Wednesday, November 18, 2015

go ahead, judge me

weeks 23 & 24 cape may, nj

July 20:  There are two refrigerators at our actor housing.  And, for a span of about five weeks, there are only two of us actors occupying the house, so I end up with a full size refrigerator to myself.  In the freezer can be found three separate half-gallons of three separate flavors of ice cream.  

Judge me.  Go ahead, judge me.

July 21:  People ask me all the time if I get weird cravings.  While in Cape May, I discover Tommy's Hot Dog Stand.  I have not had a hot dog in twenty years, and now I eat them daily.  This goes on for several weeks before someone informs me that hot dogs are on the pregnant lady's do-not-eat-list.  I grudgingly decide to give them up...  But not before I finish the remaining seven in the fridge.

Go ahead, judge me.

*  PS the Mayo Clinic says pregnant ladies can eat hot dogs and lunch meats only if they are cooked "until steaming hot."  Which I do.  I mean, c'mon, it's called a hot dog.  To eat it any other way is positively canine...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

OUT! Birth Story V

Some women give it a one, two, three... and out she comes! Other women, like me, have to do some "passive pushing" before actual pushing. So I spent an hour "bearing down" in various positions in an effort push the baby down before pushing her out.

I'm not the first woman to report that I like pushing. It sounds odd, because this is, of course, when some very sensitive spots have to spread wide enough to press a person through them. But with pushing comes relief.  Instead of trying to keep myself still, and to manage contractions, keeping each of them contained against the pressure, when pushing I was working with the pressure, rolling with it, directing it, moving it down down down and soon.. Out!

Joyce, the midwife kept encouraging me to change position. The bed had a "birthing bar" which arched over the middle of the mattress. One can grab on and squat while standing on the bed (which I did), but there were other ways to use it too. Joyce rigged up a sheet so that I could sit on the bed with one foot on Sheffield, one foot on my mom, and hold the ends of the sheet like horse reins. "The Cowgirl" was my favorite position. But I would tire, turn around and drape my arms over the raised head of the bed, or squat, or lie on my side.

(If you've been through it, or been told, you know that many a woman craps the bed at this stage. I felt that in order to get over the embarrassment of that possibility, I would just state the obvious: "Guys, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna shit on this bed." They cheered "do it!, go for it!" as if I had just said "Guys, I think I'm gonna run in this 80-yard touchdown." But I was empty, so no TD.)

Toward the end of this "passive pushing," I got on all fours. My mom and the midwife were happily chatting in the corner of the room, and Sheffield stood beside me, coaching. Despite my deep focus and efforts, I couldn't help but notice that beyond a drawn curtain, the door to my room opened.

I had a memory flash that Sheffield was instructed to ask any visitors who arrived during this stage to leave. To spare him the responsibility, and with full confidence that my request would be would be heeded, I open my mouth, mid-push, and emitted a deep, guttural voice I should reserve for Greek tragedies (Agave, Medea, that sort of thing...) and roared:


From behind the curtain, a young (terrified) female nurses voice said, "OhmyGodI'msosorry, I didn't know she was pushing," and left.

My team applauded.
My mother said, "Ginna, was the "get out" to the nurse or to the baby?"
I was still pushing, so again in my Medea voice, I said:


Although I wasn't aware of the hours passing, time was wearing on my team. I looked over at my mother whose hands were folded under her chin and eyes were directed upward. The woman was clearly in prayer, and I thought to myself, "aw shit, I thought things were going pretty well..."  But I didn't feel I could spare the energy to worry about it, so I just kept at the work.

Have you ever tried trapeze?

(Nice segue, right?)

In flying trapeze class, which I've tried three or four times, one must stand with toes at the edge of a platform very high off the ground with only a net between flyer and a fall. One must hold her bar with one hand, press her hips way forward, and on cue, release her second hand from its stable grip, to grab the bar as well, and...


The prep is terrifying.
The flight is exhilarating.

This is a video of me in trapeze class a year ago.

In the Labor and Delivery room, I would eye the birthing bar arched over the bed much the same way I did the trapeze bar: I wanted my hands on that bar, but getting there seemed impossible. I could barely stand the pain just lying in bed, and in my mind, there was no longer any possibility of pain management.

The prep is terrifying.
The flight is exhilarating.

I am a beast. I am large and sweaty and heavy. My hair is matted. My clothes are... where are my clothes? Yet in all my awkward mammal-ness, in a brief hesitation between contractions, I flung myself at the bar, fearless, trusting.

Got there.
Pushed some more.
While in trapeze flight, one must also have the courage to then release the bar.
To fly, one must let go.

The prep is terrifying.
The flight is exhilarating.

Time to let go.  I was no longer pushing the baby down, but pushing with the intention to get her out. My team saw glimpses of the top of her head and cheered, guided, instructed: "Push! HOLD! Don't push! Pant!" I'm trying. I'm trying!  "Tighten and push with your stomach, but relax your legs"  This last cue I found almost impossible, even for all my yoga/fitness bravado.

Nurse Juliet would see the tension my face (something I spent years trying to identify and eliminate in actor training) and say in her Jamaican accent: "Don't push with your face, push with your bottom."
"Bottom," I thought, was a great word choice.
I dropped my jaw.
I pushed with my bottom.

During that last bit of pushing, I remind myself over and over in silent mantra: I'm going to get huge. My baby knows what to do.  This, I thought, would be my secret weapon against tearing or stalling. If I identified a fear, I talked right to it.

See, I'd read that sometimes delivery can stall, even at this stage, if the mother is harboring fear. It could be fear of tearing, or something else physical. Or it could be something deeper, more psychological. I'd had so many fears to face, even before conceiving. Had I addressed them all? Or would some stubborn anxiety stick in the way, and require a vacuum or forceps delivery?

"Yes?," she said, "I'm here."
"Do you think I'll be a good mother?"
She laughed.
So did Sheffield.
But I think she cried a little too when she answered, "Yes Ginna, I think you'll be great."
Sheffield chimed in along the same lines.
They must have thought I was joking, but between you and me, reader, I meant it as simply as it sounds.

That was my fear.
Could I be caring, patient, protective to this little person...?
Could I be enough?
I needed to believe it to get this baby out.

I opted to take their word.

And in those final moments, I squeezed my eyes together and called on my sisters. Kelly, in Prague, told me later that she'd lit a candle and kept a silent, mindful vigil for me and her soon-to-be fellow Scorpio niece. Katie, deceased now nearly 20 years, would have fought tears and squeezed my hand or thigh had she been in the room.

They weren't with me.
But they were with me.

"Come on little girl," I coaxed the baby,
"Come on little girl, we can do this," I encouraged us both.
We'd have to be a team...

There was crowning.
There was a mirror.
There were no drugs.
Push, retract,
Panting, ranting, roaring like an animal.

The smooth round head makes it's way out of me. "Oh," I think, "That's what giving birth feels like."
Ladies, it's exactly what you think it will feel like.
Guys, I don't know what to tell you.

After the smoothness of the head, something lumpier and bumpier comes out, a jumble of body and limbs. I was vaguely aware of a gush of fluids, but there was no time to think on it... Before I could emotionally prepare to meet this little Froo I'd been with for 40 weeks +2 days, there she was on my belly.

It was like seeing a little cub. Her face at that instant, is still clear in my memory.
She was pink and normal-looking, not at all gooey or blue like some of the stories I'd been told.
On my belly, she wailed.
I put my hands on her.
Sheffield did too.
Our girl.
Our family.

The baby nursed on me right away (I have a whole other blog entry on the wonder of newborns and breasts...)  When asked her name, we answered Katherine/Katie/Kate, then we quoted Shakespeare, unplanned, in unison. But we explained that she was named less for the famous Shrew, and more for the sweet aunt Katie she'd probably met in a dimension beyond this one. Out of three finalists, we selected a middle name: Lulu.

At some point, Joyce the midwife revealed that the baby was born with her hand on her face.
I'd heard of this.
I'd heard it made for difficult delivery.I'd heard...
Ohhhh, yes....!
I'd heard it slows down labor and delivery.
I overhear Joyce tell my mom that had it not been for Katie Lu's expressive gesture, I have birthed her six hours earlier.  Hmm, I thought. I don't need to think too much on that...

The babe, when still my little Fetus Froo Froo, almost always appeared with a hand on her face during ultrasounds.

See that arm up and hand on her forehead?
And from then 'til now at six weeks...

I guess we should've known, but no matter...

Her arm position, however, was probably the cause of the excess bleeding that streamed from me, alarming Sheffield a little. (I was oblivious, my eyes on the prize.) Soon Joyce was stitching me up (2 stitches in my vagina; perineum was intact, yay!!!), and when I noticed the discomfort, I simply turned my attention back to my beautiful baby cub.  Boy that oxytocin is something...

We cuddled her for a long while before they took her to be weighed.  Nurse Juliet had ended her shift, (though she returned briefly to witness the birth) and Nurse Leanne was with me next. She brought me dinner while they cleaned up, weighed, and checked out sweet Katie Lu.

Someone poured the champagne we bought. I'd actually hesitated over whether to bring it or not. It'd been in the back of our fridge for months, an opening-night gift, and not even mine (but I think Sheffield had forgotten that it was even there.) As we packed up that morning to go to the hospital, my mom saw it on the "to bring" list:
"Do we really want to bring that champagne?"
I paused.  Would I jinx us by assuming celebration?
"Fuck it," I said to my own mother, "just bring it."
And she did.
And someone had even thought to chill it when I was pushing.

I demolished the hospital food: roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetables, washing it down with champagne. Later in our new baby/mama overnight room, I added to that, a meal retrieved by Sheffield. "What do you want?," he'd asked, and --like a marathon finisher, feeling entitled to just about any food the great city of New York had to offer-- I chose...

A burger, fries, and a Diet Coke.
And I didn't put the baby down to eat it.
The moment was documented.

Sheffield fell asleep while I chatted with my friend and first visitor, Rob.  Bleary-eyed, Mom had gotten herself home via the subway. I was tired, yes, but I was so high.
I never really slept that night.
My new baby was in a transparent bassinet thing-y next to me at eye level.
I monitored her throughout the night.
I nursed.
I marveled.

The end...

Or you can check out some pictures here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Active, Birth Story IV

From the Mayo Clinic  Active labor: During active labor, your cervix will dilate to 10 centimeters (cm). Your contractions will become stronger, longer, closer together and regular. Your legs might cramp, and you might feel nauseous. You might feel your water break — if it hasn't already. You might feel increasing pressure in your back as well. If you haven't headed to your labor and delivery facility yet, now's the time... Don't be surprised if your initial excitement wanes as your labor progresses and the pain intensifies. Don't feel that you're giving up if you ask for pain medication or anesthesia... Active labor often lasts up to eight hours. For some women, active labor lasts hours longer.

The Team was soon present: Sheffield, Mom, our new nurse Juliet, Joyce the midwife (think hippie fairy godmother from New Hampshire; she says "put your ahm up" instead of "put your arm up"), me, and of course, Little Fetus Froo Froo.

We are now, without doubt, in Active Labor, and at this point everything becomes a blur. I can report with certainty, however, that the contractions had gotten significantly stronger.  And despite my careful list of stuff to bring, we'd forgot my iPod, which meant no "baby playlist" in Labor and Delivery like I'd had to help me at home. I was still upright, shuffling around a very few square feet, leaning on things, conjuring up more relaxation methods I'd learned. I was back in my own clothes, a T-shirt I'd put on that morning out of ease rather than any sort of plan. The hardest part for me was allowing the muscles to relax below my belly button: the uterus, to be exact. I'm pretty good with muscle memory, identification, and isolation, (years of movement training to release tension, as a personal trainer teaching other people where and how to relax, and regular yoga practice) but Lord help me, was it a challenge to relax the lower half of my innards during active labor...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mama Bear, Birth Story III

mount sinai beth israel hospital
new york, ny

This next phase is the worst chapter, and the only one that has the potential to rattle my resolve.

We'd been told to "preregister" at the hospital. And we been told that even if/when we did, upon our arrival, there'd still be confusion, and we'd been told to be prepared to answer all the pre-registration questions again.

So, more than a month prior, I mailed in my preregistration papers. Two weeks after that, (still more than a month before our due date) I called to confirm receipt of those documents. To my (sort of?) surprise, my documents were not on file, or at least, they couldn't be found. I am told that they'll look around and I'll receive a call back that day, a Friday. No one calls me back. On Monday I call again. Still no preregistration documents of mine on file.  ...But the woman on the phone said I could scan and email the preregistration forms. Which I did. And I asked for confirmation that day. I got an email response an hour later that my preregistration was received. Still, I kept hardcopies which we brought with us to the hospital on November 18. 

Naturally, they had no preregistration documents of mine on file when we arrived. 

Sheffield was asked to give THE EXACT SAME info again, despite the completed hardcopies we'd brought with us. I was vaguely aware of the clown show to which he had inadvertently bought a ticket, as I stood, bent over a chair, bracing myself against its wooden arms. 

And then the nastiest of clowns appeared...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

PeaceCalm: Birth Story II

EARY LABOR DESCRIPTION  "If you're in early labor, your contractions will gradually become longer, stronger, and closer together. Eventually they'll be coming every five minutes and lasting 40 to 60 seconds each as you reach the end of early labor. Some women have much more frequent contractions during this phase, but the contractions will still tend to be relatively mild and last no more than a minute.
Sometimes early labor contractions are quite painful, even though they may be dilating your cervix much more slowly than you'd like. If your labor is typical, however, your early contractions won't require the same attention that later ones will.

You'll probably be able to talk through them and putter around the house. You may even feel like taking a short walk. If you feel like relaxing instead, take a warm bath, watch a video, or doze off between contractions if you can....  Early labor ends when your cervix is about 4 centimeters dilated and your progress starts to accelerate." 

astoria, early labor

The first three contractions were like long, slow, warm menstrual cramps. After the third one, I felt like I had enough of a "pattern," to justify alerting Sheffield who was washing dishes.  (I didn't want to call out his name and risk waking mom, who was asleep in our guest room.)  Sheffield sat with me on our bed and monitored these "cramps."  Eventually, out came the iPhone and ap that times contractions. I would tell him "NOW," and he would start timing, and then I would say "OKAY" or "OVER", and he would stop the timer.  I pulled up my baby-labor playlist and swayed, rocked, bounced, and breathed to the music I'd chosen to get over each "wave" as I called it...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Puzzled: Birth Story I

*A Note: It will become clear that my preference (for me) was a natural childbirth. I realize this is not everyone's cup of tea. But it is the cup of tea for me. This does not mean that I think it is right for everyone. You may have made other choices. Great! I love the birth you had and I love the child it produced or will produce. Let's agree that we both made our choices for very good reasons. Some of my reasons are based on research and some are based on my own personal quirks (neuroses?), and, above all, I fully believe that being "open" to any outcome in the delivery room is the best approach for expectant parents. This is our birth story.

40 weeks.  Our due date, November 16, passed with little fanfare.


My mother had been in town for a week, waiting, waiting, and on Sunday the 16th, she and I – in all my 40 weeks of round glory– took an 11 AM yoga class.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

From Froo to Lu

Nov. 18:  Little Fetus Froo Froo is the size of a...  BABY.  At 7:18 PM, she turns from Little Fetus Froo Froo into Baby Katherine Lulu.

I wanted so badly to post for you, but I have not the words!!!  Or, perhaps, it's more accurate to say that the entrance of this new soul in a 6 lb. 11 oz body seems too great an event to be contained by the magnificent words of the English language I love so well.

I have not the words!!!  But would you accept, instead... a picture?

Katherine Lulu Chastain

(I thought you might.)

I have not the words!!!
I have been stunned into silence.
But fear not, faithful b & the b readers.
I have a birth story to tell.  Stay tuned...