Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Nov '12

Pregnant No More!

My due date was November 15. I used to think November would never come. And then, as it crept closer, I couldn’t believe it was actually so near.

Around 36 weeks things started to get more uncomfortable, and I began looking forward to not being pregnant anymore. I’d be able to sleep (and still breathe) in any position, not just on my left side (which made my shoulder ache). I’d be able to lay to rest my awful compression stockings that I had to wear to keep pain in check from my many, horrible varicose veins. I could pack away my maternity clothes!

But, still, having the baby seemed far off. On Monday, November 5th John and I went to Wesley’s school to visit the transitional kindergarten classroom. This is his last year of preschool, and we need to decide what type of classroom will be the best fit for him next year–regular kindergarten (which has 1 teacher to 20 kids, and high expectations) or transitional (which has 1 teacher and 3 aides, and is a special ed environment, so slower paced). As we drove together in the car we talked about the baby and I said, “I have no inkling of having a baby today.”

Which was true. I never saw it coming. That night around 11 pm I got ready for bed as usual and wrote in my journal, but my back was hurting. After a little while I called John upstairs to sit with me because it was so uncomfortable. Eventually he pulled up an app on his tablet that timed contractions. It turns out they were about 12 minutes apart. And soon they were 7 minutes apart. Then 5, then 4. Around 1:30 am John called our neighbor and asked her to come sleep on the couch so we could go to the hospital.

I had been dreading this labor and delivery experience because having Carissa was difficult. It left me feeling traumatized and scared to go through it again. This time John and I decided I would try an epidural and see how it went without the accompanying pain.

So as we drove to the hospital (with a towel on the seat beneath me, which John kindly gave me in case my water broke in his car), I felt surprisingly calm. The labor pains hurt, but I knew how to breathe through them, and I knew that in a bit I would have the epidural to help.

We arrived sometime after 2 am and got the paperwork started for my stay. I ordered the epidural right away. First they hooked me up to an IV to get a bag of saline solution into my system. I also had negative memories associated with getting an IV, because during Carissa’s labor the nurse took about a half hour trying to set up my heplock (which I never needed), poking both arms in the midst of heavy, horrible back labor pains before finally getting it in. This time was better.

Getting the epidural made me nervous, I think mostly because I’d never done it before. All in all, it wasn’t a big deal. It took several minutes, but there was only one “Ouch!” moment when I got poked in the back, and then my legs started feeling warm and tingly. I was like, “Hey, what’s going on?” and the epidural guy said that meant it was working, and that the needle was in just the right spot in my back.

And that was the last I felt of my contractions. I’ve had three babies, two without pain medication and one with. After my experience with an epidural, here is what I’ve decided: WHY did I never do this before??

Somehow my labor with Wesley wasn’t so bad. But Carissa’s was terrible. This one probably would have been similar. It was so lovely to not feel the pain anymore.

In fact, it was kind of surreal to be at the hospital, in a bed with a gown on, unable to move my legs (but I would move my feet a little), and to just LIE there. I watched “I Love Lucy” on our portable DVD player for a while. The nurse started by lying me on my left side at 3:30 am, and after an hour she came back and rolled me to the right side. It wasn’t until then, when my view of the room changed and I could see the baby bed set up in the corner, that it registered in my head WHY I was there. To have a baby! Right. So, so different from an active labor experience where you feel everything. Truthfully, so much more pleasant.

Around midnight, long before we left for the hospital, my body started shaking. It’s an effect of the hormones during labor, and I remember having the shakes to some degree during or following my other deliveries. This time I was shaking so strongly that they couldn’t ever get a blood pressure reading from the cuff on my arm because I couldn’t hold my arm still enough. Once the epidural kicked in they transferred the cuff to my calf, and finally it worked.

The first hour of my epidural (about 3:30 to 4:30 am) I couldn’t relax. I was shaking hard, and I was adjusting to the feeling of numbness in my legs. It is a WEIRD feeling to not be able to move your legs. I hate holding still, even when falling asleep at night, so this was hard for me at first. We turned up the thermostat in the room and I asked for some hated blankets, and gradually my shaking improved. Once the shaking lessened, I could relax, and once I relaxed, I could rest. From 4:30 to 5:30 am John and I were able to sleep off and on (a very little, but still). I listened to a book on my mp3 player, and John lay on the couch. For some reason they couldn’t find a spare pillow for him and he had to use our coats.

Nearing 5:30 am, I started to notice mild pressure in my lower back sometimes. I figured things were progressing. At 5:30 am they positioned me back on the left side, and after that I could tell things were really moving along. Three or four times I felt strong, strong pressure deep down that clearly meant the baby was getting in position to come. It was nearly 6 am, and the nursing shifts were about the change. I asked my nurse to call my doctor.

Just after 6 the new nurse waltzed in and said the doctor’s instructions were to “progress all the way and then call him.” I told her it felt serious and asked her to check me. She did, and promptly called out to the hallway for someone to call my doctor and tell him to come NOW. I was at a 4 when I arrived at the hospital around 2:30, at a 6 when I got my epidural around 3:30, still at a 6 at 4:30, then about an 8 or 9 at 5:30. At 6:05 my water still hadn’t broken but the bag of water was basically hanging out. The nurse told me to relax and keep my legs closed (hello, epidural, they weren’t moving).

Then people started shuffling in to prepare for the baby to come. My doctor showed up around 6:15 am and got the party started. I felt a little nervous because, historically for me, pushing has been the hardest part of giving birth. So, so difficult and tiring when I was already completely exhausted from enduring the labor pains. So I asked my doctor what to expect. He said, very calmly, “Well, you’re going to take a few deep breaths, push a little, and then you’re going to have a baby.”

Turns out, that was it exactly. He instructed me to take a deep breath and push. which I tried doing. Then he said next time to push a little deeper down. So I took another breath and tried again. It felt like I was doing nothing, and I asked, “Am I doing this right?” John and the doctor both said, “You’re doing great! There’s the head.” I took a couple more breaths and a couple more pushes, and the baby was born. It was the easiest thing, nearly effortless. I couldn’t believe how much easier that was this time around.

The baby girl was born November 6th at 6:35 am. She weighed 6 lbs 4 oz and was 18.5 inches long. She appeared healthy.

I was in such good spirits that I told John to get out our video camera. He gave me a funny look and said, “Are you sure?” But I felt so happy to have had the baby, to not be pregnant anymore, and to have had it be a positive experience for once. So this is the first baby we have video of during the first minutes of her life.

As soon as I held her I thought she looked different from Carissa as a baby. The longer I held her I more I decided she more resembles Wes as a baby. Her hair color and face shape is more like Wesley’s as a baby.

We had kind neighbors who cared for our older kids while John and I stayed at the hospital that first day. He slept at home with the kids that night, and the next afternoon I came home with our new baby.

We weren’t sure what to name her. We had a first name tentatively chosen, but were completely blank for a middle name. The day after she was born John called me from home and suggested a middle name that he had thought of while trying to fall asleep the night before. It sounded good to me, and it was Irish like my first name is. So we decided on Elizabeth Erin.

She is 11 days old now, and we are impressed by how remarkably CALM she is. She seems just happy to be here. Sometimes we watch to make sure she’s breathing, even when her eyes are open, because she can be so still. She cries when we change her diaper or wakes up hungry, but that’s about it. She seems very sweet, and we adore her. Wes loves to hold her and often says, “I carry you?” which is how he asks to hold her. Carissa is merely fascinated by the baby’s dirty diapers, and is practicing being “soft” with her sister.

And here is Elizabeth, in her first few minutes of life.

Our first day in the hospital together. I watched a lot of HGTV–a special treat for me, who doesn’t have cable at home.

A couple days old.

And now, we have THREE.

Aug '10


Today Carissa is thirteen days old. If she were Wesley, yesterday would have been the day we were allowed to bring her home from the hospital.

Our birth experience this time was vastly different from Wesley’s. Both labors were about the same length (eight hours), and I delivered both babies without pain medication like I planned.

My labor with Wesley wasn’t too bad, but I had a hard recovery. This was because I had high blood pressure during labor, and to prevent seizures I was given an IV with magnesium sulfate. “Mag” (as the nurses call it) is rough stuff. It’s a smooth muscle relaxer that has lousy side effects. I was bleeding too heavily, my uterus wasn’t contracting, my speech slurred, I couldn’t sit up in bed without passing out… I was basically totally out of it. When they handed Wes to me after he was born I was too exhausted to hold him or even care much. A few hours later, John and I were dealing with the surprise news that Wes has Down syndrome. It’s not a big deal now, three years later, but at the time we were devastated. With all this together, I remember lying flat on my back in bed and wondering if I was going to get through it. You’re supposed to be on the mag for 24 hours following delivery, but because I was handling it so poorly my OB took me off it after just 12. And once I was off it, what a change! Things got better from there. I could start to enjoy being a new mom.

With Carissa, it was a little bit the opposite. The labor was the hardest physical work I’ve even done (and hope to ever do), but once she was out things were OK. I didn’t have high blood pressure with her, which was a relief. With both babies my back hurt during labor; the difference was that with Wesley, it was manageable, but the back labor with Carissa was indescribably painful. It overwhelmed everything. I had prepared for labor and delivery with breathing techniques that helped me through Wesley’s birth. Breathing and relaxing takes a giant bite out of the discomfort of uterine contractions. But it does nothing for back pain.

I often wondered during those eight hours how I was going to get through it. I was so tired, and tired of the pain. The nurses reminded me to stay in the moment, focus on each contraction, and then relax, and don’t worry about what’s coming next. (Which is good advice.) I often thought how much easier it would be with some pain medication. But I knew what I wanted deep down, so I pressed through it. I was so grateful John was there. And I quickly saw that switching from an OB to the midwives (which I had done around 33 weeks) was a brilliant decision. My midwife stayed with me for nearly all my labor. AND she helped with pain management by pressing on my hips and legs during contractions to help quell the back pain. She showed John how to do this, but (and though I love him) John didn’t have the same knack for it as she did. But John was indispensable; he kept telling me what a good job I was doing, and even though I didn’t believe him, it kept me going.

After a while it became clear that the baby’s head was presenting at a weird angle. It was drawing out the labor and probably also causing that ridiculous back pain. Again, I was grateful for the midwife and supportive nurses who instead of offering intervention like forceps or a vacuum suggested different positions to help with things. They did suggest breaking my water but left it completely up to me whether I chose to or not. We discussed the pros and cons and in the end I decided to do it, and I don’t regret it.

At what felt like long, long last I was ready for pushing. I have heard (and seen videos) of women giving birth where the baby just kind of falls out without them having to push or bear down, and maybe someday that will be my privilege, but so far that hasn’t been the case. I think that pushing is about the hardest part of baby delivery. You are so ready to be done. It is such hard effort to push and make your pushes effective.

But at the same time, it is the best part. This time, perhaps because I wasn’t doped out on magnesium sulfate, I could fully appreciate my baby being born. John would tell me what a good job I was doing, and that I was almost there, almost done, that he could see the top of the head, and just a little bit more.

The very best part of the whole day was the moment the baby slipped all the way out and the midwife placed her on my tummy. All the pain, all the struggle, was gone. In their place was total relief. And awe. To finally see the little person that had been growing inside my belly for the last 40 weeks… Sometimes I didn’t think there really was a baby in there, yet here she was. I was amazed by how calm she was, lying on my tummy. Her eyes were open and she was alert but relaxed, as if being born and taking her first breaths of air was no big deal. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

The hardest part was over. The better part was beginning. Without the mag or any other drugs in my system I was alert and able to watch the nurses bathe and measure her. I got to pick out the little bow for her hair. Sometime during my labor dinner had been brought in, and now I got to eat. Talk about a welcome meal. Two hours after she was born I was able to stand and walk.

My mom and dad happened to arrive in town an hour or two before Carissa was born, and my mom came by to visit. We moved to my recovery room, and 24 hours later, we checked out of the hospital.

Wes was born with a long list of medical risks, and he came home from the hospital with an oxygen tank and sleep apnea monitor. The only thing we had to watch with Carissa was her bilyrubin numbers (for jaundice). I took her to the hospital three times to be tested, but eventually the numbers came down on their own without needing light therapy.

Carissa is doing well, and so are we.

Aug '10


Carissa Rose
who entered the world with a head full of dark hair on Sunday, August 15th 2010 at 7:11 p.m
weighing 7 lbs. 9 oz. and measuring 19.5 inches long

Mom and Baby
are as healthy as can be expected and are both adjusting to their new roles together

The Family
is now four

Aug '10

Aaaaand we wait

Made it to 40 weeks; shall we try for 41?

Some things that are getting me through the waiting game:

1. Cleaning house.
2. Reading books. I just read Shannon Hale’s The Actor and the Housewife (mixed feelings about it) and am still reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn.
3. Packing and repacking our hospital bag, Wesley’s overnight bag, and John’s hospital snack bag. John’s snack bag consists of beef jerkey, chocolate donuts, Gatorade, and Ding Dongs. When he saw the bag his face lit up, and then he added a few more Ding Dongs for good measure.
4. Listening to my Hypnobirthing affirmations “for a smooth and easy birth.”

Some things that I can look forward to soon:

1. The Hunger Games book #3. Its release date is next weekend, I think. I pre-ordered it in April.
2. My folks coming to visit (i.e., coming to hold the baby).
3. Being able to turn over in bed without struggle.
4. Meals from the Relief Society.
5. Wes getting to wear his “Big Brother” t-shirt.

Some things I’m not really looking forward to:

1. Lack of sleep.
2. Lack of sleep.
3. Lack of sleep.

Still, we’re counting down.

Jul '10

Oh Baby

I’m fast approaching the 35 week mark of this pregnancy. Let me remind you that my labor with Wesley started at 36 weeks and 4 days. But also let me remind you that he only weighed 3 lbs 15 oz at birth. I had no idea how spoiled I was to carry such a small baby until now. The baby girl inside my belly must be more of a regular baby. Here’s why I think so.

A) I feel her A LOT.

I remember that when Wes was born and we learned he has Down syndrome the nurses wanted to know if I had felt him “normally” in the womb. I didn’t know how to answer that because he was my first pregnancy. I felt Wes move in the womb, sure. I felt him hiccuping frequently. But it was nothing compared to what I’m feeling with this kid inside me now. She moves frequently–so frequently that I find myself thinking to her, “You know that once you’re living with us you have to sleep sometimes, right? RIGHT?!” She is quiet sometimes, but she sure seems to move a lot. Every time I’m awake at night she seems to be, too.

B) Her movements make me uncomfortable in a way I never was with Wesley.

I find myself shifting around a lot, trying to get her to stop moving, or to at least make it less uncomfortable for me. She pushes against my rib cage, my bladder, and my lower back all. the. time. My lower back is constantly sore. If John even accidentally brushes his hand somewhere near my lower back I can’t help but say, “Oooooh, pleeeeease, push against my tailbone. Pleeeeeeease.” The counter pressure is nice. The only way my lower back feels better is if I’m on all fours with my hips in the air. (Not really a convenient position to be in very often.)

I can’t help but think about the next five weeks and wondering, is it truly necessary for the baby to get much bigger? She seems strong and healthy to me as she is. Maybe we can have it over with by 36 weeks like we did with Wes?

I realize I just entered the category of “pregnant women who whine.” Or maybe just “pregnant women.” Because I think it’s fair to suppose most pregnant women, amid their joyful anticipation, experience a few inconveniences that elicit some complaints too.

And don’t even get me started on varicose veins.

But I guess this is one way to make me feel over-the-top ready for the baby to come when she’s ready to. I hope we’re ready when she is.

Jun '10

How to Tell If You’re Pregnant

1. Your husband picks a brownie crumb off the top of your tummy-table.

2. Your belly keeps bumping into the kitchen counter edges.

3. People can tell when you’ve been doing dishes because of the wet line across your shirt front.

4. When you’re sitting cross-legged on the floor and lean forward you can’t figure out what weird thing is touching your legs, until you look down and realize it’s YOU.

5. You’ve been pillow shopping at least once and now sleep with a pillow between your legs, another one under an arm, one or two under the head, and a spare pillow on the floor beside you, just in case.

6. Turning over at night is as complicated as a three-point turn: Shift from side to back; catch breath, then shift from back to other side; readjust pillows.

7. You get jealous when you see your husband asleep at night, lying on his stomach.

8. A worn path appears in your carpet leading from the side of your bed to the toilet.

9. You get your best reading or TV watching done between the hours of 2 and 4 in the morning.

10. When you try to tighten your abs nothing responds.

11. Sometimes you feel like your wardrobe choices are frump or super-frump.

12. You won’t turn down someone’s offer to help you up from a sitting position.

13. You see your belly button from a whole new angle.

14. You don’t see much below the belly button.

15. You wish your shower had a chair so you could shave your legs more effectively and without losing your balance.

16. The bathtub becomes your favorite new place to hang out.

17. You start looking at your existing kid(s) thinking they’re all grown up, and where did the time go?

18. You start eyeing up newborn sized onesies and sleepers with feet.

19. Your life becomes defined by the week instead of by the day.

20. Time has never gone so slowly, nor moved so fast.