Pregnancy

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We’re on full-fledged Baby Watch 2015, and in honor of my pregnancy that is now 39 weeks 1 day, I’m publishing a post from September that’s been sitting in my drafts folder.

The lasting affects of miscarriage  |  nextlifechapter.com

I can see my feet if I’m sitting down and I swing them way out.

 

After I wrote this post back in March I intended to write an entire series on my experience with miscarriage, but then, I got pregnant. (Maybe part of it was that I didn’t feel emotionally ready to talk about miscarriage and “out myself” until I was able to start trying again.)

Since I had a history of miscarriage, my midwifery practice let me have an early ultrasound at seven weeks. This is about as early as a heartbeat can be detected. When I was pregnant with Adelaide I didn’t get that reassuring ultrasound until 12 weeks and that’s one of the factors that made my first miscarriage so devastating–I didn’t find out the pregnancy wasn’t viable until 12 weeks into it.

For those of you who haven’t been pregnant before, you’re considered about four weeks pregnant when you miss your period (depending how regular your cycles are) and that’s about the time you can get a positive pregnancy test. Doctors and midwives usually track your pregnancy by the first day of your last period. Most women don’t know the exact date they conceived, but the first day of your last period is a date most women can figure out (especially those actively trying to conceive). So, when you ovulate, you’re already “2 weeks pregnant”–at least for tracking purposes.

Anyway, I say this because between the time of getting that positive pregnancy test and then getting that early seven-week ultrasound, is about three weeks. Three very long, anxiety-ridden weeks. Weeks where you figure out your due date and think about all that would mean, while at the same time trying not to get your hopes up, trying not to think too much about the future, trying to stay “in the moment.”

During those three weeks I thought a lot about mindfulness. Primarily I thought about how little I know about mindfulness and how much I’d like to learn. During those three weeks I told very few people about the positive pregnancy test. Of course, Tim knew. He has been at my side through it all. I even made Tim and Adelaide take photos with the positive pregnancy tests. Adelaide didn’t know what she was holding up for the camera, so no harm done. I also made them do this for the two miscarriage positive pregnancy tests–I’ve kept those images, but they’re hidden on an external hard drive because they just make me sad.

Then, I told my sister (she lives far away but provided moral support over the phone). I also told my friend Brooke. Brooke has been my pregnancy confidant. She is the little sister of my friend Amy who died of cancer a few years ago. Brooke is the same age my sister, and we became friends when Amy got sick and Brooke moved to Philly. Although Brooke doesn’t live here anymore, she has been a great email pen pal. She has been through more than her share of heartbreak and loss (both early and late pregnancy). She was also pregnant this summer and a great voice of positivity–staying positive and thinking about the end result. The mantra: This is the perfect pregnancy. I’m so blessed for my two happy, healthy children.

So, we had that early ultrasound at seven weeks. Unlike my miscarriages, all three components were there. There was 1) a gestational sac 2) something in the gestational sac, and 3) that something had a heartbeat. It was one of the most nerve-wracking days knowing that after the ultrasound we would either be devastated once again or completely ecstatic. The news was good, we were flying high and the next day I had a doctor’s appointment where the midwife said now that a heartbeat had been detected, my chance for miscarriage went from around 25-30% to only 1 or 2%.

Fast forward to now and I’m 26 weeks pregnant. The genetics testing is over, even our 20-week anatomy scan showed “nothing of concern.” Each month at my midwife appointment they check the heartbeat and it has always been great.

Still, I worry. The result of having suffered miscarriage is that I no longer have the naivety of not knowing any better. I know first-hand what loss feels like, and I have witnessed stillbirth once removed as it happened to my dear friend.

A couple of weeks ago, at 24 weeks, I found myself worried to tears over the fact I didn’t feel as if the baby had been moving as much as the several days prior. I know you’re not even technically supposed to be tracking kicks as early as 24 weeks, and I assume that’s because it’s unpredictable. Still, I worried. I worried something was wrong. I worried I would lose her.

 

Now that I’m 39 weeks and anxiously awaiting “the day” at any time, I still worry. I find myself stopping my excitement and holding back on wanting to fill the empty drawers with Adelaide’s hand-me-down newborn clothes. I want to meet this little girl as soon as possible because while pregnant I feel so completely out of control. I want to hold her in my arms and know that she is okay.

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As promised in yesterday’s gender reveal post, here is the video of us telling Adelaide she’s going to be a big sister. As a child in the two-year-old room at school, Adelaide started to notice that all of her friends were “getting babies.” I had noticed it too. One-by-one nearly all the moms in Adelaide’s class started showing increasingly big bellies. One-by-one they started bringing babies home from the hospital.

“I want a baby Silas like Gwen,” Adelaide told us one day. She called her baby doll Silas when playing with him. At this point we were already trying, and I told her, “We’ll have to talk to Daddy about it.”

Then, a several weeks later when Colin’s mom delivered a baby girl, she told us she wanted a girl baby like Colin. We already knew we were pregnant by this point, but we didn’t yet know the sex and we hadn’t shared any of the news with her (although I did make her pose for pictures holding up my positive pregnancy tests–she had no idea).

“When you get a baby you don’t get to pick whether it’s a girl baby or a boy baby,” I explained to her while walking home from school one day. “Having a boy baby would be fun too.”

“No. I want a girl baby like Colin,” she said.

“Well, Silas is a boy baby and Gwen loves her baby brother. If we get a baby we will love the baby if it’s a girl or it’s a boy.”

I don’t think I convinced her. We decided to wait and tell Adelaide our good news until after we saw and heard the heartbeat, after the genetics testing came back okay. We told her just a couple of days before our wedding anniversary where we opened the card that revealed the baby’s sex. We tried to control Adelaide’s expectations and since she has no concept of time, we told her the baby wasn’t going to come for a long time. The baby still had a lot of growing to do, and it wouldn’t come until after Christmas, when it got cold.

Big Sister Announcement from nextlifechapter on Vimeo.

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A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

I can’t believe I’ve kept this a blogging secret for so long. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure why I haven’t announced it before now. When I was pregnant with Adelaide, I posted about her gender reveal right away.

I was equally excited to find out the sex this time, but the second time around has felt different for various reasons.

  1. I felt much more sick this pregnancy. I started to feel better around 16 weeks (which seems like a long time ago now), but it did keep me from blogging as much as I wanted this summer. In my “free” time (read: in the evenings after Adelaide was asleep or on the weekends while she was napping), all I wanted to do was nap or go to bed early.
  2. I’ve been more worried and reserved this time around. Miscarriage will do that to you.
  3. I’m busy! I have a full-time job outside the house, and this time I have to keep up with a 3-year-old as well.

Since technology has advanced since 2011 and since I’m over 35 this time around, we had a cell-free fetal DNA genetic test when I was only 10 weeks pregnant. Apparently, DNA from the placenta is in my blood so a simple blood test was able to indicate increased risk for a few genetic mutations as well as reveal gender. In my first pregnancy I didn’t find out the gender until the anatomy ultrasound scan at 20 weeks. This time, I had the results back before 13 weeks.

During my first pregnancy there was some debate over whether or not to find out the baby’s sex. Tim won that debate and obviously, we found out. Still, until I could verify for myself, I was paranoid the rest of my pregnancy that they got it wrong. This time we knew we wanted to find out, and I knew I would feel more confident in the result since a blood test doesn’t allow for much error. I had the test at the end of June.

Last time we brought a card to the 20-week scan and had the ultrasound technician write the gender inside. She sealed the envelope and Tim and I opened the card together a few days later when we were away from the sterile hospital environment (and when I didn’t have to immediately return to work).

This time, the genetics counselor said she could call us with the results of the baby’s sex. She said she even had pdfs for, “It’s a girl” and “It’s a boy” that she could send via email for us to open together. She said she drew the line at calling the bakery for a gender reveal cake, but if we gave her the name of a friend and wanted him/her to call, the friend could communicate the gender reveal to the bakery for us.

Our parents both live out of town and we thought it a little presumptuous to think our friends would care enough about the gender to attend a gender reveal party. We decided to do the card thing again.

I purchased a cute card and inside wrote, “It’s a _______.” Then I dropped it off at the genetic counselor’s office with a self-addressed stamped envelope. Tim and I hoped the results would be back by the first week of July so we could open it together over dinner when we celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary. And that’s just what we did.

We dropped Adelaide off with her aunt and uncle in the suburbs and enjoyed a nice anniversary dinner. That morning I joked to Tim that maybe we shouldn’t open it. Maybe we should wait. He didn’t take my suggestion seriously. He said knowing would help with planning and I knew he was right. We already had so many girls clothes sitting in big rubbermaid bins in the basement–knowing whether or not we could reuse the majority of them seemed very helpful.

We didn’t tell Adelaide that she was getting a baby brother or sister until the afternoon before we did our gender reveal dinner. We knew she couldn’t keep a secret, and we didn’t want her to get her hopes up for a girl or boy without quickly being able to give her an answer. I took some video footage of us telling her she was going to be a big sister, and I’ll post it later this week.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

The card right before I flipped it open. We didn’t even wait for the appetizer course.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

It’s a girl!

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

We stopped at the grocery store on the way back from dinner and picked up a balloon to surprise Adelaide.

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

Big Sis!

A Private Gender Reveal: An Intimate Dinner and a Card  |  nextlifechapter.com

And baby makes four.

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instagramI just finished a fun “Bloggers Get Social” Instagram challenge. (Find me on Instagram @nextlifechapter.) It was a lot of fun trying to create or find a photo to represent the daily prompt. They’re doing another one for November, but I’ve decided to sit this one out. Instead, I’m going to try a blogging challenge.

The goal is to post every day this month, but I’m realistic enough to realize  that may be a little too ambitious. However, we have a new baby coming soon, Adelaide is now 3.25 years old and there are SO many things I’ve been meaning to write about–so many things I want to record before moving into our next life chapter. So, please consider subscribing to the blog, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter for new post updates. I’d like for this to be a place of conversation, so please feel free to comment, ask questions etc… I read every single comment and appreciate them all.

Happy November!

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The following is a post I wrote last October 15th, shortly after discovering it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I wanted to publish this post then, but I chose not to. Part of me wanted to share what had been going on with me and I’m a big believer that raw, vulnerable writing is powerful writing. However, raw, vulnerable writing isn’t always good writing. I guess I just decided to write about my experience on my own terms and not post just because it was some internationally recognized day. As this post sat waiting in my drafts folder, I wrote about loss a couple of times on this blog. Still, I never shared the details of what happened.

Since this October 2013 post, I went on to have another early miscarriage in January. And then, my much anticipated current pregnancy. I’m almost 28 weeks pregnant now, and everything seems to be going well. I feel so blessed, and in some ways my losses seem like bad dreams. Still, I worry. I will worry until I hold this baby in my arms (and then I’ll continue to worry for other reasons). I’m glad people are sharing their stories on this day and every day. Here’s mine:

pregnancy loss

October 15, 2013

This morning on Facebook I discovered that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I guess it’s a good thing, but boy if I didn’t have to close my door at work so I could cry for a few minutes. You see, the end of summer was a tough one in the Pannell household. When we should have been sharing the news of a new pregnancy–a baby to arrive in mid-March, I was instead telling the few we had shared our happy news with that it wasn’t going to happen.

At around 11 weeks, at my second doctor’s appointment, the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat. Later that day, from an ultrasound, it looked as if the gestation sac was empty–as in, the embryo didn’t grow beyond a few weeks. I only had five weeks to get used to the idea of bringing a new baby into our family, but I was making plans, getting excited, talking myself into the idea that a March baby would be perfect, that he/she and Adelaide would be the perfect age difference. I bought a winter maternity coat (although used and very inexpensive), I was planning the way we would announce the news to our parents.

The day we found out was an awful day. When I replay the day’s events in my head, I just feel sick to my stomach.

I wasn’t expecting to get pregnant so quickly. I was thinking three years apart would be good for us, but I was kind of hoping to be due a little earlier than July/August so I wouldn’t have to go through another hot summer being eight months pregnant. I thought being due in May or June would be perfect. I figured it would take a few months of trying so we started trying in June. I got pregnant right away and was due March 15 (the Ides of March). When we were due in March I really worried that the kids would be too close together. I had wanted them just shy of three years apart and they were only going to be about 2 years 6 or 7 months (depending on whether or not this second kid was early like Adelaide). Anyway, I had spent those five weeks of being pregnant convincing myself that this March due date was perfect. I thought about a maternity leave in March/April/May and how nice the weather would be. I thought about how we would all have our own birthday months and wouldn’t have to share a joint birthday party. At first I was worried that I had so many summer-ish maternity clothes, but then I bought that winter coat and just planned to wear leggings and cardigans with my summer dresses.

People who are due right around the time I would have been due are now announcing their pregnancies on Facebook and coming out of the woodwork. It sucks because we would have been making the same announcement to all our family and friends and people don’t even know that I would feel sad about it because very few people knew I was pregnant. (And of course, I’m happy for them, just sad for us.) This whole experience has made me more empathetic. My friend H has been struggling with infertility for years now. She finally got pregnant and then had a miscarriage at around 11 weeks. I remember her saying how hard it was as the due date approached. I totally didn’t get it then, but I understand more now. I also understand more now how hard it’s been for her to see so many pregnant women around her all the time (including close friends and co-workers). She’s a great sport and has been supportive, but I know she is hurting too.

I had only known I was pregnant for five weeks, but I was simply heartbroken. I was really starting to get used to the idea of adding that fourth someone to our family.

For two weeks I went through tests (they wanted to make sure that my hormone levels were going down and that the pregnancy wasn’t just much earlier than I thought). I waited for something to happen naturally. On Tuesday, September 3, I had a D&E.

After the procedure, things started to get a little better every day. I still got waves of sadness when I thought about the “what ifs,” and I was still bleeding a little from the surgery so that was a constant reminder. I so wanted to have it all behind me so I could start looking forward to the future. Of course, my head told me we would try again soon and I knew everything would be okay. My heart felt differently some days.

I immediately told my sister and we told our parents (although we hadn’t even told them yet that we were pregnant). I told a few close friends who hadn’t known I was pregnant either. I had to tell a few people at work because I was missing days and closing my door when I got calls from doctors and needing to cry and just not being myself. I’ve received a few nice text messages checking in with me and a couple of cards (thanks, Mom!), but after a week or two had passed it was just like everything was supposed to go back to “normal” when it really hadn’t for me.

At knitting I saw myself making jokes and talking to people about what had been going on that week and it was almost like an out of body experience. Only a couple of people actually knew what was going on, and I didn’t really feel like talking about it with the whole group. I didn’t want to be Debbie Downer, and I didn’t just want to sit and cry in front of everyone. I came home feeling like I had been so fake because there was this HUGE thing that was going on with me and I was just pretending to be okay. Tim was super supportive throughout the whole thing, but he just grieved in such a different way than me. And I think a big part of it is that since it was early in the pregnancy, it wasn’t as “real” for him in the first place. It very much felt like something that happened to “me” and not to “us.”

Now that a month has passed, I’m feeling a lot better and I’m excited for what the future may bring. I’ve leaned on a dear friend who has also experienced loss, and I’ve felt empowered by talking it out with her and doing a little reading on the topic. I thought I might wait to share my story until after we were pregnant again. I didn’t really want to break the sad news until after we had something new to celebrate.

However, I’ve also been reading a lot of personal blogs lately and like with memoir, I am the most touched by the writing that is so very real and raw and honest. I tell my students to make themselves vulnerable in their memoir writing, and last weekend I felt ready to share my story on the blog. I didn’t get around to actually writing about it–sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to bring all those feelings back to the surface when you’ve been doing so well to keep them at bay. Then today, seeing that it was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and seeing other people post articles like this one from Dear Julesy about what not to say to someone who is grieving or this one from Kathryn Catalino, I was motivated to share my story.

I know that first trimester miscarriages are unfortunately common, but I don’t hear many women talking about them. I guess it’s in part because we don’t know what to say to one another. So, for a weird day of remembrance (there’s a day for everything isn’t there?), I’m glad to share my story if not to just help one other person feel less alone. I’ll take the opportunity to break the silence and stand together to honor and acknowledge all of the lost babies and the wounded parents left behind.

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end of summer 2014_watermarkSummer is coming to a close. Can you believe it? Back in early June, when I was in early pregnancy, I wished the summer away. I felt nauseated all day every day and looked forward to the second trimester of more energy and just all around feeling better. We don’t have central air conditioning, and I dreamed of the cooler fall days.

Fortunately, this summer hasn’t been extremely oppressive. That’s not to say we didn’t have our fair share of hot days. Still, thinking back to the awful heat waves of last summer, where we holed up in our bedroom in the cool of the window unit, this summer was no comparison.

I guess I got my wish because June, July and August have flown by. It was filled with a lot of family fun–a visit from my in-laws in early June, my parents visited for Adelaide’s birthday in late July, and my sister was here to help celebrate my birthday two weeks ago.

I’m now 21-weeks pregnant, over half-way through my pregnancy, and returning to the “real world” of 5-day work weeks and a “normal” schedule.

From a blogging perspective, I have several things I’d like to share here. I want to write about Adelaide’s 3rd birthday party, her first trip to Sesame Place, our new baby’s gender reveal (!), Adelaide’s potty training in one very long week back in April, and my feelings coping with this new pregnancy after two miscarriages. I want to write about my over-night birthday trip to NYC to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch staring Neil Patrick Harris, and our beautiful experience at Diner en Blanc Philadelphia. I want to write about my experiences at Blogger Bash–an amazing conference I attended in NYC in June where I learned about new toys coming out this fall, won an amazing Joovy double stroller and got to meet other blogging moms.

I don’t know that September will necessarily bring more writing time in my schedule (I’m scheduled to teach a Continuing Education creative non-fiction course starting at the end of the month), but it may bring more structure that will hopefully be more conducive to writing. Stay tuned!

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new baby announcement  |  nextlifechapter.comIf you follow me on Instagram or Twitter (or have seen me recently) you’ve already heard the news, but our family is very excited to announce we are expecting a baby in early January, 2015. Adelaide is especially enthusiastic to be a big sister. I don’t think she quite understands how long it is until “after Christmas,” but she knows that baby still has a lot of growing to do inside Mommy’s belly.

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Adelaide turned two years old today. I thought it was time I finish writing her birth story. I consider this a work in progress, but I finally got the whole story out. Warning: it’s a long one, and it may be too much information for some.

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birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

Our baby girl was due August 13, 2011. (For the story of our gender reveal check out this post.) At our 12-week ultrasound, the technician said she thought the baby was measuring an August 17 due date.

“August 17?” I asked. “That’s my birthday!”

The technician said she wouldn’t want to be laboring on her birthday, and Tim and I joked that I would never have a birthday again. From then on, the day would be baby’s day, not mine. My doctor decided to leave the due date as August 13 since it was only four days off from my original due date. And while I knew that a “due date” was just an estimate and that I could reasonably go any time two weeks before or two weeks after, I knew it was likely baby and I would have birthdays very close together.

Fast forward to July. My sister bought plane tickets to visit me for a week beginning August 14, the day after my due date. She just found out that she got a new job (yay!) and no longer had the flexibility to come whenever the baby arrived (boo!). I’ll admit I was nervous. I thought there was a good chance I’d go into labor while she was here, and I wasn’t sure I wanted another person around while I was laboring at home and waiting to go to the hospital. I also worried that the baby may be late and my sister would miss her all together. My sister assured me it would be okay. Even if there was no baby yet, we’d hang out, finish getting ready for her, and celebrate my birthday. As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry.

On Tuesday, July 26, I jokingly told Tim I thought the next Wednesday, August 3, would be a good day to deliver. My work had already hired a temporary worker to assist while I was out on maternity leave. I was supposed to start training her Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29. I figured that by the following Wednesday, I’d have most all my top priority projects wrapped up. My parents were “on call” to drive out from Illinois whenever they got word of baby’s arrival. If she was born on August 3, my parents could come out the following week and still have a week here before my sister arrived on the 14th. I was born on a Wednesday, and August 3rd seemed like a nice day for a birthday. I had it all worked out in my mind.

Still, it was all said tongue in cheek. While at 37 weeks I knew I was technically “full term” and could go at any time, I still figured I’d be late. Even though both my sister and I were early, I had heard that most first-time moms don’t deliver until after their due date. So, when I went into labor in the middle of the night, around 2 am on Thursday, July 28, I totally wasn’t expecting it.

It’s so weird. Wednesday we were eating dinner at IHOP and looking at lamps for the nursery at Lowe’s, and then the next day we had a baby. She was here. No more planning. I didn’t have my hospital bag packed. I didn’t have my birth plan written out. I didn’t have a glider or breast pump. I didn’t have nursing bras or a diaper bag. Our house was a mess. I wasn’t yet organized. The nursery wasn’t complete. The dirty dishes were taking over the kitchen. We also had a maternity photo shoot planned for Sunday, July 31. I had been telling people for the last nine months that I was due in “mid August” and it wasn’t even August yet. Then, I became a mom.

I woke in the middle of the night with an intense urge to pee. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. At 37 weeks pregnant I was regularly getting up in the night to use the bathroom – sometimes even twice in one night. Still, this sensation felt different – like, “wow, I must get to the bathroom now.” As I sat up and started to exit the bed, I ran my hand across the mattress to make sure that I hadn’t leaked or wet the bed.

When I walked toward the bedroom door, I felt a wetness in my panties. As I walked down the hall, I felt a trickle down my leg. Right before going to bed that night, I was reading about incontinence in What to Expect When Expecting. I even told Tim that a mutual friend of ours had recently confided in me her incontinence issues after giving birth. So, as I’m walking (very quickly at this point) down the hall, I’m thinking that I’m peeing my pants. Still half asleep, it was instinct to run to the toilet as quickly as possible. As I got to the doorway of the bathroom, I started to “leak” more and although I thought, “I should tighten my kegel muscles and try to stop it,” I was already to the toilet. There was a gush, but it all happened so fast that I wasn’t sure if it was my water breaking or just my bladder bursting with relief now that there was release. My panties were completely soaked.

I had heard that amniotic fluid smelled distinctive – sweet, not like the ammonia of urine. I smelled my panties, but to tell you the truth, I couldn’t tell what it was. At that point I thought, well, I won’t flush the toilet in case I need to come back and reference this liquid. I’ll just wait and see if I start to have contractions. I knew that few women actually have their water break before contractions – in our birthing classes they told us this was more of a TV sit-com phenomenon than true life. But, when talking about it with my mom in the weeks prior, she said it happened that way for her both times.

So, I went back to the bedroom, changed my underwear and crawled back into bed. I don’t even think Tim noticed I had gotten up. Then, almost immediately, I felt mild cramping in my lower abdomen, similar to period cramps. I knew I should relax, that I should try to go back to sleep because I could have a long day of laboring ahead of me. But of course, my mind was racing.

What? A July baby? What is today? July 28? Is July 28 even a Leo?

Our photo shoot! We were supposed to have maternity photos taken on Sunday.

And work! Oh, there’s still so much to do. Our temp was supposed to come in and train today. And all those invoices on my desk – how will they know how to process them? Who will set up the new budget spreadsheets?

I didn’t want to wake Tim. I wasn’t sure what was going on and there was no reason for us both to be awake and anxious. After about half an hour of lying in bed, I decided to grab my netbook laptop and come downstairs. Plus, I had to pee again already.

I opened my laptop and Googled “water breaking vs. peeing.”  There were a few message boards that came up, but nothing that answered my question to my satisfaction. I then downloaded a contraction counter to my smartphone.

I wasn’t really sure if I was having full-fledged contractions at this point, and they definitely weren’t regular. I figured I’d go back upstairs and try to sleep again.

I may have dosed off briefly, but I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t even have my birth plan written out. After attending our Mindful Birthing class and doing lots of reading, I knew birth plans rarely went as planned. One of the midwives told me “they’re more like goals.” Still, I wanted to have something in writing that I could hand the nurse when we got to the hospital. I wanted something that said we wanted a low-intervention birth, that I intended to at least try for a natural, non-medicated birth with a midwife in the hospital’s birthing suite. I didn’t want to be tethered to a fetal heart monitor if it wasn’t medically necessary; I wanted to be able to walk around. I wanted in writing that I wanted my husband to cut the umbilical cord and that I wanted to hold my baby and try to initiate breast feeding before she was taken out of room – that I wanted her with me skin-on-skin as long as possible.

At one point (it all seems like the middle of the night to me), I got back up and went downstairs to type this up. I basically summarized everything in the above short paragraph, but on that night, while beginning labor, I just couldn’t concentrate enough to write it all out. Plus, the contractions were getting more and more painful. I realized that if the contractions were too painful to continue typing, it was probably time to wake up Tim.

By this time it was about 5:15am, around three hours after my water broke. I told Tim I thought I was in the early stages of labor, that I thought my water broke. He wasn’t as surprised as I thought he might be. He was just very matter-of-fact about it “alright.” We laid in bed together for a bit, but my contractions were getting more and more painful and it wasn’t comfortable for me to lie down anymore.

Tim got up and started looking for someone to cover his shifts that day. He took the dog out for a walk. That period is now a haze for me. I remember throwing a bunch of stuff in my backpack. I didn’t know how long I would be laboring at the hospital, so I packed things for both my time laboring and my hospital stay afterwards – my camera, my laptop, the yoga ball, a book to read, an outfit to change into, my journal, some snacks.

I was trying to following the 4-1-1 rule we learned in our birthing class: don’t go to the hospital until your contractions are four minutes apart. one minute long, for one hour. My contractions weren’t a minute long, but they were closer than four minutes. What did that mean? I was so confused. I remember going down to the basement bathroom and laboring on the toilet. I felt better there, and I didn’t feel anxious about leaking fluids when I was sitting on the toilet. I bounced on the yoga ball, I leaned against the banister and Tim pushed my hips together (a technique we had learned in class). I tried to envision each contraction as a wave coming in and out (I had read that somewhere), but I don’t think I was very successful. I was loud. I moaned with each contraction and didn’t care that it was fairly early in the morning and that we lived in a rowhouse with neighbors close on both sides. I figured they could hear me and hoped that they didn’t call the police for some kind of domestic disturbance.

I remember Matt Lauer being in the background as I know the TODAY show was on the TV. By 8:00am I had Tim call my midwife practice. They weren’t open yet, but there was an emergency line to call and leave a message. A few minutes later the on-duty midwife at the hospital called us back and Tim answered. I didn’t feel much like talking to her, but she wanted to speak to me. I told her I thought my water broke around 2:15am and since my water broke, she told me to come on in.

Tim went and pulled the car up in front of the house. I was not looking forward to that car ride. At this point, I was in a severe amount of pain, and I was wailing pretty loudly. I leaned the chair back in the passenger’s seat and braced my feet in front of me. The ride to the hospital didn’t have to be a long one – we didn’t live far from the hospital. However, it was morning rush hour. Then, Tim took a left when he should have gone straight.

“Where are you going?” I asked. “You should just go down Passyunk.”

He wasn’t thinking clearly, and we hadn’t previously discussed the most direct route to the hospital. We also hadn’t planned out the “drop off.”  When we got to the hospital, he went straight to the Emergency Room drop-off when he should have turned and let me off at the main entrance. I didn’t want to wait for him to go around the block again, so I just had him pull over so I could get out and walk around the corner of the building. He went to park in the garage and said he’d meet me inside with all our stuff.

Having been to the hospital several times for classes and appointments, I knew there was often a line to get up to the reception desk where you had to sign in and get a pass to go inside. I walked directly to the font of the line and said, “I’m in labor and I need to go upstairs.”

The expression on my face must have looked very serious, because she just waved me on. “Third floor,” she said. I walked to the elevator and felt another contraction coming on. I was relieved there was no one else in the elevator. Then, right before the doors were about to close, a female doctor got into the elevator with me. I tried not to be too dramatic about my pain and purposefully didn’t “let loose” like I’d been doing at home and in the car. She immediately came over to see if I was okay. I could tell she was worried. I knew where I was going (I’d been on the hospital tour), and although she tried to get me to go the wrong way on the floor, I started walking toward the registration desk. “Okay, you clearly know more than I do,” she said. “Good luck.”

When I got to the desk, they were expecting me. I’ve heard stories about women having to wait in the waiting room or wait in the triage room for a long time. I was taken into the triage room, right as Tim arrived. They wanted me to pee in a cup and I tried, but I just couldn’t do it. The pain was all-encompasing.

I remember wearing a gown and laying in a hospital bed at one point. They checked me and said I was 5 cm and 100% effaced. “I guess it’s a good thing we had you come in,” the midwife told me.  They asked if I wanted to deliver in the birthing suite. “That was the plan. I’d like to try if I can.”  (If you have an epidural, our hospital doesn’t let you stay in the birthing suite, you have to be monitored in a standard hospital room).

A few contractions later, they checked me again. 7cm. Someone explained that most women increase a centimeter an hour, not a centimeter every 15 minutes. (Had it really been a half an hour?) Things were moving quickly.

Although I was told the birthing suite wasn’t available, the next thing I knew I was being wheeled up the elevator and into the birthing suite.

All modesty went out the window. I’ve had other soon-to-be-mothers ask me what to wear while laboring. Well, I guess you could wear a nice tank top or some other “laboring outfit,” but once in the birthing suite, I birthed completely naked. I think part of the reason was because when I first got into the room they asked me if I wanted to get into the bathtub. I had heard from friends that this relieved some pain, so I was really looking forward to getting into the water.

“If you feel like you need to push, let me know,” the midwife said. “We can’t let you have the baby in the water and if we do, I’ll get in a lot of trouble.” She said with a laugh.

I only lasted in the tub for a couple of contractions – sitting on my knees and leaning forward over the edge of the tub.

I remember the midwife trying to get me to trill my lips while I was mid-contraction, a way to relax and breathe. I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t get my lips to work. After trying a few times I remember saying, “that one’s not working – try something else.”

Next, I moved into the shower. Standing, with the water flowing over my back and leaning with both arms on Tim’s forearms, I felt better than I did in the tub. But we weren’t in there long either. The next thing I know, we were back in the main birthing suite pushing. I started out in the bed on all fours, many pillows stacked up underneath me for support. The nurse left to get me some ice and a drink of what I think was seltzer and cranberry juice. Tim was next to me the whole time, but the midwife was the one in command.

We moved to a birthing chair – a weird wooden chair with no middle. I pushed through a few contractions there as well. The midwife asked me if we had a named picked out. “Adelaide” Tim and I both said. “Adelaide.”

I believe we then moved back to the bed where I pushed on all fours again. I remember liking the bed better than the chair because at this point I was getting really tired and I could rest all of my body weight on the mattress. I can picture Tim there to my left with the drink and the ice saying supportive things.

“I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” I repeated. “Yes you can,” they all told me. “You ARE doing this.”

“I don’t feel good,” I said, not knowing what else to say. The swearing I belted when I was laboring at home had subsided in the company of strangers.

“In what way don’t you feel good?” my midwife wanted to know.

I could tell she was concerned that there might be something more than just the pains of a natural childbirth. “I’m just tired,” I said. “I just want to meet her.”

Although I’d heard it over and over that delivering laying on your back is counter-intuitive to how our bodies are built to birth babies, I found myself on my back. I guess I was technically sitting more than laying on my back. I was propped up by so many pillows that I was in an upright position. An intern held my left leg up near my chest. Tim held my right leg. I remember having a hard time keeping that left leg up while pushing through the contractions. They really had to hold my legs tightly to help give me some leverage.

I remember the midwife and nurse talking about all the hair they were seeing. “Oh she has a lot of hair. There’s so much hair.” They asked me to reach down and feel the top of her head. Yeah, it was pretty cool I guess, but at the moment, I wasn’t having it. I didn’t care about her hair and I wanted them to talk about something else.

I remember feeling as if the pushing took a really long time. However, in retrospect, Tim said it was only about 45 minutes or so. I just kept envisioning the moment I would meet her.  “I just want to meet her. I just want to meet her,” I repeated to myself.

Then, on the final push Tim said, “Oh wow. Oh Wow. Oh WOW” – each time a little louder as he saw her head, then shoulders, then whole body emerge.

The nurse immediately placed her on my chest. Things at this point were a bit of a blur. We arrived at the hospital around 9am and just after noon, she was born. I believe my first words were, “It is a girl isn’t it?” still paranoid that the ultrasound had been wrong. The nurse lifted her back up to double check. “Yes, it’s a girl.”

She was beautiful and there was such a swell of emotion and relief.

Tim wanted to cut the umbilical cord and he did, but I wasn’t really “present” for that moment. I think for our next child, I’d like to delay the cutting and then when we’re ready, I want to make sure that I’m paying attention and present in the moment – the one down side of not having a doula or a written birth plan.

I held Adelaide for a bit and she found my breast. After a while (my memory loses track of time here), they took her to be weighed, checked her vitals and footprinted her. Tim took photos as I rested in bed across the room. Eventually they took her to get cleaned up and rolled in some lunch for me.

I was disappointed there was no photo shoot in the park, and I didn’t get the chance to train my temp at work. I felt guilty for leaving several things up in the air when I went on an earlier-than-expected maternity leave. I imagine I would have felt differently had I been scheduled to be induced and knew what day I would give birth, or if I had reached my due date and was more prepared that she could come any day. In many ways, I know I was lucky to have avoided the anxiety of being overdue. And the hospital staff made sure to tell me that most women would’ve been envious of my quick labor.

When we got home from the hospital, I missed being pregnant (at least parts of it), and I felt as if I didn’t get to properly say good-bye to that stage in the cycle. But, I had a new job. I was a mom, and I didn’t have time to think twice about it. I was doing it and trying to digest it all. In the days ahead, I tried to survive the sleepless nights, to sleep when she slept and to enjoy her bright eyes, many facial expressions and calming coos.

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

Born at 12:03pm, 7 lbs, 7 oz

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

The birthing suite at Pennsylvania Hospital

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

birth story | http://nextlifechapter.com

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Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the day we found out I was pregnant. What a great day.

We were waiting until Saturday to take the test, and I did first thing that morning. Tim waited patiently in the bedroom.

“So?” he asked.

“I can’t tell,” I said. “There might be a line there.” I brought the stick down the hall so he could inspect it himself. My heart pounded. “See? There’s kind of a line there, but it’s really light.”

“I think you’re pregnant.”

Just to feel more confident about the result, I convinced him to go with me to walk the dog so I could pop into Rite-Aid and get a different type of test. I got the ones that spell out “pregnant” or “not pregnant” instead of just the ones with the blue lines. In some ways, this made me even more nervous. If the window said “not pregnant,” the hope was over. At least for the time being. However, as you know, the window revealed the best early Christmas gift – the word “pregnant” glared back at me.

That morning I had a hair appointment, and I wasn’t sure if I should get my hair highlighted now that I was pregnant. I didn’t want my stylist to be the first person we told about our exciting news, but my sister didn’t answer when I called. So, Katie the hair stylist was the first person I told. Later that afternoon I told my sister, and then we took this Christmas card photo:

We went to a friend’s birthday party that night with a secret. The best kind of secret.

We decided to tell the rest of our immediate family on Christmas. I would only be 6 or 7 weeks pregnant at that time, but we wanted them to know, and Christmas morning provided the best opportunity to share our news.

We were in Florida visiting Tim’s family for Christmas last year, so we told his parents when we were opening presents on Christmas morning.

We printed out copies of this photo when we were in Tallahassee and taped it into Christmas cards for both of our parents. At the bottom we wrote, “Merry Christmas Grandma and Grandpa.”

 

Tim’s parents were happily surprised. “You’re pregnant!” Tim’s mom exclaimed. Tim’s brothers weren’t really paying attention when their parents opened the card, but that got their attention. Tim’s dad said he had been wondering, but Tim’s mom told him he wasn’t allowed to ask.

When my parents opened the gifts we mailed to them in Illinois, we had them on speaker phone and asked them to open the card last. When they got ready to open it, my sister was poised with her camera.

“I get it. I get it,” my mom shouted.

“Oh, my,” Dad said.

“When? When?”

My sister snapped these:

Well, it’s a year later and we have a beautiful four-month-old daughter. Last year gave us the best Christmas news to share. This year, we have the whole package.

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Adelaide had her two-month check-up yesterday. Our little baby is 14 lbs, 11 oz which puts her in the 97th percentile!  We asked the doctor if this was okay, if we had any reason to be concerned, and she said, “No, it’s breast milk. It’s not like you’re feeding her Oreos.”

She’s no longer that wee infant we brought home from the hospital. She’s almost doubled her birth weight at this point, and looking back at the photos from the first few weeks, I am amazed by how much she has grown and how quickly the last few weeks have passed.  I never posted the last weeks of belly photos, so with these final images the collection is complete.

36 weeks

37 weeks

38 weeks

 
Apparently I like to wear purple.

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