Monday, April 18, 2011

Dear Kaylee

I have to apologize: if you are looking back through this blog, and I hope you are, than no doubt you are noticing that your big brother has more photographs, more minute-by-minute updates than you do. Please understand that documenting the first child more is a common phenomenon for parents; we all swear that we won't do it, and then it just happens. And now that I am the mother of two, I can finally shed some light on the subject.

We don't love your brother more. The two of you are equal in our hearts, so let there never be a doubt in your mind over that. And while we are quite busy becoming adjusted to the rigors of having two young offspring, we can't honestly say that we are so up to our eyeballs in living from day-to-day as to excuse us from taking more photos.

You have, in fact, been a remarkably easy baby compared to Gabe. Not that Gabe was all that different from you; poor Gabe just had the misfortune of being our learning experience. With him we fumbled, we made so many mistakes, and we worried ourselves sleepless as every new parent does. With him, our lives made the shocking transition from carefree grown-up children, to actual grown-ups. The weight of the responsibility was crushing at times, and as a byproduct, we went a little batty, determined to document the astounding thing that had happened to our lives in the form of that tiny little boy.

But with you, we are free from such insanity! You are a beautiful baby, doing beautiful baby things, and your father and I are relaxed and confident enough to enjoy the journey without obsessing over it. Your crying doesn't perplex us - I can tell if it's a change that you need, or if you are hungry or tired. You don't cry without reason. Dirty diapers aren't the tragedies that Gabe's were, back in the beginning. And we aren't sleep deprived.

Hallelujah, we aren't sleep deprived! And what a difference it makes. Kaylee, we didn't plan on doing anything different this time around, but almost on that first night we had you home from the hospital, your dad suggested that we try letting you sleep in the bed with us. It's not the safest thing to do with a newborn, but it means I don't have to be awake for an hour every two or three. I get to go back to sleep while you nurse, and you don't need me there by your crib, desperately trying to get you back to sleep when I can barely stand up. Once so far, you even woke me up by nursing. How very independent of you!

I couldn't safely do this if pregnancy hadn't trained me to hold very, very still while I sleep. And I have a fail-safe mechanism built in: if I were ever to roll onto you, I would immediately wake up, because my breasts are tender, thanks to them being milk spigots. Poor Gabe tried to crawl across my chest this morning, and got quite a yelp out of me!

And speaking of Gabe, let me tell you the other reason why we have been slacking on photographing you: because Chris and I have been putting our focus on making sure that your brother doesn't feel traumatized by the experience of suddenly no longer being an only child. For the first time in his life, Mom can't run over to help whenever he needs it. Mom has to say "I'm busy taking care of your sister", over and over, from sunup to sundown. Gabe has to be turned away sometimes when he needs extra comforting - and it breaks our hearts. He is not yet three, and it is painfully difficult for him when he wants snuggles from Mommy and Mommy has to say no. We want to be sure, absolutely sure, that this does not fester into resentment for you.

It is far more important to us that you have a good relationship with your brother than it is that you have a bunch of silly photographs.

I hope you understand.

And I will try to take more photos! Starting now. . . though, as it happens, the prime photo opportunity at this moment happens to be your brother, who fell asleep watching the Polar Express, his favorite movie, again. . .

I hope this gives you giggles!

Monday, April 4, 2011

More Photos from Kaylee's Birthday

Welcome to the family, Kaylee Nancy Clay! She joined us on Thursday, March 31, 2011. I guess she was unwilling to wait for April Fool's day, or my sister's birthday on April 5 (I tried to keep her in, Marta!), or even her due date, the 9th.

Seven pounds, eleven ounces of genuine baby!

There, cleaned (but still needing her hair washed) and tagged.

This photo makes her look like she lost a fight on the way out! But we couldn't have hoped for a healthier baby. She is a perfect, perky little thing.

I was having a little trouble getting Kaylee to latch on that first day, so we had some naked snuggle time. Sure enough, when she was ready to nurse, her signals were unmistakable. Nursing has been a piece of cake ever since.

Here she is on Saturday, dressed for the ride home.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kaylee Clay Has Arrived!

I had two main worries about the delivery of baby number two. The first worry was for Gabe. How was he going to tolerate being dumped rudely with friends? And to then have that followed up with a tiny yelling thing that takes most of Mommy and Daddy’s attention away from him? The poor guy was about to have his world turned upside down. So we started by telling him about the baby in Mommy’s belly, and telling him about what a good big brother he was going to be. Then, last weekend, I took him for a play date at Jen and Woody’s place, to make sure he would get along with Sara, which he did and wouldn’t be scared by the dog, which he wasn‘t.

My worries were further brushed away when days later, he asked to go back to Baby Sara’s house. “When the baby comes out of Mommy’s belly, then you can go back.” Gabe responded by walking over to my giant belly and addressing it: “come out baby!”

My other worry was that I wouldn’t make it in time to the hospital in time for antibiotics before the baby arrived. I’m a strep B carrier, which means if I didn’t get treatment, at delivery the baby would have a one in 200 chance of being infected with something quite deadly. I don’t like those odds, and I’ve known too many women who just barely made it to the hospital with their second child. The first delivery is the leisurely one; sitcom themes with babies born in cabs are based on second pregnancies.

So at work, when the Braxton-Hicks contractions started coming every 20 minutes, I started setting up my escape. Just to be cautious. Of course, it had to happen on the one day on which Chris had stayed home. And my just-in-case waterproof sheet and towel were in the other car, blast it. I asked Jen to give me a lift home early, and scurried to finish up a few last documents, and apologized to a couple of my coworkers for possibly missing my goodbye lunch on Thursday.

I still wasn’t sure it was the real deal by dinner. We walked down the street to pick up Gabe’s favorite: ravioli. Then Chris had Raid Night on Wow while I got Gabe to bed - a typical Wednesday. But by the time Gabe was asleep the contractions were getting uncomfortable - like the cramps you get before a case of the runs. But still eight minutes apart. It could take all night to hit the five minutes that signal Time To Go.

So I climbed into bed. . . And watched the clock. And got progressively more uncomfortable. There was no sleep to be had. Damn. And then the contractions doubled. Whoops! Every four minutes, like clockwork. Chris came up from his raid around midnight. “Perfect timing,” I said. For the second time that day, Jen rescued us, this time by coming to stay with Gabe. And off we went!

Those contractions were fast and furious, and all of us, the nurse included, breathed a sigh of relief when the antibiotics were all safely in my system. Then I was able to relax, and enjoy the experience. . .

Unlike the first time around, however, these contractions hurt. Having solved my two big worries, I found myself unprepared for a night of pain. I was tired from being on the third week of a lingering cough, tired from having been up all day, dreading having to fight pain for even just a few hours of hard physical work, and dreading coming out of that into the Land of Perpetual Sleep Deprivation. So, I reconsidered going au natural again. It had been the right thing to do with Gabe, but perhaps it wasn’t the right thing to do this time.

Chris and I went for a walk in the hallway and we talked about the various pain-relief options, and what they would mean for recovery time and how they would effect the delivery. I decided an epidural was the best way to go, and I picked it for a goofy reason: because Chris’ dad is an anesthesiologist. He does epidurals for a living, and I looked forward to chatting with him about it after the fact.

So at three in the morning I got some relief. Having a needle stuck in my spine was surprisingly quick and painless. As my sister had described a childhood experience of getting IV fluids, it felt like the air-conditioning had been turned on; or at least that’s what it felt like down the right side of my back.

There was no dramatic cease in the painful contractions; instead, they became progressively more mild. Thank goodness! My legs got a bit tingly, more on the right than the left. The nurse propped me on my left side and pressed the “more drugs” button to get the relief over to my left side as well, and then Chris and I were able to settle down for some sleep.

Some time after sunrise the doctor woke me because it was getting to be “that time”. My water had broken during the night. Hallelujah! I had detested that part of Gabe’s delivery. I hadn’t felt a thing. My legs were sensationally absent. The most disturbing part was that my spatial awareness of my right leg was entirely gone. In other words, I was convinced that my leg was bent and my knee pointed up, but instead it was in an entirely different position. That gave me new insight into my cousin’s life. He is paralyzed from the neck down.

“Get ready to start pushing” said the doctor. I did an inventory and found the necessary muscles to be similarly absent. Hmm, I thought. This may take a while.

I should add to all of this that I hate anesthesia. Coming back to myself after having wisdom teeth out had wigged me out, back when; and the codeine daze afterward was only something I had tolerated because the pain was worse. I have no love for the post-Novocain tinglies following lesser dental work, either.

And although it was exhausting and painful, I have no regrets for having gone through natural labor with Gabe. I am an experience junkie: I love to try new things, and that fit the bill nicely. So here was a new experience, being deprived from the sensations in half of my body.

They had to prop my legs in the stirrups for me, because I couldn’t do a thing with them. Everything seemed remarkably laid-back compared with Gabe’s delivery. His heart-rate had dropped during labor, sparking a flurry of serious-looking doctorly activity in the room. He had the cord around his neck when he popped out, so I had to painfully put the brakes on pushing while the doctor got him untangled. There was myconium in the amniotic fluid, perhaps due to the same stress that made his heart-rate drop; and because there was poo in the bathwater, Gabe had to be whisked over to the sci-fi operating room baby-cleaning station before they could give him to me, to make sure there was no myconium in his lungs. This required that a pediatrician be in the room, which added to the crowd and the operating-room feel.

During Kaylee’s delivery, there weren’t more than the one doctor and two nurses in the room, along with Chris and I. Sunlight was streaming in the window. The doctor asked me to try pushing - and hey, up in the stirrups, I remembered how to do it from the previous time. “Stop pushing!” she said abruptly. They could already see hair!

The second push was rather ineffectual, because I forgot to inhale first. On the third push a head popped out! I don’t even remember pushing the fourth time. It was ridiculous. There was a whole wiggling baby, purple and new. My uterus spat out the placenta as a contemptuous afterthought, without any involvement from me. “Do you want to hold her while she’s all gooey?” someone asked. “Goo and all!” I said. Or something like that. And there she was, a surprised-looking little baby lying on me!

Kaylee liked having her hair washed, and she picked up nursing quite quickly. When she cries, it is almost always clear that she is hungry or needs a change. No mystery crying! No painful nursing quirks.

Gabe’s reaction was precious. When confronted with the little wriggling bundle of pink, he looked so serious! “She came out of Mommy’s tummy!” he said. He repeated this on the phone to his grandmother, and added, at one point, completely unprompted: “and I came out of Mommy’s tummy, too!” He is two years and nine months older than his sister, and I can see what a good big brother he is going to be. I’m so proud!

We are all at home now. My parents are visiting, and right from delivery I was feeling good. This has not been the zombie death march that Gabe’s first days and weeks were. We aren’t plagued with beginner-parent worries. We know what to do with a teeny baby. We are having fun!

Time for me to put down the computer and wake the sleeping babe. Oh wait, I hear her stirring. Perfect timing!