To Pandra at four months old

My dear Pandra, you are four months old. You have made herself quite at home and I’m starting to forget what things were like before you arrived, when it was just me, your dad, and your big sister Lyra. At four months you’ve really started to show your personality. You may look almost identical to Lyra at the same age, but you are definitely not the same as she was. And you’ll have to forgive me for this, but Lyra is the only small girl I’ve learned this much about, so it’s hard not to compare you to her. I promise I’ll try to keep it to a minimum as you get older.

Physically, you’re a lot bigger than Lyra was — you’re already over 14 lbs. Lyra had barely broken ten pounds by the time she was six months old. You’re a lot more active, too. You roll over and hold your head up higher than Lyra did at this age, and you love tummy time while she generally hated it and wanted out after a minute or less. You’ll happily hang out on the floor, rolling over and back, kicking merrily at the air, and grabbing at whatever’s nearby. Lyra didn’t want us to put her down — she was in tears and assumed the tigers were coming for her the moment she left our arms, generally.

Four months old today

Sweet Pandra, you’ve been a lot easier a baby than Lyra was at the same age. Or you mostly have. That tiger-panic I mentioned about your sister? You don’t get that. Yes, you cry, but it’s just crying. And you sleep. You. Sleep. To this day, Lyra has issues with sleep. She was three years old before she slept through the night. Even the newborn version of sleeping through the night — five hours or more — was so rare before she was three that it felt like heaven when it happened.

But you, my lovely little sleeping baby, you have been such a wonderful, normal, sleeping baby, that I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot. You’re up maybe three times a night, sometimes only two, and you nurse and go back to sleep in minutes. You let me put you down when you’re awake, and drift off to sleep on your own. It’s a whole new world of baby sleepytime that we’ve never experienced, and I want to thank you for it.

For the first month after you were born it wasn’t quite as easy — you had yelling sessions that would go on for at least an hour or two, between 1:00 and 4:00 in the morning. We gave it a name: Yelling Hour. It graduated into something else when you got even louder or inconsolable: Pandramonium, as named by our friend Steve. Oh how clever we were.

I watched a lot of the summer Olympics in London to pass the time in the middle of the night, while you were up and yelling. It was so much like the times I spent up in the middle of the night with Lyra watching the summer Olympics in Beijing when she was a newborn. I will probably forever have a soft spot for the summer Olympics because of the two of you.

You’re still the calm little baby that had the steady heartbeat throughout labour. You take everything in with huge blue eyes, and it takes a lot to upset you. You let us know quickly and effectively when you are upset, however. It’s possible that you’ve damaged my eardrums on more than one occasion, and you’ve definitely set the bar for high-pitched scream against which I will compare all other screams. It’s both loud and high, and it rattles my brains enough to have given me more than one headache. Fortunately you give us a warning (usually) before you launch the full-on sonic attack — the epic sadface, or various levels of fussing and complaining that escalate if we don’t respond.

And the chatter! You like to chatter. It feels like you’re constantly making some sort of sound, endless baby sounds as you explore what it’s all about. Will you be a non-stop talker in the tradition of the Silver family? Lyra has her talkative moments, but she’s also content to sit in silence and keep her thoughts to herself — nowhere near as much of a chatterbox as you seem to be. I have to wonder if I’m destined to sit at the dinner table listening to you and your dad talk over each other, much like his family seems to do. We’ll have to wait and see.

Your eyes are bright and you’re endlessly curious already. You charm people, and I receive endless compliments on how cute you are, how quiet you are, how aware you are of what’s going on around you. I remember receiving similar comments about Lyra, and I feel blessed to have another bright, curious, and beautiful little girl.

I can see a fiery spirit in you already. You’re quick to laugh and quick to anger. You’re an active baby — you kick, you roll over, and you’re constantly flailing. You love being tossed around, and I think you’re a lot more physical than your big sister. But still, you watch and consider everything so closely, and you adore your big sister — you light up every time you see her and she can make you laugh when no one else can. She loves you just as much, and seems anxious to spend as much time with you as she can. She’s already looking forward to getting bunk beds, and playing with you for real, and she loves to show you everything that you’ve never seen before, which is everything. She’s excited by the prospect of growing up with you, and it’s amazing to watch how much she loves you.

Of course, we all do — your sister, your daddy, and your mommy are all so happy to have you in our lives, and we can’t wait to share the world with you. There will be so many adventures!

The baby keeps growing, and tugging at my heartstrings

Pandra is now over two months old, and has become a lot more aware of herself and the world over the past week. You can see it when you look at her — she looks around and actually sees things, and you can attract her attention easily. She shows us when she doesn’t want to look at something or deal with something by turning her head away. Lyra hasn’t really learned how to respect that, though, and tries to forcer her to look back at her from three inches away. I’d be trying to look away too, if I were her. Lyra can be a bit imposing and boundary-crossing at times.

It’s taken me a while to fully connect with Pandra. I’ve felt the unconditional ‘this is my baby and I adore her because she’s my baby’, but I didn’t notice until the past few days that I didn’t feel fully connected to her. I don’t know if it’s something I can put into words. I felt connected because she’s my baby, but I didn’t feel connected to her as a person.

Oh, hello thereI didn’t realize this until the past week, however, when I started to have flashes of that connection — on the change table when she really looked at me, rather than looked in my direction, or nursing when she paused and stared up at me for a few seconds before unleashing a huge grin (without letting her latch go, as she takes her latch very seriously most of the time). Without those moments, and a few others like them in the past week, I might not have realized the disconnect. But they happened, and I did.

Little hands have a strong grip

Pandra has discovered her hands, and takes great pleasure in nomming on her fists. She babbles and yammers whenever she’s awake, and we have little conversations with her that bring on more of the huge grins none of us can get enough of. This morning I set her down on a blanket on the floor with Lyra lying next to her talking to her, while I did some dishes. Lyra got up to go play with some toys in her room, leaving Pandra alone on the floor, still making all sorts of chatter noises. Suddenly she started screaming as though she was in pain. I knew Lyra was in her bedroom, so I didn’t know what could possibly be wrong. I walked over to look at her, and there she lay, one hand up over her had, with her little fist buried in her full head of baby-soft hair, pulling as hard as she could. I looked at her for a moment, then laughed hysterically while I picked her up to disentangle her from her own strength. Poor girl…  she’s good at grabbing things, but hasn’t really figured out the letting go part, or the fact that she can actually hurt herself. I felt a little bad laughing at her. But only a little — it was pretty funny.

Having only Lyra as a solid frame of reference, it’s pretty much impossible not to compare what Pandra is like with Lyra at the same age. She’s a very different baby than Lyra was. For one thing, I can put her down to sleep in the other room — sometimes even when she’s still awake, but sleepy. We can barely do that with Lyra now; she hates sleep that much. I’m grateful that Pandra’s a better sleeper. She also talks a lot more. She’s growing much faster, and has already reached a higher weight at 2.5 months old than Lyra was at 6 months old. She’s already 1/3 of Lyra’s current weight! But Pandra was a bigger baby when she was born, and she wasn’t 3 weeks early, and she had absolutely no trouble learning how to nurse and latching on properly, where Lyra was too sleepy to bother trying. I remember we had to use ice cubes on Lyra’s bare skin just to keep her awake and nursing for the first month.

I wonder sometimes, like I did when Lyra was tiny, who this little person is going to be. What will she like, and what will she think is funny? Which parts of Adam’s personality will she reflect, and which ones of mine? How will things be similar to our experience with Lyra? What will be dramatically different? This is really a whole other baby, again, that we will take care of and spend the next couple of decades doing our best to turn into a basically good person; or so we hope. Who is that hiding behind that incredible, addictive little grin?


Babywearing attracts attention, and other things I’ve noticed when I’m out with my kids

The girls and I do not respond well to staying home all day. Even Pandra, as early as 3 weeks old, was crankier and complained louder if we hadn’t left the house each day.  And so, from the first week after Pandra was born, we were getting out of the house at least once a day.

Lyra, Jenny and Pandra by the river
Out walking by the river’s edge with the family – Pandra (1 week old) is sleeping in the cuddly wrap

My preference (and Pandra’s) is to use a babywearing wrap — in our case, we’re using the Cuddly Wrap by Peapod Creations. It’s the same one I used with Lyra when she was a tiny baby, and once we’re done with it I’ll give it away and switch to using an Ergo Baby that we also used with Lyra for a long time. I’d rather have my hands free than pushing the stroller up and down the hills around my house, and Pandra would rather be cuddled up against my chest than sitting in her carseat, staring up at the sky from the stroller.

I’ve discovered that by having the baby at eye level instead of waist level, people will talk to you about the baby. A lot. And if Pandra is wearing any colour other than OMGPINK then she is automatically a boy. Maybe she has masculine features? Maybe it’s the full head of brown hair? I really can’t explain it, but even if she’s in a flowery white and purple outfit they assume she’s a boy, and the neutrals (brown, yellow, green) are all automatically boy clothes to random strangers. The only outfit so far that makes her look like a girl was bright flowery fuschia combo. I generally try the subtle ‘she’s a girl’ approach with my answers, or not bother correcting them, since I’m unlikely to have a long-term relationship with them. The questions are usually as follows:

How is he sleeping?

I’ll answer with ‘Better than her sister did’ or something along those lines, which is the absolute truth. She sleeps, she wakes up, she eats. The only comparison I have is to her sister.

How old is he?

She’s [insert age here, currently 2 months old].

Wow, he really loves to sleep on mommy like that, eh?

Pandra doesn’t get mistaken for a boy in this – mainly due to the pink bows on her socks.

Yep. Always sleeps in the carrier.

Is he a good baby?

Much as I want to answer “no, she’s a complete demon, terrible baby, just awful” I know that sarcasm on the west coast is usually unrecognized in casual conversation, so I’ve learned not to be as sarcastic as I used to be. I’ll just smile and not at this one, since I’m uncertain as to what makes a baby ‘good.’ Are you a good adult? Am I a good mom? How do we answer these vague questions?

People will also ask Lyra if she’s a good sister, and if she likes being a big sister. Her standard response is to look at them for a moment and then just say “Yep,” with a disconnected tone that suggests she’s answered this question a hundred times. That seems to go over well, when people can hear her. Lyra’s a little soft-spoken.

The supermom effect

I’ve also discovered, by being out with the kids so much, that people don’t expect me to be out with them when Pandra is so young. That’s starting to fade now that she looks less like a newborn and more like a regular baby (and that’s one of those differences I can’t explain — you’ll know what I mean if you’ve spent enough time with a growing new baby).

When I would be out walking with Lyra, Pandra strapped to my chest, I got nonstop comments about how impressed people were that I had left the house.

Wow, you’re out already?? That’s amazing!

I would look at them and say something like “well I have a four year old, she can’t stay in all the time,” when really I just don’t understand why it’s such a shock to them. I can’t stay inside. It would make me go completely stir crazy. Apparently I’m the exception by being out and about every day with my newborn.

So if you want people to think you’re a supermom when you have a newborn, leave your house. It’s that easy.

The sleep question

The standard question people ask when they see a mom with a new baby is about sleep — are they sleeping well, are you getting sleep, how’s the baby sleeping? Everyone who’s had a baby knows that sleep is the hardest part of dealing with the new baby, and that the less sleep a parent gets the less functional they are. They mostly ask out of a sense of sympathy, I’m guessing. I developed my standard reply because I had to answer this question so often, and I’m guessing most new parents do the same, but I’ve become so tired of the question.

The comment I get in addition to the sleep question is how I look so good — so very well rested — for a mom of a newborn. At first I thought it was just a false compliment; something people were saying to make me feel better about myself. I’ve slowly realized that I was mistaken. Apparently I really do look well rested. I feel all right — somewhat tired, but nothing like how tired I was with Lyra during her wake-up-every-two-hours-every-night phase (the entire first year of her life, and again when she was 18 months old). So I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m getting enough sleep, and that I actually do look good for having a two month old baby. Pandra sleeps fairly well at night for her age, and I feel lucky that she’s not like Lyra in that sense.

Hooray for compliments that aren’t false, and for getting enough sleep to look reasonably well rested!

Birthing the baby dragon

Baby Pandra
This is Pandra. She looks almost exactly like her sister did at that age. It’s like we had twins four years apart.

It started with the strawberry pie.

They were fresh, local, in-season strawberries, and when I bought them I knew we couldn’t just eat the entire basket, so I decided I should make a strawberry pie. I put it off for a couple of days, but finally pulled some pastry dough out of my freezer, thawed it and rolled it out on the afternoon of Friday, June fifteenth.

But I wasn’t yet ready to eat the strawberry pie on Friday. Instead I put out an open invitation for people to join me in eating the pie on Saturday. Naturally, there were folks willing to partake in the pie, and so Saturday evening was devoted to pie eating before and after dinner, in the company of friends. It was a mighty tasty homemade strawberry pie.

We went to bed around 11:15 on Saturday night, much like any other night. I was uncomfortable, but no more so than I have been at night for months. I went to sleep and didn’t wake up for about an hour and a half.

At 1:15, I had strangely woken up on my own and heard Lyra’s door opening. She came out of her room to go to the bathroom. She was having trouble with her nightgown, so I got up to help her and put her back to bed with no real issue.

With Lyra back in her bed, I realized that my stomach was feeling kind of upset, and hoped it wasn’t because of the excess of awesome strawberry pie. When my stomach started cramping harder, I considered that it could theoretically be labour… or maybe not. I was too uncomfortable and awake to go back to bed so I went to sit on my computer for a while.

There wasn’t much going on online, it being 1:30am, and I was restless. I kept standing up and sitting back down, pacing up and down the hall, and just feeling crampy and yucky. At one point a friend sent me a message on Facebook asking what I was doing up, and I told him that it was possible — just possible, mind you — that I was in labour. Or my stomach was upset. After which I got up from the computer again and decided to run a bath and wake Adam up. It was 2 a.m.

I woke Adam to tell him that I was either in labour or had a really upset stomach. He wanted me to confirm which it was, naturally, but I wasn’t totally willing to do that yet. I told him I was going to run a bath and see if it helped me feel better, and that I was leaning towards it being labour, and he got out of bed.

The bath made me feel better, but it didn’t change anything otherwise. I kept rolling from one side to the other (beyond awkward in our tiny bathtub) and thinking that I wasn’t totally ready to be in labour yet. I finally caved and had Adam time the contractions, knowing that I had to come to terms with being in labour, since all signs pointed to it.

All the paperwork and instructions from the midwife suggested that we should call when contractions were regular, 4 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute each, or something along those lines. When Adam started timing them, they were pretty regular (two or three minutes apart) and anywhere from 30 – 45 seconds long. So they were close but short. I was confused – I had only really been in labour for about an hour or so, and I expected a longer build-up of occasional contractions and pre-labour and all of that. I did not expect to be having contractions so close together and so early into the process, even if they were shorter than they had to be.

I wasn’t yet ready to call the midwife. It wasn’t yet 4 a.m..

The contractions were already pretty strong, and I was wandering around from room to room trying to find a way to get comfortable. Adam woke up Lyra and called a friend to let her know that we’d probably be dropping the little girl off at her house around the corner, and then we decided to call the midwife. It was around then, I guess, that I wandered back to my computer and sent a tweet: Labour? Yeah, pretty sure it is. Ow. The internet tells me that it was 3:52 a.m. when I sent it.

Lyra is concerned
Lyra rubbed my back during contractions and asked me if I was okay. It was incredibly sweet.

I remember being on the floor in the office at one point with Lyra asking me if I was going to be okay. I remember telling her that I was going to be fine, and that the baby was coming. She was rather concerned, and wanted to help somehow, so Adam told her to rub my back. It was pretty much the sweetest thing ever.

We called the midwife at that point, and she talked to me for a few minutes before saying we should wait as long as we were comfortable before going to the hospital. I was fine with that and went back to my fast, short, close-together contractions while Adam packed Lyra up in the car and took her to our friend’s place down the street. I think he was worried to leave me alone, but I have to admit that before I noticed he was gone, he had come back.

I was in contraction limbo for the next couple of hours. I moved from the office to the living room on the couch. I would look out the window from time to time and be surprised to see that it had moved from the darkness of night to pre-dawn light to dawn when I wasn’t paying attention to it. Adam asked me a few times if I was ready to go to the hospital yet, and I kept putting it off. I must have given in sometime around 6 a.m. – I remember climbing into the car and thinking that I really wasn’t looking forward to the drive, but at least it was early on a Sunday morning so there wouldn’t be any traffic…

Onward to the hospital

The drive to New Westminster’s Royal Columbian Hospital was uneventful (there were contractions; they weren’t fun), as was checking in to the hospital itself. We were put into the only labour and delivery room without a window and were told by a nurse that the midwife was on her way. We settled in for another round of contraction limbo and waited for the midwife, who didn’t arrive for a couple of hours I guess. I still had no sense of time, and with no window in the room I was beyond reality.

Stink, the octopus
This is Stink the Octopus, one of Lyra’s animals that she let me bring to the hospital so it could keep me company. Stink made me happy.

There hadn’t been much change by the time the midwife arrived. She checked me over and said that I was at 4 cm. They hooked up the monitor for the baby — since I was trying for a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-section) they have to monitor the baby for the entire span of labour — and put in an IV. Those are, I’m told, the primary differences between a VBAC and a vaginal birth for someone who hasn’t had a c-section. There are possible complications in a VBAC, so they prefer to be prepared with the IV, and they want to monitor the baby much more carefully than they would otherwise.

Once the monitor was hooked up, we could hear the baby’s heartbeat. Nonstop. For the entire duration of labour. We were to become very familiar with that 150 bpm sound…

The midwife also suggested I try dancing with Adam during contractions to help get through them. They were strong and required all of my focus. It seemed to help manage them, although I wouldn’t say it made them any less painful. It just made it easier to cope.

When they brought the hospital breakfast, I tried to eat some oatmeal, but everything made me queasy… or at least, contractions made me queasy. I stopped trying to eat after a few mouthfuls, knowing I would probably regret it later.

An unknown amount of time went by. At some point, the midwife checked me and said nearly nothing had changed, so she decided to rupture the membrane (aka break my water) in the hopes that it would move things forward. I swear it looked like she used chopsticks to do it. Once that was done, in theory, labour was supposed to move ahead — my cervix would dilate further, the baby would move down more into the pelvis, and we could go ahead and get the baby out of me.

In theory, anyway.

And then nothing changed for a long, long time

More time went by. The midwife kept checking on me and finding that, although I was still having regular contractions, nothing else was progressing. My cervix had basically stalled around 5 cm, I was utterly exhausted, and contractions were still every couple of minutes. And the baby’s 150 bpm heartbeat filled the room.

I guess sometime around 11 a.m. or noonish, the midwife offered an epidural so I could take a break. I had been having strong contractions nonstop every few minutes for around 11 hours. I remember holding on to Adam and saying “I just want a break”.

We didn’t have a birth plan beyond ‘have a baby at the end of the process’, so there were no preconceived ideas about going drug-free or no epidurals and so on. I was perfectly happy to take the midwife’s offer and get at least some form of rest before figuring out what to do next. So they called in the lady with the drugs and got me hooked up and lying on the bed. And I managed to get a bit of blessed sleep.

The in-labour epidural feels rather different from the one they did when I had the c-section with Lyra. I could still move my arms, and if I needed to I could move my legs a bit, although I wouldn’t have trusted myself to stand. With the c-section, I was completely without sensation from the upper chest down.

Variable intensity control
We were all pretty sure that if we played with that dial we could vary the intensity in the room, but we didn’t want to mess it up, just in case things got a little too intense.

I continued having contractions, but with the epi in I just didn’t feel them. It was a huge relief to get bits of sleep. I started to feel a bit hungry, but by this point the discussion had turned to the likelihood of my having to get a c-section if nothing progressed soon… It was starting to look like it might be the only option. The midwife decided to ask the on-duty doctor to come by and check me out (he who would be performing said c-section, should it go that way) for his opinion. She put in a call to have him stop by and see us.

We, however, were not at risk, by any stretch of the imagination. The baby’s heart rate was still going strong at 150, unchanged for hours. There was nothing specifically wrong… things just weren’t moving they way they ought to. That put us at the bottom of the list for the one doctor on the floor who had to visit a whole lot of other people — all of whom were having their own issues, more urgent than ours.

It was many, many hours of limbo before the doctor could make time to see me. By the time he did come in, I was starting to feel contractions again. I could only feel them on one side of my pelvis, which was weird. It started as pressure on the left side of my pelvis, and slowly, after a while, became more and more uncomfortable.

The doctor finally came by to see me. When he checked me out, he noted the same thing that the midwife had — I was still around 5 cm dilated, maybe 6 cm. He took a look at the scar from my previous c-section and commented on how invisible it was, then asked me who the doctor was that had done it. I couldn’t remember her name — I told him it was a woman in North Vancouver who had a really short name — and he guessed who it was. As soon as he said her name I confirmed it. He planned to tell her she did a great job the next time he saw her. I felt weirdly proud of my almost invisible c-section scar and the awesome doctor who did the work on me…

We discussed what was happening with me at that point, and where we thought things were going. The general consensus was that we were heading for a c-section, which I thought was both a disappointment and a relief. I was so very tired by that point I just wanted to have the baby out of me. It was late afternoon, and I hadn’t slept for more than a half an hour at a time since basically a day and a half earlier. And contractions are hard — they tire you out!

Time to try something else!

The doctor and midwife decided to try Oxytocin for two hours, just to see if that would get things moving the way they were supposed to. I was happy to give it a try, but also exhausted to think that it would be another two hours before we decided if I was having a c-section. I had pretty much resigned myself to the idea, had come to terms with it, and was ready to move on.

And so they plugged me into the Oxytocin, and the contractions got stronger and more frequent. I was still under the epidural, but it was wearing off and I was starting to feel the contractions stronger as time went by. They were pretty painful, actually. A friendly nurse upped my epidural, but that didn’t help. She then brought me the nitrous. I was a big fan of the nitrous. It made anything and everything bearable — I could still feel the pain of the contractions as the epidural wore off more and more, but when I breathed through that Darth Vader mask of awesomeness it just didn’t matter so much. It made dissociation even easier than I usually find it — and I can be pretty good at dissociation.

And so it went for another 1.5 hours. But the baby… she didn’t like the Oxytocin so much. There were a couple of drops in her heart rate as the stronger contractions kicked in. Nothing that required an emergency intervention, but after it happened a few times, the nurse decided that we should stop the Oxytocin drip just to be on the safe side. She turned it off after about an hour and a half of Oxy time. The midwife came back from getting dinner, and I was feeling contractions basically full-on (the epidural had worn off almost entirely for pain relief). I was leaning on the nitrous tank to get through the contractions, which were stronger than ever.

I noticed during one particularly strong contraction that, even through the laughing gas, I was feeling an overwhelming urge to push. I didn’t, but when I came out of that contraction I told the midwife exactly that. She decided to check me again and see if anything had changed… and things had! I was actually at 10 cm dilation.

They called the doctor back in, and he confirmed things. Up until that moment, I had basically given up on the VBAC and was assuming things were going to c-section territory – we all had, including the midwife and the nurses. It was evening, I was exhausted, and when the doctor said that we should go ahead and deliver this baby in the usual way, I remember that I thought I don’t know if I can do that. I really didn’t want to have to recover from a c-section again, though, and there was no way I would express any doubts aloud at that point. Some part of me was still stubborn enough to see it through — and that part of me is louder than the tired, doubting, scared part of me was.

So it’s not going to be a C-Section after all?

I don’t really know what time it was by the time we decided to try and deliver the baby. I can only say that it was evening. Adam told me later, when I asked, how long I pushed for — not long, maybe half an hour — so it must have been after 8:00 p.m. when we made the final decision.

The first thing I had to do was get the baby to move down. She wasn’t where she should have been, and I could feel that she was in the wrong spot. I learned pretty quickly how to push — it involved a lot of holding of the breath — and I felt her position change. Every time I pushed, I could feel it when I was doing it right, because she moved and I could tell it was right. It was hard — so much harder than just coping with the contractions had been up to that point, and that wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.

The midwife said something about having to make a cut because I was going to tear, and told me she was putting a topical freezing cream or something on. I’m not sure I would have noticed either way. I was both more inside my own body and more disconnected from pain than I had ever felt before. There was only moment after moment of push, then breath, then push, then breath, then take a break between contractions and refocus on what I knew was coming next. I was hyper-aware of my body and there was a lot of pain there, but my brain decided to brush it aside, force it to the back of my mind and just focus on the work that I had to do. Accept the pain and move on to what’s important: evict the baby from my body.

I could hear the conversation Adam and the midwife were having about the baby’s head showing, then going back, then showing again. It was strange, but motivating – I knew when I pushed and they saw the top of her head, I was doing things right and that it would be over at some point. There was no soon — there was only infinite now. But someday now would be not about evicting a baby.

When I finally pushed enough that she came out, it was like an intense pressure had just completely disappeared from my body. I was so relieved that, when they showed me the baby, I didn’t really care that I couldn’t see if it was a girl or a boy. I didn’t care that they were taking it over to check it out and make sure all was well. I didn’t even hear if they told me if it was a boy or girl. The baby cried, loud and strong, and I knew that she was okay, but I couldn’t really think. I could only feel, and all I felt was an overwhelming sense of relief that I was done trying to force a small person (who had proven throughout the day that she did NOT want to come out) through an even smaller opening in my body. I was relieved, I was happy, I was done with pushing (the placenta was a breeze after the baby experience) and that was all that mattered.

Jenny and baby Pandra
I finally had something to show for all of my hard work!

I got back on the nitrous while the midwife stitched me up. I remember making at least one joke… something about crazy hippies… and they gave Adam the baby while I underwent repairs. Our baby girl had been born, and she was healthy and looked exactly like her older sister did on the day she was born, which was weird. And I didn’t have to recover from a c-section this time around, which made me happy now that I wasn’t actually in labour anymore. She was born at exactly 9:00 p.m. on Father’s Day, June 17th. I had been in labour for 20 hours, and had slept for approximately 1 hour before I went into labour. I don’t think I’ve been so tired ever before. Adam didn’t look like he was in much better shape. But we had a new baby, so everything was lovely.

Naming the dragon

Lyra had us calling her new sibling Baby Dragon, so it only seemed right to keep a piece of that memory. We chose Pandra as the new baby girl’s name — a name that means chief dragon and is related to Pendragon. Her middle name, Galen, means calm — because that heartbeat just stayed the same, hour after hour, no matter what we seemed to throw at her. She was born at precisely 9:00 p.m. on Father’s day: Sunday, June 17th. I don’t think Adam minded giving up his Father’s day for that.

Maternity leave and spending time with my daughter

I’m in the last few weeks of pregnancy, and have now had the last two weeks off work. Maternity leave in Canada is a wonderful thing.

I spent my first week of mat leave just getting things done and relaxing around the house. I got to put in some quality time on Mass Effect 3, after having lost my save game 25 hours into the campaign during the epic failure of Adam’s computer. I haven’t yet caught up to where I was, but at least I’ve restarted with a build from ME1 & ME2 savegames to make the ME3 campaign as close to my own character as I could without replaying the first two games. I was able to do this because Lyra was still in daycare for the week – and it made me happy.

It was undeniably strange to be away from work without the feeling that I should check in to see how things are going, to make sure nothing was terribly broken before I had to go back in. By the time I have to go back a year from now, nothing I have worked on (and half the people I’ve worked with, especially interns) will even be there any more. Last time I took maternity/parental leave, by the time I went back my team had more than doubled in size and my job was completely different. It was a hard transition, but I eventually found my place and helped build a strong team to support the organization. And now I’ve left again, and who knows what things will look like when I go back, and it’s strange and unnerving if I let myself think about it too much.

Fortunately for me I guess I won’t have that much time to worry about it in a little while.

Learning to spend all of my time with a little girl

My second week of mat leave Lyra has been at home with me. It’s been challenging, since I’m not used to keeping her engaged and entertained all day, every day. Weekends are different – we have things to fill up our time, activities and visits and stuff that just needs to get done in the short time we have, and Adam is usually around being a parent. Spending all of my time with her alone is hard. I knew it would be. It’s harder being this pregnant, with my energy reserves running low and my general awkwardness making it tough to play with a nearly 4-year-old high-energy kid. I’ve been trying to think of things to keep her busy, but early in the week I definitely relied heavily on Netflix and computer games while I just lay around being tired and pregnant.

And then I felt guilty about it.

She’s reaching a stage of pushing every boundary she can find, and trying to claim more power in her relationship with us. She’s more wilful than she’s ever been before. It’s exhausting, and my patience is at a remarkably low level these days, so she can push my buttons without even trying. I don’t want to feel frustrated as often as I am, but I am. I need to find ways to keep her entertained and get her out to see other kids that don’t ultimately exhaust me too. It makes me wish I had managed to get her into preschool for September, but I had a bad few weeks of anti-social, I don’t want to deal with anything mental breakdown during the window when I could have done so, and I missed the opportunity. I should have gone ahead with it when I could, and I didn’t, and it’s entirely my own fault.

I am immensely thankful that Adam has two weeks off when baby Dragon arrives. I would probably break down completely if I was on my own with the two kids right off the bat, so I’m glad that he’ll be home to wrangle Lyra while I try to figure out the new arrival.

I’m also nervous about when he goes back to work and I really am on my own with the two of them every day. Spending every day with Lyra alone as a newborn and for the first year was easy. Juggling the needs of a newborn and 4 year old is not going to be nearly as straightforward. I’ll figure it out, but it’s really, really not going to be easy.

Lyra is truly a person now. It makes life interesting.

Outside with Lyra on a sunny day

The promise of bananas and motor vehicles

I was at home with Lyra today, since it’s Friday and that’s what I do on Fridays. Just after lunchtime I was cleaning up the kitchen and rambling away at her while she played with blocks around the corner. I ramble at her regularly. I explained my plans to her about how we were going to go out and do some laundry, and maybe go pick up some fruit for her at the grocery store, like a banana or something. From around the corner I heard her squeal with delight, drop the blocks she was playing with, and sprint crawl towards me in the kitchen, excited about the prospect of a banana, apparently.

I have realized that I can’t offer bananas right now unless I actually HAVE one to give her. I wouldn’t say she was disappointed, but she certainly looked for it, and I felt a bit guilty to lead her on and not produce the fruit in question.

She is definitely beginning to understand language. Who knows what other words she recognizes but isn’t excited about, and thus doesn’t express any reaction to them… Time to make sure the boys watch their tongues around her, I guess. Even if it would be amusing to hear her swear like a sailor…

Tomorrow we are going to Ikea for Lyra bedroom things, and then stopping in at my mom’s to drop Lyra off for a bit while we contemplate car ownership. We’ve been without a car for nearly two years now, and we were doing all right with it, but the inability to go biking without depending on other people has just reached a point of making us crazy, and it’s affecting our activity level. It’s just sad that I’ve only been out riding three or four times this summer – not because I was tied up with Lyra, but because I had no way to get to the trails with my bike in the allotted time. It sucked. We’re also finding that we are spending a lot on the car co-op these days – nearly as much as a car payment, to be honest – and we can barely get cars anymore without booking far in advance because there are only six near us, one of which won’t hold a baby seat and three of which require transiting to (which is really hard with a single person, baby, and baby car seat, let me tell you.)

And so we are going to look at cars and see what we can figure out. The environmentalist in me is feeling guilty about it. The mountain biker in me is crazy excited to be able to get out to trails again. The road tripper/camper in me is crazy excited to go on road trips and camping. The mother in me is happy to have the option of driving to things like swimming lessons when time is short and buses are few and far between. And while it’s been satisfying to not have a car, it’s just not practical for us anymore. Again, this makes the environmentalist in me sad, but I’m trying to assuage the guilt by making sure that fuel efficiency is a top priority, within the limits of what our needs are. No point in getting a tiny fuel efficient car that can’t carry bikes.

The environmentalist in me has settled for internally raging that Canada is designed for people with cars.

We shall see how it goes. I’m excited and nervous, and I know it’s unlikely that we’ll buy anything tomorrow on sight, but part of me kind of wishes that’s how it’ll happen. Now that I’m committed to car ownership, I’m ready to have the car RIGHT NOW. When I make up my mind about something, it’s hard to be patient.

Crawling – it’s the new sitting

Lyra crawled today. She’s been on the edge of crawling for a couple of weeks at least – shuffling around on her behind, launching herself forward on her hands without following it up with anything, and the like. She has practiced crawling on the bed, where it’s much easier. Yesterday she was thinking about crawling – you could see her almost getting there.

Today she managed the entire action of crawling, and once she did it, it was like she realized just how fast she could get around. It was pretty interesting watching her figure out the motions – lunging onto her hands and knees from sitting, then alternating arms and legs to propel herself forward. She hasn’t got turning figured out yet, so she pushes back up to sitting, turns on her behind and relaunches into crawling in the new direction. You can see how much she’s enjoying herself. I don’t think I’ll get any downtime ever again…

She also has six teeth now. Two of them broke through the gums this weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. These ones have been bothering her all week, so it’s good to see them, although she’s still obviously uncomfortable and fussy from teething pain. She now has four teeth on top and two on the bottom. She enjoys biting things now. I’m teaching her that I’m not something she should bite pretty quickly though. Teeth hurt! Relearning how to nurse has been interesting, but I think we’re doing all right now.

She spent the last two days growling at us. It’s incredibly funny. She’ll growl at us, or at the cats, and then after a few minutes break into hysterical laughter, which naturally sets us off. I’ve found that if I laugh, she laughs back at me, and we can get going in an amazing circle of laughter. It’s fun times.

And now, photos of the Lyramonster. My next update will invole something that doesn’t involve photos of my baby. I promise.

This is the face of a future troublemaker:

Mischief in her eyes

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2008: A Year in Review

This past year has been a big one for me. Everything has changed since this time last year.

In January I told the whole world (what little of it I hadn’t told already) about my pregnancy. We were calling the little unborn one Ultra Magnus, which amused us to no end, and seemed to horrify some of the extended family. My first few months of pregnancy I was tired a lot of the time – falling asleep on breaks at my desk at work, coming home from work and sleeping immediately after I was done dinner, and so on. I didn’t have cravings, so much as anti-cravings, where I would hate a specific food for a while (perogies comes to mind.) I also took on a new full time contract at work – doing the web stuff instead of reception.

We had our first Ultrasound on February 7th – a bit early because they thought we might not be as far along as previously guessed. We started planning and budgeting our last pre-baby vacation to Arizona. I started to feel and look pregnant, too. I admitted to myself that I liked American Idol.

We had another ultrasound. I started to feel the baby moving. Eli & I crashed the Graphex Awards dinner for a chance to meet zeFrank. I discovered that Ultra Magnus kicked and moved around more when I ate chocolate. I signed up for Twitter.

Adam lost his wallet a few days before we went on our babymoon trip to Arizona. There were many photos taken.

My boobs got huge, as noticed by spadoink. There was a fire in the building across the street, where three people died. My baby’s Ultrasound became evidence in an FBI investigation in an adoption fraud case.

We had a third ultrasound and established that I had placenta previa, which meant I couldn’t go into labour. They scheduled me for a c-section.

They told me that my c-section date (and baby’s birthday) was to be July 10. On July 7th they phoned me to confuse the issue and move it up a day to the 9th. I twittered from the hospital after the baby was born. Adam posted the first photos of Lyra Morgan Silver at my request, since I was in the hospital. We sort of settled into a newborn routine, and things were good. July was a big month.

Lyra and I spent our first day alone together. I had a bit of an epiphany. My brother got married and I took pictures for him. I started the diaper service and accepted my fate as a human mattress for Lyra.

I ruminated on my status as a mammal and got a new bike, and started riding again. I started thinking about Christmas and toys for Lyra – instilling a no-plastic rule.

I turned 32. Lyra learned how to laugh, and it was the sweetest sound ever. Lyra got dressed up as an Elephant for her first Halloween, and had a fun evening with her Bubby Tyna.

I had a few rough days. I wrote a little about Bedsharing. I blindsided Oki_v2 and took him mountain biking when he came to visit. Lyra became a brain-eating Zombie.

I realized that I’m now a coffee addict. I recorded a bunch of observations about life with Lyra. I finally sold Huffy. I took some painfully cute photos of Lyra in her Christmas outfit. Lyra’s first tooth appeared. We watched every Star Trek movie over three days time. Vancouver got hit with a giant storm and basically fell apart. Lyra’s second tooth showed up.

It’s been a great year, full of changes. I’ve changed jobs into a real career instead general admin. Biggest thing though: I have a daughter now, and it’s the greatest thing ever. Happy New Year to everyone reading this!

Observations and things to remember (in no particular order)

Lyra is 9 days shy of five months old. She’s just under thirteen pounds now – and she’s lean and strong. There are so many things that change so fast, I want to write some things down while I still remember.

I can’t get over the feeling I get when I look at her. She’s just so completely perfect and beautiful and awe-inspiring. The other night she was asleep in my arms, like she often is in the evenings before bedtime, and she woke up briefly. She opened her eyes and looked up into mine as I looked down at her, and it was all I could do not to burst into tears at the look of absolute trust and calm she gave me before closing her eyes and snuggling back in to sleep. My heart simply melted, and I had an overwhelming re-affirmation of the feeling that I would do anything to keep her safe and happy.

She rolled over the other day. I put her down for tummy time, which she doesn’t particularly enjoy. She’s strong – she can hold up the front half of her body like she’s doing upward-facing dog or something, no problem there, but she really does not like the vantage point. As I watched her lying there complaining about the situation (proof that she’s got her daddy’s tendency to chat nonstop when she wants to) I was thrilled to see her push over on to her side, and then onto her back. After that she pushed herself around the floor with her feet, much happier to be off her tummy. Adam told me that yesterday she went the other way – back to tummy – and promptly started to complain about it. When it comes down to it, all she wants to do is stand up, all the time. And fall down. She really likes that part too.

Her favourite games have progressed from the tongue mirror game (I stick out my tongue, she sticks out hers – we don’t play that one anymore, it was a very early game) to anything that involves bouncing, jumping, squealing, dancing, roaring, flying, falling, kicking, and gnawing. I swear her first words might be OM NOM NOM NOM at this rate considering how much she loves the zombie game. Making her laugh is relatively easy now, and hearing her laugh makes me want to keep her laughing as long as possible.

My friend Brooke (a photographer) did a photo shoot of me when I was very pregnant. I only just found the pictures now, and I’m happy to share them if you’d like to check out the gallery. (NSFW)

Lyra inherited my fingernails – strong and fast-growing. I have to trim her nails every two or three days to prevent her scratching her face up, or me, or Adam. They’re little claws.

We saw a picture of Adam as a baby the other day. Lyra looks a lot like he did, except with eyes like mine. She definitely has the same baby smile that he had.

She loves to go outside – hiking on the mountains, down by the ocean, walking up and down Lonsdale, either in the sling or carrier, or in her stroller. Being outside makes her happy. Random people stop me in the street to comment on her incredible cuteness – especially the enormous cheeks. Everyone loves her cheeks. According to the baristas at our favourite coffee shop, Brazza, she’s their favourite baby that comes in. We’ve been going in there since she was a few days old. I think Brazza was our first trip outside the house after I got home from the hospital. They know us pretty well there.

Breastfeeding – now there’s a subject full of controversy. For myself – it was hard to start off, with Lyra being early, and sleepy, and falling asleep every second time she sucked. We had to fight with her to keep her awake for the first few weeks of feeding – cold water drops, blowing on her, keeping her cool – doing anything we could to keep her awake and feeding. And my milk coming in was downright painful, until I discovered hot compresses. These days, though, Lyra knows how to do it – she’s very efficient, and can feed in five minutes easily. I definitely produce plenty of milk for her (some days it’s too much, and I have to express just for my own comfort.) I’m happy to feed her any time she wants, and anywhere, although she’s just starting to get distracted by things going on around her when she’s trying to eat. We’ll see how that goes, maybe I’ll need to use a blanket to cover her up or something. What I love about breastfeeding is the sheer practicality of it. it’s so much easier than preparing a bottle. Lyra knows how to do it, I know how to do it, it’s not uncomfortable for me, so I’ll just keep at it. I enjoy it, too.

And finally, I absolutely love to watch Adam with her. He very obviously feels a strong connection to her, and loves playing with her and keeping her entertained. He’s also great for changing her diapers and the usual dirty work that’s involved. I know he wishes he could stay home from work to spend the days with us. He was home with her on Saturday evening while I went to the Muddbunnies calendar release party. Lyra had a bad night – uncomfortable from teething, and probably wanting her mommyto make things better. He got through it ok though, only a few text messages and calls to me, and only one breakdown where he wanted me to come home. I didn’t catch an immediate ride, and things smoothed out at home enough for me to spend some more time out, so it worked out okay.

There is more, but now it’s time for a walk to the Quay and back.