Friday, November 8, 2013

My two sons

Mark and Jack,

My dear boys. Mark, you are 27 months old and Jack you are almost 8 months old. I often reflect on my life and what I imagined it would be. I can transport myself back in time to when I first met your dad and although I knew being a mom was the ultimate blessing and exactly what I wanted, I was not prepared for what was to come. I'm not even talking about the selflessness, the lack of sleep, the constant gogogo that comes with being a mom. I am talking about the fact that it feels like my heart is walking around outside of my body. The feeling that you two are so much a part of me, it is as if I am missing a limb when you are away from me. All of the stress, anxiety, and worry are worth it when I hear that belly laugh of yours Mark, or Jack, when you squeal and grip my face trying to plant a huge wet kiss on me (or bite me....but whatever, semantics). Or the times when Mark asks me to "hold me just a lil bit" before I tuck you into bed. It's so worth it when Jack is nursing and stares into my eyes and pats my chest. Being a mom is the hardest job I have ever had and I believe it is the hardest job that exists. Yes, I truly believe that. I also believe that it is worth it, ten fold, in the small moments that make your heart swell. As Mark is becoming older and his vocabulary expanding, he melts my heart constantly. I wanted to take a moment to record what you two have been up to lately...time flies and I don't want to forget this.

Mark, you, as always, are extremely independent. A boy after my own heart. You are also quite argumentative. Ahem. I'm not sure where you got that. This is a typical conversation: 
Mark: Mommy, what's that? :::points to picture of Ape in one of your favorite books "I love you Stinky Face"
Mommy: That's an Ape. :::reads "But Momma, But momma, What if I were a big, scary Ape, would you still love me then?:::
Mark: No, that's not an Ape, that's a monkey. 
Mommy: Ok Mark. :::reads "But momma, but momma, what if I were a big, scary, monkey, would you still love me then?::::
Mark: No, mommy, that's not a monkey, it's a big scary Ape. 

le sigh. Son, you inherited this trait from me. I hope we can harness this into a positive. I, for one, admire that you think for yourself and see a challenge at every corner but I can assure you, not everyone will feel this way. And no, this does not mean you should go to law school!

When we aren't debating, we are going for walks, playing with playdoh, singing songs and dancing. You love to play the drums and you are actually very good. If you are musically inclined, I am hoping for a more soft/soothing instrument...maybe piano?! You adore your puppies and like to rough house with them. Mickey Mouse is your favorite and I am so looking forward to introducing you to Mickey in a few weeks when we go visit Kaki and Papa. You love all your family and pray for them every night. You know how to melt mommy's heart by asking me to "hold me just a lil bit" when I am tucking you in at night. You often respond to me telling you how much I love you with an enthusiastic "Thaaaaanks Mommy". Your laugh is infectious and your smile can light up a room. You know which teams you support and are quick to follow up a "Geaux" with "TIGERS" and you can chant "who dat?!" with the best of them. You love to play with daddy but I still am the one who comforts you when you are sad or upset. You have no idea what that means to me. Although one day you won't run to me to hug you and kiss away your bobos, I hope you always know I am here for you and will try my hardest to make you feel better. I dread the day when I cannot take away your pain. I know it is imminent and I don't know how parents do it. You love your family and pray for them all every night. It warms my soul to hear you thank God for everyone who is near and dear to you. I love you my sweet, strong, smart Mark. 

Jack, my happy lovable boy. You are the happiest baby I have ever been around. You are a momma's boy and I LOVE that. You are my sweet baby and growing up entirely too fast. I relish the moments where you are enamored with me. You are an amazing sleeper and have been since 5 weeks old. Unlike your brother, you not only sleep well at night but you nap well also. You adore Mark. He makes you smile even when he cries. (he is not amused by this) You get so excited when you get your hands on me you want to bite me. We are working on that :). You are so strong, physically. Just don't start crawling or walking yet...momma's still getting used to life with 2 kiddos. You and your brother remind me so much of each other at times yet you are remarkably different as well. You love to eat! Thank goodness. You have the best belly laugh. You love to cuddle. You make sounds that sound like "dada" but I am holding out for "mama". You are so laid back and easy going. You were the best surprise of my life and my constant reminder to take a step back. I love you more than life itself and am so excited to watch  you grow.

I could write for hours about the memories of you two that I don't want to forget.But at the end of the day, I am just trying to enjoy those moments with the two of you. You both bring so much joy to my life. I am a bit sad about how fast it goes but mostly I am just enjoying it. Every age and stage is fun and I think that will hold true even when you are both grown. I love you both to the moon and back. Love always, Mommy. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happy 6 Months to my sweet Jack

Jack,
I am starting to feel like a broken record. I cannot wrap my mind around how fast time flies. I thought I understood when I had your big brother Mark. I had no idea. These past 6 months have been the best of my life. Our family is (almost) complete. Six months ago I was probably nursing you to sleep and not wanting to put you down in your bassinet. I had you earlier in the afternoon and we had spent much of that time together. Mark came to meet you and was thoroughly confused. He went home with Grandma and Grandpa and it was just me, you and daddy in our cozy room. I was exhausted. I had been awake for 39 hours. I swear it must have been adrenaline (and pain) that kept me awake. By 9 pm, daddy and I could barely keep our eyes open. I had endured a difficult labor. But I would do it over a thousand times (well maybe not that many, but you get the idea), because your birth healed mommy. I had a goal and I did not lose sight of it, even when things got ugly. I never waivered in wanting a birth where I could walk over to your bassinet after you were born, and pick you up. Where I could be the one who changed your first diaper. Where I could remember those first hours when you looked at me like I was all that mattered. I will cherish those moments for the rest of my life, there is nothing like looking into your child's eyes for the first time. I can still close my eyes and go back to that moment when I delivered you and they placed you on my chest. I sobbed and held you close. Before I had your brother, I never thought it possible to love so deeply and without conditions. I was again reminded on March 19, 2013.

Now, when you are older and reading this as I hope you will one day, you will not be surprised to know that you were our surprise baby. I sometimes refer to you as a miracle because God must have known how much we needed you in our lives that he gave you to me at this time. Even though you were not expected, remember this: I have always wanted YOU. Although the timing was not part of my plan, I have wanted and waited for you all my life. I have always loved you. and I always will.

My labor was no indication of how our time would be with you. You have been the happiest, easiest baby I have ever met. Your brother was a good baby as well, and we referred to him as the happiest baby because he was truly always smiling. You are both one in the same. Two different personalities yet the two best babies I have ever known. You started sleeping through the night at 5.5 weeks old!! You have no idea how amazing that is. You will, though, one day.

You were almost 9 pounds at birth and you were packing on the pounds by the minute. But just like your brother, you are becoming more lean with the most kissable cheeks and thighs! I haven't given you any solids yet but they are coming soon!

You absolutely adore your older brother. He loves to make you laugh. My favorite moments are when the two of you are staring at each other, laughing. The beginning of your relationship was a little rough, Mark had a hard time adjusting to no longer being an only child. But that only lasted a few weeks and now, he loves you so much. He has to kiss you goodbye when he goes to his class at school. He is very concerned when he hears you cry after waking from a nap. I so look forward to watching your relationship grow.

These past  6 months have been full of changes for us, but I am so unbelievably thankful that one of those changes was you. You have filled my heart. You remind me to slow down and appreciate these tender years. You snuggle on me right when I need it. Thank you for that. I love you more than words can say and I am so grateful that on July 13, 2012, I was "surprised."

Monday, August 12, 2013

How it all began

So I finally got around to converting our wedding slideshow from an antiquated power point version to a  legit slideshow. Doing this was like taking a step through time. Bear with me as I don't often write about my marriage, I tend to stick to my kids. Unfortunately, I think that is a pervasive theme applicable in more ways than blog posts.  But taking this step back was just what I needed. In the hustle and bustle of diaper changes, nursings, grilled cheese sandwiches, burp cloths, bill paying...it's easy to forget how we got here. But what all started this wonderful life was a remarkable relationship that I hope one day my children are lucky and blessed enough to share with another person. I knew from the beginning that I was going to marry George. As I look at these photographs of the beginning of our life together, I am overjoyed that I got to share this with another human being and continue to do so. Sure the butterflies fade and the excitement and newness wear thinner but at the end of the day, I have my best friend by my side every step of the way. That is a beautiful thing. I am also reminded how very blessed we both are to have such loving family and friends.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I have.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Happy Second Birthday, Mark.

In pretty much every post about my babies, I remark about the speed at which times flies. Any parent is no stranger to this idea that time propels forward at a faster rate than it did pre-kiddos. Although I am aware in my head that time goes fast, I don't think my heart has quite grasped the concept. As I look back at where we were one year ago, I am stunned that so much has happened in those 365 days. I am speechless at what has transpired in two years. I can still remember exactly what we were doing the night before your birth. If I close my eyes, I can recall the overall sense of excitement mixed with a healthy dose of fear. When I hold Jack, I struggle to remember what it was like in those early months. As he has started cooing, I find it difficult to remember what your coos sounded like. I am so thankful for the pictures and videos we took. Now, what I do remember with exceptional clarity is that my entire world shifted. There was life before you and life after and the two are totally different. I prefer the latter. My life has been blessed beyond measure the moment I conceived you. When they placed you in my arms, I knew I would never be the same.

In that first year you changed so much in those short twelve months. The change since your first birthday has been possibly even more dramatic. This time one year ago we were in the Florida Keys...and you were hopefully asleep. I had just found out that I was pregnant with Jack. Which turned out to be the best surprise of my life. You and I both felt under the weather that trip but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I remember how much you loved the water, a love that holds true today. You were still nursing as well. It puts a lump in my throat to know that such a tender and beautiful relationship between us has ended. I'm not saying I would still nurse you today, in fact I cannot imagine it.  I know I am raising you to go out into the world and be your own person and these moments are but fleeting. But I will treasure that time all of my life. Those sweet times when you would put your hand on my chest, look into my eyes with those huge, beautiful brown eyes, and smile...and the milk would leak out. Or when I would wake you for your nighttime nursing and you wouldn't even open your eyes. You would just open wide, curl into me, and fill your tummy. Those are some of the most peaceful and fulfilling moments of my life. Those are the moments that take your breath away. I gave you life inside and outside of my body. I am very thankful I am sharing this with Jack. One day you will be embarrassed by this story but I hope that eventually you will appreciate it. When they place your child in your arms, probably not before then. But I am getting ahead of myself, you are only TWO!

This year has been a blast. You have grown from wobbling baby to full-speed ahead toddler (although if I can be honest, you are still my baby. Always will be.) You had a great birthday party where you were able to see how blessed you are with so many friends and family members who love you. You have mastered walking and you have running pretty much down pat. You are a pro at climbing, much to my chagrin. You love an audience and love to make people laugh. You are very independent and grow frustrated when you cannot do for yourself. Your vocabulary is vast. People always comment on how well you speak. I think this is the reason you don't throw many temper tantrums, you can express your wants/dislikes etc. to us with great ease. You love being outside. You LOVE the water and have no fear. Please have a little fear...for mommy. It makes me nervous about what the teenage years will be like. You have really warmed up to "baby Gack" (as you call him). I have spied you petting him when you think I am not looking and saying "it's ok baby". I know too that you like attention and you aren't a fan of the adorable Jack stealing any of it from you. You love taking a bath with your toys "kitty" and "bunny" (literal names for these toys). Your favorite characters are Mickey and Elmo and Barney occasionally. Your favorite movie for most of this year was the Lorax (formerly pronounced "Lolap"). You love to play with daddy but when you are hurt, it is mommy that comforts you. You have no idea what joy it brings me to comfort you and take the pain away, however slight. You have been in 3 schools this year. Just after your first birthday we switched you to Mt. Carmel's Cub Corner where you thrived and flourished. You were so excited to see Ms. Jan on MWF. You wouldn't even look back at me if she was in the play yard when I dropped you off. Now you are in a new school on the Northshore and although you give me quite the performance when I drop you off, I see on the webcams that you are having a blast. We moved into our first home this summer and you LOVE the backyard. I love that you will be able to ride your bike in the neighborhood and have an outdoor childhood (safely).

The biggest change came in March when you were 19 months old and baby Jack arrived. It took you a while to warm up. I know it was hard on you and it broke my heart to see you so distraught. But again, you bounced back with flying colors. I am always amazed at the resiliency of a child, specifically yours. I know you two will grow to be best buds. Sure you will fight, but there is no other love like that of a sibling and I feel so blessed to have given you both this gift. Treat each other well, family is forever.

I could go on and on about the changes we've experienced over the past year but the fact remains that you have changed my life and daddy's life for the better. I won't remember it all but I do have an overall sense of peace that I am savoring this time, enjoying the blessing that is you, and trying to live in the moment. I can only vaguely recall what life was like before you. And if sharing our life with you means less sleep and more worry, I will take it over and over again because the joy that you bring to it is immeasurable. We love you to the moon and back. Love always, Mommy and Daddy

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mark's Second Year in Pictures

Quite honestly, I have not posted because our lives have been hectic as of late. I will post soon on the recent goings on but for now, here is a link to Mark's Second Year slideshow. I told myself I would make these for my children every year and I believe I will because it is just so much fun to go back through the pictures and videos we took over the past year and reminisce. Enjoy.

Happy Second Birthday!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life with 2 Kids...so far

So I now have two children. two kids. two of them. 2 babies. Maybe if I say it enough it will hit me. It is taking a while for that fact to sink in. At times I still feel like a junior in high school with butterflies clips in my way too short hair and pudgey face. More often, I feel like the 20 old me with butterflies in her stomach because George, my crush, actually wanted to date me. But although those are still a part of me that I will cherish always (well minus the horrible fashion and pudge), my life is better now. ten fold. incomparably so. See now I have this love in my heart that is of the type that makes you fall on your knees and thank God that he has bestowed this miraculous gift on you. That is how I felt in August of 2011 when they placed my wonderful first born son into my arms. My heart grew every day with love for him and continues to do so. A little over five weeks ago, my heart grew to proportions I did not think possible. My sweet Jack came to me via a delivery I dreamed of (well minus the shoulder dystocia) and he healed me. I see my body completely different now. I knew I could sustain life both in utero and afterwards through breastfeeding. And I gotta tell ya, that is powerful knowledge. To know that you provided life, well it takes my breath away. But the love....oh the love. That word seems so small to describe the feeling. And really and truly, it is indescribable. You cannot know it until you experience it. And let me assure you, it is so worth it and then some. It is the hardest thing you will ever do. But the rewards, and they occur on a daily basis, are sweeter than anything you could imagine. I was struck with that when I was holding my 5 week old today. I looked on his perfect face and was brought to tears because I could literally feel something physical, as though my heart were moving. The feeling is so powerful it takes my breath away. Now, before I come across all sunshine and roses, let me be clear that parenting is anything but. It is the hardest, most selfless thing I have ever done. And although there are times when I just want to put on my pj's and watch Teen Mom all day, that life is over for me. But I digress....

Life with two kids is pretty different in some ways and not so much so in others. First of all, the emotional rollercoaster I went on after Mark was born was non-existent for Jack. Specifically, I will admit that every day for 6 weeks after Mark's birth, I cried. Now at first the tears were sobs...even over a preview for the movie Dolphin Tale (yeah I still haven't figured that one out). They gradually lessened to the point where I would just look at my sweet Mark and be so overcome with love that I would get a knot in my throat and shed literally a few tears. But nonetheless, every day for 6 weeks post-partum, I shed tears. I do not think I suffered from true PPD, but rather baby blues. I am not sure if it was also due to my c-section which I was definitely depressed about. Regardless, it happened. I was apprehensive in the months leading up to having Jack because I didn't want to go on that emotional ride again. It was exhausting. and I know I scared my husband. I mean c'mon, who cries for a preview for a movie about a Dolphin getting a prosthetic tail?! (Again, I still can't figure that out). You can imagine my surprise when I am 5 weeks postpartum and have really cried twice and maybe gotten teary-eyed about 6 times. I definitely cried my eyes out as soon as they placed Jack on my chest after I delivered him. I sobbed. But they were unbelievably happy tears. My baby Jack healed me. I got teary-eyed mostly over Mark having a hard time adjusting to his new baby brother. It was upsetting to watch Mark so distraught. I don't know why there is the difference but I am relieved. I think a part of it is that it felt so overwhelming to become a parent for the first time. I literally did not feel like I was myself anymore. When I had Jack I had put the non-parent version of myself to bed when Mark arrived. I no longer partied or thought of myself first, rather my life was my husband and my children. Our family came first and that sense of self no longer overwhelmed me.

The main way that it is different is that you don't really get a break. We had Mark sleeping through the night by 11 weeks old. That meant that eventually, Mark went to bed at 7:30 and slept until 7:00 so we had plenty of time to relax in the evenings. It also meant that if one of us wanted to do something, handling one kid on your own was simple. Now, the same is definitely not true. Mark is only 20 months old, still a baby (atleast to me he is). So leaving one of us alone with both is not to be desired. Now I have juggled both because of the nature of George's job but it is difficult and not ideal. So that is the major change. But overall, I was expecting the same reaction after bringing Jack home and it has not even been close. Maybe that is because I had such a rough time after my first. I know part of it is that God has blessed us with an angel. Seriously. The first night in the hospital, I had to wake Jack to nurse. I should have known then he was good. The week my mom spent helping us, she never heard Jack cry. Now, he does cry I assure you but he didn't really in the first couple weeks. He nursed and he slept. And that was pretty much it. I got a 5 hour stretch of sleep my first night home. Seriously?! Mark did not sleep his first night home. The only reason I got any rest is because of my amazing mother-in-law. Now, we have had a couple of rough nights. One bad day when he was 3 weeks old led me to diagnose him with colic (silly me). And in the evenings, we have to rely on the swing. But even though he is fussy, we know what works and use it immediately (swaddle and swing) But for the past 2 weeks (mind you, he is only 5w, 2d), he nurses every 3 hours. He nurses around 9:30-10pm and not again until 4am and then again at 7:30am. I usually wake him at 4 am because I am scared of him sleeping through the night and it affecting my supply. It is unbelievable to me. Now I have been working really hard as I did with Mark. This doesn't just happen with my kids. You can ask my husband. I keep Babywise within arms reach always. And although I do not apply it rigorously, I do use some key principles that take a lot of work implementing. The result has been 2 kids with incredible sleep patterns. Regardless, my hard work is paying off. I always said I wouldn't hold any stock in the method until I put the principles to work with #2. Well I have and now I am a believer that it works. Jack is such a different baby from Mark in every way. Yet it works. The only way they are similar is their hatred for rubber nipples; i.e., pacifiers and bottles. Mark took a pacifier for a few months but Jack wants nothing to do with it. We are working on the bottle because, for my sanity, I need to know I can leave him in the care of someone else and he will drink.

So although I do not think life has changed that drastically with 2, I know part of that is that I have this unbelievably good baby boy. He is an angel. He has already started smirking at me. I can't wait to watch this precious baby boy grow. It has really been the best part of my life to watch Mark grow and I know the same is true for Jack. Well I could go on and on but I need to nurse Jack and get to bed. Oh, because sleep is more precious with #2 because another way things have changed, I am more drained at the end of the day. See, I can't nap when Mark naps anymore because they are not on the same nap schedule!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Journey to VBAC

I DID IT!!! I GOT MY VBAC. It still seems surreal...and although a lot went wrong, I think it did for a reason. Without all the puzzle pieces falling where they did, I think I could have very easily wound up with a repeat cesarean.

From the outset, excuse me if this post jumps alot. I am writing this as my 2 day old beautiful baby boy is cuddled in my arms. I am inhaling the delicious newborn scent and that can be very distracting. I want to write down my story while it is fresh in my mind. It started on Sunday, March 17th....


....George is on call so it is just Mark and myself and I although I am ENORMOUS at 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I am trying to do as much with Mark as I can. We started out the day normally with breakfast, followed quickly by watching "The Lorax" (the favorite at the moment). Since the weather was so gorgeous, I was feeling a bit guilty about not being able to take Mark out to the St. Patrick's Day Parade. But being that pregnant, it just wasn't possible. Instead, I pulled out the hose, a bucket and some beach toys and you would have thought Mark was in heaven. I left the hose on for as long as he wanted and just let him play. Boy did he. I remember having this feeling (Which I have had many times before), telling myself to take a picture of him in my mind having a blast. I felt like we wouldn't have that moment again...well we would, but it wouldn't be with just Mark. I almost went inside to get the camera (which was packed in my hospital bag), but since he was having so much fun, I didn't want to make him stop. Instead I just sat there and drank in the sight of my beautiful baby boy having a blast on a gorgeous spring day. So proud of himself for filling up the tub on his own and for watering the grass. It was a moment I hope I never forget. Once George was home we had some family time and before I knew it, it was time to put Mark to bed. I put him to bed that night which at this point in the pregnancy, was pretty uncomfortable. I think I knew what was coming on some level. George and I snuggled on the couch and watched some DVR. After some time I thought to myself, I am having alot of contractions tonight. Just for the fun of it, I decided to start timing them around 9:45. For over 2 hours they came at 11 minutes apart exactly. I told George (and myself) there was no way this was labor...I was convinced I would be going past 40 weeks at a minimum. They weren't really increasing in intensity either so we decided to turn the clock around and attempt to sleep. I continued to have them and at some point I had a couple that did increase in intensity and were slightly uncomfortable. But I fell asleep somehow. Throughout the night, I was woken up by similar contractions but I was still able to sleep in between. When I woke at 6:45 am, I had menstrual like cramping but no contractions. I was exhausted so I decided that even if I wasn't in labor, it might be sooner than I thought so I needed to start my maternity leave then.

I dropped Mark off at daycare and headed to my 8:30 am OBGYN appointment. On the way there I had more contractions that I would describe as more intense than Braxton Hicks but not painful, just uncomfortable. They were irregular. My OBGYN checked me and I was completely closed but my cervix had softened since my appointment the week before. I was so excited. This was progress! I went to work to checkout to my boss and complete some paperwork then I got a quick mani/pedi. At this point, the contractions continued, although irregular, and I became more and more convinced that this was early labor. I went home to clean the house in hopes that all that walking would encourage my contractions to become regular and consistent. I had several contractions while cleaning but I didn't time them. George came home from work because we both thought, this was the beginning of labor. I finished around 2:00 pm and decided that I should take a nap. I laid down in bed and my contractions were getting stronger. I decided to start timing them and they were 5 minutes apart. They were very manageable at this point. Needless to say, we did not take a nap. George went to pick up Mark from daycare around 5. At that point, my contractions were 5 minutes apart for over 2 hours and lasting about a minute each. They were still manageable but increasing in intensity. I decided to call my amazing doula. She got her affairs in order and told me she would be to me around 6. I also called my mom and said it was time to head down to Nola. George took care of Mark and I labored on my own. The contractions at this point were intense enough that I had to change positions and could not really talk through them. I think it was around this time that I stopped texting my friends to update them. My doula arrived at 6 and helped me with comfort measures during my contractions. My mom arrived at 7. I remember crying to my mom when George put Mark to bed that I wanted to put him to bed one last time. She assured me I would have plenty more nights to put him to bed. From that point on, the contractions got more intense. I know I keep saying that but it is the only way to describe them. I did a lot of breathing exercises and focal point techniques. Mark's photograph got me through a lot of contractions. The reminder that I wanted a VBAC partly for him. So that I could be a more present mommy when I returned home from the hospital.

I labored at home and by 9 p.m. when my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, I started to panic. I did not know how much more pain I could tolerate and felt the need to be near access to an epidural. I vascilated but by about 9:30, decided I wanted to leave for the hospital. We arrived to Ochsner at 10pm. I know most people describe the carride as unbearable but it wasnt for me. In the 15 minutes it took to get there, I had 3 contractions. Once we parked, I had several back to back contractions. However, I got anxious that I had come to the hospital too soon and they would check me only to find out I had very little cervical progress. So I mustered the strength to labor in the atrium at Ochsner. Several people walked by and asked if I was ok. I found walking to be the best pain management technique during contractions. I labored in the atrium for 2 hours and again got exhausted and decided it was time to head to labor and delivery. My contractions at that point had been 3 minutes apart except for the occasional one that was 4 or 5 minutes apart. When we called to the unit to be checked in we were told that they were full and would get back with us. So here I was with excruciating contractions 3 minutes apart, with my mind made up that I wanted the epidural, and I was told to wait. So we waited, and meanwhile I labored in the waiting room. Thank God it wasn't packed. I labored for an hour before they called me back. Even then, I was placed in triage for monitoring, as the labor unit was full and no LDRs were available. I wanted the epidural so badly at this point. Laboring in a bed is without a doubt the worst position to labor in. It is hard to distract yourself and manage the pain. They checked me and I was 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. To say I was elated is an understatement. My personal goal was to get to a 5 or 6 before asking for the epidural. Well I asked for the epidural but I did not recieve it for another hour. At that point, I was 6cm dilated. Although I was happy for the progress, I did not want to feel another contraction. Sadly, my epidural only took on the right side of my body. For an hour we tried techniques to get the epidural to take on my left side but to no avail. Finally, they manipulated the epidural and it provided relief from the contractions. At this point it was 3am and we had not slept. I tried to doze but could not. Sometime later I was given an LDR room. Although I was beyond frustrated with how slow things seemed to move in getting me into a room, it was a blessing in disguise. By the time I got the room, my OB was coming in for the day and she would be delivering my baby. I was elated.

In the LDR, I was sitting up and talking and only feeling a dull pressure when the machine showed contractions. I continued to progress, albeit at a slower pace. My contractions would be regular and then they would space out. When I got around 9cm, I was checked by several OBs, and it was determined that I had a cervical lip that was not dilating. My doctor decided to put me on the lowest dose of pitocin to speed things up. It was around this time that my epidural started wearing off. At first it was manageable, and then the pain became excruciating. Anesthesia did not offer any assistance. Instead, they kept adding medication to my line but I was getting no relief. I was numb from the thighs down but could feel everything upwards. It was as if they did not believe me. And then the baby rotated and I had back labor. It is very true that there is nothing like back labor. The best way to describe it is that it felt like the baby's head was going to burst through my spine with every contraction. It was brutal and there were many tears. I had surrendered to the pain hours before and decided I didn't want to feel it anymore. Well, my body had other plans. Again, maybe this was a blessing in disguise because I was able to push more effectively.

And let me say this, pitocin is no joke. The contractions were crazy on pitocin. Some were less than two minutes apart, lasting 2-3 minutes each. They did not peak, they plateaued. Part of what got me through the earlier contractions was telling myself that I could get through anything that lasted one minute. These 2-3 minute contractions were a whole different story. I stayed at this in between 9& 10 cm for quite some time. I have no doubt that many OBs would have begun talking about a c-section at this point. However, my amazing doctor is really supportive of VBACs and the baby was showing no signs of distress.

So at some point they stretched out the remainder of my cervix manually. Remember, I could feel everything at this point. Not fun at all. My doctor, realizing that I would not be getting any relief from the contractions suggested we start to push and use the contractions to my advantage. The baby was still at -1 station so I would have to do more work but it would be better than breathing through every contraction (and crying). So with my amazing team positioned, I began to push with every contraction at noon. I pushed for two very long tiring hours. After the first hour I would fall asleep between contractions, waking and begging for a break. But my team coached me on, I was so close. I never let the words "I cannot do this" leave my lips but believe me, they were floating around in my head. I still cannot believe that noone, at any point suggested a c-section... I was so  exhausted, I'd like to believe I would have turned it down but who knows. After 1.5 hours into pushing, my doctor said that the baby seemed big so we may have an issue with the shoulders but that if everyone listened to her, we would do some techniques to get the baby out. It all happened very fast. Once I felt the head pop out, I was lifted up and the McRoberts maneuver was performed. I lost all control at this point and my husband had to hold me down. I was never scared of what shoulder dystocia could mean. But when I looked at the tears in my mother's eyes and the fear on my husband's face, I understood that things could have gone very bad. I cannot say enough about my OB who predicted the problem long before, and had him out in seconds with the technique. The team of medical personnel listened to my doctor and everything went smoothly. I will leave alot of the gory details out. Suffice it to say that I labored and birthed my 8lb 15 oz perfect baby boy at 2:06 p.m. When they placed his little body on my chest the tears came and they did not stop. He healed me. I had the birth I dreamed of (well sort of, minus the failed epidural and the shoulder dystocia)...but I had my natural birth and a lot of it was unmedicated. The rest is history, I held my baby and the world stopped around me.

I have to admit that the pain of labor was much worse than my recovery for the c-section. However, I would do the natural birth 1000 times again. Because even though I had a 2nd degree tear, I could walk over to my baby in his bassinet, pick him up and change his diaper within hours of his birth. I could do none of that for days with Mark. I only needed low dose pain medication for 24 hours so I remember everything and was not constantly falling asleep (other than the fact that I was awake for over 30 hours). For Mark, those first days are hazy. Looking back, I can say it was all worth it. It was a traumatic birth of sorts but I wouldn't trade it for a second. And the added bonus, my OB said I can go natural next time as well. Although that is in the future, that knowledge is a relief.

I have to thank several people. My doula, Maggie Schneider. Without her, I do not think I could have labored on my own for as long as I did. Her pain management techniques and positive reinforcement were invaluable. I would recommend her to anyone. It was hard for me to believe I was her first birth she attended as a doula. Maggie, George and I cannot thank you enough. We give you so much credit for my VBAC. My mom, who came down to New Orleans to help her daughter labor. She never panicked (visibly) although I know there were lots of moments that were very hard for her to watch and experience. Mom I am so glad you were there and a part of this with me, I know it was not easy for you. Last but not least, my wonderful husband. I know it had to be hard to watch someone you love in so much physical pain and not be able to help. But you stayed by me, even trying to make me laugh (although during a contraction, NOTHING is funny :) I love you more than you know and appreciate your support of me during this journey even if you didn't understand why it was so important to me. I am blessed to have found my partner in life in you.

Sorry this is post is so long. It was a long labor.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Birth Plan

If you have zero interest in birth stories, please feel free to skip this entry. Birth is a topic I am extremely passionate about and that will probably be reflected in this entry. I hope to one day be active in an organization that supports women throughout their pregnancy,  labor, and postpartum... be it either as a doula, ICAN leader, or La Leche League leader etc. More on that later. I am also writing this entry while things are still fresh in my mind. If being a parent has taught me anything it is that the details get hazy. So here we go, rewind a couple of years....

I found out I was pregnant with my first child in the fall of 2010. I was over-the-moon excited as being a parent was one of my life goals. I had a very healthy and normal pregnancy with the exception that my baby was breech (Frank breech)...which means he looked something like this:

Pretty uncomfortable huh? He was this way at my 37 week appointment so my incredible OBGYN scheduled me an appointment with a specialist to attempt the External Cephalic Version Procedure. read more here. I had watched videos of this procedure and felt ready for the discomfort that was supposed to come along with it. However, when I went in for my appointment at 37w/3d, my amniotic fluid was too low to even attempt the procedure. Actually, it was at such a level that my OBGYN was concerned it would require an emergency C-Section. To say I was devastated would be putting it mildly. I know I sobbed. You see, I had gone through Lamaze class, written my birth plan, educated myself ad nauseum and firmly believed that my body could do exactly what it was intended to do- give birth. I was ready (As much as you can be) and was actually excited about the prospect of laboring. I do not believe in birth interventions used in the name of convenience. I also believe that oftentimes they are shrouded as "medically necessary" but are nothing more than convenience measures. On the flipside, I trusted my doctor. She approached medicine with an evidence-based mentality which is rare in older practitioners. She did not want to take my baby via c-section at this point because she said it was too early and the baby was not ready. (again, in line with current research that says a baby is not ready until week 39 at the earliest). However, the low fluid was a concern. She sent me home on bed rest with instructions to drink 1 gallon of water over the next 24 hours and return the following day for a fluid re-check. We went home a mixture of emotions. I cried. alot. This was not the birth I wanted or dreamed of. I felt like my body had failed me. I drank the water and then some. I returned the next day and my fluid had increased to acceptable levels. I was to return every day for fluid checks until I made it to 39 weeks where I would undergo a scheduled c-section. Because Mark was breech, I did not question that I needed a c-section. Now, I know I could have tried to labor and birth Mark as the Frank Breech presentation is considered the safest breech to deliver vaginally. I have also since learned that Touro Hospital has physicians willing to let you attempt to do so. At Ochsner, it was not an option for me. There is the complicating factor that although my fluid increased, it still remained low which might have resulted in a c-section at another facility.  Regardless, at this point, I do not characterize my c-section as unnecessary; although, it was definitely not what I wanted.

The days following my c-section are a blur. For me, it was a horrible experience that I do not want to repeat. From the bright lights, to being alone while they TOOK FOREVER to place my epidural (not their fault, my vertebrae are apparently super close together), to the entire surgical environment, it was bad. After my epidural was placed, they laid me down on the table in placed the curtain so I could not see the surgery (thank God). Did I mention I was still alone. George was not allowed in the room until the first incision was made. I understand, sort of, the rationale behind this, but it left me feeling incredibly scared and alone. George is my rock and in this uncertain time, I need him to hold my hand. I was shaking so badly I thought my teeth would shatter. I felt sick to my stomach with every tug that I assure you I felt. When George came into the room, I wept and he looked a little terrified. He sees patients on a daily basis but he later explained that nothing can prepare you for seeing your wife on an OR table. He held it together though and told me as soon as he laid eyes on our son. He told me he was perfect and the look on his face was indescribable. I guess I should clarify my above statement that the entire experience was horrible...there was one shining moment. When I heard Mark cry and they brought him over to me so I could kiss him. If I close my eyes, I can go back to that moment. However, I could not hold my son for over an hour after his birth. I could not do skin-to-skin for over an hour either. Although I got to kiss him shortly after he was pulled from my abdomen,  he was whisked away to the nursery and George followed him. So there I was, alone in an OR, behind a curtain, shivering and feeling nauseous. The tears came and they didn't stop. I wanted to hold my baby. I had waited my whole life to meet him, and after a brief moment together, he was gone and I was alone. With every tug of the sutures, I felt sick. Thank God for anti-nausea meds. They wheeled me into recovery and I had to wait some more. I mentioned before that I have a wonderful OBGYN... case in point- she saw Mark in the nursery sucking on anything and everything he could get near his mouth and when she came to the recovery area to check on me and saw he wasn't there yet, she called down and instructed they bring him to me asap. I am forever grateful for that phone call. I also am so grateful for the amazing lactation consultants and for my son for being such a hearty nurser because without those two, I don't know how our breastfeeding journey would have looked. Over the next 24-hours I had a PCP of dilaudid. I had a fear of what the pain would feel like (I had watched a c-section video on You-tube) so I kept pushing that button every time I could, fearful of any pain. I wouldn't do that again. I don't handle pain meds well and all they made me want to do is sleep. I continued to take pain meds when I went home which left me exhausted (more so than normal), and nauseous. It was a rough adjustment. The recovery from a c-section is not something I would like to repeat. I hated the before, during and after. No part of it was tolerable in my opinion. Thank God for George, my mom, and mother in law who allowed me to do what I needed to let my incision heal properly- physically rest.

In the months following my c-section I intensely mourned for the birth experience I wanted. When others told of their labors and natural birth stories, I was, although happy for them, heartbroken. I had to put away my lamaze bag full of tennis balls, a birthing ball, gatorade, energy snacks, and relaxing music etc. I felt so cheated. Gradually, as time went on, the wound healed. Having a perfect baby boy certainly helped! It also helped that during my c-section, my OBGYN told me that she saw nothing abnormal about my uterus that suggested I would have a problem with a natural delivery the next time. She  assured me that she had been doing VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarean) for her entire career and my incision/closure was such that I could attempt a VBAC if I so wished. The knowledge that I was not doomed for repeat c-section just because I had had one prior helped get me through that depression.

On June 13, 2012 I found out that we were expecting #2, a complete and total surprise! One of my first thoughts was the hope that I would be able to have a natural birth. After I felt baby move, I was convinced he was breech like his brother...convinced that I would have to have another c-section. Boy was I wrong. Baby is head down and has been for months! My pregnancy has proceeded healthily and normally and my doctor gave me the go-ahead at week 36 that I am a good candidate for a VBAC. Words cannot express my excitement! I have been researching the risks associated with a VBAC vs. Repeat C-Section and for me,  the risks of the c-section are greater than those for a VBAC. George has also done the research as he has access to more credible resources and he is supportive of my decision to attempt a VBAC. I have been reading anything and everything I can get my hands on, educating myself completely. I am confident that my body can attempt this. A lot of doctors will tell you that they are VBAC friendly but in reality, they do not practice accordingly. According to the literature my doctor is supportive for the following reasons: She has not scheduled a c-section "just in case"; she told me to labor at home for as long as possible and denied that fetal monitoring needs to begin as soon as I go into labor; and she has not scheduled an induction and says that induction agents administered when the cervix is not ripe nor has labor begun are contraindicated for VBACs. In order to have a successful VBAC, labor support is critical. Epidurals routinely slow-down labor and a drawn-out labor could increase the chances for uterine rupture. Therefore, I want a fast labor, or as fast as possible. Thus, in order to hold off on pain management drugs, labor support is crucial. I have a wonderfully supportive husband who believes my body is capable of giving birth, as millions of women have before me. As a physician, he has invaluable knowledge that will help while I labor at home. I also have my mother on my support team, a labor and delivery nurse who brings priceless knowledge and experience. Finally, I am working with a doula who can add additional support to my team as we need it.

So here I am, 36w6d and my baby boy will be here before I know it. I am confident in the birth plan  I have chosen. I firmly believe that my body was designed for the purpose of giving birth. I also believe, and the research supports, that your body RARELY will allow a baby to grow larger than what you can deliver naturally. I hope to be back in a couple of months with a birth story that is what I wanted it to be.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

BIG changes.

I am currently 34 weeks pregnant, mommy to a beautiful 18 month old, and wife to my amazing hubby. We have finally settled into quite a routine (and have for quite some time) since welcoming our sweet Mark Perry  18 months ago. The beginning was rocky, but eventually became smooth sailing. Fast forward to present day and we are looking at some HUGE life events from now through August. In that short 6 month period our lives will change as follows: we will purchase our first house, we will move to a city where neither of us have ever lived, I will give birth to our second baby boy, George will graduate residency, George will start a new job, and George will take his Board exams. Phew, it is exhausting to see it written.

It is hard to rank what will rock our world the most. I think the birth of Jack ranks pretty high for life-changing. I have been forewarned that it will certainly speed up the clock and make life seem as if it is going by even faster. Hard to believe that could be possible yet I know it must be true. I find myself, on many occasions, staring at Mark while he is doing what to most would be considered ordinary (yet to me, as mommy, is surely evidence of his genius ;) ) and I whisper to myself "commit this moment to memory.... take a picture with your mind... you're going to want to remember this." I close my eyes and try to hold on to the memory of how his little chubby fingers look like they could pop if they got any chubbier....the way he moves his baby chair outside just so for the perfect climbing device....the way he climbs up the stairs and hysterically laughs when he reaches the top, knowing he just accomplished something....the way he is so determined to climb up to the slide at the playground and on his way down he has a smile that is so big it makes my heart swell. I could go on and on about these experiences that I want to remember forever...the days are filled with these memories I don't ever want to forget. I never really understood what people meant about time flying until I had Mark. Every. single. day. he grows up just a little more than the day before. If I blink, I fear I will miss it. As I stand on the "edge" of being a mommy of one and becoming a mommy of two, this desire to remember it all is stronger than ever. I know our family will constantly create new memories and I am so excited for that, I just wish it could slow down a bit and allow me to savor these moments just a little more. Wishful thinking I guess.

As much as I am slightly wary of all these changes at once, I am more so thrilled about them! I am so ready for George to finish with residency. It has been fun and we have certainly met some amazing people, but I'm ready for him to be compensated for all of his hard work and devotion. :) I am likewise excited about purchasing our first home (although I'm sure it will be stressful at times) and moving to Mandeville. We aren't from there but it seems beautiful and a great place to raise our family the way we want to. Bonus, it's just a hop,skip and jump from the greatest city ever, NOLA. Another change I forgot to mention, that is incredibly dear to me, is my switch from full-time employment to part-time. I will get more time with my family which is more rewarding than any career could ever be. I will still keep my toes in the water, because I feel that I need something that is mine to keep my sanity. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I am over-the-moon excited that I will get to spend more time with my babies and husband. I am very much looking forward to this next chapter in our lives!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What did you say?!

It is nearly impossible to write down everything Mark is saying because it seems like everyday, his vocabulary expands. BUT, here are those that I can remember

1. People's Names: Mimi, Opa (pronounced "Bopa"), Kaki, Papa, Nanny and Maw-Maw.

2. Lilly (our dog)

3. Thank you. He says this 9/10 times when you give him something. It is the cutest thing I've ever heard.

4. Pease (Please)

5. Yeerio (Cheerio)

6. Muppin (Muffin)

9. Mik (Milk)

10. Gickey (Mickey Mouse)

11. Melmo (Elmo)

12. Gecko Daddy (Let's Go Daddy)

13. No, not that.

14. Yes AND no

15. keez (Cheese)

And today when I dropped him off at school, his teacher remarked that he is talking up a storm and when she was singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, he repeated the next line. This age is SO MUCH FUN! Love communicating with Mark.