Red Bull and our Birth Plan

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Ok this is attempt number…..5¬†million….. to write. Seriously! This little boy is going to eat me out of house and home at age 1 month! AND, he really doesn’t like to nap……ugh! I know this will change as he grows older – I just hope for the better. Whew!

Life is humming along. I must admit that I love being a stay at home Mom. Yes, changing diapers (especially since our little guy likes to go frequently) and feeding every 2 hours (or less as he likes to cluster feed at night), can be a bit overwhelming at times. I mean, I have to pee and eat at some point. But ultimately, how could you not love this little person! And his cry face is oh so adorable tooūüôā

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I received a lot of emails and comments to my last post asking to write-up our birth story. I have realized that I can’t say we need to help prepare mothers-to-be and not share our story. ¬†Mine is not tragic, it was traumatic for me because as much as I read, I just never wrapped my mind around what giving birth would do to ME. Rightfully the focus was on the baby.

SO here it is:

DISCLAIMER. If you are¬†squeamish, uneasy, don’t like gore, and are thinking of getting pregnant – read at your own risk. This is a bit more TMI than you may like. You’ve been warned. It’s also super long – as a first time Mom, I hope it helps other first timers realize – it’s confusing going into labor! It is not always so clear! And line up help for post-labor support! DO IT!

I had been having contractions irregularly for weeks. As my due date neared, I was stalled at 3 centimeters dilated despite these mild contractions. Throughout them, I could walk and talk with no real issues. The nerve pain on my back was another story. Needless to say, I was SO ready to have this baby Рbut ultimately wanted him to come when he was ready and NOT be induced. I prayed this would all happen naturally.

On my due date, July 30th, I went¬†to the OB/GYN for my weekly appointment after a brief stop in Triage (well, I wasn’t sure if my water broke…….no really! It can be confusing. Better safe than sorry!). We discussed induction for later the following week (after 41 weeks). I felt so deflated. I asked the MD what I could do to help more naturally push my contractions into a regular cycle. She recommended more walking (really the best) and for my membranes to be stripped. This procedure separates the bag of water from the cervix in a hope that it will¬†kick-start¬†the production of hormones necessary to encourage your body to progress into labor. It took two seconds and was no more painful for me than your yearly exam and pap smear (I’ve heard other women say it hurt – just like everything else in pregnancy – everybody is different!).

That night Joe and I decided to have a date night (one of our last for a while) and visited Pacific Rim, a restaurant in Ann Arbor. I had heard a rumor they had a soup that could initiate labor. When I called to inquire, the host didn’t miss a beat and¬†verified¬†that he had heard their coconut curry soup can have that effect. It’s an old family¬†recipe. And it was delicious! But spicy! Yet, we went home and slept peacefully….

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling like Рwell, normal. No big indicators I was going to go into active labor. Joe left for work and I headed out to our gym to walk on the treadmill. Oh that treadmill! I was so sick of it! So after 40 minutes, I decided walking around the block would be good РI did 3 laps. When I got home, I decided to get dressed for the day.

INDICATOR ONE – Bloody show.

Upon getting dressed I discovered some moderate spotting and mucus….my plug (which looked like snot) had fallen out three weeks prior – but the MD stated that mucus could continue to be produced and close to labor is usually mixed with blood as the cervix begins to stretch (the cervix is very blood rich! As it stretches open,¬†vessels¬†can burst and you get the bloody show)……I thought to myself, “Hmmm. This might actually happen naturally! Come on body! Let’s go!” The bloody show continued allllllll day! After no period for 9 months….It kind stunk to have to wear a pad.

INDICATOR TWO – Defined contractions of the uterine muscle.

After watching some TV and eating lunch, I went for walk #2. I literally could not sit still. I felt so compelled to push my body further into labor. I did NOT want to be induced the following Wednesday! On my second lap I felt my lower abdomen contract around the baby – LITERALLY! I could feel my tummy tighten and see a more defined outline around the uterus. We’re not talking seeing feet and arms, but my stomach resembled a hard peanut….not the soft round Santa tummy I had been sporting. After about a minute, my stomach¬†softened.

I returned home and decided I should start timing these contractions. Yes, there is an App for that. I downloaded one a few weeks earlier that was super easy to use and would even tell you the average time between contractions and the average length over an hour, 6 hours, and one day time frame. These new contractions – every 15 minutes. But they didn’t hurt….really.

INDICATOR THREE – Increase in frequency and intensity

Joe arrived home around 6pm and we ate dinner. Nothing fancy. I noted to him what had happened during the day. At about 8pm, I noticed on my timer that my contractions were now about 8-10 minutes apart. Joe stated that we should really try to get sleep now while the contractions were not so painful. Good idea honey! It could be a long Thursday so rest would be best. Off to bed we go!

I woke up at 9pm to a cramp…..like a period cramp. I hadn’t felt that in 9 months. Oooph! I hit the timer. Laying in the dark bedroom I could hear Joe breathing and thought, “This might be it. Our last night just the two of us.”

9:09 – oohch. Timer

9:11- oooh k. Timer

9:18 – Um hmmm. Timer

9:22 – oh woah. Timer

Ok this is different. Each contraction had a¬†defined¬†start, peak, and end. I could feel the dull cramp pain wrap from my back all the way around my lower abdomen. And my stomach muscles were hard during each one. Every 4-5 minutes……WOAH! What!?

I timed them for an hour. They didn’t go away. At about 10:45, I called Triage. The Midwife asked me a bunch of questions – frequency (4-5 minutes), intensity (about a 7 out of 10), and if my water had broken (nope). She confirmed that at this time, I should come in. They would have a room waiting. “Take your time. Don’t rush. We don’t want you to have an emergency if you have an¬†accident on the way.” She’s right! I have some time. First time labors can be 12-15 hours long! It’s going to be a long night.

“Joe, we need to go. They are 4 minutes apart and I am scared.” Tears started to fall. Holy cow, I was in labor. It hit me then that this was actually happening. I was actually going to push a human out of my body.

“What? Now? Are you sure? Don’t be scared.”

Not my husband’s best moment, but then again, I just woke him from a deep sleep at 11pm to say I was in labor. We gathered keys and wallets, phones and cameras.

As we piled into the car another contraction hit. Breathe…breathe…breathe. Humor is always good during times like these:

Joe turned on the radio. Our playlist (totally at random) on the ride included:

“This Girl is on Fire,”¬†“Hurts So Good,” “Up All Night to Get Lucky,” and “Sexual Healing”…..um REALLY?! Thanks for the labor track midnight DJs. After the last song, Joe decided he could add a tune. Remember that Full House episode where Uncle Jessie had to have his appendix out when Becky went into labor and he sang a song in his drug induced state??? Yep. My husband did the same thing – except he didn’t need his appendix out and was not on drugs….just pure¬†adrenaline.

INDICATOR FOUR – First time Mom’s have no idea what labor is really like and assume they have all the time in the world…….

As we neared Ann Arbor and the hospital, Joe inquired, “Hey, if ¬†this could take several hours, can I stop to get a Red Bull. I’m exhausted.” My husband had been working two jobs in the weeks leading up to this day…so tired was not a surprise. “Sure! I’m fine. They are still 4 minutes apart. We have some time.”

Joe pulled into the BP station down the street from the hospital and ran inside. I sat in the car, breathing through another contraction. I’m sure crazier things have happened in this parking lot in a college town. Right? No. Hmmm.

…wait, what does my timer say..

11:44 – ooooh boy!

11:45 – another one… really? So close?

11:48 – this seems. closer.

11:52 – ooooh we have got to go!!!!

Joe jumped back in the car. “Joe, they are 2-3 minutes apart. Get me there now!” Joe looked at me and suddenly it became serious. No more song lyrics, it was time to go into coach mode.

We arrived at the hospital and Joe parked the car. “Can you walk in or should I find a wheelchair?” said Joe as he grabbed our overnight bags – it was clear we would be staying the night. “I’m good. Walking is good. They say that helps progress labor. Let’s go.” ***Mom’s to be. GET A WHEELCHAIR. For the love of Dog! I hobbled my way in stopping during each contraction (now every 2 minutes). As we arrived at Triage, the RN and Midwife escorted me to an exam room – in a wheelchair.

Now, we chose the local teaching hospital (nationally ranked with a brand spanking new LDR unit). As I got out of the wheelchair, a Resident walked in to ask me about the contractions. NOTE TO NEW RESIDENTS – it is HARD to talk and answer your questions DURING contractions…..Just cool your jets! Or ask the partner. Joe could have answered those questions and felt helpful. He eventually jumped in when the Resident didn’t seem to get the clue. Poor thing. Newbie.

Between contractions I hoisted myself on to the exam table after changing into the lovely hospital gown. As I leaned back to lay down…..”POP!” Gushhhhhhhh.

I looked at Joe whose face looked perplexed. Yes. That was my water breaking! We actually heard it! And then……

HOLY S&$^!!!!!!!!! I immediately lunged for Joe’s hand. The contraction pain was so strong I could not breathe. No wonder they told us in the childbirth class that the partner should remind the woman to BREATHE!

And then AGAIN! The RN and Midwife immediately lifted my gown to check me – 3 centimeters and 90% effaced. The RN immediately began to hook me up to monitors and scooted out of the room to check on which LDR room I’d be in. And to start filling the tub up with water – my pain management request. Ten minutes later, I was rolled down the hallway to our room. Mind you, the contractions were now 1 minute apart. And STRONG.

As we entered the room, my nurse appeared and stated that the tub was ready if I wanted to get in. I could not remove my clothes fast enough…..Poor Joe asked if I wanted my bathing suit top. Um at this point, modesty was left at the door. I was in labor and didn’t really give a dang what I looked like or who saw what.

It was a little after 12:30 as Joe helped me climb into the tub. OH HEAVEN! The warm water was a God send! Each contraction felt more manageable. On all fours, I leaned over the edge of the tub. At that time I realized I was vocalizing during contractions as I held on to Joe’s hands. Yes, we are talking deep moans. It was the only thing that seemed to help my body breathe and control the wave of a contraction. Again, DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO. NO ONE WILL JUDGE YOU.

“Oooooooooh. Joe. I need to go to the bathroom,” I stated during a contraction around 1am. “Ok. I’ll ask the nurse what to do. Um, excuse me. She said she needs to … um… poop,” said my husband tactfully.

From outside the bathroom I heard, “Poop or push?” said the nurse………….OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I READ ABOUT THIS!!!!

MOTHER’s TO BE – pushing feels like the biggest poop you have ever had. It’s the same muscles.

Joe helped me climb out of the warm water and waddle over the bed. The Resident appeared to check me. 6 centimeters and fully effaced.

OHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Ok. This contraction was an 11 out of 10. And had the addition of pressure. I sat up on the edge of the bed to use gravity and leaning into Joe’s abdomen. I began to cry…..and panic. I. Can’t. Do. This!

My birth plan had been to do this naturally – no meds. Up to this point, I was doing just that. But this pain was ridiculous. I could hardly breathe and panic set in. NOT GOOD. I looked at Joe and said, “Shenandoah.” Our code word. Joe turned to the nurse and asked if she could page Anesthesiologist. I wanted an epidural. Joe turned back and asked if I was for real. I nodded. He held me and said, “You are doing good. Goal is to have this baby – and for you to be healthy.” I love him for not making me feel bad about abandoning our plan.

The nurse paged the team. “I’ll ask the Attending to come in to check you as well while we wait.” She¬†proceeded¬†to have me and Joe gown up for the Epidural. Each contraction pulsed through my body – toes to head. Joe literally became the only thing holding me up, my muscles were maxed out on pain. Time seemed to creep by…. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Holy S*&^!

The Attending arrived just as I belted out a deep scream (I really can’t describe the noises – I was NOT in control of my body at this point. The noises I was making – totally¬†primeval.) Mariah Carey would have been impressed with the octaves I was hitting. Anyone in the hallway outside our door would have been – scared.

9 centimeters, totally effaced, and …… crowning. WHAT!!!!!!!???? Time check – 2:30am. My mind could not process what was happening. While a fast labor is good because it is over soon, you are not able to process the pain and prepare mentally for pushing.

The Attending, who I can’t praise enough, calmly stated that I was going to have the baby soon – too soon for an epidural. She immediately turned into a calm coach. She eased me and Joe into position. As my next contraction began, I felt it……. My body was going to push this baby out. I was not in control. I could not stop this train. I could join it or else. Ok. Breathe. Don’t panic!

The Attending, noting that my body was beginning to push the baby further out, asked me to push. I did – or so I thought. But I wasn’t pushing with my body. I was¬†panicking. “Erin, focus on my voice. You can do this. We are going to help you,” she said. “Do you feel this (As she pushed my vagina towards my back and the bed below)? Push towards this. Use these muscles. Like when you have a bowel movement. Just push!”

One, two, three. PUSH!!!!! I pushed, rocking the baby’s head further down and under the pelvic bone. For over an hour. At some point an oxygen mask was on my face. The Attending had me try pushing lying on my side, pushing partially standing up, pushing while pulling on a towel wrapped around a bar above me….anything to move this baby along. But still….not enough. An ultrasound in triage had shown that Little Man was rotated sideways. Not ideal to fit through your pelvis. Additionally, the ultrasound had not been able to determine the exact position of his head as he had dropped so low into my pelvis.

At around 4:15am the Attending stated that after pushing for two hours, my body may be exhausted. She mentioned the dreaded C-word. NO. I did not want a C-section. I had to get this baby out! I recall staring at the ceiling, breathing in the O2 pumping into the ¬†mask on my face and thinking, “You’ve come this far. This is all up to you. You HAVE to do this. There is no going back.”

The next contraction began to build, ” Ok. I’m ready. Now!” I said as I took a deep breath and PUSH! “Great! Erin, keep it up. That was great!” Said the Attending. Second push. Third push. The Attending turned to the Resident and the nurse. I have no idea what they were talking about, but Joe reports that within minutes there were 8 more people in our room. The baby bassinet¬†lights went on. The nurses brought over gowns and gear for the Attending. We were getting really close.

“Ok. Erin, his head is almost out. You need to give really deep, concentrated pushes during the next contraction. Once the head is out, you are in the home stretch. You can do this,” said our Attending.

Next contraction began. Ok. Push one! Push two! Push – OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!! No meds means – You feel everything. I knew then that something happened. I knew his head was out. I had felt it. The Ring of Fire. The Attending and nurses began to scramble. The Attending asked me to push one more time and¬†grabbed¬†scissors…..WHAT!? Why?

Push!!!!!! And then…..at 4:47am

There was this warm,¬†slimy, oh so perfect human lying on my chest. I had just given birth to a baby. All I could say was, “Oh my God!” I looked at Joe. He was in shock. He just stared at our son. The Attending asked if he wanted to cut the cord. The nurses came over to begin rubbing the liquid off of Samson. “Oh my God!”

Wait…. He’s not crying. Why is he not crying?

After a few minutes and several people looking him over while lying on my chest, our nurse reported that they needed to take him to be looked at. The Pediatric NP took him from my chest and carried him to the bassinet. “This is the second one tonight. It can be so risky when that happens,” she stated.

The reason the Attending had grabbed scissors and the reason it took 2 hours to push him out Рthe umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. She had to cut it as he came out to allow him to breathe.

I told Joe to follow him. After a good rub down and some O2, I heard a faint cry. Thank God!

Then it hit me. Someone was rubbing on my abdomen. The doctors were all congregated at the base of my bed in deep discussion. The Attending asked our nurse to page the OR. What OR? I just gave birth. I don’t need the C-section.

The Attending walked up to the head of my bed as she lowered it down. The nurse announced that OR 2 was ready and would be waiting. Why was OR 2 waiting?

“You’ve experienced a tear. It’s deep and has impacted not only the muscles but most likely nerves as well. The tear extends from your vagina almost totally through to your annus.” Said the Attending. “We need to get you to an OR to stop the bleeding and to repair the tear.”

“Wait. I wanted to breastfeed. Can’t it be repaired here?” I said (as though I’m totally an MD and aware of what was happening at the foot of my bed).

“Erin, you need to go to the OR. It’s the only way we can fix this. If I could do it here, I would, but that would put you at risk for more difficulties, infection and¬†incontinence¬†later.” Umm, when you put it like that – Tell OR 2 I’m on my way!

Less than 30 minutes after giving birth, I was rolled out of the room. As I was leaving I yelled at Joe, “Do skin-to-skin! Don’t leave him! I love you.”

As we arrived in the OR, I was introduced to the¬†Anesthesiologist (Well, there you are!). I was hoisted up to sit on the side of the bed – OUCH!!!! Pain shot through my body. Ok. This tear must be bad. Immediately, I was told to arch my back as they prepped me for a spinal block. Oh good, two for the price of one……ugh.

After the spinal block I was rotated back on to the OR table, hands out at my side, hospital blanket raised above my chest to block my view. I could feel pressure, but no pain as they worked below. I began to shake and felt nauseous. What was happening?! My mind was still trying to catch up with my body. What just happened? I wanted to see my baby. I couldn’t even recall what his face looked like. Did he open his eyes to see me? Was he really totally ok? I wanted out of this OR immediately. Thankfully the nurses and staff kept talking with me to distract me from what was happening.

At 7am, I was rolled back into our room. It was quiet as the sun began to rise outside the window. Sitting in a chair next to my bed was Joe. He was shirtless with a small little bump covered in a blanket on his chest. It was eerily quiet after all the commotion and OR trip. It was finally peaceful.

Joe lifted Samson from his chest and walked over to my bedside. The nurses helped unwrap me ( I was covered in about 5 blankets to help keep me from shaking and my body heat in). Samson was laid on my chest and wrapped back up in the blankets.

I just stared at him. Wow. I just gave birth. We stood there. Our little family. Just the three of us.

But it didn’t end there. The spinal block began to wear off around 11am. I could wiggle my toes a bit. And then the impact of what had happened to me sank in.

I had a 3rd degree, almost 4th, tear. It stretched from my¬†anus, through my vagina and slightly up to the labia…..It extended so deep that nerve endings in the muscles that help you control your bowel movements and urination were severed. The first day, I had to have a catheter inserted to help me empty my bladder. I could not have a bowel movement. The second day, my body was wracked with pain requiring that I ask for Percocet just so I could rest. I cried. I couldn’t urinate on my own. I couldn’t poop. My body was not working. It wasn’t telling me when my bladder was full or if/when I needed to go. The MDs monitored my urine output. They removed the catheter to see if I could urinate on my own. I couldn’t. It was put back in. I was told that until I could empty my bladder, I really couldn’t go home. After three days and more catheter trials (seriously, it is degrading to have to rely on a nurse to insert a catheter so you can pee because you, just like your infant, can’t control your bowels.) I cried. I wanted my body to work. I wanted to just focus on my baby. I wanted to go home.

On the fourth day, I was able to empty my bladder – by sheer force and mental will power. By this point, I was able to pull myself up to a sitting position at bedside and slowly lift myself out of bed. I made a point to hobble around our room. After a few minutes, I was exhausted and in pain. I was still bleeding and needed to wear a pad the size of an airport runway. I needed help climbing into the tub to take a shower. Joe had to help me put on underwear and pants as I could not bend over. I, like my son, was dependent on others. I cried. I was in shock at how much help I needed. I panicked about going home and having to walk up 20 steps to our second floor condo. I could barely do more than 3 laps around our room – on a flat surface.

Thankfully, my parents had driven up from Virginia and Joe’s family had come to visit. All were willing to help. As we arrived home, I settled into bed and¬†breast-feeding. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, errands, mail, etc. was all done by my parents, Joe’s Mom and my best friend Tran (who arrived a week after Samson was born). I can’t thank them enough. As I recovered myself (literally¬†re-teaching¬†myself how to urinate and have a bowel movement-including one return trip to Triage and two accidents), I depended on them to help us. Joe went back to work a week after Samson was born and could only help in the evenings. To say I felt overwhelmed with the needs of a newborn and my own needs was an understatement. I cried – more often than I’d like.

Now a month later, I’m finally feeling better. I’m healing and have regained control of my bowels (Thank God!). I can just focus on Samson’s needs. Granted, I still have a dull ache. This past week, I started walking each day – for exercise and sanity. Now that my bowels are under control, I try to get out of the house at least once a day. It does a body good to breathe fresh air and get sunshine. Vitamin D does wonders!

Again, my story is not tragic, but it was traumatic for me because I had NOT prepared myself for what my body would experience AFTER giving birth or process what happened DURING birth after laboring for only 5-8 hours (not 15). I wish someone had told me just how long it would take to feel “better” (literally 5 weeks!!!) and that I could feel like an infant myself. I’m thankful that we have such a supportive family and friends. Food continues to flood in weeks later. I know that things will be fine now. But in those first few days, I felt like each hour was an accomplishment. I couldn’t comprehend a time when my body would be healed. It seemed like a¬†pipe-dream.

But it has gotten better. Each day is an improvement. I can now enjoy being a new Mom. The best part of this whole dealūüôā. I wouldn’t change it for the world – but we will wait awhile before having another kid. Recovery is a long road.

Momma-fo-real

Erin

 

PS- More posts to come, but not until we can get into a routine – and get more sleep.

Welcome to the World: Reality of a New Mom

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It has been a crazy past two weeks – really only two weeks?? Wow!

Well the patience paid off! Welcome to the world baby boy!

Happy family! Tired family!

Happy family! Tired family!

We are settling in to life with a baby after little Samson was born early in the morning on August 1st weighing a good 7lbs, 4 oz. and living up to his Dad’s height at 21 inches and his strong name.

Life will never be the same. At night, Joe and I spend some time just staring at him exclaiming how this parenting thing is the craziest and most¬†awe-inspiring¬†thing we have ever done. It has its ups – and downs (I’ve been peed on more times than I can count……ugh!). But we are so thrilled to have started our little family.

Several people have asked me if I’m going to blog about my birth story. To be honest, I’m not sure. You prepare SO MUCH for labor, delivery, and bringing home baby, that little is done to prepare yourself for the recovery process – and uncertainty that can occur during labor. Every birth story is different – and I’m convinced each is a rollercoaster even if the mother experienced a relatively easy delivery. Mine was not horrible (I’ve heard and am praying for friends who have had worse) – yet mine took me totally by surprise in how painful and long the recovery process will be. When asked by the nurse how I felt following my delivery, I broke down in tears and stated that I was a bit¬†traumatized. That is the only way for me to describe it….I really haven’t been able to wrap my mind around a better term.

The reason it traumatized me is because we as a nation – and as a culture – do little to prepare mothers for the physical recovery process following birth. Dude! This is no small feat! Even if I wrote my birth story, I don’t think I could articulate the stunning power of a woman’s body during labor. All I can say is that when it came time to push (for two hours mind you un-medicated), my body took over – muscles and mind! Even my husband exclaimed that what I did was tougher than the most intense¬†military¬†training on the planet (for those who know him, you know what he went through and how crazy that training can be!). Wow!

So if this experience is so mind-bendingly intense, why do we assume Mother’s will bounce back to pre-baby bodies able to nurse a baby in one arm while cooking dinner and still look sexy for her partner…….. um H-E – Double hockey sticks NO! I’m still wearing sweatpants – and plan to do so until the 6 week mark when the body has really healed. It will take that long – if not more for me to heal.

My former roommate shared with me an article from The Daily Beast yesterday and I really couldn’t agree more. It spoke to me on so many levels. ¬†It is a MUST READ for any Mom-to-be, Parent-to-be, or New Mom. We as a culture need to start thinking differently about Motherhood. It is precious – and powerful. We women need to stand up for each other – offer that casserole, stretch out a hand, pick-up a load of dirty laundry. Allow new moms the time to adjust, bond, and heal. If not, we really do run the risk of having frazzled, overwhelmed, and stunned mothers. These qualities don’t bode well for remaining calm while caring for newborn – I’ve shed enough tears these past two weeks to know that hormones and stress can cause trouble.

Joe and I have been lucky to have families and friends who do have a culture of nurturing for the newly minted mom. We have had my parents hands – culinary skills, laundry folding fingers, and comforting arms – along with my dear friend Tran’s advice and wisdom as a mother of two. I can honestly say that I would not have made it through the past two weeks without their support. AND it doesn’t stop there. As the first wave of help returned home to the East Coast, Joe’s family has stepped up. First up, his Mother carrying a hot meal and folding baby clothes. My husband has also stepped up – evening taking Little Man out for a bonding walk so I can write this blog post. As the article underscores, it takes a village to help support new parents and assist with the daily routines of life so that mother’s can have time to heal.

I laugh reading articles on the pop culture magazine webpages exclaiming shock that Duchess Kate moved in with her parents following Prince George’s birth…..um YES!!! Why wouldn’t she!? Or that she “dared” to show of her post-labor bump……ahhh we are not like balloons! The reality is, it can take 6 weeks for the uterus to return to it’s “normal” size – not to mention MONTHS to shed the extra pounds that provided protection and food for the little one. We are not all Heidi Klum. I can’t exercise until after the 6 week mark – except for physical therapy exercises that – well, are low impact.

Additionally, I am also lucky to have a special clinic at UofM Hospital to help me in my postpartum healing process – which may not have been the case if I had selected another hospital. My first appointment is next week and I feel thankful that I won’t be waiting until the standard 6 weeks post-birth appointment to see if my health needs are being met after a tough delivery. But again, what about other women – even if their birthing experience did not have the complications I experienced. There is no special clinic for “normal-yet-still-physically-demanding” postpartum moms. There should be.

So we will see if I blog about the birthing experience – and postpartum life (seeing as it is something we rarely discuss – and should share with other mother’s to be!). After a bit of time over the next few weeks to adjust, I’ll hopefully be back to blogging about babies, weddings, and cooking. But for right now, all I want to do is cuddle and care for our little bundle of joy while giving myself time to recovery. And really, that’s about all I should be doing.

Momma’s a real Momma,

Erin

The Waiting Game

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It’s been a week since deciding to take my maternity leave early. And I am SO GLAD I did! Thank you for all the messages of support, texts, and calls. As the due date nears, I feel far more physically and mentally ready as I anticipate full labor. I couldn’t help but think of Duchess Kate – and all the pressure on her this past week! Congrats on the new bundle of joy – a baby boy!

Last week during my weekly appointment, the MD reported that it still important to stay active – while balancing pain management for the back pain. It was no surprise then that after several days of rest, I had stalled in my progression (no big surprise there, but still – patience is a tough lesson). Despite all the wife’s tales of how to jump-start labor, walking and regular activity is the best way to help the body progress. So, I knew that if I was at home, I had to stay active – while also pausing to take naps, prenatal yoga poses, and sitting on my heating pad.

So here is a recap of my past week. The contractions are picking up in intensity slowly, but I made a point to keep a schedule. Needless to say, I think nesting kicked in:

I started stashing away frozen meals or pre-cooked items. Will make cooking a lot easier as we adjust to life with a baby.

I started stashing away frozen meals or pre-cooked items. Will make cooking a lot easier as we adjust to life with a baby.

I’ve done freezer meals before (see post here and here). They were lifesavers in grad school when a day of interning was followed by a night of typing/writing/reading. So I highly agreed when almost every new Mom I know told me to do it now. Here are the¬†recipes¬†I selected:

I also was thrilled to see that Pioneer Woman hosted a whole show on her freezer meal tips and tricks this past weekend – check it out! This week I’m adding ground beef and her Sour Cream Noodle Bake to the list.

Baby clothes!!! Lots of them!

Baby clothes!!! Lots of them!

I stashed items for myself, Little Man and Joe. When the time comes, all we have to do is jump in the car....oh and then have a baby...

I stashed items for myself, Little Man and Joe. When the time comes, all we have to do is jump in the car….oh and then have a baby…

Heat wave? Not for this pregnant lady!

Heat wave? Not for this pregnant lady!

We had the hottest week of the year yet! My feet were swollen, my fingers hurt, my back pain seemed magnified….UGH! So the MD suggested a bath (hot or cold). I mentioned we had a pool, but wasn’t sure if it was safe (since I was dilated and whatnot). She said that as long as my water had not broken, dive right in! I think I spent an hour everyday just standing/swaying/walking in the pool. It was AMAZING! All the pressure was off my back and hips. Thank GOD for our pool!

Stork for the front lawn....what if you live in a condo? Make a wreath!

Stork for the front lawn….what if you live in a condo? Make a wreath!

I do love to craft – when I get the time. Growing up, I loved seeing the 6 foot painted storks on front lawns announcing the birth of a new baby. We live in a condo and don’t really have a lawn. So I figured something for our door would have to do. I found these ADORABLE ribbon wreaths on Etsy (for a girl!). However, thanks to my early maternity leave, we are really keeping a tight focus on our pennies. So I figured, I have leftover ribbons galore (thanks Sorority days!). I can totally make that! I found a great tutorial on Tatertots and Jello. Check back for my post and the final product!

My week was also filled with a visit from our nephews (ohhhh boy! Those guys sure can get crazy with stickers!), last-minute trips to Target for supplies, reading (yes childbirth and newborn care books), the wedding of our good friends (Unfortunately, I did not last long – after an hour and half I had to call it a night – Boo!) and daily walks (or waddles) around our neighborhood. I move so slow now that Joe even made up a sound effect for me haha.

It won’t be long now! Part of me is savoring these last few moments – and last few kicks. Soon Little Man will be in the real world and our lives will look totally different! Now to wait….and wait…and wait.

Patiently,

Erin

 

 

 

One Tough Cookie: Learning to be a Mom

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We (like everyone and their Grandma waiting for Baby Cambridge) are awaiting the arrival of our own little Prince…..and waiting….and …. you get it.

We’ve spent 9 months talking about prenatal vitamins, breastfeeding pumps, debating diaper brands, dreaming of dark wavy hair and a dimpled chin. And we’ve spent 9 months worrying about Pediatricians, birth plans, daycare, crunching budgets, and wondering if this world will be a better place for our children (cuz recently, it’s been a bit – heartbreaking). ¬†All these ruminations and plans are supposed to prepare us to be parents.

But nothing, I mean nothing, has prepared me to be a Mom like the last two weeks. Hear me out.

I consider myself a tough cookie (learned it from my Grandma and the women before me whom I have admired my whole life). Not that my life has been difficult – comparatively speaking, it’s been¬†idyllic (I’ll own that! It’s a blessing I’m grateful for). But in my own way I’ve overcome challenges, disappointments, physical feats, and achieved goals that took willpower to reach. In my own way, I’m one tough broad!

Me with my "medal" after running the Nike Women's Half-marathon. Through the hills of San Francisco, CA - oof!

Me with my “medal” after running the Nike Women’s Half-marathon. Through the hills of San Francisco, CA – oof! I’m a tough cookie!

Until my son taught me a humbling lesson – before he was born. Thanks Little Man.

About a month ago, I started to feel like my legs weighed – a bazillion pounds. Walking up stairs at work was – not fun. But still I managed just fine. No biggie. It could be worse – really!

Then a dull back ache kicked in – along with leg pain – sometimes sharp and¬†occurring¬†at really bad times – like when I had to run from my office to the MICU. A short distance really – but one that made me think, “Oof, can I do this?” Pish-posh! Of course!

Wellllllll the back ache grew – and persisted to a point that I could not find a comfortable way to sleep (even with about 5 pillows). I’d wake up – no joke – 6 times a night. The pain, in my lower back, grew to stretch the length of my back, pelvis, and slowly down my legs. And yet, I still thought, “This is what I bargained for. This is part of the deal. I can do this. Only a few more weeks. Just keep swimming. Right?”

And then I realized that not only do I have physical limits, but that sometimes pushing yourself as a Mom doesn’t help you – or your child. Stress is cumulative and¬†corrosive. Yes, I’m a social worker. Yes, I see how stress is physically corrosive everyday. Yes, my job is often about managing medical crises….aka stress’ big bad bro. Yes, I’m a¬†hypocrite for writing all this and yet still thinking I was untouchable by stress (I’ll own up to that too).

Yet, I kept pushing myself. I’d go to work with little sleep. I’d shuffle (literally) myself through the halls. I’d smile and laugh (usually because I work with really awesome people hehe). I’d try to focus on my cases – even mid-conversation with a patient while breathing through the pain. I’d keep working because I didn’t want to let my team – or patient’s down (but wasn’t working at my prime – even forgetting things over and above “Pregnancy brain”). And Id’s say, “I’m fine. I can do this.” Until I had to own up to the fact that I really couldn’t. I couldn’t for my own¬†well-being¬†and that of my son.

Last week, I had my weekly appointment and was told: A) I’m¬†dilated¬†WAY more than I thought I should be at 37 weeks, B) I lost my mucus plug (sorry TMI, but it’s a step towards labor), and C) Little Man’s skull is slowly dropping through my pelvis – pushing against my tailbone and nerves (ooooooh so that is why I hurt so badly). He was halfway “sunny-side up” (aka – pointed the wrong way). I was thrilled to know that things were happening! This baby was actually going to be here – soon! On the pain scale I answered I was a 5 out of 10. Nothing big yet. I can do this!

Thursday night, at 2am, I found myself wide awake, in pain (and not contraction pain), and crying….I had hit my wall. I was an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and a 10 out of 10 on the, “Can I handle this s*#$?” scale. The previous day was like a daze to me. I am sorry to say, but I couldn’t even remember what I did, who I talked to, or what was on the agenda for that Friday (which are SUPER busy in hospitals by the way – everyone wants to go home – patients and staff). Yet after being up from 2am until 5:30am. I actually said to myself, “I can do this. I’ll just go in early….” My husband, through my tears, asked me if I really thought I could and if it was for the best – for both of us. Yes. I had to. I needed all the maternity leave so I could be home with Little Man. I didn’t want to let him down (yes, we will get back to this comment soon). So I got ready – moving like¬†molasses in winter. I got in my car.

And 5 minutes down the road, pulled off to the side. And called my Mommy. Wise woman.

My back hurt so bad even sitting was a pain. I just wanted to curl into a ball. But what upset me the most was that I’d have to “manage” this pain while giving my patients the focus they deserved while coping with their own losses of independence and physical abilities (all WAY bigger than my own experience at that moment). I knew that I couldn’t be there for them – and for my son.

What had my insistence on pushing myself physically done to my son? Was I progressing towards labor far earlier than was best for Little Man? What impact would the stress of my pain Рand coping with it at a high stress job Рdo to Little Man? Was it fair to me, my son, and my patients? What would my decisions at that moment mean for my own health? I flashed back to my Human Development class in grad school Рwhen we learned the fascinating impact stress has on us in-vitro. Seriously, Time Magazine had a whole issue on the life of a fetus in-vitro.  The Doctor had told me that only I knew my own limits and that I had to listen to my body.

Well my body was screaming. I knew in that moment that IF I was progressing towards labor, I was in NO SHAPE to physically and mentally handle it. I’d be¬†exhausted¬†before it even started.

So I tapped out. I accepted that I couldn’t, and didn’t, want to let my son down before he even arrived. I am his Mother. I am his shelter. I am designed by nature and God to bring him into this world. And for that, I had to be humble. My strength is in being his best opportunity for a healthy beginning. That meant owning up to my own physical needs.

I started my maternity leave early. It was not what I wanted. In fact, I felt like I was a failure. However, it is what is best for me – and for my son – and probably for my patients (I mean, how helpful am I if I can’t emotionally provide strength under stress – mine or theirs). In accepting my limit, I found my strength.

Thank you Little Man for teaching me to be humble. A Mother’s love is always strong.

Patiently waiting.

Little Man’s Momma

 

 

Somber Summer

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We have internet again (after several weeks of attempting to post – unsuccessfully!)! Thank goodness! I apologize for the delay, but this summer has been – unexpected.

A few weeks ago, my father-in-law passed away unexpectedly. We have had to take some time to re-focus, remember, and¬†re-prioritize. There’s that word again…I tell you, learning to adjust to curves in life is never-ending – no matter how big or small. The more you are able to allow yourself to adjust (even if it is painfully hard), the better.

We have appreciated all the warm wishes, offers of support, totally divine interventions (they have restored our faith in community and humanity in many ways), and moments of joy that have helped us begin to heal. It will be a process that will never really end. And I ask that you keep my mother-in-law and brother-in-laws in your prayers.

So in the following weeks, we have laid low. Finishing the final items on our list before the baby arrives, enjoying quiet dinners out on our balcony, foot rubs (lots of them – even ones I’ve given my husband), and s’mores on the 4th of July (SO GOOD!). We’ve taken things a day at a time.

A windy day at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Our babymoon trip.

A windy day at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. Our babymoon trip.

We could have never expected all that has happened in the past year. But it has caused Joe and I re-visit our vows. We have to remind ourselves we are still in our first year of marriage – and it is nothing like what we expected! Come on – let’s be honest – we thought it would be a bit more, well, fun (I’m being honest here!).

Yet in the midst of all the change – some positive and some we wouldn’t wish on an enemy – we have been so thankful for each other. If anything, we have learned just how blessed we are to have each other – for better or worse. By nature, we are optimistic realists. We look for the positive, the strengths, the opportunities – but with expectations in focus.

For very different reasons, we have had to use our individual strengths to help support one another this summer. One to help prepare for a new life – and one to help grieve a death. Talk about a somber lesson for newlyweds.

So as July begins, we look to a new year – a new life – and new lessons. A year we are certain will only continue to validate our vows and the blessing of having each other. Here’s to you honey! I’d say, “I do,” all over again! If we can make it through this first year, we can handle the curves life throws us.

Gratefully,

Erin