Welcome, Baby Seth! (Sorry, Michael Bolton)

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Photo Credit: Baby Bella Photography

February 11, 2016. I planned on seeing Michael Bolton in concert, a rare date made possible by my homebody husband’s sympathetic, last-date-before-my-due-date Christmas gift. Instead, I found myself in a hospital bed, welcoming my second baby into the world.

Seth 1

We bought the tickets because I kept seeing the concert advertised every time I drove Sam, my firstborn, to Parents’ Day Out. “We never do stuff like this,” I told Buc. And, “It’s so close to our due date.” I was trying to convince myself I didn’t want to go. “But you want to go,” he said, “Don’t you?” I did. My husband did the only thing a good husband does in this situation: he bought the tickets.

Michael Bolton
michaelbolton.com

One day before the concert I had an ultrasound to check Seth’s growth. I hadn’t been having serious contractions, and I didn’t expect any exciting news. I got it wrong again.

“Did the sonographer tell you you’re having your baby today?” My doctor quipped, blunt as ever, as she walked into the room. This is the same way she had announced my pregnancy. My mouth hung open. “What?” Surely, she was kidding.

She was not. My fluid was low, and they needed to induce today. “Go home and get your hospital bags and head back up here. We’ll start your pitocin tonight. I expect you’ll give birth sometime tomorrow morning.”

I glared at Buc in the doctor’s office. “You did this. You willed Seth to come on the concert date so you wouldn’t have to go.” (Buc had joked many times in the past weeks: “Come on, baby Seth, come on February 11th so I don’t have to go see Michael Bolton, that ‘no talent hack’ [reference to the movie Office Space].”)

Last home prego pic before heading to the hospital.

I both laughed and cried on the way home. Yes, I saw the humor in the situation, but I also was truly disappointed. I was so close! So close to getting my last date before the due date. So close to seeing one of my favorite singers. So close to having this first-time experience with my husband. (Trust me, we don’t get out much.) Second on my mind to Michael Bolton (or probably first, really, but we’ll just keep this post light), was my mom, who wasn’t going to be there for the birth.

And one last pic in the hospital room…

Third on my mind was, Thank you, Lord, for helping me get ready this week. Almost as if I’d known Seth would come early, that week I’d stocked up on last groceries, hung up last things in Seth’s room, finally taken the birth suites tour the night before, to know where to go and what to expect at this particular hospital. So yes, I was disappointed that Seth couldn’t have waited one more day…but I also knew God was in control, and his timing is perfect.

Expectant parents!

On Wednesday night,  February 10 at 8 p.m., I was induced. I was given low doses of hormones every hour, with the plan that the doc would break my water by 6 a.m. the next morning if need be. But baby Seth was quicker. By 4 a.m. Thursday morning, February 11th–or the day of the concert–I felt the need to push, and felt him pushing against me. By 4:51, he was here!

Resting after birth.
Father and son.

Seth has been with us for just over a week now, and I’m in love. Aside from missing Michael Bolton and a nap the day before, I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience. Plus, I’m enjoying this postpartum period so much more than my first time around. I know stuff to do this time. I know how to tell if he’s full enough (yes, I am feeding him formula along with breastmilk; don’t hate). I know how to hold him and comfort him and rock and feed and change him. And whether or not he’s calmer because he’s fuller than Sam was for the first three weeks (while I breastfed Sam exclusively), he is definitely an easier baby. God is so good.

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Sleeping peacefully after a feeding.

And now to answer the one burning question that remains: How did I ever get into Michael Bolton, that “no-talent hack” who is the same age as my dad, anyway? (Buc later rescinded his criticisms, saying he had nothing against MB–“I actually think he’s a very talented singer”–he just thought the Office Space movie line was funny.)

I can’t quite remember why, but throughout the early 2000s I started buying MB’s CDs on clearance at Half Price Books, started listening to them, and realized this artist had a really good voice. And then, this year, I saw that he was coming to my neighborhood the week before my due date, and wouldn’t that be a fun outing before our second baby comes and we can’t get out for dates anymore?

So we took a chance. And our son stole the show.

I’ll try to catch you next time, MB. For now, I’m going to enjoy the new man in my life, my seven pounds, three ounces of pure joy. I love you so much, baby Seth. Welcome!

Mom and Seth
Back home: Loving my little boy!

(Stay tuned for more on our new baby transition…and if you’re looking for some good tunes, you know who I recommend:)

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What I’ve Learned in Six Weeks

IMG_0873My six-week postpartum period is over. According to my doctor, I’m ready to return to all physical activities, and if I had a “real” job, it would be time to get back to work. So what’s so magical about the six week mark?

As I took stock of my postpartum period, I realized I’ve actually learned a lot in this time. Maybe life isn’t completely predictable yet, but it is starting to feel more manageable. I think this is due both to Sam starting to fall into some patterns, as well as growing confidence that I can keep him alive and safe.

IMG_0429The other confidence booster is that, very slowly, a few activities from life pre-Sam are starting to return—shopping trips, sleeping in my own bed, cooking real meals, a bit of exercise, and returning to church and the church choir. Soon I hope to add writing on a regular basis and fitting into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe.

Here is a brief list of the wisdom I’ve gained in six weeks’ time: 

There’s not one right way to do parenthood, but some people and some books will try to tell you there is. Distrust anyone or any book that tells you your child should definitely be doing such and such by such and such time. This is a setup for failure and feelings of guilt.

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Sam with his Aunt Deb!

You can learn a lot by handing your child to someone else and just watching. For instance:

Place a pillow behind the baby’s back when laying him down to sleep.

The football hold works well to calm a fussy baby.

Bicycling the legs pushes out gas. (I mean in the baby.)

Full immersion (minus his head) in a bathtub won’t hurt the baby.

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Sam with my friend Nicole, and her daughter, who loves babies.

He just might sit and/or sleep in that swing if you let someone other than mom try.

That crusty stuff in his eyes goes away by itself within about three weeks.

If your child is always fussy, it doesn’t always mean you have a fussy child, but it could mean that you don’t have enough milk for him.

IMG_0290Sleep deprivation looks deceptively similar to postpartum depression. Only try to judge the difference after a good nap.

If you’re thinking of hosting a prayer meeting at your house and leading out within the first six weeks, don’t (unless a babysitter hosts your baby elsewhere. You’ll get interrupted about a million times).

IMG_0481Even the burliest of guys will discuss the merits of Desitin versus Butt Paste if they have a baby at home. (Learned last week when my toilet overflowed, requiring a steady stream of plumbers, contractors, and insurance guys to flood my house.)

If you’re desperate for sleep, go ahead and lay that baby down next to you. For added sleep, give him a breast if you have one. (Whether or not you have copious milk matters little for coaxing him to sleep.)

IMG_0941There are way too many formulas to choose from!

Six weeks, or even four or five, might be when he starts to stabilize. This seems to be a good time to start laying him down by himself at night.

For baby boys, beware: The incidence of spraying seems to go up with the changing of poopy diapers, as opposed to changing non-poopy ones.

IMG_0920If you can afford to hire a housecleaner, do it.

If your family members or friends offer to watch your little bundle, spread the joy.

Before five or six weeks, just give yourself a break. People don’t expect you to get as much done as you do.

Beat the frustration of breastfeeding taking up your “entire day” by using the time to read those books you’ve been putting off reading. (My favorite so far has been the acclaimed memoir Angela’s Ashes.)

The postpartum pooch, while it might make you cry, is a great place to set your baby.

IMG_0356Have a sense of humor about the house that keeps getting dirtier, the laundry that keeps piling up, that article that’s not getting written but you promised months ago (sorry Ashley), those thank-yous that haven’t made it to the mailbox, the bed you haven’t slept in for weeks, the sex you haven’t had for months, the spouse you hardly know anymore, those devotions you just can’t concentrate on, those telltale cries that come every time you’re about to eat, those hobbies you used to have, and those clothes that still don’t fit. Whatever needs to get done in a day will get done.

Try to enjoy your baby, as frazzled as you are. If you look at pictures of him from just two weeks ago, you’ll notice the moments are already fleeting.

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And last but not least, thank God for your baby, because if there is one thing every book and parent agrees on, it is that It will all be worth it in the end.

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The Tears of New Motherhood

Each time I think back to the moments of my son’s birth, these lines of poetry (which I studied in high school) come to mind:

My father groaned! my mother wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt

(The real poem, “Infant Sorrow,” by William Blake, transposes the mother and father, but I remember the mother as the one weeping.)

IMG_0772See how I wept? I tried to hold them back, but as soon as little Sam exited the premises, the tears gushed.

I had what could be considered an “easy” labor and delivery, with an epidural that worked like ecstasy. But towards the end, I felt the tears on tap.

When he arrived “helpless, naked, piping loud,” these signs of life undid me. Finally, it was over. He was alive, he was healthy, and I could relax. Later, when I lay back watching my family gush over the baby, my eyes watered again. I felt a sense of love and pride thinking, “We made that!”

IMG_0797Was there any better feeling in the world?

Those early tears were for relief and joy, but as two weeks have worn on, other tears—of frustration, bewilderment, and sometimes resentment (when I’m running on vapors of sleep)—have followed. After a few days, I wasn’t sure I could do it anymore. (You should never trust your instincts when running on three nonconsecutive hours of sleep or less.)

In the first days, visitors and callers broke up the monotony, distracted from the sense of helplessness I otherwise felt when alone with baby Sam for several hours. A friend emailed to say she made it through the first two weeks just fine, but when the commotion died down, postpartum depression set in. The D-word. A word I was once well acquainted with. But I’m not D these days, unless D stands for (sleep) deprived.

My tears (which are becoming less and less), and the periodic panic that “I’ll never find time to write or finish my book or blog again” are just par for this course, especially for a new mother who took almost thirty years to decide on this course.

IMG_0230 Amidst all the crying, feeding, sleep deprivation, and diaper changing, there are moments of every day I find myself just gazing at this new baby—our little miracle. It helps to look down at my son, even during one of the eight to twelve daily breastfeeding sessions (this alone is a full-time job!), and remember that the creative power of God that brought this precious, heart-stealing baby into being, is the same power that animates me, both physically and mentally. It is the same power that animates these other dreams I have–the dreams of writing and publishing that sprouted long before my dream of a baby. I must trust God that he will teach me how to live this new life. He will bring peace out of this (sometimes) chaos. One day, he will help me marry these two wonderful parts of my life. And one day I will again sleep through the night. Until I do, I won’t worry too much about the tears of new motherhood.

Waiting for Baby, and a Blog Anniversary

Baby Sam's 3D Sonogram from October 31, 2013
Baby Sam’s 3D Sonogram from October 31, 2013

I am interrupting my rebirth series to record these moments: waiting to go into labor and, as WordPress has informed me, my blog’s one-year anniversary.

I haven’t blogged much about my pregnancy. I’ve kind of gone underground in the last month on the whole thing, here and on Facebook. I keep getting text messages asking, “Is he coming yet?” I have some very anxious family members who “can’t wait” until he’s here. In fact, judging by my lack of comment on the topic, they seem even more excited than I am. What gives?

Fear

One thing that has kept me from writing on the topic is fear. Baby Sam is not here yet, and labor and delivery is a risky thing. Not to mention that newborns are pretty fragile. When I used to talk about having kids, as I prefer to do with most things, I focused on cerebral concepts (parenting philosophies), not materialistic details (car seats, breast pumps, umbilical cord care, ec.). Now, with my due date less than a week away, all I can think of is the details—and I feel overwhelmed.

Yes, I’ve read a good deal on pregnancy and newborn care, and I’ve been working every day to ready my house—“nesting,” I think it’s called—but these activities have not really made me feel better. Every day lately I have been faced with the fact that I lack practice and know-how for the material details of life. I feel suddenly estranged from those things that have recently defined me—teaching, writing, leading (various church groups)—and it’s a scary feeling. Rather than burden the blogosphere with my worries, like the Virgin Mary, I decided to ponder these things in my heart. (I wonder if she worried about breaking her baby?)

Respect

Another reason I’ve avoided too much “baby talk” is out of respect for the women I know who are struggling with infertility. It seems unfair that I get to have this experience and they don’t. I feel like it’s even more unfair because I haven’t always wanted children. Some women know their entire lives that they want children, while I spent most of my twenties denying the desire. Shouldn’t the women who’ve always wanted kids be entitled to them, first? On the other hand, is it because my heart was so hard in this area that God decided I needed them (and the other ladies could go without)? (Or another thought: Was I formerly in denial?)

It’s probably not a comfort to the ladies struggling with this issue, but I make sense of their infertility like this: these ladies are already healthy in this area, this natural desire to nurture. I wasn’t. Maybe those hard-hearted of us (and overly cerebral, egg-head-ish types) need children more than the already well-adjusted, family types. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’ve debated posting that hypothesis, scared I would offend or minimize someone’s pain. I’d be curious to get your thoughts in the comments. I don’t understand God’s ways, except I believe he allows bad things (like infertility) to happen, he doesn’t cause them.

Exhaustion

A final reason for not blogging about baby is that I’m exhausted right now. My body is exhausted from carrying the little dude, and my mind is exhausted trying to wrap itself around how my life is going to change when he comes. With limited energy, it seemed smart to use the little I had to get things ready as much as possible during these last days, materially speaking.

In Conclusion…

The Three of Us
The Three of Us

I know it doesn’t sound like it, but I am very excited for baby Sam to arrive! I recently had my first “good” dream of his birth: he was cute, had a full head of hair, and he looked like my hubby—all things I expect, after seeing our 3D sonogram. I’ve imagined holding him in my arms and I want to cry for happiness. I smile at the thought of the three of us becoming a family. I long to inhale his baby scent and feel his smooth skin. I look forward to slowing down and becoming less mechanical and more of a person. I praise God for blessing me with a baby—and I will strive to be a good steward of what God has given me.

Perhaps the most comforting thought amidst these last-minute hormones and unknowns is the knowledge that Sam isn’t really mine—he is a gift on loan from God—and God is the only one who can sustain him. It’s not up to me to be a perfect mother; I’ll just do my best to follow God’s lead.

On that note, it should be an interesting second year on this blog, full of many firsts and, I’m sure, many mistakes—but always lots of learning and growth. Here’s to one good year behind me, and an exciting year ahead!