tumbledry

Esmé

I went to bed on Tuesday evening, expecting to head to work the following morning, a little disappointed that our baby girl’s due date, July 22, had come and gone without a hint of her arrival. But instead of sleep, I felt Mykala’s gentle nudge and heard her voice just a few hours later at 3am: “My contractions started, I think.” She sounded so calm that it took me the better part of an hour to fully wake up and realize that this is The Big Show. We began timing duration and interval of contractions, and true to my computer geekery, I created a new text document in BBEdit that I would later save as labor.txt, here’s a snippet:

6:20am:
1:47    44s
1:45    23s
1:55    39s
1:34    38s
2:50    54s
2:08    51s

Only when, three hours later, I sent a text to work that read “Mykala is in labor” instead of “We think Mykala may be in labor” or “These probably aren’t Braxton-Hicks contractions, but I have never done this before so what is going on?!” that it finally, truly sunk in. I’m sure Mykala would’ve benefited from this mindset from me three hours earlier, but better late than never, I hope. So I put on my scrubs, Mykala came downstairs, I began my simple responsibility of record-keeping and she the impossible task of enduring each contraction.

In our discussions leading up to labor, both Mykala and I agreed that we should wait as long as possible to go in to the hospital. “Well, first babies aren’t born in cars,” I remember repeating a few times. We discussed the hospital business model of turnover and out-patient rhythms, the tendency of modern medicine to intervene or suggest intervention right when mom-to-be is most tired and liable to make a decision she may regret, and that we expected Mykala’s birth plan to necessitate flexibility. But I have to tell you, it was difficult for Mykala to wait it out at home. While it was more comfortable for her to labor in familiar comfort without the interruptions of shift changes or new personalities or blood pressure tests, it was impossible for us to know whether she was dilating. All she knew was pain, nothing of progress.

I know it was fourteen hours later only because I have a bright pink Post-It note that has one little black line written on it: “5:05.” That was the time we reached room 2526 at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “Has your water broken? Have you had any bloody discharge?” We answered in the negative to both of these questions, and felt like the veracity of Mykala’s pain was being called into question in the dearth of external signs of labor. “We’ll go ahead and do an exam and get you on the monitor to see where you are at.” Mykala was laboring hard, breathing through contractions that were steadily coming 110 seconds apart and lasting for 60 seconds, and we waited to find out if it was time to go home or time to stay.

Hearing “She’s dilated, six to seven centimeters” brought such a deep sense of relief, like driving through a dark night to an unknown destination and seeing the correct road sign illuminated by your headlights. Smiling through my tears (I cried far more than Mykala during the entire labor), I told her how happy and proud I was of her. We weren’t going to wallow at something like “three centimeters” for hours! The next validation came when the cause of Mykala’s intense pain was located: baby was occiput posterior (i.e. face up, OP, sunny-side up, not facing the correct direction!) and this was causing searing back labor. Other women who have had back labor (OP) and then delivered a normal (OA) baby have said that they really didn’t even care about labor the second time. Nurse staff wondered why they were so calm and the simple answer was: “Because it hurts so much less than last time!” A note:

The anterior (OA) baby can more easily tuck his or her chin. The posterior baby’s back is extended straight, even arched, along the mother’s spine. Having the baby’s back extended often pushes the baby’s chin up. Posterior babies more often have an extended neck.

This is what makes the posterior baby’s head seem larger than the same baby when baby’s in the anterior position. Because the top of the head enters (or tries to enter) the pelvis first baby seems much bigger to the mother’s measurements.

According to Mykala’s birth plan, she wished to manage her pain without pharmaceutical intervention, and the nurses were great in not saying “do you think you need an epidural?” To see the love of my life in front of me, truly truly hurting, saying she couldn’t do this, left me struggling to come up with words or phrases that would impart support in the absence of being able to understand the depth of her pain. Thankfully, I had read that after delivery, women place reassuring physical presence way above the words uttered by their labor partner, so I tried to avoid saying anything dumb and focused instead on simply being there. Unfortunately, between 1am and 2am the next morning (23 hours in), I was flagging. Actually, let’s not be subtle: I was worthless! Falling asleep on Mykala, stumbling around the room, not helping much at all. Mykala’s mom luckily had come in an hour or so before and I was amazed at her energy, giving counter pressure to contractions, sitting with Mykala at the tub, making sure she was going to make it.

Some IV fluids and then later some Pitocin (just a little) to clear a cervical lip, and Mykala was on the home stretch. No pain medications, none, the entire time. We could just see the top of baby’s head, two leads for internal fetal heart rate monitoring coming off of it, when I was astounded to hear that they were just then going to have Dr. Grande come in! Apparently he lives ten minutes from the hospital, and during his long OB/GYN career had done this once or twice, and had gotten this down to a science. So he came in, Mykala did some absolutely superhuman pushing (I just… I have absolutely no idea how she did it), and little Esmé Johanna Micek was born at 4:28am on July 24, 2014, head 14 inches in circumference, length 21.5 inches, 8 pounds 1 ounce of perfect little baby. As she emerged and was held aloft by her feet by Dr. Grande, the very first thing I noticed were her beautiful eyes, closed right then in the existentially charged gap between emerging into the world for the first time and taking her first breath. Seeing her placed on Mykala’s chest for some immediate skin to skin time, waves of tears did not wash over me as I thought they would, just a bit of peace finally, a long exhale for Esmé and for her tough-as-nails mom.

Staying in a hospital is a weird mix of hotel and something very different. Mykala and I would sit there, baby would nap, I would nap, Mykala would stay awake, and it had the sense of just being a hotel room where we were planning what to do on vacation that afternoon. We had a private bathroom, TV, and a nice view out the windows, (inexpensive) room service, and regularly scheduled room cleanings. But doctors and nurses and lactation consultants and nursing assistants had to visit to do all the tests and checks required of a new mom and baby. The one time Mykala fell asleep, I was so happy and tip-toeing around and then boom she was awake as we greeted another new face. We left as soon as we could, which took an excruciating nine hours between our request to be discharged actually leaving.

The feeling of significance, leaving as first-time parents from the hospital, was blunted by sleep deprivation bleariness, and made all the more difficult by an extremely rough first night at home as baby would not latch to drink mom’s milk. The next day we sorted it out, and had much better success starting to find a rhythm of feedings, burpings, and changings that would work.

The significance of it is now slowly sinking in. We are proud and totally exhausted parents. And now, this journal has a very important new tag: Esmé. It will be filled with love.

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Vegetables

Vegetables

A “GrowBox“—the bottom half provides water in a reservoir, which is wicked up by the soil. You only have to water about once a week! Clockwise from upper left: tomato, cucumber, kale, zucchini, rosemary, parsley. The consistent watering helps, as does the included organic fertilizer. The burlap-looking thing keeps weeds down, reduces moisture loss from the soil, and apparently provides some nutrients as well, though we’re a little skeptical on that part. Let’s see what we’ve got in August!

Watermelon

Dear baby,

You’re the size of a small watermelon now. Where did the time go? It feels like we were just finding out about you, or moving, or painting your room, or assembling your crib, buying your mattress, picking out your diapers, installing your car seat. Get this: pretty soon I’ll be addressing these to you by your name instead of the generic “baby”. You used to be the size of a grain of basmati rice and now you’re huge!

I played some music for you last night (we make sure to play songs with bass in them so you can hear them through your swimming pool in mom), and you were movin’ and groovin’ pretty well. I hope you get your mom’s coordination and proprioception.

Anyway, you could safely be born any time now, and I’ve been trying to explain to you that you are the one who triggers labor. If it is getting too cramped in there, you get to decide to come on out and see us.

See you soon.

Love,
Dad

Mykala and Dragonfly

Mykala and Dragonfly

On the ferris wheel last year.

Chendra

chendra

(More here.)

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework

Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework:

Robinson and Harris posit that greater financial and educational resources allow some parents to embed their children in neighborhoods and social settings in which they meet many college-educated adults with interesting careers. Upper-middle-class kids aren’t just told a good education will help them succeed in life. They are surrounded by family and friends who work as doctors, lawyers, and engineers and who reminisce about their college years around the dinner table.

As part of his research, Robinson conducted informal focus groups with his undergraduate statistics students at the University of Texas, asking them about how their parents contributed to their achievements. He found that most had few or no memories of their parents pushing or prodding them or getting involved at school in formal ways. Instead, students described mothers and fathers who set high expectations and then stepped back.

Emphasis mine.

Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull: Keep Your Crises Small:

Now, Toy Story 2, as he returned, had to be delivered in nine months. So it was already a tight schedule for all they were. So he came back. He watched Toy Story 1 before he came in to work from this trip to Europe, came in to watch the reels. He walked in and said, “You’re right. We’ve got a major problem.”

So basically, we took the A team - we put them on the project. We went down to Disney and said, “The film isn’t good enough. We have to throw it away and start all over again.” And the answer was, “Well, actually, it’s better than you think. We think it is good enough, but more importantly, it’s too late. You literally do not have the time between now and then to deliver it to redo this film.” So we said, “It’s not good enough, and we know we don’t have enough time, but we’re going to do it anyway.” So we came back. John told the story crew to take a good rest over the holidays and come back on January 2nd. We were reboarding the movie. So we then started - we now had eight months left.

We then started this incredibly intense effort to get this movie out. It was boarded quickly. It was pitched to the company. It was an electrifying pitch. We had a lot of overachieving people working for overachieving managers to get the movie out - worked brutal hours with this. When I say “brutal”, we had a number of people that were injured with RSI. One of them permanently left the field.

We had, actually, a married couple that worked there - and this was in June, so it’s summer. And the father was supposed to drop the baby off at daycare, but forgot - don’t know why. But he came and left the baby in the car and came into work. And given, you know, as the heat was rising, the mother asked about - and they realized - they rushed out, and the baby was unconscious.

The right thing was done, they put ice water on the baby; and the baby ended up being fine in the end. But it was one of those traumatic things like “why did this happen?” Are we working too hard? So when I say it’s “intense,” I mean it really was intense.

So, I come back to the first question. Which is more important? What’s the central problem? Finding good ideas or finding good people? And the answer is very clear: the idea [with Toy Story 2] was the same.
If you have a good idea and you give it to mediocre group, they’ll screw it up.
If you give a mediocre idea to a good group, they’ll fix it, or they’ll throw it away and come up with something else.

Because initially, the films they put together - they’re mess! It’s like everything else in life. The first time you do it, it’s a mess. And sometimes it’s labeled, “well, the first time it’s a failure,” but it’s not even the right word to use, right? It’s just like you get the first one out, you’ll learn from it.
The only failure is, if you don’t learn from it - if you don’t progress.

The mediocre group will screw it up.

My Birthday

What a great birthday. I got to sleep in for real and then as if still in a dream, I opened my eyes to a perfect, sunny day. Not too hot or cold, and beautiful. Mykala and I had a spectacular brunch at Woodbury Café; she gave me a card that made me tear up as I read it. Then we went home and sat outside on our patio and actually caught the first sun rays of the year. We’re a little pink right now.

Mykala went to work, I went to workout, and then I went over to my parents and talked to Katy on the phone. I’m most excited about the gifts that were there for baby (I asked for ‘nothing’ for my birthday) — but for baby, a CD that makes me nostalgic (Stardreamer by Priscilla Herman). AAAND, a mattress. A very nice mattress. I went on a great walk with my parents, and we talked the evening away. Watched the sun set on their front porch. 10:15pm, I came home to Mykala and we got her some food. Poor Mykala had been teaching in 80°+ for the entire night. Those are no conditions for a pregnant lady!

Now, we get to enjoy a few late night shows before bedtime. What a perfect birthday. I want for nothing.

Traditional Blogging

I can’t believe how much I’ve changed since I started writing this site. When I began jotting down my thoughts in 1999, I hadn’t been to high school, undergrad, or dental school. I didn’t have student loan debt. No car. No home. No bills. I paid no insurance. No paycheck. My biggest concerns were how fast the summer seemed to pass by and how much homework I found myself working on the other part of the year. My writing showed few reflections on what drove me to try so hard in school, or where I wanted to go in life. And anyway, the style of writing online at the time was simply to recount what you’d done that day, a literal journal of events, and I always talk about trying that again here but never quite seem to gather the courage to simply go back to that: “Here’s what happened today.” I always seem to be pursuing giant revelations, trite truisms articulated thoughtfully, advice to myself, or all three in an exhausting, overwrought, unholy blend. No matter how many times I edit those hackneyed paragraphs, it gets published as tangled prose, heavy writing. Let’s try the old way this week, ok?

Today, I realized I only work as a dentist 3.5 days a week (I have an interesting schedule, and I hadn’t really thought about the average that much), and at this point in my career, trying to pay back dental school loans and save for the future, it is probably better to try to find another full day of work. It is not available at my current employer, so I’ll have to find a third location to work at to round out my weeks. That does not excite me. Yet, I love doing dentistry because it combines repetition and variety, suiting my perfectionism. If I were busy doing procedures each day (a full schedule in my chair), our financial constraints would be eased, but I do not have a full schedule many days. In dentistry, you get paid for what you do, which you can think about in two ways: (1) uh oh, if I don’t work, I make $0. I get no true time off, just parts of the year where I choose to make no money. (2) I don’t have to put up with any pointless meetings or work crap at all! When I’m working, I’m earning, and when I’m not, I’m done.

At two years out, I am still building relationships with patients that will, I hope, result in my eventually being a busy dentist. It is tougher in the Twin Cities to stay busy, since you are always competing with the office down the road. I try not to think about that and simply focus my energy on being genuine and caring. Caring is easy for me, but regarding “genuine”: sometimes I think I’m trying to be someone else… more charismatic than I naturally am, like the successful owner dentists I observe. “Fake it ‘til you make it” is not the way to go for charisma. I try to have real conversations, but I am still practicing, and too often I find myself falling back to stock phrases that could be used in any conversation. Anyhow, so far I have gotten good feedback, so I must be doing something right, despite my constant self-critiquing. Oh, and I hope to be able to place dental implants in 5-10 years; they’ve always fascinated me; I pore over the technology and the surgical technique constantly, and I want to be able to offer them.

This week, our baby is the size of a pineapple. Mykala is sleeping fairly well, and we took a wonderful walk in the perfect spring weather this afternoon. There are paths in three directions from our house, which is great. Here at this new house, I don’t love the longer drives I make to work, but I relish the frog songs at night, and the true peace and quiet when the neighborhood kids and dogs have gone to bed. Baby’s mattress arrived recently, one we shopped for to make sure it was free of the mindlessly-regulated fire retardants which are not good for anyone, adult and baby alike. My parents got most of it for us as a shower gift, and that is such a huge help. We’ve both excited and scared for baby time, all simultaneously. We’re going to be spending a lot of time quelling feelings of doubt (or, well, maybe that will just be me) about each decision we make as parents. It’ll be a lot of going on instinct and trying to practice good sleep hygiene. Most things worth doing incorporate going on instinct and good sleep hygiene, though (and there I go, trying to be profound).

Today is my 29th birthday. About 6 months ago, I thought it was going to be my thirtieth, but Mykala corrected me. 29 is easier than 30, because the psychology is totally different… I still have the first number in front of my age that I had when I couldn’t drink, when I was in college, when some of the carefree times existed.

Here I go back into big ideas, but I can’t resist: I think I want to write about individual days because it slows down this time that is flying by. I want to grab each day, wring it out, savoring every bit.

Mykala and I recently learned to play gin rummy, a lovely card game for two. My grandpa gave us his patio table, and we took a table cloth and Mykala’s new radio (a beautiful Tivoli Model One) out on the patio to eat dinner and play cards. I live a blessed life, don’t I?

On Saturday, we leave for a short Memorial Day Weekend roadtrip to Chicago. We’ll listen to This American Life and a book called “How Children Succeed” as we drive, and we’ll play gin rummy on the hotel beds in the evenings. I think I picked a good time to resume these daily notes.

Raspberries

Dear baby,

Hidden Valley Lane is a great name for a street. Just saying it aloud makes me think the way it rolls off the tongue is rivaled only by the bucolic imagery it evokes. It’s the name of the street on which my family (you know, your dad, grandparents, and auntie Katy) lived for a few years in the late 1980s. In the backyard grew a raspberry patch and on the hot days late in the summer when it was time to pick, my mom gave us little margarine containers to carry the berries. They had little blue “Bylery’s”­ on the side of them, and the bushes in their raised beds were taller than me.

You’ve never had a raspberry, baby, but you’ll find that the warmer they are the better, and the ones thirty seconds from the plant are even better than the ones from the store. So I had some spectacular raspberries this evening and whenever I eat them, I always remember picking them on Hidden Valley Lane. You’ll have memories like that, too. Keep on growing, you are kicking your mom right now.

Love,
Dad

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