September 30, 2013

Birth Story

*It's been eight weeks since our girl was born, but I wanted to take a little time and get some distance before sharing her birth story. This little lady was a breeze compared to her brother!

I entered this pregnancy with a good degree of confidence that things would go smoothly, despite having developed high blood pressure with my first. I refused to give in to all of the worries that had plagued me as a first time mother, when every cramp or twinge had sent me to the internet, searching for all the 'what if's'. Carrying a baby is such a brief and amazing moment in life, and I was determined to be present and enjoy this time with my growing belly and growing baby.

After an initial few weeks of giddy disbelief, I got introduced to the less glamorous side of pregnancy when I was slammed with some serious morning sickness. Juggling a toddler through the haze of nausea in the dark of winter wasn't easy, but I tried to keep the goal in focus. I also hoped that having such a different set of symptoms might mean avoiding the hypertension later (and also might mean a girl!!!).

As the days grew longer, my queasiness faded, and before I knew it I was in the sweet spot of the second trimester. I felt fantastic, the baby was healthy, and I did truly enjoy and appreciate the beauty of being pregnant. My confidence soared until I neared the 35th week, which was when my blood pressure had become elevated with my first pregnancy. Whether my anxiety somehow precipitated the hypertension (the doctor's claim it couldn't) or it was just coincidence, my fears were founded. I did develop high blood pressure, but this time it was in a range where bed rest was an option.

So I rested. I laid on my side, and read and sang to my toddler, and somehow our little family made it work... week by week. I was so grateful to have reached the point where the baby could be delivered safely if she needed to be, and I just tried to give her as much time as possible to grow. And then July ended and my due date neared. At 39 weeks my midwife felt that induction was the best option. I was 'favorable', although I actually don't remember how effaced or dilated I was, so we scheduled our induction.

I fed our son dinner, rocked him and put him to bed, knowing this would be his final moments as an only child. With my hormones soaring it was all more emotional than it really needed to be, but I was full of excitement, joy, and fear. My mother was there to stay with Little Smith, which gave me peace of mind.

James and I arrived at the hospital just as the sky was getting dark. We didn't have the amazing view of the Charles River that we had enjoyed last time, but we settled into our room, expecting it could be a while. I had been having contractions on and off for weeks, but nothing intolerable. The midwife inserted a little pill to help topically thin the cervix, and then told us to get some sleep. The plan was to get me further along before starting on Pitocin in the morning. They rolled a cot in for James, who promptly passed out. I was offered sleeping pills so that I would have energy for all the work I needed to do in the morning, but since I have medicine phobia, I refused (thankfully as it turned out!).

Within an hour, I started to feel serious pain. I thought this was the cervix thinning and a good sign, but I knew that I had a long road ahead, so I tried to ride through it, breathing on my own in the dark for several hours. I still hoped to deliver without drugs, and that goal felt further from reach as I was already struggling. James lay sleeping on his cot next to my bed, and I breathed hard and clutched the bed. My breathing was so heavy that eventually I woke him, and he offered his hand for me to squeeze. As he realized how hard I was working, he asked if he should get someone. At first I said no, but then quickly agreed. 'I'm sure the answer is yes', I panted, 'but ask them if I'm supposed to be in this much pain'.

The nurse came in and turned on the lights, excited to see that I was clearly hurting and we were making progress. The midwife entered as I finished a contraction and I breathlessly told them I wasn't sure I could do this much longer. She calmly advised me that I would have a little break here and to get some water. I looked her in the eye and said, 'no, there aren't any breaks!' as the pain climbed again.

All of a sudden everyone sprang into action. James quickly folded and pushed his cot away and asked (as only a husband can!), 'is she in labor?'. The midwife chuckled and told him, 'looks pretty good to me', as she moved in place to check me...

...Before she could even get a look, I felt the burning and pressure of my baby's head and panted 'she's coming out!'. James was completely confused, our last delivery was slow and drawn out and this was all impossibly fast. They told me she was right there and to get ready to push. The pain was intense and frightening, but after a few pushes, it mercifully melted away and a tiny warm baby was on my chest. She looked up at me with wide dark eyes and I looked at James, we were both completely stunned and overjoyed.

My hospital gown was still down and James asked if we could do skin-to-skin, adorably the only thing he remembered from our many natural childbirth classes three years ago. Our baby latched on right away and nursed with ease. James cut the chord and we spent some time there, just amazed that our little girl was here. Finally James took her to get cleaned up and I got stitched up (yes, that was the one common denominator in my two birth experiences). I felt amazingly well and completely fine to walk, but they were required to wheel me to the recovery wing. James was already there waiting with the baby, and we snuggled into our first night as a family... completely thrilled and surprised that it had all happened so quickly.

The next morning James went home and brought my mom and Little Smith to the hospital. I was so nervous about the first meeting, we had bought a small backpack and some plastic insects as a gift from the new baby to her big brother. The gifts were a big hit right away, but initially Little Smith sort of ignored the baby. He settled in with me and after about a half an hour, he started to sneak little glances and ask more questions. I breathed a giant sigh of relief when I could see he was going to adjust to all the change gracefully.

I was anxious to get home and we left the hospital a day early. We all snuggled and lounged as a family and it felt so good to be in our own home with our baby girl. Of course nothing can be quite that easy, we did have to go back to the hospital for light therapy to treat jaundice. It was a big drama for me to leave Little Smith again for another 24 hours (most of that drama I attribute to hormones). We were so lucky though, everything went smoothly and quickly, and either James or I was able to put Little Smith to bed every night through it all, which I think helped with the transition.

And just like that we were a family of four, with this beautiful, sweet, (dare I say easy!?) baby to call our own. We love you little girl. You are more wonderful than we could have imagined and we're already wondering how we got along before you joined our party!

September 24, 2013

Details B9.02

fall cake morning nap reading the joy of cooking september salad three in the bed interrupted sleep apple brownies garden odds and ends always building first fire discovering toys

 Lately our days start early and are packed with activities; tending to the garden, riding on subway trains, lots of baking, long walks collecting 'acorn nuts', meeting up with friends, eating and nursing and more nursing. I'm exhausted and Little Smith seems to favor short naps the last week, but he is also extra happy and captivated by the changing season and his little sister.

I'm honestly surprised by how sweet he already is as a big brother. Initially I tried not to focus on or talk to much about the baby, I guess I was worried that he would be jealous and was trying to maintain his world as much as possible. As the weeks have passed and her little personality has started to shine, it feels more and more like we are a team and he looks for her to take part in everything we do. I constantly find him patting her fuzzy little head (which is losing more hair and looking more ridiculous by the day- poor thing), and his latest treat is tickling her belly... she lights up and smiles. It's enough to melt this mama's heart, and I hope the joy lasts.

I'm coming to terms with the colder weather. It's undeniably beautiful, even if I'm not ready for the short days and runny noses inching closer with each falling leaf. Getting back in the kitchen and enjoying the warmth of the stove feels good, I'm always excited to pull out my sweaters (especially with the extra pounds I'm sporting), and it's fun to snuggle up and stay toasty. It is extra tough to force my eyes open at 5AM with the chill in the air and those dark skies, but somehow we're all pulling it off and still standing. Now I'm off to get a little sleep... until that sweet baby girl needs to eat somewhere between midnight and two, lets all hope for two! 

September 23, 2013


a portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013

He has been helping me every day in the kitchen. I might have caught him drinking the vanilla extract... and this might be a picture of that moment (please don't call the authorities!).

A bit of dedicated baby play. She gets so few moments to herself, but we treasure them whenever they come. Such a little trouper this second baby of mine.

*part of jodi's 52 series / i'm catching up... slowly but surely!


a portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013

Napping in the morning sun. No she is not always sleeping, but she's just so irresistible when she is (plus I have a minute to snap a picture!).

Stealing seconds. His new chair 'at the table' has fully empowered this kid to help himself. I can't turn my back for a second!

*part of jodi's 52 project

September 19, 2013

To Hold

Each afternoon, when he is fresh from his nap, I scoop Little Smith from his crib and he lies wrapped in my arms. This started long before his baby sister's arrival, preschool, or any of the recent changes rocking his 33 month old world, but these days the ritual has become more critical than ever.

He needs me, me and only me to get him out of the crib each morning, to change his diapers, to help put his shoes on, brush his teeth and tuck him into bed. Even daddy won't do, and although it makes complete sense that in the midst of so many shifts he is holding even tighter to his one constant, fulfilling that role is also draining. It's such an honor to be the anchor for this sweetest of little people, an honor and utterly depleting.

At just six weeks old, my baby girl already seems so different from her big brother. Of course she's a tiny infant and her temperament is far from established, but I'm sensing a strong independent streak in her. When she's fussy, I juggle her in my arms attempting to soothe her, only to discover that what calms her best is stretching out in bed all on her own. I watch as she aimlessly flaps her baby arms and legs in total happiness, but I feel guilty not carrying her around the house at every moment the way I did with her brother. Putting him down as a baby was an invitation for disaster, so I never did. We slept with him, I held him close and wore him in a sling nearly every waking moment. It never occurred to me that he might be a difficult baby because he was always happy, so long as he was never put down. Ever.

I'm certain that these two little personalities will evolve and change endlessly before they reach adulthood, but I'd also be pleased to see the traits carry through.This world could probably use a couple more focused, sensitive men who know exactly what they want, and a few more independent women flapping away wildly might be good too. In the weeks since we brought home our second child, I am already realizing that my job is to listen to each of them separately, to work to understand their challenges and to help them discover their own strengths, as individuals.

So I stare at the ceiling during our post nap snuggles, Little Smith tucked into one arm while the other arm works to soothe the baby, trying not to watch the clock, trying not to rush him... Because that moment always arrives;  the groggy crankiness passes and he suddenly hops up to tackle his next project of arranging cars or blocks. And as soon as that little body has left the bed, all my exhaustion fades away, and I just miss him.

*all pictures from halibut state park

September 16, 2013


a portrait of my children once a week, every week, in 2013

Our little naturalist. He loves collecting leaves and acorns and crab apples, and spying on birds with his 'noculars.

Chubby cheeks. She is a good eater and growing with crazy speed. Sometimes she wakes up from a nap and I swear her head is noticeably bigger!

September 15, 2013

Apple Popovers

*A recipe! I've taken a giant break from documenting any cooking efforts, but I'm back... it may be simple, but it's a tasty start.

Popovers are one of my staples and I often make them to compliment dinner and then enjoy the leftovers as a great alternative to morning muffins. I find the 'eggy' texture simply delicious, and they're quick and easy which is a must at the moment. 

I shared my basic popover recipe here, and inspired by a few very chilly fall days, I whipped up this apple version which was a great treat. Of course the day that I actually baked these (along with soup for dinner) it was hot and humid. No matter, those apples are on the trees and ready for some baking.

Apple and Cheese Popovers: 
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 2/3 c milk
  • 2 tbs melted butter
  • 1 2/3 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • one small apple, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 c grated pecorino romano (parmesan or any hard cheese works as well)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg  
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease very well a muffin or popover tin with butter. Make sure every surface and the tops are coated in butter, these are delicate and tough to get out if they stick- a flower and butter cooking spray will work wonders if you have one.

Beat the eggs in a medium bowl. Beat in the milk and melted butter. Add the flour in three parts beating after each addition. Add the salt and cheese, and nutmeg. Fold in the diced apple.

Pour the batter into the greased muffin tin distributing equally in each of the cups. Place in the oven on a center rack and immediately reduce the heat to 375 degrees. I like to place an empty baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any spillover and make clean up easier.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until 'popped' and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes before sliding out of tin and allowing to cool further on a baking rack.

These are best served warm out of the oven but they do keep for a day in a covered container and can be reheated if they're a little mushy.

These are a wonderful compliment to soup, might I suggest this one for a comforting fall feast. They're also perfect with a little pat of butter, or plain right from the oven which is how Little Smith enjoyed them for a post-nap snack. Notice the extra special nap hair.

He still takes eating these babies very seriously. It was good that we got a head start, James polished off three when he joined us for dinner. It's never an issue in this house that popovers don't keep very well, we make quick work of them. Enjoy!