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Jonas decided to stand up to pee today, and as I was helping him wipe the seat from the inevitable drips, I was thinking, “Wow, that’s the toilet he was almost born over!” I get a lot of questions about his birth, so I thought I would post the details here. Note: if you are at all squeamish, you might want to stop here.

So . . . on 7/10/08, my parents came up to watch Linnea, and Jon and I went out to lunch (Dogwood in Hampden). Afterward, he headed off to the hospital to prepare for his 3pm OPS meeting, while I went home to take advantage of my parents’ presence to get in a nap. I started having more contractions than usual while I was lying there but naturally assumed they were Braxton-Hicks. Well, I started wondering if they were getting regular, so I timed them. They were probably around 3 to 5 minutes apart and lasting about 45 to 60 seconds.

Another note: with Linnea, I had a midwife-assisted hospital birth with no anesthesia/analgesia, which was what I had hoped for. However, we had gone to the hospital way too early, and I wanted to avoid doing that with Jonas.

Back to the story. The contractions started growing a little in intensity and were definitely spaced at about 3 minutes apart. When Jon came home I told him that I suspected I might be in latent labor, but that I wasn’t yet completely sure. So I asked him not to say anything to my parents, because I didn’t want anyone to get excited over nothing. Plus, we were using a doula, and the midwife who attended Linnea’s birth agreed to be on-call for me, so I didn’t want to call them for no reason. After a while, I went downstairs, and it was obvious to me that my contractions were growing in intensity. Still, I hid it from parents and (stupidly, in hindsight) sent them home to Annapolis.

The timing and order of everything from here on out is a little unclear to me. It became obvious to Jon that I really was in labor, although I was still in denial. I agreed to call the doula to give her a heads-up, and she was going to leave as soon as her babysitter to arrived. I held off calling the midwife for a little while longer. It was time for Linnea to go to bed, and I was actually planning to read to her as I usually did, but Jon thought that was ridiculous and told me to stay downstairs.

I did some laps around the first floor of our house and needed to stop for each contraction. I tried sitting on my birth ball for a while but didn’t like it very much; walking was much better. At one point, I remember that I was feeling tired and wanted to rest a bit, but lying down was so hideously uncomfortable that I immediately stood up. I had a few sips of water but had no desire to eat or drink. Finally I called the midwife to give her some notice, and she told me she’d leave soon (she was having dinner at a restaurant with friends). We also called my parents at some point to ask them to come back, but then they ended up getting stuck in traffic.

Jon came downstairs to find me clearly in active labor. (I’m guessing that active 1st stage lasted about 90 minutes, or maybe a little longer. Definitely no more than 2 hours.) He called one of his coworkers–to let someone from work know he was not going to be working the next day and maybe to see if she could come over to be with Linnea. She heard me moaning in the background and told him he needed to get back to me. He went back up to get my already-packed suitcase and to gather his stuff. In hindsight, it was pretty stupid, because we live all of 3 minutes from the hospital, and he could easily have come home afterward to grab whatever he needed. Things really intensified for me, and I ended up wanting to sit down on the toilet. It was the only comfortable (relatively speaking) position for me at that point. I started getting even more vocal than I had been previously. Probably some expletives were uttered, and I distinctly remember yelling up to Jon to ask him why he had abandoned me. I ended up waking Linnea.

We needed to leave, so he ran Linnea over to our neighbors’ house to see if they would watch her until my parents arrived. Jon put some ridiculous sign on the door for my parents, which said “Linnea” and had an arrow pointing left. Meanwhile, I started to have the urge to push. He came back after leaving Linnea with Steve and brought Mary (a postpartum nurse) back with him. She sat with me in the bathroom, and Jon, after assessing the situation, called 911. It seemed like he got really frustrated with dispatcher, who asked him a ton of (reasonable, I’m sure) questions and wanted to stay on the line to talk him through things. He ended up yelling, “I know what to do, I’m an emergency physician!” and disconnected the call.

Then, all of a sudden, my membranes ruptured, and I felt the baby drop really far down. Fortunately, I was sitting on the toilet, so there was no big mess to clean up. I told Jon that the baby was coming out then. I would gladly have pushed the baby while sitting on the edge of the toilet, but Jon refused to catch the baby that way. They put down some towels in the hallway and managed to convince me to come out of the bathroom.

I remember Mary telling me to lie down on my back, and I indignantly replied, “I don’t push on my back. I push on my hands and knees.” And so I did. I’m not sure how long I pushed for. With Linnea, it was about 20 minutes, so I’m sure it was much less with Jonas. I had the head out in maybe 2 contractions. So the head was out, and then Jon was telling me to keep pushing. I got annoyed and told him I wasn’t going to push because I wasn’t having a contraction. He got more insistent, so I told him to pray. Finally the next contraction came, and I pushed the baby out. (Later, the midwife told us that it can definitely seem like an eternity after the head is out, but vindicated me by telling Jon that I did the right thing by waiting for the contraction.) And our precious little Jonas was born.

Jon ran upstairs to get some hemostat clamps we happen to have around to clamp the cord. Then we delivered the placenta, which Jon placed in the insert of Linnea’s little potty. Jon and Mary wrapped Jonas in a towel. I later reflected that I should have been more forceful about putting him in skin-to-skin contact with me, but it was all a bit overwhelming.

I don’t remember if the doula or EMS arrived first. When the latter arrived, it turned into a real circus. First the fire truck arrived, and they had no useful supplies at all. Then the chief came in his SUV, and then finally the ambulance. We were able to cut the cord, and they brought in a “space blanket” for Jonas.

My parents arrived to find our very small cul-de-sac filled with emergency vehicles, which absolutely horrified my mother. (It also scared Linnea for a while, and she’d get upset whenever she heard a siren for a good 6-12 months afterward.) We were going to be taken to the hospital. I would have walked out to the ambulance, but they of course wouldn’t allow that. Because we have steps leading up to our house, I needed to be strapped into a wheelchair. When we left the house, there was a huge crowd of neighbors watching to see what was happening.

I had my first-ever ambulance ride (lights but no sirens). I was really impressed with how painlessly they put in my IV in a moving vehicle. When we got to the hospital, the midwife arrived and checked me out. I had a few skid marks but no tears at all. I had a lousy two-night stay in the hospital and almost signed Jonas and me out the second night.

One of the nurses asked me if I had secretly planned a homebirth, to which I emphatically answered “no.” However, I will say that I loved being at home and would do it again in a heartbeat, assisted, if we were to have a third child. Of course, everything ended well for us, and I’m extremely grateful for the incident-free birth. But it was amazing to me how much better it felt to be able to move as much as I wanted without ever being tethered to a monitor, and to go at my own pace without pressure (for the most part) from anyone else to have any interventions or act a certain way or to do anything in particular. It’s remarkable how my body did what it was supposed to do and how little control I had–once second stage started, there would have been no stopping it. That baby was coming out. Some people give Jon all the credit. I’m not denying that I had some peace in knowing that he was there, and that he would be cool under pressure. But I also knew what to do.

Again, I am fully aware that things don’t go so smoothly for everyone, and medical interventions obviously can provide great benefit in some cases and save lives. I don’t think doing it without an obstetric provider in attendance is at all wise, and being completely unprepared is not the way to go. But I am left wishing that homebirths attended by licensed providers were more of an option here in Maryland (and the rest of the US).

I’ve often been asked by friends what books I’ve liked and found useful since becoming a parent.

Now, I read a good many parenting advice books early on in my parenting journey, but eventually I had to stop. I understand that the authors want to sell their books, but the prevalent attitude of “if you don’t follow my amazing advice your kids will be monsters/lifelong insomniacs/psychopaths/delayed” drove me crazy, especially since the advice is sometimes conflicting. While I think you can take what you need from a book and leave the rest, there are only so many times you can read about sleep or discipline. And in my opinion, some books are just downright bad.

While there are a few couple of books that I think are incredibly helpful, I did want to mention one book that I would recommend without hesitation to anyone. I have turned to it quite frequently since having children and always have success when following the techniques. It even provides easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions to help you conquer the task/problem at hand. I usually feel so encouraged after using it, and it has even allowed me to laugh in the face of many mishaps What is this miracle book, you might ask?

I know it might seem ridiculous, but it’s an amazing book! Let’s face it: kids are incredibly messy, even when they’re being careful. And that mess can sometimes extend to the adult attire, too. While there are certainly clothing items that I don’t bother to worry about, I generally like to take care of our things and hate to see good clothes ruined (because, say, someone thought it was a good idea to let an 18-month-old play with a pen in the car). I really do think it feels great to conquer a tough stain, to know that while the trials of parenting might, at times, crush my spirit, they will not ruin our clothing. :)

I don’t hate babies or anything, but I don’t enjoy them very much, either. I rarely want to hold someone else’s baby. I’ll do it if I think it will help out another parent, but it’s not something I seek out. I loved my kids as babies, of course, but I don’t get a lot out of sitting on the floor watching a baby mouth toys or rocking a sleeping baby for hours. I don’t relish making dinner with a baby strapped to my back or having porn-star sized breasts while lactating. Heck, I don’t even like bath time. I recently fed a baby a bottle in the church nursery, and I didn’t really get anything out of it, other than relief that the baby wasn’t so fussy anymore. There were many things about having an infant/young toddler that I did because I thought I should, but not because I loved or even liked doing them. (More so than now.) It’s made the first 18-24 months of parenting each of my children particularly challenging for me–especially given the fact that they are less than 2 years apart. By the time Linnea was at an age I really felt I would start enjoying, I had a newborn to take care of.

I’m not naive enough to think parenting is ever going to be easy. I’m smart enough to understand that every age will have its joys and challenges. I also acknowledge that I’m only about 4.5 years into this, so I have a lot more to experience.

But I have an almost visceral reaction whenever I hear other moms talk about how much easier infants are, and try to scare other moms about the trials of some other age. I would get so depressed when old ladies would come up to me and my baby in the store and tell me how these were the best times. And I didn’t have the same dismayed reaction as some of my mom friends when my babies started getting mobile. When I look back at baby pictures, I think “Wow, they were so little/fat/cute” but never, “ah, it was such a simpler/easier time.” It’s fine with me if other people love the baby stage, but at the same time, I think that a person can look forward to and enjoy other ages and stages without being accused of wishing her offspring’s childhood away.

When Linnea was a newborn, I was nursing her in the food area of Wegmans. A family with two school-aged children was eating at the next table and noticed me. The parents made the usual small talk and congratulatory remarks about my new baby. Then the father said, “Everyone always says that this is the best stage, but quite frankly, I’ve found that it just gets better and better as they get older.” I wanted to run over and give him a big hug, because his remark gave me so much hope and solace after weeks of hearing how blissful having and caring for a baby is supposed to make me feel.

For the first time since July 2006, I have a (part-time) paying, outside of the home, job.

This weekend, I start my classroom training to become a scribe in the ED at FSH. I’m extremely excited but also nervous. While being a stay-at-home mom definitely has its challenges, it’s vastly different from working at a job with other adults. Also, this will be my first time working in a health-care setting, so there will be a lot to get used to on that front. And then there’s the whole issue of working in the same department where my husband works (even though I will never be paired with him). Even though I’m sure no one expects much from me, I don’t want to make an idiot of myself in front of people I know, some of whom I’m friends with. I’m so competitive and hard on myself, and I need to rein in my unrealistic expectations. Another thing that will be interesting is that my fellow scribes are mostly pre-med college students or recent graduates taking a year or two off before going to medical or PA school.

I am also the proud owner of fancy ciel blue scrubs–or, as Linnea likes to call them, “work jammies.” Left to my own devices, I would have gotten the cheapies, but shopping with Jon is always a different experience. Once I tried the nice ones, I was sucked in by the softness of the fabric and the fit that was actually pretty flattering.

And now I had better get back to studying, since I’m pretty sure that DTR does not mean “defining the relationship” in medicine.

12/8

When Jon and I first started dating, he was living with a good friend near JHU. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I was rather intimidated by Robert at first. I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it was because people had told me how incredibly brilliant he was, and that made me a little nervous. You know, was he going to turn out to be a fun guy or an awkward poindexter type?

But I think some of it had to do with his dry sense of humor. Here is one early (silly) example. As the weather turned cold that fall of 2003, the inhabitants and frequent visitors (i.e., Gwyneth and I) of the apartment all wore black or dark coats. Well, one weekend, I came over sporting this brown corduroy jacket with a white fleece lining. I went to hang up my coat on the rack, and Robert looked up from the futon in the living room and said to me sternly, “Um, Erin? We only hang black coats on the coat rack.” I laughed, hung up my coat, and scurried back to Jon’s room. “Do you think he was joking?” “Yes, Erin, I’m sure he was just kidding around.” “But maybe he was worried that my jacket would shed on the black coats. Now he’s going to think I’m a big jerk.” “Erin, trust me, he was joking.”

Now it seems so ridiculous that I found Robert intimidating, and I have so many fond memories of that time at the Broadview. I had just moved to Baltimore from Almaty earlier that year, and after a lonely summer, I had found myself dating an amazing man and making two wonderful friends. Looking back, I’m sure the four of us thought we had plenty of stress in our lives (looking for jobs, grad school, a job lay-off, residency, medical school, wedding planning, etc.), but really, it was a fun and carefree time.

Today, as we get ready to celebrate Jon’s 35th birthday, there is a huge hole in our hearts. Robert would have turned 36 today, and, well, things just aren’t the same anymore. Last year, the four of us celebrated the boys’ birthdays at a lovely French restaurant. This year, family and friends will gather for a toast and cupcakes to celebrate Robert’s extraordinary life. Although I wouldn’t take back the numerous wonderful hings that have happened between 2003 and 2010, I kind of wish for the carefree time.

I’ve been struggling to come up with something to write lately. For one thing, I’m coming down off the high of my school acceptance. I’m very impatient, and once I’ve made the decision to do something, I want to move forward. But my program doesn’t start until June, so I have some waiting to do. We’ve also been extremely busy for the last few weeks. We got to travel to Pittsburgh for my brother-in-law’s wedding, and although it was fun, traveling with young children is always exhausting. But the biggest situation of late is that Jonathan has been working almost nonstop.

For those of you who don’t know, he’s an emergency physician; in addition to his clinical responsibilities, he has an administrative position in his department. The hospital where he works recently built a new patient tower, and the ED is preparing to move into its new space on Saturday. (I’ve been able to tour the new ED, and it’s an enormous, impressive space!) The amount of work being done to prepare for this move is overwhelming to me. I guess I had never really thought about the reality of moving departments which need to be operational 24-7. Not only that, but when you’re as busy as their ER is, there is very little room for error once things do go live. So of course the staff have been working incredibly hard to try to make sure things will go as smoothly as possible. I’m sure it’s still going to be a difficult task, and I don’t envy them the crazy weekend ahead.

Although I’m really proud of Jon and happy to support him, I will confess that I get a little jealous sometimes. Of course, there are days when I’m satisfied to be where I am, but I also remember a time when I got to experience the rush of working on a big project, helping to direct a team, and feeling that sense of satisfaction that comes from this kind of hard work and a job well done. Sure, in my own way I’m contributing by making it possible for him to be there, but it’s still not as exciting to be at home (as much as I love my kids). But I guess when it comes down to it, it’s really not about me. I need to find the joy and contentment in my present circumstances, as ordinary as they seem in comparison.

Some big news!

This fall, I applied to the post-bac premed program at Goucher College. Well, today I got the good news that I was accepted! I’m extremely excited, although nervous about going back to school and balancing everything. I know I have a long road ahead of me, but it feels really good to have taken a significant step. (It might seem sudden, but it’s actually something that Jon and I have been discussing for years.)

For the Mawrters: here’s a little something fun I found when I was going through old college stuff (from The Howl):

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