Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)

The first day of my 35th week of pregnancy, I was sitting on The Toddler’s floor bed rubbing his back and trying to get him down for a nap when, suddenly, I felt it: the unmistakable pleasure of being able to take a deep breath. To make certain, I took another one. Yes! The baby had dropped!

I hadn’t even realized just how hard it had been to breathe until it got easy(ish) again. (Well, I sort of did, because The Husband asked me if I was all right every day because most of my exhales sounded like exasperated sighs.) Suddenly it was also the tiniest bit easier to move around, as my center of gravity was lower and my belly even felt a little smaller.

Of course, there is a tradeoff for easier breathing and improved balance when the baby drops. Here’s a few of my Google searches from this week to give you an idea of what that tradeoff might be:

  • 35 weeks can you feel dilation happening
  • cervical pressure 35 weeks
  • late third trimester cramping

Basically, it feels like the baby is getting some work done on the getting-ready-to-come-out front. I’m trying not to convince myself I’ll go into labor any earlier than I did with Baby 1 (39 weeks, 1 day), because I know it will only make me crazy to surpass any arbitrary deadlines I set. Despite this, baby-day is looming close enough that I am finally getting some of the major to-dos checked off my list. One of those is packing my hospital bags. I still have a few odds and ends to add, but if I were to go into labor today, I would not be caught completely empty-handed.

With our first baby, we packed everything imaginable. As most first-timers will tell you, almost none of those items got any use. My temptation this time around is to drastically underpack, both out of sheer laziness and because I’m hoping to not spend much time at the hospital either in labor or recovery afterward.

Again, setting myself up for potential disappointment, but second labors are usually shorter than first, and my first labor was only 12 hours last time, only three of which were at the hospital. Additionally, because we’re working with midwives, there are a lot of extras–like an exercise ball–I won’t have to bring in because they’re well equipped to support intervention-free birth. And finally, I don’t want to stick around any longer than absolutely necessary afterward. I hated our hospital stay last time and just wanted to go home.

However, because we’re dealing with a 40-minute drive to the hospital instead of five minutes, and because I’m not worried about getting pressured into interventions, we’ll be heading to the hospital sooner than we did last time. (Plus, again, it’s possible this labor will be shorter. I’m not interested in having a highway baby.) So I did add some things to the list that I might appreciate earlier on in labor.

Without further ado, here’s my pared-down hospital bag list this time around:

In case the hospital drive gets messy

  • A towel (if I don’t need it on the ride up, it might be nice to have a big towel for the post-birth shower, in case the hospital towels are tiny and scratchy again)
  • A few absorbent underpads to protect the car seats in case my water breaks

Labor essentials

  • Wooden back massager
  • Charged Bluetooth shower speaker (I can suction it straight to the birthing tub and not worry about getting it wet)
  • Headphones
  • Camera with charged batteries and a cleared SD card
  • Mini LED battery-powered Christmas lights (Since childhood, my “happy place” has always been sticking my head under the Christmas tree and staring up at the lights. Considering how much I withdrew into myself during my first labor, I expect this will be a soothing, easy focal point.)

Post-birth essentials

  • Change of clothes for myself and The Husband (just pajamas. I will probably hang out in a hospital gown in the immediate aftermath, and I don’t have a particular desire to get fully dressed for the drive home.)
  • Baby clothes (one set of newborn and one set of 0-3 month clothes in case this baby is bigger than the last one), plus a hat, booties, and a swaddler
  • Mini toiletries (I’m delivering at a different hospital than last time, but the toiletries at the county hospital were, I am assuming, jail grade. I’m not a soap snob, but my first post-birth shower was pretty unpleasant.)
  • Slippers and flip-flops (the latter for the shower)
  • Sleep mask to give me even the remotest shot of catching a nap

Paperwork/resources

  • A few copies of my birth plan
  • Pre-registration paperwork and insurance information, plus a copy of the informed consent paperwork I signed for the Holistic Birthing Center
  • Quick guides (from The Birth Partner and doula/podcaster Adriana Lozada’s “The Birth Partner’s Ultimate Labor Support Toolkit”) for The Husband
  • Birth affirmations on index cards (maybe laminated, if I’m feeling really ambitious). I spent most of my previous labor with my eyes shut, so I’m not planning to post them up anywhere. Instead, the intention is to equip The Husband with things I actually want to hear.

Digital prep

  • I temporarily upgraded to Spotify premium so I could make and download a few playlists to my phone. So far I have a “fun” playlist (for earlier labor, probably), a “serious” playlist for when the going gets a little tougher, and a “zen” playlist in case I just want instrumental music.
  • An app that has a contraction timer. I also plan on changing the settings on my phone when labor hits so it stays unlocked and is easy to access.
  • Important phone numbers programmed into both mine and my husband’s phones (midwives, hospital, etc.)

Things I’m on the fence about

  • The midwife I saw most recently recommended I bring a Boppy pillow. It just takes up a ton of space and I don’t really feel like hauling it around.
  • Same goes with a regular bed pillow. Maybe it would help me feel more “at home” to sleep, but I’m not sure the slightly enhanced comfort is worth the extra baggage.

That’s it for my hospital bag(s), I think. Second+ time moms, what did you add to your hospital bags? What did you ditch from the first time around?

Pregnancy Week 35: Lightening Up (my belly, and my hospital bags)

Pregnancy Week 34: Date with Destiny

Today marks the last day of Pregnancy Week 34 . I am big, big, big. I had a midwife appointment the day before Thanksgiving during which I learned I had gained 6 lbs in three weeks, which is more than the recommended 1/2 a pound to a pound a week.

Not exactly a great way to kick off Thanksgiving weekend, but it’s not like I had made any major changes to how I’ve been eating and/or moving (answer: kind of a lot, and not much, at this point, TBH). I think the baby is just packing on the ell-bees him or herself, and I have not been getting in the way of that.

I did eat salad during both Thanksgiving dinners I enjoyed this week (and avoided seconds, for the most part), and have been filling up on kale smoothies during breakfast #2. I certainly don’t want to get myself into any health trouble, but I also am trying not to panic about something I have limited control over.

The week remained busy as heck as I tackle an extra freelancing project, and The Toddler’s most recent foray into part-time child care has, of course, brought with it a nasty cold that has made each night an endless battle. If it’s not a crying toddler waking me up, it’s the pregnancy insomnia. I’m feeling pretty worn out.

While I know that I’m not going to feel less exhausted when this baby is out, I’m looking forward to being able to get off the couch (or the floor, or out of bed) unassisted. Labor has become less of a faint, fuzzy memory and more of a looming reality.

One way I’ve begun to prepare is to start eating dates each day. I’ve had an unusual craving for dates throughout this pregnancy, but I’ve ramped up my consumption to six a day over the past week or so. There have actually been a few published studies demonstrating a statistically significant difference in the overall duration of labor and need for pitocin between women who eat dates in the weeks leading up to labor and women who don’t. (There was no evidence that dates start labor any earlier than it would have otherwise.)

Pregnancy week 34.png

The Husband has made this task much nicer with a lovely just-because (you’re huge and miserable) gift, a sampler box of different types of dates.

So sweet. (The Husband and the dates.)

So. Judging by my to-do list, I’m not ready for this baby, necessarily, but I do feel done with pregnancy. If it goes the way my pregnancy with Baby 1 did, I have just over four more weeks to go. That measure feels both impossibly endless and like no time at all.

Pregnancy Week 34: Date with Destiny

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival

The latent sense of not feeling prepared for the baby at the end of this pregnancy is becoming more of a constant buzz in my consciousness as I find myself at the end of my 33rd week of pregnancy. Assuming I go into labor around the same time I did with my first, I have just five more weeks to get my shit together, and my to-do list looms long and neglected while life keeps getting in the way.

At 33 weeks, the baby is somewhere in the 17-19 inch range and anywhere between 4 and 6 pounds, and the estimations from here on out look to be pretty sketchy at best, as babies start to really diverge as they approach their final birth weight/length. Judging by the movements I’ve been feeling lately, the baby is mostly feet. One weird progression I read in my weekly updates is that, while awake, baby is keeping his or her eyes open in utero. I wonder what it looks like in there.

As for me, well…

I think this about sums it up.

I’m humongous. I can’t stop eating, but also, heartburn. I can’t breathe. It takes me 30 seconds to roll over in bed and a full minute to get up off the floor. My back hurts if I’m on my feet too long (oh, and also if I’m sitting too long). I’ve been super emotional–crying over very silly things, or for no reason at all. My abdominal muscles hurt from being stretched. I’ve had a few dizzy spells. I’m getting to the stage where only really long maternity shirts cover my huge, huge belly. My huge, huge belly that my toddler thinks is a trampoline.

And while I’m starting to look forward to not being pregnant anymore, this past week with The Toddler has also reminded me that I’ll be trading in immobility and indigestion for mind-numbing sleep deprivation.

While I’ve been using it as a blanket excuse for every behavioral hiccup for the past five months or so, The Toddler is finally, truly sprouting two-year molars, and that has manifested in really rotten sleep. He’s pretty miserable, and his parents are pooped. I think it’s affecting his dad more than me, because in the middle of the night, I am the last person The Toddler wants to see. So I get to go back to bed while The Dad tries to soothe him. It’s a good thing we put a twin bed in his room.

Though the teething hasn’t been particularly fun this week, we have pressed on in one important way toward preparing our household for the baby: The Toddler has started going to daycare (though we’re calling it “school”) a few mornings a week. I’ve been both meaning to do this forever and putting it off, first because my freelance work has been so feast-or-famine, and then because I wanted to feel he was fully through potty training before I threw off his routine.

So when my freelance work picked up this week, it ended up being the perfect catalyst for getting him out of the house a few mornings a week. (And, conveniently, the perfect excuse for further baby-prep procrastination.)

The Toddler has been struggling with drop-offs a little, but otherwise has a great time. And so has his mom! I’ve gotten a bunch of work done–mostly the paid version, but this morning I spent most of daycare time blowing leaves that have piled up on our front sidewalk and then did some shopping.

I picked up some stuff for my hospital bag (future post to come–after my next midwife appointment this week I plan to finalize my checklist to share with you) and for those special breastfeeding-time play kits to keep The Toddler occupied. That, too, will be a future post.

In the meantime, here’s hoping those teeth pop so The Husband and I can catch up on some sleep and tackle more of our to-do list.

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival

Pregnancy Week 26: Looking ahead to delivery day

Today closes out week 26 of my pregnancy with Baby 2, and also wraps up the nesting frenzy that started last week.

First, a quick stats and symptoms rundown:

Baby weighs in at about 2 pounds and measures 14 inches from head to foot, or the size of a butternut squash, a slow loris, a bowling pin or an adult human skull???

Me? Oh, I’m good, thanks. Just rushing through this post on my way to nap-town because I was awake for hours last night with insane heartburn, which was 100% deserved because I celebrated my (presumed) passing of my glucose test by eating the following yesterday:

Breakfast: Homemade apple pie (my husband is amazing) and most of an everything bagel (split with The Toddler) and Neufchatel cheese

Lunch: Homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream, also half a mango

Afternoon snack: Vanilla ice cream

Dinner: French fries

I am contrite. This college freshman diet will not happen again during this pregnancy–if not for the sake of my unborn child’s health, then for my own sake.

Speaking of my husband is amazing, we plowed through a ton of to-dos over the week he took off work, despite the unrelenting heat wave. Rather than rewrite the list, I’ll direct you to my Instagram post listing off all the stuff he made possible.

Shoutout to @immortaldavis for kicking ass on his weeklong staycation, which was mapped out hour-by-every-waking-hour so we could tackle some long neglected projects, some farm-related and others in preparation for Baby #2. Here he's catching his breath from digging up a grounding rod that got stuck in three feet of drought-hardened clay after we moved the goats. Other things we accomplished this past week: garage clean out, barn clean out, freezing gallons of apples, setting up an office in the basement to make room for the new nursery, rearranging all our closets, and finally tackling a few episodes of Fargo Season 2 after the kid went to sleep on nights we still had any energy left. He also baked me an apple pie last night, and spent lots of quality time with our son, and made sure I got to put my feet up when I got too worn out. I don't say it enough: I'm lucky AF. I couldn't have dreamed of a better partner. ❤️❤️❤️ #farmlife #famgoals #parenting #partnersforlife #luckyme

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What I really want to talk about this post is what’s been weighing on my mind this week aside from prepping our physical space for another baby: Impending labor, and how I hope to approach it this time around.

My first childbirth experience went pretty much how I hoped it would. While we were bound by insurance to deliver in a county hospital with 90 percent+ epidural rates and limited accommodations for anyone pursuing an unmedicated birth, I managed to get through L&D *without an epidural and felt like a goddamned rock star. (Here’s my birth story if you’re interested.)

.*I super don’t care how you gave birth or plan to give birth–alone in the woods, with an epidural in place beginning at 36 weeks, or a scheduled C-section and tummy tuck, so please don’t take my satisfaction at my birth going how I wanted it as judgment about your birth plans or experience.

That said, there were parts of my experience that I hope to improve upon this time around, and now that I’m approaching the third trimester, I’m starting to consider these goals in more concrete terms. I’ll probably tackle this topic from a few directions in the coming weeks, but I thought I’d start with a general list of worries and hopes, and go from there:

  1. I hope my labor is shorter than last time, but not alarmingly so. With Baby 1, it was 12 hours start to finish. I waited as long as The Husband could stand it before we left for the hospital, but back then it was a (very difficult) 10-minute drive. This time, we’re looking at a 40-minute commute, so I’m hoping to balance getting labor off the ground at home and not pushing our luck on the road.
  2. I’m worried my more sedentary second pregnancy is going to make this labor harder. I wasn’t insanely in shape the first time, but I was walking 3-4 miles almost every day, and that’s just not in the cards this time around. I’m trying to work exercise into my days when I can, but I don’t know if it will be enough to give me the strength, stamina and flexibility I had last time
  3. I want pushing to go better this time around. I talked to one of the midwives at my appointment this week about how the directed pushing (the counting, the nurses and doctor telling me when to push and how long) just didn’t feel right, and how it resulted in some moderate (and painful) tearing, along with a lot of popped blood vessels in my face and eyes. She told me she doesn’t ascribe to this method, and generally advises moms to let their bodies tell them when and how to push, so I’m hoping with enough preparation on my end and a more supportive environment at the birthing center will mean a better time of pushing, and less damage control in the aftermath.
  4. I hope my husband feels equipped to help me with birth, without a doula, this time. This birth is costing us more, so we’re not hiring a doula, and while The Husband was a great labor partner last time around, it was also really nice to have a doula to support us both. He’s got some studying up/refreshing to do (hoping to get a hold of this book soon), and I also need to do my own work to figure out what types of affirmations, massage, positions, etc. I remember being helpful last time or that I think I’d like this time so he can be ready to help me get what I need when the time comes.
  5. As I think is extremely common with second-time moms, I’m anxious about how we’ll make sure The Toddler feels included in welcoming his new sibling, how our relationship will evolve, and (of course) how the heck I’m going to survive on 3 hours of sleep a night for a few weeks while also being responsible for a 2-year-old.

Speaking of The Toddler, looks like he’s not going to be napping for awhile, so neither am I. Better wrap this up.

Pregnancy Week 26: Looking ahead to delivery day

Week 10: Older, Wiser Baby Registry

We’re halfway through Week 10 of pregnancy with Baby No. 2. I have no exciting updates to tell you about my symptoms. I’m still exhausted, still nauseous. Maybe more than the weeks before, so it’s my hope I’m at peak yuck and will be feeling better soon. The food aversions I had during my pregnancy with The Toddler hadn’t cropped up much this time around, but lately they have returned. I managed to put a frozen pizza in the oven for the family before retreating to my bed as soon as The Husband came home, and then ended up eating feta cheese on Flipside crackers. In bed. For dinner. Because pizza, and basically anything except Flipside crackers and feta, sounded absolutely repulsive.

Enough about my appetite, though. I went to a baby shower for my college roommate over the weekend, and it got me thinking about what I’d register for if I did it all over again. So instead of directly inundating my roommate (and several other friends) with unsolicited advice about what they should get, I thought I’d make a shortlist of things I’d get if I were a first-timer, and they can choose to read or ignore as they wish.

*My blog is too smalltime to make any money. I’m not getting anything out of recommending these.

**For real, fam & friends: This is a list of suggestions/cool things that have come out just in the last two years to help out other expectant parents. Some of this is stuff I already have, and some is just a better version of something I already have. Don’t take this as an unsubtle request!

Without further ado:

Lotus Everywhere Travel CribLotus Everywhere Travel Crib ($189)

Forget your tricky, cumbersome travel cribs of yore. This is super easy to set up, with a cushy mattress, a backpack-style carry case, and a zippered side panel so you don’t have to figure out how to lower a sleeping or nearly sleeping baby all the way to the floor through the top. I used this a few times at a friend’s house for naps and have wanted one ever since. My only wish is that it had a silent zipper. I think we’re going to get one (our hand-me-down Pack ‘N Play tore) along with the bassinet attachments for the new kid.

Mason Bottle set ($20)

We registered for glass bottles the first time around, and ended up with plastic. Which is fine, but while Dr. Bronner’s may be touted for being anti-colic or whatever, having FIVE pieces of a bottle to wash and reassemble every time is less. than. ideal. I saw an ad for this on Instagram, which converts your basic 4 oz. or 8 oz. mason jar into a bottle, and WANT! We use mason jars for food storage, drinking glasses, etc. so this is a natural next step in our collection. I like the silicone sleeves to help prevent breakage, too.

Milkies Milk-Saver ($27.95)

Breastfeeding was the mystery of mysteries before The Baby arrived. It was the apex of the unknown that surrounds new parenthood. I didn’t know how to do it, or how it would feel, or what I’d need, so I didn’t get much before The Baby arrived. (And what I did get was gifted to me by friends who knew better.) One thing that would have really come in handy, especially those first weeks when my supply was out of control and we were still working out the latch, was a way to catch any extra. These handy little nursing covers collect that leaked milk so it doesn’t go to waste.

Lalabu Soothe Shirt ($75)

Babywearing was clutch for me from the very beginning. Intimidated at first by the complicated baby wraps, I got a Baby K’Tan for both me and The Husband (two of them, because they’re sized to the wearer.) They were pretty easy to use, but I ended up finding my stretchy wrap to be more comfortable as The Baby got bigger, and the K’Tan ended up being a short-lived, though very helpful, piece of baby gear. If I did it again, I’d get us a set of these, instead. I’m definitely not spending the money when what we have now will suit us fine, but if you’re building your registry and don’t already have a newborn babywearing solution, I think this is pretty sweet!

Zutano Booties ($20-ish)

I might have already included these on a long-ago registry recommendation, but they’re so good. It’s really hard to keep things on baby feet. This is the exception. They snap snugly around the ankle, are super warm and super cute. I bought a size big so they’d last a little longer (and because The Baby has giant feet.)

That’s all I can think of right now, and I gotta shower before The Toddler wakes up from his nap. One more quick recommendation for soon-to-be moms: The Birth Hour podcast. I’ve started listening to it to reacquaint myself with the thought of childbirth, and more than I could have imagined it has taught me some really helpful things about preparing for labor and childbirth. I’m focusing on the low-intervention/unmedicated stories, because that’s what I’m aiming for, but this features everything from scheduled C-Sections and epidurals to some more unusual circumstances. (Obvious caveat: Only listen to what you’re prepared to hear. There are stories about loss and emergencies and such.)

I’m a little turned off by the fact that a lot of the storytellers are also “sponsors” of the episodes (people with Etsy shops for baby headbands, birth centers themselves, etc.) and the host isn’t the most compelling interviewer, but the moms themselves are usually really good storytellers, and so far this is the best I’ve come across in terms of pregnancy/childbirth-related podcasting content. It definitely has value for anyone with a due date in the future, and I’m glad I found it despite these minor complaints.

May your (baby) shower be as relaxing and invigorating as the shower I’m about to take.

Cheers,

R

Edited to add: Backpack-style diaper bag, because it’s really fun when your shoulder bag swings around and bashes your kid while you’re getting him out of his carseat.

Week 10: Older, Wiser Baby Registry

Ask A New Mom: Melissa at I Crashed the Web

I have alluded to my IRL friend, new mom and far more dedicated blogger Melissa a couple of times. She has a six-ish week old baby, the lovely Sir FW, and I thought it would be a fun idea to interview her about where she is at in the great adventure of motherhood. She agreed and interviewed me, too.

We both had so much to say that this has now become a miniseries. This week, she’s answering my questions about pregnancy.

Read her insights below and then check out what I had to say about my parenting experience so far.

Without further ado, here’s Part One of my interview with Melissa. (If you’re into fitness, baking, healthy eating and/or new mom stuff, I highly recommend you check out and subscribe to her blog! She’s an inspiration in all of these areas without making you feel like a failure – a rare and wondrous balance in the world of fitness/food/mom bloggers.)

Melissa-I-Crashed-the-Web
Melissa and FW crashing the web

Ask A Mom: Melissa at I Crashed The Web

Part One: Pregnancy and becoming a mom

Has motherhood changed your perspective on the world in any way? 

I’m much more sensitive to stories in the news, on TV (real or fake), etc. that deal with violence, tolerance and/or children. I want FW to grow up in a world that is peaceful. I want him to live in a world that tolerates him and his beliefs- whatever they may be. And I want him to be safe. I’m now so much more affected by what’s going on in the world around me, now that my world is so much more than me- it’s me and my family.

What was the worst parenting or pregnancy advice you got before baby arrived?

Sleep when the baby sleeps. Okay, so this isn’t exactly awful advice (I did take a 40 min nap today while FW slept, yay!), but do what works for you. Some days, your baby won’t sleep much or only in spurts of 10-20 minutes, so don’t rely on this for your naps. Sleep when you can and do what you wanna do while the baby naps. Yesterday for me, this was baking lemon zucchini bread. Another day it was working out. Do what you need to do to stay sane – whether it’s sleep, shower or just sit on the couch and eat a brownie (or two).

What was the hardest part of pregnancy for you?

Slowing down. I thrive on being busy and productive and I had to change my lifestyle somewhat near the end. I got tired more easily, especially during the end, and I had to make sleep a bigger priority. I no longer could run 5 miles, meal prep, blog, go for a walk, and hang out with friends all in one day – it was too tiring! Running a 5k felt like a half marathon and I was pooped. I had to prioritize and spend my free time doing more relaxing than usual.

What surprised you about pregnancy?

How easy it was for me. I was really lucky in that I had a relatively easy pregnancy. I didn’t have morning sickness. I didn’t feel toooooo large or uncomfortable until the end and I was able to keep up a somewhat active lifestyle throughout – I continued running (I did a 5k at 38.5 weeks) and walking throughout. I know that not all pregnancies are that easy and I feel so lucky!

Are you happy with your childbirth experience? Is there anything you wish would have gone differently?

I went in without a birth plan – I told the nurses and doctors my plan was “to have a healthy and happy baby” and I got it. Would I have liked to have been able to manage without an epidural? Yes. Would I have liked to have had only one epidural instead of having them have to do it twice because the first one didn’t work? Yes. But overall, I’m very happy.

A big thanks to Melissa for participating in this exchange! Don’t forget to head over to her blog to see my own answers to some of these questions (and then go make yourself some Triple the Ginger Ginger Cookies, girl!) And tune in next Friday for Part Two: The Newborn Life.

Ask A New Mom: Melissa at I Crashed the Web

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.

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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