Emily started feeling positive energy Friday morning -- contractions that were a little stronger, a little more real than the Braxton-Hicks contractions that she'd been feeling for a while. We talked about whether or not I should even go in to work. I did, and that was for the best, because the rest of Friday was pretty quiet, and I was able to get a lot of work done. We took a long walk out to the ocean that evening to try and develop those contractions into something more -- it was pleasant, the crisp windy air was nice, but we went to sleep that night with nothing more than a quiet optimism that something might happen soon. We had no idea.
Emily woke me up about 4:00 that morning. Her contractions were stronger, and definitely more regular. She wanted to get walking again. We called my mother, who came over to stay with the sleeping Mather. At 5:30 we walked outside and met our doula. We paced the long blocks of the Sunset for an hour and half. As we walked, Emily's contractions grew stronger and stronger -- at first, she was walking through them, but eventually she was stopping when they started and shimmying her hips to get through it. The sun was slowly lighting the sky.
Morning walk, unplugging the plumbing.
We started timing the contractions. They were starting less than two minutes apart.
We got back to the house and started packing up bags and eating snacks. At this point we weren't in a hurry (even though we should have been). Things went a little more helter-skelter when Emily's water broke during a contraction while she was standing in the living room. The contractions went from strong to immense, and Em felt the sudden and powerful desire to push. But we were still in the living room.
We loaded Emily into the car. Under our doula's advice, she stayed on her hands and knees rather than sitting in order to keep herself from pushing. I was still a little ignorant of the urgency, so as I got behind the wheel and started driving, I told them that "I'll drive slowly and carefully". Our doula replied, "Actually, you need to blow through some stop signs". So I did, with Emily shrieking like a siamang in the back seat.
The drive took ten frantic minutes. Then only thirteen minutes passed from our arrival in the hospital's emergency entrance to the birth of our second daughter. The staff seemed to know exactly what was going on when they brought the wheelchair out to our car to bring Em in -- they blew past the check-in area, took her straight upstairs, into the first open labor/delivery room and got her in the bed still in her street clothes. By random chance, the midwife with Emily's OB practice was still in the hospital from his shift the night before (he was supposed to be on his way to the airport, but he was still there because no one had relieved him, and Emily was pushing so he just jumped in...) and he caught Stella after Emily made about three good pushes. I got to watch the whole thing, from the moment Stella started crowning to when she wriggled out messy and triumphant.
It was hectic, it was wild, it felt like something from a movie. It was something completely different from the difficult, induced labor that led to Mather's emergency c-section four years ago. One of the saddest elements that lingered from that difficult delivery was that neither of us got to be present -- Emily was unconscious under general anesthesia, and the medical staff did not allow observers into the operating room so I was out alone in the hall when Mather was born. This time, both of us got to be witness to our daughter's birth. That did a lot to heal old scars.
Stella was thrust into Emily's arms seconds after her frenzied birth.
Another difference from that trip four years ago was our stay in the hospital. Because Emily's recovery from the c-section had been difficult and extended, we had to stay for five days. This time around, we checked out after one, bringing Stella home so we could just get going on our lives.
So far Stella is content, unfussy and gentle. Mather is thrilled and proud to be a big sister. Emily is thrilled and proud too -- she finally got to experience childbirth under her terms, without medicine, without monitors, relying on the strength of her own body. I am proud of Emily, proud that she stood up for what she wanted, proud that she achieved her dream of a natural delivery.
Pink and powerful.
Four years of fear of what attempting a VBAC would risk. Four years of fearing another c-section. Four years of questions about whether Emily could start laboring naturally. Having to hope we wouldn't go past the due date and be pressured into a scheduled incision. All gone, washed away in an early Saturday morning of delightful madness and blown stop signs, eight days before that due date.
Stella was born November 6th at 8:03 am after a thrill ride of a labor and delivery. She came in 7 pounds and 1 ounces and measures 21 inches, an ounce lighter but two inches taller than her big sister measured four years and five days ago.
So far she is happy and sleepy and hardly fusses at all.
Everyone is thrilled and we're home from the hospital already. More story to come.
A year passed: winter changed into spring, spring changed into summer, summer changed back into winter, and winter gave spring and summer a miss and went straight on into autumn... until one day...
We have gone from spring to fall with what was a whirlwind summer in between. The biggest news was Momily's ongoing adventure in pregnancy and my new job doing exactly what I dreamed of doing when I enrolled in library school.
But beyond the big things we had an incredible summer: increasingly complex adventures with a kid who is always on the move; a weeklong trip to Brooklyn to catch up with my sister, her husband and daughter and her own growing belly; the devastatingly charming wedding of our dear friends Ryan and Amanda; and the big lifestyle shift of Momily finally getting to enjoy some home life after switching to a two-day-a-week work schedule.
School is back in session at Rocky Mountain and spending time around the incredible kids that go to this unique preschool is a remarkable pleasure. Today was our school picnic in Samuel P. Taylor State Park up in western Marin, a choice spot in a redwood grove with a free-flowing creek complete with logs perfect for clambering and climbing. A year ago, before going to Rocky Mountain, Mather wouldn't walk across an on-the-floor wide balance beam without holding my hand. Now?
Why? Well, she gets the confidence from the constant physical challenges she faces at a play-based preschool that goes out of its way to make kids move, to make kids climb, to make kids think about their bodies and how they can use them. Our school director puts it best: before you can make a kid sit still at a desk, they need to know how to run, climb, and hang. They can't sit, think and learn until they can control their body.
Her confidence and strength have bloomed in the past year, and we are very grateful to be part of an incredible San Francisco institution and a wonderful community of parents and kids.
Unfortunately, Ransomed Off has become more of an archive lately than an active blog. But we have friends who blog! About adventures with us! Adventures like walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and flying kites!
Meanwhile, we're having fun with summertime, watching the new baby grow (we'll have the big ultrasound -- where we find out the gender -- June 25), and otherwise living life. The biggest shift is that Mather finally said goodbye to her beloved binkies (with much protest), having them mailed off to the Binky Fairy in exchange for return mail gifts (including an impressively pink ballerina dress). We're still navigating dangerous waters at bedtime -- she does not like going to bed without one -- but I think it'll be clear sailing in a few more days/nights.
Lots of photos and other fun things find their way to Facebook instead of the blog, so feel free to friend me if you're feeling out of the loop, and we'll make sure all the big news and events do indeed make it here to Ransomed Off.
For those of you who don't live close enough to see Mather move and talk a whole lot, here's a byte-size glimpse of her at play. She takes a big jump and then decides who will be the monster. (Spoiler alert: it's me).
Watching a friendship blossom amongst three-year-olds is a pretty powerful experience. Getting to be there firsthand is one of the most valuable aspects of being in a preschool co-op. Mather has a number of friendships at school. Each one a little different, and several of them close. She has some friends amongst the older kids, and she even deigns to talk to a couple of the boys -- but her closest friendship is with Talia. Mather has declared Talia to be both her "very best friend" and her "sister".
Since today at school was my "snack day" (each parent is responsible for preparing and serving the morning snack to school once a month), Mather and I brought in our aprons to work together in the kitchen. Involving Mather is the only way to avoid her whining for me to come out from the kitchen and play with her. But it shouldn't have surprised me when it turned out I had two sous-chefs, as Mather promptly invited Talia to join us in preparing snack. Soon I had them both standing on stools at the kitchen counter helping me peel mandarin oranges and plate blueberries. Since Mather had an apron, Talia needed one too. Fortunately we found a selection of kid-sized aprons in the kitchen.
After prepping snack the two apron clad girls grabbed scissors and headed out to the school garden to (haphazardly) trim some of the plants for reasons only they understand. Talia's sister, 18 m.o. Summer, tagged along after them (relieved of her own pair of scissors by her mother, swapped with a hole punch). Mather still couldn't stop herself from repeatedly warning "Summy" to be careful with her "scissors".
Today was just one of those idyllic days of parenting. After Emily had a hard time alone with her last night (Mather is increasingly fighting bedtime), it was a nice reprieve. Even bedtime was easy tonight. Is it too much to ask for another day like today tomorrow?
Sadly, we've let this blog slide off the map this year, with only a few posts over the last six months. This hasn't been because nothing has happened: quite the opposite, we've undergone some dramatic changes at home in 2009, both with Mather's development and the unfolding of our educational and professional aspirations. Life's just been too busy to blog about it, particularly as I was busy writing my e-Portfolio in order to complete my Master's program. That was the biggest writing project I've ever undertaken, and it was hard to muster the energy to write some more. Co-operation Perhaps the most dramatic change in our lives, essentially uncovered on this blog, was Mather's switch from a traditional teacher-driven preschool to a parent co-op. We first discussed our interest in co-op's in this post last year, and the most relevant line in that post is the last, in tiny text: "My own preschool is upcoming on the tour itinerary". That's where we ended up.
Built facing a spectacular cliffside from our favorite urban mountain, Rocky Mountain Participation Nursery School became Mather's new daytime home Monday through Friday back in September. It hasn't changed much since I was a student there in the early 80's; the school is still dedicated to an active, play-based curriculum in which the kids determine their own schedule, spend a lot of time playing outdoors, climbing and hiking and clambering around on the full-size playground.
As it is a co-op, switching Mather to Rocky Mountain has changed our lives pretty drastically. Unlike our previous preschool, we are intimately involved in the operation of the school, from (my) serving as a parent-teacher one day a week, our participation in weekly all-parent meetings, big school parties for Halloween, Winter Solstice, etc., as well as fundraisers and other activities.
Personally, working at Rocky Mountain as a parent has been an eye-opening experience. While I had gotten used to my own daughter's idiosyncrasies, getting to intimately know 19 other children aged 3-5 has taught me a lot about children, human behavior and parenting. Getting to witness Mather develop friendships and connections personally has also been a revelation, and her development has taken off in leaps and bounds in the challenging, boisterous Rocky Mountain environment.
One of the best elements of being in a co-op is the strong connections you make with other families. We've already become very close to some of Mather's friends and their parents. This was brought home to me at my parent's Christmas Eve party, which was attended by one of my original Rocky Mountain "classmates", still a very dear friend of mine, and three Rocky Mountain parents from circa 1981 (and the attendant stories of my youthful trouble-making)...
Mather also turned three in November, which she considered her big girl moment: don't let her hear you call her a little girl! She'll get in your face about it. So in 2009 we really feel like we went from little to big, and we've got a fun, loud kid with a ton of opinions and personality.
Showing off the hat she sewed herself. The school's cliff is visible in the background.
Graduation Mather's world isn't the only one undergoing change: this month I graduated from San Jose State's School of Library and Information Science with a Master's Degree, and as of last week I started a temporary paid position in the archives department of the California Academy of Sciences Research Library. It will run until mid-April and get me up to speed on a suite of skills I didn't get to work on at SLIS, particularly digital and photographic archiving. I'm very excited.
After that position ends its term, I'll be looking to secure a permanent position in a library or research institution. While the downturned economy makes jobhunting difficult, I'm confident in my skills and professional abilities. I continue to blog about my thoughts on the profession and a variety of other thoughts on my "other" blog, The Pinakes. Please check it out.
Meanwhile, Emily is closing in on finishing her certification as a massage therapist, having already started on her practicums (I got to be her first "client"; it was wonderful!).
2009 has been a dramatic year. With so much of our lives in flux, 2010 might be even more so.