Trying A New Angle

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Today at the pool, I went to take a picture after I heard the sweetest little “Watch, Mama!” from my toddler on the cusp of boyhood. It was bright and I couldn’t see my screen, so I just aimed in Michael’s direction and snapped a few pictures. When I looked at them later, I realized that I had somehow put the front-facing camera on by mistake and I was bummed that I didn’t capture that moment. I was about to delete this picture until I realized- I actually did capture that moment. I captured my face as I watched my beautiful growing boy and his awesome Dad having a blast and making a memory. My eyes look tired from so many long days and nights, but they look even more happy. My newest “hairstyle”, the product of being a full-time+ career woman and a mother of two boys less than two years apart, is a mess but it is telling of the fact that I have other ways I would rather spend my time.. The bags under my eyes and laugh lines on my forehead might be there a little bit earlier than I would like them to be, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world because they are indicative of the immense joy and heartache that comes with being a wife, mother, bosslady, and woman. I wouldn’t trade a single moment that caused those wrinkles or eye bags for the world. To me, this is the ultimate portrait of me as a mother: a little worn down, but so filled with joy with every passing moment. The days are long, but the years are short, and I will do my best to stay joyous through it all so that this is the smile that my boys see for every “Watch me, mama!” they throw my way.

Bursting the Bubble

Today is my last day home alone with T before I go back to work on Monday and I am sad. Not because I have to go back to work- honestly, I’m looking forward to using my intellect a little more again- but sad because of what that means.

It’s the same feeling that I’ve gotten after being discharged from the hospital after both boys were born. A sort of mourning knowing that phase is ending, even though I know the next phase will be exciting too. It’s really hard to articulate the feeling, but it’s almost as if the protective bubble around our relationship has been burst.

When I was pregnant, it was just him and I. My belly was literally a bubble around us, protecting our special bond. He only depended on me. When I gave birth, that bubble was replaced by the safety of the hospital. There, he was introduced to the outside world for the first time, and we were safe. It was a very special time, filled with just the love of his family and the caretakers who were so dedicated to keeping him healthy and getting him acclimated to life on the outside. Leaving the hospital thrust us into the world as a new family, never having navigated the terrain of being a family of 4 before. The only thing I know how to do instinctively as the mother in this new family dynamic is to love. So I love, hard.

Since I don’t have the physical bubble of my belly protecting him anymore, I’ve replaced it with an emotional one. For the last 12 weeks, T has only known my love. His days have been filled with the comfort of my breast and the warmth of my arms. When he cries, I appear and, though he still can’t understand why, I make him feel better. Our love is innocent and safe here.

The end of maternity leave means that my baby isn’t just mine anymore. I have to share him. We have to allow other people into the safety of our love, and trust that they won’t misbehave there. This tiny human manifestation of my heart outside of my body has to learn to depend on more than just me for comfort. It’s hard to accept that.  Intellectually, I understand that this is necessary. It’s the beginning of learning social behaviors and it will teach him many important life skills, but emotionally, it hurts. I’m not ready for him to have to trust his heart with anyone else. I’m not sure that I ever will be.

Life needs to move on so my sweet baby can grow, I know this. But for today, I just want to stay right here in the safety of our love bubble, just me and T.

Pee First, Mama

“Mommy street cred” That’s a thing, right?

It turns out that having two kids somehow makes me a trusted source of information on motherhood, which I find hysterical, because its not like I know what the hell I’m doing either. Since I’ve made it a point to forcefully insert myself into the lives of every new mother that I know as a way to help them create the village that they don’t know they need yet, I guess I’ve sort of embraced this responsibility, though.

So that brings us to the inevitable question that every one of these amazing women eventually asks: “What is your best advice for new moms?” I love this question and I love being trusted enough to have this asked of me. My advice? I have so much. Find your village. If you don’t have a village, create one. Be confident. No one knows the right way to raise your child except for you. You’ll get so many opinions whether you want them or not. Accept it all. Process it all. Be informed, then make a decision and own it. If you change your mind down the road, own that too. You don’t have to apologize. Be gentle on yourself. We are all honestly just figuring this out as we go along. Do what you need to do to keep you, your partner, and your child sane, safe, and healthy. Be direct. Tell people what you need. If you’re nursing, tell your partner, your mom, your best friend that you need their unequivocal support. You need them to hold you accountable, but you also need them to not bully you if you decide that your breastfeeding journey is over. Get out of the house. It is hard in the beginning- the logistics are intimidating- but you’ll figure it out. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Go somewhere safe- a new mom meetup, a breastfeeding support group, Babies R Us, the park down the street. Just do it. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you need to cry, cry. If you’re overwhelmed, put the baby in the safety of their crib and step away for a few minutes.

My best advice? Pee first. Yeah, its a funny answer, but it is essentially all of the more long-winded, flowery, fuzzy-feeling advice that I usually give boiled down into two words. Let me explain.

One of the most pivotal days in my motherhood journey so far has been the day that I realized that my kiddos will be just fine if they fuss or cry for a few moments before I can get to them. As long as I’m sure they aren’t sick, hurt, or in danger, they’ll be alright. They’ll be OK if I don’t pick them “UP!” for a few more minutes so I can take a few sips of my coffee while it is still hot. Tantrums can simmer for a bit while I stuff that freshly toasted piece of bread into my face. They can fuss a little in the safety of the pack n play while I take a quick warm shower. If someone wakes up and needs to be fed in the middle of the night, they’re won’t starve if I run to the bathroom and pee first. I am going to be stuck there feeding them for a while, after all.  No, I won’t neglect my screaming child if there is a legitimate, immediate need, but it has to be OK to take care of myself too.

Pee first. Its the essence of self-care. Take care of yourself so that you are well enough to take care of your babies. Take a shower. Take a nap. Accept help. Make peace with the mess.

Pee first. Don’t make yourself sick from being run-down. Don’t allow yourself to be overlooked. Its been all about you for 10 months, and now it is suddenly “not about you at all”. Except it is. It is so much about you.

Pee first, Mama. It’s the least you can do for yourself.

 

And Then There Were Four

I love reading birth stories. No matter how diverse and unexpected, they are always beautiful.

“Tell me about your birth plan”, said Libby, my Labor & Delivery nurse. “I don’t have one.  I’ll tell you what I would love to happen, but I know that things change and I trust you guys to do whatever you need for me to have a healthy baby.”

I had said it hundreds of times, but did I actually believe it? As a mother who had given birth once, it was hard to fathom a different birth experience than what I had with Michael. Spontaneous. Two full days. No pain medications. (You can read that one here if you want!)

But here I was, admitted to L&D on Superbowl Sunday morning, on the cusp of beginning an induction that wasn’t “medically necessary”, solely because my instinct, combined with several minor issues over the past few days, was telling me that something wasn’t right. As if I needed further faith in my medical team, Linda, my Midwife was going to do whatever she needed to make that happen because she trusted my gut as well. She trusted me- just a mom with no medical degree. That speaks volumes to our relationship. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Teddy’s birth story really began on Friday, when, after some bleeding, I marched myself right over to the Midwife’s office to be checked. After a few hours of tests and ultrasounds, it was determined that the baby was not in distress. The bleeding wasn’t severe, and we couldn’t identify the source, so it was decided that it was just some variation of normal and I was likely in early labor. I went home with instructions to just keep a very close eye on fetal movement and come back in if there were any concerns.

Sunday morning around 4:30, I woke up to a gush. Surely, my water had broken, I thought. I was very alarmed when I discovered that it was actually quite a bit of blood. A quick call to Linda, and it was determined that I needed to head into L&D to be checked again. My hubby called my MIL who was going to get dressed and drive down. I called a good friend who lived nearby to come and watch Michael at the house until my MIL got here. I texted my Doula, Shawna, to let her know what was going on. Go plan activated. Check. Check. Check.

When we got to the hospital, I was taken to the room with the labor tub- the same room where Michael was born almost exactly 22 months earlier. Luckily for me, it seemed to be a quiet morning in L&D. I was hooked up to all the monitors for the same testing that was done on Friday. NST to check fetal heart rate. Ultrasound to check fluid levels. Physical check for dilation. Heart rate was fine. Fluid levels were high enough. Still 2 cm dilated, as I had been for a few weeks. Linda came in to go over the test results. Everything looked good. The baby was not in distress. She still did not have an explanation for the bleeding, but there was no medical reason for her to induce me. She gave me two options: go home with the strict instructions that if fetal movement decreased or there was any more bleeding, to come back in or induce right then. Elective inductions are not usually done on Sundays, so she promised that if I decided to stay, she would provide the nurses with a medical reason why it needed to happen.

I’ll be honest. I know enough about birth to know that induction can lead to further unwanted interventions. Induction terrified me and I wanted to avoid it. I talked to Mike. I talked to Linda. I talked to Shawna. I talked to everyone a second and third time. I was nervous about the bleeding, but I was more nervous at the prospect of induction and all that came with it, so I decided that I wanted to go home. I told Mike, who, knowingly, looked at me and said “You don’t seem 100% confident in your decision.” I’d been made. How lucky am I to have a partner who knows me well enough to stop me when I am making a decision out of fear? (Even on Super Bowl Sunday!) “You’re right.” I said, “we need to have this baby today.” While deciding to induce was completely out of character for me, I knew in my heart that it was time for us to meet that baby boy.

What a strange feeling to not be in active labor, but to know that you will be soon. To know that you are willingly volunteering to start the process of one of the most trying physical experiences a person can go through. To know that, somehow, you are going to meet your baby within the next several hours. I signed the papers and said a prayer.

By 10:45am, we had begun the Pitocin drip. For the first few hours, I was really just trying to relax and have fun with it. The contractions were bearable, so I was bouncing on my labor ball and rocking out to some EDM. Mike tried to turn on the Superbowl pregame coverage, but it was really distracting me and causing my contractions to slow down so I told him to turn it off (Sorry babe!)

 By 1pm, I could tell that this labor was going to be very different than my first. I called Shawna and told her that we were ready for her to head in to help out. The Pitocin contractions that I was feeling were already similar in quality to those I experienced at the very end of my spontaneous labor with Michael. I can’t explain exactly, but Pitocin contractions are, for lack of a better term, relentless. With spontaneous labor, I feel like your body takes time to prepare you and ramp up to these back-to-back hard contractions that eventually come. With Pitocin, the contractions are chemically manufactured to occur every 2-3 minutes as soon as possible, so that they can be the most effective. Mentally and physically, you don’t have time to get yourself “there”. The medicine just starts to do its job and you are “there”, whether you’re ready or not, until its time for the baby to arrive.  It does not act like a tide which ebbs and flows. It is like waves crashing repeatedly into a rocky shore. I began to have to really manage my way through the contractions sooner than I expected. I tried bouncing on my yoga ball, standing, walking the halls (thankfully, the hospital was more than willing to hook me up to portable monitors and IV drip so that I could be mobile!) but found that relaxing, breathing, surrendering, and getting very introverted was giving me the most effective contractions. 5 deep breaths. I found that the contractions were lasting 5 deep breaths, and that felt manageable to me. Mike and Shawna were amazing. They went with my vibe- when I was vocal, they shared my affirmations. When I was introverted, they got quiet. They knew when to apply counter-pressure and when to not touch me.

By 5pm, my “relaxing and breathing through it” seemed to be less effective. I asked to be checked and was disheartened to find that I was only at 4cm. Linda asked if I was willing to have my water broken to see if that helped move things along. I had my water broken with Michael as well, so I knew what to expect and was comfortable with it. At Linda’s suggestion, I was able to get into the labor tub in the room after my water was broken. Again, I am so grateful to have been laboring under an amazing team who helped me figure out how to spend some time in the labor tub even with the monitors on my belly and IV in my wrist. I am a water baby and have very fond memories of laboring in the very same tub during Michael’s birth. The water allowed me to mentally relax into the contractions a bit more than I could before, but after just 1.5 hours or so, I felt that I was not getting the relief that I needed anymore.

Once on dry land again, I tried to manage the contractions again by counting breaths, but at this point I was in so much pain that I could barely vocalize my needs. I was exhausted and literally could not keep my eyes open. I distinctly remember thinking “this is what zombies must feel like” as I tried to keep at it.

At 7pm, Linda wanted to check my progress again. 6cm dilated. I started doing mental math. 2 cm when I got here. 6 cm now. 4 cm divided by the number of hours since I started pitocin times 4 more cm = I couldn’t go on like this.

“I need medication.” Mike and Shawna, in trying to help me stick to my wishes, reaffirmed how wonderful I was doing and how proud they were of me. “You can do this” they said. God bless them. “I don’t have anything to prove to anybody”, said me- the woman who had barely managed to squeeze out a string of more than 2 legible words over the past few hours. “Amber is a woman who knows what she needs” said Linda. That beautiful angel of a woman. She knew my hesitations about an epidural from our prenatal conversations, so she offered me a narcotic option instead. While less invasive, it would mean that a medical team would have to take the baby first to assess him before I got to hold him if he were born within a certain amount of time. “Absolutely not”, I said. I was flexible on many things, but one thing I would not give up without a fight was the possibility to be the first arms to hold that sweet boy. “I’ll get the anesthesiologist”. Thank God.

By 8pm, my epidural was placed and the anesthesiologist had left the room. “It should start working within 15-30 minutes” he said. It couldn’t have started working soon enough, if you had asked me. “Now you can relax for a few hours, maybe even sleep, and when you wake up it will be time to push!” Linda said. She was going to go try to get a little rest in the lounge as well. Sounded great to me. “I’ll be back in about a half hour to place a catheter” said Libby. Over the next few contractions, I could feel myself beginning to relax more in-between contractions. I was frustrated that I could still feel all of the contractions themselves, but the relief in-between was truly a gift. I honestly believe that it made all the difference in the last bit of my birth story.

At 8:30pm, Shawna was applying counter-pressure to my lower back during a contraction when I started feeling urgent pressure in my bottom.The feeling did not come on gradually- it came in all at once and unrelenting. I mustered all of the energy I could and urgently mumbled “I’m feeling a lot of pressure!” Shawna thought I was yelling at her for applying too much counter-pressure and she was taken aback. When I realized that she hadn’t heard me, I screamed “I have to push!”  Shawna & Mike said they would call for the nurse. I knew this baby was coming, but I don’t think that Mike, Shawna, or Libby believed me until Libby checked me at Shawna’s urging and saw that the baby was crowning. I had progressed from 6 to 10cm in a matter of 1.5 hours. Something that none of us expected.

From here, things got a little frenzied. This little boy was coming, ready or not! I remembered from Michael’s birth that Linda had me hold my breath and slowly blow it out to help pace the pushing. Like I was blowing out a candle. Linda hadn’t made it down to the room yet, so I “blew out the candle” as best as I could to slow this kid down. At this point, I was grateful that the Epidural hadn’t numbed me yet so I could feel and control what my body was doing. A second nurse hastily got the baby station in the room set up. Linda had been paged again, but wasn’t responding. Libby went into the hall to get anyone else who was around and could help deliver this baby. The two resident doctors on rotation in OB that Sunday came in to the room and Libby quickly explained that the baby was coming. No sooner than the residents got into the room and threw on some gloves, Theodore Anthony flew into the world. 8:50pm after 2 pushes, I was a Mama again.

A few minutes later, a very surprised Linda came tearing into the room (apologetic for not having gotten there sooner!) to help wrap up the process and do an evaluation. While Teddy nursed like a champ on Mama’s chest, Linda helped me deliver the placenta (which I later had made into capsules- I’ll blog more about this later!) and, upon looking it over, discovered that I actually had a placental abruption and a small blood clot, which explains the bleeding I had been having the past few days. She validated my instincts by telling me that induction today was the right decision. Had I waited any longer, the abruption could have caused serious issues for both me and Teddy. I had a little bit above average bleeding, likely due to the abruption, but miraculously, despite not being coached through my pushing, no tearing at all! Since the epidural had not numbed my legs yet, I was able to avoid a catheter all-together and even able to get up and walk myself to the bathroom shortly after Teddy’s birth.

While Teddy’s birth story was much different than I envisioned, it was just as beautiful as I could have imagined. For the past two years, I have been very vocal about my natural birth experience with Michael and, in a weird way, I am glad that Teddy’s birth was so different so that I can share on other aspects of birth now from a place of experience.

Just as in Michael’s birth, I was reminded of the importance of having a birth team that you trust implicitly with your and your child’s life. My Midwife, Linda, my Doula, Shawna, my Nurse, Libby, and my amazing hubby, Mike were all on my side. No one was trying to diminish my feelings. No one questioned my requests or feedback. I felt 100% supported and knew that, if any of them said that something needed to happen, it was not just to meet a quota or because they wanted to go home earlier or because it was easier for them. It was because that was what was necessary for the safe delivery of my baby boy. I can’t imagine making the decisions that had to be made that day without the support from and confidence in my birth team.

Most importantly, I learned to trust my own instinct. One of the reasons I decided to do the induction was because I said that I would not be able to live with myself had we gone home and something happened to Teddy. I shudder to think of what could have happened if this abruption continued to go undetected, but because of my own mommy instinct, I don’t have to. This is a lesson that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

It felt like the longest day of my life, but once it was done, it was all a blur. Like all the nerves and the pain never even happened. Labor is just like motherhood in that way. The hours are long, but the days are short, and now the two most beautiful boys in the world call me Mama. Someone pinch me.

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Finding Your Feet Again

The first time I saw my toes after months with a bulbous belly in the way, I started ironically humming a song that I have always loved  “…this is what it’s like, finding your feet again.

A few days ago, the song popped into my head again, and it was hard to stifle a chuckle when I realized how different those words now felt to me. This is the newest stop on my motherhood journey- finding my feet again. Figuring out who I am. Gradually, I am starting to feel like “myself” again, however I am realizing that “myself” is different than I remember. “Myself” is so much more than it was before.

Before bringing my little man earthside, before bearing witness to my body’s own goddess strength, I was a different version of myself. The question “Why don’t you tell me about yourself?” was immediately met with a description of my possessions, my career. Those were the feet I stood on- weak & unstable- those of a child.

It has been incredible seeing my life and priorities evolve in such a short amount of time. Just as in labor, there has been a moment of transition- a short time where I was on the cusp of my new self, but afraid to embrace it. The uncertainty made me shakey, nauseous. Just as in labor, however, I came through this transition ready to push. Ready to push myself into a new, better version of me. And, just like in labor, I have pushed enough to produce a new life- my own. Now, “Why don’t you tell you about yourself?” is met with this:

I am a Wife & I am a Mother. These are the two feet that I stand on-the feet of a Woman. These are feet that acknowledge that my life is only as beautiful as those whom I share it with. These are the feet that will carry me safely, sturdily, on this journey.

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Ohana

One of the biggest challenges that I have experienced so far in my postpartum world is a lack of “community”. Anymore, families in the US are not brought up with multiple generations under one roof. Many families members, even of just one generation, often live scattered around the country (or across the world, in some cases). That old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is completely valid.  I have been raised in a society where there is an alarming lack of cumulative wisdom and sharing of birth/child rearing experiences, and that has had an unfortunate impact on my experiences as a mother so far. To further push the point, for those women who are lucky enough to have been raised in an extended family, there is still a certain sense of taboo surrounding the real, hard discussions about many issues encountered in these processes. This leaves many women – myself included – with a feeling of isolation. It makes many of us feel that our worlds have been completely flipped upside-down when we become pregnant and again when our babies are born, because we do not have a real-life knowledge base to compare our own experiences to. It makes us feel as though many of the very normal, natural things that we are experiencing are unique to us, which in turn makes us hesitant to share with others and further perpetuates the problem. I feel lucky in that I do have an incredible mother who has been 100% supportive and nurturing during my pregnancy and motherhood journey so far, but I also feel blessed that I recognized the lack of a larger knowledge-base to support my own experiences early-on, and was adamant about finding ways to create this sense of community for myself.

Being an active social media user, I first turned to the internet. Early in my pregnancy, before making the news public, I found myself on google searching for every idle thought and fear that flitted through my mind.

“Can I eat lunch meat while pregnant?” “If I don’t have morning sickness, does that mean that I’m not pregnant?” “When will I start to feel pregnant?” “Percentage of pregnancy ending in miscarriage” “How to tell if I’m pregnant with a boy or a girl” “Cute ideas to tell parents that I am pregnant”

It was truly out of hand. As I spent more and more time on google, I soon realized that it was fairly easy to skew the search results based on the way that I phrased the question. I found myself thinking “Wouldn’t it be great to compare my experiences with other ladies who are going through the same things at the same time or who have gone through this before?” I eventually found myself in a facebook group of about 600 other women across the world who had apparently arrived at the same conclusion that I had- we needed to create our own community. For whatever reason we all had this need. For me, I know, it had a lot to do with this: In my immediate family on one side, I was the most recent baby born (25 years ago!) and on the other side of the family, there had been 2 second cousins born, but they lived on the other side of the country. The information regarding their gestations and upbringing did not feel accessible to me. In addition, I was the first of our close friends in the area to get pregnant. I felt as if I did not have a peer group. The women of this new facebook group were all due around the same time that I was. Some were first time moms like me, others had one or multiple other children as well. I truly believe that the best thing that I could have done for myself early in the pregnancy was join this group. These women allowed me to ask the candid questions that I needed answered so badly, all while hiding behind the safety of my keyboard. They did not judge or laugh at me. They shared in my excitement and in my misery. The group dwindled down in size over the 10 months of my pregnancy, with some women unfortunately losing their babies early, some women just choosing that it was not an outlet that they needed any longer, and some women being kindly asked to leave because of passing unfair judgement or just being outright rude. By the end of my pregnancy, there was a solid group of about 50 women or so, who were (and to this day, still are) women who I consider my friends. We have shared in each others’ joy and sorrow, we have all asked “stupid” questions, and we have all shared our input on our fair share of “TMI” questions that you would only ask a close group of girlfriends who have their own experiences to base an opinion off of. We are all honest about our experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so that we can collectively grow and learn from them.

After Little Man’s arrival, I also started to recognize the need to get out of the house and find other local women who were in the same place in their lives that I was. Much to my delight, I was able to join a “Mom & Baby Meetup” through the Doula group that I used to help aid in my son’s birth. Since joining, I have been blown away by the impact that these women have had on me as a woman and mother. The first time that we met, I remember being taken aback upon realizing that I could stay seated right where I was and breastfeed my beautiful baby boy uncovered, all while speaking candidly and honestly with these remarkable women. It was freeing. I remember feeling warm and fuzzy inside as we shared our birth stories. I remember genuinely choking up when I realized that, though our birth experiences and journeys to motherhood were all so different, we were all going through the same trials. I remember the relief that I felt when I realized that other new moms were having the same challenges that I was every day.

Whenever I am feeling like navigating postpartum life is near impossible, I just take out my phone and call/text/facebook any of my beautiful, strong-willed mommy friends for reassurance and validation. I am eternally grateful to these communities for helping me keep perspective and remember that I am not on this journey alone.

On a daily basis, I am forced to participate in a society that places very little value on the relationship between a mother and her young infant, but I find solace in the fact that I am doing my part to help reverse the vicious cycle. I want there to be an overwhelming support and sense of community for my friends as they begin their journeys into motherhood. I want them to have the option to use it to their advantage or to go about it on their own. I have vowed to my girlfriends that, as the pioneer mother among us, I will candidly share any/all aspects of my pregnancy, labor, and child-rearing experiences with them if they want to hear it. I want their pregnancies to come ready-made with the sense of warmth, support, and inclusion that I had to seek out.

 

41 Hours- A Birth Story

From the beginning, I had wanted a natural birth experience. Though there is a crunchy granola part of me that would have loved to birth my son at home in a tub and immediately crawl into my own bed afterward, the larger, more sensible part of me decided that I could still have a natural birth in a hospital, as long as I surrounded myself with the right support team. At least that way, should (God forbid) something go wrong, we had all of modern medicine at our disposal should we need it. This decision started me on my quest to find the most amazing birth team possible, and let me tell you, I believe 100% that my birth story turned out the way it did because of the amazing team that I surrounded myself with. First and foremost, my amazing, strong husband, who advocated for me and supported me mentally & physically from beginning to end of this marathon labor. On the medical end, we had Linda, our spectacular, nurturing midwife who I literally trust with my life. Rounding out the team were our Doulas, Jocelyn & Giselle. Their role was vital for the whole natural-birth-in-a-hospital experience. Jocelyn & Giselle had been a part of my pregnancy since I was about 25 weeks along. We took their childbirth class, and they had been on call for questions or concerns since our relationship started. Once labor began, they were there to act as mental support for me to keep me focused on my path to natural labor, and also help provide physical relief as I labored. I say without a doubt that this whole experience would have been very different if not for Jocelyn & Giselle, and I am eternally grateful to them for the experience that they helped create.

Friday, March 28th had been my last day of work. Being a timely person myself, I fully expected my son to arrive on his due date of Monday, March 31st, or even a little bit before if I did things particularly right. The days leading up to my due date were spent analyzing every little sensation happening in my body. Was this finally labor? Was it happening?! Imagine my surprise (not!) when the 31st came and went with no baby. Once the 1st of April rolled around, I decided that my only job was to figure out how to bring this baby earthside. The following few days consisted of drinking a lot of cinnamon tea, eating pineapple, bouncing on my exercise ball, walking through stores, driving over potholes, and just about anything else I could do to “bring on labor”. In retrospect, I probably should have spent a little bit more of this time napping and relaxing on the couch, since I don’t think that any of these things actually helped little man on his journey. He came when he was ready.

On the morning of Wednesday April 2, I woke up around 3:30 am to contractions. I remember waiting out the contractions and using the handy “contraction timer” app on my phone to time them. After about an hour of consistent contractions about 3-5 minutes apart, I excitedly woke Mike up and said to him “I think we’re going to have a baby today!” He was so excited. I texted our Doulas, who told me to head back to bed and get as much rest as I could and to update them when I woke up again. After a few more hours of sleep, I woke up again and much to my dismay, the contractions had stopped. I remember feeling bad for getting Mike excited for nothing. Frustration. More bouncing, tea drinking, walking, etc.

Thursday morning, April 3, I awoke to slight cramping again and shortly after getting up, my “show” made its appearance. My contractions were nothing like the ones that I was having the previous morning, but not nothing at all. Mike took the day off and we took advantage of the opportunity to run some errands, though I was exhausted. We walked Target & Home Depot, then came home and made ourselves spaghetti for dinner- what I would soon realize would be the last real meal I would eat until after Michael’s arrival. We decided at this point that the reality was that Baby Michael was probably going to make his appearance sooner rather than later, so we called my parents in Michigan and suggested that they plan to leave MI and head toward IL first thing Friday morning, just to be safe. Around 7pm on Thursday, my contractions started in earnest. I texted my Doulas an update and hopped in the tub to try to relax. I spent the evening timing my contractions, which were regularly coming about 7-8 minutes apart, but I could still function through them. I decided to crawl into bed to rest and see what happened. When Mike came to bed, I remember saying to him “This might be the last night that we ever go to bed together without a baby”. As it turns out, I was only partially right.

After a few short hours of sleep, I woke up around 1am on Friday April 4 to painful contractions. I didn’t want to get my hopes up again like I had on Wednesday, so I tried to just relax in bed and see how they went. By 2:30am, I realized that this was the real deal and I woke up Mike to tell him that I was going to call Jocelyn over to help me work through the contractions. Jocelyn got to the house around 3:30am and, though Mike wanted to get up, I told him to stay in bed and sleep as long as he could since I had Jocelyn and my wonderful little dogs at my side to help me through these early stages of labor. We had no idea just how much he would appreciate that extra little bit of sleep as the labor unfolded. Jocelyn and I sat in the living room with the dogs as the contractions became more and more difficult for me to get through. We watched “That Touch of Mink” with Doris Day and Carey Grant, then put on my “Kings of Convenience” radio station on Pandora once I wasn’t able to enjoy the movie any more. It was at this point, when contractions were still manageable, that I said to Jocelyn a few things that would end up being my inspiration throughout the rest of my labor. The first thing I said was “The best thing about contractions is that they always end.” which is absolutely true, though much harder to remember at the end of labor. I also shared with Jocelyn my personal mantra for life, which is “In this moment, I am perfect.” I let her know that, to me, this meant that my body and spirit are always in the place that they need to be, doing what they need to be doing in that exact moment. Jocelyn remembered this and recited it back to me many times throughout the next few days. During this early labor, Jocelyn applied pressure to my lower back, massaged my legs, put a cold washcloth on my forehead, and suggested new positions as I labored in the comfort of my living room. By around 8am, Mike had gotten up and we decided it was nearly time to head into the hospital. Jocelyn said that I should eat some protein to build up my strength, so Mike gave me a hard boiled egg which did not sit well with my stomach. I threw it up immediately and we decided to just stick with juice. Shortly after, we gathered all of our hospital bags and hit the road. On the way in, we called the hospital to let them know that we were on our way and would like the room with the tub if it was available, since there is only one at the hospital. I also called Linda to let her know that it was baby time. The answering service passed the message along, but surprisingly, I got a call back from the other, newer Midwife in the practice letting me know that it was her on call day at the hospital and Linda would not be there. “OK, I can deal with this.” I thought. After all, I knew that it was a possibility that Linda wouldn’t deliver my baby, but I didn’t realize until later how much this fact would genuinely affect my labor.

Regardless, we arrived at the hospital around 9:30am, where I was showed to the one room with a birthing tub (yay!) after a relatively easy check in process. Shortly after, the other midwife came in and checked my cervix. I was dilated to 4 cm, which surprised all of us, as we really thought that I had dilated further after the contractions that I had been having. The other Midwife was excited and said “It looks like we are going to have a baby today!” Which is the best thing that a woman in labor can hear. She then followed up with “…one way or another. Because I really want to sleep in my own bed tonight.” I know she meant it as a light-hearted joke, but that latter part of her sentence ended up haunting me the rest of that day. After my check, I got comfy in the wonderful cotton labor gown that I brought from home and got hooked up to the wireless monitors. I asked if I could get into the tub to labor, but was told that I couldn’t because it might slow down labor and we didn’t want that to happen at this point. I sadly obliged, and for the next several hours we walked the halls of the hospital, bounced on the exercise ball, and swayed to rhythm of my contractions. At some point my parents showed up, so Mike and I walked out to the waiting area to meet them and give them an update, even though there really wasn’t much to share. I continued to request that I hop in the tub, but was shot down by the midwife each time. At about 4pm, she came back in to checked my cervix again. I was only dilated to “maybe 5 centimeters.” It was so disheartening. “All that work, and for what?” I thought. In retrospect, I know that those hours of labor were probably rotating my baby and pushing him down my birth canal, but without that physical evidence of dilation and use of the phrase “failure to progress”, it was a very tough emotional moment in my labor.

After this check, the Midwife decided it was time to make a decision. She presented me with these options: 1) Allow her to break my waters (they had not yet ruptured on their own) to push my labor along, or 2) Go home and come back later. WHAT!? This was not what Linda and I had discussed. I asked for a few minutes to think over my options. “Why isn’t it an option for me to stay there and labor at the hospital?” “Its not like there was a line out the door of women waiting for a room in labor & delivery!” “I don’t want to lose my tub room!” I said. Was this because she wanted to go home and sleep in her own bed like she said earlier?” I thought. I didn’t know her well enough to trust that she had my best interest in mind, though I realized later that she did. I debated the options with Mike, who pointed out to me that we probably didn’t want to go with option number one yet, because if I still did not dilate further after getting my waters broken, we would then have to do Pitocin, and if that didn’t work within a certain amount of time, we would be headed down a road of interventions that we did NOT want to go down. I am so grateful to him for his clarity in that moment. I was, however, still confused as to why we couldn’t stay, so I asked the Midwife when she returned. Her answer was not straight-forward enough for a woman in labor to understand. Again, in hindsight, it is amazing that she even allowed me to go home to relax and labor in the relative comfort of my own cozy surroundings, but I would have felt much better about it if I had been given the option to stay, then gently nudged toward the option of going home. Mike was unhappy with her answer as well, and decided to go into the hall to have some words with her. I was oblivious at the time, but apparently he used some persuasive, choice words with her which have earned him a bit of a reputation at the OB/Midwife practice now that the ordeal is over. (“If we get into a car accident on the way home or my wife delivers our baby at home and something happens to him, that’s on you!” or something to that effect) Regardless, I am so grateful for his efforts, because he came back in with a new option #3 that I was much more comfortable with: We could have one more hour to walk, bounce, etc at the hospital to see if I progressed any more. If I hadn’t dilated any further, we would then head home to labor more. So, after another excruciating hour with no more dilation, we threw our arms up and decided to head home with the best attitude possible.

It was time for Jocelyn to head home for some sleep, as she had been up with me since 2:30am, so Giselle came and met us at the hospital then came back to the house with us. The car ride was pure hell for me, as I was exhausted, frustrated, and there were a lot of potholes! When we got home, I managed to somehow, in between contractions, eat a piece of toast and hop in the shower. After my shower, I crawled into bed with Giselle right behind me. I was so exhausted that I managed to nap between contractions, only to wake up screaming to strong contractions that I was not able to mentally prepare myself for in my sleep. Mike tried to sleep on the couch, but ended up in the bedroom with us as he had been woken up by my very loud vocalizations. He relieved Giselle for a while and let her take a quick nap. By 4am or so, I couldn’t figure out how to get through contractions anymore. I remember laying down, sitting up in bed, folding myself over a stack of pillows, sitting on the exercise ball draped in Mike’s arms, hot compresses, cold towels- the list goes on and on. There were a lot of tears and exhaustion. I started to think about going back on my plan and getting an epidural. By 6am on Saturday April 5, I was at my wits end. I decided it was time to go back to the hospital and no one was going to stop me.

We grabbed our bags again and headed into the hospital again. We called the hospital again and told them we wanted the tub room again. We called our Midwife office answering service again, but this time, to my absolute delight, Linda called me back to let me know that she was on call for labor and delivery that day. I was as happy as I could be at that point. The car ride back to the hospital was almost too much to take. It was so painful for me to have a contraction while sitting still, sitting straight up, and going over potholes. I remember weeping in the car and telling Mike that if I had not dilated any further when we got to the hospital, I was going to have to get an epidural because I just couldn’t do it anymore. Mike respectfully said “Let’s just see how things are going when we get there, then we can decide.”

Mike, Giselle and I arrived at the hospital around 6:30am and were met by Jocelyn again. Linda was also there waiting for us, and together, the 5 of us walked right back into the room with the tub (thank God!) where she checked my cervix and excitedly informed me that I was dilated to 8cm! All thoughts of giving up on my plan were gone from my mind, and in their place was excitement, determination, and a new vigor. Linda handled me with such warmth and compassion and made me feel so completely at ease. She said that she was so proud of how far I had come and that I could hop right into the tub to labor my last few centimeters. I was so relieved. The tub felt so nice. I distinctly remember labor in the tub. There were some contractions that continued to burn and rip through me like others had, but there were others where I was able to just float in the water and breathe through them. It was amazing how much more manageable they felt. That water was miraculous.

After about an hour in water, I started shaking and throwing up, so together we decided it was time for me to get out as I was probably in transition. Linda, who was in the room focusing all of her nurturing and attention on me, checked me again and let me know that I was at 9cm and it was time to break my waters! Since I was so far along at this point, I was OK with this decision and let her go ahead with it. I remember a few times during the last few days of pregnancy thinking “Did my water just break?” and looking back, I can’t help but laugh because I now know that I would have KNOWN if my water had broken! After it was done, I remember being SO grateful that I hadn’t let the other Midwife do it sooner. The quality of the contractions changed so much. They came much quicker and stronger and I started getting very VERY loud and vocal. I distinctly remember screaming “F*CK!!!!!!!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs during the first contraction after my water was broken. From that point, I screamed “I can’t! I can’t!” many times, until I was reminded that “you can” from my awesome Doulas, at which point I started to scream “I can! I can!” instead. I like to think that I somehow managed a sarcastic tone, even in the throngs of delivering my baby.

At 10:10am, Linda finally pronounced me 10 centimeters dilated and said that I could push. I was very hesitant at first, as it was just too much pain and pressure to take, but then I realized that the only way out of this state was to push. SO. I. PUSHED. I remembered hearing in yoga and childbirth class that “if you feel like you’re pooping, you’re using the right muscles” so that is how I pushed. For the last portion of my pushing, Linda said that she was going to give me instructions while I was pushing and it was very important that I follow them, so I took her word as law. She said push, I pushed. She said exhale for 5 counts, I exhaled for 5 counts. She said push again, I pushed again. Until I felt like I was going to pass out. After 32 minutes of me feeling my body do things that I never imagined it could do, I heard the scream of my beautiful baby. In the middle of what she promised to be my last push, Linda presented me with the one experience that I didn’t even know I wanted more than anything else in my labor. Right after Michael’s head was delivered, during the most intense part of pushing, she said “Honey, open your eyes and look at your baby. Do you want to catch your son?” I opened my eyes which had been slammed shut to focus on exerting as much power as I could during pushing, saw that sweet, sweet baby’s head, and replied “GIVE HIM TO ME!” I reached down, grabbing my baby boy by the underarms, and pulled his soft, squishy, wet, wiggly little body onto my chest.

I did not escape the whole ordeal unscathed, with a few stitches and a broken tailbone as souveniers, but I didn’t care. I did it. He was here, in all of his 8lb 13 oz, 22 inch glory. I couldn’t believe it! After 41 long hours of labor, my sweet, sweet son had arrived- and he was all mine forever.

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They say hindsight is 20/20, and I absolutely believe it to be true. A few things that I took away from my birthing experience:

1) Mental state plays a huge role in physical progress. I really think that, subconsciously, I wanted Linda to deliver my son, thus accounting for my supposed “stalled labor” on the first day

2) Don’t necessarily abide by the “rules” of labor- trust your instinct. My contractions never really got closer together than 6 minutes apart. Up until the time I started pushing, I was still able to doze briefly in between contractions. My body was doing exactly what it needed in order for me to safely deliver my baby. If I would have waited for my contractions to be 3-4 minutes apart before going to the hospital like they say, we would have had the baby at home!

3) Its OK to change your birth plan/its really important to have a birth team that you trust. We went into the labor knowing that we wanted a natural labor and delivery, but open to the fact that it may change. We trusted our team of Doulas and Midwives implicitly and know that they were supportive of a natural labor if it was going to be safe to do. We came to terms with the fact that, if they suggested that it was necessary for an intervention (ie. c-section, etc.) it was because it was medically necessary, not just because they wanted to move things along and get us out of the hospital. Granted, that trust had not been established with the first Midwife, which accounted for some of the stress of that first day. Also, by the 2nd morning when I said I would want an epidural if I hadn’t progressed, I had already thought a lot about it and made peace with the decision. I would not have physically been able to continue to labor like I had been for much longer than I did, and if I couldn’t push when I eventually needed to due to exhaustion, that would have defeated the whole purpose of my natural labor because it would have most likely resulted in a much more dramatic intervention.

4) The instinct and physical capability of a woman in labor is truly remarkable. I will never forget the struggle and pain that I went through, yet I find myself yearning to experience it all over again. I want to re-live those moments over and over- the first time I felt my son, heard my son, saw my husband’s face in my son. It was all worth it, and I am so grateful that I was mentally present so that I could truly appreciate what my body and spirit were going through during the onset of labor, in the throngs of delivery, and during those first precious moments when my life became whole.

Why Milk Drunken Love?

A measly 3.5 weeks ago I was pregnant and oblivious.

I remember during the last few weeks of my pregnancy when some of the lovely ladies that I know who were lucky enough to already be mommies would say things to me like “Enjoy it while you can!”, “Sleep in before its too late!”, etc. etc. I know them all well enough to know that their requests of me were coming from a place of love, but I’ll tell you what- I wanted to punch them all in a hormonal rage! How could I possibly sleep with this baby torching my throat with a flamethrower and tap dancing on my bladder every night? How could I ‘enjoy’ the misery that I was going through? Surely those self-righteous Mommies had forgotten how awful the last few weeks of pregnancy were!

They say the grass is always greener, and I have learned that is especially true of pregnancy and motherhood so far. Now that I am newly crossed over to the other side, I want to (and have!) grab every pregnant woman that I can by the shoulders, shake them, and yell “ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN!” “SLEEP IN BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!” ETC. ETC!

I am suddenly, simply by default of having experienced childbirth and caring for a newborn, one of those aforementioned self-righteous mom-bitches, too.

I spent so much time toward the end of my pregnancy wishing time away. I didn’t revel in the relative ease with which I could run out the door on a whim to go grab a quick bite to eat. I didn’t close my eyes and breathe in the peace and comfort of relaxing on the couch with my husband watching  marathon of our favorite TV show without interruption. I did not appreciate the last few mornings I was able to sleep in past 6am or nights where I could sleep for stretches longer than 3 hours. I feel I did not spend an appropriate amount of time sorting through my feelings about ending the previous chapter of my life, and I don’t want to start this leg of the journey the same way.

I am happy to bring you along as I begin to stumble, milk drunkenly, into the realm of Mommyhood.