The WUS blog has been neglected badly this year. We’re halfway through 2018 and there is just 1 post and a graveyard of half-written drafts. Aaron and I have been too busy starting a new generation of Wussies, and Bjorn Theodore Schwartzbard made his grand debut on July 17th. His entrance was a wild ride, as Aaron detailed in his very clever IsquirmFar interview.

After 61 hours of labor, Bjorn squirted out on the hospital floor. I was in a deep squat, my butt on my heels, wearing nothing but an IV. Elvis was playing. A killer Birth Mix is definitely the key to labor. The midwife snatched Bjorn’s lanky, blood-stained body just before it hit the linoleum. I fell backwards into Aaron’s arms and he slowly lowered me to the floor. The new baby was thrust onto my chest. Someone asked me if I wanted to get up off the floor, and I replied that no, that there was absolutely no place I would rather be.

Julian astutely noted that at 61 hours, my ultra-length labor would have timed out at The Barkley. The pain in my sacrum had made it too painful to sit or lie down during my long labor, so I’d spent the whole time on my feet, pacing. First in my basement at home, then in the hospital room, and eventually in the halls of the maternity ward, stopping to grip the bar along the wall to ride out contractions. When my labor stopped progressing at 7cm dilated, around 50 hours in, I had to do the Circuit.

When the midwives explained the Circuit, it sounded like Mel Gibson’s torture scene at the end of Braveheart. Step 1: give me a splash of Pitocin to induce harder contractions. Step 2: once the contractions get really painful and at least a minute long, spend 90 minutes doing the Pilates routine from hell: various deep lunges and twisting poses to stretch out my pelvis and help the baby’s head get better positioned so I could go into the final pushing stages of active labor. After three nights without sleep and 50+ hours on my feet, the Death Circuit didn’t sound all that appealing. But I understood that these exercises were my only option if I wanted to continue my plan of natural childbirth. So I whimpered and groaned and cursed my way through it, while Aaron snoozed peacefully on the couch. And fortunately the Death Circuit did its thing and shortly thereafter I went into active labor. After 46 minutes of active labor doing deep squats every three minutes during each contraction, nothing has ever felt so good as lying butt naked on that cold linoleum floor with little Bjorn in my arms.

Aaron holds Bjorn for the first time

~    ~    ~

Robin had told me early on to approach pregnancy as an ultra. Your body is going to be hit with all kinds of new tortures and you’re just going to spend a lot of time troubleshooting when possible, and riding things out when necessary.  I had terrible morning sickness for six weeks. I had to go to PT for pelvic pain. Given how much I had to learn over this time, I thought I’d share some of the most important lessons, in case anyone else is thinking of joining the WUS baby boom.

Lesson #1: Midwives. In general, I like Western medicine. I like vaccines. Antivirals. And under the right circumstances I can really go for a lovely pain killer. Plenty of friends swore by the epidural. At first, natural birth seemed a little granola for my tastes.

But then I heard about the snacks. ‘You had me at snacks‘ would be an appropriate epitaph on my tombstone.  Midwives let you eat snacks during delivery, whereas most OBs limit you to clear liquids. Midwives 1, OBs 0.

As I did more research I also learned that foregoing the epidural would free you to walk around and be mobile during delivery. Once you’ve taken the epidural you can’t get out of bed. Over time, there seemed to be a lot more points in the midwife/natural birth column. In the end, I really savored my capacity to remain mobile through the delivery, to walk around and take hot showers and even deliver in a squat position. While I probably wouldn’t do a midwife program in a home setting, as is more common, I whole-heartedly endorse the GW Hospital Midwife program. It really is the best of both worlds. You get to have the autonomy of the midwife delivery within the safety of GW Hospital, with its top-of-the-line NICU. My delivery was complicated (my baby’s head was askew and I was in too much pain to lie down), and I undoubtedly would have needed a C-section had I not been delivering with a midwife.

I had to use Kumquat frequently on skis

Lesson #2: Kumquat. I had a lot of pelvic pain during my pregnancy, particularly in the second trimester. I discovered that two of my personality traits were entirely ill-suited to pregnancy. (A) I do not like curtailing activities. (B) I do not like asking for help. One day Aaron found me with my 7-month pregnant belly smooshed against the couch, my butt in the air, while I reached over to grab my cat by the scruff of the neck and drag her up (Leda doesn’t like going in her carrier and hides in inconvenient places when she knows we’re packing for WV.) Ow, that really hurt my belly I confessed as Aaron stood shaking his head. So I came up with a new word: Kumquat. Our code word for I really want to do this myself, but know I shouldn’t, both for me and the baby, but I’m struggling to ask directly, because it sounds really sissy, so instead I made up this stupid word so you know what I mean without me ever having to say it. 

On the trails, it was Huckleberry. I was thrilled to be able to run for the entire duration of my pregnancy. Completing the full WUS loop two days before my due date was as thrilling as winning a race. But I did get slower. In general, the WUSsies accommodated my slower pace with a genteel civility that I will long be indebted to. Aaron gets a lifetime supply of points for all those off-pace runs in Rock Creek and the Sodds. But on occasion a WUSsie would smell barn at the end of a run. Instead of yelling Hey jerk-ass, your pace is putting a knife in my pelvic floor, I came up with a more diplomatic code word: Huckleberry. Kumquat and Huckleberry get a heap of credit helping me stay active, within inherent limitations, all the way to week 40. All hail the fruits!

Lesson #3: Expecting Better. You know something more stressful than pregnancy? Pregnancy books. I started referring to my state as Pregnancy Jail because of the tomes of restrictions. A lot of the restrictions tend to be overly cautious and not based on robust scientific evidence. I found a book Expecting Better by an economics professor at the University of Chicago that provided information on how much scientific evidence supported each pregnancy recommendation. I found that the key to a happy pregnancy was learning how and when to rebel against some of the advice heaped on me from books, the internet, friends, and even doctors, and start listening to my own body.

My first rebellion was against the prenatal vitamin. There are some important nutrients that developing babies critically need, including folic acid to avert neural tube defects. So pregnant women are all told to take heavily loaded prenatal vitamins. But over time I realized that the prenatal vitamin was making my morning sickness so much worse. I had read on the internet to not worry about morning sickness and not eating anything all day, because as long as you’re taking the vitamin your baby is getting all the nutrients it needs. F that! Once I stopped taking the vitamin, and making sure I got folic acid, calcium, and other key nutrients from natural food sources, my daily vomiting became much more manageable.

Big Belly comin’ through!

I had also been told I could run, but only on flat surfaces to avoid falling. But I discovered that the gnarlier the trail, the more rocks and roots, the less it hurt my pelvis. So I rebelled again, and celebrated my full unshackling from Pregnancy Jail with my first run in the Dolly Sodds when I was about six months pregnant. The Sodds is full of rocks and roots and high stream crossings, and some people might think I’m crazy. But Aaron supported me, and I knew that if it was putting our child at risk that he would say something. So I climbed the mountain, stood at my Smoking Bench, and gave all the baby books the finger.

The smoking bench

Lesson #5: School Year. Child care in DC in effing expensive. Like college tuition-level expensive. Not that anyone really can plan when their due date is, but Aaron and I really lucked out having our baby before the DC school system’s September 1st cut-off. Our kid will be going to kindergarten right after his 5th birthday, whereas a kid born in September or October will incur a whole additional year of childcare costs, which can run tens of thousands of dollars. Imagine how many frozen burritos that could buy Sean Andrish.

Lesson #6: Don’t Forget to Play With Your Kitty. When you finally have your baby, you’re going to be totally overwhelmed just trying to feed it the 8-12 times a day he requires. It was about two weeks before I realized I hadn’t played once with my cat Leda since I’d returned from the hospital. Not with her mouse. Not with her string. She was looking lethargic and depressed. Seeing Leda come back to life as she batted her favorite blue string, with a convincing determination, was the turning point in my recovery from childbirth. I could go without sleep. I could go without food (my house was littered with half-eaten plates as I shed almost all my pregnancy weight in the opening weeks from stress). But I realized that nothing darkened my mood more than Leda going two weeks without being the Most Loved Kitty.

All is well when Leda is well.


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.