Monday, February 7, 2011

Project Wombat blog is moving!

I am an only child.  So I have no idea what sibling rivalry, or sibling one-upmanship is like. But I have been told by countless siblings of others that they were CONSTANTLY looking for ANY evidence that parents liked one of them better than the other.  And I've also been told that having a blog named after Wombat when we have more kids than just Wombat is going to give Wombat the nuclear ammunition in "Who do parents love more" fight.

The name of this blog has become woefully inaccurate, as our set of projects has expanded beoynd just Wombats to now Project Wallaby and, in the future, may be even Project Whoopsie. :)  And rather than just renaming this blog, I've decided to move it to Wordpress and to its own domain.   If you're going to move, move like you mean it!

But how to rename the blog?  Project Wombabie?  Project Marsupial?  Project Pouch?!  Something referencing the 'Outback?'  After a few google searches I realized all of those names somewhat, ahem, miss my target audience.  Especially if I reference the outback. Or a pouch.  'Nuf said.  So I decided to go with The Daily Burrow.  No, this does not mean I will now be posting daily.  But the 'daily' in it implies a legitimate publication, and I'm always looking for an air of legitimacy and importance.  I know.  It's not totally accurate, but "A prank-named blog to which I post semi-randomly about whatever I please and gush about my husband and kids" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "The Daily Burrow".

So we have now come to the point of this post: please update your links to the new domain for The Daily Burrow:

If you read this blog in an aggregator, then here is your link for the feed:

This will be my last post on Blogger (sniff!).  Please come and visit me in my new burrow.  One of these days I'll even make a new cute theme for it, and then you'll know I've moved in all the way.  Thanks for reading what I write.  Please don't stop.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The storks

Paris and fashion

The inaugural issue of Matchbook Magazine has a small profile of a blogger/student who freshly moved to Paris.  Look at these pictures.  What a well-dressed girl in a city that demands nothing less.  Wouldn't you love to look like that? Sigh.

See more eye candy in Matchbook.  It's really, really good.

The Sartorialist

I'm a big fan of the blog.  This documentary is fascinating; you can watch him as he works.  He really stops and observes people; I think I would be to nervous to stare at someone like that.  He seems to view the world around him as having arrived for his photoshoot; really cool.

I think this little video also really shows how graceful New Yorkers are.  They ignore him and his camera until approached directly, they are distrustful until he shows who he is, and they are stylish, effortless, authentic and gorgeous when photographed.  They are glad to be selected to be photographed, but every single person took it as matter-of-course: no one squealed with delight, no one shyed away.  Not even the construction worker.  You want to take my picture?  But of course you do. Man I love New York.

Become a Dentist in 4 Hours!

This Tim Ferris parody on The Bygone Bureau is hilarious.

Congratulations! The fact that you’re reading this book means you’re on your way to achieving your WILDEST DREAMS. You want to be a dentist? I’m going to make it happen. And guess what? It only takes four hours. Let me repeat that: in four hours, you will be a dentist. Take a deep breath and get ready for the ride of your life. Welcome to the 4-Hour Dentist.
Listen: I was once just like you — weak, pathetic, not practicing dentistry. I was a lonely turd spiraling down the toilet of life. Now I’m the most successful dentist in the fucking cosmos. Wake up! 
Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sticky things for Valentine's Day and beoynd

Cute fruit labels courtesy of Twig and Thistle.  Print them on label paper, cut them out, attach to your husband's lunch items and relax, knowing that he is certainly being made fun of by all of his male coworkers if they notice this at all.  They probably won't, because I don't think guys read fruit labels, or even know they exist.  But still - cute.  And also - shows you care.

I love everything in Pimplemeees, but this Family Planner takes the pie.


Love these cute kids' tattoos from yet another Dutch shop.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sesame Street Reggae

Elijah watched this about 10 times, and we haven't been able to get it out of our heads since. Hey, I do love reggae. And we are introducing him to various styles of music. Right?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The mouse and the cow

Daddy was working late today.


Wombat put his mouse in the school bus with all the pencils and said "Mouse is driving to find Daddy".

I said "Oh, Mouse, Daddy is at work."

Wombat said "Mouse is going to drive to Daddy's work to find Daddy!"



Cow decided to come along for the ride. Because he and mouse are friends.


Mouse and Cow needed to drive the bus to Daddy's work, and so they needed to go outside....



.... but then they realized they didn't have jackets. So they couldn't go outside. And they were sad.



Then, they had dinner and felt better.



Thursday, January 20, 2011

The joy of snow.

Last year, Wombat stepped out into the snow, felt the slippery ice under his booties and would go no further.  This year, Wombat discovered that snow needs shoveling, and now he LOVES snow.  He would get home from school or outing each day and yell "I NEED TO CLEAN SNOW!" immediately.  All visitors to our house ended up joining in the shoveling, and for that we are very thankful. :)

He is really good.  A few days ago he helped a neighbor dig out.  No, seriously.  He really did.
He is so good, in fact, that we got him his snow boots, his snow pants and a legitimate shovel.

And he is so good that he can show Daddy how shoveling is supposed to work.

Snow Shoveling Instruction from Olya on Vimeo.

Snow is Wet! from Olya on Vimeo.

Double Shoveling It from Olya on Vimeo.

Wombat Speaks

He started saying "Of course!" instead of "Yes".  He says "I need" instead of "I want", but always adds "Please" at the end.  It sounds very managerial.

At Behinaha (on occasion of BaBa's birthday):

Scene: Benihana chef is making fried rice.  He heats up all ingredients separately, including the egg (splattered to look like a duck); Wombat watches intently and identifies the ducky.  Then, the chef scrambles everything together to make fried rice whole.

Wombat (loudly, with great indignation): He made a MESS!!
Everyone: chuckle
Wombat: (with indignation intensifying): A big, BIG MESS!
Me: It's true, he did.  Well, he made fried rice.  But you are right, fried rice is sort of a mess.
Wombat: (to chef): Clean it up!!


Scene: BaBa and Daddy are drawing pictures under Elijah's supervision.  He is bringing them paper and instructing them on what to draw.
Daddy: (showing Elijah a drawing): Is this good?
Elijah: (critically): A-hem. Hmmm. (turns around and walks away).

When asked how old he is, Elijah says "Two". When asked how old Daddy and Mommy are, Elijah says "Five".  When asked how old grandparents are, he says "Five".  Obviously, five is an ancient age to two-year-olds.  It occurs to us that his daycare has kids up to kindergarten, so 5 is the oldest age is has met.  We are, basically, pterodactyls from a prehistoric era.

When something is not going his way, Elijah says "I'm saaaaaaaad".  He then pouts and sometimes plops down into a child's pose.  If you ask "What are you sad about?", he doesn't say anything, just puffs out his lower lip and sometimes says "Mommy also be saaaaaaaad?".  When things go his way again, he perks up and says "I'm happy!"  This interchange is especially heartbreaking when something he REALLY doesn't like happens - like washing hair.  He screams bloody murder each time we wash his hair, and one time, coming out of the tub with his hair freshly washed and his eyes still full of tears, he was sniffling and trying to compose himself and mumbling "I'm happy! I'm happy!".  Oh it just makes you want to give him the world.

And here is the cutest thing of all:

Don't like it from Olya on Vimeo.

Are your hands clean?

You know, I think of myself as a germ-fearing mother.  May be even a little on the obsessive side.  I will keep Elijah home from school if one of his classmates is coughing suspiciously.  I go to the doctor to check out most colds, just in case.  I interrogate my friends and any playdate prospects on how they've been feeling lately before they come over.  Guilty as charged.  But THIS? This is too much even for me.

Behold.  The "Touchy Tags".  (No link because seriously, people, stop this madness!!)



Yes.  That is an "Are your hands clean" tag attached to a child in a stroller.  This is so that any passer-by attempting to interact with your child thinks twice before doing so, unless they come with a bottle of Purell.

Words fail me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's a Jacket, Stupid.

Scene: Bedtime.

Iggy:  Elijah, it's time to go upstairs.
Elijah: Waaaaaah!  Noooooooo!

Iggy: Well, do you want to sleep down here?
Elijah: Yes.
Iggy: Get ready for bed then.  Where are you going to sleep?
Elijah: (points to a spot on our rug)
Iggy: Where is your pillow?
Elijah: (goes and grabs a small pillow; plops it on the spot on the rug)
Iggy: What about a blanket?
Elijah: (looks all around the room to find a blanket.  There are no blankets to be seen.)

Elijah heads upstairs.

Iggy: Are you going upstairs to get a blanket?
Elijah: Yes.
Iggy: No, no, you can't; you said you want to sleep here so you have to stay here.  If you can't find a blanket, then I guess you can't sleep here and we'll sleep upstairs.
Elijah (after a very, very brief pause): Daddy go get a blanket upstairs!

Iggy and I both silently applaud the kid for running circles around us and figuring out the logical puzzle we are trying to trap him in.  Iggy refuses to go get a blanket for Elijah. Frustrated and upset, Elijah collapses on his chosen spot on the rug.

Iggy (soothingly, grabbing a sweatshirt from a chair and draping it over Elijah): Here, Elijah; here is a blanket.
Elijah (takes a look at what has been draped over him): No! NO NO NO! (Throws sweatshirt off himself, gets up to his full height, holds the jacket like a piece of evidence at a crime scene and says, loudly, with a look of frustration, disbelief and a condescending voice).  THIS! IS! A! JACKET!!!!
Iggy: Let's play pretend that it is a blanket?

Iggy and I try not to crack up.  Iggy points at the sleeping bag in the corner.

Iggy: Ok, well, what about this? Is this a blanket?
Elijah: NO!
Iggy: Then what is it?
Elijah: (discovers he has no words to describe a sleeping bag.  But he is sure as anything that the word is not 'blanket'.  Getting more and more frustrated by the minute):  Aaargh... Ummm... YOU SLEEP ON IT!!!

Iggy and I redouble our efforts not to crack up.  Wombat is clearly really frustrated and cannot believe that we can't even tell the difference between jackets, sleeping bags and blankets.  Trying to diffuse him, I give him an actual blanket I just spotted on the couch.

Me: Here, Elijah, a blanket.
Elijah: (takes it with a sigh and goes to lie down with it over him.  Halfway to his chosen spot on the rug, changes his mind and runs back to Iggy): Look, Daddy!  Look! This! This is a blanket!! This.  This is.

Elijah shakes the blanket in front of Iggy demonstratively, until he is satisfied that Daddy had adequate time to memorize what blankets are.  And what they are not.

If he knew that nursing homes exist, I am sure he would be dialing the numbers to get Iggy and I into a facility for the mentally weak right now.  Thanks goodness we don't let him watch TV.

This word, "sacrifice"; I don't think it means what you think it means

What sacrifice means:
Doing something to your own detriment, only to benefit someone else.

What sacrifice does not mean:
A) Bullying someone else to achieve a goal you forced on them and then using their achievement as a feather in your cap.
B) Entrapment.

Last week, Ms. Amy Chua, a largely unknown professor at Yale thrust herself into the flames of the blogosphere by writing this article for the Wall Street Journal. She did it, of course, for money, as she has just written a book and what better way is there to drive sales than 15 minutes of fame? Her article espouses the virtues of hard-line parenting approach, illustrated by her own method of raising her daughters. Highlights include telling her daughters that they are garbage, forcing them to play piano/violin and never letting them have a sleepover, among other arbitrarily despotic things.  (Since the publication of the article, she has come out claiming that WSJ has completely misrepresented her book in the article.  The article, for which she is listed as the author.  A-ha. Sure.).

Many people gave strong opinions on the merits of this method, most notably Asian kids who have been raised so. Kristen has a great, articulate review, and Genghis Mom offers a brutal rebuttal. I do not want to add to their outrage, but I thought it would be interesting to compare the 'western' and 'eastern' approaches to parenting in the light of the recent literature (NurtureShock
, here we go).  Is there any merit to the Chinese approach?  And is it true that by torturing her children in this way, Ms. Chua is being a conscientious parent, sacrificing for her children, as she claims?

Ms. Chua's premise is right: many studies have shown that eastern and western cultures have fundamentally different approaches to intelligence.  Easterners tend to see it as a skill.  Westerners see it as talent.  Easterners believe it can be developed to any extent just through deliberate practice; you can't be "not good" at something - you must just be too lazy to practice.  Westerners, on another hand, see practice as having limited utility: if you don't have the innate talent, practicing is pointless as you'll never improve.

The truth is somewhere in between.  It turns out believing that intelligence is malleable has very powerful implications for your success - on this account, Ms. Chua is right as well.  It has been demonstrated that when students are praised for "trying hard" and "practicing" instead of "being smart", they work harder, stay with the problems longer and do better.  They believe that the amount of effort they invest makes a difference in how well they do, so they expand more effort.  This approach also has a secondary, interesting side effect: it separates how well you do from what you are.  If you believe you do well because you are smart, then failure is evidence of your being otherwise - and you end up being terrified to fail.  Such students will shy away from trying new solutions, from taking on difficult coursework, just because they are afraid to fail - a smart person wouldn't get a bad score on a test, so if you do you must not be smart.  On another hand, students who believe that their good performance is the result of their effort, not their innate talent, handle failure much better - they decide they must not have worked hard enough, and can walk away with their self-image intact.

So on the surface what Ms. Chua proposes is a good idea.  Praise kids for effort, tell them to work harder and they will be more likely to succeed.  Unfortunately, through the Chinese cultural prism, this approach becomes morphed into something counter-productive.  In Chinese culture  being lazy seems as bad a personal vice as being stupid.  And if you are not good at something, you must not have worked hard enough, and therefore must be lazy, and therefore, worthless.  Rather than allowing you to disassociate our performance from your self-worth, the Chinese Mom sends you back into the destructive spiral of "If I can't get this, then I'm a worthless human being", same as the western kids experience from feeling not smart.  To make things worse, the stance that ALL performance is due to your effort drives the child's risk of failure higher.

In any field, sooner or later you bump up against what your physical ability allows you to do.  In playing the piano, a player whose hand is large enough to reach over 1 octave will always out-play you, given the same amount of practice.  In ballet, a person with the right body type will always dance better than you, given the same amount of practice.  Even in intellectual fields, there will always be people who will figure out problems faster, understand concepts easier and learn new information more efficiently than you.  They are simply better built do to this.  You can expand exactly the same effort as those people, and possibly even more, and still never reach their level - simply because you are not as good of a computer.

Usually such effects show up when you get to the very top of a field, and pretending they do not exist makes for very bitter disappointment.  I was pretty good at dance when I was younger, but I had the presence of mind to realize that my body type was probably not going to be most suited for ballet.  And, given how I turned out, I would not be able to dance ballet even if I had the best technique in the entire world.  My body was going to look like it does no matter how many hours I spent in the dance studio, and I simply am not built for it. Prentending that this does not matter would have left me unemployed and exhausted after many years of training.  Prentending that how well you can think does not matter leaves many Asian kids unemployed and exhausted after many years of school.  In the words of Po Bronson, "Kids are being mislead into believing they're capable of futures they're actually unprepared for."

The truth is, anyone can get high grades in high school with effort.  Seriously, high school is easy. But when you use those high school grades to get yourself into a top-notch university, and a major in engineering, the game has changed.  If you have been getting those high grades by spending countless hours on each subject, then guess what?  You are going to run out of time.  There are simply not enough hours in the week now for you to be able to learn by sitting and reading until you finally get it.  Your classmates, being better computers, will understand this concept in lecture, without needing countless hours of studying just to grasp the concept.  What your Mom told you is not true: practice is not all there is.  Practice is necessary to become good at something, but on the path to becoming good in a subject, some people start farther ahead than others.

For this reason, it is counterproductive to pursue something you are not naturally good at: you are starting with a handicap, and the higher you make it in a field, the more pronounced and limiting this handicap is going to become.  The Chinese Mom method is terrible not just because it tyranically forces the child to work, but because it pays no attention to the field where the child is most likely to succeed.  Ms. Chua sets arbitrary, capricious goals for her daughters, and with a lot of expanded effort, her daughters achieve them.  One has to wonder what her daughters are actually good at and interested in, and how many opportunities have they missed to develop those unique talents while they were pursuing more feathers in Ms. Chua's cap.

But are Ms Chua's actions at least in good faith?  Is there really a sacrifice of sorts; is she doing this for herself and not for them?  Pushing your child as hard as possible is often called 'sacrifice' by parents.  No parents wants to be the mean guy, and you sometimes need to be to get the kid to achieve their potential.  But this is only true if you are pushing the kid on a path he himself has chosen, or at least shown promise in.  Shoving the child toward your own goals so that you can look good in your community is hardly sacrifice.

We also often hear 'sacrifice' used to get the child to pursue your goals in the first place.  To get a kid to comply, I have seen parents use ridiculous arguments, like how many floors they had to climb back in Soviet Russia to get their groceries back for the kids; how cold the weather was; how many jobs they held; how many hours they worked.  To the children of such parents, please understand: all of what your folks say is total bullshit.  It's not that they didn't work hard; I'm sure they did.  But they sure as heck did not do it for you or because of you.  If you weren't there, would your mother have had to climb fewer floors to get groceries?  Or would she have been unemployed?! Would the weather have been different? Hardly.  You did not ask to be born  - you parents chose to have you.  The decisions they made are theirs, and theirs alone, and to blame their past challenges on you in order to get you to comply is not sacrifice.  It's a guilt trip of the highest order.  It's called entrapment.  It's very common, and a very low thing to do to your kids.

I do have Ms. Chua to thank for being able to articulate what I have long felt - that I have the privilege of being raised by not just good but extraordinary parents. My parents are extraordinary, downright strange, because my parents have never asked me to be something I was not.

I did not realize how much of a rarity that was until now.  All of my friends have been chided for not being what their parent wishes them to be. They were prohibited from going to the college of their choice, harassed for their pick of spouse, criticized for work status, ostracized for being gay, made fun of for the way they think.

Their parents do not see them as individuals. They see them as extensions of themselves.

My parents have never, not once, made such requests or judgements of me. They have always made me feel loved and supported as the person I am, and while they pushed hard to make sure I achieve high goals, they were goals on a path chosen by me.

My parents supported me throughout my childhood; they honestly shared what they saw as my strengths and weaknesses and tried to help me make the best of myself.  They encouraged me to think of what I wanted to become, which resulted in discovering that we had no connections to pull and no people to bribe to help me get into the right major in the right university (no matter how great you are academically, and I was pretty great, in Russia you must have connections to get anywhere). The realization that I was not going to be able to achieve what I said I wanted in Russia was a huge factor in their decision to come to the US. They left behind a very comfortable life, a guaranteed retirement, friends, success and everything they knew to give me a better shot in my life. (That, Ms.Chua, is a good example of sacrifice.)

I hope to be the parent that my Mom and Dad are to me. So to my boys, I solemnly swear that your father and I will never ask you to be something you are simply not. We will be hard on you. We will expect you to excel. We will demand hard work. We will not let you quit. We will be honest with you. But we will do all that to help you make the most of what you already are, not to mold you into something different. You are perfect the way you came. Work hard as you are, and you will find that is enough to succeed.

And, to Ms.Chua, remember: if you can't understand this post, you are not working hard enough. I would be happy to come over to your house and yell at you till 5am until you finally get it. We can even start now: you are garbage. And a failure. You are welcome.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It's a boy!

One morning I plopped Wallaby on our living room rug while having my morning coffee. Elijah just went to daycare, and all his toys were still out on the rug.

Wallaby flailed around like babies do, staring at different things randomly and moving jerkily from thing to thing. And then he saw... Elijah's Bruder trucks.

And his stare became decidedly not baby-like. It became laser-focused. His motions stopped being random, and he threw both his arms toward the truck. He almost rolled himself over. He then started to reach like mad for the truck with one arm. And then he made a noise that clearly spelled primitive carnal desire.

I came over and moved the truck so it touched his hand. He quieted down and was very content to be touching the truck for the next 15 minutes.

He is 1 month old and he can barely focus his eyes, but he knows he NEEDS a truck. Looks like another boy's boy; Elijah, lock up your toys! Everyone else, lock up your daughters! :P

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Me talk pretty

Elijah understands two languages, but speaks mostly one. He speaks Rushlish.

He can speak Russian a little, but only with English grammar. He has Russian word vocabulary and pronunciation down very well, and there are some words he mostly says in Russian. He knows their English equivalents, but uses the Russian ones, which causes some confusion with other English speakers. He will just insert these into an English sentence:

Slon (Elephant)
Oleni (Deer)
Zevayu (Yawning)
Oblaka (Clouds)
Shina (Car Tire)
Letit (Flying)
Dyadya (Uncle, or just a random grown man; sounds frustratingly close to Daddy to an English ear)
Zoopark (Zoo)
Mashina (Car, Machine, any sort of robotic thingy)

There are many more, I just can't think of them right now. It gets even more fun when he starts to try to decline/conjugate these in the English manner (Olenis, Zevayued, etc). I really need to make a conserted effort to teach him two real languages, rather than one jumbled Rushlish.

The experts in this say you are supposed to assign languages to people - so there should be one person who only speaks to the child in Russian. The problem is, none of us speak pure Russian or pure English. We also mix the words, mostly use English grammar or, in Russian, conjugate English words acccording to Russian grammar, and any of us, if forced to use one language only in its pure form would have a hard time.

So how in the world are we going to teach the kid to speak properly, in two distinct languages? Has anyone else done this?! Help!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What a boy wants

Mustela erminea

A good friend left us a voicemail a couple of days ago. "Congrats on the new kid" it said. "I remember that you were also going to name this one after an animal starting with a W, but I can't remember which one. Was it Walrus? Weasel? Call me back."

(As an aside, I think it is totally cool that all our close friends use our kids' silly nicknames than their actual names. We received a blanket embroidered with "wallaby" and it is my favorite baby gift of all time. There is something irresistable about combining Pottery Barn posh keepsakey things and goofiness)

Now I am kind of enamored with the idea of Weasel. He does sort of look like a weasel. (What? Weasels are cute. See pic above. ) And "Wombat and Weasel" sure has a ring to it.

So from time to time I call Nathan "weasel" and I giggle each time I do it and it's sort of growing on me. I'm thinking it might become his informal nickname. With Wallaby remaining as his formal nickname obviously.

Oh don't give me that look. Just wait until he starts teething - I might change his informal nickname to Walrus then. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

For my husband

“He didn’t come out of my belly, but my God, I’ve made his bones, because I’ve attended to every meal, and how he sleeps, and the fact that he swims like a fish because I took him to the ocean. I’m so proud of all those things. He is my biggest pride.”

- John Lennon

(via Rules for my Unborn Son)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Nobody sleeps alone

Wallaby sleeping

When we brought him home from the hospital, Wallaby slept really well. He would lay in the bassinet and nap for hours at a time. We could not believe our eyes. (Elijah did not sleep in the bassinet or any other stationary object longer than 15 minutes.) But, alas, by week 3 Wallaby has figured out that we are total suckers and started to treat us accordingly.

He will now only sleep when held, and screams as soon as you try to put him in a bassinet. And he wants to sleep ALL DAY. While held. I think his ideal schedule looks like this:

7:30am - 7:35am: Mom gets up.
7:35am - 7:30pm: Mom sits on couch and feeds me while I sleep.
7:30pm - 7:35pm: Mom gets up and swaddles me.
7:35pm - 7:35am: Mom sits on couch and feeds me while I sleep.

So Mom is getting nothing done during the day. Not even a nap, because I try to set him down when he falls asleep, then I fail, then I have to feed him again just to appease him. This is totally a Wombastic technique. Did they talk or something? Where did our good napper go?! Well at least he still sleeps ok at night: feeds around midnight, then around 3 and then sleeps to 7 or so, in the bassinet and all. Let's hope he keeps that up.

But, oh, every time I get up and shift him and sneak away, I feel SO guilty. It's so hard to let go of a sleeping baby!
Pillow nap

Wallaby Birth Story

He was born on December 10, at 7:28am.  Made it in the nick of time.

I showed up at the hospital the day before, about an hour late for my induction, properly stressed about the whole thing.  Inductions are dangerous.  They increase the risk of ending up with a C-section.  They can be rushed and cause distress in the baby.  And they really suck in terms of pain.  Wombat was induced, and being hooked up to pitocin machine felt like someone knocked the wind out of you and then kept punching you repeatedly.  I was hoping to avoid induction with Wallaby, but there we were, week 42 rapidly closing and no sign of labor, and therefore, no choice.  With Wombat, I was at my wits end for how to delay induction another couple of days, and was very upset to have to go to the hospital and be messed with.  This time I didn't stress out as much as the first time: I kind of came to terms with it, and also I was just busy.  I ran out of the house an hour late after setting everything up for my parents to stay with Wombat and finishing up last-minute work items.  My Mom laughed and said that I was talking about giving birth the way you'd talk about going to a store "OK, I'll just run out and deliver the baby real quick, and then I'll be back and we can think of what to buy to cook next week...."

So I got to the hospital an hour late, got checked in, and after a while a midwife came by and offered some words of encouragement.  I didn't get my hopes up much, thinking that I've played this game before.  With Wombat, the induction started off on Cervidil, which did get contractions started.  Unfortunately, the contractions were not coming fast enough - they just started early labor, and they were getting more intense but not very quickly.  The midwife with me at the time suggested to try walking around to get them to pick up.  Determined to avoid pitocin at all costs, I made a big lap in and around the hospital, running all over the place, and got myself really tired just to get back and find out that contractions still have not become productive.  Midwife insisted on pitocin.  Pitocin was very ouchy.  I was already exhausted.  (No one tells you that to make it through pain you have to be well rested.  It takes a lot of energy and mental focus to deal with pain, it turns out.  If you are tired, your focus will be the first to go, and as soon as it leaves, you are done for).  After a few hours of feeling like drowning under pain, midwife said things still were not moving as fast as she'd like and told me we needed to break my water.  I asked for an epidural at that point.  Wombat was born soon after that.

So this time around, I was determined to not get myself tired out because, I told myself, let's face it - chances were pitocin was coming.  I was going to go through the whole Cervidil thing, have it (probably) start mild contractions again, then buck up and try to ride out the pitocin as long as I could.  It was important to go into it rested.  Midwife said "Sometimes with the second child, Cervidil does wonderful things, you never know".  That would be nice.

I got checked in, went to the birthing room, and on the first check, the midwife declared that I was at 4 centimeters.  This meant that I must have been having some contractions of my own and not feeling them!  This also meant that Cervidil had no point.  4 cm is as far as it will get you, and if you are already there, it will do nothing.  We decided to wait until morning; if nothing would happen, we'd start Pitocin then.  The monitor showed contractions.  I stared at it in disbelief.  The midwife suggested to strip the membranes to try to hurry things up.  We did.  I really still didn't think this was labor.

And then contractions came! They were very mild at first.  I walked around a little to try to get them to intensify, or at least to stay; I was really careful to not get tired out.  But they stayed! They became regular!  They came every 6 minutes and lasted 1-2 minutes each!  "Look at you!" said the nurse. By 11pm, I decided that I should go to sleep - I needed to be rested to handle labor, natural or pitocined.  So I fell asleep.

Contractions woke me up at 3am.  I've never been so happy to have something hurt in my life. I walked around my room to try and make them stay, or get more intense faster.  I was afraid that just like the last time, the contractions will be pronounced "not good enough".  By 5am they definitely became good enough for me; they took all of my concentration to get through. At 5am, I asked the nurse to call my midwife.  The contractions would come fast and really hard, and I was starting to feel the urge to push.  The nurse checked me and said we were at 6cm.  I remember saying that with contractions coming this fast, I really hope the midwife is not driving from Olney.

The contracitons on pitocin are very different from contractions you get on your own.  I know there are medical professionals who say that pain in natural labor and pain during induction are comparable.  I would like to punch those professionals in the face.  I don't know how to explain it, but contractions you get on your own do not cause you to go into panic.  They really hurt, but they somehow feel right at the same time.  It's possible to relax into them if you focus.  It's a lot of pain, but it doesn't cause you to tense up or get stressed out by it.  On Pitocin, relaxation was impossible and I felt panicked.  (This made me wonder if somehow natural oxytocin can cross the blood-brain barrier and shut off your fight-or-flight reaction, and synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) can not?) I would moan and grunt my way through contractions with Wallaby, and in my mind be perfectly calm.  I could hear myself make noise and sometimes it sounded like a song I'd sing to Elijah at bedtime; like a sad slow lullaby for the baby. 
 It did get bad enough a couple of times that I thought of getting an epidural.  What stopped me was remembering how, with Elijah, epidural made me loose all feeling of the baby moving (duh, I know).  It really freaked me out at the time; after 9 months of having the kid tumble around, suddenly you feel nothing.  All you have is the baby heart monitor, and you can no longer help the baby get through contractions by moving to be more comfortable yourself.  I hated that feeling.  So this time, when I thought of getting the epidural, I told myself "You won't feel the baby anymore if you do.  You won't be able to walk around with him if you do. "  So I didn't.  If the contractions took longer though, I probably would have caved.  

I don't know how much time passed between calling the midwife and the midwife arriving, but when the midwife got there she said we were at 9cm and it was pretty much time to push.  When she said that, I said "Really?"  She said "We are going to have this baby".  They started warming the bassinet, unwrapping the blanket, getting the lights, the whole thing, and in my head I just kept thinking  "Really? No, really?"

Really.  I'm not sure how long I had to push, but it didn't feel like very long.  It's weird: when it's time to push, if you try to hold it, the pain is really bad.  But if you do actually push, then it doesn't hurt!!  Crazy, but true.  It was a bit of pushing, and changing positions, and the baby was almost out (according to eyewitnesses at my rear end), but not out.  The midwife and nurse suddenly looked worried and, with no explanation and in very strict voices commanded to me that the baby has to come out.  Now. Then they shoved an oxygen mask on my face.  This breathed a lot of new energy into me in addition to oxygen, and I seriously started to push, contractions or no contractions.  And he came out.  And made a lot of noise immediately.  Poor kid. It turned out that he was facing the wrong way: toward my back, not toward my front.  I didn't have back labor, but apparently him facing the wrong way makes it hard, and sometimes impossible, to push him out.  The narrowest side of the head is the forehead, and when the baby faces your back, you have to get a wider side of the head out first.  Sometimes that's not possible, and when that's the case, they have to C-section the kid out.  They can't wait very long, because the umbilical cord is compressed in the birth canal, and the baby will become oxygen-deprived if he doesn't emerge quickly.  That was why my midwife and nurse had the very worried looks on their faces.  Thank lord Wallaby was able to come out.

After that bit of a trip down the birth canal, Wallaby was letting everyone have a piece of his mind, and I wanted to feed him.  They put him on my chest for a little bit, but then the midwife declared that she needed to do the stitches.  I couldn't feed the little one because I was twitching as she was doing it, so he ended up having to shriek for food for what felt like an eternity while she was doing her needlework.  As soon as she was done and Wallaby could eat, he fell asleep and slept the sleep of the just.  And I was so, so happy.  Happy that my baby was ok.  Happy that I delivered a kid all on my own, with no drugs messing with my baby and me.  Happy that he made it in the nick of time.  And really thankful to some higher power that made this happen.

Once he was fed, and washed, and swaddled, we moved to our Mother-Baby room.  It had  a window, and behind the window was the first snowfall of the year.   Beautiful, soft, gigantic snowflakes were rushing to the ground in the morning twilight, and Ingy and I stared at it for a while like it were a present.  "See", we said to Wallaby, "first snow of the season, just for you on your birthday".  He slept through it. :)

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