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Nikolai’s Birth Story

My first pregnancy was filled with drama: first trimester spotting, a positive AFP test and high risk for Down’s syndrome, a mad rush to the hospital at 34 weeks when Z’s heart rate dropped, and a breech position which ultimately led to a c-section. But through all this, I actually felt pretty good (surgery aside). This time, there was no drama. Everything went according to plan, all tests were normal, baby was healthy and in a good position, and I felt awful. My due date was May 17, but by the beginning of May I was done being pregnant. It was getting impossible to take care of Z, having to endlessly explain why I couldn’t run, or jump, or sit on the floor, or carry him around, and why I didn’t have the energy or patience to play with him the way I could before. He knew something big was about to happen. On April 24, he stopped sleeping (see previous post). And on Wednesday, May 4, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I drove Z to my parents house in Albany, threw him and his bags into the living room, turned around, and drove home again.

That Friday, Dave’s parents came to help with some pre-baby cleaning and other house projects. They intended to leave on Sunday when we would drive up to Albany, spend some time with my parents for Mother’s Day, and bring Zekey back home. Saturday night we went to Gigi’s for dinner. I was feeling pretty exhausted, hobbling around, crampy, uncomfortable, distracted… but I’d felt that way for so long I didn’t think anything of it. I’d been having braxton hicks contractions for weeks and figured it was more of the same. At 6am the next morning, May 8, I had a cramp that woke me up, but I went right back to sleep. (Blissful sleep without crazy Z around!) At 7am, I had another cramp, this one accompanied by a sharp pop, and when I moved to get out of bed – gush. Despite what you see in the movies, it’s actually pretty rare to have your water break before labor begins, but this was clearly what had happened. And then, nothing.

NOTE: I was a little surprised to be in labor nine days early (especially since Z was six days late) but I wasn’t disappointed. My only worry was that once your water breaks, doctors want the baby to come out relatively soon since it’s no longer protected by the amniotic sac. As a VBAC, I couldn’t be induced, which meant that if I didn’t go into labor on my own relatively soon, I would have to have another c-section. I was NOT going to allow that to happen.

I called the midwife who said I should call back with an update around 2pm. And I called our doula who gave me a bunch of suggestions for getting labor started – a pressure point above the ankle bone, a pressure point in the meaty part of the hand between the thumb and index finger, and a homeopathic drug called Caulophyllum, or blue cohosh, to be taken every 3-4 hours until labor begins. The health food store didn’t open until 11am, so we ate breakfast, folded baby clothes, and packed a hospital bag. We stopped at CVS to buy diapers and some other things we hadn’t gotten around to yet. Every 10 minutes or so I squeezed one of the pressure points. At times I was able to induce a mild cramp, but for the most part, I felt nothing at all. I took the first dose of Caulophyllum around 11:30am (the folks working at the health food store were a little surprised to hear that I was calmly buying this homeopathic drug while technically already IN labor.) We went for a long walk after that – waddling slowly as I had been for the past 3 months, but otherwise not feeling anything in particular. Then we went home, ate lunch, organized some more baby stuff, and called the midwife to tell her that nothing had changed. She said to call back with an update at 8pm.

Around 4pm, I took a second dose of Caulophyllum and we went for another walk. We called my parents around 4:30pm to update them that nothing had changed. Shortly after that, I had a cramp that stopped me in my tracks. Nothing too bad, but enough to make me stop walking for a few moments. It passed and we headed back home, stopping in our garden for awhile to take in the spring blossoms and see what else had sprouted. Dave reminds me that we saw a bluebird and a Baltimore Oriole – unusual for our yard. I took a few pictures on my phone. Around 4:45pm, I started having contractions fairly close together. One that lasted 45 seconds, then a 4 minute break. One that lasted 60 seconds then a 2 minute break. Another that lasted 20 seconds then a 3 minute break. According to the paperwork I had gotten from my OB, I should wait until my contractions were 60 seconds each, five minutes apart, for one hour, before calling the office. That’s what happened with my last pregnancy, but this time, my contractions were all over the place. We headed inside, I went to the bathroom. I had heard this can really kick labor into high gear, which is exactly what happened. With clenched teeth, doubled over, head on the bed, I called the midwife and said things had started and we were heading over to the birthing center. At 4:53pm (hurray for message logs!) I texted my doula and told her she should meet us there. She was about an hour away so I figured this would give her plenty of time since my labor was really just starting. (HA!) Within minutes, I couldn’t see straight.

I remember Dave putting my shoes in front of me and telling me to step into them when I could. I remember trying to sound upbeat as we said goodbye to Dave’s parents, who were watching a Yankee game in the living room, and we headed out the front door. I don’t remember getting in the car but Dave tells me it took at looong time. I remember trying desperately to load a relaxation mp3 onto my phone, and hearing parts of it on speaker; I couldn’t manage to untangle my headphones. I couldn’t open my eyes and really had no idea where we were. It’s a 15 minute drive to the birthing center from our house and all I know is that if I could have had drugs at that point, I would have. I moaned. I gripped the door handle with one hand and the seat cushion with the other. I slammed my head against the headrest. My feet pushed against the floor. It was one constant contraction – no breaks.

We arrived at the hospital around 5:30pm. I don’t remember getting out of the car – Dave says it was challenging. The next thing I remember is a woman standing at the top of the stairs in front of the birthing center. She asked if we needed help. Before we even said anything, she took me in her arms and said “Hold on.” She was very tall and I had to reach up to put my arms around her neck, but it was the most comforting embrace I’ve ever felt. I swear she had magical powers. I found out later she was Mary Riley, of this area’s most respected doulas. After this hug, which probably only lasted a moment but felt like forever, Mary helped us inside and told the staff the baby was coming. My midwife saw us hobbling in and, looking totally surprised, said “Oh, that’s mine!” and shuffled us into a room. I’m pretty sure she didn’t expect things to be so far along when we got there. At this point it was probably about 5:45pm.

They asked me to pee in a cup, which somehow I did. They asked if there was any bloody show. I said yes. (In retrospect, this was kind of ridiculous considering how far along I was. Bloody show is usually one of the earlier signs of labor.) At some point I stripped off my shirt but I was still wearing my skirt. They asked if I could climb into the bed so they could check me. I did. I was fully dilated; it was time to push. (I’ve heard many women say they get an urge to push, but this didn’t happen to me. I kind of wonder how long I’d been fully dilated before I got there. No way to know. I do know that once she told me to push, I knew exactly what to do.)

There were a lot of people in the room. I remember Dave holding me. I remember the midwife’s voice telling me to push, and to breathe, and to relax all at the same time. And I remember having a death grip on some woman to my left. I found out later she came in to draw blood and ended up holding my hand through the delivery. I thanked her the next day. Dave tells me the baby’s heart rate was low so they gave me oxygen. It was important that I keep breathing to get that extra oxygen to the baby. And then I pushed. Once. Twice. Three times and out he came. It was 5:59pm, about 11 minutes after we entered our birthing room. (Our doula arrived at 6:30pm.)

The next few minutes are a blur. A saw a bunch of people hovering over the baby. The midwife instructed me to push out the placenta (a very weird sensation after pushing out the baby). I heard Dave say it was a boy. Then I heard a cry. And I cried too. And then he was in my arms. What I didn’t find out until later was that it took the baby a minute to “get his bearings.” He let out a little yelp when he first came out and then he passed out (or, as I prefer to think of it, swooned) for a moment before being revived by one of the doctors. And then he was fine. And I had done it – a totally natural, unmedicated, minimal intervention birth. VBAC.

I needed two stitches and Niko had a big bruise on his head which went away after a few days. He latched on right away, passed all his tests. At some point, a nurse came in and wheeled away the heart monitor that basically sat unused for the short time we were at the hospital, and I remember marveling at the fact that we had done this with so few contraptions. For Zekey’s birth, I had monitors strapped to my chest, a blood pressure monitor on my arm, a pulse ox on my finger, these weird motorized pressure straps on my legs, and a catheter. This time, it was just me, Dave, and the baby. I was up out of bed within the hour. And all I needed for the pain was a few ibuprofen. I was so thankful. And so proud. And 24-hours later, we headed home.

NOTE: Monday morning, my parents brought Z to the birthing center to see us and meet his baby brother. We hadn’t seen him in almost a week and, all things considered, he handled the whole thing pretty well. More on that later.

My recovery at home was actually a little more difficult than I expected. Everything happened so fast up to that point and our first day home I think I might have been in a bit of shock. I made banana bread. And we brought the boys over to our neighbors’ house for dinner. The next day, the reality of what my body had been through kicked in and for the next couple weeks, I was pretty uncomfortable. Everyone had told me that recovery from natural childbirth was so quick compared to recovery from a c-section (which is was), but I was surprised to feel so much discomfort. Most notable were the cramps every time I breastfed. I had been warned about this, and was told that it was much worse with a second kid. But I still wasn’t prepared for the intensity of those pains after labor was all over. In some ways, I think it was a little worse than labor since my labor was so fast and these pains happened multiple times a day for many days. I had to close my eyes and breathe through each one in a way I didn’t have time to for my actual labor. On top of that, the early days of breastfeeding hurt way more than I remembered. It hurt so much that I thought I must be doing something wrong this time around and was about to go to a lactation consultant when I finally started to feel better.

It took about three weeks to start feeling like myself again, and another couple weeks for the bleeding to stop. But by my 6-week postpartum visit, I was feeling pretty good, and pretty darn proud of myself. And pretty thrilled to not be pregnant anymore! I was eager to talk to my midwife again and ask her what she thought about my labor. From my perspective, I had skipped early labor entirely and I couldn’t imagine how that could happen. She basically said it’s unusual for things to happen that fast, but because I stayed relaxed and just went with it that I was able to breeze though early labor without even really feeling it, and that I was able to push him out quickly because I didn’t tense up and didn’t resist. I realized then that despite the pain, I never felt afraid of what was happening. I trusted that my body knew what to do, and while it was strange to feel so out of control, I didn’t let my brain get in the way of what needed to happen. I didn’t do any of this consciously, but I realize now that I was, in fact, relaxed through the whole process.

Niko will be three months old tomorrow and the fact that it’s taken me this long to write his birth story is indicative of what things have been like since he showed up. But I couldn’t be happier to have him in our lives, and I couldn’t have asked for a better birth.

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Welcome Nikolai!

Introducing my most recent work – Nikolai Lobel Woulfin, born on Mother’s Day. He joins my three-year-old son Ezekiel as the focus of my other full-time job. My friend and colleague Catherine Girardeau of Earprint Productions will be filling in for me at Distillations while I’m on leave this summer, though I’ll continue posting the shows here. I have some interesting new projects brewing for the fall, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things once I start getting more regular sleep. 🙂

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glutton for punishment

I started writing this post on May 5. Our little Nikolai was born on May 8. Now it’s July 12. We’ve been busy. I hate for this post to disappear into the ether, so I’ll post it over two months after the fact, with an update to follow.


It’s been close to a year since my last post, and if you’re familiar with this blog, you can imagine that means life with Ezekiel has been relatively smooth. That’s not to say it’s been easy, but as this blog tends to serve as my space for desperate ranting, there hasn’t been much need as of late. Until now.

First – a quick summary of the past year.

In September, Z started pre-school at a sweet little Montessori in Tivoli. The first month was rough (as all transitions with Z are) but now, for the most part, he loves the three mornings a week he spends there. And I love the break (though I wish it were a bit longer). After school, Z and I run errands, or play with friends, or go to the park, or hang out at home. (It was a LOOOOONG, cold winter indoors.) Z would then sometimes eat lunch (sometimes not) and for the most part, take a nap in the afternoon for a couple hours. Dave would get home and play with him some more, then dinner, and a fairly reliable bedtime routine and sleep. Wednesdays and Thursdays Z’s Omi would come hang out with him so I could have some uninterrupted work time and Dave and I could get a night out. Bliss!!

I can’t put my finger on when exactly things started to change. In August 2010, I found out I was pregnant with Z’s baby brother or sister, due in 12 days. In December(ish) we started talking to Z about having a baby brother or sister and we’ve been ramping that up steadily ever since – giving him *plenty* of time to get used to the idea. In February, we got him a big boy bed. Perhaps this is where we went wrong. We *tried* to do this in a way that would be least upsetting to him: started talking about it WAY in advance, had him come to the store and choose the mattress, got him super cool shark sheets, and hid the bed in the guest room until HE was ready to make the switch. When we finally set it up, he seemed pretty excited about it, and aside from a 1-2 week glitch in his nap schedule, all seemed to go well. We’ve gradually made other changes – moving the guest room (Omi’s room) downstairs to make room for baby #2, getting Z out of his high chair and into a booster seat, swapping his dresser/changing table for a new one and moving his old one into the baby’s room. We’ve made a VERY concerted effort to disrupt his life as little as possible, and I *thought* we were doing a pretty good job of it.

Then about a month ago, my Omi fell and was hurt badly. My mom spent the next month taking care of her. (I always appreciate everything she does for us, but it takes a month without her to realize exactly how much she does for us. Isn’t that always the way?) We got some childcare help from Dave’s parents and our dear neighbors, but mostly it was just me and Z. Sometime in there, Z started refusing to nap. Then last Sunday (the last day of Dave’s spring break) Z started waking up in the middle of the night.

To be continued…


I think pretty much everyone has seen this already, but I want to make sure it’s preserved here. Hilarious.

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duPont Awards – The Great Textbook War

Yet another award for Trey Kay’s The Great Textbook War. This was a biggie – the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards – celebrating the year’s best in broadcast journalism. Trey invited the whole team to celebrate with him at the awards ceremony in NYC, hosted by the Today Show’s Lester Holt and CNN’s Soledad O’Brien. (I got to shake her hand!) It was such a treat to share the stage with such a talented group of journalists (mostly super-slick TV folks and this ragtag band of indie producers.) 🙂 And so great to meet fellow producers Deb George and Anna Sale, and to hang with Jonathan Mitchell again. Go indies!!

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more zekey ramblings

I don’t remember where we were going but I do know that Zekey was *supposed* to be sleeping when he said all this late at night from his car seat. This is an exact transcription.

going to see something with another animal
another one
(grunt, screech, grunt)
no! (squeek!)
I want that! I want nebulizer!
No! I want bert or ernie
not I want something.
i want all of those
so many of those and some of those
no i want a toe or the car or something
we’re singing!
no we’re another train
or that goes by and goes all the trees
and goes another tree and goes no way
and goes no more trees and some geegeegeegeegee
No way! I want to get up or dance or sesame street
no i want bert, no count, no bert
is happy and ernie is happy
no ernie is happy and bert is happy
no different tshirt (?) – no I want bert or ernie

i want the count. I want the batty bat with the count.
(scream!) (whine whine)
I need to get up. I need to get up. Zekey need to get uuuup.
I want to get up and do sesame street and do nebulizer with the count and with the batty bat bat.

No I want to go in the car. No we are in the car.

and little toes and the big toe and SPRING and there’s another toe
and zekey is a boy and so many boys go in the water and boats go in the water

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Zekey ramblings

I intended to keep an ongoing log of all the funny/amazing things Zekey said as he was learning to talk, but his language developed so fast I just couldn’t keep up. So now I’m left with all these little bits of paper filled with Zekey ramblings and before I lose them, I’m listing them here. I should have dated them because I know some of these are quite old. He’s been speaking in complete sentences since about 16 months old. Here are some of the earliest ones:

Let’s get some milk.
I wanna hold you.
Let’s change the diaper, I have a poo poo.
I wanna play with cars.
I wanna go THAT way!
I need to get a stick. (Used for anything he can’t reach.)
I wanna read the book.
Where’d that come from?
Just a little bit more.
It’s an ‘O!’ (holding up the white of a sliced hard-boiled egg)
Let’s go downstairs.

Here are some of his more creative phrases – fill in the blank with his favorite word of the moment:

a little bit of _______ (fill in the blank)
happy ________ (mama, dada, horsey, pretty much anything)
________ saur (mama, dada, etc.)
uncle (Jeff, Josh, mama, dada, Zekey)

And here are some more recent ones. He’ll just string together a whole bunch of the words he knows into these long rambling sentences that sometimes make sense and sometimes just make us laugh:

A funny looking boat says “errrrr” like a car.
Jump like a monkey or like another animal that jumps; sometimes like a horsey.

Zekey loves to sing songs and he knows all the words to many of them. Some of his favorites:

Wheels on the Bus
Old MacDonald
The Ants Go Marching
This Old Man
If You’re Happy and You Know It…

There are countless more; I’ve recorded some and will try to post at some point. He’s just started singing along with his favorite songs on the Music Together CDs. It’s so cute. He’s still not totally in tune, but he definitely goes up and down the scale as the notes go higher and lower.

The only downside to all this talking is that he’s pretty much stopped sleeping in the car. If he’s not singing along with his music, he’s telling us what he sees out the window, or what he did that day, or what we’re doing later, or tomorrow, and who we’re going to see. Charming to a point. When it’s 10pm and we expected him to be asleep 2 hours earlier, it’s not so cute. Last weekend we left NJ around 7:30pm, thinking he might be up for a half hour or so and then he would pass out. At 8:30pm we’d had enough of his yammering so we told him it was time for sleep and “no more talking.” Instead, he got fixated on the phrase “I want Zekey’s music.” (meaning he wanted us to turn on the Music Together CD.) He repeated that phrase 368 times. I’m not kidding. I counted. Three hundred and sixty eight times. At 9:30pm, when we finally got home, he was still going. Crazy kid.

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2010 Third Coast Festival Short Doc Competition

I just completed this piece for the 2010 Third Coast Festival Short Doc competition.

All You Need Is a Wall: A meditation on big changes, building walls, and breaking them down again.

This year’s assignment:

For the 2010 ShortDocs Challenge – Book Odds – we teamed up with The Books, IOHO one of the most inventive and creative bands making music today. With the help of Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong we chose eight audio samples from their vast library of sonic offerings, and four song titles from their record The Way Out. Then we issued an open call to “make radio” – short audio stories including at least two of the samples, and named after one of the song titles: “A Cold Freezin Night,” “All You Need is a Wall,” “Chain of Missing Links,” “I Didn’t Know That.”


buzz note
strange town
winding coinbox
with youououou

sonic doodads

clarinet clock loop
eros vibraphone
note manual

I chose All You Need Is a Wall, inspired by the many stone walls I see in my new home in upstate NY, and my neighbor Jody, who used to be a stone mason.

As a freelancer, there are so few opportunities to do truly creative work with sound. The folks at Third Coast give us an opportunity to do just that – to think about sound in new ways, challenging us to break out of our day jobs and get creative. The winners get all expenses paid to the conference in October, but for me, it’s not about winning. It’s about doing a piece that I feel good about. (Incidentally, I didn’t win. But I had a great time at the conference.)

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2007 Third Coast Festival Short Doc Competition

Every couple years, the Third Coast Festival sponsors the “Short Doc” competition – to find the best short audio pieces, 3-minutes or less, around a certain theme. In 2007, this was the assignment:

Dollar Storeys invited seasoned producers and radio fans alike to submit short audio works inspired by one of three items purchased at a dollar store: a ceramic mug sporting a feisty feminist message, a 4-pack of wooden mousetraps, and an old-school bicycle bell.

I chose the bike bell, inspired by my friend Arwen, whose bike (and bike bell in the shape of a burger) was stolen many times in San Francisco.

My Bike Had a Burger Bell: A Tragic Tale of Loss and Woe: a true story about bike commuting, theft and making the best of a bad situation.

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The Great Textbook War

I had the great fortune to work on this hour-long radio documentary with producer Trey Key, who won a 2010 Peabody Award for the piece. Trey recorded his scratch tracks in my new home studio, and I’m hoping that sets the bar high for the work that will be produced out of there. I edited the scratch tracks and did a rough mix of the full doc which was a lot of fun. Great to work on a project that gets some well-deserved recognition! Listen to the final, full-length doc here.

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