Lifestyle

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.

What I'm Reading and Recommendations

If I were stranded on a desert island, the three things I'd undoubtedly bring with me are: Nate (to keep me sane), my brother-in-law (to get us off the island or, at the very least, help Nate keep me alive), and my Nook. That last one is super obvious to almost everyone that knows me.

I get asked fairly often what I'm reading, and if I have any recommendations — usually by friends who are looking either for a romance/erotica or personal development read, which tend to be my most often read genres. I find the combination of the two to be amusing, but it sort of makes sense if you think about it: romance and erotica novels explore our deepest human relationships, mostly with others; personal development books explore our deepest human relationship — the relationship we have with ourselves. Put the two together, and you get a pretty well rounded library.

But I also read a fair amount of other books, and thought it would be cool to offer a list of my most recommended books across several genres, romance/erotica and personal development included, in case any of you were interested.

You can find that list here (and above) in the Library section.

If you're curious about what I'm currently or planning on reading, you can find that list here. Let me know if you're reading any of the books on this list too...maybe we can read them together!

And I'm always interested in book recommendations, so please feel free to send them my way.

What are you reading now?

Bumpdate | 39 weeks

How has the pregnancy gone so far? I've said it once, I'll say it again: I've really enjoyed (and have been very lucky throughout) this entire pregnancy. And overall, things are still smooth sailing with one exception. Last week, I took a minor spill (because the change in my center of gravity has made me clumsy af) on the sidewalk, hit mostly hands and knees but did bump my belly a bit. Cried profusely because it was scary, my hands ached like a bitch, and my toe was bleeding. Called Nate and cried some more because what if I had caused some real damage? What if it wasn't just a scraped knee and a bleeding toe? What if, what if, what if? Then really started sobbing when I felt Baby Boy being his normal mobile self.

I called my doula for advice, then called my doctor and explained what happened, and since baby's movement was normal and there was no cramping, bleeding or pain in my abdomen, we decided that we'd just monitor how things were going at home. If any of those things changed, I'd head to Labor and Delivery.

It would have been such a minor thing during any other time in my life...I'd have been more embarrassed to have tripped in public than anything else. But being pregnant made me so scared that I'd somehow hurt the baby. But then reading about how the baby is essentially in a jelly sack that's made to withstand a fair amount of bumps along the way made me appreciate yet again what a crazy thing the pregnant body is.

But amazing, armored pregnancy body or not, that day sucked.

Weight gain? I am now at a grand total of a 17lb weight gain! Considering that until week 36 I was at a steady 9-10lb weight gain, that's insane. And I'm just baaaarely dilated at the moment, so this kid is just packing on weight with each passing day. My doctor is projecting an 8-8.5lb baby, ya'll. AN 8-8.5LB BABY.

Sleep? The insomnia of weeks past is completely gone. Now, the only thing keeping me up is the near constant urge to pee. All in all, I wake up about four times throughout the night. The worst is definitely rolling over (which also wakes me up), and getting in and out of bed. The extra weight, all of it centered at one part of your body, is no joke. I think I explained it to Nate the other night as feeling as if the skin around my stomach was trying to burst open. Good times, no?

Food cravings? I still don't think I've experienced any real food cravings. Fruit is always good, and I drink tons of water. I've been liking ice cream more than usual, but it's not something I'd go and send Nate out to get in the middle of the night. I'm mostly pretty boring on the food craving front, huh?

Pregnancy-related symptoms? So learning about pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome is cool, I guess. At least I'm no longer wondering why my hands are going numb every night while I sleep. Also, in terms of my exhaustion level, it's like the first trimester all over again — I'm dozing sometime in the afternoon, and am generally asleep pretty early these days.

Is baby moving? This is one of the things I'll miss the most. This constant connection, this continuous rippling of my belly as he moves. And after the spill last week, it's something I'm hyper vigilant about. He's still moving regularly (which means loads). The doctor has said he's still face up, which is fine, but it would be really nice of him if he could flip himself over when he's ready for me to go into labor and birth his huge body — that way we can avoid back labor, which is supposed to be a new kind of hell.

What I’m looking forward to? I'm officially on maternity leave, so right now I'm looking forward to soaking in all the sleep I can before the baby arrives. I've even got a book and TV series to get through while I wait (Outlander, if you're curious).

Bumpdate | 33 weeks

How has the pregnancy gone so far? The last few weeks haven't been easy, and on Sunday I had my first official hormone-induced breakdown. In the shower, no less. Things have just been so busy and I feel like there hasn't been time to just sit and breathe. We've been on go-mode for weeks now and I finally just needed to get all the anxiety and exhaustion out of my system. Cue me sobbing in the shower and Nate not know what to do to help other than to give me a massage (which, turns out, helped a ton).

Weight gain? Gained another pound! If I'm super honest, my slow weight gain has been freaking me out. But I keep asking my doctor if everything's normal and if baby boy his healthy at each check-up and she assures me all is good. And the thing is, I eat. My appetite is 100% back to normal now, so I feel like I've been eating a lot, but it just hasn't been translating to added pounds yet.

Sleep? What's that again? Oh, that's right. It's that thing I sort of get sometimes – in between all the peeing and insomnia. And yes, I know I'll only get even less sleep once the baby arrives, but it's still no fun. I'm getting about 4-5.5 hours of sleep a night right now, and it's full of a lot of tossing and turning. So yeah, feeling pretty sleepy over here.

Food cravings? Orange juice by the gallon, Rainier cherries (but only Rainier cherries), Hawaiian local food (poi, kalua pig, mac salad, Chinese food from a very specific restaurant on my island), and this Persian eggplant dish one of my closest friends makes. Also ice cold water to the point where I've outgrown my current water bottle and will soon be upgrading to one of those no-joke gigantic Hydro Flasks.

Pregnancy-related symptoms? SO MUCH ACID REFLUX. I've been taking Pepcid and that helps a lot. I also have an herbal tea my doula recommended, and a colleague said that eating raw celery helps too. At this point, I will try anything.

Then there's the swelling, which you don't really think about until your hands are so sore in the morning that you can't bend your fingers, or your feet are so swollen by the end of each day that you've given up on shoes altogether and are just wearing slippers (flip-flops) to work now.

Is baby moving? So much! It's so incredible how mobile he is. At my check-up last week, my doctor let us know that he's moved into the head-down position, so now I can really visualize what movements he's making every time my stomach ripples. I haven't seen the outline of a hand or foot yet and I'm sort of okay with that since I think it would freak me out a bit!

He still likes to go completely still when anyone else (even Nate) goes in for a belly touch, so sometimes I feel crazy when I tell people that he's moving around all the time, and then when they try to feel him he stops moving altogether. But I love how much he moves. I've gotten so used to it that if he's still for more than half an hour, I always get a bit worried and end up drinking some ice cold water or shaking things up a bit so that he moves. I know he's probably just asleep and I'll regret this later, but I can't help it!

What I’m looking forward to? Having my grandmother and older sister visit next week to help me go through all the gifts we got at our baby shower/bbq last weekend (which was incredible – it was a co-ed affair and so many of our friends showed up for an afternoon bbq in the park), and to help set up baby boy's nursery nook. I've also been homesick lately, so just having them here and being able to spend a few nonstop days with them will help to ease that ache, I think.