Friday, September 26, 2014

The Birth of Braelyn

I am incredibly thankful for the wonderful support I received from so many friends, family, and even strangers as I prepared for Braelyn to arrive.  Her birth was a blessing from God and a truly beautiful event for my husband and myself.

I'd like to preface that none of what I state should be deemed medical advice or guidance and you should seek your doctor for any questions regarding your pregnancy and birth.

I've wanted a natural birth for a long time.  Each time I watched "The Business of Being Born", I've felt empowered.  Then I'd hear the birth stories of friends, family, co-workers, etc. and say...yep, I'd like a natural birth, but that's likely not going to happen...oh well. 

When I told this to my doula, doctor and husband, they all said that was not a good way to look at this process.  Each of them encouraged me to keep thinking positive about a natural birth and to truly believe in myself and that I could bring Braelyn into this world naturally.

To help me 'prepare' for labor, something to which I had NO IDEA what to expect, I watched what I could, exercised as I could, and nourished my body as well as I could (of course treating myself to the occasional ice cream which turned bi-weekly towards the end!).

Braelyn was born on a Monday at 40 weeks and 5 days of my pregnancy. 
  • The Thursday before (40 weeks 1 day), I became super serious about making sure Braelyn made her debut in the next few days.  I religiously sat on my exercise ball at work, during movie watching, and any time I'd feel the need to sit.  And I started walking more.  I had been walking regularly through pregnancy, but had become lazy in my last few weeks.  I picked my butt up and went to the mall, walking the mile loop around as my legs tinged and I had to stop FOUR times at various department stores for a bathroom break!  I also bought a whole pineapple and cut it up.  I had heard pineapple can help induce labor, so I devoured that thing between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning!
  • The Friday before her birth (40 weeks 2 days), I only made it about 1/2 way through the work day before I threw in the towel and asked my boss if I could call it quits and go on maternity leave.  I was sore, I didn't feel great (kinda woosy and exhausted).  She allowed for me to quit and I wrapped things up, bouncing away on my exercise ball.  I walked 2 miles that evening when I started to feel better.  I had an Dr. appointment this day and my doctor had said that I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced and he said he'd see me soon :)
  • On Saturday, my mother arrived in town from Boston.  We were officially 40 weeks and 3 days...I was serious about getting Braelyn out before my mom had to fly back home the following Saturday...I kept thinking how terrible would it be if she was here and she didn't even get to meet her granddaughter!?  Together, we walked 4 miles.  Some in the mall, some outside with the dogs.  I bought and devoured another pineapple.  By the way...I heard later that the amount of pineapple you'd have to eat would be that of your bodyweight in pineapple...oh well, it curved my sweet tooth and was delicious none the less!
  • On Sunday, I became a crazy woman.  Waking up and walking 2 miles solo, another mile with my mom and the dogs when she got up, another mile at the mall with mom and Neal, another mile with the dogs, and then 1 more mile with just mom for a total of SIX MILES!!! I told you, I was crazy ready!  Also, my husband and I 'did what got us to this place' in the afternoon between miles 4 and 5 which was ALWAYS the best way for me to start cramping.  Later that night, I called my back-up doula as I had started to feel contractions for hours on end, but wasn't timing them.  She said, time them and see if they continue to last for over an hour, at least a minute long, and no longer than 5 minutes apart.  I sat on my exercise ball as we watched a movie, holding my stomach to feel for the contractions as they were not painful enough to knock me off my feet, and sure enough, they were lasting the 1-1-5 rule!  Hilary then said, if I wanted to keep them up, I could pump for nipple stimulation, but that I should probably get some rest.  So I went to bed after our movie around 9pm and woke up at 3, the contractions were there, but felt lessening.  So I woke my mom up and had her help me pump since I'd never done this before.  I pumped for 20 minutes on, 20 off, and another 20 on, and the contractions came back a little better, but I was tired so I went back to bed.
  • On Monday morning at 5:30 am, I woke up and felt the need to walk again.  I put on some clothes and headed out the front door.  As I started, I thought, let's just walk the sidewalk on my one street up and down, not the neighborhood.  There's only 5 houses on each side of the street, it's not a long street.  Sure enough, I was across the street on 'lap 3' of my street and I felt a gush.  It wasn't a lot, but enough for me to be shocked and go home.  It was now a little after 6am.  I checked in the bathroom and sure enough, my water had broken.  I called my back-up doula again around 7 am after I had completely soaked 2 pads with more breaking of my waters.  She said the contractions would get stronger, and to let her know as well as contact my back-up back-up doula...yes I went through 3 doulas.  This was Labor Day weekend, and our original doula was on family vacation, our backup doula had an event she had to teach at for Labor Day, so I was going to have to rely on a doula I'd never met! Woah!  Sure enough, around 8am the contractions were strong and I would have to be on hands and knees on the floor to help me through them.  Neal had cooked us a delicious breakfast, I cuddled with my pups and told them they'd meet their sister soon and wished Walden (our lab) a happy birthday, I took a shower, Neal took a shower, and like that we were finally off to the hospital around 9am.
    • I also drank red raspberry leaf tea like it was going out of style!  I had at least 3 cups a day from about week 38 and on.  From about week 30 to 38, I would have 1-2 cups a day
    • I also practiced working my transverse abdominals and kegals as shown in the Knocked Up Fitness DVD as often as I could remember during my final trimester

The birth of Braelyn:

On our way to the hospital, I had 3 strong contractions.  One in the driveway as my mother mouthed BREATH - BREATH - BREATH to me as we drove away and she could see me holding my breath.  The other 2 contractions I would breath through and push my feet up against the floorboards in agony.

As we arrived to triage, Neal dropped me off and went to park the car.  It was pouring down rain.  The moment I arrived to submit my information, a contraction came on, I dropped to the floor on hands and knees and the check-in woman assisted me with telling me how to breath in and out.  Neal arrived and we were brought back to check my progress.  I was 3.5 cm dilated and 90% effaced.  My doula, Deborah, arrived at this time and had introduced herself, read my birth plan, and assisted me with my next contraction by giving me a hip squeeze which I very much liked.  The counter pressure helped take my mind off of the contraction and eased the contractions.  It was also at this time that I got a heplock put in my arm.  This was actually the thing I feared most as I was afraid I wouldn't move my arm once this was in.  I HATE having IV's in only took one contraction for me to care less about this heplock!

We were checked into our room, and I continued contractions that were strong and painful about every 5-7 minutes.  We walked the hallways and even did the 5 flights of stairs one time through.  During those stair walks I had at least 3 contractions I can remember.  Neal stood on one side and my doula on the other, doing a double hip squeeze.
The Stairwell at the hospital has fitness suggestions on every I did not do these, I just walked and managed contractions!

Stair walking during labor!

 We then went back to the room, I wanted to walk no longer.  I would sway my hips on the 'birthing ball', a glorified exercise ball, and that would make contractions really strong.  When they came on I'd stand up and lean over the bed, receiving a double hip squeeze.  I also positioned myself on the bed with the back raised up and leaned over it during some contractions, again receiving a double hip squeeze.  While in the room, my doula also had lovely calming music playing, electric candles flickering, warm rice packs for me, and a few massage tools she or Neal would rub along my lower back and hips.  She was an AWESOME teacher to Neal and I and I truly am so thankful she was there as I honestly do not think we could have gone all natural without her or one of my other two doulas, had they been available.

My doctor, Dr. Blanke, arrived maybe around noon or 12:30 to see how I was doing and talk me through things.  I had one good contraction while he was there that Neal and Deborah helped me get through before I joked with Dr. Blanke about being in his Cardinal's gear ready for the game, which he said started at 1:30 and he'd see me after to bring Braelyn on home.  I thought oh HECK NO you will not see me after, I'm getting this child out, but another contraction came and I could not speak.

A short time later, the contractions were harder and stronger and during one I even squealed out, "Just give me the epidural!"  To which my doula and husband both ignored and talked me through the contraction.  At that time, the nurse came in and said she'd check my dilation.  To everyone's amazement, I was 7 cm dilated and fully effaced.  This labor was going much shorter than anyone had thought it could.  The nurse stayed in the room and said she'd get in touch with my doctor to have him come back. I had one or two good contractions later, to which I remembered what I had learned about pushing in my "Knocked-Up Fitness" DVD's and I had felt the need to push for sure, so I did and I could FEEL HER!  I FELT MY LITTLE GIRL move further down and start to make her way!!! I was thrilled!!!  That last contraction, I was on my side in the hospital bed and Neal or my doula was doing a hip squeeze on my right side as my left lay on the bed. The nurse must have known something was up, so she checked me again and said, "Your cervix is gone!"...I had no idea what that meant...apparently that meant my push was good and I was fully effaced and fully dilated.  :)

Once Dr. Blanke arrived, a team of nurses was in the room.  I had two nurses on my left side, one on my right, my husband moved from my right side to my left and stood near my head, and my doula was now on my right side with Dr. Blanke at the receiving end, and another nurse off to the side at the sink, I think taking notes...not sure...

I had about 8 more contractions before Braelyn was here.  5 of those contractions, she was literally partially out.  I didn't look, but Neal said you could see the top of her head (he only looked once and from above, not at the receiving end).  I thought, "Okay Dr. Blanke...go ahead and freaking pull her out!" 

My contractions were still about 5 minutes apart, which isn't all that common.  So during our 'breaks' Dr. Blanke would tell me what he was doing and what he was seeing, and then during the next break, we'd comment on the music and how it was too slow...and time seemed to go on forever with her 'stuck' in the same spot for many contractions.  During contractions, the nurses would instruct me to pull my legs up as high as I could, and they helped with this, and Neal held my head forward and I was instructed to push without making a noise and hold my breath or breath out, but not to make gasping breaths for air.  Sometimes, I'd continue this pushing past a contraction because I was so into it, and Dr. Blanke would have to tell me, okay let's break now and wait for the next one.

After about 3 of 4 of those contractions with her little head partially out, Dr. Blanke finally said, "I don't normally do this, but there's a band of muscle here that I think is holding her back, I'm afraid you will have a very large external tear, or I can make a small internal tear in the tissue and that may allow her to pass".  I thought about it as a contraction came on, and then told him to do it before the next one, and finally she had moved along!  I don't even remember feeling the cut!  She came out and the umbilical cord was wrapped just once around her so they had to unwrap it first, then I had one more contraction and the rest of her was birthed.  It was 1:33 pm on Monday, September 1st!  She still hadn't made noises and the nurse and doctor were both suctioning out her airways.  When my water had broken, I had known there was already meconium so I knew she'd need to have a VERY thorough suctioning before they'd let me hold her.  It was about a minute and finally, I heard my little girl! I kept trying to reach for her but was far too exhausted. Then, they handed her to me and I couldn't stop telling Neal how much I loved him and then telling Braelyn I loved her!

Right after they handed Braelyn to me!

First Family Photo
I had asked for the cord to not be cut until after it had stopped beating, at that point, I was holding Braelyn and Dr. Blanke asked if Neal wanted to cut, to which he passed :)  Next, the placenta was passed and Dr. Blanke gave me local anesthesia and stitched up the cut he had made.  They asked if I wanted Pitocin and I was so confused and said umm no thanks...then Dr. Blanke explained to me that I had lost a lot of blood (like that of donating 3 times in one day) and that the pit could help me from losing more blood.  I then agreed and was hooked up via my heplock. 

We stayed together as a family of three for at least 2 hours before letting our parents come meet Braelyn.  Neal's parents had driven in from town and were actually at the hospital by the time Braelyn was there.  His mom said she could see when the Dr. and all the nurses were rushing into the room for Braelyn's arrival.  My father took the 6ish hour drive and met his girlfriend at the local airport who flew in from Wisconsin.  She arrived at about 2pm, just after Braelyn was born.  I actually was on the phone with my dad when he was picking her up and to both their surprises calling them to tell them Braelyn was here and they could get lunch and come see her in about an hour and a half!  We then called my mom and told her the news.  She was thrilled and shocked we had called so soon but said she'd come when we were ready.

My birth was beautiful.  It truly was almost exactly how I had wanted, but thought I'd never get.  I'm extremely thankful for my amazing husband and all of his support through pregnancy, labor, and now fatherhood. 

I truly do not think Neal nor I could have done the all natural birth had it not been for having a doula there to guide us.  We wouldn't have known these comfort measures well enough, and I know he would have been even more tired from doing a hip squeeze solo.  Yes, it's not the same pain I went through, but he was still sore from using forearm muscles to squeeze for so long!

Proud Dad!

I'm so blessed with such a beautiful little girl and an amazing little family of three...five if you count the fur pups!  I hope every woman can experience a birth the way she wants.  There's no one right way.  Whether baby comes via C-section, after an epidural, or natural, it's an amazingly beautiful, humbling, and inspiring experience! 
On our way home!

***A note to my future self if we make another baby...I was still on my left side during most contractions and pushing, but the nurses kept pushing me over to my back. My doula was NOT pleased, nor was I, but honestly I was too exhausted to think of any other position to birth in at the moment.  Had I been more aware, I would have asked to move back to a forward leaning position.  I would have needed help getting to that position by having people literally pick me up and move me between contractions, but I do wish I had done that...but that's something to remember for the next time possibly.

***Also, for years before I was even pregnant, I had wanted any births I had photographed. I do wish we would have designated someone to do this for us.

Monday, September 15, 2014

2 Weeks Old!

We are at two weeks since having Braelyn.  It's difficult being a new mom at times.  There are hours of sitting on a couch simply feeding where you're unable to do little else.  The to do list of misc. tasks will add up.  If you like to have everything planned out, like I do, you'll likely drive yourself crazy.  This is the time I should try not to have any to do lists.  There are days I can blissfully sit on the couch all day, and others I'm going stir crazy.

We are just now at two weeks and I'm already stressing about going back to work and what to do about childcare.  I wish that wasn't my personality.

I want to enjoy these days when she little and cuddly and dependent on me.  Before she grows up and becomes her own person, no longer thinking she needs me. I wish Neal could be home from work more to enjoy them too, because it really is truly wonderful to see him cuddle and snooze with her or play with her during tummy time!

I love that only moments after putting her in our Boba carrier, she's fast asleep and will stay that way the entire time I walk around with her.  I love watching Neal with her, the two of them falling asleep together is my favorite.  I love the way she grasps my finger when we feed.  I love the way she throws her arms out and eyes get big when she's startled or surprised by something.  I love the warmth of her baby soft skin against me.  She's simply the most special little girl to me.

Braelyn Updates
How Old:  2 Weeks
Medical Updates:  No official Dr. updates, next appointment isn't until later in October, but she seems to be getting bigger and stronger daily.  She can lift her head briefly as well as bang it strongly against Neal's chest if he's holding her and she's ready to eat!
Sleep: We had 2 difficult sleep nights this past week.  One of them, I think she could tell I was anxious.  We had a rough afternoon, one to which Neal came home to both of us crying, and sleep was difficult that night.  She's been making more and more noises while she sleeps, so it's keeping me up or waking me up.  Then I check on her, and she's still eyes closed, sleeping, just dreaming and wiggling some.  If her noises don't wake me, a nice puddle milk or extremely full breasts does!  The more noises she makes, the fuller I get!
Clothing/Diapers:  She's still in her newborn sizes.  They are a tiny bit more fitting this week, but all work well.  We started her on cloth diapers yesterday.  That will be a bit of an adjustment as we realized we can't keep them on as long as disposable.  So we are figuring that out and have had some great tips and suggestions from other moms on Facebook and Instagram.

Mommy Updates
Postpartum: 2 Weeks
Weight: Down 21.9  That's 7.7 lbs above my pre-pregnancy weight.
Waist:  Down 7.5 inches. 4.5 to go (ish) before I'm back to pre-pregnancy.
Belly:  The linea nigra will likely stay around for a while longer...oh joy!  Neal and I compared abdominal areas so I could feel what a non separated abdomen was like...and yea, I def have about 2 fingers worth of separation, thus possible diastis recti.  It's not something my Dr. seemed concerned about, so I'm just going to avoid straining my abs as much as possible and figure out ways to work around this and bring the separation closer.
Best moment this week:  Anytime Braelyn cuddles with Neal or myself and falls to sleep.  Especially in her Boba as I walk her and she makes sweet cooing noises!!!
Hardest Moment this Week:  Baby blues. One evening, as mentioned above, Neal came home to both of us crying.  It only took him about 5 min to calm her down and get her to sleep for the next few hours.  Then that evening, she would wake up, change diaper, feed, fall asleep, but the moment I put her down, she was awake and crying.  I hadn't realized Neal was leaving at 3am for work either so I was just all kinds of upset.  The blues have come and gone a few times for me.  Most days I'm really happy and content, there's just a little time period where they hit.

Braelyn feeding update:  My nips are almost completely healed!  I used olive oil, went around topless when possible, and just really watched how I would hold/feed her.  Feeding is not nearly as uncomfortable.

Question of the week:
What helped you through the baby blues?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

1 Week Old!

Braelyn turned 1 week old on Monday!  I love her to pieces!

 Here's our 3 Days Old and 1 Week Old Photos!

Braelyn Updates
How Old:  1 Week
Medical Updates:  She had her 1 week appointment Tuesday morning and gained 1 oz since her birth weight! The Dr. said she looked and sounded healthy.  She's been feeding, filling diapers, and sleeping well. Now we don't have to have a 2 week appointment and will just have a 2 month one!
Sleep: She's not a bad sleeper (as I knock on wood). The Dr. even told me today I could try to not wake her at night every 3 hours and try for 4 or even 5 instead and see how she does.  He said since I'm having to really wake her up when I've set my alarm for 3 hours that she could possibly sleep longer, but she'll also likely feed longer once awake.  We'll see what happens this next week.
Clothing/Diapers:  She's in newborn sizes and we're still not cloth diapering. I'm giving myself a little time to learn more about being a parent to Braelyn and adjusting to life before throwing in one more curve ball.  I mean 1 week ago, I was the girl asking her husband if we should call the nurse in the middle of the night because she had a dirty diaper to change! Ha!

Mommy Updates
Postpartum: 1 Week
Weight: Down 18.8 lbs.  10.8 lbs to go before I'm at pre-pregnancy weight.  However, I'm thinking I may not want to be quite as small as I was.  I would feel back to 'normal' losing another 8 lbs.
Waist:  Down 5 inches. 6.5 to go (ish) before I'm back to pre-pregnancy...the measurment may be off since I took a really old waist measurement to use as I didn't take one early in pregnancy.
Belly:  The linea nigra is still really dark on me and I am sure it will stay that way for a while.  My tummy is softer than it's ever been, but makes a nice coushin for my baby as we learn how to nurse :)
Best moment this week:  Meeting Braelyn for the first time was pretty darn special! I couldn't stop telling Neal how much I loved him right after she was here. And then I proceeded to tell Brae the same :)
Hardest Moment this Week:  Being sore in the pelvic floor, having cracked nipples, and baby blues.  The blues didn't hit until Monday, 1 week postpartum. They came suddenly and strong. It was my first day home alone and I feared Neal wasn't going to be around. It's totally irrational, Neal adores both of us and our bond is strong.  However, right as I calmed myself of that fear, I started thinking if he got in a car accident and was taken from us.  It was terrible. I hate thinking about losing him and the hormonal changes only worsened my fears.
As for the pelvic floor, I think the pain will take some more time.  I'm taking ibeprofen as needed and trying to not overdo anything.  So far I just take easy walks and am working on my kegals.  
As for the cracked nips.  They are starting to heal.  Braelyn's latch looks good externally and her tongue seems fine and since they're healing, I do think her latch is good.  We shall see what the course of this next week brings and if they continue to heal.  I sure hope so!

Question of the week:
What's your best tip you've been given as a new mom/dad?  Or if you have't had a baby, what's your best tip for big changes in life?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bringing Home Braelyn!

As the sun streams into my office and my house is calm, quiet, peaceful, serene...I'm at awe that there's a sleeping baby, my sleeping baby, snuggled up warmly next to me in her Snuggamonkey!

Total silence except little taps on the keyboard and the sweetest little coos coming from little Braelyn.

Mom is playing games on her iPad, Neal is resting in bed (don't worry, I was just there too, but could sleep no more), and the dogs are in their usual positions, sleeping soundly on the futon in my office. It's simply a perfect scenario at this moment.

Bringing home Braelyn was filled with a lot of excitement, some hesitation, and of course some fear. What will I do now if something 'strange' happens, like her poop is weird, she spits up, the latches don't get better and my tits don't make milk right, or oh goodness she just cries differently?  Am I REALLY the one responsible for her?  Where's my nurses?  Where's my doctor?  Holy S**T what did we do!?!

Thankfully, the first day has been a lot better than expected.
Proud parents getting ready to take baby girl home!
As we got her all dressed and ready at the hospital yesterday on September 3rd, Braelyn beautifully handled her heel prick test (tests for like 40+ different dissorders), the nurse made sure she was in her car seat right, and we were discharged.  Just like that...released into this world as new parents.  Filled with the knowledge from our classes, lactation consultants, and nurses discharge teachings, we were off.  Up until we had Braelyn, I maybe had only changed 3 diapers in my 26 years of life.  This is an WHOLE new experience for me.

As Neal drove his work truck, my mom took myself and our little girl home in our truck.  Braelyn was great in the car ride home as I sat next to her in the back seat taking pictures and stealing kisses as we went home.
Car ride home!
Upon arrival at home, Walden and Sasha, our four legged babies, greeted her so sweetly with wet puppy noses and an attempt at far too many kisses which we had to politely dodge.
This was Braelyn as she first met the of her and the puppies to come, they are just all on my mom's camera!

Then she just snoozed on Neal's chest forever and ever.  This will likely be my most favorite scene to witness for many months to come.

My mom mowed the yard as Braelyn, Neal and I rested before taking some family photos.

This is me 3 days post partum.  As you can see in the second picture, I still have my belly, it's now just all soft and giggly.  I don't hate it, it's kinda cozy for Braelyn actually!  I am going to wear a BellyBandit to help shrink the stomach and uterus back down, but so far my doctor was very impressed with how much my uterus has already shrunk.  I'll be posting weekly about my post partum recovery as well as about the weekly growth of Braelyn, this is just a little glimpse as this post is more about bringing her home than about mine and her changes. :)

When the evening arrived, we had some delicious veggie filled lasagna my mother made [it's a true masterpiece, so good and yet somehow filled with tons of veggies to help me well umm go bathroom too ;) ]  Yep, everything is all different as my intestines make their way back to their original 'homes' before Brae took over.  So far, so good.  Going to the bathroom doesn't hurt like I thought it would, but I'm not 100% comfortable yet either.  And yes, maxi pads, ice packs, and witch hazel (Tucks) are a women's bestie after giving birth!

As we ate our home cooked delight, we watched a movie, White House Down, where I got to oogle at Channig Tatum and those man muscles as Braelyn slept cozy in her Snuggamonkey.  It was getting late and I was exhausted, very much ready for bed, but Braelyn was still sound asleep, so we decided to wake her up for a feeding since it had been a while from her last.  She only ate for 20 minutes and was thankfully ready for bed.  This was much easier for me than the 2 hour feeding we had earlier on day 2.
Little Girl as we watched our movie!  So stinking cute!
Through her first night at home, we fed for those 20 minutes around 9:45 pm, an hour around midnight, 20 more minutes around 2:30am, 25 minutes at 6am, and 30 minutes around 9am.  It wasn't so bad at all for the first two feedings, but at the 2:30 one, she spit up SO much of my golden milk, I thought I might cry.  She did it again just after our 9am feeding too.  I'm SO thankful my mom was here, because when I showed her the spit-up, mom said, "Oh that's nothing, you used to cover the entire rag."  My mom helped lift my fears that Braelyn was going to not have enough of my golden milk and told me our little girl looked just fine, no more jaundice than what we should expect.

I still can't believe we had stretches of 2-3 hours of sleep last night!  It was amazing!  I have her sleeping in the bassinet on the pack-in-play beside the bed in our master.  I swaddle her up, put a towel on one side to slightly position her on her side since that's what we've found she likes best, and then I put one more blanket on top to snug her in so she can't wiggle out.  I'm hoping this will work for a bit longer, but am sure she'll soon want to be put to bed another way.

It's going on 2PM and she's been sleeping most of the morning with a few shorter feedings and then she just falls back asleep.  It's about time for me to go check her diaper, which will wake her back up, feed her, and hopefully she'll stay awake a little bit so I can play with my cutie some.

I want to thank all of our friends and family for their thoughts, prayers, and kind words during this transition Neal and I are making into parenthood.  We truly appreciate all of the support we've been given and I hope to keep you up to date on Braelyn as she grows with our family!