I’m Kristina - freelance graphic designer, backyard farmer, cookbook reader, project starter, and new mom to a gorgeous little boy.

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Archive for the ‘with child’ Category

August 23, 2012

Leslie and Beckett’s birth story

I promise this isn’t going to turn into a birth story blog, but this is such a good one that I just had to share. Plus, like everyone I know is having babies at the moment which makes these stories major low hanging fruit in terms of blog posts.

Leslie is a good friend from college who welcomed her first little dude into the world in a pretty awesome way, just two weeks after Forrest was born. She’s also a great writer and apparently born to give birth, both of which make for a great read.

Thursday, July 5th felt totally normal: I took Rowdy on a long walk, helped Scott at the shop, did a big grocery store run so I could cook up a storm before I went into labor… I even went to a wine bar on the wharf with Jen, stealing sips of her champagne flight as we gossiped! I did notice that I was having more of the “fake” contractions, and as I finally settled in at home around 8pm, I realized they were coming consistently about 10 minutes apart. My heart quickened a bit as I wondered if maybe these weren’t fake after all, but they didn’t hurt at all, which certainly wasn’t what I expected labor to be like. I called my doula, Courtney, around 9pm just to give her a heads up that MAYBE something was happening, though I didn’t really think so. She reassured me that even if this wasn’t labor, my body was gearing up. Courtney encouraged us to get some rest and check in with her in the morning.

Scott fell asleep immediately (of course), but my head was swimming with questions and anticipation. I re-read Joy’s birth story, looking for clues about what to expect, and the contractions started to pick up. She had mentioned something about tracking her contractions with an iPhone app- there seriously is an app for everything!- so I found one and downloaded it. When I started tracking at 12:10am, they were about six minutes apart, and at that point, felt similar to menstrual cramps. I tried to remember from our birth class how long the various phases of labor are supposed to last, with no luck, but according to the app’s quick reference page, it appeared I was moving from “early labor” to “active labor”. Eeeeeeeeee!

I woke Scott up around 12:45am to let him know this seemed legit. We were both excited but surprisingly calm. I decided to take a shower, and I yelled to Scott each time I had a contraction so we could keep tracking them with the app. Around that time things really cranked up: now the contractions were more like three minutes apart. I called our hospital to let them know I was in labor and would be coming in at some point, and when I gave the nurse details about my contractions she seemed to think we had plenty of time. My big concern had been that my labor would stall out midway and require interventions like Pitocin, which was part of why I wanted to labor at home as long as possible before going into the clinical environment of the hospital that often slowed things down. It’s funny how opposite things turned out!

Timing the contractions with the app kept me somewhat distracted, but I was definitely in a good amount of pain, so we called Courtney around 2am to ask her to come over. I also called my parents; even though I knew it would freak them out, I felt like they should know what was going on! I announced to my mom “It looks like I’m having a baby!” and she responded “so what do I do?!” I assumed she could wait until morning to make the half an hour drive here and still catch plenty of the action.

Courtney arrived just before 2:30am, watched me moan through a contraction, looked at the handy list on the app charting the duration and frequency of my previous contractions, then promptly took my phone away from me so I could focus on the labor instead. Darn her! She encouraged me to loosen up as the contractions came, especially my shoulders, and I suppose that helped. However, that point it was hard to find any position that was remotely comfortable: I leaned on Scott, we “danced” in the kitchen, I leaned on walls, and finally I was on all fours on the couch with Courtney next to me rubbing my back.

At around 3:30am I decided this was as intense as things needed to get at home; I was ready for the security of being surrounded by medical staff at the hospital. Scott had to stop by the shop to put up a sign indicating we would be closed that day (because we were having a baby!). He was gone no more than 10 minutes, but by then I was starting to go a little nutty. The short drive into the hospital was brutal, and as we tried to walk in I doubled over in pain with another contraction. I’d said all along that I wanted to go as long as possible without any pain medications- ideally making it through to the end- but the idea of some relief was starting to sound really great.

As the medical staff started the check-in process, I could see why people claimed the hospital atmosphere could slow things down. They couldn’t find my pre-registration, so I was forced to answer questions about my Social Security number, my phone number, etc… all while in intense labor! I was alternating between pacing around, leaning on the bed, moaning/ screaming, and I heard the nurse say to someone on the phone “I think we’ll end up admitting this one.” You think?
After what felt like forever, the nurse checked me and declared I was five centimeters dilated. I hadn’t held any expectations about where I should be at that point, but that seemed pretty good. I figured I was about at the midway point after less than five hours of “real” labor, which certainly made the 24 hour labor (or more!) that I’d feared less likely.

Around this point I started asking about pain medication options, and Courtney encouraged me to get in the giant tub first to labor in water. “They call it the midwife’s epidural; it could really help!” she reassured me. A real epidural didn’t seem so bad at this point, but since I had been looking forward to the tub (if that’s the right way to phrase anything involving labor?!) I did want to try it. I had actually bit down on Scott’s shoulder and wept during one of the contractions, so he was freaking out a bit at seeing me in that kind of pain and seemed open to whatever might help.
The tub is when my memory of everything gets less clear, probably because I was a bit out of my mind! Every contraction would take over my entire body, starting right underneath my chest, and I felt completely out of control. It was beyond intense and somewhat scary. As promised in our birth class, I started to doubt myself and tell Courtney I didn’t think I could do this, to which she calmly but firmly responded that I could. During one of the seemingly brief breaks between contractions, I reasoned with myself that there was no reason for me to suffer like this when I could have pain meds, and if nothing else I just needed a break, so I apologetically told Courtney that I wanted to try fentanyl. It would “take the edge off” for about an hour, which sounded dreamy. Courtney reassured me that I’d done great, and while I don’t remember it, apparently she asked if I wanted to be checked again first. The nurse (who had barely been around at this point) popped back in, I requested the drugs, and since she still needed to draw blood for some reason anyway, she said she’d be back to set up an IV lock.

Scott was also in and out of the room; he called my parents with an update (again thinking they could probably wait until morning), and then he left to use a restroom out in the lobby.
My water still hadn’t broken, and I started to feel an incredible amount of pressure. I reached down and discovered what felt like a balloon bulging out between my legs. When I told Courtney, she said that I could push a bit to help it break. I pushed and felt it get bigger; at this point the pain was accompanied by an intense burning. I don’t know exactly how many times I pushed, but I just wanted to make the crazy pain go away, and in my head I was determined to break that darn balloon.

No more than a few minutes later, I felt the pop of my water breaking, accompanied by a powerful gush. The relief was immediate and AWESOME. I sighed “thank God!” and sat there blissfully catching my breath for a second. When I opened my eyes I noticed all sorts of nastiness around me in the tub… and to my surprise, floating next to me was what appeared to be an umbilical cord. I recall thinking “that’s not supposed to be out yet, is it?” as I continued to look around in the dim mood lighting Courtney had set up.

Then I noticed something larger floating in the tub. As I reached to scoop it up, I realized it was a baby. Yep, a BABY. He was still perfectly curled in the fetal position, angelic and quiet. I was in such shock that I didn’t even have time to worry if he was okay or not before Courtney started yelling “BABY!!!!”

I sat there, holding the baby up like a prize I happened upon and wasn’t sure I had earned, as suddenly all sorts of hospital staff came running in. A moment later, Scott came in, equally confused and with tears in his eyes, and I hoisted the baby a little higher in his direction, kind of like “Hey, look what I did while you were gone!” At some point during all this commotion, our baby started crying.

It’s funny how fuzzy those few minutes after birth are in my memory, but I suppose my brain was busy trying to wrap itself around the fact that I’d just had a baby essentially by myself, in a bathtub. As much as I knew things don’t always go according to plan in labor, this was miles away from anything I ever would have imagined. And as the hospital staff would point out, both at that point and repeatedly throughout the next two days of our stay, patients aren’t supposed to give birth in the tub, so they were all rather baffled by the situation as well.

I think they drained the tub then refilled it with clean water to rinse us both off, then an entire team of people lifted me out (while I held the baby close) into a wheelchair to transfer me to the bed. As I recall, it wasn’t until then that it occurred to anyone to ask if it was a boy or a girl, so I pulled him away from me to confirm we had indeed gotten the boy we’d expected. From there I pretty much just stared at the tiny baby on my chest as the hospital part of this whole experience kicked in: Various people examined and discussed the condition of my lady parts. A doctor finally showed up, though not mine, as I had figured I could wait until a reasonable hour to call her since she wasn’t technically on duty that day. Someone offered Scott scissors to cut the umbilical cord. I was jabbed with a needle then the unknown-doctor delivered the placenta. More shots and some stitches. I still couldn’t believe that this had all actually happened so fast.

I was admitted to the hospital at 3:45am, and Beckett Radford Ruble was born at 4:51am. (At least that was the guess, given that no one was in the room to officially record it.) He didn’t mess around. Beckett weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces, measured 19 inches long, and he had a solid amount of blonde hair. Not surprisingly, we found him to be absolutely perfect.


Pretty amazing, right? I thought you all would enjoy. I don’t know if I could ever tire of birth stories. They’re all so different and all so miraculous, each and every one.

July 31, 2012

A second birth story

They were wrong about the second baby coming early (as you all know), but ooh boy. They were right about him coming fast. Want to hear the story? Of course you do! We all love a good birth story, don’t we?

It was Tuesday morning, I was finally giving in to the obvious fact that I would be the first person to be pregnant forever. Despite having contractions for 3 nights in a row for an hour or two, they’d stopped, and Sunday and Monday night I’d felt nothing. Hrrrummpf. I spent Monday hanging with my brother, having a long late lunch at Gjelina. And Tuesday, via Instagram because it’s just that awesome, made plans to have lunch with Liz while she was in town, also at Gjelina. One can never have enough Gjelina, I say.

And now here somehow I’d made it to my post-40 week appointment with the midwives. So dutifully I went, whined that I was still pregnant, made an appointment for a non-stress test the following Tuesday (horrifying thought… that’s I’d still be pregnant 7 days later), and was sent on my way.

Before lunch I stopped by the pool for what I was hoping would be my last swim this pregnancy (I’d been saying that the last 5 times I’d been to the pool, mind you). It was glorious, as swimming always is. Especially while 40+ weeks pregnant. (I’m seriously missing time at the pool right now, as a side note.)

And then it was time for lunch with Liz. Which was as delicious as any lunch can be. We said our goodbyes and as I turned to walk away from the front door of the restaurant… POP! My water broke. Again! That’s two babies and two labors starting with my water breaking. Apparently that’s how my body prefers to do it. As you can imagine, I was like UHHHH, now what?? Luckily I was not actually sitting in the restaurant. Can you imagine? “Um excuse me, waiter? I’ve just leaked amniotic fluid all over this chair and the floor under our table.” No, there may have been a few drips that hit the sidewalk, but luckily I was wearing a long, dark skirt and no one could tell what was happening but me.

I spread my pool towel on the seat of the car, got in, and called Brock to give him the scoop. As I drove home, I called our doula, Joanne, to let her know, and then called my parents to tell them to grab their bags and head up to LA so they could stay with Dashiell.

It was all very exciting, and also such a relief to be able get things in order that afternoon. I was so hoping that I would know during waking hours that I was going into labor, instead of being woken in the middle of the night with contractions. It just seemed so much easier to be able to plan during the day, rather than in the middle of the night. And I was so glad that we could tell Dashiell that we’d be gone in the morning and that he’d know that my parents would be there with him instead of us.

SO. That all happened at 3-ish. About 5-ish, I started to feel mild contractions. We went on a walk around the block with Dashiell and Brock’s sis Jess, who was there to hold down the fort in case we had to leave before my parents arrived. (We’d been warned that second labors can pick up and progress very quickly by multiple people, so we were prepared.)

My parents arrived, we ordered take out Thai for dinner, bags were packed, and by about 8 pm I was started to feel my contractions enough that we decided to time them for a bit (there’s an app for that, BTW). The confusing thing was that they weren’t really that long, only about 40 seconds, and came every 3 to 7 minutes. So I was sort of thinking we had a while to go still. Don’t they say they should be 1 minute long and 3-5 minutes apart to indicate active labor? Apparently none of the rules apply for second timers.

We all sort of hung around the living room, watching Wimbledon, and waiting. I’d talked to the midwife on call by then (Shadman, the women I wanted to deliver this baby, yay!), and she was cool with us staying at home for a bit since there wasn’t meconium in the water when it broke, and that my first labor had started the same way. My mom went to bed and my dad stayed up with us until about 10 (both urging us to just go to the darn hospital already!), when I made the arbitrary decision that we would leave for the hospital at 11. I talked to Shadman again who told us to call her on our way in. Her last (knowing) words were, “Okay… just don’t wait too long.” Contractions were more intense at that point, but no longer and no closer together. Brock packed the car and I synced my iTunes on my phone. And then suddenly it was 11 and it was time to go.

As I stepped off the porch and headed towards the car it felt like things started to change. At the last minute I grabbed an extra pillow from home for the car ride. Best decision ever. I rode to the hospital laying down in the back seat this time, unlike last time where I for some reason thought I had to sit in the front with my seatbelt on like a normal person. The plan was to call Joanne when we’d checked in to the hospital and have her come then. Why we always wait to call her until the last minute, I have no idea. I never think I need her until I REALLY need her and then I have to wait for her to arrive. But as we drove to the hospital I stopped talking or answering questions, and Brock made the executive decision to tell her to get in the car and come immediately.

I had a moment where I thought I might throw up in the car, but I kind of couldn’t believe I was that far along, and frankly didn’t want to get my hopes up. I was really really feeling the contractions at that point, but I was also doing a much better time visualizing each contraction opening my body to the birth of my baby. With Dashiell I definitely fought the pain as opposed to surrendering to it, which it turns out really does help you get through each wave. It’s the craziest feeling, being in labor. It’s so intense and so hard, but somehow you just DO IT.

We pulled up at the hospital, grabbed our bags and made our way up to L&D. I had to stop every few minutes for a contraction (again, glad I had my pillow to lean on!), and I couldn’t help but find it a wee bit funny that the orderly still had to follow us with an empty wheelchair even though there was like ZERO chance I was going to sit down in it.

By 11:45 we were checked into our room, and I dutifully laid on my side on the bed for 20 minutes of fetal monitoring. Laying on the bed was definitely not where I wanted to be, but the other option was to stand and that was out of the question too. The one bright part was that our nurse was just amazing. She was young and kind and helpful and totally on my team, and knew when to tell other staff to give me space. Which was really really more than I could have hoped for.

Our doula Joanne arrived shortly after we did and together she and Brock rubbed my back and squeezed my hips through each contraction. The one thing I did know what that I had to be touched at all times. Joanne rubbed my lower back continuously during breaks from contractions and if she let go of me it felt like I might just lose hold of the world. Something about having another person’s hands on my kept me from falling into pieces. And as much as I didn’t want to keep going, I knew that I couldn’t admit it to myself or to anyone. I was still unsure how much longer I’d be in labor and to admit distress felt like I would lose what little control I had of my body and my mind.

After fetal monitoring was over, an OB resident came in to do an ultrasound to make sure the baby was head down (even though he had been since 30 weeks) and to check the level of amniotic fluid left. They’d somehow lost my pre-admit forms so I then had to hear all the complications that could arise and the measures they’d take in those cases and sign a handful of forms. Which took another 20 minutes or so. She asked if I wanted her to check my dilation and while I was curious, I declined. I knew that I couldn’t hear that I was 4 or 5 centimeters at that moment, and keep my shit together. And with Dashiell they didn’t check me until I was 9, and that was awesome. Not knowing somehow made it easier.

All the while my contractions were building and at that point coming two at a time, instead of a more civilized one every 3 or 4 minutes. I’d have a really big one then a 30 second break followed by a slightly less big one before I’d have a moment to rest. The only thing I could do was hold onto the bar on the side of the hospital bed and breathe as slowly as I could manage.

At this point it must have been nearly 12:30. A second nurse came in to put in my heplock (it’s always a nurse in training, I swear), and it took her a few minutes to find a vein that would work on the top of my wrist. Just as she’d decided on a vein, I had a set of contractions that were different. The second one of the pair in particular felt like what I can only describe as the sensation of a bowling ball starting to descend through your pelvis. I felt the same thing with Dashiell, and remembered Jen feeling it during her birth. But I couldn’t believe that I was that close to having my baby. We’d only just arrived at the hospital after all. After that contraction, I looked up and told everyone that the last one was different. As in things were changing.

Before the nurse could start the heplock I was like, “Ummm I need to go to the bathroom before you do that. Like, right now.”

Which is basically code for, “I’m about to push a baby out”, but I didn’t have that sensation with Dashiell’s birth so I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was just like, get me to the toilet ASAP.

I started walking to the bathroom and made it halfway across the room before another huge contraction came. Luckily there was a rocking chair to hold onto right where I stopped because before I could even think I was pushing. And by pushing I mean the kind of pushing they talk about that feels like throwing up in reverse. Like there’s nothing in this world that can stop you from doin’ your thing. At that point (obviously) everyone in the room mobilized. I should mention that I was still wearing my clothes. Running shorts (because they have a liner so I could wear a towel in the to catch more leaking water) to be exact. And I heard someone say, “She’s pushing with her shorts on! She needs to come back to the bed!”

To which I was like, “NOOOOOO. I CAN’T!!!”

And I think our nurse said, “Yes you can, Kristina.” And our doula said, “Stay in control, Kristina.”

And I was thinking, control? I am not in control. I have never been in control of this experience. I’m just holding on tight and letting my body do what it needs to do!

But what I said out loud, because I was having another contraction and pushing was, “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCKKKKKKKKKKK.”

Yep. I’m always so classy when I’m in labor! There were a lot of expletives starting at this point folks. It was just so crazy and so fast and so so so intense. Intense is not nearly a descriptive enough word. And clearly I didn’t have the vocabulary at the moment to adequately express myself. I just kept saying “Oh my god oh my god ohmygodohshitohmygod.”

See with Dashiell, I don’t really remember the pushing part being that crazy. I mean I’m sure it was but my labor was so much longer and by the time I was pushing I was sort of maxed out on feeling. This time it all happened so fast that I felt everything.

So they did manage to get me to the bed, to get my shorts off, and luckily called the midwife in time. For some reason they hadn’t told her when I was on my way in (I had called from the car), nor when I arrived in L&D. And she didn’t have any other patients so she was sleeping in the call room. But she did arrive. As did a baby nurse and a few residents and maybe some more people too, I can’t remember and didn’t care.

And then once I was on the bed, someone checked me and it wasn’t a matter of dilation at that point. I was plus 2 and his head was practically already out. At that moment a little face peeked around the side of the bed and was like “Hi! I know this is sort of an awkward way to meet, but my name is James and I’m an OB resident here and I’m going to help deliver your baby if that’s okay.”

Uhhhhmmmm. I can’t imagine the look I gave him. Like um, guy. My baby is literally coming out right now. I DON’T CARE who is here and who isn’t! Poor James. I think it might have actually been his first birth ever.

In between one contraction Shadman guided my hand down so I could feel my baby’s head and know that I was actually making progress. Do you know what? Baby heads are SQUISHY! They do not feel like head at all. Very weird.

And then on the 4th push at 12:46 am, I heard Shadman say, “That’s too fast, too fast!”. But there was nothing anyone could have said that would have made me stop pushing. Nothing. And he came flying out, screaming just like his mama. Sorry bud! Don’t they say that the birth experience informs the temperament of the baby as a newborn? Oops.

It was insane. That’s the only way to describe it. But it was fast and then it was over and that was awesome. They laid him right on my belly and I asked if he was a boy or a girl. Last time Brock was so anxious to find out who we were having that he called it out practically as Dashiell was entering the world. But this time he was more concerned with making sure everyone was okay and in one piece. So the nurse said, “It’s a boy!” And I said, “A boy. Of course he’s a boy!”

And then I said, “I’m sooo glad that’s over.”

Followed shortly by, “If we have a third, I’m getting the epidural.”

I got two stitches and then everything was golden. It was amazing to be so unconnected to everything. No IV, no heplock, nothing. Just me and my baby laying on the bed. They did end up giving me a shot of pitocin in my thigh to help with bleeding, but that was so much better than being hooked up to the IV, which they probably would have done had the nurse had time to get the heplock in. I totally get why people go to such lengths to keep things as minimal as possible. With Dashiell the actual birth felt like a procedure. I had an IV for fluids, I had oxygen, they used a vacuum. It felt very medical. But this time I could have been anywhere, I just happened to be in the hospital. Aside from the insanity, it really was perfect.

And now here we are. One month gone already and to be honest, my birth story seems kind of insignificant compared to our new life as a family of four. But that’s a whole different post that I’ve been thinking about a lot. I think I would like to share, because I know there are people out there who would love to hear another mama’s experience. But we’re taking things day by day at the moment so we’ll see when I have time to write another post. This one has taken two weeks, after all.

We are well and settling in to a little routine and while there are have been ups and downs, I’m trying to remember that before I know it things are going to be awesome. MORE awesome, I mean.

See you all soon.

July 10, 2012

A baby brother

As most of you have probably seen on Instagram… he’s arrived! He snuck in 2 weeks ago after a short and intense labor in the very early hours of June 27th.

2 weeks! They flew by. Apologies for the huge delay in announcing things here. I’ve been in computer hell since then with a nasty iPhoto issue that’s just been finally resolved. Which means, I have pictures!

And he does have a name:

Forrest Henry Meltzer
Born June 27th at 12:45 am
A bit under 8 pounds, a bit over 20 inches long.

I can’t believe we have another little buddy in the house all of a sudden. More soon… the birth story, perhaps some thoughts on welcoming a second. It’s more than I imagined it would be, in lots of ways.

(Rocking the newborn hospital shirt! I apparently saved no newborn clothes. Oops.)

For now I am so incredibly happy to have him here and healthy and perfect… and also that I’m not pregnant anymore. That relief was nearly instant, I have to admit.

Here’s to a warm summer around the house. Hopefully with fall comes a new rhythm for our family. We’re figuring it out and I’m reminding myself what so many more seasoned mamas have told me… that this level of sleeplessness and disorganization is so incredibly temporary. And that my second little guy will only be a teeny baby for a few short weeks. It’s time to majorly lower expectations around here and enjoy.

Thanks for all the love, you guys.

June 21, 2012

39 weeks

Okay, 39.5 weeks. Not that I’m counting the days or anything. I’m a proper pregnant lady in waiting at this point. Yesterday I hit the pool in the middle of the day, got a pedicure, went to the market… you know. Today is reserved for yoga and perhaps cleaning out the linen closet? I think this means I’m ready.

Couldn’t resist a few photos with my little guy. Could be his last day as an only, after all. He was a little uncertain about the tripod and camera timer, but then of course he wanted more once I’d put everything away.

My dress is from the nice people at Seraphine, (thank you!). It’s really sweet, very reasonably priced, and guess what? It’s supposed to work nicely as a nursing dress too, which I’m really excited about. Last time I was woefully unprepared for nursing. Not the act of nursing, that was fantastic. But the wardrobe! I had nothing that worked for nursing any place but my bedroom. This time I’m going to be such a chic new mama.

So here we are. Just a few days before my official due date. A word to those of you expecting your second… all that stuff they tell you about being early instead of late? Don’t get too attached to it.

Though I have to say I’m kind of savoring these last few days with nearly nothing to do. It almost feels like vacation.

PS. Three posts in three days. Gold star!
PPS. Why do little boys always have to have a cut/scab on their noses?? We are in a perpetual state of new boo-boos, it seems.

Dress by Seraphine Maternity.

June 20, 2012

A beautiful birth story

Not mine! Clearly you would have seen word on Instagram had our little one made his/her appearance last night. This is the birth story of Lillian Rose (Lily) and Emily, a friend and one of the ladies behind Once Wed. Most of you probably know Once Wed, right? It’s a gorgeous wedding blog/site/magazine, that I’ve been reading since I started this blog before I was married.

It’s such a beautiful treat to be able to share another woman’s story here, especially as I wait for mine to unfold. And this one comes with photos from the exceptionally talented Jesse Chamberlin of Our Labor of Love.

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Quick back story: 3 weeks before I gave birth, my father passed away unexpectedly. Our relationship was very complicated. About 5 years ago he came to live with my husband and I because he could no longer take care of himself, so for most of my adult life our roles have been reversed in terms of a traditional parent/child relationship, but he was still my dad and it was earth shattering when he passed away. He was looking forward to becoming a grandfather for the first time, so the timing of everything made it especially heartbreaking. I had spent so much of my pregnancy mentally preparing for birth, and losing my father suddenly set everything into chaos for me mentally and emotionally.

My official due date was February 27th, but I was certain I was going to be late. First babies are always late, right? So when good friends set their wedding date for the 25th, we didn’t hesitate rsvping yes. At this point I was huge and only one dress fit, but I knew this would probably be the last event we’d attend before baby came and we were looking forward to celebrating after how heavy the last few weeks had been for both us after losing my father. When we got to the country club for the reception I began to experience what I would describe as pressure in my lower back. I didn’t think anything of it because even women who experienced back labor felt contractions in their stomach and I was feeling absolutely nothing in my stomach, so I thought this could possibly be the back pain some women complain about later in pregnancy or I had to go the bathroom. So for the next 3 hours the pressure remained and I probably visited the ladies room 30 times thinking my body was telling me I needed to use the restroom. I didn’t mention it to my husband because I didn’t think anything of it and he didn’t notice my frequent bathroom trips b/c I’ve been peeing every 30 minutes for the last 9 months. As we got closer to the sparkler departure, I began to question whether this could possibly be labor because this “pressure” began to turn into waves of pressure and even though I was only experiencing everything in my back – I knew the wave sensation could be an indication of contractions.

We arrived home around 11:30 when I began to time these “waves” which were happening every 7-8 minutes. At this point I was pretty confident I was in the beginning stages of labor, but knew how crucial saving energy was in early labor since the average first time labor is 19.5 hours. Even though the waves were uncomfortable(like back cramps when you’re on your period), I was able to rest through them and eventually fell asleep. Around 2:00 am a very intense back cramp woke me up. I tried to go back to bed, but at this point was unable to sleep through the pain of these waves which were now around 5-6 minutes apart lasting 30-40 seconds and becoming much more intense. My painful groans woke Brett up, but I told him to go back to sleep since I didn’t see the point in both of us being up. The pain was getting pretty bad, but I was receiving a break in b/w contractions so I was working through each one by focusing on the upcoming relief which followed each contraction.

For the next 2 hours I tinkered around the house trying different positions…rocking on the birth ball, walking, lying down, etc. I was doing lots of cat cows trying to move baby. I was worried because I was experiencing all the pain in my back the baby wasn’t in the optimal fetal position which can slow labor down and make it more painful(I was right and it did end up stalling things later on). Around 4 am my contractions started getting closer and more intense – lasting around 1 minute and happening every 3-4 minutes. Walking around and rocking on the birthing ball wasn’t really doing anything for me anymore, so I decided to try the shower which is where I stayed for the next 3 hours. I laid towels down on the floor of the tub and got on all fours with the hot water running over my back moaning through each contraction. I was in a lot of pain at this point, but was glad progress(or at least I thought) was being made. I told myself I couldn’t call our doula, Teresa, until 7am. I’m not quite sure why I made myself stick to this timetable, but I called Teresa around 7 and she said to go lie down on my left side for an hour in hopes we could turn this baby. She was heading to church, but was going to call me afterwards if I didn’t call her beforehand. l lay there while Brett rubbed my lower back as hard as he could during each contraction which brought a little relief(it was a drop in the bucket, but it was something!). I talked to Teresa again around 11ish and she suggested I call the midwife to see if I should go to the hospital or not. The midwife on call was Kimery which ended up working out great because she was also the midwife I saw the most during my 6 months with Intown Midwifery. Kimery asked me to stay on the phone with her so she could hear me work through a contraction before deciding whether I needed to come in. After hearing me vocalize a contraction she told us to head to the hospital, so Brett threw the bags in the car and we were off. Thankfully, the hospital is only a 5 minute drive from our house. I was still contracting 3 minutes apart and they were lasting a minute or more, so I was confident I was in active labor and when I got to the hospital they were going to say I was at least 5 cm.

We arrived to the labor floor and Teresa walked into the room right after we arrived. The hospital policy states the baby has to be monitored for 20 minutes while the mother lays still on the bed before letting her in the tub. I was prepared for this and knew it was going to be rough, but it was only 20 minutes and then I could get up and move around again. Teresa helped me stay centered during this transition by placing her hand on my chest and encouraging low breathing during each contraction to save energy.

Kimery checked me and told me I was 100% effaced and only 1 cm dilated. Not something a woman who had been laboring for the last 12+ hours wants to hear (6+ of those being really intense). Kimery and Teresa both told me the baby was facing posterior which could be why I hadn’t dilated more so Teresa immediately swooped in and proceeded to try and encourage the baby to turn by gently placing her hand strategically on my stomach and back during each contraction (reason #367 why I adore this woman). It was the craziest feeling. Her touch was so gentle, but the placement of her hands encouraged the baby to turn. Everyone in the room couldn’t believe it including the midwife, but the baby turned. They saw it and I felt it. Amazing.

I was able to get off the monitor because baby was doing well. Although I was disappointed about being 1 cm, I was confident we would begin to start seeing some serious progress since the baby had turned. So for the next 2 hours I sat rocking on a birthing ball in the shower leaning over Brett’s lap while he applied pressure and hot water on my back. I was still contracting every 3-4 minutes lasting at least a minute like I had been for the last 7 hours, but I was continuing to receive some relief in b/w contractions and hoping each one was dilating me a little bit more.

A little over 2 hours had passed since my first check, so I asked to be checked again b/c I was excited to see how much I had dilated. The baby had turned and I was still laboring really hard, so progress was definitely being made, right? Wrong. Kimery checked me and I was still at 1 cm. I immediately broke down. I hadn’t cried once in labor (I cry pretty easily so this was big deal), but I felt soooo defeated. They warn you not to do “labor math” b/c every labor is so different, but you start calculating time in your head and you figure if it took me 12+ hours to get to 1cm its going to me 100+ hours of labor to get 10 cm and I don’t think I can take 4 days of this. Everything about my body was saying active labor, but I wasn’t dilating which is a problem because even though my midwife practice is very pro-natural childbirth they aren’t going to let me labor intensely for hours on end with no progress which means pitocin could be in the near future. Yikes, not pitocin. Please no pitocin contractions.

Both Teresa and Kimery suggested I try therapeutic rest which is a combination of a bag of fluids to hydrate, a sleeping pill to rest, and small amount of morphine to help you relax (it doesn’t take the contractions away, so you still feel everything but it allows you to relax some while receiving fluids). I’d been laboring for almost 16 hours and sweating in a hot shower for a lot of it, so exhaustion and dehydration could have be the cause of my slow dilation. It wasn’t the 100% non intervention birth I desired, but I trusted my team and since they both thought it was the wisest choice to help me get to my end goal of waterbirth with a healthy baby and mommy – Brett and I agreed to it.

And it worked…within 3 hours I had dilated to 4 cm and 2 hours later I was at 8cm. Hallelujah! At this point everything had worn off and I was back to feeling every. single. contraction. They were coming fast and hard, but I was 8 cm and I knew the end was near which was getting me through the pain. Rest and hydration is apparently exactly what my body needed to start dilating.

Thing started to move quickly. The nurses started filling the tub and Brett was texting family and our photographer, Jesse, that we were close. Music was playing and Teresa had turned off all the lights and strung christmas tree lights (isn’t she incredible!) to create a soothing atmosphere. I tried a few different laboring positions in the tub, but leaning over the edge with my arms dangling over the tub with Brett applying pressure on my back during contractions felt the best so it’s where I stayed.

After an hour in the tub, Kimery checked me again and I was 10 cm. Time to push. So for the next 2.5 hours I proceeded to push and it was the most intense experience of my life(my water broke in the tub after about an hour of pushing). Some women feel relief during the pushing stage, but I didn’t. I would take contractions over pushing any day. Pushing was soooo hard. I had been awake for most of the last 24 hours and was completely delirious from the pain. All I really remember Teresa applying cold wash clothes to my head and chest while Brett fed me water through a straw. Brett’s mother, grandmother, and Jessie all arrived around the same time, but I don’t remember seeing them until after the birth. I went into a different world during pushing. Brett later told me I’d fall asleep snoring in between contractions and would immediately jolt awake with pain of a contraction, push, and begin to drift back to sleep. There was only one time I cried out in fear during labor. After about an hour of pushing, I screamed out in pain telling Teresa “I’m scared and I don’t think I can do this any more”. Teresa responded with something funny because I remember laughing, but can’t remember what she said.

I don’t think much progress in those first 2 hours of pushing, honestly. I remembered reading the word “surrender” a lot in birthing stories, but I truly didn’t understand what women meant until this point in labor. Looking back I think I was resisting pushing really effectively because 1) it hurt like hell and 2) I was scared. I had never done this before and we all know how scary your first time at anything can be. She also had a huge head (97.9% head circumference) which I think contributed to my difficulty in pushing.

Around midnight after 2 hours of pushing, I finally surrendered to the pain and started pushing hard. Like really hard. Instead of resisting the pain of a contraction, I was embracing it and using it with all my might to really push through each contraction. I’d already tried pushing in almost every position in the tub …on all fours, leaning over the tub, squatting, on my side, but holding my thighs close to my chest and curling into a c-shape felt the most effective. I felt baby moving and it hurt sooo bad, but she was finally descending into the birth canal.

Teresa switched places with Brett who’d been behind me feeding me water/pushing hard on my back during contractions, so he could go in front and watch our baby being born. The last 30 minutes of pushing I did away with the low breathing I had used during labor and was really “vocalizing” through each contraction. I just focused on Brett’s face the entire time which was a combination of utter excitement and complete terror(after all his wife was in front of him pushing a baby out of her…I’m sure it was a sight to see). I’d read towards the end of pushing you should do these short, grunt type pushes to help expand the skin so you don’t tear, but at this point in labor I was so ready to be done with pushing I let out one massive push and her head came out. The cord was wrapped around her neck so Kimery told me to wait before pushing again to make sure it wasn’t wrapped too tightly. It wasn’t and with one last massive push baby came spiraling out.

And I reached out to grab baby. I immediately brought her to my chest and everyone asked “What is it?!?!” Oh, right. I pulled her out in front of me and it took me about 15 seconds before I announced her sex b/c I kept looking for a penis(we both thought we were having a boy) and was so delirious from pushing that I kept confusing the umbilical cord for a penis and it took me a moment to realize the reason she doesn’t a penis is because she’s a girl. And I let out in an excited cry “It’s a girl”. A sweet, baby girl. My dad had said it was a girl all along and as I looked at her I saw so much of him in her. She had his cheeks and almond eyes(I have them, too). This little person we had dreamed and prayed about for so long was finally here in our arms. Gosh, it doesn’t get any better than that. Time stood still for those few minutes as we locked eyes with our baby girl for the first time. It was so surreal finally holding her. This “tiny, bald, little boy” I was expecting to meet ended up being a beautiful, big (almost 9lbs!) little girl with a ton of hair and she was perfect. It felt like my heart could have burst in that moment.

During labor, I remember thinking I am never doing this again, but the morning after giving birth and holding our baby girl – I knew I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I don’t know if it’s because I forgot the pain or the reward was so immensely incredible it made every contraction worth it. Probably some of both.

I once read someone describe parts of their birth as painful, but not a painful experience which I think is so true of my birth. Yes, there were absolutely moments of intense pain, but in no way would I ever describe the overall experience as painful. Becoming pregnant, carrying our daughter for 40 weeks, and giving birth naturally to her was such a privilege. Lily is the most precious gift we’ve ever received.

And I could never have done any of this without the devotion and support of my incredible husband, Brett, who has shown me an unconditional love I feel so inadequate to deserve especially in these last few weeks. He has stood by my side through so many uphill battles.

A few lessons I learned along the way…

- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate especially if you are laboring in a hot shower like I did. I will definitely make sure Brett is helping me drink a lot of fluids next time around.

- How important it is to pick a doctor or midwife who is supportive of your birth wishes whatever they may be. When you’re laboring the last thing you want to have to worry is whether the team you have in place is really making the right decisions by you and your baby. I’ve read birth stories where husbands were arguing with nurses and doctors over the care of their wife and baby. Labor is difficult enough without all this added stress. Never once did we worry about whether the options Intown Midwifery presented us were the best for baby and me. There was no hidden agenda on their part. They supported my desire to give birth naturally and only intervened when they were worried we wouldn’t reach our end goal of a healthy delivery in the water.

- How valuable it was to have a doula by our side. Besides choosing Intown Midwifery, both Brett and I agree hiring our doula, Teresa Howard, was the best decision we made when it came to our birth. If you are hoping to have a natural birth, I cannot recommend hiring a doula highly enough. I am married to a very patient and loving man. He is rarely rattled by anything, but even with how wonderful Brett is under pressure – we both felt so much better having Teresa by our side. She never doubted in my body’s ability to have a natural birth even when I did. She rallied around Brett and I the entire time while anticipating so many of our needs without either of us ever having to ask. If we are blessed with another child (yes, please!), asking Teresa to be our doula again will be the first call we make after we see those 2 pink lines.

Images by Jesse Chamberlin of Our Labor of Love. How can I put into words how grateful we are to her for capturing this incredible moment in our lives.

* * * *

June 6, 2012

37 weeks

A whole month. Really? Really. But look, I’m posting! Thank you all for your nice comments and emails. We are doing great over here, not to worry. Just busy busy trying to get ready for bebe, wrap up some work, spend some time outside… you know.

It occurred to me that some of you must not be on Instagram. How is this possible?! Or if you are and you don’t follow me, that’s probably a better way to see what’s going on regularly than my blog at the moment. Belly shots and food and pictures of Dashiell have been happening over there even when there are just crickets over here. I’m “kristinahm” if you feel like joining up.

Now about that pregnancy thing… 37.5 weeks as I write this. We’re getting pretty darn close! I can’t seem to be bothered to get dressed or put on make up anymore, which is part of the reason for the lack of photos. You’ll notice the above has neither make up nor a photo worthy outfit included, but we’re all friends here, right?

I’ve been thinking lots of things about my current state recently, but now that I’m sitting down to write, I can’t remember them. Dashiell and I had a nice afternoon on the couch watching baby’s foot move around in my belly and talking about what will happen when baby comes. He does seem to be warming to the idea… just when it seemed like things were not going in that direction. I’m giving large amounts of credit to my old Cabbage Patch baby that my mom sent in a box, wrapped in a swaddle a few weeks ago. He really does love having a baby of his own.

Had our final prenatal with our doula last night. I’m starting to feel less nervous about labor and more pumped. It’s about to be go time. Which is pretty darn exciting.

More soon, I hope!

(Mexican blouse from, well, Mexico! and OLD OLD OLD shorts from Abercrombie – the only ones that still fit.)

May 8, 2012

33 weeks

Bigger every week, people. Whine whine whine whine. I feel like the most whiny pregnant lady this time. I can’t help it though. Things are just not as comfortable. But I am starting to get super excited about who will be coming to meet us soon.

We have our first appointment with our doula tonight, which is also exciting. It means we’re getting closer (and I won’t be pregnant for much longer!) and it means that we can start to put a little focus into the birth and our new baby and all of the things that I spent so much time on the first time… but that seem to have been largely over-looked this time around.

I’ve started to fall into the trap again. The trap where I start to fantasize about all the things I’m going to be able to do after the baby comes. Which, as we all know, is laughable. I want to cook and garden and stand on my feet for long periods of time. And since I can’t do that now, I seem to think that I will when I have a newborn. Help me.

Also I realized how amazing a water birth would be. And now I feel sad that I won’t be having one. When we were in Palm Springs, I was having a particularly uncomfortable afternoon, lots of pressure and achy-ness and things, and then I got in the pool and it went away. It was like a miracle. And all of a sudden it clicked. Hrrrmmpphff. Why do they not have tubs at UCLA?

Now I’m starting to think of crazy things like going to the public pool when I go into labor. Or at least a friend’s pool? We’ll see.

I think we’ve come pretty close to settling on names. Last time we had like 3 or 4 for each sex because we wanted to wait to meet our baby to decide. This time, I think we’ll have one for each. And that’s okay too.

How are the rest of you doing? Tick tock, tick tock.

Striped maxi dress by Aqua, from Bloomingdales. Shima teardrop earrings (which you can’t really see, but you should because they are cute) from Misa Jewelry.

April 18, 2012

30 weeks

30 weeks seems like a milestone, doesn’t it? In reality, I have a while to go yet but still. Judging by how quickly this pregnancy has gone by, I’m going to be staring June in the face very soon. Excited and kind of nervous. Definitely more nervous than last time… because this time I *know* what I’m getting myself into. Last time it was just ignorant, impatient bliss.

Spring skinny jeans! They are not necessarily sorbet, but they are bright and fun and they make me feel like less of a fashion slug. And guess what? NOT maternity! Just two sizes bigger. Even better, because if experience serves me I’ll be going up a number of sizes after this baby arrives.

I was agonizing over which pieces to buy from Hatch Collection, you guys. Agonizing. They all seemed perfect, but also silk (um, not the best fabric for carrying a 2 year old around), and expensive, and I couldn’t figure how to get the discount for liking them on FB, and I don’t GO anywhere fancy anyway, whine whinewhinewhine.

And then I happened in to Gap the other day and walked out with an entire new wardrobe for what I would have spent on one Hatch dress. None of it maternity. All of it bright and fun. My jeans are Gap 1969 always skinny. They’re stretchy and low enough that they actually work as perfectly comfortable maternity jeans. I wouldn’t recommend them for a day of travel or anything, but they are fine for regular pregnant activities. Also walked away with a handful of Gap Pure camisoles, which are perfect. A few bright tanks, and some loose long sleeves. I could have easily taken home 5 more things, but I restrained myself. Ahhhh. Never would have guessed that I’d be so excited about Gap!

In pregnancy news, I’ve discovered that my weight gain seems to be directly correlated to the amount of chocolate peanut butter ice cream I consume. Go figure! The weeks that I indulge myself I find at my appointments that I’ve gained double the amount of weight suggested. Um, oops. Maybe I will be slightly more careful. Of course I rewarded myself for my exceptional ability to put on weight with an almond croissant and warm baguette with butter and jam from Amandine yesterday morning after my appointment. So clearly I don’t care that much.

We’re narrowing in on names, which feels good. I was starting to fear that we’d be talking names while I was in labor. Hopefully not.

I’ve been swimming loads, which is amazing. It’s the only time I don’t feel incredible amounts of downward pressure, and also the only time I don’t have to pee every 10 minutes. I think it might be time for a new workout suit though. I’m still wearing the one I wore while I was pregnant with Dashiell. It’s looking a little obscene, I fear.

And it’s been really fun to start talking to Dashie about his new sibling. He’s known from the beginning that there’s a “baby” in mommy’s tummy, but that was probably more of an abstract concept. Now he can feel the baby kick and he gets super excited (and probably kind of confused) and his eyes get big and he smiles and laughs. He thinks we’re having a brother.

How are the rest of you pregnant ladies feeling!? My advice: hit up Gap while you can.

(Aqua skinny jeans and orange tank from Gap. Chalk art from Dashiell.)

April 2, 2012

Hatch Collection

You guys, I’m feeling desperate for something from Hatch Collection. DESPERATE. I’m actually feeling generally desperate for spring clothes that make me feel even the slightest bit stylish. Why do they not make sorbet-colored maternity skinny jeans? WHY? J. Crew is majorly missing out on a big market, if you ask me.

So, here’s how I’m trying to rationalize a Hatch purchase (or two). You can supposedly wear these pieces after you have the bebé. The models even show it! And models never lie!

What do we think? God, it’s all so cute I barely stand it. Also I will need new shoes and bags to go with these pieces. Probably jewelry too.

Please, someone, enable me.

(Also tempted by this Club Monaco skirt… could go under the belly now and on the waist after?)

March 28, 2012

28 weeks

Well! That weekly belly shot series has really taken off around here, hasn’t it! I think the last one I posted was 19 weeks? Oops. I’m sure none of you are surprised. Here’s where we stand at the moment:

You’ll notice the bangs are slowing growing. By June I’m hoping to be able to pull them back into a pony. Though I’ll miss them for sure. I think next summer they’ll be back.

I still find the idea that we’re having another child more of an abstract concept vs. a real reality. Probably because I’m having a hard time imagining a baby different than Dashiell. HE’S my baby. And I think when you don’t know the sex, maybe you tend to feel slightly more removed from who is inside? I could be wrong, but the unknown must play a part. I’ve always known that we would have more than one child, but I can also see why people choose to raise an only. I feel so fulfilled with just my little guy, but then I want him to have a sibling (or two!) so that they can all grow up together with the community and connection that a larger family can provide.

I feel prepared in ways I didn’t when I was pregnant the last time, but then I realize, who am I kidding!? I have no idea what it’s going to be like to have two! I figure the first year will be hard again, and then we’ll be settled into a new and comfortable normal.

In pregnancy land, I am…

Tired. Not sleepy, my body is tired. Like out of breath from the silliest things. Vacuuming, making dinner, etc.

Dry. OMG my skin is so dry. My face especially, which doesn’t make we want to put make-up on, or get dressed, or take pictures of myself.

In preparation, we’ve…

Ordered Dashie a new bed and rearranged his/their room. He won’t sleep on it for a good while, but we figured it would be better for him to start getting used to it earlier than later. I’m excited to have a snuggly place to read and play for the next few months.

Hired our doula again. I considered going it alone this time when I found out that my super dear friend Laura, who happens to be a midwife, would be in Europe and not available to be with me for this birth. But then I thought better of it because I feel like even though I kind of know what to expect, you never really know what to expect! Plus I asked Jora for her expert advice, being a mother of three babies who all came into this world with the help of a doula, and just hearing why she chose to have another woman with her each time helped me realize why I would want one too.

*Started* talking about names. Started being the key word. Last time we began that conversation upon receiving a positive pregnancy test. This time we have three months to go and are just getting around to thinking about it. We have a few in mind, but we’ll take any suggestions you might have. :)

I feel like there was more to report, but now that I’m trying to share, I can’t remember. Less than three months, people. I think June will be here very very soon.

Oh, and almost forgot! Here I am at 26 weeks in a little profile on the 31 Bits blog.