Our Second Medication-Free Hospital Birth

Here’s how my husband, Ryan, summed up the birth of our second child.

“Wow. We made that look routine.”

My water broke on an evening where we were both well-rested and well-fed. We had no loose ends at work and it was perfect timing for my mother to watch our older son. We casually labored at home and then moseyed into the hospital right at transition. We got transferred to the delivery room shortly before the urge to push and then nine minutes later, we had our second son. It was a three hour labor. It was so fast, the frozen orange juice we packed to drink after birth was still frozen.

We had a very positive experience. Sickeningly positive? Perhaps. But since there are a lot of birth horror stories out there, I think it is important to share the good stories as well. : )

Possible Factor Genetics
My family has a history of fast labors and smaller babies. According to 23AndMe, Ryan and I both have genes for lower birth weight babies.

23AndMe-BirthWeight
23AndMe Confirm We Both Have Tendencies Towards Smaller Birth-Weight Babies

BUT— also according to 23AndMe, I have Increased Sensitivity to Pain. Go figure. (This may support the claim that the pain from child-birth is a different kind of pain than an injury).

23AndMe-SensitivityToPain
23AndMe Says I Have a Higher Sensitivity to Pain

Provider – Physicians and Midwives
With my pregnancy with my first child, our caretakers were the wonderful midwives at BirthCare. However, when my water broke at 35 Weeks 5 Days, we had to be transferred to the hospital. Fate brought us to a midwife and obstetrician from the Physicians and Midwives Collaborative Practice. We found them to be very supportive of our wishes for a natural, unmedicated birth. We had such a positive experience, we selected them for our care this time around. And bonus– there was an office within walking distance to my house. I was able to walk to all of my third trimester appointments with my regular doctors/midwives.

logo-physicians-midwives

Hospital versus Home Birth
A factor in our decision to use Physician and Midwives came from our desire to have another hospital birth. With our first son, we were weary of hospital births and all the negative stories we had heard. But with this birth, we knew first hand that it was feasible to have an intervention-free, unmedicated birth in the hospital. Ryan liked the idea of hospital staff being around in case there were complications. I, on the other hand, coveted a hospital birth for one reason and one reason only– the bed. With our first labor, I found that maneuverable hospital bed to be oh-so-wonderful with changing positions and getting comfortable. “Wanna get into the sitting squat? Oh here, let me just push a few buttons. Done.”

No Birth Plan
We took Bradley Method classes during my first pregnancy. One evening we did an exercise where each husband shared an aspect about his wife that he felt would be beneficial during birth, stuff like “She wants the best for our baby” and “She doesn’t back down from a challenge.” One husband said, “She trusts me completely.” I remember thinking that was odd and thinking something along the lines of, “Isn’t that more about you than your wife?”

With two births behind me now, I have to say complete trust and confidence in your coach is absolutely a key component.

Although our preferences were the same as last time, we did not write up or distribute an official birth plan this time around. I had complete confidence in my husband, Ryan. We are both on the same page with preferences. I also knew Ryan was well educated on the birth process and the various interventions. I knew if there were complications, he was armed with the knowledge to make the best decisions for our family. And most importantly, I knew Ryan had seen me on hard hikes, he had seen me on tough workouts, and he saw me during my first birth. I knew that he would know the difference between me having self-doubt to me having maternal fatigue and needing an intervention. Because I had so much confidence in Ryan, I was able to defer decision-making to him. I didn’t have to waste energy on decisions and instead I was able to focus my mind where it is needed most — relaxing and letting my body do its work. In the weeks preceding birth, I told people I wasn’t particularly scared of labor, but I was terrified of the notion of labor without Ryan.

Prep – Exercise
Like with my first pregnancy, I remained active. However, I would classify the activity level as more moderate this time around. With my first pregnancy, I was getting to the gym five days a week. Now that I was a parent, my gym time was more limited, so my activity was supplemented by stuff I could do with my son such as walking or mowing our lawn with the manual push mower.

Last labor, I had said the most direct perk I had seen from exercise was with burping during swimming (it prepared me for burping during transition). This time around, I would say the most direct perk was the stationary bike. After the birth of my first son, I had found the pattern of working really hard followed by a “rest” period to be reminiscent of labor. As I approached the due date of my second son, I would emulate that on the stationary bike. I would do 0.75 miles on a base difficulty level and then for the last quarter mile, I would pump that level up really high. I would close my eyes, concentrate on breathing and relaxing the rest of my body as my poor legs burned and did their work. Then I would go back to the base level for another three quarters of mile before repeating. During this labor, as I was experiencing hard contractions, I thought about being on that bike and knowing the rest period was coming up.

Pregnancy Workouts - Week 36 - 2013-06-18 Work Rest on Bike
Blurry, But You Can Get a Sense of How My Bike Workouts Went in Waves

As far as Bradley Method exercises, I did a lot of tailor sitting. I did about 200 kegels a day. I got in 150 pelvic rocks roughly every 3 days.

See Also Our Second Bradley Method Birth Appendix – Third Trimester Exercise.

Prep – Relaxation
Relaxation and breathing exercises I wasn’t as diligent about. I would say I got those in about twice a week. What I tend to do is with my eyes closed, I start by tailor sitting and run through a series of stretches while doing deep breathing. I usually end by getting in a side lie and just doing deep breathing. And with a toddler that tires you out, often I would accidently fall asleep. : )

Prep – Perineal Massage
I also wasn’t as diligent about perineal massage this time around. I only did it twice. However, that was apparently sufficient as I didn’t experience any tearing during labor.

Braxton Hicks and Blissful Ignorance
So anytime the doctors would ask me about Braxton Hicks during this or last pregnancy, I would shrug and tell them that I wasn’t aware of it. I was blissfully ignorant and that is a good place to be. At 36 weeks, I had an appointment at the High Risk Center and they put me on some monitors to do a non-stress test on the baby. They wanted to watch his heartbeat and see that it spiked up over the baseline a certain amount of times in 30 minutes. I didn’t realize it, but they also put a monitor to watch my contractions. So I was going about my business when a nurse came in and asked, “Are you feeling those contractions?” She held up the instrument readouts and started pointing, “You had one there. You had one there. You had one there…. you’re having one right now!”

And I hadn’t noticed…until she SAID something. For the next couple of days, I was quite unnervingly aware of all the contractions. Thanks, technology. Luckily, after a couple of days, my mind became bored at fixating on contractions and focused back over at work and other duties. Via selective attention, I found myself back where I wanted to be– blissfully ignorant.

Labor – Rupture of Membranes
Shortly before 11 PM on June 27th, I was laying on our futon mattress on the floor and felt a very strange and audible “pop” in my belly. It was very unlike a kick, but I didn’t think much of it. Shortly after that, I was aware of liquid, so I alerted Ryan and went into the bathroom and confirmed once again that it is pretty unambiguous when my water breaks.

And I immediately apologized to Ryan. That particular night I couldn’t find my sleeping shorts and I wasn’t very inclined to squat and rummage around for them…so it was a pair of Ryan’s boxers that was unambiguously doused with amniotic fluid. : )

At 11:06 PM, Ryan texted his mother to let her know that my water broke. He also took our sleeping first born son up to a cot in my mother’s room.

Labor – Laboring At Home
I laid down some towels on our futon mattress and we waited for contractions to start to time them. It didn’t take long for the contractions to begin. The fan was on and on my face. I remember it being peaceful, laying with Ryan and listening to the fan.

The early contractions really made me feel like I needed to urinate. I got up and went to the restroom several times. I’m not sure if any urine actually came out, but all the amniotic fluid at least made it SEEM like I was productive.

Sometimes it was unclear when a contraction was starting and Ryan and I noted some patterns– where I would have a longer contraction then a short, light one and then another hard one.

Here’s where trust in your partner came into play. I deferred the decision of when to go to the hospital to Ryan. I didn’t think about it. I just concentrated on relaxing and my body. Finally, Ryan decided it was time for us to go to the hospital. Unbeknownst to us, my mother was relieved, she was getting ready to come down and yell at us for not going to the hospital yet. My family has a history of fast labors and my mother barely made it to the hospital for her second child.

Labor – Trip to the Hospital
Ryan held my hand as we walked down the stairs. The moon was beautiful. We heard evening frogs in the distance.

Ryan calculated that we would only have 3 contractions in the car– it was more than that (I think 7ish). They were manageable, except when we hit a bump on I-95 (which it turns out there are a lot more bumps than you think) and there was twice where I was having a contraction and Ryan accelerated at a light. Bumps and acceleration aren’t pleasant during contractions. I even made use of that little handle on the car ceiling.

Labor – Walking to the Hospital and Check-In
We parked at the closest entrance to Labor and Delivery and I got out of the car to walk. A security guard came up to “save us some steps” and warned us that our usual entrance was closed and that we should go to the emergency entrance. He seemed like he was offering us a ride, but I insisted on walking.

Walking really intensified and sped up the contractions. I had to keep stopping and let contractions pass, at times leaning on the cars of strangers. Midway through our walk, I could admit maybe it wasn’t the best idea, but I knew walking helps position the baby, so we kept going. Sometimes I would start walking as soon as a contraction peaked to get a head start before the next one began, so to an onlooker, it would appear like I was having really short contractions, when really I was just trying to get to my destination faster. The entrance I thought was our revised destination wasn’t… it was pretty much right smack next to the correct entrance but at that moment, it seemed like a great distance.

We made it to the lobby and a security guard offered me a wheelchair. I was hesitant because I couldn’t figure out if sitting or standing was going to be better with the contractions. Finally after the current contraction passed I sat down. As they wheeled me by some people waiting in the lobby, I remembered that I had my legs spread wide and no underwear on, so I pulled my skirt down a bit to shield. I still had some modesty! However, I had more of the onlookers comfort in mind than my own. : )

I experienced three or so contractions during the ride.

We had to sign some paperwork. Ryan did a lot of the answers, though he did not know what LMP meant (Answer: Last Menstrual Period).

At one point Ryan was looking for something in my wallet. I thought he was looking for my ID, so he handed it to me and I looked through it and couldn’t find it. I would find out a couple of days later that he was looking for my insurance card. He already had my ID out and gave it to the nurse (which explains why I couldn’t find it). I think this confusion was a sign that I was already hitting my “trance phase” of labor. I wasn’t paying full attention to what was going on outside my body.

Labor – The Skeptical Triage Nurse
After the paperwork was signed, they took me to a curtain area to put on a gown and answer questions for a triage nurse. This time, I did wait for the curtain to be closed before stripping off my maternity dress and putting on the hospital gown. So I still had more modesty than last time around! : ) I used the restroom before getting in bed. I did have some comfort problems with the fetal monitoring at first. They wanted me on my side and at the time, I wanted to be sitting up, but honestly once I got settled on my side, I was fine. I was just reluctant to move from a position where I knew everything was manageable (sitting upright) to a mystery position.

I’m not very vocal during contractions… and this was very misleading to the Triage Nurse. She seemed to be skeptical that my water even broke. She asked about how much liquid came out at home and kept commenting on how she wasn’t seeing any liquid here.

Dr. Bradley talks about the needs of a laboring woman and one of them is comfort. Well here’s an aspect of comfort. Don’t ask a laboring woman a bazillion #$(*&ing questions during a contraction! : ) This poor triage nurse was trying to fill out all her forms and when contractions came around, I really needed to focus on my body, so I ended up ignoring her. Ryan told me how you’d hear stuff like, “Ma’am, ma’am? Have you ever had herpes? Ma’am? Ma’am?” Ryan said after a while she just started to skip the questions I ignored.

I don’t think I helped with the triage nurse’s perception of how far along my labor was when she asked what my pain level is. “5 or 6″ I said.

Oh and when she asked about epidural, I gave the exact same answer I gave with my first son, “One contraction at a time.”

Enter the midwife from Physicians and Midwives. I had never met her before, but she definitely knows her stuff. She knew instantly that I was much further along than the triage nurse thought.

“She’s the silent strong type.” the midwife noted.

The midwife could see the baby’s heart rate on the monitor and told me “your baby is really responding to your contractions”. By watching the changes in the baby’s heart rate she knew I was contracting hard and often.

The midwife offered to check me and I was in the middle of a contraction, so I told her later. I was also reluctant to get checked because I was worried about getting discouraged if I was a 6 or something. The midwife had a very cheerful and friendly voice and she pointed out that she didn’t need to check me at all that the baby was going to come when it was ready regardless if she checked me or not.

The midwife lobbied for me to get transferred to the delivery room. The triage nurse, still fixated on procedure, asked the midwife, “Did you check her yet?” The midwife said she hadn’t but pointed out that I “was 3 centimeters last week.” Luckily, the midwife got her way and they transferred me and just 29 minutes later Dyson would be born.

Labor – Missed “Self Doubt” Emotional Sign Post
Ryan had been waiting for me to have my Self-Doubt Emotional Sign Post like last time, but it never came. Luckily, Ryan knows me very well and he recognized my trance-like state from last labor and he knew I was ready to go.

Labor – Visualizations
I did use the candle visualization a nurse gave me during my first son’s labor (imagine you are blowing on a candle and making it flicker but not blowing it out). I also found myself thinking about bicycle workouts at the gym during contractions.

Labor – Still Hate to Be Touched
Ryan learned that just like last labor, I didn’t like to be touched during contractions. Unfortunately I don’t think I used the word “Please” when I communicated that to him. I think I just said, “Don’t touch me.” (But hopefully not in a mean voice)

Labor – Coach’s Present Is Important
Knowing I was in my trance-like state like last time, Ryan was less vocal this time around, but I still fed on his mere presence. At one point, I opened my eyes in the triage area and I didn’t see him. I felt just the beginnings of being flustered when I heard his voice behind me. Even if he wasn’t talking, I just needed him there.

I do remember him reminding me this was like ab work at the gym (which is true– the alternation between work and rest on the Ab Bench reminds me very much of labor).

I did send Ryan away once between contractions. We had put watered down grape juice in my Camelbak Nalgene Bottle. I had tasted it before we left home and said, “Perfect!” But in the car ride to the hospital, the grape taste was bothering me. So in between contractions, I asked the midwife to show Ryan where he could dump the juice out and get plain water.

Labor – Transfer to Delivery Room
I was definitely in my trance mode during the transfer. At one point when they were wheeling me, I guess they hit a curtain or something. I heard someone say “Whoops” and then the midwife’s cheerful voice, “She didn’t even notice, she’s in her zone.”

Labor – Loss of Modesty
They got me to my delivery room and they wanted me to roll over to move beds. I opened my eyes and I believe I let out an audible sound of disappointment that I had to move, like an “oh no”, but I complied. As soon as I got in that bed, I immediately ripped off my hospital gown. It had been SOOO hot in that Triage area. Ryan said he knew that was coming. He also amusingly compared me to a scene in “An American Werewolf in London”. When the guy starts to turn into a werewolf, the very first thing he does is strip off all his clothes. That’s me in the delivery room.


Me In The Delivery Room

Labor – Transition
They asked me to lay on my left side, “for your baby” which I did.

Ryan asked if I wanted a wet wash cloth, I did and he said I kept it on for the rest of labor. He said when I got to pushing, when I dipped my head down the wash cloth would plop off on my belly and he would grab it and then put it back on my head when the contraction was done. After a few times of that, he started pulling it off when he saw my pre-push deep breaths coming along. I was actually unaware I still had that wash cloth on during pushing and I was definitely not aware of it falling off on my belly. : )

The midwife asked about checking me again and I said, “I dunno. If I’m not that far along, I’m going to get scared.” (Which is true. If you want to talk about a Self Doubt Emotional Sign Post, I could totally see myself going into full panic mode if I wasn’t that far dilated). But finally I let her check me and it turns out, “Just a tiny lip left. You’re complete.”

Second Stage Labor – Gotta Go Feeling and Pushing Contractions
Maybe 1-2 contractions after she checked me, the contraction ended with the urge to push. I told them I felt the urge and I followed it up with a “Yay.” Ryan confirmed my “Yay” was pretty monotone, but I was genuinely happy.

I wasn’t going to dilly dally this time with pushing. I asked them to put me in the sitting squat. Ryan had asked for a squat bar and they ran around and found it, set it up, but then I opened my eyes, saw it was in the way of me pulling my legs back, so after all that work to find it, I asked them to move it. The midwife had great spirits about this change. “I have a headrest” she said, gently bumping her head on the relocated squat bar.

There was a bit of time between that initial pushing contraction and the rest of them, I mentioned it and the midwife said that was good, “It gives you a little break.”

When it was show time, it was show time. Ryan reported being impressed with how I quickly pulled my legs back and started pushing. “You attacked it like a work out.” I attacked it so hard, in fact, my biceps were STILL sore two days later.

My first labor, I was worried about taking a bowel movement in front of my husband. This time, instead of finding fear or worry in something feeling like a bowel movement, I used that as a guide. “That feels like a dump, go for it!”

And Kudos to the male graphic novel author Brian K. Vaughan for nailing the sensation of Second Stage Labor in the very first frame of his Saga series.

Saga Screenshot
Brian K. Vaughan NAILS it

When I became aware of them moving some tarp-like material under my rear end, I did ask, “Oh no, am I going to the bathroom?” The midwife laughed and said she was just getting ready for my baby.

Pushing contractions felt very different this time, I think because I was pushing with them from the get-go. I didn’t give my body a chance to do it for me (which I don’t advise). I don’t know how I knew they were coming, but I did and I was all over it.

The midwife was awesome about reminding me to breathe and catch my breath between the pushing contractions. Ryan was awesome about reminding me to keep my chin down.

I wasn’t sure I was making great progress, but Ryan and the midwife reported there was. They said there was not that much hair which was encouraging, at least the baby was close enough for them to see a lack of hair.

Second Stage Labor – Ring of Fire
Soon I felt the burning. They told me he was right there and I told them that I could feel the burning already and the midwife pointed out, “So you already know he’s there!” I opened my eyes and saw the top of his head. It looked like he had more to go to crown, so I thought, “Wow if it burns like this now, what is it going to feel like next contraction?” But then I didn’t even notice it the next contraction.

Second Stage Labor – Compound Presentation
The baby’s head got out and they asked me to breath. Then there was some commotion. I wasn’t sure if they wanted me to breathe or push, so I just breathed. They called some reinforcements. It turns out little Dyson had his little hand up by his head and shoulder and it was wrapped in the cord. The midwife cut the cord, untangled his hand and pulled him out. It felt quite nice when she pulled him out.

He was blue and there was stress in everyone’s voices. I didn’t outwardly panic, but I thought he was dead. Ryan reported I didn’t ask, “Is he dead?” (which is what I was thinking) and instead asked, “Is he okay?”

He turned out to be fine. He was just stunned. He had a heartbeat and soon started breathing and crying. His cry was much more vigorous than my first son’s. They were worried about his little right hand which he wasn’t moving at first. The pediatrician checked his clavicle and it wasn’t broken. And soon enough, Dyson started moving his hand around again. All was well. He was 6 pound 13.5 ounces, two pounds bigger than my first son. Even though he was bigger and had a compound presentation, labor was faster and I didn’t tear at all.

I have absolutely no concept of time with labor. With Sagan’s birth, I was surprised that I was pushing for two hours (it felt shorter). With Dyson’s birth, I was surprised that I only pushed for 9-10 minutes (it felt longer).

TMI – Second Stage Labor With Hemorrhoids
Two days before birth, I discovered I had a common pregnancy side-effect– hemorrhoids. It didn’t hurt, but it gave me mental discomfort to think something was there. My first labor during pushing, I held back because I was afraid of taking a bowel movement in front of my husband. I didn’t want any kind of mass in that area to mislead me and hold me back. But two health care professionals reassured me. Women with hemorrhoids push babies out all the time. And when it came down to it, there was so much sensation going on during second stage labor, I never once thought about those hemorrhoids. They did not hold me back or interfere with the process in anyway. After birth, they cleared up on their own (in about a week or so).

Differences
Ryan and I are amazed at what just a couple extra weeks in the womb does for a child. Dyson was much more aware and able than Sagan was at birth. Case in point, Dyson started rooting and nursing right there in the delivery room.

Possibly because this time we are nursing right off the breast (and not relying on the breast pump), I did find the uterus cramping during breastfeeding to be significantly more uncomfortable. It’s hilarious. I can get through labor contractions without a peep, but those cramps when the uterus contracts really got to me and had me moaning.

P.S. Circa Day 5, I went for a quick .9 mile walk. After that, the cramping didn’t disturb me anymore.

Coach Tip – Have a Thick Skin
Finally, in addition to my coach tip’s from my last Birth Story post, I have one more additional piece of advice. Coaches— make sure you have a thick skin and don’t take anything personally. Ryan got shot down three times during this labor (grape juice in my CamelBak, touching me during a contraction, and setting up the squat bar). So coaches, don’t let failed notions bother you, just move on to something else. : )

Dyson - Delivery - Family Portrait in Delivery Room
Post Birth – We Look Great!

March 28, 2014 at 1:01 am 4 comments

Our Second Bradley Method Birth Appendix – Third Trimester Exercise

Like last pregnancy, I tried to keep active. With a toddler around, I didn’t make it to the gym as much, so I tried to get creative on the off-days. So you’ll see notes where I was doing pushups or planks at playgrounds. There is also a Flickr set of my various elliptical and bike workouts where you can watch my pace decrease as the pregnancy progressed. :)

Also during this pregnancy, I totally fell in love with BodyPump classes at the gym. LOVED it. Still LOVE it. Highly recommend! They even have a BodyPump Pregnancy Guide brochure with modifications to the exercises for pregnancy.

With exercising during pregnancy, I still recommend listening to your body. You’ll see evidence of that in Week 35. The elliptical was uncomfortable, so I moved to the bike and there were days were I just rested.

TO WEEK 25
Sunday March 24th – Weight Lifting with Ryan!!!
Monday March 25th – 65 minutes on the Elliptical
Tuesday March 26??
Wednesday March 27th – Nothing, business travel
Thursday March 28th – Nothing, business travel
Friday March 29th – Quick Hike Up Lady Slipper at Pandapas Pond
Saturday March 30th – Tinker Cliffs Hike! NO BREAKS!!! w00t

TO WEEK 26
Sunday March 31 – ???
Monday April 1st – BodyPump
Tuesday April 2nd
Wednesday April 3rd – BodyPump
Thursday April 4th
Friday April 5th – Run/Walk with Jogging Stroller – Mount High Street->West Locust, down to Pool and Back
Saturday April 6 – Walk to Car Under Bridge, Mowing Lawn

TO WEEK 27
Sunday April 7 – Fitness Trail/Hike with Sagan
Monday April 8th – 5K Run/Walk with Jogging Strolled — River Ridge Bike Path
Tuesday April 9th – Playing at Occoquan Regional Park with Sagan for about 50 minutes, planks, push ups
Wednesday April 10th – BodyPump
Thursday April 11th – Run/Walk to the Playground on Clipper with Jogging Stroller (25 min), Played with Sagan with lots of ladder climbing (30 mins), Run/Walk Home (25 min)
Friday April 12th – ????
Saturday April 13th – River Cleanup! 4 hours of Kayaking

TO WEEK 28
Sunday April 14th – Mowing, Probably a Walk to the Car
Monday April 15th – Running without jogging stroller. Walked up Mount High Hill, ran to West Locust downhill, walked downhill, Run almost all the way to pool, stretched, ran to Ellicott Street, ran alley and up to almost all the way back home.
Tuesday April 16th – Don’t think I did anything
Wednesday April 17th – BodyPump
Thursday April 18th – ???
Friday April 19th – ????
Saturday April 20th – Tons of errands, walk to car, walk w/Sagan from Jiffy Lube to Bank and back

TO WEEK 29
Sunday April 21st – Tree Planting, Weight Lifting at Gym, Mowing
Monday April 22nd – 40 minutes on Elliptical
Tueday April 23rd – 1 Hour Walk to Grandma’s House and then across bridge with Jogging Stroller
Wednesday April 24th – Walked to OB/GYN appointment with Sagan in Umbroller, BodyPump class
Thursday April 25th – ?????
Friday April 26th – Mowing
Saturday April 27th – Nothing, TJ Hackathon

TO WEEK 30
Sunday April 28th – I don’t think I did anything
Monday April 29th – Walk to Car, 10K in an hour on the elliptical with Hills set to 4.
Tuesday April 30th – Just playing with Sagan inside
Wednesday May 1st – BodyPump- upped tricep and biceps weight.
Thursday May 2nd – Mowing
Friday May 3rd – None, Driving to Blacksburg
Saturday May 4th – None, Blacksburg Visit

TO WEEK 31
Sunday May 5th – Hiking Falls Ridge (carrying Sagan), Lots of Walking and Wagon Pulling at Frontier Museum
Monday May 6th – None (Blogging)
Tuesday May 7th – None (Playing with Sagan, some pushups and planks)
Wednesday May 8th – BodyPump
Thursday May 9th – Family Walk to Pool Playground and Back
Friday May 10th – Mowing with Manual Push Mower
Saturday May 11th – Walk to Grandma’s House with Jogging Stroller and Farmer’s Market, Lots of Sagan Playing

TO WEEK 32
Sunday May 12th – Walk to Grandma’s House with Jogging Stroller, Weight lifting with Ryan, planting pawpaws and transplanting American Chestnut
Monday May 13th – Nothing – Mother’s Day Dinner at Cheesecake Factory
Tuesday May 14th – 65 Minutes Elliptical, 5.5 miles, Hills Set to 5.
Wednesday May 15th – Nothing – Star Trek!!!
Thursday May 16th – 1 hour walk to car and chestnuts with jogging stroller, then ~30 minutes mowing with manual push mower back yard (part with Sagan in BabyErgo)
Friday May 17th – ???
Saturday May 18th – Sick, but did a short walk to Post Office and back.

TO WEEK 33
Sunday May 19th – Sick, nothing
Monday May 20th – 1 Hour Family Walk Looking for Cicadas up McKenzie Drive and Down Stairs
Tuesday May 21st – (Aaron and Meagan over for dinner) 27 minutes of mowing with manual push mower the front yard
Wednesday May 22nd – Walk with Sagan and umbrellor to OB/GYN in Lake Ridge (~30 – 40 min)
Thursday May 23rd – Walk with Sagan on Mount High Street->Locust Loop, Collecting Cicada Shells (took us over an hour to do a mile)
Friday May 24th – Don’t think I did anything
Saturday May 25th – At least four hours of clean-up and pergo piling, Mowing with push mower of back and front yard.

TO WEEK 34
Sunday May 26th – 1 hour weight lifting with Ryan, short multigenerational family walk at Lorton Workhouse, Organizing and moving clothes.
Monday May 27th – Family Hike through the woods in Lake Ridge, 1.5 hour Family Walk at Dusk (from 123 Bridge, across footbridge and back home)
Tuesday May 28th -
Wednesday May 29th – 65 minutes on the elliptical 3.91 miles, 6888 feet, 550 calories burnt
Thursday May 30th – Taking Sagan to Grandma’s House to Fetch Car (did some carrying)
Friday May 31st – Walking to Secret Garden with Brian and Ryan, then up West Locust and Down Mount High Street with Brian
Saturday June 1st – Pergo installation

TO WEEK 35
Sunday June 2nd – Walk down to craft fair (basically Mill House Museum and back)
Monday June 3rd – 50 minutes on elliptical, 438 calories, 3.36 miles, 5565 feet
Tuesday June 4th – Low impact walking with Sagan around neighborhood (Groundhog siting!). Mowing of the side yard.
Wednesday June 5th – 17:27 minutes on elliptical – 148 calories, 1.15 miles, 1791 feet. Then 39:31 minutes on bike (elliptical was uncomfortable) for 7.1 miles and another 203 calories.
Thursday June 6th – Not going to sound like much, but spent about an hour pushing Sagan around in that giant truck-themed shopping cart in Giant. :)
Friday June 7th – Walking alone to OB/GYN in the pleasant, nostalgic drizzle. (About a mile, 25 minutes worth)
Saturday June 8th – Walk to Farmer’s Market and Mailbox and back, Mowing front and back yard. (Very low energy day– slept in and then napped three hours)

TO WEEK 36
Sunday June 9th – Swam 32 laps at the gym (1 mile), Cleaning of basement from cord trim installation.
Monday June 10th – 1 hour on bike – 10.63 miles, more than 2 miles of it at level 20. Calories 300.
Tuesday June 11th – Walk to Grandma’s House and Back to Check on Chestnut– Carried Sagan AND his mower and his popper most of the way.
Wednesday June 12th – Minor walking looking for the McCourt to Occoquan Trail Meeting
Thursday June 13th – None– exhausted :( :( :(
Friday June 14th – Not much, but pushups, squats and lunges, tricep dips while Sagan played on playground.
Saturday June 15th – two hour walk with Sagan to Farmer’s Market, Chestnut tree, and Phelp’s. Afternoon at Doug and Kristina’s

TO WEEK 37
Sunday June 16th – Weight lifting with Ryan
Monday June 17th – Nothing – Man of Steel date with Ryan
Tuesday June 18th- Biking 60 minutes, 10.68 miles, 303 Calories, 2.5 miles Level 20 or greater
Wedneday June 19th – Walking To and From Grandma’s House (carrying Sagan the way home), mowing of front lawn with push mower.
Thursday June 20th – ????
Friday June 21st – Walked to and from OB/GYN appointment (~2 miles), did a family walk to take a picture of the chestnut and then across the bridge (~1.5 miles).
Saturday June 22nd – Walked to Farmer’s Market and back

TO WEEK 38
Sunday June 23rd – 1 hour weight lifting at gym with Ryan, Hike through Tanyard Hill woods with Ryan and Sagan (maybe 1.5 miles)
Monday June 24th – Nothing – Working on Email Issues
Tuesday June 25th – Walking Sagan down to the Pool Playground in the Stroller and then around Occoquan
Wednesday June 26th – Walk Back From Parked Car at Grandma’s house. Small Walk to Construction Site with Ryan and Sagan
Thursday June 27th – Not much – playing with Sagan, Started to Mow Before Thunderstorm
Friday June 28th 1:58 AM – GAVE BIRTH

March 28, 2014 at 1:00 am 1 comment

A Positive Story About My Two Year Old’s Cavities

Last month I found out that my son, who’s barely been on this planet for 31 months and has had teeth for even less than that, had cavities. Two cavities, in fact. The dentist didn’t point any fingers, but I believe we were too lenient with juices and extended use of the sippy cup.

But believe it or not, this is a positive tale! I share it in case anything we did would be of value to other parents or ease their concerns.

An Affection for the Dentist
The first time my son visited the dentist, he was about 22 months old. Everything checked out fine, but the appointment itself was not smooth. The whole thing was scary to him, he didn’t want to open his mouth, tears were shed.

Now granted, he was older for his second check up. But we also approached it a little differently. In the days leading up to his appointment, I talked him through what was going to happen and we “practiced.” He would open his mouth and I would look at and poke his teeth.

Walking into the dentist office for his appointment I asked Sagan, “Are you scared?”

“I’m not scared!” he announced.

Yeah, right I thought, We’ll see about that.

But sure enough, Sagan’s assessment was accurate. He was not scared. When it came time for his check up, what a difference! I was mentally prepared for crying and screaming, but this time, I had an inquisitive, agreeable little boy who enjoyed everything from start to finish. The “flash light” (the light above him) and the “sucker” (the tool that sucks saliva out of your mouth) were his favorite parts. He even sat still for X-rays.

Sagan Dentist - February 25 - Getting Examined
Getting Examined

Sagan Dentist - February 25 - Still Liking the Sucker
Love That Sucker

Sagan Dentist - February 25 - X-Rays
X-Rays

So the process of the appointment was wonderful, but the outcome was less than ideal. My little boy had two cavities. He was going to need to have some fillings. I would spend the next week ferociously researching on the Internet at which point I would discover that I am a callous, unfeeling mother. A lot of the mothers on the Internet talked about sobbing right there in the dentist office when they found out their child had cavities. Whoops. It never occurred to me to cry at the dentist office, but that also meant Sagan had no cue from me to get upset himself. I would have plenty of guilt-ridden moments later, in the middle of the night, watching my peaceful son sleep and thinking about how he would have decidedly un-peaceful moments ahead.

But back to the story. The dentist typically sedates young children for their fillings, but my little boy is actually too little. 1.8 pounds too little. They don’t sedate children until they are 30 pounds. So the dentist, we’ll call her Dentist A, said she would be using a “papoose board” which would hold him down so he couldn’t flail around next to the sharp instruments.

“Okay,” I said, “Is there anything we should practice to prepare him?”

Dentist A looked at me and blinked. “No. This is very traumatic for the children. You shouldn’t practice.”

Wait… traumatic?

She must have read my mind because she quickly added on, “All most children remember is the toy afterwards.”

I’m Going to Traumatize My Child For His Entire Life
So alone at home, I did have some emotions and worries. I was particularly saddened by how much fun Sagan had at the dentist and how now he was most certainly going to hate it. I really did feel like I was about to traumatize my child for life.

My worries were reinforced the very next day when Sagan got a shot at the pediatrician office. He cried and cried and cried and he talked about how “the doctor gave [him] a needle ouchie” for weeks. Weeks!

Papoose Board Research
After I got home, that’s when the ferocious Internet research began and like most everything, there are a lot of horror stories. I talked to two parents who had to have their children in papoose boards. Both of the parents had a negative opinion of the papoose board. One parent even told me the papoose board changed her son’s personality.

But then… I talked to two adults who had actually been in papoose boards when they were very young. Sagan’s uncle was in a papoose board when he was three.

“You know, I keep being told I was in a papoose board, but I don’t remember it at all.”

My cousin also had multiple encounters with a papoose board when she was young. She didn’t find the papoose board traumatic and she was sure “[your son] will do fine.”

Among all the horror stories on the Internet, I did find a lone outlier– a mother who said she prepared her daughter and told her the papoose board was going to give her a tight “hug.” She sat and talked with her daughter during the procedure and it went well. That was uplifting to read. The survey results for this study were uplifting as well. The papoose board was not a unanimously awful thing.

Questions
With my reading, I had a series of questions, I called over to the dentist and asked away.

Dentist Questions
An Excerpt of my Questions and Notes

This was actually really helpful, because I confirmed I could be in the room with him, I learned more about the procedure, I learned how open they were to me soothing my child, and…. interestingly enough, they told me that my son’s appointment was with a different dentist, we’ll call her Dentist B, and that Dentist B doesn’t go for the papoose board right away.

“If your child gets in the seat all by himself, we may not even need it.”

Well dude. As agreeable as Sagan was last time and how he kept talking about wanting to go to the dentist again, I had no means to think he wouldn’t be agreeable this time.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Despite what Dentist A recommended, I decided we were going to practice. I know how my mind works and in anxious situations, I like to know what expect. I like to know what’s going to happen. So the next two weeks, we practiced the dentist every day. I did tell Sagan about the possibility of the papoose board.

“They’ll make a Sagan Burrito,” I’d tell him, which he kinda liked. We are a big burrito-eating family.

“You won’t be able to move your hands.” I’d hold down his hands. “Is that scary?”

“No!” He’d smile.

“Also you won’t be able to move your head. Is that scary?”

“No!!!” he’d reply.

I told him they would be putting in something to hold his mouth open. I’d pretend to wipe a topical on his gums. I told him how the novocaine was going to make his mouth feel really funny.

“And you’ll tawwwlk wik dis,” I’d say and he’d laugh.

We’d practice drilling and rinsing and putting the filling in. We did this at least once a day. Sometimes he would remind me of the next step.

“Don’t forget the drill, Mommy! The drill!”

Presence of Both Parents
Sagan is very attached to his father. Ryan took a half-day from work to be there for the fillings as well. This was a great move as in the middle of the procedure, Sagan asked, “Daddy?” and Ryan was able to say, “I’m right here.”

Just like what I found with labor, there is something just soothing about Ryan’s mere presence. : )

Success!!!
So get this. After all my research and planning and practicing, Sagan got his cavities filled…with no papoose board and no trauma! Here’s a quick shot of him getting his fillings in.

Sagan Dentist - March 12 - Getting Fillings
Sagan Gets Fillings

Take a close look at his hands. They’re free! No one had to hold his hands down, let alone put him in a papoose board!!! Go Sagan!

Now, all our practice couldn’t have hurt, but I think the true hero of this story is Dentist B. She was amazing. Every step of the way, she would show Sagan the equipment, explained what it would do, and even let him play with. Then she was very patient with the drilling and only did a little at a time.

Near the end of the filling process, Sagan did whimper a bit, but man, that little boy kept his composure. I had worried I would be traumatizing my little boy for life and instilling in him a fear of the dentist. But he wasn’t even traumatized for even a few minutes!

And Sagan keeps talking about wanting to go BACK to the dentist again and he’s been playing dentist with his little brother.

So some quick morals of the story:

  1. Make sure you have that comfort level with your provider. Just like with your OB/GYN and childbirth, ask questions if you have them. If needed, switch providers until you find one that you are comfortable with.
  2. Remember– the Internet is FULL of horror stories. People on the Internet hate everything. So just because you read a horror story, does not necessarily mean you can’t have a positive experience.
  3. I have a small sample size, but I do believe practicing and communication helps. Knowledge is power!
  4. I also believe children take cues from their parents. Stay calm and collected.
  5. Finally, it is entirely possible for two year olds to get fillings without sedation and without papoose boards.

March 26, 2014 at 11:59 am 2 comments

Open Source – Creating a Breastfeeding Origami Owl Charm with Blender and Shapeways

A girlfriend of mine recently started selling Origami Owl.  It’s a neat concept.  You purchase a “Living Locket” which you can fill up with charms.  Between exclusively pumping for 16 months for my first son and nursing my second son, breastfeeding has played a significant role in my life the last 2.5 years.  It’s near and dear to my heart. Alas, Origami Owl did not have a breastfeeding-themed charm.

A few months ago, I had run across Shapeways, a company that will 3D print your models for you, and I really wanted to try something out with them.  This seemed like a first very easy project to learn Blender and 3D printing!

I still have so, so, so much to learn about 3D modeling, so this post isn’t a tutorial.  Instead, I will be referring to other tutorials and tools that helped me out along the way:

Learning Blender
I downloaded Blender for free from Blender.org.  I watched a few tutorial videos to start to learn the software.  The tutorial that applied most to what I wanted to do the most was “Modelling with Curves” by BlenderNerd.

I did what the “Modelling with Curves” illustrated.  I made a 2D image of what I wanted and then set that as the background to my grid.  My 2D image was based off the Public Domain International Breastfeeding Symbol by Matt Daigle. I had to make some modifications to connect the Mom’s head to her body.

The International Symbol for Breastfeeding

Then I was able to use Bezier Curves to build my object.

Screenshot of Bezier Curve
Using a Background Image, I Traced My Charm In Bezier Curves

I extruded it to give it volume and voila– my breastfeeding charm!

Breastfeeding Charm - Extruding Curve
Extruded Bezier Curve

Now, I specifically wanted to learn Blender and 3D modeling.  If you do not, Shapeways has a 2D to 3D Print Creator to make the model for you.

Locket Size
I had the medium silver locket which is roughly the size of a nickel.  I decided I wanted to keep my charm no larger than 17mm x 17mm.  I was also going to aim to have it no more than 4mm deep. I decided to treat one Blender Unit as 1mm and I scaled my object appropriately.

Converting to a Mesh
When I was satisfied with my curve, I converted it to a mesh. The command was Object->Convert To->Mesh From Curve/Meta/Surf/Text.

Breastfeeding Charm - Converting Curve to Mesh
Converting to Mesh

3D Printing Toolbox
To help me achieve my end goal of 3D printing, I downloaded the 3D Printing Toolbox for Blender.  This helped me out quite a bit by highlighting trouble spots in my model, specifically Non-Manifold Edges and where my walls were too thin.

3D Print Toolkit Checking
The 3D Printing Toolbox Telling Me What’s Wrong

Non-Manifold— Wha?????
Almost immediately, I found out that tons of my edges were non-manifold.  I didn’t know what the hell that was, but I knew it was bad.  I did some Googling.  Non-manifold meant it was an edge that did not connect to two faces.  But… but…but… looking at my model, all those edges looked like they were connecting to two faces.

Looks can be deceiving!  It turns out, I had vertices over vertices.  So those faces along the side of my curve, they weren’t connecting to my breastfeeding curve at all.

Non Manifold Edges - Vertices Over Vertices
Oooh… My Faces Aren’t Actually Connected! No Wonder!

What I did to fix it was just delete the duplicate vertices (which deleted my side faces) and then created new faces with the correct vertices that were hidden below my bad faces.

Made New Faces
Making New Faces

A big hat tip to the “Fixing Non-Manifold Models” tutorial over at Shapeways.  Specifically, the video under “Open objects: coincident edges” was an excellent illustration of what my models issue was.

Thin Walls
I also had an issue with thin walls.  The Shapeways Material Comparison Sheet tells you the different specifications for each type of material.  Sterling silver, for example, requires walls that are 0.6mm apart.  The plastics, which I wanted to print my initial model on because it was cheap, required 0.7mm.  The hole that made up the baby’s head…. well, it was too close to the wall that outlined the baby’s body.

Uh Oh Thin Faces
Uh Oh… Those Yellow Faces Are Too Close Together. They are a “Thin Wall”

I did some rescaling of my object and moving of the baby’s head to fix the issue (which I got to learn the Border Select for).

Export to STL and Upload to Shapeways
Once I had my Non-Manifold Edges and my Thin Faces eradicated, following the “Preparing Blender Files for 3D Printing” tutorial from Shapeways, I rotated my model 90 degrees along the X-axis and exported it to STL file.  The 3D Printing Toolbox in Blender was warning me about “Overhanging Faces”, but that did not hinder my model from being accepted by Shapeways.

Thanks to all the tutorials and research, my model file returned no errors on its initial upload.  If I knew that, I may have named my model file something other than “breastfeeding-first-shapeways-submission”.  :)  I was expecting multiple iterations and a lot of trial and error.

I ordered a version in Hot Pink Strong & Flexible Plastic and a version in Alumide.  Because my models were so small, they were very economical – just a couple of dollars! I expected once I saw my prototypes I would order one in the more expensive silver, but I have found myself satisfied with the plastic versions.

A few weeks later, I had my breastfeeding charms, which fit perfectly in my Origami Owl Living Locket!  So now I have a breastfeeding charm in my Living Locket! :)  My camera had a horrible mishap this winter, so behold my charm via my cellphone camera. It currently hangs out in my Living Locket with birthstones for my two sons.

Breastfeeding Charm in Locket
Breastfeeding Charm in Alumide

If you happen to want the Living Locket version, you can order one for yourself at Shapeways. I have a prototype of a pendant version on order that I should see in a few weeks. If all looks good, I’ll make that one available as well. Also feel free to download the model for your own projects! Go Public Domain!

Breastfeeding Pendant
Pendant Version Coming Soon…Hopefully!

March 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm 7 comments

Hack TJ 2013 and Balancing Work and Family

Last April, my old high school, the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, hosted the largest high school hackathon ever. They were looking for volunteers to serve as mentors for the students as they embarked on 24 hours of programming, so my mother babysat and Ryan and I headed over to the high school to help!

I was very impressed at the size of the event. It took up my school’s whole gymnasium! I was also impressed with the students and the projects they took on. One kid who lost his team was still diligently pursuing a project on steganography. Teams were not intimidating by hooking into APIs, such as Google Maps. A couple of groups did games. Phone applications were popular as well.

Thomas Jefferson for Science and Technology - Hackathon 2013
HUGE event!

I’d say a vast majority of the projects were in Java, which is a language I’m a little rusty on (My last Java project was an Android app I did for fun back in 2010). But Ryan and I still managed to be a good mentors. We found a team working that was working on a ranking algorithm based off the chess rating system. Their Java app version was coming along solidly, but they also wanted an HTML-front end to “up the difficulty level” to impress the judges.

I loved that! HTML was the very first language I ever learned, so it never occurred to me that it could ever be perceived as upping a difficulty level, but the team was right. Most of the other teams did not pursue web-front ends. Anyway, Ryan and I got to have a great time showing the team CSS and teaching them how to troubleshoot JavaScript. On the subject of troubleshooting their JavaScript, I had another moment of being impressed. The students already had AJAX calls in their webpage to try to communicate with their Java backend.

“Did they teach you AJAX in class?” I asked.

“No,” the student said, “I googled it this morning and it looked like what I wanted to do.”

I was struck by his bravery. Even though he had never worked in HTML or JavaScript and only had hours left to the deadline, he dove right in, trying to figure out AJAX. He was foiled by an oddity in the Response header of the data coming down from their Java backend. We fixed that and tweaked the AJAX a little bit and he was good to go!

Alas, our team did not win, but I was super proud of them nonetheless.

Women in Technology
At the presentation/awards ceremony, there was something that stuck out at me. They showed a video entitled “Women in Technology”. It featured alumni of the high school and was intended to inspire the young women in the audience and show them how women can be in technical fields. I applaud the sentiment.

However, the women featured in the video were recent graduates from the high school and still pursuing their upper educations. As a result, when they talked about balancing a technical career and family, they were speculating and not speaking from concrete experience.  I’m not sure how they recruited women for the video and it’s entirely possible email requests went unseen.  If the video did feature some older graduates, my high school has quite a credential list.  We have female TJ programmers working at MITRE, Xiocom, Google, Northrop Grumman, Microsoft, Symantec Corporation, CARFAX, IBM, etc.

BUT… hopefully me and my big ole pregnancy belly was a subtle reinforcement to the message of the video.

Thomas Jefferson for Science and Technology - Hackathon 2013
Pregnant Vicky with Students

It’s constantly a work in progress… but you can be in a technical field and have a family as well. : )

February 11, 2014 at 4:07 pm 2 comments

Family Hike – Julie J. Metz Wetlands in the Winter

I am not even three years into my journey as a parent, but my small glimpse into parenthood has me believe that going outside is incredibly important…at least in our little family. If we stay inside, sequestered around the TV, we all (Mommy, Daddy, Big Brother, and Little Brother), ALL go a little stir crazy. So we try to keep a steady stream of outings in the mix.

Polar vortexes sometimes make this challenging, but that’s what IKEA is for.

January 25 - Sagan Runs Through IKEA
Sagan (the blue blur) Runs Through IKEA

Two weekends ago, we bundled up and braved the cold with a short hike to Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank. We were rewarded with the views of a frozen marsh and some fun times as well. Since everything was frozen, Ryan was able to give Sagan a quick introduction to “ice skating.”

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Anonymous Binker User
Sagan in His “Spiderman” Hat

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Frozen Marsh
Frozen Marsh

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Mommy and Dyson By Marsh (By Ryan Somma)
Vicky and Little Dyson

Julie J. Metz Wetlands Bank - January 2014 - Ryan and Sagan Hike (From Front)
Ryan and Sagan Hike


Sagan “ice skates”

February 9, 2014 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

Views While Nursing – Sacagawea-ing It

Sacagawea

Sacagawea (Photo by MudflapDC)

I’ve been continuing to take an ongoing collection of views while nursing my second son. One of my favorite subset of photos are what I refer to “Sacagawea-ing It”. Sacagawea was an interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. She gave birth to her first child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, and continued her travels with her infant son. Whenever we are out on the trails with infant Dyson, I think of Sacagawea hiking with her son.

We hiked with my older son as well, but we’ve been getting significantly more mileage in with our second. I think part of this is we know we aren’t going to break him. But another factor is the breastfeeding. You don’t have to bring along a cooler and bottles and you don’t have to time your hike between visits to the breast pump. I’ve been really enjoying how easy family hikes are and I certainly don’t mind feeding the youngest… particularly when he decide he’s hungry at a glorious overlook. :)

We’re still only 4.5 months into our breastfeeding journey, but here are some new “Views While Nursing…While Hiking.”

September 22, 2013 View While Nursing...from the Appalachian Trail's Angel Rest near Pearisburg, VA
Appalachian Trails’ Angel’s Rest, Pearisburg, Virginia

View While Nursing for September 29, 2013 - Fishing Pier Through Trees at Leesylvania State Park, Virginia
Fishing Pier, Leesylvania State Park, Virginia

View While Nursing for October 20, 2013-  Wetlands at Veterans Park.  Woodbridge, VA  Http://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com
Wetlands, Veterans Park, Woodbridge, Virginia

View While Nursing for November 1, 2013 - High Point Overlook on Bull Run Mountain.  http://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com
High Point Overlook, Bull Run Mountain, Virginia

View While Nursing for November 3, 2013 - Bald Eagle Nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge  http://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com
Bald Eagle Nest, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Woodbridge, Virginia

P.S. Instagram allows me to upload photos directly to Tumblr, so more Views While Nursing can be found at http://viewswhilenursing.tumblr.com.

November 19, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

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