Archive for the ‘ Babies ’ Category

Thunderbolt

I had a baby.

I’ve been aching to sit down and write about it. I want to detail my birth experience before I forget the details. I want to write about the thunderbolt of pure love that struck me upon seeing my new baby girl.

I want to write about nursing, how I am trying again, and succeeding (though it’s perhaps ‘success’ by my standards alone, as I will always struggle with low supply and supplement with formula). I want to write about our five days in the NICU, our heart-wrenching time there and the immeasurable kindness we were shown.

I want to write about the joy and gratitude in my heart when we were released to go home.

I want to write about my smart and hilarious toddler, who just hasn’t been herself since we all came home to live our new life. I want to plead for advice in easing this transition for everyone involved.

I want to memorialize my beloved friend and dog who passed away a week after our new baby girl was born.

I want to rejoice through words how, after seeing the chaos that is our life these days, my dad told me, “despite all of this, you are the happiest I’ve seen you in months.”

I want to sit down and write. I want to make an apple pie. I want to have some beers and go to bed tipsy and sleep until I wake up. I want the lawn mowed.

But I had a baby. So for now, I’ll carve out time for my toddler. I’ll kiss her and hug her and tell her that it’s going to be okay, that it’ll work out, that we love her as much – and more – than ever.

I’ll nurse my baby because I finally, finally can.

I’ll sneak in a shower. I’ll study tiny fingers and toes and beautiful new-baby lips. I’ll nuzzle a soft downy peach fuzz head. I’ll kiss tiny, soft, paper thin ears and a button nose.

I’ll try to take a mental snapshots of these early days as a family of four, for despite the chaos and confusion, I know I’ll remember these as some of the best days of my life.

I had a baby. Her name is Georgia.

– ALW

The Monitor

There are few items from a baby shower registry that remain useful after three years. Most of the essentials have run their course – baby towels, baby car seat, teeny outfits, bottles. For us, one item remains a constant in our repertoire: the baby monitor.

We sleep on a separate floor from Little Miss Red. Don’t freak out. It’s all we’ve done and all we know and it doesn’t bother us. We know people who co-sleep with their kids for years, people who share a room with their kids and everything in between. This is Madison, people. It’s fine. She’s fine. And it works for us.

But being on separate floors requires that the baby monitor, a device that most people have packed or given away at this stage, is very much a part of our life. I have Super-Sonic Mother Hearing, so I often wake when her breathing changes. I often say to CH, “she’s waking up,” he oblivious until she cries or starts talking.

When Miss Red was still small, but older than a newborn, I loved hearing her gurgles and squeaks over the monitor. As she grew, it became stories or songs. I feel like it’s a fun peek into her psyche – listening to her conversations with herself.

The baby monitor also means that CH and I never quite sleep well anymore. I mean, that’s a part of parenthood, but  since we need it on, we can hear her turns and sighs. Frankly, we hope to always have one tucked away in her wall or something as she gets older and potentially more daring.

Hindsight being what it is, I wish we had sprung for the video baby monitor, which might have saved us a few trips up and down the steps. And now, as Miss Red fights sleep until 9:30 or 10 p.m. each night, we could peek into her antics. Instead, we always check that it’s on each night, walking around to see the red lights light up, fixing the dial to make sure it’s at the appropriate sound level without being too staticy. It has become such a part of our nighttime routine that if we do ever get to pack it up or give it away, I imagine us still practicing the baby monitor rituals, as parents like us are wont to do.

–          MD

Baby M’s Birth Story

I was 37 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was mentally preparing for labor, doula on stand-by, Ina May Gaskin by my bed, well-thumbed. I allowed only empowering birth stories to be shared with me. And I absolutely, completely, totally did not want my big sister at my birth. I love her dearly, but we are not always on the same page in this book of life. I wanted the whole bowl of granola: candles, birthing tub, yoga breath. She wanted her pain meds chilled on ice, awaiting her arrival at the hospital. And she worries, my god, how she worries. Nope, I wanted nothing to do with THAT KIND OF NEGATIVE ENERGY anywhere near my child’s birth.

So instead, I invited her and my niece and nephew to come up that weekend to celebrate her birthday, rub my belly and feel like she’d gotten quality time with her future niece or nephew. Then I would gently let her know I needed to be around calming, affirming friends who understood and supported my desires for natural childbirth. We had a wonderful day together and in the evening, we headed out to celebrate my sister with sushi.

On the way out of the restaurant, I went to use the bathroom but to my horror and embarrassment, I didn’t make it. I’d peed on the bathroom floor. Oh shit. I kind of mopped it up with a bunch of TP and skedaddled out of there. We got home at 9 and said our good nights. I went up to my bathroom again and missed again. But this time it gushed. I looked at that pool of water on the floor. Water. Broken water. Oh shit. J and I looked at each other, took a deep breath and grabbed the stack of birthing books. You know, to study. We figured this could be a long wait. First births are always long, right?

By 10 pm, contractions had begun. So much for studying.

Jake went downstairs to let my sister know what was going on. Remember the sister I did not, under any circumstances, want to have at my birth? She was in my living room timing my contractions on her cell phone and biting her fingernails off one at a time.

By 11 pm, contractions were 2 minutes apart consistently. Our doula, with her own newborn in tow, arrived shortly after 11 and helped get me settled in the tub and showed J how to press my pelvis together which he did faithfully during every contraction throughout the rest of the labor. It was about an hour later when I threw up the sushi dinner. Things were moving fast.

I cannot honestly remember a lot of the next couple of hours, I was deep in laborland, contracting every couple of minutes. I would stand for every one of them, and then kneel back in the tub again. I do remember “surfacing” a couple of times to holler about how much this hurt and then retreating again to that deep, watery place. I remember too, feeling all the phases of labor sweeping over me, cold, then hot, getting to that place where I didn’t think I could take it any longer.

At that point, around 2:30 a.m., our doula suggested we go immediately if we were going to make it to the hospital. In a panic Jake threw stuff into the “Packed bag” that we hadn’t yet bothered to pack (weeks to go still, right?) and we sent the whole crazy train – doula, crying baby, moaning pregnant lady and frantic husband – down the stairs to the cold night outside. My sister was in the living room, wide awake, looking panicked too. She had been timing my contractions from downstairs, wondering why the hell we hadn’t left for the hospital hours ago but too nervous to come upstairs and get involved. Niece and nephew were fast asleep in the sunroom, oblivious to the mayhem.

At this point, I felt the need to push, so I had to Breathe. Really. Deeply. Every time the contraction came. So there I was in the backseat, trying to stand, huffing through my contractions. The baby, 10 weeks old and hating the carseat, was screaming hysterically next to me. I tried to comfort us both while our doula and J navigated their way at warpspeed to the hospital. Upon arrival, a security guard accompanied us to the labor ward, with stops every minute, it seemed, so I could lean against a wall, moan loudly and bleed all over the floor. Needless to say, we bypassed triage and went straight to a delivery room where I came down on my hands and knees and started to push immediately.

But something didn’t feel right. The midwife measured my cervix (I hadn’t wanted us to measure it previously) and I was only 6cm dilated. So this was a problem. Simply put, when my water broke, the baby’s head descended into the birth canal a little crookedly so was pressing on my cervix, hence the need to push. But my cervix still had lots of work to do so for the next couple of hours, I had to breathe through every contraction. Every two minutes, when my body screamed “PUSH” I had to just breathe it out my mouth.

I went into a place deep inside myself where I envisioned a long, long road and I was on my road bike. Every contraction was a steep hill and I comforted myself with the thought that I could coast for a couple of minutes at the top. I spent more time in the tub and then, when I reached 9cm, we moved to the bedroom. Finally, the midwife was able to push the last little lip of cervix out of the way and I was ready to get this baby out. We worked together, baby and I, for 45 minutes. I would push hard and then rest for a little and then push again. I was on fire and honestly terrified of being broken in two by the pain and pressure. I had a hard time trusting myself in that moment and it was the wisdom and kindness of our doula and midwife that got me through it. Slowly, the head emerged, facing the wrong way. J was there and saw the baby watching him in a truly surreal moment.

Then, around 6:30 a.m. the baby slipped into the world and we met our son for the first time. I remember being exhausted and finally being able to focus on the little human that was now here with us. He was quiet and robust, I was starving. At 8, my sister and her children showed up to the hospital. She just hugged me and told me I was a warrior, that she was amazed I had done this and that she would have been too scared to trust the process. She kissed and nuzzled her nephew and watching the two of them, I felt the anxiety melt away. Something bigger than us had conspired to bring us through this together as sisters and I was suddenly so grateful that she had been there after all.

Baby M

We grew a little together that day, when my son came into the world.

– HS

Simon’s Birth Story

My birth story with Simon has some similarities, but was overall totally different than Isaac. My pregnancy with Simon was mostly uneventful, unless you count all of the events and activity of caring for a toddler while pregnant. I had some more physical pains while pregnant with Simon, I knew he was going to be a bigger baby; I could feel it and could see how much bigger I was getting. Simon was incredibly active in the womb. He rolled and kicked so early and fiercely, my belly looked like waves of activity and the kicks would actually startle me with pain (so very much unlike Isaac in the womb).

Simon was due October 22nd, 2009. On October 8th, I was 38 weeks along. Dr. Jenny checked me earlier that week and I as 3cm dilated and 75% effaced. This was similar to what had happened with Isaac so I didn’t really think much of it. That night I started having regular contractions around 9pm as I was going to bed. They were about 6-7 minutes apart and eventually moved to 4 minutes apart and I was starting to have to focus on breathing through them a bit. We picked up the bat phone around 11:45pm or so and called my mom to come down from Appleton to be with Isaac. Rick was busy getting our stuff together, which we had not really done yet because I really didn’t think I would go into labor this early.

Well, it turned out to be a false alarm. By the time my mom made the two hour trip (in 1.5 hours) my contractions had stopped and all signs of labor had disappeared. Disappointed, we all went to bed. The next morning I went to another OB appointment where I found that I was now 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. She stripped my membranes, which did nothing and I decided to stop working that day. I didn’t want to make the same mistake of not enjoying the last bit of pregnancy since we had already decided this would be our last. I also REALLY wanted a natural birth with no pitocin, no epidural, no IV.

So I went home and for the next two weeks, I rested, watched movies, had special time with just Isaac, went for long walks and ate ice cream. At my 40-week appointment I was one day past my due date, still 4 cm and Simon had dropped into 0 station. My OB, Dr. Jenny, said she couldn’t believe I was not in labor. I was basically in early labor, having contractions (like I did with Isaac), but they were again ineffective. Dr. Jenny said she was on call at the hospital the next day and that I could come in and she would break my water if I wanted. I told her I only wanted to do this if she was really, really confident that I wouldn’t need pitocin. She reassured me enough that I decided to go for it. My mom came down again from Appleton and we got everything ready for Isaac and for the hospital that night.

The next morning at 6:30am, Rick and I ate some peanut butter toast for breakfast, gave Isaac a huge hug and a kiss and left for Meriter Hospital. We arrived at L&D and it was really quiet. They admitted me, took us to our room. We had called our doula the night before to let her know and she met us at the hospital around 7:45am. We were originally going to have Hannah be our doula again, but she was out of town, so her back-up Patsy came instead. At 8:45am the resident did an ultrasound to confirm that Simon was head down and anterior, which he was. 9am, Dr. Jenny came in and broke my water. Rick was taking a poll of the hospital staff about how big Simon would be. Dr. Jenny felt my belly and guessed that he would be 8lbs 3oz. My labor RN guess the same.

Rick and I walked the halls a bit, but I immediately felt the contractions pick up and a lot of pressure. Back in our room, I decided to labor on the birth ball, which worked great for me. My first really painful contraction was at 10am. I was having some back labor and Patsy and Rick provided counter pressure and massage which worked great!! I was really in control of my breathing and was so happy to be managing the labor pains.

Rick was amazing; he stayed so calm and provided so much support, physical and otherwise. Patsy helped me listen to my body and do what was most comfortable, which ended up being on the ball, leaning forward onto the bed. We made plans for me to get into the tub, but all of a sudden I decided to get up on the bed. I was having a lot of back labor still, so being on all fours was the best in terms of comfort. Dr. Jenny came in at 11:30am to check me and I was 8cm. After she checked me, I kind of lost it a bit. I started having crazy, transition contractions and then just started pushing. Dr. Jenny came back 15 minutes later and I was 10cm. I continued to push for a couple of minutes, but Simon’s heart rate was not recovering after each contraction.

This is where my memory is very foggy. I don’t really remember how it happened, but all of the sudden I was on my back and they were getting the vacuum suction ready. At 12:00pm the vacuum was in place and I was told that I got 3 pushes otherwise a c-section would be in order. This was more than enough motivation for me. One push with the vacuum and Simon was out. At some point during labor Simon had flipped because he came out sunny-side up, which explains my crazy back labor.

12:05pm on October 24th, 2009, 8lbs 3oz (just as predicted!).

NG and Simon

He wasn’t crying at first and I looked up and saw that the NICU team was in my room waiting in case there was a problem. I started to freak out a little and I remember asking over and over if he was okay. They finally put him on my chest and he cried the biggest cry. His little hands grabbed on to my chest and as I snuggled him he settled down.

Baby Simon

He was just perfect! Because of the vacuum and my initial freak out, I didn’t let them take Simon from me for almost 2 hours. We snuggled, nursed and got to know each other. From my first painful contraction to his birth was 2 hours and 5 minutes. I was so happy to have been able to have this kind of birth. It was important to me and I was on a birth high afterwards. My two births were very different and I learned a lot about myself through both of these amazing experiences.

–        NG

Isaac’s Birth Story

[Editor’s note: I’m so thankful PW shared her birth stories of Ben and Petra. Today, another mama shares a birth story of her firstborn. Want to share yours? Post below and we’ll get in touch. – MD]

In the 39th week of my first pregnancy, I was tired.  I was tired of being pregnant, tired of being hot, and tired of waiting. It was the end of August 2007.  We had been trying to have a baby for several years and we were so close and I couldn’t have been more impatient.  If I could, I would go back and whisper in my own ear that I should enjoy the sweetness of this waiting.  It is cliche, but the past almost 4 years have flown by and in some ways I regret not relishing those last moments of being pregnant with my first born.

My uterus had been described by my OB as irritable, which my husband, Rick, found hilarious and instead called it my pissy uterus.  All this really meant is that I had a lot of contractions, starting around 18 weeks.  The were never serious or cause for real concern, but they became more annoying the further along I got and anything would set them off.  Too tired, too much exercise, not enough water, laughing…really anything.

That last week, my 39th, the contractions continued, but they were getting stronger and more regular.   I lost my mucus plug at work on Wednesday, August 22, which just happens to be Rick’s birthday. I really thought I was going to go into labor that night.  We went out to dinner to celebrate and I ate very spicy Thai food to bring on labor. Of course nothing happened.

The next day I had an OB appointment and I was 4cm dilated and something like 80% effaced. They hooked me up to the monitor and I was having regular contractions, but they were not painful so we were sent home to wait.  We decided to take a long walk, eat, rest and get things ready to go. I had called my doula, Hannah, and she suggested we keep ourselves busy, but also rest if possible.

At some point Rick and I decided to make cookies that we would take to the hospital with us.  We didn’t have all the ingredients so Rick went out to the store.  He jokingly said on the way out the door that my water would probably break while he was gone. I, of course, thought that was ridiculous. Two minutes later I sat down on the couch and felt (and heard) a pop, followed by the sensation that I was wetting my pants. I went to the bathroom to discover that I could not stop the liquid and my water had indeed broken! That was at 7:30 pm.

Rick got home with the cookie ingredients and we called my OB and the doula again. Because my water had broken, they wanted me to come to the hospital.  We took our time because my contractions were not getting any stronger. We met our doula at L&D triage at Meriter Hospital at 9:10 pm (Thursday, August 23rd). There was a lot of intake and admission paperwork and questions. I continued to have regular but ineffective contractions. Baby looked good on the monitor, so we were encouraged to walk and be active with the hopes of getting labor going. Baby’s heart rate was monitored by Doppler every 30 minutes. I was told that if no progress was made by 6am, they would want to start pitocin to induce contractions. We walked and walked and walked and walked. We rested, ate popsicles, we walked. Bounced on the birth ball, walked, rested, walked. Repeat. My doula tried some acupressure and massage to get labor started to no avail.

6am came and so did the resident with the news that I was still only 4cm and they would start the pitocin after I was given the opportunity to shower and eat something. They started the IV at 6:30am. I rested in bed until 8:30am when the first contraction hurt. I meant to say HURT! I was up out of the bed trying to figure out how exactly I was going to deal with this pain. I even remember asking Hannah, how long we planned on doing this. I got in the tub for a while and that did help some. I was checked at 9:30 and had progressed to 5 cm, this did not impress me much as I was struggling with the pain and intensity of the contractions. The RN continued to increase my pitocin drip. By 10:45am I was not coping well, I could not control my breathing, I did not get a break between contractions and after another check I was still only 5-6cm. I was also having some involuntary pushing because the baby had descended all the way and I was having so much pressure to push without being fully dilated.

I then demanded an epidural.  This was not what I wanted, but at that point there was no other option for me. After the longest 45 minutes of my life, the epidural was placed at 11:30am, after 3 attempts (giant need pokes in my spine). They checked me again at 11:45am and I was 10cm. For those keeping track, I went from 5cm to 10cm in ONE HOUR. This explains the unbearable pain I was having and I kind of feel like a rock star progressing 5cm on pit without pain meds.

I wouldn’t chose to do that again. I had amazing pain relief with the epidural and was able to rest or “labor down” for about an hour or so while my support team ate lunch. I started to feel a lot of pressure (not pain though) and wanted to push. I was told the baby’s head was “right there” and ready to go. I started pushing at 1:20pm. This part I enjoyed. I was reasonably comfortable and the pushing was going really well. There is even a picture of me smiling while pushing.

Then the most amazing thing in my life happened, one last push and Isaac Richard Gamble was born at 1:57pm on August 24th, 2007, all 7lbs 3oz of him. He had tons of dark hair and the sweetest cry I have ever heard in my life.  He looked at my face as if to say, ‘oh there you are Mama’ and it has been true love ever since.

NG and Isaac

This was not the birth experience I had wanted or expected and for a long time struggled with parts of it.  But it was my birth and now looking back I am at peace with it. I have also come to realize that a babies birth can in some ways reflect their what their little personalities are like. My two did. Stay tuned for my second birth story.

Isaac

***Please note that while Rick is not mentioned much during this birth story it is not because he wasn’t there or wasn’t helpful.  It is because my memory of Rick during labor is not a visual one so it is kind of hard to put into writing what his experience was like.  I will say, I have tactile memories of him.  Holding my hand, holding me up, rubbing my back, calming words, helping me push, his arms around me as we held our son together for the first time, unwavering support.

–        NG

Petra’s Birth Story

This birth happened differently than Ben’s birth, but both were very positive experiences. Ben was 9 days late, and Petra was 4 days early. At about 8AM the morning of Wednesday June 3rd, my family was sitting at the breakfast table eating scrambled eggs when my water broke. I didn’t believe it at first because it wasn’t much; I just thought I had wet my pants. So we all moved forward with our respective days. I ran errands with Ben: we shopped Wellness Wednesday at the Coop, went to the car mechanic and returned books the library. I was leaking the whole time and after a while I came to realize that my water had broken. At the library, I told Ben, ‘I think that mom is going to have the baby today.’ Another woman at the library overheard me and looked a little shocked. Ben and I headed home and called my mom whom was to look after Ben. I tried her home line 9 times, and she didn’t answer, nor did the machine pick up. I tried her cell 4 times, and finally left a message for her to call me back.

Once we got back to our house from the library, I got in touch with my mom and despite her ‘on call’ status she had decided to clean her office that day and unplugged her phone and answering machine. I also called my husband who also didn’t answer either his work line or his cell after repeated calls and a very foully written text. I finally had him paged at work and told him that I was in early labor and he asked me what I wanted him to do about it. Fueled with a lot labor energy and annoyance at both my mom and my husband’s unavailability on the big day, I told him ‘why don’t you figure out what the fuck a husband does when a wife is in labor and DO THAT!’ followed by me hanging up. I don’t usually lose my cool, but I figured this was the time for a little tantrum.

By the time John got home and my mom arrived, it was about noon and we put my son down for a nap. The contractions up until this point had been really mild, much like those I was having over the past few weeks. I could easily talk and walk through them. I called my doc and she said I should labor at home for a while, but that given my fast birth with Ben, that I needed to be ready for things to move quickly. And because my water had truly broken at 8AM she said that she wanted us at the hospital by 8 PM. Around 1:30, the contractions were getting a little bit more tough, but not unmanageable, but I decided that we should head into the hospital. I figured that Ben would be up from his nap soon and I just didn’t want to both parent and labor. And by that time we had just completed getting little things done around the house – laundry folded, compost out, toys put away. I wanted to be done with that part, out of my house, and focusing on labor.

We got to the hospital around 2:15 and I headed into triage. The nurse measured me at 5 cms and contractions were not too unmanageable. They weren’t the usually on/off type of contractions; they had more of a constant and irregular pattern. I just hoped they were doing their job. I finally got to the point where I needed to be quiet and focus through them, and just about this time I was in the birth suite, around 3:30.

The nurse drew a tub, and both she and my doc were confident that I was going to go quickly and they told me that the minute I had pressure/urge to push to tell them so I could start pushing. I was relieved to hear them say this because with Ben they weren’t ready for me to push and I had several contractions with pressure during which it was excruciating NOT to push. In the tub I had tough regular contractions. I really had to focus and stay in the moment with them. They were easiest if I stared at a point in the water, took a big breath and sighed/vocalized though them and thought ‘Do your work!’ as in ‘contraction please work to open my cervix!’ The contractions were worse when I fought them, didn’t focus, and was out of the moment wondering ‘how dilated I was.’

The doc came in and wanted to measure me. I got out of the tub and up on the bed and I was thrilled when she said 8cms. This was about 4:15. The nurse and the doc both reiterated that I needed to alert them when I felt pressure/urge to push. The nurse dissuaded me from getting back into the tub because she thought there wouldn’t be time to get me out of the tub. So I stood up and had my hands on the bed (modified hands and knees/feet) and John put pressure on my sacrum during contractions. Things got a little blurry from here on in, but John reports that I also labored on the birthing ball but didn’t like it. He also said that I texted my friend Brinnon to tell her that she didn’t need to pick me up for carpool the next morning, as I wasn’t going to make swim practice.

And finally on one of the contractions I felt a major urge to push. Of course the doc and nurse were not around and I asked John to get them. He walked out too slowly for me so I yelled ‘RUN!’ and I also started yelling loudly that I had to push. They all arrived and helped me onto the bed. Dr. Jenny checked me and told me that anytime I was ready to push I could. For me, unlike many other women, pushing is the hardest part. For me, it is not a relief, but rather it is the most painful place I have been and is filled with psychedelic colors and hallucination. So during the next contraction, I was crying because I didn’t want to push, but I couldn’t stop myself and the following contraction I truly bared down. The nurse had one leg and John had the other, I tucked my chin to my chest, held my breath and pushed really hard. I heard the doc say that the head was out and there was no way I wanted to wait for another contraction to push again so I kept pushing and out came the shoulders and the whole rest of the body. They told me to reach down and pick up my daughter (who was fully screaming before she was even outside of me).

Petra

Petra June Westmont was born a 4:44PM on June 3rd. She was a beautiful healthy 7 pound baby girl.

– PW

Charting the Course

In March Miss Red started preschool at a fantastic place. Really, we are very, very happy. We had a rough week of transition, but she’s now well-entrenched in her preschool life, telling us great stories at the end of each day.

We were beyond fortunate that for two years she attended the most amazing in-home daycare. The woman who ran it had a background in early childhood education and loved the children, deeply and truly. Each day held adventures for them, and they would walk to a nature sanctuary, spend an entire day outside or make the most memorable crafts. I cried when Miss Red left.

One of the hardest transitions for me to preschool is that we don’t have documentation of her daily schedule. Her childcare provider sent us home with a sheet each day, detailing what she ate and when, diaper activity, and whatever else they did. We would read them over dinner and if CH left them in the car, I made him get them so I could review them. It was something that we studied carefully when she was a baby and measured her food in ounces, then cubes of food we made, but then just read to stay abreast of what her day was like.

Now, when I drop Miss Red off, and when she is picked up, there are different teachers at either end. So CH and I never talk to the same person, and alas, there is no note. We’re working on potty training, and it was nearly a week before we learned that Miss Red had been sitting on the potty at preschool. As chatty as she is, she does not share this information.

I like information, and as much as I speak to her teacher in the morning, I don’t want to be overbearing, so I don’t ask for a note. But I really miss them. In fact, I saved the one from daycare when she first went to the potty. There is a big smiley face and underlines and exclamation points on it. It’s on the refrigerator.

I wonder if I’m thinking about it too much. It makes me think of Mary Kelly, an artist who is best remembered for saving one month’s of diapers in an installation about the female/motherhood experience. Her project is difficult to explain, so here’s what her gallery says:

MARY KELLY’S “Post-Partum Document” (1973-79) upset a lot of people when the first of its several sections were shown at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art in 1976. In the manner of a pseudo-scientific study, it inspects the relationship between a mother (the artist) and her newborn son during his first years of life. The subject is common enough in the last thousand years of Western art, thanks to the Madonna and Child. (Kelly went to Catholic colleges before she chose art school.) But the connection between them had never been considered quite like this.

Part 1 of the multipart work — “Analyzed Fecal Stains and Feeding Charts” — is probably its most infamous segment, as the subtitle might suggest. Think Dr. Spock crossed with Dr. Freud. Flanked by graphs and tables, the work comprises 28 framed paper diapers chronicling the month of February 1974. A list of what Kelly’s baby consumed each day — 2 teaspoons cereal, 1 teaspoon carrots, 1 ounce water, etc. — is carefully typed on each diaper. The list is a caption just beneath a ghostly brown or yellow stain.

Mary Oliver's "Post-Partum Document" (1973-79)

Yeah, not exactly Monet, but says something about a need to chart, graph, make sense and plod and plot along. I only have the one note saved. I have even failed at keeping a baby book for Miss Red, but the daily record of her rhythms is no longer recorded.

I remember soon after I had Miss Red and was so upset about her not breastfeeding, my mom shared a story with me about a women she had encountered in her work who suffered from such extreme post-partum depression that she saved every single diaper. She was young, single, didn’t speak English and felt trapped in her apartment with a new baby, unsure of how to manage. I cried when I heard the story, my heart breaking and stitching together for this woman, knowing how close some of us can come to coming undone, and thankful it wasn’t me.

– MD