It sounds cliche, but I think every month gets better and better. We started out this month with a trip to the burbs to visit some friends. I was anxious to see how Gracie would do sleeping at someone else’s house…and she took it like a champ! All of the traveling must have worn her little body down though because just a couple days later she ran a low fever for most of the day. I felt terrible for her because it took me literally all day to finally figure out that she had a fever and that was why she was not her normal self. The next morning she woke up and was back to her typical, smiley self.
This month we had the dreaded “2 month shots” as well. Yes, we are a little off on our schedule. Gracie was a trooper and handled the shots quite well. We think she hated being held down more than the shots. Afterwards we went out to eat and she managed to sleep in the car on the way home. As soon as got home she was flipping out though so we gave her some tylenol which helped tremendously. Before I put her down for the night I gave her just a little bit more and she was able to sleep through the night as usual. At her 2 month appointment Grace weighed 12 pounds 4 ounces and was 25 inches long. She is in the 99th percentile for length! In fact, when her doctor came in and saw her length he measured her again just to be sure she was really that long.
This month Gracie started the very annoying habit of scooting around her crib while she sleeps. I would find myself getting up in the night to move her away from the edge so she didn’t hit her head and wake herself up. Fortunately a friend of mine suggested using a sleep sack with her and since then she has not been quite so successful, although on particularly squirmy nights she can still move around the crib quite a bit. She has also rolled from her tummy to her back just once while sleeping. It happened about 6 am last friday. I heard a cry from the nursery that was new to me. I looked on the monitor and she was on her back, looking quite proud of herself. After about thirty minutes she was annoyed that she could not get back to sleep.
Gracie continues to be more and more vocal and interacts with us all the time. She definitely loves her mama. When Seth will give her a bottle her eyes still follow me around the room. We went to church for the first time (other than Christmas Eve) right before she turned 11 weeks old. That same weekend we also spent the night with some friends so it was a full weekend for Baby G. Gracie charmed everyone in the nursery (of course) and her parents enjoyed sitting in church without having to worry about their precious baby. I really love our church’s nursery and feel so blessed to have a safe and caring environment for our baby.
Of course, I can’t talk about leaving my baby without talking about my return to work. On the one hand I am looking forward to having adult time again. Although I am not sure I remember how to carry on conversation with an adult. On the other, I am facing the realization that at least for awhile I won’t be seeing much of my baby simply because by the time we get home she needs to nap, eat, and do down for the night. Seth and I will miss having time in the afternoons with Gracie. However, I know all too soon she will be extending her wake time which makes me happy and sad.
Or rather, back to my job. It’s not as if I haven’t been working the past 12 weeks. Today is the last day of my maternity leave and I am feeling very sad. On monday our family of three will adjust to a new normal and sadly I will be forced to adjust to seeing less of my little girl.
On the one hand I am looking forward to going back. I miss my coworkers and will appreciate the adult interaction. I am interested to hear how some of my clients are doing and of course I am looking forward to seeing the kiddos on my caseload. However, I have done the math and I know that the time I see Gracie will be very limited. I am thankful to work for an agency that is supportive of working moms and I will be able to work from home a day each week. I also know that Gracie will be very well taken care of while I am gone and she will be close by.
If I could go back and do the last 12 weeks again, I think I would tell myself to relax (but what new mom wouldn’t go back and say that to herself?). When Gracie was a month old I went to the office Christmas party and at that point I was so ready to go back to work…taking care of a newborn is exhausting! Now, though, everything is so much fun and she is so much more expressive and learning new things. Just this morning she rolled from her tummy to her back.
I’ve been been forced to slow down and take things a day at a time, an hour at a time. I have had the luxury of getting to spend so much one on one time with my daughter for which I am so grateful. A small part of me wishes I would have done more, but really all that matters is that I took care of Gracie and the time I spent with her. I think if I could go back and do anything differently I probably would have spent less of her wake times doing stuff. Now, it was stuff that needed to get done…like putting her laundry away, but still.
I think one thing that will change for the better at work is that I will be more focused. Not that I wasted my time before, but I just know that I will be wanting to get things done so I can get home to the people that really matter. As much as I love my work kiddos I don’t want to see more of them than I do my very own child. I think I will have better boundaries with my time and when I am with clients I am going to be focused on why I am there, get that done, and just leave. I am not going to listen to the same stories over and over and I will not let them suck me into the drama of their lives.
Also, this snow had better be done because one thing I really looked forward to about leave was not driving in treacherous winter weather.
Unfortunately, my ability to move freely and untethered by monitors didn’t last long. At my next check my blood pressure had gone back up and my doctor was pushing for internal monitoring. Lorrie fought hard for me and was able to persuade my doctor that internal monitoring wasn’t necessary. I still had to stay in bed, but Lorrie had me try a few different positions that would help the baby move into a better position and move labor along. I was beginning to near transition and found it most comfortable to sit on the edge of the bed with Seth providing counter pressure on my knees and Dana providing counter pressure on my lower back.
About 4:30pm I took a bathroom break and then sat against the raised back of the bed. My contractions seemed to space out a little and I was able to rest in between contractions. After a little while I began to get very uncomfortable and again needed to support of Seth and Dana. I was checked periodically and with each check I was progressing, however to me it seemed that time was moving so slowly and I just wanted to be able to push. With Dana’s encouragement I decided to squat through some contractions. After doing this through a few of them I was checked and was nearly 9cm. I decided to squat through a few more even though it was incredibly intense and difficult to hold back the urge to push. I really wanted to meet my baby! After squatting a bit more I decided I was ready to be checked again as the urge to push was so, so strong. I was checked and the nurse said I was still at a 9. Dana told her I was having the urge to push and she said that I shouldn’t because I was going to swell my cervix. She then said to me that she had noticed how I was breathing (long, deep breaths) and suggested I try taking shorter breaths. Had I not been in the middle to some very intense labor I would have told her what I was thinking, which was: This is how I have been managing my pain through nearly 36 hours of labor…I’m not changing it up now! As soon as she left the room, Dana told me to continue to breathe however I wanted.
At this point I was feeling discouraged that I was still not to 10cm and therefore not ready to push. I decided to squat some more and try to wait longer before requesting another check. I really couldn’t bear to ask them to check me just to hear that I was still at a 9. I think it was at this point I voiced thinking I would not be able to do this, and Dana reminded me when you’re at that point it usually means you are almost there. Not long after my check a new round of staff came in as it was 7pm. My doctor also stopped by to see how I was doing. Much to my relief my doctor said that she wanted to check to see how dilated I was. She checked and said that I was almost there and suggested I push through some contractions.
Finally, I thought, now I can do something. What I didn’t prepare for was how exhausted I was and now I had to do the work of pushing. It took me a bit to get the coordination I needed to push, be in a good position, and remember to breathe! I tried using the squat bar through a couple contractions but it was so exhausting. I could hardly hold my body up, let alone push. As I would push I kept thinking about how anxious I was to meet my little girl and desperately wanting to feel the ‘ring of fire’ because then I would know that she was almost here. I also remember wanting to keep pushing even after a contraction had come and gone. I just wanted to be done so badly. The hardest part was making myself rest in between contractions because I just wanted to be pushing. Even while I was pushing I continued to hold onto my comb until Grace was very nearly here. I also remember looking up at my feet at one point and thinking they did not look as swollen as they had earlier in the day.
Apparently (per my doula-I had no sense of time) after an hour and ten minutes of pushing the delivery team was gathered. All I knew is that my doctor was back in the room so that had to be a sign we were getting close. She asked if she could inject some local anesthetic as I was likely going to tear and I agreed. After pushing about 15 more minutes (again, per my doula) my little girl emerged! I remember the nurse telling me to look at her and I leaned up to look but my belly was in the way and it took way too much strength to try to lean up any further. Within seconds Gracie was placed on my chest. My first reaction was that she was so cute in the classic baby way-round head, perfect little nose and chin. I was in love. I also remember being slightly confused because I hadn’t felt the ring of fire. Of course later I realized this was due to the local anesthetic that was administered. Duh. Gracie was very alert as she laid on my chest and I was very thirsty. Dana had a couple gatorades on hand which I downed in a matter of seconds. Seth was by my head and had been feeding me ice chips throughout labor. I know was taking ice chips by the mouthful and couldn’t get enough. Gracie tried holding her head up to look at my face, reached her hands for my face and opened her eyes to look up at me. I was so in love.
The last feeding of the day is, hands down, my favorite feeding of the day. The lights are low and Gracie is generally cuddly. Last night, in particular, was a favorite of mine. Gracie was very sleepy while eating. It seemed like she had finished eating but to be sure I offered her the bottle one more time. Her lips were very contentedly pressed shut as I put the bottle against them. As I pulled the bottle away she opened her mouth in a smile, all the while continuing to sleep. I held her close and whispered a prayer consisting of thank you, thank you, thank you. I can’t believe she is mine.
I get nervous when laying Gracie down for a nap just because I am not sure if she will start crying or not as soon as she realizes what is happening. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, like today, this is what happens: I’ve sat and rocked for a minute with her, long enough to see she is ready to start nodding off. She is working hard in her pacifier and with every suckle she seems closer to sleep. I get up and start to lay her down, the pacifier falls out. I keep my hand under her belly and with the other hand I reach to put the pacifier back in her mouth. As I am doing this she is making quiet grunting noises, not in a protest of sleep, but rather because she wants to lay her head down. With the pacifier securely in her mouth, I slide my hand out from under her and her head hits the mattress and her eyes shut, as if she was longing for sleep.
Grace’s second month got off to a rough start, thanks in part to the holidays and then my brother getting married. All of that excitement takes its toll on a little baby. considering it all she took it like a champ though. She didn’t hit her breaking point during the wedding weekend until it was time to go home. Poor girl was so over stimulated she couldn’t sleep, not even in the car. Immediately following all of that activity Gracie hit her 6 week growth spurt when she was exactly 6 weeks old. I didn’t even realize she was having her growth spurt until I looked back at the app I use to track how much she eats and realized she had 10 more ounces to eat that day than she normally does. Both Seth and I commented the next morning that when we had swaddled her the night before, the swaddler seemed much smaller (or she seemed much bigger…).
Month number two also brought a much needed change in the sleep department. Gracie slept six and a half hours on January 7. It was a welcome change but I didn’t let myself get too excited since I’ve heard these things can be 2 steps forward and one step back. However, the next night she did 8 hours and she just kept stretching it out from there. We also started putting her on her tummy to sleep. I know, I know. Back is best. We think rest is best though and she certainly gets more (and better) sleep when she is on her stomach. Added bonus: she has excellent head control and a nicely shaped noggin.
Once she started doing such long stretches we decided it was time to move bedtime up from 10pm to 7 pm. After this the 10pm feed became a ‘dream feed’ and it gradually got moved up to around 9pm. Then one night she just slept all night and didn’t wake up for the dream feed. The next night though she did wake and that pattern has continued. Although this week she has gone 4 nights in a row without waking to eat so maybe the dream feed is officially a thing of the past. I have to say I love feeding her at night because she is so warm, sleepy and snuggle-y. Added bonus: when I lay her down to sleep she doesn’t fuss. It is like she wants to be in her crib. Bliss, I tell you.
Gracie is becoming more social as well. She had her first play date with her friend Willa. They are going to be on the synchronized swim team in the 2028 olympics. She is also making more noise and is so, so close to smiling on command. Gracie loves to be with her daddy and is so content to just sit on his lap and hang out with him and watch football. She does not like bath time. I repeat, she hates bath time. Gracie has developed a very cute habit of placing her hand on mine while I am feeding her and then when she is done eating she will contentedly fold her hands on her chest.
Seth and I left Gracie and went out by ourselves for the first time on New Year’s Eve. We went to the Illinois/Indiana basketball game and it did not disappoint. (Go Illini!) I did however have a lot of mixed emotions about being away from my baby.
Gracie was blissfully unaware of snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, or whatever you would like to call the monstrosity that befell us in early January. Mama and Gracie stayed home all week and didn’t go out at all. Mama even cancelled in 6 week postpartum appointment just to avoid going out, it was so cold.
I can’t believe how much I love this little girl and I am looking forward to all that month number 3 will bring!
I sat up abruptly after the second contraction and as I sat up I felt a gush. I told Dana, “I think my water just broke” and when I stood up I was certain of it as I had soaked through my clothes. I went upstairs to change but decided to let Seth continue to rest instead of telling him that my water had broke. I went back downstairs and Dana was packing her bag for the hospital. I confessed to her that up until my water broke I was really thinking that labor was going to taper off and I would have to go to work. Dana laughed and told me that she knew a long time ago that wasn’t going to happen. I walked through the next few contractions since it was now more painful to sit on the birth ball since I didn’t have that extra “cushion.” I decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to go upstairs and lay down in my own bed one last time.
Around 5:45 am I decided that Dana needed to come up for some hands on help. She used heat from a rice pack (semi-helpful but kind of awkward since the pain was all in my belly and we wanted to avoid overheating the baby), massage and hip squeezes. The hip squeeze was no fun. It made the pain worse. I also held a small comb in my hand that gave me a different pain to focus on through contractions. That comb ended up staying with me throughout the rest of my labor-right up to when I started pushing. After a while I got on the exercise ball and sat next to the bed. Dana sat behind me and when I would have contractions she would press on pressure points in the small of my back. I in turn would push back against her and this was extremely helpful.
Shortly after 7 am I decided that we should head to the hospital, but I needed a granola bar and a chocolate milkshake first. Seth went out to get breakfast and my milkshake. When Seth returned he started loading up the car and I gave him instructions about last minute things that I wanted packed. We ended up leaving around 8 am.
Throughout my pregnancy the part of labor I was dreading the most was the car ride to the hospital. I was really worried about how I would be able to be remotely comfortable through contractions while in a moving vehicle. My contractions slowed some while we were in the car which was a needed relief. As it turned out riding in the car was a nice distraction and on the occasion we would hit a bump while I was having a contraction it felt really good. I sipped my milkshake and continued to squeeze the comb during the drive. We arrived at OSF around 9 am. We opted not to use the valet and went ahead and walked up to the labor and delivery floor. We also opted not to use the complimentary shuttles in the hospital. I remembered as we walked down the very long hallway telling Dana how scary they were because they went so fast. I can’t imagine if I would have had a contraction while I was on on of those!
Once up at labor and delivery I was placed in triage since there were no beds available. I grumpily thought to myself that they were probably full of people having scheduled indictions and c-sections and was extremely annoyed. In triage, I was literally put in a corner and there was barely any room for me and Seth, let alone Dana and all of our stuff. The nurse practitioner was extremely rude and was incredulous when I told her that my water had broken. She explained that they had to test me to be sure that my water had in fact broken and perform an exam to see how dilated/effaced I was. The exam was terrible and it felt like she was digging around inside of me. She announced that I was 2-3 cm. I found this very discouraging since I was 1-2 at my doctor’s appointment 3 days before and I had now been in labor for over a day! I also remember telling her that I had a birth plan and she seemed very annoyed by my having a birth plan. However, after she read it she said it sounded “reasonable.” Once she was done with the tests and I was taken off the monitor I got off the bed. While we were moving around in a very tight confined area Seth accidentally stepped on my right foot. I screamed and told him that it hurt worse than a contraction! With the swelling in my feet it definitely did. At this point another couple was in triage and on the other side of the curtain I heard a nurse come in and tel them that their scheduled c-section was going to be pushed back a little because the doctor had to do an emergency c-section, but their baby would still be here by noon. I was again annoyed that yet someone else was making the choice to be in the hospital and thought that I had better get to a room before them since I was actually in labor.
Around 11 am I was moved to a labor and delivery room. The nurse practitioner never did actually confirm that my water had broken, but since we were moved to a room I guess that was my water that broke and I had not just peed myself. One of my labor and delivery nurses was Lorrie Harmon, and she was truly the best nurse I could have asked for. She was extremely supportive of me and my birth plan. She had to do some external monitoring of the baby and then take my blood pressure before I would be allowed to be out of bed. She and another nurse, Lynne, asked me more questions to get me admitted. They both laughed when I told them the last thing I had eaten was a chocolate milkshake. I had to sign some various forms and I distinctly remember NOT signing the form that allowed them to give me an epidural. (I strongly advise this for anyone who desires to have an unmedicated labor, because I was so “in the zone” at the point when I would have wanted an epidural that signing a piece of paper was not going to happen.) Right about the time she took my blood pressure there was a random doctor? med student? who came in and asked me how I was doing with my pain and reminded me that having an epidural was an option. I remember thinking and wondering if the rest of my labor was going to go on like this, with doctors coming in and “offering” me medication. Thankfully, Lorrie informed him that I desired to have an unmedicated labor but just him asking was enough to send my blood pressure up. Dana got out some lavender essential oil and Lorrie took my blood pressure again. It had come down enough that I would be allowed to walk around freely.