Monday, October 22, 2012

Let them eat (graham) crackers

I think I previously mentioned that R and I made a list of things we wanted to do with E this fall, then scheduled one for every weekend in September & October. Last weekend was to be our Fall Baking weekend, which - in my mind - was to be a shiny, happy day spent making and decorating leaf-shaped sugar cookies for E to take to her daycare teachers. Oh, the sweet naïveté of a new mom. :)

Reality was us spending Saturday with dear friends visiting from out of town, celebrating their son's birthday with a trip to the children's museum, pizza place and train museum. By the time we were home, this was what E looked like:


The reality of Sunday was a leisurely family breakfast, tidying the house, having a quick E photo shoot and getting home from groceries and errands at 3:00. Late afternoonns are not historically E's happiest moments, so I saw my baking dreams slipping away and had to act fast.

I have long wanted to make graham crackers for E, love that the dough comes together in the food processor and knew I could still use my adorable fall cookie cutters, so that was it! I plunked the food processor on the floor so E could watch and we went to town.

E was a fan of the rhythmic whirring of the food processor and an even bigger fan of pulling out the plunger while we were pulsing the dry ingredients, resulting in a flour-dusted kitchen. So fun.

While I rolled and cut out the crackers, E impulsively grabbed a fistful of the sticky dough and examined it closely. I waited for her to taste it, but she opted to instead smear it all over her pants. So fun.

When the crackers went in the oven and it was time to clean up, E threw a huge tantrum over the end of the fun, flinging herself to the ground and crying big, sad tears. So fun.

After dinner that night, E was presented with the honorary first graham cracker to mark the auspicious beginning of her baking apprenticeship. She was a fan and has since enjoyed several during her afternoon snacks at daycare. So fun.

It wad a busy weekend and it may not have been the shimmery, perfect adventure I had in mind, but having a little kitchen companion and seeing her enjoy the fruits of our labor was, indeed, such sweet fun.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

She's Back!

Okay dear family, friends and fans of our little peanut - how about a catch-up blog update?

Mother's Day Recap:

My first Mother's Day was the best! We had such an amazing day together: a morning at church followed by coffee and chocolate croissants at Rustica, a walk around Lake Harriet (complete with E's first time dipping her toes in the water!), lunch at Clancey's, ice cream at Sebastian Joe's, and a photo shoot in the front yard. I was breathless with gratitude and bursting with love for my incredible little family.


Solid Food

Around 5 months old, E discovered the joys of pureed baby food made with love by yours truly. Getting to the point where she actually really loved to eat solids was not a foregone conclusion, though! She fussed and gagged for the first week or two while she was getting the hang of things and most of that early food ended up on her face instead of in her tummy. Now, though, she eats three meals of solids at daycare and one at home in the evening with us and is a very eager and adventurous eater. So cute and fun!



We've actually introduced table food to E as well. At this point (9+ months in), she eats basically everything we do. It's really fun to watch how independent she is when it comes to eating. Being spoon fed is no longer acceptable to her - she insists on feeding herself. We can put food on her tray and sit ourselves at the table to eat and we all enjoy our meal as a family. It makes me so excited for the years of meals around the table in the future.

On the Move:

E has always been a strong, eager-to-move baby, which means she's hit some mobility milestones early. We've already discussed rolling over, but she actually started sitting up on her own at early and at six months old, she took off crawling! For weeks we watched her get onto her hands and knees and rock around like she was going to take off, then one Monday evening (July 16), she just took off like a rocket! It was like she'd known how to do it all along and was hiding it! Here's a video I took of her third or fourth time crawling across the living room floor that evening. R was on his way home from work and it was getting close to her bedtime, so I wanted to make sure to capture the moment!


Now she is lightning fast and interested in *everything* - especially things we don't want her to touch, like the dogs' water bowls, food dishes, computer charging cables, the vacuum cleaner, the volume dial on the entertainment system receiver, the dogs' chew toys, the inevitable tufts of husky fur wafting across our floors, shoes, and so on and so forth.

At nine months old, we really believe it won't be long before she starts walking. She's cruising along all of our furniture and stands independently (i.e., not holding onto anything) quite a lot now. The actual mechanics of walking independently still seem to stump her a bit, but between walking props around the house and the dedication of her daycare teachers, it's just a matter of time before she gets the hang of it. Here's a video of her latest jaunts across the kitchen. :)



Even more so, this child is extremely opinionated and determined. If there's something she wants or has and you move her away from it, try to take it away or distract her, she actually throws little tantrums! She'll stiffen her body and scream in frustration, then go right back to the whatever it is we were trying to divert her from. I see our future so clearly, and I know how very, very diligent we will need to be with her! Here's a video I took a few months ago when E kept playing with the dog bowls. I moved her across the kitchen with some toys while I was making dinner, and this is what happened next.


Teeth!

On May 27 (our anniversary!), R pointed out to me that E had cut her two bottom front teeth! It came as a complete surprise to us, as she hadn't been any more irritable or drooling than usual. Suddenly there were just two little teeth there! Since then, E has been working on cutting teeth like a champ and as of this writing has four on top, three on bottom and two bottom molars! Based on recent behavior (crummy sleep, poking at her ears, chomping on everything and extreme clinginess), we think she may be close to erupting a few more. Her CPNP was shocked to see how many she has through and soon-to-come-through. As with so many things, E just can't wait and do things when she's "supposed to." That's okay. :) She's putting those chompers to good use on things like table food and not-so-good use on things like her Mama. The poor dear has suffered with those molars recently, so we'd all be relieved if she could take a break for a bit!


Tri Fan:

R participated in a few du and triathlons this summer and E was Dad's biggest fan. She gamely strolled, lounged, crawled, waved and clapped during his races, rain or shine. Here's a little photo compilation from a few of Dad's events this year:


Vacations:

We took a few family trips this summer, first to Michigan for Independence Day and then back to Michigan for Labor Day. We enjoyed spending time with family both trips. Here are a few photo highlights.






Words!

All at once around 8 months old, E started speaking and signing like she's known how forever. According to my reading, a baby's "words" are any sounds they use consistently to describe a single idea or item. So we consider her first words to be "mmm" and "um num num," which she says whenever she is hungry, wants to eat, or is really enjoying what she's eating. If she's hungry, she scampers over to her highchair, stands up and smacks her hands on the foot rest while saying, "MMMMM. MMMMM." :) Message received.

Her total verbal repertoire now includes:

  • Mmm/num num: happy food-related messages
  • Daw!: dog (always said with an exclamation mark)
  • Da: dad
  • Ma ma ma: mama
  • Uh-oh: uh-oh (said every time she drops something, and occasionally said before she purposely drops things...)
  • Wow!: exclamation of delight and amazement (frequently reserved for squirrels)
  • Moo: what a cow says ("What does a cow say? Does it say moo?" "Moooooooo.")
  • Roar: gleefully said into any echo-y device (paper towel or wooden toy tubes, cups, etc.)
E also signs quite a lot now. Signs she uses include:
  • All done
  • More
  • Eat
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Up
  • Bye-bye/Hi (wave)
It's super fun to be able to converse with E these days and she's always so proud of herself when she's able to get her point across. We just love watching her learn and grow!


Fall Favorites:

Finally for this (outrageously long because it's egregiously late) post, enjoy a few great photos and videos of our super fun baby.















That's it for this post. Now that we're largely caught up, we'll aim to update more frequently going forward! Until next time...

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mama

My first Mother's Day is underway, and it leaves me feeling very emotional (big surprise). Last year, I was early in my pregnancy when Mother's Day rolled around, so it didn't feel very legit to celebrate yet. R and I agreed that we'd celebrate our status as parents once we brought our little peanut safely into the world rather than count our little chick before she was "hatched."

The moment we met.

Well here we are, one year later, and I am a mom. I am E's Mama. I feel with certainty that it is the job I was put on this earth to do and I truly cherish both the privilege and responsibility. She is, without a doubt, my greatest gift, my sweetest joy and my proudest accomplishment. Given our struggle to become parents, today is sweeter than I could have possibly imagined. For me, this first Mother's Day and all that follow will not be a day about me, but about the sweet little girl I have the gift of parenting. She gives me more joy than I could have imagined. I love you, E!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lost in Translation

Big News: we're about to start solid foods with E! She's SO ready to eat, as she constantly stares at and reaches for food that we are eating. The other day she got her hands on a chocolate no-bake cookie I was eating, much to her stick-fingered delight. We bought her some baby spoons and have practiced putting empty spoons in her mouth, which she gleefully opens wide for... this kid is raring for real food! Also, her high chair is assembled and waiting for some real action, not just the toy play time she's engaged in while in there so far.

I told R we needed to buy some Organic Rice Cereal so we could start feeding E this weekend. He said, "Yeah, we should get some fresh stuff, but in a pinch, I think we could use what we have." Puzzled, I asked when we'd purchased rice cereal for the baby and he said, "Oh, there's a box on top of the fridge."

You guys, this is what he intended to feed our baby for her first ever non-milk meal:
In his defense, it is Organic Brown Rice Cereal and it is solid food, but we had to have a talk about the basics of baby food before embarking on this journey. :)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

In a Flash

It's absolutely stunning how quickly things change.

Exactly two weeks ago, E began rolling onto her back during "tummy time." We were so excited! That said, we knew it would likely be quite some time before she successfully rolled from back to front. The books we consulted on developmental milestones suggested that babies roll front to back around 4 months and from back to front around 5 to 6 months, so we expected we'd still have some time.

Yesterday, E reminded us again that she is an individual, not a statistic. I was playing on the floor with her while she wiggled around on her back. I turned away and when I turned back just a few moments later, she was on her tummy, happy as a clam! I couldn't believe it: she is 17 weeks old today and will hit the 4 month mark next week. After capturing this new skill on video over and over yesterday and marveling at the ease with which she now rolls and wiggles around, R and I have realized we might as well throw the "typical" milestones out the window - this girl is going to do things when and how she wants!


On the subject of mobility, I'll go ahead and note it here now: E has started doing a funny little "army crawl" across the floor when there's something in front of her that she really wants. She can't crawl yet, of course, but when on her tummy, she grunts and pushes with her legs while clawing with her arms and manages to inch her way forward in tiny little scoots. It's completely insane. We are realizing that the pediatrician's prediction of early mobility for our strong girl will likely come true. We're trying to enjoy the days of E staying roughly where we leave her because they will undoubtedly be over in a blink. 

All of these new skills and attempts at mobility are sort of blowing my mind, because I cannot get over how fast E is changing. She hasn't even been out in the world for four months yet and she's turning into this independent, funny, engaging little person instead of just the adorable, snuggly little baby we brought home. It's stunning. 

Yesterday, I was snuggling E to sleep for her post-lunch nap with her soft little head nestled under my chin. I kissed her downy black hair and was rocked by this sudden vision of her as a precocious little toddler wobbling toward me with arms outstretched. Just as suddenly, I saw her climbing onto a school bus with little pig tail braids, then holding a science fair ribbon, then kicking a soccer ball. I watched her excitedly jangling new keys while sitting in the driver's seat of a car. I felt my heart constrict while waving at her as we drove away from her college dorm. I saw my dark-haired beauty floating down an aisle on her dad's arm on her wedding day, and then I saw her rocking in a nursery, with her own sweet baby's dark head nestled under her chin. 

Crying then, I hugged her closer and pressed another kiss on her head. What they say about having kids is already proving to be so true: the days are long but the years are short. I recognize how quickly my time with E will go. The tentative little motions toward independence she's now making in the relative safety of our nest will one day lead to her truly spreading her glorious wings and flying off on her own great adventures. 

So yes, change sometimes seems to happen in great, sudden flashes: your baby is lying on her back, you blink, and she's on her tummy. In reality, though, most change happens subtly over time and is only punctuated by big, noticeable leaps forward. I think if we're not careful, that type of change can lull us into complacency and one day we wake up wondering where the time has gone and how we ended up in this new place. 

I guess I'm realizing that things will change in our life with E, sometimes gradually and sometimes overnight, but that doesn't have to be sad. I think my little vision yesterday was a gift. It was a reminder to be ever-present, to soak up the moments and memories that make each day with my girl wonderful and unique. In the end, I want to be able to say, "Yes, time has gone by and things have changed, but I was there for absolutely all of it."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Three Months: An Update on Life with Baby E

How has it already been eight eleven thirteen fifteen weeks?! I ask myself a version of this question with every week that passes. It seems impossible that so much time has gone by, but it's also hard to imagine life before or without E. She consumes most of my physical, mental, and emotional space these days as she comfortably fits herself into our family life. We do many of the things we've always done - going out for coffee or breakfast, taking the dogs for walks, visiting with friends, getting groceries and cooking delicious meals - but now we do them with some modifications to accommodate the needs of a baby. It's a pretty fun and fulfilling new way of life and I'd be hard pressed to find anything to complain about, especially with this chubby, snuggly and smiley baby in my arms!

I have gotten behind in posting updates here because I was feeling the pressure of writing the L&D story and then was busy soaking up some unseasonably spring-like weather with E before going back to work. I'm ready to jump back in, so look for more regular updates to the blog (I hope). I'm going to tackle a laundry-list-style update below just to catch us up.
  • Evie has some fabulous new skills that delight us:
    • Following things that interest her with her eyes, especially faces, toys and her puppies (E's delight in the dogs is very, very mutual)
    • Turning her head in the direction of sounds she enjoys, especially the sounds of Mama & Daddy's voices (even better if they're saying her name!)
    • Reaching for and grasping objects that she wants, waving them around and putting them in her mouth (everything goes in her mouth these days!)
    • Talking with lots of "oohs" and "ahhs," varying her pitch (and volume!) and really learning the range of her voice
    • Loudly sucking on her fists or fingers with drool galore
    • Sitting up if supported (in fact, she prefers to sit upright and fusses when held in a cradled position!)
    • Reaching for Mama & Daddy and hanging on like a sweet little monkey when we hold her
    • Smiling, chatting and giggling at friends, family and strangers alike. If you genuinely smile at E, she will almost always smile back - she's a very happy girl! Recently, she has been delighted to smile at her own image, whether seen in a mirror or when taking pictures with mama during our lunch dates at work/daycare.
    • Speaking of smiling and giggling, enjoy this video of E yukking it up:
    • And because it's so darn exciting, check out one more (poorly lit) video of E showing off her brand new skill: rolling over (front to back):
video
  • E has met so many members of her family already. Her grandparents all came to meet her in Minnesota, as did some of her aunts and uncles! She took a road trip and an airplane ride to meet her great-grandparents and many of her great aunts and uncles, plus the rest of her aunts and uncles and her ver own cousin! Most recently, all four of her grandparents and her Aunt K visited over Easter weekend to share in her very sweet and exciting baptism! A few photos that R has had time to edit are below:
 
    • While Mama was on leave, E had many fun adventures and firsts, including a trip to the Science Museum, a few trips to the Minnesota Zoo, walking around Lakes Calhoun, Harriet & Nokomis with baby friends and their mamas, a picnic at Minnehaha Falls, visiting Wild Rumpus book store to see the tiny chickens, and enjoying countless sing-alongs, dance parties, story times, shopping trips, photo shoots, girl talk sessions, naps and snuggles with Mama. It was the best three months of this Mama's life and the only three months of E's, but we think she enjoyed them well enough!
    • I started back to work on April 3, 2012, the same day E started daycare at my office. She is in the Blue Room (one of nine total babies in her room) with several wonderful teachers who really care about and enjoy spending time with her (they keep expressing shock at how strong she is for such a young baby, but R & I have long proclaimed the above average nature of our little peanut). I love that she gets so much interaction with other babies (she enjoys watching and smiling at them) and so many new experiences. I like to think that the best part for us both is lunch time each day, when Mama heads down to the Blue Room for a lunch date with E! There are nursing rooms in each of the daycare rooms, so E and I settle in for some one-on-one time and shut out the world for a bit. That little bit of reconnection and comfort buoys our spirits for the rest of our day. I am currently working part time (three days a week in April, four days a week in May) and have shifted my schedule to 7-4, which gets us home in time to spend a little time together before E heads to bed between 6:30 and 7. It will take a little time to dust off the cobwebs that have taken over my brain, but I will get there.
    • Speaking of sleep, we're working on gently adjusting our sleep arrangements to something more satisfying for all of us. While a part of me would happily have E sleeping next to me in her bassinet forever, it's not a viable long-term option for us (she is already almost too long for the bassinet!). We had attempted to move her into her crib cold turkey after she slept through the night for three nights in a row. That attempt was a dismal failure, so we've been trying to a) make the crib a fun and enjoyable place for E to be and b) make the shift occur more gradually by slowly moving the bassinet further across our bedroom and into her own room. E's bedtime routine has provided her with a great sense of comfort and helps her fall asleep very quickly each night. In addition, she has been sleeping from roughly 7-4:30 each night, with one dream feed when I go to bed around 10. This has helped make going back to work and shifting E into her own room more doable. We anticipate having her in her own room for good will help all of us sleep better in the long run.
    Okay, that's a wrap for now. With that lengthy update completed, I am ready to update more regularly going forward, so check back soon!

    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    The post I "labored" to "deliver" to this blog

    I wanted to capture my memories of Evelyn's labor and delivery experience because 1) it will likely be the only time I have this experience 2) people tell me the memories fade with time and 3) it was quite the ordeal and I want to hold on to the details of this wild ride.

    When I realized I was in early labor on December 23 - just one day after my due date - I anticipated that I'd want to remember the details so I sat at my computer and began writing down what had happened so far while R packed hospital bags. Hilarious!

    What you see below includes those initial details and continues the story forward through to Baby E's eventual delivery. It's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with minimal sugar coating or holding back. I lived it, I conquered it, and I'm proud of what I did to bring my baby into the world, so I'm not embarrassed in the slightest. That said, this will be something of a novel and you can feel free to skip this post if it bores you or grosses you out!
    ---
    On Thursday, 12/22, I had my 40 week OB appointment. My favorite doctor from my OB practice, Dr. K, performed an internal check and found that I was a little over 1 cm dilated and not terribly effaced. He offered to try stripping my membranes (sounds crazy, right?!) if he could "get in there," which he tried to do with literally every finger on his hand. Ouch! Eventually, while pushing down on my belly, he was able to wiggle in as far as possible and work some magic. Oh boy, it immediately caused some incredible cramping. He warned that it might induce some spotting. I had a non-stress test immediately after and the baby was very reactive (once Dr. K woke her up with the "buzzer").

    Because all was well with me and the baby yet I was showing so little progress, we agreed to schedule an induction for 12/29 (41 weeks). We also scheduled a follow-up ultrasound to measure the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby for Tuesday, 12/27 (followed by another OB visit for a check). Depending on how things looked, I might be delivered same day or brought back for an induction on 12/28 p.m. or 12/29 a.m. - all TBD. As for my due date, it was clear I wouldn't be delivering our baby that day, so we left.

    After the appointment I was cramping badly and tried to walk, walk, walk to take advantage of Dr. K's efforts. R & I went to the grocery store and bought some goodies, then headed home where I bounced on my exercise ball for awhile. After a pretty cramp-, headache- and contraction-heavy evening, I went to bed and slept fairly well. When I woke up at 6:00 on Friday, 12/23, the headache was still causing me some discomfort. I took a hot shower, then had some Tylenol, a Coca-Cola and some pancakes (usually a magical headache-curing trifecta). I warmed my heating pad and tried to ease the aching in my head, but it stuck around all morning. Only when R brought me a latte and made me some lunch did it finally start to fade.

    In the interim, I was feeling really crampy and uncomfortable. Around 10 a.m. I had some evidence that Dr. K's efforts might be having an impact and if the books were right, things would liken happen sooner rather than later. I texted R, who was out at an appointment, and he asked if he still had time to go to the pool for a swim (remember this moment, as it will sound familiar later in the story). I reassured him that while this should be a sign that labor would start in the next 24 hours, I didn't expect anything to happen right away. He enjoyed his swim and I continued resting and paying attention to every twinge and pain in hopes that things were finally getting underway. Throughout the day, I continued to see more signs that labor was imminent, which made me progressively more excited.

    Later that afternoon, R made fried rice for our dinner and realized we probably needed to pack the hospital bags. Meanwhile, I started to sense that the contractions I'd been feeling on and off were becoming more regular. I decided I should probably start timing them. The advice we'd received from our L&D class and my OB practice was to follow the 1:5:1 rule: go to the hospital when I'd been having one contraction every five minutes for an hour. R downloaded a contraction timing app to our phones and I started keeping track around 8:00 p.m. Imagine my surprise when my contractions started popping up every five minutes like clockwork... it seemed it would be time to go to the hospital sooner than we thought!

    This revelation sent R into overdrive, running around like a crazy person throwing things into suitcases, getting the house tidied, making sure things were in order for the dogs and so on. When he was pretty much done, he (wisely) decided to jump in the shower before we left. I liked the idea and decided to do the same after him. While I was in the shower, R thought it smart to prepare a snack, so he heated some apple blintzes(!) and offered to share them with me when I emerged. Not feeling much like eating, I did my best to choke down a (delicious) blintz and we loaded up the car and took off. Why it didn't occur to me then, I don't know, but that was the last food I ate until until after the baby was born... I might have chosen something a little more sustaining if I had been thinking! I continued timing my fairly painful contractions all the way to the hospital (a 20-minute drive). By the time we arrived at the hospital around midnight, the contractions were coming fast-and-furious: about every 2-3 minutes.

    We made it up to the L&D ward where we were admitted to a triage room for monitoring. The nurse checked my temperature, my blood pressure, asked me a series of questions and then finally checked my cervix for dilation. The verdict: 1.5 centimeters dilated. Not encouraging news. She talked to the on-call doctor from my practice who suggested we walk around for an hour to see if it produced any cervical change. So I put on flip-flops and a robe over my hospital gown, held R's hand and we walked circles of the L&D ward for an hour. If you ask R, he'll tell you that "walked" is a misnomer. We'd make it a few feet before another contraction would hit and I'd find myself doubled over on a wall, railing or chair to ride it out before we started shuffling again. I was in quite a lot of pain then, but feeling really nervous about the prospect of being sent home, so on we walked.

    After an hour we went back so the nurse could check me again and received the disappointing news that I hadn't made any change. The nurse conferenced with the doctor again and came back to let me know that they were sending me home to make some progress on my own. I was devastated. I asked how we would know when to come back (as, by this time, my contractions were coming every two minutes). Her advice was when I couldn't talk through the contractions, couldn't walk, couldn't take the pain anymore, it was time to come back. R was pretty frustrated and said, "But she's already at that point!" The nurse shrugged sympathetically and said we would know when it was time. Discouraged, we bundled up and headed home.

    Once there, R climbed into bed and I tried to do the same with a heating pad. I hoped to rest as much as possible, which - in hindsight - was a sweet and supremely naive notion. It took less than two minutes for me to bolt out of bed and head to the living room to labor more actively and vocally (albeit in the dark which, when I think back on it, seems strange - why didn't I turn on any lights?)! I was in considerable pain and tried everything to find some comfort: rocking in a chair, bouncing and swaying on a birthing ball, standing under the spray of a hot shower, lying on my side on the floor, and finally - the one position that worked for me - on all fours on the floor where I could sway and rock through a contraction and collapse for a few seconds of rest after each one passed. I labored on my own in the living room for about three hours, moaning, panting and in the zone. (Confession, I didn't hold back on the noises I was making because I hoped R would hear me and come to my rescue. Alas, he and the dogs slept soundly in our bed through it all!) I really did lose track of time and place for awhile in the dark, quiet living room. It's amazing how a woman's body just knows what to do - I let go and let my body take over for those several hours.

    By 5:30 in the morning, I knew I needed R's help to carry on, so I woke him up. He joined me in the living room and continued to time my contractions and support me through them. I was contracting every 1'45" to 2', with each contraction lasting about 1'15". Let me say this: 30 seconds of rest between body-wracking spasms is not long. I just remember being so exhausted and resigned each time another contraction started building.

    I finally told R that I couldn't take it anymore and it was time to go to the hospital. He agreed, but thought it would be smart to take the dogs out for a brief walk first (since our friends were caring for them while we were at the hospital and it would mean a bit less work for them). I agreed and kept on by myself while he was out. Upon his return, he asked to take a shower before we left. I was a tiny bit irritated, as I didn't think he appreciated the pain I was in, but agreed to wait a bit longer. He showered quickly while I chomped at the bit to leave. When he emerged he had one last request: breakfast. At that point he was definitely pushing the limits of my patience, but I agreed (albeit somewhat less graciously).

    Lest you think him unfeeling, here's the secret I wasn't privy to: R was afraid I hadn't progressed enough and expected we would be sent home from the hospital again since it had "only" been five hours since we'd arrived home. He was slyly delaying in hopes that I would continue to make progress in the relative comforts of home and avoid further disappointment. Sneaky. In hindsight, I appreciate the act as a thoughtful one. In the moment, I wanted to light a fire under him.

    After an agonizingly slow walk to the car (pausing once or twice on the sidewalk to let a contraction wash over me) and another 20ish-minute drive (during which I was almost completely zoned out due to focusing so intently on my near-constant contractions), we made it back to the hospital around 8 a.m. (12 hours since I'd started keeping track of my labor). I requested a wheelchair this time as I could hardly stand, let alone walk. Once in the triage room, I tersely answered the admitting nurse's questions and waited impatiently for her to check me. I breathed loudly and swayed on the bed as contraction after contraction rocked me. Finally, in the brief space between contractions, she checked me and uttered three beautiful, blessed words: "Oh! FIVE CENTIMETERS!"

    I literally cried with relief. R's face registered surprise and delight. The nurse asked what my intentions were for pain medication and without letting her finish her question I blurted out, "EPIDURAL." She laughed and said, "Okay, let's get you to a room and we'll get you all set up with an epidural right away." My original "plan" was to try to make it to six centimeters or so before asking for the epidural, but given how long and hard I'd already labored with no opportunity to rest, I was ready at five centimeters!

    I made the short walk across the hall to the room I would labor and deliver in and climbed in bed to rock, sway, and try to make it through the never-ending onslaught of contractions while we waited for the anesthesiologist. Meanwhile, the nurses were bustling around, readying the room and the various supplies needed for what was to come. An IV line was started in my hand at that time and I started receiving fluids. When the doctor arrived about twenty minutes later, he made fairly quick work of administering the epidural: a few questions, some instructions on how to tuck my chin and curl my back, some swabs, an injection (the only part of the procedure I really felt and trust me, compared to a contraction, it was almost nonexistent), the insertion (and removal and reinsertion) of the needle, and finally the catheter was threaded carefully into the epidural space, taped to my back and hooked up to the sweet, sweet drugs.

    Within minutes I felt relief as the contractions faded to the point where I hardly felt any more than a vague bit of pressure. A few minutes later, all I felt was a sense of heaviness and extreme sleepiness. Shortly thereafter I started shivering, announced that I was going to be sick and did so a few times - glamorous!

    The nurse encouraged me to get some rest, as I kept saying, "I just feel SO tired, SO tired." She told me I had been working really hard and it was normal to feel tired. With her reassurances in mind, I settled in under a warm blanket and attempted to sleep for a bit. R took off with the camera at that point to snap some photos of the hospital and L&D wing.

    When he returned, I reiterated that I felt "SO tired" and sort of funny. This wasn't a normal tired, it was more like I was being drugged. I felt that I had limited control on one side of my body, a heaviness in my chest that made it hard to breathe, and I sensed that I was slurring my words when I attempted to speak. Ever the Eagle Scout (and doting husband), R went for the nurse to be sure this was all within the range of normal reactions to the epidural. When the nurse arrived, she quickly noted that one of my pupils was dilated while the other was pinpoint - not a great sign. She called for the anesthesiologist.

    Once he arrived, the anesthesiologist asked some questions (clearly checking to see if I'd had or was having a stroke) and performed some brief tests to see how much I could feel on each side of my body. He declared that he was "pretty sure" my reaction was okay and wasn't in response to the placement of the epidural and - with a few more platitudes and some instructions for the nurse - he left. R was pretty upset and asked the nurse if "that guy knows what he's talking about."

    The amount of medicine I was receiving through the epidural was reduced and they took away the magic button to the pump that allowed me to give myself extra doses of pain relief as needed. Bummer, but probably for the best. I don't remember a whole lot from this time, but the on-call OB (Dr. K - our favorite!) came to check on me and the anesthesiologist came back and both relayed that they'd checked the literature and what I was experiencing was likely an uncommon but not terribly concerning reaction to the narcotics in the epidural. The anesthesiologist said he'd never seen anything like it in the 20 years he'd been doing this. I told him, "Well you're welcome, now you've seen it." It was decided to continue to limit my meds and rotate me from side to side more frequently to prevent too much of the drug cocktail to settle on either side of my body. Crazy! This is an important part of the story, as by the time I actually delivered the baby, I think I had little to no pain relief. I felt everything!

    Meanwhile, Dr. K broke my water to help things progress and I once again settled in to attempt to rest. I remember R watching contractions on the monitor as I started to feel more and could tell him when I felt a big one coming. My wonderful nurse kept checking on me and monitoring my cervical change: six, seven, eight, nine centimeters. It was almost time!

    By the time I was at nine centimeters I felt very hot and uncomfortable. I said as much and the nurse kept checking my temperature orally (usually not long after I'd chomped some ice or gulped some Vitamin Water) and failed to note any fever, so we carried on. I was checked hourly and kept receiving the disappointing news that I was still at nine or - eventually - nine-and-a-half centimeters, but failed to make it beyond that point. I started to feel frustrated, but there was nothing to do but wait (and play a few rounds of Words With Friends, much to the confusion and chagrin of the members of my family I was playing against!).

    It was soon time for a shift change and we had to bid a fond and appreciative farewell to the fantastic nurse who had been with us all day. Luckily, the nurse who took over was equally wonderful. I was in good hands that day. The new nurse noted how hot and uncomfortable I was, so she checked my temp again and found I was running a fever. Bad news. A maternal fever during labor usually dictates a stay in the special care nursery (NICU) for the baby, which would put a serious damper on my desires to have uninterrupted time to bond after delivery and to subsequently room in. The nurse and doctor discussed these implications with us while I cried and tried to resign myself to this outcome. They gave me Tylenol and applied cold compresses in an effort to bring down my fever and we soldiered on. I won't keep you in suspense: my fever went away before the baby was born, which proved the saving grace in this story. The baby's lack of fever and any other complications when she was born meant the extra measures were unnecessary. As a result, we were allowed to snuggle the baby uninterrupted for at least an hour after her birth and she was able to go to and stay in our room during our entire stay. Crisis averted!

    When the new nurse checked my progress, I was still at 9.5 cm. She felt there was a small enough lip left that if she and/or the doctor helped nudge it out of the way, I might be able to start pushing. I tried a few practice pushes, Dr. K approved the complete nature of my cervix and by 8:00 p.m. it was finally time to go!

    I pushed. I pushed and pushed and pushed. I applied everything I'd ever seen or read about pushing to my own efforts and, based on the nurse's encouragement and feedback, I expected we'd have our baby within the hour. Labor was hard and painful, but pushing - actually moving the baby down and out - was the hardest work I've ever done in my life. At the same time, it was a physical and mental relief to do hard work and to feel like I was somewhat in control.

    At one point the nurse pulled a light down from the ceiling and had R watch during a push so he could see the baby's head, which I assumed meant it was almost the end. I pushed twice as hard. I pushed with what was left of my strength. I knew the end must be near, which gave me strength to keep going. Except, as it turned out, the end wasn't so near after all.

    After an hour of pushing, I started to feel frustrated that in spite of the nurse's encouragement and praise of my efforts, I hadn't heard her really acknowledge much progress. I kept waiting for her to say that I was crowning, to call in the doctor, to let me reach down and feel the baby's head. I was on pitocin by this time in order to increase the intensity and regularity of my contractions, in the hope that it would aid my pushing. Just wanting it to end, I struggled and I pushed, submitting to whatever positions and suggestions the nurse brought forward. I pushed while on my back, I pushed while on my side, and I pushed while pulling on a knotted bed sheet wrapped around a birthing bar above the bed. There was nothing to do except continue to push, so I did.

    As the minutes ticked by, I became increasingly exhausted and frustrated. I started to cry. I began to verbalize my despair, telling the nurse I didn't believe that I was doing well, asking how much longer I had to push, expressing how very, very tired I was becoming. I cried more and more, tears streaming down my face between pushes. I became desperate and turned to R. "I can't do this. I just don't think I can do this anymore. I'm so tired. I'm so weak. I need help. Please get me help. Please, please, I just need help."

    In spite of it all, the contractions continued and I had to push again and again. Finally the nurse went to confer with Dr. K. After a few minutes, he swept in and said, "What do you say we get this baby out?" I was so happy and relieved, I think I would have agreed to anything (even though I didn't really know what he intended to do). While he set to work getting the supplies he would need to deliver the baby, the special care nurses also came in, preparing to whisk the baby away after she was born.

    The rest of the delivery went so quickly it seems like a blur. That said, here's what I do remember: Dr. K announced that he'd be using the vacuum extractor to help deliver the baby. I assumed this meant the baby would be pulled out with one more push. I was ready. Dr. K inserted the vacuum cup, which hurt. I shouted. I pushed and the doctor pulled with such fervor that he successfully yanked scream after scream from my throat. In spite of that, the baby still wasn't born! The doctor continued to pull with each contraction and I continued to push. Suddenly Dr. K moved quickly to "make some room" for the baby to exit (which also elicited a scream from me) and everyone in the room encouraged me to "push push push - she's almost here!" R told me if I looked down I could see her head, but I shouted, "I don't want to!" With that, I pushed until I felt a slippery rush and immediate wave of relief: she was born! At 10:10 p.m. on Saturday, December 24, 2011, our daughter was alive and squawking and in the world!

    I held her and cried and - in complete awe - declared her Absolutely Perfect. Gorgeous. Incredible. She cried in return, a throaty, hearty scream, and she looked straight at us. We told her that she was Evelyn Esther and were her Mama and Daddy. I hugged her. I kissed her. I kissed R. I marveled at our daughter's delicate perfection. I was so in love, so immediately and fiercely in love with this tiny person whom I already knew so well and yet was discovering for the first time. I nearly burst with pride, gratitude, and pure, sparkling joy. This was my baby. My daughter. The very best of me and R, knitted together into a unique and wonderful tiny person too perfect for words.

    Even now, eight weeks later(!), I'm overwhelmed by the emotions from that day. There really aren't words to adequately describe the intensity of the moment. It's unlike any other experience and unless one has lived it, I think it is impossible to comprehend. It was absolutely magical and will forever be one of the single most incredible moments of my life.