Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The birth of Beau David Brocato, Part 2: Our Home Birth

It was Saturday Sept. 8th.  My mother had been in town all week visiting one last time before I hit 40 weeks.  She was due to leave the next day but I told her while she was visiting that while we hadn't ever planned on having her here for the birth, I secretly hoped that I would go into labor with her still here.  There was something very comforting and nurturing about her presence and I suddenly hoped that she'd be able to be part of it all.  I noticed that morning that the baby was moving a little less... nothing dangerous or worrisome, just less active than usual, and I took a mental note wondering if that meant he'd be on his way soon.  That afternoon my mom, Andy, and I went out to Reston Town Center for lunch to try and get out of the house for a bit.  While we were out we heard on the radio of a tornado warning for later that day.  I received a text while at lunch from my doula, Marilyn, asking how I was feeling with the drop in barometric pressure and I chuckled telling her that I was fine thus far as it didn't seem to be affecting me at all.  (Many women are sensitive to large drops in barometric pressure resulting in labor).  At the end of our outdoor lunch the rain began to sprinkle, so we headed back to the car to try and head home before things got ugly.  Sure enough on our drive things picked up significantly and boy was I grateful to be in our new safe car!  The wind was strong, rain was pouring, and debris was flying everywhere.  I kept praying aloud that we just make it home safely and that no trees fall on us while we were driving!  As soon as we pulled up to our street we saw that trees were down, some having crushed cars , and there was no way to enter.  Now I was grateful that we had been out instead of sitting home with our brand new car under a tree!  Andy got out in the pouring rain to see if he could pull a fallen tree over enough for us to get passed.  I looked further and saw others ahead so I called for him to come back.  We drove around to the other side of our complex and found a spot clear of any trees that could still timber over.  The three of us ran (ok, I waddled) through the courtyard getting soaked as we tried to make it safely inside.  As soon as we opened the door we saw that the power was out.  We immediately began lighting candles, changing clothes, and couldn't wait for the storm to end so that we could get outside to assess the damage with our neighbors.  As soon as the storm calmed we headed out to try and help each other clear the debris.  (I picked up little sticks to feel like I was taking part while the others helped chop tree trunks and drag branches away).  Once we came inside, the three of us sat and played Wheel of Fortune on my phone to pass the time.  After a few hours we noticed that all of our phone batteries were about to die so we decided to give them a rest in case we needed them later.  I quickly jotted down the phone numbers of Parveen, Marilyn, Ali, and our OB just in case something started and my phone battery was dead...

My face says it all as I take in the mess

That night we all went to dinner with two of our good friends.  While we were out, I couldn't help but notice that Andy was enjoying himself by ordering some drinks.  As the night went on and the drinks kept coming, I said to him.. "um.. honey, remember that thing about me potentially going into labor anytime from 38 weeks onward and that part about you being on-call and maybe not having tooooo much fun with the drinks just in case??"  He quickly informed me that we were totally fine... that I wouldn't be going into labor any time soon.  He was sure of it.  In fact, he was sure that I'd be going into labor after my due date (at this point I was 39.5 weeks).  He quoted the statistic that he'd often heard me say... "the average first time mom delivers at 41 weeks and 1 day".  I chuckled and said, "how do you know??? you have NO idea when I'll go into labor!" and I also added that for some reason, many first time moms begin labor in the middle of the night and that tonight could very well be that night.  He then replied with the ol', "I think I know my wife... I'm going to be able to tell when you're heading in that direction."  Again I had to chuckle... knowing that there aren't always tell tail sings pointing in that direction at all.  I then added, "Ok, whatever you say, but if I DO go into labor and you're too tipsy or tired to support me, I'm going to be awfully disappointed in you!!!"  Everyone at the table laughed at our silly argumentative banter, but none of us were REALLY worried that I'd actually be having my baby just yet.

We arrived back home at about 11:45pm hoping that the power would be back on.  Unfortunately it wasn't and we were all exhausted so we headed to bed by 12:30am.  Suddenly at 1:45am I was awakened by a warm gush that just kept flowing into my underwear and out into the bed.  I gasped and sat up yelling, "Andy, ANDY... OH MY GOD, MY WATER JUST BROKE!.  (Along with a few holy shit's I'm sure).  Andy was slow to wake (surprise surprise!!) and when he finally did, he muttered that I must have wet the bed.  "Ummmm no, I did NOT just wet the bed!" I flew out of bed (as fast as a huge, full term pregnant girl can fly) and headed straight to the bathroom quickly lighting a candle to try and see what was in my underwear.  When I sat down, I continued to leak more and more fluid, and I just knew it wasn't urine.  My mom overheard the commotion and quickly came out of the guest bedroom asking what was going on.  I told her my water had broken (Andy was still insisting that it must be urine... I think he WANTED it to be urine because he was still feelin' those drinks!!).  As gross as it is, and yes this is TMI, I asked him to come and smell my underwear.  "Does this smell like semen to you??", I asked. "UGH (incredibly disgusted)...  YES IT DOES!", he replied as I quickly said, "then THAT means it's amniotic fluid and NOT urine!".  

Suddenly I felt nervous.  This was it.  What I'd been waiting for- not only for the last 9 months, but my whole life.  One way or another I was going to have a baby in the near(ish) foreseeable future, and I was slightly concerned since the onset of my labor began with ruptured membranes.  I knew that I was now on a clock to deliver before infection could set in.  Whenever a mom has called me saying her water has just broken at the onset or before labor has begun, my heart always sinks a little for her.  Our work is now cut out for us. We're not going to have a leisurely time just waiting to see when things pick up, but rather we're going to need to be very proactive about getting things going so that we don't run into trouble later on.  Statistically, only 10% of labors actually begin with spontaneous rupture of membranes (despite how hollywood may like to portray birth), yet interestingly enough both my mother and my sister also had ruptured membranes at the onset of their labors.  Knowing this throughout my pregnancy, I supplemented with more vitamin C to try and help strengthen my amniotic sac.  Also knowing that my baby had been OP (posterior) for most of my pregnancy and leading up to labor (see previous posts or spinning babies to learn what on earth I'm talking about), I knew that a common identifying factor of an OP baby is ruptured membranes at the start of labor.  This told me he was likely still in that OP position (despite my many efforts to turn him in pregnancy).  Gulp.  I knew I was probably in for a really long, tough, ride.

Andy kept suggesting that I come back to bed and rest for a while.  He reminded me that I always tell my moms that they'll need their energy later and that they should get some sleep while they can, especially if the onset is at night.  I was wired though... adrenaline was through the roof.  Anxiety was setting in.  I couldn't just lay there and sleep... NOT NOW! Not to mention the fact that I knew I was on that damned clock... I wanted things to pick up so that slow or no progress wouldn't bite me in the butt later.  I got up and it wasn't long before the crampy contractions began.  Within an hour or so they picked up to the point where I had to at least make noise during them... nothing unbearable, but they weren't mild either.  It was on.  I had a sanitary pad in my underwear but during every contraction I would completely soak the pad and my underwear entirely with fluid.  Within what felt like minutes I'd gone through all of my maternity underwear which Andy had to go fish out of my drawer by candlelight (you should have seen some of the tiny thongs he brought me initially that would now probably not make it past my knee!). I was also apparently using way too much toilet paper when using the bathroom (or so I was told). After one of my many trips to the toilet I suddenly heard a pouring sound behind me as I walked down the hall.  I grabbed a flashlight and pointed it toward the toilet just in time to see it completely running over.  Seriously???? NOW??, I thought,  First no power, then my water breaks in the dark, and now the toilet is overflowing ALL when I finally go into labor???? Andy ran with towels as fast as he could to clean up the mess in the dark.  We just had our floors replaced a few months back due to water damage (for the second time in a year)... and honestly, at this point I didn't care what happened to those floors one bit.  But Andy worked diligently in what little light he had and cleaned it all up before it buckled the wood.  So I was now told not to use that toilet and to use much less toilet paper in the other bathroom to which I immediately thought, "um... I'm in LABOR.  I have to use the toilet every few minutes (literally), and YES, I have to use friggin' toilet paper!".  So I decided since we were already doing things like they did hundreds of years ago without power, I may as well keep that theme going.  I had my mom grab a bucket that we had car wash supplies in... and yep, you guessed it.  This became my new toilet.  I didn't have to leave the room... I just shifted from my birth ball to aiming over my bucket and let 'er loose... over and over again.  It was kind of brilliant to be honest :)  A few other times I missed the bucket or splashed amniotic fluid all over the place (we also had chux pads on the floor)...but like the sweet husband that he is, Andy kept cleaning up after me without one complaint.  He was still really tired so I begged Andy to go back to bed as I reminded him that I would be needing his support much more later on.  He kept saying that he wasn't sleeping unless I was sleeping...but  after much head-bobbing on his end, I finally convinced him that I was nowhere near sleep and he agreed to go back to bed for a while.  My mom, being the night owl that she is, stayed by my side.  So grateful that she was there, I began to labor away sitting on my birth ball, rotating my hips, and doing some belly dance techniques.  At this point all of my labor pains were in the front (like very strong period cramps), which made me feel hopeful that maybe our little one had rotated from his OP position into a more ideal spot to descend.  The contractions were definitely coming, 5 minutes apart or less, but at this point they weren't quite a minute in length.  As they started coming more and more, I noticed that the pain was both in the front and also moving around to my lower back (a sign that the baby was likely still OP).  At around 5:45am I contacted Parveen to keep her updated.  I told her that the contractions were definitely painful and definitely coming, but that I thought that it was more because of the baby's position rather than actual progress.  I'd seen this pattern unfold time and time again... ruptured membranes at the onset, contractions coming back to back in an early stage growing progressively stronger into back labor, shaking due to hormones almost like transition and after hours and hours of hard work, often little to no progress because it's actually an OP baby rather than one that is descending properly...  darn it!  I definitely felt anxious knowing this, but kept at it and continued positions that can help turn an OP baby.  Parveen sensed my anxiety and said that she knew I was only in early labor but that she would still head over shortly just to check in on me.

Now during all of this our power was still out.  At first, I thought "eh, no biggie... laboring by candlelight will be lovely and peaceful!" (and in some ways it was)... but then I also realized that this meant no hot water which is a pretty major part of home birth!  Showers and the birth pool are the best way to relieve even the most painful labors and without the best trick in the book, I felt even more anxious.  When I mentioned this to my mom, she said in her usual southern accent, "well then we'll just have to do it the old fashioned way and heat that water up on the stove!"....wishing that was possible I said, "We have an electric range mom.".........she gave a thoughtful pause and said, "oh.... well shoot!".  Suddenly, however, after about 5 or 6 hours of laboring in the dark, the house lit up, the AC revved up, and we squealed, "Thank you God, we have POWER!"!!

Andy awoke around the same time that Parveen arrived which was around 7am.  She decided to check my cervix, if I wanted, so that we would at least have a baseline.  I knew the progress wasn't going to be much and didn't want to grow discouraged, but agreed that it would be good to have something to go off of.  Sure enough, I was only 2cm dilated, 80% effaced, and the baby was still at a -2 station.  Parveen suggested at this point that I try and rest.  I knew it would be difficult, but I tried since I'd only had 1 hour of sleep and this was clearly going to be a very long journey.  I laid down in the bed and with contractions coming every 5 or so minutes, I was able to catch little cat naps between and then crawled out of bed (as quickly as I could) during each contraction to move through them.  I think Andy was sitting there with me, but I was groggy so it's hard to remember. This up-and-down-from-bed- pattern went on for about 2 hours where the contractions then became too strong for me to rest and I gained a second wind.  We decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day outside and tried to go for a walk to keep things going.

The walk was tough.  It happened to be a weekend (one of the very weekends that our photographer Ali was unavailable to be with us), so plenty of neighbors were walking around and I was doing my best to mask the pain and/or noises that I was making so as not to scare anyone off (especially the children running around)!  Andy and I took things slowly but I was definitely having to work hard through the contractions.  We also took the stairs which I completely dreaded, and thought of allllll those mamas prior to me that I had taking those stairs to get their labors to progress!  Andy was a great coach... he didn't let me stop or wuss out.  He just kept encouraging me to keep going and going.  Then at one point I turned to Andy, teary, and told him that I thought I knew the baby's name.  His eyes immediately teared up as he asked "Which one?".  I told him- now through full fledged crying- that I really wanted the baby to be named after my grandmother that I'd been so close to.  {Her nickname was "Bo" and she and I were sort of 'kindred spirits'.  She had always recognized this and told me my whole life how alike we were, but I didn't truly see quite how much so until my adult life after she had passed away.} Throughout our whole pregnancy I'd felt Bo's presence surrounding us often, and it just felt right to use her nickname.  So our sentimental choice was Beau (we wanted to give him his own spelling) and David is my father's name.  It was currently the day before my father's 70th birthday and it was looking pretty likely that our baby would be sharing a birthday with his granddaddy, so sharing his name also felt appropriate.  Andy immediately choked up, tears down his cheeks, and said "that's it then!". "Are you sure??", I asked, knowing that he had originally preferred our other name choice... the one that wasn't sentimental but a name that we both really liked.  "Yep... positive", he said.  So it was settled!  Our baby boy finally had a name... Beau David.  We decided not to tell anyone until after he was born.

After what felt like a really long time we returned inside.  Somewhere in there we spent some time alone in our bedroom so that we could use nipple stimulation to get things to pick up (sorry again for the TMI but nipple stimulation is a wonderful way to release oxytocin which thereby increases uterine contractions).  We also took a shower to help me relax.  Also during this time we ate a little, though I wasn't very hungry at all-- more nauseous really, and Marilyn also arrived.  The second I saw her, she hugged me and I started crying.  I just needed to release my emotions-- excitement and fear-- and I felt a sense of calming relief knowing she was joining us. I had worked with Marilyn many times before, and it was really nice to have something familiar to my 'birth world' around me.  I tried to embrace everything I was feeling... the calm moments, the scared moments, the predictable ones and the unknowns.  I tried as best as I could to be present which truly can be difficult when your body is taking over as it does.  Your mind just wants to shut down (and needs to!) so that your body can let go. This was the hardest for me... letting my mind just shut down so that my body could do its job (which I have to say I never completely allowed it to do).

At around 5:00pm- 15 hours into labor- Parveen decided to check me again.  Hoping for some progress after all that work, I was somewhat discouraged to hear that I was now only 3cm dilated and baby was still at a -2 station.  At this point she said that she'd like to chat about my options.  She had spoken to my OB on the phone and he expressed that he wasn't comfortable with me going past 16 hours with ruptured membranes due to the risk of infection.  I was shocked.  Usually we have at least 24 hours with ruptured membranes before really thinking much about infection, so I wasn't expecting this conversation until well into the middle of the night.  Parveen agreed that it felt early to her too and said that from a health perspective she was perfectly comfortable waiting at home until 24 hours as both baby and I were looking great.  However, with that said, she said that the backup OB that we had chosen wasn't comfortable with me waiting, so I had to make a decision knowing that I wanted him to continue to support us on this journey.  I spoke to him briefly on the phone between contractions.  He said that in his experience, for some reason, he often saw a rise in infection rates after 16 hours of ruptured membranes and so he'd feel more comfortable with me coming in to be monitored and to have IV antibiotics.  It'd be one thing if I was close to delivery, but seeing as though I had so much further to go, we had some decisions to make.  I felt frustrated.  I wanted to stay longer... I wanted to get in my birth pool and see if my body would let go and if I would dilate faster. I wondered if the Dr's experience of increased infections was because of all the hospital protocols... increased vaginal exams, bacteria present in the hospital etc. etc., but I also didn't want to chance developing a fever and putting our little guy in danger.  Of course I was disappointed by the idea of not getting our home birth, but what made me more nervous was knowing what my options were going to be upon arrival at the hospital.  I knew they would give me IV antibiotics.  Fine.  I'm not really a fan of antibiotics and have spent years taking probiotics to increase my good intestinal flora, but whatever.. I could handle the antibiotics and deal with that later.  I also knew that he would suggest Pitocin.  Something I have NEVERRRRRR wanted to experience (not that anyone really hopes to experience Pitocin contractions).  Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin that our bodies make but being synthetic it doesn't cross the brain barrier and therefore doesn't give us the sense of wellbeing that natural oxytocin gives.  It increases uterine contractions wellll past what your body would naturally create (despite what they try to tell you), and of course has risks-- including baby's heart rate reacting unfavorably because of less recovery time from intense squeezing between back to back contractions.  On top of all of this, I was already just about at my pain threshold.  I knew that I could keep doing what I was doing at the current level-- tough as it was-- in order to have my natural birth, and I was ok with them coming closer and closer together....but I also felt like I couldn't take but so much stronger-- which Pitocin contractions very much are.  The other option, however, was to be left alone... possibly develop an infection and then have to be ushered back to the operating room for a cesarean much faster.  DAMN IT, DAMN IT, DAMN IT!!  Since danger was in no way imminent, we took the next hour or 2 talking through our options so that our decision was something we would feel sure about.  As soon as we began discussing heading to the hospital, my contractions began to space apart.  The adrenaline response to anxiety tends to halt labor and it was doing just that with mine.  After much back and forth, one lone statement made the decision easy for me.  I mentioned that I just didn't want to feel that we made the call then to end up in surgery and always wonder what would have been had we just stayed home a littler longer.  Parveen responded by saying, "alternatively you also don't want to take too long at home and always wonder what would have been had we gone in sooner."  That was all I needed to hear.  "Let's go", I said immediately.  We began to pack a bag (no I hadn't done this sooner in hopes that I wouldn't need it)... Andy and my mom were trying to grab things and I just didn't care what went in there.  I think the bag ended up with one or two baby outfits and a robe for me.  We did grab my pillow and some of my essential oils and then I think we were on our way.

During the car ride I had four or five hard contractions but I stayed focused and got through them (it was really tough to sit down with excruciating back labor).  My mom and Andy stayed quiet for me and Andy drove very calmly.  I was nervous but I always knew that hospital transfer was a possibility and I felt grateful that our reason for transferring wasn't because of anything "wrong" just yet.  I tried to take in some of the advice I'd often told my clients:  We know that we gave it a great shot at home and now we just have a plan B that we are grateful to have as an option when it's needed.  Of course it was disappointing knowing that I wouldn't be having the beautiful, peaceful home water birth I had so desired,  but at this point I just wanted everyone to be safe and healthy. We arrived at the hospital and Andy dropped us off at the main entrance so that he could go park.  My mother ran ahead to get a wheelchair as I was having a really tough time walking during my contractions.  Parveen and Marilyn were on their way behind us.  Ali (the photographer) had been alerted, but we knew that it was unlikely that she would be able to come.  I slowwwwly put one foot in front of the other as I entered the main lobby all alone.  I stopped immediately as a huge contraction hit and an older couple, on their way out, passed with concerned faces asking if I had anyone with me or if I was coming to have my baby all alone.  I nodded and pointed in the direction of my mother while breathing as deeply as possible.  The security guard came and helped me into a wheelchair.  I think he thought I was about to have that baby right there in the lobby-- which I told him I was nowhere close to delivery-- as he said "just hooooold on" and took off like a bat outta hell racing me upstairs and leaving my mother to run after us.  As we rode the elevator and rolled down those familiar halls that I'd walked so many times before with my own clients, I prepared myself to keep looking forward and not back.  This baby deserved to be welcomed into this world with the same love, joy, and excitement no matter where or how he decided to join us...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The birth of Beau David Brocato, Part 1: The Plan

So it's been really difficult for me (like any new mom) to find the time to sit with two hands and actually type the birth story of our son, Beau.  From just trying to sleep when our little guy is sleeping to having a baby in my arms and on my breast when I'm actually awake, it's tough to find a moment to run and pee or quickly shove food in my mouth much less type!  So I've decided to put our birth story together in sections... I guess more like chapters (yep, I have that much to say!).  Everything is already a bit hazy in my memory, so I'm doing my best to sit and type out what I can when I can.   It's tough to know where to begin... Beau's journey was a long one but at the end of the day (ok days) it was all so wonderfully worth it!

I'll start off with our "plan" before our birth even began.  I put this in quotes because we all know that plans, especially when it comes to birth, are just preferences that we have so little control over.  We often detour from these plans, but do our best to honor our preferences along the way.  I realize this isn't the juicy "what actually happened" chapter, but many have asked and asked what I would do when it's my turn.  So I'll start from the beginning... get your popcorn and hunker down... as usual anything I have to say is going to take more than a few minutes :)

The most common question that I've heard through my pregnancy was where I planned to give home, birth center, or hospital?  As soon as we learned we were pregnant I knew that I wanted a home birth.  Knowing what I do for a living and all that I've witnessed at both home and hospital, (and after some discussion of course) Andy was on board and supported me 100%.  So right away I started going through our options for home birth, thinking of all the wonderful midwives that I knew and loved and which would be the best fit for us.  We wanted someone who- aside from having reputable credentials, positive energy, and plenty of experience- would come to our home for all of our appointments, who I had worked with before, and who wasn't taking on so many clients that we had to wonder exactly who would be the one showing up on our special day.  Immediately I thought of Parveen Kelly, CPM.  Her calming presence was there to reassure me right off the bat as she completely understood that while I work in this business, all of that knowledge somehow goes right out the window when it's your body and your baby.  Filled with questions (that I often knew the answers to but just had to ask), Parveen would take her time in answering each and every one no matter how irrational many of them were.  Throughout my pregnancy I noticed that my history of anxiety (see previous posts) was definitely bubbling up to the surface, and so I worked long and hard at trying to keep those thoughts in check, not only for myself, but for my baby.  With all of that said, I was hell bent on covering all of our bases to try and ease my anxieties (or maybe just hell bent on control?!) and  one of those bases was insuring backup- knowing that there was a very real possibility, like with any home birth, that I would need to transfer to the care of a Dr. at any point during my pregnancy or labor/delivery. So I decided I wanted to find my own backup OB... someone who I could trust implicitly and that I felt comfortable working with just in case.  Those who work in this business know that not all hospital transfers are positive.  When you get just any doctor who is on-call you really can't be sure of how you'll be received and sometimes it's not exactly kind.  So I immediately knew who I wanted as my backup and called my favorite OB to see if he'd be willing.  Thankfully he was... he said that he trusted me and knew that if I had to transfer that I wouldn't be like some of the other transfer moms out there: angry upon arrival and unwilling to do what it takes to keep mom and baby safe.  This doctor and I had worked together many many times and have a great relationship, so I knew it was a perfect fit.  He kept in touch with me throughout my entire pregnancy, and saw me frequently as we continued to work together... but at the end of the day we both hoped that we wouldn't need to see each other on the big day at all. Either way, my mind was at ease knowing that if I had to go in at any point, that I was covered and my experience would still be positive.

Photo courtesy of Ali Caudill Photography

I'll stop myself right there before continuing and paste some information below for those who are gasping and thinking that home birth is "crazy" or "negligent".  Normally I wouldn't even bother explaining our choices, as they were ours to make and really no one else's business.  But I noticed throughout our pregnancy that a lot of our friends, family, and even acquaintances had big eyes and "you're crazy" comments (or at least looks) when really they knew very little on the subject of home birth.  I've written posts about birth choices in the past, never revealing what ours would personally be as I've always supported everyone's personal choice in where and how to birth their babies... so now I'll just paste something I wrote to a very concerned friend during my pregnancy in response to our choice:

*Please note that the following is in no way meant to try and change the view or opinion of those who don't agree with us nor is it meant to start a debate, but rather is to help others simply understand why we chose as we did.

 In terms of home birth, our midwife is incredibly skilled (she was trained in the UK where ALL moms visit a midwife as the norm and are only referred to an OB in cases of high risk pregnancies.  She has worked in both hospitals and at home and has seen very high risk situations in her training in the UK.  She is conservative in that she doesn't just wait for things to progress into sticky situations, but rather is incredibly proactive about her decisions to either stay home or head out for help.)  Many good OB's are supportive of home births as long as mom is a good candidate for one.  I often have OB's tell my own clients (who are planning a hospital birth) that if they don't want to be "messed with" and truly want a natural birth, then to stay home until the last minute.  Even they support staying home if mom wants to avoid unnecessary interventions.  In terms of emergencies, what is hardest for most to understand is that the emergencies seen in the hospital are often caused by the procedures performed at the hospital itself. (Of course, not always, just often). We currently have a very high cesarean rate in the US from hospital births. Most "emergency c-sections" are because of either Pitocin which can negatively effect baby's heart rate and send moms quickly into the OR; epidurals which often cause moms blood pressure to crash, thereby causing baby's heart rate to drop incredibly fast, again leading mom straight to the OR; or artificial rupture of membranes which can cause uterine infection, putting baby in distress and again an emergency visit to the OR.  And these are just the 3 most commonly used medications/procedures in hospitals.  So admittedly, some Dr's will agree... stay away if you want a natural birth.  Now I also realize that without enough information, many would ask "then why not just have a natural birth AT a hospital just in case?" And while it IS sometimes possible, there are still some difficulties with that.  First and foremost the staff often doesn't allow moms the same amount of time for their bodies to do what is necessary to get the job done on it's own... so while they often say they are fine with mom having a natural birth, they seem to grow impatient and truly do step in MUCH sooner to "mess with things" (ie. speed them along) which can often have an unfavorable effect on the process.  Even simple protocols like IV fluids and artificial rupturing of membranes can create a cascade of interventions that are unfavorable.  Also many moms have a harder time relaxing in a hospital environment, and the adrenaline response to anxiety, or white coat syndrome, can lead to a major stall in labor.... then guess what happens?  They mess with it! (I've often seen moms having nice strong productive contractions 3 minutes apart at home, only to then stall completely upon arrival to the hospital).  The energy at a home birth is very peaceful and calm, and not treated with constant anticipation of something going wrong.  None of this is to mean that there aren't times where we NEED medical intervention, a little push in the right direction, and for that I am incredibly grateful for what our hospitals have to offer.  I've been a part of home birth transfers for those very reasons and they tend to be very smooth and proactive. Sometimes the at-home methods just aren't enough and we need to go in for a little help. I realize that those in a more medically minded environment argue this because they only see the emergencies that they see... they often haven't witnessed both hospital and home births and don't understand that often those emergencies that they see are caused by their own interventions.  They have no clue what a home birth looks like and imagine it being without proper medical care (i.e. just some lady having her baby without a clue what to do in the middle of her bedroom).   And not all hospitals, or doctors, or nurses are "bad" at all.  I've had incredibly positive experiences in hospitals with wonderful birth teams.  I just prefer to try at home first where I don't have to worry about the unnecessary interventions.  With all of this said, I realize that there is (of course) a possibility that we will need to deliver at the hospital or even have a surgical birth, and so I have enlisted an amazing OB who has been in touch with me this entire pregnancy along with some Dr's visits to him to make sure he remains comfortable with my choice.  He will be alerted as soon as I go into labor and is part of the birth team- just from a distance.  He too will be part of deciding if I should head in should things start to look that way. In terms of post-birth care, my midwife is trained in emergency response as well as neonatal resuscitation. She will be monitoring both my vitals and baby's vitals through the entire labor, delivery, and for approximately 5 hours post-birth. She will also perform the same blood testing etc. on baby after the birth and we will take the baby in to the pediatrician within 24 hours to have him checked (the pediatrician was also incredibly supportive of our choice to stay home, and only said to bring him in within 24 hours which is when they would usually check baby themselves at the hospital). In terms of baby care, so many studies point to immediate mother-baby bonding...unlimited skin-to-skin contact, breastfeeding, and delaying 'convenient' procedures (weighing, measuring, vaccines, baths etc). Studies are also supporting delayed cord clamping and cutting in order to give baby his full blood volume from the placenta which helps in his transition to breathing well and his blood pressure along with other benefits. While many hospitals are coming around as they learn this information, they are still known for often rushing these procedures, and breaking that contact/bond that is so crucial during those first hours after birth.  None of these things are issues at a home birth.  Midwives fully support what all of this research suggests.  And finally, the maternal mortality rate in US hospitals is sadly quite high.  So much research is now pointing to the interventions and hospital procedures themselves being the cause.  Without going into all of that data, we do feel that we are making the safest choice for both myself and our little one to stay at home given my low risk status.  

So that's where we stood in terms of hoping to try at home with a skilled midwife and an OB in the background.  And that just covers the medical side of why home birth is safe.  Overall I trusted this process when all is progressing normally, and wanted to give it a good go without messing with it!

Photo courtesy of Ali Caudill Photography

The second most frequently asked question throughout my pregnancy was whether I planned on having a doula.  It took me forever to decide as I wasn't sure what I would actually need in labor.  I knew that in early labor, I would be fine with Andy by my side as my mind would still be "with it" and I would be well aware of what to do and what to ask of him.  My only concern was for later in labor... when experienced hands and words are very necessary for relieving pain. (I can't exactly reach around and squeeze my own hips nor can I script what to say!). I figured that mentally I would know what I wanted, but did I even want to have to think about the doula role during labor or just be the laboring mom??  I also knew that Parveen was beyond skilled at what she does and that with her by my side we would likely not need the extra help.  With that said, I kept tossing the thought back and forth... did I need a doula too?  Did I just want one?  Then one night my good doula friend Marilyn Alger and I were on the phone and I heard exactly what I needed to hear.  "Juli you just need a standby doula.  No contracts, no expectations, no pre-birth meetings, just someone who will show up IF you need it during labor, and I'd be more than happy to be that person for you."  I immediately started crying... this was exactly what I needed to hear!  (Plus I could pay her back in massages!!)  So grateful for her generous offer, I felt like my team was {almost} complete.  I had a supportive husband, an amazing midwife, an awesome OB, and now an incredible doula waiting in the wings just in case!

The cherry on top to my birth team was the addition of one of my favorite people~ Ali Caudill of Ali Caudill Photography.  I asked if she'd be willing to photograph our special day.... she was ecstatic and said that there were a few dates during our on-call window that she absolutely couldn't be there due to other contractual obligations, but otherwise she wouldn't miss it for the world. I was SO excited at the idea of her capturing our birth journey so that we could forever remember and share those images with our son.  I trusted that if she was meant to be there, then our birth would fall on a day that she could make it.

Photo courtesy of Ali Caudill Photography

So our team was now complete!  Over the next months Andy and I gathered the appropriate supplies for our home birth... our birth kit, receiving blankets, mattress protector, birth pool, hose and sump pump, essential oils, etc etc. Plus I had my own doula bag filled with all things birth, so I knew we were ready.   During the final weeks leading up to our birth I felt calm.  I felt ready.  I was so excited to meet our boy!  We hadn't yet decided on his name but had narrowed it down to 2.  One we just liked and one that was sentimental.  We decided we would likely just meet him and make our decision then.  So now all we had to do was wait...

Photo courtesy of Ali Caudill Photography

Thursday, September 6, 2012

39 week update!

Here we are at the very end (I never thought this time would actually come!) and so I wanted to try and blog a few more times before our wee little one arrives.  I know that once he's here it will be even harder for me to blog, but I would like to think that I'll find time to share tidbits of our new life as parents once we're on the other side.

So while I don't feel that I necessarily have anything terribly profound to write about today, I would like to update those who tune in to hear about my pregnancy.  I'm officially 39 weeks and READYYYY!  Shoot, I've been ready.  And let's be honest, I've looked ready since I was about 23 weeks pregnant and now I just look like I'm seriously going to POP at any moment.  Everywhere I go people warn me "not to get any ideas" by going into labor (as if I'm REALLY hoping/plotting/planning to start labor while negotiating car prices at a car dealership or picking out ice cream at the grocery store?).  So yeah, needless to say everyone within earshot is happy to comment on how ready I appear.  I guess the major waddle with heavy breathing and stopping for hard braxton hicks to pass every few feet doesn't really help my case!

{Looking surprised at my 'about to popness' at week 38}

And speaking of car dealerships, our nesting went into full force this last weekend as we purchased a new SAFE car for our family! I could NOT be, nor have I ever been, SO excited about a car.  She is so beautiful and did I mention safe? She drives so smoothly and has all these fun extras like touch screen this and that, voice activated this and that, backup camera, and she even pairs to my phone which just then comes over the whole car like the voice of God or something.  It's HEAVEN.  I literally just go out to the new car for long stretches of time (while I still have long stretches of time) and sit, listening to the amazing music that streams directly from my phone's itunes-- a major upgrade from the horrible radio station choices I was once forced to fiddle between.  Now I realize that others out there have true "luxury" cars, but for me, THIS is luxury!  Andy laughs at me as I constantly go to the window just to look out at her.  I wish I had a pic of my old clunker to prove the major bump up (ha no pun intended) from what I used to drive, but here is our newest arrival:  

{Look at this beaut!  Can you hear those angels singing like I can?}


I digress... back to pregnancy:  So my cervix is currently nice and soft... 80% effaced (yay compared to literally zilch at 37 weeks), it's now central rather than posterior, baby's head has moved down lower (-1 station.. he was -2 last check), but alas I'm only a finger tip dilated (though I was completely closed last time).  While I'm not surprised, being a first timer who's cervix has never opened before and seems to want to hold on to this baby for dear life, I HAVE been doing all that I can to help ripen 'er up for the big day.  In my own experience as a doula I've seen SO many moms work sooooo very hard for sooooo very long (already in labor I mean) just to get that cervix ripe enough to even begin dilating!  This is why we say that the longest phase is early labor.. trying to get that cervix to 4 cm because it ALSO has all that thinning, and positioning and softening to do in the meantime.  SO.. I've been taking  Dr. Christopher's Birth Prep since 34 weeks (amazing stuff people, check into it if you're pregnant!), I've been ingesting and vaginally inserting 1300mg of Evening Primrose Oil since late 36 weeks as well as drinking plenty of red raspberry leaf tea. I CAN say that the methods are working in terms of toning my uterus... boy are those Braxton Hicks strong and long and hard as a rock!  I'm definitely NOT one of these people that either doesn't get any or has no clue that they are having them.  They are VERY very obvious... and oddly, I love it!  I just started rubbing clary sage and rosemary essential oils on my belly and also adding them to baths along with castor oil packs on my belly for softening.  (Not to be confused with ingesting castor oil).  Good old fashioned sex and nipple stimulation are also beneficial, though sadly not the most comfortable at this stage of the game.  I find myself only able to lay there like a beached whale, but I'll try to spare people that awful image.  Sorry.  On a tastier note, my friend gave me a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan that is "guaranteed" to send mama's into labor within 48 hours! I don't plan to try it out until Sunday night since my amazing photographer and kindred spirit (Ali Caudill) is unavailable over the weekend (how dare other people go and get married using MY photographer when I'm busy trying to have a baby here!)  ;)  All in all I know that this little guy will come when he's good and ready.  It's not about me pushing him to get outta there, but more about me prepping my body so that WHEN he decides it's time I will hopefully have less work to do!

So the last few days my contractions were crampier, I had a little blood after my exam yesterday (though that's normal after an exam at this point in the game so I can't really attribute it to actual bloody show), and last night I felt a bit nauseous with my contractions.  I'd like to think that it's just helping my body to prepare for the big day!  My baby's fetal position still changes... some moments he's LOA (rarely though and THAT'S the position I'd prefer he'd choose!), some moments he's ROA,  and often he slinks back to OP.  Darn it!  (If you're unfamiliar with fetal positioning and would like to know what the heck I'm talking about, visit: ). I do feel confident that he'll rotate in labor, if not just before... I don't know why, but I just feel ok about everything.

And that brings me to my mental state.  I'm really finally ready.  I don't feel so anxious like I did about a month ago.  I've been doing as much work in that department as I can and I truly feel at ease with all of it.  That doesn't mean that I just know how my birth will unfold.  I don't.  But I do trust that everything that happens is unfolding perfectly in it's own way (even if it's not part of the life script, or birth script, that I may have written) and so I can trust that I am surrounded by the Love and that everyone who arrives to support me is exactly who is meant to be there and every scenario that unfolds is exactly as it should be.  Whenever I put life into perspective that way it eases off SO much pressure.  All that control we try to have as we venture into the unknowns can be exhausting!  When I stay present and just TRUST, then I know that everything will be as it should be... no matter what that looks like.

So that's where I am!  Hoping this little guy will make his appearance sooner rather than later as we are SO excited to finally meet him, but I also know that if he's anything like me he'll be taking his sweet time!

{Photo taken from my midwife at my last appointment.... feeling relaxed and excited! :)}

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Anxiety rearing her ugly head

Anxiety, the nature of the mind, and how powerful and potentially paralyzing it can be...  

This post began as more of a journal entry for me to work out some of my thoughts, but I quickly realized that others may benefit if they happen to be sharing in the same experience.. (basically why I post all of the topics that I do, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward they may be).  

First a little history (ok, a lot) about me:  When I was 9 years old I started having panic attacks.  Randomly at night I would have them while lying in bed trying to falls asleep, but instead of sleeping my mind went to over-thinking and allowing my 9 year old imagination to run off with its best (aka worst) ideas.  Oddly, at such a young age, it was often the fear that I was dying that sent me into a panic.  This went on for many years and I actually never told anyone for fear that they would either think I was crazy or take me to a doctor who would actually prove that I was crazy, or worse, actually dying.  (Quite a lot to take on for a little gal!)  Those who knew me never would have guessed... I was a free spirited little girl who talked too much in school and often laughed such hearty laughs that I could barely catch my breath! At night, however, when all was quiet and dark... my anxiety would rear her ugly head.  Then when I was 15 years old it all came out.  Teenage hormones played a huge part, and my sister (with whom I was very close) leaving the nest for college (ie. a huge life changing event) sent me over the edge.  I started having panic attacks all the time, day and school, in public, everywhere.  I became agoraphobic which made going to school everyday a HUGE stressor. My attendance began to suffer... I literally couldn't bring myself to step foot inside. The only place where I felt safe was in my home so everywhere else quickly got crossed off the "willing to go there" list.  This didn't last very long (obviously it couldn't or I would have flunked out of school) as my parents noticed right away and I finally opened up to them about what I'd been dealing with for the last 6 years.  My mother was shocked and saddened that I hadn't told her sooner.  After unloading on her, I realized that the last thing she thought was that I was crazy!  In fact, in telling her everything I learned that she too had struggled with anxiety her whole life as had my grandmother.  What an "aha moment"!  I felt like 100 lbs had been lifted from my chest that day which immediately changed my relationship with my parents.  (I quickly went to the other extreme, realizing that if I talked about everything on my mind then I didn't have to bottle up my anxiety... hence why I'm quite the "open" person today!) My parents took me to see a doctor, which of course I disagreed with in fear that he would want to send me to a psychiatric ward.  Much to my surprise, however, he didn't seem to think that I was crazy either. I actually learned that anxiety disorder was incredibly common.  He sent me home with a prescription for Prozac (I'll touch on the meds in a moment) which at the time saved me.  In no time I wasn't panicking any longer, I was back in school like a normal teenager, and I was excelling in most areas.  In the years that followed I was able to find my voice (literally) and went on to earn a degree in Vocal Performance followed by performing professionally for many years as well. Not to pat myself on the back, but going from not being able to walk into school to being in the spotlight on stage (and actually liking it) was a pretty big leap if I do say so myself!

Now about the meds: During college I had an "on again/off again" relationship with the ol' Prozac.  I didn't want to be medicated anymore and often felt emotionally numb while on medication yet also felt uneasy if I wasn't.  Finally, after years of relying on meds, I decided it wasn't for me and wanted to take a more holistic approach.  I wanted to overcome my fears without relying on medication and wanted to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of the mind so that I could use my mind to my benefit rather than putting a band-aide over my 'problems'.  And so the journey of self discovery began.  Now obviously this route wasn't the easy way, but it meant so much more to me to really tap into my fears, my ego, and to learn about that little voice that so often likes to get the best of us. I wanted to better understand all of it so that I could allow it to be just that:  my mind and not my boss.  Along the way, I have to say that I've grown so much as a person due to this... more compassionate, understanding, empathetic, and openminded to all walks of life because of this "disorder" (not really a huge fan of that word).  Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect.. not even close... just much more aware.

The weaning of medication was very freeing for me.  It led me to a much healthier lifestyle... one where I now hate taking medication and tend to avoid it at all costs unless absolutely necessary.  I tend to lean more towards vitamins, natural remedies, and prevention over quick fixes and 'band-aides'.  Perhaps this is why I landed in the field of natural childbirth and holistic healing.  I do believe that the body is very powerful as is the mind and all too often we reach for "a little something" to make life easier.  At the same time I'm incredibly grateful that we have medicine for when we truly need it.  At 15 I desperately needed medication in order to function as I wasn't emotionally ready to take on the work of understanding a life of anxiety without it.

Now why on earth am I writing about this on a blog about pregnancy and childbirth?  Because much to my surprise, Lil' Miss Anxiety has reared her ugly head during this special time for me!  The one time of my life that I have SO looked forward to is trying to bring up all my sh*t!  While I never expected it initially, I'm truly not that surprised as this journey has unfolded.  Hormones; this being a major life changing event; the unknowns of how labor, delivery, and parenthood will unfold; the desire for control; feeling the changes in my body and health; and on and on... all play a huge part!  I won't go into the specifics of every little fear that I've conjured in my mind.  From hearing tragic birth stories to feeling random twinges and knowing what they could mean, my mind seems to want to choose worry as it's 'go-to' these days.  I guess the part that has struck me as odd is that this is what I do for a living... I normalize the process of birth for my clients each and every day, and yet here I am fearing the worst for myself!  Many often say "oh you'll have such a great birth because you already know so much about it!"... yes, this could be true, but that tiny voice in my mind often chimes in, "you also know more than the average joe about what could go wrong so maybe ignorance really is bliss?". I often work really well with moms who struggle with anxiety because I've always been able to put myself in their shoes and know what I would need in order to stay calm if it were me, yet here I am now needing a taste of my own holistic medicine!

I will say that anxiety, thus far, has taken on a new form from what it was years ago.  The over-thinking and worry are still there, and the what-if's are there... so from time to time I find myself just needing to stop and take some nice cleansing breaths.  Thankfully, however, I'm not in full blown panic-attack-mode at all.  For the most part I'm able to recognize my pattern as that little seed of doubt or worry is planted and I am able notice as the weeds begin to grow into over-thinking and anxiety. So what to do? I go in and pull those weeds one by one rather than letting them build up.  I stop myself and breathe first and foremost, and then I ask myself what I'm so afraid of.  I isolate the fear of the moment and then I make a choice.  I can run off with that fear and let it build or I can choose a state of calm. I ask myself "what is your story right now?  Are you okay RIGHT NOW?" Rather than drifting off into a place where I imagine my fears play out, I bring myself back to the present as assess whether I am currently okay.  And if I must imagine the 'what-if's' playing out, I try to choose peace.  Even in those worst case scenarios (ie. death of myself or my baby) I can choose to imagine myself either panicking from it or being calm in those moments.  I would like to think, as much as I don't like to think about death, that I could somehow be at peace when the time does come.  And I would like to think that no matter what is thrown our way as an outcome of this birth, that I can find peace with it as long as I am surrounded by The Love/God.  It doesn't mean that I won't have pain, suffering, or grief in my life (though of course I'd like to be blessed with a path of least suffering!), but that in those times I'll feel surrounded by the Love and feel a sense of calm.

I find that fear just robs us of a beautiful experience.  Taking the time to worry or think up every possible scenario (which I have often done) doesn't change the outcome but rather makes the present much less enjoyable.  We do have a choice and if all we focus on are our doubts or fears then we miss the ride. And don't even get me started on the adrenaline response to anxiety that our babies feel!  I try to remind myself of this every time that little wheel starts to turn in my mind.  My baby deserves a peaceful environment and while anxiety may be hereditary, I don't have to bathe my baby in it constantly!  "Babies born into calm tend to be calm".  Deep breaths, meditation, prayer, and positive thinking are my chosen anxiety busters... oh, and talking it out :)  

Childbirth and motherhood are a ride that I've wanted to take for as long as I can remember, and as my own delivery date approaches I'm doing my best to choose peace... the same peace in which I've always trusted with each and every mom that I've helped along the way.  I have no idea how my own birth will unfold, but I do know that I can be at peace with however it happens, trusting in God's plan for myself and my baby, just one cleansing breath at a time.  For now I choose to listen to only one 'what-if' amongst the many that race through my mind:  What if it all goes beautifully?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Oh the nosebleeds!

As I sit here with a tissue hanging out my nostril for what feels like the millionth time, I figured I'd write about the always untimely experiences of pregnancy nosebleeds.

First I should mention that nosebleeds during pregnancy are quite common, and as long as they are minor are usually considered "normal".  Why?  Basically the blood vessels throughout your body expand due to increased blood volume in pregnancy.  This increase in blood supply mixed with all of those fun pregnancy hormones causes those delicate little capillaries in your nose to rupture more easily.  {Read more here} No biggie right?

Except when you're me, and you already have a history of nosebleeds, and you're at a birth about to bleed all over a laboring mama!!!

You see it all began about 10 years ago, in my early twenties, as I stood on my parents' back porch one fine spring day.  I had just gotten over a cold (or maybe I still had it...hard to recall) and I wanted a bit of fresh air. I tried to take in a nice whiff (apparently with all my might), sniffing heartily, and boom went the dynamite.  My first nosebleed ever.  I was shocked as I ran in the house trying to get to the nearest tissue.  Little did I know this one lone broken capillary in my right nostril would become my nemesis for many years to come.

After that day I seemed to get repeated nosebleeds.  Always the same nostril, always the same little capillary.  I was still performing professionally at the time (for those that don't know, I have a background in music, dance, and theatre...)  and I remember often feeling the bubble of panic arise on stage as I wondered if I was about to have to incorporate a bloody nose into the story of such refined characters as Guenevere in Camelot!  Needless to say I developed a slight sense of paranoia around the whole bloody-nose-at-inopportune-times-thing.

I finally went to an ENT and had the little booger (no pun int) cauterized.  This helped for a few years but even the ENT said it may require repeat cauterizations.  Once the bloody noses returned they were truly few and far between, so I didn't worry with a second procedure.

But now here I am... pregnant and the flood gates just keep opening!  A few weeks ago I was at a birth and I had 3, count them T-H-R-E-E, nosebleeds at the most inopportune times!  The first time I was leaning over the mom applying pressure to her aching back and suddenly I felt the fast drip in the all too familiar nostril.  I quickly cupped my hand under my nose, unsure of a real nosebleed or just paranoia, and was able to catch 'er in time confirming my suspicions as blood started to fill my hand.  "Ugh", I thought... "seriously?!  Right NOW??"... I ran to the restroom and plopped in the floor stuffing tissue up my nose, thankful for a relatively quick mend.

A few hours later, the mom was laboring in a huge bathtub and I was leaning way in to reach her.  (Starting to realize my pattern of leaning over, aka more pressure to my head, aka you get the idea...)  Next thing I knew that familiar fast drip appeared again, and thankfully I was able to cup my hand and catch the stream JUST before my blood dripped into her water!  (I don't even want to think about having to get her out, drain the tub, and refill it had that blood made contact!)  Again, I was grateful to be aware enough of that all too familiar feeling so that I could quickly get out of harms way.

And finally, on the drive to the hospital later that day, I felt it yet AGAIN.  "ARE YOU KIDDING ME???," I'm pretty sure I hollered aloud.  While driving a stick-shift in busy northern VA traffic, I quickly scrounged for a tissue, or a sock, or...shoot I'd take anything absorbent!  I was able to find 3 Starbucks napkins in my glove compartment... so crusty and painful, I stuffed one into my nose pressing as hard as I could, but unfortunately this one wasn't stopping!  We arrived at the hospital and I had to send the parents ahead of me... I sat for 20 minutes, soaking every bit of all 3 napkins with my loveliness.

Once I joined the couple inside the hospital, their midwife immediately stuck out her hand to introduce herself... I felt so rude as I explained I needed to wash my hands first... that I'd just had a nosebleed in the car... and wanting to make sure she didn't think I'm some sort of coke addict or something I added, "because I'm pregnant".  She quickly gave me 'that look' of understanding saying, "oh yes... those nosebleeds during pregnancy are the worst, huh?"  Feeling the slightest bit validated I continued on with my work, thankfully blood free for the rest of the evening, though tasting a throat-full of bloody metallic yumminess.  As annoying as it was, to say the least, I'm happy to say I was able to walk away that night without truly interfering with the birth!

I'm not so excited to admit that I've had a nosebleed at every single birth since then except for one!  Somehow my nose just knows! Though thankfully, thus far, I'm always able to feel that crazy fast drip just in the nick of time so that I can sink back, fix the problem, and go on relatively unnoticed.  Last night at a birth dad came in the room to see tissues hanging out of my nose (a look that's starting to feel like part of my regular attire) and he asked if mama had punched me in the face!

While I sit here now... nose stuffed with tissue and that bloody-throaty-taste yet again... I think to myself that I'll be calling an ENT asap to get this sucker cauterized!  All joking aside, I actually think to myself that I'll gladly endure another, and another, and well... as many as necessary as it reminds me each and every time of the beautiful miracle of life that I get to be a part of and all the sacrifices mothers make for their children every day.  For that, words can not express how strangely honored and proud I actually feel... dangling tissue and all!

Friday, March 23, 2012

What do we really know?

It's been almost a week now and I am finally able to sit and share a recent experience that brought new meaning to the word faith.  I choose to write about this because it's not only therapeutic for me, but also because in my own agony I was unable to find ANY answers to help me.  Hopefully this will help someone else find hope in their despair.

On Thursday Feb. 2nd, Andy and I went in for our 8 week ultrasound.  Mainly ecstatic about getting to hear/see the little click of our baby's heartbeat and slightly nervous about the unknowns of what could be found, we headed to the hospital during Andy's lunch break.  In good spirits we went into the sonogram room, I laid on the table, scooted my bottom to the very edge, and placed my feet in the stirrups (I hate that part!).  The doctor proceeded to insert what I like to call the "white-Bob Barker microphone looking thing" or more appropriately termed, the "electronic array transvaginal transducer" inside me (check the links.. they really do look similar!)  It didn't take long for the good spirits and joking to subside.  The doctor stayed positive, saying that everything looked great, but that our baby was definitely not 8 weeks... but rather measuring only 5-6 weeks.  My heart sank.  He quickly said that our dates must be off, but I knew this could NOT be the case.  Not only did we chart with temperatures and use ovulation predictor kits, but we also travelled just after our last time together and I was away from Andy until just days before we got our positive pregnancy test!!  I explained that this couldn't be accurate... by his measurements my baby was basically conceived AFTER our positive test?!  Ummmmm.... this wasn't good.  Knowing me already through my work as a birth doula, the Dr. was prepared to chat with me about what on earth could be going on.  He knew that the questions would immediately start flowing and indeed they did.  He told me that he knew that  I "know too much" about how this stuff works (yet not nearly enough in my opinion) and so he was willing to tell me more than he would normally share with most patients. (Not that he wouldn't normally give full disclosure to a patient with questions, but he said that he would normally just decide the dates were off and move on.. no worries.  He knows that I was diligent with our fertility especially having had regular periods, and knows that it's unlikely for me to be WEEKS wrong.. so we chatted long and hard over this). He agreed that being so fixed on those dates made things quite questionable and decided that we should return in a week to see if the pregnancy was looking viable.  I asked him if this was like ultrasounds later in pregnancy, often substantially off when calculating weight and even due dates... he replied that 'no, in early pregnancy these things are incredibly accurate... even to the day'.  "OH!"  I asked, "are you measuring age from conception?? Then this would be completely accurate", and he said "no, unfortunately I'm dating the entire gestational age from your last menstrual period." I went on to ask many questions about miscarriage, his own potential margin of error, and also asked if he'd ever seen an embryo measure 5-6 weeks one week but to then find an accurate up-to-date measurement one week later?  He quickly said, "no... never that far off." After about 500 other technical questions, my heart began to break as I was grasping for answers.  You may ask why was my heart breaking?  Hello Juli, he said everything looked fine, it's just younger! Stop worrying!!  Because I knew what the alternative could be and so did he.  Our baby could have stopped growing at only 5-6 weeks (it was too small at this point to make out a heartbeat) and unfortunately only time would reveal whether or not this pregnancy was going to be viable.  We made the appointment to return in a week to see if there would be any change.  We left the hospital parting ways as Andy had to return to work.... though Andy's spirits never fell.  He was incredibly positive about it, and that never wavered, but when I repeatedly did the math it just didn't add up. At all.

I called my mother on the drive home.  Excitedly awaiting my call with my father, (and both expecting good news) she answered the phone squealing, "CAN I PUT YOU ON SPEAKER?!!!"....... With a wobbly voice I could barely choke out the word, "no" before I lost it.  Immediately I was bombarded with her questions, "WHAT IS IT?  WHAT'S WRONG JULI...... {my sobs}.....{waiting}..... WELL TELL ME!".  I couldn't speak... hearing my mother's voice only reminded me of how badly I wanted a turn at being a mother myself.... and so all I could do was cry.  I did my best to pull it together and told her of what had just happened.

My mother decided to come visit that coming Sunday... she would stay the week to help distract me and hopefully cheer me up.  The next few days leading up to her arrival were horrible.  I searched the internet constantly (always a terrible idea) desperately seeking some small nugget of hope...hoping to find someone else who had been through what I was going through, ideally with a happy outcome.  I did find MANY stories just like mine when googling "8 weeks pregnant but sonogram measuring only 5-6 weeks".   Unfortunately, however, the responses were never quite the same  situation and most weren't even good outcomes.  The ones that did turn out ok after their one week wait all said "but my periods are incredibly irregular so I guess we had our dates wrong."  Nope.. I couldn't have my dates wrong.  On to the next option.  Then I read, "either your dates are wrong or there is something wrong with your baby".  Plain and simple.  My heart seriously sank into my uterus.  Why couldn't I find ANYTHING saying that the darned sonogram COULD be wrong???  Maybe the measurements were off???  I did read somewhere that sonograms were "incredibly accurate, especially in the first trimester, within a 1-2 week range."  Um, last time I checked 1-2 WEEKS is NOT accurate!!! So that helped a smidge.  I also wondered how many people actually challenged their doctor when these findings were present?  I mean, how many women TRULY know when they ovulated or last did the deed to even prove that these measurements can be off? Most women just went on with their new dates and end up delivering 2 weeks early!  Some definitely did know their dates... and in many of the stories that I found, these women were going along with their doctor's seemingly off measurements but their main concern was in trying to convince their spouses that the baby was theirs!! They knew they hadn't been intimate (with each other anyway) during the newly proposed conception time and so husbands were looking at their wives with a skeptical eye!  Ok, that honestly does stink... especially if these people have been faithful to one another, but infidelity is SO not even close to on our minds right now!  The other women that felt strongly that their newly calculated dates were impossible ended up going back a week later to find that their baby had indeed stopped growing, that they had a missed miscarriage... then to go on to have a D&C or to finally pass the baby on their own.  The thought of these options just devastated me... to the point of feeling sick to my stomach.

Speaking of being sick to your stomach... I had been having regular nausea since just before 6 weeks up to our appointment.  Thankfully I wasn't vomiting, but I felt pretty crummy every day and the doctor was happy about this.  He was also happy that the yolk sac looked nice and healthy as did the embryonic sac.  "Normally," he said the yolk sac would start to collapse if the pregnancy was beginning to take an unfavorable turn.  But of course the second I left his office my nausea completely subsided.  Was it mental?  I assumed it had to be because there was no way it would just turn off like a light switch... especially if my baby had stopped growing WEEKS before.  That gave me hope, but I was paranoid and desperately wishing for my nausea to return.  I mashed my breasts non-stop to see if they were still tender.  They weren't.  I woke the next day crying because I just didn't "feel" pregnant at all anymore.  I felt heartbroken and empty.  As each morning came I awoke with that sinking feeling of heartbreak... the "oh yeah, this is really happening" feeling as I felt so sad and depressed.  After I obsessively computed the numbers over and over again in my head I just didn't feel good about the outcome.  Waiting a week was excruciating.  Hearing everyone say, "stop worrying, it's not healthy for the baby" was incredibly frustrating. "Yes, I KNOW that worrying isn't good for myself or the baby," I thought, "but I'm worried sick and everyone flippantly telling me NOT to worry is adding a TON of pressure... it's making me worry about the fact that I'm worried!" Needless to say, this was exhausting.

After a few days of my autonomic nervous system operating in hyperdrive, I realized that I had to make a change.  I had to pull it together... I had to have some faith in this little one, in my husband who seemed to be so sure of his gut, and most importantly in that oh so powerful higher power. Maybe we aren't meant to understand.  Maybe we think we have our science down to a "T" but in reality these little babies are miracles being created each and every day... why does mine have to fit into a specific scientific mold?  We are all human, the doctor is human... we all make mistakes, maybe the doctor made a mistake?  Machines make mistakes... maybe it was the technology?  I had to finally just give up and trust in miracles or I was going to go crazy.  I definitely grieved... I tried my very best to prepare myself for the worst outcome and then decided to put that away on a shelf.  I decided that I wanted to be positive for my baby.  While the advice was annoying I also knew it was true.  My baby needed a healthy environment to grow and I don't want it born into a little nervous wreck because it's mommy was such a hot mess! Every single time I went to the bathroom (and still do) I checked for blood... turning on lights in the middle of the night to quickly glance at the toilet paper, thankfully able to breathe out a sigh of "still ok" every time.  So needless to say the thoughts NEVER left my mind, but what I did with the thoughts had to change.

First I banned myself from the internet.  I wasn't allowed to look up threads on the topic or read for hours upon hours the sad stories that I was so dreading for myself.  No more.  I then sent out emails and phone calls to those that I knew would pray for us (telling details to the few who knew I was pregnant, and to the others just asking for prayer and positive thoughts in general).  I knew that I needed all the prayer I could get... one way or the other... and it was time to really turn to faith in God.  To trust that I would be given the strength, patience, and peace to get through this no matter what the outcome. I started connecting with my baby again.. the way I had before this dreadful scare... talking to my baby, laughing with my baby, singing to my baby, telling my baby stories, and praying and meditating with my baby.  I told my little one that I wasn't going to give up on her/him... that I'm here to fight for her/him and that I wanted "herm" (my combination of her/him) to grow at it's own pace, no rush, to be 'hermself' and that I will always love 'herm' for being an individual.  This made me feel better. It didn't give me answers but it did give me hope.

Then my mother came to town cooking us yummy dinners, talking me through my worries, laughing with me, and praying every day with me when my emotions began to creep back in.  Being mothered was what I needed and I will always treasure the time that I had with her that week..... mothering the mother like I do with my own clients.  And Andy... he was a rock.  At first I was frustrated... WHY wasn't he worried with me?  Did he not care???  When I expressed this he said, "OF COURSE I care more than anything Juli, and come Friday if things don't look good THEN I'll be devastated and I'll be worried... but right now I feel great about it, and one of us has to be strong for our baby!"  I told him that I hoped to God that he was right and that I would GLADLY say it over and over again if we were to learn of good news.  But my heart still sank when I thought of that upcoming Dr's visit.

I dreaded Friday with everything in me and yet Friday couldn't come soon enough.  I wanted answers but I didn't want it to be over.  I didn't want someone to say that this was the end for us.  Friday morning arrived as I knew it eventually would, and at around 10am I received a call from the receptionist saying that the Dr. was out of surgery early and wondered if I could come in sooner.  My heart skipped a beat... I quickly called Andy and we planned to meet there at 11am.  I jumped in the shower, shaved as fast as I could (didn't want anyone down there with it looking so frightful!) and jumped in the car.  On the way over my heart was pounding in my chest... literally.  Thankfully my mother was in the car with me and was able to talk me down.  This was it.  The suspense was poisonous.

Upon arrival they asked me to leave a urine sample.  I went to the restroom and am pretty sure that I stopped breathing for a few moments as I found a small amount of blood in my underwear :(  I panicked.  "Seriously??? NO blood thus far and now it's here???" I looked closer and noticed it was along the side of my underwear instead of where any fluids or discharge would be.  It hit me... "aha! my quick shaving job!  I must have cut myself!?" I was literally bent over in the bathroom craning forward to see if I could find the root of this menacing blood!  I wiped again and again but nothing was on the toilet paper.  I took a deep breath and thought... "you've got to calm down, you'll know either way in a minute."

The nurse took me back to get my weight and blood pressure.  I told her the blood pressure was pointless as I knew it would be through the roof.  The Dr. stopped in to see how I was doing... I told him that I was about to have a heart attack most likely!  He felt my pulse as the nurse took my blood pressure and he quickly commented, "you're going to blow a vessel if you keep at it like this!" 136/72... very high for me (it was 100/60 only a few weeks before). He knew I was beyond scared.  He said that he understood... and for us to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst... that we had a 50/50 chance..  'Reeeeallyy??? Only 50/50?'  Gulp... (I was hoping for more like 80/20).  As the doctor walked me back to the room and the nurse went to grab Andy and my mother, he asked if there had been any blood.  I inhaled my embarrassment, not expecting that question, and sheepishly told him that I just found some in the restroom but "um... I think I cut myself shaving..."  (Apparently I really am all about full disclosure!) ... he chuckled and quickly said "ouch!"

Next thing I knew that same room we'd been in the week prior became dark and I was scooting my bottom toward the very edge of the table and sending my feet to those darned stirrups all over again.  The crunchy-paper-cover-thingy was over me and I swear I could see it lifting as my heart began to POUND harder than ever.  I put my hand over my chest... sent a quick prayer upstairs, and asked my heart (aloud) to please calm down.  Andy stood by my side holding my hand while my mother waited in the corner.  The doctor explained that he would go in with the "Bob Barker Mic" (my words not his), take a look around, and then tell me what he'd found.  He had the screen pointed towards him.  "UGH..." I thought, "he'll be in there forever before he says what's happening..." I just wanted to cry.

Within seconds of Bob Barker's mic entry, I heard these words:  "Juli... looks like you've got a big baby in there!"  "WAIT... WHAT??  I DO????", I cried while grabbing his screen and pulling it my way without even asking.    "Yep!  Look!"  Right there before my eyes was my very own sweet little blessing.  My answered prayers.  I cry as I write this remembering my precious little miracle dancing right there for us.  Last week's barely-there fetal pole (aka a small line that faded in and out) turned into a small baby... a head, body, hands, feet, and I could swear I could see indentions of eyes, ears and a tiny little nose!!  The Dr. prodded at my uterus with The Bob Barker and the little one danced in response!  It was almost like he/she was saying "Hi mommy and daddy... see here I am!  I'll even do a dance for you, just pwease don't be sad!!!" The best part... there was a beautiful clicking heart beat that I so longingly dreamed of seeing!!  The doctor then chuckled saying, "Andy... I would go ahead and check that calendar if I were you!" but before we could dispute any dates he measured a 9 week baby!  This was exactly spot on with my original calculations (so being right about one thing might have been the second best thing about it)!  As I teasingly slapped the Dr's arm, I told him not to ever do that to me again, that he scared the.... (well let's be honest) he scared the sh*t outta me!  I asked "what the HECK happened???"  He looked at me and said, "honestly Juli I have no idea, but a LOT can happen in a week!".  I cried my eyes out, laughed a hearty laugh, and quickly (and gladly) told Andy that he was right :)

The mood immediately lifted.  We were able to bring home our first photo of our little one and Andy video'd the moment we learned that our little blessing was ok!  I'm not blaming anyone, but I want people to know that these things CAN BE OFF!  If you find yourself in our shoes, it does NOT necessarily mean that 1) your dates are wrong or 2) you're baby stopped growing.  I always say you're never out of the woods until you have a baby in your arms, but on THIS particular issue, I am happy to say that our baby defied the odds... whether by miracle or by human/mechanical error.  And when the Dr. said that he had "never" seen a baby measure 5-6 weeks and then "catch up" to 9... I do believe he can now say he has!

{Our little 9 week bean!}
"Welcome to parenthood!", another doula friend of mine said to me (she has 9 kids of her own!).  The immense worry and love and fear that comes along with babies is blinding and it's only just beginning!  I now realize that for me to get through life joyously, and to be the best mother I can be, I have to stay committed to counting my blessings each and every day and having faith that this whole procreation thing is OH SO very outside of our realm of understanding.... despite what we may think.  After this experience, I can be ok with that.