Isaac’s Birth Story


They said, “you’ll take a million pictures of your first baby. By number three, well, they’re lucky if they get a single dang picture.”

“Hogwash,” I said. “I will take an equal amount of pictures of each of my children. I will write an equal amount of blog posts about each of my children. They will be equally loved, equally posted about, because I am an Equal Opportunity Employer. I mean Mother.”

Ha ha ha ha.

{wipes tears of laughter out of eyes because I’m no longer under the 20-year-old’s delusion that I am different in every way from everyone else in the world} {though I’m sure some wise 20-year-olds are out there who are, like, uh, knew that}

Anyway. I blogged weekly through my pregnancy with Alice. Then, during my pregnancy with Ben I pretty much didn’t blog . . . but I managed to squeak out his birth story at least. And now, with little Isaac, well–the least I can do is blog once. That’s the least I can do.

So. It’s a tale simply told.

There I was, on Tuesday August 8th, at work. Everyone kept joking, well, today might be the last day we see you! I was always like, no way. I’ve never gone early before. I’m gonna be here until his due date. Possibly beyond. In fact, I’m pretty sure he will never be born and I will always be pregnant.


(Side note: funny how it never seems possible that a baby will come out of your body, even after you’ve done it multiple times)

On Tuesday, as fate would have it, I finished up three major projects at work that I had to get done before I went on my 3-month maternity leave.

I also noticed my back pain, the cruel companion of over half my pregnancy, was mysteriously gone.


Around 7pm, kiddos in bed, my husband and I retreated to our bedroom, the hangout place of choice due to the large amount of pillows I required to prop my aching body up and the nearness of the bathroom wherein I had to go to pee about every 2.2 minutes.

Duly reclined in the soft embrace of my pillow throne, I hopped on Facebook. Lalala, something outrageous about Trump, ooh someone got engaged, oooh someone ate some really good-looking sushi . . . WAIT, WHAT?

My pregnant friend, due right around the same time as me, had just given birth to a gorgeous, fat little baby. I showed my husband.

“Look at this. Isn’t he adorable,” I said in a despairing voice. Tears filled my eyes. “Isn’t this great? Wow. And by the way this will NEVER happen to me. I will ALWAYS be pregnant.”

The universe has a funny way about it. Because an hour later, my water broke. There I was, still in bed, and I felt a small gush. I hopped out of bed like, whoops, uh . . . surely I’m not peeing on myself . . . ohmygosh I’m peeing on myself . . . wait, no . . . could this be . . . could this possibly be my water breaking?

Then I was like, no, it can’t be. This didn’t happen with either of my other two births. With Alice and Ben, I was in active labor when my water broke.

But liquid continued to trickle out.

Is this really what I think it is?

Then again, what else could it be??

I couldn’t come up with anything else this liquid could possibly be. And yet I still couldn’t quite believe it.

Well, Google had to have the answers. I looked up: what color should it be? (clear) What should it smell like (slightly sweetish–NOT like urine). I even considered Googling what it tasted like, then I realized that might put me on some kind of Most Wanted for Creepiness alert with the government. Then I Googled it anyway. Turns out no one has tasted their amniotic fluid and I was, after all, an utterly disgusting human for being the very first person to come up with that idea.

(In my defense, I figured the baby breathes it in all day–can’t be that bad for me, eh?)

Moving on. I waited for a couple hours. When I realized I was soaking through pad after pad, I called the midwife group and told them I was pretty sure my water was breaking. We also called my mother-in-law, who drove in to spend the night. It felt funny having her come when I wasn’t in labor, but it would have been worse to wait until 3am and scare the crap out of her with a middle-of-the-night phone call.

So. We packed the hospital bag. Then we went to bed. And I waited for the contractions to start. I imagined it would be something like my birth experience with Ben–contractions that would kind of ramp up during the night, intensify in the morning, then we’d head into the hospital, get the epidural, give birth, Falalalala.*

(*The Falalala is a distinctly post-epidural thing)

Thing is, the contractions never really ramped up. They looked like they were going to for a while–the pain even got intense-ish during the first few hours of the night as I lay in bed. Every time one hit, I closed my eyes and thought, “get through two more contractions and then you can wake El Hubby-O up and we’ll go to the hospital.” (see, I wanted to let him sleep as long as possible so that he’d have energy for The Event)

In this manner, hours passed. I kept saying to myself, “Just one more contraction and then I’ll wake him up.”

Suddenly it was 7am, I was waking up, and realized I had been asleep for about four hours with no contractions.

Dang it, I thought. I knew I was on a 24-hour countdown from the time my water broke to the time the baby would have to come out, one way or another. I called the midwives. They told me to come on in, because I had to deliver a baby by 8pm that night.

We drove to the hospital some time around 10am. I had one single contraction right after leaving the garage. Since we were still in the alley, El Hubby-O stopped the car and we waited it out. Thankfully I had no more on the way. This was kind of nice because the contractions between parking lot and hospital when I gave birth to Ben were awful.

We got checked into the hospital. We did the whole hospital gown, IV in the arm routine. I got checked. They did a swab thingy to see if my water really had broken (news flash: it had). I think I was maybe 3 centimeters? 4? Something like that. Not bad, things were happening, but my contractions were still only every 20-30 minutes. They hurt like heck, but from past experience I knew they should have been much more painful and much closer together by this point.

“Pitocin,” they said, which I’d been expecting.

“Okay,” I said, already reconciled to whatever had to happen. “So when can I get the epidural?” I was under the impression that I had to suffer through some pitocin contractions for a while before getting permission for an epidural because the epidural risked slowing things down (which in turn would make a C-section more likely).

Turns out I was wrong. Turns out I could get the epidural BEFORE the pitocin.

“YES!” I shouted as I ran a victory lap, hugging nurses, doctors, random staff, even the inventor of epidurals.*

(*this all happened in my heart, not in physical space-time).

At this point, I’d like to note how much more relaxed I was this time around than with either of my previous experiences. Makes sense, right? I knew what was going on, I knew for the most part what to expect from my body and from the hospital staff (with some surprises). I have loved giving birth in the same hospital all three times. Funny detail–I was in the same room with the same midwife AND the same nurse for both Isaac and Ben’s births. The familiarity really helped.

Anyway. A nice woman with a nice needle came in and gave me the epidural. Gosh, it hurt. I don’t remember it hurting when I got one for Ben’s birth, but that was probably because with Ben I was in transition and the intense pain of that drowned out everything else. So know this: getting an epidural when you’re just “chilling out” is really quite painful. Let me repeat: QUITE PAINFUL. Yeeks. I shouted and growled so loudly that my husband (who, per the anesthesiologist’s request was outside the room) heard from the hall.

The drugs kicked in immediately.

I turned to the anesthesiologist. “Wow, I don’t remember it kicking in that quickly last time.”

“Oh, that’s because I always do a narcotic with it that makes it take effect right away,” she said nonchalantly.

“Huh,” I said, thinking she probably should have asked my preference and whether I was cool with narcotics or not but very quickly not caring because the narcotic was A-MAZING and made me feel like my body was afloat in an ocean of pleasure. Not exaggerating. An ocean of pleasure, people.

The only downside of the narcotic was that it made my skin itch until it wore off post-birth, but interestingly, it didn’t drive me crazy–I was mostly like, ‘whatever.’

After getting the epidural, the pitocin got started. Then I read a book and took a nap. Two hours later I realized I wanted to push.

“No,” I said to my husband. “This can’t be right. I can’t have gone from 4 to 10 centimeters in just two hours.” Then, suddenly, it was like the epidural wore off in two seconds.

“AAARCH!” I cried. “Okay, it’s not working! My drugs are broke*!”

(*I know it’s ‘broken,’ Mom. Broke just sounded more dramatic. Love you.)

What came next were about 25 minutes of intense suffering in the grips of transition.

The midwives were like, “You’re ready to push–why don’t we just do that?”


I was (ehem) rather adamant.

They tried to tell me I’d push him out faster if I just did it without drugs–but they didn’t remember my pushing experience with Ben. The big guy flew out within two contractions, epidural and all, so I knew that it wouldn’t be a problem with Isaac.

Thankfully the anesthesiologist came back, upped my dose and the pain magically went away.

Then I was quite ready to push.

I was grateful in a weird way for the twenty-to-thirty minutes of suffering when the epidural broke. Birthing a human is such an intense experience, and for some reason having intense pain (for a short window, mind you!) helped me be more in the moment with what was happening. It’s like the largeness of the pain matched the largeness of the experience.

Of course, such philosophical thoughts (for me) only work when the pain is short-lived. Extend that pain to hours on hours and let’s just say I might not be so philosophical about it. (For proof you can read about my first experience giving birth)

Anyway, just like Ben, Isaac popped out within about two contractions.


Suddenly I had a wet, wriggly, purple-tinted baby on my chest.


It was Isaac Gabriel. And he was wonderful in every way. And I was ready to fall in love again–which I promptly did as they stitched me up.


If you’d like to read about my other two experiences giving birth, here they are:

Alice’s birth story (full of swearing because of the zero drugs thing)

Ben’s birth story (full of epidural-magic)


Love you all, and thanks for listening to my story–again. If all goes according to plan, this will be the Last Birth Story I Will Ever Post on my Blog. Then again, as Alice said in the car a few months ago when I told her Isaac would be our last baby, “Well Mom, Jesus might want another baby.”

And that, for now, is the last word on the subject.

Cookbook review: Valerie’s Home Cooking

VHCWhen I received an email asking me if I wanted to review Valerie Bertinelli’s new cookbook, I didn’t hesitate.

YES, I said. SEND IT. HERE’S MY ADDRESS, SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER, AND THE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS OF ALL MY CHILDREN. Just send me all the cookbooks, and then send me the cousins of the cookbooks.

See, I love cookbooks. I love every one of my two shelves-full of cookbooks and I have room in my heart (though not my shelf) for more, so many more. (Who needs shelves anyway? Stacks. Therein lies the future. Stacks and stacks all over my house. It will be an obstacle course of cookbooks. The kids will think it’s a blast.)

Had I ever heard of Valerie Bertinelli? No. Apparently she’s doing a food show. Apparently she’s some kind of celebrity. But I didn’t need to know her in advance in order to fall in love with her cookbook.

First, the pages. They just felt nice–like, the paper just had this lovely feel to it (know what I mean? and if you don’t, you’ll never understand why I don’t own an e-reader). Then, her writing–positive and fun and relatable. The photography–beautiful. It made me want to be in LA, sitting on a terrace, preferably dressed in a silk robe with a plate of avocado toast on my outdoor dining set. (Winter in Chicago does tend to do that to one) And finally, the meat of the thing: her recipes.

Usually, in a cookbook I love (such as Nigella’s Kitchen, my most recent fling), I’ll end up being attracted to maybe half the recipes, and out of those, form a long-lasting relationship (i.e., by actually cooking them) with maybe a dozen. Any number of recipes in any given cookbook I claim to love may not attract me because of the photography, my taste, the number or type of ingredients required, or the level of complication.

Valerie’s cookbook is different. I have decided this is because our tastes are aligned. Just like stars and planets doing their magical celestial thingy-things, Valerie and me are linked. I kept turning pages and thinking, “yes, I’ll make that. Uh-huh. Mmm, want to eat that. Yeah, I can make that.”

Her recipes are down-to-earth, not too complex, and delicious-looking.

Just like me. Down-to-earth (yep, uh-huh), not too complex (hmm . . . okay, little stretch of the truth there) and delicious-looking (okay, that’s only at 8am, that magical moment when my make up is freshly done, hair just went up, and I have yet to be spit up on by my baby).

Anyway. While I may be delicious-looking only between 8am and 8:10am, Valerie’s cookbook is delicious-looking 24/7.

Wow, I’m getting off the beaten track here.

Anyway, it’s super affordably priced on Amazon–as of the day I’m writing this, half the list price (score!)

So if you’re a cookbook lover, pop ‘er in your Amazon cart, check ‘er out at your library, walk down to your local corner bookstore, download it to your e-reader–whatever it takes to get this awesome cookbook into your hands!

Also, if you want to try the recipe I’m planning on making next week, here’s her recipe for BLT pasta. Just look at this picture and tell me you don’t want to make it.

Photographer Hector Sanchez, Food Stylist Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist Cindy Barr

Photographer Hector Sanchez, Food Stylist Margaret Dickey, Prop Stylist Cindy Barr

BLT Pasta

Serves 4

Hands-on 25 minutes Total 35 minutes


12 cups water

¼ cup plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 pounds plum tomatoes (about  10 tomatoes)

6 thick-cut bacon slices, chopped

1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper

12 ounces uncooked spaghetti

4 cups fresh baby arugula

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Bring the water and 1/4 cup of the salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high. Hull the stems from the tomatoes. Cut a shallow “x” through the skin on the bottom of each tomato.

Place the tomatoes in the boiling water, and boil about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes, and submerge in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Reserve the salted water in the saucepan.

When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel back the skin using a paring knife. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise; squeeze out and discard the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces.

Place the bacon in a cold large skillet; cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 10 to 13 minutes. Drain the bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve 2 tablespoons drippings in the skillet.

Add the onion to the hot drippings in the skillet; cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and remaining  1/2 teaspoon salt to the skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 5 minutes.

Return the reserved salted water in the saucepan to a boil; add the spaghetti, and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water to the tomato mixture in the skillet; toss to coat. Add more cooking water, if necessary, until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Transfer to a large bowl; toss with arugula and half of the chopped bacon. Divide evenly among 4 serving bowls; top evenly with the basil, remaining chopped bacon, and Parmesan.

Variation: This is easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand, like spinach and linguine instead of the arugula and spaghetti.

Cooking Tip: This is another time I like to sauté my bacon instead of using the oven. All those yummy hot bacon drippings.

Click here for printer-friendly version: Valerie’s BLT Pasta