motherhood

Bumpdate | Luke's Birth Story

It’s hard to believe that Luke’s already been in our lives for nearly two months now! I’ve been fairly quiet online these last few weeks as our family has adjusted to our newest addition, but wanted to take the chance now that we’re somewhat (but not really) getting the hang of life with ababy to share his birth story! If there’s one thing that’s really helped us through the sleep deprivation and near constant uncertainty of the last several weeks, it’s been our community — our families and friends have been so supportive and helpful, and none of that would have been possible if we hadn’t shared this special time with them. From flying in for 2 week stays or even just a quick dinner, to bringing us regular meals and coffee, we (and definitely I) would be in a very different place (read: losing my mind) as a new parent without everyone.

My due date was October 6th, and I don’t think I had any thoughts or expectations about whether Luke would be early, on-time, or late. Turns out, he was a week late, which apparently is pretty normal for first pregnancies. For the most part, I think I took him being late better than anyone else — I was pretty clear on the fact that my life would be very, very different once he arrived, so I figured the best thing to do was to be really present during that last week, rather than wasting my time by freaking out about when I’d go into labor.

On the Thursday before he was born, I woke up at 3am with what felt like really strong menstrual cramps. I hadn’t had any Braxton Hicks contractions so I didn’t know if this was that, or if I was experiencing the early stages of real labor, so I just sort of waited it out for a bit. I got up and walked around our apartment, tried to find more comfortable sleeping positions in bed, and when it became increasingly clear due to their regularity that this was the real thing, I woke Nate up.

We’d known ahead of time that our doctor generally wouldn’t tell us to head to the hospital until we were about 6cm dilated, so we began timing the contractions and made a game plan: We’d call my mom a little later that morning and let her know that she should start to make her way from Hawaii to California for the birth, and we’d call my doctor to see if I should keep both my standing doctor’s appointments that day. In the end, we kept both appointments — a Non-Stress Test in the morning, and my weekly check-up with my OB in the afternoon. By the time that afternoon appointment came around, I was only 4cm dilated, so we opted to labor a bit more at home before heading to the hospital. So we went and got burgers, because why not?

Fast-forward to 3am the next morning (Friday) and it’s deja vu except we’re 24 hours in and my contractions are way more painful. I’d told Nate to get some rest while he could and spent most of the night in the living room watching TV since laying down was really uncomfortable. Once the contractions were much closer together and, more importantly, I needed to take some sort of action or go crazy, I woke Nate, we called my doctor, and they gave us the green light to head to the hospital.

Cue a 15 minute drive at 4am while having contractions and ohmygod this labor thing is no joke.

We got through triage fairly quickly (5cm!) and met up with our doula once we got to our delivery room. By 9am, I was at 8cm dilated and we were all pretty excited that this show was on the road. Then 2 things happened: 1) the contractions got way more painful, and 2) everything else stayed the same.

I think the biggest takeaway for me from those long hours of daytime labor that followed was to be flexible. Be so, so flexible. I had a birth plan, you know? We’d talked with our doula and doctor about our preferences, and everyone was on the same page about trying for a low-intervention birth. And then I came face to face with the unexpected, like stalling out at 8cm dilated after 30 hours of labor.

It seems like a minor thing now that Luke’s here and healthy and I’m not in the throes of it, but deciding to ask for painkillers felt like a really big deal to me — and to everyone else in this part of the U.S.— and is something I'm not sure a lot of women are comfortable talking about without feeling judged if things don't necessary go as naturally as you may have wanted. So here's how it went for me: I asked for the intravenous narcotics first, at about 31 hours in, since I didn’t want to be immobile for the rest of my labor, and because there’s a higher chance of needing a cesarean section once you have an epidural. Still, I remember feeling a bit like a failure when I asked the nurses for the drugs. Why couldn’t I do this naturally? Women had been doing this without drugs for as long as humankind has existed. Was I that weak? It’s not rational – it’s not even something I believe. Have drugs, don’t have drugs, it’s completely up to each woman and doesn’t make one person weaker or stronger than the other. At the end of the day, we’re bringing a life into this world. There are a lot of very strong opinions about this (and every other aspect of motherhood, like breastfeeding) but eff that noise. As long as you and the baby are healthy, do whatever you need to get through.

At the time though, and as things seemed to get more painful without any real progress, I went back and forth on whether to ask for stronger drugs. And I cried a lot. Like, a lot. In the end, I promised myself that I’d try everything my doula suggested before asking for an epidural so that I’d know I gave it whatever I could, purely for my own peace of mind and because that seems to be the way I do everything in my life — try whatever you can to make something work, then if it doesn't you'll know you tried your best and should have no regrets. I used the jetted tub and shower as comfort measures, tried sitting, bending over, hip rotations, walking, everything we could think of that would help with the pain and get the baby to drop. I was exhausted. Like, falling asleep in between contractions while sitting up kinds of exhausted. At a certain point, I was on the floor trying to breathe through a particularly vicious contraction while bending over a medicine ball, and I remember thinking that I wanted to be anywhere but inside my body. That thought was followed quickly by the realization that that was physically impossible, at which point I hit new levels of despair and promptly vomited. Then, I looked at Nate and said I wanted the epidural. Shortly after, and with no further progress in my labor even with Pitocin, my doctor advised us that a c-section was probably best for both me and baby, which in essence took much of the drug-related decisions out of my hands.

And you know, birth plan or not, when it was all send and done, Luke's birth happened the way it was supposed to happen — they all do, and you sort of just have to surrender to it. That's when you're able to find the joy in it, at least that's how it was for me. So now, when I look back, I remember my mom arriving and this sense of happiness and relief. I remember how amazing and kind all the nurses and doctors were. I remember everyone in the surgery room singing along with George Michael's "Careless Whisper" on the radio as Luke came into the world. I remember being exhausted — so, so exhausted — but thinking only about how his cry sounded, and how amazing it was to see Nate and my mom holding him.

I remember the speechlessness of finally having him here. He's here.

And now we are three of us.

Bumpdate | What I packed (and over-packed) in my hospital bag

While for the most part I didn't really do tons of research on most aspects of my pregnancy (that came as a shock, but it was more a self-preservation thing; I just didn't want to overwhelm or freak myself out with all the baby things), one of the few areas I did read up a lot on was the hospital bag. I've never spent a night in the hospital before, and I've obv never had a baby, so who knew what I needed?

Answer: the internet knew what I needed.

So after combing through a few blogs and asking for a few opinions, I finally decided on the things that would go in our bag. Some of these were useful and I'm super thankful we brought them along; others, we definitely didn't need.

And I'll just preface this all by saying I'm a chronic over-packer to begin with, so there's that.

For Mama + Labor

Hospital registration paperwork | Our hospital let us pre-register online, so I didn't actually worry about this. Just remember to bring your insurance card and photo ID and such. Verdict: Necessary.

Pillow and non-white pillow case | We were told ahead of time (and saw on our tour) that hospital pillows are not comfortable, and that it may make me feel more relaxed to have something that feels/smells like home, so we brought the pillows we usually sleep with. Make sure to bring one for dad too if he'll be sleeping at the hospital with you! The non-white pillow cases were to avoid mixing them up with the hospital's pillows when we left. Verdict: Glad we brought these (esp the pillow cases), though a few of the hospital pillows weren't all that bad.  

Labor/Delivery gown | This is essentially a hospital gown-like outfit that has access points in case medical staff need to administer an epidural, etc., and is also easy to nurse in. While a regular hospital gown is definitely an option, I went and got a gown from this Etsy shop. When it came and I tried it on, I decided that I wanted to live in it for the rest of my life. Verdict: Loved using this during the many hours of my labor, and it was definitely useful when being given an epidural.  But didn't get any use of out of in the hospital after Luke was born since it was covered in, you know...stuff. But since we got home, it's been one of my favorite things to wear since it doesn't aggravate my c-section at all.

Nightgown or comfy PJs / Robe or cardigan / Going home outfit | I brought 2 outfits to hang out in while recovering that either had buttons or pull-down fronts for easy nursing, and were easy to use the bathroom in. One was a simple nightgown from Target, the other was a button-up oversized tank and some super soft drawstring shorts. I also brought a huge oversized sweater in case it got cold and stuck my robe in my bag at the last minute in case I needed it to wander the hospital halls in the throes of labor (told you I'm an over-packer). For my going home outfit, I brought my comfiest pair of maternity sweats and an oversized tee. Verdict: I ended up staying in hospital gowns during recovery since I delivered via c-section and it was way easier for myself and hospital staff that way. Also, because I had planned/hoped for a vaginal delivery, I hadn't thought too much about where the elastic waist of my going home outfit would hit, and I really wish I had. Instead, I borrowed Nate's sweatpants, which allowed me to pull the elastic band WAY up above the incision. Didn't use the robe I stuffed in there at the last minute at all.

Slippers (flip-flops) | Our hospital room had a shower, and I knew before going in that I'd be in there at some point. If showers or baths are a comfort measure for you too and your hospital has one or the other, bring flip-flops to wear. They're also great for walking around the hospital during labor, or getting up to go to the bathroom. Verdict: Necessary.

Nursing sleep bra / Comfy underwear | I brought one of my Motherhood Maternity Nursing Wrap Sleep Bras with me mostly for the way home. In terms of underwear, a friend of mine had sent me an extra package of disposable underwear she brought home from the hospital that she never used after the birth of her son, so I packed those along with a pair of maternity underwear too (which I wish I'd found so much sooner because they. are. amazing.). Verdict: I used the hospital's disposable underwear since, again, c-section and mine hit right where the incision was whereas their's pulls way up. I saved the extras my friend had sent me for home. The nursing sleep bra was useful for heading home.

Nursing pads / Nipple salve | I packed 6 (yes, six) disposable Lansinoh nursing pads. I don't know why I thought I'd need that many, but there you go. I also packed an all-natural Hawaiian nipple salve to help soothe breastfeeding pain, and will do a whole 'nother post on Hawaiian products for mama's soon! Verdict: The nipple salve wasn't necessary for me in those first few days, but I did use 2 (not SIX) nursing pads for the ride home.

Toiletries | These mostly consisted of deodorant (important!), facial cleansing wipes, my hair brush and some hair bands, lip balm (my lips are always really chapped), contact lens supplies and glasses, my toothbrush, tooth paste, and heavy flow overnight pads. Verdict: The lip balm was my most-used toiletry item, though I also used my toothbrush, tooth paste, contact lens supplies, glasses, facial wipes and deodorant. The hospital provided pads to use, so I just used theirs. I don't think I brushed my hair for a full week after Luke was born.

Comfort measures / Focal point | We brought a few things that we knew ahead of time would help me to feel more at ease during labor + delivery, like some essential oils and a diffuser that one of my closest friends gifted us, Hawaiian lavender lotion for massaging my legs/feet, my favorite body wash, and twinkle lights to make the room feel cozier. We also brought a turtle stuffed animal, which my mother got for me to use as a focal point. Verdict: The only things I really used where the stuffed animal, the essential oils diffuser, and the winkle lights. I honestly just forget we had even brought anything else, and would have been too exhausted to organize my thoughts around actually using them even if I had remembered. And let's face it, I wasn't really going to take a shower during — or right after — delivery.

Music + Speakers / Extension cord | I made a labor + delivery playlist with a bunch of soothing songs on it, and we brought our portable speakers to play it. We also brought an extension cord so we knew we could plug things in from anywhere. Verdict: Definitely used this!

Cell phones + chargers | Obviously. Verdict: Obviously.

For Dad

Hanging out / PJs | Since Nate would be staying with me the entire time I was in the hospital, we made sure to pack enough clothes for him — a pair of sweats, 2 tees, a hoodie and beanie, etc. Verdict: Nate ended up using everything he packed, and even under-packed since the c-section meant we needed to stay an extra few days. So be prepared for anything!

Swim shorts / Slippers (flip-flops) | Again, this is if, like ours, your hospital has an in-room shower or tub and you think you may want to be in it. Our hospital doesn't allow mama's to be in the shower unsupervised while in labor, so we brought Nate some swim shorts and flip-flops so we could get in there with me. Verdict: He didn't need the swim shorts since we got a room with a jetted tub and he was able to just sit on the side of it rather than having to get in it with me. But the flip-flops were useful.

Toiletries | Same as what I brought except, you know, the man version. Verdict: All useful.

Snacks | We packed some snacks for both Nate and I so that he didn't have to keep running to the vending machine, downstairs to the cafeteria (which we heard from hospital staff was not great), or down the block to Whole Foods. Super easy stuff like trail mix, granola bars, pre-popped popcorn, etc. Verdict: We packed more snacks than we needed since our friends and family that visited while I was recovering all brought us food. But it was good to have just in case.

Laptop + charger | Our hospital had wifi available and we knew that ahead of time, so we brought the laptop so that we could send out the obligatory "We had a baby!" email. Also, we loaded it up with TV shows and movies to watch during postpartum recovery. Verdict: We never opened the laptop. Why did we think we'd watch TV? We slept.

Camera + battery | We knew we wanted photos, so we brought a fully-charged camera with us. Verdict: Nate took tons of photos when visitors came to cuddle Luke, but during delivery he mainly used his cell phone for pictures.

For Baby

Car seat | They won't let you leave the hospital without your car seat properly installed. We installed ours (we have an Uppababy Mesa) about a week before our due date (just in case) and had it checked out for free at AAA. Verdict: Necessary.

Snap shirt | We packed 1-2 snap shirts for baby boy to wear during postpartum recovery. Verdict: Didn't use them at all. While in the hospital, Luke lived in a diaper, swaddle, mittens, and a beanie that the hospital provided.

Diapers + Wipes | In case I didn't make it clear, I AM AN OVER-PACKER. I packed like, 6 diapers and a package of wipes, even though I knew the hospital would have diapers and I'd probably just end up using warm water instead of wipes during those first newborn hours. Verdict: We ended up using the hospital diapers and wipes so we could save ours for when they weren't free anymore.

Swaddle | I packed 1 swaddle. Verdict: We used the swaddle to wrap him in for going home.

Going home outfit | We brought a footed, long-sleeved onesie and a beanie. Verdict: Used it and loved it.