Posts filed under ‘Pregnancy’

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 6 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

Recommended Reading: When I am Going Crazy, Make me Get in the Pool from Bipolar Athlete

BipolarAthletePost
I love this post from Bipolar Athlete on lap swimming. My favorite line: “It was like a cross between flying and being held.”

In the 3rd trimester of my 1st pregnancy, with that scary labor and delivery getting ever so closer, there was nothing more empowering and calming than lap swimming. Every time I left the pool, I would leave thinking, “Yeah!!! I can do this!”

AND…when my father died last year, it is no coincidence I disappeared to the pool before the flurry of services and sympathetic faces. There, I had an hour of just my thoughts and the rhythmic sound of my breath.

It’s amazing how grounded one can feel in the water.

August 22, 2013 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

Tours of Baby’s Anatomy

I was 38 years old when Dyson was born, which is considered a “geriatric pregnancy”. Due to my age and the fact that my first son was late pre-term, my doctors had me also visit the Brock Perinatal Diagnostic Center in Alexandria, Virginia (aka a “Higk Risk” center). I had two visits in the 2nd trimester where they found that there was nothing wrong with my cervix and that there was no indication I was going to go into pre-term labor. Nonetheless, as my 3rd trimester progressed they had me visit once a week to monitor amniotic fluid levels and do some non-stress tests on the baby. Again, nothing ill or concerning was found. I think they discovered what I already knew– I’m a pretty young and healthy 38. : )

Every visit to the high-risk center, they did an ultrasound. When we first started visiting, that was sort of a nice perk, extra glimpses at the baby! Sure there was a longer drive, but we got extra pictures! By the end of our pregnancy journey, however, the same song and dance had become stale.

“This is baby’s brain. This is baby’s stomach. These are baby’s kidneys.”

I started to get restless with the process. Get on it with it, I want to get home before rush hour! I actually grew pretty tired of people pointing out the baby’s anatomy to me.

That is, until he was born. The very first time Sagan held his little brother, he started to show off his knowledge of body parts.

And suddenly, a tour of the baby’s anatomy was fresh and exciting again…not to mention super endearing. 🙂

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

Sagan’s Peak and Dyson’s Peak

I live about four and half hours away from my former home in Blacksburg, Virginia. Although I don’t get back to see “my mountains” as much as I would like, Ryan and I still managed to hike an Appalachian Trail staple during both pregnancies.

With my first son, Sagan, we hiked up to the most photographed point on the Appalachian Trail, McAfee’s Knob, at 33 weeks. With my second son, Dyson, we hiked up to nearby Tinker Cliffs at 25 Weeks. That means we now have an Appalachian Trail landmark that will remind us of each son.

McAfee's Knob - Mountains and Motherhood (by Ryan Somma)
Vicky on McAfee’s Knob (33 Weeks Pregnant with Sagan)

Tinker Cliffs - 25 Week Belly at Top (By Ryan Somma)
Vicky on Tinker Cliffs (25 Weeks Pregnant with Dyson)

Now get this– from Sagan’s Peak (aka McAfee’s Knob), you can see Dyson’s Peak (Tinker Cliffs) and from Dyson’s Peak, you can see Sagan’s Peak! If you are on one boy’s peak, you can still think of the other. : )

McAfee's Knob - Vicky and Ryan
Ryan and Vicky and In Utero Sagan with Dyson’s Peak (Tinker Cliffs)

Tinker Cliffs - McAfee Knob, Vicky, Ryan
[A Poorly Lit] Ryan and Vicky and In Utero Dyson with Sagan’s Peak (McAfee’s Knob)

Here’s my favorite part– a day hike that hits both overlooks is only 13.1 miles long. One day, our family can go up the Andy Layne Trail to Dyson’s Peak (Tinker Cliffs) and then continue on to Sagan’s Peak (McAfee Knob). I’ve done that day hike before. I know first hand that it’s an amazing trip and will be even more amazing to share with the boys.

It’s a hike well-worth waiting a decade for. : )

August 14, 2013 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Sometimes Being Called Fat Can Make You Happy

Last summer, I was at the gym and encountered a woman focused and working hard with her personal trainer. You could see the twinkle in her eye. She was sweating and definitely challenged, but she also had that thrill you get when you realize how strong and capable your body really is. Although I was a stranger, we must have had a moment of camaraderie there in the weight room because at one point she looked up at me and said, “I’ve never been so happy to have been called fat in my entire life.”

It turns out, she fancied a man who did not share her affection. He explained in simple, albeit blunt, terms why.

But she took that moment and used it as motivation. Even though months have passed and our gym is now a whole 17 minutes further away, I still see her occassionally. Still focused, still working hard.

I’m currently pushing 27 weeks with my second pregnancy. The other day I was indulging in a shower (motherhood has definitely increased my appreciation of a good, long shower). As I bathed, I found myself singing a number of 60s tunes that reminded me of my deceased father.

And then I remembered how around this time last pregnancy, there would be mornings where I would go downstairs and he would be in the kitchen cooking sausage or bacon or other red meat temptations. He would look at me and greet me with, “You’re getting faaaat!” I think at the time, I laughed politely, but it’s not exactly what a pregnant girl wants to hear.

But this week, nine months after his death, when I got out of the shower, I noticed my increasing girth in the mirror (it’s kinda hard to miss these days 🙂 ). I thought of my father getting that infectious smile of his and those mischievous wrinkles around his eyes. I thought about him calling me fat and this time, I could clearly see his underlying excitement of what that actually meant– a new grandson.

And I smiled.

Like that woman at the gym, I too found surprise happiness in being called fat.

April 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm Leave a comment

Our Birth – Ryan’s Post

The two blog family strikes again! Ryan’s post on Our Childbirth Experience is up on ideonexus.com!

In Ryan’s post, he includes ten mini-reviews of childbirth and parenting books he read (Many of them on loan from an american expat in deutschland‘s Christina Geyer). He recaps our experiences with Northeastern OB/GYN in Elizabeth City, North Carolina; About Women OB/GYN in Woodbridge, Virginia; Birth by Design in Chantilly, Virginia, BirthCare in Alexandria, Virginia; and finally, the Alexandria INOVA Hospital.

He also discusses our pregnancy lifestyle, some of our parenting choices and what we’ve learned so far in the first 12 weeks of being parents. Enjoy!

October 11, 2011 at 9:47 am 1 comment

Our Birth Story, the Bradley Method and a Little Bit of Hiking Too!

On Tuesday July 12th, I had to call my Bradley Method instructor and let her know that we wouldn’t be making it to our evening birth class. We had a good excuse– earlier that day we had given birth! And even though we had only made it through eight of the twelve classes, we were able to follow through with our plans of a natural, unmedicated birth!

I had some “good” genes on my side. My mother and great aunt both had fast labors. My water broke at 4:30 AM. Contractions started shortly afterwards. We checked in with our midwives at the birth center before transferring to the hospital (because Sagan was 2 days short of 36 weeks). I was nine centimeters dilated shortly upon arrival at the hospital and fully dilated waiting for the urge to push at 10 AM. Sagan was born at 12:02 PM EST. The whole process was about 7 1/2 hours and not as hard as I expected it to be.


Vicky and Sagan! (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Afterwards I was energized and happy, able to post on Facebook, call friends and get up and urinate on my own.

Sagan - First Facebook Post
My First Postpartum Post to Facebook was 50 Minutes After Sagan’s Birth

When I got moved up to my postpartum room, a nurse came in to greet me and told me, “Now once you urinate twice, we can take this saline lock off of you.”

“I already urinated **six** times!” I told her. (See “Coach Tip – Orange Juice” below).

I also took pride when I walked over to the nursery and took the nurses by surprise. “You aren’t dizzy?” one asked and I heard another note that I didn’t look like a woman who just had a baby. : )

Background on Bradley Decision
Unfortunately, among my close female friends and peers, pregnancy and birth has had a little bit of a bad wrap. Everyone seemed to have uncomfortable pregnancies and difficult child birth experiences. Luckily, I had a solid role model in Ryan’s mother. She birthed all four of her children naturally after reading Grantly Dick-Read’s Childbirth Without Fear.

I also stumbled on a role model on the Internet! I originally subscribed to Kitty’s Heart of Nature for… well, great hearts in nature shots, but when she gave birth to her first child, I found her A Natural, Medication-Free Birth Story… the Bradley Way! post memorable. It would be eleven months later that Ryan and I found out that we were expecting, but that post was still fresh in my mind.

Ryan and I both did a lot of reading on childbirth and pregnancy and following Kitty and Gare, we added “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” and “Husband-Coached Childbirth” to our reading lists. We also read a book on Hypnobirthing, but I didn’t quite connect with some of the visualization activities (Rainbow Mist and the Cervix Ribbons).

I did connect highly with the Bradley Method. The needs of a laboring women made sense to me in the context of how other mammals gave birth. Relaxing and trusting your body seemed a good way to go.  I loved Dr. Bradley’s attitudes on preparation and exercise. And it didn’t hurt that Husband Coached Childbirth included THIS graphic:


Labor Like Climbing a Mountain!!!  LIKE HIKING!!!  HIKING!!!

To me, that illustration looked very much like the elevation gain of the Appalachian Trail’s Angel’s Rest. When you hit the Transition Stage, you’d be at the thick rhododendron patch near the top of Pearis Mountain. It’s the steepest part, but the shortest part. A few more hills and then you’ll be at a beautiful overlook! Then some more hiking and you’ll be at ANOTHER even MORE beautiful overlook.

And how many times had I been on a hike and wanted to cry and didn’t think I could continue? Each time my body knew its capabilities better than my mind. Each time my body could carry me to my destination with ease.

After reading both books, Ryan and I went ahead and signed up for some Bradley Method classes.

Prep – Exercise
We started the exercises well before our Bradley’s classes. Tailor sitting came naturally to me as I often sit that way anyway. I had to actively practice squatting and improvements came fast. I was secretly aspiring to be the best squatter in class before class even started. Although there was no opportunity for head to head squatting competitions, I suspect I could hold my own. : )

In addition to the recommended Bradley exercises (butterflies, heel points, tailor sitting, pelvic rocks, kegels), I tried to keep my aerobic fitness up as well. Alternating between elliptical, biking, hiking, swimming, weight lifting and walking, I was getting about 5 days of exercise a week in during the third trimester.

I don’t have a control group (a me in a parallel universe) to support it, but I do whole-heartedly believe I owe a large part of my easy pregnancy from start to finish to exercise.

Interestingly enough, one of the more direct perks I saw from exercise was with burping. That’s right. During Transition, I experienced that particular side effect. It wasn’t the most pleasant (or convenient) of sensations when your body is doing so much work, but thanks to exercise it was a familiar sensation. I found burping during labor to be very much like burping while lap swimming or during a long run.

(See Also Our Birth Appendix – Third Trimester Exercise)

Prep – Relaxation
Relaxation exercises we started back in February with Lent, again well before we started class. When we did start classes, I could tell immediately that Ryan was going to be an effective coach for me. His voice was soothing and easy to lock in on and forget our surroundings. Listening to his voice, I could easily tune out our classmates and instructor.

Prep – Nutrition
While we were taking Bradley Classes, we were filling out Nutrition Worksheets documenting everything we ate and their protein content. I found this process to be very motivational when keeping your diet in check. For example, if I was tempted with a dessert, I would think whether I would want to write that dessert down. Very often, I would forego that dessert so a few days later I could indulge in the ultimate dessert– the Tollhouse Cookiewich. : )

Week 7
Sample Nutrition Worksheet

(See Also Our Birth Appendix – Nutrition Worksheets)

Prep – Homework
I was advised by my aunt to not just take childbirth classes.  “Make sure to do your homework,” she warned, “because I didn’t!”

The night before Sagan was born, Ryan and I were doing just that.  We finished typing up our Birth Plan and made a trip to Walmart to pick up our all birthing and coaching supplies.  We almost didn’t go!  Right before we were leaving for Walmart, my brother surfaced with an invitation to see Transformers 3.  Ryan and I were tempted.  “We do have five more weeks,” we thought aloud.  But in the end, we followed through with our plans.  Good thing too!  : )

(See Also Our Birth Appendix – Birth Plan)

Labor – Premature Rupture of Membranes
I woke up in the middle of the night feeling a little discomfort. This isn’t unusual and I knew just what the doctor ordered. I got up and urinated. Only I still felt a little discomfort. I knew what that meant! The next likely culprit was GAS! I moved my hips and pelvis to help facilitate its journey and soon I felt better. I was just about to drift back to sleep when I became aware of a rush of moisture.

“OH NO!” I jumped up waking Ryan, “There’s fluid! There’s fluid!”

Right then our 14 year old greyhound mix, Jimmie, had an accident of his own. Ryan likes to speculate on Jimmie’s perspective of the night. “Jimmie takes a dump in the bed. Ryan and Vicky freak out, pack bags and leave.”

I ran into the bathroom and there was nothing ambiguous about it. My water had definitely broken. It was so far from ambiguous, I jumped in the bathtub to keep from making a mess.

I told Ryan, “It’s too early. It’s too early.”

This was in reference to BirthCare. We had just attended our Birthday Planning meeting the week before where we were told we had to be 36 weeks to deliver with BirthCare. We were 35 Weeks and 5 Days.

I also recall saying, “The wedding!” Ryan’s sister would be getting married 3 days later. Something told me we were going to miss it. 

Ryan called BirthCare.  The midwife on call was Alice.  Ryan told her how the fluid was clear and that I had felt the baby move recently.  She asked us to meet her at the Birth Center at 6 AM.  Ryan and I went on a mad dash to get all our supplies.  Since we had just done our homework the night before, we knew exactly where everything was.  : )

Labor – Empty Gas Tank
The first contractions (I was aware of) started as we packed up the car.  They weren’t painful, just sensations of pressure.  The night before when doing our Bradley class homework, Ryan and I had read how as your due date approaches, you should always keep a 1/2 tank of gas in your car.  Well, since we had just read that we hadn’t had time to heed that advice.  Yup, the Prius was low on gas.  So we had to stop at our local Shell station on the way out. 

Labor – Drive to BirthCare
We lucked out with the timing.  If this had happened any later, we would have been stuck in full blown D.C. rush hour.  Although we didn’t have bad traffic heading to Alexandria, it did look bad at first when we merged on 95 and were greeted with brake lights.

“It’s okay,” Ryan said, “It’s still moving.”  Right then he had to slam on his brakes to not hit the stopped car in front of him.  : )

That traffic thinned out, I worked on our Pre-Admittance form for the hospital and before I knew it, we were near our exit on I-495.  We had a very pretty sunrise to look at and as we neared our exit, I realized Ryan had changed the radio station from our usual CSPAN/NPR to Classical Music.  That was a nice sneaky touch of him.

“The universe always takes care of us,” Ryan reminded me along the way.  He’s right.  The universe does seem to be particularly generous to us.

Labor – Checking In at BirthCare
We got to the Birth Center and when the midwife, Alice, greeted me, fresh liquid was dribbling down my legs. “That’s definitely fluid” she said.

Alice was remorseful. She had reviewed our chart and noticed my belly had been running a little large the whole pregnancy. She suspected that perhaps my due date was off and that I was actually less early than we thought. Unfortunately, she couldn’t think of a way to admit us to BirthCare. She called ahead and arranged for us to go to Alexandria INOVA Hospital. She kept apologizing, but Ryan and I already knew that would be our fate and we were okay with it.

Meanwhile, I learned just how much amniotic fluid I had been toting around all this time. I had thought the bulk of it had already emerged back in Occoquan. Nope. As we talked to Alice, with each contraction, large amounts of fluid emerged out of me and I’m afraid made a mess of her poor office. So while she apologized for us having to go to the hospital, I apologized to her for making such a mess (which I’m certain she was used to).

Labor – Drive to Alexandria INOVA Hospital
Alice gave us directions to the hospital and we made our way there.  I ate 75% of a Chewy Trail Mix bar along the way.  Contractions were significantly more noticeable and they seemed to be quite frequent.  We weren’t timing them as Ryan was driving.  We started to get confused with the directions, so I programmed the hospital on my Android phone.  I remember during one contraction Ryan asked, “What does Google say?” and I was still able to answer him.

Speed Humps, which are normally an annoyance, I can report are SUPER annoying when you having a contraction.  I can also report when a dump truck stops right in front of you and starts to back up and take its time getting ready for its days’ work…That’s annoying as well. 

When Ryan and I arrived at the hospital, we had trouble finding the Women and Infant entrance.  “It’s okay,” I told him, “We can drive around the building.”  I didn’t feel like the situation was dire.  It’s funny how it only takes a few minutes for things to change.

After circling the building, Ryan parked at an entrance to go in and ask.  It was while he was gone, I had a pretty hard contraction and found myself whining outloud, “Hurry Ryan.  Hurry Ryan”.

He came running back and reported we were in the right spot.

I got out of the car and started to walk in the entrance and had another contraction.  I just stood there until Ryan asked, “Do you want to lean on something until it is over?”  That sounded like a fine idea, so I leaned on a nearby newspaper vending machine until it was done.  We started walking again and a stranger asked if I needed a wheelchair.  I told him I would be okay.

We got in the elevator and experienced another contraction on the way to the third floor.  We went to the intercom on the third floor.  Ryan announced “My wife is in labor” and they told us we had to go to the second floor.  I didn’t say anything, but I was not thrilled about having to get back on that same dang elevator.  : )

We got to the second floor, answered questions and signed paperwork between contractions.  At that point we were taken to a triage/screening room.

Labor – Emotional Sign Posts
The Bradley Method teaches the Emotional Sign Posts of Labor. In other words, ways to tell where a woman is at in labor based on how she is behaving. One of the most notable sign posts is the “Self Doubt” stage a woman reaches when she is in Transition (5 centimeters – 10 centimeters dilated).

Ryan and I had no idea how accurate that sign post would be. Shortly after we arrived at INOVA Alexandria Hospital, I had that feeling of self doubt. After a few hard contractions I told Ryan, “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I can do this.” The reason I thought that was we had just gotten to the hospital. We were just starting out! If I felt this way now, how would I feel hours later? Ryan too was concerned I was feeling that way so early.

It turns out I was already 9 centimeters dilated! The Emotional Sign Post was DEAD ON. As soon as I found that out– self doubt was eradicated for the rest of the day.

Labor – Lack of Modesty
Perhaps Ryan and I should have suspected my progress. Another aspect of later stages of labor we read about was the mother losing her modesty. By the time we reached the hospital, I had absolutely NO modesty. After they checked me in, they took me to a screening area and a nurse asked me to put on a hospital gown.

I immediately stripped my maternity dress over my head, revealing my nude body to one and all.

“Hold on!” the nurse shouted, “Let me close the curtain!”  : )

Putting that hospital gown on was a pretty futile gesture. It wasn’t long before it was off again. I spent most of my labor completely nude and I never cared one bit.


Definite Lack of Modesty (Modesty has been subsequently restored) (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Labor – Transfer to Labor/Delivery Room
When I found out I was nine centimeters dilated, I relaxed quite a bit.  The nursing staff, on the other hand, had to get to work.  They needed to get me a labor room.  When it was ready, they wheeled me to the other room.   I was incredibly surprised and thankful I didn’t have to get up for that transfer process.  I had my eyes closed during the transfer.  I didn’t see where they were taking me, but I remember how purely refreshing the breeze on my face was.

Labor – Visualizations

During Transition and my Self Doubt phase (before we knew I was nine centimeters), a nurse did give me a visualization activity that I found effective. She told me to imagine a flame that I was blowing on and making flicker. That actually worked quite well and carried me until the moment I found I was nine centimeters.

After that— my mind deferred to my body. I really thought I would be relying on hiking and mountain memories and imagining floating on the waves at Assateague Island. But when the time came, I was really focused on what my body was doing and trying to accomplish. I feel like I was somewhat in a trance.

There were some things I was aware of, but never communicated externally. For example, at times I would think, “I’m doing good. This is going by fast.” Those thoughts, however, would stay confined in my mind and were never articulated to others. There were conversations I overheard, but never responded to. I recall our nurse complimenting our wedding rings and asking Ryan about the Vibram Five Fingers he was wearing. It would be hours later with the nurse long gone before I would address her comments. I also never bothered to tell the staff that I go by “Vicky” and not “Victoria”. 

On the other hand, as you’ll read below in “Needs of Laboring Woman – Quiet” and “Needs of Laboring Woman – Physical Comfort”, there were things I was definitely not aware of.

A couple of weeks after birth, I told some friends that I didn’t think labor was the most physically hard thing I’ve done in my life.

“Uh…” Ryan interjected, “I think you think that because you weren’t all there.” : )

Upon consideration, I think that is exactly WHY it wasn’t the most physically hard thing I’ve accomplished. I got my pesky mind out of the process. It wasn’t like a long run where I spend miles battling my brain and second-guessing myself.

Labor – Massage and Stroking
We practiced a lot of massage and stroking techniques in our Bradley classes. During labor, we found I didn’t like to be touched during contractions. Ryan would massage me in between. He quickly learned what it meant when I grabbed his hands and pulled them away.  That was his cue a contraction was coming.

Needs of a Laboring Woman – Quiet
Bradley teaches six needs of a laboring woman– one of which is “Quiet”. When I was in Transition and Second Stage Labor (aka The Pushing Phase), I was really only aware of two voices – Ryan’s and our Labor and Delivery Nurse, Heidi’s.  Other sounds didn’t quite make it into my realm of consciousness. As a result, I didn’t really need the traditional quiet. Twice Ryan told me he was shutting a door because of all the background noise– both times I was unaware of said noise. I was slightly aware of an OB/GYN coming in with medical students, but I wouldn’t know what he said until later when Ryan told me (it was very complimentary! The doctor was telling the students I was the ideal women in labor and what they want to see in a patient!!! I really wish I did get to hear that!).

Needs of a Laboring Woman – Physical Comfort
Bradley teaches that physical comfort is important so that the woman can fully focus on relaxing and letting her body do its work. Part of the practical applications of physical comfort are avoiding continual fetal monitoring and IVs, both of which could affect the laboring mother’s comfort and distract her. Here again, I got off pretty easy. When I was in Transition and Second Stage Labor, I was so focused on what my body was doing, that I was vaguely aware when they were monitoring. Because Sagan had arrived before my Group Beta Strep test, they did have to put an IV in me and do proactive antibiotics. Ryan watched them do it and said it looked painful.  They put the needle in and wiggled it around until it was in position.  I was so into what the other parts of my body were doing, I didn’t flinch or respond. Later, during one of the rare cases where I opened my eyes, I remember being surprised with how extensive the work on my arm was.

Labor – Importance of Positions
I can strongly testify to the importance of trying different positions. So quickly did I learn the connection between position and comfort that when I was situated where labor was manageable, I was reluctant to move for fear of getting in a bad position. Luckily, Ryan still motivated me to get up and urinate. 🙂

I enjoyed the side lie during Transition and my favorite position during Second Stage was the sitting squat. Twice during the pushing phase Sagan’s heart rate concerned our nurse and she moved me into a side lie pushing position. OOh, I did not like that and Ryan could tell I was miserable. I believe my legs shook during those contractions! Ryan could also visually see how the effectiveness of my pushing plummeted in that position. Luckily, Sagan’s heart rate picked up and I was able to get back into the sitting squat I loved. I can’t remember the exact position, but there was one that made me say, “It hurts my back.” Ryan’s calm voice told me to get through the contraction and then we moved into a different position. It was like night and day– one position would be completely manageable… another one amazingly tough.

So the big lesson here for other mothers– don’t succumb or give up or feel you have failed until you try different positions. It really can make all the difference in the world.

We had originally planned to deliver at BirthCare, but it turns out there was a nice perk to the hospital.  I found our badass hospital bed to be a great assistance to the different positions. It was amazing how many different ways they could configure the bed.

Second Stage Labor – “Gotta Go” Feeling
The Bradley books and numerous birth stories I read talked about how when you feel the urge to push, it feels like needing to take a bowel movement. In my case, this sensation was unnerving. I had not yet taken my morning dump that day. I may have lost my modesty about nudity (see above), but I hadn’t lost that much modesty!

The one thing of my labor experience I believe I could improve on was the start of the pushing phase. I was so concerned about taking a dump, I didn’t give my early pushes the adequate vigor. Ryan was RIGHT there. Ryan was watching the WHOLE thing. Did I really want Ryan to be looking when a poop popped out?!? Luckily, I was able to build up some confidence. “Welp, you didn’t take a dump last time, so it must be safe.” Also as Sagan descended down, I was able to really feel and focus my pushes better, knowing I was working in the right orifice. 🙂

P.S. I can report when you do give your pushes the adequate vigor— the experience is much more pleasant.  I found when I held back on the pushing, my body would do it for me.  It was almost like a sling shot inside.  I could feel my stomach snap to push… and from what I understand from Ryan, you could apparently see it too.

Second Stage Labor – Bradley Pushing Technique
Once I did start pushing with confidence, I used the technique we learned in class– chin to chest, legs pulled back and elbows out. Ryan had to remind me to keep my chin down and I got busted a couple of times by the midwife “pushing with my face”. Ryan reported that I looked like an athlete pulling my legs back and pushing!

A medical student was observing our entire birth.  During the pushing phase, I heard our nurse or midwife point out, “This is what medicated mothers can’t do.”  She explained that medicated mothers typically have to push harder because they can’t feel and direct their pushes in the same manner.

Ryan’s Mom had told me when she birthed Ryan naturally she had wished she had worked her arms out more in preparation. I can confirm she is on to something– the next day my biceps did feel like I had done my weekly Hammer Curls at the gym!

Second Stage Labor – Crowning and Birth
At one point during Second Stage Labor, the midwife or nurse pushed her finger in my vagina to see where Sagan was.  I was disappointed to feel their fingers go in deeper than I would have liked.  But it didn’t seem long before Heidi and Ryan reported seeing hair.  I still felt like Sagan was still far off when I was aware of a lot of activity in the room and someone made a call about how they were going to have a delivery in two – three minutes.  This was very encouraging.  I was also encouraged when I heard the midwife ask for baby shampoo and started massaging my perinean.  Soon I was able to reach down and feel Sagan’s head emerging.  Soon after that I was aware of stretching and slight burning, but it wasn’t as bad as the “Ring of Fire” I had imagined (keep in mind Sagan was so little).  I thought I still had a way to go to crown when all of a sudden I heard, “Whoa, whoa, whoa Momma.  Just breathe.  Just breathe”.  Soon after that, I opened my eyes and because of my upright sitting-squat position, I could see Sagan’s head and them using the aspirator to clean his orifices.  I think I must have closed my eyes again, because I don’t remember his body coming out. 

I had a small first degree tear which I can’t say bothered me either at birth or during recovery.

And so our little guy was born.  The umbilical cord was short– so short they couldn’t place him on my chest until after it was cut.  We had wanted to wait until the cord stopped pulsating to cut it, but due to Sagan being late pre-term the staff was anxious to do their assessments.  Ryan cut the cord, splattering our nurse in blood.  They put Sagan briefly on my chest before taking him for their tests and evaluations. I actually didn’t mind them taking him so quickly. I knew he was early and I wanted to know as much as anybody that he was okay.

Labor - Sagan Right After Birth
Sagan (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Third Stage Labor
Third Stage Labor was pretty uneventful.  I was chatting with the nurse when the midwife interrupted me and instructed me to push and just like that the placenta was out.  The placenta was completely in tact, but they did note an oddity– I had a battledore placenta.  Also known as “marginal cord insertion”, that’s where the umbilical cord is attached to the placenta less than 2 centimeters from the edge.

“It’s a good thing you were in a hospital,” the midwife pointed out, “this could have torn.”

ClintJCL had been lobbying for possession of the placenta so he could scratch an item off his bucket list.  Sadly (for him), he did not get his wish.  I let the staff keep it so they could show their students.

Labor - Team Looks at Placenta
Midwife Donna Explains the Battledore Placenta (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Coach Tip – You Can Override Your Partner
When we first arrived at the hospital, Ryan asked if I wanted him to take off my glasses. He said my entire face crunched up into a scowl.

Okay….” Ryan thought, “That’s a ‘no’…. but I really need to get those glasses off.

A few contractions later, he just took him off. When he asked, I didn’t want him to take them because I wanted to be able to see what was going on. BUT– I almost exclusively had my eyes closed during Transition and Second Stage. In that case, Ryan absolutely knew what was best.


No Glasses Necessary (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Coach Tip – Innovate
As we had been taught and seen in numerous videos, Ryan used a cold washcloth on my forehead. I thought that felt great. THEN between contractions, Ryan did something unexpected. He took that cold washcloth and put it on my neck and shoulders.  Holy. Cow.  I would almost describe that sensation as orgasmic. It felt so, so, so very good. And here’s the thing– never ever ever would I had thought to ask for that. Ryan’s innovation and thoughtfulness really paid off.

Coach Tip – Brush Your Teeth : )
Perhaps this can fall under the “Physical Comfort” need of a laboring woman. At first during Transition, I had some trouble focusing on Ryan’s voice.

Between contractions I whispered, “Ryan, don’t talk directly in my face…Your breath.”

Well, Ryan always goes above and beyond the call of duty! Between contractions he went and brushed his teeth. After that– I had no issues focusing on the sound of his voice…instead of smell.

Coach Tip – Camelbak!
Throughout labor, I would request some water from Ryan. Our Nalgene Camelbak bottle we use for hiking was absolutely perfect!!! It made it extremely easy for me to sip water when I wanted it.  I was surprised that I only drank about 8 – 10 ounces of water during labor.  In the weeks preceding birth, I had been downing nearly 32 ounces at my hour long gym visits.  Though, I did not sweat nearly as much during labor as I do at the gym.

Coach Tip – Orange Juice
Dr. Bradley recommends orange juice after labor to get the mother’s blood sugar up and replenish her fluids. I was pretty indifferent to the orange juice, even though I absolutely love celebrating a hot hike with a nice juicy orange. When we left for the hospital, Ryan brought a frozen container of orange juice. By the time Sagan was born, that orange juice was thawed and ready to drink. Whoa boy, that stuff was good. I chugged and chugged and chugged and chugged. It couldn’t have been more refreshing than if it was Trail Magic.

Coach Tip – Food, Food, Food
Ryan and I packed a lot of snacks for the hospital. Most of the foods were hike-inspired fares. Stuff I knew I would eat on a hard hike. I did eat about 75% of the granola bar on the way to the hospital. Once we arrived, I was so far along I didn’t have an appetite. Does that mean we shouldn’t have packed so much food??? NOPE! The twenty four hours after delivery I was FAMISHED. There was no way I could have relied on just the three spread out hospital meals. I was so glad to have so much food and to be able to feast on demand.

NATURAL CHILDBIRTH – IT’S ATTAINABLE!!!
Our birth had a lot of surprises. We were faced with it much earlier than expected. We were with strangers in a hospital we had never set foot in. But the biggest surprise was how pleasant our birth experience was. It truly was an invigorating and beautiful event.

And here’s the thing– I’m just a normal person! Although I kept active throughout pregnancy, I am far from a super athlete. I once got beat in a 5K by a 79 year old man by over a minute! I’m thrilled whenever I run a mile in less than 12 minutes. I hike, but I’m almost always the last one up the ascents. I also had very little experience with pain. I’ve never had stitches, I’ve never broken a bone and I’ve often found menstrual cramps to be cause for Tylenol. To top it all off, I’m neurotic– I’m thirty-six years old and still scared of vomiting.

But, what I did have (thanks to the books, the classes, some supplemental pep talks from Ryan’s mom) was the knowledge that my body was designed to birth my son.  And I knew from my hiking experience, that this body of mine can carry me further than I expect.

Dr. Bradley believed that most women are capable of natural childbirth. I think I help support his case. : )

October 3, 2011 at 1:01 am 11 comments

Our Birth Appendix – Third Trimester Exercise

I tried to stay active throughout my pregnancy, including the third trimester.  Part of my motivation came from the book “What’s Going On In There?”:

The best-documented benefit of exercise comes in labor and delivery. Women who exercise regularly fare much better during childbirth compared with women who do not. They perceive it to be less painful, and indeed it may be; one study found that women who exercise spend just twenty-seven minutes in the second stage of labor—pushing—compared with fifty-nine minutes for women who did not exercise during pregnancy. Shorter labor is generally beneficial to the baby, since it reduces the risk of complications. including oxygen deprivation of the brain.

“What’s Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop the First Five Years”
Read  a longer excerpt on Memexplex.

Although my pushing phase was roughly two hours, I feel staying active was time well spent.  I had an easy pregnancy and a very manageable labor.  But more importantly, exercise does wonders at keeping anxiety at bay.  When you are exercising with a belly, you feel very empowered.  You feel like you can do anything— including that looming labor and delivery.  🙂

To Week 28
Wednesday – Swimming (31.5 laps)
Thursday – 1 hour Elliptical
Friday – 1 hour Bike
Saturday – 8 Mile Hike at Bull Run Occoquan Trail
Sunday – Weight Lifting, Yard Work at Grandma’s House

To Week 29
Tuesday – Swimming (32.5 laps)
Wednesday – 1 hour elliptical
Thursday – Hour Walk with Dogs Along Lake James
Friday – Walk with Ryan and Dogs Along Lake James
Saturday – Lake Brandon Swimming for over an hour, Weight Lifting at Gym for an hour

To Week 30
Monday – Kayaking 3 hours
Wednesday – Elliptical 40 minutes
Thursday – Walking (To and From Car at Grandma’s House)
Friday – Walking (Route Across Bridge)
Saturday – Swimming 50 Laps, Walking (To and From Car at Grandma’s House)
Sunday – Walking (Craft Fair and To and From Car)

To Week 31
Monday – Elliptical 1 hour
Tuesday – Bicycle 1 hour
Wednesday – Bicycle 1 hour
Friday – Swimming – 1 hour 10 minute (34.5 laps)
Saturday – Walking (To and From Car at Grandma’s House), Grandma House Work
Sunday – Weight Lifting, Grandma House Work

To Week 32
Monday – Walking (Grandma’s House, Bridge)
Thursday – Elliptical – 1 hour
Friday – Bicycle – 1 hour
Saturday – Swimming (40.5 laps)
Sunday – Weight Lifting

To Week 33
Monday – Walking (Grandma’s House, Bridge)
Thursday – Walking (Tennis Courts to Larry’s one way)
Friday – Walking (Larry’s to Rachel’s and Back)
Saturday – Swimming – Sharks and Minnows with Kids
Sunday – 7.5 Mile 1200 Ascent Hike to McAfee’s Knob

To Week 34
Monday – Walking (Grandma’s House and Back)
Tuesday – Bike 1 hour. Level 17 2 miles, Level 15 2 miles.
Wednesday – 30 Minutes Bike and 30 Minutes Elliptical
Friday – One Hour on Elliptical
Saturday – 46 minute walk with the dogs (Across Bridge Loop plus Edgehill)
Sunday – 1 hour swimming (32.5 laps)

To Week 35
Monday – 50 Minutes Weight Lifting, Walking From Grandma’s (0.5 miles), Walking To and From Fireworks (~1 mile)
Wednesday – Walking to Post Office and then Car (~0.5miles)
Thursday – Bike 50 minutes
Friday – Walking Mount High Street with Dogs (29 minutes)
Saturday – 50 laps at pool, walking to Farmer’s Market and Back
Sunday – 4.3 mile hike in 90 degree heat, Walk Back from Grandma’s House after Parking Car

To Week 36
Tuesday – GAVE BIRTH

I am pleased with my activity level, but if you are looking for a role model who was substantially more active than I, check out One Fit Mom: Pregnancy, Cross Fit and the Paleo Diet.  She was one week ahead of me in her pregnancy and WAY more bad-ass.

October 3, 2011 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Our Birth Appendix – Nutrition Worksheets

For our Bradley Method classes, we had to write down what we ate every day.  This was so our instruction could monitor our protein and calcium intake.  In addition, she would make suggestions about vegetables and eggs.  Although my diet was far from perfect, I did find the exercise to be helpful with limiting my Tollhouse Cookiewich intake.

My Nutrition Worksheets and Teacher Comments are below.  You can click on an image to go to Flickr where you can view Larger Sizes (Actions->View All Sizes). If you happen to be curious about what I ate, have at it. Otherwise, this post will help me remember that the very last thing I ate before my water broke was…. a lollipop! 🙂

Week 0
Week 0

Week 1
Week 1

Week 1 – Teacher Comments
Week 1 Comments

Week 2
Week 2

Week 2 – Teacher Comments
Week 2 Comments

Week 3
Week 3

Week 3 – Teacher Comments
Week 3 Comments

Week 4
Week 4

Week 5
Week 5

Week 6 – My Notes
I don’t have my official Nutrition Worksheet for this week. The teacher hands your sheets back at the following class. I missed that particular class due to Sagan’s early birth. It turns out though, I had some notes of my meals before I transcribed them to the Nutrition Worksheet.

Week 6 Notes

Week 7
Week 7

October 3, 2011 at 12:59 am 2 comments

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