Mothering a newborn is being involuntarily tethered to an endless game of hot potato where "cold" entails varying volumes and shrieks of distress. I'm telling you, this game goes on all night and day. All of you "pregnant for the first time" friends: Just wait. The first nine months were a comparative breeze. The mother of an 18 month old who I met on the subway said that the first couple of months were the hardest and that it all goes up from there. Just hold strong. My mom told me today that adult children are the hardest. I guess I have the rest of my life to look forward to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm obsessed with this kid. I'm posting these gifs just so they're easy to access from my desk at work.


mable is here: the hippies saved us.

It feels difficult to convince anyone of the virtues of a home birth experience spanning a full Monday-Friday workweek and lasting over 96 hours, but here I am and I'm going to try.

Contractions, for me, were a horizontal band of burning muscle centered across my back dimples combined with a dull ache in my lower torso; often punctuated with a sharp ice-pick jabs where my ovaries are. People say they're like bad period cramps, but period cramps don't come in any sort of rhythm or cycle. You just can't turn these things off, they aren't sporadic, and you have a few seconds warning every time before they come. I wonder how many thousands of contractions I breathed through.

My first hint of them crept up and kept me awake for a few hours on Sunday night. I knew they were no big deal and went to bed when I could. Monday morning, I headed to work along with Wayne, just to pick up a hard drive to help me potentially work from home. We walked all around Manhattan for the rest of the afternoon, running errands and stopping for lunch, my uterus contracting here and there. In the early evening at an appointment with our midwife, she noticed how tired I seemed.

"I guess you'll be sleeping well tonight!"

Of course I woke up two hours after bedtime with contractions coming every 7 to 8 minutes.

Prodromal labor, like mine, that dipped and escalated and dipped and dipped and dipped again is often blamed on emotional hangups, on the baby's lack of active engagement in the labor process, or that they're not quite positioned to descend into the pelvis correctly.

I called the midwife finally on Wednesday morning after being up for two nights. We'd been timing the contractions, watching "My Neighbor Totoro" and "The March of the Penguins" from the birth pool, singing Neil Young and Lee Hazelwood songs, just hoping things would pick up to the steady, consistent 511 pace that everyone talks about and escalate from there.

"Why didn't you call me earlier?!" was her first response.

I cried after we hung up feeling failed and exhausted.

The first hippie she sent by our apartment, a doula with wavy graying hair and a giant, confident smile, demonstrated how to make my contractions more effective and showed me positions to help move the baby into a more active spot. She begged me to go outside and get a pedicure, but contracting in one of those big bacteria-infested reclining chairs while some scared esthetician massaged my feet sounded stressful at best.

Not long after, the midwife came over. I was dilated to only 3 cm after all of that laboring. She stripped my membranes and recommended that I take 3 Benadryl and try to nap.  After a torturous toss in bed, breathing through contractions for about 2 hours and trying to doze in the interim, I was instructed to take some castor oil along with some pulpy orange juice to see if it'd speed things up. Castor oil and contractions! What a combo. I'll spare you all the details, but castor oil is serious business and there's a reason we never hear about people using it as a laxative much these days. It lasted til Friday and took its toll all Wednesday night.

Thursday morning we hired a doula, Emma, with short hair and two nose piercings, sent over from the reception desk at the midwife's office. She was shy at first, but not when it came to putting pressure on my back in the right spots during contractions.

The acupuncturist arrived next with a bag full of chinese medicine. She wore long hair parted down the middle, a nose ring, and tattoos in tibetan writing down her arms. Her dress looked comfortable and her presence calmed me. She administered cohosh and little sugar pills. She used big glass suction cups on my lower back, lit tiny sticks of incense on my legs that she warned smelled of "bad weed", and delicately stuck gold-plated needles in my ear, back, hand, feet, and toes. Its magic worked. When she left, Emma made me lie down on my side and breathe through contractions as she applied pressure to my hip. Things never ached worse and were probably never more productive. My water began leaking after a while and she called the midwife again. The midwife I'd planned to deliver with was out at another delivery, so her partner showed up in her place.

I was finally dilated to 8 cm but because my leak was slow, the backup midwife pierced my bag of waters more thoroughly and told me to hop into the birth pool. I bent into the least comfortable positions possible to make the most of every contraction. I whimpered and breathed and groaned. When I asked the midwife if this was ever going to actually happen, she told me to reach up and try to feel the head and it was there! All soft and and little slimy! I couldn't believe it. She also told me that my contractions had slowed and urged me to try sleeping again before the final pushing phase. No! It killed me; I was just so excited to wrap things up. But I took the 3 benadryl again and obeyed. And this time, I actually managed to rest for a full two hours. I can't even remember feeling a contraction the whole nap until the really mean one that finally woke me up. Emma rushed into the room, declaring that I sounded a little "pushy"and soon I was pushing in a semi-reclining position on the bed with the whole team in place.

I had no idea what pushing would be like. I didn't know I'd see stars or feel worried about hemrroids. I didn't know that it sapped every drop of juice from your system. I didn't know it'd make my vision blurry and that everyone would just tell me to go even harder and longer. Wayne was worried and kept telling me to breathe. After an hour of this the midwife said, "Seriously, I think she'll be out in just 2 or 3 more." An hour later, with sweat dripping everywhere, she explained that there was one really tight spot where the baby was stuck. 

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think if I just gave you one cut, she'd be out."

"Yes. DO it. I trust you. If you think I need it, just do it." I didn't realize my midwife had never cut an episiotomy in all of her years of practice.

"Just push one more time and we'll think about it."

I hurt my eyes and lungs and saw so many stars and my sweet baby arrived in a sudden burst with that push. Emma and Wayne both cried, but I was too excited. I kept saying things like, "Hi baby!" "We did it!", "Oh, my baby; Hello my baby!" Mable Jane Leavitt was born on July 26, 2013, 12 days past her "due date", weighing 8 lbs. exactly, and measuring 22 inches tall (which is a little funny, because both Wayne and I are a little on the short side.)

The amazing thing is that despite all the being stuck during pushing, my sweet midwife worked enough magic with her olive oil that I only tore slightly in one spot and required no stitching.

Morals of the story:

Hire a doula. Seriously. I mean it. There is no birth education class or amount of reading that can make up for experience. You won't regret it and you might regret not doing it. Plus, you'll have made a friend.

There is no industrialized system or business model that can benefit from prodromal labor without turning it into an operation or emergency procedure. I am so grateful to all of the talented, patient hippies who helped me birth in peace.

I don't know how midwives have time and energy to care the way ours did. My midwife was amazing and I only wish I did my job for as many of the right reasons as she does hers. I am grateful and inspired and astounded.

I am so grateful for Wayne, who never left my side even to catch up on a few minutes of sleep. He cooked throughout the whole thing, fed me water and gatorade through a straw, and applied so much pressure to my lower back during those five days that his own back and hands and arms started to hurt. I never felt like I carried the weight of birth alone.

Mable is the best. I just can't get over her.


nursery tour!

The nursery is ready! It's complete with Montessori floor bed, mobile, and wall paintings.
 Props to Jess Smiley for the cool framed print on the wall.

 Baby bonsais! Yes, we'll move them when she gets mobile.
 Here's the floor bed, mobile, and paintings of lilac-breasted rollers.

 The panorama view:


the secret of childbirth.

Sometimes I look around on a subway car and think to myself, "Everyone on this train was born!" And then I think about all of the subway cars on the train that are swarming with people and about how each one of those people was born too. Then I think about how the world population is currently 7 billion. And all of those people were born. They didn't die. They all have mothers. And then I think about all of the people in the history of the world who were born and just aren't alive anymore.

Why is childbirth something so secret? It wasn't until my second trimester, when my belly really started showing and I forced myself to watch childbirth videos on youtube that I began reading and reading and reading about all of these secrets of childbirth. I've learned so much that I just had no clue about before. But it strikes me as odd that this fundamental act of life that's happening all day everyday is something that you've got to take some real initiative to decode. We pay money for classes, band in our special interest groups, join discussion boards, and read, read, read. All for this primal knowledge that's only ever existed; it's a force that will continue regardless of what we know about it.

One of the books I loved reading best about childbirth has a ton of naked birth pictures in it. I just had to pass it around the office to get some reactions. Someone started talking about how weird all of the new mother's boobs look. Guys, it's true. When you're pregnant, your areolas get bigger and bigger and bigger. But the fact that this was weird to this girl at work really struck me as sad. She knows exactly what crazy-supermodel-airbrushed-tinynippled-womens'-boobs don't even really look like, but she has no clue about the reality of how her body might change if she carries a child someday. I didn't really either. Not before it actually happened. And I thought it was weird too.

We're just so pasty-white-sterile-medicated. It makes me think of the book "A Brave New World" where sex is encouraged, but babies are grown in bottles.

It's an old rant, but it resonates more and more with me: We don't know what our meat looks like before or during the slaughter, we don't know how our grains are grown, how our clothes are manufactured, how our plastic gets molded, where our energy comes from, how our babies are born. It can start to feel like all of this specialization and technology has left us in the dark, even to our own bodies and their functioning.

The great news is that learning about childbirth and being pregnant has made me feel more connected to the natural world and more grateful for my body than ever before. My sense of self is so much less tied to some unrealistic idea about the perfect fake supermodel boobs that I should have. My body is capable of bringing new life to the world. That thought leaves me awestruck.


I am a Mormon.

My name is Laura Barlow Leavitt and I am a Mormon, who willfully and joyfully married an ex-Mormon atheist. We were both orthodox and rebellious about the way we did it. After two months of virtuous dating (and 13 years of friendship), we eloped to the Manhattan courthouse, til death do us part. We called our parents and friends and families to let them know the next day. (The pic is of him with my nieces and nephew a few weeks after we got married.)

I think many have wondered how dedicated I could possibly be to my faith after such a drastic move toward a lifetime of seeking middle ground. Some of the most outspoken criticism I've heard was from a good friend who's a non-denominational Christian. He couldn't imagine waking up to someone who didn't believe in God everyday. Maybe my reasons for marrying Wayne sound like excuses to some, but I'd like to emphasize that I in no way intend to leave or even slowly slink away from the church. I make efforts to attend church weekly, the temple monthly, and read the Book of Mormon daily. I am grateful for the gospel in my life and try to live in a way that demonstrates that gratitude. Wayne knows how I feel and offers support. He's willing to give feedback on the flyers I'm designing for the upcoming primary activity, holds my hand in a moment of silence before each meal while I bow my head and silently pray, holds me while I'm kneeling to say bedtime prayers, and never complains about the 10% of each of my paychecks that goes straight to tithing even when we're short in other areas. He listens carefully and empathetically when I'm bawling over spiritual experiences and even once hugged me and let me cry on his shoulder when I discovered that a dear Mormon friend had become an atheist. When I stopped to laugh at the irony he said, "Laura, it's ok. I get it."

The most difficult part of being married to an atheist, is that I believe he's my one and only, my soulmate, that we were meant to be, that God has somehow stamped our civil marriage certificate with his seal of divine approval although that makes no sense to some. And Wayne, conversely, by default of his atheist belief system, cannot believe in such a romantic idea...sigh. But I should also clarify that his expressions of love never feel cold or limited and that our affections feel quite balanced.

I think it's important to view things from his angle too, to acknowledge the sacrifices of what it means to be married to someone who's a believing Mormon. I cannot describe or explain the reasons why he opted to leave the church; I'd never want to force words in his mouth about something so personal; but I know that it came sincerely for him and that it was very difficult. He's been met not only with disapproval from many close around him, but is now viewed as an outsider by the culture that brought him up. And unlike many who take such departures from their native cultures and beliefs, he's made efforts to continue relationships with those still on the inside loop. Our marriage solidifies that familiar role as outsider and sinner when he comes in contact with the community through me. Every time the home teachers or visiting teachers come over, every time I invite the missionaries over for a meal, every time someone in the ward invites us over for Sunday dinner, every time we attend a ward party together. I watch in admiration as he handles these individual scenarios with grace, friendliness, and respect.

I just don't see how I could have shut him out of my life. He makes me breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day. He tells me he loves me in his sleep. When I couldn't go to an art museum with him, he texted me the titles of the paintings so I could google them. He gets teary-eyed just reading about the steps of childbirth because he's so excited about the family we're going to start.

Is this not the point of the gospel of Jesus Christ? To love others as he has loved us? To overcome difference? I don't believe in a God who would simply shun someone who brings so many blessings and so much love to my life. I believe that through the atonement, all are granted mercy and that everyone will have a chance to return to live with Him. To those who would dismiss Wayne as having already blown his chance, I say, "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

I don't think it will always be so easy because nothing ever is. But I feel no dichotomy that the two things I am most grateful for in my life are Wayne and the gospel of Jesus Christ. 


pregnancy brain.

Guys, I keep having nothing to write cuz I am in pre-baby bliss. Sometimes I think about writing something on this blog and all I can think of is how Wayne is so funny and wonderful and how work is ok and I'm so glad to be healthy and have a healthy little fetus (knock on wood) and a cute little apartment in a cute neighborhood with funny old Italian people downstairs and how I'm seriously so blessed.

Not much fun to read.

So, I thought it might be more fun to document my various pregnancy obsessions because for me, pregnancy hormones create obsessions.


It was over this trippy film depicting the most horrifying parenting story ever that I first realized I was pregnant. Before I knew what it was about at all (because it takes a while to get what's going on) I turned to Wayne and said, "Hun. I seriously think I'm pregnant. For reals."
"Babe, at one point you were convinced you had a brain tumor." (This is not really true.)
Of course I was RIGHT (about the pregnancy). And this film with all of its grotesque imagery stuck with me forever since the hormones were already flowing. And some parts are so quotable: (Who doesn't love David Lynch?):
"Just cut it up like a regular chicken?"
"Yup. Just like a regular chicken."

2. TWIN PEAKS (Phase 2)

I'll probably never get over Twin Peaks. It's the best TV show ever. Wayne and I first kissed over an episode of TP when I was dressed like Audrey and that sealed it in my heart forever. It was during my first trimester that we rewatched most of seasons 1 and 2.


I know that musicals aren't for everyone, but I'm willing to argue the timelessness here. Did you know that this premiered in 1879? If you think that something like an old musical about pirates is lame, then you won't be surprised. But the humor is fresh.

It is either a funny fact or pure destiny that both Wayne and I grew up on the genius movie version of this play. We celebrate it by sometimes singing passages in the morning over breakfast. (Yes, we allow singing at our table.) Wayne's family still celebrates Frederick's birthday when it pops up every leap year.


So, we watch a lot of Italian shiz in our house, but this one is my favorite so far. So freaking funny. Better than What about Bob (which i think is pretty amazing). I even learned some Italian so I could quote it. I don't know how to spell what learned how to say, so you'll just have to hear me in person if you want proof.


Gregory Orr wrote the most beautiful poem by this title. It makes poetry feel easy and Greek myth seem valid. Please read it.


Jason Taylor is the best friend I've ever had during my subway commute. I still miss him all of the time. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed reading fiction so thoroughly.


Our baby wouldn't stop kicking when we watched this because of all of the pumping adrenaline. Scary stuff. I got really into all of the conspiracy theories about what Stanley Kubrick is trying to say through subtle symbols throughout the film and we even went to see Room 237 for our last NYC dinner/date. I check under the bed every night to make sure Wayne hasn't got an axe.

The End.


riot for life!

Here's the news: I want to give birth at home with a midwife. After months of not even feeling sure how I felt about medicated v. unmedicated child birth, I want to take the most granola/hippie/new age option that anyone in my family has ever taken. It's a new development. I just received a letter in the mail from my insurance company stating that my future care at Mt. Sinai Hospital is all approved and ready to go. Pushed, by Jennifer Block is the culprit. It's not a book about how to give birth and the author has never had a child. It's basically just an investigative report about how in the US, women's desires and preferences in birthing circumstances are routinely undermined for a series of complex bureaucratic, industrialized reasons. Very seriously, I'm convinced that the reproductive rights of women should be focused on childbirth options much more than abortion. Did you guys know that midwifery is prohibited in 10 states and unrecognized in many others? I didn't.

Here's just one lovely passage from the book:

"[Dr. De Angelis], a solo practitioner, to maintain his standard of living in suburban Jew Jersey...and pay out an annual $90,000 in malpractice insurance, [has] had to double his case load. Which means halving the time he spends with patients in an office visit. And he's irate about it. "You tell me what other profession has to pay $300 just to go to work every day! The bottom, line, the bottom line is the care for the patients. And as a consumer...[she] gets 5 minutes in the office. And when the consumer is in labor? It's a vicious cycle. I can't sit with that patient. I have to go back to the office... This is not a way to practice medicine...Why do women put up with this? I have no idea. You know, back in the 80's when I was in residency, there was a feminist movement. The women back then wouldn't have tolerated this."

Let's start a revolution guys. Let's take to the streets.

I've still got to find a midwife. Wish me luck.