Monday, September 19, 2011

Labor and delivery: The sequel

Sure didn't mean to wait three months to write this! But I think I can recall most of the details. Nobody forgets that kind of pain, do they, GIGANTIC BABY ALEX?

You might remember that I wanted a drug-free birth with Mia, and that is what I got. (You can read about that here and here.) It was an amazing experience. When asked how I tolerated the pain without medication, I was one of those moms who would smile serenely and explain that the beauty of the natural birthing experience far outweighed any discomfort I may have felt.

That's not quite the answer I would give now.

But I don't want to get ahead of myself. So my due date came and went with no sign of baby. I grew a bit anxious since my OB was starting to talk about an induction, and I wanted no part of that. We spent week 40 doing the whole spicy-food, long-walks thing. And on Friday, July 1, when I was five days overdue, I had labor-inducing acupuncture.

And then Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, they all passed without a single sign that a baby was on the way.

This timing was unfortunate. If we had the baby anywhere near the due date of June 25, we would have been free and clear of one of the worst times of the year in the Pizarro household: the Fourth of July. Every year, for the better part of a week, we have to console a terrified Chickenbone all night as neighborhood idiots send bottle rockets and firecrackers whizzing through the sky. We give Chickens sedatives, but they barely take the edge off. And of course, with Independence Day landing on a Monday this year, the fun began on Thursday and continued for five nights.

I prayed that I'd go into labor at a nice, early daytime hour so that at least Sal could be home by nightfall to take care of Chickens. The only way to keep him from barking and waking up Mia was to snuggle him beneath a mountain of blankets to muffle the sound, hugging him tightly at every pop and whistle. But, of course, I felt the first contraction at precisely 10 p.m. on Saturday night, when the pyrotechnics were in full swing.

I waited an hour before calling my doula, Kathy. The contractions were still 7 minutes apart, so she suggested that I try to get some sleep (ha!) and call her when they were 5 minutes apart. I worried about Sal going into all this with no rest, so I sent him to the couch for a nap. Then I laid down with Chickens in our bed, hoping the white noise of the fan in our bedroom would soothe him.

For the next hour I laid in the darkness with Chickens, clutching Sal's Timex in my hand and using the blue Indiglo light to time my contractions. When the pain was really bad, I closed my eyes and clung to Chickens and stroked his fur. I focused on his soft little ears to keep my mind off the increasingly intense pain. I'm sure he was in heaven. At least somebody was!

It was nearly midnight when we decided to leave for the hospital. My mother-in-law came to stay with Mia, and she brought grandpa to take over Chickens duty. We crept around the house very, very, very quietly, gathering our things and pausing for contractions. Which I got through very, very, very quietly. One of my biggest fears was Mia waking up to the commotion and getting scared. I didn't want to leave her crying. I have some experience with this: When we left for the hospital in a rather noisy fashion in October 2009, Chickens was whining and pacing with worry. I absolutely hated leaving him like that. But luckily the handoff to my in-laws went smoothly, and we were off to have a baby.

The rest happened so fast that it's hard to put together the play-by-play. We arrived at Kaiser Santa Clara just before 1:30 a.m. I remember a very long walk from the parking lot to the ER - this was Sal's fault, as for the second consecutive birth, he forgot there was expectant mother parking just steps away from the ER entrance. I kept having to stop for contractions. They were very intense and took my breath away, and I leaned on Sal to get through them. When we got to Labor and Delivery, despite the fact that I could barely stand and could not even speak through the contractions, they put me in observation to "make sure" I was ready for a room. Which I got promptly when they found out I was already dilated to 6 centimeters.

At this point, after 2 a.m., I truly believed getting out of the stuffy, horrible observation room would help. I thought the spacious L&D room with the rocking chair and my birthing ball would help. I thought my breathing and my husband and my doula would help. But none of it did.

And what especially didn't help was my nurse. This woman enraged me. She kept asking me questions and touching me and bugging me to lay down so she could put monitors on my stomach. When my water broke as I stood over the bed heaving through a contraction, she raced over with towels to clean me up. I roared at her to leave me alone. I could not stand the feel of those towels on the back of my legs. I couldn't stand for ANYTHING to touch my body.

What I really wanted was to get into the damn shower. That's where I spent a lot of my labor with Mia, and I figured that there I'd be able get on top of this excruciating pain. Before the nurse would let me go, though, she wanted to give me an IV. I declined, she was irritated, and we compromised on a hep-loc. As I leaned over the hospital bed groaning and straining through one contraction after another, I stuck my arm out and she jabbed the needle into the back of my hand and taped it to my skin. She didn't want it to get wet in the shower, so she unwrapped some gauze and began to wrap it around my hand. Then she unspooled some blue tape and wrapped my wrist. Then some more gauze. Then some more tape. Gauze. Tape. Gauze. Tape. Gauze. Tape. It felt like every time I raised my sweaty head from the sheets to look at her, she was calmly unwrapping more freaking gauze and tape. By the time she was through, she had fashioned this fat blue mitt that covered my entire hand and wrist. Right there in front of the nurse, I held up my clubbed hand, turned to my doula and spat, "Is she f---ing kidding with this?" I am not a very nice person when I am in labor.

(Side note: By the time the baby was born, the mitt and the needle were gone. I have no idea what happened to them, but I felt triumphant nonetheless.)

Unfortunately, the shower didn't work. Things were moving too fast for me to relax beneath the water. And sitting on the ball was excruciating. Literally the only position I could bear was to stand up and lean on things - Sal, my doula, the bed, the wall. And when the contractions piled up one right after another, when I knew I could not possibly bear another moment of this terrifying pain, I began to feel some hope. Because I knew I was in "transition" - the very worst part of labor - and that pushing, and the end, would come soon.

I have a very vivid memory from Mia's birth of transition fading away, of returning to my normal self again. I was able to talk and even smile during pushing. Later I even described it as "fun" - all those people cheering me on, the knowledge that my baby was just minutes away. So I was absolutely stunned when this didn't happen with Alex. Things just got worse.

I started to push before anybody was ready - again, my body just did the pushing all on its own. I was powerless to stop it. My doula talked me into laying down so they could check me, and sure enough I was 10 centimeters. Then the commotion began. The doctor rushed in. The lights came on and they dropped the end of the table down. And everyone started telling me it's time. It's here. Pushpushpushpush.

Except the problem was that the pain of transition had NOT faded away. In fact, it became more terrible than anything I have ever felt in my life. I felt like I was being split in two, and I was panicked and petrified. I tried so hard to do what everyone was telling me to do. To curl my body up into a C. To stay silent so that the energy would all go toward pushing, not howling. To bear down and push with all my might to get the baby out. But it felt like I was failing. My brain was trying to do things, but to me it seemed like nothing with my body was changing. When I pushed, it was agony. When I didn't, it was agony. The pain washed over me.

They told me the end was close, but I didn't believe them. That's how crazed I was from pain - I remember looking at all those faces telling me excitedly that the baby was coming out right now and thinking "Liars! Oh my god, why are you f---ers LYING to me?!?" (There were a lot of F-words shooting through my brain that night.) It actually crossed my mind that I may spend the rest of my life with that baby stuck right there in the chute because I wasn't strong enough to push it out.

And very suddenly, oh dear sweet Jesus, the relief! I felt a sort of pop, and then the most indescribable sensation of things ... pain, warmth, fluids, A PERSON ... came tumbling out of my body. I collapsed back on the bed, closed my eyes and laughed. That's how good it feels when the most horrific pain you have ever felt vanishes into thin air. I saw them lift the baby up and thought "Oh my god, is that balls?!" And then Sal looked at me, grinned and told me we had a boy.

A boy! A BOY?! I know it is dumb for any mom to be shocked at giving birth to either gender - there aren't exactly a ton of possibilities. But shocked I was. Alex was born at 3:39 a.m., and they let me hold him for over an hour before taking him to get weighed and cleaned. As I sat there telling my doula what a nightmare this birth was compared to Mia, the scaled flashed 9 pounds, 2 ounces, which pretty much explains everything. It was all Alex's fault! I have since forgiven him and we have agreed to live happily ever after.

Despite the trauma of this experience - the memory of the pain haunted me for days - I'm happy I didn't have drugs. If it was that hard to push Alex out while I could feel everything and had full control of my muscles and my senses, I can't imagine how I could have done it if anything had been muffled by an epidural. I'm convinced I would have ended up with an emergency C-section. But as it was, in no time at all I was walking around, wolfing down a plate of food and taking a blissfully hot shower. One nurse even asked me if I was certain I'd had a baby that morning.

Later Sal told me that mere minutes after the birth I turned to him and said "NEVER. AGAIN." All these many weeks later, I do still feel that way. Not because I'm afraid of going through all that again, but because Alex has made our family feel complete.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A tribute

Since my dad passed away in March there has been precisely one time that I thought of him and smiled. It happened when I opened up an email from my friend Craig Lancaster, who included my father in the dedication of his new book. Reading about this honor blew away all the grief and pain of missing him for a few moments as I sat back and thought, "God, dad would get a kick out of this."

As Craig explains in this blog post, he and my father never met. But dad was a big fan of Lanky (as some of his San Jose friends know him) long before he became a published author. I suspect my neon green 2002 Volkswagen Beetle had a lot to do with that.

Not long after I moved to San Jose, my pretty blue Saturn crapped out on me in a major way. And as a young, single female living paycheck to paycheck in a very expensive place, the idea of going out by myself to buy a new car was daunting. When I explained the situation to Craig, my new friend and colleague at the San Jose Mercury News, he kindly offered to climb into the ring with me and the scary, slick car salesmen. He relished the idea of beating those guys into submission, and beat them he did! As I watched in mostly silent awe, Craig spent an entire afternoon waving his fists, sputtering demands, poking holes in their sketchy math and stomping right out of the dealership until we got a gorgeous new car at the right price. He even got them to throw in a six-disk CD changer. It was a thing of beauty.

That evening I called my dad to tell him how the whole thing went down. Dad was always concerned about me and my transportation. He liked to remind me about oil changes and brake checks, and "How's the car doing?" was a question he asked regularly. But dad was a thousand miles away when my Saturn died, and he could do little to help me. So when he learned how Craig swooped in and saved the day, I could hear the relief in his voice. Dads appreciate when people do that sort of thing for their daughters.

Over the years, every now and then, dad would ask about Craig. Dad was an avid reader - books were something we bonded over my entire life - and he got so excited when I told him that Craig wrote a novel. Dad loved both "600 Hours of Edward" and Craig's second book, "The Summer Son." When Craig found out my dad was sick, he asked me for his email address. Late that evening, I got a text message from dad that said "Lanky sent me an email!!!" He felt so honored to hear directly from THE Craig Lancaster. Craig also mailed my dad signed copies of the books just days before he died, and as I opened up the package, dad warned me from his hospital bed to "be careful with those."

How I wish they could have met, and yet in my heart it somehow feels as though they were great old friends. Lanky, what a wonderful gift you have given me and all who loved my father - a joyful memory of him even after his death. If I close my eyes I can just picture the grin on his face if he could see this. He'd find it cool as hell.

p.s. I am bursting - just bursting! - with blog posts about my kids. But here's the big difference between having one and two: Now if I have a chance to sleep when the babies sleep, I freaking TAKE IT. But Alex, the little sleepless tyrant, appears to maybe be easing up a bit on the nighttime wakings, so maybe I'll be less exhausted soon. Maybe I'll even find more time for things like, you know, taking showers. Going to the bathroom. And blogging! In the meantime, here's a picture I took at breakfast a few weeks ago, Alex chilling on dad's shoulder while Mia devours her waffle.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy birthday, Alex!

In the wee hours of Sunday, July 3, we welcomed the newest member of our family. A boy! A BOY! I can't think of anything luckier than having one of each. We named him Alexander David, after Sal's grandfather and my father. He is spectacular.

It was a very fast, very intense birth, and I hope to write about it soon while it's still fresh in my memory. But for right now, I think I only have the energy for photos. Many babies are sleepy little blobs in their first hours of life, but Alex was super alert from the start. He loves to gaze up at your face and look around the room, and he even seems to try lifting his head up. He seems so thoughtful and wise! Handsome as hell, too. How did we get TWO kids who look this good right outta the chute?!

He's also gigantic. Clocked in at 9 lbs, 2 oz, which explains why getting him out of my body absolutely clobbered me. It's only a pound and a half more than Mia weighed, but I ASSURE you that makes a significant difference to the whole, ah, "birth experience."

Proud papa and his son!

And here's Alex meeting his sister. Mia has been very excited about this whole thing for months, patting my belly to feel "bee-bee moo?" (baby move) and running around the house clutching his ultrasound pictures. Introducing her to the real deal was unforgettable. When I took him out of the bassinet and sat down to show her, she got a huge grin on her face and put her hand over her mouth. Then she walked up and showered him with kisses.

Now, the unfortunate part: I'm currently writing this from a parent room at the NICU, where Alex has been since early Monday because he has severe jaundice. He will be OK, but this has been a fairly miserable chapter for all involved. It was terrifying to have the visibly alarmed pediatrician enter my room and whisk way the little glass bassinet holding my baby. His bilirubin level was over 22, which is quite high. From what I can tell reading things on the internet (because that's always a good idea, right?) people begin to freak out about "high" bilirubin levels of 13 or 14. A level of 25 or 30 is when they start talking about blood transfusions and other scary things, so we were inching close to that, particularly since bilirubin levels rise in the first few days of a baby's life. In other words, we are grateful and lucky that they began treating it so aggressively so early.

So Alex went to the NICU, where he lays all day and night in one of those little blue-light aquariums. He's naked except for bandages and IVs and monitors all over his body, and a little mask covering the top half of his face. For two days (I think? I have lost all sense of time) I couldn't even hold him. Every time I pulled myself together to go visit him, I would walk in and not even be able to see him through the tears. Then later I feel bad, because I know there are far more woeful stories to come out of a NICU than dumb ol' jaundice. But seeing my son like that and being unable to scoop him up and hold him close is one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced.

However! Things are looking up. Alex's bilirubin levels have dropped to a far less worrisome number - it was 13.1 this morning. He gets to come out of the tank for feedings, so every few hours I get a chance to kiss and cuddle that sweet boy. And yesterday (well, 2 o'clock this morning) I even nursed him for a bit before we switched to a bottle of pumped milk. I also take his temperature and change his diaper (no small feat amid the tangle of wires and tubes) (oh, and yikes, there's a penis! also new diaper-changing territory for this mom.) The most important thing for him right now is to eat and poop, eat and poop, eat and poop, since that's how his body expels the bilirubin. And may I please just say, my son is already a world-class pooper. He pooped on the delivery table, he pooped four times our first night together, and he poops nearly every time I feed him. So he is definitely doing his part to get the hell out of here.

I find it amusing that my last blog post was basically a pep talk to myself over anxieties about introducing a new baby to our already hectic household. But at this moment I'd give anything to only have to worry about sleep, food and entertainment for two-under-2-plus-Chickens! We just have to be very patient. And remind ourselves that in matter of days we will be able to heave a sigh of relief, put this precious boy in a car and bring him home.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Note to self

Here I sit, nine-plus months pregnant. My house is spotless, my toddler just went down for a nap that will likely last a blissful two or three hours, and I am well-rested with not one single to-do to worry about. All is peaceful, easy and well.

And because any day now this simple life will be blown to bits, I wanted to put this moment on the record. A reminder to myself that no matter how difficult the coming year may be, there will come a time and a place where my husband and I both sleep through the night. And go out to a nice dinner. And have kids who can walk around, tell us what's wrong, eat regular food and play together.

This sounds kind of dramatic, but the first year after Mia was born, I deeply feared our life would never feel settled again. But I think we had an unusually hard start to parenthood. The timeline looks something like this: Baby born. Breastfeeding awful. Baby blues like crazy. Breastfeeding improves, but dog goes paralyzed. Expensive and painful spinal surgery. Post-op complications that required dragging an infant to several middle-of-the-night animal ER visits. And oh, look! A colicky baby. Who screamed for weeks on end while mom and dad broke a sweat learning how to manually express the bladder of a handicapped dog. Months of recovery and rehabilitation. Working-mom exhaustion. Nighttime and nap battles that only grew worse until, at baby's 12-month checkup, a pediatrician issued sleep-training instructions to a weary, tearful mom.

And there came the turning point. We fixed the sleeping, which made the whole family happier and more rested. We finished up breastfeeding, which freed up TONS of my time both at work and at home. We somehow got ourselves to a place where Mia can ask for a bowl of cereal, and we can give it to her with a spoon (a real adult one!) and a cup of milk (not even a sippy!) and a meal is as easy as that. It's beautiful!

As for Chickenbone, well, he has his good days and his bad days. In fact, he recently spent a few weeks on crate rest because we noticed his back legs were wobbly and dragging a little. It's something we're going to have to be vigilant about for the rest of his life. He may have blown one disk, but he has many more and will always be at risk of further back injury. We are also still expressing his bladder four times a day. I know that is kind of shocking, but you know what? There's lots of stuff we have to do every day. We take showers and do dishes and keep a toddler alive and entertained every single day. This has become just another daily chore. It is what it is.

Most of the time, though, Chickens is a happy dog who brings much joy to our family, and he loves Mia as much as she adores him. In fact, a few weeks ago she decided to keep him company while he was on bedrest.

Mia's other near-constant companion is this Pooh bear. She likes to feed him Cheerios for breakfast.

She used to feed him in her high chair, but we recently acquired this nifty kid-sized table and chair set. Much more civilized.

What a helpful child! She also likes to assist dad with his yardwork.

Here are a few more recent pictures. Trader Joe's is our favorite grocery store because airplanes hang from the ceiling. After Mia "helps" by handing them items from the cart, the cashiers often give her a strip of stickers.

Waiting patiently for a somersault assist.

Father's Day back-yard barbecue. I can't help but crack up when she wears these sunglasses. She just stares back blankly, like, "What's wrong with you, lady?"

Chillaxin' in her lawn chair after a hearty meal.

And here she is on her way out the door to run errands with mom (or "mom-mom," as she has recently started calling me.) It is plain to see that my belly size has graduated from cute-pregnant-lady to freaky-circus-sideshow. Meaning, new baby, that we are awfully ready when you are!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A happy Mother's Day

Even though I also got some lovely presents, my favorite parts about Mother's Day were Sal doing the weekly grocery trip (AND cooking brunch), me napping for nearly two hours, and this:

Mother's Day 2011 from Amy on Vimeo.

p.s. The song is Rachel Coleman's "In a House," one of Mia's favorites. She knows how to sing almost all of it in sign language, just like they do in the Nick Jr. video.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter girl

Boy, I love me some then and now pics:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My dad

This is a picture of my dad, taken nearly five years ago in the stairwell of a church. He was waiting for me to come downstairs so he could walk me down the aisle.

Tomorrow is his birthday, as well as the one-month anniversary since he died. I know I have been a terribly absent from this blog for months now, for this reason and many others. But no matter how hard it is to put into words, I really don't feel like I can blow right past this part of my life, so here I am.

Dad's illness came on quite suddenly. He was sick in January, diagnosed with cancer in February, passed away in March. He had pancreatic cancer, which had spread to his liver and stomach. When we realized how serious things were I took two weeks off work, and Mia and I went to New Mexico to spend time with him. I thought we were just going home for some good family times - you know, barbecues, laughs, family photos - before the chemotherapy or the cancer made him too sick for that sort of thing. But he took a terrible turn for the worse on the seventh day of our visit, and four days later he was gone.

I can barely stand to think about how much I love and miss this man, much less put into words. His death just feels ... too big. But there is something I want to write about.

One thing I learned about losing a parent is that folks who have already been through this are invaluable. Much like having a baby, it's one of those things you can't truly understand unless you have experienced it yourself. And as I was trying to calm myself and make travel arrangements, a dear friend who lost her mother eight years ago told me that even in an experience as heartbreaking as this one, there would be "moments of beauty" at the end. And she was right. So here are a few of the memories that, along with the grief, I will carry in my heart.

- The talk my dad had with us three kids the week before he died. He had us all sit down with him in my brother's living room, and he told us how much he loved us. And one by one, he described to each of us exactly why he was so proud of us. He said that if he played even a very small part in making us the people we are today, he considers his life a huge success. My brothers and I are so very, very lucky that we had the chance to hear those words from him.

- My brothers standing at dad's bedside for 12-plus hours at a time on the last two nights of his life. Dying is very hard work, both on the person doing it and the people around them. And my brothers spent two entire nights helping dad adjust his body, bringing his basin when he was ill and then cleaning him up, fixing his pillows and blankets, giving him his pain meds and, at the end, calming him when he woke up in a delirium, often frightened and confused. Those two boys were superhuman, loving and patient, bottling up their fear and sadness so they could put on a brave face for our dad. I will never, ever forget how incredible they were.

- My dad raising his hand weakly to wave at Mia the day before he died. It was the last piece of "him" I ever saw. I didn't even know he was awake - he had seemed mostly unconscious all morning. But when I picked Mia up and stood by his bed, she began exclaiming "Pa! Pa!" I turned to look at him, and his crumpled hand was waving around in front of his face. His eyes weren't even open, but he found the strength to wave at his granddaughter. God, he loved that little girl.

- The one moment of regret I ever saw on my dad's face, when he and I had a few minutes alone together in his hospital room a couple of days before he died. When I was trying to tell him how much I would miss him, I collapsed crying on his chest, a familiar place where I had been comforted and loved countless times before. Then I told him how much Mia loved him. And he got a wistful, faraway look and said, "Man, I wish I was gonna be here..." That was it. It was only wobbly moment I ever saw in the man who spent his final weeks on earth comforting us.

- The night of the memorial service, after the guests had left my brother's house, my brothers, Sal and I got out dad's bottle of terribly cheap scotch and had a toast to him. It was all smiles and love and laughter. Then the guys went out to the front porch to gather around the fire pit and smoke dad's cigars, Swisher Sweets. The smell of that cigar smoke creeping into the house filled and broke my heart all at once.

Dad, I will miss you forever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why, world? Why?!?!

We filmed the most hilarious video of Mia this weekend.

Fresh out of the bathtub, she was prancing around the house wearing only a fuzzy kitty-cat hoodie towel draped over her head. She beamed at the camera as she darted here and there, her little paunchy belly sticking out as the pink terrycloth waved in the breeze behind her. She busied herself collecting a remote control and a couple of stuffed animals to bring over to Chickens, who was laying in his bed looking rather unnerved about the entire thing.

I thought it would be funny to share on the blog, so I went to upload the video. But the moment I named the file something like "naked kitty cat," I paused. And I thought of a question I will no doubt ask myself thousands of times in the next 20 years.

What about the perverts?

I realized I wasn't sure if this kind of thing is allowed. Posting naked pictures of your baby online? Is that a no-no?

So I turned to my online moms group, and I posed the question to them. They were unanimous in their opinion that, no, this isn't something you ought to do nowadays. But their reasoning absolutely floored me.

Maybe you already knew this, but I certainly did not: Evidently the real danger isn't perverts at all. The danger is that you, the parent, might be mistaken for a pervert and have your kids taken away from you for something as innocent as a bathtub picture.

They shared a story about two Arizona parents who took bathtub photos of their kids while on vacation. When a Walmart employee processing the film saw them and notified authorities, Child Protective Services took the three daughters away for a month. Another story is going on right this minute: A dad in California took his laptop in for service, and among his thousands of family photos were a several his unclothed kids playing in a bathtub and on the couch. A computer technician reported them to the sheriff's office, and seven months later the two kids are still in foster care, separated from their parents and from each other.

I don't even know what else to say about this. Except that it's a cryin' shame you'll never be able to admire the absolute perfection that is my baby's adorable little tushie, and that if this laptop ever goes on the fritz, we'll just have to back over it with the car and buy a new one. And that I am aghast that there is SOMETHING SCARIER THAN REAL, LIVE PERVS.

Friday, January 21, 2011

One on the way

I'm getting sick of the fact that nobody is updating this blog, so I have decided to do it myself. Thankfully, I have news to report! See that wee little person up there floating in space? That's our new baby. It's supposed to come out and meet us in late June.

So far it has been a fine pregnancy. I'm 17 weeks along with a nice round belly and few complaints. In fact, I frequently forget that I'm pregnant. A few weeks ago when I was feeling a little sniffly, I proudly exclaimed to Sal how happy I am that I can take Nyquil again. He looked perplexed, so I explained that since I'm not breastfeeding anymore, I FINALLY have my whole body all to myself and can down whatever medicines I want! So he goes, "Yeah, but pregnant women can't take Nyquil." "Yeah, I KNOW," I said impatiently, "but... "

Oh. Right.

I'm sure the ease of this pregnancy has something to do with the fact that I spend so much time chasing down a 14-month-old toddler. A toddler who is frequently chasing down the gimpy dog while waving her Pooh bear wildly in the air and bellowing at the top of her lungs. With all that going on, who has time to notice every twinge and ache and wave of nausea? (OK, I did notice the nausea. But that's all gone now.)

It's also nice to feel like we only have one or things to do to get ready, as opposed to one or two million. Since we didn't know Mia was a girl until she was born, we have plenty of gender-neutral baby clothes (we won't be finding out this time, either). We have a lovely bedroom for it to sleep in (we're even throwing in a noisy but adoreable roommate!) and two parents who have been nicely seasoned. I'm also hoping for a maternity leave that is blissfully free of animal emergency rooms and spinal surgeries and paralyzed dogs who weep in the night. Oh, wouldn't that be WONDERFUL??!! Fingers crossed, everyone!