Friday, November 30, 2007

Figuring out breastfeeding

Well, I've made it to the two-week mark. My lactation consultant said that if I could manage to breastfeed for two weeks, I'd be able to nurse for the long haul.

It was one of the things I was looking forward to most about motherhood. I couldn't wait to get started. Fortunately, Allison didn't have any problems and immediately latched on with ease.

I know I should be thankful simply for that. During my research on the topic, I had read lots of stories about women who tried unsuccessfully for weeks to get their babies to feed. Others had to restrict their diets to practically nothing because their babies were reacting negatively to the food they ate.

I haven't had any of those problems.

My only reality check was discovering how painful it was. Until my nipples toughened up, they felt like they were constantly on fire. Taking a shower was agony because the water felt like sandpaper. I developed a few bloody sores and even just brushing against the inside of my shirt made my entire body cringe. When she fed, the first minute hurt so badly that I couldn't help but cry.

Fortunately, that's no longer the case. They're still very sensitive and tender, but it doesn't feel like my nipples are being shredded in a food processor anymore.

Another frustrating part is finding clothes that are conducive to the task. My button-down tops would be perfect if they weren't all dressy. Well, if they even fit me anymore. I can't fasten any of them at the waist or chest and probably won't be able to for a long time.

That leaves me with a few baggy T-shirts that have definitely seen better days and the long-sleeve tops I confiscated from Jerry's dresser. I can't wear anything other than stain-resistant cotton because my boobs have started leaking so much while I sleep that I wake up completely soaked. And that's only going three or four hours in between feedings.

Plus, it's exhausting knowing you are the sole source of nourishment for another human being. I feel like my shirt is up more than it is down these days.

I finally left the house for the first time yesterday to make a quick trip to the grocery store and it was great to feel like a part of society again -- even for just a moment. But I worried the entire time that Allison would wake up hungry and Jerry wouldn't be able to help. The guilt followed me around each aisle and didn't ease until I rushed into the house breathless asking, "Is she alright?"

It was the reality check I needed to figure out how to work the damn breast pump that I bought months ago. Besides, maybe it'll help with the leaking problem.

Although it's challenging at times, I'm sure the alternative has its own set of hurtles to overcome. When Allison's crying, I don't have to worry about measuring, mixing and microwaving. My boobs are always ready no matter where we are.

All that said, I feel tremendously accomplished to have made it past the tough part. And nothing beats the feeling of breastfeeding in the early morning hours. Even though I'm exhausted, it's just the two of us snuggled under a blanket and surrounded by pillows in the darkness.

And there's no place in the world I'd rather be.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Newspaper column

Sometimes life can change in an instant.

Especially when you have an infant.

My husband, Jerry, and I joined the first-time parents club Nov. 15. Our daughter -- who after nine months of intense debate ended up being named Allison Grace in the delivery room -- is a whirlwind of flailing appendages, vocal chords and a full head of hair.

She was born five excruciatingly long days after her due date, so we were more than ready for her arrival.

Or so we thought.

Now I know that even if humans had a two-year gestation like elephants, we wouldn't have been ready.

The hospital staff did their best at easing us into the weighty responsibility of caring for someone who is fully dependent upon us for her survival, but unfortunately, we don't have a little red button with a nurse symbol on it attached to our bed at home.

Every little task is an adventure. It took us more than an hour to figure out how to get Allison into her car seat for the first time, and even that required a quick tap on the red button to make sure we didn't completely screw it up. A nurse gladly confirmed our handiwork, but our daughter begged to differ. She announced her displeasure to everyone within a 10-mile radius.

The first night brought another wake up call -- literally. I'm not exaggerating when I say we were jolted awake almost every hour until sunrise. If getting a baby to fall asleep was a competitive sport, we would've been benched.

Diaper changing brought a whole new set of challenges because neither one of us had dealt with the apparatus in more than a decade. Fortunately or unfortunately (I'm not sure which), it didn't take too long to figure it out because she gave us plenty of aromatic reasons to practice. But the first few mistakes lead to an entire load of dirty laundry and an exchange of very shocked expressions.

Perhaps the most difficult change is our inability to go anywhere without intense planning and preparation. It seemed to take us days to get out the door for Allison's first doctor appointment. Granted, we packed the diaper bag with enough gear to survive a 10-day trek in the wilderness, but we figured it was better to have too much than not enough.

When a nurse popped her head into the waiting room and called our daughter's name, it seemed surreal. There's suddenly a whole new person in our lives. After we realized she was referring to us, we began the lengthy process of gathering Alli and all of her gear.

"Sorry, it takes us forever just to walk a few feet these days," I said.

The nurse laughed and offered some words of comfort: "You'll get the hang of it."

It's a slow process, but we're learning. Probably because Allison is a good teacher and lets us know when we're doing something right. We've already discovered it's not completely ridiculous to carry around 10,000 baby wipes at all times because they take care of all types of mini catastrophes. And we never underestimate the power of switching from one set of arms to another.

But the biggest change of all can't be found in any parenting book. Forget charting feeding times, counting soiled diapers and trying to focus through the sleep deprivation. More importantly, a newborn brings so much love to a household. Everyone told me my heart would instantly swell with affection the moment I laid eyes on her, but it's so much more than that.

We've had an influx of visitors since Allison came into our lives and our walls have never felt more like home.

Sometimes change can be a very good thing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How quickly he forgets

Jerry to Allison as he's walking upstairs to change her diaper: "What's it like to pee in your pants? Huh? Just to let it all go like that?"

Me: "Don't let him fool you, Allison. He knows EXACTLY what it feels like. I've heard stories about his college years."
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Well, apparently I was wrong in assuming that the negative commenter would get tired of writing uninspired insults about my family, so I've decided to take away their platform. I will be approving comments from now on.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A few of the many

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Looking horrid, but feeling wonderful after the epidural.

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A few minutes old under the warmer.

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Very excited grandparents.

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A nurse giving Allison her first bath.

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All bundled up in the nursery.

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The next morning in the hospital before visitors arrived.


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Discovering her sleeve.

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So warm and snuggly.


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Jerry's sister, Amy, came to visit with all of Allison's big cousins.

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My family drove from New York the next morning. It was a huge treat.
(My parents, me, my grandma, my cousin Vanessa, Glirr, cousin Dietrich.)

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Great grandma with mohawk baby.

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Super pissed off at our lack of skill with the car seat.


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Toby is mostly curious. He just sort of sniffs Alli's face and tilts his head
at her squeaks. He also needs, needs, NEEDS more attention than usual.
When both are on me (as seen here with my mom), I feel like a jungle gym.


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This bassinet has been in our family for at least five generations.

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Timberly was in town for Thanksgiving.

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And brought Alli a super soft bunny.

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I absolutely love this photo of my mom changing her diaper. Hilarious.

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Toby might not know what to make of our new addition,
but he absolutely loves the Boppy pillow.


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So does Jerry.


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Yeah, she's pretty awesome.

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I think we'll keep her.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lots to sort through

I'm working on a photo post of Allison's birth, and as you can imagine, there are hundreds of images to sort through -- most of which I'm seeing for the first time.

I'm hoping to have it up soon.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Labor story

Most of Nov. 15 is stored in my memory as a blur. I was awake for almost the entire day, my body working harder than it ever had before. Nerves were high, emotions were higher, but the promise of holding my little girl got me through.

I guess Allison's birth story begins the day before. Jerry and I attended our week 41 appointment and were happy to learn that the equipment I had been hooked up to for a fetal non-stress test was measuring contractions.

Granted, I wasn't really feeling them, but it was a start.

They progressed throughout the day, even stopping me short a few times when we went out to lunch and ran a few errands afterward. By that evening, we started timing them -- about three minutes apart, 45 seconds long. I shrugged and decided to go to bed.

When I woke up about two hours later from the uncomfort of being nine months pregnant, the contractions continued. I timed them as I killed time by writing. They were increasing in strength and frequency. When they were a minute long and three minutes apart, I couldn't take it anymore. I woke Jerry about 1 a.m.

"Are you ready to be a father today?" I asked him.

His eyes opened wide and he just grinned and nodded. Then he shot into action, calling the doctor to say we were on our way to the hospital.

The ride was quiet and uneventful in the dark. I hadn't eaten anything since 2 p.m. the day before, so I asked Jerry to stop and get me a plain bagel from a local convenience store. Wanting to peruse the juice selection myself, I opted to go in and muster through contractions near the coolers before settling on cranberry.

Without any traffic, the ride went quickly. We pulled up to the emergency entrance and I told Jerry to park because I could walk. I had already learned to wait for a contraction to end, then make my next move.

We checked in and were wheeled up to a labor and delivery room. A woman named Kim introduced herself and said she would be our nurse for the evening. I somehow managed to get into a gown and find my way to the bed where Kim measured me at three to four centimeters dilated. I could've jumped for joy. We were having a baby.

Jerry had already called both of our parents and they were on the way. The nurse instructed me to walk around the hallways for an hour before she would check me again for progress.

It wasn't easy. I was tired and hungry, but running on adrenaline. Jerry's mother arrived as we took laps around the nurses' station and fell into pace behind us. When a contraction hit, I gripped a wooden rail along the wall, put my forehead against the cool wallpaper and breathed through it as Jerry rubbed my back.

Surely the labor was progressing, I thought.

An hour later proved otherwise. Kim said there hadn't been any change. Discouraged, but determined, I somehow managed to walk another hour. My fingers were swollen, my eyes heavy, but I shuffled along at a snail's pace, hoping and praying that gravity would help.

It didn't. Kim explained that she had messed up my first exam. I wasn't dilated to a three or four. In fact, I was still only one or two centimeters. She apologized profusely, but it didn't matter. I wanted to shove my swollen hands in her mouth just to shut her up so I could cry.

She called the doctor who said to send me home. I felt so foolish. I didn't want to be the idiot first-timer who came to the hospital prematurely. My parents were on their way from New York. They were going to be so disappointed. I wanted to crawl under the scratchy hospital sheets and just sleep it off.

But we had to leave. I just kept saying how sorry I was as I squinted through the pain of another contraction. The nurse had said they could continue for up to a week like that. The mere thought of consistent pain with no progression made me question my ability to handle it. Maybe I wasn't strong enough. I certainly didn't feel up to it at that point.

With Jerry's help, I forced my legs to carry me out. As Jerry filled in his mother who had been in the waiting room, I called my parents to tell them to turn around.

"We're here," my mom said.

And before I could answer, the elevator door opened and they were standing in front of me.

I kept my eyes on the ground and hung my head. I couldn't look at either of them because I knew what little strength I had left would drain out of my toes.

My mom hugged me and told me it would be alright. A nurse encouraged me to get into a wheelchair and helped us navigate our way through the empty hallways. The sun was starting to come up.

The drive home was long and frustrating. I got mad. My contractions continued to get more painful even while I was resting -- a sure sign of labor.

"This is bullshit," I said.

Jerry agreed.

As soon as we got home, I crawled into bed and curled into the fetal position as each contraction hit. I have no idea how I managed to sleep, but I got at least an hour or two of rest.

By 9 a.m., I couldn't take the pain anymore. I remembered our childbirth class instructor saying that a hot shower often helps, so I hobbled to the bathroom as everyone else slept off the long night.

The water turned my skin red, but I found little relief. I put my head against the smooth tiles when a wave of pain came and practiced my breathing. Then I crawled back into bed and moaned when the mood struck.

Eventually, I woke Jerry.

"I don't know what to do," I said. "My contractions are steady and strong, but I honestly can't bear to be sent home again. It would crush me."

So I decided to wait it out. My mom brought me watery oatmeal that I declined, then a piece of toast that I also declined. I couldn't eat. The thought of it nauseated me.

"I think you should call the doctor," my mom said. "Just to get some advice."

So I did. I was forwarded to a midwife and explained my situation.

"Here's what I tell my patients," she said. "If you're doubled over in pain, you need to get to the hospital."

It gave me pause. I wasn't exactly doubling over, but it wasn't any picnic either. I thanked her and decided to wait it out a little longer.

Eventually, it became clear that I needed to get to the hospital again.

Jerry loaded up the car with all of our bags for the second time and pulled around to the front door. My mom helped me into the passenger seat then sat behind me to rub my shoulders through the contractions. My dad followed in their car.

I spent most of the ride with my eyes squinted closed, digging my nails into the palms of my hands and breathing, breathing, breathing.

By the time we got to the hospital, I could barely speak or move. As a nurse wheeled me to the elevator -- the same one I had left on just a few hours earlier -- I couldn't stop tears from streaming down my face. I was sore, scared, excited and anxious.

"It's so interesting to watch people's faces as we pass," Jerry said. "The older women smile, and the younger women look terrified."

Even as uncomfortable as I was, I was happy he could be my eyes. That's the exact type of observation I would've made if I had been physically able to.

When we reported to the nursing station, they asked my name. I could barely get it out, but managed to squeak "Kelly" as the tears continued streaming down my cheeks.

We were informed there weren't any more rooms available, so we were escorted into what Jerry referred to as a "broom closet." It was just big enough to fit a cot-like bed and a single cart of equipment.

The nurse introduced herself as Alisha and I didn't know then that she would be my favorite part of my delivery experience. She is the most senior nurse on staff and had a good sense of humor mixed with a take-charge attitude -- exactly what I needed to get me through.

"You're in active labor, honey," she said. "Did you take prenatal classes?"

I nodded.

"Move on to the next breathing technique. It'll help."

She coached me through it and Jerry joined in. When I moaned on the exhale, Alisha reprimanded.

"That won't help you," she said. "Keep going. ... That's it."

Somehow I managed to undress and get on the bed. Alisha announced that I was five centimeters dilated, had done most of my hard laboring at home and would definitely be having a baby today.

"We're cleaning a room for you right now."

I smiled and asked for pain relief.

The next hour occurs to me in snippets. I know there was a lot of poking and prodding -- an IV drip for fluids because I was dehydrated, someone else took a blood sample -- but I didn't really feel any of it. I just concentrated on listening to Jerry help me with my breathing.

After what seemed like an eternity later, the anesthesiologist arrived. As I followed instructions and hung my legs over the side of the bed, arching my back and tucking my chin to my chest, Jerry asked me one more time if I was sure about the decision.

I just looked him deep in the eyes and said, "YES."

And it was the right choice. Besides the almost complete and total pain relief, I felt lucid again for the first time in hours. I would be able to remember and participate in my daughter's birth. My parents came into the room and we talked as the fetal monitors continued to display my waves of contractions, but I couldn't feel a thing.

Alisha examined me again and said I'd be ready to push very soon. The doctor broke my water with a tiny hook that reminded me of a crochet needle. It was the oddest sensation. A gush of warm.

By 5 p.m. Alisha started coaching me. Her interns were busy with another new mom, so she asked Jerry and my mom to each grab a leg until they arrived.

The thought of that at one point would've horrified me, but a delivery room is no place to be modest. In fact, it felt comforting that they would be able to participate so closely in Allison's birth. The interns never took over.

I pushed for three hours. It was the most physically demanding work I've ever done in my entire life. Although the nurse said I was pushing expertly, Alli was very far up in the birth canal and I had more distance to cover than most.

When the baby's heart rate began to drop, Alisha got the doctor. He explained that it wasn't bouncing back after a contraction as quickly as he would like. He started to discuss options such as using a vacuum and possibly a C-section.

Although I wasn't able to communicate at that point out of exhaustion and because the pain relief was wearing off, Jerry took control and started asking all of the questions I had rattling around in my head.

As if the word "Cesarean" wasn't incentive enough to push harder, the thought of him putting a giant suction cup on my baby's head sent me over the edge. I mentally refused, summoned a power deep within me I didn't know I had and willed myself to get her out without any intervention.

The final few pushes were so exhausting, my arms would collapse back onto the bed like they belonged to someone else far away. But the verbal encouragement from Jerry and my mom as I made even a slight progression, forced me to continue. Everyone else in the room was rooting me on, but Jerry and my mom had something personally invested in this child, and I could hear it in their voices. They wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted me to.

Once her head was out, I felt a wave of accomplishment. One final small push and the rest of her followed. They hoisted her onto my chest and I can't possibly describe what went through my head at that moment. Shock. Love. Surprise. Feeling incredibly, incredibly grateful and blessed.

It didn't matter that she was goopy and screaming. She was beautiful. And huge. I couldn't believe something that big had just been inside me moments earlier.

I just stared and cried as the nurses toweled her off. When they placed her in a warmer next to my bed to examine her, I couldn't take my eyes off her. I had a daughter. I was a mom.

The doctor congratulated me and tugged out the placenta, which felt like a huge relief. Being overly curious, I asked Alisha if I could see it. She brought it over in a tray and flipped it from side to side. I decided it was definitely gross, but also amazing. Without it, a baby couldn't grow.

I had a second-degree tear, but couldn't feel it as the doctor stitched me up. Maybe it was because I was numb, but I think it had something to do with the fact that they placed Alli in a blanket and cap and handed her back to me.

Her eyes were wide open. Her hair. Oh my God, her hair. Her lips. Her cheeks. Her chin.

I know I passed her around eventually, but that moment will be frozen in time as long as I have the ability to summon the memory.

It was the moment I had been praying and waiting and working for.

And she exceeded any expectations I had.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Deep breaths

Well, my parents just left.

We're officially on our own.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

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From our little turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Newborn Jerrism

In an engaging sing-song voice while changing a dirty diaper:

"Boy you're pretty ... PRETTY STINKY!"

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Update from the trenches

It isn't easy, but we're starting to get the hang of this whole "newborn" thing. It helps that we have four sets of hands in the house as my parents are staying with us for the week. After a particularly brutal few hours very early this morning, my mom swooped in and took Allison downstairs, affording me and Jerry some much-needed sleep.

When the crying stopped, Jerry turned to me in the dark and said, "I hope they never leave."

Alli went for her first doctor's appointment yesterday afternoon, and I'm happy to report that she is healthy and gaining weight. Granted, it's just an ounce, but it feels pretty great to know that my boobs provided enough nourishment to foster that ounce. Go boobs.

Getting her out the door was an adventure in itself. Strapping her into the car seat takes an army. There are so many latches and buckles and belts that you'd think she was a high-profile criminal being transported out of a maximum security prison for her trial.

The smallest things feel like gigantic successes. Like being able to take a shower and brush my hair. And at the risk of sounding incredibly weird to those not in the know, going to the bathroom. That first time felt like a major accomplishment.

Moms, I know you understand.


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Mohawk baby.

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By the way, sorry about the comment problem yesterday. I think my aunt changed it so they had to be approved after the oh-so-lovely "Your baby looks like an alien regurgitated it" comments. Actually, that would've been an improvement. I mean, if you're going to insult an infant, you've got to at least get creative. Anyway, I changed it back so the comments should appear automatically. Sure, I might be inviting more insults, but not even Jesus himself could convince me my little girl isn't absolutely perfect -- stinky diapers and all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's good to be home

It seems so strange to say, but one of the things I was looking forward to most about coming home was reading my blog -- not just the comments, but the posts by my aunt -- and I can tell you that I'm just blown away from the outpouring of support and well wishes. Thank you.

And Glrr, I knew I could count on you months ago when I entrusted you with the task of updating my blog in my absence (something I wouldn't just hand over to anybody), but I had no idea how much fun it would be to read. I think some would argue you should take over novelle360.com from here. I can't thank you enough.

As for me? I couldn't be happier. I'm sore, exhausted and thoroughly confused as to what to do when or how often to care for my daughter, but I'm learning. (And falling more and more in love with Alli every moment of every day.)

I'm hoping to be able to write about my labor and delivery soon, but that's going to require a considerable amount of time and thought, and right now I think I may only have an hour before I need to feed her again -- but believe me, I'll take it.

In the meantime, here are a few little thoughts that I jotted down on the back of a folder that the hospital staff gave me filled with newborn information. It killed me not to have access to a keyboard, but I did have a pen. And not writing during such a momentous time would've been completely impossible.

  • I'm taking such pleasure in discovering some of the smallest things about her -- she has dimples right under her eyes just like her father, the vein pattern in her right hand matches mine and there are little flecks of gold in her hair.
  • What a difference a day makes: Yes! She's up! ... Yes! She's asleep!
  • It's true what they say: You don't know what unconditional love is until you look into the eyes of your child.
  • Sometimes, her bottom lip completely disappears into her mouth and I think I might just burst.
  • She totally looks like Jer. And I love it.
  • If I could save just one thing about the last few days and preserve it to enjoy forever, it would be the smell of the top of her head when I kiss her.
  • My love for Jerry has grown indefinitely over the past few days. There is nothing sexier than a man successfully comforting his screaming daughter at 5 a.m.
  • No, newborns don't come with an instruction manual, but they DO come with a 5 inch-thick book. I have enough pamphlets on umbilical cord care and feeding charts and sleeping positions and temperature guidelines and bathing routines to start my own library.

Let the adventure begin.


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Baby's first Steelers game.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Better than that new car smell...

...is the smell of a brand new baby!! Totally fresh, new, and beautiful.

Kelly's cousins, grandmother, and I made the pilgrimage today to see Kelly, Jerry, and Allison in the hospital. Allison is even more beautiful than her pictures can possibly express, and she already has a legion of adoring fans.

Kelly should be returning to her blog shortly, but before I sign off I will leave one last picture, albeit a pathetic cell-phone photo.

Glrr

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Welcome Allison Grace!!!!!

She's 8 lbs 9.5 ounces and 22" long. Lots of hair, and her grandmother
says she's very sweet and agreeable.

She's BORN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She was born at 7:52 this evening! Mother and baby are both fine!

But I don't have any statistics yet, AND SHE DOESN'T HAVE A NAME!!!!!!!

When Kelly's mom told me about the name I said "How am I going to explain this to everyone who reads her blog!

Kelly's dad sent me a picture of Baby Kelly to my phone, but I have no idea how to get it
from my phone to my computer! If I figure it out, I will post it!

Update on Kelly

As of 3:50pm Kelly was almost fully dilated. The doctor told Kelly's mom that
the baby should be born within the next hour and a half!


Glrr

Update on Kelly - 1:39pm

They've admitted Kelly to the hospital this time, and she's definitely
in hard labor. There's still no room in the hospital, so you can be imagining
Baby Kelly being born in a hallway or closet. Send Kelly, Baby, and Jerry
your good energy as this progresses!

Update on Kelly - 12:41pm

Back to the hospital!

(The doctor said to come back when she "got to the bending
in half stage"!!)


Glrr

Update on Kelly

This update is being posted by Kelly's Aunt Glrr!

Kelly went to the hospital last night. The hospital was full right then, and her contractions weren't close enough together to justify keeping her there, so they sent her home. I suspect she is a bit too distracted right now to write a post, so I am taking the liberty of keeping everyone updated. If she doesn't like this, she can kill me later (and what gyrations I went through to get into her account!)!

More as the story develops!


Glrr

Yeah, it hurts

We're off to the hospital.

Forgive me if this post seems choppy

Wednesday morning, as I was getting ready for my doctor's appointment, I thought I was having faint irregular contractions, so I called Jerry to share the news.

"Hey, nothing to get worked up about," I said, "but I think I might be having some really minor contractions."

He, of course, got very worked up and immediately flew home from work to drive me to the appointment. On the way to get me, he called a few people to say the baby was coming.

"I TOLD YOU NOT TO GET WORKED UP!" I said when he got home and looked dejected at the news that they had fizzled out.

He insisted it was worthy of a little excitement, but reluctantly made return calls explaining that it was a false alarm.

Because the office is about 45 minutes away from where we live and right next to the hospital, we decided to bring all of the bags just in case. I was scheduled for a fetal non-stress test, and after doing much research on the process, I knew that if the doctor detected something was wrong, he could admit me for an induction immediately.

I kept reiterating that it was a precautionary measure only, but Jerry looked as if he was walking on air. He even ran over to give the neighbors a key to our house and said he'd call if we needed them to let Toby out later that night.

"Good luck!" Dave yelled from his doorway as I walked out to the car.

I just shot Jerry a look.

"Thank you, but I'm almost positive we'll be home tonight," I said. "SOMEONE is a little overzealous."

When we got to the office, a nurse led us into a large room that was partitioned by curtains. Each corner had a recliner, a chair for a support person and a cart with equipment on it. She instructed me to lift my shirt and attached two Velcro belts each with a circular disk around my abdomen -- one down low to measure the baby's heartbeat and one up high to measure contractions. Then I was instructed to click on a button every time I felt movement.

Of course, the baby wasn't moving. At all. The machine clocked her heart at a steady 130 to 140 beats per minute and I tried just concentrating on how wonderful the sound of the swooshing was.

I felt some twinges, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was. I thought maybe it could be her feet getting lodged in my ribcage, so I pressed the button and shrugged.

"This is really hard," I whispered to Jer.

As time went on, the machine spit out a stream of paper with two distinct lines. One was a choppy up and down motion that I knew was the baby's heartbeat, the other was sort of a steady wave that I thought maybe was me moving from time to time.

When the doctor came in to check on me, he reviewed the paper.

"Can you feel those contractions?" he asked.

I must've had a look of complete shock on my face.

"You might not yet," he said. "They might not be strong enough."

Jerry and I hi-fived at the prospect that something, ANYTHING, was happening. And once I realized what they were, I could definitely feel the tightening in my abdomen.

Eventually the baby moved and I saw a big spike in her heart rate -- exactly what was supposed to happen -- so the nurse came in, said I passed and led me to an exam room for my final checkup.

"Your contractions are pretty regular," she said, reviewing the sheet. "Not too strong, but they're coming every few minutes."

"Lets just hope they're doing something," I said.

They weren't. The doctor said I'm still about one to two centimeters dilated. Then he further deflated me by giving me an induction date of the day before Thanksgiving. Apparently it's a busy week with everyone trying to avoid the holiday.

I asked why they were so quick to induce and he cited a local study done a few years back that showed the hospital we will go to had a lower C-section rate when a woman is induced before she gets to 42 weeks. If allowed to continue on indefinitely, the baby can get too big or the amniotic fluid gets so low that there isn't anything left to absorb the shock of the contractions.

It sounded reasonable, but I couldn't help but think how I'll feel cheated out of the surprise element if I have to be induced. On the other hand, the end is in sight. Exactly one more week at the very most. And that's something to get excited about.

As we checked out, we scheduled two more appointments -- another non-stress test on Friday and a meeting Tuesday with the doctor who will oversee my induction.

For some reason, I left feeling completely dejected. I've always hated mixing special events with holidays. I think everything of consequence should have its own day. Fortunately, Jerry knew this when he proposed and didn't try to mix it with my birthday or Christmas or Valentine's Day or anything. It has it's own special anniversary that I remember fondly every year.

I want our daughter's birthday to be the same way. Sure, I also don't want to have boxed instant potatoes on a hospital tray when I could have a heaping pile of my mother-in-law's homemade mashed potatoes, but more than that, I want our little lady to have a birthday that doesn't fall on Thanksgiving every few years.

But, who knows, maybe she (and I) would end up loving it.

I decided not to dwell on something I have absolutely no control over, and Jerry and I headed to Red Lobster for an early dinner after I mentioned that I wanted shrimp.

The contractions continued.

Then we stopped at Target to stock up on some toiletries we're running low on.

The contractions continued.

By the time we got home, they were fairly consistent, but still not too painful. Jerry's mom stopped over with a baby present that someone had dropped off at her house and we chatted for awhile before she headed home.

Later that night, as Jerry and I were collapsed on the couch, I noticed the contractions hadn't stopped and seemed a little more frequent.

"Maybe we should time them just to be safe," I said.

He shot upstairs without even a slight hesitation and came back down with his nightstand clock which has a second hand, a piece of computer paper and a pen.

Then he started charting.

Once we realized they were coming about every three minutes and lasting about a minute, we panicked. Our prenatal class instructor had said that it's time to go to the hospital when they're a minute long and five minutes apart.

Mine were closer than that.

I called the emergency line and asked the answering service to have a doctor call me back. In the meantime, I started pacing to see if the contractions continued or slowed. False labor apparently stops once you start moving around.

They became a little less frequent, but I definitely still felt them.

Finally, the doctor called and I explained what was going on.

"From one to ten -- one being tolerable and ten being excruciating -- what's your pain level?" she asked.

"I'd say a one or two."

"Then I'm going to tell you to stay home," she said. "If they're that mild, they might not be doing anything and I'd likely check you and send you home anyway. ... You should be at about a five before you come to the hospital."

"I figured that was going to be the case, but we're so far away that I didn't want to have any surprises," I said.

"Hey, it could keep progressing," she said. "I'm here all night, so if it changes, just give me a call."

Feeling a little dejected again, Jerry and I decided to try to get some sleep. Before drifting off, he made me promise to wake him for any reason -- even if I just needed a hand to squeeze.

I woke up a few hours later with aching hips and knew I'd be up for awhile. Much to my surprise, the contractions have returned. The entire time I've been writing, I've been documenting them on this handy site, Contraction Master. They're lasting about 30 seconds and coming about every three minutes.

The pain has definitely intensified, maybe to a three or four. I'm hopeful this means she's coming today, but I'm still trying not to get my hopes up. I refuse to wake Jerry or call my parents or the doctor until I'm certain.

But who knows? Maybe she'll get her own special birthday after all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A present only a dog could love

Yesterday it dawned on me that I remember telling people when we first started sharing news of the pregnancy that my due date was "Nov. 10th, but we're hoping for the 13th because it's Toby's birthday."

Now it just seems like a sadistic joke I played on myself.

We celebrated Toby's second year of life with lots of extra furry kisses and hugs, a look back through his adorable puppy photos, watching him toss around a new rawhide bone with glee and me promising to resurrect all of the stuffed animals in the toy graveyard.

As Toby has grown, his penchant for violently shaking the crap out of his stuffed animals has grown, too. It's almost as if we're not playing rough enough with him, so he takes his latest victim by an appendage and shakes his head back and fourth until it flies out of his mouth at any random trajectory then he happily pounces after it.

The result, after weeks or months of abuse, is typically a torn seam. And if we don't stop it at that, he will dig out all of the stuffing and spread it around so it looks like a crime scene of white fluff.

When a toy bites the dust, instead of throwing it out, I toss it in a drawer with the other casualties. Then, every once in awhile, I dig out a needle and thread and give all of them new life.

They never quite look the same -- sometimes I have to stitch up a missing ear or an eye -- but Toby doesn't care. It's like revisiting all of his old friends at once. A stuffed animal reunion party. With lots of good war stories.

The wait for each toy nearly kills him. I pile all of them on the coffee table in the living room, settle in on the couch and work on them one by one. Toby doesn't understand, of course, why he can't just leap up and unleash his wrath on the mound, but he does understand that the table is strictly off limits. So he just sort of paces in a frantic circle, every once in awhile letting out a muffled cry like, "Pleeeease, pleeease, PLEEEAAASSEE CAN I HAVE THEM?"

"Patience, Toby," I tell him, laughing. "You can have this one in a minute."

Eventually he keys in on the one I'm holding, leaps up on the couch and sits as close to me as he can without actually crawling under my skin. Then he employs his most mastered technique, pitiful-looking eyes, and nudges an inch at a time toward the toy, sometimes extending his tongue to see if maybe he can get away with just. licking. it.

"Ah," I say, and the mere syllable forces him to snap his tongue back into his mouth and let out a deep sigh. "Not yet."

By the time I'm tying a knot in the thread, his interest is so piqued that the energy is practically bursting out of his tiny body. His tail nub is flailing, every muscle shaking in anticipation of that first toss. Then, finally, finally, I give it a heave across the room and he takes off so fast that it leaves me wondering whether he was ever even sitting next to me.

Then, as if right on cue, he greets his old friend as only Toby can.

By violently shaking the crap out of it.

And I know it'll be back in the toy graveyard soon.


96
Happy birthday, buddy. May you have many, many more.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The ONE good thing about being overdue

Any random stranger: "Aw, when are you due?"

Me: "Last Saturday."

Them: ... (Rendered speechless as a look of sheer panic spreads across their face as if I will spontaneously drop to the ground and start grunting through contractions and screaming for them to boil some water and sterilize some scissors to cut the umbilical cord with.)

...............................................................

I got another really good response Tuesday from our cashier at Panera Bread:

Her: "When are you due?"

Me: "Last Saturday."

Her: "Well, shit ... that SUCKS!"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Just not in the stars

My sister-in-law called Sunday afternoon to tell us that our horoscopes eerily indicated that "today is the day."

Mine: "All eyes are on you."
Jerry's: "You'll have a force to recon with."
Jerry's mom's: "Once more, you assume your nurturing stance."

Then I read the prediction for Scorpio, what our daughter will be, and it all made sense.

"You might want to lie back and wait a little longer."

Of course.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Still a big fat pile of nothing

Sorry to get everyone's hopes up. Nothing happening on this end. Well, except that the Boy Scout across the street delivered the horrendously overpriced tin of caramel corn we ordered from him a few weeks ago. But it's so awesome that the Steelers started making a comeback right after we tore into it. Then Pittsburgh won.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Now if only will induce labor. I'd be a caramel corn customer for life.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

An open letter to my pipe dreams

Dear Due date,

Saying that I have been looking forward to you like a child looks forward to Christmas is a gigantic understatement. At first, you seemed so far away, almost as if you would never arrive. The thought of having to wait through the end of winter, all of spring and summer, then the beginning of fall was overwhelming at times.

I don't think I've ever concentrated on one day for so long in my entire life. I started the countdown sometime in March -- the moment the smell of Jerry's tuna sandwich sent me sprinting to the toilet to dry heave. Or maybe it was earlier, when I became a slave to my cravings. When a fleeting thought of watermelon could mandate a run to the grocery store, where I didn't think twice about paying a ridiculous amount for a pre-sliced container in order to hork it down with my fingers before I even made it out of the parking lot.

I wanted you to arrive so badly that I found myself wishing away summer. SUMMER. You know, the swimming, barbecuing, cat-napping, day-trip taking, picnicking, playing outside, so-awesome-you-want-to-preserve-it-in-a-bottle season. And yet, the promise of you trumped it enough that I wasn't upset as the weeks ticked by. A definite first for me.

When I finally was able to flip the calendar over to October, I was ecstatic. It meant November was next. The finish line was in sight. The end was near. If my body wasn't so uncoordinated and uncooperative at that point, I probably would've attempted a happy dance. Instead, I celebrated by buying a bigger pair of maternity pants and foregoing any footwear other than sneakers.

Now, after months and months and months and months, you're finally here.

And I have no qualms about saying that you're a big, fat disappointment.

You're so big and fat that if you were a person, you wouldn't be able to get out of bed. You'd have a pulley system set up out of a nearby window so that when the pizza delivery guy came, you'd wheel down the money in a bucket with a note instructing him to attach your four meat-lover's pies onto the rope so you could wheel up your afternoon snack.

I know, that was a little harsh. You're not over yet. Only half over. It's noon and you still have a little less than 12 hours to deliver. Literally.

But I'm not holding my breath.

I now know what I should've known a long time ago: you were an estimate, a good guess at best. It was wrong of me to put so much stock in you. I was like an overzealous soccer mom pushing you to become something other than what you really were -- just another ordinary day.

One I will spend the entirety of in my fleece pants and Jerry's T-shirt and hoodie sweatshirt, lamenting about how wrong I was about you.

Until I bid you good day.

But why wait? I'm done with waiting. No time like the present.

Good day, Sir. May you rot like the uninspired 24-hour period that you were destined to be.

Lovingly yours,
Kelly

Friday, November 9, 2007

Why I hate people right now

The woman at the bank whose daughter-in-law was due five days AFTER me comes running up as I stood in line yesterday with news about her new grandson even though I am CLEARLY still pregnant and cranky.

"We delivered on Monday!" she sang. "Ten days early!"

I almost puked on her shoes.

..........................................................................

My awesome, fantastic, supa great friend Gisela has been sending me links to pregnancy and baby-related news stories over the past nine months. Most contain really great information like crib recalls and how Baby Einstein videos will turn your child's brain to mush and make it leak out of their ears.

But the latest installment made me crazy. It's a list of weird things about newborns including baby acne, big baby boobs, crossed eyes and even horrible scaly patches of skin on their scalp.

As if I didn't have enough to worry about, now I'm convinced my baby is going to be born with a third nipple.

(But because I love her so much, Gisela is exempt from the hate list. Every friend should get at least one "Get Off the Hate List Free" pass -- especially when their intentions were good. Love ya G!)

..........................................................................

Last night at work, a well-meaning co-worker noticed I was being more quiet than usual and asked, "Are you okay?"

I wanted to scream: "NO, I'M NOT OKAY! My effing ear infection is back. It crackles inside my head every time I swallow and has been doing that for almost 12 hours. I'm seriously considering pulling a VanGogh and cutting it off with my dull-ass office scissors. ... In the meantime, my tailbone feels like it's collapsing under the weight of my HUGE PREGNANT ASS and all I want to do is be HOME right now and not trying to be a MARTYR and work up until my DUE DATE."

Instead I just nodded.

Maybe today will be better.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

She's NEVER coming out

Stupid, uncooperative cervix.

I should've known that the phantom labor pains I've been having for the past week amounted to a big fat pile of squat in terms of progression toward real, actual labor. I am officially 39 weeks and five days pregnant. But my cervix hasn't gotten the memo.

The rest of my body, on the other hand, is screaming from the injustice of it all. The fact that obstetricians start telling you "any day now" two weeks before the due date is complete garbage. False hope, people. False hope. All that does is encourage pipe dreams of an early labor for a woman who is desperately close to coming unhinged from something as simple as running out of orange juice in the morning.

I had my 39 week appointment yesterday and I'm still almost exactly where I was last week: a little more than 1 centimeter dilated and 80 to 90 percent effaced.

Whoopdee pffft.

The worst part is, I'm still desperately trying random ways to jump start this process. I even ingested two burning hot pepperoncinis on election night when the cavalry of pizzas arrived in the newsroom. And it may not sound like a big sacrifice on my part, but that's two more hot peppers than I've ever eaten in my entire life. And all I ended up with for my effort was burning lips, a few moments of intense gagging and hours of painful acid reflux. Oh yeah, and I'm pretty sure the baby LOVED it. She kicked and squirmed for hours as if I had just ingested an entire bucket of frosting made from real butter and pure sugarcane.

The doctor was appropriately sympathetic at my lack of progression and started talking a little more seriously about scheduling an induction. I made one final weekly appointment for next Wednesday, and if I don't go into labor on my own before then, I get to participate in a fantastic set of fetal tests where they hook me up like a lab rat to some monitors for about 30 minutes. I think it's to make sure that the baby hasn't started using bricks and mortar to build a three-story house or anything. Although I'm pretty sure I felt a power saw in there a few days ago. Maybe she prefers natural wood to brick.

In the meantime, I'm trying not to embrace a completely defeatist attitude. I know the mind is a powerful thing, so every morning I try to mentally will her to join in on the whole "oxygen" thing. It's cool, I tell her. You'll like it. Much more than slurping months-old amniotic fluid that contains your urine.

My next plan of attack? Bribing her by promising to make her a birthday cake. With a whole bucket of frosting made from real butter and pure sugarcane. Topped with a hot pepper.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lovingly putting things into perspective

Conversation while walking to our cars last night as I was leaving for work and Jerry was leaving for the gym:

"Last time I checked, I was wearing shorts and freezing my ass off. Get the lead out."

"EXCUSE ME? Last time I checked, I was nine months pregnant with YOUR BABY. GET YOUR BALLS OUT and deal with a little chill."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The power of an underwear catalog

Today I actually worked up the nerve to flip through the big sparkly Victoria's Secret Christmas catalog I got in the mail a few weeks ago. And although a small part of me wanted to cry as I wondered whether I'll ever have my pre-pregnant body back, it turned out to be a bit inspiring, too. Not in the traditional "this girl is a genetic freak so I'm going to starve myself in hopes of looking just like her" way. More of a "Wow! Shopping! For regular clothes! Without elastic!" kind of way.

And I actually tabbed down the corner of two pages with tops I would consider investing in when I have some semblance of a waist again.

Now THAT's motivation.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Worth way more than a thousand words

160
This photo Jerry took pretty much sums it up today.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

An end in sight ... for work anyway

So, I'm wussing out. After a particularly grueling few days of lugging this baby around, I've decided that this is going to be my last week at work if I don't go into labor on my own before then.

Which I won't. Because she's never coming out. Never. Never ever.

Ever.

I'm sort of disappointed in myself for not being able to work right up until contractions knock me on my ass and I call Jerry in a panic to come pick me up. I guess that's sort of how I always envisioned it.

Sure, I know I should be proud that my last day will be my due date. In fact, everyone in my office with children looks at me incredulously when they see I'm still pulling full-time hours. And as miserable as it is to force myself out of my comfy fleece pants every day and put on one of the two pairs of public-appropriate pants that sort of still fit me, I'm motivated by the fact that most people think I shouldn't be able to do it anymore.

Every day someone looks at me and says, "You're STILL HERE?!" Or some version thereof.

But the truth is, it's getting difficult. The mere act of standing up from my desk for any reason is an event in itself for my uterus. I just feel the weight of it pushing down on my pelvis and often have to hold onto something, anything, for support. And sitting back down again requires my utmost concentration -- feet square on the ground, each hand on an armrest, slowly lower using my biceps and flop.

It's such an exhausting regimen that I plan out my activities for each rise. I always multitask. One round might include a trip to the printer, a stop at the photo desk, a refill at the water cooler and a trip to the bathroom. Then I'm good for at least another 20 or 30 minutes.

Then again, even sitting is no picnic. I can't cross my legs. They ache if I don't stretch them. I need to keep them elevated if I don't want my feet to swell. Sometimes I get brilliant shooting pains that run from my hips to my toes if I shift slightly. And my hips hurt so badly that sometimes I just want to wave a white flag and sever myself at the ribcage. The baby wins. She can have my lower half. I give up.

So, last night at work, after much hesitation, I talked to one of my bosses about making this my last week instead of ending Nov. 17 like I had originally planned. Friday will be my last day.

But I'm still holding out hope that I'll go before then.

In fact, I woke up this morning humming "I believe in miracles ... you sexy thang."

Granted, I'm pretty sure it's about a guy trying to get a hot woman to sleep with him, but um, I think it translates loosely.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Joke's on me for being excited

About halfway through Sara Silverman's standup set, I felt grateful that I didn't have to write a review for my paper.

Because I would've panned her.

Jerry and I had been looking forward to our "last night out" as soon as we knew she was going to be in town. Despite the daily struggle that it is to exist with a full-term baby in my belly, I was actually hoping not to go into labor until after we had a chance to see her show.

Now I realize we wouldn't have missed much.

She started out strong with her casually delivered ultra offensive one-liners that fans have come to love her for. The venue was rolling through her frank discussion about how she never wants to experience natural childbirth. "You know, vagina babies." And instead hopes to one day adopt "something brown ... because otherwise you don't get any credit."

But later, after a botched attempt at strumming her guitar to what had the potential of being a very funny song about Jews who buy German cars, she gave up. Literally.

"Eh, fuck it," she said, resting her arms on top of her guitar. "I can't remember the chords."

Then she turned her attention to the can of RedBull she had placed on a nearby stool, started interacting with a few people in the front row and suddenly had the brilliant idea to invite hecklers to interrupt her whenever the mood struck.

"It'll be like a more intimate setting," she said.

But it wasn't an intimate setting. There were 3,000 people spread out in a sprawling entertainment hall, making it very hard for her and the rest of the audience to hear what exactly was being yelled.

The rest of the night continued with a scattered version of her bits, every single one cut short by her asking "What?" into the microphone and "Is that what you just said?" followed by half-assed attempts at witty banter with faceless idiots in the crowd like the douchebag who just needed to shout out a request for Sarah to sign his taint after the show. Or his equally moronic frat brother who wanted to know how long Jimmy Kimmel's penis is.

Brilliant.

The only semi-interesting tangent was when someone asked about her joke that sparked a media frenzy after she called Britney Spears' children "adorable mistakes" during the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. Sarah explained that there was no way Britney could've heard the jokes during rehearsal causing the singer's less-than-stellar "comeback" performance.

"When we were doing the run through, I just got up on the mic and said, 'Joke, joke, joke, joke' and walked off," she said.

And the only reason I found it interesting is because, for some stupid reason, I can't get enough of that celebrity gossip garbage. Jerry, on the other hand, was checking the clock on his cell phone.

I left with the feeling that she's tired of touring. She referenced her grueling travel schedule on more than one occasion and how she sleeps on her bus. From here she goes on to Atlantic City then to New York at Carnegie Hall, so I'm guessing she viewed central Pennsylvania as a chance to phone it in.

I'm just glad we didn't have to pay for our tickets.

Because the mumbled response to a heckler asking how she shaves her pubic hair isn't half as entertaining as her thought-out comedy routine.

Then again, I wouldn't really know. I only got a glimpse of it.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Jerry's premonition

"I saw our baby for the first time last night in a dream."

"Really? What did she look like?"

"She looked like a he."

"Oh God."

"Yeah, and we totally choked and named him Fax."

"Fax?"

"Fax."

"As in fax machine?"

"Yup."

"We should come up with a few boy names just in case, huh?"

"It's a thought."

"Although Fax is kind of growing on me ..."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Stop here if you're squeamish

I've often wondered how obstetricians feel about all of the knowledge available to pregnant women about childbirth these days. With books and classes and online resources, women know much more about what to expect than ever before.

And I wonder if it can get annoying.

Yesterday at my 38 week appointment, the doctor said I'm almost two centimeters dilated and 75 percent effaced. She also said the baby's head is "engaged," to which I replied, "What station?"

I've learned there are seven stations: negative three, negative two, negative one, zero, positive one, positive two, positive three. It refers to how far the baby's head has descended into the pelvis. Delivery begins at the positive stations. So if I'm at negative one, I can't imagine what zero feels like. I already have to jut out my legs at unnatural angles just to walk.

But later on that night while I was at work, my insane desire to learn everything there is to know about labor and childbirth paid off.

When I took one of many frequent trips to the bathroom, I discovered blood.

But I didn't panic. I assumed it was caused by my pelvic exam earlier. The baby was still moving, so I knew she was fine. Everything just felt a little more tender, especially when she turned her head.

So I just called my practitioner's emergency line and left a message with the answering service for a doctor to call me back.

When the phone rang, I calmly explained what had happened, adding, "I'm sure it's nothing, but I'm more than an hour away from the hospital, so I just want to be sure. Plus, a little peace of mind never hurts."

The doctor said I was exactly right. The blood likely was just from my exam, but he said to call back if it got any worse or I started experiencing unbearable pain.

Fortunately, I was almost done with my last two newspaper pages and was able to wrap up everything and go home. To top it off, I've developed a sore throat and ear infection, but I have the next two days off from work to lay low, relax and sleep.

And maybe read a few more chapters in my pregnancy books.