Monday, May 23, 2016

On Having Two

so i have been a mother to two for three weeks now and these are my random lists of thoughts and observations...
-its harder.  there is still only one of me and i have all the same amounts of hands and feet and brains that i had before (though i possibly have less brains now, its up in the air) but there are more demands on every part of my person than there were before.  math is not my strong suit, but i can understand the basic 2 > 1 thing we have going on here.
-that being said, its no where near as hard as i thought it would be.  i think a large part of that is because of eden. she is the most darling and affectionate big sister i could ever have hoped she would be.  she loves her baby a huge amount and is constantly asking to snuggle her or hold her or coming running as soon as she hears etta mae cry.  she sings songs to her and pets her on the head.  its enough to make a mama's heart curl up and die of happiness.  in addition, she is also just a really delightful kid.  she listens and obeys and mostly trusts my words.  and when she has disobeyed, she is genuinely apologetic and desires reconciliation.  i get tears in my eyes multiple times a day because im overwhelmed by her sweetness.  having a second with her as my first makes all the difference.  
-eden is still a two year old.  and since i am not used to the necessity of her managing herself more and me being able to be present less, i am more worried that she will do something that she shouldn't.  so im really on her case, alot.  and i can see that it exasperates her and makes her discouraged.  she looks at me like 'really mom, you have something to say about THIS too?'  and i feel her.  i know i am just telling her 'no' and 'stop' and 'dont' all day.  and im praying that God will help me put the brakes on that so that i dont drive her to disobedience and frustration.   
-sleep is a beautiful thing.  not sleeping...less beautiful.  i can't complain, etta mae has never woken up more than once a night for her whole three weeks of life.  but even that amount of sleep for me; staying up till 11:30, followed by the 4 hours followed by the 3 hours, is not enough to be as energetic as one needs to be to bounce through the day with eden. homegirl b-o-u-n-c-e-s through life.  she has only one level of energy...100%.  she has one volume..max.  and the sleep im getting is not the sleep i need.  ill just say that.
-like all my friends told me before etta came, my heart has expanded in ways i did not know were possible.  and its weird because my love for them is so very different, but equally strong.  my love for eden is this special thing that ill never have with any of my other kids.  she made me a mother, and there is nothing else that can be like that.  but etta mae has made me into a totally different mother.  i mean, i am the same me but i am in a place of personal growth and maturity that i could never have approached without etta mae.  and im only just beginning to figure out who this me is.  and i owe all that to etta.  so both of them have changed me in ways only they could.  and i love them both equally but uniquely for those reasons.

photos by the incredible christine lu 
  

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Naming Etta Mae

naming a human is a seriously significant task.  and when you love the name of your eldest as much as i do, its intimidating to try and come up with another name that meets your standards and requirements and such.  i just love the name eden isimbi and its so incredibly perfect for her.  so i felt the pressure with baby girl number two coming.

we chose etta because we just liked it.  nothing too special to report there.  obviously the name came to me because of etta james.  personally i am a huge fan of american standards, and homegirl sang so many of them, i just can't imagine american music without her.  and i also thought that etta flowed so well with eden, so it stuck with me from the first moment i thought of it.  robert took a little longer to get on board, but once he did, he was all the way on board.  eden and etta.  done

uwera was an easy choice.  we want all our kids to have rwandan middle names so they can go by either (we frequently call eden isimbi, as do her rwandan friends and family). deborah, who is robert's niece and who was one of my first friends, is named uwera.  she was one of the first family members to really welcome me into the family, and she worked teaching me kinyarwanda with seemingly endless patience.  she is one of the most beautiful people ive ever known, inside and out,  so naming a daughter after her was a joy. done

the mae part came about at the last minute.  both of my mother's grandmothers had mae as a part of their double names; annie mae and minnie mae.  my mother casually suggested etta mae as a double name and i just loved it immediately.  robert felt the same way.  we did not really tell anyone about our choice, nor had we really solidified it, until shortly after she was born. i just looked at him and was like 'etta mae, right?' and he was like 'etta mae' 
etta mae uwera agaba. 

done.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

at last, etta mae has come along

this is the story of etta mae's arrival.  its long and detailed and more for myself than for anyone else, so feel free not to read or just to skim.  

my due date with sweet etta mae was april 28th.  that was a thursday.  much to my chagrin, that day came and went without so much as a contraction, and thus i became one of the many mothers who see the sunrise and sunset of their 'due date' and nothin happens.  

(dont get me started on how there is NO other category in life where 'due date' means anything other than actually due, upon penalty, on the date assigned.  women should not be assigned due dates.  they should be told the last possible safe day to stay pregnant (ie 42 weeks) and thats it)

anyway, i had been having little bouts of contractions on and off, but they came on full strength over the weekend.  i did not even go into work on friday because i just feel too pregnant and annoyed to go in public.  friday-sunday was pretty much a puking/false labor fest. saturday night i was sure she was coming, i had hours of intense contractions and felt miserable while out to dinner with my housemate and her fiance, but then...nothing

then sunday night into monday morning, the same thing, ending in nothing.  it was maddening beyond belief to start to get my head in the game and start making preparations for eden and then to have labor stall yet again.  when monday morning rolled around and i was getting ready for work, i just felt so discouraged that i was still going to work and that etta mae was still not here.  

on tuesday morning at around 2 am i woke up to a contraction.  it was not too intense but it was unmistakeable.  i tried to keep resting but continued to take note as more and more came, at closer intervals.  first 20 min, then 12, then 10, then 5.  by about 6 am i was confident that this labor was not going anywhere. it was progressing almost exactly like eden's early labor had.  so i called into work, robert did too, we called martha and told her eden would be coming, and i texted my doula taylor.  this was it, etta mae was finally coming.

except she wasn't.  by the time taylor arrived my contractions had all but stopped and i was absolutely dumfounded.  we went for a walk around the neighborhood (i in my nightdress, sweater and my rain-boots, and eden in her jammies and pushing her baby in a stoller) with taylor and robert to try and get things going again.  we had very little success. so at 9, after taking a shower with still no progress, i sent taylor home, eden to martha's house, and robert to work.  and i decided to lay down, cry, and try to sleep.

(before taking a nap i called meghann my midwife and asked her what i should do; if i should go in, be checked, have my membranes swept, take a birth cocktail... and i was so incredibly blessed by her calm and steady answers.  if i really wanted etta to come when she was ready, i had to be patient.  there were no guarentees, even with very low intervention attempts at starting labor, and my body and baby knew when to kick things into motion.  at her recommendation, i decided to sleep it off.)

at around 12:30 i woke up to someone hollering, only to realize that it was me.  i was having an intense contraction.  however, nothing else followed.  i called a friend, meghan, who had offered to bring me lunch and requested chik-fil-a and she arrived with her son just before 2.  robert also decided to come home because he did not have much work, so he picked up eden and the two of them arrived home a little after 2.  he put her down, my friend left, and i decided to pass the time watching a show on hulu.  

i was texting with taylor, my doula, about my frustration and she suggested walking up the steps two at a time and trying to really open up my hips.  she suggested that maybe baby was trying to come but something was not quite in the right place.  i was sure that nothing would come of it but i obeyed and, amazingly, after two or three trips up and down, i had several very strong, back to back contractions.  from 2:30 until 3:30 i continued to do stairs and stretches on my birth ball, and contractions continued to get more and more intense and closer together.    shortly after 4 mignon arrived to take eden back to martha's house. eden was really really sad to leave me, but seemed to have her mood lightened by watching me go through a few contractions in her room, bracing myself on her little toddler bed.  she kept giggling and telling me i was silly.  i guess to a 2.5 year old, mama bent over, growling like an animal is kinda silly?

shortly after mignon and eden left, at around 4:30, i called my midwife and told her that i thought i was in labor...again.  at this point i had such a fear of being the 'girl who cried labor'.  i was sure no one would actually believe me when i went into active labor.  i told meghann i was not sure if i should come in, and then i had a contraction while on the phone.  she cut me off before i could continue my thought process and told me that my contraction had lasted nearly 2 min, and that i was coming in.

we gathered our few things and made our way out the door.  i had a contraction as i was getting in the car, one in the car that lasted almost the whole way to the hospital (literally a 2 minute drive), one in the parking lot, one in the lobby, one in the hallway, and one as soon as i entered the l&d unit. (when i had my contraction in the lobby, someone tried to get me a wheel chair.  i smiled and told them that i had just been sitting for all of 2 minutes, and i would not be doing that again while still pregnant...)  meghann met me, got me into a room and checked me at 5 o clock.  i was 5cm dilated which was exactly what i wanted to hear. no more crying labor, etta was on her way.  the room had christmas lights hanging and smelled like eucalyptus.  

for the next 45 minutes or so i labored on the bed, on my hands and knees, while the nurse got a port in me in case of emergency, registered me, asked me my preferred name (to which i, for some reason, replied 'rock star') and the tub was prepared.  robert pushed on my hips through every contraction and was such an incredible support.  taylor told me calming things in her carolina drawl and soothed my soul.  finally just before 6 i was able to get in the tub and i felt immediate relief.  i labored in the tub from about 5:45 until 7:15, dealing with each contraction in whatever way worked best.  the tub is amazing because im so weightless and can move my hips and body in so many different ways, depending on what is working at the moment.  i was able to carry on some conversation with those in the room and time passed quickly. 

while i labored, taylor attended to me with ice, my hydration drink, and wet cloths for my head and neck.  robert messaged with my friends and family and kept them updated.  he also discovered bitmoji and continued to ask me question about how the ap worked.  i was not all that interested in introducing him to an i phone application.

meghann was tending to both me and another mother (who had come in a 9 cm and was pushing) and she came back in at 7:15 to check me.  i was a 7.5 at that time, which was really encouraging to me.  after she left, things went through the roof and i was feeling my body trying to push etta out.  i was a little worried since i knew i was not dilated enough to push, but my body was pushing, regardless of my calculated thoughts.  at 7:30 meghann came back in and told me that i was sounding really pushy.  she listened to me go through a contraction and told me to get on out, that it was time to have my baby.  

i made it back to the room and was on the bed on my hands and knees pushing only 20 minutes after i had been at a 7.5 which was just mind blowing to me.  i was really overwhelmed by the pain and the pressure of pushing but robert was so reassuring and gentle and i really gained strength from him.  i finally felt that etta's head was being born, but i could not manage to stay on my hands and knees anymore.  so everyone helped me get on my side.  i told meghann there was no way i could work in that position because it felt awful.  she said all i had to do was give one more really good push and id have etta.  so one more big push it was, and out came her head, followed quickly by her body.  

and just like that, in an instant, etta went from being in me, to on me.  (and somehow im also supposed to believe that she was magically endowed with all her unalienable rights because she changed her location slightly.  thank god she finally became a human instead of just a POTENTIAL human.  don't even get me started).  i just kept asking if she was ok, if everything was ok.  i was reassured that she was, and that it was.  she was born at 8:12 pm.  7 lbs, 10 oz and 20.5 inches long.  over a pound heavier than her sister but the exact same length.

the next moments were a blur of awe and joy and satisfaction (and placenta and two small stitches).  little etta mae had a fierce little cry, unlike her more mellow sister, and made her presence known.  nine months of labor and 5 hours and 45 minutes of active labor and i finally had my reward.   




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