Tuesday, February 26, 2008

surprise!

okay, so you know how for the past 9 months i totally thought spruitje was a boy? well, i had GOOD REASONS to think this!... but first, some background.

for years and years, before we even decided if we WOULD have children, adam and i for some reason thought we would have a girl first. no reason, really. we just felt like a daughter would be our first child, and we both kinda just agreed on this. and a few months before we got pregnant, when we really started talking about not just "if" we should have kids but "when" we should have them, i could totally feel the presence of this little girl following me around. i would be taking a bath and feel her there splashing with me, and i'd look over and she wouldn't be there and i'd be totally sad. or we'd be eating dinner and i'd look across the table, half expecting to see our daughter there gnawing on a bread roll with spaghetti noodles stuck to her head, and she would be missing. and i TOTALLY missed her! it was around this time that adam and i decided it was probably time to start considering starting a family.


then a few months later, i had a really vivid dream. it turns out i was already about 1 week pregnant but of course didn't know it yet. and in my dream, i met a little boy. i was pregnant with him and i could see through my belly and he talked to me about how everything was going to be just fine and how i just needed to relax and enjoy it all. it was extremely vivid and i woke up just ecstatic (not knowing i was pregnant yet), and i said to adam, "oh i can't wait until we get pregnant because i just met our son last night!"


"our son?!" adam asked, shocked.


"yep! i guess we might not have that girl first after all! because i totally dreamt of a boy!"


well, a few months later as i was telling people, i just got confirmation after confirmation that spruitje was a boy. my stepmom didn't seem shocked at all when i came home to tell her i was 2 months pregnant, because she had been dreaming for 2 months of a blue-eyed boy. my gramma, who is like NEVER wrong with guessing babies, told me that she got a boy-vibe from me too. and my best friend's mom does this pendulum thing at baby showers and when she did it with me, it came up "boy."


so it's no wonder that for the next 9 months, practically every dream i had of spruitje was a boy. i was drawn to boy clothes when i'd go shopping (even though all the girl stuff was WAY cuter), and we would almost always use "he" and "his" when speaking of our baby.


then, as the pregnancy drew on and on and on and on and ON, i started thinking maybe we needed to start referring to spruitje as "she." i wondered if maybe spruitje was afraid to be born because she was afraid she would disappoint us by being a girl, after all these months of being referred to as a boy. and my gramma, without knowing that this is what we were doing all the way over here in holland, had a dream in which spruitje came to her and said "i can't be born until you realize and acknowledge that i am a GIRL!"


and then, spruitje came. and he was a GIRL after all! what a surprise!


now, you all know how much i loooooove surprises. and i thank mary grace for keeping her identity unknown to us this whole time! she was with us at the beginning and we could feel her presence, but once we got pregnant she was all messing with us and sending us dreams of her as a boy, which was a surprise to us at that time because as i said we both thought we'd have that daughter first. and she kept it a secret all the way until the very end, when she was finally born, and shocked us once again! what a good surprise!


a few days before gracie was born, i asked my mom, "oh my goodness, what if it's really a girl?! can you imagine?!" and she said wisely, "well, honey, that child is just going to keep you guessing the rest of your life."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

bathtime!

ooooh i love giving gracie a bath! she seems to like it, too! she'll get super angry for the first minute or so, when she realizes she's naked and cold, but then she feels the warmth of the water and her daddy's strong hands holding her safely, and she actually chills out for it. she of course cries hard when we take her out of the water cuz once again she realizes she's cold, but mostly she enjoys it. here are some pictures:
















house calls

we have been so fortunate to be able to experience a different culture when it comes to health care and childbirth. having a child in holland has completely expanded our expectations and imaginations surrounding this whole baby-making business.

after the birth of the baby, EVERYONE comes to you. visitors and medical staff alike...

for 8 days after gracie's birth, we had our kraamverzorgster, wilma, stay with us and look after myself and the new baby. every day she would check our temperatures, check my pulse, weigh gracie, and feel for the shrinking of my uterus. after the birth, on days 2, 3, 5, and 8, the midwives would come to our home and inspect my stitches, palpate my abdomen, and look over gracie as well. they were never in a rush, and would stay and ask me questions about how i'm feeling and how gracie was eating. they'd take their time in answering questions i had about pain in my pelvis or the status of gracie's healing navel, for example. our general practitioner came over to the house also to look after the baby: she checked her heart and lungs, looked her over top to bottom, felt her sucking reflex, and again asked me if i had any questions and asked me how i was feeling. we also had a couple of nurses come over: one was to do a hielprik, which is when they draw blood from the baby and run tests for various genetic diseases. (the only one i can think of is sickle cell anemia, but there were several other tests that they ran that i can't remember.) and finally there was a nurse from some bureau who came to collect some medical charts we have been collecting on gracie's status, and talked to me about when to vaccinate, who to call if gracie is sick, and even set up an appointment for me at some clinic so as to evaluate gracie and her progress. all of this from the comfort of my own home! i never had to leave with a new baby, but everyone came to me instead! imagine what good we could create in the united states if we cared for our citizens even half as thoroughly as the dutch cared for theirs... amazing!



visitors are also a common occurrence after the birth of a baby in the netherlands. unlike the united states, which has a baby shower BEFORE the baby is born, the dutch prefer to come over after the new arrival to meet the baby and bring gifts for the new parents. this is called a kraambezoek. typically the new parents serve the guests beschuit met muisjes, which are these airy-melba-toast type of crackers with anise-flavored sprinkles on them. pink for girls, blue for boys. and coffee, of course. you must serve coffee! visitors call ahead to schedule their visit, and typically stay for about an hour or so. and everyone says how beautiful the baby is, and they give you a gift, and they eat their beschuit, and then they leave. it's very gezellig. we also received this UBERawesome gift from some friends of ours: i call it the twente-log, but it's really called krentenbrood i believe. it's this huuuuuuge loaf of bread that weighs probably 15 pounds at least, and is a typical gift for an occasion such as this. half of this bread was filled with almond paste, and half was not. we're still eating it, and it was given to us two weeks ago! i looove it! how cool is that!




and another tradition which we do not have in america is the practice of dressing up the windows or yards of a new family. in america, we're told not to do something like this because it just announces to the neighborhood that there is a new baby in the house, thereby inviting kidnappers to come and steal the baby in the night. oh come on! seriously?! how absolutely terrifyingly stupid is that?! but here in holland, everyone dresses up their windows to announce the new arrival. our windows have been dolled up since gracie got here, and i'm planning on keeping it up until bob and rae come for their visit next month. almost always there are baby clothes hanging on a line for people to see, and i've even seen giant inflatable babies (imagine those inflatable frosty-the-snowmans that you see at christmastime) and huge stuffed storks standing in people's yards. we don't have a lawn to speak of, so we just did up our two huge windows for everyone in town to see. every day we will see people walking past and pointing up to our windows, to exclaim to their walking companion how there is a new baby in the neighborhood! how sweet!

Friday, February 15, 2008

the gracie report, week one

well we've been busy this week. and the sun is still shining. STILL SHINING! and not just sunny days, but absolutely crystal clear, cloudless days. that never happens in holland, no matter what time of year it is. she is our little ray of sunshine!





on tuesday i felt healthy enough and stable enough to leave the house and enjoy the sun, so we took gracie on a very short walk. first we took her downstairs to the jewelry store to show her off to all the ladies down there who have been asking about her for the past 9 months. they, of course, all loved her to pieces and shook our hands in congratulation. then we did just one lap around the block, to take out the garbage, snap a few pics in front of the church, and then for a cup of tea at a cafe on the market square. we sat in the sunshine, admiring our little girl, just feeling absolutely peaceful in the world. then just a little bit of shopping (we wanted to get wilma a little gift for all her help) and then home again. it was sooooo much fun to take her outside and show her off! an elderly gentleman stopped us on our way into a bookstore because he wanted to see her, and we talked in dutch about how beautiful she was. he was pleased and happy that he could sneak a peek at our little meisje. and we were pleased and happy to share her with him!



on sunday we had a few visitors and ate beschuit met muisjes and drank tea and coffee. this is a tradition that i want to write more about in another post because it's very dutch to have guests after the baby is born, in lieu of a baby shower. adam also went into work this week to share the beschuit with his coworkers and shared stories of his little girl and her miraculous birth. he said he totally loved it because he had a captive audience to listen to stories about gracie. what a proud papa! and apparently we must be getting used to living in the netherlands, where there are very few taboo conversations, because he was giving them all the graphic details. at one point he realized how vivid his speech had just become, and asked the crowd if it was too much for them. one person said, "of course not, we're dutch," but the lone norwegian in the crowd, his hands and legs crossed tightly with a stoic look on his face, said it was a bit much for him. but of course, like a good norwegian, he sat there and listened politely, all the while probably cringing inside and counting down the minutes until he could get back to work.

otherwise it's been pretty chill around here: naps with daddy on the couch, singing songs with mommy in the nursery, and rocking with mema by the fire. she is sleeping in her crib, in her own room, for up to 5 hours at a time at night, but we're still working on getting her morning and afternoon naps to take place in the crib. at least at nighttime she's sleeping on her own for long periods. as for now i guess, i can take her to bed with me so we can BOTH get some sleep at naptime. that seems to work fine.

other adorable things that she's doing: she's getting strong enough to hold up her head now, and we do the occasional "tummy time" to encourage this habit. when i burp her, she will scooch her head down from my shoulder onto my chest, right above my heart, because she's a little snugglebug. when i kiss her on the mouth, she opens her mouth like she's kissing me back (i know it's just part of the sucking reflex, but it's totally cute). she sneezes four or five times in a row, like her gramma rae. and when she's concentrating on something, she gets this worried look on her face, like what i do -- you know that look, where i'm concentrating, but it looks like i'm sad or worried, because i crinkle that space between my eyes and furrow my brow a little bit... well, gracie does it too! and i know she hasn't learned this habit from me yet -- isn't that amazing that some mannerisms are just part of your dna?! that's so cool!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kraamzorg

People often want to know how life in the Netherlands compares to the U.S. My first inclination is to draw attention to the basic similarities in terms of both material and ideational cultures. They are, after all, both modern Western capitalist democratic societies. We have electricity, automobiles, stores, communication technologies, etc. These aspects of material culture are certainly not deterministic of other facets of the lifeworld, but their presence does create a basic similarity with other modernized places. Furthermore,we share the same basic ideational culture that orbits around the same centers of gravity - liberty, justice, tolerance, and consumption. So, one response is that life is much the same, and it is just the details that vary (e.g., Orval in place of Fat Tire).

But this is not the whole story, because there are more fundamental differences at work. Of course, there is language (though this is mitigated by the widespread mastery of English in the Netherlands) and there is politics (the polder model of collaboration versus a two-party model that seems to mire down in divisveness). A bigger difference for me is land-use (the mixed-use, town-center model vs. sprawl, car-centric model).

Yet a bigger difference, made apparent only after experiencing it first-hand, are the differences in birthing models. America, like most of the rest of the developed world, has adopted the techno-medical model of childbirth. The Netherlands and Denmark are unique in possessing a formal, nation-wide midwifery model of childbirth. There are lots of differences, but just one I want to point out here is the way the midwifery model provides much greater support for after-care through the Kraamzorg. It is not a coincidence that there is no really good way to translate this into English, but it roughly means maternity nurse.

In the Netherlands you are entitled to insurance-subsidized kraamzorg, which for us meant specifically that we had our kraamzorgster, Wilma, for up to 49 hours spread across the 8 days following the birth of Gracie (she also attended the birth and assisted the midwives - she is the one who held Amber's hand when she was getting stitches and everyone else was focused on the baby). Wilma had her last day with us today and we are sad to see her go. She was such a great help. Her job is so multi-faceted that it includes everything from vacuuming, doing laundry, and doing dishes to taking the baby's temperature, helping mommy learn to breast feed, and weighing the baby. It was such a relief to have a kind, well-trained care-taker ride her bike to our home everyday and help us adjust to our new life.

One of the things that Amber especially liked was the way that Wilma would just sit and talk with her and listen to all of Ambers questions and stories about Gracie. Wilma would also teach us lots of Dutch words (though her English was, naturally, perfect) and tell us stories about the local area (her parents were born in Hengelo and she has an extended network of friends and family in the area - in fact, one of her sons works at the Twickle castle that we like to visit). It struck me that in addition to technical expertise and household help, Wilma provided emotional support as well. Of course, with Amber's mom here, we had a surplus of great help (one of the benefits of having Wilma around was that Barb could focus on cooking and baking wonderful food for us to enjoy...now that is going to be sorely missed when she has to go).

Kraamzorg is available in the U.S., but you need to be rich to afford it. I think this is one place where we as Americans have our priorities wrong. New families can really use the kind of help that Wilma provides, and the Netherlands has structured insurance policies and a broader culture around this awareness about the importance of what we Americans might call, oddly, "social capital." We sure are grateful for Wilma. Thankfully, though, we still have grandma here for a few more days to keep us well-fed and continue to impart her wisdom to us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

amazing grace

meet gracie!

she was born on ash wednesday -- i started pushing her out right after the bells started ringing to call people to mass that morning. i'll never forget the sounds of those huge bells chiming from the beautiful church next door, the same church that i visited every week to light candles at the mary altar, asking for a healthy baby and a successful home delivery. it's like they were finally announcing her arrival.










she was born with her eyes wide open, fully alert and aware and curious about her new surroundings. it took her a little while to start to cry, but even her crying was sweet... more of a whimper, a small gurgle, a quiet little statement that she was here and ready to meet us all. much like her father: taking it all in without needing to say much.













when i was pregnant with gracie, i would massage her through my belly every day after a shower. and during the massage i would sing to her "you are my sunshine." and on the morning she was born, it was a typically gray, wet, dutch morning. yet a few hours after she arrived, the sun came out, and it's been shining ever since -- five consecutive days of sunshine in one of the wettest and grayest countries in the world, and in the middle of winter! what a treat! the last two days, in fact, have been some of the warmest days we've had since last summer. she definitely brought the sunshine with her!

she is a very easy baby. (so far... i know she could get colicky or grumpy any day now, so i'm enjoying this time that we have. but all in all she seems very chill and easy, and i am grateful! i hope it stays this way!) she lets us know when she needs something, but never really screams her head off -- it's more of an "aheh aheh aheh (snort snort) aheh aheh (snort)." some babies will hold a grudge for the rest of the day if you wait too long to feed them, or if they get too cold during bathtime. and gracie will definitely let us know if she's upset with something, but as soon as it's fixed then she's over it and quiet again and moves on with the next thing. in fact, she's so quiet that we actually have to wake her up for nursing, because otherwise she'd just stay quiet and sleep all day long.

she nurses really well, but she has to be totally awake for it because otherwise she'll suck for just a few seconds and then fall back to sleep because she's so relaxed. and she sleeps great in her crib all by herself already. the past few days she has been able to sleep in her crib for about three hours at a time before waking up to ask politely to be fed or changed. i'm really glad that she is able to sleep so well on her own already, because both adam and i feel like we sleep better when she's not in the bed with us -- we're both so scared that our quilt or one of our pillows is going to fall on top of her face and suffocate her, so neither of us sleep very well when she's right next to us.


her movements and personality are much like what i imagined they would be like. when i was pregnant with her, i noticed that her motions were very fluid and deliberate and curious. she never really punched me in the bladder or kicked me in the ribs, she would never flail around and keep me awake at night with her moving about. she was always very gentle and fluid, like dancing underwater. and i've noticed that when she moves her arms and legs around, they are still in that same style: very soft, easy, ... fluid. that's the best word i can think of. and when i massage her little back and butt, her reaction is exactly the same as when i was pregnant with her: she would squirm her body into place a little bit so that i could reach just that one sweet spot that needed attention, and she would kick her legs just a little bit to rock her body with the massage too. and even on the outside, that's the same reaction that she has now. it's so cool!






she's very studious, attentive, forgiving, and patient. such an easy baby! we're just so blessed to have her here with us, and to be brought into the world in such a loving and gentle way. she is our amazing grace!

Friday, February 08, 2008

we did it! (gracie's birth story)

oh my goodness!

due to the overwhelming response of emails (thank you everyone for your congratulations and well wishes and prayers), and because i want to remember moment-by-moment what happened during the labor and delivery, i wanted to blog about everything that happened on gracie's birthday.

let me first start off by saying that everything went exactly as i had hoped and prayed and wished for, only two weeks later. but we did indeed have a home delivery of a healthy and happy baby (girl?!). and we are just over the moon about all of it. [Throughout the following, Adam's commentary will be in brackets]

so on tuesday, right before my midwife appointment, i announced to everyone that i was going to give up being pregnant for lent. (tuesday was fat tuesday, by the way. rae mentioned that it was also "super tuesday" which i thought was hilarious. it was a pretty super tuesday to us!) and then spruitje and i had a long talk that day about how important it was that she didn't wait too much longer to be born -- because if she waited, we would have to go to a hospital, and i knew that neither of us wanted that. i knew that spruitje (as she was still known that day) would be so much more comfortable being born at home, where it is gentle and familiar and loving and calm, rather than in a hospital where it is sterile and bright and unfeeling. i tried to convince her through my words and visualizations that being born at home would be more loving and peaceful for the both of us, and thankfully she heard my words. because on tuesday at the midwives office my water broke during the internal examination. hooray! we went home and just waited at that point for the rest of the labor to begin.

as you read in my previous post, i had until 9:00 on wednesday morning to deliver spruitje or i would have to go to the hospital (due to the increased risk of infection since the waters had already broken earlier in the day). so i was quite impatient to get everything started as soon as possible. adam and i finally went to sleep at about 10:30 on tuesday night, with still no contractions, and i was worried that i would wake up in the morning and have to take a cab to the hospital. but at least spruitje was coming, and that's all that mattered to me at that point.

my contractions began at about 3:00 in the morning on wednesday morning and they were extremely strong, even, and fast right away. they felt like really really strong gas pains, very sharp and crippling. they were about 2 minutes apart right away, so we called the midwife who said to call again when contractions were closer to 1 minute apart. "it's your first baby," she said, "so it will still take a while." so i went downstairs and hung out, listening to music, drinking juice, and rolling around on my big blue pilates ball. my water broke again, for the 6th time that day, and the fluid was all still very clear pink and healthy looking. then my contractions got a lot stronger, and i thought i was already in the transition phase. (transition is when the mother finally dilates the final few centimeters and can begin to start pushing once she reaches 10 cm.) so i moved up to the bed because my back was so tired and sore, and leaning on the pillows would be more comfortable for me. [While Amber was downstairs in the first active part of labor her contractions actually spaced out a bit to about 5 mins apart for about 45 mins or so. I was timing her using the stopwatch function on her cellphone - I could keep track of up to eight contractions on a single screen by using the "lap" function. This was nice, because it let me have a snapshot of the last several contractions to see if there were noticeable changes in the trends - I was grateful to have something to do, so I probably took this way too seriously, but I felt like I was contributing.]

the midwife, sanne, and her midwife-in-training assistant, ilja, came over at about 6:00 a.m. to inspect me. and to my great disgust and frustration, i was only dilated to TWO centimeters! two! two wimpy, measly centimeters! and i only had three more hours to get spruitje out or she'd have to be born in a sterile and cold hospital! but i knew that "doing the math" wouldn't help me at that point -- in other words, just cuz it took me 3 hours to dilate an additional centimeter, that didn't mean that it would take me another 24 hours to dilate an additional 8 centimeters. and from that point forward, i was a woman on a mission, and was determined to have this child at home!

i promptly got out of bed and spent the rest of my labor either on the pilates ball or standing and swaying my hips. my mom left adam and me alone, which i appreciated, because i just couldn't handle any distractions anymore. (apparently she went downstairs and started cooking up a storm -- she made a cake, a couple of soups and stews for later, who knows what else!) even touching my skin was too much for me. adam just sat with me, he kept the lights dim (i almost asked him to blow out the candles in the bedroom too because they were too bright for me -- i wanted to be in a cave of sorts, i guess), and he left me alone. he was a dream. i could not have progressed as well as i did if he wasn't there to support me. he was incredible, just reading my body language and not talking, and stayed completely calm and focused on me. i would have a contraction, and i would stand up and lean on the bed, swaying my hips, and he would move the ball away from my body and uncover my shoulders (i was wearing my robe), and i would sway and breathe and just endure it. then the contraction would be over and he would push the ball back underneath me so i could sit down, and he'd cover me up again. i would tell myself internally "this contraction will never come again. i will never have to have THIS contraction again. and every contraction i have is one contraction closer to spruitje being born." then a cleansing breath, and then i'd be having another contraction all over again. they seemed like they were right on top of each other: adam said they were about a minute and a half apart and lasted about 45 seconds each time, so there was very little time in between to drink water and rest. but somehow we did it. [This was a very dark and nerve-wracking time for me, because I felt so helpless and I was watching my wife slowly become more and more possessed with pain. Toward the end of these three hours, she was crawling around out of her mind and screaming. I wished so bad that I could do more than simply move the pilates ball out from under her and then scoot it back under her at the end of the contraction. I did offer encouraging words now and then, but I could tell that she was not aware of what I was saying.]

9:00 rolled around. i heard the bells ringing loudly from the church next door -- it was ash wednesday, mass was about to begin, and my baby was about to enter this beautiful world. sanne and ilja came right on time and inspected me again: 9 centimeters! i started shouting, "HALLELUJAH!" over and over and over. this baby was coming, and she was coming now! she was going to be born at home! [When Sanne arrived I showed her the length of the last few contractions on my stopwatch - down to the tenth of a second - I remember the last cycle was 53.8 seconds. I was so proud of all the data I had collected, but she just kind of glanced at it and said o.k. She did not need the quantitative data, because her expert judgment could read Amber's body language and she could tell from that how her contractions were going.]

sanne said she was going to get her bag of supplies and that if i felt the urge to push, i could go ahead and start pushing. ilja stayed with us, and i got positioned correctly on the bed. and from that point forward i really don't know what happened, only i wish that i could have seen it all. i was THERE, but i wasn't there either. i was just present in the moment and not aware of what was going on around me.

i never really got the urge to push, which surprised me. i just thought, "well, i'm fully dilated, so i may as well start to push so i can have this baby now." so i just started bearing down when i had a contraction. honestly, it took me a while to learn how to push effectively. it's not like i've had much practice doing this before. so i pushed and pushed, and sanne would check spruitje's heartbeat, and then i'd push and push, and she'd check the heartbeat again, and on and on like that for quite some time. at some point sanne inspected me, and said that unfortunately spruitje was not moving down the birth canal quickly enough. [So at that point Amber moved to the toilet at the midwive's recommendation to see if using gravity while sitting up during pushes would help. She tried this for probably about 20 mins. I sat in a chair facing her so that she could lean on me and relax in between pushes and grab my arms and legs during pushes to try to get more leverage. I found myself pushing with her, which probably explains a bit of why I was so sweaty after the process - that and the fact that we had the temperature in the house cranked up to 23 celsius (we normally have it at about 19) plus a space heater in the room.]

[We moved back to the bed after this and Sanne checked again. There was some progress but not as much as she had wanted.] "15 more minutes of pushing and if she is not here, then we go to hospital," she said. and i was thinking to myself, "how the hell am i going to get to the hospital when i have to walk down two flights of stairs and the market is already set up on my street today?!" so from that point on i just gave it my all. my mom and adam were incredible: adam would remind me to use my lats to make my pushing stronger, and he'd support my leg when i needed to rest between contractions. my mom would whisper in my ear that i was doing a good job and the she could see a little bit of the head coming out. she'd help me sit up when i had a contraction so that i could be in the right position to push. they were both so supportive and loving, i felt completely calm and charged at the same time. someone suggested to get a mirror so i could see what was happening, and that REALLY helped me. i looked down and pointed at my butt, and asked, "is that spruitje?" "no," said someone in the room, "she's up there," and pointed to my vagina instead. now you'd think i would know what i'd be looking for, but i was just in such a different realm i just instinctively pointed to the area where i felt the most pressure. i've heard so many people say that pushing a baby feels like having a giant bowel movement, so i was pushing downward in that direction. but when they pointed so much higher on my body, i realized that my pushing was not pushing her out, only pushing her down. and from that point forward it went a lot faster. (adam told me today that someone asked me how i was doing because i had been pushing for a LONG time, and i answered, "oh this is fun! i'm doing GREAT! spruitje is coming!" and i'm SURE that i meant every word of it, too. i totally had the strength to keep going!) oh yeah, and for a while apparently the midwives would bear down with me, helping me to push spruitje out. they put one hand on the wall and the other hand on the top of my uterus and would push the baby down and out when i would have a contraction. i didn't know that they were pushing so hard until adam told me today -- it really felt to me like they just had their hands gently on me, like doing some sort of reiki or something.

[I should mention that the midwives started to check on the baby's heart beat much more frequently as the time went by. They were checking almost after every round of pushing. At one point the baby's heartbeat was very slow - must have been 50 bpms - and this was the darkest, scariest moment for me. I felt like passing out and I started to pace the room wringing my hands and breathing deeply - how were we going to get to the hospital!! The baby's heartbeat quickly shot back up and after that her heartbeat was steady as could be, so I began to relax a bit, but I was ready for the whole thing to be over. Also, the wall-push technique really was something to see! Those midwives were absolutely cranking on that baby's back in Amber's belly trying to get her out - I had no idea they had that trick up their sleeves. At this point I could start to see the baby's head, I remember the first time that Sanne called me down where she was and showed me some dark hair and said "that's your baby" - that was the first time I saw her - how amazing!]

so anyway, they got out the mirror, and once i realized which direction to push, things went a lot faster. and i saw her head coming out, and could touch her soft hair, and it was good motivation to get me to push harder because i was just so excited to see her i wanted to push as hard and as fast as i could so i could see her sooner!

they moved the mirror away so that sanne could catch her head, and before i knew it, i had this warm, squirming baby on my chest. i thought i would have to push out the shoulders and the hips and the feet, but with one more push, she was out just like that! she didn't breathe right away, and adam and i both at the same time asked why she wasn't crying. it was at that point that she started gurgling and whimpering a little bit, and soon enough she was crying. but not screaming, not wailing, just mostly announcing that she was here and that she was cold and confused. she was completely alert and aware of everything too, because i didn't have any pain meds to dope me up, and the delivery was so straightforward and gentle that she really had no need to scream or take time to wake up from it all. she was just completely present and alert and ready to go. i held her for a long while, in absolute amazement, and then adam cut the cord. i handed him the baby and delivered the placenta, which was a beautiful, thick, deep red organ. (the placenta, in dutch, translates to "mother cake." isn't that beautiful?) i needed three tiny little stitches, which i was pleased about considering what a big baby i just pushed out. everyone was totally focused on "baby girl briggle" (she didn't have a name yet since we thought certainly spruitje was going to be a leopold once he was here), which was fine and necessary, but now i needed stitches and no one was there to help me! [I was busy holding the baby at this point and watching as her blue skin slowly turned pink. She was shivering, her little chin was quivering and she would whimper a bit, but mostly she was quite calm and just looking up at me trying to focus her eyes but going cross-eyed frequently. I could not believe it was happening to me - it was a transcendent experience. There she was! I looked over and saw a needle going toward Amber and decided to just let her worry about that - I was holding our baby! and she was so curious about the world.]

at that point the kraamzorgster (maternity nurse), wilma, came over and very gently offered her hand to me, and let me squeeze it when i was scared or when i felt a pinching from the needles. it was so sweet. i loved her right away. and after that i just don't know what happened. they cleaned her up, and weighed her, and made sure i was stable and that baby was good, and then both sanne and ilja left. wilma stayed for another couple of hours i think, helping baby girl briggle and i learn how to nurse. she helped me into the shower, and while i was showering she changed the sheets for me. and then i climbed back into bed and just stayed wide awake for hours on end, totally buzzed on adrenaline and love. wilma brought me food and water and totally took care of me. what an angel!

and then the days and nights have just been a blur. i'm not sure what time of day it is, i only eat and sleep when i feel like it and not when the clock dictates. it took a while before i felt like i could walk again without my bottom splitting open from the pressure, but now today i'm obviously able to be downstairs for the first time and i've been moving around pretty well. i fainted on thursday morning after using the toilet, and gave both mom and adam several grey hairs from it, but since then i've been feeling a lot stronger and healthier, and haven't had any complaints at all. and gracie, as we finally decided to call her, is an absolute dream. she's everything i imagined her to be (only she's a GIRL!) and we're just ecstatic to have her here. the next blog post is going to be all about her, of course, but i wanted to get this one out there right away so we could do it all chronologically. [That first night was wonderous and scary at the same time - Amber was pretty much stuck in bed and it was dark and I had a squirming helpless baby in a crib. I ran around all night adjusting all the radiators in the house because I thought it was too hot for the baby and then it was too cold, etc. I was so afraid that I would not know what she needed. I have calmed down since then and am just now realizing how intense the experience as and how I had entered into a completely different mode of being, one where I did not realize anything about myself - that I had to use the bathroom or eat or sleep - I was just so focused on the baby.]

all in all, it was exactly as i had hoped for it to be. only two weeks later than i originally wished for. she is definitely worth the wait, and i'd do it all over again. it was the most transcendental, miraculous, life-altering experience i have ever had, and it's only going to get better from here on out.

okay time for dinner now and hopefully tomorrow i will have a chance to tell you all about mary grace, what she's like, who she looks like, how she acts, everything. i can't wait to tell you all! she's incredible!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's a Girl!!!

We proudly welcome to the world little Mary Grace Briggle, born February 6th, 2008, 11:40 a.m., 3.96 kilos (8.73 lbs) 53 cms (21 inches). Mommy and baby are doing just fine. Daddy is so proud of them both. More to come soon, but for now some pictures will have to do.

























Tuesday, February 05, 2008

it's time!

we went to the midwives today, for the last time. i'm now 41 and 1/2 weeks pregnant, and if i haven't delivered by friday then i have to go to the hospital to make an appointment to be induced next week. that sucks. i've been working so hard to encourage spruitje to come out -- i've tried EVERYTHING, in fact: my gramma's bean soup (it worked to induce three labors in my family), spicy foods, herbs, acupuncture, power walks, gentle yoga, pineapple, meditation, bouncing on a big blue pilates ball, dancing to rusted root... everything. and nothing seemed to be helping. this lazy moocher just won't pack up and head south. it's terribly frustrating.

so at the midwife office today we asked her what our options were and what we needed to do from this point forward. she said that before we left her office, she would give us a letter to take to the hospital on friday, giving us permission essentially to be induced there eventually. NOT what i wanted to hear, but whatever. so i'm crying, and adam is asking her all sorts of questions like where to go in the hospital, what to bring with us, who to call, etc. and my mom is there rubbing my shoulders, and the midwife assistant is taking my blood pressure (which obviously was not good with all the stress), and i'm just praying for this child to be born so i can be NOT pregnant anymore and can finally hold the baby in my arms.

the midwife offered to strip my membranes for me. (for those of you who don't know, and i'll try to keep it as g-rated as possible, this is the procedure: she inserts her fingers "down there" and goes beyond the cervix. she then attempts to create a little space between the cervix and the amniotic sac, in order to stimulate the cervix into producing some more hormones, which helps it then to soften and dilate even further.) we tried to do this last week, with no success, because i wasn't even dilated a single damn centimeter. obviously that pissed me off pretty bad, so this week i wasn't getting my hopes up. but sure, i thought, let's try it again.

so she does this procedure, which is EXTREMELY painful, and it was successful! so successful, in fact, that as she withdrew from me, my water broke! hooray!

that was at 3:00 pm today. she said i have until 9:00 a.m. wednesday morning to deliver at home, and if i haven't pushed the baby out by then, then i'm supposed to go to the hospital to get the job finished there. "no need for you to have that letter now," she said. "your baby will be born tonight or tomorrow!" yay! so we came home, i packed the hospital bag, took a nap, watched some tv, meditated, made some phone calls, etc. adam and i took a walk this evening, too, which really seemed to help. the weather is pretty nasty here tonight, lots of rain and wind, but we found a HUGE underground parking garage, so we just did a bunch of laps down there as it was quiet and dry.

every time we finished a lap, adam would hand me my water bottle and i would take a drink. and just like that, my water would break some more. all in all, it broke 4 times. my pants were soaked, my shoes and socks were soggy, and adam was just staring in amazement that this was happening... in an underground parking garage in the netherlands, of all places! weird.

so now i'm just home, waiting for my contractions to begin. it's nearly 10:00 pm and i don't want to sleep cuz i'm so excited.

so that's the news. i guess i'm technically in labor, but it sure doesn't feel like it. part of me just can't believe this is actually happening, but i'm trying really hard to be present with this...

please pray for a safe and successful home delivery of our healthy and happy baby. spruitje is on the way as i type this. i'll have adam post something as soon as he can to announce baby's arrival. it might not be right away, but it will be soon. stay tuned!

OMG!!!