Sixteen Day Old Parents

Mae is asleep on my chest as I type this on my phone, so it may be short and full of typos.

She’s only been with us for a little over two weeks now, but it seems like so much longer. Our lives have been so drastically changed. It’s like everything before her is distant and hazy to me. I am also pretty sleep deprived, so that’s another reason.

We have learned a lot over the past sixteen days. The three most important realizations I’ve come to are:

1. I married a very patient and loving man. I knew this before Mae, but I now know this on a much deeper level. Whenever I am on the edge of exhaustion or frustration, Jimmy gives me a timeout or a word of encouragement or I catch him reading to our daughter from that Teddy Roosevelt biography and I laugh again.

2. Parents of newborns are warriors. Seriously, it’s man your battle stations come 9 PM around here. I admire all who have come before me.

3. Give up hope on sleep, so then anything you do get is a bonus.

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Mae’s Birth: A Little Bit of Everything

Mae Roberts Ryals came into this world at 4:24 AM on February 15th, but she began her entrance on Feb. 13th around 9 PM.

My water didn’t break with a splash like in the movies. Actually, I wasn’t even sure it happened at all, but when my “cramping” (I was too scared to call them contractions) started to come at seven minutes apart, I finally believed I was in labor.

Jimmy and I stayed at home for most of early labor. He rubbed my back, kept the heated wrap coming, I took baths, and paced around the house. We left for the hospital at 5 AM on Friday morning with a full moon above us and icy roads below us.

The ride to the hospital is one I’ll never forget. I could feel every bump and wanted Jimmy to both slow down and hurry up at the same time. I joked that no one had ever needed the “oh shit” bar so earnestly as me in that moment.

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Mae’s full moon.

 

We checked into the hospital and the nurse remarked “You must really be in labor” based on the way I looked. I was 100% effaced and two centimeters dilated. The midwife thought this was great progress. I was a little disappointed, but I readied myself for the hours ahead. Our doula came to the hospital around 7 AM and our families got there around lunchtime, I think. I wasn’t lucid to much at this point. We used the heated wrap, changed positions, got in the shower. I needed movement. Jimmy and my doula kept me hydrated and fed me applesauce and grapes.

I labored for 30 hours like this, through four different nurses’ shifts and two midwives. Mae’s heart rate never wavered, and I never really worried too much about her. I knew she was okay, yet she wasn’t progressing at the very end. She was in a posterior position and her head couldn’t maneuver around my pelvis from her position. The midwife said I could keep trying, but she didn’t think Mae would come this way.

I trusted my midwife’s opinion, and I was exhausted and just wanted to see our baby. The surgeon and nurse anesthetist came in and began explaining the c-section procedure. This was the hardest part because I was having contractions throughout these conversations.However, my “team” was amazing and honored my wishes of having skin-to-skin directly after her birth and allowing both Jimmy and my doula to come to the surgery. The nurses, doctors, and midwives really made our birth special.

I’ll never forget the moment I heard her cry. She entered the world loudly, crying out “Maaaaaemmmmmaaaaae,” so her name was decided quickly. The doctor held her over the curtain and Jimmy stood to see if we had a boy or a girl. “We have, we have a daughter,” he said with so much wonder and awe in his voice. That may be the sweetest moment of my life.

She cried until they put her by my shoulder and then she quieted. We instantly recognized each other.

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Four days fresh.

 

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Snow Day at 36 Weeks

We went on a walk around the entire block (my longer distance these days) as the snow began to fall yesterday afternoon. Then we went to J&S for some warmth and Italian comfort food. Watching the snow fall from the large windows in the restaurant, Jimmy and I held hands across the table and he let me sneak a few sips of his dark beer.

 We came home and cuddled up with hot chocolate for a few hours and then went back out into the night and snow. There wasn’t a single car or person outside on our street. It was just the crunch of our boots and the slight sound of the wind. The snow covered the ground and was accumulating in the outstretched, bare branches of our neighbor’s huge maple trees. We both grabbed handfuls and ate the fresh powder like kids and dreamt a little about our own kid coming into this world.

This morning I was up before the sun, and I lay in bed listening to the quiet of no one on the road and my dog snoring in his bed beside me; my husband deep in sleep. I crept to the front room and opened all the blinds and watched as the daylight revealed our white yard. Jimmy left out a bowl for snowcream and it was filled to the brim with untouched snow, which we will mix with sugar and milk and vanilla.

We are drinking coffee now and making plans for the day. I’ve seen a few cars come down our street now, but not a single person has walked by. A snow day is perfect for me right now. Everything is paused, waiting, much like I am in these last few weeks of pregnancy. It feels as if today is a long deep breath before we turn into the last leg of this journey and begin something entirely new and unknown.

snow baby snow cream snow view

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Thoughts and Desires for 2014:

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I always make some kind of resolution, but I usually change how I make a resolution each year. Last year, Jimmy and I wrote up a weight loss contract, and it worked! In years past, I always pick a word(s). This year I have picked two words and then some loose goals for 2014. With a new baby coming and motherhood on the horizon, I am setting gentle and adjustable goals for myself.

Thoughts to Remember:

Learn to flow and adapt into the role of motherhood.

Make time for our marriage and nurture it.

Take care of myself through exercise, eating well, and making some time to write (every little bit helps).

Learn to gracefully ignore unwanted parenting advice.

Learn to graciously ask for and accept help when needed.

Remember that this first year will fly be. Take it in. Be grateful.

Be gentle with yourself and Jimmy.

Do your best and then let it go.

 Words to Remember:

FLOW: go from one place to another in a steady stream; moving along in a continuous, steady stream; to move or run smoothly with unbroken continuity; to be fluid.

ADAPT: to change your behavior, so it is easier to live in a particular place or situation; adjust or modify fittingly.

Concrete Goals:

Lose ten pounds between April 30th - June 30th

Eat greens daily

Write three times a week

Date nights once a month

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You Look Good

People have started saying a version of this comment to me as I begin to show more and more. It’s interesting. I don’t totally know what to think of it. I think some women say it because they felt unattractive and uncomfortable when pregnant and they want to make me feel good. It’s a nice gesture.

I think this comment might also translate to: You haven’t gained that much additional weight, yet. Don’t worry, you still look like you, they are saying.

It’s almost always women who make these comments, reassuring me of my beauty. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate it. However, it’s kind of strange too.

Obviously, your body changes a lot throughout pregnancy, and while some women feel “fat,” many enjoy their new roundness.

I think what has changed the most about how I view my own body during pregnancy is its utility. While female bodies are more often viewed as objects, male bodies are more about utility and use. Now, though, my body is a tool. It is making and building a baby all the time. While pregnancy belongs to women and should be seen as feminine, there is a power and masculinity to it as well.

I think other women want to affirm your femininity and make you feel good by complimenting your looks during pregnancy. It is kind, and I appreciate it. But maybe we should start to say: You look powerful.

What did you do today? I’m building a brain. ;)

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I’m Never Alone

and it’s wonderful and annoying.

When you’re pregnant, you’re never alone, ever. The baby is there, present, and at a certain point, listening to you.

This means I no longer talk to just myself. I’m also talking to the baby, in a way. Isn’t that weird?

When I wake up in the morning, I look down and there is baby. When I go to tie my shoes, I struggle around baby. When someone erupts in laughter, baby jumps. We react together and separately, but we are always together.

I know that this is preparing me for motherhood when privacy and alone time diminish. If you know me very well, you know I like my alone time. I can sit by myself at a restaurant or a movie without any issue. I didn’t even realize this bothered other people until someone told me. I don’t “get” not wanting to be alone. It’s great!

I’m also surrounded by people all day, every day. I manage and interact with classrooms full of people every day. This might be why I like alone time, but I think I always have. Even when I was little, I liked to sit and read. I always had lots of friends and was very social, but I also needed time to decompress. I’m right on the line between introvert and extrovert, which is why pregnancy both delights and annoys me. Sometimes I want to detach myself from baby. I want to go running! And not worry about my heart rate. I want to drink a caramel latte and not look up the amount of caffeine. I want to say “motherfucker” without any guilt (well, I probably do).

But I also love the baby’s presence. We went to a Colin Meloy concert a few weeks ago, and the baby responded along with the audience’s applause. It was kind of amazing. I like just sitting in my office, writing, the sun coming through the windows and whispering “I love you, baby” amongst the chaos of a Monday. I love my belly’s roundness and watching the baby’s growth. I’m in awe of it all, as well as terrified.

I guess what I’m saying is: I am already beginning to understand the contradictions and conflicts of motherhood. I both love having my child with me all the time and miss my freedom. I both delight in my roundness and want to wear skinny jeans again. I both can’t wait to hold my baby and want more time to prepare.

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Quiet Winter Evenings

As winter comes on and the days end sooner, Jimmy and I have quietly realized our time as just us, a couple, without a child, is coming to a close. And it makes for gratitude in small moments together. We don’t have much money to spend as we save for the baby, so we can’t treat each other like we’d like to. However, tonight was just about perfect. I was reading a new short story collection and Jimmy put on Frank Sinatra in the kitchen as he began dinner. The smell of pizza crust started to fill the house, I got up to join him in the kitchen. Without talking, we began dancing with this growing bump between us. We twirled and twisted and dipped between our kitchen counters.

Then I sat down to write a while as he finished the last touches of dinner, and I can hear him opening kitchen drawers and clinking spoons. There’s a comfort in these quiet evenings and a sweetness as we anticipate our baby and also hold on to the last months of just us.

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