Welcoming Wells

Welcoming Wells

At 33 weeks pregnant with Millie, my OB instructed me to go to labor and delivery. I felt miserable; pounding headaches, swelling to point of discomfort, dizziness and fatigue. I left the OBs office completely unable to accept the reality of induction. Instead of rushing to the hospital, I had my husband take me to Arby’s. As I pumped ketchup onto my tray, a lady grabbing napkins said to me, “If you have a girl and see blood in her diaper, don’t be alarmed, it’s her hormones.” What? Suddenly, I had lost my appetite for ketchup.

33 weeks came and went during my second pregnancy yet, everyday the thought of preeclampsia was a very real concern. I checked my blood pressure with an at-home monitor, I constantly analyzed the size of my ankles, and I actually iced and elevated my feet at night. 34 weeks into my pregnancy, we lost my step-father due to a massive heart attack, just four months after unexpectedly, losing my sister. I was fearful that the grief and stress would throw me into labor but thankfully, the baby stayed put.

37 weeks of pregnancy is considered full term; something I never was able to experience with Millie. I still feel a tinge of guilt for not being able to carry her longer. I was ecstatic to have made it to term with this pregnancy and also surprised I didn’t feel entirely miserable. Don’t get me wrong, the pelvic pressure was painful and sleeping comfortably was a challenge, but life wasn’t completely intolerable; nothing like what 33 weeks pregnant with preeclampsia felt like. My OB said we made it to term because of the daily dose of baby aspirin but I like to think that he was comfortable in my sisters arms, in heaven.

At 37 weeks and 6 days, I started having contractions seven minutes apart. Laying in bed, I would check my phone with each pain; 3:07, 3:14, 3:21. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, I was being woken up by my alarm. As I was getting ready for work, my husband urged me to stay home and call the doctor. Wanting to save my sick time, I went in to teach. During my planning period, I called my OB to tell him I had contractions through the night. He responded, “get to labor and delivery”. I drove home, snuggled with Mill on the couch, and waited for my baby daddy to come home. My husband packed the car, we kissed Millie goodbye, and this time, we didn’t stop for a cherry turnover.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were sent into triage where a nurse took my temperature, blood pressure, checked my lungs and pulse, and she gave me a sani-wipe and cup to collect my urine. As I sat down on the toilet, I opened the wipe and simultaneously, it jumped out of my hands! The wet wipe flew through the air, nearly six feet, before hitting the tile floor! Reactively, I screamed and then I couldn’t stop laughing! My husband and the nurse thought I was crazy but it kept the atmosphere light; labor terrified me after my experience with Mill.

My vitals were normal except my blood pressure, 118 over 96. The nurse explained that the reading was a mistake; the bottom number “didn’t match” the top number. She checked it again; 135 over 95. She seemed concerned that the readings were slightly elevated so she was going to consult the resident doctor on duty. Of course I was stressing thinking that the pre-e had returned but there were no traces of protein in my urine, so that kept me sane. Waiting for my blood pressure to go down, I ate a bag of mini pretzels, watched an episode of Friends (ironically, it was the episode where Rachel and Ross are at the gynecologist), texted my parents, and peed again. The nurse returned, checked my BP, and it was even higher than before! Over and over again, the cuff would squeeze my arm, release the pressure, and I would dauntingly peek at the numbers on the monitor; my blood pressure remained high. The resident doctor, who looked younger than me, asked about my birth plan. I explained to her that if the preeclampsia had returned, I wanted a c-section, which had been discussed numerous times with my OB. She began explaining to me why she would not give me a c-section, even if the pre-e had returned. I stopped her and said, “I know that I am able to elect for a cesarean birth.” I was no longer interested in speaking to this resident. My blood pressure reading was highest after that conversation.

My OB was in the hospital giving a tour to a newly hired doctor in the practice, so he stopped by my room to discuss my, “options”. He told me that he was admitting me for gestational hypertension. He explained that my history with pre-e made him too concerned to send me home with an elevated blood pressure. The doctor informed us that there were risks to induction, especially premature lung development, particularly in boys. A day before Millie was born, a steroid shot was administered into my leg to better develop her lungs. Unfortunately, there is no evidence shows the steroid being effective after 34 weeks of pregnancy, so the shot was not an option this time around. There is a fine line between gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia and my doctor thought the induction outweighed the risks, given my history. Gestational hypertension is a form of high blood pressure and it occurs in about 6 percent of all pregnancies. Delivery heals the mother from the hypertension.

I was being induced for a vaginal birth, with a c-section as plan B if my blood pressure continued to rise. The doctor promised me that this delivery would be different than my first and that I was being closely monitored. I signed some papers, shoved my underwear into my purse, and tightly held my husbands hand as we left triage. I was full term. This baby spent weeks longer in utero compared to Millie. I’ve done this before; affirmations I told myself walking to labor and delivery.

We started the induction at 4pm with a twelve hour dose of cervadil; a vaginal insert that ripens the cervix. Like a tampon, the medicine is attached to a string. Unlike a tampon, it is placed super far up the vaginal canal (I swear, the nurse was elbow deep). The first four hours on the cervadil were a breeze – mild cramping. My grandma brought Millie to see us before her bedtime. This was the first night that I wasn’t sleeping under the same roof as her. It broke my heart when she didn’t want anything to do with me. She was scared of the machines and my IV.

I was uncomfortable during the next four hours as the contractions grew stronger and closer together. Around 3am, I wanted the epidural but I was only 3cm dilated. The resident OB wanted to wait on ordering the epidural until I dilated further so he offered to give me pain meds through my IV to take off the edge. I urged both him, and the nurse to consult with my doctor because we had discussed this exact situation after my traumatic experience with Millie. I had dilated so quickly with her that I was unable to get the epidural and I did not want that to happen again. Thankfully, they consulted my doctor who approved the epidural.

I gave birth to Millie without an epidural and I was not about to do that again. Although, I was scared that the epidural would hurt, that I would move during insertion and become paralyzed, that it wouldn’t take, or that the baby’s heart rate would drop, I was terrified of another natural labor. I was overwhelmed with the pain from the contractions so I pulled up a video of Millie on my phone, to focus my energy on her pure joy. As I watched, tears rolled down my cheeks; partially due to the pain I was experiencing but also because of my love for her. I was assured that the anesthesiologist was the best they had. He was an older man who talked me through everything he was doing. My husband was asked to wear a mask and a hair cap while the procedure took place. He held my hands as I sat up straight, at the edge of the bed. The medicine felt like a bead of cold water rushing down my spine. I do not remember any pain during insertion. Slowly, my legs started feeling heavy and I knew the epidural had worked.

Pitocin was administered and for the next two hours, 4:30-6:30am, I experienced some mild cramping. The epidural provided great relief to the clinching pain of the earlier contractions. My grandma had joined us in the birthing room. Her presence was calming as she rubbed my legs. My birth photographer, Sarah Shambaugh, arrived and began taking pictures of the process. Around 6:30, it felt like I needed to poop; nothing hurt, I just felt a sense of urgency. I remembered feeling that way before Millie was born and I knew it was time to push. The nurse examined me and sure enough, I was fully effaced and 9.5cm dilated. The nurse called my doctor, who was twelve minutes away. Longest twelve minutes of my life.

I was instructed not to push until my OB arrived. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks in response to the discomfort I was enduring. I told my husband that I didn’t care to wait for my doctor any longer, as long as someone would catch my baby, I needed to start pushing. My bed was raised, nurses helped lift my legs into the stirrups, and a resident doctor began dressing to do the job. In that same moment, my doctor entered the room and prepared for the delivery. I breathed a sigh of relief while grimacing through a contraction.

Pushing was difficult because I couldn’t exactly feel what I was supposed to be doing due to the epidural. I was anxious to push and didn’t like the wait time between contractions. I forced all of my energy down and with every push, the baby moved further through the canal. My doctor was so supportive; using words of encouragement and massaging the tissue so I wouldn’t tear. My father snuck into the room and held up a “little brother” onesie as a means of encouragement. The thought was endearing but I also didn’t want my dad to see my vagina. My husband helped lift my head up towards my chest and my grandma pulled my legs back while I pushed. I could not understand why this labor was taking so long – comparatively to my three push labor with Millie. My OB used his hands to turn the baby’s head in a more opportune position. Impatient, I decided that I didn’t want to wait for the next contraction to start pushing again and that is when the baby progressed enough that my doctor could see the hair on his head. My husband looked – gross. My doctor predicted that the next push would do it; I would meet my son.

Clinched teeth, chin to chest, toes curled; all of the tension released when Wells was born. It is absolutely amazing how exhaustion and pain evaporate away the moment of birth. A wiggly, slime-covered, baby boy was placed on my chest and my entire being began taking him in; he was heavy, he was pink, he had hair, and he was crying. My husband cut the umbilical cord as nurses suctioned fluid from his mouth. We stayed skin-on-skin while my family met him. When it was time to feed him, he latched quickly and correctly, which made nursing simple. While he was on my breast, I felt the bottom of his little feet; so soft.

My sweet, perfect boy. Life may be unpredictable, but my love for you will forever be constant. Welcome to the world, Wells.

Big Sister

Big Sister

I only know myself as a big sister; I don’t remember being an only child for the first two years of my life. I am a big sister to, two awesome people who I will always see as, kids. I cherish the memories of helping my brother get ready for school in the morning and talking through the bunk beds with my sister at night. Running to the car we’d yell, “shotgun!” to see who was going to sit in the front seat. I remember sticking up for my siblings at school; I about pounded a kid for calling my sister fat and I wasn’t very nice to the bully taking my brothers lunch either. My sister would keep my secrets and my brother could always make me laugh. I am proud of my siblings and I am grateful to be their big sister.

I always knew that I wanted to have a basketball team amount of kids, if the Lord would allow. The preeclampsia that I experienced with Millie scared me of the birthing process but never out of wanting to expand our family. To allow my body time to recover, my OB asked for me to give myself two years before getting pregnant again but when Millie was 20 months old, we found out we were expecting. I was still breastfeeding Mill and continued until she was 22 months old, when I entered my second trimester of pregnancy. I was instructed to take a calcium supplement as my vegan diet didn’t allow much calcium to go around for myself, a breastfeeding toddler, and a growing fetus. That aside, we were excited that Millie was going to be a big sister come March!

The first person I told after seeing the positive pregnancy test was my little sister. We had been talking about how I felt fatigued and she encouraged me to take a test. She was at work when I called to tell her the news and she startled everyone in her office by screaming in excitement. From the very beginning of this pregnancy, things were different than my first. The pink result on the pee stick was much more prominent this time around. I was pleasantly surprised that this pregnancy didn’t come with the hyperemesis gravidarum that I experienced with Mill. Due to all the puking during my first pregnancy, I had to miss my sisters college graduation, hospitalized with dehydration. This time around, I was pregnant but also was able keep up with an energetic toddler. We had a gender reveal with our family where we cut into a cake that spilled out blue candy – no surprise that this pregnancy was different, we are having a baby boy.

Millie is a little mommy; she loves babies. At Zumbini, she would rather spend time putting her face in baby carriers of the siblings of her classmates than dance and play instruments. Millie will give her baby dolls stroller rides, she feeds them bottles, and she puts them to sleep by covering them up and kissing them on the head. Anything small is a baby to her. I love her caring nature. There was never a doubt in my mind – she would be an awesome big sister.

I do not think Millie understands that there will be a new baby in our house come March. She is aware that there is a baby in my stomach and that we are preparing our home for his arrival however, how can a two year old comprehend a new life? I still am in awe of the miracle that is a new baby. So here I am, enjoying my time as a one child mama for a little while longer. I will never forget Millies time as my only child however, she will. She’ll forever know herself, like me, as a big sister.

Makeup and Millie

Makeup and Millie

I have vivid memories of watching my mom put her makeup on in the bathroom mirror. Sometimes she’d ask me to brush her long, dark hair and add a polishing cream to the ends to make the stray hairs lay down flat. I remember being envious of how beautiful she looked and wondering if I’d ever grow up to be that pretty. “Maybe when I’m 27”, I’d think.

Before I was allowed to wear makeup out of the house, my mom insisted on teaching me how to properly apply my foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara. When I’d wear too much eyeliner or dark eyeshadow, per my mother, she’d take my makeup away until I was ready to wear it correctly. If I was grounded from wearing makeup, I’d borrow my friend’s eyeliner and apply it in a car mirror on my way to school; totally gross, but middle-school-me didn’t care. Reflecting on those years, I am grateful that I had a mother who invested time into me; I know that not all children get to experience that.

This year, I’ll turn 27, and one of the best compliments I receive is how much I favor my mother. After a much needed, adults only, double date, my reluctant husband accompanied me to Ulta for an, “in and out, I know exactly what I’m getting” shopping trip. $80 later, I was a happy girl and my husband, will never step in that store again. I picked up two new hair products, an eyebrow pencil, two new makeup brushes, a lip moisturizer, a beauty blender, and new foundation. I couldn’t wait to use my new goodies!

My mother taught me to smile when applying blush to my cheek bones. I was to pull the blush across my cheek, at an upwards angle, to the side of my face. She was teaching me to contour, bless her! I still use my moms makeup methods today and Millie now watches me in the bathroom mirror. Somehow, my sweet angel must have gotten very confused because she used mommy’s new blush brush to scrub the toilet. My husband saw her first, took the brush from her, and he found it hysterical; “that’s one way to use it!” Blush brush = toilet scrubber.

The next day, while I was curling my hair, Millie decided to paint the bathroom cabinets. (She found a dry paint brush and it kept her occupied.) I was singing and she was babbling. I finished my hair, looked down to compliment Mills work, and to my surprise there were brown drawings on my white, vanity doors. At some point, Millie dropped the paint brush, found my new eyebrow pencil, and went to town! My husband found that funny, too.

Millie’s “innovative” ways of using makeup has surpassed anything that I could’ve thought of. The drawings have yet to be erased. Cheers to 27, makeup, and daughters.

Turd in the Tub

Turd in the Tub

Millie has always enjoyed the bath. I will never forget balancing her on my left forearm while bathing her in my kitchen sink. When she first learned to splash, she’d get water in her face, blink, and gasp; inevitably I’d get soaked. She would try to grab the water coming out of the faucet with her clumsy, little hands. I still love to rub oil on her clean, baby body when she’s fresh out of the tub. And how adorable are baby towels with the hoods?

This summer, Millie loved swimming in the pool; she would relax in her floaty, letting the water move her around. We swam in three different pools this season and each got Mill’s approval. When Millie was six months old, My grandma, Mill and I traveled to VA to visit my sister, who lives on the beach – I’m so jealous of her daily view – and Millie loved the ocean; she would yell at the waves when they would ripple away.

Millie takes a shower with me every Saturday morning. She clings to me while the water hits us. I spray shaving cream on the wall for her to play with. She doesn’t mind when the water hits her face and it’s probably because she dumps water on her face, daily. When Millie attempts to drink from a cup, she tips it back too quickly and the water splashes out and spills everywhere – she doesn’t seem to mind getting wet.

I read in, What to Expect When You’re Expecting: 1-2 years, that babies can start to revolt against the bath around 15 months. I shrugged it off considering how much Millie enjoys the bath – my karma. The next evening, after a delicious (but messy) taco dinner, Millie needed a bath. I undressed her, set her down in the tub, and she started to cry, real tears. I checked the temperature of the water; fine. I checked to see if she was sitting on anything uncomfortable; nope. I began singing to calm her down; didn’t help. I gave her, her waterbaby to play with; she pushed it away. I quickly washed the black beans off of her arms and face and took her out of the tub. As soon as I lifted her from the bath, the tears ceased.

I feared that the tub was now a time of terror and unfortunately, the next time a bath was necessary, cue the waterworks. I was determined to not let bath time turn into a habitual melt down, so I stripped down to my undergarments and joined my daughter in the tub. I poured water on myself and said positive things about the tub with a smile on my face, trying hard not to think about the baby pee that I might have been sitting in; and it worked! She stopped crying and began splashing and kicking her legs under the water. I felt victorious having navigated my daughter through a developmental hurdle.

That feeling soon changed when I saw a stream of bubbles floating up from Millie’s backside. I turned my attention to her face and she was turning a shade of red; pushing. As I lifted her from the water, attempting to sit her over the toilet, a turd accompanied us in the tub, corn kernels and all. A turd. In all its glory. A floater in the tub. The What to Expect When You’re Expecting book did not properly prepare me for bath time trauma for the both of us!

Why the Bonnet?

Why the Bonnet?

“Stop making her look Amish.”

Chris and I changed many aspects of our lives when we found out that we were expecting; we censored our language, started using laundry detergent with cleaner ingredients, we re-carpeted our second floor, we stopped drinking alcohol, etc. We both agreed that we wanted to raise Millie differently than the loud, flashy, plastic, commercialized, technology-promoting, societal-norm.

I envisioned raising Millie holistically; knit clothes and wooden toys, piano lessons and singing together, oils, nature walks, rocking chairs, home cooked meals with fresh ingredients, speaking to each other around the dinner table, and church on Sunday morning. I understand that we may not be able to live this way 24/7, but striving for a simpler life was my prerogative. Texting my children that dinner is ready, eating McDonalds on T.V. trays while watching Pat Sajak on The Price is Right, is not my ideal family environment. For some families, I just described their quality, family-time and that’s cool for them, it’s just not the “goal” environment for us.

I first put Millie in bonnets when we began taking her outside of the home; she was around 3 months old and bald. Not only are bonnets nostalgic and darling, but they also help to protect from the wind, rain, and sun. In early March, I was worried that Millie would catch a chill if her head wasn’t covered, so she wore a bonnet. In the aggressive July sun, I didn’t want her fair skin getting burned so she wore a light weight, brimmed-bonnet to shade her face.

The bonnets she wears fit snug on her head, so they stay in place, and she keeps them on all day. Millie has knitted, brimmed, cotton, linen, embroidered, and reversible bonnets. Just as I change my accessories upon my outfit, she has different bonnet options. Her bonnets are nothing like the plain, white bonnets that Amish children wear. Millie’s bonnets have beautiful patterns.

We have received many compliments on her bonnets; at church, at the doctors office, exploring around Cleveland, etc. Once, a lady told me, “I love when babies wear bonnets, it makes them look like such, babies”. Isn’t that funny? Why are we so quick to dress our babies like adults, give them tablets, and sit them in front of a screen for hours at a time? I digress.

When Millie is older and can vocalize her wants more, maybe she will choose to not wear bonnets. Until then, Millie will keep wearing bonnets and I will continue nurturing and protecting my bonnet-wearing, babe.

Locks of Millie

Locks of Millie

How is it possible to take such pride in a strand of hair?

White, moving follicles I observed from your ultrasound.

Hair that I washed while holding your body effortlessly in one arm.

Counting the strands you lost during your first nights sleep.

Covering, protecting.

Longer it grows; you are beginning to take steps on your own.

Growing thicker from the nutrition you continue to receive from my body.

Independently combing your hair by running a tooth brush behind your ear.

Your hair. Different than mine.

I cherish the smell of you through your hair.

Zumbini

Zumbini

Before I had a child, I knew I’d be the monitored screen time, oil using, breastfeeding, crunchy-kind of mama. When Millie was born, the television wasn’t turned on for weeks because I read in a parenting magazine that baby’s can sense when you’re multi-tasking, like folding laundry and watching Grey’s Anatomy. Multitasking can make a baby anxious so the tv remained off. My mom finally said, “You have to be able to put her down for a moment and the tv will help.” She found a channel called, Baby First and Millie was entranced!

The vibrant colors, the songs, the high-pitched voices, the close ups of baby faces; Millie loves it. There is a a flower in the corner of the screen and the petals change color based on the learning elements in that particular show. The best aspect of the channel, in my opinion, is Zumbini. I love to dance and Zumba is my favorite way to work out. Zumbini is a baby’s Zumba. It incorporates dancing, singing, instrument playing, ball rolling, etc. Millie loves to dance and sing to the short Zumbini episodes in our living room. She smiles and rocks her body – she is completely engaged! At the end of the show it instructs the viewer to, “Go online and register for a Zumbini class near you!” So, I did.

The class was being offered near my undergraduate campus so I felt comfortable with the location. The instructor was quick to answer all of my questions and she was just as helpful and kind when we met in class. I am a music teacher and a “retired”, collegiate Zumba instructor so one could assume that I would be judgmental towards another’s class however, I’m new at this parenting thing and I have nothing to gain from judging and everything to gain from creating experiences with Millie.

When registering for Zumbini, we received a book with the lyrics to all the songs in the class, music downloads, and a little doll (that has seriously won over Millie’s heart, she loves her, “TJ”). Zumbini promotes freedom for the children to do as they please as they listen the up-beat music. I dance with Millie on my hip, I dance in front of her while she sits on the floor, I play instruments while she puts hers directly into her mouth. At six months old, Millie was the youngest in the class however, everyone was willing to help her, they doted over her and her big, blue eyes, and it never felt like she didn’t belong.

The music from Zumbini, incorporates different languages, styles, tempo, and time. I like that Millie is exposed to such diversity. The class materials include rhythm sticks, scarves, miscellaneous percussion instruments, balls, and bongos. Mill has taken two, nine week sessions and we don’t plan on stopping. This girl is shaking what her momma gave her!