Sunday, August 28, 2016

Walker's Birth Story

HE'S HERE!

Finally, after we wished for him for years and then waited almost 9 months as he grew in mama's torso, Walker made our lives and our family so perfectly complete when he decided to enter this world 12 days early on August 5th, 2016 at 7:11pm. 


Aside from a bad case of nausea from 6-16 weeks, pregnancy had been a relative cake walk for us until the third trimester. At 28 weeks he "dropped" - about 10 weeks earlier than most babies - and his head put immense pressure on my sciatic nerve until the end of pregnancy. Sitting hurt, driving hurt and laying down hurt SO bad (which obviously made sleeping nearly impossible). I applied Bengay constantly and spent most of my time standing or walking because that was the only way I was comfortable. In the last few weeks I was getting 16,000-20,000 steps per day just to avoid sitting. We had kept really active the entire pregnancy though, walking twice a day most days, which I think is why we had such an easy labor and I was able to keep my pregnancy weight gain to 22 pounds (I also really watched what I was eating). So needless to say, walking 10 miles a day to ease the unbearable hip pain, not sleeping and of course having waited YEARS to have our baby in our arms made the last few weeks drag on like decades. Only exacerbating the situation was the 10 days of prodromal labor (real contractions that start but then stop without getting to 5 minutes apart) and losing my mucus plug at 36.5 weeks also gave us false hope way too many times. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but more details on that in Walker's Pre-Birth Story

It goes without saying that Walker could give us no greater gift than himself, especially 12 days early. Right off the bat I was so proud of him for putting Mama out of her misery early. It all started (like for real started, not prodromal labor started - ugh) Thursday, August 4th when I noticed some very minor clear discharge throughout the day. I didn't think much of it because, let's be real, I'd already had countless much stronger labor signs (contractions 6 mins apart for days, being dilated to 3cm and 80% effaced and -1 station that Wednesday, etc) that went absolutely nowhere. Plus, the wheels really start falling off the cart at the end of the pregnancy so I figured it might just be me leaking tiny bits of pee. Pregnancy is a really glamorous business. 

Friday morning at 1am when I was getting up for my 2,000th bathroom trip of the night I noticed more clear discharge. I noticed the same thing at my next bathroom trip at about 5am. Because I'd read that water breaking was equally likely to be a huge gush as it could be a slow leak, I called the doctor on call, Dr. Bass, who I loved.  He told me it was hard to tell and I needed to come into the office at 8am when they opened for a Nitrazine test to confirm or deny the presence of amniotic fluid in my cervix. We tried not to get our hopes up, went back to bed, then woke up and dressed for work. I packed my work lunch, NOT the hospital bags, which we'd loaded and unloaded in the car 50 times in the last 10 days every time my contractions got close together only to sadly unload them when they stopped. We drove separate cars because again, we were sure I'd be headed to the office after. 

When we arrived Dr. C (can't spell her really cool Polish last name) pulled out the dreaded speculum, the torture device of pap smears and our countless infertility tests and treatments. I was super grouchy because I thought the Nitrazine swab would be way less invasive than that. What I would later realize was that the speculum would be one of the most uncomfortable parts of my very, very easy and painless delivery day. :) She also checked my cervix and found that I was 4cm dilated! Most women are at the hospital at 4cm, but my body had been casually dilating for 10 days through prodromal labor. I had been walking around 3 and 4 cm dilated, working, shopping, etc. like a normal gal, even though my body was making serious moves toward having a baby. 

The Nitrazine test came back inconclusive, of course, so she took a sample of the fluid to check under the microscope for ferning, the other way they check for amniotic fluid. We waited in the exam room convinced this was ANOTHER false alarm. I was typing an email to colleagues saying I would be in a little late around 9 because of the appointment when she came in to say that there was ferning! My jaw hit the floor. I think I screamed. I definitely cried, hugged the doctor and hugged Ross. Ross immediately asked "oh my god doctor; what does this mean?!" and her response: "it means you're going to the hospital." Ross asked if she meant right now or later and she laughed and said firmly, "right now." YAY!! Some of the best news of my life! Because I was 4cm dilated (1cm more than 2 days earlier) and 80% effaced with baby at a -1 station, I was 40% of the way there and didn't even feel like I was in labor and wasn't having contractions.

Headed to the Hospital!

We of course didn't have the bags the one time we actually needed them so she allowed us to go home and get them. I asked if I could have a good breakfast because I knew they don't let you eat during labor and I'd read countless birth stories about 48 and 72 hour labors and Whitney was NOT going to go that long without a good meal first. She said firmly that I could grab breakfast and eat it on the way, but there was no sitting down allowed at home. Lol. I called my mom crying from the elevator, Ross called his parents and we rushed home, in shock that the big day was finally here. 

We got home, grabbed the 7 hospital bags (yes, seven) and I made a big bowl of Raisin Bran thinking it could be my last meal for days. I kept my work clothes on in the rush, kissed the dogs and we were off. I ate my cereal on the 30 minute drive to the hospital and called my godmother and grandmother and texted my closest friends. When we arrived we had to go up 4 levels in the parking garage to find a spot. I remember thinking how strange it was that as a pregnant woman I had preferred parking at Kroger but as a woman about to deliver I didn't have it at the hospital. We brought in the bags we needed for labor with us, the birthing ball & Walker's cord blood donation kit which had to stay at room temperature. I walked in in heels & my work clothes - not having any contractions - & proudly reported to the receptionist that I was there to have a baby. She gave us a bizarre look, called someone & then seemed surprised to tell us that our doctor was there waiting for us & our room was ready. We excitedly marched through the bowels of the enormous WakeMed to Labor & Delivery. It was 10am. 



When we got to our room, we were greeted by the most amazing nurse, Samantha. She told us she would be taking care of us for the first part of our labor and that we would have tons of nurse changes because there was an unusually high number of babies being born so the hospital had to bring in lots of on-call nurses for shorter than normal shifts to fill the gaps. We only ended up having 3 (really more like 2 since the third came on as he was being born) because my labor was so short, and they were each so different and EXACTLY what we needed during that stage of labor. God knows what he's doing. Since the nurses essentially run the show (the doctor - who I loved - was probably only with us for 30 mins total that day), having perfect nurses put us in great shape.



Samantha was so calm, so reassuring and SO sweet... just what two first time parents needed as the reality set in that they were really in labor. She asked if we had a birth plan. Yes! I'd forgotten all about the birth plan. I pulled it out and she calmly went through it, assuring us that it was all doable and most of it was already hospital protocol. Whew. How nice and how reassuring that we had a good shot at the birth we pictured. She congratulated me on being 4cm dilated and told me what a great head start I had. Thanks Samantha! Encouragement was just what I needed. I wasn't scared but I was slightly overwhelmed. More than anything I was just so pumped to step into the labor game I'd been mentally preparing for for so long and so ready to meet Walker! She handed me a gown, I asked if I could wear my sports bra, yoga shorts & nikes because I was viewing it as an athletic event (ps I'm not athletic at all) and she laughed but gave me permission.  Everything was just how I'd pictured it - a great feeling to start your first labor ever.


Samantha and Dr. Rush told me that since my water had broken, they wanted to see if my contractions would start naturally, but since I was group B strep positive, they couldn't wait long and I would need to start pitocin at 1pm if I wasn't having strong contractions on my own by then. I wasn't nuts about the possibility of being induced, mostly because I'd heard that pitocin contractions hurt much worse than natural ones, but wasn't opposed (especially since pitocin is chemically identical to the natural labor hormone, oxytocin). Plus, I was sure they would start on their own since I'd been having really strong contractions on and off for 10 days, BEFORE my water broke. Having contractions was not my problem I thought (having too many that go nowhere was) so I got on my birthing ball, bounced like it was my job & calmly waited on my contraction frienemies to show up. 

At 11am my mom arrived - yay! There wasn't much she or Ross (or I really) could do to get the contractions going so my mom played candy crush on her tablet & my husband was looking for Pokemon in our room on his phone, snapchatting our non-labor labor happenings and helping Samantha sort out what we needed to do for the cord blood donation. I mostly just bounced and texted friends, until Samantha collected 6 vials of blood from me for the cord blood kit. I don't like needles, but I just looked away and thought of the people we would be helping with Walker's donation. I also got a slightly uncomfortable IV of antibiotics because of the group B strep.

It's a personal decision, but I would strongly encourage all pregnant women to consider donating their cord blood. It was pretty effortless yet can save the life of a recipient. If you live in North or South Carolina, the only public cord blood bank is Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, run by Duke. All we had to do was call by the 34th week of pregnancy to set everything up and bring the kit to the hospital. The bank handles everything else.  Cord blood can be used to treat a litany of genetic blood disorders, blood cancers and other conditions and it recently saved the life of a local judge here in NC.  Donating it is completely free, will help others in need and could even help your own child or family if they become ill, as the bank will retrieve your specific cord blood for your child if it is still available.  If not, your child can access any matching blood in the bank if they ever need it.  One of my best friends was recently saved by a heart transplant, so organ and blood donation is very close to my heart.  Walker told me he proudly donated his cord blood in Jack and Jack's heart donor's honor.  Plus, how cool is it that my son had done a good deed within his first few minutes on earth?? I highly encourage you to learn more and consider it. 


By noon I was having mini, essentially harmless contractions that didn't rival many of the much bigger ones I'd had in the previous week... despite my diligent bouncing & marching in place in my nikes. Since labor had barely started, if at all, I found the courage to ask Samantha if I could have lunch (again thinking it would be my last meal for 48 hours). Because Samantha is AMAZING & my contractions at that point were a joke, she gave me the green light (although it came with a non-disclosure agreement). Ross went to the cafeteria and facetimed me as I excitedly talked him through what to put on my salad. He brought me a salad and strawberry shortcake which I ate between 12:30-1ish while casually bouncing on my birthing ball. Yum! I couldn't believe I got TWO last meals (Samantha also let me sneak 2 sour patch kids later - did I mention how much I love her?). As you can tell from the multiple photos, I was clearly very excited to get this second last meal.



Dr. Rush was the doctor on call from our OBGYN office and I really liked her. That morning at the OBGYN several nurses seemed to be congratulating us that she would be our delivery doctor. She was at the top of my list for doctors in our practice to deliver us. At about 40, blonde, very calm & super sweet, I knew she'd be great. Plus she'd showed me the one semi-comfortable position I could sleep in at about 26 weeks ("the kick stand") so she was already pretty awesome in my book. She came in around 12:30 to check my cervix and strip my membranes to hope to accelerate things. When she stripped them, my water completely broke, as in goodbye pinhole leak, hello at least a gallon (no exaggeration) of amniotic fluid popping out of me at once. Dr. Byrd had offered to strip my membranes the following Wednesday at my 39 week appointment, so I'm confident that Walker would have come then if we hadn't had the pinhole leak. 

Samantha and the next nurse Sarah predicted the baby would be born around 1am, which I thought would be amazingly short & couldn't be true. They asked Dr. Rush to make a prediction, who gave 7-8pm. They argued with her, saying that prediction was too early, but she defended it, citing how active I was during pregnancy, which Samantha & Sarah had no way of knowing. They still thought that was on the early side considering I still hadn't even really started labor.  I was dumbfounded, yet was obviously pulling for Dr. Rush. 

Induction - Pitocin Time

1pm came and my contractions still weren't impressive despite my water fully breaking (because of the monitors I was wearing you could see them on a machine behind me) so it was time to start pitocin. The pitocin IV in my hand wasn't fun but wasn't bad, it just kind of burned each time the pitocin started or stopped. The contractions ramped up from my natural pathetic ones quickly to things more like, then quickly surpassing, what I'd had before. I powered through the first few on my birthing ball. As they got worse, I needed mom and/or husband hand holding, then hand holding and eye contact and breathing, then within a few they were unbearable. Samantha was so nurturing, rubbing my back & calmly cheering me on.  I screamed during 2 of them I think. They went from minor to insane in probably less than an hour and I wasn't loving it, but my team was so awesome. I'd never seen Ross so worried. He wouldn't take his hands off me trying to massage, apply counter pressure and do everything he could to make it better. He kept asking if we needed to slow dance, since that was all he could remember from our 8 hour birth class (we'd both joked about how stupid that seemed for a coping technique). I couldn't have stood for a million dollars so no slow dancing happened. My mom talked me through each contraction and was so focused on getting me through them. They were amazing "support people" as our class referred to them and I'm so thankful. This really bad phase lasted about an hour. It was the worst part of the day by far and pretty much the only bad part apart from the speculum. 

Samantha went off duty and I was so bummed. We hugged and took photos together in between my contractions. I knew I would love her forever. In came nurse #2, Sarah, who was not touchy feely, flowery, warm, delicate or encouraging. She was the anti-Samantha. In every way Sarah was a no nonsense boot camp drill sergeant. At first I was not a fan, but in the end Sarah was the biggest miracle & exactly what I needed for that phase of labor & delivery. She was tough love, without much love, but she pushed me & knew exactly how to coach a clueless first time mom through an efficient birth. Aside from working out daily throughout the pregnancy, drinking red raspberry tea & taking evening primrose oil, having really big hips, lots of luck & an amazingly cooperative baby, I give the rest of the credit for my easy & quick labor to my girl, nurse Sarah. 

Sarah rolled in right when the contractions were getting rough. Shortly after her arrival during one of the first tough ones I half jokingly, half seriously told my mom & Ross we should get the ball rolling on the epidural. I knew beforehand that I wanted one, but planned on holding off as long as I could to be mobile during labor. Sarah overheard this statement and firmly told me I didn't need it yet. I wasn't pleased. This was my decision, not hers, and I knew it took an hour plus to actually get it, since you have to be on an IV for 45 minutes first and then you have to wait on the anesthesiologist to become available. The next contraction comes and it's even worse, probably one of the ones where I screamed through it. I tell my mom and Ross more firmly that we really should initiate the epidural process. Sarah seemingly ignores me and walks out of the room. At this point I've never seen Ross more on a mission. He bolted out of the room behind her. At first I didn't know why but my mom knew. He was going to get me that epidural, however he could. I have no clue what he said to Sarah in that hallway, but she came right back in and said she was starting my IV so that I could get the epidural. I have to imagine she doesn't yield to others often, so yay Ross! I was so proud and SO thankful.

The IV started and I had to remain stationary in the bed, so no bouncing. The contractions were so incredibly painful and amped up so quickly (Ross later told me he thought I was going to break his hand squeezing) that Sarah asked if I needed a "bandaid" to hold me over until I could get the epidural. Clearly Ross's hallway speech resonated with her. I didn't even have to think about it, I definitely wanted the bandaid, whatever it was (this coming from a girl who doesn't even like to take ibuprofen normally). It turned out to be a fentanyl IV, which she explained would take the edge off the contractions but would likely fade before the epidural arrived. My natural next question, not even knowing what fentanyl was yet, was if I could have more of the bandaid when it faded. That was a firm no from Sarah. I was immediately terrified of the period after my bandaid wore off and before the epidural when my contractions would be even more intense. 



The fentanyl really did take the edge off and also made me really, really sleepy for the first five minutes. So sleepy I wasn't sure if I was breathing, which I apparently kept asking Ross. After the first 5 minutes I felt completely normal though, just in a lot less pain. It made the contractions totally bearable, although I could definitely still feel them. I'd say it reduced them to what felt like mild period cramps. Yay fentanyl! I have a pregnant friend who is planning on a no-epidural pregnancy but with fentanyl and I told her that I think that would probably be doable, based on my experience.  As long as you could get fentanyl refills, I think labor wouldn't be bad.

As Sarah predicted, it soon started to wear off and I began panicking. My pre-epidural IV bag was almost empty so I encouraged Sarah to go ahead & summon the anesthesiologist (something Samantha had whispered to me that I should ask Sarah to do BEFORE the IV bag emptied - Samantha for the win). My dad arrived about this time. This may have been when Sarah gave me the lecture of all lectures, that my mom will forever be quoting and I know she secretly loved. It went something like this: "I can tell you're a very Type A, take charge individual. Samantha told me you're also an attorney. You're probably used to calling the shots. Let me be clear: I'M DRIVING THE BUS TODAY and you're just a passenger. You are NOT driving the bus. You are not in charge. Sit back and let me drive this bus or it's going to be a very bumpy ride for you." I was terrified. From then on I was legitimately afraid to adjust the angle of my bed from what Sarah had set it to. I knew Sarah knew exactly what she was doing and I didn't. 10-4 Sarah - you're in charge.

Thank God for Epidurals

The fentanyl was fading and my contractions were getting painful again, but now I was bedridden and couldn't bounce through them. Eek. Before they were able to get pre-fentanyl bad again, a beautiful angel appeared: the anesthesiologist. Hallelujah! He rotated me to my right side and told me to lay incredibly still. We talked about his recent trip to Italy, so I tried to focus on that. Ross was snapchatting the size of the needle, which I'm glad I didn't see until later that night on his snapchat story. My dad, who is a medical professional, gave me a very serious look right before this and echoed how important it was to stay still for the epidural. I already knew you could be paralyzed (worst case scenario) if the Doctor missed the mark, but something about your dad giving you such a serious warning makes it a lot more real.  So I took staying still incredibly seriously, although it was SO hard because right before he administered the epidural the contractions had really come back with a vengeance. I had 2 really bad ones while he was administering it, where I gritted my teeth and squeezed Ross's hand to a pulp while praying I wasn't moving, although I'm pretty confident I was shaking pretty hard.

After those, he told me he was done, that it had gone well & I was tough. I told him that getting the antibiotic IV & the speculum-assisted Nitrazine test were both more painful than the epidural, which was true. He laughed and said he got that a lot. For me, getting the epidural was pretty smooth and not very painful. About 10 minutes passed at which point I told my family I hadn't had any contractions since the epidural. They pointed to the contraction monitor behind me and smiled: I'd apparently had three... that I couldn't even feel... at all. That's when I realized the epidural was the best thing on the planet. I'd gone from searing contractions to feeling like nothing was happening. I repeat, pre-epidural I felt like I was dying and post-epidural I could not feel a single thing.  Best invention ever.  In a video Ross took I can be seen giving a thumbs up saying "epidural for president." I've never been a bigger fan of anything in my life.


The next hours proceeded with ease. We had calypso music playing on the speaker we brought (my favorite, to relax me, although the epidural had totally handled everything), I ate one jolly rancher (I brought two bags of them because hard candy and ice chips were all you could eat during labor and remember, I thought I'd be in labor for days), we took pictures and I talked everyone's ears off, per my usual. I could see Ross & my mom's eyes get big as they would see me having enormous contractions on the machine behind me, all the while I'm chatting away about nothing, not even knowing I was having them. Have I mentioned how much I loved, and we all loved, the epidural?

Also worth noting, it was the opening night of the 2016 Olympics. What a cool night to be born?  We weren't watching them (I think there was some Caribbean house hunting show on mute on the TV - very calming scenery for labor).  While everyone was watching the Brazilian model walk down the long catwalk we were welcoming our son into the world. We would end up watching Olympics coverage for the first two weeks of his life - a great pastime when you're home bound for so long.  Even more special about his birthday: it is one of his two Godmother's birthdays. When we realized we were headed to the hospital I remember feeling bad that it might detract from her special day, but with her being the most selfless person in the world, we soon realized that she loved the timing and was so happy to share her day with him. So special.

Sarah checked me again at 5pm and I was 7cm dilated. Wow, that was quick, I thought. Because Walker's heart rate was dropping with each contraction because of their intensity (I'll always wonder if they were so intense because of the pitocin), they put an oxygen mask on my face to get him extra oxygen. This scared us but they assured us it was fine. It was the only thing that gave us concern the whole day.  They also turned off my pitocin to reduce the intensity of the contractions for Walker's sake.  They told us that doing so would definitely prolong my labor.


We both took a few minutes to write in the pregnancy journal I'd been keeping throughout the pregnancy for Walker. I ate a few ice chips. It felt like only five minutes had passed and Sarah said she needed to check me again based on what was happening with the contraction monitor. Apparently despite getting rid of the pitocin my contractions were still off the charts and even closer together. The verdict: I was 9.5cm dilated! What?! How did that happen so fast?! Wasn't it supposed to slow down? Sarah started rushing around the room setting up what looked like baby catching supplies to the untrained eye. She told us it was time to start pushing & Ross & I both tried to negotiate with her. We weren't emotionally ready - we thought we still had hours to go! We didn't know how to be parents. Reality set in. Lol. Ross said "no it's not" and then Sarah said "yes it is" at least 3 times. So funny. This was the first and only time in our multi-year pregnancy and infertility journey that we wanted to slow things down.  It was 6:47pm. We were equal parts excited and nervous when we snapped this last picture as a family of 2.


Time to Push

After getting over the shock, we realized it was game time. Sarah told me that during each contraction I would push 3 times for 10 seconds each, by her count, with a big breath before each one, holding my breath during each push. It sounded good to me. She told me to hold the back of my thighs during the pushes, with Ross holding my left knee and my right foot going into Sarah's shoulder. Ross wanted to be at my shoulder - that had been our plan for months - but her response was that she didn't allow spectators during births, only helpers. Again, Sarah was the bus driver. Ross would later say that his favorite part of the birth was being part of it by holding my left knee during the pushes and he's since encouraged several friends to be equally involved. One more reason to love Sarah. I'd researched just about everything pregnancy and baby related, but realized I hadn't read one thing about how to push. Sarah's strategy sounded effective to me and to be honest, it seemed like we didn't have any time to debate it. Ross and I did however keep asking where the doctor was and if she should page her, to which Sarah always replied that she had it under control. We were terrified in general, but not having a doctor in the room definitely amped up the terror. 

When the next contraction appeared on the monitor (which I still couldn't feel at all) Sarah yelled that it was time for my first breath then 3 pushes. She counted them off at the top of her lungs, in between numbers shouting that I could do better, my pushes were weak, etc. She was a total delivery drill sergeant and it was very motivating. After the first round of 3 pushes she told me sternly that I was basically just puffing my cheeks and pushes like that would never give me a baby. I was numb from the waist down and had no clue where or how hard I was pushing, but I was determined to meet Walker & determined to win Sarah's approval. 

Over each of the next few batches I gave it everything I had and could tell Sarah was pleased with my improvement based on what she would shout between numbers. I started to get "now these are real pushes!" and similarly validating feedback. Ross was saying the same & I was proud (yet still totally unsure of what I was actually doing because of the epidural). Then, right when I was gaining some momentum, the power went out. We couldn't see Walker's heart rate which we had been watching obsessively (which had been dropping during each contraction and required close attention) and we had no way of telling when I was having a contraction and thus no way to know when to push. I was terrified. Nurses and random people rushed in and tried to mess with the monitors to no avail. They al looked frantic and worried which made me frantic and worried.  I looked to my all knowing Sarah for answers, asking her how I could do this without knowing when to push. She shouted back something like "women have been having babies without monitors for thousands of years! Listen to your body! You know how to do this!" It made sense & was empowering until I realized that those women weren't numb from the waist down. Yikes. 

We had no choice but to wing it, hoping the monitors would be back on soon. I would say "I think I'll push now?" and Sarah would yell something validating and start counting, totally unsure of if I was actually having a contraction or not. She somehow summoned Dr. Rush, who calmly came in with all of her mellowness, the opposite of the intense, game time vibe Sarah & I had going. They both sat at the end of the bed and I detected a minor power struggle going on. 

Sarah was still supporting my right leg when Dr. Rush seemed amazed at how close Walker was. She very calmly, quietly, slowly & sweetly said "Whitney, I can see Walker. If you give me onnnne bigggg push I think you'll get his head out. Can you do that for me?" Shocked at the new soft, gentle tone in the room - we went immediately from boot camp to polite yoga/meditation - I politely and quietly responded "okay." Sarah started her awesome boot camp counting/shouting and I gave my prissiest push. Dr. Rush responded calmly that his head had come out! I was amazed that this part didn't hurt, although I did feel pressure, because I'd always been warned that the so called "ring of fire" was the most painful part of birth. She then said, just as calmly & still in a whisper, "if you can give me onnnne more great push like that, I think we'll get his shoulders." "Okay," I responded again, and gave another dainty but firm push to Sarah's counting. His shoulders were the only part of delivery that actually hurt. There was also a lot of pressure still. I felt his shoulders pop out and Dr. Rush calmly made one last, very polite request for a push, which I obviously obliged and the rest of Walker gently emerged with no pain. After years of waiting, our son was in this world after just 24 minutes of pushing at 7:11pm on August 5, 2016. <3


Walker's First Moments

We did delayed cord clamping after reading about the benefits extensively during pregnancy and then Dr. Rush collected our cord blood to donate to Carolina's Cord Blood Bank. Walker did his first good deed in his first minute of life. :) His apgar score was an impressive 9. We felt so thankful and proud. The nurse then cut the cord and put Walker on my chest, which I'm so glad we have on film. It was the sweetest moment of my life.  One of the nurses later told me that she had never seen a mother react as strongly to meeting their child as I did, which is a statement I'll carry with me forever. Within minutes it seemed like, Ross was taking his shirt off and crawling into the hospital bed with us for his own skin to skin time, which was precious & the perfect conclusion to Ross's 9 month, adorable sympathy pregnancy. :)



Sarah went off duty (she was supposed to leave at 7pm but stayed to finish our delivery, something that she told us the next day when she came to visit that she never does, but she was proud of my pushes and knew Walker was just a few minutes away) and I was so sad to see her go. Christine was our next nurse & like the two before her, she was so perfect for us for that stage of delivery. She was organized, confident & sweet and she handled all of the post-birth wrap up & post-birth mom & baby care like such a champ. We were in great hands once again. She also looked exactly like one of my favorite people, our super sweet nextdoor neighbor Allison, so that was a good omen from the start. 

After the weighing (7 lbs 12 ounces - we couldn't believe we didn't have a 9 pounder after all that big baby hype for 9 months, but he'd stopped growing at his last 2 appointments then came 2 weeks early), measuring, eye drops, vernix cleaning, etc., we were left alone (or with just Christine) for some awesome bonding. Shortly after my parents came in to meet him, which was so amazing in itself. Later my godmother came, which was also so awesome. Super organized Christine told me at about 9:30 that the cafeteria was about to close and I should send Ross down to get us dinner (Christine for the win). Then it hit me: I didn't miss a single meal thanks to my amazing little man giving me a 6.5 hour labor! I'd irrationally feared going days without food after reading so many 48 and 72 hour birth stories and here I was literally not missing a meal. I was a happy camper. :)



It was about then that I also realized how easy my labor had been. I was still eating lunch chilling at 12:30 and had my son in my arms shortly after 7, with only 24 minutes of pushing in there and only an hour or so of discomfort. I didn't even know that could happen. All of the nurses kept telling me how lucky I was and that most first time moms push for 3 hours. When Ross later gave me diamond earrings (they're gorgeous y'all) as a push present I seriously felt guilty accepting them because my push was so easy. Dr. Rush said it was almost certainly due to how active we were during pregnancy but I give Walker & my big hips a good deal of credit too. I've also read quite a bit about how prodromal labor, which I'd had 10 straight days of, can significantly abbreviate the final labor, which makes sense considering I got a 4cm head start from it before going to the hospital. My mom jokingly asked me in the hospital if there was anything in life that isn't easy for me, to which I quickly replied "getting pregnant & organic chemistry." As difficult as it was getting Walker conceived, he was that easy coming out. :)

Our Hospital Stay

We stayed in the hospital that Friday night, the next night and went home Sunday afternoon. It should have been Sunday morning but the hospital staff and circumcision doctor all forgot to do pieces of our various discharge steps. We barely slept in the hospital because of all the noises, the regular vital sign checks from nurses for Walker & I and also just wanting to stare at him. He also kept spitting up amniotic fluid which was scary and required us to immediately put him upright so he didn't choke. This apparently happens in babies who have quick deliveries. Friday night when they brought us to our permanent room I asked the nurse if I should be sore yet, after hearing from friends that they were sore for weeks to months after birth. I wasn't feeling anything and assumed the epidural hadn't worn off yet. The nurse asked if I could stand to go pee and with her by my side in case I couldn't, I stood. She explained that if I was standing, the epidural was completely gone and I should have pain. I was dumbfounded that I felt completely normal. Overnight and through Saturday I kept expecting the pain to set in and it never did. I can't explain it, but I'm thankful. I did bleed a lot and continued to leak fluid during our hospital stay, going through my mom diapers regularly, but the bleeding had pretty much ceased by about a week post partum, which I think is also atypical. My books say it should go for a month. The only discomfort I really had after delivery was a weird hollow feeling Saturday and Sunday in my torso. It felt like my organs were floating and not supported and it made me slightly queasy. Aside from that, it was like I never even gave birth. I left the hospital in wedges and a dress (even though they offered to wheelchair me to the parking lot, which seemed so crazy for me but is probably really helpful for those who have more pain).





Beginning Saturday we were eager to take Walker on walks in his rolly clear crib, although we weren't allowed to take him out of the super secure L&D wing on the 4th floor. I also went for a walk with my mom around the enormous hospital campus on Saturday. Walker had his hospital newborn photos and circumcision Sunday, both of which were very traumatic and seemed to throw him off the whole rest of the day - more on that later. We were (and still are) feeding every 3 hours in the hospital, although he wasn't taking much and I wasn't making anything other than colostrum. Breastfeeding wasn't easy the first two days or so but with lots of guidance from the hospital's lactation consultants we got it more or less figured out before we left. My real milk began to come in Sunday night and my pump didn't come in the mail until Wednesday because my insurance has a policy that they won't ship until the baby is born, so I was painfully engorged Monday and Tuesday.

Here are a few of our favorite shots from our hospital stay:




Our hero, nurse Sarah, coming to visit Walker the next day:

Cuddles with Gigi:

Ross kept getting comfortable in the hospital bed :)















Going Home!
We were so excited to leave the hospital (in our matching outfits) and get our little guy home!







First drive!

HOME!



Life at Home as a Family of Three

Our first night at home was not glamorous. At all. He's slept so well since and before that night, but that night was rough. He was confused. We were confused. He didn't seem to know it was night time and was clearly still traumatized from the newborn photos and circumcision. Ross and I were about to kill each other. A rough 8:30am pediatrician appointment where they spooked us about his weight loss the next morning didn't help. He lost 8.9% of his birth weight and one of the nurses acted like he was on his death bed. I had a meltdown. What they didn't tell us is that 7-10% weight loss in the first few days is normal and that Walker's 4 giant meconium poops at the hospital were 3 more than most babies have. They told us he had to maintain his weight over the next 24 hours and scheduled an extra appointment for him the next day. At that appointment he not only maintained, but gained FOUR ounces. In the following week he gained 8 ounces (they wanted him to gain between 4 and 7) so needless to say everything is great now, but they sure gave us an unnecessary scare that could have been helped by a little more context. 

Aside from that 12 hour stretch of sleeplessness and drama, everything has been really, really blissful and relatively easy - a lot easier and happier than I thought it would be. I'd heard so many people say things like "the first two weeks are hell" or "if you can survive the first month you're in the clear" and it hasn't really felt that way to us at all.  The first night home and the morning after were really rough and dramatic (probably compounded by the fact that we hadn't slept more than a few hours total in 3 days) but since then everything has been pretty seamless and so, so happy. We don't really know what we're doing and we're a little sleepier than usual, but we have never been happier.

 

 





 



Breastfeeding and Sleeping

For breastfeeding and sleeping we're following Baby Wise pretty strictly and it's working so well for him. Baby Wise is a book that several of the best parents we know recommended that emphasizes scheduled feeding and sleeping to get full meals, as opposed to "demand feeding" that gives the baby smaller meals (which results in the baby crying/needing to refill their stomachs sooner and at random times). I fully credit it with him sleeping so well and usually not being fussy between feedings. It's also best for their development because they get the DHA rich hind milk (the milk that comes out at the end of a long feeding) that is critical for brain development. It also involves nursing for sustenance every 3 hours, not nursing for comfort every time the baby cries, which studies show results in a more emotionally stable child and less obesity later in life. It also helps stabilize their metabolism and digestion in the first week of life, makes them psychologically more food secure and is correlated with much higher rates of sleeping through the night by 8 weeks old in large scale independent studies.  All good stuff. The coolest thing is watching how well he adapted to it so quickly. At about the 2 hour 55 minute mark he usually starts to whimper or show other signs of being ready to eat. You could seriously set your clock by him! There are countless other benefits and I highly recommend it, but I'm sure it wouldn't work for everyone and is a personal choice.

How Walker is Doing

Little man is happy, healthy and oh so cute.  His 4 pediatrician appointments so far have all been good reports - we are so blessed.  He eats well and sleeps well most of the time and we just can't stop staring at him. We obviously get less sleep now than we used to, but he's so good at night that we can't complain. We wake him up to feed every 3 hours which takes 30-45 minutes then he usually goes right back to sleep.  He generally doesn't cry at night at all, except for a few minutes some nights when we put him down for the first stretch of sleep before his first night feeding. I really wonder if we didn't wake him if he would even wake up, which we'll get to test when the pediatrician gives us the green light to stop waking for night feedings.

We feel really lucky that breastfeeding is going well for us because I know not everyone has luck with it. My supply is good, he latches well and isn't tongue tied or anything and has no allergies to foods in my diet as far as we can tell. We really lucked out. I was painfully engorged the first week, but I'm fine now. We're really lucky!

He loves to be cuddled, watching his doggy siblings, moving his arms in front of his face, milk... obviously, a good swaddle (we're only using the SwaddleMes at bedtime though to help him distinguish night from day, which I think is helping), being burped via the burpy dance, riding in the car and his pacifiers (he only uses Avent Soothies, which the doctor said wouldn't cause nipple confusion and haven't for us so far).

His dislikes include losing his pacifier (high drama), diaper changes, clothing changes, baths, the 5-6pm hour ("witching hour" as it's famously known is definitely a real hour in our house) and the 5 minutes or so before each feeding when he starts to get hungry.

The first weeks have blown by and we feel like he's already changed so much! His eyes are open more and more each day now and when they are it's seriously the best part of my day.  He sleeps most of the day like all newborns, but when he's awake we get so excited. Sometimes he looks like he's just looking through us but other times, when he makes true eye contact, my heart just melts.



So mad to get a new diaper!

Blue Steel:


Shots from his newborn shoot at the hospital:

















One week old!




First dinner out to celebrate Daddy's promotion:




Meeting his Granna at the airport!




Toula watching over her baby

First pool trip!


 With 3 of his 6 grandparents!




Cuddles with Gigi and Grumpy



Rocking the Olympics shirts Daddy bought us on the last day


Meeting our first friend, Augustine!




3 generations (with a 4th taking the picture)
 Walker faces:





Matching, for the fourth time in four days ;)



How Mom & Dad are Doing

We breastfeed... a lot... seemingly all day.  It's like a full time job. And by we, I obviously mean Walker and I.  Trust me, I wish I could delegate it to Ross but even with his sympathy pregnancy unfortunately no milk has come in for him.  I have SO. MUCH. RESPECT. for parents everywhere now and a whole new appreciation for my own.  Also, breastfeeding mothers everywhere are my new heroes because it is seriously a time commitment.  Breastfeeding seems to consume most of our time these days.  I added it up and I breastfeed 5-6 hours each day and pump another 45 minutes (once in the morning after he feeds and once before bed to make a night time bottle for him that Ross gives him for one of his night feedings so that I can sleep for 5 hours straight - we introduced the one bottle a day/night feeding by Ross thing at the 2 week mark to avoid nipple confusion before that). When I'm not breastfeeding I feel like I'm planning my day around his next feedings or trying to work out the logistics of how I'll make the day work around him needing to eat for 30-45 minutes at 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm.  Thank goodness the feedings are at least predictable/scheduled thanks to Baby Wise. Some mothers say they feel a bond when they do it, but I feel so much more bonded with him when I'm cuddling him or holding him, so breastfeeding just kind of feels like a time suck (it's probably horrible for me to say that) where I'd rather be cuddling him or looking into his eyes.

Ross took one week off work and I have nine weeks of maternity leave before I go back to work, although I've been working remotely each day to varying degrees. We each get about 7 hours sleep each night if you add up the chunks we get before and after feedings.  We're tired, but not miserably tired. I've only taken one nap since he was born, although I would have liked a few more. We're eating exceptionally well due to our super sweet friends and neighbors, who have brought us no fewer than 15 prepared meals.  We are so lucky to be surrounded by so much love!  I'm so thankful that Walker already has such an amazing tribe of people who love him.

Newborn Survival Kit from our incredibly thoughtful neighbors the day we got home from the hospital:

 

Ross has begun to lose his baby weight, not by trying but probably because he's no longer getting milkshakes each day and new parents barely have time to eat.  His infamous cravings are gone but interestingly, mine finally started. I didn't have any during pregnancy but have been craving strawberries like nobody's business since Walker's birth. I think we counted 6 consecutive meals I had at one point that somehow featured strawberries. Weird. I've also been super thirsty, but apparently that's very normal when breastfeeding. 

My "Recovery"/Weight Loss

One of the most pleasant surprises has been how quickly my body has recovered.  Medically, to call it a recovery seems almost like a joke since there was no real recovery to be had.  I was up walking a few hours after I gave birth without any pain.  Friends had told me that you should be sore for at least a month after birth but to my surprise I  haven't hurt AT ALL.  I haven't been sore aside from a weird hollow feeling in my torso the first day or two after birth.

As far as my weight goes, I was really focused on keeping my pregnancy weight gain in check, mostly because I know I'm horrible at losing weight and only good at preventing weight gain.  I kept a spreadsheet of how much I should gain each week of the pregnancy to hit my target total, which was 25 pounds.  Because he was early and mine and his weight gain slowed down at the end, my total pregnancy weight gain ended up being 22 pounds.  I was excited to see how much I lost in the hospital when we got home, knowing that the average is 15 pounds and having friends that lost well into the 20s in their 2 days at the hospital.  I was super bummed to be only 13 pounds down when we first got home. That meant I had 9 pounds to go.

The first week home I was very pleased to lose about a pound a day, which I think was mostly blood and other fluid.  I was eating healthy and breastfeeding but wasn't getting my normal step count on my fitbit due to the whole all consuming new mom thing. At 10 days post partum I only had ONE POUND to lose - I was ecstatic! Unfortunately, that last pound was very stubborn.  I ate super well and was as active as could be with a newborn for 5 days and it would not budge - I was so grouchy about it.  Then, on 15 days post partum, I lost the last pound and was officially at my pre-pregnancy weight/my wedding weight/my college graduation weight. Since then I've lost another 1.5 pounds, but am essentially at my normal pre-pregnancy weight.  I don't plan on doing anything special to lose anymore, because I'm really happy at this weight, which I've been almost all of my adult life.

Numbers aside, I felt like my post-pregnancy body looked exactly like my pre-pregnancy body at 1 week after birth, which was such a pleasant surprise. I'm so thankful. I can't believe I worried for 29 years about what having a baby would do to my body, but I know it could have just as well gone the other way.  At 4 days post partum I pulled out my crop tops and joyfully packed up my boring maternity clothes.  At 9 days post partum we employed our first babysitter (my mom) for a 50 minute date to our neighborhood pool between feedings, one of our favorite places.  I put on a bathing suit and felt like I looked exactly the same as I did last summer in it.  The only body difference I've noticed is that although my stomach looks like it used to, it is definitely way mushier to the touch... very, very pillowy feeling. I can't wait to be able to start sit-ups again at 6 weeks to hopefully firm it up some. It was never hard but definitely more solid than it's current mushy state.

I'm also pleased to report that my feet didn't grow (one of my big pregnancy fears since I'm already a large size 9.5/10 and have a lot invested in shoes), I didn't get any stretch marks (I applied 3 different creams religiously) and I don't have any ripples or wrinkles on my belly that I've sometimes seen in women who have had kids. Pregnancy was pretty good to me.

This was 4 days post partum:







My Labor Tips

I've obviously only done it once, and not for long or with any finesse or expertise, but for friends about to have a baby, I would recommend the following that I think worked for me:
  • Don't look during the gross/scary/painful parts. Epidural needle? Never saw it. Giant bloody placenta? Totally missed it's dramatic plop to the floor (intentionally).  IV placement? I closed my eyes and thought happy thoughts. It's not a very sophisticated strategy, but I think turning my head helped me a lot.
  • Get the epidural and get it soon.  Obviously this is a very personal decision, but for me the epidural was an absolute Godsend. I can't imagine labor without it... it made all the difference in the world for me. It didn't slow my labor (obviously), paralyze me or have any other negative consequences for us. My only regret? Not asking for it sooner. Seriously though, just because I loved it doesn't mean its for everyone.
  • Walk a lot and do squats during pregnancy.  The doctor largely credited my quick and easy delivery with my active pregnancy.  She said that the walking allowed the baby's head to continually put pressure on my cervix, causing it to dilate and efface before labor even started, which obviously gave me less laboring to do on the big day.
  • Ask for a good last meal.  I was probably a little too focused on this, but my morale and energy were up with my belly full.  You never know how long your labor will take, but getting a good meal beforehand is something positive you can do for yourself, in my opinion.
  • Evening Primrose Oil and Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Couldn't Hurt.  I'd read that taking/drinking these two things during the last few weeks of pregnancy would tone your uterus and could shorten and ease your labor. My doctor gave me the blessing to start them both at 35 weeks. We'll never know if it made a difference for me, but given how quick and easy my labor was, I'd say they obviously didn't hurt.  I took 3 500mg EPO a day and drank the tea 3 times a day. Be sure to ask your OB first (duh). 
  • Have a good attitude (to the extent possible).  Given our infertility saga, our pregnancy attitude was overwhelmingly one of gratitude (aside from one grouchy detour the last few weeks). I think having a good attitude going into labor really helped shape my perspective of things.


 

Thanks for reading this super long, but most special blog post, barbies.  When I was pregnant and obsessively reading birth stories, I rarely found any stories of easy, undramatic or non-eventful labors, so hopefully this one will make some of you less worried about your own labors and post-partum recoveries.  Everyone is different and you can't predict these things, but we had a really great labor and recovery experience and I wish the same for all of you. Stay tuned for more baby and house updates soon! Also, be sure to check out Walker's Playroom Reveal, which I never got to link because we went into labor!

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