a Big Issue.

Post-pregnancy, it’s been difficult to set aside time to consistently work out, but thanks to exclusive pumping and staying relatively active (chasing a two-year-old who NEVER stops moving helps), I’ve dropped most of the weight I gained with this pregnancy.

To that point, I’m currently about 10 pounds out from my pre-second-pregnancy starting weight, and I’m a successful week into a new plan to shed the weight once and for all.  Right now I’m focusing on diet and fitting in workouts where I can, but I hope to start incorporating consistent workouts into my schedule by mid-year at the very latest.

Summing Up 2015

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do and how I want to live on a daily basis in 2016, and I’m excited.  A little scared, but I think that’s a good thing.  More details in the next post.

But looking back on the year, I think fondly of 2015.  It was a rough year for my personal goals, but it was a wonderful year for my family.  It was my first full year with my husband; we found ourselves with some new, awesome friends; I got to spend the final three months of the year enjoying a lot of extra time with my family thanks to my maternity leave; I had the pleasure and honor of seeing my first baby become a little boy; and we got to welcome our adorable daughter into the world.

Pippin & Rose

Yes, 2015 was a very good year.  And I’m thinking 2016 is going be even better.

Rose’s Birth Story

We welcomed Baby Rose Athena into the world on Sept. 16, at 12:50 p.m.  Here’s her birth story (with a little bonus background, for posterity’s sake).

Baby Rose, a couple of hours after entering the world

Baby Rose, a couple of hours after entering the world.

Rose’s Story Begins

Rose’s story officially began last December, when after having an early negative pregnancy test (but it still being too early to confirm), I went for a run.  During said run, I started crying to Taylor Swift’s song, “Mean,” and figured that might be a sign something weird was going on with my hormones.  I was in a very bad mood, and as I stared at the bottle of wine chilling in the refrigerator, I told myself I could open it if I went and took another test and it was negative (even though it was still a little early).  And wouldn’t you know it, that test, which was not an early detection brand, came back with two, no-bones-about it pink lines.

I’d really wanted that wine, but this was good news too.

In Which We Debate the Pros and Cons of the Baby’s Sex (As If We Have a Say in the Matter)

Pretty much immediately, I began to worry about how it could ever be possible to love a second kiddo as much as I love Pippin, as I’m pretty sure all people (especially mothers, I suspect) about to welcome a second child into the world do.  We were on the fence about wanting a boy or a girl.  We’d both kind of wanted a girl the first time around, but we had come to adore raising our wild, sensitive, (too) clever boy.  We also kind of figured that brothers have a special bond, just as sisters do, though we also knew that brother-sister duos have their own special relationship as well.  But as time went on, the pregnancy felt so different, and I found myself yearning for a girl for several reasons:

  1. My pre-kid thoughts that I’d have a girl
  2. The morning sickness was worse
  3. I’d always told Pippin he was my favorite boy, and I didn’t like feeling I might have to change that.
  4. My mom was threatening to disown us if we weren’t having a girl
  5. I suspected I was having a girl (Crying to a Taylor Swift song? Come on.), and I hate being wrong.

So when we went for our 20-week ultrasound, I was feeling pretty nervous.  Our baby was being very modest on the ultrasound as well, and we were afraid we weren’t going to be able to find out.  The tech said she was 60 percent sure that we had a girl, but I told her that would definitely not be good enough for the grandmother.  She kept looking, and we finally got a clear shot.  She raised her certainty to 90 percent, which she said was as high as she ever went, and so we felt relatively safe buying a pink cupcake to announce the news to my mom.  Tyler made fun of me, as my reaction may have been slightly (OK, much) more elated than when we received the news that Pip would be a boy.

Surviving Pregnancy

Fast-forward through the rest of the pregnancy: I started out heavier with this one, and though I gained less, I think I definitely felt that extra weight.  I actually kept running for about a month longer into my pregnancy this time around, and I walked like a madwoman (thank you, Fitbit), but I found that, just like the first go-round, my body just really liked to hold onto every bit of weight it could.  After a series of negative reactions of growing intensity on my part any time anyone at the birth center brought up my weight, they finally stopped mentioning it.  I suspect a note was put on my chart.  In any case, the pregnancy was rougher on me than Pippin’s was, and I was ready to be done.

But apparently my womb is something of a 4-star hotel, and my babies are content to stay put until I forcibly evict them.  After doing castor oil with Pippin on the advice of my midwives, I told them I wanted to avoid that option if at all possible.  Even as we passed the 41-week mark, my opinion has solidified that it wasn’t a route I was willing to go this time, even if it meant a hospital induction.  Instead, I would try everything else, and I was given the go-ahead to pump to try to stimulate labor.  After several days of managing to trigger contractions only to have them taper off shortly after I stopped pumping, I was feeling pretty downtrodden about the likelihood of managing another drug-free childbirth.  I had my membranes swept for the third time at 41+4, and pumped that evening for several hours with the same results.  I went to bed, figuring I’d at least get some sleep, but it wasn’t to be.

Labor Finally Begins

Contractions finally started coming again on their own around 10:30 p.m., and continued throughout the night.  They tapered off around 4 a.m., which allowed me to get a nap, but woke me again about 45 minutes later.  Around 7 a.m., we were told to come on into the birth center, with contractions picking up in intensity and about 6 minutes apart.

The room we’d put down as our preference wasn’t available, so we were put in the only available room: the one in which Pippin was born. It seemed fitting somehow.  I labored walking around the room for a bit and enjoyed a smoothie before getting in the tub and enduring contractions there.  I didn’t seem to be progressing as quickly as I’d hoped, so I got out of the tub.  Contractions were getting much stronger, and they felt less and less manageable.  Poor Tyler, as excellent a birth partner as he is, had to deal with me yelling at him a few times.  It’s so hard to be a birth partner, because you know the basics of what you can do to help, but you never really know what the woman in labor is going to want or not want.  Labor sucks, but I know that being a true birth partner has to be its own kind of hell, despite the privilege.

Cathy, the same midwife I called “the Closer” last time was with us for most of the laboring process, and she guided me through different pushing positions on the bed.  My body never took over like it did with Pippin during the pushing process, which was both disheartening and exhausting.  I suspect it’s because my water never broke, so there was nothing, well, to grip onto, so to speak.  I remember joking between contractions about how it was so silly that I’d wanted so badly to go into labor, and that a C-section sounded pretty good right about now.

But once they assured me I was making progress, and with Cathy directing and Tyler right there with me, I managed to find some strength to keep going.

Our Baby Girl is Born

I felt the ring of fire once but couldn’t complete the push, and I knew I had to do next time to stay sane.  Cathy told us to get a camera ready, and I said, “Not like this!”  I remember I was sweating from the exertion, but on the next contraction, I pushed and pushed and pushed, and pulled so hard on Tyler’s shirt I’m surprised I didn’t rip it off.  After what felt like forever (I’m pretty sure I remember yelling, “Get her OUT!”), she was put on my chest as they pulled off the remnants of her amniotic sac.  She’d come out “with a veil,” and during the process to get her out of me and into the world, it was broken and pulled away.  As she screeched (she sounded like a cat who’d been stepped on), I felt her kick out her legs immediately down my torso, just as she’d done for the past several months in the womb, much to my chagrin.

Everything in those first few minutes is a bit of a blur.  I had Tyler take Rose while I delivered the placenta, which took longer than I remember.  (I think most of this labor experience was marked by impatience on my part.)  In comparing the two births, I’ve been describing them as inverse experiences.  With Pippin, the first 90 percent was torture, and the last 10 percent was great.  With Rose, the first 90 percent was great, and the last 10 percent was absolutely terrible (despite being totally normal, minus my water never breaking or being broken).

Our Birth Center Photo

Ready to head home (photo courtesy of New Birth Company).

An Honest Appraisal of Finding Our New Normal

The last several weeks of pregnancy, I was already experiencing anxiety about how Pippin would handle everything, and wanting to make sure that the transition was as positive as possible for him.  Baby Rose had brought him many gifts to the birth center (three books and two Duplo sets, which is probably overkill, but #momguilt).

I’m not sure Pippin ever really grasped the concept of the fact that Baby Rose would eventually come out of Mama’s tummy, which how could you at two years old?  He looked a little confused when my mom brought him into the room and he saw the baby.  We didn’t really try to force anything and mostly just let him focus on the gifts, emphasizing that they were from Baby Rose.  He’s been into the Birthday Song lately, so he and Daddy and his Aunt Chrissy and Gaga all sang Happy Birthday to Rose.  I told him he was a big brother now, like in the book we read, and he said, “No!” and hugged Daddy, which was admittedly pretty cute and probably the sentiment of many big brothers and sisters out there. (Aunt Chrissy also got that one recorded for posterity.)

I managed to keep it together until we were heading home, about 5 hours after Rose had entered the world.  I didn’t have an immediate connection with Pippin right after he was born, and I didn’t have one with Rose either.  And I felt both guilt at that fact plus nostalgic for our days with just Pippin, which is a lot of emotion on a day where you’ve endured both a physically and mentally exhausting experience.  I knew it would get better, and that Rose and I would develop just as strong a connection as Pippin and I had as well, and Tyler reassured me of all this too, of course.

Most of my baby blues weepiness in the first few days were related to missing Pippin and wanting him to be happy.  I sensed (or thought I sensed) a little sadness and uncertainty in him, and whether real or imagined, it broke my heart.  He’s understandably been asking for a little extra attention since Rose arrived, wanting to be carried, etc.  He’s uninterested in Rose probably half the time, and curious the other half, which seems like a pretty good mix.  On the second or third day, he said, “I kiss Baby Rose,” and I instructed him to kiss her on the head, which he did — twice.  So when he is interested, he’s very sweet and sometimes a little too helpful (e.g., tossing one of his old soft toy rattles onto her head — which she slept through).

We’ve done our best to give him some fun days and some one-on-one time with each of us as well as lots of family time, and his Aunt Kate has been especially sensitive to him needing extra attention.

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I was really weepy on Day 5, and having had a pretty rough time with postpartum depression last time around, I was worried it was coming on again.  Tyler cancelled some brief plans to stay home because I was so weepy, despite my objections, because he’s a wonderful husband and parent.  We’d both been taking shifts staying up with Rose because she’d been vomiting quite a bit (normal, but still scary), and we’d both had a couple of really rough nights in a row.  So we decided, since the vomiting had passed, to move to keeping her in her room at night and trying to get some sleep while she slept.  I’d started pumping exclusively since she wasn’t a great latch and I didn’t want her to get dehydrated from all the vomiting (plus it had worked very well for us with Pippin), so we were able to both take turns feeding her, and we were both able to get a full night’s sleep, even if in chunks.  And that has helped tremendously.  We also scheduled a day date for next week, which is always a nice thing to have on the agenda.

Yesterday, I didn’t cry at all, and I’ve only been a little teary today in writing this about Pippin’s transition, which I think is normal and not baby-blues related.  I don’t think I’m out of the woods yet, but I’m feeling more optimistic about avoiding PPD this time around, or at least experiencing a less severe version.

Baby Rose and I are still working on our connection, but it’s growing.  I remember saying to Tyler some time around when Pippin was six weeks old, that I’d loved him from the start, but that I felt like I was really starting to fall in love with him finally.  I expect it’ll be similar with Rose, as she starts to become more and more human, and we start to settle into various renditions of our new normal.

Baby Rose

“Oh, this old thing?”