our birth story.

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We’re going on six weeks now since baby Noah’s birth. I had every intention of sharing our story sooner, but we’re on baby time. :)

His birth story is one that I replay over and over in my mind because it still seems like a dream - an intense and exhilarating and miraculous dream. Fair warning: it’s a


, detailed story, more like a novel (that I want to remember every single moment of), so read on at your own discretion.

Baby Noah's birth day story...

My last day of work was on Thursday. I had planned on working right up until my due date, but my doctor convinced me that I should take at least a week of time to myself. I was convinced that baby boy would come late (average gestation time is 41 weeks and 1 day for baby #1), so I figured I’d have at least a week of nesting time. Friday morning, I had what turned out to be my last prenatal visit. My OB told me that my cervix was ripe and that baby boy’s head was really low, but that I wasn’t dilated yet. She told us that she and her husband were heading to Hawaii that weekend for a wedding, but not to worry because I still had plenty of time.

Saturday, the day I turned 39 weeks (full term), Dave made a nice big dinner with a ton of protein, which we ate outside on our balcony. We joked later that that big hunk of chicken I ate was just what baby boy needed to get his trip down the birth canal started. Dave still had his bet against me that Noah would come on September 7 (Grandparents’ day), and I said, maybe, but then my labor would probably have to start tonight.

I slept fitfully that night, waking up what seemed like every half an hour to go pee. Early in the morning, I stopped trying to sleep because I started getting these low and painful cramps. I had read that sometimes labor pains feel like menstrual cramping, but I had period cramps so infrequently that I didn’t even know what those felt like really. Finally, at 4:30 am, I looked at the clock and woke Dave up to tell him what I was feeling. “Those sound like gas pains,” he told me, “I’ve been having those too — must have been something we ate last night."

Around 7:30 am, I texted Erica, my good friend from college was going to be our doula and who also happens to be a labor and delivery nurse at UCLA. At this point, I was timing my cramps, and I told her that I was experiencing pretty regular and painful “surges.” I was trying to sleep, but couldn’t because they were painful. I still wasn’t convinced that I was having contractions because I couldn’t see or feel my abdomen tightening at all (the visible abdominal tightening didn’t happen for me until


 I gave birth). Erica reminded me to go about my day as normal. I had thought that when labor started my contractions would be mild enough for me to go on a walk outside, run some last minute errands, or do some baking, but when they happened, I couldn’t imagine actually



My “surges” continued pretty regularly throughout the morning, I ate breakfast and tried to nap when my contractions stopped for a little while, but when the contractions started back up again, having them laying down was too painful. Dave was watching the creepy show on Netflix starring Gillian Anderson in bed, and I was standing at the side of the bed, dancing and bouncing my way through contractions. Rhythmic motion was the best way of coping with the pain for me. I snacked on some eggs and mashed potatoes, read some inspiring natural birth stories (




), and watched TV with Dave in the living room. We had plans to go to the 6 pm service at Saddleback that night and dinner afterwards with friends, but around 2 pm, I told Dave to cancel because I couldn’t imagine myself dancing and bouncing myself through church and dinner. I didn’t even want to change out of my pajamas.

I wrote down: “It’s now 6:17 pm, and I have no idea how far I’ve ‘progressed.’ I think that my contractions are pretty regular, even regular enough to go the hospital, but they’re still manageable for me, and I don’t want to go to the hospital until I just can’t take it anymore. It feels so good to be on the balance ball, moving my hips around. I have goosebumps, but I get warm when I’m going through a contraction. And yet, my belly isn’t tightening at all. The contractions have been painful from the very beginning, but now they are more frequent. I have no idea if my bag of waters is leaking, but my mucus plug has come out in a few different surges of mucus. My biggest fear is that I’ll get to the hospital and that they’ll check on me and I’ll only be a couple centimeters dilated when I feel like I should be almost in the transition period. I feel ok right now, calm and so happy to be on my ball. I hope that I can rest for a little bit. I’m planning on drinking a glass of wine and then trying to sleep for a little while in the glider."

I knew that I should be eating light, easily digestible food for energy so around 6:30 pm, Dave went to Corner Bakery and brought home chicken noodle soup. Chicken noodle soup had never tasted better! I savored every spoonful while sitting on my ball and watching the creepy murder show. I sat on that ball, big fuzzy blanket wrapped around my shoulders because I was cold and clammy, with Winston curled up on the end of it for the next few contractions. I had been handling them on my own, occasionally telling Dave, “wow, that one really hurt!,” but at that point I laid my head in his lap and asked him to rub my back. Another contraction was starting when at 8:05 pm, my water broke in a big gush as I was sitting on the birthing ball. Honestly, I thought I just had an uncontrolled bowel movement and was surprised when I saw the clear fluid. We knew it was time to go. At that point, I had been having contractions for over 15 hours.

We rushed around the house. I hadn’t packed my toiletries or snacks yet because I thought we would still have some time. Dave pretty much swept everything on the bathroom counter into a bag and ran downstairs to load up everything in the car. I remember actually contemplating whether we had enough time to walk Winston, but Dave insisted that he would be fine and that we should go. I called my parents, who came to the house that night to take care of him and texted Erica, who told us that she was on her way.

One of my favorite moments of being in labor was, surprisingly enough, the car ride on the way to the hospital. I thought it would be awful — jerky driving compounded with painful contractions, but it was nothing like that for me. I had a painful, stop-in-your-tracks contraction on the walk to the car, but as soon as I got in the car, I felt so much excitement. It didn’t really hit me that I was in active labor until my water broke, and until the car ride. I have never felt more relaxed and at peace than during that time in the car. As we pulled out, the sky was lit up by moonlight, everything was quiet, and time felt like it had slowed down. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the hospital, and I wished that it lasted longer. I wanted to enjoy, as much as possible, every moment of my labor because I knew I would never again have this exact experience. The mindfulness practices I had been doing were absolutely instrumental in bringing me back to the present moment. I kept telling Dave, “I can’t believe this is really happening. I’m so excited!” The freeway was empty and the buildings lit up, and I felt so serene. We were going to meet our baby!

We arrived at the hospital, parked, and I had to stop a few times on the walk to triage. We checked in at the desk, and I had another contraction as I was filling out paperwork. I remember thinking, seriously, this paperwork! I’m in labor, people! Dave told me later that he overheard one of the nurses say, as we were walking to our triage room, “She’s probably not even 4 centimeters.” Good thing I didn’t hear that!

We waited in the triage room, and I kept on my own clothes, mostly because we couldn’t figure out the snaps on the hospital gown. The nurse checked me and told me that I was almost 6 cm dilated. Music to my ears! The nurse asked us about our birth plan, which I had printed and which was still sitting in the car, so Dave just told her that we wanted a natural birth, no epidural and minimal interventions. She told us that the doctor on duty might recommend Pitocin, but I could refuse it. She also told us that she would ask if I could have a hep lock and intermittent monitoring. She left the room and came back with the bad news (what it felt like to me), that because I was in active labor (and because the nurse herself was “worried”), the my OB’s partner was requiring continuous fetal monitoring. I was bummed because I knew that meant that my movement would be constricted, but I trusted that despite whatever the monitor was picking up, my baby boy was doing just fine. We asked about the telemetry devices we had heard about on the hospital tour, and she told us they were being repaired. Go figure.

The nurse hooked me up to an IV bag for dehydration. I had been drinking water and coconut water all day and didn’t think I was dehydrated, but I didn’t fight it. I had to lie down in the hospital bed so that the monitoring belts wouldn’t fall off, which was the worst position for me. I wanted to be moving! But then Erica arrived, and she and Dave rubbed my legs and reminded me to take deep, slow breaths. I was so soothed by David’s presence and Erica’s amazingly calming voice. I told Dave earlier in the day that my code word for an epidural would be “McDonalds’ (it’s not healthy, but it’s better than nothing when you’re starving!), but I felt so relaxed, supported, and focused, that it didn’t even cross my mind to ask for one. I didn’t play the “birthing mix” on my iPhone like I had planned, but the whole time, I kept thinking back on one of the meditations in particular that reminded me to welcome strong surges because they were bringing me closer to my baby and to smile after each contraction and enjoy the time of rest. Enjoying the rest between contractions was so key for me! And so was realizing that the peak of pain was actually only a few seconds long at a time. Dave can tell you that I was

so happy

in between contractions (thank you, endorphins!). Erica reminded me to enjoy the process, and I actually did!

At one point, I told the nurse that I had to pee, so I was unhooked from the machine (amazing!), and I labored on the toilet. Things were really getting intense at this point, and being reminded to breathe was so helpful. I had to get back into bed and back onto the machine, but I was so desperate to be moving, that for one contraction, I got on my hands and knees on the hospital bed. When I laid back down, I noticed that my legs were shaking. I looked at the clock, and it was after 10 pm.  After two back-to-back contractions, I was wondering when I would get a break and whether I was in the transition period yet. I remember asking how long I would stay in triage (because the birthing balls and showers were in the labor and delivery rooms) and when my baby would come. I was so relieved when the Labor and Delivery nurse finally came to escort us to our room. I walked, bounced, and swayed down that hallway, so thankful that I would finally have access to a birthing ball.

Well, we got the birthing ball, but the nurse basically told us I couldn’t use it because the movement would cause the monitoring belt to fall off. The rocker was on the other side of the room and couldn’t be moved, so that was off limits too. She said that we could get internal fetal monitoring instead, but I declined. At this point, my contractions were so strong that I felt the urge to bear down, but I was only 7 cm. To keep my cervix from swelling, the nurse said that I had to resist the urge to push. I desperately wanted to go in the shower, so Erica talked to the nurse and got me the OK to be in the shower for 10 minutes. Gosh, those 10 minutes in that hot shower were bliss! Dave put on his swim trunks and got in with me and was rubbing my back in circular motions. The rests in between contractions felt like heaven, but the contractions themselves were getting more and more intense. Erica had me “blowing out candles” — I was gripping her hand and blowing out candles like my life depended on it.

When I got out of the shower, Erica asked if I wanted anything from the hospital bag that I put so much thought into. I had looked forward to the ice chips and popsicles that our OB had promised me during labor. But everything else seemed like a distraction, and I didn’t even want to put on a new shirt, so I spent the rest of my labor naked (tmi?). I stood by the machine, bouncing up and down during contractions while Dave held the monitoring belt to my belly. I needed to be holding (gripping) Erica’s hand. I was so focused on her face as she would blow with me, that I felt like my eyes were popping out of my head. David confirmed later that yes, my eyes were bulging. The contractions weren’t “painful” anymore, but they were INTENSE. It felt like my body was possessed, and it took everything in me to fight the urge to bear down and to blow out instead. I kept saying to Erica, “I feel like I’m pooping!” and she would reply, “yes, that’s your baby!” It was reassuring to me to have someone acknowledging what I was feeling and also reminding me to relax my face and breathe down to my baby. In between contractions, I draped my arms around Dave’s neck and let my body go limp. He held me up with one arm and kept his other hand on the monitoring belt.  He would kiss me, and I felt so much love and peace in those moments. The pressure started to build up even more, and it was getting harder and harder to fight the urge to push, so Erica asked the nurse to check me again. I got into the hospital bed and was so focused on relaxing that I didn’t hear the nurse say that I was 10 cm at first. She repeated, “You’re fully dilated. You can push!” As she left the room to get the doctor, I had a powerful contraction. There wasn’t enough time to get out of the bed, so I turned onto my side, and let it take over my body. That’s when Erica said, “Feel your baby’s head! That’s your baby!” I couldn’t believe his little (actually, not so little it turns out — the nurse told me later that they normally see that sized head with C-sections… a couple centimeters less would have been more “vagina-friendly") head was getting ready to come out. All I could say was, “Really?” I had a rush of energy feeling his velvety baby hair. The nurse came back in, and things got a little fuzzy for me at that point, but I think that Erica told her that the baby’s head was coming out. The nurse told me to close my legs and stop pushing before she rushed out of the room.

Thankfully, right before the next contraction hit, the laborist on duty, Dr. White, came in. I heard the nurse ask him if he wanted my legs in the stirrups, but he said I was fine on my side. I was so relieved because I did not want to push on my back. He was wonderful and put me right at ease. The next few moments happened so quickly. I felt a brief moment of burning, which I don’t remember if I vocalized or if I just thought it. I knew then that I was tearing or going to tear, but I couldn’t slow down the contraction. I groaned, and then baby boy’s head was out. I didn’t realize it at first — all I knew was that I felt a little bit of relief and that there was more excitement in the room. Dave saw the little guy, with just his head sticking out, open his eyes. The doctor then told me to give him a “small push,” and I was thinking, a small push?! These contractions have a mind of their own! At the next contraction, the rest of his body slid out, and then he was on my chest. It was incredible. In those few minutes, my baby boy was born. I couldn’t believe that I was holding my precious baby. This warm, squinty-eyed, gummy creature screaming his lungs out was mine. His cries were so strong and so loud, but I didn’t want them to stop. It was 11:45 pm.

Sometime in the next minutes, he started nursing. It was a blur of picture-taking and sutures (for my second-degree tear) and nurses coming in and out to get things cleaned up and to check out baby Noah’s dimples ;). My OB’s partner finally arrived as I was getting sutured — so thankfully Dr. White, was there to deliver him! Baby boy was not going to wait. At some point Dr. White asked if this was our third baby, and we said, no, he’s our first! I’m totally convinced that all the protein I ate throughout my pregnancy made for a strong baby boy who really helped his momma out during labor! We didn’t even have to ask for delayed cord clamping because Dr. White asked us if we wanted to wait, which we did. A few minutes later, before I delivered the placenta, Dave cut the umbilical cord. I lost track of time, and for some moments after the birth, my legs were still shaking, and I was generally pretty uncomfortable. As the room quieted down, the amazement and elation really sunk in.

We moved into the recovery room. I downed the turkey sandwich and cranberry spritzer that they gave me (all that work in labor makes you hungry!), and Dave headed to the cafeteria for some food (thankfully, the cafeteria stays open until 3 am). I knew that David was exhausted, but all I wanted to do was talk about our beautiful baby and his amazing birth — It was the ultimate high! The next few days were especially exhausting, but I was exhilarated. All I could feel was pure joy. I feel so lucky, and so incredibly grateful that our birth story unfolded the way it did.  If I could relive the experience of baby Noah’s birth all over again, I absolutely would, every single moment of it.

Noah at birth 090714

noah augustus.

Noah 090814 edit

our baby boy, less than 24 hours after he was born.

Happy 1 month birthday to my baby boy!

Noah Augustus Gyllenhammer.

Born at 11:45 pm on Sunday, September 7. Seven pounds, 7 oz, 21 inches long — a tiny bit longer, and with a larger head circumference than his daddy at birth.

What an incredible whirlwind month. Birth story to follow.

pregnancy favorites, part 2.

Pregnancy faves part 2

So, I’m due NEXT WEEK. That just blows my mind. Since my pregnancy took a turn towards uncomfortable at week 36, some of these favorites more like necessities, especially because I’m still working. My top 10 for the second half of pregnancy:


Bump Nest Pregnancy Pillow

- I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep without this pillow, especially during weeks that Dave has been away on business. Every night and during meditation, I’m wrapped around it for support. Hip pain started for me these last few weeks, so it has been a must for me to have something to wrap my legs around. Even Dave and Winston love it. My only complaint is that the jersey fabric doesn’t ever really get “cool” like normal cotton does (I’m always flipping over my pillows to get to the cool side), but it’s still a lifesaver.


Stability Ball

- I brought this to sit on at my two-hour birthing long classes… SO much more comfortable than sitting on the floor. I’m such a fan of stability balls (so much that I had this

Balance Ball Chair

 at the office), but especially now, during pregnancy. It’s great for helping me maintain my posture and releasing the tension in my hips. We’ve been practicing a few different laboring positions using it, and Dave has been using it for sit-ups. After Baby is born, Dad can even sit on it to bounce him. I’m so glad they have these available at the hospital that we’re birthing in because I feel like it will be one of my most used comfort measures. I have two different stability balls, and this one with the weighted sand base really makes a difference, where you don’t feel like you're about to go sliding all over the place. Basically this thing is a must-have.


Sutter Home Fre Alcohol Removed Brut

- Ok, so this has the


 amount of alcohol in it even though it’s “alcohol-removed.” It doesn’t bother me, but it’s not for sticklers... I guess it


 matter if you drank the whole thing yourself? I’ve made mimosas with this to celebrate my mom’s birthday and other special occasions, and I honestly can’t tell the difference between it and regular prosecco from Trader Joe’s. They used to sell this at Target, but I haven’t seen it there lately, so I plan to stock up at Total Wine & More for post-baby brunches and celebrations.


Dohm Sound Conditioner

- We got this for when the baby comes, but we decided to try it out a little early, and let me tell you, it’s amazing. Dave swears he sleeps so much better with it on. I’m already waking up throughout the night to go to the bathroom, so getting woken up by outside noise is a super pain. We live in an apartment complex, so whenever Winston hears another dog, he wakes up to bark. This not only drowns out the outside noise, but we’ve “tuned” it to produce an ocean-like sound that’s really soothing and helps all of us sleep better.


Cuisinart Egg Cooker

- I bought this a while back because it makes the poached eggs SO easily (my poaching skills are lacking), but it also makes perfect hard-boiled eggs, which are my go-to pregnancy snack/on-the-go breakfast. I pop a couple of eggs in this thing, add a little water, flip the switch, and it steams my eggs to perfection. I set it while I’m making my decaf, and it’s super quick for those busy workday mornings. No standing over the stove watching the water boil and so much better than having days-old hardboiled eggs sitting cold from the fridge. This version is even better than the one I have, with the capacity to cook 10 hardboiled eggs and a bonus omelet tray.


Hypnobirthing Home Study Course

 - I’ve been following guiding hypnobirthing meditations throughout my pregnancy, but especially now with barely weeks left. This particular “album” has my favorite tracks - Birth Affirmations and Visualize Your Amazing Birth. Relaxation Triggers from Part 5 is also a good one. I haven't tried all the tracks from the course, but I tend to get into a groove with the ones I have. I’ve learned from doing Cross Fit that so much of what you can do physically is determined (or at least helped) by your mental state and perspective, so I appreciate the mental “conditioning” that these meditations facilitate.


Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body, and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond

- I

wrote about Mind Over Labor

, but I discovered this book, and it is SO MUCH BETTER. I feel so much more mentally prepared for birth after reading this one. I even downloaded the iPhone app with the guided meditations. It offers a really insightful perspective on labor that I rely on more as the time grows closer. And unlike so many alarmist birth stories out there, the anecdotes in this book are positive, even when things didn’t go as expected or desired for these women.


Yogi Woman's Raspberry Leaf Tea

- I try to drink at least a cup of this tea a day because it's supposed to help strengthen your uterus. I haven’t had any contractions yet, so obviously I don’t know if it really helps, but I’m up for trying anything to increase the productivity of my labor. Read the reviews on Amazon - those women make it sound like a miracle beverage.


ASOS Maternity Dress

- I have this exact dress, and it’s one of the 4 dresses that I have in rotation in my work wardrobe. THANK YOU, ASOS, for making not-so-expensive dresses that are so comfortable and can be worn at the office - I would look homeless and fat if it weren’t for you.



- This online registry is wonderful because you can pull from any store on the interwebs. I think you can do that with Amazon too, but this site was so user-friendly, with great customer service and free insert cards. I’m still using it to keep track of additional things we need or cool products I come across for future reference.

Next up, a post on (anticipated) postpartum essentials (eek, that time is just around the corner!).

happy september! (and the easiest pulled pork).

Pulled pork

I am excited beyond excited that DUE MONTH is here! The little guy can surprise us with his arrival any day now. Since he


won’t come until after his due date, we’re following our birth instructor’s suggestion to turn his “due date” into “date night,” with dinner reservations for Nick’s Laguna Beach. Part of me hopes he comes like tomorrow, and the other part of me hopes that he holds out until the 14th, so I can splurge on ahi and warm butter cake.

Now that it’s officially September 1, with summer coming to a close and my laziness growing by the day, it’s the perfect time to break out the crock pot and Le Creuset. September for me is all about comfort food - apple pie and hot cider, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and homemade mac & cheese. I made this super easy BBQ pulled pork the other day, serving it over lettuce & veggies from our CSA basket and for another meal on a toasted brioche bun with a salad on the side.

5-Ingredient Easy Pulled Pork

2 1/4 lb. bone-in pork shoulder

Trader Joe’s BBQ Rub & Seasoning with Coffee & Garlic

1/2 -1 cup apple cider vinegar

1-1 1/2 cups apple juice (I used unfiltered apple juice from Sprout’s)

1/2 bottle Trader Joe’s Kansas City Style BBQ Sauce

Rinse the pork shoulder and pat dry. Season all sides with the BBQ rub and return the pork to the fridge. I used my 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset for this recipe. Heat your pan of choice, adding a pat of butter and grapeseed/olive oil after the pan is hot. Sear the meat on high/medium-high on all sides until the meat is a dark, crusty brown (at least several minutes on each side). Add a half cup of apple cider vinegar to start and about a cup of apple juice. Reduce the heat, and let the liquid simmer away. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then pop in the meat. I kept the liquid at a minimum, probably around a fourth of the way up the meat, adding more cider and juice when necessary. I checked and rotated the meat every hour, for a total of about 3 1/2 hours in the oven. Once the meat is fork-tender, use two forks to shred and add the BBQ sauce. I’ll probably make these for little Hawaiian roll sliders next time we have company.

Happy September, friends!



37 week ignorant, sweaty bliss.

Today was hard. Today I felt sad and betrayed and unimportant. I felt hurt and angry and alone. The person who I thought I could count on the most didn’t show up.

The highs of pregnancy are so high. But can we talk about the lows? It’s a waiting game until D-Day, and my biggest fear is that when the time comes, I’ll feel exactly like this — physically exhausted and emotionally spent. I fear that I’ll be begging for narcotics as soon as the first contraction hits, just so that I can sleep. And there’s love and forgiveness, but for the life of me, I cannot imagine being able to channel forgiveness while I’m in labor.

Today was an exercise in mindfulness. I’m learning that being present can be as painful as it is empowering. My hypnobirthing meditation calls it “surrendering to the pain.” Today, I lived in the pain for almost the entire day. I didn’t think of much else, and I didn’t do a whole lot. My agenda for the day disappeared, and the only sunshine I experienced was through the window. I think that living in the pain sometimes means laying in bed past noon and crying because it’s the only thing that feels good. But I’m learning that it also means that the present has no room for future fears.

This heart is doing hard work right now, beyond the physical strain of pumping to support another human. I’m learning to fully experience the negative emotions and enjoying those brief moments when I forget what it was that hurt me so badly. One beat at a time, one breath at a time, because there’s nothing healthy about anticipating future pain.

So happy 38 weeks, heart. Tomorrow’s a new day.