Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mama loves her football on-a-stick

Just a quick post to share with the world the joy I find in two activities I intend to engage in this week, namely, NFL football (yes, its true) and the MN state fair, otherwise known as "the great minnesota get together."

A few comments on my love of football. There is something about the heralding of autumn with a large offensive line securing the pocket for a strong armed quarterback that just sits well with the soul. I remember fondly the days watching high school football, when it was sunny enough to sport my sunglasses but cool enough to be out in a newly purchased J.Crew sweater. (how much does that date my high school experience? - mid 90's much?) Now, years later, with a far better understanding of the game, I love sunday afternoons (usually folding laundry) in front of the big screen listening to the low tone commentary of John Madden or one of his lesser peers. So, this week, I am stoked to attend my first ever NFL game. So what if its only pre-season?! Its the Steelers v. Vikings, and I am 25 rows back from the 50 yard line. In the words of the wise Emily Raynor, thats 'damn good'.

The "great minnesota get together" or, the land of food on-a-stick, is my other guilty indulgence in late August. The kitsch filled fun starts today and runs through Labor Day. Last night I perused the menu of items up for grabs, on-a-stick. Some interesting stand outs include: butterscotch cake on-a-stick, tater tots deep fried on-a-stick, alligator sausage on-a-stick, 1/3 lb. fried bacon with maple sauce on-a-stick, scones on-a-stick, cheese on-a-stick, pork chops on-a-stick, salmon on-a-stick, reuben on-a-stick, Minnesota hot dish on-a-stick, spaghetti and meatballs on-a-stick, whole dill pickle on-a-stick, blackened cajun steak on-a-stick, caramel apples on-a-stick, Puff Daddy on-a-stick (not sure what that is, but apparently its edible), scotch eggs on-a-stick, ice cream on-a-stick (isn't that a popsicle?), and frozen grapes on-a-stick (for the small minority of fair goers who want lite fare). Really, how could anything on-a-stick be bad?

We love to people watch at the fair. We love to animal watch at the fair. Erik & I usually take in the "English" horse show (honey, we ain't at the Hampton Classic anymore), trying to catch some classes over fences, and then move on to the stables, the cow barn, the pig barn. Then we make our way through the crowds of families, teenagers and twenty-somethings past the amusement rides and food courts to the slower paced attractions... the lumberjack demonstrations, the John Deere and Harley Davidson displays. My Erik gets to be a little boy again and I have the joy of watching him. The fair always brings out something of our childhood, mine in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, his in Maryland and West Virginia. Yes... its likely we are related. If that doesn't do us in, it's our indulgences on-a-stick that will!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Proceed with caution - The Birth Story

They say there is some sort of hormonal response in a new mom that helps her forget the pain of her childbirth. In Erik's "New Father" book, it even says that for new Dads it can take up to a year to recover from seeing your wife in the throws of labor....

With that on my mind, I was trying to remember what it was like the Monday that I gave birth, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in frigid January.

It was 4:43am when my water broke. My punctual body got things groovin' on its own accord 2 minutes before the alarm would sound, waking us, to call the labor ward for my scheduled induction that day. In retrospect, I can say that early labor had started about 12 hours earlier, but what did I know?

I remember eating cereal that morning, and checking my email. Erik walked into the living room ready, I think, to hightail it to the hospital. "I am eating breakfast. I may not get to eat for a while. Oh, and I am having contractions now."

Poor guy. He wanted coffee. So, we stopped at Caribou. I am not sure why we thought it would be open at 5am - it wasn't - but sitting there looking at the hours, I had my first real, honest-to-God-it-hurts, contraction.

"Lets just go to the hospital."

We were so relaxed. I loved this about my pregnancy. It was like the biggest dose of chill for me. Whatever hormones I had going on were GREAT for me and my marriage!

The day went by in a series of bad news. First, my fluids weren't clear. Then my blood pressure was borderline. Third, my OB didn't like my "egg" (supposed to be round) shape. Go figure. I was round everywhere else.

After 10:30am, I had an epidural on board. I had been looking forward to it. But in classic Mara style, the drugs didn't do anything but make me feel helpless and out of control and I didn't like it. (As is usually the case with me and drugs). My legs felt like they were in an ice box, and I was complaining about them and the blood pressure cuff that I felt was trying to strangle me with its attack on my arm.

Then the fever started. Xanthe's heartbeat was erratic, going up and down with the contractions. She wasn't coming down into my pelvis. The pitocin and my natural contractions didn't sync up, and my nurse seems baffled and frustrated at the strength of my own body rhythm. Which begs the question - why mess with a good thing?

By 2pm, I had started to run a fever. This was a development that I hadn't read about. I had read about all the other minor but normal complications, and I was well versed in what pre-eclampsia might do to me and the baby. But a fever? I don't think I have had a actual fever for years. I hardly ever get sick.

And the fever started to climb. At 4PM, I hit the line-in-the-sand number, 100.4 degrees. I was 7cm dialated but Xanthe wasn't staying down. Her heart rate was erratic and something appeared to be wrong. Too add insult to injury, it also appeared that Xanthe had flipped over and was now face up, not ideal. But, really, that was the least of our worries.

Oh, and I did I mention I have a heart condition? It was enough to send my OB over the edge.

My OB called it. Time to prep for surgery. It was time to deliver Xanthe. It was time to say that my body had done all that it could, that the drugs couldn't help, that something was keeping us from doing what women had done naturally for centuries. I needed help. I was ready. I was tired, I was uncomfortable. And with the declaration of a c-section my blood pressure went through the roof. Not surprisingly, I immediately felt as if my epidural was wearing off. I was tired, I was thirsty, I was ready to meet my baby. I had tried to keep my cool the whole day, but there in that moment, I was scared. I didn't understand why my body, which I had failed to give any credit to during my pregnancy (and yet was repeatedly told everything was fine) would fail me now.

Erik got into scrubs and I got wheeled into surgery. They gave me dose after dose of bone chilling anesthesia until finally, I admitted that I couldn't feel a thing. At the instruction of the nurse by my head, I repeatedly took deep breaths and listened to the surgeons discuss their weekly schedules over the curtain across my stomach.

The NICU staff, the nurses, the anesthesiologists, the surgeons, everyone was in and out and there I was, arms stretched into a T on a table 10 inches wide, trying to think of my happy place, the hammock swinging between two palm trees.

Erik came in the room and rubbed my forehead. He looked totally freaked out. Who could blame him? Within 15 minutes, our lives changed forever. Xanthe came out, reluctantly given the cord around her neck, with a ferocious cry. I had been told that she might not cry... so when I heard this noise my daughter made, it was the sweetest feeling in the world. She could have sounded like a frog and it would have been a concerto to me.

Erik went to her. She scored in the 8-9 on her Agpars. Too bad for her, my expectations will now always be that high.

Its funny the things you remember. After Xanthe was delivered and I got to see (I use the world lightly given my altered and weeping state) her for the first time, they lowered my head and keep my legs high to put me back together. I couldn't breathe at all, my mucus membranes in my nose were going bananas and I just remember how stuffed up I was....

My next happy memory was receiving ice chips in the recovery room. I hadn't had anything to drink all day, and they tasted better to me than anything I had ever had in my life. I ate cup after cup of ice chips.

Then Erik came in, and he brought Xanthe. We laid her on my chest. Erik helped move the wires from me, and her IV, and lo and behold.... my little girl suckled. She knew me and I was meeting her. All of a sudden, I forgot all of it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Phelps schmelps...

I am having a moment. We just enrolled Xanthe in her first swim class, "TOTS I" at Foss Swim School. Anyone who knows me knows that I spent a large majority of my childhood in a pool.

Just walking into the lobby, the smell of chlorine took me back. Years of speedos, caps, goggles, sweats, flippers, pull boys, kick boards... sets of 50s, 100s, wall work, flip turn clinics, 500 warm downs. And in my specific case, numerous coaches all running along side of me yelling, "KICK!"

I hated kicking. That took energy.

Maybe its the Olympics. Maybe its my natural Mom instinct of wanting Xanthe to do better than I did. I couldn't help myself... I had to ask the nice lady who enrolled at us at the desk. "So do you have a US Swimming team here?"

The moment the question formed in my brain, and then slipped out of my lips, I shocked myself. Am I going to be THAT mom?

Ok, so, I took a deep breath. Its only TOT I. There are at least 4 more "TOT" classes and then things get serious with the "LITTLES". I have plenty of time to chill out between then and now. Phew.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Real Simple

"So, when are you going to put pen to paper and write that essay for the Real Simple contest?" Erik asks me last night.
"Ummmm... I wasn't."
"You should, you really should. You write well and people like to read what you write."
"But I have no idea what I would say. There is no one day that I can say was the best in my life."

And I started thinking. What was the most important day of my life? The obvious answers are, the day I got married, the day I gave birth. I can imagine Real Simple magazine is going to receive thousands of 1,500 word essays about those days. So, I started considering less obvious topics - our first date in Annapolis, the day we were practically kicked out of New Hampshire, my guardian angel ride to Benenden School when I was 18, quitting law school (that was a liberating moment).. the list goes on.

The contest assignment says the day could be "poignant or hilarious". The rolodex of memories starts flipping... ok... some mediocre entries there. What about hilarious? Oh sure, there are the embarassing moments that will remain nameless here.. but again, nothing makes me want to devote 1,500 words to its memory.

All these moments combine to make my life pretty darn good. I've had a LOT of days that were poignant and hilarious, its simply not possible to isolate just one. Perhaps it is not the memory of the day that has already happened, but the day in the future that will be the most important...

It is a sunny day. I am sitting on a bench. I have my legs tucked up underneath me like I belong to this bench. I am a fixture here. I can hear the church bells ring. I can hear the water running over the rocks in the river below. The hand in mine has been a fixture for many many years.

I am old and loved. In my eyes you can see a life well lived. I can think back through many decades of challenges, excitements, adventures, explorations. I can say that I've had true love, true companionship. That I've grown as a person and grown in charity. I can remember first setting my eyes on my future husband walking towards me at City Dock in Annapolis, the fireworks of my wedding in a small community church in New Hampshire, the breathlessness I felt when I first saw my daughter's face, and that is just the beginning of our journey.

Maybe its not so difficult to write the essay afterall. It is actually real simple.

Friday, August 1, 2008

My little peanut!

Its hard to believe but we just returned from Xanthe's 6 month "well baby" visit to the pediatrician. We see a Nurse Practitioner/Lactation Consultant instead of the doctor, but really, in our practice, its the nurses who make the day! We have a nurse who has seen Xanthe at every visit since birth and she's like an old friend when you see her. Her smile is all gums and she says all the right things, "Xanthe is getting so big! What a great way to start my day seeing your beautiful baby girl!" For some reason, affirmation likes this means more when it comes from a medical professional. I know she says it to every child, but it feels good all the same.

Xanthe is growing, but well... maybe not as much as she should. She is such a peanut! She has gained exactly 1 lb in two months, from 13lbs 1 oz to 14lbs 1oz. She has not officially doubled her bith weight, but given how many fluids I had in my system, she really has... her birth weight was more like what she left the hospital at - 6lbs 10oz. Her weight is 25th percentile for her age.

She has grown an inch, from 24 to 25. Also in the 25 percentile.

AND.... she continues to have a small noggin. 15 1/2 inches in circumference - that is the 10th percentile. At least she is consistent in her growth! She has been in the 10th percentile for head size since birth.

We talked to the doctor about her development, her feeding and sleeping. She is doing just fine. I am going to make an effort to try to nurse her in quiet dark places. She is so distracted the LC thinks that it is effecting Xanthe's intake. So more down time for both of us. That can't be a bad thing.

On the way out of the office we saw a new mom with her 11 day old baby. I remember when that was us. It was a half a year ago. The newborn was so tiny, wrinkles and fragile. And I looked at Xanthe.. all smiles, sticky-up hair, and razzzzz berries... and I know she is on track to be one heck of a kid.

I got a bit emotional on the way home. I wish I could bottle up this time and put it on the shelf for a later date. I am so afraid that somehow I will forget these days. I keep telling Erik how much I love 5 months... its the best age... well, until 6 months... now 6 months is looking pretty good.

For those of you that have been asking for pictures... of course, this is from 5 months... we are getting up to speed.