Photo: A Greater Sage-Grouse in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains on a snowy morning.
I like your ornate head plumes. Fancy. Why lek alone? How about you join my lek? I promise, nobody’s ever seen anything like it.
Monday, July 6th, 2015
Jocelyn was planning to leave at noon with Amelie and Camille. They’d been here since the 2nd, and we’d been sure that the baby would arrive during their visit. Mom was flying in the next morning, and I knew that she didn’t want to be here for the birth–I’d been certain that this baby would arrive before the 7th, which is Lochlainn’s birthday.
Amelie told me that if I went into labor before they left, they’d stay another day. Although my Braxton Hicks contractions felt stronger that morning, there wasn’t any way I could call it “labor.” I’d had strong Braxton Hicks for several days prior to Colette’s birth. I did mention to Jocelyn that I thought the baby might come that night (but I’d said that for several days). Her response was that it would be perfect timing, and that perhaps she wasn’t supposed to be there, after all.
Colin came home from work to say goodbye to the travelers, and then we gave him a ride back to work to pick up his laptop, which he’d forgotten, so that he could work from home.
I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on laundry, cleaning up the house, gathering some items I thought James might enjoy while staying close by at Primary Children’s Hospital, scheduling a NST with my midwife, Rebecca, for later in the week, and taking a nap. I think Colin and the kids spent most of the day outside playing.
By dinnertime, I started thinking that these contractions were definitely getting stronger, and I remember asking Colin to make the rice for me, for dinner (which entails putting rice and water into the rice cooker, and pressing the “on” button).
Around 8pm, as we were starting to mobilize the children toward their bedrooms, I realized that if the baby came that night, there’s no way I’d get up to the Children’s Hospital the next day to drop off the books and things for James. So I gathered up what I had collected, and headed out. I got into the minivan and texted Rebecca that I might be seeing her that evening, if she wasn’t otherwise engaged. She texted back that she was at a birth, and had just delivered the placenta–”keep me in the loop.” Oh, joy. “This had better hold off a bit,” I thought. But I really wanted to start the night off with some sleep, anyway. I started the car, and drove quickly, first to the grocery store for a few last items (a drawing pad and coffee creamer). While I was there, I picked up ingredients for Lochlainn’s birthday cake. My plan was to put it together that evening.
I drove to the Hospital, but the parking garage by the main entrance had really low clearance, and our minivan with the Thule roof box on top was not going to fit underneath. I had to drive around for a few minutes before I found the South entrance parking lot, and since the door near that parking area was locked for the night, I then walked back around to the main entrance. I found the floor that I wanted to visit, but only then realized that in order to enter, I needed to acquire a Visitor’s Badge from the front desk (where I’d seen a gathering of people on my way in, and had figured they were lost and needing information). I made my way back down to the front desk, then back up to the correct floor with my badge. It occurred to me then that I was doing what many women in early labor are told to do, anyway: walk the halls of a hospital. The hush of the children’s Neuro Trauma unit at 10pm calmed my contractions a bit. I chatted with Joseph for about 15 minutes, and even mentioned that I was thinking the baby might come that night, but doubted myself even as I said it, since I didn’t feel anything the entire time I was on the unit.
Upon leaving, though, I asked the security guard at the front desk whether I could exit via the South entrance; something about the walk around the outside of the hospital sounded like too much for me.
Back in the car, I texted Colin that I was headed home, and texted Rebecca that I was going to shower and try to sleep. If the contractions woke me up, we’d be in touch.
Colin was getting set up with his laptop at the dining room table, finally ready to work, when I arrived home around 10:45pm. I took a shower and crawled into bed with my headphones connected to my DVD player, the birth hypnosis recording loaded. It would either put me to sleep, or help me relax through the contractions. Lochlainn, who had gone to bed in the bottom bunk instead of his crib, came running in and joined me in my bed. He rolled around a bit, then left and ran around a bit, then came back and climbed back in, etc. I tried to remain focused and breathe deeply, but soon started moaning a little during the contractions. Around 11:30pm, I realized I wasn’t going to be getting any sleep. I texted Rebecca again and told her that the baby was definitely coming tonight, but that contractions were still about 10-15 minutes apart. She said she’d be home in an hour from the birth she was currently attending. I texted my photographer that my midwife would likely be coming in about two hours, so she planned accordingly.
Even though I knew I had some time between contractions, I had this strong desire to remain still in bed during the rest time in between. I knew that Loch should go to bed, and I knew that I couldn’t call out to Colin from the bedroom, but there was no way I was moving until it was absolutely necessary.
Tuesday, July 7th, 2015
My midwife texted me at 12:20am saying to call her when I wanted her to come. I called her right back. She asked if the contractions were lasting a full minute yet, but I said I didn’t know–I was just looking at the time when each one started, and then focusing on breathing through them. She told me she’d be here in about 45 minutes. I still didn’t feel like getting out of bed, so I decided to text Colin to set up the birthing tub. When I still didn’t hear any movement from beyond the bedroom, I just stayed put for a while. Finally, I gathered myself, grabbed my physio ball and the box of essential oils and arnica I had prepared, and walked out into the living room. That was around 12:40am.
At Jocelyn’s suggestion from a few days prior, I set up a little birthing station on our window bench with a crucifix, some pictures of the other kids as new babies, and a candle, and tried to keep the physio ball away from Lochlainn, who was still awake. I actually took a few pictures of him “helping” Colin set up the birthing tub. After some time, his cheery, playful presence was getting disruptive to my focus during contractions, so we said Happy Birthday to him and Colin took him to his crib to sleep.
Rebecca arrived around 1:15am. She placed her doppler to my abdomen, and by the position of where she could hear the baby’s heartbeat, estimated I was around 4-5cm.
“That’s it, huh?” I asked. She mused that of the two births she’d done with me, one was fast and one was slow.
“Will this one be a fast one, or a slow one?” she asked. Colin reminded her that she was here in our home exactly two years ago to the day, for Lochlainn’s birth. “So, will this baby be born on his brother’s birthday?” she asked.
“He’d better,” I replied. “I am not doing this for 24 more hours! This birth is going to be quick and very smooth,” I told her with conviction.
“With no bleeding,” she added. “Well, then let’s break your water and give you some herbs,” she suggested.
“Um, what?!” I replied.
Some discussion followed. Colette had almost been born inside her amniotic sac, except that Rebecca had broken it after her head emerged, to help get her shoulders out. Labor with Lochlainn had been irregular until Rebecca had broken his sac, which turned out to be super-thick, and had likely been bouncing him back from completely opening my cervix.
“It has to be your decision, whether you want to jump off the cliff,” she said. “I’ll go along with whatever you want to do.”
I agreed to have her break my water, and in retrospect, I’m so glad I did. It was another very thick membrane, and the difference in pressure was evident as soon as I stood up again. It was about 1:30am.
Since I was stepping into the tub at essentially 4cm, Rebecca put together a shot of gelsemium with orange juice for me to drink, in order to enhance and “organize” the contractions (her word). Tiffany, our photographer, arrived right around this time.
Boy were they organized. Very fast, very strong. I soon needed Colin’s hands to hold and pull up on. I felt like I had to pull myself up and away from the contractions in order to remain relaxed in that area of my body, although I also remember trying to relax my glutes and finding it impossible to do so. Rebecca encouraged me with each contraction to keep my jaw relaxed and my vocalizations low. She guided my concentration to visualize the cervix slipping over the baby’s head. She referred to a study done in Dublin, Ireland that timed delivery after breaking the sac of a woman in labor to be anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. She kept calling the baby “Dublin,” and giving me a countdown to two hours. “You’ll have baby Dublin in your arms in less than an hour now, Shannon.” And etc. I didn’t believe her. To me, nothing seemed to be happening to show progress. Just one painful contraction after another, very little rest in between, and it was going to go on and on until I died from exhaustion. Very rational, I was.
It actually crossed my mind during a really long, hard contraction that seemed to never end, “Why the h–l is this such a good idea?” and “What do I have against epidurals, anyway?”
Rebecca told me later that this was likely when transition occurred. Sometime around 3am, maybe a little earlier, I suddenly knew I was pushing instead of just groaning through the contractions. It didn’t feel “good,” but it felt more like we were getting somewhere. I changed my position from head down against the side of the tub to backed up in a reclining squat, and reached in to see if I could feel his head. I could! With a huge contraction and primal shout, his head came down and started crowning. That’s when I was sure that this baby would actually be born soon! I was so happy.
Suddenly, I was ready to do everything Rebecca said in order not to tear. I didn’t care that it might take “several minutes,” because now at least I was sure it would happen. It’s the strangest feeling, though, of complete adrenaline rush while trying to ease the baby out. Heart racing, unable to push out or pull back in, skin stretching out of my control but still being able to move the rest of my body, sweat pouring off of me but being completely aware of everything that’s happening.
After his head was mostly through, he started turning himself around, probably trying to get a good position for his shoulders to fit. I could feel his little body wiggling just inside of me, and it was a bit freaky. My left leg had gone numb, and it was hard for me to find a good position to try to make that final push happen. Finally, with some encouragement from Rebecca, I knelt up out of my reclined position, and found the little crease of one of his armpits with the fingers of my right hand. I carefully burrowed a finger into his armpit and, with a gentle push from my abdomen, manually eased him out, immediately rolling back into my reclined position and pulling him up out of the water.
Instant relief and joy that he had arrived! I looked at him and the first words out of my mouth when I saw him were, “Oh, my goodness. You’re beautiful.” He had plenty of dark hair, and a perfectly round little face.
I asked Colin to wake up Tiernan, and I reminded Rebecca about giving me Pitocin in order to start managing my inevitable bleeding.
Tiernan came out into the living room and stayed with us until Colin brought him back to bed around 6am. During that time, Rebecca gave me pitocin and I moved to my bed. The placenta came out, and she checked it over. She palpated my uterus, and was pleased that it was contracting, but there was still plenty of blood. The baby latched on and started nursing like a pro right away, so that combined with the pitocin was really effective (ouch!). I ate a few animal crackers so that I could take some Ibuprofen. At some point, Rebecca helped me out of bed to the bathroom, and then checked my uterus again. Around 5:15am, she felt confident enough to leave me to perform the newborn exam.
From Rebecca’s observations, the baby was more like 39 weeks gestation, maybe *just* 40 weeks. But not late. If anything, Mom’s imminent arrival inspired him to come a bit early!
Rebecca left sometime after 6am, after giving me a dose of methergine and leaving me with 5 more doses to take throughout the day.
Even with a champion nurser, the pitocin, the methergine, Arnica, and almost total rest–thanks to Mom’s arrival–I bled like a heavy period for a day or two, and like a moderate period the rest of that first week. We finalized his name on the morning of July 8th:
Cian Thaddeus Maguire. He has the same initials as his dad. I’ve loved the name Cian since I first heard it in 2002, when I met someone in Ireland with that name. Colin always wished his middle name was Thaddeus (instead of Timothy), and as a child, even named a pet hamster Chad Thaddeus. The name is also a nod to Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, the Director of Education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, who has advised Colin in the past and is a friend of Cian’s godfather. Tadeusz is also the middle name of one of our former parish priests, Fr. Jan. But we chose to use the English form instead of the Polish.
Cian’s birth was perfectly timed, as always. God knows best.
Colin had had a busy 4th of July weekend with work, as he really needed to finish up an experiment that had specific time points when he absolutely needed to be in the lab. Monday morning was the last time he really needed to go in.
Mom came in time to make me breakfast on Tuesday morning, made Lochlainn’s birthday cake that was otherwise neglected, and allowed Colin to work hard on his poster for a conference he was attending that Thursday through Sunday. It was tough not having him there during the conference, but it would have been impossible without Mom. And by the time Mom had to leave, I was on my feet and able to move around a lot easier.
And now we’re a family of 6!
I sigh and crawl into Little Miss’s bed beside her, thinking about the dirty dishes in the kitchen and the laundry to be folded. But then, something in her eyes makes my heart soften. Something about the way she reaches for my hand and snuggles close under my chin stops the whirlwind of duties racing around inside my head. And my mind, now set to “pause,” sinks into the present moment. A wave of realization washes over my consciousness and invites me to float on it. Slowly. Then more slowly.
I look at her as her eyelids willingly close over her big blue eyes. There will come a day when she dodges my hugs, when she sighs at my suggestions, when I am not the company she prefers to keep. Her long lashes won’t blink up at me with innocent trust, and I won’t be that first special person to whom she confides her joys, her hopes, and her hurts.
But today, right now, I am her favorite person in the world. I am Mama to this beautiful 3 year-old, and she finds comfort in my presence as she drifts off to sleep. What a privilege–to be so completely loved by such a sweet little soul.
So I kiss her face and smell the top of her head. Stroking back the hair that falls over her eyes with one hand, I allow myself to feel her little fingers, tight around the other.
I whisper, “You’re my girl.” My heart swells with gratitude. I listen to her breathing become steady and peaceful.
She won’t be 3 years old forever.
There is not much that will convince Dadoo to willingly rise from his bed before 7am.
But he will set his alarm clock for as early as 5am, if it means he is going bird watching.
This morning it was after 6am when I was in Dood Locka’s room, dozing in the rocking glider as he nursed back to sleep. I heard the familiar trill of the broad-tailed hummingbird, visiting our feeder only for a short time before the weather turns hot. I rose and went to the window to watch as he sat on the feeder, sucking the sugar water.
And then I saw them. Not one, but two lazuli buntings. They, too, only come to our backyard for a few days every spring. I’d seen one a few days ago, but Dadoo had yet to sight one this year.
I said out loud, but still quietly, “Lazuli Bunting.” That was enough to make him stir. A few seconds later, he was standing next to me with his glasses on, admiring our bright blue visitors.
A quiet moment this morning before they both flew off. Who knows? This might have been the last time we see them this year.
We spent Easter week of 2014 camping amidst the Red Rocks just north of Las Vegas. I never knew that there was such beauty in that area. The mention of Sin City conjures up either a crowded highway littered with billboards that we hurriedly navigate on our way to or from California, or a surreal streetwalk of flashing lights and neon signs at night time. I could hardly believe that the Red Rocks National Conservation Area was so close by. Take an exit and head north. Suddenly there are wild cactus flowers and joshua trees and jackrabbits and lizards, not to mention the massive rock formations that boast their jagged edges and layers of scrambling opportunities against a sunny sky.
The children had a marvelous time exploring our camp site, as well as the wilderness beyond.
Still in the forefront of my mind:
~~ The way Tiern would crouch down close to the dirt and investigate the smallest vegetation and pieces of rock and dirt. As Dadoo was packing the car on the last day, Tiern excitedly cried out, “I found something!” and came running over with that Something gingerly held between his thumb and forefinger. I had a slight moment of panic, afraid he might be fearlessly handling a baby black widow or scorpion. But I should have known better. Tiern knew what those looked like. No, this was a “baby praying mantis!” Dadoo exclaimed. “How did you find that?!”
“I just looked, and it was right there!” Tiern replied, incredibly proud.
A few minutes later, Little Miss echoed the phrase with, “Oh! I see some-fin.” I followed her gaze to the gravel under our shady pavilion, where she was now pointing. This time, it was a scorpion! I congratulated her on not picking it up, and Dadoo hastily captured the venomous creature in a box and released him behind the camping area.
~~ The way Little Miss would heedlessly play in the sand, covering herself with a fine layer of dust which thickened over parts of her cheeks and knees. However, whenever she used our makeshift Hand-Washing-Station, the tiny splashes of water that touched her shoes greatly upset her.
“Dry off my feet, too, Mama,” she would direct me as I toweled off her hands.”Oh, they’ll dry off in the sunshine,” I told her early on in the trip.
One evening before bed, we left the coziness of the campfire to make one last bathroom run, after which I helped her wash her hands. Again, she asked me to dry off her feet and shoes.
“We don’t need to use the towel on your dirty shoes. They’ll dry off eventually,” I reminded her.
“MaMA!” she responded, exasperated. “The sun can only dry them off; not the MOON!”
~~ The way Dood Locka loved the 50 mph gusts of wind on the afternoon of the first full day. Tiern ran and danced in the blowing sand with his cousin, Little Miss huddled in front of me with eyes tightly shut while I blocked her from its strength, and Locka sat triumphant on a blanket, shrieking with delight, and holding up both of his arms as if to catch the power of the wind.
~~ The crackling warmth and smoky smell of the campfire in the evenings after the children were sleeping, when Dadoo and I had time. Real, elongated periods of TIME! We sat close and chatted in the dark, open air of the desert, confident in the safe coziness of our children less than thirty feet away, exhausted and dreaming in the tent.
This collection of photos will always bring us back in time to this amazing trip. Some of the best memories, though, were not captured with digital images.
Yesterday it was beautiful outside, and I was in the front of the house with the children. When Tiern and I were ready to take Locka inside, I called to Little Miss, “Come on inside! I don’t want you out here by yourself.”
She looked up from her ride-along toy and responded with earnest sincerity, “But I am ‘joyin the sunshine. I have to stay outside so I can ‘joy the sunshine. Not go inside.”
Later in the afternoon she asked about her shoes, “Aw dey on the wong feet?”
“It’s hard for me to tell from here,” I answered. “Do they feel funny?”
“Yah. Dis one feels funny, and dis one hurts. I fink dey’re on the wong feet.”
Tiernan is now Legolas, for the foreseeable future. No, he has not read the books, nor seen the LOTR movies (nor will he, for some time). However, he has watched Orlando Bloom take down the oliphaunt numerous times, thanks to youtube.
His present goals in life are to grow his hair really long, and to be able to shoot arrows accurately.
For his birthday, he would like Legolas clothes, a long wig, a sturdy bow, and arrows.
Meanwhile, he’s been running around the neighborhood wearing one of my extra-long hoodies, cut open in front for the flowing effect. His sheath is attached to his belt, which is slung diagonally over his shoulder instead of around his waist. In it he carries the thinnest of our paintbrushes for arrows, and has created a bow from cardboard and cloth.
His obliging sister is having trouble with the name. “Nicholas” is the closest she’s come.
Dadoo and I went to a talk last night, given by an amazing woman who has raised 13 children. The talk was entitled, “Raising Catholic Children with Humor and Prayer.” I’m already enjoying her book with a similar title: “Outnumbered!: Raising 13 Kids with Humor and Prayer.”
One of the items she emphasized in her presentation was the importance of eating together. She cited many statistics showing better outcomes in academics and social stability for children whose families regularly share meals together. And she spoke from experience, assuring us that something sacred happens when you faithfully sit down together as a family for meals.
This evening during dinner, we had our own unique dynamics going on.
Since I worked this afternoon, Dadoo and the children were telling me about their outing at a local arboretum. It was somewhat barren compared to how it will be when spring arrives, and Dadoo was reminding the children of a grapevine maze that they saw, which was really only a frame of wires, without leaves.
Dadoo: “Remember? Where you bumped your head? That will be like a tunnel when the grapes grow in this summer.”
Photo: Tiern moments prior to bumping his head.
Tiern: “Oh! Yes, I me-member.”
Little Miss: “Well, I didn’t bonk my head.”
Dadoo: “No, Miss, I don’t think you’re big enough to bonk your head on that. You’ll be able to run full bore through that tunnel when it’s ready.”
Tiern: “Why Miss doesn’t bonk her head on it?”
Dadoo: “Because she’s probably only about 3 feet tall. You’re about 4 feet tall, and so your head can get bonked.”
Tiern: “Oh. What if you’re 5 feet?”
Dadoo: “Then you’ll definitely bonk your head.”
Tiern: “What if you’re 6 feet?”
Dadoo: “You would bonk into everything if you were that tall.”
Tiern: “What if you’re 10 feet??!!”
Dadoo: “Well, if you’re 10 feet, you’d have a really heard time getting into the tunnel.”
Mama: “Did you know that Grandpa is 6 feet?”
Little Miss: “Grandpa has 6 feet, but I only have 2 feet. Yes. And Dadoo has 2 feet, and Tiern has 2 feet.”
Tiern: “No, Miss. I have 4 feet.”
At this point, Little Miss bends over to look under the table, trying to verify Tiern’s claim of 4 feet.
Tiern: “See–one, two, …”
Dadoo: “Where are your other feet?”
Tiern: “Um, I think they’re in my bum.”
Dadoo: “No, we don’t say potty language at the table. We all have one bum, and two feet.”
Little Miss, nodding: “Yes.”
Thus concluded our evening of sacred dinner conversation. Tune in next time…
Tiern and Little Miss often correct me throughout the day, if I don’t call them by the name of the character they are assuming.
This afternoon, Tiern kept telling me, “She’s not ‘Little Miss.’ She’s ‘Scout.’ Say ‘Scout,’ Mama.”
Little Miss couldn’t correct me, because horses can’t talk, and Scout is, of course, Tonto’s horse.
Every time Tiern reminded me, though, all I could think about was the little girl, Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird.
…as told by Tiern:
Once upon a time, there was a little girl and boy. They ate too much medicine. Not for breakfast, not for lunch, not for tea-time, not for dinner. They ate it for breakfast, AND for lunch, AND for tea-time, AND for dinner.
And for dessert. They even ate medicine for dessert.
Then they died.
And they went to the cross, and they went to heaven with Jesus.
So that’s why we don’t eat medicine.
At least he’s retaining the warning? And there’s a happy ending.
A few days ago, I found Tiern and Little Miss under their bed with vials of Homeopathic Arnica, packets of Emergen-C, and cups of water that they had filled in the bathroom. It was a sticky mess to clean up, but worse than that was the knowledge that they had acquired the Arnica and the powder packets from our medicine cabinet. We do not keep anything harmful in that cupboard since we learned that Tiern could reach it, but they know that it is “off limits.”
Most of our medicine is now stashed away in a very inconvenient location; however, this means that sometimes I don’t put things away immediately, and they end up in that cupboard for a period of time. This is how it came to be that today, Tiern was holding a small container of Advil in his bedroom, heading for his closet to try to figure out how to open it. That led to a general freak-out session by Mama where I described in as much detail as I dared, the dire consequences of pharmaceutical overdose.
Little Miss, a few minutes later in the bathroom, “MaMAaa! I don’t need some PRY-vah-see!”
I wandered in, “What do you mean, you don’t need some privacy?”
Miss replied, “Um, I need some help.”