Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Homemade Baby Food Tips & Tricks....and Why I Decided Against Baby Led Weaning

I have been meaning to write this post forever. Seriously....forever. And one of the reasons is because I wish I had read a post like this when I was beginning to make decisions about starting solid foods with my son. Just when I had gotten the hang of nursing and realized how crazy easy it was to just have to worry about milk, then things had to change! Wait a, I have to nurse AND feed him food? Where is this food going to come from? Where is all this extra TIME going to come from? It already takes me 30 minutes to nurse. And now I have to spend more time feeding him FOOD?? Geez almighty! And I would rather not feed my baby that stuff in a jar from the store if I can help it. It felt like solid food was just one extra thing to extra thing to think about. I wasn't ready for this!  
Around 5 months when I finally accepted that I couldn't just nurse Harrison for the rest of his life, and I began to research a little about starting solids, I had 100% decided on two things:  1) I was waiting until at least 6 months to introduce solids, at the recommendation of the AAP, WHO, and other health organizations….. and 2) I was going to do "Baby Led Weaning."  A year prior, I had never heard of BLW (Baby Led Weaning). One of my friends introduced it to me, and I thought it sounded so easy! Wait…....what?? You just give baby everything you eat….from Day 1?? No buying baby food?? No pureeing stuff? And baby feeds himself so you don't have to? Sweet! Count me in!! Little did I know, the actual logistics of this would not be nearly as appealing as it sounded.
Harrison sitting in his high chair for the first time....practice makes perfect!
  When 6 months arrived, I was so excited! I knew I was going to start with avocados. A bunch of moms on the Baby Led Weaning Facebook group I had joined recommended that, and it seemed to work well for them. And I knew avocados had so many healthy fats in them….brain food for my growing boy! Some pediatricians still recommend doing rice cereal as baby's first food, but new research seems to refute that. Rice cereal really does not have much nutritional value and is mostly just junk carbohydrates, so I made the decision that starting with veggies and fruits would be best for us. I had gotten the high chair set up a few days prior and started letting Harrison sit in it to get used to it. I had my bib ready. I had my organic avocados sliced up. No spoon needed…..he was going to feed himself! This was going to be awesome!  I got my camera ready to snap the priceless picture of Harrison’s utter delight as he munched on those yummy avocados. (Can you say...classic First Time Mom here?? Haha.) I put him in his high chair, got his bib on, and put the slices down in front of him. I was beside myself with excitement. He looked at them. Then he reached out and smashed them. He squeezed them between his fingers. This wasn’t going quite like I had planned. Maybe he needed some guidance…  I picked up a slice of avocado and put it in his mouth. The look on his face was priceless alright! It was one of utter disgust. He spit it right out. 
Harrison's first solid food....avocado.  He was not a fan.
I tried again. This time he started gagging on the piece I gave him so I had to quickly sweep it out of his mouth. In slight frustration and a little bit of fear of a repeat gagging/choking episode, I grabbed a spoon and mashed the remaining mess of an avocado up in a bowl and fed Harrison a little bit on one of his baby spoons. He actually kept some in his mouth, but the look on his face was just terrible. It was literally like he was saying, “Mom…..why are you doing this to me????”  I decided we had had enough solids for one day, so I cleaned up Harrison’s avocado covered face and nursed him. He was much happier with a boob than the avocado.
Mom......what IS this stuff???
Am I supposed to like this?

  The next day I decided to try again. We tried the avocado slices again, and he once again played with them, smashed them, etc. But no luck with actually eating anything.....that is....until I mixed some breastmilk with it and fed it to him with a spoon. 
I made a discouraged post in my “Babyled Weaning for Beginners” Facebook group. Everyone commented and said it was totally normal and that it is good for them to “explore” with their food. They said it was all about the experience and that many BLW babies don’t get a whole lot of food in the beginning. They just play and explore.  Now, you might think that this reassurance made me feel better about the fact that my 6 month old was smashing $2 organic avocados all over his face and high chair, but it didn’t….at all.  So you mean to tell me that I am supposed to continue buying expensive organic produce for my child to “explore”....aka throw on the floor?? Ummmmm….how about no!?!  As I saw more posts from other mommies in this group with pictures of their babies covered from head to toe in spaghetti and other foods, I had a few thoughts..... A) Some of these mammas have way more time on their hands than I do (or more patience??), since they are the ones who have to clean up the spaghetti covered baby, the spaghetti stained high chair, and mop the floor full of spaghetti remnants.... or B) Some of these mammas must have more extra money on hand than I do (since they can obviously afford to spend $$ on expensive organic produce that never even contributes to actual nutrition, since it ends up all over baby’s face, hands, and the floor….). I also decided that Baby Led Weaning was not for me…..or at least not now.  Honestly, once I thought more about it, it didn't make sense from a parenting standpoint least not to me. I tend to follow the parenting rule, "Begin as you mean to go...." when it comes to most things, and it seemed like food should be no exemption. I obviously do not want Harrison thinking that it is ok to throw food on the floor and smash it all over himself later down the road, so why would I let him do that now? If he was obviously not coordinated enough yet to feed himself in an orderly manner, then I would be happy to feed him until his motor skills were more developed.  
I kind of felt let down.... I had been led to believe it all just came "naturally" by some the BLW moms. So many moms talked about how their babies just started reaching for food and putting it into their mouths starting as early as 4 and 5 months old. And I guess if that was the case, this BLW thing would be working out better for me and for Harrison. But my baby was doing no such thing and seemed totally confused and frustrated. I started to consider just doing purees, but that made me feel somehow inadequate (I know it's dumb...but as a FTM you second guess everything!) because on my BLW sites and groups, moms always talked about not feeding their babies those "yucky purees" and "mush" like they were somehow disgusting and not fit for human consumption. But then I thought about it further. What was applesauce?? Mashed potatoes? Smoothies?? Grown adults eat pureed foods all the time. Why wouldn't I be open to giving them to my baby?
I posted again in my BLW Facebook group again asking if any moms did a combination of BLW and purees, and I got lots of feedback from moms saying that they actually preferred a combination, and that many did both. I got a lot of comments back from other moms just like me who were getting frustrated too and also didn't think that it seemed as easy as it was made out to be. That made me feel so much better. I wasn't alone! My baby wasn't a freak of nature. Haha.  I had a little hope that maybe I could start with purees and then transition to BLW later on.  I vowed to continue to let Harrison practice feeding himself, but in the meantime, I was going to try baby food. I really wanted to make my own, but it seemed overwhelming, and I didn’t even know where to start, so in the meantime (while I taught myself how to make homemade baby food), I went out and bought some pouches of organic baby food. I knew I wanted Harrison to eat vegetables (since my hubby is a crazy picky eater and I was afraid Harrison may inherit the veggie hating gene), so I made sure not to buy too many types with fruits. I figured if all he knew was veggies, he wouldn't know what he was missing. The next day I opened one, squeezed some onto a spoon, and fed it to him. He lapped it up like a puppy dog. He loved it! He couldn't get enough. Solid food success!! I tried several of the baby food pouches over the next week and I didn't find a single one he didn't like. Spinach and pear, sweet potato and carrots, broccoli and apple…..he ate it all. (And just in case you're, I didn't follow the "only introduce one food every 3-4 days just in case there is a food allergy" rule. We have no history of food allergies and I was impatient. Harrison is alive and all is well.) But at $1.25 or more per pouch, I could see how this was going to get expensive.
Harrison after giving him a baby food puree pouch!
I did a little more research on making homemade baby food and found lots of different methods to the madness. Some moms swore by one of those fancy baby food cookers and many used special baby food storage containers. I, myself, had registered for a fancy baby food storage system, but once I saw the ice cube tray method, I quickly realized how nonsensical the other stuff was from both a time management aspect, a financial aspect, and a space saving aspect.  I decided the ice cube tray method was the most practical, so I went out and bought about 12 ice cube trays. I also made a list of different foods I wanted to cook first - sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, apples, avocado, banana, etc.  I bought a bunch of stuff and brought it home.  My next step was figuring out what in the world to do with all this produce. The website Wholesome Baby Food (link at the bottom of this post) was especially helpful.  It gave a great list of different foods to try at different ages, and gave great instructions on how to cook the various foods. It also allowed you to search by the fruit or vegetable you were wondering about and gave you lists of recipes, food preparation tips, what types of vitamins and minerals are provided by that food, and also gave you guidance on whether or not to buy organic.  
After I cooked all the veggies and fruits (some in the oven, and some in the microwave), I pureed them in my Ninja Blender.  I added water to them, but you can also add breastmilk.  I didn’t really measure either….I just added water until it got to the consistency that I wanted. I spooned out the food into the ice cube trays, froze them, popped out those little cubes, and put into labeled freezer bags! Voila!  Bon appetit baby!!
Here is the first spread of produce I made into babyfood!
  (And for those of you who are wondering, I didn't just "give up" on BLW after two tries. I continued to let Harrison practice feeding himself and he was somewhat successful at times, but he still seemed completely uninterested overall and he barely ate anything when I did let him feed himself. However, he loved eating from a spoon, and I felt much more confident that he was getting proper nutrients from food that way, so that's what we did. So to you BLW mammas reading this post, no judgment here. I am glad it worked out for you. It just wasn't the best decision for us.)

Since my first attempt at homemade baby food, I have made many batches, and throughout the whole process, I have learned/realized a few things that I feel are worth sharing:

  1. If you are feeing overwhelmed by making your own baby food and think you don't have the time, you just need to calm it down. You have the do. When you think about all the time you save by not having to prepare individual meals each day for baby, it is well worth a chunk of time one day every 3-4 weeks. I would do things over the course of a day on a Saturday or Sunday to make it more manageable. Like while Harrison was taking his morning nap, I would chop veggies and cook them. Then during his afternoon nap, I would puree and pour into ice cube trays. Then that night after he went to bed, I would pop all the frozen cubes out of the trays, put into bags, and label. And then I was done.....for like a MONTH! Seriously, it doesn't take that long. And it saves money! Who doesn't love saving money?!
  2. I am SUPER glad that I didn’t spend money for one of those baby food maker machines. First off, they are not that big. Blenders and food processors have much larger capacities.  Doing huge batches in the Ninja blender allowed me to make a LOT of food at one time.  The larger the batches you make, the more cubes you are able to get out of a batch….and the LESS often you have to make baby food. Score! Some mammas swear by their Beaba baby food maker, etc. but if you don't want to fork out the extra money for a special appliance, don't. It's totally not necessary.
  3. The ice cube trays are THE way to go as far as storage is concerned. Just freeze the food, pop them out of the trays, put the cubes in Ziploc freezer bags, and label them.  I had originally purchased this set of plastic tupperware container cubes that were designed to store baby food, but they held a lot larger portion of food than an ice cube, and they took up a lot more room than an ice cube.  So, if you choose to freeze food in tupperware containers, it will take up a ton more room in your freezer. And because the serving sizes are so much larger, if you defrost/heat up a container, and your baby doesn't eat all of it, it won't stay good for that long. Some people also make baby food and store the portions in plastic tupperware in the refrigerator. That is fine and dandy....if you want to have to make baby food every single week. But ain’t nobody got time for that! Freezing baby food means it will stay fresh and ready to go for months. Also, by storing baby food in the plastic tupperware containers, you would have to heat up the food in the plastic containers.  I’m not a fan of heating food in plastic containers just because of the chemicals that get leached into your food. And also, because they hold so much more food, it takes way longer to heat them up. By doing the ice cube portions, I can put the food straight into a glass bowl and heat them up in no time!  The smaller the portion, the faster it heats up!  And when you have a hungry baby, time is of the essence.  
  4. Overall, making single ingredient foods is definitely smarter than mixing ingredients.  By making single ingredient foods and and freezing them in small portions, it makes it so easy to mix and match foods and do different combinations.  One day you can grab two cubes of corn, and two cubes of carrots and mix them. The next day, you may want to do 1 cube of corn and 3 sweet potatoes.  Apples and broccoli one day, broccoli and carrots the next.  You can be much more versatile with your meals when you don’t pre-mix foods.  Later on, I found that some foods could not be made single ingredient….like kale, for instance. It just doesn't work.... So I mixed kale with peas. Some fruits were the same way. Like one fruit was too watery alone, but mixed with another fruit it tasted better, etc.  But most foods are better off alone.  
  5. Big batches are so much better!  The first time I made baby food, I didn’t make a ton...because I was a little scared and unsure of how it would all work out.  And I only had food for about two weeks.  The next time, I went for it!  I bought lots of each ingredient and made huge batches.  My freezer was slap full of baby food, but I also didn’t have to worry about food for over a month! It was fantastic!!
  6. Making your own baby food and freezing it makes meal planning for your little one a no brainer, and your baby is much more likely to eat GOOD and HEALTHY food, even when you are not. With Baby Led Weaning, baby is eating what you eat.  So, what if you decide it is pizza night?? I’m all about letting my baby try new things, but I would much rather him eat healthy nutritious food, even when I have a pizza craving.  I didn’t want him eating pizza just because I was.  So having ready to go frozen food at a hand’s reach meant I could prepare him a quick meal while we enjoyed pizza.  What if you decide not to cook one night and go out for sushi?  Are you going to feed your 6 month old sushi?  Probably not.  It only took me 2 minutes to whip out some baby food cubes, heat up in a container, and take with us to a restaurant. My hubby also works shift work, so on nights he works, I don’t cook!  I certainly wasn’t going to start cooking a meal just so I could have food to feed my baby. So on nights daddy was working, I could just eat a bowl of cereal or make a sandwich and not have to worry about not having food for my son. Another thing to think about is the eating habits of your family. If your family eats a lot of different kinds of foods, then having baby eat what you eat may truly give them a wide repertoire of foods. But if you have a hubby or other kiddos who are super picky and you tend to fix "picky eater" type foods, then baby is missing out on opportunities to try many new foods. My husband doesn't eat onions, peppers, salad, etc... so I would never fix that for a meal for us. But I didn't want to pigeonhole Harrison into the same eating habits by not offering those foods to him. Who knows? He may love those things (and as it turns out...he does!).  It just made baby’s meals sooooo much less stressful and allowed me to introduce lots of different foods regardless of the eating habits of the rest of the family.  And I always knew I had food on hand and that it could be ready in minutes with no planning or prep work involved.
  7. If your baby has already gotten lots of little chompers by 6 months, things may be different for you. But let's face it, eating normal adult food is hard without teeth.....yet another reason BLW is just not practical for many babies. Yes, gums are powerful and are capable of chewing food, but it is still not as easy as having teeth. If you and your family are eating steak and salad, are you really going to give your baby a hunk of steak to eat if they don't have any teeth?? It takes ME forever to chew up a piece of steak, and I have lots of teeth to grind and tear the food. Babies don't. Of course things like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, bread, etc are not that hard to eat without teeth, but the vast majority of those softer "easy to eat" meals are slap full of carbs. I didn't want to result to eating a bunch of carbohydrate loaded meals just so Harrison could have some. I would way rather him learn to eat fruits, veggies, and healthy meats.... and the vast majority of those items are next to impossible to eat without teeth, unless they are pureed of course, hence the baby food.
  8. It is much easier to mix food cubes together than feed them separately. I started out doing 3 cubes of food for each meal for Harrison. Some times I would do 3 cubes of the same food, and other times I would do 2 cubes of one food and 1 cube of another. But even if I did two different foods, I still put them in the same bowl. It's just easier. Carrots and corn, broccoli and apples, etc. It is all mixing together in baby's tummy anyway, I say! Later, Harrison worked up to 4 cubes per meal, but I continued to do things the same way. All the cubes went together in the same bowl!
  9. The ice cube food system is super easy for daycare purposes too. All I did for daycare meals was put 4 cubes in a snack sized Ziploc bag for each meal and label it. Then I put all the tiny snack sized Ziploc bags in a big freezer bag. I sent the freezer bag full of food to daycare on Monday and my daycare provider kept it in the freezer all week. When it was time for a meal, she just took a bag out of the freezer, popped it in the microwave, and fed him. And I only had to prepare meals for him ONCE A WEEK! Whoo hoo!!
  10. Now that Harrison (currently 11 months) is almost totally out of the baby food stage and is feeding himself more, I often wish I could go BACK to the baby food. It is SO much faster!! Once again....I personally do not understand why parents are so pumped about their baby feeding themselves. It is messy and takes forever. I could feed Harrison his entire meal in a matter of minutes from his bowl of baby food, but letting him feed himself makes things so much slower. Not to mention, you have to watch them like a hawk because they can get choked up on pieces of food if they don't chew it well. It's semi stressful. Seriously, moms...embrace the baby food stage!! :)

Here were my favorite foods to make for that 6-8 month age range and my tips for cooking and preparation:

Sweet Potatoes - put DIRECTLY onto the oven rack ( it.  I've cooked these like 5 different ways, and they turn out perfectly this way and the skin actually separates completely from the potato, making peeling a breeze. It makes it soooo much easier!)  and bake for 45 min to 1 hour at 400, or until a fork can easily be stuck into the side of the potato.  Peel skin off potatoes, but into blender or food processor, and blend until desired consistency. Add water or breastmilk if needed.

Carrots - Peel carrots with a vegetable peeler.  Cut into pieces about an inch long and put into a pot and boil.  When carrots can be easily pierced with a fork, they are done.  Put into blender or food processor and blend until desired consistency.  Add water or breastmilk as needed.  

Corn - You can use canned or frozen.  Buy organic!!  About 95% of the corn in the US is genetically modified.  I bought frozen organic corn, steamed in the microwave bag, and then put directly into the blender.  Corn is one food that is harder to get completely pureed, and I actually prefer it that way.  I always left a little bit of texture so Harrison could get used to different textures.

Peas - You can use canned or frozen.  I bought frozen organic peas, steamed in the microwave bags, and put into the blender.  Blend until desired consistency.  Add water of breastmilk if needed.  

Apples - Core and slice.  Peel if desired.  I left peelings on since they have lots of good nutrients.  Place into a baking dish and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until they are very soft when pierced with a fork.  Blend until desired consistency. Add water or breastmilk if needed.

Kale - Wash, break into pieces, and put into a pot with an inch or two of water.  Steam for several minutes until the kale wilts and is soft.  Blend together with another vegetable (I used peas) until desired consistency.  Add water or breastmilk if needed. 

Butternut Squash -  Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, and place face down in a baking dish with about 1 inch of water.  Bake at 400 for about 45 minutes.  Scoop out flesh.  Blend until desired consistency. Add water or breastmilk if needed.  

Avocado & Banana - Slice avocados, remove seed, and scoop out flesh into blender. Place whole bananas into blender as well.  Blend until desired consistency. 

Peaches - Peel, remove seeds, and cut into slices.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until soft and slightly browned.  Blend until desired consistency.  Add breastmilk or water if needed. 

Broccoli - You can use fresh or frozen.  I bought frozen organic broccoli florets and steamed in the microwave bag. Blend until desired consistency.  Add breastmilk or water if needed.  

    Later on at about 7.5-8 months, I tried other more exotic vegetables and fruits.  I know I stated earlier that doing single ingredient foods works best, but for certain fruits, I found that combining them made things easier.  Some of Harrison's favorites were: 
   * Kiwi Papaya
   * Blueberry Pear
   * Banana Mango

  At 8 months, I also added in meats to Harrison's food repertoire.  I thought meats would be more complicated, but they really weren't.  I just cooked them, blended them, and stored them in ice cube trays in just the same way I did the fruits and veggies.  The meats did not get creamy like the veggies and fruits.  Once blended, they shredded into a powdery like substance.  But I liked that, because it added some exposure to new textures.  Instead of taking out 4 cubes of a fruit or veggie for each meal, from that point forward I did 3 cubes of veggies and 1 cube of meat for each meal.  I plopped all 4 cubes in a bowl and microwaved together.  

  Chicken - Rub boneless, skinless chicken breasts with some olive oil and season lightly with salt, pepper, etc.  Bake in the oven until done.  Add water or breastmilk and blend until powdery. 
   Beef - I bought stew beef already cut up into chunks at the grocery store.  Put beef chunks in a baking dish, season lightly with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven until tender.  Add water or breastmilk and blend until desired consistency.

  Pork - I am sure there are other ways to do this.... but I really liked cooking a Boston Butt in the crock pot.  I made pulled pork BBQ for dinner one night and just saved the leftovers.  Crock pot meats fork so easily and it basically just falls apart.  You barely even have to blend it.

    Well, I believe that does it for this post.  For all the mammas out there doing BLW and loving it, I am super glad it worked out for you!  I may try it again with Baby #2.  But for me, my baby, and our busy lifestyle, this was SO much easier and allowed me to introduce so many more types of foods to Harrison than he ever would have been exposed to just eating "what we eat." To this day, I have not found a single food this child won't eat, and I truly think it is because he had the opportunity to be exposed to so many different foods, flavors, and textures!   Happy Baby Food Making Mammas!!!

     So, now that you've got the basics down, are you ready for another amazing tip??!  So....after we got past the baby puree stage and I realized Harrison was ready to handle more pieces of food and got more skilled at feeding himself, I was lost again!  The baby food making and feeding was so easy...what was I to do now??! Now I needed actual meals ready to go 3 times a day, but it still had to be things that were smaller pieces that baby could handle with only a few teeth.  But then I thought to myself, "Why can't this same system work for non-pureed food?"  Well guess what?  It does!  Here is a sneak peek at what I do for meals now....   I just cook regular foods, cut them up into bite size pieces, and portion out in the ice cube trays to freeze.  So all I still have to do is take out a few cubes for a meal and microwave! Still SUPER easy! Complete post to come later.....
Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoughts on Motherhood and Gratefulness

   I can hardly stand to write it.....Today my baby boy is 9. Months. Old.  I can't believe it.  Harrison has been out of the womb exactly as many days as he was inside the womb.  Well....if we're being technical here, he was in the womb an extra 2 weeks past the official 9 month mark, but we'll just call it even.  He's getting so old I've even been pinning images of first birthday party ideas on Pinterest. Whaaaaaaattt??? That is not okay. That means that this year......this amazing year... is coming to an end.
Harrison at just a few days old....soooo tiny!
   I remember going out in public to run errands when Harrison was like 6 or 8 weeks old, and I'd meet moms out and about who had babies who were 9 and 10 and 11 months old.  I remember thinking how old that seemed.  It seemed like an eternity away. And now I'm here. When you're in the trenches with a newborn, you feel like things will be like that FOREVER.....the fussiness, having a permanent attachment to your boob, the late night alarm clock (aka screaming baby), etc.  But it won't be like that forever.  It wasn't like that forever.  As soon as you find yourself in one "stage," you're moving on to another one.  Things change so quickly.  But it doesn't always seem that way in the moment.  You can only see that once you're past it.  We've been through the "Holy crap, our baby screams from 5pm-9pm stage," the "I hate my carseat stage," the "I want to look at everything and everybody while I'm still latched on nursing stage (ouch)," the "I like to spit food all over mamma while she feeds me stage," the "I will squeal at ear-piercing decibels just to hear myself so people in public think my mom is abusing me stage,"  and the latest...... the "I love to grab my balls and/or stick my hands in my poop while my diaper is being changed stage."
My two favorite men!!
    There are so many hard things about those first months of parenting, but there are so many more INCREDIBLE things.  I saw a mom post in a Facebook group the other day that she thought having children was the worst possible thing she could have done for her marriage.  It made me so sad to hear that.  I've found the opposite to be true. I feel like Tony and I have grown even closer in our marriage since Harrison was born. Seeing your spouse as a parent reveals a whole new level of love.
 Don't get me wrong...there have been learning curves, and lots of daily logistics to work through as we have taken on new roles, but I still feel like we have a new love and appreciation for each other.  Becoming a mother has also put the world into an entirely different a good way.  There are so many things that I used to stress about or get frustrated by that just don't bother me anymore.  I now have no idea what songs are on the Top 40, mostly because I listen to Baby Einstein lullabies in the car now.  And I'm fine with that. Most songs on the radio are trash anyway.  Those lullabies are actually pretty calming after a stressful day at work.  I don't know about what controversial statements Trump said this week, and I can't tell you the latest news headlines either.  I'm not saying that staying "in the know" about current events is's not.  And being educated on presidential candidates for the purpose of voting is important too.  It's just not as important as being a good mom. And I do have to say that not watching the news as much has taken some levels of stress out of my life.
   I don't know what it is about the last couple of days, but I have just truly been in awe of God's provision and his blessing of our family.  What have I done to deserve this blessing? I always remembered the verse, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" - Psalm 37:4.  There were times that I doubted that promise....many times actually....more than I'd like to admit.  But the Lord has done just that - he has given me the desires of my heart.  He has blessed me with a husband who loves me unconditionally and a precious, precious baby boy. And. I. Could. Not. Be. More. Grateful. When I hold Harrison, and he wraps his arms around me and lays his head down on my shoulder, I sometimes just squeeze him tight, close my eyes, and just soak him up with every ounce of my being.  I think to did I get this lucky?? How is it that God decided to bless me with this beautiful boy?  And he is so happy..... and healthy!  He loves to play, and bounce, and read books, and take strolls around the neighborhood.  He has this infectious giggle and such a precious smile.  He even sleeps through the night every night most nights.  I think to this even real?  I find myself constantly looking back to pictures of him when he was a tiny baby and re-watching all the videos that I've taken of him since birth.  Every time I watch them I relive that moment.  A baby's first months are such a precious time, and they are gone in a flash.  People have said over and over, "Don't blink." I'm beginning to realize what they mean. It just all goes by so fast.
  As I look back over these past 9 months, I think about how so many moms have said that the first year was the hardest or the worst as a parent.  Now that I'm almost through the first year, I truly cannot imagine that being true.  The last 9 months have been an absolute joy.  There have been REALLY hard times, and REALLY frustrating times, and sleepless nights, and times when I've felt insecure or doubtful or confused.  There have been times when I've been totally confident in what I am doing, and times when I literally had no idea what I was doing.  (Google and Facebook mom groups have helped a lot with the latter.) Over the past 9 months, my body has been through more changes than I ever thought possible.  I gained almost 70 lbs pregnant, blew up like a balloon with swelling, stretched to heck (going two weeks past your due date will do that...), was cut wide open during my c-section delivery, had a hard couple of weeks of recovery, went through that terribly awkward postpartum period where nothing fit and wore maternity clothes for months, and have somehow emerged on the other side of it all weighing less than I did before I got pregnant.  (I'm still in shock about that actually...) My belly is still poochy, I have some pretty awesome stretch marks, and I now understand what people are talking about when they refer to a "mom butt," but you know what? None of that bothers me much anymore.  I actually think I have better body image now than I did before I got pregnant, because I have so much more respect for my body. I have to give it some credit for what it's done. My body grew a human for 9 months, birthed him (kind of), and then spent the next 9 months providing nourishment for him. That's pretty freaking awesome if you ask me.  Forget the stretch marks, c-section scar, and tummy body is amazing.
     I have learned more about baby sleep cycles and schedules, breastfeeding, pumping, poop, and making baby food than I ever thought I'd need to know. Being in the mom blog/social media world now, I've navigated my way through the jibberish and learned all the mom lingo and so many acronyms that I never knew existed - LO (little one), DD (dear daughter), DS (dear son), EBF (exclusively breastfed), PP (postpartum), STTN (sleeping through the night), SAHM (stay at home mom), EP (exclusively pumping), and the list goes on!!!
Showing off the teefers!
I have had to make decisions on all sorts of things too.... whether to circumcise or not, whether to vaccinate on schedule or spread out, whether to do cloth diapers or disposables, whether to breastfeed or formula feed, whether to start solids early or wait until 6 months, whether to do purees or baby led weaning, whether to sleep train or not....and so much more.  I've done a lot of research as a mom.....oh the research! And I do things as a mom I would have never dreamed of a year ago....from pumping in the car every day on the way to  and from work in order to get enough milk for the next day, to meticulously organizing and frequently counting milk bags in the deep freezer on a regular basis like a squirrel hoarding nuts, to having to wear a bra every single night with nursing pads so I don't leak everywhere (I could write a whole post about things I didn't know about breastfeeding.....), to deciding what to wear each day based on one factor - whether or not there is easy boob access, to buying tops and dresses with patterns on them as opposed to solid colors for the purpose of camouflaging spit up, to lugging around 5 different bags to and from work every day (diaper bag, pump bag, daycare bag, teacher bag, lunch bag...), and the list goes on.....
Visiting "Dada" at the fire station!
      My brain is always on constant overload. When you're in charge of another human being, that tends to be the case.  There are bottles to wash...lots of bottles. There is laundry to do.....lots of laundry.  There are diapers.....lots and lots and lots of diapers.  There is always something that I am learning or trying to figure out. I'm always wondering if something is "normal" or not. Being a mom can be overwhelming at times. There is a lot to do. :) But I get the privilege of waking up every morning next to the love of my life, walking into the nursery, being greeted with the sweetest little smile you've ever seen, picking up the cutest baby boy ever, and starting my day as a mommy.  I know there are many hard days ahead in this journey called parenthood and still lots and lots and lots more to learn.  But I'm just taking things one day at a time, counting my blessings, and focusing on being grateful for all the things...and people... with which God has entrusted me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Harrison's Birth Story

Me and my precious baby boy.
The following is the very LONG story of how my beautiful son Harrison came into this world. I had been wanting to write down the entire story of the events before, during, and after his birth, and knew that if I waited any longer they wouldn't be fresh on my mind any more. So....I finally did it. Here it is! And just FYI...only read it you have a good 15 minutes of spare time! Haha. Brevity is not a strength of mine... :)

I truly did love being pregnant. I felt like I was doing something important and worthwhile, and I was. Growing a human is pretty important work, if you ask me. I had a few minor pregnancy related issues early on, but overall I felt pretty good and had a smooth and healthy pregnancy. As the last trimester of my pregnancy went on, I began to experience some of the not so awesome pregnancy symptoms such as swelling that continued to plague me until the day I would hold by baby boy…and some even after.  At 34 weeks I began to have major swelling in my feet, ankles, and legs…so bad that I could not fit my feet into ANY of my shoes and had to go buy a pair of black flats with the stretchy tops (the only way my foot would fit in them) from Payless. Those were the shoes I wore every single day up until the day I gave birth. At that point, I didn’t care about fashion. It became about what would fit.  After an average day at work, my poor feet would swell up so bad they looked like little muffins spilling over the tops of my shoes.  I called them my Shrek feet. I also had trouble walking.  I had gained so much weight I started to waddle… bad. To say I was uncomfortable was an understatement. After about 37 or 38 weeks I could no longer get comfortable in bed at night and would wake up multiple times a night and end up on the couch with pillows stuffed behind me and in front of me.  Eventually I just slept on the couch from the start.  At about 37 weeks, at the suggestion of some of my doula friends and other moms, I also started trying to prepare my body for labor by taking evening primrose oil nightly (helps efface the cervix) and drinking raspberry leaf tea. Hopefully my body would do everything it was supposed to on it’s own, but helping it out couldn’t hurt right?
Here are my Shrek feet at Christmas..OMG!!!
I left school on December 19th with every intention not to be back after the holidays. Everything was set.  Lesson plans were in order. Copies were made.  Tons of sticky notes decorated my desk, computer, white board, etc… all with last minute reminders for my long term sub (not that I’m Type A or anything.)  It was Christmas break and students didn’t start back until January 7th.  I was due January 11th.  I would surely go into labor over Christmas break and then just not come back until my maternity leave was over…what a perfect plan!  Christmas came and went. I enjoyed family time, but I felt like a whale. I pretty much sat on the couch with my swollen feet propped up and drowned my sorrows in sausage balls and Andes mints.  

Holy huge belly batman!!!
How much fatter could I possibly get, right?? Baby would be here any day for sure.  Monday, December 29th was my first cervix check.  I had been doing all the right things, so surely I would have 1 cm dilation…or something.  Yeah….not so much.  No dilation, no effacement, nothing.  But it was okay. I knew women who had walked around 5 cm dilated for weeks and still not given birth until 40 weeks or after.  And I also knew women who weren’t dilated at all, and then gave birth just days later.  Dilation isn’t always an accurate sign to predict when labor will begin.  I still had time.
    The next Monday, January 5th, rolled around and I went back to the OB for my 39 week appointment.  They checked my cervix again and I had slight effacement but no dilation still.  I was so disappointed. School started back the next day.  I just couldn't go back.  I was so swollen. Being on my feet all day was inconceivable!!  Maybe if I prayed hard enough I would go into labor that night and not have to go back to school.  Yep....that didn't happen.
January 10th....1 day away from my due date!
I started back school on January 6th. I had already been getting lots of “comments,” before Christmas break because nobody thought I was going to make it to my due date, but now that I was back, they started getting worse.  Every woman who’s ever been pregnant recently knows the ones I’m talking about.  “Are you sure you’re not having twins??!”  “You look like you’re about to pop!” and my personal favorite, “You haven’t had that baby yet?!” Can you not look at me and tell that I have NOT had this baby yet?  Thanks for reminding me, though!
  I left school on Friday, January 9th praying with every ounce of my being that I would go into labor over the weekend.  My due date was that Sunday.  I had to do something.  I started Googling labor inducing concoctions to try.  Sunday came.  It was officially my due date.  No signs of baby.  Our photographer texted me and gave me the recipe to her friend’s father-in-law who is an OB in Charleston’s labor inducing cocktail that had remarkable success. Hey what the heck?! I Googled the recipe and found that other people had tried a similar concoction and gone into labor within 48 hours. This was it! I went out and bought the super random ingredients – almond butter, apricot nectar, castor oil, and some champagne. I mixed it up in my Ninja blender, drank the nastiness, and waited.  Hours passed…nothing.  I went to sleep that evening (on the couch) just knowing that I was going to will my water to break during the night.  I didn’t even put a towel down.  I figured it would give us another good reason to buy a new couch.  But Monday morning came and not a single sign of labor.  I had officially passed my due date.
People kept reminding me that first pregnancies often do go past due.  Lots of women told me that their babies were born at 41 weeks, 40 weeks and 5 days, 42 weeks….one even said 43 weeks!  My OB (and almost all OBs that I’m aware of) will not let you go past 42 weeks.  Some won’t even let you go past 41 weeks. I knew the clock was ticking.  I was starting to get very discouraged.  I had been reading, planning, and preparing for a natural, unmedicated childbirth. But if my body was not progressing at all, how would that be possible?  I had been very against an induction from Day 1, especially seeing how quickly doctors would call for them, even when there was not a medical reason to do so.  I was determined to have my baby naturally with as little intervention as possible.
My next appointment was the next day, Monday, January 12th.  They checked me again.  I was about 50% effaced  but still 0 cm dilated.  I was still discouraged somewhat, but seeing that I was slightly effaced gave me some hope.  I expressed my concerns about being overdue at the appointment, but reiterated that I did not want to be induced.  The OB seemed shocked that I was not begging for them to induce me.  Apparently, they get requests from women to be induced quite often.  But as miserable as I was, I just did not want to go that route. The OB said that if did not go into labor in this next week, they would do an ultrasound next Monday and check on the baby’s fluid levels and talk about options from there.  He also said that if I did not go into labor before Friday, January 23rd, I would have to be induced.  I had done my research, and I knew that I was not a good candidate for induction.  With no progression AT ALL, I was going to be set up for failure and asking for a c-section, which was the absolute opposite of what I wanted.  I sent texts, emails, and called friends and family to ask them for prayers for Harrison to come on his own. Tony and I prayed every night that we would meet our son soon and that I wouldn’t have to be induced or have a c-section.
During the early morning hours of Monday, January 19th (8 days overdue), I started leaking what I thought may be my water.  It was a steady slow leak with a pinkish tint to it and enough to need to wear a pad. According to a lot of online research, it seemed to be amniotic fluid.  Only about 10% of women’s waters break before labor, but even in those 10% not all of it comes out as one gush.  Many women experience a slow leak of fluid over a matter of hours or days.  Could this be a sign of labor?  My appointment to get the ultrasound was after school that day anyway, so I decided just to wait it out. When I came in, they did the ultrasound and saw that the baby’s fluid levels were at a 10, which is still good, apparently.  Baby was fine and in no distress.  Afterwards I went to have my cervix checked again,  but the OB’s were booked that day, so I had to see a midwife.  When I mentioned to her that I had had some leaking of fluid she jumped down my throat for not coming into the hospital already.  I reminded her that a slow leak of amniotic fluid was NOT an emergency, and even if my water had fully broken I would not have come to the hospital immediately and would have waited it out until labor had gotten well under way.  She was not happy with me.  I didn’t care.  Many OBs will tell you that if your water breaks you need to come to the hospital immediately because there is an increased risk of infection.  But as long as you are not putting anything in that “area,” how does sitting at home in labor make you any more likely to get an “infection” as sitting in a hospital bed? Skewed logic to me. Whatever.  She did a PH strip on the fluid I was leaking and said it was, in fact, NOT amniotic fluid.  So there had been no cause for alarm in the first place.  In my hormonal pregnant  brain I thought, “Up yours lady!”  Very unclassy of me… I know.  She also checked my cervix again and for the 3rd time now, I was told that I was not dilated AT ALL.  No surprise. They scheduled me to come back in that Thursday for another check.  Tony said I was being bossy to the midwife. I told Tony the midwife was being a butthead.
On Tuesday, January 20th, I decided that I would not be coming back to school the next day.  They had already told me I would have a baby by Friday, January 23rd, which was in just 3 days, and I was growing more miserable with each passing day.  I decided just to bow out early and try to enjoy the next couple of days and prepare to meet my sweet baby boy.  I spent the next couple of days trying every other labor-inducing method known to man and praying that my body would go into labor before Friday. I tried walking waddling around the neighborhood. It was hard enough just trying to find something to wear to walk around the neighborhood in...none of my workout clothes fit and I couldn't fit my feet into my tennis shoes. My leather flip flops didn't even fit. The only shoes that would fit me were some stretchy shower shoes, so I wore those. Thankfully it was daytime during the week and most people were at work because I was praying I wouldn't run into anyone I knew looking like that. The next thing I tried was eggplant parmesan. Apparently, there is this Italian restaurant in Georgia that has this famous eggplant parmesan recipe that is known to induce labor. There is some ridiculously large number of women who have eaten their eggplant parmesan and gone into labor within the next 48 hours. They even have pictures of babies all over their restaurant from all the women who went into labor after eating there. I remember seeing a story on it on the national news like 10 years ago. So I googled until I found the place. Thankfully, they had the recipe online! Good thing....because I really didn't feel like driving to Georgia. I made the recipe and ate it by myself for dinner that night (hubby is not a fan of eggplant) and waited..... Surely the eggplant would magically make my water break overnight!! I had my fingers crossed. I awoke the next morning with water in tact. Nothing.
  Thursday, January 22nd came and I went in for my appointment. Tony couldn’t come, so my mom came with me.  We saw Dr. Gallery this time, who is actually my mom’s OB. I had not seen him before. He was an older gentleman probably in his late 50’s or early 60’s, but he was very nice.  He checked my cervix once again and confirmed that I was still not dilated any.  I had not progressed not one bit in weeks.  My blood pressure was still good, though, and he said that I had no cause for concern.  Dr. Gallery told me if I wanted to wait it out until Monday the 26th (when I would be 42 weeks, 1 day), that I could.  This contradicted what Dr. Estes had told me earlier that week when he said I would have to be induced on Friday the 23rd…that next day.  He said it was up to me.  I literally started crying when he told me this. I was so physically and emotionally drained, and now I had another decision upon me.  I had told everyone we would have our baby by Friday. I had prepared to be able to meet my son on Friday.  And now I was going to be allowed to wait until Monday??  Technically, that meant that I would have more time to potentially go into labor on my own and avoid an induction, which is what I had wanted all this time. But it would also mean waiting even longer. Dr. Gallery said that he would leave and let me think about it for a minute.  I looked at my mom and just sobbed. I literally did not know what to do. I subconsciously knew that being induced the next day was going to end badly.  Being almost 42 weeks and still having no progression…it wasn’t looking positive for an induction to even be successful.  You can pump pitocin all day long, but if a woman’s body isn’t ready, it isn’t ready.  But once they start the process, you’re on the clock.  If labor doesn’t progress as they think it should in the window of time they give you (every doc and hospital is different), they are going to do a csection.  Unfortunately, that’s how hospitals work.  My mom started crying too.  She could see how distraught I was.  Dr. Gallery came in I just told him, “Schedule the induction for Friday.  I just can’t go any longer.”  My mom hugged me and went on her way. I got in the car and just bawled. I prayed that things would go smoothly and that the induction would be successful.  The end was in sight, but I wasn’t sure if “the end” would be what I wanted.   Scheduling the actual induction for Friday meant that we would have to come in that very night to start the process.  It is not recommended to induce labor when a woman is not dilated or effaced, so most doctors use a cervical ripening agent called Cervadil that is put on your cervix the night before the induction to help you efface/dilate.  I called Tony and told him the plan.  They would have us come in at 6:30 that evening and would admit us, start the Cervadil process, and induce Friday morning. Later that afternoon while we were home we got a call from the hospital that said they were not sure if they were going to have room for us.  There had been an influx of women that evening who were in labor and they were completely full.  They said they would most likely be able to get a room for us and to call back at 8:00.  Since we officially knew this was our last night as a family of two, we decided to have a date night before going into the hospital.  With bags packed, we had a nice dinner at Travinia’s together.   At 8:00 Tony called and they still had no room. They said to call back at 10:00.  We decided to go get some frozen yogurt to pass the time and headed home.  While we were home, the hospital called and said that they did not have room for us and that they would admit us at 5:00 the next morning.  So we unpacked our bags and went to sleep in our own beds again that night, only to wake up at 3:30 am to head in.  I was already apprehensive about us starting the whole induction process in the morning. Normally, they start the Cervadil at night so it can be working while you sleep. Then they start the pitocin the next morning after you’re rested so you will have energy to labor all day.  But if they started the Cervadil in the morning, that meant they would not be able to start the pitocin until late that night.  So I would be up all day while the Cervadil was in (unable to eat, might I add), and then up all night laboring…and maybe even all day the next day too, depending on how quickly things would go.  It didn’t feel like a good plan. We got to the hospital early that morning, got checked in, and I got in a hospital gown.  The nurse came in and told me they were going to hook me up to an IV and start the pitocin soon.  I did a double take.  “Excuse me?” I said.  “I thought we were going to do the Cervadil first.”  She said that they would just go ahead and start pitocin. I told her in the in the nicest way possible... absolutely not.  I explained to her that I was not dilated any and barely effaced, and that I needed all the help I could get.  She said that she couldn’t make that call, but that we would have to talk to  Dr. Plyler (the doctor coming on to shift that day) once shift change started at 7 am.  By that time, it was close to 7, so I figured we’d talk with Dr. Plyer soon, and get everything worked out. They went ahead and put in my IV, started me popsicle...Repeat.
on a drip, and put the fetal monitor on. 7 am passed, 8 am passed, 9 am passed….we caught up on our episodes of CSI and Boy Meets World, and I ate popsicles....lots of popsicles.  10 am passed….   We had been there for 5 hours and no doctor yet.  The nurses explained that they were still incredibly busy from the night before and that lots of babies were being born.  Dr. Plyler was simply unable to come talk to us.  11 am passed….  I started getting really frustrated.  Tony was getting frustrated too.  He wondered why they had even admitted us.  It was getting too late to start anything at all.  It had been 6 hours, I hadn’t eaten anything, and we were just sitting there.  All I was getting was IV fluids.  We were no closer to seeing our baby boy than we had been this morning.  Finally Dr. Plyer came in around 11:30.  I explained to him that we’d been sitting in this hospital room for 6 hours, I explained to him my situation with not being dilated or effaced, and I told him my concerns about starting the Cervadil at this point in the day.  I suggested that we come back that night and start the whole process again.  He actually agreed with me and suggested that we discharge and come back that night.  So we did.  I had to have my IV removed, take off the hospital gown, get back dressed again, etc.  Thankfully, though, the hospital staff allowed us to keep all of our bags and personal belongings there so we wouldn’t have to repack the car again.
Here we are at IHOP trying to laugh instead of CRY!
So….we left the hospital and I insisted that we get food ASAP since I hadn’t eaten since before 5 am that morning.  We called Tony’s mom and sister and they met us at IHOP for lunch.  We had thought our dinner at Travinia’s was our “last meal,” but as it turns out we got to have one more!  At this point we just had to laugh it off.  Obviously our baby was taking his sweet time and it was completely out of our hands, so we just went with the flow.  We enjoyed our food and family time and then headed home to take a nap. I enjoyed our cuddle time together and cherished the rest that I knew we wouldn’t be getting much of in the near future. 
On a side note, throughout the events of the last 24 hours, I had been keeping in contact with our doula, Tammy, about what was going on. Tammy is a certified doula at our hospital, but a personal friend of ours, so she told us she would be there for our birth regardless of whether or not she was on call that day. I felt bad that I had left her hanging so many times.... we're going in tonight...wait, now we're not....we're at the hospital...oh, we're going home now....okay, we're going back now! Poor Tammy...I'm sure she was ready to throw in the towel on us. But she just kept telling us that everything would be fine and that she would be there for us whenever we were ready for her.  
 Around 5:30pm, we got ourselves up and ready, picked up some Chick-Fil-A , headed back to the hospital, and readmitted at 6:30pm.  They actually gave us a better room this time with nice windows.  I requested not to have an IV for the Cervadil procedure and the nurses agreed.  They also gave me a wireless fetal monitor which was SO much better than the monitor that goes around your belly that they had given me earlier. They took my blood pressure and it was really high….like 150 something.  The nurse said, ‘For some reason this place has that effect on people! It’s your nerves.”  She said she would come back later to take it again.  She came back 5 minutes later and it was still really high.  At that point, I knew what to do.  I grabbed my kit of oils that I’d put together to help me during labor and birthing and got out my roller bottle of lavender oil and my Serenity blend for calming.  I rubbed some on my temples and my wrists. Minutes later the nurse came back in to check my blood pressure again, and it was right back down to normal. One point for essential oils!   
Our "last meal"...home cooking from Lizard's Thicket!
Around 7pm Dr. Plyler came in to insert the Cervadil. I had to wait an hour to see if there was any reaction, and then I could eat.  My parents met us up at the hospital and brought us Lizard’s Thicket.  We ate our 3
rd “last meal” together.  Around 10pm we went to bed.  I tried to sleep, but I cramped pretty heavily throughout the night, which is apparently fairly common with the Cervadil. It got progressively worse throughout the night. Between the cramping and the nurses coming in, it definitely wasn’t quality rest.  But I hoped my discomfort  meant it was working and that I was dilating and/or effacing.
Show time!! This is me that night at
the hospital before the Cervadil.
The next morning the nurses came in at 5:30 am to wake me up and take out the Cervadil. At that time I gave them my birth plan to look over and they sat with me and read over everything. I was surprised at how attentive they were to my wishes They told me they would put a copy of my birth plan with my chart and would brief the next nurse on my wishes at shift change so they wouldn't have to ask me questions, etc. They let me take a shower… last shower before baby! The wireless monitor electrodes were able to stay on while I showered, which I thought was pretty cool.  I put on some makeup and dried my hair.  I chose not to wear a hospital gown and just put on a black bandu bra and just sat on a pad (one of my requests in my birth plan). Before things got started, I also had Tony take all of my Bible verses that I had printed out and tape them around the room so I could look at them and be encouraged during labor. Soon afterward, my nurses, Lauren and Bonnie, came in to redo my IV and hooked me up to fluids.  At 7:15am they started the pitocin drip.  I wasn’t sure how soon I would start to feel contractions.  They started me off at 2 milliunits per minute and slowly upped it every half hour. I started off sitting in a chair in the room. Tony and I were able to watch TV and talk.  Things were pretty bearable.  Contractions were  30 seconds to one minute long.  I also had a blood pressure cuff on the whole time that would automatically take my blood pressure every 15 minutes.  It was kind of annoying, and I had to unhook it every time I went to the bathroom.....which was a lot! Those fluids make you pee like crazy.  About 8:45 I moved to the birthing ball.  I would bounce up and down and then when a contraction hit I would sit still and relax my body.  
This picture makes me cringe...I can't even
get over how humongous my belly was!!
   I used the techniques I had used from the Bradley birthing book and breathed slowly and deeply and pictured myself floating up over the contraction and then back down again.  The contractions were uncomfortable  but not that bad at this point.  By 9:45, I was at 10 milliunits per minute of pitocin. The contractions were definitely stronger now and more painful.  At 10:00am I got out my rice heating pad and got back in the chair.  I was starting to have a lot of back pain and the heat felt good on my back. Tony kept going out to heat up the rice pad in the microwave for me. Around 10:30, Tammy, our doula, showed up to the hospital. I had told her she didn’t need to be there first thing in the morning because I wasn’t in much pain yet.  But I was glad she was there now to help me as things progressed.  I labored all day long and the pitocin drip got pumped up all the way to a 14 over the course of the day.  At around noon my mom showed up at the hospital.  She hadn’t heard anything from us (because there was nothing to report) and was freaking out so she came up there to check on me.  I hadn’t really planned on having her in the labor and delivery room with us, but she was there already so she stayed.  I was starting to be in a lot of pain. The contractions were getting much, much worse as the day progressed.  At 2:45pm they checked my cervix and I was only 1 cm dilated.
My silly hubby with his "baby" aka the birthing ball!
I was just sure that I had to be dilated more than that with as intense of contractions as I was having, but unfortunately I wasn’t.  I labored a few more hours.  Dr. Plyler came in at 5:45 pm.  He checked my cervix again and I was still only 1 cm.  Since I was not progressing any more, he decided  to break my water to see if that sped things along.  I had to get back in the bed, and he basically stuck a huge needle up there and broke it.  A very uncomfortable warm gush followed.  Good thing they had tons of “puppy pads” as we called them underneath me. One thing I was unprepared for was how much I would continue to leak amniotic fluid.  I thought once they broke my water it was broken….done.  But that was soooo not how it was.  Every time I would move, cough, change positions, etc. I would just gush. It was kind of disgusting.  So it kind of worked out that I didn’t have anything on my bottom half.  It would have gotten ruined anyway.  After my water broke, the contractions got even stronger.  They kept coming hard and fast.  I got back on the birthing ball.  Tony sat behind me and put his arms around me. I just leaned against him for support.  I was so grateful that he was so hands on and supportive during labor.  At several points my water was leaking and it  got all over his shoes and probably his pants too.  I kept saying, “I’m sorry babe…”  He just kept telling me that it was fine and not to worry about it and that I didn’t need to say I was sorry.  He was so sweet.  As the contractions got more intense, it got harder and harder to relax my body and I had to grunt and make noise sometimes to get through the contractions.  They were coming one on top of the other.  As we watched the monitor you could see the contractions going off the chart.  As soon as I would get through one, another contraction would hit. I was sitting on the ball and leaning over on to the bed. Tony and Tammy took turns squeezing my hips during contractions.  For some reason that made the pain more bearable. Tammy also had all of these massage tools that she used on my back to relieve some of the pain.  One of them we jokingly called the "Mars Rover" because it looked like a little moon buggy with wheels. Another thing that happened that, thankfully, I had prepared for, was nausea.  I would get these waves of nausea during contractions that was overwhelming.  Another oil in my labor kit was peppermint, which helps relieve nausea.  Whenever I would feel like I was going to throw up, I would yell, “Peppermint!” and Tony or my mom would grab the bottle of peppermint oil to put under my nose. Just breathing in the scent of the oil took the nausea away almost immediately. Point number two for the oils.  Bonnie actually came in shortly after and turned the pitocin down a little because they were hitting me so hard with so little rest in between.  At about 8:45 that night, after 14 hours of labor, Dr. Plyler came in to check my cervix.  I was slightly more effaced but was still only 1 cm dilated.  Nothing had changed.  I couldn’t believe it. Saying that I was absolutely devastated would have been a gross understatement.  All of that hard work and pain had brought me no closer to seeing my sweet Harrison than before. I felt like a complete failure.  Going two weeks past my due date and being pumped full of synthetic pitocin was still not enough to make my body ready to deliver my baby.  I still remember just sitting back in the bed and just wanting to weep.  I was completely overcome with emotion.  Dr. Plyler, Tammy, and Tony could see that I was absolutely exhausted and at my wits end.  If I had been at 6 or 7 cm by that point, I would have had some hope that I could go all the way unmedicated.  But only 1 cm after 14 hours of labor……I just didn’t know how much longer I could keep going. Would it be another 14 hours just to get to 2cm???  Everybody kind of looked to me like, “What are you going to do?”
I asked everybody to step out of the room because I wanted to talk to Tony alone.  He held my hand and I just looked up at him and cried.  I was exhausted, devastated, and in absolute anguish. How could this be happening to me? I had done everything right.  I had been so careful during my routine, uncomplicated pregnancy. I had worked so hard to train myself how to get through contractions so I could have a natural birth….and I had been doing it.  But nothing was changing!  My body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to be doing.  I told Tony that I wanted an epidural.  I told him I felt like a failure, and that I was sorry and that I hoped he wasn’t disappointed in me.  I still remember him looking at me and in the most stern, yet loving and reassuring voice telling me that I better not think for one second that he was disappointed.  He told me I had absolutely nothing to be sorry about and that I was doing a great job.  I could tell he felt so bad for me and there was nothing he could do to make it any better.  He felt helpless. The nurse and Dr. Plyler came back in and I told them that I wanted an epidural.  I had been so adamant about not receiving any drugs and had stressed to my nurses that I did not, for any reason, want to be offered pain medication, so they almost didn’t believe me.  They looked at me and then looked at Tony, and he nodded affirmatively.  Dr. Plyler seemed to be happy that I’d made that decision.  He told me that it would take the anesthesiologist a little bit to get to me, but that he would be in as soon as he could.   I winced through contractions for another 30 minutes or so, and finally at 9:10 the anesthesiologist came in and gave me the epidural. It didn’t hurt at all.  I couldn’t feel the effects at first.  It took a little bit. And even after I started to feel numb there were certain spots in my legs I could still feel. After a while, I was completely numb from the waist down and was no longer in any pain.  It was weird to look at the machine and see my contractions going off the chart but not being able to feel anything.  I put on some more lavender and just breathed deeply and tried to calm myself down and relax my body. Tony told me to get some rest.  We told my mom she could go home too.  There was no point in her being there at that point just to watch me sleep.  She didn’t want to leave me, but we convinced her that she needed to go home and rest so she could come back and have some energy when the baby was born. I finally went to sleep.  Tony stayed up and talked with Tammy while I slept and then eventually he went to sleep in the chair in the room, and Tammy went to the doula room to try and sleep. The nurses came in throughout the night to take my vitals, but it felt good to get rest and to have a break.  Tony woke up periodically through the night and watched the monitor. I labored hard throughout the night with contractions off the chart one after the other.  At some point during the night I spiked a 101 fever. They came in and hooked my IV up to some antibiotics while I was asleep.  At around 2 something in the morning they came in to check my cervix and see if there was any progression.  Dr. Plyler checked me and I was only 3 cm.  It had been almost 20 hours, and I was only 3 cm (less than most women are when they START labor!).  The baby hadn’t dropped any….. nothing was happening, my body was exhausted and the fever  could possibly have negative effects on the baby. Dr. Plyler said that we needed to go ahead and do a csection. My worst fear was coming true. They said it would be about an hour before things would happen.  They would prep the OR and get the anesthesiologist to give my epidural a boost, and then they would come get me.  It’s hard to remember the details of that next hour, but I think as much as I was against a csection, I was just relieved that there was something definitive happening.  I knew I would get to meet my son in the next hour.  The nurses came in and lifted me up onto the rolling bed.  I tried to help them but I couldn’t feel anything.  It was actually happening.  I was about to have a csection.  As they wheeled me out of the labor and delivery room I closed my eyes.  I have no idea where I went.  I couldn’t open my eyes. I felt like if I opened my eyes I would freak out, so I just kept them closed.  I was scared to death.  I remember being wheeled into the OR.  It was so cold.  The radio was playing.  I heard lots of voices. On a 1, 2, 3, they lifted me up onto the operating table.  Tony and Tammy were there by me. The anesthesiologist started walking me through what would be happening.  He told me that I would feel several big tugs. They pulled my arms straight out on either side of me. It was so uncomfortable.  I started shaking again really bad like I had during labor before.  It was also freezing so that didn’t help any either.  As they started the procedure I started to get sick again. I yelled to Tony that I was going to be sick.  He held out a bag and I turned my head to the side and threw up.  I continued to keep my eyes closed as much as possible.  As they worked on me I continued to shake
and throw up. It was miserable. I just kept hoping that they were almost done.  I felt so out of it….almost like I was drunk.  The whole thing felt like an out of body experience.  After a while the anesthesiologist told me I would feel a big tug and that was the baby coming out. I didn’t feel pain but a lot of pressure.  They tugged on me hard…enough to move my whole body from side to side.  I heard a cry.  It was all so surreal.  Shortly after, Tony brought the baby over to me and I tried to kiss him but I couldn’t even sit up
enough to reach his face. I wanted to hold him so bad and nurse him like I’d imagined I would get to right after birth, but that wasn’t going to happen. I still had to be stitched up. Tony left with Harrison to go get weighed and have his bath, but Tammy stayed by my side. I was so grateful for her at that moment more than ever.... As they worked on me my mouth started to get so dry like cotton.  I kept trying to swallow but there wasn’t even enough saliva to swallow. I begged Tammy to give me a sip of water or some ice chips.  She just kept telling me that she couldn’t and that she was so sorry.  I felt more tugs.  All I could think about was how dry my mouth was.  It was the most overwhelming sensation.  I was almost in tears. I begged again for water.  Tammy kept telling me that it was almost over.  Finally they were done.  I got wheeled into the recovery room. I finally got some ice chips.  The nurses checked my vitals and I just sat there and waited.  I still had not gotten to hold my baby.  Tammy left for a while to go be with Tony and Harrison.  Even though the nurses were there I felt alone.  All my family was getting to see my baby have his first bath and get weighed, and I was stuck in this recovery room.
  (Days later, Tony told me that leaving me in that operating room was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to do.  He said that after Harrison came out, he knew that he was supposed to be instantly in love with his baby and want to go over and be with him, but he said he was so worried about me that he didn't want to.  He wanted to stay with me. "I'm married to you...I was just meeting this kid for the first time," he said to me. Haha. I thought that was one of the sweetest things he'd ever said to me. He said that Tammy was the one who reassured him that I would be fine and told him to "go be a daddy" and that she would take good care of me while they stitched me up.)
Tammy came back into the recovery room maybe 40 minutes later holding Harrison. She handed him to me.  I was so overwhelmed.  All I had on my mind was that I needed to nurse him. I put him to my breast and it took him a few seconds, but he finally latched on.  I was scared that he would have trouble since we’d been separated for so long, but he did really well. He was so beautiful.  I just stared at him. I nursed Harrison for a while in the recovery room for what seemed like a while, and the nurses kept checking my blood pressure, etc. Finally, we got to go into our postpartum room.  It was much smaller than the other room. I just soaked up every second of my sweet boy. He had the brightest blue eyes and such a cute little round head.  While I held him he would just stare up and look at me, and I would just melt. He was so alert for a newborn.
Here's Aunt Andrea beaming with her birthday present!!
   Our family came into the room later to see us and hold Harrison. Everyone was so happy and excited….especially Aunt Andrea!  She had joked all throughout my pregnancy that she wanted  Harrison to be born on her birthday.  I had politely said, “No way...that means he would be TWO WEEKS LATE!” Well, Aunt Andrea got her wish!  Haha.  She and Harrison now share a January 25th birthday.  Tony and I joked that we would never have to buy her another birthday present again because we gave her the best birthday present ever...a nephew!  
    For the rest of the day, we enjoyed our beautiful son. To tell you the truth, I don't remember much of the details of the rest of that day. I was so very sore from the c-section and was on pain meds, so I'm sure I was pretty out of it. I do remember feeling disappointed still about how the delivery went, though, but still very happy and grateful that it was all over and I had my baby boy, finally. Later that evening, though, we had another turn in our story. One of the nurses came in and told us that Harrison had to be taken to the Special Care nursery. She didn't really tell us why or any details, but just wheeled our baby out of the room and took him away. I was in disbelief. They had told us he was healthy and perfectly fine....what was wrong with him?? I was so upset. I had just been through so much to get my baby born, and now he was being taken away from me. As it turns out, we later found out that the results of some tests had come back and Harrison had a high white count, most likely caused by the fever I had had during labor.  Nothing was "wrong" with him per say, but because of the results of the test, it was protocol that they admit him and administer antibiotics as a precautionary measure. As upset as I was about the whole thing, it was Tony who took it even harder. He was really angry and upset about it and had to have a little talk with God, as I remember. I think he just couldn't understand why we were having to go through all this. 
The next two days were rough. We had to get up every 2 ½ hours, and Tony had to wheel me down to the nursery in a wheelchair to nurse Harrison in Special Care, because I was still too sore to walk. Every time we had to scrub in. Constantly having to get in and out of the bed combined with being incredibly sore from the c-section made things very difficult and painful. I hated seeing Harrison hooked up to so many tubes and with so many needles in his tiny hands and feet. But as we came in each time to feed Harrison, we got to see all of the other tiny preemie babies in incubators hooked up to feeding tubes and goodness knows what else.... Harrison was by far the biggest and healthiest baby in there. As upset as I was that he had to be in there, I was so grateful that he was full term and healthy and not tiny and sick like those other little babies. It definitely put things in perspective for us. Tony and I both struggled for those couple of days. It was exhausting going back and forth and I missed having my baby next to me, but looking back, it was Tony who said that those long nights of waking up every 2 hours and wheeling me down to Special Care were some of his favorite times together. We talked, we laughed, we cried, he pretended he was driving me in a race car....haha. It was hard, but it bonded us on another level. We had to lean on each other and make the most of the situation.  
Eventually Harrison's white count improved and he got to leave Special Care, and 6 days after we had checked in to the hospital, we finally got to take our sweet baby boy home.  It was a joyous occasion. I remember being home on that first night nursing my sweet boy and being so grateful to not have to worry about all the "stuff" attached to IV's, no wires, no monitors, no hospital bracelets....just us! It felt so good to be home. Over the next few days, I saw a side of Tony I never saw before. He was and is so in love with our baby boy. Harrison has stolen his heart...and mine too! I can definitely tell that our birth experience, as flawed as it was in so many ways, has melded us together as husband and wife in a whole new way. Tony kept telling me our entire time in the hospital how proud he was of me and what a good job I was doing. He was so reassuring. He was strong when I was feeling weak, and the one day he snapped when they took Harrison away, I was strong for him when he was feeling weak.  
As any new parent will agree, that first month is hard.  It is beautiful, wonderful, special, and amazing….but hard.  Now that my precious boy is almost 5 months old, I look back and realize why people say, “Don’t blink.”  It truly goes by SO fast. But I can safely say that becoming a mommy is one of THE most incredible things I have ever done in my life.  Harrison is the sweetest, cutest, most adorable baby in the whole wide world. Everybody says that all mommies think that about their babies, and it’s so true.  When you look at your baby you truly think that they are THE most adorable baby EVER….because, well…..they are. I don’t know if it’s innate or if it’s because I worked so incredibly hard those first couple of months getting Harrison on a schedule and being consistent, but my baby boy is so happy and well-adjusted. He sleeps good, he smiles all the time, he laughs, he loves to talk and squeal and make cute noises.  He loves listening to music and loves to hear me sing.  He loves snuggles and for me to read books to him.  He loves his bath.  He hardly fusses unless he’s hungry or tired.  I just absolutely love being with him. He is my angel.  
  Is having a baby a lot of work? Um.....yes.  Is it stressful sometimes?  Definitely.  But it’s the best thing EVER!  I thank God every day for my beautiful baby boy and I still look at him sometimes and just cry tears of joy at how grateful I am for him. Every single stretch mark and every single pound that I gained (all 65 of them!!!) were worth it. Hands down. He was definitely worth the wait.