Tuesday, November 10, 2015

And Babies Don't Keep

  I struggle to find words to describe the past six weeks. It’s pretty much impossible. Postpartum is no joke. My body has ached, bled, throbbed, shaken… it has by far been the most physically challenging time of my life. I still don’t feel “normal” and have begun to accept that there is a new normal for my body and my life. I am accepting my mama bod, the few stretch marks I earned, the massive change in what I can physically do (just a walk was exhausting and I was so sore the next day). There is pain, discomfort, frustrating limitations… But let me tell you…it is all totally worth it.

There’s this incredible baby.

This wondrous little being who fully depends on me for survival. I love it. I love her. She is fantastic! I am so honored that I get to keep her. Her tiny self has changed so much in the past six weeks. Physically she is so beautiful…her porcelain skin and chocolate hair are all me, as are her expressions and her chubby Overstake cheeks. Her brow and profile look like her dad. I love that she is a combination of the two of us, although it seems she may keep her blue eyes inherited from Grandma Claire. 

I suppose I have subscribed to the “attachment parenting” thing – although I don’t know if defining my parenting style is healthy or necessary. I just want her to feel secure all the time. I don’t allow her to “cry it out,” and find her very consolable usually just by picking her up. She responds well to shushing, walking, and rocking her. My coworkers and I knew she would be a “moving baby” as I was on my feet my entire pregnancy and she got grumpy in-utero if I was not moving.

Some of her cries affect me very deeply in a primal way that I didn’t know was possible. I can read her and understand her noises. Her needs are very clear to me based on her cries, and that is pretty remarkable to me. I have never felt connected to a person like this before. It is the BEST thing.

I cannot fully describe how I feel about Phoebe. It is something that can’t be described without you, dear reader, being in the room and seeing us together.

How I feel about Phoebe is… 
her curled on my chest in the smallest little ball a human can be, snoring gently.

 It is her mouth open, head resting in the crook of my arm.

 It is her long dark eye lashes skimming my cheek while I sing her every song I can ever remember at night before bedtime.

 It is the big, toothless grin she gives her daddy every time he leans close to her face and exclaims, “Hi Sugar!” 

It is simply the fact that I don’t want to put this baby down. 

Something occurred to me as the postpartum fog began lifting around a month after she was born. I’ve read the phrase several times throughout my life. It’s the last line of a little poem I’ve seen cross-stitched and framed in antique stores, on prints of a mama and baby in a nursery, seen on Pinterest a few dozen times. I smiled as I read it. But now I get it.

Song for a Fifth Child by Ruth Hulbert Hamilton
“Mother, O' Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth.
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due,
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek - peekaboo.

The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew,
And out in the yard there's a hullabaloo.
But I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow,
But children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.”

“And babies don’t keep.”

Every time she’s upset and just wants to be picked up, but my arms and body are sore. 

“Babies DON’T keep.”

Every time it’s well past bedtime, and she just wants to rock in my arms while I’m singing to her, struggling to stay awake.

“Babies don’t keep.”

Every time I wonder what she’ll be like when she’s one, or five, or thirty-seven with a family of her own. Slow down, Mama. Enjoy this moment. 

“Babies don’t keep.”

Every time my mama is over and sings her silly songs. I watch and wonder as she snuggles HER baby’s baby…and it REALLY hits me then…

“Babies. Don’t. Keep.” 

They really don’t. So enjoy it, mama. Don’t wish it away.

She will only be six weeks old once.
She will only need me this much for a very short time. She will only want me to rock her to sleep for so long. Then she’ll do it on her own, just like so many other things that she will learn to do without me. 

She will only need me in the middle of the night for a few years. 

Then suddenly, like a flash of light in the night sky, she’ll have babies of her own.

 I never want to finally realize after she’s grown and gone that it’s over, that I’ll never get her as a baby ever again. Or heaven forbid, that I didn’t appreciate her babyhood, toddler years, or childhood. 

I hope the memories of her as a baby come back in waves throughout the rest of my life. 

The lullabies my mother sang to me as a child are now escaping my mouth each evening to sooth my own babe. I hope she sings the same songs to her babies. I hope her baby-ness never really goes away. But it will.

All of those popular blog posts on how having kids is dreadful are wrong. 

All of those negative social media posts that parents write about their children make me so very sad. Newsflash: your kids will be able to see those posts someday, and yes, people are questioning whether or not you’re a good parent when all you post are negative things about your babes. 

I’m enjoying every moment. Every miraculous newborn snuggle. Even when it’s not the easiest in the back of my head is ...

Babies don’t keep.

Things to remember for Phoebe as she gets older:  The way the sunlight makes your brown hair sparkle red-mahogany
The funny noise you make after you yawn
Your baby smell, especially your lovely milky breath
Your epic baby stretches when you wake up
The chortle-coo you make when something makes you happy
When you startled and cried when the dogs barked at the backyard squirrels (and picking you up made you instantly happy)
Baby snores
Typing this one handed, and you content at my breast
Love like nothing else, ever.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Positive Induction: Phoebe's Birth Story

In the weeks before labor, I asked my mama friends for advice and encouragement during labor. Here's what they said:  

“You will be able to handle the pain.” – E

“Just remember, you get a prize at the end – the best prize EVER. Like, literally ever. – C

“Birth is no picnic, but it is so, so worth it.” – C

“It is not as bad as everyone says it is.” – K

“You are strong and you CAN do this.” – C

“It is such a great experience. To finally meet her. There are no words. You got this!” – V

            I am so happy to share Phoebe’s birth story with the world. Before my induction, I was searching the internet for positive stories that matched the medical procedures my doctor was preparing for me. On the forum boards, blog posts, and Pinterest pins, I did not find what I was searching for. Most of the induction stories were negative. Most of the birth stories had terrible twists even though they started out positive.

So here it is…the story of how I became a mother and how I met the beautiful Phoebe.

At 7:30pm on Friday, September 25, we were admitted to the hospital so I could be induced. My doctor wanted to induce me for several reasons, one of which was that it was a day before my due date and my cervix hadn’t changed for two weeks. I didn’t want to deliver late, and his contract with Via Christi was up on October 1. I didn’t want to risk not having my doctor present. On top of that, I was getting very anxious about when I would go into labor. It was keeping me up at night – I needed a date besides my due date to focus on so I could feel like a sane person.
Right before we left for the hospital

My doctor opted to do a drug-free induction (no Cervadil) and used a Foley bulb catheter instead. I got to the hospital and they weighed me (149lbs! The most my entire life!), and we checked into our room. They handed me the hospital gown and told me to change, set my stuff down, get comfortable. I was hooked up to monitors and was surprised to see that I was having contractions that were totally painless.

The resident came in to check me and told me what I already knew – I was the exact same as I had been on Tuesday at my OB/GYN’s office: dilated 1-2cm, 70% effaced. He said the Foley bulb procedure should help me along with no complications and that everything looked “favorable.”

The nurse and resident showed me the Foley bulb, which looked like a little clear straw. They inserted it with very little discomfort and inflated the bulb part with water (which I couldn’t feel) and told me they’d check me every hour to see if the bulb was dilating me more. The resident said that the bulb should fall out on its own when I was dilated 4-5cm. I dozed in and out, Cody did homework on the couch beside by bed.
Yes, I am wearing a Breathe Right strip. I wear one every night!
The nurse checked me every hour until around 3am, when she seemed disappointed that the bulb had not fallen out on its own yet. She called the resident to see when they should start Pitocin if I had not dilated. He said he would come check me because he was surprised the bulb was still in place. The resident arrived and began to check me and laughed – the Foley bulb had evidently fallen out hours ago and was just sitting in my vaginal canal. He pulled it out, started Pitocin, and the real fun (contractions) began.

At this point I had seen two different nurses and 7am brought a new nurse again. She monitored my contractions and asked me how the pain was. I was dilated to 4-5cm at this point and didn’t have a lot of pain. I really didn’t feel like the contractions, which were coming regularly, were that horrible. I remember saying, “This is really not that bad. I don’t know why women get so whiny about this.” My nurse laughed.

They checked me again in an hour or so, I was dilated to a “5-6ish,” baby was at a +2 position, but I was still just 70% effaced. A new resident made his appearance. I will never forget his face. Something about labor makes you remember people very vividly. He and my last nurse are forever emblazoned on my brain! He, too, asked how the pain was and I told him that his checking me was actually more painful than the contractions. “Well sorry about that,” he said. “You may be a candidate for natural birth.” Such a motivating comment. It propelled me through what was to come.

They upped the Pitocin to an 18 (I believe it can go up to a 40, but I never needed more than an18). By this point, my parents had arrived and were very encouraging. We chatted, my dad and Cody went to get breakfast in the cafeteria, my mom and I held hands and wondered at my mego-prego belly and the baby we were about to meet.

The nurse came in and offered me some options for laboring – I could hop on the exercise ball, use a peanut, go walk around. I didn’t feel like I wanted to move around a lot though and told her that I was actually very comfortable in bed and preferred to labor on my back. I used the bed rails as stress relievers and held on to them and shook them like crazy when big contractions hit. Opting to stay on my back was just the opposite of what I had read and what I thought I would do, but the idea of standing up seemed very intimidating, and I knew I would miss my bed rails.

I got a new nurse, Brandi, at 11am. Her blue eyes, just like the resident’s face, will never leave my memory. She was wonderful. Shortly after Brandi arrived, the resident called my doctor and told him about my progress. My doctor advised him to go ahead and break my water.

Brandi and the resident told me what to expect and showed me the long, slender, plastic crochet hook. They had me put my fist under my tailbone and it felt like the resident was checking me again until the water flowed down my back and all over my hand…and it didn’t feel like water. “Gravy!” I said, followed by a very long ewwwww. “Water” breaking does not feel like water, it feels like warm thick gravy. Gnarly. It was all over my hand and arm, and everyone laughed including me. After the gravy-water break, the contractions started to get very intense and I entered “Labor Land.”

I read about “Labor Land” in a few of my childbirth books – it’s the place where you lose yourself. You don’t remember who you are and all you can focus on is what you feel. You become a primal creature that is only in tune with the contractions and the pain and you forget everything else. The resident checked me again between contractions and I was dilated to a 7, baby’s head was engaged and in place, and I was finally effacing more.

At this point, the bed rails got a real workout. During every contraction I grabbed them and shook and made a noise I had never heard before. Nurse Brandi and Cody coached me through each contraction as he saw them on the monitor, telling me when they were coming and when they were building and when I was riding through the worst of them and when they were subsiding and when they were over. This pattern of Cody helping me through each contraction was helped as well by this thought in my head: “A person can stand anything for ten seconds.” I counted to ten during each contraction, and the contractions lasted longer than ten seconds each, so I restarted my count as necessary. I also used a focal point technique. I found this star-shaped piece of machinery in the far corner of the room and breathed through while counting staring just at that. It helped, and I don’t know why.

At some point, Cody and Brandi looked at each other while watching the monitor and both had concerned looks on their faces. At first I was worried for the baby, as she was being monitored on the same screen. It soon became clear that it was me they were concerned for, not Miss Phoebe.

“Jillian your contractions are doubling up, we’re going to help you through these next few,” Brandi said. Cody’s face and mannerisms changed. I could tell he was very worried.

My contractions were building and building and would drop a little, but I was no longer getting the 30 – 90 second break between them. Contractions dropped and immediately built back up, which meant I did not get the mental or physical break I needed and I started to wear down. The noises I made were entirely different than before. The pain level was intensified and I remembered that I had the option of a pain medicine in my IV that would give me an hour break.

I requested the IV pain medicine. Nurse Brandi said I had to be checked by the resident to see if I could still get it – I started to panic. I wasn’t aware that there was a timeline during which I was able to get the pain medicine or not. The resident checked me and said it was too late – I was within 4 hours of delivery and they could not administer the IV meds. All I heard was “4 hours” and thought, okay, I can do this. Four hours is not that much time. I was dilated to an 8, 90% effaced, baby was ready. I told myself to take it one hour at a time…

One hour was all I made it. That hour was blurry, dark, unreal…I really can’t remember much except bed-rail shaking and the panicked look in Cody’s face. I don’t recall the moment when I knew I needed the epidural. I just remember begging for pain killers, asking Brandi and Cody to help me. Cody said afterward that he was relieved when I asked for the epidural so I could become myself again. In hindsight, I don’t think I could have effectively pushed or followed the doctors’ instructions without pain relief.

An anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural when another double contraction hit. I grabbed his arm in pain. I will never forget Brandi looking me dead in the eye, six inches away from my face saying, “If you move, you will be paralyzed.” Oh great, a double contraction, a needle in my spine, and I can’t move. Cody held my hand, a change from my normal bed-rail shaking that threw off my rhythm but got me through the contraction. Finally the pain medicine was placed, but I didn’t get immediate relief.

About 15 minutes later, my left side was totally numb. The contractions showed on the monitor (still doubled) and I could no longer feel them. My right side was sorta numb, I could move my foot and wiggle around. Brandi asked if I wanted another dose of medicine to even out the numbness. I opted not to because it was reassuring to have some kind of movement. I was so relieved – I got the break I needed both mentally and physically.

The resident came in and checked me again, and to my surprise (and his as well), I was “totally ready to go,” and pushing should start in 45 minutes or less. He called my doctor. I stared at Cody, in awe of how fast everything had gone. It was around 2:45pm. Brandi said she was only scheduled to work until 3pm and asked if I would like her to stay through delivery. I said yes, and she called her charge nurse to inform them she was staying. I was very grateful for her.

The resident, Brandi, and Cody helped me through “practice pushes.” Just FYI, “practice pushes” don’t really exist and this was the real deal. I think they say “practice” to make laboring women not as anxious. They had me take a big cleansing breath, watched the contraction on the monitor, exhale, take a deep breath, hold and push for 8 counts. We did probably four or five of those and Brandi’s eyes got real big.

“Well we should probably stop,” said the resident.

“Yeah, I was wondering when you were going to tell her to stop,” said Brandi.

“If I deliver this baby I’m gonna be in trouble. Let’s see how far away Dr. Whiddon is,” said the resident.

“Holy crap,” said Cody’s face.

Dr. Whiddon was there within ten minutes, and out of habit, Cody helped him put his gown on. He checked me and said, “Oh yeah! Baby head! Cool. We should be delivering in 1-2 hours.”

I relaxed in between contractions and mentally prepared to meet her. At this time Dr. Whiddon hilariously made a Mohawk with Phoebe’s chocolate brown hair and I thought, oh wow I’m so close to meeting her.

“Let’s do a few more practice pushes with these contractions, here comes a big one,” Dr. Whiddon had Cody hold my right leg and Brandi hold my left. Two more nurses joined us in the room.

I pushed, gritting my teeth (yes I wore my TMJD appliance and my Breathe Right strip to help me through this!), and clenching my jaw (not fun for my TMJD but I had to do it to push correctly). I can’t recall exactly how many times I pushed, but I felt no pain. No ring of fire, just slight pressure. I had no urge to push, I just followed the advice of the voices in the room and focused on a mental image of my body opening and her emerging. I felt more pressure, then gave one more push and felt her limbs emerge.

She was here.

Cody cut the cord.

She was immediately given to me.

The tears started and didn’t stop.

Cody was silent, staring at the two of us with shock or joy or wonder or whatever emotion comes when you witness a miracle.

I had my prize in my arms…my perfect, healthy baby girl. All 8lbs 8oz of her. She was beautiful – she looked exactly like her father except for my dark hair.

I was amazed at my own strength and happy with her birth. It was a perfect introduction to the world for my amazing Phoebe.

Born 9/26/2015, 3:48pm, 8lbs 8oz, 20.5” long. Happy, healthy, and with a head full of chocolate brown hair. She and I are inseparable and I’m so thankful for the joy of motherhood and our wonderful newborn baby girl.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Baby Bump Pictures and Baby Shower!

I had the ultimate pleasure of meeting a new photographer a few weeks ago. I booked her after she had a last minute cancellation and posted it on her Facebook page. I got a discount because I booked her open spot (sweeeet). But even without the discount, this shoot was well worth it!

In the past, I'm not sure if I would have sprung for maternity pictures. Kind of seems frivolous and expensive and pointless. But as I approached my third trimester, I found myself thinking: "What if I'm never pregnant again, and the only photos we have of me pregnant are the few we've snapped in our back yard?" I'd be so sad. "Would Phoebe enjoy seeing these photos in the future?" I love seeing photos of my pregnant mama.

So we did it and I'm so glad. On a daily basis, I feel absolutely stunning because of the glow I have from pregnancy. These photos capture how I feel. I've never felt more beautiful in my life, and I owe it all to Phoebe.


Sunday, we had Phoebe's baby shower. (And yes, I wore the same dress! I love it!) It was a co-ed shower and a "feast," and we didn't play any of the games that I find incredibly obnoxious. I just wanted a celebration of friends and family, good food, and one thing in particular: a naked cake. I got my wish thanks to my sister-in-law, Emily, who somehow captured everything in my brain through my few Pinterest pins and probably the fact that she just knows my style and gets my vibe. I am so happy we did it the way we did. People came from near and far (Here's looking at you, Lindsey!) to celebrate Phoebe and our miracle.

One of the poignant moments was Cody's grandma's gift. His grandfather has been gone for many years now, and I wish I could have met him. Wrapped very carefully among a baby book and girly clothes was a heavy marble plaque that reads: "The best thing a Father can do for his children is love their Mother." It belonged to his grandfather. Cody's grandma said he kept it for years where he could see it on a daily basis. Gifting that to Cody was incredibly touching. Cody and I both got teary, and those words really resonated with us as we shared Phoebe's gifts and her family together as a couple at the baby shower.

We simply can't wait for everyone to meet her. Cody and I can't wait to meet her! Every time I talk to her, I tell her how much she is already loved.

I've said it before but I can't help it....I never knew how deeply in love I could be with someone I have never met. Ten weeks to go!

Photography: Kara at Cloverleaf Photography
Blue Maxi Dress: Anthropologie (No Longer Available)
Mint Jeans: Motherhood Maternity
Sandals: Very old Coach
Flower Crown: Handmade by me
Throne: Vintage
Cake: Cameo Cakes

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Bittersweet Anniversary

Two years ago, I happily wrote in my phone's calendar that we officially started trying to conceive. 626 days later, I woke Cody from a dead sleep and told him we were pregnant. Six hundred and twenty six days. Painful yet hopeful days, and a time that has made me a different person.

If I would have known the journey I was about to embark on two years ago when I threw away my birth control, I don't know what my overly optimistic (and in hindsight, very naive) self would have thought. Probably that 626 days was an exaggeration of how long it would actually take us to get pregnant. That it couldn't be THAT difficult ... and surely that sadness and loneliness wouldn't haunt me.

Fertility issues creates major change. Some of it is good - I don't think I would appreciate my pregnancy or my marriage as much without the struggles we had. Some of it is bad. The past two years are definitely the darkest I've ever had. I'm glad my husband told me so many times that we were not giving up. I'm glad it's behind us, and I'm grateful that it feels like a distant dream. The pain has faded. The identity of being the "infertile couple" has changed. It all still feels so very miraculous.

One week ago, I had the second best day of my life. (The best day will probably always be our wedding day). My mother got off work to spend the day with me. That morning was my first ultrasound. I was nervous about it for days before, hoping everything was healthy and good. Wondering if it was a boy or a girl. Trying really hard not to Google stuff (which always freaks me out) about the anatomy scan.

My mom, Cody, and I got to the doctor's office and they called me right back. My pulse raced as I pulled up the maternity shirt my sister-in-law Emily gave me as a hand-me-down. Then on the black-and-white screen, up popped the best picture. Baby! A strange, blurry alien with bright white bones. Our miracle. Something I had dreamed of seeing for years finally in front of me. Finally real.

During the ultrasound I was too nervous to get emotional. The sonographer found the spine, the head, the outstretched fingers of tiny hands, the little feet, the brain split into two hemispheres, the wildly beating heart. I was pretty impressed with my body's own reaction and the incredible growth of something that appeared to be a jumping lima bean on the first quick "yep you're pregnant" ultrasound done with a hand-held device by my OB/GYN.

Then it was time... In my mild case of Googling I had looked up what boy and girl anatomy looks like at 18 weeks. The sonographer hovered over the little legs, and said, "Ok, boy or girl any guesses? Can anyone tell?"

"It's a girl," I said.

"Yep. It's a girl," she repeated.

And all I felt was love.

Cody had to go to class shortly after, but my mom and I did a little shopping, watched Fern Gully, and crafted. We made decorations for her nursery. Then we got massages and painted our nails pink in celebration. The whole time I was with my mom I thought, "I wonder if this is how she felt the day she found out I was ME."

That evening Cody and my dad shared "girly" wine together, my mom and I cooked dinner, and we reveled in the fact that she is HER. A girl. A person that is half of me and half of my favorite person on the planet. A little life that I dreamed of and doubted and hoped for for 626 days.

After my parents left, Cody and I worked on her room a little more. As we hung up the decorations my mom and I made, her name dangling from a branch from the yard of our first house, it really hit me.

My world will never be the same. It is bigger, brighter, happier, and so full of love that I cannot even process it. I didn't know I was capable of this caliber of love. This bright light that overwhelms my life is so magical.

If just giving her a name made me this happy, I marvel at what the future will bring.

Her name is Phoebe AnnClaire. She is my happiest thought.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Miracle

There are some memories in life that are vivid long after they are over. Some of them are painful. Some of them are wonderful. Some of them are strange memories that you didn't think you'd remember, but you do.

I had one of those moments in January. It was 2am, and I had to pee. (Bear with me). This was unusual for me. Earlier that day, Cody and I were at the grocery store and something said to me, "You should buy a pregnancy test." Cody told me I should wait, take it easy, don't get my hopes up. I said we should just buy it, we were out, and I was late. He made me promise I wouldn't take one until I was 7 days late (I was 4). Fine, I said. Then that night, I had to pee.

So I thought okay, I can take this thing and not stress Cody out and just get it over with and go back to bed. So I took it.

It was positive. In like four seconds. And I started screaming.

Cody bolted out of bed (I seriously have never seen him move that fast) and I thrust the test into his hands and said the words I doubted I would ever be able to say:

"We're pregnant! I'm pregnant!"

He dropped to his knees. I fell right along with him.

That moment at 2am in our tiny bathroom in our first house together is one of those memories that will never fade.

It has finally happened. I am due with our Miracle Baby that we affectionately call "Minnow" in late September. We have had names picked out since the beginning of our fertility journey two years ago, which we will share when we know if "Minnow" is a he or a she.

Cody's surgery worked. The day we were supposed to go back in for his 3-month follow up after surgery was the day of my first doctor's appointment. We are overjoyed,  thankful, and happy for modern medicine that solved our fertility issues for good.

I feel great - a few food aversions, no morning sickness, an early-showing bump, and a glow. I'm simply stoked.

I've never been this happy. Life has never been this good. Everything is illuminated and beautiful and bright.

Watch our announcement video here: