Friday, November 23, 2007

Is that a spoon?

Put your hands behind your head and step away from the oatmeal!

Look at that! We are eating real food :) Well, not quite. According to Mommy anything without salt and butter or olive oil is not exactly real food, but we are definitely making some progress. So far, we seem to be fond of oatmeal, and winter squash. Oh, and we really hate bananas. Yuk!

Space -- the final frontier...

Although we are not quite ready for intergalactic travel, we can safely continue to explore Boston neighborhoods without freezing off our little tushy. Before it got really cold, we even made it on foot from Belmont to Daddy's job in Central square of Cambridge and back. That's almost 7 miles! Hopefully the cold weather won't keep up indoors now that we have our winter suit.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere

Dear Sammy,

You are probably wondering why your parents procrastinate writing posts in your blog. Well... the truth is you've been keeping us really busy, kiddo. A lot has been happening in October. We made our first plane trip to visit Grandparents and you even attended your Pra-babushka's (Great-Grandmother's birthday). You had your first laugh, started to grab things, look around, and explore the world. You also
got your first cold, but now you are all better, which makes Mommy and Daddy very relieved. All this has been keeping us nice and busy ;)

But we finally got around to posting some pictures on the web.

There are some very cute ones of you dressed as a pumpkin for Halloween. We didn't exactly go trick or treating because Mommy is anti-candy (at least for children with no teeth), but we did take a walk around MtAuburn cemetery, which is really gorgeous this time of year, but if you want, you can pretend it's spooky.

A huge thank you goes to Babulya for getting us a pumpkin outfit. If it was left up to Mommy, we'd wear the same thing every day and wouldn't be nearly as cute. But between Zia Gaia bringing us baby fashions from Italy (there is a picture of you in little cow jammies in the album above), and Grandmothers dressing you up, you are looking like one hot babe :)

-Mommy and Daddy

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Our first playgroup and first day at work

[Sammy is the sleeping beauty in the front]

We just finished the 6 weeks of our first playgroup at Isis. It was probably more of a playgroup for me than Sammy. At 1-2 months, our babies were only old enough to nurse, poop, and sleep, but all the moms had a great time. We also learned a lot about how to take care of our babies and exchanged the tips we picked up over the first few months. Here are some pictures of our little group.

I also taught my first class this weekend. Things went surprisingly smoothly, so I guess I didn't have to panic that much. Babulya came to visit and took care of Sammy while I was shopping and making handouts on friday, and on saturday during class Sammy had whole 2 adults taking care of her (Babulya and Daddy). It reminded me of the Russian proverb "7 nannies have a kid without an eye," but since we had only 2 nannies, no harm came to Sammy.

We also took some good pictures this weekend.

Monday, September 17, 2007

2 Months

We were at Dr. Kerbel's office last Wednesday and Helen was worried about Samantha's growth after seeing nothing but huge babies in group the day earlier. Nothing to worry about. Samantha tipped the scale at 10 lbs. (still gaining about 1 oz/day) and measured 23.5 in., longer than the median girl her age. And all the fears of Samantha reacting to the four immunization shots were all for naught---I think I would have cried more!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Turning 30

Dear Sammy,

When you were 7 weeks old, you were already becoming a party animal. One day, you'll read this post and find out that my 30th birthday was the first party of your life.

I was suspecting something fishy when I walked up the stairs of Zia Gaia's house. Babulya i Dedulya were visiting us for a few days and Gaia invited us all to her house for a "baby" brunch. Don't worry, kiddo. A baby brunch is not where you eat babies. It's where you meet babies :) Her friend Kate just had a baby boy a week after you were born, and I thought we were getting together to meet him. But as I walked into the dining room, my mouth dropped. Guess whom I saw -- your Great-Grandma. And your uncle Leo, and aunt Megan, and your Grandma Louise. What a surprise -- particularly Great-Grandma. I was so looking forward to have her meet you. She just had a surgery 2 months ago, and I didn't hope in my wildest dreams that she'd come, but she did. She is a real trouper, and nothing could keep her away from you. As I hugged everyone, tears came to my eyes. I found your Dad's eye, grinning and also wet.

Since we decided not to go to France this fall, your Dad decided to bring France to me. Aunt Megan and uncle Leo made France themed decorations, and your Daddy slaved over baguettes and tomato onion tarts the day before in 90F heat. I thought he was crazy! Even an obsessive cook like me wouldn't consider baking in such heat. Babulya was making bayalda (an eggplant dish) and piroshki. She also brought some caviar for a little Russian touch. Everyone was making so much stuff, I simply backed out of the kitchen and didn't go there until it was time for dinner. I kept giving them a hard time with going so overboard for a simple potluck lunch. When I finally dared to come into my sacred territory (one day you'll share a kitchen with me and realize that it's no picnic ;), I just couldn't contain myself. Every board was dirty. The counters were overflowing and the heat was unbelievable. I am sweating just remembering it. What can I say -- I am a little Soup Nazi. Wait, you don't know about Soup Nazi yet. But I am sure that by the time you are old enough to read this, you'll be old enough to be initiated into the wonderful world of Seinfeld. Anyway... So besides cooking and baking, your poor Dad and Babulya had the hard job of calming me down. Well, they did a great job with it all. It wasn't long before I started laughing at the whole situation and they even took over the job of making dinner to help me relax. I don't deserve such an awesome family -- really, I don't!

I've never felt as complete and happy on any other birthday in my life. Just watching your Great-Grandmother (Prababushka) holding you for the first time was enough to make my heart melt. That's just how I wanted to spend my birthday. No restaurants, no big crowds, just family (Zia Gaia and Zio Jerome count as family :)

[Sammy meets Grandma Louise for the first time]

[Sammy meets Great-Grandma Aleksandra for the first time]

After lunch, the heat really got to us, and we headed over to Waltham where out of town family were staying. We had cake and sat around talking while you took a nap. Eventually, it was time to head home, but celebration wasn't over. The next day, your Dad took us all to Isabella Stewart Gardner's Museum for lunch. He knew that I was hoping to go there for your baby shower and since it didn't work out then, he arranged for the 10 of us to have lunch in their garden on my birthday. You were amazing the entire 2 days and joined in all the fun. You started smiling right around that weekend. You probably didn't know what you were smiling about yet, but maybe you'll read this post some day and it will make you smile again.

Love, hugs, and kisses,


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Breastfeeding: Lessons Learned

I know it's hard to believe, but it's having the terrible F word in the house that finally got Sammy and me feeling better about breastfeeding. It's not because we tried it (I mean formula) and realized how bad it is. It's because now I don't panic about what will happen if Sammy will still be hungry and I won't have milk to give her. This means that I am more relaxed and the milk is coming in much better. And since I am more relaxed she is more relaxed and latches on better. I thought my Mom was exaggerating when she told me the kids can sense if you are stressed out, even tiny ones. I guess she wasn't. Ever since I had Sammy, I realized one important thing: always listen to your Mother (unless she is worrying too much :)

Well, since we'd like to have more kids some day, I thought I'll write down some of the lessons I've learned from this breastfeeding experience. In a few years I might forget the important details and it would be nice if the second time it went a little better.

  1. Ask your Ob/gyn for an APNO prescription BEFORE giving birth. This way you can heal the damage as soon it occurs.
  2. Do not attempt to breastfeed as soon as you give birth. You'll be way too tired after labor to pay attention and will likely cause your nipples way more damage than its worth. Just cuddle your baby and relax.
  3. Ask the hospital staff to keep the baby in the nursery overnight and feed him/her formula. You need all the sleep you can get; besides, you don't have milk yet anyway, and there'll be plenty of opportunity to give the baby colostrum during the day.
  4. Print out latch instructions from before heading to the hospital to give birth.
  5. Don't mess around with multiple positions until it's going well for a few weeks. Learn the cross-cradle and stick to it until you have it completely mastered.
  6. Buy "My Breast Friend" (a breastfeeding pillow) and bring it with you to the hospital. Don't attempt to feed without it until it's going well for a few weeks.
  7. If the baby stops sucking, apply pressure to your breast with your free hand until baby restarts sucking and hold there until she stops again. Then apply pressure in another place.
  8. In the beginning pump after at least some feedings to build up a good milk supply.
  9. If you get plugged ducts, apply heat before pumping and feeding.
  10. If using Medela Pump In Style, buy the large size nipple shields (the ones that come with the pump are medium).

Friday, August 10, 2007

The F word

Dear Sammy,

You are going to be 5 weeks old tomorrow and you are growing to be a beauty already. Your cheeks are starting to look like little peaches and your eye lashes are getting long. Just want you to know that you've been the most amazing baby. You eat really well, you make lovely big poops, and you even sleep at night for 4-5 hours straight! You and I have been chatting a lot about the whole feeding thing while sitting there on the blue couch trying to work things out. But I figure you probably won't remember any of our chats. That's why I am writing you this letter. One day, you'll be old enough to read it.

There is this altar we call motherhood. I think women's brains are hard-wired to bring sacrifices on it to ensure their babies grow up to be healthy, happy, and successful. We try to give you the best food, send you to the best school, make sure you end up going to Harvard, and settle for nothing but the best flower arrangements for your wedding. We obsess about these things as if they make all the difference, and if we settle for less than perfection, we think we've ruined your whole life and failed as mothers. The very first of these tests comes in the form of milk and the most important decision of our parenting career so far has been whether to breastfeed you or give you formula.

Yes, breastfeeding is the gold standard for baby nutrition. It's the most perfect food. Unfortunately, life is not always perfect and there is no such thing as a free lunch even when it's baby's lunch. The question we have to answer now is whether this perfection is worth the lofty price. Up until now, I was afraid to even pronounce the F word. I was determined to breastfeed you. When I heard that both of your grandmothers had a hard time with this oh-so-natural task, I decided to get as much education and help as necessary to make it happen. I took a breastfeeding class a few weeks before you were born, I saw 3 lactation consultants in the hospital during your first 2 days of life. I've joined a lactation support group for Moms like me who just weren't getting it right, and when all else failed I've seen one of the best lactation consultants in Boston from 3 private sessions. The most important thing everyone tried to teach me is that you absolutely must breastfeed even if your breasts fall off. The first thing they told us in the breastfeeding class is that you can't go into it with an attitude that you'll *try* to breastfeed. You have to think that you *will* breastfeed. Trust me, I really was going to breastfeed you until you were 1 years old. But after trying the ice, the heat, the tea bags, lanolin, nipple butter, prescription nipple ointment, and pumping, my breasts are still in bad shape. At first, we used to think it's the latch. We've made great progress on that since the beginning -- the left breast is doing pretty well, and the right breast is at least a little better now that I started using the prescription ointment. But the plugged ducts and pores aren't getting better no matter what. We also have the problem of the right breast squirting straight into your little mouth, which I am sure is not much fun. You usually start frowning and squirming whenever I give you that breast. The good news is that you are doing well and gaining weight, though Dr. Kerbel thinks you could be gaining a little more. Seems like I just barely have enough milk and it always makes me panic that you'll be hungry and I'll have nothing to give you.

The worst part of all this is that I've been hanging in there between the states of slight discomfort (on really good days) and pretty strong pain. As much as I try to handle all this gracefully, I've been one very stressed Mommy lately, and this has been hard on everyone. You get edgy when you feel that I am stressed, and Daddy found us both in tears a number of times when he got home from work. So the bottom line is that as wonderful as breastfeeding can be, it's making the mental health of our whole family go down the toilet. So for the first time, we are considering gradually switching you to formula. Whether we'll do it or not, I just want you to know that you are the most important person in our life and we only want what's best for you. We just figured that having a sane and cheerful Mommy is more important than a few more antibodies you could get from my milk.

I am starting to come to terms with the fact that I will not be a perfect parent. And that's ok. Your Dad always told me that no parents are perfect, and somehow kids turn out just fine. He is really wise your Dad. One day, you'll be able to talk to him, and you'll find out that he is the coolest guy ever! But this parenting imperfection is hard for me to accept. I am a perfectionist. I know that this is not the first decision I'll struggle with. I'll probably drive us all nuts about what school you should go to and which AP classes you should take. That's why kids get 2 parents -- to keep things balanced. I'll finish up now because you are about to wake up, and I'll get to hold you, cuddle you, and feed you.

With all my love, hugs, and kisses,

-Your Mommy

Monday, July 30, 2007

Babulya i Dedulya came to visit

There is nothing better than being a Grandparent -- you get all the fun with no responsibility. My parents have been awaiting grandparenthood for so long that they could barely contain themselves when they walked through the door on July 26. Their excitement couldn't even be compared to a 5-year-old opening his Christmas gifts.

We all loved having Babulya i Dedulya visiting. Jason and I got hand-on lessons in baby care and got to take naps and relax for the first time since our bundle of joy was born. Sammy got cuddled and cooed and bathed and kissed and photographed non-stop. Her tushy rash got better because Babulya knew just what to do. I got way more sleep than usual because Babulya gave Sammy the middle-of-the-night bottle. Up until now, we didn't have a single picture of our whole little family because either I got to hold Sammy and Jason got to take a picture, or he got to hold Sammy and I got to take a picture. Babulya and Dedulya fixed all that. Here we are -- all 3 of us :)

We even got to go to our first restaurant. This sunday we got together with Gaia and Jerome and all 7 of us headed out to Blue Room for brunch. Sammy was simply amazing and didn't cry even once. She did have a 50 minute feeding right before we headed out, which probably helped, but still -- this kid was just perfect the whole time the Grandparents were here. Our waiter was Ron. We used to work together at Casablanca and when we started talking, it turned out that he just got married on 07/07/07 -- the same day when Sammy was born. There is something magical about that date. When Ron found out that this is Sammy's first trip to a real restaurant and that she was born on the same day as his anniversary, he brought us all little blueberry banana shakes -- complements of the house.

The last 4 days were so wonderful that we were getting really sad about Grandparents leaving. But luckily (or unluckily) their trip got extended because all flights from Boston to Baltimore were grounded this sunday night due to thunderstorms. The bad news was that my poor Mom couldn't be back in time to open her daycare today. The good news was that we got to see my parents for one more day. And I know they'll be back soon. Let's face it -- grandchildren are addictive!

More pictures from this week

Monday, July 23, 2007

Out and about

I think Samantha took after me in her inability to stay home and enjoy a quiet life. She is the calmest when we go on walks and little car trips (and so am I :)

This weekend was very eventful. On saturday we went on 3 outings! We started our day with a walk around Fresh Pond. Jason jogged around the pond, and then joined us for another 1-2 mile walk. I was excited to find a newly paved bike trail that's nice and smooth, but Samantha didn't like it -- she is a bumpy girl. So we first walked on an old woodsy trail that provided plenty of rocking to put her to sleep and then switched to the smooth trail where I could push the stroller without much difficulty.

The second outing was to Waltham. We stopped by Domenic's for lunch and had our usual -- panino tonno and panino melanzane (tuna and eggplant sandwiches). I think they are the best kept outdoor dining secret in Boston and on saturday it was nice and quiet without all the office crowds. That was Samantha's first lunch out. I can't wait for the day when she can taste those sandwiches! Since we were already in Waltham, we decided to stop by the farmer's market to pick up some veggies to bring to Katya and Tolya's BBQ. This was our first get together since their twin boys, Dima and Sasha, and our little girl Samantha were born. When I told my Mom about the plans for the BBQ, she laughed. "I can totally see how this is gonna go -- you and Katya will nurse and change diapers the whole time and Dima and Jason will grill and eat." To tell you the truth that's what I expected too, but it actually went much better than we could even imagine. When we arrived, Tolya was feeding the boys from the bottle and Samantha was sleeping, so Katya and I got to grill. Then all the adults got to eat in surprising peace. Samantha woke up just as I was finishing up and joined the eating crowd. It felt good to be with people as I was nursing her. I know that most Moms love this private time between them and their babies, but 8 hours of private time every day is a bit much for me. I am slowly learning how to breastfeed her in public so that we don't have to sit at home all the time. Jason did the honor of changing diapers, which he is becoming a real expert at.

As you can imagine the conversation revolved around babies. It was great to swap tips with parents who are going through the same stage as we are. Katya showed me how to swaddle Samantha correctly, which has been helping a great deal.

It was hard to believe, but we were actually less tired after 3 outings than after staying home all day.

Sunday morning was much harder. We had lots of home errands and Samantha was getting restless. We were also attempting to cut her fingernails for the first time with no success. We bought baby nail clippers, but neither one of us was used to using clippers because we use scissors on our own nails and she was squirming like crazy. We finally gave up and decided to wait until she falls asleep. The problem was that she can't fall asleep until we swaddle her, which makes finger nail trimming a bit difficult. That's when Zia Gaia came to the rescue. We went out for coffee, which put Samantha nicely to sleep in her stroller. When we got back, I left her in her car seat (which unclips from the stroller), and cut her finger nails with my regular manicure scissors. Then Gaia showed me how to file them to make them smooth (as you can see I am somewhat manicurely challenged). Samantha slept through the whole thing! Thus passed our first girls day out -- with coffee and manicure :)

Here she is sleeping. Her hair got all fussy and I thought she looked like baby Einstein. Either that or the Little Prince.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Checkup

We just got back from Samantha's first checkup with her pediatrician, Dr. Kerbel. She's in great health and growing quickly. She weighed 7 lbs. 1 oz. and measured 20.5 inches. Not even two weeks and she's already surpassed her birth weight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Time for a little something

If a year ago someone told me that there is such a profession as "lactation consultant", I would have laughed. "Do you mean like a pet psychologist?" I'd ask. A friend of mine from college wanted to be a pet psychologist when she was in middle school. When she wrote an essay about it, her teacher said firmly, "There is no such thing as a pet psychologist!" "Yes, there is," replied my friend pointing to the yellow pages for Manhattan. I always thought that's the only place where pet psychologists and lactation consultants existed and that they were only hired by people with more money than they knew what to do with. Well, let me tell you -- last week I learned how wrong I was about lactation consultants (not sure about pet psychologists yet).

On friday, I called the nurses' station of Mount Auburn hospital in tears. My breasts hurt so badly, it felt as if needles were being stuck into them each time I sat down to breast feed. Up to this point we got more advice about breast feeding than we knew what to do with. Every nurse and lactation consultant in the hospital seemed to have an opinion on pretty much everything (from latch, to positions, to frequency of feedings), and no one agreed on anything. Wake her up every two hours. No, let her sleep. Feed until she lets go off the breast herself. No wonder your breasts hurt, you shouldn't feed for more than 20 minutes. You might feel some pain during latch on. You shouldn't feel any pain at all. Let your nipples air dry. Cover them immediately and put on a bra.

Thank goodness that in the middle of all this pain and confusion, one midwife, Sharon, gave me the best advice I've gotten on breast feeding so far. "Only listen to one person." She recommended I go see a lactation consultant for a real consultation rather than 5 minute ones I've been getting in the hospital. "Beth at Isis Maternity is very good," added Sharon. We called Isis and luckily got an appointment for the same day.

After taking a look at my cracked and bitten breasts, Beth put a finger in Sammy's month and got her to suck. "Aha!" she said. "She pulls her tongue back and this makes her bite you. Don't worry -- we'll retrain her," she said. I was wondering how one can train a 1 week old. "Before each feeding, let her suck on your finger for a minute and press her little tongue down. Then let her take the breast, but if she is still biting, stop and relatch her. You have what she wants. Trust me, she'll learn very fast." We practiced with Beth for 30 minutes or so, and I got more comfortable with latching Sammy on correctly. The hard part was getting it right every time.

When we got home, Jason was my coach. He sat next to me for at least 5 feedings constantly bugging me: "Does it hurt?" If I was quiet, her knew it did. "Unlatch her. Do it again." I felt so terrible constantly taking the breast away from my poor little baby. "But she doesn't know she is hurting me. I feel like I am torturing her," I said. "Helen," said my wise husband, "It's just like when she'll go on her first date and forget to call. You'll be worried sick, even though she didn't mean to hurt you. It's not her fault, but we have to teach her how to do it right." Have I told you yet that I married the most amazing man? Well, I did. He made Sammy suck on his finger and keep her tongue down. He held her little hands so that I could see what I was doing during latch on. And he asked me a million times, "How does it feel?" It only took 1 days for me to look back at him with tears of joy rather than pain and confidently say, "It feels good!"

I now look forward to feeding my little hungry hippo. She looks like a Pooh Bear with plump rosy cheeks, and every time her mouth starts making little smacking sounds, I know it's time for a little something.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Little History

Friday, July 6th

  • 2:00am - Helen begins having small contractions, doesn't get much sleep.
  • 8:30am - Jason asks Helen if she had a good night's sleep. "No!" is the reply. Jason thinks Helen might have started labor and decides to stay home. Helen says that they are probably just pre-labor contractions and nothing to worry about.
  • 12:00pm - Jason has been timing the contractions off-and-on. They come roughly every 20 minutes and last about 30 seconds, but are very irregular. Jason is convinced that Helen has gone into labor. Helen still won't accept the fact. She feels that as soon as she says that she's in labor, the contractions will stop! :-)
  • 12:30pm - Helen makes a spectacular lunch of broiled red snapper.
  • 5:00pm - Contractions are coming much closer together (about 6 minutes apart) and are much more regular. The mid-wives recommended coming to the hospital when contractions are regularly less than 5 mintues apart. Jason predicts that we'll be in the hospital by 9pm. Helen guesses midnight.
  • 6:30pm - Helen wouldn't think of not making dinner. She makes a yummy pasta with veggies (from our farm share) and a cream sauce. Jason has learned to be the breathing coach: "In... 2... 3... 4... 5... Out... 2... 3... 4... 5... In..." The contractions are easier when Helen is standing, so she sits for 4 minutes then stands in preparation for the contraction. Jason is meticulously timing everything.
  • 8:00pm - Jason starts packing the car thinking it won't be long now...
  • 10:00pm - Helen and Jason take a hot shower together. Helen says the contractions are easier to deal with when warm water is pouring down her body :-)

Saturday, July 7th

  • 2:00am - Helen is still having contractions, Jason is still coaching. They are coming regularly ~5 minutes apart, 30-45 seconds each. We talk to the mid-wife on-call and tell her that we don't want to come to the hospital earlier than we need to. She says to try to get some sleep and to wait. Come in when the contractions are regularly 3-4 minutes apart. Suggests that Helen take some Benadryl or a glass of red wine to help her sleep.
  • 2:30am - Helen instructs Jason to go to bed to get some sleep. Helen props herself up on the couch (the bed would be too horizontal). The contractions are painful, but not nearly as bad as they will be later today.
  • 7:00am - Jason awakes after having gotten a solid 4.5 hours of sleep. Helen didn't get any. It's starting to look like this will be worse than a CMU all-nighter. We take another hot shower together.
  • 8:00am - Contractions are close together now, 3.5-4.5 minutes apart and 60-90 seconds long. Helen is really groaning. We both agree that it's about time to go to the hospital. Jason does the final packing of the car, making sure to return in time to help Helen through the next contraction. Our entire life is scheduled around Helen's contractions at this point. We eat breakfast in three-minute intervals, make calls in three-minute intervals, pack in three-minute intervals.
  • 8:30am - Immediately after a contraction finishes, Jason helps Helen down the stairs. Yes! We made it down before the next contraction. Okay, pause for a contraction. Grrrrrrrrrrooooooan! Quick, into the car. Reverse, onto the road, Drive, off we go. Traffic light. Grrrr. Contraction. Hold Helen's hand tightly. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Green light. Go!
  • 9:00am - The hospital, yes! Grab a ticket. Wait for contraction. Done. Drop off Helen. Quick, park. Grab our luggage. Run inside. Help Helen register. Okay, registration done. Upstairs we go to the 5th floor.
  • 9:15am - We've been shown into the initial exam room, not very nice, just like a small regular hospital room. The nurse takes Helen's and Samantha's vital signs. Everything looks okay. She tells us to wait here for a midwife.
  • 9:30am - Finally the midwife comes. More vital signs. She also checks dilation. Oooooowwwww! That must have really hurt. We're at 5cm. One cm an hour plus two hours pushing---we should have a baby sometime this afternoon. Rrrring! Cell phone. Hello? It's Shergul. The site isn't working. I'm in the hospital, can't deal with it at the moment. Call Phil or Eric. I'll try to check on things later. A nurse scolds Jason for using a cell phone in the birthing area: "No cell phones here!"
  • 9:45am - Okay, initial exam done! We move to the delivery room. Oooohhh, much nicer! What a view. No wonder people have said that the delivery rooms are like nice hotel rooms. What do we need to do? Get the music set up. Helen later says that Bach makes contractions way easier to deal with---the beat helps her count. Contraction. Reset the timer. Breathe...
  • 10:00am - They need to give Helen penicillin because she tested positive for a bacteria that could infect the baby. So, they need to hook her up to an IV. Janet the nurse checks Helen's right arm for good veins. Too small. Hmm... let's check the left arm. Still very small, but oh, here's one that might just work. Let's try it. Helen does NOT look happy. Ouch. It didn't work. Janet says she'll find someone else to do the IV.
  • 10:15am - Try #2: Marcia the midwife arrives and agrees that Helen's veins are small. Suggests that they bring in the "IV team", but then decides to give it a try herself. This one is successful. Penicillin is flowing. Helen is in pain. The penicillin burns. We call someone to turn down the rate of flow. Okay, that is bearable. Back to contractions and breathing.
  • 11:00am - Got wireless working. Check the site. Seems to be working fine. Phew! One less thing to worry about.
  • 12:30pm - Janet recommends that we order lunch. Anything on the menu. You mean it's free? Yup.
  • 1:15pm - Lunch comes. Hmm... not exactly the highest quality food. Do they understand that food needs salt to taste good? Apparently not. Of course, the pre-packaged dressing for the salad has enough salt to counterbalance the lack of it in the salad. No such luck with the overcooked swordfish! Not a speck of salt and it shows.
  • 1:30pm - Time for another cervix exam. Eight centimeters. Progress! A bit slow, but we're getting there.
  • 2:00pm - Marcia suggests that Helen take a warm shower. Oooohhh! that feels good, but contractions are getting harder and harder to deal with. I stand just out of the shower, helping Helen to prepare for and deal with the contractions. After about 20 minutes, it's getting awfully humid in the bathroom and Helen is due for another dose of penicillin.
  • 2:30pm - Contractions are regular and long, 3:30 apart and about 90 seconds each. Breathe in... 2... 3... 4... Out... 2... 3... 4...
  • 4:00pm - Another cervix exam. Still at 8cm. Not good. Marcia recommends that we break Helen's water. Says that that often helps get to full dilation. Pain! A gush of liquid and blood. Helen's water is broken.
  • 5:00pm - Yet another cervix check. Yes! We're at 10cm. Time to start pushing to see if we can get this baby out! Janet recommends that we order dinner---the cafeteria closes to orders at 6pm. Hard to think about food at a time like this, but we make some kind of order.
  • 5:30pm - Helen is pushing lying down and the contractions aren't coming fast enough. Marcia and Janet decide to give Helen a low dosage of a hormone that should help get the contractions closer together.
  • 6:00pm - Contractions still aren't close enough. They gradually increase the hormone dosage. Helen is extremely, extremely, extremely tired at this point and complains of not being able to push. All three of us are trying to coach her on how to push: deep breath, hold it in, don't make sounds by letting air out, push at your abdomen, not at your feet.
  • 6:30pm - Progress is slow. Marcia suggests another position: sitting on a stool. A few minutes in, Helen is asking about progress. Marcia grabs a flashlight and we look in. It's a head! We can see a sliver of Samantha's head!
  • 7:00pm - Helen is complaining about being tired. Her wrists and legs are aching from the pushing. And, there's not much to encourage her with. We can see a larger sliver of the head when she pushes, but when the pushing stops, the head moves back. It's about time for Marcia's shift to be over.
  • 7:10pm - Tamara takes over for Marcia. The contractions still aren't coming frequently enough even though Helen is getting lots of the contraction hormone and it's starting to look like this might take all night.
  • 7:20pm - Still not much progress. And, it looks like the IV has come unseated---a bubble is starting to form on Helen's arm. Oh no! Samantha must be procrastinating!!! The clock is ticking. If the baby doesn't come soon, Helen will need another IV for another dose of penicillin. And, now that the IV is out, the contraction medicine isn't flowing. What if her contractions are just too far apart to give birth? Tamara says that since the pushing has taken over two hours, they need to bring a doctor in to check on the progress. Ack! It's going so poorly that they have to get a doctor involved?!?!
  • 7:25pm - Tamara thinks that the baby is having trouble coming down from the sitting position that Helen is in, so she recommends that she switch to lying down. Helen doesn't like the lying down position, but considering that her wrists and legs are completely worn out, she agrees.
  • 7:30pm - Helen tries to get used to a new style of pushing, bending her legs and spreading them wide while lying down. She is supposed to hold just behind her knees to help push. Janet holds Helen's right leg. Tamara holds her left. Jason is feeling faint. His face turns white.
  • 7:33pm - After sitting down for a few minutes, Jason is able to get back up again and color has returned to his face. Maybe he'll make it through this after all.
  • 7:40pm - Tamara walks out of the room to find the doctor on call. Helen begins a contraction. Wait! Tamara! Who's going to hold Helen's left leg! Too late, she's already gone. Jason isn't feeling completely well, but somebody has to hold her leg, so he does it.
  • 7:45pm - Push! Push! Push! Push! Helen is getting the hang of pushing in this new position. We're starting to see more of Samantha's head and she's not going back after each contraction. But, the time between contractions is looooooong. Tamara notes that we're far enough along that the worst case scenario is that we use a vacuum device to pull out Samantha. This freaks Helen out!
  • 7:47pm - The doctor arrives right in the middle of a contraction. Samantha is crowning. He takes one look at the situation and says that in three contractions, the baby will be delivered. Hallelujah! But, is he right? Is he saying that just to get our hopes up?
  • 7:57pm - Two more contractions down and, yes, it does look like we're getting very close. Tamara has laid out protective sheets to catch all the blood that is about to come out. She's also wearing lab glasses and a lab suit.
  • 7:58pm - Ack! The baby's heart rate is dropping. The monitor has been registering 120-160 beats/second the entire labor and now it has dropped to 80. Is this normal? What's going to happen. Janet the nurse looks over, sees the monitor and doesn't flinch. I guess she'd have said something if it was a serious condition. Think about Helen and getting her ready for the next contraction.
  • 8:00pm - Phew! The heart rate has been gradually coming back to normal. Tamara remarks that sometimes contractions can be spread out at this point as the body needs the time to build strength for the next push. Maybe it knew that Samantha needed a moment to bring her heart rate back to normal.
  • 8:05pm - We're still waiting for another contraction. Will it ever come? It seems like forever. Oh! There it is! Push, Helen, push! Whoa! A squirt of liquid comes shooting at Jason, but not close enough to hit. Oh my God, the head is out! Samantha's head is out. Oh, no, the umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck. But, not too tightly. Tamara asks Helen for one last push to get the rest of the baby out. "Would you like to hold the baby when she comes out?" "Yes."
  • 8:07pm - She's out! Samantha is born! And she looks good. Tamara clips the umbilical cord and hands Samantha to Helen. 8:07. We missed 7:07 for a truly numerologically significant birth. Oh, but it's 7:07 in Chicago, notes Janet. Crazy.
  • 8:10pm - Tamara asks Jason to cut the umbilical cord. Jason still can't believe that he made it through all of this. He's never seen this amount of real, live blood before in his life...
  • 8:15pm - A few more pushes and the placenta is out. Gross and amazing at the same time.
  • 8:20pm - Time to give Samantha her first check-up. She weighs in at exactly 3 kilograms, or 6 pounds, 9.8 ounces.
  • 8:30pm - Back to mommy. Helen asks if she can breastfeed. "Of course!" says Tamara. Jason sends out the first announcement e-mail.
  • 9:00pm - It dawns on Jason that Helen hasn't eaten for well over 12 hours. Open up the food trays, prepare them for eating. Eat, eat, eat! Helen needs to regain all the strength she lost over this 42 hour ordeal.
  • 9:20pm - Helen's parents call on the land line. Could Helen be any happier? Her first born on her lap, her mother on the phone.
  • 10:00pm - Time to move to postpartum/recovery. Janet puts Samantha in a portable crib and we roll over to the nursery.
  • 10:10pm - We leave Samantha in the nursery and go back to delivery to help Helen into a wheel chair. She's in no shape to walk at this point. Getting out of bed isn't easy. Lots of blood comes out of her when she tries to stand up. Helen is worried about getting everything messy.
  • 10:30pm - We make it to our recovery room. It's okay to use cell phones again! Jason and Helen make lots of calls to make sure everyone knows about the news.

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