Deciding to stay positive this late in pregnancy

Two completely un-profound things happened recently that have changed my perspective on this whole "being pregnant" thing. So I figured I would write about them. It's been a while since I've written and why not? Sometimes you need something small and mundane to push you in the right direction.

The first thing was this little moment that happened before I dropped Jake off at work. I had a tiny contraction (short in duration, but packing a pretty hefty punch). I started to cringe and whine and ughhhh... and Jake just kind of jumped into action and walked me through it.

"Breathe."

"I am breathing."

"No, with your mouth, like this... Remember?"

"Oh...yeah. Ok. [moment passes] Well, have a good day at work!"

So it wasn't like, earth-shattering, but it started this idea rolling in my head. And the idea was this:

STAY STRONG

Or more accurately, "Stay strong, you freaking wuss! This is going to get so much harder - you will WISH you had that tiny contraction back when you're 13 hours into labor on no sleep with this extra 30-some pounds we're packing around! Because this shit is real!!" (My inner critic is such a delight.)

But I needed this reminder. A couple weeks ago I had just the faintest *inkling* of a contraction along with some back pain. It lingered for a while, and the first thought that came to my mind was "Oh my gosh I'm in labor I can't do this I'll never make it I'm getting an epidural." Then it was over. So perhaps a slight overreaction. And a huge wake-up call.

This time around we are not taking birth classes, we aren't re-using HypnoBabies (although several techniques and ideas will be stolen from those materials), and we aren't planning for a natural birth, necessarily. This flies in the face of most everything we did last time, and I am very much at peace with that. But that doesn't mean that I want to be reaching for the magic epidural wand at the first sign of labor. No no noooo...I need to do a lot of this on my own...plus the wand apparently isn't even a thing so whatever. (crap)

Focus up! Only 3 weeks to go!

So I decided I need to focus up and stay strong. I do my kegels, I walk tall and engage my core, I don't complain.*

*as much

And it has helped. Today I actually walked across campus from a work meeting whilst smiling. For real. Which leads me to the second un-profound realization I have had:

STAY POSITIVE

Earlier on this particular journey, I was suddenly hit with the poetic euphoria of the great Stevie Nicks.

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
— Stevie Nicks, Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

There are many lines of that song that speak to me, but I do not know what they all mean. And I kind of like that. Songs like this mean different things at different times, and this line about the seasons of one's life, well...it really means something to me now.

Because the seasons are a'changing. Literally, too! But mostly figuratively. I am about to have a baby and be done with being pregnant. Probably forever. My body will never grow a little being inside of it again. Do I really want to end this season of life with a bunch of negativity? I want to celebrate this, I really do. My body is amazing! But ugh, it gets hard.

How do I handle the seasons of my life? How do I deal with the fact that this is ending and that makes me indescribably sad? The door on this chapter is closing. But at the same time it is hard (physically) to be so pregnant and so heavy and so uncomfortable in my own body. I am done with the backaches and the shooting pains and the constant commentary of strangers. I look at Jake and I long to be able to decide when and when not to disclose personal details about my life. Like when I'm going have another baby and how many I already have and how I feel in my uterus area and how dilated my cervix is. (Actually, no one has asked that yet, but God help them on the day they ever do....)

I have this theory that God made pregnancy really difficult at the end so that you would embrace the opportunity of childbirth, rather than fear it. It was a pretty clever trick. And it's working.

If you consider the metaphor of seasons, that makes sense too. Summer gets so damn hot. At some point you're like, listen, I can do without the suntan and the bikinis and all that. Give me some colorful leaves, big scarves, and pumpkin patches and let's move on already!

It's a natural progression. It certainly helps that at the end of this season, I get to start a new one with a beautiful baby boy. I get to start a mother-son relationship that will never end. And I get to go to the gym and really work out again and kind of get my body back. Forever.

Not that I'm looking too shabby as it is...

image.jpg

(you get that it's a joke, right?)

(cause I'm huge...but also sexy as hell)

Hmv's Guide to Fielding Dumb Questions

It's time for something light.

Lately, I've been getting lots of questions, many of them dumb questions. Now you might say to yourself, HEY there's no such thing as a dumb qu--- stop. Yes there is.

So I'm taking a break from serious matters to bring you this little public service announcement. Feel free to start applying it to your real life right away.

Question 1: When are you due?!

Answer: Don't ask this. At least, don't just come straight out of the gate with this one. You don't know me. I may not even be pregnant!

Ok, ok, I'm definitely pregnant. But still, be cautious here. You never know. Consider asking me about things in a different way:

"You looks splendid! How are you feeling?" <-- this question gives nothing away, and it has the added benefit of actually being a compliment

"You look great!" <-- how about that? It's not even a question! Now I can talk about it or not talk about it and there's no pressure. Sidenote: Don't keep pressing on if I just say "thanks" and move along.

"How's things?" <-- brevity is next to Godliness ... or some such thing

Question 2: Do you want a boy or a girl?

Answer: Yes.

I don't have a preference. And if I did, I don't think I would tell you, barista lady I hardly know. Or coworker that I know very well and will see every day until this baby is born. A person who will be wondering the whole time, will she really love that baby when she actually wanted the other gender?

Nope. We aren't going there. NEXT!

Question 3: Oh, it's a BOY, is Jake so excited?

Answer: Umm...yes? I mean, we are both excited. Do you mean to suggest that I am NOT as excited as Jake is? Or that Jake was waiting in anticipation, holding out on excitement until we got one of his kind? Now he's like, Heck yeah! I got a boy! So much for this pesky girl child. See you later, sweetie, I'm off to buy my boy some monster trucks!

Or do people say the reverse of this to women too? Because I don't remember anyone asking "Oh it's a girl, is Hannah so excited?" when O was born. Because that would be weird.

Question 4: Are you ready??

Answer: No. Oh shit ... what am I doing? What have I DONE?!!

Question 5: Look at you! I bet you are just like, SO done with this, huh?

Answer: The actual literal answer I gave to this comment was, "What? No! I'm only half way there. I'm fine." I've heard this one before, but never so soon.

And what the hell do you mean, look at me?? Look at what? My gigantic belly? I've got news for you toots, it gets bigger. It gets a LOT bigger. And then when you don't think it can get any bigger, it gets just a little bigger and then you push a 10lb baby out of your hoo ha. So deal with that. (She doesn't have kids...I definitely should have actually said this to her.)

Plus, PLUS, no matter when you are asking this question, the answer will always literally be No. No, I am not done yet because if I were there would be a baby in my arms instead of this enormous belly ball. Did you notice that?

Just let me enjoy the pregnancy too. Just leave room for the possibility that although I look uncomfortable to YOU, I may be feeling great inside. I'm growing a person in here. And that is pretty rad.

Boy or girl?

boots

Tomorrow we find out the answer to an epic question... are we having a boy or a girl? I have this very strange fear that I will be sad or disappointed when I hear the news. I'm not consciously worried about having a girl or having a boy, so I'm not sure where these feelings are coming from. But in an effort to alleviate my concerns, I have decided to make two lists:

 

Great things about having a BOY:

  1. I get to have a "son." That would be fun to say.
  2. We can raise one of each gender. This would be helpful for science experiments, proving and disproving stereotypes, and finally answering the question "nature or nurture?" What makes boys and girls different? (It will be such a relief when we finally figure this out.)
  3. BLUE CLOTHES. So many blue items of clothing we have been missing out on. Starting with boy pajamas (the best!).
  4. Boys seem less costly over time. They don't seem too obsessed with fancy clothes or jewelery or princess dresses. Or prom dresses! But wait then they are supposed to pay for dinner and all that...hmmm.
  5. It's really hard to picture what our boy would look like. Blonde maybe? It's fun to imagine.
  6. Jake and I only have sisters. So raising a boy would be like a wild new frontier for us. (But just so we're clear...it wouldn't be THAT different. See #5 to the right)

 

Great things about having a GIRL:

  1. Olivia gets to have a sister. How special is that?
  2. Olivia's dream of becoming ever more like the characters from Frozen comes true. (But which sister will be Elsa, the one with the power to freeze your heart and make you dead??)
  3. HAND-ME-DOWNS GALORE! We have boxes and boxes of adorable things that Olivia only got to wear a few times.
  4. Girl seems like the more cost-effective option. Did I mention that hand-me-downs are FREE?
  5. Girl is marginally more familiar than boy. I hesitate to even say this though. O is a girl, but it's not as though she is exhibiting uniquely female characteristics right now. She likes painting and playgrounds and singing and fruit. She dislikes bathtime and food she hasn't tried yet. We can navigate these things pretty well, but it has done nothing to prepare us for "raising a girl" necessarily.
  6. We already know what one daughter looks like. The other one will inevitably look different. But how??!

Well, in a strange way this makes me feel a little more reassured. Whichever variety we are blessed with, it will be a blessing. And learning the gender of this baby is just one tiny step in the journey toward learning who this little human is. A tiny one. But one of the only things we get to learn at this stage, so I plan to just run with it. I'm excited. (!!!)

Here we go again...

There is a famous story in my family that goes like this: When I was 2 1/2, my sister, Amy Lou, was born. They brought her home from hospital, and my mom's best friend/my godmother, Mary, asked me, "Hannah, what did you get from the hospital?!" I answered, after a moment of hesitation --perhaps because I just needed time to process this weighted question, and perhaps because it just the moment of hesitation I needed for mischief to seep in--

"Gum," I said.  "I got a stick of gum!"

Then everyone laughs.

This was Amy Lou's actual face when she heard this story.

Despite my early reservations about being a big sister, I came around. Amy Lou and I have a great relationship now (30 years later, we did it!).

And I have a great relationship with the other one in that picture...she came along 4 years after Amy Lou in a blaze of scream-crying glory.  I have always said that Maren was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and that is a true truth, but she was also a very VOCAL one.

Anyways, the point is, having sisters is great. It is absolutely one of the most enriching, rewarding relationship of my life, it's wonderful. In the long run. In the short run it is new and different and therefore terrifying. From the parent's perspective, I think it is the scariest, bravest thing you can do. Having another child literally doubles your work. Some say it is more than double. But those people are very mean and should keep comments like that to themselves, or surely we will never repopulate the Earth.

So basically, that is how I feel about having a second child: it is the most wonderful thing ... it is the scariest thing.

But here we go... we're doing it! And I have some concerns.

I worry a little about Olivia taking on the role of the big sister. I worry about the little fights they will get into, the times that O will be jealous of the baby's attention, the days when O will wish she had her mom and dad all to herself again. Although I don't worry about these things too much for some reason. I don't think she will treat her little sibling like a discarded piece of gum. She has more love in her heart than that (not sure where she got it from). She talks about babies a LOT, and she loves to help take care of them at daycare. She talks about her sister too (she thinks we are having a girl, she is pretty insistent on that). She talks about where her sister will sit on the couch, which toys she will play with, how she will take a bath in the same tub as Olivia does. And I hear stories from my friends about how sweet it is to see their kids' sibling relationship blossom, and all of this makes me really excited. It sounds absolutely wonderful and adorable and heartwarming. Almost enough to make me throw myself into this adventure with total carefree excitement.

But not quite.

When we first found out that we were pregnant again, I think we had two simultaneous emotions: the first one was total excitement of course. There was never a doubt that we wanted to have two children, but we never assumed it would just happen.  So we were very grateful that we were able to get pregnant again, and so quickly too. But our second emotion was fear...fear of the unknown.

I don't know how we are going to do it all. I don't know how anyone does it all. We barely get out the door before 8am as it is right now. We are constantly a few chores behind. Our house is always almost-clean. But never all the way clean. Never ever. Call me crazy, but I don't think that adding another child to the house is going to move us into the totally tidy category.

I really like my job, and there is no chance of giving that up, but I will have to return to work sooner than I did the last time around. With Olivia, I stayed home for over 6 months. This time it will be about 3 months off, and then a quick transition from part-time to full-time work. Will that be enough time for me and the baby? Will we be able to establish a strong breastfeeding relationship and carry that on as long as we would like?

And that is just the unknown.  What about all the things we DO know this time? Newborns are SO hard. They eat, they cry, they sleep (from time to time), they poop and then they cry because they just pooped and how could you not KNOW that and also they are HUNGRY now! On this topic I have found that it is best to not focus on what you know. Just focus on the enduring hope that this child will be different than the first one and they will be an easy baby because they love you and they know that you need this.

Lastly, I have this one other little itty bitty fear. Postpartum depression. Women who have had PPD have a 50% chance of experiencing it again in later pregnancies (for all women the odds are 20%). So while I am not "doomed" by any means, it still hits me in the gut big time. It is hard to deal with this reality. I don't know just want to do with it, but I am trying to prepare for the possibility. 

...More on that topic later. Suffice it to say, it is one of the fears that I keep in my little bag of fears. 

One of goals during this pregnancy is to be open and honest and nonjudgmental about my feelings. Every single person I have spoken to who is expecting a second child has expressed pure and total joy. Including me, at least at first. It is really the only acceptable thing to say. "We are thrilled!" "So excited to be having a sibling...our family is growing!" "Of course it was planned!!" 

Haha...it actually was totally planned in our case, but you know. That doesn't mean you've thought it all through!

So now I try and tell people that yes, we are excited, thrilled, eager to start this new chapter and meet this new little guy. And we are also a little terrified. We don't know what we are getting into. We feel in over our heads sometimes. But other times we don't. Other times we listen to Olivia explaining which toys she will give to the baby to play with, and our hearts melt. My hormones go into maternal bliss overdrive and I feel a sense of calm. This will all turn out OK somehow. I know some of those friends were actually totally scared too (they told me later when it was safe). And they are all doing pretty darn good now. Their hearts grew big enough to accommodate the love for both kids. Even when they run out of sleep, or energy, or money at the end of the month, they never run out of love.

And neither will I. 

18 weeks and oh we have a belly!

Backyard fun - this girl loves the sprinkler, and I love watching her


My friend and fellow blogger from And Then They..., suggested that I should follow up this post with another after the baby is here, when I can really see how it is having two little ones.  She wrote an excellent post on that very thing, which I love.

My birth story

My birth story has been hard to write.  The experience of giving birth was many things I expected -joyous, exciting, intense- and many things I did not -emotionally draining and even traumatic.  Many people told me that you cannot predict what your birth will be like and to expect some changes in the plan.  But that kind of advice doesn't really help prepare you, and I guess that's the point.

As many of you know, I prepared for a birth without medication using a technique of self-hypnosis.  We took an intensive birth preparation class called HypnoBabies, which I really liked.  Essentially, the class teaches you how to use deep relaxation, similar to meditation, to "turn off" your body when you need to and to focus on relaxing through the contractions.  Many women who used this technique said that they had pain-free births, and on average, women have shorter labors and fewer complications.  It was also a really nice way to prepare for birth because Jake and I would do practice exercises together that help you let go of fear and just relax.  Can't complain about that.  The actual reality of the birth experience was a little different.  But we'll get to that.

Ultimately, I wanted a healthy birth without interventions so that baby and I would be as safe and healthy as possible.  I think it's a common misconception that women who want a natural birth are martyring themselves for some heroic purpose.  I'm not anti-drugs; I love Advil and I've never gotten a prescription that I didn't fill immediately.  But I researched all-things birth for a long time and decided that the best thing I could do for me and the baby would be to use what nature gave me and avoid interventions.  Epidurals and pain meds are not 100% safe for mom or baby, they often lead to more and more interventions, and I have a close friend who recently endured one of the worse epidural-related complications...so I was motivated.  

But on to the story.  Stories are better with pictures, so here we go...

My sister Amy Lou getting my birth hair ready.

My sister Amy Lou getting my birth hair ready.

My water broke at 8am on Wednesday, August 10th.  I had an appointment that morning at 8:30am at the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center.  I'd been getting all my prenatal care there, and I highly recommend it.

Unfortunately, when I looked down to see that water was spilling out of me, I also saw that it was not clear.  I yelled to Jake in the kitchen, "I think my water just broke."  He came in and was a little confused too - to be honest, it kind of looked like I was just losing control of my bladder.  But I wasn't.  The discoloration was due to meconium in the water, which is the baby's first poo and is supposed to happen after they're born (ick).  It can be a sign of fetal distress ... or it can just happen because you are 6 days overdue (my situation).  

The Ladies M-V, at my side!

The Ladies M-V, at my side!

I told Jake to be ready for bad news, and we rushed to the Birth Center.  I called my mom and sister, Amy Lou, on the way.  Amy had been visiting for almost a week, waiting for baby to come.  I asked, "Is there any way you can delay your flight?  My water just broke."  Luckily, she was able to fly out later that night, so she and Mom headed over too.  My sister Maren had visited too but had to go home because she had final exams that week.  We were so sure that Baby O would be early or on time... but no!

So we went to the Birth Center, and Michelle the midwife confirmed what I suspected.  Because of the meconium I was considered "at risk," and we would have to give birth at the hospital instead of the Birth Center.  I would have to be on continuous fetal monitoring to watch her heartbeat, and if it dipped we might have to do a C-section.

Jake, having a tough time adjusting to the plush surroundings of Riverbend Hospital

We went home for about 10 minutes to grab our things and get over to the hospital (which is only about 10 minutes away).  Jake ran around the house like a mad man.  We had a bag packed but still needed to add several things.  I had thought we'd have time to do that while I labored at home for some time.  Nope! 

I did not really start "active labor" on my own.  I had these super wimpy contractions that really just made my belly hard and were barely noticeable. Pauline the midwife let me wait until about 1pm, and then she said I would need to get on Pitocin, the synthetic hormone that makes contractions and dilation happen.  I was not excited for this. Pitocin can make contractions much more intense, and of course it's a drug, which I wanted to avoid.

Waiting waiting...

Waiting waiting...

I had a big lunch at noon, which would be the last meal I would eat until breakfast the following day.  Pitocin can make you ill, so it was just juice and crackers after that.  And some tater tots that my awesome friend Missy brought to me.  In her purse. Haha take that, hospital rules!

I got hooked up with the Pitocin, and we were off.  The contractions became much more noticeable, but still manageable with our hypnosis techniques.

When we told the nurses that we were using HypnoBabies for a natural birth, they put this sign on the door to tell visitors that they needed to check with them before entering.&nbsp; Very nice.

When we told the nurses that we were using HypnoBabies for a natural birth, they put this sign on the door to tell visitors that they needed to check with them before entering.  Very nice.

Pitocin is administered by IV starting at level "2" and increasing to level 4, 6, and so on.  I asked them to increase the Pitocin slowly because I wanted to give my body time to kick in on its own.  We moved up to level 4 after an hour or two.  Still manageable. 

Our nurse Judy was very impressed with us.  She told me to remember that my body is capable of much more than we can imagine and to hang in there.  Our next nurse, Evelyn, was not a natural birth believer.  When we told her about our plan she said, "Ok.....and you do know that there are other options, right?"  Ummm, what?!  Do you mean, have we heard of pain medication?  Yes.  Now please leave.  Evelyn quickly bumped me up to level 6 without asking or telling me.  Not cool.  The contractions got pretty intense, and I asked for the midwife (Hilary) to come back.  She had a little word with Evelyn.

Well, Evelyn turned out to be correct after all.  The Pitocin went back up to 6, and we were off again.  Each time it would increase I would feel it about 1-2 contractions later.  The feelings were about the same: an intense pulsating in my abdomen and pain throughout my pelvis - but it would become more intense.  Jake was with me, coaching me along, and using our self-hypnosis cues.  We also had iPod tracks to listen to, and he put those on a couple times.  At one point my mom took over for Jake.  She did something that really helped.  She gave me something to visualize during the contractions.  We visualized my grandmother, Lois, and my aunt and uncle's house in Tacoma where we always gather at Christmas.  This took my mind off the pain and kind of transported me to another place.

I had no real sense of time.  The hours passed quickly, but the contractions felt like an eternity.  I was stuck at 5 centimeters for 5 or 6 hours with no progression.  Around this time I had an important realization.  If I was going to get anywhere, we had to increase the Pitocin, and we had to do it steadily.  I told this to Jake, and he agreed.  He was just waiting for me to be ready for that.  As much as I wanted to trust my body and let the process happen organically, I also needed to trust my mind.  I could see that my body was not progressing without the help of this synthetic hormone.  I could be sad about that, or I could gather my courage and embrace the situation.

Gathering my courage

Gathering my courage

Hilary and Evelyn bumped the Pitocin up to level 7 for a while, and then quickly up to 8.  This was around 5-7pm.  My sister had been with us up to this point, but she had to catch a flight.  I remember seeing a kind of fear in her eyes as she got ready to go.  She looked like she was saying 'I'm proud of you, but I'm worried for you, and I feel bad that I have to leave.'  I told her it was ok, and it really was.  I was approaching a point where I could not think of anything other than what I was doing.

My dad arrived a few hours after Amy Lou had gone.  He came into the room and sat by me.  We did not say anything for a long time.  He just sat with me and held my hand and leaned in close.  It makes me emotional to think about it now.  It was such a sweet moment.  I was so glad he had come, but I was so overwhelmed with pain.  He seemed to understand all of that just by being close to me. He was my dad right then, just my dad.

After a few more contractions, my mom and dad commented that they were so impressed that I was staying calm through each one.  I would lean back, close my eyes, and focus on my breathing.  Usually Jake would hold my hand too and talk to me or use our cues.  This was what we had practiced, but it was so much tougher than I ever could have imagined. "If I didn't do this, it would be worse," I tried to explain.  It would have been easy to lose it; I was on a fine line between control and hysteria.  Like being 2 inches under the water during a crazy thunderstorm.

As we got into the night hours, there were no more visitors to the room.  Krystle the nurse took over for Evelyn.  When Evelyn left, I squeezed her hand and thanked her - she had really come around since her earlier comments, and I could tell she was genuinely pulling for us.  She said, "We can do better than that," and gave me a big hug.

The amazing thing about having Krystle take over at that time was that Krystle had been our HypnoBabies class instructor, too.  How serendipitous can you get?  She jumped right in and took over for Jake for a while.

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Here we are, Krystle, me, and Jake pre-contraction

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...and here's the team during a contraction - Krystle is in her element. I look so hot right now. Jake is getting TIRED.

When they turned the Pitocin up to level 9, a change happened.  I was on the birth ball when it hit me.  I remember slamming my foot on the ground in shock.  (**I want to warn any pregnant readers at this point- skip ahead to the birth pictures!**)  I yelled out, "Its changed!  Something is different!"  I felt pain and intensity like never before.  I started to lose my grip and felt myself crossing into hysteria.  It was scary, to be perfectly honest.  And it got worse.

Jake and Krystle convinced me to get back into the tub, and I did eventually.  This must have been between 11 and midnight.  I was on the toilet first, and I had a desperate conversation with Jake about pain medicine.  I pleaded with Jake to ask Krystle to give me something for the pain.  I could barely see straight.  I can only imagine that the pain is similar to having a broken bone, but the bone is your pelvis, and it keeps breaking every 2-3 minutes for 30 seconds or more at a time. (If you are pregnant and still reading, seriously, skip this. It won't be this hard for you. I plan to write another post about what I would do differently for my next birth (yes, I plan to have more kids), and this is one of those parts I would do differently.)

It breaks my heart to think of what was going through Jake's head at this time.  His wife is in terrible pain, but just days ago she was confidently convinced that she wanted a natural birth.  We both knew about the risks of a medicated birth, and now we were so close.  Plus, Krystle told Jake that if I got pain meds now, it could likely slow down the progress we'd made.  Jake decided against the drugs.  He got me into the tub, and I started to manage a little better.

Another couple of hours passed in the tub (maybe less? It's hard to remember), and this was by far the toughest part of the labor for me.  It was the transition period.  Jake was exhausted, so was I.  He tried so hard to keep me going, to have me think of other places and events - anything to take my mind off of the pain.  But I could see the tears welling up in his eyes.  There is no perfect way to capture this moment in words.  I will just say that there was a tremendous amount of love in the room, just an enormous outpouring of determination and love.

Krystle checked my progress and took Jake out of the room to deliver the results.  She said I was close to 10 centimeters (fully dilated) and would be pushing at any moment.  As they spoke, I felt another contraction come along.  I began to chant a word (something I had started doing when I felt the contractions coming, it helped me stay focused and it was my way of letting Jake know that another one was coming) - the word was either "open" or "Olive" (Olivia had too many syllables at this point).  But this contraction was different; suddenly I wanted to PUSH!  YEEEEEESSSSSSSS!!!  Finally!

I yelled, "PUSHIIIIIIING!"  Jake rushed back in, "really?!"  "YES!"

I pushed a few more times in the tub, and Krystle said we'd better move to the bed.  Because I was hooked to an IV, and in very active labor, it took me some time to move around.  I got out, got toweled off, had another contraction in the bathroom, and then moved to the bed.  I laid on my side because it hurt to lie on my back.  No one told me I had to anything any differently, they all followed my lead; that was very nice.

"I am going to have this baby in 30 minutes," I thought to myself.  And you know what, I practically did.  About 30 or 40 minutes later, little miss Olivia swam into my outstretched arms.

You're HERE!

You're HERE!

Pushing a baby out is different than enduring contractions. Jake said that the color came back into my face, I looked focused and more present. Each push was simultaneously caused by an incredible surge of energy from somewhere within me and also causing a huge surge of energy, down and out. I immediately felt better too. With all this new found energy, I was so motivated to have this baby; I made a plan in my head.  I would wait until they told me she was crowning, and then I would push with all my might to get her head out - and I would get it out in 2 or 3 contractions.  I did this.  After big push #2, I asked, "Could the next one be it?"  Hilary said, "Yes. As soon as you're ready." 

The next contraction came and I puuuuuuuuuushed and puuuuuuuushed and I didn't stop even after the contraction ended.  Everyone was cheering me on.  "Push push PUSH, Hannah!"  The whole room was energized.  And then finally her head was out!  On the next two contractions her shoulders came out one at a time.  There was some tearing with the second shoulder, but I didn't feel it.  (Or at least, I didn't feel anything different than what was already going on down there.)

I reached down and grabbed my baby girl under the shoulders and pulled her slippery body all the way out.  Up onto my chest she went.  Jake was over the top excited.

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Jake cut the cord, tentatively - he said he didn't want to hurt her, even though he knew she couldn't feel it.

I pushed the placenta out with relatively no problem.  The nurses and Hilary had to push on my stomach to make sure everything was out (weird, I never really thought about this part of labor).  It was very painful, but I just kept looking into my perfect girl's eyes and that got me through.

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My mom, Grandma Lynnette, was there for the big push.

Olivia went to the breast right away, just like we hoped she would.  (Sometimes babies have difficulty with breastfeeding initially if the birth is heavily medicated.)  She nursed and looked up at me, and I looked at her.  It was incredibly sweet.  Jake was still elated.

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Daddy holds Olivia for the first time

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The fam charges in!

After Jake and I had some time with her, and the nurses had checked everything out (she was healthy!), Jake called to tell his family they could come in.  One second later the doorknob turned and in they came!  They were so excited to see her, they'd been waiting by the door.

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This was how we spent most of the next day

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We were taken to a recovery room after the birth, and we went straight to sleep (after some more time spent staring at our little miracle).  The next day was full of visitors, which was great!

Grandpa Ralph

Grandpa Ralph

Grandma Robin

Grandma Robin

Friends, Shane and Sarah

Friends, Shane and Sarah

My dad, Grandpa Gary

My dad, Grandpa Gary

Baby gifts!

Baby gifts!

Grandpa Denny and Grandma Lynnette, my mom

Grandpa Denny and Grandma Lynnette, my mom

My best gal, Missy

My best gal, Missy

"Uncle" Joe Joe

"Uncle" Joe Joe

We stayed one more night at the hospital, and left the following day.  I was so ready to go home.  I appreciated the help we got from the nurses, but I wanted to be comfortable in my own bed and couch, snuggled with my little girl.  I had lost a lot of blood, and it took a long time to heal. A LONG time. Jake stayed home with me for 2 weeks, and it was just great to have him there.  I couldn't have done it (any of this!) without him.

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Aunt Meggie picked some great clothes for Baby O after her first outfit was slightly puked on...and peed on

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Added bonus of a hospital birth: free food! (I ordered everything.)

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3 men and a baby

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A lady came in to take my picture for the website - I was so white from the blood loss, and this is 24 hours later!

Our little angel gets her hearing test

We're outta hereeee!

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Me and my girl

Was there ever a doubt that it was worth every hard-fought minute?  Look at this face.

Some of my favorite (pregnant) things

Pregnancy brings us many things: great joy, occasional bouts of crying for no reason.  Mostly a baby.  That's a biggie.  Here are a few of the simple joys I've encountered in the recent past:

1. Door-opening.  THANK you very much!  So glad you could be bothered to push this 15-pound door open a little longer, whilst I am carrying around a bowling ball in my shirt and perpetuating the human race.  You're all welcome!  (Just kidding, I really do appreciate it.)

2. The "aww aren't you . . . pregnant!" look.  Look at me.  Look at the baby bump.  Back at me.  Feign saying something.  Realize you've got nothing.  Close mouth, cock head to the side, bring chin to neck, and smile without showing teeth.  Awwww...

3. Hearing about the stuff that drives other pregnant women crazy.  Sure, I've got my own gripes, but other people's problems are so ... funny!  One lady on my podcast was complaining that, while at the Starbucks the other day, the barrista exclaimed "wow!  When are you DUE?!"  Well, this lady was like 13 1/2 months pregnant and, judging by the reaction, apparently as big as a bus.  What do you expect?!

Another lady complained when someone asked her what she might name the baby.  "Ugh!  Seriously?!  If I wanted you to ask that, I would have offered up the information myself!"  <-- her real reaction (*side note: I reserve the right to get pissy about this kind of mundane stuff later in pregnancy too.  Its only funny when it happens to other people.)

4. That long dark line that develops along the bottom side of the belly.  I don't have it.  Finally something good comes from being insanely pale-skinned!

5.  Emotional outbursts that don't make any sense.  Well, sometimes they make *some* sense.  Like when I see a baby and I tear up.  Or if I'm so hungry I turn into a fussy child.  But one time I was taking this new class at the gym - it basically entails hitting large exercise balls with drum sticks to music.  The song "Its Raining Men" came on, and I was having so much fun drumming away and jumping around and singing along, I almost started to cry.  Out of happiness. That's some weird hormones.

6. Water aerobics.  I love the weightlessness, the easy exercise...but mostly the nonstop belly love from the older ladies.  I feel like a celebrity in there!  Tonight I turned around in the locker room to this series of awesome comments, "oh cute suit!" "oh look at you, you are ALL baby!" "so cute!" "you are absolutely adorable" "glowing!!" "when are you DUE?!"
 

What's gender got to do with it?

Boy or girl - doesn't matter, right?  Right!  And wrong.  The gender of a baby matters in ways that have nothing to do with value judgments or personal preference.  One of the most common things people ask me whether I would prefer a boy or a girl.  I suppose there are some people that freely answer this question one way or the other, but not me.  I can't.  And I won't, even if I could.

There was a time when I knew that I wanted a girl.  Three girls, actually.  Hope, Faith, and ... Love? Peace?  EarthMoonSunshine?  I forget.  This was yeeeears ago...circa 5th grade.  Circa Jennifer Love Hewitt, Party of Five, and apparently some kind of hippie influence.  Now I can honestly say that I don't have a "preference."  I have fears.  And concerns.  And I also dream about the fun little things that come with raising a boy or a girl.

The fact is, having a boy or girl does not matter to ME, but it does matter.  I studied gender long enough to know that boys and girls grow up differently and probably have some innate differences as well.  By the time children are 8-10 months old they have started developing a gender identity.  They learn that they are male or female in the same way they learn that the sky is blue.  From the moment they are born, in fact probably before that, we start to treat them differently.  Boys are more likely to be complemented for being "smart," "strong," or doing a good job.  Girls are more likely to get compliments about their looks- their cute shoes, pretty hair, or sweet smile.  (Here is a great blog about this very conundrum.) 

I've heard parents say that they tried to raise their kids "gender neutral," but each time it became impossible.  That makes sense to me.  Studies have shown that boys and girls tend to be naturally attracted to more "male" or "female" activities, toys, and behaviors.  Not true in every case, of course, just tendencies.  And we can't necessarily control that.  We can't control the messages kids get from other adults and kids.  And then we have our own limitations.  I have probably complimented little girls' clothing and hair 1.8 million times without thinking anything of it.  We do these things!  We all live in a gendered world.

And I know the world will not be a fair and balanced place for my children.  These fears go beyond gender too.  Chances are we not resolve sexism, homophobia, poverty, and the hundreds of our other social blemishes before my kids are grown.  But this doesn't make me "wish" for a boy any more than a girl.  It's not like that.

There is a fascinating and wonderful scene in the movie, The Family Stone, that my family watches every Christmas.  Sarah Jessica Parker's character tries to make a point about how it's a tough world out there, and even tougher if you are gay, and so doesn't every parent hope for a "normal" child?  Diane Keaton is the mother of the five Stone children, one of whom is gay.  She and the father, Craig T. Nelson, have such a fantastic response.  They remind me of my parents and of Jake's.

This video should start at the 3:15 mark - if you want to see the whole train wreck from the top, go to YouTube. I love this movie!


I think that all any parent hopes for is that their child will have the courage he or she will need to face life's inevitable unfairness.  I hope that I will find the way to pass that on to my kids.  Whether they are boy, girl, alien or superhero.