patrick's birth story: part 2

(read part 1 here)

Dalton parked at the very front of the assessment center, and we walked in together. I didn't know what to say to the receptionist. "I think I'm in labor?" I asked her. 

"Go ahead and fill this out," she practically yawned as she slid some paperwork in my direction. This was not, as they say, her first rodeo. (I found it very reassuring that most of the hospital employees acted bored during one of the most terrifying/transcendental experiences of my life.)

My hands were shaking as I illegibly filled out forms. I was ushered into a small room with an admit nurse and a computer. She asked me basic questions while Dalton went to repark legally. By the time he was finished, she was leading me to a room. 

The assessment center was quiet. I couldn't tell if there were any other patients, but at this point, I didn't care. I was on my hands and knees on the hospital bed when the nurse returned. 

"Using our coping mechanisms already, I see!" She clearly thought this was adorable. Somehow Dalton had helped me into a hospital gown. The nurse had me lie down so that she could check my progress. "Four and a half centimeters!" she announced. "Looks like you're getting admitted." 

I was disappointed. I'd hoped she would glance down and say, "I see the head!" Instead, I knew that I had over half of the way, the hard part, left to go. The nurse and an orderly wheeled me into an elevator and then into a labor suite. I moved around uncomfortably on the bed until another nurse, a tall brunette around my age, walked in. She smiled brightly at me. "I'm Jessica." She squatted down by the side of my bed and looked directly into my eyes. "I saw in your chart that you want to go natural. I just want you to know, you can do it." 

She said some other things after that, but I don't remember them. As I type this, I'm blinking back tears remembering her kindness and her enthusiasm. She didn't know me at all, but she wanted to support me. This was such a relief. One of my fears had been that I would have a nurse who would think I was annoying or naive for wanting to have an unmedicated birth. But with that one statement, Jessica had won me over. Then I heard her say that I could order from the light labor diet menu. 

The last thing I had eaten was buffalo wings the night before, plus some blue Powerade during all the pacing at home. I might have been in labor, but I was still pregnant. I ordered lemon ice, apple juice, and a Popsicle. 

While I waited for the liquid food, Dalton and I walked the halls. We ended up in a lovely waiting room lined with floor to ceiling windows. I watched the sun rise in the sky and realized that I would likely have a baby in my arms by nightfall. The sweetness of that thought was quickly eclipsed by the next few contractions. They were getting stronger, and even the relief of Dalton's magnificent counterpressure was waning. We walked back to our room. 

The liquid food was waiting there, and I quickly inhaled about 2/3 of it before a violent queasiness hit me suddenly. I ran to the bathroom, but I didn't make it in time. A minute later, I was apologizing to the sweet student nurse who was assigned the enviable task of cleaning up my vomit. "It's okay," she said, smiling kindly and looking ill herself. 

In spite of the unpleasantness of the vomiting, I was excited. Vomiting meant transition! Transition meant I was close to pushing! I must be ten centimeters! I submitted to a cervix check, and Jessica announced that I had progressed to five. A measly half of a centimeter. It had been a few hours since I was four and a half, and I started to worry. I was only halfway dilated, and walking was no longer a relief. I tried kneeling and swaying on a birth ball. Nope. I asked if I could try the labor tub. 

When I say labor tub, you may be picturing a large, jetted setup in the middle of the room over which my partner could lovingly drape his arms to encircle me and our newborn child while crying tears of joy. Nope. Picture a standard bathtub in a hospital bathroom. It did have jets. I don't know how they get cleaned. I didn't ask. 

As unimpressive as it looked, that tub was like sitting by a warm fireside in the middle of a punishing blizzard. (Or what I imagine that feels like, because I live in Louisiana.) The tub took the edge off of the pain. I still couldn't focus on anything but my contractions, but I could cope. 

Speaking of coping, here I will provide you with a list of coping mechanisms which I had prepared prior to labor, along with my personal assessment of their effectiveness: 

  • Light labor diet: I'm very happy that I was allowed to eat during labor, so that I could keep up my energy. Just don't scarf the food like you haven't eaten in days, because it probably will end up on the floor. 

  • Birthing ball: No offense, birthing ball, but you are a joke. Sitting on the ball during pregnancy and very early labor felt helpful and nice, but during labor it felt more like torture to me. 

  • Walking: Walking was so helpful. I didn't want to do it, but I felt like every step was productive. 

  • Visualization: I can't write much about this one because I'm laughing too hard. Dalton and I had prepared for this one by imagining scenes from the beach on our honeymoon, but if he had tried to walk me through a visualization exercise while I was actively laboring, I would have snapped at him to be quiet, probably. 

  • Music: See above. I only wanted silence. 

  • The tub: Warm fireside. 

  • Counterpressure: This was probably even more helpful than the tub, mainly because I wasn't allowed to labor in the tub as long as I wanted. Counterpressure is essentially someone pushing hard against your lower back during contractions. Your partner must do this for as long and as often as you ask. He is not allowed to complain about the shooting nerve pain in his hands. It works great!

  • Slow dancing/swaying with partner: We never tried this one, probably because I was constantly asking for "pressure, pressure, pressure," and the two techniques are not really compatible. 

  • Peanut ball: I'll come back to this one.

  • A book: We were told during our Coping During Labor class to think creatively about what might distract us from the pain. I chose a new release by a favorite author, since reading is my absolute favorite distraction. The book ended up being great to read while nursing. I read exactly zero pages during labor. 

  • Prayer: We had a list of intentions, and Dalton read one with each difficult contraction near the end. I would do this again for the contractions, only because I want those suckers to count.

I had been told that it was fine to labor in the tub, but I wouldn’t be allowed to give birth there. Prior to labor, this seemed reasonable- delivering a baby in a hospital bathroom’s bathtub seemed like it would present several logistical challenges. But in my less than rational laboring state, getting out of the tub felt like torture.

Things get blurry here. I think I was checked and told that I was at six centimeters. This was probably around noon, meaning that I had dilated only two centimeters since my admission around four AM. Jessica came in with the OB on call, who asked if I wanted to have my water broken to speed things up. Somehow I had the presence of mind to realize that if my water were broken, I wouldn’t be able to labor naturally any more. “If you break my water, I don’t think I can do this,” I somehow squeaked out. 

“That’s fine,” the OB said. “But I’ll going to check you again in an hour or so, and if you haven’t made any progress, we need to seriously think about breaking your water and maybe Pitocin.” 

I was allowed to get back in the tub, this time for a shorter interval, and then I started acting in a way that made Dalton and Jessica nervous. No idea what I was doing, since I know I was silent. Maybe I had told Dalton I needed to push? In any case, I got out of the tub and was 8 cm. 

This was great news, but it was still too early to push, and I wanted to. I didn’t know at the time that early pushing could create significant cervical swelling which was counterproductive to giving birth. Even if I had known, I don’t know if I would have been able to stop. From around 2 PM until the early evening, I was stuck at 8 centimeters. 

Jessica put a peanut ball between my legs and rolled me onto my side. I freaking hated that peanut ball. It felt like the outside of both of my hips were sore and the inside of my thighs were on fire. As incredibly uncomfortable as I was, once I was on the ball, I couldn’t move. I don’t know how long I used it- Ten minutes? Two hours?- but the next time I was checked, I was nearly complete- with a swollen cervical lip. I was encouraged to try to push. This was a relief, since I had been pushing intermittently, illicitly anyway. 

Here’s where I meet Jesus. The pain had gotten so intense and difficult to bear that I don’t think I could even really see very well. I retreated into myself, saw shapes and colors and pain and nothing at all that was logical or coherent. The time in between contractions had shortened so much that it felt like there was no respite. 
At some point during all of this, there was a flurry of activity in the room. An overhead light came on, and the bed was broken down and the OB came into the room. It was time to push for real.


Knowing that the end was in sight gave me a small boost of emotional energy, but physically I felt spent. Jessica brought another nurse into the room, one who had had an unmedicated birth herself, to coach me through the end. Dalton knew this nurse instantly because she was his babysitter years before. This was odd and strangely comforting. I was told to push with each contraction, and each time, I expended all the energy I could muster. After a few contractions, I was totally depleted. 


Luckily, my nurses told me that my baby would be born with the next contraction for about ten contractions in a row. You would think that at some point I would have become suspicious of this, but I was too out of my mind to be intelligent. I believed them, every time. I can still hear them cheering. “You’re doing so good. Come on, Patrick. Come on Patrick.” Dalton would tell me later that to see all of these women gathered around, encouraging me and helping me to give birth to our baby, was incredibly moving for him.


After one contraction, I was told to reach down and feel the baby’s head. When I felt his mop of matted hair, it gave me resolve. I pushed him out during the next contraction. 


Feeling his body exit mine was one of the most profound, relieving, and weird sensations of my life. After his head was born, I felt each appendage twist on through, smaller and more slippery than their massive predecessor. He was instantly placed on my chest, and I started instinctively rubbing his body to get him to cry (do all moms do this, or just nurses?) With a jolt, I realized that I had a baby. I remembered that I had a husband. Dalton stood next to me with tears in his eyes. It was such a precious sight that I almost wanted to give him Patrick to hold. Almost. 


Dalton cut the cord, I had an interesting first breastfeeding experience, Patrick went to NICU. There’s a lot more to tell beyond just the actual birth. One day I might write it all down. For now, I’ve completed the part that Kath demanded I write before I give birth again. It’s time to go have some ice cream, finish packing our hospital bags, and organize our bookshelf again. 

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patrick's birth story: part 1

This is Kat, myself, and our friend Mary all pregnant at the same time. I delivered first, then Mary, then Kat.

This is Kat, myself, and our friend Mary all pregnant at the same time. I delivered first, then Mary, then Kat.

I spent the morning before I went into labor alphabetizing my bookshelf. This was something I had done when we had moved into our home the year before, but that morning the several large boxes of books which represented the last of our unorganized library became too much to bear. Why were they not already incorporated? Why was nonfiction not sorted by subject? I set to work, stepladder and all.

I had told my boss that I wouldn't be coming into work that day because I had an appointment with my OBGYN in the early afternoon that I hoped would jump-start labor. I think I was secretly hoping that when she checked me I would somehow already be about 6 cm dilated, and that she would look up with her gloved hand and a smile and say, "So are you ready to have a baby today?" 

No such luck. What actually happened was that she checked me, announced that I was still only 1.5 cm (same as the week before), but "totally effaced!" She then stripped my membranes at my request. I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I left that appointment holding a set of induction orders for the following Friday, when I would be 42 weeks. 

I didn’t want to be induced. I wanted to experience the drama of going into labor naturally- feeling the first mild contractions, having my water break suddenly all over the floor, looking at my husband and saying, "It's time!" like a movie cliche. When Dalton and I got in the car to leave the doctor's office, I looked at him and said firmly, "I need to walk." 

We went to Target, because walking at Target doesn’t feel like exercise, even at 40 weeks pregnant. I determinedly marched up and down every aisle. We bought a shirt for the baby, some toiletries, and a random assortment of other items because Target. We then went to Old Navy just because it was nearby, and I attempted to cram my full-term self into some dresses and tops. Needless to say, I cried in the dressing room, and we bought nothing there, but it was a great distraction!

After Old Navy, I demanded Buffalo Wild Wings with the mindset that there is nothing that delightfully unhealthy bar food can't fix, even- paradoxically- sadness induced by clothes shopping with late-term bloating. Dalton and I were seated at a booth in the restaurant. Our angel princess of a waitress informed us that it was half-price wings night. I would have gotten up to hug her, but she had just brought out our fried pickles, and I was therefore occupied. 

During dinner, I started to have stomach cramps, which wasn't unusual at this point in pregnancy. These cramps were strange, coming about every ten minutes. You know that you're reading a birth story, so you can see where this is going, but at this point, I was used to living with the consequences of my poor dietary choices, and I was feeling pretty normal. Dalton and I went home, and I ran the water for a shower. Right before I stepped into the tub, I felt my first real contraction. Contractions are hard to describe, but the best I can do is to say that it felt like a pair of large hands had wrapped themselves around my abdomen and squeezed it like a toothpaste tube. I stared at myself in the mirror for a moment, and then I walked out to the living room where Dalton was sitting. 

"You'd better get some sleep," I told him, " I'm pretty sure I just had a contraction." 

As it happens, that's a fairly counterproductive statement to shoot at someone who really does need to sleep. Dalton went to bed around nine, and I think he got only about fifteen minutes of sleep the whole night. 

Meanwhile, I paced. I couldn't believe that I was really in labor, but I also couldn't sit longer than a couple of seconds. I downloaded a contraction timer app and started watching the season finale of Pretty Little Liars. The show did nothing to hold my attention, even though the liars were finding out who A was for the fifth time, so I should have been riveted. My app was telling me that my contractions were already five minutes apart, which didn't seem possible. At around midnight, I went to the bathroom, and there was blood. I took pictures of the bloody toilet paper to show my L&D nurses, just in case. (L&D nurses everywhere are shaking their heads.) Now I was certain that we would be going to the hospital tonight. 

I paced more, round and round our dining table. My goal was to arrive at the hospital with my contractions at three minutes apart and/or with my cervix dilated to at least seven centimeters, but I worried that I would be way over or under that estimate. Every time I went to the bathroom, there was more blood. I started to get nervous that something was wrong. I was feeling good fetal movement, but I was scared. My contractions were getting stronger and stronger and were now about four minutes apart. I checked our hospital bags and paced more. 

At around two in the morning, I woke Dalton up from his uneasy rest. Immediately, he started doing counterpressure on my back, which he had learned in our birth class. This helped so much that I would have been happy to stay at home and continue laboring, but Dalton looked at the app and saw that my contractions were now three to four minutes apart, less than the five minutes recommended by our doctor for heading to the hospital. 

"We should probably get going," he said gently. 

"Nope. I'm good." 

Twenty minutes later, we were in the car. It was around four now, and the hospital was ten minutes away. In between contractions, I was vaguely grateful for the lack of traffic. I called my sister at the red light entrance to the hospital, which Dalton ran. 

"So I'm in labor," I huffed. Kath said some excited things to which I did not respond, since another contraction had hit. Dalton took the phone. "We'll call you when we can," he said. 

(*He probably said. I'm going to be making up a lot of details going forward, because while I do remember some flashes of the day in vivid color, most of it is lost to the birth fog.) 

Dalton parked at the very front of the assessment center, and we walked in together. I didn't know what to say to the receptionist. "I think I'm in labor?" I asked her. 

…to be continued…

new orleans recommendations: gen

Last year, Dalton and I decided that we wanted to do something beyond our normal date night in for our anniversary. We ended up leaving Patrick with my parents and embarking on a night out in New Orleans. When I began planning to write this post, I wrote down an outline of everything we did from Saturday evening until Sunday morning, and it turns out we visited over 10 places in under 24 hours. I still can’t believe it. Today I put on Muppet Babies for my toddler so that I could take an eight minute nap. Am I the same person? It boggles the mind. I have great hope that one day, after this pregnancy is finished, I can enjoy that level of energy again. 

The Cornstalk Hotel

We stayed the night at this charming, historic, allegedly haunted hotel in the middle of the city. I got a miraculous last-minute deal on our room the morning we drove in to New Orleans. The whole place is scary in that at every moment it feels like you might encounter a ghost or a cockroach, but it was just the perfect hotel for the romantic adventure we were looking to have. We plan to stay here again, due to the location, the service, and the balcony most of all. More on the balcony later. 

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The manager took photos of us all over the property. We have more pictures of us together from this night than we do from our wedding. Thanks, Sandra!

The manager took photos of us all over the property. We have more pictures of us together from this night than we do from our wedding. Thanks, Sandra!

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Our game plan was to visit as many happy hours as humanly possible. I researched the time and location of each one and we sketched out a rough itinerary for the evening. First stop, 

SoBou

Short for South of Bourbon, this glowing little restaurant/bar was the perfect place to start our evening. It was mostly empty with some assorted hipsters, and the atmosphere was casual enough that having a couple of appetizers and some cocktails felt like the perfect thing to do.

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We ate gumbo, pork tacos, and wings while we watched people walk down the street- a fascinating activity in NOLA. Dalton got his first Sazerac of the evening, and I ordered a celebratory Prosecco. We toasted each other and talked about food and traveling and probably Patrick. Dalton paid the bill as dusk fell, and we walked down the street to

Kingfish

The vibe here was slightly older than SoBou- fewer hipsters and more men in business attire, but still fairly casual. This appeared to be a great restaurant to sit down and have a full meal, but I think it was probably even more enjoyable to sit at the bar and order more appetizers and cocktails, which is what we did. At this point, we were beginning to relax and realize that WE WERE ON A DATE! It reminded me of when we were just getting to know each other. Dalton ordered boudin, which I hate. I ordered another gumbo, and I only let him have one bite. After another Sazerac and a tequila sour (my favorite), we moved on to happy hour at 

Broussard’s 

But they were closed for a private party. This ended up being good fortune for us, since we passed by 

Sucre

A location not on our original itinerary, I actually had no idea this place existed in the quarter, having only ever been to the one on Magazine Street. This dessert apothecary is well known for their macarons and their glittery king cakes. On this magical night, we discovered that there is also a restaurant on the second floor of this location called Salon by Sucre, and all you need to know is FRENCH FRIES. 

Here they are. We ordered sliders too but honestly they got outshined.

Here they are. We ordered sliders too but honestly they got outshined.

After the fries, we were pretty satiated for the moment and in need of some stimulation to keep our tired parent bodies active. We explored the nearby streets and came across 

Spitfire Coffee

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Also not on our original itinerary. Kath included it on her recommendations list. I concur with her assessment of it and would like to add that we waited at least 20 minutes for our coffee, but I don’t regret it because look, a leaf! 

Look, a leaf!

Look, a leaf!

We took our coffee back to the hotel and drank it on the balcony. That balcony. It made our weekend. It will reappear later in this post.

After our coffee interlude, we decided to visit one of my favorite NOLA tourist traps,

Pat O’ Brien’s 

I have great memories of going here with bachelorette parties of old. There’s something about singing Sweet Caroline with a bunch of strangers that makes me want to vote and compliment other women’s outfits and let people go in front of me in the parking lot. I just feel like a citizen of the world. We enjoyed a beer, a Rainstorm, and a rousing rendition of Africa by Toto, and then we were hungry again. 

The piano bar at Pat O’Brien’s

The piano bar at Pat O’Brien’s

Orleans Grapevine Wine Bar & Bistro

The big draw here is that they do a late-night bacon happy hour. What that means is that after Dalton and I ordered two glasses of wine, the bartender plunked a glass of crispy, delicious bacon onto the bar. It was just as magical as it sounds. From there, we moved to the restaurant’s courtyard, where we shared a fish and gnocchi dish that I wished were bottomless. We also spotted a saint. 

Pope John Paul II enjoying a casual dinner with friends.

Pope John Paul II enjoying a casual dinner with friends.

After Orleans, I was ready to call it a night. Dalton, however, was not. He had become very curious over the years about a place called 

The Gold Mine

For those who have not had the pleasure of visiting here for every bachelorette party ever, picture a small, dark bar. Every surface is coated with a thick layer of sweat, beer, and something unidentifiable and sticky. It’s a disgusting and gloomy place before 11PM, but as the evening goes on, it somehow becomes the best dance club in town. I gave in to Dalton’s curiosity, we paid the $5 cover charge, and I bought him a Flaming Dr. Pepper, because that’s basically another unwritten cover charge for the uninitiated.

Dalton’s first time at The Gold Mine

Dalton’s first time at The Gold Mine

The Gold Mine is beloved for its perfect blend of millennial hits. We danced to “Calling Baton Rouge,” “Always Be My Baby,” and “I’m the One” before well and truly calling it a night. The next morning, we walked to 

St. Louis Cathedral

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and attended Mass. The cathedral is where Kath and Jonathan got married, and I always think of them when I go there. The entirety of the place is covered with symbolic imagery and beautiful art, and I always get spiritually swept away just looking at everything. Plus, it was just the two of us, so I could actually pay attention the whole Mass. If Dalton and I ever go to Mass without Patrick, we always leave feeling refreshed and prayerful and also homesick for our baby. This morning was no exception, but it was great to be able to discuss the homily on the walk back to the hotel, since both of us had actually heard it. We got coffee at our hotel, and then we sat out on the balcony to enjoy it and a newspaper in the beautiful November weather. A musician played across the street, and it felt like he was giving a private concert just for us. I think this was my favorite part of the whole stay. And that’s saying something, because our last stop before heading home was 

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Cafe Amelie

The best part of Cafe Amelie is the courtyard, and even though we were third or so in line when the restaurant opened for brunch, we didn’t get to sit outside because it was for reservations only. That was okay though, because there was brunch. I ordered a Bloody Mary, and we both drank more coffee, and we reminisced about the night before. We had been so many places in just one evening, which was so exhausting and exhilarating for our homebody selves. Our third anniversary is quickly approaching. It’s been about a year since we’ve been on a real date, so I think we’ll probably do something exotic, like dinner and a movie. 

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New Orleans at night

New Orleans at night

new orleans restaurant recommendations: kat

I don't always use my gifts and talents to the best of my ability, but I will say that being from New Orleans, I've been gifted with a seemingly limitless list of restaurants where food and atmosphere are unmatched.  And as I believe this is one of the best gifts I've been given, I also feel like it's my responsibility to share my knowledge (though limited) with anyone and everyone who asks (and even those who don't) for recommendations.  So to make it easier on myself, I decided it would be a good idea to make this into a blog post, rope Gen into offering her suggestions, and just direct people to this post whenever they are visiting New Orleans and want food advice.  Unfortunately, we had to limit ourselves to a short list in the interest of brevity and efficiency.  But if you don't like these options or want to try new ones and don't know where to look, feel free to leave a comment below or send us an email and we'll gladly offer you more suggestions. 

I’ll be honest:  While I’ve tried most of these places and my recommendations come from generally great experiences at each of them, there are a few I haven’t tried and some that I’ve suggested only because my brother-in-law, who knows his way around New Orleans dining like no one else I know, recommended them.  So in essence, I cheated with this post because I had a resource much more reliable than myself and I wanted to give you the best.  You’re welcome.

Places for Coffee:

Spitfire (French Quarter) - I’ve been here a couple of times, and each time was always impressed.  While this coffee shop can’t boast of size or seating accommodations (plan to get it to go), it does have the high approval rating of almost any online list of places to get coffee in New Orleans I’ve seen.  Try their pour over or espresso - but you can’t go wrong with any choice from here.

Stumptown Coffee (Warehouse District) - Based out of Portland, this chain is known in the coffee lover’s world as having a cool atmosphere and a great cup of cold brew.

French Truck (multiple locations) - I had never been here until recently, but when I heard it is the best place to get coffee in the city, I had to try it.  I was not disappointed.  They make basically any type of coffee you want, and it’s strong and delicious.

great coffee and good vibes from french truck coffee

great coffee and good vibes from french truck coffee

Breakfast:  

Gracious Bakery $ (multiple locations) - packed with delicious pastries and good coffee, Gracious Bakery has a variety of less expensive breakfast options to get your day started.  They have a "build-a-breakfast egg sandwich" option starting at $6.25.

Willa Jean $ (CBD)- Good for morning carb-y snacks, Willa Jean serves food all day but is known for its breakfast and dessert.  Some breakfast (and weekend brunch) offerings include crawfish & grits, avocado toast, and a separate portion of the menu just for biscuits.

The Palace Cafe $$-$$$ (Canal Street) - This is by far my favorite place to get breakfast in the city.  With options like bananas foster waffles, BBQ shrimp & grits, and crabmeat cheesecake (yes you read that correctly), I haven't had a bite here that's been less than satisfyingly scrumptious.  Additionally, this place (and Canal Street in general) does Christmas like a dream. Pair the food with the 1920's atmosphere and weekend live jazz band, you'll feel like you stepped into a Fitzgerald novel.

bananas foster waffles

bananas foster waffles

the palace cafe at christmas and my family with outfits that match the decor

the palace cafe at christmas and my family with outfits that match the decor

Lunch:

Antoine’s $$-$$$ (French Quarter) - I haven't actually been here for lunch, but Antoine's is the oldest French-Creole restaurant in New Orleans (John Paul II dined here when he visited in the 80s!).  They offer a $20.18 prix fixe lunch menu including Charbroiled Oysters and Grilled Louisiana Drum, but this menu is seasonal and subject to change.  They have signature oyster recipes (including Oysters Rockefeller) as well as a signature after dinner drink called the Café Brûlot, a flaming cinnamon coffee drink.

Cowbell $-$$ (River Road near Uptown) - Obviously known for their beef/burger options, Cowbell also offers vegetarian and good seafood small plates that are worth trying.

Bear's Po-Boys  $-$$ (Metairie) - Arguably some of the best po-boys in the city.  If you've never been to New Orleans and/or never had a po-boy, I'd recommend you start here, but it's likely you won't find a better roast beef po-boy anywhere else (unless you visit my mama's house).

Happy Hour:

Domenica $$-$$$ (Canal Street) - One time Jonathan and I ate dinner here during happy hour for under $19 (not including tip).  Dinner included complimentary bread to start, one alcoholic beverage for each of us, a pizza to share, and two free small cookies given to us with our bill.  We left feeling like we'd cheated the system, full of disbelief that we could get all of that great food and drink for under $20.  Try any of their pizzas along with their roasted cauliflower with whipped feta appetizer, and you will not be disappointed.  Happy Hour times are 2-6 PM, daily.

Avo (Uptown) - $$-$$$ 1/2 off wines by the glass, $4 beer offerings, and $9 pasta offerings, Avo's happy hour is hard to match for elegance, atmosphere, and cost for quality drink options.  Go when it's not too hot and you'll enjoy their covered outdoor patio with candles all over the exposed brick and vine-covered walls.  If mussels and fries are on the menu, do yourself a favor and order two rounds. Happy hour times: 4-6 PM, Mon.-Thurs.

The Rum House $-$$ (Uptown) - With close to 20 different taco options, The Rum House is not lacking in variety of delicious Carribean-inspired food.  Get the Damn Good Nachos (a small portion can probably feed and fill 2-3 people as a meal) and a margarita.

miriam and her godfather soaking up the atmosphere at avo

miriam and her godfather soaking up the atmosphere at avo

gen and patrick, post rum house, doing a photo shoot outside of the rum house

gen and patrick, post rum house, doing a photo shoot outside of the rum house

Dinner:

Clancy’s $$$-$$$$ (Uptown) - This is some of the best food I've ever had in my life.  It's extremely difficult to get reservations and can be very expensive, so save Clancy's for a celebration dinner, as you won't be able to use it for a spur-of-the-moment food stop.  You want to be mentally and physically as prepared as possible for this dining experience.

Bayona $$$-$$$$ (French Quarter) - Also some of the most delicious food I've ever had, Bayona is one of those places where every bite you eat is just as (if not even more) delicious as the last.  Jonathan asked me to be his girlfriend here, and I know now that it was because of sneaky smart planning on his part.  How could I have said no after having just consumed the best drink (lavender blackberry Stormy Morning) I'd ever had and a meal like that?

The Galley $$-$$$ (Metairie) - A little on the pricey side for seafood, the Galley is a good casual date option because it doesn't have the feel of a seafood shack (where it's best to just pick up your seafood and eat it at home).  You can still dress casual, enjoy delicious seafood, and feel like you're on a nice date all at the same time.

Classics:

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant $$$ (Metairie and Downtown) - If you aren’t convinced that oysters can be the most delicious food on the planet, you probably haven’t been to Drago’s and tried their charbroiled oysters. It’s the restaurant that made charbroiled oysters a big deal, and it’s where I tried my first oyster on my first date with Jonathan. Forget about practicality and trying to be healthy for a second, and get the whole dozen. You won’t regret it.

Commander’s Palace $$$-$$$$ (Uptown) - This is classic New Orleans dining. Known not only for its local cuisine, the service at Commander’s is one of the main reasons locals keep going back for special occasions. It’s one of the only restaurants in the city that still has a dress code, so if you’re going to make reservations here as a tourist, make sure you dress according to their guidelines. Celebrating something? Make sure you let them know when you make your reservation. They’ll make sure to celebrate with you.

Mandina’s $$-$$$ (Mid-City) - Looking for New Orleans cuisine but don’t want to break the bank? Go to Mandina’s. A locally owned family restaurant, their seafood specials are incredible, and their po-boys will never disappoint.

Cafe du Monde $ (Multiple Locations) - If you go to New Orleans and don’t try beignets (ben-yays) at Cafe du Monde, you didn’t actually go to New Orleans. Make sure you get a cafe au lait to pair with your beignets, but wait to add sugar to your coffee until you try the beignets; once you try the beignets you can make a better estimation of how much sugar you want to be adding to this breakfast.