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And now you have a baby.

A new baby is like the beginning of all things - wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.
— Eda LeShan

When you have a baby at 4am as I did, you go to sleep for a few hours, and you wake up the next morning to an entirely different reality. This is the story of the first few weeks of my new daughter's life and how my life and my husband's life were forever altered.

I will start in the hospital recovery room the morning after she was born - February 6th, 2015. If you would like to read about my pregnancy and birth story you can find that in a previous post found here. This is a mostly story about breastfeeding, sleeping, and the aches and pains of recovering from childbirth. I have also included my recommended packing list for the hospital recovery room. Since my childbirth experience was very short and dramatic I have not included what I packed in my hospital delivery room bag, since I didn't use anything at all from it. I've been completely blunt and honest in this post, some of it is gross, because let's just be honest, the aftermath of childbirth is pretty gross. I hope that me sharing my experiences will help someone else feel better about what is about to happen to them as they approach childbirth.

Our little girl was born at 4am on February 6th, 2015 - for the sake of this post, we'll call her Miss C. At the hospital I delivered at (California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco, CA) you stay two nights at the hospital following a vaginal delivery. Since Miss C arrived in the early morning hours on Friday, February 6th, I would be staying in the hospital Friday night, Saturday night, and until I was discharged on Sunday around 3pm.

PEEING. 

Somehow in all the reading I did leading up to Miss C's birth, I did not get the memo that if you get an epidural (which I ended up getting), that you would also get a urinary catheter put in, which would stay in for 12 hours after delivery. Obviously in retrospect it makes total sense, during labor and delivery you need the catheter because you are numb down there so you aren't just peeing all over everywhere, and after delivery, getting up and walking to the toilet (or anywhere) is not high on the list of enjoyable things to do, so they might as well leave it in there for you. So, from 4am until 4pm on Friday I could not move from the bed I was in because I was still attached to the catheter. You are also expected to drink a very large volume of water during this time to rehydrate following delivery, and you can't go refill that water glass yourself when you are bed-bound. My personality is such that I am inclined to wait for someone to stop in and check on me to mention that I am out of water and could I please get a refill. But I quickly realized that you need to speak up a lot more or you'll get forgotten in that busy hospital unit. So, here's my advice, ring that hospital buzzer as soon as you need something - and ring it again if no one shows up in a few minutes. Those nurses are busy, and you really do need to be your own advocate. I got over my shyness pretty fast once I realized this.

Around 12 hours after delivery the nurses came in to remove the catheter. This was thankfully not a big deal at all, it simply slipped out with no pain. You are then told to pee in the toilet (scary, but I found surprisingly to not be painful at all!) and you are taught how to clean yourself and your stitches down there - which seems terrifying since you can only imagine what has just happened to your nether regions, but I also found cleaning myself to not be painful at all either. It consisted of filling a squirt bottle with lukewarm water, and squirting yourself clean over the toilet (or later, in the shower). I'll let you in on a little tip, DO NOT make the mistake as I did of trying to save water and leaving a partially used squirt bottle of water sitting by the toilet and then picking it up to clean yourself again a few hours later. The water will have cooled down, and this is NOT pleasant...at all. Go get that nice lukewarm water and fill it up each time! 

IV.

If you read my birth story I explained about the hep-lock that is installed as part of the prep for getting an epidural - this is also something that I didn't remember learning about from my childbirth books or classes - I was starting to feel like maybe I really didn't pay attention! (If you didn't read my previous post, I'll recap here that a hep-lock - also called a saline lock - is an intravenous catheter that is threaded into your vein, flushed with saline, and then capped off for later use. This way you are not hooked up to an IV pole, but the nurses have easy access in case you need something injected into your vein later.) In my birth story I explained how I ended up with the hep-lock installed on the back of my left hand, not in my forearm as would have been more desirable. Since I had this big thing attached to the back of my hand I was pretty useless with that hand - I really struggled to adjust myself in the bed, hold Miss C, etc. I had been told that it would remain in for 24 hours after delivery, incase I needed to be given any medication or fluids via IV. I was pretty excited when they removed my urinary catheter and told me that I could also get the hep-lock removed that evening instead of waiting until the next morning since there was no indication that I would be needing anything via IV anymore! However, as I noted above, you really have to be your own advocate...instead of someone coming back to remove the hep-lock "in a few minutes" as they had promised, I got it removed a good 3 or 4 hours later. Super annoying and I wish I had spoken up about that. But in any case, add that to the list of things I didn't know were part of childbirth. I was also terrified of the sensation of them pulling this out - but I just didn't look and it was out before I knew it, not terrible as I had imagined at all.

THE PAIN DOWN THERE.

So now, let's get real, a baby just came out of my vagina. Lucky for me she was a tiny baby, but I still had had a uterus that had stretched to 10cm, and I still ended up with stitches from my episiotomy that needed to heal, and I still was in pain. Those first 12 hours as I mentioned above I didn't have to / couldn't move from bed. This is a blessing really, because even shifting around in the bed was uncomfortable. Fortunately I was on pain medication, so I could sleep just fine, and I wasn't in pain when I wasn't trying to move around. The next 12 hours once the catheter was removed were better, but still not so fun. It was a fairly major production for me to get my legs over to the side of the bed, scoot myself to the edge of the bed, and get to a standing position while trying to minimize the pain down there. I learned that it was better to try to get to the bathroom around the midpoint of my every 4 hour pain medication dose, if I waited until shortly before or shortly after I took the medication, it was noticeably more painful. I was pleasantly surprised that peeing and showering were not actually painful at all. Walking wasn't painful per say either, but I also wasn't really 'walking' - it was more of a slow shuffle. Really it was sitting in the bed (not lying, that was fine) or transitioning between any of these activities that was somewhat painful. The next 35 hours until I was discharged were better yet, although I made the mistake at one point of trying out taking my pain medication every 8 hours instead of every 4 hours since I was feeling so much improved, which turns out was not a good idea (the nurses suggested I was welcome to take it less often if I wanted, this wasn't just me being crazy!) - so back to every 4 hours it went. 

Now here is something I learned too late. The first nurse I had after I was moved to the recovery room stuck an ice pack in my mesh underwear. This was pretty freaking awesome, it kept things nice and numb. Here's the part I learned too late...there were more of these ice packs in the bathroom and I could have used as many as I wanted!!!! What?!?!? No one told me this!!!!! I discovered them as I was cleaning up to go home 2 days later. So, anyways, that was a bummer. Ice packs FTW. Also something I learned too late - there is something called stitch numbing spray. It's actually called Dermoplast, but this is what everyone I know who's had a baby at Kasier has called it. Turns out CPMC doesn't offer it to you! So, weeks after I'd had the baby and my stitches finally weren't so painful, I discovered that my fellow new moms who had had their babies at other hospitals were spraying themselves numb down there all this time! What?!?!?! So jealous. So do yourself a favor and get some of that spray...you can buy it at Walgreens. Lastly, I did not use witch hazel pads until a few weeks postpartum. I started using them (stick them in your underwear and leave them there) for about two weeks, from weeks 4-6 postpartum when I felt like things should be starting to feel better down there but they just weren't. I was scared to use them earlier because I felt so tender down there and the witch hazel pads feel very potent - next time I would probably try them earlier, so, food for thought.

Alright, onto something gross. Let's talk about lochia. In case you haven't heard of this before, lochia is the vaginal discharge after giving birth containing blood, mucus, and uterine tissue. It usually lasts for 4-6 weeks following childbirth. So so gross. It's like having your period, times a million, for 6 weeks. So, throughout all the time since delivery I'd been padded up down there with the heavy duty lochia pads (think super super absorbent menstrual pads, and the nurses even stick in there like two or three at a time at the very beginning!) in the mesh underwear the hospital provides. That mesh underwear is really as awesome as everyone says. So comfy. For the first 24 hours or so I was soaking through the pads and onto the bed (which they have layered with giant absorbent pads too). This is super gross. I mean, I knew about lochia, but wow, gross. Once I was more mobile and back in "clothes" (sweatpants) the next 24 hours and onwards I would change out the pad about every three hours. This continued to be the norm for about 4 weeks until it dwindled and ended. Now, 4 months later, its sort of hard to believe that was even happening - how time flies. Here is another pro tip for you. At my hospital they had two different kind of lochia pads you could use - one was like a super duper large maxi pad (with adhesive on the bottom to stick to your underwear) and the others were just super duper large cotton pads. I'm still not sure how the heck you were supposed to use the later kind - they just slid all over the place - if you discover these in your hospital room ask your nurse WTF this is all about, I will if there is a next time! Also, do not make the mistake that I (and I discovered later, several other new moms) did and buy the largest maxi pads you can find from your drugstore - you know, the ones designed for larger women with heavy flows. These are REALLY really uncomfortable after you've had a baby unless you are a larger woman. If you need more lochia pads just ask your friends who have already had a baby - chances are someone has some extras from the hospital still kicking around. I ended up needing more pads, and have several friends happy to let me take their extras off their hands. Although I still ended up using the horrible Walgreens mega maxi pads because I can't throw things out...but I honestly think in retrospect this was a poor decision and had a negative impact on my healing!

While we're at it, let's talk about another gross topic. Pooping. Don't worry I'll keep this short. Twice a day after I had the baby I was given stool softeners pills. Now, so you're not confused like I was, these are not stool loosening pills, they are stool softening pills. The first time they gave me one I thought they were for constipation, because I had never heard of stool softening before, and I stupidly asked the nurse - um, but I have this catheter in, so I can't go to the bathroom yet, so what do I do when this makes me have to poop?!?! So, stool softening simply means it makes your poop soft...which is a good thing when your area down there is a little (ok, a lot) sore - the last thing you want to be doing is pushing out a big hard poop. When I did finally poop, I was terrified. Fortunately it was no big deal, it didn't hurt at all! However, because I had a huge fear of a future painful pool I continued taking those stool softeners the whole first week after I was home. And yes, I can finally poop without being terrified of it hurting.

I remember when I left the hospital, 59 hours after I delivered Miss C, the nurses made a joke on my way out (as they do to all first time moms) - "See you again in two years!" I distinctly remember at that time being like, OMG, what a mean joke! I am still reeling in the pain of having this baby, I can't even imagine doing this all over again! (But not to worry, about a week later I had already blocked the worst of the pain out and was all, "Oh yeah, I want to have another baby. Definitely.")

One of the first things I did when I got home was to take a little mirror and check out what was going on down there. And OH MY GOD THAT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE MY VAGINA. That's all I can say about that. Nothing looked normal. Things were all stretched out of shape, and even though I knew I had stitches I couldn't even find them. WTF. By a few days later I could see a slit, a precisely cut straight line, which was my episiotomy. This was very confusing because hadn't that been stitched up?! I learned later that they stitch you up on the inside, the muscles and tissue that they had to cut, and the outer skin layer they let heal together naturally - so what I was seeing (the outer skin layer) had actually not been stitched up, which is why it looked exactly as it did - as if it had been cut. A few days later, much to my surprise, when I was wiping myself after having used the toilet I saw that I had wiped off the knot of the stitches! Yikes! Is that normal?!! They said that my stitches would dissolve in about 10 days, but it had been only a few days. This continued to worry me every time I had pain down there. But, I guess this is normal, because my 6 week postpartum doctors visit confirmed that everything had healed up just fine.

After about a week at home I was feeling much more back to normal. I was still walking slowly, but I was walking rather than shuffling. However, those next 5 weeks I don't feel like things actually got much better at all...until all of a sudden they did. 5 weeks postpartum and I was still wondering if I should go see my doctor ASAP because things still hurt pretty bad and I wondered if something had gone wrong with my stitches...and then all of a sudden by the time by 6 week postpartum appointment rolled around  I was able to say, yes, things feel fine. Thank goodness. Also yes, checking myself in that little mirror, things did in fact appear to have returned to normal. Phew.

BOOBS.

Miss C was deemed hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar) upon delivery, and after some initial bonding time with me was taken to the nursery where she was formula fed in order to correct this imbalance. For the first day or so of her life she was brought into my room every 3 hours in order for me to attempt to breastfeed her, and then returned to the nursery. Though immediately after delivery she did naturally root around and start breastfeeding, when I tried to feed her again a few hours later it was unsuccessful, and continued to be for the next few days. The lactation consultant I worked with told me that this is very common for babies who come early (Miss C came at 37 weeks, 4 hours) to be able to feed immediately, but due to their sucking ability being one of the later things to develop in utero, they may have a weak or immature sucking ability and take a few extra days or weeks to catch up and be able to consistently breastfeed successfully. 

When we discovered that she was not breastfeeding, the nurses taught me how to hand express my colostrum (the first milk, which comes out very thick and in much lower volume than established breastmilk). I would express a few drops into a spoon and feed it to Miss C from the spoon, and do this over and over again until she appeared full and fell back to sleep. I repeated this every 3 hours for around the first 12 hours, and in between feedings Miss C was returned to the nursery so that she could be observed for her hypoglycemia and fed formula as needed to be sure it was correcting. At around her 12 hour of age mark she was cleared of being hypoglycemic and she could stay in the room with me full time and was no longer fed supplemental formula.

Towards the evening on Friday, around this same time, when Miss C was around 12 hours old (and shortly after I had had my urinary catheter removed) a lactation consultant came to meet with me to discuss the fact that Miss C was not breastfeeding successfully. She brought with her a hospital grade breast pump - the Medela Symphony - and showed me how to use it. Every three hours from now until I was discharged I would...

  • attempt to breastfeed Miss C for 10 minutes (which mostly amounted to cuddling her skin to skin on my chest).

  • Then I would pump for 15 minutes,

  • transfer the pumped colostrum into a syringe (like I said, you really don't get very much out, we're talking just a few milliliters!),

  • and feed what I had pumped to Miss C from the syringe.

  • Then I would disassemble and clean all of pump parts,

...and get ready to do it all again 3 hours later. I did this through the night Friday and into Saturday.

Saturday morning the pediatrician came in to report on her daily examination of Miss C and let us know that her bilirubin levels appeared to be rising and that she might be becoming jaundiced and if so would require 24 hours under phototherapy lights. She gave us 12 more hours to attempt to correct the bilirubin levels via breastfeeding alone.

On top of that, around Saturday afternoon it was determined that in addition to the bilirubin numbers rising, I was also not producing enough colostrum to give Miss C the nutrition she needed. She was falling into a pattern of too much sleep (even for a newborn there is such a thing) and losing more weight than they would like. Therefore she was started again on another regiment of formula supplementation. So my new routine every three hours became...

  • 10 minutes of skin to skin contact with Miss C attempting to breastfeed if possible,

  • followed by feeding her previously pumped colostrum from a syringe,

  • followed by formula feeding her until she consumed a set volume of formula,

  • followed by 15 minutes of pumping.

  • The pumped colostrum was transferred to a syringe and saved for the next feeding.

  • Then I would disassemble and clean all of the pump parts,

...and get ready to do it all again 3 hours later. This whole routine was very very very time consuming.

A few hours later it was determined that her bilirubin levels had gotten too high and she was deemed jaundiced, and that she would be going under the phototherapy lights starting that evening. So once again, Miss C was in the nursery and only wheeled into my room every three hours when it was time to feed her. Now...

  • I would spend 10 minutes with her skin to skin attempting to breastfeed,

  • then the nurses would come get her and put her back under the phototherapy lights.

  • The nurses would take care of the formula feeding which they could do while she was under the lights,

  • and I would pump for 15 minutes.

  • Then I would walk a syringe of colostrum down to the nursery and they would feed it to her,

...and we did this every three hours through the night on Saturday. At least because of this I was getting more sleep, so that was appreciated in a way.

Sunday morning we got the good news that after just 12 hours under the phototherapy lights Miss C's jaundice had been corrected! This was especially good news because I was being discharged from the hospital around noon on Sunday no matter if Miss C had to stay until the evening (or longer). The nurses had assured me that they would find me a spare room so that I could continue to rest and pump until Miss C finished her phototherapy later that evening, but it was much better to hear that we could all go home around noon together. Miss C was still being formula supplemented due to her low weight, but at least we could go through the routine of skin to skin, pumping, and feeding at home.

Sunday mid-day we were discharged from the hospital, Miss C weighing in at only 4lbs7oz. Our first stop was to a local shop, Day One Baby, where I rented a Medela Symphony breast pump to use at home. In my mind I thought I would just use this for the new week or two until the portable double electric breastpump that I had ordered through my insurance arrived.  And then there we were, at home, doing the whole routine every 3 hours, but with no nurses to help out and no nursery to wheel Miss C into when I needed a little break! I continued to do this routine through Sunday and Sunday night.

On Monday we had our first pediatrician appointment to make sure everything looked ok 24 hours after discharge from the hospital. Unfortunately Miss C was still losing weight, and weighed in at 4lbs6oz today. We were told that this needed to be her lowest weight and that we should weigh her daily for the next week, and that she needed to gain at least 1oz per day - if she wasn't I was to continue to increase the amount of formula she was getting until she started gaining the prescribed amount of weight. They gave us some powdered formula to try out moving forward because it's a bit more cost effective than the individual serving pre-packaged formula bottles we had been using at the hospital (and were about to run out of what they gave us to take home anyways), and we swung by Day One Baby again to pick up a bottle (we decided to get the Comotomo bottle since it is supposed to most closely imitate the experience of breastfeeding, and we didn't want to encounter any 'nipple confusion').

Later on Monday though, about 3.5 days after delivery, my milk came in! This was really sort of an incredible experience for me. I think it was a bit unique for me because I had been seeing in milliliters exactly how much (or to be honest how little) colostrum I was producing when I pumped. The 'parts kit' that I was given to use with the pump has two different sizes of vials to collect your milk in - one pair collected up to 40ml from each breast, the other collects up to 80ml per breast. When I was pumping colostrum and transferring it to a syringe to feed Miss C I never ended up with more than 5ml TOTAL from both breasts combined. The entire time in the hospital I was using the smaller vials and had to admit, having never seen a breast pump in action before, I couldn't imagine how I would ever possibly need the larger vials! But lo and behold, just a few days later and I needed to size up to the larger vials! Once I started producing milk, I was able to feed Miss C exclusively breastmilk and cut out the formula entirely over that next 24 hours! Every day that week we took a walk over to Natural Resources where they have a baby scale, and I would strip her naked and weigh her. Over that next week we had awesome progress...

  • Monday: 4lb 6oz, as weighted at the pediatrician's office

  • Tuesday: 4lb 8oz

  • Wednesday: 4lb 9.5oz

  • Thursday: 4lb 10.5oz

  • Friday: skipped the daily weigh-in, she's doing so well - only needed to be up to 4lb 10oz by today and beat that yesterday already!

  • Saturday: 4lb 12.5oz

  • Sunday: skipped the daily-weigh-in again

  • Monday: 4lb 14oz

  • Tuesday: skipped the daily-weigh-in again

We went back to the pediatrician the next day, Wednesday, and he clocked her in at 5lb 1oz, beating her goal weight gain by 3oz. Ever since then we have been able to exclusively breastfeed Miss C. We cut out her taking the bottle entirely at this point (since she wasn't needing formula anymore), and we did not sub in a bottle of pumped breastmilk to keep up her willingness to accept a bottle, mostly because I was a little burned out on pumping after having to be so rigorous about it in those early days. So I stopped pumping, and returned that giant Medela Symphony rental that had been kicking around my house for over a week now. 

Additionally during this week #1 of Miss C's life we did make a visit to a lactation consultant on the recommendation of both my pediatrician and the lactation consultants I had worked with at the hospital. Because I had been pumping since the beginning everyone wanted to be sure that me and Miss C established a good latch and breastfeeding as soon as possible. I ended up visiting a lactation consultant at Healthy Horizons down in Burlingame, because this was the nearest lactation consultant that was covered by my insurance! This sort of blow my mind (aka pissed me off) - so do your research. Had I gone to see anyone in the city I would have paid it entirely out of pocket. I found the appointment pleasant, but since our appointment was a day or two after my milk had come in, it also seemed a bit unnecessary at that point, since things were then going just fine. 

(Sidenote: On the pediatrician's recommendation we did start Miss C on a daily bottle of pumped breastmilk at 6weeks old, however this wasn't terribly successful mostly because I really didn't enjoy pumping, so I stopped doing it and we stopped giving her a daily bottle, it seemed unnecessary to add the stress of doing that into our lives. If we need to get her on a bottle in the future, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, she's not too keen on the bottle the few times we have tried again, but it's never really necessary because I haven't had need to be away from her for any amount of time, so we are just not worrying about it right now!)

There were some things which I anticipated experiencing during early breastfeeding, which I was fortunate enough not to. I did not experience engorgement, perhaps because I was pumping on such a regular schedule from the start? Or perhaps because I just had a lower supply? I did not experience nipple pain, so I never needed to use ointment, cooling breast pads, or nipple shields. So if you struggle with these issues I can offer only my condolences and best wishes. I did experience lots of other normal things, like leaking boobs - which let's be honest, I had no idea happened!  Apparently I was pretty uninformed going into this whole motherhood thing. I think having a lower supply made even this not so bad for me - I would generally leak through my shirt at night for the first few weeks, but not to the extant that I needed to change it until morning - I've heard I'm pretty lucky and many friends were waking up in the middle of the night soaked and needing a new shirt! I feel like all things considered I found breastfeeding (once we got over that first initial hump) to be pretty painless and come naturally for me. I also did not experience my breasts getting gigantic (happy and sad face). While I was pregnant I went from a B to a C, and I have stayed at a C ever since. I presume I'll be back down to a B when I stop breastfeeding, but only time will tell. Some friends have had quite different experiences and have grown many many sizes, so you just have to wait and see what nature throws at you!

I've created another post with lists of my personal 'new motherhood essentials', and there is a section just on breastfeeding products that I used - you can find that linked here if you'd like to read that as well.

SLEEPING.

Well now that you've read all about breastfeeding, I guess you know a little of what my sleep schedule was like. In the hospital this was pretty easy, at night I got to sleep for around 2 1/2 hours in a dark room with no baby around, then Miss C got wheeled in, I did my feeding/pumping routine which took about 30 minutes, and then I could go back to sleep. During the day I could have napped if I wanted, but once the sun is up I wasn't really tired, so I never did nap. Most newborns sleep a lot, and don't require much effort to get back to sleep those first few days, so in the hospital things are pretty easy. 

The first night home from the hospital was a doozie though. I actually cried as we stopped by the nurses station to say goodbye when we left the hospital. I think the thought of taking this little (4lb 7oz at that point) baby home and taking care of her without the nurses around felt really overwhelming.

For several reasons we didn't have a nursery set up for Miss C. One is that we have been planning a home renovation, which once it begins will necessitate us living in half of our home, the equivalent of a one bedroom apartment. So we set up a corner of our bedroom as her nursery instead of decorating a room for her (which would be in the soon be renovated half of the house). To add to this, the 'nursery corner' of our bedroom wasn't complete yet either since Miss C arrived early, and though all the things we wanted for the nursery had been ordered, some important things, like the changing table, hadn't arrived yet. Over the next few weeks we figured things out though, and I'm extremely happy with our decision to not only sleep with her in the same bedroom as us, but also to have all of her nursery essentials in there too. Here is a link to a post that lists our basic set up of essentials for sleeping and changing (among other things).

So back to that first night home from the hospital. We didn't have our act as organized as we do now nor did we have any idea what we were doing, and so we set out for this first night with Miss C swaddled up and in the moses basket on the floor by my side of the bed and our temporary nighttime changing station set up on the kitchen island (the changing table hadn't arrived yet!). She would sleep for a stretch and I set my alarm for my every three hour feeding/pumping routine. I left my bedside light on all night so I could check on her whenever I wanted and see what I was doing when I had to get up. Talk about nervous! When I woke up I would get her up, unswaddle her, and place her on my chest to do some attempted breastfeeding (mostly she just fell back asleep). Then, after 10 minutes of that,  I would carry her into the living room. There I would feed her her formula, then we would go into the kitchen and I would change her diaper and swaddle her back up. Then I would bring her back into the bedroom where I would pump while trying to get her to sleep in her moses basket, mostly rubbing her belly or eventually holding her in my lap. Then, once I was done pumping, and I tried to lay down to sleep, she would inevitably fuss. I tried just reaching over and rubbing her belly, but she wouldn't have it. I would pick her up and put her on my chest where she would immediately fall asleep. I would put her back in the moses basket and she would soon wake up. I would get up and pace up and down the length of our house trying to get her to fall deeply asleep. Eventually she would fall asleep and stay asleep once placed in the moses basket, and I would return to bed....for about 30 minutes of sleep before I had to get up and do this all over again. It was a disaster. 

Through this first night, and for the first few weeks, my husband slept with earplugs in. He was able to work from home that first week and was working about half time, so he had some flexibility even though he wasn't able to take the time fully off. The deal my husband and I had was that I would take care of Miss C, and he would take care of me. This meant that in the morning (usually just about when Miss C was starting to sleep better...newborns are prone to having their days and nights confused) he would bring me breakfast in bed. He made sure that I was fed and always had something to drink, and I in turn made sure that our little girl was getting what she needed. This also meant that while I was getting hardly any sleep he was getting a relatively full nights sleep. So since he was getting his sleep, he was able to take care of me which meant that my insufficient sleep was not nearly as debilitating, since I didn't have to really do much other than take care of Miss C. It worked really well for us.

Fortunately my milk came in after only two nights of this, and I was able to breastfeed Miss C and by the end of the week I was skipping the nighttime pumping, which was huge. However, what made even a bigger different is that we discovered the second night that if I laid Miss C down in our bed between us she immediately stopped fussing. At first I did this just so I could lay and relax, not actually sleep. However we quickly learned that for us and Miss C, this was the answer. So, by night number three, our routine had changed. She would awaken, I would breastfeed her sitting in bed, then I would get up and change her diaper, swaddle her back up, and lay her in her moses basket. If she started to fuss, which she did 90% of the time, I would pick her up and put her in bed with us, and we could all get some much needed sleep.

Now I'm sure you're thinking, that's terrible, that's so dangerous, she could die of SIDS. Well, yes, this is the current mindset of Americans in general and the AAP. However, around the world bedsharing is very common and if done safely we felt it was not a problem to do. Neither me or my husband are obese, which is one risk factor for SIDS. Neither of us smoke, and neither of us were going to bed after drinking alcohol, which are two more risk factors for SIDS. We also sleep on a quite firm mattress with a fitted sheet. We both wore sweatpants and sweatshirts to sleep and kept the top sheet and comforter pulled up only to our waists so that no covers were anywhere near Miss C. We had no extra pillows on the bed, and kept the pillows each of us were using pushed far to the edges of the bed away from Miss C in the middle. We both slept touching her (and yes, my husband took out his earplugs when she was in the bed) and were very aware of where she was. 

So this is how we slept for the next two months. It was so easy for me to feed her when she awoke in the middle of the night, and she would go right back to sleep after I fed her. In fact she didn't even ever burp (which is something I asked our pediatrician about, and he said not to worry) - around 10 weeks or so she finally started burping consistently after eating. 

Gradually we transitioned Miss C into sleeping in her moses basket once we established a bedtime for her around 7 weeks, only bringing her into bed in the middle of the night after she awoke to feed. How we made that transition and the following months of sleep is a story for another time though. We learned that we did what worked for us when Miss C was brand new, and I think all three of us were happier for it.

DOGS, MEET BABY.

Coming home from the hospital with a new baby was a big enough deal, but even bigger of a deal is that we have two dogs (puppies really, they turned 1 year old when Charlotte was almost 2mo old) and we simply had no idea how they would react to the new baby. I had read books and blogs on the subject, but to be honest we really hadn't done much of anything to prep the dogs for the baby's arrival. The night I went into labor we left them at home while we went to the hospital (10pm) and had the baby (4am). Once I was in the recovery room (approx 6am) my husband drove home and took the dogs to be boarded at their daycare for a few days until we were all back home so that he could focus on me and the new baby. So, after we got home from the hospital on Sunday at about 4pm my husband went and picked the dogs up from their boarding facility. 

We had a plan, I would be in the bedroom with Miss C with the door closed when my husband brought the dogs into the house. Once I heard them come in I would put Miss C in the moses basket and come out into the hall to greet the dogs, presuming that they would be super excited to see me as is their general manner. Then we would all go into the bedroom and pick up Miss C to show to them. 

Well, plans never really seem to work out. As soon as my husband brought them home they could hear me in the bedroom. One of them ran right to the bedroom door and pawed it open. She started to run into the room, but stopped right in her tracks...like she knew something was up. I was sitting on the bed holding Miss C, and Zooie (the dog) walked in very slowly and calmly, no jumping on me, no barking. She came over and sniffed Miss C, and that was that. She knew forever things had changed. The other dog (KD) is extremely timid, she was basically just terrified of Miss C.

It was very calming to feel like the dogs knew that Miss C was little and fragile, and while I never leave them alone in a room together unless Miss C is safely in her moses basket on the stand up off the ground, I do not worry that the dogs will step on her or harm her. I know it's possible, but I also know that I've observed their kindness towards her - who knows if it is some sort of maternal instinct, or just a protective instinct, but they treat her like their own small being to protect.

HOSPITAL RECOVERY ROOM PACKING LIST.

Since my labor and delivery was pretty short and dramatic I don't feel like it makes sense for me to share with you what I packed in that bag to take the hospital, since I used exactly zero items from it. And yes, pack two separate bags! One for labor/delivery, and a second one for recovery - you can leave your recovery bag in the car and have your partner or family member go fetch it for you after you are moved to your recovery room - there is really no need at all for a bunch of bags sitting around in the labor/delivery room. My experience was that the labor/delivery room was fairly small, and there were a lot of bodily fluids all over the place, we'll leave it at that. When I arrived at the hospital I changed into the hospital gown they provided me with and wore the flip flops I arrived to the hospital wearing. I continued wearing this, and requiring nothing else, until after the baby arrived. If you have a more 'normal' delivery, I am sure many of the items I had packed would have been useful, but I will let someone else on the internet who had first hand experience make that packing list.

When I was transitioned to the recovery room there were several things that I found VERY useful to have around - I really feel like this is all I needed to have with me. I hope you find this list below useful!

  1. Flip flops. I intentionally wore flip flops to the hospital when I was in labor thinking that I what I would want to have on my feet whenever I needed to walk around the hospital. In the recovery room flip flops were perfect stationed at my bedside to slip on whenever I needed to get up and walk (shuffle) to the bathroom, or later down the hall to the nursery or kitchenette. If you're more of a slipper wearer that would work find too. Some people suggest socks work fine as well, but that just seems a little gross to me, better to have something with a real sole on those hospital floors - a doctor friend kindly reminded me what all has been on those floors - it's a good point.

  2. A maternity sized button down shirt, sweatpants, and a zip front sweatshirt/fleece. For the first 24 hours or so I just wore the hospital gowns provided to me. It's not like I was leaving my room anyways, and the only people who came to see me were close enough friends I didn't mind being seen in a hospital gown. The gowns are also designed with big slits at your boobs for breastfeeding, and they're open in the back so that you don't soak through them with your lochia. Gross, but there you have it. Once I was able to get up and take a shower though I was happy to change into some "real clothes". For me this consisted of a baggy pair of maternity sized sweatpants (a pair I didn't care if they got stained or needed to be thrown out), and a button down shirt (this was actually my husbands). I had brought a nursing tank top (the kind with the built in bra) and a nursing sleep top (no bra), but I didn't wear either of them (they got lots of use once I was home from the hospital though!). I found that no bra plus a button down shirt was the best and is the only thing I wore because I could unbutton the shirt all the way for skin to skin contact while trying to feed Miss C. A zip front sweatshirt or fleece jacket is the perfect second layer and opens just as easily. I found the hospital room to be generally comfortably warm, but I did occasionally throw this extra layer on, so I'd recommend bringing it. The key word for the pants is 'baggy' - trust me that you won't want anything coming anywhere near your vagina! I heard of someone else wearing a maxi skirt, which seems like it would do the trick too and is probably cuter. This is also what I wore home from the hospital. There is no need for a cute outfit (also, there is no need for underwear, just wear the mesh panties they gave you!). I shuffled from my room, to the car, into the house. I saw noone, so this simple same outfit suited me just fine. Just remember, don't be fooled when you pick out these items to pack thinking that you'll be able to fit back into some 'normal' clothes. For the first week I was still very very pregnant looking and still wearing full on maternity clothes. Just pack maternity clothes for the hospital, you'll be back in your normal clothes soon enough!

  3. A fuzzy warm blanket. It is true, hospital sheets and blankets are thin. I found that I was very happy to have my own blanket to cuddle up under when I was catching my zzzs. Just be sure that it is something you are OK with possibly having to throw out, or getting stained. At the very least it has to be machine washable. I brought a fleece blanket and it was perfect and survived just fine. Some people suggest also bringing your own pillow, but I found that while the hospital pillows weren't amazing, they were completely sufficient and abundant.

  4. A colorful bath towel. My hospital did provide towels, and they were the size of half of the bath towels I use at home. I was extremely happy to be able to cozy up in my own towel after my shower. Just don't bring a white one, it is likely to get lost amidst the white hospital towels.

  5. Toiletries. Act like you're going away for the weekend. I didn't find I needed anything fancy, but the hospital also doesn't provide anything - for me this was: body wash, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, face cream, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, body lotion, hairbrush, and hairties. Of course, bring whatever you use on a daily basis, and makeup or whatever you feel like you need to feel 'normal'.

  6. Your smartphone and charger. At some other point in time I would say to bring your ipad, or laptop, or some books or magazines. I personally brought my ipad and some magazines in addition to my phone. I never looked at them at all. I did however plug my phone in right by the bed and used it all the time. It was the easiest way to connect with people (phone, text, facetime, facebook etc). I was too emotionally fried to ever actually read a book or even magazine. When I wasn't staring lovingly at my new baby or sleeping, I was somewhat braindead and just trolled facebook or the like. So I'd recommend saving the space in your bag, and just bring your phone and that's it. There's also likely going to be a TV in your room, I'm not much of a TV watcher so I never turned it on, but that would be another good way to pass time brainlessly. My hospital had a bunch of on demand videos you could watch (for free) on topics like 'changing a diaper' or 'bathing your baby' - sadly the service was broken when I was in the hospital, so I couldn't watch those - but I certainly would have!

  7. Your good camera. This one is a personal preference sort of thing. If iphoneography is your specialty, then by all means skip this, but it is pretty special to be able to capture those very first few days of your baby's life. So if you prefer to capture these moments with a better camera, I'd recommend bringing it.

  8. An extra big bag. When it's time to go home you will have amassed A LOT of hospital freebies and other stuff and you will need a bag to throw them into. I found bringing a big bag that packed down into nothing and was easy to throw in my hospital bag was the best way to manage this. For example, here's what I can remember of the stuff I ended up bringing home: breast pump parts, gifts people had brought, packages of mesh underwear, packages of lochia pads, ice packs, lady parts cleaning squirt bottle, swaddle blankets, baby shirt/hats, bottles of formula, diapers, diaper cream, burp clothes, baby shampoo, bulb syringe, and lots of hospital literature/documents.

  9. A car seat. This is required by law. If you get caught a little off guard like my husband and I did when our baby came early, you might have to send your husband out to buy a carseat while you're in the hospital. Fortunately baby stores tend to clump around major birthing hospitals, so this wasn't a problem, but I'd recommend buying a little more in advance than we did. 

  10. Baby's going home outfit. I would say that this is actually not a requirement at all but one of personal preference. The hospital is going to dress your new baby in a (probably grossly oversized) kimono top, and give them a hat which they will wear their entire hospital stay. The hospital will also provide you with as many swaddle blankets as you require. You could very easily take your baby home in this hat and top, and cover their legs with a blanket. Something that my hospital did which no one had told me about is that a professional photographer comes into your room when your baby is around 36 hours old and takes photos of the baby and you if you would like. When they showed up they asked if I had any cute clothes or blankets I wanted the baby in - I was totally caught off guard, but I did manage to remember that I had packed a cute blanket and matching hat and the photos turned out really cute. So, I would suggest brining a cute kimono top (ideally with fold over hand mitts) and footed bottoms (a separate top and bottoms is better for them than a onesie until the umbilical cord stump falls off), hat, and blanket for the babe.

Obviously every baby is different and comes out with different needs so bring anything that makes you feel confident and comfortable with what you're embarking on! I had one person tell me to be sure to bring baby nail clippers/file and scratch mitts - but my daughter didn't even need her first nail trim until almost 3 months and never scratched herself as a newborn. Someone else told me to be sure to bring my nursing pillow and nipple cream, but I found that it was not a problem to nurse in the hospital bed, and my nipples never got sore - my baby was under 5lbs though, so I can see how someone with a larger baby might have a different experience.

So there you have it! My personal account, or as much as I can remember through the fog of the 'fourth trimester', of the first 6 weeks of my baby girls life and how it changed my world and my body! I hope it helps give someone else out there a peek into one scenario of what those first few days and weeks can look like. Remember, regardless of if your story ends up anything like mine or not, all the pain is temporary and you will look back and see just how short that time (that felt like forever) actually was - good luck to you new mamas out there! 

XOXO, Heather

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Baby buying.

Children will not remember you for the material things you provided, but for the feeling that you cherished them.
— Richard L. Evans

Now that I am an 'experienced' (hahahahaha) mother of a 6month old, I feel like I've gotten a few things figured out. Of course, everyone has their own way of doing things and their own philosophies on childrearing - so please don't be offended if your ways of doing things differ from mine! I'm sharing below how I have approached the intimidating world of 'baby gear' and what has worked for us.

For me and my husband we had a few priorities: 

  1. Buy as little stuff as possible. We are aspirational minimalists and didn't want to spend the money on stuff nor have it clutter up our house. In fact, I STRONGLY suggest that you don't buy a bunch of stuff other than the pure basics until your baby is actually here - there are some things that you just won't know if you need or not. (i.e.: Is your baby a puker or not? We didn't end up buying shoulder burp clothes because Miss C rarely spit up, but we probably would have if she was a puker. Is your baby tiny or large? We had bought some newborn and some 0-3month clothes, but Miss C came out under 5 pounds, so we had to go out and get some preemie sized clothes for her, and by the time she fit into the newborn and 0-3 clothes we had been gifted tons of others - I wish we had literally only bought 2 newborn outfits to have and bought everything else after she arrived. Is your baby a scratcher? We bought baby mitts but didn't ever use them because she never scratched herself as a newborn.) This is not to say to not have a list of the best of the best items at your ready so you can find online and order them if you need them, but I would suggest holding off on getting sucked into the world of buying a ton of stuff for baby.
  2. Buy no ugly stuff. As an architect I'm pretty much a snob about anything that comes into my house. Most of the baby contraptions out there are just straight up ugly, big, and massively annoy me. Therefore it took a lot of effort for me to find things like a crib, moses basket, etc that looked good. I continue to struggle with this every time we find need for a new 'thing' for Miss C and spend an excessive amount of time looking online for the most beautiful version out there (in my price range).
  3. Buy nothing that makes noises, lights up, or plugs in / has batteries. Our personal approach to parenting is to remember that people have been having babies since well before plastic and electricity were invented. Therefore we chose to avoid buying things like motorized swings, rockers, toys etc. I know some parents swear by these things, I know most claim to have developmental benefits, and there is now doubt babies love them. Since I had the ability to take 6+ months off work to be home with Miss C I chose to use that time to soothe and entertain her with my arms and body rather than with any contraption. Yes, this is our first child, and yes, I understand why some parents choose or need to use these items, I'm just sharing how we chose to approach this. 

So, here for your use are my personal top products for caring for your newborn, based on my experience!

 

(BREAST)FEEDING

  • Nursing Pillow. I only say this is a must because in that first week it will be nice to have in case you feel like you need it as you are just learning how to breastfeed. I was lucky to get a My Breast Friend for free at at event and used it a little bit the first couple weeks. I'm pretty sure I never used it at all past 6 weeks, it's already been passed on to a friend who has a younger baby than mine. This is definitely something you should try to get as a hand me down from a friend since it has such a short lifespan! And if you feel gross about it you can always buy replacement covers. The My Breast Friend is the best one out there according to almost everyone, so just don't look further unless you find later it doesn't work for you. 

  • Rocker / Glider. OK, well this is another one that I put on here with some reluctance. I did not buy a glider because I think they look horribly ugly. I already owned a lovely vintage version of this small rocking chair and figured I would just use it. Well, I barely used it. Without the high back it was useless for nursing or relaxing while comforting baby, so it is back in my living room where it looks pretty and I sit in to read magazines. With our baby though I simply nursed her in our bed propped up with pillows and still find that to be the best place to nurse! However, I have sat in gliders at baby stores to nurse and they are hella comfy!!! If you have the space for it, and can stand how they look (or even better actually find one that you LIKE how it looks) I think this is a good thing to buy. Get a footrest while you're at it too - comfort deluxe!

  • Breast Pads. I was gifted a box of disposable pads, but found that the reusable/washable ones were more comfortable in addition to being less wasteful! So I highly recommend the Bamboobies brand.

  • Nursing Bras. This is going to be a very personal decision, so I can just share what worked for me. Personally, throughout pregnancy and after my breasts only grew from a 34B to a 36C, so I didn't need any sort of crazy support. It was recommended to me by my OB me to get one cheap nursing bra sometime in your third trimester so that you have one for the first couple weeks after birth, because until your milk is fully in you just don't know how big (or not) your boobs are going to get! I decided not to and instead got some nursing tank tops to have on hand since that size wasn't going to change; this ended up being a good decision for me, and really you can just not wear a bra those first few days (er weeks...) then get one or two after your milk comes in, and get any more that you want after 6wks when things have settled down, your size will most likely go way up and then back down a bit - though mine just stayed 36C all along. I have these three and have found personally I like the crossover style, but some people prefer the clip style. Number one: Bravado DesignRecommended by my lactation consultant as a good one that will fit your early larger boobs and not be too baggy 6wks later when they go down a bit. Number two: Japanese Weekend. I got this one at the hospital newborn shop because they gave me a 10% off coupon to use and I wanted to try a crossover style one and this is the one they carried and recommended. It's ok, but seems to be getting stretched out/baggy after a few months. Number three: Target. I got this because I realized I liked the crossover style and needed a black bra, this is my favorite of the three now!

  • Nursing Tops.

    • Daytime: Most of the moms I have talked to have agreed that the best nursing tanks around are the Gilligan & O‘Malley Cotton Nursing Camis from Target. I literally wear these basically every single day and have for the past 6 months. I wear them under other shirts or cardigan sweaters, I think I have 5 of them in different colors and patterns!

    • "Dressing Up": I bought these Old Navy Maternity Tulip-Hem Nursing Tops on a whim because they seemed nice for the price, and they are actually totally amazing!! They are really forgiving of your midsection before it returns back to normal, and they are extremely discreet  for nursing in public. I basically don't have to use a nursing cover when I wear them. I also wear a lot of button down and partial button down / henley shirts now. The tops by Boob Design and Au Lait are also supposed to be nice, but just cost way more that I could justify spending.

    • Nighttime: I found that the Old Navy Maternity Cross-Front Jersey Nursing Camis are for me the perfect tank tops to wear to bed. (And frankly for those first few weeks I just wore them all day since I wasn't really leaving the house much!) They don't offer the support of a bra, so if your breasts grew dramatically maybe these aren't for you, but they worked wonderfully for me. 

  • Nursing Cover. You will use this SO MUCH, so get one you love. I have the one from Covered Goods and LOVE it BIG TIME. I just really hate how the standard nursing covers look like you're wearing an apron around your neck. I came across this one in my quest and have recommended it to so many people. It also doubles as a car seat cover which I use almost daily as well, no more trying to tie a swaddle blanket to your stroller and car seat.

  • Breast Pump. Check with your health insurance to see what they cover / provide for you. I had the choice of a few pumps, and ended up getting the Medela Pump in Style. It has been working great for me so far and has both adapters for powering from the wall, as well as from a car adapter, and via battery pack, all of which were things I have needed to use for the places I need to pump. It has lots of add ons you can buy like ice packs for bottles etc.

  • Pumping Bra. The Simple Wishes pumping bra is the best I've used! I tried the Medela one first, but it was not very comfortable, which is the same comment I've heard from other moms. (Side note here that there is a newish product on the market called Freemie that allows you to pump with your regular bra and with your shirt still on! I just ordered it, so don't know yet if it's too good to be true, but it would negate the need for a pumping bra which is awesome!)

  • Bottles. This is very personal depending on your babe! We started with the Comotomo which we still use because it is supposed to be most similar in shape to the boob so in theory is easy for the babe to transition back and forth. We also got the Dr Browns Glass Bottles because I really wanted to use glass bottles, and these are highly rated for reducing colic/gas from bottle feeding. However, we don't use them anymore because they are heavier and now Miss C wants to help guide the bottle to her mouth, and these she cannot help with. We have struggled with bottle feeding though and Miss C is totally hit or miss if she'll take a bottle one time to the next! SO frustrating.

  • Bottle Brush. We have the Dr Browns bottle brush in pink so that it's OBVIOUS that it's not for cleaning dishes as it sits by our sink.

  • Bottle Drying Rack. This I put on here only because the Boon Grass one we have is fine and cute, but I don't think this is an essential and I wouldn't buy one if we hadn't been given this free as a hand me down. You can really just let this stuff dry on a towel. If you were going to buy one they have a new one called the Boon Patch that I think is actually more functional in shape. 

  • Bibs. We do use a bib when we give Miss C a bottle since she likes to "help". I generally think bibs are super ugly, so I was excited to buy some cute bandana style bibs which have worked great. My favorites have been from H&M! (I've also heard really good things about the Aden and Anais Burpy Bibs, though I just got one now that we are teaching Miss C to drink from a cup, because that's kind of messy!)

  • Things I chose not to get and have not missed include...a sleep bra (but I do not have massive boobs nor massive leakage!), nipple cream (buy it when you need it, not preemptively, I know many women who have not needed it), a bottle steamer/sterilizer or bottle warmer (a pot of water on the stove works for both of these functions).

  • I'll add here at the end a few items that we are just now starting to buy for starting solids and teething, but these are things you certainly do NOT need for a newborn. Starting solids can probably be a whole other post once I have moved into that territory!

    • Highchair. We got the Stokke Steps highchair. I know the Stokke Tripp Trapp is all kinds of popular, but the Steps is way better looking in my opinion and has all the same "grows with your child" benefits! It was kind of a splurge, but since I have to look at it every day, I think it was worth it. The absolute best looking highchair out there I could find was the Micuna Ovo, but I couldn't find anywhere to buy it in the states and it also costs way too much, but it sure is pretty! Swoon. If you're looking for cheap cheap cheap (but still reasonably good looking) the IKEA Antilop gets rave reviews from everyone and you literally cannot beat the $20 price tag.

    • Splash Mat. We haven't started solids yet, but we already use the Let's Playground Mini mat under the highchair because we let Miss C play with water in her highchair and this catches all those drips (and is intended to catch all the food drips once we start solids)!

    • Sippy Cup. We chose to get the SipSnap which allows us to use any regular cup! We are using them with stainless steel and enamel cups. Since Miss C is currently rejecting the bottle at 6 months old we are now working on feeding her expressed milk in a cup instead.

    • Teething. We got a Finn & Emma Wooden Teething Ring and a wooden and crocheted teething necklace off Etsy because I like the idea of wood over other materials, and these are good looking products!

 

SLEEPING

  • Moses Basket. This was the first major purchase that I made for our baby. We had decided that we wanted her to sleep in the same room as us for at least 6 months as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I really really disliked the looks of all of the bassinets, moses baskets, and co-sleepers on the market - until I stumbled across the Moba from the UK. This was my big splurge, and since they wouldn't ship to the USA (since they don't carry the US safety certifications) I had it shipped to a friend's mother in the UK who forwarded it on to me. I justified it knowing that this will turn into a big toy bin when she outgrows it! I bought the specific liner, mattress, mattress pad, and 4 fitted sheets that go with this moses basket. In retrospect I think that a co-sleeper would have been the most ideal sleeping solution. We ended up bed-sharing with Miss C for the first two months or so, and perhaps with a co-sleeper this would have not been necessary. This would be something I might reconsider if we have a second child. However, the Moba can't be beat for good looks, and once Miss C was sleeping out of our bed (and before she started rolling over and therefore needing to sleep in a crib - so for us months 2-5) this was absolutely perfect for us. Additionally, from day one we could pick it up and put it on the floor in any room we happened to be in, which meant she could sleep on the floor while we ate dinner, for example. That you cannot do with a co-sleeper, so food for thought.

  • Moses Basket Stand. Since our bed is quite low, I expected that I could sleep with the moses basket on the floor next to my side of the bed for the first few weeks, and then transition to the bassinet on a stand near the bed. I also couldn't find a stand in the US that wasn't fugly, so I had the John Lewis Moses Basket Stand shipped over with the moses basket. In retrospect it would have been nice early on to have a stand that rocked, but we made do without.

  • Bedside Light on a Dimmer. Since Miss C would be sleeping near us, I set up my bedside light so that I would be easily able to check on her in the night without turning on the overhead light (way too bright, even though it is on a dimmer). I kept this light on all night long for the first month or two, and after that would turn it off and back on only when I needed to get up and tend to her. Now I just do everything in the dark since I am so much more comfortable with her - keeping the room dark is so important for making nighttime waking as least disruptive to both of you as possible!

  • Pajamas. When Miss C was brand new she slept in a kimono top, diaper, and hat, and was swaddled on top of this - exactly like they will teach you in the hospital. Once her umbilical cord stump fell off we started having her sleep in convertible nightgowns, which she still sleeps in at 6 months (well, larger ones, but same design). There are lots of brands of both of these - but my favorite kimono tops are by Magbaby because they are SO EASY to put on and snap (magnets!!!) closed. The key features to look for are the kimono wrap design (does not go over the baby's head, which is both faster and easier to put on and doesn't make the baby pissed off) and the mitten cuff fold over detail in case you happen to have a baby that scratches themselves. For the convertible nightgowns we love the ones by Finn & Emma - these transition from nightgown mode (good for both boys and girls!) so that you have easy access to the diaper at night without having to fiddle with snaps in the dark, to pants for the day! Since let's be honest, you're probably not going to actually dress your baby in "real clothes" for a few weeks. These also have the mitten cuff fold over detail in case you end up needing that (we didn't). 

  • Swaddles. Some babies love being swaddled, some hate it, and some hate it but require it to keep themselves from waking up - so you will find a million products on the market and you won't know what you need until you meet your babe! We started out with plain old swaddle blankets, which for the newbies are the same as "receiving blankets", which are the same as PLAIN OLD BLANKETS! I don't know where the fancy words all came from. There is no difference in these things. They will teach you how to swaddle your baby with blankets in the hospital, and our hospital sent us home with about 5 swaddle blankets. I actually found that some of the other swaddle blankets I had bought were easier to me to successfully swaddle with than the hospital ones - but to each their own! Miss C did not like being swaddled with her arms in after about 4 days of life - so we ended up swaddling her from the armpits down. Because of this, normal swaddle blankets worked just fine for us. I have both the classic and bamboo swaddle blankets from Aden and Anais and found the classic ones to be a bit big (though I use them all the time for other things) and the bamboo ones to be perfect for warmer nights. Most often I used a few I bought from Wren & Rumor which turned out to be the best/warmth weight (similar to the hospital swaddles), but easier for me to wrap. 

  • Sleepsacks. Since Miss C never liked being swaddled we moved her into a sleep sack as soon as she was big enough since we were essentially using a swaddle as a sleepsack. (she was under 5lbs when she was born, and the weight limit for most of these is 10lbs) We found that the Halo Sleepsacks are wonderful - we use the micro-fleece most nights, and have a luxe-sherpa weight one for cold nights. We also have the Baby DeeDee Sleep Nest Lite for warmer weather nights. The key benefit of these is that if you need to do a nighttime diaper change you just unzip them part way up from the bottom, but don't have to take them all the way off! Combined with a nightgown and you have the easiest nighttime diaper change possible. (Sidenote: Halo also make sleepsack swaddles which many of my friends swore by, but we did not use.)

  • Crib. There are so many options out there for cribs, and so few attractive modern ones!! My most favorite crib out there is the Kalon Studios Caravan. However, it costs a pretty penny ($1000!). So in my eyes the best runner up is the IKEA Sniglar, which only costs $80!!!! Its the best, I highly recommend. We didn't buy this until Miss C needed it (once she started rolling over around 5 months), and we sleep with it in our bedroom still for now. I still enjoy having her close by.

  • Crib Mattress. We chose to spend a bit more on our crib mattress than on the actual crib since we wanted one that was healthy for her since it would be so close to her face so often. We knew we wanted a two stage mattress (firm side for infant use, and softer side for toddler use) so we ended up with this one from Naturepedic. We decided on the foam mattress (versus the innerspring mattress) since it is lighter and therefore easier to get in/out of the crib to change the crib sheets. 

  • Crib Sheets. This is an obvious must and totally up to your taste! Personally we started with the ones from Aden and Anais, in part also because I could buy matching changing table covers and that matters to me. In case it hasn't already been passed on to you (slash beaten into you) - you should NOT buy crib bumpers or crib quits. All that should be in your crib is a mattress with fitted sheet. 

  • Baby Monitor. So I am reluctantly including this because I actually really think this one is totally optional. We have a Dropcam set up over her crib now because we already owned it (we used to use it to spy on our dogs when we were housebreaking them) but we didn't install it until she was around 5 months old. We do not close the bedroom door when she goes to sleep because we wanted her to learn to sleep with some level of light and noise and not be disturbed by it, so I never have to spy on her with the camera, I just peek into the room. At night since we still share a room, there is no need, I just look over at her. I know some people use theirs heavily, but we do not, and if we didn't already own the Dropcam we would not have purchased one. 

  • Things we chose not to get and have not missed include....a white noise machine (yes, seriously), blackout shades, a space heater, or an air purifier (though obviously those last two depend on your home/climate)

 

CHANGING

  • Changing Table. We kept it basic with the IKEA Gulliver Changing Table, knowing that this was a piece of furniture that would be used for just a few years and then no longer needed and sold on Craigslist. This one is perfect because it has two shelves for storing diapers, creams, etc. underneath. Some people will suggest that you can skip the changing table and just put the changing pad on top of a dresser. I would agree with them that this is an excellent solution, but since we didn't have a dresser for Miss C, I found this an essential for us.

  • Changing Pad. We didn't like the IKEA inflatable changing pad that they sell to go with their changing tables, and I wanted something healthy for her since it would be so close to Miss C all of the time. We ended up getting the Naturepedic Organic Cotton Changing Pad, and thankfully it fit the changing table well (somehow these things are not standardized in size so check that).

  • Changing Pad Covers. We got two, which has been sufficient. I like the ones by Aden and Anais, but obviously this is a personal aesthetic preference.

  • Stack of Cloth Diapers. We use disposable diapers, but we keep one cloth diaper on the changing table at all times. This way if Miss C has a blowout or leak, or just straight up pees or poops while she's being changed, there is a chance that the cloth diaper will catch the pee/poop before it hits the changing pad cover. Otherwise we would be changing the changing pad cover multiple times a week, and sometimes multiple times a day, which is just unnecessary. Let the cloth diaper catch most of the dirty stuff and just toss it in the hamper and throw a new one on there. We never had to buy any of these since we were given a bunch from the hospital when we delivered, so you might as well!

  • Diaper Pail. We picked the Diaper Dekor because it got really good reviews for cloth diapering which we were considering doing. It has still worked out really wonderfully for disposable diapers. I think the key feature is the foot pedal that opens the top lid, and then the inner lid is able to be pushed with one hand. This keeps the stink in really well. It also came in colors that I liked. Make sure it is located within arms reach of your changing table so that you can toss the dirty diaper without taking your other hand off your babe.

  • Diapers. We use Honest diapers because they come in the most adorable patterns, and I'm a total sucker for that. It also is attractive that they are somewhat environmentally responsible. Inside I truly wanted to do cloth diapers, or at the very least compostable diapers, but things have just not worked out that way, and I am fine with that. Make sure the diapers are stacked and easy to access. I recommend having just one package of newborn diapers at the ready before baby arrives. We ended up needing to put Miss C in preemie diapers for quite awhile, and some friends have jumped directly to size 1 diapers. No need to stock up until you know what you're in for with your specific baby, and all you have to do is order online when you know!

  • Wipes. We also use Honest wipes because we order them in a bundle with the diapers. I do actually like them better than other brands that I've used, but I won't claim to be an expert on that since I haven't tried very many. Some babies bums are very sensitive and you will have to see what works for your babe. We have been fortunate that Miss C is not too picky.

  • Wipes Dispenser. This is something that I didn't have for a few months, but I now consider an essential that I wish I had bought from the beginning. We got the Oxo Perfect Pull Wipes Dispenser and it has saved me from middle of the night frustration trying to get the last of the wipes out one-handed from those stupid packages they come in, which usually resulted in my shaking the package and it flying across the room.

  • Diaper Cream. We use Weleda Calendula Diaper Rash Cream. This is personal preference, we found this cleared up the only bout of diaper rash that Miss C got in just a few days, so now we use it religiously (only after poops, not after pees unless she has active diaper rash).

  • Reading Light. This is the secret sauce of our setup. Since this is all set up in our bedroom, just feet from the bed, I needed to be able to get up and do the middle of the night diaper changes without waking up my husband. This little light proved to be the magic solution of getting just the right amount of light right where it's needed without lighting up the whole room! I can't find online the exact one we have, but it is something like this.

  • Mobile. Last but not least I actually think this is an important one. We have several mobiles in Miss C's corner of our room, and the one she is most fascinated by hangs over her changing table and keeps her entertained while we change her diapers! This is really important because it significantly reduced the amount of fussing we had to deal with once we got it hung! It's nothing fancy, just a beautiful array of folded paper cranes, but she loves it. It's a great chance to pick out a pretty one you love.

  • Things we chose not to get and have not missed include....a wipes warmer.

 

LOUNGING & PLAYING

  • Bouncer Chair. We didn't want to buy too much big stuff that would be sitting around the house, and wanted Miss C to spend as much time as she could lying on blankets and practicing moving, but we knew realistically that we needed one place where we would stick her and strap her in so she was safely contained for when we needed to do things like shower and prepare food. For us the solution is the Baby Bjorn Bouncer. It is not horribly ugly (though still makes me cringe a tiny bit) and it collapses down easily to store or stick in the car. My husband calls it her mini Aeron chair (designer humor). Most importantly it is ergonomic, and not motorized. We can bounce it with our foot or hand, and as Miss C got bigger she could bounce herself by kicking her feet. We also got the wooden toy for it. We wanted to get the fabric toy too so we could swap them out, but now at 6 months old I'm glad we didn't bother, because she doesn't really even use the toy anymore already! The chair is great because it grows with them until they are around 2 years old! 

  • Boppy Pillow. The Boppy is a classic and something that surely someone will happily hand down to you. I did not use it as a nursing pillow, but I did find it useful for propping Miss C up in when I needed to set her down for a few minutes to do something like answer a phone call. By about 3 or 4 months old this is also obsolete, so just borrow someones!

  • Baby Gym. This is a really useful toy for babies from newborn age until they can roll over because you can really watch them develop awareness as they first ignore it, then look at the toys, then play with them! However, this is also something that become obsolete after a few months, so I didn't want to spend a ton of money on it, and I also didn't want one of the huge fugly ones that I saw everywhere. IKEA makes the absolute best one for the money - the Leka. Best $30 I spent! Personally I didn't love the plastic hanging toys that it came with, so I customized it by instead using this IKEA mobile and these stroller toys from Finn and Emma

  • Toys. Newborns don't need toys. See what people give you as gifts and buy things as you need them at a later date. Miss C's favorite 'toy' is a tied for a piece of fabric or my sunglasses. Second to that she loves paper napkins. Babies are pretty easy to entertain.

  • Things we chose not to get and have not missed include....a bumbo seat (there is actually some opinion of physical therapists that this delays the correct development of their core muscles; it was originally designed to help children with special needs sit up and I am confused how it became mainstream for people to feel like they need their babies to sit up before they are strong enough to on their own), an exersaucer, walker, or jumper (we just let her lie on a blanket on the floor), or foam floor tiles (we just put her blanket on a rug and don't find it necessary in our house for her to lie on the hardwood floor where she would bonk her head as she learns to roll over).

 

TRANSPORTATION

  • Car Seat. We went with the Chicco Keyfit 30 which is a really popular choice among my mom friends. It's pretty light (as far as these things go) and has a good reputation. The only complaint I have about it is that it does not have a contoured handle so it is a bit hard to carry, and the sunshade should be larger. I think this is a fine choice, but I would say it's worth looking at other options for those reasons. You might also consider getting additional head support inserts for once the babe has outgrown the infant insert that comes with the carseat, and before they can do without one completely. Another accessory we have is a Gate Check bag for when you travel with your carseat.

  • Car Mirror. We didn't have this for the first few weeks and once we got it I felt SO much better about driving around with Miss C! We got one from Diono and it is excellent. 

  • Sunshade. So you do need one of these for the car because the sun DOES get in your babe's face, and I still haven't found a good one for us! Because my husband is a car snob he didn't want the kind that stick to your windows - but I think those are a good solution if you're not a car snob. I've also seen the Uppababy Cabana, which seems like it has potential for use in a car, though it is designed for use on a stroller, but we haven't gotten one to try yet as we've been trying some other options currently (none worth writing about here).

  • Stroller. At first I started down the road of researching all the best strollers out there that convert from car seat adapter to bassinet to rear facing seat to front facing seat, ones with second seats you can add for a second child or skateboards you can attached for an older child. I had a whole spreadsheet with car seat compatibility, features, size, and weight. Then I just decided that these were all freaking huge and babies are tiny and I really didn't need one of these. Maybe you feel you do, but in the end we decided we were looking to find the smallest stroller we could get that would fit an infant carseat all the way up until the baby was a kid and out of the stroller. It needed to be small and light and good for travel. We landed on the Mountain Buggy Nano and I have nothing but amazing things to say about it! It has traveled all over the US and Canada with us and I can get it and the carseat packed up and onto an airplane with Miss C is a carrier solo. It's just great. We also have the travel bag for the Nano (though I really wish this came in red - because all the other gate check bags are red for easy ID by the airport staff, our stroller was once set to baggage claim instead of left at the gate for us because they hadn't realized it had a gate check tag on it...pain in my ass because I was traveling solo!), the bug and rain covers, the cup holder for carrying your latte, and a stroller organizer for carrying all your other crap. (Our next job is looking for a jogging stroller...we still have a bit more time before Miss C is big enough to ride in one, so that research is on going.)

  • Carriers. Since I really just don't like strollers in the urban environment (please just please don't bring your giant stroller into my tiny grocery store and block all of the aisles!!!), I have always carried Miss C a lot. I have a few carriers now that have all worked for different functions and I am sure my collection will continue to grow as she does. The first one I used and continued to use until she started to be really active is the Solly baby wrap. This one is similar to the Moby and Boba wraps, but a lighter stretchier material that I think makes it far superior. This wrap can wrap the tiniest baby up to the biggest! For the first few months as soon as I put Miss C in the wrap she would be asleep within minutes. As she got older and more alert she spends more time awake while we are walking together, and this wrap doesn't work as well now because she wants her arms out and free to play with. (Side note, there is this awesome new company called Nesting Days that was not around just a few short months ago when Miss C was born and makes newborn carriers/shirts - but I've met several women in my yoga class who are using it with their newborns and it looks AMAZING. I would totally consider getting this shirt if it had been available!) So, moving on, since the Solly baby wrap doesn't work as well now because she wants her arms out and free to play with, the second carrier that I got is the Wildbird ring sling. I really wanted a ring sling for carrying Miss C around the house with me when she was being fussy, and for times when I wanted to put her in and out of the carrier quickly, like just walking to yoga etc. I chose the Wildbird brand because it seemed the nicest product for a reasonable price. Many of the ring slings can be really expensive. I still use this ring sling a lot and expect I will as Miss C grows into a toddler! The final carrier that I have is the Beco Gemini. This one I actually got for free from an event I went to and wasn't sure if I would use because I thought I would just use my Solly Baby Wrap. However, once Miss C became more active and the Solly Baby Wrap wasn't doing the trick, having this (or any other buckle type carrier) has been amazing! I use it when I am walking the dogs or grocery shopping or doing something else where I need both hands free and to know that she is 100% secure. She can flail her arms and legs around. I still use the ring sling  a lot, but I feel like this is safer for when my hands are totally otherwise occupied. A lot of my friends got the Ergo 360 carrier, but I really feel that this carrier is better for us because it is not as bulky but can do all the same things (front carry facing in, front carry facing out, hip carry, back carry). I'm looking forward to exploring other lightweight buckle carriers and woven wraps as Miss C gets big and strong enough to be carried in a back carry (which is OK once she can sit on her own)! (Another sidenote, here is another wrap, the Beachfront Baby Wrap, that I wish I had known about before I traveled to hot humid North Carolina and Ohio with a newborn this summer - consider this if you'll be going anywhere hot hot hot with your little babe. It is made of mesh, which would have been amazing since Miss C was overheating in all of the other carriers.) A great resource for all of this is Babywearing International - I have been to a San Francisco meeting and am part of their really informational Facebook group. I recommend checking them out if you think carriers are going to be your jam.

  • Travel Highchair. I feel like I could write a whole other post on travel tips, but I'll throw just a few items out there for this list. Once your babe is big enough to stick them in a highchair, this is an excellent thing to bring along on travel! We haven't started solids yet, but we do travel with the Mountain Buggy Pod clip on highchair, and that way Miss C can sit at the table or counter with us and play with some toys while we are eating or otherwise spending time in the kitchen or at a table. It is the smallest of this style that I've found and has the 'C' style clamp (versus the 'lobster' style clamp) so that it works on tables that have a lip on the underside. It will also be good when taking her to restaurants when she's eating solids.

  • Travel 'Crib'. We first traveled with Miss C when she was 3-1/2 months old, and at the time were looking for the most lightweight and packable travel crib out there. If you have ever seen the classic Graco Pack-n-Play packed up in person you will realize that is is NOT small and NOT light. This is seriously it's own piece of checked luggage! They serve a purpose, and we do keep one (a hand me down) at my parents house for when we visit, but they are not airplane material. We wanted something that went into our luggage, and ideally into a carry-on. We ended up with the KidCo Peapod, and even though it says it is only to be used by babes over age one, we have used it with Miss C many times from age 3-6 months so far after hearing from other friends that they had used it successfully with young babes, and it is wonderful. It packs down so small, you can't beat it. It cannot really be used as a playpen, which is the advantage of a Pack-n-Play style travel crib, but I'm OK with that. Maybe my opinion will change when Miss C becomes more mobile, I will have to wait and see on that. Of the more traditional crib style travel cribs, the most compact and lightweight option we found was the Phil & Teds Traveller.

  • Airplane Carrier. This is a product I haven't bought because I don't think it is as relevant for older babies, but had I known about it for our very first trips with Miss C I would have! It is the Flyebaby airplane carrier, and makes sharing a seat with a baby seem a whole lot more enjoyable!

 

DIAPER BAG

The bag itself is important, as are the contents. For the bag itself my husband and I agreed that we should only have ONE diaper bag. I know some people keep one in each car, and have one stashed in the stroller, and then mom has a cute one she carries around. To me this just seems like a lot of bags that are likely to end up not fully stocked when you need it. I'm sure it depends on your lifestyle. For us having just one bag that is always cleaned and restocked when we get home from an outing, and always left hanging on the same hook in the bedroom has been the most sane option for us. Additionally, since we use carriers and walk placed much more often than we use a stroller or the car, having a backpack style bag is really important to us.  With carriers you can't really use a cross body strap bag, and walking around with a bag slung on just one shoulder would be a hassle and uncomfortable too. So we ended up using a plain old backpack - nothing fancy, anything that both you and your husband will carry would work. I had thought that having a bag that zipped all the way open would be important (versus a top loading only style bag) in order to easily get at all the stuff I would be keeping in there - but it turns out that a top loader might actually be better! I find that my bag sometimes unzips itself down the side and then I have to struggle to get everything back in there. Here is what we keep inside ours:

  • Diaper Change Bag. I have a drawstring bag (it's actually a 'wet bag') inside my diaper bag that has all of the diapering essentials in one place for easy changes. Here's what's in that bag:

    • Travel Change Pad - I love that ours is padded and not a plasticky finish.

    • Chux Pad - backup to the travel change pad in case there is a major poopsplosion that renders the travel change pad useless for the next change

    • 3 Diapers - Three, not two...you can easily go through two in one changing! Grab more when you're gone for more than a few hours.

    • Travel Size Diaper Wipes - Most brands sell travel size packs of wipes, carrying around a full pack is very heavy.

    • Diaper Rash Stick - This can't leak like other creams can!

    • Gallon Size Zip Lock Bag - To put your dirty diapers / soiled clothes in.

    • Extra (ugly) Outfit - I always keep a footed pair of PJs that she's almost outgrown in here as my last resort backup

    • Extra Outfit - I only take an cute extra outfit if I'm going somewhere for the whole day, or somewhere like a party where I actually care that she has backup clothes. If your baby ends up being a puker, you'll probably go through more outfits that if they're not.

  • Nursing Cover - Obviously.

  • Patagonia Bunting - This isn't the exact one that we have, but is the same concept. I like to keep it in the bag since San Francisco weather can be so variable. That way I always have a warm layer in case I get caught out somewhere and Miss C is underdressed for the weather. We use it more than you would think - especially once the sun goes down in the winter!

  • Carrier - I keep my Solly Baby Wrap in here just in case I leave the house without one (ie in the car or with the stroller) and end up needing a wrap. This one is really lightweight so I don't mind carrying it around with me all of the time.

  • Swaddle Blanket - Use for warmth, sun protection, to lay on and play at the park, very versatile.

  • Washcloth - Keep this is an easy to grab spot for wiping up messes fast!

  • Pacifier - Miss C doesn't actually use a pacifier. We decided we didn't want her to become dependent on one because they kind of gross me out, they're always falling on the floor, so after one very short failed attempt at offering it to her we put it away and don't use one. We do however keep one in the diaper bag and very occasionally shove it in her face if she's crying at a very inappropriate time (ie - during a wedding!)

  • Hand sanitizer - I carry it, but actually haven't found occasion to use it. Probably a personal call.

  • Compressible totebag - I use this all the time for shopping.

  • Bulb syringe - Just in case of emergencies, they will give you one at the hospital.

  • Waterbottle - Because when you are breastfeeding your will be OMGSOTHIRSTYALLOFTHETIME.

  • Small zippered pouch containing...

    • extra pair of breast pads - because you WILL walk out of the house one day without them in and realize too late

    • menstrual pad - because I have a constant fear that my period is going to come back and catch me off guard!

 

OTHER MISCELLANY

  • Bathing. Some people make a nightly bath part of their bedtime routine, or even every other night. We really just don't bathe Miss C that often since she really doesn't get dirty yet. In any case, here is what we do use when we bathe her...

    • Infant Bath Tub. We got the Boon Naked tub as a hand me down from a friend and it has been OK, but if I were to buy my own I think I would have gone with the Stokke Flexi Bath with newborn support insert. The Puj is also really popular for giving baths in a sink, but didn't make sense for our home.

    • Bath Sponge. Essential with the Boon Naked or for bathing in the adult tub is a contoured bath sponge, so your slippery wobbly newborn doesn't slide all over the place.

    • Soap / Shampoo. Personal preference, we have been using California Baby products.

    • Washcloth. Lie a warm wet one over your baby while you bathe them! Someone taught me this trick and it works!

    • Sponge. We use a natural bath sponge to clean her little body.

    • Hooded Towel. We were gifted this cute Pottery Barn Hooded Towel, but any hooded towel would work! 

  • Other Toiletries. Beyond bathing there are a few toiletries you'll find useful, but everything else I suggest buying as you need it. We haven't used anything else on our babe yet!

  • First Aid Kit. Of course you should have a few basics around in case you need them. We have...

    • thermometer

    • bulb syringe (they gave us one at the hospital)

    • snot sucker 

    • humidifier (we haven't used ours yet since it arrived exactly one day after Miss C got over her first (and only so far) cold, so I can't vouch for functionality yet)

Congrats!

You made it to the end of this list! That sure ended up being longer than I expected, but I hope you find it thorough and useful. 

XOXO, Heather

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Making babies.

A grand adventure is about to begin.
— Winnie the Pooh

This blog is brand new and hardly used, and I think the time is right for me to start using it. Sometimes perhaps I will talk about weddings and other special events, and sometimes perhaps I will just talk about life. Feather West is about celebrating a beautiful life and exploring what that means for myself and for my clients. For now this blog isn't linked through to from my Feather West website, but perhaps at some point I will put it out there in that capacity. So if you've been sent this link, or stumbled across it, I hope you enjoy.

Right now in my life I have a beautiful 4 month old daughter. Therefore, this post is 100% unrelated to weddings, aside from the fact that one condition of me saying yes to my now-husband's marriage proposal was that we would try to have kids. This post is about my life from July 12, 2014 when I found out that I was pregnant, to February 6, 2015 when we welcomed her into the world.

This post is long and detailed. It's probably written more for me than it is for you, but some things in life just need to be written down in order to digest them. I started writing it as the events of my pregnancy unfolded and as I was sending email updates to my parents, otherwise I never would have been able to keep straight what was going on, and probably because it felt therapeutic to write it all out too. If you are a friend who wonders what my pregnancy and birth story is, well friends, here it is. If you have stumbled across this page because you yourself are pregnant and have found yourself in the midst of some of the challenges that we went through, I hope that my words will give you perspective on what you're going through and I wish for you the happiest of outcomes as we were fortunate enough to be granted. If you are looking for the short version here it is:

On February 6, 2015 we welcomed our daughter into the world. She was tiny (4lbs11oz) and a few weeks early (37 weeks, 4 hours) but healthy and we look forward to a lifetime of happiness with her.

At 7 weeks/1 day I found out at I was pregnant - Saturday, July 12, 2014. Based on my googling of due dates based on last menstrual cycles, this baby was due February 27th, 2015. O.M.G. My husband was out on a long bike ride when I took the pee test. My period has always been very irregular, but I waited until one day longer than my longest period ever to take the pee test, maybe I wasn't sure how I felt about all of this! I had no idea how to tell him, and ended up telling him that evening when he suggested we go out to sushi for dinner, and I was all awkward - oh um, yeah, about that....I'm pregnant. He was totally shocked, since we'd been casually trying for a year and a half at that point with no success (reference totally irregular periods on my part) and were getting to the point of saying maybe we should get serious about this and talk to my doctor about how to be more deliberate in our attempts before we move on to discussing possible fertility challenges. I believe his exact words were something along the lines of, 'I didn't know it was actually possible for me to have kids!' I will insert for context here that he was 44 at the time, and I was 34. I will remember the details of this day for a long time because I also had an appointment that afternoon to visit some friends to consult on the possibility of them adding a roof deck and/or additional floor to their house. These friends I knew were trying to get pregnant themselves and I already knew they were having some struggles in that department. I had already thought about how challenging it might be to share the news of my pregnancy with them when the time was right - but little did I know that they were also already pregnant and due 5 weeks before me! Early pregnancy is such a weird thing - no one saying anything to even close friends - so there we were, both pregnant, both possibly feeling weird about it (I can say I was!), and saying nothing. At least I can look back on it with humour.

I called my doctor on Monday morning, July 14. The receptionist simply said that they would call me back, and I would come see the doctor at 10 weeks. That's it? So I just trust that the pee test is right??? I guess so...

That Thursday my parents arrived for a visit, July 17. We told them the good news that evening when I had only a very (very very) small glass of wine. My mom later told me that she hopes I wasn't offended by her reaction of total shock because she was 100% NOT expecting that news from us. I told her she did a good job of hiding her shock, and she DID do a very good job of showing her genuine excitement.

I never got that return phone call from my doctor. Waiting patiently, Monday, August 4th, at 10 weeks/3 days I called my doctor again. They seemed shocked that I was calling and had been lost in their notes, and I immediately had an appointment to come in in two days.

Wednesday, August 6th at 10weeks/5 days I saw my doctor. She felt around, said all looked fine, gave me some prenatal vitamin samples to start taking and sent me on my way with a referral for an ultrasound to be done Thursday or Friday of that same week. I left there still in shock that there was no blood test or anything, that somehow a pee test from Walgreens was right and a doctor could literally feel with her hands the changes in my body to confirm I was pregnant. Mind. Blown. I had lots of blood drawn, as well as a special blood draw to see if my hypothyroidism was being affected by the pregnancy. (A few days later i found out it had, which was expected, and my medication was increased). All other blood tests returned normal (or at least I assume so, they said no news is good news.) It turns out there was some confusion, and the earliest I could have the ultrasound done based on my due date was the following Wednesday. I confirmed with my OB that this was OK, and it was booked.

Wednesday, August 13th, at 11 weeks/5 days I went in for my first ultrasound and first prenatal screening blood draw. I was terrified going into this, afraid that perhaps the baby was dead, having had no confirmation of any sort that it was alive. Indeed though, there it was, alive. Greatly relieved I actually felt excited, which had not been the case very much at all yet. I would get results from the blood test by mail in 5-7 days. I almost considered telling people over the weekend since we were then past the "magical" 12 week mark. Something inside me decided not to, and I did not.

The first bad news came in the form of a phone call on Monday, August 18th (12 weeks/3days) - the call was from a genetic counselor stating that my blood tests indicated a 1:22 chance of the baby having Downs Syndrome. It also indicated a very low PAPP-A reading (mine was 0.1, normal is 1.0) and a slightly elevated hCG reading. We were asked to come in, together, to meet with a genetic counselor the following day to determine next steps. For those of you who also are going to need to google WTF these words mean, here you go:

  • PAPP-A is Pappalysin-1, also known as pregnancy-associated plasma protein A. Low plasma level of this protein has been suggested as a biochemical marker for pregnancies with aneuploid fetuses (fetuses with an abnormal number of chromosomes). Low levels may alternatively predict issues with the placenta, resulting in adverse complications such as intrauterine growth restrictionpreeclampsiaplacental abruptionpremature birth, or fetal death.  (ref. Wikipedia)
  • hCG is the hormone 'human chorionic gonadotropin' which is produced during pregnancy. It is made by cells that form the placenta, which nourishes the egg after it has been fertilized and becomes attached to the uterine wall. (ref. American Pregnancy Association)

Tuesday, August 19th (12 weeks/4 days) we met with Brette, our genetic counselor. She explained the readings and our options. After the appointment I had the Verifi test done (an NIPT - non invasive prenatal test - it was yet another blood draw) and we settled in to wait for the results.

As my husband and I had previously had the Counsyl test done over a year ago (at the time it was a spit test that tests to see if you are a carrier of a large number of genetic diseases), there was less concern about other genetic issues popping up. It was known that I carry genes that can cause two severe and often fatal diseases - Bardet Biedl Syndrome, and Pompe Disease. However both parents must carry these genes for a baby to have these diseases, so once my husband tested clear (for all diseases - lucky man), we felt that we were out of the woods on that, and knew all this before even trying to get pregnant. 

Unfortunately a big mistake was made when my Counsyl test was being analyzed, and the checkbox was not checked to test for Fragile X Syndrome, another severe disease. Due to the discovery of this - which likely never would have been discovered had we not been sent to see a genetic counselor - I had blood drawn for a newer version of the Counsyl 1.0 test again (it is now a blood test instead of a spit test) and we settled in to wait for those results as well.

We were also told that we would need to have an extra ultrasound at 28 weeks, followed by weekly ultrasounds after that to chart the baby's growth due to the low PAPP-A result. We were told that women with low PAPP-A readings have a 1/10 chance of that reading indicating that the placenta will fail before the 40 week mark, and our baby would be delivered anytime after 28 weeks if/once they discovered that the placenta was failing. So, add to the other stresses we were under, we now had the news that I had a 1/10 chance of having a premature baby.

Waiting is horrible. You wait and wait and have to decide what you will do pending the results. We decided that we would terminate the pregnancy should our child have Downs Syndrome or Fragile X Syndrome. No one else knew we were pregnant except for my parents. I tried to distract myself by doing things I normally like, like going for a run. Running basically turning into me slowing to a walk and ultimately sitting down crying somewhere along the trail. So, I counted the days and the hours in each day and just kept waiting.

In the midst of my waiting, it was discovered that my insurance would not cover the cost of the prenatal vitamins that I had selected from the samples my OB gave me. Friday, August 22 (13 weeks) I swung into my doctor's office to get as many more samples as they would give me until this was sorted out. It took forever, but I finally got my prenatal vitamins sorted out and delivered monthly via an online pharmacy for only $25 a month. Pain in the ass, but at least a distraction?

Monday, August 25th, at 13 weeks/3 days, one day shy of a week after we had the Verifi and Counsyl 1.0 tests performed - I received a phone call while at a job site. Through the sound of saws and drills in the background (remember, I'm an architect) I got the good news that the Verifi test results were back and we tested negative for Downs Syndrome (aka t-21 - as well as negative for t-18, t-13 which we hadn't anticipated being problematic anyways based on the initial prenatal blood screening). What a giant relief. After waiting 6 days this news came at the perfect time. I had my annual work review that afternoon and whether to tell them that I was pregnant or not was weighing heavy on me, knowing that there was a real possibility of terminating the pregnancy. The news came on the first day of my husband's business trip (to Tiburon. We live in San Francisco, so I am still laughing about how weird that was.) - so I was glad to be able to rest easier while he was "out of town."

It was stressful and scary, but telling my bosses that I was pregnant turned out to be not bad at all. They were very supportive and I felt relieved.

As a result of the negative Downs Syndrome result (had it been positive we would have terminated and therefore not continued testing) my husband was asked to come in to have his blood drawn to conduct a Counsyl 2.0 test, which he did as soon as he was back from his business trip. This test would be a further analysis of his blood to be even closer to 100% sure that he did not carry genes for the two genetic diseases that I carry. We knew that the chance of this coming back positive was very very very low, but I wanted all the extra assurance we could get. 

But, we still had to keep waiting for the Counsyl 1.0 results for me to test for Fragile X Syndrome to be returned. My husband went in for his Counsyl 2.0 blood draw on Thursday, August 28th (13 weeks/7 days) - and asked while he was there about my results. It turns out they were in but hadn't called me yet! Wonderful news, I was negative for Fragile X Syndrome. 

We were relieved and my husband was ready to tell people. I was not however knowing that we still had his Counsyl 2.0 hurdle to clear, but under his urging I told 2 friends that weekend when the opportunity did present itself. My husband told family and friends as well - I was just over 14 weeks.

Tuesday, September 2 (14 weeks/4 days) I had my routine monthly OB visit. All looked well and I got to hear the baby's heart on the doppler. This was wonderful and a relief. 

At long last, on Tuesday, September 9th I got the phone call that my husband's Counsyl 2.0 test came back clear. At 15 weeks/4 days we could finally breathe total relief. We were back on track. All looked good. Those collective 3 weeks of waiting had been torturous. I wish that on no one. Finally, we were happy - and having a baby! I still had a daily fear that the baby had died, but tried hard to not think about it. I think this is pretty normal. I came close to buying a home doppler (it was in my Amazon shopping cart daily), but my fear of too much junk in the house allowed me to overcome that desire (barely).

The following weekend, at 16 weeks/2 days on Sunday, September 16th we started telling people en masse at a friend's farewell party, it was public. Relief and happiness!

My husband's birthday was Monday, September 29th. The day before - Sunday, September 28th (18 weeks/2 days) - was the first time I felt the baby kick with my hand on my stomach, and for sure knew it was a kick. I could stop worrying if the baby was alive...I could feel it  - before this there were flutters in my stomach (like a fish flipping on a table out of water as someone once described it to me) but this was the real turning point!

Tuesday, September 30th (18 weeks/4 days) I had my 3rd standard OB visit. All was still fine. I heard the heartbeat again, always relieving.

The following weekend we went to Toronto for my husband's cousin's wedding. When we returned, Monday morning, October 6 (19 weeks/3 days) we had our 2nd standard ultrasound and 2nd trimester screening blood draw. The baby was alive and kicking - estimated to weigh 10 ounces, with 10 fingers and 10 toes. All on track. For our 3 weeks of awful waiting on test results, we got to enjoy just under 4 weeks of joy. Then we talked to the doctor following the ultrasound - there were two concerns...

  1. The baby was not in a position to see enough of the heart to complete the standard analysis - we would need to come back in 10 days to have another ultrasound taken. 
  2. The placenta was completely covering my cervix - a condition called a complete placenta previa. If this did not resolve throughout the pregnancy I would need to have a scheduled c-section. Of course, since my head kept switching to worst case scenarios I envisioned what would happen if I lived somewhere without the kind of healthcare we have here today - if I didn't know I had this condition and tried to birth vaginally I would likely have bled to death and have killed the baby too. I was asked to come back at 28 weeks to review again. I was already scheduled to come back at 28 weeks due to my PAPP-A readings, so this was just another thing to pile on to the list of concerns that grew and shrank, and had just grown again.

I called my OB that afternoon to understand what this complete placenta previa meant. This is when i got the really bad news - it meant no exercise except gentle yoga, walking, and swimming. It also meant no travel - which would likely span Thanksgiving and Christmas (and both of our families live airplane rides away). Sadness. Lots of sadness. Basically it meant a huge (albeit temporary) lifestyle change.

Ten days later - Thursday, October 16th (20 weeks/7 days) we returned for our follow up ultrasound. Two results came of this...

  1. The placenta had moved! I did NOT have any placenta previa (complete or partial)! The doctor said that I must have been having a contraction (which you have throughout pregnancy without feeling) during the previous ultrasound, which due to the uterus not being stretched out yet with a large (ie birthing sized) baby meant that it had contracted so much that it pulled the placenta in front of the cervix (temporarily). So thankfully my travel and exercise restrictions were lifted much sooner than expected! Had I not had to come back for this followup ultrasound I wouldn't have gotten this good new for another 7+ weeks!
  2. The other result however was that they felt there was one part of the heart that was not showing as normal, and they wanted me to have a fetal echocardiogram done to look at this in more detail. Sad face. They would schedule it for me.

The next day I still had not heard back with an appointment time for the fetal echocardiogram so I called to schedule myself. The earliest they had available was the following Wednesday - but my husband had meetings that prevented us from scheduling it until that Friday. We felt it was important for us to both be there to hear whatever news would be handed to us.

Friday, October 24th (22 weeks) we went in for the fetal echocardiogram. It was a long exam and the doctor discussed the results directly after. The findings were this...

  1. There was a small hole between the two lower chambers of the heart - called a ventricular septal defect (VSD for short).
  2. The pulmonary artery (that sends deoxygenated blood from the heart to the lungs) was measuring the same diameter as some other important artery (which one I didn't catch - too much information all at once!), but it is supposed to measure larger.
  3. One of the fetal blood vessels (the ductus arteriosus, which in all babies closes up after birth - it is used for transporting deoxygenated blood from the heart via the pulmonary artery to the placenta) is measuring small.

The doctor said she felt that #3 is not a concern, since it closes up after birth anyways and the baby is tracking normal in development otherwise. #1 and #2 however are traits that are indicative of a heart disorder called Tetralogy of Fallot.  We had to go back in another month when the baby's heart is larger to have another look so she can determine for sure if she thinks the baby has this heart disorder. However, she said that she feels it is MORE likely that these are small abnormalities unrelated to Tetralogy of Fallot - #2 potentially will be a nonissue, #1 has a good chance of closing up before birth, or within the first year after birth on its own. #1 may require surgery at some point if it didn't close up. If when we come back in a month she determines that the abnormalities are indicating Tetralogy of Fallot, this would require open heart surgery within the baby's first year after birth. Additionally she said that there is a genetic syndrome (DiGeorge Syndrome) which is often associated with Tetralogy of Fallot, and that if we wanted to do an amnio procedure to test for that we could go ahead and do that anytime. This was so much information and so scary that my husband actually passed out while she was discussing it. This was all getting to be a bit much. Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time, of which my experience so far, it had not been at all.

I called our genetic counselor to discuss that afternoon. She explained that if we wanted to do the amnio procedure to discover or rule out DiGeorge Syndrome (and any other syndrome that the Verifi and Counsyl tests hadn't for some reason caught) we would need to do it ASAP, because the legal cut off date for termination of a pregnancy in California is 24 weeks - I was running out of time to be able to make a decision if we got results which indicated one of these syndromes which we personally felt not up to the challenge of raising a child with. And by ASAP she meant Monday or Tuesday - remember, this is all happening on a Friday afternoon. ASAP. I said I would discuss with my husband and call her right back.

I followed up with a call to my OB because I had a regular appointment scheduled with her for the following Monday and I needed to know what to do. She was out of the office for the day, I was told a nurse would call me back. I guess I said all the right key words, because within a few minutes I had a phone call from my OB herself. She said 100% do the amnio. No reason not to. Yes, there is a 1:500 chance of miscarriage, but "knowledge is power" and she has only experienced 1 patient losing a baby due to an amnio in her career, so she feels the risk is even lower than 1:500. In addition she noted that due to my previously very high risk (1:22) for Downs Syndrome, even though we tested negative on the Verifi test which has a 90%+ accuracy rate - this would give us 100% confirmation - we hoped.

I called my husband, we agreed to do it ASAP. I called the genetic counselor back, and had the amnio scheduled for Monday morning.

Monday, October 27th, at 22 weeks/3 days I had the amnio done. We would be getting both the direct array/chromosome analysis and the micro array analysis. We declined the FISH analysis which only tests for Downs Syndrome (t-21), t-18, and t-13 - the genetic counselor noted that if we did the FISH (whose results come back in 48 hours - how nice would that be!) we would risk having the rest of the results take an additional 2 days, because they would likely not run them concurrently. The t-21, t-18, and t-13 results would come as part of the direct array (as well as the DiGeorge Syndrome result). All went well, I took the rest of the day off work. No issues, just some itching around the needle prick in the following days. Results take 7-8 business days to come back. We settled in for another wait.

Friday, October 31 (23 weeks) I had my (rescheduled) standard monthly appointment with my OB. We discussed what would happen on both sides of the results we were waiting on. If things go well I come back in 4 weeks where we discuss hospital visits, birthing classes and all that jazz. I also would do a glucose test and another thyroid test. If things go poorly there are several doctors who specialize in late pregnancy termination in San Francisco and will be able to accommodate us before the end of next week when we are no longer legally allowed to make that choice in California. She said she has a candle in her kitchen that she lights every day for the patient she is thinking about the most - she said she is lighting it for me this weekend. Fingers patiently crossed.

Monday, November 3 (23weeks/3 days) I got the call from our genetic counselor. My OB's kitchen candle worked - we tested normal for the microarray - which means we are cleared for DiGeorge Syndrome! We should also have shown up an indication of Down Syndrome in this test if present - but the direct array/chromosome analysis will give us 100% confirmation. She suspects those results will be in later today or this evening. Big huge sigh of relief. Almost there.

Tuesday, November 4 (23weeks/4 days) I got the follow up call from our genetic counselor - we tested normal! One more box checked. Now we just wait the 2.5 weeks to get more information about the heart defects. But, as of Thursday termination would no longer be an option (without leaving California and heading to Oregon) - but all this should put us in the clear as far as health concerns that are significant enough to warrant termination. Tetrology of Fallot, if the baby does indeed have this condition, can be corrected with surgery at birth with minimal lifetime effects and limitations. While still scary, I feel like we are really on the way to having a healthy baby in February (or before, we still have that low PAPP-A reading in the back of my head).

Wow, a whole 2.5 weeks without an appointment, and able to feel happy about this pregnancy! We took the plunge and ordered a bassinet and stand as well as the tiny mattress and linens for it. The first of our baby purchases. We also settled on a crib (IKEA FTW), though we don't need to order that anytime soon. Carseat and stroller research is well underway.

Friday, November 21 (26weeks) we went in for the second fetal echocardiogram. This time the news was different.  First, no, it is definitely not Tetralogy of Fallot - so that is good news. However, the hole between the two lower chambers (the ventricular septal defect) is still there - but it appears to be very very small and she anticipates that it will close up on it's own - though it would be checked after birth to confirm so and an operation would be done at 6mo-1year if it didn't close up naturally during that time. Also reasonably good news. But, the "new" concern is that the one of two fetal blood vessels (which remember in all babies close up after birth - the ductus arteriousus) which she had previously noted was measuring small, is now noticeably considered "tortuous" - meaning that it takes a more circuitous path than normal, which means that the blood has a more difficult time getting through it. The good news is that as long as the baby is OK with it during gestation, this closes up within the first 24-48 hours after birth - so it in and of itself is a non issue. The effect however is threefold...

  1. The walls of one of the lower heart chambers (the chamber that the blood is exiting as it enters the pulmonary artery en route to the ductus arteriosus, can become thickened because of the backlog of blood in the chamber due to the slower flow out - she said that this is noticeable now to a small degree, but not to be concerned about really - more so it is an indicator of the other two following concerns which could develop.
  2. The second effect is that the walls of the aorta where the ductus arteriosus connects to it can become thickened (called coarctation of the aorta), which means that after the ductus arteriosus closes up after birth, the normal human heart blood flow path through the aorta can be decreased, which can be OK, but if decreased too much can be an issue that requires repair. She cannot see a thickening here yet, but will check again in 6 more weeks to review. If she determines at that time that it is indeed thickened here the options are two-fold: 
    1. If it is mild, the child would be followed throughout life by a cardiologist to see if they are experiencing any negative effects from this. If they were they may require surgery at some point, likely if there is an issue it will be immediately obvious and surgery would happen in the first 6mo to 1 year of life. Otherwise it is something people can live with without impact throughout their life. Surgery is considered a complete fix for the issue and people lead healthy active lives following it.
    2.  If it is severe, I would be switched to a different OB doctor and deliver at UCSF (where we've been going for these appointments) instead of CPMC where I currently planned to deliver with my current OB. This is so that the baby can immediately after birth be put on an IV of a medication that prevents the ductus arteriosus from closing up. While keeping the ductus arteriosus open via the IV medication, during the baby's first week of life they would perform surgery to repair the coarctation of the aorta. The baby would then be taken off the IV medication so that the ductus arteriosus can take its usual 24-48 hour process of closing up, and the baby would be "cured" of this ailment. They would be followed throughout life by a cardiologist, but it is anticipated there would be no other complications throughout life. My delivery hospital would be changed because UCSF and Stanford are the only hospitals in the area that can perform this procedure at birth. While I like my OB, this change doesn't really bother me, as UCSF is actually closer to our house than CPMC and a very well respected (obviously) hospital. 
  3. The third effect is that because of the difficulty of blood getting through the ductus arteriosus, more blood than should is flowing into the lungs (normally very very little blood goes to the lung in utero) which can impact the baby's lung development. They cannot tell anything more about this yet since the lungs are not used in utero - this is something that has to be checked after birth and dealt with at that time if there are any issues detected.

So, wow. I guess we'll find out more in 6 more weeks and go from there.

Monday, December 1 (27weeks/3 days) I had my marathon morning at CPMC - I went in first for my glucose test, which entails drinking a bottle of flat soda-like drink, then sitting in the waiting room for an hour (I did a lot of reading), then getting my blood drawn. This is a totally normal pregnancy test that everyone gets. To bring some humour to the number of additional test I've had to endure during this pregnancy, my OB told me that if I failed this test and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes that something was very very wrong - apparently based on my ethnicity and height/weight/activity level it would have been extremely unlikely for me to develop gestational diabetes. Fortunately she was right and I passed this test no problem. They also drew blood to recheck my thyroid levels (I ended up with yet another bump in my medication, mostly related to weight gain). I of course left the lab hopeful that all that comes back normal, but I wouldn't know that it did for a few days. Then I grabbed a late breakfast (you couldn't eat before the glucose test), moved my car so I wouldn't get a parking ticket, and went back in for my OB appointment. Nothing to note there, I usually don't really feel like I learn anything at the OB appointments since I have been having all of these other specialized appointments in between. She did say that she is surprised at the baby's small size (at the last ultrasound the baby measured at the 23rd percentile) given my husband and my birth weights - both of which were quite average (me at 7lb12oz, he at 6lb13oz) - so now I'm just feeling more pressure about next Monday's 28 week ultrasound / growth scan. I hope the week goes by quickly.

Monday December 8 (28 weeks/3 days) we went in for the 28 week ultrasound / growth scan. Finally - genuine good news! The baby had a growth spurt, and was measured at 2lb8oz, which is in the 41st percentile - so much more "average" than the 23rd percentile we measured at previously. This is good news on the realm of concerns related to the original low PAPP-A reading. I would come back in another month to check again with another ultrasound - and do nonstress tests starting that day and every week following to be sure nothing alarming popped up, but the doctor there suspected that the low PAPP-A was not affecting me, which was great news - since had the baby's weight dropped below the 10th percentile they would have considered delivering me as early as this week - which was a stressful thought always lurking in the back of my head up until that day. Even if things started to drop when I went back in a month (January 5th), I would be at 32weeks/3 days - so somehow that felt like a less stressful "early" time to delivery - though obviously I would prefer to just hang in there all 37-40+ weeks! January would be a busy month, but for now, just one more OB check in appointment before we left for Christmas vacation for 2 weeks - and then a slew of appointments once we return.

Friday, December 19th (30 weeks) I went in for my final OB appointment of 2014. Uneventful. Got lots of paperwork to read about signing up for hospital tours, birthing classes, disability leave pay, and pediatricians. I would have to dig into all that after the holidays. We were off on vacation tomorrow to visit family in Ohio and Ontario...and arrive back to San Francisco the Saturday before my next (Monday, January 5th) appointment. We took care of signing up for the hospital tour and birthing class while we were out of town. I still needed to take care of my disability leave paperwork and find a pediatrician.

Monday, January 5th (32 weeks/3 days) we went in for the next ultrasound / growth scan, as well as the first of what would be weekly nonstress tests. The ultrasound was fine, the baby had grown to be 3lbs12oz - we were told it is on the low-but-still-ok side, in the 27th percentile. I was booked for another growth scan ultrasound in 4 more weeks to check in again. Then I did the nonstress test, which was uneventful as well. In layman's terms, they strap two monitors to you and have you lie there reading magazines for 20+ minutes as they monitor the baby's heart rate and monitor if you have any contractions. They look for the heartrate to spike 15+ bpm during activity and they want to see a certain number of movements/activities with appropriate heartrate spikes before they let you go. At that first appointment I wasn't sure what the contractions monitor did as I didn't have any while I was there - I did learn that that is the same sensor they use during labor, which I had sort of heard of, but honestly didn't know much about (I guess this is why you take birthing classes!). I would come in and do that test every Monday morning from now until I had the baby - if they detect that the baby isn't having a big enough heartrate spike during activity, or not enough activity at all then they would send me back in for another ultrasound - otherwise, it's just maintenance. They also check your blood pressure to be sure that is tracking normal as well.

Tuesday, January 6th (32 weeks/4 days) I went in for my routine OB appointment. Nothing unusual here - every few times I go in there's something new though. Today was the pee on a stick test which you do every appointment (I still actually had no idea what this tests for - so I finally asked - I was told it tests for protein in your urine which is an indicator of pre-eclampsia), followed by taking my blood pressure and weight per usual. There was also listening to the baby's heartbeat, and then measuring the size of my belly. The new thing today was a vaginal exam - like your typical pap smear, but I learned much more painful when you're pregnant - to be totally honest I'm not sure what that tests for and I didn't bother to ask. Then I had to get a third trimester Tdap vaccine. All seems well and usual, back again in two weeks.

Next up, weekly nonstress test, Monday, January 12th (33 weeks/3 days). The baby was transverse breech which is bummer news, hopefully the baby keeps swimming around and goes back heads down so we don't have that to deal with on top of everything else! Otherwise, readings were fine, so back in a week.

Tuesday, January 13th (33 weeks/4 days) we went to CPMC for their hospital tour. It's starting to seem real!

Friday, January 16th (34 weeks) we went in for our third fetal echocardiogram. The news this time was the best yet. First, the VSD is getting smaller (as the heart gets larger around it) so they are feeling very optimistic that it may close up before birth or within the first few years of life and will not require treatment. We will take the baby in for an echocardiogram within their first month of life to assess again and go from there. Also the tortuous ductus arteriosus seems to still be present, however she is not seeing evidence of coarctation of the aeorta so she feels that this is likely not having an impact on our baby. She (a new doctor as our other doctor was now off on maternity leaver herself) did express concern that due to its 'tortuous' nature, it might not close up on its own after birth, but if that happens we will deal with it from there. We were cleared to deliver at CPMC as planned which is great. Also, in good news, the baby was back heads down today!

Monday, January 19th (34 weeks/3 days) I went in for my weekly nonstress test. Baby was still heads down, though the spine was on the other side, so still moving around in there. I had been feeling non stop movement since Friday, which I guess is more common when the baby is heads down. Readings were fine, back in another week.

Wednesday, January 21st (34weeks/5 days) I had my biweekly OB appointment. Nothing to note, all looks good. She did note that per the nonstress test reports she's getting, that my levels of amniotic fluid are on the higher end of normal (I'm at 19cm, normal tops out out 24cm) - so I may be feeling some discomfort from that, but nothing to be concerned about unless the levels start to change. 

Monday, January 26th (35 weeks/3days) is the weekly nonstress test again. It was uneventful, good baby movements and heartbeat and baby is heads down. Last week I thought maybe I felt and saw a contraction while hooked up, but this week I'm fairly certain I felt and saw a few. They are still very random and weak, which sounds about right. Will see what next week holds.

Thursday, January 29th (35 weeks/6 days) we met with the first of the two pediatricians we were able to get in with (who knew getting a pediatrician in San Francisco was so difficult?!) - Dr Goldstein of SF Bay Pediatrics. It was brief and she was nice, I had no idea what questions to ask - so we will go meet the next pediatrician in a few weeks and maybe the choice will be obvious. We were also supposed to attend the CPMC Childbirth Class today, but it was cancelled. This is a total bummer since the next class isn't until February 15th! We have access to the online class now instead, but I really wanted to drag my husband to the in person class since I know he's not going to make time to do the online class.

Saturday, January 31st (36weeks/1day) we did a maternity photo shoot. I wasn't planning to do one, but in these last few weeks I found a great opportunity to collaborate with a photographer friend (Olivia Smartt) and a florist friend (Lily Goff) and decided to go for it - and it was so so so much fun! 

Monday, February 2nd (36weeks/3 days) - It's now due date month! I started the morning with my usual weekly nonstress test and all went well, good movements etc. I followed that appointment up with another growth ultrasound - the baby has slowed down in growth but is hanging in there at the 17th percentile and weighing in at 5lb 7oz today, so the doctor felt like things looked good enough for me to not come back for another growth scan. She said the head is measuring narrow, and that that is probably driving the low percentile. She also said that she can no longer detect the VSD - which is not to say that it is not there anymore, we will still have it checked after birth, but it is to say that is is getting smaller, so that is all great news! Feeling good after today! I started to feel like I was maybe getting a cold throughout the afternoon though - and by the evening knew I wasn't feeling well. I went to bed after some comfort food of mac and cheese and woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible sore throat. Being quite pregnant and sick sucks.

Tuesday Feb 3rd (36weeks/4days) I stayed home from work because I was still feeling lousy (though at least the sore throat went away) but I did go in for my weekly OB appointment. First the good news - I am a "loose 1cm dilated" so my body is in the know that this baby is going to be ready to come in the next few weeks. Then the bad news, my blood pressure was high - they checked it three times to be sure. This was concerning since yesterday at my nonstress test it was totally normal. They also thought my weight was high (12lb gain in 2 weeks!) - but turns out that was user error - it was only 2lbs, phew. Thanks a lot nurse! My OB had me do blood and urine tests down in the lab which they got results of in 2hrs and had me call back to discuss. When I talked with my OB after those results came back she said that it leads her to believe what she was concerned about is true, which is that I have developed pre-eclampsia. I was sent home with a container that looked like a brown orange juice jug to do a 24hr urine collection test which would confirm if I did indeed have pre-eclampsia. Though the lab told me to start the test the following morning my doctor had me start right away so that we would get results sooner. So now I'm peeing in a jug for 24hrs and have to return that to the lab tomorrow for review. I've also been told to go to the ER if I get headaches, face or hand swelling, or vision blurriness. I also have to come in Friday for another blood pressure check. She said if it gets too high, and pending the results of this pee test she will likely have me come in and be induced early - ie, have that baby this weekend. Holy cow. Scary, it's kind of getting real...and soon... The rest of the day pretty much sucked, I DID have a headache, but I had that all day due to being sick and also had body aches. 

Wednesday, February 4th (36weeks/5days) I'm peeing in a jug all day and then had to run it over to the lab after my last pee of the 24hr test (5:13pm) and before the time the lab closes (6pm). Fun times.  I was back at work today even though I still felt sick, a little less achey but the runny/stuffy nose is developing. Totally sucks but I'm so low on vacation hours and totally all out of sick hours, so here I am - peeing in a jug at work. Awesome. I made it to the lab in time and just waiting until Friday for results.

Thursday, February 5th (36weeks/6days) I stayed home from work again. I still had a lingering cold, and I decided I just couldn't be bothered to go into the office and try to be productive for the day. Instead I spent the day trying to sleep it off, and in between naps did some productive things like doing the online childbirth prep class, washing all of the clothes/linens/etc that we had bought for the baby, and packing my hospital bags. All day I felt like I had been getting small back aches like I get during my period - it was basically just annoying and I attributed it to this cold that I had. If you've had a baby at this point you are probably saying, of course you were going into labor!!! How did you not know?!?! Well, I did not know. I had 100% no idea. While we were eating dinner however it felt like this back pain that came in waves was getting a little more noticeable and mentioned it to my husband. He was not concerned and said he's sure it was because I was sick, and that I should go to bed early and just try to sleep this cold off.  By the time we finished dinner however the back pains were becoming certainly more noticeable and rhythmic, I decided to start timing them with the contractions app that I had downloaded. I also recalled an email exchange that I had had with a friend earlier in the week when we were discussing the fact that I may have pre-eclampsia - she advised me that if there is ever an appointment in the coming days/weeks where I thought that there is a chance that I will be kept and admitted to the hospital to be induced, that I should be sure to go to that appointment with a stomach full of food and freshly showered! So I decided that after dinner I would be taking a shower - and continuing to time these contractions(?). By the time I got out of the shower things have moved from noticeable to borderline painful. While my husband was still advocating for me getting to bed and resting this off, we both agreed it would be prudent to call the 24 hour hotline at my OBs office to discuss with the on call nurse.

I made the call and the nurse advised me that this did in fact sound like I was going into labor. Per my contraction timing app these were lasting 30 seconds each and spaced consistently 2 minutes apart. However, all of this was happening at 9pm, and since I was still not full term (which is 37 weeks) - I was shy of being full term by about 3 hours at this point - that medically she had to advise me to try to slow and stop the contractions because I was technically in preterm labor, which meant going to the bathroom and emptying my bladder, taking some tylenol, and going to bed to rest. If the contractions did not slow or stop, if I experienced any vaginal bleeding, or if my water broke, I was to call her right back and she would call in to the hospital to alert them that I would be coming in ASAP. 

I was certainly slightly panicked at this point. I in no way was expecting to be in labor this evening - at worst case I had been prepping myself for the possibility of being induced the next day or over the weekend pending the results of my blood pressure and 24 hour urine test. I did step one of her directions, which was to go use the bathroom. At that point I realized that I had in fact started having vaginal bleeding. I called her right back, at this point having to kneel on the floor in the middle of our conversation when a contraction happened. Things were starting to move really fast. We were told to head to the hospital immediately. Holy crap. I gathered the hospital bags which I had packed just hours before, and my husband let our two dogs out in the yard to pee and tried to tidy up the house just enough so that they wouldn't destroy anything for the next few hours (or more?) while we were gone. Off we went to the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital they were expecting us and we were immediately checked into OB triage and given a room. I was examined and declared at 3cm dilated, so I was going to be admitted. O.M.G. We are having a baby?!?! Holy crap. Since we hadn't gotten around to filling out the birth plan paperwork the nurses asked two basic questions...

  1. Who is your pediatrician?
  2. What are your pain mangement preferences?

Well, #1 had me and my husband looking back and forth at each other - we had only met with one pediatrician! We had an appointment to meet with the second one that coming Wednesday - so, well, I guess our doctor is Dr. Goldstein, she seemed nice enough, right? Then #2, to which I indicated I intended to go without medication as long as I felt possible. The OB doctor on call came in a few minutes later to discuss things with me and she noted that while she respects my preference not to use pain medication, and felt that given my current ability to manage the pain at the 3cm I was at she felt that I would be able to pain manage this myself if I so chose, however, she would like me to be put on an epidural - that I was welcome to delay when it was administered up to a certain point - but she said that she would like me put on one before my labor advanced too far. Her exact words then were something to the effect of: "Due to your history of having a (albeit resolved) placenta previa, and the vaginal bleeding that you are experiencing, I am not sure what your delivery will be like. I feel that there is the possibility that it will require some intervention that you will not be able to pain manage yourself." At the time this sounded like code for something I didn't need to / want to know about, and I trusted her expertise. However, mentally, once I knew I would be getting an epidural at some point, my desire to continue to pain manage the increasingly painful contractions on my own came to a halt.

This was all happening at approximately 10pm. I was walked upstairs to the delivery room and I requested to be put in line for getting an epidural. To prep for this the nurses had to put a hep-lock into my arm (also called a saline lock, this is an intravenous catheter that is threaded into your vein, flushed with saline, and then capped off for later use. This way you are not hooked up to an IV pole, but the nurses have easy access in case you need something injected into your vein later.) which is how they would initially administer pain medication that would enable me to keep still for the full 15 minutes it takes to administer the epidural, and it would be there in the event I needed anything else via IV during labor/delivery/post delivery. To do this you have to stay still so that they can find your vein and get the needle in - which is NOT easy when you only have 1-1/2 minutes between contractions which at this point were so painful I was kneeling on the floor with my face pressed into the bed during each one. So they did their best to get the needle in between each contraction but they failed terribly. I ended up with 4 different nurses trying, and 4 different failed punctures in my arm. Finally the nurses gave up trying to put it into my forearm and let the anesthesiologist put it in the back of my hand. Now that I've experienced having it in the back of my hand I can say that the forearm would have been a million times better (as the nurses were trying to tell me). With this large piece installed on the back of your hand you can't really use that hand for anything, including pushing yourself up / repositioning yourself in the bed, holding your baby, etc. But whatever, I was getting pissed at the nurses for this taking so long (I have small veins and giving blood has always been a challenge, so I can't really fault them) so, when the anesthesiologist finally got there to give me the epidural at 2am I didn't really care where it went anymore. Fortunately that process went very smoothly, and my husband who usually passes out in the presence of blood or needles managed to keep it together and stay conscious through all of this (though he did admit to turning away and not watching most of it). The effect of the IV pain medication was slow but helpful, and the effect of the epidural was nearly immediate. It took quite awhile for the epidural to take full effect of numbing my legs, but the numbing of the uterus was immediate and a great relief. I was somewhere between 5-7cm dilated when it went in, and had only been in active labor and at the hospital for 4 hours. Things were moving very fast, and for this reason my contractions were more painful and more frequent that I had been prepared for. I also continued to experience significant bleeding, soaking through sheet after sheet on the bed and losing a significant amount of blood all at once when I stood up prior to receiving the epidural. My husband and the nurses were noticeably concerned by the volume of blood, and the doctor was called in several times to consult, but she assured us all that this was fine as long as the baby and I were continuously being monitored. From 2am-3:30am or so we settled in to wait though really time flew by - I was continuing to progress, and through my pain was dramatically reduced with the epidural, I was experiencing some painful (this probably isn't the right word considering what things could have felt like) leg cramps in my right leg. For some reason the epidural was numbing my left side but causing me cramps in my right leg similar to sciatic pain. The nurses did what they could to take the edge off this, but it mostly amounted to me being turned from my left to right side every 10 minutes or so, which was a 3 person procedure once my legs were mostly numb.

Around 3:30am when I was being examined my water broke and flooded the table and floor with very red liquid. My husband almost lost it at this point,  but held it together and the doctor assured him that this was still OK, mostly water, just colored with some of the blood that I was losing. I think it is probably a good thing that although I felt it break I could not see it from the position I was lying in the bed. At this point she announced that I was fully dilated at 10cm. The nurses prepped me to settle in to wait for the right time to start pushing, and my husband pulled out the tiny chair-bed they offer dads and curled up to catch some sleep. Discussion had ensued about what the timing of this all might be - the nurses indicating to my husband that chances are I wouldn't start pushing until around 6am - he had considered going home quickly to feed and let out the dogs, but decided to get some sleep first and stay with me.

At around 3:45am the beeping from the monitors that were hooked up to me that were charting the baby's heart rate suddenly slowed down dramatically - I knew just enough to feel concerned, but not enough to really know what was happening. All of a sudden the nurses sprang into action and an oxygen mask was put on my face. The doctor arrived and announced that we were having this baby right now and it was time to get ready to push. My husband was looking around confused from the chair-bed he had literally just laid down in, and worked his was to my side. The doctor explained in a calm but quick voice how I was going to push and then the nurses would tell me when I was having the start of a contraction and to push. It was all very surreal - it began literally 30 seconds later and I was pushing maybe 4 times tops - I couldn't feel anything except pressure, so it is honestly quite amazing that I (or anyone else who has birthed a baby with an epidural) does the right thing since you can't feel what you are doing at all! After a few pushes the doctor narrated that she was performing an episiotomy because we did not have time to allow me to tear naturally, and, fun fact, that I have a very short perineum (distance between my vaginal opening and anus) and would likely tear all the way through without the episiotomy. I'm glad I didn't have time for this little bit of info to sink in at the time!

She continued by stating (all in a very calm voice despite the fact that things were moving very fast) that she could feel that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck, and that she would be using vacuum extraction to get the baby out right now. I heard my husband make an audible gasp and tighten his grip on my hand. And then, within seconds, at 4am exactly, this bloody red tiny little baby was out in the world!

A few snips and the umbilical cord was removed, and this tiny baby was rushed across the room where the NICU staff was on hand to check her out. Since the baby was no longer technically a preemie (she made it to full term by a whole 4 hours!), once they were able to do their basic exam the NICU staff deemed her healthy and she was released back into the care of the nurses. They asked my husband several times if he would like to cut the last of the umbilical cord off which he declined several times until they finally got the hint that he was not in the least bit interested. Back over on my side of the room I was still in disbelief that all of this had just happened. I pushed a few more times to expel the placenta and began experiencing the after effects of all those hormones flying around after delivery, which for me were the 'labor shakes' - uncontrollable shaking of my hands and arms. I was assured that this was totally normal and to not try to fight it, that it would only make it worse. I was stitched up from the episiotomy and as this was happening a nurse called from across the room asking if we had named her. OMG! In all this drama I hadn't even asked if  I had just given birth to a girl or a boy and the doctor hadn't told me!!! Because we had to take the Verifi test back at 12 weeks, which in addition to testing for genetic diseases can also determine the baby's sex, my husband had known since then that we were having a baby girl - he had shared this information only with my mom, my brother, and my sister-in-law - no one else knew! I had chosen not to find out, and he had kept his promise and no one had told me. So hoorray! It's a girl! After a few minutes of examination and cleaning up she was brought over to me and placed on my chest. What a surreal experience to have this tiny new baby lie on your chest and root around and begin to nurse with no prompting or effort on your part, simply incredible. We were able to bask in new parenthood now - how incredible after all we had been through. A tiny little lady, only 4lbs11oz, 18.5" long, was ours.

Now that things had calmed down and after we had been able to hold her for a little while she was taken back by the nurses to do some things like the antibiotic eye ointment, the initial Hepatitis B vaccination, and her first bath. My husband was finally realizing how shaken by this whole experience he was and was brought some juice because it looked like he might pass out. I was also brought some juice to start getting rehydrated. That didn't work out so well for me, and a few seconds later I asked if any of the medication I was on should make me nauseous - the nurses said no, and yet all of a sudden I was throwing up. Good times. Fortunately all this happened quickly and passed, and I was left there with my still nonstop shaking hands to wait to for us all to be transitioned to the recovery room. The nurses did their best to get rid of the blood and vomit I was now covered in, but at this point, let's be honest, I didn't really care.

Maybe around 5am or so we were rolled down the hall to our recovery room. Despite the hospital and our own preference to room-in with her, our new daughter would be staying in the nursery for awhile for supplemental formula feeding and observation due to her being deemed hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). I was frankly totally OK with this since I was completely exhausted and happy to just roll over and fall asleep for a few hours. My husband headed home to take a nap himself, care for the dogs and do other important things, like go buy a carseat (oops).

A few hours later in the morning when my OB came in to work she stopped by my room. She opened by saying "Well, that's one way to have a baby!" Yes, ma'am, yes it is. This is when I found out that the delivery experience I had just had was due to a placental abruption (remember that being on the list of possibilities back when I tested low for PAPP-A?). I started by experiencing a partial placental abruption which means that the placenta had begun to pull away from the uterus, this is what triggered me to go into an accelerated labor and experience vaginal bleeding. I was very very lucky that I had reached 10cm and was fully dilated before the placenta fully abrupted (pulled completely away from the uterus) - which is what happened when the baby's heart rate dropped and she had to be delivered immediately. It is apparently fairly rare for a pregnancy experiencing a placental abruption to be delivered vaginally, this condition usually results in an emergency c-section. I now know that the doctor who delivered our daughter knew what was going on the entire time but chose not to share it with me (which I am 100% fine with) and her words concerning the epidural when I was checked in were related to her knowing that there was a very real possibility of me requiring an emergency c-section (which obviously is not something you pain manage yourself!).

What happened over the next few days and weeks is for another story. I will end by saying the following to bring closure to those last few concerns that were raised for us during the course of the pregnancy...

  • Our little girl's blood sugar was brought within normal ranges over the next day.
  • Her in-hospital pediatric exam determined that she did not appear to have a VSD or coarctation of the aeorta, the ductus arteriosus closed up normally, and her lungs had developed normally. We did have a follow up appointment when she was few weeks old with the pediatric cardiologist at UCSF and they confirmed these findings. Though there were a few new very minor concerns with her heart, they assured us these defects were very minor and they anticipate being able to give us a 100% clean bill of heart health at her next appointment when she is 6 months old. If for some reasons this evolves into something else, I guess that will be another story to share at another time.
  • I found out later at my 6 week follow up appointment that it had been determined that I did not ever actually have pre-eclampsia - it is unknown what caused my blood pressure to spike those last few days, but likely related in some way to me being about to delivery the baby early.

And that is how we welcomed our little princess into this world! I hope this long long story will someday help and bring perspective to someone else who is desperately googling around as they try to cope with some of the issues we faced - and I hope for them that they are blessed with a healthy little baby in the end as well. I spent a lot of time googling the various conditions and diseases we were faced with, and reading stories by real people, no matter their outcome, was always more impactful than reading medical websites which really just scare you to pieces. To my friends and family who made it through this whole story, our little lady has an extra hug for you next time she sees you. ;)

XOXO, Heather

Photo by CPMC Bella Baby Photography

Photo by CPMC Bella Baby Photography






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