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Now that my daughter is two weeks old I finally feel like I have a minute to write down the beautiful story of how she came into this world. Even now it seems surreal that I grew this little person inside my body and had the strength to birth her, by far the most intense, overwhelming,empowering experience of my entire life.

I went into labor at exactly 41 weeks. Earlier that day I had been feeling so depressed and discouraged that she was never going to come. I spent most of the morning in bed, tired and exhausted by the fact that another night had passed and I had not gone into labor. At my prenatal appointment three days before I was only 1 cm dilated, 50% effaced, and at a +1 station. To make things more gloomy I wasn’t exhibiting any of the traditional signs before labor. Other than a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions, I felt like  labor could still be many days away.

We were scheduled the following day for an ultrasound and a non-stress test to make sure that everything was still going well. I was starting to wrap my mind around the possibility that induction might become a necessity if she didn’t make her debut soon. Trying to avoid that I made an appointment with an acupuncturist who assured me that after two treatments I would go into labor on my own. As it turns out I never needed it!

My husband and I went to bed around 10 o’clock that night. I listened to the Hypnobabies  track “Come Out, Baby!” which I’d been listening to almost every day for the last three weeks to no avail, but whether coincidental or not, this time it seemed to work! Around 11:30 PM I woke up with lots of cramping. Knowing how anxious I was to get into labor,  I knew there was a strong possibility that this was just another false start. But after a few minutes the crampy feeling was still there and I decided to go to the bathroom. That was when I saw all the blood, and I knew something was starting for real!

I woke my husband up and told him what I was experiencing, rather nonchalantly mentioning that I thought this could possibly be labor because I didn’t want him to get too excited. Of course that didn’t work! The cramps were getting stronger so I decided that we should start timing them. They were three minutes apart, lasting 45 seconds each time. I was so surprised at how quickly they were coming. I had pictured during labor  we would have hours and hours of early, well-spaced contractions where I would need distractions while we waited for things to progress. But when my labor started it was fast, strong, and consistent.

We called the midwife on call who happened to be one of our favorites. My husband told her my status, and she said it still sounded like it was early labor. She told me to try a hot bath to see if that would slow down the contractions. She also told me to take a sleeping pill to see if I could get a couple of hours of rest since it was early in the morning and we had what we thought was a long road ahead. The hubs ran me a bath. The water felt great but it did nothing to stop my contractions or even slow them down. After getting out of the tub I decided we needed to go ahead and call our doula who after hearing about my close contractions come over immediately. We called the birthing center back, told him that nothing had changed and that my contractions were actually getting closer together.

Our doula came over andI labored upstairs in the bedroom with my husband holding my hand, my doula rubbing my back, and our sweet little dog Lucy licking my arm. At that point the contractions were so strong that I had begun to vocalize a lot. It was absolutely uncontrollable. It didn’t take long for me notice how hoarse my voice felt after only a few hours of strong contractions. My husband did a great job of keeping me hydrated and even got me to nibble a little bit on crackers in between, but the contractions were so fast I hardly had any time to do much except try to let go of the one that had passed.

Around 4:30 in the morning we decided it was time to going to the birth center. At that point my contractions were between two and three minutes apart and getting very strong. The 40 minute car ride was the most excruciating part of the entire experience because there was absolutely no way for me to get comfortable. The road was incredibly foggy; I can’t imagine how stressful that was for my husband as he tried to drive us safely while I was moaning and making all kinds of other noises through the contractions.

We got to the birth center and got settled into our room. The midwife needed to check me but with my contractions so close together, I struggled to find a time in between them for her to do that. After she checked me she asked me, “Do you want to know how far along you are?” Originally in my birth plan I had said that I didn’t want to know how dilated I was, but with the contractions so close together I was more curious. I said that I wanted to know only if it was good news. As it turns out, I was already dilated 7 cm!

I decided to go ahead and get into the bathtub to see if the water could help with the really intense feelings I was having through the contractions. I ended up staying in there for the rest of the time. I labored on my back for a while. When the midwife checked me again an hour or so later, she said I just had about a centimeter to go and urged me to try squatting with my arms draped over the side of the tub. It was so uncomfortable and I reached out for both my husband and doula to hold my hands. But it was very effective! After about three contractions in that position, the midwife checked me again and that was when my water broke. The sensation was so intense that for a moment I lost control and started to panic a bit. I was so scared by the intensity of the experience. My team of support brought me back to a place of calm and I kept telling myself, “You can do this. You can do this.”

At around 7:30 AM I was ready to push. Even though I was exhausted I grateful to finally have something active to do. I immediately felt focused and determined; I was going to get this baby out! The midwife coached me on how to push. Unfortunately she could only stay for about an hour before the midwives changed shifts. I was devastated to learn that the next midwife to come on call was Elke, the one midwife we did not connect with well at all. I was on the verge of tears at the thought of having her there. But then I thought to myself, she isn’t doing any of this. I am the one who is doing this! It didn’t matter who was there, I had the strength and focus to do this.

When 8:30 rolled around, the other midwife came into the room, and I did my best to not look too disgusted. As it turns out she really wasn’t that terrible, just socially inept and awkward. But I did know one thing for certain: she wouldn’t be sugarcoating anything so when she told me that I was pushing effectively, I knew that she was telling the truth. Pushing was so intense but it was the kind of thing that I could manage because it had a very specific pattern. Each time I felt the contraction I would take a deep breath and hold it as I pushed, take another breath, and push again. For each contraction I pushed about four or five times, and it was the same pattern each time. I knew that the first one would be terrible but that the second third and fourth would feel like I was really making progress. Mentally I knew that if I could get through that first push, I would be making good progress.

I had no idea what time it was, but I knew that I’ve been pushing for a very long time. Everyone kept telling me that I was doing great, but I started to feel like I was never going to get her out. In the end I pushed for four hours. I have no idea how I mustered up the energy to do that. At several points I almost leapt from laying on my back into a squatting position in the tub, and everyone was shocked by how agile I was after such a long time of pushing. Let’s just say I was highly motivated.

Finally at 11:28 AM on October 27th I gave it that final push that brought my beautiful, perfect daughter into the world. The midwife caught her and put her on my chest. It was the most exhilarating  feeling I have ever experienced. I thought I would cry but instead I just felt this enormous high as I heard her cry for the first time. She was so beautiful! I couldn’t believe that just moments ago she had been inside of me and now she was here in my arms.

As it turns out, my daughter had been asynclitic and had come down the birth canal a bit cockeyed, which is why it took me so long to get her out. I found out later that many, many women end up with C-sections because the baby can often get stuck. Even though it was exhausting to push for that long, I am so grateful that I got the birth that I envisioned–med-free at the birth center, in the water. I feel fortunate that pain medication and other interventions were not necessary. I completely understand why women want and/or need epidurals and would not have turned one down if advised by my midwife to get one, but I’m just thankful that it didn’t come to that in my case.

We are so blessed to have this little girl join our family. She is bringing us so much joy!

This is basically what my day looks like now that I’m nearing the end of pregnancy.

  • Wake up every hour and a half to pee
  • Muster up the energy to get out of bed and put on sweatpants that sit below my bump
  • Take fifteen minutes to put on sneakers for a ten minute walk with the dog
  • Huff and puff up the hill out of our neighborhood
  • Check work email and to do list
  • Push 95% of to do items to the next day
  • Suffer searing rib pain and move to the couch
  • Make raspberry leaf tea and drink half of a cup before it gets cold
  • Watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix
  • Take work calls from my bed
  • Hypnobabies practice (aka nap time…ZZZZZzzzzz)
  • Stare at the nursery
  • Do completely unnecessary household tasks, like washing slipcovers of couch pillows
  • Watch husband make dinner and eat only half of it
  • Unabashedly scoop out at least three servings of ice cream for dessert
  • Choke down daily regimen of pregnancy-related supplements (prenatal vitamin, evening primrose oil (both ways…), and 5-W)
  • Spend half an hour rearranging pillows for optimum sleeping comfort
  • Pee three times before settling in for bed

There you have it!

Unlike mannacakepie who had a totally legitimate excuse for not blogging (yay babycakepie!), I’ve just been lazy. And you know what, I don’t even feel that guilty about it. I’ve decided that from now on, my job is to take it easy. For one my body is demanding it. The second I get a little too ambitious with work or cleaning or errands, my body starts resisting and I’m forced to take a nap to recover.

Speaking of naps, I’m having all kinds of dreams about babies and some that on the surface appear to be non-baby related but really are. The other night I had a dream that I had signed up to run a half marathon. I realized, “Wait, I haven’t been training for a half marathon!!” But I knew in my gut that despite my lack of training, I could do it.

It’s a great metaphor for the birth experience and parenting. There’s really no way to prepare for it, although I think I’ve attempted every possible way to do so. But I trust my body to do what it’s been designed to do, and I trust that I’ll be able to figure out the parenting thing just like other people do.

I think this Hypnobabies positivity is really rubbing off on me!

She believed she could

I saw this gorgeous picture on the Hypnobabies Facebook page and was pleased to know that it’s a print available on Etsy. All of her images are inspiring, empowering, and women-affirming. Check it out.

For my fellow moms-to-be, we got this!

I can honestly say that part of the reason I haven’t been posting is because I have been belly-deep in Hypnobabies class! If you’re interested in the class, there is a ton of information on their website, but I’ll give you my take on it so far.

Hypnobabies assumes the following: in the United States, portrayals of birth in the media are overwhelmingly frantic and traumatic with women in agonizing pain, screaming at their partners, and demanding pain medication at the first sign of discomfort. Because very few of us witness a birth before our own, these images are usually the only ones our brains have to formulate an idea of what birth is, namely something to be dreaded and feared. When the body is afraid and anticipating pain, it tenses up. Our uteruses actually have muscles that can constrict when the body senses danger in order to stop the birthing process. When we were out in the wild and hunted by predators, this was a good thing because we could find a safer place to deliver. But nowadays it’s not very useful and often prolongs the birthing process unnecessarily or leads to interventions that we might rather avoid.

Hypnobabies is designed to retrain the subconscious part of the brain to believe and accept that birth can be comfortable and even pleasant. It does so through self-hypnosis scripts and exercises that facilitate deep relaxation and positive ideas around pregnancy and birth. Through repeating these positive messages and teaching deep relaxation techniques, Hypnobabies aims for mothers and their support systems to approach birth in a relaxed, gentle way.

Yeah, yeah…so what does this all mean? It means that I have completely chilled the f*** out since starting this class. Seriously, remember my anxiety post?  I can honestly say that is is incredibly rare for me to feel even the slightest hint of anxiety around my pregnancy. For the last three weeks I have dedicated at least 30-45 minutes to doing a self-hypnosis script and since starting the class a week and a half ago, I’ve been listening daily to pregnancy affirmations, which sound so cheesy at first (“I enjoy eating healthy foods everyday for my baby” and “Babies are born on their birthdays, not when doctors decide”) but honestly they have made me think about pregnancy and birth in a new way. I’m starting to feel more confident in my body’s ability to birth and anticipating birth as something slow and requiring patience.

Another bonus is all of the partner work required, which has brought my husband and me much closer together. Every other day he reads a script to me, we read the materials together, and practice communications exercises. It all sounds a bit hokey but once we decided we were in, we were completely committed to the process 100%. I now see the birth as a real team effort whereas before I saw him more as a helper of sorts.

The best part? Our doula is teaching the class, and the only other couple who signed up has since dropped out. That means we have completely private instruction for the next month and lots of time to get to know one another. I’m starting to think of the three of us as my “birthing team” and how less alone I feel now that I have this amazing support the entire way. Go team!

That’s right! I’m officially in my third trimester, and I have to say, those miserable days of the first trimester seem long gone. Thankfully I have the posts to remember it, so that when I encounter some woman in her first trimester, I’ll hopefully show her more sympathy than I got.

What’s most amazing about this phase of my pregnancy is how much I’ve mentally and emotionally shifted over the last month. With my little girl kicking up a storm, my belly unmistakable in its baby bump shape, and October getting closer and closer, I’m beginning to think of myself as a mother, as a parent. 

I’m working on a book chapter and was asked to send in a bio. Presuming the publication date is months ago, I edited the one I had to include a sentence about having a daughter. It wasn’t the most profound moment of my pregnancy, but it was up there on the list. It felt bold and presumptuous and amazing to write that. Just a few more months and I’ll go from pregnant with a girl to the mother of a daughter. Wow. 

A couple of exciting things ahead: on Saturday we have our baby shower and we start our Hypnobabies class! I’ve already begun listening to the first few hypnosis scripts daily, and it’s amazing how peaceful and confident I feel afterward. Focusing on the birthing process as something natural and not something to be feared is so important for those of us living in a culture like the United States that teaches us that birth is something horrible (but that babies are great). I’ll share more about my experience with Hypnobabies as we learn and practice more. 

Third trimester, let’s do this! 

When I got married, I had a lot of expectations about how people would celebrate with us. I guess I hoped people would do what I would do when invited the wedding–attend the wedding if possible, but regardless of attending, pick out a nice card and send a gift. I used to think that this was just what people do. As it turns out, it’s what some people do, but others do not. This resulted in a lot of hurt feelings that I had to deal with in the months after. I had to tell myself that it wasn’t an indicator of how people felt about our friendship or my marriage. But still, it hurt. 

Fast forward to a few months ago when two good out-of-town friends said that they wanted to throw us a baby shower. Part of me felt extremely guilty about it. They wanted to travel to throw us a shower? It seemed too generous. But eventually I just moved to a place of deep gratitude that my friends would show up for me in this special way and tried to make it as easy on them as possible by not being demanding about any of the details. I just asked that the shower be a fun time and for the love of God, please have alcohol available to those who aren’t pregnant. 

With a baby shower (usually) comes a baby registry. My husband and I were clueless, so we turned to the good folks at Lucie’s List and the Amazon reviewers to guide our choices about car seats, strollers, and other baby gear. We opted for some high-ticket items, figuring we’d purchase them ourselves after the shower with the nice 15% Amazon Mom discount. But a few days ago when I went to send the registry link to a family member, I noticed that most of our big items weren’t showing up anymore. Like our two strollers. And our pack-and-play. And our fancy swing. And our baby monitor. 

Wait a sec. That meant all of these things had been purchased? Someone actually bought us these things? 

Suddenly I was filled with this overwhelming feeling of support and love. Never had it occurred to me that people would actually be able to, much less want to purchase these things for us and for our daughter. I guess I was too worried about being disappointed that I unfairly lowered my expectations about my family and friends.

For me having a shower is about more than baby gear, as nice as it is. It’s more about our community of support coming together and telling us, “We are so excited for you, and we want to participate in your new life as parents.”

What a tremendous, unexpected gift. 

When I think about what I miss most about life pre-pregnancy, there are a lot of things I miss: wine, my flat stomach, a relatively ache-and-pain-free life. But I don’t miss any of these as much as I miss being treated like a competent person. In other words, I miss my life that was fairly free of unsolicited advice.

I’m tired of smug parents who act like they invented having babies and that without their words of wisdom, you’re totally going to fail at this raising kids thing. If I hear one person say something along the lines of “just you wait…” I’m going to fucking lose it! 

This came to a head last night when we were celebrating the 4th with our friends who adopted a son last year and their church friends who have a 2-year-old daughter a newborn son. The adopted parents are the shit and are super cool about how they go about interacting with their son. But their friends? OM-fucking-G. I wanted to strangle them! The mother in particular kept bringing up all of the negative things about pregnancy and raising small kids. When I shared about my plans for a birthing center delivery sans drugs, she smugly said, “Oh yeah, that’s what I thought I’d have with my first…” 

After about the 14th or 15th negative comment of “just you wait” kind of bullshit, I finally said to her, “Yes, you keep warning me about all of the hard things to expect. Are there parts of parenting that you enjoy that I should look forward to?” Inside I was fuming, but my husband said my tone was actually very respectful but also communicated clearly, “I’m tired of hearing your whining.” The woman couldn’t answer me! She deflected my question completely. (Did I mention that her two-year-old was kind of an asshole? She was.) 

I’m not in the business of judging how people parent. But when you sit there and tell me exactly how things are going to go and how awful it’s going to be, I WILL assert my desire to change the subject and I WILL point out that everything you say is negative and unhelpful. In the nicest way possible of course. At least I’ll try.

What would I really like people to say? Something along the lines of, “Parenting is hard, but you’ll figure it out just like everyone else does. And while it’s a lot of work, it’s also a lot of fun.” DON’T tell me about how difficult your child is, especially when she’s sitting right there and can hear everything you’re saying about her. Tell me the things you LOVE about being a parent. Give me the benefit of the doubt that I am just as smart, capable, and loving as you are, and I will figure it out just like you did. 

What’s the worst unsolicited advice you’ve gotten about trying to get pregnant, pregnancy, birthing, or parenting? 

I’ve been pondering topics I could write about: exercise (telling y’all all about how I’ve kept up my activity and thus feeling better about myself); babymoon part 2 (having a grand time in Grand Cayman, yay); other nice, sweet sounding things that aren’t particularly emotionally charged. But then I thought, what would be the point of that? Making myself feel better? It would’ve just been filler.

What I really ought to write about is how I broke down in tears. On my birthday. Multiple times. Most notably in the dressing room while trying on maternity clothes.

Context is key here. My birthday was two days after a week in Grand Cayman celebrating my father-in-law turning 70. (Clearly that overshadowed my own birthday as it should have.) When we got home, the hubs and I were feeling pretty exhausted from travel and I just didn’t want to go out to eat anymore because we’d just spent a week doing that. A few weeks earlier the hubs had admitted that he was really struggling to come up with gifts for me, so I suggested that he take me shopping instead. What a fun idea–picking out whatever I want! Oh yeah, except for that pesky little fact that I’m pregnant and my clothing choices have been reduced to a 10’x 10′ section in a department store, hidden all the way in the back like they’re ashamed of it. 

Despite the limited selection, I did manage to find a few cute things I wanted to try on, but all went downhill once I actually started taking off my clothes and I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. God, I hardly recognized myself. My legs were less defined than I’d ever seen them (despite the constant working out I’ve done). My breasts looked huge (for me, not a plus). But nothing prepared me for gazing at my full-on pregnant belly that seemed to have swollen overnight. I swear, to my eyes I looked like Violet Beauregarde from Willy Wonka (minus the blue skin). And I started to bawl.

None of this is rational. I get it–I’m pregnant. I’m gestating a human that’s growing everyday. I will gain weight. I will get bigger. I will have a huge belly. Yeah, I GET IT. That does not mean I feel any differently when I see a huge version of myself that I hardly recognize anymore. Is this that hard to understand? It makes perfect sense. I live in a culture that tells me to be thinner, thinner, thinner all the freaking time, and I know as soon as this little girl comes out, it’s going to be the same damn thing again. I can’t just block out those messages that I’ve heard everyday for 31 years as I watch the scale climb up, up, UP each week.

This pregnancy thing is no joke. It’s hard, especially on the heart.

20 weeks, y’all.

Most of my reflections this week have been on how I’m forming my pregnancy team, which in addition to my husband, friends, and family includes:

  • A group of awesome midwives at the birthing center
  • A doula
  • A psychologist
  • A prenatal yoga teacher
  • A chiropractor
  • A prenatal masseuse (soon to be added)

I’m not one who generally reaches out for help. I tend to deal with things on my own, but with the pregnancy being such an intense experience, I’ve been working on reaching out to get the help I need. I just feel privileged to have the resources and finances to access all of these amazing people who specialize in caring for pregnant women. At this point I’m open to anything and anyone who might make this process easier for me.

Allowing all of these people into my pregnancy has me battling my own deep discomfort with vulnerability. My psychologist and I have been digging into why I have the anxiety I do about medical professionals, but that process will take months if not years to work through. In the meantime I’m just jumping in despite the anxiety in order to get the help I need, even if it makes me cringe inside initially. (Nothing like some sharp, stabbing lower back pain to get a person to the chiropractor asap.) It helps that all of these people are incredibly kind, caring, and understanding people.

So, whatever stage of this journey you’re on (TTC, pregnant, new mom), I’m curious: who’s on your team? Who’s supporting you?