Sunday, May 27, 2018

Newborn Photos

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Brendan and I have few disagreements in life, but one of them was over maternity and newborn photos. You see, Brendan does not like having his photo taken, and I love family photos; specifically, I love really well done photos--the kind you usually have to pay someone to take. My obsession began when I was a child and people would mail family photo holiday cards to our house. We displayed all of our cards, and I enjoyed the letters that accompanied them even if I didn't know the people. I started sending my own cards in 2008 when it was just me, Lola, and Zoe. I've never missed a year and have talked various friends into doing photoshoots (thanks Erica!).

To be fair, I did promise Brendan in 2012 that we could skip maternity photos when he agreed to do engagement photos. But when I got pregnant, I really started regretting that promise, and that's when the conversation came up about maternity and newborn pics. Ultimately, Brendan is a wise man and did not argue too much with his pregnant wife. Though he would have skipped these experiences, he let me make the decision and agreed to be a good sport. He held up his end of the deal, and I think he's glad we have the maternity photos now (even if it's mostly because of how happy it made me).

With Brendan's approval, and the trust in my intuition that photographing babies was probably much harder than it appeared (and therefore was not a DIY or have a friend do it situation), I did an extensive online search for newborn photographers in the Midland area back in November, and I really liked what I saw in Steph Baldwin's Simplicity Photography. I sent her a deposit from our babymoon in Maui, and I'm so glad that I did.

Steph has five children of her own, and it turns out that gives her the superpower of being a baby whisperer. I watched in awe as she posed Willa for several hours, got her in and out of various swaddles and headbands and diapers, and managed to hardly wake her! To Brendan's relief, our participation was minimal, but the photos we got were awesome. Here are some of our favorites:

And, our absolute favorite: 

Thanks to Steph for capturing these special moments and to Brendan for being a good sport. I will cherish these photos forever and ever!

I hope everyone is having an awesome Memorial Day weekend. It is currently 107 degrees here (seriously), so we're enjoying our weekend inside (though we do get out for our morning walks!)


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Big Check In

Greetings faithful blog readers,

It's been more than three weeks since my last check in, so I wanted to do a brain dump style post. This one is going to be all over the place. I'll try to divide it into sections to make it easier to follow (or skip parts if you aren't interested).

Semester Recap

Brendan and I finished the spring semester made possible by a visit from Brendan's sister, aka: the best Auntie ever! Annie was here for a week, and she was instrumental in helping us with Willa while we graded (Brendan had five classes worth, and I had two since I'd front loaded my semester) and gave final exams. She even kept Willa so we could have a date night, and we went to eat a nice dinner, which was such a treat.

My first day back at work coincided with the annual awards ceremony, so I could pick up my five year pin. It ended up being so wonderful that I was there because Brendan won the teacher of the year award for our division for the second time in five years. This is a student voted award, and our division has all the "fun" classes (art, music, drama, journalism), so I'd say the competition is stiff. Needless to say, I was so proud of him; what a way to end a very challenging semester.

Photo by Katherine Prementine

After Annie left, my mom visited for a week so we could set up our online interim classes, take our honor society bowling for their end of year party, and attend our work leadership retreat. She was also here for my first Mother's Day, which was very special. She did our grocery shopping, folded our laundry, and helped us stock our freezer with more burritos and lactation cookie dough.

We are currently both teaching one interim class. I only have seven students, but Brendan has twenty (popularity has its price ;). So far, we're one week in and it's going well. We will be done in just ten days.

Mother's Day 
First of all, thanks to those that reached out with kind words after my last post. I feel like I have the most supportive and lovely group of friends. I had an excellent Mother's Day this year. We had a low key day at home and went for a walk with my mom and Willa in the morning before it got too hot. Brendan gifted me a beautiful necklace with Willa's birthstone and a sweet card, my dad sent flowers to the house for my mom and I, and several family members sent me cards.

Baby News 
Emotionally: I'm still feeling really good. Brendan and I have made an effort to get into a routine, which I think is helping. We get up early and go for a walk before it gets too hot. This also ensures I get dressed early in the day. Saturday, we even made it to the farmer's market and ate brunch with friends. We usually watch Netflix/HBO/or Hulu together every night (Westworld and Handmaid's Tale are our current shows). Making an effort to do the things that are normal for us makes us feel, well, normal. I think the other key is that I'm kind to myself. I know I'm doing my best, and I don't beat myself up over anything. Instead, I look at myself and think "good job for keeping a person alive" and I also think "wasn't it cool when there was time to shower whenever you wanted?" but that's not really related. The adjustment is HUGE, but each day that goes by feels more normal. Hey, one day I may be able to finish the book I started before Willa was born!

Sleep: Willa being a good sleeper probably accounts for a lot of the reason I'm feeling good. She only wakes up once a night, nurses, and goes back to sleep. In the past week, she has slept 5-6 hour stretches for three nights.
Physically: I had my six week appointment last week, and my tear has healed/stitches are gone. I'm five pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight and officially got the go ahead to exercise again. My clothes don't fit the same at all, but right now, my focus is on eating healthy while getting plenty of calories so I can nurse. I am hungry all the time!
Willa's Personality: Willa is a fun and easy going baby. She only cries if she is tired or hungry, and she stops crying as soon as we feed her, swaddle her, or read and rock her. She smiles at us, plays on her activity mat, grabs things with her hands, and is already trying roll over (yikes!). She is the light of our lives, and I feel like we've always had her. We love her so so much.

Breastfeeding: I mentioned some of our struggles in an earlier post, and breastfeeding has continued to be a lot of work, but thanks to some tips from the hospital support group, we are making great strides. I'm going into details in case this helps anyone else with similar issues. Before we had a couple of problems. One is that Willa is a snacker. She will fall asleep constantly, and she really doesn't care that much about eating (she's a little too easy going in that way). If she had her way, she'd probably eat one ounce every hour all day long. Not practical. We also had latch issues in the beginning that led to pain for me and frustration for her, so we were using a nipple shield. On top of all that, I was struggling with low supply.We needed to supplement with formula to make sure Willa gained enough. I choose this one, and she did well on it. 20-30% of her diet was formula and 70-80% was breastfeeding from weeks 2-5. Then, I found a great support group at the hospital (and Annie helped me get there!), and we started on a triple feeding regimen. It takes a lot of time, but it really helped us. For one, Willa is on a schedule of sorts. She eats every two hours (it takes about an hour to feed her every two hours from the time she stops), which means I have some time in between feedings now. This alone has been great. Additionally, my supply has increased. Last week, breastfeeding was 90% of her diet, and this week we're up to 100%. I even was able to fill my first freezer bag. After pumping over 360 ounces with NO freezer supply, I felt so happy just to get that one bag in there. Lactation cookies, fenugreek, go lacta, mother's milk tea, natural calm, blue gatorade, lactation smoothies (1 cup milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, 2 tablespoons brewer's yeast, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, dash of cinnamon and vanilla extract, and 1 cup ice) and epsom salt baths are other things I've tried. In the past week, she stopped caring for the nipple shield, and I think that may be helping her to get more milk as well.
Stuff We Love (Added to this list)
Chicco Liteway Stroller and Keyfit 30 Carseat (did so much research, and I love this travel system).
Activity Mat and Rock and Play (both handed down to us)
Mama Roo

On My Mind
I was really upset by Friday's news. You guys know what I think. I don't want to keep living in fear. Can we try something (anything) yet?

I'm sending all my love and light to the Gouldie family. Please consider joining me in donating to Gavin's Gift of Grace to help the Gouldies support other grieving families as a way to honor their son's life.

I hope to check in much sooner next time. Happy Tuesday all.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Mother's Day After a Loss

Greetings faithful blog readers,

I started to write a normal update post, but I couldn't do it. That's not what I have on my mind; this is the post I need to write whether I want to or not. Please be forewarned that this post deals with the topic of pregnancy loss. Read on if you're okay with that:

Here we are again. It's almost Mother's Day, a holiday I've had the good fortune of always being happy to celebrate. But last year was different. Last year, Mother's day fell exactly one week before our would be due date. And despite my doctor's reassurances that I'd be "pregnant again by May," despite the fact that we'd tried various interventions and had various tests done, which all came back normal, I still wasn't pregnant. And I was hurting.

I made a plan to spend the day with my mom and aunt and cousin in San Angelo. It was a nice weekend. We got our nails done and went to brunch and visited my grandmother's grave, but driving home, I couldn't help but cry. I was in a weird in-between state. I didn't look like a mother to other people, but I sure felt like one.

A week later, Brendan and I did something personal to honor our loss. I won't detail it here because it was such a private, intimate moment. I'll only say that we were both extremely sad and that it was our first formal mourning of our loss. We'd gone back to work the day after finding out, and we'd gone back to work the day after my D&C. We'd powered through the second half of that fall semester, the holidays, and the spring semester. Finally, we had a chance to pause and reflect, and when we did, the grief was like a wave. It still is sometimes.

People said we'd "move on" once we had a baby. I knew they were wrong. Of course, having a baby has made us very happy. I'm holding her right now as I type. She's sleeping, and she's warm, and she's perfect. I still feel grief about the children I won't ever hold, but I'm okay with grief. Grief is a vital sign. Grief is proof that we are alive. I wish we were more comfortable talking about things that grieve us. We make people feel isolated in their sorrow, and it doesn't serve anyone, but I know why it's hard to share news of a pregnancy loss. There were many people I did not open up to. I did not want people to feel sorry for me, and I didn't want them to feel awkward about their own happy news. I still wanted to see pictures of their kids and be invited to their baby showers and get their birth announcements in the mail. But not opening up meant sometimes I'd have to field awkward questions like "When are you having kids?" as if we could order one on Amazon prime.

The truth was, I already felt like a mom, but there was no name for what I was. I'd been pregnant with children I'd never meet. I'd gone to the hospital but gone home without a baby. What is the label for that? Certainly, no one was sending me a Mother's Day card.

When we found out we were pregnant again, we were filled with gratitude. But that first trimester was difficult. I kept the news a closely guarded secret, and I tried to keep my heart even more guarded.

It didn't work.

I loved her right away, before I even knew she was a her. I loved her the second I looked at that faint second line. I loved her so much that I was a wreck: I knew exactly what there was to lose.

One day, Brendan came home and found me sobbing in our bathroom. "What if it happens again?" I asked. "Then it will break us again," Brendan said honestly. He sat next to me. There was nothing more to do. It felt like April was forever away. The only thing to do was to keep loving her even though I couldn't control how it would all turn out.

And that's what I did.

At some point in your pregnancy, everyone starts calling you "mama." Like as in, "Hey Mama, how're you feeling?" It's weird. I don't know how we make that distinction as a society (when a woman is obviously showing?), but I felt like I was finally seen as the mother I already felt like I was. And now that she is here, I am clearly a mother, and Mother's Day cards are arriving in the mail from sweet family members. But if this is my first Mother's Day, what was I last year?

During the first week of Willa's life, I was struggling to make breastfeeding work. Brendan said to me that "being a mother is not about the trials you go through for your kids, it's about how much you love them." That resonated with me so much: I'll never be able to do anything for the babies we lost, including bringing them into this world, but I sure did love them.

I loved them from the first time I saw that faint second line (September 13th, 2016), I loved them before I even knew there was more than one baby. They don't have names I can refer to them by, but there is a pregnancy journal I kept and put the sympathy cards into as well. Sometimes I go back and write in it.

A love like that resides with you always.

It was a privilege to love them, even though I lost them.

So I guess last Mother's Day, I was a mother after all.

Here's a Mother's Day wish to every Mother, to those that hold their children close but especially to those that cannot: let this love make you stronger.

The love you feel for those you lost is just as real as any love, whether it gets celebrated or not. This Mother's Day, I wish you love, I wish you peace, and I wish you hope; but mostly, I wish that you will be seen as what you are: a mother.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Life, Lately

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Two days ago, as I started this post (blogging is slower these days!), Willa and I were hanging out at a cafe while the cleaning service was at the house, and getting us both ready and out the door by myself felt like a major accomplishment...the kind of thing I couldn’t imagine doing two weeks ago when we went there for the same reason with Brendan.

We’ve received lots of messages from sweet friends checking in on us, so I figured I’d do an update here on how we’re all holding up. 

Anyone who has weathered life with a newborn will tell you that it’s some mental health gymnastics. Luckily, Brendan and I are not battling the baby blues. I am slightly stir crazy since I almost never leave the house, and Brendan is exhausted from managing work and life with a baby, but we both realize how fleeting this stage is and keep our perspective. That’s not to say we don’t worry about her constantly or that we don’t feel clueless a lot—we do, but we feel grateful to have her here and happy. 

Willa is a decent sleeper for a newborn! She usually sleeps 12am-3am and 4am-7am. We’ve had some lucky 12am-5am stretches (like last night!), but those are rare. Sometimes, like two nights ago, she wants to party from 4-5am before going back to sleep. In those cases, I stay up with her and let Brendan sleep since the two of us can “sleep in.”

I’m feeling really good and haven’t needed painkillers in a couple of weeks. My back hurts by the end of the day from feeding her and pumping constantly. Brendan and I try to take turns and make sure we both get a nap in, but it doesn’t always happen. Overall, we’re holding up pretty well. 

Brendan went back to work last Monday, but his schedule is pretty flexible, so he’s still around a lot. The big poetry contest was yesterday, so he did a ton of prep work for that this week. Last night, I brought Willa to the dinner with the judge, and we weren't all home until well after 9PM. I go back at the end of next week, just in time to grade my final papers and final exams. My sister in law gets here May 2nd to help cover a few key times we both have to be gone for a few hours (we're talking 3.5 hours--not full work days). We can’t wait for her to meet Willa, and we’re thankful for the help! The semester ends May 11th. We will both teach online spring interim courses as usual. That may or may not be crazy—we’ll let you know after the fact.  

Willa’s personality: 
Willa is an overall easy baby. She loves to be swaddled and is generally happy unless she’s hungry. She sleeps a lot but is starting to have longer periods of awareness. She loves to be held, and we love to hold her. Though it makes getting anything else done tough! 

Best parts of parenting: 
Baby cuddles! We love to snuggle in bed on mornings when Brendan doesn’t have to be at work early, and we love holding her while we watch TV. She makes the funniest expressions, and we like to imagine what miss baby is thinking of us. It’s special to watch each other transition into our new roles. It feels like she’s always been with us. I like watching her reactions to different music and new people. I like how everything she experiences is a first for her, and I like how we’ve never been apart just yet (soon to change, but sweet while it lasts). Basically, life with Willa is cuteness overload. She's so tiny and makes us laugh constantly. 

Hardest parts of parenting: 
Not being able to know for sure if she’s still hungry and not knowing how much she’s getting when breastfeeding! Also, only having a few nursing friendly outfits (though I recently used my le tote subscription to remedy that) that I wear again and again. Washing pump parts and bottles (recently started boiling water in my instant kettle and pouring it into a pot to sanitize a bunch quickly). Also, the pediatrician told me I don’t have to wash them after every single use. In general, breastfeeding has been much harder than I anticipated. A lot of the pros like convenience and how it’s “free” are oversold. It’s not convenient when you’re out and about (solution: never leave house, haha. Just kidding, that's where pumped milked comes in handy) and it’s only free if you value your time at zero. Personally, I’ve invested a lot of time and money into making it work. I do think it is good for her though, and the pregnancy weight is dropping off fast, so it’s not all bad! About 20% of her diet is formula while I’m working on increasing supply (power pumping, oatmeal, and mother’s milk tea). Willa is now gaining quickly, which is a big relief.

Lola and Zoe
Lola and Zoe are definitely curious about Willa. They are somewhat annoyed that we don’t have the same lap space/time as usual, but they haven't shown any aggression towards Willa (or anyone, ever, for that matter!) They still sleep with us, and they haven’t touched any of her sleep spaces, but they like to peer in to see if she's in there. I sleep right next to her bassinet. Sometimes Lola will “rock” her rock and play (it’s hard to explain but very cute).  

Stuff we Love: 
SwaddleMe by the bed sleeper (adjustable height, plays music, vibrates--it's amazing)
Ergo baby original swaddle (she sleeps in it every night)--we're about to bust out Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit--will report back! 
Love to dream swaddle up (great for napping) 
Lanolin for pumping lubricant 
Medela nipple shields—saved me pain and helps her latch without getting super frustrated. 
My breast friend (nursing pillow) 
Soothie pacifiers 
Mother’s milk tea
What to expect, the first year (book)
The Lawn and the twig (for drying the never ending bottles/parts that must be washed)


From the first time we left our house for a social engagement (Jenni's going away party)...Jenni made the purple blanket below for Willa. 

Reading Guess How Much I Love You to Willa. 

Sweet co-workers sent a handmade blanket and a monogramed one. We cherish these beautiful gifts and know Willa will too. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Surviving Two Weeks of Parenthood/Postpartum Recovery

Greetings faithful blog readers,

We made it through our first two weeks of parenthood and everyone survived.

The first two weeks were transformative. We made so many special memories--namely the times we spent cuddling as a threesome instead of sleeping. The love we feel is overwhelming in the best way, but being new parents is terrifying at times. I felt confident leaving the hospital, and then the next day, I went through a horrible 48-hour meltdown where I cried a ton and felt completely in over my head. It didn't help that we had a rocky start with breastfeeding and were extremely concerned about Willa's weight gain, but as of her two week doctor's appointment yesterday, she was back to birth weight and thriving.

Overall, having a newborn is more work than I ever anticipated! I thought I'd be watching more TV and resting, but feeding, pumping, cleaning bottles/pump parts, and changing diapers is a full time job. I've been connected to my child or my breast pump for the majority of my waking hours, and I'm so so thankful for the help we had in week one from my mom, the fact that Brendan had two weeks off from work, and for his parents who came in for week two (and are currently here). Having helpers to cook, hold the baby while we nap, do laundry, and talk to me when I'm breastfeeding or pumping for the tenth time that day has been so essential to my mental well being. I'm also very thankful for my mom friends that have checked in on me and reassured me that it feels hard for everyone at first. I'm thankful for Brendan who is an amazing father and partner and got me through the first hurdle of motherhood (the hormonal shift, which my friend Lauren refers to as the "five day dump").

My biggest realization about parenthood thus far? This love is so rewarding and consuming. At first, you'll wish you could go back in time knowing what you now know and redo anything that went wrong. Then, you realize that's what parenthood is: you won't be perfect, you'll learn on the job, and your kids will be just fine. I know that I'm an anxious person, but there was no way to prepare for how much worry parenting entails. The slightest sound will wake me up, I constantly check to make sure she's breathing, and my child has had an insane number of doctor's appointments already. We fell in love with her right away--I've heard that's different for everyone, but for us, it's almost like we can't remember life without her, but what an incredible weight and responsibility it is. I also had no idea how crazy we'd be about her. We make up silly songs for her, can't get enough of her silly expressions, and could just stare at her all day. I already have a nickname for her ("miss baby").

Postpartum recovery has been both easier and harder than anticipated. I'm really glad I listened to advice from so many friends about things I needed. Here's the best advice I'll pass on to you, dear blog readers. Buy these (trust me, they're more comfortable than the hospital pads), this, and this. Take Colace (ask for it in the hospital), buy a giant cup with a lid and straw and constantly refill it with water, make sure you have comfy nursing bras, nursing tanks, reusable breast pads, and comfy undies (Kindred Bravely is where I got all these items; my personal link will save you money here). Buy a few nursing dresses (I like milk and mother bee; found both on amazon) and make sure you have some really comfortable nursing gowns and a robe. Sweet Brendan gifted me with loungewear from Lake, and I'm obsessed. Make sure you make arrangements for help, so you can get plenty of rest in the early weeks. I try to get in an afternoon nap most days, and it makes those night wake ups so much more bearable. I had plenty of delusional ideas that we could handle everything...haha, no. Never turn down any offers for meals. We're so lucky that people from the college have made us dinner on multiple nights and our parents have cooked for us too. So far, the most difficult thing I've cooked since Willa's birth is boxed macaroni. Also, make sure you have friends with kids that you can call and text. It'll make a big difference, trust me!

I hope this post makes sense (in my sleep limited state, it's hard to tell!). I want to capture the sheer love we feel but also what a major, difficult, and exhausting change having a baby is, but it's hard to put all that into words. If you're having a baby, I'd say prepare to be extremely tested physically and emotionally: it's going to be tough. But then, you'll realize you're doing just fine.

And all along, you'll be so in love. That's the best part.

Willa meets Gigi and Buddy for the first time:

Took this picture to celebrate Willa being back to birth weight. Can't believe she fit inside me! 

 Happy two weeks, Willa. Our world will never be the same in the best possible way.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Willa Lynn's Birth Story, Part II

Greetings faithful blog readers,

This is the second part of Willa Lynn's birth story. Part I is here. Starting with a disclaimer of sorts: parenthood is the most wonderful and most difficult thing I've ever done. In the past few days, I've experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows. I've felt like supermom, and I've felt completely incompetent, terrified, hormonal, and lost. I'm definitely planning to post about the first week of parenthood soon, but I just don't want to start this post without mentioning some of the very real challenges we've faced already (and she's not even a week old!) The struggle is real and so very normal. My mom friends have all reached out to me to keep a close eye on how we're doing. Without the support of our friends and family, I don't know where we'd be. It really does take a village.

Second disclaimer: I'm going into all the details here. If you don't want to read stuff about how a baby is born, feel free to skip.

When we left off, I had the epidural in, was 7 centimeters dilated, and it was 7PM. I hadn't slept well the night before, and we still had a wait ahead of us until it would be time to push.

I mentioned that resting was impossible because multiple monitors ("air in line" messages on my IV/Epidural) kept going off and having to be fixed (there was no air in the line, the machines are just extremely sensitive). A nurse came in to tell us that the reason no one could come mess with the monitors was that there were emergencies with three different deliveries on the floor at that time and all the doctors and nurses were called to help. Hearing this was alarming. I became very concerned about our delivery and also very worried about the other moms and babies. We couldn't get information about what was going on, so we just had to sit tight, hope the best for everyone, and ponder how life was about to change completely.

I was lying there with the peanut labor ball, and we were talking about how it didn't feel real that we were about to have a baby. I started shaking (from the hormones) and vomiting. So much for the ice chips and popsicles. At 9:30PM, Dr. Doke (we were so relieved and happy to have our own doctor available) announced that I was at 9.5 centimeters. Brendan told me that I looked beautiful, which made me laugh since I'd just vomited, but it's one of my favorite memories of the day: our last sweet moments as a twosome. Then, I vomited again...picture perfect.

Earlier, Dr. Doke had warned me that pushing can take up to two hours for a first time mom. "I think it will take me three pushes," I joked. "That's optimistic," he said. I'm so glad I didn't know just how optimistic.

At 10PM, I was 10 centimeters dilated, and it was time for pushing to begin. There were three nurses in the room to assist, and Dr. Doke stayed in the room to help me get started. He helped me figure out where to push from, and the nurses showed me the position and rhythm. Essentially, here's how it worked: I was lying on my back, and as the monitor showed a contraction (which I could also feel with my hand as my stomach would harden during each one), I would do a low sit up, tuck my chin to my chest, hold my breath, and push for ten seconds. As this was happening, Brendan and one of the nurses would each pull a leg back towards my chest (and I could push my feet against their hands). I would have a two second break and repeat that process three more times. So basically, every two minutes, I would need to push for about forty seconds. In between contractions, I could rest my legs in the stirrups and lie down.

The only thing I felt during pushing was the pressure of baby girl's head as it descended, but the actual process of pushing was incredibly exhausting. I was surprised that I needed to hold my breath while pushing, and by the fourth ten-second push in each contraction, I'd be very worn out, but one of the nurses would always remind me to make the last push the best one, and that always motivated me.

During this process, I continued to throw up and shake. At one point, someone helped me change my gown. Brendan says I threw up over half a dozen times and that he felt really bad and could only focus on getting me through it. I asked them to bring in a mirror, which helped me as I could get a visual on where to push and see which pushes were effective. Everyone told me I was doing great and would encourage me to push harder. It sounds like that would beannoying, but I didn't feel annoyed. I just wanted the baby there as quickly as possible.

Pushing went on...and on...and on. I looked at the clock...11PM, 11:15PM, 11:30PM. I had started at exactly 10PM. I couldn't believe I had the stamina to keep going on so little sleep and zero food or fluid in my system, and I honestly don't know how I did.

At one point, they said they could see her head, but I couldn't. I was starting to swell and almost falling asleep between contractions. The nurse called Dr. Doke and told him the baby was getting stuck on part of my pelvis. Essentially, no matter how hard I pushed, she just wasn't getting past this one area. Dr. Doke usually doesn't do vacuum extractions and generally prefers forceps, but since my baby was so close, he decided the vacuum was the way to go. I was just relieved he was there and made the decision fast. I was exhausted.

He set up everything and a team came into the room at the last minute (both to assist him and to work on the baby once she was there). This didn't bother me. People gave us space, and I was simply focused on seeing my baby. Dr. Doke set up the vacuum and told me to push one more time. The mirror was moved away. I gave it my all and felt pressure as he pulled while I pushed. Brendan said something like "oh my god," as he saw our baby come first. I asked him if she was here, but I could feel the release of pressure, and before I knew it, she was on my chest. Brendan said he was shocked and the whole experience was surreal. He cut her cord, and they placed her on my chest. I started crying so hard that I could barely even see her. Our baby girl was finally here, and for the first time since the end of July, I felt myself truly relax: she was here. She was crying, and healthy, and squirming, and from what I could tell so big. The relentless anxiety, vomiting, sleepless nights, painful contractions, food aversions, back aches...she was worth every single hardship and then some.

Brendan was called over as she was weighed, and the team worked on her to make sure her lungs were nice and clear. I kept asking him how she looked and was crying with relief and joy. They told me she weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and was 20 inches long. I was amazed.

I had a second degree tear, so Dr. Doke stitched the tear before having me push one more time; the placenta was delivered with ease.

They brought her to us in a diaper, and I asked Brendan if she looked like a Willa to him. Willa was our top name contender, but we had a second name in mind just in case. We decided Willa fit, and that was it: Willa Lynn. Her first name means "resolute protection," which I hope she will always have, and Brendan and I have known several wonderful Williams, and of course, we like the nod to Willa Cather. She shares a middle name with her mommy and Gigi (Brendan's mom), and Lynn is also a special name to Brendan's grandma Shirley.

We spent the first two hours of her life together as a threesome and worked on breastfeeding. Brendan was instrumental in helping Willa and I figure things out. 

With Dr. Doke
We were moved up to recovery at about 2AM. A whole team came into the room to look at Willa and make sure we knew basics of caring for her and for me. They stayed about an hour,  and the nurse told us she'd be back at 4AM to help with her next feeding. At 3AM, we finally were able to notify our parents that she'd be born! Then, we got about 40 minutes of sleep before the next wake up/feeding. 

My parents came the next morning around 7:30 to meet their first grandchild. A special moment to watch indeed! 

Daddy and Mommy did plenty of skin to skin time. 

We had a good experience at the hospital. The nurses were really helpful, I had great pain management, and my favorite part was the menu I could order all my meals off of. Every meal tasted like "the best food of my life." I loved that my meals were huge! For example, I'd order the following for breakfast: scrambled eggs, toast with jam, bacon, fruit, a strawberry yogurt, raisin bran, milk, cranberry juice, and they would say "you're a breastfeeding mom, you need to pick out an additional snack." And they'd bring the tray, and I'd eat it all because I was ravenous

The only downside of the hospital was that we hardly slept. Nurses and doctors were in and out to examine me and Willa or take Willa for various tests. Despite being tired, we were also so completely in love. 

I'd been so worried about swaddling, but I mastered it! 

On Wednesday afternoon, just a day and a half after Willa's birth, we were discharged from the hospital. We were happy to be going home.

Three generations: 

I call this one "What, you can't let me leave with these crazies!" 

Brendan got Willa situated in the carseat, and it was definitely surreal leaving the hospital. We drove slowly, and I said to Brendan "I feel like we've never been in this town before," and he said he knew what I meant. Life felt so changed that nothing was recognizable. 

My dad returned to Austin, and my mom followed us home and has been here ever since. She has to leave this afternoon to go back to work on Monday, but her help with laundry, cooking, late night baby care, grocery shopping, and most importantly love and emotional support has been instrumental and essential. Brendan's parents sent us a wonderful care package of snacks from Zingerman's (it even included a bib for Willa) that we've been loving, and they will be here in just a few days. We are so so thankful for the help from our families. I truly underestimated just how hard this would be. Thank goodness for moms and dads!

Willa was excited to see her nursery...or at least, we were excited to show her! I think she is Brendan's little twin, but she also looks quite similar to some of my baby pics.

The two of them are my whole world :) My love for both of them is overwhelming.

That's the story of Willa Lynn's birth, but the rest of our story as a family is just beginning. It's going to be wonderful and impossible and a wild ride, but we're just so very glad to have each other.


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