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.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Willa Lynn's Birth Story, Part I

Greetings faithful blog readers,

She's here!

Willa Lynn Egan made her debut on April 2nd at 11:48PM. She weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces and was 20 inches long. Mommy and Daddy are head over heels in love with her. This is part one of her birth story. A little warning: I'm giving all the details here, so if you don't want to read about the realities of giving birth, feel free to skip. 

When we last left off in the pregnancy posts, Brendan and I were getting very anxious for baby girl to arrive. The anticipation was real! 

Week 39 
Baby Size: A mini watermelon

Thursday ended up being my last day of work (but I didn't know that at the time). After a meeting, I went to the grocery store and stocked up on convenience foods. Our Easter holiday began on Friday, and Brendan and I decided to try all the old wives tales to bring on labor. My doctor was out of town until Monday, but we both felt like our due date may come and go without a baby, and we also knew the old wives tales were probably myths anyway. On Friday, we tried a neighborhood walk and then went to Thai House for some spicy food. Afterwards, we went to the grocery store and bought pineapple. I noted that Saturday evening was the next full moon, and I was hoping that would work in our favor (note: there is no correlation with birth and full moons, but at 39 weeks pregnant, one gets a little desperate!). 

On Saturday, I was grading a discussion board at home when I felt the first contractions. They seemed like cramping, so I assumed it was just braxton hicks. I sat on my peanut shaped labor ball and continued grading. Saturday night, I started timing the contractions. It seemed like they were coming every 15 minutes and lasting for 30 seconds. We were told to go to the hospital when the contractions had been a minute, coming 5 minutes, and that pattern had been going on for one hour. We went to bed Saturday night thinking we may have an Easter/April Fools baby. 

Sleep on Saturday wasn't great because I woke up a few times from contractions, but Sunday morning brought much excitement. My contractions were now lasting 1 minute and coming every 10 minutes, and a little before 9AM, I lost my mucus plug. Thinking this was going to be it, we drove to McDonalds for two egg McMuffins and a sprite (my desired pre labor meal of choice). We got home, ate, and waited...and waited. My contractions slowed down and then stopped. Looks like my body was playing its own April Fools joke on us. 

I told Brendan I wanted to try walking, but I was tired of the repetitive walks around the neighborhood. We drove all the way out to the I-20 Nature Preserve, a 1.25 mile loop, and I was determined that I was going to walk the whole thing briskly. Turns out my brisk pace was pretty much Brendan's regular one, but the walk felt like the workout of my life. The contractions started coming back, and I power-walked through them. I was pretty uncomfortable! 

We got home, and since it seemed activity was helping my contractions along, I decided to...bake a cake! After all, it was Easter Sunday, and I wanted to make Brendan one of his favorites: Smitten Kitchen's Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake. This cake has a syrup and glaze component and is a bit high maintenance, but it provided me with two things: 1.) Ample distraction and 2.) the opportunity to make plenty of puns about the "fruits of my labor" and the "bun in my oven." Several times during my baking, I held onto the counter in pain and timed contractions on a phone app. Brendan would come hold me through them. The pain was real. I texted my friend Belle and said "this has to be as bad as it gets!" Ha, if only I had known. 

We watched more episodes of Mindhunters (which we started on Saturday, and it's great), and my contractions were still not regular enough to need to go to the hospital. I felt a bit defeated as we headed to bed, but I was looking forward to getting another night's sleep like on Saturday. 

Ha. Ha. HA. 

Sunday evening
Sunday night was extremely painful. Every 10-30 minutes, I was having horrible contractions. They were lasting almost two minutes each, and I tried everything to bring relief (a bath, moaning, pleading, walking). Nothing helped. I tried to let Brendan sleep as much as possible, but it was not a restful night for either of us. Even worse, the fact that there was no real pattern to my horribly painful contractions had me convinced they were doing nothing to advance labor. In the morning before my doctor's appointment, I cried over Eggo waffles and told Brendan I could not do another day of this. 

Our membrane strip doctor's appointment was at 8:30AM, and I was terrified the doctor would say I hadn't advanced at all. On the way to the appointment, my contractions stopped. The lack of a pattern was really getting to me. My blood pressure was good, and I was up 22 pounds for the pregnancy. During my cervical check, the doctor gave us good news: I was already 4.5 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced! He stripped my membranes and called the hospital to make sure there was a room for us. He told us we could go home for a little bit, but that he thought it would be today. 

We went home and filled out our work leave forms, posted announcements for our students, and I wrote a peer review worksheet. By this point, my contractions weren't as active, but I wasn't letting it bother me because I knew the hospital would admit me. 

Last pregnant photo
Brendan was getting anxious to go to the hospital, so we packed up the car and left. I was serious about my two egg McMuffins and Sprite (you don't get food or drinks once you are admitted), and we waited in a very long McDonalds drive thru line (Brendan says this whole thing may have been a ploy on my part to get egg McMuffins two days in a's true that I really like them). I ate on the way to the hospital, and Brendan was a lot more relaxed once we checked in. I was already 5 centimeters, so I was hooked up to my walking IV, and we walked the hallways of labor and delivery. I squatted into my contractions hoping that would help me make progress. Brendan provided counter to say, both our backs were hurting. At the next check, I was 6 centimeters and 95% effaced. My doctor said it was a great time for an epidural, and he wanted to order Pitocin, so we ordered the epidural first. 

I was so scared of the epidural, but it was nothing to fear. The process was easy and absolutely painless. I was shaking a bit from hormones or fear. If there is one thing I could tell a mom to be it would be that the epidural is seriously no big deal. Getting an IV hurt worse. Thank you, Susie! 

The only things I was allowed to eat were ice chips and popsicles, so after my epidural, I enjoyed a much deserved popsicle. The pain relief of the epidural was immediate and amazing. I actually didn't realize how much pain I had been in until I had the epidural (I think because I'd been gradually getting used to it since Saturday--at the hospital, the monitors were showing contractions I wasn't even feeling. I guess I had only been timing the really painful ones). All that was left to do was wait until I was dilated enough to push. We texted family and tried to rest. Resting proved impossible because multiple monitors kept going off in the room. My mom arrived to the hospital, and my dad shortly after. We hung out with them for maybe an hour before they left us to get rest. They went to our house for the evening. At 7pm, I was 7 centimeters dilated, and we were told it could take 2 hours to progress each centimeter (and I still had 3 centimeters to go). Thus, we thought baby Egan would be a late night baby. 

For now, it's time for me to get an hour or so of rest before the next feeding, but I'll be back with part two of Willa's birth story (and a lot more pictures) soon! 

S, B, W, L&Z 

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