March 22, 2017

Harvey's Birth Story

To my sweet Harvey. This is how your story began.

Nothing sends a pregnant lady into a frenzy quite like hearing, "I have no clue how or why you are still pregnant." Those were the words of Mrs. Punch, my midwife, on January 18, 2017 at my 39 week check up. I was already 6-7 cm dilated, but the active labor contractions I needed to get you here just were not coming. She bet you would be with us by the end of the day, but she gave me the option to induce early the next morning if not.

Your big sister's birth included an induction, an epidural, and one entirely healthy baby girl. The experience was, and still is, perfection to me. I would not change a single thing about it. This time around, with your Daddy safe on American soil and my mind in a bit of a better place, I was very curious to see if I could handle a natural birth. The induction option was so tempting, but I was still fixated on possibly finding out what it felt like to let my body do 100% of the work this time.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. I came home to share the exciting but frustrating news with Grandma Sue and Eloise. Prior to this point, I had already spent an evening trying to start labor by eating an entire pineapple and bouncing on my exercise ball while watching the movie Bad Moms. It was a comical night with Grandma and Daddy that I will remember fondly thinking back to the days before you arrived. The only outcome was a few false alarm contractions and a completely numb mouth. Silly! We had not been able to get out and walk much due to a big ice storm that hit Missouri the weekend before, so Grandma, Eloise, Ruby and I set out in the sun that afternoon with a plan to get you here. Our route included a steep uphill climb that we now lovingly call labor hill. I think it was what did the trick. Contractions began as soon as we started to prepare dinner. They got consistently closer in frequency while we ate but were not getting any stronger. After enjoying Nana's chicken enchiladas recipe with a side of spicy salsa and black bean jalapeno hummus (also what may have helped you decide to come out), I called labor and delivery to explain what I was feeling. The nurse told us to come immediately and have a baby!

The last big sister hugs and kisses (note slobber stain) with the bump

We got to the hospital around 8 pm. Our nurse, Dana, immediately took us to a labor room and told Daddy to go back to the car to get our bags. She said she did not need to triage me to make sure I was in active labor because I was on the induction schedule in the morning anyways. I did not speak up and say I was considering refusing the induction because my body was already telling me I was not going to need it. As soon as I was in my hospital gown and we had settled in, she came back with bad news. If my contractions were not strong enough, we would have to go home. There was another pregnant woman with an induction scheduled before mine at midnight, and they had just given me the very last room. She was also having her second baby, had a history of fast labor like me, and was already dilated too. I felt like we were in competition with one another! The staff seemed frazzled by how many patients were laboring or recovering. It was very rare for them to be completely full. Dana hooked me up to the machine that measures contractions and confirmed I was 6 cm dilated according to her exam. She left to "go fight for me" with the on call obstetrician who was the one questioning whether we deserved to stay. We held our breath and I asked Daddy every time I felt a contraction, "did it get that one?" as he looked at the paper that charts them. I wanted to make sure we were getting the credit we deserved for all of the hard work you were doing and I was feeling while the staff deliberated. When Dana returned I could tell by the smile on her face that she had won. We breathed a sigh of relief and returned our focus to how excited we were to meet you.

The next few hours my contractions got much stronger. Daddy got a card game out to play to pass the time, but we did not even get through the first round before I wasn't able to focus on anything but surviving each contraction. I enjoyed moving around the room and trying different positions for pain relief. Standing facing Daddy with my forehead resting on his chest and my thumbs hooked through the belt loops of his jeans brought me the most comfort. He held me close and we rocked back and forth until each contraction subsided. I cannot tell you how special it was to have his physical support this time. He was truly an incredible coach.

It was probably around midnight when Dana came in and asked if I wanted an epidural. In that moment, I was feeling really proud of how well we had been working as a team. I felt strong and determined, so I said no to the epidural. I hadn't necessarily ruled it out, and I was blissfully unaware of what was right around the corner. All at once you decided it was time to come out. At 1 am I was 8 cm dilated. Dana cheerfully and casually walked out of the room as she said, "I bet we'll have a baby in a few hours!" But I knew you were in much more of a rush than that. Within minutes of her departure I was begging Daddy to run into the hallway and bring back help immediately. I was literally crossing my legs to keep from pushing! I was honestly afraid you were going to be born with just Daddy in the room. My instincts were validated after I was checked. Dana went running and shouting for help.

A flood of medical staff came swarming in, very quickly setting up for delivery. The doctor who delivered you, MAJ Grant, introduced herself to us quickly. I did not have any time to feel disappointed that my beloved midwife, who would be on call for deliveries in just a few hours, would not get to be there. I never, ever imagined any of my deliveries would resemble one of those classic movie scenes full of over the top drama. No way would I be one of those women who screams at the top of her lungs and seems completely out of control. But Harvey, Mommy was out of control! My legs were flailing uncontrollably and unconsciously as I was screaming and crying out in pain. I was a total mess. One of our favorite memories that we laugh about now was how many times I looked at Daddy and cried, "I made a terrible mistake!" regarding turning down the epidural. The pain was unlike anything words could ever portray. Luckily for me, MAJ Grant jumped into Army mode as Daddy called it afterwards. She quite literally yelled at me and told me I needed to regain my composure and focus on what I needed to accomplish. It might sound harsh, but it was exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the moment I needed to hear it. I slowed my thoughts and my breathing and focused on two things: Daddy's eyes just a few inches away, locked in on mine and the music playing in the background. I had built a birth playlist earlier that week, and as the chaos of the moment rushed around me, I was soothed by the Beatles singing "Here Comes the Sun." Once I had achieved the calm MAJ Grant required of me, she told me to push hard with the next contraction. One push later, at 1:15 am your beautiful life with us began. I kid you not, Ray LaMontagne's "Hold You in my Arms" played as all 8 pounds 1 ounce and 20.5 inches of you were placed on my belly. You cried your first tears as I watched Daddy cry tears of joy. It was such a rush of relief and an ideal moment.

I wish I could say the next span of time was just as beautiful, but if I am being honest, it was difficult. My body went into shock from such an intense and fast labor. My blood pressure dropped and I was very dizzy. You had an abnormally short umbilical cord that actually prevented you from being placed on my chest. You only reached to my stomach, which felt awkward and uncomfortable to me. I was shaking and shivering and just felt really out of it. The only bright moment that I can recall during this initial recovery was watching your Daddy. He cries very rarely. I always give him a hard time because I thought for sure he would cry happy tears at our wedding. He did not cry when your sister was born either, probably because he felt so removed from the experience watching it unfold from half a world away. Even he wasn't sure if he would cry meeting you. But he did! It seems like such a silly thing to celebrate, but seeing his eyes fill with tears and the smile spread across his entire face as he first saw you will probably be one of the highlights of my life forever. Enduring Eloise's birth and first six months without him was almost unbearable, but seeing him take you into his arms for the first time made it all worth the wait. It truly wiped away so much of the anger I had been holding onto. That deployment was no longer allowed to steal any more joy from our family!

Early evening on your birth day, you met your sister Eloise. I could hear her coming down the hallway shouting, "Harvey! Cute!" I think she and Grandma Sue had been practicing what to say when she first saw you. Hearing her sweet voice echoing into my room brought me such happiness. Leaving her at home knowing the next time we would be together would be as a family of four was strangely tough. For so long it was just me and her. Just as I knew it would, my heart had instantly grown to include you in the big love we share. All of my fear and doubt disappeared when she was back in my arms but this time as your big sister. Eloise was very interested in you for about 10 minutes before she was back to her own little two-year-old world. She was particularly fascinated by your tiny fingers, and then she insisted we unwrap you from your blanket so she could check out your toes too. She was so gentle and nurturing, just as I knew she would be. Eloise loves to rest her forehead sweetly on your cheek, bring you all of her toys when you cry, and say, "Hi, Harvey boy" (which is what Daddy often calls you). You are the luckiest guy in the world to have her as your adventure buddy for life.

We stayed in the hospital just a bit over 24 hours. We took you home Friday morning, January 20, 2017. As I write this, you are two months old, a healthy 11 pounds 13 ounces (54th percentile), and 23.5 inches long (74th percentile). Your level of alertness increases every day as does the blue of your big, sweet eyes. Unfortunately the first month of your life was spent in and out of the hospital battling jaundice, but you were so brave. By just a few weeks old you were sleeping six hour stretches at night and are now up to 7 or 8. You love ceiling fans and the purple hippo of your activity mat. Daddy is the master of the position and motion that soothes you best. Mommy is the master of the tight swaddle that you love. You are wearing size one diapers and nearly outgrowing three month clothes already. You attend your sister's weekly library story time, gymnastics class, and play dates like a champ, sleeping through everything as long as you are snuggled up strapped to me. You showed us your first, handsome smile on a sunny Sunday morning after Daddy sang a song from the classic Winnie the Pooh to you.

Harvey Preston, you are the perfect addition to our family. We cannot wait to see what big things you will do. Wherever you go and whatever you do, I know you will do it with a bold spirit, strength and gusto as exhibited by your memorable birth! You are so loved.

Bumpin' | 36 & 38 Weeks

How far along? 36 weeks (December 28, 2016)
How big is baby? Head of romaine lettuce, about 6 pounds and 18.5 inches
Milestones? All organs are fully mature and ready for life outside of the womb
Maternity clothes? Yes
Sleep? Lots of flip flopping back and forth to try to find a comfortable position
Symptoms? Nothing new
Food cravings? Nothing I've noticed
Food aversions? Ditto
Gender? Boy
Labor signs? Some light contractions sporadically 
Belly button in or out? Flat
What I miss? Feeling comfortable in my clothes. I have very few things that I feel good in anymore. Even my maternity clothes feel tight. My mom did get me a new maternity top for Christmas that I love. I never usually miss alcohol since I am not a big drinker to begin with, but on Christmas Day Brad broke out the limoncello we brought back from Italy. My whole family did celebratory shots while I watched sadly from the sober sidelines. For the first time, I missed alcohol. 
What am I looking forward to? Eloise's 2nd birthday! We are standing strong about not letting her birthday breeze by sandwiched between Christmas and HP's anticipated arrival. We got her a play pizza set and birthday cake to go in her kitchen she got from Santa, so we are planning to do a personal pizza bar so she can decorate her own little pie. And I will attempt a homemade cake. My mom and dad will be here through New Years, so we will celebrate a few days early. Brad is also planning a special surprise milkshake date for the two of them on January 4th. That will always be Daddy Day for Eloise because it was already the 4th for Brad in Afghanistan when she was born. I can hardly believe my baby girl is almost TWO! She is such a bright light in our lives.
Best moment this week? My mom, dad, and sister Whitney joined us for a very merry Missouri Christmas. I cannot tell you how great it was to share this holiday together. In a way it feels like the calm before the storm. I know life with two littles will be beyond hectic, so I have fully embraced the calm and cozy of the season with my family here to drink cocoa, watch movies, and play board games. I made reindeer pancakes for Christmas Eve and homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning, two traditions I hope to continue for Eloise and HP. We enjoyed a fancy evening out for Christmas Eve dinner at Sybil's in St. James, and my dad made his famous chili for Christmas Day. Eloise did an amazing job opening gifts. She genuinely seemed to appreciate each thing, reading each book and wanting to play with every toy before it was set aside for the another package. Experiencing the joy and magic of Christmas through her eyes has to be one of the best parts about being a mom.

How far along? 38 weeks (January 11, 2016)
How big is baby? Spaghetti squash, about 6.5-7 pounds and 19.5 inches
Milestones? Baby has a firm grasp and practices gripping the umbilical cord (can't wait for it to be my finger that tiny hand is squeezing!)
Maternity clothes? Yes, strictly leggings on the bottom at this point
Sleep? Same, but Brad has been amazing about giving me back massages every night to help relax me into a nice night of sleep and ease my aching body
Symptoms? Lots of random contractions still
Food cravings? Another bag of lime tortilla chips gone in an embarrassingly short time frame
Food aversions? None
Gender? Boy
Labor signs? 5 cm dilated, 80% effaced, and having a handful of painful contractions every day but nothing consistent enough to kick start active labor yet. My mom has bumped up her return though just in case! I cannot wait for her to arrive so I can rest assured that Eloise has a buddy for when I do go into labor. Plus my mom is the biggest, best help in terms of cooking, cleaning, etc. She doesn't even need to be asked, she just gets things done. She is amazing. Hurry up Momma Sue and get here already! 
Belly button in or out? Actually popping out a tiny bit
What I miss? My friends in Tennessee. It is really sinking in that the flood of support and visitors I had with Eloise probably won't happen because I am still so new to town. I am making new friends quickly just like I always do with each new Army post, but nothing compares to the friends who feel like family. A few of them already have trips in the works to come visit after HP is born, and I am very much looking forward to the comfort of their familiar love. 
What am I looking forward to? Active labor contractions. For some reason my body seems to have the dilating part down no problem, but where are the contractions to kick off the real party? This is exactly what happened with Eloise too. My doctors and midwives say, "It could be any day now!" at nearly every appointment towards the end. I also cannot wait to see what HP looks like. Brad and I always marvel at how you wonder for months what your new baby will look like, but then as soon as you lay eyes on him or her it's almost like, well duh. It's as if someone you just met for the very first time has somehow always been a part of your life. You have known them for minutes but also forever at the same time. I am so curious to see if he looks like Eloise too. 
Best moment this week? As my Christmas gift, Brad got the interior and exterior of my car detailed. It was in desperate need of detoddlerization (oh, the crumbs!). The guy he booked came right to the house and did everything in the convenience of our own driveway. It smells and looks brand new again, and the second car seat installed in the back makes my heart jump every time I see it. Talk about the best way to make a nesting mama happy!