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Elena’s Birth Story–Part 1

Before I get started, I should warn that if you get squeamish about blood, and other very TMI related details, you might want to skip this.  I loved hearing birth stories while I was pregnant, so figured others may be interested in mine as well.  Plus, I don’t want to forget the details of the delivery, so this is very long!  Dividing it in two parts so when I start forgetting things, I can look it up here and remember the day our lives changed forever…

On Monday morning I went to the doctor to get my membranes stripped for the 3rd time.  I was hoping there had been some changes since my 39 week appointment, but sadly, I was still 1 to 2 centimeters dilated, 60% effaced, baby still at -2 station. 

For those of you unfamiliar with pregnancy terms, for a baby to be born by a vaginal delivery, you need to be 10cm dilated (that’s how open your cervix is so baby can come out), 100% effaced (meaning how thin your cervix is getting in order to allow full dilation), +3 station (it goes from -3 to +3, meaning if baby is high or has dropped).  So basically, I was barely dilated, walking around for 2 weeks with no change, and the baby was still very high.

I made an appointment to go back on Thursday, and the doctor was going to do an ultrasound to check if everything was ok to let me go overdue, and we talked about an induction when I reached 41 weeks.  I left feeling deflated, and as I was on my way out and told the secretary “see you on Thursday” she smiled and said “No…  I’m not going to see you on Thursday…” (Great intuition, no?)

I met a friend at Jamba Juice in the Fort after my appointment, talked about how little had happened, walked to her place with her since I wanted to get things moving, and as I was walking back to High St at almost 1pm, I texted Karl “This time I didn’t even have cramping afterwards 😦 ” 

At 2:15pm I sent Karl a text “Spotting and a bit of cramping now.  So at least the strip did *something*” 

At this point, every time I went to pee, I also had to wipe a lot of bloody cervical mucous.  The “bloody show” as they call it, can be a sign that labor is starting, but because I had the membrane strip, I was associating it with that, since that can cause spotting and cramping.  (The bloody cervical mucous never stopped, and lasted until my very last trip to the bathroom the next day.)

Twenty minutes later I wrote “Cramps come and go.  Don’t get excited though.  Decided to time them and they last 10 seconds each.  Def not labor.”

Karl had a facial after work, which I told him to go to.  At 6:45pm I texted “No labor.  Contractions stopped.”

Karl got home around 7pm, by that point things had started up again and they were coming strong, by 7:50 the contractions were lasting about 25 seconds, anywhere from 1.5 minutes to 2.5 minutes apart, and I couldn’t talk, walk or do anything during them. 

I had bought fondue cheese earlier that day, and since I didn’t meet my friend for dinner as planned because of the pain, I decided that it was a good day to make fondue, because if I was in labor we might not get a chance to eat it later.  So I cut up the baguette, cut up and boiled potatoes, prepared the cheese, and we sat on the couch to eat.  It took forever to get things ready, because I kept having to stop to deal with the contractions, the same thing happened while eating dinner.  At this point it was around 9pm.  The contractions were just as frequent but still not lasting more than 35 seconds.

At 10:30pm the pain was getting worse and more intense, I went with Karl to walk Lily, and when we got back I started talking about going to the hospital.  I couldn’t deal with the pain, and all the online tips we found (massaging back, counter pressure, being on all 4’s, sitting on the exercise ball, taking a hot bath, etc, etc) didn’t do crap to ease them.  Trying to do anything actually made the pain worse.

Karl was hesitant to go to the hospital and being sent back home, since everything we read said to not go to the hospital until your contractions are 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, lasting for at least an hour.  At that point, they had been anywhere from 1.5 to 3 minutes apart for about 4 hours, but aside from one contraction that lasted 3 minutes (!!!), they never lasted more than 50 seconds, and for the most part they were only 30-40 seconds long.  We didn’t know if it was only early labor (when you should stay home) or active labor (you should go to the hospital) because it didn’t follow any of the patterns we read about.  Contractions lasting only 30 seconds are usually early labor, contraction intervals lasting 5 minutes or less usually means active labor.  The last thing I wanted was to drive to the hospital in pain, only to be sent back home!

I texted the doctor to see if she could provide any guidance, but she never texted me back.  In her defense, I texted her at 11pm, and she had been very clear to CALL her when I went into labor (here the doctors actually give you their cellphone and home phone numbers, I’m so going to miss this personal care at my next pregnancy!).  I didn’t want to call her though, because it was late at night and I was still not sure whether this was anything so didn’t want to bother her for no reason.

I finally gave up, put make up on (I wanted nice postpartum pictures – spoiler alert: by the time I gave birth I looked liked crap, and got no good pictures), took this one last picture (I’m totally faking this smile in between contractions), and we headed out.  You can see from the picture, how my belly was still very high, and baby hadn’t dropped.

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It was hard convincing Karl to go, I knew how unbearable the pain was, Karl was timing them and knew how frequent the contractions were, but still they weren’t following any patterns.  Since it was so late, I told him we would be in the hospital within 10 minutes, not having to deal with traffic, and if they sent me back then it would just be another 10 minute drive back home, but I really wanted to get checked because I couldn’t handle it anymore.

I should take this moment to say that the contractions were much much much worse than anything I’ve ever imagined.  It felt like my body was literally being ripped apart from the inside.  I had heard that in between contractions you get a break and feel normal, but in between contractions I still felt pain, they were just not as bad.  I really don’t think it’s a low pain threshold thing, as I’m not particularly weak (heck, my dental fillings were all done without anesthesia, because I’m more afraid of the needle than of the grinding pain), but I’m convinced that just like pregnancy is different for everyone, so are the contractions and pain of labor.  I mean, everyone’s body is different, so why assume that labor feels the same for everyone?  My grandmother had four pain free labors, and mine were the complete opposite of that, so it wasn’t just because she dealt better with pain.

The weird thing is that though I’m a crier, at no moment I cried, it was all just so painful, that I didn’t even have energy for that.  And at no point during labor did it even cross my mind “I’m having a baby!” or get excited about the end result.  All I could do was deal with the pain at that moment and concentrate on breathing.

So off we went to the hospital…

(To be continued, I’ll post the second part tomorrow.)

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Pregnancy Update: 40 Weeks!

Ok, so maybe I didn’t make it quite to 40 weeks…

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Meet baby Elena, named after my maternal grandmother, or as Karl has affectionate nicknamed her, Ellie.

Baby Elena was born on March 5th, at 8:47am, 19.75” (50cm) long, and weighing what must have been around 7lbs.

She weighed 6lb 6oz in the delivery room and was up to 7lbs the next morning… No baby gains half a pound overnight after birth, they actually lose weight. So after testing with various scales that confirmed the 7lb weight, it was decided the one in the delivery room needed to be calibrated. Good thing I don’t really care much about this mistake – everything from my labor to my hospital stay went so well, that a faulty scale did not ruin my experience!

I left my Monday’s doctor appointment convinced I would be overdue.  The doctor and I discussed an induction date at 41 weeks, since I had had no progress from my previous appointment.  Got my membranes stripped for the third time, and surprisingly went into labor a few hours later.  It was the most excruciating pain of my life, I’m not going to lie.  (And I’ve had second degree burns on my leg that even got infected, so I do know actual pain.)  The only thing I can make sense of, is not that my pain threshold is that low, because it isn’t, but that bodies react different to labor (just as they do to pregnancy), and some people just have more painful contractions than others. 

Anyway, full birth story (because I do want to remember the story for prosperity) to come. 

Here is the last pregnancy picture I took, in between contractions, shortly before heading to the hospital – and if there is ever a fake smile, that one is it.  I have to admit that I did fake it well…

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It was love at first sight, and since then we’ve spent our days snuggling with her.  Finally came home from the hospital yesterday and enjoyed a quiet day at home today.

But who cares about all these details right?  There are cute baby pictures to share!  (My friends on facebook are probably tired of all of it!  Yes, I’ve become that mom.  OMG, I’m a mom!!!  It still feels surreal!)

Right after getting cleaned up, she was already pouting!

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Karl’s first picture with baby – she looked like a little sumo wrestler when she was born!

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Looking very much like her daddy in this picture!

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I can’t believe how different she already looks from these first few pictures!

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Always passing out on mommy!

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Adorable baby feet!  (Thanks to my friend Zizi for the picture!)

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Karl is totally devoted.  It’s adorable!

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After two days in bed, finally got back up on my two feet!

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After debating two names (Alessandra and Catarina) for months, we finally settled on a completely different name…  We both had been leaning towards Alessandra (baby Allie), after my late grandfather (who was Alexandre), and also the name I almost had – my dad changed his mind the night before I was born. But she just didn’t feel like an Alessandra…  She was “baby” for the first 2 days of life, and if it wasn’t for the birth certificate deadline, she would still be baby now.  We announced that we finally made a decision using this picture:

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Such kissable cheeks!

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Proud daddy!

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Trying to get a shot of her eye.  Still a mystery if they’ll lighten to blue, or darken to brown like mine (please let them not be brown!).

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Ellie’s first flowers, thanks to my friend Michelle.  We had a lot of visitors in the hospital, just as I had predicted, I’m one of those people who actually wanted interaction with friends afterwards!  Being cooped up in a room was driving me nuts, so the visitors were a nice break!

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I thought it was adorable how she crossed her arms under her little face!

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First day home, after a well deserved shower.  Lily making it clear she’s a tad bit jealous!  Since then she’s been staying the hell away from baby, she’s a bit hesitant/scared, but hoping she’ll warm up soon like the big sister she is!  Lucas is also hesitant about the new addition, his pupils dilate like crazy when he approaches us!

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Naked baby!

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Front view of me 4 days postpartum and still super sleep deprived (I had so much adrenaline, couldn’t sleep in the hospital at all!).

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To help Lily warm up to baby, we both joined her and Karl for a walk this afternoon, and I got to try my sling for the first time!  Still getting the hang of it, but I’ll be using it quite a bit, I can tell!

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I’ll share my birth story in the next post, for those of you who want all the TMI details…

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Pregnancy Update: 39 Weeks!

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How far along?  Yes, I was hoping it wouldn’t have to come to this. But here I am, 39 weeks, still pregnant, still miserable, still writing these updates, still getting bigger, still gaining weight, still dealing with heartburn, bad skin (remember how I rarely wear make up?  Ha!  It’s a daily habit now! I have red and dark blotches all over my face…), lower back pain, horrible knee pain (from the weight?  Overstretched ligaments?  Something else?), lack of sleep, cramping all the time, constantly fatigued, always hungry…

My doctor’s appointment today was frustrating to say the least – there has been no progress since my 38 week appointment, and no signs of labor starting anytime soon.

But I got a much needed haircut today, so at least I’ll have good hair on the postpartum pictures?  One can hope?  And can I say how I’m going to miss paying less than 20 bucks for a senior hair stylist at a good salon (Philosophie, here in Makati) who give me consistently great haircuts that I love?

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Total weight gain/loss:  For a bit I thought I hadn’t gained anything, since for once the doctor’s scale didn’t budge, but once I compared my home scale numbers with the ones last week, I have gained another pound.  27 pounds now and miserable.  But as of last weekend I officially stopped trying to eat healthy.  Sure, eating daily salads and still loving my fruits, but craving an ice cream?  Ok.  Want an iced caramel macchiato at Coffee Bean?  Sure.  I got two weeks left, I’m gaining weight regardless, might as well enjoy the rest of the process.

Exercise:   I went up 19 flights of stairs today in order to try to trigger something after my doctor’s appointment.  It didn’t work.  But that was the only exercise I got this week, boo!  Not many of us left for the aqua aerobics, and still don’t have a great pool I can swim in (I’ve been offered, but with a busy morning schedule all week, and having to get the driver to the embassy to pick up Karl at 3pm, it hasn’t given me any time to actually take my friends up on their offer).

Measurements:  Belly increased even more and is at 44” now!  Waist went down a half inch to 37.5”, and ribcage is now at 34.5” which is also a half inch decrease.  I wonder if my belly is *starting* to drop, hence the change?  Said that, in pictures it looks pretty high up still, no?  I actually don’t even see a difference from last week.

Maternity clothes?  Still rocking them!

Stretch marks?  Nothing yet!  Hope this baby decides to get out before my skin can’t handle it anymore!  And I don’t care what people say that stretch marks are genetic – I’ve been slathering almond oil and burt’s bees belly butter twice a day on my belly, since early in the first trimester and NO stretch marks.  The rest of my body got neglected, and now I have stretch marks on my inner thighs – so yes, I do have the genetic disposition for them, almond oil WORKS.

Sleep:  Look at the pictures above.  See the bags under my eyes?  Still getting no sleep.

Best moment this week:  The MADS with dads event was a lot of fun!  The food was delicious (hello, extra pound on the scale!).  I also had lots of lunch dates with friends this week, went to the AWCP Bazaar and bought a couple of more cute things for baby girl, had a prenatal massage, got my haircut…  No best moment, but a lot of little good ones!

And Lily is extra cuddly today (she’s not a cuddly dog at all even though she was a super cuddly puppy).

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Miss Anything?  I miss having control of my body and not being pregnant.  I know, I know, this sounds awful since lots of people deal with infertility and here am I after only a couple of months trying, knocked up and bitching about it.  But pregnancy has not treated me well.  Totally worth it in the end, but I’m a mess.

Movement:  Not as much movement this week, but baby is big and running out of space…

Food cravings:  Salt & Vinegar Lays chips.  Rustans were out of them when I went to satisfy my craving.  Need to go back and check again!

Anything making you queasy or sick:  Car rides.

Have you started to show yet:  No doubt I’m carrying a big baby in there!

Gender:  Girl!

Labor Signs:  None.  None. NONE!  Ugh.  I woke up last Thursday night with horrible stomach pangs that came and went, and got all excited that maybe I was *finally* in labor.  Turns out, I got food poisoning at People’s Palace of all places.  (I guess sooner or later I was bound to get something in Asia that didn’t agree with me, right?)  So much for the false alarm.  And if I thought I was getting bad sleep before, after two nights camped in the bathroom, I’m really behind on sleep this week!

Belly Button in or out?  Staying in for good!

Wedding rings on or off?  Off, and replacement silver band getting tighter by the day.

Happy or Moody most of the time:  I can’t even keep track anymore.  Moody, but with lots of happy sprinkled in there!

Looking forward to:  Finally going into labor?  One can hope!

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Pregnancy Update: 38 Weeks!

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How far along?  38 Weeks!  And officially ready to be DONE. Done, done, done, done.  I’m uncomfortable, back hurts, not getting any sleep, always congested (which has been true from the beginning, but after 9 months, it’s getting old), tired of the constant need to pee, tired of how hard it is to get up and down, tired of my maternity clothes (though I heard they’re going to be part of my closet for a long time post-partum as well), anxious about getting the paperwork started so we can leave the country with her in May (thanks to the local government’s bureaucracy, getting a birth certificate is a loooong process that takes weeks), ready not to be out of breath after taking only one flight up the stairs, and so so so ready to meet this baby girl I’ve been incubating for so long.

Total weight gain/loss:  26lbs.  Another week, another half pound.  Have I mentioned how tired I am of the weight gain too?  Yep, I am.

Exercise:  Aqua aerobics and swimming!  Been swimming laps before class (I get there a little early), and it’s soooo soothing and relaxing.  I’m hoping I can find time in DC to swim laps too, and that in Rio we live near a lap pool.

Measurements:  Belly went up another half inch to 43.5” and waist is a whopping 38” – that’s 11” bigger than when I crossed the finish line at the Chicago Marathon in 2010!  Too unrealistic to think that by the end of the year I can get it back to the old size?

Maternity clothes?  Yes for everything, except dresses (though some are getting a bit too short to pull it off), underwear and bikinis (though I did have to buy XL tops in the beginning of the pregnancy so I wouldn’t look like the porno mom).

Stretch marks?  I *think* I still have nothing, but thanks to the hives I got last week (had to take meds to stop them), I have some leftover red scratch marks on my stomach and back, and I can’t tell if the stomach ones are temporary or actual stretch marks.  I’m hoping they’ll go away, specially since it’s all in a clump in one side of my belly.

Sleep:  Horrible sleep all week.

Best moment this week:  Probably the spectacular homemade Indonesian food I had at my friend’s Keke house!

I even got a picture with Una’s adorable baby girl: 

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Oh, and we did a hospital tour on Sunday!  You’d think that would be when it hit me that within the next month we’ll be bringing a baby home, but nope, it still feels like forever to go, but it was cool seeing how the rooms are (they’re nice and huge!).

Miss Anything?  Sleeping on my back and stomach.  And sleeping in general.  And having a waist.

Movement:  After the scare last week, baby girl has been active, thankfully.

Food cravings:  Ice cream and salt & vinegar chips.  Sadly, both are now easily satisfied thanks to a Rustans (grocery store) that opened a few blocks from us, hence the half pound up (this week, I’ll take total blame for the weight gain, I gave up being good and still gaining, so might as well succumb to cravings if the end result will be an increase on the numbers on the scale anyway!).

Anything making you queasy or sick:  Still getting nauseous with car rides.

Have you started to show yet:  Definitely pregnant.  And waddling.

Gender:  Girl!

Labor Signs:  Nothing…

Belly Button in or out?  Still very very much an innie!

Wedding rings on or off?  Off.

Happy or Moody most of the time:  I think moody.  My mood turns very easily.

Looking forward to:  A “MADS with dads” afternoon that Keke is hosting!  MADS is the mom’s group I’m part of (how I’m meeting so many other pregnant girls!), and on Sunday Karl will get to tag along and meet a few of the girls I’ve been hanging out with (and their husbands).

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