Friday, November 30, 2012

Edith's First Week

I won't be able to resist posting photos of Edith in this space, of course, although I'm not planning on turning this into a full-time baby blog.

However, my life right now revolves around milk, poop and sleep, so expect a higher proportion of baby-related posts over the coming weeks.

The following photos show some of the highlights of Edith's first week!

Edith's first day.

A Thanksgiving meal in the hospital ... and a baby!

Being dressed in the hospital in the traditional Erwin going-home outfit.

Dressed and ready to go home!

Being adorable.

Paul reads Edith his favorite book as a kid: "Paul the Pitcher."

Edith's first stroller ride, on the way to her first appointment with her pediatrician.

The next two photos are for my mom. She hates that I scanned a photo years ago of her holding me, only a few hours old. Now I have one of my own.

Mom and me, 1981.

Me and Edith, 2012.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Inadvertent Natural Birth & Other Adventures in Labor

The contractions weren't regular, but they were long and so painful it was all I could do to breathe.

"When can I get an epidural?" I asked the triage nurse last Wednesday morning as I awaited my daughter's birth.

The response: There probably isn't time.

"Oh, noooooo," I wailed, one of the handful of things I remember very vividly from the next few hours.

But the story really starts the night before, at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, when I thought I felt my first contraction. Sure enough, they kept on coming, and three hours later, when they were two to three minutes apart, we headed to the hospital.

The triage rooms were full, and two or three other women besides myself were waiting as well. I sat in the hallway for an hour or so. The pain was bad but not excruciating. And besides, there were distractions. A woman gave birth in a car near the hospital while we were waiting, and mother and baby were rushed by.

Finally, I was checked, but the news was disappointing. I wasn't far enough along to be admitted. Go home, they said, and come back when the contractions are unbearable and regular.

We arrived back home shortly after 5 a.m. Some five hours later we were back at the hospital.

That's when the real fun began.

When I was checked this time, the news was different. I was ready to give birth. Now.

A few things stick out -- mostly snippets of conversation -- over the next two hours leading to Edith's birth. I needed to get to a birthing room, but they were all occupied. Where could I go? When? I needed an IV -- was there time to connect it right then? A newbie seemed to do the honors and had trouble; Paul said she kept sticking and resticking my arm, something I barely felt at the time.

An oxygen mask was put over my mouth and nose; the baby's heart rate was dropping. My doctor arrived, turning around on the way to the office when she was told I was ready to go. She seemed surprised -- maybe shocked -- that things happened so quickly.

I don't know how much time had passed, but there were still no birthing rooms available. (I learned that this was partly the fault of Hurricane Sandy, which caused three hospitals to close and diverted mothers-to-be to my hospital.) No time to spare. My bed was rolled to one of the hospital's operating rooms.

In two hours, I went from being admitted to having a baby.

Of course, it wasn't quite that simple, especially with no pain medication. Suffice it to say that we have a perfect daughter.

Even after the delivery, the labor and maternity ward wasn't in my future. The recovery rooms were all occupied, so my shared room was in the pediatrics section. Over the next 48 hours I got a crash course in being a mom before we were discharged on Friday.

I know women who have had much scarier births than I had, and I know others who have had much easier. Even still, the rush and confusion of it all takes my breath away -- from first contraction to baby's birth was only 13 hours. I'm still remembering bits and gathering pieces from Paul. And each day I'm thankful for our healthy baby girl. I still can't believe she's ours.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Welcome, Edith!

Paul and I happily welcomed Edith Sharolynn into the world one day early, on Wednesday, November 21.

Time: 11:52 a.m.
Weight: 7 pounds, 8 ounces
Length: 20 inches

We're just settling in and getting used to living with the cutest baby that ever was. I'll certainly be posting more pictures and sharing the oh-so-eventful story of her birth on this blog soon. Until then, a few more photos from the gazillion we've taken so far.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So Much to Be Thankful For

Tomorrow's Thanksgiving; as usual, I have a lot to be thankful for. Even more so this year.

I've been trying to write and schedule these blog posts about a week before they are actually published -- it's actually the morning of Friday, Nov. 16, as I write this -- so maybe Edith has been born by now. Or maybe not: she's due on Thanksgiving Day itself. Either way, I'm thankful for a healthy, drama-free pregnancy (though perhaps not the morning sickness that came with it). I hope the birth is the same.

I'm thankful for a husband who is just as excited as I am and who has already read Edith a story every night for the last 10 weeks. And I'm thankful for all of the family members who plan to share our joy by coming to help and visit in December.

But I'm also thankful for the family and friends in Ohio and elsewhere who have checked up on Paul and me and simply kept us in their thoughts. We're lucky to know all of them.

Lastly, I'm thankful that the hormones that make me write weepy, sentimental blog posts like this will soon be out of my system. Maybe in six weeks I'll be back to normal.

Whether or not Edith is here, there will be no blog post on Friday since it's the day after Thanksgiving. And since, as I mentioned, I'm staying ahead on blog posts, a non-baby-related post on Monday and any day after doesn't mean she's not here! Paul and I will be posting the arrival on all the usual spots when we can -- and/or want to!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Restoring St. Patrick's Cathedral

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City isn't quite the classic example of Gothic architecture that it once was -- or rather, it is, but it's just not noticeable right now from its main Fifth Avenue entrance.

Scaffolding adorns the facade, as you can see from this photo from October. The cathedral is undergoing a multi-year restoration project to make repairs both inside and outside.

While the dramatic cathedral is now largely hidden from view from passersby, the inside remains just as lovely (despite a bit of its own scaffolding), and certainly just as popular.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Getting Gas After Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is now more than two weeks in the past, and in Bay Ridge at least, things are back to normal.

As I wrote post-storm, not much changed in Bay Ridge in any case. There was a gigantic tree that fell on a house about a block away, but the house didn't seem to sustain much damage, and the tree has been hauled away. We've heard that the promenade next to the shore was beaten up, but we haven't been to see it.

Either way, neighborhood life has largely moved on. Of course, there are still relief efforts for the parts of New York that were hit much worse -- residents here and elsewhere are collecting and delivering food and supplies to the waterfront communities that were, and still are, devastated. Things are definitely not back to normal for residents in these neighborhoods.

Luckily for Paul and me, our biggest concern was keeping gas in the car so we could make it to the hospital when Edith decides she wants to make her grand entrance. Our tank was just fine immediately following the storm. But after the hurricane, when the subways were still shut down, Paul drove to work as he normally does. A commute of about five or six miles that normally takes around 40 minutes took two-and-a-half hours instead. By the time he returned to Bay Ridge, the tank was less than a quarter full.

So the car stayed parked. When the subway was restored to downtown Brooklyn, Paul took it to work for the next two weeks. Stations that had gas had lines that were hours long. Drivers had better luck filling up their tanks in Staten Island, but the bridge toll (almost $10, even with our E-ZPass) hardly made the quest worth it since we didn't absolutely need more fuel and could get by without it.

Finally, a gas rationing plan was instituted last Friday: cars with license plates ending in odd numbers could get gas on odd-numbered days. Vehicles with license plates ending in even numbers or 0 could get gas on even-numbered days. Paul filled up the tank on Wednesday without waiting in line. He didn't see anyone checking to make sure he had the appropriate license plate number. (He did.)

The rationing is to continue at least through the week in New York City, although it ended Tuesday in New Jersey, where it also started earlier. In the meantime, Paul is happily driving to work again, and we have plenty of gas left to spare to get us to labor and delivery.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Between Work and Baby

I've been off work now for a little more than a week, and it still feels strange to watch Paul leave in the morning while I'm still in my pajamas.

My last day in the office was extended by a few days because of Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane knocked out power throughout Lower Manhattan, and my office was without electricity -- and therefore closed -- the entire five days of what was supposed to be my final week.

Power was restored the Saturday following the storm, and I went in on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I was glad I did. It gave me time to finish cleaning out my desk, drawers and emails and pass on a few more tidbits to my successor. And on my last day, my coworkers gave me a baby shower -- a lovely way to end my five years on the job.

Now that I'm home every day, one thing hasn't changed: starting each morning creating or adding to a large to-do list. Each day I tell Edith to hold on just a little longer. Mom has too much to do!

In all honesty, the must-do list is shrinking, if it hasn't vanished entirely. Edith, whenever she arrives, will come home from the hospital in a car seat that's already installed, and she has clean clothes and a clean bed to sleep in. She won't go hungry. What more could a newborn want?

But in the meantime I want to make sure each room is spotless, the laundry is done and that I have enough stamps for the birth announcements. You know, all of that stuff that could be done later. Except I want it done now.

Don't worry: I'm not overdoing it. Paul's certainly doing more than his share by tending to my neurosis. And while he's at work I make sure to take frequent breaks to read and maybe watch one of the episodes of "Upstairs, Downstairs" I taped specifically for the time between work and baby. But in the meantime, I have some clothes to separate.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Christmas" Dinner at Gramercy Tavern

Faithful readers of this blog with good memories know that instead of exchanging Christmas gifts, Paul and I choose a nice restaurant that we wouldn't otherwise visit and make that our present to each other.

Usually we make this outing in the month or two following Christmas -- something to look forward to after the holidays are over.

This year, we never quite got around to it in January or February. In March, we found out I was pregnant, followed by about two months of morning sickness and then a busy summer.

Over the summer and fall we would occasionally discuss where we wanted to go, but we never made a final decision. But with a baby due in a month, we knew it was now or never. Long story short (or in this case, maybe short story long), we finally celebrated Christmas 2011 in October, with a trip to Gramercy Tavern.

The restaurant's dining room takes reservations four weeks in advance, but the tavern section is walk-in only: perfect, since we made it our restaurant of choice just a few days before we visited.

We got there early (at least by New York standards) at 7 p.m. There was an hour-and-a-half to a two-hour wait -- did we still want to put our name down, we were asked. They seemed surprised when we said yes. Paul and I both knew that if we didn't eat there then, we never would -- and would probably never celebrate Christmas 2011.

We passed the time by walking to Eataly -- a nearby high-end grocer I'll write about in a future post -- but had our table at Gramercy Tavern within the allotted time. My butternut squash lasagna was superb, and I treated myself to a rich hot chocolate for dessert. Merry Christmas to me.

As for Christmas 2012? We haven't a clue.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Finally: Renting a Rowboat in Central Park

Third time's a charm: Paul and I finally were able to rent a rowboat from the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park.

You'd think it would be easy. Show up, get in line, hand over $12 for an hour in a rowboat. But nooooo. The boathouse has no specific closing time. The website says the boathouse is open until dusk, which is a moving target. The first two times we tried to get a boat, we thought we were there before dusk. The employees thought otherwise.

Last month, however, we finally got our boat. Paul took the oars, I took the photos (except when I absolutely forced him to take a picture of me). It was just as lovely as I anticipated, though a bit more stressful than I thought it would be. The views were beautiful, but there were so many rowboats on the lake! Since Paul -- and all rowers -- must sit backward compared to where they are rowing, I had to be a careful navigator.

But by the time we returned the boat to the dock, the lake had cleared out. The sun was setting; it was evidently dusk. Finally, we rented a Central Park rowboat right on time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why We Took a Birthing Class

Lamaze. Birthing class. Whatever you want to call it, Paul and I took it.

Truth is, I was hesitant. Childbirth's a natural thing, right? In fact, a former coworker recently visited the office with her one-month-old and said she made it through without a class. Surely I could, too, I thought.

And I could, I'm sure. But ever the organizer, the uber-preparer, I didn't want to. So I got a recommendation for a teacher from my doctor, and Paul and I found ourselves in her home for four hours split over two classes.

I wonder if I couldn't have completed most of the class on YouTube -- particularly the birthing video (something I was absolutely not looking forward to watching, but wasn't so bad after all) and another video on breastfeeding.

And I wonder how much of the breathing exercises I'll be using since I plan to have an epidural. But as much as I like to prepare, I also like to worry. And I'm worried that I won't get the meds in time or they won't be strong enough (I'll admit that I'm a big wimp when it comes to pain), so breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth is probably a fine thing for me to practice.

Overall, however, the best thing about the class was simply being able to ask questions. Sure, I have books and the Internet to help me out, but maybe I'm old-fashioned. It was nice to get knowledgeable answers from someone experienced and able to lay down the good, the bad and the ugly. I'm glad we took it.

Classes, classes, classes: So far we've finished the baptism class and the birthing classes, and the only class we have left to go is an infant CPR class tomorrow night. And then the real test comes in about two weeks.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New York City Marathon: Cancelled

This post was supposed to be about how Paul finished his first New York City Marathon. Instead, it's about how the race was cancelled some 36 hours before it was set to begin.

Paul heard the news late Friday afternoon, soon after he picked up his racing number and packet at the convention center in Manhattan

I understand why the race was called off. Resources are needed elsewhere after Hurricane Sandy, and a marathon at this point could look frivolous. However, I'm still sad that Paul's dream of running the New York City Marathon will be put off once again -- he was denied entry the last three years and only finally got in this year.

I'm sad, but I'm also relieved for Paul's sake. There was a lot of anger from some residents when the city and the running association said the race would continue as planned. There were even reports of people planning to throw eggs and batteries at the runners.

The vitriol is still high, and from runners, too. While runners entered in this year's race will get an automatic berth in next year's marathon, it appears that they will have to pay the $200+ entry fee all over again -- this year's entry fee may not be returned. And when many, many runners have said that they would like a refund, they're told by other runners that they're being selfish in the wake of so much devastation.

Personally, I wish the race would have been postponed instead of cancelled. Or cancelled days -- not hours -- before the marathon was to begin.

More than 40,000 runners were scheduled to run the marathon, many traveling from around the world and spending thousands of dollars to accomplish their goal. Of course I'm sorry for the havoc Hurricane Sandy wreaked on New York City, but allow me a little corner of sadness for the athletes who have trained so hard and so long and come so far to see the marathon taken away so close to the starting line.

Postscript: Paul and his running friends in one day raised more than $1,700 that will go to Brooklyn neighborhoods impacted by the storm. Then, on Sunday morning they ran 18 miles to one of the hardest hit communities in Queens, carrying supplies on their backs. However, at times they still got jeered by onlookers who assumed they were on a pleasure run.

In addition, one of Paul's tweets about his anger and disappointment over the marathon being cancelled was included in a BuzzFeed article that listed 15 tweets from runners after the announcement.

The comments about these runners being selfish and whiny made me very upset. Why isn't it OK to feel angry and disappointed about not running a race you've looked forward to for years? It certainly doesn't mean you care any less for those affected by the hurricane. I think Paul proved that Sunday morning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Belated Halloween!

Hurricane Sandy interrupted my normally scheduled Halloween blog post. So, two days late ...

What better way to celebrate Halloween in Bay Ridge than by digging up a creepy photo of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge draped in fog a few weeks ago?  Well, a bowl of candy (but no yucky candy corn, please!) would make it better.


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