Browsing Tag

Birth Story


The wonderful whoops, or Phillip Douglas took forever, or My birth story

March 24, 2015


There’s a section in Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! (superfluous praise here), where she recounts the day she was born. Her parents even make an
appearance to narrate their respective recollections in the audiobook. It’s adorable.Anyway, Amy, my new best friend, encourages people to ask their parents about the day they were born. If you think about it, it’s astounding how many people don’t know their story. My Dad didn’t know his. So, even though I’d heard parts of it before – specifically how they had a great 10th anniversary
celebration and nine months later an unplanned blessing ­­– I asked Rog and
Marilyn to crack open the vault and share the story of the day I came into the

How Mom remembers it …

“I woke up in the middle of the night and felt a little crampy. Instead of staying in bed, I went downstairs to
watch television. There was a stupid movie on called Islands in the Stream. It was about Papa Hemingway … so boring. At
around five in the morning, I heard this gurgling sound and realized that my water was about to break. I called for your Dad, as I figured I would probably have you right there. Your sister came so quickly. We went to the hospital where I had many hours of labor, during which we were trying to pick out boy names since I was sure you were a boy. I believe we settled on Phillip Douglas.  After hours (yes hours with no medication) of labor they finally
decided that they needed to do something to make things happen. I was reluctant, but your Dad told them to go ahead bring in the pit drip. Really? (Sure, it wasn’t him having the labor.) It looked like a foot-long needle that they inserted in the side of my wrist but within a minute all heck broke loose. With constant contractions, I was in delivery within 45 minutes.  I was not aware, but it seemed your heart rate had dropped, so they were anxious to get you delivered. Bing, bang, boom, there you were in all your glory! My beautiful Courtney.”

So, to recap:
I always thought the whole Islands in the Stream thing was why I have an affinity for Dolly and Kenny. Turns out, maybe it’s why I’m a writer.
“Your sister came so quickly” = Kirsten’s is perfect.
Phillip Douglas sounds like someone who signed the Declaration of Independence. Actually … is that someone who signed the Declaration of Independence?“a foot-long needle inserted in the side of my wrist” = thank you, Mom, for my horrendous fear of needles.

“Really? (Sure, it wasn’t him having the labor.)” = homegirl still isn’t over

How Dad remembers it …
“I woke up early that morning.  I found your mother in the family room watching Islands in the Stream about Hemmingway. Her
water had broken, and she felt anxious about getting to the hospital. You were the third baby, and you were the first that they didn’t have to break her water. We thought that we were in for a quick delivery. Hours went by with no progress. Finally at about 4 pm or so, the nurse suggested a Pit drip to get things in gear.  They were concerned that we were coming up on 12 hours after the water had broken and the risk of infection. Of course,
being the brave one in the family, I said yes. Once they started the drip, things went very quickly. Your mother was in pain almost continuously, but she had no anesthetic. You were born at 5:15 or 5:30. You cried right away. You were pretty and pink with all of your fingers and toes. We were beaming with happiness! You and your mom only spent about a day in the hospital and went home. You were the biggest of the babies at 9 pound 2 ounces.  Cute as a bug’s ear and still are!”
A few final thoughts:
Does anyone else find it disturbing that these people barely remember that my heart rate dropped – clearly a near-death experience – during delivery, or the exact time of my birth for that matter, but Islands in the frickin Stream stands out clear as crystal?“You were the third baby, and you were the first that they didn’t have to break her water.” = Why can’t you be more like your brother and sister?

“Of course, being the brave one in the family” = I get my ability to bullshit
from my father.

… The rest is actually pretty sweet. Thanks for having me, Mom and Dad! Best decision you two crazy kids ever made.

Then came Sloppy Joan.

February 23, 2015


Have you heard of six word stories? Literary legend claims the phenomenon began when Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a memorable short story in six words. His read, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Boom. Genius. But in recent years, it’s become a thing. Smith Magazine has these amazing Six Word Memoirs and there are various tumblrs with similar content. It’s one of those down-the-rabbit-hole situations where you start reading with CBS Sunday Morning on in the background and stop when the kids ask for dinner. Anyway, I bring these up because our third little blessing is a three-word story: “hairy and happy.”

We always wanted three kids. Maybe it’s because we’re both children of three-sibling families, or because we have a four-bedroom house … It just always seemed like the “x” on our treasure map. When we told the older two that Mommy had a baby in her belly, Spikey said, without pause, “Let’s call it Sloppy Joan!” Like all nicknames, we should have known it had legs. About a week after the initial announcement, I made sloppy joes for dinner, thinking that was the connection. It wasn’t. And they didn’t eat them. I still don’t know what part of her brain served it up that night. 

I’ve never been a glowing, peaceful pregnant woman. I mean, unless “glowing” means sweaty and “peaceful” means paralyzed by weight and general lethargy. But as I came into the final turn and the homestretch in this, my (most-likely) final pregnancy, I suddenly wanted it to slow down. Realizing s/he would soon be here and then I’d blink and s/he’d be 3, I started baking a layer cake of anxiety. Of course wanting it to last longer sent me flying into labor.

JoJo was born on May 1, and Spike on August 1, so we joked that it would be convenient if Sloppy Joan followed suit on June 1. Unlikely though, we thought, considering my due date was the 8th.  June had a sunny start, and on the 1st we went to my niece’s birthday party. I floated in my brother’s pool for a solid 4 hours. I was a Killer Whale who’d finally been able to be weightless, thanks to the water. Every strained muscle had finally relaxed. At 10:30 that night I laid down and got a shooting contraction. “Ouch.” Five minutes later, another. Then five minutes after that, then three, three, three, three … “Shit!” There’s always that moment on the drive to the hospital, no matter how ready you are, when you think, “I really don’t want to do this,” referring to the human coming out of your body part.

I labored through the night to the tune of a Friends marathon on TVLand. A few quick pushes before the sun rose the next morning and she was here. The first time you set eyes on your child is such an out of body experience. With JoJo, it was like I couldn’t focus on her face. With Spike, I couldn’t comprehend that all that baby came out of me. And with Sloppy Joan it was the hair. Oh, the hair. She was our smallest, coming in at 7 lb. 8 oz. and only 19 ½ inches long, but I’m pretty sure that at least 1 pound of that was her generous dark mane.For reference, depending on your generation, I would liken her to either Dudley Moore or Harry Styles, respectfully. But oh my gosh, was she sweet.

And is sweet. Her smile can light up a bear cave. She’s never quick to cry and very accommodating with her “helpful” big sisters. But to those who don’t know her, the poor girl’s hair will always trump her delightful demeanor. Going to the grocery store on Tuesdays (Senior Citizen Day) was always the worst. “Oh. My. Goodness …” – here come the hands – “Would you look at all that …” – please, no – “I mean, have you ever?” – Get back, Grandma! “Seen such a head of hair?!” And then they would reach out and move the strands, already covering her newborn eyes, across her forehead. It was a weekly occurrence I found simultaneously heart-warming and stomach churning.The third time around is certainly charming. She is a joy and 8 months in, we’re finally getting out of the weeds. And, I mean, this face … c’mon …



Next came Spike

February 18, 2015


There are times it feels like our second daughter just dropped into our lives as a hilarious, button-pushing, booty-shaking, crazy-haired, firecracker of a 2 year old. That’s not to say I don’t remember the night she was born. You tend to recall when a doctor presents a 9-pound Thanksgiving turkey of a baby, tushy toward you. It’s more speaking to how her facetious, force-of-nature persona over the past few years has eclipsed any of her earlier work, including first words and moving on to solids.She was a pudgy, perfect chunk of a little lady, who, after coming into the world, folded her hands gently under her chin and looked at me, almost as if she were inquiring, “What now?” In just 18 months she would be walking proof that God does, indeed, have a great sense of humor, which He sometimes shares through tiny little messengers with sparkly brown eyes.


But first, the name. It began, I suppose, when the meager Mohawk she was born with stalled, and she was left with, for a very long time, a sparse, short strip of strands. Looking back on it now, more than 3 years after the fact, it’s hard to say who started it, but we began calling her Spike. Eventually, after those first follicles gave way to uncontrollable ringlets, it stopped being about her hair, and started being about her general demeanor.You see, Spikey only cuddles when she’s sick, and only says she loves you when you absolutely aren’t expecting it. She wiggles what her mama (me) gave her often, and always to the beat of her own drum. And while the Lord dealt her stubbornness in spades, she’s even more blessed with wit. The kid is funny, man. She’s known, all along, when people are laughing with her and how to work the crowd. She has clown sauce running through her veins, and I’ll be the first to admit, it’s been her saving grace on more than a few occasions where her unwavering will met me at the end of long work day.

Her self-soothing strategy consists of rapidly moving her head back and forth, as if delivering repetitive flashes of a firm and insistent “no” to whoever looks on. A signal that she’ll soon be asleep, the ritual also results in the most matted, bird’s nest of a mane you’ve ever seen. I liken it to a ball of tangled Christmas lights, fresh out of the attic. But her, she’s declared it her signature look. “Leave it crazy, Mama,” she says. “You know, I like it when it’s wild.”








First came JoJo

February 14, 2015

When we got married in 2007, my husband told me he was ready for children whenever, but did not want me to tell him when we were “trying”. No special look, no secret code word, no headstands immediately following. He, “didn’t need that kind of pressure.”

As a magazine journalist living in the mega-not-really metropolis of Indianapolis, I would repeatedly deliver, with a big-city-girl, matter-of-fact flair, a rehearsed monologue in which I denounced the idea of motherhood for at least a year. I needed to focus on my career, enjoy being married, and all that other newlyweds jazz. Naturally, this meant I was pregnant by July, just 10 months after the wedding. I don’t know, it just all of the sudden seemed like a good idea.

Of course, as soon as I saw that conspicuous plus sign staring back at me on not one, not three, but six pregnancy tests, I was terrified at the magnitude of the impending upheaval. Hank was out of town when I found out, so I took a handful of primary-colored Planned Parenthood condoms left over from college and taped them to our bedroom door with a sweet little note from “the bean” to him. It was a list of requests, really. To console him/her when monsters lurked and teach them to be strong, like him. At some point I fell asleep, and woke up to a nervous, crooked smile about 2 inches from my face. “Is this real or, did you get a puppy or something?”

On the night I went into labor, Violet was attacked by a maniac on Private Practice. I was sprawled across my bed, a sunburned Beluga whale, eyes wide open as the unrealistically calm doctor instructed the psychopath how to cut the baby out of her womb (I really hope you’re following this, or else it just sounds terrifying), when my water broke. At 11:20 the next morning I was bearing down under a spotlight that stole the last of my humility, while the rest of the people in the room watched The View between contractions. One minute my doctor was declaring her distaste for Joy Behar and the next, an 8 pound 2 ounce human joined us in the room. It was a girl (a surprise for us) and she arrived looking wise and worrisome. In a fourteen-hour period, I’d gone from watching a baby come into the world, to watching my baby come into the world. I was a mom.

Since we didn’t know the sex of our sweet arrival, we went in with four contenders; two boy names and two girl names. When little Miss showed her precious round face, we were down to two choices. I knew what I wanted, but Hank needed to study her a bit. Frenzied and wired with all the moxie of a freshly minted father, he took off for the nursery, only to return 5 minutes later. “Well?” I poked. “What do you think?” He placed a thumb under the prominent part of his chin and rubbed under his bottom lip with his other four fingers. “See, they all have the same hat on, and …” We had been parents for 2 hours, and now sat together nervously smiling at the sobering realization we couldn’t pick our baby girl out of a pool of her similarly swaddled peers. It was a blow.

The next day Hank left for a bit. He came back with a flowering plant for me, and a small clear vase with a suction cup on it for the baby. It attached to the side of her small, clear crib and cradled a single yellow rose. The nurses gushed and cooed. How cute … her daddy wanted to be the first man to get her a flower. But we knew the truth. We knew those sunny petals were a beacon for picking our little chubby-cheeked chick out of the crowd. Maybe not our proudest achievement as “Mom” and “Dad”, but it was our first, and so it must be mentioned here for posterity.


Almost as soon as she could talk, she began referring to herself as, “JoJo”, an epithet inspired by her middle name. And so it’s stuck, for 5 beautiful years.