Friday, March 20, 2015

A Day In The Life With A Toddler & Newborn

I'm doing it. I'm taking care of a toddler and a newborn. Some days I feel like I simply survive until I hear my husband's tires rolling into the driveway at the end of the day. Some days I feel like someone should be photographing how picture perfect our days are. Most days are somewhere in between. Logistically, it took me a couple of weeks to figure out how to physically care for two humans at the same time. It was very stressful and I had a hard time adjusting to the change. I might have sent a few messages of despair out to fellow mamas, all of whom gave me practical suggestions for helping the day go smoother, and lifted me up in support. After six weeks of performing this new gig, we almost, kind of have a little routine going. Be still my heart.
Overall, I think we are doing pretty well. I'm tired, but I think that's mostly from going going going since the moment I wake up, because I'm actually getting a decent amount of sleep at night. The laundry is never caught up, but I'm assuming that's my new norm. :) We go outside every day, we eat pretty good food, and we hug and laugh and love a lot.

This Wednesday was a little on the lower side of the scale, if we're visualizing it as such. Ellie was a cranky broad nearly all day long, but Ben however, was simply the sweetest most obedient little bug. And so it goes.
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3:45 a.m.: Newborns are super loud sleepers, so it makes sense that I would put Ellie in the bassinet right next to my bed (insert confused emoji face here). She only wakes once to nurse in the night, usually around this hour, but it's often hard to discern whether she is actually awake and hungry or just grunting and sighing and passing gas. Anyway, I grab her and change her diaper, reswaddle her and nurse her for about 25 minutes on the left. She always nurses the longest at night. I read a few blogs and scroll through instagram.

5:45 a.m.: My husband leaves for work, he kisses my eyebrow.

7:05: I wake up naturally (have been around this hour). I want to go back to sleep, but I know the mornings go much smoother when I get up before the two of them. For a while it was unpredictable when our days would start, but it's falling into a more succinct rhythm. I've been showering at night to save time in the mornings, so I put on jeans (don't throw eggs at my house, they are still maternity jeans), my stable nursing tank top and a hoodie. I pump one breast while brushing my teeth and spraying an abundant amount of dry shampoo in my 6-day unwashed hair.

7:30: I make the bed quietly (this helps me feel better every day), check Ben on the monitor (still sleeping). His entire life he's been a gem about hanging out in his crib quietly in the mornings until we get him (usually), and he usually sleeps until 7:30 or 8:00, but we finally got an "okay to wake clock" that turns green at a set time. We decided to set this to 7:30 so that at least I would have a better 'time' to run off for helping the mornings go smoother (my most stressful time of day). This way if he wakes earlier, I don't feel pressure to go get him and he knows he needs to hang out and chill.

7:35: Let old dog out Coco out and keep young dog Jesse in and feed him. I'm relieved that no dogs have had diarrhea in the laundry room this morning, because the last two mornings that has been the case. Throw clothes in dryer.
7:40: Store pumped milk in freezer, eat a banana and drink a glass of water with my vitamins and placenta capsule.
7:45: Ben wakes up and is jibber jabbering quietly, but I see Ellie stirring as well so I go in to Ben to get him taken care of first. He soaked through his pajamas and sheets, and pooped. Lift him out of his crib, strip his sheets, take off his jammies. Run out of wipes, ask him to stand there while I go get more...Ellie starts crying loudly. Ask Ben to wait while I go grab her from the rock n play in our bedroom, unswaddle her and lay her on the bed (this makes her happy). Go back to Ben and change him, get him dressed. Take the poopy diaper outside to the garbage can, put Ben in his booster seat and give him cereal, two pieces of bacon (microwavable), some almond milk, and strawberries.
8:00: Change Ellie's diaper, wash my hands,  and bring her back to living room to nurse while Ben eats breakfast.
8:15: Both are done eating. Get Ben down and have him brush his teeth and we attempt to brush the rats nest of his hair (I'm pretty sure he's got a dread loc going) while Ellie lays on her activity mat. We got the activity mat out of the garage over the weekend and it's been a huge huge help for us because Ellie loves it. I think she was probably bored with looking at our faces all the time and needed new stimulus. Ben wants to sit next to her and show her all the toys (he saw me showing her a mirror one day and likes to do that). I'm happy he's taken a bigger interest in what his sister is doing...I can see his heart growing. I let our old dog in to eat and let our young dog out (young dog is a furry fat pig who eats all the food, so they must be fed separately).
8:25: I sit at the counter and watch them out of corner of my eye while I eat my granola and berries.

8:35: Ben is talking to Ellie about all the toys and telling her he will be 'right back' and runs into his room to grab his little lovey to show her and tells her about his "Beebee blue guy", and then he shows her a bunch of flash cards and tells her what is on each one (this melts my heart). I clean up the kitchen real quick.

8:45: Ellie starts fussing (she's either sick of Ben shoving toys in her face or she's getting tired). I think probably both. Newborn's wake time in the morning is really short and they get overstimulated easily. I ask Ben if he wants to watch a little show on my laptop. I've been struggling to figure out how to get her down for a nap while Ben is at my feet, so this is the answer for now. He chooses a Mickey Mouse clubhouse.

8:50: I check Ellie's diaper and get her swaddled and start shushing and bouncing with her.

9:00: Ellie's eyes are closed and she's in sleepy land on her cleavage pillow. I lay her in the rock-n-play and head back out to the living room where Ben is watching his show. We cuddle up together and I write a few emails on my phone.
9:20: Ellie starts crying, I go in and pick her up and walk with her for a few minutes, she burps and passes some gas and closes her eyes. I lay her back down and go back to Ben.

9:50: Ellie is rustling around again, so I put her in the ergo to finish her nap since we have friends coming over soon and I don't want to be in the middle of taking care of her and being there for my shy toddler when people arrive.

10:00: Our friends arrive! I haven't seen this mama for a while and our boys haven't played together before, and they were both shy to warm up. Eventually the boys play on the deck together while Ellie sleeps in the ergo and Sarah and I chat in the living room. This is wonderful adult conversation and it feels amazing! I'm happy Ben is playing and having fun.

11:00: Ellie wakes up in the ergo, so I take her out and nurse her on the couch (I try and follow an eat/wake/sleep pattern with my babies) while my friend Sarah and I continue chatting.

11:30: Sarah brought a fruit salad and a delicious kale pasta dish for lunch. She holds Ellie while I make the boys lunch and eat something myself.
11:40: Get the boys settled at the table and have seconds of the pasta salad.

11:55: Boys finish eating, Ellie is fussing and I know she's tired, and the only option is once again the ergo since there is so much going on right now and I know I won't have time to try and get her down for a nap on her own, so back in it she goes. Sarah eats her lunch and we chat while she does a few dishes and helps clean up all the toys.
12:15: We say goodbye to our friends.

12:20: I put clothes away in Ben's room while he picks up more toys in his room and plays with cars.

12:35: I call Justin to say hi and see when he will be home for the day and am sad to hear it's later than I was hoping.

12:45: Ben is still playing in his room so I go into our bedroom and take Ellie out of the ergo and lay her in the rock-n-play (hoping she stays asleep but knowing probably not). I'm bummed I have to wake her up in order to put Ben down, but such is life now.

12:50: Go back to Ben's room and change his diaper and have him pick out a book. We sit in the chair and read a book together and read and chat and snuggle before putting him down.

1:05: Leave Ben's room and go back to find Ellie is awake but sitting there quietly. I fill up my water cup, use the bathroom, and grab my kindle.

1:10 Swaddle Ellie and rock with her until she falls back asleep and read Outlander while holding her on my chest.

1:35: I check the monitor and see Ben hasn't fallen asleep but is rather playing with his feet and singing to himself.

2:15 I hear Ben crying, and I know he didn't fall asleep today but he had an hour's rest...his wake clock is set for 1.5 hrs at nap time since he only naps 3 to 4 times a week now. I tell him through the monitor he needs to wait until his clock turns green.

2:30 Ellie wakes up, so I unswaddle her and lay her on the bed. She starts fussing and crying so I move her to the swing, and check on Ben and see his clock turned green so I in to get him.

2:35 Get Ben, he's upset because he bit his tongue while jumping up and down in his crib. He also pooped so I change his diaper and listen to Ellie screaming in the swing (remind myself I physically can't be in two places at once and she's okay until I can get there).

2:40 Put Ben at the table with some snap peas and a lara bar for a snack.

2:45 Nurse Ellie while Ben has his snack. Ben gets down from his chair to brings me some of his snacks and feeds them to me (we might be on to something here).

3:00 I put Ellie on the play mat and Ben 'plays' with her and does a sticker book nearby. Ellie is gassy and spitting up and super fussy so I walk around with her for a bit, then put her in the rocking swing someone loaned us. I'm starving so I heat up some rice and leftover chicken and toss an avocado in. I drink a bunch of water. I'm usually pretty good about staying hydrated but today I feel like I've been taking care of the kids back and forth all day and haven't had much self care. I sat down to eat and 3 minutes later Ellie started screaming. I pick her up and go out on the deck with Ben and eat my food while bouncing with her in the sunshine.
3:15: I brush the rice off poor baby's head and put her back in the ergo. It's a gorgeous day and we need to get out. I put on Ben's shoes and sweatshirt while Ellie screams in my ear and we head outside. Ellie is still crying and screaming, but Ben runs off to happily play with his dump truck and shovels. I send out an "SOS" email to my husband. Our goofy dog Jesse comes running by with a huge 6 foot stick and nearly decapitates Ben, so I put Jesse back inside. Ellie is still fussing...just can't make this chick happy today.
3:40: I walked around outside enough and bounced Ellie to sleep, when I heard a guy yelling in the driveway asking if anyone was home. I thought this was strange so I popped through the gate to see if everything was okay and investigate. Turns out he was selling steaks and seafood door to door and asked if we wanted any. Is that seriously a reason to yell at someone to see if they are home when they don't answer the door? Not to mention creepy. I told him no and he continued to push the matter and I told him he could take it up with my husband. Adios.

3:45: Ben and I walk around the property collecting rocks, flowers, and sticks while Ellie naps in the ergo. I let Jesse back outside because Ben adores him right now. Ben picks a bunch of grass for Jesse to eat (ha!) and pets him and throws balls at him trying to get him to play. Ben lays in the grass and closes his eyes and giggles, runs around the yard, and is generally having a wonderful afternoon. Meanwhile my back is killing me.
4:45: Ellie starts fussing and wakes up, so I corral everyone inside. My husband gets home about the same time and plays with Ben and unpacks some new pots and pans we got in the mail from my dad while I nursed Ellie.

5:15: Justin could see I needed a baby break so he took Ellie (bless him) while I started dinner. Someone gave us some little steaks and we needed to cook them up, so he grilled and baby-bounced and toddler-entertained while I chopped veggies and sautéed mushrooms.
6:00: Ellie was chill enough to be set down under the activity mat while Ben, Justin, and I ate dinner together.

6:15: Ellie cries, Justin gets her, and I start the kitchen clean up. Ellie is really screaming now, so he changes and swaddles her and we switch duties. I take Ellie into the bedroom to nurse her and try and get her down for a catnap.

6:30: Success. I close my eyes and rock and nurse while Justin does toy clean up and starts bath time with Ben. Since he didn't have a nap today he needs to go to bed early.
7:05: Ellie wakes up and spits up everywhere. I get her changed into a clean sleeper and ask Justin to trade me children so I can read books with Ben.

7:15: Ben and I read three books together, and sing a few songs. He thinks it's really funny to ask me to sing make-up songs right now (the chair song, the pants song, the lamp song). Basically he looks around the room and picks an object and wants me to sing about it. Ha! He asks me to sing the 'boob' song (pass), and the 'tree' song. I sing part of Alan Jackson's "I'll buy ya tall tall trees and all the waters in the seas....I'm a fool fool fool, for you," and Ben thinks that's great.

7:30: Say goodnight to Ben and pop open a carton of dairy free ice cream (gosh that makes me sound like a glutton) and write a little more about the day while Justin strolls around the house with a fussy baby.
7:50: I haven't washed my hair in an eon (again, praise whomever invented dry shampoo), and I would like to do that tonight but I'm not sure it's going to happen now that it's almost 8 o'clock. My body and back hurt from baby-wearing most of the day and a hot bath also sounds heavenly but...probably no.

8:00: I go into the bedroom to get Ellie but she lets me know she is not interested in nursing and seems content enough just being held by her daddy. I take advantage and hop in the shower, brush my teeth, and put on pajamas.

8:35: Change Ellie's diaper, reswaddle her, and nurse the cute grumpy gal to sleep.

9:00: Lay Ellie in the bassinet, pump the breast she didn't nurse on, use the bathroom, and climb into bed.

9:30: This is the earliest I've been in bed and ready to close my eyes in a couple of weeks! Hooray! I send subliminal messages to my husband to rub my back but he doesn't receive them.

Sigh. Gonna do it all again tomorrow. While Ellie Jo was fussier this particular day than most, Ben has been such a happy and positive little boy lately and I just love spending time with him. He's so silly and is constantly making me laugh. And I'm still amazed at how much and equally I love Ellinor as I do her brother...I'm so blessed to be the caregiver of these precious little souls. Days with a newborn are a lot of work, and life with two is a lot of work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. What a good life.

These are some of my favorite posts to write, even if they are more for me than the small following I have here. I love looking back at how my days were spent at different times in my kid(s) lives. You can read some others here, here, or here.
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The 4th Trimester

It's been over a month of nursing, burping, comforting, kissing, crying, wearing, lack of sleep, and falling in love. It has been beautiful and messy and full of growth becoming a mama of two. I'm about 5 weeks postpartum, and while I'm happy, I've been feeling a bit tired and worn out. My body is still adjusting to being its own while nourishing another, and we are transitioning to this big life change. If you need to get caught up on the redemptive and amazing home birth (after cesarean) of our daughter Ellinor, click the following links to read part one, part two, and part three.
This is technically "Part Four" of my birth story series, and what better title for it than the 4th Trimester? Human infants are incredibly exhausting, as they are born into the world depending on and needing their parents for all of their needs. The fourth trimester is when the mother is healing, baby is adjusting to life outside the womb, and the family is changing with the welcome of its newest member.

The seconds that follow Ellie's emergence into the world are so vivid to me. So clear, and forever stamped in my memory. Her tiny body swimming underneath me as my husband's hands reached for her. I looked at his face as he gasped and cried and I fell back to the edge of the tub with my new and slippery daughter wrapped in my arms. I will always remember how she had one eye closed and was searching for me. How I gently rubbed the creamy vernix covering her legs, mesmerized at how perfect she was. The elation and euphoric feeling that washed over me, still not really believing this was real. What a stark contrast to the birth of my son. I barely remember seeing him for the first time through a sea of tears and drugs as I lay on the cold operating table. The weeks and months after he was born were incredibly demanding and miserable. The hours and days following our daughter's birth are a stark contrast...they have been phenomenal. My husband took care of me, and I was able to rest and focus on nursing my babe. I ate good food, drank water, slept, talked about the birth and shared my joy. The 4th trimester with my daughter started off so much healthier, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Before Ellie Jo was born, I wrote a post about some of the things I would be doing this time for my postpartum care. I've incorporated all of those things into this time, including placenta encapsulation, herbal teas, and tinctures. But my biggest focus has always been on making sure I slow down (rest) and listen to my body, mind, and baby. The time after my baby was born I wanted to focus on the balance between staying home, but also getting enough activity for my mental health. In general, our culture is 'go go go.' We push women back to work quickly, we expect new moms to bounce back to their pre-baby bodies, we are uncomfortable talking about depression and struggles and want to see mothers adjusting to life smoothly. But it isn't all that. As a postpartum mom, I am healing from a long pregnancy that grew and protected a baby, and labor and birth, which was both physically and mentally exhausting. The first week after Ellinor was born I rarely left the bed...I nursed, cuddled, slept, watched movies, and stared at the new miracle we created. My husband made our meals and took care of our son. I felt completely guilt-free about this and placed value on that special and cherished time I had with my daughter.
After my son was born, I suffered from postpartum depression. It was a bad birth, breastfeeding was a daily battle, I was lonely, and wasn't vulnerable enough to ask for help. It was a tough time. After this birth, I wanted to be so very aware of my emotions after our daughter was born. The combination of plummeting hormones and big life change can cause a lot of emotional instability. What moms need during this time are loving people who can care for them, listen to them, and give them space to cry and honor their feelings. I personally need and ask for a lot of grace from my husband as a navigate the 'new me' and sort through my emotions. I need to be reassured and know its okay to be sensitive and cry. I need to feel safe and protected. My newborn and toddler depend on me, and I need someone I can depend on too. I need someone to take care of me when I'm weary from taking care of the needs of others. I know that I get through tough phases of severe emotional ups and downs much quicker when I feel loved and cared for.

Postpartum depression can happen to anyone, and is probably more common than you realize. I encourage you, as mothers, to talk to one another and be vulnerable. In my state alone (Washington), PPD affects between 8,000 and 16,000 yearly. It's real, and talking about how you feel is the first step. Here are some of the 'reasons' why this happens to us (I've highlighted the ones that afflicted me after my son Ben was born):

*Difficult pregnancy
*Birth didn't go as planned
*Medical problems with you or your baby following the birth 
*A very fussy or colicky baby. 
*Sleep deprivation
*Feeling alone 
*Drastic change in lifestyle/loss of freedom and 'former' life 
*History of depression
*Not enough support from spouse, family, an friends
*High levels of stress
*Difficulty breastfeeding
While we are working with a fussy baby again, none of the other things I highlighted have been a struggle for me this time, but that doesn't mean I'm still not on the lookout for problems. The transition from no children to 1 child was much more shocking and difficult for me in many ways than this new change to two children. But that doesn't mean it isn't rocking my world in whole new ways as I grow and learn how to parent these babes. Some women rock the newborn and postpartum time. I am definitely NOT one of them. I've always been really jealous of women who fall in love with their babies the moment they see them. I'm okay admitting that I just don't have that ooey gooey love for my newborns the way I wish I did. With Ellie, it's been so much better because our birth was so so good, but that doesn't mean I find this easy. I wallow in guilt because my son doesn't get as much of me as I think he needs, or my newborn has to scream while I put my toddler down for his nap. Simple things like trying to figure out how to do morning routine with two humans (one of whom cries a lot), who need diaper changes, need to eat, change, nap, and play (not to mention take care of my own self) is stressful. I know we will get into a groove and routine, but change is hard and change can be scary.

As mothers, we tend to bury our struggles deep down inside and often think that everything (difficult babies included) are our personal failures. That maybe we could somehow control the situation. We can't. I continue to tell myself I can get through this, it will not last forever. I am doing a great job. I am strong, I am capable, I am brave. Because  I think bravery is a quiet little thing that says, 'I will keep doing my best.' I rest in that comfort...I am doing my best. I love my children and I am doing my best.
My doula told me to ask myself, 'What does this moment need?' so that I don't get overwhelmed with the enormity of this life change. And I love that. When I feel my throat get tight and the tears starting to well, I take a breath and ask myself what I need in that moment. It might be a drink of water, some fresh air, a hug, asking my husband to bring home dinner, calling my mom to see if she can watch Ben for the night or come over to clean my toilets. I also believe in taking breaths to bring myself back to the present moment and guide my wandering mind. It can be toxic to start believing everything we think when we are having a bad day (feeling like we aren't worthy, or we have failed, or that it's the worst day ever because x, y, or z). Sure, some days are HARD, but breathing and keeping the perspective of the smallness of the day in the grander scheme of things helps me immensely.
Recently, I started to tell myself, 'okay, Andrea, it's been long enough, you need to get it together and start your routine and get on with life without relying on so much help from others,'...but then it occurred to me that there is no reason to feel this pressure. I have support, and I can ask for help as long as I need. And so I will. My mom has been in and out to clean and help keep up with laundry, change sheets, play with Ben, and do dishes. My dad came and stayed for four days and played with Ben nonstop and cooked us healthy meals. Can I tell you what a blessing it is to have someone take your toddler outside to play so you can nurse or rock the crying baby without your son climbing on your body? My friend Jessica is here for a couple of days this week to keep me company (just having another adult in the house improves my mood drastically). My point is that it's OKAY to have help for as long as you need it. This does not make me a failure, this does not mean I can't take care of my two children or home by myself...it means I need the extra support right now.
I have great days and bad days and days in between, but I do try really hard to stay positive (and thankfully we have mostly good day!) I know these days are fleeting. I remind myself that I will sleep through the night again, and my little gal will soon grow past this sweet but exhausting age. I will have my 'me' time back eventually. I'm continually grateful for the incredible start that we got from our birth...it's everything I ever dreamed of and has made such a huge difference for us. I've learned an unsurmountable amount between my two different birth experiences, and I'm thankful I knew how to take care of myself better, and to better articulate my needs. As always, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum should be about what YOU want and what is right for YOU.

The 4th trimester can be hard even if you are adjusting fabulously! We are all unique beings with different circumstances, so what might be difficult for one of us might not be so for another. As always, I'm here for you, as so many of you have been here for me through your comments and sweet words of support and affirmation. Together we can be better, we can love one another. Don't assume that new mom you know is being loved and cared for by someone else. Go to Target and buy her nipple butter or pajamas or hand cream, swing by the coffee shop on your way over. Make her family a meal, and prepare it (or buy it) with love. She will think of the time, money, and energy you spent caring for her. Text her, even if she doesn't have time to reply. Sweep her floor (seriously crazy how fast a floor accumulates dirt and crumbs with a toddler in the house). Make her granola. Bring her cookies. Hug her. Show up. Say the words. Go to her house. Love her.
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Thursday, March 5, 2015

One Month Ellie

Okay here we go again! Monthly updates (which I cannot promise will actually happen every month).   Also, I forgot how very awkward a newborn baby can be, especially when you try to photograph them. These updates will most likely not be as cute or in depth as Ben's were. #secondchildproblems
Anyway, what sets our Ellie Jo apart from most newborns her age? Probably not much. She's been really busy crying (a lot), pooping, sleeping, and nursing on repeat. We are pretty smitten with her and can't even believe how our hearts made room for so much more love. While I don't know her as intimately as I do Ben, I love her just as much. Transitioning to two children is admittedly much harder than I thought it would be, and we've had some ups and downs. If I had the experience, perspective, and wisdom that I have now and she was my first baby, I would be smooth sailing. Sadly, I can't just sit around holding her all day and wearing her; it's logistically impossible with a toddler to care for at the same time. I know we will figure out a balance soon.

She has been healthy and thriving since the moment she was born. She can hold her head up high, she coos, her skin and coloring is beautiful, she nurses like a dream, and has been gaining weight like nobody's business! At birth she was 7 pounds, 14 ounces, and at her three week check-up she was up at 9 pounds, 7 ounces. Grow girl, grow. She's already moved up into 0-3 month clothes. Isn't that crazy how one day your baby wakes up and her newborn jammies are suddenly too tight for her arms?
We had an amazing birth, and breastfeeding is going so well. So I knew something had to go wrong somewhere...little miss has horrible gas, reflux, and is maybe a bit colicky. It's so sad. And frustrating. We both cry a lot during the day. We've done everything and tried it all (no dairy, caffeine, onions, or broccoli, gas drops, inclined nursing, inclined sleeping, lots of burping, probiotics, nursing one breast per feeding due to my oversupply, essential oils, belly massage, leg pumping). All to no avail. I was skeptical that any foods in my diet would effect her, but after cutting dairy completely for a couple of weeks and slowly reintroducing it, the following days were horrible. So, I'm back to no dairy. Here's hoping that time will help mature her digestive system and we can move past it...it's hard to see her in pain, and hard for us too. As cute as she is, a crying baby is no one's best friend.
We haven't done much in way of a routine (I mostly try and follow the eat/wake/sleep cycle for now), but I'm hoping sometime in the next month we can work on a more consistent wake up time to get more structure into our days (for my sanity of balancing life with two!) I'm a huge believe in good sleep for babies, and naps have been hard with her because of the gas and reflux. After nursing she's so worked up and gassy it takes a lot of soothing and grooving to get her to close those pretty peepers. We keep her swaddled for sleeping, and thankfully (so far) she is a phenomenal night sleeper (praise the universe) and only wakes up once in the middle of the night to nurse and then once again early morning around 5:30. Like most newborns, she's a super noisy sleeper...when she is isn't grunting and squealing while passing gas she's snorting and snoozing like a warthog.

Farts aside, she's a beautiful little gal and we love her so so so much!
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Home Birth of Ellie Jo {Part Three}

Within the hour that labor progressed and my husband and I waited for our birth team to arrive, something shifted within me. I became less aware of the people and noises and external events around me, and instead became highly aware and in tune with myself. As I bounced and swayed on my big gray yoga ball, I breathed and moaned and felt the tears begin to well in my eyes. I couldn't stop them from coming. Through each contraction I cried big and my body shook. Somewhere in my conscious brain I knew I was going through transition and into advanced labor. This was encouraging because while I knew it would be the most intense phase and contractions would get very strong, it also meant I was that much closer to meeting our baby. I continued to be overjoyed at the entire natural process that my body was going through (while painful, so incredibly beautiful and powerful).
In between contractions (somewhere around 3:30) I heard quiet feet enter the house and the soft voice of my friend Katy. I felt peace with her having arrived, and even though she was really there to photograph the birth, she stepped in as a support person until the rest of our team arrived. Justin showed her how to shove the heat pack down my back how I liked and she jumped in to help me while Justin finished setting up the birth tub. He turned on our relaxation music and it helped set my mood into even further peace. Admittedly, the timeline of events is really hazy to me at this point, so I will just continue to tell this story as I remember pieced together with what others shared.
I began to feel the contractions change course from a wave of wraparound pain, to strong pressure. In my mind I thought 'release,' 'let go,' repeatedly. I continued crying and started to get very nauseous. I felt a new set of hands on my own and opened my eyes to see the face of our doula Patti (around 4 o'clock). She waved a rag with peppermint oil near my nose to help with the pukey feeling that had taken over and while I can't remember exactly the affirmative words she was saying to me, they were helping. Shortly after I knew my midwife and her assistant were in the room and when I opened my eyes Marie was sitting beside me with her hand on my arm. I felt relieved that everyone was with me. Patti continued to give me water to keep me hydrated and suggested I try and go pee. The thought of moving from my yoga ball and walking to the bathroom before another contraction hit (which were now coming very close together) was overwhelming. I wrapped my arms around my husband's neck and he help me sway and dance my way to the bathroom and held me tight while I screamed through another surge. Justin is a man of few words, but he continued to tell me, 'I'm here. I'm here,' and it's really all I needed to hear. His strong body and quiet presence, coupled with knowing he was there for me and wasn't going anywhere was so comforting. I couldn't sit on the toilet, because the back labor made that sitting position too painful, so I took off my pants and peed in the shower. I couldn't bring myself to put pants back on and all modesty went out the door. Patti draped a towel over my yoga ball and got me settled back into a position that made the contractions the most bearable.

My midwives were busy getting things set up, and Patti recognized that labor was progressing very rapidly and suggested I get into the birth tub. I couldn't believe things were going fast enough that it was time to get in the tub, as I wanted to wait until the end to use it for pain relief. Unbeknownst to me, I think they wanted me in the tub because I was moving past the point of needing it for just pain relief. Sitting in the tub hurt because no one could get pressure on my back, so I sat spread on my knees with my arms hanging over the edge, and it was perfect.
Shortly after some powerful contractions my water broke in the tub (clear) and I felt a small amount of pressure released. I hadn't had a single vaginal check my entire pregnancy, but my midwife asked if I wanted her to check and see how far along I was. Since I was GBS positive and we had agreed to run a course of antibiotics, my midwife wanted to get those started, but it was looking like there wasn't going to be enough time. I already instinctually knew my body was so far along that I wasn't afraid of getting discouraged by a number, and when she checked I was almost completely dilated. We knew for sure then we didn't have time for the antibiotics, so Marie needed me to move to the bed so we could do the vaginal rinse (an alternative treatment for GBS). I had to move to the bed and lay on my back for this, and if I'm being completely candid, it was worst part of my entire labor. Lying on my back through my contractions was excruciating. After the rinse was over I needed to lay there through a few more contractions to ensure the rinse didn't all come back out before getting in the water. I screamed and clung to my husband with all of my might. When I opened my eyes and saw him crying with me, for it was hurting him to see me in pain, I was reminded that the physical hurt was temporary and it would soon be replaced with our little girl. The pain was good. This short period of time (labor) was just the tiny space between my baby's two worlds.
I was able to move back into the birth tub around 5:40. In my mind, this was the top peak of my labor. It was incredibly incredibly demanding, both physically and mentally. I was overwhelmed and started to feel out of control. It was gritty and primal and raw. I roared. Roared. When each wave of pain and pressure hit I felt like my inner-animal came out. I had no regard for anything other than instinct. I'm not sure I would have felt safe tapping into that power anywhere but my home.  It was the most difficult and amazing thing I've ever ever ever done in my entire life. What a gift to experience and feel everything.
My throat was raw from screaming through contractions and my body was starting to get shakey. My husband had someone grab a few honey sticks from the kitchen and fed those to me to give me a boost of energy. The window was open and the storm outside was blowing, which for some reason was very calming to me. My doula grounded me, relaxed me, reminded me to take healing and restorative breaths down to my baby in between contractions and pushing. My husband helped provide the comfort and motivation. I felt safe knowing my midwives were there behind me, sneaking in to listen to baby's heartbeat, waiting for her to safely come into the world. I could already see my baby as here, my job accomplished. I never had doubt or fear that my body wouldn't do this...I could feel her and knew she was coming. 
The pressure was excruciating. The pain was energetic and fierce and the hardest thing I've asked my body to do. I started grunting involuntarily as I could feel her moving down. Someone told me to reach down and feel her head crowning, but I couldn't lose my focus. With each new contraction I thought it would be the one where I wouldn't have enough left in me to do it one more time, but somehow I found a way. No one was telling me what to do or when to push. Everyone in the room already knew and believed that my body had it under control. My midwife's assistant Karin reminded me to stay in control and calm down, and her words kept me present. With the next wave I screamed to the heavens and her head passed through. The chord was looped around her neck, so after they unwrapped it, I took a deep breath and pushed the rest of her body gently out of my own, parting ways only to be joined together again soon, and at 6:10 p.m., after just 30 minutes of pushing, she was born into this world; our sweet Ellinor Josephine.
She floated into the water beneath me and Justin reached down to grab her and bring her to my chest. In all the years that I live, I will never ever forget looking at my husband during that moment. He fell from his knees to the floor and put his hand on his face, tears flowing. We did it. I did it. I brought Ellinor to my chest and leaned back against the tub. My midwives gently checked vitals while we stared at her dark hair and squinty little eyes, soaking in the world and meeting her parent's faces for the first time. She was covered in vernix and was squealing and squawking. I kept kissing her and talking to her and through tears locking eyes with Justin.
Her chord was kind of short and I was having a hard time holding her without it tugging. Karin explained how we were going to move from the tub to the bed but I wasn't listening and had to ask again. We removed my bra and I held Ellie tight to my body as we moved across the room. I laid down and we were skin to skin, getting to know each other while she rooted around. She latched on to nurse easily as I birthed the placenta, which passed within a matter of minutes. Marie and Karin checked me for tearing, and since Ellie's entire arm was wrapped around her head coming out, she tore me superficially on the way out so I would need a few stitches. We let the chord pump all the blood into Ellie, and after about 30 minutes Justin was able to cut the chord and we had some family time.
Justin went into the kitchen to pour me a glass of our juiced oranges and cook me a breakfast burrito. Ellie continue to nurse and nestle in with her mama while my husband fed me. It was such a normal, but breathtaking moment. My daughter hadn't left my chest since the moment she came out of the water, and I was in my own bed, and my husband was feeding me. It was so perfect.
When Ellie Jo was done nursing, Justin wrapped her up and took her from me so I could take a shower. It was perfect timing since she decided to pass her first meconium poop all over my belly! Karin helped me shower and get back to the bed for stitches, which I was not too crazy about getting. After the painful experience I had just gone through it seems silly now to be upset about getting stitches, but all I wanted to do was sleep and hold my babe. Justin rocked with her in the corner and Katy held my hand while they gave me shots to numb the area and stitch things up. Marie helped me get dressed afterward and got me settled back in bed so Ellie could keep nursing. Patti brought me more orange juice with apple slices, a banana, and some flax muffins and rubbed my feet while we all talked about the birth. I was on cloud nine.
When baby girl was done nursing, we did the newborn exam on the bed to check her length, weight, reflexes, and overall health.
Everyone finished cleaning up and was out of our home by 10:30 p.m. I was exhausted to the core. We got nestled into bed and the lights started to flicker and the power went out just as we were closing our eyes. What an ironic twist of fate! We are very grateful the storm wasn't raging so hard when Ellie was born...I can't imagine giving birth by candlelight! Ha! Justin swaddled up Ellie and held her in his arms all night so I could sleep. We woke up around 3 so I could nurse her again (and the power was back on) and Justin needed to take our vitals and record them, and then we were back to sleep until 7. I mentioned this in part one of our story, but it was so relaxing to be home and get all that much needed sleep with no one coming in all night to take our daughter anywhere, check vitals all night, or disturb the special time. I woke up in the morning rested and in complete awe and disbelief that I had just birthed this beautiful little soul just the night before.
I'm still amazed and in awe at the natural process of the body when left alone to do what it was designed for. My body was absolutely amazing during labor and I'm so incredibly proud of myself. I approached my pregnancy, labor, and birth with a huge happy attitude. I had a joyful anticipation of this insanely difficult but beautiful experience. What a difference the birth experiences of my two babies were, and yet how valuable they both were. I had to have one, to have the other. And we have two absolutely amazing children. I'm so thankful every single day I got to experience one of life's greatest celebrations. Next week I'll be finishing up Ellie's birth story with a part four reflection of our postpartum period together. As always, thank you for sharing our joy and taking the time to read my stories.

*The photos from our birth are deeply private and personal, and I do not share them lightly. I have chosen to keep many of the images just for us, including the very raw and highly emotional seconds captured just as Ellie was being born and lifted out of the water. The photos featured here are copyright. You may not copy, distribute, or steal them.* All photos taken by the magnificent Katy Leet Photography, and Patti Ramos (both amazing doulas and birth photographers!)

Part One (Why home birth was right for us)
Part Two (Early Labor) 
Love,
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