Sunday, June 19, 2011

The birth of Julian

Julian's birth was amazing and fast. It was a hot, humid morning when things started happening. It was gray outside and the air felt heavy. I was up early, as usual. It was a Monday. I was lamenting the fact that I had no plans for the day and wasn't sure what I would do with Jonah that day. I can't remember what Matthew's plans were or whether he was scheduled to work. We were still living and Dani and Marc's house, and Dani was awake, too, when I realized I'd be having a baby very soon.

I think I'd been having contractions off and on for weeks, but I chose to ignore them or pretend they were still just Braxton Hicks. But, the baby had felt lower in the past couple weeks, and I had been feeling irregular contractions, especially at night and especially the night before I went into labor. Some of these contractions over the previous two nights were pretty strong. I ignored it. In fact, I had suspected that my water had broken the night before but it was just a tiny trickle, if anything at all. Again, I tried to ignore it.

I was determined to ignore as much of it as possible in an attempt to stay out of my head about the birth this time around. But, on the morning of June 28, after I'd eaten some cereal, I started secretly hunting around online about signs that your water has broken. I remember reading that the trickle I was experiencing could mean that my water had broken, but I still wasn't sure. I also read an interesting fact that some women actually feel a popping sensation in their abdomen when their water breaks. I didn't feel anything like that. Soon, Jonah, who was 2 1/2, was up and my mind had moved on from what was going on with me and this pregnancy to breakfast, Jonah and the rest of my day.

A few minutes later I was sitting on the couch in my nightgown reading a book to Jonah. I wish I could tell you which book I was reading to him as he sat next to me, but I only remember that suddenly I felt a small "pop!" in my lower belly on the side. Then, a gush. I jumped up and ran through my bedroom to the bathroom, grabbing a towel on the way. "My water just broke," I yelled.

At some point, I remember thinking, "It's June 28." And, that sounded like a good day for a birthday.

Matthew called the midwives and doula. I still wasn't convinced the baby was coming. I had ignored so many of the previous signs. And, now, it seemed like all of a sudden my water broke, but I worried that labor hadn't actually started. I worried it would be just like Jonah's birth, when my water broke two weeks early and we had to use all the tricks in the book to get my contractions going and keep them going and I stayed awake for two days and ended up going to the hospital for pitocin and he was finally born 62 hours after my water broke. On the phone with one of my midwives, I sort of told her all of this, talked about my fears. I also talked a lot about Jonah, about my worries that he would be alright with the caretakers we had arranged to be with him during my labor. My worries were about the unknown. And, about another long, drawn out labor that might end up with another hospital birth, which I did not want. I really wanted this baby to be born at home. One of my midwives, Jharna, gave me a little talking to over the phone. She reminded me that I had plans and back-up plans for Jonah's care and that he would be fine. She told me I could stop thinking about that now. She gave me some instructions: to go make my bed and to start thinking about this birth. This baby is coming today, she said, and it was time for me to start focusing on that. Her words gave me direction and a sense of control, which I craved. I think she knew that. My midwives are so smart.

At some point, our friends, Matt and Kristy, came over to pick up Jonah so he could play with their son, Rex, who is a little younger than Jonah. They kept Jonah all morning and he napped in Kristy's car during a ride. Dani would pick him up after work and, if necessary, drive him up to Brattleboro, Vt., where he'd spent the night at his cousin Hugo's house.

Dani went to work. Marc was also working. One of my midwives, Chana Luba, showed up. About two to three hours after my water broke, and not very long after my verbal smack down from Jharna, the contractions really started. I tried to listen to music but soon decided it was too distracting. Bouncing on the birthing ball or leaning over and resting my head and arms on the bed seemed to work best for a while. At some point, my doula, Katherine, and Jharna, showed up. Several hours passed but it felt like minutes.

Soon, it was afternoon, somewhere between 2 and 3 p.m., I think, and time to decide whether Jonah would go to Brattleboro. I didn't know it, but I was about to go into transition. Still, I went back to worrying about Jonah. We decided he should go to his cousin's house, and even though I had already packed his bag, I listed several items to Matthew to make sure were in there. Jharna was listening and chuckled a bit, but also reassured me that Jonah was in good hands, that Matthew would do a good job making sure all his things were in the bag.

My midwives checked my progress at least once or twice during this time. I don't remember specifically how many centimeters I was dilated, but the numbers seemed to make sense to me and made me feel like I was on track. I was so happy because this time I didn't need to walk and walk and walk. I didn't need to drink castor oil. So far, I hadn't needed any medical interventions. They checked the baby's heart rate intermittently and my vitals and everything was fine. Maybe I channeled my worries into other things, like Jonah's care, but I wasn't worried at all about my health or the health of the baby. It was like somewhere, deep down, I knew it was going well and everything would be fine. My midwives' demeanor, actions, quiet voices, gentle hands and proficiency helped a lot to foster that feeling of calm.

We knew Dani would soon be on her way to pick up Jonah, stop at our house to pick up his stuff and then head up to Vermont. Meanwhile, things really started moving. My contractions were coming faster. I really wanted my nightgown off but had trouble saying the words. I started pulling it off and somehow managed to "ask" Matthew and Katherine to help me. "Pull this," I think I said. Somehow, I asked if I could get in the tub. No sooner had the midwives said, "Sure," that I lost the ability to really speak and was having trouble breathing through the contractions. There was a moment when I noticed Matthew wasn't in the room and Katherine was with me, but suddenly I just really needed Matthew. I barely said anything, but Katherine knew just what I needed and got Matthew quickly by my side. I needed to touch him. I was grunting and my body was pushing. I had to push. The midwives checked me to make sure I was complete, and I was. I honestly couldn't believe it. Just when I thought I couldn't do this anymore, someone said, "Your baby is coming in a few minutes." (Did I tell you my midwives are very, very smart? That reassurance was perfectly timed.) "Really?" I said. "Really?" Soon, the baby was crowning and I touched the head. It was only then that I finally believed I was having a baby very, very soon. At first I was on my hands and knees, but then I tried lying on my side. I have a tweaky hip when I give birth so I naturally ended up lying on my back with my legs pulled back like a frog. It felt totally natural. The head was born after a few very painful seconds. I knew the rest would be easy. Apparently, the body didn't come out during the next push as it should have, so there were a few seconds when things got very serious, but I barely noticed. A shoulder was stuck under my pelvic bone, so Jharna got up on the bed, reached in, turned the baby a bit and guided him out during my next contraction. And, there he was! He was born.

I think I asked, "Is it a boy or girl?" Someone, probably Matthew, said, "A boy." Another boy!

The baby had sucked in some fluid on his way out so they did a lot of suctioning. Kristen, a midwife, explained that she would like to use a special tube to get it out, rather than the bulb syringe. I think she may have even said she learned how to use it in England, while training as a midwife. I agreed and she pulled out quite a lot of fluid. I learned later that Matthew was very nervous at this point, but I still had that calm feeling of knowing everything was and would be fine. Maybe it was the hormones, the lack of medication in my system, the midwives or a combination of things. I do remember that this baby was pinker at birth than Jonah had been. And, Jonah was completely healthy and fine, just a little gray at birth. But, I loved that pinkness. We hadn't weighed this baby yet, but I heard my birth attendants remark about his big size.

Soon, the baby was crying and making noise and breathing fine. I had him on my belly and chest and concentrated on seeing if he wanted to nurse. He seemed interested in being near my breasts but didn't want to latch, which was fine. I let him do his thing. Meanwhile, we waited for the placenta, which took a little longer than they liked, but was also fine. At some point, my midwives commented that they were slightly concerned about my bleeding. I turned inward to pay attention to how I felt, so I could tell them if I felt symptoms as a result of blood loss, like light-headedness or nausea or weakness. I was paying attention to myself, but, I learned later, that the serious look on my face worried Matthew. In the end, my midwives gave me a little shot of pitocin in my thigh in an effort to contract my uterus to help stop the bleeding. They were so kind about having to stick me and cause me pain, even though a little needle stick seemed like nothing after giving birth. I do remember that this birth, especially at the end, hurt a lot! I remember that I yelled and screamed through most of it, which is kind of funny because Dani and Marc have tenants who live downstairs. I still don't know if they were home at the time and heard me. I don't really care, but it's kind of funny. I was making a lot of noise. I also remember thinking soon after the baby was born and the pain stopped that now I really, really know why people get epidurals! Soon after, I learned that I had only pushed for about 15 minutes, which amazed me because I pushed for more than three hours during Jonah's birth.

My water broke at 8:15 a.m. Active contractions started around 11 a.m. And, this baby was born at 4:20 p.m. The baby had come before Dani or Marc got home from work, and even before Jonah went to Vermont. Soon after he was born, Dani arrived home with Jonah. We decided that Matthew would run his stuff down to the car, and Dani would come in to see me and the baby for a few minutes, but that we'd have Jonah stay in the car and then head right up to Brattleboro. Dani told us that he had been verbally prepped for his sleepover and was really excited about it. We thought it would be good to put off introducing him to his baby brother until the next day and have a night with only one baby at home. I desperately wanted to see him, but Matthew assured me he was fine and happy and looking forward to going to Hugo's house.

The midwives stayed until about 6 p.m. Before they left, they helped me take a shower. Kristen did some craniosacral therapy on the baby. "I think he has a little headache," she said. Within minutes of laying her hands on him, he fell fast asleep. At some point, they weighed him with a fish scale. Jharna was holding the scale. With a big smile, she said, "You're not going to believe this. Nine pounds, eight ounces!" He was almost two pounds bigger than my first baby at birth! No wonder it hurt so much!

I loved having such a big baby. I felt like he was just that much healthier and safer. He didn't even really look like a newborn. He was chubby and solid. A ton of black, curly hair on his head. Long limbs. In fact, Kristen told me that he was big enough that I didn't have to worry about waking him to nurse every two hours. "If he sleeps for longer stretches, you can just let him sleep. He'll be fine." That was the most wonderful thing anyone could have told me going into the first night with a newborn.

We ordered Chinese food, since it was dinner time. I devoured a giant plate of brown rice, chicken and vegetables and a bowl of miso soup, which is good for restoring energy after a birth. We were so happy that this baby had come at such a convenient time of day. Marc got to meet him when he got home from work. My dad came over after dinner for a while. And, we got to go to bed at bedtime. I had not been awake for two days trying to keep my labor going. This labor happened on its own and my baby was born at home, in my own bed, surrounded by the people Matthew and I had chosen to help us.

We didn't know what to call this baby, but at some point in the middle of the night, I started thinking about it. He was born on June 28, but his due date had been estimated for early July. I started thinking about July and the name Julian formed in my head. Later, I told Matthew and he liked it. We let it sink in for a few hours before deciding, but, from the start, it seemed like the perfect name. We had already decided his middle name would be Dean after my father. (Jonah's middle name is Thomas, after his other grandfather.)

There he was. Julian Dean Cavanaugh. And, my family was complete. ~ Nicole

Monday, May 23, 2011

Letting go

It's been raining a lot. Too much for my liking. It's nearly Memorial Day and we've only had the briefest taste of warm, spring weather. That's New England for you. I've been spending more time indoors due to the wet, cold weather. But, as I look around my house today, I see a little less grime, a little more shine. I've been vaccuuming a bit more. Sweeping. Dusting. Tidying. Partly, it's because I've been in the house more due to the weather. I can't ignore the dirt and mess. I've also been spending more time inside because Julian naps in the morning while Jonah is at preschool, and the kids seem to appreciate spending the afternoons at home most days, especially Jonah who has spent a very stimulating morning at school. But, I am realizing, too, that the other reason my house is a bit more kept is because things are just a little bit easier for me. Taking care of a 3 1/2-year-old and a nearly 11-month-old isn't easy exactly, but it's much less of a struggle most days than it used to be. We've settled into a pretty predictable routine, especially now that Jonah is in preschool four mornings a week. Julian has stopped crying every time he sees the vaccuum cleaner. He plays well by himself and enjoys roaming around on the floor as long as I'm nearby. But, I've also gotten just a little bit better at letting go. My standards for housekeeping have gone way down and I'm mostly OK with that. While it can still be very frustrating that I usually can't finish any job I have started, I know that this is the norm and no longer expect to get everything done in one day. I've gotten to the point where I can do just a little bit every day, at certain opportune times. Over the course of about a week, I can do a little bit of work in almost every room or in our small yard. Just enough to maintain the order I require to feel sane in my house. It's still hard because there's a lot of deep cleaning I really never get to. I have piles and piles of papers to go through. Lots of closets and storage areas that need to be cleaned out and organized. The bathtub could use a good scrubbing. But, someone always needs to be fed. Someone's boo boo needs a kiss. Someone needs a diaper change. Someone needs help finding a favorite toy. Someone needs help sharing. Someone needs me for something other than cleaning and tidying. So, I stop what I am doing. I leave the bedroom only half vaccuumed. I pat myself on the back for wiping down the sink and mirror even though I never got around to mopping the floor. It's good enough because it's better than it was a few minutes ago. And, I know that this is just the state of my house -- and my life -- right now. At any time, things could pile up and it could become more difficult. I've learned not to see anything as a trend, necessarily, because things can change at any time. The most important piece of all of this is that I have let go of judging myself for having a messy or dirty house. It's just the way things are for me. It's not my fault and it's not even a bad thing to have a messy house. In fact, it is evidence that I am doing my job, that I am paying attention to my children and doing what they need me to do. I am happy to say that I have lightened up a lot since having kids. I still have moments when the chaos drives me crazy and I need to vent -- or kick everyone out of the house so I can just take care of things uninterrupted. But, for now, as Julian takes his afternoon nap and Jonah sits next to me on the couch watching Thomas the Tank Engine and chatting with me now and then while I take advantage of a little time to work on my computer, I look around and enjoy the shine coming off of my floors and the crumb-free rug at my feet. I notice there's a bit of dust on the coffee table, but nothing in this house is perfect, now or ever. And, that's the way it's supposed to be, and that's fine by me. ~ Nicole

Friday, April 8, 2011


I'm trying hard to turn the many roadblocks I see in my path this morning into opportunities.

That sounds so corny, like a self-help book, but it's true.

Both kids woke up way too early today. I think I finally looked at the clock at 5:30, after Julian wouldn't stop tossing and turning next to me. I ignored him for as long as I could, but it's impossible to ignore a 9-month-old baby in your bed, when all he wants to do is giggle and crawl around and try to dive off the bed. About 20 minutes later, I heard Jonah. Awake from coughing and crying for me. I made a half-hearted attempt to get each of them back to sleep. It wasn't happening. I convinced Jonah to bring some books to my bed, thinking I could at least stay horizontal a bit longer. It turned out to be a wonderful hour we spent talking and reading in bed, and I was amazed by the fact that Jonah has memorized many of his books and likes "reading" his books to me just as much as he enjoys having me read to him. He "read" Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Runaway Bunny, The Little Bunny and Cleo's Counting Book to me. Soon, he grew hoarse and started coughing again. He was refusing the homeopathic cough syrup I offered, but I convinced him to join me and Julian in the bathroom for some steam. I tricked him. I told him I needed to take Julian in the bathroom for the steam to help his cold, but that I'd love it if he'd join us and play with his squirt trains in the sink. We stayed in there for as long as the shower stayed hot. Julian played on the floor with bath toys while Jonah "washed" his trains in the sink.

My plan is to go to a mothers' support group this morning. Matthew is out of town on work, so I arranged for a friend to watch Jonah and have a playdate while I took Julian to the group. But, the friend canceled due to her own family's challenges (cold, lack of sleep, etc.). I totally understand. But, I need to come up with a new plan. Fast. Well, not really, since I was up at the crack, but I'm very slow-witted in the early morning. When my plans fall through at the last minute, I often feel very, very indecisive about which direction to go. I could just stay home and skip everything, taking what can feel like the path of least resistance. But, then, it's so nice out and I was looking forward to the walk. Jonah has this terrible cough, so I'm just not sure about taking him to the playroom where he could play while I'm in the group. I don't think his cold is contagious any more but he has a hacking, gagging cough that is very disconcerting, especially to people who haven't heard it off and on every day and night for a few days, like I have. (The homeopathic cough stuff does seem to work, but you really do have to take it every two hours on the dot.) Anyway, I know I may freak people out by bringing my "sick" kid to a playroom today, but I really NEED the group. So, then I was thinking, well maybe I'll skip the group and just take the kids to a playground. But, I can't commit to that. It's because I really need to go to the group today. So, now I am thinking that we will go anyway, as soon as Julian wakes up. I should be helping Jonah get ready, but here I am writing away.

I decided to let Jonah wear his pajamas, which are really just the clothes he wore yesterday afternoon for his nap ... and the same clothes he wore to bed last night. So, that's one less thing to do. One less roadblock to leave the house. But, I still need to get him to brush his teeth. I need to put some snacks in the bag. I need to get everyone's shoes and coats on. I need to strap the kids into the stroller, and bring the Ergo in case Julian gets crazy at group, and start walking. Group starts in 20 minutes. Julian is still napping, which I'm totally not complaining about. Jonah is playing with his trains, but kind of wishing I would pay attention to him. Ah, and he's starting to brush his teeth! Maybe to get my attention! Gotta go support this positive behavior! Stay tuned to find out if I actually get out of the house this morning ... and maintain a positive attitude. Hopefully, it won't take me another three months to write. ~ Nicole

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dust and all

My house is driving me crazy. Toys are everywhere. Dishes always need to be washed. The laundry stands in piles and in baskets around the house in various states of dirty, clean, unfolded and folded. There is baby clothing both boys have outgrown to sort through and pass along. Toys and baby gadgets we no longer want or need. A bag of miscellaneous items for donation. Boxes of framed photos that haven't yet been hung on the walls. Dust. Crumbs. Smears. Cat fur collecting on the couch. Recycling to sort and put in bins. Shoes just screaming to be lined up or put away in closets. I am home a lot lately. It is winter in New England and we have lately been pummeled with snow and frigid, frigid temperatures. Too snowy and too cold to take two little ones outside most of the time. We do it anyway any chance we get, but we are home more than we are out doing things. I spend a lot of time thinking about ways I wish I could improve my surroundings, our living space. But, I don't spend much time actually doing any of it. Between feeding two kids and ourselves, diaper changes, clothing changes, reading books, naps, etc. there isn't much time leftover to hang pictures or beautify our place. When I do get a chance to clear away some clutter, vaccuum and give most surfaces a wipe down, it does look pretty nice in here. But, it never lasts. Today, I found myself trying very hard to accept this state of affairs. To give myself a break. It's winter in New England for godsake! Not easy to cart away bags and boxes of unwanted items. Not easy to escape the dust that accumulates or dirt that gets track in. I looked around and tried to say, "So what. So what if there's a baby swing in my bedroom being used as a clothes hanger. So what if there is a plastic bin full of baby clothes in my dining room. So what if every corner of every room has a pile of toys in it. So what if there are bits of dried up Play Dough on the kitchen floor. So what." It won't always be this way, I told myself. Spring will come. We will clean. We will clear out. That's what we do in the spring. January is over. It is light out past 5 p.m. these days. The light is coming. The days are lengthening. Soon enough, we can clean and beautify, both indoors and out. "I can't wait until we can sit out on the porch and drink coffee," Matthew said today as he and Jonah played in the snow in the front yard. Yes! That WILL happen. Soon enough. Soon enough we can escape the indoors and stomp in the mud, smell the grass, feel the warm breeze, soak up the sun. It will come. It will. Until then, we will bake, drink tea, make soup, make finger paintings, build tall Lego towers, watch Julian learn how to crawl, run circles around the racetrack in the house, read lots of books, venture out when we can to the library, play in the snow, go out to a warm and cozy restaurant with our kids who actually behave really well at restaurants and simply be grateful for it all. Dust and all. ~ Nicole

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Tonight, I am home alone. Both kids are asleep (for now anyway). Matthew is working. I was in my pajamas by 7:15. I am drinking chamomile tea. A bunch of my girlfriends are meeting up in a few minutes to have drinks. I was supposed to go, but I am the babysitter tonight. I am both happy and sad to be home alone in a quiet (for now) house. It's peaceful, but I find myself so rarely in this type of environment, in this state of things, that I have forgotten a bit how to do this. Nothing. Or, whatever I want. Or almost whatever I want. (Probably not going to turn the stereo up real loud and dance around.) I could start watching a movie, but I worry that Julian will wake up and interrupt it and I won't get very far into the movie before deciding to just give in and take him to bed with me. I have a book, but ... There's Julian. See?