The Accidental Bathroom Baby

16 Sep
Okay, it’s been well over a year, but I’m finally back (!) and ready to tell the story of my second labor & delivery!  (Oh yeah, I was pregnant again!  Have 2 kids now!  What?!)

First, a little background:  If you recall, my labor with Sam was only 5 hours, which is very quick compared to most first births.  My midwives and I were a bit concerned about the possibility of this baby coming even more quickly, so they told me to call them the MINUTE I thought I was in labor, not to wait according to the standard 1 minute long contractions–5 minutes apart–for one hour rule.  For Sam, I had been 3cm dilated & 70% effaced starting at my 38 week appointment, and got up to 5cm and almost completely effaced days before I went into labor.  I’d also had a decent number of Braxton Hicks contractions (generally not painful – just a clenching tightness all across my belly) for a few weeks before I went into labor for real.

This time, fairly intense contractions started much earlier (34 or 35 weeks), and were often painful enough to take my breath away.  I couldn’t walk or speak through them, and they often came as frequently as 5 minutes apart for a half hour or so, but never showed a pattern of progression, and also would let up fairly quickly after I lay down and/or drank some water.  So after one early cervical check where I was deemed definitely NOT going into preterm labor, my midwives weren’t concerned and just told me to take it easy whenever I felt myself contracting. Not always feasible with an incredibly active 2 year old, but basically I learned to pretty much ignore my frequent contractions for a couple months.


about 39 weeks pregnant

At my 38 week appointment I requested a cervical check just out of curiosity since my doctors in NYC had done them starting at 37 weeks and I wondered if my body was preparing itself similarly to how it had with Sam.  It was almost exactly the same!  3cm and 80% effaced. My midwife warned me that it didn’t mean labor was imminent, which I obviously realized based on my experience with Sam, but I was still glad to see that at least I wasn’t BEHIND where I’d been with him at that point.

Then, when I was 39 weeks pregnant, Sam caught the norovirus.  He woke up in the middle of the night vomiting, and it went on for hours and hours.  He was miserable and all he wanted to do was snuggle with his Mama to make himself feel better.  He had never been even 1/100th that sick before, so I was powerless against his sad little whimpers for Mama, and just tried to avoid the vomit as much as I could, while John cleaned up the lion’s share of it.

I was terrified that I might catch it and, even worse, that the sickness could kickstart labor, which seemed like literally THE WORST way to go into labor and thing to have to deal with while laboring.  Then, exactly 3 days after Sam got sick…John caught it.  He was up all night, just as miserable as Sam had been, which only seemed to confirm that it was inevitable that I’d get it too.  That day I had a midwife appointment, and spent the entire time talking about whether or not a stomach bug could trigger labor, and how they’d handle that logistically, and if it would increase my chances of requiring transfer from the birthing center (where I hoped to deliver) to the hospital.

When I pushed my midwife to give me a straight answer on whether the spasms from vomiting and diarrhea could legitimately start labor, she hemmed and hawed, finally saying, “Would God really be so cruel?”  This was not very reassuring.  I said as much and she finally admitted that, well yes, it could.  “It would be miserable, you would be miserable, we would be miserable, but we would deal with it and get that baby out, and after a few days you wouldn’t be sick anymore and you’d have your baby!”  NOT really what I was hoping to hear.  She also confirmed what I’d heard from another friend, that it typically cycled through families with a 3 day incubation.  The fact that John had caught it exactly 3 days after Sam made me certain I’d catch it in 3 more days…which was exactly my due date.

I was torn between trying to kickstart labor ASAP (even though I was also exhausted and sick with a cold – as was my mother who was staying with us to watch Sam when I went into labor) and then having to risk being sick with a newborn, and waiting it out and hoping either I didn’t get norovirus (which seemed extremely unlikely at this point) or if I did that it didn’t trigger labor.  But since many second labors are earlier relative to your due date than first children, it really seemed to be a race against the clock either way.  I asked my midwife her advice and she highly recommended waiting and hoping that everyone in the house could get healthy before the baby was born.  She even refused to do a cervical check on me because she was worried that it could kickstart labor!!

So back home we went, to wait it out, after spending another half hour discussing all the contingencies which would necessitate delivering at a hospital. An emergency for me, an emergency for another woman in labor at the same time, if my labor stalled or I decided I wanted an epidural after all, blah blah blah.  Again, I was reassured that while yes, all of these were possible, if I really wanted to deliver at the birthing center, the odds were overwhelmingly on my side that I would not require transfer.

Since my mom was kind enough to come early (because I was freaking out about what would happen to Sam if I went into labor before she got here – our best plan for who would watch him was friends who would take at least an hour to get to us to pick him up, which might be more time than we’d have if I did have a quick labor), she spent almost all of the next few days with Sam while I just lay around drinking a ton of water and trying to take it easy…and not get sick.  My cold went away and I got some good sleep.  I didn’t have any norovirus symptoms….

The night before my due date (which was also 3 days exactly after John got sick…exactly 3 days after Sam had), I was still terrified of catching norovirus, but also at that level of impatient frustration that only a full term pregnant woman can know.  I rationally understood that my midwife had given me the appropriate advice and that it would be best to wait as long as we could to allow the baby to enter a healthy household, but I was SO DONE being pregnant.  This pregnancy was a million times harder on me than Sam’s pregnancy had been.  I was in constant pain from less than 20 weeks (back and pelvis mainly) and had been far more nauseous and fatigued than with Sam, and had terrible heartburn & acid reflux every minute of the day for months.  I could barely move and every position was excruciating.  I wanted the baby OUT and had a nonstop running argument in my head for why I should do whatever I could to have the baby RIGHT NOW vs. why I should try to wait.  Sam was upset that I wasn’t playing with him hardly at all and was constantly in a bad mood, and I wasn’t really pleasant for anyone to be around.


John at dinner a few hours before my due date

As the Friday night before my Saturday due date progressed, John or my mom suggested that John and I go out for our last kid-free date for what was sure to be a very long time while my mom stayed with Sam. We made a reservation at a fancy restaurant near us that we hadn’t tried before, and I tried to get excited about it, while secretly hoping I’d be in labor before the time of the reservation rolled around.  With Sam, I’d been told I’d have the baby “any minute now!!!” for almost a month before he was born, and now I was just as dilated and effaced except that second kids are supposed to come EARLIER, yet my due date was only hours away, and I was miserable.


our last one-kid meal!!

We went to dinner, and much to my surprise I was able to really enjoy it!  We ate way too much and lingered over dessert and had a lot of fun.  Winter Storm Nemo was in full force by the time we headed home, but only a dusting of snow was on the ground by then. When I got home I felt a bit ill, which was normal for overeating with such a tiny squished stomach, but I didn’t think anything of it and felt back to normal within less than an hour.

We got ready for bed and I actually forgot for a few hours that the turn to midnight would mean both that it was my turn for norovirus and my due date.  I went to bed happy.


realizing I didn’t have a pic from dinner, I snapped one in the mirror before bed.

At 3:37 AM I woke up with intense stomach cramping.  It didn’t feel at all like the contractions I’d been having for months now (or the ones I had with Sam), but like I needed to urgently sprint to the bathroom.  Of course, I was unable to sprint at exactly 40 weeks pregnant, but I managed to grunt and groan myself out of bed and make it to the bathroom in time.  Sam had woken up an hour or two earlier and John had gone up to his room and promptly fallen asleep in his bed with him (with the door shut, on the 3rd floor), and my mom was asleep on the first floor with no hearing aids in, so I didn’t disturb anyone as I hobbled to the bathroom.  I made sure the door was shut tightly so I wouldn’t wake anyone.  While I did feel quite sick, I was hopeful at first that it was just from overeating very rich food at dinner.

Soon, it was evident that it was not just from the rich meal.  I had caught the norovirus.  I was in so much pain and so sick that all I wanted was to curl up in bed, but I was tied to the toilet.  Time kept passing and I kept being sicker and sicker.  After a while I came to enough to ask myself the question “could I be having contractions??” I squished on my belly during a painful spasm but it didn’t seem to have the characteristic tightness of a contraction, and the spasms felt SO different from any labor or pre-labor I’d experienced before.  I considered this a good sign that norovirus hadn’t started labor yet.  Even though the spasms came in waves with brief moments of respite in between, I was in no position to remotely consider trying to time them, and they really just did not feel AT ALL like contractions.  They felt exactly like a bad stomach bug, and exactly like John had described his sickness to me.


meanwhile, outside…

The pain kept getting worse and after an hour or so I was sobbing alone in the bathroom, desperately wishing that I was in labor instead, because then at least the pain would be productive.  This pain was doing nothing other than making me miserable – and terrified of trying to labor and birth a baby while I was so sick.  Everyone else in the house was still asleep, but a bit after 5:00 I started considering waking someone.  It had been well over an hour and I just wasn’t feeling any better AT ALL.  But there wasn’t anything anyone could do for me, so I stuck it out.

At around 5:30, my stomach symptoms seemed to stop fairly abruptly.  I was half asleep and sore and sweaty and miserable, but I remember opening my eyes and thinking, “Hey!  I don’t feel like dying right at this second!”  I had been frantically googling “how long does norovirus last” in between bouts of playing Snood on my phone (my favorite game from freshman year of college, that I had just discovered now had an iPhone app) and had never found a satisfying answer, but both John’s and Sam’s acute sickness lasted several hours before tapering off to a few days of not-feeling-great.  After 2 hours, was I finally reaching the end of my acute phase?!?


This baby brought to you by Snood!

Then I had a feeling of just desperately wanting to push this OUT that I believed to be constipation.  I was feeling better now but all I could think was “if I can just finish emptying out my system then I can get back into bed.”  I strained for a moment but nothing.  Then I thought, “waaaaiiiiiittttt a minute….how is there possibly anything left in my system to empty after what I’ve been doing the past 2 hours?!?”  I felt all the blood drain out of my face as I thought, “oh god, could this be urge to push?!?  There’s no way I could have been in labor but not noticed it…… there???”  I put my hand down to check and everything felt normal so I breathed a sigh of relief.  I was just paranoid about norovirus triggering labor.  I wasn’t in labor.  I just needed to finish evacuating my system so I could go climb back in bed.

Then I had that intense need to squeeze everything out again.  I squeezed as hard as I could.  And then I felt different.  Very very different.  I put my hand down, but this time I felt a wet little skull, covered with thick hair, sticking out of me about an inch.

The whole world stopped for a moment.  If I hadn’t been sitting (on the toilet, still) I might have just fallen right over.  Gradually my heart started beating again and I took a deep breath.  Okay.  So apparently I WAS in labor.  And going to have the baby at home.  I should get John.  I called him on his cell phone which he’d taken up to Sam’s room, but the ringer was off.  I thought about screaming but at this point I still didn’t want to wake my mom.  I called John’s phone again, but still no answer.  I thought for a moment and concluded that, well, I guess it was more important to have someone there than risk waking someone who could be sleeping.  I screamed “JOOOHNNN!!!!”  Nothing.  “MOOOOMMMMMM???”  Nothing.  “JOOOOOOHNNNN??????”  Still nothing.

Since I couldn’t get ahold of anyone in the house, I called my midwife on-call line.  Jade answered, sounding a bit groggy.  I had clearly woken her. I managed to spit out, one on top of the other “I-caught-norovirus-I-didn’t-know-I-was-in-labor-I-just-thought-I-was-sick-but-now-the-baby’s-head-is-sticking-out-I-can’t-get-John-he-won’t-answer-his-phone.” To my amazement, she seemed to understand.  She asked where John was.  “Upstairs-he-fell-asleep-in-Sam’s-room-but-his-ringer’s-off.”  “Isn’t your mom there too?”  “I-screamed-but-no-one-heard-me.”  Later, Jade told me a chill went down her spine when I said that because it seemed so creepy that I’d be alone in my bathroom screaming my head off HAVING A BABY with a whole house full of people sleeping peacefully around me.  But at that moment, she just had a very no-nonsense tone and commanded me “You have to wake someone up.  There are two adults in your household.  You need them.  Do whatever you have to do to wake them up.”
Crying in agony, I hobbled to the bathroom door and swung it open.  I screamed again.  “JOOOOOHNNNN!!!!  MOOOOOMMMMM!!!!! JOOOOOOOOHNNNNNN!!!!  AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”  

Finally, I heard my mom’s panicky half-asleep voice.  “Laura???  Are you okay???”  “Mom, I’m having the baby RIGHT NOW, go get John out of Sam’s room!!!”  She sprinted past me and got John as another contraction had me screaming at the top of my lungs.  Sam woke up from the commotion and started crying, so my mom stayed with him as John ran groggily down the stairs to find me slumped on the bathroom floor.

The second I knew someone was coming, I’d just collapsed in relief and exhaustion and pain.  I really wanted to be back on the toilet, but I remembered from Sam’s birth that many different people had had to scream “DO NOT HAVE THE BABY IN THE TOILET” at me and physically drag me to the hospital bed when I refused to move, so I figured lying on the strip of floor next to the door (on the bathmat!) was better than “pooping out the baby” which I had been explicitly told NOT to do so many times.  It is also worth mentioning that the floor there is about 18 inches wide, between a storage unit and the bathtub, so I had to throw one leg into the tub.  I didn’t have anything to lean back on, since the door was wide open.

Jade had John switch my phone to speaker and told him to check what he could see.  He told her the baby’s head was clearly visible.  As she tried to give him instructions, I had another contraction and screamed over everything she was saying.  The second I stopped, she shrieked at John to gather two towels immediately to catch the baby in and that the most important thing was to check that the cord wasn’t around the baby’s neck.  If it is around the neck, gently pull it up over the chin BEFORE Laura pushes out the rest of the body.

No sooner than she’d finished saying that – and literally ONLY that – did another contraction hit.  I pushed because there was no way I could NOT push, and pop!  There was the baby’s head!!  John yelled into the phone “BABY’S HEAD OUT!” and Jade told John to catch it in the towel and check for the cord.  It wasn’t around his neck, so just a small second push got the rest of his body out.  John caught him in my regular used bath towel and he was perfect.  His greyish skin instantly pinked up and he started crying before he was even all the way out.  Jade had John wipe him down with the towel he’d caught him in, then wrap him in a dry towel and hand him to me.  I pulled my robe out of the way and laid him against my chest for skin to skin.  He was absolutely perfect, with thick black hair, much more than Sam had had, and he started rooting to nurse within seconds, and latched on before we even realized what had happened.  It was 5:47, barely 2 hours after my “sickness”  had awoken me from a deep sleep.


my “uhhhhh WHAT?!?!” face

When I tell this story, many people are terrified and almost everyone says, “you must have been so scared!!”  But the truth is, since I had only realized I was in labor for about 15 minutes, and the intense biological need to push was so dominant, I honestly hadn’t thought about it at all.  It wasn’t until after I saw my perfect boy squirming in his father’s arms and crying that it even occurred to me that things could have ended differently.

At this point, we got a bit more info from Jade.  She was about a 20 minute drive away, but she was currently scraping ice off her car because it was, of course, also the night of the big snowstorm.  She would be here as soon as she could, but we just needed to give her a little more information first to determine if I needed to go to a hospital before she’d be able to reach us.  She had John assess my bleeding (“Well, just make sure it’s not abnormal.”  “How much is abnormal?!”  “You know, excessive.”  “????”) and asked how I felt.
Honestly, I felt AMAZING!!!  All of my pains had instantly vanished.  My stomach felt 100% back to normal, and even my persistent pregnancy aches and pains seemed to be gone.  I was high on adrenaline and hormones and I was holding the most perfect baby in the world (well, a tie for first place) and it was OVER!!!


still snuggling in the bathroom

Around then, maybe 2 minutes after the birth, my mom noticed that it was quiet downstairs. She called out “John? Everything okay?” not expecting an answer, certain we’d left for the birthing center by then.  She almost fell over in shock when John calmly replied, “Yep, everything’s good!  The baby’s here!”  She asked if she could bring Sam down to meet him.  We said sure!  Less than 5 minutes after his brother was born, Sam was peering over my shoulder wide-eyed, as we told him, “This is your brother!  This is Ian!”


Sam’s view

My mom decided to take Sam down for breakfast since it was nearly 6:00 by this point, so that we could finish doing what we needed to do without him being scared by the gore of it all.  After he was settled, she came back up and got me a pillow to lean against while John ran downstairs to get a bucket (as requested by Jade) for the placenta.  At this point, my mom started getting worried.  She thought my face was starting to look pale, even though I felt great and Jade seemed to think I had normal bleeding, based on John’s description.  My mom asked if we should call 911.  Jade replied in a calm but confident voice, “If you would feel more comfortable calling 911, absolutely do it.  But I just want you to know that if you call them, they’re legally required to take Laura out on a stretcher and admit her to the hospital.  From everything I’m hearing right now, it sounds as though both she and the baby are doing great, and I can be there in 15 minutes to do a more thorough exam on both of them.  If anything at all seems abnormal, then we’ll still have to go to the hospital, but from what I’m hearing, we might be able to safely avoid that and have a less chaotic birth experience, since I know Laura was hoping to deliver in the birthing center.”
Since I still felt fantastic, and Jade was so close by now, and Ian was clearly doing well, we decided to wait.  My mom, who I certainly can’t blame for being nervous!!, was not entirely on board but agreed that Ian looked strong and healthy and thought the color was returning to my face, so she just made us swear that if I suddenly seemed worse, we’d call 911 even if Jade was moments away by then.  We agreed and she went back downstairs to Sam.


testing out his eyes & fingers

By now, maybe 15 minutes had passed since Ian had been born.  I was getting more comfortable with my pillow and a blanket (I was shivering and freezing cold, but Jade assured us that was normal) and Ian was alternating between nursing and kicking and crying.  Jade asked for the 10th time if there was any progress on the placenta.  There still wasn’t.  She said that the window for safely delivering it was getting smaller, so we should try to help it along.  She tried to coach John how to massage my uterus and had him gently gently tug on the cord.  I passed a few clots, which John humorously described to Jade as the size of chicken gizzards…and when she had no idea what that meant, he clarified with “slightly larger than chicken hearts.”  Jade, who I think might be a vegetarian, asked “could we please compare the size to something that’s NOT a chicken organ??”

Jade had me try to push the placenta out, which was infinitely more frustrating and painful than pushing Ian out had been, because I had zero urge to push, and I was now starting to feel sore when I tensed those muscles again, and where I had torn.  She stayed calm as she continued to coach us (while driving here) but we could sense her voice getting more and more anxious as time kept passing with no progress.  Finally, I had an urge to push and the placenta whooshed out all at once.  Jade had John pick it up and examine it for tears or missing pieces.  He couldn’t see any, so she had him place it in the bucket – still attached to Ian – and just wait until she showed up, hopefully in about 5 minutes.

With that done, we finally hung up with Jade and were able to just look at our baby and ruminate on his surprise arrival for a moment.  Poor John hadn’t even been awake a half hour at this point, and had been awake barely 10 minutes before catching his baby on the bathroom floor.

Jade rang the doorbell and my mom went to let her in – shocked to find her on the phone!!  Apparently another woman had just called her saying she was in labor, but Jade told her to stay home for her early labor and at what point she should head to the hospital (the other woman didn’t want to deliver at the birthing center) because she sounded like she was still many hours away. When my mom showed Jade upstairs, she was amused to find us all still in the bathroom.  She asked why we hadn’t moved to the bed yet.  It honestly hadn’t occurred to me, but my mom said she thought it was like a broken leg – you don’t want to risk making it worse by moving before the doctor arrives.  Jade laughed and helped us lay out trash bags and towels on the bed for me to lie on.  I definitely felt feeble walking across the house to my bed 20 minutes after giving birth, and it was a very strange sensation carrying the baby while John followed with the placenta in a bucket still attached to him!!


the luxury birthing suite, after

Once we got settled into bed, Jade gave Ian and me a more thorough exam.  While she deemed my tearing “second degree…but VERY messy,” she said everything with Ian was perfection, and guessed he was well over 7 pounds.  She didn’t see any problems after examining the placenta*, so she rummaged in her bag for a cord clamp….but couldn’t find one.  Finally she asked in a slightly embarrassed tone, “Do you have any dental floss?”  Luckily she DID have her surgical scissors, so she finally cut the cord after tying it around several times with our floss.  Waxed, mint flavor.

As she checked her bag, she realized she was missing a few other things she needed.  She explained that even though she could tell that my blood pressure was within the acceptable range, she legally had to monitor it, and she had to weigh the baby, etc.  She said we could go to the birthing center, but she really didn’t want to have to transfer us so soon after the birth so she was trying to figure out what needed to be done NOW and what could wait.  Then she (happily) decided to call a nurse friend who she knew was working the overnight shift but would be getting off at 6:00.  Her friend was indeed just off duty, and agreed to bring her bag over to our house so Jade could use her blood pressure cuff and scale etc.


first checkup!

Ian weighed 8 pounds even and was 20.5 inches!!  And all of the additional health checks for both of us were perfect.  After Jade had been here maybe a half hour, she said, “You know…we might not actually have to go to the birthing center at all if you don’t want to.  If you don’t mind, I can just hang out on your sofa for a few hours and do intermittent checks and if everything continues looking good, you won’t have to go anywhere.”   !!!!!!  Yes, please!!!  Even though I had never previously had ANY interest in a home birth, now all I could think about was how amazing it was to be lying in my own bed, and have Sam climb up to snuggle with us, for everyone to have enough space to be comfortable, to send my mom down to my own kitchen to prepare exactly the meal that I suddenly felt like I needed desperately (blueberry greek yogurt, english muffin with honey & butter, coconut water).  Jade was a bit concerned about my hydration and the first coconut water John brought me (pineapple) tasted like vomit to me for some reason.  He found a chocolate flavored one that was SO SO GOOD and I slowly began to replenish my fluids.  Ian was nursing tons and looking around very alertly.  Sam was snoozy and cuddly and fascinated by the new little creature.  It was infinitely preferable to the bright lights and chaos of a hospital.  And so – we stayed!


happy & relaxed with Baba

All of our follow up checks were great, and Jade headed off to the other birth around 11 (where the woman was still not even close to delivering).  We said our goodbyes, then she added, “So I guess it never was norovirus, was it?”  I laughed and for the first time realized that it couldn’t have been norovirus that triggered labor since I felt 100% better the second he was born, so I guess I really did entirely miss that I was in labor!  After she left, John, Sam, my mom, & I all tried to wrap our minds around the fact that there was a whole new person now and we never even left the house!!!


Sam & Ian’s second meeting – this time on the bed

A bit later in the morning, my mom took Sam out sledding on the hill beside our house (that people drive to from all around since it’s known to be the best sledding hill in the area) as John and I got to know our new little man.

All in all, it was clearly not the birth we were hoping for or expecting in any way, but it really was pretty incredible in retrospect.  My relationship with my body had changed completely after Sam was born because I just had so much more respect for it knowing what it was able to do – and that feeling was magnified a thousand fold by Ian’s birth, where my body literally did EVERYTHING completely on its own!!  My only regrets are that I didn’t realize I was in labor earlier (well, duh) because that really would have helped me cope with the pain better on an emotional level.  With Sam, knowing it was “productive” pain made such a HUGE difference, and the fact that I felt like this was just sick pain that was potentially making everything worse was very very upsetting.  If I’d known I was in labor, I could have tried some of the pain management techniques I so desperately wanted to try during my “illness” that I “knew” were pointless.  I also had been really excited about laboring and delivering at the birthing center, with its cozy atmosphere and jacuzzi tub etc, and I had really really wanted our two doulas (long story – they offered to work together since one of them might not be available at the time of the birth and they were friends who had always wanted to attend a birth together), Kate & Anne to be there.  Kate & Anne also had a lot of positions and techniques that they had shown us that we were hoping to try out.  It was just unfortunate that we had put so much planning and preparation into creating a certain type of atmosphere and experience with certain trusted people in attendance…and none of that happened.

As for the scariness aspect, there is one thing that I have heard repeatedly since then, both from my midwives and elsewhere, that has made me feel less like a crazy person for NOT being more scared. Apparently, if you have a very very quick labor and delivery, it almost always ends well, for both mother and baby. The majority of the time, either complications arise BECAUSE OF delays getting the baby out, or the complications CAUSE a delay. So if everything progresses very quickly, generally that means there are no obstacles creating problems, and the baby and mother are also both subject to less trauma along the way. It makes sense when you think about it, even though I do have a number of friends who have had life or death scares during childbirth, so I definitely have a healthy dose of respect for the gravity of bringing another life into the world.

Regardless, now, if we decide to have a third child, I was basically told that we need to plan on a home birth.  If we think we have time to get to the birthing center/hospital, we are welcome to do so, but our midwives will not accept me as a patient unless we also make all of the appropriate home birth preparations to ensure that we’re not caught in the dark without the proper equipment etc if it were to happen again…since it’s likely that a future labor would be even SHORTER than this one!!

Anyway, here are a few pics of our perfect Boy#2!

Ian (in honor of my Scottish ancestors, although none of them were actually named Ian) Starling (my grandfather’s middle name)



















*the one less-than-ideal postscript is that I did have a small piece of retained placenta which required surgical removal at 9 weeks postpartum.  Apparently, it was just a fluke and unrelated to my precipitous labor, but I still felt it bore some mention since ultimately the entire birth experience was not technically without some complication.  But it was an extremely minor and quick surgery and I was 100% back to normal virtually as soon as the anesthesia wore off!

Sam’s First Trip to the Zoo!

24 May

A few weeks ago, we decided to get a zoo membership and take Sam to the zoo for the first time!  He has been really into identifying animals, and making their sounds or motions (largely from Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe, one of his favorite books.)  The Philadelphia Zoo is actually the oldest zoo in the country, and we found it to be quite nice.  Sam certainly enjoyed seeing the animals!  And we didn’t even hit the really cool toddler zoo/petting zoo until Sam’s naptime, so we’re going to have to start with that next time.  Here are a few pictures of our day there!


Looking cool! (These stayed on all of 2 minutes)




checking out the giraffes even if Mama won’t turn around


momentary sunglasses!


did not want to leave the peacocks


“Sam, where are the zebras?”


contemplating a snoozing gorilla


the light was crazy in the monkey house


more crazy light on the monkeys


Sam snuggling up to me just like a marmoset!


close up of marmoset snuggling


furrowed brow at the gorilla


with Baba, still trying to figure out the gorilla


Sam colored a leaf and stuck it to the tree!


an orangutan


Sam’s favorites were, predictably, the lions


Lion is his only frequently used animal word, other than cat (which gets a lot more usage around our house)


Trying to get a better view of the lions from around the other side


and a cheetah on the way out!

17 Months!

18 Apr

I have been incredibly inconsistent about posting Sam’s monthly photos, but I’ve been taking them!  Here are a few from his most recent shoot.  Next month is A YEAR AND A HALF OMGGGGGGGGG






You are the best little bugger we could ever imagine, and you are just more and more fun every day.  We love you sooooooooo much, Sam Bear!!!!!

Sam’s First (Appreciated) Easter!

18 Apr

While this wasn’t technically Sam’s first Easter, it was his first where he could actually walk and partake in various Easter activities!  Here are a bunch of pics from our 2 day celebration:

First, on Saturday, we went to a local Easter egg hunt at the playground near our house.  It was A MADHOUSE and Sam only got one egg – which was because I cordoned the area off; many kids got no eggs at all.  But I still got a few pictures since it was officially his first Easter egg hunt!


He was incredibly terrified of the Easter Bunny


This was the best we could get haha


But he enjoyed going down the slide with Baba


And carrying around his basket with his one egg


Note the insane wind in his hair. Every last millimeter of him (and us) was coated in dirt/sand/mulch by the time we left



Trying to get a nice photo with Mama



And a semi-decent family photo

Then, on actual Easter, Mr. Z and I decorated eggs with Sam and set up a hunt in our yard just for him!  It was a little less aggressively competitive than its predecessor.


He was really confused as to why I kept telling him to draw on the eggs, and repeatedly tried to get paper to show me how you're SUPPOSED to color


Finally getting into it






I drew a lot of cars, buses, and cats on the eggs since those are his favorite things


Somehow, this is the only picture we got of him smiling over two whole days of Easter celebrations during which I swear he was smiling a ton!!


Not a particularly impressive batch of eggs this year...


Waiting for Sam...


Finally catching on to how this works


He was not a huge fan of picking up the eggs


But loved throwing them into his basket (yes, throwing)






"What is THAT?!?"


He loved the bunny and repeatedly hugged and kissed it without prompting


We had just gotten him this kid sized plastic Adirondack chair, so he was thrilled to have a place of his own to sit out in the yard (even if he doesn't look it here)


These painted wooden eggs are actually rattles, very similar to the ones we play with in music class. In class, there's a song where we pretend the eggs are soap and in one of the verses use them to wash our hair, which is Sam's favorite part, so when he realized these eggs were rattles too, he instantly started washing his hair.




We filled most of the plastic eggs with his favorite snacks, like cheese crackers and dried cranberries. When he discovered there was stuff INSIDE the eggs, a whole new world of delight opened up.


Relaxing after a tough day of egg-hunting

Sam’s Birth Story

26 Feb

Now that Sam is nearing 16 months old…I’m finally writing up his birth story!  That took a while.  Whoops.

I actually started keeping a few little notes in my phone near the end of my pregnancy, and I kind of like the way the anticipation builds up, so I’m gonna start with that.  So, really, the majority of this was written at the time or within the first couple weeks after Sam’s birth; I’m just tidying it up now into an actual story.  I hope you enjoy it!  (While I get weepy about my little baby being all grown up.)

WARNING:  Definitely includes some graphic elements, so if you mind hearing about bodily fluids etc, you should probably skip this one.

10/12/10 – 36w2d – 8th dating anniversary. Dr L says I’m measuring small for the first time after being on target up until now. Sends me for ultrasound to measure baby’s size.


Dressed up for our anniversary!

10/16 – 36w6d – first painful contraction, when Mr. Z is out. Doesn’t last long, doesn’t come back for at least a day.

10/18 – 37w1d – ultrasound predicts his current weight at 6lbs 11oz – normal to large!  And we get to see close ups of his face where his nose & cheeks look JUST like Mr. Z!

10/19 – 37w2d – Dr. G agrees I’m still measuring small but is impressed by his weight estimate and concludes he must have dropped between the 35 & 36 week appointments. I confirm that that is when I suddenly started feeling a lot more uncomfortable with a lot of lower pelvic pressure.

10/23 – 37w6d – about 4 minutes of on and off painful contractions, ending with fairly intense pain. Mr. Z considers canceling his evening plans but nothing else happens for several hours so he goes out and I have no more contractions for several days.

10/24 – 38w – We had our maternity photos taken by Carol Shin in Central Park!


One of my favorites of Carol's pics

10/26 – 38w2d – installed carseat!

10/27 – 38w3d – Dr M does my first internal exam: 3 cm dilated & 70% effaced! She is SHOCKED by how low his head is already!! Tells us most first time moms haven’t dilated or effaced ANY by this point, so this combined with my family history of quick labor might mean that I’ll go soon & quick! Tells me definitely not to wait as long as the standard recommendation (contractions 3-5 minutes apart for 2 hours) and instead call as soon as they average about 4 minutes apart. Says we might not need our appointment next week but don’t worry about having to cancel since they track all the births and can cancel it for me.

10/28 – 38w4d – met with Dr H & liked him a lot – FINALLY picked a pediatrician!!!! Last major checkmark completed in order to be ready for Sam.

10/30 – 38w6d – many very tiny contractions, but no pattern whatsoever and averaging just a few seconds at a time. We hung up the quilt and nailed down the changing pad so the nursery is officially ready!


Still in good spirits on Halloween at 39 weeks

11/3 – 39w3d – Dr S estimates 4-5 cm dilated, still at 70% effaced. Last week Dr M wrote down 0 station but Dr S thinks I’m probably at -1.

11/4 – 39w4d – bloody show in the morning! Crampiness for hours that eventually started coming and going in waves along with some belly tightening, but no real contractions yet. Stayed in bed with Albi sleeping in my lap (!) until Mr Z came home around 3:00. Rocking side to side feels good. Symptoms milder now so just waiting it out @4pm. Everything kind of faded after that. Went to bed feeling discouraged.

11/5 – 39w5d – passed a little mucous plug around 6:30am. Crampy again. Regular bowel movement around 10:00, but then diarrhea around 1:00. Is this the body emptying itself out in preparation for labor?? Braxton Hicks getting stronger but still no real contractions.


Can you guess which is me and which is Mr Z?

11/6 – 39w6d – on and off contractions (some real ones!) all day, but nothing averaging more than ~20 min apart, which only lasted about an hour. Passed more mucus plug after midnight & feeling crampy again at bedtime. Will Sam be prompt and show up on his actual due date?!

11/7/10 – 40w – DUE DATE! A few fairly consistent contractions in the afternoon that tapered off in the evening. Went to dinner at Locale to celebrate/take minds off lack of progress and had a great time on potentially our last childless date!


Not feeling quite so optimistic, on my due date

11/8 – 40w1d – contractions almost all day but very inconsistent timing. Think they’re maybe averaging slightly stronger than before? But maybe not. Died down completely by about 7pm. Getting discouraged. Scheduled acupuncture induction for tomorrow before regular checkup – the extra appointment we didn’t think we’d make it to!!

11/9 – 40w2d – no contractions all morning but going for acupuncture induction at 2:00. Waifan (my acupuncturist) said that since I’m already so far dilated and he’s so low, that it could happen TONIGHT!  Got a hot chocolate then headed to my extra OB appointment with Dr L. She is super shocked by how low he is (at least zero station) and says I’m now at least 5cm dilated and 80% effaced. I’m almost positive she stripped my membranes and while she said I should go ahead and make an appointment for next week, she REALLY cannot imagine it will take that long. Says if we end up having to induce, they can most likely ONLY break my water since I definitely don’t need cytotech for dilation and probably not even pitocin at this point. Feeling optimistic when we get home but still haven’t had any contractions all day, although I’m feeling very crampy after the internal.

At 7:51, I have my first real contraction – close to as painful as any I’ve had so far. Definitely seems different/more real than past ones, but trying not to get hopes up because of all the upbeat news earlier. Have a few more, averaging 7 or so minutes apart but as far as 18 minutes. Mr Z asks if I want to call Stacey, our doula, but I want to watch Glee first and see if things progress. A little before 9:00, they shift to more like 6 minutes apart, and are more consistent, and getting stronger. We call Stacey at 9:06 and she says she can come over now but we decide to maybe wait a tiny bit first.  Around 9:30 the contractions start averaging 4.5 minutes apart and getting incredibly painful. I start vocalizing loudly, verging into screaming/yelling from the intended moan. We call Stacey and tell her to come ASAP. She’s in Brooklyn so it should take about a half hour. A few minutes later we call my OB practice and Dr M suggests we head in immediately given how dilated I am and my family history. [My mother’s first labor was about 6 hours and second was about 4 hours.  My grandmother’s labors were similarly quick, with her 4th child being delivered in about 45 minutes!!] We ask if we can wait until Stacey shows up and she semi-reluctantly agrees.

Pain gets so much worse and Mr Z suggests we take a shower which really does help. I also have lots of diarrhea which makes me want to stay on the toilet during contractions so I don’t have to tighten my muscles. Mr Z frantically packs the rest of the stuff for the car and we head out almost immediately after Stacey shows up. I sit in the back seat of the car with her and she rubs my back and gives me water while Mr Z drives and I attempt not to throw up or poop in the car. It’s about 11:00 pm on a random Tuesday so luckily traffic is light and we’re there before we know it since contractions are now only ~3 minutes apart so I barely register most of the drive. This is also around the time that the peak of the contraction moves from about 30 seconds in to more like 45, which is killing me. So far, the easiest way to deal with contractions has been to a) scream as loud as I can (I didn’t have any idea I could make such horrible sounds) and b) when things are at their worst and getting completely unbearable, yell “time??” and have Mr Z or Stacey tell me how far into the contraction I am. Most of the time I would be something like 27 seconds so I’d just barely have to hold on before the let down would start, which made me able to cope with a few more seconds of the most intense pain ever. But, now that they’re getting longer, it is harder to hold on, think positive thoughts, breathe properly etc.


I was definitely NOT looking this pleasant when we showed up to the hospital for real.

I have a contraction as we pull into the valet area so we wait for it to end and then discover there is no valet guy?? Stacey grabs me a wheelchair and takes me in to get admitted while Mr Z goes to park the car. I have another contraction on the elevator and random strangers advise me how to breathe! We get to triage and they tell me to change into a robe, and start asking me questions, which I often cannot begin to answer mid-contraction. They also say we have to sign in downstairs in admitting even though we’re pre-registered. I call Mr Z and tell him to stop there on his way up. He does but they tell him he has to go upstairs…but when he gets up they tell him to go down again. Thankfully they called down so by the time he got back down there they were willing to sign him in, but the end result is that this plus the lack of valet meant we were apart for close to half an hour, making Stacey invaluable during that whole string of contractions while I was in triage with a million strange doctors/nurses running around and no one else staying with me. I used the bathroom again and they came to check me and discovered I was already at 8cm!!! No wonder I kept screaming “I’m going to throw up!!” in the car (even though I didn’t) – I was in transition on the drive over! They call Dr M, who is my favorite doctor at the practice, so I’m thrilled she’s the one on call, and rush to get me to a labor & delivery room. Mr Z finally shows up and we move into the room a little before midnight.

11/10/10 – 40w3d – SAM’S BIRTHDAY – They check me again and send in an anesthesiologist to ask about an epidural. I say no but they ask me to sign a release for one if I need an emergency c-section. Several other consent forms for various emergency situations, which I can barely scrawl on. I head back into the bathroom and do most of my laboring on the toilet. Stacey and Mr Z both come in with me and we all breathe together etc. Still having a bit of diarrhea but feeling a million times better not having to try to hold it in as I was in the car/on the bed.

Dr M shows up and comes into the bathroom too (party time! There are also several nurses/random people I don’t know in there too by now.) Asks if I’m feeling pressure/need to bear down. I say no because I think it’s just the desire to poop out as much as I can in the toilet before moving back to the bed.  She listens to my vocalizations during the next contraction and says, “No, you are bearing down now!!”  I deny it, but after another contraction I realize that I really am bearing down. Whoops!  I say this but can’t make myself get off the toilet because it’s the only comfortable place, and am admonished several times “Don’t poop the baby out!!”  “Don’t you dare have that baby in the toilet!”  All in good fun at first, but I keep refusing to get up and I can hear them getting a bit concerned as everyone is running around frantically prepping the room for delivery.

They finally manage to help me to the bed and check my dilation and I am 100% and ready to push!! They pull the bed into position (removing the part between legs) and get me set but I barely notice because I am still just screaming and pushing when I feel the urge and ignoring everyone else.  I would like to note that in Stacey’s version of the story, I am “roaring like a lioness” which sounds much nicer, but I’m not sure is quite as accurate!!


I thought the pictures showing the "mother's mood" were a lot more amusing when I wasn't the one making that face at the end.

Once everything is in place, it’s time to OFFICIALLY start pushing, so they (led by Dr M) guide me on proper technique. Number one rule is that I canNOT scream because I’m focussing my energy there instead of on pushing!!! This irritates me to no end and is the most difficult thing ever to execute. I keep screaming for a while and they get increasingly stern and eventually I manage a few pushes with no screaming (and chin down, as they also instruct) and they say I’m making great progress! After only a few minutes they say I’m crowning and I am simultaneously shocked that it’s not over yet and that it’s happening so quickly – and that the pain isn’t as horrible as I would have thought. In fact, pushing is much better for me than the later contractions, far less pain & more productive feeling.

At some point they ask me if I want to feel his head, and I instantly understand the “wrinkly wet walnut” description in one of my books. Such a strange sensation.  At this point I can’t even associate any of what’s going on with the fact that my baby will be here soon!! Then suddenly a flurry of activity as the doctors start yelling at each other that the baby’s heartrate is dropping and to get a pediatrician in here immediately. I barely register their panic – all I hear is “Laura, we need to get this baby out NOW, so do your best pushing right now” with its implied “or we’ll have to do a c-section.” Driven more by fear of c-section than anything else (since the whole “baby” part still seems so remote) I try to push like crazy. It is way less pleasant now because I can no longer wait for the urge to push, and they put an oxygen mask on me which makes it harder to take a deep breath.

In a frenzy, with everyone yelling and lots of background activity to prepare for various possible scary outcomes, I push harder and work harder than I have at anything else in my life. Suddenly everyone screams “STOP PUSHING!!!” and my heart stops a little. Also, it’s next to impossible to stop at this point. They allow his head to slowly finish passing through (such a strange sensation), check for the umbilical cord etc, then tell me to start again. I brace myself but after just one (?) big push again, his whole body glides effortlessly out!! 1:12 AM on Wednesday, November 10, 2010.

I stare in shock for a moment as they hold him up and instruct Mr Z on cutting the cord, then reach my arms out for my baby. In a heartbreaking moment, they whisk him past me, saying they need to check his vitals first because of his decreasing heart rate. I am a bit in shock and can’t even see the back table where they’ve put him, as they have me try to deliver the placenta. Once it’s out, I ask Mr Z to take a picture of it, so they explain all the different parts and show us how he was inside the amniotic sac with the umbilical cord etc and it is quite cool but I WANT MY BABY!!!


Mr Z took this while I was still on the table

After what seems like years but was probably less than 3 minutes, they declare that his APGAR is great and his heartrate and breathing are perfect, and bring him to me, and suddenly the whole universe stops. I can’t even remember if I was crying or not, I was just so swept up in emotion.  The past 5 hours and 21 minutes since my first contraction have been so incredibly intense that I almost forgot that I get a real live baby all to myself & Mr Z at the end of it!!!  He is the most beautiful and perfect and amazing thing I have ever ever seen.  I pull my robe down and they place his tiny little naked body down on my bare chest for some skin to skin time, and he nuzzles right up against me.



According to Stacey, I whispered, “My baby, I love you,” as soon as they gave him to me, but I can’t remember anything other than that perfect little face, those tiny little fingers, his little shoulders, his wet hair…. After a minute or two, they instruct me on how to get him to latch on for the first time, and Sam, my son, my baby, my everything already, begins to nurse as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, despite the fact that up until 5 minutes ago his entire universe was inside a tightly confined dark sack of liquid.  While that certainly wasn’t all there was to our breastfeeding journey, I am still amazed at how powerful that instinct is!! We were able to hang out with Sam for a while, and Mr Z got to hold his son for the first time, then they took him to clean up, give Vitamin K drops, and put on a diaper etc.


Sam, meet Baba


So in love

We then remained in the same room for another hour or two with Stacey offering more tips (but also stepping back and allowing us plenty of new family time), before they transferred us to a postpartum room at about 4:00AM, and Stacey left.  It was unfortunately a shared room, but we got the side next to the gigantic window which made it feel a lot less claustrophobic and also resulted in having a huge radiator to use as a shelf/table so we didn’t have to pile everything on the floor.  We were also informed that the hospital’s policy had just changed that week, and fathers were now allowed to stay in the rooms overnight!!!  We had packed a few things for Mr Z hoping we could persuade some nurse to bend the rules for us, but the ended up encouraging him to stay, and even provided a reclining chair, blanket, and pillow, so he was at least sort of semi-comfortable.



IMG_2159 2

Can't get enough of this tiny face

Even though Sam fell asleep quickly, all swaddled in his striped hospital blanket, sleeping in his bassinet with his little hat, Mr Z and I were so high on adrenaline that we didn’t fall asleep until well after dawn.  Then when the nurses woke us at around 8:00, we had to start making phone calls, and writing emails, and figuring out how to get photos of Sam off of our camera and into an email with our limited technological set up, all while it fully sunk in that we were actually responsible for taking care of this HUMAN CHILD lying there next to us!!!! Sam was very chill during our time in the hospital, and we ended up taking the doctor up on her offer to let us spend only “one night” technically in the hospital – since Sam was born after midnight, that first night didn’t count – so we went home on Thursday the 11th, about 36 hours after Sam was born (although of course we had to check back in the very next day beginning another whole saga…)




He's still ours in the morning!!

As for regrets, I really don’t have any.  Obviously, I would have preferred that his heart rate not drop near the end there, but it didn’t result in any problems for him or interventions during labor, just an added couple of minutes of stress, which were barely even noticed during the chaos.  I wish I could have held him RIGHT when he was born, but it was so incredibly quick that it certainly didn’t interfere with bonding, and I think I’ve made up for it now with countless hours of snuggling over the past year.


meeting his Granny


...and Granddad


...and Grandma

The one thing that I keep coming back to is that I wish I could have seen him actually be born.  I thought I’d be more squeamish in the moment, so I didn’t ask for a mirror or request photos be taken, and when Mr Z went to get the video camera when Sam was crowning, I screamed at him to stay with me, so it’s entirely my fault that we don’t have it on video…but it still makes me sad that I missed out on actually seeing his entrance into the world.  But obviously, that is a very minor complaint, and all in all, I had an infinitely better (and quicker) birth experience than I had ever even hoped for!!


Tiny wrinkly fingers

And still today, fifteen and a half months after that day, I get choked up just looking at you, Sam.  I can’t believe you’re so perfect.  That you’re half me and half your Baba.  That we MADE YOU and somehow ended up with the most incredibly beautiful sweet smart funny perfect perfect perfect little boy in the universe.  How exactly did that happen?!?  It blows my mind. But we love you so so so so so so much, and cannot imagine anyone else ever being as perfect as you.


No words can ever express...

Sam’s Birthday!

29 Jan

Back in November, our little baby bear turned A WHOLE YEAR OLD!!  Even though we’ve had a few months to adjust to this now, I still CANNOT BELIEVE we have a real walking talking (sort of) toddler instead of a little baby.  What??  When/how did that happen?!?

Anyway, here are a few (cough, a lot) of pictures from his actual birthday (which we spent at home just the three of us, with a brief foray to the local toddler indoor play place), and his birthday party a couple weeks later.  A gazillion of our family and friends traveled from as far as North Carolina (EIGHT HOURS!!) to celebrate Sam’s turning into a big kid with us!!!  We were blown away by everyone’s generosity as well as the sheer number of people who were willing to travel so far (only a handful were local since the party was only a few weeks after our move.)  It was also fun to get to show off our house since no one (except our parents) had seen it yet!

Picture dump time:


Trying to take his 12 month photo


Big boys don't like staying still in chairs...


opening one of his presents from Mama & Baba


Baba watching as he pushes this cart around at the play place (he took his first unassisted steps less than a week after his birthday!)


Enjoying his main present from Mama & Baba


some of the decorations and a glimpse at our house


Sam's birthday cake




the cake & cupcakes were both apple spice cake with cream cheese frosting


our sofa from my grandmother with one of my mom's paintings above it


we threw together this photo display of Sam throughout his first year in about 10 minutes


decorations on the staircase




we also strung a few of the extra photos we printed out on ribbons hanging random places


these garlands took me FOREVER to make!!


I also made a gigantic number 1 out of scrapbook paper for people to sign as a guestbook - it's hanging in Sam's room now


the dining room


we have guests!


living room through the door on the left, dining room, and staircase


Mr. Z with the birthday boy!


The Zhukeepers


goofing around with his grandma


Food! Much of which was a surprise from John's family


people actually look happy!


I love my little family


Sam was pretty terrified when all of a sudden everyone got quiet, looked right at him, then BURST OUT INTO SONG


Sam's first bite of cake...or anything sweeter than plain fruit


After a couple bites, he decided he LOVED it and ate an entire adult sized piece of cake!!




more friends!


with Sam's uncle


goofy smile + more friends


even more friends!


with Granddaddy


so many friends!


loving his new drum


with his uncle and cousin Svejk


at breakfast the next day


all grown up!!!

We Miss You, Astoria!

16 Jan

Looking back at our old photos, I am struck by how many people and things I miss since our move to Philadelphia in October.  This is only a very small subset of those things that I have photos of from our last month or two in Astoria, but I wanted to do a little homage to those we left behind!

The first park (& swing) that stole Sam’s heart:


pure joy


one of the amazing photos Carol Shin took of us, the rest of which I'll get around to posting one of these days


with Granny



Mister Uncle T!





Brooklyn Bagels, where Sam and I passed many a rainy (& sunny) afternoon


random parks


The Museum of the Moving Image


Arepas Cafe


Queens Kickshaw (another by Carol Shin!)


Il Bambino


Not in Astoria, but we still miss you Shake Shack! (That's Mr. Z waving on the Shack Cam)


And perhaps most of all, Sanfords brunch!!!

Our Apartment:


Sunsets out the back windows


Hanging out on the balcony with Sam and Albi


Watching them film Nurse Jackie from our balcony

Old Friends We Never Wanted to Leave:







New Friends Who We Left Too Soon:





I could post a million more…but I’m going to restrict myself to the last few weeks before we left or else I’ll be doing this (& crying) forever!!  We miss you guys!!!!!!!




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