Best Present Ever

Today is my birthday, which means I usually: 1) get a massage, 2) go to Starbucks, and 3) write a blog post.  Today is no exception.

So far, today has been fabulous.  My little girl started sleeping through the night about 3 days ago, which has been a godsend because everyone in the family (including her, poor thing) is sick.  Today, my babies let me sleep in til 9am.  NINE. In the MORNING.  Best birthday present ever.

We snuggled and breastfed and ate breakfast and danced and sang.  I tried on my pre-pregnancy jeans (always a gamble) AND THEY (just barely) FIT.  Let’s just take a moment to glow in that last sentence.  Aah.  As if that weren’t enough, I saw a rainbow on the drive here.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a leprechaun today.  Or maybe Bigfoot.

So.  Since last year I blogged about my own birth, and since then I’ve given birth, so let’s talk about that one.

The two times I’ve given birth were extremely different.  For my first, I was induced, labor took 32 hours (including 2.5 hours of pushing), and ended in a vaginal birth aided by an epidural.

The short version of my second L&D is as follows: labor was so fast that it only took 3 hours and ended with me giving birth on my bathroom floor while my baby was delivered by firefighters.  It was the most physically painful and intense experience of my entire life.

Allow me to back up.  Because I was induced last time at 41 weeks, I was determined to do everything in my power to try and go into labor naturally.  I asked my OB to sweep my membranes on Tuesday, December 20 when I was 39 weeks +1.  Initially I had some cramping, but nothing major.  At 2am Thursday morning, I woke up with contractions.  They were mild, but strong enough to wake me up, and I found that they were coming at regular intervals once I started tracking them.

I woke my husband and we called L&D.  The nurse asked me a bunch of questions but she wasn’t convinced I was in labor because the intensity of my contractions just wasn’t there.  She advised to call my childcare person to come over but to wait another 30 minutes and see if the contractions ramped up at all.  Her guess was that this was false labor and they’d go away and she was right.  I felt horrible for getting my friend (who was also pregnant) out of bed for a false alarm, but we all went back to sleep.

That day I took it easy and had a few wimpy contractions here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary.  We went to bed.  I woke up at 3am Friday morning with contractions again.  This time, as I tracked them, their intensity increased but their frequency was all over the place.  Around 5am Brian woke up and I told him what was going on and we talked about what to do between contractions.  At 5:20 we decided to call L&D, so I said I’d get up to pee and then we’d call.

I stood up and quickly discovered that I couldn’t walk as the intensity of my contractions rapidly increased.  I turned around, grabbed the side of the bed and instinctively swayed and moaned to get through the waves of pain.  Brian was still quite groggy and wasn’t grasping onto what was happening so I finally barked at him to get up and help me walk to the toilet.  As we moved I started to panic because my body no longer felt like it belonged to me; some force had just taken over.

As soon as I sat down on the toilet, my water broke.  I turned to my husband and told him (screamed at him) to call L&D.  Immediately, my body was rocked to the core by a contraction that started pushing my baby out of me.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  My instinct was to try to suppress the urge to push because there was no way my baby was coming so early.  In hindsight, this probably made things all the more painful.

My husband couldn’t hear what the nurse was saying over my screams, but she could most definitely hear me scream that I needed to push, I need to push!  She told him to hang up and call 911.  By this time it was 5:40am…and my baby was born at 5:57am.  It took the firefighters 9 minutes to get to our house, and Audrey was born 8 minutes after that.

The dispatcher told my husband to get me flat on my back and to get some towels.  It was only then that it dawned on me that they were getting me ready to have the baby right there on the bathroom floor.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified in my entire life.

My husband started grabbing our good towels we got as wedding presents and, in true form, I was still able to scream, NO!  NOT THE GOOD TOWELS!  GET THE OLD ONES! because I’m a freak.  And bless him, he got the old towels for me.  The dispatcher continued to ask questions, one of which was, Do you see the head?  He looked once, no.  He looked again, and yes, yes he could.  YOU CAN SEE THE HEAD?!  I screamed in reply.  I was still in shock and denial about what was happening.  Contractions were back to back at this point and  I was screaming pretty much the whole time.  In case you’re wondering, my two-year-old was down the hall and slept through the whole thing.  Like I said, my kids (angels) are sleepers.

We could hear the firetruck arrive and B ran downstairs (still in only his boxers) to let them in.  They had trouble finding me at first but I think they just followed the screams.  I immediately asked them for pain meds – ANYTHING! – and they sadly shook their heads and said they couldn’t.  I was devastated.

Pretty soon her head was born (worst pain of my entire life) and they told me to keep pushing to get the rest of her body out, and I remember thinking that I just couldn’t.  I needed that 15 second rest between contractions.  I pushed again and she was out.  She wasn’t crying right away and I held out my arms for her, but it felt like an eternity while he rubbed her back, suctioned her mouth and got her properly breathing.  Once it was apparent that we were both just fine, the 6 firefighters who were crammed into my bathroom were overjoyed.  They proudly announced the time of birth and her Apgar score.

They had B cut the cord and gave us the shears to keep, joking that they make great cigar cutters.  One firefighter asked for our phones and started snapping pictures.  She was here.  My little girl was in the world.  I couldn’t believe it.

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We were carried downstairs and into the ambulance and taken to the hospital.  A few firefighters even stayed behind at the house to wait for my childcare person to get there.  Later that day, she brought my son to the hospital so he could meet Audrey.  We came back home the next day – Christmas Eve – to start our lives as a family of four.

Best Christmas present ever.

Birthday Blog

I’ve made it a tradition to blog on my birthday.

Birthdays make me even more introspective than usual, and I often feel compelled to write around this time of year.  This year is no exception, except…I don’t know what to write about exactly.

(and now I sit here watching the cursor blink for about 5 minutes, give or take)

I just got a massage (another birthday tradition of mine) and now I am sitting in a Starbucks (Tradition #3) feeling my caffeinated blood ooze past my loopy muscles and greased-up skin.  I suspect my brain has been turned to mush as a result.

During my massage, I desperately tried to stay in the moment and focus on how my body felt.  Part of this is because I want to get my money’s worth.  To me, massages are expensive and I usually only get them once a year.  But I also just want to be able to quiet my mind and get my body to freaking relax, or more accurately,  to allow my body to surrender to the relaxation that is happening to it.

Because I spend most of my time with a screaming, whining, giggling toddler, my adult mind is often off in left field having some imaginary conversation with an adult – any adult – I wish were there with me.  It’s hard to stay in the present, and I feel disappointed in myself that I often seem to be wishing away the present and fantasizing about being somewhere else, some time else.  Because I feel bad about this, I try very hard to highlight the times when I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else – when I want to be right here, right now.

One example of me wanting to be here now pops up from my past life as a therapist.  I was with a client I had seen longer than any other and to whom I felt particularly dedicated.  She was chronically depressed and wouldn’t admit to having many strengths.  In my office, this client picked up a broken kids’ toy – I think it was trying to be a toy ukulele or something, but it was missing strings – and she made music with it.  It was incredible.  I remember thinking to myself, This is why I do therapy.  This, right here.

Another example from the recent past: my kid is just starting to say Mama and Dada in context and with meaning.  Oh man, how amazingly wonderful it is to hear my boy call out my name.  Recently, we’ve been playing this game where I ask Dylan what my name is.  It goes like this:

Me:  Hey Dylan, can you say Mama?

D:  …Ma-ma!

Me:  Yay!  Now what’s my name?

D:  DADA!! (we both laugh)

Me:  Noooo, Daddy’s at work!….Can you say Mama?

D:  Mama!

Me:  What’s my name?

D:  DADA!!

We collapse in giggles, and I savor the moment.  I don’t want to be anywhere else.

So, mindfulness.  I had to reel my mind back in several times during today’s massage, and I did my very best to enjoy the time, to enjoy the feeling, and to enjoy my body.

That’s the other thing, is that during the massage I found myself thinking about how in awe of my body I am.  The last time I got a massage, I was about 8 months pregnant with Dylan.  I was hot and sweaty and swollen and in pain and huge.  A lot has changed since then.  My body has morphed.  Transformed.  Been made new.  And so I found myself saying thank you to my body through the massage, as the therapist moved her hands over my body that felt like waves gently lapping on my fleshy shores.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

My mind wandered again—>  The first time I ever got a massage was after my cancer surgery.  My roommate heard me complain (a lot) about how sore and broken I felt, and she got my friends together and they all gave me a gift certificate for one.  I want to make a joke and say that she got it for me just so she wouldn’t have to hear me bitch about it anymore, but she just wanted me to feel better and I think she knew I’d never go and get one for myself.  Another thank you is in order.

So, on the anniversary of my body becoming my own, here’s to loving my body and thanking it for the places it’s taken me and all it’s given to me.

And here’s to celebrating the here-and-nows that make the time in between well worth it.

 

A Day Not Entirely My Own

Today is my birthday, and this birthday feels different.

I have realized how giving birth has changed my entire perspective on birthdays in general, but especially mine.

Up until now, I’ve always thought of my birthday as belonging to me; it’s my day.  The anniversary of the day I was brought into the world.

But really, the passive voice of that last sentence is misplaced.  In actuality, my birthday is the anniversary of the day my mom brought me into the world.  My mom worried and labored and felt pain and sweated and cried and felt crazy beautiful joy and relief.

I guess I couldn’t really get it until I had done the same thing for someone else.

My mom was in labor with me for 24 hours.  My dad drove her to the hospital, which was about 30 minutes away from home.  My mom remembers being pissed that my dad’s breath smelled like potato chips as he led her in the Lamaze breathing in which they had taken classes.  My parents talked about a very insensitive nurse who couldn’t get some medical reading because my mom was writhing in pain during a contraction.  I would like to be able to track down that nurse and punch her in the ear, exactly 32 years late.

At some point during the labor, my mom announced she wanted an epidural.  Apparently, someone informed my dad that it was too late in the process for an epidural to do any good, and so my dad ended up lovingly lying to my mom, telling her the pain meds would be coming any minute now.  I can only imagine how much of a champ my mom was for getting through the remainder of the laboring process completely unmedicated.

And so I came into the world at about 2:15am on February 10th, a Thursday, head first but facing up.  At that time, few parents knew the sex of their baby before birth, and my parents were no exception.  My mom wrote in my baby book that I was alert and had strawberry blonde hair, which are the exact same phrases I ended up writing in my son’s baby book.

So today, I celebrate my first birthday as a mom even though it’s not entirely my day.  And in six months, my son will get to smash his face into sweet, damp cake for the first time, but it won’t really be his day.  Not all the way, at least.  That will be a day when I’ll be telling anyone who will listen how I brought this perfect creature into the world.

…maybe that will be a day when I should make myself my own smash cake.

And by smash cake I mean celebratory booze.

Birthday and First Trimester Recap

Today is my birthday, and it’s right around what will be my baby’s half birthday (WHAT?!).

I am 14 weeks today!

What a difference a year makes.  Last year, if you recall, I had some fun drinking adult beverages and then attempting to throw a very heavy ball down a hallway, all whilst dressed up in the clothes of the time of my origin.

A lot has changed since then, and I imagine a whole lot will also change in the coming year.  I’ll look back on this time and wonder where all my freedom went, where all my time went, where all my sleep went.  But I imagine I’ll also wonder how I ever got by without a drooling, pooping, screaming angel strapped to me.  Weird.

I’d like to take this opportunity and do a little recap of my first trimester, since it came and went in a whirlwind of leaving jobs, packing, the holidays, the flu, and moving.

I think it’s interesting that nausea and vomiting are the only acceptable pregnancy symptoms that people seem to be allowed to ask about.  Or interested in.  And that those symptoms really weren’t a major issue for me, so conversations beginning with those kinds of questions are pretty much nonstarters.

I remember sneaking a copy of What To Expect at the shelter where I used to work before we started to try to get pregnant, and it was horrifying.  While I knew on some level that pregnancy affected the whole body, I had no idea about the sheer range of potential side effects.  Face skin turning colors?!  Anal bleeding?!  Eyes frickin changing shape?!

How come nobody asks me about my eyes and how they are doing, hmm?

I feel like my pregnancy symptoms started happening before the pregnancy.  As soon as I went off birth control (that I had been on for the entirety of my adult life), I felt like a 13 year old kid all over again.  My skin became greasy and broke out everywhere.  Like, all the places.  I usually shower every other day, but I quickly started having to shower every day to keep from feeling so hormonally gross.

Which reminds me – I watched the movie of What To Expect because it was on netflix instant view and I was bored and full of pregnancy hormones, and thank goodness for Elizabeth Banks’ character’s storyline.  She struggled to get pregnant, felt horrible during pregnancy, and actually uttered the wonderfully descriptive term ‘bac-ne.’ (How does one spell that?  It’s like ‘acne’ and ‘back’ had a baby, only this baby aint cute.)  It felt validating to see a pregnancy experience that wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and that I could partially relate to.

Once my pregnancy train left the station, I started feeling heartburn for the first time.  It prevented me from eating a donut at work for about an hour, but I eventually prevailed.  Soon after, I became so exhausted that I couldn’t make it through some days without taking a nap.  I remember the first day the movers were packing up our stuff, all I did was stand there and watch, and at 3pm when they left, I felt like I had done all the work.  An hour nap, and I still had no problem getting to sleep at night.

At that point, the flu struck and I couldn’t tell what was flu and what was pregnantness – I just felt like a zombie in pajamas.  I only wanted comfort foods like ramen and PB&J.  I slept all the time.  Interestingly enough, still no vomit.

Once I was feeling fairly normal again, the completely random food aversions hit.  Our first night in Portland, we were exhausted from driving all day (and being pregnant) and so we ordered pizza.  I demanded no meat because that sounded pukey.  Nevertheless, the veggie pizza arrived and, while it looked amazing, it smelled and tasted like barf.  I forced a slice down and then passed out.  A few days later, Brian cooked us up some veggie burgers and I thought I’d have to run outside to escape the stench.  For the first time, their look matched their smell.  Ralph.

What confused me through all these food aversions (that only happened at dinnertime) was that I couldn’t tell – was I hungry or was I pukey?  The answer was yes, all of the above.  I hated that this babe was ruining mealtime for me, and I am thankful that the phase didn’t last very long.

Heartburn continued, although it hasn’t been predictable or consistent like the bloating and constipation.  Funny that people love to talk about food coming back up and out, but in the absence of an exit, it’s suddenly gross.  I am no stranger to GI issues, as some of you know, but this was/is by far the worst batch of symptoms for me.

It was also weirding me out.  Am I full even though I only took two bites of my cheesey blasters?  Nope, it’s just gas.  Am I starting to show?  Uh-uh, it’s just gas.  Did I just feel the baby?!  Nope – gas.

I think the only other major symptom left is the constant peeing.  Twice, sometimes three times a night.  Like clockwork, too.  And forget trying to laugh or sneeze and stay dry.  My belly had better grow bigger faster, because now that I actually want to eat a horse, there’s no room for it with all that pee, poop, gas, and the reason we’re having this party in the first place.

I forgot to mention the one good side effect of all this – since getting knocked up, my migraines have all but disappeared.  Thank you, first trimester gods, there is a silver lining.

As I already alluded to, the second trimester is treating me well so far.  I’m told I need to enjoy it before the third, and I definitely plan to – starting by stuffing my face with a huge birthday dinner in a few hours and demanding that the bartender mix me up a mocktail so good that I am convinced it’s the real deal.

My Radical 80s-themed 30th Birthday Picture Gallery

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Behold.  I never miss an awesome opportunity to dress up and make a fool out of myself.  These are my mom’s white pumps, my own leg warmers and tights, mini skirt and plus-sized pink shirt bought at a thrift store about 5 hours before this picture, that ring-doodle that my shirt is tied up with is fucking authentic – dates back to about 1988.  And then those shades were the best find ever at the thrift store for $1 (which is like $.05 in 80s money).

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I started the evening off right.  White and red – I am an equal opportunity drinker.  Except tequila. And gin.  And whiskey.  Well, I like wine at least.

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Disco lights at the bowling alley.  After a while, I didn’t know what decade I was in.

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I am so glad I kept my crimping iron.  I am also glad that it stopped smoking just enough for me to get these salon-quality results without the salon price.

EDIT: Holy shitsnacks, you guys, I just realized that this is my 100th post.  I am glad it was a happy and fun one!

Waking Up

I became aware of the horribly bright fluorescent lights as I regained consciousness. I saw my dad first – a blurry version of my dad. I looked past him to the clock on the wall. 9pm and change. Wait, could that be right? They took me in at 2-something…that’s way too long.

“Is that clock right?”
“Was it benign?”
“Can I still have babies?”

These were the three questions I remember asking immediately upon waking up. I also remember my dad giving me an affirmative answer to each one- which shouldn’t have made sense.

Before going in for surgery, I was told that if my tumor was benign, the procedure would take about an hour or 90 minutes. If they found cancer or if there were complications – longer. I had been out for over 7 hours.

Upon hearing the answers I wanted to hear, I started to take stock of how I physically felt. My body didn’t feel like my own. I felt broken. My midsection felt like it had been run over by a semi truck. A nurse suddenly appeared at my side and shoved a button in my hand. She told me to push the button when I felt pain. I pushed it right away and kept pushing it every time I remembered to, which felt like long intervals since I kept drifting in and out of consciousness. I was later told that I pushed that damn thing every 2 minutes or so. No amount of pushing that button could have taken the pain away.

I felt so numb. Blindingly so. After my parents left the room, my boyfriend at the time was allowed to stay. At one point I looked up at him and it looked like he was crying. I asked him if he was and I honestly don’t remember his answer. I just wanted to go back to sleep. I wanted to wake up once it was all over.

I pushed the button.

The next morning my surgeon came to see me. He told me that they found some borderline malignant tumors. Malignant. Plural. With an ‘s.’ This information barely registered. It had completely engulfed my left ovary but I got to keep my right one.

What?
Say again, please?
But my dad said…
…do I have to do radiation? Chemo?

No. Those treatments won’t work on your kind of tumors. Besides, we think we got them all, and now we just wait and see.

WAIT AND SEE?! My brain was screaming but my face stayed blank.
Apparently now my job was just to focus on getting better.

Let me get this straight. You rip me open, take out pieces of me, then run me over with a truck and tell me medicine won’t work for me, and now it’s my job to get better? I thought that was yours. You broke me. Now someone put me back together.

I pushed the button again and everything got blurry.

That was exactly 10 years ago today. I just sat down to write and this just kinda came out, wasn’t really planned. It feels good to write about this, so bear with me because y’all might see more of these.

In other news, I turned 30 yesterday and I think I felt all the feelings. All of them. I got drunk on wine with friends and we went bowling. The best part- costumes were required. I brought back the 80s like it was my job. In preparation, I plugged in my crimping iron that I hadn’t used since the 90s, and it promptly began to smoke. Once the putrid smell of burning plastic subsided and got me sufficiently high, I used it on my hair and the results were hecka rad. I even unearthed my old slap bracelets and those plastic thingies one used to clip the bottom of one’s oversized shirt off to the side. Mini skirt, tights, leg warmers, oh my!

I suppose after all this I should post some pictures. Stay tuned, my little psychos.

Mood swings and naked babies

Hey Folks.

It’s been so long since my last post, that I really feel like I just need to post something for the sake of posting.  I’ve started to compose posts in my head only to have them fade from memory after a few hours.

The truth is, I haven’t been feeling the best.  I’ve been moody, I’ve had less energy than usual, I’ve been stressed.  I’ve had some extra responsibilities at work that I don’t normally have.  January was a very busy month in terms of wedding planning – a lot of appointments, some of which were fun, but they all take time away from normal routine and activities.  And…I am turning 30 this Sunday and then on Monday is my 10 year cancer-free anniversary.

I should feel happy, right?  I have tons to feel happy about.  I have a job that I like.  I am planning a wedding.  I have my health.  But I really just want to get in bed and pull the covers over my head.

The worst part for me, as a therapist, is that I don’t fully understand these mood swings.  I am a person who needs to know why, and I’ll ruminate until I figure it out or go crazy, whichever comes first (usually the latter).

But I totally get that I can sit in front of a client and understand what’s going on with ve.  It’s a hell of a lot harder to see with the same perspective into one’s self.

And maybe I don’t really need to know why, even though I have some good ideas.

I’m getting married, which means I am looking forward to starting a family.  After getting rid of the cancer issue, the lingering unknown was my fertility status.  I don’t have the luxury of getting to assume I’ll be able to have kids when the time comes.  Of course I don’t want to freak out until I have to, but the possibility of infertility saddens me probably more than anything in my entire life.

Needless to say, I feel extremely fragile and vulnerable right now and I am trying not to let my rapidly shifting emotions get in the way of me celebrating my birthday (which I hate is so close to Valentine’s Day, btw…impossible to get dinner reservations for an event that is far more important than a naked baby playing with sharp objects).

And now I’m off in search of some donuts.

Thanks for listening, bloggyworld.

Happiness is a warm gun (bang, bang, shoo, shoo)

I spent Easter doing exactly what god intended – shooting the shit outta some crap.

As all of my loyal readers know from my post about glorious, luscious body hair, Brian bought a gun that he picked up this weekend for his birthday (Happy Birthday Brian!) and couldn’t wait to try it out.

(For the record, I don’t approve of owning guns, and so our compromise was that his gun lives at his parents’ house and gets to haunt their lives with its danger and mystery.)

Brian got a CZ 455 FS .22LR (…which is a fancy way of saying he got a rifle, y’all). As part of my birthday present to him, I decided to get him a poster of something he really hated so he could use it for target practice. At first, I thought about painting him a large picture of a gruesome zombie like in The Walking Dead, but I didn’t have enough time or resources, and I would have had to paint it all in one go since there is no place to hide a painting-in-progress in this tiny apartment. So that was a no-go. Next, I thought about a poster of Michael Bay, or maybe Jerry Bruckheimer. Nah, too creepy. Ooh, and then I had it – the movie Brian hates above all other movies for its lack of historical correctness involving war and planes – Pearl Harbor. If you haven’t heard it, please pause this blog reading to take a listen to this song (Ok, so the video is of some random dude who made it for his girlfriend, but it was the only full version of the song I could find on short notice. Plus, it’s sweet and funny. Just like jelly beans up the nose.) That song pretty much somes up Brian’s thoughts on the matter. It was settled; a Pearl Harbor poster that he could shoot up was the answer. Funny thing was, I couldn’t even bring myself to spend twenty bucks plus shipping to get a poster of such a shitty movie, so I printed out a picture of the movie poster for free. I figured this way, the 8.5×11 picture would be way more challenging for Brian than a large, fancy real movie poster. That, and I am a total cheapskate.

Needless to say, Brian loved the shooting target and showered me with kisses. He placed an orange dot on Ben Affleck’s forehead posthaste.

On Easter Sunday I was invited to Brian’s parents’ house for a delicious meal. The weather was amazing, and so I acquiesced to giving it the good old American redneck try by shooting in the general direction of some cans, plastic bottles, and Ben Affleck’s forehead in Brian’s backyard.

Now, I had actually shot a .22 when I was teenager at this family Boyscout camp, but for that we got to sit down and the guns rested on tables. (I preferred the archery range, where I actually got a bullseye, Katniss style) With Brian in his backyard, it was quite the task for my wimpy arms to hold up a very dense piece of wood and metal and try to keep it still while maintaining a regular heartrate and breathing rhythm.

But you know what?

Turns out I’m a pretty badass shot. That’s right, you heard me.

;

Safety first

;

;

Just call me Annie O.

;

He didn't need his ear anyway.

UPDATE: And as it turns out, I forgot to mention that I am nearsighted, and I was shooting at targets 75 feet away – without my glasses. It was like I was the masked Dread Pirate Roberts sword fighting Inigo Montoya! I am not left handed. Inconceivable!

All my enemies (including that kid in 2nd grade who puked on my shoes in the lunch line) had better watch out.

The Beatles weren’t kidding, you guys.

You say it’s your birthday…

This gallery contains 9 photos.

…well it’s my birthday, too, yeah! Holy crap, I am 29.  How the frick did that happen? Let’s launch into a 9 year birthday review, since my world basically ended and I was reborn the day after my 20th birthday, been cancer free ever since! 21 It was extremely important to me that my 21st … Continue reading