Thursday, July 31, 2008

Open Book 2008!!!!!!

Last August, here on our blog, we did an Open Book Challenge (click here and click here --and check out all of our answers on our posts dated from August 27-September 3). It was super fun for us to do, but it took a loooooot of time! A year ago, according to our blog meter, we had around 300 individual readers per day. As of today, we have around 600 but oftentimes our numbers spike much higher (like during the few days before and after Meera's birth when we were getting 1,400 individual reader hits per day). This is just to say that we don't dare do a truly 100% Open Book Challenge this year, but we would still like to keep the spirit of it alive, and --importantly-- we'd like to get an idea of who's reading this here blog!!! Who the heck are all of you people?!! So, even if you've never left a comment here before, please de-lurk now! If you read our blog, please participate in this here Challenge~~~~~~~~~~

The Open Book Challenge is an opportunity for you to ask me/Braydon/us both any question(s) you want. We may not answer every question (simply because there are indeed things we don't make public), but we will do the best we can. The new rule for 2008, though, is this:

No open-ended questions. All questions must be closed-ended questions (i.e., questions that can either be answered with "yes," "no," or some other one-word-only answer).

So, I challenge you, dear readers, to not only ask a question but to come up with a way to frame what might otherwise be an open-ended question as a cleverly worded closed-ended question.

We're going to shut this game down on midnight August 5 -- so be sure to leave your questions here in the 'comments' before then. We'll start posting our answers to your questions on Friday, August 8.

Ask away!

Early Morning in the Sunroom


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Top Ten: K & O in Unsupervised Moments

Being on maternity leave this summer has meant that I've been spending a lot of quality time with not only Meera, but with Kyle and Owen as well. It is great. It is exhausting. And, at times, yes, it is absolutely exasperating. These two are two handfuls. The word "active" is the nice word we've chosen to use for it. And lordy can they ever get into mischief (again, "mischief" is a nice word for it). Separated, they are good as gold (for example, when they are each in their own separate rooms during their 'rest hour' each day they are well behaved and completely trustworthy). But together it is a different story. Mayhem can occur so quickly that you barely have time to realize what's happened once it's happened. You can't leave them alone for five minutes without something crazy going down by the time you're re-entering the room. As we have long said -- 'with these two it isn't just times two, it is times two squared to the exponential degree.' There is some sort of indescribable dynamic between them. Their energy is literally endless, their ability for mischief is boundless. The problem is, now that Meera's in the picture, I've got to leave them alone for five minutes (or sometimes even ten, or -- gasp! -- maybe even fifteen). Her diaper changes are no problem (I got very quick at that with having had twins in diapers not too long ago)... but really now-- how quickly can you clean up, undress, and re-dress a spit-up covered baby? how quickly can you feed a baby (we're talking with a breast here folks, not the fast flow bottle)? how quickly can you get a fussy baby down for a nap??? It is now necessary for quality time with Kyle and Owen to be interrupted by periods of time when they're left alone... to their own devices... without the direct monitoring and supervision of a responsible adult right there in the very same room with them. Now, believe me, I wouldn't leave them unattended by choice... but given the Baby Sister Scenario it is now... unfortunately... unavoidable. Even more frightening is the fact that sometimes K & O need to be left alone in a room for a couple of minutes with Meera. I've got to run to the bathroom, or answer the phone, or get the door, or step outside to check whatever is on the grill for dinner. Now that (the boys. with Meera. alone. without direct supervision. for 120 long seconds.) is a true test of one's capacity for risk-taking. Here are the top ten things my precious angels have done while I've left the room for a few minutes so far this summer:

  1. One day we were just finishing lunch and I had to bring Meera up to her room for a nap. I told K & O to go wash their hands and then play quietly until I came back downstairs. I found them 10 minutes later, in the downstairs bathroom, standing in water, mirror covered with dripping water and soap, drenched hand towels everywhere. Their shirts, shorts, and underpants were soaked and soapy. Their hair was dripping wet and sudsy. Their faces and necks were covered in thick foamy handsoap. They said they were "shaving." ??!?!???

  2. One day I had finally gotten Meera to sleep in her crib. Downstairs I was delighted to find the boys playing nicely in the playroom. On cloud 9 with the status of things in the homestead I grabbed the baby monitor and went to the kitchen to pour myself some coffee. I had just filled the mug when I heard them... through the baby monitor: "Hi Meera! Hi my baby! Did you have a good nap baby girl?!" And then the screeching scream that can only be described as 'newborn being jolted and startled awake by twin 4 year old brothers.' I ran up the stairs to M's room and found them climbing the crib rails, reaching for the mobile, the mobile swinging wildly, K & O trying desperately (but unsuccessfully) to wind it so that the music would play. "WHAT ARE YOU DOOOOOOOOOING????!" I screamed (over Meera's screams) "She is done with her nap and she wants her mobile!" they explained. ??!?!??

  3. One day I was getting Meera cleaned up from a major spit-up explosion. I thought the boys were playing in Kyle's room. I found them later, in me and Braydon's bathroom. Each at one sink. Both faucets blasting hot water. Both sinks clogged... with toothpaste. Toothpaste tube completely emptied (it had been a brand new tube that morning). Each boy industriously scrubbing their respective sinks with toothbrushes, a minty fresh scent filling the steamy bathroom. "Hi Mommy! We're making coffee! And brushing the sinks!" ??!?!???

  4. One day I was nursing Meera upstairs in her room. I noticed that the house was way too quiet. Which worried me greatly. After nursing I came downstairs to find 400 feet of string (yes, 400 feet) strung in circles around and around the interior of the house -- from the playroom, through the foyer, through Braydon's office, through the kitchen, through the family room, through the hall, and back through the playroom again many many many times. Around and around and around. It was strung so tightly that whole pieces of furniture had shifted positions. ??!?!???

  5. One day we were in the family room -- the boys were watching a video and Meera was sitting in her swing. The phone rang. I ran to get it. I had just picked it up when I heard Kyle shouting "No! No! No! No!" Something about it made me very concerned. I ran back to the family room and found Owen standing up, holding Meera in a very awkward (read between the lines: a seriously-dangerous-to-a-newborn) position. Owen turned and saw me then dropped her - quick as a flash - back down to the swing. She fell in a shriveled slump onto the swing, her head/neck completely flopped down, dangling. After the biggest time out he's ever had in his entire life, Owen learned that this sort of thing could kill babies. He explained to me later, very earnestly: "I wanted to hold her. I didn't want to kill her." Rest assured that will never happen again.

  6. Same video/swing scenario as number 5 above, except that I had to leave to go to the bathroom (the phone didn't ring). From the bathroom I hear Meera let out a terrifying cry that sounds like she's truly being tortured. I get out of there as quickly as humanly possible and take off back to the family room. Both boys are hovering over her and the plastic baby toy that had been dangling from the top of the swing is now on Meera's lap. Meera is screaming, with a slight bump on her forehead that is quickly turning red. Kyle, who is frantic, and now crying so hard he is hyperventilating, cries out: "I wanted to pull the toy for her. I didn't want to kill her." Again, you can rest assured that will never happen again.

  7. One day we had just finished breakfast when I heard Meera on the baby monitor and had to go get her up from an early morning nap. I told the boys to put their dishes in the sink and then play nicely while I was upstairs. From upstairs all sounded well down below. I decided to go ahead and nurse her in her room. After nursing and changing Meera's diaper I came back downstairs to discover both boys, standing on their stools, at the kitchen sink, steaming hot sudsy soapy bubbly water overflowing onto the counters and running down onto the floor, soaking kitchen floor and the area rug beneath the sink. Sudsy soapy bubbly beyond belief. Cheerily they exclaimed, "We're washing our dishes for you Mom!" During the clean up of this mess I discovered that they had emptied a solid half of an entire large bottle of dish soap. ??!?!???

  8. One day they were playing their usual--- 'going on a trip on an airplane' (they play this everyday). This involves lining up chairs to be 'the airplane,' packing bags full of as many items from around the house that they can stuff in them, laying down on the floor any blankets they can get their hands on, etc. They usually take every single musical instrument they have on their trips too. (This is highly intricate and elaborate play which always ultimately results in a major clean up project afterwards.) Anyway, on this particular day they added a new twist (which they quickly learned to omit from future versions of this play after they saw my reaction to it)... I was talking on the phone for a few minutes and not really paying attention to what they were doing. When I got off the phone I found them running back and forth, back and forth, back and forth from their 'airplane' to the refrigerator. Half of the contents of the fridge were laid out all over, in, around, on, under the chairs/blankets/bags/musical instruments, etc. Ketchup, pickles, orange juice, eggs, containers of dinner leftovers, deli turkey, carrots, a bottle of breastmilk, maple syrup, a jar of salsa, yogurt, etc.... everywhere. As I came onto the scene I hear them: "Do we have enough snacks?! This is going to be a looooong trip! We need lots of snacks on this airplane! We need to get more snacks!!!" and so on.

  9. One day I was unloading and re-loading the dishwasher in the kitchen. We were in the midst of a heat wave and the AC had been running since early that morning. In the family room the boys were playing 'build a beaver house' (?? --another thing they regularly play-- I understand their fascination with travel, but this beaver house thing I really don't get). Anyway, they were doing what they always do when they play this -- covering furniture with blankets and creating tunnels to crawl through, pretending to "go to the river to catch fish," etc. I finished in the kitchen and went to check in on them. As soon as I walked into the room I felt a blast of hot, humid air, blankets laid out everywhere, and they are nowhere to be seen. I quickly discover that not only have they opened up one of the windows, but have somehow managed to knock the screen out. They have crawled out the window and are standing outside, just below the window, on top of the air conditioning unit beneath it. The air conditioning vent is blowing the hot air from inside the house upward, and they are standing there, very serious looks on their faces, arms outstretched, dripping with sweat. As I approach the window they see me and call out to me loudly (so as to raise their voices above the sound of the AC): "Mommy! Look at us! We're beavers and we're hang-gliding!!!!!"

  10. One day we were coming in from the pool. I told the boys to take off their wet bathing suits and put them in the laundry room while I changed Meera's diaper. I finished with the diaper and couldn't find the boys anywhere in the house. I looked out the window and saw them riding their bicycles up the driveway, waving wildly to a garbage truck that was passing by on the road, and they were fully completely 100% naked. ??!?!???

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Meera's Birth Story

The Birth of Meera Grace, as told by her Mom

I had an incredibly healthy and active pregnancy. Once I got over the initial shock of being pregnant I did what I do in times when I find myself in the midst of the unknown: I started reading as many books as I could on the subject. I read books about pregnancy, pregnancy nutrition and cookbooks, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding. From the start, even during the “morning sickness” stage (what a misnomer – whoever named it that had obviously never been pregnant – more like 'queasy-nauseous-all-day-and-all-night-sickness'), even during the gaining-a-pound-a-day-stage, even during the late pregnancy aches and pains stage, through all the utter exhaustion of being pregnant with twin three year old boys and a demanding career… through it all, it honestly felt really wonderful to me to be experiencing pregnancy.

Having been immersed in the adoption world for so long I have many friends who have gone through infertility. For me, it felt like a real privilege to be able to experience what it is to be pregnant. It also felt great to be, for once, doing something so physical. Having been immersed in the world of academe for so long it was nice to finally be focused so much on the body instead of the mind. The timing was perfect in this sense; I had spent the past thirteen years working toward the goal of tenure, and in the second month of my pregnancy I was officially granted tenure. Two weeks later, trying not to laugh, I promptly announced that I was pregnant and would be taking the following fall semester off. It felt like I had been given license to come up for air and just breathe – and the pregnancy made the breathing feel even more real to me, even more sensational. The third trimester was, for me, the best. I hadn’t really ‘shown’ until then, but starting around February I began to be visibly and obviously pregnant. I felt more alive than I’ve ever felt. I loved moving and living in the world as a very pregnant woman. Most people I encountered in those final few weeks commented to me about my appearance and my level of activity. Everyone said I "looked great, for being so pregnant" (which I decided early on to just take as a compliment!), and everyone raved about how active I was (which I ignored when I sensed that they meant I should really just sit down with my feet up). I am glad that I was able to keep the blog during my pregnancy because it will help me to remember all that we did, and some of what I was feeling, during those nine months.

I was determined that if at all possible, I wanted to have as natural a childbirth as I could. I knew, however, that I wanted to do it in a hospital. It felt safer to me that way. Braydon was fully on board with this. All along we felt very comfortable and confident with my OB doctors. And we had a wonderful experience with our Lamaze class. My belly was always relatively small, but as the due date grew closer I began to appear more and more “ready to pop!” Everyone -- from close friends and family, to strangers on the street, to my obstetricians -- was telling me that I was “all baby!” I had no serious pregnancy complications, no real health problems, etc. Everything seemed on target for a natural delivery either on or before the due date. The due date came and passed and the days started to drag forward. I worked hard to assure my doctors that I did not want to be induced unless it was an absolute last resort. I was showing all the normal first-time-pregnancy signs of impending labor, and we were all hopeful that I’d go into labor on my own soon. I remember thinking each day that “this was the day!” and then thinking each night, “o.k., this is really the night!” I was so hopeful that it would happen at any moment. And so disappointed after each moment that it hadn’t.

When I was fully two weeks past my due date I started to feel in my heart that I was not going to go into labor. It was no surprise to me when Braydon and I sat in my doctor’s office and were told, in no uncertain terms, that “the standards of practice of the American Obstetrics Association will not allow for us to let this go any longer.” They wanted me to go straight to the hospital to be induced, but I asked if I could go home and have dinner with my boys first and they reluctantly agreed. So, I was to be induced beginning at 8:00 that night. I remember I felt very foggy and hazy for the next few hours. Braydon and I went to the grocery store so that I could buy what I needed to make one of our favorite family dinners that night. We arrived home and I told Kyle and Owen the plan. We ate pasta with turkey sausage and broccoli rabe for dinner and – trying to prepare the boys – we talked at length about what would happen over the next few days. My parents were there already, thank God, and I felt completely comfortable about leaving the boys at home with them while Braydon and I left for the hospital.

We had barely made it out of the driveway before the tears started to pour down my face and down my neck, soaking the collar of my shirt. I was so deeply sad that I would not have the natural childbirth that I had hoped for. I felt like everything I had prepared for was being pulled away from me. I did not want it this way. I remember saying over and over to Braydon: “This wasn’t supposed to be this way. This is not how it is supposed to be.” I needed to mourn that loss before I could move on in my mind. About halfway to the hospital I remember driving up a hill, the evening sky was glorious, and I looked out across corn fields of deep spring almost summer. Suddenly it all looked so incredibly, incredibly beautiful to me. I looked over at Braydon and suddenly felt such a huge relief come over me. I wiped my tears and I felt myself move forward to a new place. It occurred to me that we’d be bringing a new baby home the next time I was on this road. I remembered deep in my soul how very much I had been longing for a newborn baby. I was suddenly so very excited about my baby. And for the first time, ever, it felt truly real to me: that we were going to have a sweet baby girl that would be all ours and that we were giving our precious boys the sibling that they so desperately wanted. I remembered the feeling in my heart that had become so familiar: that this baby was the completion of our family, that it was exactly right no matter how she came to us, and that we were so ready to begin this next chapter of our lives.

When we arrived at the hospital I felt confident and strong and peaceful.

And that – confident and strong and peaceful – is how I felt for each and every hour of the next several days.

I remember not knowing what to expect when they started the Pitocin drip into my IV at noon the next day. I had been told by many friends how horribly painful and just plain terrible Pitocin inductions were. My mother had gone through it when she was in labor with me, and I had heard the horror stories my whole life. My doctor (who knew how committed I was to a natural labor and delivery) had explicitly explained to me to “prepare myself” because “being induced is exponentially more painful than a natural labor” and that it was “very unlikely that I wouldn’t be wanting an epidural.” I understood. I knew I had a very high pain tolerance. But I was expecting excruciating mind-numbing pain. The mind-numbing part is what I was waiting for – I had made the decision, and had told Braydon, that I wanted to be as fully present as possible for the entire experience. When the pain became mind-numbing – truly mind numbing so that I was not able to be present and engaged in what was happening – that then is when I’d be ready for pain drugs. That time never came.

I remember the nurses and doctors and residents and medical students asking me over and over if I was ready for the epidural. When I’d refuse it they’d offer me other drugs, and I’d refuse. I was told numerous times that they’d never seen a woman labor on this high level of Pitocin without drugs. I remember nurses coming in “just to see this!”, as if I was some sort of case to be documented in the medical archives. I remember one nurse telling me that she’d been an OB Nurse for twenty years and had never witnessed a woman on Pitocin this high without an epidural. Another nurse told me that she didn’t think it had ever happened in the history of that hospital. Finally my doctor asked me why I wasn’t taking the epidural. I remember saying, “Because I’m waiting for it to get really bad.” He said, “This is as bad as it is going to get! It doesn’t get any more painful than this!” I was completely shocked. I remember saying, “Oh! Then I’m just going to keep going!”

I have never been more fully present for any experience in my entire life. Although now it is all sort of blurry what I remember most was how real it was and how much in it I was. I know it sounds strange, but I genuinely loved the experience of it – the feeling of the contraction coming, of the wave rising, of the intensity building, of the pain expanding and then diffusing a bit before it would quickly spike back up again. I was so focused. I remember saying to Braydon, “I am so grateful to be able to experience this.” I remember feeling truly that way; like it was such a gift to be able to do this. Throughout the entire time I felt completely connected to Braydon, fully trusting of him, entirely in tune with him. I remember my mom being totally surprised with how I was doing this labor. I remember my dad staying in the room for long stretches of time and making me laugh. I loved that Braydon and my parents could see me doing this, because I felt that it was the truest representation of me.

I remember feeling thankful for everyone and everything in the room. Not just my parents and Braydon, but also the doctors and nurses and the equipment and all the monitors and machines and the big windows and the pillows and the ice water. I felt so glad to be in a place that felt so safe to me because it allowed me – I think for the first time in my entire life – to truly focus entirely and completely on myself for an extended period of time.

At one point they lost the baby’s heart rate. Her heart rate had shown some signs of distress, but at this point they actually lost it completely. Doctors and nurses came running and the room was suddenly full. My body was being jolted and prodded and tugged at. I don’t remember much about it except that I was fully aware of what was happening and I was deeply afraid. I remember my mother on one side of me holding one hand and Braydon on the other side holding my other hand. I remember staring up into Braydon’s eyes on my left side. Our eyes locked for the entire time and he was reassuring me that it was all o.k. Once they got the heart rate back and things settled down I broke down into a heavy, heavy sobbing cry. I was scared the baby had died, and was able to feel now – as I had not before – how completely I wanted this baby to live; how completely I would be devastated if she didn’t make it; how deeply I already loved my baby girl. It was a turning point.

After having been in the hospital for over 24 hours and having been on hard-core Pitocin for 9 hours I knew that something was wrong. I remember saying to Braydon, “I feel like we’re on the road headed straight to a c-section.” I remember I said it calmly and peacefully. I was o.k. with it. I had turned a corner. Nothing now mattered except that she was born and that she was alive to be held in my arms.

Lying on the operating table was surreal. I remember thinking it was just as I had seen it on Discovery Health channel television shows. Except that I wasn’t scared. I was very much at peace with it all. I knew Braydon would want to watch and I remember being surprised with myself when I told him to stand up – to not worry about me – and to just watch and see. I was so glad for him that he could be able to do that. I could hear the snapping of his camera above my head. I could hear everything that everyone was saying. I heard my doctor when he discovered and pointed out the inside of my pelvis to the residents and explained to them the problem: my pelvis was misshapen and my body would never be able to deliver any baby vaginally. And I heard him as he had them inspecting the placenta: that it was severely depleted and the baby would not have made it much longer. These things came as a huge wave of relief to me as I laid there feeling them working on my numb body and as I then heard my baby screaming. I felt utterly at peace.

I remember telling Braydon to stay with our baby, that I was fine. I watched as he moved out of my line of vision to see her. I remember hearing her cry, so loud. It filled me with such relief and such joy and such completion.

Meera Grace.

I remember in the recovery room when the pediatric nurse brought her to me. I held her for the first time and it felt so completely right. I look at pictures from that moment now and am shocked by how little the photos resemble my memory of it. To me she looked like the most perfectly beautiful thing I had ever seen and I felt like the strongest woman that had ever lived and my connection to Braydon felt 100% pure and intact. It was the exact same way that I had experienced my first meeting of Kyle and Owen. Exactly the same only completely different.

Meera was sweet and mellow and good right from the start. I remember feeling blessed. And I have been feeling blessed by her ever since. She is two months old today and my baby girl is everything – absolutely everything – I had hoped for and longed for.

The birth of Meera Grace as told by her Papi

The birth of Meera Grace Johnson-McCormick

After Meera was born, I took two weeks off from work to spend with my family and it was wonderful. On the eve before going back to work full time, I stood at the crib downstairs and was changing Meera’s diaper. She was loving it – she loves hanging out with no diaper on and was kicking and waving her arms. Then she looked up and me and saw me. And I started crying in a deep, deep way.

There is no mystery to life when you stand there like that, your totally dependant baby looking up at you. Life is just that, the love you feel for your family when everyone is at the most vulnerable.


In August 2007, when I ran into the grocery store to get the pregnancy test, and event when it came back positive and we were so excited, I never could have imagined standing there in that moment.

In early May the Doctor had said that the baby might come any time, but that Heather might also go up to her due date. Heather had really really wanted to get past the boys birthday before the baby came. Not just the party, which was great, but also their birthday. She wanted it to be their birthday and not overshadowed by the baby’s arrival.

When we got through May 8th, we were all ready. All of us. It felt like the baby would arrive any second. Heather started to have some more Braxton Hicks, but nothing. Then the due date came and went. We were all starting to feel very anxious and ready for the baby to come, We went out to lunch at Panera on a Saturday and the boys made friends with a little boy when we were sitting outside. Heather started to have more consistent, but weaker contractions. We thought it would be that night. It was not.

On May 20th, we had an appointment with the Doctor who told us she was not dilated or anything – nothing. We went ahead and made an appointment for the next week, thinking that it was silly to do so. The week came and went – some minor contractions, but nothing really. The boys were struggling with waiting. They expressed over and over how they wanted to baby to be there and why wouldn’t she just come out. Heather and I could totally understand. The house was ready, we were ready.

It felt so surreal. Almost like we were not going to have a baby. We went about our life, on hold. Everything on hold. We didn’t go anywhere, we didn’t do anything. We didn’t even go an hour away. But it also didn’t feel like it was going to happen.

And we wanted it to be natural. That her body would kick into gear on its own. That the baby would be delivered vaginally that Heather would labor like women throughout history.


The weekend before, Don and Janet had decided they couldn’t wait any longer and they came down. The plan had been for them to get the call and make the 8 hour drive, but with the 2 week wait, it was time. And it was good they did.

On May 27th we went to the follow up OB appointment. Nothing was happening. They put Heather on a NST (Non-invasive stress test), where they monitor the baby’s heart and the contractions. Heather’s were about 20 min apart, but not too strong. And they would stop; it wasn’t the real thing.

The Doctors determined that it was time to move things along, that we couldn’t wait anymore. In the OB practice there are several Doctors and we had been playing them a bit against each other to keep from them insisting that Heather be induced. They were actually surprised it had gone this far. We were told to be at St Luke’s at 8 PM.

We went home and got ready. It felt so strange. That the baby was coming, it was sure now. There was no stopping it. We were excited, but Heather was a little sad that she was going to be induced. We talked about it and she started to feel better.

We had a great dinner with the boys and got them to bed.


After everything was ready - Don and Janet at the house, everything packed: clothes, comfy stuff, snacks, pillows, computer (for blogging) and camera, we got in the volvo and drove off around 7:30. We arrived and 8 and went straight in. At 42 weeks, Heather was so big and uncomfortable, she kind of waddled in. It was a clear, beautiful night and we went from the little parking garage into the main lobby and to the 3rd floor for the baby center. The hospital seemed so quiet.

But the maternity ward was full, so they sent us to overflow. The nurse took us down the hall. It was an older section of the hospital and weirdly quiet. There was another couple being admitted as well – they spoke only Spanish, but we could tell they were nervous too. We were in a private room and they were in a different private room. We sat and hung out.

The nurse made Heather wear the hospital gown, Heather didn’t want to, but put it on, and rebelliously put on a sweat shirt over it too – you go girl!

We waited for quite some time, it was a full moon and the ward was totally full. Finally around 1 AM, they were ready to get rolling: give Heather some medicine internally to soften her cervix and maybe even start labor. The discomfort was almost immediate – and it was pretty intense. It was time for Tylenol with Codeine to help. I slept a bit, Heather dozed a little, but not much in general.

In the morning, we were moved back into the main part of the baby center – into our labor room. The nurses were great – so nice, so helpful – so thoughtful. Heather’s first Doctor, Chris wanted things to start slowly – the first round of medicine, Cervidil, had not done anything – Heather was barely 1 CM dilated. Around noon, he started the pitocin to induce labor at 2 ml/hr.

A little while later, Dr. Ron Kriner took over (shift change) and wanted to get things rolling much more aggressively. He ramped up the IV drip. The contractions started immediately and were pretty intense. The nurses had the external baby monitors on. They increased the dosage every 15 minutes from 2 ml/h all the way up to 28 ml/hr.

The thing about pitocin, is that since the labor is artificial, the body does not create endorphins to reduce the pain – which is a long way of saying that being induced is really painful. But Heather took no pain killer – no medicine at all. That is really incredible. At one point the nurse looked at her and asked her if she wanted anything for the pain. She said no and the nurse said “Honey, I can’t tell you what to feel, but most women would be screaming right now!” Heather was totally focused. We worked on the Lamaze breathing to keep her loose. I held her hand and coached her to relax and breathe.

The only thing she ate the whole time was Italian ice (the lemonade, not the red stuff). There was a little fridge in the main room of the baby center. They had that in there. Don and Janet brought me Panera for lunch, but Heather did not have anything. For supper Don went out and got Red Robin – I had a bacon cheeseburger – but I didn’t taste it.

Since St Lukes is a teaching hospital, and Heather was definitely the most interesting thing going on there that night, there were a number of residents and medical students coming and going. And in addition to that there was a new computer system being installed. Now – some people would have balked at that – but we like having all the extra attention!

Alex took the boys for the day and Janet and Don came to the hospital. They were so supportive the whole time. Janet would standby with Heather while I took a break or ate something.

After 9 hours – yes, 9 hours of pitocin induced labor without drugs of any kind – the Doctor was pretty sure it was going to be a Cesarean delivery. I checked in with him – with the anesthesiologist, residences and medical student in tow – and grilled him on why we should or should not. Nobody should take surgery lightly and I wanted to make sure it was the right thing. His concern was that after 9 hours there had been NO real progress in the labor, and that counter-intuitively to me, the baby’s heartbeat was too stable, meaning she was getting tired – and that was not good. It was a round 10 PM on the 28th. Things moved very fast once the decision was made.

Heather was unbelievable, totally amazing. I knew she could do it, there was never any doubt in my mind. And she was glad she had labored, but now it was time to have our baby.


After Heather got ready and they gave me scrubs to change into, they jokingly asked Heather if she wanted to walk down or ride down to the operating room. She didn’t realize it was a joke and told them she wanted to walk. They were kind of taken aback, but went with the flow. What a crazy entourage that was! Heather leading the way, pushing her IV stand with several nurses, residents, medical students tagging along pushing the gurney.

They stopped me outside the operating room and gave me a hat and facemask to put on. Heather disappeared into the OR. I waited for what felt like forever. A janitor walked by pushing a mop and bucket and cheerfully said hello and wished me good luck. I was worried they had started with out me.

Finally the nurse ushered me into the OR. I hadn’t been able to figure out how to get my facemask on, so she helped me. It was all hurry hurry hurry. When I entered the room the tone was very serious – all business. The lightness and relaxed atmosphere from before was gone.

In the center of the room Heather lay on the table with a large blue screen/shield just below her chin like a fan, blocking her view. She had a operating hair net/hat on. Above her head the anesthesiologist stood a few feet away talking to his resident. There was a little stool for me on Heather’s right side next to her head, also behind the screen. There was Dr Kriner on the left by Heather’s abdomen, Dr. Puja Gupta (a resident) on her right by her abdomen, and Carl the medical student by Heather’s right leg. There were several nurses around as well.

I sat down and said hi to Heather. She looked up at me. If the moment hadn’t been so intense and fast, I would have been thinking about how lonely she looked. But I also felt so incredibly connected to her, it was amazing. Although she was the one being operated on, I felt like we were really there together, doing this together.

It was 10:19 PM. Within maybe 20 seconds of my arrival I heard the Doctor say “start” and they were off. I stood up to look over the screen. I bent down to ask Heather if she minded that I look – I didn’t want her to feel left out. She just told me to tell her what was happening. I also took out the camera. They told me to wait to take pictures – apparently they did not want me taking pictures of the incision. I watched them make the incision. They pulled up on the one side and down on the other. I heard the doctors calling out instructions to each other. One hand, two hands, four hands.

I kept bending down and telling her what I saw. I kept saying it was incredible. She couldn’t move anything and she was so calm and doing great.

I saw Meera’s head. It was just sitting inside like she was napping. It was perfect. They tucked their hands under her head and began to pull. They pulled her pretty hard and she started to come out. Then she was all the way out and they were cutting her umbilical. They held her up and the Doctor told me to take a picture. I had already taken about 50 before he said that. From the time of the first incision to the time she came out it was 55 seconds. She was born at 10:21.


Meera’s body was just a full blown baby. It was incredible. She was a little blue. The Doctor held her up by her neck and body. Her little arms and legs shook a bit. And then she cried. She was alive and here! It was the most unbelievable sound I have ever heard. Pure and perfect. I heard her draw in her breath and let it out announcing her arrival. She drew short little breaths and cried. I told Heather she was perfect. I will forever remember the exact sound. Her cry sounds different now than it did then.

They handed the baby to the nurse and she rushed her off to the warmer, I conferred with Heather and went after her. I felt bad leaving Heather there, but I felt like I needed to be with our baby. Heather felt the exact same way.

Meera was under the warmer, crying and crying. And when I got there, and talked to her, she stopped. The nurse had me cut the rest of the umbilical (not for any medical reason) and got her toweled off. I took pictures of this perfect little baby. I put my hand on her little chest and reassured her. They swaddled her and we went back in to the OR with Heather.

The nurse handed me Meera and I held her for the first time. I sat on the stool next to Heather and asked the nurse to take a picture of us. Heather started to cry when she saw the baby. It was incredible. I did not cry, but am starting to as I write this.

They took Meera back out and put her in a little incubator/warmer and started to roll her to the nursery. I went with her, and they finished sewing Heather up and took her to recovery. We rolled out into the main hallway, Meera, me and the nurse. We saw MorMor and MorFar who were thrilled to see the baby. I went into the nursery with my baby girl.


They rolled Heather out of the OR and into recovery. I saw her go through the hallway, but I was with the baby. I ran out and met her in recovery. When I got there, it was weird, her whole body had the shakes and she was so pale. It was a little unnerving except that Heather was in a great mood and was doing great. I held her hand and kissed her. She had done great.

It was around midnight when she had stopped shaking enough that they brought Meera in. She was crying and Meera nursed for the first time, it was amazing to see mother and daughter in that moment – the first time for her to eat. They both did it perfectly. Even with the wires and the exhaustion, Heather was incredibly beautiful in that moment.

During labor, I had talked it over with the nurse and they gave us the best, most private, largest recovery room in the ward. And it had a nice view of the back – all trees and green. It was perfect. Around 2 am we rolled in there and they took the baby back to the nursery and Heather got a little sleep and so did I. Turns out I can sleep through a lot, because they brought the baby in for a couple feedings and I slept through it.

It was wonderful and magical, even though our dreams of a natural childbirth had not come to pass. And it’s just as well that we were in a hospital since it turns out that Heather’s pelvis is misshapen and the Doctor said she would never have and will never be able to have a baby vaginally.


The next day Kyle and Owen came in and saw their sister for the first time. They held her and loved her from the moment they saw her – it was incredible.

A couple days later we were discharged. We rolled out of the hospital – Heather in the mandatory wheel chair and went home, a family of 5.


The birth of Meera Grace is one of the most incredible and wonderful things I have witnessed and one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Different than adopting Kyle and Owen and no less powerful and wonderful. We are so lucky that everything went so well and that everyone is healthy and happy. We have the best family in the world.

Meera Gets a Bath

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Near Perfect Summer Day

We had a great day today. And I don't even have to write about it because in addition to giving us a great day together, the Petsch family has given me a night off from blogging too! Aren't they the best?! ;) Their post is so perfect there is no need to duplicate it, so just click here. Not only did we get to hang out with Lori, Shelli, and Zoe -- some of our favorite people on the planet -- but Auntie Sabrina came up from Philly for the day too. Kyle and Owen seem to become more and more over-the-top enamored with her each time they see her!!!!!! It is really nice for B & me whenever Sabrina comes to visit by herself and we don't have to 'share' our time with her with other extended family. It is especially nice to watch K & O developing such a great relationship with their aunt... a really beautiful thing for us to see. And watching K & O play with Zoe today was awesome -- it is sooooo fun to see them play together. It is like watching three little spark plugs all ignite at once and buzz around like crazy bouncing off of each other and sending sparks flying all over the place. All three of the Johnson-McCormick bambinos were sound asleep in their beds by 7:45 tonight -- exhausted from a near perfect summer day (would have been perfect if the weather had cooperated---- the thunderstorms sorta disqualify it from being a perfect day). Days like this are so sweet. I wish I could capture them and store them up in glass jars to take off the shelf and open up months later on bleak winter days.

[posted by Heather (even though it says this is posted by Braydon) -using Braydon's computer tonight because he's using mine]

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pesto Season

We have a summer tradition of eating pesto for dinner about once a week during the summer. I grow basil plants in pots and make pesto whenever the plants need to be cut back (which is usually about once a week during July and August). I've been doing this for many years -- since long before K & O were even a glimmer in our eye. Braydon and I love pesto in the summer. And now the boys love it too. It is always sad for us as the basil plants fizzle out in September. Then we wait all fall/winter/spring for Pesto Season to begin again. Right now we're at the height of our pesto eating craze (eating it at least every seven days) and we just can't get enough of it. For the boys, though, part of the love-of-pesto is actually -- at the root of it -- their love of parmesan cheese. If we'd let them, they'd eat fresh parmesan by the poundful. The sharper the better. The more aged the better. The more expensive the better (thus why we don't let them eat it by the poundful). They've been lovin' the parm since their first Pesto Season (summer of 2005, their first summer with us at home, when they were 1-year-olds toddling around with chunks of pungeant parmesan in their fists). Now the big deal for them is that we let them grate the fresh parm onto their pesto themselves. They grate it and grate it until their piles of parmesan are almost as big as their piles of pesto pasta beneath it. Meera, for now at least, just watches from her Bjorn chair perched atop the dinner table as the four of us eat. But a year from now we fully expect her to be loving Pesto Season just like the rest of us. (P.S. Just because you might just ask... the salad is another summer fav here: romaine, fresh peaches, and croutons tossed with Italian vinaigrette).

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ultimate Act of Love

Kyle's special lovey, his 'Honey Bunny,' has been with Kyle since we gave it to him the day we met him. He slept with 'Hon Bun' that first night in the hotel in Haiti... and has never slept without it since. He's also never sat in an airplane without it, never taken a nap without it, never driven home from a weekend away without it, never been sick on the couch without it, etc., etc., etc. Every morning when he wakes up he carries Honey Bunny around the house with him for the first few minutes until he's acclimated to the day. So, when he came downstairs, found Meera in her chair, and then put his Hon Bun on Meera's lap for her to "hold," it was really the ultimate act of love.

Haiti T-Shirts

For anyone interested in the Haiti t-shirts (in the photos from the Haiti Reunion post), I got them from -- here are the links:

Haitian Roots:

Preserve Haiti:

I 'heart' Haiti:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Haiti Reunion 2008

This past weekend we went to the 5th Annual Pennsylvania Haitian Adoptive Families Reunion -- We've been waiting a whole year for this (since attending it last year; click here). In December we hosted a mid-year Christmas Party (click here), but the summer reunion is the real deal... and a year is a long time to wait!!! 14 families attended this year and it was just as amazing as we had been anticipating it to be for the past twelve months! In addition to the reunion being a huge highlight of the year for us (truly: a Top Ten day of the year for our family, for sure), it was also our first little trip as a family of five. A long weekend away. Everyone kept telling me that I was absolutely crazy to take a seven week old baby on a trip like this, but we were determined to not miss the Haiti Reunion no matter what. Meera travelled really well -- the long road trip, the 2-night hotel stay, restaurants, etc. Despite the fact that the reunion day was super hot (like, 100 degrees and humid with very little shade), she did great (and was held by just about everyone there it seems!) As for Kyle and Owen... well, I just don't even know how to state how heavenly this reunion day was for them. They love the Haiti Reunion. Even though they are the youngest kids there (there were five 4 year olds there this year -- all born within a month of each other! and two of the other 4 year olds are twin girls that were adopted from the same orphanage as K & O!), they jump right in and are taken right in. Watching these kids play, you'd never in a million years think that they only see each other once/twice a year. There is something special about it. Really, really special. And I've got to say, it is really nice to be around other families like ours... it feels like a nice deep sigh of relief. There is something really nice about being in the 'norm' for a day. The biggest thing I came away with this year, though, was the visceral first-hand reminder of the spirit of our (all of our) adopted Haitian kids. I hesitate to make huge generalizations, and of course there are always exceptions to the rule, but it cannot be denied: these Haitian-American children have a gusto in them like none other. There is a certain life force inside of them that just jumps out at you -- especially when you see them all together and notice that it isn't just a couple of them, it is all of them, it is a pattern. And it cannot be a coincidence. These kids are FULL OF IT (full of a spirit, a tenacity, an intensity, a fun-loving-life-affirming-sheer-determination-muscles-rippling-larger-than-life spirit) that just cannot be explained. It is a miracle to witness. A true miracle. For Kyle and Owen, the comfort and joy they find in their "Haiti friends" is absolutely indescribable. They play with them like they play with no others. And the comfort and joy that Braydon and I find in knowing that our fellow families are as committed as we are to getting together each year is indescribable too. There is a certain solace in it that is invaluable. There is just nothing like attending this reunion -- nothing. The power of it runs so deep that it will keep us going 'till Christmas when we host the mid-year party again. Even still... next year's reunion can't come quick enough.

P.S. Some of the reunion attendees are readers of this blog-- a big hello and thank you to you all! And an especially big thank you to Melissa and Monica for organizing another great reunion!

For more, click here and here.

Haiti Reunion Photos I


Haiti Reunion Photos II