Sunday, January 28, 2018

Back to Work Update

I've never been a great blogger. Since we moved from Chicago, I started feeling like I was spending more time living life, than documenting it. That's how it should be.

However, time goes so incredibly fast with a baby that I try to document what I can to remember it all. We're approaching five months old, Grayson is pretty close to double his birth weight and it's almost already hard to fathom that he used to be this small.
Photos by Courtney Heckler Photography
 If you follow me on instagram, then a lot of this point may not come as a surprise to you. I love using instagram stories to document photos and stories from the day.

I went back to work when Grayson was 13 weeks old. Prior to that, we tossed back and forth trying to figure childcare. We thought we had a daycare spot, then we didn't, then we were going to sign a contract for a nanny-share with another family and the night before we go a call that we did have a daycare spot. Aye-yi-yi.

However, the daycare spot we landed didn't start until a week after I was to start back at work. My parents willingly offered to come out from Illinois to help. If I'm being honest, I was hesitant at first. It was a big enough change already and I wasn't sure if I would be stressed by having more people in the house. Then I thought about the upsides: Grayson could stay in our house and even though I wouldn't be there, it seemed like a good transition step for him to go to daycare; cooking! When my parents came out when Grayson was born, they kept us well fed and made some amazing dinners. So going back to work, knowing Gray would be in good hands, knowing I could come home and snuggle him up while someone else made it dinner; yep, sold.

The week prior to going back to work was THE worst. I tried not to think about it, but inevitability every day when the thought crossed my mind, I would tear up and start to cry. At home, in the car; even storytime at the library when a mom friend asked how I was filling. It was awful. I was anxious to move into yet another "new normal". Then my parents got here and the day arrived and I was fine. I barely even cried when I left in the morning! I survived work, came up and snuggled him and slowly, every day got easier and easier until I realized that I would sometimes go an hour or two and not think about him once.

It completely helps that Ben has taken on the majority of drop-off and pick-up. We went together the first day and I occasionally do it, but Ben's office is a mile or two down the street (whereas daycare is 20 minutes out of the way from my project). I really like our set up. I get Grayson ready in the morning (more in a minute) and Ben does the driving. If I feel like I'm missing out, I tell Ben I'll grab him after school and it's no big deal.

Grayson is still tiny; at his four month appointment he was 12lb 7 oz and 23" long; which puts him around 5th percentile in weight and under 1st percentile in height. I'm still shocked! I was an 8lb 15oz baby and born two weeks early. Ben was 10lb 4oz! I mean, we're not big people now, but we were tiny beans babies. He still is wearing newborn (size 0) shoes, size 1 diapers and mostly 0-3 and 3 month clothing. As of this week we starting pulling out some 3-6 month clothes.

I keep this calendar with his milestones and memorable moments. Although, again, sometimes time passes so quickly I forget to write things downs and then I struggle to remember exact dates or flip through photos on my phone to try to remember. The weekend before I started back at work Grayson slept his night straight! We moved him into his room and his crib, after consulting with our pediatrician, just before 4 months.  I feel like I was ready for this, but it was a big deal for Ben. Our master suite is on a separate level in the house than Grayson's nursery. I remember Ben saying, "Are you sure? It's so far away!" But as our ped suggested might happen, I think we're all sleeping better being in separate rooms.

He also started to laugh when he was three months. Now, it's more consistent and louder and so stinking cute! At four months he started arching his back. Nearing five months, he's not rolling over quite yet, but he will roll from his back to his side so I think we're nearing the full rolls.

 Workday Schedule
Our normal/ideal workday looks like something like this:

5:30am - I wake for work and get ready. I shower the night before to help minimize prep time.

6:10/6:15am - I wake Grayson. Sometimes he's already stirring and other times I rub his tummy to wake him. He immediately nurses and I love this time together. He's still kind of sleepy but as he starts to eat he becomes more alert. His big blue eyes look up and lock in with mine and then he'll pull off and smile. After he finishes eating, we do a diaper and clothing change. I'll pour myself a bowl of cereal and he sits in the Bumbo chair with me while I eat until Ben finishes walking Oscar and is ready to go.

6:45am - We're all out the door for the day

At work, I ideally try to pump three times (8:30a/11:30a/2:30p). If I do this, I typically pump around 16 oz; which is 4 bottles. This is awesome become Grayson is only taking 3 bottles at school which means we get to build a stash. However, the majority of the time I end up getting busy at work which means I get in two pumping sessions. I still produce 12 oz during from two pumps which means we're sustaining the amount of milk needed at day care.

5:00pm - Usually we're all home by 5pm. Sometimes Grayson will have fallen asleep during the drive home and sometimes not. I nurse him at 5:30p and then we work on dinner. (Ideally I get home at 4:30 and can squeeze in a workout before it's time to feed).

7:00pm - Grayson's bedtime. We rotate who puts him down but have worked to establish a routine that includes a diaper change, pajamas on, storytime and bedtime.

Once Grayson is down, it's time to try to fit everything else in. Washing pump parts, shower, layout clothes for the next day, sit down and relax with Ben. There's a lot to squeeze into a little amount of time but I'm trying to make it a priority to dedicate time to us being us.

8:30/9:00pm - Dreamfeed.  Now that Grayson's older, he's able to successfully dreamfeed; that is, that he'll nurse without fully waking. I give him a dreamfeed before we head to bed.

I didn't experience any noticeable postpartum thoughts or feelings during maternity leave. I think because we worked hard to establish a routine and schedule (Babywise), that our regular activities and daily meetups with other new moms kept me busy enough not to fall into a funk, but also gave me an outlet to express what I was feeling, when I was feeling it with others who could relate. This was so so helpful! I really had no idea that when I met a group of pregnant women six months into my pregnancy how much they would mean to me in those first several postpartum months (and still now!).

However, I will say that returning to work and putting Grayson in the hands of someone else during the day IS hard. Returning to work and working full days on shorter nights of sleep is hard. Finding energy to come home after work and play with baby, make dinner, exercise, do chores and spend time together as a couple is hard. Like everything in pregnancy, and so far as parents, it's a learning game. Learn what works, learn what doesn't and make adjustments.

Not being able to do everything that I want to, when I want to is hard. Forgetting to write notes in Grayson's calendar or clothes in the washer is frustrating to me. I have my mental to-do list, but it's not at the forefront of my brain and I'm trying to learn that's okay. Life is short and time moves fast. The most important thing I can do is be present for it. So if that means a pile of clean, folding laundry waits three days for me to put it away, then it waits. If a thank you card isn't mailed out in a timely manner, then it isn't and hopefully it's the thought and fact that I remembered to send one that counts. If we go to bed and the couch pillows are in disarray thanks to Oscar, then they look sloppy, but who cares? (Me!)

Things aren't the way they were before. My body isn't the way it was before. Finding time to exercise and even how I exercise is different. I don't have the strength and stamina from when I ran my marathon six months prior to getting pregnant. It took nine months to grow this beautiful boy so it's going to take time to adjust and go back. It's going to take work and time. Things will never be how they were before and that's okay too. It's worth it.

Overall, as a new, first-time mom, I don't have it all together. I try and sometimes I have good days, but some days are hard. I don't always know what I'm doing, but together with Ben, we make it up as we go. I'm trying to give myself grace. It's not always easy and certainly has it's frustrations but eventually I will be me; a new and improved me: mentally, emotionally and physically. Most importantly, every day, every minute, and every second of self-doubt, self-consciousness, and sometimes self-pity, is so worth it for this being that we created.

 (PS - I'm working on a separate post regarding our Babywise schedule and sleeptraining)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Grayson - Two Months

I know it sounds cliche, but I'm not even sure where the last month has gone. Its weird, with a newborn (can I still call him that?), it's like time travels as wharped speed, but, so much happens during that time period.  Grayson has started to smile and coo. It's heart melting.

Our Schedule
Our other biggest accomplishment during month two is getting on a schedule.  If you can't tell or don't know, I'm typically a Type-A person. I'm trying really hard not to be a Type-A parent, but having a schedule has been such a sigh of relief for me. I've been able to know when Grayson will nap and have been able to schedule appointments like the dentist and a haircut during these nap times with no issues.

One of my new friends who is also a new mom (her daughter is 10 days older than G), mentioned using Babywise scheduling. I had the book but not read into it yet.  Once we talked more, I was so intrigued, I decided to read more when Grayson was six weeks old.  The fundamental concept of Babywise is for parents to use the clock combined with their digression (looking for cues from baby) for a cycle of feed/wake/sleep.  People have been shocked when I've mentioned waking a sleeping baby, but when I'm waking him for food, he's never angry :)  By waking him and immediately feeding, that allow him to use his energy to be an efficient feeder. He typically nurses for 15-20 minutes total. After feeding, he stays awake for about 40 minutes (so at this age his total awake time for one cycle is roughly an hour). Most times it becomes obvious when he's ready for a nap.  He'll continually yawn, flutter his eyes or cry for no reason. 
My goal is to have him nap at least two or three times a day in his crib, which sometimes is challenging because I like us to be on the go and he's guaranteed to nap in his car seat. For daytime naps, I close the blinds and shades, swaddle him and lay him in the Dock-A-Tot in his crib with a pacifier and noise maker (see below for some of my favorite first two month baby items). I stand over his crib and hold his paci until he has it secure and then I leave the room. He rarely instantly falls asleep. He will whimper and cry a little, but typically is asleep within 5-10 minutes of me leaving the room.  We're okay with little him cry this little bit to soothe himself (I've read that even at this young age, babies will cry before sleeping as a way to release some of their energy).

So our typical day schedule is something like this:
6:30am - wake for the day and feed
7:30am - down for nap (this gives me time to pump and make coffee)
8:45am - wake for feed (this morning feed gets a little skewed because I started doing workouts this week with Stroller Striders and I want him to nap during my class)
9:30am - nap
12:00pm - feed
1:00pm - nap
3:00pm - feed
4:00pm - nap
5:30pm - feed (as we approach evening we try to feed slightly closer together to fill him up for overnight). This feed is typically a bottle feed given by Ben of pumped milk. We wanted to make sure he would take a bottle for caregivers/babysitters). After his bottle, I pump.
6:30pm - nap
8:00pm - wake, change into pjs (nightgown and swaddle) and fresh diaper, feed. He will nurse himself to sleep.

The overnight is where we've been struggling a little. According to Babywise, once baby hits 5 weeks, they have the capability to sleep every hour for every week old they are. So, I set my alarm for a late night feed at midnight and technically after this Grayson is capable of sleeping until our 6:30am wake up, but he's still in the habit of waking up around 3:30am (which used to be our middle of the night feed time until we dropped it at 7 weeks old). Our pediatrician said we're doing the right thing to not feed at this time anymore and try to soothe him instead. I have my fingers crossed his body gets the memo before I go back to work at the beginning of December!

My Post Partum
I have been happy with my physical and mental changes coming into motherhood.  I have been so lucky to find a group of women who also are at the same phase of their lives that live nearby and I can share my maternity leave with. It's been SO nice to have people to discuss accomplishments, challenges and vents with! Not to mention, go out in public with so we're not stuck at home.  We met via a Facebook group for mom's in our neighborhood back in June and have just kept the relationships going. 

I mentioned in our schedule, one of our friends told us about Stroller Strides and just this week I've signed up and been getting back into exercising on a regular basis (before this, I was doing walks and runs about three times a week)! Even though I'm still breastfeeding, I hit a weight loss plateau. If you've followed my body adventure, I worked really hard during 2016 to lose weight (approximately 30 pound) and get my body healthy in advance of pregnancy.  I know it took nine months to put on the baby weight, but I am ready to say goodbye to it sooner than that! 

I want to share (and document for myself for future pregnancies) some of my favorite items this far for both mom and baby.

Baby Favorites at Two Months
Initially the first month or so, I wasn't sure the Dock was worth the hefty price tag.  We didn't seem to use it all that often, but looking back, I think a large part of that was that we let Grayson fall asleep whenever, wherever. Now that we have a nap routine, he sleeps most of his naps in his Dock.

He also will sleep longer overnight if in his Dock. I know there's a lock of controversy over it's safety but Ben and I decided we are comfortable with using it.  It's been especially handy for those times when we can't soothe him back to sleep overnight and we bring him into bed. The Dock-A-Tot was designed as a co-sleeper, so if Grayson can't fall back asleep, we'll place him in the Dock between us and hold his pacifier for him; usually within five minutes he's back asleep.

We were gifted this armless, double zipper swaddle and it's been awesome! It's like a little cocoon for him. He can't sneak out his arms (like in other swaddles) and the double zipper it so convenient for late night diaper changes where you can open the bottom zipper and keep his arms swaddled. We pretty much us this swaddle every night paired with a sleeping gown for easy diaper access.
Woombie My Little Peanut, Beige, 5-13 lbs

Most people have heard of Happiest Baby on the Block or the "5 S's"; well, at 3am when you're standing over a crib and "shhhhing" for five minutes or more, your mouth (and body and mind) are extremely tired.  The Shusher does the shushing work for you. When I first saw this, I thought it was the stupidest idea ever, but after a few nights of shushing, we added this to our registry and now we use it as a nose machine for every nap and every overnight sooth.  It's more or less a portable white noise machine (although Spotify has some great playlists for that too).
Baby Shusher - The Soothing Sleep Miracle for Babies

Honorable mention is our BOB Revolution stroller and Ergo 360 Infant Carrier. Since we're active people, these have both been great outdoors. We love the BOB for it's shocks on our awful neighborhood sidewalks and for runs. We love the Ergo for hikes. He always falls asleep in it!

Mom Favorites
As I've mentioned, I'm still breastfeeding and continues to go well. I have found some nursing friendly items that I wear/use on a daily basis.

Number one most important item! I had put one on my registry but it wasn't purchased. The first night in the hospital I had to pump and immediately understood why they are recommended! I hopped on Amazon and it was delivered to our house by the time we were released from the hospital.
Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Breastpump Bra, Black, XS-Large

I'm always wearing either one of these tanks or one of these bras. The fabric is soft and stretchy that offers support, but they're not so tight that they make me feel awkward with the leftover baby weight. The bras do have foam cups that can be a little bit annoying; but the bra is so comfortable and affordable, I don't mind the nuisance.
Women Tops Maternity Nursing Pajama Boob Tube Inside Sleepwear 3PCS/PACK,Black S/M

This night gown is non-maternity/non-nursing; but it works for both. I wore this throughout my pregnancy. I also have continued to wear them now because they offer support and the strap is easy to drop down your shoulder for nursing. There is a maternity version, but it's a shorter length. I preferred this length to cover my bump. (I ordered my regular size; small).

Target considers these nightshirts, but I wear mine all of the time.  They come in short and long sleeved, but sell out quickly, so I would frequently check the website for them. Now that the temps are cooler, they're perfect to wear during the day with a cardigan over them and you can't tell at all that they're nursing tops then.  I also love the longer length in the back to cover your booty. The fabric is really soft, but I have noticed it's easy to catch and snag if you're not careful. The sizing is pretty generous that I own these tops in both extra small and small.

That's all for my favorites! But what would a two month update be without some pictures taken over the last month?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Grayson - One Month

How has it been one month?

One month notes:
  • Weight: 8lb, 6oz
  • Longest sleep: 4 hours, 45 minutes
  • Diaper size: newborn
  • Clothing size: newborn
  • First (unofficial) smile: 9/12/2017
  • First bottle (pumped milk): 10/2/2017
  • First bath: 10/4/2017
  • You went to four breweries in your first fifteen days of life

A letter to one-month old Grayson:

Dear Grayson,

You've been in this world one month today. It's been the slowest yet the fastest month of my life. Everything looks and feels different with you here. We are so overcome with love and admiration for you. I could sit for hours watching you; your little fingers, the rise and fall of your chest, your squeaky breathes, your big arm stretches, your mouth movements; you are our perfection.

We've already had so much fun with you here. You've been to breweries, Summit County for a fall colors drive, a fall colors hike, and multiple neighborhood walks. You're a little testy about the Moby wrap, but you love cuddling up with Daddy wearing you in the Ergobaby 360.

You love looking out windows and at lights. So far you tend to prefer holding your head/looking to the right; just as I felt your head in the womb. We've started tummy-time and your daddy gives you a bottle of pumped breastmilk once a day to help you learn how.

For someone so small, you have such a presence. When you're awake and alert, you have the most beautiful blue eyes (we can thank your dad for that). When you sleep, you exude a peace that makes me want to hold you for a thousand years.

I already can't imagine life without you. I am blessed that you are ours and we are yours.

We love you forever,
Your momma

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Weeks 2 and 3 Postpartum

Well, we've managed to get this far! Honestly, I have to say, things are going much better than I anticipated. Overall, Grayson is a great baby. I had the expectation that we'd both end up in a heap on the floor crying and of endless, sleepless nights. Thankfully I haven't had any tears or postpartum baby blues to date and although segmented, I am getting some sleep.

A few notes about my second and third week postpartum experience...
I'm happy to say my recovery has been pretty smooth. The first few days home I tried to take it easy and limit my movement, which helped. I also wore a belly band (similar to this) for about a week. Having the extra applied pressure on my stomach and incision helped with pain during movement, laughing or coughing.

Following the procedure, I didn't take any narcotics and stuck with Motrin/ibuprofen. I was able to stop taking this completely around 13 days postpartum.

After my two week check up, I was cleared for light exercise and driving, so I've been trying to get in my daily two mile walk, similar to the last weeks of pregnancy. I'm going to wait until my six week appointment to attempt running. My doctor also recommended I stop wearing the belly band and start focusing on trying to strengthen my stomach and abdominal muscles again.

I've been applying Earth Mama Angel Baby C-Salve to my incision daily.

After my two week appointment we stopped in the hospital to bring baked goods as a thank you to the nurses who helped us from Labor & Delivery, NICU, and Family Care (recovery). The only nurse we were able to see was Cynthia from L&D. I bawled when I saw her. It's the only time I can remember crying since leaving the hospital. She had such an impact on my success for unmedicated labor. When I started laboring she put her hand on my sternum and had me mimmick the deep low sounds she was making. She showed Ben how to do this and it was one of the primary breathing and pain doing techniques I used during labor. She is amazing!

During labor she warned me she was going to leave at 11am for an hour,  Because labor happened so quickly, when she came back she had no idea where we were (at this point we'd gone into the OR). She said she couldn't believe how quickly things happened and commended me for being such a trooper and fighter. I'll always remember her!

Overall with my pregnancy, I gained about 40 pounds. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and put on medication.  I'm still taking the medication and will checked to see if I can go off of it. Three weeks postpartum, I'm down about 17 pounds (Grayson was 6lb 8oz). The  majority of this was baby and due to breastfeeding. As I increase my exercise, we'll see how the weight loss journey goes.

I've been blessed so far that things are going so smoothly in this department. Grayson has a great latch and my body is producing to keep up with his needs. I do use Mother Love nipple cream sporadically but haven't endured much pain besides initial latch (which I've heard is normal). My true goal is to nurse for a year, but it may be a little lofty, so I'm starting with a six month goal.

I haven't had any issues nursing him in public. I have a cover and wear nursing friendly clothes when I know there's a chance he may get hungry. Ben was a little weirded out the first time, but honestly, in general breastfeeding has been quite empowering for me; to know that I can give him everything he needs to grow!

Honestly, it's hit or miss. Grayson does latch easily and feeds well, so our nursing sessions vary between ten and twenty minutes. But some nights he's on a 45 minute nursing cycle, which means I get 20-30 minute breaks and sometimes he'll go three hours. Because he was in the NICU and feed so much initially (to raise his blood sugar levels), he never dropped below his birth weight so we don't have to monitor his time in between feeding.

We've been trying to keep him more engaged and awake during the day, especially after 7pm, or as much as possible and this seems to help us get some longer two-and-a-half/three hour stints between feeding. Last night we had a four hour gap, which was amazing!

Ben went back to work two weeks after Grayson was born. We've had my parents here helping since he was 10 days old and they'll leave this week, but it has been a blessing to have help with grocery shopping, meal prep, dishes and having someone to hand Grayson off to when we need a break or take Oscar for a walk.  We even went out our first "date" Sunday (somehow Ben convinced me to see the movie IT).

We could not be more smitten with Grayson and every little thing he does. We've been able to make outings like our annual fall colors drive and brewery visits work with him as our sidekick. Yep, we are feeling pretty lucky with this little guy.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

1 Week Postpartum

Grayson has been here a week; a week already!  It's been blissful and stressful but wonderful. I wanted to jot down a few memories from this week...

The night of Grayson's birth, when the nurse checked his vitals, his blood sugar level was low. They sent a sample to the lab to verify the reading and it came back even lower than initially measured (a 12; which we were told is critically low. The ideal within the first four hours of life is above 40). Because of this, it was determined that he should go to the NICU for an IV to give him some sugar water to try to raise the levels.

Ben went with into the NICU and I stayed in our room to recover and rest. The poor guy; the nurses tried for over an hour to get an IV in and nothing seemed to work. Ultimately they decided that his head was the best spot. They tried one location and hit an artery :( Finally, they find a place on the side of his side that was successful.

It was suggested that in addition to the IV, I try to nurse him and pump to bring in my milk as well as give him donor milk or formula. We requested that donor milk be given and we started a trifecta of feeding: nursing, pumping and donor milk bottles.  My first pumping session was so bizarre and foreign. I was in our room by myself while Ben was in NICU with Gray. I didn't get much (I think 5ml?) but within 24 hours I was able to pump 20-48ml in a session, which was enough to eliminate donor's milk! I nursed and then Ben feed him a bottle of pumped milk. In the 24 hours, Grayson's blood sugar levels sky rocketed and we were able to remove the IV.

He was monitored for the next 12 hours and approximately 36 hours after going to NICU, he was released back to our recovery room. I had gone back to the room to shower (my first delivering, amen!) and when I got out of the shower I called out to see who was in the room. Ben responded, "no one that cares if you're naked". I put on my robe and walked out to see Ben and Gray snuggled today. It was a heart stopping moment.

Room Service
That first night with Grayson in our room (Thursday, 9/7), we ordered room service for dinner. They quoted us an hour wait so I decided to pump after ordering. Within 20 minutes of our order being placed, there was a knock on the door. Sure enough, it was room service.  I was mid-pump and didn't want to stop, so Ben apparently did the most logical thing he could think of and threw a blanket over me and my head to tell room service to come in.

I was sitting under the blanket, feeling both awkward and hysterical. Neither of us could keep a straight face as room service came and asked where to set the food. I'm sure the guy got a kick out of my sitting there like a ghost. He asked if there was anything else we needed and from under the blanket, between laughter, I said, no thank you so much.  I literally peed my pants!

While in the NICU the second night (Wednesday, 9/6) I had finished nursing and Ben was holding Grayson, feeding him a bottle. All of a sudden we heard a big squirt and Ben said, uhhh he basically just pooped in my hand!  Because he'd been in the NICU for about a day, we hadn't changed any diapers yet and didn't know where they were. I called the nurse and when she came in, Ben changed his first ever human diaper.

Homecoming - Oscar
We left the hospital on Friday, 9/8, Grayson's due date. Things were surprisingly easy at home. At this point my milk production had been so good that we eliminated pumping sessions and went to regular nursing sessions.

We decided to leave Oscar at the kennel the first night so that we could see how things went and they went! Gray poops/pees, eats and sleeps. Saturday Ben picked up Oscar with a blanket in hand. O smelled it briefly in the car but didn't pay much attention. In the house, he really didn't notice Grayson much until he started crying. Then Osc became very curious.  Now, three days later, Oscar will sometimes cry along with Grayson (which is awful) but most of the time he just wants to sit was is going on. We're so grateful Oscar is tolerating this change. We didn't think it would go as well as it is.

We have worked to establish an overnight routine. When Grayson cries, I'll wake Ben for a diaper change, he'll change him and bring him to me to nurse. Our third night home (Sunday, 9/10), Ben was doing a change and started yelling and laughing from the bathroom. I asked if he needed help and he said, yea come in here. We experienced our first pee fountain. Ben had opened the diaper to change and as he did, Grayson started peeing the perfect arch, getting pee all over the bathroom floor :)

My recovery is going well. I was worried about stairs and energy levels. The first several days I didn't leave the house and my walks were limited to the main floor of the house. Monday (6 days pp), we took our first family walk up the street to get coffee.  I've not needed narcotics for pain, but have been sticking with 800mg of ibuprofen. Although, instead of the maximum allowed 4 doses a day, I'm taking 2-3 depending how the timing works out.

Today, at one week pp, I decided to put on the belly binder band my OB gave me a script for. What a difference! I was worried to put it on too soon, but it is offering a lot of support. The compression is great for all of the deep belly laughs Ben and I are sharing as we navigate our way into parenthood.

Grayson is latching and eating well. It's better than I expected. It's not painful and he eats relatively quick, 20-30 minute sessions every 2-3 hours for the most part. This has allowed us to get solid chunks of sleep, so much so that I haven't hit a point of exhaustion.

I also have to say how wonderful it is having Ben. He's the best support I could ask for. Diaper changes, laundry, grocery shopping, meals, meds and water; he's got it all covered for us. He's the perfect partner!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Our Birth Story

The entire journey of creating a child and bringing them into this world has so many variations, unknowns, and personal decisions and moments.  Our journey makes us who we are and is a part of us. While our story is intimately our own, I received so much support and advice, especially during the last eight weeks of pregnancy, that I'd like to share in hopes to inspire others to know when to fight for what you want and when to give in to the grace of God and the universe.

I'm a first time mom and this was my first pregnancy. Before I ever got a positive test or even thought we were ready to bring a child into this world, for whatever reason, I'd always wanted an unmedicated birth . So, once pregnant, this plan stayed in place and we hired a doula duo (Denver Birth Services) to help us achieve it. We also took a Mindful Birthing class, I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and listening to hypnobabies and hypnobirthing tracks (we didn't take a course, I just sought out tracks on my own after talking with others).

(If you're unfamiliar with a doula, to us it's like a birthing couch. They're not a medical professional, but extra support, especially for pain coping techniques, for the labor and delivery process. We decided it was worth paying someone for their birth experience in hopes to get the experience we wanted. We also agreed that this would take a lot of pressure off of Ben since neither of us knew what to expect).

Around 32 weeks my OB said that baby was measuring about a week ahead. This is pretty common, but for whatever reason she ordered a sonogram to verify measurements. I'm thankful she did; this was when we found out our babe was frank breech position (head up, button down, sitting with their legs up in a pike position). Over the next seven weeks tried everything we could to turn the baby; spinning babies (forward inversion, side lie, breech tilts), pool hand stands, Webster chiropractic, acupuncture and moxibustion.

This time period was an emotional and mental roller coaster for me (details about the techniques and my thoughts in my 36 week update). Up to this point, my pregnancy up had been relatively easy with no major complications. I was so distraught at the thought of having to deliver via c-section.

I sought out advice and experience from others. After discussing options with our doulas and seeking out recommendations from local mom,  I was lucky to learn that Denver area has not one, but two OBs that will deliver breech babies vaginally (yep, butt down!)  We had not originally considered this, but we researched and learned that the risks, compared to C-section, were relatively low, as long as delivered with an experienced doctor. The problem is that there are not many OBs trained or experienced with this type of birth, which is why the majority of breech babies in the US are born via cesarean

At 36.5 weeks, I made the decision to switch to Dr Michael Hall, who is known across the country as one of the greatest, most experienced doctors in delivering breech babies. Meeting him made me feel confident and comfortable with this decision and that I could deliver my baby with an unmedicated birth. That became our plan: an unmedicated vaginal breech birth. 

However, we had one last turning method to try; an external cephalic version (ECV). This is a manual procedure done by the OB to try to turn the baby in the womb from the outside. It's booked as a cesarean and done in hospital labor and delivery. This is because there's a 1-2% risk that the procedure will put the baby in distress and an emergency cesarean would be required. Because of this risk, the procedure is typically done at week 37, when baby is full term. The success rate is about 58% overall; but lower for first time pregnancies due to the uterus not having previously stretched.

So on August 18th, we checked into the hospital. Baby and I were hooked up on monitors prior to the procedure. The procedure itself is incredibly short (10 minutes max to limit stress to babe). Dr. Hall walked in and I was given turbuteline via an IV port. This allowed my uterus to loosen up. I'd been warned the drug would make me feel jittery. True to the disclosure, as soon as it was injected, I immediately felt it and said "whoa, this is weird"!

I've come across a lot of women with breech babes that elected not to do an ECV for fear of stress on the baby or pain from the procedure. For me, I was willing to do anything to try to improve the odds of a vaginal birth. I went into the procedure with the mindset that this would be good mental practice for labor, so I popped on my headphones and music and focused on my breathing. There was discomfort but more due to the oddity of what we were trying to achieve; it wasn't painful for me. Ben said it was pretty incredible, as the doctor worked, he would see the outline of our baby. However, after three minutes of trying, it was obvious to Dr Hall that this baby wasn't turning and that was that. If I were to encounter this situation again, I would do the procedure again.

On Wednesday, August 30th, I went into my 39 week appointment. I was a centimeter dilated and 70% effaced. At this point, I hadn't had any signs of labor, contractions, etc. However, I learned that Dr Hall was going on vacation. Ugh! After all this time and work to prepare for this, he'd be gone for a week, falling over my due date (9/8), from Tuesday, 9/5, to Tuesday, 9/12. If I were to go into labor during this time, he recommended I call my old OB and I'd birth the baby via c-section. I left my appointment and he said with a wink, this weekend is a good weekend to have a baby.

I started saying my prayers and hoping that something would happen! The following day, I lost my mucus plug; this was encouraging but I still had no other signs. Labor Day weekend (39 weeks), we decided rather than wait around for something to happen at home, we'd keep busy. Friday night we went with my company to the CU vs CSU Football Showdown. Saturday I spent much of the day baking (including these labor inducing lemon cupcakes), and we went to a friends for a BBQ. Sunday we attended a family BBQ and still no signs of labor (even after those darn cupcakes:). 

Our Birth Story
On Monday, Labor Day, we were relaxing at home. At 5:45p, I used the restroom and while I was walking back to the couch, I felt a small gush.  I went back into the bathroom and felt a pop followed by another small gush.  I went to Ben and said, either I just peed myself twice or my water broke (I knew that only 20% of women have their water break naturally). We both laughed at each other and said, well maybe this it.  I went upstairs to change my underwear and had a huge gush! I called to Ben, yep, it's broken!! Bring me some Depends!! (Ha! but thank goodness I had this on hand for post-partum!)

Knowing baby was breech still, we called Dr Hall and he said to come get checked. We notified our doulas and didn't know what to expect. It was a gray area knowing that Dr Hall was going on vacation the next day. How long was he on call for until then? Would he pass me back to me old OB for a cesarean? Would he want to induce labor? There were so many unknowns but nothing we could really do except wait.

We checked into the hospital by 8pm. First time rookie mistake, nothing was really happening contraction-wise, but they didn't want us to leave so we were admitted and staying until we had a baby!  Around 10:30p Dr. Hall came in and my immediate question was: when are you leaving? He smiled and responded to me, not until I deliver your baby. I was SO relieved! Because I wasn't having contractions, we didn't do an exam, but he suggested walking and moving to try to get things going. Because my water broke on it's own and baby was breech, he wanted us to have this baby within 24 hours.

Overnight we tried to sleep. Ben was able to get some decent sleep. I had about three contractions per hour overnight, nothing consistent but enough to constantly wake me. Around 5:30am they were getting stronger but there was no pattern. Ben drew me a bath (we were able to get one of two labor rooms with a large tub; thank goodness!) and we decided he should go home to pick up Oscar and get him to daycare for boarding. The contractions' consistency started to pick up at this time (of course!) but the pain was manageable and comfortable in the tub.  After Ben got back, our doula arrived and I bounced on the ball, both to try to induce consistency and get through the pain I was having.

Around 9:15am, Dr Hall came in. It'd been 14 hours since my water broke and the clock was now ticking.  I was at 2cm. Hall said we needed to do a low dose of pitocin to try to pick up the contractions if I wanted to try vaginal breech birth (VBB). I knew this would be a possibility and even though I hadn't wanted to be augmented, I knew accepting pitocin likened my chance for my VBB. I received a small dose (I need to confirm with my doula but the labor nurse said 1 millionth of a dose) at 9:30am. 

This picked up the intensity of contractions and we moved into a normal labor pattern. Around 10am the contractions were coming quick and painful enough that I moved into a warm bath again. With Ben and my doula by my side, I worked through contractions for roughly an hour. To me, I had no sense of time, just a focus to get through one contraction at a time and rest in between. I kept telling myself, that's one contraction down and one contraction closer to meeting this baby.

(Due to receiving pitocin, it was required that the baby's heart rate and my contractions be monitored. The only downfall with the tub was that the monitors kept shifting and the nurse was constantly coming in to adjust them between contractions. I wanted to note this because at the time is was such a nuisance but was so important).

Eventually, I started to feel an urge to push (or poop; as I told my doula: "I either need to push or poop right now!"  The nurse and Dr Hall were called. In between contractions, we scrambled to get me out of the tub and over to the bed. In about two and a half hours time, I had dilated from 2cm to 10cm and it was time to push! 

Dr Hall had told me upfront that he allowed one hour to push breech babes, otherwise anything longer is typically too much stress on the baby. Although I had the urge to push, pushing was SO hard! Each contraction I tried to dig down and push for three breathes. Again, I had no sense of time, just trying to get through each contraction. The baby's heart rate started to drop so I was given oxygen. I continued to push through contractions and eventually Dr Hall said, okay, last try to push; we have to get this baby out. I tried with all my might, but baby didn't budge. It was time to switch plans to a cesarean.

At this point, the medical staff was worried that baby's blood pressure was dropping so quickly that I'd have to be put under general anesthesia to get baby out as soon as possible. I was given terbutaline to stop my contractions. I had one contraction after this and then they stopped. Thankfully with this, the baby's heart rate began to rise. Because of this, I was given spinal anesthesia  in the OR and awake for the birth. I remember getting the spinal, but due to adrenaline (and perhaps having already gone through the labor pains), it didn't hurt at all. My legs immediately started to loose feeling and I was laid back for the procedure.

I had no idea where Ben was until the anesthesiologist said something like, stand here sir, and I looked to see Ben by my side in scrubs. We notified everyone that he would be the one to announce the gender and we'd also like to know when the baby was being birthed so that he could take pictures.

It seemed like an instant later and the anesthesiologist said, okay, get ready. I could heard Ben crying and the drape was lowered for me to see. I don't remember seeing much, but the moment I will forever remember is the anesthesiologist saying to Ben: can you tell the gender? and Ben's response, with the biggest smile on his face, as he said "it's a boy!"

He taken to the station for a once over and I remember them counting out, 10 fingers and 10 toes. As soon as I knew it, he was placed on my chest and looking into my eyes. He was so incredibly alert. This little beautiful creature that we had made and waited nine long months to meet; absolute perfection and I was overcome with love. Our little sweet baby was finally here.

Our son, Grayson James, was born at 12:24pm on Tuesday, September 5th, 2017, weighing 6lb, 8oz and measuring 19" in length.
We learned that his umbilical cord was short and had been wrapped around his leg. With this, I truly believe that he came into this world as intended.

In the end it was the best outcome for a cesarean birth that I could have asked for; my water broke, I experienced unmedicated labor, and I had the chance to push for delivery. While I've cried many happy tears since then (including while writing this post), but I haven't cried or felt any remorse about needing a cesarean. I'm at peace with it. With all of the research and emotions leading up to his delivery, I feel knowledgeable, empowered, and grateful to have had the birth we did. His birth was so beautiful and unique to us. It is, and will be, one of my greatest life accomplishments.

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