Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Oh, she's going to be a delightful 2-year-old"

Our Eleanor has a temper.  Everyone told me girls were more dramatic than boys, but I kind of thought we had more than a week before we were forced to admit it.  Silly me.

She is the sweetest, most content baby most of the time.  When she is awake, as long as she's not hungry, she is happy to play the tongue-sticking-out game, the finger-grabbing game, etc.  She can hold her head up for a few seconds at a time and enjoys looking all around.  She likes dancing around the kitchen and prefers hip-hop to anything else I've tried, though she will tolerate country and rock.  She likes to be held all the time and is sleeping with me in the nursery for now because she doesn't like to be alone in the bassinet.  She'll wake up a few times to nurse at night but I fall back to sleep once she's latched on.  We generally get a 4- or 5-hour stretch of sleep (after a 3- or 4-hour stretch of nursing--she is a cluster nurser to the nth degree) and a couple of 2-3 hour stretches out of her.  Yesterday and today, Ellie and I got up with the rest of the family while Patrick was getting ready for school, then took a 3-hour nap after he left.  Given that she's a newborn, we're reasonably well-rested.  I don't expect it to last but each day she goes like this is certainly helpful!

But woe betide you if she's hungry.

Ellie doesn't cry.  Ever.  If she's not hungry, she's not crying--she's either sleeping or happy to be awake, looking around with her big blue eyes.  If she's hungry, she screams.  There is no warning beyond some squirming and turning red for a few seconds.  Then she yells with all her might until she has no choice but to take a breath.  She flails her fists (Patrick came down the other day and said "I got beat up by a baby girl!").  She arches her back.  She turns bright red.  She tries to nurse on your chin or arm, or any other body part she can get her mouth on.  She is the angriest, hungriest baby ever because the food is not there RIGHT THAT SECOND.  It doesn't matter if she's eaten 2 hours before or if I'm just switching her to the other side after finishing the first.

If the food doesn't come fast enough, in her opinion, she does what Jason calls "playing dead" (this only happens if someone else is holding her).  She stops crying and goes entirely limp.  She closes her eyes.  As soon as I take her, she immediately opens her eyes, yells at me, and starts trying to nurse through my shirt.

Today, I had the selfish notion that I should feed myself--after all, if the food source does not occasionally get nourished and watered, she has trouble producing food for Her Highness.  And shamefully, I wanted warm food--clearly, that was taking way too long.  Jason was holding Eleanor.  He tried rocking her.  She yelled.  He tried putting her in the bouncy chair.  She screamed.  He picked her back up and rocked her some more.  She yelled louder until her voice started going hoarse, then played dead.  (This all took a grand total of no more than 5 minutes.)  Mind you, I'd finished feeding her right before I handed her to Jason. 

When I sat down to nurse her 30 seconds later, she was all sweetness and light as soon as she latched on.  She spends 99% of her day like that.  It's only the other 1% of the day when she's hungry and not actively eating that she turns into this 9-lb raging red ball of baby.

It's impossible not to be head-over-heels in love with this little girl, even when she's not so happy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Eleanor Desta has arrived!

We welcomed our daughter, Eleanor Desta, to the world on March 7!  She sure took her sweet time in arriving but as she is such a sweet little baby, it seems appropriate that she made such a wonderful entrance.  Ellie kept us guessing about when she would come right until the end--well, she kept me guessing until the end.  Everyone else who was here seemed to know a lot sooner than I did :-)

I started having the contractions that ultimately led to her birth at about 11 a.m. on March 6, while I was waiting for Patrick's Sunday school to end.  We got home around 1 p.m. and I told Jason that I was having contractions about 4-5 minutes apart and had been for a couple of hours.  "So, just another Sunday?" he asked.  "Yep, pretty much," I told him.  I'd had contractions like those multiple times in the last few weeks.  One of those times they were like that for 22 hours, so I didn't read anything into them.

They started getting the tiniest bit stronger and around 3 p.m. I decided to take a nap.  After laying in bed for about 15 minutes, I had one and actually felt downward movement from the baby, so I thought I'd call my midwife and give her a heads-up that something might be happening (this will be a recurring theme).  I had a contraction while on the phone and apparently my midwife said to herself "Oh yeah, she's in labor."  She called her apprentice to let her know. 

I got up since I didn't like being in bed anymore and just hung around downstairs for a couple of hours.  My midwife called back around 5:30 to see how I was doing and said she and her apprentice would just come over and see what was going on.  They came around 6:15 or so and listened to the baby's heartbeat, asked how I was doing, etc.  Around 8 p.m., we'd put the kids to bed and everyone started bringing equipment in from the car.  I called my friends who were coming and told them that the baby would probably come that night.  Mind you, I didn't believe it but figured that if my midwife was bringing things inside, it was a reasonable thing to do.

My friends got there within the hour and we all sat around waiting for something to happen beyond the contractions. And waiting.  And waiting.  They were pretty regular and certainly stronger compared to earlier, but I didn't buy it.  I did get into the birth tub at one point but my contractions basically stopped after that, so I got back out and went back to what I'd been doing.

I did a lot of laboring like this.  Jason was an awesome coach, of course.

At around 1:30 a.m., I decided to lay down for a while.  I was tired and nothing seemed to be happening, so Jason and I went upstairs to take a nap.  I slept until about 4:30 a.m., then Jason suggested we walk around downstairs for a while.  We did that for a little over an hour and the contractions picked right back up.  I still thought it might fizzle out again, but my midwife's apprentice watched me labor for a while and called my midwife to come back (she lives close by and had gone home to get a bit of sleep so that her apprentice could use our guest room).  It was a good thing everyone else believed I was really in labor, because I certainly didn't!

Still, we kept on all morning.  I spent some more time in the tub, more time laying down, a little more time sitting.  I was able to eat and drink as I needed.  The kids were awesome--they watched videos on iPads and played upstairs and read some stories.  My friends Rachel and Lovisa were fantastically helpful--making coffee, entertaining the kids, helping me with whatever I needed, keeping me entertained between contractions.  We talked a lot and it gave Jason the freedom to help me emotionally and physically.  He was the one always there wherever I was, to help keep track of how things were going, giving me lots of excellent massages, encouraging me every minute.

I'm not sure when I got back in the tub for the last time but I was in there through Ellie's birth.  I'd been having really powerful contractions--the last of which actually had me in tears--but when I got back in, they became so manageable!  I could still feel them but they didn't hurt much anymore, even though they were clearly just as strong as they'd been.  It was wonderful.  I was able to eat some lunch about an hour before she came.

Everyone else knew what was happening.  I, despite being the one actually in labor, didn't really believe it was going to happen.  At 3 p.m., we heard Patrick's bus come by and Jason remarked that Patrick could have gone to school that day.  I said "No, the baby will probably come today so I'm glad he stayed home."  And immediately, everything picked up.  I went into transition and had a couple of contractions that had me sobbing.  My midwife checked me because I felt like I wanted to push and said "There's the baby's head."

Me (now sobbing semi-happily): "Oh, I'm so glad.  I was afraid you'd check and I'd be like 5 cm."  Everyone else laughed but I'd been serious--that's how much in denial I'd been all day.  (Mind you, it was the one and only time I was checked.)

Push #1 was at 3:02 and was so intense that I felt there was no way I could do it (I yelled a lot more this time around than I did with Patrick).  My water broke with push #2.  I could feel the baby's head with push #3--that was when the kids came in and I told them that it was OK if I yelled, it was hard work but I was OK.  Push #4 had the baby's head out.  Push #5 brought our beautiful baby out into the world at 3:18 p.m., screaming and pink and perfect and chubby.

I asked Patrick whether he had a brother or a sister and he said "Brother."  Then someone moved the umbilical cord and asked if he wanted to look again, and he said "It's a girl."  We told him her name so that he could share it.  Melkamu came over and touched her head, smiling the whole time even though he'd said he wanted a brother.  I said that she was so big and thought she was around 8 lb--my midwife said "Maybe 7 1/2 or 8 lb."  And I said "She has hair!"

We didn't weigh her for several hours but when we did, we found that she was actually 8 lb 14 oz.  I can't believe I grew an almost-9 lb baby girl to 40w2d and delivered her naturally at home!  (For reference, Patrick was born at 37w5d weighing 6 lb 11 oz.)  Her head is so perfectly round because my water didn't break until minutes before she was born, so she was cushioned the whole time.  I look at her now and wonder how she could possibly have fit inside me!

We are incredibly lucky to have her.  She is a cluster nurser and will nurse basically every hour for several hours, then sleep for about the same number of hours.  She only cries when she's hungry or needs to be changed, and has been much more alert today.  Her name, Eleanor Desta, is a very special one to us--she is named after Jason's grandmother Ellen.  Her middle name is an Ethiopian name that means "Happiness", which honors Melkamu's firstmom since her name, although different, means the same thing.

My blue eyed, dark-haired baby girl.

I can't tell you how my heart filled with happiness when Jason said "Hey, how are my girls?" as I nursed her the other night.

The boys really, really love their baby sister.

A lot.

Jason could not be happier to have a daughter.

She's been out for fewer than 60 hours but has already helped make our family even more complete.  Welcome, my Ellie.  We've been waiting for you for a very long time.