Hear Our Voice: Standing Together

Yesterday thousands of women across the world gathered together and stood as one. Some marched for reproductive rights, some marched for equal pay, some for justice, environmental protections, education, LGBT rights, some in solidarity, some to just be heard. These are just a few. Many (most?) also marched against the new administration.

I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about the march. This may be as surprising to you as it was to me. I didn’t vote for Trump. You probably already guessed this. The number of concerns I have about him cannot be listed. I don’t need to because you already know them all. Even if you don’t agree, you’d have to be living under a rock to have not heard what concerns others have. But I am a person that is driven by hope. The anger and fear and negativity that is the obvious response to the election does not fire me up. I do not feel emboldened as so many of my friends do. I feel crushed under the weight of it.

Once I would have felt differently. I would written endless letters to newspapers and congressmen. I would have confronted strangers and annoyed friends. The same person who was once an outraged college freshman, flabbergasted that Bush had won a second term, is now much quieter. Is this the result being tired from pregnancy and a newborn? Is it related to having a partner who is more conservative than me? Or is it the unavoidable stream of negativity that is my Facebook feed, my NPR station, my morning news?

I haven’t been able to find hope in places in the external sources I’m used to. Instead I’ve had to pull away in order to see the good. This didn’t start with Trump’s presidential campaign, but long before. I can’t discuss a lot of national issues I should be familiar with for this reason.

When I first heard about the march, I was hesitant about unifying against the Trump administration. I don’t want to spend my time being against anything and anyone. Even if that’s how I feel, I want to work towards good. I want to build bridges. My extra energy, the energy I have after nursing and caring for a newborn, after my marriage, after myself, after work, after caring for the relationships that are important to me- that’s the energy I wants to spend working towards something.

 

The Women’s March gave me that. In a time where our country feels isolated, women across the globe in 55 different countries, stood up for us from New Zealand to Kenya to South Korea. Even Antartica rallied. In a time where our country is angry at Washington D.C., women flocked there with over 500,000 people in attendance. In a time where our country is not just divided but fractured/shattered/broken, marches were held in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

We need community. We need to remember why we love our friends and neighbors. That we loved them between election years and why. We need to work together to build up those that need it- those that haven’t been served well enough in the past, those that we fear will be mistreated or forgotten in the next four years, those that need us and we need them.

OUR MISSION

The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.

In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.

We support the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities. We call on all defenders of human rights to join us. This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

HEAR OUR VOICE.  -womensmarch.com

Yesterday I rallied with men, women and children in Wilmington, NC. I felt proud, inspired and encouraged to be with them and to hear their voices. It was the reminder I needed that change is attainable and we can all make a difference.

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Reflection: Growing Pains

2016 might be the most hated year ever. (It’s hard to say though since I’ve only been around for the last 30. Surely the years of the black plague top this.) Despite that I’ve heard many writers online say that while as a whole 2016 was the worst, personally it was a great year. For me, I would describe it as a positive year but overall it was a year of growth.

First off, I literally grew a person. It’s not often you get to use “literally” correctly but I really did. I have the traumatic childbirth memories to prove it (plus a baby).  Growing baby Haines was challenging in unexpected and totally predictable ways. The physical parts are trying- the fatigue, feeling physically weak, being sore in the third trimester, the discomfort of your organs moving to new places in the first. I hated having to slow down my lifestyle and feeling like I couldn’t do the things I enjoyed. Having those few months of discomfort and living in a body in which I felt little control taught me to be more aware and have empathy for those who deal with these issues on a daily basis.

I was surprised to find the social aspect challenging. While I loved discussing pregnancy and parenting with friends, answering overly personal questions to total strangers was frustrating and monotonous. And it didn’t help that many of my friendships have always included a shared love of beer. When one of your favorite social activities is visiting breweries and you’re pregnant, you’ve just damaged your social life.

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My last drinks before we knew about Haines.

Emotionally I struggled with bridging from a pre-pregnancy lifestyle to parenthood. As brain mushed from hormones so did my desire to be creative or try new things. My interest in the world narrowed severely as our little household began to feel like more than I could handle. Even now I have a hard wrapping my brain around all that is going on. Then again, I don’t think I’m the only one.

Second, I became a parent here in the last few weeks of the year. Childbirth followed by a taking a 2 week old to the ER were growing pains that I don’t need to repeat for quite some time. (Of course now baby Haines is teaching me how to handle his first cough/cold which I’m also not pleased to learn about.)  As an unexpected consequence of becoming a parent I’ve also learned that this little guy gives me strength I wouldn’t expect. No, I don’t sleep through the night now but surprisingly, it’s okay. Our trip to the hospital was terrifying, but also, it was okay. As long as Haines is here with us, everything seems doable. Even when it’s terrible.

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Professionally, I also evolved. For the first time I was in a position where I was speaking with high-level executives professionally on a regular basis. After years of experiencing anxiety with public speaking, I became my company’s Toastmasters club president, an organization dedicated to my top fear. It is with that same new confidence that I forged relationships and created programs that I’m proud of. It is also what allows me to feel comfortable taking 12 weeks leave to be with Haines. Thank goodness for that.

I expect 2017 to also be a year of growing pains… and perhaps every year going forward. We are still learning to get through the day and before I know it I will have to learn how to go back to work. I don’t have any resolutions for 2017 but I hope to learn about balance, who I am as a mother and a partner and my son.

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Photo credit: Zachary Sprague

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postpartum Reality Check

Despite all the lovely media out there that pregnancy is a beautiful, magical time it is also very difficult for some. Everyone’s pregnancy is different and that’s hard to understand before you’ve gone through your own. The same applies for the birth story. Every mother will have a very different experience.

For me the struggle was always emotional. For most of the pregnancy I just couldn’t get my feet underneath me. I struggled with the decision to have children, to questioning whether or not we’d be good parents, to how we’d handle the costs of a child. It was only in the third trimester that I started to feel confident about being parents, only to develop anxiety around childbirth.

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In those last few weeks the only I could feel better was to try to be ready. I continued prenatal yoga through 39 weeks. I forced Tyler to read The Birth Partner (he now agrees this was a good decision). I called everyone I knew for hospital bag and postpartum care tips. The consensus? You don’t need half of what you bring.

Hospital Prep Reality Check- No matter what you pack, you won’t use most of it. 

Hospital Bag*:

  • Bath robe- this is all I wore in the hospital. I rarely stood except to go to the bathroom so what more do you need?
  • Toiletries- I feared my first shower. I didn’t want to stand or put hot water anywhere near my recently traumatized parts. Do not fear the shower.It will be your best shower ever.
  • Warm socks/slippers
  • Hairbrush/hair ties
  • Comfy clothes to come home in
  • 1-2 baby outfits- Haines was chilly in the hospital and the nurses wanted him dressed to help warm him up.

*I only delivered and recovered at the hospital. I didn’t labor there. Your needs may be different.

The best way to prepare to leave the hospital is to take everything. Don’t leave without all the:

  • Mesh underwear
  • Pads
  • Witch hazel pads
  • Cold packs
  • Dermoplast

At-home Care:

  • More witch hazel pads- I purchased Tuck’s pads rather than make my own but there’s a lot of information out there to DIY it
  • Always Flex Foam pads– super thin but very absorbent
  • Dermoplast
  • Stool softener- just do it
  • Motrin & Tylenol
  • A supply of the world’s largest, comfiest granny panties
  • Extra sets of hands- get help!

Hospital Reality Check- There is no recovering in Recovery.

Be aware that it is commonplace these days to keep the baby in the room with mom at all times. At our hospital Haines only left once for an hour. It felt good to be able to see him but… I also only slept about 90 minutes during our hospital stay which was about 36 hours long. My mom hearing had turned on into hyperdrive and every wiggle he made woke me up. I also just wanted to see him. It was so hard to believe he was really here. I needed to see him just to confirm his existence. This need meant I missed out on essential sleep but I couldn’t have done it differently.

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At-Home Reality Check- You thought you were hormonal during pregnancy? You know nothing. 

The first two weeks home I cried because I was tired. I cried because Haines had trouble breastfeeding and I didn’t know how to help him. I cried because my heart was full and everything felt perfect. I cried at sappy songs and terrible commercials. Now we’re almost 4 weeks in with 2 weeks of a healthy baby and a 2 week hospital stay under our belts. We still don’t have any since of normalcy or routine, but we’re making it all the same.

At-Home Reality  Check- Even though you’re more tired than you’ve ever been, you’ve got this. At least you can have a damn beer again.

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Falling in Love the Hard Way

I didn’t understand that I loved my son until we got to the hospital. I’m not entirely sure I understood that he was my son. I felt love. At home listening to Christmas music, holding him next to Tyler, I cried for how full my heart was. All the same it hadn’t hit me, I didn’t know the depth, until he was in pain.

It was the pediatric hospitalist, a doctor for the Pediatric ICU who showed me how to use the breast pump. I hadn’t nursed in over 12 hours and my breasts were enormous. I thought I knew what engorged meant  when my milk first came in but it could not compare to my breasts expressing the physical pain of my child not eating. When he cried my breasts cried draining milk through my shirt, aching with helplessness.

At lunch time that same day we had taken him to his two-week check up at the pediatrician. They had given him a clean bill of health and sent us on our way. Almost immediately upon arriving at home Haines become inconsolable. He refused to nurse. This wasn’t alarming, he’s a baby. He’s fussy. At 9 pm though he still hadn’t nursed and couldn’t be calmed for more than a minute or two. His piercing cry had weakened and his breathing was congested and labored. The pediatric after hours line sent us to the hospital to get him checked out.

We thought we’d be sent home with a tall hospital bill and being told that we had a bad case of new nervous parenting, nothing more. It quickly became apparent this wasn’t the case. Our ER room filled with nurses, technicians and doctors. They stuck a tube down his nose and then his throat to suction the thick mucous that was choking him. An X-ray machine was brought in, an IV set up. When the team for pediatrics came down to move him, one nurse kept a bag valve mask in her hand to be ready to manually breath for Haines if he needed it.

We were ushered out of his room when they announced that Haines would need an airway and a spinal tap. They were testing the spinal fluid, blood and urine for infection. Now it was me who was inconsolable. Although we were shown the family waiting room we stood in the hallway directly outside of his room waiting for someone to speak to us, waiting to see him. They had decided against intubating him but he did have a breathing machine, a CPAP, on for the first 12 hours or so. The sight of him twisted our insides. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the next day that I got to hold him. It was after 22 hours that I gave him a bottle, his first food.

After a few days we found out that Haines has Group B Strep, a blood infection. Anyone who has recently received prenatal treatment knows that pregnant women are tested for this. Individuals who test positive get antibiotics during labor to prevent babies from picking it up in the birth canal. I had tested negative. Little did I know that women could test negative one day and test positive the next. What would I have done if I had known? Nothing, of course. We did as we were told by medical professionals. We didn’t know, didn’t understand.

Once we got the news of the type of infection we also found out the treatment, 10 days of IV antibiotics. This was another heart sinking moment. We’re wanted to take this baby home and to unhook him from these machines and monitors. But all he needs to be a healthy baby boy is to finish his treatment. So we waited.

In a hospital, time takes a very different meaning. Day or night just means a different nurse is on shift. Either way I am watching bad movies and Law & Order SVU at all times. I have finally sorted the room so that the couch is more like a bed and I have reusable grocery bags filled with our items. One bag for snacks. One bag for our clothes. One bag for baby’s. One bag for books and things to do. I write this now just as much for the cathartic act as I do to fill the time.

Today we take home a bouncing baby boy who is fattening up and growing stronger every day. This wasn’t the way we wanted to learn to be parents but Haines is helping us learn fast. And he is showing us all about love.

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Christmas Came Early

We had done our best to think the baby would be late. Unbearably late. This, we heard, was the best way to not be get through the days before baby arrived. The day before our due date we went to the midwife for our weekly appointment. We knew there was really nothing she could tell us to help predict when the baby would come but we hoped for something anyways.

Everything looked great and I was dilated 3 cm. This really means nothing though. You can stay at 3 cm for days without progress. We scheduled our next appointment and an induction for the day after Christmas. On the way home I asked Tyler to stop and buy a Gatorade. I felt nauseas and gross, glad to be working from the couch. I planned to stop work a bit early and get in the bath but come 4 pm there was still too much to do.

At this point Tyler had come home from the grocery and I admitted that I had been having contractions since 2pm almost every twenty minutes. I showed him where I was writing them down in my work notebook. He was not impressed that I hadn’t told him immediately.

Everything seemed very manageable then. I got in the bath and rested. The contractions were felt doable. I could handle this. When I called my mother to let her know what was happening I was calm on the phone. No rushing, drive safe. Don’t come if you’re tired. Tyler arranged for our dog to be picked up by friends.

Although my contractions didn’t become consistently closer together, things quickly deteriorated. My attempts to walk around the house were unbearable. I threw up my dinner- soup and a milkshake generously dropped off by a coworker. Soon I refused to get out of the recliner, dozing between each contraction and squeezing Tyler’s hand when they came. It was hard to open my eyes to see my mom when she arrived. When Tyler called the midwife around 1am I was asking for an epidural. I wanted to go to the hospital. My contractions still weren’t consistently 3 minutes apart and she encouraged me to stay at home and walk around- speed things up. Um, no.

I barely made it to the car.

Mom and Tyler carefully walked me out, holding me up. Our hospital is only 4 minutes away which made all the difference. The midwife changed her tune when we arrived- I was already 10 cm dilated and wanting to push! It was straight to the delivery room where the midwife sat at the end of the bed ready to break my water. I started to fall apart asking for an epidural again (if you’re ready to push this isn’t going to work). With the midwife between my knees a contraction hit and BAM! My water exploded all over her and the surrounding area. She got up to change her clothes with a “Well, that settles that.”

The baby was ready to make an entrance and I was able to start pushing immediately. Fortunately for me it was all over in a matter of 5 or so contractions (20 minutes, perhaps) and also fortunately for the baby whose heart rate dropped significantly for about 10 of those minutes. I ended up getting an episiotomy which certainly wasn’t in my birth plan but was totally for the best. It all came to an end with the announcement of “It’s a boy!”  and the total shock of a baby being placed on my chest.

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Childbirth Surprises:

  • I didn’t curse, which I was proud of as that seems like an unpleasant thing to put up with at your place of work. On the other hand I screamed so hard my throat hurt for days. Sorry, nurses.
  • Apparently Tyler and I both truly thought the baby would be a girl as we both thought/said, “Are you sure?” when we found out it was a boy.
  • It turns out there is no keeping your support team away from the business end of childbirth. With your head to your chest and your knees open and up to your ears, there is no way to distinguish any part of you. The whole of you is in childbirth.
  • The post-delivery shakes completely caught me by surprise. I didn’t know to anticipate them and they felt totally debilitating.
  • The nurses and staff at the hospital completely lived up to their reputation and took care of us 100%. It was incredible.

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Baby Haines has been kind enough to sleep on my chest while I’ve typed but I think he’s reached his maximum. We’ll just have to share more soon.

Happy holidays everyone.

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This is a very photogenic family. 

 

Pregnancy Holiday Gift Guide

Some little growing baby is apparently still not ready as we approach T minus 3 days to due date. I am trying my best to remain somewhat active but it’s not easy. Yesterday we took two walks (both combined probably equaled a mile) and I practiced my prenatal yoga moves. Today we drove out to Brunswick  Nature Trails and with a couple breaks I was able to walk for almost an hour. That directly resulted in 2 snacks and a 45 minute nap. I haven’t gotten off the couch since. Being 10 months pregnant has made me oh-so-fascinating.

Spending a lot of time on the couch directly affects the amount of time I spend on the Internet and has now resulted in a pregnancy gift guide. Because let’s get real, I have no idea what new moms need but I do have a few thoughts on nice gestures for pregnant ladies. With the holidays approaching, and pregnancies everywhere I look these are some things that came to mind.  (First thing to realize, all stages of pregnancy are not alike. Nor are all pregnancies are alike but most have a few things in common.)

First trimester gifts:

Sweet almond oil or Palmer’s cocoa butter– In the first trimester it was nice to get into the habit of lathering up my belly. My first trimester was in the warmer months when I didn’t feel like a thick lotion so I used sweet almond oil in the beginning. Later when the itching (re: stretching) really began in the belly region the cocoa butter brought a lot of relief.

Belly band– One of the first things your medical provider tells you is that eating for two is not a thing but even if the first trimester you start to fill out. This is mainly due to bloating. I was first asked if I was pregnant at only ten weeks. The belly band my sister sent me was so convenient. It’s basically a tube top to keep your pants up and it’s essential for life.

Bra extender– I really wish I had known this was a thing. In my pre-pregnant, ignorant life I didn’t know that your rib cage expands. So insane.

Trail mix or snacks you can easily carry- While I still tend to keep a snack within easy reach, it was necessary for survival in the early weeks. There were many times where I was sure I would either puke or collapse if I didn’t get food. One of the nicest, simple gifts I received early on were some small, yummy snacks to keep in my bag.

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A bucket of strawberries isn’t a practical snack to carry around but look at this tiny belly! I think this was 11 weeks. 

Second trimester gifts:

Some sort of enormous body pillow- I am incredibly cheap and had planned to sleep the rest of my pregnant nights with my carefully arranged six pillows when basically a stranger gifted me a giant body pillow. Life changer! Now I know I wouldn’t have survived without it.

Prenatal yoga gift card- I started prenatal yoga at about 28 weeks but I wish I had done it the whole time. There’s something about being in a class for and with other pregnant women, all preparing for the same thing, that feels like the safest place I experience on a regular basis. For Wilmington, NC residents- Longwave is the only place in town with  prenatal yoga classes in the evening.

A lifetime supply of La Croix- Most of my first trimester was spent partly in hiding, partly asleep. When I reentered the world I had no idea what to drink when out and about. Y’all, the answer is La Croix. It’s the easy answer, I know, but just go with it.

A cutie outfit- As the second semester approaches the third, the cute bump feeling fades into big blob. Almost all of my clothes during pregnancy have been handed down to me, thank goodness, but that also means I’ve spent the last 6 months in clothes I didn’t pick out, aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, and at times barely fit (because pregnancy). My mom gifted me a couple cute dresses of my own choosing this fall and it was a total pick-me-up. Highly recommend. Old Navy Maternity, Motherhood, Seraphine and Pink Blush were the sites I perused the most.

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I’ve outgrown this favorite from Seraphine but I loved it. 

Third trimester gifts:

Massage- Because everything hurts.

Bubble bath- Because everything hurts.

Cookie dough & endless movies- Because everything hurts.

Comfy pajamas- Because nothing fits. I’ve been wearing the same ratty black leggings every day for the last months and they are the best thing to ever happen to me. I will never let them go.

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Welcome to my third trimester uniform. 

I’ll just be hanging out, feet up and Netflix on until there’s more to report.

 

The Waiting Game

I’d like to write about things other than pregnancy right now, but at 1 week and 4 days until our due date I actually can’t think about anything else.

We’re at the point where every time I make a sign of discomfort (which is a lot) Tyler thinks we’re going into labor. Regardless at our appointment this week, our midwife indicated there was no reason to think we were going anywhere fast. She even let us know that they would let us go until December 28th if the baby didn’t come first. Oh good. I’m super pumped to hear that. I bought this baby a Christmas day outfit so… let’s hope he or she is here to wear it!

I have to admit that while my pregnancy has been very smooth sailing, my attitude recently has plummeted. I really like to be a busy lady. I like projects and crafting, especially at this time of year, and I’ve had to cut all of that out. Standing for more than a few minutes or walking the dog around the block has become challenging.  Each night after work I stay close to the couch, which drives me a bit crazy. I know I’m very lucky to not be on bed rest or have some risk to be watching out for but this very normal pregnancy can still a pain in the butt (and back and legs).

We’re making things bright and cheery around the house with our Christmas tree already out and watching movies each night. Tyler also came home yesterday with safe-to-eat cookie dough which I am trying not to eat all at once. In the meantime I’m finally finishing the Elena Ferrante novels and getting ready to start Land of Love and Ruins by Oddny Eir. If I can’t travel the world right now, at least I can read books from Italy and Iceland. Tip: Pregnancy is best undertaken from the bathtub with a book in hand.

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Clara is also doing her part for holiday cheer. 

Third trimester survival plan:

  • Prenatal yoga at Longwave– My yoga instructor is also a labor & delivery nurse. I keep wishing they offered this class more than once a week!
  • Baths with bubbles- Bubbles are technically optional but it makes things feel more luxurious.
  • Tea- I make a point to drink a ton of water each day but I also have a schedule of tea throughout the day. It starts with Earl Gray (where I pretend this gives me energy) and then goes to peppermint, lemon ginger or chamomile throughout the day. Although I drink all sorts of brands, I’m really into this Winston-Salem tea company, Chad’s Chai, right now. Gotta support the hometown!
  • All the movies- From Christmas classics to action flicks, keep them coming! This week we’ve watched everything from A Charlie Brown Christmas to Armageddon.
  • Reassurance that I’m not only pregnant lady drooling away out there- Feel free to read this “Top 10 Things They Should Warn You About Before You Get Pregnant”. It makes pregnancy seem really attractive.
  • Working from home- I’m incredibly lucky to be allowed to work from home when I can’t hack it at the office. Recliners make for way better chairs than my office provides. Also they come with dog cuddles.
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There’s not a lot of room to spare in our chair but Clara finds it all. 

I’ll leave you with this bright spot on our tree to really get in the spirit. It’s probably the highlight of our tree.

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1988, y’all.