Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We Are Still Here

So, having a toddler and an infant apparently make it harder to blog consistently. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway. And then I remembered that a post doesn't have to be long or involved or eloquent or interesting, though that last one helps, I suppose.

It doesn't have to be timely, either, which is why I'm posting some pics from mid October, from our annual trip to the Avila Valley Barn pumpkin patch with the Rookses. We've been getting pumpkins there every year since there were just four of us. Now there are eight, and it's so fun to see the girls rummaging through the leaves, searching for pumpkins to take home. (You can see more colorful results at Hattie's blog.)

Is more blogging more frequently on the horizon? Yeah, sure. Believe what you want.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August and Everything Before

As you may recall, this summer started with a baby. Matilda Jane joined the Miller family in May, wriggling and crying and kicking off a season of activity.

We celebrated Hattie's second birthday on June 14 with a sushi party in the park. There was real sushi to eat as a main course, and candy sushi to eat for dessert. The centerpiece was a California roll-shaped cake that Sarah designed, with shredded coconut for rice, fruit jellies for the various fillings, and orange jellybeans for roe on top. If only this were a color-friendly blog ... .

All four of us went camping with my parents and four other families in mid-June. Technically, only Hattie and I went camping, but Sarah and Tilly did come up to the mountains for a day so a lot of our friends and their families could meet the newest girl in the group. Hattie and I stayed two nights in my parents' trailer while Sarah and Tilly traveled back to Sacramento to visit with Sarah's family. We ate s'mores, rested in hammocks, played games. You know, camping stuff.

Hattie has been talking about the trip ever since, mostly because she saw a black bear within seconds of our arrival. We pulled up in our van and looked through the windshield: Bear. Right there. The last night we were there, it raided the camp for hot chocolate. It devoured all the Nestle but left the Swiss Miss. Take from that what you will. Hattie spent several days over the last week telling us that's she's going to go camping with Grandma and see a bear again.

Besides the close-ish encounter with wildlife, Hattie's favorite part of the trip was visiting the lake, splashing around, and climbing on rocks. She's like a mermaid, freakishly born with legs instead of a tail. Also, she breathes air.

In July, we went to the Central Coast Renaissance Faire, as is the Miller custom. We opted not to go in our traditional costumes, since wearing shorts and a T-shirt is so much more comfortable and allows plenty of freedom of movement for eating shepherd's pie and drinking pomegranate mead. We also ate Hawaiian shave ice, funnel cake, and an enormous breakfast burrito with salsa, none of which--correct me if I'm wrong, history majors--is exactly historically accurate. (I later learned that pina colada-flavored syrup wasn't invented until the 1700s.)

Hattie's favorite part of the day was the jousting, which also--I believe--was a bit of an anachronism. The knights autographed pieces of broken lance after the event. For a fee. That went toward care of the horses, which they had "rescued from a life of boredom."

This summer has also included a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a 1-year-old's back-hills redneck party with roast pig, a brave trip to the drive-in to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Hattie couldn't believe we ate nachos and hotdogs in the car and got to watch a Goofy cartoon before the movie started), live music and dancing at a bar, plenty of dress-up, and the birth of a couple new friends! Some of those activities may find their way here in the coming days and weeks, though two girls underfoot makes for sporadic blogging.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tilly's Birth Story

First and foremost, I'd like to note that I caught her. Literally. She was dropping toward the floor and I stuck my hand out and caught her like she was a softball.

But a lot happened before that.

Sarah and I had been planning a home birth. Hattie, after all, was born at home (yes, by choice), and by all accounts, she's turned out fine. At 2-years-old and counting, she's talking and walking and pretending to be a giant spider--all the normal things.

Some mounting complications prompted us to reconsider our original plan. As this long-stagnant blog has indicated, Sarah spent a while in the hospital for a stomach bug. Shortly after her recovery, we were forced to move into a new house. We believe her sickness and the stress of the move conspired to start contractions, far too early. She went on bed rest.

Once she got her contractions under control, Sarah's blood pressure began rising, to borderline dangerous levels. We worked at keeping her healthy, and rest coupled with a high-protein diet seemed to be effective, taking us into a window in which the baby was considered full term.

Two weeks before her due date, Sarah began to have trouble feeling the baby move. After a particularly long stretch of apparent fetal inactivity (about 18 hours), we went to the hospital to get checked out. Turns out the baby was fine with a strong heartbeat, but Sarah's amniotic fluid was almost dangerously low.

Together, we considered the string of complications and consulted with our midwife and an OB who helped us when Sarah had been sick. We all ultimately agreed that induction would be the safest route, especially since the baby was doing so well (even if she wasn't really moving around). We could wait and try to get Sarah's amniotic fluids back up to safe levels, but if she worsened, we'd be going into labor with a less-healthy baby and more stressed Sarah.

The biggest relief to Sarah came in learning that she wouldn't have to be given any Pitocin--her biggest fear. In fact, all she needed was Cervidil, a minimally invasive drug that would kickstart contractions. It didn't even go in her bloodstream.

After making the decision to induce, we were checked into a birthing suite at French Hospital. We decided to pretend like we were at a hotel with room service--people brought us food, there was a TV and an adjustable bed, and staffers changed the sheets if necessary.

We hastily wrote a birth plan, noting that Sarah didn't want any pain medications, that I wanted to catch the baby if possible and cut the cord, and we generally wanted as natural a birth as safe and possible. All of the nurses and our OB agreed with the plan. We were impressed with how receptive everyone was to our wishes. The first nurse who attended Sarah noted that she had had a home birth 30 years earlier and believed in the birthing process. She assured us she would make sure that her replacement at the next shift felt the same way.

Sarah got her first dose (and an IV with hydrating fluids and some antibiotics, too) at about 6 p.m. on Sunday. Sporadic contractions began after a few hours and ran throughout the night. At the next morning, they gave her a second dose, and regular contractions soon began in earnest. She eventually hit her stride and labored mostly with just the two of us (and occasional visits from the nurses). Sarah didn't want anyone else around--probably in reaction to Hattie's birth, attended by myself, our midwife, her three assistants, both our moms, Sarah's sister, our friend Andrea, and her newborn Natalie. This time around, Sarah wanted me and only me. I was husband, father, and doula all rolled into one.

Our nurse, Suzanne, complimented Sarah on how well she relaxed and responded to my voice and touch. She said she could tell that we worked well together as a couple.

Throughout the labor, Sarah threw up several times, but that was still a marked improvement upon her first labor experience. She thinks the IV keeping her hydrated was a big part of how good she felt.

At about 1 p.m., Sarah was checked: 7 centimeters. Sarah got up to take a long, hot shower, and then her mom and sister brought Hattie so they'd be ready when the pushing started.

At about 3 p.m., the doctor checked Sarah again. She was at 8 centimeters, and the OB felt Sarah would labor for a while longer. Sarah's sister, Mary Rose, stuck around for support, and I continued encouraging Sarah to relax, change positions often, and go to the bathroom.

On one trip to the bathroom, she began pushing. I know, because I asked her: "Are you pushing?" She said she couldn't stop, so I called the nurse in. Sarah's bag of waters broke. I looked, and could see the baby crowning. The nurse told Sarah to walk back to the bed between contractions, but Sarah asked if she could have the baby on the toilet. When the nurse told her that wasn't an option, Sarah decided to get on all fours on the bathroom floor, which was fine by everyone.

She pushed once, maybe twice more. Our nurse, Suzanne, was calm and happy. Staffers stuffed blankets and liners as best they could under Sarah's hands and legs. The doctor arrived and asked for oil. I looked and saw a bulge where the baby would be coming out and stuck my hand there. A moment later, Sarah gave a push, and at 3:30 p.m., Matilda Jane Miller's head dropped into my waiting palm. Her body flopped along my arm.

Sarah's mom and Hattie had been in the hallway, but came back when they heard what was clearly Tilly being born. Upon realizing that Grandma couldn't get into the room, Hattie assessed the situation and reached out for a passing nurse so she could get in on the action.

In the bathroom, I quickly lifted Tilly to my chest, and in so doing accidentally tore the umbilical cord. Our doctor pinched off the cord and clamped it almost immediately for minimal blood loss to the baby. And she didn't even flinch. Seriously, the OB was a machine. We highly recommend her.

Someone asked Sarah how she felt, and she said, "I feel great!" My wife is awesome! Tilly was bundled and given to Sarah, who returned to bed to snuggle our new daughter and encourage her to nurse. Sarah suffered a second-degree tear (not as bad as with Hattie), but was otherwise fine.

Hattie almost immediately tried to feed Tilly some pretzels and apple juice. After a traditional post-partum dinner from Firestone (courtesy of the Rookses) and some light visiting, Sarah, Tilly, and I settled in for a good night's sleep before going home the next morning. Before we checked out, all of the staffers who had contibuted to our care checked in again. The nurse Suzanne told us she had been honored and blessed to be a part of Tilly's birth, which meant a lot to us.

We were honored and blessed by the help and encouragement we received from family, friends, and others throughout this pregnancy and birth. We're excited for you to meet Tilly, and if you've met her already, we're excited for you to see her again.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hospital Highlights

Sarah and I recently spent a lot of time in the hospital. I was there to keep her company and make sure she was getting the best care possible. She was there because she couldn't stop throwing up and had to have a constant stream of fluids via IV.

While at the hospital, I kept a notebook documenting what medications she was receiving and when, as well as her vital signs and various other details. It came in handy on more than one occasion. I also used it to jot down bits of overheard conversation and funny anecdotes. Since she's been home for more than a week (keeping food down, hooray!), I decided to look back over my notes. Among them:

* If one more person says we need to let the virus run its course, I'm going to punch someone.

* From the next bed over, where fiftysomething children comfort their paper-frail mother: "Mom, we're going to put you down," said gently, kindly (referring to the position of the bed).

* son to nurse: "She has a flap of skin on her lip. Do you have any scissors?"

* the woman in the next bed is watching a cartoon: "They have to have monsters in everything these days."

* One nurse has scrubs with multi-ethnic angels flying everywhere: "Happiness is being an angel." Appropriate?

* It's emesis, like "nemesis," not emesis, like "the Jesus."

* Sarah explains about a hypnobirthing-friendly hospital to a nurse. Nurse's response: "Really? Damn!"

* nurse to Sarah: "I'm going to get you some pillows. We're going to make you so comfortable, you're never going to want to throw up!"

* I noticed the TV in Sarah's room is labeled "Type B Equipment."

* Sarah had a dream about a hotel clubhouse with jacuzzi toilets you sat in and went. Then they drained and refilled and you could relax in them.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Long February

It's the shortest month of the year, and yet ...

Every year since we've been married, Sarah and I have dealt with some disaster on or around Valentine's Day. Usually, it's a sickness. Our first Valentine's Day as husband and wife, I got gastroenteritis, a nasty stomach bug that violently hurries all food and liquid out of your system from the nearest available orifice. Repeatedly.

Subsequent Valentine's Days have been less ... explosive? expulsive? ... but still no fun.
Then came 2009. Neither of us was sick. Sarah's parents were visiting, and they watched Hattie while we had a leisurely breakfast and strolled around downtown SLO. It was wonderful. We reveled in it.

And we paid for it. Ah, hubris.

Toward the end of the month, Sarah developed a sore throat that looked, sounded, and felt like strep. But it wasn't. Two tests confirmed that. Fortunately, the mysterious symptoms went away after a couple of days. But they were replaced by ... can you guess? ... gastroenteritis.

As you may have gathered from my earlier description, this particular malady is horrible under the best of circumstances. But since Sarah was also 27 weeks pregnant, horrible took a turn for the worse. And scary.

After it became apparent that Sarah wasn't going to be able to keep anything--anything at all--in her system, we hurried to the ER at a nearby hospital. That was 10:30 on a Wednesday night.

Long story short, Sarah came home from the hospital on Thursday. The next Thursday, that is. She spent more than a week with an IV sticking out of one of four places on her arms, moving from the ER to Step-Down to Med-Surg to OB. She was poked and prodded while she puked. And every doctor (about half a dozen came through to tell her she was rather far along in her pregnancy to still be having morning sickness) had a different theory and line of treatment. One doctor, who actually made some helpful comments mid-way through Sarah's illness, later came in to tell her that her chakras were back in alignment. Nice.

I kept a notebook with me (I took a few days off work and slept at the hospital for four of the nights), and I'm glad I did. In more than one instance, I told a confused doctor or nurse Sarah's most recent blood pressure, the last time she kept food down, or some other detail about her care. Twice I suggested a different pharmaceutical than the doctor was suggesting. In both cases, my suggestion was safer for an unborn child and proved effective at helping Sarah's healing process.

To be fair, we encountered some amazing nurses and doctors, too. Once we landed in OB, where the staff could keep Sarah on the road to recovery and monitor the baby's health, we felt secure and listened to. People answered every question we could throw at them, and if they didn't know the answer, they helped us find it. We're very grateful to them.

Sarah is now home. She's tired and feeling weak, but the baby seems to be doing well (moving and kicking and dancing around, just like Hattie did) and Sarah's been eating meals and downing fluids.

February, however, had more in store. While Sarah's digestive issues were finally settling down, our property management company called to tell us the owners of our rental decided to see if the house will sell in this market. Realtors have been calling my recuperating wife to try to set up times to show the house to prospective buyers. I'm not thrilled with this.

Next year, we'd like to go back to the crummy Valentine's Day if it means a less-crazy rest of the month.

(Hattie, by the way, spent the week with grandparents. As she was preparing to leave for an as-yet-undetermined number of days, I loaded her into her carseat and tried to explain that I didn't know when I'd see her again. I kissed her goodbye and asked her if she wanted to sing a song with me. Her response: "No. Close the door.")

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

'Change has come to WhiteHouse.gov'

Have you seen the new home of the White House on the Web? It's really slick.

In addition to the sorts of bells and whistles the average citizen would expect to find (bios of past presidents, a place to sign up for e-mail updates), there's a blog. Our government blogs. Unfortunately, the editor in me says, our government also makes typos.

Call me a nitpicker if you must, but I believe that clean copy speaks well of any organization. A shiny new Internet presence should be typo-free, especially considering that the new-and-improved WhiteHouse.gov is the online face of the U.S. Government in general, and the new President Barack Obama administration in particular.

The first gaffe that caught my eye is a small one in the new blog's introduction by Director of New Information for the White House Macon Phillips: "Our initial new media efforts will center around three priorities:"

Again, call me what you will, but that should either say "center on three priorities" or "circle around three priorities." It's a minor error that would only bother someone like me, but it wasn't the last one I spotted.

A description of the "Executive Office of the President" reads, in part: "To provide the President with the support the he or she needs ... " The he or she?

I found both of the mistakes in just a couple minutes of casual browsing.

Maybe I've set my hopes too high on what the new administration can accomplish. After all, a misapplied phrase here or proofreading hiccup there isn't the end of the Free World, and focusing attention on the recent happenings in, say, Gaza is certainly time best spent. But if there's a director whose whole job is to direct new media, I hope he hires a good copy editor.

(On a related note, check out my Book Typos blog. A recent Barnes and Noble purchase yielded a gold mine of errors.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How Much Did That Talking Crosswalk Cost?

blind person to sighted friend: "I really hate this intersection. That voice creeps me out."