On Labor Day two years ago, I shared Grace’s birth story (still hate that expression, still love becoming a mother… obvi). Today marks the first Labor Day since baby Nick was born and he’s exactly 9 months old today, so this seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the day we welcomed him to the world and to our family.
Waiting until Labor Day was sort of a convenient excuse for me to take nine months to digest, reflect on and embrace those sort of bizarre, sometimes anxious, but ultimately amazing 24-ish hours of labor. And because all people and pregnancies and labors and deliveries and babies and postpartum meals (peanut M + Ms for life) are different, I’m sharing less about what actually happened and more about how I remember things.
My hair is full of mom secrets.
Because the second time around, you have an experience to compare things to. You have expectations (even if you know you shouldn’t). You sort of feel like you know what you’re doing, but you also know you’re not a medical professional (unless you’re a medical professional). You’re a little bit further removed from the childbirth classes (regardless of whether you paid attention… or if you, like me, left the room for fear of being grossed out and read pamphlets about influenza in the hallway). You know what it feels like to have that baby placed on your chest for the first time. You just can’t imagine how your heart could get any more full.
I don’t want at all to sound like, Oh… I’ve done this before. I’ve got it under control. (If anything, it’s quite the opposite.) Or that I am in any way better equipped as a parent than any one else. I also think it’s important to express that families come to be families in any number of ways. All are good. And there is no better place for a child to be than in a loving family.
So back to those influenza pamphlets. There was an aura of blissful ignorance about me as I delivered Grace. I didn’t want to know any more than I needed to know, and because I had no experience—personal or otherwise (this is very real: I fainted during sex ed in the 6th grade and again in 9th grade biology… and then skipped the video during our childbirth class mostly so I could remain conscious)—it was relatively easy to trust the process. To surrender to labor. To let my body (and Grace) do its thing.
In the days before Nick was born, I knew he was coming. He was allegedly two weeks early… but given the fact that he is nine months old and already the size of a Buick, I’d be less surprised if you told me he was two months late. Right around Thanksgiving, I woke up every day thinking, this is it. And it wasn’t. Until it was.
I had planned to take Grace to see the fox at the Trailside Museum (they have some sort of special connection) on a Friday morning, but my back felt especially achy and I remembered I needed to pick up Clark’s prescription (honestly… why are these the things I remember? Imagine what powerful thoughts my brain could harness if it forgot about ridiculous things like phone messages from the vet?), so we headed to Castle Island for a walk instead. After a loop or two, I called our midwife.
She called back just as I was getting to the vet. So I was the super normal person talking about being in labor while sitting in the waiting room next to a man cradling his sick cat (it might have been healthy, I know even less about cats than I do childbirth… so, I know literally nothing about cats). In essence, she told me to leave the vet’s office and come to, like, the human doctor’s office. I remember thinking how weird it felt to be in public, and knowing I was in labor. Should I warn people? I don’t know. (I should warn my husband, I decided. Yes. That was a good call.)
While I waited for Nick to get home and for my parents to pick up Grace, I chatted with our neighbor, who is a former cop. He told me he had delivered six (maybe it was four) babies in his squad car. All he needed was a blanket. I mostly hoped it didn’t come to that. I thought for sure I’d need more than a blanket. For starters, I wanted one of those peanut-shaped yoga balls. Also, medicine. And a sanitary environment.
This is sort of how the next 15 or so hours would unfold. I knew baby Nick was coming. I knew it would be soon, but I didn’t know how soon (more than 15 minutes, but less than a day… that was my guess). I knew I was uncomfortable, but I also knew I could manage.
Nick was born at a different hospital than Grace, and I had to consciously remind myself to trust the process despite everything feeling very unfamiliar. We stayed in triage from 10:30-ish that Friday night until finally getting a delivery room around 3 AM. During that stretch, we had to listen to all kind of things through the thin curtain dividers. And other people had to listen to me throw up and make groaning noises. For that, I am sort of sorry.
When we were finally moved to a room, I got wrapped in warm blankets and spritzed with lavender water by a particularly kind nurse. She turned on the hospital’s equivalent of the Nature Channel and encouraged me to be “soothed by Earth’s beauty.” Not normal, per se, but I kept telling myself to trust the process. To surrender.
During morning rounds, the midwife on duty said baby Nick would be born that day… which seemed like an awfully big window. She told me to relax as much as possible, and encouraged grown-up Nick to grab coffee. I worried that the baby was hearing the crashing waves, cawing seagulls and distant foghorns from the nature channel and thinking “This lady’s trying to give birth to me in the middle of the Atlantic. I should stay in until she finds dry land!” No sooner had she left the room than we were pressing the call button to have her and the labor and delivery nurse hightail it back.
Less than 30 minutes later, baby Nick’s tiny, perfect, warm body was pressed against mine. My husband was kissing my head, tears streaming down his face. And everything, everything, everything was right.
And really. That’s the only part of this story that matters. (I probably could have skipped the part about the cat at the vet, but I believe in setting the scene.)
So much of becoming a parent and becoming a family is unpredictable. It’s messy. It’s strange. It’s uncomfortable. It can get real weird, real fast. It’s anxiety producing. And once you are that parent, and you are that family, it doesn’t get any easier. Your heart lives outside your body, vulnerable and exposed. You worry. You cry. You stay awake for, like… ever. Some days you forget to put on pants because you’re too busy pureeing organic kale.
But every day, you trust the process more and more. You embrace surrendering as not only something very good, but something (to quote Salt-n-Pepa) very necessary. You remind yourself that the best possible place for child is in a loving family. And you’ve got that covered.
Whether you’re sitting on a beach soaking up the last waves of summer, or cradling a newborn in your arms (like my beautiful and amazing sister!), or somewhere in between… Happy Labor Day.
A little while back, I shared my pre-baby to-do list. Since then, I accomplished most items and added about seventy more. We’re currently in “Is he coming today?” mode, to the point that I can convince myself just about anything– from an eyelid twitch to a foot cramp– is a sign of impending labor.
I’m a reaaaaaaal joy to be around.
In addition to being mental, though, I’ve also been productive. Most importantly, I’ve been enjoying as much quality time as possible with my little lady. We’ve taken quite a few adventures lately, and I’m soaking up every second alone with her. (Cue the preggo weepiness.)
And then there are the practical things that have to get done.
Revisiting the pre-baby to-do list:
Go through Grace’s old clothes and pull out, re-wash and put away anything that is neither extra hot pink nor extra ruffly. (At the very least, I think there are a few sets of gender neutral pajamas in there.) The rest will go back to storage for a future niece or friend. // Didn’t do this… but our niece was born two weeks ago! I’m looking forward to going through Grace’s very frilly, very girly clothes and passing them along.
Buy and wash any wardrobe basics and other staples we are missing // Question: How does Carter’s stay in business and/or How do they have 50% off sales every day? Regardless, we are all set with a few newborn basics and plenty of 0-3 month clothes, sleep sacks, onesies, socks, burp cloths, hats, and blankets. Oh, and Santa pajamas.
Move co-sleeper to our room (this will be a last minute thing) // Not yet, but I did move it to the front of our storage room, and watched six YouTube videos on how to set it up. So, I feel at least 40% confident that I can handle this… and 100% confident that Nick will actually be the one to do it. But it’s fun to pretend.
Order double stroller (with car seat adapter) and second Pack ‘N Play // Both have been delivered and we’ve had some practice with the new stroller, which I love. We got a Baby Jogger City Select with the second seat (and adapter) and the infant car seat adapter (for our Britax B-Safe infant seat). We’ll use the Pack ‘N Play for the baby’s naps and diaper changes during the day (we got the one with the Cuddle Cove rocking seat and changing station). If I had a magic time machine, I would have likely picked these two items when I was pregnant with Grace, but… you live and learn and make even better choices the second time around. I think. Who knows.
Install infant car seat base in my car (again, probably a last minute thing) // The base is in my car (along with a seat protector and mirror), but has not actually been installed. Maybe today. Maybe not.
Buy a box of size 1 diapers (and potentially a small package of NB — Grace was in newborn diapers for about a month, but who knows…) and extra wipes // My sister sent us a box of diapers via Amazon, which was such a nice surprise (and, frankly, it motivated me to get my act together). I also have a box of size 1’s ready to go, and plenty of wipes. We’ll likely rely on diapers.com and their insanely fast shipping (which we use for Grace’s diapers and pull-ups), so I didn’t go crazy with stocking up.
Reorganize Grace’s closet (she’ll be sharing with her brother) // This was an undertaking and a half. But it’s done. And it makes me happy just looking at their little clothes side-by-side.
Stock up on family basics (toiletries, paper goods, Grace’s diapers and pull-ups) // Done. Unless I’m pregnant for another two weeks, in which case… we may need to re-stock.
Make all midwife/doctor’s appointments between now and our due date
Holiday shopping // 80-ish percent done.
Schedule flu shots for Grace and me // The whole family has been appropriately vaccinated (flu shots, another tdap for me… and a rabies booster for Clark)
Get Clark’s yearly check-up and vaccines squared away
Make a plan for Clark to board with one of his pals while we’re at the hospital // This is sort of up in the air. Unless I go into labor this week (during the busy travel/Thanksgiving time), he will stay with our friend and dog walker, which would be ideal. We also have back-up plan involving someone picking him up and bringing him to the kennel we occasionally use (which would also be great). Loose ends like this sort of make me nervous… but hey.
Make a grocery delivery list for easy ordering during the first few weeks we’re home // Nope.
Stash a few freezer meals // Does ice cream count? If so, done.
Clean out pantry, closets and cabinets (not really baby-related, but clutter is making me mental) // Is there any sight more blessed than an empty shelf?
Get a handle on my third trimester wardrobe (because it’s neither warm enough or socially acceptable to continue wearing maternity bathing suits and sundresses) // I ended up doing really well with just a few basics — short and long-sleeved tees from the Gap, Gap maternity leggings (which are heaven), several open-front cardigans, Target maternity tanks, and lots of fun necklaces. I also bought a couple dresses from Loft for weddings and parties, and made good use of the Bella Gravida items that were sent to me.
Pack a hospital bag for me and Nick, and a Party with Grandma and Grandpa! bag for Grace // Grace’s bag was the easiest to pack, and is actually already at my parents’ house. Nick and I are mostly packed, with just the last minute things that need to be stashed (glasses, phone chargers, makeup, etc. — and yes, I said makeup)
Get a pedicure (wishful thinking) // The pedicure didn’t happen (though I have been trying to keep up with polish changes at home, despite not really being able to reach my toes this time around), but I did get a great prenatal massage. Oh, and I got my eyebrows waxed. Don’t want to have a unibrow when we meet our son for the first time.
Oh… and I decorated for Christmas. I couldn’t wait any longer. And looking up at our mantel to see five stockings this year… it’s just the best.
The change in seasons, the end of Daylight Saving Time, and the final weeks of my pregnancy have combined forces to make me, basically, an exhausted grouch. I had a routine appointment with our midwife last week (and am headed to see our ob-gyn this morning) and while everything is still going great, she told me in no uncertain terms that it’s time to slow down.
There are going to be days when Grace doesn’t nap (payback, perhaps, for my own unwillingness to nap as a baby) or when my car needs to have its actuator replaced (and don’t worry, I called it an actuary… like the person who provides actuarial services… when speaking with the mechanic #whyme), and slowing down is just not in the cards.
But I’m quickly seeing just how many opportunities I do have to take it easy (or easier). And while this often feels a lot like being indulgent, I also know it’s downright important. I’d like to avoid getting sick or overly run down or more grouchy during these last few weeks, and ensure that I’m enjoying as much time as possible playing and reading and dancing and drawing with my silly, precocious, thoughtful and fun only child. While she’s still our only child.
Ideally, I’d nap when Grace naps… but not only is her nap schedule unreliable, I can rarely sleep during the day. I can, however, curl up on the sofa with Clark (and leave the dishes and laundry and writing projects and whatever else until later) and the baby monitor. And that’s got to count for something. I like to think of this hour or so (and any other chance I have to put my feet up) as being responsibly indulgent. Here are few other ways I am indulging.
Being responsibly indulgent
Rethinking what constitutes exercise: I finished up my last outdoor bootcamp class last week and did not renew my membership or by a class pass for the new season. While I absolutely loved the workouts and getting together with the other women and their kids, I just had the sense it was time. One thing that has been different (and I am so grateful for this) the second time around, is that I am less inclined to compare myself to other pregnant women. I’m much better at trusting my own instincts.
Instead of going to class, I’ve been making sure to get out of the house for walks (albeit, slow ones — and I’ve stopped wearing my fitbit, for now, because… welp, my weekly step count was getting depressing) with Grace. We’ve made two trips to the Trailside Museum in the last week. We’re getting plenty of fresh air, plus bonus points for improving our mental health by walking in nature.
Poodle doodles Being playful: We’ve got enough serious business to attend to as adults. I try to draw or paint every day, which is usually very restorative, but sometimes I take even that too seriously. I was recently inspired by one of Grace’s favorite books (it’s so, so good)– Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson— and cracked open a new sketchbook and doodled some poodles. And Frenchies. Happy, playful, and not at all serious.
Making “down time” appointments: This is more of a big indulgence, but sometimes we just need to treat ourselves. The spa inside Whole Foods Market South End recently rebranded and when I saw they were offering prenatal massages, I jumped at the chance to book an appointment. They were offering a 10% discount during the spa’s relaunch, but their prices are really reasonable… plus, you can get your grocery shopping done while you’re there. Multi-tasking is (usually) responsible and (definitely) indulgent when a massage is involved. The massage with LaToya was absolutely blissful and I am definitely looking forward to going back. I wish scheduling in down time came as easily as scheduling in the necessary stuff (like last week’s dental cleaning… woof).
Reading more, watching less: Our midwife had all kinds of suggestions for (attempting) to get more sleep. Unfortunately, I’ve been super uncomfortable at night and barely logged two hours the night before my appointment. We’ve heard it all before, but when the woman you’ve entrusted with nine months of care for you and your child speaks up, you listen: limit screen time, don’t watch murder shows, don’t watch the news, don’t read anything upsetting, ease into bed and let your brain know you’re winding down. Old habits die hard. I sleep with my phone next to my head, the baby monitor cranked up to “can be heard on Mars” level, and you know I love a good true crime story (which is not to say that I love when crimes happen…). But with the help of some new reading material, I’m making progress. I’ve been watching less TV and crawling into bed as early as I can. I’m currently working through Food Gift Love, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and the current issue of Yoga Journal.
I could get used to this whole being indulgent thing.
I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for BellaGravida. I received a complimentary subscription and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.
As I shared earlier this fall, I had a chance to try the new Bella Gravida maternity “wardrobe rental” service. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I knew I didn’t want to spend a fortune on maternity clothes… and… that I kind of needed to wear something other than my husband’s sweatpants when leaving the house.
I am expecting my second delivery from Bella Gravida this week, but my experience with the first delivery was largely positive. I received a maxi skirt, a maxi dress and a long-sleeved top. The skirt did not fit well, but I really, really liked both the dress and top.
What I loved
Returning items is extremely easy. Bella Gravida includes a postage-paid envelope with each delivery. Once I was ready to return my items, all I had to do was drop the envelope at the Post Office.
Laundering is included in the monthly fee — no need to worry about washing or dry cleaning items before you send them back.
You have the option to buy styles you love, rather than sending them back and this, too, is very easy.
There is no deadline to return a particular item — you can keep it as long as you like.
Unlimited exchanges during the month — you can send back items to be replaced with new items as many times as you’d like.
This top by Everly Grey was my favorite item — I held onto it for weeks and loved that I could dress it up or down.
Changes I’d love to see
Website improvements: The website is not especially user-friendly. I toyed with buying one of the items sent with me, but it was not appearing in my “closet.” I contacted customer service by email, though, and received a prompt response and the issue was resolved that same day.
The company’s slogan (“We’re not a subscription box. We’re a subscription wardrobe.”) might not be entirely accurate. I was provided with two month’s of Three Styles at a Time, which retails for $79/month. If you ask me, three articles of clothing do not a wardrobe make… and $79 is not chump change. Also, I was hoping for a great pair or two of maternity jeans or black skinnies, but alas… there are currently no pants available. I feel like pants are sort of critical to one’s wardrobe.
More information about individual styles: I’d love to see more information about both material and fit for each style. This would make filling my personal closet a lot easier. Being allergic to wool, I hesitated to add most sweaters and tops to my closet, which left me with limited choices.
The bottom line:
We had several weddings and special events to attend this fall and between the acrobatic feat that is climbing into maternity nylons (Whyyyyyyyy?) and lack of in-store options to try on, I could have used some help finding a great dress. I think special occasions (rather than attempting to build an every day wardrobe) are the perfect reason to use a service like Bella Gravida.
They have a large (and beautiful) selection of dresses available, which I am sure will be attractive to other expecting mothers as we head into the holiday season, and so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend women check out Bella Gravida for this purpose. With family get togethers, office parties, and special holiday events, I can see a real benefit to having great looking maternity dresses shipped directly to you (and styles may be en route to you as quickly as 48 hours after adding them to your personal closet).
Even in the short amount of time that I’ve been familiar with Bella Gravida, I’ve noticed improvements being made (and more and more styles being added)… which leads me to believe the service will keep getting better.
Bella Gravida is offering one free month to new users. Simply sign up for a membership at BellaGravida.com.
By Thanksgiving, BellaGravida will be launching their ‘Give The Gift of Style’ feature. If there are expecting mothers on your gift list for the holiday season, consider giving them a Bella Gravida subscription.
I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for BellaGravida. I received a complimentary subscription and promotional item to thank me for my participation.
That post title has two too many hyphens. And I am too pregnant lazy to come up with something better. My apologies. As I shared earlier, I’ve been feeling a bit scattered lately. Some days it feels like I will be pregnant for another 8 months. Some days it feels like our baby boy will be here tomorrow. And, this being the second time around, there are things that I feel like we have a good handle on. But I worry about having a false sense of security… like there are things I am completely forgetting about.
Kick up your heels and make a list!
While it’s not exactly go time, there are a few things I probably should get done, not only so our little guy comes home to a stash of tiny diapers and plenty of burp cloths, but so I can quiet my brain a bit and enjoy this last trimester (and Grace’s last weeks as our one and only) as much as possible. Making a list seemed like a good start.
The pre-baby to-do list (a work in progress…)
Go through Grace’s old clothes and pull out, re-wash and put away anything that is neither extra hot pink nor extra ruffly. (At the very least, I think there are a few sets of gender neutral pajamas in there.) The rest will go back to storage for a future niece or friend.
Buy and wash any wardrobe basics and other staples we are missing
Move co-sleeper to our room (this will be a last minute thing)
Order double stroller (with car seat adapter) and second Pack ‘N Play
Install infant car seat base in my car (again, probably a last minute thing)
Buy a box of size 1 diapers (and potentially a small package of NB — Grace was in newborn diapers for about a month, but who knows…) and extra wipes
Reorganize Grace’s closet (she’ll be sharing with her brother)
Stock up on family basics (toiletries, paper goods, Grace’s diapers and pull-ups)
Make all midwife/doctor’s appointments between now and our due date
Schedule flu shots for Grace and me
Get Clark’s yearly check-up and vaccines squared away
Make a plan for Clark to board with one of his pals while we’re at the hospital
Make a grocery delivery list for easy ordering during the first few weeks we’re home
Stash a few freezer meals
Clean out pantry, closets and cabinets (not really baby-related, but clutter is making me mental)
Get a handle on my third trimester wardrobe (because it’s neither warm enough or socially acceptable to continue wearing maternity bathing suits and sundresses)
Pack a hospital bag for me and Nick, and a Party with Grandma and Grandpa! bag for Grace
Get a pedicure (wishful thinking)
I’m sure I’ll think of 70 more items to add, but this is a start. And it feels good to start checking off items. I’m getting a bit of help with the wardrobe issue thanks to Influence Central and the chance to try out BellaGravida, a new service that provides a virtual revolving closet to pregnant and nursing women.
I consigned nearly all of my maternity clothes after Grace was born (most were office attire… and I was sick to death of them), and sadly, beach season is over… so this opportunity comes at the perfect time. I’ve found it nearly impossible to find affordable, well made, non-ugly maternity clothes this time around. I’ve been hesitant to buy anything beyond a few pairs of maternity leggings and long tanks, which are kind of amazing even when you’re not pregnant (trust me).
I am hoping BellaGravida (which means “beautifully pregnant” in Italian) will help fill in the gaps in my maternity wardrobe and take the stress out of finding something to wear for the upcoming weddings and parties on our calendar this month.
A few highlights of the newly-launched service:
Flat, monthly fee (subscriptions begin at $39/month)
No return deadlines
Laundry service included
Dozens of maternity designers and brands available
I’m looking forward to sharing my experience with BellaGravida with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’ve got a list to tackle.
Also On Tap for Today:
I should probably be paying attention to the weather (what’s that I hear about a hurricane?)
We’re more than half-way through September and my fellow old folks and I are left to wonder, Where has the time gone? I’ve been feeling a bit in limbo (but physically unable to actually limbo) lately.
Part of me wants this third trimester and all its grouchiness, discomfort and ill-fitting pants to fly by. And part of me has always wished the calendar went Winter, Spring, Summer, Christmas. But most of me wants to freeze time… or at the very least, slow it down a bit. Even if that does mean being surrounded by fall decor (a.k.a. the worst) a bit longer. Pants and faux pumpkins aside, here’s what’s currently going down.
Currently | September 2015
A little adrift and a lot disorganized. Which is unsettling. I usually have my act way under control, but I’m finding myself losing track of my keys, doctor’s appointments, and days of the week. I’ve resorted to using Google Calendar (I’m usually paper-and-pen only), my regular planner and a dry erase calendar. I’m making more lists than usual. I’m triple-checking my handbag before leaving the house. And I still forget something.
Like I sort of miss the back-to-school rush. Sort of. I love being home with Grace (and I know this was the right decision), but this is first year I haven’t been swept up in that new year’s feeling that used to come with September. I did treat myself to some new school supplies paint, though. Which brings us to…
Paint dry. I put together a new watercolor palette this morning and keep peeking to see how it’s setting up. (I’ll probably let the paint sit overnight before using it.) I’ve been using a pre-filled palette for ages, and am excited to see how limiting my colors and being selective will affect my creative process. Then again… 18 shades is not really a limited selection.
Grace, Clark and mini-plastic-Clark snuggled up on the sofa. They melt my heart.
Football… but only because it’s on. And hockey is not.
A little doodle from earlier this month
Articles about potty training. Because Grace decided a few months ago that diapers are weird. I don’t blame her. And while I appreciate her enthusiasm for forgoing the diapers, I wish she were a bit less interested in testing out every, single bathroom available to her. From her new gymnastics gym to Target to the Chatham Fish Pier… we’ve seen and experienced ’em all.
A pre-baby check list (which I will likely lose and/or forget about… see above).
Apparently this is what Grace thinks my workouts look like… she’s not far off.
Outdoor workouts and lots of stretching.
Making plans with friends.
Rediscovering old favorites on Spotify, including Patty Griffin’s “Heavenly Day” and basically anything on the 90s Pop Radio Hits playlist.
New mid-workout treats. As a Sweat Pink Ambassador, I had a chance to check out last month’s Bulu Box for free. I’m a sucker for monthly boxes — they’re such a fun way to find new products. I think a Bulu Box would make a great gift for the athletes on your list this holiday season (Too soon? Nah…). The August box was sort of hit or miss for me, but I suppose that comes with the territory. I loved the movit energy gummies and racefood fastbar — both were perfect for a mid-bootcamp boost. I received a weight loss supplement, which (even if I weren’t pregnant) is not really my jam. Similarly, I’ve cut back on the caffeine, but I have a feeling the Runa tea included last month will come in handy soon enough. I’ve loved other Runa drinks I’ve tried and look forward to brewing a nice hot cup once our little guy arrives. I (thankfully) haven’t had occasion to use the fourth item included in my Bulu Box — an anti-itch cream — but hey, you never know. If you’re interested in your own Bulu Box (or one for a pal), use the discount code SWEATPINK to save 50% on a three month subscription.
We’re heading into Labor Day Weekend, so why not talk about having a baby? (I couldn’t resist.) I know the holiday is technicallya tribute to the American workforce (and feels mostly like a symbolic end to summer), but it’s nearly impossible for me to hear Labor and not think of… labor.
It’s been nearly seven months since we welcomed Grace. I’ve come this close to sharing about her entry into the world several times now, but always stopped short of clicking publish. (Can I just say, the expression “birth story” creeps me out? It reminds me of that TLC show that one of my college roommates always watched. Terrifying.)
My labor and delivery were rather uneventful (which was sort of the goal), but ultimately, I think that’s why I want to share it with you. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I heard while pregnant. So-and-so was in labor for 89 hours.My friend’s cousin’s yoga instructor’s neighbor delivered a 16 lb. baby. That woman that I sometimes see at the dog park, her sister had a really great birth plan… and it went completely to hell. My uncle’s third cousin’s dog groomer got a flat tire on the way to the hospital and delivered her triplets in the back of a Subaru. (It’s always a Subaru.) Sound familiar?
At one of my postpartum check-ups with my midwife, I told her that I felt sort of awkward when people asked about our experience with childbirth — that I felt a bit guilty (and yes — grateful, most of all) that things went so well. She told me that people need to hear the good stories too. And I think that’s true. Remember when I talked about fear being unproductive? Those horror stories produce a lot of fear. I hopeful that hearing a good story about childbirth will have the opposite effect.
So, with that longwinded intro aside, here’s one of the good stories.
Oh, important note: I’m not going to talk about body parts, really, or like measurements or anything that might make you (or me) faint. That’s just not my style. And I’m 103% certain I’m wrong about at least a few times and timing and hours, so please don’t check my math. And I’m sure you understand my desire to maintain at least a bit of mystery privacy, especially when it comes to my family.
My first Labor Day and welcoming Grace
About two weeks before Grace was born, I was sitting in my office with our auditor (which is one of the 45,000 places I didn’t want to be when I went into labor… and yes, I had spent 9 months fine tuning that list) when I started getting sharp pains in my lower back. They were bad enough that I couldn’t stay seated, but when I stood up, they sort of got worse. It’s a life goal of mine to not to be shady (especially in the presence of an auditor), but I had to keep coming up with excuses to duck out and attempt to walk waddle it off.
Grace at 1 month
After a couple of hours of coming and going, the pain subsided. I figured I was dehydrated. Or maybe my maternity pantyhose was too tight. Grace wasn’t due for over a month, and I assumed what I was feeling was normal for late pregnancy. Truth be told (with the exception of dragon-level heartburn), I felt really good during my second and third trimesters. (The first trimester was sort of a blur of morning all-day sickness, sleeping for 20 hours at a time, subsiding on a diet of crackers and lemonade, and feeling extremely frumpy.)
The next day, though, I just felt off. The back pain had returned (it turns out these were actually contractions and not random back pain… evidence that I did not read any childbirth pamphlets), my feet were swollen, and my appetite was gone. I stupidly waited all day to call the doctor, and instead Googled things. If I can impart any wisdom to future parents (or just, people in general) it is this: When it comes to pregnancy or childbirth or labor or really anything medical or important or not related to cute dog photos, don’t Google it. Just don’t.
I spent the following day hooked up to a fetal monitor, drinking gallons and gallons of water, calmly reading US Weekly one minute and freaking out about the big work event I had coming up the next. If Grace arrived today, what would my colleagues need to know? What was left to be done? What imaginary scenarios could I cook up and then create solutions for? Again, the contractions subsided and I was sent home with strict orders to relax. (Bhahahahaaha)
The work event went off without a hitch the following Thursday. I wore sequins. I wore heels. I did not go into labor. I did eat 5 desserts. For the next few days, it was business as usual. I still had a feeling Grace might come early, though, so each night before heading home, I cleaned up my desk and laid out detailed “just in case” instructions (which I would then promptly recycle the following day, only to begin again).
On Monday night, I woke up in the middle of the night with a start, and sat bolt upright. I vividly remember this moment in particular, because for the previous month or so, sitting up was nothing short of a workout. I must have gone back to sleep, because the next time I looked at the clock it was 5 A.M… and my water had broke. (Is that grammatically correct? I have no clue. But I am sticking to my own rule of no Googling body part things.)
I have never seen Nick bound out of bed so quickly. In the span of three minutes, he was somehow dressed, his teeth were brushed and his contacts were in, and he was assembling our co-sleeper/mini crib. Meanwhile, I followed our midwife’s instructions and called the office’s after hours number. They told me to call back at eight. Um… what? Knowing me (and I do, quite well), I am still surprised at how calm I remained. I took a shower. I blew out my unruly curls. I painted my nails (yes, really). I ate a snack. I un-packed and re-packed our hospital bag (which is good, because we didn’t exactly ace it the first time around).
By 8:30, I was back on the fetal monitor at our doctor’s office, but not before riding an elevator with a bunch of gentlemen in sharp suits headed to work, while my water continued to break. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of actively peeing your pants (that’s kind of what it feels like) in public. I wasn’t sure what the protocol for being in labor in a rush hour elevator in the Financial District was. Should I press the alarm button and make an announcement? Instead I tried to be cool (wholly impossible), but continued to look at Nick like, Oh my word, I am sort of peeing. And he continued to look at me like, This is the greatest day ever. And it was.
We checked into the hospital around 10:30 and when the attending midwife asked if we had a name picked out for our daughter, I cried as Nick answered, Grace. Saying her name, one we had kept secret for so long, made her pending arrival feel more real than any contraction (or awkward elevator ride) could. Saying her name made everything feel so holy and sacred and good.
Once we knew for certain (I mean, I knew that at 5 AM, but it helps to have the hospital bracelet to prove it), we called our parents and siblings and let them know that we were at the hospital, that we were all doing well, and that Grace would likely be born today.
Our birth plan was pretty much this:
We will be open minded
We will trust our our midwife, doctor and nurses to help us make the best decisions
In other words: We didn’t really have a birth plan. I wanted to labor without medication, but um… I had never been in labor before, so I didn’t want to rule anything out. We spent the next six hours managing my painful (real talk: they were painful, but I survived… obviously) back contractions by taking short walks around the labor floor, getting checked by the midwife and nurses, and sitting and standing and leaning and bending and bouncing. We never broke out the deck of cards we packed, nor the crossword puzzle book.
At the nurses’ encouragement, I gave the shower a try. I had heard that many women find showering during labor to be really comforting. Meanwhile, I spent about three minutes in there before throwing in (and asking for) the towel. It was sort of the opposite of comforting for me.
All I could think was:
Great, now my hair is frizzy again
The shower curtain is touching me
Why is this shower so small?
And why is there so much plastic furniture in here?
Everyone can see my bum
By now, I was uncomfortable enough that I was having trouble relaxing between contractions. Our labor was progressing, but it could still be hours before Grace was born, so we talked with our midwife about options. An anesthesiologist joined us to answer any questions we might have about an epidural, which we decided was the right choice for us.
As with all things labor and delivery related, I’m not sure how accurately I can describe what getting an epidural feels like, or how it feels after. I could still feel everything (including my limbs), but the pain was much less intense and I was able to relax between contractions. I hadn’t eaten more than a few crackers (I was nauseous much of the day), so as soon as the nurses told me I couldn’t eat after getting the epidural, I basically wanted to eat everything in sight. I started getting restless, but going for a walk was no longer an option, so we watched a little TV. I could barely contain my jealousy (nor my lack of sensitivity, apparently) as a Biggest Loser contestant devoured an entire pizza in his “before” footage. TV was a bad idea.
Grace at 2 weeks
At some point (and this one is entirely on me — Nick now has a firm “no voluntary studies” policy), I agreed to participate in a study about epidurals (how they are administered, and if that affects their, well, effectiveness). At some regular interval, a doctor would come into the room and ask me about pain and nausea and then (this is the absolute truth) poke me with one of those little cocktail swords (not something that looked like a little cocktail sword, an actual little cocktail sword) to determine where I did or did not have feeling. Being in labor is surreal on its own, but this sword thing? It was really bizarre. The nurses (and my husband) kept reminding me that I could opt out of the study at any time. Meanwhile, I had developed a strong craving for maraschino cherries.
Nick went to grab some coffee and as 11 o’clock approached, I wondered if Grace would, indeed, be born today. I talked to my parents and siblings (and was denied my requests for an entire pan of baked ziti and two bags of cool ranch Doritos) and focused on the affirmation that seemed so silly a few days before, but that helped me so much during those last few hours: Grace will come at the perfect time.
I repeated this over and over in my head and soon enough, I felt like that perfect time was upon us. A new midwife had just come on shift (I feel like I could write a whole book about how wonderful these women are) and she and the nurses started preparing for Grace’s delivery. She got sort of close to my face and said, “You have carried this baby inside of you for nine months. Are you ready to bring her out? Are you ready to get started?” Part of me was like, Um… I don’t think I could stop this if I tried and the other parts was like, Yes! I want her here so badly! In my emotional memory (which is likely not fully accurate), Jock Jams started playing and Nick and the midwife high-fived.
Nick and Grace
Remember when I told you that a blizzard prevented us from completing our childbirth class? This is where that missed information would have been helpful. One nurse asked if I remembered my breathing. I had no clue what she was talking about (it turns out, you kind of just… well, breathe). We were similarly surprised to find out just how active a role Nick would be playing in Grace’s delivery. I guess we sort of imagined he’d gently stroke my perfectly coifed hair and tell me I was amazing, but instead he was holding one of my legs and coaching me through the pushing (and telling me I was amazing). Another surprise (sorry, this is kind of unpleasant, but I am feeling like it might help to know this): some people throw up, like a lot, when they’re delivering. Apparently I am one of those people. Also, I somehow managed to get a (clean and very much empty) bed pan stuck inside my hospital gown. So there’s that.
Everything felt so charged and intense during the delivery. I remember melting into the hospital bed between pushes, and asking Nick to cover my face with a cold cloth. I have never prayed like I prayed that night. I felt weak and exhausted, and at the same time, stronger and more powerful than ever. It was nothing like the movies (and I mean that in the best possible way). There was no yelling or screaming (though I did kind of involuntarily roar at one point), no real dramatics.
It was very fleeting, but I did have a quick rush of panic that I might not be able to do it. That I was too tired. Or too weak. I thought (this is so, so ridiculous… but also so, so funny to me), Maybe I can skip this next contraction and rest a little. Nick saw right through that one and encouraged me to be a normal person keep going. Our midwife calmly whispered, “Don’t be afraid.” Just then, the miniature sword wielding doctor entered the room for our next round of the study, and Nick (politely) told him to hit the road. For a million reasons, I am so grateful for my husband.
I am sure the nurses and midwife were talking to me, but at this point I kept my eyes on Nick and watched his posture change as the energy in the room intensified. I hadn’t noticed that a baby nurse had come in, and that the midwife and nurses had put on masks. “She’s coming so soon,” he said. “She’s really coming.” It was 12:16 A.M. on Wednesday.
Grace (and her adorable nose) at 6 hours, Elizabeth in need of a flat iron
I used to think that if I had a baby, I’d want him or her “cleaned off” before holding them. I thought I’d be squeamish about all the, you know, stuff. I thought I’d want everything to be neat. In reality, I couldn’t get my hands on her fast enough. I reached for her and Nick, desperate to have our little family together for the first time. I kept saying “I love her so much” over and over, and then turned to Nick with the biggest smile of my life (he just reminded me of this – I wanted him to read this whole thing before I sent it out into the Universe) and exclaimed, “I would do this a million times!” So… there’s your proof that happy, pain-killing hormones are real. Or, that I am delusional.
Once Grace was on my chest, and I could see her tiny nose and eyes and fingers and cheeks, I cried for the millionth time since first knowing I was pregnant with her. I felt like my heart was outside of my body. I couldn’t see anyone else, I couldn’t hear anyone else, I couldn’t think about anyone or anything else. I had no idea my love for her would feel like that. And still, when I think that love can’t get any bigger, it somehow grows.
Grace at 6.5 months
Just this week Grace started putting both her hands up and reaching for me. I can’t help but think, every time, about that night when I first reached for her. That night is my favorite story.
It’s the story I tell myself when I miss her during the day, or when feel discouraged about my “body after baby” (whatever that means), or when people ask if she’s sleeping through the night, or when I have to pump in an airport bathroom while traveling for work (the glamour of life abounds), or when I find spit-up on the back of my dress halfway through Mass, or when there is not enough time to do it all or be it all.
Because that story and how it ends and what it gave us, that is it all.
There are moments when it feels like she has just arrived, and others when I can’t believe she hasn’t been with us all along. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, but there are times when I cannot imagine life before that instant when she was placed on my chest in the delivery room and everything changed.
Left: Grace is 6 hours old. Right: Grace is 100 days and 6 hours old. Both: I am overjoyed, overtired, and in need of a hairbrush.
We started going to a new moms’ group when Grace was almost three weeks old. I am so grateful for that community. And I want all eight of our babies to grow up and be college roommates. Or live on an organic farm together. Or something.
At our last formal meeting, the group’s facilitator asked us to share something that is going well, something that is challenging, and something that has changed. What stood out to me was the confidence I had gained over those first weeks. And how much we’ve grown and developed and changed together. And how I love her more than I could ever adequately express.
In honor of Grace’s first 100 days, 50 thoughts and reflections on life with our beautiful baby… I would have given you 100, but let’s be serious:
I think the first thing I noticed about Grace was her nose. It is so tiny and sweet, I kiss it all the time.
I’ve found so much love and support in both expected and unexpected places.
More so than ever, I need other people. I need help. I need support. I need to be told that my crazy hair and (unintentionally) tight pants look good.
It’s all very humbling, especially for someone who has always preferred to just do it myself.
I am more grateful than ever for Nick, for our families and friends, and everyone who has been so kind and gentle and supportive to us.
Having a community of new moms, sharing similar experiences, has been invaluable. (If you live in the Boston area and are expecting or have children, I highly recommend Mama and Me in JP.)
We were discharged from the hospital on a Friday evening, but had to see our pediatrician early the next morning (I love that they’re open on weekends) for a weight check and some testing. The only thing more overwhelming than being sent home with a very new, very small, very needy baby… is packing her up and taking her back out in the world less than a day later.
… but because we needed to, we figured it out. There wasn’t much time for panic or worry, and eventually necessity lead to competence (sort of… once I had the child locks on, got in the back seat to move Grace from her car seat to the Ergo… and then got trapped inside my own car).
After I made a few solo trips to the doctor without, like, losing our child, Grace and I started going to more fun places, too.
I made it my goal to get out of the condo at least once a day while on maternity leave.
We spent Thursdays at my parents’ house, walked to Castle Island when it was warm enough, spent a shameful amount of both time and money in the stationary aisle at Target, and even got our first library card. Start ’em young.
I am so grateful to have good health care.
Same goes for a wonderful pediatrician and group practice. They have been so helpful and supportive. And they don’t make me feel like a nutty first time parent. Even though I am a nutty first time parent.
Breastfeeding is hard. Pumping at work isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either. But, for me, it’s worth it.
I say, “Let’s take this one day at a time” to myself a lot lately.
I am convinced the face babies make after they eat is the secret to world peace.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve slept for more than 2-3 hours at once. I do remember the first time I slept long enough to have a dream after Grace was born though. I dreamt that President Obama was making a very important speech about Olympic figure skating.
I don’t know why I thought this, but I was certain both Grace and I would be sleeping through the night before I returned to work. She wakes to be fed 2-3 times each night, meanwhile I have friends whose babies were sleeping through the night after a couple of weeks. It’s all very mysterious.
I ‘m embracing our middle-of-the-night wakings as our time.
Grace’s smile can stop me in my tracks. Even (or especially) at 3 AM.
It’s the best gift.
When I was pregnant, it was obvious (except at the beginning, when it was a little more like… maybe she’s pregnant, maybe she ate six pizzas). Especially towards the end, even complete strangers were nicer to me. People wanted to know when I was due, if I was having a girl or boy, how I was feeling. I appreciate that more now than I did a the time.
I attract similarly well-intentioned attention when I am out with Grace, but when I’m by myself, I sort of feel a bit adrift. Like that I want to tell the mailman I have a baby, or I nearly tell the lady in line ahead of me that I am a mom, too.
I guess I hadn’t given much thought to what navigating a new identity would be like, and in that way, I sort of miss being pregnant. Sort of.
I like that we are creating new rituals and traditions with our sweet girl and our family.
Children’s books either totally awesome, or totally weird. I’ve yet to find anything in between.
I left home precisely three times between Friday and Sunday evening.
I went for a walk with Clark (before you report me to the ASPCA or Sarah McLachlan, rest assured that Nick picked up my slack)
I made a trip to the pharmacy for cough drops (and crossword puzzles)
I met with our friendly neighborhood police officer to have our car seat inspected (Last Minute Larry strikes again)
I spent the rest of the weekend asleep, trying to be asleep, moaning and groaning, being stumped by crossword puzzles, watching the Kill Cliff East Coast Championships online (while my ticket to the event mocked me from the coffee table), wondering if you can wear more than one Breathe Right strip, and starring in my own one-woman version of Les Miserables. I don’t know if I should admit this (especially after promising you that you didn’t need to call animal welfare on me), but at one point I was so conked out that I drooled on my own dog. He didn’t seem to mind (and he loves that I am on the same napping schedule as him), but I was mortified.
I went from feeling great for the better part of 36 weeks to, seemingly suddenly, feeling… not so great. Our midwife encouraged me to slow down. I wanted to, but I also felt like I had a ton of work to get done. And I wanted to squeeze in one more workout before putting my CrossFit membership on hold. Also, I finally remembered what I forgot to get at the store, and so I figured I should go get it. And I had just one more big work event to pull off, so I worked late to ensure it went perfectly. Several nights in a row. And I wore heels to the event. Plus, I scheduled a couple more meetings. And I invented other things to add to my to do list.
While my ego tries to keep busy and be important, my body is saying, enough is enough. I could do without this rotten cold, and I wish I wasn’t such a boob for letting myself get this run down, but I’m finally seeing how badly I do need to slow down during these last few weeks (or days?).
Enough is enough… but it’s also too much. I can’t keep up. I can’t do what I’ve always done. And that’s okay (even if it’s been a bit of a challenge to accept). After all, it’s not just about me any more.
If you can learn this lesson without polishing off a box of Kleenexes, please do. From here on out, I’m steering clear of my ego and listening to my tired, not-so-little body.
A few more things to avoid when you’re pregnant (or just a human, in general):
Other people: (Sort of.) People say really weird things to pregnant women. I’ve heard some real doozies, from the security guard in Detroit who told me that she did voodoo on me, causing me to have twins (I was like, Maybe, use your voodoo for something more productive… like fixing Detroit?), to the man in my office building who asked, “Did you get fat, or are your pregnant?” or the woman at the supermarket who told me my doctor was wrong, and that I would have a baby before Christmas. And it’s not just strangers. People I know and love have said some bizarre things, too. It’s sort of impractical to avoid people altogether (especially when you consider my next suggestion), but it’s important to develop some sound coping mechanisms for the inevitable weirdness. Please don’t let the comments get to you. They are likely coming from a good place. I think.
Too much alone time: I have never been so far inside my own head as I have been these past nine months. I would likely be lost in there if I didn’t have a support system to field my questions, listen to my worries, offer suggestions, and laugh (in sort of a sad way) at me when I thought my belly button was connected to the baby’s belly button via the umbilical cord. (Don’t ask, don’t tell.)
The internet: I should be banned from WebMD. In the past week alone, I’ve diagnosed myself with six different incurable diseases. And I’ve cried about all six of them. When I stopped crying, I went on BuzzFeed (usually a reliable source of laughter, i.e. the opposite of crying), only to stumble on this terribly sad cartoon about how dogs grieve for their scattered children. I thought it would be something cute about grown-up dogs following their puppies on Instagram (shameless plug for @clarkthefrenchie), but it was actually devastating. Please don’t read it. Unless you want your day life ruined.
Comparison: Every person is different. Every pregnancy is different. You’re probably doing it perfectly. For you.
Oh. And avoid soft cheese. Which is just plain rude. I want my first meal in the hospital to be an entire wheel of brie. Maybe. Actually, I think I want a root beer float.
Nick and I spent the better part of the weekend in various parenting and child safety classes. Needless to say, not a whole lot of Intagramming (or housework, or real work, or napping, or Netflixing, or CrossFit) happened. Sometimes adult responsibilities trump social media addictions. That’s probably a good thing. In fact, if I teach a parenting class one day… I’ll add that important note to the syllabus.
Clark loves being towel dried. He enters some weird euphoric state as soon as one of us breaks out a towel for him. It’s one of my favorite things to watch.
I am making a concerted effort to finish a full month of fatmumslim’s photoaday challenge. We shall see. Saturday’s prompt was looking down. While I try to take a fresh photo for each challenge, I woke up at 11:30 PM for a nearly-midnight snack and remembered that, welp… I had forgotten. So I dug up this one from a few weeks back. I only managed one workout last week and truthfully, I’ve felt pretty run down lately. I’m proud of myself for CrossFitting and staying active through 35 weeks of pregnancy, but I am beginning to feel that it’s time to pull back a bit. I’ve been trying to fit in as much as possible lately (at work, at home, at the gym and elsewhere), and I think it’s catching up to me. This week’s m.o.: more rest, less stress running around like a nut.
As I mentioned up top, Nick and I took two prenatal classes this weekend– one was on breastfeeding (can I just say, I was not prepared to see so many PowerPoint slides of boobs…), and the second was infant/child CPR and baby care and safety. I supposed we are officially as ready as we’ll ever be. The instructor for our second class was especially… um… free-spirited, and offered some pretty amazing advice. One of my favorites: Worried someone’s not holding your baby properly? Say something like, “In our home, we like to support our child’s head.” We’re lucky to have such great healthcare, and really like our OB and midwife. Which is good, because we’re seeing them at least once a week at this point. We’ve taken advantage of many of the classes offered, including an early pregnancy class (which exists because when you find our you’re pregnant, you call the doctor and they’re like, “Cool. See you in ten weeks.” And then you worry about all the things you can mess up during those ten weeks.), a tour of our hospital, and a one-day childbirth class. Knowledge is power. As long as you don’t faint while the knowledge is being imparted (there were a few close calls).
Taco Tuesday Saturday. Don’t these little guys look good? I piled on Amy’s vegan refried beans with green chiles, spring mix with herbs, hot sauce, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and some lime juice. And then I devoured them. And then I went to bed at 7:15 PM. Ole!
Clearly Nick paid attention during the swaddling portion of class this weekend.
And one last photoaday prompt: colorful. You know how I feel about glitter, and you know how I feel about Martha Stewart. In both cases, more is more.