Monday, August 25, 2008

Crazy corn

It's a very good thing Derrick and I aren't subsistence farmers. There would be very little subsisting on what we've managed to produce from our garden this year. The picture above is of Derrick eating one of our seven ears of corn. After all our planting, all our care (which was evidently not even close to enough) we raised seven ears of buggy, short, funny-looking corn. We ate every bit of it for lunch yesterday. The great thing about even funny-looking corn, though, is that when it's fresh it's still incredibly delicious. I have only rarely had corn that was as fresh and as sweet as the corn we ate yesterday for lunch.

As little success as we've experienced in our gardening this year, I think we'll be doing this again, if only to enjoy a few juicy, sticky-sweet kernels of corn.

Friday, August 22, 2008


For as bad as Derrick and I are at gardening (and we really aren't any good) I'm still impressed at our ability to eat what we grow. Tonight we had a cucumber, tomato, and onion salad--and all of it was from our garden. We won't be able to do it again any time soon, unless our cucumbers decide to start producing again or the new ones we planted grow amazingly quickly, but tonight we were able to enjoy a dish that, with the exception of the condiments (vinegar and olive oil and a few spices) was entirely home-grown.

Yi-Chou came over, and brought her two girls to see Sylvia this evening, and the five of us shared a half a watermelon, also from our garden. The watermelon was obviously pretty small if five of us ate half of it (the thing was maybe 8 inches across), but it was a very good melon. And unlike the melons you get in the store nowadays, it had real, black, spittable seeds. I'm glad I was able to share the watermelon with Yi-Chou and her girls--next time we'll have to have a seed-spitting contest, though!

Here are a few of the choice pictures Derrick and I have taken recently of Sylvia. I'm glad Derrick finally got one of Sylvia and I asleep together that doesn't involve either of us looking like we're passed out. I also managed to get a cute one of Sylvia playing with Derrick's beard. She's starting to respond more to tactile stimulus, though she's still a ways off from being truly responsive to her environment.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Kudzu Kiddo

So, apparently whatever I'm feeding Sylvia, it's good for her. She had her 2 week checkup today and now weighs 6 lb 4 oz and is 21 3/4 inches long. By this point she's supposed to be back to her birth weight (5 lb 13 oz in her case). Everyone keeps telling me she'll grow fast--now I can see exactly how fast.

Since Sylvia had a doctor's appointment this morning I didn't take her with me to school today. Probably a good thing, since I was able to concentrate much better on the material being presented in the TA workshop, but by about 11:30 I was definitely ready to leave and get back to my little girl. It's amazing how quickly you get used to having a baby around, and how much you miss her when she isn't in your arms constantly.

I called Derrick after I was done and he said I should hurry home because Sylvia was almost out of food, but at the same time he didn't want to give me a ride. When I got home I found out why--Sylvia was finally asleep. Evidently after he dropped me off at school he took Sylvia to the garden, where she cried the whole time and refused to take the bottle of milk I'd pumped that morning because it was too cold. By the time he got her to the Doctor's office the milk was warm enough she'd drink it, but half of it had spilled in the diaper bag. The half that was left was enough to calm her for the appointment, but she messed up her diaper somewhere along the way and Derrick couldn't find any more diapers in the bag (something he scolded me for until I showed him where the six or seven spare ones were "hiding"). Fortunately they have spares at the Doctor's office, so he changed her there, but even with her incredible weight gain she's still so small the diaper was too big for her, so soon after he got her home she had a blow-out and peed on a bunch of blankets. She was also hungry again by the time they got home and the only milk available was frozen. Derrick thawed it as quickly as he could, but she still evidently screamed for quite some time. He actually gave her the milk while it still had a frozen chunk in it--and she was hungry enough that she took it! I'd left two bottles of frozen milk, just in case (each only had a couple of ounces of milk) and she polished off the first one quickly (not hard since she's not good with a bottle, so about half of whatever came out of the bottle spilled--dirtying yet more blankets) and only had the barest skim of milk left in the second by the time I got home.

Sounds like a morning without mom is a bit more exciting than when I'm around.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First day of school

I had TA training today and, because I'm breastfeeding exclusively, I took Sylvia with me. What a day! She slept quite well through the first couple of hours of presentations, but once she was awake I couldn't get her to sleep unless I was walking around--an activity not particularly amenable to listening to lecture and participating in discussions. By the time the TA workshop was over at 3 she was tired and overstimulated, and I'd only managed to hear bits and pieces of the presentations. Fortunately, they provided handouts with all of the information from the workshop, so I can still look over those. Of course, as soon as I walked out of the building where the training was being held, Sylvia fell sound asleep, turning into a little rag doll. I was so tired myself that I sat down to just enjoy a few minutes of relative peace and quiet (there were hordes of freshmen wandering around in large groups, headed by upperclassmen carrying various stuffed animals attached to poles). One of the other grad students in the EAS department walked by, admired Sylvia, and told me she's pregnant.

Somehow I'm not surprised. She was very excited about my pregnancy, and just seemed like she was ready for kids. We talked for a little while about pregnancy, and she admitted she was a little worried about being pregnant, and about having a child. I'm not surprised--I remember being apprehensive for quite some time after discovering my own pregnancy. I'm still apprehensive about making the whole grad school/child thing work together.

Anyway, Derrick picked us up and Sylvia slept for the two minute ride home, after which she wailed on and off for the next two hours. She was just so tired and nothing would calm her down. Eventually she tired herself out enough that she'd eat and she's pretty much been sleeping ever since. With the way she acted today I'm even more glad we didn't drive out to Utah for my Grandpa's funeral. That just wouldn't have been fun.

Monday, August 18, 2008


As I mentioned before, I think Derrick is starting to like this new digital camera. Yesterday he accidentally took the picture below with a very long exposure time. Both of us thought it turned out quite nicely, even if it was an accident. Now, since all he'd be wasting is pixels, I think he's going to experiment with more artsy techniques (which I will then force him to teach me, bwa ha ha ha!).

We can tell Sylvia's getting out of the brand new newborn stage. Yesterday she was awake for probably close to 8 hours--long enough she was definitely bored by her parents. She did find a mirror entertaining for a few minutes, though.

She did eventually tire herself out, at which point both of us needed a nap. I think Derrick is trying to get a picture of the two of us sleeping together every day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wishful thinking

Derrick is trying to convince Sylvia she likes hot peppers. I'm pretty sure she's unconvinced. In fact, every time a pepper comes near her mouth she closes it very tightly against the intrusion of such a brightly-colored object. She's not nearly so picky when it comes to fingers.

We've been taking her out to the garden, which she mostly seems to enjoy. The sunlight is probably helping with her jaundice. At this point she's almost as pasty as me again!

Derrick resisted getting a digital camera forever because he just didn't think they could do as nice a job as a film camera. I think he might be reconsidering a bit, though.

We think Sylvia looks like a bug when she sleeps like this (which is apparently her preferred sleeping position), so we've started calling her bug.

Since he couldn't convince Sylvia to like his peppers, Derrick has moved on to entertaining her with a hooded towel. I'm not sure she likes the Gene Simmons impression either, though.

Yes, we do rent him out for parties. Pricing available upon request ;)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A week with Sylvia

It's been a doozy. We're settling into not so much a routine, but an understanding of how she acts and especially how she eats and sleeps. Her jaundice is improving--there's a fairly distinct line just above her sternum, below which she's a healthy pink color and above which she's still yellow. Having her around is definitely a bright spot, and I'm really glad she's here now. She's attempting to grow a belly, which involves her eating and eating and eating. Perhaps she's got enough Hasterok genes turned on to turn into a bit of a pudge. She's still amazingly flexible--this afternoon she fell asleep with one foot just under her chin. I can't believe that position is comfortable enough to sleep in, but I guess that's probably a position she spent some time in while gestating.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Grandpa sized hole

My grandpa is dead. He passed away yesterday, probably shortly after Derrick and I finished talking to my grandma. He's been deteriorating for a few months now, ever since he developed a heart arrhythmia and had it treated by a doctor who, after putting him on coumadin, neglected to monitor the levels of coumadin in his blood because my grandpa "wasn't expected to be a long-term patient anyway." My grandpa subsequently developed internal bleeding that almost killed him, then diverticulitis, and for the last few days has had aphasia and been unable to go to the toilet on his own. It's easy to be angry that my grandpa's days were shortened and made just that much less pleasant by a stupid decision by a doctor.

It seems an irony now that his body will be donated to medical research. I have mixed emotions about that, too--I'm glad my grandpa is that generous with the flesh that housed his soul for a good 86 years, and I know doctors need to dissect human bodies to prepare for practicing medicine, but it's hard for me to think that someone will take a scalpel to his body and lay open his well-used tissues to their examination. I wonder what they'll see there, and if there's any way, when they return his remains for cremation, to find out what they found inside him. Will they see evidence of the havoc wrecked by the coumadin? Will they be able to reconstruct the sequence of systems that failed him in the end? Will they see small perforations, most probably healed, in his vessels? Will his heart show signs of the arrhythmia, or of the minor heart attack he had eight years ago? I'm sure they'll see all the diverticula, most of which were probably not infected, probably caused him no problems at all. Will the deteriorating disks in his back that caused him so much pain be at all remarkable to them?

I wonder if they will note the cleft palate he was born with, and if they will realize how unusual it is for a man his age to have survived infancy with such a birth defect. Will they notice the mended bones in his arm that was caught in a threshing machine and broken? If they do, they won't have any idea that injury dashed his dreams of college until the GI bill resurrected those dreams. Will they see any remainder of the strong, fleet muscles in the legs of his that once were able to run a mile in under four-and-a-half minutes? Will they notice the ravages of the tropical fungi that he picked up during his time on New Guinea during WWII? Will they find other reminders--scars or perhaps a piece of long-forgotten shrapnel--of that service? I know they'll have no way of seeing the faces of the friends who were killed there, of remembering the friend who was killed by a mortar shortly after switching beds with my grandpa, any more than I do. The allergies that plagued him throughout his adult life and forced him to abandon a career in geology in favor of one in social work won't show up under their scrutiny.

I know the callouses on his hands will bear no discernible record to anyone else of the roses and gladioli and dahlias, of the raspberries and grapes, of the tomatoes and cucumbers and squash, all tenderly planted and cared for; of the silver and turquoise jewelry crafted, often into the shape of Kokopelli, the trickster Navajo god; or the paintings of his beloved southwest, all reds and browns and and blues, or occasionally in fantastic shades of purple. They will not see, nor will they imagine an impression in his side left behind by a tow-headed girl who used to curl up under his arm and watch Nature and Nova, and an assortment of other natural history shows on PBS. His wisdom, gleaned from decades of helping people help themselves, and shared with errant (or sometimes just stubborn or sad) children and grandchildren has flown with him, leaving no residue to be discovered upon opening his skull.

For all his life, for all he did, the record in his body will be scant. It is only the memories and the impressions that he left with us, his friends and descendants that bear record of who he was and what he loved and accomplished in his life.

Godspeed, grandpa. We love you, and will miss you.

Monday, August 11, 2008

little one

We've had her for four days now, and I have to say, they've all been pretty awesome. I was exhausted the first day, but that's not unexpected given that labor is, after all, hard labor.

It's amazing to me how much there is to learn about her, and how quickly we learn it. I realize most parents spend quite a bit of time in the first few days gazing, starry-eyed at their baby, memorizing features and facial expressions. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology and the internet, I can now share my starry-eyed gazing with others! For instance, this morning while running my fingers over Sylvia's incredibly soft hair, I noticed she actually has two swirls in the back of her head, one going clockwise, the other counter-clockwise:

and her hands are incredibly tiny!

We shamelessly ripped this picture off from the photographers who take pictures at the hospital:

And, of course, since we're both Geologists, here's the obligatory photo with the GSA scale:

Here's her first bath, which resulted from her first blowout:

It's hard work being a baby...

Sylvia and her dad:

Getting ready to go home from the hospital (I think the green outfit sets of the orange of her jaundiced skin nicely, don't you?):

And finally, the pictures of her first few moments. Here she is being weighed (please note, 5 lb 12.6 oz is, in her case, 2643 g):

It was a long, hard day for all of us, but I don't think either Derrick or I could be any more happy with our little girl!

So, now that the cuteness is documented, I'll detail my labor experience, for those who haven't heard it and are interested. Here's the last picture Derrick took of me pregnant, just before we left for the hospital:

I was supposed to go in for an induction on Monday, the 4th of August, but because Derrick was sick all weekend and because I was really hoping my body would just do what it was supposed to I canceled the appointment and made a new one for Wednesday, the 6th. Of course, my body didn't go into labor on its own, and in spite of all my angst about being induced, I recognized it was time. Honestly, it probably helped that on Monday night my hips started to hurt. This pregnancy was so comfortable until that point going over really didn't bother me. Anyway, I was really quite nervous about the induction and woke up at about 4:30 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep. I'd had mild insomnia, where I basically wake up between 4 and 5 am and can't get back to sleep until after I've showered and eaten breakfast, fairly often over the last month or two of pregnancy, and have learned it's best to just get up and get stuff done instead of laying in bed being frustrated, so I got up, ate, and started mopping the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, I was too wired to get back to sleep at all, so I was just awake until we left for the hospital.

Derrick got up at about 6:20 and got ready, and I drove us to the hospital. That morning was misty and cool and not at all like a typical August morning. We arrived at the hospital a bit late (this is me, after all) but they took me anyway, giving me the choice of either walking or riding in a wheel chair up to the labor and delivery room. I walked in, figuring I was unlikely to be walking out on my own.

After changing into one of the lovely open-backed gowns they give you, Dr. Shinn came in, checked my cervix, and decided that, surprise, surprise, I was still only maybe 50% effaced and less than one cm dilated. So, he placed a tablet of Cytotec in my cervix and I stayed in bed, hooked up to fetal and contraction monitors for the next hour and a half or so. I started having some contractions, and they eventually let me get up and walk around, even suggesting walking around might encourage stronger contractions. I took that opportunity to find Heather Hansen, who was in the postpartum wing recovering from giving birth to her baby on Monday. She let me hold her little boy and we chatted for a while before I walked back to my room to wait for lunch and the doctor.

Lunch was very red and pink--cherry popsicle, peach jell-o, juice, and chicken broth--and it was just about the same hue when it came back up while I was walking around later. I was warned to expect puking, and I did, in fact, puke. Twice. The second time it was after a dinner of green jell-o and lemonade, which was, if possible, less pleasant coming back up than the earlier pink lunch was.

After lunch (but before puking) the doctor said I was dilated to about 2 cm, but the baby wasn't engaged enough to break my bag of waters. After more walking and the puking, the head was engaged sufficiently that Dr. Shinn broke the amniotic sack and left me hooked up to monitors again with the expectation that my contractions would increase in intensity, regularity, and frequency. That was around 2 pm. By about three my contractions (that were formerly about 3 or 4 minutes apart and strong, but manageable) had slowed seriously, and by four they'd pretty much stopped. So, about 5 pm they started me on IV pitocin.

The nurse claimed it would take about 40 minutes for the pitocin to get into my system, so I sent Derrick out to get dinner. Shortly after he left I started having contractions that felt like they were stronger (though they hardly showed up on the monitor) and never felt like they released completely. By the time Derrick got back from dinner I was ready to take whatever medication they could give me to stop the pain, but when the nurse checked me I was still at 2 cm. She suggested I get on the birthing ball, which turned out to be the most wonderful suggestion she could have made. I spent the next four or five hours pretty much constantly on the birthing ball, except for a period of less than an hour when one of the nurses insisted I stay in bed because the fetal monitor showed the baby's heartbeat slowing during a couple of contractions. Again, while in bed, the contractions were nearly unbearable, but after the heartbeat steadied I got back on the birthing ball and was okay.

My method of dealing with contractions depended very heavily on Derrick. I'd grab his hands, usually the meatiest part of his palm, as a contraction started and would squeeze his hands, kind of massaging them and focus on taking deep breaths (or as deep as I could manage) while the pain peaked. Derrick would tell me to relax, since I would often tense up my legs and feet during the most painful part of the contraction, and would tell me that I was doing well and could do this. I am so glad he was there and so glad he was so supportive during the labor process. Without his constant presence I would not have made it through--at least not without an epidural.

At around 11 pm, Dr. Shinn came in and checked on me again, and I was dilated to 6 cm--way more than I'd expected. If I hadn't been that dilated I probably would have asked for the epidural at that point, but I decided that I'd been handling it well enough that I would try for another hour at least. I think I had the most painful contraction of my labor right after the doctor checked me. I was, of course, lying on my back and the contraction started and I just couldn't catch my breath while I was in a prone position. I remember writhing and arching my back, and I wouldn't be surprised if my eyes rolled back in my head as the pain pulsed through me. Fortunately, once I was back on the birthing ball the contractions went back to being bearable. You're expected to dilate about 1 cm an hour from 6 to 10 cm, and I thought I could probably handle that much more labor, as long as I spent it not on my back.

Dr. Shinn was nice enough to stick around for the whole labor, though he did go sleep for a few hours after the last check. Derrick and I stuck to our routine, dealing with the contractions that came about every two minutes. Between contractions we could talk, and sometimes even make jokes (though the couple of times I told Derrick to shut up it was because he was attempting to be funny when I was trying to concentrate on breathing through a contraction). As the night wore on we both got more and more tired, to the point that we were both falling asleep for the 45 seconds to a minute of pain-free time between contractions. At about 3:30 I decided that we were both so tired we needed to sleep and asked to be checked again. I knew I was close at that point because at least occasionally I felt the urge to bear down (something our nurse told me not to do since that could cause the cervix to swell if I wasn't completely dilated), but I wasn't sure I was close enough that we'd be able to make it without some rest. At that point I figured that if I wasn't pretty close to dilated I'd get the epidural and let both of us get some sleep before I needed to push. When the nurse checked me and said I was fully dilated, and went to get someone else to make sure, I got a definite boost of adrenaline. I had my next contraction standing up, which was also pretty painful, and gave in to the urge to push.

I didn't want to push lying down--contractions while lying down were so painful I was sure that would be terrible--but the nurse convinced me to try, and it turned out to be a remarkably comfortable position for me. Derrick and Michelle (that's the nurse) held my legs back and counted for me during contractions, and within just a few contractions a little head, covered in pale hair, was visible. At that point the activity level in the room about tripled as another nurse wheeled in a bunch of instruments on a cart and the other nurse who'd checked me prepped the area where the baby would be weighed and measured. My contractions spaced out considerably once I was pushing (to 3 or 4 minutes between contractions) but even so, I had to wait through a contraction without pushing for him to show up. That was hard--for whatever reason pushing made the pain go away and was really all I wanted to do. In fact, pushing, after all the long hours of labor, was remarkably fun. Once Dr. Shinn showed up and I was moved into position on the end of the bed I pushed for two contractions and the head came out. I'd been warned to expect a burning sensation as the head emerged, and I definitely felt that, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd expected (though the episiotomy probably helped that). Dr. Shinn rotated the head around, checked to make sure the umbilical cord wasn't wrapped around her neck, and then with one more rather pitiful on my part push, she was out. I have to say, pushing was about the most exhilarating thing I've done for a while--even better than getting to the top of Cirque Peak!

I ended up tearing in front and had to have stitches in my urethra (which caused me to feel like I had the world's worst UTI for a couple of days) in addition to the episiotomy. Overall, though, I think I came through pretty well. I almost fell over while trying to get into the wheel chair to go to postpartum, but after being awake for more than 24 hours and spending much of that time doing something very physically demanding I think that's pretty expected. I definitely understand why women have epidurals--if the birthing ball hadn't worked as it did, I would have gone that way myself. That said, I'm glad I made it all the way without needing one. Derrick was essential to that as well--you really do need to have someone there to support and help focus attention and energies. I managed to remain relatively pleasant during the labor, only asking people firmly to "give me a minute" if they wanted something during a contraction. As long as they gave me that space I could interact calmly during the periods when I wasn't having a contraction.

I think my ability to focus (which I didn't think was that strong before this) really helped me get through the contractions, and after doing this, I think if that doesn't work for someone else--if someone else finds themselves writhing in pain, or getting mean during labor--they should get the epidural and not feel at all bad about it. This was definitely an educational experience. I have a deeper appreciation appreciation for what my body is capable of, and I have a deeper appreciation for the many birth stories I've heard from other women. I think as women we have a tendency to think our way of doing something, especially something like labor, is the only right way, and may feel judgmental toward others who don't take that path. I wanted a birth with less medical intervention than I experienced, but I'm honestly happy with the outcome--I'm very happy about the way my labor experience went and very grateful to all the people--doctors and nurses, and Derrick, of course--who helped me through it.

Monday, August 4, 2008


So, I decided not to go in today for induction. Derrick was sick all weekend, I didn't sleep well last night, and I'm pretty sure I'm not physically ready to go into labor anyway. I'm amazed at how easy it was to reschedule once I was dealing with my doctor, and not the nurse practitioners or OB nurses. Last week I tried to reschedule--twice--because I didn't think my body was ready (which, after today, I think is no longer the case--I feel like she's very low in my belly, and the ligaments in my pelvis feel like they're stretching every time I walk). Both times I was told no, the first time because I might not be able to get on my doctor's schedule again, the second time because the placenta might be aging and could calcify or detach, possibly starving the fetus.

The second argument at least makes some sense (though some research suggests the postmature placenta isn't different from a term or pre-term placenta. I am aware that there are more complications with post-term infants, including more frequent stillbirths, more shoulder distocia, and more meconium staining. The thing is, she's been small during this whole pregnancy, so if distocia is going to be a problem it'll be because my pelvis just isn't built right, not because she's too big. According to this abstract, the chance of having a stillborn infant increases from 11.7/1000 (or, about 1/100) in a term pregnancy to 20.9/1000 (or, about 1/50) in a postmature pregnancy, and the largest two contributers to increased mortality are congenital defects and infections in the amniotic fluid. Of course, that's only one study and I really don't know if in my "research" I'm coming across good studies or bad, but still, I'm getting the impression that the medical community may not be relaying completely accurate information to us patients. That said, I do understand why they get a bit twitchy about letting pregnancies go past 42 weeks, given the approximate doubling in the chance of stillbirth.

The other excuse is the one that irritates me more, primarily because I accepted it. Seriously, would they not reschedule me? And what does it matter if my doctor is the one who sees me? I'm quite convinced that all the doctors in the practice are competent--I've heard nothing but good about any of them. If I'd had my baby last week spontaneously I would have had Dr. J. Random delivering her anyway. So, why did this argument work? It's not logical. Was it the lack of logic that made it so effective? If it's a nonsensical, but reasonable sounding argument, is it more effective? Why?

Really, the thing that most annoys me is my own reaction. Instead of just saying no, just saying what I wanted and insisting that I be listened to, I used Derrick's illness as an excuse, essentially manipulating my way out of what I felt I was being pushed into. That reaction speaks to the powerlessness I feel in this relationship between me and my health care providers. I feel like I lied (since I kind of did) to get the decision I wanted, when really I should have had a say in the decision in the first place. I hate being manipulative. I hate being in situations where I feel that's the only option available to me. Grr.