i call both of my children "my littlest one", but today my biggest one leaves home

I just sent my oldest to her first day of all-day school.* She was wearing last Thanksgiving’s homesewn dress, scuffed brown oxfords, and brown tights. She had two little buns on the side of her head that her father gave her, her nails were trimmed, her teeth brushed, her ears cleaned. She carried a ladybug backpack my sister Jules bought her; on the backpack was a green button designating her as a “Rider” (as in, is picked up at the end of the school day) which apparently must accompany her daily or I will never find out where she got whisked away to (the teacher made no fewer than four impassioned speeches on the subject yesterday at orientation). She was excited to go and didn’t want to floss her teeth or she’d be late. At this I half-joked, “You’re in a hurry to get away from me!” and she replied, “No mom, I don’t want to get away from you…” in this tone that said, Mom, this isn’t about you.

I had a bet with a friend whether I’d cry on Sophie’s first day of school; I did not. Perhaps I’m just too tired; I was up until well past four AM last night (earnestly I tell you dear reader – I have no idea why. I did not feel particularly anxious or have caffeine too late) and while I still got up and made lunch and sent my girl off with her father I am a bit lagging. But sentimentality at milestones is something that comes and goes with me; it’s not a constant. It occurs to me the reason I held her as much as I could and nursed her for three years and cuddled her and smelled her close as often as I could and took baths with her and greedily listened to her voice and kissed her one million times was that yes, I could take as much time with her as seemed reasonable, but also that she’d get her fill of love and be able to walk out the door to other things. I am not sad she can leave without a backward glance. I am glad – and I know she’ll come back to me.

A full day with my son, the first of many this school year, awaits his emergence from bed. I start fresh coffee and shower, hoping to lie down for a few moments before beginning the workday.

For those who haven’t seen it, Ralph and I posted a wee cooking video on I’m Cooked.com.

* Pictures pending: Ralph left the card reader at work.

our newest member and the beat goes on

Our kitty (se llama Harris).

Today my friend Jen and I carpooled our kids and went for lunch in the park. We tried to converse while being besieged by each of the four children, alternatively needing attention, lunch, water, help with clothes, advocacy with other children: the subjects Jen and I attempted ranged from marriage, her political campaign (mayor of HQX!), parenting, our own upbringing, parents’ illnesses, employment, counseling. Later in her backyard the children strip down and play together mostly nicely and Nels, with a runny nose and feeling down today, wants me to hold him. I put my arms around him and Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter” comes on over the stereo. The song is such a nostalgic one for me. My friend I’m with today we’ve known one another since we were eight years old and now our own children approach that age. I think we have an understanding that has only strengthened now that a few years of family are behind us and our second childhood looms.

Today finds me with a sick child, a tooth-dangerously-loose child, a diarrhetic kitten, and a busted checking account. A few minutes before I take my kids home from our playdate and I’m wiping the nose of one and the blood off another (Sophie scraped her foot playing in the pool) and it feels like I’m a magnet and things just snap to me. Children and pets and husband hang off me when they can. It isn’t at all uncomfortable for the most part, it still surprises me though. Motherhood, should you choose to take it on in any involved way, is endless, relentless, it never stops. It’s beautiful, though, and my favorite thing to do so far (well, the favorite thing I can share publicly). Even our little kitty gravitates towards Mama; last night as I drowsed in the middle of the night I realized that in between in the blanket hammock formed between my legs in the figure 4 position – the little kitty slept and purred, a tiny, insignificant engine. In the morning then: homemade bread toasted, eggs, ripe pear for the children; milk for our grown Blackie kitty (pissed off about little Harris); fresh water and food for the animals. Clean up the breakfast dishes – “Kids, go wash your hands and brush your teeth!” and set clothes out and pack a lunch and then after the lunch and driving and playing and pulling off clothes and nursing sad children home to clean up kids and wash their clothes because they got muddy.

(update 3:56 PM: Sophie just lost her second tooth; she reaches symmetry again for a brief period).

happy birthday, Nels

I can’t believe it’s been a year.

Nels David Hogaboom
a birth story

Born at home to mom Kelly, dad Ralph, and sister Sophia
1:20 AM Wednesday April 7, 2004
8 pounds 7 ounces
21 inches long

April 6th, 9 AM – is it or isn’t it?

A couple hours after I wake up on Tuesday I’m having mild contractions that are only a tiny bit more intense than the Braxton Hicks contractions I’d had throughout the last half of my pregnancy. These contractions are only slightly painful and certainly not too intense. Nevertheless, they are somewhat distracting and never truly subside, coming anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes apart. Ralph senses things are going to go into motion and comes home at noon, starting his two weeks off of work. He calls my mom at about 3 PM and tells her to head up to see us (she leaves about 5 PM). At this point I am hopeful of labor but also feeling somewhat silly at the thought I might be treating everyone to a false alarm. My mom arrives at about 9 PM time and she and Ralph start writing down my contractions, calling midwives, and cleaning the house up a bit.

April 6th, 10 PM – the real thing

My mom and I are watching a movie together and my contractions are still coming about 10 minutes apart. I still claim I am unsure if labor is going someplace. But everyone is noticing I pause the movie during each contraction so I can concentrate on getting though it. I’m undecided if I should walk around to “get things moving” or lie down and rest in between contractions. I’m trying not to be too fearful of another long labor like I had with my first child. Suddenly at about 10:30 PM I hop up from the bed and turn off the movie, since contractions have sped up to about 4 minutes apart. Naturally my mom and Ralph are very excited and go about making phone calls and preparations while I pace the floor and cope with each contraction. It is going quite well but I keep telling myself these are the “easy” contractions and I try not to worry about what’s to come.

Around 10:30 my midwives and my doula start arriving and I am focusing inward in the classic “Laborland” manner. I notice peripherally how efficient and friendly everyone is, setting up the bed, laying out blankets and birth supplies and getting snacks. Everyone is wonderful to me and provides me with water and encouragement between contractions, respectful silence and privacy during. I feel very protected and honored and so it is easy not to be fearful. My doula Elizabeth arrives and strokes my back and speaks softly to me. She puts me nearly to sleep in between contractions. I am feeling so grateful for the love and encouragement I am getting. I know I am coping very well and in fact since I am doing so well I don’t think I am very far along.

April 7th, Midnight – silliest labor quote

Things are intense but I don’t want a check to see how far I’ve dilated. I am somewhat afraid to discover all the work I am doing hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Laura (one of the midwives) suggests I get into the tub. I’d always thought of the tub as what you use as a last resort toward the end of labor so I tell her I can wait. After a few more contractions I decide to get in, hoping for some pain relief. I spend about 40 minutes in the tub with contractions edging up their intensity. Everyone is around me encouraging me and vocalizing though my contractions. Elizabeth holds my hands and breathes with me through the contractions, then puts a cold cloth on my head and neck in between. Everyone helps keep me calm and focused, as does the knowledge I have to take each contraction one at a time. Close to 1 AM I feel the urge to have Ralph hold and kiss me while I rest, and help talk me through contractions (he’s repeating something I read from Birthing From Within: “Labor is hard work, it hurts, and you can do it”). I don’t realize at the time but I am going through transition. After a few contractions I start to feel a little of that, well — grunting urge. I know it is perfectly okay to grunt and push a little to help with the pain and I instinctively do so. The midwives clue into what I am doing and are back in the room. Laura says, “Gee Kelly, it sounds like you’re pushing” and I reply (idiotically) “I’m not really pushing, it just feels good to bear down a little bit”. These contractions are pretty rough but everyone is helping me so much it is still very manageable.

April 7th, 1:10 AM – OUCH, OUCH, OUCH!

Kathy convinces me to let her check me and informs me not only am I completely dilated, but that the baby’s head has descended quite a bit. I am completely amazed at this (despite knowing I am feeling the urge to push) and even accuse everyone of just saying that to make me feel better! (I feel a little silly about this later). During each contraction I am feeling the pain in my hips, all the way to the bone, which my midwives tell me is a sign the baby is moving. Kathy tells me later I comment that it is like a crowbar prying my pelvis apart. Despite the pain I am coping well and in between the contractions I am still calm. I comment that I am not feeling any pressure in my bottom yet and I think to myself this means I have a ways to go. Oops, I speak too soon — with the next contraction I feel the baby AT THE DOOR, so to speak. This takes me by surprise and my labor sounds change from low and powerful and very alarmed and – well – a little screechy. Everyone is talking to me and trying to help me calm down and focus. I am amazed at the pain and pressure and overcome with an almost frantic need to push. I am pushing, pushing, pushing, before I can tune into my midwives telling me to ease off. I do the best I can and manage to ease off a bit and direct my energies more constructively. Despite the pain I am overjoyed to know I am so close and my baby will be here any minute. “I know I will feel so good when I see my baby”, I tell myself and this helps me. Kathy tells me to reach down and feel the head and after an initial hesitation I do, surprised again at how soft and smooth it is. I can feel each part of his head I deliver. It hurts! But I know I am close. The head is out and then I am surprised by the fullness and difficulty of the shoulders, which I do not remember from my first birth.

April 7th, 1:20 AM – Nels is born

With one final push I feel my baby being delivered and I am surprised it is already over. I have been kneeling in the tub and so immediately turn around and Ralph tells me later I am saying, “Give me my baby! I want to hold my baby!” to the midwives who are doing their thing. I have a vision of his long, smooth body floating in the water, the room lit by candlelight in a soft glow. Within seconds he is in my arms and I am crying and Ralph is crying and the whole room is full of a collective soft and surprised murmur. I am holding him to my chest and saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it” over and over, feeling so filled with surprise and happiness. He is perfect and so soft and I feel wonderful. I realize I have done it, I have given birth to a healthy baby boy in my own home, with my own power.

April 7th, early morning – getting to know you

I stay in the water crying and holding my baby for several minutes before anyone thinks to discover the baby’s sex. I hold my child away from my chest and in between squirming legs and the umbilical cord I see we have a boy! Of course, this is perfect. Everything feels perfect! After a few more minutes I am ready to get out of the water and get cleaned up, but I know we have to wait for the placenta. I feel like this takes forever but it probably is only a fifteen minute wait. Another surprising feeling of fullness and then the placenta is delivered. Kathy has to pull the cord a bit and gently massage my tummy to get the whole thing in one piece. My mom is on the phone with my dad and has to pass the phone around so she can cut the cord. I am ready to get out and dry off and nurse my second child.

I am helped out of the tub and into some dry clothes. I am so happy to have so much loving help. I prop myself up on the bed and hold my son to my breast. He latches almost immediately like a pro. I keep asking my husband, “Is this really happening?” because it has gone like a dream and I am so happy. After some time of nursing the midwife eventually takes my son to the foot of the bed to weigh him and check his limbs and reflexes. Elizabeth brings me food — cheese, bread, apples and oranges. My pulse is checked and found to be high (100) so I am encouraged to drink a huge glass of water (this happened with Sophie too). My afterpains are intense, more so than with Sophie, but I know this to be normal. I breathe through them. Sophie wakes up and is brought into the room, looking cranky and confused. I kiss her and introduce her to her brother (she is unimpressed) and Ralph takes her back to the bedroom to settle her back to sleep. Kathy checks my bottom out and finds only two tiny tears, no need for sutures. The energy of the house is settling, people are packing things, Elizabeth says goodbye. Laura leaves too and I take a shower with Kathy’s help. She stays long enough to give postpartum instructions and asks me to page her when I can pee. I am a little anxious about this myself, for vague fear of a catheter. Kathy leaves about 3:20 and as her car is pulling out I am able to pee, feeling now finally that everything is alright.

My husband is looking dead tired. I am wired and unable to sleep. We send my mom off to bed. I hold my son who is still awake! He is drowsy though and wants to snuggle. At about 4:30 AM I finally fall asleep on the bed, Ralph on the couch, holding his son. We are awakened just before 7 AM to the joyful sounds of our firstborn running through the house talking excitedly to Grandma. Grandma looks like she really needs a cup of coffee.