Casual Fancy

May 05 2011

Back to work

I’m only three weeks out from the end of maternity leave and it has already taken on a hazy sheen in my memory, the days and weeks blending together in a magical wonderland of time spent relaxing and snuggling my baby. One thing this tells me is that we were incredibly lucky to get an easy, happy baby. I actually got plenty of sleep during the first 12 weeks of Freya’s life. (Don’t strangle me, I did go through 30 hours of hard labor and almost died to get there.) And holy wow, it really does go so fast. That tiny, sleepy newborn has been replaced with a vibrant, smiley, drooly, squealy, strong BABY baby, with emerging opinions and bigger things RIGHT around the corner. If this has gone so fast, it will be mere moments before she sits up, sprouts teeth, becomes mobile, says words, eats people food. Seriously. It’s not that I didn’t believe it when people told me how fast it goes, but now I KNOW. Two of my friends have had babies in the last couple weeks and I just want to tell them “no REALLY, enjoy every minute!” but I know they’ve already heard it because I’m totally not alone in this.

It really helps to not feel alone in this journey, especially the working mom journey. I’ve always been pretty good at reassuring myself, but for this I really needed other women who have done this or are doing it to prove to me that it’s possible and survivable. Before going back to work I couldn’t even understand how Freya would survive without me right there to feed her at a moment’s notice. I mean, duh, I pump and she eats what I pump. She even gets to stay home with her dad every day. And I even pump extra so we can freeze it just in case she gets extra hungry or I die in a car accident on my way home. But I had to take that first step into the real world where my baby keeps growing until she doesn’t need me anymore. And I had to step back into that other part of my life where I’m a librarian with a career I love and an awesome new job, and I also have to work so my family can have health insurance and a place to live.

So now I have a new life at work and at home. New responsibilities, new office, new role, new relationships at work. New routines at home; I wake up way earlier and go to bed way earlier than I ever have before. I can hardly do more than have some focused cuddle time, eat dinner, feed Freya a couple times, put her to bed and make sure the bottles and pump parts are washed so I can go to bed and start it all over again. I don’t even have to DO the washing most nights, because Jed’s a hero and also makes sure I have lunch and dinner to eat. Most of the energy that doesn’t go into work goes into feeding the baby—I pump three times a day, she visits me at lunch so I can feed her, I make sure she eats twice before bed & once again before I go to bed so hopefully she only gets up once during the night to eat but sometimes it’s twice. The last thing I do before leaving for work is feed her. We exchange smiles and conversation in between.

One good piece of advice I got was to not tell people how tired I was unless I knew they cared. I think I’m doing ok on that front. The trying not to talk about it too much, I mean, not the being tired because oh MAN am I tired. And if I do mention the sleep deprivation too often I’m sure I’ll get better about it because I’m still new at this. I think it’s getting easier. And honestly? It hasn’t been torturous, and sometimes it’s sad and it’s always hard, but I pretty much don’t have time or energy to dwell on it too much and since time just keeps speeding by there’s always another weekend and another milestone right around the corner anyway.

Apr 11 2011


I suppose my last post was pretty harrowing. I lived it, and have told it so many times now, I know I’ve become a little desensitized. But I still can’t easily read the part where it all goes bad. Today someone asked me if they could share my story with a med student about to start her OB-GYN rotation. I’m happy to share; I did decide to make my story public, knowing that anyone, with any background, could end up reading it.

In fact, I wanted to be sure to tell my story, because it’s not easy to deal with a negative and/or traumatic birth experience. Not only have you been through something awful, you suffer the loss of the perfect experience you hoped for. And though your joy over your child is in no way diminished, you probably feel guilty and/or angry for not being able to say that the day of your child’s birth was the best day in your life. While the majority of births are relatively uneventful and don’t involve medical emergencies, the unexpected is common and I wanted to add my voice to the less-than-perfect. So I guess that’s my first disclaimer.

The other one involves my story being specifically shared with a medical professional-in-training. It occurred to me today (duh) that my experience serves as an example of a certain type of birth experience—one attended by a nurse-midwife, not an obstetrician, where something went medically wrong. And even though whoever reads my story is going to interpret it in their own way, I feel a little hesitant about the potential for it to be seen as a cautionary tale. So I have to say that I don’t regret my decision to see a midwife practice for my prenatal care, and I’m very glad that midwives attended my birth.

(If anything, I think my story could be a cautionary tale for homebirth, but that’s a WHOLE other issue with SO MANY sides.)

When I was pregnant, I had a coworker look at me with fear in her eyes when I told her I was seeing midwives; she asked if I felt OK not seeing a doctor. I can only imagine she was picturing, I don’t know, pagan-y ladies in a tent ministering over me with feathers and crystals or something. The midwives I saw are highly trained nurses with a special background and extra certification in women’s health, particularly pregnant women. They provide care for low-risk pregnancies. While still seen as non-traditional here, they attend 70% of normal births in Europe. In the practice I used, the midwives are supervised by and share an office with several OB-GYNs. My midwives regularly consulted with the doctors on anything that came up. When we needed to follow up on a blip in the anatomy ultrasound, several other doctors were consulted. I liked that, and had no doubt that if my care needed to be escalated beyond what a midwife could handle, it would. And it was.

I am not going to get into blame for what happened, but there’s no denying there was a specific action directly followed by a medical emergency. It might have happened anyway, it might not have. I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet it’s not unusual to have the cord tugged on. What happened to me afterward was so rare

One of the nice things about working with midwives was that I didn’t feel like I needed a birth plan; I wanted as natural an experience as possible, I wanted any interventions to be done thoughtfully and with clear reason, and I wanted those to be shared/discussed with me as much as possible. All of that happened during labor, because that’s their practice. But then Freya was out, and a cascade of things happened that I wish would have happened differently. I was super dazed and out of it after the birth. I had been in labor for 30 hours with almost no sleep. I had just pushed for three hours using muscles all over my body I didn’t even know I had. I hadn’t been super drugged, but I had a fair amount of pain medication in my system. And then there was the birth itself. I hardly knew what was going on by then. So by the time Mary was pulling on the umbilical cord, I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask her not to. I’ll make sure to discuss that with whoever delivers my next baby, before the baby’s born (Though with my history now I’m sure it would go without saying. Still, I’ll make sure to say it.). There are things I will do next time as a patient, and things I will discuss with my practitioner, knowing what I’ve learned from my experience. But as long as my pregnancy isn’t high-risk and doesn’t require a higher level of medical care, I will happily see midwives again with the confidence that I am in good hands.

And now I think I’m done blogging about Freya’s birth. Maybe I’ll blog more about her first three months, or my return to work, which is so close now I can count it in hours.

Mar 31 2011

Freya’s Birth Story

We wanted to have a natural, unmedicated childbirth if at all possible. We took a nine-week class in the Bradley Method and hoped we could use the Alternative Birthing Center at the hospital, but also prepared for the possibility that our birth wouldn’t go as planned. There were lots of factors that could intervene in our vision of a perfect natural childbirth. Unfortunately, we ended up having a highly medicalized labor with a heaping portion of life-endangerment. This birth story isn’t necessarily pleasant and definitely doesn’t describe the best day of my life—rather, one of the most long, difficult and scary. OF COURSE, we got our beautiful daughter out of it. The moments when Freya was born and I immediately got to hold her were the best of my life.

If you can’t handle pain and gore, here’s the Cliffs Notes version: induced labor, lots of needles and other bodily prodding, long and painful labor and delivery, *big, beautiful baby is born*, I have a serious medical emergency and spend the night in the ICU, lots more needles and bodily prodding, we all come home happy and mostly healthy two days after Freya was born. 


If you want the gory details, read on. It’s super long…

Read More

Jan 22 2011
Snuggly (Taken with instagram)

Snuggly (Taken with instagram)

Jan 12 2011

2010 Survey

I’ve been meaning to do this again for the past couple weeks, so I’d better get ‘er done before it’s ridiculously too late. It’s only two weeks into the new year, so I still somewhat remember 2010…

I took out the more annoying questions, because it’s my blog and I can do what I want.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?

Went ziplining in Mexico and was not bothered by the heights. Participated in an intensive library leadership institute. Pursued (and was offered and accepted! but technically that was in 2011) the Virtual Services Manager position at my workplace. Purchased a car with an automatic transmission. Experienced almost an entire pregnancy, with currently NO end in sight. I will be pregnant FOREVER.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Wow, I most certainly did not. Actually, I kept two of my goals: I successfully gave up caffeine, with a small backslide to keep me awake at work during my first trimester, and I wrote about every single book I added on GoodReads (which was every single book I read during the year). I did also knit almost one entire sock. Other than that, all my resolutions went by the wayside while I got distracted by growing a tiny human.

No resolutions for this year, but two pretty massive life changes—becoming a mom, and starting a new management position at work.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Oh man, SO many people. Especially my sister and sister-in-law, tripling the number of adorable nieces I have. My cousin. A close coworker/friend, and a bunch of other friends.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

My grandma, Eleanor Gavin, in late September.

5. What countries did you visit?

Just Mexico, again.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

A baby! She’s only a day late, so she’ll be born someday, I’m sure! I’ve got a lot of new stuff coming my way in 2010, some that I can anticipate and a bunch that I can’t possibly predict, so, you know, bring it on, world.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory?

July 2: we got a GREAT look at our healthy little fetus!

October 22: Our anniversary. We’ve been married for five fantastic years!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Growing almost an entire human in my body.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not exercising nearly enough.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I haven’t had a difficult pregnancy, but it has left me feeling ill and/or injured in many different ways by its nature, starting with the weeks and weeks of nausea and culminating in the slow separation of my pelvic bones.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Probably my car—traded up big-time, from my little (and great) Honda Civic Coupe to a pristine 2006 Subaru Forester. Jed and I now have his-and-hers Foresters. 

12. Where did most of your money go?

The house, including refinancing our mortgage. Baby preparations. New car.

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Having a baby! Two new nieces! New car!

14. What music will always remind you of 2010?

Phish sounding really good live again.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder? Way happier.

ii. thinner or fatter? Oh my goodness, so much fatter.

iii. richer or poorer? About the same. More assets, more equity, probably less cash. Definitely heading into a cash-poor time of life.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?


17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

POSSIBLY eating less ice cream, but I needed that ice cream.

18. How did you spend Christmas?

Saw both sides of the family over two days, with a bit of relaxation at home in between. Jed was on TV on the morning of Christmas Eve! He did a cooking demonstration spot on WCIU’s morning show and totally kicked ass. The video’s not online & we don’t have a DVR, so if you weren’t up at 7 am watching it with the MASSES who I’m sure also watch the show, you lose.

19. What was your favorite TV program?

Still a lot of the same ones from last year. Also Modern Family, 30 Rock, and lately we’ve been watching Caprica, but more for nostalgia/BSG completist purposes.

20. What was the best book you read?

Oh man, I did a lot of good reading on 2010. And I am incapable of ever picking one favorite of anything, so you’re getting a list.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

One Day by David Nicholls

Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Room by Emma Donoghue

finally, a renewed love of Margaret Atwood when I read The Year of the Flood and re-read The Handmaid’s Tale.

21. What did you want and get?

A new car. New blinds for my living room. A healthy pregnancy.

22. What was your favorite film of this year?

True Grit. Oh, it was so, so good.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 31 & went out to dinner with friends. I think I got a pedicure too.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Jed having a less brutal work schedule.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

Early 2010: cardigans & scarves

Mid-to-late 2010: keeping up with my embiggening body/surprisingly stylish maternity wear

Late 2010: Goodbye, cute shoe collection. Hello, incredibly limited wardrobe and newly, awkwardly enormous body.

26. What kept you sane?

Jed, as always.

27. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I don’t know! Dumb question.

28. Who was the best new person you met?

My new nieces, Lily & Alice. They’re pretty great.

29. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010:

Good things happen when you stretch outside your comfort zone.

Oct 01 2010

Baby elephant bath! I want a baby elephant.

I’ve always been a tiny bit obsessed with the idea of giving an elephant a bath. This video is one of my favorite things I ever saw on Sesame Street.

Sep 21 2010

I’d like a do-over, please

My grandma died this week and it’s making everything else seem so much worse than it is. My lunch got ruined yesterday when I didn’t notice I was putting my soup into a mysteriously unplugged staff refrigerator until three hours later when I had to throw away all of everyone’s food that was in it. I had to go to a program 45 minutes away and used the last few minutes before I left to toast some bread to eat in the car. Except the damn toaster oven was set to OFF instead of TOAST, which I didn’t notice until the timer dinged and I had to have bread and butter for lunch. On my way to my car I was thinking about how my baby will never meet her great-grandma and cried frustrated tears about mortality and my ruined lunch.

I don’t think I’ll ever, EVER stop worrying about my baby. We realized last week that she’ll be terrifying us her whole life by virtue of the fact that we’re her parents and want to protect her but can’t possibly anticipate or shield her from every potential malady. And besides, so much of what we’re inclined to worry about won’t come to fruition, no matter how much it tempts us to freak out over its scariness.

I seem to be experiencing all my pregnancy aches and pains earlier than anyone else does, I’m guessing since I’m a midget with a super short waist. It’s happened twice now where I’ve described a persistent pain (rib pain to my midwife at 16 weeks, and SPD to our Bradley instructor last night at 24 weeks) and gotten the response “wow, that usually doesn’t happen this early…” Guess I’m just LUCKY!! But then I feel bad complaining because overall I love being pregnant and when one of my coworkers with grown children yesterday told me she still misses the feeling of her babies moving in utero I realized that I have to enjoy this state of being as much as I can.

So tomorrow I’m going to haul this embiggening body to Michigan. Jed’s working crazy hours right now to make it possible for him to take a single extra day off. We won’t arrive until super late Thursday night. My grandma’s funeral is on Friday morning and we have to come home on Friday because we both work on Saturday and there’s really no way out of either workplace, but especially not Jed’s. We’re missing the viewing. And I hate not having the flexibility that allows one to properly attend to the celebration of life and end of suffering for a loved one.

Also? I cleaned my kitchen twice on Monday, we were collectively out of the house yesterday for almost 16 hours, and my kitchen is a mess. How does that happen?

Can I get a do-over on this week? I’m exhausted and it’s only Wednesday. I think so far the best thing that’s happened is that I got new pillows yesterday to prevent me from accidentally sleeping on my back, my formerly favorite and now painful-and-not-good-for-me-or-the-little sleeping position.

Aug 19 2010

Too bad if you don’t like it

This is why, when you get a couple Phish fans together, we start speaking our own language of setlists, venues, eras, and versions of songs.


“At a time when it seems that almost every experience can be canned, published or downloaded, Phish and its fans are deep in an oral, immediate culture of their own devising.”

—Robert Everett-Green, Toronto Review, 7/22/99

Aug 17 2010

My Cupcake Fell, and other cake-related tragedies

I’ve been thinking about cake a lot lately because unfortunately it’s been a big craving of mine. And cake produces strong emotions. My mom’s family—her brother, to be exact—has a whole Cake Trilogy of stories that still seem to get under my uncle’s skin however many decades after the fact. There’s the marble cake on top of the fridge that he got excited about eating—until it was in his mouth and he realized it wasn’t marble cake at all, it had just been up there for too long. Then there was the car ride to the party during which he had been entrusted with holding the cake on his lap—but then he fell asleep and the cake ended up on the floor. It turns out I don’t remember the third part of the trilogy, but I’m sure it’s good.

When I was teaching preschool, one of our most memorable students was a little guy named Sebastian who was so much fun. He also tended to be a little emotional and needy—not unusually so, but sometimes very entertainingly so. Especially after he learned to put his hands out when he fell, which happened several times a day, and finally ended the era of school-time facial injuries for him. One day it was someone’s birthday and all the kids were eating cupcakes. Suddenly Sebastian broke into hysterical tears. We finally got it out of him that he was sad because his cupcake had fallen. He had lost his cupcake. We looked on the floor to pick it up, and would have replaced it. But there wasn’t any cupcake in the vicinity, so we asked him where it fell. 

"My cupcake fell in my mouth and I lost it!"

Holding back laughter, we gently explained that he had already eaten his whole cupcake, and that it wasn’t lost, it was just in his belly. He must have been OK with that, because I don’t remember it dragging out after that.

I thought about Sebastian today when I devoured the rest of the delicious blueberry coffeecake my mother-in-law made this weekend. Suddenly it was gone, but I wasn’t ready to finish eating it yet. I wanted there to still be a bunch more coffeecake. But what I had was lost. I felt just a tiny bit inconsolable about it.

Jul 31 2010

Life, One Week at a Time

All summer I’ve been counting my life in weeks.

Sometime in the last week of April I realized I was probably pregnant. It was too early to test and I was spooked about it anyway, so I waited. Two weeks later, the day after Mother’s Day, I confirmed what had been pretty unmistakable because I was already having symptoms. At that point the magic number was a measly five. Nothing to get too excited about. Five weeks later we saw the little guy/gal and it looked good. Ten was a good number. At week twelve we saw a bigger, more human-looking little bugger who still looked good and healthy.

Fourteen was an even better number because I finally left behind the endless (well, it was about seven or eight, all told) weeks of feeling like I could barf at any second, and all I could do when I wasn’t at work was lay on the couch. When I was at work it was all I could do not to go catatonic at my desk. There was very little I wanted to eat besides cereal and King’s Hawaiian Rolls, and I couldn’t drink plain water. I got really tired of those weeks.

Now I pretty much have the opposite problem—I want cake and cheeseburgers and grapefruit juice despite the indigestion and ice cream and peanut butter cookies and sure I have my taste for salad and vegetables back but they’re not nearly as exciting as brown sugar cinnamon pop-tarts. Granted they’re the health food brand of pop-tarts from Whole Foods, but who am I kidding? So basically what I’m saying is I’m helping along the development of the baby belly a little.

Anyway, now I’m well into 16 weeks pregnant. Week 17 of pregnancy. I even feel it swishing and poking around in there sometimes. My ribs hurt because there’s nowhere else on my midget frame for my organs to go except to encroach on my ribcage, though I don’t have much of an actual baby belly to show for it. It’s a bit of an awkward stage. So now the number that looms is 20. We’ve really never been more convinced that we’ll have a baby moving in with us, but given that this is the third time I’ve been pregnant in the last 11 months we’re not counting our baby-shaped chicken before it hatches. So that 20-22 week anatomy scan will be pretty important to our peace of mind.

Then maybe I can start counting down the weeks instead of counting up; planning for a big arrival in January rather than qualifying it with an “if.” We’ll have a lot to count down to—a bedroom to clean out, paint & furnish, a house to properly nest in, and dear God we have to pick a name out of all the millions of names there are. And I’ll be 37 weeks pregnant when Christmas rolls around, so it seems like early preparations for that would be a good idea.

So, oddly but unavoidably, a big part of my existence lately has been defined by the number of weeks I’ve been gestating, and (hopefully!) that’s not about to change anytime soon.

Page 1 of 5