An Unlikely Complaint

I’m crawling out of my mom-cave to bitch about something.  Because I want to complain and mom blogs are nothing if not self-indulgent.

The issue is this: I fucking hate picture books.

Few things frustrate me more than getting a new book for my kids, sitting down to read and finding that there are NO WORDS in the book.  Books are for words.  Words are for books.  What the fuck kind of lazy ass authors are running around “writing” books without a single damn in word in them?  Or maybe it’s not so much the author’s fault.  Maybe its illustrators with an unwillingness to share the spotlight.  I don’t know what the situation is.  I just know it’s a problem.

How do these books even get published?!

Author: I’d like to publish a book.  

Publisher:  Great!  Send a draft over so I can read it. 

Author: Oh, well you won’t really have to read it. See, there aren’t any words.

Publisher:  No words at all?

Author: No.  Just pictures.  They’re really charming pictures though.

Publisher:  I see.  Is this a coffee table book filled with vibrant photos of the Mediterranean?

Author: No, its…

Publisher: Fuck off.  Come back when you’ve actually written something.

I mean, surely you can see where all my confusion and frustration comes from.  These books shouldn’t exist.

Now I know someone out there is going to chime in with, “Imagination…blah blah…developmental milestones…blah blah…”  No.  NO.  If your kid wants to make up a story, the words in a real book are not going to stop him.  But you know what’s going to keep your kid from reading?  Pages with no words on them.  Which, coincidentally, also keeps me from reading.

You know what else keeps me from reading?  (Bonus Rant!) My kids asking thirty questions per page every time we read a book.  I know, they’re young.  They’re curious.  They’re learning.  They’re also annoying the crap out of me.  You know how irritating it is when someone is talking all through a movie you’re trying to watch? I feel that irritation x 10 when I have to read the same sentence nine times because I keep getting interrupted by questions about the Cat in the Hat’s motivation.  “No, I don’t know why he is standing up there on a ball but that is not all!  Oh no, that is not all!”

I know this says incredibly unflattering things about my maturity level but seriously, I just want to finish a page!  Or even a sentence!  By the time we reach the fifth page of pretty much any book I’m ready to throw myself out the window.  My lovely, long-suffering husband will typically reach out at some point during all this and rub my back in an effort to calm me down.  This is because I’m breastfeeding and still can’t drink bourbon.

I think the takeaway here is this –

DON’T: Read stupid, wordless books.

DO: Pour yourself a drink.

New Mom Beauty

This post could go many ways.  I could write a few paragraphs telling you how earthy and beautiful and wonderful you are now that you’ve just given birth to a brand new human being.  (And seriously, good on you for that!  Well done, indeed!)  Remind you that the glow of happiness and breastmilk is really all you need to feel amazing about yourself each and every day.  Or I could tell you a few sure-fire ways to drop a couple of pounds.  Perhaps give you a handful of recipes for green smoothies; which you might be interested to find out are green due to large amounts of vegetables and not green m&m’s.  Somewhat disappointing but true.  However, what I’m going to do instead is something far more practical.  I’m going to tell you how not to look like you got hit by a truck.

Of course I would never tell you that you DID look like you’d been hit by a truck.  You know, inner beauty and all that sort of thing.  But here’s the deal, I think most of us who’ve just had babies tend to look a little, ummm…rough during those first sleepless months.  Maybe you don’t. Maybe you look all dewy and perfect after five broken hours of sleep.  In which case you and Kate Middleton should take your happy asses out for margaritas or something.  The rest of us mere mortals will be at home, freebasing coffee and placing orders with Sephora.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I’m not at all an expert on makeup.  Not even a little.  I’m not terribly adventurous or creative but what I lack in skill I make up for in strong opinions and a decent collection of neutrals.  Also, I understand the lack of time most of us are dealing with.  Sure, I’d love to actually use all those nice makeup brushes I got for my birthday but when it’s 6:30am and you’ve got three children already hounding you about breakfast you don’t really have time to sort between your “contour brush” and your “concealer brush”.  Hell, you don’t really have time to do much contouring at all.  And if you want to go to Target looking mostly human then what you need are a few good quality products that can be applied fast, with your fingers if necessary.  These are those products:

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Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer:  This stuff is awesome.  It is so light I can easily wear it even during our god-awful hot Texas summers but it still manages to make my skin look really even and smooth.  You can absolutely apply it with a beauty blender or a brush but I can tell you from experience, it blends on beautifully, and quickly, with just your fingers.

 

 

 

 

s1140276-main-hero Laura Mercier Undercover Pot: No, not that kind of pot.  This kind of pot will actually help you look awake and not like you’ve just been punched in the face.  By and large I just use the regular concealer in the section on the right.  However, the section on the left contains a concealer that’s great for the occasional blemish and the tiny section underneath contains a highlighting powder that’s wonderful when you actually have time to get out one of your tiny little brushes and apply it.  Now, fair warning, you are going to look at this little container, then look at the price and say something along the lines of, “Oh fuck no!”  BUT, as someone who has looked at her own dark undereye circles and said the same thing, I can tell you I much prefer to say it once and get the makeup than to say it basically every morning and have no way to cover them up.  And honestly, if you think of all the booze you haven’t bought since you got pregnant and gave birth….you should have enough money from your booze fund to buy at least a dozen of these little guys.

 

s1299213-main-heroJosie Maran Argan Color Stick: In the past I was not much of a blush wearer.  I didn’t feel like I needed it.  Some days I still skip it but I do notice that a little color goes a long way towards “waking up” my face and making me look a little less sleepy.  This handy little stick is easy to apply and blends really well; it looks so natural.  Also, it lasts ages. A really good buy.

 

 

 

s1345339-main-hero Tarte Smolder Eyes Amazonian Clay Liner:  Yes, that name is a serious mouthful.  The product itself is seriously great and super simple to use.  Eyeliner is probably my biggest weakness, meaning that I’m terrible at applying it and used to avoid it completely.  However I bought this chubby little pencil on a whim because it was on sale and I have been nothing short of delighted.  It goes on so smoothly and with a little blending doubles as an eyeshadow too.  Also, it has impressive staying power.  I’ve personally used the gunmetal and brown colors and loved them both.  If I’m in a crazy hurry I’ll skip this but honestly, it’s so easy to apply, and so forgiving, that I use it regularly.  Bonus: Tarte products are really quite clean, formulated without a lot of the icky parabens and chemicals that most makeup contains.  You’ll notice from my list that I’m not a total purist when it comes to this stuff but I DO like to choose cleaner products when and where I can.  This brand is quickly becoming a favorite because of both their cleaner formulations and amazing quality.

 

s862417-main-heroTarte Lights, Camera, Lashes! Mascara: This is the BEST.  It’s made of 10% black stuff and 90% FM.  What’s FM?  Fucking MAGIC.  I am a mascara junkie.  I am always looking for the perfect mascara and in my opinion, this is it.  For me, mascara is the one product that I will not leave home without.  I may look like the most shot-out 29 year old (no I will NOT show you my ID…) on the planet but damn it, my lashes will be luscious.  You may wonder if I’ve even bathed recently but your next thought should be something like, “Dear god!  What marvelous lashes!”  I love this stuff.  Seriously.  Fucking.  Magic.

 

 

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Bonus Product!  Tarte Neutral Eyes Palette – Volume II: I don’t put on full eye makeup all the time but I couldn’t write a post about makeup and not include this classy, little number.  If you happen to be in the market for some new eyeshadow, I cannot recommend this palette enough.  The colors are so pretty.  Neutral enough that you can wear them any day, any time and interesting enough to make you feel like you’re being fancy.  This palette also comes with instructions for creating three different looks which is super handy if you’re not so great at application or maybe just looking for a little inspiration.

 

 

You may have noticed that I didn’t include any lip color in this list.  That’s because 98% of the time I don’t wear any lip color.  Which you would find totally unbelievable if you saw the obscene amount of lip gloss I own.  All the same, it’s true.  I rarely wear lip color because I like kissing my kids and their poor little faces would be covered in the most bizarre yet trendy little spots if I wore lipstick.  So I just stick to lip balm.  I’m not really loyal to any one brand though I do tend to end up with a lot of cocoa butter based items.  They just smell so good!

In closing, I would like to say that I don’t, by any means, think makeup = beauty.  I just happen to enjoy wearing makeup.  I like how it makes me feel a little bit girly and a little more put-together when I wear it.  I find that I feel more like “ME” and just a smidgen less like “MOM” when I take a few minutes to do something that makes me feel good.  Also, I like to think that people don’t notice that huge drool stain on my shirt because they’re too busy noticing my killer eyelashes.  I’m telling you people…Fucking. Magic.

Raspberry Lemon Bars

I think we need a bit of an upper after my most recent post.  It was cathartic to get all that off my chest but now it’s time to take a deep breath and talk about something fun and delicious.  Something lemony and fabulous and oh so simple.

Raspberry Lemon Bars.  A treat born of necessity that turned out to be kind of awesome.

I know you might be thinking treats aren’t really a necessity but I beg to differ.  They are.  They are good for your soul.  They will make people eager and happy to come visit you because people love treats.  And some people with three children who can’t stand the thought of dealing with all those carseats ONE MORE DAMN TIME love visitors.  Hence, treats.

Also, if you are a treat-maker who happened upon a sale on raspberries and maybe over-bought because you forgot that raspberries only stay fresh for about six minutes after your bring them home then you get raspberry treats.  And that’s where these addictive bars come in.  I had raspberries that needed to be used and a hankering for lemon bars.  So I used my very favorite Lemon Bar recipe  from Eat, Live, Run with a few fun modifications.  (Slightly off topic…her crock pot beef carnitas are really good.  One of my go-to recipes for when I want something seriously tasty and seriously easy.)

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Raspberry Lemon Bars

for the crust

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup shredded coconut*

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp sea salt

1 stick cold butter

for the raspberry layer

1 pint fresh raspberries

2 Tbs granulated sugar

1 Tbs water

2 Tbs cornstarch

for the lemon filling

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup all purpose flour

4 eggs

2 tsp lemon zest

2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.  Both work fine, the 8 inch pan results in a thicker bar.  You can also line the pan with parchment paper if you’d like.  That makes it easy to lift the bars out whole and slice them on a cutting board or something instead of slicing then scooping them out of the pan.  I’m pretty terrible at doing that without destroying them so I always opt for the parchment paper.  But you do want you want.  It’s your rodeo.

To make the crust:  Combine the flour, sugar, coconut and salt in a bowl.  Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture, using your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the bits of butter are about the size of small peas.  This may still look pretty flour-y.  That is ok.  Don’t be afraid.  Press the mixture into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes or until just lightly golden.  (Lazy person tip: Wipe out this bowl after you put the crust into the pan, that way you can use it to mix up the lemon filling.  One less bowl to wash later.  You win.)

To make the raspberry layer: Once your crust is in the oven, it’s time to make the raspberry layer.  This is super easy.  Put the raspberries, sugar, water and cornstarch into a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently and smashing up the raspberries, until the mixture is thick and bubbly.  Then turn the heat down to low just to keep it warm until it’s time to spread it on the crust.  Give is stir here and there just to keep it loose.

To make the lemon filling: Whisk together the granulated sugar and flour in a bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add the lemon zest and juice and mix until everything is smooth and combined.

To assemble: Spread the raspberry mixture over the hot crust, smoothing it out evenly.  Then pour lemon filling over the raspberry layer and return to oven to bake for another 20-25 minutes or so.  When done, the filling will no longer jiggle. Let cool completely in the pan before slicing and dusting with powdered sugar.  Make sure to invite people over to share these with you.  Or just plan to eat kale and do jumping jacks for the next week after you eat the entire pan.  Whatever you prefer.

* I have used both sweetened and unsweetened shredded coconut for this recipe.  Both are delicious.  Generally I keep the unsweetened kind around so that’s what I prefer to use.  Also, this recipe already has a ton of sugar in it so you don’t really need the extra sweetness of sweetened coconut.  That said, the sweetened coconut sort of caramelizes in the crust while baking and adds a really lovely flavor so you can truly go either way.  Just use what you have.

Finally, if you happen to end up with a little extra raspberry “jam”, do not throw it out!  I had a couple of tablespoons left over after I spread it on the crust so I kept it in the fridge overnight and stirred it into my oatmeal the next morning.  It was SO GOOD.  You should do it too.

This Too Shall Pass?

I broke down crying in the pediatricians office last week.  Luckily, we have a wonderful pediatrician, one who listened as I expressed my concerns.  She didn’t brush me off or get impatient.  She made sure I felt good before she left the exam room.  She also reassured me by saying that my postpartum hormones are pretty much at their peak right now so all this turmoil I’m feeling will settle down.

So maybe that’s it.  Maybe its just hormones.  Or the fact that only one out of every ten meals I eat is actually a proper meal with something akin to nutritional balance.  Or the fact that even though my baby is really a very good sleeper (the best yet!) I’m still just tired.  Regardless of what’s causing it, the problem is that I’m terrified.

I have everything I’ve ever wanted in life and I’m absolutely fucking terrified.  I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I’m waiting for something to go terribly, horribly wrong.

I have a daughter.  A beautiful daughter.  My Marleigh.  She is sweet and smart and strong and I’m so in love with her I don’t know what to do with myself.  I tell her a million times a day how beautiful she is.  How sweet she is.  How adored she is.  I coordinate her little outfits with her little headbands and I love every second of it.  I tote her around, an extension of my body.  I feel kind of odd when I’m not holding her, even though I wanted a break.  I worry.  I worry about her getting sick.  I worry about SIDS.  I worry that even though she’s only 12 weeks old I’m somehow managing to ruin her already.  By telling her how beautiful she is am I somehow programming her subconscious to believe that her worth lies in her beauty?  Will she go to college seeking approval from people based on her appearance?  No.  Of course that won’t happen because she’s not allowed to go to college.  Ever. Because BOYS. But seriously, I want her to feel strong, capable, confident and incredibly beautiful.  I hope that everyone she meets loves her even a fraction as much as her brothers do.

Marleigh’s brothers.  My boys.  My heart swells just thinking about them.  They are so full of energy and life.  They are a thousand words on top of countless noises.  They run, jump, climb, balance and crash.  They adore their sister and live for the moment she smiles at them.  They smother her with kisses and sing to her when she cries.  They are the lights of my life, my first loves.  Their big ideas and sticky fingers make me feel young and old, all at the same time.  I worry that I’m not giving them enough these days.  I worry that I’m not taking enough pictures of them or playing enough Candyland.  I worry about being too strict and then I follow that up with worrying that I’m not teaching them all the right things: manners, compassion, perseverance and how to enjoy life.  I worry that I’m doing it all wrong.

I worry about kidnappings, car wrecks, freak accidents and vaccines.  I worry about tornadoes and fluoridated water.  I worry about having everyone I hold most dear ripped away from me.  I worry that worrying about these things makes me a weak person and a poor mother.

I look at my bright, healthy, happy children and feel utterly undeserving.  But, my god, I love them so much it hurts.

I want to wrap this post up into some neat, tidy life lesson.  I want to tell you that I felt all these things and then somehow, with great strength of character and a brilliant epiphany, I overcame and am a better person today.  Stronger.  That I didn’t lie in bed the other night hiding tears because it’s so fucking scary loving people this much.  That I didn’t think about deleting that last sentence because it sounds angsty and borderline stalkerish.

For better or worse all I have to offer you, and myself, is honesty.  Murky, complicated and incredibly unflattering honesty.

But that’s a start, right?

Breastfeeding 102

This post isn’t going to help you find a lactation consultant or give you loads of “breast is best” type stats.  The purpose of this post is to give you the secret, behind the scenes scoop on what it’s like to be a breastfeeding mom.  There is so much stuff that nobody ever tells you.  Classes and books are great for technical info. Magazine articles and the general public are great for scaring the crap out of you with their bloody nipple and starving baby horror stories.  Some blogs are known for rainbow and unicorn-filled “I love to nurse my baby!” stories – those are lovely.  We’re not doing any of that today.  Or probably ever.

Today, we are talking about all the random shit that makes up life as a nursing mother.  Starting with your wardrobe.  I’m sure most people have heard of nursing bras.  Very helpful and expensive little items to hold the girls in place until you suddenly need to feed someone with them…that’s when you employ the handy “trap door” mechanism and let your boob fall out for someone to munch on.  You know, it’s part of the deal with breastfeeding and I think the average mom kind of expects this.  What you don’t really expect is how this one activity renders the bulk of your wardrobe completely useless.  Say you’ve just recently had a baby.  You’ve been resting up at home but now you’re getting stir crazy and you’re ready to go out!  This is exciting!  You will see people who are not your husband and your mom.  You will be required to wear shoes.  This is a big day for you!  What will you wear?!  That super flattering maxi dress?  Nope.  You can’t get your boobs out of the top and clearly lifting up the entire dress to expose one nipple isn’t exactly efficient…or flattering.  Ok, what about those pants and that tank top?  Wrong again!  You can lift the shirt to nurse the baby but all of those damn nursing bras have straps that border dangerously on being sleeves, this is not cute in conjunction with regular tank top straps.  Anything that requires a strapless bra is out of the question.  Nursing and strapless bras are pretty much incompatible.  No tube tops for you.  You find another top that fits and will cover the ugly bra straps but the style of the neckline is such that you’d pretty much have to go up and over with the girls (as opposed to lifting the hem of your shirt) and while that’s not the end of the world, sometimes you just don’t wanna have an entire breast hanging out in the middle of Starbucks.  Or maybe you do.  (In which case, go for the tube top.  It would be like a buffet! For babies!)   Bottom line, I’ll never forget the day I saw a cute dress in a store, grabbed it off the rack then put it back immediately thinking, with genuine despair, “Oh this will never work.  How would I get my boobs out?!”   It’s an odd feeling to realize that you now evaluate every article of clothing based on easy breast access.  I thought I’d left all that behind in my 20’s.

Something else I feel you should know about is the overwhelming hunger and thirst you will experience.  Nursing burns through calories like crazy. It’s kind of like going to spin class for 20 minutes at a time 8+ times per day.  Except there’s very little actual movement involved and you can read or watch Food Network while you’re doing it. Also, you can (and will) eat while nursing. It’s my second favorite form of exercise.  There’s a little bit of a learning curve though.  First, you need to keep food stashed all over your house.  If you do not, you will find yourself trapped underneath an eating baby while slowly starving to death yourself.  You will not enjoy that.  So keep food nearby at all times.  You also need to figure out what kinds of food are good to eat while nursing.  As a general rule you’re going to want to avoid things that are saucy, drippy or gloppy.  Which, sadly, includes many delicious foods.  Like tacos with guacamole on them, for instance, are not really a good choice.  You will inevitably end up having to lick beans and guac off your baby’s head and that’s cool if your baby is bald but decidedly less cool if your baby has a lot of hair.  It’s hard to get a good lick in on a headful of hair.  Or so I’ve heard…ahem…  Oh yeah, and about the overwhelming thirst I mentioned: I recommend strategically placing fountains of water throughout your home.  If this is not an option, cases of bottled water will suffice.  When your baby starts nursing and your milk lets down you will immediately start to dehydrate very rapidly.  If you do not guzzle down buckets of water right away you’ll probably turn to dust on the spot.  It’s nearly happened to me twice.  Very unpleasant.

Yet another sweet and gentle aspect of breastfeeding is a little something I like to call “Taking Inventory”.  This is where you sit around looking confused and holding your boobs in an attempt to see which is heaviest and due to be nursed from next.  I find that this is where your partner suddenly takes an interest in the breastfeeding process.

Partner:  What are you doing?

You:  (gently groping yourself) Oh, just Taking Inventory.

Partner:  I see!  Do you need any help with that?

You:  Nope, I’ve got it.

Partner:  Are you sure because…

You:  No.  I’m good.

Partner:  Really, it would be no trouble.  I think I’m probably great at Taking Inventory.  I went to college.

You:  I see.  Thanks, but no thanks.  College boy.

And if that doesn’t bring you and your spouse closer together (how could it not?!?) this next one should do the trick…

The ever popular Wardrobe Malfunction.  Except in your case it’s not a malfunction it’s more like a way of life.  See, your baby is going through a growth spurt and is eating ALL THE FREAKING TIME.  Constant eating.  Around the clock EATING.  At a certain point you just give up on putting your boobs away.  There’s no point.  They really are a buffet for a baby right now and after you’ve resigned yourself to this fact you kind of…forget.  Hopefully it’s your college educated spouse who comes home from work to find a boob or two on display and not, say, the UPS guy at the front door.  Now I’ve never actually answered the door with my, umm…”buffet” hanging out but there have been some very close calls.  Like that time I finally got the baby laid down in her bed, went to the kitchen, had a little snack then beelined for the shower only to realize that I still had one boob hanging out of my shirt and nary a baby in sight.  I’ll be honest, it was a little disconcerting but I was too tired to care.

While we’re on the topic of crazy, constant, growth spurt feedings here’s another bit of advice.  Go to Sephora and ask them to give you the best under-eye concealer on the market.  I don’t care if it costs you $100 for a container the size of a quarter, just do it. Because when your baby decides that he needs to eat every 90 minutes for 3 days straight the dark circles under your eyes are really more like black holes.  Instagram hath no filter with which to remedy the likes of these.  You’re going to need some spackle or some putty or something.  Or at least some big sunglasses because you’re going to look like you’ve been punched in the face.  Repeatedly.

Let’s recap what we’ve learned here, shall we?

  • Replace all your shirts, keeping the phrase “easy access” in mind while shopping.
  • Buy lots of foods that are not guacamole.
  • Drink.  A lot.
  • Cop a feel from time to time.
  • Consider just going topless.
  • Invest in good quality makeup and/or sunglasses.

Bonus Tip: Get a charger with a really long cord for your smart phone.  You don’t want to have your phone die while you’re nursing your baby and pinning stuff at 3am, right?  How would you ever find that cupcake recipe again?!

Marleigh’s Birth Story

I love birth stories.  I like hearing all the nitty-gritty details of what it was like for other people to give birth.  I know some people totally aren’t into that and that’s ok.  I get it.  Birth is pretty gory and generally speaking, I’m not into gore.  But it’s also pretty amazing and that’s where I get sucked in.  It’s like watching the Olympics.  I’m not really into sports but show me a video montage of someone winning a medal they’ve dreamed about and shed blood, sweat and tears for and I’ll sit there riveted and sob like a baby.  Every time.

There’s also something reassuring about hearing birth stories.  Whether the birth was incredibly difficult or remarkably “easy” it’s always comforting to know that whoever is telling the story apparently lived to, well, tell about it.  I’ve always felt that if so-and-so could deliver a baby then darn it, so could I!  Presumptuous?  Maybe.  But also true.

Marleigh is my third child so I knew what I was getting into when it came to giving birth to her.  Sort of.  I mean, I had a general idea of how the process typically goes as well as the encouraging knowledge that I’d already survived the process twice before, so my chances were probably pretty good. I knew there would be an ebb and flow to the process.  That some parts would be fairly easy and other parts would make me feel like I was insane for doing this again.  I also knew that it would be oh so incredibly worth it.

I was induced on my due date for medical reasons with my firstborn.  My second child was an excruciating five days late.  I was trying to mentally prepare myself for going past my due date with Marleigh, even though I really really really didn’t want to.  However, as her due date approached I just kept having the feeling that she might come a little early.  I told that feeling to shut the hell up.  That feeling could easily turn me into a hysterical mess if I believed it and then ended up being overdue.  Yet, even as I was telling that little feeling to shove off I was also kind of hedging my bets by trying to get everything ready just in case.  I had been dilating bit by bit at my last few midwife appointments so by 39 weeks I was at 3 centimeters.  This made me happy because those were centimeters that I didn’t have to wait around for during labor.  I like to think of my cervix as being proactive.  I packed my labor bag.  Organized, sterilized and sorted things in the nursery.  Made The Hubs install the car seat. Then I just HAD to go to Target for some last-minute stuff.  I also had to pick up a gallon of some weird fish oil by-product from a friend in hopes of resurrecting my pitiful garden.  So I did those things.  I chatted with my friend about how yes, I was ready to have the baby any time but I was totally ok with going longer if needed.  I was being cool and calm about it.  Trying to show my baby that I could handle anything she threw my way.  I left my friend’s house, came home, ate a bowl of cereal, laid on my bed and felt a very distinct and forceful POP.  I froze.  (not hard to do when you’re basically an immobile, pregnant lump…)  Nothing appeared to be happening but I had to pee anyway so I got up and *whoosh* – water all down my legs.  Seeing as I’d been very confident in my continence up until this point I was pretty damn sure my water had just broken. (It was about 4:00pm and I was 39 weeks & 3 days)  I stood on the bathmat in my bathroom, intermittently trickling amniotic fluid  and determined that I was probably going to be having a baby soon.  I told The Hubs my water was broken and he jumped up, ran around getting dressed, putting on a hat (?!) and then finally asking what he should do.  It was hands down the fastest I’ve even seen him move, very impressive, but also kind of funny since by now he should know that this process takes hours.  There was more than enough hat-putting-on time left.  He was assigned to call our mothers while I called to talk to our midwife.  I was advised to just go about my business as usual for the next couple hours and wait for contractions to start, keeping in touch with my midwife via phone at this point.  It was a good plan.  But I was so shocked by the whole scenario that I was literally shaking.  I just never in a million years actually thought I’d go into labor before my due date.  Also, having your water break is sort of startling in itself.  It’s so completely involuntary and…drippy.  Very awkward.

My mom came over to watch the boys for us.  While we waited for my contractions to get going we assembled the baby’s swing and did a few other miscellaneous tasks to kill time.  After two hours, at about 6:00pm, I started having contractions that were around nine minutes apart.  By 6:30 they had progressed to being about six to seven minutes apart.  At this point, while they were nice, clear, obvious contractions they weren’t particularly painful.  Definitely uncomfortable and definitely NOT just Braxton Hicks but still really manageable.  They were like the Dwight Schrute of contractions; big, annoying enough to be noticeable but definitely not scary in any way.  No need to stop everything and breathe through them, just kind of let them do their thing and note the timing.  At 8:00pm my midwife called to check in.  I told her my contractions were pretty regular at six-plus minutes apart but not particularly painful.  We agreed that I could labor at home a while longer but that I would call her right away if my contractions increased in intensity or got closer together.  I was still feeling really good so I was totally on board with this plan.  However, thirty minutes later my contractions suddenly went to being just barely four minutes apart and feeling stronger.  So I called my midwife back, updated her and we agreed to meet at the birth center within thirty minutes.  My mom and The Hubs were feeling much more anxious about this than I was.  I’ll confess to being a wee bit spacey between contractions.  As they were trying to shuffle me out the door I was pausing by the fruit bowl to assess the avocados.  I just wanted to see if I needed to put them in the fridge!  I didn’t want them going bad, I wanted to eat them!  This is totally reasonable behavior…except, apparently, when you’re in labor with your third child and your contractions are (at this point) three and half minutes apart. And just so you know, it appears to be unacceptable to pause and look for a particular pair of flip-flops or to load a couple of dishes in the dishwasher at this point as well.  People get all weird and twitchy… like the baby’s just gonna come jumping out of your body any minute.  Believe me, babies don’t just come jumping out.  Ever.

We finally start driving to the birth center.  Though I’d been having steady contractions less than four minutes apart for a while I didn’t have even one during the fifteen minute drive.  It is NOT fun to have contractions in a moving vehicle.  But suddenly not having them?  That made me nervous.  We arrived at about 9:15pm  and saw our midwife whom we adore and who also delivered Mason.  (and who we were not-so-secrectly hoping would be on call.)  She checked my cervix and announced, “I feel hair!”  Which was not at all what I was expecting to hear.  Oddly, this was very exciting and endearing to us.  The Hubs and I whispered to each other, “Awww!  She has hair!” several times over the next hour or so.  Oh, and I was still three centimeters dilated.  Not as exciting or endearing as the hair.  Since baby and I checked out to be healthy & happy and since my contractions had tapered off on the drive over, my midwife suggested that we walk.  We had the option of walking around outside or walking the stairs inside.  I vetoed the stairs immediately.  Outside we went!  We walked and talked.  Our baby has hair!  HAIR!  We can’t wait to see the hair on her cute little baby head!  Thirty minutes or so later my contractions were back to being about seven minutes apart and I was sick of walking in circles.

Inside the birth center we went upstairs to our room, checked my blood pressure, baby’s heart rate etc. and settled in.  I sat on the birth ball and The Hubs and our midwife sat in the chairs and we all just relaxed and chatted.  It was great.  So friendly and fun and if we’d been on a patio with margaritas it would have been fabulous.  But I was supposed to be having a baby and it was taking a lot longer than I’d anticipated so I was intermittently pissed off.  My contractions just weren’t getting much closer or stronger and while that made for pleasant conversation (honestly, we were having a really good time!  It was bizarre…and nice.) it wasn’t so effective for giving birth.  I felt so guilty.  My husband and the midwife were happily chatting away and I was just feeling so incredibly guilty.  Like I was wasting everyone’s time.  Like I needed to be doing something to get this show on the road!  People are waiting to see a baby and I just wasn’t delivering.  (ha! get it?!  I’ll wait while your roll your eyes…ok, ready?)  Seriously though, I was getting so frustrated and just feeling so awful about it.  I finally interrupted and confessed all this to the midwife and The Hubs.  They were nothing but positive and supportive.  Which made me love them all the more…and feel even more guilty.  It was about 11:00pm when my midwife offered me some herbs that would help bring my contractions closer together.  I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to take them.  I didn’t say this at the time but I was just so determined to “do it myself” that I didn’t want to take something to help.  Sometimes, I’m a stubborn fool.  (Hi, My name’s Rachelle and I’m a Taurus.  Obviously.)  My midwife was so laid back and cool about my hesitation.  She just left the option open and let it go.  I spent another hour sitting, standing, rocking and on all fours guilting myself to death for not being better at having babies.  It was absurd.  At midnight, with no discernible progress, I finally caved.  I asked my midwife about the herbs and decided to go ahead and take them.  It was one silly little capsule.  It was like the freaking Matrix only you don’t get a fancy leather outfit and an instantaneous knowledge of Kung Fu.  You just get to lay down on the bed and assume that you’ll have a baby…eventually.

The Hubs and I got cozy on the big bed (advantage #78 to having your baby in a birth center) and prepared to take a little nap.  My midwife advised me that the herbs would take “at LEAST” an hour to kick in so I might as well rest.  I laid down on my side and dozed off for 20 blissful, drooly minutes before a pretty gnarly contraction woke me up.  I felt surprised but hopeful that maybe things would start progressing soon.  I tried to doze off again but another contraction kept that from happening.  Suddenly these contractions were all serious and shit.  No more la-dee-dah friendly contractions.  These contractions weren’t messing around.  I had to focus and breathe through them.  The Hubs, who claims to be a super light sleeper, snoozed his way through all my subtle writhing and not so subtle heavy breathing.  I finally decided to drag myself out of the bed to go pee before these contractions got totally out of control.  It was a good, sound decision and a total fucking beating.  As I dragged myself back from the bathroom I had to stop a few times to work through contractions.  I made it to the middle of the room, gripped the footboard of the bed, bent nearly in half and breathed like a laboring Darth Vader.  At which point my husband finally woke up and asked, “Are you having a contraction?”  (wait while I roll my eyes…ok, I’m ready.)  I did not curse at him because I’m a damn saint.  Or because I was too busy staying alive during that contraction to bother.  Maybe a bit of both.  He got out of the bed and helped me over to the birth ball because I wanted to sit down.  I sat and worked through a couple more really intense contractions before I told him to get our midwife from the next room.

It was 1:00am at this point.  She checked on the baby and I again and then sat with me while I contracted some more.  I held onto her with one hand and my husband with the other.  They just sat there patiently and quietly with me while I worked through what were now very strong and very frequent contractions.  They gave me sips of water and told me that I was doing great.  My husband started to say something heartfelt regarding his wedding ring and I shushed him because, CONTRACTIONS.  And as I sat there feeling battered by these relentless waves of pain I thought so many random things.  I thought about the irony of how I’d spent hours being frustrated that my contractions weren’t close enough or strong enough and now that they were I just wanted them to stop.  I thought about how my doula had told me (at Mason’s birth) that when I started feeling this overwhelmed that meant it was almost over and my baby would be here soon…and how I’d called her a liar…and how Mason had been born very shortly thereafter.  I literally laughed out loud at myself for thinking, “This was a terrible idea!”…because it’s *exactly* the same thought I’ve had at some point during labor for each of my kids.  I thought about how this moment was so similar to giving birth to my other kids.  The feelings of physical pain mixed with so many emotions: anticipation, worry, helplessness, determination and resolution.  Overshadowing all of those was the desire to see and hear and touch my baby.  My god, it was all just so intense.  So fucking intense.  I felt like all of this took eons.  In reality, it was about thirty minutes.  My midwife asked if I’d like to try going to the bathroom one more time.  I nearly cried.  In fact I’m 99% certain that I whimpered.  But I said yes because I knew it was a good idea.  So off to the bathroom we went.  All three of us.  It took a year – or five minutes – to walk across the room into the bathroom.  (Why the hell did I keep going all the way back to the far side of the bed?!)  I’ll spare you the details of what took place in the bathroom.  Suffice to say that I don’t even pee in front of my husband at home so this whole “crowd”  of people in the bathroom with me took some getting used to.  Even in my contraction induced haze I was not happy to have company in there.  But no way in hell was I going to let them leave.  When I could finally heave myself up from the toilet, they walked me back into the bedroom and asked if I wanted to lay on the bed.  This was another yes-but-no moment.  I DID want to lay on the bed.  Very badly.  However there was a lot of work involved in getting my huge, laboring body onto the bed that I wasn’t really interested in.  I would have preferred to levitate myself onto the bed.  Or maybe employ a crane of some kind.  Like those ones they use to transport whales and dolphins and stuff.  As it turns out, those options were not available.  So that sucked.  I did manage to climb/collapse into that bed eventually though.  And it was great for all of thirty seconds until a contraction plowed through me like a freight train.  Remember those early labor, Dwight Schrute contractions?  Kinda big, annoying and ultimately harmless?  Yeah, those were long gone.  These new contractions were like vengeful Liam Neeson; serious, relentless and scary as fuck.  They were here to get shit done.

I had about three or four contractions while lying on my side on the bed.  Then I felt the urge to push.  Which wasn’t so much an urge as it was an absolutely crushing need to push.  My midwife coached me along saying that if I felt like I needed to push that I could go ahead and do so.  I imagine she was taking her cues from the borderline inhuman sounds I was making.  (Hey, sometimes you just gotta let it all hang out.  I think giving birth is one of those times.) So I went for it.  I stayed in my side-lying position, let my midwife handle my legs (I can’t be in charge of *everything*) and pushed with all my might.  The Hubs was sitting up on the bed next to me, holding my hand and encouraging me.  My midwife handed him a sheet to cover himself with, commenting that she didn’t want him to get messy.  Side note: who wears white shorts to a birth?  The Hubs, that’s who.  God love him.

Meanwhile, I’m still pushing.

The advantage to this being my third birth is that I knew I had to just go for it.  No holds barred, full throttle yadda yadda yadda.  The more delicately or gently you try to push, the longer it takes to get the baby out.  That’s just how it works.  If you need to remove a ship from a bottle, take your time, use a little finesse, be cautious.  If you need to remove a baby from your birth canal, stop fucking around and push.  There is no need to prolong this process.

So yeah, pushing.  Because I’m babbling about it in retrospect here you might think this is taking a long time.  It’s not.  This is all happening pretty fast.  But not fast enough.  As I’m pushing I’m thinking to myself, “Ummm…this needs to be done.”  The conversation with my midwife is going something like this:

Me: THIS ISN’T WORKING!!!!!!

Her: Yes it is!  You’re doing great!  Just a little more…

The Hubs: Seriously honey, you’re doing so good!

Me: NO.  THIS IS NOT WORKING!!

Her: It is!  I promise it is!  She’s almost here.

Me: SHE NEEDS TO BE OUT!!  MAKE HER COME OUT!!!

Her: She’s coming.  You’re doing SO good…just a little more…

And what do you know?  She was right.  Marleigh came gushing into the world right about then. (It was 2:12am)  I realize I should have said something more reverent than “gushing” but I was there and gushing is definitely the right word for what happened.  My response was pretty reverent though.  I let loose with an ecstatic, “Oh my god!!” because nothing in the world feels quite as amazing as having your baby OUT of your body.  All that pain, all those crazy thoughts and intense feelings were suddenly just gone.  As if someone flipped a switch.  I felt amazing as my baby girl was laid on my chest.  She was all chubby cheeks and dark hair covered in vernix.  She was absolute perfection.  She was so calm, opening her eyes and looking into my face.  I couldn’t believe this glorious, goopy little creature was mine.  She was healthy!  She was female!  She made me so happy and proud just because she existed.  What a brave, strong, darling little girl.

As I basked in the glow of my gorgeous daughter, the midwife took the opportunity to tell me that she had been born with her arm up by her head.  For those that don’t know much about giving birth, the ideal scenario is that only the baby’s head comes out first and all the other body parts follow after.  The head is quite large enough, thank you.  No need to go adding to its girth.  It is, then, less than ideal when the baby decides to bring out extra parts along with the head.  I was not amused.  Though it did explain that whole “THIS ISN’T WORKING!!!!” feeling I’d been having while pushing.  I said as much to my midwife and she nodded, saying that she’d been inwardly cringing for me as she encouraged me to just keep going.  If that woman’s Poker Face is anything like her Assisting a Birth Face she needs to take her cute self to Vegas immediately. I had no idea that there was anything other than textbook perfect crowning baby going on down there.

After happily chatting, getting checked up and cleaned up I was able to settle in with some snacks and just enjoy our new baby.  It was blissful.  A sweet, healthy baby girl.  A loving husband.  Two fun little boys waiting for us at home.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I truly have everything I’ve ever wanted in life.  And it was worth every single struggle, heartbreak and yes, all that blood, sweat and tears to get here.

There is a quote by Martin Luther King Jr that says, “Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained…their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.”

This moment, was one of those.

I Don’t Mean to Brag but…

Our newest family member, Marleigh Juliana, was born just over two weeks ago.  On her older brother’s birthday.  Because she has no problem asserting herself.  She is sweet, chubby and cuddly.  Everything a newborn baby should be.  Her brothers absolutely love her.  Max is thrilled to pieces each and every time she opens her eyes and looks at him.  Mason, whose birthday she so boldly took, literally cannot be in the same room with her without touching her; kissing her, gently patting her head or poking her tiny feet.  It’s pretty adorable.  Overall, I would say both boys are adjusting very well to having a little sister.

As for me, well, I think I’m doing ok too.  When people ask me how I’m adjusting to life with three kids, I’m not always sure what to say to them.  How do you know you’re doing well?  There’s a pretty wide range of success markers to gauge yourself with.  Anywhere from “Well, We’re All Alive” to “Why Yes, These Are My Skinny Jeans and I DID Just Churn That Butter By Hand”.  So I started taking stock of my recent successes to see where I stand.  I think you’ll be pretty impressed.

  • I have washed my hair three times since giving birth.  This is right on par with my pre-baby hair washing average.  A clear win.
  • I have not peed my pants even once.  (If you’ve ever had a baby, you totally get this.)
  • All three children have been fed daily, multiple times per day.
  • I did not scream, “HOLY FUCKING SHITBALLS!!!!” every time Marleigh latched on to nurse the first week.
  • I’m pretty sure I got very nearly three hours of sleep the other night.
  • I have cooked fish sticks, salad and blueberry muffins.  Not all on the same day, obviously, that would be crazy.
  • I remembered to order diapers from amazon.
  • I have managed to get all my kids fed, dressed and out the door before 9am on three separate occasions.
  • I’ve gone grocery shopping and remembered pretty much everything.  For the most part.  Sort of.
  • I only broke down sobbing twice when literally EVERYONE in my family got sick and/or got pink eye right after we brought Marleigh home.
  • I did not completely lose my shit when our air conditioner went out pretty much the moment that everyone in the family was finally healthy again.  Because that wasn’t frustrating at all.
  • I was told by the nurse doing my post-partum exam that I have “…really firm abdominal muscles…” and “…a remarkably fast-shrinking uterus!”  I assume this is all underneath the generous layer of squishy tummy that I’m sporting right now.  Regardless, I’m clearly a fine specimen of human female. Don’t be jealous.
  • I have brushed my teeth every day.  Except one.
  • I can change a diaper in the dark.
  • The baby has only peed on me twice. So far.
  • I have cut the baby’s nails without injury (to her) or panic attacks (for me).
  • My one-handed Pinterest-ing while breastfeeding skills are pretty epic.

Also, I managed to write this blog post in under a week.

I think I’m getting the hang of this.  My next goals are to shower daily and actually FOLD the laundry.  At that point I should be able to qualify for the Motherhood Olympics.  I’ll probably win.  Unless there’s a swim suit competition.