Monday, March 31, 2014

Clothed With Love: Angel Gowns

I knew from the moment that I first tried on my wedding dress that it was The One. It was the same feeling I had on my first date with BJ, and the same way I would later feel when I walked into our home for the first time. I just got that feeling, and I knew. We hadn't been dress-shopping long and I didn't even choose the dress from the rack, but the dressing-room attendant slipped it over my head, tightened the corset, and showed me the mirror. I gasped. I had never felt so beautiful. It was strapless, laced in the back, and had lovely white and baby blue bead work on the bodice. The fabric was gathered on one side. I stepped out to show my mom and sister, who both loved it. Then I looked at the price tag and my heart plummeted. It was way too expensive, and I knew it. I began crying immediately and whimpered to the lady, "Take it off me!"

My mom also knew that this dress was The One, so while I was taking the dress off, she was putting in a quick, quiet phone call to my dad. She and dad agreed to buy it for me, saying I had never asked for something like that before and that they wanted me to have it. This will be a gesture from my parents that I will always remember.

I still love my wedding dress. My mom paid to have it cleaned and preserved, and she has kindly stored it in the top of her bedroom closet through the years while I have moved out-of-state and back-and-forth across the state a couple of times. The dress makes me smile because it reminds me of a beautiful day in August 2003, a day when BJ and I gathered at the lovely home of my Aunt Holly and said our vows in front of our closest friends and family. But the truth is, I don't need that dress anymore. It is begging to be worn, as every wedding dress is, but I won't be wearing that dress again, so I have decided it is time to let someone else wear it. Twelve little someones, that is.

I recently learned of an organization called NICU Helping Hands, which was designed "to provide comprehensive support programs and resources to parents of premature infants not only during their stay in the NICU but during and after their transition home." Those last four words, after their transition home, are words that every parent wants to hear as truth for their babies; however, the reality is that some precious babies never make it home from the NICU. For the ones who tragically don't get that welcome home party, NICU Helping Hands has created an Angel Gowns program, which relies on volunteer seamstresses and donated wedding dresses. The talented seamstresses transform beloved dresses into tiny gowns for the babies to wear for final moments and burial, with each donated dress creating approximately 12 angel gowns. The program is intended to support parents by recognizing how special their little one really is, and giving parents the opportunity to clothe their baby in only the best for their sacred burial. Dresses are free upon request to families all over the country. Honestly, I can't think of a lovelier transformation for my dress than this, to be honored by sharing the fabric that I wore on one of the most wonderful days of my life with 12 beautiful souls who will do that same fabric much more justice than I ever could. I immediately knew I was meant to donate to this cause.

Photo courtesy of NICU Helping Hands
My good friend Julie has a history degree, and I consider her to be my sort of resident historian. She has a real knack for understanding significance and connection within human events, and I always appreciate hearing her perspective on things. Upon hearing about the angel gown program, Julie commented that an angel gown is so unique because of the meaningful bridge that it provides between people. The dress that a woman wears on her happy wedding day possesses a certain "magic," as Julie described it, and wrapping that physical love around these sweet babies creates a significant human linkage in the natural cycle of life, of which we are all a part. I am grateful to Julie for making this point.

My mom and me as we pulled the dress from her closet
I'm so fortunate to have such gracious and generous parents. Both of them agreed that the dress should be donated, though it is with some degree of difficulty that they let it go. I can't blame them. Not only did they make the financial sacrifice for the dress, but my mom is even more sentimentally attached to it because she sees it all the time in her closet. For several years I lived very far apart from my mama, and I think she used to take comfort in my special dress being right there with her as she got ready every morning, reminding her of good times and that I wouldn't be gone forever. My parents are truly amazing givers.

One last hug for the dress and the recipient babies before packing it up

You're welcome for the free advertising, Crate & Barrel.

It stung a bit for just a little while to give this away, but George, who accompanied me to the post office, gave me a hug right after and in doing so reminded me of my easy reality--three healthy boys who all made it home from the hospital (one of them twice now!). Here they are enjoying the discarded dress box.
We love my dress so much that my mom and I have chosen to give it new life, and to let it help someone else's mother know that we feel that her baby was extra-special. As for BJ, he likes the decision as well. There is enough love in our everyday that we can share this piece with others who never had the chance. Friends of mine, I encourage you to consider this. Sadly, NICU Helping Hands stated that there are never enough angel gowns to go around. My mother-in-law Susan and my good friend Heidi have both agreed to donate, and I salute them both! If you're saving your wedding dress in the hopes that your daughter may someday wear it, the organization can save you a piece of the bead work, lace, or whatever part you wish and send it back to you at your request, so that your daughter can incorporate your dress into her very own, if she so chooses. I am requesting to have sent to me a picture of one of the gowns that my dress becomes so that I may have that tangible keepsake. Again, please consider this. Thanks and love, from your friend Jenny.

Read the news article.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I Did It!

These days as I hold my baby boy, I can scarcely believe that only three months have passed since he first came into my world in December. In many ways it seems like he has always been with me, and I quickly realized that life is so much better with him. I'm still at the point where Tuesdays (my one working day of the week) drag on forever in my mind, as though the day was somehow designed to keep me from holding Van in my arms. In the past three months I have had plenty of time to relish his presence and reflect on his birth (in case you missed it earlier, links for part one and part two of the birth story).

I love being a woman, and I feel more like a woman than ever before since giving birth naturally to Van. This, of course, is not to suggest that I was not a real woman after giving medicated births to my first two sons; it means that, for me, the opportunity of letting nature take its course with my labor with Van enabled me to fully realize and participate in the most miraculous process in all of nature. The pain was mine and the triumph was mine. I got to feel every little detail, such as the baby twirling in a circle as he came out of me, and now I get to relish in the knowledge that, like my matriarchal ancestors before me, I gutted it out and now get to tell my story forever.

A lot of people hold the viewpoint that women who have a goal of giving unmedicated births are crazy and wish unncessary pain on themselves. While the latter may be true, the former is certainly not. Part of truly living the human condition is setting goals for oneself and always working toward something to improve upon or obtain. These goals range dramatically from person to person, but a huge number of individuals share the desire to accomplish feats that challenge them physically. Marathon runners, mountain climbers, and thru-hikers are among the many that fall into this category of dreamers; they find themselves training harder to push further distances and climb higher heights than they previously have accomplished in order to feel the personal satisfaction of completing a difficult physical challenge. Women who aspire to natural childbirth are no different. For those that cannot understand this, perhaps it is not for them to understand. While I have zero desire to ever attempt to climb Mt. Everest, it behooves me to cheer for others that do have this goal because it pushes the boundaries of human achievement increasingly further. Nay-saying and otherwise being non-supportive of others' dreams leaves me in the undesirable position of being an a-hole, which is something I like to avoid.

You've seen these stickers on cars before, haven't you? Marathon runners sometimes display them on the rear windows of their vehicles to joyfully announce their ability to sweat out the entirety of a marathon. If I ever ran 26.2 grueling miles, you can bet the farm that I'd have one of these stickers too! (I sometimes lack humility, to be sure.) Every time I would look at that sticker on my car, I'd feel a sense of pride, and I would smile reflecting on the body-busting challenge I had accomplished. Who is with me that women who give unmedicated births should also have a sticker? Maybe something like this, individualized with your baby's weight. I'd totally buy it and brag away.

For the sake of the argument, let's ignore that I don't know how to make a heart with technology.

My birth story was pretty amazing to me, and each day I look back and think about it. Within one week of Van's birth, remembrance of the pain had diminished and I was laughing hysterically at my antics and the words I spoke (or shouted) during the process. I smile thinking of the people I ran out of the room, at the loving words and pleas I shared with Van when he was still in me that day, at the unwavering devotion of my support team, at the triumph and relief when Van came barreling out of my body. I feel capable like never before, and I will always be glad for the decisions that I made that day, even as I was tired and hurting. I feel like I belong in a special club, a club for moms who did it. I feel just like anyone should who pushes herself beyond her comfort zone for the sake of being able to say she did it. And so, reader, I ask you to think: what will you push yourself toward? Whatever it is, as long as it's positive, I encourage you. And once you get there, design yourself a sticker.

You can do it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Under Cover No More

For those of you who may not have heard, my littlest kiddo was hospitalized with RSV at Children's for four days in the beginning of February. To say the very least, BJ and I were distraught and concerned about our six-week-old little guy as he struggled to breathe, but before he was admitted to the hospital we didn't realize how bad it had gotten. Van was truly in respiratory distress and was illustrating what the medical staff termed "retracting" (a word I quickly came to understand well) in order to breathe because he wasn't getting enough oxygen. On Super Bowl Sunday at around noon, we got the green light from a friend of mine who works as a physician's assistant in an ER, telling us that we needed to take action and get Van into Children's ER because his struggles were significant. It took little time for me to gather some necessary items that we might need for Van. My dad arrived to drive me, and I was out the door.

Within that five-minute scramble, I made a semi-significant decision for Van and myself--I abandoned the nursing cover that I always breastfed him under. Now, at that point in time Van had to make the choice between eating and breathing because he couldn't do both, and naturally he was choosing to breathe. Still, I thought he may change direction and eat in the ER, so perhaps I should pack my cover just in case. One look at it though, pretty as it is, and I immediately felt disgusted and angry. I muttered aloud to BJ, "Forget the stupid cover. I'm not taking it. If someone has a problem with me feeding my baby in a children's hospital without a cover, they can screw themselves." Simply put, there wasn't an iceberg's chance in hell that I was going to put my poor little guy who could barely breathe under a stuffy cover to help some possible random stranger feel more comfortable about perhaps seeing a flash of my breast. I was suddenly so angry about the nursing cover, and when that emotion combined with my panicked feelings about Van, it suddenly seemed like an easy decision to leave the cover at home. The flash of anger, I believe, was born from being repeatedly told in social media that I'm doing something I should be ashamed of by feeding my baby in a place other than a bathroom. If you don't believe me, check out this TMZ article lambasting Selma Blair for breastfeeding her child in public...and then for bonus irony, check out the photos at the bottom of the page of scantily clad women somehow deemed socially acceptable promoting other articles that have nothing to do with breastfeeding, and decide which photos are actually more revealing!)

I hung my nursing cover in the mudroom on my way to the hospital six weeks ago, and I've only used it on one occasion since then.

On the Mend
Now, don't get me wrong, dear reader. I'm about as interested in you catching a glimpse of my breast as you are about seeing it yourself, which is to say not at all. I am an exhibitionist only by Middle-Eastern standards; my swimsuit has shorts, for heaven's sake, and I'm not talking about the sexy hot pants kind. But what I'm really not interested in is forcing my sweet baby boy to eat his meals under a hot, stuffy cover that he hates. His breathing problems have gone, but my semi-posttraumatic feelings of panic are very much there whenever I think about covering him up and compromising his breathing. Believe me: once you go through that as a parent, you don't come back unchanged. So instead I choose to be discreet, using scarves or receiving blankets or Van's head to help facilitate coverage without actually covering my baby completely, and nurse my baby without a cover in public. I feel that doing so is making the best decision for Van and me. I will always be polite about my coverage, but I won't spare any words for the first stranger who chooses to confront me on the decision (hopefully no one will). My exception for using the cover would be if I am a guest in someone else's home that isn't family or a close girlfriend.

My friend Laura, who is a lactation consultant, sent me a video of a song written by an Australian mother who grew tired of the dirty looks that she got when she nursed her baby in public. Hilarious as the video is, it's truly a sad commentary on the state of breastfeeding in the western world today. Why mothers have to defend themselves at all about where they choose to feed their children (and by what means and up until what age) is a trigger point for BJ and me. The over-sexualization of breasts detracts from their actual intended purpose, which is to feed little nurslings. The lyrics of this song are quite clever and make the point that breastfeeding mothers are not actually out to ruin people's days by feeding their baby. Here are the chorus lyrics: “Everybody knows new mothers are exhibitionists/Taking every chance they get to ruin your day with tits!" In the video the singer busts into a bathroom stall and finds a father sheepishly sitting on a toilet feeding his baby a bottle. Who doesn't agree that such a thing is disgusting? And yet asking mothers to have a seat on a loo and feed their baby in there with every bathroom germ imaginable is somehow more acceptable to some people?

In conclusion, here's my statement: I'm done retreating to bathrooms and hiding under covers. I did it with my first two sons and I'm not doing it anymore. I'll respect people, and people can respect my baby. My under cover days are over! I venture now into very charted waters---explored by mothers all throughout human history.

By the way, this is not a picture of me nursing.

***If you're interested in reading more about nursing in public and the history of perceptions, this is the best article about it that I've ever read: Breastfeeding and NIP: A Primer. ***

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Guest Mama: Adelaide's Birth

Since my first guest post by Keri this past Saturday, I have had several moms volunteer to share their stories of giving unmedicated births. When I contacted Keri and asked her if she would be willing to share her story of Callen's labor and delivery, I must say that this was exactly the response that I was hoping for--many mom friends coming forward and offering to support one another with honest tales of strength and encouragement. I hope to keep these stories and more coming as we make these available through this blog! A couple of points that I would like to once again re-emphasize: First, if you're a mom who had a medicated birth, I am not judging you! I had two medicated births! I totally support you and your choices about your baby's birth. I love sharing these stories as a way of woman-to-woman encouragement for those who seek the lesser-traveled route (in this country at least), not to disparage those who could not or did not choose this route. Second, birth stories here are not shared for the purposes of terrifying anyone, but rather of making you aware that others have chosen this route as well, so you are not alone. All women who choose the path of natural birth know that it will be painful, so there is no sense in lying about that. However, the task is ultimately do-able, and it's worth it to most of us! Within just one week I found my entire birth story with Van to be hilarious, and I love thinking back on it now!

Following is the story of Adelaide's birth by guest mama Mikah. Mikah is a recently-made friend of mine who is also friends with Keri, and she was the first to volunteer to share her story. Adelaide is Mikah's second child, born via a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Many thanks to Mikah for sharing her story! (Photos by Katrina Wheeler Photography)

I once again found myself past due, 41 weeks and 3 days this time. It was Tuesday and I was busy around the house cleaning everything. The next day I would visit my midwife for a non-stress test and to discuss options of induction for Friday. Around 4 o’clock, I noticed a small trend of tightness in my belly every 15-20 minutes. It was not painful or uncomfortable. Not wanting to get anyone’s hopes up, we went on about our evening. I did let my husband know that I intended to go to bed early just in case. We had no problem going to sleep.

At 1 am I woke up to a painful contraction. I got out of bed and told my husband a contraction just woke me up and I was going to start counting them. He asked me if it was okay if he went back to sleep. Knowing that we could possibly have a long day ahead of us I said yes. I sat in the living room waiting and praying. In comes a contraction around 1:15 and then another around 1:30. The intensity of them had me somewhat convinced this was it. I decided to get in the shower, again not knowing what the day would have in store for us. Since we would be driving an hour and 45 minutes to deliver, I was really praying that God would make it very obvious when it was time. In the shower, He most definitely did. My contractions went from 15 minutes to about to about 5-7 minutes apart.  The intensity was amazing; I completely skipped the “Today is the day!” emotion and went to “Am I going to be able to do this?” I got out of the shower around 2 am and told my husband, “You gotta get up, I’m thinking we are going to have to leave soon.” Jarrod got up and showered and I began making the phone calls to my mom and dad to make arrangements for our son. I also called my sister-in-law Katrina, who would be helping us and would be taking delivery pictures. I told her we would leave in about an hour.

Things fell into place as we rushed around packing bags and dressing. I had to stop a lot and focus through contractions. My husband kept asking “Are you having another one already!?!” My daddy came in and when he saw me became very concerned, telling us we could stop on the interstate and go to another hospital if we didn’t think we could make it. He placed his hands on my belly and prayed for a safe delivery.

We were able to leave the house around 3. The weather was awful. It was cold and had begun to rain. We had to stop for gas--of course the one thing I did not do the day before. My husband said another quick prayer and then we were off! I think Jarrod drove about 85 miles per hour if not more at times. About halfway through the drive the prettiest snowflakes began to fall, making the drive even more stressful on both Katrina and Jarrod. I lay down in the passenger seat with pillows and kept reminding myself to relax and unclench my jaw. During the drive, contractions began to roll in every 3 minutes.

We safely arrived at The Children’s Hospital, grabbed our bags and wheelchair, and headed up to Labor and Delivery. They got my information quickly and our midwife Leanna met me in the hallway to see what was going on. I smiled and said, “They are about 3 minutes apart.” About this time was when I had to start asking Jarrod to rub my back while I had contractions; I would say “Push, push, push…” He has helped me labor naturally before so he knew exactly what to do and did an excellent job. We were taken to a room and a nurse checked me and said, “Yup, you’re doing it.” This statement really disappointed me. I was so afraid she was going to tell me I was at a 4-5cm; however they began to move quickly. I am not sure who began to ask questions but I heard the nurse say, “They are probably going to be taking her very quickly.” I asked, “Where am I at?” The nurse said, "You’re at a 8-9.” All of us smiled and laughed. I said “Oh my goodness! I thought it felt like I needed to go poop!” Not the most ladylike statement I realize as I type this out, but there is truly no other way to describe it.

I was quickly wheeled into a delivery room. I crawled onto the other bed and got on all fours.  I was told Leanna was next door delivering another baby. The pressure became so intense I began to secretly push to help relieve it.  The nurse came in and asked, “Are your contractions different? It looked like maybe you were pushing.” I ignored her and asked if someone was coming, I really needed to push. They said Leanna was still next door and they could call the other midwife or get a doctor. I said, ”Just get someone. I don’t care.” A young doctor quickly came in, introduced herself, and began to check me. Before she got started, Leanna quickly rushed in and told her “No, no, no! I’m not interested in doing that, thank you!” The doctor left and Leanna told me to drape myself over the bed and began to rub my back reassuringly. She said she wanted to bring this baby in gently and that she wanted to keep my water intact as long as possible. I was group b positive, and since labor was going so quickly, keeping the bag of waters intact would help protect the baby. This was the reason she was so brisk with the doctor, who probably would have broken it.

Leanna told me to push when I needed to. I pushed on all fours for a few short moments and then turned over to a sitting squat supported by the bed. I felt so much pressure in my hips and back.  I began to push harder and harder, beginning to scream and moan during pushes because of the pain and effort it took. The best part was when my contractions would end; I got the most wonderful break, just a few pain free moments.

Leanna asked me to lie on my back for a few moments. Surprisingly when I asked to sit back up she said, “No, that last push moved your baby down so much more than the others.” Even in all the pain, I was so excited because I knew at this point I was going to make it. I knew I was not going to have another C-section! A few more hard pushes, and Leanna told me she knew what the baby’s hair color was. Now she asked me to begin to give gentle pushes, three to five seconds long to prevent tearing. She even let my husband help her with the stretching and massaging. I loved this and I love that Jarrod is the kind of husband who would want to help. Leanna told me to put my hand down there to feel my baby’s head and to be ready because I was going to be catching her soon. A push or two more and the head came out. It was like a pop, and I said very loudly “Oh my gosh! Thank God!!!” I think it only took one hard push and the rest of her body came right out.

The best part of the whole story was that I grabbed our baby and pulled her up right away to my chest. I said, “Oh we did it! We did it! We did it!” I was able to hold Adelaide skin-to-skin for a few hours. We did not even know her weight until later because the nurse was not interested in taking her from me.

Adelaide Kay was born at 7:14 am on Wednesday, February 20th.  I was only in noticeable labor for about six hours and pushed for about an hour. She was 6lbs 15.5 oz. and 20 inches long.  Praising God for my successful natural unmedicated VBAC!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Jenny and No One Plus 3

This past week was a belly-buster jump into single-mommyhood with three small boys while BJ suffered through a six-day work trip to Hawaii. The ultimate torture always consists of being forced to spend your non-working time surfing on the North Shore, capturing images of sunsets at Waikiki Beach, watching whales play off the coast, and enjoying the cuisine of fresh seafood, pineapple, and coconut, right?

But I'm not bitter. Fortunately, BJ and I have a ton of family and friends who love us dearly, and it was truly a community effort that allowed BJ to spend six days in tropical paradise while I was home with the boys. To everyone that cooked us meals, helped me with the boys, and provided emotional support during a very busy week, thank you!

Remember my post about the night of the Grammys? Well, imagine that with just one parental figure instead of two. It really was pretty hectic. On Wednesday in particular I can assure you that I had not a single moment to myself the entire day, and that isn't a dramatization. I used the bathroom with a baby in one arm, showered with toddler noses pressed against the glass door, prepared lunch with a baby in a carrier, and crawled in between my sheets at the end of the day with a stubborn child who wouldn't fall asleep in his own bed. My quiet time before bed was spent on the couch in our bedroom watching a DVR'd episode of "Restaurant Impossible" with Georgie in my lap asking with each new camera shot, "Who is that? Who is that?" Um, George, it's just Robert Irvine over and over again, only from a different angle. Despite my lack of me-time that day, we did manage to tackle library story time, the dinosaur museum, and dinner at Grammy's house on the other side of town. I kind of rock. Well, at least that day I did.

Do bedtime routines take as long for everyone else as they do for me? Last night it took me two whole hours from start to finish, but at least I succeeded in getting them all down so that I could watch "Love It or List It" and consume unstated quantities of this

 and these

and maybe a little bit of this as well.

But don't worry. Eating isn't one of my coping mechanisms. Seriously, bath time for the older two boys began at 8:25, and by the time I had them bathed, lotioned, dressed in jam jams, teeth brushed, wind-down time, and books read in bed, and then bathed Van, got him in jam jams, fed him, and had him swaddled in his crib we're talking 10:20. Then it was time to finish cleaning, fold a couple loads of laundry, and make some Jello jigglers ready for cutting for the next day. THEN "Love It or List It" and copious amounts of food. Day after day was enough to drive this girl to rebel against adulthood and get one of these while BJ was gone.

I'd save this kind of stuff for therapy except that I'm the therapist. How scary is that? 

I'm just kidding. I love my kids and we did fine. Plus I've wanted one of those piercings for about five years. But I will say my hat's off to all single parents all over this world. They must be on some kind of overload all the time. If I worked full-time, I would get approximately four hours of sleep a night, which is probably what single parents get. Welcome home, BJ!

Guest Mama: Callen's Birth

"Why do people say "grow some balls?" Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding."  -Sheng Wang

Ever since my birth experience with Van, I have had a few friends comment to me that they are interested in having a child without medications but feel overwhelmed about the possibility. While I do my best to reassure my fellow mamas and mamas-to-be that each woman is capable of far more than she realizes, I know that the prospect of having a natural birth can be daunting. Even as it was happening to me, I repeatedly wondered, "Can I do this? Am I strong enough?" The answer to both of those questions is yes, but I just have to re-center my mind sometimes. The truth is that, even though I thought I couldn't do it with my first two children and I eventually had epidurals, if my doctor had gotten in my face and told me that an epidural would have killed my baby and I'd have to do it naturally, of course I would have done it. This isn't to say that epidurals kill babies; rather, I'm just using a hypothetical example to show that if I had been given no choice, I could have done it.

I started thinking that perhaps this blog could occasionally be used for such encouragement, and so my friend Keri volunteered to share her birth story with Callen, whom she birthed without medications. You have met Keri before as the fabulous lady who donated breast milk with me in honor of Aiden Smith, and also the CEO of Mama Kneads Massage. 

If you're a mama who birthed your child without medications and would like to write up your story in a guest post to share with others, please contact me or leave a comment below! I welcome woman-to-woman encouragement, as I believe that building each other up is essential. We are stronger, more skilled, and happier as we connect with one another and rely on others for support. So let me delay no further--here is the story of the birth of Callen Jay Kelley in the words of Keri:

On Saturday morning, June 30th (our due date was June 29), around 10:30 am, I started having what I thought might be contractions.  I had Phil bring my stability ball to rock around on and he started packing up things for the possible hospital trip while I called our doula, Jennifer Tolman. The pain wasn't too bad but I do remember thinking I might throw up at one point.  Jennifer helped confirm that I was probably going into labor.  We drove to OU Children's and got checked in with our midwife, Dawn Karlin, around 1:00 pm.  At that time, I was dilated to a 6 and the baby had dropped since my check five days earlier to somewhere between Stage 0 to a +1. We also found out that my contractions were actually coming closer together than what I had realized.  I spoke to my friend Kate in Houston on the phone and she was so sweet to say a prayer with me.

Jennifer arrived at the hospital just as we were making our way to the birthing suite to get settled.  We started an IV with antibiotics to help protect the baby from Strep B around 2:15 pm.  Since I'm allergic to penicillin, I was given vancomycin that runs on a 12 hr cycle so I was set to get a second dose much later if my labor lasted that long; we didn't think it would since I was progressing so easily. Within minutes of receiving the antibiotic, my scalp was itching like crazy and as the hour/drip went on, the itching moved to my belly, back, and sides.  Phil put a cold cloth on my skin to help relieve the itching. It turns out that the strain of Strep B I had is only treatable with Pen and Vanco.

To help my labor progress, Jennifer rubbed my legs.  She also told Phil how to help by rubbing pressure points on my hands and ears. The three of us walked the Sky Walk of the hospital and chatted. I felt like I was in a dream because everything indicated labor but I was totally not in any discomfort.  I just felt really excited.  All of our family had arrived by this time. At 5 pm, we did nipple stimulation using a pump for an hour and a half to help the contractions along.  Just after 6:30 pm, Dawn did a membrane sweep. She also did a check and said I was dilated to an 8.  We took another walk and added squats this time.

As the evening passed by, Dawn suggested that we break my water to really get things going since we were on a time crunch to avoid another dose of meds that my body would likely have a more severe reaction to if given a second dose.  I was hesitant to make this decision but Jennifer has worked with Dawn before and assured me that this wasn't a normal practice for Dawn. I asked that we wait another hour (til 9 pm) and then we could do it. We were hopeful that breaking the water would really send me into pushing. Dawn was patient with me waiting to make sure I felt comfortable with the decision.

At 9:15 pm, Dawn broke my water. The gush of water grossed me out. I know the contractions got stronger because this kicked off the hours of Jennifer and Phil helping me through.  My mom and my cousin Mandy also came in to help Phil and Jennifer put pressure on my hips. At some points, I could see everyone watching the contraction monitor and they'd ask if I felt anything...I wouldn't typically feel much at certain phases.  Contractions were coming close together a minute and a half apart.  But I do remember being zoned out at times too while I had my hips and back pushed on.  I'd give a cue and say "Okay, one is coming now" and they'd squeeze while I sat on the ball and leaned onto the bed. I know that I threw up once but I'm not sure what time that was.  From what I had read, that was a good sign that the baby would come soon. Jennifer told me the same thing.

Somewhere during the contractions, we were using the breast pump again.  Dawn said this was a first.  Another funny thing that happened that I forgot was Dawn missing her rolling chair. My eyes were closed but I heard all of the laughter and could only imagine! A nurse counted to ten for me during the pushing stages - I remember telling her to count louder because I wasn't hearing the last few counts (probably because I was drowning her out with all my grunting!).

Well, the night was wearing on and my deadline for antibiotics was closing in.  At this time (maybe 2 am?), Dawn mentioned pitocin.  I was really hesitant to go there.  Afraid that I wouldn't be able to handle a more intense pain that I had heard comes with pitocin induced labors and that I'd have to cave in to all of the interventions that I was set on avoiding. Again, I bargained for a bit more time while I made certain I was comfortable with the decision and tried to ramp myself up to really work at pushing.  Jennifer was a sounding board again as she assured me that Dawn would never go there unless she thought it would help in this situation.  I agreed to start pitocin but asked for the lowest dose. I think it was started around 2:30 am at the lowest dosage and was only increased once. Sure enough, pushing was closer together now.  Before, my contractions had slowed to about 7 minutes apart so any pushing I was doing wasn't working the baby down, down, down.  I'd push him down and he'd move back up during my resting stages. So, I think we tried almost every position possible for pushing.  I laid on my side in the bed, I squatted at the foot of the bed hanging from a towel wrapped around a roll bar attached to the bed, I sat on the toilet, I sat on the ball and would squat when needed, I hung over the top of the bed with my knees in the bend of the bed. It was crazy.  I was trying so hard.  I was getting discouraged and asking my team for anything I could do or try to succeed. I felt like there must be something I could do better even though I was pulling stuff out of my mind from the books I had read about keeping my face and jaw relaxed, even sticking my tongue out!  Phil probably thought I was having a seizure. He was so supportive of every crazy-sounding decision I made regarding pregnancy, birth options and postpartum stuff. He really endured the night's challenges right beside me.  He said it was really tough seeing me go through the pushing parts. He also said he was able to see the baby's head for several hours before we had delivery.  I will add that the baby was showing no signs of distress through the whole night.  We opted against the second dose of Vanco even though our 12 hour mark had passed.

Dawn and Jennifer suggested I try the toilet again as that was where I seemed to make the most progress.  I was freaked out about that option and asked what the plan was if the baby did indeed come there...just who was going to dive in and catch it?! Dawn assured me that she would check the baby and move me out of there before that happened.  And that's exactly how it went!  I got him down further, we moved to the bed and Phil thinks I pushed for about another hour laying on my side.  I was able to feel his head and this gave me a boost of motivation and keep going.  I know Dawn offered for me to feel once more but I remember thinking I didn't want to lose focus so I declined.  My mind was somewhere else in space so I couldn't chance bringing myself back to reality just yet--I was so close to my goal.  And I guess it's unusual but he came out sideways/transverse?  His little (or might I say big) head was turned toward his shoulder.  Phil said he just kept coming and coming and coming...all 22 inches. He weighed 8 lb 7 oz and was completely perfect.  We delayed cord clamping and he was placed directly on my stomach.  Moments later, I announced "It's a boy!" loud enough to let the family waiting across the hall to hear.  I cut the cord and we all breathed a sigh of relief for having him here.  I was so exhausted but proud for not having ever given up, not asking for pain meds and not feeling like I couldn't do it.  Yes, I questioned whether I could do it "fast enough" but really remained strong and determined. I had a first degree tear and got a few stitches--this heals fast and while I felt some "ring of fire," I did not feel a tear. He was born at 6:09 am on July 1st, 2012. So, while I skipped early labor and active labor was a breeze, the hard labor lasted from 10 pm to 6 am making 8 hours.

I'm sharing my story so that anyone who thinks they want to experience labor this way but don't know what to expect or who to ask, know that it can be done!  Know that your body is fearfully and wonderfully made in a way that is perfect for the child God gives you.  I don't judge other options but wish more women believed in themselves just enough to consider the old-fashioned way that our grandmas know and their grandmas and so on.  That's our birth story of Callen Jay Kelley.