9 months ago…

Abby is 9 months old today, a beautiful little girl. It has passed quickly, especially since January, when I went back to work. Even harder to believe 9 months ago around this time I was getting ready to go to the hospital, still having no idea of who I was about to meet. This is a recap of her birth, which I wrote shortly after we came home from the hospital.
Sept 25 & 26, 2009
At about 10 on Friday night I started getting contractions, spaced at about 5 minutes and lasting 40-45 seconds. After a quick call to the on call doctor (our second of the day) she thought it was early and we should wait until the pain became much stronger. Around 1, I suggested Aaron go to sleep and I continued to have early labor through the night, sleeping for just over an hour. Walked the house, took two baths, and tried to go on as best I could. I woke Aaron around 6; we timed more and they were down to around 3 minutes, and lasting 50 seconds. The pain was also stronger, though not yet scream worthy. But I was afraid to get there too late also. We decided to go to the hospital. They were not expecting us (we didn’t call the doc in the am) but got me on a monitor and gave her a call. I was at 3.5 cm, the contractions were remaining regular and our doctor admitted us. There was no one else in active labor during the day, so we had the staff basically to ourselves! It was too early for an epidural, so I went to the birth tub and soaked for two hours. That felt great and seemed to help, as my next exam I was at 5 and ok’d for the epidural. We waited just a bit longer, tried out the birthing ball, and then I got the epi around 1:20. I was at 6 by then. The anesthesiologist had to place it twice due to spinal curvature (the epi doc said I have scoliosis which will bother me as I get older), but once it was in, what a difference! I dozed off, and at my next check was told I was at a 9! About an hour later, it was time to push, and up to this point things had gone pretty ideally. I think I got nervous pushing which probably didn’t help.
It took me a while to figure out what to do, and I pushed for what seemed like ages (2.5 hrs). I had my moments of doubting I could do it, but also had moments where I put everything I could into it (including some real screaming/yelling, very rare for me to do anything like that!). By the end though I was growing very tired and out of it so I was getting worried about the delivery but unable to express that well. I saw a lot more people in the room, and recall that Aaron said the baby was almost here, and the dr said were going to use the vacuum. I knew next option after the vacuum was C-section which I didn’t want so I pushed super hard when they turned it on and I think she came out in one push then (but I didn’t know she was a girl yet)! I heard her cry, and started crying uncontrollably myself, as they reassured me she was fine and I was fine. I couldn’t believe somehow I got her out, so I was very relieved about everything. I did require some stitching up but I didn’t care at that point. They brought her over to me (Aaron got to help with the weighing, cord etc) and I finally saw our little girl.


Abigail Celeste, about 1 hr after her birth

Thoughts on the Gulf

I realize I haven’t blogged in almost a year, not even on our daughter’s birth and amazing life unfolding. This is a big topical leap for such a long time… but I want to capture some of my thoughts on what’s been going on in the Gulf because I will be asked about this someday by her. And rightly so. I often picture her asking about many events in human history, most of which I will have only read about myself. I’ll do my best to answer those questions based on what I’ve learned, rather than experienced. But not this. This will join an already painful set of 9/11, the wars, and Katrina as the American experience in the early 21st century. She’ll ask what happened, how we let it happen.
There’s no soft-shoeing, we’re failing here. I see that BP was just the breaking point in the chain of events. It could have been Exxon, Conoco, or some other oil company. When the platform first blew up, the public didn’t really know the extent of the leak; maybe BP did not either. BP certainly did not seemed very concerned, and even now the concern from the company seems more about itself then the spill.
We mostly watched at first. Surely this would be contained quickly, impact minimized, and we could go on with our lives. Lives that depend on plentiful, cheap oil. Lives where most Americans give little thought to how we get our energy. We drive or fly ourselves and our food everywhere, we use plastic bags, toys, tools, medical equipment. For the vast majority of us, even with concerted effort to minimize our oil use, it is pervasive. We like what it gives us for a lifestyle, it makes a lot of tasks easier. And if it’s not oil, it’s coal, also dangerous and destructive to source, and polluting to use. This oil spill came on the heels of a horrible coal mine disaster where 29 miners lost their lives, where another company was scrutinized for safety violations in an effort to save money and speed production. It’d be reflexive to say we didn’t learn the lesson, but these two events were nearly simultaneous symptoms of the problem, the energy appetite unchecked, yet in crisis.
So, in the case of the oil spill, the government deferred to industry; industry said it would be handled quickly. Hours passed into days and weeks. All the while it flowed, estimated 29 million gallons that oozed its way across the ocean, wreaking havoc on any life crossing its path. Now, 46 days later, the oil is still coming. The blame for the lack of clean up floats heavy on the surface, just as the oil does. The blame for its cause, a dark and bigger undercurrent.
The oil has washed up on the shores, covering pelicans to the point where they can only flail in its midst, where even the best efforts of the most numerous and dedicated volunteers will only save some. Humans are so good at damaging each other, which is hard enough to witness. When what we’ve done is put upon animals and ecosystems that have no anticipation, defense, or response, it is numbing, embarrassing. Unlike the claimed intangible damage of climate change, the impact of this human behavior on the environment is laid bare for all to see.
And so we are at a crossroads. What will I tell my daughter in 10 or 15 years, when she asks me these questions? Will I be able to tell her that this was the true gut check to the American people (if not all people), the waning of the days of energy at any cost? Will I be able to tell her that we finally moved to more varied and more sustainable sources? That human and animal lives became more valued in the end, not less so? Will I be able to tell her that her parents played a small part in making this happen?
Or will I be telling her of the opportunity missed, apologizing with heavy heart?