For Unto Us a Child is Born

Zoe Ruth was born on December 3rd at 12:33pm, and weighed in at a chunkalicious 9.1 lbs.

unnamed

After all my whining about being overdue, this post is overdue by about 7 days. Maybe there’s a pattern in my life/womb that I need to examine…

100_2517

Zoe’s birth story – Part 1.

** disclaimer for my brothers: don’t worry. I’m not going to get all graphic on you.**

When I hit 10 days past my due date, my obstetrician told me that he wanted to induce labour. Induction was something that I had been dreading since I hit my due date. While I wouldn’t describe myself as being rigidly “natural,” I was looking forward to a natural birth experience. We had hired a doula, and I assumed that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps, and have a straightforward labour experience. While induction doesn’t preclude this, it does increase the possibility of medical interventions, which I didn’t want. My doctor wasn’t comfortable with letting my pregnancy continue, though, and told me that I would have to sign a form waiving him of any liability if I chose to keep waiting for labour to start by itself. Todd and I weren’t prepared to ignore our doctor’s advice, and I was also starting to have serious doubts that Zoe would ever arrive on her own. So we checked into the hospital on Monday night to start the induction process.

100_2503

Getting ready to leave. When you’re overdue, you have time to add a ridiculous amount of extras to your hospital bag.

I was given a low dose of hormones overnight, in the hopes that, at the very least, they would prepare my body for labour, and hopefully even trigger regular contractions. I had several random contractions that night, but nothing that indicated real labour was on its way. The next morning, I was hooked up to several monitors so that the nurses could observe my contractions as well as Zoe’s heart rate. After an hour of this, my doctor decided to start me on a Pitocin drip. Most women respond to the drug quickly, and it tends to trigger intense, regular contractions. When our doula, Catherine, heard that we were about to start Pitocin, she got to the hospital as quickly as she could. I was nervous, but excited. Finally, I would get to experience REAL contractions! (any woman who has given birth is probably rolling her eyes right now) After two hours of pleasant chit-chat with Todd and Catherine, interspersed with mild contractions, I was starting to wonder when things would actually get going. So were the nurses. When asked, I told them that my pain level was at a 3 or a 4. They responded with “We want you to be at a 10, ka.” Much as I wanted to believe that I have an exceptionally high pain tolerance, it was clear that something wasn’t working. And then Zoe’s heart rate dropped dramatically three times in a row, and I had an oxygen tube strapped to my face. Before we really knew what was going on, my doctor had arrived, and was recommending an immediate c-section. We were in shock by this point, but agreed to go ahead with the procedure.

P1010161

Waiting for the Pitocin to kick in.

I don’t think surgery is ever pleasant, but trying to mentally prepare so suddenly for it was tough, especially when I was so scared for the safety of our baby. Fortunately, I had a great doctor standing by my head explaining each step of the procedure to me. I was given an epidural, and as it took effect, I lay there praying and telling myself to be strong. Before the surgeons began, Todd came in and held my hand. By this point, I was feeling so woozy that it was all I could do focus on one spot on the sheet hanging in front of my face. The surgeons pummelled my upper torso so hard that I thought my ribs would break, and through the numbness of the epidural, I could feel Zoe being squeezed down my torso. Before we knew it, we heard her first cries, and we both immediately started crying as well. That is my favourite memory of our birth experience – hearing our daughter for the first time. She was immediately taken to a table in a corner of the operating theatre to have her lungs vacuumed. I couldn’t see anything, but Todd described her to me as he watched the procedure. A nurse brought her to me, and pressed her against my cheek – I wasn’t able to move my arms. I was barely conscious at this point – the only thing I remember is thinking that she was beautiful. She was then taken to the nursery, and I told Todd to follow her. As soon as they were gone, I passed out.

More to come when I get some sleep.

The due date that came and went

Well, it is three days past my official due date, and Bannock is not showing any interest in making an appearance on this terrestrial sphere. I knew before I hit the 40 week mark that it is quite common for first pregnancies to run over term, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the psychological toll this would exact. It’s kind of like running a marathon, and then having “someone” (*ahem* Bannock) tack on an extra mile at the end. Instead of a mini-me, I’ve been hanging out with this ugly dude:

IMG_3023

Only a mother could love this face…

Also my more-human, but less toothy Momalot, who arrived last Tuesday. Since she has no baby to cuddle, she has been forced to fill her time by cooking butter beef, and buying me ice cream. This is healthy pregnancy eating at its finest.

IMG_3018

Not quite sure how I ever fit in her torso

IMG_3022

Todd and I spent my due date at the hospital. My doctor wanted to make sure that everything was still looking normal, so he prescribed a non-stress test for Bannock. Basically, I had a couple of monitors strapped to my impossibly large mid-section in an effort to determine whether Bannock was still moving normally. While I appreciated the diligence, I could have answered that question on my own: Bannock and her best friend Placenta are throwing a rager.

IMG_2999

Only in Thailand do the birthing rooms and nurses look like they belong in a soothing spa.

I took the test in the room that I will most likely be giving birth in. It was nice to get a feel for it in advance, but also an annoying reminder that we weren’t there for the actual event. So I made Todd placate me with more ice cream.

IMG_3012

If you haven’t tried Haagen Dazs’s salted caramel flavour yet, do yourself a favour and buy some immediately. It may be trendy, but you won’t care once it’s in your mouth.

The rest of my recent pre-child days have been filled with bad photo shoots, bouncing on my birthing ball, and giving Bannock lectures about the importance of respecting other people’s schedules.

IMG_2997

In the battle of the bulge, Bannock is clearly dominating.

P1010145

Ok. That’s probably enough whining, and more than enough revolting photographs of me. I’ll try to enjoy these last, fleeting moments of butter beef bliss, and start preparing the ultimate sermon on punctuality that I will preach to Bannock throughout her life.

Showered with love/diapers

2 weeks ago, several of our lovely friends from school (Beth, Keeley, and Kim) organized a baby shower for me and my friend Therese. Therese is a high school English teacher at the school, and the students’ prototype for what a normal pregnant woman should look like. I blame her for all the confused looks the students give me when they witness my massiveness (the fact that I am due in November and she is due in February doesn’t seem to register – these children have grown up without health class).

1379797_10151998665019903_898244337_n

Therese is very happy to be of service.

I wasn’t totally sure what to expect before I got to the shower – most of the baby showers I’ve attended in Canada have been laid-back, men-welcome affairs – and I was totally blown away with what the hostesses had prepared. For starters, the venue was awesome. Agaligo is a Victorian-style mansion with a variety of different party appropriate spaces. I was so excited to discover that the room we were in was decorated in perfect, delicate taste, EXCEPT for the dead fox in a glass case on the wall. Oh Thailand. You make me so happy.

994348_10151998666739903_2011093002_n

Jessika and I discuss the decor: “What kind of stupid fox gets itself caught in Bangkok?” “I know, right?!?”

Once I managed to heave myself back into an upright position, it was time for the party games to start. I had never even conceived (haha) of most of the games the hostesses had planned, and their attention to detail was mind-boggling. As someone who struggles with details on a daily basis (ie: remembering to wear shoes), it would never occur to me to create an anatomically correct paper uterus and a bunch of sperm with faces for a game of “pin the sperm on the uterus.” Well, maybe the idea would occur to me, but the execution would be sadly lacking, and I definitely would not have remembered to offer appropriate prizes.

1374768_10151998675239903_1305487470_n

First, all the guests placed their “sperm” in the uterus…

1377336_10151998676059903_2146919067_n

Then, Therese and I were spun around, and had to place our “egg” in the uterus (or was this the point where Kim was guiding me through contractions? I forget…)

1004984_10151998676244903_1455636668_n

And voila! Leah and I had a baby together! She won a vase of fresh flowers, and I won… a baby.

1393822_10151998680444903_1913457281_n

The female anatomy is still very confusing to Ellen.

But the games didn’t stop there: attendees also got to create collages of what my and Therese’s babies will look like, using headshots of us and our respective husbands.

1386008_10151998667119903_2115352438_n

Lisa came up with a real gem.

1375686_10151998676374903_1117611944_n

Oh well. At least she’s in head down position.

And then it was time to guess how big Therese and I measured around the middle. I tried not to be too offended when some guesses were off by a foot or more (and not in my favour).

1375906_10151998668994903_1214828697_n

Rina is also very pregnant, though, so she took pity on me.

We also got to partake in a baby bottle chugging competition. It was fun until I realized that a little creature is going to be chugging on a certain part of my anatomy in a few weeks. Not so amusing after that…

1385756_10151998671714903_1920038460_n

Rina and Sarah demonstrate their best latching faces.

1385517_10151998674369903_782704746_n

And Sarah’s competitive spirit and perfect latch win the prize. Ellen is still finding the female anatomy quite confusing.

A bunch of us lived in an apartment building last year called “Big Tree,” and until we delivered the goods, both Therese and I fielded many, many requests for a “Big Tree Baby.” So the hostesses thought it would be appropriate to create a piece of nursery art for each of us that included a “big tree.” No offence to the building, but the artwork is much, much cuter than that sewage-scented apartment ever was.

1381210_10151998677074903_507350270_n (1)

First, she’s the perfect pregnant prototype, and now, she has a cute piece of baby art. Therese is one happy, happy camper.

Our friends also wrote messages on a bunch of diapers for those wonderful, highly-anticipated, middle-of-the-night diaper-changing sessions. Hopefully, having a little light reading material in the wee hours will wake me up enough that I don’t drop Bannock.

1374143_10151998677374903_1380472593_n

Adorable Vera and dirty diapers are such a visual oxymoron.

Our friends gave us a bunch of really thoughtful gifts. I’m not going to showcase them all here, but I had to share this li’l number: crocodiles’n’ babies might be my new favourite combination.

1391891_10151998679524903_548093084_n

I did not know such epicness existed, but Katherine managed to find it.

A huge thank-you to Beth, Kim, and Keeley for planning such a great celebration. Having a baby in a different country can feel a bit crazy at times, and feeling so much support from our Bangkok community was huge for both me and Therese.

1003242_10151998678469903_567003876_n

The love in our hearts for you three is even bigger than our bellies.

And one last photo to conclude: I love a prego line-up, and this was the first time that all 5 of my pregnant friends in Bangkok were in the same room as me. Asia is severely under-populated, so we all decided to do our bit…

1377460_10151998674829903_869728105_n

Nicole – 37 weeks, Rina – 36.5 weeks, Ruth – 35 weeks, Kelley – 27 weeks, Therese – 23 weeks, Lip – 23 weeks (please don’t give me any prego rage if I got your due date wrong!!)

Hosers’n’Tots

This past weekend was basically split into three equal parts: the first involved an abundance of testosterone and hosers, and the second involved an abundance of estrogen/progesterone/prolactin/insertyourfavouritefemalehormonehere and babies. During the third part, we were basically comatose, which is always a good time but difficult to describe, so we’ll just leave that part out.

Part 1: Samut Prakan’s finest attraction: Taco Lake

This blog may have somehow given you the impression that T-bone likes doing Stoopid Schtuff on a regular basis. You would not be wrong (for further evidence, see this post or this post or this post or this post). In fact, I strongly suspect that this is why he married me, but I digress. T-bone’s favourite Stoopid place to go in the Bangkok area is Taco Lake. When I first heard of it, I started dreaming of Mexican food, but sadly, Taco Lake doesn’t appear to have anything to do with its tortilla wrapped namesake. Rather, it is all about wakeboarding.

IMG_2706

T-bone is also All. About. Wakeboarding.

The lake has a bizarre/ingenious rope system that runs a bit like a t-bar at a ski hill. Wakeboarders wait on the edge of the dock until their rope is pulled, and if they can manage to hang on, they can ride around the lake until they either fall off or give up.

IMG_2708

The pulley system that miraculously keeps on pulling.

IMG_2713

Lining up for their turn (and not at all weirded out that a pregnant farang is taking their picture).

IMG_2711

T-bone in his element.

IMG_2715

Not sure if this one was a “give up” or a “fall off”

Every time Todd comes home from Taco Lake, he has a limp in his step and a gleam in his eye, and I can tell that he is already dreaming of his next trip. We have agreed that after Bannock is born, he will be responsible for all care-giving/breastfeeding duties (only fair since I am incubating her), so he decided he’d better fit in one more wakeboarding session while the gettin’ is good. Stoopid Schtuff is the most fun when done with Stoopid People friends, and it didn’t take much for Todd to convince his entire math department to join him.

IMG_2716

The hoser math department. Motto: We dig numbers’n’neon.

Part 2: Bobbleheads galore

After Taco Lake, Saturday was a bit of a shock to the system. In the morning, BAMBI, Bangkok’s biggest mothers and babies group, put on a massive garage sale of baby/kid stuff. Partly because baby gear is so expensive in Bangkok (crazy import taxes), and partly because my deeply entrenched value system tells me to “never buy anything new if you can buy it used and never buy anything used if you can find it in a back alley/dumpster,” I knew this was a sale I needed to hit up. Todd had to supervise Saturday detention, so other than the two dozen friends I bumped into and the ten million members of the general public at the sale, I was utterly alone.

IMG_2720

This is only a small corner of the sale: I couldn’t fit the whole scene in the frame.

Clearly, this was the place to be for anyone in Bangkok who has ever spawned, is preparing to spawn, or thinks that they may spawn at any point in the near or distant future. Honestly, it was all a bit terrifying. I had a few items that I was searching for, and I ended up finding those, plus a few things that I forgot I needed. Most of my purchases have names that are neither English nor any other identifiable language: ie: “Boppy” “Bumbo,” etc. This is why parents end up speaking gibberish to their babies. After 1.5 hours of the feeding frenzy, I called it a day, because I needed to make myself semi-presentable for the second baby-centred item on the agenda: my friend Nicole’s baby shower.

Nicole used to be a teacher at our school, and is the mother of a two-year old. She is one of the first people I went to for advice after I found out I was expecting. Turns out that she was/is too, and depending on when they decide to make their grand entrance, our daughters will be born just a few weeks apart. That’s where the similarities end, though, because she is a stylish belly dancer who wears clothes and makeup that actually coordinate.

IMG_2722

The lovely mother/mother-to-be

I dig mini men, but I have to say that baby girls are way more fun to shop for. Nicole’s baby received the usual explosion of pink frills, with a bit of purple thrown in to mix things up. I didn’t even attempt to be original with my gift: my cute reflex has officially overridden my gag reflex these days. It was an adorable afternoon.

IMG_2726

The four pregnant peeps at Nicole’s shower. From L-R: 36 weeks, 34 weeks, 32 weeks, 21 weeks. Note how we have all succumbed to the allure of “sensible shoes.”

On Sunday, we went to church. The rest of the day is extremely hazy – I think it involved McDonalds and a gory action movie, but I can’t be sure…

Kanchanaburi: The Bridge on the River Kwai and flesh nibbling fish

We spent this past weekend in Kanchanaburi, a charming town a few hours north west of Bangkok. Ever since I found out that it contained The Bridge on the River Kwai of WWII infamy, I’ve been itchin’ to visit. Mere itching is rarely enough to get me off of the couch, though – lately, I need a more compelling kick in the pants reason to travel. Fortunately, one arrived in the form of T-bone’s ongoing hobby: dragging himself out of bed at unprintable hours to run long distances in heinous humidity. T-bone has run a few races since we moved to Bangkok, but the Mizuno River Kwai race was his first half marathon. His friend Eli persuaded him that this was a necessary milestone before they both become fathers in the next few months. Childbirth can be a real body wrecker, so the boys needed to take advantage of their still-agile joints and lithe bodies.

IMG_2656

Todd preparing his face for labour, while Eli is still blissfully naive.

Before race morning on Sunday, we spent some time exploring the town and surrounding jungle. First, though, it was necessary to spend several hours drinking bad Nescafe (is Nescafe ever good?) and contemplating the river.

IMG_2618

Todd enjoys The Swimming Pool on the River Kwai while doing modified prego yoga in a lounge chair

Unfortunately, our contemplations left us with minimal time to actually check out the famous bridge and nearby museums. So we used my favourite tourism technique: wander aimlessly around, snap a few photos, and absorb the aura of the place. Actually, I recommend “aura absorbing” for any time in your life when you are pressed for time/have zero intellectual energy/are fighting the third deadly sin otherwise known as sloth. It is highly effective.

Flippant remarks aside, the bridge has a brutal but fascinating history – I recommend watching the 1957 movie about it if you haven’t already [Edit: Uhhh… I did some further research, and it seems that the movie is riddled with inaccuracies. Please continue to use this site for all your historical research needs.]

IMG_2620

The Bridge

We were in a rush because we wanted to visit Erawan Falls (a famous series of waterfalls) located in a nearby national park. On our way to the park, however, we were waylaid by a friendly, pregnant goat. She was relaxing by a gas pump when our song taew pulled up, and despite the best efforts of an employee to shoo her away (by throwing ice cubes at her) she showed no interest in leaving. I feel a deep sense of kinship with pregnant creatures large and small, so it was necessary to engage in an extended photoshoot with her.

IMG_2627

Like ice cubes off a goat’s back…

IMG_2632

Instabond

While I could have discussed labour strategies with her for hours, not everyone in our group felt the same, and we soon piled back in the song taew for the trip to the falls. Erawan Falls have seven or eight different levels, most of which are swimmable. In spite of the rain, I was all set for a dip, until I realized that they were full of flesh nibbling fish. Apparently, these friendly fellas like to gently nibble dead skin from your appendages. This sounded horrific to me, but it was Todd’s dream come true – he flung himself with abandon into the middle of a school of fish, and started feeding them some hunks of somethin’ that some dude gave him. How’s that for a description…

IMG_2674

Todd’s (inexplicable) idea of paradise

When we got to the second set of falls, I finally convinced myself to jump in. I spent my entire time in the water frantically twitching to try to keep the fish from latching on.

IMG_2672

If you look closely, you can just see Todd and Josh under the falls

By the time we finished at the waterfalls, it was time to head to our Guesthouse on the River Kwai in preparation for a horrifically early race-day morning.

IMG_2650

Adorable newlyweds Josh and Jaime enjoy the view. Hard to tell from the photo, but the guesthouse is actually a Houseboat on the River Kwai.

After a rough start (transportation that didn’t show up), all the runners made it to the starting line on time, and had a great race. Since my speed is more of a waddle these days, I like to live vicariously through Todd, and I was pretty impressed with “our” finishing time of 1:54. One flesh, right?

IMG_2645

So fast that neither I nor my crappy camera could capture the moment.

The race breakfast was a dubious mix of mediocre Thai food, more Nescafe, and deep fried stuff. Ahhh. Great combo for those sensitive, post-race guts.

IMG_2647

Part of our group. Vera is looking extremely excited about a second helping

IMG_2648

Todd bravely forcing himself to eat for two.

All in all, it was a great race day weekend, and now Todd and Eli can allow their bodies to succumb to the ravages of pregnancy.

IMG_2659

With Eli’s posture being the first casualty.

Speaking of the ravages of pregnancy, to finish off, I have to share my pregnancy quote of the week. A six-year old student felt my belly button and asked “Ms. Ruth, is that the baby’s hand?” Time to embrace my outie…

IMG_2690

Let’s shake hands on a deal, Bannock: you remove your feet from my ribs, and I’ll let you continue to occupy my torso rent free. (at ~31 weeks)