pregnancy

ESTHER NATALIA'S BIRTH STORY

I've tried to write this for weeks now. I had paragraphs upon paragraphs written, with minute, gory detail. Then I decided that some things are better left unwritten on the Internet, and I'd rather just share the extended story in person. So I'll just share a little bit here. 

On Saturday before Esther was born, at 40 weeks and two days pregnant, we went to get our Christmas tree. I had written a little list of things I wanted to do to distract myself during early labor, and getting a tree was on the list (along with a Costco run, making a wedding album, doing some online Christmas shopping, and washing baby clothes). I wasn't having any contractions yet (not even Braxton-Hicks, that I could tell), but since we had friends driving up to the mountains to cut down their own tree, we decided to join in. That was an adventure in itself, and somehow we ended up with two trees (longer story).

This was special because last year we picked up our Christmas tree (at Rite Aid, ha) right after we visited our midwives and found out that I was having a miscarriage. So this year, picking out a tree just days away from meeting our baby felt so redemptive. 

It's funny... you learn during pregnancy that 37 weeks constitutes a full-term baby, and that you could deliver at any time. I laugh now whenever I see pregnant friends posting on Facebook things like, "37 weeks! Full term today! Come on out baby! We're ready to meet you anytime!" Because... no. Sorry sister. That baby is not coming at 37 weeks. Our midwives told me that they don't start thinking about a first-time mom being "late" until she's 41 weeks and two days (or something like that). 

But MAN. You hit your due date, and everyone and their mom wants to know if you've had your baby yet. I got more "happy due date!" texts on December 4 than I do on my own birthday. I started thinking totally illogical things like, "What if this baby never comes out? What if I stay pregnant forever?" Other moms, raise your hands. I know you've had the same thoughts. 

I hadn't wanted to be anxious about Esther's arrival, so I was trying to mentally prepare for being two weeks overdue (at which point I'd have to be induced and have a hospital birth, instead of the birth center birth we were planning).

Saturday, December 6 was the full moon, and I'd heard that the moon can often affect the start of labor. So I guessed that it would start that day, but alas, no. Still waiting. Enjoying our last few days just the two of us... plus Butter. As you can see, she's kind of needy (understatement), and doesn't appreciate when she's not involved in familial displays of affection. Turd.

Dave and I had a really great couple of weekends together before Esther arrived. We got our tree(s) and decorated them, watched some Christmas movies (Muppet Christmas Carol! I'd never seen it before! So good!), had some coffee dates, and walked along Lake Washington during the Luminaria (which is beautiful — do it next year, if you're in Seattle). 

Early labor started for me on Monday (December 8) around 11:30am, but contractions were manageable and I slept through the night. They picked up on Tuesday, and Tuesday night I was awake all night in this position on the yoga ball, coping through them every 7-10 minutes. 

That's Sarah, our doula, with me after we got to the birth center on Wednesday morning, December 10. Once we arrived around 8am, one of my midwives, Christine, checked my progress and I was at 6cm. This was super encouraging, because supposedly, getting to 5cm is really challenging and then your body sort of finds a flow and it tends to go faster from there. So I felt like all my body's hard work since Monday had been worth it. 

I was in this position for about an hour or so, and tried some other things, and then I got in the tub (which was amaaaaaazing - they don't call it "the midwife's epidural" for nothin). I finished dilating in there (took another 5 or 6 hours or so, and in hindsight, wasn't that painful), and then started pushing... sort of. The midwives were getting ready and prepping Dave to catch the baby in the tub because it looked like she was coming soon, but turns out I pushed for FIVE AND A HALF HOURS. Note to people who have never had a baby: this is not normal. In a hospital scenario, I would have had a C-section after like 2 hours of pushing.

Also, second side note: I never felt the urge to push. I guess everyone's birth story is very different, because I'd heard over and over that pushing was the best part, and felt relieving. But this was THE WORST for me. 

(third side note: I'm really thankful for Sarah and Taylor, our other midwife, who picked up our camera now and again and took some photos for us. Not that these are the most flattering ones of my life, but they're invaluable and I'm glad we have images of that day.)

When it was clear after a while that I was not going to give birth in the tub, they got me out of the tub and on a birth stool next to the bed. Dave sat behind me and supported me, holding my shoulders and whispering encouragement all the time. I can't even describe his love for me on this day — it overwhelms me still to think about it. It deserves a story all its own, but it's hard to wrap my mind around how to even share it. 

This was a few minutes before I actually gave birth, so maybe 8:30pm or so. I had been in labor for so long (something like 58 hours since my first contractions, although not all of that time was super intense), and had been pushing for much, much longer than anyone anticipated. At one point, Dave was concerned about how tired I was, and that I might not be able to endure until the end (I hadn't had any drugs at this point, because, BIRTH CENTER). The midwives said their three criteria for transferring to the hospital were 1) baby is in danger 2) mom is in danger or 3) mom is totally losing her coping mechanisms. And none of those things were happening, so we stayed. Also, I couldn't conceive of getting in a car and driving 15-20 minutes to the hospital while the baby was in the birth canal. 

But then the baby's heart rate did start to drop, and so things got very urgent very fast. I summoned some kind of reserves from I don't even know where and pushed Esther out, head and body all at once. She screamed right away, her color was great, she was perfect. 

After that, things got even crazier and I lost a lot of blood and the paramedics came and it was all very dangerous and scary, mostly for Dave. I was too out of it to even really know what was happening, but it was bad. Because this is a blog, this is going to sound like I'm exaggerating, but I'm telling the truth when I say that the midwives saved my life.

You hear unbelievable things, sad and tragic things, about childbirth 100 years ago, or even right now in the developing world, but you really don't expect that it will happen to you in 21st century North America. We're all thankful that I'm here and well and raising beautiful Esther Natalia with my husband.

And the real truth is that the hand of God was protecting me and Esther throughout the whole day(s). When her heart rate dropped, it was down briefly and then came right back up again. When she was born and I hemorrhaged, everything happened in just the right timing so that I didn't have to transfer to the hospital, and was stabilized there at the birth center. He preserved both of our lives and rescued us. 

I can say all this in hindsight, because honestly, neither Dave nor I really "felt" the presence of God with us during labor and birth. It just felt quiet. I keep thinking about that cheesy "footprints in the sand poem," and as I reflect on December 10, I know that God was with us, carrying us, even if we didn't sense it right then. It's one of those times where faith and emotion are pretty separate. Sometimes I want to "feel" something to count it as a spiritual experience, but this taught me that it's not always that way. 

We stayed at the birth center longer than normal, because of the post-delivery complications, and headed home around 6am. I was on bed rest for about 10 days, and was so thankful to have the help of our families, especially our moms, for that time. And to have a husband who lays down his life for me... Dave is such a servant, and I was humbled and overwhelmed again by his love for me. 

And I'm still a HUGE midwife fan, because ours were awesome, and gave the best best best care. They did many of our follow-up visits at our home, so we didn't have to get out the door with a newborn. Esther nursed (still nurses) like a champ and was above her birth weight 8 days after being born. Way to go, baby girl. 

My mom flew in two days after Esther was born and stayed for 10 days to help out. Our original plan was to have time as a new family to bond, just me and Dave and Esther. But we didn't anticipate needing so much hands on help for Esther AND for me. I couldn't get out of bed to do anything without lots of assistance (aka Dave carrying me by the armpits), and pretty much just lay in bed and fed Esther for 7 straight days. I was starting to feel crazy by the end of it, but I know that was crucial in my body's healing, which still took several more weeks.  

Esther slept through her whole first bath, and then pooped in her towel while my mom was holding her. : )

So we're coming up on Esther's two-month birthday, and starting to find our rhythm as parents. I already can't believe how big she is, and how fast she's growing. It sort of blows my mind that she came out of me, equal parts Abby and Dave, and that she's growing JUST from what I'm feeding her. It's amazing, and I'm sure my mind will continue to be blown in the coming years. 

BABYMOON PART II... + BABY SHOWER #1!

For months, I've had two back-to-back things on the calendar: Babymoon, and Baby Shower #1 in North Carolina. I clearly remember putting down both and thinking, "Wow, it will be nearly baby time by the time both of these events are done." And now here we are at 33, nearly 34 weeks, and I'm only three-and-a-half weeks from full-term. 

They say that no pregnant lady says this, but I'm saying it: this pregnancy has gone by really fast. I still don't think we're that close, but it's nice to know that Baby Girl will be coming so soon. Maybe sooner than we think?! If 37 weeks is full-term, then WHOA. My due date is exactly a week after Thanksgiving, and I keep thinking it would be nice to have a Thanksgiving baby. We shall see. 

Dave and I have been talking a lot about labor and birth, trying to mentally prepare ourselves for it. The closest approximation I can make (at least on this side, having never experienced such a thing before) is that it could be a fraction like some of the more intense Crossfit WODs or runs that I've done. And for Dave, he's compared it a lot to the 50k he ran last year. The point being, you create these mental milestones to help you persevere when you think you can't continue anymore. And also, you ALWAYS tell yourself you're further behind than you think you are, so that you're pleasantly surprised to find out you're actually closer to finishing than you thought. 

So, translating that thought process for birth, it could be like telling myself that I'm probably at 3cm when I may actually be at 5 or more. Focusing on one contraction at a time, not imagining how many hours could possibly be left. But also preparing for 48 hours of labor, because I've had several friends who have approached that with their own births lately, and I don't want to go into this one thinking I'll be done in 12 hours. 

Expect the worst, hope for the best, right? I feel like that may yield the best outcome. But we'll talk about how that turns out a few weeks from now. :)

Anyhow, here are the rest of our baby moon photos, and also some photos from my time in North Carolina. For the baby moon, we went rogue and brought our "real" camera, which we hardly ever do anymore. But I'm so glad we did! 

Leaving on the Anacortes ferry for Shaw Island. 

Leaving on the Anacortes ferry for Shaw Island. 

The guest house and one of the barns. 

The guest house and one of the barns. 

One of our jobs was to give some love to the new bull calf, because he's being weaned and gets lonely in the field all by himself. So we spent 20 minutes or so brushing his fur and giving him some feed. Suuuuuch a baby!!

One of our jobs was to give some love to the new bull calf, because he's being weaned and gets lonely in the field all by himself. So we spent 20 minutes or so brushing his fur and giving him some feed. Suuuuuch a baby!!

Guest house breakfast. See that milk on the table? That came from the cows out back. RAW MILK. AMAZING. 

Guest house breakfast. See that milk on the table? That came from the cows out back. RAW MILK. AMAZING. 

We spent a lot of time at the table nook, reading and writing and thinking. This was a really quiet, thoughtful weekend, which we both needed. 

We spent a lot of time at the table nook, reading and writing and thinking. This was a really quiet, thoughtful weekend, which we both needed. 

The hay loft was so beautiful and smelled so good. 

The hay loft was so beautiful and smelled so good. 

Dave and I have a funny way of finding the most unromantic bedding situations on our trips together. Ricky and Lucy style this time — winning.

Dave and I have a funny way of finding the most unromantic bedding situations on our trips together. Ricky and Lucy style this time — winning.

But we did have some good naps here. 

But we did have some good naps here. 

At the UW nature preserve on the island. Apparently, someone on the island used to raise minks, and now they're all wild and feral and spend a lot of time at the beach, probably hunting for gull eggs. 

At the UW nature preserve on the island. Apparently, someone on the island used to raise minks, and now they're all wild and feral and spend a lot of time at the beach, probably hunting for gull eggs. 

31 weeks

31 weeks

This guy. Scary. Glad there were a few fences between us. 

This guy. Scary. Glad there were a few fences between us. 

Outside the guest house on our last morning. 31 weeks pregnant!

Outside the guest house on our last morning. 31 weeks pregnant!

On our way back to the ferry, we helped the farm interns pick apples at a neighbor's house. 

On our way back to the ferry, we helped the farm interns pick apples at a neighbor's house. 

They had rented some cider presses for the day, and the cider they were making was SO GOOD. 

They had rented some cider presses for the day, and the cider they were making was SO GOOD. 

After our time on Shaw Island with the nuns, which I wrote about in my last post, we headed to San Juan Island for the last day of our trip. Every island in the San Juans is beautiful in its own way, and I can never pick a favorite. But San Juan Island holds a special place in our hearts, because it's where Dave asked me to marry him in 2011. Every time we're back there, we go to Cattle Point and go to the exact spot on the cliffs were he proposed. This time we brought our binoculars and looked for orcas, since they often hang out just off the coast here. No luck this time, but the views are always lovely. 

Lemon ricotta panna cotta (which was just the first course) in the morning at Wildwood Manor in Roche Harbor. 

Lemon ricotta panna cotta (which was just the first course) in the morning at Wildwood Manor in Roche Harbor. 

Course two: chicken apple sausage and pumpkin pancakes. 

Course two: chicken apple sausage and pumpkin pancakes. 

We spent the night before this walking around and gaping at the multi-million dollar yachts at Roche Harbor. Seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if Kim and Kanye had one docked here — they were that baller. 

We spent the night before this walking around and gaping at the multi-million dollar yachts at Roche Harbor. Seriously, I wouldn't be surprised if Kim and Kanye had one docked here — they were that baller. 

Dave has been reading a lot about timber framing, so he stops to admire it whenever he sees it. 

Dave has been reading a lot about timber framing, so he stops to admire it whenever he sees it. 

Walking around Washington Park in Anacortes before heading home. 

Walking around Washington Park in Anacortes before heading home. 

Just a few days later, I took a red-eye back to North Carolina for my first baby shower, thrown by my wonderful mama and sister. Although it wasn't super comfortable to fly overnight at 32 weeks pregnant, the time spent at home was so worth it. It's really fun to seriously start welcoming this little girl into the world — she's already so loved by so many people, and it was such a blessing to be covered in that love this weekend. 

I think my favorite part of the shower was actually talking with other moms and hearing their birth stories. Becca Jacbobsen has 10 kids of her own, so she's got PLENTY of birth wisdom to share. And my dear friend Lindsay from growing up is on baby #4 (home births! yay!) and also had some great wisdom. We're also due only 6 days apart!

My awed face over my mom's beautiful creation (see photo below)

My awed face over my mom's beautiful creation (see photo below)

Gifts from Grandma Stalsbroten, who is a native New Englander, so Make Way for Ducklings and a matching Boston Public Gardens onesie were fitting. 

Gifts from Grandma Stalsbroten, who is a native New Englander, so Make Way for Ducklings and a matching Boston Public Gardens onesie were fitting. 

Besides throwing a beautiful, celebratory, delicious shower, my mom gave me (well, the baby) the most amazing gifts. This is a christening/dedication dress that she made with fabric and lace from my wedding dress, her wedding dress, and my mother-in-law's wedding dress. It is so beautiful, and so sentimental. I can't wait to see Baby Stals wearing it in a few months!

I will never get tired of SnapChats from Jessie Metty, who had to save the day in the middle of a deflated balloon crisis. 

I will never get tired of SnapChats from Jessie Metty, who had to save the day in the middle of a deflated balloon crisis. 

Also, she can chill HARD. This is how I found her on her first morning of fall break at home, and my last day in NC. She kills me. 

Also, she can chill HARD. This is how I found her on her first morning of fall break at home, and my last day in NC. She kills me. 

My mom made this diptych — that's me in utero with Grandma, and now Baby Stals in utero with HER grandma!

My mom made this diptych — that's me in utero with Grandma, and now Baby Stals in utero with HER grandma!

My mom's skills don't stop... She made these adorable tiny shoes. SQUEEEE! She could run an Etsy shop, no? 

My mom's skills don't stop... She made these adorable tiny shoes. SQUEEEE! She could run an Etsy shop, no? 

Found this while going through some old stuff from childhood. These were my life goals at age 10. I love how the only thing with a check mark is learning to change the oil, which I definitely don't remember how to do. 

Found this while going through some old stuff from childhood. These were my life goals at age 10. I love how the only thing with a check mark is learning to change the oil, which I definitely don't remember how to do. 

Mom spoiled me and baby with tons of shopping, to accommodate a growing belly, and baby that will be on the outside so soon!

Mom spoiled me and baby with tons of shopping, to accommodate a growing belly, and baby that will be on the outside so soon!

These boots... they KILL ME. 

These boots... they KILL ME. 

I came home with this and Dave said, "Where did you get a Hasidic Jewish hat?" Whatever.

I came home with this and Dave said, "Where did you get a Hasidic Jewish hat?" Whatever.

Nate and Mary had me and Mom over for dinner, and then I had my Goodberry fix afterwards. 

Nate and Mary had me and Mom over for dinner, and then I had my Goodberry fix afterwards. 

I finally made it home after a hellacious time with planes and airports (long story — people in Philadelphia are mean) to be reunited with Dave and Butter. Butter had to get spayed last week, which is somewhat of a relief, as we were nervous about her getting pregnant. To all of you who have said to me, "Oh but imagine what cuuuuuute puppies she would have!" ... To you I say, "Oh imagine how sweet it would be if our messy yellow lab had a big, bloody, messy labor in our one bedroom urban apartment while we have a newborn!" Sounds super cute to me. 

Anyway, she was so sad and drugged up when I got her from the clinic on Thursday. Because my flights were so crazy getting home, I didn't get to see her before she went into surgery, so I was extra emotional to see her like that. All she wanted was to be snuggled for the rest of the day, and I happily obliged. She's totally back to herself now, except that we can't let her run or play with other dogs for another couple of days. At least the danger of more puppies is now past!

Theme verse for me and Dave right now. Trying to keep this one front of mind. 

Theme verse for me and Dave right now. Trying to keep this one front of mind. 

RELINQUISHING CONTROL

Here we are at week 28 of pregnancy. As I've mentioned before, I have been super, super blessed in the first two trimesters to experience very few of the traditional symptoms of growing a human — morning sickness, food aversions, swellings, skin tags, weird skin discoloration, and some of the more, ahem, indelicate ones. True, I've had some, but I'm honestly kind of shocked that here I am already in the third trimester, and Baby Girl is only 12ish weeks (okay, maybe 13 or 14 weeks) from making her way into the world. It's gone by pretty fast so far (although I hear that time slows wayyyy down towards the end of pregnancy). 

25 weeks

25 weeks

I haven't even really been showing all that much, in that I didn't really have a distinguishable bump until mayyyybe week 20 or 21. Perhaps it's because Seattle is a reserved kind of place, but I've had less than 5 strangers comment on my belly. It just hasn't been that obvious until the last three weeks or so. And (thankfully) no randos have come up to put their hands on my belly. If and when that happens, I have a plan of attack. Wink. 

But despite my lack of symptoms or visible bump, when I look back at photos of myself from the last few months, I can tell that something is different. I just felt swollen everywhere, like I was bursting quietly out of my clothes, like I was waking up to a different body every morning. 

I had an interesting conversation about this at Crossfit the other day. So often in exercise, you're working towards a measurable goal. You hope to achieve something, and you have some degree of control over that achievement — speed, strength, distance, weight loss, endurance, looking good in a bikini, whatever. All of that goes out the window in pregnancy. The goal is to just keep moving, knowing that increased heart rates and oxygen and strength and flexibility are all good for the baby. 

Isn't that true about so many other things, too? Most of the time, I think we feel like we're in control of our own lives, and that our actions shape our futures, our fortunes, our relationships. 

And then there are seasons when you realize you're very much NOT in control. I think people often feel this in times of crisis — a family member dies, a spouse gets a job transfer to a new city, a child develops crazy food allergies, etc. 

27 (almost 28!) weeks

27 (almost 28!) weeks

But I'm feeling most keenly out of control right now in pregnancy. Let me just be real here for a second...

I'll admit, I'm judgy. I don't like this about myself, but I have an internal monologue (about a lot of things) happening far too often, and before I was pregnant and just observed other pregnant women from afar, I decided I wanted and didn't want certain things: 

I won't get fat.
I'll just have a baby bump.
No fat arms and cankles here. 
My clothes will fit in all places except my belly — that's the only reason I'll need maternity clothes.
How can women possibly get so huge when all they're doing is housing a human in their torso? 

Seriously. Real thoughts. FOR SHAME. And at the same time: 

I sure hope I don't get fat. 
I hope all I have is a little basketball — the ol' "olive on a toothpick" look. 
I hope the only weight I gain is in my belly, and it all comes off four weeks after Baby is born. 
Dear God, please don't let me get too fat. 

Comparison. Fear. Selfishness. Vanity. Anxiety about the change to come. 

+  +  +

Since moving into our "new" apartment back in March, I started a couple of garden boxes, and have been experimenting with propagating succulents in little pots on the patio table. We also got a puppy in early June. And I've been pregnant through both of those things. 

The refrain that keeps ringing in my heart and my head is this: 

God is faithful to make all things grow. 

Watching my tomatoes and carrots and succulents and hydrangeas, really all I do is provide a little water from time to time, and trim off the dead leaves and branches. There have even been times (with my hydrangeas) where the little bush looked totally dead, so I lopped off all the remaining branches, and wonder of wonders, new leaves started growing within a few weeks. I even have a new little purply-blue blossom that's started up in the last ten days. There was still life in those roots, and a new plant started all on its own, without really any of my help. 

It's been the same with Butter. We feed her and give her water and take her on walks and play with her, but her growth happens kind of on its own. Her little body has been made to grow on a certain schedule, and there's nothing I can do to make that happen faster or slower. Watching her personality develop and her feelings emerge (yes, she totally has feelings, and she totally gets her feelings hurt, and it's at once heart-breaking and hilarious) has been kind of amazing, and we think it's been a small window into what parenthood will be like. 

And my body is home to a tiny, growing little girl. I'm a decent pregnant lady — I take my prenatals (and what feels like a million other vitamins), I read my books, I keep my appointments and exercise regularly. But beyond these things, I am in no way involved in the development of this little girl. She's being woven together in a hidden place without much oversight from me or anyone else. I've only seen shadows of her face and hands and feet, and won't truly know what she looks like until she comes into the air and starts breathing with the rest of us. Even if I wasn't doing the best job I could to help her grow healthy and full-term, I think she would still come out pretty well-developed — these things happen all over the world all the time, and it's a miracle. 

I'm not in control. I can't control how my body is changing, even though at times I don't like it and feel like I'm living inside a stranger. I can't control how this little life is growing and changing, I can't control what she'll look like or her personality, or who she will grow up to be. 

All I can do is submit to what's happening around and within me. I can be grateful for the work that God, through my body, is doing. I can be grateful for Baby Girl's growth and health (evidenced by her regular kicks and squirms, and strong heartbeat). And I can keep submitting to the lesson that I am often not in control, and give thanks for that. 

Because God is faithful to make all things grow, and it's an honor to be a part of this. 

 

 

PREGNANCY BOOKS + ETC

It's Friday! A couple of random thoughts before I talk about the thing that the title refers to...

The prettiest dahlias at Tim + Hannah's wedding last weekend. 

The prettiest dahlias at Tim + Hannah's wedding last weekend. 

+I am a pumpkin spice latte scrooge. Seriously? Why the hype? Doesn't everyone realize it's just a marketing campaign to help Starbucks rake in more money? If I'm going to ingest the calories, I'd rather just have straight up pumpkin pie. I also have a theory that the PSL craze is just perpetuated (like many crazes) by bloggers. So here I am as the anti-PSL blogger... Just say no. 

+Guardians of the Galaxy would not have been my first date night movie choice, but Dave and I saw it last night and it was totally hilarious and I loved it. Surprise, surprise. 

+All of the sudden, Baby Stals seems to have seriously POPPED, and I had to go buy more maternity clothes today. Also, I think everyone (even men) should own maternity jeans, because they're like regular jeans except with a STRETCHY YOGA WAISTBAND. They're the best thing since sliced bread, and I'm really not exaggerating. 

Moving right along...

One thing I've found super helpful on other blogs is items that various women have loved during pregnancy — first, second, and third trimester. And let's not forget the infamous "fourth trimester," aka when you still look pregnant for a few months after giving birth. I've found that to be a helpful reality check, especially when buying maternity clothes. What will fit and make me feel decent while still being a different shape than normal for six or so months after Baby Princess makes her way into the world? 

Anyhow, I am a reader, and while I haven't exactly read everything I can get my hands on about pregnancy, there were a few that I found interesting or very helpful in the past few months. Because this IS my first rodeo, and aside from real-world advice from other moms in my life, it's been fun to read up on this season too. 

24 weeks

24 weeks

24 weeks

24 weeks

Side note: I've found What to Expect When You're Expecting (at least what I've learned from their app) to be almost totally ridiculous and unhelpful. The development videos that they post every week are gag-worthy cheese fests. After week 11 or so, I stopped watching, because Heidi Murkoff's blathering was so annoying to me. Also, they say crazy things like "don't eat any soft cheese ever," and "you should be avoiding all caffeine until baby is born" and "exercise beyond slow-paced walking will probably hurt your baby" even though 1) exercise is GREAT for you and baby, 2) pretty much all cheese in the USA is ultra-pasturized and 3) no one says you shouldn't drink ANY coffee during pregnancy. Just not more than 3 cups a day, which I don't. Lord knows I would not have stayed awake for the last 6 months without a little joe every morning. 

25 weeks

25 weeks

26 weeks... taken half an hour before I posted this (thanks Mallory!)

26 weeks... taken half an hour before I posted this (thanks Mallory!)

Also, any app that offers hairstyle suggestions for pregnancy is crazy. My hair is my hair... There is not a baby growing inside my hairs, so I think I'll just style it as usual, thanks. 

I digress. Here are the books I HAVE been reading (and liking, for the most part)... In order of "loved it" to "meh." 

 

Brain Rules for Baby
John Medina

This may have been my favorite of all the books I've read during pregnancy. Much like Origins (see the last book on this list, because it was my least favorite), it talks about brain development during pregnancy, but also throughout childhood (until age 5 or so). Unlike Origins, there's a healthy dose of common sense and "you're doing just fine" sprinkled throughout, so that no one feels condemned while reading it. At the end of the book, Medina says, "The things I've written here are good recommendations, but no one can do all of these things all of the time. Aim for a few here and there and your kids will do great."

I took tons of notes on this book, and read a lot of it aloud to Dave. I love how he discusses emotional development, both in the womb and in infancy. It's SO important to talk to your baby, and as your child grows, to help them name their emotions. I was struck by that, and hope that we remember to do it as baby girl grows up. 

Another big takeaway from this book: 

Write this across your heart before your child comes into the world: Parenting is not a race. Kids are not proxies for adult success. Competition can be inspiring, but brands of it can wire your child's brain in a toxic way. Comparing your kids to your friends' kids will not get them, or you, where you want to go.
-John Medina

Amen. 

 

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth
Ina May Gaskin

This is a book for hippies. Total hippies. Of which I am a proud, though closet, member. You wouldn't know it, but I am kind of a hippie at heart.

Ina May is the goddess of all midwives. I have a midwife friend who has a bumper sticker on her car that says, "What would Ina May do?" I found myself rolling my eyes through lots of the birth stories contained in this book, but it is also very inspiring, and a healthy antidote to a culture that says that birth is painful, unnatural, and must be medicated to be survived. Something about that just doesn't seem right to me... Women have been giving birth for thousands of years, and sure, there are some risks, but it wasn't all that long ago that EVERYONE was giving birth at home, without the assistance of doctors and nurses. So I think it's awesome that we have option of very modern medical care in case something should go wrong, but if it doesn't, I'm anticipating doing it au natural (with the support of my midwives and the option of hospital transfer if needed — so calm down, everyone. This was not going to be me and Dave flying solo in the bathtub). Maybe I'll laugh at myself reading this a few months from now, but... 

Anyway, the birth stories in this book are kind of crazy sometimes, but also beautiful and hopeful. There's a wide range of experiences, from women who didn't experience any pain at all, to women who were in agony, but overcame it with a great birth team. There are women who felt super connected to their babies the whole time, and women who didn't feel anything overwhelming for their child until he or she was a few days old. This is comforting to me. Everyone has a different experience, and no one experience is more or less valid than another. It also helps me feel more prepared for labor and birth as I read other women's birth stories (those are probably my FAVORITE kind of blogs to read). 

 

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm
Mei-Ling Hopgood

I've written about this one before in another blog, but I really enjoyed all of the international parenting perspectives in this book. Argentines don't have strict bedtimes for their kids, French kids eat whatever their parents eat, and the Chinese potty train their kids crazy early. It was a quick and easy read (that I actually finished months before getting pregnant), and offers some helpful suggestions that we may or may not incorporate into our parenting. For example, I hope to goodness that our kids eat everything, and gosh darn it, they are not going to stay up until midnight every night. That just sounds like disaster. 

 

Belly Laughs
Jenny McCarthy

Dave's coworker was SO sweet and gave me this book (and the following one) when Dave told his office I was pregnant. It's a little crass at times, but completely hilarious. In the chapter where she talks about pregnancy hormones, she tells a story about watching a ball of lint roll across her living room floor and bursting into tears. I was in tears reading it to Dave — so funny. Mostly, I just appreciate that she doesn't candy-coat the gross parts of pregnancy, and is able to find humor in them. I didn't relate to everything she wrote, but for lots of it (like wanting to kill someone if you can't get food when you're hungry), it was nice to know that someone else knows how I feel. 

 

The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy
Vicki Iovine

Just starting this one! So far, I like it, but it IS a bit extreme. It's similar to Belly Laughs, but with lots more detail. It's pretty real... hemorrhoids and stuff like that. Ew. I must say, I have been incredibly blessed to NOT suffer from many common symptoms of pregnancy on this first go-round, and I don't take it for granted at all. I still have 13 weeks for lots of ailments to kick in, but the first two-thirds have been pretty smooth sailing, so reading about other people's horror stories does nothing but freak me out. They may still be before me, or I may succumb in subsequent pregnancies. For now, I'm very thankful for the experience that I've had, and will keep reading ahead in case there are other things about the next few months (and especially birth itself) that I should know about. 

I have to say, though, Ina May is making me feel much better about having a baby than Vicki. 

 

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives
Annie Murphy Paul

Meh. Not a huge fan of this one. I read about this book on a blog and was interested in the idea, but throughout the whole thing, I kept thinking, "this book is meant to thoroughly freak out every pregnant woman in America." This lady wouldn't even take Tylenol for headaches during her pregnancy, fearing her baby would come out with two heads or flunk kindergarten. Um... let's calm down. I felt while reading it that I should be on alert for thousands of unknown toxins and threats in my environment during these 9 months, in order to keep this baby perfectly safe and developing normally. That just conflicts with my basic belief that pregnancy is a pretty incredible time in life, and that women's bodies were made to be pregnant and give birth, and I shouldn't be fearful of everything. 

One thing I did find interesting in this book was how certain diet and lifestyle aspects can impact baby's health later on in life. The author tells a story about mothers in Holland during the German siege, when the Netherlands had huge food shortages. Women who were pregnant during this time weren't getting all the nutrients they should have been, and as a result, their babies learned in the womb that the world they were coming into was a stressful place. Their bodies hoarded nutrients, and so when they were born and the siege was over and they were relatively well-nourished in childhood, their bodies didn't handle the "excess" food so well. This particular group of people now have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes in their 60s and 70s than children whose mothers weren't pregnant in Holland during the siege. Fascinating. 

My takeaway? Bring on the bacon. This world has got lots of good food for you to enjoy, kiddo.

 

Other things I've loved in pregnancy so far: 

+Foot Rubz... LIFE SAVER for sore feet (for anyone, not just pregnant ladies)
+Long walks with Dave and Butter
+Crossfit
+Lime popsicles
+Naps
+Daily cup of coffee (as mentioned before)
+GAP maternity jeans
+Maxi dresses
+Nail polish... because when nothing else fits, at least you still got nail polish
+Pinterest... I love Pinterest all the time, but it's been helpful when baby planning. 
         +Nursery
         +Little Mama
         +Bebe
+
Amazon Baby Registry... so that no one has to endure the horrors of Babys R Us. No thank you. 
+Buy Nothing Facebook group... These exist in communities all over the US and the world, so look it up and see if you can find one near you. We've received tons of free baby stuff from people in our neighborhood through this group (Boppy, IKEA crib, etc), and it will be a money-saver for future kid-rearing, I'm sure! Super huge blessing.

Anyone have further reading/pregnancy suggestions? I've got a little less than 3 months to go, and would love to hear what you loved/are loving in your own pregnancy!

Happy Labor Day weekend!!

Happy Labor Day weekend!!

SHE

This is old news everywhere else on Abby's social media, but, SURPRISE! We're having a baby! December 4!

We waited a super long time (longer than I think people normally wait) to talk about it, wanting to keep this secret close and celebrate just the two of us, and then with family. But once we found out we were having a baby girl, it felt safe to tell the world. 

The day we went for our 20 week ultrasound, the tech had quite a time determining whether Baby Stals was a he or a she. Baby was sitting with legs crossed, so the tech tilted my bench backwards (blood rushing to my head!) and kept jabbing me with the wand to try to get Baby to move into a better position. Finally, she said, "Okay, I think I can tell." Not super reassuring, but she said, "I'm pretty sure I know." Oh well. We'll take it. But if December rolls around and we actually have a son, it will be a hilarious story. 

We had the tech write the gender on a notecard and put it in an envelope with the photos, and then Dave and I went to breakfast and opened it when we were alone. A GIRL! Yay! We had both hoped it was a girl, and I had a little tiny inkling. I didn't even feel super sure, just knew that's what I hoped for. 

We've settled on a name, but will keep that one secret until she's born. Someone asked me about our reasoning for that the other day, and it was kind of fun to realize why it had felt important to keep it a secret, even from our families. After you announce a pregnancy, everything about it feels so public — your belly starts to protrude, people want to touch you and talk about what you're feeling all the time, compare symptoms, buy baby clothes, talk about who she'll be and what she'll look like... A name is such a big part of who a person is, that Dave and I just want to enjoy that between the two of us for a few more months. But we're excited to know that she's a little girl, and start using her name at home. It makes everything feel more real. 

I've been feeling her move around a lot more lately, which has been really fun. It doesn't really feel like butterflies at all — more like muscle twitches to me. 

I've been super blessed with this pregnancy. I had almost no morning sickness in the first trimester. The only time I felt bad was when I hadn't eaten in a  long time, or when I needed to take a nap. Naps and food pretty much cured anything. I was hungry ALL the time, and would get nervous when I had to be away from home (read: food) for more than an hour or two, so I packed lots of snacks and water. I didn't have any super strong cravings, except sometimes citrus-y things like lime popsicles or sparkling water with lemon or lime. 

In the second trimester, my hunger has subsided, and my belly started looking more pregnant around week 21 or so (I'll be 24 weeks on Thursday). That was around the same time that I realized that what I thought was gas or muscle twitches was actually a little life moving around inside me. Whoa. 

My due date is exactly a week after Thanksgiving, so I think it would be kind of fun to have a baby on Thanksgiving Day. But we'll see. I guess it's better to prepare to be a few weeks late than a few weeks early. Because I won't be able to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas, a lot of my family will come to Seattle sometime in December, which I'm SO excited about! Baby girl is the first grandkid on both sides of our family, so I think it feels like a big deal for everyone. 

The natural question that everyone asks when we tell them we're having a baby is, "Are you so excited?!" And then answer is complicated. I think culture expects you to be excited right away. A baby is a great thing! You've been married two years, so of course you've been planning for this and you can't wait! 

And that's true. But it's also true that it's kind of overwhelming. It's kind of a huge life change. It's kind of something that you feel unprepared for. There are a lot of selfish, but real, things to think about — it will never be just me and Dave again. I will lose the body that I've known as an adult woman, and may never get it back the way it was before. Our finances are going to take a hit. 

Besides that, at the beginning, there was apprehension about the viability of this little life, because of our previous miscarriage. That made it hard to be "excited" when we still felt like we were holding our breath. 

But as time goes on, the excitement grows. I read recently that for the first half of pregnancy, the baby just wants to be left alone, to grow and develop in the peace and darkness of the womb. But after 20 weeks, she wants to be known, and she starts to make her presence felt. I've found that to be so true. For 20 weeks, I waited to "feel" pregnant. And honestly, I didn't feel that different until right around 20 weeks. Now it's like she's talking to me — "Hey Mom! I'm here! I can't wait to meet you!"

Me too, Baby Girl. Me too. 

 

20 week ultrasound!

20 week ultrasound!

The day I told my dad (which was the same day I found out). So sweet. :)

The day I told my dad (which was the same day I found out). So sweet. :)

The weekend I found out I was pregnant — Jessie's 21st birthday! They gave me a rose at the spa to celebrate. :)

The weekend I found out I was pregnant — Jessie's 21st birthday! They gave me a rose at the spa to celebrate. :)

When I saw Jessica and Abby, I told them it was possible I might be pregnant, but I wasn't sure yet. Then I took a test a couple of days later and it was positive!

When I saw Jessica and Abby, I told them it was possible I might be pregnant, but I wasn't sure yet. Then I took a test a couple of days later and it was positive!

8 week ultrasound — hearing the heartbeat for the first time was so reassuring. Can you see the little frog on the right side? That's her!

8 week ultrasound — hearing the heartbeat for the first time was so reassuring. Can you see the little frog on the right side? That's her!

My dad, who was exactly right in his gender guesses for all 4 of his own kids, was convinced this baby was a boy, so he started calling him Bart. 

My dad, who was exactly right in his gender guesses for all 4 of his own kids, was convinced this baby was a boy, so he started calling him Bart. 

10 weeks — had to start resorting to the ol' hairband around the buttonhole trick around this time... But you can't tell here. :)

10 weeks — had to start resorting to the ol' hairband around the buttonhole trick around this time... But you can't tell here. :)

11 weeks at Dave's birthday hike... Looking bloated here, I think because I didn't drink enough water that day. Was still trying to hide it from our friends, though! 

11 weeks at Dave's birthday hike... Looking bloated here, I think because I didn't drink enough water that day. Was still trying to hide it from our friends, though! 

12 weeks in Wilmington. Not much of a bump to speak of!

12 weeks in Wilmington. Not much of a bump to speak of!

17 weeks

17 weeks

17 weeks. Making sure my bridesmaid's dress for Abby's wedding still fits! And Butter is a troll, as usual. 

17 weeks. Making sure my bridesmaid's dress for Abby's wedding still fits! And Butter is a troll, as usual. 

18 weeks

18 weeks

19 weeks

19 weeks

21 weeks at Abby's wedding rehearsal lunch. Dad is being so protective dawwwwwwwww. :)

21 weeks at Abby's wedding rehearsal lunch. Dad is being so protective dawwwwwwwww. :)

22 weeks

22 weeks

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Shopping for next summer... EEEE!!!

Shopping for next summer... EEEE!!!