Love Over Fear: A Belated Birth Story.

At my most recent visit to my midwife, I asked about an epidural: “I had two unmedicated deliveries... and I don’t know if I can do it again this time.”

“That’s because you know what’s coming,” she said. “ You have PTSD.”

Judah Jonathan, my second baby boy, turns two in less than two months, and I am just now writing his birth story — in part because life is busy, partly because it mirrored Noah’s story in so many ways, and partly because it instigated fears I didn’t know that I still carried.

 My second dumpling who I can’t believe turns two this year!

My second dumpling who I can’t believe turns two this year!

Both of my boys were both born at 39 weeks, and 1 day; Noah at 11:45 p.m. and Judah at 11:37 p.m. It rained on both their birth days, which any Southern California resident knows is rare. For both, my labor started early in the morning, and when we got to the hospital, it was dark.

Probably because I’m writing this almost 2 years later, I don’t remember most of the day that I was in labor with Judah. We had a toddler running around, and I know my parents were there at some point. I don’t remember what I did all day to pass the time. I think maybe I made pasta for the freezer. Or lactation cookies? My memory is murky.

It was a Friday. Toward the end of the day, my dad said something like, “Maybe this baby will come on Sunday, like Noah.” I mumbled through a contraction, “Why would you wish that on me?”

We left for the hospital shortly after.

At the labor and delivery check-in desk,  I heard screams and moans coming from down the hallway. “That woman is doing an unmedicated delivery,” the nurse said. “I want to do an unmedicated delivery,” I said.

I waited in triage. Dave said I was 6 or 7 cm dilated when they checked me. I think maybe I was only 4 or 5. Again, murky. I don’t remember the shaking. I don’t remember the chills. I don’t remember walking to the birthing suite. We didn’t have my amazing doula and friend this time around. We were on our own.

There was no midwife that night, and the OB on duty wanted me continuously monitored (“the baby’s heart rate keeps dropping”), which meant that aside from the 30 seconds (it seemed) of water therapy from the shower, I was confined to the bed – on all fours because I was in back labor.

Dave must have put on some sort of hypnobirthing playlist because one of the nurses commented, “You two are the dream team. You should teach birthing classes.”

We were in the birthing suite for less than two hours when the OB said, “If we don’t get this baby out soon, we’ll have to do a C-section.”

I saw my nurse, Lori, look at her: “She’ll be ok.” Lori rubbed my arm while I was pushing, and I never felt more grateful for physical touch.

I pushed as hard as I could. “Don’t push so hard,” the OB said, “You don’t want to tear.” Then she started talking about taking her daughters shopping over the weekend.

Dave said that I only pushed for maybe 10 minutes. But this time, I really had to push. Noah had basically ejected himself — I worked for this baby. I wanted him out. I felt fear about what would happen if he didn’t come out quickly.

He was born with a literal knot in his umbilical cord.

“I’ve never seen that before,” the OB said.

Recently, a thing that I feared would happen, actually did happen, and I was – am – devastated.

So maybe fears could come true in other parts of my life as well. Maybe I’m not as immune as I thought. It turns out I have a high tolerance for physical pain and a low tolerance for the emotional sort.

I’m afraid this baby, baby #3, will come at the “wrong” time — the weekend that my husband is working, the day that we’re going to be wading through the crowds at the Great Pacific Airshow on the beach, in the middle of my hair appointment an hour away from home. I fear that my husband will fall asleep on me because he has been working so hard and is as exhausted as I am. I fear that I’ll be the woman calling 911 because she couldn’t get to the hospital in time. This happened to a friend of a friend — the baby’s head was out by the time the paramedics got to her house.

“Don’t say those things out loud,” my work friends said. “They’ll actualize.”

The hardest part about Judah’s birth was not the back labor or the pushing or the insensitive OB. The hardest part was the fear — because of his heart rate dropping, because of the knot in his umbilical cord.

Judah Jonathan came out strong at 8 lb. 6 oz. and 21. 5 inches long, bright red with baby beefcake shoulders. His birth ended in the best possible way — he was healthy. I was healthy. I felt it was no small miracle that I got him out without tearing.

 Baby chunks.

Baby chunks.

The nurse who helped me in the hour after delivery and who wheeled me into the recovery room had three kids, she said. The same OB who had delivered my first baby had also delivered hers.

There was a bell I got to ring. Or maybe it was a buzzer? A sort of announcement to the hospital that another baby had been born.

 One of the sweetest moments of my life.

One of the sweetest moments of my life.

 Judah slept and ate like a champ. Recovery was easier. The rest of our experience was a vacation — the endless cranberry juice with extra ice, the meal deliveries, the quiet, the lack of all other responsibilities and obligations. Even the shower felt amazing. I was high on the purest kind of love.

As we checked out, my husband joked with the nurses, “When can I book our next stay?”

Today, I’m heading out of the office for yet another maternity leave, an extended one this time. The hospital bag is packed, complete with Trader Joe’s birthday popcorn and wrapped SpiderMan walkie talkies as gifts for the big brothers. The infant car seat is re-installed. The bassinet is set up next to our bed. The nursery is just about ready.

This time, we’ll bring the iPad. I’ll bring a book. We’ll make it a date.

New baby. New story. The same choice — love over fear.

Last Pregnancy Favorites

It feels strange to call this out as our last pregnancy. I’m sure I’m jinxing it – never say never, right? At the same time, I really feel done. So done that I’ll be handing off my maternity clothes the day I get home from the hospital, probably.

 33 weeks with baby boy #3.

33 weeks with baby boy #3.

Maybe because time seemed to go so much more quickly this pregnancy, I didn’t use some of the things that were “essential” in my last pregnancies, like the body pillow (substitute: husband) and the BellaBand (went straight to the stretchy pants). It’s been a struggle to even remember to take my prenatal vitamins and DHA.

So, a short list of pregnancy faves this time around:

Beauty

My midwife told me that skin care-wise, pretty much everything was ok except retinol. So no Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil for me in this season (but I’ve stocked up for after baby comes). I’ve tried to be more intentional about my beauty routine, and my consumption in general, and I’ve found the following to be super effective with minimal effort: The Healthy Deodorant in Vanilla +Air for Creativity, Clinique Total Turnaround Overnight Revitalizing Moisturizer, SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, C-Rush Brightening Gel Creme, and neuLASH Lash Enhancing Serum. I know that the stretch marks and saggy postpartum belly skin (so gross, I know) are par for the course, but using SheaMoisture Coconut Oil and the Vitamin E oil from Trader Joe’s makes me feel like I’m doing something to minimize the damage. I wanted to spring for The Balm by Nucifera, but couldn’t justify the additional expense. Scent-wise, I’ve been loving all things bergamot. I’m not a rose person normally, and definitely not red, but the Jo Malone Red Roses cologne has been just the right amount of “extra” without being too much.

Books

I read so many pregnancy books the first time around! Now I have just two that I’ll read again: Mindful Birthing (to prep for another unmedicated, natural birth) and The First Forty Days (the granola recipe is my go-to).

Wardrobe

I’ve been wearing the same maternity dresses in rotation from my other two pregnancies. I added a few things to my wardrobe this time around, all of which I’ll still be able to wear post-pregnancy: Ingrid & Isabel Zip Front Denim Dress (on sale right now, and nursing-friendly), ASOS raw hem maternity shorts (regularly paired with one of my husband’s t-shirts), and a Show Me Your MuMu pregs & regs dress. I’ve also been living in Calvin Klein loungewear - so stretchy and so soft – they are the best.

 31 weeks pregnant.

31 weeks pregnant.

Workouts

I did Kayla Itsines’ BBG workouts early in the pregnancy along with ClassPass (mostly CorePower Yoga and TRIM Fitness pilates reformer classes), but eventually found them to be too strenuous. Since getting a Peloton, spinning has been my go-to workout. My goal is to make it through a 60-day streak, and I’m currently on day twenty-something. I gravitate more to say, SusieCakes, in pregnancy than I do to any sort of athletic endeavor, so keeping the workout threshold low, but the daily habit going has worked for me. I also keep my Lulu yoga mat laid out by my bed along with a yoga bolster pillow and Tiger Tail for bedtime routine stretches.

Hospital Bag

The hospital bag I packed for my first was ridiculous: Bluetooth speakers, art to hang outside my room, battery-operated votive candles. Insane. This time, I’ll pack a pillow, shower flip-flops, a going-home outfit for baby, some toiletries so that I look human when we leave, postpartum leggings, a pretty nursing bra, a robe, and fuzzy socks. I bought this Skip Hop Highline diaper bag to put it all in because it opens wide – I hate having to search for something that’s inevitably at the bottom of my bag – and the zippered close is optional. Last time around we had a “birth day” gift ready for big brother, and we’re planning to do the same this time around – probably these magnet building tiles, but I’m open to suggestions.

My wish list is shorter this time around too, as it should be. Three things: a BOB Duallie stroller for my November/December trail walks before I’m cleared for more strenuous exercise again, The Story of You baby book (in olive or midnight blue, I can’t decide), and pretty newborn/family of five photos taken in our house.

In a few weeks, we’ll head to southern California wine country (baby will be far enough baked for a tiny glass of almond champagne, right??) for another mini babymoon/birthday celebration. The countdown is on, and we can’t wait to meet our baby boy. If you have any recs for making it through this home stretch, I’d love to know!

The Middle.

It’s April now, the in-betweenest of all the months – in between winter and spring, not the beginning of the year, but not yet the summer. The middle.

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That’s where I find myself right now, in the middle (cue Maren Morris).

I’m not a new mom or a newlywed, but I’m still a young mom and a young-ish wife. I’m not super early in my career, but I also haven’t yet built the thing that I want to build. I’ve passed the discovery phase of my 20s, and now I’m learning how to undo patterns and habits that have rooted their way into this new decade.

The saying – when the student is ready, the teacher will appear – has never been more true in my life than in these last three months. My life since January has felt like a bootcamp in life skills: finances, emotional health, communication in marriage, parenting. I’ve been a sponge, soaking up new skills, shedding old perspectives, adopting new paradigms.

For one thing, we’ve stopped using personal credit cards completely. And I don’t mean that we use a credit card, and we pay it off every month. I’ve literally closed down credit lines. It’s one less thing for me to manage, and I will never go back.

Emotional health has become a real pursuit for me. We went to marriage counseling for the first time. I’m wrapping up a study on the subject with women from my church. Dates have become a weekly non-negotiable priority.  I’m learning every single day better ways to give and receive love, so that I can be the best mom and wife possible.

I’ve had a onslaught of gray hairs appear that I attribute to this particular learning season, but at the same time, I am enjoying this season so much because I have a glimpse of what’s ahead for our family. I have total and complete faith that our family legacy is being built, day by day, right now, in this season, in this year.

I am the farthest person from a marathon runner, but there is a special place in my heart for athlete analogies. I’m in the slog of the training phase. It’s slow. It’s hard. It’s sweaty. I’m moving a single step – a single action – at a time, but I’m confident that I’m heading in the right direction. The beautiful thing about this “race” is that it could be 26.2 miles, or it could not. Maybe it’ll only be 3 miles because God’s timelines and God’s ability to fulfill are infinitely greater than our own. Good news for us non-runners.

Welcome, 2018.

It feels kind of fitting that this is the last day of 2017. New Year’s Eve, and I’m feeling impatient and burned out, like I’ve felt for so much of this year. Nothing’s working today – our internet, the baby’s sleep schedule, even my latte was subpar. I burned the bacon and cut my hand on foil (???).  Break out the champagne – I need a new day and a new year.

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When I reflect on 2017, I can’t say that I knocked my goals out of the park. Twenty-seventeen was the year of parenting two under 3 and working full-time. That’s pretty much it.

And yet (because there’s always God’s goodness) –  there was our first house, and Judah’s first birthday. There were parties and dinners with friends, getaways and a gala.  We got to watch our boys grow. It was a yearlong season of trial and error and no sleep and long days. It was a year of beauty, and blessings, and also a very ordinary kind of hard.

Going into 2018, I’m not working on big milestones, but a day-to-day that’s aligned with my priorities and values. In past years, I’ve chosen a word to describe the theme for the year: intentional, present, creativity. This year, I’ve chosen a chapter: Proverbs 31, a vision for daily God-seeking, housekeeping, child-raising and working.

My goals for the first quarter of 2018 stem from my priority buckets: self-care, relationships, personal growth, resources, and work. I use a Day Designer, and I love that for each goal, there’s a section for monthly actions, a weekly routine, a daily habit, and what progress looks like. I’m ready to turn the corner into 2018, with lots of scaffolding via coaching, scheduling, and microactions. I’ve hired a sleep consultant, found house cleaning help, and signed up for a women’s study. I’ve penciled coffee dates with the hubs into my planner and financial check-ins. Baby steps. Progress, not perfection.

We’ve been sick for the better part of December, and off work for this last week. This time has been so crucial to helping us slow down, readjust our priorities, and remember what it’s like to have margin. I’ve really lowered the bar for myself these last few weeks, trading in “adventures” for hanging out at home, and big organizing projects for just one load of laundry. Even today, we had plans to go to Cortina’s for lasagna and tiramisu, and instead I made a weeknight bolognese, in my sweatpants, with leftover pecan pie for dessert. In many ways, these weeks have been the perfect transition to a new year. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in 2017, it’s that simpler is so often better.

Tomorrow, we’ll have breakfast while watching the Rose Parade, a tradition for me ever since I was a little girl. In the afternoon, we’ll head to our favorite bed & breakfast, with a room overlooking the water. It’ll be our fourth year there, our annual family retreat starting off the new year with each other.

We were together. I forget the rest.
— Walt Whitman

What I'm Reading: February & March (and some recs for the littles).

So much of my reading list these days revolves around motherhood with a sprinkle around work and creative living. Now that I'm buying books for the boys as well as myself, I'm including a few recommendations for little ones too.

flower crown

For me:

Hands Free Mama. Sherry from Young House Love touted this book as the practical complement to Chasing Slow, which I loved. I'm feeling the squeeze on quality time with my boys, so I'm learning to be more intentional about being present and not distracted by a device, work or chores while I'm with them. I've teared up in more than a few places reading this book and reflecting on how quickly these precious moments pass. I'm learning that the quiet moments spent being completely present with my little ones can be just as soul-restoring, if not more, than alone time.

The Wellness Mama Cookbook. Healthy, budget-friendly recipes in under 30 minutes? Count me in. I really like that for the most part, the recipes in this book are super simple with no fancy ingredients that I have to make a special trip to the grocery store for. I've only had this book for a few weeks, and it's already the cookbook I turn to first for meal-planning. The slow cooker recipes are especially useful for me these days.

The New Preschool is Crushing Kids is an article that came on The Atlantic that has been influencing my thoughts about preschool (and this op-ed as well). Noah is all about stories – reading, listening, telling, and as this article states, "Conversation is gold." Education is such an investment, so I want to make sure that we're choosing the best one possible.

Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That's Been Hiding. My good friend told me about this author, who spoke at her MOPS group, so I looked up her book. This book is totally speaking to where I am in my creative life right now. I'm so skeptical of myself! This book is such an encouragement and provides the road-map for soul check-ins that I need.

A Woman's Place. I'm constantly asking myself, Am I doing what I am meant to do? This book adds another dimension to the women and work conversation.

The Magnolia Journal. Is there anyone who doesn't like Fixer Upper? This is a bonus dose of the home and life inspiration in print form. 

For the babes:

If You Give a Mouse A Cookie. I loved that this popped up on my Amazon feed, and knew immediately that Noah would get a kick out of it. We read this at least once a day, and he references it whenever I give him a cookie. In the cookie vein, I also bought Cookies Board Book: Bite-Size Life Lessons. We haven't read it yet, but after reading Amy Krouse Rosenthal's essay in the New York Times, I was hooked.

If you asked me what keeps me up at night, I would say children in vulnerable circumstances. The refugee crisis is breaking my heart. Teacup is a picture book about one boy's journey to a new homeland. It's never too early to start teaching empathy, and I'm confident that Noah will be interested in this story.

On a lighter note, Noah, like every other two year old boy it seems, is super into trucks. I bought him I Am a Garbage Truck, which we have read so. many. times. I Am a Fire Truck just dropped down to $2 (!) on Amazon, so of course I purchased it. Noah is like me and loves surprises and treats, and this book will be one for sure.

 

*note: this blog post contains affiliate links.