Monthly Archives: April 2013

Days 5 & 6


In the morning we enjoy breakfast and head out for neolithic monuments.  We also slather ourselves with sunscreen because the surprise pink cheeks from yesterday cannot happen again!  It is mild but the sun is out so better to be safe than guilty I sunburned my kiddos.  It is then that we realize our late starts happen because breakfast at 8:30am with a dawdling toddler takes a good 45 minutes, then we pack up, then nursing and bathrooming all around puts us out the door around 10am on a good day and 11-12pm on really slow ones (you can take the family out of Tennessee but you cannot take the slow as molasses out of the family!).  That has put us at our “morning activities” usually around 11-1pm which isn’t exactly great because then it is lunch so we stop, eat, nurse, restroom.  THEN finally we see what we came for!  
But back to Thursday…we head for Avebury via chalk white horses and roman ruins.  Both of which we find and see successfully.  We did not ever find the chapel that was on the map but that is okay.  The roman ruins are worth the side trip.  One of the best mosaic floors of its type that I have seen.  Also, one of the larger villas with out buildings that I have seen.  The chalk horse was interesting too.  
Avebury was awe inspiring as always. One of Britain’s many stone circles, this one’s claim to fame is its sheer size.  The circle’s circumference is large enough that there’s a TOWN inside it. I didn’t see any information about how many stones make up the circle, but I’d be surprised if there was a stone circle anywhere with more. If the site was used for astrological functions and calendar calculation (as they say these things were) you have to wonder what the folks at Avebury were up to that needed so much more real estate than your average henge, which is usually big enough to house a Boy Scout troop. It took a driveby and turn around for us to get on the processional road the correct direction but that is alright.  Mr. T seemed suitably impressed.  I was hoping AU would Tula nap, instead she Tula fussed.  That was alright.  We got to feel smugly superior to the dopes carrying their strollers as their toddlers ran hither and yon.  Neolithic sites are not particularly stroller friendly!  She did like touching the stones and seeing the sheep (oh, and she is now saying, “More farm animals please!” which really cracks me up, when we go a minute without seeing the ver present sheep or cows.).  She also liked the bites of ice cream we enjoyed as snack on the way to the car!
She and JU slept while we headed south toward Salisbury.  I remembered en route that in 2006 when I was here the plan was to build a new road and educational center near Stone Henge so that you could not drive by it.  I decided not to say anything until I saw for sure.  Due to the road construction it took 3! tries to find stone henge.  They were omidproject, scheduled to be done in the fall.  We took some pictures from the road but did not tour because the girls were sleeping.  We headed to wood henge.  Both girls woke up, AU with shrieking (which eventually lead to her sitting in the car by herself while Mr. T and I discuss our plans for the weekend) and JU with crying.  We were all hungry and tired.  We decide that the priority is filling bellies so we head into Salisbury to a Rick Steve’s recommended pub.  
It reminds me of a place I would have enjoyed as a 25 year old backpacker.  In fact, there are youth with their backpacks scattered amongst the locals who were just off work.  10 years and 2 kids removed from that type of scene I felt out of place and old.  The food wasn’t that great either.  It was curry special night (did you know that the English are the highest consumers of Indian food outside of  India?) and neitherof us prefer curry so we ordered off the regular menu.  
I run upstairs to see how much a room would be for the night (lots of pubs are inns with rooms upstairs; this was one) but ultimately due to not knowing about our parking spot for overnight decide to head out.  We wind up staying at the “premier inn” which seems to be a Baymont/Red Roof Inn equivalent.  Just a basic but clean place.  We pay an extra 5 pounds to get AU a bed because we have not done more than sink laundry and her sheets were soiled by her sister the night before.
We are thankful in the morning that there is a hairdryer in the room so we can ensure all sink laundered items are dry.  Meanwhile, Mr. T and I use the 30 minutes of free internet to see if it is possible to rent a cottage in Keswick, Lake District, for 3 days.  Surprise!  It is! Plus, it is on sale for being last minute!  We decide to head that direction and decide at lunch if we were for sure going to do it/make it.  An almost 6 hour drive is not lightly undertaken with a 2 year old and an infant.  
We set out, still discussing whether Cambridge/York would be a better choice. We made coffee in the room to take but stopped at a farm shop for some breakfast bites.  Mr. T wanted baked goods which seemed like a no-brainer for a farm shop but alas, they had none.  So, we enjoyed the first toasties of the trip.
A toastie is a hot sandwich made from special “toasting bread” with toppings of cheese and ham typically.  The bread is toasted first, then the toppings are put on and the slices are put under the broiler to melt/heat up.  Then two,slices are put together.  It is different entirely then a grilled cheese or even cheese toast.  It is sort of a hybrid of the two.
We drive forever.  We encounter our first rain drops.  A few sprinkles is all, not even “rain” really.  The traffic gets difficult.  We get hungry for lunch.  We stop at their version of a rest stop.  It has 2 separate facilities–a gas station with a burger king, and a grocery store with a coffee shop and food court.  We pick the latter.  
In the grocery it takes a while to navigate all the sandwich and salad choices.  We sit in the food court and eat.  As in the States there are big screen TVs showing commercials and news.  The news reports that M62 is closed and Bangladesh is having strife.  AU and Mr. T go outside to play on the playground while I get on the internet to book our cottage.  We have decided!  Keswick!  
While playing AU slides down a slide (English slides start out wide and narrow at the bottom.  Then the bottom instead of ending like in the US the slide continues with a straight part (for stopping safely I guess?).  Most kids would slide, wind up with their feet on either side, put their feet down and stop.  AU who is a “fast” slider winds up feet on either side, unable to stop, face first into the ground.) and winds up skinned and bloodied.  Poor thing!  We use the restroom and stop into a book/CD/connivence shop to buy a book on tape–Dick Barton Super Spy, a BBC radio show.  Then we set of again.  We are only 2ish hours from Keswick.  Easy peasy!  
We leave the car park, come round the corner of the on ramp, and stop. Then  we look at the map.  M62 is about 30 miles north.  Ah, that explains the bad traffic.  England only has a few interstates and the one we are on heads north with the M62 shooting off of it north east.  So, the closed highway is causing the one we are on to also back up.  Excellent!
We enjoy our book on tape and the girls sleep.  It only takes us an extra 2-3 hours to get there.  It rains and rains but we are in the car so it doesn’t matter.  We wind up eating dinner in the grocery store cafe before buying groceries for eating in a few meals at the cottage. 
 At the grocery we discover on the toy aisle kids magazine/workbooks prepackaged with stickers and toys for around 4£.  We buy one to entertain AU with and are very impressed…ours is “spring” themed with plastic ladybugs, a bug catcher net, a box of 3 miniature cars, and a frog catapult with the magazine/workbook and stickers.  AU is in love and keeps busy for hours.  
After finding internet to get directions to the cottage and entering the secret code to obtain the cottage keys we are finally, finally arrived!  Only 12 hours, not bad!  We unload and collapse into sleep. 

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Additional Information

Mr. T’s thoughts and comments are in parenthesis.  Enjoy!  

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Day 4

Breakfast is another formal affair with china and full fry.  Everyone is again gaga over JU and barely acknowledges AU.  This has happened repeatedly, multiple times a day, which is a different cultural experience then we have back home.  At home AU  is fawned over and talked to while JU is largely ignored except maybe a “Oh, do you have a baby sister?” at the end of a conversation.  Here , lots of talking to JU and then, “Is this your big sister?” at the end of the interaction.  AU doesn’t care so it isn’t a problem, just an interesting observation.  We have seen very few babies about (even at playgrounds) so maybe that is why.  
After breakfast we pack up and are told to wait to leave because they will be driving a flock of sheep across the road and through the farmyard where we are parked.  AU thinks the herd of sheep racing by is terrific fun and says, “more” as soon as they pass.  She and I go down to the lambing barn to say goodbye to them as “more”.  
Our plan is to go to Blenheim Palace and picnic and tour.  We picnic next to the miniature train tracks in a hurry to get to the palace.  AU continues eating sparsely.  She is working on 3 of her two year molars.  She is also working on being 2 and only eating cheese and cookies.  Good thing there are grownups around to offer apples and peas.  
(Blenheim Palace was given to John Churchill — 1st duke of Marlborough and the most famous general you’ve never heard of — by the Crown as a reward for winning the Battle of Blenheim — the most important battle you never learned about. The battle was in Bavaria against the French in a conflict called The War of Spanish Succession, which may explain why it’s a bit daunting for American public schools to cover. To put it in context, though, it was the battle that turned the tide in a long struggle against the Sun King and started the British Empire. At least, that’s how it’s presented at Blenheim Palace, and considering how impressively large and beautiful it is, the King and Queen at the time probably wouldn’t consider that an exaggeration. Oh, and if you recognized the Duke’s last name, it’s because Blenheim Palace is where Winston Churchill was born and raised.)
We take the train to the palace and load the girls in the Tulas.  AU stays awake on my back looking at things until about half way through the first floor.  Those rooms are a history of Winston Churchill.  Then we see the apartments and talk extensively with a docent/guide about the plaster wall paintings in the dining room (which is in the process of being laid for Christmas!  AU is still awake, just long enough for us to talk about the princess parties that happen here and she falls asleep) which were done by a french painter and include images of north africans, far easterners, and the like which evolves into a discussion about current world affairs and islamists.  She even joins us in the next room to tell us about the tapestries depicting the Battle of ??? which  ended? the War of Spanish Secession.  
We finish the first floor and decide to go upstairs to see the rooms we were told wouldn’t be good because of the children.  Since they were both asleep it seemed fine to us.  Unlike downstairs, which was a lot like touring Versailles, this is more like an educational version of The Haunted Mansion.  We get about 2/3 of the way through before both girls awake so we head ahead of our group (we were told by a docent it was okay!) and on out.  
We ride the train back to the pleasure gardens where we let AU down to run about.  We quickly do the hedge maze and then off to the playground.  We wind up by going through the butterfly garden which is steamy hot and has the largest butterflies i have ever seen.  
We get to the car around 5:30 and decide to head on to Oxford for the night. We quickly change plans when traffic, poor maps, bicyclists, and lack of information and a closed TI prove difficult.  We decide to head back out of Oxford.  First, though we grab dinner from McDonalds.  Yes, we were “those” people who travel halfway around the world to windup eating gross food we could get for less money back home but almost never do.  With the tired and hungry we figured we would be setting ourselves up for misery taking AU into a restaurant to eat and we were in a hurry to find a place to sleep for the night.  
We wind up staying at a Best Western to cap off our “things we don’t do in America” portion of the trip.  It isn’t bad or expensive and puts us closer to Avebury and Stone Henge for the next day.  I wash clothes in the sink because there is not a laundry.  (This would prove to be a portent of things to come, as if Oxford put us behind schedule not just today, but for days afterward.)


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Days 2 & 3

We are up for the day at 9am.  We feel like new people!  We eat a breakfast of cereal and toast.  Then we head for the Limestone Way, a walking path through Youlgreave.  We walk about a mile and a half then turn around and walk back.  We learned our lesson from the stone circle and although AU swore she wanted to walk I wore her Tula just in case. I wound up carrying her about 2 miles total.  We had a beautiful time in the idyllic landscaping.  Life is good.  
We got back to the B&B and left for Stratford-Upon-Avon with a picnic lunch en route.  We found a park and picnicked like true British-the cold, wind, and threatening rain did not stop us!  Before you think us crazy there were several grown ups with their small people out doing the same.  We did not get to play because someone would not eat their fruit or peas.  
We arrived in Stratford that afternoon (the 22nd) and stopped at a recommended B&B but they only had a single room left.  We went three houses down and got a great deal on a family room.  Unfortunately, as soon as we get moved in AU asks to go to bed.  We explain that we have to get supper bites first.  She does not really agree but we insist.  
We choose the recommended Old Thatch Tavern, which has only been in business for about 530 years.  Dinner is delicious.  Mr. T has the honey ham with eggs, chips, and salad.  I have fish, chips, and salad.  AU refuses to eat a bite of carrot/green bean/broccoli while her cottage pie is cooling and instead hits, kicks, and throws a carrot.  Thus ending her meal being escorted out of the restaurant screaming and crying.
JU and I finish up and pay.  We order an apple tart with custard to go (do you know most UK places cannot legally do to go or packaged leftovers?) which is still warm when we have it, back in the room, an hour later.  
AU is up and down in the night and has some sort of issue with Mr. T wherein she loses her bed.  In the morning when I wake up her bed is up out of the way and she is half on the floor, half on the inflatable mattress.  I wake or the day at 5:50 and so does JU.  AU is up about 6am.  We hang out and try not to do too much as breakfast is not until 8am.  I was worried AU would be miserable having skipped lunch and dinner the day before but she made it with only an incident or two- opening the room door and walking out!
Breakfast was a traditional fry plus choice of cereals and fruits.  The coffee was just terrible.  The toast was made from homemade bread which was quite good.  I enjoyed egg, bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato for my portion.  Mr. T skipped the nonprotein bites but added sausage he said was good.  
We enjoyed our conversation with two ladies from Herefordshire (near Cambridge and London) about Stratford, world economies (Britain is treading water in the global debt race- not sinking but not prospering), and the play they saw last night (The Empress about a man from India sent to the Queen as a gift and their relationship).  
We got packed up and the plan was to walk down to Shakespeare’s grave and then over to his birthplace so Mr. T could take the tour.  We didn’t think AU could be persuaded to sit through three multimedia presentations of the Bard’s life and plays so I was going to find something to do with the littles while Mr. T toured.  We forgot the camera in the car which was a shame because the River Avon was just gorgeous.  
At Holy Trinity church we discover that the grave is closed during morning services and will not reopen until 11am.  What we also discover is that in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday (Yes!  Travel serendipity finds us yet again!  We are in Stratford-Upon-Avon for Shakespeare’s birthday (also his death day but that is morbid and does not involve cake usually) simply by coincidence.) the church is hosting a sonnet reading with coffee and birthday cake to follow. 
So, we decide to walk along the river to pass the hour or so until the sonnet reading.  As we walk we come across a ferry to the other side of the Avon and the children’s playground.  The ferry is 50p and is the only remaining chain ferry in England (thus also the oldest).   We decide to cross to the park.  I ask if  I can operate the crank and the ferry captain allows it.  So, I crank us across the river.
The park is lovely!  It even has a wading pool for the summer.  The sand is even clean!  I nurse JU while AU plays.  Mr. T stands nearby and strikes up a conversation with an older gentleman.  They discuss the church and Stratford and the Bard.  
We leaves the park, cross the river on the ferry again, and walk back to the church.  We discover not only costumed actors reciting sonnets but also play excerpts AND a children’s area in the back of the church.  Mr. T sits up front while the rest of us go to the children’s area.  AU colors and looks at books, I listen to the performance, JU sleeps.  Perfect!  At the conclusion we enjoy a cup of coffee and we three eaters in the bunch share a slice of birthday cake.  Au is particularly keen on birthdays these days and really enjoys singing the song although instead of “dear William” she sings “dear Sh-L-iiiii” which is just too cue and funny. 
We wind up our time at Holy Trinity by paying our donation to walk in to the chancel to see the grave.  There were thousands of birthday flowers arranged.  It was strange to me that Shakespeare’s daughter’s husband also had pride of place too.  There must be more to that story.
We left the church and headed for the birth place.  Mr. T had decided not to take the tour as it was lunchtime and naptime so we were all a little fussy.  We overheard part of a tour so we knew which window belonged to the room he was born in, why the front door was so wide, and what his father did for a living.
We left the birthplace and walked back to the car.  We decide to picnic on the way to Warwick Castle and stop at a picnic spot on the Avon just outside of town. AU  immediately wets her pants so she enjoys lunch in her diaper. Reading the description to Warwick Castle, we learn that admission for two adults is nearly $70, and the castle has been turned into something like a medieval-themed amusement park to generate money for whatever destitute  noble family owns it. Therefore, we head to the Cotswolds. Way, way back, the Cotswolds region was very wealthy because they produced the best wool. After cotton became king, wool declined and left this formerly rich area a bit destitute.  Now thanks to beautiful landscapes and tourism the area is thriving.
We spend the afternoon driving around to places with names like Chipping Camden, Snowshill, Dorsington, and Evesham.  We briefly considered paying to visit a farm in the afternoon for AU’s enjoyment but decide to try a farm stay B&B instead.  We wind up on a fairly dilapidated sheep, cow, horse farm.  We are encouraged to look about.  In the barn we discover the lambing pens and AU is fascinated.  I understand that sheep are not pets and either make good sweaters or good eating but AU asking, “Where the lambs’ mama?” in response to two pens full of just lambs is a little heartbreaking.  
By the time we finish looking over the livestock, it is time for supper.  We wind up in this fairly modern, nearly empty bar.  We both order the burger (although with my knowledge of mad cow disease of the 90s and early 2000s I am leery) which is edible.  AU scarfs down her pasta meatballs.  
We drive back to the farm and collapse into bed.  AU sleeps through the night for the first time in months!  

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We arrived at BNA airport about 2 1/2hours before our flight.  We breezed through security and had a bite to eat.  Airport food prices would help soften the exchange rate adjustment.  We found our gate and took AU potty and let her play on the play equipment.  

The flight to DC was uneventful.  We easily made our connection using one of the gate to concourse people movers.  We decided to pile the things we were toting in the rolling carseat and have AU walk. That made life much easier.  
We had a sandwich waiting at the gate and chatted with a British couple who were returning home from their honeymoon to Las Vegas.  AU was enamored as they had food and an iPad.  I was not able to move Mr. T and AU up to sit with me because the flight was nearly full and someone had reservedthe window seat in my row.  
We boarded the plane together and Mr. T went to the back to install the carseat for AU and I kept her with me and July in the Tula.  After a little while he was done and I sent AU down the aisle to the back of the plane to him and settled in for the flight.  
I felt lots of guilt about being up in the “economy plus” section (formerly business class) where I could stretch my legs all the way out and not touch the bulkhead in front of me with my feet and having the seat next to me empty when Mr. T and AU were crammed in the back like sardines.  It was all for the bassinet for JU though. Oh, but one  can only use the bassinet when the seatbelt light is off.  It never went off so the bassinet was never installed.  Thankfully, I realized this was going to be the case early on so I could moderate my expectations–we were being pushed along to Manchester by a storm so the flight was going to be turbulent but arrive AN HOUR AND A HALF early!
Dinner was beef or chicken with rice and i was able to eat despite having a baby strapped to me because the tray could go on the tray of the seat next to me.  I had chicken.  It was pretty good for airplane food.  I watched Hope Springs which was good.  Then I moved JU from the Tula which was getting hot to the inflatable Brestfriend pillow.  She laid out on it and I held her and we slept for awhile.  
Then they came round with coffee, croissants, fruit, and turning the lights on.  JU continued to sleep (when I checked on Mr. T and AU earlier, post bathroom break, AU was awake in her carseat watching Mr. T sleep) I coffeed up, ate, and watched two episodes of Big Bang Theory and we landed.  Five and a half hours gate to gate!  Amazing!  
We were last to deplane which was fine. The airport was empty because it doesn’t open until 6am and it was 5:30.  We took our time getting to immigration, using the loo and chatting with AU about being in England.  I talked the ear off the immigration officer who was clearly not the chatty type.  Then we picked up our bags which were easy to ID because they were the only ones left.  We hopped onto the rental car village shuttle to continue the adventure.  Ok, hopped is too carefree a word.  We got onto the shuttle with our 2 carseats, 2 children, 3 big suitcases, 2 diaper bags, 1 backpack, 1 CPAP machine, and a double stroller.  Wherein we high fived meeting our, “no crying in the airport,” goal.  
Car rental was easy until we realized that without a cart to haul our luggage we had no real way to et to the car without leaving either bags or children unattended.  Then it occurred to us that if I stayed with bags and children (taking the opportunity to feed JU) and Mr. T went to install carseats that then we ought to be able, together, to move children and bags to the car.  
After reconfiguring the carseats so I could drive safely (we made AU front facing…GASP!) we pulled out of the parking lot and onto the left side of traffic at 7:58 am.  Still no tears and only  2 1/2 hours from deplaning.  Excellent! 
We decided to head for the town of Bakewell in the Peak District for a bite to eat.  (It took us some time to get the navigating down because our map is excellent for countryside driving but sucky for city navigation.  Still no crying!)  You may have heard of a Bakewell Tart or Pudding.   We thought we would try one.  We didn’t.  We did however choose a restaurant based on our double stroller fitting through the door and not having to carry it up a flight of stairs.  We wound up at HoneyBuns with excellent coffee, cake on the menu for breakfast (we shared a piece of lemon which was divine!), and enjoyed some eggs and bacon (British style bacon is almost like ham.) and good local color.  The proprietor has taken over 40 trips to the US and told us of his travels. 
After breakfast we used the public toilets down the block.  I mention it for the mere fact that these are AWARD winning toilets.  I saw the plaque before entering but was still surprised by the gleaming surfaces, fresh flowers, turquoise color scheme, lemon/lavender scented air, and immaculate tidyness. Best public bathroom by far!  
We went for a walk next hoping to find the playground for AU.  After a trip back to the car to renew our pay/display sticker we had success.  It was sunny and mild which was lovely.  AU played then we bought picnic supplies in case our dinner selection was nonexistent being Sunday evening.  
We left Bakewell headed for Youlgreave.  The Peak District has lovely, chalky, limestone hills and sharp pointed pastures.  AU said a thousand times between then and now, “What’s that sheep doing?”  If you are not agriculturally savvy, sheep pretty much eat, sleep, and play.  
We stop at the Arbor Low stone circle but everyone but me is sleeping so I make inquiry about a room for the night and do not see the circle and choose not to pay the quoted exorbitant rate.  Instead, we continue on to Youlgreave.  
We miss the turn off for Youlgreave and decide to go on to the 9 ladies stone circle.  There is an orienteering event going on which was momentarily confusing.  We find the right path and start down it and AU decides to begin her comeapart.  She wants Mr. T to hold her but he has JU in the Tula on his front so that is not possible.  She does not want me to hold her and said she wanted to walk so I did not bring her Tula.  I wind up carrying her as she cries and yells to the stone circle and back which is probably a half mile round trip.  We have cookies (Rolo cookies!) and water for snack and really, truly head for Youlgreave.  
Down a one lane road, down a hill, is a section of the Limestone Way walking path.  It follows a stream with several foot bridges over it and there is a little b&b there.  We ring the bell, no answer.  We are just ready to give up when a young couple pushing a stroller come up the hill and call the proprietors for us (we have Mr. T’s cellphone with us but it won’t even display the time let alone call out).  Lo and behold they have vacancy!  We book in and go find some supper.  
We decide to head to a nearby town.  It turns out to be a bit like Gatlinburg, complete with ice cream stands with video games and picturesque scenery.  We try the guidebook recommended place but it was going to be another our before any place started serving again.  So we had mediocre fish and chips from a nasty chippy that had neither napkins nor tartar sauce.  
At this point, I am tired, tired.  We make it back to the B&B, barely get the layout, and all collapse into bed.  It is 7pm local time.  


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ROUGH DRAFT Birth Story of JU

So it was more than a few days.  It isn’t edited for typos or content (thus the lackluster ending) but I didn’t want to delay further.  Enjoy! 


On the evening of Jan 18th I walked upstairs and felt a wet gush.  I thought my water had broken but it had not.  That event though did set off night after night of prodromal contractions.  Amid the month long nighttime contraction fest I was able to stay in good spirits.  I knew that each contraction brought my second daughter closer.  I felt that even if the contractions weren’t dilating me they were helping with tone and positioning.  I was able to rest and sleep most mornings thanks to my husband’s work schedule so I did not get too exhausted.  There were a few teary nights of looking around at the mess my house was (being up all night every night does not a house cleaner of me make!) but we got through it.

 I had a series of due dates and the day following the last due date (the one made using the ultrasound I had at 6 weeks 1 day) my contractions seemed to change.  They just felt different and they didn’t stop after going most of the night like had occurred the previous 3 weeks.  It seemed like this would be it!  The one day I had hoped to avoid-eldest daughter’s birthday!

 After being up most of the night by myself, around 5am I ask Mr. T to get up and he ran a bath for me.  It felt so good to get in!  We timed some contractions and they were about 10 minutes apart.  My eldest daughter awoke with the sound of the running water and the extra commotion we were making.  It was her birthday!  She was desperate to get in the bathtub and despite the contractions I thought it would be a lovely way to celebrate her birth.  In she climbed just pleased as punch..  We wound up blowing bubbles, singing happy birthday, and having some cuddles between “Mommy needs to rest” times. 

 Around 6am Mr. T called my best friend, the midwife, the doula and eldest daughter’s birth support to let them know.  We told my midwife and doula what was up but that I was sure I had awhile and would call back when I needed them.  My best friend came over to visit and brought me a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit from Hardee’s which was so tasty!

 Around 8am eldest daughter’s birth support arrived and we made up a great birthday plan of gymboree class, playing at the Zoo, lunch out, and then naptime.  I tried to concentrate on the great time she would have and not on what I was missing out on.  Once she left for the day my contractions seemed to pick up in intensity and get closer together.  We were moving right along!

 My midwife sent her assistant to do a cervical check to see what was going on.  I was only a finger tip dilated but the head was right down on the cervix.  I was excited and pleased with the progress!  The apprentice said we should just go about our day as normally as possible.

So, we decided to get out of the house.  Best friend and I ran over to the grocery to pick up coconut water and other hydration and then meet Mr. T for lunch.  He suggested we eat at a “ladies who lunch” type place the he had heard about at work called “The Chocolate Covered Strawberry”.  He may have been the only guy there but that didn’t cause the scene that my having a contraction mid-order did.  The waitress was absolutely appalled, “Why haven’t they sectioned her yet?!?”  When I stopped relaxing and rejoined the conversation I replied, “Because we are planning a homebirth and my knives just aren’t that sharp,” with a big grin on my face.  Lunch was really tastey—I ordered extra strawberry “salad”  (you know the one with the crushed pretzel crust, sweetened cream cheese layer, and then the strawberry jello layer) for after labor because it was exactly what I wanted to be eating.  The car ride home was fairly excruciating but slowed the contractions way down.  I was able to nap in the afternoon although the contractions didn’t ever stop. 

 Monday night I slept from around 10pm-1am with contractions 7-9 minutes apart.  It was not very restful. At 1am I couldn’t lay down any more and got up and went downstairs where the contractions moved to 5 minutes apart and became super intense and I had to vocalize through them. At 3am I couldn’t do it alone anymore so I went back upstairs and awoke Mr. T to assist me by mashing my low back. We did that for an hour and a half or so and I got really sleepy. So I tried to sleep some more with contractions 9-15 minutes apart.  There was enough gap to start crazy REM sleep, be startled awake in pain from a contraction, frantically try to figure out where the heck I was (in the guest bedroom) and how to fix it! Around 7am AU woke up so Mr. T went to tend to her. I got in another little bit of sleep. I was feeling very depressed about the whole situation but then I had a big chunk of mucus plug!  I have never been so excited to see mucus!  I never had happen with AU’s birth so my spirits were immediately lifted and it seemed like everything was trucking along. 

Contractions continued far apart for most of the day.  I went to the chiropractor and lost a huge chunk of plug in the men’s bathroom (I was the first and only woman to be in labor losing her mucus plug there!) (it is regularly used by the female office staff) which although I was no longer contracting was still more bolstering to my spirit.  In the evening things started to pick up and my midwife came to check me.  She was really pleased with the progress I had made.  I was a little disappointed because I hadn’t dilated further but was reminded myself that I was able to eat and rest and that soon I would be dilating and having a baby.

 During her check baby’s heartrate was high, like in the 190s, on 3 separate checks so we decided to go into the hospital to see what was going on.  We all, Mr. T, best friend, and midwife and I discussed that likely this would mean having a baby that night.  Luckily, my OB was on call and he hooked me up and ran an hour long heart rate strip.  He said everything looked fine and that the tachycardia was likely just midwife hitting the accelerations during her checks.  We were all surprised that he sent me home but were pleased that the baby was fine and that I did not have any unnecessary interventions.   

I knew that contractions would stop at the hospital and they did.  I got good sleep Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning and then bam!  Lots of discomfort and I could not get relief in any position.  Baby had shifted posterior.  By Wednesday morning I texted my midwife that I was sure I was still in prodromal labor but that I was hurting and not able to get relief.  It was clear baby had shifted somehow during the night.  She sent her assistant to go through a series of positions with me that seemed to bring relief (10 minutes on left side, 10 minutes on tummy, 10 minutes on right side, 10 minutes with a trocanter under my hips) and stopped contractions.  I was able to nap in the afternoon and did not have any more pain which was wonderful.  I was able to nap for 50 minutes!  It was the longest stretch of sleep I had in 3 days. 

Thursday was Valentine’s Day.  I spent the day alone in my room trying to cocoon and relax to get this baby born.  I was grouchy and out of sorts so it was probably best that I was alone.  I had some bloody show which was exciting but no clear contraction pattern.  AU’s labor support person came and entertained her so Mr. T could spend some time with me.  He rubbed my back which felt really nice.  I was able to rest in the evening until around 10:15pm.

My best friend came and labored with me so that Mr. T could sleep.  We did the left, right, middle, back positioning thing which helped the discomfort.  We watched house hunters international and giggled over facebook memes.  Around 5am she left and I tried to get some sleep between 15 minute apart contractions. 

Friday I had another visit to the chiropractor which included an extra long acupressure to get things going session.  It didn’t seem to do anything.  We decided to have Cracker Barrel to go for dinner.  We got home and I realized I was super cranky because I was in intermittent discomfort.  Like every 5 minutes or so and lasting over a minute each time.  We decided to eat dinner up in the loft.  AU sat on the floor and got food everywhere.  I shoveled in a few bites quickly between contractions and then abandoned sitting in the chair in lieu of being on the ball.  Contractions escalated quickly to being one on top of the other and I asked Mr. T to call someone to help AU so that he could help me because I needed help.  At some point I got in the shower but the position of the flow wasn’t correct and was just getting my hair wet and not helping the pain I was in.  Best friend came and took AU to her house and Mr. T tried to help me. 

The midwife’s apprentice came to check me and at last!  Progress!  She thought I was probably a 3.  In just under 3 hours I went from a finger tip to 3!  I was so excited!  She wound up staying the night in the twin bed.  AU slept in the guest room.  I labored in my room.  Best friend labored with me while Mr. T slept.  I continued having contractions but wasn’t really making progress.  By morning the apprentice decided to leave and the doula came over to be with me. 

I needed to be in the birth tub at this point and it was clear that the midwife’s tub was not going to be at my house any time soon.  The doula had an extra birth-tub-in-a-box so she went to get that.  She came back with it and it was set up and ready from me by early afternoon.  It felt so nice!  I labored in the tub off and on for most of the afternoon and evening.  My Dad had texted me that he loved me and that slow progress was still progress.  Once again contractions slowed down so doula and best friend went home to rest around 9-10pm.  I also tried to rest. 

True to form contractions picked back up around midnight.  Mr. T tried to help me with the hypnobabies hypnosis as best he could but by 3am I demanded that he get someone to the house that could stay awake and not drift off mid-script.  Best friend and doula showed up sometime after that and the midwife joined us around 5am.  She declared I was a solid 5 and it was dispiriting.  I started progressing Friday evening and here I was almost 36 hours later and had only moved another 2 centimeters.  Such slow progress for such hard work!  She also said she thought going from 5-6 would be tough but then things would go very quickly.  Best friend and doula tended to me in the tub while midwife sat on the steps look at her iphone.  Funnily, I think she was reading “Call the Midwife.” 

She left around 6am and said to call anytime.  The tub seemed to be ineffective helping with the 3 minute long, back to back, contractions I was having so I decided to get out and go drape myself on the back of the couch.  I had one contraction like that, turned to change position, and said, “I either just peed myself or my water just broke!”  I should have been excited but I was tired and feeling really lackluster about the event.  I walked a few steps toward the bathroom and had another gush.  After a moment of indecision about what to do I remember I had Ph strips upstairs.  Best friend retrieved them and we decided to test the floor puddle.  Sure enough, basic.  My water had broken!  6:34am Sunday, February 17th

My contractions immediately stopped.  Yes.  Stopped.  I was able to get real sleep, like 3 hours worth, for the first time in a week.  It was glorious.  Around 10:30am contractions started to pick back up into a more normal labor pattern instead of excruciating back to back contraction these were more like the hypnobabies promised pressure waves with respite in between.  But they didn’t move longer, strong, closer together.  Despite a 2 mile walk, nipple stimulation with the breast pump, and walking up and down the stairs.  I was not worried but my midwife, doula, best friend, and Mr. T, I all had along powwow about what we were going to do.

I had not realized that at term water breaking meant one needed to be in labor within 24 hours or a trip to the hospital would likely mean lots of interventions.  Despite that risk, after talking and doing some research, Mr. T and I decided we were comfortable waiting for labor to start again.  During our conversation, AU awoke from a nap and had a 101 degree fever.  That helped us decide not to head to the hospital for augmentation (which may not have been possible due to my VBAC status anyway and I did not want to commit to a c-section just because the doctor on-call wasn’t willing to augment) or a repeat c-section. 

Overnight contractions continued in a loosey-goosey manner so that around 10am I decided to begin the castor oil protocol to try to get labor going again.  I drank 1oz castor oil, 1 oz vodka (to help relax muscles to keep castor oil down), and 2 oz of OJ every hour for 3 hours.  I showered in between doses and tried to rest.  By mid afternoon I was back in labor and back in discomfort.  I tried laboring on the ball and in the bed and despite the fear that it might slow things down, I got back in the tub.

It didn’t help.  Around 5pm I the midwife came back and was reassuring me that things were going well.  The pain in my back did not ebb or flow.  I stopped being able to feel contractions.  All I could feel was the pain in my lower back.  The midwife checked me every half hour or so and said my contractions were strong and long and spaced well.  She said she thought I was just hours from holding my baby and I balked that I could not make it through hours more.  At times I could not keep myself hypnotized and would begin crying.  She asked me to go sit on the toilet.  Getting out of the tub I could not stand upright and hobbled to the toilet.  After several minutes she asked if the position change had changed anything.  It had not.  That was when she mentioned going to the hospital.  I immediately said okay.  There was no doubt in my mind there was something wrong.  I was in too much agony for everything to be going alright.

I didn’t dress or pack a bag.  Mr. T may have gathered some things.  I waited for my slippers and then started the excruciating journey to the van.  Despite that discomfort it felt absolutely correct and I knew I could make it if I could just hold it together until we got to the hospital.  It was raining.  Best friend called my mother to let her know what was going on and to ask her to come to care for AU the next morning.  She also called my doula to let her know to meet us at the hospital.  We arrived at the hospital around 8-8:30pm. 

Arriving at the hospital the nurse tried to say that Mr. T and best friend couldn’t come in with me.  I said they could and so they did.  The nurses were not appreciative.  Best friend says that when the nurse at the Women’s Hospital ER checked me her hand came away with mecconium on it.  I was still a 5.  There were lots of questions about whether I was trying for a natural birth and there-there’s that contractions were hard.  I kept having to say that the problem wasn’t the contractions.  I had no idea if I was having contractions, that my back was in constant pain. 

Eventually, likely within 15-30 minutes I was taken upstairs to a room.  My OB came in and asked what was going on.  He checked me and said I was a 4 and swelling.  He said he didn’t like what was going on and would prefer to do a c-section.  I said okay.  He asked if I wanted pain relief.  I said yes!  The anesthesiologist came in and I expressed my desire for general anesthesia.  He said it wasn’t safe.  I said it was what I had the first time.  He said he would go check my record. 

Nurses buzzed about doing things—trying to start IVs and take blood (many, many sticks due to being dehydrated but I didn’t feel any of them because of my back), reviewing consents (evidently the charge nurse overruled the nursery nurse in favor of my desire for Mr. T being with the baby every moment and that the baby would not go to the nursery but come to my room), and cathing me (which I also didn’t feel despite the multiple attempts and the muttered, “I cannot get it in there is something hard in the way,” as she pulled back blood!).  By 9:45pm I was being wheeled into the OR having consented to spinal anesthesia.  My back was hurting so much I didn’t feel it either.  Going numb was such tremendous relief but so very strange. 

Although, not quite as strange as realizing the smell I was smelling during the surgery was my own flesh being burned.  I digress.  I was feeling apprehensive although both Mr. T and best friend were allowed to come with me to the operating room.  My OB is a goofy guy and posed for a picture with Mr. T and I (I didn’t realize he was in the picture until we saw it later!) and then began the birth.  I began praying out loud, thanking God for the day, my daughter, asking for his guidance for the OB, meanwhile the anesthesiologist begins talking to Mr. T loudly saying it was going to be so great when the baby was born we would all sing Happy Birthday–over and over–while I am trying to pray out loud.  It was amusing.

Feeling nervous, I wanted to calm down, in hindsight I should have asked Mr. T to put his hand on my shoulder, but I didn’t think of it at the time.  Instead, I started singing the Eagles song, “Take it to the Limit.”  Dr. W started singing a bit too but we were on different verses.  That’s when it occurred to me that women who plan c-sections sometimes ask for a certain play list.  I asked out loud if we could turn some music on.  The nurse anesthetist gets out his phone and cues up some music and holds it near my head.  Swoon.  I tell him I’d like something rock and roll.  Rocket Man comes on and I sing out loud.  Then I talk to Mr. T about my Dad seeing a guy with a piano make a music video while in Australia and calling my Mom back in Atlanta and she knowing that it was Elton John.  The next song up is Bohemian Rhapsody…”I’m just a poor boy, from a poor family.”

As the song crescendos up to, “mama mia!” my second daughter is born!  They sing happy birthday.  It is quiet.  I am looking over at the isolette where there is a baby and a team of people in scrubs.  I am not looking.  I am shutting my eyes.  I am remembering a dear friend talking about the birth of her last child, a son.  Her midwife tells her to talk to him, to help him come into his body, to comfort him that she is here.  Reminding her that sometimes children need words of welcome from their mother to know everything is fine.  I start talking, “Hello!  Mommy is here!  Mommy and Daddy love you!  My dear JU, Mommy is right here!”  A small cry.  Huge relief.  Mommy loves you so much! 

What I didn’t know—they delee suctioned her twice (once in each lung?) after suctioning her with the regular bulb syringe once the head was born and again in the isolette.  That they had just sent someone out for the defibulator because she wasn’t coming around.  The door had just shut behind the person when she came into herself with that tiny sound. 

They continued to monitor her for just a few minutes while we looked on and then she was handed to Mr. T!  He had opened up his scrubs and his shirt to put her next to his skin.  He held her face near mine.  I was happy but remarkably uninterested.  On television the mother cries as she lays on the operating table and wants the baby turned this way and that.  I didn’t feel that.  I just wanted them to hurry and stitch me back up so we could be left alone as a newly bigger family.  I wanted to be alone to meet my daughter.  I was not strapped down but between IVs and monitors I didn’t want to move.  After a moment though I did reach a tentative hand and touch her.  Then he was gone with her. 

They went to the nursery to be checked and he never left her side.  My best friend moved closer to sit by me and the music was turned back on.  My favorite song in the whole wide world, Air Supply’s “Love out of Nothing at All” was playing.  I sang my heart out.  The nurses who were counting supplies to make sure they were all out got annoyed and ask for the music to be turned down.  It had never occurred to me to ask the OB what he was going to close me with.  He closed me with staples (not a fan!).  Then it was over.  He said goodnight, it was his daughter’s 21st birthday.  I wished him well and thanked him for coming in.  I was taken back to the room upstairs where my midwife and doula were waiting. 

The numbness begins to wear off and I decided that local anesthesia wasn’t a terrible way to have a baby.  I am proud of myself for staying calm and together.  I am pleased that did not lose it. 

I was up there a little while when Mr. T and JU came back from the nursery.  The doula, who is an IBCLC, and I latched her and she nursed!  Success!  Then she is taken (with her father always!) to have blood drawn to check for the infection the OB suspects.  They give Mr. T grief about leaving the room and like a great Dad he refuses to leave his precious neonate.  Meanwhile best friend, doula, and midwife leave.  I am taken to the room we will be in for our hospital stay.  It is 2am and the night nurse begins my hospital orientation.  I am so tired.  I don’t follow much or all and I have stayed in a hospital with a newborn before.  It does not occur to me to say that I want to sleep and she should leave and try again at 8am.  I am alone and trying to cooperate.  The nurse is adamant that I cannot sleep in the bed with the baby or she will have to notify family services.  Further, that JU cannot sleep in my bed with the light off.  I nod.  She finally stops talking and leaves.  I wait and rest.  The NICU nurse comes in to tell me that they will be starting baby on 2 IV antibiotics for her suspected infection.  I am concerned about a possible allergic reaction but know that there isn’t much in the way of options.  Neonates can get very sick, very quickly and although I am sure we are both fine 48 hours is only 2 days and so I consent. 

Mr. T and JU return to our room.  She has an IV in her hand.  She tolerated the antibiotics well and Mr. T held her while they were given.  We are finally left alone (sort of as every hour we are checked on in some way  or another) and it is wonderful.  We nurse and sleep.  To get around Nurse Grouches threats for cosleeping we pull the curtain and prop open the bathroom door.  This way nothing can be seen from the hallway and whoever enters has to shut the bathroom door to get to our part of the room.  We leave the light in the bathroom on so it is not dark in our room.  At one point Nurse Grouches says, “You cannot sleep in the bed with the baby.”  I said, “I am clearly awake.  She is sleeping.  That is just fine.”  She harrumphed and walked out. 

Tuesday, AU had to go to the doctor for her cold and fever that she developed.  It occurred to me that JU and I might have the same cold coming on that AU had.  AU is given antibiotics for her ear infection and cold (which helps within 12 hours which is a relief).  There is no prohibition from the doctor for her to meet her sister.

Tuesday afternoon my Mom and Dad bring AU to meet JU for the first time.  She asks to hold her and says she loves her.  She calls her “baby sister”.  Then AU is ready to go to the park and play. 

Shortly after they leave I realize that my hand with the IV is hurting.  I look and it is swollen so big that I no longer have knuckle wrinkles!  My vein had blown and the 3 drip bags (fluid, antibiotics, and pain medicine) are pouring full bore right into my arm.  It takes more than a week for my hand and arm to return to normal size.  Everyone agrees that I don’t need a 2nd IV and so therefore am done with antibiotics.

We eat and rest and nurse and bond for the next 2 days.  My parents and a few friends drop by to visit in the afternoons.  It is nice to sleep and hold my precious girl.  Her IV treatments are a non-event for her which is a huge relief.  Her blood work looks good after 48 hours and we are released to go home!  A family of 4!  Then I restate to the nurse that my left foot has never awoken from being numbed.  Turns out JU was so stuck that it caused discs in my lower back to compress which compressed the nerve.  It took 8 weeks for the feeling and function to return. 

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Well, she arrived!  Yahoo!  I have been working and working on the birth story.  I will have it up shortly (as in, in a few days).  At 2 weeks out from becoming a foursome Mr. T and I couldn’t imagine having both girls alone.  Today?  Easy, peasy!  We three girls went out to lunch together without problem.  The biggest adjustment was the splitting of concentration and attention.  Obviously, that was new for everyone but the newest.  But it seems like we have adjusted pretty well. 

I will be back here soon! 

Oh, made a lemon merengue pie for dessert with a coconut pastry crust.  WOW.  Good!

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