Sylvia's birth story

Aug. 21st, 2017 11:25 pm
lindseykuper: A figure, wearing a pink shirt decorated with a heart, looks upward from between dark shapes that suggest buildings. (Default)
[personal profile] lindseykuper

Four weeks ago today, we welcomed Sylvia Dawn into the world! I got a lot out of reading other people's birth stories as we prepared for Sylvia to arrive, and so I'm sharing ours in the hope that someone else will benefit from it in some way, whether they're preparing for a birth themselves or are just curious about how birth works.

Sylvia's due date of Monday, July 17 came and went without much fanfare. I had an appointment with Kavita, my midwife, that day, and she checked my cervix and reported that I was one centimeter dilated (out of the standard ten centimeters that one's cervix must usually dilate before one can push a baby out). It's apparently common for the cervix to dilate a centimeter or three during late pregnancy before labor actually starts, so it didn't mean much that mine had begun dilating. Still, Alex found it very exciting that Kavita was able to poke a finger in and feel the top of the baby's head through the amniotic sac ("You're the first person to touch our baby!"1). I couldn't tell that my cervix had begun to dilate (and I couldn't feel anything unusual or painful during Kavita's exam), but I was happy that my body seemed to be preparing for labor and birth.

My parents arrived in town two days later, on Wednesday the 19th, but they didn't come to visit us yet. Their plan had been to come see us a day or so after I gave birth, and they wanted to leave us some space until then. They got an Airbnb in the next town over and found tourist activities to occupy their time. I was on leave from work, and I puttered around the house, cleaning and organizing things. A friend had asked me a few weeks previously if I had been "nesting" yet, and I hadn't been sure what that meant. "You mean, like, buying stuff for the baby?", I had asked. "No," she'd replied, "I mean, like, organizing the spice rack." The week starting with Sylvia's due date turned out to be when the "nesting" thing finally kicked in. I did not organize the spice rack, but I did construct, bake, and freeze two pans of enchiladas. I like to cook, but cooking and freezing food in advance is not typical behavior for me!2

On Friday the 21st, I lost my mucus plug, the small glob of mucus that fills the cervical opening during pregnancy. I never imagined that I would be excited about a glob of yellowish mucus in my underwear, but I was pleased to have another sign that my cervix was beginning to open. I excitedly texted my mom, who said, "Are you sure your water didn't break?" (Yes, I was sure.) Like me, my parents were eager for things to move along, and by now they were running out of tourist things to do. My dad finally announced that it was ridiculous that they'd been in town for several days and not seen me yet, and that they were coming over the next day, which was Saturday.

On Saturday, my parents arrived, we all went out for a nice brunch together, and then we spent the afternoon at home, where I gave them a tour of all the many baby accoutrements that we'd been given by friends and relatives.3 At some point in the afternoon, I noticed that I seemed to be having some watery discharge. I called Kavita, worried that it might be a slow leak of amniotic fluid. She told me that she'd come over around 8:30 the next morning and check on me. Eventually, my parents headed back to their Airbnb, and some time later, Alex and I went to bed.

Around two-thirty in the morning, I started to feel what were...well...I thought they might be contractions, but I wasn't entirely sure. How is a first-time birth-giver supposed to know what a contraction feels like, anyway? I knew from the childbirth class that Alex and I had taken that during early labor, contractions would last less than a minute and would be between about seven and twenty minutes apart, and that this stage of labor could last for a long time, possibly days. But, although I was sure I was feeling a sort of discomfort that was new to me, I couldn't put my finger on how long the contractions were, nor how far apart they were. I got out of bed and googled for things like "can't tell when contractions stop and start", to not much avail. I downloaded a contraction timer app and tried using it, but that wasn't particularly helpful, either. Eventually, I decided to call Kavita to let her know what was going on, although I didn't think there was an urgent need for her to come over yet. She told me that she would come over sometime the next day, but that instead of coming at 8:30 a.m. as she had said previously, she wouldn't plan on any particular time and would instead wait for another phone call from me. At that point, I think I went back to bed and tried to sleep, with mixed success.

Around seven in the morning, I still couldn't tell when the contractions were starting or stopping or how long they were, but I was beginning to have an increasing amount of lower back pain. I took a hot shower and put on a loose-fitting dress, then moved restlessly around the house, trying different ways to sit or stand and googling "when to call midwife". After reading one too many stories on pregnancy forums from people who waited too long to call the midwife and regretted it, I began to get worried and decided that I really wanted Kavita to come over soon. I woke up Alex and asked him to call Kavita for me; I suppose I felt like I'd been calling her too often and that she might think I was crying wolf, and that if the call came from Alex, she might take it more seriously. Kavita asked Alex for more information on what had been happening for the last few hours, to which he truthfully answered that he didn't know, because he'd just woken up. I think the fact that Alex had been asleep was a sign to Kavita that I was still not very far along. She had Alex put me on the phone and confirmed that I could still talk through a contraction, then gently explained that she didn't think I needed her to come over yet (and that this was really the sort of situation that called for a doula -- which I didn't have -- and not a midwife). But I was nervous and asked her to please come over, and she acquiesced and arrived at our place an hour and a half later. I had gotten back in bed and was lying on my side and pressing a hot water bottle against my back. Kavita immediately noticed that my lips looked dry and admonished me to drink more water. She checked the baby's heart rate, which was 130 bpm, just as it had been throughout most of pregnancy.

Then, Kavita got out a TENS unit, a small battery-operated device for treating pain with a low-voltage electric current. We had very briefly discussed this thing in the childbirth class, but I hadn't actually tried it out during the class, and had felt a bit skeptical of it at the time. Kavita showed me how to use it: there were four small, flat electrode pads that attached to my lower back with a very sticky adhesive, and wires ran from the pads to a small handheld device that I could use to control the intensity of the current. The handheld device had a big, easy-to-press button that would toggle between two settings: a lower-intensity, pulsing setting and a higher-intensity, steady one. Kavita explained that I could leave it on the former setting when I wasn't having a contraction, then push the button to switch to the latter setting and get more pain relief during contractions. We set it to about a third of the maximum intensity, and it felt great -- a bit like someone was massaging my lower back with warm hands. Turning it up more than that began to feel more prickly than therapeutic, so I left it at the one-third setting. Having gotten me situated with the TENS unit, Kavita left for a while to take care of some other errands and appointments.

The TENS unit was awesome. I left it attached to my back pretty much continuously for the next twenty-four hours, only taking it off a couple of times to take showers. Not long after putting it on, I felt comfortable getting out of bed and walking around outside a bit with Alex. I also sat on our exercise ball for a while, and I ate a sandwich that Alex made me and did my best to drink a lot of water.

The contractions were gradually becoming more distinct and more uncomfortable, and I really appreciated having that button to push and turn up the TENS unit whenever I had a contraction. I wouldn't say that it took the pain away, exactly, but it provided an effective distraction from the pain, in the same way that scratching an itch distracts from the itch. Most importantly, having the button to push made me feel like I was in control! It occurred to me that my earlier questions about when exactly my contractions started and stopped could be answered by looking at a log of data from the TENS unit: a contraction could be said to start at whatever point I got uncomfortable enough to press the button to switch to the steady setting, and it could be said to stop at whatever point the discomfort lessened enough that I pressed the button again to switch back to the pulsing setting. I remember wishing that the TENS unit talked to my phone and provided that data (notwithstanding the serious security and privacy implications that such an arrangement would have), or at least that there was some kind of logging facility so that I could show the data to Kavita.

Throughout the day on Sunday, Kavita checked in periodically via phone or text message, but I didn't have much to report. I knew that it was a good idea to keep moving during labor, but I found I was most comfortable lying in bed on my side, with the TENS unit on my back, and sometimes with the hot water bottle on top of that. Kavita had brought her birth pool (the brand was "Birth Pool in a Box") over to our house some time previously, and Alex got it inflated and set up in our spare room (soon to be the baby's room) and put a tarp under it. We didn't start filling it with water yet, though, since it might be some time before we actually used it. I was very much looking forward to getting in the pool, but Kavita had said it wasn't time yet.

By the early evening, my back pain had become more intense, and by now it was obvious when I was and wasn't having a contraction. Alex ordered a pizza, and I remember trying not to make any noise while the delivery person was at the door. I wasn't interested in eating any of the pizza. When Kavita returned that evening, I had sort of draped myself over our exercise ball on the floor of the bedroom and was rolling around miserably. Kavita determined that I hadn't been eating or drinking enough, and she fed me some yogurt with a spoon. I asked hopefully if it was time to get in the pool yet, but she felt that the pool should be more of a last-resort pain relief technique -- the equivalent of an epidural, if I'd been in the hospital -- and that I still wasn't nearly far enough along that it should be necessary. She didn't want to check my cervical dilation yet, either, because she suspected that the number wasn't what I wanted it to be and that hearing it wouldn't do me any good. I felt like a wreck, but Kavita told me that I looked like I was coping quite well. This wasn't particularly encouraging to hear, though -- if I could feel this bad and still look like I was "coping well", I was worried about how much worse it might be possible to feel!

As a substitute for the pool, Kavita suggested getting in a hot shower. I was reluctant at first, because I didn't want to go to the trouble of getting undressed and then dressed again. (I ended up half-solving that problem by simply not getting dressed again after the shower.) On the way to the shower, I had a painful contraction and had to stop and and sort of hang from the top of the bathroom door frame and groan for a while. (I was glad that Kavita was there to see me having some really painful contractions -- I wanted her to see that my pain was real.)

Alex moved the exercise ball into the shower -- where, happily, it just barely fit -- and I sat there on the ball for almost an hour with hot water pouring down on my back. I had begun to have some abdominal pain in addition to my back pain, and Alex brought me a large plastic cup so that I could pour hot water on my belly as well. Sitting on the ball in the shower, with hot water pouring down both my back and my front, I could almost pretend that I was immersed in the warm birth pool, which is where I really wanted to be. It felt good. I made low moaning noises when contractions came. Kavita, knowing that I still had a lot of laboring to do, insisted that I keep taking in more calories, and she fed me the rest of the yogurt right there in the shower. When I got out of the shower, I felt much better. I'm sure both the shower and the calories played a role.

It was getting to be late at night, and Kavita prepared to spend the night on our couch. She and Alex arranged to take shifts so that someone would always be awake with me, but in practice, there were times when they were both asleep. I didn't mind at all -- I wanted them both to be well rested, and I knew that I could wake them up if I really needed them. I spent most of the night either in bed with the TENS unit, or back in the shower. Alex was very tired, but he was worried about me being alone in the shower, and he insisted on getting up and going into the bathroom with me and bringing me juice to drink. In one photo he took, timestamped 1:58 a.m., I'm sitting naked in the shower on the exercise ball, water pouring down on my back, nonchalantly drinking grapefruit juice from a cup with a straw with my eyes closed, as if that's the most normal thing in the world to be doing in the shower at two in the morning!

Monday morning arrived. I had re-attached the TENS unit to my back after my last stint in the shower, and I'd fiddled with its settings and found that if I left it on the steady setting all the time (rather than switching back to the less intense intermittent setting between contractions) and turned it up to two-thirds of the maximum intensity -- a level that had felt uncomfortably prickly the previous day -- then it provided enough of a distraction from the pain that I could get through a contraction without making any noise at all. That was good, because Alex was now sleeping more or less peacefully in bed, and I wanted him to have a chance to sleep. He woke up long enough to help me get situated in the old armchair in our bedroom, TENS device in hand, surrounded by pillows, my phone, and the by-now-indispensable hot water bottle. Then he went back to sleep, and I settled down in the chair to wait for whatever came next.

A bit later, around eight in the morning, Kavita came in to check on me. I told her that with the TENS unit cranked up, the pain was quite manageable as long as I didn't move from the chair where I was, but that I didn't think I was making much progress. My contractions -- although it was now quite obvious when I was having one -- still weren't all that frequent or regular; I think they were happening perhaps every five or ten minutes at this point. I asked again if she wanted to check my dilation, hoping that I might somehow be wrong about my lack of progress, but she still didn't think there was much to be gained by checking at this point. She said that if by that afternoon or evening there hadn't been progress, we could think about ways to induce labor, which might or might not include going to the hospital. Then she headed out briefly for another appointment, leaving Alex (who was still asleep in bed) and me alone in the house for a while.

For me, this was an emotional low point of labor. I'd now been having contractions of one kind or another for more than twenty-four hours, but I didn't seem to be making much progress. I felt that I must not be particularly close to giving birth, or Kavita would have cancelled her other appointment and stayed. I was frustrated with myself for not making progress, and I was afraid that I'd end up having to go to the hospital for a chemically induced labor, which I felt would be a sort of failure.

Around ten in the morning, my friend Jessica texted to ask how I was doing, and I told her the same thing I'd told Kavita. Jessica asked if I was in a "get on with it" mood or a "nice to have a break" mood, and I responded emphatically, "I would love to get on with it, get to transition and get in the pool." ("Transition" refers to the part of labor when the cervix dilates its last few centimeters, after which it's time to start pushing the baby out.) Jessica asked if there was anything I could do to make my contractions faster or more intense. Thinking about that brought me to a turning point: I realized that if I wanted to make progress, I needed to get my ass up out of that chair and do something about it. And so -- very slowly, painfully, and resentfully -- I dragged myself to a standing position and made myself go walk around the house.

I remembered that grabbing the top of the bathroom door frame had been helpful during a painful contraction earlier, and so I decided that I'd take a stab at hanging from the pull-up bar mounted in the doorway to Alex's and my office, which was right next to the door to our bedroom where Alex still slept. I found the birthing stool that Kavita had brought over the previous day, carried it over to the pull-up bar, and tried positioning myself with my hands on the bar, my right foot on the floor, and my left foot up on the stool, still with the TENS electrodes on my back. I had one or two strong contractions in that standing position, stronger than the ones I'd had been having sitting in the armchair. Then I had a contraction that felt stronger still -- and then my water broke, suddenly and explosively, all over the floor! The splash it made was loud enough that Alex jumped out of bed with a yelp. I was elated -- finally, a sign of progress!

My contractions started to become more regular, more frequent, and more intense. I was so delighted to be making progress that I didn't mind the pain. I kept telling Alex how happy I was. I didn't feel much like moving from my position on the pull-up bar with my foot up on the stool, so I stayed right where I was while a now-very-much-awake Alex got a towel and handled the rather disgusting task of mopping up the amniotic fluid around my feet, which was clear with bits of grayish-brown meconium in it. (Happily, most of the fluid had gone onto the wooden floor of the hallway, where it was relatively easy to clean up, instead of onto the carpet of the office or our bedroom.) Then Alex called Kavita, who was already on her way back over.

It was around this time that the TENS unit stopped being effective for keeping me quiet during contractions. I asked Alex to close all our windows so that the neighbors wouldn't have to hear my moaning and groaning. He was reluctant to do that ("You know what? Screw 'em!"), but I insisted. When Kavita arrived a few minutes later, I was still hanging from the pull-up bar in a most undignified way -- naked, smelly, groaning, and soaking in bodily fluids -- but in much better spirits than I had been when she'd left just a couple hours previously. Kavita decided that it was finally time to check my dilation, which she was able to do right there where I stood without making me change positions. I was absolutely thrilled when she reported that I was eight centimeters dilated, and even more thrilled when she told Alex that it was time to start filling up the birth pool. She also checked the baby's heart rate, which was holding steady at 130 bpm.

I had a couple more intense contractions while Alex and Kavita proceeded to use up all of our hot water filling the pool. Alex helped me get in the pool, which felt wonderful, but it still wasn't quite as warm as I would have liked, so he and Kavita started some pots boiling on the stove to get more hot water to pour in with me. I kept asking for more and more hot water, and they kept pouring more in -- until, abruptly, it was very hot and I had to take my hands out of the water to regulate my temperature. They also brought me water, juice, and soup. I didn't feel hungry, but Kavita told me to eat anyway.

It was now around noon on Monday, and I was imagining that I "just" needed to finish dilating and that I would then push the baby out and give birth right there in the pool. (It's called a birth pool, after all, not a labor pool!) Even with the nice, warm pool, those last two centimeters of dilation were the most physically painful part of labor. My back pain was now gone, but it had been replaced by even worse abdominal pain. When I had contractions in the pool, I heard myself make noises I'd never made before -- inhuman-sounding noises that I can't characterize as a moan, a groan, or a yell. In particular, I made a noise that was almost like a yodel. It had two distinct pitches that alternated very quickly, and it was loud! When I yodeled, Alex sometimes sang along with me or drummed a beat with his hands, until I asked him to please stop doing that. Meanwhile, Kavita sat on the floor, knitting a baby hat, completely unperturbed by my yodeling. She'd seen people go through transition hundreds of times; this was nothing new. (I asked her later if I had even been especially loud, and she was like, "Nah.")

I tried a position where I was on my knees in the pool, leaning forward over the edge of the pool and squeezing Alex's hands tightly during contractions, making my loud yodeling noise. When I didn't have his hands in a death grip, Alex held a cool washcloth to my head and gave me sips of water. At one point, Alex asked me if it was the worst pain I'd ever experienced. I didn't answer the question at the time, because another contraction was starting, but yes, it was. The blister on my toe during mile twenty-three of the marathon I ran in 2009 had been pretty bad, but the difference between that and this was that during the marathon, I could have stopped running if the pain became intolerable, whereas with labor, the only way out was through.

After a while, Kavita suggested that it might be a good idea to get out of the pool. I wasn't very happy at the prospect, because I figured that that meant that she thought it would still be a while before I actually gave birth. I'd really been hoping that once I got in the pool, I wouldn't get out again until I had a baby! Besides, I thought my abdominal pain would be unbearable if I got out the pool. But Kavita felt that since this was my first time giving birth, it would be easier for me to push the baby out if I got out of the pool and had gravity working in my favor.

It took some time for me to be convinced to get out of the pool. Alex asked me if I wanted to get out, and I got upset at him, saying, "You're asking me to choose between one kind of pain and another kind of pain!" (Weeks later, I happened to be reading one of our books about pregnancy and birth, and I came across a section that had advice for people on how to help their partners get through transition. One of the pieces of advice was, "Don't ask her questions." Hah! Quite so.) Finally, though, I was willing to get out, and Alex and Kavita helped me make my way out of the pool and lie down on the bed. It was around this time that Shannon, another midwife who was assisting Kavita, arrived to help. I was lucid enough to say hello to Shannon, who I hadn't met before. I couldn't help being amused at the situation: "Hi! I'm naked, wet, smelly, and groaning in pain. Nice to meet you!" (Shannon, of course, took all this in stride, as any experienced midwife would.)

Kavita checked my dilation and reported that I was nearly at ten centimeters, and that there was only a tiny rim of cervix around the baby's head. She asked permission to push back the cervix, and I said to go ahead. I've heard people report that this is excruciatingly painful, but I honestly don't remember feeling anything at all. It's possible that my abdominal pain was strong enough that I just wasn't noticing any other kind of pain. In any case, Kavita was able to push back the last bit of cervix without much trouble, and she said that I was clear to go ahead and start pushing.

This should have been welcome news, but I found that I didn't feel any sort of urge to push. I attempted a few pushes, but I didn't understand how I was supposed to use my contractions to help me push effectively, and my abdominal pain persisted. I let out a few loud yells. These weren't like the inhuman-sounding yodeling sounds I'd made before, which had come purely from a place of pain. Rather, they were recognizably human sounds, and I was really yelling more out of fear and frustration than out of pain. I think I was afraid that, after all this time and effort, I wouldn't be able to carry out the last step and actually push the baby out. As I was yelling, I caught a glimpse of Alex, and the look on his face in reaction to the sounds I was making was somewhere between "concerned" and "impressed".

Thinking that perhaps a change in position would do me good, Kavita and Shannon helped me out of bed and got me seated on the birth stool. I had a difficult time sitting in the way they wanted me to, though: they wanted me to plant my feet widely, but I wanted to curl my legs up under me in reaction to my abdominal pain. Adding to the tension and frustration was the fact that Kavita was getting worried that it had been a while since I had peed. I had been drinking lots of water and juice, but the last time I could remember peeing had been in the shower the previous night.4 Kavita and Shannon put a bowl under me on the stool and suggested that I try to pee in the bowl, but I didn't feel the slightest urge to pee. I felt overwhelmed with everything that I was being asked to do: I didn't know how to push, I couldn't make myself pee, and I didn't want to move my feet. I told Kavita and Shannon that the birth stool wasn't working for me and that I wanted to curl up in bed again, and they helped me return to bed, telling me that I was doing fine and that it was okay to take a break. Kavita checked the baby's heart rate again; still 130 bpm, just like always, with slight speedups during contractions. Kavita pulled Alex aside, and I overheard her quietly telling him that there could be several hours of labor still to go. I tried to come to terms with that unpleasant reality.

Alex curled up next to me in bed, while Shannon and Kavita rubbed my feet gently. I pushed ineffectually a few times, yelling again in pain and frustration, and one of the midwives -- Shannon, I think -- suggested that I try to use my voice as a tool to help me work through and take advantage of the contractions: with each contraction, she said I should try to bear downward with my diaphragm, making a low, loud, sustained sound. I began trying to do that, and Kavita and Shannon encouraged me, telling me over and over that I was doing "great" and "amazing". I wasn't sure if I was really accomplishing anything or not, but their words made me feel better. In the choir I sing with, we spend a lot of time working on breathing, stretching, and exercising the lungs and diaphragm, and I'd like to think that all of the time I'd invested in doing those exercises helped me during this part of labor.

The midwives predicted that sooner or later I would start to feel some pressure on my rectum from the baby's head, as though I needed to poop, and that I would be able to use that sensation to help me push. A few contractions later, I indeed started to feel as though I needed to poop. I announced to the room, "I've got rectal pressure!", to which Kavita and Shannon responded with cheers. For me, this was another turning point of labor. Pushing out a baby wasn't something I had ever done before, but pooping? That was something that I had a lifetime of experience with! I told Kavita and Shannon, "I'm literally just going to try to poop whenever I have a contraction." They seemed to be on board with that plan.

After a few pushes, Kavita suggested that I should try sitting up and making use of gravity again, but I didn't want to return to the birth stool after my unpleasant experience sitting on it earlier. Instead, I decided to try sitting on the toilet. (I was trying to poop, after all.) I went down the hall to the bathroom, closed the door, and sat. The room was relatively dark, quiet and cool compared to the rest of the house; it felt good. I told myself that this was simple: all I had to do was try to poop, and with each contraction, that's exactly what I did. Somehow, my abdominal pain melted away, and with each contraction, I just did my best to poop. In fact, a few small nuggets of poop did plop out into the toilet, and I felt damn proud of each one of them. (I may or may not have happily announced, "I POOPED!", loud enough for Kavita, Shannon, and Alex to hear from down the hall.)

After a while, Kavita came in to check the baby's heart rate (which was still at its usual 130) and see how I was doing. She was concerned that I still hadn't peed, and she added to the toilet water a bit of peppermint essential oil, which, she explained, would dilate my urethra and help me pee. She also thought that I might want to try a different pushing position. I told her that what I was doing seemed to be working well and I wanted to keep going with it for a while, and she left with some reluctance.5 The peppermint oil didn't help me pee, but it did smell nice.

I continued laboring in the bathroom by myself. For me, this was the most satisfying and pleasant part of labor. The amazing thing about it was that with each contraction, I felt pressure, but not any pain. A contraction would start; I'd exhale and push downward as though I was trying to defecate; and after several seconds of that, I would feel a tremendously powerful pressure -- but not pain! -- well up inside of me, and it was as though my body took over pushing for me for several more seconds. After perhaps forty-five minutes of that pattern repeating every few minutes, I started wondering if I was making any observable progress pushing the baby out. I reached down between my legs to see if I could feel anything different -- and felt the top of the baby's head bulging out of me! I was astonished, and called out excitedly, "Kavita, come feel this!" Kavita confirmed that the baby was starting to crown, and she quickly helped me get up from the toilet and waddle bow-legged down the hall to the bedroom, where Alex and Shannon were waiting.

From this point on, things moved very quickly. Kavita suggested that I climb up on the bed on my hands and knees, but that seemed like too much effort, and I was eager to get on with it and push the baby out -- so I just bent over the side of the bed, resting my forearms on the bed with my rear end in the air and my feet on the floor. Behind me, I heard Kavita say, "That works, too!" I had a contraction and pushed, hollering loudly, and behind me, I could hear Alex saying, "I can see the head!" I didn't know if he meant just the top of the head, or the whole head; I hoped it was the latter. It hurt a lot, and I said to Kavita, "Please, pull her out!" Kavita told me, "You need to push her out!"

Behind me, Kavita and Shannon were telling me to take deep breaths and push slowly and deliberately. For some reason, though, I felt as though I ought to push the baby out as quickly as possible. It wasn't any kind of physical urge to push quickly; rather, it was a mental one -- some ill-conceived notion I had that the baby would come to harm unless I got her out in a big hurry. I didn't want her to be squashed up in the birth canal for any longer than necessary. (I wasn't thinking about harm that might come to me if I pushed quickly.) Also, in the childbirth class, we had seen a couple of birth videos in which babies had seemed to me to come flying out at top speed, and so that was the mental picture I had. Besides, I was just really, really eager to be done giving birth! All things considered, I probably pushed a bit more forcefully than I should have.

After another push or two, Alex exclaimed, "I can see her face!", and now I knew that her whole head was out. She was in occiput anterior position, that is, head down and facing my back -- the preferred position for birth. As Kavita and Shannon later explained, though, she had her head lifted slightly from her chest in what is apparently known as a "military" presentation, which may have made for a tighter squeeze. (It's more common for the chin to be tucked to the chest.)

Suddenly, Kavita and Shannon were telling me that I needed to flip over onto my back. I was surprised at this instruction -- everything I'd heard and read about birth had said that the all-fours position that I was already in was preferable to lying on one's back -- but now was no time to argue about it! With both Kavita and Shannon helping me, I managed to flip over astonishingly quickly, and was now lying with my back on the bed, legs hanging off the side of the bed, and feet on the floor. From that position, I just pushed once or twice more. I'm not sure if I pushed her out by myself or if Kavita did some pulling, but I don't remember this last part being especially painful or taking very long at all, and at 5:40 p.m. on Monday, Sylvia was out! Kavita later explained that Sylvia had had a "tight shoulder", and that it in my case it was actually the act of flipping over that had dislodged the shoulder, and that the fact that I happened to end up on my back instead of start out on my back wasn't as important. (I'd be interested to hear from other people who've had similar birth experiences, since my understanding is that it's a lot more common to move into an all-fours position to resolve a tight shoulder, instead of out of that position like I did. I'm no expert, though!)

Right after she came out, I remember just lying there for a few seconds in exhaustion, amazement, and profound relief that it was finally over. (I was apparently also bleeding profusely, not that I noticed or cared at the time.) Then there were about twenty seconds of furious activity: Kavita and Shannon had laid Sylvia down on the bed next to me and were using an Ambu bag to inflate her lungs. She looked healthy and pink -- she was still getting oxygen through the umbilical cord, which was still attached to my placenta and pulsating -- but had not yet started breathing on her own. I looked over and saw her whole tiny body lift up and convulse in response to the incoming air from the bag. Shannon turned to Kavita and said, "Call 911?" (Alex later said that he almost fainted when he heard that.) I was asking, "Is she okay? Is she okay?" Kavita exhorted, "Touch her! Talk to her!" I reached out and grabbed her tiny, chubby thigh, saying, "Sylvia, Sylvia, Sylvia! I love you, Sylvia!" Alex was next to me, doing the same, and a few moments later, Sylvia took her first gasping breaths on her own and started to cry, obviating any need to call 911.6

Kavita and Shannon put her on my bare chest -- warm, soft, pink, wriggly, and covered in slippery vernix and an appreciable amount of (my) blood. They laid a receiving blanket on top of her, but the room was extremely warm as a result of my insistence on closing all the windows hours earlier, and so the blanket was hardly necessary. I hugged her to me, stroking her damp, fuzzy head. Her nose and mouth were buried in my breasts, and I worried that she would suffocate, but Kavita and Shannon told me that she would be fine. They were remarking on how good her color was and how big she was.7 Her one-minute and five-minute Apgar scores were seven and nine, respectively -- a strong, healthy baby!

After a little while, Kavita and Shannon reminded me that I still needed to deliver the placenta. I told them that I didn't think I could do any more pushing, but even as I was saying those words, one last contraction welled up, and I was able to painlessly push out the placenta, along with yet more blood. (The placenta is now frozen solid in a bag in our freezer. I've promised Alex that I'll bury it in the back yard and plant flowers or something over it at some point.) Kavita squeezed the umbilical cord a few times to get the last of the blood in it to Sylvia, then clamped the cord and asked Alex if he wanted to cut it. He emphatically declined, and so Kavita cut the cord.

I held Sylvia for a while longer, then gave her to Alex, who took his shirt off so that he could have skin-to-skin contact with her, too. Although holding her myself for the first time had been indescribably great, looking at Alex holding her was somehow even more emotional for me. She was taking quick, shallow breaths, and Kavita suctioned mucus from her nose and mouth with a bulb syringe a couple times, but for the most part, she seemed extraordinarily healthy and vital, even making a valiant effort to hold up her head (which most newborns don't do until they're a month old or so). A bit later, I breastfed her for the first time -- another amazing feeling. Shannon fussed over me, tucking a pillow under my elbow so that I could relax my arm while feeding her. (Shannon was concerned that she wouldn't nurse if I wasn't relaxed, but I've found that she nurses quite enthusiastically whether I'm relaxed or not.) While we nursed, Shannon gave Sylvia her first shot, a vitamin K injection in her thigh, and she didn't even flinch.

Kavita and Shannon stayed for several more hours, taking care of me8, measuring and weighing Sylvia, making notes for their own records, and cleaning everything up.9 I took a shower; Alex gave Sylvia her first diaper; we all had something to eat. Eventually, Kavita and Shannon packed up and left, and Alex, Sylvia and I settled into bed for our first night as a family of three.

Welcome, Sylvia! I'm so glad that I got to bring you into the world in this way, the way I had wanted, and I'm excited for us to get to know you in the months and years that lie ahead.

  1. She would probably have been the first person to touch our baby in any case, considering that she's, you know, my midwife.
  2. says that "For some women, a flurry of energy and the impulse to cook or clean, called "nesting," is a sign that labor is approaching."
  3. We have piles and piles of new or almost-new clothes that people have given us. At this rate, we won't have to buy any clothes for her until she's in kindergarten. We've also been given bottles, diapers, a bouncer seat, slings, receiving blankets, toys, books, and loads of other things, only some of which I suspect we'll ever actually use. I'm sure we're going to be paying it forward next time a local friend has a baby!
  4. Not only did I pee in the shower, I peed directly on the exercise ball -- the same exercise ball that is currently in my child's room. Deal With It.™
  5. Later on, Kavita told me that she'd thought I actually looked "too comfortable" on the toilet, leading her to believe that I must not be pushing effectively, which was why she'd suggested trying something different. I was comfortable, but she turned out to be wrong that I wasn't pushing effectively!
  6. Apparently, around ten percent of newborns "require some assistance to begin breathing at birth", with around one percent requiring "extensive resuscitative measures". "Extensive" measures include "intubation, chest compressions, and/or medications"; using the Ambu bag did not count as "extensive". I asked Kavita later if she thought this had been a close call. She told me that if the bag with room air hadn't worked, then they would have given oxygen, and if that hadn't worked, then they would have done chest compressions (by which point they probably would have called 911 as well). Both Kavita and Shannon have infant CPR training, which, happily, they didn't have to use. I doubt that things would have gone any better than they did had we been in a hospital, and they might have been worse
  7. At this point, I didn't yet realize that I had delivered an unusually large baby, but when Kavita weighed and measured her a couple of hours later, she was nine pounds and ten ounces, and 21 inches long. At the pediatrician's office four days later, we found out that she was at the 97th percentile for height, 95th for weight! Huge babies don't run in my family, nor Alex's, but I know that I ate heartily and took lots of vitamins during pregnancy, and that extra week in the womb probably didn't hurt, either.
  8. I had a not-too-huge perineal tear, which Kavita thought would probably be fine without stitches, and I elected not to have any. Her more immediate concern was that it had now been something like fifteen hours since I'd peed. My bladder was huge and rock-hard, and it was preventing my uterus from moving back into its proper place. Unfortunately, I still didn't feel any sort of need to pee. Once I could stand up without feeling lightheaded, I tried going to the bathroom a couple of times, to no avail. Finally, Kavita ended up giving me a catheter (which was quick and painless) and got an impressive amount of urine out of me in a short time. (I'm happy to report that a few hours later, my body finally remembered how to pee.)
  9. We had put a waterproof mattress pad on our bed to protect it from blood and other bodily fluids (with the bed made with clean sheets underneath, so that after the birth we could just peel off the mattress pad and everything on top of it and have clean sheets to sleep on that night), but since I had actually given birth hanging off the side of the bed rather than on the bed, most of the blood had ended up on our bedroom carpet. Shannon got a bottle of peroxide and set to work scrubbing all of the blood out of our carpet. By the time she was done, only a slightly discolored spot remained.

solarbird: (widow)
[personal profile] solarbird

[I can't believe I'm saying "Canon in the 'It is not easy to explain, she said'" Overwatch AU, but, well, this is the fourth story in this set, so, I guess it's an actual second AU now. AO3 link.]

[It is helpful to know that Widowmaker (in canon, and here) has a tattoo on her arm which incorporates the French word for "nightmare."]

It is not easy to imagine, thought the Widowmaker, propped up a little on pillows but between her two lovers, Lena, Tracer, sprawled along her right side, hands and arms jumbled about everywhere, like always, and Emily, Kestrel, on her left, arranged so neatly, even in sleep, even halfway through the night, even after turning over a few times, always tucked back in like the little hawk, her namesake in battle. Not even when it is real and in front of me.

She took one of her long, slow, deep breaths, and felt her heart beating, even more slowly than usual, so calm, so quiet, so at rest.

Were Gérard and Amélie like this? she wondered. It seemed impossible. Not just because that was only two, and this was three, and therefore obviously so much better, and not just because they were human, baseline human, with childhoods, and growing up, and stumbling about blindly until they figured how to make a life - though that last part, she finally understood, at least, a little - but because this, this perfection, it, too, seemed so impossible, so to conceive of it happening twice? Ludicrous. Foolish girl, she smiled to herself, it could not have been so... this.

It had taken some time to come up with a bed that the three of them could share. Widowmaker's low body temperature meant she needed similarly lower temperatures for real comfort, particularly in sleep, and both her lovers were so very warm. It'd been Angela's idea, a mattress made of medical thermal control columns, temperature regulated, sensing who lay where, and adjusting, automatically.

The doctor had got a paper out of it - modified to discuss burn victims and others with particularly sensitive skin - and had done fairly well from the patent rights. But Widowmaker didn't care about that. Widowmaker cared that she could sleep with her lovers whenever she wanted to, and whenever they wanted her to, and it would just work.

She breathed in the scent of her brown-haired love, the teleporter, nuzzling down a little into that silly, tossed hair. Unimaginably wonderful. She shifted just a little, carefully, and did the same of her red-haired love, the flying officer, and the scent was so very different and yet so much the same. So wonderful.

And softly, so softly, her breath caught, and water pooled in her eyes, and she sniffed, not wanting to, but she still did, and she tried to stop herself, to stop the tears, but that just made her laugh, just a little, and trying to stop that, too, made more of all it it happen.

Emily awoke, blinking, but lay still except to look up towards the sniffling. "Sweet? What... are you crying?"

"No," whispered Widowmaker. "Yes."

"Oh, love, what's wrong?"

"Nothing. Go back to sleep." She laughed a little more, shaking again, and from Lena came a little "mmf?" and she blinked those big brown eyes that Widowmaker could see so clearly even in the low light.

"You too. Go back to sleep."

"Wuzzit?" said Lena, awake enough now to attempt words, but still, at least half asleep.

"But what's wrong?"

"Nothing," sniffed Widowmaker. "Nothing. Nothing." She leaned over and kissed the half-asleep Lena on top of her head. "Everything is wonderful," and then did the same for Emily.

"Why're you crying?" asked Lena.

"I am... so happy," said the blue assassin, half-sobbing, smiling, confused, but not caring. "I..."

She stopped, and her eyes opened wide.

"I found it," she whispered.

"What?" asked Emily, reaching up to run her fingers through Widowmaker's hair.

"Yeah, love - what?" asked Lena, reaching up to do the same from the other side. Her hand met Emily's, and she smiled, as their fingers intertwined.

"Perfection." She brought her two lovers tightly against her, laughing, crying, all at the same time, the emotions, they are too much she thought, gasping, but that is also perfect. "This perfection."

Lena blinked. "You mean... like before? At the beginning, when you were made? But... here, now? ... with us?"

Widowmaker nodded, not being able to put it into better words. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Oh my god."

Emily chuckled. "You're beautiful too, you know that, right?"

"Love, no, she means it. Losing this is why she left Talon."

"Yes," whispered the spider.

Oh. Emily hadn't been there when the assassin had told the story, but she remembered it, and how it affected Lena. "And now you've got it back?" she asked.

"Yes," nodded the Widowmaker. "It is... different. But better." She sniffled. "Everything is so beautiful."

"Is any part of this bad?" asked Emily, a little worried, a little unsure, a little amazed. The assassin's body always carried tension, tension she could feel in her muscles, feel almost in her skin. And she did not feel it. It was... gone.

"No," breathed the Widowmaker. "Oh no, oh, oh no. It is wonderful. I am so happy."

"You sure?" asked Lena.


"Completely sure?" asked Emily.


"Good," said Lena, as the three snuggled back in together, and the three of them slowly drifted back to sleep.

What would my makers think of me now? wondered the spider, as she slid back towards her dreams, laughing, to herself, just a little. And then when she did sleep, she slept smiling, finding her dreams new, and happy, and not unlike her life now, found, new, and happy.

She would need to change her tattoo. No more nightmares. None. At least, not, for now.

Non-Cornish pasties

Aug. 19th, 2017 01:00 pm
azurelunatic: Chocolate dessert, captioned No Artificial Shortages  (no artificial shortages)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
Belovedest has mentioned a few times that it's hard to get your hands on a nice meat pasty around these parts. I contemplated the matter and asked a few questions.

At length, it seemed like it was a good day to try.

My reliable source for understanding the principles behind what I'm cooking is Serious Eats. So I read through the pie crust stuff again. (Incidentally, the site is a clickbait hole for DELICIOUSNESS.)



2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces; 350 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces; 280 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pats
6 tablespoons (3 ounces; 85 milliliters) cold water

I looked at the amounts involved.

There was no way that I was going to be able to fit all that flour and butter into my food processor, which is an attachment to my stick blender. I looked closely at the amounts.

It so happens that the ratio of cups of flour to sticks of butter is 1:1. So I decided that I could make a test batch, one cup and one stick. The salt and sugar is less important, and in fact the sugar is kind of not what I wanted for a pasty dough.

I put 2/3 of the flour together with the butter and a bit of salt, then added a little water and more of the flour. (Probably not how I should have done it.) Then I mixed it in a larger bowl with a little more water. My hands are rather hot, so I tried to cool them down with ice.

I wrapped it up in cling wrap and let it cool off in the refrigerator. I pulled it out a few hours later, and quartered the dough. I saw that it had distinct stacked layers, like a good steel blade. I was thrilled.

I rolled it out in the best tradition of my mother, between two sheets of parchment paper. (There is no rolling pin in this kitchen. I used a glass.) I stuck it back in the refrigerator, still between the sheets, to wait while I prepared the filling. (Parchment paper and waxed paper are easier to handle than cling wrap, for this.)

This was not a Cornish pasty. [personal profile] wohali said something about a chicken curry pasty, and I went "Oooo!" and she advised that you can use pretty much any chicken curry recipe, just dryer than usual.

I went for it.

My basic chicken curry is chicken plus a brick of golden curry sauce plus assorted vegetables, and oil as needed. This time I decided to cook the chicken thigh meat so it would be easy to separate from the bones in my multifunction fancy rice cooker, along with some spiced oil left over from a previous recipe, and some dry onions. I cooked the vegetables and the curry brick separately, only combining them all (and some potato flakes to sop up water and oil) at the end. My partner is much better at handling chicken meat in all its phases than I am, and stripped the meat from the bones before I mixed them together.

I did roll it too thin, and I let it get too hot when filling it.

Despite the holes, I stuck the crust together with egg wash, and egg washed the outside. (I used the leftover egg wash to make a little bit of curry scrambled egg, which my partner ate on top of their salad.)

I'd wisely said that if the food was not going to be ready by 10pm, we should eat something else. The pies came out of the oven just as we were finishing chicken nuggets, but we still had enough room to test half a pie each.


I will be making these again. And the dough process is relatively simple with the tools at hand, so my partner (who can follow a recipe, but isn't yet the cocky ass in the kitchen that I am) may wind up learning the process too.

I put together a bit of sweet pie dough just now, and it's chilling in a ball in the refrigerator. I'm thinking that some fruit pies might be in order...

"What next?"

Aug. 18th, 2017 02:11 pm
graydon2: (Default)
[personal profile] graydon2
Warning: this has turned out to be a .. long post.

Recently, on the twitters, Stephanie Hurlburt suggested that it'd be healthy for people who have been around the computering industry for a while (*cough cough*) to take some "audience questions" from strangers. I obliged, and someone asked me an interesting one:

"After memory safety, what do you think is the next big step for compiled languages to take?"

Setting aside the fact that "compiled" languages have had various more-or-less credible forms of "memory safety" for quite a long time, I agree (obviously!) that cementing memory safety as table stakes in all niches of language design -- especially systems languages -- continues to be an important goal; but also that there's also lots more to do! So I figured I'd take a moment to elaborate on some areas that we're still well short of ideal in; maybe some future language engineers can find inspiration in some of these notes.

Before proceeding, I should emphasize: these are personal and subjective beliefs, about which I'm not especially interested in arguing (so will not entertain debate in comments unless you have something actually-constructive to add); people in the internet are Very Passionate about these topics and I am frankly a bit tired of the level of Passion that often accompanies the matter. Furthermore these opinions do not in any way represent the opinions of my employer. This is a personal blog I write in my off-hours. Apple has a nice, solid language that I'm very happy to be working on, and this musing doesn't relate to that. I believe Swift represents significant progress in the mainstream state of the art, as I said back when it was released.

That all said, what might the future hold in other languages?

so many things )
yatima: (Default)
[personal profile] yatima posting in [community profile] 50books_poc
If I'm honest with you, I'm probably much too close to this book to have a fair opinion of it. On the other hand, it's a gorgeous, loving, clear-eyed and critical portrait of the world in which I live. In a week that felt hopeless, this book gave me a beautiful and hopeful place to be, and I adored it without reservation.
Powell’s Books beckoned to us in red, black, and white, like a flag for a new America. One that’s educated, homegrown, and all about sustaining local book culture.

Libraries are where nerds like me go to refuel. They are safe-havens where the polluted noise of the outside world, with all the bullies and bro-dudes and anti-feminist rhetoric, is shut out. Libraries have zero tolerance for bullshit. Their walls protect us and keep us safe from all the bastards that have never read a book for fun.

Juliet is a fat 19yo Puerto Rican lesbian writer from the Bronx, spending her summer in Portland, Oregon, interning with Harlowe Brisbane, the white feminist author of Raging Flower: Empowering your Pussy by Empowering your Mind. Shenanigans ensue, and they are gloriously, heartbreakingly real: a science fiction writing workshop honoring Octavia Butler; a reading at Powell's that goes horribly wrong; a queer POC party in Miami.

Rivera is brilliant on the rollercoaster that is growing up one or more kinds of "other" and trying to be true to your authentic self before you have quite figured out what that is.
You are your own person, Juliet. If it’s a phase, so what? If it’s your whole life, who cares? You’re destined to evolve and understand yourself in ways you never imagined before.

She is also extremely acute on the specific failures of white feminism. At a moment in history when our alliances may or may not save the world, it's on white women to understand how our thoughtlessness can inflict deep injuries on our best allies. And it's on white women to stop that shit.

This is a first novel and unpolished, but it's a huge shiny diamond full of light and color and my favorite thing I've read in the challenge so far.


Aug. 17th, 2017 02:28 pm
azurelunatic: A red apple with a bite out of it, captioned in Star Trek font "What no-win scenario?" (what no-win scenario)
[personal profile] azurelunatic
I am scared of my family right now.

My immediate family are largely good people who generally behave with kindness to all, and abhor the concepts of white supremacy and fascism like any decent person.

My aunts on my father's side are pretty awesome. Hippie Uncle is great, and Woodworking Uncle has good intentions and maybe a few distortions due to assorted experiences of privilege, but he does not appear to go out of his way to fuck other people over.

My aunt-by-marriage scares me. She's a doctor, and things she has said about transgender people, and gender in general, make me feel unsafe around her.

My uncle who is married to that aunt has good intentions, but does not appear to be in a position to temper his wife's attitudes.

"Racist Cousin Anna" has said some things about Mexicans that made me turn away from her. She's married to the older of that uncle's kids.

Both those cousins have posted things about guns and Muslims on Facebook that make me scared, like they wouldn't hesitate to support laws that would marginalize my friends, or might use one of those guns on someone.

I don't have the scariest family in the world. And I'm still skittish of saying anything that might prompt them to stop seeing me as their tame cousin and start seeing me as Other.
jesse_the_k: amazed Alanna (hero of Staples/Vaughn SAGA comic) (alanna is amazed)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
... is a Kickstarter-funded project that's almost over. I'm so lucky to be able to fund it.

Uncanny Magazine -- whose editors have personal relationships to disability -- picked up the mantle of "create a wonderful anthology themed by marginal creators" from Lightspeed.

Even if you can't contribute money, Uncanny is posting free essays from SF writers about the connection between SF and disability. The essays are wonderful, and I've learned something from every one of them.

I kept meaning to post a highlight entry, and wowza [personal profile] beatrice_otter has done it for me!

So, go read this post and read wonderful essays

[food] Beans bourdeto, sort of

Aug. 17th, 2017 08:24 pm
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
I went to Corfu! I was introduced to Corfiot bean stew! I was a fan. I am also struggling to track down a recipe that will let me recreate the But That's Amazing Though that I experienced there, because it's generally made with fish and there are relatively few recipes online, which means my ability to take the average of multiple recipes is limited. Nonetheless!

Read more... )

... which I served up with The Rice Of My People, which I'd apparently somehow not made for A before; he is a Fan. It turns out. Read more... )

Parting Thought

Aug. 17th, 2017 01:51 pm
jesse_the_k: Flannery Lake is a mirror reflecting reds violets and blues at sunset (Rosy Rhinelander sunset)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
I'm headed up north for my customary two-week sojourn by a cool lake (as pictured in the icon).

I'll leave you with this handy keyboard tip.

When I realize I want to delete a lot of text in the middle, I start a new line before and after. That way I can use the triple-click or keyboard commands without fussing with selecting between words.
yatima: (Default)
[personal profile] yatima posting in [community profile] 50books_poc
Ian McEwan's acclaimed novels On Chesil Beach and Saturday both take place over the course of a single day, in an improbably lily-white version of England. Race-bending this formula is the fundamentally good idea beneath Black Bread White Beer. When we meet Amal and his white wife Claud, they have just lost a pregnancy in the first trimester, but they go ahead and visit Claud's parents in East Sussex as planned.

The novel is at its sharpest and funniest when Amal is reporting his Pakistani parents' reactions to his horrible in-laws:
‘What she means is, we wish you all the luck in the world, Amal, but you must watch your back. Her people look like a bunch of backstabbers. Never trust them for an instant.’

There are also some moving passages where Amal imagines what he and Claud would be like as parents:
Theirs would not be paraded about like Sussex show ponies. There were plenty of cool, funky children they could take as their template.

or what their lives would be like child-free:
They could buy a holiday home abroad. Two. One on each hemisphere if that is what would make her happy. He racks his mind to think of the childless couples they know – not the kids from the office; guys their age and older – but cannot dredge any up. In their immediate circle, there are no trailblazers, only conformists. No matter. They are taste makers, she and him. They can set the precedent.

As with McEwan, though, I found these characters difficult to warm to. Amal and Claud both struck me as joyless corporate drones, preoccupied with status, their world devoid of beauty and pleasure. A technically adroit book, but not for me.

hoo chapter 6

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:45 am
solarbird: (Default)
[personal profile] solarbird
Super-nervous about chapter six (just posted).

I always worry about tearing it, you know? In the showbiz sense. Breaking credibility, within a context, even if that context is pretty incredible (in the sense of not credible) to begin with, like Overwatch. And I kind of feel like I'm dancing up to that line with that chapter, with Venom as a character.

If people make it through Terrifying in Flight, I think chapter seven ("Is It Good Enough For You, Still?") will clarify some things. Angela thought, in chapter six, "that's a lie," and she was correct. But I can't put that in front of chapter six, I can't say, "trust me here," because, well, y'can't do that, it doesn't make sense.

Questions of identity float around in Old Soldiers, and this is part of that arc, and and and and.

solarbird: (tracer)
[personal profile] solarbird

[AO3 link]

"Letting us take the first shot, then?" Gabriel Reyes asked Venom, eyeing the new intel sent along on sideband. "We got Sombra's location reports - thank you."

The Talon assassin nodded. "Yeh. I..." she frowned. "Gabe, luv, I'm gonna get this out there. I voted no. But I lost, so I'll go along."

"I appreciate that." Reyes gave Oxton a considering look. "You sure, though? The way you stormed out..."

The assassin nodded. "I've got my reasons, and I've made my promises - to Amélie - and I keep 'em." Just ask G/C Henderson, she thought, Oh wait, you can't, he's dead. The memory made her smile, just a little. Small but lasting comforts.

"Glad to hear it. Thank you," replied the tactical advisor. Promises to the Widowmaker? That'd do it. "We collectively - all of us at Overwatch, Tracer possibly excepted - want to bring him to justice, intact. Not just have him disappear again."

Lena "Venom" Oxton snorted, a little. "Might be right about Tracer. But for us - well, it's better than nothing."

Reyes breathed out. Good. "I'm putting together some plans, based upon your intel - and ours." He brought his right hand to his chin, thoughtfully. "I just wish we had a sniper. Closest we've got is Mei, and she's good with that ice pistol of hers, but it's not the same thing."

Venom thought about the problem, and a solution. Would Amélie be okay with it? Yes, she thought so. With the right conditions attached. Maybe even... proud. Let's float it. "You might. Have a sniper, I mean."

Gabriel tilted his head and stared into the screen. "...Amélie's suddenly willing to work with me?"

"No," Venom said. "But I am."

"Since when are you a sniper?"

Another snort. "C'mon, mate, how long have I been with the world's best sniper? Like I've told Winston - she teaches me her tricks."

"I can't see how you have the patience for it. How good are you?"

"I'm good, mate. Not Amélie good, but... good. Very good."

Gabe looked dubiously at her, through the screen. "How very good?"

Venom thought about it. "I keep a list of better snipers than me, right? Amélie's on top, of course; Zhanna Orlov's below her, Shimada Hanzo a few steps down, all that."

She's good enough to keep that list? he thought. But aloud, he kept it to, "Sure."

"Everyone on that list keeps a list like it. Amélie's still on top, but theirs has a question mark, down... maybe below number ten? But on the list."

"And that's you?"

Venom smiled. "Can't confirm that, luv. But."

"You willing to demonstrate that at the embassy?"

"Maybe. There's conditions." She looked thoughtful, glancing down to the side. "I have to check with Amélie. She might veto this."



Gabriel nodded. Talon secret tech, or something like it. Fair enough. "Let me know. It sure would be nice to have a sniper available."

"Aye aye."


Two days later, Tracer appeared on the balcony outside Winston's office, in the usual tangerine and white. She waved towards the glass door, and Winston started to let her in, then stopped, blinked, and stepped back.

"Honest, luv, it's me," came her voice through the door speaker. "Horizon Angle Delta Vector Seventeen Nine Seven Nine Banana Clown."



The gorilla opened the door, still wary, and Lena Oxton stepped inside out of the sunlight. In the office, she looked less blue around the edges, thanks to the warm lighting overhead, but the tint was still there, and her goggles had a fleet of extra red eyes, in mobile plates, along the sides and top. "I wanted to arrive dressed as Tracer, so's nobody'd notice, but..." She pressed buttons on her grapple, now equipped with familiar and frightening extras, and her suit changed to black and green. "Mockingbird reporting for sniper duty."

"Lena, what did you do?!"

She smiled in a broad way, most unlike her spider, and most like herself. It helped, a little. "Nothin' permanent. I swear. This is just what I look like when I'm a sniper."

Gabriel and Angela came up the stairs to the ambassador's office, and froze in their tracks at Winston and Lena. Angela shrieked a little, and Gabriel shuddered. "That... that is... deeply disturbing. Lena, are you still you?" asked the doctor.

Gold-tinted eyes - regular brown still visible underneath, if you looked closely - darted to Dr. Ziegler. "Guess I shoulda warned ya, huh? Yeh, it's still me in here." Her voice was the slightest bit slower and lower than usual, but clearly still hers.

"What have you done to yourself?!" Angela leaned forward, and Mockingbird stepped fluidly back, with an ah-ah-ah finger motion. "Sorry, doc, no scans. That's the rule if I'm gonna be here like this."

"I wasn't going to. Is it, is it..."

"Permanent? Nah. Nothin' to it, really. Some drugs, some other tricks."

That's a lie, thought the doctor. "Why?!"

"All the sniper traits. Night distance vision. Stability, in motion. Patience - well, for me, anyway. Stillness, too - I can stop my heart for three minutes in this mode and be just fine. But I keep my twitch reflex, and the energy I store up is barmy! I won't need to eat for four days. Which is good," she joked, "'cause don't ask me to read a menu in the dark right now."

Gabriel shook his head back and forth. "Your whole organisation is not right in the brain."

Mockingbird laughed, a very Tracer-like laugh, and that, too, helped. "When we're on the range, I'm gonna be even scarier. I'll ramp down my emotions s'more and turn the spider all the way up." She brought up her vizor's extensions, and her goggles' primary field went dark red.

Winston reached out to her, without words, and she took his hand. "Or maybe I won't." She reset the vizor to standard mode. "Didn't think you'd be this fruck out, big guy. It's okay, honest."

"You weren't here when Amélie killed Gérard, you don't..." He felt her hand. "You're cool to the touch," he said, quietly.

"Not that cool. Just enough to avoid bein' picked up on infrared. Won't fool the best models, but it helps."

"Please say you aren't turning into Amélie. I... I don't want you turning into Amélie."

Mockingbird snickered, saying, "Well, they do say married couples start to look alike," and activated the vizor again.

"Lena, no! Be serious! I don't want to lose you."

She smiled, waved the magnifiers away, and held her friend's hand against her face. "Aw, luv, no. I like who I am. This is fun, but not... as fun. It'll all go away later. But right now, you need a sniper." She lowered his hand, and patted his shoulder. "I can shed most of this in about an hour, if I really need to."

"That's all it takes?" asked the Swiss doctor.

"For me? Yeh, in an emergency. I can throw 'bout half of it off in under a minute, if I really gotta - but it hurts like the dickens."

Gabriel shook his head. Crazy people, Talon - all of 'em. "Where's your rifle?"

Mockingbird, it seemed, had Lena Oxton's famous half-grin, and she flashed it, and flipped her pistols. "Right here." She popped them together, they locked, and the barrel extended. From a pouch, she pulled out a surprisingly conventional-looking scope, which snapped right on top. "But: ground rules. One: no scans. Sorry, doc. Two: I'm not Tracer, I'm Mockingbird. Stick to it, I mean it. No "Lena," no "Tracer," not outside this office. Three: nobody, and I mean nobody, touches my tech but me. Anyone does, I walk away completely, and for good. No more Mockingbird, and" - she said this slowly, and clearly - "no. more. Tracer. either."

She waited a moment to make sure all that had sunk in. "These are the terms. Otherwise, I leave now, no harm done, and Tracer comes back tomorrow wondering if she missed anything. Agreed?"

"Le... Mockingbird, this cannot be good for you," said Angela. "I promise, just a circulatory..."

"No," the sniper said firmly. "None."

The doctor sighed. "You are not the only one here who experiments with her body in extreme ways. You are stressing it more than I think you know. I want to help."

"We do this before breakfast, luv. But, y'know, if you ever want to switch teams, you could do all the scans you..."

"I don't think so," the doctor interrupted. "But how am I going to know how to treat you in the field, if necessary?"

Mockingbird tipped her head, and smiled. "I'll give you this." She held up a small memory card. "Complete treatment protocols for anything that has to happen faster than a Talon extraction team can reach me. You can have it once everything's settled."

"I insist that I be allowed to practice these protocols. At least the physicality of them. In battle," she did not really have to say, "it matters."

"Ah, yeah! As long as your nanos aren't taking samples, that's fine."

"And may I please, at least, examine you later? When this is over? To be sure you've handled this well? Your own doctors may want that data."

Mockingbird thought about it. The compassion was genuine, she was pretty sure, but so was the desperate curiosity to know how all this worked. There would be things for her to find, later, but little she wouldn't've had a chance to see before, and she'd be looking in all the wrong places... good enough, she decided. "They'll already have it, but - deal."

"Thank you." The doctor looked a little bit relieved, if still more than a little concerned. "I accept."

"Winston? How 'bout it?"

"Gabriel, are you willing to work under these conditions?"

The former Blackwatch head nodded. "I've worked under way worse than this. I'm good. Uh, I... accept the terms?"

"Oh, right," said the assassin, "This has to be for the whole organisation." She switched to Tracer colours, and said, "On behalf of Overwatch, I, Lena "Tracer" Oxton, agree to the terms of Mockingbird's service," before switching back. "Sounds like a bloody software license, don't it? That just leaves you, Winston. And Mei, but she's not here yet."

"I don't like it," said the gorilla. "But... deal. No scans, no handling, no anything."

Mockingbird smiled. "Brilliant!" She tossed Angela the memory card. "Have fun with that. The rest of us - let's go shoot some wings off mosquitoes!"


"You know, as a sniper, I'll be going for the head shot," Mockingbird said over Overwatch comms, launching herself high into the air with her grapple. They'd started at the indoor range, but she got bored with 50 metre shooting and started coming up with creative ways to undo target clips with bullets, and the army's outdoor range was much more interesting. Still carried by momentum on the way up, she twisted left, and took the head off the first target dummy.

"We've been over this," responded Gabriel, watching as she took the head off a second target on the way down, before even landing on her cliffside perch. "We want him alive." He took notes that started with 'Terrifying in flight.'

"And we want him dead," she retorted. "I want him dead. Don't get me wrong, Gabe, I'm here, I'm goin' along with your plan, but alive's not the sniper's job." From that upper perch, she hit three for four on moving ground targets. Two headshots, one ricochet shot that missed, a follow-up direct shot leaving a grazed neck. That last one would walk away, with medical aid. "Damn."

'Never really stops moving,' the new Overwatch tactics expert added to his notes. 'Highly mobile.' "We just want the tactical visor gone."

She spun around from her nest and ticked a faceplate off the sixth target dummy. "And that's a headshot."

"Tracer, just..."

"Tracer's not here, luv."


"Hiya!" She triggered reload, and launched herself to the second perch. He noted she wasn't jinking at all, no teleports, no rewinds, just running, moving with the grapple, and nothing else. Still all about movement, though.

Bang, target down. "No additional shots after the visor's gone." He could almost feel her dirty look from the ground. Bang, another ricochet shot, target missed.

She landed, swore, and took a second shot on the second target, moving within her section's perch point for a direct shot, taking the dummy down. "Not even to save another agent?" She ran a strafe pattern against moving dummies, bang, bang, bang. Four for three, including a domino shot. All perfect.

Jesus, she's good, Gabriel thought. Maybe not Amari good, those ricochet shots aren't working, but... Aloud, he said, "Except to save another agent."

"Short day for me, then." Another reload, and she launched herself into the air, diving to the final shooting perch. Gabriel surprised her with three airborne targets. Bang, down, bang, down, bang, bang, down. "Seems a shame if I have to get all gussied up." She landed and rolled to the third sighting point.

"A short day would be very, very good indeed."

Three fast targets, running along the ground, zagging, all with faceplates - the most human of them all. Three shots, three faceplates off, all targets down. "My way would be even shorter."

"Mockingbird. Please. I know what you are. Don't make it harder."

Lena Oxton breathed in, carefully. She wondered, occasionally, how long she could make this Talon-Overwatch joint arrangement last, and this was one of those times. It's for the best, she reminded herself. If, occasionally, a right pain in the arse. "Sorry, Gabe. I'm workin' so hard to remind everyone it's me in here, maybe I overdid it a bit. Is that it for the first round?"

"Yeah, that's the first set. What'd you think?"

"I liked the surprise skeet, that was fun! But I was sloppy. I can do better, if I drop the banter. And nothin' returned fire!"

"This is a target range, not a combat simulator, what'd you expect?"

"Might fix that."

"If we had the money. You're supposed to know that."

"Maybe Tracer's supposed to know that - I'm not."

Right, he thought. "Mockingbird, secure weapon, and return to start. We'll reset the range for another round."


Aziz Ansari, Modern Romance, 2015

Aug. 17th, 2017 10:01 am
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[personal profile] yatima posting in [community profile] 50books_poc
I loved Aziz Ansari in Parks and Recreation and I revere his own series, Master of None. The "Thanksgiving" episode of Master of None is one of the best things I have ever seen on television. So I picked up Modern Romance with some enthusiasm.

In a classic Tom Haverford move, rather than just write the obligatory you-have-succeeded-as-a-comedian-on-TV book (Bossypants, Girl Walks Into a Bar, I'm Just a Person, Paddle Your Own Canoe, Self-Inflicted Wounds, The Bedwetter, Yes Please... yeah, it's a genre), Ansari teamed up with Stanford sociologist Eric Klinenberg to figure out both why technologically-mediated dating is such an unrelieved horror show and, reading between the lines, why Ansari was finding it difficult to meet a nice woman.

The resulting book reminded me a bit of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything in that it's as curious and interesting as it is funny. Ansari's quizzical sweetness shines especially in his reporting on the specific dating scenes in Buenos Aires, Doha, Paris and Tokyo.
In Japan, posting any pictures of yourself, especially selfie-style photos, comes off as really douchey. Kana, an attractive, single twenty-nine-year-old, remarked: “All the foreign people who use selfies on their profile pic? The Japanese feel like that’s so narcissistic.” In her experience, pictures on dating sites would generally include more than two people. Sometimes the person wouldn’t be in the photo at all. I asked what they would post instead.

“A lot of Japanese use their cats,” she said.

“They’re not in the photo with the cat?” I asked.

“Nope. Just the cat. Or their rice cooker.”

“I once saw a guy posted a funny street sign,” volunteered Rinko, thirty-three. “I felt like I could tell a lot about the guy from looking at it.”

This kind of made sense to me. If you post a photo of something interesting, maybe it gives some sense of your personality? I showed a photo of a bowl of ramen I had taken earlier in the day and asked what she thought of that as a profile picture. She just shook her head. OH, I GUESS I CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE TO THAT STREET SIGN DUDE, HUH?

For me, the most engaging part of the book was seeing insights that later ended up as jokes in Master of None. I endorse and seek to emulate this kind of creative reuse! As for meeting a nice woman, the gossip rags tell me that Ansari was in a relationship with pastrychef Courtney McBloom for a while, but they parted amicably last year. So it goes.

Hard reading -- Roxane Gay: HUNGER

Aug. 17th, 2017 09:08 am
jesse_the_k: mirror reflection of 1/3 of my head, creating a central third eye, a heart shaped face, and a super-pucker mouth (Default)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
I started reading this via audio, narrated by the author. Technically excellent; both writing and reading. The subject matter, however, has given me thrashing screaming nightmares.

Contains: shame, sexual violence, shame, internalized misogyny, eating disorder, shame.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to finish it.
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[personal profile] kaberett
Includes current politics + mental illness, HURRAH.

Read more... )


ah, I forgot

Aug. 16th, 2017 09:46 pm
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[personal profile] solarbird
There is a kind of shot - a trick shot, really - called a domino shot. It's where you hit two targets with a single bullet.

I'd noticed in Annabots that I seemed to be getting some double-kills with single shots, and poking around, I'm under the impression that domino shots are actually a thing in-game.

I think I got one yesterday. Temple of Anubus, on offence, second point, I'm hanging out on my favourite perch, shooting onto the point, really kind of waiting for my team to get back out there as we'd captured part of the point but then got stomped.

I see some movement on the point, and I fire one shot in - Double kill.

I think maybe I got my first domino shot in quickplay.

i have missed weightlifting

Aug. 16th, 2017 09:19 pm
solarbird: (widow)
[personal profile] solarbird
I haven't realised how much I've been missing weightlifting. I mean, sure, it's nice enough while you're doing it, but for just hours after you just feel like unf. Or at least I do. Love it.

A couple of days ago, I was talking offline about how I'm improving as a Widowmaker, but I'm not able to shift a game the way I can by showing up as Tracer or Today I did it.

Dorado, on attack, started as Tracer. They weren't ready for a Tracer at my grade, and we charged pretty well for the first 95% of the first leg, 'till they figured out I was the problem, then we still managed to nudge it to the first objective before we totally got shut down.

So I switched to, and they weren't expecting a of that grade either, but once again, figured out who to focus on, and we charged for 95% and then had to struggle for the last bit, and I brought it home nudge and boop at a time.

But that was it, right? They brought out a Bastion, and's not a good counter to Bastion, and I think they must've swapped another hero, because they were seriously pushing us back to the third spawn point, and I'm thinking, "...I... I really feel like I need to bring out Widowmaker here. I really do."

And so I said fukkit, I did. And started knocking out the Bastion over and over and an eight-person kill-streak later, we're 95% of the way to the third and final point.

Which is, again, when they figure out where I went and started hardcore targeting me and we lost. Plus, indoors on the third stage of Dorado is a terrible, terrible place for Widowmaker, so what did you expect, really? But while we were outside, I was an unstoppable killing machine as Widowmaker, and for the third time, shifted a match from "hopeless" to "edge of victory."

I have no illusions about being able to do it regularly - yet - with Widowmaker. My aim is still super-spotty (tho' the time I'm putting in on Annabots is clearly helping across all heroes) and I don't know all the places to be and not be. But I have now done it, once.

sonia: Quilted wall-hanging (Default)
[personal profile] sonia
Animal Brides in SFF Short Fiction post with links to several short stories by [personal profile] forestofglory.

All these stories are well-written and thought-provoking. I particularly liked the one by Ursula Vernon, which reminded me about her story Pocosin which I loved, and led me to find her whole book online Summer in Orcas. Highly recommended all around!

Just noticed there is a live Kickstarter for Summer in Orcas in case you love the online book and want one of your very own. I now have a paperback coming to me sometime, yay!

I also recently backed Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction / Uncanny Magazine and the bonus for backing this is I get emailed a bunch of great essays by people with disabilities about what SF means to them.

uh, ciao!

Aug. 16th, 2017 05:59 pm
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[personal profile] tvfission posting in [community profile] 2017revival
Name: Alicia Joan or AJ
Age: 25
Location: Las Vegas, NV

Describe yourself in five sentences or less: I am an acquired taste but overall very easy to get along with! A friendly, bisexual, karaoke-fiend that loves to write/roleplay, draw, and watch disturbing videos willingly at night. I'm a sucker for being creeped out. Have I mentioned I'm a weirdo? But a weirdo who loves to make friends!

Top 5 fandoms: To be quite honest, it's really only American Horror Story, Preacher, annddd The Office. I am constantly watching The Office. I realize it's been over for quite a while but that means nothing! Nothing, I say!

I mostly post about: My personal life and what-have-you. If not that: an article, new music I've discovered, maybe a selfie here or there, and pix of my pups! I just recently registered on the site so I have very few posts up right now.

I rarely post about: Politics, only because I use FB primarily for that. But I am not opposed to following folks that do, as I like to engage in discussion sometimes - especially if you're looking for one!

My three last posts were about: My loneliness and lack of friends, haha. I promise that will change and is not a constant. I was simply amusing myself. ;)

How often do you post? I will probably start out posting often but it may slow down as I have adult things that need my attention more. I'm taking care of my dad at the moment and that's where most of my focus is at when not here or other social platforms!

How about commenting? I will likely comment more than post. But that's so I keep in touch with everyone. My life doesn't provide a great deal of interesting things to talk about right now, so! I'm also trying this new thing where I don't dwell on negative crap like I used to. It's working out nicely! 

(This doesn't describe my day, but the kid's face cracks me up and I have a similar distaste for vodka myself, haha.)

jesse_the_k: Cartoon drawing of original Mac with screen displaying the "happy Mac" smile indicating successful boot (old Mac)
[personal profile] jesse_the_k
is "Future Tense," a collaboration between Arizona State University, the New America foundation and

The reports look at the impact of technology on society. They're piecse extend beyond the gee whiz to always consider technology's political impacts as well as social justice concerns.

What initially caught my eye is their sensible assistive tech reporting. No inspirational nonsense, no "this one gadget will change everyone's life!"
two samples that spoke to me )

I find their weekly newsletter handy, as it's got has just the right amount of teaser text plus links to the full stories.


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