Braxton Hiccup

It was around 6p.m. on August 7th, 2017. I was eating the chili I’d made, watching a soccer game with my husband, and the Braxton Hicks that I’ve been feeling all day are not going away with water and elevated feet. In fact, they were starting to hurt a little.

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Photo actually taken while I was in early labor. Pain level greatly exaggerated.

I looked at Tim. “Honey.”

He put a spoonful of chili in his mouth and mumbled a “Hmph?”

“Maybe we should start timing these. They’re hurting a little.” Then I added hurriedly, “Not a lot. Just a little. Like a dull far away ache.” I was still 38 weeks pregnant and in prime false alarm territory. The last thing I wanted was to be “that pregnant lady,” waddling into the hospital at zilch centimeters dilated. Though I suppose I wouldn’t have seen the maternity nurses shaking their heads derisively at me when I waddled my way back out.

Tim just nodded at me as he opened up the contraction app. He’d downloaded it over a week before and had already been playing with it when I had bouts of Braxton Hicks. But those went away when I drank water and put my feet up. These…

After about an hour he says, “They’re coming 6 to 10 minutes apart for about 30 seconds each.” We looked at each other for a minute.

“It’s probably nothing,” I said.

“Maybe,” he replied, his eyes beginning to brighten with anticipation.

I chewed my lip, and said slowly, “but still, maybe we should finish packing the hospital bag. You know, just in case.”

Tim nodded and we set to work. I stayed mostly seated with my feet up, telling him when the “not” contractions started. At around 8 o’clock, I was beginning to panic. I was texting the midwives, trying to sound calm, hoping they weren’t judging me, because clearly this was just a false alarm. Really! I mean, they were getting more painful, and closer together, but it wasn’t real. Statistics show that most first time mothers are at least a week late.

I called up my mother-in-law. My voice was shaking. “Hey Mom? How much longer are you going to be at Ikea?” An hour away. I felt like an idiot.

“We’re just finishing up. Why? What’s up?”

“Well…I…I mean it could be nothing. But we’re timing them and they’re pretty regular. And they kinda hurt. Just a little! Not a lot. Like a mild period cramp.”

“Oh Rachel!” I can hear the excitement in her voice and it turns my stomach. My fear unclenches a little when she assures me they’ll come right home. Even if it’s a false alarm, I’ll feel better if she’s in the house.

Two Benadryl and several hours later, I’m laying on the sofa downstairs in legit pain. Too much pain to sleep through pain. My mother-in-law and my husband are packing the car. I fall into a rhythm that only measures time in “how far apart are they now” increments. Then I’m getting down into the back seat of the car to start the ride I’ve been dreading.

The ride itself was not that bad. My contractions were still around 5 minutes apart, which means that for a 45 minute ride, I only had to deal with 9 of them. It was the mental part that plagued me. I was still terrified it was a false alarm (a ridiculous fear at that point based on all available evidence). Or worse, that it wasn’t, but I’d show up there and the midwives would tell me that I was only 1 cm dilated despite my increasing pain level.

This was all I could think about as they checked me in. This was all I could think about as I waited for the midwives to come and assess me. It sent my blood pressure through the roof and lessened my chance of coming off the monitors for a water birth. The exhaustion of already being without sleep since 5 am the previous morning was taking its toll too. These two things combined made me ask for an epidural and decline a room with a birth tub. I didn’t have the energy to “ride the waves” much longer.

After being assessed, I was told I was in active labor. No one told me how far dilated I was, probably because I’d told them I was afraid of not being dilated enough. I later discovered I was 4 almost 5 cm. By the time the anesthesiologist came in I was nearly 7.

Once the epidural was in place, I dozed through the rest of labor, but didn’t really sleep. It was hard to drop off when I knew that soon I’d be meeting my baby. I’d predicted that all those music playlists people insisted I’d want during labor would go unused. I wanted one of the two things I always knew I’d want. So Tim set up a soccer game, and we waited to the music of whistled off-sides and the faint cursing of spectators picked up by the cameramen.

At about 2:23 pm they handed me my screaming baby girl.

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I don’t remember what I said when they gave her to me. I think I may have told her I loved her. I know I tried to sing to her, but I was crying too much. I do remember thinking how shocked I was that her head was lovely and round. I had been warned that vaginal births often gave way to alien shaped heads. I remember thinking that she was massive and I couldn’t believe this huge, tiny person had been inside me until a moment ago.

And I remember noticing her hair. It was blonde. Very blonde. Platinum blonde. Everyone who saw her in the hospital remarked on it. Don’t ask me how, because I wasn’t aware I had any blonde genes. My husband has them, sure, but we’re all brunettes in my family, and more dark brown than light. Only time will tell how much it will change and darken, but right now it’s a remarkable mystery to me.

As they wheeled me from the birthing room to our recovery room, I passed the desk with the check-in nurses. They smiled at me. I lifted the baby a little and said in a tired voice, “Well, it wasn’t a false alarm.”

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My favorite blonde ❤
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Book Review: “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah

The first time I started this book, the beauty of Hannah’s writing took my breath away. I wanted to read it slowly, to give it the time it deserved and ended up having to return it to the library before I’d barely gotten a few chapters in. 

Then I waited for the audio book version. Once I started that, it still took me forever to finish it, not just because of how beautifully it was written, but because it made everything feel so real. 

And WWII was an ugly time. 

The story surrounds the lives of two sisters living in France during the Nazi occupation. Their upbringing was dysfunctional, broken by the loss of thier mother and their father’s inability to recover from his involvement in WWI. When war comes again to France, they both approach it differently, adding a dynamic of family tension to this story of bravery and survival.

Like many well done narratives about life during WWII, it is ripe with tragedy, truth, and hope. It was a hard read for me because the characters were all so real and lovely that I was constantly worried about thier wellbeing. I finally finished with tears in my eyes. While this story is fiction, I couldn’t help but be moved by the depiction of life during this time, the pain and struggle, and how so many people forgot their own wants and dreams to save the lives of strangers. 

Beautifully done and unforgettable, this novel was definitely worth the hype that drew me to it.

Book Review: The Genius of Ian Doescher

Timothy and I have been reading to each other since our dating years. We used to read each other to sleep over the phone, a practice that created more than a few interesting phone bills. Tim read me C. S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet and I read him My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. On nights when my anxiety disorder was making sleep hard, he’d read me the book of Ruth. In fact, I asked him to read it so many times that he recorded it for me as a gift one Valentine’s Day. I would listen to it when I drove. He’s read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy to me, plus the Hobbit, and we’re about a third of the way into Seveneves by Neal Stephenson.

Our most recent conquest was to complete all six of Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars books.

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When watching the movies, we are part of the original trilogy first fandom, so we started our reading with Verily, a New Hope and ended with Tragedy of the Sith’s Revenge.

The first trilogy was awesome. They were funny and clever and so very full of iambic pentameter. The author worked hard to follow the patterns Shakespeare followed in his plays, like lovers speaking to each other in rhyming couplets or random interjections of song. He also deviated at times to attempt to stay true to the Star Wars characters. For example, Doescher felt Yoda’s speech pattern from the movie sounded too close to iambic pentameter, so to distinguish his voice from all the other characters Yoda speaks in haiku. Some of our favorite passages were the ones that tightly mimicked famous scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, and the random soliloquizing of wampas and AT-AT’s.

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As someone who occasionally borders on denying the existence of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the prequel trilogy books in this series. I was, however, not surprised that my enjoyment of them was still inferior to those on the original trilogy. The Phantom of Menace made some cute jabs at inconsistencies that fans often complain about, like the technological differences between the two time periods, but as the series went on it made me laugh less and less. I think what changed my mind about them was when I realized that the story arch for the prequel trilogy really does mirror a tragedy. I just let myself enjoy the ironically Shakespearian nature of the events and stopped waiting for the next laugh.

These books were absolutely a treasure to read. Doescher’s knowledge of Shakespeare and love of Star Wars created a lovely set of books which appealed to both the nerdy literary and nerdy Star Wars sides of both of our natures. When Tim and I finished with the last one, we discussed the pros and cons of Doescher releasing a book on The Force Awakens before the entire trilogy is released. We both thought he should wait, for purposes of foreshadowing and other literary devices. However, we quickly discovered through Goodreads that it is already written, and The Force Doth Awaken is set to be released on October 3, 2017. Though we’re both a little dubious if this was his best move, we will still happily read it together once it’s released.

It’s bound to be excellent, regardless.

Book Review: “Dividing Eden” by Joelle Charbonneau

I noticed recently that I haven’t been reading a ton of Young Adult books as of late, I seem to be on more of a Middle Grade kick, but the book trailer for this novel really caught my eye.

I went online and immediately got in line to borrow this book from my library. I did it quickly enough that I was only 4th in line, not like Into the Water which I am currently still at waiting for at 46th.

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Note the soft fuzzy blanket and tissues. I had a bad cold when this was taken.

When it came, I cracked it open only to remember within the first chapter why it was that I took a break from YA books.

The premise of this book appeared unique. The tagline at the top of the book reads:

Two siblings. One crown. A battle that neither can win.

Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuunnnnnn…

I thought it would be a departure from the usual STRONG INDEPENDENT GIRL SHOVES OFF OPPRESSIVE MALES TO DESTROY ALL THE BAD GUYS that seems to be the thing in YA right now. Sibling rivalry over a throne? I was excited. Until about two pages in, when I discovered that Carys, one of the siblings, was a STRONG INDEPENDENT GIRL BEING HELD CAPTIVE BY AN OPPRESSIVE MALE SOCIETY. Locked in dresses. Hiding her ability to wield a knife. I sighed heavily and thought to myself, I wonder if she’ll destroy all the bad guys? A few pages later I met her twin brother, Andreus, who was the SUPER HANDSOME HAS A WAY WITH ALL THE WOMEN trope. All that was left was for me to meet whoever it was that was going to form the necessary love triangle, and I was set to go for another typical YA dystopian fantasy. *gives two thumbs up*

The first few chapters dumped a lot of confusing and random information. I think the author was trying to keep you up to speed on the relevant past of the characters, but she dropped these factoid bombs so suddenly that I felt like I was tripping over a new one whenever I’d begun to get involved in the story. The political intrigue I hoped for was minimal to lame. The world was a mishmash of a lot of elements I’ve seen done better in other books. The majority of the characters were forgettable or underdeveloped.

Ironically, the only character I found myself liking at all was the STRONG INDEPENDENT GIRL, because the author gave her a decent and believable flaw to struggle with. The development of this part of the plot did improve my enjoyment of the story, so despite my blah to negative feelings about this book, the author did manage to make me care enough about Carys that I may still read the next book in the series when it comes out.

I suppose that was her ultimate goal anyway, because in all honesty, this book read like a 300 page introduction to a series. The last couple chapters were, to me, the most interesting, but everything was left hanging with me hardly knowing or understanding most of the characters. Still, if she can hook you on just one thing, that’s all she needs to get you into the next book, right?

The next installment appears to be a novella with a release date of October 10, 2017. Only time will tell if my interest will hold until then.

Book Review: “The William Powell and Myrna Loy Murder Case” by George Baxt

Do you like Classic Movies? Do you like Hollywood Gossip? Do you like murder mysteries? Well then do yourself a favor and don’t read this book!


Seriously, don’t do it.

I grew up on classic movies. My grandmother and I spent countless hours snuggled together in her bed watching Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce play Holmes and Watson. My first celebrity crushes were on Cary Grant and Gene Kelly (Yes, they were dead, but that idea didn’t compute until much later.) When we weren’t watching old movies, she was reading me to sleep with Agatha Christie books. Old movies and mysteries, that was our thing.

When they released “The Thin Man” film collection on DVD, my grandmother and I sat down and watched through the series. I adored Nick and Nora Charles, played perfectly by William Powell and Myrna Loy. Their chemistry was adorable and their witty banter perfectly timed. I loved these films so much that for a while they were my go to comfort movies that I watched whenever I was sick or having a bad day.

Then I found out about this series by George Baxt. It’s called the “Jacob Singer” or “Celebrity Murder” series and has 13 books in it. They’re all murder mysteries built around big name stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I had to read it. I HAD to. It was out of print, so I special ordered my copy through Borders. (Yes, Borders. Obviously it sat on my shelf for a while. I don’t read fast enough…) I pulled it out this summer, but I’d barely gotten into the first chapter when I noticed several things, the main one being that the writer…well…he…he sucks, okay? He sucks.

The plot was totally lacking. It was just a muddle of name dropping, meandering, useless information, and poorly constructed scenes. The dialogue was witty at parts, but his attributions were all haywire. He would begin a paragraph with “Said William” and throw in a half a sentence of dialogue before using most of the rest of the paragraph to describe the thoughts and actions of the other four people involved in the scene. Then he’d jump back in and finish whatever it was that William was saying, without any further dialogue attribution. By then I’d forgotten who was speaking, because he’d forced me into doing all the head hopping, so I’d have to revisit the opening of the paragraph.

During one scene, I was introduced to four new characters. The dialogue mess commenced and I couldn’t keep them or their stories straight anymore. I hit a point where I thought that one of the male characters was saying a female character had a crush on Jean Harlow. The biggest problem with this is the book takes place in the 1930’s and to my knowledge Hollywood stars didn’t advertise homosexuality back then. I tried to back up and see if I’d read it right, got frustrated, and decided to continue reading with the understanding that, regardless of the author’s original intent, none of the characters had identifiable gender, and they were all bisexual. It was just easier that way.

Besides that, the murder itself was dragged out for eternity. At the risk of sounding bloodthirsty, I was beginning to wonder if there would ever be a body. About half way through the book it finally happened, and you only really got two suspects, one of which I felt they’d already exonerated in the first half of the story.

And as for the characters of Powell and Loy, well they were basically Nick and Nora Charles. The same mannerisms, same playful flirty banter, the same propensity to drink three martini’s before noon. This was utterly unbelievable to me, and an insult to the acting abilities of Powell and Loy. Honestly Baxt, was this meant to be Powell and Loy or did you just find it less cumbersome to use them instead of applying to Dashiell Hammett for rights to publish your Thin Man fan-fiction?

I feel like if anyone should have been a candidate to love this book, it would be me. The nostalgia effect alone should have carried me, but wow. Just wow.

Never again, George Baxt. Never again.

 

I Promise…


I promise to be there for you when you need me.

I promise to sacrifice my comforts for your safety.

I promise to protect you.

I promise to cover you with prayers and love.

I promise to do whatever I can to assure you that the love I have for you is real. That may not always be comfortable for either of us, because the honesty inherent in true love demands some payment in pain, but…

I promise to create an atmosphere of acceptance in our home that makes the ugly truths easier to hear.

I promise not to be perfect. It would be a lie to admit anything else, and I love you too much to lie to you. Since I know I can’t be perfect…

I promise to be humble before you and God, so when those inevitable failings disrupt our relationship, or if I should break any of these promises I’m making, I will never be too proud to admit to you that you were right, that I am sorry.

I promise to say I am sorry.

I promise to let you find your wings, to explore, to question and even rebel if you need to, so that when the day comes and you leave my protection to walk your path alone, you will understand who you are and why God gave you life.

I promise that no matter where your path takes you, there will always be a home for you in my arms.

Welcome to our family, my little darling.

Love,
Mom


Eliana Grace Svendsen, born at 2:25 pm on August 8, 2017.
7 lbs 10 oz, 19 3/4 inches

Book Review: “The Road to Little Dribbling” by Bill Bryson

All the preparations for Little Baby’s arrival have been putting me on edge, so I’m thankful for books that help me unwind and make me laugh. Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain was one of those books.

Bryson was born and raised in Iowa. He married an English woman, and has been living in England for years now, where they raised all their children. His love for England and understanding and appreciation of what it means to be an American, made this book all the more enjoyable for me, especially when he discussed differences in our cultures.

I didn’t know this was a sequel to his book, Notes from a Small Island until I had already started reading. I kept going, figuring that, since it was a travel book, it wouldn’t make a difference. Now that I’m done, I wish I had stopped and read the first one first. Some of the areas he visited were revisits from the first book. It would have been interesting to have a deeper understanding of how the places had changed between the publishing dates of 1995 and 2015. He give plenty of context whenever he discussed changes, so there was no confusion, but I still felt I was missing out on something by reading the second one first.

That aside, everything else about this book was lovely. Bryson has a witty and snarky sense of humor that turns almost all of his interactions with people into laugh-out-loud anecdotes. I listened to this as an audio book, and a few times in the beginning I zoned out, until suddenly I was snapped back into reality when Bryson said something rude or absurd to a shop attendant. Just as I thought, I can’t believe he had the guts to say that he would suddenly admit that he only thought the thing, which meant that the majority of the interaction was all made up. This happened multiple times throughout the book, and seriously, sometimes it was so funny that I had to cover my mouth to keep myself from exploding with laughter in a public place. I mean, haven’t we all been there? That torn feeling of I-really-want-to-tell-you-off-but-it-would-be-rude. I sympathized while I smiled.

By the end of the book I was just in love with his writing style, a combination of history and humor, all built around lovely descriptions of places I’ve never been. Half way through the book, I was adding most of his other books to my Goodreads “to-read” list and checking my library to see which ones they had copies of. Definitely one of my new favorite authors.