Harriet, Miss Etta Z, H, Little One.
Welcome to the world. We’re so glad you’re here for so many reasons. You’re ours. You’re our daughter. We’ve been curious about you since we first found out we were pregnant (it was July 2013 and we were visiting friends in Nashville). And, if all goes as planned, you’re the baby of the family; you make our PowerDriver clan complete.
My pregnancy with you was hard. This owing mainly to the fact that by the time the first trimester was done (a stressful time as we thought we lost you and mama was just so so exhausted all the time) it was winter and boy was it a rough winter. We barely left the house and so –cooped up and mama tired– I gained a lot of weight and your sister was stir-crazy and our little house just felt so incredibly small. I wasn’t too good at finding ways to let off steam or get the wiggles out. We watched a whole bunch of PBS and Disney. We were grumpy, confined, mad-at-old-man-winter people.
You were due on March 21, 2014. I was pulling for March 16 because that evening had a full moon. Your sister, waiting four days past her due date, was born on a full moon.
Well, Saturday, March 15, was a weird feeling day for mama. It was the weekend before St Patty’s Day so my route to and from the restaurant was crowded with revelers. I was annoyed. I took this grumbling out on the kitchen floor, which I furiously cleaned on my hands and knees. Diri had said she would do this for me but, for whatever reason, I could not wait. After I cleaned the kitchen floor –every single square inch of that silly little kitchen– I cleaned/swept/mopped all the floors in the house. And then cleaned the bathroom. I have never in my life had so much energy and motivation to clean the way I did.
My lower back started to hurt immediately after I was done with this. I became annoyed at myself for putting so much strain on my back and my body so close to my due date. I had just gotten over a pretty bad cold and now I went and did this to myself?! Overall, all day I just felt completely off — physically, mentally, emotionally. Even now reading this I am so annoyed at myself. Though opinionated, such grumbling and being peeved is not my forte.
I tucked your sister into our bed around 8:00. After reading her a handful of books, I looked at her, choked up and teary eyed, and said –this just popped out of my mouth: “Ramona, I’ve had so much fun just the two of us.” It was, I realized shortly after, a sort of goodbye in order to say a new hello. My body sensed what was about to happen but I still did not know.
She fell asleep instantly and my contractions seemed to start the second I shut the bedroom door.
These contractions felt different than the Braxton Hicks I’d been experiencing the last couple of weeks. I started timing them –hoping but skeptical that they were the real deal– and texting a couple of friends who I’d been giving play-by-plays to throughout the pregnancy (thanks Tessa, Tara, and Erica!). Still, though, I didn’t pay too much mind because I more felt funky than anything else.
I felt off. I felt warm and flush and weak and shaky. Crap! I thought. I don’t want to get the flu so close to my due date!
Then my mama, your Nona, texted at 8:30 to say she was looking at the nearly full moon and thinking of you (see the first image on this post!). I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor.
I wasn’t even convinced I was in labor when I went to the bathroom next and there was what could only be bloody show. I had never seen it with Ramona. I knew this meant things were nearing but I understood it didn’t mean they were imminent. I called Maren, our midwife, to tell her this and that I also felt like complete crap. I think I even apologized for cleaning my house and tweaking my back. Maren told me to have some dinner and go to bed.
Ten minutes later, walking to the couch to sit down and eat some warm soup, my water broke.
I called Maren who said she would be there in a couple of hours. I called Papa who said he would come right away (can you believe he left the restaurant in the middle of Saturday night service?! He’s quite the man). And I called Nona, bursting into tears the second I heard her voice, excited and nervous.
I noticed the water coming out of me was tinged with brown, which I was pretty sure was meconium based on other birth stories I’d heard and read. I told this to Maren who said she would come immediately.
Like with your sister, my water breaking put us on a time crunch: you need to see signs of labor and have labor progress fairly quickly otherwise there are health concerns for the baby. This is especially true with the presence of meconium.
Papa came home and got busy right away setting up the birth tub, helping me tidy the house, and getting himself ready (a shower!). I walked around timing contractions and making sure the little things were in order around the house. Ramona was still fast asleep in our bed.
Soon after, Maren arrived, and we chatted and made sure whatever she needed was accessible. I had to keep walking and moving to keep the contractions going. When I rested they seemed to slow down. Papa and I walked around the block and I tried going up and down our back stairwell. I quickly realized how tiny our home was as there was nowhere to walk to! Ten steps and you reach the back door from the front!
Around 11:00 Diri and Dido picked up Miss Minka. I quickly cuddled her in bed while she slept and then picked her up to carry her to the door. I inhaled her scent realizing she wasn’t going to be my littlest girl anymore. You were!
By 12:00ish, my contractions were not messing around. I tried to get some rest but they were too strong and I was also too worried about them stalling out. Castor oil was taken sometime around this point to get things to (hopefully) speed up.
The next seven hours were long and I am not a patient person. Your sister’s labor was no longer than seven hours total so I had assumed labor with you would be shorter. It was hard for me when seven hours came and went and you still weren’t here. I knew I was going to have you and have you at home but I was frustrated with how long it seemed to be taking.
When contractions intensified, I got in the warm tub and labored there for quite a while. It felt good and, thankfully, did not slow down my contractions. I was flanked by Papa and Kimmy (my friend and doula who arrived around 2:30AM). They were helpful in reminding me to breath, make low sounds, and focus on sending my energy down. I stared at a paint splatter on our ceiling’s wood beam for hours while pressing the heels of my palms down the length of my thighs. Girl, it hurt.
I moved to the toilet when I need to poop as well as to be in a different place. I found a position that seemed to help and then started at a corner of the bathroom floor. The people around me faded away and I became my most animal self. Truly. I made noises I’ve never made before and flapped my lips and hummed and went completely into my own head space. It was tough and necessary. Wave after wave of contractions took over me.
Finally I yelled out –with a bit of unexplained anger at everyone there– that I was going to push! And push I did. And I kept contracting and pushing and knew you were so close and making your entrance soon. Papa and Maren carried me –mid-contraction– from the toilet to the tub. I gathered myself, caught up with the proper breathing, gave a few “test” pushes, and then pushed you out in one swift and final push. 7:01 AM, 10 hours after this all began.
The cord was around your neck but the midwives easily got it off. And there you were, Harriet, in my arms, covered in vernix and wailing your little lungs out. I couldn’t believe it. And yet I could.
A full moon and you were here.
And this is a feeing I had immediately: you were undeniably meant to be in our fold. And soon into that day, March 16, 2014, it felt weird to imagine life ever happened without you.
Mama and Papa were exhausted. We’d just pulled an all-nighter! We climbed into bed and stayed there the rest of the day. People brought us brunch and doughnuts and dinner and we were just completely enveloped in love and adoration. How could we not be? Look at you!
We love you, Etta Z.
I love you, always and forever.
for the first 6-8 weeks of harriet’s life, ramona was not very pleased. she put on a happy face and did her best. but i knew something was wrong in the way her and i just kept missing each other. we were so disconnected. she was taking her anxiety about this new person out on me.
of course, this isn’t surprising. her whole world as she knew it had been rocked. there was no way to prepare her for that. no amount of telling her she’s going to have a sister and then her announcing that to every person she met would actually enable her to wrap her mind around the immensity of adding a new person to the family. a new person who only cries and poops and nurses and needs to be held an awful lot more than ramona is used to sharing me.
thank god she wasn’t taking out these growing pains on etta. but she was taking them out on me. she acted out. didn’t listen. cried a lot about little things. started waking up incredibly early. refused her usual bedtime rituals but demanded i never leave her room. stopped wanting to snuggle. i thought i had lost my spunky ramona. it was a rough beginning — learning to adjust and honor both girls with attention, nurture, snuggles, whatever it was each little girl needed. and ramona acted out in response to these changes. and thus i acted out in response to seeing a side of ramona i wasn’t used to and wasn’t completely comfortable with. that was my issue, i quickly learned. i had to adjust something in myself — not only being a mother of two girls (and dividing my time and energy as needed) but also being a mother to ramona who was, for the first time in her life, experiencing great mental and emotional discomfort that she didn’t know yet how to process.
obviously, something like this was to be expected after a second baby is introduced into a family. but it was really freaking hard to deal with a child so dissatisfied and, well, grumpy for so long. i felt lost. surely. i felt something had been irrevocably changed in ramona. i wasn’t satisfied with people’s explanations that this was just what two year olds do. no. i knew it was deeper.
in hindsight i’m extremely glad there was a little voice in my head –my heart, maybe– that told me not to dismiss her. not to chalk up these “antics” to just her being a toddler. i worked more on myself during this time: how can i be more patient? how can i show i am here to listen? or that my lap is safe if she just needs to be held? how do i enter into her madness, her inability to rationally sort out her emotions?
and then, seemingly overnight, things changed. ramona became a helper. her enthusiasm for her little sister grew. she got excited to do things with mama and papa. she stopped acting out for, at least what seemed to me, little tiny inconsequential things. things just got easier.
we came around to each other. we both started understanding our new normal. and ramona’s confidence and joy and eagerness was restored. phew. and now? this little girl, ramona marilyn, is so stinking excited to be a big sister. each day i am getting a glimpse of the friendship and sisterhood they are going to cultivate together; the companionship and camaraderie they will build — especially when they don’t feel understood by others, by their parents.
i pray i remember this first emotional toll ramona took. i pray i take a bit of that with me as my girls grow and that i remind myself to be patient, to create a safe and warm space, to lend my listening and swallow my unsolicited advice, to curb my anger and share freely my joy and pride for them. even if they’re acting crazy. no: especially if they’re acting crazy.
my sweet harriet,
every day you are visibly bigger. every day we seem to know you more. my love for you, like your scrumptious thigh rolls, is growing and growing each day.
you drool. a lot. (see photo above for proof). it’s mostly adorable. certainly a good excuse to put you in new cute outfits multiple times a day. i find drool spots and spit up down the back of my shirt bc you are just so quiet and sneaky and persistent with it!
you are wildly entertained by your sister. or at least you are good going along with her antics. yesterday, after i finished hanging up clothes on the line, i walked over to you two to find she had carefully placed a pile of sand on top of your head. i was not amused. until ramona explained it was “just like lion king.” i couldn’t stay mad especially bc you were just sitting there cool as a cucumber, nonplussed, handling all the attention incredibly well.
you sleep like a champ if the environment is perfect: car seat covered with a dark blanket. or in our air-conditioned bedroom, swaddled, pacified and snug in the snuggleme co-sleeping pillow. this is different from your sister who preferred to sleep either attached to mama’s boob or worn in a sling. neither way is particularly better — i’m just constantly amazed at the differences between the two of you. of course, i didn’t think my two babies would be the same but i didn’t suppose the differences would be so apparent right off the bat (if i’ve written this before it’s bc it is constantly on my mind!).
you are grabbing toys in your play gym. you love the black and white drawings above the couch. you stare at things happening with an intentionality that cannot be denied. watching you grow and learn to move your body and observe the world around you is mind blowing.
my favorite thing about you is your smile. electric. and you have these accompanying coos that are ridiculously wonderful and addicting.
we are not jumping to any conclusions but we are so so curious about the little personality you are slowly but surely developing and revealing. you seem to have your papa’s calm demeanor. but there’s bound to be bits of me and lots of just you!
harriet, you are loved. so very much.
i love you. love, mama.
Ramona got her first tooth when she was between six and seven months old. Up until then she had just been a drooly, gummy baby. The only thing I had to worry about is wiping her saliva-soaked chin and making sure her onesies were dry!
When that first tooth popped there was now a whole other act of care we were responsible for as parents. Brushing her teeth. Maybe it was because I was a first time parent but I had a little bit of anxiety about making sure I was doing it right. I mean, it was just a teeny little tooth! Did it really require toothpaste and a toothbrush? But then I learned that compared to my tooth enamel, my baby’s is 50% thinner. That’s why I need expert protection. A good toothpaste and toothbrush are necessary — as well as good follow-through with teaching her to get in the habit of brushing her teeth as she grew older.
She now has a full set of teeth and much more independent capabilities than she did when she was an infant. And brushing teeth is a given. We wanted to make sure that the daily habit of brushing teeth is not to be dreaded but that Ramona got used to it as a part of everyday life.
So to do this, first we started her young. As soon as there were teeth in her mouth we started with a soft small brush and made sure to get her teeth and lightly rub her gums. As she got older and more opinionated we had to become more creative. We’d often brush our teeth with her at the same time so she could mimic us. We made funny faces, stuck our tongue way out (brushing it of course!), and even made silly noises to make the event enjoyable for her and to demonstrate that her parents have to do it too.
Becoming more and more coordinated and independent, Ramona didn’t always want to follow our lead. So we moved her step stool to in front of our full-length mirror and let her watch herself brush. She had learned the basic “moves” from watching us, but now got a chance to see herself be successful in taking matters into her own hand (anyone with a willful toddler knows exactly what I’m talking about).
Voila! Now we have a little one who can brush on her own and even, dare I say it, enjoys it!
Other ways to encourage brushing?
- Let your child pick out their very special toothbrush and toothpaste set. Ramona has two Aquafresh toothbrushes and it’s up to her each night to pick what color toothbrush she wants to use. It may seem silly to have two toothbrushes out for a little one but this one likes green one day and blue the next and I’ll do whatever to get her to brush her teeth!
- Make sure they like the toothpaste they’re using. Taste matters! The Aquafresh Training Toothpaste we were sent to try is apple-banana flavored and Ramona loves it! It’s also fluoride-free so I don’t have to worry about her swallowing it.
- Relax. Your child will learn to brush their teeth and understand the importance of it. It needs to be done but if they don’t get the hang of enjoying it right away, don’t force it too hard. Hand them the brush and see what they do on their own. You want to make this as positive as an experience as you can!
- Aquafresh.com has more ideas with their app, including a learning-to-brush video and making-brushing-fun page. Aquafresh, The little mouth experts™!
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Aquafresh through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about Aquafresh, all opinions are my own.
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