Blog a la Cart

Month: July, 2011

Mountain Top Snuggles

She would look out at the view and proclaim, “It’s really really far.”

She never specified what “it” was, but the general understanding of vastness seemed to be there so I didn’t pester her for clarification.


Their baby blues couldn’t handle the bright.

Mt. Greylock

Nothing better than a sunny, summer Saturday atop Mt. Greylock, eh?

She IS my sunshine. Just like that cheesy shirt claims.

Birth Plan, Smirth Plan

Right. So labor. It’s clearly on the brain. That, and milkshakes. Because a milkshake a day keeps the 9-month pregnant woman happy. As the saying goes.

James and I dusted off the birth plan we’d crafted for Addison’s arrival, and reviewed it with our midwives and doula. Given that I’ll be delivering in Vermont under the care of midwives, many of my requests are more than standard practice.

What a relief! Labor is challenging enough without having to fight the medical staff to pay attention to the requests you’ve made about your care. With Sunny’s birth, the nurse who primarily oversaw the labor process was terribly detrimental to the overall experience. She kept telling me that it didn’t have to be this hard, that most women didn’t do it this way (i.e. without pain medication). Her actions and words were clearly a part of what sent me spiraling into self-loathing and doubt toward the end.

Additionally, many of my requests were ignored and challenged without medical reason or need. I am still furious that the nurses, two hours after labor, took advantage of my exhausted, totally overwhelmed self and convinced me that Sunny needed to have deep suctioning, when she had been breathing normally and strongly for over two hours. My birth plan VERY CLEARLY stated that I did NOT want deep suctioning unless absolutely medically necessary. But they kept pushing and whispering and questioning my choice as a mother, so I caved in a moment of weakness when James was out of the room and my doula and doctor had gone home. I will not be so vulnerable or intimated this time around.

Similarly, I had to call my doctor in the middle of labor so she could verbally tell the nurse to let me shower and take off the fetal heart monitor and contraction monitor. I was healthy. The baby was healthy. We didn’t need to be monitored through every damn contraction. But my written request to have minimal monitoring was not enough.

And finally, I didn’t want pitocin after birth unless I was showing signs of hemorrhaging. And yet, despite showing all signs of a totally healthy, normal constriction of the uterus, the nurses switched the IV of water that I’d had right before pushing to pitocin. I wasn’t even aware until the drip was nearly finished, as I was wrapped up in bonding with my infant.

Yet again, written requests TOTALLY ignored.

Talk about feeling taken advantage of and disempowered. Yuck.

Look, I understand better than anyone that birth is not something that I can control. There are going to be things on my birth plan that cannot be accommodated because, ultimately, I’m not driving the bus. My body and the baby are going to do what they’re going to do. Flexibility is key.  I don’t get to determine when I go into labor. My body and this baby do. It could be 2 minutes from now, or 2 weeks. It’s not for me to say. It’s not for me to say where or when. And it’s most certainly not for me to say how that process will then play out. (Note: There are plenty of women who schedule their C-sections and inductions. Their reasoning is their own, and it’s their bodies and their choices and I honestly do not begrudge any woman for the choices she makes on behalf of her body and baby. She knows her needs better than anyone. But for me, this is how I think about and approach labor and delivery.)

The birth plan is a guide. It is my attempt at educating myself about the birth process and determining my needs and comforts with all the possible variables. While I want as little medical intervention as possible in a process that is completely natural and that my body is more than equipped to handle, I am completely open to managing the situation in whatever way best gets me and that baby through the experience.

For instance, while my birth plan states that I do not want my water broken by medical staff (I want it to happen naturally), that was just not working with Sunny’s birth. After 10 hours of active labor, and four hours stuck at 6cm, and a bulging, unbroken bag of water to show for it, my doula and doctor suggested that the process may be stalled because of the bag. Was I open to having it broken for me?

HELL YES! I was on the verge of throwing in the towel and having them wheel me into the OR, so a more minor intervention like having a doctor break the amniotic sac was a brilliant suggestion.

It was also suggested that I was seriously dehydrated and that that might also be stalling the process. Was I willing to have them put in an IV of water? Again, YES! Anything to get us to 10 – just get me to 10 CM!

Lo and behold, two minor interventions later and I was at 10 cm, and less than 20 minutes later holding my baby in my arms. While I had not wanted these interventions under the best of circumstances, I found I ultimately needed them to help me get through the experience.

The difference between why I am not angry about those interventions but I am about the ones listed previously? I was a part of the decision with the former. I was an active participant in that decision making. And that kind of empowerment and agency makes all the difference.

So what does this document called a birth plan look like? I’ve had queries from friends and family and beyond, and I am more than willing to share. This is what works for me given the research and education I’ve done, and it in no way would work for every woman. Its goal is to allow for the birth process to play out as naturally as possible, trusting that the female body is designed to do what is best for mom and baby, and that, under the best of circumstances, I should not need any medical intervention or support.

It is flexible. It is a guide. It helps me feel some sense of control in an experience which is largely out of my hands.

I’ve made notes in red to help explain.

We know you’ve seen a million of these, and we’re sure that many are boring and excessive. But since this is our birth, it is very important to us, so please bear with us! We expect to be very pre-occupied with the birth of our baby and we may forget to show our appreciation for all your hard work. Given that birth is a team effort and we’re grateful to have you on our team, please accept this little token of appreciation in advance. Yes, we’ll be armed with homemade cookies for the medical staff.

We understand that our choices below may not be possible in an emergency. If there is anything below that is against hospital policy, we are happy to discuss it and sign a waiver, if necessary.


* We are hoping for an unmedicated birth, with as little intervention as possible, and hope to have a nurse who supports and believes in unmedicated births.

* I understand that the baby and I must be monitored, but I prefer it to be done as little as possible. According to ACOG standards is fine. I would also prefer to have limited vaginal checks. Only as needed. This includes allowing my bag to break naturally.

* I am not planning on using pain medication or an epidural. Please help me avoid them.

* I wish to eat lightly if I feel hungry. I wish to drink if I feel thirsty. (My midwives have approved this until I hit 5 cm. Given that I had no interest in food or drink during Sunny’s delivery, I am comfortable with this compromise. Given the physical exhaustion of labor, however, I like to have the option to eat while in labor in case I need a boost of energy).

* I prefer a hep lock (or saline lock) to an IV. This allows for easier physical movement during labor.

* I wish to labor in water, and potentially deliver in water, if a tub is available.

* Please allow me to push with my natural urges, at my own pace. I would like to avoid holding my breath and counting when pushing. I understand that the second stage takes a little longer this way so please be patient with me and the process. Also, I may want to push and deliver in alternative positions such as squatting, side lying, and hands and knees.

* If available and if I am in an appropriate position, I would like the support of a mirror during pushing. This was not something I had requested with Sunny, but my OB demanded it when I started to pull back and doubt my ability to deliver her. It helped immensely to see the progress I was making.

* Please help me avoid an episiotomy! Please offer hot compresses and gentle perineal massage to help avoid tearing.

* I would like to avoid instrumental delivery.

* We wish to delay clamping and cutting the umbilical cord until it stops pulsing.

* I would prefer to not have routine Pitocin after birth, unless necessary.

* If a cesarean delivery becomes necessary, please allow my husband to be with me throughout the entire surgery and recovery.


* Barring complications, please place the baby directly on my abdomen (skin to skin) after the birth. I would like at least two hours with our baby undisturbed to bond and breastfeed.

* Do not perform routine deep suctioning on the baby unless medically necessary. This is not done at the hospital in VT unless the baby is not breathing. WHEW!

* Please do not administer the erythromycin treatment for the baby’s eyes until she has breastfed for the first time after birth. Since the treatment temporarily blinds the baby, I want her to first have the opportunity to breastfeed with the advantages of sight before the treatment.

* Please give our baby the vitamin K shot while breastfeeding. This is to make the shot less jarring for the new baby.

* Our baby is to be exclusively breastfed- please do not give any artificial nipples

* We would like to bathe our baby ourselves.

* We do not want our baby to go to the nursery at all. If the baby must be taken to the nursery, my partner will accompany the baby at all times

I’ll have reports as to how much of this was possible in the coming weeks. *Fingers crossed*

Puppy Madness

What’s cuter than 3 week old puppies? Toddlers playing with 3 week old puppies.

If these images don’t make your uterus ache, I don’t know what will.

And gentlemen, well, your gonads ache? Question mark?

A friend’s boxer had 10 puppies. And we got the delight of cuddling with them yesterday afternoon.

Sunny kept telling James, “Daddy, I love the white one. I love him. I love the white one.”

Thank goodness my 9 month pregnant belly was starring him in the face, or he would have been powerless to resist her adorable toddler pleas.

No more Sunnies jumping on the couch

A spider monkey has taken up residence in our home. A drunk, uncoordinated spider monkey that has the tendency of a howler monkey to shriek and yell at great volumes.

These days, Sunny climbs on EVERYTHING in our home. And I mean everything. She mounts the backs of the sofas, trunks, picnic tables, chairs, the dogs. Then she stands and bounces and dangles and scares the living crap out of her mother at least 100 times a day.

It’s going to be a mighty expensive trip to the hair salon post-partum to cover up all these gray hairs.

No amount of requests to “PUT YOUR BUMMIE DOWN!” and time-outs as a result of ignoring said requests deter her from these antics.

Not surprisingly, we had our first big spill on account of all these trapeze-like stunts. She toppled off the back of the couch and knocked her right eyebrow square into the corner of a large, wooden chest on her way to the ground.

Admittedly, I took it harder than she did.

It was a competitive sob-fest to see who was more upset by the resulting goose egg. James was the recalcitrant referee.

After 30 minutes of suffering through life with an ice-pack on the bump, Sunny squirmed out of James’ arms and proceeded to clamber onto her wooden rocking chair, attempting to stand on its back.

Apparently, she’ll be fine. And no lesson was learned. Awesome.


Yesterday, a series of packages from Sunny’s Ghillie and Ranger (James’ parents) arrived.


The gifts are to help us pass the time as we wait for the arrival of The Sesame Seed. We decided that we would ration out opening these presents, so that each day Addison would have a little something to look forward to. Such a fun idea.

After she’d opened yesterday’s present, she immediately began demanding to open the rest.

I want to open the blue one. Open the lady bug present, Mommy. I want to open them.

James explained that we would open just one a day. He said, “We’ll open one a day until Courtland arrives. These are to help us wait until we meet baby sister Courtland. Isn’t that fun?”

Sunny screamed, turned, and ran wailing into her room, crying out, “NOOOoOooO! MY NAME! MY NAME!”

We found her flung across her toddler bed, sobbing dramatically into her pillow. And I had a glimpse at life 12 years from now.

Also, what the future months hold as our only child adjusts to life as a sibling.

Ah, the inevitable resistance to relinquishing one’s status as the center of the universe. Drama indeed.

Colorful Cracks

A sweet little juxtaposition to kick off your Tuesday morning. I couldn’t resist pairing these two vibrant public art projects.

Rainbow explosions abound in unexpected places.


On Labor.

Dear Ashley,

It’s almost time. I’ve been composing this letter to you for quite a while. I’ve written it over and over and over in my head, and it’s important that I finally share it concretely. Maybe then these words will actually sink in and take hold.

You are about to once again face the toughest and most awesome thing that you’ll ever do.

How something so terrifyingly painful can simultaneously be so utterly amazing is an oxymoron I haven’t quite wrapped my head around. And I don’t think I ever will.

I remember you very vividly telling James in the wake of Addison’s birth that you would never, ever EVER do that again.

And you meant. You were so overwhelmed and, in many ways, traumatized, by how incredibly difficult the experience had been that you made a promise to yourself that you would never put your body through that kind of trauma. Ever. Again.

But then, with each passing moment with your child, you fell more and more in love and that vow drifted further and further from your thoughts.

All that work and pain seemed inconsequential compared to the crazy, all-consuming love that it brought into your life.

I suppose it makes sense that the reward of bringing life into the world is also one of life’s greatest challenges.

Like a ying and yang thing. Balance. Harmony. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

This time around, there are some things I want you to remember. I need you to remember. I know that you were incredibly scared and taken aback by Addison’s birth, by the depth of the pain, by the lack of control that you had over your body, despite all of your preparation. I do not want that fear to mar this birth for you. Now that you’ve been through labor and delivery once, you can pull from that experience to help rise above those insecurities, that kernel of doubt that your body isn’t going to do what it needs to do.

It will. It is. It knows exactly what to do, and you, above all else, need to remember that.

I do not want to hear the words, “I’m doing it wrong,” escape your lips once during this birth. No apologizing or utterances of guilt. You were so hard on yourself. So down. So broken through the final hours of labor with Sunny. You kept muttering words of self-doubt. Self-loathing. As though somehow you were messing up the experience. As though somehow your body wasn’t doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing. (And it was, as demonstrated by that strong and healthy 9 lb baby you pushed out into the world in under 17 minutes). As though somehow you weren’t behaving strongly enough. You weren’t stoic enough. Brave enough.


You were and you are. All of those things. To question what you were doing only made the experience harder. More overwhelming.

Everyone in that room believed in you, except for you.

Not this time. Listen to James, and Kimmy, and the nurses, and the midwives when they encourage you. When they applaud your efforts. When they tell you how strong you are. How well you are doing. LISTEN TO THEM.

Trust yourself. Trust that whatever coping mechanisms you need to ride through those waves of pain are exactly the right coping mechanisms, because you know what is best for you. You and that little girl are going to do some really hard work, TOGETHER. You both are so much stronger and more capable than you can ever fully realize. Trust that you both were made to go through this kind of pain, and come out the other side healthy and happy and together.

You can do this. And you will.




Hanna is Sunny’s Nana. Like from “Peter Pan.”

These two love each other in a profound way. They have from the moment they were brought together.


It is amazing to watch Hanna tolerate anything from that crazy toddler. I came into the living room today to find Sunny atop Hanna’s back, arms draped around her neck, cooing “AWWWWWWW. I LOVE HANNA,” while Hanna attempted to return the affection with a slew of slobbery, doggie licks, neck careened backwards trying to reach Sunny’s face.

I can’t imagine raising children without canine companionship. It is the awesomest and slobberiest of all.

Great for the immune system, too. Or so I like to tell strangers when they send questioning glances my way as Sunny and Hanna share a popsicle. Because that happens more than you’d care to know.