Monday, April 26, 2021

Baby Baby's Birth Story...or as husband thought I should call it "The Last Blog Post"

 It's time to revive the the blog for my once a baby post - the birth story post.  Baby girl, I can guarantee you won't get a post every month, but I won't let my memory fade before I write down the day I first saw you face to face. 

Living away from family and being pregnant is quite an experience.  We did it with Tiny and survived.  Knowing we had some back up plans if he decided to arrive before my mother in law was in town.  But in pandemic time, the number of people jumping to take on 3 kids was low. So, Baby Baby's arrival needed to be well timed.  If that wasn't stressful enough, her due date was close enough to Christmas that I was limited on options as far as when to encourage her to get moving along.  I knew I wanted to avoid a hospital induction and planned to have my membranes stripped since this method had worked so well with Tiny.  However, my options were to have this done on the 23rd or wait until the 28th.  If it didn't work it would then be a couple more days before I could go to the hospital for an induction as a last ditch effort to get her here before Nina left the following Saturday.  

In the end, we chose to have my membranes swept on the 23rd, knowing this could mean I went into labor before Nina arrived later that evening and/or that I would be in the hospital on Christmas day.  The fallback plan was to be induced on the 29th. My appointment was at 10am and by 2pm I was having regular contractions (during a counseling session) about 10 minutes apart.  After my session I let Jason know, there was a real possibility that we would be going to the hospital that night and he should let his mom know.  A few hours later the contractions dwindled to about once an hour having a strong contraction.  I decided the membrane sweep had tried its best to get things going, but that ultimately, I may be getting induced on Sunday.

The next morning, I went to get a COVID test done (because pregnancy during a pandemic) and continued to notice semi strong contractions about every 20 minutes.  I didn't want to set off any false alarms again, so I mostly kept it to myself.  Throughout Thursday, the contractions came and went, at times feeling stronger and more consistent.   

As the day went on, I was trying to talk my body out of going into labor. At this point, labor now would mean missing Christmas morning with my boys and missing Christmas Mass, and I just didn't want to do that. So yes, I was in denial.  As dinner approached I let Jason and Nina know that my contractions seemed to be getting stronger. By eating time I think everyone but me knew that I would be going to the hospital that night. By the time dinner was done I had made a very sudden 180 on my decision that the kids couldn't open a Christmas Eve gift to YES absolutely please open one so that mommy doesn't miss everything.  By 7:45 I told Nina I would try to get Tiny down for bed before we left and by about 8:30pm I was flooding Nina with information about where all the Santa gifts were hidden and who they belonged to and oh also good luck with Tiny, and telling Jason we'd better go now or he would get to deliver his baby girl in the car.  

COVID policy meant that I went up to triage by myself while Jason waited anxiously in the car.  At this point I was certain I was in labor and was just praying for a better experience in triage than I had with which they refused to admit me until Justin was on his way out because "it's not possible to progress much in such a short amount of time".  Anyhow, the triage nurse checked me and I was at a 6.  I let her know my history of quick labors and lightning fast deliveries and she made the very wise decision to get me into a room ASAP.  I texted Jason that he was welcome to join me in the delivery room.

When we got to our room we were greeted by the best L&D nurse.  I am not exaggerating; of all our L&D nurses she is by far my favorite.  She was funny and listened to me and encouraged me and made labor fun.  She and Jason were like a little standup comic team and who knew one could laugh so much while having contractions.  The resident and OBGYN on call came to introduce themselves.  The OBGYN told me everything looked good and that I could decide to have them break my water if I wanted to speed things up, or not, and that there was no rush. When he left Jason told me that he is the head of family medicine and he works with him regularly.  After getting all the blood draws done and another COVID test and asking all the required questions she left Jason and I to ourselves.  Jason might be better at recalling timelines at this point, but maybe after an hour or so she came back to check on us and I requested a birthing ball to change up my position some and move around to try and wiggle this little girl along. 

The nurse team enjoyed my festive Christmas socks

Not too long after sitting on the ball the contractions became more intense and I became more intense.  I started to groan more during contractions, which according to Jason, means things are getting serious and delivery is imminent.  I insisted we wait a little longer before calling in the nurse to check.  He agreed but I have a feeling he was also pretty eager to have someone else in the room just in case a baby needed to be caught.  After a few more contractions we called in our nurse. 

After describing how I was feeling, I got back into bed and she called the resident to ask her to come in and check me.  After a couple more contractions, during one of which I said "uh oh" due to the amount of pressure I was feeling, our nurse called again urging the resident to move a wee bit quicker. I had progressed to a 9 and the resident said they could break the water at this point and I would likely be ready to push or we could wait.  The time was 11:50pm.  Essentially I was deciding if I was going to have a Christmas baby or a Christmas Eve baby.  But really I was deciding, do I want to sit through more contractions?  No. No I did not.  I asked to have the water broken.

Jason sent a text to family at 11:52 letting them know they were breaking my water and at 11:55pm they received a message saying Baby Baby had arrived.  It. Was. Fast.  Super fast.  I tend to be a mostly quiet laborer, but I am not I quiet deliverer.  My optimistic outlook tends to go from I GOT THIS. To, nope can't do this. But at that point, there is clearly no turning back.  The head of family medicine ran in just as Bethany was being born.  He apologized he wasn't there earlier because he had just taken off his mask/face shield/head covering in his office.  He said he was lucky he didn't also take off his booties or he would have missed the whole thing. A few weeks later he apologized to Jason for missing the birth; he makes a point to be in the room at each of the births that happen when he's on shift. We were also told there were bets going on between the nurses and doctors about who would have their baby first on the floor, who would be a Christmas Eve baby, and who would be a Christmas baby.  Apparently a doctor named Dr. Behan had bet we would be first and came into the room to watch as I made her victorious.  When we were told Dr. Behan had been in the room, I couldn't help but smile. Dr. Behan is the name of the OB who delivered both Zilla and Panini and my favorite Catholic OBGYN.

And baby Bethany was here in our arms.  I will never ever get over the amazing feeling of holding a newborn baby after months of waiting. To feel her warm slimy little self all snuggled up on me. I love it. It is the thing that can make me look back at pregnancy, labor, and delivery and say YES I would want to do that again.  

And what about labor and delivery during COVID? Honestly, for us it wasn't bad at all.  Other than getting tested and Jason waiting until I was admitted, it didn't feel all that different.  And of course the masks.  But while I would never recommend going through labor and delivery in a mask, it wasn't so bad either. She's by far the best thing to come out of 2020!

Christmas was different but I am so grateful for her story. There were points on Christmas day where I broke into tears just thinking about going through labor on Christmas Eve.  Thinking of our Blessed Mother bringing Christ into the world on Christmas. It was truly remarkable.  I wasn't able to go to Mass that day, but I was able to celebrate His birth in a whole new way with a whole new appreciation. 

And last, what's in a name? Our sweet Baby Baby, Baby Ice Cream, Bethany Rose.  Since being pregnant with Zilla, Jason and I had the name Abigail Rose picked out for a girl.  We wanted the name Rose in honor of Rosita, a woman who played a big role in Jason's life.  But part way through this pregnancy I felt moved to ask about the name Bethany.  Bethany means "House of Welcome". Bethany is the place where Mary and Martha lived, two women who teach us about the interplay of contemplation and action. Bethany is the place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And Bethany is a homage to my Meemaw, Betty. 

Sweet Betty Rose, we sure do love you.    

Monday, December 3, 2018

Welcome Baby Tintin

I may have completely slacked on making any attempts at documenting our little Sticky Bun's (now Tintin's) pregnancy.  While we are at it, I think I am about 2 birthday updates behind on Panini too.  But I do want to get the details of Tintin's birth written down before I forget them.  Tintin's birth felt a lot like this pregnancy; filled with touches of uncertainty, doubt, offering up suffering, beauty, gratitude, and a lesson in trust.

Pregnancy after a miscarriage was, as expected, an entirely different experience than pregnancy prior to our miscarriage.  Each day felt long not because I was uncomfortable but because I was anxious.  In the beginning I told myself "I will feel better once we have our first ultrasound" and then "I will feel better once we are past 9 weeks" and then "I will feel better once I start feeling his movements" and then "I will feel better once his movements get stronger" and then "I will feel better once he is in my arms".  And the truth is, the anxiety lingered...lingers on.  So I have to find a way to trust that my worries will not change one single thing.  I have found myself filled with overwhelming gratitude to mother this little life, knowing how my heart aches for Bennett and knowing how others long to carry a baby.  This pregnancy, filled with so much fear was also filled with so much beauty and appreciation beyond words.

And so the birth.  With Zilla, I was young, unemployed, and content to wait as long as he needed to make his arrival.  When we passed Zilla's due date it did not phase me.  With Panini, I was working and TIRED.  I was ready for him to come two weeks before his due date and did every natural birth induction method I could find.  He came one week early.  With Tintin, I needed his birth to happen on a very specific timeline.  He had  to  wait until Nina got here, otherwise Zilla and Panini would be attending their brother's birth.  But the moment Nina arrived, I wanted him to be born.  The anxiety of not being able to see or hold him in my arms reached its boiling point and the days dragged on.  There was also the pressure of knowing Nina would have to leave soon and he needed to be here before that.  On the 22nd I started having some contractions that were coming every 6 minutes but never grew very strong or long.  After a few hours of contractions, and a few hours of everyone getting excited, they fizzled out.

As the due date came and went I started to worry about needing an induction.  I had an appointment with my doctor on the 26th and we decided I would go ahead and have my membranes stripped to see if that would encourage things to get going.  I was measuring at 4 cm and 50% effaced.  Most of Friday was normal up until 8pm.  I began to feel small and short contractions again.  I didn't want to get myself, or anyone else too excited, so I did not say anything as we put the boys to bed.  Jason and I came down stairs and began talking.  I started peeking over at Jason's phone to see how frequent the contractions were coming.  At this point I let him know that I was having contractions every 6 to 8 minutes and that they were a little stronger and longer than the ones I had on Monday night.   I could tell he was getting a little jumpy and we agreed if they progressed to every 5 minutes or if they started lasting at least a minute we would head to the hospital.  We had about a 30 minute drive ahead of us and I did not want to be going through transition stage in the car.

At about 10:30 we made the decision to go to the hospital.  I called my mom and text my sister to ask for prayers and let them know Baby Tintin may be on the way.  When we arrived at the hospital we were quickly brought back to triage and I was feeling encouraged by how quickly we were being seen.  A nurse midwife came to check me and I was still dilated at a 4 and about 60% effaced.  She sounded unsure if this was real labor or just my body responding to having my membranes stripped with some contractions that would once again fizzle.  She told me she would like to wait until 1:30 (two hours) to check me again.  I let her know that my labors tend to progress very quickly.  She nodded and left Jason and I to ourselves.

At this point Jason and I agreed we should try to rest in case things ramped up.  Hubskie fell asleep in the chair while I tried my best to get comfortable.  The triage bed was about the most uncomfortable thing I could imagine at the time and I needed about 5 additional  pillows if I was going to actually get rest.  Meanwhile the contractions were definitely picking up and I desperately wanted to be back in a labor and delivery room with more options for positioning.  At 12:40 I asked Jason to get the nurse as I was feeling confident that this was really labor and I should be moved out of triage into an actual room.  The nurse midwife checked me again and I was still 4 cm and 70% effaced and she mentioned the head did feel lower.  She then said she would like to keep me in triage because it still might not be labor and that she would not check me until 1:45 am.  I again mentioned that once my labors pick up they move very fast.  She said that even for a fast labor, one hour wouldn't make much of a difference.

Time went on and I was no longer able to sit quietly in bed.  I got up and tried sitting in the recliner, which did not help at all.  I went back to the bed and tried getting into the position I was most comfortable in during Panini's labor, but did not have enough pillows to support me.  At this point I was irritated.  I felt discouraged that I apparently wasn't progressing, I felt discouraged that the nurses still didn't think I was actually in labor, even though the contractions were starting to hurt very bad.  I started to doubt myself and my ability to get through the labor and delivery.  I began to offer up each contraction for intentions of friends and family.  I tried to refocus myself and not fight the contractions.  I noticed myself tensing up when one would begin and I  had to tell myself to let the contractions work for me.  By 1:40 I was in a lot of pain and telling Jason I couldn't do this.  I was ready for an epidural because early labor had never hurt this bad before.  Contractions were coming every minute.  I felt a ton of pressure.  I did not understand why I was having such a hard time with what may not even be labor.  I was afraid something was wrong.

At about 1:55 I began groaning quite loudly with each contraction.  The nurse came in and cheerily asked if the contractions felt stronger and at this point there was not a chipper bone left in my body.  I could barely talk with the intensity of the contractions and how close together they were.  The nurse midwife came in and asked me to lay down so she could check me.  I could not lay down.  It hurt too bad.  I finally managed to get into a position to be checked.

"YOU'RE 8 CM FULLY EFFACED BABY IS IN BIRTHING CANAL" cue shocked panic mode.  The nurse and nurse midwife quickly start to prep the triage bed to move me.  The nurse midwife is simultaneously rolling me down the hallway and calling the on call doctor to let her know she needs to go to my delivery room now.  Poor hubskie is trying to gather all of our things, text all the family members, and chase us down the hallway.  I am not in a good mental head space.  On one hand I am relieved that there was a reason the contractions felt like the baby was coming out.  On the other hand, this is not how I wanted it to go.  I wanted to spend time in the labor and delivery room with hubskie, take some pictures, and I wanted to be in a much more assure of myself place before starting to push.  But here we were.

When we came into the delivery room (2:02 am per the text Hubskie sent my family) the doctor immediately questioned why I was just being admitted into a room.  The nurse midwife said that I had unexpectedly progressed from 4 to 8 cm in an hour.  By unexpectedly she must have been referring to the two times I told her to expect me to progress quickly.  The triage nurse was telling the L&D nurse a brief history of me and mentioned that I did not want an epidural, which made me laugh, because even if I did want an epidural we were clearly past that at this point.  The doctor took a seat to check me and told the team the baby was coming, it was time to start pushing.  I can very honestly say I was not ready to push. This labor didn't necessarily progress any faster than Zilla's or Panini's, but I felt so unsure of everything up to this point that I had little confidence.  My pushes during the next contraction were obviously timid and useless.  Fear had taken over.  The L&D nurse helped me climb out of that fear.  Her words were full of encouragement and started to rebuild my resolve.  After a few contractions with pushing our sweet Tintin was born at 2:12 am.  He was born "en caul" and Jason got to watch the doctor remove him from the amniotic sac as he was being born.

Pure joy and relief and gratitude.  Holding this baby in my arms for the first time was like someone had finally reminded me to breathe after nine months of holding my breath.  The rest of our time at the hospital went great.  The maternity nursing staff, pediatric staff, and on call OBGYN staff were all phenomenal.  They have a hands off approach, which meant almost no night time interruptions.  On our second night there, hubskie went home to be with Zilla and Panini.  That night, the nurse held Tintin for me in between feedings so that I got a solid 3 hours of sleep.  The food was decent and they even had vegetarian food options.  It was definitely a different experience from the family filled hospital stays in Texas, but the quiet and calm had its own charm to it.

Zilla and Panini met their new brother on Saturday afternoon.  My heart could have exploded to have all three boys with me in that bed together.  It is a moment I will cherish always.

And now soapbox time.  Did you know the maternal mortality rate in the United States is the worse among developed nations?  And many experts looking into this issue believe it has to do with care teams in hospitals not listening to their patients?  The maternal mortality rate is even worse among women of color.  This is a problem America.  Women are being told that the symptoms they're experiencing are normal or that they are overreacting.  Maybe they are not being told this in words, but in actions (or inaction in most cases).  Google it, there are countless stories.  New York Times recently ran the story America is Blaming Pregnant Women for Their Own Deaths. 

In my case, when I was told that I wasn't yet in labor, despite expressing feeling intense pressure and very strong contractions it really only meant discomfort and a blow to my pride.  But for many women it can be a critical point at which the care team can choose action or inaction.  I get it, I wasn't any more dilated, so by that standard alone, you couldn't tell whether or not I was in labor.  But nurses and doctors need to start listening to their patients too and not just their monitors.  If I am telling you that I am in labor, that my contractions are stronger and closer together, believe me.  If I tell you that my labors progress quickly based on experience, believe me.  I left the hospital feeling very irked by this experience and I realize it is because I know about the maternal mortality rate.  What if something was wrong?  It seemed like they had decided I simply had a low pain tolerance and was struggling to make it through early labor.  Meanwhile I was going through transition phase sitting cross legged on a hard bed while my husband slept because you told him I may not be in labor.  That it would be at least another hour before we even see progress if I was.  Meanwhile, I felt alone as my anxieties surrounding this pregnancy were all coming to a boiling point.  Despite me saying more than once that I progress quickly.  Saying that the contractions felt stronger and closer.  Yes, by standards of the amount of dilation, I "wasn't progressing".  But listen to your patient.  Believe me, I could tell when I went from being able to talk through a contraction to not being able to. 

Again, in my case it resulted in increased discomfort and fear.  But in so many others the lack of listening results in much more tragic outcomes.  So I'll step down now.  But I hope you are a little more aware of the problem going on.  If you are a pregnant woman or a husband about to hold the hand of your wife in labor, don't shy away from insisting that your care team listen to you.  That they take what you are saying seriously.  If you do not feel that they are, say it again and again until they listen to you simply out of exhaustion.

I am so thankful for an excellent care team after leaving triage.  I truly cannot say enough positive things about every single other person I came in contact with at the hospital.  When I arrived to labor and delivery and told the nurse there that I couldn't do this, she reassured me that I could.  When I brought up concerns or questions I was greeted with exceptional customer service.  When I mentioned a history of PPD and PPA, the on call OBGYN came for an extra visit to discuss this with me.  This is the kind of care that women and people in general should be receiving.  And I am even more grateful for this little life who has been entrusted to me.  He is our little Sticky Bun, Tintin, my little snuggabug, and I love him so.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Mercy Bend and Breathe Me Back to Life

You could plant me like a tree beside a river
You could tangle me in soil and let my roots run wild
And I would blossom like a flower in the desert
But for now just let me cry

Our hearts are broken. In a two month's period we were blessed with an unplanned pregnancy, went through all the emotions landing in a place of gratefulness and joy, and ultimately learned that our precious child's heart stopped at 8 weeks, before we would get to watch him grow.

You could raise me like a banner in the battle
Put victory like fire behind my shining eyes
And I would drift like falling snow over the embers
But for now just let me lie

There have been tears, there was a month of uncertainty, prayers for a miracle, prayers for trust in God's great sovereignty and comfort, and prayers for patience in our sorrow.

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and breathe me back to life
But not before you show me how to die

I have been torn, broken, molded. Refiner's fire. I am being healed. Patience in our sorrow. 

Set me like a star before the morning
Like a sun that steals the darkness from a world asleep
And I'll illuminate the path You've laid before me
But for now just let me be

Faith in joy is so easy. Faith in trials is hard but necessary. The faith of the Saints in trials is a path. St. Gerard, St. Philomena, St. Felicity, St. Perpetua pray for us. Mama Mary, most gracious advocate, wrap me in your mantle. "Whatever did not fit in with my plan did lie within the plan of God. I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God"

Bind up these broken bones
Mercy bend and breathe me back to life
But not before You show me how to die
No, not before You show me how to die

For a month my body did not know you were gone. Nausea, fatigue, food aversions persisted. And then the labor pains without the beautiful cries of life. But my little darling, we held your tiny body. I looked you in the eyes and I told you how much I love you. I marveled at the wonder of you and words of thanksgiving escaped my lips for the gift to cradle you in my hand. My fingers gently touched your arms and legs before we laid you to rest.  How I wish you were simply sleeping. The bassinet we bought you sits broken down and empty in our closet. Let me die to myself, oh Lord, for only your life in me can renew my spirit.

So let me go like a leaf upon the water
Let me brave the wild currents flowing to the sea
And I will disappear into a deeper beauty
But for now just stay with me
God, for now just stay with me

"Thank God ahead of time." Do not let worry get in the way of the design of our merciful Father. We are heartbroken, but we are thankful for Bennett's life, for the opportunity to have him even briefly, for the prayers so many have poured out for us, and for the good we trust God does in all things and in all circumstances. Lord when your glory appears my joy will be full.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Chicken and Chard Spaghetti Squash Bowl

What? A cooking blog? I haven't done one of these in a long time, but I made a spaghetti squash bowl tonight that the whole family enjoyed. Even P-Rex ate some! Shoot, even Hubskie liked it, and he is not a squash fan.

Lately, I've had Zilla help me with preparing dinner and it has really helped with getting him to eat better. Pro tip...I try to get him involved in preparing the vegetables so he is more inclined to eat them. P-Rex is enjoying preparing his own dishes. We still need to work on his hygiene and mise en place before he gets to help with the real deal  (note pretend food tossed on the floor. When he was cutting his tomato, he decided he needed more room so he just tossed the other food on the floor).

I originally sat down to write this recipe for myself, but then decided to go ahead and put it on the blog in case others would like to try it out. I think it could be turned into a casserole, if you were preparing for more people, by increasing the amount of each ingredient and then broiling in a casserole dish rather than the squash bowls. 

The ingredients below were just the right amount for me, hubskie, and the two boys. 

Chicken and Chard Spaghetti Squash Bowls
5-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed cut into bite sized pieces
1 bunch swiss or rainbow chard
1 white onion, diced
1 spaghetti squash
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (or however much you want) shredded Parmesan cheese
1 stick mozzarella string cheese, tear into strings 
olive oil
Lemon juice and/or lemon zest

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half and clean out seeds. Brush olive oil on cut sides and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet cut/flesh side down. Bake for 45-50 minutes

2) While squash is baking, heat 2 tsp olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add cut chicken thighs. Season with salt and pepper. Cook through

3) De-stem chard and discard stems (or freeze for later use). Tear chard into bite size pieces. Zilla helped with this part and was so proud of himself! He ate every bite of his chard tonight.

3) Once chicken is cooked, add onion. Cook until onion begins to soften, add garlic. Season with salt and pepper

4) Add chard to skillet, add 1/4 cup water and a teaspoon of olive oil. Stir occasionally and let chard wilt. Continue to stir for additional 3-5 minutes. season with salt and pepper (Blue apron taught me to season with salt and pepper at almost every step.) 

5) Remove squash and use forks to pull out the squash "spaghetti" strings. Add to skillet. Leave skin of squash in baking pan, skin side down to use as bowls. Stir to combine. Add lemon juice/zest to taste. I only added a few drops, maybe half a tsp. 

6) Divide mixture in half and add to squash skin bowls. Mix in Parmesan cheese. Top with strings of mozzarella cheese.

7) Place back into oven and switch oven to broil. Leave for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to bubble

8) Enjoy!