Friday, February 29, 2008

Photo Friday

Hints of Spring, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Political Matters

I’ve been surprised by how closely the Danes pay attention to American politics. In many cases they are more on top of things than even myself, the PoliSci undergrad and masters degree holder who specialized political communication.

My most recent conversation with a native Dane on American politics happened just shortly after James’ birth in the delivery room. A nurse asked where we were from and, after finding out that we were from the States, wanted to know which state we were from and which candidate we were planning to vote for in the primaries. I explained how the state we currently reside in didn’t get on board the “Let Move Up Our Primary So We’ll MATTER” train so by the time May rolls around I fully expect the McCain v. Obama showdown to be set in stone.

The nurse persisted and wanted to know exactly what we thought of Hillary, McCain, Obama and company, and I gave her a couple of ill-formed impressions of their leadership abilities, how I expected their administrations would affect our foreign policy, et cetera, based far too heavily on the few episodes of The A Daily Show we pick up here. It’s hard to imagine Americans caring so much about any other country’s political elections.


And off topic: let’s here it for Michael who today completed the first full draft of his dissertation! Editing his final chapter was one of the last things I did before going into labor (and it wasn’t my best work given that I missed a reference to “Knight of Infinite Regression”). And given the challenges that life with a newborn and 19-month-old offer, his meeting his goal to complete a full draft by the end of February is especially noteworthy.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Brotherly Love

This may be a bit premature but a number of people have asked how John is adjusting to having a new brother, especially given my trepidation leading up to James’ birth. With a little over two weeks of Big Brotherhood under his belt I’m happy to report that John seems to be adjusting really well and doesn’t seem to be acting out toward Michael or I either. No poop smearing yet.

First thing in the morning, John demands to know where "bebe" is and wants to kiss and hold him. When I put James on his stomach for "tummy time" I'll prop up one of the Black on Whiteor White on Blackbooks in front of him to look at (a simple girl's Baby Einstein). John has started copying me by propping up more of his own books in front of James. And this morning I woke up to John pushing James around in his imaginary race car.

For people that really love us, here is the super-long YouTube video of John and James meeting for the first time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Photo Friday

Brotherly Love, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Less Writing - More Reading

Two weeks ago my little speedster entered the world and today he began his two week growth spurt right on cue. A growth spurt is characterized by nursing long and often, and I find I'm not very proficient at typing one-handed. So I spend a lot of time refreshing Shrook, looking for new blogs and interesting newspaper articles, and pecking out short Facebook wall posts and status updates.

Or if it's 3:00a, I strap on the neck pillow I bought for our transatlantic night flight to Copenhagen and snooze during Jimsy's middle of the night snacks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What’s in a Name?

We’ve begun the process of registering James with the local church parish and applying for his Danish birth certificate. This brings up one interesting feature of The Danish Way of Doing: all Danish children’s names must be chosen from a list of approximately 7,000 approved baby names provided by the government. If you want to be a little wild and name your child something like Violet or Apple or Brooklyn, you have to apply for permission (and likely will be denied).

I found an interesting article in the New York Times discussing this facet of Danish cultural homogenization:

In Denmark, a country that embraces rules with the same gusto that Italy defies them, choosing a first and last name for a child is a serious, multitiered affair, governed by law and subject to the approval of the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs and the Ministry of Family and Consumer Affairs.

At its heart, the Law on Personal Names is designed to protect Denmark's innocents - the children who are undeservedly, some would say cruelly, burdened by preposterous or silly names. It is the state's view that children should not suffer ridicule and abuse because of their parents' lapses in judgment or their misguided attempts to be hip. Denmark, like much of Scandinavia, prizes sameness, not uniqueness, just as it values usefulness, not frivolousness.

I think the good people behind Babies Named a Bad, Bad Thing would sympathize.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Photo Friday

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lost in Translation

James had his first home health nurse visit this morning. (I love, love, love that they come to your home to do this). I'm a little too tired to give you the nitty gritty details of his amazing growth but this story was worth sacrificing 15 precious minutes of sleep for:

I mentioned to the nurse that I was concerned about the content of James' poops (these are among the things that consume way to much of Michael's and my nighttime pillow talk since becoming parents).

Nurse: Poop. I don't know that word.
Me: You know. Bowel movement. Stool. Not pee, but the other thing.
Nurse: Oh, you mean making shit!

Yes. Precisely.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Speedy Baby James: A Birth Story

I have distinct memories during this pregnancy of three separate people telling me that the second birth is much faster than the first. They weren’t kidding.

They tell you labor is never how you expect it to be. With John I imagined a horribly long, unpredictable labor, and it ended up being a textbook labor that only lasted 12 hours. With James I was expecting the same experience except perhaps shorter. Ha. There was almost nothing about this labor that mirrored my first.

This birth can pretty much be summed up as “Zero to 140.” With zero being me sitting on my bed watching an episode of Veronica Mars while having mild contractions and 140 being the speed in kilometers per hour the cab was going down the Danish interstate about an hour later; me in the backseat trumpeting at the top of my voice, "I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB! I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB!"

The morning of my due date Michael and I got to sleep in until 9:30a because my sister Rachel had arrived two days before and took care of John when he got up at 6:00. Rachel and I made plans to stop by the mall before my midwife appointment at 1:00p. I started feeling a little crampy around 10:30 or 11:00 – around the time we started our half-mile walk to the mall.

We had lunch at Amager Centret and then walked a few blocks over to the midwife’s office. Camilla (my regular midwife) was on vacation so I saw her substitute. We had a brief talk about how Danes handle post-dates; at 10 days post-date you go to the hospital for a vaginal check and then at 14 days post-date they induce. Then she palpitated the baby who was still right-lying – and told me she could still move the head a bit which indicated it wasn’t quite engaged – typical of second pregnancies. She estimated James was about 3900 grams – or about 8 pounds 8 ounces.

We were planning to stop back by the mall on the way home so Rachel could go to H&M, but John had a diaper blowout so we headed home. I was kind of glad because I was feeling more crampy and uncomfortable. We got home at 2:00p and I was happy to see Michael was already back from the library where he had been working on some dissertation changes. John and Rachel both laid down for a nap. I was pretty sure at this point I was having true contractions that were going to amount to something later. I puttered around for a bit folding laundry, putting a few last things in my hospital bag and checking email. Michael was encouraging me to lie down but I told him I didn’t feel like it, so we settled on watching Veronica Mars while he insisted on timing my contractions. So we watched two episodes back-to-back; when I felt a contraction starting I would tap him on the leg, he’d start the stopwatch and then stop it when I tapped him again. We never paused the show though I started to ask him to put counter-pressure on my lower back at some point during the second episode.

Around 4:00p, John was up from his nap and, even though he wasn’t being disruptive, I really didn’t want to be around him in anticipation of the harder contractions to come. Michael and I moved into the bedroom and watched another episode while Rachel entertained John in the living room. Toward the end of the episode, I had to close my eyes and focus during contractions. Once the show ended close to 5:00p, Michael told me the contractions were floating around 45-60 seconds long and 5-6 minutes apart. Two weeks before Camilla told me to call in to the clinic when contractions were about 60 seconds long, 5 minutes apart and had been that way for about an hour. I decided to call in, though I thought it was a bit premature, in part because I felt like we needed to leave. The clinic picked up and told me to call the Hospital because they were so busy. This perturbed me, surprisingly not because I was so interested in doing the whole Danish birth clinic thing, but because I had this nagging feeling we really needed to leave.

I spoke with a hospital-side midwife who suggested that we wait another hour, though she made it clear we could come if we felt we should – just that we should call again before we left. I hung up the phone and immediately had two much stronger contractions much closer together that I moaned a bit through. I told Michael it was time to go and he immediately called a cab. I remember trying to give John a hug and kiss – he was playing with Rachel’s iPod and ran into the bedroom to show me. Then I called the midwife back and told her we were on our way.

I stepped into my Crocs and decided to use the bathroom before we left. While I was sitting there I felt like I needed to pass gas and then suddenly my water broke with a small pop and I realized that what I was really feeling was an urge to push just as I launched into a huge transitional contraction. Michael called out that the cab was there. I yelled at him to shut up. He came to the door and asked what was wrong. I expressed at the top of my voice that I was having a contraction, roared loudly and cried that I didn’t want John to see me like this. Michael later told me that he rolled his eyes at Rachel to let her know I was just freaking out and not to think anything was wrong.

I was completely torn by the strong urge to not move and the equally strong urge to get to the hospital as fast as we possibly could. But I hustled into the calf-length, black wool London Fog coat my friend Robyn gave me – the only coat that somewhat covered my baby belly – and charged down the stairs toward the cab. I called out for the cab driver and Michael to hurry and launched into another mind blowing contraction right as the wheels started to roll. It felt like I’d been picked up by a tornado.

The next 20 minutes are fragments of memories – holding myself off the seat with my arms and leaning toward my right side because it hurt too much to sit; waiting endlessly for the cab driver to turn left onto Amagerbrogade dodging bikes and two lanes of rush hour traffic; Michael patting my leg and telling me to relax; my expressing every thought that came into my head at the loudest possible volume; WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT; I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB; I CANNOT HAVE A BABY IN A CAB; a car driving slowly and then stopping in the middle of the road blocking us; the cab driver honking insistently; between contractions my praying that God would make them move and get us to the hospital; the cab driver jumping out the car and telling the driver the situation before the punk finally drove off; blazing down the interstate; MY BODY IS PUSHING THE BABY OUT; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; I CAN’T STOP IT; Michael telling me that I’m doing a great job and we’re almost there; the contraction stops and I think "Yes, we will make it. Everything will be ok"; I drop my head back on Michael’s shoulder and see the most beautiful piece of Copenhagen sunset sky; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; OH GOD; I reach down and can feel the baby’s head crowning; I CAN FEEL THE BABY’S HEAD; IT’S RIGHT THERE; Michael calmly telling me that’s good because the stretching will keep me from tearing - we’re almost there - here’s the exit - you’re doing a great job; I struggle to follow my Bradley labor training – low pitched roars, allowing my body to do it’s work – yet doing so only seems to make the baby advance even more quickly down the birth canal; THE BABY IS COMING; I feel the ring of fire and pull off one of my pants legs and half of my underwear; I FEEL THE HEAD; the baby’s head is out and my palm is around it; the cab suddenly pulls up to the maternity wing of the hospital and the cab driver jumps out and runs in for assistance; THE BABY NEEDS TO BE BORN NOW; GET SOMEBODY; THE BABY NEEDS TO BE BORN NOW; Michael looks over and sees James’ head and shoulders, realizing for the first time what I was getting at when I said "The baby’s head is right there," then jumps out of the cab to run around to my side.

In those few seconds alone, I was suddenly gripped with the notion that I needed to push the baby out IMMEDIATELY and voluntarily pushed for the first time. James plopped out onto my coat just as Michael opened the door on the other side. Michael picked him up and handed James to me, and to my immense relief he immediately started to cry. I could see from the light in the cab that he was pink and healthy, and he quickly calmed.

A nurse entered the cab behind me and rubbed James with a towel and piled more towels on him to keep him warm. They brought a stretcher to my side of the cab and helped me maneuver around my coat, the part of my pants that were still on and the umbilical cord. We were rolled down the hall into a delivery room, with me holding a quiet James close as I watched the ceiling tiles pass above my head and sighed a huge sigh of relief. Relief that James was fine; that labor was over; that we were in the competent hands of medical professionals.


Ten days before James’ birth I read a fascinating blog post from a Brooklyn midwife about how the taxicab birth narrative can shape other women’s childbirth plans. Everyone seemingly has a friend of a friend who has given birth in a cab and it can fundamentally form their choice of homebirth or hospital birth, how they prepare for labor and delivery, etc. To be honest, I am somewhat compelled to tell this story in so much detail because I feel the need to justify the fact that I DID end up having a baby in a taxicab. I consider myself to be fairly ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding and being prepared for childbirth; from taking independent childbirth classes to reading extensively about birth to having experienced an unmedicated childbirth once before. Yet I was still surprised by the overwhelming force that is childbirth; unpredictable, powerful and unharnessed. And its ability to go from nothing to something in the blink of an eye.

But I also should say that as much as I was overwhelmed by the speed and uncontrollable force of James’ arrival, I sit here days later still unable to be "traumatized" by the experience. It was extremely uncomfortable bouncing along in the back of a cab during transition and my body’s involuntary second stage pushing, but being knowledgeable about the birth process helped considerably in my ability to control the one thing I could control about the whole experience – my reaction to it. It helped me focus when I was frantic. And I had some notion of what was normal and abnormal about delivery that gave me some peace of mind that James was ok even if he was exiting my body at 140 kilometers per hour.

I am a little sorry that I missed out on trying the labor tub. Not sorry enough to wish that I had been in labor much longer though.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not a Raisin

I'm working on a write up of the events surrounding James' birth but life with a newborn has been slowing me down. Until then, a little something fun from dinner tonight:

After he finished his dinner John held James for a few minutes in the infant bouncy chair Michael had set up earlier that day. Michael, Rachel and I were still finishing dinner shortly thereafter when John walked around the table toward me, a puzzled look on his face, holding something out in his chubby little fingers for me to take. He hands me what looked like a gooey raisin, and I stared at it for a minute before I realized I had just been looking at the gooey raisin an hour or so before when I was changing James' diaper.

John had picked up his brothers umbilical stump where it had fallen off unnoticed and tried to eat it. Not finding it to his liking, he pulled it out of his mouth and, like all things he finds distasteful, presented it to me.


Friday, February 8, 2008

Photo Friday

Sweet Baby James, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.

7 February 2008
6 pounds, 10 ounces
19 1/2 inches

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super-Duper Extra Spectacular TUESDAY

It was a BIG day yesterday. It was Super Tuesday back in the States. My sister Rachel arrived to help out with John and the new baby bringing with her all kinds of American goodies like Kraft macaroni and cheese and JIF peanut butter. And the Danes celebrated Fastelavn - or Carnival Day, the Danish Mardi Gras.

One way you celebrate Fastelavn is with Fastelavnsbollers - custard cream filled flaky pastries of goodness! They were even better than they look.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Easy Gourmet-Like Tortellini

The freezer space in our college room dorm sized refrigerator is a bit small to say the least so there isn't much of an option for freezing meals ahead of time to pull out for dinner after the baby is born. But, you know, these limitations are just opportunities for creative culinary creations. Or as creative as one can manage after going through one of the greatest physical challenges unique to women. Here is one of my go-to meals:

Easy Gourmet-Like Tortellini

500 gram package of dried tortellini
2 tablespoons pesto
1 tablespoon olive oil
Grated parmesan cheese to taste

Boil tortellini in a pot of salted water per package directions. After draining, return to pot and drizzle olive oil over tortellini and stir in pesto. Top with freshly grated parmesan. Serve with a "made it from scratch" attitude.

This is a complicated recipe so here is a little visual aid:

Friday, February 1, 2008

Photo Friday

Pretzel Time, originally uploaded by TilleyShots.