family, motherhood

Our Birth Story

emmanuella-hospital-3I’ve been meaning to write this blog for awhile but have put it off for several reasons:

1. I have a newborn. Time is not on my side right now (I’ve take to blogging on my phone while nursing and pumping).

2. I was on a lot of drugs so the details are very fuzzy in my memory.

3. Emmanuella was a scheduled C-section. How much of a story can there really be when her birth was planned?

I think it’s that third point that made me hesitate to write this blog at all. But Emmanuella deserves to have her story documented, even if there were no midnight contractions, no rush to get to the hospital, and no pushing. One day I’ll share this blog with her and tell her how she came into this world, even if the story would not be considered exciting by most.

My Breech Baby

Emmanuella’s birth story actually begins a week and a half before her birthday. Dustin and I went to our 38 week appointment and discovered that our baby was breech. The hard lump that I felt in the middle of my stomach was not her butt as my OBGYN had suggested months earlier; it was her head. Dr. Pendlebury did a quick handheld ultrasound which confirmed her suspicions. This was going to complicate matters (before this news, I was just discouraged that after so much walking and raspberry leaf tea, I wasn’t dilated or effaced at all).

Our Options

1. Do nothing. Go home, hope that the baby flips on her own, and wait to go into labor. If I did go into labor with the baby still breech, an emergency C-section would be necessary. However, as Dr. Pendlebury pointed out, I am a small person and I was already 38 weeks along. My baby girl had ran out of space. It was highly unlikely that she was going to flip at this point.

2. Try an ECV (External Cephalic Version). This means my doctor would try to manipulate the baby to turn from the outside. This has about a 50 percent success rate. I would be induced immediately after the procedure if it was successful. But there were several risks involved that could have sent me into an emergency C-section and I was warned that it would hurt. A lot. That didn’t sound so appealing either.

3. Schedule a C-section. We could simply opt for surgery on our own terms and on our own schedule. This was the only option that prevented the risk of going into an emergency C-section (something that we really wanted to avoid). It was also the safest delivery option, even if it meant a major abdominal surgery was imminent.

Our Decision

Dr. Pendlebury said we didn’t have to make a decision right away. After all, this was a big surprise and we both needed to digest the news and discuss the options that we had just heard. So we left the office and discussed our options in the car. By the time we got to work, we had made up our minds. Emmanuella would be born via scheduled C-section. We called my OBGYN and made the arrangements. October 24 would be the day.

Dealing with the Disappointment

At the time, finding out that a C-section was in my future was a major disappointment. It just wasn’t part of my plan. I had a birth plan written up; it was very simple (because I had heard that the more detailed plans are, the more likely it was that births don’t follow them): Go to hospital. Hang the purple Christmas lights I had bought solely for the hospital in delivery room. Labor in tub with my birth playlist for as long as possible without epidural. Get epidural when needed. Have baby. Was that so hard to follow? Apparently so.

I dealt with the news quietly at work that day. I told the necessary people (my boss, the HR mamager) that I had an official last day of work and went home. And broke down. This was NOT what I wanted.

The next day was a little better. I reached out and told several close friends that Emmanuella’s birthday would be October 24 (unless she decided to come on her own before then). I reached out to some friends who had delivered via C-section to hear about their experiences. And I began to mentally prepare myself for what was to come.

The next week and a half flew by in a blur of activity. With an exact end date in sight, I made sure the kitchen floor was mopped and laundry done. I packed my hospital bag, washed baby clothes, and set up a changing table downstairs. I even bought underwear that were two sizes too big so that the elastic wouldn’t hit my incision (in hindsight, one size up would have sufficed). I guess you could say I was ready.

The Day Arrives

My C-section was scheduled for 9:30. I was told to arrive at the hospital at 8:00. Before I left the house, I had to shower using special soap that smelled like straight up alcohol. I couldn’t wear contacts or makeup, and hair products weren’t permitted. We left the house in no rush at all. It was the strangest feeling ever. I felt like we SHOULD be in a rush; that’s what you see in all the movies. But then again, I’ve never seen a movie about a scheduled C-section (does one even exist?).

Arriving at the hospital was almost too relaxing to be real. We didn’t use the designated parking spots for delivering mamas. There was no need to; I could walk from the parking garage just fine. Dustin even stopped me outside the entrance to take one last “before” photo. It honestly felt like any other day at the hospital since we had recently been attending baby classes.

We used the labor and delivery phone to notify the staff our arrival and after several minutes (again with the theme of not hurrying), a nurse took us to a pre-op room. I put on a hospital gown and the fun began. It was time to get me hooked up to an IV.

I tell everyone that getting my IV was worse than the actual surgery because it honestly was. It took two medical professionals five tries to get my IV in. It wasn’t their fault really. They would hit the vein and a second later, it would collapse. On the fourth try, they actually tried to numb the area first using an additional needle. Although I didn’t feel any numbing sensation at all – just an extra stick. Ouch! On the fifth try, by some miracle it worked. The hardest part of the day was over (although multiple purple bruises would remain for weeks to remind me of that traumatic experience).

While still in the pre-op room, Jill, the anesthesiologist nurse went over the surgical procedure with me while nurses scurried about, preparing for the upcoming surgery. Dr. Pendlebury came in as well to do one last ultrasound, making sure my baby was still breech (she was). It was just about 9:30. Go time (although we wouldn’t go right away since we had to wait several minutes for the OR to be available).

What a C-Section is Actually Like 

The first thing to happen was my spinal (like an epidural except you can’t move at all from your chest down). Y’all, I HATE needles and had just been stuck FIVE TIMES (plus an extra to “numb” me) so I was not looking forward to this at all. And it didn’t help that Dustin wasn’t allowed in the room for this part. He is my go-to hand-holder in all needle situations. So it was surprising that getting the spinal didn’t really bother me. They numbed my back first and I felt a burning sensation. But when the big needle went in, I didn’t even know it. Thank you technological advances in medicine!

I was told that the spinal would make me feel “buttery.” Apparently that’s what other patients call the sensation. I STILL don’t know what that means. But in my experience, I’d liken a spinal to one of those nightmares in which something is chasing you and you have to run, but you can’t move. It was the most bizarre feeling ever. My body felt like it was superglued to the table I was lying on. I couldn’t move if I wanted to. (I guess that’s a lie. Once Dustin was allowed back in the room, I experimented with my abilities. I discovered that if I used ALL of my body’s energy, I could slightly wiggle my right big toe. A nurse confirmed I was doing it. I highly recommend playing around with that if you ever have the chance. It’s just cool.)

The surgery itself was FAST. My doctor made the initial incision, and Emmanuella was out about 10 minutes later. 10:15 to be exact. I didn’t expect to be able to see everything that was going on because the drape obstructed my view but it turns out I could see EVERYTHING reflected in the chrome light above the operating table. Let me just tell you that it is the weirdest feeling to watch someone cut into your stomach but not feel a thing. I went back and forth between watching the procedure because it was so exciting and looking at Dustin because it was so gross. I remember saying something like, “This is disgusting but I want to SEE!”

I was obviously on some hardcore drugs at this point, but one thing I recall in crisp detail is feeling terribly nauseous during the surgery (I was warned this could happen) and telling the anesthesiologist nurse. She gave me some drug that she said would go straight to my brain and BAM! All nausea was eliminated instantly. We repeated this process a few times during the procedure. WHERE was this miracle drug the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy when all I could do was throw up or lie down in agony?! I needed it then!

Emmanuella’s Arrival

emmanuella-hospital-7As I said, the delivery took no time at all. My doctor announced that she was coming, and Jill asked Dustin if he wanted to see. He said yes, and she grabbed him by the arm, and allowed him to stand up and look past the curtain. Dustin said later that Jill had a firm grip on him – we presume this was in case he passed out. Dr. Pendlebury pulled Emmanuella out (feet first, the silly goose) at 10:15 a.m., and passed her through the curtain to me. She didn’t even come out crying at first; I like to think that my sweet babe was as eager to meet the world as we were ready to meet her.

My baby being laid on my chest was an unforgettable experience, despite the drugs that caused me to forget other details about the day. My first words to my daughter were, “Hi baby,” and I was in complete awe seeing her perfect face for the first time. I reached out and touched her tiny hand, and she grasped my finger right away. Several people had told me that I would cry in that moment, but I didn’t. I just felt a sense of wonder. Finally, after months of waiting, my daughter was here. The moment was everything I ever dreamed it would be, even though it wasn’t exactly how I pictured it.

After taking a few minutes to bask in Emmanuella’s perfect arrival, a nurse asked if I was ready for her to be weighed. I said I was, and my tiny angel was lifted from my chest and placed on a scale. Seven pounds, 8.3 ounces, the nurse announced. Length 20.5 inches. Long and skinny. She didn’t get that from me.

Dustin was then allowed to trim Emmanuella’s umbilical cord. Dr. Pendlebury had to do the initial cut in surgery, but she promised Dustin she would leave it long, so he would be able to ceremoniously cut the cord afterward. From my place on the table, I couldn’t see, but a nurse filmed this for me to watch later. (Fun fact: There wasn’t much for Dustin to trim. It turns out that Emmanuella had an unusually short umbilical cord, which is most likely why she didn’t flip to the correct position in the first place.)

The rest of the time in the OR is kind of a blur. I remember holding Emmanuella again as I was being sewn up, and still feeling the sense of amazement that she was really here. I also remember feeling an overwhelming sense of nausea, and passing Emmanuella to Dustin while I got another dose of that miracle nausea cure. I reached out to touch her in Dustin’s arms, and soaked in the perfect moment. We were finally parents.

emmanuella-hospital-2

family, pregnancy

Why We Aren’t Revealing Our Baby’s Name until the Birth

castle

*Photo of the nursery wall. Below this castle is our daughter’s name. No one is allowed in there until she’s born.

I’ll admit it. This used to drive me CRAZY. I could not stand the couples who kept their baby’s name a secret until after the birth because I needed to know. A co-worker could tell you about how I was so desperate to know her son’s name that I dreamed about it on multiple occasions. I was convinced that child would be named Josiah Christopher. He wasn’t. It turns out I don’t have the gift of prophecy.

Now my husband and I are one of those couples who refuse to share our baby’s name with the world. And you know what? It’s really fun.

People have been trying to weasel our baby’s name out of us for weeks. But we still haven’t cracked, or even come close to slipping up. My husband has actually gotten pretty good at giving out politician-style vague answers. For example:

Person seeking name: If your child was to line up with her class by alphabetical order, would she be near the front or the back of the line?

Husband: That depends on the names of the other kids in the class.

You have to admit, that’s a good answer.

I’ve heard many horror stories of parents who announce their child’s name to the public before the birth only to get hateful comments in response. By delaying our baby’s name announcement until after she is born, we are preventing this from happening. My theory is once the name is attached to a beautiful baby girl, you can’t say anything negative about it anymore.

That said, here are our reasons for keeping _________’s name a secret.

  1. If you don’t like it, we don’t want to know. 

Sorry, but it’s true. It’s not your kid. You don’t get a say. So, when we do share our baby’s name, if you think it’s too long, too short, too old, too new, too boring, or too unique, keep it to yourself. Thanks.

2. If you knew someone who was a jerk with that name, I’m genuinely sorry, but that person is a completely different human than our baby.

Just because the only person you’ve ever met named _________ was mean to you does not mean that our child will be a bully as well. Like, not every child named Taylor has grown up to be a world famous pop star. Why you would think the baby’s name has anything to do with her personality is beyond me.

3. If you think it’s going to lead to some mean nickname, we’ve already taken that under consideration.

Trust me. LOTS of thought went into choosing our baby’s name. You don’t have to try to think of ways it could be used against her in the future. We already have.

4. We don’t feel the need to “claim” the name before someone else does.

Some people have asked me what I would do if a friend named their child ________ before I had my baby. Well, I’d name her that anyway. After all, it’s already on the wall in her nursery. Proof that we’re not just copying. And that wall decal was WAY too much of a pain to take it down now. 

5. It keeps one thing just between us. 

This was really the whole point. Pregnancy is today’s social media-driven age is so very public. And much of that is a positive thing. Friends by the hundreds have left encouraging comments on Facebook and Instagram or “liked” my growing belly posts.

But as my husband pointed out, everything about the past nine months has been public. There was the big pregnancy announcement, followed a couple months later by the gender reveal. I even started this new mama blog! It has been a blessing to share our joy with friends and family throughout this time, but we found it important to keep one thing just between the two of us.

In just a few days, ________’s name won’t be just ours anymore. But for a short time it was. And in a strange way, it made us feel like a family, even before she was born.

pregnancy

What to Say to a Pregnant Woman

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote a somewhat snarky blog about what NOT to say to a pregnant woman. While I stand by everything I said in that blog (and continue to get downright rude comments in spite of it), I feel the time is now right to provide an alternative for those who just need a little guidance on what is okay (and encouraged!) to say.

Here we have five things you can say that won’t get you in trouble with a pregnant woman:

1. Pregnancy agrees with you.

Thank you. There is no need to be more specific than this. You don’t have to compliment us on our body or congratulate us for only gaining weight in our tummy (we don’t have a lot of control over that anyway). Remember, the fewer comments about our actual shape, the better. But this simple, nonspecific compliment has the ability to makes us feel pretty for five minutes, despite our pimply skin and swollen feet.

2. You’re glowing.

We all want that fabled pregnancy glow. Only some of us get it. (Did you know “glowing” skin is actually a side effect of our hormones? It’s true. Our wildly fluctuating hormones can either cause our skin to have a rosy glow… or if you’re less lucky, they can lead to serious acne breakouts. Guess which camp I was in.) Still, if you see that we’ve achieved that elusive pregnancy glow, say so. We want to know that you’ve noticed we’ve suddenly evolved into some kind of glimmering mythological creature.

3. How are you feeling? Really?

I’ve heard some mamas get tired of this one, but honestly, it will never wear out on me. If you ask me how I’m feeling, be prepared for the truth. Because I need an outlet to vent that I feel like complete crap (for lack of a better word) most of the time. At 37 weeks 5 days pregnant, I am constantly uncomfortable, I haven’t slept through the night in months, and I sometimes cry because the space below my right bottom rib hurts so bad. I don’t like to complain this much, but it helps to get it off my chest, and it’s comforting to know that others truly care. So please ask me how I’m feeling (but only if you want the truth).

4. You will be a wonderful mother.

Pregnancy gives mamas-to-be a lot of time (9 months, in fact) to think about the future. For a first time mama like me, this is ample time to worry about all of the things that we might struggle with. We’ve heard that our babies won’t sleep, that breastfeeding hurts, and that recovery from birth is difficult. We’re probably spending a lot of time on online forums reading about the problems of other mamas, and wondering if we will struggle with the same thing. Will my baby have her days and nights flipped? Will she have trouble latching on? What if I go through postpartum depression? There is a lot of unknown, but your reassurance in our abilities eases the anxiety.

5. Your child is very lucky to have you.

No one has said this to me, but I think if someone did, it would change my entire day for the better. In truth, I have dealt with a lot to bring my child into the world (let’s just talk about that first 20 weeks of throwing up/being continually nauseous). But the thing is, I would endure another 20 weeks of that horror if that’s what it took to bring her safely into the world (I’m grateful that I don’t have to go through that again, but the point is that I would). My daughter is wanted and she is loved. My baby will grow up with two loving parents that will work hard to provide for her. She really is lucky, as this is not the reality for many children. And while you don’t have to say this to me, I think more people should recognize and acknowledge it when babies are blessed with such circumstances. “Your child is very lucky to have you,” is perhaps the greatest compliment you can give a parent.

pregnancy

What Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

pregnant-woman-with-flower-1200We all know that pregnant mamas are hormonal and uncomfortable. (We all do know that right? If this is news to you, please make a mental note.) So why is it that people have a tendency to just blurt out whatever insensitive thought crosses their mind when they are around pregnant women? Most of us have been taught to THINK before speaking since we were young, but it seems that this rule goes out the window as soon as a pregnant belly is involved.

Friends, let’s be a little more careful about what we say around those who are carrying precious cargo. Perhaps you made you comments like this innocently in the past, but in the future please be aware that these phrases have the ability to make even the sweetest mama turn into a raging bear in two seconds flat.

1. How much weight have you gained?

Honestly, this is number one and SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING, yet, I have personally been asked this question on a couple different occasions. Guys. Seriously. Unless you are one of my care providers, you should not be privy to this information. Have I ever asked you how much weight you’ve gained in a particular time frame? NO. Why? Because it’s rude, and frankly, none of my business. It’s not yours either, whether I am pregnant or not. If my weight gain was a problem, that would be between me and my doctor. So stop asking.

2. Are you sure it’s not twins?

Yes, I get it. I have a huge tummy. Why? BECAUSE THERE IS A PERSON THE SIZE OF A PINEAPPLE IN THERE. And a ton of amniotic fluid. And excess blood. And a whole mess of other medical stuff. Fun fact: At 35 weeks, my uterus is 1,000 times its original size. So OF COURSE I look pregnant. And no, it’s not twins. If it was, 1) I would have told you and 2) my doctor would have caught that on one of the many ultrasounds throughout this pregnancy. But thanks for asking. It makes me feel like I’m twice the size I actually am. Cool.

3. You look like you’re ready to pop! There’s no way you are going to make it to [insert due date here].

I was just 29 weeks pregnant when someone made this comment. I was nowhere NEAR about to pop, but thanks for this very considerate vote of confidence. Once again, I now feel huge.

4. Any day now, huh?

This comment was made by an acquaintance at 34 weeks. And it dawned on me: Saying this to a woman with 6 weeks left of pregnancy is like saying, “You’re almost there!” to someone on mile 20 of a marathon. For those of you who have never ran a marathon, please allow me to explain: At mile 20, yes, you are mostly finished the race. There are only 6.2 miles left. BUT THE HARDEST PART IS COMING. Mile 20 is when most runners hit “the wall,” or the point of the race when your body wants to quit and your mind has to take over. The race becomes mental and HARD because all of your muscles are exhausted. This is basically what the last month of pregnancy is like. So don’t tell me my daughter’s birth is “any day now.” Because I know that these days are only getting harder. I am NOT “almost there.”

5. Get your sleep now!

Ha! While this comment is much less offensive than most others, it’s just annoying. You can assume that a woman in her final trimester is NOT sleeping already between constantly getting up to pee during the night and just generally being uncomfortable. Waking up in the middle of the night in a considerable amount of pain is normal for us, and there is little that we can do about it (I’m trying NOT to pop Tylenol like it’s candy, but trust me that it is tempting.) We KNOW that we’re not going to sleep when the baby comes, but at LEAST we will have a baby then so we’ll have a good reason to be up at night! Right now, our lack of sleep seems pointless, and it does not help us to be reminded of that fact.

6. Any comment about a pregnant woman’s body

Unless you are saying something like, “You look great!” or “Pregnancy agrees with you,” just STOP COMMENTING about pregnant women’s bodies. Whether you think a pregnant woman looks big or small, DON’T SAY ANYTHING. Women are different; pregnancies are different, and we all carry our babies differently. Babies can be in different positions in the womb, and it affects how we look on the outside. And of course, babies are all born different sizes themselves. Don’t ask a tiny pregnant woman if her baby is big enough. Don’t ask a woman with a watermelon-sized belly if she is afraid of giving birth to a 10-pounder. Just stop all the body talk. Here is the rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it to a woman who is not pregnant, don’t say it to a woman who is.

Finally, a real life example of what not to do:

Co-worker: Are you tipping over yet?

Me: *Gives questioning look*

Co-worker: At first I saw you from behind, but when I see you from the side, WHOOOOA!

Me: Uh, yeah. Okay. *Runs away*

FACEPALM.

Photo by Paul Lin on Unsplash
pregnancy

What No One Tells You about Being Pregnant

cropped-emmanuella.jpg

There has been a tiny human inside of me for eight long months. For all this time, we’ve lived our lives together – she eats what I eat, she kicks me when I’m trying to sleep, she pushes on my bladder when I just peed five minutes ago.

I am THRILLED to be a mama. But you can also be sure that I am counting down the blessed days until my due date (currently 34). Lord, let her come early.

Pregnancy is a blessing. Let’s be clear right now that I understand how lucky I am to be able to bring this child into the world. There are far too many women who wish they could be in my position right now, but can’t for a myriad of medical and personal reasons. My heart goes out to them. I pray that they can one day experience the miracle of budding life inside them as well.

Yet I’ve found that not all parts of pregnancy are miraculous. And honestly, I wish that I would have known about these parts ahead of time. Because y’all, I was not prepared for any of this:

  1. Morning Sickness is like having the worst hangover of your life all the time… except you didn’t drink any alcohol. 

Thank God this ended for me at 20 weeks, but that was still a looong time to feel like death every second of every day. Oh yeah, “morning” sickness is a complete myth. It is ALL THE TIME sickness, and if it’s bad enough, you will spend every available second lying horizontal on the couch trying not to blow the 6 crackers you managed to choke down. Glorious.

2. Skin tags are a thing.

You can develop skin tags in weird places like the inner part of your belly button (I did). They are caused by all the crazy hormonal changes, and you can’t do anything to prevent them (however you can get them removed by a dermatologist after pregnancy). Until then, you just have these awkward little growths. Try not to stress about it too much (but you probably will anyway). And speaking of skin…

3. You probably won’t feel like you’re glowing. 

If you do feel like you’re glowing, you go mama! Embrace it! But in my case, all I got was acne. A lot of it. And SURPRISE! Most acne treatment products are a big no-no for your baby, which means you are pretty much left with very gentle cleansers. Good luck treating serious pregnancy acne with that! This is another thing that (mostly) went away with time, but I NEVER felt the glow. One time, an older man at my church said, “Your hormones are making you pretty.” So that’s something I guess. But no glow for this mama.

4. You can try to be normal, but eventually your hormones will win. 

I’m sorry, but try as you might, you’re bound to have an emotional breakdown at some point of pregnancy. It will probably be over nothing. Your brain might even be telling you that you’re being over-dramatic and stupid, and you do NOT need to cry hysterically over whatever it is. I wish that I could say I’ve only done this once. Nope. Those hormones are real, mama. But you’re making a human, so this is excusable (and bless our husbands who have to deal with this).

5. You might actually hate it. 

Pregnancy is a time of crazy transition, accompanied by not feeling at all like yourself. It’s hard. And though it comes with some wonderful moments (those first little kicks are the best feeling you can imagine!), there is also a lot of stuff that you’d rather didn’t exist. IT’S OKAY if you don’t like being pregnant. You can still love your child more than life itself and hate pregnancy. Your pregnancy and your baby are not one and the same. So take heart. There have been many other mamas that have walked this road, wishing that her back would stop aching and that she could just get some uninterrupted sleep. Despite the aches, the constant emotional roller coaster, and the seemingly endless waiting, YOU ARE MAKING A PERSON. And I am confident that it will all be worth it.

You got this mama. Every hard day that passes, you are one day closer to meeting that perfect little human that God designed for you. But I will still pray that you never throw up all over yourself and your car while driving to work. Because ain’t nobody got time for that (and yes, that is a personal anecdote).

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5)