High Risk Birth and You. And By “You,” I Mean “Me.”

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As I get closer to BabyGirl’s birth, I can’t help but think about Paulo’s birth and how very, very different this one is going to be. For starters, I was in labor with P for 47hrs – which not only isn’t likely for a second baby, but there’s just no way the hospital I’ll be delivering at has any kind of patience for that. And more importantly, neither does my neurologist. Bringing us to the second big difference – this birth won’t be anywhere near “natural.” Not even gonna try. And in the mom-blogging community, this is so rarely talked about… here I am, blathering on so another high risk mom-to-be might not feel like she’s the only one.

With Paulo, I wanted the “blog standard” sort of modern-natural birth (because let’s face it, there’s nothing totally * natural* about having a birth soundtrack and the possibility of a csection if it doesn’t work. Cave women did not have iPods or OBs standing by). A home birth wasn’t an option due to my epilepsy, so I “planned” a medication free hospital birth with a doula and a midwife. (Note: my mom is a former OB nurse. I use the term “plan” loosely, this was my ideal – my PLAN was “give birth.”) I talked things over with my neurologist who was wary – she didn’t say no, but she did say that a long labor should prompt me to her an epidural so I could sleep – lack of sleep being my biggest seizure trigger, combined with the stress of labor…

I ignored this to my peril. I didn’t have trouble coping with the *pain* of the contractions, so hour after hour I stuck to my guns that I didn’t want to be in the hospital. I was comfortable laboring at home and being someone who has been a professional patient (which I literally am this pregnancy – I’m in a research study so I am actually getting paid for having epilepsy), I loathe hospitals with every fiber of my being. By hour 36, it was clear that my “plan” and the reality of my brain chemistry did not mesh. I had a seizure, followed by an epidural, followed by many more hours of labor and a vacuum birth.

I have no regrets about Paulo’s birth, but if I tried for a “natural” birth again, it would be insanity – doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Now that I’ve had a seizure in labor, we can add “labor” to my list of seizure triggers and create a new plan to avoid that. So, there’s no doula. There’s no midwife. The epidural needle will be ready and waiting for me the second I walk in the door.

And this is where I feel like the movement towards “natural” birth does a lot of women a disservice and the echo chamber of mom-blogging reinforces that. A part of me feels like I’m *expected* to at least want a natural birth. At first I did feel disappointed that trying for one was off the table. But… My pregnancies aren’t natural, why would my births be?

Having a healthy pregnancy with epilepsy means I’m very, very closely monitored. In addition to my OB appointments – and I do see an OB, not a midwife (this was true the first time as well – I had half my prenatal appointments with an OB due to my risk level) – I have very regular neurologist visits. I had to start adjusting my medication an entire *year* before I even wanted to conceive. I don’t have the option of a birth center, I’ll be there in the fluorescent lit rubbing alcohol scented joy land wearing that oh so attractive gown. My fetus is checked not only for your typical abnormalities, but for specific defects that may result from my medications. (She’s fine.) My blood is taken so often to check my medication levels that you could come and prick the inside of my elbow in my sleep and I doubt I would notice. Why on earth would I expect that I could have a low-intervention birth after a high-intervention pregnancy?

And so, a different plan it is. My OB did give me the option of delivering with a midwife and/or trying to go med-free… but also agreed it would be much safer for me and baby to just accept the epidural early in case I need to sleep. So, we’re working out the details on what “early” means and the ideal plan is for a low-stress, uncomplicated, medicated hospital birth.

And this is what’s best for us. Natural birth is *not* for every one. It’s an amazing thing and many, many women can do it. All women should know their birth options and what they have access to with their own risk level – including low-risk women for whom a home birth is safe. Please don’t read me as being *against* natural birth. What I’m advocating is SAFE birth. For me, a hundred years ago, Paulo would have at the very least been a horrible forceps delivery. I would have had more seizures and who knows what after that. Maybe I would have been ok, maybe I would have suffered permanent damage, maybe I would have literally died from exhaustion. What is for certain is that without modern obstetrics, neither one of us would have been *healthy.*

I’m so very, very glad that I live in a place and time where BabyGirl and I will be pretty much guaranteed (barring the unforeseen disasters that could happen to anyone) a safe birth, despite my seizures. I am so incredibly grateful for my excellent prenatal care and I’m truly getting excited to step into that horrible gown, get the monitors strapped on, and meet this baby in a cold, fluorescent lit hospital room. The first time around, I wanted to have the birth “experience” that gets talked about so much – the spiritual experience of bringing life into the world like all of the mothers before me. This time around… I’m content to change the parameters so the “experience” of BabyGirl’s birth is as calm as possible in an environment where we will both be safe and cared for, given that there are some added wild cards in our own “Things That Could Go Wrong” pile. I hope for both of us that the various precautions are unnecessary and everything goes off without a hitch, but I feel so much more confident knowing that even if it doesn’t, we’ll be taken care of. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it goes and hopefully having a much lower stress birth than the previous one!

These Are Many Days.

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I’m no good at limbo. Never have been. I can’t stand the in betweens. I get twitchy. Squirrelly. I have trouble keeping focused on anything for too long when things are not quite *this* and not quite *that.* And right now… I’m 9 weeks from meeting this BabyGirl and there is just so much in between happening and my coping mechanism has been to tread lightly – step softly. Don’t rock the boat. And so, it’s been a very, very quiet month.

(And as I am learning, P was active from moment one and was like being pregnant with an octopus on meth – and this… this BabyGirl is my quiet girl. This pregnancy has brought stillness. I can feel her pull inward, and I can see her retreat in on herself on the ultrasounds, and I retreat inwards to be with her.)

We did allow a little wild rumpus for a certain young Whuffle to turn 3. Which. How is that even legal that my tiny baby is three years old?! The whuffle noise he made the first day of his life, for which he has been pseudonymed, the little newborn whuffle that he did instead of crying – well, he still does it except now it’s this great whuffle of joy. It’s the noise he makes when he sees a bowl of ice cream or a new toy train. It’s the best noise. We haven’t been able to ever capture it, but I’ll always remember it. I’ll remember my tiny, tiny newborn whuffling at me because he was hungry – and I’ll remember my little three year old man whuffling with glee over his birthday cake.

(A cake which, PS, he did not eat. But man was he ever excited about the IDEA of cake.)

And oh, I did take other photos of things like Irish flags on St. Patrick’s Day and little Buddha statues in my neighborhood – but let’s face it. We’ve got very important Whuffles to catch up on.

(And to catch up, a little follow up to my last entry way back when: I did somehow by the grace of Dog pass my 3hr glucose test. No gestational diabetes this time around! I’ve been practically rolling in cupcakes. And Cadbury creme eggs, for lo, it is the most wonderful time of the year.)

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Ok, so when I showed some friends the ultrasound photo of BabyGirl they said “She looks exactly like Paulo!” and I thought “Huh, well, she looks like a squidgy alien to me.” But putting them next to each other? Yeah, my babies look pretty alike. MY BABIES WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT. MY BABIES!!!!!!!! I am so very excited to have them both on the outside. Soon, so very soon.

These Are Days.

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Around the time I got pregnant, Paulo decided that he was done napping. No more. THE END. This was a joyous coincidence that just thrilled me to absolutely no end. He’s not too young by any means – I had just hoped and prayed, as all mothers of young children do, that nap would last forever (and please just ten minutes longer) as the entire fabric of my wellbeing depended on it. For a while, he would do “quiet time” during his previous nap time and just play in his room and I could at least lie down depending on how QUIET this time actually was. 

And then being alone in his room for an hour (with his bear, crackers, a water bottle, and his Thomas the Tank Engine “learning tablet”) was like being put into solitary and motions were being filed about my wanton disregard for the Geneva Conventions and that was the end of that. 

I happened to stumble upon a solution wherein I could indeed trick him into falling asleep and thus get a few minutes of rest myself. I happened upon The Method by accident, but it turned out to be a consistent winner. Grocery Store + 3PM = Nap. So many times he would fall asleep before we even got out of the elevator. It got to be that I structured our lives around going to the grocery store at 3PM every single day because without that nap, neither one of us would be sane come dinner time. 

I use the past tense because the past few days leave me to believe the spell has been broken. Such is the end of a beautiful, peaceful era wherein I heard snores from the stroller and not cries for “AIIIIIISEEEEEESSSS” (raisins) This era was so successful that the first time The Method failed, the cashier actually looked at me aghast: “HE’S AWAKE?!” Yes, I know. Not my intent. 

So successful was The Method in its heyday that it was even employed in the middle of a Nor’Easter. That’s right. I’m the pregnant mother desperate enough to get her toddler to sleep for a damn hour that I will walk to the grocery store in the middle of a blizzard if that’s what it takes. May the photographic proof of this enterprise serve as a tribute to The Method and the last gasps of Paulo’s napping career.

In other news: pregnancy is galloping right along and it looks like our grocery shopping habits will be changing shape in other ways as the same gestational diabetes diagnosis I had with my pregnancy with P is on the horizon again. I’ve already failed the 1hr test and while I don’t have my 3hr test results back yet, I’m going to go ahead and guess they aren’t great. It’s really just cruelly unfair that I’ve had one hell of a sweet tooth this pregnancy and I’m staring down giving up sugar for thirteen weeks. The things I do for you, babies. The things I do. Uphill to the grocery store in a snowstorm to buy Crystal Light. All for you, babies. All for you.

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Art-ing: I Draw, He Draws, I Draw Some More.

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I Draw: Probably not Tom Petty’s intent when he wrote the lyrics to Wildflowers (you belong among the wildflowers, you belong somewhere close to me) … but here we are, I see fetuses everywhere.

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He Draws: Lots of splattery marks on the paper lately. And his hands. And for a brief shining moment this afternoon before mom rudely stepped in with a wipe, his face.

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He’s also been putting so much on each page the past week or so that it looks like he’s some kind of deprived child whose parents won’t give him a second piece of paper, but really, it’s just that his process requires a lot of working over the same space. Because he’s making a statement about the complicated nature of modern life. Or because toddlers are weird.

I Draw Some More: While I was working on fetal wildflowers, P was entranced by it and kept pointing and saying “FOWWWW! FOWWWWW!” (flower) Which made me want to draw even more flowers. And of course, we can’t draw together without background music, and of course, with me it only takes so long before the background music returns to R.E.M. and so, in homage to one of P’s favorite songs… Gardening At Night.

First, a few process shots to illustrate my ridiculousness. Much like Michael Pemulis’ Paranoid King*, I should have my own poster declaring “It’s needlessly complicated, but is it needlessly complicated *ENOUGH*?”

* Ten points if you catch the reference. Points are cumulative, so please keep careful track of your score.

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The following represents the entire second season of House of Cards, plus three episodes of Game of Thrones. Let it not be said that I don’t know how to multitask. I get two free hours per night, if I’m gonna watch something, I’m gonna be productive while doing it.

Actually, I’m really a huge nerd and watch something as “background noise” while drawing because it passes the time between each fiddly little dot best that way. Because boy howdy, there are a lot of fiddly little dots.

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MFA.

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My good friend Lis paid us a visit last weekend and I jumped at the opportunity to spend a toddler-free afternoon at the MFA. Normally, I end up hanging with my best pals the mummies – but being as I’m a member and can mummy it up any time I like, I left the options open to Lis. She picked the Asian wing and we wandered through some of the Contemporary and European collections as well. All things I very much enjoy!

I will confess that my favorite things in museums are the ordinary, mundane objects like this set of tweezers from 12th century Korea. Can you imagine the dude in the 12th century who used these? He certainly can’t imagine that in the 21st century some people on the other side of the world would be gawking at his tweezers, that’s for sure. It always makes me wonder about future museum curators and anthropologists and what of ours will survive and how it will be interpreted. We think we know about other cultures, but do we really grok what was going on? Will our diapers and maxi pads survive in landfills leading future anthropologists to hypothesize that we enshrined the poop of our infants and our menstrual blood as an offering to the great fertility goddess, Angelinajolie? One can scarcely imagine.

And now… a massive photo dump. No diapers included.

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(Yep. I take ridiculous selfies in museums. I feel like with a very expensive BA in art, it is my right. I also feel like maybe I should have taken the five minutes to put on some makeup and maybe look more like a human. I also also feel like pointing out that I am NOT making duck lips, this is just my face. I have a literally big mouth.)

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(“Fresh out of horse heads, but let me show you that cow’s head over there. Will that do?”)

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(I honestly love how just *bummed out* Jesus looks in this. Also the alien skull at his feet. You tell me that human skulls are elongated like that. Riiiigggghhhhhhhtttttt.)

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(Judith and Holofernes. Only thing better than a lady holding a severed head is a *naked* lady holding a severed head.)

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These Are Days.

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Life continues largely as normal here at Alves Manor. We’ve made one minor change in our routine that has made a big, big impact (for the better) on our personal sanity. We’ve discovered ourselves in the trap of endless internet refreshing, staying up far too late doing… absolutely nothing. In an effort to reign ourselves in and maybe get to bed on time, we’ve programmed our router to turn off at 11PM. This doesn’t mean bedtime, but it does mean that wireless as we know it is done for the day. I’ll confess I haven’t gone to bed earlier, and I’m now “behind” on photos to share, books to review… but I have read more books, worked on more drawings, and discovered that there actually is no such thing as “behind” on the Internet. There is always more Internet. You can never catch up, so you’re never truly behind.

And a better rested mama means more adventures for Whuffles!

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Art-ing: I Draw/He Draws/We Draw.

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I Draw: What’s surprising isn’t that I drew an octo-fetus, but that given my disposition to drawing both octopi and fetuses that it took me until now to do so.

(This fetus, btw, is an homage to a certain Whuffle who once inhabited my uterus. BabyGirl is a swimmy mermaid. The Whuff was like being pregnant with an octopus on meth.)

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He Draws: Thanks to a new selection of art supplies as a belated Christmas/early Valentine’s present from my BFF, P’s had a renewed interest in drawing. He likes to take the drawing pad and spread out the pages like a book and make very long drawings. I highly, highly recommend this particular “young artist’s kit” – the double tipped markers are an especially big hit.

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We Draw: Got out the tempera paints again this weekend. This time we spent a bit more time painting together. After I made some circles, P proudly declared “O!” and started asking for more letters, so he would point to a spot on the paper and I would write the requested letter. W was a particular favorite this time around.

A note on materials: Nuno has done a few art “projects” with P where the approach has been “put everything out and hope for the best.” He was a bit puzzled observing me this weekend that I only had three colors of paint, I had the paint on a palette (ok, Tupperware lid) rather than letting him just stick his brush in the jar (and thereby mix all the colors together, which ruins the paint). He thought for sure P was going to get bored this way, but discovered – as I have learned in my many years of doing with art with tots – that it was just the opposite. He was better able to retain his focus and work with the materials when he had limits rather than when he was overstimulated by TOO MANY CHOICES MUST USE ALL THINGS. Your own tot may vary, but I highly recommend sticking to a few colors with paint at first, especially if they seem to have trouble concentrating.

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Hitting the Glue Again…

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Drawing is the gateway drug, I swear. I get my hands moving with the pen and they itch to pick up the knife.

Last week, I bought a magazine on impulse and thought “I’ll cut it up when I’m done!” and discovered that *all* of my collage supplies are in storage. Once again, I had managed to go more than a year between glue brushes. Discovering that I didn’t even have a cutting mat was like discovering that I don’t own underpants. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM RIGHT NOW.

(Digression: It’s this question of “Who I Am” that kicked my butt into searching for aforementioned cutting mat in the first place. I was discussing art projects with our neighborhood children’s librarian and she asked me “Oh, are you an artist?” OH RIGHT. I GUESS I AM. And I realized that uh, hey, artists actually make art sometimes. And so, the very next night, instead of loading up Steam and playing a game, I loaded up Spotify and cranked some tunes and grabbed my pens. Funny how these things happen. My life has a history of offhand remarks such as this spurring creative revolution. You just never know where inspiration is going to come from – so, thanks Margaret.)

Anyhow. A week later and my shipment of supplies arrived from Amazon. I’ve gone over my preferences in previous posts, and this is what I got for a little mini-studio. I have both limited space for storage (one tiny closet shelf) and limited time (two hours, three tops, per piece – I can’t currently leave anything half finished to come back to later, there’s just no logistical way of storing an unglued piece) so this is completely barebones basics for quick and dirty collage work.

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Pictured: My scissor collection, envelopes of cut pieces, Mod Podge, brayer (this is new for me – I only bought it because Amazon recommended it and I thought “Why not” – LIFE CHANGING.), old pillowcase for glue, clementine box to store supplies (I love reusing things and I also have been eating a box of clementines every few days this pregnancy, so this was just lying around and is the perfect size), sponge brushes.

Not pictured: Exacto knife, extra blades. Pile of material – right now I just have a few magazines. When I had a studio in our old place, I had piles of old books and magazines and ephemera. We will eventually live in a bigger apartment where my permanent stash will probably be somewhere in the middle until my pipe dream of my own studio outside the home comes true and then I’ll maybe also have a pony.

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And with my very, VERY limited stash of pieces (I haven’t even cut up my entire stack of magazines – I was too excited to get to work! I really liked the background piece I chose and decided to just do a quick and dirty piece while I amass a larger collection for more “serious” work later.) I got to work. Also essential for artistic work, MUSIC. Today, I went with my favorite band – a surefire win.

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In cutting around those hands with my knife, I discovered that collaging while pregnant is more challenging than I would have thought. BabyGirl did NOT enjoy the angle I was hunched at and later on, I don’t know if I would be able to bend close enough to the paper to really see detail that small. I guess it’ll either be only use big pieces or borrow my husband’s soldering magnifier…

As you can see, the initial idea was putting eyes on the varying pink segments. The idea came to me as the eyes were on strip backgrounds much like the color stripes here – but… when I took them out of context, it wasn’t interesting to me. So, I fished around and found some other things to spice it up a bit. Got a few things I liked and when it felt like a coherent image, I got the glue.

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I glue on cloth like this – painting the glue on the back of the cut piece and placing it on the background – as it’s the best way I’ve found to NOT accidentally glue stuff together and also avoid getting glue stains all over my work surface. This is just a folded up old pillowcase. For bigger pieces or using spray mount (which I’m not doing, even though I prefer it, because I don’t have good ventilation in my dining area) I use an old sheet. This is a discovery I made doing my senior project at Hampshire where I was using so much glue that it was accidentally getting all over EVERYTHING until I had the genius insight to put one of my “clean” painting rags over my desk when gluing. It’s also incredibly handy for wiping glue off my fingers as I work. When I’m done, I just fold up the cloth and keep reusing it. The dried glue means I can’t ever use it for anything else, which is why I always choose something that is a glorified rag to start with.

(I have never tried to wash my glue rags and wouldn’t recommend running that experiment unless you have absolutely no love for your washing machine. Even then, I *REALLY* wouldn’t ever put anything that had been glued through a dryer unless my end goal was “BURN IT ALL DOWN.”)

And… TA DA. The (untitled) finished piece! It’s not much, but it feels so, so good to have done SOMETHING. It’s the difference between being a working artist and “Uh, I usedta could art…” So, no diplomatic Civ victories in my future as my only working time is my former game time, but this is even better.

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These Are Days.

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Even for a hearty Nordic lass such as myself, this January has been bitter cold. One of us won’t keep mittens on and the other doesn’t really *enjoy* standing around in 7F… so, our museum memberships are paying for themselves this month. We’ve had exceptionally good times at the Children’s Museum where a certain Whuffle played with the train set in the tot room for a solid *hour and fifteen minutes.* I don’t think I’ve sat down for that long since he was born!

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Art-ing: I Draw/He Draws

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I Draw: Oh look, another fetus. Based on more song lyrics. This one from the song “All I Want is You” – not sure who did the original, but we have a Tristan Prettyman cover on P’s Spotify playlist that we both adore. The lyric – “If I was a flower growing wild and free, all I’d want is you to be my sweet honeybee.”

Nuno took a peek at my sketchbook while I was drawing this…

“Oh, a bee! That’s so cute! And is that in… a cell?”

“No, it’s a fetus.”

“… Of course it is.”

Ah, life with an artist.

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He Draws: After writing about how much he likes drawing in his sketchbook and how he does such a good job with mama’s markers… well… SOMEONE is NOT MY MONKEY. He still draws with me a bit, but the “gentle” with my markers is over. I’m biting the bullet and buying myself a new complete set and donating my current supply to Whuff’s artistic endeavors. Certainly more expensive than buying him his own markers, but he can keep using the ones with the tips pushed in and I can maintain my high standards. (Seriously, doing futzy pointilist work with tips that have been flattened is nigh on impossible.) Lesson learned: for future shared projects, we’ll work to *his* standards – not mine. While we’ll still use real art supplies, we’ll stick with kids’ tempera paints rather than my good acrylics.

He also hasn’t really been into drawing lately. Because, well, NOT MY MONKEY. He’ll sit for a few seconds at a time, but he hasn’t been filling pages the same way he had been a few weeks ago. So it goes. Last thing I’m going to do is force him to draw.

(Though may I just say, my son’s interests and mine? The more I enjoy something, the greater the likelihood that he will eschew it entirely. Probably my top three favorite things: art, reading, swimming… NOPE. Sheesh. Maybe we should see if he likes soldering circuit boards with daddy because I’m striking out in shared activities.)

Anyhow, he has done a few new pages here and there.

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We played a bit with tempera paint this weekend – he greatly enjoyed it. We killed our Whuffle friendly paint supply, but I plan on making this a more regular activity when our next paint shipment comes in.

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