When Your Body Goes Absolutely Nuts: The Postpartum Edition

This is what 34 hours of labor will do to you.

Today marks 6 months postpartum. In three months or so, I will be post-pregnant for as long as I was pregnant (9+ months), and this will be Em’s “boomerang” birthday (9 months in, 9 months out). Over the past two months, I have felt relatively like my old self, though my life AND my body will never truly be back to “normal.” Something radical took place and I have the unkempt hair, stretchmarks and dark circles under my eyes to show for it. I’m still functioning with (what can only be) an impossibly small amount of uninterrupted sleep each night — but I’m functioning. I guess that’s the gist of it. I’m functioning, I’m functioning! That’s my postpartum, postcolic victory cry.

All that to say, the postpartum “4th trimester” is no joke. Yes, your body does go absolutely nuts when you are pregnant, as I’ve carefully detailed in two previous posts. But the nuttiness continues even AFTER the babe is out, particularly in those first few weeks. Consider this third installment in the series the postpartum edition. Here are some observations on the changes my body (and brain) have gone through these past few months. *Birth and recovery are messy and the following might be gross. You’ve been warned.*

1) Bleeding – Before I gave birth, I read lots of funny accounts of “the period that lasts 6 weeks” and the need for “gigantic pads the size of rafts.” This is no joke. Right after giving birth, the bed, the floor (and the midwife) look like set props in a horror film. Every time you get up out of bed, another wave of blood rushes out. Every time you go to the bathroom, you are tempted to call 911. You’ve been without your period for 10 months. This is pay back. After the first week or two, things slowed down, but I didn’t stop bleeding daily until my 10th week, if you can believe it.

2) Pain – For some reason, I was not anticipating this. Yes, labor and delivery would bring their fair share of discomfort, but once the baby is out, all’s good, right? For those women who have C-sections, the pain of the incision can last for weeks and weeks. It is major surgery after all. But one of the (supposed) nice things about vaginal birth is quick recovery time. This is true, but you will still feel like “a mac truck drove through your vagina”, in the words of my sister. I suffered a 2nd-degree tear (OUCH) which involved stitches (“This will feel like a bunch of bee stings,” said my midwife) and pretty constant pain whenever sitting or standing. I was anti-medicine during pregnancy, but I was popping hospital grade Tylenol like candy those first few days in recovery.

3) Floating organs – I don’t know how else to describe this. Upon delivery, and for a week or two afterwards, it felt like my organs were swimming around my body, no longer cramped by my expanded uterus. Once that baby is out, there’s about 2 feet of extra space inside of you, and your kidneys, liver, stomach, lungs try to settle back in place without the help of your stomach muscles (which are like mush). Every time I rolled over in bed, I felt something shift and it wasn’t awesome-feeling. Some women wear a hilariously-named “postpartum girdle” to help everything get back in place. I mainly just clutched my torso and hoped my spleen would stay put.

4) Phantom baby movement – Up until this past month, I had the strange sensation of feeling baby movement, all while staring at my daughter (outside of  my body) on the changing table. Some of it could have been organs floating back in place (see #3) but some of it was psychological, I’m sure. At night, I would place my hand on my stomach and swear I felt the baby kick, which of course I didn’t. Pregnancy is so gradual. It takes nearly 10 months to grow a human being, and your body changes profoundly, but incrementally, over that time frame. What seems initially so strange (feeling a human being inside of you) because completely normal and a source of comfort during those later stages in pregnancy. The abruptness of one day being pregnant and the next day not is a lot for the mind to comprehend.

5) Breast changes – Sigh. This one is hard. It’s pregnancy that changes your breast, not breastfeeding. So, all those celeb mommies who choose not to breastfeed their progeny to “save” their breasts still have (or had, before they had surgery) saggy, stretch-mark-ridden  breasts like the rest of us. I take comfort in that. My breasts became giant, hard and angry during pregnancy and even more giant and angry postpartum as my milk came in. But, over time, things have evened out, though my right breast is substantially larger than my left (because I nurse E more on my right than my left out of habit — woops). Now, they are not so giant, but definitely changed, saggy and a little sad. But of course, as  a feminist, I know that breasts not for sexual display but for sustaining my child and I should be in friggin’ AWE about that. Which I am. See #6.

6) Changed conception of breasts – For the first time in my life, these things I’ve been caring around on my chest all these years are actually being put to use.  Imagine if some seemingly extraneous, ornamental part of your body suddenly took on a functional purpose — like your earlobes grew long and floppy in order to protect your shoulders from sunburn or shoo away flies. Weird imagine and not a great parallel (earlobes aren’t sexualized). But you get what I’m saying. My relationship with my breasts have changed. They are no longer a source of shame or ornamentation  They are a source of food. And my child has ONLY eaten that food since she came out of the womb, and in doing so, has more than doubled her weight. THAT’S AMAZEBALLS. Most of my close friends, my family (including my father and father-in-law) and the mailman (woops) have seen my breasts. I spent the first two weeks at home basically shirtless (why wear a shirt when you are going to be feeding every 45 minutes anyway?). I have very little shame when it comes to nursing in public (I’ve used an offensively-named breastfeeding cover only 3 times). My sister and I have shared stories about actually forgetting that our breasts were exposed while out shopping or answering the door. They have become like elbows. And I would love it if societal attitudes towards breasts could change, too — this would make breastfeeding so much easier.

7) Sleep deprivation – Here are some things NOT to say to an already insomnia-ridden pregnant lady: “Sleep now while you still can.” Or to a new parent: “Sleep when the baby sleeps.” Both are bullshit, no offense nice, well-meaning folk. I COULD NOT SLEEP while I was pregnant. And as a new mother, even with 30 hours of sleeplessness through labor and delivery, I still COULD NOT SLEEP. The adrenaline, the terror of having to take care of a small, helpless human, the knowledge that when you shut your eyes your baby will jolt you awake with a horrific shriek — all combine together to make you a sleepless mess. We opted to have E taken to the nursery the second night so we could catch at least 2 hours of shut-eye. That 2 hour chunk was the longest I slept, and would sleep, for the next three weeks. You think I’m exaggerating. I would have thought I was exaggerating pre-baby. But horror of horrors, I am not. I told my dad today that, when people joked about new parents not getting any sleep, I thought they meant only getting 5 hours of night. But Dave and I suffered through some hellish months of 2-4 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. Some days I could function, but most days I was a wreck. I took pictures of myself on my most sleep-deprived days, just so I could cherish the memory (see below). I still have not gotten a full night’s sleep for more than a year, but I am sleeping about 6 hours a night, waking up at 11, 12, 1, 2 or 3 to feed the babe and then up at 6 or 7am. I can’t believe this is my life.

Months 3 and 4: Sleep deprivation is not pretty.

8) Hair loss – I was amazed when my hair stopped falling out in pregnancy. It’s a definite pregnancy perk. About 3 months post partum, my hair started falling out in clumps. It still is. It clogs the drain. It gets wrapped around E’s fingers and toes. It coats the carpet. It’s all over my clothing. Everywhere. It doesn’t help that my daughter absolutely loves yanking my hair out with her vice-like grasp. My hair doesn’t look noticeably different, besides being totally unkempt all the time, but I hear some women actually get bald spots. Yikes.

Welp, that’s it for now. I’m sure I have a Post Partum Edition #2 in me, which will include things like 1) not being grossed out by baby poop, 2) not giving  a rat’s ass about drinking while breastfeeding and 3) showering only once a week (this was not really a post partum change) and 4) eating only rice, turkey and pears because you found blood in your baby’s diaper. Stay tuned.

Well, at least she’s cute!


My 35 Hour Labor – E’s Birth Story!

I should preface this by saying that my experience was abnormally long and arduous (much like my sister’s first birth!). Therefore, it’s a loooong read. And some of the details are graphic (we are talking about birth, after all). Yet, unlike my sister’s birth story, this shouldn’t be a traumatic read to anyone about to give birth. In fact, I encourage anyone who is afraid of birth to read on! This was a Hypnobabies birth. For more on that, read the end of this post. Also, “pressure wave” = “contraction”. The first part was written by Dave in the third person. The second part is from my perspective. 

E’s Birth Story, March 27-28, 2012

E was due on March 22; Heather had some mild pressure waves that evening that stopped when she got in the bathtub. False alarm. Robbin (Heather’s mom) came down the next day, a Friday, and stayed with us. Heather was trying to encourage the baby by eating pineapple and eggplant parmesan. She took primrose oil in the evening, and we went on many long walks.

On March 23, she had an appointment at the OB/GYN. They said she was hardly dilated – maybe 1cm. Fluid levels were good, and they detected some contractions on the monitor, but nothing Heather could feel. She returned on Monday 3/26 and was 1.5 cm dilated. She decided to have her membranes stripped in hopes of encouraging the labor to begin. (Otherwise, their policy was to induce at 1 week overdue.) Afterwards, we went to have delicious bagels at NYBD III in Cary, but Heather felt crampy and gross as a result of having her membranes stripped. That night we went out to eat at The Market restaurant, near Peace College, and got ice cream afterwards. We watched the movie Hugo together before going to bed. Heather felt some strong Braxton-Hicks contractions while watching the movie that came at random intervals.

At 4:30 a.m., Heather knew something different was beginning. She noticed some bloody show when she went to the bathroom and knew this was a good sign. She told Dave to turn off the alarm, and that he wouldn’t be going to work because the labor was starting. He rolled over and went to sleep, having not heard her at all. Heather went downstairs, very calmly, and made herself some tea. After walking around, she returned to bed and tried to sleep, relaxing with each pressure wave and feeling quite calm. Around 7:00, she sent texts to Melissa and Robbin saying that labor was beginning. Robbin (who was sleeping downstairs) didn’t see the text, and, she learned of the early labor via a phone call from Melissa. She came upstairs very excitedly, then went to make pancakes and bacon, per Heather’s request.

Contractions were still very mild at this point. By 10:00 Heather began to try doing focused relaxation during the pressure waves, but they still felt very manageable. We called our doula, Sarah, at 9:00 am and she arrived at about 10:30. At that time we called the OB/GYN triage nurse, who at first asked that we come in, but Dave told her we preferred to call back when the contractions got longer in duration. We were carefully timing the contractions. From the outset, the contractions were never more than 7 minutes apart. But they were lasting only about 40-45 seconds, and were not very intense. Heather mostly labored in the bedroom, but we also went for a walk around the neighborhood. All the while, Heather remained very calm and talkative in between pressure waves.


At 11:15 the contractions began lasting a full minute apiece, and were coming about every five minutes. Heather was unsure if it was time to go to the hospital. Dave and Sarah, remembering the Hypnobabies warning that, “I will not appear to be as far along as I am,” were concerned that Heather might in fact be very dilated, so we packed up the car and made the transition to the OB/GYN office, which is next door to the hospital.

When we arrived at the office, none of the midwives were there (they were out to lunch). Dave had left messages for the Triage nurse at 12:15 and 12:45 to say we were coming, but they apparently had not been received or conveyed. This was a stressful time, as the nurse on duty was very loud and seemed to shift into a crisis mode in order to treat us. A nurse checked Heather and said that her cervix was posterior (pushed towards the back) and was only dilated about 2 cm. According to their policy, anyone who comes in (even in early labor) needs to be put on the fetal monitor before they leave. This required her to lie on her back in a big recliner. This was uncomfortable and annoying but Heather remained calm and listened to her Hypnobabies scripts and birth affirmations on her IPod. After a few more minutes, one of the nurse-midwives (Jessica) came in, looked at the monitor, and said that we should go home, take a bath or a walk, and “Come back when you’re in active labor.” She gave us her cell number. Heather felt a little silly about having gone in, but mostly we regretted having to make the 20 minute drive back home in order to continue laboring.

When we got home, Heather and the crew had lunch (turkey sandwich!) and we decided to go on another walk around the neighborhood. Felt like the pressure waves were slowing down a bit, which apparently is normal for them to slow down during the daytime, though they were still about 7 minutes apart. As our doula said, babies are like vampires in that they fear the sun! Pressure waves started picking up in the afternoon and Heather decided to get in bed and rest. She listened to her Easy First Stage track and had a nice rest time with Dave. Then she decided to get in the bath. This felt really good! She was having back labor the entire time but counter pressure helped, along with back massage and the double hip squeeze. Labor still didn’t feel unmanageable. She was in bed or on the birth ball as evening approached and pressure waves became more intense.

(Now some first-person perspective!)  By this point, I couldn’t stop shivering and felt nauseated, almost threw up a few times. I wondered if this could be transition. My birth team did a good job of keeping me hydrated (a sip of water after every wave) and were very attentive. Our bedroom (where I labored the majority of the time) was very peaceful, dark with candles lit and relaxation music in the background. I was on my side for some pressure waves, then changed positions to the birth ball, leaning over the bed and sitting on the toilet. I was really having to concentrate through them at this time and Sarah and Dave discussed the possibility that it might be time to go to the hospital (it was around 10pm at this point). I was getting a little panicky so we figured it was time. So, we repacked the car and headed over. I listened to relaxation music on the way and tried to remain limp and loose during pressure waves. The car ride felt quick and pressure waves were powerful but manageable.

We got to admissions and we still have several forms to fill out, though I had already pre-registered! This was a little annoying, but I remained calm. Dave was able to answer most questions and I sat on the birth ball waiting. Then we headed to our room and Dave set everything up — dimmed the lights, put out my birth plan and hung up the sign that we requested soft voices. A nurse came in and asked my level of pain and I laughed a little and said “The intensity is about a 7.” Then she put me on the monitor for 20 minutes and I stood by the bed and tried to relax through the waves. I then had an internal exam (in my birth plan, I said I didn’t want to know how far along I was but I quickly changed my mind!) and I was 5cm at around 11:30. So, finally active labor after 19 hours of consistent contractions! not nearly as far along as I had hoped but at least I could stay in the same place. Jessica, the midwife, said I had great birthing hips and that the baby was Occiput Anterior, but we found out later that this was inaccurate! I was skeptical when I heard this because I could still feel the babies feet in the front. It felt like she hadn’t moved from the position she had been in for the last 2 months. Turns out I was right.

I spent some time in the tub (the jets were awesome and relaxing) and listened to my hypnosis tracks. Then I got out and relaxed on the birth ball while my birth team massaged my back. When I was upright, I would hang on to Dave’s shoulders and try to relax. The pressure waves were definitely more intense but manageable. I continued to labor in the room throughout the early morning, though I was in a total time warp. I really had no concept of time passing at all. When they checked me again, probably around 4am, I said something like, “Didn’t you just check  me a half hour ago?”  Turns out it had been 5 hours! I was only at 7cm at that point and my cervix was swollen. According to my post-birth research, this happens when labor has been quite long and the baby is in a less-than-ideal position, which was my situation exactly. I’ve read multiple stories where OBs have recommended C-section at the first sight of a swollen cervix. Needless to say, I was happy to be assisted by a midwife! She recommended relaxing in the tub some more and showed my doula some pressure points to encourage stronger contractions.


At this time and out of earshot, Jessica spoke with my birth team of her concerns around my progress. She said that if my dilation didn’t complete in the next few hours, she would want to introduce a mild narcotic in an effort to relax the muscles and get us ready for the baby to come down. The team elected not to discuss this with me, in order to avoid freaking me out. Great move! I knew things weren’t going according to plan but I was never afraid. And having only positive information and affirmation helped. I made the commitment from the beginning  to not be discouraged and to not say or think anything negative; this helped a great deal (power of positive thinking!) I just continued to rest in the moment, though I think my birth team was becoming discouraged for me.

My doula told me afterwards that she was pretty worried about what I would be feeling emotionally once the sun came up. She talked to me about having my water broken to move things along and I was a bit apprehensive about this. I couldn’t understand why she was pushing having my water broken when I still felt so calm and in control. I was worried that once the pressure waves became stronger, I wouldn’t be able to handle them quite as well. I opted to wait until the next check. However, after doing some squatting in the bathtub, I could feel my bag of waters bulging and I knew it was time. And, unbeknowest to me (again, I was in a time vacuum!), my doula recognize the importance of moving things along, lest my uterus tire out and labor stall.

Jessica the midwife came in and broke my bag of waters (which was quite strong – she had to try several times) and saw meconium in the waters. This meant that I would now have to be put on fetal monitoring permanently to monitor the wellbeing of the baby. Needless to say, continuous fetal monitoring was not in the birth plan! They had a wireless, waterproof monitor that I could wear in the bathtub. I was surprised to find that the pressure waves didn’t feel any more intense than before. Turns out that the baby was posterior, as I had already suspected, and was not exerting enough pressure on my cervix, thus labor was slooooooow. After laboring on my hands and knees in the bathtub for some time, I received another check around 8am and the swelling had gone down. However, I was only at 8cm. This means that I had dilated only 3cm over the past 9 hours. I think I might have said “That sucks” under my breath, which was basically the only negative thing I said during the whole birth time.


At 8:00 a.m. there was a shift change, and we got a new nurse and a new midwife — both named Heather. (We had seen Heather the midwife when we had our first trip to the office the day before. She’d said, “I come on at 8:00 tomorrow morning!” and we had thought, “God help us if we are still laboring by then.” But we liked her, and were glad to see her this morning.)

I continued laboring in various positions from 8:00-10:00. At about 9:30, Sarah had to leave to go begin her shift at work, leaving just Dave and my Mom in support. I felt perfectly at peace with this, though Dave and Mom were a bit freaked! I was checked again at 10:30 and was still 8 cm, but the swelling around the lip of the cervix had almost completely gone away, which was a good sign of progress. Heather the midwife also confirmed that the baby was still posterior. By this point, I had begun to vomit or retch, which continued through the rest of the labor. There was nothing in my stomach, yet I kept throwing up whatever water I had just drank. I also began shaking — this time, I really was in transition. To Dave, this looked like an alarming degree of fatigue and low blood sugar, but the shaking was caused more by the hormone surges that accompany transition.

At this point (after the 10:30 check) the nurse came in and mentioned something like, “Sounds like you’ve made some more progress, and the plan is that if things don’t pick up in the next little while then we’re going to come back with the IV.” She knew we’d discussed the possibility of a drug, but she didn’t know we hadn’t discussed it with me. Dave quickly moved on in the discussion and the nurse went on her way, but after she left I asked what she was talking about. Dave explained that there was a drug the midwives were considering offering to us, that might relax the muscles of the uterus to make the contractions more effective, but that we’d be discussing that if and when we needed to.

Per the midwife’s advice, I labored on my hands and knees in the bed for the next hour, in hopes of turning the baby. The pressure waves were very intense and I continued to retch after each one and my entire body would shake.  At 11:35 am, I was checked again, and was now 9.5 cm! Only a measly half cm to go. This felt like a major victory for me. However, the midwife was concerned, and laid out several concerns to us. First, the baby was still posterior. Second, my birth canal was relatively inflexible, which meant that pushing might be more difficult. Third, and most important, the midwife noted that the contractions had become less intense and less frequent in the last 90 minutes.

It took a long time — about three contractions’ worth — for her to explain all this. I was laying on my back in bed trying desperately to concentrate and relax during the waves and my hand would shake uncontrollably during each wave. When the midwife saw this, she stopped talking so I could relax. The bottom line was that she wanted us to take a small dose of the muscle relaxant (we can’t remember the name) along with a small dose of Pitocin (“The same amount of oxytocin that your body produces naturally,” she said) in order to jump-start things and get us past transition and on to pushing. She explained it so thoroughly because she knew I had not wanted any unneeded interventions, but at this point, I was very willing to agree with any plan. “We want to ensure the possibility that you can still have a vaginal birth.”  As soon as I heard this, I knew things were more serious than I had previously thought. “I just want to meet my baby,” I said to the midwife. My Mom and Dave noted later how relaxed and calm I seemed during this “change-of-plans” time. My words choked in my throat a bit and I was feeling emotionally raw, yet I managed to convince everyone around me that I was totally in control! Because I hadn’t been able to hold down water or food for a while, they also gave a glucose drip.

So, at this point, I had been in some sort of labor since 4am the previous night, meaning 32 hours, or nearly a day and a half. I was now confined to the bed because of the IV and fetal monitoring. Needless to say, I should have freaked out loooong ago. I should have been terrified, or screaming in pain. Yet, against all odds and quite miraculously, I was calm and relaxed! I knew I had been laboring for some time, but never in a million years would I have guessed 32 hours. I began repeating the mantra “I can do this, I can do this, my body was made to do this” between contractions. This was a huge help. I felt more empowered each time I said this and felt like it gave me energy to continue on. I also imagine that if I had been saying “I can’t do this, I can’t do this” my body would have shut down pretty quickly. It just goes to show the power of words.

The medications began at 12:15 pm, with the Pitocin being increased gradually from 2 to 8 mL/hr over the next hour. I immediately felt a difference in intensity. The waves bowled me over like a freight train. The experience felt both out-of-body and entirely bodily at the same time, if that makes sense. Dave and my Mom noticed a sharp increase on the monitor, with the contractions coming faster and longer with greater intensity. I was now having to vocalize through contractions. At times, this would become high-pitched and Dave would remind me “Low tones, low tones” and he;p vocalize with me. It took an insane amount of concentration not to scream a shrill cry, but with the help of Dave, I did my best to keep them low and moaning, which helped me stay in control.

Unfortunately, we’d thought that the muscle relaxant was also going to dull the pain, so I kept waiting and hoping that it would “kick in” as the Pitocin-induced contractions became more intense. Yet the relief never came. However, I soon adjusted to the new pattern and remained calm using self-hypnosis and affirmations/mini hypnosis scripts from Dave. During birth preparation, these scripts seemed so cheesy to me but I was shocked how helpful they were during labor. They worked like magic. Whenever I was becoming afraid, I would reach out for Dave and whisper “Help” and he would say calming, encouraging words. And, of course, I kept saying “I can do this, I can do this, I can do this” whenever I felt like I couldn’t do it. And this was my fodder throughout the rest of my birthing time.

For two hours after the medicine began, I remained in a state of hypnosis as the waves came and went. I was lying on the bed on my left side, shaking during contractions and then remaining quite still in between. For me, it felt like I had entered a weird vortex. Time and space meant nothing. All there was in the world was my body and an intense feeling of pressure.  I began tapping my fingers up and down, very fast, as each contraction would peak. This didn’t seem in keeping with the hypnobabies scheme, but it was working for me as I rode each wave. I continued to feel very nauseous and hot, retching all the way. Dave and my Mom were talking me through each wave, using hypnosis mini-scripts, and giving me cold washcloths and ice chips. I felt totally delusional, yet there was another part of my consciousness that was fully aware, totally logical and relaxed, asking myself questions and assessing the situation. It was so strange. I was thinking things like, “Wow, Dave and mom are doing a really great job. I’m sure they are so tired, poor things,” and “Wow, I have been throwing up for 4 hours and haven’t slept for 34 hours. I wonder if I will have enough energy to push this baby out in the end.” Needless to say, my birth team was wondering the same thing.


At 2:49 in the afternoon, I was checked again. I had officially been in transition since 8am. For most women, transition last maybe an hour at most. For me, it lasted 7 hours. At this point, it had been 2.5 hours after the medication had begun, but it hadn’t felt that long, even to Dave. I was FINALLY fully dilated, though the baby remained posterior. The midwife told me it was okay to start trying to “breathe the baby down” whenever I started to feel pushy. I noticed the waves had slowed down but I didn’t really notice any other change in sensation. I couldn’t imagine feeling anything different than I had been feeling the last 7 hours. I got out of the bed for a while and tried squatting. Then I felt the slightest hint that I needed to push. The feelings got stronger fast and I rushed back into bed, and said that we needed to notify the nurse ASAP.The pushing waves (very similar to the ones you feel when  you are taking a large number 2!) were very strong and initiated entirely by my body. There was no counting, no deliberate bearing down or conscious pushing on my part. My body took over entirely and I felt a bit out of control.  Because of the presence of meconium in the waters, an emergency medical team would need to be present in the room at the time of birth, in case the baby needed to be rushed to the ICU. What if the baby came before the medical staff was in the room? What if Dave had to catch the baby?

The nurse was slowly getting things ready as I laid on my left side and my body pushed the baby down and out. I tried the squat bar for a bit but preferred my left side. Having seen my sister push her baby out in a sitting position and the intense pressure she felt on her tailbone, I insisted that Dave support me from behind so I didn’t roll over. I could feel my tailbone moving out of the way and couldn’t imagine what it would feel like if I had been sitting on it!


With each wave, my body would let out this guttural roar, a noise I had never heard come out of me before. I turned to Dave once and said rather sheepishly, “Uh, that was involuntary.” I wanted him to know I wasn’t in intense pain or anything. My body just needed to roar, like a weightlifter does when she lifts a gigantic dumbbell. Pushing was actually the easiest and quickest part of the labor experience. Frankly, it was awesome. I was so relieved that my super-powered body could do such amazing, difficult work with so  little sleep and nourishment. I felt like I was just sitting back in awe. A wave would come, my body would bear down with incredible force, my lungs would cry out with an incredibly shout and then I would rest in between. So easy!

I had probably pushed for about 15 minutes (it felt like 5) when the midwife had me reach down and feel my baby’s head. So mind-blowing. During the last three or four pushes, I was in a daze and my body was working hard to get this thing out. Amazingly, little E turned right before she came out, which meant that I didn’t need to stretch nearly as much to push her through. I don’t really remember the crowning or ring of fire, and even though the midwife told me to stop, my body pushed her shoulders out with gigantic force. Woops! I ended up with a 2nd degree tear that the midwife said was “purely cosmetic” but sure didn’t feel that way in recovery!
Out came by slippery baby and the placed her on my tummy, as the cord was a little too short for her to be placed on my chest. She came out roaring, and the emergency medical team left pretty soon after that, as a crying baby meant that she hadn’t aspirated any meconium and her lungs were fine. Dave looked down and said “It’s a girl! We have a daughter!” and we wept and wept with joy and exhaustion. My mom and sister (who had been watching the whole thing on my mom’s IPhone!) were also crying! The midwife patiently waited for the cord to stop pulsing and then cut the cord. The pain of being stitched up wasn’t awesome but I was fortunately distracted! Out came the placenta and I got a good look at the organ that had been nourishing my babe for the last 9 months. E (who was unnamed for the first 24 hours) remained on my chest for an hour or two (or more?) before they weighed her.  She got a 9 out of 10 on the APGAR score and weighed in at 7lbs 13oz. She was so beautiful with such a powerful cry (which continues to this day!). Interestingly, her head wasn’t particularly cone-shaped (because was posterior most of the time) except for an 8cm circle on the top of her head from where she had been stuck against my cervix for 7 hours. Poor lady.

I have heard some people say that you have the birth that you envision. Hypnobabies really stresses visualizing your birth but it also recognizes that there are many aspects to labor that are out of our immediate control.  My birth was the total opposite of what I had envisioned- ridiculously slow, long labor (35 hours!) with a terribly long transition period, limited mobility due to constant fetal monitoring and the use of Pitocin. The combination of poor fetal position and “especially tight vaginal muscles” (according to my midwife) resulted in a very long, drawnout labor. My sister’s first labor was 36 hours long, and her baby was also posterior. Genetic link? Anyway, despite devoting the last three months of pregnancy to turning my posterior child (through weekly chiropractic visits, sitting on a birth ball, crawling on my hands and knees, prenatal massage, daily pelvic exercises, etc), she remained stubbornly posterior.


And yet, through it all, I remained calm, collected, positive and rational the vast majority of the time. With regards to pain, I wouldn’t say that the contractions I felt (esp. when Pitocin was introduced) were pain-free, but the pain was more like what a marathon runner feels in her legs at mile 20 — needless to say, it’s terrible but nothing to fear. There was a point when I thought, “Hmm, an epidural would be nice because at least I could get some rest,” but for the most part, I never even thought about it. I am not against epidurals, but a pain-medication-free birth was something I was committed to and, thankfully, was able to achieve. I felt equipped with the relaxation and self-hypnosis tools I had to manage pain. With the help of my incredible birth team (my husband was so amazing that I really think he should consider becoming a doula himself!), I was able to manage all of the intensity and various discouragements that came with my labor.

According to Dave, all of the nurses in our wing were in awe. They couldn’t believe how calm I was! And, my doula said this was the calmest, most serene labor she has ever witnessed. She said she was amazed at how well the hypnosis tools worked. In our post-birth meeting, “If you are wondering whether or not the program was effective, I’m here to tell you that it absolutely was!” And, thanks to self-hypnosis, my whole labor experience felt like it was half the time than it actually was. The experience was the most intense, physically and mentally, of my life. But it was also quite relaxing, intimate and sweet. And I can honestly say without any shadow of doubt that I wasn’t afraid and I never loss control. And I think this is the biggest achievement of the whole process. I wanted to have a fear-free birth and, against all odds, I did!


All is boring in Womb-land


The kid and I are still one bodily unit. I’m currently 39 weeks and 5 days and feel about the same as when I was 36 weeks and 5 days. My “guess” date is on Thursday, March 22nd. I’m having more frequent Braxton Hicks, which I’ve been having for at least a month but are more noticeable now. It feels like someone is squeezing your stomach. Not bad, just funny-feeling. This means that my uterus is practicing for the big event. I feel good about that.

I’ve had two rough nights in the past two weeks, both of which were preceded by cabbage for dinner. Last week, after some delicious corn beef and cabbage, I got up 5 times during the night to pee, had terrible back pain and lots of BHs. I wondered, “Could this be it?” And I preceded to tell the baby sternly that it couldn’t come until my birthing gown (sewn by my mom) came in the mail. Everything was normal the next morning except for the fact that I weighed 3lbs less than the day before. Apparently, your body sheds water weight right at the end of pregnancy. And, cabbage causes gas (and my intestines are pressed up against my back, so there you go). Last night, cabbage for dinner (will I ever learn?) and more back pain with little sleep. Cabbage, it’s been real. Seriously, you suck.

Anyway, the awesome birthing gown has arrived and I’ve been wearing it around the house, yesterday and today. I was even able to show it off to the exterminator who arrived unannounced this morning. It’s covered in pears, which is only appropriate as I am quite pear-shaped. Baby is allowed to come now, though I imagine it will still take some time (i.e, 41 weeks and 1 day on average). I’m so convinced that this baby will be late, yet I continue to be shocked by those who have their babies before 40 weeks. Last week, a friend from college went into labor and she was due 2 days after me. The wife of the youth minister at church was due a week after me, and they just had their baby on Friday….15 days early!!

It doesn’t help that when people see me, they think I’m only 6 months pregnant. “You are so small!” Hmm. Two women at church were visibly and audibly shocked when I told them I was due this week. “You are going to have a tiny baby.” What? I was hoping for a fat baby! Gahhh! Just for future reference folks, pregnant women do not want to be told that they are either gigantic or teeny. They want to be perfectly normal. For other things not to say to pregnant women, check out my favorite pregnancy blog. Also, my sister gained only 29lbs and had a hefty boy, close to 9lbs. And Dave’s aunt gained 50lbs with her pregnancy and had a 5-pounder. So, no correlation, folks. Sheesh.

Anyway, it’s a strange time. Dave and I are trying to live our lives as normal. Yet, planning for the next week or two is a crap shoot. This baby could come tomorrow or in two weeks. And between then and now,  we have no idea how to make plans. Given our micro-time-managing tendencies here in the US, spontaneous vaginal delivery really blows up our expectations that we can control our days. I feel good about this now. But check in with me next week. I may be screaming for pitocin (yeah right).

This week, I am anticipating spending a lot of time in the tailor position, chilling on the birth ball, trying not to stay up too late watching basketball and going out for Ethiopian food with Dave. I’m been craving Ethiopian food for a while and I imagine the spices will surely kickstart something. So, Ethiopian food, here we come!

Happily waiting…

I’m 38-going-on-39 weeks. It’s amazing how these last weeks of pregnancy tend to blend together. My sister and I were joking the other day that at the beginning, you know exactly how far long you are, by the day (“I’m 5.5 weeks!”). And you breathe multiple sighs of relief whenever you hit a major milestone. Now, each day feels a bit like the last, except now when people ask “When are you due?” I say, “Next week.” Weird.

Dave commented that it feels like only in the past two weeks people out in public have actually begun to gawk. Many strangers ask when I am due and or they just blatantly stare at my stomach (eyes up, people!)  Of course, I’ve been milking the I-actually-look-pregnant stage as much as I can. This Sunday, while driving home, the oil light came on in the car and I pulled into a gas station where an extremely nice attendant helped me top off in between helping customers. And when taking the car the next day to get the oil changed/checked (there was a leak), the nice man at AAA said he would try to get it done asap because “You shouldn’t have to wait in your condition.” Ha. I decided not to tell him that I feel perfectly capable. Instead, I said thanks and waddled away. Dave and I also braved the crowds at the RBC Center to see Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson show (a birthday present from my parents!). This involved walking quite far from the parking lot, marching  up and down multiple flights of stairs (because our seats got reassigned) and walking halfway around the arena to finally get to our tiny stadium seats. Piece of cake (almost).

Also, and surprisingly, I feel great. I thought I would be MISERABLE as I entered the “dreary” trimester. I’ve heard so many women say how sick they are of being pregnant by the end. And these poor women are likely working full time and/or rearing other children. But this isn’t my case. I feel awesome. And I’m going to miss my awesome round belly.

All the aches and growing pains I’ve felt over the last few months have ceased. I’ve only gained 29lbs so I still feel pretty limber. I can (mostly) breathe, except when walking uphill. No constipation. Limited heartburn. No stretch marks on the belly. Sleeping hasn’t been terrible. I’m measuring right on time and blood pressure is low. I’m still pounding the spicy food. But along with that, there’s been very little action. At my last appointment, the midwife noted that the baby hadn’t even dropped. I have a few Braxton-Hicks contractions a day but I’ve been having them for weeks (and they just feel like your belly has gotten tight….nothing else really). I declined a cervical check at my last appointment, though I am tempted to have one done this time. We’ll see. I don’t really want to psyche myself out, especially since I’m pretty content.

But because very little has been happening to indicate that birthing time will happen soon, I don’t want to risk induction if I go two weeks late. Going late is fine by me, esp. since average gestation for first time moms is 274 days from ovulation (or 41 weeks and 1 day from LMP). And only 10% of babies actually come on their “due” date. So, according to more recent studies, the babe is most likely to show up around March 30. I think I can handle that, as long as no one is trying to stick me with pitocin. I imagine the midwives will be pretty restrained.

Either way, though, I’m starting to walk more, doing daily pelvic floor exercises and stretches, sitting primarily on an exercise ball, keeping my stomach hanging forward (rather than lounging on the couch) to encourage an anterior position, mapping my belly,  listening to my hypnosis scripts and affirmations, seeing a chiropractor once a week (to keep my hips in line) and drinking larger doses of red raspberry leaf tea. Last night I ate half a pineapple, which is supposed to ripen your cervix (yum) and I may opt for some acupuncture at this week’s chiro appointment. I may also start using evening primrose oil. So, I’m not exactly sitting around passively waiting. But I am happily waiting, relishing in these last few weeks of this unique time.

Clear eyes, full term, can’t lose.

I couldn’t resist the shout out to Friday Night Lights. Yes, this means that I am knocking on Full Term’s door (tomorrow!) and the baby could shoot out of me tomorrow and live it’s special little life without much medical intervention, if at all. Crazy! I’ve gotten so used to being pregnant, after moving beyond the anxiety and general nastiness associated with the dreaded first trimester. The idea of NOT being pregnant is a distant memory. Dave and I are enjoying this special time together and it’s bittersweet to imagine it ending.

People ask us if we are excited and we most certainly are. But it’s sort of like being on a plane bound for somewhere exotic and amazing, destination unknown. You have a lot of anticipation, nervousness and giddiness, but you also feel a sense that you should “wait until we get there.” I imagine giving birth is one of those rare moments in life where you can truly pinpoint the moment your life has changed forever. Going to college was one. Meeting Dave was another. You don’t know where these momentous events will take you; you just know that you’ll never be where you are again. Your life, your sense of self, your sense of purpose have all been turned upside-down. Giving birth (not just being born) is a good metaphor for baptism. Or, baptism is a good metaphor for giving birth. Either way, you climb off the bed or out of the pool a different human being. Something astonishing has happened to you, yes, but you have also participated in that change in a profound way. Needless to say, this is exciting…but also terrifying!

Dave and I are currently in go-mode, trying to get our house at least ready for Superpac (yes, that’s our baby’s nickname). We’ve acquired a great number of things from generous family and friends. Most other stuff came from consignment sales and Craigslist. We scored a $5 changing table, a $2 changing pad, several $5 cloth diapers, etc. We’ve spent very little on this child. My sister-in-law gave us a crib, which is still in it’s box and will likely remain there for a while as we intend to sleep-share. My friend Kate gave us a co-sleeper, just in case sleep-sharing doesn’t work out for us. And, for that reason, we haven’t had to invest much in a nursery. We have a room where the baby stuff goes, but most of the time, the kid will be with us. We are cloth-diapering and I plan to breastfeed as a long as possible, which cuts expenses down considerably.  I’ve sewn my own flannel wipes, blankets and burp cloths for Superpac. We have good health insurance and a strong support system. Because of that, we’ve spent about 1/5th of that estimated by the “Don’t Have a Kid Unless You Are A Millionaire” calculators.

Dave and I just finished our 6th and final birth class last weekend. We are using Hypnobabies (yeah, yeah, the name is weird and the passed-out lady with lots of makeup on the website doesn’t help). But I’ve been very satisfied with the techniques we’ve learned and feel equipped and confident to enter my birthing time without fear. I’ve read story after story (and seen video after video!) of women who have used hypnosis for childbirth and have been really amazed at what I’ve seen. Hypnosis has been used for patients who are allergic to traditional anesthesia – you can google videos (if you dare) of people undergoing breast surgery or root canals without any medical anesthesia whatsoever. My dad has used hypnosis on patients in the past, mainly for anxiety issues, but it has also proven successful for addiction and weight loss. Check out this Time article. So, why not for childbirth?

The main focus of the class is to rewire the way you think about childbirth, recognizing that other people’s negative experiences, as well as tv shows and movies, have programmed us (in this culture) to fear childbirth. Hypnobabies is like cognitive behavioral therapy – if you can change the way you think, you can change what you experience. When I get on a plane, my negative associations with flying cause my heart begins to pound and I start to sweat, thus triggering more fear (“Why am I sweating? I must be terrified!”) and more bodily responses, like a vicious cycle.

Hypnobabies seeks to rewire your brain to translate the tightening of a contraction into pressure, not pain. In doing so, you remain relaxed, not fighting your body but allowing your body to do what it needs to do, often resulting in remarkably shorter, more comfortable labors. Unlike some hypnosis for childbirth classes, Hypnobabies really focuses on birth education, teaching good nutrition, exercise, optimal fetal positioning, less intervention (i.e., induction) and other ways to increase the likelihood of a complication-free birth. Obviously, someone who experiences cord prolapse, placental abruption or other complicating factors will not be using these techniques to have a normal, vaginal birth. And more often than not, pain is an appropriate bodily response to complication, alerting you to a problem. But for the 90% of us that are able to have uncomplicated natural births (even with big or posterior babies), Hypnobabies seeks to equip mothers-to-be with the skills and the confidence to enjoy labor without having to endure hours and hours of excruciating pain. And I intend to do just that!

Woah. I just went on a Hypnobabies rant. I guess I’ve become a true believer. I will definitely post more on this.

Anyway, I’m off to write my birth plan. Happy (and solemn) Lent to all!

Meet my niece!

My sister and Jacob just brought a new life into the world on the evening of August 26th. Therefore, I am now an aunt! You can see more pictures and read more about the pregnancy and the initial labor stages here. Apparently, the birth process was very arduous, but my sister is very brave and strong and is doing well, as is Nameless (as of today) Child. The Babe is 8.2lbs and has chubby, sweet cheeks. Melissa, Jacob, and Mom all say she has my nose and she has a full head of dark hair (though not apparent in the pictures). I am in awe that there is a new human being on earth that was once not here, but now is. And that’s the story we all share! It’s incredible. An incredible, God-given gift. My excitement and my joy cannot be contained. I can’t imagine how Melissa and Jacob must be feeling!!