Tag Archives: childbirth

Today: My first Labor Day.

We’re heading into Labor Day Weekend, so why not talk about having a baby?  (I couldn’t resist.)  I know the holiday is technically a 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.

Also On Tap for Today:

How are you spending your Labor Day Weekend?

Today: Fear is not productive.

For the record, this post is supposed to be suitable for all  humans.  It isn’t supposed to be about being a mom.  Or boobs.  Or CPR.  It just starts that way, so like… bear with me.

 We took a bunch of classes in an effort to prepare for Grace’s arrival.  Infant CPR felt both helpful and necessary.  Breastfeeding Basics was, well, basically useless.  None of it made sense until I actually started breastfeeding, and at that point, I had the invaluable support of lactation consultants in the hospital.  They helped me figure that cool stuff out.  During the class itself, we watched some weird slide shows (I have never seen so many boobs in my life, nor do I expect to, ever ever again), and a movie with credits that included a thank you “to the women of Bulgaria.”  I am still not sure what to make of that.  Our instructor for Child Safety went a bit rogue, so the class was more about how weird babies can look when their born, and less about… safety.

Fortunately, the gaps left by the safety class were more than filled in when I had an appointment with a Boston Police officer to have our car seat inspected, just two days before Grace made her early arrival.  What I thought would be a two minute check of our car seat (which Nick had expertly installed) turned into 90 minutes of me learning how to actually use our car seat (little did I know how soon I be putting this new found knowledge to work), how many air bags my car has, which items in the trunk could turn into projectiles if (God forbid) I got into an accident, how to safely flee an emergency by car with an infant in tow, how to use a car seat without a base if I were to flee an emergency by taxi, and the importance of actually reading safety manuals.

Our childbirth class was cut short by a blizzard, so while we learned a bit about labor, we never learned about delivery.  Needless to say, when it came time to deliver Grace… Nick and I both had a lot of questions.  And I am certain our attending midwife and nurses had several questions about us.

Anyway, in an ongoing effort to get my life together before going back to work in just a short time (don’t get me started, I am almost out of Kleenexes), I was sorting through various info packets from the aforementioned classes, and I came across a page of notes I had taken.  In all caps, I had written,

Fear is not productive.

I remember one of the instructors mentioning that fear (and anxiety and worry) can slow down labor.  I am pretty sure I wrote this sentence down so that I could remember it if I went into labor and we were stuck in traffic.  Or in an elevator.  Like, I would look at pictures of clowns (or something equally terrifying) and the fear would persuade our baby to wait until we were safely at the hospital.

I think, at the time, I missed the point.  The instructor meant that being informed, making preparations, and feeling a sense of control would have the opposite effect.  Fear is not productive.  Being empowered is.  With seemingly so much more to worry about, to be anxious about, and to feel doubtful about these days, I needed this reminder.

Sure, in certain cases, fear probably is quite productive.  Say, if I were a cavewoman and a lion came into my cave to eat my cheese doodles, and I saw the lion, and I felt afraid… and that fear caused me to take my doodles (you can’t leave them behind, I imagine they were really hard to come by in those days) and run?  Productive.  Or that time I went skydiving with my ex-boyfriend in college (that should totally be the name of a Lifetime move: Skydiving with My Ex…. and  maybe on the way to the airfield, before she actually skydives, the main character would find out that she had been switched at birth, just to keep things realistic interesting.  Feel free to steal and pitch this idea to the network.), and I felt fear overwhelm me as I prepared to jump.  That’s productive.  People really shouldn’t jump out of planes for no reason.  Fortunately, I survived, but I did lose a contact lens during free fall.

Real, physical fear — the kind that has helped us stay alive as a species for so long — aside, the kind of fear that has us trying to predict the future, or read others’ minds, or play out all possible scenarios, is not productive.  Worrying about whether or not Grace will be happy at day care is not going to make her any more or less happy.  Getting anxious about making time to fit everything into the day is not going to fold the laundry, preside over meetings, pick out a semi-normal outfit for me to wear, and finish a workout.  That kind of fear is just not productive.  It wastes time.  It wastes energy.  And it leads to more fear.

As much as I love cop shows (which is to say, a lot), I’ve always been squeamish when it comes to the violent parts.  I like the intrigue, the plotting, and the cool police lingo, but I’ve always tended to cover my eyes during any of the real action.  I got into the habit, jokingly, of covering Clark’s eyes, too and telling him to “guard his spirit.”  This has always made Nick laugh, but I’ve caught myself saying this hippy b.s. more and more… and sort of seriously.  And most often to, well, myself.

When that unproductive fear creeps in, we’ve got to guard our spirits.  And with that, I am off to legally change my name to Soleil Moon Frye Dreamcatcher Incense Flower.

Also On Tap for Today:

Do you have any unusual fears?  What was the caveperson version of cheese doodles?

Today: The weekend according to Instagram XXIV

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.

The weekend according to Instagram XXIV

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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!
  5. Clearly Nick paid attention during the swaddling portion of class this weekend.
  6. 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.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Today: The weekend according to Instagram XXII.

Judging by this weekend’s Instagram snaps, it was a very Clark weekend.  It’s his world, we’re just living carrying him around in it.

The weekend according to Instagram XXII

  1. We spent Friday night like a couple of cool college kids… at the library.  BU hosts therapy dogs at the Mugar Memorial Library in the days leading up to their final exams.  Clark and I have volunteered there the past few years and always have a great time, so I was psyched when Nick offered to come along.  The program is really well organized and the reactions students have to Clark is so fun to witness.  We were up past his  bedtime (we took the 8-9 PM shift this year), so Clark was extra snuggly.  And smiley.
  2. We spend Saturday like a couple of unprepared parents-to-be… at our “prepared childbirth” class.  While the certificate says we’re prepared, that really remains to be seen.  Mostly because I got up to take a break anytime I felt squeamish.  Which was often.  Hopefully Nick was paying better attention that I was.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I fainted during two separate health classes about where babies come from, once in sixth grade and once in ninth grade.  I tried to convince our midwife that we didn’t need to take the class (mostly because I was convinced, given my track record, that I would not remain conscious… so why waste the time and money?), but she was not hearing it.  In reality, I learned a lot this weekend (and even stayed up Sunday night to read the full manual, semi-terrifying parts and all).  I could have done without the video (there were scenes I will never be able to un-see), but everything else was super helpful.
  3. The jury’s still out on my weekend polish change.  Essie’s belugaria looks fun, but I’ve already started peeling away at the sparkly flecks of glitter.  The polish itself is textured, sort of like nail caviar mixed with regular polish.  I have a feeling this manicure’s not lasting past Tuesday.
  4. We postponed our little Christmas party Saturday night, as several friends would be driving in from outside the city and if you’ve ever tried to park in Southie before, during, or after a storm… you know this is not a process for the faint of heart (the underlying theme of today’s post is fainting).  Also, we wanted everyone to stay safe.  Obviously.  I couldn’t wait ’til morning to check out the snow drifts (which didn’t amount to much after the switch over to rain), so I bundled up Clark and headed outside as soon as we got back from baby class.  I love weather.  Almost as much as I love mail.
  5. On Sunday morning, the temperature dropped 10 degrees in an hour or so and that light, fluffy snow became crusty, icy snow.  I bundled up the little guy again, zipped my coat over the bump, and soon found myself carrying 30 lbs. of French bulldog across icy pools of slush.  Not surprisingly, he pretended to be asleep for the remainder of the day to avoid going out again.
  6. Meanwhile, Nick spent three hours shoveling and actually earned his spot on the sofa.  As for Clark? He’s lucky he’s so cute.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?