Is it time for sleep training?

3 months oldThe baby turned THREE MONTHS OLD today. He is enormous (15 lbs., judging by the weigh-yourself, weigh-yourself-with-the-baby method, as he doesn’t have another doctor’s appointment for another month) and is laughing out loud and doing all sorts of crazy big-kid things.

Now that we’ve hit this milestone, I’m starting to consider whether it’s time I took a more considered approach to his sleep habits.

As I mentioned before (don’t kill me, Internet or pediatricians), he’s been sleeping in our bed since he was about a week old, as it was the only way I could get any sleep, and I tend to drop him and nearly burn the house down with less frequency when I’ve had some rest. (Seriously, don’t kill me, Internet. I don’t drop my baby and I haven’t nearly caused a house fire in many years.)

Because we knew this whole moving house thing was approaching and we honestly just couldn’t think about trying to handle more than one major transition at a time, we decided to hold off on moving him to his own crib until after we’re settled in the new house. In the meantime, Kickpuncher (current most applicable nickname) will snooze at my side at night.

In the meantime, contractors have been coming and going, I’ve had to leave the house at unpredictable hours for house showings and inspections, we’ve had out-of-town visitors and I just don’t have any sort of routine in place for my day… and that includes naps.

I can tell when he gets tired, and that’s when he goes down for a nap (after a few minutes of  nursing, rocking with a pacifier, and lately very off-key lullabies). No tracking, no consistency. I have tried to start putting him down in his crib for more naps (otherwise he’s sleeping in his bouncer), but unless he is strapped into the baby carrier on my chest, his naps are usually no longer than about a half hour, 40 minutes. Every chart I’ve come across says babies should be sleeping far longer than that at a stretch at his age. And as much as I love carrying him around, it does make folding laundry tricky, and did I mention he is ENORMOUS?

So today marks the first day I am revisiting my obsessively thorough baby tracker (used the first month to track nursing and diapers) to at least start to see if there’s a pattern to his naps and try to establish a routine while I research sleep training.

Well, that’s it for today… as it has been 42 minutes (woo?) and the baby is stirring from his second nap.

Anyone have any advice for helping babies get their nap on? Any advice for the (eventual) transition from co-sleeping? I don’t think I can handle cry-it-out unless nothing else works, so let me know what else I should consider.

Is it time for sleep training?

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Tomato bean soup & grilled sandwiches

weeknight meal for new moms: tomato soup and sandwichesHere’s another dinner idea for new moms (and dads) to get you through those times when you’re too tired to remember that  dirty dishes belong in the dishwasher and milk goes in the fridge, let alone how to cook your once-favorite meals.

Today’s meal is a classic combo infused with some extra protein and fiber thanks to a secret ingredient: beans.

White bean and tomato soup with grilled sandwiches

This soup makes a great quick weeknight dinner with leftovers for lunches.


For the soup

  • Tomatoes: I used a gallon freezer bag full of tomatoes I had blanched and frozen over the summer. You can also use a couple cans of whole tomatoes. Seed them if you feel like it.
  • One medium onion, chopped
  • A carrot or two if you have them around
  • A few cloves of garlic, smashed
  • A can of navy beans
  • A bay leaf or two
  • Dried oregano or marjoram, or basil (fresh or dried) to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • A stick blender or regular blender or bullet blender (you do need one of these or you’re going to have weird, stringy soup from the tomatoes.)

For the sandwiches

  • Bread of your choice (we always have whole wheat in the house, so I used that, but something like Italian or English muffin bread is also killer for a grilled cheese. Heck, use hotdog buns if that’s all you have.)
  • Cheese and, if desired, meat of your choice. (Here are some good combos: cheddar and ham, Monterey jack and bacon, the last of the string cheese in the fridge drawer and nothing)
  • Butter and a cast iron skillet


To make the soup:

  1. Thaw the tomatoes if you happen to have frozen tomatoes. If not, skip to step two.
  2. Heat some oil in your soup pot and sweat (in this order) the carrots (will take the longest), the onions and the garlic (add last after everything else is pretty translucent so you don’t burn it.) You can also add dried spices at this point if you like.
  3. Add the tomatoes. I used all the juice that drained from the frozen ones and that basically was my broth. If you’re using canned tomatoes and are worried about how much salt is in their juice, you could probably drain them and add chicken or vegetable broth. I did not use broth for mine, but I know not everyone has frozen tomatoes.
  4. Let the tomatoes cook down for awhile (15-20 minutes? Time is weird when you’re home with a baby), using a wooden spoon to stir smash them up a bit.
  5. Once the tomatoes are good and soft and it’s starting to smell like tomato soup in your house, add the (drained) can of navy beans. Simmer another 10 minutes or so.
  6. Fish out the bay leaves if you put any in, turn off the heat (*danger: use caution, allow the soup to cool or have someone else do this if you’re baby wearing) and blend the soup up with your blender of choice. Return to the pot and salt and pepper to taste.

To make the sandwiches:

  1. Slice or shred your cheese (shredding=quicker melt, more even coverage, but do what you want) and lay out your ingredients for your sandwich
  2. Turn your cast iron skillet on medium-low heat.
  3. When the pan is warm (but not too hot, we’re cooking with butter) add a pat of butter to the pan (can cut it with vegetable oil if you want) and add two pieces of bread. When they have browned, flip them over and quickly add cheese to both pieces of toasted bread so it melts.
  4. Add meat to one piece of bread, and once the cheese on the other piece of bread has melted enough that it won’t fall off, top the meat with it.
  5. Finish browning the outside of your sandwich. Remove from heat and turn off the stove, you sleep deprived fools!
  6. I like to cut my sandwich into quarters so I can dunk into my soup.

Here are some glamour shots I took from my  next-day leftovers. Delicious!

cast iron grilled ham and cheese

tomato and white bean soup

soup and sandwich

P.S. I have made this same soup with, instead of a can of white beans, some leftover hummus I was trying to use up. It was great – try it!

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Tomato bean soup & grilled sandwiches

Hello, baby. Goodbye [lots of stuff]

hello baby, goodbye...Isn’t it crazy how much can change from one day to the next?

It’s hard to compete with having a baby as far as life-changing events go, but it’s interesting how that giant life-changing event seems to generate more.

Today’s post is about some major goodbyes I’m saying in my life. They’re a little bittersweet, but so worth it. They also explain why I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately.

Goodbye, Cleveland.

Yesterday, we got and accepted an offer on our house in Ohio City, a popular neighborhood among young professionals in Cleveland. Much of my maternity leave has been spent finding, hiring and sitting around awkwardly awaiting the finished work of various contractors; obsessively cleaning and clearing out junk; touching up paint and learning how to grout; and trying to subdue full-out panic about selling a house we just bought two years ago.

Selling our house seals the deal that we’ll be moving out to the exurbs (Medina, for my local readers) to live in my grandparents’ house (unfortunately, they’ve had to be moved to a nursing home). Having grown up on this family compound of sorts, across the street from this very house (where my parents still live), I swore I’d never move back.

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about raising kids out in what is nearly the country. Judging by my own experience, there will be no sidewalk strolls to get ice cream (or a beer, in their parents’ case), there will be little to no diversity in school, and it can feel lonely to live several country miles from friends. But my kid (and any future kids) also can grow up catching frogs in the pond and playing flashlight tag at night.

While it’s devastating to see my grandparents fading, and I’m completely overwhelmed by the work it will take to make their house into our home, I don’t for a second take for granted that it is allowing us to make another big change in our lives…

Goodbye, full-time work.

Yesterday was also my last day of maternity leave. Which, I decided about a month ago, I would not be returning from. So today I woke up a stay-at-home-mom.

Well, work-at-home-mom, is the plan. I’ve always been achievement-oriented and truly enjoyed my work, and honestly couldn’t fathom staying at home to raise kids before I had one. I didn’t really understand it when other women made this choice.

But now that I do have a kid, I realize how lucky I am to have this choice at all. Without the opportunity to move out to the family house, financially we wouldn’t have been able to make this work. While either of us would be happy to stay home, The Husband is the higher earner so I have embraced my new role. We’ll still be cutting it close, but it’s worth it for us to make some sacrifices to keep The Baby out of day care until he’s a little older.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up work altogether. I’m planning to do some freelance writing/graphic design/development work to keep my mind sharp, stay engaged with other professionals and bring in some extra income. The long nights and time alone over the past twelve weeks have left me feeling a little less articulate than usual, so I’m looking forward to the creativity and mental stretching that this type of work affords.

I know plenty of moms go back to work (if they’re lucky, it’s after 12 weeks — for so many moms it’s less than that) and feel good about their decision, and I know babies do just fine in a safe, loving daycare environment. I am in no way passing judgment on working moms or staying at home moms or the moms (or, let’s cover all our bases, dads!) who fall somewhere along the spectrum. We’re all working really hard one way or another. The go back, stay home conundrum is fraught with guilt on either side and we should all just be gentle with each other because parenting is as difficult as it is rewarding.

Goodbye, “never.”

Older and wiser people have told me before, “Never say never.” Even just three months into it, I can attest to this being good advice for parents.

Hello, baby laughs!

Apropos of nothing, The Baby also finally full-out giggled while The Dad tickled him yesterday. It’s just about the best sound I’ve ever heard.

So it was a monumental day all around.

Hello, baby. Goodbye [lots of stuff]

Weeknight Meal Wednesday

weeknight meal for new moms: sweet potato, chickpea & avocado quesadillasI’m no gourmet, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking. Of course, this was nearly impossible to do in the first few weeks postpartum. I had done some freezer-stocking in my third trimester, and we were lucky to have friends and family bring meals by (never turn this offer down), and a really good carry-out sandwich shop open around the corner from our house.

It felt good to finally get back to cooking after about six weeks or so. Because I do most of my cooking while baby-wearing or in between feedings, laundry, etc., I’ve had to adapt. For example, most of my cooking has to be done on the stove so I don’t have to reach into a hot oven with the baby on me. Also, after a few years living microwave-free, we conceded we might starve to death without it.

I thought I’d start sharing some of my easy dinner ideas for new moms. (I promise, future ones will have better photos. Actually, I make no promises, but I’ll try.)

My goals are as follows: Easy, relatively healthy (to make up for the fact I eat mostly string cheese and granola bars for breakfast and lunch), and tasty (to make up for the fact I eat mostly string cheese and granola bars for breakfast and lunch.)

sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadilla

Sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadillas

Quesadillas have been my go-to easy dinner since college. Last week, I made sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadillas that took almost no time, were pretty healthy and were really tasty. This barely counts as a recipe, it was so easy, but if you’re not much of an improviser, here you go:

Ingredients (serves 2 very hungry adults with limited portion control)

  • One large sweet potato
  • One can of chickpeas
  • One ripe avocado
  • Lemon or lime juice (you could use fresh if you have your sh*t together; as I do not, I use refrigerated lemon juice out of a squeeze bottle.)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or hot sauce (unless you don’t like spicy)
  • About 1/4 block of Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • Four soft whole grain tortillas
  • Salsa


  1. Microwave the sweet potato until it is fully cooked. Allow it to cool enough that you can peel it.
  2. Drop the peeled sweet potato into a large mixing bowl. Add the can of chick peas (rinsed), 3/4 of the avocado, a few splashes of citrus juice of your choice, cumin, salt, and pepper flakes.
  3. Mash with a potato masher until the chickpeas start to smash up and everything is fairly uniformly spread out, but not complete mush. Leave some texture.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add a little oil. Sprinkle some cheese on a tortilla and then add a few heaping tablespoons of the sweet potato mixture. Fold in half and cook in the skillet until the tortilla is browned and a little crispy on both sides. Repeat with other three tortillas.
  5. Cut with a pizza cutter and serve with salsa and the reserved 1/4 avocado.





Weeknight Meal Wednesday

Around the world in 80 days

the first 80 days of motherhoodMy baby is 80 days old today.

It’s been an incredible journey already.

There are so many things I want to remember about this time that are difficult to preserve, even to describe about his mannerisms and personality. I feel such delicious joy when he runs his bare foot up and down my forearm while he nurses, or when he squeals with delight when I make faces at him, or when he mutters a little “hoooo!” in his sleep, the way he did just now, as though he just accomplished some very tiny but physically demanding achievement.

Each day is a little bittersweet because I know it’s the only day I’ll ever have with him exactly as he is. As exciting as it is to see him hold his head up, or cautiously reach out to pet the cat for the first time, or start to sprout a tooth, each of these is one more sign that he’s growing before my very eyes at a rate my heart can’t keep up with. Add this ache to the many, many things I didn’t understand about parenthood before I became a mom.

When I was pregnant, I expected motherhood to feel like being dropped into a new life. But even white-knuckling my way through the first few weeks, I never felt the identity crisis. I am still myself, and motherhood has given me newfound confidence to accept my whole self, from my mediocre housekeeping skills and my postpartum pudge to my ability to be both extremely laid back and really driven toward particular goals. Instead of feeling as though I’m occupying a stranger’s skin, I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin.

Motherhood has given me a clarity of purpose even as I work harder, sleep less and improvise more than I ever have.

While it is both delightful and devastating to watch my baby utterly transform every day, I must acknowledge that he isn’t the only one.


Around the world in 80 days

Not Pictured: My #antisocial baby



My baby is so freaking beautiful it is almost painful to resist the urge to post the dozens of photos I take of him every week to social media. And I don’t blame parents who give into this urge to share the smiles and milestones of their progeny with the world — parental pride is one of the strongest feelings I’ve encountered, and I enjoy seeing my friends’ kids growing up online. It’s just not for me.

Here’s the reasoning, for what it’s worth, behind my decision to keep The Baby’s identity offline:

  1. I want him to enjoy the privacy I had growing up before the advent of the Internet. I know some of the stories my mom thinks are cute from my childhood would have absolutely mortified me in my emotionally fragile adolescent years. And there really isn’t an age where I’d be OK with photos or stories about my potty training days being accessible by strangers or friends. It’s easier for me to put a blanket ban on all identifiable details about my baby rather than make a decision each and every time I think to post something about whether it might embarrass him someday. I think he should have the final say (when he is mature enough and capable of making the decision) in how he presents himself to the world.
  2. The Internet can be a dangerous place. My line of work (and habit of occasionally watching the news, it’s not like this is a big secret) has exposed me to the horrors of online predators. While I know it’s going to be tough eventually teaching my kids how to stay safe online, in the meantime I feel safer knowing nobody can snatch up photos of my baby for whatever purposes.
  3. I’m creeped out by facial recognition technology such as Facebook’s. I’m not even on Facebook presently (more out of boredom than anything else), but I am aware of the fact that I am a commodity to marketers when I am on Facebook, and am not interested in having my kid become one, too.

Yes, as this is a mom blog, it follows logically that I’ll talk about my baby. But I won’t name names, and you won’t see more than the bottoms of his feet or the back of his head (his beautiful, if balding, head).

Fortunately, there are resources for people like me who want to share photos with a select few, like Tiny Beans and 23Snaps. I’ve been using Tiny Beans and I really like it, and a friend of mine uses 23Snaps, and it’s fun to get updates.

Are there any other websites/apps you like to use to privately share family photos? Let me know!

Not Pictured: My #antisocial baby

10 reasons to walk during pregnancy

A quick Wednesday post to keep up momentum because things are getting CRAZY in TLMB house. (Here’s one thing they don’t tell you to do during maternity leave: Try to sell your house and move.)

Here’s the best piece of pregnancy advice I can give you if you want to possibly promote an easier labor. (I say this knowing that I am in now way a health or pregnancy expert, but my OB said this habit contributed to my 12-hour start-to-finish first time labor.)

Walk. A lot.

Having grown up in a sidewalk-free exurb, basically on a country road, I have always had a yearning to be able to walk to wherever I want to go. In ninth grade I walked home from my high school (several miles down that high-speed country road, much to my parents’ fury), in college during a particularly bad breakup I would walk until I got lost and then find my way back, and in 2013 when I started working in downtown Cleveland and simultaneously moved to the Ohio City neighborhood, I opted to hoof it the two miles to work and the two miles back most days.

The walk was like a daily meditation for me. I didn’t have to deal with traffic, I got to feel the sun on my face and before I *ran my Fitbit through the washer & dryer it confirmed I was clocking 13,000 steps a day.

[*Not recommended]

10 reasons to walk during pregnancySo when I got pregnant, I didn’t abandon this habit. Sure, I slowed down a little and  took my coworkers up on their increasingly insistent offers to take me home at the end of the day more often as I got  closer to my due date. But for the most part I waddled my ever-expanding body over the Detroit-Superior bridge each morning, listening to the gulls and watching the skyscrapers come into view. It was peaceful and invigorating and it was good for heart and soul.

I walked to work and back two days before I went into labor, and I even took the dog for a really long walk in a fit of nervous energy the day before I went into labor.

I have a runner friend who is planning to run a 5k when she’s 35 weeks pregnant. I used to go to spinning classes where seemingly all the instructors were pregnant and not only kicking ass on their bikes but able to yell instructions to us at the same time. I tried running once or twice early on in pregnancy, but the jiggling was too much for my bladder. But I can tell you with some degree of confidence that you don’t have to do Crossfit or train for a marathon while you’re expecting. Just put your shoes on and take a good long walk every day.

While I really believe this daily exercise contributed to my quick and fairly easy labor, I cannot guarantee the same for you. But even if I can’t, here are 10 good reasons to lace up your walking shoes (even as you strain to reach your toes toward the end):

  1. Walking time is great mulling time, and there’s plenty to mull over during pregnancy. Baby names, whether or not to find out the baby’s sex, how you’re going to announce the news, etc. If you’re stressing over a decision, think about it on a walk.
  2. It can keep your relationship with your dog strong. As you know, I have a dear dog (her name is Louise) and walking with her each day was sweet confirmation that even though everything in my life was about to turn upside down, I still had a furry sidekick who will see me through it. It was sweet to see her become more gentle with me as I got bigger and less agile.
  3. Walking is a great time to binge-listen to podcasts. (Someday in the near future, I’ll post my pregnancy podcast recommendations — stay tuned.) Safety alert, though: Always keep one ear free to listen to your surroundings. I don’t want to be responsible for you getting hit by a car or kidnapped.
  4. Fresh air can do wonders for nausea. I was fortunate to have mild morning sickness (more food aversions than anything) so I’m not going to say that getting outside will cure your barfs, but in my experience getting out of the house and getting the wind in my face (except on garbage day) certainly made me feel better.
  5. You’re going to be exhausted either way. At least you can feel like you earned it. Listen, I hear you. Especially during the first trimester, pregnancy is exhausting. My average bedtime was 7:30 p.m. until I hit about 17 weeks. I couldn’t have imagined trying to maintain a workout routine involving heavy breathing for long periods of time. But walking is doable. And I promise, you’ll feel better falling into bed on the days you took a walk.
  6. Thinking about murdering your partner? Are you crying for no reason? Walk those feelings out. Pregnancy hormones can make you crazy. Walk out your feelings, and when you’re done, you can eat your feelings with less guilt.
  7. Feel confident about your changing body. The steady weight gain during pregnancy, while perfectly healthy and important to supporting your growing baby, can be weird and unnerving. Staying active can reassure you that you’re occupying a strong, capable body that not only can handle the increasing load but also will be there for you when it’s go-time.
  8. All that activity can be soothing for the baby. I found that sitting still later on meant all sorts of rib-tingling gymnastics from my baby-to-be, but a good long walk lulled him to sleep. Fair warning, though: That need for constant motion to go to sleep can follow him out of the womb. He spends at least one nap a day strapped into a baby carrier refusing to let me sit down.
  9. Walking is an easy date. The Husband and I have maintained a once-a-week date night since we moved in together. Usually this just means dinner and a few drinks and catching up on our lives. Let me tell you, dinner gets a lot shorter when you’re not drinking and are fantasizing about going to sleep. A nice long weekend walk (especially if your destination is ice cream) is a good way to catch up on each other’s lives and stay bonded during this time.
  10. You can buy new shoes guilt-free. The threat of swelling and/or growing feet keeps many pregnant women from investing in new shoes of any sort (unless their feet have already expanded and nothing fits.) But you need a good pair of walking shoes, so go ahead and buy them.

There you have it. Get your shoes on. Now I’ve got to get back to packing up the kitchen and trying to deal with the fact my 11-week-old is probably teething. (?!?)


10 reasons to walk during pregnancy

Santa Baby, Part 3: Hurry down the chimney

This is the final part of my three-part birth story. Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.

Last I left you, I had just yelled something about my digestive system I haven’t uttered aloud since preschool with what I think was probably a lot of volume in a room full of strangers and the man who at some point in the recent past I had convinced to make a baby with me.

But so is the beauty of childbirth.

Anyway, Dr. Not-my-doctor-but-fine-anyway posted up with his catcher’s mitt as the urge to push descended on me. It wasn’t quite as strong or as much of a relief as I had read it could be. The contractions still hurt like a mother and I didn’t really feel like anything was coming out. It just HURT. So much so that my bovine moans turned into panicked, I’m-being-chased-by-an-axe-wielding-maniac screams. This is where my doula Rachel came in sooooo clutch. I think The Husband was holding my hand or one of my knees or something but probably also trying not to panic/pass out (as I surely would have been, in his situation), and while he was a hell of a support, neither of us knew what to do at this point. Rachel got in my face and kindly but very firmly told me I COULD NOT scream like that, that I was wasting my energy and not helping the baby out at all. She talked me off this ledge and I got back to the business of pushing for real.

The doctor and nurses started making excited-sounding comments, letting us know our baby had a full head of hair (as I fully suspected, having myself come into the world with what looked like an adult’s wig.) I think someone encouraged me to reach down and feel the baby’s head, and I tried to but I don’t remember it very clearly.

The pain was still incredibly intense and I was ready to get the baby out. I remember a thudding headache like when you’re trying to blow up a balloon that won’t expand but maybe multiply that by a few million. I tried to curve my body in a C position as I grabbed onto my leg. I remember it being difficult to push all the way through a contraction; I kept wanting breaks to breathe.

In a little more than a half hour from the time I started to push, I felt the weirdest sensation as the baby slid out. I opened my eyes wide for the first time in hours as the doctor lifted him to place him on my chest. I remember seeing his scrotum and being truly surprised it was a boy, having been sure it was a girl throughout my pregnancy.

IMG_23991The Baby was born at 3:36 p.m. on Christmas Day. He was placed on my chest and he cried. The Husband was gazing at him over my shoulder and I saw a tear fall on his cheek. I want to say I also cried tears of joy but I was so exhausted and relieved to be done with pushing that the happiness and the weight of motherhood hadn’t settled in me yet.

Trigger warning, this is where things get a little graphic (not too bad, but again – babies come out of human bodies), so scroll at your own risk.

The Baby’s umbilical cord was so short I think his exit basically pulled the placenta out right behind him. I remember the cord being stretched taut from where he lay on my chest to the place he just emerged from and telling the doctor it was hurting. I don’t remember pushing, but I do remember a huge gushing feeling right after. I dumbly asked the doctor, “Whoa, was that amniotic fluid?” The look on his face as he prepared a measured response so as not to alarm me made me realize that no, silly, it was about a gallon of blood.

The nursing team/cleaning crew got to work while the doctor placed a few painful but necessary stitches.

Really, though, all this was not a huge deal. I lost “on the high side of normal” amount of blood, so they started pumping me full of Pitocin to stimulate more uterine contractions.

The Dad cut the umbilical cord and got a good look at the placenta, which our childbirth instructor strongly encouraged dads to do, “because it’s so gross and so cool.”

We had narrowed our list of potential boy names down to two, and I let The Dad pick. The Baby was nursing within a half hour of delivery and kept at it for a full hour until we finally had to unlatch him to get his vitals.

The Dad, me, our Santa-hatted baby and our doula, Rachel.

In her final act of kindness and extreme helpfulness before she left, our doula took me into the bathroom and helped me get a little cleaned up before we made the trek to our recovery room. Someone put a hand-knit Santa hat on the baby. The nurses helped me into a wheelchair and fashioned a don’t-drop-the-baby sheet sling, we took a few photos and were wheeled down the corridor to introduce The Baby to our waiting family members and settle in for recovery.

So that’s it, my Christmas birth story in three parts. I have plenty more to say about the parts leading up to it and the aftermath, but I want to leave you with a few key points:

  1. I was really lucky. Every book and blog and childbirth educator and doctor tells you to go ahead and plan for the birth you want, but to understand that plans can change and you have to be able to adapt and be okay with whatever birth story you end up with. I feel very proud and empowered that I was able to have an unmedicated childbirth, but I am not smug about it. A lot of what happened was luck and circumstance. Fetal distress, or a ruptured placenta, or a spike in blood pressure or an upside-down baby or a long list of other circumstances completely out of my control could have changed how things went down. Hell, five more minutes of that “transition”-y labor and I would have been begging for someone to knock me out by whatever means necessary. My body was strong and I had amazing support and I got the birth I wanted and I don’t take it for granted. If your birth goes differently, it’s not a failure. (But you ARE allowed to mourn if it doesn’t go the way you planned. You are allowed to be happy for a healthy baby and be bummed about a C-section or a wicked tear. Mixed emotions are the right of all mothers and childbirth is hard work no matter how it shakes out.)
  2. I had an amazing team. My husband was great, from his successfully convincing me to go to the hospital when I was in complete denial, to his words of encouragement and his instantly protective and comforting approach to fatherhood as he let The Baby hold his finger while he was getting examined. He also was supportive and let me convince him to hire a doula, which was the best few hundred bucks we could have spent. She helped him help me better, kept us both calm, served as our birth historian (I’ve been consulting a stream-of-consciousness email she sent me tracking every event from the time we called her to the time she left the hospital) and checked in on me via text for weeks afterward. If you can afford it, even if you’re planning to get an epidural, I think it’s way worth it. They’re not hippie-dippy nutjobs who will shame you if you get the meds or try to force feed you your encapsulated placenta. They are there to support you in your choices, help you have the birth you want and help you adapt if things don’t go as planned. Learn more about doulas and find a few to interview if you’re thinking about it at DONA International.
  3. Don’t stress eat junk food while you’re in active labor. You will not be thinking, “Damn, I really wish I had grabbed a handful of cookies before we got here,” while on all fours feeling like your bones and organs are jockeying for front row seats to a cage match in your cervix. You just won’t.
Santa Baby, Part 3: Hurry down the chimney

Santa Baby, Part 2: Admitting I’m in labor

This is Part 2 of my three-part birth story. Catch up on Part 1.

We left off with me finally emerging from denial that I was in rapidly progressing labor on Christmas Day and getting into the car to meet the doula, and eventually my baby, at the hospital.

I buckled in for the 10-minute drive, clutching my phone with the contraction timer app and trying to focus on the imagery of waves crashing on the beach as I rode out three more contractions. As we pulled into the parking garage, I begged The Husband to “just fucking park now now nownownownownow” and as soon as he did I flung open the door so I could lean over the hood and not have to sit through another contraction.

As logistics would have it, The Husband’s hands were full of our hospital luggage and I was tasked with carrying in the birthing ball on my shoulder like an absurd parody of Atlas because my belly was in the way. We walked through the hospital doors and the receptionist gasped and clapped her hands together with glee. “A Christmas baby!” She said. I nodded, and a nearby doctor pulled a wheelchair around to help me into. I (hopefully) politely declined and said I’d rather walk, and the receptionist directed us to follow the arrows down a long series of hallways that was vastly different from our hospital tour.

Halfway between the gift shop and the elevators, I dropped to the ground with my front half on the birthing ball and waited out a contraction. A passing food services employee asked if I was all right and I think I said something witty in reply but probably not.

We got up to labor & delivery, and after answering absurd questions like my height and occupation while sitting on the birthing ball well below the receptionist’s line of sight at the desk, I was ushered into a triage room where a kind nurse asked me questions as quickly as she could and handed me two hospital gowns to put on – one facing front and one facing back. She allowed The Husband into the room while I was in the bathroom getting dressed, but first — another contraction! The Husband sounded a little panicky as he asked me if I was okay from the other side of the door, but I emerged in my new outfit and kicked my clothes to him to throw into my bag as a resident entered the room to check my progress.

A quick inspection of my downstairs confirmed it: I was 5 cm dilated. The nurse helped us to our labor room. It was about 12:30 by this time. The nurse had gone to call my doctor and let him know I was being admitted. She started to warn me he may not be able to come in, and we told her we knew it was unlikely he would.

The Husband met our doula Rachel and brought her back, and she immediately began to make herself invaluable, along with the very young but highly capable and enthusiastic nurses who were settling me in. Rachel did some magic with a bedsheet to make a stability-donut of sorts for the birthing ball, and draped another one over the ball itself so I wouldn’t get hospital floor filth on my exposed downstairs.

Let me pause to confirm that everything people tell you about losing any sense of shame/dignity while you’re in labor is 1,000% true. The President of the United States could have been chaperoning a class of fifth graders and a live camera crew to observe my labor and I would still have pulled my gown up like a crazed flasher to let the nurse get a better angle on my monitor belts. They told me a doctor would come by in a few hours to check my progress, congratulated me on my easy-to-read icons only birth plan (thanks, Rachel!), dimmed the lights (I think?) and left us to it.

My body decided I was not interested in sitting or lying on the bed AT ALL. I sat on the exercise ball for awhile and then moved up to leaning over the bed on a peanut ball that Rachel had supplied. She and The Husband started spoon-feeding me ice chips and it occurred to me how hilarious it was that I had been worried I’d get hungry/resent not being able to eat or drink anything at the hospital. As the contractions wore on I started to feel nauseated, a guaranteed side effect of wolfing down a handful of cookies while your contractions are 3 minutes apart.

The nurses kept having to come in and check my monitors, as I was squirming a lot and the one keeping track of baby’s heartbeat kept falling off and making alarms sound. On one of these return trips to reattach my belt, the nurse told me the doctor would be in to check soon. The on-call doctor seemed nice enough and really by this point it could have been the POTUS, a fifth-grader or a cameraman at the foot of the bed because it felt like the baby was on his or her way out and I really just needed someone who could catch. (Not to discount his contribution or the importance of having a qualified medical professional — this was just my state of mind at the time.)

My labor spirit animal, apparently.
Photo: By DjambalawaOwn work, CC BY 3.0

All I really remember from this time when things got really serious was that I felt far better keeping my eyes shut, and I was being louder than I ever though possible. (Imagine someone directing me to imitate a water buffalo, but to really project because I’m in the middle of a football stadium and I need someone in the upper decks to hear me clearly.) I’m sure the laboring moms with epidurals in neighboring rooms were thanking their lucky stars they hadn’t done anything so idiotic as to refuse drugs.

My doula’s notes tell me that it was about 1:35 when I started to enter “transition,” also known as “Reanna’s breaking point.” The contractions seemed to be almost continuous and I remember kneeling on the bed with the back up as high as it could go, me clutching the top and saying things like, “Oh God, I don’t think I can do this,” and thinking things to myself like, “Oh God, I think I am going to have to get an epidural soon.” I remember feeling like I needed to climb away from my body.

A few minutes after that the doctor came in to see how I was moving along. I was gravely certain he was going to tell me I was only 6 or 7 centimeters, and facing the prospect of hours more of this unimaginable pressure and pain. I flipped onto my back onto the bed to try to get this uncomfortable position over as quickly as possible. The doctor examined me and exclaimed with some degree of surprise that I was, “At least 9 centimeters.” He suggested that now might be a good time to break my water, since that hadn’t happened yet. I agreed, and he got to it. I would say more about this but I really don’t remember much. I was just relieved to be close to the end.

I still couldn’t really keep my eyes open and was in the hormone-induced fog that makes unmedicated labor survivable, but The Husband tells me that some scrambling took place in the room as people prepared for delivery. Rachel changed into her scrubs, I think probably some trays of instruments were assembled, and the doctor told me he’d be right back, and that the urge to push felt a lot like the urge to poop, so to let someone know if that feeling came.

I stayed in the bed sort of lying on my side, clutching the bed rails and mentally checking out as much as possible.

In the interest of telling how things really went down, and with apologies to friends, family and future employers who may stumble across this post, it felt like only seconds passed before I called out, “I have to POOP!!!!”

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment: Santa Baby, Part 3: Hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa Baby, Part 2: Admitting I’m in labor

Santa Baby, Part 1: Denial and sugar cookies

Santa Baby

Pull up a chair, kids. Here comes the birth story. (I’m not going to get too graphic, but babies do come out of human bodies, so if you don’t want to hear about mine, skip this series. Also, why are you reading mommy blogs if you don’t want to hear about this stuff?)

My birthday is December 20. So early on when I calculated my due date as New Year’s Eve, I knew I had doomed my unborn child to a birthday that would always be overshadowed to some extent by the hustle and stress of the holiday season.

My OB warned me not to go into labor on Christmas, because he’s a father of four young children and that’s basically the one day of the year he WILL NOT WORK. “It’s basically my Super Bowl,” he explained.

Me at 38 weeksI wanted my OB to help deliver my baby. He had been fantastic throughout my pregnancy, not just reassuring my husband and me about the medical side of things, but also giving us down-to-earth advice about parenthood peppered with just enough expletives, which made him very relatable.

In addition to that,we had hired a great doula, Rachel, to see us through what I hoped would be an intervention-free labor and delivery. And as a neurotically non-confrontational person who hates to inconvenience anyone, even though she assured me that she’d be ready with her go-bag no matter when labor hit, I didn’t want to have to call my doula into service and away from her family on Christmas.

So when I woke up at 3 a.m. on December 25th with one painful, 15-second long twinge, and then another, and then another, I leaned into denial as much as I could.

This is my first baby, I thought to myself. I could be in labor for days before this is over.

Maybe I can at least hold off until late into the night, when all the presents have been unwrapped and my doctor would do anything to get away from the battery-powered mayhem in his house.

I thought about a friend who labored over the course of three days, baking her baby a birthday cake on Monday and finally meeting him on Wednesday.

So I got out of bed, plugged in the Christmas tree and lay on the couch, hitting the timer on my contraction counter app, waiting to see if it was the real thing. While they were only about 20 seconds long and definitely bearable, contractions were coming no less frequently than eight to 10 minutes apart. Not having had much in the way of Braxton-Hicks contractions, I could tell this was probably labor.

At about 5:30 a.m. I went back upstairs and whispered to my husband, “We might meet our baby today.” Ever the sound sleeper, he mumbled an “mmmmm,” rolled over, and went back to sleep. (To his credit, once he processed what I had said, he woke up and came to check on me.)

Having known there was a chance I could go into labor and all hell could break loose in our small house, we had impolitely invited The Husband’s mom and siblings to find Airbnb accommodations nearby if they wanted to spend Christmas with us. We had plans to host them for a late breakfast before their other Christmas plans. Thinking again of my friend baking her baby’s birthday cake and imagining myself eating eggs and gracefully riding through the occasional mild contraction, I insisted around 9 a.m. that they should still come over. I filled up the bathtub and tried to relax, remembering I had read somewhere that a warm bath could slow labor.

I got dressed, and kjmmmmmmmmmmm788888888888888888888u

That above is my cat stomping across the keyboard, but it accurately reflects how things intensified after that. At about 10:30, The Husband decided it was time to call Rachel when he found me lowing like a cow, on all fours on the guest bed. She asked about the timing of my contractions and stayed on the line to listen through one. She affirmed that all signs pointed to real labor, but didn’t sound concerned that I was especially close to delivery. She told us to track contractions for the next hour while she prepared to drive up (she had about an hour’s drive to meet us) and call her if anything changed. The plan was for her to come to our house and then go to the hospital together.

The Husband’s family seemed reluctant to join us for breakfast (probably because they could hear me bellowing in the background when he called them). I kept ridiculously insisting they should come over while The Husband began to grow more and more concerned. I finally conceded that I would not be able to enjoy a plate of scrambled eggs and asked The Husband’s family to at least swing by and pick up their gifts and the gifts for other family they were going to visit.

At about 11:15 they showed up. The Husband went outside… I think to walk the dog one last time? Who knows. Anyway, while he did that, his mom rubbed my stomach while I had a contraction and told me it was probably about time to get to the freaking hospital. The Husband’s sister and brother kept a cautious distance and I felt a little like a feral dog they weren’t sure they could trust. The Husband returned a few minutes later, we said goodbye to his family (with his mother again reminding me to go to the damn hospital), and that was the end of our Christmas celebrations, as they were.

I still had it in my head that this was going to be a long labor, and I dreaded going to the hospital to be told I wasn’t far enough along, or to have labor slow on the drive there, or to beat Rachel to the hospital and not have her there to help us through delivery, so I kept stalling for time while The Husband grew more and more frantic, begging me to let him take me to the hospital.

But by the 11:45, The Husband pointed out that my contractions were consistently about 3 minutes apart and a good minute long, I had to concede that this was really happening. I told him to give me three more contractions and I’d go.

Because I am a nervous eater, I foolishly wolfed down a few sugar cookies I’d made the day before while The Husband threw our hospital bags and birthing ball in the car and called Rachel to tell her we were meeting at the hospital.

Click to read Santa Baby, Part 2: Admitting I’m in labor

Click to read Santa Baby, Part 3: Hurry down the chimney

Santa Baby, Part 1: Denial and sugar cookies