8 May 2016
What more fitting day to share the story of June’s birth than my first Mother’s Day? I am so grateful for the little muffin who made me a mama, so grateful for this story, and so grateful for the One who wrote it. Thank you for allowing me to share!
Throughout my pregnancy, I never really knew what to say when friends asked how things were going. Aches and pains? Not really. Cravings? Nope. Complications? Nothing to report! Thankfully, the whole process was blissfully “boring,” and for that I am grateful. However, we did get our dose of excitement at the very end, starting at my 38-week appointment on January 4…
Two weeks earlier, at my 36-week appointment, my doctor reported that June was head down and that I was not dilated. I opted not to get checked at 37 weeks, and so was curious to see what we’d find at 38. After a quick check, he relayed that I still wasn’t dilated. He also said I was measuring small, and so decided to do an ultrasound. Thankfully, the ultrasound showed that June looked great and that the amniotic fluid was adequate. Unfortunately, it also showed that she was in a breech position.
To be safe, he had me take a non-stress test (which I passed with flying colors – yay!). (For those who aren’t familiar with a non-stress test, in my case, it involved sitting in a comfy armchair and getting hooked up to a fetal heartbeat monitor for 20 minutes. Despite the stressful circumstances, it was quite peaceful sitting there and listening to her!) My doctor also scheduled me for another check a few days later, on January 7… and scheduled a c-section for the following week, a few days before my due date. (I was NOT pleased about this for many reasons, but he didn’t want me to go full term because of the risk of cord prolapse if my water were to break on its own.)
My emotions were a little strange at this point. I still believed there was a chance June could flip (after all, she apparently had flipped between 36 and 38 weeks!), and my doctor had said that if she flipped at any point before the c-section, we would call it off and let things proceed naturally. So in between working harder than ever to wrap up things at work and keeping John, our families, and our doula up to date, I drank TONS of water (I knew low amniotic fluid would be a reason for an immediate c-section, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to stay extra hydrated), and tried some of the moves to encourage flipping on this site. Without a definite “yes, you ARE having a c-section,” I couldn’t or wouldn’t wrap my head around that possibility and wanted to remain hopeful that I would have the birth we’d been imagining and for which we’d been planning. On the positive side, this meant I remained quite calm; on the negative, it meant I was pretty much in denial.
Thursday rolled around, and I was pretty sure June had not changed position – she felt the same as she always had, and they had warned me that if she did flip it would probably be fairly painful. My appointment was at 9am, and this time, John came with me.
It all happened pretty quickly — my doctor took a look at the ultrasound, confirmed she was still breech, and then told us that my amniotic fluid was too low and that we had to head to the hospital, because she was going to be delivered by c-section that day.
And then I started to cry. I felt very powerless at that moment — I wasn’t a doctor, so it wasn’t like I could look at the ultrasound and argue that no, it actually would be okay to wait a few more days. I knew if she was breech she would have to be delivered by c-section, but I did not feel at all prepared for it to happen that day. I wanted a few more days to wrap things up at home and at work, and to wrap my mind around what was happening. As I sobbed in the car outside the doctor’s office to John, I just kept saying, “I’m not ready, I’m not ready.” I also was very concerned that June would be small and unhealthy, which I think stemmed from my doctor saying she was measuring small and also that she would be delivered before 39 weeks. (I had actually said to John the day before, “What if she’s only four pounds when she’s born??” Not terribly likely, but that was where my head was at.)
That half hour was my most intense mourning period for the birth that might have been. I had thought I was going into labor with open hands, but it had never occurred to me that I might have a c-section. I had done a lot to mentally and physically prepare myself for labor, and I was looking forward to experiencing it with John by my side. I wanted this ultimate and uniquely womanly experience, painful though it might be. And besides, everything I had read about c-sections (which admittedly was not much) made them seem bad, painful, and almost shameful — plus with a terrible recovery to boot.
Eventually I regained my composure just a bit, and John called our doula to let her know what was going on. She encouraged us to go home before heading to the hospital, which we did. We had brought some of our hospital supplies with us to the appointment, but only halfheartedly, as again, we didn’t really think we’d be admitted that day. We spent about an hour at home, finishing packing and getting the cats prepared for a few days without us. I also took a shower and re-did my makeup, telling myself I was going to flip the switch on a positive attitude and put the kibosh on crying. We took this photo right outside the hospital:
Of course, tears again sprang to my eyes as we checked in (“this is not how I thought it would be!”), and then again when the nurse showed us to our room on the delivery floor. After she shut the door behind us to let us get settled, I asked John to pray over all three of us, which he did. When our poor nurse returned and started going through the intake procedures, I again started to cry. She was confused at first, but so kind and encouraging after we told her a bit about our circumstances. Thankfully, those were my final sad tears of the day :) Two things she said that began to help turn my outlook around: you can always have a VBAC next time, and you’re going to meet your daughter today! We also texted our families to let them know what was going on, and their love and enthusiasm helped us get more excited and lifted the emotional weight a bit.
The next two hours passed fairly quickly as I had blood drawn, got hooked up to the fetal heartbeat monitor, received two bags of fluid through an IV, was briefed by the anesthesiologist, and had to drink a nasty liquid to avoid reflux during surgery, among other preparations. We got to listen to our girl’s heartbeat the whole time, which was the best soundtrack we could ask for. Then, after a last check via ultrasound to make sure she was still breech, John and I walked back to the operating room hand in hand.
We parted ways at the door, as husbands have to wait outside and get suited up in full sterile gear while the final preparations take place. I took my seat on the operating table under the bright lights and realized I felt very calm. This, I believe, was a supernatural peace, one that I was so grateful to receive… I don’t believe it was a coincidence I had declared “peace” my word for 2016 just a few days earlier.
So there I sat in my bubble of peace as all sorts of people bustled around me – there must have been ten different ladies and gents in there, from the surgical assistants to the nurse anesthetist to the baby nurse. One gave me two heated blankets to keep warm since it was so cold, and then our anesthesiologist put in the spinal block, which wasn’t painful. They lowered me back onto the table, put up the surgical drape, and before I knew it, they got started and John showed up next to my head, squeezing my hand.
The first sensation I remember feeling was what felt like someone roughly kneading my stomach. This was not pleasant. After just a few minutes, though, we heard a little gurgly cry!!! June was immediately brought to the warmer, and John left my side to go to hers. He reappeared a minute later, assuring me that she was “so cute!!” Another wave of relief washed over me, as I figured if he was talking about her level of cuteness, she probably had two arms, two legs, and weighed more than four pounds :)
We had asked for as prompt and as much skin to skin time as possible, and thankfully our hospital was receptive to this. June was placed on my chest just a few minutes after she was born, while they were still delivering the placenta (I think? Couldn’t see, so I’m not really sure what was happening down there that whole time!). Unfortunately, a few minutes later, I started to gag (a side effect of the anesthesia), so they took June back over to the warmer briefly. They used the time to clean her up a bit more and take some measurements, then brought her back to me once I had stabilized. We stayed that way for maybe half an hour more, admiring our sweet girl and marveling at what had just happened. She was here! She was beautiful! She was healthy!!
As I think back on June’s birthday, I find so much beauty in it all, but especially in this: that morning, I was so desperate to delay her arrival by just a few more days. As soon as we met her, though, I wouldn’t have wanted to delay her arrival by even a minute. Perfect timing, indeed.
Happy Mother’s Day to the mamas, the moms-to-be, and the mothers at heart.
5 May 2016
I’ve had many requests over the last year or so to share the books I read while pregnant, and today I’m ready to deliver! I always intended to share, but I thought it would be most helpful to post after I’d, well, delivered (ha!) so that I could give you a comprehensive review. I love reading and I love learning, so it’s not surprising that I dove headfirst into books on babies, but even if you’re not a big reader, you might find a few of these interesting…
BOOKS TO READ BEFORE GETTING PREGNANT:
Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Funnily enough, they don’t teach you much about how to GET pregnant in health class. Or maybe they do, but I was very busy pretending not to hear. Anyway, this book filled in the gaps, taught me lots about timing, and helped me get my body in tip-top shape before we started trying. [Buy]
All Joy and No Fun. This book “analyzes the many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self.” I found this book honest and EXTREMELY fascinating, and have wanted to talk about it with everyone ever since finishing it! Both the author’s research and the family portraits she weaves throughout are thought-provoking, and should help spur great conversation for anyone moving toward parenthood. [Buy]
BOOKS TO READ WHILE PREGNANT:
Expecting Better. The Amazon reviews for this book are pretty hilarious – about half of them say “this is the worst book ever!” and the other half say “this is the best book ever!” As long as you understand what this book is and is not, I think you’ll love it. The author is an economist, not a doctor. She writes from this perspective, using her training to synthesize tons of studies on all sorts of pregnancy things (Is it okay to drink caffeine? Should you get an epidural?), then inviting the reader to make her own decisions based on the information available. I found it refreshing and empowering, and it is my number one pregnancy book recommendation. [Buy]
What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This is like the dictionary of pregnancy books – it’s the exhaustive explanation of every symptom, every possible scenario, every risk. If it will stress you out to read about all the bad things that can happen, skip it, but I looked forward to checking in every month to read a new chapter (but I did skim a lot of it!). [Borrow]
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. This book is split into two parts: the first is straight-up narrative birth stories, and the second is more informational, with suggestions for labor techniques, information about labor procedures, etc. Most people say they love the birth stories (warning: they can be pretty intense). I found them interesting, though also a little discouraging at times since I knew I would be giving birth in a hospital and this book definitely has a bias toward natural, home birth. I thought the second section was very helpful, though. Specifically, it gave me several questions to ask my doctor that elicited eye-opening answers, and it helped me craft my birth plan. In the end: interesting and empowering, even if you plan to give birth in a hospital and/or with pain relief. [Borrow]
BOOKS FOR THE FIRST YEAR:
Jo Frost’s Confident Baby Care. Quick read. This book is very practical, and I loved its confident, no-nonsense, encouraging tone. It’s split up into four sections (0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months) and covers everything you need to know about taking care of a new baby (baths, diapers, dressing, all the day-to-day stuff). Some of the information is so specific that it was a bit overwhelming (how am I going to remember the exact temperature a bottle is supposed to be??), but that’s the reason why I bought this book instead of borrowing it — I know I will want to refer back to it over the first year when all of that specific information will likely come in handy. [Buy]
On Becoming Babywise. This book is super controversial! And that cracks me up, because I’m not really sure what people find so shocking about it. Maybe we’re not following their advice correctly (ha!), but it all seems pretty common sense to me, and really helped June get in a great rhythm with eating, sleeping, and playing from the start. There are definitely gaps where I’d love more information (such as what the recommendation wake times are for certain ages), but it’s still been very helpful for us. [Buy]
The Nursing Mother’s Companion. This is another book that was sometimes very overwhelming as I was reading it (while still pregnant), and actually left me feeling more discouraged about breastfeeding than before I read it. It seemed so complicated! There were so many things that could go wrong! But, now being on the other side, I’m so glad I read it, and think it really helped to set me up for success with a really solid foundation. So, I would definitely recommend it, but just remember that much of what she talks about will never happen to you! :) [Buy]
ONE PICK FOR OLDER KIDS:
Simplicity Parenting. I found that I already agreed with and intrinsically knew the premise of this book — “the power of less” to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids — but it was still a worthwhile read. I skimmed a lot of this book (it’s a little repetitive), but was still happy for the reminder and encouragement! [Borrow]
There you have it! I’d love to hear what books on pregnancy or littles y’all would recommend, or any thoughts on the ones I’ve listed here! I’m looking forward to reading Bringing Up Bebe and Last Child in the Woods next :)
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4 April 2016
Have I mentioned yet that we loved our time in the hospital after June was born? :) I was lucky to give birth in a beautiful, comfy, state-of-the-art facility, which played a role, but the biggest factor by far was our nurses. We didn’t spend much time on the delivery side, but everyone who took care of us on the post-partum floor was so kind, skilled, and encouraging. They made our stay a joy and our recovery swift. John and I said to each other over and over throughout our stay (and in the weeks after!), “Nurses are the best!!” Seriously, they are my new favorite people.
We wanted to do a little something to thank them, so last week June and I took a care package to the hospital. We assembled some of our favorite sweet and savory snacks from Whole Foods (including fresh berries, which I added after this photo!). I wanted some way to corral everything, but buying a basket seemed silly. Instead, I cut the top off a Whole Foods grocery bag and painted bright stripes with paint I had on hand. Happy and recyclable :)
I wanted to bake them something, but John thought they might be weirded out by unpackaged goodies from someone they didn’t know. Hmph. I think he’s the weird one, but went with pre-packaged snacks anyway :)
The most important part, though, was the note. I hope it encouraged these wonderful ladies, as their job is not easy, but makes such a huge difference to families at a vulnerable time. One tip: if you’d like to remember the names of your nurses, make sure you write them down while at the hospital! I never would have remembered them all three months later!!
Any other ideas for sweet thank yous for nurses? I’d love to hear!
10 March 2016
I have so many posts that involve Miss June in the queue! Posts about her birth, her nursery, books I read while pregnant, the first six weeks, and her newborn photos are all in various stages of completion… but today, since I’m definitely not going in chronological order, I wanted to share the photos from my North Carolina baby shower!
Before I do, however, I have to mention that I also had a wonderful baby shower in Connecticut, hosted by my sisters-in-law, Natalie and Marget. This one was much larger – maybe 40 guests, including extended family, childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, and my Mom’s friends :) It was in a cozy room with a fireplace at the Norwich Inn & Spa, and the favors were the adorable sugar cookies below! Even though I don’t have too many photos from it, I treasured this day, and the chance to see so many New England loved ones, SO much. The thoughtful details by my two main Thomas squeezes were just the icing on the cake!
My second shower, in North Carolina, I DO have photos from – mainly because a talented photographer was the co-hostess. You may recall that I co-hosted a woodland-themed baby shower for sweet Nancy back in the spring, and I was tickled that she volunteered to team up with my sisters and return the favor a few months later!
My younger sister Kim and Nancy took the lead on organizing everything, and they did an amazing job. They decided on a “blueberry” theme, a nod to our nickname for June while I was pregnant. There were SO many sweet details – here’s a peek!
My older sister Kate unleashed all of her pent up miniature food recipes on this gathering, and it was glorious. Treats included mini Caesar salads in parmesan cups, mini pulled pork tacos, mini cups of mac and cheese, mini stuffed peppers, and cucumber tea sandwiches. Ashley Cakes contributed adorable sweets, including mini cupcakes and hand-painted cookies!
Finally, the gals thought up the cutest shower activity. Since June’s nursery has a light horse theme, they provided a little plastic horse for each guest to paint. I know she (or at the very least, I) will love playing with them in a few years!!
For more photos from the shower and for Nancy’s perspective, take a peek at our feature on The Little Umbrella! Big hugs again to these ladies for arranging this special day for me!
P.S. My little niece below – ha!!
Photography: Nancy Ray | Invitations: Minted | Bonjour Blueberry print: Maison Everett | Flowers: English Garden Raleigh | Sweets: Ashley Cakes
19 February 2016
While pregnant, I loved reading through other gals’ tips for packing a go bag and for the hospital stay. I took them all into account as we made our plans, and now that I’m on the other side, I wanted to share some of my own tips to complete the circle! My experience actually led to some very different advice from what I read, so I’ll be curious to see how much of it resonates with y’all. And just as a reminder, I ended up having a c-section, so that’s the perspective I’m writing from! (Although I think much of it is relevant for any type of birth!) Here we go!
1. Pack selectively. I would guess we didn’t use 75% of what we packed for our stay, and we didn’t even pack that much! Our time in the hospital was constrained to just a few things — namely, getting to know June, taking care of her, and healing — and those activities have simple needs. Things that we DID use: a big towel for showers (the hospital’s were small and scratchy); our camera and other devices, including chargers; toiletries; two pillows (the ones on the bed were fine for me, but John used both on the couch!); clothes and a few snacks for John; and going-home outfits for June and myself. I had purchased things like a pair of cozy but cheap socks, a sleep t-shirt/gown, and button-up pajamas in advance, but didn’t end up using any of them (see below). One thing we wish we had brought? John’s Crocs! He had sneakers, but they just don’t compare to the cushioning of the Crocs. With all the time he spent on his feet walking, changing, and tending to June, he needed every bit of comfort he could get!
2. Wear the gown. As I mentioned above, I didn’t end up wearing any of the clothing I brought except for the outfit I wore home. Instead, I found it much more convenient and comfortable to wear the hospital gown at all times! That way, I wasn’t struggling with clothing as June and I learned to nurse, and everyone else who needed access had it easily (with a c-section, my incision was checked regularly and there was lots of looking at my abdomen). I also wore comfy socks provided by the hospital.
3. Get Dad in the game. A silver lining to having a c-section was that John was an equal partner in everything June from day one. I fed her and cuddled her, but that was about it – he was responsible for all diapering, swaddling, walking, and more. He also took charge of tracking her feedings and diapers, which was so helpful for me and another way for us to work as a team. I can’t recommend enough establishing equal footing in care as early as possible!
On another note, at my lowest point, when I was feeling the most pain and was pretty tired, this was actually a bit hard for me – I felt like John was doing everything and I was totally useless, and it had me in tears. If you find yourself in the same spot, know that you’re doing everything you should be doing, and everything you can, even if it doesn’t seem like much… and that there will be plenty of opportunities to do more as you heal!
4. Talk to the lactation consultant. Speaking of accepting help… talk to the lactation consultant! Talk to more than one! (The consultant we saw on the second day was much more helpful than the first one!) We did a lot of preparing for breastfeeding in advance (books and classes), but nothing can compare to having someone watching, guiding, and making suggestions when you actually have a baby in your arms! The tips, advice, and encouragement we got from our consultant were SO helpful and really set us up for success.
5. Walk, walk, walk. This tip is for my c-section friends! From what I can tell, I recovered remarkably quickly and completely from surgery, and the main thing I can contribute that to is our intense walking habit! My first (very, very slow) lap around the hallway was 12 hours after my surgery on the arm of a nurse. The hospital encouraged us to walk as much as possible, so even though it was painful at first, we tried to walk after almost every feeding day and night (roughly every three hours). John joked that our first trip was literally the slowest he’s ever walked (I took two steps for every one-foot tile), but by the end of our stay, I was walking pretty much normally. Walking also helped with gas pain, as you’ll see below…
6. Watch out for gas pain. Again, this is specifically for my c-section friends. I didn’t do a lot of research into c-sections during pregnancy since I wasn’t expecting to have one, so a lot of what happened was new to me. But something I had never heard of in relation to c-sections, either from books or the experience of friends, was gas pain! Apparently this is a side-effect limited not only to c-sections but any type of surgery where you’re opened up. Gas can get trapped inside you, causing sharp shooting pains – mine were mainly in my shoulders and thighs. It was worst about 36 hours after June’s delivery, and the pain was sharper than anything from my incision — every breath hurt. The nurses encouraged us to walk as much as possible to help alleviate it, and they gave me simethicone, which also helped. The pain subsided about 72 hours out.
6. Enjoy your stay. Since I had a c-section, we were in the hospital for three nights, and a few friends recommended that we try to get discharged early. My response? Heck no. We absolutely loved our hospital visit and planned to stay as long as they would let us! Of course, I think a lot of this had to do with our excellent hospital (we actually kept mistakenly referring to it as a hotel) and fabulous nurses, but also with our mindset. I know a lot of people get annoyed by the interruptions (and there are a lot, at all times of the day and night), but most, like getting your vitals checked, are over within minutes. I chose to think of them as people helping to keep me and June healthy, which made them welcome, and not annoying, visitors. (Also, don’t hesitate to ask them to come back in a little bit – I did that several times while we were trying to nurse and they were always happy to do so!)
And make it fun! Though there were difficult and painful moments, overall, our time in the hospital felt so cozy, sweet, and set apart from reality. We kept the lights dim, didn’t have any visitors, and focused only on getting to know June. We ate all the jello, apple juice, and Italian ice we wanted. We ordered ice cream with lunch. We FaceTimed with family and watched a Duke game. We napped. We marveled at June’s tiny fingers and adorable face. Your hospital stay is not the time to get on any sort of diet, compose dozens of beautifully-lit photos for social media, or answer email!
7. Consider your visitation policy. As I mentioned above, we chose not to have any visitors while in the hospital. This kind of happened naturally, since all of our family lives a plane ride away, but it ended up being so good for us. Those first few days are so tender in so many ways. Especially with a c-section recovery and dealing with pain, I wouldn’t have felt up to seeing anyone before our third day in the hospital, anyway. We did get to chat with family through FaceTime and extensive texting, but it was so nice not to have to worry about wearing normal clothes, looking presentable, or coordinating visitors and nursing. (And yes, I know our families wouldn’t have cared about any of those things, but they would have been on my mind!) We knew there would be lots of time in the future to share our little with loved ones, and so loved keeping those few days just to ourselves.
I have lots to share about our first two weeks home from the hospital, so that will be coming next! I hope this post is helpful, and would love to hear if my tips resonate with y’all or if you had a different experience!