Joining the World of Motherhood

Audrey in blanket from Meg

I don’t even know where to start talking about the last week and half since my baby girl Audrey was born. I guess I’ll just go stream of consciousness with this post!

I had tried to anticipate what motherhood might be like, but I never realized that it would feel as natural as it does. Obviously I try to live naturally as much as I can, but I thought this transition would be much more difficult. Audrey latched on right away and fed on colostrum for long stretches until my milk came in after just a couple days. My mom arrived from Minnesota the day after she was born and is here for a couple weeks to help out. We came home from the hospital when Audrey was two days old and settled into something of a routine.

Audrey in a sling!

Audrey is an eating, pooping, sleeping machine, so a lot of my time is spent simply bonding with her and tending to her needs. Also, after a physically (not emotionally!) traumatic birth, I am forced to lay low and recover. I am moving around much better than I did at first, but I am now in the phase of recovery where if I stand up for a little longer than I should my nether regions just start throbbing. Hopefully by next week sometime I’ll be ready to sit in a chair, and maybe even take a short walk!

I would like to confirm the advice to new mothers to limit visitors in the first few weeks. Everyone might want to come see the baby, and maybe that’s totally okay with you, but just make sure there are only a couple people at a time and that their visits are brief. With all the hormones gushing through your body and your limited mobility (whether you have a c-section or a vaginal birth, you are going to need some time to recover!), having the added pressure to entertain or having other people holding your baby for hours on end can be very difficult!

When Audrey was four days old just about Luke’s whole family came over. I was concerned that Audrey would get overwhelmed, but luckily she was asleep the whole time… it ended up being me who was overwhelmed. After a few hours of noisiness and activity, I started freaking out a bit. I went in the bedroom and cried so nobody would see me upset, then came back out when I had calmed myself. They had started playing board games and Audrey’s cousins and Godfather were fighting over who would hold her next and I couldn’t hold it in… My sister-in-law saw me crying and it slipped out, “I just want to hold my baby!” She immediately grabbed Audrey away and brought her to me, and while I brought her into the bedroom to nurse she made everyone leave. I felt really bad about the whole thing and didn’t need everyone to leave, I just needed a little time with my baby girl!

So lesson learned: short visits with just a few people (ideally people from whom you are comfortable baby-snatching when you want your kid back!) until your hormones are regulated!

Audrey & Grandma Celia on the ball

A huge blessing this past week has been my mom… having her here has helped me enormously. In the first few days we were back home it hurt just to get up and down so she was bringing me food and drinks and mothering me as I was trying to figure out how to be a mother myself. She’s been taking care of all the stuff I would normally do like laundry, dishes, cleaning, and cooking, plus some stuff that who knows when I would ever get to! Plus, we discovered something interesting… I spent a lot of time sitting on my exercise ball towards the end of my pregnancy because my tailbone hurt and I was trying to keep my pelvic floor and thighs strong. Apparently Audrey remembers this, so when she is fussy, her grandma will hold her and bounce and it calms her right down!

Audrey & Daddy Luke

Luke has been a wonderful father and husband despite having to go back to work almost immediately. He is just as obsessed with Audrey as I am and is happy to change her and do whatever he can to help. When we were in the hospital he changed all the diapers because it would have taken me just as long to get out of the bed as it would for him to change the diaper! He was also changing the night diapers and I would feed her, but now that I am feeling better I am doing more night diapers since he has to go to work in the morning and needs the sleep. He loves holding Audrey and recognizes all her noises… he’ll bring her to me as soon as she starts asking for booby!

I started pumping to get my milk supply up for when I go back to work, and about once a day Luke offers the bottle to Audrey. She knows what to do with it and will suck on it a little, but definitely not if I am around! We just want to make sure that when she starts daycare she’ll accept a bottle. I am also considering giving her a pacifier. I was going to wait a while longer, but it seems like a lot of the time she just wants “comfort booby” where she’ll just suck for a few minutes to put herself to sleep- she’s not really hungry. One of the big reasons for not introducing a pacifier too soon is to eliminate confusion and establish breastfeeding, but our breastfeeding relationship seems pretty well established and she definitely knows the difference between my breast and the bottle.

Finally, a little about Audrey herself! She is such a sweet, good baby and only fusses if she needs something or is gassy. She gets the hiccups a couple times per day, but breastfeeding gets rid of them right away! I wonder if sucking on a pacifier would have the same effect? When she’s on her tummy, Audrey can push up and hold her head up for a good 5-10 seconds. Also, she can sleep through anything: The Expendables, vacuuming around her, shrieking voices… so glad we don’d have to tiptoe around her!

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Welcome Audrey Cecilia!

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After almost a month of prodromal labor, I am thrilled to announce that the real thing has finally happened and we now have a little tiny baby girl!!!

On Tuesday my usual contractions (type #3) were a little stronger than usual starting around 4, and by late evening they were hard to ignore. We went to bed around 10:30 and I figured they would go away as usual, but they woke me up just before 2am. I timed them for a bit and my tossing and turning woke Luke up. The contractions weren’t consistent in time between or time per contraction, but they seemed to be getting stronger and closer together. I filled the bathtub while Luke called our doula Teresa and our midwife Judy. Luke had Teresa come and while she was on her way, he ran around packing and I labored in the tub. When she arrived we headed to the hospital for a labor check (so they could confirm I was actually in labor).

When we got there the resident checked me and I was 9cm dilated! Thank goodness, because the contractions were actually painful at that point. Teresa called Judy right away and started filling the birthing tub in our delivery room. I had to wear a fetal monitor and toco for 20 minutes and I was so uncomfortable that all I wanted to do was get in the tub… it was so hard to keep still to give them the readings they needed to make sure I could have a water birth!

Soon enough I was in the tub, Judy was there, lots of nurses (who all happened to be clients of Luke) were in and out, and everything became a blur. Because I was in the hospital the birth was overseen by my midwife’s back-up doctor. I labored in the tub for a while and I was still 9cm, so they had me get up and move around, then get on the bed where they decided (and I allowed them) to pop my water bag. I got back in the tub and it was time to start pushing. I tried a bunch of positions and pushed for about an hour and a half, but just was not making enough progress so Judy had me move to the bed.

I never thought I’d be flat on my back with my feet in stirrups, but it ended up being the only way to get the baby out with how she was positioned in the birth canal! I ended up pushing for a couple more hours on the bed, popping capillaries all over my face (I looked like I had horrible razor burn for days!) and blood vessels in both of my eyeballs (still red, but I think they are just starting to heal). Luke was by my side and Teresa was keeping cold cloths coming for my forehead. There were nurses around me counting as I pushed- we were trying to get three good pushes per contraction at ten seconds each push. When the nurse was counting, I was thinking about Crossfit… those AMRAP workouts where you do as much work as possible in a set amount of time and then relax completely in between rounds. Knowing when my work was done for the time being gave me a goal and focus.

The pushing had been going on so long that they were getting worried I would get worn out before she was born. It was suggested that I hold back and not push for a couple contractions, but I felt strong and simply couldn’t not push. I couldn’t see what was going on of course, but eventually the baby’s head started peeking out. Judy and Doc could see from the way I was stretching that I was sure to be ripped to shreds as she crowned, so they encouraged me to allow an episiotomy. I consented so in between contractions Doc injected a local anesthetic and made a snip- on a scale from 1-4, it was a 2. After that it seemed to happen really fast- I think she crowned during the next contraction (Luke got to touch the head!), and soon after the head started coming all the way out.

I heard, “You’re going to want to see this!” I felt the head come out and although I had already pushed my three times for the contraction, everyone was excited around me so I kept my eyes open as I pushed one more time and felt the whole slippery body slide right out! “It’s a girl!” Audrey Cecilia came out sunny-side-up, facing the world. That was the reason for the start and stop labor over the past month, and for the exceptionally difficult delivery.

She started crying right away, and they placed our little baby girl covered in blood and goo right on my chest. She immediately pooped out meconium all over me! She was cleaned up on top of me while I delivered the placenta and afterbirth. Luke cut the cord which stopped pulsing almost right away, and Doc worked on stitching me up (2 stitches for the episiotomy and one stitch for a tear on the right side). There was also some tearing inside my vagina- it ended up being a very good thing I was in the hospital for the birth. Audrey was so awake and aware, and was able to latch on to my breast almost right away!

I didn’t know this at the time, of course, but Judy filled me in on a few more things when we met on Saturday. She and Doc have an understanding where no interventions will be made unless they are both in agreement that it is necessary. They both agreed I needed to get out of the tub and later that I needed to be snipped- Judy said she almost never performs episiotomies, but in my case even if I had a home birth, she would have given me one. There was something they did not agree on though… I had been pushing at the upside-down baby for hours and Doc just didn’t think there was room for her to fit. He and Judy discussed the C-section, but she didn’t agree that it had to be done. I didn’t know why at the time, but she spent some time checking me out- feeling the passageway and the baby’s head, and she thought the baby could fit. She believed in my body’s ability to birth my baby, when if the birth had been managed only medically, they would have given me a Caesarean much sooner citing that the baby was posterior and would never have fit.

I am so thankful for my staff who believed in me enough to allow me to have a natural, drug-free birth of my baby girl. Labor lasted almost a month, active labor (that I was awake for, anyway!) lasted about 7.5 hours, and I pushed for about 4.5 hours. Judy said that on a scale of 1-10 for level of difficulty, this birth was an 8 or 9. No wonder I felt like I got run over by a truck, and looked like I had taken a beating! Judy told me not to look in the mirror for three days… of course I did, and all I can say is thank goodness I’m not too vain!

Audrey Cecilia made her entrance on Wednesday, January 9 at 9:18am. She weighed 7lbs 3oz and was 20 inches long with a major cone head (the bruise is finally almost gone now!) Luke and I are thrilled and just fall more in love with this eating, sleeping, pooping bundle of joy every day!

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Frustrations & Changes to the Plan

For those of my wonderful followers who I know in real life, please don’t go talking to people about what’s going on with me… I have given you this link because I trust you with knowing all these intimate details. I want to have this in a blog because I want to keep my nearest and dearest informed without having lots of long conversations, and I also love that there is a community of women who are going through pregnancy- it’s awesome to read about each others experiences and give each other messages of support. That said, although it is technically public, most people who know me don’t know about this and I would prefer to keep this kind of stuff off the table as dinner conversation or Facebook chit chat.

The thing about a diary is it’s a place where you can just write down everything you are thinking and feeling, put it into words, then move on. I don’t really like to talk about how I am feeling much and I’m not one to obsess over relationships or personal issues over a martini… I’ve always just liked to sort out my thoughts in writing. My biggest objective at the moment is to not think about what’s going on too much, so I have come to the conclusion that it would be best to just put it down so I can move on!

Compared to so many women, this pregnancy has been so easy. Up until a few weeks ago, that is. I had that preterm labor scare a few weeks ago and have been in prodromal labor with varying but often consistent contractions ever since. I am at the point where I don’t even notice them most of the time anymore, put if I pay attention for a little while I will notice that they are at a consistent 6 minutes apart lasting about 40 seconds each. We figured that this ongoing early labor is because while the baby is ready to come, it’s not quite in the right position so it needs to shift before it can put the proper pressure on my cervix to start active labor. On top of this ongoing early labor, I tested positive for GBS– while it’s not the worst thing in the world, I have to receive antibiotics during labor which isn’t the best thing.

Now I’ve had another hiccup… I lost my mucus plug on Friday morning, then Friday night I started bleeding. At first I thought it was the bloody show that sometimes indicates labor starting within a few days, but it was more blood than it should be. I spoke with my midwife and decided to wait it out, and it was gone by the morning. It started again though on Saturday night, so Judy recommended I go to the hospital so they could determine if something was wrong.  As it turned out, it was a polyp on my cervix (apparently all the estrogen during pregnancy can cause those) that started bleeding with all the cervical changes and pressure from the baby.

Polyps are not a big deal, but there is a tiny chance that there could be a problem during childbirth… When the cervix becomes fully dilated it gets sucked up and kind of absorbed into the uterus. There is a very small possibility that the weakened spot in my cervix could actually tear during childbirth, and need clamping or medical attention of some sort. My midwife can do perineal stitches and most medical stuff like that, but not internal cervical repairs. Being that the polyp has already bled and we are aware that there could be a problem, it would be irresponsible to take a risk of having to go through a transfer. For that reason we have made the decision to give birth in the hospital instead of at home.

Judy was concerned that I would be mad at her if we went to the hospital and then everything ended up being just fine… I said No! Of course not… I will be very happy if everything goes perfectly, and I know that her job as a midwife is to ensure an outcome that is as safe and healthy as possible for both the baby and me. She is highly experienced and I trust her professional opinion completely. I know she is an advocate for home birth and she would not make a rash decision about this.

Of course I am disappointed that I will not have the home birth that I was envisioning, but I will still have my midwife, doula and husband there to support me and advocate for my wishes. We will labor at home until I am about 8cm dilated (or if I start bleeding more than I should, of course) then head to Morristown Memorial Hospital labor & delivery. Judy will still be attending my birth and the staff at Morristown knows her. From what I’ve heard they are very good and respect birth plans for the most part. They even have rooms with birthing tubs which we will request upon arrival… I might still get to do a water birth!

Although not ideal, I am fine with the change of plans. I think I am just getting emotionally and physically worn out… There are tons of hormones coursing through my body, I’ve been in prodromal labor for three weeks, and I recognize the possibility that this could continue on for several weeks yet since I am only 39 weeks 3 days today (I have to imagine that by the time I hit 42 weeks they would induce me). Judy already said I’m a good candidate for induction… I was 100% effaced and 3.5cm dilated when they checked me Saturday night. They also said I was in early labor… what’s new? I thought it was kind of funny when the nurse popped in and looked at the toco readings and asked concernedly, Are you in pain?! I’d say No, I’m fine thanks! Really, I barely notice that I am having contractions at this point… The resident doctor asked if I normally had painful periods (no) and said that contractions just aren’t as painful for some people. If that’s the case, awesome!

I was so excited for childbirth all along, and now I’m just frustrated and over it. I am done venting now though, so if you go to the end, thanks for caring! 🙂

Personality & Pregnancy

This is just my own little theory, but I think that pregnancy brings out the extremes in a woman’s personality. There are a couple of my own traits that I think are enhanced during all this… my inquisitiveness and my introversion.

First, I tend to be curious about the world and my relationship with it… when I get interested in a topic I can’t read too much or find out enough information about it. I’ve been doing that every step of the way through this pregnancy, and while some may say, You’re driving yourself crazy! I actually think it keeps me sane, I like to feel informed and prepared.

Next, I’ve always been interested in psychology and personality types. Introversion and extroversion are not so much about being shy or outgoing… I definitely don’t consider myself to be a shy person. They are more about how you get your energy. Do you feel more happy and energized after a night out with friends or a family gathering- being with people socially? Or do you feel more refreshed after time to yourself- reading, shooting photos, doing whatever it is you like to do?

I am much more the latter… I love my friends and family, but being around people leaves me exhausted. I am finding that especially now at the end of my pregnancy, I want to be alone as much as possible. I don’t want to answer the same questions over and over again (How are you feeling? When are you due? Do you have any feelings of whether it’s a boy or girl? Do you have names picked out? Are you ready? Are you excited? When do you think the baby will come? Where are you having the baby? Oh, aren’t you worried there will be a problem? Do you have the nursery all set up? Are you going to go back to work? How long of a maternity leave do you get? What are you going to do with the baby when you go back to work? Aaaand many more…) – I know people mean well and are just being nice and making conversation, but it’s exhausting and I just don’t really want to talk about it. I also don’t want to struggle trying to come up with alternate conversation topics (or try to follow conversations I’m not really interested in) because my pregnancy and the baby are pretty much the only thing on my mind… As selfish as I may seem, I’d rather just avoid social situations all together and distract myself with episodes of Gossip Girl on Netflix, cleaning, pregnancy exercises, reading forums, etc.

Luke has been so supportive through all this… he doesn’t mind all the research I do because I just tell him the interesting stuff so he doesn’t have to do it himself! And when I don’t want to go out or do anything, he’s totally fine with it- he’s gone out a couple times without me (totally fine with me!) and is now with me declining invitations and just watching TV with me and making sure I’m comfortable. Whatta man! 😉

Link Love

“You know what the great thing about babies is? They are like little bundles of hope. Like the future in a basket.”
― Lish McBride, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Is this what S/him looks like?

I think it’s safe to say my coworkers are exciting about the impending arrival of Baby H…

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I have never been around a pregnant woman on a daily basis before, so I never heard about all the daily events that pregnancy entails. My sister was across the country from me when she went through her pregnancies and my sister-in-law and friends who have had babies I only saw every few weeks. I’ve never watched as someone’s belly grew before my eyes, never had someone around enough that questions were sparked in my mind. I’ve learned most of what I know about pregnancy through being pregnant, just like I will learn most of what I know about babies and kids through being a mom (I’ve never been around babies or children much either!)

In this way I can understand my coworkers’ curiosity and excitement. None of them have been through this themselves, but they have been there with me pretty much every step of the way. Of course, I don’t give them all the gory details!

It’s pretty funny though, that the baby will know my voice the best, followed by Luke’s, then probably my coworkers since he/she hears their voices almost every day!

Right Occiput Transverse

Those three words may be the reason I’ve had this start-and-stop labor.

Today I am 38 weeks, 5 days and we had an appointment with our midwife Judy. She assured me that I am not, in fact, crazy, and I’ve definitely had some real, effective labor (like I said, I feel like I’ve been in early labor for two weeks!) The problem is the labor always stops a few hours after it starts, and she thinks it is because of a slight mal-positioning of the baby.

Ideally when you go into labor your baby will be head down and back out- either straight out towards your belly button or back towards the left side of your uterus. My baby is head down, but its back is on the right side, called Right Occiput Transverse. The problem with this positioning is that during labor, “ROT” babies tend to turn to complete posterior making labor and delivery much more difficult and often requiring a C-section if the baby gets wedged in the birth canal during descent.

Now that I know this, it’s time to take action! I am trying to move up my appointment with my chiropractor who specializes in pregnancy and fetal positioning to tomorrow, and can also make additional appointments if need be. I will also be continuing the exercises recommended by my doula in our childbirth classes, and starting Spinning Babies techniques to rotate the little one! I will probably try a lot of the techniques, but will definitely do inversions and pelvic floor releases.

Once the baby is in proper position, labor should be quick- I might already be 5 centimeters dilated (no reason to check, though, if the baby isn’t ready to come out yet!) and Judy guessed the baby weighs about 7.5lbs now, so I may be having an 8-pounder! All of that is guesswork of course, so along with the sex, we’ll just have to wait and see!

Wish me luck flipping this little one, and hopefully labor will be soon and quick and smooth!

Google Searching

Not that it really makes a difference because vaginal exams are not a good predictor about when a baby will be born, but I can’t help being curious about dilation, effacement, labor and the like. I’ve just had so many contractions, and have read a lot about the difference between false labor and true labor, and I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that I’ve had real early labor contractions a multiple times and that the labor just goes away again. I wonder if I am further along than the 3cm and 70% effacement that I was two weeks ago, and if so, how far along could my cervix possibly be? I did a Google search for how far dilated can you be and not be in labor? and like pretty much everything else pregnancy-related, there are lots of forums about it.

This BabyCenter forum was pretty interesting – people generally seemed to lean towards 6cm as the answer, and many people said that when you start active labor already pretty far dilated and effaced, then the last bit tends to go very quickly. The following post was hearsay, but I thought it was interesting considering my circumstances:

my doula friend said she had a client once who went several weeks with “false starts” where labor would come and go and come and go (no active labor) and was 9 cm when she went into active labor. can you imagine?

This Mothering.com forum is also interesting, and contained this interesting post:

I’ve heard of clients who have been 8cm for days before going into regular, active labor (which is usually quite short, which is why my preceptor doesn’t do VEs before active labor.

We have a client that we know is at least 5cm because she’s called us to her home twice and labor stopped (she’s actually having a couple hours of labor every 3 nights so I’m betting she’s closer to 7cm dilated by now since she’s having a lot of prodromal labor). I sure hope we don’t miss her birth, she’s 2 hours away.

There are also lots of resources on prodromal labor. A lot of articles make it sound like a simple early labor phase like you read about in books or hear about in classes, where you just need to take a shower or a walk, get some rest, etc., and active labor will begin, but that’s not necessarily the case. This article pretty much sums up what I have been going through. It’s all very confusing, when I thought it would be so much simpler… Contractions = Labor is not the case after all!

Happy New Year!

Last night we spent the evening in and I managed to stay up for the ball drop (check out my photo blog post here!). It was a pleasant evening, and low-key just like I wanted/needed. I was having strong, frequent contractions all night again but ignored them and sat on my ball for much of the night- as I projected, they went away again while I was sleeping so glad I didn’t say anything! One thing I’ve learned and mentioned before is that even if you are having strong, not-BH contractions, it does not mean you’re in labor.

To think I was all worried that I’d go before 36 weeks and have to go to the hospital! Well, today is New Years Day and I am 38 weeks, 4 days pregnant. I am not looking forward to going into the office tomorrow, but just a few more days and it will be that perfect timing I was hoping for! I have to remind myself, though, that even though I have been having all these contractions for a couple weeks now, the baby could still wait a few more weeks before he/she is ready to come out.

I am debating with myself about when I want to start maternity leave… If I don’t give birth by this weekend, do I want to go to work next week when I am “due” on Friday, or just start leave after this week? Or maybe plan to work on Monday and Tuesday then start leave? I have a bunch of projects coming in soon that my coworkers will be taking over, so if they come in early enough I might be able to handle them before I leave. I just have this feeling that as soon as I am gone, they are all going to come in and my poor coworkers will be slammed! The good thing with my office is it is only 10 minutes away so it’s not a big deal to go in or leave if I need to, a lot of my work I can do from home, and I can just work up until I go into labor if I want as long as I keep them updated.

The baby is wide awake now and kicking up a storm, wishing everyone a happy new year!

All the Different Contractions So Far!

Today I am 38 weeks and counting! The baby may not care about my plans, but I am hoping that I go into labor a week from now! I’ll be 39 weeks, it will be after New Years, I won’t have to use up any maternity leave on short weeks, it will be a week before this baby’s cousin’s birthday so they don’t have to share parties (unless it just works out that way, I guess), and my mom could get a flight out on Friday night or Saturday! Wish me luck getting the baby to come at the perfect time haha…

I have experienced four different types of contractions so far.

  1. Braxton Hicks: I’ve had these for a long time, and didn’t know what they were at first… They happen at random intervals of time and my tummy would just get all hard and I wouldn’t even notice half the time unless I happened to be touching my belly.
  2. Painful post-nookie/early labor contractions: Intense pelvic pressure and lower back pain… belly contractions rock hard and just a few minutes apart lasting for a few hours.
  3. Early labor/rhythmic BH: These feel pretty much like Braxton Hicks contractions, but are at short, rhythmic intervals – when I’ve timed them, they’ve been anywhere between 4 and 7 minutes apart for hours on end.
  4. Stronger early labor: I feel like I’ve been punched in the chest- my heart rate picks up and I start breathing harder, then about ten seconds later my tummy gets all hard. These are actually very distracting- last night I got them right as I was trying to go to sleep and they weren’t letting up, so I actually had to get up, have a glass of wine and read a magazine for a bit before they lessened enough for me to get some sleep.

I can see why so many women would rush to the hospital thinking they are in labor since there are so many different sensations… I have heard from a lot of women that labor contractions feel different and you’ll just know when you’re in labor for real, but I’m not so sure about that. I am slightly concerned that I will be just waiting for it to go away like I usually do, and before I know it, I’ll be so far along that it’s a rush to get my midwife and doula there!