Benjamin’s Birth Story

A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails h[is] scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after–oh, that’s love by a different name.
–from The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

You were born on a Tuesday.  On Monday, I had made arrangements with my boss to work from home until you were born.  I can’t remember why now, but it doesn’t matter, since you had other plans.

Monday night, I sent Daddy out to get Chick-Fil-A for dinner after Maggie went to bed.  I stayed home watching TV upstairs.  I felt a contraction and looked at the clock: 8:24.  I felt another one about 4 minutes later.  Daddy got home just before 9 and I ate dinner while we talked.  Around 10:15 or so, I told him I should probably lay down and drink some water to see if the contractions stopped, so I went into our room.  I used an app on my phone to time the contractions.  By 10:45, I was pretty sure they were the real thing – 3-5 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds apiece.

I called the nurse line and told them what was happening.  The advice nurse said, “Oh, with your second baby, we usually like you to call when the contractions are six minutes apart.”  I said, “Well, they started out at four minutes apart, so here we are.”  She called the hospital and they agreed it was time to come in.  I was not nearly as uncomfortable as I was when we headed to the hospital with Maggie, so I assumed we were in for a long labor.

We called Kelly and she came over to spend the night with Maggie.  We called Grandma and Papa, who had just arrived home in Philadelphia after landing at the airport in Washington, DC – they had opted not to come over after they landed at 5:30, and at that point there was no reason to think they needed to.  Grandma hopped in her car to make the drive back to DC.  We called Daddy’s parents on the way to the hospital.

Daddy dropped me off at the entrance to the hospital around 11:45.  I waited for him in the lobby while he parked the car.  I was still pretty comfortable even during contractions, even though I could tell they were closer together and stronger.  Daddy and I took the elevator up to Labor & Delivery and I didn’t need a wheelchair this time.  There was almost no one there, so they put me in a labor room instead of triage.  At arounf 1:30, the doctor walked in and guess what?  It was Dr. Kelly, the same doctor who delivered Maggie!  I was so happy to see her; we loved her last time and I was so thankful that she might be the one to deliver you, too.  You just needed to get here before 8am Tuesday morning when her shift was over.

When the doctor checked me, I was only at a 3, so they didn’t officially admit me (which was great, because it meant I could eat or drink whatever I wanted), though that was basically a formality.  They unhooked me from all the monitors and suggested I walk to help you along, so Daddy and made several laps around the L&D floor.

I was still feeling great.  In fact, on the first lap, I told Daddy that I couldn’t believe how comfortable I was given how close the contractions were, and that maybe I could do without an epidural this time.  Ha!  By about the third lap, I was having to stop and lean forward against the wall and and bounce up and down to get through the pain.  I knew then that I would need the epidural, but this time I didn’t bother to feel bad about it!

After about 30 minutes of walking, we went back to the room.  The nurse checked me again and I was at a 4, so they officially admitted me.  Grandma arrived a little after 2, and it was so great to have her there, and it meant that Daddy could relax a little and try to rest before things got serious.  Turns out we wouldn’t have that much time, though.

I told the nurse I wanted the epidural and she said I needed IV fluids first, and that began a whole stressful period where two different nurses tried everything they could to get an IV in me and actually stuck me three different times in three different places with no luck.  At one point I cried to Grandma that I was scared they wouldn’t be able to get a line in and then I wouldn’t be able to get the epidural at all.  I was in a lot of pain during the contractions and was pretty scared of labor without an epidural.

Finally, finally they were able to get a line in and start the fluids around 4.  Because I was so uncomfortable and because it was going to be a little while before the anesthesiologist could come by, they gave me some pain medicine in my IV.  That was amazing.  I thought my contractions had stopped, that’s how well the meds worked.  They did make me feel a little drunk, though.  I closed my eyes and rested, but I don’t think I ever actually fell asleep.  Daddy was the same – rested but not asleep.

Around 5am, just as the IV pain meds had worn off, every laboring mother’s best friend arrived: the anesthesiologist.  The epidural went in with no problem – it was so much smoother than it was with Maggie, thank goodness!  I again tried to rest, but didn’t have much luck.

Around 6:20, my water broke and then there was just constant pressure.  At 6:45, the doctor checked me and I was complete!  I couldn’t believe it.  With Maggie, my water also broke shortly after the epidural, but then I still had to wait 10 or 11 hours before I could start pushing.

The doctor told me I could push whenever I felt the urge, so I think we started around 7.  Daddy and the nurse helped, but you were really just ready – I think it only took pushing through 3 or 4 contractions before you were here.  Right after I finished pushing on contraction 3 or 4, the doctor turned away from me for some reason.  All of a sudden, I felt you sliding out and I yelled, “He’s coming!”  And the doctor spun around so fast and put her hands out just in time to catch you!  11 hours and 11 minutes after my first contraction, here you were; I couldn’t believe it.

They put you right on my chest, and Daddy and I were both crying, and you were crying, and it was just perfect (and so were you).  They cleaned you off and put your hat on and Daddy cut your cord and you nursed like a champ from the get go.  There are no words, my sweet boy, to tell you just how happy we were to finally have you safe in our arms.  We love you so, so much.

Uh, Is This Thing On?

The future came and went in the mildly discouraging way that futures do.
— from Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Neil Gaiman

Hi, friends.  Loooooong time, no see.  How’s tricks?  I miss you guys and this space.  I can’t make any promises about how often I’ll be here, but I’ve come to realize that I need to make time for this; it’s sort of essential to me.

Obviously, there’s lots of news since May 2014 when Maggie was only 6 months old.  She just turned two and is, if I say so myself, just delightful. I adore her.


And back at the end of June, this happened:


Benjamin Nelson was born at 7:35am on June 30; he was 8 pounds, 3 ounces and 20.5 inches long.

Now, he’s almost 5 months old and I just cannot get enough of his smiley face:


He is basically the easiest baby ever.  Or was, until the 4-month wakeful hit and he started waking up 2 or 3 times a night to nurse again.  But he’s still the sweetest, smiley-est kid, so I think we’re coming out ahead.  I have his birth story ready to go and will post it soon.

There’s just no way to catch up on everything that’s happened since I last posted, so I don’t intend to try.  I’m just going to try to be here as much as  can going forward.  I hope you’re all still out there, and well. See you soon.

Nationals Park Update

So.  This was exciting, huh?  So many new visitors here to read my story since so many friends and even people I’ve never met shared the link and retweeted and emailed, etc.  I want to say a big huge thanks to everyone who did so, even if you didn’t tell me about it.  It really means a lot to me.

Because I got so much traffic, I wanted to be sure to post the update and give credit to the Nationals for reaching out to me and getting this resolved in under 24 hours.  In a nutshell, this appears to be a huge, and very unfortunate, misunderstanding.

I spoke to the vice president of Guest Services this afternoon, after the Nationals twitter account DMed me and asked for my contact information.  She was both very apologetic and a little defensive, maybe understandably so.  She said the knocking and pounding and doorknob rattling was not her employees, that it must have been guests trying to get in (“That’s a very popular restroom.”).  She said they got a report that someone was locked inside, and that’s when they sent an employee to unlock it.  I asked her (1) Why anyone thought I was locked inside when I repeatedly stated that the room was occupied, and (2) Why the pounding didn’t stop after I pushed the door shut and locked it again, having clearly demonstrated that I was not locked inside.

She said(1) no one heard anything from inside, and (2) again, it wasn’t her staff, it must have been guests, and short of stationing an employee outside the door, she’s not sure what she could have done to prevent it.

I suggested that, if they couldn’t hear me, even though I was shouting, and if they can’t hear the kids who apparently get locked in there on the regular (which is apparently what they assumed when they got the report), maybe they should consider turning down the volume on the piped in game audio in there.  I couldn’t hear anyone from outside, either, but I have a hearing impairment and assumed that was my problem.  Turns out it’s not.

I do understand where she is coming from, and to the extent that there’s no window in the bathroom door, I have to take her at her word that it wasn’t park employees repeatedly, loudly banging on the door and rattling the doorknob.  I did point out that, interestingly enough, there were no guests standing outside when I opened the door at the end of my ordeal, only five park employees.

Here’s the most important part:

I asked her if it was inappropriate for me to use the Family Restroom for pumping.  She said, “No, not at all, but there are probably better places to do it.”  She said she understood that I didn’t want to go all the way across the park to the Reagan Room, but said if I had asked someone, they would have made other accommodations for me.  She said they regularly take nursing mothers to First Aid or find open offices for them where they’d be more comfortable than in the restroom (and I have actually spoken to someone since that confirmed that this happened to her when the Reagan Room was locked).  That’s great, and exactly what I wanted to hear, but I reminded her that it doesn’t say any of that on the website.  She said they can’t put all the possibilities on the website.  Fair enough, but can’t you say, “Feel free to ask any staff member for alternate accommodations” or something?  I definitely would have, because pumping in a public restroom is not my idea of a good time.

In the end, she apologized that I experienced it the way I did, that is, that I felt harassed and afraid, even if it wasn’t her employees.  I thought that was very classy of her.  She said they strive to be a very family-friendly park and to provide great experiences for all their guests and she was sorry that didn’t happen for me yesterday.  I assured her that I have attended many games there and have always enjoyed myself and that it was because it was so out of character that I felt I needed to make sure they were made aware of it.

She also invited me back, along with my husband and daughter, as her guests for any game we like this season.  I told her I’d be glad to come back, and that we had already planned to take Maggie to her first game next month.  She seemed very exited about that and said to just let her know the date and she’d set us up in the club so we’d be totally comfortable and not have to worry about the weather or anything.  I thought that was very nice and not at all necessary, but obviously, we’re going to take her up on it.

So all’s well that ends well.




Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
— Donald Porter

We interrupt our regularly scheduled not blogging to bring you this breaking story:

I had a terrible experience at Nationals Park today. I know this is long, you guys, but please bear with me.

My office went to the game this afternoon. Because I am still nursing Maggie, I need to pump during my workday.  I usually pump three times during my day.  Because of this, I actually left for the game later than my co-workers so that I would only have to pump once at the ballpark. Before I went, I checked the Nationals website and saw that “nursing mothers are invited to use” the Family Restrooms or the Reagan Room. Because there was a Family Restroom located very near my seat in Section 136 that had an electrical outlet, and because time was of the essence – I needed to pump and leave the park promptly to pick up Maggie from daycare – I opted not to go across the park and upstairs to the Reagan Room, which is in Section 201. While I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of occupying the restroom for at least 20 minutes, since the Nationals “invite” nursing mothers to use them for that purpose, I presume they have anticipated that they will occasionally be occupied for at least that length of time.

At approximately 3:50pm, I entered the Family Restroom located behind section 139 and locked the door. I used the restroom and then started to set up my breast pump. Almost even before I had everything hooked up — approximately 5 minutes after I entered — someone knocked on the door. I stated that the restroom was occupied.

A few moments later, someone tried the door and found it locked. I again repeated that someone was inside. From that point on, the knocking was nearly constant, no matter how many times I said the room was occupied.

The knocking turned to pounding, and the doorknob continued to rattle, and about 15 minutes after I entered, someone used the key to unlock the door from the outside and started to open it. I pushed it shut and locked it again. I said, “I am pumping breast milk for my baby. Please leave me alone.” They did not. They continued to pound on the door and rattle the doorknob.

By that point, I was actually scared. The piped in game audio in the bathroom was very loud, so, because of my hearing impairment, I don’t know what, if anything, the people on the other side of the door were saying to me. But, for my part, I repeatedly stated (yelled, ultimately) that the room was occupied and I identified at least three times what I was doing inside. I repeatedly asked that I be left alone and my requests were ignored. I eventually said, “I will be finished in 5 minutes,” to no avail. A few minutes later, I said, “I’m almost finished, I will be done in 2 minutes. Please leave me alone.” It continued.

When I was finally finished, after approximately 25 minutes in the restroom, I opened the door to find at least 5 employees standing outside staring at me. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that my reaction to them was one of anger. I yelled that I had been pumping breast milk for my baby, and that I was sure they wouldn’t have preferred that I do so right out on the concourse. I then left, because, as I said, I needed to leave promptly, but I wish I had had the time to get the employees’ names and speak to a supervisor immediately.

I am unbelievably angry about the way I was treated. I repeatedly stated that the room was occupied and what I was doing and asked to be left alone, but the employees continued to act in a harassing manner. The pounding on the door and rattling the doorknob, not to mention the attempted entry, made me fearful.

I tweeted a condensed version of this story to the Nationals this afternoon, but after several hours, have not received any acknowledgement whatsoever. I also sent a message through their website, but I was limited to 3000 characters, so I couldn’t say everything I wanted to. I will follow up with a call tomorrow.

I have asked for an explanation for what happened, an apology, and assurance that they will make clear to their employees that what happened to me is not acceptable. I told them that nursing mothers come in all kinds – some nurse exclusively, some pump exclusively, and some – like me – must do both, and needing to pump shouldn’t interfere with my ability to attend a baseball game. If the Family Restrooms are available for nursing mothers to nurse, there is no reason they shouldn’t also be available for nursing mothers to pump.

We’ll see what happens.

The Rat Race

When Australia passed a parental leave law in 2010, it left the U.S. as the only industrialized nation not to mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns. Most of the rest of the world has paid maternity leave policies, too; Lesotho, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea are the only other countries that do not.
— from Paid Parental Leave: U.S. vs. The World

It’s only been a month since I last posted, but it feels like ages.  Here’s what’s happening:

On February 10th, at 12 weeks old, Maggie went to daycare and I went back to work.  This is how she looked as we got ready to head out the door:

First day of school!

First day of school!

I was beside myself; I cried that morning as I got her dressed.  I cried on the way to daycare.  I cried when we got there.  I cried when we left.  But this is how we left her that first morning:


Yeah, she was going to be fine.

It’s been working out ok, but the daycare is out here where we live, and David works 9 hour days to my 8, so it’s been challenging.  At the present, the way our day goes is, we leave together with Maggie.  I drop David off at the Metro, then drop Maggie off at daycare and then go back to the Metro and head to work (the idea being that David gets to work sooner and can leave closer to the time I do).  I leave work at 4:45 sharp to allow for some Metro delays to be sure I can get to daycare no later than 6:30 when it closes (so far, so good; I’ve never been later than 6:15).  Maggie and I go home and then have to go back out to pick David up from the Metro, usually between 7 and 7:30.  It’s this part that I hate the most, because I have to re-wrangle her, and by that time of day, she’s not her best self.  David’s not convinced it’s worth the extra $4.75 a day in parking for us to drive separately; I say it’s a bargain at twice the price not to have to go out again once we’re home.  This is a work in progress.

Now that Maggie’s used to daycare and we have a weekday groove, I can admit that I’m glad to be back to work.  I don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.  I miss her every day and look forward to picking her up at daycare every night, but this is what’s best for all of us, I think.  I will say, though, that 12 weeks is not enough.  And I was lucky that I could take that much time–even though I had to use all of my vacation and sick time because the federal government doesn’t offer paid maternity leave–many women go back at 8, 6, or even 4 weeks after giving birth.  I wasn’t even a functioning human being 4 weeks after Maggie was born; I cannot imagine being expected to do my job that soon.  That there’s no federally mandated paid maternity leave in this country is a travesty.

We’re still breastfeeding; I pump three times a day at work, which is kind of a pain, but (a) I’m committed to giving her breast milk for a year and (b) it makes the day go by SO fast – basically every time I turn around, it’s time to pump again.  Because I have to leave by 4:45 and try as I might I can’t seem to get to work earlier than 8:30 (which is fine, because that means Maggie’s in daycare 10 or 10.5 hours as it is, which is too much, but it can’t be helped), I don’t take a lunch hour, I just work right through.  It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be – before I went on maternity leave, I ate lunch out basically every day just for an excuse to leave the office for an hour – and it shortens my day by an hour, so it’s worth it. Like much of motherhood, it’s a tradeoff I’m making for benefit of my family.

Daycare wears Maggie out – the constant noise and lights and stimulation – so she sleeps GREAT on daycare days.  We get at least 6 hours her first stretch, and only one middle of the night wake up, which is amazing.  On Saturday and Sunday nights, though, we’re back to her pre-daycare 3- to 4-hour first stretch, with at least two middle of the night wake ups, which is less amazing.  I trust, though, that she will eventually sleep through the night and that, for now, she still needs to eat when she wakes up, even if so many other babies (of women I know online) already sleep through the night.

If there’s one thing I’m learning as I navigate Maggie’s babyhood, it’s that all babies are different and they all do things in their own time.  For example, Maggie is an independent baby and always has been.  Particularly after she eats, I can leave her on her playmat or in her crib or even on her back on the floor and she will happily hang out there, kicking and babbling away, while I eat or shower or catch up on email (for the record, if I’m going to shower, I always put her in her crib; if she’s not in her crib, I’m nearby).  When she’s done entertaining herself and wants attention, she lets me know.  I know lots of people who say their babies want to be held almost non-stop and, to quote one of them, “won’t tolerate” being left alone.  At first, I thought maybe I was doing something wrong for Maggie not to want to be held all the time (seriously, sometimes when she’s crying, all you have to do is put her down on her back and she stops), but I’ve come to realize that’s just her temperament.  Hey, if it works for her, it certainly works for me – it means I don’t have to take her in the bathroom with me like some moms I know say they do!

There’s lots more to tell, but this is already so long.  I’ll just leave you with this picture that shows how far Maggie has come from the days when tummy time was constant crying, followed by putting her head down and just giving up on life.  She still doesn’t last much longer than 5 minutes at a stretch, but look how strong she must be to hold that giant head up!

Tummy time!

Tummy time!