Saturday, May 29, 2010


Generally, the most immediate comment we hear from people when they first see Giovanna is along the lines of, "Wooowwww, look at all that hair..." And I have to admit, we love it too: it's long enough for mini alligator clips, who knows if she's had cradle cap because we sure can't see it, and I love to run my fingers through it as she eats...

Darling-Art Photography

But today I saw the down-side of a newborn with a full head of hair.

After feeding Giovanna and talking with her a bit, I put her down on a blanket with a hanging toy above her to keep her company. As she was staring up at the bright colors, I took advantage of finally having my hands free, and I went into the kitchen to put away some dishes. Suddenly I heard her screaming - not just an unhappy cry, but an I'm-in-pain scream - and I ran back into the living room to see her clutching a fist full of her own hair and yanking it with all of the spastic strength of a very little baby. I couldn't help but laugh as I pried her fingers from the death grip she had on her dark locks, but the more frantic she became, the harder she gripped her hair.

Let's just hope that she grows out of that reflex really soon.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Text-book baby is here with her newest tricks at 6 weeks old: smiles and cooing, and all of the lovely perks of human to human connection...

Text-book baby is also hitting her second growth spurt at 6 weeks (the first was predictably around 2-3 weeks). Each time she hits a growth spurt her cheeks grow an inch and she sprouts a new chin.

More to nibble on...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Crema di Limone con Bacche

Looking for a cool summery dessert to use up the strawberries that are in season? I made this last night for a gathering, and was reminded this morning as I ate a dish for breakfast how good it is... it is surprisingly light and not overly lemony, nor overly sweet. Perfectly Tuscany!

Crema di Limone con Bacche
Lemon Custard with Berries


4 egg yolks
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 cups of milk
Zest from two lemons, peeled in a spiral coil*
1 lb. raspberries or strawberries

In a saucepan, using a wooden spoon, stir together the egg yolks, flour and sugar until blended. Continue to stir, adding milk slowly. Place pan over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Set aside to cool. Stir occasionally to prevent film from forming. When cool, discard zest, pour custard into platter and spoon berries on top. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

(Because I can't do anything like a normal person)

*In high school I invited a guy friend to come over one day after school and we made this recipe together. I distinctly remember that instead of cutting the zest from the lemon in a spiral down the fruit, having zero experience in the kitchen I simply grabbed the peeler and went to work. I ended up throwing a million small pieces into the custard and didn't think a thing of it until we got down to the part where you have to take the zest out... and in went our hands, into the custard. We just laughed to ourselves as we fished around for the zest. Cooking is so much an adventure of trial and error!

Monday, May 24, 2010

So, so, so, so, so in love...

It is hard to believe how smitten with Giovanna we've become over the last six weeks (six weeks!). Even though she still eats every three hours through the night and I'm often running on fumes, I can nearly always find energy to talk to her during that alert half hour after she's finished eating, and on the days that Marcos works away from home I feel calm and patient with her. A few weeks ago, during a rough patch, a friend was visiting and I tried to get him to take her home, but he would only take her on the condition that we swapped for his darling - but very energetic - six year old son, so it was a no-go. Now I can't even imagine wanting to have her away from me. If I could only know how many kisses Marcos and I have planted on those soft cheeks...

Some development updates: At her 5-week appointment with the pediatrician, Giovanna was 10 lbs. and 21.5 inches long - 65th percentile for height, weight and head size. Her neck and legs are still very strong, and her social skills are improving. She doesn't yet smile at faces on a consistent basis, but she is improving her ability to lock gazes, and social interaction should click for her any day now. Late at night and in the early morning, when she has eaten her fill and she is snuggling with mom or dad, she will often smile in her drunken sleep, and giggle out loud. It is the most we have ever heard of her voice, and it is really, really cute. She is such a keeper...

Sunday, May 23, 2010


One of my Grandpa Randy's life wishes is to outlive his mother, who died a few weeks after her 100th year birthday party. Unfortunately, Grandpa is 89 years old right now, and with a recent cancer diagnosis and some other health issues, it is very optimistic to think that he will make it that far.

However, one of Grandpa's other health issues is dementia. Over the phone the other day, my mom told me that at a recent doctor's appointment, when asked what year it is, Grandpa confidently replied "two thousand four" and when asked who the President is, he said, "Bill Clinton". Suddenly, all of the pieces fell together in my mind: Grandpa's next birthday party should be in celebration of his 100th birthday! If he doesn't know what year it is, then why not make sure he goes out with a bang? As long as the local newspaper doesn't show up to interview the centenarian and figures out that the the math is screwy, it would be a great way to make an old man happy for a day.

Since then I have been thinking about ways to celebrate my grandpa, and it has led me to think about what I would want to do for my 100th birthday party. My first idea was a swimming pool full of lime jello, but nah, too extravagant. I have finally settled on the same plan I have for my funeral: a lively fiesta, complete with live salsa band, piñatas, watermelon juice, tables of fresh guacamole and other yummy Mexican foods, lots of laughter and lots of dancing. It just seems like such a happy place.

What would you do to celebrate your 100th birthday?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

French Cooking

One of the things Marcos and I have in common is that we are tremendously horrible at gift-giving. No matter how hard we try, it is just not our primary language of love. So when holidays roll around that we feel are especially important, it is usually helpful if we prompt each other. For example, I might say, "Marcos, Mother's Day is coming up, and since it is my first as a mom I would like you to make it very special".

The week before Mother's Day this year we went out on the town for a great dinner (with baby in tow, of course), and I was also spoiled with an hour-long massage session that changed my life, or at least my week. For us, that is a great gift. So imagine my surprise when a few days ago this set of books arrived in the mail: Julia Child's two-volume set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I had mentioned months ago that I was inspired to dig into this culinary classic, and voilà, there it was in the mailbox!

So if anyone is inspired to join me on this adventure, I will be tying on an apron and trying my hand at French cooking. The joining fee is five sticks of butter and a large slab of high quality veal.

And if nobody is interested in joining me, I think I will start a foodie blog and post about my adventures with one new recipe each day for a year.

Oh, wait...

Monday, May 17, 2010


A few months ago when I was still pregnant, my friend Chelsea told me one day that in light of all of the time Marcos and I have spent with everyone else's children and babies over the past few years, she wondered what would come as a surprise when we had our own. That thought has stuck with me, and after more than a month of being a parent, I've come up with a few ideas.

But I'm sure that I am barely scratching the surface.
  • Trust, or the lack thereof. One of my very first surprises in the hospital the first day of Giovanna's life was that I didn't trust her to survive. During that first night she coughed up some of the leftovers from being a womb-dweller, and I was extremely afraid that if this continued, she would not make it very long and that if I ever turned my back, it was over. I felt completely powerless, and it affected my bonding with her: when we left the hospital at 24 hours, I told Marcos through my sobs that I was afraid of loving Giovanna, and afraid of even liking her, because I wasn't sure if I could keep her alive and I didn't know if I would survive the heartbreak if something happened to her. Now, five weeks of admiring her fighting spirit later, I feel more like, "Watch out world! Here she comes!". Yet although I trust her much more now and I'm more in love with her each day, I am struck by the truth of the saying that goes something like "Having a child is allowing your heart walk outside your body". I have allowed myself to love her because I've found it impossible not to, but I am also distinctly aware that doing so has put me in a more vulnerable place than I have ever been before.
  • Quick Learning. The first few days of Giovanna's life, she was in constant sensory overload, and every transition was accented by her screaming freak-out sessions. I have been surprised by how quickly she learned our routines: diaper changing, going down for naps and switching sides during feedings are no longer catastrophic for her, and what a relief! I suppose that we have learned quickly as well. One of the things I noticed about the first few days of her life was that no matter how difficult some things were, the range of infant activity is limited to about three items, and since each occur about ten times each day, we were pressed to learn pretty quickly. Although those first few days may have felt like eternity, the learning curve was very steep and through simple repetition we were able to pick up the basics in minimal time.
  • How Little Sleep we can Function on. Blessed be Maybelline for creating the make-up that I use to cover up the dark circles under my eyes! Although Gigi is a good sleeper, she is an even better eater, and so our together time in the middle of the night often draws out as she feeds and feeds and feeds. Yet despite our total sleep deprivation, Marcos and I have been surprised by the activity we are able to enjoy during the day time hours. We have made a point to continue to be as social as possible, and as long as we are moving we feel great! Of course, as soon as I am unoccupied for three seconds I fall asleep on the spot, but that's why Marcos does most of the driving...
  • The Physical Toll. We had no idea that having a baby would take such a toll on our bodies! One night a few weeks ago Marcos got up quickly to calm the crying baby and threw out his back as he jumped out of bed. It is still giving him trouble. From hours of breastfeeding, rocking the baby, and hunching over to change diapers and give baths, I also have chronic pain and tightness in my back, shoulders and neck. We decided after treating ourselves to a recent massage therapy session that when we can afford luxuries in life, massage will be tops on the list. We deserve it, darn it.
  • How WELL Breastfeeding has gone. I wrote an exasperated entry recently during the middle of a crazy few days of Giovanna having late-night munchies, but in general, I have been surprised by how well breastfeeding has gone. I have observed that women who have had difficulties with the process (for any number of reasons) are generally more vocal about their experiences with breastfeeding than women for whom it came easily, and so prior to Giovanna's birth I had prepared myself for the possibility of it not working out for us. But 101 applications of lanolin and one mastitis scare later, I think I love it! If you have not yet had children but plan to, just know that for most women it is totally doable and it can be a very positive experience.
  • How much Support we needed. In other words, after living just a few weeks with our little girl, I am surprised how millions of people in this world raise wonderful children with much less support than we have. Around Giovanna's birth, my mom and Marcos' parents were in town, and they were an essential part of keeping great food on our table, our dishes washed, and providing us with love, support, and many happy grandparent arms to cuddle our baby when we needed a break. Three days after Giovanna was born, the shifts switched, and my best friend Lindsay came into town for a week. She has four little ones, and is a pro on the logistics of baby care! With her guidance we were able to get the basics down so that we were confident when we were finally back on our own. And without the meals that our church community has been providing since Lindsay left...? We would be in top ramen and frozen pizza mode, and I would have chucked the dishes in the trash ages ago to avoid having to wash them. Hugs and kisses to everyone who has helped us along the way.

One thing that has not be surprising? Gigi's obvious love of chocolate. Here she guards the Brazilian chocolate while she sleeps...

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Today was Giovanna's first time ever wearing a dress. She is five weeks old now, and just wore a dress for the first time to church. But her late-blooming is not for want of options: I just counted the dresses in our closet, and two of them are mine, and thirty-one are hers.


Here are some photos of her debut in dress-wearing. She kindly wiggled a bunch while I was taking pictures, so that you could see different angles of the dress. Only five weeks old, and already so thoughtful...

Thursday, May 13, 2010


* Sigh *

I feel like we are going crazy. These past few evenings, Gigi has absolutely refused to be satisfied by anything but three hours of non-stop feeding. After she finishes one round, barely half an hour elapses before she is screaming to be fed again. She has a very strong neck, so when I hold her and she smells mommy's skin, she shows off her baby bird skills and bobs her head around against my body with her mouth wide open, searching for her hidden treasure. It is very cute, but significantly less so by round three.

So my imagination takes all sorts of creative turns for the worst, and I suspect that she might have Prader-Willi Syndrome - you know that one when people don't have the part in their brain that tells them that they are full, so they just keep eating? Fortunately, after some consultation with the google search bar, it seems that she doesn't have it. Babies with Prader-Willi Syndrome typically have very low muscle tone at birth and can't even suck on their own at first, so it appears that they have no interest in eating. And then by age two they start stealing your cupcakes and then the locks are put on the fridge and cabinets...

But anyway, Giovanna has very good muscle tone, and eats like a horse, so I think that we are in the clear.

But I get the feeling that this isn't the last time I'll be google-searching various symptoms and diseases...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Darling Art does it again!

Dena and Rebecca at Darling Art Photography have done it again: they have captured all of the sweetness and softness of little Giovanna with the most beautiful images possible... Here are the images of Giovanna's 6-day old newborn session with the masters.

Click Here for the online slideshow.

A big mahalo to Rebecca and Dena, who are not only great photographers, but are - first and foremost - rockstar mothers to their beautiful kiddos. Working for them while I was pregnant allowed me to spy on them for nearly nine months, and I hope that I've taken some of their tricks into my parenting. Happy Mother's Day beautiful women!

Belated Mother's Day

It's 7am on Monday morning, and my house is quiet with my babes sleeping in their beds, but I missed the big day yesterday. Squeeker has been on a growth spurt for two weeks now, and has adjusted to a must-eat diet every few, and I mean few, hours. Back in the good ol' days, between one and two weeks old, she would marathon sleep during the nights and I would wake up rested after sometimes six-hour stretches. I should have known it was too good to last.

So now I'm back to the drawing board, to finish what I started two days ago: a Mother's Day post. Between the feeling of constantly being pinned down on the couch under a happily eating baby, and my general drain of intelligent thought, writing an entire blog entry from start to finish has become evasive.

So I'll just cut to the chase: Happy Mother's Day!

Moms, it was a beautiful, beautiful thing to have both of you here at the time of Giovanna's birth. Watching you adore her, and kiss her, and snuggle her made us realize that this is a legacy of years of practice, and when we were that small, we were privy to that same kind of love. And it has shaped us into who we are today.

And that's a lot to be thankful for.

My mom Vicky (Victoria), Gigi's namesake.

Marcos' mom Vitória, also Gigi's namesake.

If our little girl grows into a woman half as amazing as our mothers, we will consider ourselves, well, victorious...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ooh ooh ooh!

The first little peek at Giovanna's 6-day old newborn session has been posted on Rebecca and Dena's photography blog!

Here is the link!

My two loves in the same picture... Yummy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Labor and Delivery

Back in the day, Marcos and I used to joke that when we started having kids we would probably be too poor for good insurance, and that we had best come up with another plan. Our plan was to rent a minivan, outfit it with sheets, blankets and garbage bags, and then park it outside the E.R. at our local hospital, where Marcos would deliver the baby. Well educated, courtesy of "Child delivery for Dummies" and some you-tube videos, he would skillfully deliver our baby and we would live happily ever after. Unless of course, there were complications or he biffed it, in which case we would simply pull up into the E.R. and... voilà! Instant help. (The ideal plan A didn't include any complications or biffs though, since the only cost we could afford to incur was the rental for the minivan).

But miraculously, I have insurance. So we opted for plan B.

And this is the story of Plan B. More than three weeks after Giovanna's birth day, I have finally sat down to piece together the story of how she came into the world. It required notes from our little bedside notebook and notes from Jo, our doula (birth coach), to put the story back together. It has been a victory for me to get the details in order, because the span of a three-day labor and my sieve-like memory had given me the impression that I was not going to be able to recapture the experience like I had hoped. But here it is...

April 7th

This was the night I was scheduled to go into the hospital to begin induction, if you remember that story. Ironically, after canceling the induction and spending a great day with our family, I felt my first ever contractions that very evening. At midnight, while watching Eagle Eye in the squatting position, I felt a sudden release of liquid and thought that my waters had broken. I didn't tell anyone for fear of raising false hopes, but after going to the bathroom, I privately started paying attention to my contractions to see if they would intensify.

April 8th

Through the early morning hours the contractions continued, although they were still very light and sporadic. At 3am, as Marcos and I were going to bed, I felt repeated gushes of water, and felt sure that my waters had broken. At 4am I called the midwife at the hospital to let her know that things were starting. The midwife on duty was Cathy, and she recommended that I rest for an hour on my side, and then pay attention when getting up to see if there was another outpouring of water after giving it time to pool. We woke up after a rest and called her again, to report no pooling of fluids. She recommended that we wait before coming into the hospital, and said that she doubted that my waters had broken, because broken waters continue to leak for quite a while.

At 9:30am my contractions were regular and about 5 minutes apart, so we checked into the hospital to have a non-stress test for the baby, and to see if the liquids were indeed amniotic fluid. The midwives had switched shifts at 7am, and the new one on duty was one of my favorites, Meg Berreth. She did an exam in triage and confirmed that it was not amniotic fluid, which meant that my waters had not yet broken. She guessed that it had been a watery mucus plug passing. At that exam, I was only 1 cm dilated, 80% effaced and at a -2 station. Meg told me that she hoped that I would be coming back later that day while she was on duty because I had amazing pelvic bones for birthing, and she wanted to deliver my baby! We were discharged and returned home to sleep and rest.

After a relatively contraction-free day of picnicking outdoors at Duke Gardens with our parents, we played Rummikub in the evening and I felt more slight contractions.

Picnicking at Duke Gardens with Marcos' parents and my mom!

April 9th

At 5am I woke up with contractions strong enough that I could no longer stay asleep, and so I shook Marcos awake to start timing them. As he timed contractions, he lay next to me and coached me through relaxation techniques that we had learned from our Bradley Methods book. He had been nervous initially about the pressure of providing so much assistance, but in the heat of the moment, he was wonderful! We called Jo our doula at 6:45am and Marcos and I met her at the hospital at 7:45. With the 7am shift switch, a new midwife, Nancy, gave me an exam and my cervix was only dilated 2 cm. After an hour of triage, I was discharged at 8:45am and Jo returned with us to labor at our home. It was the second time I was discharged from the hospital.

At 11am I needed a change of scenery, so Marcos, Jo and I went to Whole Foods to have a healthy lunch and continue laboring while moving about and being distracted. I had all back labor (which means that the pain of my contractions was located solely in the small of my back), so during contractions our routine was that I would lean on Jo's shoulders to support and relax my upper body, while Marcos provided counter pressure by digging a tennis ball into my back, or squeezing my hips together. The pressure required to counter the pain of the contractions needed to be extremely strong, so their job was tough! Both Marcos and Jo were sore for days following my labor.

Back to the story... In retrospect, I probably should have been more self-conscious while laboring in the middle of Whole Foods, but it was all very exciting and exactly where I wanted to be, with all of its fruits and chocolate delicacies to ogle at. While there we ran into Rebecca (my friend/boss/photographer) with baby Owen, who was thrilled that the process of labor was starting! When we got up to leave the store after eating lunch, a woman at the neighboring table said that she had been timing my contractions and that I had better get to the hospital soon. Little did she know! Our next destination was the Bolinwood trail. We walked about a mile or two in the shady greenery and talked, all the while pausing every few minutes for contractions. It was a beautiful day to be outside.

After our outing, we rested and labored at home for a few hours in the afternoon. In the early evening, Marcos and I took our parents to Trader Joe's to get out of the house. As it was a smaller store than Whole Foods, the employees were much more concerned when they saw me having contractions in the store. Many told me about the bench against the wall, and asked if they should call someone! It was the first time I had seen concern on the faces of those perma-cheerful Trader Joe's employees. I told them I was just having labor contractions and that I was fine.

On our way home, Marcos' father hopped out of the car at a red light and grabbed us a Daily Tarheel newspaper so that we could have a memento for Giovanna's birth day. (We were so ambitious! It wasn't until we got home from the hospital after Giovanna's birth that we realized that we had newspapers for April 8th and 9th, but not the 10th, when she was actually born...).

When we arrived at home, the contractions that had been building all day were becoming very intense. We used to time them and I labored with my upper body draped on the birthing ball for a while and then moved into the hot water of the shower with Marcos. We kept the bathroom door cracked open so that he could yell, "Contraction!" when one started, and "Stop!" when it ended. By clicking on a mouse, Jo was able to keep a running log of the frequency and duration of my contractions. Generally, they were still about four or five minutes apart, but they were becoming very intense and were lasting for a minute or longer.

At 7:30pm we felt that it was time to go back to the hospital. In triage, the midwife Nancy examined me and announced very apologetically that I was dilated 2.5 cm. After an entire day of intense back labor, and after hours of increasingly unbearable contractions, my cervix was only .5 cm. closer to letting my baby out than it had been that morning. Someone even mentioned that my contractions were not yet strong enough to open my cervix. Not strong enough?! For the first time during labor, I sobbed. Marcos was parking the car, and when he came in he held me while everyone else in triage waited quietly and let me cry. I remember telling them that I was so disappointed, and that although I knew logically that cm. dilated was not the best indicator of when she would arrive, there was nothing I could do about the overwhelming disappointment that I felt. That was the lowest, most dismal moment of my labor experience.

After monitoring me for an hour or two and having me drink water between contractions until I was hydrated enough that everything was checking out well, Nancy lovingly said that if I really wanted my labor to be as natural as possible I would do best to return home and continue laboring there. It was the third time I had been discharged from the hospital. Nancy gave me a sleeping pill called Ambien so that I could try to sleep between contractions, and we were home again by 10pm.

April 10th

At 1am, after a few hours of fitful, awful, drugged sleep interrupted by relentless and intense contractions, my waters broke. By 2am we were again at the hospital, this time with Jo, my mother and the hospital bag. Because my waters had ruptured, I was finally admitted, and we requested a room with a tub so that I could continue laboring in hot water. My sweet husband Marcos and my sweet doula Jo, who had barely slept in many, many hours, each took a shift in the wee hours of that morning pouring warm water over me in the tub and helping me through my contractions. I was still very delirious from the Ambien and can hardly remember that entire stretch of time. The midwife had kindly given my mother the special midwife room with a real bed, so that she could rest while I was laboring.

At 5am I came out of the tub, and at 6am I asked for an epidural. I had hoped to make it through labor without one, but I had also come into the experience open to the idea of needing a epidural in the case that my novice body progressed so slowly through its first labor that my exhaustion would stretch my capacity. Well, my capacity was definitely stretched. After the exhaustion of 24 hours of sleepless labor, I was ready to rest.

At our first meeting a week prior to Giovanna's birth, and after sharing with her that I was hoping to have as natural a labor as possible, Jo asked me to choose a secret code-word in the case that I was seriously in need of an epidural. I had chosen the word "kit-kat" (because the kit-kat song goes, "give me a break, give me a break..." and I felt like I would feel that way if it came time for me to have an epidural), and finally on Saturday morning it was kit-kat time. At 7:30am I had an epidural. I could feel the anesthesiologist weaving the thin tubing down my back, and sitting perfectly still through contractions was absolute agony, but once the epidural had taken I sank into my first deep slumber in three days.

A few hours later I woke up feeling extremely refreshed. The window was open and letting in glorious sunshine, everyone around me was awake and happy, my nurse Laurey was kindness personified, and the midwives had rotated so that now I was being cared for by Susan Nichol, who I had always really liked. I couldn't feel my legs and it was strange having two massive dead weights instead of moving limbs, but it was a price I was willing to pay. Susan examined me and while I was sleeping I had dilated to 7 cm. After shooting the breeze with Susan and enjoying everyone's company, they let me rest again, and I consented to having two drops of pitocin added to my drug cocktail every half hour so that my contractions would remain intense enough to continue opening my cervix.

In the early afternoon, I woke up and was nearly fully dilated. The midwife Susan used her ultra long crochet hook to clear the last little bit of membranes that were blocking Giovanna's head, and suddenly it was time to push. Stage 2 of labor had arrived! Finally!

At 3:30pm I started the most satisfying part of my entire labor process: pushing! Although the epidural had fully wiped out feeling in my legs, I was able to feel the "undeniable urge" to push and bore down spontaneously and without coaching. The nurse Laurey and midwife Susan were both full of praise, and gave some tips on how to make the most of the pushing contractions. They were both impressed with the progress I was making, and believe me, after a day of feeling frustrated at my body for not progressing, I so needed to see the change I was making because of my hard work! At the onset of each contraction I took two slow deeps breaths, I gripped my own legs down near my bum and give the best three pushes I could before the contractions passed. I had hoped to push in the squatting position or with a squatting bar, but the epidural made that impossible; instead, I was at a 45 degree angle on the bed with my mom and Jo pushing my legs back into my body to open up my birthing canal during contractions, and replacing them in the stir-ups between contractions.

And Hallelujah! After only a half-hour of pushing and maybe 10-12 good contractions, Giovanna was born at 4:03pm! It was one of the most exciting half hours of my life. After the first two or three contractions the black hair of her head started emerging, and a large mirror allowed me to see what was happening, which helped motivate me to push harder. When her head had nearly cleared the tunnel, Susan had Marcos wash his hands and put on gloves. Per his request, Marcos was able to hold her head as it emerged and catch her body as I pushed her out. It was incredible... Susan squirted oil to lubricate her exit so that I wouldn't tear, and she worked hard once Giovanna's head was out so that her shoulders would have an easy exit during the next push, but she stepped aside to let Marcos share in the experience of delivering our baby, and what a gift it was! He held her puffy red body in his big hands, she gave a good cry, and then he laid her on my stomach and cut her umbilical cord.

We finally had our baby girl.

With my mom, baby Giovanna and our midwife Susan Nichol

After nursing her, snuggling for a bit, and admiring her wild head of hair, perfect features and long fingers and toes, all at once Giovanna's welcoming party arrived! Rebecca and Dena showed up to take pictures of one-hour old Giovanna, and our Brazilian friend Aline showed up with Marcos' parents after kindly picking them up from our apartment to join in our celebration. It was perfect. I was completely high on endorphins and feeling fabulously, Marcos was being the most attentive and loving new daddy possible (the hospital staff called him the "baby whisperer" and asked him if he wanted a job), and it was nothing but joy in that hospital room. I hope to remember that feeling for a long time.

When we met with Jo one week after Giovanna's birth to recap the birth experience, she said, "I think you were handed one of the most difficult labors possible". Having the benefit of nothing to compare it to, I actually thought it went rather well. We felt like we were as well prepared as we could have been, I had the natural labor experience that I had been wanting, and then in the end, when it was clear that my body was novice and wasn't quite getting the hang of dilation, I had an epidural, minuscule amounts of pitocin, and had a great time pushing her out.

And when the end result looks like this, how could it have been anything but just right?

Saturday, May 1, 2010


A week or two ago, we had a bonfire with some friends at one of their parent's house. It was Giovanna's first bonfire, but that is not really saying very much, as most special outings are a first for her. She was very well-behaved.

Gosh, I just can't think of a nicer way to kick off the first few weeks of seriously warmer weather!


Homeostasis: "The ability of a system or living organism to adjust its internal environment to maintain a stable equilibrium".

I think, optimistically, that we are starting to get it together as a family of three. Ten days after Giovanna was born I felt like breastfeeding was finally manageable (not that we are pros, but at that point we had experienced enough success that I at least had confidence in us), and now at twenty days after her birth, I think we've figured out a few more things to make our parenting manageable. We used to jump when Giovanna made a noise, and fluster when she cried and we couldn't soothe her, and growl when Giovanna peed on our sheets (again!) during diaper changing time, and be overall a little on edge about our capability to raise a newborn with any semblance of grace and skill, but I am relieved to announce that we are finally hitting our homeostasis and it feels SO GOOD.

(This is the part where you are allowed to scoff and say to yourself, "ha! we'll see how long this lasts...").

But seriously, as new parents it feels like having endless riches to be privy to the secret that if Giovanna is distracted and not latching well she either needs to be burped or is waiting for some gas to pass, and that when she's screaming, swaddling her and putting her upright with a gentle pat on the back and a "shhhh" in the ear will calm her down immediately. Just by watching her face I can tell if she is about to poop, and we know now that there is nothing we can do about her body-rocking hiccups except to wait them out. For those of you who have raised kiddos this probably sounds like old news, but we are still awed that God gives us such a gigantic capacity to love these little ones that even though their communication is completely non-verbal, we can start to make sense of their needs and respond in effective, loving ways.