Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Adventures with Zilla: 1 Month

How old?: 1 Month!

Weight/Height:  At our last appointment he was 9lbs and 3 oz, putting him in the 60th percentile.  Dr. F was very excited about this because usually they are just hoping the kid has made it back to birth weight.  Our little chubby baby far exceeded these expectations.  He's an overachiever, like his momma.  His height was also in the 60th percentile, but I don't think he actually told me the measurement.

Baby clothes:  Zilla started out wearing newborn clothes but has quickly graduated in 0-3 month.  He's also up to size 1 in diapers.  I'm not going to lie, when I realized he was outgrowing his newborn outfits I was pretty sad.  He's already growing up too fast for me! 

Milestones: He is definitely opening his eyes more and more each day and having some quiet awake time where we will just sit and I'll talk to him. I can't wait until he starts cooing back and smiling!  He's also extremely strong!  We started short tummy time and tummy time on our chest and he can hold his head up like a champ.  He can also scoot along the floor if we put our hands behind his feet and provide a base for him to push off.
One day before his 1 month birthday he also did this little trick and I was so excited!

Special outings: Zilla attended his first Mass on March 2nd.  It wasn't very successful...we arrived late and he immediately started screaming.  So momma, daddy, and the little guy went into the vestibule for the rest of Mass.  It was pretty awesome bringing him up with me when I received communion!
He also went to his first restaurant: Pluckers.  Classy, I know.  But we figured that place is already loud, so if he started screaming it wouldn't be as big of a deal. 
He attended his first party!  Uncle J Wag turned 30 and we had a party in his honor as well as found out that sister and bro in law are having a baby girl!  So Excited! 

Highlights of the month: Taking our sweet little boy home!  While it's been so exhausting, we keep reminding ourselves how blessed we are to have him.  
Before I go on I don't think I ever mentioned that this happened:
And it was one of the most heart warming things to see.  Little Zilla was having trouble getting his temperature up, and skin to skin with mommy just wasn't cutting it.  So his amazing daddy took his shirt off right there in the hospital and had is own skin to skin time.  Sure enough, this worked like a charm and Zilla was warmed up in no time! I love these two.  
Having lots of wonderful visitors!  My sister set up a care calendar for us and our friends and family have been so amazing bringing us dinner and helping out.  We've also had special visitors from out of town like Jason's brother and sis in law, Auntie Kendall, and our friend Vik.  It's so clear to me how abundantly loved Zilla is.  Fridays are always wonderful because Auntie Stephanie spends the afternoon with us and gives mommy a chance to have some adult conversation!
The Catholic Church has a new Pope!  And Zilla and mommy celebrated in true Catholic style:
Overcome with emotion when popealarm.com notified us about the white smoke, Zilla took a quick nap before they made the big announcement
Upon waking, he couldn't contain his excitement...
Laughing with mommy for how silly we were every time we saw a shadow behind the curtain on the balcony...
Shocked that we have our first Pope from the Americas, who is a Jesuit, and taking the name Francis!  
Joining Pope Francis and Catholics around the world in praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be
Baby's routine:  We've had a rough time with this one.  It has been all over the place.  I'll reflect on this more below.  I know the first month is always hard for everyone, so I keep telling myself eventually we will get on a routine.

Baby's favorite food: This will become more relevant later, for now, breast milk. 

Baby's favorite activity: Eating

Baby's favorite toy: My breast.  Okay...his pacifier (maybe that's mommy's favorite toy). He does seem to like his swaddle blankets for now *fingers crossed this continues*  He also seems to like his swing.  This was the only way we could get him to sleep other than in our arms during week 2. 

Big changes:  Since it's the first month, pretty much everything is a big change for both of us!  One completely random big change I noticed for myself the other day was how easily I can bend down to pick something up now.  While I was pregnant, I would sigh and grunt whenever I dropped something.  I noticed myself sighing the other day because something had fallen only to realize I'm able to easily pick things up off the ground again!

Mommy Journal:
Whew!  What a whirlwind of a first month!  I have experienced every emotion and felt more exhaustion than I thought possible.  I've laughed, cried, and loved harder than I knew was possible.  There have been times I've never felt more alone and other times I've never felt so embraced and supported.
Our little man had a difficult time adjusting to life outside the womb.  The first few days/nights Zilla was sure he was supposed to be sleeping during the day and wide awake at night.  On top of this I had implemented an exhausting feeding schedule.  I've always wanted to breastfeed, but while at the hospital they weren't sure Zilla was getting the amount he needed and he definitely wasn't latching well.  So, I would breastfeed with him for about 15-20 mins, pump milk, and then bottle feed him.  This routine took anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours and was putting a big emotional strain on me.  There's so much pressure on new moms (or we put so much pressure on ourselves) to do everything right.  I felt like I was already falling short because I couldn't keep my sweet baby well fed.
Thankfully, my mom stayed with us the first week after bringing him home.  This was a huge help to have someone around who is a natural with babies and has done this before.  Also, someone I knew wouldn't judge me when I barged into her room at 4 am holding my crying baby, crying myself, and handing off the little guy so I could go back to my room and cover my ears.  She was a trooper and stayed up with him the rest of that night.  When I woke up the next morning and came into our den apologizing she only reassured me that this was all part of the process of becoming a mommy.
And she was right.  It is all a process of learning about what it is to be a mother.  In the interest of not giving every detail of the happenings of the first month I'll try to give short summaries of the emotions, joys, and troubles:

1) It took almost two weeks (and maybe it's still happening) for it to really sink in that I'm a mother and Jason is a father.  Those words hold so much weight and responsibility.  Sometimes the thought of "this is forever" can be a little scary.  But the scariness is far overshadowed by the excitement I feel when thinking about all the wonderful memories to be made!
Our world has been totally flipped upside down. Parenthood has taught me so much about selfless love.  I have so much love for this little bundle that even when I'm running on two hours of sleep and he's started another crying fit I can't help but continue to hold him and rock him in hopes to ease his pain.  And watching Jason love him in the same manner has shown me a whole new depth of our love for one another.
Then there's our relationship as husband and wife.  An hour into one of those crying spells and I would be lying if I said I haven't looked at Jason and just thought "why won't you fix this?" and had a sense of bitterness towards him.  But, far more times, an hour into a crying spell when I'm at my wits end and Jason comes over to me and hugs me and tells me that I am doing an amazing job and then takes the baby from my arms, it's those moments I feel more loved by him than I can accurately describe.  He has given me some of the best pep talks these past few weeks.  And Jason is no stranger to these.  There have been times he's brought me up out of a slump during graduate school and I wanted to just quit and he's helped out of spiritual holes with his loving embrace and words.  But the way he has loved me through this first month has been incredible and shown me how madly in love we are with one another.  

2) If you're gung-ho about breastfeeding do lots of reading before hand (I recommend "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) and then realize that it's not as natural and easy as one would think it should be.  Your nipples will probably be sore for weeks and you will convince yourself that your baby's hands are in a constant battle to keep his mouth from finding your breast.  Getting a good latch will be cause for celebration and a bad latch with feel like someone is trying to saw off your nipple.  You will start to question your decision when you realize every moment of your day must be planned around the next feed and come to terms with the fact that you will have to wake up every time he wants to eat in the middle of the night.  No passing off the responsibility to someone else. Even if you (or your spouse) feed him a bottle of expressed milk for a feeding or two, you will need to pump during these feedings in order to keep up your supply.
Still, the moments where you feel comfortable will be some of the sweetest moments with your newborn as you continue to provide him nourishment and ease his transition into life outside the womb.  The bonding that occurs while breastfeeding is priceless!
Confidence is key!  We went through this terrible routine of breast, pump, bottle for two weeks before I had a lactation consultant assess Zilla and I.  Turns out, he was getting plenty of food and I simply needed to relax more while feeding him.  If you are having doubt or trouble, see a lactation consultant!  They are worth the money.
And read this.  A friend of mine sent it to me and I find it so encouraging.

3) Our poor little Zilla is experiencing colic.  If you've never heard of colic it's essentially when a baby begins to inconsolably cry for hours at a time.  And it's not just a little whine, it's a loud screaming kind of cry.  The result of this crying is a very tired mommy and daddy who feel utterly lost and incapable of parenting.  There are feelings of guilt and times where you feel so angry with the helpless baby who has been yelling at you all day.
Jason and I have read just about every article, blog, and forum about colic and infant sleep patterns we can get our hands on.  The hardest part is the guilt you feel for not being able to fix whatever is wrong and the increased guilt for being mad at the baby.  The days it's the worst are the days I've never felt so alone.  These are the days I get angry with Jason's job for not giving him more time off so that he can help me.  I wonder if 7:00 will ever come so that I can just pass Zilla off to his dad and retreat to our bedroom to cry, sleep, or scream.
So what do you do if you have a colicky baby?  Well, we are very new to this so I can't say I'm an expert.  But, finding other people who have experienced it is a great first step.  Even if all their recommendations don't work for your baby, chances are you'll find other mothers and fathers who have had the same feelings, thoughts, and emotions as you are experiencing.  This is invaluable and can help ease some of that guilt and let you know you're not alone and you're not a bad parent.  Seriously, Jason has sent me a number of articles by moms who have had a baby with colic and just to read how they felt has been so helpful!
Recently, I read some information based on "Happiest Baby on the Block" and found that swaddling, holding Zilla on his side, bouncing, playing an ocean sound very loudly, and then giving him his pacifier in that order has helped to calm him and even put him to sleep.  And for this I am so grateful! Even if it only works sometimes, I'll take it.

4) Which leads me to: if you have a colicky baby, invest in a pacifier.  Do it.  Now.  It's not a cure all, but even before we started the swaddle routine, the pacifier would quiet him down for a few minutes.  And when a baby has been screaming for hours every minute of silence counts!  We did wait until after the first two weeks before giving him the pacifier in order to establish my milk supply (there's a lot of research regarding the importance of allowing your little one to suckle at your breast for the first two weeks even if he's not eating to help your milk come in).  After that, we are all about the paci.  Yes, there's a great possibility that I'll regret this when I have a 10 year old who doesn't want to give up sucking on a pacifier because his momma was such a fan of it when he was little.

6) Surround yourself with other mothers.  I can't describe how wonderful it is to hear a mother you respect tell you that you are doing a good job.  My sister in law is great at this; constantly reassuring me and providing me with an abundance of support.  I spent much of my brother in law's birthday party sitting in the back room feeding.  While I was back there my sister and law and friend who has a 5 month old joined me and had lots of words of encouragement.  Just to hear that all the crying I was doing was normal made me feel more confident and at ease. 

5) Accept all offers of help.  It can be so hard to do this.  I want to prove to myself and to everyone that I can do this on my own and I'm a natural at motherhood.  Sometimes being a natural at motherhood means being humble enough to ask for help when you need it. Luckily, I think Jason realized I was avoiding asking for help when I needed it and took the initiative to seek out some of our friends and family.  And wow how they responded!

6) On a similar note, have somebody set up a care calendar for you!  My amazing sister did this for us and has ensured that we are well fed during this hectic time.  Here's the website: http://www.carecalendar.org/

7) When people come over, don't be shy to sneak away and catch up on sleep.  They won't be offended.  If you're like me and have trouble sleeping during the day you can also take the opportunity to shower (without rushing), do some laundry or the dishes, or even go for a walk/run.  Sleep, of course is important, but so is feeling normal for a few hours.  I went for a short walk/jog while my aunt watched the little guy one day and I felt so revitalized.  I think more so than if I had just taken a nap.

8) Look at every moment/outing alone with your spouse  as a date during the first month.  When Zilla was 3 weeks old my mom came over to watch him so Jason and I could go grocery shopping.  This was the first time we were leaving the house without Zilla.  We've always loved grocery shopping together, but this time we really relished in it.  We stopped and ate burgers first and then headed to the store.  We cuddled together while pushing the cart and danced down the aisles to all the oldies music being played over the loud speaker.  It was wonderful!

9) Celebrate every happy and quiet awake time with your baby!  Those times when Zilla is awake and happy are the best moments of the day.  I get to hold him and talk to him, tickle his toes, pinch his little cheeks, and love on him.  I have been tempted to set him down in his swing during these times just because I'm so exhausted if it's following a lot of crying, but I don't want to waist these moments where we get to bond.  He really is so precious and I love him so much!

10) Take lots of pictures!  Your friends and family might get tired of your facebook blowing up with pictures of your cute little one, but that's too bad.  You should be proud!  Post those pictures!  Zilla is already growing so fast, I would be so mad at myself if I didn't capture something for fear of taking too many pictures.

That's all for now!
The VrlyFries

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Think I Might Be in Labor...

Here it is, our labor and delivery story!  CAUTION before forging ahead:  I'm going to go into some detail during this post.  There will also be pictures of a slimy baby.  If either of those things don't sound like something you're interested in, well, you may not want to read too much further.  I'll try to distinguish when more "detailed" portions are coming (hint: when I start talking about pushing maybe skip ahead to the pictures of our clean little boy being held by his daddy).  If you want a summary of my thoughts about labor and delivery, our birth plan, the hospital, etc. you can scroll down past the sign off.

Around 11:00 pm on Monday the 18th Jason and I sat down to do our Lenten Bible Study.  After finishing up we were both pretty tired and settled into our bed around midnight.  Little did we know, those kicks and rolls felt before drifting off to bed would be the last tummy kicks we would feel!  
At 1:30 pm I woke up needing to go to the bathroom.  Nothing out of the ordinary, I had become accustomed to waking regularly for bathroom trips in the night.  While in the bathroom I started to notice a some cramping in my back that would radiate to my pelvis.  They were decently painful.  The pain would go away for a bit, but then return.  Since I've never been in labor before, I had no idea what to expect when it came to contractions.  I decided to get out my phone and time them just to see if there was any kind of pattern or consistency.  
In all my reading in preparation for labor, I had learned that contractions typically start out about 30 seconds long and anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes apart.  Because of this, I didn't think I could be in labor, because these pains were definitely coming closer together than 10 minutes.  But I started timing anyways.  

 Sure enough, a pattern did seem to exist.  These cramps were coming about every 3 to 5 minutes and lasting about 45 seconds long.  At this point I decide to wake up Jason.  He had instructed me to wake him after establishing some kind of pattern.  I really wasn't sure what to do.  There was a pattern, but if my contractions were this close together then I should already be on my way to the hospital, and that didn't make any sense.  I figured I would let Jason know and ask him to help me decide if this was real labor.
"I think I might be in labor..."
"You think?  If you're not sure, then you're probably not in labor."
I thought this was a pretty reasonable answer.  Surely I would know when I was in labor.  So I tried to lay down and go back to sleep.  This was a no go.  I got up and started walking around doing some deep breathing.  Whenever a cramp would hit I would bend over on the bed and breathe through it.  At this point, Jason decided something was going on and got out of bed.  He asked to look at my contraction counter so he could see what was going on. 

 He was equally baffled.  If these were actual labor contractions I should have been in the hospital awhile ago.  I could tell they were getting stronger.  I had to manipulate myself relatively often whenever they hit into a different relaxing position.  I found being on my hands and knees, butt in the air was one of the most comfortable.  At this point Jason decided to give the hospital a call and get their opinion.
"Hi, yes, my wife is past her due date and has been having some cramping on and off.  It's happening about every 3 to 5 minutes and lasts 45 seconds long...but she never had any short contractions far apart, so we're just trying to decide if this is false labor or if we should come in...okay, thank you.
"They said they can't really say anything unless you're there and they check if you're dilating...I guess we could just drive up there and let them check.  If you're not in labor or not progressed very far we can come home and labor here for a bit like we had planned."
Jason then called his mom to let her know we were going to the hospital to get me checked out, but not to leave in any rush, since we would probably be going back home.
Both of us were pretty confident we would be heading back home, because this simply couldn't be labor.  Since we weren't in any particular rush or panic Jason calmly packed the car, fed Boots, and let him outside. He then hopped in the shower.  At this point I decided I wanted to shave my legs, since a lot of people would be up close and personal with them soon so I hopped in the tub.  I have to say, water birth might just be the way to go.  While I was in the warm bath my contractions were noticeably less painful.  I really didn't want to get out.  After getting out I ended up throwing up a little, which hinted to me that "okay maybe I am really in labor."  

The 13 minute break here was me shaving my legs
The 13 minute break was us getting into the car/me getting sick...I had multiple contractions in between this time.
When we were done getting ourselves together (around 3:00 am) we got into my car, only to realize my gas tank was empty.  Still thinking this wasn't real labor, we stopped to fill up the tank.
It was during our ride to the hospital I think we both started to think this might be the real deal.  I was becoming more serious and my contractions were becoming very very strong.  The motion of the car definitely didn't help.  Since it was the middle of the night we made it to the hospital in record time.  As we were walking in, I had to stop in the doorway and get on all fours as Jason rubbed my back through a contraction.  Things were getting a little harder.
We sat down at the registration desk for what felt like forever.  We had preregistered with the hospital, but I'm not convinced this actually cut down on any time.  We were asked lots of questions and I was asked to sign a number of documents.  In the middle of all of this I got sick again, right at the registration desk, luckily the lady handed me a bag just in time.  Then she called triage to let them know I was there...and then she and the triage nurse had a nice little chat about something entirely irrelevant to me being in labor.  I really had to put my deep breathing into action at this point in order not to loose my temper with this woman.  HELLO I'M IN LABOR...I JUST THREW UP AT YOUR DESK
Finally, we were escorted back to triage.  I was asked to lay on a bed.  This sounded like the worst idea ever.  I had no desire to lay flat on my back at this point.  Luckily (okay not really a good thing) my blood pressure was a little raised and the triage nurse asked me to roll onto my left side.  I definitely would have preferred not to be lying down at all...but the left was an improvement from being on my back.  And then there was another long line of questions about my medical history.  And I think (correct me if I'm wrong, dear) my only snap I made towards Jason occurred; I had asked him to rub my back during a contraction.  It felt really nice for a little bit but then out of nowhere it became the most irritating feeling ever and I grabbed his hand and threw it off me.  I felt bad after this.  I really wasn't annoyed with him, I was annoyed with the nurse and all of her questions about my life story.  But I knew I couldn't snap at her.  We had already been asked if we would like medication twice and had told both people, no thank you we will be doing this naturally.  This is like a curse in a hospital apparently.  Neither of the nurses said anything, but they made faces like "oh great, one of these." So I didn't want to come off as unreasonable or rude, especially if I was only 4cm dilated.  They would have no faith that I was going to make it through the rest of labor.  
After all the questioning, she moved down to check my dilation. 
"You're 7 cm dilated and his head is really low...I think your water has broke too..."
A look of panic shot across Jason's face.  He quickly text his mom "LEAVE NOW" and then called my mom to let her know the news.  The thing was, my mom was supposed to drive us to the hospital. Due to the way everything had progressed, we were a little out of whack.  He then text the group of people we had added to our phone group who wanted to be notified that we were in labor.  He told everyone, at the suggestion of the triage nurse, that it would probably be about 2 to 3 hours before we would start pushing.
The realization of how far progressed I was seemed to put a little more pep in the nurse's step.  She prepped my bed to move me, I guess she didn't want me walking to the L&D room.  Once we arrived to the room we were again asked if I wanted any pain medication.  We again graciously declined.  I went to the bathroom to try and empty my bladder, only to end up on the floor, again throwing up.  After throwing up three times I was so thirsty!  I went back into the room asking for ice chips.  Jason came over to me in the most loving way
"Dear, they said they have to hook you up to fluid IV because of your blood pressure and how far along you are.  I asked if we could do the hep lock instead, but they said you're too far along."
I tried to protest, this wasn't part of the plan!  I wanted a hep lock not an IV, but I also didn't have a lot of energy to make this request.  The nurses didn't seem real open to me walking around at this point and were prompting me to get in bed.  
Oh great...I get to lie down again?  Because that was sooooo comfortable.  I requested the bed be sat up to higher than a 45 degree angle rather than being flat.  They at least gave me that.  And then the saga of the IV began.  The first nurse stepped up to the plate.  She poked and poked and poked around to no avail.  I'm, of course, still having contractions, but having to stay in one position so that she could get the line in.  It is this point I became ever more grateful for all of the relaxation exercises we had practiced, for Jason's prompting and encouragement, and oddly enough for Jackie Warner.  That's right, the work out video personality.  I have a few of her DVDs and one of the sayings she often employs is "You can do anything for a minute."  This became my mantra.  I knew contractions shouldn't be lasting for much longer than a minute, so I told myself over and over "I can do anything for a minute."  It's amazing how much confidence I drew from this little line.  
All the while I'm still being poked.  At this point all I want (besides not being stuck in the bed) is ice chips. I had asked for some a number of times, but it felt like no one could hear me.  So, in what I though was a genius move, I told the nurse I was feeling dizzy.  Surely this would make her take my request for liquid more seriously.  Nope!  Instead she immediately lowered my bed to the flat position.  This sent me into some pretty terrible pains.  The contractions were so. much. worse. when I was flat.  I begged her to sit me back up and Jason did his best to advocate for me, but she insisted I had to be down here now until the IV was in.  THEN FIND A NURSE WHO IS CAPABLE OF DOING THIS.  I didn't actually yell this, only thought it.  Nurse number two started to take her turn trying to get my IV in.  No luck there either.  Finally, someone was brought in who decided to try my right arm and was able to get in the IV.  The same nurse who had lowered my bed then started to push down on the fetal monitor (aka push down on my stomach) right in the middle of a contraction. 
"Stop, ouch, stop please"
"What's hurting?"
That I actually said, okay yelled.  I had to reel it back in.  But at this point I was so frustrated with this nurse. Jason asked her to please wait to adjust the monitors until I was done having my contraction.  She agreed.  Thank you Jason!
Around this time I started to get the urge to push, and I think it had become obvious to the nurse and Jason.  She looked at me and said "darling, don't start pushing yet."
Hah.  Okay great I'll just hold the baby in for a bit longer.
I looked to Jason, "Where's Dr. Behan.  I want Dr. Behan to be here."  I knew that Dr. Behan would be a great advocate for me with the nurses.  He had previously reviewed and approved of my birth plan.
"He's on his way"
Next thing you know, Dr. Behan was in the room.  He walked over to a desk and lightheartedly recommended we change Zilla's name to Valentino...Valentino Jason to be exact.  He insisted it wasn't too late.  I was relieved to have my doctor there, knowing that even at 5 in the morning he was just as quirky as ever.  After we reassured him we would like to keep the name Zilla, he once again commented on how it's a good Irish name (said in a perfectly executed Irish accent).  He then came over to me and asked if I had brought a copy of my birth plan.  After writing and revising the thing about 10 times, we had forgotten it.
"That's okay.  Tell me if I remember correctly: you want to do self directed pushing in the upright position, you don't want an episiotomy, you would like direct skin to skin contact and to delay cord clamping.  Jason, you would like to cut the cord?"
Wow!  I can't express how blessed we were to have him as a doctor.  He has so many patients and yet somehow managed to remember specifics of our birth plan.
Jason hesitated a little.  "No, that's okay."
Me: "Dear are you sure?"
Dr. B: "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity with this child"
Jason: "Okay, yes, yes I'd like to cut it."
The nurse checked me:
"Okay you're 10 cm, it's time to push"
I was a little shocked to be honest.  Even though I was feeling the urge, I thought surely I couldn't be progressing this quickly!  My mom wasn't even there yet.

*Okay this is where I start describing the pushing part*
Next thing you know I was being sat up (finally) and the nurses were helping me hold my legs so I could be in as close to a squatted position while sitting as possible.  Dr. Behan took his place and they all looked to me to tell them when I was ready to push.
I have to say this was empowering and I'm so happy I included this in the birth plan (and for Dr. Behan insisting to the nurses that this was the way we were going to do this).  I could feel a contraction coming on and I knew it was time; I started my first push.  It was less than effective.  I think I was scared to actually bear down; it was all so real. We were about to have a baby!
Nurse: "Sweetie you're going to have to give us more than that"
Around this time my mom walked in the room.  It was so good to know she was there.
Nurse to my mom: "She just started pushing"
Mom: "Ask her if she wants me to come in"
I was so flooded with emotions and sensations at this point I didn't know my answer.  I felt so terrible that everything had gone so quickly and my mom hadn't gotten to be there for the laboring part, but Jason and I had previously discussed wanting it to be just the two of us during pushing and the delivery of our little son.
Nurse to me: "Look at me.  What do you want?  It's okay whatever the answer.  What do you want?"
Remember when I was so frustrated with this nurse?  At this point she became my best friend.  She reminded me that this was the birth of our son and she wanted it to be the experience I was hoping for.
Me: "No, no just Jason and me"
Nurse: "Would you like to use a mirror for pushing?"
Okay ladies (and gents, I suppose) when you first start thinking about labor and delivery the last thing you can ever imagine wanting is to see what's happening to your woman parts...or for your significant other to see.  I mean, we all want him to find us attractive again one day.  But, after hearing a friend of mine describe how the mirror had helped her and then someone else describing it to me as a biofeedback mechanism, I started to reconsider my position.  I am all about biofeedback and it's effectiveness in helping with stress management, chronic pain, mental health  etc.  Why not use it for birth? So I had decided that, yes, I wanted to at least try using the mirror and if it was too terrifying to see I could simply look away.
And then came the next contraction.  I knew I had to get serious this time.  I thought back to the Bradley book we had read and the pushing pattern recommended by the author.  I knew I needed to get in two to three good pushes during the contraction and that in between these pushes I needed to not relax entirely in order to keep forward progress.  So bear down I did.
Nurses and Jason: "Look, look there's his head.  You're doing great!"
I glanced over at the mirror.  Sure enough, there was the top of his head!  How encouraging to see how close I was!  I paused to get ready for another push, I saw his head retreat back.  "Don't completely relax" I reminded myself.  The mirror was proving to be useful already.  The contraction was subsiding
Nurse: "Try to get in one more push"
But I knew it wouldn't be effective.   I needed to take this opportunity to rest, otherwise I wouldn't have the needed strength for a good push during my next contraction.  Again, I can't say how beneficial I found self directed pushing along with the mirror.  Things were progressing so fast and so well!
Nurse: "Coming up it's going to start to hurt real bad.  It will probably burn.  Don't let this scare you, you have to push through it; it means your baby is just about here."
It's (almost) like she took a page from the Bradley book.  Reminding the mother how close she is to holding her baby is the ultimate motivator.  And, sure enough after a few rounds of pushing I could see his head really starting to come through.  And sure enough, it burned. Oh how it burned.
"It hurts it hurts it hurts.  Oh God!"
Everyone: "Keep going, you're doing great! He's so close, don't be scared!  Look look there's your baby, he's right there!"
Dr. B: "Soon I'm going to ask you to push slower and lighter to help prevent tearing.  You'll need to give me about a 1/18th of a push."
Even in the throws of some serious pain and pushing, I managed to laugh.  Only Dr. Behan would ask me to calibrate my pushing to 1/18th.
And this is where the mirror became invaluable.  As Dr. Behan began to take over coaching (don't worry this was also part of the birth plan for him to take over at this point) I carefully watched the mirror in order to see how hard I was pushing and slow down the crowning as best I could.  Next thing you know his head was out! WOW!  My first look at his little face!
Dr. B: "Alright just one more little push"
I didn't get the "little" part of that and gave out a final big push.  And he was out, immediately placed on my belly.  Jason was doing an expert job of multitasking, getting a picture of him on my stomach while celebrating with me and having a moment of pure adrenaline and joy.

  I can't even identify the emotion(s) I was feeling.  I think I was partly in shock because I remember Jason and the nurses telling me that he was on me and that I could reach down and hold him.  What a surreal experience.  As I reached down and felt the warm skin of the little being who had been inside me for 9 months I became ecstatic. He was finally here, in my arms.  All the pain of labor literally left my mind.  None of it mattered.  We were then allowed to just be together for the first time.  The three of us, our little family! 
After about 2 minutes, Dr. B informed Jason it was time to cut the cord.  He had waited long enough for the cord to stop pulsing and he handed Jason the scissors.

Zilla started to nestle his way down my chest and from all my reading and preparation I knew he was looking to feed.  The nurse helped me get him positioned and he latched on.  *This part might be too detailed for some* I am so amazed by the miracle of our bodies and the way in which they work so beautifully when we allow them to.  I had read how allowing the baby to breastfeed within the first hour of delivery can help your uterus contract and deliver the placenta.  Sure enough each time I felt him get a good suckle I could feel my uterus contract and a rush of blood.  Okay, it sounds a little gross and I'm sure it doesn't look pretty but I find it so amazing.  

As I lay there with him on my chest, I looked up at Jason who was gazing at our little son.  We smiled at each other and kissed.  It was the perfect moment. We had done this; we, through the grace of God, had created new life and here he was.
I can't say how long we were allowed to lay there, but eventually they were ready to weigh and measure him and asked to take him to the side.  At this point I realized Dr. B was still sitting at the end of the bed and I asked if I had ripped.  As it turned out, my last push to get the shoulders out did result in a small tear, but it was only a level 1 tear and definitely nothing compared to the "damage" that would have been done if I had opted for an episiotomy.  Still, Dr. B wanted to stitch it up.  
This is when I noticed how uncontrollably shaky my legs were.  I could not for the life of me make them stop and I kept apologizing to Dr. B for not being able to sit still as he worked.  He reassured me it was normal and not to worry about it.  I also took this opportunity to apologize to the nurse for anything I said during labor and delivery that wasn't kind.  She reassured me that I had nothing to apologize for. 
As all this was going on, Jason was watching as Zilla got weighed and measured and he got to put on his first diaper.  The first of many (many many many...). 

Zilla was then returned to my chest to continue skin to skin contact.  Everything had gone so well and I was so incredibly grateful. 
At this point my mom, sister, and bro in law were invited back into the room to meet Zilla.  My Aunt Carol also got to come back for a little while.  Everything seemed to fly by at this point.  They came in and got to see his little face for a bit and then had to leave as I was about to make my first attempt at going to the bathroom post delivery. 
First of all, my legs were still violently shaking.  I felt so immobile and like I would never regain the ability to walk without assistance.  Once we finally made it to the bathroom I decided it was impossible to relax enough to allow anything to happen.  Heaven knows I wasn't going to push in any way in order to get something going.  I decided at this moment I would never push again.  Not to mention, I was feeling really dehydrated and was pretty sure there wasn't anything for me to expel.  
We were then prepped to make our way to the maternity area.  
Shift change occurred at some point during all of this and a new nurse had taken over.  She handed me two pills.
Nurse: "These are for your pain."
Me: "What are they?"
Nurse: "They're pain medication"  ...really?
Me: "Okay, but what are they?"
Nurse (looking surprisingly annoyed that I was questioning what substance she was recommending I put in my body): "Motrin and a percocet"
Me: "Okay well I'd prefer to keep pain interventions to a minimum"
Later she told me: "I've had two babies naturally and two with an epidural.  Next time just take the medication."
At this point, I was very happy my L&D had gone so quickly and she wasn't there during that part.  I don't think she would have been so open to my desire to do this naturally.  
I was moved to a wheelchair and we were moved on to the recovery area where we spent our first three days as a family.  We were blessed to be visited by many friends and family and to have some wonderful nurses attend to us during our time there.  

We were blessed to have such a smooth labor and delivery.  I am grateful for all the prayers which have been offered up for us during pregnancy and the first few weeks of our little man's life.  Going forward I will try to update about the first few weeks and then move onto monthly updates.  But I'll be honest.  This motherhood thing is hard work (duh) and my free time is limited.

With lots of love
The VrlyFries 

Thoughts about our birth plan and labor and delivery:

1) Even though our birth went far quicker than we ever could have imagined I am so grateful we took the time to create a birth plan.  The process of making a birth plan helped me to become informed about all of the options and potential procedures which could occur during L&D.  Of course, this means going a step beyond just checking off boxes on a website.  If you're creating a birth plan, make sure you know what each of the things you are marking or writing down means.  Being informed is key to having the birth you want.  Of course there are things you can't control, but there are so many things you do have control over and there's no reason you should just hand off these decisions to your nurses and doctor.  Whether you choose medicated or natural birth doesn't matter, I'm just a big proponent of knowing what's going on as it happens.  

2) Again, because our birth went so fast we didn't get to employ all of our relaxation techniques to their fullest extent...there was no lying on my side for hours as Jason rubbed my back.  However, in the short time I was in labor and pushing I definitely utilized a number of the things we had researched.  Breathing techniques were the most pervasive.  Using deep breaths and not letting myself start using short sharp breaths helped me stay calm throughout as well as helped me concentrate on what was really going on with my body and not just the pain.  It's pain with a purpose, and that's important to recognize.  I also never got to use the Rosaries or Chaplets I had saved on my phone during labor.  But I have to believe that the many times I practiced relaxing and meditating with these prayers helped prepare me for birth and give me a sense of calm about the whole thing leading up to labor day.  By the time it arrived, I was no longer fearing the pain or the unknown.  I was excited and had a real feeling of peace.  More importantly, I believe in the power of prayer and am confident that Mary was interceding for us throughout this whole process. The birthing/labor positions were also extremely beneficial during the time I labored at home.  Again, I didn't get to utilize them for long, but when I was using them I can definitely see how they are far better than sitting or lying in a bed for hours.

3) Hospital staff is not accustomed to people choosing a natural birth.  During my tour of the hospital my guide said so herself.  A vast majority of women come in ready for their epidural.  And that's okay.  But, it does mean if you are wanting natural you need to come in prepared, with a support person, and feeling assertive and sure of yourself.  And also not being too on the defensive.  I genuinely tried to remain cordial and patient with the nurses in order to create a teamwork environment rather than hostile.  You may just be lucky enough to get a nurse who is supportive of natural birth.  This blog is written by one such nurse and very informative for anyone seeking a natural birth in the hospital.

4)  I've already started thinking about our next L&D experience.  I have to say I'm really thinking about a home birth; particularly a water birth.  I felt so relaxed and comfortable while I was in the shower, I can see how this idea is enticing for many women.  Of course, this is a conversation Jason and I need to discuss much further, but it's definitely on my mind.

*I'm adding more thoughts as they come to me*

5) Our delivery went far faster than the average birth, especially for him being our first.  This likely played a role in how smoothly everything went.  There's no telling how this story would have gone if I had a 30 hour L&D.  I think it's important to note that the interventions I chose to turn down I only chose to do so with the understanding that my pregnancy and L&D were progressing safely.  Most of these interventions represent good advances in medicine that have helped to reduce the mortality rate among mothers and babies and that is wonderful!  Also, it's a personal choice for each woman as to how she envisions her L&D.  I have heard wonderful stories about women receiving an epidural and having a very relaxing L&D where they were able to happily and calmly bring their little one into the world.  

6) So why then did I want natural?  Well, like I've posted about before, I'm a control nut and I felt that natural birth allowed me to have the greatest amount of control possible during an event where so much is in God's hands and on God's time.  Second, I did a lot of research and reading about the side effects of many of the interventions.  After this, I knew that if my L&D went smoothly I wanted to avoid these effects for both me and our son.  This research started out with me reading "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding".  I've always wanted to breastfeed and thus learning about the how's was an important part of preparation for motherhood for me.  This book had quite a bit of information about how various interventions may affect the critical early stages of breastfeeding.

7) As important as I believe preparing for L&D is, I want to encourage mothers to also prepare for what comes after: motherhood.  Kind of like your wedding day...the wedding is a momentous occasion and extremely important, but it is only one day.  Preparing for the marriage is critical for a lasting relationship.  In a similar way, L&D is one (or two or three) day(s) but motherhood is a lifetime.  Not only that, but motherhood is hard work.  Just the first few weeks you are dealing with all kinds of hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, and learning how to care for this new life.  Take advantage of your friends and family who have experience in this area.  Accept every offer from people to cook you meals and help with chores.  Read books about how to bathe/change/burp your baby so that you can go into it with some form of confidence.  No matter how your L&D happens, in the end the most important part is that you have a beautiful new little addition to your family!