Tag Archives: birth

A Peek Inside Life as a Mama of Three

A great friend of mine, Julianne Schneider, recently became a mother for the third time, and since I’m about to join that club I thought it apropos to do a little Q and A to focus my binoculars on that field a yonder that I’m traveling toward.  Julie, alongside her husband Jeff, is the proud mama of Brayden, 4, Luke, 2, and Samuel, two months.  She recently moved back to her home state of Wisconsin after living in Seattle for seven glorious years, and is experiencing the unique culture shock of one transplanted home again.  She’s a board-certified teacher by trade but is spending this year as a stay-at-home-mom. This exchange took place when Sam was only four weeks old.

Thank you, Jules, for sharing with us! IMG_5310 WBO:  First things first: are you keeping your head above water?
Julie:   We are doing as well as could be expected. We keep waiting for the floor to fall out, but that hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps, once we all get sick, then it will collapse. We are tired, but we are managing. I am very thankful that Brayden is at 4k in the morning, so I don’t feel guilty not playing with him and giving him the attention he wants (but doesn’t always need).

WBO:  What’s the hardest part about having three?
Julie:  The hardest thing about having all three is their needs are all so different! Brayden wants to play with Legos, Luke wants to destroy Lego creations (or eat them), and Samuel wants to be held. Harmony is impossible at these moments. For this reason, I am very thankful for PBSkids which keeps Luke entertained (and away from Brayden’s intricate Lego creations) while I am feeding Samuel, showering, or heaven forbid, feeding myself. Yes, TV is a great babysitter, and thankfully safe and teaches him a few things. I used to feel guilty about this with Brayden; now we are more in survival mode, so what the heck…I watched Sesame Street and I still went to college.

WBO:  Is there anything that surprised you because it wasn’t as hard as you expected?
Julie:  I think the transition wasn’t hard because we are already in kid mode. We don’t go out to dinner or fancy ski trips to the Alps. We don’t feel like we are missing anything anymore, which may be what makes having kids hard to begin with. The kids provide our daily adventure. Going from one to two made things harder, and pulled us both into the parenting, with less breaks. Now we are both in, and when Jeff is home, he knows what to do — no directions. I feel like we are a well-oiled machine. We just keep moving. No down time until all the kids are sleeping and we have dark chocolate and Netflix as a reward.

WBO:  What have people’s reactions been to you having three boys?
Julie:  Their reaction to three boys is very predictably, “Oh, you will have you hands full!” or “Will you try for a girl?” The cool thing about having three boys I learned is that once you have a third boy you enter this secret society of other moms with 3+ boys. During my delivery (we didn’t know what we were having), the OB who delivered Samuel and my actual OB were hoping I would have a third boy, as they both do.  After Samuel was born, they stuck around to share their joys of having three boys and welcomed me to the “club.” We seemed to share a common bond of living in the shear craziness of boyhood. We commiserated over not having calm tea parties or arts and craft sessions. Rather, they shared how exciting and loud their homes were.  My personal reaction to having three boys is of gratitude. As I reflect on the adventures I have already had with these guys, I recognize that God has equipped me to be a mother of boys. I truly believe it was all part of His plan. I don’t get super excited about the wrestling matches or bug catching. But I love building Legos, playing chase, and I already have the basketball hoop picked out to play basketball with them. I am also thrilled that I will probably never ever have to kill a spider again. Brayden has already taken over that role when Jeff is not around. If we never have a daughter, a curiosity may exist for what she would have been like, but never a disappointment. IMG_5508 WBO:  Is it hard coordinating different schedules?  Like feeding Sam so often but the others just three meals (plus snacks)?  Or managing different nap schedules?
Julie:  Brayden and Luke essentially have the same schedule. To bed at 7 and up between 6-6:30. Brayden doesn’t nap anymore, but from 12:30-3 is quiet time at our house. Brayden either reads books, plays Legos, watches a show, plays iPad games, or him and I do “learning time.” Feeding them all isn’t really that big of an issue, I mostly just get tired of doing dishes. I am thankful that Samuel doesn’t require any dishes.

WBO:  What adjustments did you have to make in terms of gear? A new car? A different stroller?  Sharing rooms? Julie:  We have a big car (Honda Pilot), but had to put Brayden in the third row to avoid all three in the same row. There would be way too much poking going on, and separation is good. Brayden and Luke both have their own rooms, and the baby is living in my closet. Our master is on the first floor, so I don’t think Samuel will be moving upstairs until he is mostly sleeping through the night.

WBO:  Are there other kids in your new neighborhood that your kids can get together with?
Julie:  We are thankful for new neighbors who organize playdates, and this entertains the older boys, especially when it is wicked cold out! The pent up energy needs to get released somewhere, and I am only up for so many games of hide-n-go-seek or chase before I need a break.

WBO:  Tell us what it’s been like moving back to Wisconsin as a family, since you left as an engaged couple.
Julie: Even though we grew up in the area, we feel like transplants, since it has been almost 15 years since we lived in this area. Sometimes I tell a small lie when I meet people, and just tell them we are from Seattle, so they don’t assume I know more about the area than I do.  We are experiencing some culture shock, good and bad. People are super friendly, but sometimes close-minded, or maybe it’s just more that they don’t know what they don’t know since they haven’t left the ten mile radius where they grew up.

WBO:  As a parent, what are some of the more obvious differences between Seattle and Wisconsin?
Julie:  I find the playdates to always be interesting…I was surprised at my first playdate and the type of foods that were served. Really, Cheetos? For 4-year-olds. The moms in Seattle would have a heart attack. I am not sure if I appreciate less pressure now that I am not expected to make kale-carrot smoothies, homemade granola, etc., or more pressure to do more to counteract the influx of junk food. Brayden is currently obsessed with Cheetos since kids on this bus bring them for snack everyday. I am standing my ground on this one though — no Cheetos. To show my resolve, I got him sushi at Trader Joe’s yesterday and reminded him that this was his favorite food in Washington, and not Cheetos. We talked about how the carrots in the California Roll were natural orange, and Cheetos were fake orange, like eating a Crayon.

WBO:  Does babyhood seem to go faster with each child?
Julie:  Yes! But I think isn’t that true of the time of life in general? I feel like each year keeps going by faster and faster. I really can’t believe I am 32 or that I will have a 5 year old this spring. The newborn phase with all three boys was a blur, and it is so short, just mere weeks before they start smiling, maintaining eye contact, filling out, and holding up their heads. I am not sure it feels faster. I think the biggest difference is you don’t hyperanalyze every change, as you know the next day it will be something different. The old adage of “the days are long, but the years are short” becomes more and more true.

WBO:  How do you manage to keep your spirits up when it’s just.so.much.work?
Julie:  Despite the loss of down time, there is so much laughing (and crying and screaming and whining) in our house. The noise is incessant, but amazing. Our home feels alive, and there is always something going on. It’s exciting to see them grow, and seeing how quickly they go from a baby to a boy, so we try not to wish this time away. Seeing how they are starting to develop relationships between each other is so exciting. Luke adores Brayden, and can’t wait for him to get home. Both big boys adore Sam, and Brayden is the master at holding him and getting him to stop crying. So in short: it’s tiring, but awesome. The highs definitely outweigh the lows.

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Thank you so much for sharing with us, Julie!  You are one amazing mama (and I will be calling you once I cross this threshold).

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The Body Issue

I think we can all agree that pregnancy is, primarily, all about the baby it produces.  However, once the baby has arrived and the dust settles, you come face to face with the little spaceship your baby arrived in, otherwise known as your body.

All of my adult life, and even some of my teenage years, I’ve feared what shape pregnancy would leave me in.  Not in an obsessive way, but when I felt like I was in good shape, I’d have this reactive thought: “Well that’s easy for you now; wait until you’ve had a baby and then we’ll talk about how hard it is to get in shape.”  I’m not sure where this fear came from; no one I know has transformed into a beast postpartum, not my mother or grandmothers, no close friends.  I suppose it’s just a natural anxiety most women have; pretty-young-thing before, overweight-Mama-Bear-from-the-Celestial-Seasonings-box after.

So when I became pregnant, I thought about what would happen afterward — but not nearly as much as I expected I would, because a twin pregnancy was as far ahead as I could focus.  I hoped that I’d be small-ish again someday, but I didn’t want to psych myself out about it in case the resulting body was completely unrecognizable.  I’d say, “You carried two people!” to let myself off the hook if I didn’t snap back in a socially acceptable time frame.

Luckily, the Lord made our bodies to be elastic.  It’s actually shocking to think that I was this size, and now I’m not.

38 Weeks 4

That was four days before I was induced.  Thirty-eight weeks pregnant.  Waddling.  Swelling.  Ready not to be pregnant anymore.

The day after the twins were born, my stomach shrunk considerably.  I was still enormous, but so much smaller than before.  I completely avoided touching my belly because it felt strange and separate from my body — squishy, empty, loose.  It was an eerie sensation so I pretended it wasn’t there.  This worked well until the nurses came around every day to push my belly in to ensure my uterus was shrinking back to its original size.  File under: Things No One Tells You.

Three days after giving birth, my feet were still giant canoes attached to my swollen legs.  The doctor came in and did an assessment on my recovery, and I was like yeah, yeah what about my FEET and ANKLES?  I tried to sound professional.  I might have said, “Doctor, my feet and ankles are still quite swollen…when should I expect them to return to normal?  Tomorrow?”  He interrupted me, “Yeah, those are cankles.  It’s gonna take about a week.”

1.  My doctor said “cankles.”

2.  A WEEK?

Other than that, I didn’t give my figure another thought, and how could I?  I was recovering from surgery, bonding with my babies, learning to breastfeed and pump, seeing visitors, and trying to sleep whenever possible.  The idea of worrying about losing weight was absurd.

The day after Henry was released from the NICU (babies were 18 days old), Mike and I visited the Juanita waterfront for our first stroll with the bambinos.  We walked around and laughed about how I looked like a woman pushing newborn twins while seven months pregnant.

2013-08-12 17.29.37

The following day, my sister Erin and I returned to the park for a concert for babies.  This sounds ridiculous for two-week-old newborns to attend, but it was irresistible to me; sunshine, water, my first “mommy” activity, and the bliss of taking the babies out of the house.

2013-08-13 11.17.37

It’s strange that my stomach looks smaller in just one day, but that’s how it was — virtually every day it shrank smaller and smaller.  Elastic, I tell you.

By the six-week mark I looked less pregnant and more generally out of shape, like a passerby might think, do a few sit-ups, why don’t you?

2013-09-11 15.06.32

This was shortly before I got the all-clear to start exercising, but even since then I haven’t burst into action.  The insane calorie-burn of breastfeeding has done all the work, leaving me with ten pounds to work off on my own.  (I’m not going to lose those for a while, however, because things need to stay a little heavier with two babies counting on me as their food source.)

My exercise now consists of stroller walks and the Tracy Anderson Post-Pregnancy DVD.  This involves about three thousand crunches, and half as many leg-lifts.  I exaggerate, but only slightly.  I’m doing it as often as I can during nap-time, and already I feel more held together.  I also seriously considered buying that corset-like band, but never got around to it and figured it wouldn’t help that much anyway.

Here’s the thing: I wish I was very mother-earth, all zen, walking around saying, “it’s just a body! I got to participate in the miracle of life!  Who cares?”  But the truth is I’ve never met a woman who didn’t want to return to her pre-baby body.  For some people, things fall right back into place, but for most of us we’re left with various parts that aren’t exactly how we’d like them.

Here I am about three weeks ago, fourteen weeks after giving birth.

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I am not delusional — I realize I basically look like I did before I had the twins.  But let’s be real: I’m wearing leggings that cinch me in and a hoodie that zips me all together.  It’s DIY Spanx.  Things are not as they were…my body hasn’t sunk like the Titanic, but it’s also not sailing into New York as good as new either.  Would you like an example of good as new?

kate-middleton-post-baby-stomach-volleyball-in-wedges.sl.3.kate-middleton-post-baby-stomach-ss01
Ridiculous, no?  Awesome, yes?

She gave birth four days before me.  There I go perpetuating the pressure on women to snap back…hardly.  Kate is not women’s standard; she’s our dream, and there’s a difference.

I don’t think my body will ever be the same, and that’s okay.  I have stretch marks, a scar, and — this is what I remind myself — two healthy babies.  If that’s what I lay at the altar of my vanity, so be it.  Rather than striving for the body I had, I’m moving toward the body that’s awaiting me: new, different, a little flawed, but beautiful.

After all, on days when I’m not feeling quite Kate Middleton-esque, I’ve figured out a way to hide that tummy, and it beats the hell out of Spanx.

20131102_144153

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A Silver Rattle (or two) from Tiffany, Obviously

For royal watchers like me, Christmas came early this year.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant!  Oh, and Wills is the dad.  But I’ve yet to see his name in a headline concerning his firstborn future monarch, so let’s continue.

Considering they waited over a month to share the news of their engagement, it seems surprising that they are sharing this news when she’s not yet twelve weeks along, the international standard for admitting you are knocked up.

Of course, the palace rightly assumed they couldn’t exactly check the most famous woman in the world into a London hospital without word getting out.  And why was she in a hospital?  Because apparently she has the worst case of morning sickness, also known as hyperemesis gravidarum.  As in, she’s probably throwing up so much she needs an IV to stay hydrated.  Lord have mercy.

Turns out becoming royal didn’t spare her unending nausea.  I’m sure round-the-clock care helps.  I’m not sure world-wide attention does, however.

Having never heard of this affliction myself, I turned to the medical expert to be consulted in all situations: Wikipedia.  And wouldn’t you know?  Apparently, the biggest scoop won’t be revealed by a random blogger, gossip website, or major news outlet.  Let Wikipedia get the credit for diagnosing our princess: she’s having TWINS!

“The cause of HG is unknown. The leading theories state that it is an adverse reaction to the hormonal changes of pregnancy. In particular, hyperemesis gravidarum may be due to raised levels of beta HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) as it is more common in multiple pregnancies.”  Wikipedia, “Hyperemesis Gravidarum”

At least, that’s my hope.  And that of my mother.  We both Wiki’d today and are drawing the same conclusions.   I also think her first question is fair:

“Which one would get the throne??”

Excellent question, and one that will inevitably lead to years of bitterness or relief, depending on who gets what.  I’d expect that whomever the doctor lifts out first (C-sections are almost a certainty with twins) would be next in line, but I’m not the final authority on the matter.

The most pressing concern is, of course, how she will influence maternity wear for generations to come.   The ripples of jealously of her lithe preggo figure among the masses  should be tampered by the guidance she provides on how to carry oneself while with child.

For comparison’s sake, please consider our previous royal baby bumps (courtesy People.com):

The Queen: crisp, no-nonsense, no frills

QUEEN ELIZABETH II   photo | Queen Elizabeth II

Princess Diana: all nonsense, far, far too many frills, bows and polka dots

PRINCESS DIANA   photo | Princess Diana

Fergie:  yikes

SARAH FERGUSON   photo | Sarah Ferguson

Kate won’t have to do much legwork here, considering her most immediate predecessors were pregnant in the unforgiving eighties.

Here she is just days ago:

Granted, this is her most eighties dress to date, but we’ll let that pass.

For now, let’s wish our favorite royal couple a healthy, puke-free pregnancy going forward, and two little heirs to greet the masses in June!

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Waiting for Lillian – Part 3

For Part 1, click here.  For Part 2, click here.

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With the sound of Rhianna pulsing from the room, we gathered in the hallway to listen for a sign that the baby had arrived.  We perked up at each voice encouraging Rachel to push, we leaned closer with each pause in sound, and we jostled for position closest to the door opening.  But after a mere five minutes with no baby, we realized our patience had diminished to that of a toddler awaiting Christmas morning.

We walked back to the waiting room because we were sure this was it, but we were also sure that we’d been sure before.  We were jaded.  We felt like we were too smart to be tricked again into believing we’d be meeting a new family member at any moment.  It was the most intense case of crying wolf any of us had experienced.

Chloe was the exception.  At nine years of age, Cami and Erik’s daughter didn’t have the cynical attitude of her adult peers.  She was darting between the waiting room and the delivery room as nervous as if she was the father.

That sort of energy tends to be contagious, and soon I was running into the waiting room with non-announcements like, “I can hear Phil talking!” and “There’s still music playing!”

Amidst all of the madness, Cami managed to compose a song about waiting for the baby to be born.  We were in awe that her creativity was not bound by her exhaustion, as she scribbled lyrics and hummed a melody while the rest of us could barely string thoughts together.  Later, she shared a song titled Worth the Waiting that beautifully captures the emotion of anticipating Baby Goodman.

Half an hour later the suspense got the best of us and we all gathered around the delivery room door again.  This time it was much more exciting, as Phil led Wendy and the nurses in counting to ten as Rachel pushed.  This had the effect of leading us to think that every time they said “Ten!” the baby would burst forth crying, so we’d clench up as they counted and then deflate when nothing happened after they hit double-digits.

Mike was past the point of fatigue since he’d been studying for finals throughout Rachel’s labor.  He turned to walk back to the waiting room, saying, “This is not happening.  I know this is another false hope.  I’ll be reading.  Come get me when it’s really happening.”  I tried to convince him to stay but the weariness in his eyes told me it was a lost cause.

Twenty minutes later seven nurses came rushing down the hall and into Rachel’s room.  This was new.  This was alarming, and this was a sure sign to all of us that the baby was finally, truly going to be born.

I ran down the hall and into the waiting room to tell Mike that this was actually it, and I promised the baby would be here in minutes and he did not want to miss this.  His eyes lit up just as I knew they would and we ran back to the room together.

Usher suddenly burst into song and I said this is the perfect song for the baby to be born to; “Without You” was playing and we started dancing in the hallways, wailing about how we couldn’t live without baby Goodman.

“One, two, three, four, five…” Phil was counting and yelling, “You can do it!  Come on, baby!”  Colleen started recording the sound on her iPhone and we pushed the door open a little further so we could hear every sound.

At 9:25PM the song changed to “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida and Phil counted one more time.  Suddenly they all stopped yelling at once and we heard the tiniest, faintest cry, and the world stopped turning for what seemed like hours and we all grabbed each other as tears filled our eyes.  We heard Phil say “she” and we started saying “Did he say She? It’s a girl, isn’t it!?  It’s a girl!” and then Wendy opened the door and exclaimed, “It’s a girl!” and we all hollered and yelled “Lillian!  Lillian is here!  It’s a GIRL!” until we couldn’t think.

“And her CHEEKS!  You should see her cheeks, oh my gosh wait til you see them!” she added.  Then she went back in the room to take pictures.  “Clair de Lune” began playing in the room, and we all sighed at what a perfect choice it was.  Phil and Rachel had selected it to be played immediately after the birth so that throughout their lives when they heard that song they’d be transported back to that room, and that moment.

Phil later told me he was so emotional and swept up in Lillian’s birth that he didn’t even hear the song until a nurse commented on what a nice song it was.  Then he heard it and began to sob.

Colleen, Mike, Cami and I were texting furiously, updating everyone who had been with us on this journey.  I reported to Lindsay at 9:40PM that she was 8lbs 13oz, and at 9:43 she asked how Rach was but I said we hadn’t been let in yet.  Looking back now, I can’t believe that we stood outside that room for twenty minutes waiting to see Lillian.  It felt like two minutes.

Finally the seven nurses finished cleaning and left the room, and we were welcomed in.  Mike and I walked toward the heating lamp that Lillian was laying under, and we saw Phil standing beside her.  When we got closer we realized that she was clasping his finger in her hand, holding on with every ounce of her strength.  She was staring right at Phil, never once looking away, and he had tears streaming down his face.  We leaned over her and said, “Hello Lillian, hello baby girl.  We love you so much, we love you already.  Phil, she is beautiful!  She is gorgeous!  And she can’t take her eyes off of you!  She knows your voice!”  It was one of the most profound interactions I have ever seen; a man and his first-born child, so connected in her first moments of life that it appeared they were being reunited rather than introduced.

Rachel looked happy and relieved, and took Lillian in her arms and said, “She’s beautiful, isn’t she? She’s so beautiful,” and then looked at her and said, “You are good” in the softest voice, and I bit my lip to keep from crying.

Mike popped the champagne and passed out cups, and we raised our glasses to our newest family member, our lil Lil.  We thanked God for her and chatted, happily, about the shock we were all feeling that she really was here.  We told Rachel that she was a warrior, a mighty woman we all admired and of whom were so, so proud.

After that, the room was full.  It was full of joy, of family, of relief, of love, of love of Lillian.

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Waiting for Lillian — Part 2

To read part 1, click here.

~~

We all knew that going to the hospital was the death of a dream for Phil and Rach, but we also took comfort knowing the health of their baby was their number one priority.  The midwives told us to gather our things and prepare to caravan to the University of Washington Medical Center, because the hospital next door was full.  To further complicate the situation, the 520 bridge across Lake Washington was closed for the weekend, so we had to go around the north side of the lake.  At 1AM, this was certainly discouraging and frightening for those of us in attendance, but we honored their decision and prepared for the 30 minute drive.  We were sure that the baby would be coming soon, so we kept our chins up and got behind the wheel.

I drove without anyone in my car, so I used the time to call Lindsay, my sister-in-love, to give her a proper update.  I had been faithfully texting her every time there was news, but this was too much to explain in a text, and honestly I needed to talk it out with someone not directly involved in the situation.  I shared with her both the facts of what was occurring and the emotions that everyone was experiencing.  She offered her unwavering support; despite being in San Diego, she had “showered and dressed” as if she had to go to the hospital with us, and was committed to being up as late as I was.  It was a stellar effort, I must say.

Although my waning energy was nothing compared to what Rach was feeling, I couldn’t help but feel worn down wondering how long the journey ahead could possibly be.  Without meaning to, my brain kept reminding me that the following day was a Monday, and Mike and I had to go to work in just eight hours.  Those thoughts did nothing but further my weariness, so I pushed those realities from my mind and focused on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We arrived at the hospital and dropped Phil and Rach at the emergency entrance to prevent Rach from having to walk from the parking garage (again, the baby was not in imminent danger).  We went up to the maternity ward and gathered in the small waiting area, complete with fish tank.  The doula and midwife informed us that Rachel was being examined by the doctor and they would have an update shortly, so we settled in to wait.

Champions that they are, Cami and Erik voluntarily missed the last ferry to their home on Vashon Island and came with us to the hospital.  They were now committed until at least the first ferry at 4:30AM.  We had been together in this marathon for ten hours, so we tried to find the silver lining by saying things like “Think of it this way: when was the last time we had ten uninterrupted hours together?  We should do this more often!”  The truth of the matter is that having a great mix of people – Cami, Erik, Wendy, Colleen and us – made the ordeal so much more fun than it would have been otherwise.  We spent most of the time telling jokes and laughing about every absurdity until we were delirious.  For instance, at one point Mike stated, to no one in particular, “It’d be so much cooler if there were like seven options, instead of just boy or girl.”  We heard the birth stories of Cami’s four children, Wendy’s three children, and Colleen’s four children; we discussed the relative horrors of the birth experience; we placed bets on birth time, all of us calling it about 22 hours too early.

Eventually we ran out of conversation topics, or perhaps just energy.  We succumbed to exhaustion at about 3AM, curling up in tiny, rock-hard hospital couches to try to sleep.   I quickly remembered Lindsay patiently waiting up with all of us and shot her a text that said, “They say it will likely be hours if you want to nap — we’re trying to sleep on horrible couch.”  She replied, “Ah, yes, hospitals, so inhospitable…” and agreed to crash with us.

At 4AM, the doula told us that Rach had received an epidural and was trying to rest — there would be no laboring tonight.  She advised us to go home and get some sleep. Mike and I didn’t need to be told twice — we said goodbye and went home to crawl into bed at 5AM…setting the alarm for 8AM.

The next morning we each went to work, aware that we’d need to be able to leave early should the baby’s birth become imminent.  Mike left work around 1PM to go back to the hospital and told me to join around 3:30PM. 

When I arrived, Wendy was still there (after moving her flight for the fourth time) and Cami had returned with her daughter Chloe (Erik had to work).  Colleen had stayed the night with Phil and Rach, and gave me an update on the current status.  Rachel’s labor had not progressed and the doctors thought she had an infection — she had a fever and the baby’s heart rate had increased to over 200 bpm.  Rachel’s cervix was still swollen and had not dilated at all in the last two hours, even with high levels of pitocin in her system.  Her water had been broken for almost 18 hours, and considering the fact that it took 30 hours for her to dilate to 8cm in the first place, they weren’t confident she would dilate more quickly now.  The longer the wait, the higher the risk of the infection having potentially serious consequences for Rachel and the baby.  Given all of that information, they suggested a c-section, but told Rach and Phil they had an hour to talk it over before they had to decide. 

This was probably the most stressful hour for those of us in the waiting room.  We didn’t understand all that we were being told, we knew things weren’t going well, and we knew Rach and Phil only wanted a c-section as a last resort.  We were all becoming emotional about the uncertainty involved, and we disagreed about how best to process the information (knowing that ultimately, our opinion mattered not at all).   We couldn’t understand why these serious symptoms wouldn’t automatically lead to a c-section, we didn’t know how Rach and Phil were feeling about it, we felt helpless standing around a waiting room — so we decided to pray. 

We prayed for wisdom for Phil and Rach making this important decision, we prayed for guidance for the medical team involved, we prayed for patience for ourselves in this frustrating circumstance, and we prayed for the health of baby Goodman and Rachel, most of all.

Around 4:45PM, Rach and Phil asked us to join them in their room.  They announced that they had decided a c-section was the safest option, and they were very sad about it, but resolved that the baby’s health was the number one priority.  They shared that they were crushed that all the pieces of their carefully planned birth were being lost one by one over the last two days.  It was certainly not the birth they expected to have. 

True to her good nature, Rachel made a joke about getting two extra weeks off of work due to her insurance policy on c-sections.  We told them we supported them and thought they were making the right decision.  We comforted them and tried to encourage them as we left the room.

Rachel later shared with me that as soon as the c-section decision was made, she moved on from the heartache and realized she was thrilled to meet her baby in just minutes rather than hours. 

Of course, there would be a wait, but none of us were surprised at that point.  They told us Rachel would be prepped and admitted in the next hour and a half, so Mike, Wendy, Cami, Chloe and I walked downstairs to the cafeteria to eat dinner.  We were all exhausted from three or fewer hours of sleep the night before, and the array of overpriced fried food in a dimly lit room did little to boost our morale.  We sat down at the table with our trays and agreed that any topic was acceptable except for anything relating to babies, birth, or any person involved in this saga.  We held out for about five minutes, naturally, but quickly corrected and tried to talk about life outside the hospital.  Anyone passing our table would have thought we’d been there for 30 weeks instead of 30 hours.

After rejoining the group upstairs, we learned that the plan had changed.  At 5:30PM another woman needed an emergency c-section, so Rachel had been bumped back a spot in line.  She had literally been rolling down the hall toward surgery when they told her to return to her room.   We were first concerned, but then slightly hopeful, because this clearly meant Rachel’s operation was not emergency if they were comfortable pushing it back. 

Colleen went in to see Rachel after they announced that her surgery was now scheduled for about 7PM, roughly 30 minutes from the current time.  While visiting with her, Rachel said she felt like she really had to go to the bathroom.  Colleen paused, considered what Rachel had just said, and then replied, “I don’t think you need to go to the bathroom, I think the baby’s coming.”  Unsure, they called for the doctor to check things out and told Colleen they’d let her know.

At 7:30PM, the doula walked into the waiting room and marched straight up to Colleen.  She knelt down in front of her and Colleen braced herself for the newest information. 

“Grandma,” the doula started.  “She’s at 10cm.  She’s going to start pushing.  You’re going to be a grandma very soon!  This baby is on its way!” 

We all jumped out of our seats, exclaiming various questions, “What?!”  “Why?”  “How is that even possible?!”  “I thought she was getting a c-section in an hour!”

The doula said she had to get back to prepare to help Rachel push, and welcomed us to join her to see them.  When we walked into the room, it was a completely different place than before:  the lights were up, Rachel was sitting up and looked more refreshed than seemed humanly possible, the bed was adjusted into a chair and the whole room was buzzing with excitement over this development. 

Someone pointed out that we’d just been praying, and God had worked a miracle — if the other woman hadn’t needed a c-section, Rachel would never have had the chance to realize she was dilating and ready to deliver.  On top of that, it was a miracle that after being taken off pitocin (to prepare for the c-section) Rachel’s cervix dilated on its own and the baby dropped.  Even the nurses were saying this never, ever happened.

I didn’t know it then, but when Rachel first realized she would be pushing, she freaked out. 

“I had conceded to the fact that I would see my baby soon and wouldn’t have to do any ‘work’ — they were just gonna cut me open and pop her out!  Easy peesy,” she explained to me recently.  “All of a sudden we were changing gears AGAIN.  I was not mentally or physically prepared to push.  It could take anywhere from an hour to four hours – I was completely mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.  Pushing, at that point, was the furthest thing from my mind.  The epidural didn’t help since it made me pretty sleepy.  The idea of a c-section sounded much more appealing — no work for me!”

After a pep-talk from Phil and her doula, she found the strength to rally.  Phil grabbed one of Lindsay’s dance mix CD’s and turned up the volume.  A rockin’ sound blasted through the room, and we all burst out laughing realizing that Baby Goodman would be born to Rhianna.

Suddenly Rachel threw her hair into a high pony-tail, strapped on a headband to keep the sweat in check, and grabbed the railings on the bed frame to show she meant business. 

“I’m ready!” she exclaimed, and boy, did she look it.  Phil was smiling so wide it looked like he had just shotgunned a Redbull/5-Hour-Energy mixer.

We all looked at each other and knew this was it.  Wendy was asked to stay in the room for the birth, and the rest of us went outside the door to listen for the sound we’d waited three days for. 

And this time, we didn’t have long to wait.

~~

The final installment, Waiting for Lillian – Part 3, coming soon!

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Waiting for Lillian — Part 1

Though I have discussed nieces and nephews on this blog before, I think we can all safely agree that I have never written about the birth of nieces, nephews, or any other baby.

Until last week, I had never attended a birth, either.  Now that I’ve attended one, I think it’s time to write about one.  And who better to write about then my new darling niece, Lillian Ann Goodman?

Being a week old, Lillian isn’t really prepared to be interviewed about her introduction into the world, so I will be working with her parents to ensure their story is honored here, as they remember it.  I am telling it from my perspective, but there are things I couldn’t see or hear and parts of the story I missed, so I will be filling it in with the details they provide.  Many thanks to Phil and Rach for participating in the telling of this story.

~~

Saturday, March 10

At around 9AM Saturday, Mike and I were in our pajamas, pouring hot tea and coffee for ourselves.  Mike looked up from his phone and told me, “Rach wants to know if we want to have breakfast at George’s this morning — her contractions have started and she needs a distraction.”

I never turn down the Goodmans, or breakfast, so we got dressed and walked down the street to our favorite Saturday spot.  Miraculously, there was no line, so we got a booth in the back and settled in to wait for Rach and Phil.

When they arrived, Phil slid into the booth after making a joke about Rach being unable to fit — and it wasn’t far from the truth; her due date was the day before, so she was 40 weeks pregnant.

We chatted about how she was feeling, if they were packed and ready, how they were sleeping.  We couldn’t believe the enormity of how their lives were going to change and we talked about how excited we were to know the sex of the baby.

Suddenly, Rachel stopped mid-sentence and held her stomach; she closed her eyes and held her breath for a moment.  We all stopped and stared without meaning to.

“Was that a contraction?” I asked.  “How often are you having them?”

“Not that often,” she replied.  “Every 15 minutes or so.  It started last night so I haven’t slept.”  It hit all of us that we were munching on toast while  one of us at the table was in the first stages of labor — it was totally bizarre and kind of awesome.

I asked Rach if she thought I had enough time to go to a glassblowing class in La Conner that afternoon, because it was a five-hour trip and I knew she wanted us at the birth.  She said the baby wouldn’t be coming for many more hours, so it was perfectly fine to continue with our plans.

And she was right.  It wasn’t until 9:45PM that night that we got a text that said, “Things are progressing.  We’ll likely be at the birth center in the middle of the night or morning.  We’ll let you know.”  An hour later, Rach and Phil called their doula to come to their house to help them through labor.

Sunday, March 11

After waking up Sunday at 8AM, I immediately checked my phone to see if there was any progress update from Rach and Phil.  I saw a text from 5:06AM, “We’re headed to the birth center, but wait to come over til we get settled and checked out.  It could still be quite early.”  Before I could get excited and alert Mike, I saw another text after that at 6:13AM, “Going back home.  100% effaced but only 4cm dilated.  Heading home to rest.  Please pray for rest.  Sooo tired.”

We felt deflated by the false alarm, but we couldn’t imagine how much more discouraged they must have been; we were sure they’d been up most of the night — for the second night in a row.

Wendy, Rachel’s sister, had arrived the day before to support Rachel through labor, and she and Colleen (Rachel’s mom, my mother-in-love) went to their house Sunday morning to help with whatever needed doing.  They worked with Phil and the doula to coach Rach through contractions, did some cleaning and prep work for the house, and generally offered moral support.  They also acted as communication directors, fielding calls and texts from the family who needed updates.

At 2:56PM, Wendy texted us, “We’ll be heading to center shortly.  Contractions back to back.”   In late February, Phil and Rach had sent us an email with their birth plan, which included having the baby at a local birth center rather than a hospital.  They wanted a natural birth without an epidural or any medically unnecessary intervention.  They had told us many times that they wanted Mike, me, Colleen, Glenn and Wendy at the birth, so as we got close to the due date we knew to make ourselves available.

An hour later, when Wendy said to come on over, we were ready.

I know I’m not the only one who has never been to a birth center, so allow me to describe the scene:  the building is within a business park, just blocks from a major hospital, which I’ll admit was a significant comfort to those in attendance from the family.  When we walked in, there was a small reception area, and down the hall was one birthing room, with a waiting room at the other end of the hall, about fifteen feet away.  Mike and I went straight to the waiting room, where we found Colleen, Wendy and our friends Erik and Cami, who are two of Rach and Phil’s best friends.

Shortly after we arrived, Rach asked for us to come say hello.  This was the moment when I basically lost my cool.  I don’t know how to describe it, but I had no idea what was on the other side of that birthing room door, and I felt that it was hallowed and frightening and far too personal for me to enter it.  So what did I do?  I followed Mike in there and then stood like a mannequin, unable to speak.  I looked at Rachel, squatted on the floor in a tank top and yoga pants, totally fine and in the moment.  For some reason I just smiled and tried to breathe, because I didn’t have a single thing to say.  Mike was just as flummoxed, standing beside me.  The midwives were gathered around, smiling enormously and waiting for us to stop acting like idiots.  Needless to say, they waited awhile.

Finally we managed to ask how Rach was doing, how she was feeling, but mostly I was staring at the room, picturing all that was about to go down in there.  I saw a main living area with couches and chairs, a queen size bed with lots of blankets, and a huge sunken bathtub in the corner with candles lit around it, and music playing.  It reminded me more of a place to make a baby than to birth one, and then I realized, maybe that’s a good thing.

A couple of hours later, those of us in the waiting room were a little bored, and we knew that boredom leads to hunger, so we went to Trader Joe’s and stocked up on snacks.  Mike and Erik took the opportunity to visit a bar down the street, having a beer in honor of the impending little one.

When the doula recommended that Rachel take a walk outside to get things moving, we all joined her.  I was flat-out gobsmacked when I saw her doing lunges up a staircase, over and over again.  It was 40 degrees outside, she was in labor, and she was taking steps two at a time up and down the stairs.  If ever there was a moment to feel completely pathetic, this was it.  We all made jokes about our physical inadequacies in front of this hero of a woman working out in front of us.  Helpfully, I took photos.

Later on, the waiting room truly lived up to its name.  We had been at the center six hours, and there was no sign that the baby would be coming any time soon.  The six of us had a good time telling stories and making jokes, checking out the crazy names of the birth announcements on the walls, and generally trying to pass the time.  Wendy had a flight to catch back to Spokane at 9PM, but hours earlier had made the decision to move the flight to 11PM so she would not miss the birth.  At 9PM, when there was still no baby, she moved the flight again to the next morning.

Easily the most heart-stopping moment came when we were all sitting in the waiting room and heard the faintest little sound.  We stopped talking for a second and heard it again, this time with total clarity: the sound of a newborn crying.  You would have thought a hurricane came through the room by the speed with which we all fell over ourselves racing out the door and down the hall.  The second we turned the corner, we smacked into Erik, holding his iPhone with the sound of a baby crying coming out of it.  The cacophony of profanity and accusation that hurled toward him in our rage was priceless.  Erik was the master prankster, and it took all of us about twenty minutes to calm down after the false alarm.  It will be many millenia, however, before we forgive him.

At around 10:30PM, the doula came into our room to tell us that Rachel’s water had been broken by the midwife, in order to help move labor forward.  Rachel knew that this would mean she’d be transitioning soon, so she asked for the women to come into the room and pray for her.

This was the most sacred moment of the day — Rachel’s mom, sister, sister-in-love and close friend gathered around her, laying hands on her and praying in the dark and quiet room.  She sat in a chair and cried as we knelt beside her, offering up prayers of thanksgiving, prayers for strength, prayers for comfort, prayers for health, prayers for life.  The midwives stayed in the room while we prayed, and one of them told us afterward that she couldn’t believe what she’d seen, and how it had helped Rachel.

Monday, March 12

An hour later, the doula told us that Rachel’s labor had stopped progressing, and was actually regressing.  She had made it to 8cm, but was now back at 6cm due to a swollen cervix.  They had to decide whether to continue laboring for an unbearable length of time (and potentially risk needing a c-section), or to transfer to a hospital for desperately needed rest (read: epidural).   It was nearly midnight, so Rach and Phil were headed into their third night without sleep.  Rachel was physically exhausted and said the idea of laboring for several more hours until her cervix dilated was unthinkable.   They made their decision.

And with that, we prepared for the transfer to the hospital.

~~

Waiting for Lillian — Part 2 coming soon!

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