Monday, 21 October 2013

The birth story of Anastasia Lucie

Here, she is, finally! Our lovely Anastasia was born on September, 24th, 2013 (a Tuesday) at 16:05, two blocks from my mother's apartment in Paris, on a beautiful, warm, and sunny Autumn day. She is so beautiful! She has big chubby cheeks and a heart-shaped mouth, dark hair and rather serious looking eyebrows. Her ears are masterpieces.

We decided that we could no longer afford to wait for her appearance as Levi's departure was closing in, we decided to induce labor. I had done a lot of research this time around, and I really wanted to have as natural of a birth as possible. I was even toying with the idea of having a home birth with the birthing pool, but I thought it would be pushing it, considering we are staying at my mom's and her apartment would not lend itself well to such a plan.

However, I was fortunate enough to be able to secure a spot at a very nearby maternity which happened to have a very good reputation. I had all my appointments, including ultrasounds and lab tests, which is extremely rare in Paris. You normally go to a different place for each of these and you have to book your appointments well in advance. Something interesting I found out - and frankly disturbing, is that they encourage expecting mothers to have 3 different ultrasounds, one for each trimester. When I asked the technician about it, she explained that in France, a woman is legally free to abort the pregnancy until the very end. So, if they detected the slight problem or raised concern about what they were able to observe during the ultrasound, the parents could choose to terminate the life of their unborn child.

Let's get back to more joyous subject: so, after Levi dropped Eve and Sophie off to school, we set off for the maternity after making sure that they weren't too busy that morning. We arrived before 10:30 and by the time we went through admissions, we were in the birthing room by 11. My midwife checked me and told me I was dilated to a 3. She explained to us the process of inducing labor: she would first break my waters, see if that would get the contractions going, then I would have an IV put in and the nurse would administer pitocin, starting with a low dosage and increase it every hour or so until I would be completely dilated and baby ready for transition.

I was confident it would go rather quickly as I had had contractions weeks before, from the time I was 34 weeks pregnant. Plus, during the last two-three weeks of pregnancy, I had been drinking red raspberry leaf tea and taken supplements of evening primrose oil (yeah, I was getting a bit desperate, but I had also done some research that revealed that both of these plants helped ripen the cervix and prevent tears and damage during labor).

So after getting set up, Fanny (my midwife), broke my waters and 20 min later, the nurse started the "wonder-drug". The nurse, named Claire, was rather sarcastic and at times I wasn't sure if I should lauggh or be offended by some of her puns. She was in charge of the least agreable part of the whole process: setting up the IV. I had a very unpleasant, almost traumatic experience with IVs during Sophie's birth, as the nurse made 4 attempts before getting it right...and believe me, the last thing you need when you are trying to concentrate through the pain of contractions is to be poked several times in both arms. So, when Claire's first attempt failed, I thought to myself: "oh boy, here we go again!" But she got it the second time around and I forgave her.

I was able to bear the contractions at the beginning: I had downloaded birthing relaxation tracks on my phone and they helped me get into the zone. By the 3rd  increase of dosage (up to 60 ml/h), I lost my concentration and was finding it hard to focus on my breathing. Luckily I was able (and allowed) to move around despite the IV and the monitoring devices attached to me. The hardest part of labor last a couple of hours and I was ready to beg for the epidural - I could tell Levi wanted me to get it as he could not bear to see me in pain ( the poor dear, right?), but Fanny was very encouraging and persuasive. She kept saying that I was very close to having the baby. I think the worst of it all is NOT KNOWING how much longer it would be. I simply could not find a comfortable position, whether I was standing, leaning, bouncing on the birthing ball, crouching, and I seriously thought it would go on forever.

Finally when Fanny last checked me, I was dilated to an 8 and she confirmed that it would go very quickly from then on; all of a sudden, I lost my cool and got scared: I had never before experienced the real pain of labour as I had epidurals for both Eve and Sophie. Fanny told me that if I went to the bathroom, it would make room for the baby's head to come down. I told her there was no way I would make it to the restroom, so she brought a basin. As soon as I sat on it, I felt the urge to push - I thought I was just going to the bathroom when I realized that it was her head I could feel coming down!

Fanny exorted me NOT to push and I screamed back that I HAD TO push. In a last effort and upon her exortations to move to the bed, I raised myself up and off of the basin, but I could not make it onto the bed. Levi and Fanny helped lay me down on the floor and urged me to push, breath, push again, and she was out.

The ombilical cord was surprisingly short, so the midwife could not place Anastasia on my chest without cutting it, but she assured me it had stopped pulsing. As soon as I held her, I felt elated. I had felt no pain from the delivery and I just could not believe it was over. I was helped onto the bed whilst Levi held our baby in order to push the placenta out.

She weighed 3,920 kg or 8,65 lbs and measured 50,5 cm or 19,88 in: my biggest baby yet. She looked perfect, not at all like a newborn: she came out clean and hardly even cried. I loved not being incapacitated by the anasthesia and feeling my legs. It made my recovery much quicker, so this was by far my best birthing experience.I should add that during the last 3 weeks of pregnancy, I drank rasperry leaf tea and  took evening primrose oil supplements. I really think that those helped make my recovery faster and easier.

We just could not agree on her name: I loved the names Catherine, Claire, and Lucie, but they were just not good enough for Levi. In France, you have 3 days to declare the baby's birth. So while I was still in the hospital, Levi went to the townhall with the best name we could agree on, but having second thoughts, he called me with a book of names and started going down the list. We didn't get past the letter A.

Anastasia is a tribute to my slavic origins (think of the Russian princess), but as I recently learned, it comes from the Greek and means "resurrection": I love it! I also love the meaning of Lucie: light. Levi was sold on it and we've agreed that we simply cannot have any more girls as we struggled so much to find a name for this one.

Her sisters absolutely adore her and want to hold her all of the time. She truly is a light and joy in our family.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

39 weeks - pregnancy update

Time goes so slowly for a pregnant woman, but it seems to stand still by the time she reaches the final stage of pregnancy. I have plenty to keep busy: two kids, errands, paperwork to fill out, send, and file, cooking and cleaning, grocery shopping, personal study and reading, making sure everything is ready for baby...and yet I count down every day, hoping that the next will be the time of my deliverance.

I don't know why I am so surprised I am still waiting for this baby to come: Eve and Sophie both came well after their due date...I guess, I was hanging on to the hope that since this was my third pregnancy, the baby would grace us earlier, the path having been already made for her.

At my 34th week appointment, my midwife got me thinking that the birth was imminent: I was 1 cm dilated and had had a few contractions. She even wanted me to go to the maternity ward to be monitored. I realised soon after I left that she simply did not take into consideration forgetting that this was my third pregnancy. That following week, convinced that the baby was due any day, I rushed to get her "trousseau" or hospital bag ready, made sure I had all the paperwork filled out and ready for hospital admission, and made some necessary arrangments to ensure a smooth back-to-school for Eve and Sophie, should the baby arrive before or during that time.

Then the waiting began. I had a lot of contractions, off and on. I even felt the baby come down, but it was never it. We had a few false alarms, I even went to bed with my make-up and contacts (yes, the vanity!) thinking that if I had to go into the clinic that night, it would cut down the time to get going.

Fast-forward 5 weeks and we're still waiting. The waiting is getting more frustrating with every passing day. You see, Levi is due to go to Florence, Italy to start a sculpting program on the 30th. I was hoping that the baby would come early so he would get to spend some extra time with her and it would cut down our grace period before we could join him later, in Italy.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Chez tonton (At my uncle's)

What I love most about being back in France is the chance to spend time with my extended family. I took them for granted growing up, and I enjoy getting to know them better. I realize how precious our reunions are, especially with the frequency of our moving around. I love my uncle and his wife dearly: they are some of the kindest and loving people I know. Here we are enjoying a Summer day in their garden.

My uncle Antoine, my brother Igor, and my mom

The girls were so happy to be reunited with my great-aunt's dog, Cricri. My great-aunt passed away this year and my uncle kept her dog, along with his 2 dogs.

My mom, my aunt Dominique, and my cousin Arthur

He's quite popular with the girls, plays the guitar, and studies engineering: got the smart genes alright!

Did I mention that my uncle and his family live in a beautiful mansion, North of Paris? Yeah, I drool over it every time we visit. It comes with an amazing fire place, and a nice size garden.

I love this picture of my aunt: she's a talented architect and has a very nice and positive personality.

Next to Eve and Sophie is my other cousin, Guillaume (William, in French), also studying engineering.

This girl could not help but hold or pet Cricri, down to the very last second.

Le Jardin des Plantes (The Garden of the Plants)

The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France. It is one of seven departments of the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle. It is situated in the 5ème arrondissement, Paris, on the left bank of the river Seine and covers 28 hectares (280,000 m²).

The grounds of the Jardin des Plantes includes four galleries of the Muséum: the Grande Galerie de l'Évolution, the Mineralogy Museum, the Paleontology Museum and the Entomology Museum. In addition to the gardens there is also a small zoo, founded in 1795 by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre from animals of the royal menagerie at Versailles.

Founded in 1626, the garden was not planted by Guy de La Brosse, Louis XIII's physician, until 1635 as a medicinal herb garden. It was originally known as the Jardin du Roi. In 1640 it opened to the public. After a period of decline, Jean-Baptiste Colbert took administrative control of the gardens. Dr. Guy-Crescent Fagon was appointed in 1693, and he surrounded himself with a team of brilliant botanists, including Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Antoine de Jussieu, Antoine Laurent de Jussieu and his son Adrien-Henri.

(Wikipedia) I thought it might be interesting to know the history behind this amazing garden that contains so much history and science.

I took Eve and Sophie to the Menagerie (or zoo), and we enjoyed discovering statues and majestic trees at every corner. I love to take them to places I went as a child and answer their questions about my childhood.

Le Jardin d'Acclimatation du Bois de Boulogne

There is so much to do in Paris, even for families and children. For example, there is a great amusement park called the "Jardin d'Acclimatation" with puppet show, carrousels, expos for children, train ride, and more that is located in the Bois de Boulogne. The Bois de Boulogne is a giant wood on the eastern side of Paris and has been coined one of Paris' "lungs", along with the Bois de Vincennes, situated on the opposite side of the city. They both have lakes, children's park, and zoos,  and plenty of things to do and see.

 I took the girls to the Jardin d'Acclimatation and despite the fact that a storm cut the fun short, it was worth every minute.It was the first rain we had in several weeks and we walked under it and enjoyed it as much as the park itself.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

In the heat of Paris

I swore I would NEVER be caught pregnant in the summertime. Then again, it's not the first time I have contradicted myself. I am now 32 weeks along and although I feel better than in previous pregnancies at this stage, the heat wave we have been swallowed in drains all my energy and if I have survived thus far, it's by taking up to 3 cold baths a day. Air-conditioning is a luxury and a rarity in Parisian housing, and since we live on the 6th floor, we get a lot of sunlight and all the heat rises up to our dwelling. I miss the sea breeze and freshness that we were lucky enough to enjoy 2 weekends ago.

The kids are out of school since July 6th and it's up to me to come up with some brilliant ideas to occupy them. Eve and Sophie are very content staying home and playing on their own, but considering that we are at a pretty rich cultural center of the World, I feel it is my duty to take them on adventures in the most beautiful parks, gardens, museums, and streets of Paris.

Monument dedicated to Joan of Arc, by the Parc des Tuileries and the Louvre

This waterfall was one of my favorite Summer spots as a child. It's in a little corner of the Parc Montsouris, a mere 5 min walk from home. I love sharing these fond memories with my girls.

The Pont Alexandre III and some peniches on the Seine

Apparently, Lenine used to reside in this building prior to the October Revolution

One of the many statues that adorn the Parc Montsouris