Friday, July 31, 2009

Brynna's Birth Story

My birth story was written to post to a listserv of other hypno-moms, so it sometimes uses different, non-medical language: “birthing time” instead of “labor,” “pressure wave” instead of “contraction,” and so on.

Brynna was due on August 4, but I expected her to be late, like many first babies. (Only 5% of babies are born on their due date.) I even had clinic rotations scheduled through the following week, so I wouldn’t be sitting at home, burning up maternity leave, waiting for her to arrive. But at 2 AM on July 30th (the time of day, if not the date, being what I had visualized in my practice sessions), I woke up to a pressure wave. Then I had another one 10 or 15 minutes later. I was pretty sure that this was it—they felt a lot like menstrual cramps, totally different from the mild Braxton-Hicks that I’d have to be touching my belly to notice. I put on one of my hypno CDs and dozed off again. At some point, I told Alex that I thought things were getting rolling, and he (mellow soul that he is) said “yup, OK” and then carried on sleeping. Around 6 AM, still having waves every 10 minutes or so, I called my parents, 1200 miles away in Connecticut, and told them that it was time to start driving in our direction so they could meet their first grandchild.

Then I headed out to our sunny front porch, where I leaned forward over some pillows (leaning forward encourages proper baby positioning) and alternately read a book and listened to my CDs. I was amazed at how completely calm and confident I felt. After Alex got up, we both emailed in to work to let them know that this was the day and not to expect us, then just relaxed around the house. I also took a shower and shaved my legs, figuring it might be a few days before I’d have a chance to do that again!

We'd also meant to take some "belly photos" before the crumpet arrived, so Alex snapped a few in the yoga room. It's hard to believe that I was ever this enormous!

I remember Alex looking at the camera after he took this one, saying "you'll probably never want to show this one to anyone!" But here are Brynna and I in all our glory:

Mid-morning, we decided to make cookies to bring to the L&D nurses, and Alex had to run out to the store because we didn’t have all the ingredients on hand—we’d been planning to make our final preparations that coming weekend. I helped with the cookies, pausing to lean over the table and relax through each contraction.

We also finally picked the crumpet’s name, which we also thought we would have more time to do! (We were down to two, we just had to choose.) All morning, I was careful to keep taking sips of water and eating snacks to keep my energy high.

The pressure waves were slowly getting closer together. Sometimes I walked around in between, then paused to lean over the table during a wave. Other times I sat and bounced on my exercise ball, then leaned forward onto the arm of the couch during a wave. I eventually asked Alex to start cueing me with each one, and it was very helpful to have that hands-on support. I stayed very calm and comfortable, the cues working very well to help me relax with each wave. A couple of times I used my stethoscope to check Brynna’s heartbeat right after a contraction, and she was always trucking right along.

Mid-afternoon, I began to get a bit impatient! It had been twelve hours, and though things were progressing, I had sort of hoped to be holding a baby at that point. I checked my cervix and thought I was at about 5 cm dilated and very effaced—it just felt like a big rubber band. Alex and I lay down to try and take a rest, since I had been sitting and standing and walking a lot to encourage progress. However, it was hard to get comfortable, so we got back up pretty quickly.

I was hoping to get to the hospital, which was only a few minutes from our house, at 8 or 9 cm dilated—essentially ready to push. One of the midwives had told me that if this was my goal, we should come when the contractions were two minutes apart for an hour. As my waves got more intense, however, I started worrying a bit about how I was going to get from the parking garage to the hospital door. I didn’t want Alex to just drop me off at the door and go park, because I was relying on him a lot for the cues. So around 5:00, with waves coming every two minutes, we made our transition to the car. I did have three waves on the way from the car across the street to the hospital, and luckily there was some handy scaffolding to lean onto.

(No more pictures now until after Brynna arrives—remember, we're the people who didn't even have photos during our wedding. I sure as heck didn't want photos of Brynna being born!)

A very nice nurse helped me get settled in a triage bed, let me know that the midwife was on her way (she had been out jogging), and specifically said that she was going to step out and read over our birth plan, which was really encouraging. It took about half an hour to meet with the midwife (the only one we hadn’t met during prenatal care, oddly enough), get a 20 minute fetal monitoring strip (all was well), and have a cervical check: 7 cm. The midwife also made a point of taking a few minutes to review our birth plan and then letting us know that she was completely on board. She and the nurse stopped talking to me during pressure waves so that Alex and I could do our thing, and they were very admiring of how we were working together and how relaxed I was.

We then moved to one of the actual birthing rooms. Over the next couple of hours, I continued to use a birthing ball and then we spent some time in the shower, which felt very nice. The nurse and midwife were in and out, and the nurse made the intermittent fetal monitoring very unobtrusive—she caught me when I was sitting down on my birth ball anyway, and never asked me to change position or stay still.

While in the shower, I started to feel a little bit different with my waves, almost “pushy.” (Though in hind-sight, nowhere near as pushy as I would feel later!) I let the midwife know, and she checked me and said that my cervix was almost completely open, with just a little lip, and that I could go ahead and start pushing with each wave if I wanted to. I started feeling nervous at this point because of the unknown...I didn’t really know how to push, wasn’t sure if I was really ready to start, and was also getting tired both physically and mentally! I tried to remind myself that I would figure it out and to try and stay calm. Intellectually, I knew that this transition time is famous for causing a lot of out-of-control, scared feelings (and often vomiting—though thankfully I avoided that!). The midwife and nurse were very reassuring when I shared my fears, reminding me that they were there to help and that I would be fine.

I had planned to push leaning forward, so I asked the nurse to get the bar for the bed, and then started to do some tentative pushing with each contraction. It took me awhile to get organized, and it didn’t feel quite right. The midwife encouraged me to conserve my energy a bit by leaning back on the bed, with my upper body quite elevated, rather than squatting fully upright. This did not feel right to my body either, but I took her advice. She checked my cervix again and said that my bag of waters was bulging and would break very soon, or she could do it now, which would probably take care of the posterior lip of cervix and make me officially “complete.” I gave a few more pushes without my water breaking, and since I was starting to feel quite tired and ready to move on to the next stage, I told her to go ahead and do it herself. Unfortunately, in my case, this didn’t make the little lip of cervix go away. After feeling quite comfortable through my labor up to this point, I was now feeling some discomfort but it was very controllable.

I was very definitely feeling pushy, so taking a break was not an option. The midwife then tried to hold the lip of cervix back while I pushed. That was very, very painful. I tried to use my Hypnobabies techniques, but nothing seemed to work. I’m not sure if this was because I had lost some focus being tired or because a foreign element had been introduced into the system. Finally, the midwife recommended turning onto my hands and knees and trying not to push for about 20 minutes, to see if my body could take care of the last little bit of cervix on its own. This was very difficult, as I was feeling really powerful urges to push. I was also feeling quite discombobulated, and would definitely have benefited from some strong coaching to guide me back into really good hypnosis. Unfortunately, Alex was understandably thrown by seeing me in pain over the last half hour or hour, and so neither of us really thought of that. (This is where a doula, or birth attendant, would have come in very handy.) We did know that B’s heartbeat was doing great throughout this entire period, so there was no thought of needing any intervention other than waiting it out. The midwife assured me that the baby would indeed come out eventually!

Once I waited out the 20 minutes, the midwife checked again. Complete! Hurray! But…now Brynna’s head had rotated slightly to a less favorable position for descent. I wanted to cry. If they had offered me a C-section in that moment, I would have been tempted! This led to some further pain as the midwife reached in and rotated her back to the proper position. Yikes. In hindsight, I really wonder if I had been more patient, not had her break my water, just waited longer, if I could have avoided all of this. Agreeing to lie back on the bed, which went against my instincts, could have played a role, as well.

Finally, I was complete, B was in the right position, and we were ready to go. At this point, pushing felt really good because I was DOING something. I was on my back at this point, head of the bed still quite elevated, and Alex and the nurse each helping to hold a leg up. That wasn’t at all the position that I had planned on, but it actually felt OK, and I started to make some progress moving Brynna down right away.

After about half an hour—it was about 11:30 PM at this point—I asked the midwife if she thought I would have the baby anytime soon. She asked me what I meant by “soon,” and I said in the next hour or so, and that if she thought it was going to go on for many hours, to please tell me so I could mentally prepare myself! I was definitely tired, and pushing was quite a lot of work. She said she couldn’t guarantee, but that she thought Brynna would come around midnight.

I did watch myself push in a mirror a few times, and eventually reached down and touched Brynna’s head as she was coming down, which was very encouraging! Finally, the midwife turned away briefly to put on her gloves, and the nurse reached over to unsnap my gown so that Brynna could go directly on my skin. I got a last burst of energy, knowing that it was almost time to meet her. A couple of pushes later—and just over 22 hours from my first contraction—Brynna made her entrance. Her head delivering was a super intense sensation, and then there was a similar feeling with the next push as her body followed on out. Then Brynna, screaming her head off, arrived on my chest. It was a good thing I had stopped looking in the mirror a few minutes before, as she had “terminal meconium” (pooped as she was coming out), and it was apparently a giant mess. The midwife had been just about right, it was 12:08.

I tried to soothe her and to relax myself, which was really tough, as I was exhausted and a bit overwhelmed at finally meeting this new little person. The nurse checked Brynna out quickly while she was snuggled up with me, though it was clear from the yelling that she was having no trouble breathing whatsoever! Although she was a little blue when she first arrived, as are all babies, her excellent lung function pinked her up very quickly. After a few minutes, I was surprised to realize that the umbilical cord was still attached—the midwives apparently wait a little while to cut it. (I had done some research and seen benefits and risks for both immediate cutting and waiting, and had decided that I didn’t have a strong preference and we'd just see how things went in the moment.)

Then there was a quietly efficient bustle from the midwife and nurse, who said very calmly that I was losing a little more blood than they would like. Alex cut the cord, and then the midwife started “massaging” my belly to encourage the uterus to clamp down. I was really shocked at how painful this was—no one on my OB rotations had told me that this could hurt, and when I had done it myself, the women had had epidurals and they had never mentioned it being painful. It was pretty awful for me, though! Since I hadn’t expected it to be a problem, I hadn’t had a chance to relax or use a technique to get back into my hypno-anesthesia, either. Coping with that made it hard for me to attend to Brynna, though I understood why they were doing it with some urgency.

It was during this bit of controlled chaos that two of the other L&D nurses came in with little plates of cake. As it turns out, our wonderful nurse, who had been expertly attending to us this whole time, was celebrating as well. She and Brynna have the same birthday by a whole 8 minutes!

The cake was placed on hold, but after a few minutes and a shot of pitocin in my thigh, all was once again well. The midwife and nurse quickly tidied me up. I didn’t need any stitches, yay! (Won’t go into details here, but would be happy to discuss with those who are interested what we did before and during labor to help prevent tears.)

The nurse helped us try breastfeeding, though Brynna was a bit snoozy and uncoordinated. She stayed skin-to-skin with me for a couple of hours, and we had some time just the three of us, before we decided that it was a good time for weighing and measuring. Though Brynna did not agree:

She was BIG! 8 lbs, 8 1/2 oz, in fact. This was a big surprise, as Alex and I were both sub-7 lb babies, and I had not gained too much weight or had gestational diabetes or anything. Our theory is that it was the strawberry shortcake I was eating every night for the last few weeks of pregnancy!

Around this time, Alex started making calls to the anxious grandparents. My folks, who had been driving since that morning, pushed on only a little farther, into Wisconsin, which shows both how quickly they were moving and what a long day it had been for everyone.

When we arrived on the postpartum floor a little while later, I started to wonder where Brynna would sleep. If she stayed in her bassinet, how would I get to her quickly when she cried in the night? Alex had to run home and let Jasper out and get a bit of sleep himself, so he wouldn’t be there to help. The nurse solved that problem by tucking Brynna down inside my hospital gown to sleep. Waking up the next morning, with a slumbering baby on my chest, was really my first “mommy moment.”

My recovery was amazing. When I had visualized our birth, I had thought about walking Brynna home from the hospital, and that is what we did after about a day and a half, once we felt that she was getting the hang of breastfeeding. The nurses were very concerned that I would fall over or pass out on the way home, but we were politely insistent that it would be fine. We took Brynna to the hospital door in her car seat, per institutional policy (which makes all kinds of public health sense, I’m not arguing with that), then switched her into her infant carrier and wandered on home.

I went right back to walking a mile or two a day, and started running again two weeks postpartum. I felt like Superwoman—incredibly powerful, like I could do anything. I still feel that way when I think about Brynna’s birth.

I am really excited about how well Hypnobabies worked. I was comfortable, calm, and collected for the vast majority of my labor. The only parts I would really call “painful” were the bits that involved the midwife maneuvering things around with my cervix and Brynna’s head, and then the uterine “massage” afterward. (Interestingly, over the last year I have forgotten just how painful those things were. Alex has not.) I will definitely use Hypnobabies again if we decide to have another baby!

Though right now, we have our hands quite full with just the one.

Happy birthday, Little B! We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!

Thursday, July 30, 2009


In honor of Brynna’s birthday (Friday!), I am going to post her birth story. So a little background information is in order first. By the time we decided to have a baby, I had been through my third year OB rotation, where I saw a bunch of births in the hospital, both vaginal births and C-sections.

The OB residents who ran the labor & delivery suite are very technically competent, but are generally not so interested in low-risk obstetrics. Most of them want to do subspecialties like gynecologic oncology surgery or reproductive endocrinology. They don’t have much experience with normal labor, since they (and us, as medical students), generally went into the room to check a cervix every couple of hours, and then at the end when the woman was pushing. Few women I saw there did anything besides lie in bed with an epidural.

After watching this, and doing some reading, I realized that I really wanted to stay home in comfortable surroundings for as long as possible, to be able to move around at will during my labor, and to maximize my chances of having a normal, straightforward vaginal delivery. I was afraid of forceps, and a C-section is major abdominal surgery! With these goals in mind, we made two big decisions:

1. We chose to have a midwife, since midwives are experts in normal, low-risk deliveries. On my rotation, the midwives would disappear into a patient’s room for awhile, and then they’d come out and record the birth on the big white board. No rushing or running about or anything. That’s what I wanted! They also provided a lot of support during labor for women who wanted it. We also had the best of both worlds, because at our big hospital, if something went wrong, we could also transfer care to the obstetricians for an emergency C-section. (No homebirth midwives in our part of Minnesota, so that wasn’t an option.)
2. We started to prepare for labor without pain medication, not for the sake of being Hardcore, but because it would be necessary if I was going to stay at home for a long time, and then once I got to the hospital it would let me continue to move around and keep interventions to a minimum. There are a whole set of things that come with epidurals. You have to have an IV, because the epidural can cause low blood pressure (which is corrected with IV fluids). You usually do less moving around—which can be critical for positioning the baby well and moving the baby down the birth canal—because of the IV, and the continuous monitoring of the baby, and the fact that you might not be able to feel your legs. Labor sometimes slows down once the epidural is started, leading to augmentation with a medication called pitocin, which can cause very hard contractions, stressing the baby and increasing the risk of C-section. And because you can’t feel your pelvis very well or at all (which, admittedly, is the point!), you sometimes can’t push as effectively as a woman who can feel. That leads to a higher risk of vacuum-assisted delivery, forceps-assisted delivery, and episiotomy. (Let me add that these things don’t ALWAYS happen, and some women get great pain relief and none of these side effects, and I am in no way suggesting that my decision is the one that all women should make. It was just the one that I thought was most likely to give me my desired birthing experience.)

Most natural birthing classes are based on the early 20th century work of Grantly Dick-Read, who wrote about something called the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. Fear (mainly of pain, since many people will tell you that childbirth is the worst pain ever) leads to tension, and tension increases pain. Lather, rinse, repeat. The goal is to break that cycle. I started researching various childbirth classes, and settled on something called the Hypnobabies Home Study Course. A woman I knew had had a great birth with hypnosis, and even though it sounded really hokey to me at first, it won out after I finished my research.

It will probably sound hokey to you, too, but here is what I learned to do: the course focused on deep relaxation, creating mental “hypno-anesthesia” to block pain in certain parts of my body, and expecting an easy, fast labor with pressure but no pain. Around 24 weeks of pregnancy, I started listening to the CDs. There were about six different tracks, and I laid down to listen to one every day (30-40 minutes) learning a bunch of different techniques to get into deep relaxation and create my mental anesthesia. I also listened to a track of positive birthing affirmations every day (also about 30 minutes) while I was walking to work or driving in the car. And I did my prenatal yoga for about half an hour every day too. Sometimes it seemed like the only time that I wasn’t at work in the hospital, I was doing my childbirth prep! Once I got home from Arizona, Alex and I worked together to finish our preparations. He learned some cue words and touches to guide me into hypnosis, and we practiced these together most evenings, before reading the crumpet her bedtime story.

Friday, I’ll post my story and you can see how all of this worked! But before then, a quick primer on labor:

-labor is defined as uterine contractions that cause the cervix to open up
-the cervix has to go from closed to approximately 10 cm open during the first stage of labor. This is usually the longest stage, especially in someone having her first baby.
-once the cervix is gone (the woman is “complete” in OB jargon), the second stage of labor—where the baby moves out of the uterus and down the birth canal—begins. This is the “pushing” phase.
-fairly soon after the baby is born, the placenta detaches from the uterine wall and also comes out (this is the third stage of labor), as the uterus clamps down to minimize blood loss.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pay As You Throw

Concord has in the last month implemented a new municipal trash collection program: pay as you throw. It's pretty straightforward: you purchase these purple trash bags from local stores, which are picked up curbside as usual. Other trash bags and open containers of trash will not be collected. The bags cost about $1 for a 15-gal, and $2 for a 30-gal, and are bought in packs of five. Yes, that's a costly piece of plastic, but it buys you trash disposal. It works, in other words, much like a postage stamp: the purple bags have built into them a fee for a service. Previously, trash collection and disposal had been paid for through municipal taxes (or, for things like apartment buildings businesses, private contractors). According to the Concord Monitor, the average cost of trash collection and disposal for the single-family home was $195, of which $106 was paid through property taxes; the rest was subsidized through business taxes.

In conjunction with this purple bag rollout, the city has upped their co-mingled recycling pickup, which is free, from bi-weekly to weekly. They'll take most anything of any recycleable value, which means that there's actually a lot that needs to get thrown out. Hilary and I barely half-fill one 15-gal bag per week, while our blue recylcing bin is full to the brim. We eagerly greated the weekly recycling collection, as we'd easily overflowed our recycling bin with bi-weekly collections.

So far, it seems to have been a success. And yet, from reading op-eds in the local paper, you'd think that we were being subjected to eco-facism. Being New Hampshire, many thought this a drastic over-reach by the local government (will the trash-cops be handing out fines)? Some bellyached about the hardship of refraining from automatically throwing everything into the trash. One major downtown supermarket refused to stock the bags, because they cannot make any profit on them. Others wondered if they would next start charging for the air we breathe (impossible), the waste we flush (they already do), or the water we drink (they already do). One person complained about the economic hardship it places on his family: five 30-gallon trash bags a week! One argued that this is little more than an unfair regressive tax that burdens families with children and the poor (a debatable point). Yet another voiced about the only valid concern I've heard: that people will illegally dump their trash in surrounding communities.

Hilary and I have no problem with this program - we actually look favorably on it. It boils down to a simple matter of economics: if you want to discourage one type of behavior (throwing everything away pell mell), make it more expensive. If you want to encourage another type of behavior (increased recycling), make it free, convenient, and easy. Even were the bags to cost the same or less than ordinary trash bags, the simple fact that you need to put some thought into it raises one's consciousness about what, and how much, one is throws away. The city instituted this program largely because the cost of municipal trash collection and disposal was rising faster than tax revenues could support. Instead of a broad tax, which treated wasters and recyclers equally, and is thoroughly invisible to the end-user, this system is fee-based: pay as you throw. The more you throw out, the more you are required to chip in. Even better than that, you'll know that you are paying more for throwing out more; you see the full cost, and are thereby encouraged to change your behavior.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dress and Grooming

One significant different between my old job and new has to do with the expected dress code and grooming. My old place of business had a pretty simple dress code for all its salaried professionals, engineers included: business attire. Note that this isn't business casual. Each day I would get all dressed smart in slacks, button-down, and a tie. I usually dispensed with suit suit jacket, but had one ready in my office when the occasion called.

This might seem a bit of an odd wardrobe for an engineer in this day and age, perhaps even anachronistic. The only thing separating me from a bunch of Apollo-era NASA engineers was my lack of a pocket-protector, slide rule, and shirtsleeves. Still, that was the dress code expected, particularly when seeing patients or physicians. Hilary had a similar dress expectation when seeing patients. By a historical quirk, the doctors wore for office visits, not white coats. It wasn't all that bad on a day-to-day basis, although this time of year in Minnesota could make it a bit uncomfortable.

Contrast that to my current place of work. There really isn't any expected dress code. My button-down with tie would put me quite out of place. I haven't gone so far as some of my co-workers, who this time of year can be seen wearing shorts and flip-flops. Although I've worn jeans a few times, by and large I've stuck to khakis and a decent shirt. I like to consider myself a professional, and looking the part plays into that. Besides, I looked good in dress clothes - you can't get that same effect from a polo shirt.

Not to say that the relaxed attire at work isn't welcome. It is quite nice to not have to shave every other day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Brynna's Mohawk

Yeah, might be time for a little trim.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brynna And Her Puppy

Brynna and Jasper have become great friends. Jasper follows her around, trying to lick her feet or whatever other parts present themselves for sniffing, and he will tolerate all sorts of movements and noises from Brynna (or whatever she throws on the floor) that would normally send him skittering.

Here they are at the street fair this weekend:

Jasper also makes an excellent cushion. This morning, Brynna toppled over backwards off the couch, landed on top of Jasper, and rolled unhurt onto the rug.

Who knew, when we brought Jasper home a little more than two years ago, that he'd come so far? We can't imagine a more wonderful dog to have in our family!

Monday, July 20, 2009


We've posted in the past about various eating difficulties with Brynna, but we've got no complaints right now! She eats all sorts of things, demanding a taste of anything being served in her vicinity.

What sorts of things does an almost-toothless 11-month-old eat? First of all, Cheerios! Other finger-food favorites include black beans, pieces of bread, and pieces of veggie burger. She loves it when we feed her yogurt mixed with pureed fruit like apples, pears, and mangos. We mix powdered baby oatmeal, which is iron-fortified, into various things to act as a thickener. She often enjoys pureed carrots and broccoli mixed with pumped breastmilk and oatmeal, and last night had pureed summer squash and carrots with yogurt.

At Miss A's, Brynna often gets to have pancakes for breakfast (made with fruit and soymilk and other healthy add-ins). She likes having bits of burrito or pieces of pasta with sauce or sometimes mac and cheese for lunch.

In addition to nursing three times a day—just before we get up, when I pick her up in the evening, and sometime in the night—she drinks watered-down juice and soymilk from her Tilty. (Absolutely no interest in drinking breastmilk from bottle or Tilty. She wants it straight from the source. Though Alex has recently had luck with a combo of breastmilk and chocolate milk.)

The other night at the street fair, Brynna even enjoyed gumming our ice cream (mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie dough) and eating little pieces of falafel sandwich.

She is also getting very interested in the mechanics of eating with a spoon. She likes to grab the handle and put the end of the spoon with the food in her mouth. Then she holds the spoon back out in the direction of the bowl and I help her load it back up. Her aim is actually quite good, she hits her mouth most of the time! She also really likes to place individual Cheerios on the top of each spoonful of food that I hold out to her.

Wanting to encourage these self-feeding forays, I ordered her some baby eating equipment from a cool website that has BPA, PVC, phthalate-free kid stuff. We got three bowls that have a suction cup attachment (so Brynna can focus on learning how spoon up food, not experimenting with gravity), two different kinds of baby spoons that are easy to hold, and a big suction-cuppy placemat to take to restaurants.

Here is Brynna practicing with some yogurt:

The spoon can get tiring, but yogurt feels awfully nice on the fingers:

Yogurt can make the hair nice and shiny, too:

And if all else fails, there's always the direct approach:

Jasper likes to lurk about in wait:

Because sometimes, Brynna likes to slip him some goodies:

Now, if we could only teach him to nibble up all the Cheerios on the floor...

Friday, July 17, 2009

And in Second Place...Teeth!

As we learned last week, the winner in the walking vs talking vs cutting teeth race was walking. And now we can announce second place: teeth!

Two days ago, I noticed that Brynna had just a tiny little serrated edge peeking through her lower gum...the front tooth, on the right side. Then yesterday we realized the other front bottom tooth is just breaking through as well! She's actually holding up well—there's lots of determined and persistent chomping on things, but she doesn't seem to be in too much pain. We have a new bottle of Tylenol ready if we need it, though!

There's nothing to post pictures of yet, but once those pearly whites get a little bigger, we'll be sure to get some photos.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Car Go Bye Bye

It is a sad event to say goodbye to an old friend..a trusty companion, a good steed. Yet, as we found out a while back, this chariot had, after 15 years and 140,000 miles, given out. We already had the replacement, all that was left was the disposition of Hilary's old car.

Because we bought her new car in a private sale, the old subaru had zero trade-in value. We could have perhaps tried to sell it ourselves, but with all the necessary fixes and its present lack of road-worthiness, we'd be lucky to get much of anything for it, and then only after a lot of legwork on our part. No, instead, we donated it to NHPR. They make it real easy - just an initial phone call to get some information (make, model, etc.), then a follow-up phone call from the auction house that would send a tow truck for it. We've been told that, should the car fetch more than $500 at auction, we'll get a sort of itemized donation receipt for tax purposes. Frankly, I'd be surprised if NHPR got that much for it, but we'll see.

Thankfully, they were able to do a pickup on Saturday morning, which was about the only time we'd be available. Though there was some difficulty when the truck arrived. The driver was all in a huff and a hurry and dismayed that, at 7:30 am, half an hour before the scheduled pickup window, we hadn't already fetched the (plateless) car and laid her out ready to go. Thankfully, Hilary was already on the way, and we'd already cleaned out most everything of use and moved it to her new wagon. The main thing to go was a set of snow tires, which ought to come useful if the new wagon lasts to winter.

Some fussing around with chains, some whirring of the winch, and there she was, laid up on the flatbed, and off around the corner with hardly time for a proper goodbye!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Trip Report: Mt. Pemigewasset

I had the weekend off to work on switching my schedule back from nights to days, so we headed up to the mountains for a family hike on Sunday. We're working our way through the shorter, family-friendly hikes in Franconia Notch, and this time we chose Mount Pemigewasset, also called Indian Head. Brynna enjoyed shrieking away with the birds on the way up, and Jasper bore up well under his backpack (and remained chipper despite what we might call multiple episodes of "significant gastrointestinal distress.") Here we all are at the top:

Brynna and Alex inspecting the view:
Brynna getting up close and personal with the granite of New Hampshire (and some Cheerios, because the snacking at the peak is half the fun...):

A good time was had by all. We were able to make a loop (Mt. Pemigewasset Trail up, Indian Head Trial down) rather than an out-and-back by walking about a mile on Route 3 to end our hike. The trails were quite muddy, but I suppose that is to be expected given the weather over the last month! Brynna even had a bit of a nap on the way down.

We finished off the day with a meal at the Woodstock Inn. The beer and the guacamole were lovely. The entrees (pizza for Alex, veggie burger for me) were...ummm...not. Though Jasper happily finished them off for us.

(PS on the photos: they make it look like Brynna was roaming free, and like we were holding her, just inches from the edge of a cliff...but we assure you that is not the case. No Michael Jackson/Blanket imitations here.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

And the Winner Is...Walking!

Yeah, the video would probably be better if it actually showed her legs. But we had to prop the camera up somewhere!

Climbing Mount Washington

Mount Washington has, to say the least, a storied history. Yet another first came about earlier this week:

Yes, a camel climbed Mount Washington. The creature just strolled up the auto road, hung out for a while, then went back down. What a silly, pointless, and futile gesture!

Then there's me - my relationship with Mount Washington is much more sensible and dignified:

I've carried a canoe to the summit. Twice.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Car Problem...Solved!

So, we left you, our dear readers, hanging, with the Moose Family temporarily reduced to a one-car family. How to get a new car? We didn't want to take out a car loan right before taking out a mortgage, or spend a bunch of our down payment either.

(This whole thing would have been much easier if it hadn't been raining, and raining, and raining, making a bike commute, even to the hospital, dangerous...)

But I can now present the new Moose Family auto:

"But Hilary," you may say, "that looks just like your old car!"

Indeed. We solved this problem in fine New England style—we met a guy at the Norwich farmers' market! He was parked next to us, Alex struck up a conversation with him, and it turned out that he was selling his car. For less than $1000. We realized that this was the perfect solution, an inexpensive bridge vehicle that we hope will get us over the mortgage hump. It is a 1995 Subaru station wagon, making it a whole year younger than the almost-identical car it is replacing. Though I suppose "new" may be a little bit of a stretch. Especially since it has 203,000 miles on it. However, it does have the added benefits of having a manual transmission and no automatic seatbelts, addressing my biggest complaints about my old car!

We bought it contingent on it passing the New Hampshire inspection, or requiring only minimal work to do so. Two weekends ago we drove up to Vermont, picked the car up, took it across the border to New Hampshire, and had it inspected. It did need a little work (a new CV and outboard axle assembly), which it had this past week. Now it is all inspected and registered. Welcome to the family, Subaru Two!

4th of July

We had a wonderful 4th of July weekend. We went to Connecticut, where I slept a LOT. It was such a treat to spend time with Alex, Brynna, and other friends and family! 

Here's Brynna in her summer clothes (there hasn't been much call for that recently with all the rain), showing off her standing skills:

On Friday night we went to a fantastic party on the CT shore. There was a very cool pizza truck with a wood-fired oven built right in:

There is nothing like New Haven pizza. Nothing. Here's Brynna getting her first introduction:

(She enjoyed the gelato afterward, too.)

Here's Brynna showing off her pretty Independence Day dress and chatting with Alyssa, hostess extraordinaire:

We considered it a celebration of Brynna's 11 month birthday, too:

And then there were fireworks, though they were far enough away so that there wasn't much noise and Brynna could just enjoy the lights.

The next day, the weather continued to hold, and we had a wonderful picnic with family and friends, including our annual reading of the Declaration of Independence. Alex and I took Brynna swimming, too, which she loves! I stole this photo from my dad's blog:

Ahhh. It was so lovely to just relax for a couple of days.

Friday, July 3, 2009

So Very Close...

2:50 AM. In call room after tucking in 2 admissions from the ED.

Teeth brushed, face washed, contacts exchanged for glasses.

Turned down the blanket on the bed, bent over to untie my shoes...

...and got a page that we had another admission.

I remind myself that these folks are having a MUCH worse night than I am!

(She's all tucked in now, too, so maybe a little rest this time...and once we sign out at 8 AM, I don't have to be back until 6 PM Sunday!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home Alone? Hardly.

I read up on some of the blogs of Hilary's former classmates. They, like Hilary, are all starting to practice in the hospital, and some of them are starting to take overnight call. I have come across three posts from the left-behind spouse describing their first night alone: the quietude, the lonely dinner, getting things done, the empty bed

Yeah, that ain't me. My nights this past week have gone as follows:

  • Rush out of work sooner than I feel I ought so that I can
  • Pick up Brynna before she starts to think her sitter is a substitute parent
  • Feed Brynna a little something, or let her romp around in her play room for a bit
  • Get Brynna all hitched up so that we can take Jasper out for a much-delayed walk
  • Feed Brynna dinner, followed by more play
  • Put Brynna to bed sometime between 8 and 9
  • Make dinner
  • Do the dishes and tidy up as best I can
  • Feed Jasper, prepare Brynna's midnight snack
  • Pray to get to bed by midnight
  • Be awoken by a hungry Brynna not long after getting to sleep, bring her downstairs for a quick bite in the dark
  • Be awoke by Brynna at least once more in the night, requiring a little jzhushing back to sleep
  • Wake up far too early to get Jasper and Brynna out for a walk and breakfast
  • Spend five minutes handing Brynna off to Hilary when she comes home from the hospital, allowing me to take off for work

Not quite a lonely night at home.

Although a bit snarky, I don't mean the previous list to be a rant. It is what it is because there's no alternative. Now that I've got a sort-of routine figured out, I can work my way through it pretty well. As this past week progressed, I found I even had a little free time just before bed (to do things like blog). This won't last too much longer before Hilary is on a more normal, mostly daytime schedule.

Green vs. Greener

It's a bit of a pet peeve of mine when I hear talk about this or that product or technology being "green" or "clean."

That Prius might use 1/3 - 1/2 less fuel than my Jetta for fulfilling the same transportation need, but it isn't green by any stretch. It's still two tons of highly-refined materials (steel, nickel, copper, magnets, rubber), shipped from all over the world, driving on roads made of concrete and asphalt, and still burning a frighten amount of gasoline.

And clean? As in clean coal? No such thing. Even if things like carbon capture and sequestration come to pass, burning coal for heat and electricity still won't be clean. There's plenty more dirty about coal than just what goes up the stack: fly ash is pretty darned toxic stuff, and the techniques for mining coal leave tremendous and permanent scars on the land.

My problem with these two terms, aside from the diluted sense in which they are used (greenwashing), is that they are absolute terms. This is green, that is not; this is clean, that is not. Something of such complexity as an energy source can't be described in such clearcut terms. It is much like how I get squeamish when pundits and politicians (of all people!) start talking about what is right and wrong, or the devout go on and on about how their's is the one true faith.

Perhaps I'm some crazy hippy for not putting much stock in absolute terms. Still, I would much rather prefer if folks started using comparative forms. Instead of "green" use "greener"; instead of "clean," "cleaner."

What good would that do? Doesn't that lead to the equally nasty trap, opposite of absolutism, or making everything relative? Perhaps, but I am only focusing on these two words and the way that they are used to describe a thing's impact on the world. In that form, clean coal would become cleaner coal. The marketing guys would love it! Now we're not just clean, we're cleaner. However, once you get over the shallowness of such a marketing claim, the audience is left with the seed of a question: Cleaner than what? Cleaner than what we've got. Still...not clean in an intrinsic sense. Plus, the term implies that there could yet be something even cleaner. Just like with temperature: you might think it's cold in Minnesota in January, but it could always be colder. What seems hot for a human is barely a tiny fluctuation the vast range of temperatures we can access. I would hope that building the comparative into the debate would urge us to strive for continual improvement, to always seek for better.

As an American, I take great pride in our system of government, and marvel at the wisdom of those that instituted it. But perhaps their greatest wisdom in creating the new government was the realization that they weren't omniscient or infinitely wise - that they would need to build in some flexibility. The preamble to the Constitution speaks of forming a more perfect union, and for good reason. The founding fathers didn't go around claiming they'd come across the perfect form of government. No, they just tried to set up a framework that worked reasonably well for the day, but would allow the nation to seek to become more perfect. So, too, should we seek to do when addressing the need to do more with less.