The Best Baby Gear You Actually Need


Despite developing preeclampsia at 38 weeks, overall I was blessed to experience a relatively easy pregnancy, physically anyway.  Mentally it was a bit more difficult at times but I survived.  In any case, one of the more stressful/annoying things about pregnancy for me was trying to figure out what baby gear to buy.  I don’t know about y’all but the sheer amount of options for every thing known to man was just overwhelming to me.  Who knew there could be dozens of different options for something as (seemingly) simple as a bottle?  Or a pacifier?  Not to mention the more complex items like strollers & carseats!  I’m so thankful that my husband helped me narrow down our options with those bigger purchases because if it had been left totally to me I’m not sure we’d have ever gotten them.  Just kidding; I’d have eventually made a decision of course.  However, since baby gear was something about which I had zero previous knowledge my normally decisive self was left floundering a bit.  Thus having his support was very helpful.baby-gift-regsitry

Anyhow, I thought it might be useful/fun to share my picks for the best baby gear that you actually NEED & might want to put on your registry.  I also want to give a huge thank you to one of my dearest friends who helped me set up my registries.  I’d have been lost without her suggestions!

  • Carseat: Obviously you need a carseat.  You can’t even legally leave the hospital without one!  We chose the Chicco Keyfit 30 & have been very pleased with it.  My husband did the installation in our cars & he said it was very easy & straightforward.  Rachel apparently loves this carseat because she always falls asleep every time she’s in it for more than about 10 minutes.chicco-keyfit-30
  • Stroller: For our stroller we chose the Chicco Activ3 Jogging Stroller & again have been very pleased with it.  The Chicco Keyfit 30 carseat fits into it perfectly which is a huge plus.  This stroller has great suspension & can definitely be taken “off road.”  Again, I think Rachel must like it because she always falls asleep in it on our walks around the neighborhood.chicco-stroller
  • Burp rags: Doesn’t really matter what brand/style you buy; just be sure you have at least 4 or 5 of them.  I’ve found that keeping one in every major room of the house (nursery, master bedroom, & living room) & in the diaper bag is a huge help.  That way there is always one handy whenever I need it.
  • Baby carrier: At the recommendation of the aforementioned friend, I chose the Lille Baby 360 6-position carrier.  I’ll admit I didn’t use it much in the first few weeks because Rachel was a little small for it.  However, since she was about 3 weeks old this thing has been a lifesaver.  When she’s having a fussy spell, quite often strapping her in this thing is an almost instant fix.  (And because my hands are free I can move around & cook or do laundry or type a blog post or just about anything I need/want to do!)  This carrier adjusts easily to fit both me & my husband, & it has great lumbar support which will be even more important as Rachel gets bigger & bigger.  I’ve been using it to take her on walks around the neighborhood with Chaucer (our corgi).  She always falls asleep on our walks & it’s good exercise for me too.

    lillebaby

    Rachel is in there, I promise.

  • Bouncer: My mom bought me ours & it’s something that Rachel is starting to really enjoy now that she’s moving her arms around a lot & starting to explore the world a bit more.  I think she’s going to love it even more as she gets older.  The vibration feature is soothing also.  This isn’t the exact print we have but it’s the same seat.
  • Rock & Play: I am so incredibly grateful that just a few days before Rachel was born my mom told me that a coworker of hers swore by the Fisher Price Deluxe Rock & Play for helping her baby to sleep.  It has been a total lifesaver since Rachel has been not so fond of her Pack & Play for sleeping.  Plus with her reflux issues the rock & play is perfect for keeping her head elevated a bit.  I love that it’s portable so it can easily be carried from room to room throughout the day.  I’ve found that if I keep her in it right beside the bed, I can lie on my side & gently rock her to sleep.rock-and-play
  • Pacifiers: I never bought one before Rachel was born because I had this big idea that I wasn’t going to use one.  As it turns out Rachel was one of those babies who was basically born with her thumb in her mouth.  In fact she has her fingers in her mouth in the very first picture I have of me holding her not long after birth!  At first I was afraid to try one because of the whole “nipple confusion” issue, but once my lactation consultant told me she felt Rachel (& I) would benefit from one, I decided to go for it.  She recommended the Soothie brand.  I had mixed results with that one so I ended up buying a bunch of different brands at WalMart & experimenting until I found one that she really seems to like.  I can’t wait to get the MAM brand which I ordered on Amazon at the recommendation of several friends.  (The stores around here kept being sold out of those which is perhaps a sign that they really are good.)

    me-and-rachel

    This was the first picture taken of me & Rachel after birth.  If you look closely, you can see she already had her fingers in her mouth.

  • Diapers: While I was pregnant I had a vague idea that I might try cloth diapers for the sake of being more environmentally friendly.  I knew it was unlikely that I’d follow through with it but it was still something I hoped I’d do.  Once Rachel arrived & the reality of caring for a newborn set in, I realized this idea was nothing more than that, an idea.  I’ve found that I really like the Pampers diapers with the line that changes color when they’re wet.  Eventually I’d like to try to switch to biodegradable diapers but for right now I’m definitely going to use up all the Pampers & other ones we’ve been given.  As a new parent I’m learning you have to give yourself a lot of grace because you just can’t do everything, & this is definitely one of those things.pampers
  • Wipes: Following right along from the previous subject, obviously you will need plenty of wipes.  We’ve found that the giant packs of wipes that Sam’s Club sells are a good deal & work plenty well.  We don’t have a wipe warmer & while I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having one I also think it’s far from a necessity.  If someone gives you one or you aren’t working on a limited budget, go for it.  Otherwise I think it’s something you can safely skip.
  • Boppy: If you’re even just THINKING about breastfeeding, be sure to get a Boppy pillow.  These things are so genius.  I love mine so much that I ended up buying a second one (the first one was a gift) so I could have one for the nursery & one for the living room (or to take on trips out of the house).  Even if you don’t end up breastfeeding, the Boppy is still a great tool for tummy time & helping your baby learn to sit up.boppy
  • Diaper bag: I actually ended up with 2 diaper bags because I bought one myself & then received one as a gift.  I purchased this Skip Hop backpack diaper bag because I liked that it was a backpack & also pretty gender neutral.  It’s a little small but so far has been perfect.  If/when I need more room I’ll use the larger one my sister in law gave me.
  • Halo sleepsack: I’m so grateful that my aforementioned friend recommended these to me because they have been a lifesaver.  In the hospital Rachel was already a little ninja, breaking out of her swaddle constantly.  With this zip-up version of the sleepsack, you have the option to swaddle with arms in or arms out.  I’ve found that Rachel really likes to sleep with one arm in & one arm out.  No wonder she was breaking out of her swaddle in the hospital; she wanted to have one arm up!

    sleeping-rachel

    See?  She really does like to sleep with one arm in & one arm out.

  • Clothes: All I need to say about this subject is that you will almost certainly end up with way more baby clothes than you’ll ever need.  I know everyone says not to buy too many newborn outfits because babies outgrow them so fast, but I would recommend getting at least 3 or 4 newborn outfits (unless maybe your doctor/midwife has already told you to expect a very large baby) for the first few weeks/month.  I think I only bought one newborn outfit before Rachel was born & because she ended up being on the smaller side (6 lbs 12 oz & 18.5″ long) everything else was way too big for her, so we ended up using the same outfit over & over until we could get to WalMart to buy some new ones.rachel-penguins
  • Sound machine: I have always slept with a fan for as long as I can remember so when I was in the hospital I was thrilled to find that they had sound machines which made up for not having my fan for white noise.  I fell in love with the ocean waves option & was thrilled when a friend of mine from work bought me a sound machine with an ocean waves option.  I’ve found that sleeping with that & the fan makes for excellent white noise that both Rachel & I find soothing.  You can get perfectly adequate but inexpensive sound machines at WalMart but if you don’t feel like buying one there are plenty of free white noise apps you can download on your phone (try White Noise Baby).
  • Washcloths/hooded towels: As with burp rags it doesn’t really matter what kind you get.  Just be sure to have several of each.  duck-towel-rachel
  • Thermometer & bulb suction: Again, the brand/type doesn’t really matter for these items, as far as I’m concerned but they’re definitely items you’ll want to have around if/when your baby inevitably gets sick.
  • Breast pump: When it came to buying a breast pump, I was totally clueless so I did what any new millennial mom does & queried my Facebook friends asking for recommendations.  By far the most popular choice was the Medela In Style so I went with that one.  I ended up having to buy larger flanges because the standard size provided with the pump were a little small for me (thanks to my awesome lactation consultant from Emerald Doulas for recommending the larger flanges) but otherwise the pump has proved to be an excellent choice.  It’s easy to use & clean & very portable.  The bag is awesome too because you can carry it around without it being obvious what it is.medela-pump
  • Changing table/pad: I don’t have a link to the exact changing pad/table we have because I bought ours off of Craig’s List so I’m not sure of the exact brand/style. In any case I love that it’s basically a chest of drawers also because it has tons of storage space underneath the changing table part.  I’ve been able to store all of our diapers, baby bathing supplies, lots of blankets, etc in the cabinet areas.  Also considering how much time we spend changing diapers it’s nice to have a table that’s at an ergonomic height that is good for our backs.
  • Diaper genie: If you’re on a strict budget this is one you can definitely skip, but I was blessed to receive one as a gift & it’s certainly a nice thing to have.  Of course if you’re exclusively breastfeeding baby poop doesn’t even really stink (as I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover).  It’s still very useful though & I’m sure we’ll appreciate it even more once Rachel starts eating solid foods & having more stinky poops.

    newborn-19

    Photo credit: Megan Cash Photography

I’m sure I’ve skipped a few things, but if you’re a first time mom reading this I hope you’ve found this list helpful.  Happy baby shopping!

… I just realized that sounds like you’re shopping to buy a baby.  Let me rephrase that: happy baby gear shopping!

New Mom’s Guide to an Easy (uh, Easier) Labor & Delivery/Recovery


Because I feel like I had such a terrific labor & delivery experience as well as a remarkably easy recovery period (thus far anyway), today I’d like to share my tips for how other women can also achieve a satisfying & easy (ok, easier- it’s never going to be easy) labor & delivery & postpartum phase.  While I am a nurse I am certainly no expert on labor & delivery or postpartum care.  I am just a regular first time mom trying to survive each new day.  Interestingly enough I went into nursing thinking I wanted to do L&D because I had volunteered on an L&D unit as a teenager & thought it sounded fun & exciting.  However, once I got to OB clinical I realized I just wasn’t that interested in this area of nursing.  I found I liked old people better.  Who’d have guessed?  Anyway, as with most things in life I truly believe the key to having a satisfying birth & postpartum experience is setting yourself up for success . . . aka being as prepared as possible.  Here are my tips for how to make that happen.emerald-doulas

  1. Hire a doula: I remember learning about doulas in nursing school & thinking they sounded a bit “hocus pocus.”  I couldn’t fathom why I’d need/want to pay someone other than my husband or best friend to be my labor support person.  However, as my own pregnancy progressed & I started to realize how difficult labor might be, particularly with my goal of avoiding pain meds or an epidural, the thought of a doula suddenly sounded brilliant.  I remembered seeing a card for Emerald Doulas in the waiting room of my midwifery office, so I started Googling them.  Within minutes I knew I’d found the perfect group for me.  I was 34 weeks when I contacted the group & was thrilled to find they still had openings.  At 35 weeks my husband & I met with two of the doulas (Melanie & Chelsea) & reviewed our goals for our childbirth experience.  Immediately I knew we were in the perfect hands.  At 37 weeks they came to our house to further review our goals for birth.  I can’t say enough wonderful things about my husband & how he handled my L&D experience, especially toward the end when I was getting pretty hysterical & difficult to console.  He was absolutely perfect & my love for him has grown exponentially because of how wonderful he was during this experience.  However, I truly believe part of why he handled everything so well was having the doula there to provide support for him as well.  If he needed to step out for a drink/snack/bathroom break, he didn’t have to feel guilty that he was leaving me alone.  Nor did I have to worry about him becoming overwhelmed because I knew he had a support person too.  I’m so incredibly glad I took the advice of a friend & hired a doula.  Both my husband & I swear I wouldn’t have survived a natural, unmedicated birth without her (Chelsea turned out to be the doula on call that day).  Remember, no matter how much your mom/sister/best friend loves you they are not (normally) versed in coaching a woman through childbirth, so having an objective labor support expert is often a better choice because they are more likely to remain coherent & logical when you’re not so coherent & logical.  Also remember labor can be a long process so having a backup person to help your partner is worth its weight in gold.lactation-consultant
  2. Hire/find a lactation consultant: The nurses in the hospital were great but they simply didn’t have enough time to devote to each patient for really detailed breastfeeding teaching.  As a nurse myself, I totally understand this so I made plans in advance to meet with a lactation consultant (Victoria) from our doula group.  I ended up having to put this off a few days when Rachel was readmitted for bili light therapy, but I am so, so glad I didn’t cancel it altogether.  At the beginning of Victoria’s visit I told her I was mainly interested in pumping because I liked knowing exactly how many mL Rachel was getting with each feeding.  But I also told her that our pediatrician (who is also a lactation consultant!!) told us we no longer really needed to worry about that because we could tell by her weight, labs, & output (# of dirty/wet diapers) that she was getting enough milk.  Victoria encouraged me to focus more on actually feeding at the breast, at least for a few days, before relying mostly/solely on the pump.  With her help, we had the best breastfeeding session up till that time.  Victoria gave me a list of personalized suggestions & tips including buying a larger nipple shield & larger flanges for the pump.  The former of these turned out to be the perfect solution for us.  I‘ve now exclusively fed at the breast for three days & I couldn’t be happier with how it’s going.  Rachel has far less gas & hiccup issues & sleeps better between feedings (for the most part; cluster feedings ARE real but that’s true whether you’re pumping or not).  A few more helpful hints for breastfeeding are listed below:
    1. Target has great nursing bras, & they’re half the price of the ones at the mall.  The Gilligan O’Malley brand makes great ones.
    2. Get a Boppy pillow.  You will not regret it.  It makes nursing so much easier, especially since it frees up your hands.  Plus it has multiple uses outside of breastfeeding as the baby grows.
    3. Invest in some lanolin.

      7-months-pregnant-gym

      Here I was at the gym at 7 months pregnant.

  3. Stay in shape . . . Better yet, be in good shape before you’re even pregnant!  Seriously, I do not think I could have pushed through a natural labor (literally pushed!) if I weren’t in as good of shape as I am.  Trust me, I’m no supermodel, marathon runner, or Olympian, but no matter how hard it got I kept up some type of exercise throughout the entire pregnancy.  Honestly the hardest time to do that was the first trimester when the fatigue & nausea were overwhelming at times.  The last few weeks were pretty rough too, but I still forced myself to take the stairs as often as possible & to sneak in short workouts at the gym, even if all they consisted of was 10-15 minutes of free weights/machines & 5-10 minutes on the elliptical.  If nothing else, I tried to walk Chaucer (our corgi) around the community at least a few days a week.  I never counted that as exercise before I was pregnant but by the end of the pregnancy I definitely did.  There is so much research that shows that women who are in good physical shape before & during pregnancy have shorter, easier labors with fewer complications.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better reason to get my butt moving!ionized-water-pregnancy
  4. Drink lots of water, including during labor: This is one I definitely struggled with at times.  I was never a big water drinker before I was pregnant but I knew how important it was so I did my best to make it a priority.  During labor, if you can’t tolerate anything else, at least suck on some ice chips.  Whether or not you’re getting IV fluids your body needs as much hydration as it can get.  Plus your mouth will definitely be dry & a few ice chips or sips of water here & there can make a huge difference.

    nestle-popsicle

    The strawberry ones & the lime ones are especially delicious.

  5. Bring popsicles & other clear liquid (or solid) snacks to the hospital: My midwives are pretty relaxed so I didn’t have many restrictions on eating during labor.  However, once I was on the Pitocin I was only allowed clear liquids, which is pretty standard.  Prior to that I was eating saltines & Kind granola bars every few hours to keep up my energy.  Once the Pitocin was initiated I was so grateful that I had thought to bring popsicles with me.  Every hospital is different but many places won’t deny you snacks but won’t necessarily provide them either.  This is where bringing your own comes in handy.  Toward the end of pushing I was so exhausted & I’m so glad I had my husband & doula there spoon feeding me little bites of popsicle between pushes.ambulation-labor

6. Walk often, both during labor & afterward: I knew from the childbirth class I had taken as well as my own research that staying mobile during labor is a great way to both manage pain & help labor progress.  As it turned out whether I wanted to ambulate frequently or not I had to because I had to pee every 30 minutes to an hour!  As the contractions increased in intensity & frequency I found that lying in bed was the worst possible position.  Yes, I was tired so I wanted to lie down but it was actually the most uncomfortable position.  Plus I knew the more I was up the more likely labor would progress faster.  I was out of bed within two hours postpartum (to use the bathroom) & taking walks in the hall as soon as the next day.  Some of the nurses seemed surprised to see me up & moving around so much (I’ll admit I saw almost no other moms in the hall despite the unit being very full), but I knew the worst thing I could do for stiffness & pain was to lie in bed all day. senokot7. Take the stool softeners the hospital offers you: Ah, the dreaded first postpartum poop!  I had read so much about how horrible this experience would be.  At the risk of TMI, let me just say that if you drink plenty of water, get out of bed frequently, & take the stool softeners the hospital offers you, your chances of surviving this experience with minimal to no “trauma” are excellent.  I will say that only having required 2-3 stitches probably made this experience much easier for me than it is for some others.  Just remember, the longer you put if off, the worse it will be.ibuprofen8. Take ibuprofen regularly postpartum, even if your pain is only mild: One of the greatest things that has shocked me about the postpartum phase is how little pain I’ve had.  Considering the intense pain of labor, I was expecting MUCH worse.  Again I’m sure this is partly due to having a small(er) baby (6 lbs 12 oz) & only requiring a few stitches.  But I also think that taking the ibuprofen regularly, even when I didn’t really feel like I needed it, has helped immensely.  Remember, ibuprofen is an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) so it will help with the swelling which will in turn help with the pain. mirror9. Ask for/bring a mirror to help you during pushing: When you tour the birth center, make sure to inquire whether they provide mirrors.  If not, bring your own.  Our hospital provided a nice large mirror & I can’t tell you how helpful that was during pushing time.  I was so close to admitting defeat, but every time I looked down & saw Rachel’s little head I knew how close she was & that gave me the strength to keep going.childbirth-class10. Take a childbirth class: And don’t be afraid to take it early in the pregnancy.  The sooner you have a birth plan in mind the better.  If at all possible, make sure your partner accompanies you because you’ll be amazed at the things they might remember when you’re in the throes of labor & can’t remember anything at all.  If you’re in the RDU area, I highly recommend Birthing With Confidence by Anne Brand.  My husband & I were both extremely impressed with this class.  It will be particularly useful if you’re trying for an unmedicated birth because she focuses a lot on the psychological aspect of labor.breastfeeding-baby11. Take a breastfeeding class: Even if you’re planning to hire a lactation consultant, I still recommend taking a breastfeeding class if possible.  I took the one offered at the hospital where we delivered.  This definitely can’t replace one-on-one time with a lactation consultant but it’s still a great way to learn the basics before you’re faced with the real thing.flexible-quote12. Keep an open mind & remain flexible: This might be the most important one on this list.  From everything I read during pregnancy the biggest theme I found in regards to having a satisfying birth experience was to remain flexible no matter what happens.  So much of the time things do not go according to plan, & if we want to be able to move forward with a positive attitude we need to adapt accordingly.  I definitely wasn’t planning on having an induction at 38 weeks.  In fact throughout the entire pregnancy I said over & over again that I wanted to avoid Pitocin if at all possible because I feared it would be so painful that I’d have to give up on my dream of an unmedicated birth.  But of course I wasn’t planning on developing preeclampsia either!  So I rolled with the punches & when it came time for the Pitocin I kept an open mind.  As it turned out with the amazing support of my husband & doula I survived even the dreaded Pitocin without an epidural or any pain meds.  So I still got my wish of an unmedicated birth despite hitting a few speed bumps along the way.  The point is that I adjusted my expectations to fit the reality I was given & made the best of it.  Remember, there is no need to compare your L&D experience to anyone else’s.  Childbirth is not a competition.  Neither is motherhood.  Focus on your own situation & make the best of it.

My Birth Story


Baby Rachel is officially one week old today!  How is that possible?!  I hate to sound like the stereotypical new parent but it really is amazing how much she has changed in just one week.  Before I forget everything that happened one week ago, I want to share my birth story.  Hopefully it will be encouraging or at least interesting to other moms to be (or just folks in general).pregnancy-meme

My birth story started, in my mind anyway, on Thanksgiving night.  I worked that night & felt tired but decent.  However, once I got home from work in the morning (on Black Friday) I started vomiting & generally feeling terrible.  I just knew something wasn’t right.  I texted my doula asking for advice & she recommended I call the midwife on call.  I’m so glad I did because the midwife ended up asking me to come in to the hospital for a preeclampsia workup.  By the time we made it to the hospital I had been up for 16 hrs straight or something ridiculous like that, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until I knew what was happening to my body.  As it turned out my BP was mildly elevated in the 130s/80s which isn’t too remarkable but higher than my baseline for the rest of the pregnancy.  (At that point I was 37 weeks 4 days.)  My labs also showed a slightly elevated protein to creatinine ratio but the midwife wasn’t acutely concerned.  However, she instructed me to rest & to call the office first thing Monday morning so I could be seen that day instead of later in the week as previously scheduled.  She also asked me to keep track of my BP over the weekend if possible.

dinosaur-rachel

Rachel ready to go home from the hospital

I felt reasonably well over the weekend but when I checked my BP at home it was consistently around 140/90.  Granted this was me doing a manual BP on myself but I felt pretty confident my numbers were accurate, so first thing Monday morning I called for an appointment.  When I went to the office a few hours later my BP was 142/88 & I had proteins in my urine, which was new for me.  The midwife was hesitant to call it true preeclampsia yet but she did write me a note saying I could no longer work (that was supposed to be my last week of work anyway) & instructed me to come back for my regularly scheduled visit on Wednesday & to call any time with any symptoms or concerns.rachel-cheering

The next morning, which marked exactly 38 weeks, I checked my BP at home & got 150/100.  Naturally that was when I really started getting concerned.  I decided to go to the grocery store & try one of the automatic BP machines at the pharmacy.  That gave me a reading of 130s/80s but I just had a feeling it wasn’t very accurate.  When I got home I spoke to the midwife on call, who turned out to be the same one I’d seen the day before, & she instructed me to recheck my BP in 4 hrs & then call back.  However, after about an hour or so, she called me back & told me that after discussing my case with the doctor they felt the best plan was for me to come in to the hospital to be induced at 1:00 p.m.  Part of me was scared but mostly I knew in my heart that this was the right plan.

I called my doula & she cautioned me that an induction at 38 weeks might be difficult & prolonged, but she also stated she would support me no matter what.  The whole pregnancy I had been very committed to a natural birth, but I knew that with an induction I would almost certainly end up on Pitocin & that alone would greatly increase my “risk” of getting an epidural.  But with her & my husband’s support I was determined to make the best of the situation.  She encouraged me that she had survived not one or two but FOUR labors with Pitocin without an epidural or any pains meds.  I also kept reminding myself that my mom survived an induction with Pitocin (due to hypertension) without an epidural or any pain meds.  If they could do it, I figured I could too.  Furthermore, I kept reminding myself that an induction due to preeclampsia, with a rather sudden onset no less, was not part of my original birth plan & that from everything I’d read the best way to have a satisfying birth experience is to keep an open mind & remain flexible while still staying true to your goals as much as possible.  With that mindset I felt ready to go.

rachel-tigers

I swear she has so much personality already.

To make a long story short, the first afternoon/night in the hospital wasn’t very exciting.  In the end that was probably for the best because it allowed me to get some decent rest to prepare for the big day that was to come.  (My poor husband didn’t sleep a wink that night so I am eternally grateful to him for still managing to be the best labor support person ever despite his own exhaustion.)  On arrival to the hospital my BP was 150s/90s.  That was when I knew for sure we’d made the right decision in going forward with the induction.  Unfortunately it took three tries for the nurses to get an IV in me, but I couldn’t be upset about that because I could look at my own hands & see how swollen they were.  They also told me I had tough skin which I know from experience makes IV insertion much more challenging.  Once they got the IV in place, they sent off labs & the midwife came in to check my cervix.  To our great surprise I was already dilated 2 cm & 80% effaced.  This was encouraging because it increased my chances of a successful induction.  The midwife started me on Cytotec around 3:30 pm.  We ended up doing another dose around 7:30 p.m. & a third dose around 11:30 p.m.  (Cytotec helps “ripen” the cervix” & thus potentially start labor.)

rachel-penguins

After her sponge bath this morning

By 3:30 the next morning I was only dilated 3 cm & my contractions were not much stronger or more frequent, not enough to put me in true active labor anyway.  The upside to that was I was comfortable enough to get some decent rest overnight, especially with the amazing sound machine (provided by the hospital) set to ocean waves.  Around 4 am the midwife decided to try a fluid bolus to see if that would kick-start my labor.  Unfortunately after 1L of IV fluids I still hadn’t really progressed.  Yes, the dreaded P word was coming.  I was “stuck” & needed Pitocin.  But I was so ready to meet our baby girl that I said “screw it, throw it at me.”  However, the nurse was kind enough to offer me a 1 hour break off the monitors to take a shower & eat a good breakfast.  I’ll be eternally grateful to her for that because that made such a difference in how I felt once “real” labor began.

Just before 7 am the nurse came in to turn on the Pitocin.  I was as ready as I was ever going to be.  I’d kept the doula updated overnight & let her know that with the dreaded P on board I’d probably need her soon.  Somewhere around 8 am my husband called her & told her we were ready for her support.  That should be an indication that the pain had started to increase beyond mild cramps to something more intense.  Over the next few hours things escalated pretty quickly.  At first I was amazed at how much deep breathing helped relieve or at least distract me from the pain.  However, eventually I started hitting a brick wall, so to speak.  A lot of that time is a blur to me but Jared & the doula both have told me that between 10:00 & 11:00 were the roughest times.  Believe it or not at that point the Pitocin was actually off because they were having so much trouble getting the monitors to read properly & I guess they figured they’d see how I did without it.  To manage the painful contractions I tried multiple different positions/locations, including the birthing ball & the rocking chair & the tub, but none of them worked for too long.  However, anything was better than just lying in bed.  Plus I knew that the more I moved around the faster labor would progress.  Somewhere around this time the midwife (a different one now) checked my cervix & I was dilated to 7 cm.  That was really encouraging & helped me push through the next few painful hours.  me-and-rachel-again

Eventually around 12:30 maybe I reached a point of utter exhaustion.  I felt like I had used up all of my coping resources including deep groans, back massages, & position changes.  I started crying & begging for an epidural or some kind of pain medicine.  I even used my code word which my husband & I had set up with the doula ahead of time to indicate that I really truly wanted medicinal pain relief.  The nurse & midwife were concerned I was too close to the pushing stage to safely receive either an epidural or narcotics but they needed to check my cervix to be sure.  As it turned out I was dilated to 9.5 cm at that point & it was indeed too late.  Part of me was massively disappointed while another part of me was like “Screw it, I’m almost there, I can do it!”  Everyone kept telling me the urge to push would be undeniable but to be honest it really wasn’t at first.  But it wasn’t long before the midwife told me my cervix was fully dilated & effaced & it was pushing time.  My doula kept reminding me to bear down during the pushing to help relieve the pain & make my pushes more effective.  As physically challenging as pushing was, it was actually not as painful as the previous few hours of contractions.  Unfortunately after an hour or so of pushing my body was simply wearing out & my uterus wasn’t contracting hard enough to match my pushes.  The midwife wanted to turn the Pitocin back on because we could see the baby’s head but I just couldn’t seem to progress (thank goodness for the big mirror because it really encouraged me to see how close she was when I was so ready to admit defeat).  I was scared to death to get the Pitocin back but I also knew that anything that brought me closer to the finish line faster was worth it so I said yes.  It was at that point that I realized my IV appeared to be coming out of my wrist.  I thought I was going to die when I saw that.  Thank goodness the nurses were able to save it & restart the Pitocin, & within a few minutes baby Rachel made her grand entrance at 2:35 p.m.

baby-burrito

I totally understand the term baby burrito now.

I’m not going to lie, in those first few moments I wasn’t as overwhelmed with that immediate love spell as I had hoped I would be.  As they placed her on my chest I was mainly just thankful that labor was over.  My mind was mostly focused on being grateful for an end to the pain & exhaustion.  I had read that this is fairly common so I knew not to judge myself too harshly & that soon enough the overwhelming feelings of love would wash over me.  As it turned out my placenta took a while to deliver.  The midwife kept the Pitocin on because once again my contractions just weren’t strong enough on their own to push it out.  Once the placenta finally delivered, the midwife & the nurses were astonished to discover that it had an extra lobe.  They told me this was extremely rare & asked to take pictures of it.  Being a nurse of course I said yes, as I was equally fascinated by this odd turn of events.

me-and-rachel

This was about 1.5 hrs post delivery.  Pretty sure this child came out sucking her thumb.

While we waited for the placenta to deliver, my husband cut the cord (we opted for delayed clamping of about 3-5 minutes which is actually standard practice with my group of midwives).  Next my husband held her on his bare chest for skin to skin care which was when I realized how much I truly love this man.  Then the charge nurse & another nurse took Rachel to the bassinet across the room to do her Vitamin K injection & newborn assessments.  The nursery nurse soon came & thankfully recognized that Rachel was acting a bit more jittery than average & thought to check her blood sugar.  When she announced it was 34, I almost yelled “Holy shit, get the D50!”  Thankfully as the nurse explained a newborn’s blood sugar only needs to be about 40 to be normal so it wasn’t actually that low (whereas a blood sugar of 34 in an adult is definitely a medical emergency).  At that point the nurse handed Rachel back to me, & the doula started helping me try to breastfeed.  Unfortunately Rachel was too jittery to really concentrate & I was too exhausted both mentally & physically to have a clue what to do.  The nursery nurse ended up giving her a small bottle of formula to raise her blood sugar & thankfully that was successful.  baby-burrito-2

Sometime while all of this was happening, the placenta actually delivered & the midwife assessed me for the need for stitches.  As it turned out I was very blessed & only had a very small internal laceration requiring just two or three stitches.  By that point the oxytocin love bath had begun so I seriously didn’t even feel the lidocaine injection they gave me to numb me before the stitches.

To make a long story short, over the next 12 hrs or so the nurses had to check Rachel’s blood sugar every few hours.  Unfortunately it did drop once & she had to receive another small dose of formula around 8 pm to stabilize her.  After that her blood sugar was never a problem again.  However, her bilirubin became an issue but was consistently just below the borderline of needing treatment.  We were discharged on Friday with an appointment to follow up with our pediatrician the very next morning.  My parents left Friday morning & that night at home was very rough.  I was breastfeeding Rachel every one to two hours but she was so lethargic that I could never be sure she was actually getting anything out of of it.  She also went from having tons of dirty/wet diapers in the hospital to having very few at home.  At some points she was inconsolably crying & in my heart I just knew something was wrong.  If we hadn’t had the appointment at 10 am on Saturday I probably would have taken her back to the hospital.linus project.jpg

When we went to the appointment on Saturday the doctor was extremely friendly & knowledgeable but she didn’t dance around the truth.  She told us Rachel was definitely jaundiced & had a high risk of needing bili light therapy to reduce her bilirubin.  She taught me how to use my breast pump (there’s a reason I chose a pediatrician who is also a lactation consultant . . . & whose office is 3 minutes from our house) & instructed me to feed Rachel at least 30 mL every 2 hrs & to supplement with formula (which she gave me) if needed in order to achieve that goal.  As soon as we left the office we headed across town to have her bilirubin rechecked.  Because it was a weekend they couldn’t do it in the office & get fast results but one of the local hospitals could.  The doctor promised to call us within a few hours with the result.  As it turned out we had just made it home from the hospital lab & I was pumping when the doctor called Jared to say Rachel’s bilirubin was too high & we needed to take her to yet another hospital for one to two nights of bili light therapy.

bili-light

My husband feeding Rachel under the bili light

Immediately I dissolved into tears.  Part of me was so thankful to know that my “mama instinct” was right & that Rachel’s behavior wasn’t normal, but of course the other part of me was scared to death.  We ran around getting our bags repacked, managed to forget one of them, & raced off to the hospital, which happened to be the one hospital in Raleigh that I had never actually laid eyes on in the four years we’ve lived here.  When we arrived at the hospital, I was pleased to see that they were expecting us at patient registration & got us up to a very nice room within about 30 minutes.  Not long after that the bili light was started.  My parents came back that night after I called my mom in tears & told her I needed her.  I will forever be grateful for their unwavering support during such a difficult time.  Overnight my milk came in, & this, coupled with the bili light, was exactly what Rachel needed to get better quickly.  We ended up staying just that one night & were discharged the next day, which happened to be my 28th birthday, less than 24 hrs after our admission.  Seeing our baby girl doing so much better was the best birthday gift ever. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it now.

milk-drunk

Now this is what you call a milk drunk baby.

First thing Monday morning my husband called the pediatrician to see when she wanted us to follow up with her.  Based on the information she received from the hospital she said we could wait until the next morning.  During our visit yesterday the pediatrician gave us a great report & was very pleasantly surprised to see that Rachel had gained 8 oz just since Saturday.  She said I no longer needed to worry about knowing exactly how many mL Rachel was consuming with each feeding, so she spent a great deal of time helping me breastfeed effectively.  Not long after we got home from that appointment, the lactation consultant from our doula group came over for a consultation.  Let me just say that was the best $150 ever spent.  By the time she left our house I felt super confident in my ability to breastfeed Rachel & no longer felt reliant on the pump.  It’s been over 24 hs now & I haven’t needed to pump at all other than to relieve some mild engorgement.  My milk might have been a little slow to arrive but now that it’s here I have an abundance!  Being able to breastfeed effectively has greatly increased my mommy confidence.  Additionally Rachel & I both slept so much better last night because she has had far less gas issues & hiccups now that she’s off the bottle.  Amazing!

rachel-penguins

This might be my favorite picture ever, so I’ll share it again.

Well, that is my long, somewhat complicated but also very fulfilling birth story.  We definitely hit a few speed bumps along the way but nonetheless I truly feel like I had the most fulfilling birth for which I could have hoped.  The best part of the process of course was the ultimate outcome of our beautiful baby girl.  But the second best part is the amazing confidence boost I’ve gained from surviving an unmedicated induction.  Part of the reason I was so determined to have an unmedicated birth was because I knew that for the rest of my life I’d be able to tell myself “I survived that so whatever else life throws at me, I’ve got this.”  Thankfully that prediction came true & I am feeling more confident than ever.  Not to mention in love with the cutest baby ever!

In my next post I’ll be sharing my tips for why I believe my pregnancy, birth, & initial postpartum period went/have gone so smoothly.  This first week of motherhood has been a wild & crazy ride, but it’s without a doubt my favorite journey ever.