birth

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She’s here!!

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

I’d like to formally announce the birth of my second daughter, Juniper Love. June was born at 3:01 am on Tuesday, January 13. She was a surprising 9lbs 4oz and 20.5″ long. (Birth story coming soon!)

She looks like Adelaide’s twin as an infant, with the exception of a lighter hair color. Big sister is doing well. Adelaide was a little apprehensive when first meeting her at the hospital, but she’s now full of hugs and kisses. It melts my heart when she calls her “sweetie” or “sweets” (pet names I often use for Adelaide), and “my June.”

We’re completely exhausted in the newborn survival haze, but I’m trying to enjoy the newborn snuggles and squeaks and sighs. June is nursing like a champ, and she not only gained her birth weight back but she’s now up to 9lbs, 8oz–gaining 13oz just this week! (Makes me feel less guilty about those biscuits and gravy I had for brunch today.) Since we’re nursing on demand, I’m constantly at the ready and not spending much time in front of the computer. If it was easier to create blog posts from my iPhone I’d be posting more, but for now I’ll settle for checking email, Instagram and Facebook, even if in the middle of the night.

Tim’s parents have been visiting from Florida for the last week and have been very helpful in entertaining Adelaide and keeping us well fed. I know we’re in for a lot of changes in the upcoming months, but I’m feeling so blessed for our family of four. I know it’s cliche, but I feel as if our family is now complete. It’s incredible how even a full heart can expand when a new love enters your life.

Newborn hospital photography  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

Newborn hospital photograph  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Helen Horstmann-Allen

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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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First Week  |  http://nextlifechapter.com

Adelaide’s first week at home.

I used to never cry at movies (My Girl being the one exception). I prided myself on it – I just didn’t get that emotionally attached. Then, I met Tim and fell in love and it all changed. I remember crying during The Pianist so much that I couldn’t finish it. I literally could not watch it. I made Tim send it back. Over the years, Tim has learned that there are certain movies he can watch without me.

And it’s gotten worse since my friend Amy died of cancer and since Adelaide’s been born. I don’t want to watch movies about children dying or a parent dying and leaving the child alone. I don’t like to watch movies about spouses cheating, or children missing, or really anything about death in general. (I did not do well with The Descendants.) I like comedies and action movies. And that’s about all I can handle right now.

In some ways, the issue I have with sad movies makes me feel totally lame. When we were in LA on vacation last month, I had brunch with old friend from college who was an acting major. He had recently moved to LA after a successful acting career in another large city out west. He said he had done about as much as he could do acting-wise in that city – that the people there produced good plays but took out anything that would be controversial or make anyone feel anything. I got the sense that he moved to LA to take risks and make artful productions again.

Now when I have a hard time watching a movie, or just avoid it in the first place, I hear his voice in the back of my mind. What? You can’t feel anything? You don’t want to watch anything that makes you have an emotional reaction? It’s art. What’s wrong with you?

Motherhood has changed me in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I think differently about family now. I think differently about the world – I think more about what’s in the food I eat, what’s going on with our public school system, gun control, bullying, the environment. The list goes on and on. With the birth of my little girl, I became a mother (and some might even argue before that). My heart has spilled open. My insides ache with love. I cry tears of joy and tears of fear and worry. I am vulnerable to the world and all the things that are out of my control. I have so much to lose. I think the reason I don’t enjoy such highs and lows when watching movies is because I am already feeling so much.

I am still discovering the ways motherhood has changed me, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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On Monday, September 3, in 100 cities across the country, Improving Birth is organizing a “National Rally for Change on Labor Day.” In Philadelphia, the rally will take place in front of Independence Hall from 10:00 am – noon. The hope is that the movement will bring awareness to the lack of evidence-based maternity care in the United States and will serve as a launch to Empowered Birth Awareness Week.

What is evidence-based maternity care, you ask? I asked myself the same question when I heard the term earlier this week. (Read the info at the link – it’s interesting).

I know that for me personally, I wanted as low intervention a birth as possible. I tried to remain open and flexible knowing that very few birth plans go as planned, but I felt empowered with knowledge. I wanted to try and avoid a cesarean section if I could; I wanted to try for a natural labor without medication. Having never given birth before (and knowing that every birth is different), I didn’t know if I would be able to handle the labor pains without an epidural. I couldn’t predict unexpected complications that might have lead to a cesarean. Armed with everything I had read and was taught in my Mindful Birthing class, I was able to have the birth I wanted.

Not everyone is as lucky, and not everyone has the information to make informed decisions.

According to the Improving Birth website, their mission is to:

  • Reduce the unnecessary induction and unnecessary c-section rate in the United States by bringing education and awareness to birthing families, birth workers and hospital administrators.
  • Promote evidence-based maternity care and support the normalcy of birth.

Their purpose is educating and empowering mothers so they are able to make informed choices about their births,” and their goal is to “reduce the unnecessary induction and unnecessary c-section rate in the US by bringing awareness to birthing families and the people who love them.” They do believe that induction and c-sections can be life-saving interventions when necessary.

From what I understand, the long-term effects of unnecessary inductions and cesareans are just starting to be realized. However, it takes an average of 20 years for proven research (evidence-based maternity care) to become practice. I’m all for education, and I think empowering women (and families) with information about reproductive health and childbirth is invaluable.

Speaking of invaluable, click here for great resources regarding inductions, c-sections and vaginal birth after a cesarean (vbac).

It’s not about judgement. It’s about education. Join me on Monday at the Philadelphia National Rally for Change, or find a rally location near to you.

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Early

A few weeks ago 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 birthday is August 17, so my sister assured me it would be okay. Even if there was no baby, we’d hang out, finish getting ready for baby 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. Plus, 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. 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 photo shoot planned with a photography student at the university where I work. She was going to meet us in the park on Sunday and take maternity photos of Tim and me.

Then, I became a mom. I’m disappointed there was no photo shoot in the park, and I didn’t get the chance to train my temp at work. I feel guilty for leaving several things up in the air when I went on an earlier than expected maternity leave.  But now I have a new job. Even though she is not even due until Saturday, Adelaide is two weeks old today. I am trying to survive the sleepless nights, to sleep when she sleeps and to enjoy her bright eyes, many facial expressions and coos.

I imagine it may have been different if I was 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 really could come any day. I miss being pregnant (at least parts of it), and I feel as if I didn’t get to properly say good-bye to that stage in this cycle. Now I’m a mom. Aside from writing this, I haven’t had time to think twice about it. I’m just doing it, and trying to digest it all.

And for the obligatory photo, taken last week:

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One week ago today I brought this little lovely into the world. She was two weeks early, and it’s been a whirlwind of a week, but we are so blessed.

Adelaide Fen Pannell was born Thursday, July 28 at 12:03 pm. She was 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 20 inches long. We came home on Saturday and have enjoyed getting to know each other the last few days. I haven’t had much time to post this week, but my parents drove in from Illinois last night and I have a little more hands-free time with their help. Already she’s a highly paparazzied young lady, so I hope to post more photos soon.

Now, I’m back to stroking that beautiful dark hair and those tiny fingers…

 

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