Thursday, July 12

Zoey's birth story

Zoe & me the next day

As Baby's due date approached, friends and relatives kept asking me if I was nervous.

Labor? Nah. I felt pretty confident about it. I was shooting for an all-natural, no pain meds, breathe-through-it hippy birth.

I figured I had a few things going for me-- I'd continued to exercise pretty hard until about 7.5 months pregnant (if that makes any difference), and thought I had a pretty high pain tolerance. My mom said both of her (med-free) deliveries didn't really even hurt. Even my mom's mom said she almost slept through most of her contractions the second time around.

I'm telling you all this now so you can laugh at me later.

I woke up the morning of baby's due date feeling a little crampy, and ready to get this show on the road. Conveniently, my sister needed to move out of her second-story apartment that day. So I helped.

I even snapped at Jason & my parents a few times for trying to take boxes out of my hands... I wanted that baby OUT.

I put extra pepper flakes on my pizza at lunch. I thundered ran up my sister's stairs about ten extra times. I went for a hike in the woods with Jason (nothing like being far away from civilization to induce labor, eh?).

I went to bed disappointed. I woke up at 3AM to a contraction. It didn't hurt that bad-- just like my mom said.

Sure enough, they kept coming at about three minutes apart, getting increasingly uncomfortable. I woke Jason up, and we took our packed bags to the hospital.

They measured my dilation-- only 2 cm out of 10. I laid in a bed hooked up to monitors, and those contractions started to REALLY hurt. They felt like period cramps from hell.

I broke down in tears after about 2.5 hours at the hospital. They checked me again, and the trap door hadn't budged at all-- still 2cm. They said we should go back home.

I asked the nurse when we would know to come back. Her eyes widened as she emphasized, "The contractions will be DRAMATICALLY more intense."

I felt my chin start to quiver again.

About an hour after we went home, everything fizzled out and stopped. After I caught up on sleep, Jason suggested walking to get them going again. And I lost it. I sobbed into my hands that I didn't want to feel that pain again. I knew it had to come back. But I couldn't will myself into consciously trying to make it happen.

Contractions came back with a vengeance around midnight. This time, though, they were twelve minutes apart instead of three. I spent the time in between them scanning notes from our childbirth class, trying to figure out what "coping mechanisms" might help. It was all pretty laughable at this point. I was starting to feel sick to my stomach from the pain.

I started walking circles around our apartment to distract myself. I repeated the same route from about 3AM to 10AM; the downstairs neighbors must have thought someone had lost their mind. ...well, pretty much.

Around the time Jason woke up, the contractions were consistently five minutes apart, and definitely, officially "DRAMATICALLY more intense." He walked with me outside. At this point I couldn't make my legs work during contractions, so I'd stop to bury my head in his neck and try not to hyperventilate.

We went back to the hospital at 2pm. I didn't let them hook me up to the stupid monitors-- the nurse just checked me right away and I was at 4cm. Thank. GOD.

They filled up the bathtub in the delivery room, and I climbed in. With the warm water jets, a lime popsicle, and Jason reassuring me through every 60-second wave of pain, it was all bearable again.

Yeah, our hospital ROCKS.

But, of course, they kept getting stronger and stronger. Before I knew it, I had become a "moaner." I'm not sure why making noise helped; I'm not sure that I could have not made noise. My awkward walrus sounds started to distract me, so we came full circle to the day I found out I was pregnant-- I grabbed a towel and shoved my face into it.

Soon a contraction would start with a moan, and escalate into what Jason calls a towel-muffled "battle cry." He sat by my side through every one, repeating "it's okay, it's okay, just a few more seconds, it will fade away." And that's the only way I got through them-- one at a time, not thinking about the next one, just thinking about the next "break" and that it would come in a few seconds.

When the nurse checked me at 4:30, I was at 6cm. The nurse said she could feel baby's amniotic sac bulging into the birth canal (you know you weren't going to avoid hearing a few details like that). She offered to break the sac to help things along.

But to me, breaking my water meant two things:
I'd have to get out of the tub (infection risk).
DRAMATICALLY intense contractions would get DRAMATICALLY more intense.

No thanks.

Two hours of walrus moaning later, they checked me again.

...still six centimeters.

No.

So I got out of the tub. I climbed into the bed. The doctor started poking around with a "crochet needle," and GUSH.

Thar she blew.

I squatted on an exercise ball, and Jason stood behind me for support (both mental support, and "don't-fall-backwards" support).

Contractions kept starting with a moan. Then they'd escalate to the throaty battle cry. At the sharp peaks of each pain wave, I heard myself making a new noise-- brief, high pitched shrieks. I wasn't doing this very gracefully.

Labor is a weird thing. I'd always heard women say, "I've never felt so strong." "I've never felt so empowered." "I can't believe what my body is capable of."

But for me, it felt like something that was happening to me. Not something that I was willfully doing. Not really anything I could take credit for.

During our birthing class, the instructor had emphasized that if you relax all your muscles through each contraction, it'll be more "productive" and help the process go more quickly. So I guess I can take credit for that-- it takes a lot of concentration to be in the worst pain of your life and try to stay somewhat limp.

After they broke my water, my memory gets pretty hazy.

Jason says my face got really pale, and had this look of childlike desperation-- like, "please make it stop." He says I was almost completely unaware of everything happening around me.

I do remember the moment that I felt something move. Like, move down towards the exit. I told Jason to get the nurse.

I somehow got onto the hospital bed for the nurse to check me. Here I distinctly remember a hand up my vag and the nurse being all, "WHOAAAA NELLY TIME TO GET THE DOCTOR."

Well, guess what. The doctor was delivering another baby.

WHAT.

This little baby had found yet another chance to be sneaky.

I felt a strong urge to push, so I asked the nurse if I could. She said I should wait until the doctor got there (as she nervously started putting on latex gloves). I don't know why I listened to her, really-- why do you need someone with an MD to catch a baby?

So I didn't push. But it didn't matter. My body was getting this kiddo out all on its own. I felt her head get lower and lower, until thirty minutes later I started feeling a burning, stretching sensation throughout the lady parts.

The burning feeling peaked, and I experienced the unmistakable sensation of a baby head coming out of my body.

Pretty rad, actually.

The doctor (who had shown up at some point, apparently) helped ease baby's shoulders out, and the rest was just a giant feeling of relief.

They dried our daughter off in about ten seconds flat and put her on my chest.


And, finally, it was no longer a theoretical idea in my mind that this pregnancy was going to end with a baby. There she was. She was amazing. Everything about her was so small, and so alive. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea that it had been her in there all along.

I felt her little feet and laughed with recognition-- those were definitely the same small, pointy heels that I'd been feeling kick through my belly for the past few months.

"I know, sweetie, we've had a crazy day too."
Her eyes were the most incredible part. They were bright, shiny, and so... awake. Every time I looked at them I felt this almost physical "smack" to my brain. It was unmistakeable that there was a real little soul behind her sparkling eyes. A unique person whose entire life was starting in those few minutes.

Jason and I looked at her, and she looked back at us. We told her we loved her. We sat in this happy trance for forty-five minutes. Then we switched her over to Jason's chest so she could bond with him as well.

(Two weeks later, her laying on his chest is still my favorite sight in the whole wide world.)


* * *
For the rest of that evening, I remember thinking, "There is NO WAY I'll ever do that without pain meds again."

But two weeks later, "mommy amnesia" is setting in and it's getting increasingly difficult to remember what it all felt like. I guess this phenomenon is how nature gets away with women ever having sex again after their first childbirth experience. So, maybe next time, I'll try to be more prepared. I'll look into "hypnobirthing" or something. But I'll definitely keep that epidural option open.

(Plus, if you can no longer remember the pain a week later, does it matter if it hurts or not at the time? Kind of like a "tree falling in the forest" paradox...)



So, there you have it. That's what delivering a baby was like for me, for those of you who wanted to know. It was really, really hard. It was really, really awesome. It will always be one of the most incredible days of my life. We're so glad she's here.

Tuesday, July 3

Three Matthews-ers

This is our little daughter, Zoey.

We finally got to meet Miss Sneaky on Tuesday, June 26 at 8:13 PM.
She was 20 inches long, and adorably tiny at 6 3/4 lbs.

She's a happy, healthy baby with a charming set of goofy expressions and squeaky noises. She's addicted to snuggling, so we have to keep her in our arms pretty much around the clock. Darn ; )


She's even taught us a little Matthews-ing... that sometimes, when it comes to people, 1 + 1 can equal 3. Pretty neat trick, kiddo.

Tuesday, June 19

Milestones

This past week marked...

...AND...

(due THIS SUNDAY!)


And then here's a bunch more photos.

I hope Baby gets his antennae.


...Just practicing being the World's Most Embarrassing Parents.


Thursday, May 31

The tale of Sneaky Baby-- Part 3

36 weeks! The bigger my belleh gets, the bigger his smile gets.

Let me finish telling you how I told HIM. [Part 1] [Part 2]

...

Somehow, strangely, Jason hadn't given a second thought to me asking to talk to the ER doctor alone. Jason walked around the corner and out of sight, and Dr. Linda started writing on her clipboard.

"Okay. I'm thinking that you're going to need antibiotics, but I have to make sure that you're not pregnant. Antibiotics can--"

"I just took a test before I came here, and--"

 "--harm your baby before you even know you're--"

"I'm pregnant."

"What?"

"I just found out."

"YOU'RE PREGNANT?? AHHH!!!"

She squealed, and hugged me so hard it was almost a tackle. All my anxiety faded after seeing her ecstatic grin, and I felt a huge teary smile take over my face as I happily tried to "shush" her.

"I just found out, & I want to tell him when we get home. So... can we just say I don't need antibiotics?"

She agreed and went to get Jason, practically skipping.

As Jason & I went to head home in our separate cars, he told me he had to stop by the store on the way home. PERFECT. I had an idea for telling him and I'd need to beat him home by a few minutes.

...

Amigos, it's time I told you all a secret. Mr. Matthews-er has had baby fever for yeeeears at this point. On the other hand, I'd been feeling far from ready. My perfectionist personality balked at the idea of trying to rear a brand new person to their fullest potential. He'd been patient with me... for the most part.

As he had spent the virtually sleepless last week crafting his doctoral thesis, I asked him again and again what I could get him for a "PhD present." He'd look at me, tilt his head with a flirty smile, and tease, "Bayyyybeee?"

HA. Nice try, Hubster.
...


Fast forward exactly one week from his PhD defense, and I was sitting at the table with a small gift bag in my lap, a positive pregnancy test in the bathroom, and the beep of Hubster locking his car out in the parking lot.

He opened the door and I held out the bag.

"I got you a PhD present, Dr. Matthews."

He didn't notice my shaking hand as I handed it over. He didn't see my chin quiver as I watched his face with a nervous smile.

He dug through the tissue paper, and found a pad of sticky notes.



He saw writing underneath, and tore off the first sheet.





He met my eyes with a curious smile and I had to stifle a sob of nervous emotion. He flipped the last sheet...




...and yelled,

"WHAT??!!?! .....you're PREGNANT?!"

He looked at me as if he were expecting a "juuust kidding, I bought a puppy," or something along those lines. But the instantaneous tears rolling down my cheeks answered for me.

I jumped up, crammed my face into his neck, and nodded as he kept asking "You're pregnant? You're PREGNANT?!"

He grabbed my shoulders and pried me away so he could see me. Not trusting my vocal cords, I just kept nodding.

You should have seen the shocked smile on his face. His chin started quivering along with mine, and we just beamed at each other with tears in our eyes.

(Then, after I slept for fourteen hours straight, we went to Barnes & Noble and bought about six parenting books.)



You guys, I love him so much. Sometimes it frustrates me that there's only so much you can do to show another person how much you love them.

But I felt like there was now a part of him living inside me; really, physically, literally living inside me. As close as you can get to another person. Giving oxygen out of my lungs and calcium out of my bones. And I would get spend months caring for and protecting and loving this little bit of Jason-ness, until it was time to share our little one with him on the outside.

Sneaky Baby, you were very, very sneaky. But I think you knew better than I did. I think you came along at just the right time.

Friday, May 18

The tale of Sneaky Baby-- Part 2

[Might I offer you a slice of Part 1?]

I truly, honestly hope our birth story doesn't turn out to be this dramatic. I feel like this whole day could be split up like a season of "24." Oh, what the hell.

The following takes place between 5pm and 7pm.

(WOW, was that overkill or what.) (And yes, that is a toe picture as requested by many. Sorry to those of you who would rather melon-ball out their eyes than look at it.) (Scroll, scroll, scroll. Scrolling heals all.)

Relatedly, I do have to warn you that this next installment is absolutely disgusting.

I had just stayed up all night, squeaked out a professional portfolio at the last minute, nailed an interview, came home to find my foot on the verge of decomposing, and found myself completely and unexpectedly pregnant. Whee.

For the third time in as many hours, I endangered my life by getting behind the wheel of a car on absolutely zero sleep and entirely too much caffeine. Time to haul this toe to the hospital.

Once there, the receptionist advised me to go straight to the ER. They set me up with a hospital bed and assured me a doctor would be there shortly.

I cannot express how slowly the next fifteen minutes went by. I was delirious from sleep deprivation, delirious from shock about Sneaky Baby, and deliriously in need of having my husband by my side.

I remember wild scenarios passing through my head... the doctor would say, "I'm sorry, we have to give you antibiotics to save your foot, but the baby won't make it." And my inner Mama Grizzly would snarl, "THEN CUT OFF MY GODDAMNED FOOT." (...to save our new little sesame-seed-sized sac o' cells. Quite the dramatic inner dialogue, as usual, and complete with alliteration.)

I looked up to see Jason rush into the room, and it took everything I had to not burst into tears. There is nothing like seeing your rock, your partner in crime (aHEM), your sweet, handsome fella whose smile dissolves all stress from your body... there's just nothing like seeing that person as a "dad" for the first time.

He thought I was really upset about my toe. Funny.

I decided I couldn't break the news to him in this cold, sterile, public setting. Instead, I buried my face in his chest as he stood next to my bed. He stroked the back of my hair, I melted into him, and time ceased to pass.

Perky Dr. Linda broke the hypnosis as she introduced herself, and promptly started baby-talking to my "poor, poor wittle toe."

She gave it a few pokes and decided we needed to cut it open. Urrrf.

My options were: I could get a super-effective numbing shot in a nerve between my toes, or risk less thorough numbing with a shot on top of my toe.

I don't know about you, but a needle going between my toes and deep into my foot is a prettt-ty horrific prospect. I decided I'd had enough for that day, and convinced her to shoot me up on the top.

Shot. Then,

Scalpel.

Slice.

HOLY FLAMING F***BALLS OF SEARING PAIN.

I'd forgotten that I'm some breed of drug-resistant freak, and usually need a double-dose of Novocain at the dentist. So much for having "had enough that day."

For some reason, I was more freaked out about another syringe to the foot than putting up with this pain. So I tried to keep my hyperventilating silent, and crushed the living dickens out of Jason's hand.

Dr. Linda wasn't done. She grabbed a miniature version of food tongs, and shoved one tong sideways 1/4-inch into my new toe-hole. The other remained on top.
barbecue anyone? [from]


She squeezed the tongs together in a quick, repetitive "snipping" motion and made her way all around the edge of the toe-cano. Several times.

This lady was a TOE-JUICING MACHINE.

Dr. Linda then explained that the next step would be to "pack" my nice new toe cavity with a long strip of gauze. She splayed the wound open with the barbecue tongs and started packin' that sucker.

I don't think I've ever been so close to passing out in my life. All this, and still no sleep from the day before. I looked down at the hospital bed, and at the gore-soaked pile of gauze next to my foot. I thought about the fact that I'd be back in a hospital bed in 9 months, equally sleep-deprived, and in a hell of a lot more pain.

Jason's crushed hand was holding out amazingly well.

"Alllll done!" Dr. Linda broke out of her silent toe-juicing zone and happily chirped her completion. She stripped off her gloves and looked squarely into my haggard, bloodshot eyes.

She said she had some "girl" questions to ask me. I knew where this was going, and my heart tried to explode out of my chest as I contemplated Jason having to find out this way.

But, bless her baby-talking, toe-juicing soul, she continued, "Would you like to have him go outside while we talk?"

I answered "YES" before she could even finish.

...

Okay, sorry amigos. I didn't realize this was going to turn into such a novel, but this exhausted mama needs to go to bed for the night. I promise this will get wrapped up next week! It gets a lot less gross, and a lot more happy, from this point on.

P.S. Dear Sneaky Baby reading this 12 years from now,
As a little bitty brand-new blastocyst, you were a freakin' CHAMP for putting up with all this. Good job. Love, Mom

Thursday, May 10

The tale of Sneaky Baby-- Part 1

This story starts with a bump. A little, tiny bump.

Just kidding, not that one. That's not very "little" these days, anyway.

The bump I'm talking about appeared in September... on my toe. I had noticed a small, swollen red spot-- a bug bite? A super-sexy ingrown toe hair?

(Sorry Sneaky Baby, reading this 12 years from now. This is not a very cute beginning to your tale.)

A week later, the little bump had amassed into a gnarly red & purple welt with something that looked disturbingly... "pop-able" on top.

I didn't really have time to go to the doctor: I was doing a hardcore "whole food" detox where I had to cook everything from scratch, I was lifeguarding at 5AM, teaching swim lessons in the afternoon, and cramming for the two "grown-up" interviews I had within a few days.

Meanwhile, the toe bump kept growing. It was starting to make me limp a little.

The first interview went incredibly well. Afterwards, I kept plugging away at making a printed art portfolio for my next (graphic designer) interview. Horrifyingly sooner than later, it was the night before this interview and I still felt miles from "ready."

I kept working on the portfolio until 1am. Just kidding, I kept working until 4am.

Just kidding, I stayed up ALL EFFING NIGHT without a wink of sleep, sucking down coffee, frantically tinkering and rearranging images. I mean, it's just not possible to make a printed booklet look good enough for a job where you will make printed booklets.

With only two hours before my interview and fingers tightly crossed, I sent my file to Kinko's. Then (in lieu of a nap of course) I crammed, crammed, crammed for any answers this guy could possibly throw at me.

Dressed in the snazzy outfit I'd had planned for a week (thanks to mi amiga Kelley), I went to put on my high-heeled "lady" shoes.

Bad idea.

I just about YAKKED from the searing pain that shot through my toe when I tried to stand up. That sucker was pretty much rotting from the inside out at this point. (Not to mention I still had a healing broken toe on that foot as well.) But in my delirious state, there was no way I was changing shoes.

At this point I probably shouldn't have been driving, but I swung by Kinko's, picked up my rockin' portfolio, managed to avoid any car accidents, and ab. so. lute. ly. NAILED this interview. Like, to the point where we were discussing my starting date by the end of it. What the hell?! It's like I had a lucky charm or something (...wink.)

Back safely at home (again, Holy Lucky Charm Batman... don't ever drive on zero sleep) I took my shoes and tights off.

Oh dear.

My entire left foot was puffed up like it had tried to make sweet love to a rattlesnake. I had to go to the hospital and get antibiotics before this got into the rest of my bloodstream.

The thought of "antibiotics" spurred the first moment of clarity I'd had in about a week, and things started clicking into place. Like, how I (almost) never get sick, yet the other night I couldn't finish cooking my favorite dinner because the smell was making me gag. And how I'd cried about three times in the past week. And how... eh, I wasn't very good at keeping track of this, but it was probably about time for the ol' uterus to do its thing again. And it hadn't.

I had a feeling that antibiotics wouldn't be okay if... gulp. Yeah. The p-word.  I asked The Google and The Google confirmed: antibiotics and the p-word don't mix too well.

Luckily I had a peestick in the bathroom, and luckily I had some pee. I actually wasn't even nervous, because there was no way I was pregnant. That happens to grown-ups. That happens to people who have their shit together. That happens to people who have been trying and trying to get knocked up for months and then do handstands for an hour after hitting the sack. This test was just The Responsible Thing To Do, so I could confidently tell the doctor that, why, yes, I AM currently eligible for antibiotics even though I have been half-assing "natural" birth control for the past two years. Surely all my "symptoms" were easily explained by stress and lack of sleep.

See? Two lines. Totally... wait. Two lines. TWO LINES.

whammo. Look what my pee can do.
 I grabbed the towel hanging next to the toilet, wadded it into my face, and screamed "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD" for a good twenty seconds.

How... nurturing and maternal of me. (Fast forward to the present 33-weeks-pregnant where Sneaky Baby just gave me a guilt-inducing jab to the ribs).

It's like I had 50 brains with 50 sudden realizations all at once. "OHMYGOD. I'm not ready for this." "OHMYGOD. I get to see what Jason & I are like melded into one new little body." "OHMYGOD. It's in there right now." "OHMYGOD. Jason is going to die of happiness." "OHMYGOD. But I just accepted a full-time job PLUS a second part-time job." "OHMYGOD. My body is going to completely change --WAIT-- OHMYGOD. I get to finally have boobs."

But mostly: "OHMYGOD. Moms know everything and make everything better. I don't do that. That test has to be wrong somehow."

I felt like my heart was crushing between the amazement and protectiveness I felt for our little tiny offspring, and the paralyzing fear I felt that my life was changing forever and there was no going back.

I texted Jason (away at the gym) and told him I was taking The Gross Toe to the Emergency Room. He said he'd meet me there.

Tuesday, May 1

Let's just skip straight to the good stuff

Happy 6-MONTH SLACK-I-VERSARY to me! 
Going for the "cringing in shame" look, but instead accidentally made an ad for pleasantly-scented scarves

I told you I had to go to the ER, got two new grown-up jobs, had cool news, and then... I disappeared off the face of the planet.

Except for the random z***** Halloween picture that has greeted loyal blog checkers since October (sorry Mom).

So you know that typical children's novel plot where the main character's loyal dog starts acting funny, and then disappears, and you cry because it's totally dead and you didn't realize this was going to be one of those "shit-happens,-kid,-we've-all-gotta-grow-up-sometime" books? AND THEN THE DOG REAPPEARS A WEEK LATER WITH A LITTER OF PUPPIES??

No, I don't have any puppies.

(Sad, yes.)

But I DID get knocked up.

You guys are going to kill me. Killllll meeee... because...
we've only got 8 more weeks until Matthews-er #3 pops out.

For people who want to "grow" their blog, probably the stupidest thing you could do is skip seven out of nine months of blogging GOLD.

For other *certain* people who've just agreed to work 50 hours a week and then, surprise!, get a BIG FAT DOSE of exhausting hormones paired with completely overwhelming and exciting and thrilling and terrifying implications about the rest of their life...

Yeah, not a good recipe for le blarging.

(I also partially blame the realization that coffee had been providing 90% of my personality.)

Yes, Sneaky Baby was a beeeeg surprise for us. But now that I'm completely addicted to getting kickboxed from the inside out, and now that I've felt little baby hiccups echoing through my guts (who knew that could happen??!!),  I wouldn't have it any other way.

So thanks for sticking around (and HOLY CRAP a petition?? You guys are the greatest. Sorry for slinking away into my "having puppies den" and hiding from it). I literally have 10 different rough drafts waiting for you in the line-up; my goal is post once a week. I hope it will be worth your wait.

Until next week,
I adore you guys as much as I now love ♥♥♥pickled eggs and strawberry popsicles for breakfast♥♥♥,
that's A LOT,

April