Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Stella is a Sicilian Buttercup

It took me awhile to accept that what I was hearing from the oldster's chicken coop last winter was a rooster crowing. I was convinced that it was just the crowing from the hen house in the back of the house, bouncing off the hills that surround us. But finally I just couldn't ignore the distinctive sounds of a rooster's crow and the little chicken that suddenly looked like a beautiful rooster.

StuStella, mid crow:

And so turns out that Stella is actually Stu. And not only is he not a she, he is not a bantam either; he is a regular rooster, a Sicilian Buttercup rooster to be exact. Although, you shouldn't take my word for it, clearly I can't tell a boy from a girl, or a bantam from a standard, if slightly rare breed. Frankly, I could still be wrong since I simply looked at my chicken books and found a picture that looks like StuStella, which is what we call him. Well, mostly. I still think of him as Stella and sometimes call him Stella out loud just so I can keep doing the Marlon Brando thing. heh.

StuStella is a really nice rooster. Especially compared to the two nasty ones that rule the new flock with an iron claw and have worn off nearly all of the hen's feathers with their um, aggressive passion. Stustella is not quite as friendly with me as he was when she was a chick and eating out of my hand and perching on our hands and shoulders, but he is not at all mean or threatening to me or to his ladies. And he's got to be a bummed that he is in with the geriatric crowd (5 and 6 year old hens, yikes!). But he watches over them carefully when they are free ranging and is very gentle and brief when he occasionally gets some action. I get the feeling sometimes that the hens are just humoring him by letting him think he is in charge, because after all, they were quite independent for over a year after their last guy died and they did quite fine on their own.

Surrounded by his ladies::

So anyway, now we are a three rooster family which is at least one and maybe two too many. StuStella is staying though, one should never let a good guy go. Plus he is a good reminder to me that I don't know everything and that sometimes I don't know anything!

Hmmm, maybe StuStella should have his own facebook page and twitter account?????

Friday, April 15, 2011

Baby Jules!

In the past few years I have told the stories here of the birth of each of my daughters (here and here), and since tomorrow is my son's birthday, I figured I better dust off my blogger password and post his story too before I get accused of favoritism. So kick back and get comfy; this is a long one.

Doug and I moved to Utah in late 1993 so that he could work full time with a company he had part ownership of. We rented a big rambling house that had a firepole (no really, it did) from the main floor to the basement. The house was kinda rundown but was in a great location, right in town yet totally secluded on a few acres between the Logan River and a canal. Kurtis (our nephew) was four and had just come to live with us. And after trying for a few years and thinking it wasn't going to happen, all of a sudden at the end of the summer of 1994, I was pregnant.

Despite a few moments of sheer panic, omg! a BABY is actually going to be coming OUT of my body!!!!! Doug and I were thrilled and early on decided to have a home birth. I did a ton of reading (books, no internet back then in the dark ages) based upon a few suggestions from some friends of ours who raved about how wonderful their home birth had been. I asked around and somehow came across the name of a midwife. We met with her and after asking her just a few of the questions on our list, Doug and I both knew we loved and trusted her completely.

However, most everyone we knew thought we were cuckoo. We fielded many calls from friends and family who were worried about me and questioning our sanity. My mom was so uncomfortable with the whole concept that she wouldn't even discuss the birth with me, which made me very sad. And when we chose not to have an ultrasound it got worse. However, Doug and I knew what kind of a birth we wanted and so we ignored all the drama. Through our midwife Chris and her assistant Alissa (who assisted in Sophie's birth too and is still a very dear friend), I had met many other couples who felt as we did, and so they became our support system.

So anyway, I had a great pregnancy, and I know it's not popular to say this but I loved every bit of it. I felt great, didn't care about the parts that weren't so great, didn't freak out about how much weight I gained for once in my life, and I felt so peaceful. I loved the feeling of a baby inside me even when he made me pee all the time and then gave me heartburn too. I didn't have any morning sickness although I did have a few seasick moments early on. I recall being in a hotel room during a car trip we were taking and watching the video for Sheryl Crowe's song, All I Wanna Do (the original version, before they cropped out the creepy guy watching her perform) and feeling like I was in a boat on the ocean, I am still reminded of that feeling whenever I hear that song!

My due date was 'around' April 1st but I wasn't paying much attention to the dates; I could tell we weren't even close. However, I think everyone we knew called us that day, hoping for an April Fool's baby. About a week later the Braxton Hicks started, they were pretty strong and usually lasted every evening for several hours. I was paying close attention to my instincts though, which initially were only off by two days, heh. On April 13th we called Chris. She stayed all evening while I had pretty serious contractions and even though I was still sure I was going to have the baby that night, she knew otherwise. And about an hour later everything stopped and everyone went home. Ack!

The next day I walked and cleaned all day, and the contractions started again that evening, but I didn't think it was going to happen that night so I did what I could to ignore them. The next day I walked around outside as much as I could again and when the contractions started that night I knew it was time. The first few hours were fine, we were all talking and laughing. Doug held my hand the whole time, but as I progressed I finally had to tell him to stop looking at me with the big puppy dog pity eyes; I was fine! That was the only thing that bugged me, well besides being left out of the conversation while I was having a contraction, by the time I was done they had moved on to another topic and I was perpetually behind.

I think I labored like this for about 6 hours, pretty tough but I was doing the Bradley Method, deep breathing and relaxing completely during each contraction so they were manageable, even if I couldn't chat during them;) Finally there was a change around 2 am, I could feel it. It was time to push and so that's what I did. It took me awhile to get the hang of it (if you don't already know, you don't wanna know now) and after an hour or so, there was no progression. Chris checked me again and told us that the top of the baby's head was not at the opening of my uterus. She said she had seen this before and that sometimes the uterus is tipped back so that even though the baby is in the right place, the opening of the uterus isn't and that it was like trying to put on a turtleneck, shoulders first. If I been in a hospital this would have probably turned into a c-section or at the very least a vacuum assisted birth, but Chris said to NOT push during the next few contractions and that the baby would then be moved to the opening of the uterus. At this point I was like, whatever, so I didn't push when my uterus wanted me to and I think I can safely say that this was the hardest thing that I have ever done in my whole entire life. Not physically, although there was that too, but there was something so emotionally visceral about the need to push and not doing it and I don't even think I can explain it better than that, it was just so intense.

After the longest forty-five minutes of my life, the baby got into position (it worked!) and after another half hour or so, there he was; all screaming and poopy (he had meconium on the way out) and red and wrinkled and with a little conehead from being in the birth canal for so long. Doug kept saying "it's a baby, it's a baby" like he had never seen a baby come out of me before, and we were both crying. It was the first best moment of my life. It took us awhile but finally we decided to see if it was a boy or girl since even though I had thought it was a boy, we didn't really know. Then we just laughed because we realized that we didn't care about that. It didn't matter, the baby was out!

We named him Julien for Doug's grandfather, Jules who was really Julius (we chickened out on both Julius and Jules) and spelled it with an 'e' instead of an 'a' because we knew we were going to call him Jules anyway, and somehow that made sense. It's possible that I might have still been in the haze of labor and love and a new baby, because a few days later I considered either going with Julius after all or at least spelling Julien with an 'a'. But we ended up leaving it and everyone always spells it with an 'a'. Sigh.

Julien was born near dawn on Easter Sunday (not a huge holiday for a non-practicing Jew and a near athiest but everyone around us thought it was special). As Chris, Alissa and Doug cleaned up around me (vinyl mattress covers are VERY handy for a home birth) the cameraman arrived. Yes, cameraman. I had agreed to participate in a short documentary that a friend of Alissa's was doing about the differences in how babies breastfeed after medicated vs. unmedicated births. In probably the only few un-self-conscious minutes of my life, someone that I did not know videotaped me while I was breastfeeding my first baby. Julien was actually sucking his fingers within 2 seconds of his birth, while still crying but after a bit he settled down and after I took his fingers out of his mouth he latched on like a pro. I have never seen this video and since I am back to being my usual self conscious self, I don't really want to.

So there you are, the story of Julien's birth. He will be sixteen tomorrow and I often feel like I might burst with pride and love for him. He is an artist, a musician, a writer, creative, sensitive, responsible, a wee bit moody, a bit shy, very thoughtful and handsome.

A few more thoughts:

Living near the water while pregnant was very interesting; The sound of the river was very relaxing during labor and especially during all those evenings of faux labor, but it also made me feel like I had to pee about a 100% more often than I already did.

I watched the entire OJ Simpson trial while pregnant and I think deep down, Julien must be an expert on that case.

During the labor, Doug complained that his arm really hurt from throwing a heavy rock into the river earlier that day while we were walking around. Everyone looked at him and he still says he could tell we were ALL thinking, shut up.

Chris showed us the placenta and how it was starting to break down, so Julien was obviously significantly overdue. We kept the placenta in the freezer for a few weeks or so, then planted in the flower garden which is supposed to be good luck.

Around 6am Kurtis came in. He had slept through the whole thing! His eyes were all big; he left right away and came back with a little stuffed animal and set it down next to Julien. That was the 2nd time I cried in a day.

Kurtis with Julien who is crying in the next photo that was taken;) And yes, Kurtis is wearing Power Ranger gloves and his Batman cape.

Julien's finger sucking at birth was a sign to come, he was a devoted thumb sucker until he went to kindergarten and got a bit of teasing. I felt a bit sad when he stopped.

I loved every single minute of our home birth even the crazy part when I couldn't push. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who cared about me, who weren't on any kind of schedule and it was really nice to be in my own queen sized bed!!!!

I can't say enough about The Bradley Method which got me through 2 more wonderful but very different home births.

And even though I haven't seen them since we moved away 8 years ago, I still feel an incredible closeness to Chris, Alissa and Kezia who did the documentary and was with us during the whole fake out labor and then the real one too. Yay for Facebook!

Chris and Julien, April, 1995