SURVIVING THE NICU

Leo’s time in the NICU is something that has been burned into my brain. It’s something that you never forget. I still remember my husband + I going through the 3 minute hand washing routine every time we entered the NICU. There were ups + downs, but I try to concentrate on the ups when I think back to that time. You can’t help but to see the other babies that you pass by + wonder what their story is. Having your baby in the NICU is a tough time, but I learned a few things while my son was there.

Get involved in your baby’s care as soon as possible. This is probably the top tip I heard from other moms prior to Leo’s birth. The first time I saw Leo in his isolette I felt frozen. He was so little. The Nurse asked me if I’d like to hold him + I responded, “I’m allowed to?!” I felt afraid the whole time he was on my chest, like he might break, but he didn’t. Those little ones are stronger than they appear! I was surprised that my husband stepped in when the Nurse was getting ready to change Leo’s diaper + volunteered to do it himself. As soon as he showed interest in participating the Nurse told us that we could do all of his “CARES” if we wanted to + that it was encouraged. I was surprised, but once I heard her say that I [carefully] got up from my wheelchair + stated that I would like to be the one to change his diaper. The nurses were awesome + talked us through everything. I felt so much more comfortable having someone there to walk me through changing his diaper inside the isolette + taking his temperature under his arm. I’m so glad I did that too, because it’s all part of the bonding experience with the baby. It helped me feel like he really was mine + it let me learn more about his personality.

Don’t pressure yourself to be at the NICU 24/7. Even if you try to be there that much it’s likely that there will be a time that you can’t. Babies have procedures in the NICU + if another baby near yours has to have something done then visitors won’t be allowed in that area until it’s over. Aside from that, you just had a baby + you need to take care of yourself! Take a break from the NICU + enjoy some time with your spouse. I know it’s hard to leave your baby’s side, but babies in the NICU are in the best care possible. My husband + I would get a bite to eat together after leaving the NICU. It was nice to have that time together + it took some of the heaviness away from saying goodbye to Leo for the evening.

Socialize with the staff. It’s likely you’ll be seeing a lot of the same nurses when you visit your baby + these will be the people who primarily take care of your baby. Anytime I visited Leo in the NICU I would always talk with the Nurse that was working that shift. It’s important to be able to talk to the nurses + be able to ask them questions. There were times I felt too nervous to ask certain questions, but thankfully my husband was there + would always ask them anything that he wanted to know. It was good for us to know everything that was going on with our son + it was so beneficial to us to know which machine did what + why he needed it. This increased our comfort level big time.

Bring allowed items from home. It can really warm up the area your baby is in + make it feel like a happier place. Every NICU is different, but the Nurses who worked in Leo’s NICU made sweet little themed name pictures for the babies within their first 24 hours in the NICU. They would ask the parents if there was a specific theme they preferred (we chose lions) + would base it on that. It’s amazing how something so little made such a big difference. The one item I was sure to bring from home was a knitted octopus that a family friend made for Leo (pictured below). If you don’t already know, the knitted octopus is a popular comfort item for NICU babies because the tentacles remind them of the umbilical chord + they can hold onto them just like they would have in the womb!

Take pictures! The time spent in the NICU was often scary + overwhelming + sometimes it felt like something I didn’t want to remember. For that reason I didn’t take a ton of pictures of Leo while he was in the NICU, which is something I now regret. In the moment it seemed a little awkward to be documenting such a scary time, but I wish I had more photos to look back on so that I could see how far he has come. I also refrained from taking any videos. I have zero videos of Leo in the NICU, which is unfortunate because that means down the road there will certainly be things about it that I’ll forget + I’ll have no way to trigger those memories. So, take those pictures + record those videos! Even if you don’t think you’ll want them later it is always better to safe than sorry!

Find a support group. There’s nothing like going through something so difficult + feeling so alone through the process. There are several NICU Support groups on Facebook. I didn’t have anyone close to me who had been through something similar so it was incredibly helpful to be a part of a community on Facebook that were NICU veterans. Any questions I had were always answered with compassion + understanding. These women got me through some of the hardest times during Leo’s NICU stay.

The NICU can be a sad + intimidating place to be, but it is also full of sweet milestones + celebration. Leo was moved around the NICU a few times, but we had a special bond with his very first Nurse. My fondest memory of the NICU was the day that Leo was being discharged. After he had his last bottle they unhooked all of his monitors + that meant that he was free to roam (such a weird feeling)! We walked him down to visit our favorite Nurse + her face lit up with joy when she saw him. It was almost bittersweet to say goodbye to these amazing people who had been a part of this journey with us.

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY [PREVIOUSLY] PREGNANT SELF

Dear Pregnant Self,

Hey, it’s me… you? me? It’s future me. It’s the Me who has a 6 month old baby. I have so much I want to tell you, because I can see how scared you are. I see you Googling, “How often should I feel the baby kick?” + “What is labor like?”. Well, I have some good news + some bad news, but I promise it’s mostly good news.

It turns out that pregnancy is not your cup of tea. For whatever reason you got stuck with all the not-so-fun side effects of pregnancy, but you are going to miss those sweet little baby kicks a whole lot as soon as they go away. As far as labor… Well, labor is hell. For you it is anyways, because your epidural didn’t work + you wound up feeling every little thing (except from the knees down… that was super helpful — not). But as hard + scary + painful + as long as it took to get that baby out, it was worth it.

I hear you constantly declaring that you will never go through this again, that there’s no way you could handle another 9 months of this or could ever bare another 2.5 days of labor again. But guess what? You eventually take all of those things back. The first time you see your baby boy is everything you’ve ever heard it was. You would suddenly give your life for this little person that you know nothing about.

There’s truly nothing I can say that will prepare you for what a major life change it will be when you bring that baby home. I see you rocking that screaming baby, struggling to understand why the hell you volunteered to put yourself through this. But in a few weeks that little screaming baby will flash his first smile at you + all of the bad stuff will melt away… until he starts screaming again, but then he will smile again + it will be this weird cycle of love + frustration.

I know this seems never ending, but give it time. Don’t wish away these precious moments. In a few months his personality will bloom + I swear he is the sweetest thing you have ever seen. He is such a flirt with a touch of bashfulness. The perfect combination of Mommy + Daddy.

I see you taking him to doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I can see your disappointment when you check out from the doctors appointment only to find out you have to come back soon. Won’t these doctors appointments ever stop? This gets better too. Within just a few months the only doctors appointments you have to worry about are the routine check ups. I know you’re worried about how the baby will handle the vaccinations + how you’ll handle how he handles it. The truth of that is that it’s not fun to watch, but you are able to make all better as soon as it’s over. + because you know that you can make it all better you don’t worry so much about how you’ll handle it anymore.

Guess what? It turns out you are stronger than you ever knew you were. In a lot of ways you don’t have a choice but to be strong, but in the moments where weakness is allowed you surprise yourself. Don’t get me wrong, you have your moments. This whole parenting thing is hard! But you make yourself proud. There will be times that you mess up. No one is perfect. But don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re new at this. Allow yourself grace, because you get better at this every day.

Don’t be afraid of the future because it turns out that all of this is all worth it, + you’ll eventually figure it out. & believe it or not, one day you’ll say that you would go through all of this again just for him.

 

7 TIPS FOR KEEPING THE ROMANCE AFTER BABIES

I know you’ve seen it… the couple who seems to still be effortlessly in love after having a baby. You’ve seen them on social media in one way or another. But how is that possible? After having my son I couldn’t wrap my head around how other couples looked so happy after just having a child. Weren’t they exhausted? Weren’t they at their wits end? How were they finding a way to remain so blissful in such a stressful time? What was their secret? I was on a mission to make sure we became one of those couples. Here’s what my husband + I have done to keep romance alive in our relationship since having Leo.

1. Make Each other a Priority. I know it’s hard guys. I know you’re tired exhausted + the only thing you have been able to focus on is keeping this little baby alive, but you have to make each other a priority. This is a two-way street though. If just one of you is making the other a priority it’s not going to work + that person will get burnt out pretty quickly. Check in with each other. A simple “How are you doing?”, “Are your needs being met?”, or “Is there anything I’m not doing that you need me to do?” can be really beneficial. These are important questions especially after a new baby, because you are both so caught up in this new life it’s easy to forget that you have needs + feelings too.

2. Date Night. Date Night. Date Night. I can’t say this enough. While we are on the topic of making each other a priority… Do Date Night! You had dates before you had a baby, so you should definitely have dates after baby. Make it a routine. One night a week, even if it’s just going out for a meal together. If one night a week doesn’t work then 1 night every two weeks. Whatever works for you, make it a routine + make it happen. That alone time to reconnect as husband + wife is so important. I know it’s hard to be away from the baby, but you have to make your relationship a priority.

3. Flirt! Yes, really. I seriously think I forgot how to flirt with my husband in the first month after my son was born. But I promise it’s like riding a bike… once you start trying to flirt again it all comes right back. Don’t know how to start? Send a text to your husband during the day with a sweet message. When he gets home, drop what you’re doing (Assuming that you can, of course. Please don’t drop the baby), + greet him with a hug + a kiss. Now this goes both ways… Guys, if you are reading this: Text your wife during the day! Tell her you love her + miss her. If her hands are full when you get home, then before you do anything else you should greet her with a hug + a kiss. This is a super simple + easy way to stay connected with each other.

4. Don’t Keep Score. Really, I think this should be Number 1. This is probably the most important + also the hardest thing to do after adding a baby into the mix of your relationship. Do not keep score of who has changed more diapers or cleaned more bottles. This doesn’t help anyone. Don’t compare who’s job is harder… the dad who goes to work or the stay at home mom. The truth of the matter is you both have hard jobs for different reasons. You guys are a team + you have to act like one. Instead of focusing on who does what, focus on supporting each other. Ask each other what you can do to help, + if you need help, ask for it.

5. Communicate. Baby or no baby this is something that is important in every relationship. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. If you don’t tell your spouse how you are feeling you can’t expect them to know. And if they don’t know then there is nothing they can do about it. If there is something you feel your partner needs to improve on I highly suggest using the “Sandwich Method”. If you haven’t heard of the Sandwich Method before, it’s very useful when delivering criticism. It’s basically starting off with a compliment, followed by the criticism, + ending with another compliment. A good example would be, “Dear, I really appreciate how much effort you are putting into helping out with the baby. I’m having a hard time keeping up with the dishes, so would you minding helping me stay on top of them? I know you pitch in wherever you can + that makes a world of difference to me.”

6. Get Physical. It’s the elephant in the room. It’s awkward to talk about, but it needs to be said! Intimacy is one of the most important aspects of marriage. Making love is unifying + it brings you together in a way that nothing else can. Plus, it’s good for you! It takes a little bit more effort when you throw a kid into the mix, but you can’t put it on the back burner. If the thought of sex after having a baby makes you uncomfortable then TALK to your spouse about it. Tell them what you are feeling + work through it TOGETHER. It’s important that your partner is sensitive to your feelings about this. Make it something fun or relaxing… start off by giving each other massages + take it slow. Whatever makes you comfortable to get back into it.

7. Remember, It Will Get Better. Maintaining a marriage right after having a baby can be difficult. I hear you. You’re both exhausted. Mom can’t remember the last time she showered or what she ate last + Dad has trouble staying awake at work. All either of you can think about is what life was like before this little human joined your family. But I promise you, it will get better. You will get the hang of this whole motherhood thing + you will find your rhythm. It doesn’t seem like it now, but you’ll look back on these hard times + laugh at the memory of you crying to your husband about how you think the baby doesn’t love you (I’ve been there). It’ll get better, + it will get easier, + it will be amazing.

Those are the top seven ways my husband + I have been able to keep the romance alive in our relationship since having our son. If you have any time-tested tips of your own for romance after baby, feel free to leave a comment! I’d love to hear what worked for you!

CONFESSIONS OF A FIRST TIME MOM

My mother spent a good part of my adult life trying to explain to me how hard having children is. Not in a scary way, just in a cautionary way. She wanted to be sure I knew what I was getting myself into if I decided to have children of my own. She assured me it would be amazing, but that it would also be amazingly difficult. I heard what she had to say, but I don’t think I ever absorbed it. The truth of it is that no one could have prepared me for just how fantastically hard it is to have a child. So, now, after first 5 months of my sons life, I have some confessions…

I thought I was ready. I was wrong. Within the first 24 hours of bringing our son home I realized just how little I knew about this tiny human that depended on me. I was scared. After about a week after bringing him home the reality of my new life hit me like a ton of bricks. My life was over. The life I used to know was over anyways. I thought of all the things I had taken for granted before having this baby. The biggest of those things being my freedom. I realized the magnitude of what I had done by bringing this child into the world + I thought, “Oh my god. I think I might have made a mistake.” I wish I could go back to those moments + tell myself that it would get better + that those feelings would go away. Because they did. It took time, but it got better.

I wondered why so many people made the conscious decision to have kids. Like… why? I wanted to have kids too until I had one of my own + then I wondered why people had more than one. It’s so hard! Why would anyone choose to do this again after learning just how hard it really is? I didn’t understand. I felt so betrayed by all of my friends who had kids. Why didn’t they shake me + scream at me to turn around while I still could? It was this knowledge that all parents had, but it was understood that they weren’t supposed to talk about it. Like Voldemort! It took time, but I eventually became one of them. One of the parents who had the knowledge but knew I wasn’t supposed to talk about it. But I’m going to break that “rule” + let you in on the secret: It’s worth it. For every moment that is hard you are rewarded with an exponentially more amazing moment that reminds you it is worth it. And we know you’ll figure that out just like the rest of us.

I became selfless. I never knew what selfless meant before having my son. As soon as I saw his heart flickering away on the ultrasound I cared more about him than myself. Everything that happened to him I felt 1o fold. I wanted more for him than for myself. I knew that for the rest of my life he would always come before me. In the beginning I was not happy about having to be selfless. I was still mourning the loss of my freedom. But the more amazing moments I got to experience with him, like his first smile or his first laugh, the easier the selflessness became.

I hated my body. The first time I went shopping for clothes after giving birth it became obvious to me that I was dressing a completely different body. This body had remnants of my pregnant body, but it was nothing like my pre-pregnancy body. I had to learn to dress I whole new body. A body I was not comfortable in. As if finding clothes for this new body wasn’t bad enough, seeing it after getting out of the shower was even worse. The stretch marks were what really bothered me more than anything. I tried to be like other women I knew + embrace that my body had done something amazing + love it for that reason, but that didn’t work for me. It didn’t make the weight or the stretch marks disappear. It has taken time to see that it will get better, but it’s a work in progress. As I continue to lose the weight + the stretch marks continue to fade I am starting to love my body again. But it will take time.

 Becoming a Mom broke me. I completely lost my identity + was given the new identity of “Mom”, and I didn’t know what that meant. I had to be broken + rebuilt to learn exactly what this new role was for me. When I was put back together I realized that some pieces were missing + they were replaced with new pieces. I wasn’t sure that I liked the new parts of me in the beginning. They were new + weird. I had to learn about who I was now. It turned out the new pieces were some of the strongest. I finally understand why I had to be broken + rebuilt. Now that I’m starting to understand this whole “mom” thing those new pieces are some of my favorites.

Every day is different. Some times these thoughts still come across my mind, but it’s less every day. I’m trying not to wish this part of my sons life away because he changes + grows every day. He is constantly doing something new. My husband + I are already starting to say things like “Remember when he used to…” I’m embracing this time in his life now because it won’t last long.

10 TIPS FOR NEW MOMS

When I was pregnant with Leo I spent a lot of time researching + learning how to take care of a new baby. I bought multiple different baby books + I read every single one of them. I wanted to make sure I was prepared for this baby!

It didn’t take long (at all) after Leo was born for me to figure out that those books left out some valuable information. Sure enough, some times you don’t learn certain things until you are dealing them yourself.


So here are 10 tips from a mom who has been through it.

  1. Get a diaper bag that is easily organized. It seriously makes life so much easier when you are out + about with your little one. A diaper bag with many sections + pockets just makes sense when you need to grab a spare pacifier quickly. I love my Lily Jade – Meggan Camel & Silver bag. It has a removable pocket organizer + you can wear it as a shoulder bag OR backpack style!
  2. Bibs are your friend. I resisted bibs early on because they covered up my baby’s cute outfits! Luckily, I realized there are some pretty cute bibs out there now, + I’m glad I did because they make life so much easier! It’s a hassle to keep wiping drool from your babies chin to keep their outfit from getting soaked. Just pop one of those bandana style bibs on the baby + you have yourself a super cute hipster baby that will actually stay dry.
  3. The Rock-N-Play beats out the mamaRoo. I know, I KNOW. I’m the worst person ever for saying it. & I’m sure I’ll hear all about it from the moms who are serious about their love for the mamaRoo. All babies are different. There is no more true statement than that. I’m sure the mamaRoo works great for some babies, but when it came to my baby he was not a fan. We tried + tried to get him to like the mamaRoo (lets be honest, for the money it should have fed him + promised us a full nights sleep), but he never came around. We finally gave up + returned the mamaRoo in exchange for a Rock-N-Play. It made all the difference in the world for him.
  4. Disposable changing pads can save you a lot of trouble. A disposable changing pad can mean the difference between being able to throw a diaper changing accident in the trash or having to do laundry. I keep one on my sons changing table, the Pack-n-Play (for downstairs diaper changes), + I keep a few in the diaper bag as well. I personally use Munchkin Arm & Hammer Disposable Changing Pads, but I think any kind would suffice.
  5. Be prepared to do some “Formula Roulette” (if you are using formula). No shame here if you are using Formula. My milk supply quickly dwindled after only one month, + I tried EVERYTHING to keep it. But it was out of my control + what was most important was that my baby was FED. After a month of Leo being on special high calorie formula we realized it was really doing a number on his tummy + causing some serious discomfort + constipation for him, so we set out to find a better formula for him. We stuck with the Similac brand because it’s the brand we started out with. I think we tried every formula they offer until we finally landed on the Similac Total Comfort. That was one very expensive experiment. Hopefully you get lucky + the first formula you try works out for your little one!
  6. Sometimes the best thing in life is a Baby Shusher. Who would have thought that making the “SHH” sound over + over would actually become exhausting? Spoiler Alert: It does. Shushing mimics the sounds heard in utero + engages the baby’s natural calming reflex. The Baby Shusher Soother is so convenient because not only are you saving yourself the chore of shushing for an extended period of time, but it also allows you to step away from the baby when that is the only thing keeping it asleep.
  7. When giving a baby medicine, put it in the side of their cheek. You may not encounter this obstacle early on, but if you do this is a helpful tip. Babies have a natural reflex to push things out of their mouth. My son had reflux issues starting when he was about 4 weeks old. That meant we had to give him an oral medication 1-2 times a day. It was so frustrating when he spit out the medicine + I had to worry if he got enough of it or not. Thankfully, my sister-in-law is a Pediatric Dentist + filled me in on this little tip. If you use a syringe + put it in-between their gums + cheek the medicine will go to the back of their throat for them to swallow it! Still only do a little bit at a time (you don’t want to choke the baby), but I’ll leave the amount up to your judgement. You know how much your baby can handle.
  8. Wear your baby. Just do it. It will make your life easier when you have things to get done + your baby will love it (+ hopefully you’ll enjoy it too). Our babies spent 9 months being a part of us, so it’s silly to expect them to not want to be as close to us as possible as often as possible after they come out! It’s hard to get almost anything done with just one hand (I figured that out quickly), + it’s impossible to get anything done when you are trying to soothe an upset baby. Wearing your baby solves both issues! I originally had one of those trendy wraps, but it just didn’t work out for us. Leo didn’t like it + I thought it was too complicated. I ultimately wound up liking the Infantino Flip Advanced Convertible Carrier. Plus, it’s super affordable.
  9. Use the NoseFrida if the baby is congested. That suction bulb that you take home from the hospital just won’t cut it sometimes. I thought it was a gross idea at first to use something like the NoseFrida, but after trying the suction bulb + multiple nights of using a humidifier for two nights I decided to give it a try. Turns out it’s really not that bad + it gave my baby so much relief! Worth it.
  10. Bunny Ear Teethers are awesome. I think we bought five different teething rings before we finally found one that worked. It seemed like most of the ones we tried were either too big for Leo to get into his mouth or they were an awkward shape that was hard for him hold onto. The bunny ear teething ring works perfect because the round/ring shape is easy for him to hold onto + he loves to munch on the cloth. Normally, with bunny ear teething rings, you wet the fabric + put it in the freezer so that it soothes the baby’s gums, but for now Leo likes it without doing that. We got ours on Amazon.
    Remember, different things work for different babies. These just happen to be the things that worked best for us.

LEO’S BIRTH STORY

Leo’s birth, and really my entire pregnancy, never went how I thought it would. Whenever I pictured myself having a child I always imagined it would be this beautiful experience. I envisioned that I would “glow”. And I always told myself I would never allow myself to gain more than the recommended amount of weight during the pregnancy. When I would think about the delivery I always knew I would get the epidural, because I so afraid of the pain of childbirth. And I could see my husband coaching me through the contractions and the joy we would feel when our baby was born. Clearly, I was influenced by TV shows and movies. And as life would have it, nothing went how I thought it would.

We found out I was pregnant when I was only 6 weeks along and we were told his due date was May 20, 2017. We did the typical pregnant-things. I posted an announcement when I was a little over 10 weeks along, and we had a gender reveal party with all of our closest family and friends. I certainly did some “glowing” the first 15 weeks, but not the glowing I always pictured. I was glowing green from having morning sickness 24/7 (why do they call it MORNING sickness anyways?). But for the most part everything felt pretty normal.

Until I had my 20 week ultrasound. The ultrasound tech let us hear the heartbeat and said it sounded strong. She did some routine measurements and was quiet just long enough to make me uneasy. “What is your due date again?” she asked. I responded “May 20th”. After another pause she told me that the baby was measuring a little small, but that it probably wasn’t a big deal and the doctor would review the ultrasound and talk to me about it some more. My doctor found it to be concerning and referred me to a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) doctor. They diagnosed my baby boy with Brain Sparing Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). That basically meant that he wasn’t getting the nutrition that he needed from the placenta, and all nutrients was going to the most important parts: his brain, so his body wasn’t growing at the rate they expected it to, but his head was. This diagnosis meant going to the MFM once a week for an ultrasound and my regular OB once a week for a Non-Stress Test (NST). I went to these two appointments every week from week 20 – week 37. At 37 weeks Leo was measuring to be about 4lbs. They decided it wasn’t worth the risk to the baby to leave him in any longer.

On the evening of April 28, 2017 I was admitted to hospital for induction. They started by inserting Cervidil. After several hours they took that out and inserted the foley balloon. Surprisingly, neither of these things were as uncomfortable as I had anticipated that they would be. Until the foley balloon came out we were pretty much just waiting around, nothing terribly eventful. That all changed very quickly once the foley balloon came out. They started me on a Pitocin drip and routinely increased it.

At first I was thinking to myself, “Hey! This isn’t too bad! I can totally handle this!” Bahaha. A few hours later that frame of mind went out the window and I asked for pain killers. I thought I would be smart to get ahead of the pain instead of waiting until it was unbearable. The pain killers seemed to wear off far too fast, because now when I asked for more the nurse told me I would have to wait two more hours before I could have another dose. Another dose of pain killers later and they were not doing the trick anymore. The contractions were getting pretty intense, but I was only about 6-7cm dilated. I asked for the epidural. I knew I needed to save my energy for when I needed to push.

The one thing I was not nervous about at all was the Epidural. I had plenty of friends who have had an Epidural and they all shrugged it off like it was nothing. No one I knew had ever complained about it. I’ve had tattoos and piercings… how bad could it be? Oh man… how bad could it be. Spoiler Alert: It can be pretty bad. You have to stay perfectly still while they are putting in the epidural, and I was having horrible contractions the whole time. They asked my husband to stand back by the door while they did it. I was audibly crying. I could feel every thing he was doing to my spine. I was sure he was shoving a crowbar up my spine. The anesthesiologist spoke sharply over my crying, “Is it the contractions hurting you or is it me?!” I responded, “I DON’T KNOW!!” How was I supposed to know?? I’ve never had a baby before. I’ve never had contractions before. I’ve definitely never had an epidural before. How the hell am I supposed to know which thing is causing which pain? All I knew was it F&%$ING hurt! Finally, after 3 different attempts to get the darn thing in, and what felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life, he was done. It was in. I laid back in my bed in relief that it was over. My husband came back to my side and he looked concerned. Poor guy. The anesthesiologist told me I could have the dose of the epidural increased two times, and that was it, so I needed to choose when to do that carefully.

Now that I finally had some pain relief I was able to take a short two nap. It wasn’t long until I started to feel the pain of the contractions again. The nurse kept coming in to up my Pitocin. I hated that. Every time she increased it I knew the pain would get worse. I decided to go ahead and asked to increase the epidural. I expected this would take the pain away again, but this time it only took the edge off. I was taking forever to dilate, so naturally they kept increasing the Pitocin. I asked for my last increase of the epidural… I prayed this would do the trick. But it didn’t. Again, it only took the edge off. I was out of options now. Whatever pain came now I had to deal with. I was scared, because I still had a way to go and I couldn’t imagine the pain getting any worse. But it did. The contractions were so intense that I was screaming and crying in-between them. The nurse would come in and tell me that I had to breathe through the contractions. So I would stop crying long enough to breathe through the contraction and then resume as soon as it was over. My husband and I would watch the monitor that showed my contractions on it. Every time I saw another one coming I was terrified. I held on to my husband and cried into his chest.

The pressure had become worse than the pain. I called the nurse in and told her I felt like I had to push. She checked me and said I wasn’t ready. Still only 9cm dilated. When she left the room I broke down. I told my husband I couldn’t do it anymore. I asked him to please go find someone and tell them there had to be another way to do this. I was tapped out. I was totally exhausted. I had no more to give. I begged him to go get someone and find another way to do this. My sweet husband told me, “I’m sorry dear. There is no other way. You are too far along. This is the only way.” I was sure he was wrong but I didn’t have the energy to fight back. I called the nurse in and begged her to let me push. She checked me again and told me it still wasn’t time to push but that I could do some practice pushes. YES! Please! At least I will be doing something with this horrible pain other than just living through it. She coached me through a few pushes and tried to help me understand how I needed to push in order for it to be effective. I was harder than I thought. I had to push a very specific way for anything to happen. She left the room and came back with another nurse a few minutes later.

Some thing was different when she came back. Her and the other nurse started changing things in the room. They turned a SUPER bright overhead light and shined it directly where the sun don’t shine. I knew that it was finally time and I was so much closer to being a mom and meeting my baby boy for the first time. The two nurses coached me through several more pushes. I was crying less now because it felt good to push. It relieved something. After another push one nurse said to the other, “Go get the doctor right now.” A few minutes later a ton of people in scrubs flooded my room, and then the doctor came in. I kept pushing as I noticed a group of nurses prepping an area for my sons arrival. My husband told me he could see the head. He was so happy. The doctor asked me if I wanted to reach down and feel my sons head. “Uh… no.” Sorry, I know this is supposed to magical and whatever but that was something I was totally ok not experiencing. My husband coached me through each push. Telling me I was making progress. Telling me I was almost there.

And then it finally happened. One more push and his head was out. The doctor grabbed him and pulled him out the rest of the way. I sobbed with relief. I heard his sweet cry and I cried some more. Everyone sprung into action. “3lbs 12oz” someone said. Smaller than we thought. My husband ran to Leo’s side to take a picture of him. They wrapped him up and briefly let me see his sweet face before they took him to the NICU. It wasn’t what I imagined. I always thought I’d have my baby rested on my chest immediately after delivery. It didn’t work out that way because he needed medical attention. But that brief moment I got to see him blinking at me suddenly made the last 32 hours disappear.

My doctor delivered the placenta and then stitched me up. As he was stitching me I winced because it was a sharp stinging sensation. “You can feel that?” he asked me. I responded, “Yeah.” He said, “If your epidural worked then you shouldn’t feel that.” My sweet husband filled him in on that lovely experience. Ultimately, my epidural failed. Oh well. Everything was finally over. But I didn’t have my baby. Once I could get out of bed, they wheeled me to a different room. My husband showed me the pictures he took of Leo after he was born. He was so… skinny, and so pale. He looked like an alien. A cute alien. I couldn’t believe that was our baby. After a few hours I was feeling well enough to be wheeled down to the NICU and really see him for the first time.

We washed our hands for three minutes and then they showed us where he was. I started crying as soon as I laid eyes on him. I was torn between being so happy to see him and being so sad to see him hooked up to so many machines. They told me I could hold him. I was so scared. He was so little and seemed so fragile. They took him out of his isolate and laid him on my chest. I felt awkward holding a baby that was so small. But it felt perfect. It felt like I was holding a piece of myself. I felt whole with him on me.

It was hands down the scariest and most wonderful moment of my life.