Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Four Months, Four Must-Haves

I know I am no veteran at this mom thing, but in the short time I have served in this role, I have learned a ton. Never before has the meaning of "learning on the job" been more clear to me.

These days, I think back to before our boy was born and remember all the things I was so nervous about....

Will I know when he's hungry? or tired? or wet? or...?
What will I dress him in everyday? How many layers do I need?
What goes in my diaper bag?
How will I get him to sleep?
Am I going to be able to keep him alive?

I giggle a little bit now as I find myself starting to hit my stride (lest you get discouraged by that if things aren't going smoothly for you right now, I'm pretty sure this feeling is simply a product of the fact that my kiddo is napping right now - check back when he wakes up...oh, and I'm still in pajamas at noon, so there's that).

But beyond learning the answers to the questions above (which really are pretty darn basic and thus, not worthy of a huge pat on the back) I have learned that there are (at least) 4 things that make our day run just a little bit more smoothly recently. I am no mommy blog product reviewer, but nonetheless, I feel compelled to share these with all you mamas out there!

Here are my 'Four Must-Haves at Four Months':

1. Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit - When our little guy was born he was a peanut - weighing in at a lean 6 lbs. 2 oz. and 18.5 inches long. The poor thing was always cold; a diaper change was pure torture for him and he constantly wanted to be snuggled up. In fact, the first time I realized he was crying because he was too hot, I did a little happy dance. And then stripped him down by a layer. In that order. He also had a hilarious startle reflex that, while adorable, made it impossible for him to fall asleep without being swaddled like a giant burrito. We learned the tricks of the swaddle pretty quickly. Whether we were using an 'Easy Swaddle' from Aden + Anais or wrapping him in the more traditional Swaddle Designs cotton flannel blanket, his arms needed to be in a figurative straight jacket.  Once he was bundled up though, the kid would sleep like a dream. #thankful #mynextkidwillprobablybeaterriblesleeper (yep, that just happened).

However, around 3 months or so, his nights started to become restless. We would hear him struggling over the monitor in the middle of the night. Hubs and I started switching off running up the stairs to pop a binky in his mouth or to stroke his head to calm him down. We couldn't figure out how our perfect little sleeper had suddenly vanished.

My sister-in-law had mentioned to me that this Magic Sleepsuit existed and after several sleepless nights, though skeptical, I hopped on Amazon and the suit arrived at our door the next day (I heart Amazon Prime).

We decided to try it out with a nap first. I packed him into a fleece coverall that somewhat resembles a snowsuit and while he was still awake, placed him in his crib. By the time I made my way downstairs, he was out like a light.

Magic. Literally.

Since then, every time he goes down to sleep, we have used the suit and I kid you not, it is blissful.

The suit is the perfect tool to transition your little one out of the swaddle. It also helps teach them how to fall asleep on their own. It is snuggly and cozy and heavy enough that he still feels bundled up. His arms are free, but the weight of the suit muffles his startle reflex enough to let him drift off to a peaceful sleep.

I strongly recommend you give it a try if you're struggling at all with sleep patterns.

2. The Sheet Saver - When you're a new mom, one of the things you find yourself doing most often is laundry. I try to do one load of whites and one load of darks every day. Every now and then, I run out of clean burp cloths or pajamas to put on Baby Dex and I realize I've let it pile up for too long.

But the one type of laundry I simply hate doing is sheets - king sheets, crib sheets, you name it, I hate it. For starters, I am downright awful at folding them. No matter how many Martha Stewart How-To Videos I watch on YouTube, I will never be able to fold a fitted sheet. I also find making the bed from scratch to be an incredibly daunting task. Not sure why, but it has always been that way. (I blame my mother - sheets are sort of her forte - not only does she fold the sheets perfectly, she presses them first(!) and can make hospital corners as though she's in the military. Why make the bed when I can ask her to help?).

Enter sheet saver.

This nifty little quilted piece of waterproof fabric is saving my sanity by limiting the number of times I need to strip the crib sheets, wash them and replace them. Our little guy has a charming way of spitting up....all. the. time. If not for the sheet saver, his sheets would be soaked, day in and day out.

I recommend you buy two and always have one clean and at the ready. They tie on to the posts of the crib so they don't pose a suffocation risk and let me tell you, they will preserve your mental stability just a little bit longer.

3. Pumpin' Pal Super Shields - Breast Pump Flanges - I am an exclusive pumper. For two straight months, I worked my (not-so) little butt off at nursing. I was determined to be able to do this successfully. However, after eight straight weeks of the worst pain I have literally ever experienced (Dex had a miserable latch resulting from a severe upper lip tie and a posterior tongue tie), a month long case of thrush and some nasty mastitis, it was time to reevaluate our approach to breastfeeding. It had gotten to the point where I would stomp my feet and sob every time he nursed and something had to change.

If you haven't done it, exclusively pumping can be miserable. I really wouldn't wish this way of life on anyone, but I believe strongly in the importance of breast milk in a baby's early life. Don't get me wrong, we supplement with Organic Formula when we need to, but I am working hard to make his diet almost entirely breast milk. It is hard work. I pump 5 times a day for 30 minutes each.

I have the Medela Freestyle double electric pump, which has made pumping on-the-go much easier because it has a battery pack that basically lasts the whole day. I also have the Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra which works like a charm, so I can multi-task while pumping (in fact, I'm pumping right now, while I write this)!

But until recently, I struggled to understand which flanges were right for me. The diagrams indicating which size was appropriate didn't help at all and I found myself at a loss. That is, until I discovered  the Pumpin' Pals. They are shaped in a way that allows gravity to help you - no more leaning forward to make the milk drip down - and they draw more of the areola into the tube in order to pump out more milk in less time. I have noticed a real difference in my comfort level since I started using the Pumpin' Pals as well. They send you three different sizes so you can give them all a try - I strongly recommend that you give them a shot if you're a pumping mom.

A FINAL WORD ON PUMPING: While researching how to increase / maintain milk supply with pumping, I came across some helpful websites for women who pump exclusively. One of the big drawbacks to pumping - and you know this all too well if you do it - is having to clean the pump parts every. single. time. you pump. It is maddening to take them apart, wash them and reassemble them five times a day. However, in doing my research, one of the big pointers I came away with was pure genius and needs to be shared. Listen up pumpers...during the day, store your pump parts in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and only wash the parts once at the end of the day. See, I told you, genius!

4. Magnetic Pajamas from Magnificent Baby - Have you ever finished dressing your baby and thought, "they made this thing with one extra snap!". Yup, we've all been there. Matching up those pesky snaps, for whatever reason, can challenge even the most brilliant of minds. Factor in a squirming, slippery little body and your children are bound to spend the rest of their days naked with just a diaper on.

Thank goodness the brainiacs at Magnificent Baby invented magnetic baby clothes! They are so easy to use, you'll wonder why you ever purchased that cashmere footie pajama with actual buttons around the neck and legs (frankly, even if you don't have magnetic clothes, one attempt at the actual buttons and you'll wonder that).

They have footie pajamas, bibs, hats, sleep sacks, blankets, etc. Definitely worth a try - it will change your life (and your husband will be more likely to help with diaper changes!)

So there you have it, my four must haves, four months in to parenting. There are, of course, many other products and secret weapons we've learned to employ, but these four have been game changers for us! I would love to hear your feedback on any of these products, if you give them a try. And if you have your own special list, please share!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No one told me it would be like this

You’ve heard the birth story - the excitement, the emotion, the joy. But what you haven’t heard about is everything that came after. 

No one talks about the postpartum period. In fact, the term “postpartum” has become a slang term for the kind of depression some women face in the weeks and months that follow the birth of their child. But what happens to your new mama body, mind and spirit during this frightening time is mind-boggling and unlike any other experience. It is emotional, uncomfortable, exhausting and confusing - in fact, it is all of these things, all the time, at the same time.

I want to share my postpartum experience with you. I want to walk you through the awkward and challenging details because I wish someone had prepared me for this part. Nine months of pregnancy, five weeks of bed rest and 18 hours of labor were a cake-walk compared to my postpartum experience. If my words can, in some way, help another new mama feel a little less alone or a little more prepared, then this candid explanation will be more than worth it. Be warned, it is a little graphic and quite long.

As you know, from my Birth Story post, I began experiencing problems with high blood pressure around my 35th week of pregnancy. Three months later, almost exactly, I am finally feeling healthy again. I have been to the emergency room twice (should have been three times but I begged my doctor the last time just to call in meds), was readmitted to the hospital once, seen my OB 6 times, been prescribed  a total of 16 different drugs from pain medication to antibiotics to topical ointments, and even visited a specialist up in New York twice. The following is a detailed depiction of everything that has transpired in the last 2+ months.

Less than 48 hours after delivering Declan, we were discharged from the hospital. We dressed our tiny boy in an outfit several sizes too large and strapped him into what seemed like a giant car seat. Like all new parents, we had no idea what we were doing when we drove off from the hospital. 

The first night was a disaster. Declan couldn’t sleep in his bassinet. He would start to choke because his little wind pipe couldn’t handle him laying flat on his back. It wasn’t until 7 am when I ran upstairs to find the Rock n’ Play that we were able to close our eyes…and that was only for 45 minutes because we had to get up for his first trip to the pediatrician - for which we were 30 minutes late.

Each day, from that moment on, we learned something new about our little guy. The first week was a blur of awkward feedings, cat naps and debilitating exhaustion. On Friday, exactly one week after being discharged, I woke up in the middle of the night with chills and aches all over my body. My temperature was 100.6 (which is pretty high for someone with a normal temperature of 96.8). My mind jumped to the packet of information I received upon leaving the hospital and remembered something about calling the doctor if your fever reached over 100.4. I panicked. We called the doctor.

I was told to drink fluids and take Tylenol and come to the office in the morning.

My doctor did a urine test and concluded I had what looked like the beginning of a urinary tract infection. It didn't feel anything like that to me, but I went home with my antibiotics and was told I would be feeling 100% better in 24 hours.

24 hours later, my fever was as high as 103 and I was certainly not feeling 100%. On Saturday night, around 8:00 pm, we decided to go to the emergency room. Baby Declan stayed at home with my parents who were still in town helping us out and Hubs and I settled in for what would be an incredibly long and uncomfortable night.

In the ER, the doctors did a full work up - everything from a pelvic exam and ultrasounds to a chest X-ray. My white blood cell count was elevated but they couldn’t find the source of the infection. 

The ER doctor believed I had endometritis - an inflammation or irritation of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). It is not the same as endometriosis. My OB disagreed. At 5 am, after 8 hours in a freezing cold exam room at the ER, I was admitted and began a heavy course of three different IV antibiotics (Gentamicin, Clindamycin, and Ampicillin). I spent a total of 2 nights in the hospital and was then sent home feeling much better.

A week later, to the day, I woke up in the middle of the night again with chills and aches. I was also experiencing nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Lovely. 

In the morning, we decided to return to the emergency room, this time with the baby in tow as my mother had departed the day prior and my mother-in-law would not be arriving for another 36 hours. I gave a full medical history to the ER doctor and again underwent a series of tests including a pelvic CT scan. No infection could be found and they determined I simply had a poorly timed stomach virus that had come on strong given the particularly fragile state of my immune system. It took me nearly five days to recover.

The following week, I started to experience severe pain associated with nursing. When the baby would latch I would experience about 30 seconds of agony on the nipple, and after he was done eating, I felt searing pains deep in the breast tissue. I did some research online, spoke to our pediatrician and made an emergency trip to my OB’s office. We determined I had a yeast infection in the breast, most likely as a result of the heavy dose of antibiotics I had been on. The pediatrician prescribed an oral medication for Declan as a precaution and I was placed on a two week course of Diflucan (which is typically only prescribed for a few days).  

For the next two weeks, the pain became increasingly worse. Eventually, it became so bad I would literally stomp my feet and sob every time I nursed the baby. I dreaded feeding him and felt guilt-ridden and miserable for it. But time after time, I would bear down and accept the agony. I chock it up to “commitment bias”, as my sister says.

By my six week postpartum appointment I had all but resigned myself to the idea that this issue would never be resolved. I truly thought I would just have to go on nursing Declan through the shooting pains, bleeding, cracked open wounds and soreness. My doctor discontinued my use of the Diflucan (which clearly had not done much to help) and instead prescribed a topical ointment. There was still no improvement.

Two days after this appointment, on a Friday night yet again, exhausted and overwrought from several difficult nursing sessions, I took a nap to try and regroup. Less than two hours later, I woke up with a fever and flu-like aches and pains. However, this time, I had a tell-tale tender spot on my left breast that was a sure sign of mastitis. Around 1 am, I called my doctor’s office, and after a great deal of persuading, convinced her to simply call in a prescription for me, to prevent another trip to the Emergency Room with an infant. Hubs ran out in the middle of the night to the 24 hour pharmacy to pick up my medicine.

With my defenses lowered from feeling crummy, nursing just became simply too painful. We decided to move to a pump and bottle feed schedule to give my body a much needed rest and an opportunity to heal. 

I spent the weekend on antibiotics and Tylenol. Hubs picked up my slack in a major way, doing the lion’s share of the feedings and trying to let me sleep as much as possible. By Sunday morning, my fever had broken and I was starting to feel better. However, by the late afternoon I was feeling “off” again and was running a low grade temperature. That’s when I noticed it. A bizarre and painful irritation…down there… 

At this point, I had absolutely no idea what was going on with my body. 

Simultaneously, we discovered that our little boy had both a rather obvious upper-lip tie as well as a posterior tongue tie. It turns out, these conditions were adding to the overall difficulty we were having nursing. This handicap coupled with his general nursing laziness (he mostly likes to snuggle rather than work to get his food…good thing we aren’t hunter gatherers) meant we had quite an uphill battle to make nursing successful. A great deal of the damage that had been done to my breasts were actually a result of the lip and tongue ties and thus allowed bacteria to enter through the wounds causing the mastitis. 

First thing Monday morning, with just hours to spare before our plane left to take us home for Thanksgiving, I arrived at my OB’s office. In the back of my mind, I was concerned they were going to think I was a hypochondriac because of the number of times they had seen me since the baby was born. 

However, upon closer examination of the aforementioned irritation, my doctor simply could not keep a neutral face. She did not know what this was. In fact, she called in other doctors to offer an opinion as well. The one who had seen me just six days earlier, confirmed nothing of the sort had been present at my last visit. They took cultures and ran tests - all of which came back inconclusive.

I was feeling exposed, embarrassed and downright uncomfortable (emotionally and physically). I called my parents and they quickly made arrangements for me to see a Harvard trained specialist in Westchester NY.

Over the course of my visit home for Thanksgiving, I saw the specialist twice. I gave him an exhaustive medical history (not unlike the one provided here) and he performed an examination and ran several cultures. Though he couldn’t offer me an explanation for why I was suffering so much during this postpartum phase, he did provide a way forward, limiting the number of medicines I was taking and encouraging me to rest.

I spent an extra week up in New Jersey while Hubs traveled back down to Tennessee. I’m not sure rest was something I was able to achieve, but I did start to feel better. I completed two courses each of antibiotics and antiviral medication. Weeks later, I am finally feeling healthy.

I share all of these graphic details with you to let you know that things get really really hard after you have a baby, but no matter what you are facing you are not alone in your suffering. 

So what glimmers of positivity can we take away from my experience? 

First, whenever I started to wallow in the misfortune of my circumstances, I remembered to praise God that it was I who was suffering and not my sweet little boy. 

Next, I humbled myself before my loved ones and asked them for help…a lot of it. Each and every time I asked, these special people stepped up in a big, big way -- especially Hubs, who did more to help me through this difficult time than I can even comprehend at this juncture.

Finally, I broke down and cried a lot; but it was in those deeply honest moments that I knew what it meant to be completely dependent on God. My strength had all but left me and I was completely at his mercy. I have never felt more reliant on Him than I have the last two months, and for that, I am so, so grateful.

So to all you new mamas out there: No matter what you are facing - and I’m certain it is not the same as what I went through but that for you it is equally trying and traumatic - take some solace that you have sisters who are suffering alongside you. Reach out to other new moms and seek advice from veterans. Pray…a lot. And know that this too shall pass.

I will leave you with a few pieces of scripture and some commentary that my beautiful sisters in law (the same two who coached me through labor and delivery) shared with me via email one night when I was at the end of my rope and reached out to them in utter desperation.

“In the moments when you feel like the world is falling apart for you, or Dex, or you both, remember that you have a good God who is looking after you tenderly and lovingly. It reminds me of what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12, with regard to the "thorn in his flesh" that he pleaded with God to take away from him. ... "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.””

“Every new mother has things go wrong, and I literally don't know a single mother who hasn't a) totally lost it for days to weeks (months even) at a time; b) wondered if it wouldn't be better if her child had never been born; and c) struggled with the temptation to hurt her child.

So in the way that you are feeling, you are 100% not alone. You are joined, at the very least, by the three of us and everyone we know :)

Recently, I was feeling really defeated about my parenting and was encouraged by Romans 12:11-12, particularly verse 12. (By the way, lest you be deceived about my Bible reading habits and let that drive you into discouragement about your own, know that it was probably the first time I'd picked up mine in 4 months. Seriously - and I feel like I am doing well postpartum. So.. there's that.)

But anyway, those verses say, "Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." So obviously verse 11 talks about what I want to be like, right? I want to be zealous, fervent, eager to serve. But I'm not, and I don't know how to do that. Well, verse 12 tells me how to start. First, rejoice in hope…At the very, very least, I can always rejoice that there is hope. There is hope for {my kids} to love God yet. There is hope for me to parent them well. There is hope that even if the very worst happens, one day, every tear will be wiped away, and everything will be made new. Because God has not abandoned us, there is always, always hope. Amen, right? So we can rejoice in that alone when nothing else seems worth rejoicing in. This is guaranteed to pass, and it is guaranteed that God is using this to conform us to his image. And then the next part, to be patient in tribulation. If I can rejoice in hope, I can be patient through tribulation, right? I can just rest, just get through the day without fretting. God is in control, and he is trustworthy. I just have to be faithful and do the best I can with what I know. And how does all of that happen? The next part - be constant in prayer. And usually that prayer is a metaphorical falling down and just crying at the feet of Jesus. That's okay. Whatever we're doing, let's do it in God's throne room, where we are always welcome. So if we are breaking down, that's great, and we can approach his throne with confidence. He is pleased when we do that. And there is no reason to cry all by ourselves when the God of the universe has literally given us his Spirit to dwell in us and called him our Comforter.”

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Declan's Birth Story

It has been nearly six weeks since our sweet son entered the world, but when I look at his precious face, that miraculous moment seems like only yesterday. (There’s also something about having a newborn that makes the first few weeks feel like one really long day).

For as long as I can remember, I have known I’ve wanted to be a mother, but it wasn’t until I saw my son for the first time that I truly knew what that meant. This is the story of that day.

In the weeks leading up to my delivery, my health took a slightly scary turn for the worse. In early September, following a long weekend in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I went to a check up. They told me that my blood pressure was up slightly and they wanted to keep an eye on it. A week later, I was 35 weeks along, I went back again and the BP was further elevated. The doctors were concerned that my condition could develop into pre-eclampsia. They decided to place me on modified bed rest, which meant leaving work several weeks before I had intended to start my maternity leave and trying my best to simply relax at home (which is clearly not my best thing). They told us to prepare ourselves that our son might need to be delivered, as early as the following week and to fully expect that no matter when he was born, my labor would likely need to be induced.

We spent the weekend making the necessary arrangements to welcome a baby into our home. We returned to the doctor’s office on Monday. My pressure remained high but no other signs of pre-eclampsia had yet emerged and the baby seemed to be stable. They decided to give our little guy more time inside the womb to develop and began monitoring me twice per week with ultrasounds and non-stress tests. Each time we went to the doctor, we put our suitcases in the car and prepared to be taken over to triage and each time, we were sent home to “bake” a little longer.

Miraculously, we were able to hold off induction for another four weeks without any other pre-eclampsia symptoms developing! We were even cleared to make a trip to Syracuse, NY to be in the wedding of our best friends! Though my blood pressure remained high and I was retaining fluid at a somewhat alarming rate, I was happy to give our boy more time to develop.

We were finally at 38 weeks and a few days. After reviewing my condition and his, Hubs and I, together with our doctors, decided that it was time to deliver. We made arrangements to induce at exactly 39 weeks on Wednesday, October 9th – on the anniversary of our first date five years ago.

On the morning of the induction, Hubs and I woke up around 3:30 am. We were scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 5:00 and so we took our time getting ready and enjoying a hearty breakfast together. It was a special moment that we’ll always remember.

We arrived at the hospital right on time and were able to secure the largest labor and delivery room on the floor. We checked in and got situated. Shortly thereafter, the nurses began setting up my IV – it took them no less than six (count ‘em) tries before they finally got a vein that worked (ouch!). They started pitocin and fluids and I was able to shut my eyes for a few minutes.

I started feeling contractions but things were getting off to a slow start. My amazing sister-in-law who had come into town (with her three young children) specifically to coach me through labor, arrived at the hospital a few hours later. She encouraged me to get up and get moving (we even had a short dance party)! Contractions started to pick up in consistency and strength but were still manageable. Around noon, my doctor came in and broke my water. At that time she placed an internal monitor to better observe my contractions.

From then on, contractions began to pick up steadily. Throughout the process, I had the best team of coaches I could have imagined surrounding me – my husband, my mother, my sister-in-law and her sister. I was aiming to have a natural delivery without the aid of pain medications and so needed every ounce of their support.

As each wave of a contraction rolled in, they seamlessly took on specific roles helping me to relax my entire body from my face down through my legs. They helped me remember to breathe and let the contractions completely take over my body. In some ways, it felt like a perfectly choreographed dance and they were all partnering me through it.

At one point, the baby’s heart rate decelerated for about four minutes. In order to accurately keep track of the baby’s heartbeat, the nurses asked me to stay close to or in my bed, limiting my ability to labor in different positions.

As the afternoon wore on, contractions continued to come at me every few minutes and were lasting for about 30-60 seconds. I had little sense of time passing and in between contractions tried to completely relax my body, almost to the point of sleeping for short stints. We kept the room dim and quiet with the blinds drawn, and I remember completely giving my body over to the pain. The nurses came and went regularly, monitoring my vitals and adjusting my pitocin levels in order to let the labor progress as naturally as possible.

Around 8:00 pm the intensity picked up further and I entered transition – the last phase of labor before you begin pushing. My body was wracked with each wave to the point of nausea. I got sick several times and felt relief rush through me just as the next wave rolled in. Hubs later told me that I had four “off the charts” contractions in a row and then immediately on their heels a less intense but incredibly long one that pushed me over the edge.

It was then that the doctor came in to check my progress. Despite exhibiting clear signs of transition, I was still only about 6 cm or so dilated and about 70-80% effaced. There was scar tissue present that was keeping me from progressing further.  I nearly fell apart when I heard this news. All the while, the contractions kept coming.

I asked everyone to step out of the room and turned to my husband to discuss whether we should introduce pain medication to the equation. We were both dedicated to a natural delivery, but we knew that the scar tissue complication had stalled some of my progress. We decided to proceed in increments and asked for the doctor to push IV pain medication in hopes that it would take the edge off and help me relax enough to continuing dilating. After what seemed like ages I was still feeling every ounce of pain and was losing my ability to systematically relax through the contractions. I asked when the meds would kick in and was told they should have done so a while ago. I was also told that when your body is in transition already, IV pain meds are less likely to be effective.

It was at this point, exhausted and overwhelmed, that we decided to place an epidural. It took a long time for the anesthesiologist to arrive and get set up. I was still contracting regularly and was now without the many hands of support that could help me cope with the pain as they had cleared the room. I was asked to sit up with my legs over the side of the bed resting on Hubs’ knees. I had nothing to brace myself against as two strong contractions came on. Then, I hunched my back to make room in my spine and with every ounce of control I could muster stayed completely still through another contraction while the doctor was injecting the needle. I was focused, Hubs was scared for me.

They were able to place the epidural successfully and I asked them to keep the dosage low. After a short while, I could still feel the contractions but they were far less painful. I was able to rest and regain some strength.

About an hour after the epidural was placed, my doctor returned and checked me again. I was thrilled when she exclaimed “you’re complete!” (Meaning I was fully dilated and effaced). It was then I knew that getting the epidural when I did was the right decision. It helped me relax my muscles, and once the scar tissue was cleared, I was able to progress quickly.

I labored down, sitting upright in bed for another 45 minutes or so, to let the baby drop a little further. They told me to let them know when I started feeling pressure and the urge to push. It was around 10:00 pm that the nurse predicted the baby would be born after midnight.

Somewhere around 10:40 or so I started to feel the pressure they had described and called for the nurse. She checked me and said that we were going to practice some pushing but warned that it could still be a while since I was a first time mom and had never pushed before.

We started with a few practice pushes. The nurse expertly guided and coached me through the process and told me I was doing great, especially for having never done this before! At 11:00 she excitedly proclaimed, “he’s right there – we’re going to start pushing for real!”

I started pushing with every contraction, giving it everything I had. I’m certain it was sheer determination for him to be born on the 9th that helped me keep up the strength I needed.

Sure enough, at 11:30 pm the nurse was shocked that she could see his head and called for the doctor. In an instant, the room was swarmed with a team of medical professionals. While they were setting up, I felt another contraction coming on and asked if I should push again. They told me to wait (and I’m so glad they did). Moments later, another contraction came on and the doctor told me to push. With that one push, I felt the sensation of his head coming out then, immediately after, his shoulders and his tiny body.

It was without question the most bizarre feeling and one I’ll never forget.

When I opened my eyes, I saw his tiny body being held in the air as he was thrust into my arms. I heard the beautiful sound of him crying and I looked down to see the most breathtaking face I have ever laid eyes on.

Words will forever fall short in describing how I felt that moment. A combination of overwhelming love, relief and simple, raw emotion came over me. I was in tears.

It felt as though I stared at him forever and yet, I’m sure it was only seconds. I looked up at my husband and again was floored by the beauty before me. He was crying and looking down at our son so lovingly I thought my heart would burst from my chest.

Though we had been fairly certain of his name, it wasn’t until we saw his sweet face that we were sure he was in fact Declan Mitchell Bassett. I always thought it was strange when couples told me that they couldn’t decide the name of their child until they were delivered, but in that moment, I knew just what they meant.

A while later, they took him to be measured and weighed. He was a peanut! 6 lbs. 2 oz. and 18.5 inches long. His glucose levels were a little low, so we knew we had our work cut out for us for the next few hours to feed him enough to get his blood sugar levels stabilized.

The hours that followed were an exhausting blur…in fact, in some ways, the last six weeks have been. But every moment has been a learning experience.

I am so grateful for the experience I had bringing Declan into the world. The ability to trust my body to do what it needed to was empowering. I will be forever changed by it.

I am beyond blessed for the support I had in the delivery room – I never could have done it without them.

And I am overjoyed to be a mother - exhausted and frustrated at times, but overjoyed.

It is true what they say about how all the positive things about being a parent manage to completely erase all of the struggles. I experience that every day. I can fall asleep frustrated and defeated after a rough feeding, and hours later, wake him up and just fall completely in love all over again.

I am privileged to be Declan’s mom and so look forward to what this exciting journey of raising a child brings our way.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Over the last few years, a discussion has emerged about women "having it all". Anne-Marie Slaughter took a courageous stand on the issue in The Atlantic last summer, President of Barnard College (my alma mater), Debora Spar, answered with her own commentary a few months later. Sheryl Sandberg published her perspective on women in leadership roles in her book Lean In this spring, and most recently, TIME Magazine published a cover story about having it all through "The Childfree Life". 

I am certainly not naive enough to believe that this discussion is in any way new. In fact, since the dawn of time, we have struggled to define the role of women in society. However, I can't help but read all of these pieces and filter this conversation through the lens of a woman's desire to feel fulfilled.

Regardless of our stage in life, each of us desires to be fulfilled. We strive to accomplish this goal in any number of ways. We fill our stomachs with food, our closets with clothes and shoes, our homes with stuff, our heads with knowledge, our resumes with accomplishments, our beds with men, and our wombs with babies. 

The struggle is universal, but often the manifestation is unique.

As I prepare to take my first steps into my new role as a mother, I am confronted with what it means for me to be fulfilled.

My personality is such that I work hard, I am competitive and I seek recognition for my efforts.  I excelled in the classroom because I was driven by the goal of consistently getting great grades. I competed in dance with the ambition to hold a trophy over my head. I go above and beyond at work with the hope of saving the occasional email of congratulations with all “the right people” copied on it.  But in motherhood, there are no awards, no bosses to cc and no promotions to earn. I will have to learn a new way of benchmarking myself altogether.

Honestly, that scares me.

I’ve witnessed mothers who mark their successes by their children’s achievements. I am embarrassed to admit it, but if not watched carefully, mine is a personality that can easily take that opportunity and run with it.

I have also witnessed mothers who humbly step into this role without the expectation of recognition and with no desire for competition. These women recognize that no amount of mothering will establish their self worth, but rather, their being a child of God is the only thing that can define them. That is the kind of mother I want to be. That is the kind of faith I want to portray for my children.

I used to focus so heavily on the idea that I want my children to be proud of me, to think I am impressive. But as the day grows nearer that my son will enter this world, more than anything, I want him to see my faith and obedience to Christ as something to emulate and find for himself.

I may never stop trying to have a closet full of nice shoes and clothes, but I can wake every day comforted by the knowledge that the only thing in this world that can fill the empty places in my heart are my God. We were created to dwell in Him and allow Him to dwell in us. That is the kind of fulfilled I am striving to be.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No one said we were being graded!

Something they failed to mention in our "pre-conception" meeting with the doctor was that pregnancy is like a standardized test. Not just any standardized test - not the SAT where you have the freedom to go back and rethink answers you are unsure of or complete questions you may have skipped. No. It's like the GMAT - a computerized adaptive test with an iterative algorithm that adapts its level of difficulty as you progress. Said another way, pregnancy is a test during which you never quite know how you are doing, you have no ability to go back to earlier questions and the target feels like it just keeps moving! And on top of that, it's a test you didn't even know you were taking, let alone being graded on!

I'm not sure if other pregnant women feel this way, but I have definitely experienced an extreme level of self doubt as I've navigated this exam. I think that level of uncertainty comes from the sheer volume of information (solicited and unsolicited) being thrown your way from the moment you say "we're thinking of starting a family."

While you are trying to conceive, your age is called into question....
Too young - you need to focus on your career, paying off your loans, your husband, etc. 
Too old - you should have thought about this years ago, it's going to be so hard for you now.

Your methods are challenged...
You should be charting from the start
No, just relax and don't even think about charting 
You can definitely keep drinking until you get the positive test
Stop drinking cold turkey a year in advance

Once you get that positive test back and eventually feel brave enough to announce the good news, then the fun really sets in!
Are you experiencing symptoms? Are they "the right" symptoms? Are their enough symptoms?
Are you still working out? You should really slow down!
Have you gained too much weight? (this one stays with you for the whole 9 months)
Have you lost too much weight?
Are you showing yet? Are you showing too early?
Are you eating organic? Are you still eating sushi? cold cuts? soft cheese?
You can have a sip of wine! You can't have any wine!
Did you pass or fail your glucose test?
Are your feet too puffy? your hands too puffy? your face too puffy?
How is she carrying? Are you "all belly"? or are you kind of all over the place?
Are you going to breastfeed?
Are you going to have an epidural? What will you do if you have to have a C-section? 
Will you use a midwife? Which hospital are you delivering at?
Are you taking a birthing class? What method? Are you doing Bradley?
Are you going to keep working after the baby is born?

And the list of questions...most of which are really poorly disguised judgments...goes on and on and on. It boggles the mind!

At some point, you look in the mirror at a face you barely recognize because you can't quite see your cheekbones anymore, and wonder - at the end of all this, what will my grade be?

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Swift Kick in the.....Belly!

It has been a very eventful few weeks!

First and foremost, on Saturday, June 29th at 12:12 am, we welcomed my niece, Catherine Elizabeth McLean, into the world. She weighed in at 9 lbs. 9 oz. and was 20.5 in.

I had the extreme pleasure of visiting her this weekend and meeting her on the very day she was born. I also got to spend a considerable amount of time with my sister-in-law as she recovered in the hospital. The entire experience was joyful, emotional and eye-opening.

Baby Cate, as we call her, is heart-meltingly precious.  I. am. in. love.

From her tiny toes to her round, hair-covered head - she is perfect and I adore her. I found myself just staring at her and inspecting her whole little body. I held her a lot and rocked her to sleep when she was fussing. I stroked the bottom of her little wrinkled feet and teared up at the thought of just how excited I am to be holding my own little boy in my arms in only a few short months.

I also learned a great deal about the not-so-glamorous recovery process for mom. My hat goes off to all of the women around the world who have experienced the pains of child birth. You're amazing! As a spectator this weekend, I was able to start mentally preparing myself a bit more about what to expect when it is my turn this fall.

Over the last few weeks, I have also had the chance to get to know my Little Man a bit more. His soccer player kicks have gotten stronger and more frequent. I've come to understand what I'm doing, eating (or more truthfully, not doing) that gets him moving. At the end of a long, hectic work day, as soon as I put my feet up on the couch, this little one starts his calisthenics. I fall asleep at night feeling his movements and wake up to them in the morning as well. I like to think of it as our special time together.

Hubs even got to feel him! We were on the couch and I could feel him starting to get going. I grabbed Hubs' hand and placed it squarely in the lower center of my belly and just then, his palm was greeted with a good strong kick! It was overwhelming to see my husband's face when he felt his son for the first time.

His movements and kicks are strong reminders of the privilege I have to be carrying a life inside me. I can't understand how anyone can experience this without feeling completely humbled. I am very fortunate and completely aware of how important and special this responsibility is.

This weekend, also solidified how ready I am to welcome this little one to the world. While I'll gladly wait for him to arrive perfectly baked this October, it feels good to have transitioned from a place of anxious nervousness to a place of certain anticipation.

I am going to be a mother. I am thrilled about it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bump Shots: A Photographic Tour of the Growing Baby Belly

For the first few months of my pregnancy, I was so exhausted that the idea of being photographed didn't even cross my mind. In retrospect, I'm part regretful and part grateful for the lapse, because I can't imagine how those photos would have turned out, given the state of my existence then.

But sometime early in my second trimester (16 weeks, to be exact) I realized I wanted to keep track of this pregnancy in some way. I started writing this blog again and even got on a weekly schedule of taking "bump shots" on Wednesday mornings.

Since then, Wednesday has officially been renamed "Bump Day" (as opposed to the more commonly used "Hump Day"), because it is the day that marks that another week has passed and we are one week closer to our little one's arrival.

If I'm being honest, I'm super jealous of some of the more expert bloggers I know, such as the beautiful author and expectant mother responsible for Our Love Nest . However, I've taken some lessons from her and others on the importance of tracking the progress of this experience through photos - even if they are only taken with my iPhone.

So here they are...baby bump shots from the first half of my pregnancy (starting at week 16)! Enjoy!

16 Weeks:

17 weeks (with a head cold):

 18 Weeks:

19 Weeks:

20 Weeks (photo credits: Hubs):

21 Weeks:

Stay tuned for more as the weeks go on!