The Healing Truth: Recovering from PPD

A few months ago, I was berated on social media for sharing honestly about how tough motherhood has been on me.  The offender took the time to write something to the effect of, “That’s it. Your posts make me never want to have children. Unfollowing. See ya.”   Her words stung and still cause me to grow angry today.  At the time of the affront, I was aware that I was sharing more “negative” posts than usual and I was self-conscious of the fact that I might come across as whiny.  But I shared my experiences openly because relating to others was healing for me; sharing helped me to remember that I wasn’t alone.  And fortunately I did.

Fortunately, most of the responses I received were not hateful, but were warm and heartening.  Fortunately, there were others who saw through the “whining” in my writing and recognized that something in me wasn’t quite right. Fortunately, these friends encouraged me to seek help for potential postpartum depression.  And, fortunately, with their words and the support of a friend who was honest about her experience with postpartum anxiety, I finally sought professional help.

And I was diagnosed with postpartum depression.

I have been lucky enough to have my PPD fall on the less severe end of the spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I haven’t wished to hurt myself or my children. But I have been consumed by rage. I have been crippled to the point of being nearly non-functioning.  I have gone from being cheery and smiling one moment to wanting to sob the next as an almost tangible cloud of darkness surrounds me. I have wasted days, gloomily binge watching shows because I lacked motivation to accomplish anything else.  I have been irritable for no good reason–the shrieks of my son coupled with the patting of my daughter cause my stomach to jump into my throat as I spiral into a sensory overload. I have been nit-picky for the most absurd of reasons–just ask my husband how frequently I complain about the length of his beard and how I can’t bear to touch him if it’s even slightly unkempt.  I’ve been a monster mommy and a “rhymes with witch” of a wife.

But I am getting help. I am on the mend.  And, for more and more days, I’m feeling like myself again: content, motivated, and capable.

I have an outpouring of gratitude to the folks who have reached out to me. To those who offered reassurance and those who gave words of encouragement. To my wonderful family that has supported me and sought to lessen the burden on my tough days. To my children who still demand kisses from me even after patience-less, tear-filled days. And to my husband who has endured great criticism, an unfair amount of bullying, and the loss of the woman with whom he had fallen in love.

I am thankful to you all for propping me up throughout my dark days and for supporting me as I heal.

For me, the most healing fact has been that I am not alone–which is why I’m sharing my experience with you. Perinatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders affect 1 in 7 women. They are the leading complication of pregnancy.*  The range of severity is great.  If you feel “off,” I encourage you to talk to a professional (this goes for you, even if you aren’t a mother). Worst case scenario, you are fine but you have someone caring to listen to you.  Best case scenario, you receive a diagnosis and you’re able to be treated. Either way, by seeking help, you’re being incredibly strong. You may feel weak in the process–I get it; I felt worthless and pathetic.  But asking for help is a testament to your strength. You are not alone.


Parenting “Right”

I’ve had the idea for this posting floating around in my head for a while now.  After chatting with a fellow mom on the subject today, I realized it’s important for me to put these words down.  To see on paper (or computer screen, really) that, no matter what, I’m parenting “right.”

I’m one of those mothers who voraciously consumes article after article on what is best for my children.  Because of my empathetic personality, I am also easily swayed by such content because I can understand the point of view of these authors.  Critical thinking does not come easily to me–I like to trust that what I hear or read is the truth.  Therefore, when I read articles that pose conflicting views on parenting, I get stressed to the max. As my friend stated today, we (she and I) “worry that we’ll screw up our kids by doing one thing or that we’ll screw them up by not doing it.”

Since entering Toddlerhood, I’ve done my best to embrace the Attachment Parenting.  The philosophy behind it is beautiful.  It sounds wonderful.  All of the articles I’ve read on it paint this heavenly picture of mother and child existing as equals, always enjoying each other’s company.  When conflict arises, the problem is resolved with simple communication and acknowledgment of the child’s feelings.  Never is there a tantruming two year old…

I call bullshit.

After many nonstop stress-filled days, concluded with hardcore self-bashing sessions, I’ve come to question the existence of an entire culture of people who are perfectly zen 100% of the time.  I regularly acknowledge my child’s feelings. I give options rather than ultimatums. I say, “You may XYZ,” and seek to eliminate negatives from my directions. But still I am met by the stubborn face of a child who screams for an hour on end, regardless of embraces and acknowledged feelings.  I am met by a child who insists on option C, when only option A or option B are offered.   I am met by a child who smacks his baby sister, despite me instructing, “you may show her gentle.”

Parenting articles have destroyed my self-esteem as a parent.  I follow their suggestions with the promise of a well-behaved child.  But, at the end of the day, I still have a defiant toddler.  I lose my temper. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I shut him in his room.  I regularly resist the urge to spray him in the face with a squirt bottle, much like I do to the cat when he jumps on the counter…

I start to question my ability to mother.

There was one time during which I was feeling particularly resentful and ashamed of myself that I tearfully started searching the Internet for new parenting strategies (the net is truly a dangerous, never-ending pit of information). One article stated that using a behavior chart will screw my child up for some reason. But then another insisted that charts work.  HOW WAS I TO DISTINGUISH WHAT STRATEGY WAS RIGHT?

But finally, I’ve been able to call BS.  There isn’t an entire culture of folks who can handle a screaming (recently pinching) toddler without occasionally losing their tempers.  And there isn’t one parenting strategy that creates a perfectly behaved child.  It is not me who has failed, it is the strategy.  I’ve come to realize that no one strategy will work for every child.  No one strategy will even work for my child 100% of the time.  I am slowly learning that I can embrace the beautiful principles of many parenting strategies, but with the recognition that they will not always be successful simply because my child (and, truly, I myself) is unique.

must be doing something right

must be doing something right

The takeaway of my rambling is that I work desperately hard to be a good parent.  Therefore, I AM a good parent.  My parenting strategy IS “right,” even if it conflicts with another’s point of view.  YOU are a good parent, because I know you also try hard.  If you come across an article toting promised success–“A Strategy to Potty Train in One Day!”–it’s flawed.  It’s okay to read that article and try its suggestions, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work.  You are unique. Your child is unique.

And for days where NO strategy seems to work, there’s yoga. Or wine. Or whatever melts your stress away and helps you recenter.

(Local folks, check out Jessica Moseley Yoga.  Her classes have provided me with a life raft on days when I’m drowning).

Meltdowns & Magic

“If you cannot follow directions, you cannot be around others. If you cannot follow directions, I will put you in your room.”

He stands motionless. Baby attached to my back, I move to lift him. He goes boneless and slinks to the ground. With another threat, he demands that I help him stand. I

dirty face from sucking his thumb after having to clean up the potting soil he spilled

dirty face from sucking his thumb after a potting soil related meltdown

quietly walk away and retrieve the garden hose. I, in my infinite wisdom, choose that moment to start watering our newly seeded lawn. Spraying dangerously close to my tantruming toddler, my heart urges me to go ahead and soak the little sucker. But with his shrieks of, “Mommy! WET!” my brain tells me to shut it down.

String together a series of similar moments and you have my day…or my year, really. Toddlerhood has to be the most frustrating phase of child-rearing yet. Any request is met with defiance. A slightly difficult task catalyzes an explosion of screams and tears. Forget about common courtesy.

I long for the days where family, friends, strangers pleasantly remarked on my son’s politeness. “Please” and “thank you” naturally followed his replies and he responded dutifully to instructions. Today, I spent THIRTY minutes instructing my child to speak politely and to use “please.” “You may say, ‘Mommy, please help me pull up my pants.’” “MOMMY!!! PULL PANTS UP!!!” Half an hour and spiked blood pressure later, the stubborn monster finally conceded with the most pathetic of pleases. I wish I could say that there was only the one meltdown today.

I awoke this morning feeling rested and optimistic. Babygirl had let me sleep for SIX consecutive hours—a luxury she hasn’t allowed me to enjoy since she was a month old. At my husband’s urging to “make it a good day,” I mentally detailed all the fun activities I could do with my two year old while enjoying the gorgeous spring weather and tackling some gardening chores. But, alas, the terrible toddlerhood prevailed and I accomplished little more than keeping my children fed, clothed, and safe….scratch that…the mister finished his day almost naked and chose to go to bed after only a couple of bites of dinner…  I kept them safe which is what truly matters…

Of course, toddlerhood is not without its high moments. Hearing my son’s language develop is remarkable and mind-blowing at times—although,the marveling frequently follows yelled phrases such as “put me down,” or “you put me in my room again; let me out of my room!” I thought my heart would explode with pride, joy, and love the first time I heard Bug sing the ABCs solo or when he surprised me by counting to ten.  Toddlerhood is perhaps the most frustrating, yet most magical of phases. I pray each day that I can survive it…

Another Moment of Positive Reflection

Today was a good day.  And since I tend to be consumed easily by the negative, I want to take a moment to reflect on the positives of the day.

Although sweet baby girl started stirring early this morning, Daddy held her so I could get some real sleep.  Frequently, I just hold Fluffs (a nickname Daddy is trying out) and she falls back to sleep but I find it difficult for me to do more than doze when she’s nestled on my chest.  When I sleep, I like to bury under my many blankets like a tiny field mouse in its cozy nest (Jesse teases me about this habit).  My position is not conducive to baby cuddling so I was particularly appreciative that Jesse took over the task, giving me a few additional hours of sound sleep.

When the two year old crawled into bed this morning, he was my sweet boy, not the monster who has been showing up recently.  He nursed and then got “cuddle cozy” with no objections–typically, we start the day off with a meltdown if I suggest he end the nursing session, even though he had been sucking his thumb for ten minutes.  When Daddy asked him to go do his chores, Bug happily hopped out of bed and obliged.

Jesse had an interview this morning, so we had a few extra hours as a family before he had to leave.  That little extra time with him makes all the difference for us.  Not only was I more settled and ready to take on the day, the kids were more settled.  The ENTIRE morning, Buggy entertained himself. THE ENTIRE MORNING. Right until lunchtime. What two year old does that?! Especially my needy child?!  It was glorious.  I spent my bonus time working on Jesse’s super secret Valentine’s surprise (I am SO excited) and planning my bestie’s bachelorette party (again, SO excited).  Fluffs was content to sit in my lap as I worked, napping as needed.

Then Jesse came home right in time for lunch. We got to eat lunch together!  Before he headed off to work, he was able to care for the wee bub as I prepped our eldest for nap time–usually this time is a one-woman juggling act, frequently accompanied by tears. The extra support made for a seamless transition.

And then, both babies slept for just under THREE hours.  I wasn’t super productive during this time but it was so nice to just sit as a free woman.

Now there is a yummy pot of lentil soup on the stove–Buggy actually let me cook!–as I write. Fluffs is staring up at me and Bug is playing in this awesome pop-up fort that a friend recently gave to us.  Again, he is entertaining himself.  He only asks that I occasionally humor him by pretending that I can’t see the munchkin until he pops his head out.  Goofball boy.

I’m so happy to go into this weekend feeling relaxed rather than simply relieved.  Quality time with my husband is right around the corner and I know it’s going to be good.


A Moment of Gratitude

Dear loved ones,

In light of my rather negative previous postings, I want to take a moment to reflect on the positive that is in my life.  You.

I have received such an outpouring of love and support from many of you.  I have received an abundance of texts, emails, and notes offering love to me.  Others of you have reached out, suggesting play dates or offering to babysit.  Some of you have even sent potential employment opportunities to me. One of you introduced me to Scary Mommy, which has provided me with many laughs and relateable moments. Another sent calming essential oil blends to me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  Just knowing that I’m not alone makes the most difficult moments more bearable.

A special thank you to my mother for kidnapping her favorite little grandson and giving me a few hours to focus on myself and Ladybug.  I kicked off the alone time with a raging dance party to some T-Swift and Ellie Golding.  It was good for the soul.  An intensive yoga session left me wonderfully achy the following day (indicating just how tensed my muscles had been).

My husband was struck down by the flu yesterday so I had another day of managing our children on my own while he recuperated (although, I must credit my silly honey since he was fairly insistent that he help with the kids until I quarantined him to the bedroom).  And, this morning, my two-year old monster had returned in full force.  Both days could have quickly dissolved into an overwhelming disaster, but, because of you, it did not.  Your extra support has left me feeling rejuvenated and my patience level restored.

After a frustrating, tear-filled outing to the library this morning I could feel my blood pressure and body temperature rising.  But then I found a treat filled care package waiting for me on my front porch.  My sweet sister-in-law and her family had sent their love to me from states away.  The stress melted away…plus, they included the most adorable picture of my nephew cheesing–it’s impossible to look at the picture and be in a bad mood.

All of you are amazing.  I appreciate you lifting us up as we venture through this rather arduous chapter of our life.

IMG_2299[2]Sweetpea says “thank you!” too


Let me preface this post by giving thanks to everyone who took the time to reach out to me after my last posting on the hardships of motherhood. I sincerely appreciate your love and support. I ask that you continue to keep me in your thoughts and prayers. After reading this post, do not feel like you need to contact me. I write because it is therapeutic for me not because I seek sympathy.

I yelled at my toddler. I got down on my knees and looked him in the eyes and I yelled at him.

Up to that moment, I could proudly say that I’ve never actually yelled at him. Raised my voice? Yes, but I had never yelled. That shameful, heartbreaking moment epitomizes much of my life these days as I continue to struggle with motherhood. I feel low.

Some background… Most of you know that a year ago tomorrow, my husband accepted a promotion with the hopes that the new position would allow him to be more available to his family. Unfortunately, the position is just not family friendly. After having to return early from his paternity leave under non-emergent circumstances, Jesse finally decided that he needed to seek a new job elsewhere. So, for the past two and a half months, he has been applying to and interviewing for jobs. The entire process has been extremely stressful on the both of us. As I am a type A person, living in limbo does not suit me well.

Additionally, I am a highly sensitive person (HSP). For those of you who know little about HSPs and want to learn more, check out the books by Dr. Elaine N. Aron. Basically, what you need to know is high sensitivity is an innate trait and roughly one-fifth of the population is made of HSPs. Highly sensitive persons are more aware of subtleties, be it others’ emotions, textures, lights, smells, etc. They are also more easily overwhelmed. If I had to sum-up HSP in one phrase it is “we feel intensely” (this statement is not to negate the emotions of non-HSPs or to suggest that non-HSPs cannot feel intensely).

I’ve always said that being a HSP is my best trait, but it’s also my worst trait. As a highly sensitive person, I am intuitive and can easily offer empathy. I love fiercely and am powerfully loyal. However, being highly sensitive also means that I am easily overwhelmed and over-stimulated. The whole-job search has left me on edge and I have to work actively to not become preoccupied by it. While, under normal circumstances, my toddler’s insistent whiney is enough to drive me mad, it becomes unbearable when I’m already festering with anxiety. His need to hang on me every available second shifts from annoying to intensely overwhelming. My daughter’s cries make it nearly impossible to think.

Jesse and I have essentially decided to enroll Bug in a preschool somewhere part-time. Holding on to this decision has been my coping mechanism, my survival strategy, if you will. Knowing that not too far off into the future I’ll have one less stimulus at times (I truly do love my son!) has kept me floating. However, our ability to send him to a pre-school program depends entirely on Jesse’s new salary. And, thus far, he has yet to be offered a new job. The program he works for has graciously offered him a more family-friendly position, but the pay decrease is so severe that we wouldn’t be able to pay the bills on the new salary, let alone be able to pay for childcare. Because I know Jesse would love to stay within his current program, I have been looking for potential work for me…but the pickings are slim. Although I have a shiny degree (double major, actually), I have little experience so I’m not a great candidate for any theoretical positions within the field I desire to work. Moreover, those positions don’t even exist. Seriously. No one is hiring. In addition, I cannot come to terms with going back to work full time. I do not think it would be fair to Aselin. I also am not someone who would be able to fight for her rights to pump at work (which, unfortunately, I’d likely have to do) and providing my daughter with breast milk is a priority in our family. I have applied to several generic part time positions in case I do need to help supplement Jesse’s income (and to give me a break from being a stay-at-home mother), but the dream of enrolling Bug in preschool seems to be slipping farther and farther away and I’m just not sure how to handle it….It being life.

I yelled at my son. Yes, I had just been on the phone with Social Security and the Department of Vital Records trying to figure out why my daughter has yet to receive her SS card so that I can file taxes (the exact same problem I faced when Buggy was born). Yes, Buggy decided to start screaming at me for no real reason while I was on the phone, making it impossible to hear the helpful lady on the end of the line, angering that lady because I had to ask her to repeat herself multiple times. Yes, I was frustrated and under extreme stress…but, up to that point, I haven’t felt like a truly bad mother.

I am now constantly on edge. Buggy’s constant need to always touch me makes me resentful and leaves a knot in my stomach. Baby Girl, while truly a pretty easy baby, has now decided that she won’t nurse unless it’s easy. Meaning, she won’t suck enough to trigger letdown. She just screams instead. When letdown finally occurs, she’s happy for all of two minutes with the fast flowing milk but promptly begins to scream as soon as any real sucking becomes necessary. I know it’s not a problem of supply because I can shoot milk across the room with a simple massage. She has gotten lazy. The only remedy I can think of for that laziness is to take away her paci, to ensure that there’s no nipple confusion. However, no paci means a less happy baby. Additionally, as I try to get her to latch, Big Brother insists on “petting” her or kissing her repeatedly which, without fail, causes her to fall off the breast and start screaming again. Frustrated and over stimulated by touch and sound, I cannot function. I cannot parent properly. Bug’s insistent whining for a “hand” and help up when he has “fallen” (by fallen, I mean sat down) makes my blood boil. Today he actually cut himself (minorly) and was bleeding. I felt more annoyance than I did sympathy. I hate that I felt that way.

I went to the doctor yesterday. At the start of the appointment, the nurse took my blood pressure. My blood pressure was so much higher than usual that the nurse started to inquire worriedly about why I might be so stressed. I can’t remember the exact numbers (138 over something) but it was higher than it had been my entire last pregnancy and close to twenty points higher than at my last postpartum appointment. The stress has started to manifest physically.

I am currently holed up in my room, downing a glass of wine (which has left me incredibly sleepy) as my family eats dinner.  Even before writing that sentence, I know how unhealthy it appears.  But I needed more than a moment to myself.  I needed to put my thoughts, my stress, my frustration into words.  It makes me feel better.  You know, I read all these blogs about how to be a happier mother, a better parent.  All suggest taking time for yourself…but when your husband leaves before you wake up and regularly gets home late, there’s not much time to yourself.  Exercise, these posts suggest– are also unfeasible.  I’ve tried exercising with my toddler around.  He climbed on me and I injured my shoulder.  We don’t have the money (or childcare) for me to join a gym/class.  And, Buggy wakes up at 445 each morning so there’s no way that waking up early will work (plus, Mama needs her sleep.  Nighttime feedings, while not particularly tough, are still rough). But I digress…I needed more than a moment to myself, so I’m taking it.

The whole point of this entry is to provide me with therapy.  To give me an excuse to spend time alone.  To allow me to organize my feelings.  If you so desire, please keep the thoughts and/or prayers going.  As a family, we need them.  And, if you have any suggestions on how to deal with the stress (I know, “this too shall pass” but it’s hard to focus on that fact when you’re in the thick of it), I’m open to your wisdom.

I truly am grateful that life isn’t harder for us.  I am too well aware that our circumstances could be worse–we have health, a job, food, and a roof over our heads.  I do feel guilt for appearing so…whiny (?).  But my feelings are there.  And I’m trying to deal with them. So the continued support is much appreciated.

Being a Mother Isn’t Easy…

“I don’t like being a mommy right now.”

I sent my husband a text with just those words earlier today.  And (unfortunately) it was the truth.

Today, it was exceptionally hard to be a mother.  We’re on day three of Buggy’s nap strike and are in the thick of a constant power struggle.  And despite some good-intentioned mothers’ suggestions that he has simply outgrown nap time, my two-year old absolutely needs his nap.  Come spend some time with him; you’ll see.  (I’d also like to note that I have received lots of wonderful advice and support from relatives and mother friends–thank you for all the love).  It took two hours last night to get the child in bed.  An hour and a half of me holding the door shut while bouncing Ladybug in her chair, trying desperately to keep her from freaking out.  Another half an hour of my husband holding (hugging) him in the bed.  By the way, Bug always has his difficult days when my support system is weak.  Always during the days where Jesse leaves before sun up and doesn’t return until well past bed time (sometimes even past my bed time).  I was hit with the double whammy this weekend because my folks were on a cruise and couldn’t take pity on me.

I started out today feeling pretty good about my mothering strategy.  I took on nap time with a “kill him with calmness” approach.  Never angering.  Never showing frustration.  I just simply put him in bed with a kiss and an “I love you” before leaving the room…I did this every two to five minutes.  For two hours.  But not once did I crack.  Smiles and sympathy were all he received.  That is, before the mailman arrived.   Not only did the sight of his car evoke panicked tears from my wee one, but it brought a package, a package of mama tears.  You see, my postpartum body is, to put it elegantly, quite voluptuous.  And with this added volume comes a great struggle.  Clothes no longer fit.  Worst of all, none of my bras fit.  I’ve been living for nine weeks in frustration, frump, and discomfort.  And because my rib cage is relatively petite, conventional brands don’t sell my size so I can’t easy purchase new ones.  I’ve scoured the Internet for bras that don’t cost a small fortune (we just don’t have the funds to shell out $70+ on a piece of clothing!) and, per the guidance of a similarly situated friend, I found a provider that carries my size and, bonus!, that was having a super end of the year sale.  I snagged three bras (two nursing!) for 70 bucks.  These three wonderful, life-saving articles of clothing were in the recently delivered parcel this afternoon.  After calming Bug’s anxiety, I excitedly rushed to try on my new finds.  Soar. Crash. Burn.  All three were awful.  I won’t even comment further on the poorly designed nursing bras.  The last bra, while gorgeous, was a horrible contraption perfectly suited to serve in Medieval torture.

In that moment of trying on the last brassiere, I lost it.

Every little bit of pressure and stress that had been building exploded.  I could no longer handle my emotions.  The rest of the day was a disaster.

In general, I’ve found myself feeling more and more strain from being home with the kids 24/7.  I feel like I’ve been saying to Jesse too regularly that “we need a date night,” or “I really need some adult time.”  I fantasize about leaving the children with my folks and taking a second honeymoon but that daydream quickly evaporates as my newest nursling chirps at me, asking to be fed, or my eldest starts his too familiar chorus of “Mama! Up pease!”  I don’t know if it’s the coming down of holiday madness coupled with the dreaded new chapter of the Terrible Toddler Twos or simply having been a stay-at-home mother for two and half years that has brought me to this low.  Regardless of the reason, it stinks.

It is tough being yelled at and whined at all day long.  It is tough sustaining aforementioned verbal abuse and then not be able to escape it at the end of the day. Or over the weekend.  But what is worse, what is toughest is grappling with how selfish I feel when I wish I could be away from my children.

Yes, yes, I know deep down that I am completely entitled to having some Me time.  I read blog post after blog post about how it’s okay to not always be the perfect mom.  And I agree with them all.  But even so, I can’t help but feel like a miserable mother when I am longing to be away from them.  I frustrate myself even more when I overreact too quickly or can’t move on from a difficult moment.  I am all too aware that I could be mothering my children better.

I think that both Bug and I could benefit from sending him to a pre-school a few days a week, but it’s just not in the budget.  I toy with the idea of going back to work but the whole concept is maddening.  I don’t have a lot of experience (yay for marrying straight out of college and starting a family young!) so finding a job would be difficult. I’d very likely have to fight for my right to pump while at work, which would only make me want to quit. And, worst, I feel like I’d be denying Ladybug the same bonding time and attention that Buggy received (and I’d be more apt to miss her Firsts!).  The thought of the latter brings me to tears.  But I’m torn because in my current position as stay-at-home-mom I don’t feel like I’m being the best mother I could be.  I had a friend once tell me that she was being a good mother by working because she did better caring for her kids after having some time away from them each day.  But, other working mother friends wish they could be at home, particularly while their littles are young.  How can I win?!  (but, seriously friends, if you come across a position that I’d be well suited for–I’d really love to use my degree–toss it my way for consideration).

I typically like to end my posts with some grand realization or sage sounding advice but I don’t have it this time… I feel like I’m a drowning and the water is murky.  Not quite sure how to make it back to land.

But at least I have sweet Aselin smiles to keep me afloat.

Aselin’s Arrival: A Home Birth Story

Please take note that this entry is a detailed account of the birth of my beautiful baby girl.  It was written just as much as a record for me as for my friends and family who are curious about the home birth experience.  If you do not wish to know the intimate details of Aselin’s arrival then this post is not for you.

When it comes to being pregnant, I’m far from being a rock star.  I truly wish I was one of those women who felt like she “drank a bottle of sunshine” (an actual description a mother has shared with me from when she was pregnant) throughout my pregnancies, but I’m not.  Needless to say, by 36 weeks pregnant with our baby girl, I was ready for her to come out.  My husband and I (as well as our midwife) were optimistic that she would join us by 37 weeks since her brother had been born early and she was already sitting incredibly low.  The little lady, however, had her own ideas and held us in suspense until the end of week 39.

The day my labor started was a fairly typical Saturday, with the exception of it being Halloween.  We decided to take Buggy for a gentle hike in a local park before preparing for the holiday festivities (we had been doing hikes every weekend to “encourage” A to be born, but walking with a two year old is slow going, making it hard to kick off labor).  That evening we went out to dinner and then took our little mummy trick-or-treating throughout town.  We must have run into nearly everyone we knew.  All offered me sympathy and support because they knew how uncomfortable I was.  Friends and strangers alike made good-natured jokes to me about how I was costumed as a pregnant woman.  We returned home that evening happy but without any indication that our newest wee one would shortly arrive.

A little before 9 o’clock that evening I started noticing my first contractions.  They were barely there, not at all painful, and, had I been moving around, I would have missed them completely.  But I had been so in tuned to my body, looking for signs of labor, I noticed that the slight pulses were feeling regular.  I waited nearly 45 minutes to tell Jesse about the sensations because I didn’t want to get his hopes up or feel silly if they disappeared.  But once I was sure they were consistently 6-7 minutes apart, I let him know that that night may be the real deal–he was unphased.

We continued our regular evening routine and headed to bed a little after 10.  I did my best to fall asleep because I knew I’d need the extra energy.  However, by 1230, the contractions became painful so I called my midwife, Debbie, to let her know we’d soon have a baby on hand.  As I didn’t feel like the baby was coming too quickly, we decided to rest and that I would call Debbie again once labor intensified.   I left Jesse to get some sleep and curled up on the couch with a movie, dozing as much as possible.  By 4am, November 1st my contractions suddenly switched from uncomfortable to nauseatingly painful.  By 430, I was calling Debbie asking her to come.  I gave my mother a call so that she could prepare to come take Buggy when he awoke.

Determined to feel good about my appearance during labor, I took a quick shower and applied some mascara.  I donned the beautiful Asian-inspired bathrobe I had received as a bridesmaid gift from my recently married best friend while my husband called our birth photographer to let her know that I was in active labor. Together, Jesse and I prepared our bedroom for the birth as we waited for Debbie to arrive.

By the time Debbie made it to our house, my contractions were three minutes apart and intense.  My mother arrived at the perfect moment, just as Buggy was stirring, and was able to help Jesse prepare the tot to spend the day with her and my father.  I had imagined giving Bug a special prep talk with lots of “I love you’s” but the contractions limited me to only a few farewell kisses and reassuring words (however, I heard that my wonderful husband gave Bug the necessary reassurance that made the transition for him seamless).  At some point, Rachel, the assistant midwife arrived, as well as Lindsey, the photographer.  But at those points, I was so focused on getting through the contractions, I was barely able to acknowledge their presence.

As I labored, I slowly moved from walking around bouncing, to sitting on the edge of my bed, to lying on my side.  I remembered that side-lying was most comfortable for me during B’s birth so I assumed it’d be a good place to start.  Eventually, I asked Debbie to check my dilation so that I’d be able to mentally prepare myself for “how far” I had to go–8cm.  I whimpered because the contractions were already so intense.  Bug’s birth was quite quick and I was already feeling like this birth was lasting longer.

It wasn’t long before I started feeling the urge to push. The midwives encouraged me to follow my body’s instincts and to do what felt right.  After gently pushing for what seemed like eternity (I only pushed 30 minutes with Bug–she should be here by now, I thought!), I felt like I needed to change positions.  However, I wasn’t confident that I could move, so I only shifted to my back.  A bit longer of pushing and I felt a pop! as my bag of water broke.  While it was an odd sensation, it also felt good.  There was a release and I knew I was just that much closer to holding my baby girl.  At this point in the delivery, I had Andy Grammer’s Keep Your Head Up playing over and over in my head.  His spunky words appropriately cheered me on.

Now, I must confess, I’m also not one of those women who delights in labor and finds it joyous and thrilling occasion.  Instead, I am one of those women who silently prays that every contraction would be the contraction that would finally end the laboring (and my misery).  During this birth, I constantly thought “this is the last one! I can’t do this again!” and thought about how I should warn one of my friends who is trying to conceive and, ultimately, talk her out of it (of course, that was a ridiculous rationalization).

After pushing for a while and not feeling like Baby Girl was any closer to being born, I, within inches of tears, asked if there was anything I could do to help speed the process along.  The midwives suggested I try a new position, on hands and knees, reassuring me that sometimes a little shift is all a baby needs to come.  Of course, I didn’t feel capable of flipping over by myself, so the gentle hands of the midwives and my sweet husband repositioned me into Child’s pose.  It was in this pose that I found great thanksgiving in our new bed frame.  Being able to grip the rungs of the head board with each surge of a contraction gave me renewed strength.

It wasn’t long before my body told me that I needed to move again.  The midwives helped me move from my bed into a sitting position on the birthing stool while Jesse supported me from behind.  It took me only moments to realize how much I disliked the stool, with its hard seat pushing against me.  It made contractions so much worse.  My legs propelled me upward into a standing position.  It was suggested that I turn and hang on Jesse but when I vocalized my inability to shift, Jesse instinctively moved to my front and held me.  My midwife said that was the moment she knew the baby was ready to be born.

You see, I had shared with her how lost Jesse felt during our first birth.  Jesse is a wonderful husband who works hard to meet my needs; however, he does best with direction–something I couldn’t give to him while laboring.  He wanted so badly to be supportive of me during this birth and to have a larger role in it.  When he shifted to my front, he showed how in tune he was with me and the moment and it was as if Aselin knew her parents were ready for her.

At this point my contractions started to lessen in intensity and length.  Jesse even noted how I wasn’t pushing as frequently or for as long and became mildly alarmed.  Don’t get me wrong, the overall discomfort and pain did not subside, but the swell of my muscles constricting were no longer clear.  I had to focus completely to find the peak of the contraction so I could make my pushes most efficient.  Soon after standing, I made the conscious effort that I was going to push until I was completely out of breath…and then some.  With the next contraction, I used all of my strength in one large push and then I knew Baby Girl was coming.  “Baby! Baby!” I exclaimed and the midwives rushed over to catch my sweet one as she appeared.

With the birth of my son, this moment was one of great pain–it was every bit of “the ring of fire” that I heard crowning would be.  With the birth of my daughter that burn was absent.  It felt good to feel her emerge from me, relief washing through my body.  Once her head appeared, I rested and waited for the next contraction to well.  Less than a minute later, my 8 pound, 4 ounce beauty was fully in my arms.  She squealed as the midwives caught her but immediately calmed once she was on my chest.  I collapsed exhausted, relieved, and elated onto the birthing stool, just happy to hold my newest wee one.  I remember thanking her for finally coming out.  I must also note that I caught a glimpse of my sweet husband overwhelmed with emotion and shedding some tears (not a common occurrence).

We waited a few minutes before delivering the placenta.  My contractions were unnoticeable at that point so I had to cough repeatedly to help urge it out.  Once it was secure in a bowl (we practiced delayed cord cutting and left Aselin attached for quite some time), I was able to move into a more comfortable position onto the bed, holding my sweetie the whole time. For a few minutes my body went through a shivering spell, during which I shook uncontrollably.  Had it not been for the reassurance of the midwives that my shaking was normal (hello, hormone roller coaster), I’m sure Jesse would have thought I was having a seizure.  But once my muscles calmed down, I was able to rest comfortably.

The next hour or so went by in a blur.  Debbie was able to examine both me and the baby without us having to leave the bed or without taking Aselin more than a foot away from me.  Lindsey snapped beautiful pictures of our first moments together.  At some point, Jesse got to embrace his “little woman” during some skin-to-skin time.  I was brought cinnamon tea and a muffin.  Aselin made her first latch and nursed briefly. The midwives cleaned up as we bonded as a family.  Within two hours of the birth, we bid adieu to everyone and were left in the comfort of our own home.  It was wonderful.

With the exception of the postpartum contractions (first time mommies planning a second, I’m sorry to inform you that the contractions continue for several days after the birth; truly unfair), the rest of the day was perfect.  My wonderful husband cared for me and our sweet one.   We kept in touch with my mother regarding how Bug was doing.  We rested and soaked in Aselin’s beauty without interruption.  That evening we had my parents return Buggy to us and join us for dinner.

Bug fell in love with Aselin the moment he saw her. He promptly asked to hold her and showered her with kisses throughout the evening (and ever since!).  I felt comforted that he could go to sleep that night in his own bed with Mommy and Daddy in the next room, just as usual, while undergoing the great transition into becoming a big brother.

Having a home birth was the best decision I could have made regarding the birth of Aselin.  While labor was intense and painful, it was also quiet and calm.  Aselin was born into a peaceful environment and Jesse and I were left to relax in the comfort of our own home.  Bug’s transition to Big Brother was seamless because the rest of his world was not upset.  Not to mention all the wonderful reasons that came with using a midwife.  Giving birth at home was a wonderful experience.

To view pictures from the birth, please visit Lindsey Zovko Photography.  I may be biased but I think she captured the experience beautifully and tastefully.


Credit: Lindsey Zovko Photography

more images to come

Almost Delivery Day! or Why I Love My Midwife


A very pregnant Matron of Honor

Why, hello there!

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for months now and I apologize!  My excuses come in the form of being too busy, too tired, or just plain too lazy.  I’ve lacked inspiration recently and didn’t have much to share.  However, as I have just turned 37 weeks pregnant, I now have a bit to say!

As you probably know, I started this pregnancy with an OB/GYN.  I chose to leave that practice for a home birthing midwife after I felt pressured into, what was for me, an unnecessary intervention.  Considering that my son was born at 36.5 weeks, only a few days from being full-term, the OB had to recommend that I begin weekly hormone shots to prevent pre-term labor with this baby.  I was skeptical considering that all due dates are predictions (not necessarily accurate!) and that my son was born perfectly healthy and at a good weight.   However, when I pushed for a discussion about the shots, I was met with the standard party line of “this is what is recommended.”  I didn’t like the lack of open communication (and from earlier discussions, I knew that the OB was only pushing the shots for liability reasons) so I left and found my wonderful midwife.

And wouldn’t you know, here I am at 37 weeks pregnant, still housing a full-term baby girl…and I didn’t take the “recommended” shots.

Last week was National Midwife Week so I wanted to take a few moments to jot down some of the reasons I have loved my midwife.

Open Communication – I have truly felt like I could ask my midwife anything.  She has happily answered any question openly and iss never in a hurry to end an appointment.  Moreover, every time there has been a “recommended” test, my midwife clearly explained the reason for it, possible complications, and alternatives.  I was always asked “do you want this test?” and my answer was respected.  With my first pregnancy, I assumed I had to submit to any recommended test or, deep down, I knew I’d be met with great opposition and possible rejection as a patient should I have resisted.  For example, glucose testing is a standard and largely unchallenged test given during a pregnancy.  However, most women aren’t aware of the risks associated with one of the main ingredients used during the test nor are they aware that there are alternative ways to do the testing. Dr. Aviva Romm has a fantastic article detailing glucose testing, if you’re interested.  I was able to say, “no thanks” to the disgusting glucose test and felt confident with the information I was given so that I would be aware enough of my body to recognize if I started to develop gestational diabetes.

No Rush – At almost every doctor’s appointment I’ve attended, I have had to wait a good chunk of time to be seen.  My OB appointments were no exception, sometimes waiting for over an hour, even if I arrived on time.  And then the average amount of time the OB would spend with me would be FIVE minutes.  Even with my favorite OB, I could tell each appointment was overly standardized  and impersonal (unimportant, even) because he used the exact same jokes at every appointment.  When I switched to my midwife I was blown away by the fact that she allots 90 minutes for every appointment.  Before my first visit, I told my husband that there was no way I’d spend the whole time there…I was wrong!  Time flew by as we casually chatted like old friends and she strategically inserted any question she needed answered into our every day conversation.  Additionally, there was one time I knew I’d be late because of traffic.  Rather than stressing about missing my spot or delaying other patients (I am a very punctual person), I could relax because I knew that missing a few of the 90 minutes of time devoted to me wouldn’t cause any problems.

Ownership – Prior to visiting a midwife, I always thought of myself as a patient to which a doctor could poke or prod as needed.  However, my midwife has given me ownership of my body and health in our appointments.  If I choose to, I am in charge of weighing myself; of testing my urine; of deciding if I want to be “checked;” of taking swabs; etc.  All were procedures that were “done” on me at the OB without any discussion.  It was just assumed that I’d submit to all the procedures and I assumed I had to.

Accessibility – Gone are the days of only calling the doctor during business hours; of leaving messages; or of talking with an unfamiliar nurse.  My midwife is accessible to me 24/7 via phone, email, or person.  Unless there’s an emergency, my preferred method of communicating is email.  It has been wonderful to be able to send a quick message to my midwife whenever I have a question or need reassurance.  She has repeatedly stressed to me that I should call, even in the middle of the night, if I had any concerns.  I rarely called my OB (preferring to consult the Internet) because I felt bothersome and/or it was unlikely that I’d even get to talk directly to the doctor.

One last note about my awesome midwife, she gives me a massage at every visit…how many OBs will do that?!

I’m excited for Baby Girl’s arrival and to share my experience of a home birth with you.  I’m confident that I’ll only have more wonderful things to add about my midwife.  If you’re considering having a baby, I definitely encourage you to check out the midwives in your area to see if one might be a good fit (even if you don’t want a home birth, many deliver in birthing centers and some even in hospitals!).

A Plan to Welcome Baby #2


At 15 weeks here (I’m currently 18)

We welcomed our son into the world just over a year and a half ago with the help of incredible hospital l&d nurses and a very kind OB.  The whole birth was a whirlwind and happened incredibly quickly.  My water broke during the middle of moving day and three hours later I was holding my sweet boy.  I felt very supported by the hospital staff and the nurses continued to cheer me on and tell me how wonderful I did even hours after the delivery.  I delivered at the newly remodeled Martha Jefferson Hospital which, in all honesty, is quite swank.  I enjoyed being pampered, having food delivered to me, while I spent time with my son.  Needless to say, after such a great first experience, my husband and I planned to have our second child with the same OB practice and at the same hospital.

However, one fear I had during my first pregnancy kept creeping into my mind during this pregnancy: would I be forced into an intervention that I did not want?  Fortunately, with the first birth everything went so quickly and smoothly that the only intervention that was mentioned was starting me on pictocin if contractions didn’t start after my water broke.  That option quickly became unnecessary.  I do remember panicking briefly in the delivery room when I was asked if I wanted to have an epidural.  An epidural and episotomy were two practices I wanted to stay far away from and, for some reason, I was afraid an epidural would be forced on me (let me say, I fully believe in a woman’s right to choose an epidural; they just scare me).  Of course, it wasn’t and all was fine.

And even though everything went wonderfully during the first delivery, I’ve been feeling scared that maybe labor goes a bit differently this time and I get bullied into an intervention that I want to avoid.  I had been keeping that fear at bay until recently when, my second favorite doctor at the practice (also the one who delivered Bug) reminded me of how narrowly focused Western medicine can be.

Now, let me pause and say, 1.) I am very thankful for the development of Western medicine and I appreciate it and partake in it when necessary; and 2.) I have nothing but respect for the OB and nurses who delivered Buggy–they were phenomenal.

All that being said, I still started to have my doubts about delivering Baby #2 with my current OB practice.  Buggy was born at 36.5 weeks gestation, at a beautiful weight and without any health complications.  Yet, because he was born 3 to 4 days before what is considered full-term, the doctor I had been seeing felt that he needed to recommend weekly hormone shots for me to prevent pre-term labor again.  My real problem with this suggestion arose because I ended up feeling like he wouldn’t have an open conversation with me about the shots.  During my first two appointments, he led me to believe that he personally did not feel that I needed this intervention.  Yet, when I arrived for my third appointment, he was all “it is recommended that you do this.”  What about alternatives? “This is the recommended course of treatment.”  I felt that the shots were being pushed on me solely for liability reasons.  I left the appointment overwhelmed, afraid, and angry.

After chatting with a sweet friend of mine who had used the same practice and had used the recommended shots, I started to feel like they were not an option I wanted to choose.  Due dates can be off by a few days anyway, so perhaps Buggy was born at exactly 37 weeks.  Also, people develop at different rates their entire lives–maybe Bug was just ready to be born that day.

I felt empowered when I turned the hormones down but the fear that similar interventions would be pushed on me with little dialogue started to grow.  So I did some research…  I started looking into midwives who deliver in our area.  There are two who run a birthing center nearby and I knew I could get Jesse on board for a birth there. But then I found the website for a midwife who solely does home births.  Something in her picture and the way she presented herself on her website made me feel drawn to her.  I had never considered a home birth (and only months before the thought would have terrified me) but the more I thought about it, the more excited I became.  Tentatively, I broached the subject with Jess.  He wasn’t super thrilled about the idea but, being the open-minded wonderful man that he is, he decided to entertain the idea.  I set-up an appointment to meet with the midwife.

On Saturday we met with Debbie.  After over an hour long interrogation by us, our minds were made.  We were going to have a home birth.  Debbie was knowledgeable, upbeat, nonjudgmental, and wasn’t phased by our curious, tired toddler.  Not only were we excited to deliver with her, we (Jesse included!) became super excited about having our baby at home.

Having a home birth is the right decision not just for me but also for Jesse and Buggy.  After our first birth, Jesse felt confined to the hospital and had a hard time being cooped up in a room.  With a home birth, he’ll be more comfortable and be able to get fresh air in his own backyard.  If we delivered in a hospital for baby #2, Buggy would likely be separated from us for several nights.  He also wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting at the hospital and I fear the transition to Big Brother might be even tougher.  With a home birth, Buggy can stay at home during the entire process.  Perhaps it’ll be at night and he’ll sleep through it.  Or, even if we send him to stay with my parents, he’ll be able to meet his new sibling in the comfort in his own home and then be able to sleep in his own bed.  To make the recovery and transition period even smoother, Debbie will come to our house for the three post-partum check-ups. I know we will appreciate not having to tote a newborn and a toddler out to town so soon after the birth.  A home birth is the right decision for us.

I want to take a moment now to say that just because we’ve chosen to have a home birth doesn’t mean that I don’t support women who choose to have a hospital birth.  I read this wonderful posting on the Birth Without Fear blog about supporting women in no matter what choices they make during birth.  This quotation sums it up nicely:

“A woman is beginning her motherhood and it should begin with love all around her. If a woman has a birth she sees as traumatic, no matter what kind of birth it is, give her support. If a woman chooses a different path that you would, remember it is HER journey. When you want to put a woman down, remember that if you want her to come to you with questions, be the person she wants to receive answers from.”

And just as I support every woman as she enters motherhood, no matter what route she takes, I ask that you support our decision to have baby #2 at home.  Here is a list of things you shouldn’t say to a woman planning a home birth, even if you mean well (and especially if you’re trying to make a point).  We’re incredibly excited about our journey and we hope you will be too.

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