Alma and Harriet are getting a new cousin very, very soon, so that meant it was time for a new quilt! I love this one. It is so cheerful. I’m also really happy with it because it uses only fabrics that I already owned. That means that there are already memories, love, and other babies connected to this quilt. I can see pieces from sheets I made for my friend’s baby, parts of quilts for two of my nephews, Alma’s Halloween costume/apron, Alma’s and Harriet’s weekly photo projects, Harriet’s baby quilt. You see, lots of love.
Our new family member is being born far away in Minnesota, to my step-brother and his wife. They chose to wait until birth to find out if the baby is a boy or a girl. We did this with Alma, and really loved the experience. I think this quilt will be perfect no matter who they have.
The quilting got a little wonky, but hey. Whatever. Gives it that homemade-with-love character. You can’t buy that in a store!
We are all so excited to meet you, little baby. You are already so, so loved. Even though I know it will be quite a while before I get to meet you, I’m glad your parents will be able to wrap you up in this quilt that I made for you, with love.
Here’s some great news for those of you who are art lovers, and live in Oregon – because of a wonderful tax loop-hole, we get to experience amazing masterpieces. As a New York Times article from a few weeks ago explains, when art buyers at the big auction houses in New York buy a new work of art there are huge taxes included; but if these buyers agree to loan their new purchases to museums in tax-friendly states, the buyers can avoid the taxes.
I see this as a win-win, at least for those of us who are able to enjoy these purchases. Another great thing is that these are pieces that are usually in private collections, so they are rarely seen in public. Pretty cool.
My dad told me about this, and about how the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art has both a Van Gogh and a Chagall right now. These are two of my favorite artists. I usually have to travel quite a distance to see their art in person.
My mom also told me about an exhibit that she really loved. So we decided to head down after naps.
I have lots of memories of the U of O Art Museum (as it used to be more simply known) from when I was a kid. I loved the courtyard, with its pool, arches, brick. Back when I was a girl there was a statue in the water, and koi swam around in the pool. My dad says that when he was a student, he would read in the courtyard – and when I took some summer classes, I kept up that tradition. A couple years ago some of our best friends were married in the courtyard.
So, we always start in the courtyard.
After the courtyard, we went upstairs to see the exhibit my mom wanted to show us. It was very impressive. Then we went to look for the Van Gogh. On the way, Alma was intrigued by an installation mixed media piece called “Medusa Smack” by Vanessa Renwick. I wasn’t sure how Alma would feel about it – it is in a dark room, under a huge umbrella, with strange music playing.
Alma was amazed. My mom and I spent most of the time watching Alma’s expression change as the images projected onto the umbrella changed. It was one of those moments when I am so incredibly grateful to get to be her mom. I can’t really explain it. It was art, watching my daughter interact with a piece of art.
We decided that we needed to go back a couple days later, with Jesse and my step-dad.
Another amazing program that the JSMA has right now is a children’s program. They have some backpacks full of exploratory art activities. Alma didn’t really care about what was in the backpack, but she absolutely loved carrying the backpack around the museum.
I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time. For quite a while I couldn’t even think about it. Tonight, going through the photos, I realized it’s still hard to look at some of them.
I know there are a lot of traumatic birth stories out there. This isn’t one of them. Alma’s birth wasn’t traumatic, scary, or even particularly difficult. What it was was long.
So, here goes…
It begins on New Year’s Eve, 2012. Four days past my due date. We had been preparing for the birth of our child at the Midwifery and Birth Center, so I was trying really hard to keep with their philosophies. I was trying not to cling to the due date. But when you are over 9 months pregnant, it’s hard to do anything.
Anyway, New Year’s. We had taco salad bowls, played games, and hung out with our best friends at their house. At midnight, we watched the ball drop, I had a sip of champagne, we watched the neighbor’s fireworks, and went home. I knew I wouldn’t have a 2011 baby, because 2011 come and gone. I knew I wouldn’t have a December baby because December had come and gone.
January 1, 2012:
We were in bed by about 1:45. I woke up at 4:15, in pain. It was enough to wake me up, but not enough to have to concentrate on. And it went away. Then it came back a few minutes later. Then it went away. And came back. After about an hour, I started to believe that it was actually happening. I woke Jesse up to tell him it was happening, but also told him to try to go back to sleep. Everyone told us to sleep during early labor, but I was just too excited.
We called my mom at about 7:30, and told her she should get ready to head over later in the morning. I wanted Jesse and mom there with me in the room. She came over at about 9:30.
By this time I was feeling contractions about every 5 minutes, and they were lasting between 45 seconds and a minute. They weren’t too difficult, but they were increasing quickly.
We called the midwife who was on call, Chris, and she said we should head in to get checked. It was about noon. When we walked in, she looked at me, and almost laughed. She could tell, by looking at my smiling, excited face that we were not close to being ready to get checked in. She checked, and I was only 2 cm dilated, so she said we should go home.
I was most comfortable on my feet, rocking back and forth. I liked leaning on things that were about shoulder height, like the dresser and the staircase.
At about 5, Chris called and said she wanted to see me again before the shift changed, and another midwife would be on call. We went back to the Birth Center. This time it was Patricia who checked me. While I was having 1 minute long contractions every 4 minutes or so, I was still not very dilated. Patricia explained very understandingly that we would probably be more comfortable at home.
During all of this, my dad and step-mom were having a belated Christmas celebration with my siblings who couldn’t be with us on Christmas. My dad was cooking my favorite meal, and offered to bring leftovers over for Jesse. I was in no mood for the amazingly rich foods. Dad came over at about 8 and sat with me for a while. I was on my side in bed, and I remember him just talking softly with me and telling me how proud he was. He sat with me for awhile, while Jesse ate his dinner. Then Jesse came in, and my dad went to sit with my mom in the living room.
From my bedroom, I could hear my parents talking softly in the living room. It was a beautiful comfort to me, to hear them talking together, just like when I was young and I would hear their voices drift into my bedroom as I fell asleep. My mom later told me that they spent the time remembering when my brother and I were born.
After my dad left, I spent a few hours moving around the house, taking long showers, and trying to be comfortable.
January 2nd, 2012:
We went back to the Birth Center to see Patricia again at about 2 in the morning. This time, she didn’t even take us into a birth room. She just checked me in an exam room. I think she knew I wasn’t ready yet, and that it would be better to avoid the birthing rooms. She was right. I hadn’t dilated much in the ten hours we had been at home.
I was really disappointed. I had been working hard. I had been laboring for almost 24 hours, and felt that it was long past the time to meet this baby. I also couldn’t imagine how bad it was going to get if what I was feeling was just the beginning.
Back at home, I moved between the bathroom window, the staircase, lying in bed, and the shower.
Sometime in the early morning mom picked up on a breathing pattern that I was naturally falling into. During each contraction I would see a line of things in my mind and each went with a breath. The first were 3 planks of wood. They were long and wide and would come one at a time, each with a long, deep breath. Then I would see 2 flowers. They would come with two smaller, more shallow breaths. Then one more plank of wood and a deep breath. I have no idea where this visualization came from, but it was what I saw. Mom would talk me through it, saying “Long, deep breath, another deep breath, one more. Short breath, again. Deep breath. Okay, it’s over. Good.” There were a couple contractions where the visualization would be different, like 4 planks of wood instead of 3, and I would get all thrown off and confused. One time, the contraction kept going, and the planks of wood kept coming into my vision. So strange. I was never able to explain what I was seeing because the contractions were so close together.
At 7 am, we went back to the Birth Center. The nurse was there, and she checked me. I was finally far enough along that they would allow me to stay. I don’t think they really wanted me to, but they understood that I had already been in labor for over 24 hours, and it had been pretty active for at least 18 hours.
I got into the birthing tub and was able to fall asleep between – and even during – some contractions. It was the first sleep I had gotten since the 3 hours I got on New Year’s Eve.
We spent the day walking between the windowsill, the dresser, the sink, and sometimes lying in bed. I always wanted my upper back lightly rubbed. I think it was the comfort of being touched by Jesse or my mom. They later joked that they were afraid of rubbing a hole in the robe.
We were a really good team. Mom and Jesse supported me constantly. I wouldn’t even really notice when they would trade off. I think they each took turns eating, or dozing, or resting.
At 4 pm, Patricia suggested breaking my water, but they would have to find a vein to give my IV fluids. I have difficult veins normally, but at this point I hadn’t really eaten in almost 2 days, and had hardly had anything to drink. Patricia and the nurse tried really hard, but couldn’t find a vein in my arms or my hands. I don’t think I even really noticed, I was so focused on the contractions and breathing. Patricia decided to break my water anyway.
Things kept progressing slowly. Jessica, the nurse, would come in every 15 minutes to monitor the baby’s heartbeat through a contraction. The heartbeat was always strong, and Jessica was never concerned. My contractions were still long and close together and difficult.
At about 6, Patricia had a talk with me about how things were going well, but that I needed to stay active and keep trying different positions. She was leaving and the new midwife was coming in. I was really disappointed because I had really appreciated Patricia and all her calm, generous support.
By this time, I was so tired that I would have a contraction and almost immediately fall asleep until the next one. I would fall asleep standing at the windowsill, or lying in bed. The new midwife, Hilary, wanted to talk to me, but I knew she would have to make it quick. Hilary felt the baby and thought it might be posterior, and that I was only about 6 cm. She told me that she wanted to see things start happening soon. She wasn’t forceful, but I got the feeling that she was serious.
Hilary went out to talk to Jesse in the hallway, where he was eating dinner. While they were gone, I talked to mom and decided that it was time to think about some other options. I was absolutely exhausted. I had been up, laboring for almost 40 hours. I could see that it was going to be many more hours before I was even ready to push. I didn’t feel like I would make it. I was just so tired.
When Jesse and Hilary came in, I told them that I needed to rest. Hilary started suggesting ways I could sleep in the bath, or on the ball, and I just interrupted her and said, “No, Hillary, I’m talking about an epidural.”
One of the best things about our Birth Center is that it is basically next door to an amazing hospital. The midwives are all licensed, and the Birth Center is connected to the hospital. To get an epidural, we had to transfer to the hospital. Hilary outlined the steps for us – follow her in our car on the back roads, take the staff elevator, skip admitting, go straight to our room.
This was when everything got really hard. I had to walk all the way across the parking garage, through the hallways, we were in an unknown place (a place I had been trying to avoid), and I knew that I was getting an epidural soon. I totally lost focus and had some really difficult contractions. It was amazing to realize that my visualizations and focus were really keeping a lot of the pain away. At one point, I even started to panic until my mom realized that I was just having a contraction and talked me through my breaths.
Once I got the epidural everything changed. I was able to have a conversation with Hilary. We connected over the fact that we are both Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. I was relaxed and excited. The Ducks had played in the Rose Bowl, and I had been consciously not asking if they had won – I felt that I would be too discouraged if I learned they had lost. Once I got the epidural, I asked for the result and found out they had won.
At 9:30, they turned the lights down and told us to sleep. We were all exhausted. Mom slept on the couch, and Jesse slept on the tile floor. He was so tired, I’m not sure he minded.
January 3rd, 2012:
At 1:15 in the morning, mom woke up and told Jesse to move to the couch. She then sat next to me in the chair and we both dozed. I remember trying to sleep, but being really excited again.
At 3, our nurse – another Patricia – suggested that I try a practice push. She turned off the epidural and I tried. After a few practice pushes, I started to feel the pressure and the urge to push. Hilary came in and I started pushing in earnest.
Hilary, Jesse, and Patricia were incredibly encouraging. With every push the told me how well I was doing. One time, after a push, no one said anything. I got mad and said “Why didn’t anyone say good job?” Hilary replied that it hadn’t been a very good push, so I was encouraged to try harder with my next one.
At 5, the assistant nurse brought in the bassinet and more tools. I had the feeling we were getting close. I had been pushing for two hours, so I felt like things had better be getting close.
At 5:30, Hilary and Patricia told us that the baby had long hair. I asked when the baby would be born. I asked if it would take hours and hours. Hilary said it wouldn’t be hours – that the baby would be born before it was light out.
They asked if I wanted a mirror – I didn’t. I was afraid that it would look like nothing was happening and I would get discouraged.
At one point I lost my courage and asked if everyone cried between pushes. Hilary or Patricia told me that all women lose their bravery at some point.
At 6, Jesse moved to the end of the bed so he could catch the baby. I was so determined. During each contraction, I would push 5 or 6 times. I wanted to meet my baby.
The head came out. The cord was wrapped around the neck. Hilary slid it off.
At 6:15 the baby fell into Jesse’s hands. Jesse put the baby on my chest. I said, “What is she?” Jesse had been so overwhelmed, he had forgotten to check the gender. He looked and said “It’s a girl!” That was when I met Alma.
Friday the 23rd: Happenstance. While waiting for our food at the Fisherman’s Market, a good friend from my past was also waiting. It was lovely catching up with her, since she’s moving back east in just a couple weeks.
Saturday the 24th: Eugene.Seriously. We are lucky to live in the amazing town with mountains in the morning and museums in the afternoon.
Sunday the 25th: Fitbit.Really loving this new ‘toy.’
Monday the 26th: Memorial. While I hate war, and basically everything it stands for, I’m grateful for all those who have lost their lives as a result. Not grateful that they went to war in the first place, but respectful of their conviction and sacrifice.
Tuesday the 27th: Half Days. Subbing is awesome. Subbing half days is super awesome.
Wednesday the 28th: Mom.She is a great babysitter, project instigator, confidant, and friend.
Thursday the 29th: Dates & Dad & Deena.I know, I know. This should be one word. But these three words are very tied together in this instance. My dad and step-mom watched the kids, fed them, and put them to bed so Jesse and I could have an amazing date night.
As I have said before, I love having real art in my house. It feels special to have art that not everyone else has. While we can’t afford to go to local galleries and buy original paintings, I have to find other ways to fill our house with original (or at least rare) works of art.
I did this painting a couple years ago. I had seen some like it on Pinterest or Etsy or somewhere. I decided that I could do it myself, but use my favorite books. I did it over a weekend when Jesse was out of town (and before I had any babies).
I did it to scale, meaning I just took the book, laid it on its spine and traced it onto the canvases. I used two canvases because I didn’t have one the right size on hand. I could have gone to buy one, but this was cheaper and easier. And that’s the way a roll. Cheap and lazy.
These are all my favorite books. Sure, I might be a little embarrassed to admit a couple, (ahem) but I have to live my own truth. Haha. Sure, I should have used a smaller brush, or perhaps more patience with the writing, but I like how it ended up. I like how it looks handmade and imperfect.
It hangs in our hallway, so I see it multiple times a day. Sure, it might be a little small for its space, but things move around in our house a lot, so I’m sure it will live somewhere more fitting someday. For now it works, and I love it.
I’ve become a little bit obsessed with keeping a record of how we live our days.
It all started when Alma was a baby, and I got a keepsake calendar (affiliate link) like this one where I wrote down everything we did each day. This calendar is great because it comes with milestone stickers that say things like 1st tooth, crawling, and waves bye-bye. It’s great to have a record of when Alma reached these milestones. It also helped a lot when I forgot to write these things down in her baby book! I could just go check the calendar!
Of course, I had to get a calendar like this when Harriet was born. These calendars are for the girls. I write in second person, telling them what they did, how they were growing. I’m sure they won’t be interested in reading these until they are a lot older, but I love knowing that their first years are recorded for them.
One way I like to keep track of my days is on index cards. I’m sure I saw this on Pinterest or something, but the idea is you have an index card for each date, and over the years, you fill in what you do on each date.
I started doing this in January, but since I had kept track of every day in 2012 (Alma’s first year), I went back and filled in that year. I also used my wall calendar (where I write down all our appointments, trips, sub jobs, etc) to fill in 2013 as well as I could.
I used a different color ink pad for the edges of each month. I just grabbed the stack of cards for each month, and rubbed it along the stamp pad.
I love looking back and seeing what we were doing on this date last year, and the year before. It’s always fun to see that I subbed at the same school, or that we went to the same park. I love those little coincidences of the rhythm of our lives.
The last thing I do to record our lives is connected to my One Little Word of 2014. My friend Katrina gave me this for Christmas. It is just a blank for each day of the year. Since I already use the index cards to record what we do, I wanted to find another way to use this gift. I decided to write down what I’m grateful for each day. [I wrote a little more about this here] I have really loved recording this bit of goodness each day.
I also really love when I see patterns develop. I tend to be grateful for people, rather than things – I think that is lovely.
This brings us to how I do all this record keeping. Here are my tips:
Keep everything out in the open. If I see it everyday, I’m much more likely to actually write down what we’ve done.
Try to keep up. If I do it each night, it makes my life much easier.
If you miss days, don’t sweat it. I usually can remember what we’ve done, or I can check with Jesse and he can help. I have gotten about a week behind a couple times, and that’s difficult. Sometimes I’m sure I’m not remembering everything we did, but I’m okay with that.
Friday the 16th: Culture. In the morning, I took the girls and my mom to story time at the library. Then we tried to go to the art museum. We ran out of time, but we got to eat at the cafe, and see some of the outdoor sculptures. Then, we went to hear my step-dad’s band play at a benefit. Lots of fun culture!
Saturday the 17th:Pedicure.I don’t really need to explain why I’d be grateful for a pedicure do I?
Sunday the 18th: Plans. We had some friends over for lunch, and planned a really fun vacation with them this summer! Now all we need to do is wait! Oh man!
Monday the 19th: Subbing. Seriously. Subbing is the best. No grading, no planning. Monday was a half-day job, too, so no pressure. I get to hang out with kids, see what they’re working on, teach a couple lessons (sometimes), and take off.
Tuesday the 20th: Growing.
Wednesday the 21st: Art.This time mom and I actually made it into the museum with the girls. And boy was it cool! There are some great exhibits at the U of O Art Museum these days. “Medusa Smack” was Alma’s favorite.
Thursday the 22nd: Pool.Alma loved playing in her pool for the first time this summer. I can’t wait for more swimming time with my little fish.
For years, I have been trying to plan a trip to the rhododendron gardens just right. I always seem to miss it. A couple weeks ago, I was sitting in my living room, looking at our beautiful red rhody, my neighbor’s purple one, and another neighbor’s yellow one. It hit me. This was the perfect weekend to go. So we went. And it was perfect.
I love that we are able to expose our kids to nature so easily. We are so blessed to live in a place with nature so nearby. Even though Hendrick’s Park is a very landscaped, planned garden, it feels wild and natural. It rises above the city, and surrounds you with flowers, and branches.
It is lovely. And I’m really proud that we finally went right on time.
Friday the 9th: Imagination. I am constantly amazed by Alma’s imagination. This is such a fun age.
Saturday the 10th: Play. I love how Alma can play while we work. Also, we saw an amazing play at Oregon Contemporary Theatre starring my beautiful and talented friend Hillary Ferguson. Go see it!
Sunday the 11th: Mothers.
Monday the 12th: Babies.
Tuesday the 13th: Work.
Wednesday the 14th: Daniel. We got to have lunch with my incredible brother, who is now on vacation in Europe before moving to Virginia.
Thursday the 15th: Forgiveness. I had to be very forgiving as it was possibly my worst day as a parent. Lots of different bodily fluids all over. Also grateful at my daughters’ capacity to forgive my frustration.