Friday, July 30, 2010

Show us your pearly whites

Chloë had her first dentist appointment this past Tuesday. It was a very cheerful place, with trees painted on the walls and stuffed animals (and a mobile clock) hanging everywhere in the waiting room. In the actual work area there were more paintings and pictures, and a long strip of pacifiers that the dentists had bought from the kids.

Chloë currently has eight teeth, and the gums over her first molars are showing signs of being stretched tight, the dentist said. He wants us to floss between her two first teeth, because they're touching. I think he's funny. Floss her teeth? When we can't even get in there to brush them half the time lately?

He used the "lap method" to examine her mouth, which involved having her sit on my lap facing me and then lowering her to be supine on his lap, with his hands around her jaw. She screamed. A lot. She hated the taste of the toothpaste (we verified this later by putting the tiniest bit on her toothbrush at home, which he'd suggested), she hated having her mouth pried open, she hated having this strange man peering into her face and scrubbing at her precious teeth.

"Bringing her in early will make her more willing to go to the dentist later in life," he said. I was skeptical, what with all the screaming. She was appeased by the duck offering at the end, though. Perhaps we'll return. (What's with the ducks?)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dear Chloe

Dearest Chloë,

Today you are one. --Actually, today you have been one for three-and-a-bit days. But with your Grandpa Shafer visiting, and your birthday party, I haven't had much time to sit down and write this, and the days don't make such a great difference as they did a year ago. Though the weeks and months certainly do. You've changed so much even from last month, and the difference between today and a year ago today is tremendous.

You were a big baby, a healthy baby, born after a long labor into a sunset. (That's where the and-a-bit comes in. It's nighttime now, and you've just gone to bed, willingly, with your new ladybug planetarium night light.) Right after you were born, one of the nurses taking care of you came to me and said, "You are awesome!" She said it because I had just given birth to an eight-pound, three-ounce OP baby without drugs, and I laughed, but I felt awesome. I had you.

(I also had a ton of endorphins and enkephalins bouncing around my system, I'm sure.)

The first couple of weeks after your birth didn't go as well as I would have liked. You got bad jaundice, partly because we were having feeding troubles. You wouldn't latch on, or if you did you wouldn't stay on, and I hurt a lot and couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. I remember that my mom, your halmoni, took you away crying after a feeding session, because I was crying too. She said, "I think she's hungry." I snapped, "I know she's hungry!" and kept on crying. It didn't occur to me that we had a truly serious problem. Luckily, your dad had called the pediatrician and they had said to bring you in, so when you were eight days old they checked you over, sent us to St. Luke's (where your cousins Addie and Raegan were born) and ended up sending you to the NICU at Toledo Hospital to be put under the blue lamps to treat you for jaundice and weight loss. You spent four days there, which made your identifying bracelet with its "age: 8 days" funny when you were released. Your dad and I camped there the entire time, except when one of us went out to get something to eat or home to shower. Your grandparents came to visit, too. You lay under the lights, placidly, and slowly went from orange to pink. At your last heel-stick to check your bilirubin level you screamed, as you hadn't for your first, and I was glad to hear you sounding like a normal baby, even though I hated to hear you cry.

As far as we know, there were no lasting effects from the jaundice, but I felt terrible knowing that I had half-starved you and put you at risk for neurological damage. I still do. It triggered post-partum depression (not very serious, but enough that I had to be treated for it), which made your first few months a mostly unhappy time for me. I'm sorry I wasn't able to enjoy you very much then, though I don't think you noticed. You were still slowly recovering from the last of the jaundice, since we were nursing, which made things slower (but the pediatrician approved, so we continued). And a newborn doesn't do much but sleep and look around and eat and sleep again. I was always the one to get up with you, after the first couple of nights, because you usually wanted nursing--and I was mortally afraid of letting you be hungry, ever, after the NICU episode. This may be why you've been 50th percentile for height but 90-95th for weight for almost your entire life.

Once you were about three months old, and able to hold up your head, you became a lot more fun. You started showing hints of personality. You didn't sleep as much as I could have wished, but you get that honestly, from both of your parents. I was excited about introducing you to new foods at four months, and taking you to see my side of the family at five. At six months you were sitting up, playing with toys, babbling, and trying out a sippy cup; at seven you were thinking about crawling and discovering your feet; at eight you were starting to reach for people (mainly me) and eat some real table foods. At nine months you were crawling everywhere and starting to cruise; at ten months you were treating the world as your plaything and me as your chewtoy; at eleven months you were standing on your own, dancing, and learning to communicate--especially "up" and "down" and "WHY DID YOU TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME I HAAAAAATE YOUUUUUU." All along you've been curious, happy, sure of what you want, sure of our love, and we've loved you more every day.

And here you are at twelve months, one full year. If you were walking I'd have to call you a toddler. You're not, quite, but you're perilously close. If you've got something to hold onto--Daddy's hand or my shirt or a wall--you'll step confidently along, but we haven't yet persuaded you to try taking a step unsupported. Your Grandpa Shafer says that someday you'll just do it without realizing it. You can crawl fast, and climb stairs without a thought. You've just learned how to climb down from the couch. I don't think you've realized you can translate that skill to stairs, but it's only a matter of time.

You're eating table foods almost exclusively now. You won't accept baby food by itself, though we've spread it on toast and mixed it with pasta and you'll eat it that way. You're happy with both bottles and sippy cups, and we're still nursing, though your teeth (eight now) are in the way more and I may start actively weaning if you don't stop gnawing on me. I'm still a little afraid of letting you be hungry, which I'm in turn afraid will make me make you overweight. It's something to work on. But you're healthy and the doctor isn't worried, and you're happy to eat almost everything we give you, so I think we're doing well.

I took you outside today and you crawled around in the grass, looking with interest at the fallen twigs and the cicada molt, insects fleeing as you trampled the ground. You cried and screamed when I stopped you from crawling onto the sidewalk toward the street, and then into the neighbor's yard, and then onto the narrow bit of porch that dead-ends over the garden and that I wouldn't have been able to retrieve you from. You have such a temper. You get it from me--hot but short-lived. People keep saying you do (your grandparents, mostly, and your Aunt Bev). I hope it won't get you in the trouble mine has gotten me. I'll try to be forgiving of it.

You get a lot of your looks from me, too, but your eyes are like your father's, changeable but mostly gray-blue on the outside, golden brown on the inside. You got your first haircut the other day, just a trim of the bangs, and it makes you look older. You had a fringy mohawk in your first several months, which I loved, but I love your not-quite-a-toddler looks now, too. You are a beautiful baby.

We read with you a lot. When we nurse in your room, you generally point to the bookcase afterward, and I pull out books and read them to you--or as much as you'll let me before you turn the pages. You turn them at my request if I've by some miracle finished the page before you're ready. You respond to other commands, too--"Give me that, please," when you've picked up a bit of trash from the floor, or "Stop," or "Let go." (Most of the time.) You got a bunch of toys for your birthday, including a shape sorter, and you've already figured out that you're supposed to put the blocks through the sides, though you haven't figured out why they don't fit when you shove them haphazardly at the holes. You're fond of knocking toys together to hear the different sounds. You got a foam puzzle mat for your birthday as well, and I put part of it together on the landing because you like to crawl up and play there, and it's hardwood flooring and I thought the mat would be softer. It is, but you prefer to sit on the hard floor and tear up the mat one piece at a time. You're a funny girl. You love the "Where's Chloë?" game, and you clap your hands to your head sometimes, either to cover your eyes or to say "Oh no!" I'm never quite sure which, but I can never help laughing when you do it. You growl sometimes, for no reason we can tell. We growl back, which pleases you. I call you Chloë Bear and Baby Bear because of it, and you answer to those names (as well as all the other ones we call you, though usually when you're Whiny Butt you're in no mood to respond to any name).

You laughed at me the other day when I came downstairs. I don't know why. Your grandpa says you would pretend to cough on your strawberries, then start giggling. You don't laugh a lot in general, but that only makes it more precious when you do. You laugh sometimes when you're held upside down, or when your daddy is tossing you around, or when you reach toward me at dinner with messy hands and I jump back in mock fear. You're never worried that I'm really avoiding you; you just love the game. You cling to me, and to a lesser extent to your daddy, and while it can be a bit wearisome it's also precious, and I'll miss it when it's gone. I love your hugs and your upraised arms (though I'm trying to say "You want up?" to get you to talk, since you don't have any words yet), and your small warm hands on my leg as you're standing, looking around, secure on home base but thinking about making a run for it. I know you will before long. I'll be cheering you on, but I'll be a little sorry not to have all your affection and confidence to myself (sharing with your dad, of course).

I have loved having you as a daughter more than I thought I would, more than I feared in those first dark months, more than I hoped when I was pregnant with you and when your dad and I talked about having a child. I don't even mind the diaper changes, or I wouldn't if you didn't wiggle so much. You are your own brand-new person, my bright-eyed girl with her finger in her mouth and her mind in constant motion, fitting together the pieces of your world. I'm glad I'm one of the pieces. I'm looking forward to year two: learning to walk, learning to talk, learning about boundaries and colors and family members and probably time-outs. Helping you become more you. I want more of you. Happy birthday, baby girl. I love you.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chloë's birth story, part three

In honor of Chloë's upcoming first birthday, I thought I'd *cough* actually finish the birth story. Recap: I ate a cracker, my water broke, we drove to the hospital at our leisure, the nurses laughed at me, we napped, we walked for miles, things hurt, we moved around, things hurt more, I tried the Jacuzzi, I got to 8-9 cm at around noon...

...Time rolled on. Things hurt. I kept looking at the clock opposite my bed, thinking, this has to be over by nine or they're going to cart me off to surgery. "You're still not quite fully dilated," Amy said some time later, checking me again. "I can still see the cervical lip. Let me see--maybe we can push it out of the way--" She did things with her fingers. It hurt, but so did everything during a contraction--though between contractions I felt fine, other than exhausted. I didn't hear whether it worked. She walked in and out. So did Shannon occasionally. "Trust me, this baby won't flop out on the floor," Amy said, and I was disappointed.

You won't necessarily get a C-section if we go past twenty-four hours," Shannon said, when I said something about my deadline. "It's just that the risk of infection is greater, so we'll have to do a sepsis check on the baby." That didn't sound great, but I was glad to hear that I wasn't necessarily headed for the operating room if I never got to pushing stage, which is how it was starting to feel.
They kept taking my temperature and the baby's heartbeat every half hour. Eventually, around two or three, the pain started to change to a different sensation. "I'm starting to feel the urge to push," I said, and Amy, who had just walked in, said, "Hallelujah!"

It's hard to describe how it felt, and it still hurt, a lot, which I had understood wasn't supposed to happen. "Where are you feeling the pain?" Amy asked me again. "In the front or the back?"

"In the front," I said. I was trying to push, but the need to do so wasn't strong enough yet, and she said, "Don't push if you don't feel you need to." That made sense, but I was so tired, and everything hurt, and I just wanted to be done.
The need-to-push sensation grew, but the pain didn't abate. I continued to scream during contractions and rest between times. I felt absolutely no pain when I wasn't actively in a contraction, and I started to doze during those times.

Eventually Amy and Shannon were there together again and Amy said, "You're turning the energy of your contractions mostly to screaming, not to pushing." Shannon said to me, "Okay, Jenny. You're not allowed to scream anymore." I felt indignant. So they thought I was goofing off? Did they think I liked screaming? "When the next contraction comes, I want you to hold your breath and push until I say."

The next one came, and she said, "Take a breath!" I did, and bore down. "Let it out! Take a breath! And breathe."

This was now what we did every contraction. They had me try a birthing bar for my legs, which I hated, and then for my arms, which was okay for a short while. Every time I got the sensation that another contraction was starting, Shannon coached me: "Take a breath. Let it out. Take a breath. Breathe."

It really did help, and I worried less about the other mothers on the floor, but it tired me out even more. I had given up trying different positions and was now lying on my back, with Eric/Shannon/Amy/Martha holding my legs up during contractions. I felt vaguely guilty about making them do it, and about being on my back, which my books said is actually a lousy labor position, but I was so tired. So tired. I was still dozing between contractions, and closing my eyes during them, and starting to think that maybe surgery wasn't going to be so bad after all.

Then, during a contraction, I fell asleep.

It was only for a fraction of a second. Then I woke up, disoriented, and didn't understand where I was or why I was in pain or why people were shouting at me and holding me. I cried out, and kicked away the hands holding my legs, and the contraction petered to a halt, and Eric said frantically, "What? What?" By then I was remembering where I was, and I tried to say "I was dreaming," meaning I had fallen asleep, but I was still so disoriented it didn't come out straight.

"She's hallucinating," he groaned. He moved to my side and said, "What's your name?"


"Where are we?"

"At the hospital." I said it brightly, realizing that he was trying to check my lucidity and wanting to tell him that I was okay now, but figured it was easier just to answer him. Probably I just sounded insane.

"Why are we here?"

"To have our baby."

"Okay," he said, and stumbled backward.

"Hey!" I said, and Martha moved to steady him.

"I'm okay," he said. "Not enough food or drink..."

He got trail mix and some of my water. The next contraction started, and I kept my eyes open. Knowing Eric was worried about me--and being worried about him--helped me focus, and I stayed awake.

An hour or so passed, and I was still pushing. "You're doing okay," Amy said, during a sort of team meeting between contractions. "But the baby's heartbeat isn't doing as well as it was. If you can't get this done soon, I'm going to have to call [the obstetrician associated with the midwife group], and we don't want that." I took it as sort of an insult and sort of a threat--"You're doing lousy and you better shape up or we'll shape you up"--but it did renew my energy, a little.

"You're making progress," Shannon said encouragingly, during some contraction. "Look, you can reach in and feel where she is." I declined, because I was afraid if it was too far, I'd get discouraged. Shannon seemed disappointed. Sometime later she was checking me visually and said, "Your daughter has a lot of hair."

I said, "Oh," faintly, and "Okay." Meaning, "Okay, maybe I really am making progress."

More pushing, more holding my breath. Once I tried pushing when the urge had passed, because I was crazy with impatience to get this over with, but Amy just said, "Huh," in a bemused sort of tone and it didn't seem to help.

I couldn't feel myself making any sort of progress (just getting thirstier--I kept asking Eric to feed me ice). But finally, finally, Amy said, "Get the cart," and I knew this meant the end was near. "Wait until you really, really have to push," Amy said before the next contraction. I did, expecting to be done, but the contraction ended like all the others.

"She's taking it nice and slow," Amy said, which I wasn't, at least not intentionally. But a couple more contractions later, I could actually feel something happening; I pushed frantically, and felt more pressure (though not more pain) between my legs, and felt something tear; and Shannon said, "Look, Jenny, look! Your daughter's being born!"

I picked up my head and looked as Amy said, "Stop, I need to get the cord from around her neck." There was a funny purplish-looking blob half-hanging out from between my legs, her face indiscernible, the umbilical cord being unwound from her neck. That's her, I told myself. That's my baby. I actually got her out. And then Shannon said, "Well, push her out!" and I did, and she came out in a bumpy awkward rush, and was born.

It was 5:31 PM. I don't remember whether she was crying, though she probably was or I would have worried. I remember thinking she looked like a bag of purple eels. I remember turning very cold, very quickly. (I still had no hospital gown on.) Shannon did Chloë's vitals and wiped her off and wrapped her up and put a little cap on her. She placed her on my chest, tummy-down, and told me, "This is home."

In the meantime Amy was working on the last stage of labor, the placenta. "Give me a little push," she told me. I did, and it must have been enough because I don't remember her asking me again. She ordered some Pitocin put into my IV because I was bleeding more than she liked. My temperature was also elevated, so I was put on antibiotics. Chloë was perfectly healthy and they had no concerns about her.

My feet were put up on stirrups and Amy started stitching up my tear. "No wonder it took so long," she said to Shannon as she worked. "The baby came out face-up." I'd read about this: it's called occiput posterior, and means that the widest part of the head goes through the birth canal instead of the narrowest. Chloë was born with a little bruise on her forehead, like a unicorn with the horn removed. "I can't believe she had no back labor."

In the meantime I had complained of cold, and someone had piled five warmed-up hospital blankets on me. I asked to see the placenta, and Amy showed me the amniotic sac as well, which was very cool (says the biology major), a huge translucent sac with a big tear in it. Eric went to tell his family the news. Chloë lay on my chest, her face toward the window, her little eyes squinched shut because it was evening and the window faced west, growing pinker as she became hours instead of minutes old.

Then suddenly nobody was in the room except Shannon, and she was telling me things that I could hardly stay awake to listen to. Chloë was still on my chest, and she stayed there when Shannon mercifully stopped talking. "Is it okay if I sleep with her like this?" I said, because I was about to do so involuntarily. I hadn't slept, except for that forty-minute nap, in about thirty-six hours.

"Well," she said, and said something hedging about how back was best and she might roll off. "But you'll feel it if she moves, and you'll wake up."

She left me, and then Chloë and I slept together, a new baby and a new mother sleeping together in the setting sun, home.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Of walking and books

Chloë is so close to walking. She routinely clings to our legs and, when we move away, stands there, unsupported. Lately she's been clapping while she stands there, so the balance has got to be there. She'll also walk clinging only to my shirt or my hand. Not by herself so far, but it's going to be soon.

Her favorite book these days is Bath Time!, by Sandra Boynton. I can recite it for you if you like. It's a floating bath-safe book, with pictures of a pig getting a bath, and on the last page the pig's nose is positioned over a squeaker. I've been reading this to her for months, squeaking the nose whenever I got to the end, but in the last couple of weeks she's really gotten the concept--and started squeaking it herself. Then she tried squeaking his nose on the other pages he's on. What a smart girl. She'll be running the world in no time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Well on her way to being a teenager

Chloë ate an entire pizza last night.

Well, an entire baby pizza. We had homemade pizza, and I decided that instead of trying to cut off bits of ours, as we've done before, we'd just give Chloë her own. So she got a tiny pizza, about the size of an English muffin. She had refused her baby-food corn/green beans/rice medley at lunch, and I suggested that we spread it on the pizza. "Turn her the other way when I'm putting this on her food," Eric said. We put down a little tomato sauce, the baby food, and a sprinkling of mozzarella. Then we baked it for five minutes, let it cool, cut it up, and let her have it. She devoured it. Then she wanted more, so I ended up cutting off bits of my pizza for her too. Next time she'll get a bigger one.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Since I haven't written lately, here's the latest news in Overlord-ville:

Chloë is loving this whole feeding-herself-with-a-spoon thing. We need to fill it up for her, and she realizes this (though she did her valiant best to fill it herself last night out of the baby food jar and the bowl of peas, with different but ultimately futile results each time). So dinner consists of Eric or me filling up her spoon and Chloë depositing the contents in her mouth. Then she points the spoon imperiously at one of us to demand more. She's so satisfied with herself. I love it.

I've taken her outside to play in the grass a bit the last few days. Mostly this consists of pulling up grass and watching me watch her try to eat it, or handing it to me gravely and waiting until I put it down, then pulling up and handing me more.

We took her to gaming on Monday, but discovered that we can't do that anymore, at least for a while. She consented to sit and watch for a short time, but then she wanted to play. Then she wanted to crawl, and then she wanted someone to play with. Her henchmen attempted to placate her, but she was only temporarily mollified. She wants to do her own thing now, thank you very much, and will accept no substitutes.

Her newest favorite occupation is climbing the stairs. We keep the gate up most of the time, and when it's up she climbs the two steps to the broad landing and stays there, caught in a playpen of her own making because she hasn't figured out how to climb down yet. When we take the gate down, she zooms up the staircase. She climbs with her right knee and her left foot. When we went to visit her grandma, it didn't take her long to discover, joy of joys, a carpeted staircase.

She's also preoccupied with making clicking noises with her tongue. She discovered it a while ago, but she seems to have taken a new interest in it. Especially when she's just finished a meal (food or R.I.N.D.S.), she'll start clicking away, grinning around her open mouth. At dinner Eric and I get into it too, and we'll all three click at each other like ancient African hunters.

Also, she's extremely cute. Did I mention the cuteness?

"Do not make the mistake of thinking that flowers indicate weakness."