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Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Tim in front of our rowhome, right before we left for the airport, our van in the foreground

Today is May 2–exactly one year ago today my husband and I woke up from a night spent sleeping on an air mattress in an otherwise empty bedroom. Adelaide too slept on an air mattress in her bedroom, mattresses borrowed from friends who lived around the corner. The girls and I had a flight to catch, but we first had to return the mattresses at our friend’s house and say good-bye. I knew it would be hard, the last good-bye in what seemed like an endless stream of them over the six weeks since I got the job and we decide to leave Philly and relocate to Tallahassee, Florida to be closer to Tim’s family.

Tim took us to the airport and finished cleaning up the house we had called home for nearly six years. The house we returned to when both of our daughters were born. The only home they had ever known. He cleaned, made one final trip to the recycling center/landfill, and somehow managed to fit the rest of our belongings in our minivan before locking the door and heading out on the Philly-to-Tally drive. Our POD left the day before with all our other earthly belongings and would meet us at our final destination once we determined where it was we’d be living.

*    *     *

Here I am one year later sitting on the couch in our new apartment having just returned from a two-mile run (something I couldn’t have done without stopping a year ago), and it all feels surreal. It’s feeling more like this is our home, but it still seems so strange that it’s been an entire year. I don’t love it here. Not yet. (For some reason, on Instagram I can’t bring myself to use the popular hashtags #ihearttally or #iheartFL because it feels inauthentic.) But, the days are getting easier and we’re into a routine, for better or worse.

The good things:

  • My girls like their preschool/daycare. We really lucked out with a great place for Adelaide to spend this year preparing for Kindergarten. It was hard to leave the school she had been at since she was 12 weeks old, but we found a school in Tallahassee where she could continue to grow. Juniper started daycare in January and has adjusted nicely as well.
  • Daycare costs are less here and by living near family, Junie was able to spend weekdays with her grandparents from age four months until right before she turned one in January. It was a blessing to have this cost savings, and (I think) the bonding time between granddaughter and grandparents was mutually beneficial. Papa and Gram, it was fun, right?
  • I like my job. I took a pay cut in moving here and sure, I wish I was paid more. Plus, I don’t know if there’s much room for advancement (at least within my department), but I like my co-workers and what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis. That’s more than a lot of people can say.
  • I’ve made some good friends and am continuing to find “my people.” Making new friends as an adult is hard. I joined a knitting group and am slowly getting to know them and meet others through activities and friends of friends. It’s an ongoing process that will take time, but I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in “putting myself out there,” letting people get to know me, and deepening relationships with the few I already knew here. I’m thankful that I have an understanding husband who knows friendship is something I value and has supported me in making this time for myself.

In addition to friends, the things I thought I’d miss most about big city life were the cultural opportunities–the children’s museum, the zoo, art museums, theater. It’s definitely different here, but we’re making the most of what’s available. I am proud to say that just in the month of April Tim and I saw Jason Isbell play at an outdoor amphitheater, I got free tickets to a conversation with James Franco at FSU, we took Adelaide to the FSU Flying High Circus (no animals, just Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics), we went to the beach and to the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab (where we are members), and Tim and I saw a production of “Once” the musical at the civic center.

There are many other good things about moving here–the weather (in the winter at least), the gulf coast beaches, the pool at our apartment complex, family support, public schools–I know it was the best decision for our family. It’s the beginning of our second year in Tallahassee, and I’m wondering what this year will bring. What will I be thinking next year as I look back on how far we’ve come?

Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Selfie on the plane to Florida, May 2, 2015

Moving Day: One Year Later | nextlifechapter.com

Girls enjoying the pool at our apartment last Sunday, May 1, 2016

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knitters 2015

The knitters and me at the going away brunch they threw for me in April.

Moving is hard. Yep. I said it.

Moving to a new city and state as an adult pretty much sucks. The only way I know it will get better is because I’ve done it before.

When I graduated college, I moved from Southern Indiana to Portland, Oregon with Erin, a friend from school. I had just turned 22 and it was a huge period of transition for both of us. We didn’t know what we wanted to be when we grew up. We felt lost without our circles of friends from school, but at least we had each other. Well, at least for the eight months before Erin left me and moved back home to Illinois.

After Erin left I was forced to leave my comfort zone, find new roommates and make new friends. When I made the cross-country move to Boston for grad school four years later, I had created community in Portland.

The first few months in Boston were tough. I missed the life I had in Portland and although I knew I needed a change and I was excited to go back to school, I was starting over again. Fortunately, being a student automatically put me in situations to make new friends. I met Tim, my now husband after living in Boston only three weeks.

Three years later, after finishing grad school, Tim and I moved to Philadelphia. We wanted a fresh start and had heard good things about Philly. The cost of living was better than New York City, and it had an emerging arts scene that made it extra appealing. Moving to Philly we were forced to start over again. I don’t think I loved Philly at first. Finding a job, meeting new people, and navigating a new city is stressful. I had Tim, but the transition was tough. It took a while before we felt at home, but fast-forward eight and a half years and I had a fulfilling life. We were married, we adopted a dog, we had a three-year-old and a new baby. I had a job that I liked (and had worked at for over seven years). I volunteered in my community, had close friendships, and a city I knew well.

We’ve been in Tallahassee now for almost six months (what!?! how did that happen!?), and I’m still mourning my Philadelphia life. I miss my girlfriends tremendously and am moved to tears every few days whether by things I see on Facebook or an email I receive from a friend. Sure, on a moment-to-moment basis I’m doing fine. I’m settling into my new job, meeting new people, and finding activities to do with my family. We have the loving support of my in-laws and that’s been great, but I still feel homesick. Philly feels like home to me, and I don’t know when I’m going to get to visit again.

I think it would be easier for me if I had a Philly trip planned. If I knew I would be going to Philly over Christmas or even next year, I think it would be a easier for me. I could say, well, I’ll see you in May. But now, we have no plans to return to Philadelphia. It’s expensive and our Christmas holiday will be spent on pricey flights to Central Illinois to see my side of the family. Then, in April we’ll be flying to LA for my sister’s wedding (again, an exciting trip–yay, Gina!–but it’s not Philadelphia). Tim’s whole family is going to Key West next August and there’s just not enough time (or money) to do all the things I want to do.

Sometimes I daydream of just taking a long weekend trip to Philly for a girls weekend. I’m sure I could make it work financially if it was just me, but part of the reason I would want to go to Philly would be for my friends to see June and how much she’s grown. Plus, I would want to take Adelaide and have her get together with all her little friends.

It just breaks my heart to think that Adelaide won’t see her friends again or that by the time we do get back to Philly they won’t remember each other. I don’t know why that’s so hard for me. One bonus of moving Adelaide when she was only three-and-a-half years old was that she would be easily adaptable. Still, I hadn’t considered that she may one day completely forget her time in Philly–a time that was so important to me as a new mom and young family will likely just be the shadow of dream for her one day.

Tears stream my cheeks as I write this. I wrote it in two separate sittings and still, both days, tears.

My brain knows that I’m doing the right things–putting myself “out there” to meet new people, explore my new city and make new friends. I feel blessed to have made such good friends in all the places I’ve lived. (Otherwise, leaving wouldn’t have been so difficult.) I remember when I first met Tim and he said I talked about Portland all the time. I’m sure I did. Portland, Portland, Portland. Now I feel I do that with Philly–especially at work. I catch myself doing it. In Philly this and in Philly that.

Somedays when a Philly friend sends an email or comments on Facebook and says that it looks like I’m doing well or adjusting well, I cringe a little. Yes, sure. I guess I am. Right? But hell if it isn’t hard, and boy do I miss Philly.

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Reflecting on your birthday  |  nextlifechapter.com

Me at Adelaide’s age, my 4th birthday.

 

Yesterday was my birthday. With birthdays often comes reflection. Where has this year taken me? What do I look forward to in the year ahead?

I can’t argue that my 37th year was a memorable one. This time last year I was four months pregnant and celebrating with my sister, having just spent my birthday in NYC on an overnight trip to see Neil Patrick Harris perform in Hedwig and the Angry Inch during his closing weekend on Broadway.

A year later and I have a beautiful seven-month old daughter. I’ve moved to Tallahassee, Florida to start a new life with my family, and I have a new job. Whew! This year will always be one defined by before and afters. Before June was born. After we moved to Florida.

I have a few of those clearly defined years in my head. The year I graduated high school. The year I graduated college and moved to Portland, Oregon. The year I left Portland and moved to Boston for grad school. The year I graduated from grad school and moved to Philly. The year I got married. The year Adelaide was born. And now, 2015. The year June was born. The year I moved to Tally. The year I turned 38.

Last night on the phone my dad reminded me that he was 38 the year our family hosted a foreign exchange student. I was in 7th grade then. Sometimes when I sit and think about the passing of time I’m blown away. Time really is a crazy beast.

I’m nearly certain that last year my birthday wish was a healthy baby. After two miscarriages, I concentrated all my positive energy on a healthy pregnancy. This year, as I faced the cupcake candles, my wish didn’t come as naturally. The possibility is wide open.

A new year. A new start. Today, today I feel hopeful.

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When I first started this blog, I named it “Next Life Chapter” because I was starting the new chapter of motherhood. Plus, I liked that the blog could grow with me. There will always be a next chapter.

I started a new chapter in January with the birth of Juniper, our second daughter. However, that chapter will be titled “The fourth trimester,” and it will be superseded by another exciting new chapter that’s about to begin.

Philly LOVE necklace  |  nextlifechapter.com

I gifted myself this special “LOVE” necklace as we prepare to leave the City of Brotherly Love.

Tim and I have been thinking about moving to Tallahassee, Florida for a while now. Tim’s parents are there, and with the arrival of Juniper we’ve dreamed of being closer to family. It’s a huge decision, but we are officially moving! I have accepted a Communications Coordinator position at Florida State University, and Tim is interviewing as well.

We told Adelaide last week, and she seems excited. Since I’ve accepted a new position, things are happening fast! The idea of moving to Florida has always been just that, an idea. It’s all happening much more quickly than I imagined. I’ll be starting my new job on May 8, so we’ll be leaving Philly on May 2. I’ll still be returning from maternity leave next Monday and working for two weeks. My official last day at work is Friday, April 24. Then, we’ll have a final week at home before heading out. (I’m flying down with the girls this time. We drove down when we went to Tallahassee to interview, and I don’t want to make that road trip again anytime soon.)

There’s so much to do and sort and pack. I go back and forth between feeling excited and feeling overwhelmed and sad about leaving. I’m going to miss my Philly friends immensely, and I feel dumb/scared/crazy for quitting a job that’s been good to me for the last seven and a half years. I know part of it is just the fear of the unknown. I’m comfortable in my job here and at a time when I’m trying to navigate the waters of being a new mom of two, starting from scratch somewhere else is a lot to bite off all at once. I’ll miss being so close to NYC (although we don’t take advantage of it as much as I’d like), and I’ll miss all the culture and opportunity that comes with living in a large city. Tallahassee does have a better cost of living, but it’s not THAT much better.

It’s all so bittersweet. I have to remind myself why we’re doing all this, and there are a lot of factors. One being that Adelaide will start Kindergarten next year–what!?!–and the Philly public schools (at least in the neighborhoods we can afford) are struggling. Plus, putting two kids in daycare is ridiculous. Tim’s parents are going to watch June this summer and then there’s the possibility they will continue to watch her two days a week into the fall and winter. It’s also going to be nice to have a free babysitter once in a while when Tim and I just need a date night. I think this will be really good for our marriage as well as our girls growing up near some of their extended family. Hopefully not having to travel to Tallahassee will allow us to visit my side of the family in Illinois more often–or *gasp* dare I say, take a vacation that doesn’t involve visiting family.

Overall, I know it’s a good move for our new family of four to be closer to Tim’s parents (they’re newly retired and ready to help), and the sunshine won’t hurt either.

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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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Welcome to this Blogger Sponsored Giveaway for a Vera Bradley Small Kisslock Wallet and Make A Change Baby Bag!

 

On this Mother’s Day, I’ve teamed up with some Philly bloggers to present a fun giveaway! Hosted by Momma Lew’s Blog, with a very special thank you to all of the great bloggers who are participating in this event! Make sure to stop by and check out what Sisters to SonsCan’t Google EverythingMaking Our Life Matter, Mommy SnappedWine In Mom ChockababyTechmomogy and Travel Deals By Dana and I have to offer you!

 

A Vera Bradley diaper bag was passed down to me shortly after Adelaide was born. It was stylish and served us well, so I jumped at the chance to participate in the giveaway. Plus, I thought it would be a great opportunity for my readers to be introduced to some new blogs–many of whom are members of my Philadelphia Social Media Moms group.

New moms will love this Vera Bradley Make A Change Baby Bag! This bag:

  • Has an exterior zip-down pocket that reveals a roll-out detachable changing pad with two elastic slip pockets
  • Slightly longer straps that make it perfect for a mom holding her child and her bag
  • It is a duffle-style bag that is extra roomy with 6 pockets
  • The convenient large-zippered front pocket can store lots of things like your phone, wallet or pacifiers and it is has two side bottle pockets
  • It can be wiped down or machine washable!

 

The Small Kisslock Wallet is the perfect addition to your baby bag! It is a tri-fold wallet that is closed by a kisslock coin pouch. The magnetic snap closure opens up to three card slots, a bill pocket and an ID window. Spot clean with a damp cloth.


One lucky winner will receive both the Make A Change Baby Bag and the Small Kisslock Wallet in Indigo Pop!  

 

To enter, follow the entry form below.  Giveaway is open to US residents, 18+ and one entry per household. Giveaway ends on 5/25 at 11:59pm EST.

 





Momma Lew and participating bloggers have not been compensated for this post.  Participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.  


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Something nobody talks about  |  nextlifechapter.comThe American Pregnancy Association reports, “Women who are 35-45 yrs old have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage.” That means that for a woman my age, up to one in three pregnancies end in miscarriage. Yet, for something that affects so many women, it seems like nobody talks about it.

Have you heard about this “new” podcast “The Longest Shortest Time”?

I think I first heard about it on This American Life. Those who know me well know I love This American Life. I try to see Ira Glass (the show’s host) in person any chance I get–I even saw him read stories during an experimental dance performance last year. And, for several semesters I’ve taught a memoir class where we use stories from the This American Life podcast to guide our discussions on truth telling, dialogue, interview, answering a question etc… (It’s part of the University of the Arts Continuing Education program and if anyone is interesting in taking this course or a future writing course with me, comment here or email me and I’ll add you to my special writing class email list.)

Anyway, I love This American Life. The TAL website used to include an essay by Hillary Frank about how to pitch them with a radio story. At least one semester I printed it and shared it with my class. A few years ago I learned that Hillary Frank had moved to Philadelphia, the city I was then (and still am) calling home. I even emailed Ms. Frank to see if she would be interested in being a guest speaker during my class. I didn’t figure she would say yes, but I didn’t think it would hurt to ask. (She politely declined.)

So, when I heard about Hillary Frank’s new podcast and when I heard it was about that short time that seems to go on forever when your baby is an infant, I thought it would be right up my alley.

Listening to recent episodes in the car on our Christmas road trip, I learned that Hillary had just finished a Kickstarter campaign (oops–totally missed it) and was turning the podcast into her job. As of January 2014, the LST podcast would have a new episode every two weeks.

A couple weekends ago, I finally got around to downloading the new 2014 episodes. For some reason, I started with the February 5 podcast titled “The Longest Longest Time.” In that episode, Hillary interviews Lisa, a woman who struggled with pregnancy for over a decade. I was washing dishes (as I tend to do when I listen to podcasts) when about half-way through the podcast Lisa said, “I have to say, until I had a miscarriage I don’t think I appreciated what miscarriage meant.”

Hillary followed-up by asking what, exactly, miscarriage means to her. I stopped mid-dish and listened to their conversation, which I’ve tried to transcribe below:

“…it feels like much more of a life-affecting moment or event than I had been able to perceive,” Lisa said with pause. “Do you relate to that at all?”

“Totally. And it’s something you can’t, or we don’t, talk about publicly so it’s not like mourning a death of a person that’s outside of you. You know, that we talk about and it’s understood that people are going to be distracted from work and all of that, but to have this big momentous loss from your body, that’s not something we talk about.”

“Right,” Lisa said. “And especially when it’s early like that, you know, 9 weeks. Nobody even knew you were pregnant.”

“And that’s why we don’t tell people, right? Cause just in case.”

“Exactly. Right. And then the flip side of that is nobody knows you went through it and not talking about it makes you think–you really shouldn’t be that upset by it.”

 

I stood there, greasy dish in hand with adrenaline pumping. “Exactly,” I said out loud. “We don’t talk about it.”

So, I’m here to start a conversation–to say, I had a miscarriage. In fact, I’ve had two miscarriages in the last seven months. It’s been tough. I’ve been distracted at work. I haven’t felt like myself emotionally or physically. I’ve been grieving.

As a memoir writer, I consider myself a truth teller. I want to share my story in hope that someone reading this can relate. The next few weeks I plan to post a series of miscarriage-related posts. This may seem depressing to some, and I understand that reading about such things is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, miscarriage is so very common. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. Maybe you will in the future. I imagine many women you know have experienced it, whether you were aware of it or not. We don’t live in a bubble. It’s okay to talk about it. It’s okay to share our stories.

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blogging life  |  nextlifechapter.com

It’s been a fun ride so far. Now what?

Now that 2014 has arrived, I’m trying to decide what to make of this little blog. Last semester I took a Social Media Overview course through the Continuing Education program at the University of the Arts. This was in part to help me in my day job, but also to help me in the work I do with the South Philly Parents Resource Center and of course, with this blog. As I learn more and more about social media marketing and best practices, I get more frustrated with my blog and the gap between what I want it to be and what it is currently.

Number one, I need to write more regularly. I know that one of the best ways to gain more readers is to post good content and to post often. I need an editorial calendar and I need to stick to it.

Last year around this time I paid $12 for the 2013 version of this Ultimate Blog Planner from Click it Up a Notch. I really like the blog and the pdf could have been totally worth it had I used it to keep me organized and help better my blog. It’s a year later and while I didn’t really use the pdf, it did help me discover a great community of women in the Philly Social Media Moms. (In fact, I’m excited to check out this 2014 organizing planner from Zoo Cutie Printables–she gave PSMM members a free download code.)

The PSMM group ranges from experts to hobbyists, with many variations in between. These women are great resources, but in many ways I don’t feel quite ready for them. I know a lot of what I should do, but don’t have the time or energy to make it a priority. I’ve considered letting my blog fade away. I’ve considered just keeping things status quo–writing when I can, trying to post once a week and more likely posting only every fee weeks. I’ve considered the other spectrum too–devoting more of my “free” time to the blog, buying a new WordPress theme so the blog would have a fresh look with a more trendy and professional feel, setting up a strict editorial calendar, turning off the tv when I feel like watching New Girl or The Voice and composing the blog posts that often sit half written in my draft folder or only the spark of an idea in my head.

Tim and I have been doing a lot of thinking and talking through what the future might hold for us. Whether that means a new job and new rental here in the Philly area or a big move to a new community in a new state, I feel change is in store for our family within the next couple of years. Part of this conversation has been to brainstorm entrepreneurial opportunities and business ideas. What do we want to do with ourselves and our professional lives? Where do we want to raise our kids?

Where does my blog fit into all this? Where does creative writing? And photography? Where does my interest in work-life balance and supoport for breastfeeding early parenting fit in?

I don’t know that I have an answer yet. I wish I were here as the second post of a new year to make an exciting announcement, but I’m not there yet. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be, and I guess this blog is too.

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breastfeeding awareness month  |  http://nextlifechapter.com

May, 2012 | Photo by Tammy Bradshaw

On this last day of National Breastfeeding Month, I wanted to share this photo we had taken during a family photo shoot when Adelaide was 9 months old. I consider myself a breastfeeding advocate (and really I’m an education advocate–I  believe every mother should have access to information and support for breastfeeding so that she is aware of the benefits and can get through the tough stages of breastfeeding if it’s what she chooses). I’ve written about breastfeeding several times on this blog–you can check out posts here and here and here and here.

This may come as a surprise to some, but at 25 months, Adelaide is still nursing. She doesn’t nurse in public–there’s really no need for it at this point. She nurses in the morning when she first wakes up. I bring her into bed with me and it’s the way we start each day. I also nurse her before she goes to bed. The nightly routine is nurse, brush teeth, read books, bed. Sometimes, these nursing sessions are short, like she could totally take it or leave it. Sometimes, they are longer, as if this time with me is the moment she’s been waiting for all her life. I’m comfortable with our breastfeeding relationship right now. I thought I might try to wean her at two years old, but she seems to SLOWLY be weaning herself. Some mornings I ask her if she wants Mommy’s milk or milk in a cup. She almost always chooses Mommy’s milk, but she has chosen milk in her cat cup or milk in her Elmo cup on a couple of occasions. I know it is just a matter of time before those five-minute nursing sessions become two minutes and then nothing at all. Until then, we will continue to do what feels right for both of us.

I don’t talk about the fact that I’m still breastfeeding very often. I guess it just doesn’t come up in conversation. However, I’m not embarrassed of it. I’m proud that we’ve had such a long nursing relationship. My pre-pregnant self wouldn’t have understood why we’ve continued so long (see my point about being an education advocate above). I thought that when a kid was old enough to ask for it, they were old enough to wean. After educating myself about the benefits of breastfeeding and learning that the World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least two years of age, my attitude has changed. I used to feel shy when I saw a nursing woman in public. I didn’t judge her for not covering herself, but I just thought I would never be that way.

A lot of modesty goes out the door in childbirth and for me, in motherhood. I did use a cover when Adelaide was young, and I do love my nursing tops that give lots of coverage, but I’m not embarrassed to nurse in public. When my baby was crying and needed to eat, I didn’t hesitate to “whip it out.” My hope is that one day breastfeeding in public will be common place–that women will never be asked to cover up or leave a public place.

In celebration of the month, our photographer Tammy Bradshaw, has an exhibit up at Cloth, a new natural baby story on East Passyunk. I think the show may be coming down this weekend, but it got some nice coverage in the local media. (Save yourself a rise in blood pressure by not reading the comments.)

Also, earlier this month there was a lovely campaign going on over at Mama By the Bay. Suzanne Barston, Jamie Lynne Grumet and Mama By the Bay’s Kim Simon launched the “I Support You” project. Check it out. It’s about supporting both nursing mothers and formula-feeding mothers. It’s about ending the mommy wars and supporting each other without judgement.

So, my final words as Breastfeeding Awareness Month comes to a close is for people to keep talking about it. Keep educating others. Keep breastfeeding in public and nursing beyond the publicly-accepted one year mark. Help to normalize breast feeding and “extended” breastfeeding. Keep supporting each other.

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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.

 * * *

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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