November 12, 2013

Being Ready for Motherhood

I never had much interest in dolls when I was little. I only liked to play with stuffed animals, preferably beavers. My grandmother couldn't stand it. She bought me doll after doll, hoping to find one I would like. No luck. I just couldn't stand dolls, or anything else in the nauseating "pink aisle."

"How are you going to learn how to take care of a baby if you don't play with dolls?" my grandma asked me once. Looking back, her statement doesn't make a whole lot of sense; it's not as if my stuffed animals were preparing me for a career as a zookeeper or veterinarian. But I do understand her concern that my lack of interest in plastic babies meant I lacked interest in ever having real ones.

This should probably be the part of the story when I say that my grandmother was completely wrong, and that I grew up to be a woman who just loves babies and couldn't wait to have her own. But that's just not true. That wasn't me. Sure I liked kids and wanted two or three someday, but I'm just more comfortable with animals. If I hadn't gotten married, I probably would have become a crazy cat/dog/blue tongue skink lady and been perfectly happy with my life.

Was I "ready" for motherhood when I became a mother? I'd never even changed a diaper! Nathan had to teach me. But my lack of experience aside, I don't think I ever would have reached a point in life when I truly felt ready to become responsible to care for and raise another human. I mean, babies turn into teenagers! Is anyone ever really ready for that? I don't know if I ever will be.

Sometimes you just have to jump into the water and hope you can swim, and so far I'm still managing to tread water. I'm still not a baby person and I doubt I ever will be, but I adore my baby and look forward to having more kids. Not only have I figured out how to change diapers, I switched to cloth diapers when Evan was 5 months old!

Am I doing it all perfectly? Of course not. I doubt there's any aspect of parenting I do anywhere close to perfectly. I'm making it up as we go, and I'm sure most parenting "experts" would say I'm doing just about everything wrong, either holding him too much or too little, feeding him too much solid food or too little, etc. But you know what? Evan doesn't seem to know that I'm doing it wrong. He seems to think I'm kind of awesome, and that's good enough for me.

Do you feel ready to be a parent? If you have kids, did you feel ready to be a parent when your first child was born? 

November 5, 2013

Evan at 9 Months

I originally started writing this post as "Evan at 6 Months," but then I blinked and three months had gone by. Yikes. I guess I'd better do at least one post before he's a year old. Here's what Evan's been up to in his first 9 months.

As a newborn, the first words I would have used to describe Evan were "laid back" and "happy." As he got a little older, I would have added "engaging" because he was so social and wanted everyone to talk to him. Now that he's become much more active, I've seen "determined" come out. This kids does not give up! He's been a little less social the last few months as he's focused more on his physical development. He does seem to be developing a goofy sense of humor though.

Evan weighs about 18 pounds now. He hasn't had his 9 month checkup yet, but at about six and a half months, he weighed 16 lbs 6 oz and was 26.5" long, which put him around 20% for weight and 40% for length. He's not nearly as long and skinny proportionately as he was as a newborn, when he was about 30% for weight and 90% for length, but we're okay with that. His clothes fit much better. He's wearing mostly 12 month clothes now.

He rolled onto his stomach for the first time at three and a half months (May 2) and it wasn't long before he mastered rolling as a means of transportation and started rolling across the living room. At five and a half months (July 5) he pushed up to his hands and knees for the first time. By the time he was six months old, he was already an excellent crawler. Sitting up on his own didn't happen as early but happened very quickly. He could sit up on his own with his hands supporting him for a few seconds by six months, but he had no interest in doing so. What's the fun of sitting when you can roll or crawl all over the place? About a week after he turned six months old, he started to push up from all fours into sitting with his hands, and at six and a half months (August 2), he was sitting up with no hands. Two weeks later (August 16) Evan pulled up to standing for the first time. He started standing on his own earlier this month and took his first steps one day shy of 9 months old (October 18). I've always thought walking at 9 months sounded crazy and by no means have I tried to push him into early development, but I'm not going to hold him back either! His record is up to 12 steps in a row.

To answer what seems to be everyone's favorite question, "Is he sleeping through the night yet?!?" Sometimes. Sometimes he sleeps 12 hours straight, sometime she wakes up after 6 or 9 and goes back to sleep after nursing. He's pretty much always slept 12 hours at night, just with fewer wakings as he's gotten older. He's also gone to bed and woken up progressively earlier as he's gotten older. At first it was midnight to noon, and now it's 7:30pm to 7:30am. These days he generally takes one nap in the afternoon. It's usually two hours, but sometimes it's as long as three. Up until a few days before he turned six months old, Evan was sleeping in a pack-n-play right next to our bed. It worked great up until that point, but once he started waking up more easily and making more noises in his sleep, I decided it was time to put him in his own room. Evan's been fine with it. If anything, he liked the change of scenery.

Evan's diet is still mostly breast milk, with solids once a day most days. I wanted to hold off on solids until he was six months old, but I had no doubt he was ready at that point. He was grabbing our food at 4 months old. We started off with avocado. I just gave him a little taste, thinking if he wasn't into this solid food thing, we'd just try again in a week or so. Well, he was totally into it! He was launching forward with his mouth open and grabbing the spoon from me to stick it in his mouth himself. By 9 months old, he decided he wanted nothing to do with spoon feeding anymore, so I've just been letting him feed himself for the most part (under close supervision). I have yet to find a food he doesn't like well enough to eat as much as I give him.

It's been a joy watching this little guy grow and change and experience the world!

October 29, 2013

My DIY Baby Project: Felt Bird Mobile

While some moms make toys, blankets, and even clothes for their babies, I didn't want to spend a lot of time absorbed in projects during my pregnancy. However, I really wanted to make one project for my baby.

I've seen a lot of really cool felt creations around the internet, and I decided to make some felt birds and put them together in a mobile. This was probably not the best project to select because 1) I had never done anything like it before and can't sew well enough to hold a button on securely and 2) I'm a perfectionist. But whether it's because I majored in art in college or because of the do-it-yourself attitude I inherited from my father, I tend to think I can create things using any medium.

My mom is a bird watcher who can identify just about any local bird by sight or sound. As a toddler I learned not what a bird says but what a cardinal says and what a chickadee says. I've taught Nathan to identify the birds we see most commonly around here and look forward to teaching Evan to do the same.

I wanted the birds to be colorful while keeping true to the natural colors of local birds. I also wanted to include black and white patterns to interest a newborn.The birds I selected were the downy woodpecker, chickadee, bluebird, goldfinch, and cardinal. Nathan's favorite bird is the chickadee because of their jubilant "party in the air" way of flying, which I never even noticed until he made the observation. Bluebirds are my mom's favorite birds, and my grandma loved cardinals. It's a family tree of sorts.

I found the patterns for the woodpecker, goldfinch, and chickadee on Downeast Thunder Farm. Their bluebird and cardinal patterns are older and the body shapes didn't seem quite right, so I made my own. (Like I said, perfectionist.)

It wasn't until after Evan was born that I finally put them together as a mobile. I'd never made a mobile before either and I wasn't sure how best to do it until I saw the bird mobile Carmen of Life Blessons made for her daughter using a photoclip mobile. Evan was five weeks old at that point, so I decided there's a time to DIY and a time to just get it done and ordered one for my felt birds.

It took a lot of time, effort, and frustration but a lot of love went into it as well. And most importantly, Evan loves it! It hung over the changing table until we moved him into his own room, and then Nathan put it above Evan's bed. Sometimes all I have to do is spin the mobile and he drifts off to take a nap.

Did you do any crafting for your baby? Anyone else have a do-it-yourself problem like I do?

October 25, 2013

The Importance of Together as a Mom

I'm spending another 5 minutes of nap time writing for Five Minute Friday this week on the prompt of Together.


It took me awhile to realize the importance of togetherness as a mom, of spending time with other moms. If you're a new mom or future mom, I encourage you to come together with other moms.

I didn't go to a La Leche League (breastfeeding support group) meeting until Evan was almost six months old. We weren't having any problems with nursing, so I didn't think I needed to go. But I need together. I need to be around other moms choosing to nurse past a year or even two because there are people who think nursing a baby who can walk is disgusting. I need to be reminded that I'm not alone. I go to a moms' group to remember that I'm not the only mom who's accidentally whacked her baby's head while walking through a doorway or who doesn't have a perfectly clean house.

As an introvert I'm happy being along most of the time, but I still need the togetherness.

October 23, 2013

Life as a Work at Home Mom

It's now been over five months since I left my job. Five months ago Evan wasn't yet mobile, and now he's crawling like a pro and has taken his first steps. It flies by so fast, and I'm thankful I've been able to stay home with him to watch him grow and develop.

While working full-time outside the home as a new mom just wasn't for me, I wanted to keep working. Graphic design is part of who I am, and while I may be more selective about clients and projects down the road, I don't plan to ever completely stop. I cringed when someone listed my occupation as "homemaker." There's nothing wrong with that job title, but it's just not me. However, I did give myself two months to focus on being a wife and mom, a redo of my maternity leave if you will. I bought a domain for my freelance business and made a Facebook page, but I didn't do much with either. Once I reached my July 1 deadline of when I needed to get serious about my freelance business, I realized I really had no idea how to find clients. I invited all my friends to like my Facebook page, offered my services in a couple places, and that was about it. I submitted a logo design for a contest and browsed around Elance, but nothing really came of it.

Then, three weeks into July, something really crazy happened: someone contacted me through my website about doing design work for them. And a few weeks after that someone else contacted me. A week later, someone from a local organization contacted me about working for them on a retainer. This local client has given me so much work that I haven't even made much of an effort to find new clients, and I'm able to offer my services to others at a lower rate. And just like that, I was a work at home mom. 

Balancing the work, home, and mom parts of my job has been an interesting challenge. I've found that on any given day, it's usually a choice of 2 out of the 3. If I have a lot of freelance work, I might completely forget about dinner or run the washer through an entire cycle without putting any clothes in it (hypothetically, of course). If the house is clean, I probably didn't do any freelance work that day. On the rare occasion I manage to spend a few hours working and get a lot done around the house, I don't spend much quality time with my son, which defeats the entire purpose of why I'm at home. If I find a true balance between the three, I feel like I accomplished nothing at all. I'm still working out the kinks, but overall, I'm very happy. 

Nathan has been wonderfully supportive. When I told him I ruined dinner (it turns out mixing eggs with shredded potatoes will NOT keep them from immediately turning brown), he brought home Fazoli's. One night recently I was lying in bed reading from the book we're reading for the moms' group I go to on Tuesday mornings. This particular chapter of No Perfect Moms was entitled "No Perfect Marriages." When I saw the title, I thought, "Yeah, that's for sure," yet as I was reading, Nathan was doing dishes and cleaning the kitchen. Our marriage might not be perfect, but my husband is pretty awesome. I never would have been able to handle working at home, let alone working outside the home, without a husband who cooks, cleans, and does whatever else he needs to do to take care of our family and home. I'm thankful he was never set on having a wife who stays home or a wife that works, and supports me no matter what I choose to do.

As for my main client, I think Evan likes that I'm home. He is very happy and healthy and growing well. We're still going strong with breastfeeding with no plans to stop anytime soon. We go to a moms' group, La Leche League meetings, and other places where he can be around other kids (and I can be around other adults). Sometimes I think I'm not providing him with enough stimulation or activities, but whenever I get down on the floor to play with him, he just climbs over me or cruises around me. It's pretty fun being his favorite toy. 

So, when will I be going back to work? I don't know. Some have misunderstood the fact that I actually resigned from my job and am not still on maternity leave. Depending on where the company is if and when I want to go back to work, they could rehire me, but there isn't a job waiting for me. At this point I don't have a set date or age of my child(ren) for when I'll go back to work. I look at this not as "taking a year off" but rather taking the next step in my career. I might want to go back to working full-time at some point, but at this point I'm happy being just a work at home mom.

October 4, 2013


I'm taking part in Lisa Jo's Five Minute Friday today. Kayla's doing it for the first time today too, and when I saw the prompt on her blog for this week, I thought it would be a good one for me to do. So here we go...


I don't write much anymore. I'm not sure why. Writing used to be a pretty big deal for me. I started my first journal 19 years ago, when I was 7. I filled notebook after notebook by the time I was 18. For most of elementary school, my dream was to become a published author. In middle school I wrote for the school newspaper. And then at 15 I decided rather than sit around and write books and hope someone would publish them one day, I would become a graphic designer.

Writing kind of sat on the back burner during college. It's hard to keep writing for yourself when you're writing so much for others. 

I started my first blog 8 years ago, on MSN spaces, then moved to LiveJournal, to Xanga, and to Blogger. Now I don't blog. And I don't write for me. And I don't know why. I think part of it is what blogging has become. At first I loved blogging because I was such an advocate of keeping journals and now other people were doing it too! But now blogs aren't journals. Words like SEO and monetizing came in and made blogs into business. If blogging is just about making money, I'll stick with making money with graphic design.

Five Minute Friday

August 5, 2013

So now what? {An update on our Financial Peace Trek}

It's been awhile since I wrote about our financial goals. Since we just significantly lowered our income, and since Nathan and I are going to be two of the co-leaders for a session of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University starting next month, I decided it was time to take a look at how we're doing with our trek to financial peace. We've made lots of progress, but we still have a long way to go.

To review Dave Ramsey's baby steps and the progress we've made so far, step one is to put $1,000 in the bank. That one was pretty easy for us with two incomes; we've never had less than $1,000 during our marriage. Step two is to pay off all debt except your mortgage, but we deviated from Dave's plan a bit. We have no mortgage and had quite a bit of debt in the form of graduate school loans, so we decided to pay off all debt except the grad school loans. We called this Baby Step 2, Phase 1, and we completed it early in 2011. Then we moved on to step 3, which is building an emergency fund of 3-6 months' expenses. This baby step kind of bugs me. Three months and six months is a big difference. How do you know when you've completed it? We just decided on a nice round number, and after saving that amount about two years ago, we began paying off the grad school loans.

Originally we thought about setting aside money for a down payment on a house at the same time we were paying off the loans, but we decided it made more sense to pour all our extra funds into getting rid of the debt as quickly as possible to avoid paying more in interest. We've questioned this decision from time to time as we watched the real estate market, but ultimately, we can't predict the future, and we're okay with renting.

Our goal for 2012 was to pay off half the grad school loans. I never did write a post on how I did with my 12 to Tackle in 2012, but I can say that we successfully met our financial goal. I called this our "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" because I really didn't think we could pull it off. Well, we did! The initial goal for 2013 was to be completely debt free with a 3-6 months' emergency fund. However, we could only do that by putting 100% of my income (and then some) towards paying off debt. Without my income, this isn't just an audacious goal, it's a nearly impossible one.

So now what?

Well, we are still putting as much as possible towards becoming debt free. I say "as much as possible," but within reason; we want to be able to enjoy life. As of now, seven months into 2013, we have paid off around 75% of the grad school loans. Our only remaining debt is two subsidized federal government loans. Can we be debt free by the end of the year? Probably. The question is, do we want to be? By the end of the year, the amount of debt we have will most likely be less than the amount in our emergency fund, so if we wanted to, we could use the money from our emergency fund to pay off our debt (assuming we have no serious emergencies). The financial adviser we met with doesn't think we should do it. He told us, "Dave Ramsey says once you have your emergency fund, you don't touch it." True, but Dave also says to pay off all debt before worrying about building your larger emergency fund. So, we're not sure what we'll do when we reach that "break even" point, but for now we're just continuing to work towards reaching that point by the end of the year.

How's your trek to financial peace? Which do you think is more important: having lots of savings, or being completely debt free?

June 5, 2013

Life as a Working Mom & The True Cost of Working

Evan usually wakes up to eat around 3:00 am. At 5:30 it's time to feed him again and get ready before feeding him again at 7:15 to ensure he's as full as possible when I drop him off at daycare. I haul my bags and my baby out to the car, drop Evan off at daycare, and then try to be productive at work for a couple hours. By the time I get into the groove, it's already time to go upstairs to a dirty, dusty, cold room to hook myself up to a machine to make my son's first bottle for the next day. A couple more hours of work, then I go feed Evan at daycare, grabbing some sort of fast food on my way back to work. I try to eat while working, and after a couple more hours of work it's time for another pumping break. I work a few more hours, then it's time to go pick up my son.

At home I barely have time to feed my dogs before I have to feed my baby again. By this point Nathan's usually home, and we try to see what we can scrounge up for dinner. I'm usually too worn out to cook anything. One of us usually ends up holding Evan most of the evening. My once easy-going, fairly independent baby is now clingy in the evenings. After spending most of his day lying on his back in a crib or on a play mat, competing with seven other babies for attention, who can blame him? I try to spend some time with my husband in between nursing sessions, but it's hardly quality time. I sterilize all my pump parts and bottles and get everything else ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

On Evan's second day of daycare, I got a call from one of the directors because he'd had all three of his bottles by noon. Not sure if he was going through a growth spurt or just being over fed, I stayed home with him on Wednesday. It was definitely a growth spurt, but hoping it would level off, I went back to work Thursday. I left him with 3 bottles and told them I would be back at noon to nurse him. By the time I arrived at noon, he had already taken all three bottles and was hungry for more. Unable to feed him, the daycare workers had left him crying on the floor. It was undeniable at this point that the best place for a baby, especially one fed exclusively breast milk, is with his mother.

I tried to keep working. If I could just make it eight more months, we would be 100% debt free and have an emergency fund of at least 5 months' expenses. Evan would never remember being in daycare. I thought there had to be a way to make it work. Maybe I could do freezer cooking on the weekends and clean after Evan's gone to bed. Maybe if I gave up breastfeeding and gave him formula

After four weeks back at work, I gave my two weeks' notice. It was by no means easy to do. I'm not a quitter. I'd been working there almost four years. I got comments on Facebook telling me it would get easier, to just hang in there. I just couldn't. I admire women who can make it work, but it wasn't for me.  I wasn't giving my best to anyone: not my job, not my son, not my husband, not myself.

I had to stop crunching the numbers and look at the big picture. Quitting my job was not a good move from a purely financial standpoint. Even after daycare and increased costs related to me working, I was still bringing home a decent amount of money. The thing is, there's quite a bit more to life than money. I could relate to a lot of what Amy from The Finer Things in Life wrote in a blog post about what working outside the home was costing in terms of her time, her marriage, and her health. It just wasn't worth it to me.

A lot of it came down to this: At the end of my life, what will I regret? Will I be more likely to regret having less money during this time in our lives and being in debt a little longer, or missing out on the first year of my son's life?

I don't think I'll regret this decision.

May 11, 2013

I'm a Mom?

A year after finding out I would soon be a mother, and nearly four months after meeting my baby, it still seems unbelievable that I actually am a mother. I was reading a book to Evan today about a Mama Bear and her Little Cub and in my mind, Mama Bear is still much older and wiser than I am. Even though he looks like my family and I see his dad's personality in him, it's still hard to believe that this amazing little boy who gets bigger and smarter each day is my son. I find myself constantly thinking, and sometimes saying out loud to Nathan, "We have a baby!" or "I made that!" 

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms. Does it ever sink in?

February 25, 2013

5 Favorites from the First Few Weeks of Motherhood

I have to admit, these first few weeks haven't been quite what I expected. I guess I was just naive, but I had no idea recovering from childbirth would take so long. I thought I'd bounce back after three days or so, but it took three weeks before I started to feel better. I still can't stand very long before I start to feel sore. However, some things went better than expected, like the fact that I lost most of the baby weight in two weeks, despite barely being able to move. Plus, taking care of a newborn hasn't been nearly as bad as I expected. Evan is a pretty easy-going baby. It's all kind of balanced out I guess. Who knows, maybe next time I'll have a better recovery and a high maintenance baby.

Every mother has a different opinion about which baby items are essentials and which you can live without. I wouldn't call any of these five items essential, just things I was really happy to have as I stumbled through these first few weeks.

The tag on the Boppy depicts four uses of the pillow: feeding at 0 months, propping at 2 months, tummy time at 4 months, and sitting at 6 months. I discovered a fifth use: sitting during the first week...not for the baby, for the mother recovering from childbirth. It's also been great for nursing. I can manage without it, but it helps me sit with better posture.

Sometimes Evan just wants some kind of movement, which was difficult to give him when I could barely move. Evan loves being in his swing. Sometimes he goes to sleep, and sometimes he just sits there awake, looking at the elephants and whatever else is around.

If you want to use a smartphone app to track things like feeding times and diaper changes, I recommend finding one you like before the baby is born. I downloaded at least 5 others before finding this one. It's still not perfect, but it works for what I needed. It also has other nice features like information about your baby's development, a growth tracker, and even a baby book to add photos and milestones. 

Having a smarthphone in general has been useful for these weeks of not doing much other than resting and nursing. I've liked having the OverDrive Media Console app so I can check out ebooks from the library for one-handed reading. 

This book for ages 0+ has high contrast images of an animal on each page, along with the name of that animal. I was skeptical that a brand new baby could enjoy a book, but the first time Evan was really alert for a significant amount of time, at three days old, I decided to show it to him. Sure enough, he stared at the animals, looking back and forth between the two pages. It was a great moment for me. You could save money and just draw some shapes on paper with a black marker (which I've also done), but I love being able to "read" Evan his first book.

Hemorrhoids, swelling and bruising, episiotomies...I don't think any expectant mother expects to deal with any of these things, but if you find yourself faced with all of the above, you'll be glad you bought this. I was amazed at how well it worked. It seems to be more effective than any of the stuff I got from the hospital, and it smells much better too.

I'd love to hear from other mothers about what they found fun or useful with a brand new baby and/or recovering from childbirth.

February 7, 2013

Evan's Birth Story

By the time I was 41 weeks pregnant, on Wednesday, January 16, I knew I had less than a week left of being pregnant. The midwife I saw for my prenatal care was absolutely fine with me being pregnant past 41 weeks, but it's their policy to induce labor before 42 weeks. I had an appointment with my midwife, Carrie, on Friday morning (January 18), and we scheduled an induction for the following Tuesday. In an attempt to avoid a medical induction, I decided to have Carrie sweep my membranes. She told me there was about a 1 in 8 chance it would actually put me into labor, and it could cause some pain. At this point I was willing to give it a try. I had read quite a bit about membrane sweeping online and read several accounts saying it did nothing, but many of these women were around 37 weeks pregnant and 1 cm dilated, and none were 41+ weeks pregnant and 3 cm dilated like I was.

Not knowing how I would feel after the procedure, I had taken a vacation day on Friday. I ended up not being in much pain at all, just discomfort similar to mild menstrual cramps, but I was glad I had the rest of the day off. I put a pot roast in the crock pot for dinner, ate lunch, and slept for a couple hours. I tried doing some acupressure on pressure points supposed to induce labor, but I think all that accomplished was giving me a headache. Nathan came home from work, and we took the pot roast over to friends' house, played a game, and got back home close to midnight.

I woke up at 4:00 Saturday morning. This was the fourth night in a row I'd had little sleep. Fortunately I was able to sleep off and on from 6:00 to 8:00. During this time, I started feeling cramps. I thought the symptoms of having the membrane sweep had just taken until the next morning to set in. The strange thing was, I would feel cramping for about a half a minute, then it would stop for a while. The pattern seemed like contractions, but the sensation was only in one spot. Around 8:20 I told Nathan what I was feeling and started looking at the clock when I felt the cramps. Once I realized they were coming every 5-7 minutes, I used my contraction timer app to time them and found they were lasting about 30 seconds. I was convinced at this point they were actually contractions, even though they didn't feel like what I had experienced at 22weeks. As I was lying in bed, I told Nathan I needed breakfast, but didn't know what I could eat. He knew I was in labor when I told him oatmeal didn't even sound good. I decided I could handle a smoothie. Around 9:00, I gave up on sleeping and got in the shower for some relief. Nathan called our doula, Ana, to let her know I was having contractions and started dog-proofing the house enough for us to be able to leave the dogs for two days (They have a dog door and we had someone stop by to feed them). I got out of the shower and worked on grabbing a few last minute things for the hospital bag. Nathan asked me what I wanted in my smoothie, but by that point I couldn't eat at all, so he then finished packing our bags for the hospital.

At 9:26 I got a call from the HR coordinator at work, who was using her Saturday morning to work on paperwork and wanted to know if I was going to be back at work on Monday. "Well, I'm having contractions every 7 minutes, but labor could stop..." I confirmed everything was good with my paperwork and then went back to having a baby.

My parents, brother, and grandpa had been planning on coming over that day to go out to lunch and bring me my birthday gifts and cake since it had been my birthday the previous Monday. Of course we knew that plan could change, but after being pregnant 41 weeks, I had basically decided I might as well live my life as if I'm never going to go into labor. I called my mom and told her she should hold off on coming since I was in labor and didn't feel like eating cake, or anything else at the moment.

By 10:00 I was having contractions every 3-5 minutes, but they were only lasting 30-45 seconds. I decided we should take the opportunity to get one last maternity photo at 41 weeks. After that, I went into the living room and tried to get comfortable. I had Nathan put on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for me. Everything I had read about early labor said the best thing to do is distract yourself from the contractions. I started crying two different times while watching the beginning of the movie, and I have no idea why. Crazy hormones. About 40 minutes into the movie, it was clear distraction was no longer working. Nathan and I couldn't find any positions that made me more comfortable. I told Nathan I felt like I might get sick, and he brought me a trash can.

Nathan and Ana started texting back and forth about how things were going, starting at 11:08. I told him to ask her how far I had to progress before she would come, and she suggested we check back in at noon and see how I was doing. At 11:27 I told him to just call her. My contractions were 2-3 minutes apart by this point and 1 minute long, but they hadn't been a minute long for over an hour like they're supposed to be before you go to the hospital. After I finished a contraction, Nathan started to give me the phone, but I began throwing up. Ana realized then just how quickly things were moving and told Nathan she needed to meet us at the hospital instead of going to our house. Ana called the hospital to let them know we were coming. I thought it was still too soon to go to the hospital. After all, I didn't meet the rule of contractions that were 1 minute long for over an hour yet. Nathan said we had hired a doula for a reason and we needed to trust her instincts. I was still worried we might be sent home, but I didn't argue. I went almost 10 minutes without having a contraction on the drive there, which really made me worry my labor wasn't as far along as we thought.

It was about 12:15 when we got to the hospital. The walk from the parking garage to labor and delivery triage was a long one, but I knew walking would be better during labor than sitting in a wheel chair. Ana met us at the front entrance of the hospital. As we walked past the front desk, a man asked, "Do we need a wheelchair here?" Ana told him that no, actually, walking worked to our advantage. Confused, he basically insisted we needed a wheelchair for the long walk. "Yes, we know how long it is." A little farther down the hall, I saw one of the pastors from the church we've been going to. That was kind of random. Nathan talked to him for a minute while I had another contraction.

When we got up to labor and delivery triage, Ana completely took charge. Knowing about our bad experience in triage earlier in my pregnancy, she wanted to make sure we spent as little time there as possible. She told the lady out front that she knew they had to ask questions about domestic violence, but this was a safe situation, and Nathan was let in with no protest. I started having another contraction, and by the time I'd finished, Ana had already given the person in triage my insurance card and driver's license. I was amazed she had found them that quickly in the mess of my purse. Ana talked to a triage nurse about how we'd had a bad experience in triage before. I went to a bed and was hooked up to the monitor. One of the midwives, Cheryl came in. She had been the midwife in triage the last time I was there (but had nothing to do with why I had a bad experience). As soon as she opened the curtain, she said, "I do remember you! Miss I have a huge fibroid inside me!" Cheryl checked me and said I was at 6.5 cm dilated. Wow. I was pleasantly surprised! "You're not going home!" Ana told me. Knowing I was farther into labor than I expected and with the trip to the hospital behind me, I was feeling pretty good at this point. We waited in triage awhile longer while they got the room ready. I didn't know if I wanted a water birth, or if it would even be possible, but I wanted to have a room with a tub so I could give it a try at least. We were probably in triage for less than an hour. I didn't have to get an IV or even put on a hospital gown.

I got into the tub almost immediately after getting to my labor room. I remembered my friend Amber saying she'd felt almost normal after getting into the tub for her water birth, and I could see what she was talking about. The warmth was relaxing, and the buoyancy of the water meant I could float around in all kinds of positions for relief. For about two and a half hours, I could manage the contractions really well, and in between I was just chatting with Nathan and Ana. Nathan started eating the trail mix I'd packed. Neither of us had had anything to eat that day. I asked if he would give me an almond, and he gave me two. Not long after that, I said, "I'm probably going to be throwing up soon" and I was right. Eating during labor, although permitted at our hospital, was not a good idea for me.

Things got a little tougher around 3:00. I could still handle the contractions, but I asked Nathan when he was getting into the tub, and he put on his swim trunks and joined me. I had just reached the point where I wanted him right next to me. The contractions got more and more intense, and the time between them became shorter. At times I had almost no break in between. I started getting vocal with the contractions, not crazy screaming or shouting out profanities, just making sounds. I hadn't expected to be quite so loud during labor, and neither had Nathan, but it seemed to help work through the contractions, and Ana was encouraging me to do so. At one point Ana told me I was well into transition, which surprised me. Transition was supposed to be the worst part of labor, when women say "I can't do this." I never once said or even thought that I couldn't do it, although during a couple contractions I did wonder why I was having a natural birth. But then I'd finish the contraction and be at peace for a few seconds and know I could get through it. The midwife, Jill, did another cervical check around 3:30 (yes, while still in the water). She discovered the bag of water was bulging out and suggested breaking it to help labor progress. Some meconium came out in the water when she did so, which meant NICU would have to come in when the baby was born to make sure he hadn’t inhaled any. I wasn't told how dilated I was and didn't ask, for fear of being disappointed. Because of this, I was a little shocked when I said, "I feel like I need to push!" and received responses of "That's okay!" Really? I had heard about women getting the urge to push before they're fully dilated and having to hold back, so I was worried it wasn't time yet.

We could see the head by 5:00. A mirror was brought over so I could see that amazing, bizarre sight. With Nathan holding me, the baby started crowning. The end was near...except that it wasn't. I pushed through contraction after contraction and got nowhere. We still could only see the very tip of his head. Jill, Ana and the two nurses surrounded the tub, waiting for the baby to emerge, but he didn't. Everyone was suggesting different positions to try. We ended up with three videos on our camera of what was supposed to be the birth of our son but wasn't. They were carefully monitoring his heart rate through this (with a wireless monitor held onto my abdomen), and it stayed in the 120's.

Around 6:00, Jill told me I needed to get out of the tub so we could try other positions to get me more leverage. If you're wondering how one climbs out of a labor tub with a head sticking out of them, well, so was I. They moved the bed closer so I only had a few steps and supported me, but wow was that rough. We tried different positions on the bed, including pulling on a sheet tied to a squatting bar. That head still just was not budging. It wasn't due to lack of trying, from me or the baby. At one point he started rotating his head from side to side. Thinking the difficulty getting the head out could mean a huge baby and difficulty getting the shoulders out, they brought in an obstetrician, who happened to be the head of all the obstetricians of the hospital. After trying some more positions, the doctor felt around the baby's head and recommended doing an episiotomy. When Jill told me this, all I could do in response was moan. I'm not sure what all was discussed. I could hear Nathan talking to Ana about it. Knowing that episiotomies can lead to more tearing and it's better to tear naturally, I definitely didn't like the idea, but I just wasn't tearing on my own. I knew they wouldn't be suggesting it unless they thought it was truly needed. I remember asking how much it would hurt. I don't really remember giving consent but must have. I didn't feel any pain from the episiotomy, just pressure. As soon as it was cut, I pushed one more time and felt my son being born. Not just his head, all of him! Now that was a crazy feeling! At 6:38, he was finally here. Jill unwrapped the cord, which was around his neck three times, and handed him to me.

Evan gave a little cry when he first came out, then was content on my chest, eyes wide open. I was so focused on him that when I delivered the placenta I thought, "Oh yeah! Afterbirth. Forgot all about that." The initial skin-to-skin bonding time didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped. Having a second degree tear assessed and stitched up while my uterus was being forcefully pressed on was just not conducive to bonding with my baby. Of course, it was still good for Evan. He seemed oblivious to what I was feeling and was eager to start nursing.

When I found out Evan was only 7 lbs. 11 oz., I was a little surprised. I would have thought after 41 weeks and 3 days gestation and with the trouble we had getting him out, he would be a little bigger. Then we found out he was 21.25 in. long. Apparently he just got longer during his extended stay in the womb, not heavier.

Although the last hour of labor was physically and emotionally draining, overall my labor and birth experience could not have been any better. A high risk for c-section birth that almost ended up being a water birth? I was extremely blessed. My fibroid never shrank smaller than 8cm, and with the way things looked at my ultrasound at 35 weeks, I had no idea how that baby was going to get out without a c-section. I still don't know how, but I know God is gracious, which is Evan's meaning in Welsh.

I had an awesome support team for my labor and birth. Nathan was amazing throughout my labor. I knew he would be great at supporting me emotionally, but I had no idea how much he would end up physically supporting me through labor. When I was pushing in the tub, he was grabbing my legs and pulling them back to my chest, almost as if we were pushing the baby out together. Having Ana there for extra support and a smoother experience at the hospital was invaluable. She spoke words of encouragement to me throughout my labor, fed me ice chips, and even made sure to put in our food order before she left. I'm sure she did more than I even realize, and I know having her there made Nathan much more at ease. We will be using a doula next time for sure. The midwife, doctor, and nurses I had were outstanding, and I never doubted that they had Evan's and my best interests in mind.

Most importantly, my birth story ends with a healthy baby. Despite passing meconium, getting stuck crowning, and having the cord around his neck three times, Evan was perfectly fine. He is thriving in the outside world, and I love being his mother. I don’t even mind that he decided to interrupt my birthday party with his own birth. I think having birthdays the same week is pretty special. I'm looking forward to this journey of motherhood.

January 23, 2013

Evan Nathaniel

Our son Evan Nathaniel made his entrance into the world Saturday, January 19, at 7 lbs. 11 oz. and 21.25 inches long. He's a healthy and happy boy. Other than feeling like I've been beaten with a baseball bat, I'm doing well. These first few days of motherhood have truly been a joy.

Birth story and more photos to come!

January 16, 2013

41 Weeks

A lot of thoughts crossed my mind when I started having contractions at 22 weeks and found out I was at high risk for preterm labor. There were just so many unknowns. I didn't know if my son would survive when he was born, or what problems he could have if he did. I didn't know how much time he would have to spend in the hospital. One thing I never expected to happen? Still being pregnant at 41 weeks, an entire week after my due date. I am! I never had any preterm labor, and I'm now four weeks past the point of having a preterm birth. Crazy how things turn out sometimes.

Before 22 weeks, I was pretty much convinced I would go past my due date. Nathan and I were both born a few days later than expected, as was my brother. I'm sure it's not necessarily a genetic thing, but I was still expecting our baby to follow suit. I'm thankful for the perspective my situation gave me. Rather than just expecting a big, healthy baby, I was thanking God for each extra week my son was able to grow bigger and stronger. The weeks turned into months, and I now have no doubt this baby inside me is big and strong. In fact, just how big he could be is starting to get a little scary!

I'm feeling really good for the most part. I'm still working, thinking every day for the past month could be my last before I go into labor, and hoping I'll be right one of these days. The baby is low in my pelvis, which sometimes causes so much nerve pain that I can barely walk, but I still get around okay most of the time. Other than that, the most annoying part is that most of my maternity clothes don't fit well any more. I'm definitely not as uncomfortable as I would have expected to be at 41 weeks pregnant.

It can't be too much longer now! I won't be allowed to go past 42 weeks, so I'll have to be induced next week if he doesn't come on his own. I now know there are days left of my pregnancy instead of weeks. Nathan and I are still enjoying feeling the baby kick and move around inside me, but we're very much looking forward to finally getting to see him and hold him.