16 October 2016

43 weeks pregnant

I gave birth to our son when I was 42 weeks and 5 days pregnant. That's right, 19 days past his estimated due date. Almost 43 weeks pregnant.

Try searching for #43weekspregnant... you won't find much. So I thought I'd share a little bit about my experience, in case there are any other very very pregnant mamas out there desperately searching the internet for proof that they aren't the most pregnant human ever to walk the earth.

The background

I knew throughout my pregnancy that we made the right choice in care providers, because I felt more confident, calm and empowered than I ever thought possible. I'm a worrier and overthinker, but I felt relaxed and at peace as a pregnant woman, mainly because our midwife helped me feel that way. Instead of assuming the worst, we trusted pregnancy and the birth process. We had a feeling I would give birth after my due date. First, there are the statistics: only 30% of women give birth before their due dates, 5% give birth on their due date and the whopping 65% of women give birth after their due date. Also, I just had a feeling. I kept thinking that I didn't feel pregnant enough, uncomfortable enough, physically ready enough. So when my due date passed, I was okay with that. Well, up until a point...

In the weeks after my due date I had three biophysical profile exams, which are a combination of an ultrasound and a non-stress test. It measures the baby's heart rate, muscle tone, movement, breathing and the amount of amniotic fluid. I had more ultrasounds in the final three weeks of pregnancy than I did in the first 40 weeks! I met with my midwife several times each week for her to feel my belly, take my vitals and listen to the baby's heartbeat. Each visit, and each biophysical profile, confirmed that my baby and I were perfectly healthy. He just wasn't quite ready to be born. We weren't being stubborn or irresponsible, we were being rational and science-driven. Nonetheless my midwife said that if I had any strange instinct or gut feeling that, despite the great test results, something was wrong then we should factor that into our course of action. Mama instinct is real, and we held space for that as we monitored my baby.

The emotions

I was okay with my due date passing, really. I even handled getting to 41 weeks pretty well, because I was sure that I would have the baby within the next week. "Just a matter of days," I told myself. Then 42 weeks hit. The number that sparks ominous warnings, concern from strangers and very few anecdotes from other women who reached 42 weeks because the conventional OB community doesn't really like women to gestate for that long. I searched and searched for examples of women who gave birth past 42 weeks without intervention. There isn't much out there. Our society is not comfortable with the idea that pregnancy and birth have somewhat unpredictable timelines. Sure, labor starts before 42 weeks for the majority of women. But I wonder how many women would give birth after 42 weeks if we gave them a chance? If after careful monitoring, their pregnancies were still deemed healthy and there was no medical reason to induce?

At 42 weeks, doubt started to get the best of me. We met with our midwife on Saturday. She shared statistics, standards of care and options. We were still comfortable with what our monitoring tests indicated. On Tuesday, I had her try to sweep my membranes to get things started. I imagine for some women this falls on the "uncomfortable" side of the spectrum but for me and my not-at-all-ready-for-birth cervix, it fell on the "toe curling pain" side. I broke down in tears, partly because I was worried that I wouldn't be able to handle the pain of labor and partly because I was so damn pregnant. For the record, labor hurts but in a much different way than having your cervix tugged around when it's not ready, just as my midwife had assured me :) After a very caring and helpful pep talk, I still left her office in tears and immediately bought and ate two doughnuts, went home and watched old episodes of 30 Rock while laying on the couch sniffling and generally feeling sorry for myself. Then I went to my mom's for lunch and had a glass of wine.

So many friends and family members checked in on us, which was lovely because it's nice to know we are so loved, but also added to the pressure. (But if you are reading this and know someone who is super present, still check in with them and offer some words of encouragement. It's better than deserting them, even if it annoys them. Just don't say anything stupid :) I felt like everyone was wondering why we hadn't chosen to be induced yet, wondering why we were being so stubborn and selfish. That they thought we were putting our baby at risk, as though our baby's health somehow wasn't our top priority.  I imagined them doing their own internet research and coming up with the worst case examples. That they were wondering what the hell I was doing. I felt embarrassed and guilty. I had a hard time trusting myself. I doubted that labor would ever start and questioned whether my body was defective. I was done trying to enjoy the last moments of being child-free. I wanted to be child-full. I needed that baby to come out. We were ready.

The outcome

On Thursday, we went to our last biophysical profile exam. As always, the baby was just fine. On my way home, I stopped for two scoops of mint chocolate chip ice cream, because what else was there to do? That afternoon my midwife called and I told her that maaaaaaybe I was having contractions. I'd been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks, maybe months, and what I was feeling that afternoon was so subtle that I wasn't sure they were anything new. She said, "This is good, Christine. You're going to have your baby soon." We had read somewhere that baking cookies is a good labor project because it keeps you busy and takes your mind off of early labor, so Chris texted me from work and told me to start baking. I walked into our kitchen, started crying and laughing at the same time because I finally felt like I might get to meet this baby boy soon after all. And I made cookies. Really delicious chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Later that night, the contractions grew more obvious.

The next day at 12:31pm, our beautiful healthy son was born at home with no complications.

Answers to frequently asked questions

Yes, the estimated due date was calculated correctly. In fact, if you just used one of those online calculators they come up with an even earlier July 6 as the due date but my midwife added on a few days because my cycles tended to be longer. So July 10 it was, and that is what we based the 42 weeks and 5 days count on. If you dare to trust the internet (hint: don't), I was somewhere around 43 + 2.

Yes, my midwife "let me go that long". But she didn't make her recommendations without looking carefully at my specific situation and closely monitoring my baby's well-being. Statistics about scary outcomes for post-term babies lump everyone in together:  women with complicated pregnancies, special risk factors and those whose monitoring tests revealed concerns. Statistics can be helpful, but it's more helpful to consider the specific case at hand. My tests and monitoring visits were all positive. My pregnancy had been complication-free. I was low-risk. I made a series of informed fact-based decisions to trust the birth process and my body.

Yes, we could have scheduled an elective induction. We chose not to, as it was not medically necessary. We made the personal decision that the benefit of getting to meet our baby sooner did not outweigh the risks of induction if my body wasn't ready.

No, I don't believe that spicy food, long walks, sex, bumpy car rides or wishful thinking can start labor. Maybe, just maybe, these things can speed up the process once it's in place? But if all you need to do to start labor is to want labor to start, well, I wouldn't have stayed pregnant so long! I think in most cases, labor begins when it is supposed to. If you happened to have Indian food the night before labor starts, let's just call it a delicious coincidence.

No, I didn't birth a 20 pound monster. He was born a perfectly average 7 pounds and 5 ounces. I'll share the story of his birth soon.

That, my friends, is the low-down on being 43 weeks pregnant. Did I mention it was July? A very hot July? I can just picture myself trying to get him on the bus and saying, "Clark, you're always late! You were late being born and now you're going to be late to school!" and eventually he begs me to stop throwing that in his face all the time. If you are reading this and are 43 weeks pregnant and you trust your care provider and are being closely monitored for signs of risk and you listen to your instincts, have hope. You'll get to meet your baby soon.

the first trimester
the second trimester
the third trimester
pregnancy survival list

Updated to add, for those inquiring-- our midwife was Kelly at Sage-Femme Midwifery. The best.

23 September 2016

pregnancy, the third trimester

Yes yes, our little one arrived at the end of July but I have some catching up to do! So here we go, with a blissful disregard to chronology, just the way I like it here...

The third trimester. The very pregnant trimester. We were finally within sight of our due date and our focus shifted from my bump to our baby. I also started thinking more seriously about the birth. People will tell you that you can't prepare for labor and birth but I disagree. Of course you won't be able to anticipate exactly what it will feel like to bring a human into the world, but I think there are a lot of ways you can build a strong foundation for birth. Yoga, for starters, and lots of meditation. Or thinking, or daydreaming, or praying, whatever you choose to call it. As I neared closer to the end of pregnancy, I found myself lost in thought, trying to navigate the major changes coming our way. More urgently, though, I thought about birth and sought out as many (positive, helpful, empowering) birth stories as I could find, while reminding myself often not to romanticize the event so much that I forget to stay humble.

The third trimester is when I realized that the exciting part wasn't being pregnant. The exciting part was getting to meet our baby boy.

When I was around 30 weeks along, we went on a babymoon and stayed in an adorable artist retreat cabin in rural Vermont for a few days. We lounged around, read books, napped and tried to narrow down our list of baby names. One day we took a short trip into Burlington and bought some artwork for the baby's room. The last night, I had a little glass of wine (!) and we snuggled in, only to wake up the next morning to a late April snowstorm! Any other time I would have been upset by that, but somehow, on our babymoon it felt absolutely perfect. I packed away the Birkenstocks I wore the day before and watched Chris clear the snow from our car before heading back to reality. I highly recommend sneaking away for a few days if you can swing it. If you can't swing it, set aside a weekend for a babymoon at home, a pre-baby staycation, if you will. Don't assemble the crib, don't sweep the floors, just relax by yourself or with your partner. Babymoons for the win.

"When you are pregnant you can get away with a lot of shit. Women really are at their most dangerous during this time. Your hormones are telling you that you are strong and sexy, everyone is scared of you, and you have a built-in sidekick who may come out at any minute." -Amy Poehler

Admittedly there was something lovely about being very pregnant and getting away with just about anything. Like eating ice cream all the time. I ate ice cream at a Beyonce concert, requested it as the theme of our party celebrating baby boy, turned a work event into an ice cream social, found it at a wedding... if there was ice cream nearby, I had some. And no one dared defy me.

I have the unfortunate habit of feeing intense nostalgia and longing for moments while still being in the moment. As the third trimester carried on, I started missing pregnancy fiercely. I missed my newfound confidence in my growing, perfectly imperfect body. I missed the way Chris would pat my belly and talk to our baby. I missed the way our little guy squirmed around inside me, kicking my ribs and hiccuping every day. I even started to miss my swollen feet. I wondered if I would be incredibly sad once I stopped being pregnant. I wondered if I would feel as good being a mama as I did being pregnant.

The good news about my nostalgia-in-the-moment trouble is that I was pregnant for a very long time, just about 43 weeks in fact. By the time labor began, I was more than ready to say goodbye to the pregnant stage and move onto the birth and motherhood stage. Next up:  what it's like to be 43 weeks pregnant.

the first trimester
the second trimester
pregnancy survival list

09 August 2016

he's here!

Meet Clark Wilder, born at home on July 29 at 12:31pm and measuring 7.5 lbs and 20 inches long. He is the most adorable addition to our family and a fun little sidekick. We've spent his first 11 days cuddling, giggling and getting to know each other. I'll be back here to reflect on the third trimester, what it was like giving birth 19 days after my due date (at almost 43 weeks pregnant!), and to share a little bit about Clark's birth at home. It may take me awhile, so in the meantime you can follow along on Instagram, where it's easier to post updates with one hand while nursing :)

20 July 2016

our kitchen remodel

Months ago I posted a photo on Instagram of our torn-apart kitchen, and I realized I never followed up to say that our kitchen remodel is finished! When we bought this house, the one room that shouted out for an update was the kitchen. Last November, we decided to take the plunge and fix it up. The actual renovation started in mid-March, during my second trimester, and lasted through early June or so, with an added surprise bathroom renovation thrown in (more about that later). At 41 1/2 weeks pregnant now, I don't have the same mental capacity to write an eloquent post about kitchens, so we'll just dive in bullet-point style, ok?

1. We got rid of the old ironing board cabinet in favor of gaining more counterspace. Yes yes, it was a cute quirky detail but our house has plenty of other cute quirky details to make up for this one. We kept the built-in cabinet on the right to use for our spices. A fresh coat of paint (a barely there minty green) did wonders for brightening up the space.

2. Chris spruced up the windows that look out to our mudroom/entryway, refinishing the wood sashes with tung oil and cleaning up the hardware. I love this detail and the extra light it lets in the kitchen.

3. All new cabinets, counters, sink and backsplash! In an effort to maintain the character of the house and not go too ultra-modern, we opted for oil-rubbed bronze cabinet hardware and a more traditional Shaker-style cabinet front. We were also able to squeeze in a dishwasher! It's hidden behind the cabinet door to the left of the sink.

4. Added wall cabinets, backsplash and an over-the-range microwave to this side of the room.

5. Finally were able to center the stove on this wall and add cabinets. We also had a few electrical outlets added in for extra functionality.

6. We kept this built-in hutch and had it spruced up a bit with a new coat of paint and new hardware. I think keeping it helped preserve the room's charm.

7. The hutch got a new butcher block countertop and matching backsplash tiles.

8. Chris also cleaned up our air vent cover from a caked-on, crusty white mess to a sharp-looking bronze.

9. New floor! We went with a pre-finished hickory hardwood, in honor of the oak hardwood that runs through most of the house but with a slight twist for the kitchen. I love the crazy variations in grain and color and the wider plank makes my swollen, pregnant feet not look so huge by comparison.

One quirk of our kitchen is that the refrigerator is sort of... not quite in it. It's in a little nook in the hallway right outside of the kitchen. Matching wall cabinets and a fancy, slightly-bigger-but-still-not-normal-size fridge tie it all in.

This isn't technically our kitchen, but we've annexed other parts of our house for storage because that's what you do when you have a 1930s closed kitchen! Our basement door is right off of the fridge nook hallway, so we repainted the walls and stairs and Chris built a pantry shelf for us.

Some restoration detail shots:

So many layers of paint, everywhere. Why, people?! Why are you painting over everything, and why so sloppily?!

And that's our new kitchen! We are so happy with the outcome and so amazingly grateful we were able to update one of our most-used rooms in time for the baby to arrive. It felt a little bit crazy at the time to have so much of our home in chaos during my second and third trimesters, but it was chaos of our choosing :) Our makeshift kitchen/dining room got us through the renovation along with lots of takeout and bowls of cereal for dinner. Next up, I'll tell you the story of our accidental, surprise bathroom renovation we tacked onto this project. Gulp.

11 July 2016

pregnancy survival list

In light of officially being 40 weeks pregnant, I figure I have some standing now to offer my very own "pregnancy survival list". There are a lot of helpful ones out there, filled with goodies to buy and sneaky tricks to try, but here are the things that actually helped me get through the past 9-10ish months.

Awesome midwife. Yeah, this is a really personal decision, but our choice in care provider completely shaped my pregnancy. We chose a wonderful home birth midwife with incredible experience, an awesome team, supportive community and a birth philosophy that totally fit ours. Her vibes infused my pregnancy with a sense of calm and confidence, because she helped us see birth as a natural, healthy and empowering experience.

Prenatal yoga. I found a six-week series at a local studio and absolutely fell in love with the class and the wonderful instructor (who is also a doula and probably a fantastic one). Every Sunday for a little over an hour we met and talked and stretched and strengthened and rubbed our bellies. Signing up for the class was one of the best decisions I made during pregnancy, because it guaranteed time each week that I was focused just on me and the baby. I slowed way down, tuned in and finally felt proud and connected with my pregnancy. So often throughout this journey I've shrugged off the epic nature of growing a human, but at yoga I was all in. I loved the first series so much that I signed up for another six weeks even though I'm pretty sure I'll have the baby before it's over.

Chiropractor. One of the many perks of our midwifery practice is that they have two chiropractors hold hours at the office for expecting mamas. I had never seen a chiropractor before but a bit of sacroilliac joint paint prompted me to check it out. I saw a lovely Webster technique pregnancy-certified chiro every few weeks and think it helped me avoid much of the common pregnancy pains. Just a quick 15 minute adjustment to keep the aches away.

Water. You need to drink so much damn water when you're pregnant. Trust me on this one. So many of the discomforts associated with pregnancy ease up when you're hydrated (swelling, Braxton-Hicks contractions, round ligament pain, itchy skin). Get yourself a new water bottle and started chugging.

Lemonade. Couldn't get enough lemonade. Pounded it by the gallon when I was sick of water.

Granola bars & string cheese. Don't get caught without snacks. Granola bars, specifically Kind Bars, and string cheese were my go-to snacks that I kept with me at work and on the go. You'll feel totally fine and full one minute and seconds later be about to pass out with hunger. Stash your bag, car and desk with some nibbles to prevent a total meltdown.

Naps. Naps are great, take them often.

Desserts. Love dessert, ate as much as I could. I'm probably going to birth a big doughnut or ice cream cone instead of a baby.

Overpriced lotion. I know they say that cocoa butter and fancy lotions don't help prevent stretch marks, but I bought expensive lotion just the same because it made me feel pampered and less itchy. Treat yourself.

Clown shoes. My feet got HUGE. Look at those ankle rolls! I bought a new pair of Birkenstocks and a pair of Toms in a whole size bigger than usual. These were the only things that fit on the bread loaves at the bottom of my legs. Get big, comfy shoes and own your new fat feet. #noregrets

Knee high, striped compression socks. Again, my feet and ankles got huge. I'd say they were the biggest discomfort during pregnancy for me. I didn't realize how tender swollen feet can be or how the tops of your feet hurt as much as the bottoms because they're all maxed out with fluid. There wasn't a lot that helped them, but at night I'd slide into ultra-sexy knee-high, striped compression socks and found some relief in them.

I'd also like to say that it's absolutely worth it to invest in some nice maternity clothes. You'll sausage yourself into regular clothes for awhile, but I felt much better once I bought a nice pair of maternity jeans, work pants and at least a few shirts. As I got bigger I bought a few more pairs of pants, more shirts and a few cute dresses too. Your options will likely still be more limited than you're used to in the mornings, but having some clothes you feel good in and that fit is essential. Trust. 

08 July 2016

precious lives

It's been a tough few weeks in the world, but I know that every week brings with it violence that is often not reported, or at least not reported here in the U.S. My heart is heavy for those who suffer violence, for the black men who have died at the hands of police, for the police officers who died at the hands of cowardly snipers, for those who died in horror at their safe haven in Orlando, for victims of terrorism in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Baghdad and countless of other places in countries I've never been to, for the women and girls around the world who are used as pawns in bloody wars, for those who face physical or emotional violence every day just because of who they are or love. Others will say and do more than I can right now, but I will continue to hold space and light for those suffering today.

28 June 2016

pregnancy, the second trimester

The better trimester! If you read the pregnancy books, they say that you will feel like a superhero in weeks 14 through 27. Your skin will glow, your hair will be unstoppable and you'll have all the energy in the world. You will be a glowing, healthy goddess ready to take on the entire universe.

Well, sort of. I did start eating more than just cereal and went for a few more walks than usual. I also didn't throw up once this trimester, so yeah ok I was basically a glowing goddess.

Around six months I finally thought I looked pregnant, and with that realization came a lot of EMOTION. No longer just secretly pregnant. No longer able to get by with a loose shirt and unbuttoned pants. Now you are pregnant pregnant, and the world knows it. Cue an epic pregnant meltdown!

One of the most surprising things about this journey has been how at peace I am with my body. I was worried about it, about how it would change and whether it would become a public topic of conversation. Of course it's changed a lot because its growing a damn baby from scratch! Of course people talk about it! But I've had very few rude or unwelcome comments come my way and the ones that have I've collected mostly as a source of amusement and indicators of the commentators' social awkwardness. Mostly, I've been loving this little growing baby bump. I love feeling him move around, seeing my belly wiggle along with him and having a fantastic excuse for letting it all hang out. There's a baby in there! Life is so weird!

It's been a hoot. I've gained a good amount of weight, and not just in the belly, but I'm feeling strong and healthy. My feet are unbelievably swollen, but I try to think of them as badges of honor instead of memory foam pillows attached to my cankles. The second trimester was fun because we actually let ourselves read baby books and prepare to welcome a new little one to the family but we weren't close enough to the due date to feel rushed. Laid-back second trimester, you were pretty great.

  • Telling more people, including my colleagues.
  • Flying to Raleigh for a leadership course graduation (with accompanying lowlight of getting stranded at Newark airport with no flights out until the next evening, with no access to my luggage and deciding to rent a car and drive home at midnight)
  • Finding out that we're having a boy!
  • Feeling the baby kick
  • Not puking
  • Presenting at a conference in Atlanta (and not getting stuck at any airports)
  • Signing up for an awesome prenatal yoga class

13 June 2016

pregnancy, that first trimester

I'll admit, pregnancy made me nervous. Apart from the fear that we would lose this one too, I had a lot of worries. Would I gain too much weight? Would I morph into a different person during pregnancy? Would this be the start of my loss of identity?

I was also uncomfortable with how much my body would be in the spotlight. I dreaded that people would be checking out my bump and sizing me up. What if it wasn't a perfect little basketball? In fact, I hated that the pregnancy would be in the spotlight at all. That it would be the first and only topic some people would ask me about. That I'd be expected to discuss it with all sorts of people with whom I don't regularly discuss such womb-related matters.

First trimester
The first trimester can be lonely as hell, right? We told our parents and close friends early on but kept the pregnancy quiet from most everyone else until the first trimester was over. Our miscarriage made us realize the importance of having a support team but we were also not convinced that this one would actually stick. Still, it was nice to have a small group of people excited for us even though we were mostly just scared and in disbelief.

I was flu-level tired, nauseated and sort of out of it. I obsessively checked websites and apps that would give me some sense of what might be happening inside my body, while constantly reminding myself that this could all go away. I'd leave important meetings and get sick in the bathroom or parking lot and hope that was a sign things were going well with the little babe.

The excitement of being pregnant was constantly put to the test by the anxiety of that early pregnancy stage. You don't feel quite right, but you aren't recognizably pregnant yet. Your world is drastically changing, but most people around you have no idea. It wasn't all magic. It wasn't terrible either, though, not by a long shot. It just took me awhile to embrace this pregnancy and to allow myself to dream and plan and imagine life with a little baby.

But soon enough, you hit that second trimester and things start feeling LEGIT...

First ultrasound and hearing the heartbeat! 
Being secretly pregnant at major work events, including two big press conferences
Telling family & friends
Having a good excuse to nap on the couch
Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year's for the last time as a family of two

01 June 2016

space for reflection

There is so much happening right now and yet I can't think of what to write. Or rather, I don't know what to share. So many of the things taking shape in my life are tough ones to write publicly about: pregnancy, work, politics, and The Figuring Out Of Things.

If I think of this space as a journal, I freeze up. I'm not interested in documenting my life chronologically here on a blog. My day-to-day goings-on and thoughts... those aren't meant for public consumption. I love Instagram as much as the next person but even so, I live most moments privately. You don't see what my mornings are like or what I do at work. You don't get a sense for how I'm adjusting to a new professional challenge or the nights I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm. And I don't want to start sharing all of this! But I do want to hold space for reflection.

I'm not here to document everything I ate this weekend or each moment I've lived. I'm here to share stories and thoughts, to explore themes, to spread a little bit of cheer or wonder or beauty. There! The pressure is off! I don't have to fret because this blog doesn't reflect the chronology of my life. Phew. I've been inching toward this realization for some time now, but now I've got some clarity around what I want to share here. Essays, found inspiration & occasional updates from a life actually lived, instead of just a life documented.

A few topics on my mind:  leadership, feminism, imposter syndrome, civility, pregnancy, identity. And irreverent essays based on writing prompts found on the internet.