March for Millie

March for Millie

https://www.marchforbabies.org/team/MarchingforMillie

The cashier asks, “Would you like to round up your total to the nearest dollar for charity?” I do it every time – mainly because I’m a sucker for even numbers. I’m that person at the gas station whose goal is to land on .00 exactly; I digress. My husband and I agreed years ago, that we will would always donate to children and veterans, in need; it’s also tax deductible and it feels good to give what we can. We’ve been monetarily giving to the March of Dimes for four years, never thinking that it would be us experiencing unlikely circumstances during childbirth. In November, I was induced six weeks early due to pre-eclampsia and my daughter was born premature. I developed severe symptoms, including a heart murmur, while my newborn was living in this world weighing a mere 4.8lbs.

Did you know that prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality? I didn’t. I’m educating myself now, knowing that my chances of having another preterm delivery are heightened because of the pre-eclampsia with Millie. The March of Dimes has become a movement promoting healthy babies and moms and they raise money to help spread awareness of birthing difficulties, to better prenatal care, and to research deliveries in the U.S. #thecarewomendeserve

Next month, we will be walking 3 miles representing Team Millie with the March of Dimes. I am excited to be in the presence of so many others who’ve shared similar birth experiences. Millie will be with us, sporting a purple headband. I’m so proud of her, and our family. At Mill’s four month doctors appointment, we found out that she is in the 50th percentile for height and weight, not including her adjusted age! It’s looking like our growth struggles are behind us, praise God. For any mother living minute by minute, I’m praying for you; the tiniest of sparks can become the strongest flame – you’ve got this!

If you would like to have more information about the event or would like to donate to the March of Dimes, check out my team page: https://www.marchforbabies.org/team/MarchingforMillie

Next time the cashier asks you if you want to donate, do it. Support your community and help make this world that we all live in, a better place. I will walk for babies!

Will you?

Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave

As a full-time, public elementary school music teacher, I received six weeks of paid maternity leave by using my accumulated sick time. Preeclampsia caused me to deliver preterm and just six weeks later, I would not have been prepared to leave my premature angel for work. Any mother would agree that six weeks is a ridiculously limited amount of time to bond with a newborn. For those mothers who have to rely on outside childcare after six weeks, I am so sorry; I will pray for your continued bonding, physical and mental health, and safety. Fortunately, I was able to take additional time off using FMLA. This time off of work was unpaid however, my husband and I had monetarily saved. In total, I had fourteen weeks off of work for maternity leave and I still wished that I could have taken more time. Whether you have six weeks or six months, the time you’ll spend with your newborn is priceless. The fourth trimester is a blur but before I completely forget, due to juggling work and infancy, here’s some thoughts of my time on maternity leave.

After we were discharged from the hospital, my body was recovering from the trauma of birth; breastfeeding was a learning curve, my blood pressure was regulating after the high levels due to pre-e, and I was profusely sweating out all the excess fluid that my body was retaining. While all of this was occurring, I was also bonding with my fragile, four pound newborn. It’s difficult for me to look back on the first month because I feel guilty – there’s so much growing that she did that I just slept through; I’d nap on the couch with Netflix on. There were so many moments that I forget due to sheer exhaustion. My advice for any new mom is to tape your eyes open – of course I’m kidding! I encourage you to take so many pictures and journal as often as you can; you never get that precious time again and so much of it can become lost in the exhausted haze of motherhood.

I was so grateful to have an overwhelming outpour of help from my family and friends during this time. Having a meal-train was extremely helpful; we had prepared meals for a week! My mom stayed with us the first two weeks after Millie was born. Everything was new; I didn’t know that I was supposed to log every diaper change by time and contents, I didn’t know what cluster feeding was or how to handle it, and I had never given a newborn a bath before. Having an additional person to help clean pump parts, make dinner, take a nighttime shift, run a load of laundry, etc., was so helpful. My mom successfully raised three children and was there whenever I asked, “Is this normal?”. My husband was allotted no paternity leave; he had to use his vacation time for my hospital stay, so he was incredibly grateful for the support from my mom as well. Thanks, mom.

It was traumatic getting Millie’s blood tested when managing her jaundice level. As I held my daughter in my arms, she was pricked in the heel of her foot and then milked of her blood, which of course made Millie cry and her tears broke my heart in two. My mom was there with me so I didn’t have to experience that alone. Pumping was difficult for me in the beginning. I truly thought that I’d have more comfortably with the pump than breastfeeding however, it felt impersonal and I had a hard time doing it. My mom would stay up with me and care for Millie while I pumped to increase my milk supply. Those late night talks of motherhood and watching my mother bond with my little one; I hope to never forget those moments.

My mother returned home and my mother-in-law came to stay with us. For the first month of Millie’s life, I was never alone with her. Some people may read this and think, wow – this woman is crazy however, I was relieved having someone else there with me. It was more eyes on my preemie, someone to watch her while I showered or napped, and it was socialization when I couldn’t leave the house (I was terrified that I would bring home germs that would put Millie back in the hospital.)

I loved taking Millie for walks when the weather was fair. I loved holding her tight, rocking her, having skin-to-skin time, and resting my cheek upon her cheek. I think my heart skipped a beat every time my husband would speak to her. I didn’t completely despise changing her diapers like I thought I would. I enjoyed online shopping while breastfeeding – maybe a little too much. I watched her grow from a thin four to a chunky twelve pounds. Listening to her sigh, smelling her head, seeing her smile – there’s nothing else like it. I feel so incredibly blessed to be Millie’s mother. Even though my maternity leave is over, I am grateful for the time that I had and I cherish my moments with her now, even more.

Laboring Love

Laboring Love

It’s very appropriately called “labor” but some things made it just 0.014x better…

  • My mom drove in from out of town and brought me my favorite childhood stuffed-animal, Max Goof. I didn’t even know that she kept him! It was such a special gift that momentarily took my mind off of the labor ahead.
  • Due to preeclampsia, I was in the hospital for three days before giving birth. I was not able to eat, should an emergency cesarean become necessary. I was able to sip water and eat ice-chips. Yay. My grandmother brought me in a box of Luigi’s Italian Ice and my taste buds had a party! My nurse put my name on the box and kept it in the freezer; I was able to eat cherry and lemon Italian ice as much as I wanted.
  • My husband asked the nurse, “Can she get something to help her sleep? There’s a lot of extra noise in here.” I was given an Ambien and I slept better than I had in months! It was the best “push present” that any pregnant wife could’ve asked for.
  •  I adore my family and friends however, answering all their texts and calls while trying to focus on the task at hand, was not at the top of my priority list. I was incredibly grateful that my husband had my phone and kept everyone informed.
  • The same hospital gowns that people die in, are given to you to wear when you birth your baby. Ew. I bought a Gownies set from Baby Be Mine and I’m so glad that I did. I was happy with how they fit and felt, they smelled like home, and I liked how I looked!
  • There can be a lot of smells permeating in a hospital. When we were admitted into the labor and delivery room, we used our humidifier with drops of on-guard oil; cleaning the air. Next, we used balance to help with the atmosphere of the birthing space. So many nurses complimented us on our use of essential oils. One nurse, who wasn’t even mine, came into the room because she smelled a “spa aroma” from the hall!
  • My sister flew in from out of town for the birth. She braided my hair for me before I went into active labor. She also took videos on her phone, before and after Millie was born. At the time, it seemed pretty silly. Now that Millie is three months old, we cherish those videos. Our conversations, the doctor checks, how small she was, and the sound of her cry, won’t be forgotten.
  • Water-proof mascara and chapstick.
  • Hospital resources – use them. I used many snap-ice cold packs on the back of my neck, forehead, and in my underwear after giving birth; these are way better than a wet washcloth. The supplied water jug is still my best friend – if you are planning to breastfeed, this will become your lifeline. The large, mesh underwear – no shame, I packed ten pairs to take home and wore them for the next two weeks. The huge pads. During recovery, the hospital provided a plastic squirt bottle that could spray warm water after using the bathroom; trust me, you don’t want to be using toilet paper down there for a while. I received a bottle for every bathroom in my house. Another relief was witch-hazel pads. I made some of my own once I was home and added some lavender oil for extra soothing.
  • Because we were sent to the hospital at 34 weeks, my house had not been properly cleaned for a new baby. My family cleaned my house until it sparkled while I was in the hospital. It was such a relief knowing I was bringing the baby into a clean home.

No doubt — giving birth is laborious, but there is not a mom out there who doesn’t recognize it as a labor of love.

What made labor 0.014x better for you?

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

“Did you have a difficult day at work?” the nurse asked upon taking my blood pressure. Teaching elementary music was never a breeze however, that day in particular, was fine. (Meaning my blood pressure had no business being 149/99.) She told me to relax, take a couple deep breaths, and she’d try to take it again – of course by then I was freaking out; why was my blood pressure so high?! My doctor came into the room and told me that they found traces of protein in my urine, I had significant swelling in my legs and ankles, and that I had gained too much weight since my last visit. Preeclampsia. I had heard of it but I never thought that it was something that I would suffer from. So many thoughts were racing around in my head; Isn’t preeclampsia rare? Don’t you have to be obese to get it? Has anyone in my family ever had preeclampsia? What’s going to happen to my baby? What’s going to happen to me? AH! My head was pounding; yet another symptom of preeclampsia.

I was instructed to take the next day off of work, to collect my urine for twenty-four hours, and to try to relax. I would go back to the OB’s office the next day for a blood pressure check and an ultrasound. I did as I was told; laid on the couch watching Netflix, drank plenty of water, and I had a decent nights sleep considering my bladder was being used as a trampoline. I hated having to take a day off of work for, “bed rest” but I knew it was necessary for both mine and the baby’s health. The next day, my husband and I were flabbergasted upon hearing that my blood pressure was even higher than the day before! The ultrasound showed that the baby was head-down and I was told to go to the hospital. My doctor apologized for not having me go the night before; he truly thought my blood pressure would lower. I felt fine other than being very pregnant and a lingering headache that wasn’t fading.

The nursery had been completed before the end of my first trimester and our hospital bags had been packed by the end of the second. My extreme nesting and “over preparedness” made my friends laugh and annoyed my husband however, it turned out to be a blessing considering we were on our way to the hospital during week 34 of my pregnancy. 160/114 was my blood pressure reading in triage. Those numbers were too high and the doctor was concerned that I would seize. I felt scared and wanted to go home but the doctor was not going to let me leave without signing an AMA, against medical advice document. Realizing that even at home my blood pressure wasn’t under control, I agreed to being admitted into labor and delivery.

I was placed in a beautiful, spacious room however, the television screen was smaller than that of my laptop and the static on every channel was awful. Watching college football was near impossible and it did nothing but raise my blood pressure. OSU losing to Iowa; embarrassing. Even worse, the nurses informed me that my blood pressure had been spiking through my sleep. The high-risk doctor gave the orders; the only way to stop the preeclampsia symptoms was to deliver the baby. The delivery-plan that I took so much time creating was now thrown out the window.

Because the baby was going to be born early, I was given two steroid shots in my theigh to help her lungs develop, ouch. The incredibly nice NICU doctor verbally prepared us for the worst; I was devastated hearing that after delivery, I may have to leave the hospital without my baby. I felt so guilty and defeated; my body was failing her. To keep my blood pressure down, I was given magnesium through my wrist IV. The nurse told me that I would be extremely weak on this medicine and I may experience flu-like symptoms. I had to be catheterized (which was not a pleasant experience) because I was not able to get out of bed while on the mag. How was I supposed to move through my contractions if I was immobile on this medication? Having the catheter in was awful – I felt like I had to pee constantly; there was no relief. Worser still, the swelling that I experienced was unfathomable. I was scalding hot; I thought my skin was going to burst open like an overcooked hot dog. I had a splitting headache that would not quit. I asked my nurse, “How am I supposed to deliver this baby, the hardest thing that my body has ever experienced, when I am so weak and can’t move?” She simply said, “You’ll do it.”

I was given two rounds of cervidil; a cervix ripening insert. During this time, I was getting checked for dilation frequently – let me tell you, that starts to feel incredibly uncomfortable too; raw, like pulling out a dry tampon over and over again. I didn’t dilate on the cervidil however, the doctor wasn’t surprised because this was six weeks before the baby was supposed to arrive and my body was not responding. We started miso through the night, another induction insert, which dilated me to 1cm and “a wiggle”. My husband and I prayed with such intensity; we were so conflicted – happy that our baby was coming however, we knew there was a rough road ahead. I told the nurse that it felt like I was peeing on my leg, I knew that couldn’t be the case but I was feeling a secretion of fluid. She did another dilation check and my water broke all over the nurse’s arm. The water was warm and there was a lot of it. I felt a tinge of embarrassment but I was so relieved that it broke on its own; talks of ballooning and other induction mechanisms terrified me. After my water broke, I was given pitocin, level 10 and the real contractions began.

During my pregnancy, My husband and I took a labor course where the midwife explained the pain during active labor. She instructed that if you could power through seven centimeters of dilation, you were two hours away from seeing your baby – no pain medicine needed. I wanted to try to deliver my baby without pain medication. During my contractions I just kept thinking, when the pain gets worse, I will ask for the epidural. I focused “down”; that might not make a lot of sense but visualizing what was happening internally, helped. I reminded myself of positive affirmations; “My body is capable and strong. I’m choosing to be calm and confident during my baby’s birth.” We had a humidifier in the room, releasing essential oils (dōTERRA’s balance). I listened to my birthing playlist, which consisted of instrumental Christian music (After All These Years – Bethel Music). Ice chips. Even though my body was weak from the magnesium, I was somehow still able to move around in the bed to position myself through the contractions; on my side, grabbing the bed frame, leaning over, etc. After two hours of active labor, I felt a burning like I had never felt before. Was I on fire? I began to shake uncontrollably. It felt like my butt cheeks were being ripped apart and I wanted to literally crawl out of my skin. I knew the Lord had not forsaken me however, I knew something was happening and I was terrified. I wanted that epidural – NOW!

The nurse said, “Let’s hope that you’re more than three centimeters dilated.” as she checked my cervix. This is what three centimeters feels like?! She turned around and got on the phone; my husband was speaking very intently, “What’s wrong, tell us what’s going on?!” The nurse was dialing the doctor as I was more than 9cm dilated and it was time to push. I had gone from 1-9cm’s in two hours time. The bed raised up, the catheter came out, the room got brighter, and the doctor came in with a shield up and goggles on. It became clear that I was not getting any pain medicine.

The contractions were so long, I couldn’t possibly push that long! How could I focus on pushing when my body was set on fire? The shaking continued and it’s possible that I occasionally blacked out. My first push wasn’t nearly long enough – I could feel the baby’s body in the birth canal. During my second push, the baby had come down and went back up; I know this not only because the doctor told me, but because when you don’t have any numbing medicine, you feel everything. I just knew that my legs had ripped from my hips. The third push happened in slow motion; baby’s head, shoulders, hips; I felt it all. The doctor placed a wide-eyed, powder-blue baby upon my chest. She started to cry and I told her, “happy birthday”. I didn’t recognize my voice; it was horse from the hours of screaming out in pain. My husband was in awe and he cut the umbilical cord. Everything else didn’t matter; the after-birth, the cramping and discomfort, the stitching – Amelia Jane was born and the earth stood still.