Wednesday, April 30, 2008

D-Day, part 3: A welcome arrival

[This is a continuation of two earlier posts, "D-Day" parts 1 and 2.]

I will always be thankful for the amazing nurses and nurse-anesthetists who were present during the birth of my son. At each step, someone was telling me what was going on and what I would (or wouldn't) be feeling. My arms were extended out next to me and secured so they wouldn't stray into the surgical area. My epidural was kicked-up so that I wouldn't feel anything at all (at one point, I remember asking, "there's something *more* numb than the dead walrus I already feel like?!"). The surgical team stopped all activity for a few minutes for what the hospital calls a "time-out" -- I was asked to state my name and the reason for my presence in the OR -- so that everyone in the room could be assured that I and they understood a C-section was about to take place. My doctor walked in, and I heard the nurse-anesthetist at my head say, "It's 2:01 p.m. -- first incision just took place." My husband was led in shortly thereafter. He sat at my head and talked to me to distract me from my anxiety (and his own, I think), from my nausea (which didn't work) and from the thought of what was going on, on the other side of the screen across my body. And in an incredibly short amount of time, I heard my doctor saying, "This baby's got a lot of hair -- almost out!" And then someone was saying, "2:09 p.m. -- it's a boy!" And it's at that point that my memories are watery and blurry, because both of us were crying, overwhelmed at the knowledge of our son.

My husband was allowed to walk over to the side of the OR and watch our newborn son as he was cleaned, measured, weighed and checked. I was still in surgery, so I couldn't see him at that point. I remember using all of my remaining energy to keep from crying out in discomfort -- being flat on my back and jacked up on medication made me tremble painfully, and I was absolutely out of energy by then. I just tried to keep my body from shaking as much as I could, answering the doctor's questions with one-syllable answers. Eventually a nurse brought the baby over to me and laid him across my chest so that I could see him. I remember a tiny, pink face peeking out at me from a bundle of blankets, and my husband's gleaming smile, and then I asked them to take the baby off me, since I was worried my trembling would shake him right onto the floor. My husband held him for a few minutes so we could both admire him, and then the baby was taken away to the nursery for more observation. We'd previously agreed that we wanted the baby to have one of us with him all the time, so my husband went with him to the nursery while I was stitched up and wheeled to recovery, where my epidural was removed. (I remember thinking, "Damn, I was liking that. I don't get to keep that for a while?")

We had a lot of family members at the hospital, waiting for the baby to arrive. While my husband went to tell them the good news, I rested in recovery -- I had to stay there for two hours. I asked for an hour to rest, and then my family members came in two by two to say hello and congratulate me. Seeing them was so special, and yet I was still so tired that I couldn't visit as much as I wanted to. When I was finally wheeled up to my actual room in the maternity ward, I was beat. A nurse brought the baby in and we took a shot at breastfeeding for the first time. It was hard to do, between my trembling, tired arms, the baby's sleepiness and both of our inexperience, but hey -- you've got to start somewhere. By the end of the ordeal, though, I was in tears of exhaustion again. I had planned to feed the baby for the first time right after delivery -- and I'd planned on keeping the baby in the room with me for the duration of our hospital stay, an arrangement called "rooming-in." But my fatigue was too much for me, and I had to ask the nurses to take the baby back to the nursery for a while so that I could get some sleep.

That was Saturday night. Sunday and Monday passed in a flurry of visitors, activity, and smiles. Though still behind the ball in terms of getting enough sleep, my husband and I were so happy that we kept the baby with us as much as we could so that he could be there when people came by. Within 12 hours of the delivery, I was up and walking around, since the nurses told me that my recovery would be speedier if I kept moving. In truth, the incision was hardly painful at all -- just sore and tender. I was amazed that after abdominal surgery, I could feel so little pain. Within another day, I quit taking the pain medication, since it irritated my stomach, and just relied on good old ibuprofen to manage the discomfort.

And through it all, there was the baby. Tinier (oh, so much tinier) than I ever thought he'd be at 6 pounds 12 ounces, he was blinky and pink and lovely. He had peach-fuzzy little ears and shoulders that I noticed immediately, and the weight of him in my arms tugged somehow on my heart. To say that I fell in love with him is to say that the Grand Canyon is a crack in the ground. Just being able to touch his perfect skin and kiss his cheek or head sent me into silent paroxysms of delight. (Still does.)

Yet love doesn't make everything easy. :) The first night home from the hospital was, shall we say, *rough*. The baby decided at this point to transition from the sleepy little bundle we knew in the hospital to a hungry and quite vocal participant in the family decibel level. I don't even remember much about that first night except for the fact that it seemed I was feeding him all the time, and therefore not sleeping at all. At one point my husband was able to hold and soothe the baby for about two hours and blessedly, thankfully, I slept.

That's pretty much how the first three or four weeks went -- sleepless, bleary-eyed, delighted, exhausted, desperate joy. We sleep more now, but the delight is still there, though there are some mornings when I could definitely use some concealer and be better-looking for it. I have never missed sleep less -- or, as we've told some friends, we have never been so happy to be so tired.

Monday, April 28, 2008

D-Day, part 2: Weathering the worst

[This is a continuation of "D-Day, part 1: An inauspicious beginning."]

Pitocin is the name of the drug that's commonly used to strengthen uterine contractions. I called it many things the night I experienced it. As soon as the Pitocin drip started, I knew right away that I was in for a whole new world of sensation. Within half an hour, the contractions had increased in both frequency and duration. They were lasting about a minute, and were coming every three minutes. Since you measure contractions from start to start, that meant I was only getting two minutes in between to catch my breath and prepare for the next one. With my husband holding my hand and our doula rubbing my back and abdomen, I breathed through so ... very ... many of them between midnight and 6 a.m.

You learn about yourself through six hours of augmented labor. You learn that though you had envisioned yourself entering an altered mental state to deal with the pain (kind of like self-hypnosis), you are in reality so closely attuned to it that escape isn't really possible. You learn that though you'd prefer to simply breathe through the waves, you are one of those women who really sound like they're in labor, "ooooooh"ing and "haaaaaah"ing with the best of them. You learn that you can't predict what a contraction will feel like -- even though you imagine sort of an abdominal Charley horse, what you get is an intense involvement of all your abdominal organs, too. You learn that you need the touch of someone you love to anchor you -- the very few times my husband wasn't holding my hand when I had a contraction, it was much harder to remain relaxed throughout it. You learn that pain can make you physically sick to your stomach. You learn that fatigue can both dull pain and sharpen it, somehow -- the more tired you are, the less you care about the hurting, but the less able you are to meet it with the relaxed muscles you wanted to employ to speed labor along. Those six hours will remain in my memory forever as a time of razor-sharp sensations. That dimly lit hospital room was my entire world for those hours -- I had no spare energy to give any thought to what was happening beyond the boundaries of my belly.

Around 5 in the morning, the nurses checked me again. I was certain, just CERTAIN that I'd dilated to an appreciable 5 or 6 centimeters at least. So I was heartbroken to learn that all that we'd borne had only resulted in one more tiny centimeter's worth of dilation. At that point, I looked at my husband and said, "If I have to keep doing this, I will have *nothing* left when it's time to push. Bring in the epidural."

Once you decide you want an epidural, you want it RIGHT THIS SECOND. Unfortunately (and why don't they tell anyone this?!), once you make that call, you have to have an entire bag of IV fluids administered first before you can get the procedure done. That was the longest hour of them all. I knew the end was in sight, but knowing it would soon be over made every contraction feel even more powerful and overwhelming. Finally the anesthesiologist came in at 6 a.m. and administered the epidural. I wouldn't even have cared if he'd placed me against a wall and shot a needle at my spine from across the room -- I was so glad to get some relief from the relentless contractions. I don't even remember if it hurt at all. I just know that within two contractions, they felt less powerful, and within five, I was lying down and on the verge of exhausted, strung-out sleep.

From 6 a.m., then, until 1 p.m., I was allowed to labor in my sleep as the epidural numbed me from the ribs down -- the doctors wanted me to keep dilating so I could still attempt a non-surgical delivery. Every half hour, nurses came in to turn me from my left side to my right, so that the medication wouldn't settle into my body unevenly and result in unbalanced pain-relief. I was so numb I couldn't even help them roll me over. Under normal circumstances, it probably would have felt embarassing to have two nurses roll my eight-and-a-half-months-pregnant body from one side to another with a minimum of clothing covering me. But by then I SO didn't care anymore. I slept -- gratefully, happily, blissfully. My poor husband, though, bore the worst of it then. He sat in front of the monitors that showed my contractions lined up with the baby's heartbeat, and watched how each contraction made the baby's heart beat slow down perceptibly. He must have stared at the monitor for the entire seven hours I was sleeping -- every time I opened my eyes, he was there, looking with anxious eyes at the monitors next to me. "It doesn't feel right to me," he kept saying.

The nurses were also monitoring my temperature. As it rose slowly, it got closer and closer to the magic threshhold that would dictate medical intervention. When it finally hit 100.5 degrees a little after 1 p.m., my wonderful OB/GYN came into the room and said, "You know what? Let's have a baby." He explained that a C-section would need to be performed to keep the baby safe from the temperature I was running. Within a minute, my formerly quiet, darkened room was lit up and abuzz with nurses and surgical staff prepping me for the surgery. My husband was whisked away to change into scrubs to be at my side. There were no fewer than seven or eight doctors and nurses in the room with me from that point on. I remember asking a few questions, but feeling not disappointed so much as relieved that I'd soon be able to see the baby -- I knew that I would have had a very difficult time finding the energy to push anyway. In the only quiet moment that we had before the surgery, my husband took my hands in his and told me he loved me, and admitted he was worried. I, in my medically buffered numb state, told him it would all be fine, and we said a short prayer together. I was wheeled to the operating room down the hall and transferred from my bed to the operating table.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A letter to Thumper, part 2

My sweet son (a.k.a. "Thumper"),

Here you are. You've been a part of our family and home life for over three months now. And everyone was right -- nothing will ever be the same again. Before you arrived, I thought that when people said that, they meant that our sleep schedules, weekend agendas, evenings out and TV programming would all be forever changed by your addition to the family. And they have. But the deepest way I understand that phrase is entirely different. Let me try to explain.

I always knew that having a baby would be a full-time job. No surprise there. But while I imagined the diaper changes, night feedings and marathon soothing sessions, I didn't fully "get" how completely loving you would consume me. Now I understand that each day is made up of a million tiny tasks, all of them equally important to me. Yes -- you are fed, changed, cleaned up and held. You're walked, rocked and bathed. You're swung, bounced, mobiled and toy-ed. But you're also "re-binked" when the pacifier falls out of your rosebud mouth, countless times. You're re-covered when your blanket slips. Your clothes are smoothed out so you don't lay on wrinkles and get little creases in your satiny skin. Your laundry is done EVERY day (!!) with special detergent so your skin isn't irritated. Your burp cloths and onesies and bibs and socks are folded neatly and sorted out to be within arm's reach when they're necessary. Your diaper stacks are refilled, your powder and lotion levels checked, your medicine prepped, your swing batteries replaced, your mobiles wound, your toys recovered from around the house, and your blankets are folded, ready to swaddle you before naptime. Each day is nothing more than a collection of a million tiny acts of love, and that's not even counting the kisses, hugs, snuggles, cuddles, hair-smooths, head-sniffs and hand-holds that you get every day. You will never know how much love went into every touch, every little thing around you. And that's ok -- because nothing could make me happier than knowing that everything about your life, every fiber of your existence, was created with joy and in delightful anticipation of you.

You're still a little guy, and you sleep with me every night. I lay you in the bend of my arm, and then I lay down to face you, so that we're almost nose to nose, and I can open my eyes to see that you're safe and sleeping. Not only do you sleep in a hug, I curl my legs up so that your toes touch my legs. I literally curl myself around you all night. And that's what you've done to my life -- given it a new center around which to mold my tasks, thoughts, decisions, hopes and fears, each and every day. You'll soon grow big enough to handle sleeping on your own, in your own room and bed -- and yet somehow I know that though I won't be wrapped around you at night, my heart will still be entwined around you, my love for you doing its best to protect you from illness, injury, pain or discomfort.

So sleep, sweet baby, and know that you're loved. Know that whatever you are doing -- playing, eating, napping, fussing, laughing, learning, growing -- your mom is with you, doing what she can to help and hold you, keep you safe. There'll come a day when I have to start letting you make your own mistakes, when I can't stand in the way of something that may cause you pain from which you'll grow and learn even more. Know, too, then, that I'll be feeling those barbs and stings right along with you. For now, though, all that I am is poured into being a good mommy to you, and I have never been more fulfilled, happier, more enriched, more full of life than I am in loving and knowing you.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

D-Day, part 1: An inauspicious beginning ...

If you read "37 weeks and always", you know that our little Thumper has made his appearance. I realized the other day that I've written about him several times, but never documented the day he arrived. Thought I'd put it here.

** ** ** ** **

When you learn you're pregnant, you envision a lot -- not just about your baby, but about how your pregnancy will progress -- and end. For some reason, I was sure that I'd go into labor at night, when my husband was with me. In my mind, we'd wait out the early hours at home in relative comfort, then proceed to the hospital for a smooth and hiccup-less delivery. Our carefully-researched birth preference sheet listed all kinds of requests for that kind of delivery -- we wanted no pain medication to be administered if not necessary, a surgical birth to be avoided if possible, my husband to cut the cord -- all kinds of things. We geared our childbirth class toward natural delivery methods, and it was only at the instructor's insistence that we did more than a cursory run-through of pain-relief options.

It's funny how things tend to do what they're going to do, despite your best-laid plans.

The day after my 37-week doctor's appointment (at which we were told "it'll be a while yet"), I woke up feeling funny. To be specific, I felt ... leaky. Now, as any woman in advanced pregnancy knows, there is a point at which you're told to EXPECT that your bladder is just going to throw in the towel for a while due to the increasingly cramped conditions. So you're prepared for some of that, and you deal accordingly. For most of the morning, then, I was resigned to this sieve-like state, and didn't think too much about it.

But something didn't feel quite right about it. I had a sneaking suspicion that my water had broken. Finally around 11 a.m., I called my husband at work.

"Hey, it's me. Any chance you can come home early?"
"Um -- I feel -- leaky."
([Beat.] Then he whispers.) "You think your water broke?"
"I don't know. But I think you'd better come home."

So he did. And we went to the doctor, and he confirmed it. "Yep. That's amniotic fluid. And that means you're having a baby within the next 24 hours!"

Luckily, we'd packed up the car before heading to the doctor, and we just had to drive across the street to the hospital. On the way, we called family members to tell them what was transpiring. My favorite conversation was with my husband's brother.

My husband: "Hey. What are you guys doing for dinner?:
My brother-in-law: "I dunno. I think my father-in-law's coming in to meet us for Mexican food. Why?"
My husband: "Just thought you might want to meet us at St. Luke's Hospital for dinner instead."
My brother-in-law: "What? Why?"
My husband: "To see the baby."
My brother-in-law (shouting as he catches on): "WHAT BABY?!"
My husband, laughing: "OUR baby."
[General yelling of excitement ensues.]

So we got to the hospital amidst phone calls with parents, brothers, friends, and our doula. We checked in, I changed into my oh-so-stylish gown, was told I was barely dilated, and was then hooked up to a number of monitors to check my blood pressure, contractions, heart rate, and a few other things I can't recall. As I lay in bed with an IV started in one hand (after two or three unsuccessful attempts to find a vein), it hit me that this baby was *coming.* And that this was a scenario (ruptured membranes with no dilation, no contractions and no cervical effacement) that I had NEVER envisioned.

The nurse checking us in finally left the room, and I looked at my husband and dissolved into tears. Bless him, he put his arms around me (a feat in and of itself, not to mention how difficult all the wires, monitors and tubes made it) and coaxed me to talk about what was going through my head. "This isn't what I wanted," I sobbed. "I feel tied down to this bed and out of control. I feel like these people are making a delivery happen to me, and I can't do anything about it and don't have any say in it. I wanted to walk around during early labor. I wanted to be comfortable. I wanted to be able to eat if I was hungry. I wanted to feel calm and peaceful and happy and I don't feel any of those things."

With my husband's help, that sense of helplessness passed -- I had just gotten overwhelmed by the rapidity of events at that point. After a while, I was able to walk around and try to get labor progressing more quickly (because lo and behold, the monitor showed I was having mild contractions already and wasn't even aware of it). My doula arrived and started massage to help speed things up. She rubbed my back and abdomen, led me through some breathing exercises and generally got me focused on my body, which was extremely helpful. So from 2 p.m. through midnight, I sat in that room with my husband and our doula, and breathed, and focused, and waited. The contractions grew a little stronger and I could tell that things were moving along.

Disappointingly, though, at about 10 p.m., we learned that I was only 1 centimeter dilated (you have to be 10 centimeters dilated to even start pushing). Worse, my cervix hadn't really thinned appreciably (which it must, to dilate), probably because the baby was still floating within the uterus and hadn't yet descended to press on the cervix. So after my eight hours of natural labor, nothing had really happened except that I'd gotten tired. My doctor wanted to speed things along, since my water was broken and that made the risk of infection higher. So the nurse on duty came in at midnight with what I came to call the hell-box and hooked it up to my IV. That's when we *really* got underway -- and when my natural childbirth preparation and resolve was truly tested.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Years ago and 1,500 miles away

My mom's mom died when I was 15. I have a wealth of childhood memories with her in them, and then suddenly, my high school memories lack her presence. Hers was the first funeral I attended that affected me deeply. My grampa passed away just a couple of years ago. He lived a lot of years without her, and though many men wither away when their spouses pass on, he lived almost all of those years with vitality and exuberance.

There's so much I miss about them that most days I can't fully acknowledge it all. It hurts too much. Most of all, I wish they could have met my husband and my son. I think, though, that I'm lucky to have known them so well. My husband never met his grandfathers at all. So I'm blessed. This entry is a small tribute to them both.

** ** **

I got my love of baking from gramma. Every summer when we visited, we'd have a baking day (at LEAST one day, if not more). Everything in the kitchen would be dusted in flour. And we rarely made boring old drop cookies -- we made the real deal, rolling out tables full of dough and using old tin cookie cutters in magical shapes to create masterpieces of baked art. Once the cookies cooled, we frosted and sprinkled to our hearts' content. She never once chided me for sampling raw dough or eating frosting or using too much colored sugar on a cookie -- whatever I did was beautiful in her eyes. She gave me a sense of fearlessness in baking and I love her for that.

I got my love of reading from gramma, too. She read anything she could get her hands on -- newspapers, books, magazines, prayer pamphlets, church bulletins. And she was always good for a story when I climbed into her lap. She praised me when I read out loud, and bought me books for holiday gifts. She helped me discover the art of imagination through the printed word. Thank you, gramma.

Gramma loved to sing. She sang enthusiastically every Sunday in church. The thing is, she had an awful voice. It wasn't musical in any way -- it was just hers. It was the instrument she had to give praise with, and she used it unabashedly. Even as a little girl, I recognized the purity of that. The hymns I heard her sing are still powerfully poignant for me, and my memories of her singing Christmas carols and hymns with all her heart are why I weep at mass with my family each December.

** ** **

Grampa was one of those men who sailors might call "a good man in a storm." He was the quintessential neighbor. He was always ready to lend a tool, help with a stubborn piece of automotive equipment, pitch in with a tough job. He did it graciously and with good humor, never expecting anything in return. As a result, he was a very busy man -- he was always out helping others. And yet every year when we visited during the summer, he made sure we had whatever special play privileges we wanted that we couldn't have at home -- a sandbox in the backyard, bunnies in a specially made hutch on the back patio, borrowed bikes to ride around the neighborhood. How he orchestrated this every year, I'll never know. The bikes were always the right size for us to handle, the bunnies were always sweet and fun to play with, and the sandbox was always big enough for us to play in and have our own corners, without crowding each other.

We also had free rein in his workshop in the basement. Grampa's workshop was a special place, specifically because it was all his -- you could tell gramma never set foot there, since there was sawdust all over the floor and a general feeling of bachelor-y mess that only a man's space has. So we knew it was special to him, and yet he invited us in as a matter of course, turned the space over to us, and gave us carte blanche to play with anything safe, non-toxic and blunted. We cracked countless hickory nuts in his huge vice, spinning the heavy handle and chortling with glee when the nuts split open between the vice's massive teeth. We sorted through thousands of nuts, bolts, screws and nails and placed things in tiny jars according to size and type. We played with water-based paints, creating "art" on scraps of paper, and conducting "experiments" as we mixed color after color (all to achieve a uniform grey time after time). And through it all he let us play, sometimes laughing silently at our antics from across the room, delighting in our budding creativity and enthusiasm.

** ** **

What I remember most about gramma and grampa is how they loved and adored me and my brothers. I don't remember a single gift they gave me, though they showered us with special toys. What I remember instead is the way that they delighted in what I did, said, wrote, drew, baked or sang. I remember gramma's hugs and kisses, the way she smelled, the special gramma-way she had of enfolding me when her arms went around me. I remember grampa's quiet pride, his silent chuckling when we amused him, the gentle way he had of teaching us how to behave without ever raising his voice or scolding us.

They were, and are, amazing to me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I've always wondered ...

... when you set your washing machine to "large load," does it add MORE water because there are more clothes, or LESS water because there's less room? Does anyone know the answer to this? I'm seriously stumped.

... how the FedEx and UPS people always know to ring the doorbell right when you start peeing.

... why your car never makes "that noise" when you start it up for your mechanic.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Things I hate

My last entry, entitled "Things I love" was all sweetness and light. I figured I'd turn the tables and make a rant-list for a change.

1. Getting a shard of a tortilla chip stuck between my teeth. OUCH.

2. Throwing up first thing every morning without fail for the first four months of my pregnancy. Thank God THAT'S over. There's nothing to make you hate mornings like knowing you'll greet the new day bent over a toilet.

3. Walking barefoot on ANYTHING except for clean carpet. I hate having dirty feet. And I also hate that feeling you get when you've stepped on a small, thin piece of plastic and it's hugging your skin like a best friend.

4. Motion sickness. I'm jealous of people who can read in the car with no trouble. I can't even sit in those backward-facing seats on Southwest Airlines planes.

5. The new trend in prime time television to split seasons into chunks throughout the year. When you have to wait like five months for the next installment of your favorite show, you resent the very thing you love. "What? It's only Valentine's Day ... and I have to wait till May to see the next episode of 'Lost'?! Goo."

6. Racism, prejudice and hatred. I think you can just lump all those together into "close-mindedness". If we could all open our minds to acceptance of others' differences, the world would be a better place.

7. Poodles. Creepy.

8. Onions. Stinky.

9. Touching wet food on dishes that need to be washed. Thank God my husband is willing to load the dishwasher. Equally lucky: He hates unloading it, and I love it. Bonus.

10. Missing a daily shower. I'm not a human being until I've showered each day. This is why I've never tried camping. Between a dearth of showers and the possibility of dirty feet (see number 3), camping seems like something I'm just not cut out for.

11. Bugs. Yet another reason I haven't gone camping. I'll deal with them if I'm alone in the house and I have to do it. But if my husband or anyone else is around to kill the roach, I'll pretty much be a tremendous coward about it. Can't help it.

12. Smelling like food. Pay attention here, this one's specific. I like smelling food, and the way food smells. I just don't like to smell like it myself. For instance, you know when you go to a Benihana's or to Subway, and you leave and you can smell your meal on you? Hate that.

13. Dusting. So boring.

14. Waiting for people ahead of me in the airplane aisle to load their stuff in the overhead bin so I can go past them and sit down. I don't know why I have such a problem with it. I'm normally a fairly patient person. But pretty much everything about flying is icky now.

15. Scouring the house for 'darks' to do a load of laundry, getting it started, then stumbling across one more thing you should have thrown in with it. Goo.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Things I love

A good friend of mine ( recently posted an entry about things she loved. I thought it was so fun that I'd take inspiration from her and do the same.

1. Watching my infant son awaken. Most mornings I can count on him stretching his little arms above his head and waking up in a good mood. The sun doesn't come up for me until I get his first smile of the day.

2. Kissing my son's velvety little head. What IS it about babies that makes their hair smell so good? I've used Johnson's Baby Shampoo myself and I never smelled as good as my baby boy does. It's a mystery, but also one of life's blessings -- smelling a baby.

3. Hanging out with my brothers. I have two younger brothers and they can make me laugh like no one else except my husband can. When the three of us get together, we're all kids again. We usually just crack each other up quoting random movie punchlines at each other, until my youngest brother makes a ridiculous observation that kills us all.

4. Talking to my mom. It's the easiest and most natural thing in the world to do -- connect with her every day. I think it's because she's been my best friend since I was born. I'm a lucky woman to have such an amazing example of giving and openness in my life.

5. Making my husband laugh. For those of you who know us, you know that he's definitely "the funny one." He makes me laugh constantly. So when I can turn the tables on him and make him really lose it, I feel like I'm flying. It's extremely satisfying.

6. Reading a great book. This is a love that I've abandoned for a while to focus on being a new mom -- my reading has consisted of lots of books about childbirth and parenting. But I'm hopeful about getting back to this love soon. I miss getting lost in words and paragraphs. I can get to the point with a great book that I'm scanning words but what appears in my brain are people, places and smells, voices and other sounds, scenes and feelings. I LOVE that.

7. My iPhone. My husband wanted to buy me one when they first came out, and I resisted. "I don't NEED an iPhone," I protested for months. And I held my ground. This past Valentine's Day, though, he brought one home for me. And I fell in love with it. Apple is amazing. When I got an iPod, it changed how I listened to, bought, thought about, accessed music. Now my iPhone has changed how I live online. Incredible. Plus, it's just really freakin' cool.

8. This otherworldly confection called "Avalanche Bark" from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Think Rice Krispies meets peanut butter meets marshmallows meets chocolate chips and some other random and unknown goodness, all in one hunk of heartbreakingly-good delicious-ness.

9. Folding laundry. Weird, right? But I get a kick out of a warm mountain of clean, fresh-smelling clothes that I can fold before they get wrinkled. I think it means to me that I'm taking care of the people I love -- my husband and my son. I do laundry RIGHT -- I sort, I treat stains, I adjust dryer settings, I do reds by themselves. I'm GOOD at laundry. And I LOVE a warm towel on a cold morning when you step out of the shower.

10. Connecting with my sister- and brother-in-law. My sister-in-law and I were pregnant at the same time, and she's expecting their daughter to arrive in a few more weeks. Going through the process of being pregnant together has brought us so much closer and I love who she is and how she lives her life. She's amazingly connected to people and reading how they're feeling. She's a healer by nature and she's going to be a stellar mom. And my brother-in-law is adorable. He's strong and masculine, and his newborn daughter is going to rule him, I can just tell. They'll make the perfect parenting team because they complement each other so well.

11. "Lost." I don't watch much TV anymore, but this one's got me hooked again. So does "America's Best Dance Crew" (can't wait for the new season this summer!) and "Dancing with the Stars".

12. Caffeine-Free Coke. Now that I'm a nursing mom, caffeine is taboo. So are artificial sweeteners. Thank God for Caffeine-Free Coke. I love having a soda I can enjoy again. All during my pregnancy, it was water, water, water. I got so sick of just water. Yay for teeth-rotting soda!! :)

13. The dipping sauce you get with Papa John's pizza. WOW. Butter, garlic ... you might as well put a cork in your arteries, but it's SO good.

14. Helping my husband give our son his nightly bath. The boy LOVES his bath, though he didn't in the past. Now it's a joy to watch him light up when we lower him into his little tub. He grins up at us, even if he was just wailing for some reason. And there's something pure about a squeaky clean baby. Plus, his bathtub is the coolest thing. It has a built-in thermometer that tells you what temperature the water is, and shows you a safe and comfortable range for bathing a little one. So the guesswork's out of water temp. It even beeps loudly if the water's getting too warm. Amazing. Plus it works with running water, which runs into its own reservoir separate from the part where baby's sitting, so you always have a fresh water supply for rinsing. So cool.

15. Reading what smart, funny and kind people are doing and creating. I love my girlfriend's blog (see above) and trolling through Facebook to see what's up with the amazing people in my life. One friend's in the advertising business and is one of the most brilliant people I know. He doesn't post often, but when he does, I know it'll be good. Even his status updates are good. I have another friend who lives in Arkansas, and the shortest e-mails he sends me can make me smile, because his spirit shines through them. And text messages from my youngest brother at college always crack me up. A while ago, his favorite exclamation was "goo." If someone on TV suddenly got sick on camera, he'd yell "Goo!" Or if you told him you got a flat tire, he'd say, "Goo!" Once he dropped something sticky on the floor, and rather than cuss, he simply looked down and said very quietly, "Goo." And it cracks me up. Even just remembering how he sounded when he said it still makes me laugh. So he created a new way for me to swear without actually swearing. Now that I have a baby, that's really useful. So -- thank you, J.

Life's good. Reading back over this list has helped me realize that I have access to these "things I love" on a regular basis. I'm blessed, and I know it.