Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Little September Treasures

I've mastered four-minute showers and can brush my teeth and get dressed at lightening speed. We're already considering occasionally introducing the bottle, so that Ramon has a chance at soothing our baby and I can have a little more freedom to do things like, you know, EAT. 

His dependence on me, and our bond, astounds me. And how quickly he is growing....I look at photos from his first day and have tears in my eyes, because he already looks and acts so differently. On the other hand, I am very much looking forward to the time when a rhythm forms in our days. Because right now they are a complete mish-mash and have no order whatsoever. Every day is different. One day he'll have an orderly flow of nurse, burp, sleep for two hours, the next day he won't sleep for longer than periods of ten minutes before waking up and wanting to nurse again. We had a day like that yesterday, and I was literally glued to the couch the entire day. 

As you may have guessed, he is sleeping now, allowing me to quickly pop in and say hello. But really, I should be sleeping along with him....


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Remembering Rafael's All Natural Labor and Birth

I'm sorry for having been so absent; unfortunately it was for health reasons. I was doing so horribly (fever, sweating, aching limbs, and waves of pain in my lower abdomen) that I went to the hospital, where they diagnosed me with Endometritis, an inflammation of the uterus which can occur after a long labor and must be taken very seriously. If left untreated, it can lead to blood poisoning and infertility. I've been given antibiotics and am resting as much as possible; not easy with a hungry newborn! So it's been a difficult start, but Ramon is such a helpful, loving father and husband, and I'm already feeling much better.

I've written this in the spare moments I've had throughout these past few days. I want to not only share my experience of a natural birth with all who are interested, but record my memory of this extraordinary part of my life so I never forget it.

It was Wednesday morning, September 14th, at 10 o'clock, and the weather had changed from sunny and hot to overcast and cold. I had asked the midwife recently if it was true that a lot of babies were born on full moon, and she had that, in her experience, it was more likely for babies to come on days when there was a drastic change in the weather. But I wasn't thinking about that. Ramon had left for a business meeting in Vienna and I was in the kitchen, opening a little present of baby clothing from my mother-in-law. Suddenly there was a small gush of fluid between my legs. I remember pausing, confused, and then exclaiming "Oh!" The dogs looked at me. I stood there, frozen for a moment, taking in the realization that my water had broke. I was going to have my baby!

After cleaning up and putting on a pad (water was still running out once in a while) I called my midwife. She told me that it could still take a while for contractions to start, but that she was sending her colleague to check on me. I then called Ramon, who was riding the subway, and told him the news. I said he should go ahead with his meeting, there was still plenty of time (when the men at the meeting heard that my water had broke, they quickly sent him on his way home!).  I called my mother-in-law and asked her to walk the dogs for me.

The midwife came and had a look at me. "You're only open to a 2. Eat something with a lot of cinnamon and cloves to get the contractions started. Rest and gather strength. It's going to be a long day and night."

When my mother-in-law returned, we stood in the kitchen, peeling and cutting apples for a compote. It was surreal, standing there, talking, cooking, when in the back of my mind I knew that these were the final hours before meeting my son. I ate a big serving of heavily spiced compote and my contractions began shortly afterwards, though mild at first; they felt like period cramps.

Ramon got home just as my contractions started getting stronger. My mother-in-law left us and we spent a couple of hours wandering around the apartment and the terrace, or resting in bed, timing my contractions and talking. I took a warm bath. When my contractions were 10 minutes apart, Ramon called our midwife. I was excited, thinking that we were getting close, and that we could head to the birth center soon. But Monika, our midwife, who came to check up on me, said that we should be patient. I was only between 3 and 4 centimeters open now, and we should call her again when my contractions were 2 minutes apart for 1 hour. It was discouraging, but what could I do? Monika left and we were on our own again.

The day progressed into night, and finally my contractions got stronger. Ramon ran a second bath for me. By now the contractions were very intense, and coming every two minutes. Ramon and I had been in labor alone together for about 9 hours now. My contractions suddenly got extremely intense while I was in the bath, coming over me seemingly constantly. I began panicking. I told Ramon to call the ambulance, we had to get to the birth center right away. I was sure the baby was close to coming, and was scared of having him at home.

I couldn't get out of the bath or get dressed on my own. I was  shivering uncontrollably and began sobbing. Ramon called the ambulance and helped me out of the tub. He dressed me and got our birth bag and car seat ready. I was a total wreck, shaking and crying, when the paramedics came. They strapped me onto the gurney and wheeled me out to the ambulance. Ramon sat next to me in the back. The ride was the bumpiest I've ever taken, and the young paramedic kept asking Ramon if I was alright, and if he was sure we didn't want to go to the hospital. I was screaming and sobbing with each contraction, and each bump in the road was horrific. We finally arrived at the birth center, and when they wheeled me into the birthing room, the warmth and scent of aromatherapy oils was a bit of a comfort. My eyes had been closed this entire time, and I only opened them when Ramon had undressed me and Monika suggested I get into the birthing tub.

After some contractions in the tub, she asked me to lay down on the bed so she could check my dilation. She waited for the next contraction and probed with her fingers, which was really painful, but I was sure she would have good news. "You're at five centimeters, half way there."

I thought the world was going to end. "Half way there?!" I screamed. "I can't do this! I can't anymore!"

What followed were what felt like endless hours of pain, interspersed with me trying my hardest to just 'survive' the contractions, going into different positions, walking when I could, drinking water, having oils rubbed on my stomach, squatting, screaming, crying, getting into the tub again, leaning on Ramon in a sitting or standing position, sobbing that I couldn't do it anymore, and saying lots of "Please God! Please God! Help me!" One time Monika placed some homeopathic suppositories inside of me to help soften the cervix, and two other times she placed homeopathic globulis under my tongue for strength. I couldn't help wishing for real drugs, something I never thought I would hope for or consider.

At that point I was completely delirious with pain and exhaustion. Ramon, the midwife, and her assistant came and went, but I hardly noticed who was in the room or wasn't. I felt so alone in my pain. I was thinking, "This is torture. It won't stop. How will I ever do this? When will it ever end?" I really felt like my life was coming to an end. I know that sounds dramatic, but I truly felt at the very limit of my strength and life force.

I began feeling the urge to press when I had a contraction. I knew that sometimes the body told you to press before it was actually ready, but I didn't care. When I felt the urge, I pressed a little. Still, even with this sign of progression, I was so discouraged by how long this was all taking that I didn't really believe I could be nearing the end.

Monika invited me to sit on the birthing stool, which is shaped like a half donut. Ramon sat behind me on the foot of the bed, supporting my back and arms with his chest and legs. Monika and her assistant sat in front of me. The contractions came in constant waves, and with each one, I got about three presses in. The pressing was incredibly tiring, but I was determined, even though, again, I truly didn't believe there was an end in sight. I think I had even sort of forgotten that there was a baby on the just felt like I was in pain for no good reason.

Pearls of sweat were pouring out of me all over as I pushed and pushed, feeling like my life depended on it. I dug my hands into Ramon's legs and pressed my feet into the ground. Now, with each press, there was a burning and stretching sensation, but I didn't 'feel' a head or object, so I didn't know how far along I was. At some point Monika said, "Each time you push, I can see a little bit of his head." This made me both angry (because I wanted her to say the head was already out) and determined ("A head! I'm having a baby! I forgot! That's why I'm doing this!").

I pushed a few more times, the stretching and burning getting more extreme, and then, suddenly, there was a slippery sensation, and Monika was holding up a little body to me! Rafael had been born, at 3:05 AM on September 15th, after 16 hours of labor. He was clean and rosy, with lots of black hair slicked onto his dome-shaped head. I took him in my arms, in total shock and awe. I'm not sure exactly, but I think my first words were, "My baby! My little boy!"

Monika invited us to get into bed. I stood up, holding Rafael, and I could feel the umbilical cord between my legs. We were still connected. Ramon got into bed with us, and we lay there for a few moments, just looking at this tiny red wriggling little being. When the cord stopped pulsating, Monika clamped it in two places and Ramon cut it.

Then the midwife told me I would have to push again to get the placenta out. "Are you kidding me?" I said. I had forgotten all about pain and pushing, and now I would have to get back into it. Ramon took Rafael onto his bare chest so I could concentrate. I pushed and pushed, but nothing happened. "Your bladder is too full, we'll have to empty it with a catheter." I said "No way! I'll try to empty it myself. I don't want a catheter put it!" So I pushed, but nothing was coming out. Monika pressed on my bladder and sort of forced it all out, which was a very strange sensation. Eventually, with one strong push from me, a passed what felt like a big wet pillow, and my placenta was out.

I had torn one centimeter, but refused to be sewn. I was sure it would heal on its own and didn't want anymore pain.

We lay with Rafael between us, admiring him, while Monika filled out papers. Eventually we dressed Raffi, got dressed ourselves, and called a taxi. We thanked our midwife and hopped into the cab, leaving the birth house about an hour after giving birth.

What a journey!

And it's just beginning...

Monday, September 19, 2011

That Face!

I spend a lot of the time I should be sleeping just staring at his face.

Thank you for sharing in my joy!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Welcome, Rafael!

Our little boy is here!

Rafael is the sweetest little soul, I am so deeply in love.

My water broke at 10 am on September 14th. Labor took an amazingly painful and exhausting 16 hours, but of course, it was all worth it.

Thank you all for your love, friendship, and support throughout these past 9 months!

I'll post more pictures when time allows!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Days of the Harvest Moon

"Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and color and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance. What man can stand with autumn on a hilltop and fail to see the span of his world and the meaning of the rolling hills that reach to the far horizon?"
-Hal Borland

These are the days of the Harvest Moon. That name feels so fitting to my current situation...the seed has been planted, has grown to ripeness, nourished and cared for tenderly, and soon, our most precious creation will be welcomed; our son!

The days have been sunny, but rumor has it that tomorrow the weather will turn, and we'll have rain and a chill in the air. On warm days it's hard to imagine there ever being a first frost, or first snow for that matter. And then I remember how impossible green and blossoms seem in the dead of winter. Best to live in the moment, I think.

When we first got Kiki, I was continually overcome with joy and wonder, watching her explore our natural surroundings throughout the seasons, knowing it was all so new for her. We have footage of walking with her in the woods through her first snow. She seemed baffled, excited, confused, was such a wonderful experience to witness her in that situation. And it makes me giddy, thinking about introducing Rafael to the seasons, to the changes and the rhythms of this beautiful little corner of the world.

Monday, September 12, 2011

39 Weeks

Still pregnant!

Here's this week's update....perhaps the last?

How far along? 39 weeks, 1 day.

Total weight gain: A little over 21 pounds.

How big is baby? About 7 pounds.

Sleep: The best sleep I get is during the day when I take a nap. At night I am either full of thoughts and excitement, waking up to use the bathroom, dreaming strange dreams, or I can't get comfortable.

Best moment of the week: The best thing to happen this week was the wonderful birth course that Ramon and I attended. It definitely exceeded anything we may have expected. Such a wonderful bonding experience with one another, focusing on this final part of the journey so intensely; It was the perfect 'ending' to the pregnancy experience, and we both feel prepared (and excited) about the birth.

Movement: He's still kicking and wiggling around like a champ.

Food cravings: Anything with butter and salt: popcorn, toast, young potatoes...

Belly Button: Flat.

Stretch marks: Inner thighs, breasts, and tiny ones on my hips.

Labor Signs: Have been experiencing bouts of false labor at night, mainly in my lower back; a kind of pulsating pain. Also have a lot of braxton hicks contractions.

What I miss: Honestly I'm not thinking about what I miss or about the past....much too concentrated on the future!

What I'm looking forward to: Sharing the incredible experience of labor and birth with my husband, and meeting our son.

Milestone: We're one week away from Rafael's due date. Will he come early? Late? Right on his due date? No way of telling! Though, since today is the full Harvest Moon, I am especially curious if I will go into labor today...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Pursuit Of Happiness Includes Brownies

"Remember to make time for the pursuit of happiness, one of your most important human rights!"
-Susan Branch

It's an overcast day, perfect for baking brownies and watching leaves fly past the kitchen window.

I no longer have that overwhelming feeling of impatience about Rafael's arrival. The closer I get to his due date, the more I feel rested and assured that yes, he will come, and no, I won't be pregnant forever. So I'm pursuing happiness today, like Susan Branch suggested, and that involves licking brownie batter from a wooden spoon.

I discovered this recipe over at the beautiful blog Honey & Jam; it promised gooey, chewy, rich brownies that were easy to make and didn't require bar chocolate. The result is delicious and everything Hannah promised.

Gooey Cocoa Brownies
courtesy of hannah from honey and jam

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, cold

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and microwave for 1:30 minutes (since I don't own a microwave, Hannah suggested I melt the mixture in a bowl over boiling water).
Remove and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smoothes out once the eggs and flour are added. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. 
Spread evenly in the lined pan. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.
Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

I've been pretty good about eating healthily and staying active throughout pregnancy; up until now I resisted the many times I've longed to bake batches of cookies or tins of pies. But now, nearing the end, I can feel this need to pamper myself, to take it easy, and to thoroughly enjoy these last days of pregnancy. 

I am including the picture below, taken this morning while waiting for the brownies to cool, to remind myself later of the incredible size my belly expanded to...and the incredible things my body is capable of. I know some day I'll look at this photo in disbelief!

No wonder my back hurts....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I've been taking my morning walks with the dogs here around town just to be safe, and now that I have my new light little Canon, I can easily throw it into my shoulder bag and take snapshots while meandering through our neighborhood.

Mansions, apartments, cottages....all kinds of buildings, old and new. Branches and dirt roads with golden leaves. A lovely sunny day in September.

Today I had another session of acupuncture and I could feel it working. Rafael squirmed around quite a bit while I had the needles in, and pushed his head so deep into my pelvis that it hurt. When I came home I took a bubble bath and a nap, and I'm feeling fine now, though very tired.

Every day and every night, I wonder if this will be time that labor begins.

Ramon has been so busy with work, and I feel that he needs to settle down a little, get grounded, and prepare mentally and emotionally for the arrival of our little one. The birthing course on Friday and Saturday will no doubt put the focus on our baby and the journey which lies ahead.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rainy Monday

The first fall foliage is glowing in pretty colors outside our kitchen window. It was a sunny morning, and then, suddenly, black clouds raced accross the sky and brought thunder, lightening, and heavy rain. I thought it would be the perfect afternoon to bake cookies, but, wouldn't you know it, I ended up napping instead.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

38 Weeks

Yesterday in the late afternoon my mother in law joined me for a walk in the all know the new rule: no more walks in the forest alone for me this late in pregnancy.

As we walked, some parts of it uphill, I was so pleased to find that I wasn't much more winded than I would have been if I wasn't in my 9th month. I really have the dogs to thank for this. They have forced me to keep fit throughout this pregnancy! And I'm guessing they will also help me lose the pregnancy weight once Rafael is here.

I have become very aware that these are my last days carrying my son in my belly. I am also very aware that these are the final days of it just being myself, my husband, and the dogs. For at least the next 18 years, we will have another person sharing this life with us, living with us, being a part of this home and family. The thought is both exciting and overwhelming.

Here's this week's update:

How far along? 38 weeks.

Total weight gain: 21 pounds.

How big is baby? A little under 7 pounds.

Sleep: I slept SO WELL these past two nights! When I told Ramon about it, he reminded me that our midwife had said that, before birth, I will have a phase where I sleep wonderfully and deeply. She was definitely right. It has made such a difference in my days to have had a good night's sleep. I know there is probably a lot of sleep deprivation ahead, so I am enjoying every night that I sleep well.

Best moment of the week: That will be tonight, when my husband comes home from his final business trip of the year. It will be such a relief once he is back. We were nervous about him traveling this close to Rafael's due date. But it looks like we made it!

Movement: I had a scare the day before yesterday, when Raffi didn't move almost all day. At around 4 in the afternoon I finally decided to call my midwife, because he just wasn't moving. Right before dialing, he kicked me, and then spent the next two hours kicking and punching up a storm. I was so relieved. He has been moving pretty regularly since then. I'm guessing it was a growth spurt or a really long sleep that had him so still on that one day.

Food cravings: I've been craving breaded chicken breasts. Hot or cold. I just love fried chicken right now! Also loving strawberry buttermilk.

Belly button in or out? Very flat.

Stretch Marks? Discovered some stretch marks in a place I never expected: inner thighs! How strange.

What I miss: My normal hands, feet, and FACE; all three are very puffy right now. Hopefully they will be back to normal after birth.

What I'm looking forward to: Having my husband home so I can feel relaxed about giving birth. And of course, I am looking forward to birth itself!

Milestone: Rafael is officially full term and can arrive whenever he likes!


Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Sunny Day In Town and Pumpkin Invasion

This sunny morning I took my camera along with me when I went to breakfast with my mother in law. I always like seeing the places other bloggers live; it helps me get a stronger idea about their lives and surroundings. So I hope you enjoy these. There is, of course, so much more to see, and I hope to continue giving you little peeks into this beautiful quiet Austrian village that I call home.

Above you see the center of this community: the local church. The bell rings out clear and loud every fifteen minutes.

This is the lovely little cafe where we ate breakfast. We sat outside under the shade of the giant chestnut tree. In winter it's the perfect place for mothers and children, as smoking is not allowed, which is not true of every cafe and restaurant in Austria, including the other cafe in town.

Here's the local apothecary, or pharmacy. It's called 'Apotheke zum Schutzengel,' which roughly translates to 'The Guardian Angel's Pharmacy.'

On the left you see the 'friseur,' the hair salon where I get my hair cut and colored. On the right is a small stationary store where the parents and children are now stocking up on supplies for the new school year.

This blue building is where my friend Daniela has her arts and crafts shop, 'Kreatives Allerlei.' She has everything you need to get creative and I love getting lost in her ribbon selection. Her daughter is due on September 15th! We're quite a sight when we waddle around town side by side with our big bellies.

This is the tiny store where I buy all my wonderful hand painted Bunzlauer ceramics. It's owned and run by my good friend Ose. When I stop in for a visit, she pulls out a chair and we sit and chat for a while. I usually can't help myself and end up buying something. Sometimes she tries to talk me out of a purchase, because she says I already have enough.

On her desk you can see the pile of yarn that she is knitting into something pretty; when she isn't knitting, she's either playing sudoku or reading a book. I hope her store stays open for a long time.

A classic old Austrian door. Doors like these usually lead into a 'hof,' a central courtyard which is surrounded by the home. Wouldn't you just love a big red door like this?

Well, now that it's September, I am allowed to start bringing pumpkins home (this is my husband's rule so that there is some sort of control over my pumpkin madness; I'm also not allowed to play Christmas music until December). By November pumpkins have invaded every corner of the house. I was so happy when I saw these two beauties at the farmer's market this week. Their orange glow is the first little hint of autumn in our home.

See the chicken salt and pepper shakers? Yep, those are from Ose's Bunzlauer store.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Favorite Things in September

chewy molasses chocolate chip cookies; my absolute favorite cookies :: joy the baker

an enchanting look into life on a farm in vermont  through my new favorite blog :: La Porte Rouge

this illustration :: penelope dullaghan

hand knit lambswool baby blanket; i want to snuggle up with rafael under this :: rocket and bear

watching the leaves change in our neighborhood

hearty dishes like dumplings with mushroom sauce :: design*sponge

handmade pumpkin cheesecake lip balm; smells lovely and keeps my lips soft :: long winter farm

this outfit; wonder how my post-pregnancy body will be!

determined to start a vintage brown transferware collection; it makes freshly baked gingerbread even more delicious :: a country farmhouse

long walks in the woods looking for mushrooms and acorns with my family

smokey topaz earrings made with vintage german glass; i just love these :: le petit ruban

decorating the home for the season :: herz-allerliebst

the new experience of motherhood; my most favorite september thing of all :: sarah field photography

Yesterday I was told by two different people that I shouldn't be taking my morning walks in the woods alone anymore. They convinced me with the scenario of my water breaking and being trapped waiting to be rescued, since you aren't supposed to walk once your water breaks; the danger of the cord wrapping around the baby's neck when he slips down is too big. 
So from now on, I'll be taking walks around town with the dogs. Maybe it's a good thing....maybe I'll be forced to take more creative pictures and share more of village life with you all. 
I loved reading all your guesses on the arrival date of our little boy. I wrote them all down and am so curious to see if any of you are right! (Was very happy that you all guessed him coming earlier rather than later.)
Hope you enjoyed my September favorites!
It's such an exciting time....


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