Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All in the Family

As I write this, I think I'm in pre-labor. Not early labor--I'm not actually feeling contractions--but there are other signs and my lower back is aching and aching in waves. So I'm running a bath, listening to the Relaxing birth playlist as opposed to the Energizing one--I made both--and knowing this could go on for a few days or I could go into labor tonight.

A few days ago I was meditating on the baby---I meditate in the baby's room because it's light and bright and peaceful and a space that I love being in. It's the room Sky and I have done yoga in, the room I journal and read in. It nourishes me, and I like knowing I'm maybe contributing to serenity in there by attempting to seek it in myself, for better or for worse. So I was imagining the spirit that it will be living in our home outside of me soon, and I had a flash of all the history that went into the making of this baby: all the ancestors that have made this person possible, and felt such respect and love for them. Flashed on the generations of my family, and the generations of Sky's. Saw the faces of our parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandparents, great-aunts, imagined people I've never known but who I know are in the family tree. I believe our baby is a soul unto themselves, but that soul is coming into our family, so they are connected to all the people that have made Sky and me who we are, and perhaps share traits and qualities with some of them. We're the narrow neck of the funnel, but there is a wide wide mouth of family above us. As Nina in The Seagull says, "My heart is full of you"--that's how I felt towards everyone in our families--the people I or we have easy relationships with and the ones we don't; the ones we know well, the ones we never met. This lineage of people being focused and directed at this moment into our baby. It felt right and really good, to honor and acknowledge everyone that has come before us, without whom Sky and I wouldn't be here, wouldn't be living our lives, wouldn't be getting ready to experience the birth of our hummingbird. Who I believe is coming very very very soon....

all photos by Sally Mann

this one from here

and here

Friday, July 22, 2011

Belly on Blue

You all know I have the most rad sister-in-law in the world. Amazing designer, crafty person, party planner, blogger, MAMA, and yes, photographer. She popped over yesterday with my nephew and snapped a few quick end-of-the-road belly shots. I LOVE them.

The turquoise wall is the accent wall of our nursery--I promise I'll post pics of the whole house sometime this year--and it's such a perfect photo wall. Who knew? I love that there's one with Sky in it too. He is, after all, a rather key element in this whole journey.

I have some more maternity pics taken by my friend, the beautiful Ramona Trent that I'll be posting once I have a disc. There are a lot of nude ones in that set, though, so most of them won't make it on the internet. I'm picky that way.

So here we are. 40 weeks on Sunday. My birthday is tomorrow, so as of now it's looking like each year we'll celebrate my birthday and then baby's....but anything can happen between now and.....now.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I forgot one thing!!

If you read what I posted this morning I forgot to say that all the women took the candles they'd brought home with them. My mom will let them know when I'm in labor and they'll light them then. Nice, no? K now you have ALL the details on the blessing.


38 weeks

39 weeks.....

Each time I post I wonder if it'll be the last time before the baby, who's due on Sunday. I was up Tues morning from 1:30-4am just lying there for no apparent reason. Of course I wondered if something was about to start; it didn't; I finally went back to sleep and we're still here.....

Last week my mom put together something really beautiful for me that if you're having a baby you could ask someone to do for you, or if you know someone who's having one this could be a spectacular gift. She organized a tiny blessing for me and for the baby with a few of my closest friends that will always be one of the most gorgeous afternoons of my life. It's a very different one from the kundalini one I had months ago, although clearly you can see I like a good blessing.

This one is a Navajo tradition called a Blessaway (as in Bless the Way I'm assuming....), and in their culture it's the tribal elders who do this for the new mama; since there's a shortage of elders in our modern community, my mom asked some women that she knows are part of my Tribe. There were 7 of us in total including the baby, who does not count as me:) My mom asked my friends to each bring a candle, a bead or button, and a blessing or poem or prayer for me and/or the baby, and we met for a couple of hours on a warm afternoon.

If this starts to sound hokey, keep reading. I promise you it isn't.

Once everyone was gathered, everyone lit their candles and each person told about the bead they had brought. There was a Venetian glass heart, a carnelian, 2 pieces (coincidentally) of turquoise, and a silver flower. They are for strength, for connection to the earth, for openness, for new passages.....My mom collected them all and the next day gave me a blue silk cord with the beads threaded onto it. They've become a necklace I'll wear in labor and from which I can borrow strength from women that support and love me.

Then they all read the blessing or wish they had brought. I was a weepy mess from before we even began--I was having one of those days anyway and then you add something like this on top of it--and I was a goner. There are no pictures, in fact, because you don't need to see what I looked like after hearing what everyone wrote. They were all so different and all so beautiful. Some wrote their own, some brought poems from favorite writers, one had hers in her head and just spoke it to me which was perfect. My mom, again, collected them and compiled them into a journal for me which will be the place I continue to write to my baby once s/he is born. I've been writing since before conception, but soon enough that book will be full, and I'll have this one to keep for her or for him.

When the ritual part was over we sat around and did what women do well: eat pretty things and drink tea.

It's funny---this week I feel like labor is close because I'm not talkative AT ALL. It's like I don't have a vocabulary for what I'm feeling--the anticipation of the unanticipatable....the knowledge that I know what to do and I have no idea what I'll be doing.....So there's not a lot I'm going to say about this. I hope you get the idea. It meant everything to me to have my friends and my mom channeling their prayers for the baby's and my journey to the next phase of our life together. To be connected as women to the journeys we all make--like we give our strength and love and belief to the one that needs it and then it's given back to us when we do.

One of my best friends in the world who lives in New York and happened to be in town the day we were doing this wrote me what's below for her blessing. If you're a mama, or want to be a mama, or know someone who's starting out as a mama, maybe you'll love this as much as I do.

I wish for you

I wish for you to know your magical connected orbit of wonder, the goddess miracle momma you are

I wish for you to never lose patience when things get spilled by the babe, instead say "no biggie!" so when you spill the babe says to you "no biggie" and that you be proud that you are teaching the lesson of don't sweat the small stuff

I wish for you to never doubt your magic

I wish for you to embrace our family parenting tattoo-ed to wrist mantra THERE IS NO PERFECT

I wish for you many bubble baths with bubble pie tea parties for you & the babe

I wish for you to remember to be super gentle & loving to yourself at 4am; no expectations when in HALT*

I wish for you that when you show the babe each first, you get to see it as if for the first time

I wish for you many many dance parties and car sing alongs that make you giggle with glee

I wish for you that you and Sky forgive each other easily for what is said in the middle of the night when the babe is wailing

I wish for you to never tire of hearing "momma!" or "mommy!" or even "mooooooooooom"--even when it's shrieked by a 15-yr-old hormonal teen in deep sarcastic revolt

I wish for you the easiest latch-on and breastfeeding ever, and if you have a girl, when you are done, you get to see her play with a doll and pretend to feed her with such love & joy & care that you get to see that your babe knows how much you love them daily

I wish for you to let your child awaken parts, dark and light, and let them grow in you in amazing ways

I wish for you that when your babe has temper tantrums, at 2 or 32, you never take it personally, breathe, and love him/her through it all

I wish for you to know it's what they eat in a week, not a day

I wish for you to that you let special childrens' books make you cry, even after 100 readings

I wish for you to be okay with yourself when you just want a day off

I wish for you to fall deeper in love with Sky as he expands to fulfill his role as a papa, and patience with him as he stumbles through it, making choices you might not love

I wish for you that you take in how much he falls head over heels for you again, in a new way, as goddess mama

I wish for you to fall in love with swings, and merry go rounds, and twinkle twinkle little star all over again

I wish for you to be willing to "all fall down" even when RING AROUND THE ROSY is ringing in your head

I wish for you that you giggle and don't cringe when you first hear yourself slip & call Sky "Daddy"

I wish for you to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF & remember happy mama, happy babe, happy family

I wish for you to know whatever stage it is that is breaking your heart, driving you crazy, scaring the crap out of you or making you feel worthless, not enough, or like a failure as a parent, that THIS TOO SHALL PASS

I wish for you a child who communicates to you, in their own special way, that they know all you give and teach, and share how much they appreciate it

I wish for you that you actually go on dates with your hubby and DON'T TALK ABOUT SCHEDULING OR THE BABY

I wish for you to laugh and not be ashamed when you recognize a trait in your parenting from your parents

I wish for you to forgive yourself when you don't like the way you parented in a moment, and to remember you always have a second chance

I wish for you the bliss of sleeping with a baby on your chest, and the freedom & joy of getting back your bed with your soulmate

I wish for you to have faith beyond words that YOU CAN DO IT ALL, just on God's time

I wish for you that "I'm sorry" comes easily to all in your family, and it is truly meant when said

I wish for you to remember that anything is possible

I wish for you to trust your gut as a mama, and when you get scared, take a moment, take a breath, and check in with your own heart first, then know there are so many of us waiting to be asked

I wish for you that parenthood makes it even easier to laugh at yourself and be willing to be wrong

I wish for you that you don't get afraid your baby is freezing (or in your case perhaps broiling) to death the first night home, and you actually get some rest

I wish for you that you remember forever the feel of your babe's lap on yours, that it fills you beyond measure, and you relish reading every single word of every story ever told

I wish for you that when everyone says "sleep when the baby sleeps" it doesn't drive you ape shit like it did me and you actually LISTEN

I wish for you to breathe in every moment you can and embrace the moments you thought you couldn't

I wish for you to surrender to the wonder of the escalator, and see a new thing the 50th time you have to go up and down in a day

I wish for you that you know your true friends will never judge you about anything parenting, birth, life, ANYTHING

I wish for you to be amazed at the fullness of heart this person creates, the fountain of love, miracle of it all, and especially to remember that when they are screaming for you at 1am

I wish for you a photographic memory that takes in every magical moment and stores it for the perfect moment to remember

I wish for you to never tire of "WHY?" or eveeeeeeerything

I wish for you that when you see bits of your body changed from pregnancy you smile & glow with the miracle you created

I wish for you a birth story that makes you shine every time you tell it

If you're not familiar with the HALT acronym, it stands for Hungry Angry Lonely Tired: when you're to much of any of those things it's time to take it really easy with yourself.

A few pics of baby's friends just waiting for their master or mistress in the nursery....

Soon soon soon.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Revenge of the Black Prius

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen this yesterday. I posted it with glee immediately after I watched it.

This is my friend Delia Brown and her response to the Gettin' Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot video which I know you saw. If you didn't click here. No one's judging you. And Delia's will make a lot more sense if you've seen the Parking Lot video first.

I highly highly highly suggest you take a giggle break right now on Monday morning. We'll talk about the tempeh tampon later.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Olive Part II

As promised, the story of Olive....

She'd started hanging around the house in early June and seemed to want to adopt me. Then I had the fiasco with the cat carrier I could not wrangle her into (did I post about that? I forget. It didn't go well) and in the process ticked her off and she stayed away for a few days. This was followed by this week's adventure: I borrowed a humane trap from the Stray Cat Alliance and planned when I'd hopefully and sneakily trick her into entering said trap. I felt slimy already. But it was for her health! I wanted to take her to the vet to get her spayed and vaccinated and de-bugged. After skipping 2 feedings (what I was taught when I got the trap), I put organic wild-caught-super-stinky sardines in the trap (a step up from the organic canned food I've been giving her) and waited. She went in after about an hour. Then I had to listen to her paw and scratch and meow and try to get out. I was traumatized. It was Sunday night, Sky was out of town, and I lay in bed almost in tears. I went out to check on her and that was a mistake-I actually did cry.

The next morning she was no less upset when I picked up the trap, carried it to my car with a cat running back and forth in it which is no easy feat at 9 1/2 months pregs, and drove her to the vet. When we got there I thought I'd be allowed to stay with her--you know, hold her paw or something while they treated her, but no. I had to leave and come back in several hours. I went to the pool, swam, and said prayers for her.

When I picked her up about 3 hours later, the vet told me she'd actually already been fixed. So she belonged to somebody once? Or someone spayed her but never adopted her? I don't know. I wish she could talk and tell me. Maybe we should go to the movie Beginners in there. Or watch Up. There is animal/people communication in those. So I don't know her story. They didn't know, of course, that she'd been spayed til they'd put her under, so the poor thing had to spend another almost 24 hours in the trap recovering from anasthesia. I covered the trap with towels to make her feel cool and safe, was told not to feed her until the following morning, and brought her home. This time she was totally mute, which was almost more upsetting than the raucous meowing she'd done for me the whole ride there. She got de-fleaed and de-wormed, and vaccinated for rabies. THEN, to make me feel like the worst mother ever, I said they could do the "ear clipping" which I thought was something like ear cleaning, because when we had dogs they were always getting stuff in their ears. Only after I got her back did I learn they actually named it for what it is: they clipped a tiny portion of one of her ears to show she's been spayed. I lay awake Monday night for about 2 hours asking her to forgive me for maiming her unnecessarily. I honestly felt SO BAD. Sky was even appalled when I told him, which didn't make it better.

playing "Where's Olive?" which she thinks she is good at

When I let her out of the trap Tuesday morning, I put out the rest of the gourmet sardines---I've always been easy to bribe with food--thought she might be too--but she ran away. Wanted nothing to do with me. And can I blame her? I had visions of us bonding on the front stoop while she ate her first meal in over 24 hours but no. She was mad and I was sad.
she's very serious in front of the camera

The story has a happy ending, however. It's afternoon of that same day as I write this. I came home to her lounging outside the front door, and as I sit on a chair in our front yard, she's cruising around my legs and coming up on the chair to be loved by me. I might have to get some extra sardines since she's been so generous in her willingness to forgive. I have to say here that it's been rather hilarious that in our completely vegetarian household there are now on a daily basis cans of meat products in our fridge. I keep telling Sky that Olive was not raised by a homeopath in Del Mar, and besides, I don't think there is vegetarian cat food, and if there is, I'm inclined to think I should go with nature on this one and feed the girl what her teeth are made for. No one will notice her ear but me, though I'll probably beat myself up over it for a year. But we're good, and I'm completely in love. Now all we have to do is convince Sky she can come into the house. Once baby is settled, of course.

Letting me love her.....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Plums and Olive

My landlady recently had a juicy harvest of plums. When she texted me to ask if I had any good plum recipes, I sent her this one and let her know that if she had too many and wanted me to make jam I'd give her some of the bounty when it was finished. She took me up on it (we live around the corner from each other) and I made what I hope isn't my only batch of jam this summer. With the hummingbird due in 11 days, it might be. Or who knows--I might think there's nothing better to do at naptime than turn fruit into preserved spreadable summer.

This one is a standby hit: a little tart, a little sweet, of course depending on the plums you use. This recipe calls for vanilla bean, which I use in moderation because I actually don't like too much vanilla flavor in my jam. I added some white cardamom pods because I had them, and they added a little sass. I'd use them again for sure, and if you don't like cardamom leave them out. You could try a cinnamon stick or just use the vanilla. For stronger cardamom flavor, open the pods and crush the seeds before adding, for a milder one throw the whole pod in there and remove when you remove the vanilla bean.

Plum Jam with Vanilla and Cardamom
adapted from Martha Stewart
makes 4-5 8-oz jars

3 lbs red or black plums, halved, pitted, chopped
3 c sugar
6 2 1/2 in pieces lemon zest, plus 2 T fresh lemon juice
big pinch salt
1 vanilla bean, scraped, seeds reserved (you'll be adding both to jam)
5 white cardamom pods, either whole or seeds removed and crushed (see note above)

Bring all ingredients to boil in large pot, mashing with potato masher or wooden spoon. Cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is texture of thick honey (this usually takes me about 20 minutes); let it be chunky: it's yummy that way. Skim foam off periodically and discard. Remove vanilla bean, cardamom pods, and lemon zest. Either pour into clean containers and refrigerate, or can according to your jam jars' directions.

What's the Olive part of this post? My kitty. Yes. MY kitty. I posted about her not too long ago. I've named her Olive, and the saga of our mutual adoption will be posted in detail tomorrow.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Birth Plan and Why We're Having the Baby in a Hospital

Friday already! Love a short holiday week, though I am on a fairly permanent weekend schedule til the hummingbird arrives. Thought I'd share my birth plan today. I found it so helpful when I was writing mine to read other women's, and I definitely borrowed from them as well as got help from my midwife when I brought it to our appointment this week for her to read.

We are having a midwife, Debbie Frank attend the birth. Debbie has been a midwife for 30 years, has had, at different times in her practice, exclusively home or hospital births, and now she does both. She's the only one in LA that I could fine that does. I heard of her through my doula, Ilona, who I adore and completely recommend. Sky and I chose to work with Debbie when we couldn't decide on home or hospital birth. We loved her from the first meeting, and didn't need to give her a decision about home or hospital til 34 weeks. We decided long before that, though. I was very gung-ho for delivering at home, and Sky was too, for the most part, yet there was a little nagging part of him that kept saying "What if...." What IF we're the 1 in 1000 that has a crazy scary complication and we can't get to the hospital fast enough and.....too scary to keep thinking about. We talked a lot about it, and ultimately decided we would have this first baby at the hospital. I was incredibly resistant, because it's essential to me that birth me private, intimate, with no large crowds of hospital staff I've never met before. Space is really important to me, and the sterile impersonal room of a hospital felt like the antithesis of my birthing dream. Ultimately, what I decided however, is that it's most important to me that Sky be relaxed. If he were to be tense and scared I knew my labor would stall and I'd end up in the hospital anyway. Listening to him and how secure he felt being with Debbie and ultimately delivering at Cedars, I said OK.

I took a tour of Cedars, came back with a list of 25 questions for Debbie about procedures there, and was reassured that when you work with her there it's different. She'll come to our house first and be with us as I labor at home. When it's time to go to the hospital, she calls and says we're on our way, they get a room ready, and when we get there it's her, us, Ilona, and a nurse. That's it. As with any hospital, I can bring scents and pillows and music and photos and anything else I want to make the room feel more like mine. I don't get evaluated in their evaluation room, and Debbie and I have worked out ahead of time monitoring, IVs, etc. Once I had a day of mourning the letting-go of my home-birth vision, I started to visualize the hospital, how we'll make it personal, and to actually feel excited that for that first night of the baby's life someone is going to be checking on us repeatedly and letting us know everything is OK. Plus we're near Joan's on Third, which whoever comes to visit us in the hospital first has to bring us.

So that being said, here's my plan. There are certain things that I don't have on mine because Debbie will be with me and we know that. If I was in a practice where I didn't know who would be delivering the baby, or I was in a more traditional medical model, I might have chosen to include things like wanting to push in different positions, delaying cutting and clamping of the cord, skin-to-skin contact immediately, and that we're exclusively breast-feeding. What's on this plan is what Debbie and I agree it's helpful for the nurses to know specifically regarding labor and delivery.

Birth Plan for Melanie

photo from here and yes, I do need chalkboard paint so I can do this

Barring complications, Sky and I are planning for a natural labor and delivery with no medical interventions or augmentations. Thank you so much for your support and help.

*I understand the baby needs to be monitored. I prefer intermittent monitoring with the Doppler.

*I am not planning on taking any pain medication or having an epidural. Please help me to avoid them, and please do not offer them to me.

*Please do not ask me to "assign a number to my pain". (this is something nurses at Cedars are told to do: rate pain on a scale from 1-10. This is a cerebral exercise and birth is anything but. Asking to skip this lets the nurses off the hook and saves me from an intellectual exercise I have no interest in doing)

*I wish to move around freely; to eat lightly if I feel hungry, to drink if I feel thirsty.

*I do not want an IV or a hep lock. If, out of medical necessity, the need for one arises, please place a hep lock rather than an IV if I do not need continuous fluids or medication.

*I wish to deny active management of the third stage of labor, and would like that pitocin not be given to me to speed up the delivery of the placenta. (This is a state of California law that they offer pitocin to speed up placenta delivery. But you can deny it.)

*We are choosing to decline the erithromycin eye ointment, and I understand that I need to sign a waiver certifying this.

*We are choosing to decline the Vitamin K injection. (We're giving the baby oral Vitamin K which you can find at the Birth Sanctuary, as well as online)

*We do not wish to be separated from our baby. If the baby needs to be taken from me for medical intervention, Sky will accompany the baby at all times.

We understand that these are our wishes and not guarantees. Thank you again for your help!!!!

I'm going to bring a stash of mom's cookies for the nurses---I hear from every woman that bringing treats is a great way to win friends, as well as remembering their names.

With William and Kate here this weekend, and Carmageddon, ie the 405 closed next weekend, I am asking baby earnestly to please wait til near due date to arrive. Thanks, baby.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

4th of July Weekend

I made and wrote a bunch of Thank You notes

all you need is colorful inexpensive cards from Paper Source, along with a Thank You stamp and an ink pad.
the state of my desk on Sunday morning. I kinda like the chaos for once. There's that ink pad.

Sky and I went away for one night--something on my list of Things I'd Love to do Before Baby arrives. We stayed on points at the St Regis Monarch Beach, which feels a bit like Vegas, but the beach is sublime. That's really what I wanted: to be on a beautiful beach away from all my lists. Huge Vegas hotel or no, it was heaven.

photo from here

We also picked up baby's rocker from Sky's mom. Pics of nursery coming soon.....

One of my best friends had her second baby!

and named him Kiran, which I love.

4th of July we spent the afternoon at Brock and Kristina's.

Kristina made peach creamsicles, over which Dash and Sky had many a bonding moment

I wore a beach coverup as a dress, since at 37 weeks (as in full term! yay baby!!!) that feels pretty freaking good on a hot day

and made my great-aunt Jennie's apricot upside down cake. She's been gone for a while; I got the recipe from my aunt Chris, and wow, did it make me miss Jennie. Like all good Italians, her desserts are easy on the sugar---not a sweet bomb, this one. More of a delicate torte, and you can make it with pineapple, coconut, apricots, or, as I did, half plum, half apricot. The beaten whites make a really light batter, and the "top" gets nice and caramelized. The plums turned out far more tart, so if you want a sweeter fruit, I'd go all apricot. I used a 10" cast iron skillet (Chris' choice); you can use a 9-in square baking pan as well.

Jennie's Apricot Upside-Down Cake

4 T butter
1/2 c brown sugar
about 16 apricot halves, or 1/2 plum, 1/2 apricot, or pineapple or coconut to cover bottom of pan
5 egg yolks
5 egg whites beaten stiff (do this first so you don't have to clean the beaters)
1/2 c sugar
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350

Melt butter and brown sugar in bottom of pan. Place fruit skin side down

Beat yolks until thick

Add sugar slowly

Add lemon juice and whites on low speed. When partially mixed, gently add flour mixed with other dry ingredients

Add vanilla and pour over fruit

Bake 45-60 minutes til light golden brown

Cool 10 minutes and invert on serving plate

Hope you had a beautiful sparkly weekend!