lifestyle blog

BP3-0: 26 week scoop + WIWS

It's been a while since I gave an update on the bun in my oven (especially since I somehow managed to keep up with weekly and monthly pregnancy updates with the last two) so I figured I may as well share what he/she and I have been up to the last 8 weeks. 

That's right. We still haven't found out our little sweet potato's gender. I was quite proud of myself for making it through our 20 week ultrasound without peeking at the goods. The tech was super speedy when scoping out that general 'area' so it would have been a quick glance anyway. I did have to remind my mother that there was no peeking aloud, which she begrudgingly respected. The rest of the scan was great, however longer than I remember the others being, and baby looked practically perfect (in every way). BP3-0 was a little stubborn in giving us a profile shot but we got some good ones, including a few with his/her hand up by his/her ears (just like big bro) and some impressively long feet (just like big sis). I'm still lacking any kind of gut feeling as to boy or girl and K isn't helping by continuing to switch back and forth on what she thinks I'm having. 

I am happy and greatly relieved to say that I've finally gotten out of the horrible migraine, nausea and extreme food aversion stage. It stuck with me until about 20 weeks so I'm now reveling in the long-awaited feel-good part of pregnancy! I can eat pretty much anything without feeling errpy (except for when I tried to add spinach to my scrambled eggs a few days ago... gag city) and my recent growth, both in weight and bump size, are proof!  At my 24 week check up my midwife kept commenting on how much my belly had grown since last seeing me, and how active baby was as we both watched my belly bounce all around! I measured closer to 26 weeks than 24 which is definitely a shift for me considering my last two pregnancies I consistently measured small. So either this baby will be huge, this baby will come early, or this baby has soaked up all the food I've finally been able to eat and I just need to catch up with myself. We shall see! For now I'm trying to focus a lot more on my nutrition to make up for what I missed in those early months. I'm looking forward to warmer weather (for many reasons) so I can start tossing back some smoothies with hidden greens and protein! 

Another difference in this pregnancy has been the unexpected hip and pelvic pain. I dealt with a little round ligament pain before and some slight discomfort in my hips in the last weeks but nothing like this, so focused on my pelvic bone and hips. It comes and goes and I'm finding relief where I can but as baby grows it's feeling more and more like SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction). It's making me feel like I'm much further along than I am, and it's messing with my head a little, but I'm happy to endure a little discomfort here and there in place of feeling so sick and gross like before. However the times when it feels like my pelvis is going to break in half are definitely not fun. 

My Braxton Hicks contractions are in full swing and giving me some great opportunities to practice relaxation. They say teachers make the worst students and I've been a prime example of that this time around when it comes to following my own instruction for labor prep. I've been slacking on a lot of my exercises, due in part to the SPD, but am thankful for these little practice contractions to help me get back on track. 

That covers just about everything new with BP3-0! I haven't kept up with my bump photos like I did before (sorry baby #3) but I did realize that I took a 26 week bump pic from both pregnancies so I thought what better way to show my bump off this week than with a little comparison collage?

Oh how tan and youthful (and apparently more focused on framing the picture than on smiling) I was during that first pregnancy. This mama needs some SUNSHINE, stat! Any gender guesses out there? 

And for something a little different I thought I'd join a cute little What I Wore Sunday link up from A Blog For My Mom. I haven't done a link up in forever and probably won't have the discipline to do this every week (maybe!) but yesterday I was finally able to wear a particular sweater dress that has been taunting me from my closet for about 3 weeks now so I thought I'd share finally wearing it to mass. 

 

Me: Since the last few Sunday's have been oddly warm (I am not complaining about warm weather... BRING ON SPRING... ) I haven't been able to wear this beautiful sweater dress from Mossimo Supply Co. It was lent to me by my dear friend Layna (remember her daughter's beautiful birth story) and it's so soft and cozy and pretty. I'm obsessed. I paired it with some black leggings from Motherhood Maternity and suede Timberland boots. 

K: Grey sweater dress is from H&M kids, white tights and boots from Target, Frozen ribbon bow was a gift from our neighbor.

HG: Plaid button-up is from Children's Place but may have been a hand-me-down or consignment find. Red corduroy pants from H&M kids, shoes are Garanimals from WalMart. 

Sorry for no links - everything has shifted over to spring so nothing is listed on the websites anymore. At least I can give credit where it's due!  Feel free to join in next week with the WIWS link up - I'll try to do the same!

Until next time...

 

Tips for visiting a friend with a new baby

So your friend/sister/college roommate/next door neighbor/cousin twice removed just had a baby. Hooray! It's such an exciting time for their family and for you, as a caring and loving part of their lives. I'm sure you can hardly wait to scoop up the tiny new addition and give your congrats to the new parents but before you do, I'd like to offer a few tips... from someone who has been on both sides of the newborn visiting game.

  • Slow your roll. You may have been waiting with baited breath for that first text or Facebook post announcing the new arrival (trust me, I know the feeling) but please don't hop immediately into your car and speed to the hospital before the mother's even had a chance to take her first postpartum pee.  And while you're at it, avoid bombarding the new parents with "WHEN CAN WE COME SEE THE BABY" texts too. Bringing a baby into the world is an emotional, tiring, and life changing event. Give them a chance to enjoy those first moments, hours, or days with their newest family member without interruption. When they are ready to receive visitors they will let you know! A "Congratulations! He/She is beautiful. So happy for you" text is more than to start things off. 
  • Schedule your visit, and stick to your schedule. Or as Hagrid would say, "Stick to your ticket Harry!" Chances are there are a dozen other friends and family members who are also chomping at the bit to meet baby. Once you've gotten the green light that visitors are welcome, check in with the parents to see if a particular day and time works for them. No offense, but this visit has zero to do with you and everything to do with the new baby so let them make the call. If mom and dad tell you to come by at 2:00pm, you'd better be there at 2:00pm. Do not show up at 2:15pm. Do not show up at 1:30pm. Show up on time, at the time they tell you. Number one, it's just polite to be on time. Number two, there could be a very specific reason they gave you that time. Maybe they just picked a random time out of the hat. Maybe they know that nurses will be coming in to run some tests an hour before and they want some time to settle the baby before you arrive. Maybe they know that any visit in the evening will interfere with dinner and putting the older siblings to bed. Whatever their reason, respect it and be punctual. 
  • Offer to bring something. You can do this if your first visit is at the hospital or at home. Offer to bring non hospital food or the mother's favorite treat. Ask if there is anything they forgot in the hustle and bustle of getting to the hospital that you can bring them. If they are already home, ask if you can bring them dinner. *One thing that is huge for families fresh home from the hospital is not having to cook. If someone hasn't already set up a meal train, offer to do it for them so they can focus on snuggling and adjusting to life with baby instead of hovering over a stovetop. (Take Them A Meal is my favorite) 
  • Bring something for the siblings. If this isn't their first child, it's always a nice gesture to bring something special for big brothers and sisters. It doesn't have to be huge, just something to make them feel special while the majority of the attention is on the new baby. And while it might be tempting to give something "Big Bro/Big Sis" themed, keep the focus of the gift entirely on them. Big brother's favorite candy or a book featuring big sister's favorite character. Ask ahead of time, or when scheduling your visit, what would be appropriate. 
  • Wash your hands and keep your lips to yourself. You might be the epitome of cleanliness. You might have a superb bill of health. You might even have your own OCD habit of lathering up with hand sanitizer every 15 minutes. It won't hurt to wash your hands one more time before touching a newborn. Better safe than sorry when it comes to a fresh-out-of-the-womb immune system that is still adjusting to things earthside. On the same note, while the urge to smooch and slobber (ew) all over a newborn is pretty irresistible... you must resist! Keep your kisses to yourself, at least for a month or two.

 

  • Follow mom and dad's rules. If you have differing opinions on certain parenting choices, keep them to yourself. A new mom doesn't need to hear your thoughts on why offering pacifiers will ruin a baby's ability to breastfeed or which diapers they should be using instead of their chosen brand. No, no, no. If you're not asked, hush. There are millions of opinions out there, and she's probably heard a few thousand of them in the form of unsolicited advice while she was pregnant, so just be present as a friend and not a baby expert or counselor. Wait until you get home to tell your husband all about how differently you would do things as a mom because voicing your opinions to an exhausted (and probably overwhelmed) fresh-from-birth mama might earn you a one way ticket to unfriend-ville. 
  • Don't wear out your welcome.  You might want to sit and enjoy that sweet baby snuggles and intoxicating newborn smell for hours on end, but don't. Take cues from the family on when to leave. If baby starts to get fussy and the mother needs to nurse, it maybe a good time to slip out. If other visitors come and you've had your turn, sweetly congratulate them again and excuse yourself. It won't be the last time you visit so make sure that you aren't overwhelming the family. 
  • DO NOT, under any circumstances, visit a newborn if you or one of your family members has been/is sick.  This should be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people expose vulnerable newborns to sickness. You might think, "I know I was feeling a little sick yesterday but I've felt pretty good today" but it's always better to err on the side of caution. If you have to question whether or not you should visit, the answer is no. Stay away for a little while longer until you are 100% sure you are in tip-top health. Newborn immune systems are very susceptible to bacteria and viruses and what can be a simple cough for you could be life threatening to them. Please don't put a baby at risk just because you're excited to see them. 

Celebrating the arrival of a new baby is an exciting, emotional, and joyful event for more than just the new parents. Be sure you are doing everything you can to make that time as peaceful and worry-free as possible. 

What are some other tips you would offer for folks visiting a newborn? 

Until next time...

 

Lent is not a weight loss program

I remember very distinctly the first time I decided to participate in a Lenten fast. It was long before I converted to Catholicism and I didn't know much at all about Lent. Easter, yes, Lent, no. I recall sitting in my high school Phys Ed + Drivers Ed class on a Fat Tuesday and overhearing a friend talking about how she'd lost around 15 pounds the previous year thanks to giving up cheese and chocolate (two things that were, and still are, very near and dear to my heart) for Lent. I remember thinking two things:

1. Why in the world would someone willingly give up eating chocolate? 
2. I had no idea you're supposed to try to lose weight before Easter, weird. (I honestly thought this considering many of those who said they also gave something up for Lent were doing it to shed some pounds. Who knew?)

I decided to investigate a little further and while I don't recall exactly how she explained it to me, although I'm positive it had nothing to do with making a sacrifice in remembrance of Jesus' suffering or preparing to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, whatever she did say convinced me to give it a shot.  

I would give up eating chocolate until Easter Sunday! Huzzah!

I wouldn't do it to lose weight (I was pretty gangly in high school) or because I thought I ate too much of it and could use the discipline (which I totally did) but just to see if I could do it. It was 100% a personal challenge... you know one of those, if she can do it I can do it kind of decisions. It was all about me. Proving something to myself or, more likely, being able to say, "Hey everyone, look at me giving up chocolate for Lent. It's such a huge struggle. Do you have the highest respect for me as I take on this super selfless decision?"

Oy, high school.

Needless to say that first attempt at fasting from something was pretty pathetic (I had a chocolate instant breakfast drink the next morning followed by an Andes mint before remembering I had, so selflessly, given up the treat) as were the many years of ill-planned and ill-performed fasts that followed but I can basically sum them all up by saying I didn't truly understand the point or purpose of a Lenten fast until I converted.

It turns out fasting during Lent is not part of a 21day-fix (or 40, rather) like so many people make it out to be. Look at me all learned and stuff. 

During my conversion process I started to understand and appreciate the actual purpose of a Lenten sacrifice. Now I'm no Catholic scholar, and still see myself as a rookie in the papacy ball game, but here's what I've learned thus far. It's not about me doing something just to say I did it. It's not an excuse to finally give up that vice I've been meaning to cut out of my life.  It's definitely not a time to wave my sacrifice around like grade-school show and tell. No, no, no. 
It's about making a true sacrifice, big or small, that helps build my relationship with God, and often times also with family. It's about recognizing and honoring the unfathomable sacrifice that God made in sending His Son to die for my sins, and in turn Jesus' sacrifice of giving his life. It's a physical representation of a spiritual sacrifice emulating Christ's 40 days in the desert. It's about doing something, intentionally and whole-heartedly, that allows me to prepare for and celebrate the miracle of Christ's resurrection. I now find myself incredibly inspired and encouraged each year as Ash Wednesday rolls around. I also find myself shaking my head at how trivial I made Lent out to be way back when. 

Catholic or not, the personal and spiritual journey that Lent allows you to endure is one that can be, if you let it, truly life changing. Maybe you do decide to give up your favorite vice or treat. If that kind of personal sacrifice is a real struggle for you and something that sends you into a deeper state of prayer, that's wonderful. If you decide to turn off the TV or disconnect from social media so that you can focus your attention more closely on creating a closer bond to your children and husband, that's awesome. If you decide to give up any additional spending other than food and bare necessities to better appreciate what you've been blessed with, that's fantastic. If you decide to walk to work or daily mass as your way of honoring Jesus' journey in the desert, bravo. Whether it's tiny or extreme, make it more than just something to do. Make it something you rely on God to get through. Turn to prayer and reflection whenever temptation rears it's ugly head. When you find yourself struggling, offer it up. 

Offer it up. A foreign concept to many, but a common Catholic phrase (so I've learned after being a part of a number of Catholic mama Facebook groups). The most clear and concise definition as I understand it is to offer your suffering to God as a sacrifice. Most of the time there is an intention behind your offering. For example, when you feel the twinge of hunger during your Ash Wednesday fast, you might offer your hunger pains as a sacrifice to feed those who are without food. A different and not necessarily Lent-related offering is one I heard from a dear friend of mine who once spoke of offering up the pain of miscarriage as a sacrifice to change the hearts of those considering abortion. You can also offer up a sacrifice without intention, asking God to take your honorable suffering and use it for His own Will. Putting a focus or intention with your suffering is a way to honor how Christ offered up his own suffering on the cross to save all our souls. 

Along with offering up your suffering Lent is also a time to enhance your prayer life and reliance on the Lord in every aspect of your life...

The kids are driving me crazy and I'm having a really hard time remembering to speak to them in a calm, loving voice. Help me seek out peace and patience before I lash out in irritation or anger. 

I've been craving a soda all day and feel I might slip up on my sacrifice. Lord, help me to remember the sacrifice YOU made for me when I feel temptation's pull. 

I know I said I would volunteer at the women's shelter once a week but I just don't feel like going right now. I know I'm feeling selfish about my time and would rather be doing something for pleasure. Help me remember that others aren't able to just sit in their warm homes and snack all day, and my small sacrifice can show the love of Christ to someone who really needs it. 

When it gets hard, and it will, pray. Ask the Lord for guidance. Offer up your sacrifices. 

I realize now that my original introduction to Lent is probably the norm in pop culture today. Ninety percent of the time when someone talks about Lent they are usually saying, "So what are you giving up for Lent this year?" It doesn't have to be giving something up. In fact, some of the more challenging and positively life changing sacrifices include adding something to your routine.

  • Waking up before the kids so you can spend time in prayer before your day begins. 
  • Striving to do one creative or faith-based activity with the kids each day instead of setting them in front of the TV for an hour.
  • Making sure the dishes are clean and out of the sink every night before bed. 
  • Giving alms to the poor once a week/month as a way of sharing God's love with the world.  

If you're looking for inspiration you can find more ideas like these from some of my favorite mama bloggers (who just so happened to be Catholic). They are far wiser and far more poignant than I so I definitely recommend stopping by their blogs. 

Catholic All Year
Tales from the Mommy Trenches
Do Small Things With Love

AND, if you want to join me (and a handful of other mamas) in a group scripture study, I recommend getting Waiting in the Word, A Mother's Lenten Journey. It's never too late to join, I'm loving it thus far! 

Until next time...

 

A Beautiful Birth: Azalea Rae

I had planned on spacing out sharing birth stories but this one is just too lovely not to share right away. My dear dear friend Layna gave birth a little over two week ago to her second little girl in a beautiful and inspiring VBA2C (Vaginal Birth after 2 Cesareans). I'm skipping around in the order of my students' births but so many people have asked her about some of her birth and postpartum details that I thought I'd go ahead and share now! This is a long one (and every word is worth reading) so if you are eager to jump to the VBA2C go ahead and skip to "Part Four". However, like I said, I HIGHLY recommend reading the whole thing! Without further ado, here's Layna's story!

Part One: 

Sitting here next to my barely one week old, brand new baby girl and I just can't get over how your heart really does expand for each child. I think all moms of multiples worry about that. Can I love another like the first? Second? Third? How can it be possible? I think our hearts must have stretch marks too because oh my, I am so in love with this new little addition. 

Which brings me to my birth story. My successfully unmedicated VBA2C.
In order to understand why I chose this route, you have to know about the first two births.

My firstborn, my son Ezra, was your textbook hospital birth gone awry in my opinion. At my 40 week appointment I was already 5cm dilated and had been crampy for days. Finally went into labor two days later. Got to hospital and was told I wasn't having "the right kind of contractions" (whatever the hell that means) so they gave me pitocin. Oh pitocin. Satan's drug, I swear. Needless to say things got intense quickly from there. Water broke around 8cm and at that point it was too much to bare. I was in no way anti-epidural so I said hook me up! 

I progressed easily to completion and began pushing without feeling anything. I wasn't making progress so my OB tried to turn him (my husband said it looked like he was trying to rotate a tire inside of me). I pushed more. They could barely see his head each time but he wasn't anywhere near coming out. They did forceps, nothin. They did the vacuum, nothin. After two hours of this the decision was made to go for the cesarean. I trusted my doctor knew best. And I still respect his decision in that moment. 

Once in the OR (I won't go into those details of fear) they said they had to basically dig him out of my pelvis which was "too small" for him to go through. He was barely 8 pounds. He had a busted blood vessel in his head from the vacuum and all the blood had rushed from his body, to that spot, so he was white as paper all over. So weird and scary to see... and his head was mush. 
 A pediatric doctor who was rude and wearing a Hawaiian shirt in October told me that"it could be nothing, or it could be fatal". Seriously dude? 
Because of this, Ezra spent 14 hours in the NICU before I was allowed to see him for more than a glance.

My husband was allowed to go in and visit but I was not for fear of getting him too worked up and overstimulated. Man was I naive. I didn't know any better or I would have demanded to be with him. Live and learn. 
He healed perfectly, praise God. My recovery was complete hell. After laboring so long, pushing so long, and a very fearful surgery, I felt I had been run over. A lot. For a long time. 

As my mom literally bathed me in the shower I sobbed to her that he wouldn't bond with me because I hadn't been allowed to see him and we weren't able to breastfeed. Her response? "Layna--I had a c-section with you, I gave you formula, and I'm bathing you right now. Do you think we're not bonded?" Oh. Solid point mom. 
Spoiler: Ezra and I are insanely bonded. 

Which leads us to...

Part Two

I was in love with love and so crazy happy to finally be a mother. Ezra was everything I ever imagined and before we even left the hospital, I said I can't wait to do it again. I wanted that "I'm a mom!" feeling over and over! So when I was healed enough, I told my husband my wishes and told him it was up to him. Well...when Ezra was just two months old, we saw those two pink lines show up again! Hooray! Right? Yes! I think so. Oh boy. Its ok. Yeah. It's ok. 

Let me tell you, taking care of a three month old, and being newly pregnant and super sick..is not easy or fun. My goodness. I remember a specific morning that I wore Ezra in a wrap on my front and suddenly needed to be sick but had nowhere to turn because he was strapped to me I couldn't bend over a sink or toilet. So I grabbed a cup off the counter and turned my head. Glamorous lemme tell ya. It was not a fun pregnancy. I hadn't lost the baby weight from Ezra yet, and here I was gaining again. Super sick. Sciatic pain that killed. Second summer pregnancy in a row with all the swelling that goes with it. Ugh. 

But, we were so excited to be having our girl! Eizley! If I only knew then how in love with her I would be. The date for our repeat cesarean approached (having them so close together it was highly recommended that I not attempt a vbac at that time--looking back, I wish I fought for it or researched more--but again, live and learn). The closer it got, the more panicked I became. I was still getting to know Ezra. I didn't want to share any time away from him with another baby. I was still learning how to do this mom thing. I was still really missing sleep! 

Again I was crampy and had been having tons of Braxton Hicks contractions, which was just par for the course for me when I went in for my 38 week appointment. The decided to hook me up to monitors just to see and evidently I was having real contractions so they checked me and I was at 5cm. So they sent me over to have my baby right there from my appointment. 

Cue hormonal freak out. 

I'm not ready! We aren't supposed to do this for another week! I don't have our bags packed and she needs a bow! She has to have a bow! 

But away we went. My husband, a police officer at the time, was in full uniform coming from work.

"Honey, go change, you can't take a gun into the OR!" 

The c-section went so smoothly. Everyone says the second is better and its so true. I was making jokes with the doctor and giving out my business information to the anesthesiologist as they were cutting me open. Totally easy surgery. Cesarians are weird though. You lay there, and then someone hands you a bundled up baby and says that it's yours and you just have to take their word on it. 
Thats how I felt anyway. I'm sure not everyone does. But I did. There's something odd about not seeing or feeling it happen at all. It makes you slightly out of touch. And then it's as if you're being asked to babysit after you just had major abdominal surgery. That's not cool. But our girl was here and healthy, again, praise God! My Eizley! My pretty little twirly bird. 

While the cesarean was a much smoother process, right away I had recovery issues. High fevers that came and went and no one could ever figure out why. We were in the hospital for almost a full week because of it. Intense, I mean intense shoulder pain that I was told was trapped gas. To this day (including during my VBAC) I have never screamed like that shoulder paid made me. Horrendous.
Once we were home, the baby blues hit. I cried so much in those first 3 weeks. I remember googling (such a smart move, I know) about the lack of bonding and one lady said she didn't bond with her daughter until she was 9 years old. WHAT?! That sent me into some serious weeping.

A few months later more health issues in myself arose. I won't bore you with details, but to sum up, many doctors told me my symptoms were anemia related then finally figuring out that it was thyroid all along and was due to pregnancy. Eventually it worked itself out, but I didn't feel normal until she was almost a year old. 

Each day our bond got a little better. I blame hormones obviously; the fact that she came along only 10 months after her big brother so I didn't feel ready, how her birth played out, the fact that she looked absolutely nothing like me and everyone insisted on reminding me of that daily, the array of health issues I had postpartum, our struggle with breastfeeding, and again..hormones. Man hormones are a bitch aren't they? So naturally, I was a bit nervous this time around about those blues. That darkness. My health. Baby's health. I was determined the next time to do anything I could to avoid the blues, and the horrific recoveries.

part three

Before even getting pregnant this time around, I was in such a different headspace about babies and birth than I had been before. Blame it on the day job! Photographing newborns several times a week will give anyone baby fever! Through photography I was honored to witness and document several births as well. I can't put into words how impactful those were to me. Medicated, inductions, natural, scheduled cesarians, vbacs, each one taught me something. Each one led me closer to my own victory. My birth clients will never truly know what they've meant to me.  

Now please, before I go any further... I am not here to hate on c-sections. C-sections brought two of my greatest blessings into my life. How could I not love how my babies were brought to me? Those were their stories. And I love them. But it's ok to want a different experience. To want an easier recovery and faster healing. To want a more intimate environment while bringing baby earthside. 

That being said, when we got pregnant, I was motivated, encouraged, and determined to get my vaginal, healing birth experience.We read books. We met with doulas. We took childbirth classes, Bradley Method. So much learning and preparation went into this! It's all so fascinating. Oddly I found myself feeling closer to not only my baby in my tummy but also to my husband and to God during the whole process. The more I learned how intwined and perfectly planned each part of childbirth is, the more you can see God's handiwork in it all. Truly amazing and undeniable. 

My pregnancy was wonderful...well, other than the beginning. At 7 weeks I had heavy bleeding and was told I was having a miscarriage. After calling in ultrasound (and hour after being given such devastating news)  to "confirm the loss" the tech was able to find a heartbeat and report that all was well. Praise God again. I bled for 16 straight weeks for no given reason at all. But, overall, I had hardly any sickness at all, and only a small stint of sciatic pain to deal with. Otherwise it was smooth sailing! 
By 35 weeks I was over it. The Braxton Hicks were often and annoying. And I was just so tired from the two toddlers that need all my energy and attention. 
On Christmas Eve the first round of prodromal labor started. Contractions that were different and steady, but not really that painful. We packed our bags that night, just to be safe. But eventually we went to bed and the contractions fizzled out. 

This pattern would go on and on and on over the next several weeks. 

At least 3 different times I legit thought I was in labor. Painful contractions. For several hours. Steady intervals. Almost every night. 

If you have experience prodromal or latent labor, you know the toll this can take on a mom-to-be. Hormonally, physically, mentally, emotionally. Drained. Every night thinking this might be it! but no. In my case, having to psych myself up each day. The VBAC pep talk if you will. Amping myself up for this marathon. And then no. Not today. Again. 

40 weeks came and went. So did a blizzard and a full moon. Seriously? Come out girl!!! 

In talking with my midwife and doula, we all suspected she was in a less than ideal position and was slightly posterior. I did tons of different positioning at home to try and turn her and get things going to no avail. My birth ball got a good workout as well. And I've never eaten so much pineapple in my dang life. Per my amazing doula's suggestion I decided to go see a chiropractor who was familiar with fetal positioning. Last ditch effort ya know. On my way to his office Tuesday morning I could very much feel baby in my left hip. Plain as day. He did his adjustments, which always feels totally bogus at the time, and I left. On my drive home, no lie I could tell she was centered and in my pelvis. So weird. 

Little did I know...

Part Four:

That evening my husband was working later than normal so getting the kids fed and down to bed was on my big pregnant self. They were actually really well-behaved and after my husband Michael got home shortly after they were in bed, around 8pm. When he came in I was bouncing on the birth ball, eating an entire pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and watching gossip girl. Naturally. 

I was having a few contractions here and there, but that was nothing new for me. He fell asleep on the couch, and I went up to bed around 10pm. At midnight I woke up to pee and when I got back in bed I was annoyed to feel a contraction. Great. This was going to keep me awake for no reason, once again. They kept coming, and I kept not caring. I laid there in the dark, timing contractions and browsing Facebook and pinterest. This went on for 2 hours and were just ever so slightly getting more painful. But I still wouldn't really call it pain at that point. Just annoying and tight. Since I was wide awake I got back on the ball in hopes that it would get things either steadier or make it stop. 

They kept coming. 

At 2:30am I went downstairs and woke Michael up just asking him to keep me company. Figured if I could hang out with him and occupy my mind watching a show together then they would fizzle out.

They kept coming. 

I bounced on the ball a bit more and I guess it pushed things around because suddenly things were, ahem... moving... and I needed to run to the bathroom. Several times this happened. Let me tell you, bathroom cramps, on top of labor contractions... not a fun combo. 

At 3:00 we called the midwife. Told her contractions were steady and getting more intense but only lasting about 45 seconds each. She said I was fine to stay home longer, and to call back when they lasted for a minute each, or were 2-3 minutes apart. 

By 3:15 I texted my doula to fill her in. And also texted my friend Sara (also our childbirth educator) who was planning to come watch our kids. I told her to go ahead and come over 'just in case'. Well, about 15 minutes later I was saying, ok I hope Sara has left because this is getting intense. I walked around the house packing last minute items in my bag. The contractions were strong. I was moaning through them and holding onto Michael and swaying, but after that 45 seconds I was totally fine. 

"Ahhhhhh....oooooooooo......uuhhmmmmm....ok, hey I'm gonna go brush my teeth/check on the kids/grab my makeup bag"

He thought it was weird how normal I was in between them and how focused I had to be during them. 

By the time Sara arrived it was game on. She walked in to find me on all fours over the back of my couch, moaning into the pillows. No sooner than she said hello did I bark back that I needed a trash can to puke in. Welcome Sara! We all agreed it was time to leave. There was still snow and ice on the ground and the hospital is a solid 35 minutes from our house. But I was stuck on the couch. Contractions were close together and strong. I had stopped timing at this point. 

Michael kept saying "Ok babe lets just get you to the kitchen island ok, baby steps."

Contraction. 

"Ok babe lets get you to the island"

Contraction. 

"Lets try and get to..."

"DON'T SAY ISLAND TO ME AGAIN!!" 

That was the only time I snapped at him, which I'm damn proud of! 

We finally make it out to the car around 4:45am . The drive was rough but I mostly had my eyes closed and concentrated on getting through the waves of pain. Sitting felt horrible and my belly felt so distorted. Next was parking deck. As soon as I stood up from the car I think thats when major transition stage hit. I'm moaning getting onto the elevator... loudly... and these three older men pile onto it with us. They reek of smoke and talk like their from Manitowoc County, I swear. Listening to me moaning and swaying and saying "Oh it looks like its almost time". 

How I didn't punch them I'll never know. 

We make it to the wheelchair. I couldn't walk any further but sitting was just as awful. All the bumps on the way to L&D, oh my word. We get to registration and are there for what seems like an eternity. I'm very loudly moaning at this point and my doula walks in right behind us. With one big contraction in the lobby my water somewhat breaks. I remember saying "Water! My water!" 

We get into the room around 5:30. 

They asked me to stand up to get in the bed so they can get the monitors on me. The second I stood up I started involuntarily pushing. It was her. She was pushing. I had nothing to do with it. And it freaked me out. I knew it wasn't time to push so why was she trying to come out? 

Meanwhile they have the monitors on me but I don't hear a heartbeat. I'm asking them why and no one answers me. Michael tried to tell me they didn't have the speakers on. Nice try hon. My midwife tells me I need to get in the bed on my right side to help baby's heart rate. My right side may as well have been the location of actual hell. It was horribly uncomfortable. In this moment she also has to check me, and the other nurse is putting in an IV (just in case surgery became necessary). All the while the contractions are on top of each other and every time, baby would push down without my effort and it hurt so bad. In those moments, the high pitched screaming happened. I didn't know I could make those sounds.

The midwife said I was almost a 9 and they were putting on an internal monitor to better track her heart rate. They put oxygen on me as well because I was really starting to panic.
Birth without fear my ass. I was scared. 

I told them maybe I needed the epidural so that I could calm down and that would help baby calm down too. I was so worried about her and worried I had a long way to go. Everyone kept whispering and you bet your butt I called them out on that.

"Why is everyone whispering? I know whispering is bad, just TELL ME!" 

They all reassured me that baby was just fine, and that if something was a concern they promised to tell me. I could not bare to be on my side any more and told my husband to get behind me so I could roll to my back and lean against him. In that instant, transition ended. Thank you Lord. 

Sitting back felt so much better. 

I was told then that it was time to push on contractions. At first I still wanted to moan/scream when I pushed. They had to get it through my head to hold my breath while I pushed. That was confusing because so far I thought I needed to breath steadily through them. But not with pushing. Ok. Got it. Once I made sense of that I was making progress. They said they could see her head and I just shouted "Yeah I've heard that before, I don't care"
So my midwife told me to reach down and touch her head. Talk about motivation. Come on girl.

At this moment the anesthesiologist guy comes in the room and goes over protocol if they have to do an emergency cesarean and blah blah blah. Great timing bro... get out of here. 

Back to pushing. I had long breaks between each contraction which was blissful. I leaned back on Michael and breathed steady and slow. Then the build would start and we all grabbed a leg and worked together. I buried my face in his arms with each push, and remember my doula rubbing my leg and affirming my efforts over and over again. 

I don't remember a ring of fire just bowling ball pressure. My eyes were closed the while time until her head was out. I knew then that I had done it! She wasn't going anywhere. I opened my eyes for the final push and watcher her slide out. I felt it all. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. Right up to mama. Slimy and gooey in the most wonderful normal way. My other babies were handed to me all bundled up and pink. So I relished in the grossness. 

Hi baby girl!!

I did it! 

We did it babe!

Oh I'm so glad its over. 

Those were all my first words in that moment. 

Azalea Rae was born at 6:08am (whew, good thing we left when we did!)

For the first time, Michael got to cut the cord! After about a half hour of looking at us and snuggling, my sweet Azalea latched right on and had a birthday snack. It was everything I wanted. Ok minus the third-degree tear. Ouch

While my c-sections are not regretful, they were filled with so many outsiders. Doctors, nurses, anesthesia, NICU team, etc etc. I wanted this experience to be about a team I picked myself. That mainly consisted of my husband, me, and our baby. And that's exactly what we got. 

I'm incredibly proud of myself for doing something I used to be so scared of. I watched so many women go through it and thought they were much much stronger than me. Ask anyone, I'm a pro at self-doubt. But I did it. Exactly how we wanted. I fell in love with my husband again during this birth. He was as strong as I was, strong with me and for me. I felt safe in his arms through the worst of the pains and I'll never forget that feeling. 

Recovery has been amazing. I feel so bonded to her right away! For some reason, seeing her come out truly makes a difference. Like I really know that she belongs to me. My body was sore the next couple days but nothing compared to a surgery! I took a shower and dried and curled my hair 6 hours after she was born for goodness sake. I wasn't swollen from meds or fluids, I wasn't hooked up to anything. A few Motrin and I was good to go. 

I also decided to have my placenta encapsulated. This was done through a local doula service that offers several ways of consuming your placenta. The smoothie option was much cheaper but um... no thank you! Since I went through a lot of mental and physical issues after my last baby and had read about the benefits of placenta encapsulation I was ready to do anything that may help with those unwanted postpartum experiences. 

Here's a few things ingesting your placenta can do:

  • Replenishes iron from blood loss during birth which can prevent anemia
  • Provides natural pain relief
  • May lessen the risk of postpartum depression by supplying mama with many of the hormones she had during pregnancy. PPD and baby blues are largely attributed to the sudden hormone shift experienced after birth.
  • Lends a consistent flow of oxytocin long after birth euphoria ends
  • Provides the HPL hormone to help establish early and healthy milk supply
  • Replenishes B vitamins and energy used during the labor and birthing process

Now that I've been taking these pills for two weeks I can honestly say I feel a difference. It's more so that I can tell when I have missed a dose. I start to get really frustrated and overwhelmed and can feel the mean ol hormones take over. But when I've kept up with them, that doesn't happen. 

I have literally not cried yet at all! Well, other than happy tears. I'm sure I'll never know if it's due to the pills, or the birth, or whatever, but I'm just glad I'm feeling so great! 

I'm so glad I had such blessings placed into my life in the form of my midwife, my doula, and my birth instructor. They made all this possible for us and never ever lost faith in me all through the pregnancy and the never ending prodromal labor phase where I was going psycho. I'm forever grateful to them. And I can't wait to share this story with Azalea when she grows up. Not that I plan on letting her grow up :) 

A huge thank you to Layna for sharing her story and inspiring other mamas!

Until next time...

A Beautiful Birth: Anneli Mae

Because I'm just a teensy bit obsessed with birth stories (translation: completely obsessed) I've asked my former students if they wouldn't mind sharing their birth experiences here on my blog. I think it's important for expecting mamas to read all kinds of birth stories, whether they went exactly as planned or had a few hiccups along the way. I'm so honored that these mamas (and I might even get a few stories from the dad's POV) are so graciously sharing their births with me, and all of you!
First up is Christina, a first-time mom.

On August 26th, the day before my due date, I woke up and told my husband Matt that I was going to go into labor that night. I was joking and didn’t really think that I would, but something made me say it! That morning I had a check up with Stephanie, my midwife. Everything looked good and we talked about some things we could do if we went past 41 weeks to help encourage labor. As a first time mom I fully expected to deliver a week or more past my due date. I also expected it to be a long process and was mentally prepared for a marathon. As it turned out it was more of a sprint!

After our appointment we came home and I took a nap. Matt went into a cleaning frenzy and by the time I woke up the house was spotless. We now joke that he was the one who nested instead of me! That night we attended our last birthing class (we took Bradley Method classes) and I told my instructor that I was going to go into labor that evening, again thinking I was just being silly. She put her hands on my belly and told the baby that it was time and to cooperate. In hindsight there were signs that labor was coming, like a change in my gait and a lot of rocking back and forth while sitting, but no contractions. When we got home from class I went to the bathroom and saw what I thought to be my mucous plug. I knew this could come days or weeks before real labor set in so I tried to stay relaxed and keep the adrenaline low. Less then an hour later at 10:15pm my water broke. After that happened contractions started immediately. Apparently I had been correct that morning, and labor was suddenly in full swing. I paged Stephanie and she told me to go to bed and call back if contractions got 5 minutes apart for an hour or in the morning if they hadn’t.  I hardly had a chance to even attempt rest. I started timing my contractions at 11pm and they were all coming 2-3 minutes apart and lasting a minute or more.  Every contraction was felt entirely in my back. From the beginning to end of my labor I never felt even a twinge of pain in my belly, it was 100% back labor.  We called Stephanie back at midnight and again at 12:30am. By this time I was getting nervous about staying home since the contractions had come on so quickly and were not slowing down. Stephanie agreed that it was time to come in.

Matt got our bags while my doula Emilia helped me walk to the car. Matt sat in the back with me while Emilia drove. It was awful being in the car but I am lucky to live only 10 minutes from the hospital, so it was a short trip. We got there at 1:15am, only 3 hours after labor began. I was checked and found out I was 5 cm and 80% effaced. This baby was not wasting time! I labored on the bed and on the ball, and then for about an hour in the shower.  It was dark in the shower and it was just Matt and I in there for most of the time. Even though I was experiencing a lot of pain, I remember feeling very peaceful during this time, warm and safe in his arms. At some point I told Matt I needed to lie down and he got me to the bed.

My contractions started coming one after the other and I knew I was in transition. I was desperate for a break and tried to be patient as I knew I would get one soon. Sure enough, after about 15 or 20 minutes they slowed down and Stephanie put me on the birth stool. She checked me again and I was fully dilated and she told me if I felt like I wanted to push to go ahead.  At first pushing was confusing and I wasn’t sure if I was working with my body the right way. After a few contractions the urges got stronger and I became more confident in what I was doing. I changed position multiple times and ultimately ended up lying on my side with Matt and Emilia on either side of the bed helping to pull back my legs when I pushed. The contractions spaced out and I went into deep states of rest in between, even dosing off a few times waiting for the next rush. By the time the baby was crowning I was exhausted and it was a struggle to push as hard as I knew I needed to. Stephanie had me reach down and touch the baby’s head and I was shocked to feel her there, so close to being in my arms. As the baby moved further down I could feel her stretching me and I got to the point that every contraction was a welcome relief because it felt better to push. I ended up pushing for a total of an hour and forty minutes. I remember getting to a point of being so exhausted that I felt like I had nothing left to give. It was around this time that Stephanie told me that my baby would be born on the next contraction. I didn’t really believe her at first but sure enough as the wave came and I pushed with more strength then I thought I could have, my hands were guided down to take my baby.  I looked down and saw her face for the first time and slowly pulled her out and up to my chest. The exhaustion I felt melted away and the first thing I said to my daughter was “Hello! Thank you for coming out of me!” I was shocked, relieved, and so in love.

Anneli Mae was born exactly on her due date of August 27th at 5:33am, one day before my 30th birthday! I am so grateful for the excellent care I received from all of the midwives, especially Stephanie who helped me feel safe and confident as she guided me through my labor and delivery, and Meghann who was there during the birth quietly coaching and offering words of encouragement. Thank you VCU midwives! 


Again, another huge thank you to Christina and Matt for sharing such a beautiful story. 
Until next time...