Friday, September 14, 2012

September 14th

Today is a very special anniversary.

A year ago last evening, Brian and I were nearing the limits of our patience on the Montana hills. For days I'd tagged along behind him as he hunted for an elk... ANY elk. And not one elk did we see.

Mountains near the hunting location


It was September 13th. We had five days before our flight home. Should we stay where we were, sleeping in the car, dragging ourselves over mountains and through woods, searching for signs of elk and finding none? That day, we'd spoken to another hunter who told us the "area news" - all the elk hunters were striking out.

Or should we give up on the elk and head back to our friends' house, five hours away, and spend the rest of our time with them, heading out locally to hunt for mule deer during the day?


These LOOK like rolling hills but were a BEAR to climb

The morning of 9/13/11 - still a bit hopeful

Desperately I wanted to go back to our friends' house. I hadn't had a shower or a good night's sleep in a few days. The hunts were wearing me out as I was discovering that this hunting business was NOT for me. I was tired and cold and dirty and very emotional, sad that we weren't finding elk! And one of my best friends was five hours away with her two little girls and I very much wanted to spend the rest of the time with them.

Still, this was the trip Brian had looked forward to for months, imagining himself next to a trophy bull elk he'd taken with his bow and arrow. I didn't feel like I could in good conscience convince him to throw in the towel before he was ready.

I was so thankful when he decided to go back to our friends' place!

Waiting in the car

He wanted to get in one more trek through the woods before nightfall. I went back to the car early, made myself some Ramen noodles, and rested. At dusk, I saw him walking up the slope. No sightings of elk. It was time to leave. We began the five-hour trip back to Cutbank.

Brian was beat. I knew he wanted to hunt that next morning for a mule deer, and we had the GPS, and I wasn't as tired as he was. So I demanded he let me drive. Once we were near the highway, we switched, and he fell quickly to sleep.

The darkness of the Montana night and the empty highway made for a very peaceful drive. But I was not in the least bit sleepy.

You see, I had a pregnancy test stashed away at the bottom of my backpack.

I felt in my bones I wasn't pregnant, as badly as I wanted to be. I knew my period was due the next day and I was sure it would come in the morning. But I had a digital test that had expired in July, a couple months earlier. I wanted to get my money's worth out of that test. So, period or not, I was going to take it that next morning. I would take it first thing, before that dreaded next cycle began.

And yet... there was a chance.

But I was so sure I wasn't! I'd had no symptoms at all, trekking through those mountains and eating dehydrated food. Or if I had, they'd surely been disguised as hunting fatigue. But driving along that winding highway, darkness spreading out for miles on every side of our rented car, my mind flipped back and forth.

And then... I felt a very small symptom. I won't say what it was, because even though I've already (I'm sure) crossed the line into TMI-land, I'd like to not make it worse. But it's a very common pregnancy symptom and it WASN'T normal for this time of the month. Was it in my head? I wondered.

Maegan, you're not pregnant.

But maybe... maybe I am.

Please, please, please, God, I prayed. Let it be positive.

As Brian slept peacefully in the passenger seat, I continued this internal dialogue until the lights of Cutbank loomed on the horizon. All I thought about was taking that test the next morning.

(I'd had a bit of a test obsession over the first five years of our marriage. I'd never seen a positive one.)

We parked, finally there, and Brian got out of the car. "Let's unload it tomorrow morning," he said.

"I have to get my backpack," I said.


"I just want it. No big deal."

It was around 2 AM. We showered and fell asleep in their warm, soft, impossibly delicious guest bed.

Five hours later, I woke. Seeing the light coming through the window, the first thought that popped into my head was the test.

I ever-so-quietly lifted my backpack and brought it with me into the bathroom. I fished around in the bottom until my fingers found the wrapped test. I unwrapped it, did the deed, capped it, and set it on the floor. I looked the opposite way, at the wall. I know it's going to say Not Pregnant. I don't want to watch it pop up.

Then I changed my mind. I know it's going to say Not Pregnant. Might as well know as soon as possible.

I looked down at the test. A tiny hourglass was blinking on the digital screen while the results unfolded internally. Blink, blink, blink. As it blinked, I whispered in rhythm, Not Pregnant, Not Pregnant, Not Pregnant.

Blink, blink, blink.

And then, Pregnant.

I gasped! And you know how it's possible to shout in a whisper? Well, I shout-whispered! "Oh my word! Oh my word!" I jumped up and down and I caught a look at my face in the mirror above the sink. My eyes were huge and my skin was pale and my smile took up half my face. More shout-whispering. "Thank you, God! Thank you, God!"

I crept back into bed. All thoughts of acting casual, waiting for the perfect moment to eventually present itself during the day, fled. I shook Brian's shoulder. "Hey honey, there's one good thing about this trip," I whispered - probably a bit hysterically.

"What's that?" he asked very groggily.

"Well, we're bringing a little buddy home with us," I said, holding the test in front of his face with a shaking hand.

It took his a bit of time to adjust his eyes, recognize what it was, and read the word on it. "Did you just take that?" he asked incredulously.

"Yep!" I said, with tears in my eyes. He hugged me. He had a huge grin on his face.

We prayed together. We dedicated the pregnancy to the Lord; I wanted to give Him all of my fear and worry, so that I could enjoy every moment of carrying that baby. I kept saying, "I'm so happy!" I couldn't stop smiling.

And a year later, I can't stop smiling at my chubby baby boy! What would it be like, I wonder, to go back and do it all again, knowing that it was Will in there? How amazing that would be!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

And how are we doing now? - Nursing Edition

Well, since Will started his four-month sleep regression IMMEDIATELY after I posted my "sleeping" blog, I  am not sure how wise it is that I keep on going with this series! I suppose I should expect nursing to be frightfully painful tonight, eh?

Because it WAS FRIGHTFULLY PAINFUL at the beginning. Holy. Cannoli.

I have a picture of me nursing Will after he was born:

I look so happy!

For the several weeks following the day this picture was taken, I would look at this picture with an inward GRR. How deceptive it looked, I thought! Now, I WAS over the moon with my son. But I was literally clenching my teeth as he nursed. I was thinking, this is NOT FAIR! I just went through labor and now THIS? I felt for the first time - not during contractions, or pushing, mind you, but during nursing - that being a woman rather had its drawbacks.

I'm not sure what I could have done to prepare myself for nursing. I did read Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding, which I very highly recommend and which gave me a lot of knowledge on the subject, but insofar as toughening up my skin - well, I'm just not sure I could have done anything to prepare myself.

A few things I did learn:
1. I didn't want to wear nursing bras. Instead, I found that really soft sports bras were perfect.
2. Don't listen to any crunchy hippie one that tells you, "Let the baby find its own way to the breast and latch himself on." Nope, nope, nope. You need to shove that baby's head on the way it's SUPPOSED to be. Otherwise your sweet baby will do murderous things. And you will think murderous thoughts toward whomever told you that.
3. If you are having pain, RUN NOT WALK to your nearest lactation consultant. If she is not helpful, find another one. Will was born on Wednesday and I went to see a consultant on Friday. As much as I loved the birth center, their advice to me was NOT good - or at least in my case, not helpful. But I loved the consultant at our ped's office.
4. Stock up on ibuprofen. I was on it 'round the clock for about seven weeks.
5. Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. My mom told me this. There were times that Will was hungry, but I took a few minutes to assemble my nursing station: coffee, water, snack, something to read or listen to, pillows, etc. I found that nursing wasn't so bad if I was otherwise comfortable. So he cried a bit while I set myself up.
6. One thing the lactation consultant told me was that the baby's lips can be flanged out perfectly and you can still have a bad latch. That's what was happening with us - perfect flange, bad latch. At the birth center, they would check the flange and say, well, it's a good latch. Then he would pop off and I would be all misshapen and deformed and I'd say, I don't think it should look like that! And they'd say, But his lips look fine. Well, thanks to what I read from Ina May, I was correct and the lactation consultant at the ped's office backed me up. Small comfort that is now!
7. Pumping hurt too! I still hate pumping. Pain in the butt and a half, right there. I do it only when I absolutely have to.
8. Learn a breathing technique for contractions during labor. You'll need it for when your baby latches on those first few times. Or first few hundred times, in my case.

Most of all, the biggest thing I learned was, don't give up! I know I've made it sound terrible but it was worth it a hundred times over. After nine weeks, I was finally healed. Even before then, I had begun to like nursing simply because he looked so cute and because I knew it was doing him some good. Now, I LOVE nursing. It's one of my favorite things about having a baby. Will is gaining weight and eating well. I really, really love the convenience of nursing - have breastfeeding, will travel. : ) I love being able to lay down on the bed and close my eyes while he eats, if I'm exhausted. Or laying down on the bed and reading my Kindle. When he's fussy or cranky, it's the first thing I try - want to eat? - and it's really easy to do. No heating up bottles or seeing food go to waste. And the health benefits are wonderful, of course.

As crazy as this might sound, I'm thankful I had a rough go at the beginning. Now I feel like I can encourage others. And I'm also thankful that, if I had to have a problem, that the problem was with skin damage rather than with Will's ability to nurse or with my supply. I was so thankful, even in the midst of the worst of it, that at least I HAD milk and that he COULD eat. I never once thought of throwing in the towel. But for those mommas who struggle with supply, or whose babies struggle with eating - well, my heart goes out to them.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

And how are we doing now? - Sleeping Edition

The night I posted the following post, Will got up twice to eat (did NOT sleep thru the night). Not in months has that happened! The net day, h was a fussy mess of non-nappingness! I suppose that's the curse of blogging!

Finally, my birth story is posted. On to our current day-to-day!

Will is about 3.5 months old now. I'm an absentminded mom, apparently, because I keep forgetting his age in weeks. Fifteen? Sixteen? Thereabout. Anyway, I'll be filling you in on our experience so far with a BABY!

Today - how are we sleeping?

(If you don't feel like reading the humdrum details of Will's waking and non-waking hours - written partly just for my memory - scroll down for a couple recent photos!)

I've been blessed with an excellent sleeper. At first I attributed this to doing a bit of early sleep training, but then (a few weeks ago) Will went through a napping strike that totally confounded me and made me realize that NOPE, I just have a good sleeper. I will always have great appreciation and respect for those who don't.

I realized immediately - the night we came back from the birth center - that cosleeping wouldn't work for us. Brian and I were both terrified to have him in the bed with us. After that night, we realized roomsharing wouldn't work either. Brian was fine with it, but I wasn't. For one thing, when Will needed to nurse, I required an elaborate setup of chairs, pillows, water bottle, phone, ointment, and light. Brian would have been able to sleep through none of that. The second obstacle was that I was never quite sure - once I was done feeding Will and he was back in his cradle - whether Will would stay asleep or require further soothing. Every peep and squeak made my eyes fly open and my body tense up - will he sleep? will he wake? will I have to get out of bed and start all over? So for the first week or so, I slept on the couch with Will either in my arms or beside me in his cradle or bassinet. I was able to doze more readily if I knew I wouldn't wake Brian.

After I moved back into our room, Will slept outside our bedroom in his pack and play. I gradually grew more comfortable with separating myself from him, and I transitioned him to the nursery when he was around two weeks old. At that point, he was waking up twice a night, and I left the living room lamp on so I could run upstairs to feed him. It didn't take long - maybe three weeks - for Will to work himself down to one night feeding around 3 AM, giving me at least a good five-hour stretch of sleep every night. So going up to the nursery didn't get old.

(I never did bring him into bed with me. Still, almost every single night I woke in a panic, thinking I'd lost him in the sheets.)

It was around this point that I also started letting him - GASP - sleep on his stomach. He had excellent neck strength very early on; one day, while letting him nap diaperless on his tummy to air out a diaper rash, I witnessed him turning his head from side to side. I also noticed he napped longer on his tummy than he would on his back (and he had hated being swaddled after about four days). I knew that Back to Sleep had been a huge push in SIDS prevention, but I also believe sleep is so incredibly important and if a certain position helped him sleep better and longer, that was a positive thing. Eventually I concluded that the benefits for Will outweighed what risk might have existed. It also helped that an overwhelming number of moms I talked to admitted that their kids had slept on their stomachs too. "We would have NEVER put a baby on his back to sleep," said a mom who had raised her kids in the 80s. My mom had said the same thing.

Around four weeks, he slept through the night for the first time - from 8:30 to 5:30. Between five and six weeks, that became the norm. Since then, he sleeps about 10-11 hours a night. If he wakes up on the short side of that, sometimes I can get him to go back down for another 2-hour stretch. Right now, bedtime is 8:00 PM and he wakes around 6:30. It's really nice! I cannot stress how thankful I am. (So please, God, don't change it?)

Naps are a bit more tricky. By this I mean, he gets tired after being awake for about two hours, but when I put him down it's always a mystery how long he'll sleep. Today he took a four-hour nap - though that used to be the norm from 4-12 weeks, now it's unheard of. Many days it's only 45 minutes to an hour that he'll nap. I've just decided I'll work my butt off as soon as he goes down to sleep, because I don't know when he'll wake up. As long as he's not fussy, he can stay awake, as far as I'm concerned. So sometimes he gets three or four naps a day. It's probably a stage and maybe today's long nap is signaling the end of it.

(I kind of miss him when he sleeps, so the shorter naps don't really bother me unless I've GOT to work.)

As I mentioned before, I did do a bit of sleep training with him very early on, as soon as I felt able to discern his needs from his wants (and sleep is definitely a need for babies!). I'm glad I did it then, because I think letting an older baby fuss or cry for any length of time would be harder - they're more attached and aware and I imagine he would have been more conscious of what was happening. I had read that putting a baby down when drowsy would be better than rocking him to sleep every time, so I did that whenever I had the opportunity. At first he always fussed a bit, but over several nights he gradually worked himself down from 8-10 minutes of fussing, to 3-4, to a few squawks, and then nothing. The payoff of that is that now I can lay him down wide awake (when he's tired) and he'll drift off to sleep on his own. If he's unusually fussy one night or one naptime, I know he's not himself and I'll soothe him.

Overall, Will is an extremely easygoing and happy little guy. There are times when I'll realize a couple days have gone by and he hasn't cried (he does this talking/fussing thing when he gets tired, which is really cute but I'm sure would devolve into crying if I didn't put him to bed). We have so much fun together.

Propped up by rolled blankets in his jumper, Will can do what he loves most - stand - without me holding him.

This is his perfect pout. 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Birth Story

Below, finally, is Will's birth story. It will always be the most wonderful memory of my life! It's very long, and I haven't even included all the details, but I never want to forget it. There's a bit of TMI-ness, so if you're not birth-inclined, feel free to skip! You won't offend me!

Will was born May 23, 2012, at 1:27 PM. His Apgars were 9/9. He weighed 7 pounds 4 ounces and measured 20 inches long.

PRAISE the Lord for a healthy baby!


Tuesday, May 22, was my due date and I was scheduled for an office visit at 10:30. My mom had arrived on Saturday to stay for two weeks and Brian’s business out of town had been unexpectedly canceled on Monday (he was to have been gone from Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening). I didn’t want to “waste” my mom’s entire visit on just being pregnant, and Brian was getting really anxious to meet the baby! So when Patty, the midwife, asked if I wanted her to sweep my membranes during the check, my mom encouraged me to let her do it and I did.

On the way back from the birth center, I noticed a mild, uncomfortable cramping. I glanced at the clock. When I felt the cramping again, I noticed the time – ten minutes later. Maybe they were contractions! “I’m not saying for sure,” I said to my mom, “but I think I might be feeling something, maybe some cramping or something.”

Of course, when everyone around you is waiting impatiently for the baby to come, you don’t want to sound the alarm too soon. Thankfully, my mom is very levelheaded. Having been in serious labor with my little sister – her fourth baby – for four days, she reminded me that contractions could mean nothing.

We had wanted to go to Big Lots for some “labor snacks,” and my mom wanted to stop at Lowes to buy some flowers to plant to my deck and porch, but we needed to do a bit of work at the house first. The cramping stayed mild and infrequent, and it wasn’t anything like I’d expected. I’d wondered if it would be like menstrual cramps, or gas pains, but it wasn’t. I was trying to explain the sensation to my mom, and she said, “Does it feel like you’re nervous? Like you have a sick, nervous feeling in your gut?” That was exactly it – it felt like that, combined with the uncomfortable feeling you get when you’ve waited WAY too long to pee, like burning in your bladder. It was difficult to describe then, and if I didn’t remember our conversation now, and the way I described it to her at the table, I would not remember the feeling in the slightest now. It’s totally gone from my memory. Around noon, we left the house – a tech from AT&T was coming to look at our slow connection around one, and we wanted to beat him home.

At Big Lots, we bought chocolate covered pretzels, juice, nuts, crackers, candy – anything that sounded like it might be appealing during or after labor. I paused in the aisle every time I felt a cramp, and my mom told me that the same thing had happened to her during her labor with Erin – but that she’d gone another two or three days before having her! But at the register, as we were checking out, my mom said to the cashier, “She might be having her baby right now!” The cashier responded with encouragement and excitement. “What are you having?! Good luck!”

At Lowes, as we were pulling into the parking lot, my mom said, “I wish we had a little device to time your contractions.” “I bet there’s an app for that,” I said. “Of course, duh,” she said to herself, pulling out her smartphone. Turns out there are dozens of apps for that. She downloaded all the free ones, and we began timing the cramps.

We discovered they were roughly 6-8 minutes apart, lasting about 35 seconds each. It was hot outside, picking out flowers, and my interest in what to buy quickly waned. (My mom has a much better eye than I do, anyway, and the flower selections usually overwhelm me.) “You pick out whatever you think will look good, and I’ll buy it,” I said. She deftly chose a selection of shade and sun annuals, and when I got the call from AT&T that the tech was on his way, we were nearly finished – and in good time, too. I wasn’t sure if it was the heat or the contractions, but I was just plain uncomfortable and I wanted to get home where it was cool. I had some whole raw chickens in the fridge, too, and I wanted to get them cut up for the freezer.

We met the AT&T guy at the house and my mom insisted I go inside, show him the equipment, and then change into some comfortable clothes while she unloaded the flowers. I wanted to help, but she’d have none of it. While I put the dog in the basement, she filled the tech in on my “labor status.” He came in and said, “Now you just tell me where your modem is – don’t bother walking around. You don’t need to be doing anything right now! I’ve got five kids. I know. You don’t need to be doing anything!” Ha! I had a LOT to be doing! I had procrastinated on a lot of things, and I was aware we could be coming down to the wire!

He finished up, wished me luck, and left. I cut up chickens and reorganized the freezer while my mom helped around the kitchen, did some work on her computer, and continued to pester me about my birth center bag. “DO you have EVERYTHING?” she asked. I had ALMOST everything… except toiletries, music, clothes, and a few other things. “Get it together!” she demanded. “Get your bag ready!” Slowly, it all came together, to her relief, and the entire time, when I began a contraction, I’d say, “Start,” and she’d begin timing it until I said, “Ok, it’s over.”

I called Brian around 3, saying, “I’m not telling you to come home right now, and I’m not saying the baby’s coming tonight or anything, but I’ve been having fairly consistent contractions since my appointment this morning. So… kind of exciting!” He was anxious for the baby to come – even more than I was, I think! – so he was really happy to hear that. My next phone call was to the birth center. The midwives had told me that when I thought I might be in labor, I should call – whoever was on call would work with me to determine when to head to the birth center (because they want their mommas to labor at home as long as they can). I left a message with the nurse and when the callback came, my mom answered the phone. “Hang on,” she said. “Let me get her. She’s cutting up a chicken.”

Once I’d washed my hands, I said hello in a cheery voice. (TMI alert, skip if you want!) But the phone call was a little bit of a downer. Maureen, one of my favorite midwives, was on call, and at first I was excited that she might be the one to deliver my baby. But when she asked about my contractions – were they consistently the same time apart? (“no – still alternating between 5-8 minutes apart”), did I have any bloody show? (“no, but I lost my plug last night” – didn’t impress her), was I feeling them in my back? (“no, but isn’t that a good thing?”) – her response was resigned. “It sounds like false labor, honestly,” she said. “I’m going to give you some tips to stop it. Go get in a warm bath, and call me back in an hour.”

I procrastinated on the warm bath. For one, I still had stuff I had to do. For two – I was too bummed to think this might be false labor. It was only uncomfortable, that was true, but it was very uncomfortable. And it was my due date! I wanted to be in labor! So the thought of slowing it down didn’t appeal very much. Still, I knew that she knew best, so after an hour and a half I reluctantly went upstairs (to the tub that my mom had scrubbed a few minutes before) and sat down in the bath with my belly above the water. It felt good and I stayed in there for about 45 minutes until Brian got home. He’d left early, despite my apprehension, and I was sad to tell him that the midwife didn’t think I was in labor. “I don’t know when this baby’s going to come,” I said apologetically. He asked how I was feeling, and I told him I felt pretty good.

See, here’s the thing I learned about labor. Between contractions, unless you have bad back labor, you feel totally normal. Fine. Chipper, even. (Well, I was a bit downhearted about not being in labor, but otherwise my mood was great! My mom was there, Brian was home, what more could I have asked for?) Furthermore, when a contraction begins, you feel it climbing in intensity until about the halfway point. This is the “worst” part because you don’t know when that’s going to be, unless you get a rough idea from timing them. But once the peak is over, the discomfort begins to subside, and even though you’re still uncomfortable, you just feel relief because it’s leaving- soon you’ll feel normal again, and soon you’ll have a whole rest period to enjoy. So when a contraction would come, I would close my eyes and visualize and breathe, and then enjoy the relief of the discomfort subsiding, and then I’d resume talking and carry on. It helped to visualize my cervix opening wide and stretching thin. I would breathe in, and think, “Thinning,” and breathe out, and think, “Opening.” I still focused on slow, in-out breaths, and just continued to be thankful for every contraction as a chance for my body do some work – even if it was only the tiniest bit of work – it was something. And the baby was very active too – more than usual, the whole time – for which I was also thankful.

After a bit of time in the tub, I called Maureen again. She asked how I was seated in the water, and when I told her my belly was above the water, she said, “No, no! You need to have your belly IN the water to stop the contractions.” OH. Well, at least it had felt good. I switched positions and she asked me some more about my contractions. She asked me to rate my pain, and I thought, “Well, if this is false labor I definitely can’t be a wimp.” So I told her that on the “pain” scale, I’d rate it maybe a 2, but on the uncomfortable scale – an 8 or a 9. It was annoying that whenever I was on the phone with her, my contractions suddenly spaced themselves farther apart – for example, eight minutes would go by when only 5 or 6 had been passing between contractions – and she’d point out how I hadn’t had one at all during our conversation. Grr. When one finally did happen, she asked me to describe where it was starting, where it moved to, and when it subsided. I still couldn’t feel them in my back. She said, “I’m sorry, but we’re not looking for weak contractions five minutes apart. What we want are strong contractions that start in your back and work around to the front, every ten minutes to start with. Stay in the tub to slow it down, then eat some dinner and just try to relax.”

Oh my. I’d felt like I was doing some work, if not a lot of work, then at least a little bit. The thought of stopping it, then starting again all over the “right” way – it was discouraging!

I stayed in the tub for another hour. I enjoyed relaxing in the water between contractions but I didn’t very much like the feeling of being in the tub during contractions. It was hard not to push my feet against the bottom and push my arms against the sides, tensing up. I had to concentrate harder on purposely relaxing, and floating there made me feel like I had no bearing. On the other hand, being in the tub regulated the time between contractions – they began coming more consistently at 5 minutes apart – and I began to feel them somewhat stretching to my back. A bit encouraged and hopeful, I got out of the tub and dried off when my mom called upstairs to tell me and Brian that dinner was ready.

We sat down to eat what would be my last bites of food before having my baby. I was still able to relax and feel normal between contractions, and the sandwiches and fruit salad my mom had made tasted wonderful (mine was pulled pork, my favorite!). I wolfed down bites in a ‘race’ against the next contraction. I worried that I might feel sick later, but the food tasted great and I needed the energy. Thankfully, it was great timing, and I never did get sick.

Unfortunately, getting out of the tub threw the contraction timing off again. While the contractions were still more intense and now about a minute long, they were coming every 4-7 minutes – not consistent enough. While my mom cleaned up and chatted with Brian in the kitchen, I went to sit on the toilet (my “relaxing” spot). I called my friend Ashleigh and chatted with her for a bit, filling her in on my frustration that I felt like I was in labor but supposedly was not. Hearing the details, though, she disagreed. “I think you ARE in labor!” she said excitedly. “I bet you’ll be pushing that baby out tomorrow morning!” She was encouraging, but I felt that if the midwife didn’t think I was laboring then I probably wasn’t.

I called the birth center again, around 8 PM. I told Maureen that my contractions were more intense, longer, and that I could feel them in my back, but she still hesitated when I told her that the timing was inconsistent. “Have you had any bloody show?” she asked, and I had to tell her no. “I’m sorry, sweetie, but I think you just really need to focus on relaxing to get these to go away. I suggest you go lay down on your bed, heat up your rice sock in the microwave, and put it by your tummy and just try to go to sleep. I’ll call you back in an hour.”

I situated myself on the bed with my big rice sock all nice and hot. I put my mp3 player in my ears and zoned out while Brian surfed the internet on the laptop beside me and my mom came in and out, keeping herself busy around the house. Both of them took turns timing my contractions - my mom was better at it than Brian. : ) When I’d tell him, “Start,” and then hear him fumbling around to unlock the screen and hit the start button, I felt irrationally annoyed that the work I was doing on that contraction wasn’t being fully recorded! Of course I didn’t say that; I knew he was doing his best. When Maureen called back, I told her nothing had changed. She told me to take a Tylenol PM and try to sleep, and that she’d call again in an hour.

An hour later, the Tylenol PM had made my mind drowsy, but the contractions were still the same as ever, about a minute long now and reaching around my back each time. Maureen asked again if I’d had any bloody show – nope. She sounded apologetic, and I could tell she was out of ideas for me to try. “Well, hon, you have two options. You can either stay in bed, try to rest, keep that rice sock nice and warm – OR you can come in and we can give you some medicine to help you sleep.”

“What kind of medicine?” I asked.

“Morphine, honestly,” she answered.

“And then – what? Is there a limit to how long I could stay there?”

“Well, we’d let you sleep through the night and then send you home in the morning.”

The thought of driving all the way to the birth center, about 40 minutes away, just to load myself and my baby up with morphine and sleep in a strange bed surrounded by people who didn’t think I was in labor – well, it sounded unpleasant. And then come home in the morning? And then do this all over again? I asked her, “Well, should I maybe try to bring on labor? Turn these contractions into something?”

“Sure,” she said, sounding as though she was shrugging. “You can do that. You can get up, take some Suki’s Blend (labor tincture), walk around, bounce on the ball if you want. You can do that.”

But suddenly I felt very tired. None of that sounded good. I didn’t want to go to the birth center, and I didn’t want to start walking marathons. I wanted to sleep. “I don’t think I want to do that actually, Maureen,” I said. “I think I’m going to stick with the original plan. I’m going to stay here and rest.”

“Sounds good,” she agreed. “Night time is for sleeping. Call me if anything changes.”

Five minutes after I got off the phone with her, I was getting ready for bed and went to the bathroom and there was my bloody show. I was amused. I called her and said, “Maureen, I still don’t want to come in but I’m just letting you know I got my bloody show.” She told me that it didn’t necessarily mean anything and that I was right to sit tight and rest.

Brian was feeling pretty sick with something and we were all tired, so my mom reheated my rice sock and we said good night to each other. I rested with the warm rice sock and my mp3 player, dozing between contractions and focusing on the music during each one. Sometimes I’d rewind a particular song and try to time its crescendo with the peak of my contractions. I spent the next two hours this way, in a sleepy haze, but after a while I couldn’t relax in the bed. I was aware that Brian needed sleep and I didn’t feel I could move about without waking him. I got up and left the room – Brian asked, “Do you need me?” and I told him no.

I went to the living room and turned on the lamp. Bo lay on the carpet and he wagged his tail to see me. I laid on the couch in the living room and continued to rest there for a while. The contractions seemed to have gotten a bit more intense. I was curious to know how long they were and how far apart, but I didn’t want to wake anyone to time them. I kept thinking to myself, “After this contraction, maybe I’ll get my mom.” But when the contraction was finished I’d just rest, and tell myself, maybe one more. An hour and fifteen minutes went by, and at 1:45, I heard my mom’s phone ring upstairs in the guest room.

The phone call woke her up and she answered it, and I could hear from the living room that it was my sweet cousin calling to check on me. She had surmised from various Facebook statuses that I must be in serious labor – she had no idea we were all sleeping at home (well, at least that Brian and my mom were sleeping). But in that moment, I was irrationally annoyed – I thought, “I can’t believe I’m doing all this work by myself so they can get some rest and everyone ELSE is waking them up for updates!”

But as my groggy mom was wrapping up the conversation, she walked out to go to the bathroom, looked down from the loft into the living room, and saw me lying on the couch. “Maegan, are you awake?” she asked in surprise. “Yeah, I was thinking about waking you pretty soon,” I said. She handed me the phone with my cousin on the other line. My cousin encouraged me, asked how I was feeling, and told me she’d be praying. At this point, I still felt normal – albeit tired – between contractions, but I found myself getting edgy when I knew a contraction was only a couple minutes away. I felt like I needed to focus on it.

“I wish you HAD woken me up!” my mom scolded me when I hung up the phone. “I can’t believe you’re laboring by yourself!” I filled her in on the status of the contractions and she came downstairs to keep me company. It was so nice to have someone there with me. She began timing the contractions again and they were now over a minute – although between four and six minutes apart, still – not consistent enough!

Again, I called the birth center and spoke to Maureen. When she heard the contractions hadn’t let up, and that they were a bit stronger, she suggested again that I get in the bath. “Either we want to stop these contractions if you’re in false labor,” she explained, “or we want to help them become something. The warm bath will do that.” I wasn’t sure how it would stop the contractions, since it hadn’t before, but I was willing to try it.

I stayed in the tub for an hour and a half. My mom continued to time my contractions and refresh my bath water before I asked for it. Later I saw the pile of pillows she had arranged for herself by the bathroom door. I realized she must have been exhausted!

The tub, in retrospect, did what Maureen had thought it would – the contractions became more intense and more evenly spaced (though still not the same EXACT time apart each time). I had to resist the urge to tense up during each one. I was very tired and eased in and out of dreams, seeing weird and wacky scenarios of neighbors and church members walking on the street. Then I began seeing myself swimming in the Bahamas, in the place we’d visited for Brian’s sister’s wedding two years before. The house we’d stayed in was next to a huge jut of rock that formed a sort of cove in the water. The cove was perfectly clear and smooth, with soft sand underfoot. During each contraction I saw myself from the perspective of a sea bird, wading out into that cove, small in the water, arms outstretched as I began to swim. The contraction was a rushing ocean and I was very small in the middle of it. For a while this image helped me relax, but then I began to feel overwhelmed by the intensity of each contraction and I felt I would be overcome somehow. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t being overwhelmed – that these contractions were part of me – my body was creating the sensation and that was all.

After a while I grew cold in the tub and I wanted to get out. Still, it took a while to get up the courage to move! I didn’t want to change positions during a contraction, but after each contraction I was so relieved it was over that I wanted to relax and not change positions then either. Eventually my mom helped me out of the tub. I dried off and went to the bathroom, then walked downstairs and resumed my favorite position, kneeling on the dog’s bed on the floor and resting my elbows on the armchair. I noticed with embarrassment that I was drooling on the pillow on which I was resting my head, but I was trying so hard to relax that I had to let my mouth go slack or else I would tense. I also noticed, to my dismay, that the contractions had become irregular again now that I was out of the tub. I felt a bit hopeless that the midwife would ever confirm I was in labor. I began to wonder if I would be able to really do it. IF this was false labor, I dreaded the real thing.

Around six AM, I called the birth center AGAIN. Maureen was no longer on call – this time I spoke to Jewell, a young, very soft-spoken midwife. I don’t remember much of our conversation, because I was so focused on preparing myself for the next contraction, but I do remember that she confirmed what Maureen had told me – probably false labor. I was so disappointed. I knew I had tried my very best to sleep and relax. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop this. I hated the thought of having morphine pumped into my body but I also knew that if this false labor continued with this strength, I’d have no strength left when the real thing hit.

Then Jewell said, “Well, you’ve had two good-sounding contractions while we’ve been talking. Why don’t you come in and let us check you. Then we can make a plan of action together.” The night before, when Maureen has suggested coming in for morphine, I’d thought, I only want to drive to the birth center once, and bring home my baby. Now, though that was still my desire, I felt more practical. Whether or not this was false labor, I didn’t plan on coming back home without my baby. If it was false labor, I thought I might be transferring to the hospital for an epidural.

I told her we’d leave in an hour, since Brian was still sleeping and we still had some things to do before we left. While I knelt on the floor breathing through contractions, my mom woke Brian up and they took the dog out, gathered the food, and packed the car. I wanted to help, but I just couldn’t find the energy to do anything but prepare for the next contraction. During the last twenty minutes or so, I began feeling an urge to poop during each contraction. I sat on the toilet for a while, but despite my best relaxing, I couldn’t go.

At seven, we were ready to leave. I made my way out, pausing by the front door to crouch during a contraction. Brian put his hand over me and leaned on the doorframe – later he told me that HE felt so sick he thought he was going to puke. (He had started coming down with something the night before.) The two of us must have been a sight.

The drive to the birth center wasn’t that bad! I was dreading the forty minutes it would take to get there, but I was enjoying the time BETWEEN contractions so much that it seemed to go quickly – the worst parts were pulling to a stop at red lights. I sat/leaned on my side in the back seat, looking at the round insignia on our car seat’s handle. It was about four centimeters wide. I prayed, please, Lord, let me at least be four centimeters. If I had made it to four centimeters, I thought, I would be able to keep going.

Patty, one of the midwives there, met me outside the door of the birthing suite. She’d been the one to sweep my membranes the day before. She gave me a big smile and a hug. “Have a good baby!” she said, in the way someone might wish you a good day or a good trip. I was discouraged, thinking I wasn’t even in active labor, and her comment was met with a weak smile and a nod of my head.

Once I was laying on the hard bed of the Blue Room birthing suite, Kate and Sherilyn came in. “Sherilyn is a midwife in training,” my midwife, Kate, explained. “Do you mind if she attends your birth?” I didn’t mind, and I’m so glad, because Sherilyn was wonderful.

Kate gave me the same speech that Maureen had been giving me all night. She stood beside the bed and reminded me, not unkindly, that I was “only” forty weeks, that my uterus was probably simply irritated from the exam the day before, and that if I wasn’t in active labor, we had some options to stop it or deal with it. My mom was antsy in the corner. Just CHECK her, she was thinking.

“So I should probably expect to still be at two or three centimeters?” I asked, my voice quavering. “Yeah,” said Kate, apologetically.

They took my blood pressure and my temperature. Then, Kate gave Sherilyn the go-ahead to check me. Sherilyn performed the check, and looked at Kate in surprise. “I think she’s complete,” she said.

I can still remember the surge of energy and joy I felt at hearing those amazing words. I took a few breaths, reminding myself that Sherilyn was in training, that maybe she was wrong. But Kate confirmed it. “Yep, you’re complete!” she told me, her face radiant. I let out a laugh and a sob simultaneously. “Thank God!” I said in absolute relief. Not only was I in active labor, I was ten centimeters!

My mom was confused. “Complete?” she asked. “Completely effaced?”

“Nope!” said Kate. “She’s ten centimeters. I’m shocked. She’s so calm I would have never guessed it.”

“Doesn’t she have to go through transition?” my mom asked, still surprised.

“She’s been there, done that,” said Kate with a smile.

I was so excited, so relieved, so overjoyed, that it almost felt like I’d given birth. I cannot describe how wonderful I felt to be told I had accomplished so much during the long, hard, discouraging night. But still, the looming prospect of pushing lay ahead. I was reminded that the ‘urge’ to poop I thought I’d felt was really my body bearing down. My body was getting ready to push out the baby before I even knew what was going on.

Meanwhile, Helen, the nurse, was busily hooking up my IV for a dose of penicillin. I’d tested positive for Group B strep and I needed two doses through an IV to protect my baby. The doses, however, needed to be four hours apart, and I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t have the time. Helen put the needle in while I was breathing through a contraction, and the sting of the injection was nice to focus on rather than the now-familiar aching.

My mom set up the things we’d brought to the birth center. As I lay on the bed receiving my IV dose, I could feel an uplifting energy pervading the room. My mom made coffee for Brian and herself, and Brian began to feel better. She tied a small bouquet of flowers together and laid it on my pillow so that I could focus on them during contractions. I looked into the center of a chrysanthemum and felt myself swirling into thousands of tiny, concentric rings of petals.

Contraction on the birth center bed - most photos courtesy my mom!

Focusing on my mini bouquet


Kate told me that just because I was ten centimeters didn’t mean I’d have to start pushing right then. “We’re going to let you ‘labor down’,” she explained. “We’re going to wait until your body feels the urge to push between contractions. It’ll be a little easier on you and maybe we’ll get time for your second dose of antibiotics.”

I was fine with that. I was realizing that the pushing was going to be quite different from how I‘d imagined it. Most birth stories I’d heard and read had said that laboring to ten centimeters was the most difficult thing, but that pushing was a relief. Maybe it was because I hadn’t thought I was in active labor, but laboring to ten centimeters hadn’t been quite as intense as I’d thought it would be. But pushing, on the other hand – well, I had thought it would be like having a bowel movement. The little bit of pressure I was feeling did NOT feel like a bowel movement. It felt like something much, much bigger. And I began to feel afraid.

Wonderful Sherilyn

Kate had left, but Sherilyn stayed in the room. “Are you going to leave?” I asked her, feeling a bit lost even with Brian and my mom there. “Nope,” she said, shaking her head. “I’ll be right here the entire time. As long as it takes.” She was a friendly, blonde, forty-something mom who’d been an L&D RN in Michigan and West Virginia and was working at the birth center for a few months to gain experience as a midwife. She was knowledgeable and matter-of-fact. Her presence was very comforting.

In the four hours between hearing that I was complete and actually starting to push – from 8 AM to noon – I labored in different positions and battled my fear. I reminded myself of all the things I had read. I would feel like I’d rip apart, but I wouldn’t. I would feel intense pressure, but it’d be okay. My body was meant to do this. There was no other way. I could open up enough to fit this baby. I could. I would.

Leaning on Brian


Brian prays for me


I labored on the toilet, the birthing stool, kneeling against the ball – but as the hours went on I just wasn’t feeling that irresistible urge to push. Sherilyn encouraged me to try to pee. “If your bladder is too full, it’ll hold up the baby,” she explained. “What if I can’t go?” I asked, with the sneaking suspicion that I wouldn’t be able to. (I’ve never had a problem peeing, but in all my minutes laboring on the toilet, I’d been unable to go.) “If the baby’s too low and you can’t go, we’ll have to catheterize you,” she answered. “But that’s a last resort.” 

“Why don’t you get in the shower?” Helen suggested. “No one can resist the urge to pee in the shower!” 

“I can!” said my mom, a bit horrified. Sherilyn and Brian chuckled.

The “shower” was really a tub in the middle of the room with a showerhead attachment but no curtain or door. I KNEW I wouldn’t be able to go in front of everyone, even if Helen’s trick would have worked. I told Sherilyn, “I really don’t think I’m going to be able to go. I think you’d be better off just getting it out with the catheter.” I did NOT want that, but I knew it was necessary.

Sherilyn and Helen set to work. The process was uncomfortable, as I lay there breathing through contractions, but as it turns out, it was quite necessary. Once they had emptied my bladder and removed the tube, Sherilyn began coaching me how to push. “Wrap your body around your belly,” she explained. “Make a ‘c’ with your spine.”

I began pushing harder with each contraction. I squatted on the floor and hung onto Brian. I sat on the birthing stool. Nothing seemed to be happening. I certainly wasn’t feeling the ‘unmistakable urge’. The minutes slipped by quickly.



Kate rubs my back with her cool hand

Helen checks my vitals

My mom prays

Around 12:30 PM, I lay on the bed and they gave me my second dose of antibiotics. I was so thankful that there had been time to get both doses. Kate came back, and she and Sherilyn began encouraging me to push harder and harder. My experience, as it turned out, was that I never felt an unmistakable urge. I just had to force myself to push with each contraction. I found it to be a lot of pressure as well as physically tiring, as I gradually moved from casual pushing into actively pushing. The midwives told me to use the peak of each contraction to effectively push, but I found the pressure was so strong at this point that I couldn’t tell where the peaks were or if I was even having a contraction at all. Sherilyn sat on the bed to my right and felt my uterus to tell me when a contraction was beginning. Brian sat on my left, up by my shoulder. My mom stood beside the bed by my right shoulder, holding my hand and counting in my ear. 

“When you hit the peak of a contraction, I want you to grunt,” Sherilyn said. “Keep it low pitched. Give me a good, long grunt.” 

“We’ll count to seven,” my mom said. “That’s a good number!” But after the next contraction, Sherilyn told me I needed to push a bit longer. My mom slowed the count down the next time, and the dragging was unbearable! “Mom,” I said, “I know seven is a good number but I need you to count faster!” She laughed. “Okay, we’ll count to twelve.”

The time became a blur. I lay on my side, Brian holding one leg and Sherilyn pushing against my other foot. The position felt so cumbersome. Someone got a bowl of ice-cold water with peppermint oil, and Brian wrung out a wet cloth and placed it on my forehead during each contraction. Kate used warm olive oil to massage my perineum. Sherilyn would say, “Ok, here comes a contraction. Wait a bit. Ok, now push.” My mom would squeeze my hand and count, “One, two three, four - Bowel movement, Maegan, push like a bowel movement! – five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve!” 

“Again!” Sherilyn would say, before the contraction was over, and I’d take a deep breath and grunt and push and my mom would count again. I thought I was pushing as hard as I should have been, but at the end of one contraction I gave an extra effort and Sherilyn and Kate lit up. “THAT’s what we want to see!” one said. “Push like THAT next time!”

I battled fear, battled the thought that if I really pushed that hard I’d turn myself inside out. But I also reached the point at which I knew I’d have to push with everything in me, whether I ripped myself in half or not, because otherwise I’d never give birth and this would never end. Between contractions the pressure was so intense, so painful, that I began to panic. “It hurts, it hurts,” I panted, looking to Kate as though she could make it go away. “Blow out candles,” she said calmly. “Blow away the pain.” I did. It helped. 

Many times, too, I spoke the name of Jesus. I knew He would help me because He'd promised He would.

I pushed with everything in me. I began to feel discouraged. Nothing seemed to be happening! I had thought this would be the fastest part! But Kate and Sherilyn were happy with my progress. “Feel the head!” Kate said at one point. She took my hand and placed it on what felt like some soft tissue. It did NOT feel like the head. “You’re getting there!” they said. “You’re so close!” 

Helen began to unpack tools in the background. “Maegan, they’re getting out the delivery equipment!” my mom said. “You’re so close!” I could hear the joy in her voice. Sherilyn nodded. “We’re going to hear crying by one thirty,” she told me, beaming. “What time is it?” I asked, hardly believing that I was anywhere close to the end. “Noon,” she said. Then she laughed. “Just kidding! It’s one-fifteen.” Her light heart encouraged me. Fifteen minutes! Could it be?

One of the last things I remember hearing at that time was one of the midwives – or maybe it was Helen – asking, “So which outfit are you going to have to use, Mom? What do you say? Pink or blue?” I was so tired. “Pink,” I said lamely. “Okay, pink is the official guess for mom!” she replied. The room was alive with excitement. I seemed to be the only one who felt weary and tired and flat. But Brian, to my left, sensed my exhaustion and my despair. He faithfully wiped my face and whispered, “You’re doing so well, honey. You’re doing so well.” It sounded like he was crying – my big, strong, manly man.

“I see lots of blond hair!” said Kate. “Looks like you’re going to have a little towhead!” I’d been imagining a bald baby the entire time. This was quite surprising. At some point, they helped me remove my shirt so I could have skin- to-skin contact. I couldn’t believe we were this close. It didn’t feel close at all.

“Here’s a contraction!” Sherilyn said. “Now – PUSH!” My mom counted forcefully, once, twice. “Here it comes!” someone cried. And I felt the head emerge. For half a second I thought I’d have to wait until the next contraction to push out the shoulders, but Kate commanded, “Push again!” I gave it another guttural effort, and out came the shoulders. “One more time!” The rest of the body slipped out, and they placed my baby on my chest. 

MY baby!







My baby was wet, and warm, and felt heavy on my skin. I let out a single sob of relief, and in that moment I felt – not quite the rush of endorphins they say you’ll feel – but the feeling of having scaled the highest mountain, having done the most ADULT thing I would ever do – and here was my prize! My prize, my own baby!

“What do we have, Dad?” someone asked. The baby was laying on its side on my chest, its knees facing Brian on my left. He looked, and his voice broke, full of tears, and he said, “It’s a boy!” I felt a surge of joy unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I realized then that I’d wanted a boy all along, that I’d been hoping for a son. “A boy!” I said, stunned.

I don’t remember the details of the moments following. I was done! All I cared about was holding my baby boy, who hollered for a while and then grew calm, warm in my arms, covered with a towel and a tiny hat. I couldn’t WAIT - could not wait! – to really get a chance to check him out. I was so excited to see what he looked like, to see every inch of him. I was so thrilled to have a son. My son, Will!







I pushed out my placenta – they showed it to me and Brian – Brian was thoroughly grossed out. I gave them permission to throw it away! Sherilyn stitched me up. She took quite a long time, too- I suppose she hadn’t done it that often – and she had to take out a few stitches and do them again. It was uncomfortable, but Sherilyn had been such a great comfort during the labor that I felt she’d earned the right to practice on me! Brian and my mom took turns holding Will, while one of them stayed with me through the stitching.

We called my dad. We told him the name of the baby was William, after him. William Bernie, after my dad and Brian’s dad. We called some friends. Will was given back to me and they showed me how to nurse him. He was so tiny, so perfect. He was ours!






Looking over him during his exam 

Sherilyn gives Will his exam - passed!



In his too-big newborn outfit

Unbearably tiny in that seat!

Introducing Will and Bo - our family!


The afternoon passed in a blur of happiness. I showered off. We called more friends. We ordered Jimmy John’s sandwiches. We admired Will. We went home that night, at 9:30 PM. My neighbor had taken Bo out for us and had left us a BOY balloon and a bouquet of flowers. We introduced Will to Bo. I ate the rest of my sandwich. Brian, still feeling sick, felt the weight of the day hit him like a ton of bricks, and he collapsed into bed. I placed Will in the baby hammock and it wasn’t long before he started crying. I couldn’t let my new baby fuss, not that night. I picked him up and cuddled him.

I fell asleep on the couch with Will on my chest. I was home, I had my baby, I was done.

And the best had just begun!