Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Leilah's Birth Story

I was beginning to lose faith that my body would really be able to go into labor naturally, on it's own. I had read so many positive birth affirmations and quietly meditated prayers that this birth would be so different than my last. My son's birth four years ago was a sudden traumatic emergency C Section only four hours after they had broke my water to induce me at thirteen days overdue. He ended up being just fine and they couldn't figure out why his heart rate had dropped. It seems as though that type of birth was in the 1% of births, so the chances for a repeat emergency C Section seemed highly unlikely. Although all of my prenatal care this time around was done by the amazing midwives at Swedish Hospital, we did consult with an OB, Dr. Grabinski, who runs a statistical analysis of the success for a trial of labor after cesarian and her stats showed a successful VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarian) in the low 80% range, which she said was really great. Even when I was over a week over due, the chances were still in the high 60%- low 70% zone.

So, here I was at one week overdue with baby number two and starting to doubt my own body's abilities. The midwives stripped my membranes on Thursday, which got some contractions going (the first for this pregnancy), yet they were only about every seven to eight minutes apart and only twenty seconds long and were not painful at all. Those lasted on and off for the next two and a half days. I went to bed around 9pm on Sunday night and awoke around 11pm to some more painful contractions. I was getting hot flashes with these newer contractions and they were already about two and a half minutes apart and thirty seconds long or so. They say the rule of thumb for knowing when to go to the hospital is 5 to 1 to 1: Spaced out every five minutes, one minute long, and lasting around an hour or so. I figured I still had a while to go, but because the snow was already starting to pile up and it was expected to have quite the accumulation, we figured we better head across the bridge to the hospital right away.

I kept getting so hot with each contraction that I just threw on my flip flops and walked through the snow to the car. I had a couple contractions in the car, but they were still manageable. I'm just glad that the hubster was driving! When we checked in to OB Triage, I was already dilated around 5cm! That was really exciting news! I couldn't believe I was practically half way there already! I got a little too excited with the news becoming more and more convinced that this birth would for sure be quick like my mothers (four hours with me and ten minutes with my brother!). So, I was a little frustrated when I was still only 8.5 cm dilated after about four or five hours and the contractions were so insanely intense by then. I had started off with a really good squat sway that was helping ride out the contractions and then had moved to the bathtub. During my first labor I remember not getting much of a break between each contraction because my temperature kept going from super sauna hot to freezing shivering cold in between. This time was so much better as I didn't have as much temperature fluctuation and so I got decent rest in between contractions. By the time I got to the intensity of contractions around 4am or so, I was starting to curse and swear and cry at each contraction and I decided to just go for the epidural. I had thought I wanted a natural child birth, but I also just bottom line wanted a healthy baby, so it was definitely a line I was willing to cross. I am so glad that I did. That epidural was the bomb diggity! It was the best decision! I do not need a badge of honor for a natural child birth. I am totally A ok with that decision. No regrets. Compared to being totally under full anesthesia and not being able to even see my baby come out the first time around, this was no major loss. The best part was that the epidural worked beautifully on me and I still had a decent amount of ability to shift my legs and hips around and move a bit. The midwives seemed impressed that I wasn't really feeling contractions and yet I was still able to move myself up and down! Once I had the epidural, they told hubby and I we could take a nice long rest and sleep. Well, of course I couldn't sleep...I had way too much adrenaline for that and I was still debating between our top two names for our baby girl! It wasn't until just before the last pushes that I decided on my original name for her...the name I've had for a girl for years and years. I don't know why I was doubting myself!

Pushing was exhausting even with the epidural. It was really hard to know if I was squeezing in the right way in the right place. Pushing took over two hours. At one point I could tell that my hubby needed to get some food and coffee since I felt like we were making very minimal progress, so I sent him down to get some. I'm so glad that I did, since it was still probably another hour before baby came out! They let me look in a mirror at my progress, which honestly didn't really help me mentally only seemed like I had that much further to go. That's mostly because I didn't realize that once you reach a certain point on the baby's head, the rest of baby just slides right out! I was envisioning needing to push at several points on her body like the whole head and then the shoulders, but luckily once I got past the biggest part of her head, she just slid right out!

As she slid out, they immediately placed her on my chest for skin to skin, yet she was looking quite blue and wouldn't cry! Phil and I were already in tears that we had had a successful vbac! That my body did it! Then when she wasn't crying, we gave each other a look of pure fear, "Here we go again!" I just kept repeating..."cry! cry! cry!" It felt like at least a minute, but of course it was much less time than that. They took her off of me and brought her across the room to the warmer where she finally let out a big cry and gained color, draining the blue away. I know it's cliche, but that was probably one of the most important sounds in my life! The midwives brought her back to me not long after to begin feeding. Thanks to the epidural, getting the placenta out was no problem. They didn't even take her back to weigh her for a good hour. The bonding was so intense and euphoric.

The entire labor seemed almost mystical or magical since we were in one of the largest birthing suites with wall to wall windows and the snow kept falling. Big white flakes kept coming and coming. It was honestly so peaceful and a nice contrast to the pain of labor and delivery. I had an amazing team of midwives. I had my first midwife, Robin Reed, and her student midwife, Emelia for the bulk of the night along with a very nice nurse named Emily. Then before I started pushing, it was technically shift change time and Robin decided to stay, but midwife Melissa Rubin took over. The nurses also had a change and everyone was excited that we got the head nurse who regularly works nights, Amanda. The midwives were amazing and knew exactly the right tips and tricks. They massaged my hips in a way that helped relieve so much of the pain and pressure of contractions. They also do such a good job of cheer leading you on when needed.

After they moved us to a smaller postpartum suite, we met another slew of helpful and cheerful nurses. The team of nurses in OB Delivery at Swedish Hospital is seriously top notch. They are great guides, coaches, and of course medical professionals. Leilah and I continued to develop our breastfeeding journey, which was off to a great start. I ordered as much as I could (ok, not really, but it felt like it!) from the cafeteria and then settled in to napping, feeding, and nurses checking our vitals. Leilah had all the normal newborn tests and our family came to visit that first evening. Micah was so sweet meeting his little sister; so excited and kissed her head and fingers and toes over and over again. All three grandparents got a turn holding her and she was just so calm and sleepy and barely cried. By the next day she began to get a little more lung power, but still remained super calm and sleepy. All three of us left the hospital by 5pm on day two!

Vaginal recovery is no small task and no joke. I don't know what I was expecting, but apparently I expected to be totally fine in less than one week! Naive, I know!  After C Section recovery I figured it would feel way easier, yet with my memory of my first recovery pretty fuzzy, this time actually feels a bit harder! Thankfully, we've had our parents taking turns staying with us (mostly just to get Micah out the door to preschool!). Challenging recovery and all, I am just so proud and thankful towards my body. My body has redeemed itself. I finally know that it is capable of going into labor on its own and of giving birth without an operating room! The trauma of Micah's birth is behind us and we can finally move on. Leilah is here and she's healthy (at two weeks old she is already a whole pound heavier than birth weight!) and life is pretty cool as a family of four.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

#OptOutside Today and Every Day!

I've sort of become obsessed with getting outside and into nature. I think it's due to the realization of just how lucky we are to be so close to so many amazing trails and natural icons like Mt. Rainier, Mt. Baker, the Olympics, the North Cascades, the Puget Sound, etc. Maybe it is also knowing how cold winter is going to get and how life with a newborn is going to make getting outside more of a mental challenge. (Don't get me wrong...I totally understand it is doable and I completely plan on it, yet I do know it will take a lot more self convincing just to make that first step out the door!). So, when I saw REI's big push to #GetOutside for Black Friday, it made perfect sense.
We usually end up outside most of Black Friday anyways because we are usually at my cabin in the woods and no where near big box stores (nor would we even be interested in attempting hello #minimalistwannabes!). Yet, the idea of planning something even more intentional sounded like a fun challenge. So, I asked around for recommendations of great hikes that would be little kid and pregnant mama friendly and most responses came back with the Pinecrest Lake loop trail. As a kid I remember hiking the loop once or twice and looking down at my feet each time my dad lifted his cowboy hat and announced "Howdy" to every hiker passing by. On this occasion, luckily my dad did not have a cowboy hat on and he was far too occupied with throwing snowballs back and forth with his grandson to be busy with greeting every other hiker with more than just a friendly smile and quick "hello".
The loop trail is only a 3.7 mile loop, but I failed to mention that to the rest of my family and pregnant brain got the best of me, so we were a bit unprepared for the hike. We went right around lunch time with barely a snack and we all neglected to fill up our water bottles before leaving our B&B that morning. Unfortunately all the water fountains were turned off when we got to the start of our hike, so even though 3.7 miles isn't usually a lot, we were petering out of stamina and thirsty and super hungry by about 2.5 or 3 miles.

The trail had just enough snow leftover to keep our four year old totally entertained and distracted from how far he actually was hiking on his own and just enough that it wasn't too much for my 30 week pregnant belly to handle. The lake and the sierras were gorgeous even though the weather was pretty chilly and a bit gray, getting ready for a big snow storm to pass through.
When we finally made it back to the car, we jumped in and headed to lunch and water as soon as we could. Micah passed out and continued to sleep for the first half of lunch as he had hiked almost 3 miles on his own. There isn't much better than a child angelically sleeping on your lap, while filling up on yummy food and water in the warmth of a cozy bar and grill after a satisfying hike in the woods!
Here's hoping we get many more amazing hikes like this (while making sure to be a bit more prepared!) in the new year! Our family wishes you lots of adventure, fresh air, nature, health, and happiness for the coming year. Happy 2017!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Turkey Traditions

As my cousins once sang: "Funky carpet, turquoise oven, orange counter tops, & plenty of lovin." That's my family cabin! My great grandfather built it and my grandfather and others of that generation remodeled it to add an outhouse and larger living space. The ugly mushroom art and brown and tan striped curtains really help set the mood. That and the fact that there is no phone or tv or internet. I always feel so thankful for a good retreat to the woods and now I have the appreciation for a non mossy forest. The sad thing this year is that global warming has got the best of the majority of trees in our cabin's backyard (and the whole area) and the pine beetles have just decimated the trees. This year they were all still standing, but most are obviously dead. Next year will be so strange when they are all cut down. Still, the smell of fresh pine trees and fireplaces burning in the area along with fresh frigid mountain air hugged my heart and soul. To see Micah playing with his extended cousins just as I once did, running around the woods, venturing to the local playground, and sitting on the famous horsey tree is the best!

This year the older cousin kids hosted their third annual Kids Club Election to elect a president. It brought on a good lot of laughs from the adults in the crowd. I was impressed with their knowledge of our own US election and candidates, their ability to give persuasive speeches, the oldest's ability to mock a certain Mr. Trump, and the ability in their election for the kinder candidate to win! While the oldest was going to "build a wall" to seperate the adults and kids, the middle one wanted no such thing and even wanted to help unite the kids and the adults. The youngest candidate wanted to help save the endangered sharks, which was definitely a great tactic for a third party candidate. ;-) Their speeches and knowledge really opened my eyes to just how much I personally had stuck my head in the sand throughout the whole election season and really tried to maintain an ignorance is bliss attitude, which I am embarrassed to admit. After listening to their speeches, I quietly resolved to get a little more involved politically this year and moving forward to learn more about the major issues. 
This year we opted for a more quiet evening inside our B&B, reading by the fireplace and turning in for an early bedtime while our cousins headed out for the annual bowling night at the local casino!

Our amazing chef's Sarah, Doug, and Amy