Thursday, May 24, 2007

Snot fair-snot fest-snot funny

It’s a snot hodai over here at #304 Koukyou 62 this week. It’s been all you can booger since Sunday night starting with the littlest Japanagan. He woke up crying 2 hours after we put him to bed on Sunday. He was congested and a wee bit too warm. I rocked him to sleep but he was up again an hour later. We brought him to bed with us and propped him up on a pillow but despite the Baby Tylenol he wouldn’t close his eyes again. So Sean and I took turns staying up with the babelet all night. The next day I put a pillow under one end of his mattress so he could get some relief from his congestion and that worked wonders. A hot bath, some eucalyptus and camphor in the aromatherapy burner and he had a two solid naps. He had varying degrees of a fever Monday night and all day Tuesday but he overcame that nicely as well. Then Tuesday night Sean started to feel sick and Wednesday morning I was towing the line too. Yippee! This morning Keenan seemed to be less congested but now he appears to have a bit of a cough. He’s still very genki but I’ll take him to the doctor tomorrow if things don’t change for the better by the morning. The babe cries must run.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

1 year

Keenan's first year
Originally uploaded by kuckibaboo.
I’m posting this a little late as somehow there only appears to be 40 minutes in each hour now. But Keenan my dear boy you sure know how cram as much activity as physically possible into an hour! You have become a very busy little man in these past few months and you’re giving your parents a run for our yennies! Thankfully you are not yet walking but that’s gonna happen any minute now. You’ve earned your wall and furniture cruising badge and you’ll go forever if we put a walker, stroller, shopping cart, high chair or other similarly wheeled object in front of you. I must admit I half expect you to wake up from the nap you are having right now, crawl out of your crib, walk across your room, slide open your door and say “yo mummummum, where’s the apple juice at?” Speaking of talking, you’ve made serious progress on “bye-bye”. You’re starting to understand that you say it when someone goes away and that it’s paired up with the waving action. You have several ways of actually saying bye-bye which include “da-da”, “dai-dai”, “nyai-nyai” and “ba-e-ba-e”. Hopefully soon you’ll be able to put it all together AND do it before the person leaving is less than 500 feet away!

Books continue to be a favorite pastime for you. You more than doubled your collection of board books on your birthday and you’ve been in page turning bliss ever since. Apart from books you’re really into activity-based toys. If the toy doesn’t “do” something it doesn't’ even attract your attention. You love things that require a bit of brainpower like stacking rings or puzzles. I bought you the Cone Sorting toy by Plan Toys out of Thailand for your birthday and you’ve already played with it for hours. You are also really into your Duplo and can already stack two blocks together. But you really love ripping apart anything your dad or I make. It’s become a bit of game for us to try to construct something before you lean in and pull it apart. Your dad and I have also had unofficial competitions where we try to make the most Keenan proof structure. For the record, there is no Keenan proof structure.

I haven’t weighed or measured your height just yet but I do know that your feet are a Japan size 12. You’ll get your first pair of shoes this week apart from your leather slippers. And I’m going to make sure we get you outside walking everyday. It’s good for you and honestly it makes you sleep like a baby afterwards! We’ve had some good success with getting you to sleep in a bit in the morning. We tried pushing back your meals, snacks, naps and bedtime by an hour and (knocking on veneer) now you get up around 6:15 am. You’re fed and back in bed around 9 am and then I try to get you down for an afternoon nap around 1:30 or 2. The bedtime ritual starts around 7:15 pm and you’re off in la-la land by 8 pm.

Changing your diaper has now progressed into a full contact sport. There is nothing you hate more than receiving a clean ass. I may have said this before but you have more temper tantrums over diaper changes than anything else. The other day your father put a new diaper on you while you were standing up. He got many “creative diapering points” for that stunt. Although the diaper was crooked you were quiet and I didn’t see any veins bulging out of your fathers forehead when he lifted you down from the changing table. The only other progress we’ve made is that we know we can distract you from freaking out by giving you something you don’t usually get to play with while we’re changing you. We bought you your own baby cell phone toy for this. Other things that work are empty yoghurt containers, my watch and your father’s glasses. All easily replaceable items offered up for a peaceful butt wiping.

I guess I should say a bit about temper tantrums. You throw them. In many forms. And they’ve lead us to the realization that you need discipline now. Nothing hard-ass we just don’t give in to your temper tantrums. So wait, I guess we’re disciplining ourselves. Frig.

One of your other loves is personal hygiene! Now that it’s warmer here I run your bath, strip you naked in your room and then set you down on the floor. You can hear the bath running and you crawl lightening fast towards the bathtub, screeching all the while. Then you stand by the edge of the tub until I lift you in. It’s one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen! Once in you splash until I’m nearly soaked. It’s just so much fun and I’m very pleased that you’re turning out to be a water baby just like I was. Brushing your teeth is still a joyous activity for you and you are now the proud owner of two toothbrushes, which you put to good use. You still generally don’t like to get food on you and are a pretty tidy eater. I thank my lucky stars for this paragraph. These things go a long way to offsetting the diaper changing exploding forehead veins!

Food is also very popular with you and you’ll eat pretty much anything other than broccoli and carrots. Apart from those two you prefer most veggies to fruit. You’re just like me and you like sour things like plums and cranberries. We’ve recently introduced you to ice cream and you love black sesame seed and strawberry the most. String cheese is right up there as a favorite also. Last week I discovered that you love raisins. That was ok until your horrified father opened your diaper to find a dozen or so of them totally re-hydrated and nearly in their original grape form and size. Sorry babe, no more raisins until you can digest them. You have started protesting against any form of baby food. Nothing pureed or bland gets into your mouth anymore, which is great for us because you can more easily share our meals.

All these things added up the good, the adorable, the sometimes bad/frustrating make you the sweetest little boy ever. You’re very thoughtful of others and share your toys and food. You are so incredibly social and a total pleasure to have around our friends. Some of which have commented that they would consider having children since they’ve met you! There is nothing better than watching you roll around naked on our bed, eat dozens of peas one at a time, playing hide and seek in our apartment or watching you sit and carefully play with your books. As a mother I cherish the 3 times a day you fall asleep in my arms. You look like a tiny sleeping doll with your blonde hair, apple cheeks and long dark lashes. I love laying in bed in the morning listening and waiting for your morning whinging to turn into mummummummum. It’s fantastic watching you discover fun like on the slide at the park or riding on your dad’s shoulders. Getting our family to this point has been so mentally, physically and emotionally all consuming to the point that I can’t believe it’s been a year since you were born. It all just seems so fresh (unlike most things!) in my memory. I am the kind of person who feels nostalgia for the past in the present and that’s what I’m feeling right now. I’m watching you sit on the tatami in our bedroom. You’re running your fingers up and down on your lips and making that “bbbbbbbbb” sound. It’s another of my favorite things and I know I’ll miss it when you do it no more. I know for sure that some other tractor beam of cuteness’ll replace it and I intend on cramming as many minutes into every hour I can so I can enjoy every second of you now and forever.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Birth Story ~ Part VI ~ The Delivery

How fitting that on Keenan’s first birthday I sit down to write out this account. It’s been a very nostalgic couple of days and it’s been great for both of us to relive all those moments in photo’s, conversations with friends and in those rare quiet moments when there’s just Sean and I awake.

So back to where I left off last night...I spent a lot of time reading about pregnancy and childbirth before and during my pregnancy. A lot of those words were dedicated to things I would feel. But most everything was described in a fairly ambiguous fashion. “Pregnancy effects everyone differently and although we’ll do our best to [insert topic du jour] you may or may not feel this/them as described”. For example: I knew contractions would be very painful but it could not be compared to any other pain. When Keenan’s head entered the birth canal I knew exactly what the hell was going on. I knew baby was on the way out and like right now. I have never in all my life felt such a sense of urgency. Mother scratcher did I ever wanna push that baby out. Everyone was telling me “no!” and in seconds the doors to our room flew open and all the equipment for delivery which was wheeled in. As everything was getting set up I started to feel the contractions building. This whole time I’d been pushing so hard during them and now everyone was telling me to breathe through them and relax. It felt very counter intuitive to follow their request and I voiced my opinion. Immediately the whole room broke into a low panting chorus of “ha, ha, ha, ha” and I joined in and ha, ha ha’d my way through the contraction. That was the last time I felt any pain. In the meantime the room filled with people. The doctor, Sato-san was there, 2 other midwives, the birth nurse and an intern. I remember the birth nurse throwing hospital gowns at Jess and Sean and they both fumbled to get them on. It was going that fast. I could feel the baby’s head moving down and I could feel its legs pushing against me from the inside. I watched my belly changing shape and honestly it freaked me out a bit. I’d spent 9 months and 8 days protecting this little person with my body and now he or she was on their way out and I had no control over it. I had one other very big long contraction and we did the ha ha business again. At this point Sean told me he could see the baby’s head and that the cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. So two things were going on here. First of all Sato-san was trying to slip the cord over the babies head and secondly she knew the baby was going to be large and she was trying to spare me from any tearing. She succeeded on both accounts and she truly is the best midwife in the whole world. With the next set of contractions I was given the green light to push as hard as I could and our baby came out just like that! Our baby was born at 12:14 pm. I saw him come out but Sean told me it was a boy. I could hear him getting suctioning and watched him getting wiped off and then he was placed on my tummy wrapped partially in a green paper towel, still attached to the cord which was still attached to the placenta which was still inside of me. Wild. It was all just so overwhelming. Cameras were now going off. The entourage in our room seemed to swell. People were saying how big our boy looked. He was so slippery and round! He had all kinds of guck in his hair red curly hair and he was very quiet. ‘We had our “congratulations” photo taken by the hospital and then they cut the cord while Keenan was on my tummy. We got to feel the cord and it was soft like mochi. I suspected it would feel like well, like a telephone cord! A piece of the cord was cut off and was later given to me in a small wooden box. A tradition I wasn’t prepared for but it was cool all the same (can’t wait to get that through customs in Canada this summer!). Finally, Sean got to hold Keenan and he cried tears of joy. I was next and then Jessyca. There were tears all around. After that Keenan was taken to be weighed and his health assessed and I got to the task of delivering the placenta. I didn’t feel it at all. It came out without any contractions and naturally Jess and I wanted to see it! So the doctor showed it to us and we of course took pictures of it! Then I got a couple of stitches for some internal tearing and we had a really nice time chatting with the doctor both during and after the stitches. He was pretty sure Keenan was the biggest baby born to his hospital that year and the biggest first baby ever born in his hospital. Excellent titles to hold! Keenan was returned to us and we were told he weighed 4373 grams and was 51.5 cm long. He had a bit of a minor internal infection and was given antibiotics to help clear that up. He also was running a bit of a fever but that as likely due to the infection. I remember holding him for that first time and being so totally flooded with emotions, joy, relief, excitement, wonder and disbelief. Here was our beautiful baby on the outside. In my arms! He was a perfectly beautiful, round healthy boy. We immediately named him Keenan Thomas. Keenan is a Gaelic name and in Japanese it means “anniversary or in memory of”. Thomas is the name of Sean’s father, grandfather and great grandfather.

Someone asked me before I left the delivery room if I would give birth without any pain relief again and I was a little unsure at the time. In hindsight I’d say yes. For the next one I’d like to do it naturally as well. As much as I can’t find the words to convey what the pain felt like I felt good knowing that I could feel everything. You can’t really read enough or attend enough classes to fully prepare yourself for what you’re going to go through. So much knowledge was gained in that first experience. I know it’ll be different the second time around but most of the critical unknowns are no longer a mystery to me.

It’s 12:14 am. Keenan is 1 year and 12 hours old. Tonight both Sean and Keenan are snoring in their beds as I write this. A whole year has gone by since you were born sweetest boy. We’re so lucky to have you. Happy Birth Day babelet!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Birth Story ~ Part III ~ The Contractions

Well here we are almost exactly a year after the contractions that brought Keenan into the world started and I’m finally sitting down to write this segment of the birth story. There are many things that I have forgotten about the delivery once it actually got rolling but the contractions will likely be burned into my memory forever. I remember saying beforehand that I was more afraid of the pain of getting an episiotme than I was afraid of the pain that accompanies the contractions. Well thankfully I didn’t actually get an episiotme but I did require several stitches which I didn’t feel one bit thanks to the help of a single needle of freezing. The contractions on the other hand were well they were hell on earth. This evening I was going over the notes Sean and Jess took while I was in labor. Jess had the brilliant idea of writing down all my contractions including the length of each contraction, the intensity of the contraction, the length of the rest period between contractions and all the other stuff I was doing like going to the bathroom or changing position. The log starts at 11:25 pm on Wednesday, May 10 and goes right through until the time of delivery the following afternoon. There are 4 full, double sided pages of notes and I think the process of keeping this log, Sean’s ability to take everything I said to him both good and bad, Jessyca’s fantastic coaching skills and our amazing midwife kept me from losing my sanity.

Here’s how it went down. Between 11:25 pm and 12:35 am not too much was going on. I was having contractions that were spaced fairly far apart with varying degrees of intensity but nothing too consistent. By 1:35 am the contractions were anywhere between 3 to 15 minutes apart and they lasted about 30 seconds to a minute and a half. At 2 am things really started to get consistent. I was having mild to medium intensity contractions every 1.5 to 3 minutes. After 2:30 am there was only 5 instances where I had greater than 2 minutes (but never more than 2.5) rest between contractions. It’s funny I look back at these notes now and I see that I was telling Jess at around 1:35 am the contractions were “strong”. They were a walk in the park compared to what was around the bend. Now I really know why they changed the system for judging figure skating! Around 3:50 am I was starting to get cramping in my lower pelvic area and my contractions were changing so that they were very strong and then they would just suddenly drop off. Pretty much up until this point we were being left alone to get through the early stages of labor. So it was just the 3 of us talking, breathing and keeping track of things on the log. There were two midwives on duty that were assigned to us and they’d pop in once and a while to check on us. It was really great to left alone like that. We had a pretty good system going and we were all in good spirits. If the doctor or midwives wanted to know how I was doing they would check in with Jess and her amazing log and that was that. Then I got a monster contraction that lasted 12 minutes. This seemed to be the turning point from pleasant to not so pleasant. Jess called the midwife and then the doctor came and examined me. I was 7 cm dialated and not looking too forward to many more 12 minute contractions let me tell you. From this point on all the contractions were strong. Stronger than the past “strong” contractions. I was doing a lot of creative breathing and starting to get very uncomfortable. The thought of water or food made me want to barf and I began seeing my hourly pee break as a vacation. Get the baby monitor off, remove myself from the situation, have a few minutes of just Sean and me time in the john, then get back out there and get back to work. I started thinking about the very near future and what kind of labor I was going to have. I knew I wasn’t even at the pushing stage yet but I was already starting to have significant pain. I thought back to the videos we watched in the prenatal classes which showed the soon to be moms mewing like kittens through the real productive contractions. I began hoping we were in a soundproof environment. I foresaw myself as a howler and not a dainty mewer. At 5:30 am I changed my position to upright with my legs crossed. It helped relieve my low pelvis cramping a bit. At 6 am I was 8 cm dialated, hooked up to the IV as I was getting dehydrated and the contractions were still strong lasting 20 seconds to a minute with 30 seconds to a 1.5 minutes rest between. At 7 am I had my blood pressure, temp and blood taken and when examined I was found to be 8-9 cm dialated. At 7:45 am I was examined by the doc who felt the baby’s head was starting to come down. He told us the baby would be born by 9 am. I was soooo relieved. I need to take a minute and describe what it was like to have those internal examinations. It hurt like a motherf**ker. It felt like the doctor was trying to rip my heart through my cervix. And every single time he examined me I felt like something was wrong. Actually no, I felt like he was “doing” something wrong. Nice to get that off my chest. At 8:20 am the nurses changed shift and Eriko Sato-san aka the best midwife in the whole world came to see me. Although she was in charge of a few other women she stayed with me nearly the whole time. In hindsight I wonder if she was called in as an extra and assigned to me. I’ll have to ask her next time we go to the hospital. Sato-san was amazing. She got right into the birth bed with me and put her right hand under my pelvis for nearly 4 hours. She said she could feel the baby that way. She talked me through many many very painful contractions. And then at 9 am I got the first sensation that I wanted to push. This is when the really strong contractions started and I fulfilled my destiny as a howler. Sean and Jess stopped writing in the contraction log at around 9:40 am as they were at my side and talking me through each contraction, reminding me to breathe and bringing me back down to earth. The pain was so friggin’ intense. With every contraction I would push 4 times really hard. Every time Sato-san asked me to push a fifth time. I couldn’t, it was too painful. After about an hour of these intense contractions and pain I felt myself cheating a little. Not pushing as hard as I could, trying to spare myself a bit of the pain. At 10 am the doc came back to examine me again. I was now very gun shy of his dialation examinations and had told Sean how I felt. I was also fairly disappointed that the baby had not been born by 9 am like he had sad. During his examination I kicked and screamed for him to stop. And I saw Sato give him a look of surprise. So here’s my theory. The doctor maintained up to now that my water hadn’t broken at home. I think every time he examined me to see how far I was dialated he try to “break” my water. I think that my water had indeed broken at home. I lost sooo much fluid that it couldn’t have been anything else. I think Keenan just acted as a plug and kept the rest behind him. Either way I was now 10 cm dialated and I made Sean promise me that man would conduct no more internal examinations. He was more than happy to oblige as I don’t think he could watch me go through that again. The next 2 hours were the worst and I realized I had to give up on my little cheating exercise. Hell I’d push 6 times with each contraction if Sato-san wanted me too. Turns out she did. I could focus on nothing else but the ebb and flow of each contraction and the “fuuu, fuuu” breathing sounds Sean, Jess and Sato-san were making with me. The very end of each contraction was the worst. The pain got so intense at the end I couldn’t breathe. If I couldn’t the baby couldn’t so every single time Jess calmly reminded me to breathe. Somewhere during the two hours of hell I changed my position to nearly flat on my back and it felt a million times better. The best part was I could put the grab bars to better use and all of a sudden it all started working. The pushing, the pulling the breathing, the “fuu fuu’ing”. Sato-san kept encouraging me to look down at my belly as she could see the baby moving but I just couldn’t break my concentration. I was getting exhausted. I had read about and met many women who had survived more than 24 hours of labor. Surely I could last. I could start to see the worry on Sean and Jess’s faces. Then just before noon Sato-san took a well deserved break (I learned later she went down the street to the daycare where her 9 month old son was to breast feed him). At noon the doctor came in said in Japanese to Jessyca that he was concerned I was getting too tired. So he suggested we consider other options like a picotin drip or a vacuum delivery. He also said at this point he was willing to let me carry on naturally if I wished. That was it for me. I went thru the whole f’n labor process totally naturally and now they’re talking drugs and mechanical delivery? Screw that. So I made the decision that with the next contractions I was going to push until this baby is out. Within minutes of him leaving the room I was calling for Sato-san as I could feel the baby’s head starting to come down. She was there in an instant and…the rest is part of the delivery story which I’ll write tomorrow.

Right now it’s 12:07 am and officially Keenan’s first birthday. He’s snoring quietly in his crib and has no idea what today means just yet. Presents, cake, decorations, balloons, candles, friends and lots of love and attention. I can’t remember being this excited for one of my own birthdays!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Happy Children’s Day!

The boys & the koi
Originally uploaded by kuckibaboo.
Today is kodomo no hi “Children’s Day”. It used to be called Boy’s Day but it was too exclusionary towards girls so it’s been changed. Either way one of the most beautiful things about kodomo no hi is that koi no buri “koi wind socks” are flown outside the home in honor of the family and with hopes the koi will impart their characteristics of strength and long life unto the children. These wind socks come in an insane array of colors, patterns, fabrics and sizes. There are custom sets that can lighten your pockets of $10 000 + or you can purchase a wee set at a dollar store for well, a dollar. The largest koi no buri we’ve seen were being flown from a tower and were well over 7 meters long. We’ve seen them flown on shrine grounds, farm grounds, private residences, farms and in the dozens alongside bridges. They are truly breathe-taking to behold fluttering in the spring wind.

Sean and I were most excited to go shopping for a set for Keenan. The 3 of us went several times on our own to get a general idea of what we wanted and then Eiko joined Keenan and I on our final fact finding mission. Traditionally the father and/or his parents shop for and buy the koi no buri but logistically that just wasn’t going to work out for us so Eiko, Keenan and I narrowed down the choices to the 3 best based on price, pattern, size and pica pica (Japanese onomatopoeia for something that is shiny). Sean made the final decision and I then he picked the best of the lot. We brought our set home and I stayed up late one night assembling the balcony clamp, pole, ropes, clips and windmill. Under the cover of darkness (so as not to make an idiot of myself doing this for the first time) I secured the hardware to the balcony. The next morning was bright and sunny and I hung the family flag and the 3 koi. I couldn’t believe how little breeze set them to sail. They billowed and twisted from the pole with the sun glinting off the gold detail. When Keenan woke up I opened his curtains and the koi immediately caught his attention. Arm up, deploy finger, point, smile. It was a great moment. So Sean took him to the living room sliding door to look out and meet his koi no buri for the first time. Then they went out on the balcony for a closer look. Sean explained what the flags represented…the top one is our family flag, the biggest koi is daddy, the next one is mommy and the smallest one is for baby. Keenan truly loved them. He pointed and smiled and cooed for as long as Sean’s bare feet could stand being out on our cold concrete balcony. Since that day we’ve had to have them inside a few times because it’s been too windy or raining and I’ve hung them in Keenan’s bedroom window. He plays with the soft silky fabric and delights in the bright colors and shimmering gold. I think after this weekend I’ll hang them in his room over his crib so he can see them when he wakes up.

We hope you grow up with the strength and long life of the koi our dear boy. We’ll fly your koi no buri every year at this time in honor of you and to remind you of your birthplace. We love you Keenan!