Lucas’s Birth

There’s no “pretty” way to write about a birth. Or at least, I’m not capable of it. Here’s a real, slightly stream of consciousness account of the birth of Lucas Aron. Our second home birth, our second child…the next chapter of our great adventure. 

After yet another long, uncomfortable, sleepless night, I awoke to Ali climbing over me and creating a nest for herself on what space was left on the couch. It wasn’t until I felt a tap on my shoulder that I was fully awake.

“Hey, it’s Father’s Day.”

I gasped and apologized, realizing I had completely forgotten that it was Father’s Day. I had no gift, no card. No meal prepared. Nada.

My poor man. He was so forgiving. He just wanted to spend some time doing things he liked around the house. I said sure…I will try my best to keep up with Ali.

A half hour later, we were all sitting on the couch, eating breakfast. We had broken down our dining table to make space for the birthing pool. After Aliana’s early arrival, we made sure to be ready at 36 weeks. The pool was inflated and in place. Our towels were washed  and clean. We had our birth box in the baby’s room, all items accounted for. We were all set to meet the baby. But he took his time!

Shortly after breakfast, I thought I felt a contraction. At this point, I had been having contractions for about two weeks. I must have forgotten what Braxton Hicks felt like, because I had been having them for a while and never knew it. For at least a week and a half, I had been having contractions ten minutes apart for two hours. Much like my first labor, I was able to sit quietly to manage them. We would text Michelle, our midwife, just to keep her informed. But the tapered off, each and every time.

At this point, I couldn’t believe that I’d made it to 39 weeks. I had finally accepted that I would go full term. But this contraction felt different. I quickly felt the need to scoot forward to the edge of the couch, then the urge to stand was too great. I walked it off, making sure to take deep breaths while imagining the contraction’s apex and release.

“Andrew……”

That felt different. That one didn’t feel quite right.

“Just letting you know, I think I had a real contraction there.”

The look on his face was hilarious. His shoulders fell, and he glanced at the pile of papers he had begun to shred.

“I guess I’ll start to put this away.”

Could this be it? Could it finally be happening, or am I going to keep being pregnant?

We quickly found the answer to this question. Not five minutes later, another contraction. Same intensity. Same need to keep moving.

It’s 8:45 am.

It’s time to call the midwife.

We’re on the phone and I have another contraction. She trusts me to tell her if I need her to come right away. I told her I thought I would be ok for a little while longer. She said she’d prep her things and wait for our call.

I called my mother, waking her. I also woke my sister in California, to just let her know the baby was likely to make an appearance that day. Mom didn’t believe me that I had just started labor. She must of thought I was calling her late in the game like last time. I remember telling her quite sternly, “Mom, I just had three contractions in the last fifteen minutes. You need to get up and go!”

I don’t know if the fact that I didn’t take another birthing class helped or hurt me this time. I mean, I remembered what I learned, and I had been reviewing my Bradley workbook over the last few weeks. I used what I remembered, but my labor was advancing too quickly for me to integrate the contractions. I spent some time leaning against the couch. I spent some time leaning on the exercise ball. But they were coming on quickly, and stronger each time. At one point, I just sat on the toilet in hopes that the gravity would help the situation, I had forgotten that it works way too well, though. Andrew had called Michelle to check in, He knocked on the door, I opened it a crack, and heard him ask if I wanted to speak to Michelle. My only response was to slam the door in his face! I couldn’t count my breaths let alone hold a conversation. Michelle took that as her cue to make her way to our house.

Funny (to me) detail. I got tired, so I opened the door again, and leaned against it while still sitting. Andrew leaned in to check on me, and placed his toes on mine. I moved my foot, but he just put his back on top of mine. I think this was his way of sympathizing with me, and letting me know he was there for me (up until this point, I had been laboring on my own while he topped off the air in the pool, and straightened up the bedroom and kitchen). As a woman in labor, however, this was the least helpful thing he could have done. I yanked my foot out from under him again while gritting my teeth, “get the eff off of me!”

10:30 am

The next thing I remember, is Michelle coming through the door quietly. Aliana is so excited to see her, she wants to take her upstairs to see her room. Michelle is able to hold her off long enough to check on me and see how things were going. We wait until a contraction subsides and I ask her to check my progress. As soon as she was done I have another contraction, but this one felt wet. I thought my water had broken and I was momentarily excited, but it was only my mucus plug. Slightly disappointing, but Michelle announced that I was 4 cm dilated, but that contraction likely pushed me past 6. This was happening so fast!

Faith, who I really should just start introducing as my sister, came over. She was incredibly helpful with Ali, and resumed her duty as birth videographer. It was around this time that I felt like I needed to get into the pool. Andrew filled it up, and I quickly got in. I tried to integrate the contractions, but they were so strong, so close together, I felt like I barely got a break in between them.

We prepared Aliana as best as we could. We read books, we watched natural birth videos of cats, dogs, horses, and some human births. We talked about how some mommies need to make noises to help their bodies get their baby out. I let her know that I had to make a lot of noises to get her out, and that I might make a lot of noises to get our new baby out. Ali was very excited to watch her baby brother’s birth, but she got really nervous  with how much I was vocalizing. She mostly stayed out of the way, preferring to be in the living room watching a movie. She did come into the kitchen to check on me once in a while, and I remember catching a glance of her peeking in flapping her hands. She’s anxious, I thought to myself, but I couldn’t spare much more thought to make sure she was okay.

Because I actually got to test for group B strep this time, I found out I was positive, and I opted for antibiotics again. I know this is one detail that conflicts with many others that I know who have chosen to have unmedicated births at home, but with my medical history, I err on the side of caution. I have been very lucky to have a midwife who helps me become informed of the choices I have and supports the decisions I make. It’s one of the reasons why I love her so much. Michelle is not only an amazing birth provider, but she’s also a teacher, counselor, friend, and certainly family.

Like my first labor, I wasn’t able to finish the whole dose of antibiotic. I couldn’t quite feel a pressure they way you would think when it’s time to push. I just felt my contractions getting longer and longer, so I began to pull in on my belly as I did with Aliana. I thought I could feel crowning, but then there was a pop! and the feeling was gone. My water broke! I don’t know if my bag was actually hanging out or not, but I swear it felt like his head had come out. Though that was disappointing, I knew that he was only so much more closer to coming.

Ali was pushed into this world two hours after my water breaking. Lucas….it had to have been under an hour.

The contractions were coming on one after the other. I kept moving, swinging around in the pool, at one point practically hanging out of it with my butt in the air. I seriously could not keep control of myself. I was trying so hard to work with my body, but my body had one mission. I kept trying to control it, but it was telling me to let go, let it do what it needed to do. I wasn’t blocking it, by any means. I wanted to work with it so bad, to be a part of my body as it went through this amazing transformation. But I couldn’t. I was afraid. I didn’t want to be in pain. The thought that kept me going was the little girl in the other room. I did this for you, I can do this for your brother. Don’t fight it, meet it head on.

I want to say that I finally reached my breaking point, but I don’t think that’s quite right. Deep down inside, I knew I couldn’t be ‘broken,’ but I was also so tired of trying to be in sync with my body. I needed a break, so so badly.

Another contraction, another push. I could feel him coming, the burning sensation that comes with crowning. Jesus, it hurt. It burned. Got to get it out to catch a break. Once his head is out, I can breathe, I can take a moment to regain my strength just get it out getitout getitout getitoutgetitoutgetitout.

I let all my air out and cry, “It won’t stop!” This contraction will not end! It keeps mounting, growing bigger and bigger. Keep pushing keep pushing keep pushing. A deep breath, hold and bear down. I open my eyes and see a flicker of something round in the water below me. I push and reach down to touch his head and suddenly my son is in cradled in my arm. I sit back against the side of the pool and pull him up and out against my chest. “I’ve got him!”

12:30 pm

His eyes slowly open and close as if he’s waking from a long, peaceful nap. He was totally chill! Like he hadn’t just journeyed out into the world. We begin to call Ali over and she rushes in. I had to do a double take when I caught sight of her. My baby girl suddenly did not look so little anymore. At that moment, I was so overjoyed with the two greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I’ll never forget the moment, when all pain was gone and only joy left in it’s wake.

Lucas remained quiet but he was by no means struggling. Though pictures taken in those moments show him to be blue, he was actually quite pink in person. He was just, relaxed! He passed his apgars with flying colors.

Getting the placenta was super easy this time around. I merely looked down into the pool and noticed a bit of a red cloud forming around me. Michelle reached down while I gave a light push and out it came, intact. We took a similar journey from the kitchen to our bedroom, where Lucas and I were cleaned up. It’s 12:45 when my parents walk through the door, barely missing it!

Unlike last time, I tore a little and needed two stitches. This boy practically shot out of me, my body didn’t have time to stretch and adapt around him. He was measured and weighed, Andrew held him while mom got me a snack. I’ll never forget the next couple of minutes, where I sat on the edge of my bed next to my midwife in silence, just the two of us, sharing a pupusa. Both of our jobs had been completed; now, the feast. It was one of the most emotionally and physically satisfying meals I’ve ever had.

We started the day on the couch, planning the day ahead. We ended the day on the couch, holding the greatest Father’s Day gift anyone could receive, and one I can never ever top.

Lucas, I was so scared to be your mom. I didn’t think myself capable of being a “boy mom.” Today, as I stare at your sleeping face, I cannot picture my family looking any different than it does now. You’ve taught me so much — patience, excitement, strength. Thank you for choosing us to be your family. We love you so, so very much.

My heart BURST with pride

technically, this should be a “Conversations With Ali, Eve of her 2nd Birthday,” but because i was pretending to be asleep (or rather, trying really hard to go back to sleep this morning), this was more of a one-sided, overheard somewhere, kind of Aliana-ism.

Aliana, almost 2

Aliana, almost 2

everymorning, ali and i cuddle while she drinks her morning milk. sometimes, this means we both get an extra 30 minutes of sleep before i really have to get up. as i mentioned, i was trying really hard to get back to sleep, but i was failing. ali was wide awake, and starts to count the beads on my silver necklace. she started as one is wont to do, when counting. “one, two, three, four…” little lady can get up to the twenties now. but that’s when she did something so incredibly surprising: she started to count in spanish.

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“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, cinco, seis, cinco, seis…”

granted, she started to sound like a broken record, but good Lord did my heart leap from my chest. no one asked her to count. no one asked her to count in spanish. i sometimes feel terribly guilty that i don’t speak more spanish around her. honestly, it’s a word here or there. it happens sometimes when i don’t expect the spanish to come out. but when i have to sit and make myself think of what to say, i feel ashamed. i was hoping that our kids would grow up in a bilingual household, but with not having anyone to converse with in spanish, i’m afraid that i’m starting to lose it. even speaking to my family over the phone (we’ve always spoken in Spanglish, but majority of the conversation is in spanish), i find myself having to concentrate a little harder on what i’m saying. it’s like a complex mental math problem. one thing for sure though, is that my child loves Guatemalan food. i don’t cook the more traditional things at home, that require all day, exotic ingredients, or sometimes a muchacha as an extra hand, but boy does she love the few things i do cook here, or that my mom cooks for us.

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regardless, i think we did a great job finding a daycare that uses spanish in their lessons. i am so incredibly thankful for them, not just as a practical third parent, but for the care and thoughtfulness they put into their lessons at “school.” i was so disappointed when we first interviewed a daycare provider in clifton park who was a native spanish speaker and refused to speak to the kids in spanish. i’m glad that we felt a resounding “no!” and found someplace much much better.

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mommy guilt aside, i have to remind myself that we’re doing this practically alone. we don’t have family to help us at a drop of a hat. we don’t have many close friends, but we’ve done well in raising her. she’s healthy, she’s so incredibly smart and thoughtful, and she’s certainly beautiful.

as a friend told me recently, “guilt shouldn’t belong in a mom’s vocabulary…” and she’s right. i realized that (again) this morning as my baby girl–who’s not so much of a baby anymore–counted her way in spanish. i may not be doing much at home, but the few things she does hear, she’s picking up and absorbing, repeating. that’s worth calling a success, right? we can always add more vocabulary as she gets older.

she’s amazing, and i find that out more and more each day.

call me sappy, but i’m very thoughtful today. to think that this time, two years ago, i was 3 cms dilated after being in labor for almost 24 hours. i was testing out every position i had learned in bradley class, trying to find the most comfortable position for that contraction. then finding another for the next.

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look at her now, from a zygote to a gorgeous little girl. we love you ali. can’t wait to see how much more you grow this next year.

 

 

 

 

Near Death Experience

How badly can you piss off your wife before she kills you? You could do what my dad did. After spending a very eventful day in San Francisco full of fun, laughing, and pictures, my dad unintentionally erased it all, ALL of it. On the ferry ride back to our hotel late that night he found the format function on the digital camera, couldn’t determine if he was on “yes” or “no” and clicked. He ended up clicking “yes,” thus reformatting the memory card and deleted every single photo off the camera. Needless to say that was the most awkward hour I’ve ever spent with my family. I thought my mom was going to combust.

Today, I made a similar decision. I suppose it was bound to happen. I’ve been spending a lot of time cleaning up my electronic clutter. Deleting useless files, programs and documents that are just clutter all over my desktop and scattered through my computer folders. In performing that task that I stumbled across two databases on my web host account. I deleted one I knew was garbage and deleted a second I thought was associated with the first. Well what is it that happens when we assumes? That’s right, we “make an ass out of you and me.” In this case however, I made a double ass out of myself. I deleted the database for this blog, deleting EVERYTHING including Lilly’s entire birth story. When I realized what I did I nearly threw up in my cubicle and immediately messaged Lilly.

After sweating it out and gagging at my desk for 20 minutes for her to finally get the message thinking she’d strangle me through my computer monitor before she responding, she remained calm. She had mercy on her poor husband and let me live! Long enough to write this anyway. She also told me to call our web host company. By the grace of God himself, my hosting company has a free service where they backup your account every single day and recovered my deleted database, and thus this blog. Who knew? Thank you BlueHost! You know not only saved my life today, but let me feel a sense of relief and joy I haven’t felt since my daughter took her first breath. Whew!

Conversations with Aliana, 22 Months

At dinner Monday night, Aliana was singing one of her favorite songs. She changes the names based on her friends’ and family…

Aliana: “Ali Kahrs, we love you….Ryan, we love you…Daddy dew, we love you…”

Drew: “Why does she call me that?”

Me: “Ali, what’s daddy’s name?”

Aliana: “Dew”

Me: “You mean ‘Drew’?”

Drew: “That makes so much sense now!”

If you were wondering, I’m “Mommy Kahrs”!

Conversations with Aliana, 21 Months

February 22, 2013

Ali’s learning about the ocean and the animals that live in it at “school.” This was our dinner conversation last night:

Me: so, Aliana, what did you learn about the ocean today?
Aliana: ummmm….
Me: can you tell me what lives in the ocean? (Makes ALS sign for fish)
Aliana: fish!
Me: what else? What about dolphins?
Aliana: yeah, dolphins!
Me: what do dolphins say, how do they speak?
Aliana: (after thinking for a moment) “hi! Hi! Hi!” (Waves her hand in the air)

One Year Later…

Aliana is now 13 months old, and we can hardly believe it.

We know we’ve been MIA, and I’m kicking myself hard for not documenting the last six months as I should have. We were going through some tough, personal issues (which included having to move as well as an unexpected job loss), and I may or may not have been a little depressed. I am in denial about it, haha.

Anyway, I’ll begin posting again soon. I’ll begin with a quick recap of her milestones and incorporate where she is now as soon as I can.

Lilly

10 Months Old!

Aliana is now 10 months old! I still cannot believe I’m a father to one of God’s children. I’m not sure if it’s encouraging or downright jaw-dropping to think God has given me sole responsibility, along with my wife of course, to care for her; to tell me plain as day He has enough faith in me to turn Aliana into a kind, loving, follower of Christ who will be a great contributing member of the world. It’s been a challenge though for me to share God’s confidence in myself, as I’ve quickly learned I’m an overprotective paranoid father who fears everything from dirt to her own baby poo is going to hurt her. It’s difficult to take a breath sometimes, but Aliana never fails to show me regularly she is a big kid who can handle new experiences. I bet she looks at me thinkging, “take a chill pill dad and watch me figure things out on her own. Support me, don’t stand there in a panic.” Needless to say I’m a work-in-progress.

Aliana on the other hand, is perfect. She’s surpassing any expectations I thought I had about who my daughter would be as a 10-month old. She has a high tolerance to pain, can control all sorts of foods in her mouth, and repeat actions like, “If I bang this it will make noise.” It’s been eye-opening to see the wheels-turning, really watching her learn something she didn’t know just moments before. It’s something new each week with her, I hope it never ends. Until I’m old and senile I hope she’ll continue to call me telling me what new thing she learned that week. Heck, even after I’m senile, she may even have more fun telling me then!

First Family Christmas

I know we have seriously lacked in keeping up with our family blog, but it’s safe to say we have made it to our first Christmas as a family. Aliana turned 7 months last Thursday and is learning more and more each day. Lilly and I are still working our Mon-Fri day jobs and Aliana still attends the same daycare.

Parenting has been an incredible experience thus far. Our precious Aliana is an amazing little girl who always finds new ways to make us smile. She’s a thriving social butterfly who smiles at nearly everyone she meets and is not only a joy to us, but to those around her. She turns heads when we we’re out and about, loves exploring her surroundings and snuggling with mommy and daddy on Saturday mornings. She loves walking and isn’t interested in crawling. She’s learning how to better her motor skills and tries so hard to put EVERYTHING she gets her hands on into her mouth.

I will make a blog post of just Ali pictures soon to catch you all up on the past few months.

As with all families we too have been experiencing the common family struggles with regards to minor injuries, illnesses, finances, neighbors, etc. They’re usually short-lived, are quickly forgotten and easily left in the past.

There are more details and in depth stories to follow, but right now it’s time to get back to eating and Christmas movies.

More About Breast Feeding

Tomorrow, I’ll be 24 and she’ll be 5 months. What a milestone for both of us.

We’ve been breast feeding successfully for five months. To this day, she has not had a drop of formula. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not boasting about that fact, rather, I am praising God for it. There were many moments when I feared that I wouldn’t make it this far.

Go ahead, tell me I’m being ridiculous. I would agree with you. I don’t know why I let breast feeding define me so much. I became so emotionally attached to the idea during my pregnancy, that I knew I would be devastated if I wasn’t able to breast feed. I didn’t know it until after I had Ali that milk production is a challenge in my family. My own mother was only able to nurse me for three months before she wasn’t able to produce any more. Everyday, I fear that it’s my last. There have been times where my milk has fluctuated wildly, from one day to the next with no cause, then there are days that I will produce way more than I thought I could.

By no means do I claim to be an expert on any topic I write about here, but I have done a lot of research — not to mention that I work at a health care company, so I have a lot of resources others don’t — and consider myself to be knowledgeable in the subjects relating to childbirth and breast feeding. Unfortunately, I still let myself get anxious about being able to nurse. I am trying to change my way of thinking from “Please God, please help me make more milk for her” to “Thank you, God, for allowing me to provide the best nutrition for my daughter another day.” So far, I am beginning to feel more comfortable with the fact that, one day, this is going to end. I was prepared for it to end through weaning, but now, I like to think I’m prepared to just let it take its course if it needs to.

For those of you thinking about nursing your future children, please seek out resources and support from others. Nursing is hard, just as hard as labor. There are a lot of women out there that make it look easy, I don’t know how they do it, and I’ll admit, I have been jealous of those to whom it looks like it is so easy for them. Sometimes, it seems like Andrew’s the only one telling me that I’m doing a good job, and I know my sister tells me the same. But it’s hard to hear it, and then really believe. For some reason, my lactation consultant has always been the only one that can truly put my mind at ease.

I can’t say it enough: if you’re going to breast feed, get a lactation consultant!! Or you can visit your local chapter of La Leche League. I didn’t do this before delivering, but LLL can provide a lot of instruction prior to having your child. Post-partum, having a consultant was a huge gift. I still call her when I have a question or concern. When Aliana started sleeping through the night around 9 weeks, I didn’t realize that I couldn’t let myself engorge and leak. That sends a signal to stop producing, and my supply reduced significantly. She quickly gave me some tips and a schedule of sorts to get me right back up. I haven’t had that severe of a fluctuation since.

Secondly, buy a good pump. But whatever you do, unless it is a hospital grade pump that you are renting, do NOT use a second hand pump. Do not purchase a used pump online or from anyone you know. Commercial pumps are called “open system” pumps. The system is not designed to keep breast milk from potentially coming in contact with the motor. Medela’s “Pump In Style” pumps are open system. Your milk can potentially enter the tubes and even come in contact with the motor. If you don’t clean it, or even realize that this has happened, it can form mold, and the spores can travel back into your collected milk and can potentially harm your baby. There are companies that use a “closed pump” system, such as Ameda’s “Purely Yours” (which I think I will purchase for the next kiddo, I have a love-hate relationship with my Medela), and the milk will never touch the tubing or vacuum source. Definitely do your research regarding pumps before you purchase one. Better yet, just rent one from the hospital. I used Medela’s “Symphony” at Albany Med, and it was a great pumping experience. This one is considered a closed system, because it uses closed diaphragms to create the vacuum needed.

This is pretty much all I can think to mention at the moment. Knowing me, I’ll probably revisit the topic. I doubt that any male readership that we have gained will want to hear more about this, it is kind of a personal subject to speak of, but my goal since the beginning of this blog has been to share what I learn in this experience. I was the first of my friends to get engaged, then married, and now to become a mother. I think it’s only fair that you all see what I have gone through in this process as well.

If you girls have any questions, feel free to ask me. I love sharing my knowledge, and if there’s something we need to figure out together, together we will.

 

I Know What It Feels Like to Be a Cow

(18 weeks pp)

I know what it feels like to be a cow. Every morning, I wake up, and perform my toilette, wake up the calf, and feed. Said calf feeds twice if I’m lucky (and she’s not too sleepy) before heading out to work.

Once I arrive at my place of employment — where I spend the day grazing on my 50 million snacks because I am always hungry — I have about an hour or so before I have to hook myself up to a machine that vaguely resembles this for fifteen minutes. I repeat twice more every three hours. Collected milk stays in our fridge in a small black cooler with a giant ice pack designed to fit around the bottles.

Once home, I transfer expressed milk into four freezer bags — totaling four servings — for my calf to eat while at calf care from one of these. My freezer is full of milk. There is barely enough room for the sustenance my bull and I require, but we manage.

When the calf comes home with the bull, she feeds directly again. Repeat process at least 4 times before her 7-8 pm bedtime, and I’m pooped. At this point, I require a large ice cream on a sugar cone. I take a few moments to thank God for the cow that provided her cream in my cone before consuming, and promptly go to bed.

…only to repeat the next day, and will continue to repeat until my time is over.

Dear friend, I commiserate with you. Our babies require the best food possible, so we do our best to provide. Unfortunately for you, you’re feeding thousands (including me), and I’m only feeding one. It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it.