Remembering

I am writing this on my due date, a year later. A year ago I …

Ate a scuffin for breakfast

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Rolled around on my exercise ball to encourage baby coming

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Slathered on some of his lotions

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Drank raspberry leaf tea and ate deviled eggs in his nursery

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Ate pie for a snack

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Went to Faith + Tate’s for dinner

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And ate a lemon drop cupcake hoping it would put me into labor.

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Little did I know I still had a long wait to go until….

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My water broke on September 6!

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Mazen was born 20 hours later

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He continues to be a little ball of fire and the light of our lives!

Happy Birthweek Mazen Duke!

Hospital Bag Reflections

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Now that our hospital stay has come and gone, were we prepared? Absolutely!! I felt I packed just the right amount of things. There were just a few things we wish we had brought – nothing we wish we had left at home! See everything we packed in this post.

Glad We Brought

Tablet – So nice to have for multi-internet-friendly families. When Maze was sleeping (and we were not also sleeping or eating!) we were glad to have both a laptop and a tablet to share. It was great for its portability, and even better for video chatting with family members who weren’t there!

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Swaddle blankets – The hospital blankets were stiff, and even the nurses told us they were terrible for swaddling. We brought 2 aden + anais receiving blankets and were very glad to have them for both swaddling and photography. And I think every single doctor and staff member who came in our room commented on how cute the bees and owls were!

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Robe – I was very happy with my robe and PJ pants outfit. The pants weren’t a problem at all, and the robe gave me the perfect amount of coverage when our family was visiting. I was VERY eager to get out of the hospital gown!!

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Nursing bras – I am a bra wearer and was very glad I packed a few sleep-style nursing bras – plus a more substantial one for my going home outfit. Wish I had bought even more in advance!

Food, bread, beer – My hospital meals were good and plentiful, so Matt usually ate about 1/3 of my tray, but we were glad to have snacks for him too. He made sandwiches on our bread and also got a few salads from the cafeteria.

Camera + video – So glad we lugged in the big camera. Those first photos are priceless, as were the first videos we took. Yes, we’re a technology obsessed family and are not ashamed of all the gadgets we brought in because we used them all!

Boppy – This made nursing SO much easier, and I also sat on it a few times. My bottom was so sore and swollen that sitting in the hospital bed all day seemed to make it worse, so the boppy was great for that. When I got home, I realized I liked My Brest Friend better for nursing, but the boppy was fine for the early days.

Extra pillows – We brought two extras that we packed at the last minute and were glad to have them. The hospital had an extra one for Matt, but ours were extra comfy. Could have left them at home and been fine though, as they were a lot to carry in.

Outfits for his photos – The hospital shirt was plain white and a 3-6 month size – too big for him! I was glad we packed our own hats and outfits to make his first photographs a bit more colorful : )

Toiletries/makeup/jewelry – I totally put on make-up and jewelry during my stay. It made me feel more normal and less like a patient. And I loved having my fancy Rose toiletries. Maze didn’t seem affected by my delicious smelling hair when he nursed, but I sure was!

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Fleece – I never got cold, but Matt did, so we were glad he brought his fleece jacket.

Nursing Tanks – Great pack. I wore them all!

Nursing Cover – I used this when our family was visiting and I needed to breastfeed. Otherwise they would have all had to leave the room during our party. Glad I had it!

Burp Cloths – We could have just used something in the hospital – a wash cloth – but it was nice to have a few of our pretty burp cloths to use.

Nursing Pads – Used these on day 3 when my milk came in. Very glad I had them or I would have leaked everywhere!!

Thin Pads – Many of you told me these would not be heavy enough, and for the first day they were not. I rocked out the mesh undies and loved the giant hospital pads. But by the middle of day 2, the giant hospital pads were almost too bulky for my swelling and my thin super extra ultra overnight thin pads were way more comfortable – and plenty absorbent!

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Things To Leave At Home

Mom hygiene – Anything related to healing they had plenty of. Numbing spray, Tucks pads, pads (although see my comment about thin pads above). I was happy to wear the mesh undies and didn’t use my throw-away Target ones until I got home, so bringing all 6 pairs wasn’t really necessary : )

Medicines – I didn’t know what the hospital would have, but they told me NOT to take my prenatals while I was there (although they didn’t give me any..) I didn’t pack any medicines like pain relievers, and I’m glad I didn’t because the hospital had all of that stuff. Figures because they specialize in medicine and healing : )

Diapers/wipes – Again, didn’t know what they would have, but they had plenty of diapers, wipes and baby care products like shampoo.

Slippers – I never wore my slippers. I probably could have, but I just put on my flip flops when walking around.

Matt Bathing Suit – As predicted, he totally didn’t get in the tub with me : )

Baby 411 Book – Didn’t pick it up. I had nurses to ask if I had questions, and in free time I was reading emails or relaxing, not reading books.

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We Could Have Used

Nipple Soothies – My doctor recommended these for nipple soreness and Matt went down to the lactation corner to buy some. I’d have some on hand in advance!

Hair dryer – I didn’t really need one and it would have been a pain to pack, but our hospital didn’t have one and my hair had to air dry.

Versatile Footware For Matt – He came in his Toms and wished he had brought some slip ons because he did a lot of shoe tying between getting in and out of bed and going out of the room.

Headphones – Matt said he wished we had them at one point when he was editing video, but probably not that necessary.

More Fruit – Matt also said he wished we had brought more fruit, but I guess this was easily purchased in the cafeteria too, so not a big deal.

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As you can see, our “glad we brought these” vastly outweighed the “didn’t needs” and “wish we hads.”

On Having A Doula

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A post from Matt on having a doula:

Here’s one of the other benefits to being on the other side of pregnancy: we finally have something to talk about! No longer do I get asked “Are you excited” as a means of starting a conversation – there’s the entire exciting birth to share with others. So far the most common question I get is “What was it like to see Kath go through that?”

It was rough. In my previous post I described my inability to even comprehend the pain of labor. But I’d like to give huge credit to our doula Jen. I know that Kath was super appreciative of her support and probably for very different reasons than I. While I’m sure that all of the movements and positions that Jen put Kath in were helpful to properly situate the baby, I think that her greatest benefit was that she gave us something to do.

If it had just been the two of us I’m sure we would have tried some of the labor positions that we saw in the birthing books or our childbirth class, but it would have been lackluster. I can imagine it now: we would have clumsily attempted to use the ball, or play with the bed’s settings, or attempted to relax in the jacuzzi, but it all would have been done with so much uncertainty (and Kath says fear on her part). At the peak of pain (really a multiple hours-long plateau), we would have treated her like any sick patient and just laid in bed.

Jen had authority. She had knowledge and experience. And she had so much enthusiasm and confidence that we were prepared to do anything she said. I think there was only one or two times when Kath said that she wouldn’t do something Jen asked of her and that was because she was in so much pain she couldn’t! I felt very secure that Jen was continually driving us to the end of labor rather than playing a waiting game.

Jen was so in charge that a few hours in I began to wonder, “Am I doing anything here?” Sure I had been offering encouraging words, doing some massaging, and providing counter-pressure, but I felt like I was not Kath’s main supporter. This might bother some husbands and birth partners, but I was totally fine with it and actually a little relieved because it took away some of the worry of the unknown. I felt then and maintain now that what I provided in emotional support would not have been enough by itself to overcome the physical support that Jen directed to get us through.

So I will highly recommend a doula to everyone out there. It is so valuable to have someone devoted to birth and your well-being but still objective enough to make tough decisions in the face of stress. Especially if they’re as caring as Jen!

Postpartum

The final episode in my bump series!!

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Bump is gone.

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And a little lump is in its place in the big wide world!

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These photos were taken when Maze was 4 days old. I’ve been shocked at how fast my body has gone back to normal.

Within minutes of giving birth, my stomach was a complete mush of skin, but it was mostly flat.

Within an hour the numb spot under my ribs had feeling again. I could roll over in bed.

Within a few days I felt like my old self again.

Within a week I could button my pre-pregnancy jeans. [Although – disclaimer – they looked terrible!!]

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My pregnancy weight gain is a bit fuzzy because I wasn’t weighing myself before and there is a huge discrepancy between an October weight on one scale and the doctor’s office in January, but from my 8 week appointment to 40 weeks, I gained 21 pounds on the official medical record. I’d say total I gained about 23-25 pounds total. On delivery day I was only up 18 (thanks to loss of amniotic fluid). As of this week, I was 2-5 pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight. I’d definitely like to lose a little beyond that and get my body back to a shape that I feel great in, but I’m not even going to think about doing anything specific other than healthy eating and lots of walking for at least a few months. My body is being pushed to the limits already with sleeping and nursing, so I don’t want to add anything that would make it harder to enjoy being a mom. 

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How else am I feeling physically?

Well healing down there has been slow, but it gets better everyday. I haven’t been brave enough to look with a mirror, but I can feel my stitches and at 10 days postpartum the swelling is almost done. LOVED the numbing spray they gave me in the hospital as well as the Tucks pads. Must haves for new moms! Also thought it was funny when Matt asked me about a week out: “Why is there a plastic bottle on the toilet?” Ha. My bleeding has slowed a lot, but it’s not totally gone yet. Very manageable though. And now that I feel well enough to go out on walks, I’m feeling very much like my old self. After a week of hobbling around, I can walk normally again. No running until at least 6 weeks, but I’m already SO curious to remember how running without a baby inside of me feels!

Breastfeeding hurt way worse than I ever thought it would. I think my nipples just had to totally toughen up. And even though Mazen is so tiny, I’ve been amazed (heh) that he has learned new things already – like opening his mouth wider like a baby bird! That has helped our latch a lot, and it’s something he evidently learned on his own. I was wearing the Soothies pads in my bras 24/7 and a friend told me they actually prevent healing because they are moist. I can’t walk around topless because that hurts too much, but I have found that SLEEPING topless is a great way to air dry for a bit. I think doing that for the first time was a turning point in our breastfeeding success. Although I was surprised to wake up leaking in the bed : ) I have a set of cotton washable breast pads, but I’ll leak through those in minutes, so I have been wearing the disposable ones full time. The leaking and let down is an annoying part of breastfeeding that I wasn’t all the way prepared for. I also desperately need some good bras. I’m SO GLAD I bought a few nursing bras before he was born or I would be in panic mode right now. A lot of you told me to wait, but I even wish I had bought 1-2 real bras and took a chance on sizing because these sleep bras are just not cutting it with the support. On a mission this week to find some.

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I barely remember what it felt like to be pregnant. I remember how hard it was to roll over and my rib pain and the feeling of little knees poking out of my side. But I’m shocked at how quickly my memory of how it felt overall has faded. I do miss it and feel sad when I think the journey is over, but at the same time, I’m glad to feel normal again. I am still in awe that the baby I am holding right now is the same one that grew inside of me all that time.

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I’m glad he’s here : )

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Mazen’s Birth Story

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It all began on a rainy Thursday morning when I opened my eyes and felt an electric “pop” inside of me. Followed by a second one. Since I was on high alert for signs of labor, I figured I should make a beeline to the toilet ….just in case.

The moment I sat down, I knew my water had broken.

The day before, I had had acupuncture and a massage and think they both contributed to getting things going. I was 6 days past my due date.

With nerves racing, I excitedly took a shower, made breakfast and tidied up the house. “I’m going to have a baby today!” I thought.

Throughout the morning, I started feeling more and more cramps. My period cramps were never that bad growing up, so these did feel like “the worst cramps of my life” but that’s not really saying much. Around 10am, I felt my first wave of a contraction. It really did feel like an ocean wave going through me, but it wasn’t painful. I felt a few more of these and tried timing them, but they sort of fizzled away. I had called my doula first thing and she planned to come over around noon to see how I was doing and talk about our options.

I was group B strep positive and since my water had broken, we knew we needed to go to the hospital sooner rather than later. But we also didn’t want to show up not in labor and face an induction, so we tried one more round of acupuncture first: Dr. Tate came over to do another round (and I thank him very much!) At this point I was uncomfortable, but not really in pain. Just lots of cramping.

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Matt and I also decided to go for a walk. Walking wasn’t easy with all the cramping, but I was hopeful it might help get me into labor

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We realized that we had forgotten to buy pumpkin beer for the post-birth celebration so our destination – Beer Run! When we got there we found my FAVORITE Pumking had just arrived, and so we decided to get a case to have for the whole fall season.

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Crazy Matt carried it home in his arms!

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When we got back home, I was still cramping pretty badly though not necessarily contracting, but it was time to go in. I called my doctor and they had me come to the office before they sent me over to the hospital. So we packed our bags and left to have a baby!

At the office, their initial check revealed I was 2cm, 70% effaced and –1 station. (The days before I was 1cm, 60-70% effaced and almost –1 station). Little progress, but it was something. My doctor said it was best to go in and get my first dose of antibiotics (due to the group B strep). We talked about my desire for a drug-free birth and he said there would not be a push for induction quite yet – we had time. He called ahead to the doctor on call at the hospital to let him know this in advance, which I very much appreciated.

It was quite surreal walking into the hospital knowing we weren’t coming back out. If only I knew what kind of intensity was coming! I was really eager to get labor going and exit this wishy-washy contraction stage, and so my famous last words were ‘bring on the pain’!

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Our doula, Jen, met us there and I was led to our room and told to put on a gown. At the time I felt kind of silly because without anything exciting happening I still felt the need for modesty!

I was put on the monitors and surprised to hear contractions were coming about 3 minutes apart. I could only feel about half of them, but that seemed pretty close together to me!

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Still smiling…

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Next up was the IV insertion and my antibiotics. This was hard on me emotionally – when she was done with the needle I ended up crying a little. I just had to let it out. We had to wait for the antibiotics to finish before we could get started on some laboring exercises. It was about 6pm when we started on the exercise ball.

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Jen was my prenatal yoga teacher for my whole pregnancy (she mostly doulas for her yoga students) and I knew we were in for an active labor. Her techniques work to bring the baby into the best position, and so I spent about an hour doing big wide loops on the exercise ball to open my pelvis and get him to engage.

[Still smiling…]

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Sometime during this hour, I started to really feel a start and stop to each contraction. I would loop on the ball and then during a contraction stand up, hold my belly towards me, tuck my tail and breathe deeply.

An hour later, my smile had turned into a frown –

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(Actually, I’m clearly turning into a mother here because I’m doing the upside down frown/disapproving mom face)

We started to do a lot of other exercises – Jen and Matt both jiggled me in this funny sling way!

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I did some laboring leaning over the bed. Swaying side to side really helped ease the contractions. I see from the clock this was about 7:30pm!

During this time, Matt and Jen ate “dinner” – tomatoes from the garden with bread and pimento cheese and hummus. I had NO desire to eat savory foods, but I did manage to get in some dates, lots of coconut water, some juice and a date ball. Matt fed me some banana slices with peanut butter too.

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But really this is all I wanted to do:

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At 8pm, we got in the jacuzzi tub. Every room at Martha Jefferson has a tub in the bathroom and we filled it with warm water (wish it could have been hot!) and turned on the jets. At this point I was so uncomfortable that my modesty was gone and I just got naked and in the tub.

Jen and Matt talked me through two hours of contractions in the tub. This is when the night got intense. I started on my knees, legs spread open wide, draped over the side of the tub on a towel. Within a half hour, my contractions were such that I was now moaning. Jen had me say the words “ouuuuuuuuut” and “opppppeeeennn” over and over and over again. It was all I could focus on. I think the whole second hour of the tub was spent with my eyes closed. I remember shaking uncontrollably just before the contracts were about to start. I remember sipping coconut water and thinking it was disgusting and asking for plain ice water. I remember thinking there is no way I can get back out of this tub. There was just not enough time between contractions. I remember saying “I can’t do this much longer.” And then I remember thinking…I must be approaching transition.

Jen said my contractions were 2 minutes apart for 7 hours, which is not common. I had little time to think. I remember my hair was coming loose from my pony tail and I wanted so badly to fix it but I didn’t have the energy, focus or the time to pause and re-do it the entire night. (After he was born I commented: “I’m so glad I can fix my pony tail now!”)

The contractions weren’t as much of a bell curve as they were a sharp peak and then a gradual slow decline. It’s hard to describe what was so bad about them, but they really did take over my whole body. I felt most of my labor right down low in the front. It was like there was a really, really strong magnet inside. A magnet like the hatch in LOST. And it was in my core. Every time a contraction would start, someone was trying to pull the magnet from me with another on the outside. Little by little, the pain would subside only to restart the cycle a few seconds later.

When I finally got out of the tub, I was shivering and draped in warm blankets. I think I said at this point: “Why did I stay in there so long!? These blankets feel amazing!”

I was kind of surprised that unlike on TV, I hadn’t been checked since I arrived at the hospital (the doctors wanted to minimize internal exams because of my water breaking and the risk of infection). It was now 10 pm and the contractions were really intense. My doctor came in to check me and said I was 5 cm, 100% effaced and still –1 station.

I responded with “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Only 5 cm!?!?!”

I was shocked and discouraged. I think I uttered another “I can’t do this…” Jen says that she thinks I went through an early transition while I was in the tub, judging from the frequency and intensity of the contractions along with my emotional state. They all seemed very pleased with my progress, but I was discouraged. Jen said that this was the point she would normally take a mom to the hospital, and I have to say I was so glad we were not getting in a car to just get there in this kind of intensity.

From this point on, the next 5 hours are a complete blur. I labored on the toilet, draped over the exercise ball, draped over the side of the bed, the back of the bed, doing cat/cow pose from yoga. All I could focus on was saying “ouuuuuuuut” (and sometimes “ouuuuch”) over and over and over again. It was also around this time that I threw up – violently and deeply – for the first time. I think I must have thrown up about 4-5 times throughout the night, and each time the heaving tightened everything inside of me and caused me to bear down.

The most uncomfortable position was when Jen had me lie flat with my legs lower than my hips to encourage him to move downward, and I remember actually feeling him slide down with a strong contraction. Painful, but effective.

TMI Sidebar: One thing I didn’t expect – there was blood and gunk everywhere! It emerged from me all night. Labor was so much messier than I had imagined. It was gross, and I was glad we were in a hospital and not at my house. I felt bad for whomever had to clean up the floors, the bed, wherever I went! It was really gross. Especially when you mix in the throwing up!

When we labored on the toilet, Jen asked me if I was feeling pressure. Apparently I had started grunting and that was a sign of the baby moving over my tailbone and getting closer to pushing.

Around midnight, I started to get the urge to push. Jen alerted my nurse and they encouraged me to listen to my body. What started as a little urge became an uncontrollable instinct to bear down. At this point, I was in the bathroom, with a towel tied to a bar, and squatting during contractions. I started pushing with all of my might. I thought I was getting close. I heard them turn on the baby warmer and start getting ready for a baby’s arrival. (Keep in mind he wasn’t born until hours later at 3:38am..)

Growling Sidebar: At this point in the evening, my moaning and chanting turned into real primal grunting, growling and howling. I’ve heard women say before that birth is very primal, but I couldn’t believe the sounds that emerged from me. Sometimes a loud growl was the only thing I could imagine getting me through. If you had told me to be silent, I’m not sure I could have. The noises got louder and louder throughout the night as my contractions got stronger and stronger. I was yelling at one point. I really hope the rest of the hospital wasn’t too freaked out by the woman in room 10!

After maybe 30 minutes of squats and pushes, I ended up back on the bed and my nurse checked me. She said I was 8.5-9cm and that I had an anterior cervical lip that was getting a little swollen. I needed to hold back on the pushing. They inverted my bed so that my head was lower than my body. This made the contractions even more intense. I think I threw up all over the bed at one point. I remember gripping Matt’s arm for my life and giving him an Indian burn to pass off the pain. (No wonder he said I was being tortured!)

I definitely mentioned an epidural a few times throughout the night, but I think I was just testing my support team. They said they could tell that despite how uncomfortable I was, I didn’t need the epidural. I was coping well. Jen told me later that she couldn’t believe how “in the moment” I stayed. She said she often has to go deep inside a woman and pull her back from a dark place to focus. She was impressed that I kept my focus on the chanting and taking each contraction one at a time as they came. I just did what my brain told me to do!

Mental Sidebar: Another thing that is crazy to me about this whole experience is that while I could barely speak and do anything but rest between contractions, my mind was very sharp. In my head, I was myself. I could think clearly and rationalize about what was going on. But what was inhibited was my ability to communicate with those in the room.

It must have been around 1-2 am when they checked me again. This time I was 9.5 cm with just that anterior lip holding me back. The nurse said she would try to manually push it aside while I pushed, but that didn’t have any luck. My doctor, unsuccessful as well, said to give it a little more time. They had also put a monitor on me because the baby’s heart rate was dipping just a little. It wasn’t anything to be concerned with yet, but it was something they wanted to monitor. I remember thinking that the heart rate decelerations combined with the lip had me going in the direction of a c-section and that I would be OK with that because it would mean I would be numb and this would all be over (and most importantly that the baby would be safe). I also remember a beeping noise that kept going off that sounded like a warning alarm. I thought it was the baby’s heart rate and was getting worried and finally said “What is that beeping!?!!?” They said “Oh it’s just the warming bed!” Relief.

An hour later (AN HOUR LATER OF TERRIBLE CONTRACTIONS!) at 3am, the doctor came back to try to push aside the lip again. He literally put his hands inside of me and pushed with all of his might. I didn’t care how much this hurt because I just wanted that lip gone. This time, it worked!!!!!!!!!

It was go-time.

I started with a few pushes and he came down very fast. Everyone told me I was an excellent pusher and to just keep doing what I was doing. I was in a reclined position with my legs totally pulled back to open my pelvis as much as possible.

My contractions had actually slowed down in frequency a bit during pushing to the point that I didn’t even feel them starting and stopping anymore. The pain at this time was just from my whole body flexing to push and the bag of rocks that was descending. Everyone says pushing out a baby feels like a giant poop. But poop is smooth!! I could feel every bone poking me and scraping me as he came down. Sack of rocks, I tell you. I was also SO happy that I was pushing and that it was just up to me and my strength to get him out. It was probably this time that I burst all the blood vessels in my eyes. I used every bit of muscle in my body to send the energy to the birth canal, and I think that’s how I was able to push effectively. (Yay Body Pump classes!)

After just 20 minutes of pushing, everyone was cheering me on. “He’s almost here.” “Give it that last oomph.” Matt said he saw the head begin to emerge and thought “man, he is small!” but then the head kept emerging and emerging and getting bigger and bigger and then he understood the scale of what was happening.

I felt the ring of fire – lots of stinging – and with one or two more pushes, his head was out. I remember saying “ow ow ow” as the doctor turned his shoulders. Apparently he was in a very good birthing position. It was 3:38am!

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They pulled him out and put him right on my chest. I remember thinking “He’s so warm!” He was a jiggly little warm baby, and he started crying right away. His Apgar scores were 8 and 9.

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I said “remember to let the cord stop pulsing” and my doctor said he was watching it right then. My mom always told me that she was shocked when her doctor told her she had to push out the placenta, so when my doctor just pulled it out of me moments later, I was surprised at how easy it was. I was also surprised how sore I already was when it passed through!

Someone asked us if he had a name and Matt sort of choked his words, so I said “It’s Mazen Duke.” I think we were both on the verge of tears at that point. He was finally here.

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I had a second degree tear, and while I was distracted by my beautiful baby, I remember pausing to say “OW!” and “OW!” as my doctor numbed and stitched me up. It was over quickly though and thank goodness I had Mazen to keep my attention occupied or it would have been more traumatic.

After we had gazed at him for a good 15 minutes of skin to skin, the nurse took him away to be weighed. No one could believe he was 8 pounds! 20.5 inches long.

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They brought him back to me and I was able to start nursing him right then. I had some help latching him on and then he just started sucking. It was the cutest thing! He nursed on both sides for about 20 minutes each. The room was much calmer now, and I realized that Matt hadn’t gotten to hold him yet, so I passed him off and they laid together for almost an hour staring into each other’s eyes. I called my parents and sister and sent an email to our immediate friends and family announcing that he was here.

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Then the nurse and Matt gave him his first bath and he spent a little time under the warmer while he got his vitamin K shot and eye drops. Matt never left his side.

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The nurse kept coming to push on my uterus and help it contract down. This was not pleasant at all and felt like the contractions I had just been through. I could not believe how flat my stomach was! She eventually helped me up to pee, and my gosh, that was hard too. I couldn’t believe how quickly everything had swelled.

We said goodbye to Jen, and Matt started gathering our things to move to our postpartum room. We got there and settled and were finally left alone with our beautiful baby.

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As intense as my birth was, even minutes after he was born I was thinking it wasn’t so bad. I can’t think of anything but the hormones that would cause such a response! Aside from the cervical lip issue (which was somewhat serious), everything really did go pretty smoothly. Jen and our nurse said it was a pretty classic labor. I was very lucky not to encounter any serious complications, and Mazen did well the whole time.

I really can’t say enough good things about having a doula. Her experience was invaluable not just physically but emotionally too. She assured me things were happening for a reason and had biological explanations for what was happening (like my shaking and the grunting). She even knew when my contractions would start before I did! I asked her in the middle of the night “How do you know they are starting” – she just has that connection. Matt will be the first to tell you how glad HE was that we had a doula. If it had just been the two of us there together, we would have been so scared. I most definitely would have gotten pain relief – more from fear than the pain itself since it’s clear I could handle the pain. Matt looked to Jen for guidance and they worked well as a team. As he said in his post, he was there to remind me that this suffering was temporary and that I was strong enough to get through it. He was also my physical comfort, and I remember wanting to squeeze his hand and have him near me so he could sense our connection through touch without me having to speak. If I have one piece of advice to moms to be, it’s hire a doula.

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So would I go drug free again? I don’t know. A day later I was telling people no. A week later….as I write this story….I think maybe. 3 years from now? I might have the courage to try it again. My number one goal for going drug-free was just to experience what womankind has gone through for ages. That goal has now been achieved. Maybe next time I’ll get an epidural and have one of those A Baby Story labors where the women sleep until they are 10 cm and push with a smile on their faces. But the good news is that I don’t have to choose now or even with my next pregnancy. I will have until I’m in the moment of labor to decide, and if my next labor is anything like this one, I’m guessing I just don’t even think about an epidural as an option. It felt so off limits to me – not because I wouldn’t “give in” but because I didn’t even know how to ask for one, who to call or how it all worked. If I didn’t have time to fix my pony tail, how was I to focus on getting pain relief? It was almost easier just to keep doing what I was doing.

I don’t know if it was the yoga, the chiropractic, the walking, the moderate weight gain, the massages, the Body Pump, the birth story reading, the good nutrition, the positive attitude, the research, the childbirth classes or just luck. But I am so thankful for this experience – as intense as it was – and the empowerment with which it has left me as a woman.

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A Little Zen

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Another post by the new father, Matt:

I have to hand it to all the mothers out there – I can’t believe what you have to go through to deliver a baby. The worst pain I’ve ever felt was after I had back surgery in 2004. For those who don’t know, I had a spinal fusion at the age of 20 due to a protruding disc. My mother and her mother had the same problem with the same disc, so because of my history and age we decided that going with a full fusion was actually less invasive than trying multiple, increasingly complex surgeries. The procedure went like this: they first went in through my abdomen with an incision at the waistline. The disc was removed, and then they flipped me over, installed a cadaver’s bone between the vertebrae, and then screwed the vertebrae together to fuse.

After the surgery my abs and my back had so little muscle to support me. Try rolling over in the bed without flexing your back or abs and you’ll see how impossible it is to avoid damaging my scars. As a compensatory mechanism, I found I could use my hip flexors to substitute for my abs when it came to moving around in bed and holding myself up. Unfortunately one time I sustained a hold too long and my flexors began cramping and experiencing spasms. I’m big on Zen concepts of “suffering existing only in our mind” and putting your mind beyond pain, but it was just impossible. I was screaming in pain for about an hour – the amount of time it took to contact my doctor to get a prescription for morphine, fill it, bring it to my room, and administer it. Instant relief! I was napping within 2 minutes.

So that was the worst pain of my life, and it lasted an hour. Kath’s active labor was about ten hours, maybe eight if you only count the more intense portions. With contractions coming about every two minutes and lasting one to two minutes, that’s an unbelievable amount of torture. And torture is exactly what it felt like. When we began some of the premature pushing at 12:30, I was pretty excited that were going to have a baby in maybe 45 minutes. Then at 3:00 I looked back at the past three hours in despair that Kierkegaard could only dream of!

I thought that I could empathize with the pain but it was beyond comprehension to me. Still, I supported Kath’s wish for a drug-free birth. Part of it went back to the Zen thing of embracing your pain and letting it become a part of you. Another part was celebrating the continuity of womankind’s shared, ancient experience. And finally there were the scientific reasons of attaining the full benefits of natural oxytocin. Kath had a strong conviction about all these things, so when she had moments of doubt during the birth it was easy for Jen and me to instead turn her focus on the moment and work through the immediate pain. Then we reassured her that she was doing well and every contraction brought her one step closer.

During the birth I felt it was really important to keep stressing that each contraction was one more down and she never has to experience that one again. I imagined that she might feel like she would be sitting there in pain for eternity and that there was no end in sight. We’re so trained to approach life with the idea that we pass from phase to phase – we move from infancy to school age, college to adulthood, marriage to parenthood. I touched on some of this in my first BERF post. I worried that labor might be like this too! Would she just suffer for a really long time, and then eventually a baby would come out? Well I guess that’s how it is, but it certainly wouldn’t be encouraging to tell her that. So I put on a strong face, mustered some encouraging words, and hoped that she could make it through quickly.

Congratulations to all mothers out there – you definitively win!

FYI, birth story writing in progress!! I want to include all the details and do it in one swoop, but I won’t keep you all in suspense much longer! – Kath

Mazen Duke Younger-Monson

Many of you asked how we chose Mazen’s name. Here’s the story!

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In October of last year, we went on a hike and out to lunch with my parents. I obviously wasn’t pregnant yet, but my mom knew we were trying and brought up baby names.

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On our drive home, we must have gone through 100 names and talked about ones we liked and didn’t like generally. I favored antique and nature names, and Matt liked anything non-traditional.

We all agreed that we liked Mason (and a lot of the names on this list) but we thought having Mason and Monson in the same name was too much.  Matt suggested: “We should just make up a variation of a more common name like Mason… like Mazen!”  I liked it immediately because I loved the nickname Maze. And it was unique enough for us both.

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We like it because of Maze.

Because it has the word Zen in it.

Because it has a Z like Kanz : )

Because anytime anyone says “amazing” in it can be turned into A-Mazen!

Because “Mazen the Raisin” is a fun description for a little baby

Because it starts with an M just like Matt.

And because it’s different but not too strange.

And lastly, because while it has been used as a name before, it involved Matt’s creativity.

Months passed and we found out we were having a boy! We tossed around more names, but we just kept coming back to Mazen. It was unique yet not hard to pronounce or spell, and neither of us knew anyone with the name. And then, Matt actually was listening to a homebrew podcast on The Brewing Network and one of the guests was named Mazen – the brewer of 961 Brewery in California. He was shocked to hear the name, so we googled it and found that it has Arabic origins and rich heritage.

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With a first name picked out, we started to brainstorm middle names. We wanted something short. Davidson was definitely a contender, but it was a little long for me, and with MonSON as a last name, we thought Davidson Younger-Monson was a little long. That’s when I thought of Duke.

The first conversation I ever had with Matt started like this:

“I see you’re wearing Duke shorts – are you a fan!?”

Indeed he was, and we started talking during our freshman orientation during a service project at a farm. He told me that he was a Duke fan because his Grandpa Don was a huge fan and bought Matt Duke things since he was little. He had become a fan.

On my side, my grandmother began the legacy as a 1946 graduate of Duke Women’s College. My uncle Chris and my mom both followed her footsteps and attended, and my mom met my dad there in the 70s. I obviously grew up a huge Duke basketball fan living just steps from the campus, and had Davidson not been a perfect match for my personality, I wonder if I might have ended up there for college. (I actually had an early admission application in to Duke and called at the last minute to switch it to regular so I could do early decision at Davidson instead – aren’t I glad I did because I met Matt!)

And the icing on the cake – Matt and I had our wedding reception at Duke Gardens. Our relationship started with Duke and was solidified there in marriage.

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So needless to say, it was an easy middle name choice.

A bonus:

Mazen Duke’s initials are MD.

Matthew Donald’s are MD.

And Matt’s dad is Mark Donald – MD (and he happens to be an MD!)

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Matt says he wants to call him Mazen.

I love Maze.

Karen and my mom have been using Mazey.

And my dad says when he’s older he’s going to call him Zen!

Waiting for The Day

We just had a big BERFday in our house!!

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I hope to write my birth story (I can’t wait to put it in writing!), how breastfeeding is going, what happened to my body and more – all coming in time. For now, here is the first of several posts that Matt has journaled about his reflections and thoughts on becoming a father.

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Liberating relief! Nope, that’s not what I imagined Mazen to be thinking on his birthday. It’s what I felt when Kath told me her water broke! I know that The Due Date is just a number and all– but I had been expectantly waiting for about five weeks for the birth. At 38 weeks I began consciously making scheduling decisions at the bakery that would allow me to essentially disappear at any moment if she went into labor. That meant training several new employees, covering my shifts at the Farmer’s Market, buying ahead on ingredients and supplies, and mentally preparing to drop everything at a phone call.

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Even with my planning the waiting was just grinding on me. There was definite excitement at the idea of “vacation” from work but simultaneously I felt worry that I hadn’t planned far enough ahead. And as each day passed, I felt like I needed to plan two more days to stay on top. After the due date came and passed, I began to have restless sleep where I would think her every move in the night was her water breaking or contractions beginning. Have you ever had the experience of buying a new gadget, or kitchen utensil, or piece of technology that you love and you become completely obsessed with it? Where your first and last thoughts of the day are of the exciting new toy in your life? And even in your sleep, you seem to half-dreaming, half-awake thinking about it? It was like that for me with the thought of labor beginning in the middle of the night. I would wake up completely convinced that earlier in the night she had told me that “today is The Day!”

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I was getting frustrated and cynically began joking that we were just going to be perpetually expecting a baby up into our 60s. When it really was The Day, it was so fun to tell people “I’m going to have a baby and I know it!” Even though it was only the water breaking and no contractions had started, it was like the vaguely defined future spoken by three witches on a heath had been lifted of its fog! Are a lot of people like this where they accumulate worry in the face of indefinites? Really, would you say definite indefinites? It’s like spending less on a piece of used equipment but knowing that you’re going to have some horrible repair in the future. An unavoidable future with a known ending, and the only question is when.

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Every day we deal with the undefined future – you have to make a presentation at work, you decide what to make for dinner, etc. We’re not strangers to instantaneously solving problems. I suppose it all comes down to preparation and expectations. If you can relax your standards of control over the unknowns in life and truly live in the moment, you can approach any problem like today is The Day!

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(P.S. It was really fun to click “Add to Dictionary” for Mazen!)