My Mother: The Labor Goddess

Yesterday, in a quest to learn as much as I could about what I should expect when I go into labor, I met up with my mom to ask her about her three births. Inspired by the book I plowed through this week, Labor Day, I knew the details I wanted from her. 
- How close to your due dates were you when you went into labor?
Exactly on my due dates, maybe a day before? (I was born at 12:33am the day I was due)

- Did labor come naturally or were you induced?
Naturally. Water broke at home after Mexican food and a hot bath (with pregnancy #1, me)
Naturally. I started getting contractions at home which quickly progressed to less than 4 mins a part. I rushed to the hospital with your grandparents and they broke my water which really sped up the contractions (with pregnancy #2, my brother)
Induced. They convinced me to schedule your sister’s birth around the Thanksgiving holiday which sounded like a great idea. To this day, I feel like it was a mistake to be induced— that she just wasn’t ready yet (with pregnancy #3, my sister)
- How long was each phase of labor?
Early labor: 1-2 hours, Active labor: 1-2 hours, Pushing: 10 minutes! (worth noting that with each of my mom’s births, she progressed SO QUICKLY that none of the nursing staff nor doctor were present at the time she needed to start pushing. She basically went from 0-10 cm in 4-6 hours shocking everyone in the hospital (this is how it was for all 3 births, with exception of my sister’s induction which included an unsuccessful 12 hours of Pitocin drip— but then once it finally took, progressed quickly)
- Did you use any pain medication?
No. I don’t even think it crossed my mind. (Here I asked if anyone even asked if she wanted an epidural— I mean, she had kids in the late 80s and early 90s!) I remember suffering through the pain of contractions silently which is probably why no one asked if I needed help, and also why they were surprised I was progressing as quickly as I was.
- What do you remember about the pain?
That it was bad but tolerable. A nurse told me to focus on one thing and to imagine my cervix opening with each contraction. Once I had the mental image, things got much easier. The worst part was when I was crowning— it felt like I was on fire. (My mom had no idea that this was actually referred to now as “the ring of fire!” — and she never tore. Sorry if TMI, Mom!)
All in all, my mom is apparently a birthing wonder who should have had like 20 kids. Come to think of it, this is probably why her mother, my grandma did have literally a dozen children. These women practically popped out children during their lunch breaks.

I’ve read that much of your labor experience can be hereditary which makes a great deal of sense when it comes to specific complications (size of pelvis, threshold for pain, etc) which is why I wanted to know in the first place. But while listening to my mother’s miraculous stories,  with my eyeballs wide and jaw slacked, I knew I should temper my excitement. I am built nothing like my mother and grandmother (and aunts, who apparently had the same ease).   I take after the sturdy Serbian women on my dad’s side of the family more than the petite, Irish kin on my mother’s side. While that may sound like an even better position to be in, I can’t imagine a more perfect labor story than what these tiny Irish ladies are pedaling.

At any rate, hearing these stories has been enlightening. I can’t believe I knew so little about my mother’s birth stories. I’d never asked about the details of how I came into the world myself, aside from the bit about her having Mexican food first, which I’ve proudly recited over the years. It was incredible to hear her recount the details of possibly the most important days of her life, and as she talked I got the sense that no one else had ever asked for these stories either. It’s true that my generation is one of information overload. With the stories and books and blogs available to me and my pregnant cohort these days, it only seems fitting to find out about my own family’s stories.

I’m also taking away a lot of gratitude for becoming a new mother in 2014.  I so grateful to live in a time where births and child-rearing are “going back to basics” and have a focus on biology and nature. When I was born, hospital protocol was not to toss the baby onto the mother’s bare chest for “skin to skin” contact. It was to perform a battery of tests on a cold, sterile table first. There was no waiting to cut the umbilical cord until it stopped pulsing. Unless you had a home birth or went to a birthing center, people didn’t have much say in their labors nor births. A birth plan? What is that?

My mother claims that for her, labor and delivery was pure instinct. That she had never talked to anyone about what labor would be like, hadn’t read many books about what to expect, and really had no idea how easy she ended up having it. For her, ignorance was bliss. I hope that despite all of my knowledge (which yes, can be a burden!), I’m still able to enjoy even half the easy experience my mother and her mother did with child birth.

Time will tell… and don’t worry, so will I! Good, bad, ugly!

Current status: blogging from the couch with coffee in my new kaftan while Melbs snores and Nala sniffs the new baby things

Current status: blogging from the couch with coffee in my new kaftan while Melbs snores and Nala sniffs the new baby things

Not Labor Day

Labor Day: 30 True Labor Stories from Today's Best Female Writers

Labor Day: 30 True Labor Stories from Today’s Best Female Writers

Today is a pretty mellow day. I did some shopping this morning, am still reading this crack-book of labor stories, and finally, visited the OB. Dr. Duffy scheduled a vacation this week (bless her!) banking on this being the only week she wouldn’t have a patient going into labor. So, today I had a substitute, who was a little older, equally as awesome and cut right the the chase.

After the oh-so-uncomfortable pelvic exam (which is now just a regular part of the appointment), she let me know if I’d made any “progress” since last week. “Well,” she said, “You’re not going to have a baby this week.”

Not that I was expecting to have a baby this week! But her coming right out and saying it was upsetting! I liked to hope or maybe the possibility rather of having a baby this week! Couldn’t it still be possible? I mourned a moment and then quickly realized that I didn’t actually want to give birth this week anyway! I just don’t like people telling me I can’t do things!

I will start posting my progress here, though. Since I only have a couple weeks left and it’s all I’ve got! I am not yet dialed at all, but my cervix has moved forward, which is good. I am 60% effaced, and the baby’s head position is -2, confirming what I suspected earlier this week— that MM had dropped— lowering out of my ribcage and onto my pelvis. This is all very good and normal.


So, while it doesn’t look like we’ll have a Labor Day any time this week… I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, so many other stories to savor!

37 Week Update – Full Term

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We made it. Into our 37th week together, Mini Melbs is not just a viable baby but one that I am convinced is ready to join the outside world. Two of the women I’ve enjoyed sharing a pregnant Summer with have their babies on the outside now… and we are inevitably next. We’re ready.

Throughout this pregnancy, when people asked if I was excited to be a mother I always replied honestly: “I am equally excited and terrified” and assumed that I would continue feeling that way until the birth of my son had been completed. But I don’t. I just feel excitement now. And a little impatience. Yes, I want him to come in his own time and not until he is a fat little rolly-pollie but I selfishly want to see him/meet him right now.

Now that I’m full-term my doctor has given me the go-ahead on the many “pre labor” preparations I’ve been reading about. Drinking raspberry leaf tea, eating copious amounts of pineapple, and taking evening primrose oil capsules (orally and vaginally) — all with the goal of “ripening” my cervix and easing my labor once it does come, naturally. And I am on. it. Labor is all I think about. Need to bend down to grab a pencil? Allow me. I’ll use this as an opportunity to deep-squat, heels to buttock, just like they teach us in yoga to “open our hips” and shake the baby into place. A walk? Sure, I’ll go on another walk! Also helps to nudge that baby down!

Today I bought a book I’d been eyeing all week: Labor Day— True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. It’s phenomenal. My thirst for knowledge and variations on child birth cannot be quenched. Good, bad, ugly, I want your story! I am fascinated to know how long each stage took, which interventions were used, what the mother was doing before going into labor, and how she felt postpartum. No detail is too small and this book is my crack.

But don’t worry… I exaggerate my reality when I’m writing sometimes. I may only be half as crazy as I sound. In addition to obsessing over labor and delivery, I am still enjoying a highly productive and restful week. I’ve been massaged, dined with girl friends, indulged in some retail therapy, laundered heap-loads of baby clothes and husband clothes… I’ve prepared a freezer-full of crock-pot meals to enjoy once the baby comes, scripted our birth announcements, and am starting on my index-card sized “birth plan” for the hospital.

I’ve also practiced yoga a handful of times since I last updated, which has been wonderful for both mind and body. I can’t recommend prenatal yoga + massage more highly.

But onto the update, shall we?

What’s going on with MM this week?
He is the size of a watermelon and getting his first poop ready!
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What’s going on with Mama?
More of the same. Nesting, feeling really happy and in-love. I’ve been waking up early with Melbs to make him breakfast before work and really savoring each moment we have together. Energy is still up and as you can tell, I’ve been keeping busy.

Body Stuff
Nothing new to report.

Hot often! I sleep warm and usually wake up without blankets on me at all. I also take forever to cool down after walking or yoga. Life as a “big girl” I tell ya! ;) No major swelling, can still take my wedding ring on and off which is delightful. My sleep is actually better this week— only woke up in the middle of the night once this week, otherwise I’m down by 10 and up by 7.

Eating out a lot this week (by design!) but pretty healthily and within moderation. Still don’t have a huge appetite but I definitely don’t want to miss out on my last 3 weeks of eating for two either!

I’ve done a lot this week. In an effort to coax the baby into “dropping” I’ve been walking a ton— at least 2 miles a day, at yoga every other day this week, and have even managed a couple of my YouTube video work-outs (which I’d missed!). Today, at the gym a personal trainer congratulated me on my pregnancy and upon learning I was expecting a boy, laughed and told me not to worry about ever having to go to the gym again— that keeping up with a boy was going to run me ragged daily (in the best possible way). I was elated to hear this.

Baby Purchases
On a friend’s suggestion, I bought a handful of Newborn sized onesies. Apparently “size 0-3 months” is often too big for most newborns. I hadn’t even considered this. Thankfully, I had $100 giftcard to a fancy kids store and was able to splurge on some super-soft and adorable outfits to bring MM home in.

Looking Forward To
Meeting my son. I don’t want my optimism to jinx his arrival but I really feel like I’ll be meeting him soon! Lord help me if he’s not here by his due date!

The Breast Pump

Breastfeeding is something that I didn’t give much thought to before now. However, I am realizing that breastfeeding is almost as big of a job as taking care of a baby. Thankfully, I’m getting myself prepared!

I plan to breastfeed as long as I can, up to a year. In order to reasonably achieve this, I’ll need to pump so that Melbs can help me feed the baby, and eventually so that I can go back to work. Enter the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump! Knowing absolutely nothing about pumping, but banking on a complete reimbursement via my health insurance, I bought the most expensive mainstream contraption I could find.

When I opened the box and arranged all of the parts, I was completely overwhelmed and to be honest, a little horrified too. Which part is supposed to go on me? What are all these tubes? And rubber bands?! Thankfully, a friend of mine who has two boys of her own, and just so happens to be a lactation educator was eager to come see my new toys and help me figure this out.

Welp. It ain’t pretty:
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Yes, ladies and gentleman… this is what I have to look forward to. Apparently this is a HUGE improvement over the pumps that were available even just 3 years ago, when my friend had her first son so I won’t complain. In addition to learning how to use this beast, my gal pal answered a ton of other breastfeeding and postpartum questions I had— and even some that I didn’t know to ask!

All in all, I am feeling more ready to have this baby every day. Come on, MM! We are ready for you, and I promise not to be wearing this this when you arrive!

5 reasons I love being pregnant

I’m finally “the most pregnant person” in my yoga class. I remember being 14 and then 24 weeks sitting in this same class thinking to myself, I am barely pregnant compared to these people! I can’t believe I have so long to go. But now it’s my turn. I’ve gone to Yoga Tree twice this week and both times there was nobody further along than 28 weeks. I felt like a champion, like a sage.

At the start of each practice, the yoga instructor asks us to go around the room to introduce ourselves and say a little something about how our pregnancy is going. Last night I said,

“Hi, I’m Rachel… my baby is almost 37 weeks along and I am really going to miss being pregnant.”

The other women gasped, as they’ve done before when I’ve said this. Instinctually, they grabbed their hips as if to complain of the pain, or their lower backs to signal to me that noo! you mustn’t be enjoying this! Now, don’t get me wrong— I have aches and pains of my own. And you guys know all about my struggles and moments of doubt throughout this pregnancy… but the thing is, none of that stuff outweighs the JOY I’ve felt.

And I know I’m lucky. I’ve met some seriously wonderful, healthy, gorgeous women who’ve had miserable pregnancies; morning sickness that never ends, or complications galore. So trust me when I say I’m counting my blessings! I love being pregnant, I think I will miss being pregnant, and here are some reasons why.

  1. I feel beautiful
    I feel more like a woman than ever. Sure it’s been a tough adjustment to get BIGGER, but I’m not just getting fluffy— I’m round and curvaceous! I feel like a maternal goddess. I feel like my husband is still very much attracted to me, and albeit sometime inappropriate, strange men will tell me how beautiful I look as well. Most recently, while visiting my sister at college, her much older neighbor told me that “there is nothing more beautiful in this land than a woman carrying a child.” I tend to agree.
  2. I am less selfish
    I can’t say that I’m “selfless” but I am a lot less selfish. Before I knew I was carrying the most precious little person inside my body, I lived exclusively for myself. Sometimes lavishly so, sometimes dangerously so. Nowadays I don’t purchase anything with considering the baby’s needs, I don’t accelerate my vehicle just because I am late to something, and I don’t walk too close to the edge of a cliff no matter how much better the view will be. My wants are secondary.
  3. I feel more connected to my body
    After years of trying to deny my body of what it was meant to do (hello, awful puberty and natural weight gain over the years), I MARVEL at what my body is capable of. It’s just abso-freaking-amazing. Without any help from yours truly, my incredible body is not only making a human life, but also everything he will need to subsist once he arrives. My body is the most miraculous thing I’ve ever seen and I feel ashamed for ever forsaking her. I think our relationship will be much different from now on.
  4. I feel more connected to others
    I’ve always been somewhat of an introvert; happy to beat to my own drum and be alone for the most part —and there is nothing wrong with that! But what I have found during my pregnancy is that I yearn to be close to other people. I want to build a tribe, a support system perhaps? Not only am I going out of my way to meet new people and be more social with other mamas out there, but I catch myself “investing” more heavily in my existing friendships and familial relationships. I find comfort in my tribes and value healthy relationships more than ever.
  5. I am never lonely
    Corny as it sounds, I love carrying my baby boy around with me everywhere I go. He is never going to get easier to carry than he is now, in his compact little carrier right? ;) I can talk to him throughout the day, and he “talks” back— never letting me forget he’s there (often with a foot to the ribcage, but hey!). He’s my little buddy and we’ve definitely developed a bond. I know it will be even more amazing when I get to carry him in my arms and give him hugs whenever I want. But it will probably be different too, in that everyone can see and feel him. He won’t be “just mine” anymore. I’m sure I’ll adjust…! (Yep, still sorta selfish!)

[video] Baby of Mine – fetal movement

Some people have the stomach for this, others do not! So consider yourself warned: this is a video of MM moving around inside my belly when I played him a clip from the movie Dumbo. I am absolutely fascinated by this, but unsure if I’d want to watch someone elses’ alien belly, so no offense if you scroll right past this!

I just can’t wait for him to get out of there so I can hold him in my arms! So soon…

36 Week Update

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The final month of our pregnancy is here! We look like this (above), still feel great, and are thoroughly enjoying our time off! We’ve spent more time relaxing, enjoying friends, and visiting family in the last 6 days than we have in months. On to the 36 week update…!

What’s going on with Mini Melbs?
MM is the size of a honeydew melon— about 6 lbs and could be as long as 20″. That is a full-grown baby! His kidneys and liver are in tip-top shape and he is still just sleeping lots and getting as fat as possible for the rest of his stay. Lately, I feel like he is getting uncomfortable inside me. Forget my patience and comfort level— I sense that he is ready for a bigger abode. His head is still pointed downward, his back to my left, and his toesies are all-up-in my ribcage still. 

What’s going on with Mama? 
I’m good. I am so HAPPY these days without the stress of work or my commute. I didn’t know I would still be so mobile during these last four weeks of my pregnancy and it almost feels like cheating to have the time off. But (knock on wood) anything could still change so I’m just trying to maximize my time and channel my energy into productivity as long as I can. I’m still doing my 30-days of self indulgence, sneaking in something luxurious or just-for-me special each day. Not that I need an excuse to relax, but it will be neat to look back on these photo memories when I’m sitting up in the middle of the night with my newborn. Your mama lived well; she wants for nothing, I’ll tell him.

Body stuff
I am so ready to have my body back. My “my body” I mean my pre-pregnancy body which I know I probably won’t see again for a while, if ever. I need to start tempering my expectations and becoming okay with the idea that I’m not going to lose 40 pounds overnight. Yep— 40 pounds is what I will be trying to lose postpartum. It’s about what I expected… higher than average, but not alarming to my doctor (who still has not made mention of my weight, except for last week when I went down 2 lbs, go figure). I know breastfeeding will help, but I have no idea when I’m going to be up for exercising again! Within the last couple weeks I’ve noticed 2 new stretch marks on my right-hip which bummed me out because I thought at this point I was home-free! Oh well— could be worse! I’m lucky to have a blemish-free belly at this point.

  • My belly-button is still flat and weird looking
  • My ankles still aren’t swollen, really
  • Wedding ring is still on!

Nothing new to report. My 34 week heartburn has gone away almost completely. I don’t think the baby has dropped yet, but he must have moved down or out of the way for which I am grateful! My sleep is okay. Still going to bed around 9 most nights, up before 7 and waking up once or twice in between to pee which isn’t too bad.

My appetite is still a lot less than it has been over the past 6 months. Whereas I had always been somewhere between ravenous— ie, I might die of starvation if I spent the time to make anything that took longer than PB&J and “I could eat” before, now I’m in between “Oh, I should probably eat something” and “ugh, is it really time to eat again?” Don’t get me wrong, I still love food but it’s not something I need in the same way I felt earlier on. Right now I’m eating a lot of fruit: watermelon, nectarines, raspberries and a lot of tomato-based dinners thanks to our little garden :)

I had big plans to go to yoga this week! Good thing I didn’t pre-pay for any of the 3 prenatal classes on my list, because I was just too busy to make any of them! Without having to adhere to a work schedule, my exercise videos have fallen by the wayside as well. Before, I would have 20 minutes or 30 minutes before I had to head out the door, or in between meetings to do a quick work out and I’d play the video. But this week, I just haven’t been around the computer enough to care! I did do a nice 3mi walk around the lake on Tuesday, but that’s about it and I feel okay about it!

Baby Purchases
We’ve been getting deliveries all week long— random things from our registry: gDiaper Newborn Starter pack, nursing bras and tanks, changing pad. Still to come: breast pump and supplied, and baby monitor.

Looking Forward To
This week I have day trips planned to visit with my dad (who I haven’t see since Christmas somehow!), and my little sister who is feeling homesick in a new city, adjusting to college life. I’m also going to visit with a couple of friends I haven’t caught up with in quite some time. This week will be another busy/happy/productive one! 

Oh, and here is the “after” pic of our front yard. HUGE improvement with these birch trees for privacy. The small plants in front are spray roses, which will fill-in very nicely this Winter. :)

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