Thursday, December 1, 2016

Small group anxiety, Mega Mocha and Alone Time

This morning I was on my way to a La Leche League meeting -- a feat because a) I actually remembered and b) I had transportation and c) did not have to work -- when I had a bout of small group anxiety and instead pulled over to sit at my favorite coffee shop and write anonymously while the baby took a nap.

How weird is it that I can sing and chat in front of thousands of people (and that one time knowing that literally millions of others were listening in radioland) without a single stitch in my tummy, but the thought of sitting in a small circle with a handful of other women absolutely terrifies me to the point that I can't go?

A few months ago I managed to arranged childcare and attend a Book Club meeting. I've been on the email group of this Book Club for years. It's full of smart women, several of whom I know already, but most of whom I only know from Twitter or other internet-y things.

I tried to snag a seat in a corner against a wall as everyone was moving from the cocktail portion of the evening to the sit-around-and-talk bit. The circle kept changing, and I kept having to move, until suddenly I was almost front and center. I tried to laugh off my anxiety, which seemed to annoy the hostess and only made me want to crawl into an even deeper corner.

We went around the circle and had to introduce ourselves and say "one interesting thing about ourselves" and I completely froze and the lovely Tara had to nudge me and whisper, "Tell them you play the saw," and I stuttered and forgot how to conjugate verbs and my face flushed and heart sped and then after introductions and only one or two comments into the actual book discussion, I walked home.

I somehow tought I might be okay at the LLL meeting. I don't actually have any breastfeeding questions. Dr. Google has been pretty helpful on that front. But I felt like I needed to attempt some socialization and perhaps some small group therapy.

Instead I'm in a corner writing and enjoying a breakfast crepe with a small mocha because that is basically the mental equivalent of a spa day. I swear, I really used to be so well-adjusted.

Baby is up from his regularly scheduled 28-minute nap, so there goes my crepe,

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A place for art in dark times.

We were both so so so excited on election day at 9am.
What a depressing week last week was. I'm still in denial. Followed by massive amounts of guilt knowing that I'll probably be fine -- as long as I don't flaunt the Jewish background thing, and maybe I should pull my kid out of the Jewish preschool because Anti-Semites are going to run the government ... hmmm ... okay, maybe I legitimately am worried for my family...

Anyway, the guilt comes from knowing that my family isn't outwardly too different, but plenty of others I know are and -- yikes, what year are we living in? How is this seriously our current challenge? Also, the ice caps are melting and what if a tidal wave attacks my oceanfront Louisville property in five years? Do I start buying an extra canned good at every grocery trip and insulating the attic with creamed corn?

I also keep thinking how can there possibly be a place for my career now? I'm a musician, not a revolutionary.

But also, don't people need art more than ever these days?

And is there room for, shall we call it, "distracting" art? Lighthearted songs to make you smile and take you away from the terrifying world? Or are those the artists who should give up and forget it because we should be focused on revolutionary songwriting? Are those types of songs more dangerous than ever because we should not distract ourselves and ignore what it happening?

I have often wrestled with the whatisthepoint question of my career, but in light of the election results (and a postpartum fog and heading into the early sunsets and dark, cold days) I have even more mindwasps.

Am I being too hard on myself?

Can someone convince Bob Dylan to finally speak out? To tell artists what it was like to be the revolutionary performer in revolutionary times? Did he even know he was doing it? Was it a career-advancing accident that he had protest songs? Were they even intended as protest songs or were they interpreted that way because of the times he was writing in? How long did it take for them to spread in a world 50 years before Twitter?

In the mean time, I'm trying to finish up a record, and I'm really not sure why it feels so pressing.

 I think my 4-year-old has the right idea:


At least there's this, right? :

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Anniversary of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Today is the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. If you are of the Jordan Catalano Generation or younger, and if you have even heard of the Gordon Lightfoot song, then you probably are imagining a mighty old-time pirate-ship-looking vessel that sunk, oh, I don't know, maybe a hundred or two hundred years ago. Until last November, I was there with you. It sunk in 1975!

I heard "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on WFPK on November 10, 2015, started listening a little more intently because I'd forgotten how electric the guitars were and how those 70s bass drums come pounding in a few verses in. For many musicians I know, that song has become a bit of a joke (I think the song is a complete masterpiece, beautiful haunting and perfect example of a good ballad) -- not the lyrics and melody, but the idea that it goes on and on for almost seven minutes without any chorus. It's jokingly been used as a way to get people to leave a club at 2a (click here to see NRBQ version): just play a never-ending version of this song.

A few months ago, I was trying to get the baby to calm down and for some reason I put on "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." And the boy calmed down. I laughed, and then tried it again the next time he was in a baby-freakout. And it worked again. In fact to this day, it has a 95% success rate on getting him to relax -- like, you can feel his muscles breathe more deeply as soon as that lilting guitar emerges. It's become his Bedtime Song (replacing "Edelweiss") and will usually put him to sleep by the time the ol' cook comes on deck saying fellas it's too rough to feed ya.

Here is a time he was asleep before the first words:


Insane, right?

Our whole family, particularly our 4-year-old, has become obsessed with not just the song, but the shipwreck itself. In Detroit last month we saw the Old Mariner's Church, aka "the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral" from the last verse. We went to a maritime museum for the sole purpose of seeing an anchor from the Fitzgerald. 



Last week the wee boy's barber asked him what kind of music he liked.

Wee Boy: The Edmund Fitzgerald.
Barber: Ella Fitzgerald?
Wee Boy: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald!

We LOVE this song. 

Today we are listening to it a zillion more times, but we are even more-than-usual thinking of the 29 men who sunk with the ship to the bottom of Lake Superior. As we learned from the museum, people still don't know for sure how/why it sunk. Great shipwrecks only 41 years ago -- oh, the mystery! It has somewhat ruined the Wee Boy for boating, but he knows all the words.

Look at this article from Newsweek that ran 2 weeks after the ship sank. Lightfoot used it for inspiration, as you can tell from the first paragraph: Accordion to a legend of the Chippewa tribe, the lake they once called "Gitche Gumee" never gives up her dead.

I mean, that's basically the first lyric in its entirety.

Another strange thing: he wrote that song 2-4 weeks after the ship sank. And it was a number one hit the next year. For y'all alive then ... did it feel too soon???

Anyway, I could go on and on about all the things I've learned about the ship. But for today: it's November 10, so today we are thinking about The Fitz and

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Electoral thoughts and a word jumble.

We voted today. I studied American Politics (and even have a fancy summa cum laude degree in politics, lah dee dah) at NYU, where multiple professors argued that there is absolutely no compelling reason to vote in the USA. It takes effort to get to the polls, and the chance that your single vote will make a difference is, like, n to the negative 38th power or some statistic that I can't remember even though I swear I used to be really good at math. So why does anyone bother? X factor - guilt, civic duty, hope, whatever you call it ...  I'm less skeptical than I used to be, and I got very excited about voting today. The wee boy and I walked the polling place early, then we took a bus to his preschool. It was a very civic morning. I cried a little.

Now I just sit around and bite my fingernails and eat Halloween candy because it's just me and the kiddos while the polls come in. I'm fielding texts from all my friends from other countries who are just as nervous and are apparently hoping beyond hope that America does not "do something stupid." Maybe we should just all go to sleep until tomorrow. Or hop on a transatlantic flight so I'll have to turn my phone to airplane mode until the morning.

Today I leave you with a word jumble, composed by the Wee Boy:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Detroit on a budget with kids.

Business first!

The Birdies are playing an event at The Aero Club on Friday evening.

On Sunday afternoon, I am playing a benefit show for Alan Downie, aka the Scottish bartender at Air Devil's Inn. Because America is a bad place to be ill, fundraisers are what we do here to take care of those we love. I play at 4:00. There are many others on the lineup.

After that I am unemployed (aside from teaching lessons) because, while I was slammed with 3-4 gigs a week for the past 3 months, I apparently forgot to book any new ones. Thinking of spending December in Scotland instead because why not?

***


Speaking of travel, we did something a little out-of-character for me a couple of weeks ago, and we took a non-glamorous trip. We went to Detroit. I've got at least one friend who swears that Detroit is an amazing vacation destination, and, while I wouldn't go that far, I would say that I was surprised how many cosmopolitan attractions there are.

My only complaints were that 1) there weren't very many people out and about on the streets like I like to see in a City 2) we needed to rent a car to get around and 3) it seemed like restaurants and venues were always closed when we wanted to go. Like, more than four times we had that happen to us, even when we checked websites first. I would suggest calling ahead -- even for a breakfast restaurant that you'd think would be open at 9:30am. It might not be.

We were car-free for the first 3 days, which was fine because it was just me and the kids hanging about while David worked. We ate lunch and rode the People Mover, which was fun, but only practical if you were staying very downtown. We went to the Renaissance Center and saw the USS Detroit, which is not usually docked there, but happened to be that week. We stayed at the Westin because David was there for work, so he stays in fancy hotels, which had a swimming pool and Disney Jr. The 4-year-old was pretty please.

For the weekend we moved to an AirBnB in Midtown, where we decided it was time to rent a car. There is a bus system there, but it wasn't practical enough for our needs -- i.e. it took significantly longer to go where we needed and didn't run as often. It would have taken over an hour, plus a 20-minute walk to get to the Henry Ford Museum. We considered just Ubering, as we did a couple of times earlier in the week, but a rental was going to be cheaper and give us more options.

Favorite things:
I tried to include lots of free things, though we did obviously pay for several. Note that we have a 4-year-old, a 7-month-old, and we are all vegetarians. All these factors inform our tastes.


Michigan Science Center. $18+ each, but free with our Louisville Science Center membership, so that saved us $60. There's a planetarium there. The food is gross, though, so eat elsewhere.


People Mover. 75 cents for a token and you can ride it in circles all day long if you want! Bring the smallest bill you need because if you put a $5 bill in the machine, it'll give you 6 tokens plus 50 cents change. Go around the entire thing (15-20 minutes) at least once because the ride along the river is the best part. It looks like you're flying above the water! Also, there are approximately four zillion Pokestops you will pass along your ride. It's a prime time to use a Lucky Egg.

Mac n Cheez. There is a Michigan-based fast food place that serves up macaroni and cheese with all kinds of mix-ins. It's amazing.

Mariner's Church. Next to the Renaissance Center. This is the "Maritime Sailor's Cathedral" of which Gordon Lightfoot sang in "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." My family is obsessed with this song because we randomly discovered that its lilting guitar and melody puts the baby to sleep. The church bell chimed, it rang twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Dossin Museum. Free. We went here because they have a real, actual anchor from the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. It turned out to be a VERY cool maritime musem. It's kid-friendly, interactive and small enough to see the whole thing without getting tired. There is also a little room dedicated to the Edmund Fitzgerald, so my 4-year-old LOVED it. It's on Belle Isle, which is a strange, but peaceful island where nobody lives. Great for bike rides, as there's a road that circumnavigates the island. Be mindful of your mobile phone, as it might switch to Canadian service and charge you a zillion dollars. I had to turn my phone off.

Eagle Tavern at Greenfield Village - YUM!
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village. Allow all day for these, and get there early. Also, it's crazy expensive, and you're going to be there for at least one full meal. Buy your tickets online for a small discount, and always look for other specials they might be running. We spent a small fortune there. We had a really great time and enjoyed learning lots and seeing lots, but whoah, was it pricey.

Renaissance Center. Free. Tours at noon and 2p daily. This is the headquarters of GM, but it's also just a HUGE set of shiny buildings on the riverfront that is basically a tiny little city. I kept wanting to see flying cars zooming around the tops. It's a great place to practice escalator etiquette and skills. Really, it's a good place to tire out the kids, and you're never too far from a cup of coffee. The food court is pretty great. It's also insane for Pokemon, but beware that your phone might think you're in Canada. There's a People Mover stop connected. Leave breadcrumbs -- it's a maze. Beware trying to find a table at lunchtime near the Riverfront 1st floor area. I found people who work there to be incredibly rude, each one of them sitting alone but when I asked if we could sit for a minute to eat a cookie, they claimed to be holding the table for their friends, even though I had a tired 4-year-old and a fidgety baby on my back who needed to sit down and be cuddled. Like, everyone actually told me no, I couldn't sit there. Maybe it's the Southern in me, but I was pretty shocked by that and eventually just sat down anyway and said we'd only be a minute.

Kennedy Car at Henry Ford Museum.
Favorite restaurants (vegetarian-friendly):

At Dime Store - photo by my 4-year-old.
Dime Store. This place was PACKED when we went for lunch the first day -- just me, the 4-year-old, and the baby. It was all adults, but I didn't get a stink-eye for bringing the kids. They had a high chair and we were served quickly. I'm a sucker for breakfast all day. Also, they gave the wee boy a free chocolate chip cookie. It was so delicious that we went back the next 2 days in a row -- once for takeout and once just to buy more cookies.

Hudson Cafe. Another great breakfast place. Good for the kids. A lot more spacious than Dime Store, and there were lots of families there.

The Jolly Pumpkin. We met up with David's co-workers for dinner one weeknight. It's got long tables with benches, so is relaxed. I liked their menu, mostly pizzas, but some yummy salads. We also happened to be there on Tuesday Trivia night, which was good fun. My 4-year-old answered a question for us about Charlie Brown, so he felt particularly included.

The Twisted Apron. This might not count because it's in Windsor, Canada, so you'll need your passport and a car. But it was possibly my favorite brunch of the week. Fried pickles, poutine -- all kinds of crazy options. You can even use your chip-and-pin card as it was intended, provided of course you remember your PIN, which most Americans probably don't because we don't actually ever have to enter our PIN when we use the card. Also, leave your phone at home, or turn it to airplane mode, so you don't pay international roaming charges.




We had a good time. What are your favorite kid-friendly things to do in Detroit?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bananas, To Do Lists and Brain Fog

I read an article this morning about how getting only six hours of sleep gives you the cognitive equivalence of being drunk. I was, like, "Six hours of sleep?! Whoah -- luxury." And then, I was, like, "I wonder what my cognitive abilitie r rite now bc i haznt sleeped that minny hrs in loooooooooong thyme." I have rubbed coconut oil on my forehead, but my brain doesn't work any better.

I was assured by most of you out there that my second baby would be a sleeper, so I said, "Sure, let's do this." And while he's kind of the best baby in every single other way imaginable, he sure wakes up a lot.

I'm thinking of getting a Keurig, even though I've been environmentally opposed to them since their invention (though I sure do get a kick out of using them at your house, dear reader ... #hyprocrite ) , and putting it on my bedside table. You see, I'm having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Lots of trouble. My angel of a four-year-old -- seriously, the best kid in the history of the world -- sings me awake and snuggles me and tells me what a beautiful day it is and -- I kid you not -- last weekend disappeared, ran to the kitchen, brought back a tea towel and said, "Here Mommy, take a deep breath, and use this to wipe your tears." But I am a Grumposaurus Rex until I've had ten minutes of alone time and a cup of coffee.

Thank goodness for this insanely warm weather. I come to you today from my back deck, where I'm sitting next to a naked baby who is screaming for another banana. I don't have video handy, but he looks pretty much exactly like his brother did at this age when he ate bananas, and here's a video of that:


Anyhoo... the weather has me wanting to make To Do Lists, so that's a start.

Since I seem to be completely unable to finish this album -- it's to the part of the process where I've done all I can, and now it's up to the engineer to mix and master and do all those crazy details that I'm technically ignorant of -- I need to find an outlet. I'm thinking of finding a babysitter who takes credit cards and will come over to my house for 90 minutes a day so I can, get this, BLOG.

I know, it seems so dumb. But I need to get back out there, and blogging seems to be the easiest and quickest way to reach a thousand people. People tell me they like my blogs, though I'm not sure why. I do know that it's going to be a long winter in front of my SAD lamp if I don't find some sort of writing routine. Even if that means Recipe Monday, Cat Video Tuesday, WhatMyKidSaid Wednesday, AwkwardFacebookLive Thursday and TravelPhoto Friday.

Hmmmm maybe that's my new framework.

Anyway, could someone out there please hold me accountable? And also, can you babysit?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Babywearing and guitar playing not so simple...

I should re-title this blog "Twice a Month Whinges about Motherhood and Art" because that's pretty much where my head is. Also, my Red Accordion was essentially stolen a few years ago, and my adventures have not involved a passport recently.

I'm going insane that my new album isn't finished yet. My baby won't sleep and more importantly won't nap, ergo I can't work. I'm getting a little sensitive about people who tell me it must be nice not to work because I do work and I want to work more. I've been completely slammed with current gigs, but I've failed to do the important admin stuff of booking NEW gigs. I missed another important deadline this morning, and so as of November 4, I am unemployed.

My grandfather, a professional trumpeter, warned me about being a self-employed musician. He said, "Remember, after every gig, you are unemployed."

It's not been a bother before, but with children, it's just insert-The-Scream-emoji-seven-times.


Okay. Whinge over. Today I attempted to do the babywearing thing, which I am, in general, in favor of (though I don't quite understand how it is a new thing, as it seems like mothers have been strapping babies to themselves for much of history), but it is just kind of HARD when

1) you have to type at a computer
or
2) you have to play the guitar.
or
3) you have to sing (his wee ears are RIGHT by my throat!)

All of which are the things I need to do. Maybe when he gets more comfortable with the back carry, this will be easier? I managed a little musical work this morning, but my wrists hurt from playing the guitar at the wrong angle.

In the mean time, I'm thinking about doing Facebook live concerts every day this week with the wee boy strapped on.



Thursday, September 29, 2016

Video from Bakersfield on the Ohio



Just a snippet from last month's festival ... sometimes it's fun to sing without playing an instrument and also to pretend that I am an alto.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Babies and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

I made this Facebook post the other day: The only thing keeping Angus quiet this morning is "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" on repeat, so that's how my morning is going. 

It was good for some laughs and some likes, but what I showed a few houseguests a few days later is that it is true! My boys are not quiet creatures. Most of the time they are happy. The "quiet" of which I speak is not the absence of whines, but the absence of chatter. 

We had some friends over recently, however, and Angus was whining. It wasn't loud or heartbreaking, but it was persistent. It took me about 30 minutes before I pulled out my last resort: Alexa, play 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.'

That mournful electric guitar wailed in three quarter time, and Angus closed his mouth, stared pensively out the window and quieted down.
Vasa Museum in Stockholm, Sweden.

Not surprisingly, that song has been in my head for weeks now, as it is my go-to pacifier.

In related news, we are going to Detroit in a few weeks. David has been working in Detroit, and the boys and I are headed up there to make his hotel room less peaceful enjoy room service and see some sights. 

What's going through my head? 
"In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' CathedralThe church bell chimed 'til it rang twenty-nine timesFor each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald."
So my new question is: what do we know about Edmund Fitzgerald tourism? I absolutely want to go to the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral.

Do you think in, like, 400 years they will dig up the remains of the Edmund Fitzgerald (point of information: names of specific ships are italicized)? Will they haul it to shore and build a museum around it like they did in Stockholm at the Vasa Museum?

Cue fun photos from when David and I went to Sweden to see My Morning Jacket five years ago:


Look at us, pre-baby, in Sweden!



Friday, September 23, 2016

Dixie Chicks and the lack of role models.

I got a babysitter last night and went to the Dixie Chicks concert, just like every woman over 35 in this city. And it was SO MUCH FUN! And I am SO TIRED. But my sitter did a magical job of getting both boys to sleep, and I got to hear live music. It was kind of crazy loud, but I had great seats and, wow, do their voices still sound amazing and tight and powerful.

It got me thinking how frustrating it was as a young musician with two X chromosomes to have so few role models. There are plenty of women singers out there, but I grew up watching frontwomen backed by male band members -- even the few famous women artists who were good at playing their own instrument had bands full of men (and even my band is all men! though I can take a solo too... it's hard to take one when you could make Steve Cooley pick one instead).

To get even more specific, there were (and still are) so few women who play more than just average strums on an a guitar. Now, I'm not at all knocking acoustic guitars. I strum one in my own band about half the time. But being able to play leads or even just play above average is surprisingly uncommon in the music industry for women.

(Let's not get caught up in saying things like, but what about Joni Mitchell? Tori Amos? etc etc... Exceptions are not the rule.)

So watching the Dixie Chicks belt out tight harmonies AND play multiple instruments well was just brilliant (as in... Emily actually picks the banjo, not just strums it like a guitar. I mean strumming it like a guitar sounds cool in lots of songs and bands, but any guitar player can memorize a few banjo chords and jump up and down. To pick it properly and in tempo and fast is a challenge!).

I have a lot of young (female) guitar and piano students. I teach them all how to read music and understand chord theory. I've got 8-year-olds who can transpose chord progressions. Like any woman in business, I often explain to them how to be taken seriously by their male co-workers/band members, you need to know your stuff in and out. (How many times has a male band member or sound engineer explained to me how me how my keyboard should be set up? Ugh.) I just wish there were more role models out there for my wee students -- that I could say, "Here are a hundred amazing examples of bluegrass guitar solos, each by a different important female picker."

Anyway, thanks, Dixie Chicks for being not just amazing entertainers, but for being amazing musicians.

Louisville, I'll be emceeing the IrishFest all weekend long. Come say hi! It's at Bellarmine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I'm emceeing a festival!

One of my craziest appearances was when I was maybe 4 months postpartum with my firstborn and did my first public appearance in the United States since he'd been born on a LIVE RADIO program, Kentucky Homefront. I remember being mid-song, playing on zero sleep, feeling that wacky no-sleep high, and thinking who thought it was a good idea to give me a microphone bwahahahahahaha? 


I could sing song lyrics without a second thought, but the chit-chat between? The intro? The talking on live radio? I could barely string words together, and I hadn't spoken to another adult in what felt like a century.

Somehow that is happening again! Except it's not a live radio thing. Instead, some silly people have asked me to emcee an entire festival. Hahahah! The joke's on them!

Come out to the Louisville IrishFest this weekend, and watch me emcee and introduce all the bands, run betwixt stages, and talk into a microphone without having had adult conversation in a looooooong time.

It's like watching a trapeze artist without a net. The tension is the art, people! Come watch me do the art.

Crazy news: the headliner is a band from Scotland that I KNOW BECAUSE I PLAYED IN ANOTHER BAND WITH THE FIDDLE PLAYER WHEN I LIVED IN EDINBURGH AND THEY WERE BOOKED FOR IRISHFEST WITHOUT THE BOOKERS EVEN KNOWING WE KNEW EACH OTHER HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!?


September 24 @ 11am all day & 25 @ noon until 5p at Bellarmine University.


http://louisvilleirishfest.com/

https://www.facebook.com/louisvilleirishfest/ 

PRICES copied from website:


Prices (per day)

Adults

$8

Children (ages 6-12)

$5

Children (Under 6)

FREE

Seniors (65+)

$5

Discount Coupons

$1.00 discount coupons will be available at the following locations:
  • Molly Malone’s (both Locations)
  • O’Shea’s (all Locations)
  • Flanagans
  • Shenanigans
  • O’Connell’s

Organization Discounts

  • Active Military
    FREE admission with ID Card (Immediate family also free)
  • Louisville Zoo Members
    Receive a $1 off discount by showing your Zoo membership card. (This discount applies to all family members.)
  • College Students & Faculty
    Any University/College Student, Faculty, or Staff gets a $1.00 off (must present school I.D.)
  • Current Bellarmine University Students and Faculty 
    FREE admission with valid identification.
  • Dare to Care
    Bring in a canned goods item to donate to Dare to Care Louisville and receive $1.00 off an admission ticket.  (One can per ticket.)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Happy Birthday, Wee Boy! You are completely amazing.

Four years ago today I had the Wee Boy in a beautiful Birthing Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, and can I tell you the honest answer to the question? Yes, I absolutely believe it has been four years! I have enjoyed the last two and a half immensely, but wow are those first 18 months tough. I was just writing in my journal about how much I adore Graham, and I decided to share it with the world because, people, he is the best kid.

No, he still doesn't sleep. That has been the thing about him that causes the most stress. If not-sleeping would guarantee that my Newest Boy would be exactly the same as Graham then I would happily never have him sleep through the night. Because Graham is just so good.

Ode to Graham today? Yes. No holds barred, here, either.





I keep most of my parenting triumphs to myself because I feel guilty about them. I have watched friends with similarly-aged children have a year full of "threenager" behavior: tantrums, illogical arguments, huge emotions, mood swings and general hard emotional times. Today I can say that, though this is all completely normal, I have not seen such behavior in Graham. He has thrown a tantrum, but it has never lasted more than 45 seconds. Seriously. It is bizarre, abnormal and completely wonderful.

He's a thousand times more emotionally intelligent than I am -- something I credit more to David's genes than my parenting. Honestly, none of the credit should go to my parenting. I don't do anything or know anything differently than my friends do. I just got crazy lucky with a child who takes deep breaths and talks about his feelings. It blows my mind daily, and I never take it for granted. While I'm in the kitchen throwing a spoon in frustration, Graham will come in and give me a hug and tell me, "I'm so sorry you're feeling sad. Will a snuggle make you feel better?" And I melt, people, I melt. 

People think I solo parent a lot. I'm pretty sure it's Graham doing the parenting.

Anyway ... his year as a 3-year-old has been amazing. He is a master on that scooter. You've seen him racing down the sidewalks in his unicorn helmet, seemingly without a parent (I'm just behind him a few driveways, trying to keep up), but always stopping at long driveways and alleys and streets to wait for me, me never having to remind him.

He goes off the diving boards and swims to the side by himself.

Venonat
He's a surprisingly good little artist. Lately he's taken to drawing Pokemon (or is it Pokemons?) freehand, and they are really good! Even for a 4-year-old.

He loves working crosswords -- either a kid crossword book or just writing in the letters that my mom tells him to in the newspaper puzzle.

He can even read! Seriously. I mean, it's not David Copperfield (thanks for that visual, Erin), but he can read the BOB books and sounds out words in other books all the time. I've caught him reading to his little brother, and I thought I would explode from warm fuzzies right then and there.

Ugh, I know. I'm so annoying. I'm just so stinkin' proud of that sweet little boy, who always holds the door open for me and who loves so deeply and occasionally actually cries adorable little tears of joy. I am so excited to see what magic age 4 brings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Secrets of my big NYC audition!

Y'all, I was at a callback for a BROADWAY SHOW! My secret dream has always been to be in musical theatre, but two things:

  1. I was pressured into the orchestra pit my junior year of high school, not because I wasn't talented enough to land a role, but because they supposedly couldn't afford to do the show if they didn't have a free keyboard player to be the orchestra. That was a huge blow to my confidence as an actress, even though I'd had multiple leading roles prior to that. (It did mean I got to play 364 pages of Stephen Sondheim piano parts, however, so that was fun!) 
  2. At NYU the musical theatre people were NUTS. Also, I had no fewer than 10 roommates/suitemates who were theatre majors, and I saw the drama firsthand. Oh, wow, was there drama! (Lyzz, remember that time when B****** made up a date, and we saw her at the movies by herself, and then she came home and told us all about how he bought her popcorn and put his arm around her...)
I've done a lot of work with theatre regionally, but it's been mostly musical -- as in behind-the-scenes, like musical directing the Apprentice Show at Actor's Theatre one year or acting as accordion coach for ATL during the Humana Festival. Or helping them with sound effects, recording accordion or musical saw parts. I took an actual role onstage in Cowgirls about 10 years ago, doing a role that seemed to be written for me: a classical pianist, turned honky-tonker/ accordionist, guitarist, yodeler. It was so much fun, but it was also the same time my first record was blowing up and I took a different performance route.

Anyway, it wasn't completely ridiculous for me to send in a video audition when Adam Brodsky texted me a link that ONCE the Musical was looking for an accordionista. I love that show and love that there is no orchestra pit. The actors play multiple instruments onstage and are like a roving band. It's the perfect combination of all my loves. I threw together a clip and a resume and sent it along. No one looked at it, but it felt good to have accomplished something interesting, new and work-related. I moved on.

A few days later, just before I went to bed, I get an email via my website from a casting agent in New York who is looking for female accordionist singer/actors asking would I be interested in submitting a video audition for ONCE the Musical? And, oh, by the way, it needs to be in tomorrow morning. Apparently no one had seen the other video (still 0 views on Youtube; it's a private link; you can't find it), but I got a babysitter the next morning and read the monologue and played the accordion part and sang 16 bars of a song and played the piano parts. Honestly, I thought the music was easy and was amazed they couldn't find anyone in NYC to do the role.

A few hours after I sent in the video, the casting agency asked me to come to NYC for a callback!

I wasn't 100% sure about going, but David said, "OF COURSE YOU WILL GO." 

The thing is, it was for the National Tour of ONCE the Musical, which opens in, like, 3 weeks in Tulsa, and rehearsals start this week, and I have four million gigs this fall and I am surely the only actor they are considering who has kids, and definitely the only one with a baby young enough that he subsists entirely on breastmilk.

But in acting, you can't tell them things like, "Oh, I have kids." Because no producer wants to deal with the ramifications that an actor-with-kids means. Calling in sick because your kid is sick is a little different when it's a sold-out show.

But I went! 

And man, did I feel like superwoman. 

They asked me at the last minute if I happened to play the cello, which I did play in middle school and again for a Days of the New tour. I can read the music and play the notes, but I hadn't touched one in years. A cello is fretless, so it's not something I can just pick up and be perfectly in tune the whole time. The music didn't look complicated, however. I was completely honest and said I used to play, hadn't in years, but would be happy to give it a try.

You know the rest, about how I flew up BY MYSELF, enjoyed a night in a hotel BY MYSELF, ate several meals BY MYSELF and generally had a merry old time. 
What I left out was the audition!

It was so crazy -- like the movies. Actors lined the hallway in a studio full of various productions rehearsing. NYU students had movement class in one room. MAMMA MIA! was rehearsing in another. Phantom of the Opera had reserved the room we were using right after us. 

Everyone had fancy headshots and some people were clearly trying to psych out others with their vast knowledge and serious experience. I also felt so old and so carefree because they all cared so much about everything. I was just there to have fun. 

Several people went in and came out a few minutes later echoed by a thankyouforyourtimeNEXT! kind of vibe. I was pretty much expecting that to happen for me, the last audition of the morning.

But, friends, they asked me to stay! Even after I played a crazy attempt at the cello, apparently my piano skills and accordion skills were worthy (duh- I'm awesome at those!), and my acting wasn't terrible, even with the Czech accent I was asked to attempt, because they asked if I'd stay for the movement audition. (Also, they were super nice and really easy to talk to, and I kind of wanted to go grab a beer with them after the long week I'd had. But business, you know...)

This part was funny because, though I actually love dancing and am also not terrible at it, I am five months postpartum. I have a lot of pelvic pain from PGP and misaligned hips and so much lower back pain and an incredibly weak core from a touch of diastisis recti (abdominal split). My healing has been so slow, and I can still barely turn over in bed at night. And pretty much the entire routine was core and lower body -- no arms, but not in a Riverdance kind of way, more of a you'llhaveaninstrumentinyourarmswhenyoudothisforreal kind of way. The first move was a deep lunge that caused lower back spasms, and I can't believe I made it through the routine without grimacing or falling over. 

Facetiming with the Wee-est boy.
At one point I sort of just laughed to myself and said, "Oh well, it's been fun. I'll just do the best I can." I probably should have attempted some facial expressions, but I was focused on not crying out in pain because, you know, I couldn't mention the whole five months postpartum thing without basically eliminating myself from the competition. 

Anyway, in the end, there were five of us left -- two men, one woman up for an entirely different role, and one woman up for the same role as I was. So basically: 50/50 shot at a ROLE IN A BROADWAY SHOW!

How crazy is that, y'all?!

They had to send the videos of auditions to the director to make a choice. People, the director is JOHN TIFFANY, currently in London directing THE CURSED CHILD! 

Also ... it's a six month tour, and I would have to bring the kids. They are young and portable, so it's not impossible. And David's company would fly him to a different city to meet us every week because he travels for work weekly anyway. But I'd have to hire a travel nanny. I'd have to buy a car. I'd have to put off finishing my new record and touring my new record. But then, in theory, it would be easier to book tours as a Broadway star than as a singer-songwriter. But oh, how exhausting! And Graham's birthday is this week, and I would miss it ... and I missed his birthday last year because of a work thing in Nashville. And the guilt the guilt!

Anyway, I spent the last several days in limbo wondering what life would present. I would have to say yes if they offered it to me because it would be amazingly fun and what an opportunity! And I would be great in that role -- it was written for someone like me.

They said they'd make offers on Monday, and I hadn't heard anything by Tuesday morning. I sent a quick note asking about travel reimbursement when they replied that the role hadn't been cast yet. Yikes! Back to limbo ...

Ultimately I found out last night that the other woman got the role. She was really nice and I had been angry at myself for rushing out to catch the elevator and my flight before I was able to get her contact info. She had more theater experience, was younger and didn't have kids, and I'm pretty sure was a better dancer (I was too busy trying to remember the steps on not enough sleep and didn't look at the others dancing. I also failed to list a bunch of my own theater experience on my resume because it was so long ago!)  (Producers, if you're reading this because something happened and you're considering casting me, IGNORE all my wondering-if-I-can-pull-it-off: I totally can. Because remember, moms can do it ALL. Your mother would agree.)

 But can I explain to you the sigh of relief that I didn't have to make a difficult choice? 

Moral of the story: I made it to the final two choices of a real actual BROADWAY SHOW when I was five months postpartum and in the worst shape of my life, both physically and mentally. So take that, haters (myself, included!). I am basically superwoman.

Now - let's book that Europe tour full of house concerts and festivals and folk clubs next year. Who's in??

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

24 Hours in NYC

I did something pretty crazy last week, and I'll tell you about it in a few days. I'm still processing and waiting on some news. But no matter the outcome, possibly the best thing of all was: 32 hours BY MYSELF.

David travels for work a lot. I don't envy the time on the airplanes (I have had terrible plane anxiety ever since flying into New York the morning of 9/11), but I do envy the alone time. Once you get to an airport, you are completely anonymous -- especially if you have TSA Pre-check like he does, which means you never have to get intimate with an official.
ALL TO MYSELF!

David was actually arriving on literally the same plane that I was flying out on, so I got to greet him at the gate like it was 1998. There was a big airport hug and a smooch and then we high-fived and he went home to relieve the babysitter and take over solo parenting duties.

And then ... I was off. Sailing through the sky with my phone in airplane mode. I wrote a little in my journal. I listened to the new Philippa Gregory novel about Henry VIII's sister. I exhaled somewhat.

When I landed at LaGuardia it was already dark. I treated myself to a taxi because, again, expense account. Also, I'm 38, and there's still no subway directly from that airport.

David had gotten me a fancy hotel room on his travel points at the Sheraton in Times Square. I got to my room and immediately sprawled on that king size bed on the 48th floor and just exhaled. It was soooooooooo nice to be by myself, even though it meant pumping breastmilk every 2-3 hours.

Unfortunately the restaurants I wanted to go to were either too far or closed, so I grabbed some pre-made sushi from a swanky grocery on 7th Avenue, waved goodbye to the lights of Times Square and retreated to the hotel room.

And I slept!! My boobs kept waking me because they were super full, but I managed to go back to sleep. So despite the multiple wakings, they were (mostly) on my terms and it felt sooooo good.

What did I do? It was music-related, and it was really fun. I met some nice people and had a good time. Got to dance and sing and play the piano and chat and laugh. I'd do it again!

I took the subway and bus combination back to the airport because Brigid Kaelin LLC's per diem isn't that fancy. Dinner was a delicious kale salad with a glass of Savvy B, none of which required speaking to a human to order. Ipads at every seat for the win. Even more anonymity!

I'm a bit off my writing game from lack of practice, but I'm gonna get better.

ALL TO MYSELF!


Look at all this Pokemon action in NYC!

Breakfast at Lindy's.

Times Square.

Lunch at Beyond Sushi. All vegetarian.

Dinner at the airport, surprisingly good!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Goodbye, summer. Hello, routine.

I don't like routine, but I'm finding more and more that it's the only way I'll get anything accomplished as a working mother. I have functioned really well with ADHD my entire life -- like, I didn't even realize I had it until I was in my late twenties because I was a straight-A student and successfully owned my own business. But working non-linearly is not working for me anymore when I'm trying to work from home with two children. Completing tasks is just not happening.

I'm so sad to see summer go. I know it's still hot (and I know it's not yet the equinox), but when the pool closes, summer is over. Also, I don't understand why all the summerhaters think they are the only ones. You're definitely the majority of my friends. Only a handful of my friends love the heat. 

Anyway ... I digress. (See? Non-linear...)

I'm attempting to reign in my all-over-the-placeness this fall. Despite my dislike for fall and its impending doom, I have always felt that Rosh Hashanah was the true beginning of the year and the time for resolutions. 

This fall I will re-claim my blog, my business and some sense of control. Laugh if you will, but it's the little things. 

In the mean time, let me reminisce of a wonderful summer gone by too quickly:

Last day of the pool :( 

Look, I'm in the photo!


Birdies gig at a polo match!


He takes short naps, but he looks cute doing it.

My dreamboat husband winning the BIG SPLASH CONTEST!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Social anxiety, book clubs and 10 interesting things about me.

One time I sang live on A Prairie Home Companion in front of thousands of people I could see and millions of radio-listeners I couldn't. I wasn't nervous a smidge. Give me a stage and a microphone, and it's a cocoon of safety and support. Last week I went to a book club with seventeen smart women, and I had to tell everyone my name and I about peed my pants with anxiety and fear.
Interesting fact not listed: I have more freckles than anyone.

It's typical social anxiety, and I can't really explain it. I don't know the number of audience at which I become comfortable again. But if I don't have the frame of a stage, then simply introducing myself is apparently terrifying these days.

Blame it on mental instability post-baby? I don't know, but all I had to do was say my name, my occupation and "one interesting fact" about myself. I was a mess. My friend had to whisper, "You play the musical saw," in my ear when it was obvious I couldn't think of anything to tell the group. After, of course, I thought of lots of interesting facts. I've had all kinds of interesting things happen to me.

And so, from the safety of my blog, I bring you: ten interesting facts about Brigid. At least I think they are interesting. Some of them sound really braggy. Or at least name-droppy. But I think they are still interesting?

  1. I learned how to play the musical saw from my college roommate whose brother Guy Forsyth is a famous Texas musician who also plays the saw really, really well.
  2. When I was 5 years old I was in a national television commercial for a GE microwave. (It's not on YouTube ... yet.)
  3. I can do a back flip off the 3-meter high dive.
  4. I started my first career as Andy Cohen's intern in 1998 at CBS, and my first task was to update his Rolodex. I had everyone's phone number.
  5. I haven't owned a car in five years.
  6. I can write in cursive backwards quickly and easily and have been able to do since I read a biography of Leonardo da Vinci when I was nine and learned about his 'mirror writing.'
  7. I'm ambidextrous.
  8. I've played saw and accordion and sung backing vocals for Elvis Costello three times and in two countries.
  9. I've had breakfast with Walter Cronkite.
  10. I had perfect attendance from Kindergarten all the way through 12th grade.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The impossible-ness of work/life balance; vacuum cleaners; and adorable baby photos.

Still swimming over here, friends, even though I am in over my head. I wish I didn't want to work. I also have to work, of course, but even if I didn't, I wish I didn't want to. My job is so scattered -- the few lessons here, then more lessons there, then back to the original lessons. The booking gigs only to travel to the gigs. The rehearsals and the writing that doesn't get done because I can't seem to schedule my creativity like I used to be able to do. (Unless it's Snapchat filters.)

When I was in practice -- writing daily -- I could pick up a pen and write a song, whether or not inspiration had struck. My mind was sharp, and I could make it work for me.

Now, even when I get a babysitter, I need several hours to play catch up before I can even think about writing. I know from previous experience, and I am afraid to confront this again, that even when I eventually get that time, my craft will not be there for me.

Practice. I would love to practice. The piano, the guitar, writing, songwriting.

In the mean time, what is currently pestering me -- aside from why do I donate to everyone else's album crowdfunding campaigns, but I don't have my own -- is: I WANT A NEW VACUUM CLEANER.

Like, I want a fancy, amazing, make-my-rugs-look-new-again vacuum.

I feel like if I could just get my rugs clean, then I could start fresh, you know?

Anyone out there have a vacuum you love? Can you come over sometime and use it on my rug so that I can be sure I'll also fall in love with it and then purchase my own?

Back to babies. Here's a split-pic of the first Wee Boy (bottom) and the new Wee Boy (top). Aside from their coloring (dark hair and bronze versus light hair and fair), aren't they basically twinsies? I laugh because everyone says the new one looks just like me, and the first one looks just like his father.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

#tbt Birth Story: That time I had a baby in the dining room.

Our 3.5 year old was born in a Birthing Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the majority of births are attended by midwives. This is not the norm in America, but I had no idea how how subversive it would be to have the birth we desired. My first draft of this story was defensive and included far too much detail of research, evidence, and how we came to this choice (believe me, we LOVE science). For now, though, it seems much more pleasant to tell you only what you came to read: the BIRTH story. 


The only photo of me pregnant with #2.
I was around 38 weeks when I started to lose my mucus plug (Have I lost you already? Warning: This story will contain truth! But I will leave out graphic photos.). This was unexpected, seeing as Graham, our 3.5 year old, had been almost two weeks overdue. We figured Baby #2 would surely not arrive before due date.

David was still working in Indianapolis, and on this particular Thursday morning, I’d been leaking some mucus (not amniotic fluid) for a few days, but on Thursday it was pink. I’d had some mild cramps all week, — not Braxton-Hicks — but no contractions. I called Aundria, our primary midwife, who said that the mucus, combined with the many cramps, suggested that I was in early labor. It “could be today, could be next week,” but it was hard to say. I called David and asked him to come home if he didn’t need to be at the client’s office.

For weeks I had been unable to walk because of hip pain. I had been using a cane, battling sciatica and pelvic girdle pain. Requesting David to come home was as much about having someone to get me a glass of water as it was about him being there for a potential birth. But despite all my joint pain, baby was completely fine, just digging into my right hip.

My cramps were not particularly painful, but they were definitely different from Braxton-Hicks. Considering the contractions I’d had from Graham’s birth were 9-out-of-10 on the pain scale from the very first one, I didn’t think these could be the real thing. But they were fairly regular — about 20 minutes apart. 

David was home by noon.

We did not have a baby that day. 

In fact, by Monday morning, despite the cramps coming, picking up and then stopping again, things weren’t much different than before. David went back to Indianapolis, and I went to my 39-week checkup as scheduled. Baby was perfect, and I declined an offer of a cervical check because our midwife thought any stimulation would likely put me into active labor. With David out of town again, I didn’t want to risk it. Even though I was still in pain from PGP, I wanted baby to cook as long as needed.

That evening I was starting to have more regular cramps again, this time about 10 minutes apart. I suspected I would go into full-blown labor that evening. 

At that point I realized our fridge was empty. Thankfully, our wonderful friend Carrie offered to go to the grocery for me to get the protein snacks and electrolyte drinks I’d needed for labor and brought takeout dinner for me and Graham. 

She also commiserated with me when I sobbed. My doula, Lorie, had just called to tell me her other March client was in labor and she was heading to the hospital for the night. Doulas always have backups, of course, but I hadn’t met Lorie’s backup yet. The main reason I had hired a doula was so someone familiar (but not related to me) could be with me in early labor if David was out of town. It seemed that my big fear was exactly what was happening, so I had more than a few tears.

As soon as Lorie told me she was with another client, my contractions slowed down -- perhaps evidence to support that labor slows when adrenaline rushes. David had packed up and headed home from Indianapolis, arriving by midnight. I’d already sent Graham to stay with my parents for the night, so the house was fairly quiet. 

The night was uneventful. I still had mild cramps, but was able to sleep through them for the most part. In the morning, I texted my mom that there was no baby, but could she please bring Graham by for a hug on the way to preschool. I was overly aware that this might be the last chance I had to snuggle him as an only child. We took a selfie to commemorate the occasion. 



I continued to cramp all morning and was texting with Aundria about what to do. Because of my hip pain, I was unable to go for a long walk — generally the first recommendation to get labor moving along. I decided to put on my TENS machine, thinking that might help with the hip pain and allow me to move around. It relieved some of the pain, but I still couldn’t bear any weight on my right leg. Aundria suggested the Miles Circuit as an alternative to walking, so I did that a few times. Cramps would increase, but then decrease just as quickly. 

Lorie called around 7am to let me know she was finished with her other client and on call for me again - relief! 

David worked from home, taking conference call after conference call. He did manage to run up to Breadworks to buy a loaf of country white bread, so that I could have proper “tea and toast” after the birth. This was one of the charming things we remembered about our birth in Scotland, as well as one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten in my life. Toast slathered with thick Irish butter alongside a cup of tea after having practically run a marathon: perfection.

Eventually Aundria said she would come over to check on me and see if we could maybe get things going. She arrived about 2:30 and asked if she could do a cervical check, noting again that it would probably put me into full-blown labor. This time I consented because the stop-start-unknown had been very frustrating. (Can I just pause for a second and note how wonderful it was that Aundria asked permission every single time she needed to touch me? Whether it was to listen to the baby or check my cervix, she always made sure I said, “Yes.”) When she checked me, I was a little more than 3cm dilated. She did a membrane sweep and stretched a bit while I breathed deeply and tried to relax. It only took about a minute, and she then declared that I was 5cm. 

“Thank you!”

“Oh no, honey, you did that,” she reassured me.

She went on about her day, saying we should call her when contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting a minute each — the same standard contraction-timing where women are instructed to go to the hospital.

David and I sat around and decided to watch an episode of Mad Men. (We’re a bit behind in pop culture, so this was somewhere in Season One.) My cramps got regular again not long after Aundria left. I ate a protein bar and drank some water, while bouncing on a yoga ball and enjoying the hip-pain relief that TENS machine provided. It also proved useful for contractions, if I hit the ‘increase’ button just as I felt one coming on. 

About 30 minutes into Mad Men, I felt the cramps getting a bit stronger and more wave-like. My mind shifted into birth mode, and I announced, “I am done with Mad Men.” It was maybe 4:30. 

I moved to the twin bed we’d set up in the dining room and tried to relax, hugging as many pillows as possible and putting my face between them with closed eyes and eye-shades, attempting to shut out the daylight. It suddenly felt like I might be in labor, even though the contractions still weren’t close to the pain I’d felt in early labor with Graham. 

David had been timing them, and by 5pm he noticed I’d had 12 contractions in 60 minutes. He called Lorie and Aundria, who both said they would pack up and head over. 



“Ask if you can fill up the pool, please!” 

Andrea gave the green light for that, but made sure to remind David not to allow me in the water until she was there. I was desperate for the water — water is my happy place — but Aundria didn’t want me to accidentally give birth in the water without her.

Lorie arrived just a few minutes before Aundria, shortly after 6pm. My eyes were shut as I tried to relax on the bed. David had been fussing around in the kitchen in between my yelling for him to, "TOUCH ME, PLEASE," every time I felt a surge coming on. I think he was making crockpot chili for the birth team. He was so great about coming to my side when I needed him though. During my first birth I was an island; this time I was determined to ask for help if I wanted it.


“Lorie’s here,” David announced. I’d been wearing an eyemask because it was so bright in the house — one of those Kentucky days in March that was 82 degrees and sunny.

“Hey, Lorie. Here’s my butt,” I remember telling her. I had been wearing just a sports bra since Aundria had visited, and somehow I figured I should break the ice about my nudity. She laughed and started taking photos on my phone, which I didn’t notice until much later in the evening, after the birth (so grateful for those photos now!). 

Aundria arrived like a ninja around 6:10. David must have immediately asked her if I could get in the tub because I remember him touching me gently and saying I could get in.

“Take off my TENS electrodes please. Are you trying to kill me?” I teased him.

I had one last contraction while holding on to the side of the Rubbermaid trough and then swung my legs over the pool, completely submerging and losing myself in the amazing hot water. 

Water is my happy place. With Graham I’d spent about 8 hours in the birthing pool — three of those hours were pushing, though I ended up birthing him on land because I’d needed to try new positions. It was like flipping a switch, and I felt myself relax so much more than I’d been able to on the bed the minute before.

Water is also one of the biggest reasons I chose to have a home birth. I'd loved the pool in Scotland, but hospitals in my part of the US do not allow you to actually deliver in a tub. Before I go off on a tangent, let me instead tell you how fun it was shopping for a stock tank at Tractor Supply while 8 months pregnant. Here I am about 4 weeks before the new babe was born, in the 150 gallon tank we purchased at a farm store--->

Anyway, into the water I went ...

I relaxed so much underwater that it wasn’t thirty seconds before I had my first contraction in the pool, and with it, I felt my water break. 

I came to the surface and said, “Physics question. If my water breaks while I’m in the tub, does the surface water rise? What would Archimedes say?”

They all laughed.

“Yes,” said someone. (I have no idea whom.) 

I went underwater again to blow bubbles smoothly and relax more during another contraction, and then popped up.

“But I was already in the pool. So wouldn’t the water stay the same? It went from inside me to outside me, but the volume already in the pool didn’t change.”

“Hmmm. I guess so?” David confirmed, and everyone had a good chuckle.

At that point, the contractions began to get stronger, and I was suddenly completely uninterested in any more chatter.

The hot water was amazing, and the trough was big enough to allow me to completely submerge and float. I found that floating on my left side with my knees slightly bent was the most comfortable position, as I could be weightless and fully relax. Oddly, this was exactly the same position I found most helpful during Graham’s birth, so I was especially grateful to have the pool available to me. I left a hand on the edge because I liked being able to squeeze David when I needed.

Because I fully submerged, I couldn’t hear anyone speak — ideal for birthing, as I was able to focus completely on opening and ignore anything else. 

I floated through several more contractions, none of them as painful as the very first ones I had with Graham. About thirty minutes later, I felt them get more acute and pointed in the front of my stomach. I’d had such awful back labor with Graham that this was a new feeling. It wasn’t awful, but it was enough that I said, “Owwwwwwwwwww” through it and them, “Okay, that one really really hurt.” 

My head thought about how long my first labor had been, knowing that I’d only been in active labor for about 2 hours so far this time, and it had only been 30 minutes or so since my water had broken (I didn't actually know any of those times, but I did know that the sun was still up and it had only been a few contractions). I didn’t think I would be able to 6-10 more hours of contractions with that sharp pain.

At this point, I didn’t realize it (though I did notice I was holding Lorie’s hand and not David’s), but David had gone to make a sandwich, and then run upstairs to look for a special baby blanket that we'd received from the NHS after Graham's birth.

“I don’t think I can do this much longer,” I said. “Can you check how far?” I asked Aundria. My thought had gone to if I’m only at 6cm, then this will be impossible.

She checked me and said, “Oh, honey, you’re, like, nine and a half.”

I don’t know if I actually smiled, but I felt my body relax even more, knowing that I had done the hard part. I had one more contraction, during which I grunted, “Oooooooooooo-pen,” and remember hearing Lorie cheer me on with a “Yeah!” 

In the same exhale as that contraction, I felt a switch flip inside. The pain completely stopped, and my body started to push on its own. 

David came back downstairs. While I was underwater, Lorie and Aundria updated him on my progress — totally surprising him as well, since he'd thought we had a few hours left. 

The baby crowned during that first contraction-which-turned-into-a-push. On the next contraction, his head was completely out. Aundria started a stopwatch (I guess water births have a time limit?) and asked me to turn over to my knees. David held my arms, and my body pushed one last time — a little extra effort from me as Aundria had asked me to push hard because he had a nuchal hand (hand/arm up by his face — Graham had the same thing when he was born). 

I felt the midwife’s gloved fingers guiding the shoulders out, and I dramatically screamed, “He’s tearing me in half!” Honestly, I think I only shouted like that because I felt the moment needed a little more drama. It wasn’t actually that bad, but I did feel a pain where her fingers had been; the previous pushes hadn’t hurt at all.

"No, you're not," Aundria replied firmly. And then, as that contraction wound down she said, “I’m going to pass him up to you.” Like a choreographed routine, I leaned back and watched the baby swim up as she had guided him forward.

It had been three minutes and three pushes, and it was only 6:58pm — about two and a half hours of active labor.

I looked down and announced, “It’s a boy!” Graham had insisted on the sex being a surprise, even though we suspected it was a boy. (Lack of morning sickness and same pregnancy cravings I’d had with him.)

Aundria covered the baby with a warm towel while I cradled him close to my chest, enjoying the sunlight from the unexpectedly warm day. She checked all his vitals, listening to his heart and watching his breathing. She held him to do the APGAR and rubbed his back and then gave our perfect baby back to me to snuggle. 

Everyone cheered me on and talked about how quickly he’d come and how hard and fast labor had been. I was amazed that I’d only really had a very few painful contractions there at the end and couldn’t believe how different the delivery had been from Graham’s.

David had called my family right after the new boy was born, but asked that everyone stay away for a couple of hours. At 8:30 my mom brought Graham over to meet his baby brother. We were already snuggled up in our newly-purchased king-size bed, when Lorie walked Graham up the stairs. 

Grandma stayed downstairs, and I can’t remember why. I think it was because there were already two midwives, a doula, and David in our bedroom. Also, my mom and I have a tendency to, um, argue a bit, and I definitely didn’t need any more adrenaline. She’d been kind enough to keep Graham for two nights, and I’m still not sure how she contained herself not seeing the brand new baby. (She came over the next morning to meet him.)

I’ll go into the rest of the evening in more detail in another blog, for those curious about home birth and specific care practices. For now, just know that I was tended to by a Certified Nurse Midwife (who is also a Nurse Practitioner), a Certified Professional Midwife (and former EMT), a doula, and my husband. Most of the birth team stayed for five hours after birth, checking my and my baby’s vitals regularly and making sure we were well and comfortable. 

Baby snuggled up and nursed quickly, not really crying at all. Lorie pumped me with electrolyte drinks, and David remembered the magic loaf of country white bread and toasted it, while Lorie slathered it with a pile of Kerry Gold Irish butter, so I could have my postpartum tea-and-toast. Perfection. I felt like Superwoman. 

We ate a late dinner of that crockpot chili that David had started when my water broke. I snacked on all kinds of protein bars (and more than a few Samoas) piled up next to our bed and tried my best to sleep. Adrenaline kept me up most of the night, but the rest of the family slept peacefully. It was so nice to wake up in my own bed and have our midwife come to the home to check on us for weeks after. I didn't think that level of postpartum care was available in America. I am so happy to have found it.

The midwives who tended to me are looking to open a Birthing Centre in Kentucky to bring this level of choice and care to women here. (Because reproductive CHOICE is a fundamental right for women!) Here's their fundraising page.

Stats:
6:58pm
8 lbs 13.5 oz
21" long

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