Category Archives: gestation

Playing Catch-Up

I did not mean to take a 3-month break from blogging. At first, it was the holidays and end-of-semester responsibilities for the homeschool class I teach that kept me away.  Then, it was first-trimester pregnancy fatigue and sickness.

Yes. I’m pregnant. Due August 27.

This is old news to those who know me in real life. To my blog friends, surprise! We were–happily–surprised, too.

I started suspecting I was pregnant the week before Christmas (specifically, wearing a scarf for some last-minute shopping made me want to gag, a weird thing that has happened to me with all my pregnancies now), but it was too hectic to test then. I took a home pregnancy test on the day before New Year’s Eve, and I told Aaron as we drove to a family party. “What are your expectations for the new year?” I asked him. “Oh, I don’t know. Anything could happen. I suppose we could even get pregnant and have another baby in 2013!” he replied. “We are,” I said. So we’ll have three children ages 3 and under, with the youngest two only 17 months apart. Thrilling and surreal, after so many years of infertility, of wondering what kind of story God was writing.

Now I’m nearly 13 weeks along and starting to feel a bit better. So, with the return of energy and with a week off from the class I teach, I hope to address the backlog on the blog. Starting–tomorrow–with Gwendolyn’s 7-month post, which has been sitting in my drafts since October (she’s almost 11 months old now).



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Gwendolyn’s Birth, Part 3

The Epidural that Couldn’t

So it was 2 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, and I felt pretty low. Castor oil hadn’t seemed to induce me, and I wished I had just gone ahead with the C-section the day before. At least then the waiting and wondering would be over.

I sat with my feet on my ottoman and read. I started having more frequent, slightly painful contractions. Brandt woke up mid-nap; I rocked him back to sleep, and contractions continued consistently. By the time I settled Brandt and returned downstairs, I thought, “I should probably start timing these.” I sat down to keep reading, now with my phone as timepiece. After a few minutes, I realized I was having difficulty A) keeping track of contraction times by memory and B) focusing enough during contractions to read. So I set my book aside and got pen and paper to record contractions.




And so on. When this pattern continued until a little after 3, I decided to call my doctor’s office. “Um, yeah,” said a nurse, “you’re going to the hospital.”

I told Aaron–who was with my dad working in the garage (yeah, we started a basement renovation the week of my due date, too)–that it was time to go. Flustered, he dropped what he was doing, dashed into the house, and grabbed the suitcase. Meanwhile, I readied to go at an ambling pace. I simply felt content to finally be in labor. I figured it would probably be long, so I didn’t feel the need to rush.

We arrived at the hospital at about 4:00 p.m. (We had to detour around a minor accident, which unnerved Aaron. I told him I wasn’t going to have the baby in the car.) In triage, a nurse checked my dilatation. 4.5cm. I had hoped for more progress than half a centimeter! My doctor (a different one from the day before; I see a practice with 5 doctors and love them all) did think I was in labor, but he suggested we give it another hour before admitting me. If I was admitted and then labor didn’t progress, I’d have to have a C-section after all, so we wanted to be sure this was the real deal.

Aaron and I paced the halls of labor and delivery for an hour. It got harder and harder to walk through the contractions. At 5:30, we returned to the triage room to check my progress. 5 cm. Only another half-centimeter, but my doctor thought it was time to admit me. We moved to a labor-and-delivery room.

At that point, the doctor asked if I wanted an epidural. I planned to have one, but I didn’t want to cause my labor to stall, so I decided to wait. My contractions were painful, but I could still breathe through them. I continued to labor for another two hours, and then my doctor came to check on me again. When he determined that my dilatation had only minimally progressed, he suggested breaking my water to speed things along. I was hesitant (my mom had her water broken with me and then had an awful labor), so I asked the doctor a few questions.

“If you were my sister,” he said, “I’d tell you to break your water.”

“Okay,” I replied. “Let’s do it.”

“Do you want the epidural now? It will get much more intense after this.”

“Yes, I’ll take the epidural!”

After my water was broken, contractions did indeed get much more intense. I moved to a birthing ball to try to get some relief. The nurse brought news that two other patients were waiting for epidurals before me, so it would be a while before the anesthesiologist could come. As the pain escalated, Aaron helped me to try different breathing and massage techniques to get through each contraction.

Finally, about an hour after my water had been broken, the anesthesiologist arrived. I sat on the edge of the bed to have my back prepped and the needle placed. I expected it to go quickly, based on my experience with the spinal I received for Brandt’s emergency C-section. Wrong. First, the anesthesiologist couldn’t get the needle in the right spot. Then, once the needle was inserted, the catheter wouldn’t go in. After trying again and again, he decided he had to move to a new spot.

“Relax,” he and the nurse told me. “Try to hold still.”

Right. That’s easy to do when you’re forced to sit in one uncomfortable position while your uterus tries to forcefully squeeze out a baby.

At last, the epidural was in. “How long until I feel relief?” I asked, as I laid back in the bed. I was told it would take up to 30 minutes, but that each contraction should start to feel less painful. The next contraction hit–worse than any yet. The next one–even worse. “Um,” I said, “it’s not getting any better. Every contraction hurts more.”

“Huh. Let me check you,” said the nurse. “Oh! You’re at a 9!” And she immediately started scurrying around to get supplies ready for delivery. “Don’t push yet!” she said. “Try to breathe through these contractions!”

By then, the pain was so intense I could barely focus. Everything in me wanted to push, but I tried to fight the impulse. When I asked if I would feel any effect from the epidural at all, the nurse said she thought my labor was moving too fast for the epidural to catch up. She checked me again.

“9 and a half! Just breathe through a few more!”

By then, my doctor was in the room, and everything was set for delivery. I made it to 10 cm. Aaron held one of my legs, the nurse held the other, and the doctor instructed me to hold my breath and push through each contraction. It felt so much better to finally have freedom to push! After only four contractions (about 20 minutes all told), my little girl was born at 10:10 p.m.

“She’s a big girl!” the doctor exclaimed. “Does she have a name?”

Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn Mae.

I got to hold her for a few minutes, and then the nurse took her for vitals. 9 lbs 2 oz, 21 inches long. During the afterbirth process (I had a partial 3rd-degree tear), I admired my girl across the room–her full head of light brown hair, her long, slender toes and fingers.

“You’re a rockstar,” my doctor said. “You did great, especially with such a big baby and with this essentially being your first time to give birth.”

As a friend commented later, I had nearly every experience possible in one delivery. A C-section turned into VBAC. Taking castor oil. An epidural, but in essence a natural birth. (By the way, the epidural never did have any effect beyond a slight tingling in one leg. I’m glad to know I can endure a natural delivery, but if there’s a next time, I’ll ask for an epidural sooner!) I’m so grateful to God for the whole saga–for courage to back out of the C-section, for a husband and friends who encouraged me as I waited for labor to progress, and most of all for the safe delivery of our sweet, healthy Gwenny. Our family of four makes my heart so happy.


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Gwendolyn’s Birth, Part 2

While the Ottoman Progressed, Labor Didn’t

After I announced that I wanted to call a halt on the C-section, my doctor was very gracious. She did an ultrasound to make sure the baby still had enough amniotic fluid; there was plenty, but our little one was face up. The doctor and the nurse gave us some tips to encourage baby to flip and to promote labor. We rescheduled a C-section for Wednesday in case nothing happened. They pulled my IV, disconnected the monitors, and sent us on our way.

For the rest of that day, my contractions seemed to follow a pattern that deviated from everything I had read. During times of inactivity, I had steady (though still painless) contractions; if I was active, they abated. So, in the car as we drove away from the hospital, I continued to contract. When we walked around the mall hoping to stimulate contractions, they occurred less frequently. At home, when I reclined on the couch and read a book: contractions. When I worked on my re-upholstery project, they ceased.

Er, yes; I was working on a re-upholstery project during my 40th week of pregnancy. Last summer, I had bought a chair and ottoman at a garage sale, intending to re-cover them. On the night before my due date, partially out of antsiness and partially out of a desire to have somewhere to put up my feet after the baby came, I decided to tackle the ottoman. By the day of my C-section, the ottoman had been stripped of its original cover and the pieces for the new cover had been sewn. That night, I started attaching the new foam, padding, and cover to the base. I was desperate for distraction!

By 9:00 p.m. on Monday, contractions stopped altogether. At 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, I decided to take castor oil. Prior to this point, I had thought that since I shouldn’t be induced medically, I probably shouldn’t try to induce myself. (Plus, the idea of drinking slimy oil made me want to gag!) But now I felt like my body was perhaps on the brink of labor and just needed a little prodding. I didn’t want the C-section cancellation to be for nought. So after consulting with friends who had taken castor oil successfully and reading a few medical studies online to confirm it wasn’t too risky, I did it. Two tablespoons in two shots of orange juice.

My friends who had taken castor oil said they started having strong, frequent contractions within 4-5 hours. During the waiting period, I (can you guess what’s coming?) worked on completing my ottoman. At 2:00 p.m., 5 hours after my castor oil dose, I put my feet up on my finished ottoman and wrote the following text message to a friend who had asked how I was doing:

“Some contractions, but they still come and go. Feeling tired of waiting and somewhat discouraged. Kind of expect I’ll need C-section after all, but we’ll see.”

Stay tuned for Part 3…


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Gwendolyn’s Birth, Part 1

The C-Section that Wasn’t

The picture we took before going to the hospital for the C-section. (Brandt was miserable with a fever that day.)

Gwendolyn’s due date (3/21) came and went. I hadn’t felt a single contraction–not even Braxton-Hicks. At my 40-week OB appointment, I was dilated 2 cm, small progress from the 1 cm I’d held steady at for the prior three weeks. So I resigned myself to the C-section that I had scheduled but hoped to avoid.

(I think I mentioned this on the blog at some point, but in case I didn’t: my prior C-section meant induction put me at higher risk of rupture, so my options were either to go into labor on my own or to have a repeat Caesarean.)

On Monday, March 26, we went to the hospital for the C-section as planned. During the drive there, I felt what I thought might be a contraction or two–no pain, but a general tightening across my belly. Once I got hooked up to the monitors in pre-op, the tightening sensations continued and I could see peaks charted with each one. I had decided to ask the nurse about it, when my doctor walked in, glanced at the monitor, and said, “Looks like you’re contracting!”

“I wondered!” I said. “What does that mean?”

She offered to check my progress. I had dilated to 4cm, but there was no real change in effacement or baby’s station.

“I don’t think you’re in true labor yet,” she said. “But what do you want to do? Do you want to go ahead with the C-section, or do you want to wait to see what happens?”

We discussed the options with her. If we decided to wait, I would have to go home; my pre-labor signs didn’t justify staying in the hospital. As much as I wanted to avoid a C-section, I was so keyed up to finally meet my baby girl that I didn’t like the thought of postponing even a day. Aaron and I talked briefly and then told the doctor we would carry on with the C-section as planned. She left to get the surgical team and the operating room ready.

And then I had second thoughts.

I started to think beyond this pregnancy. Yes, I eagerly wanted to hold my baby girl in my arms. And yes, it seemed silly to get all ready in pre-op and then to disconnect the monitors and IVs and walk out the door. It felt so anticlimactic to go to the hospital to have a baby, and then to tell everyone, “Nevermind!” But if I had the second C-section, that would leave no option but to have C-sections for any future pregnancies, and that would potentially limit the number of children that would be wise for me to have. (Who knows what’s in store for us, but we like the idea of having more children if we can.) And I really wanted to experience labor and delivery, to know what my body could do. If I went forward with the C-section, I would always wonder, “What if I had just given it one more day? What if I could have had a VBAC if only I waited a bit more?”

The doctor came back in.

“I changed my mind,” I said. “I want to go home and see if I go into labor.”

Part 2 coming soon-ish…


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39 Weeks, 5 Days

In honor of the week of baby girl’s due date, a longtime favorite poem…

“To a Little Invisible Being Who Is Expected Soon to Become Visible”

by Anna Letitia Barbauld

Germ of new life, whose powers expanding slow
For many a moon their full perfection wait,–
Haste, precious pledge of happy love, to go
Auspicious borne through life’s mysterious gate.

What powers lie folded in thy curious frame,–
Senses from objects locked, and mind from thought!
How little canst thou guess thy lofty claim
To grasp at all the worlds the Almighty wrought!

And see, the genial season’s warmth to share,
Fresh younglings shoot, and opening roses glow!
Swarms of new life exulting fill the air,–
Haste, infant bud of being, haste to blow!

For thee the nurse prepares her lulling songs,
The eager matrons count the lingering day;
But far the most thy anxious parent longs
On thy soft cheek a mother’s kiss to lay.

She only asks to lay her burden down,
That her glad arms that burden may resume;
And nature’s sharpest pangs her wishes crown,
That free thee living from thy living tomb.

She longs to fold to her maternal breast
Part of herself, yet to herself unknown;
To see and to salute the stranger guest,
Fed with her life through many a tedious moon.

Come, reap thy rich inheritance of love!
Bask in the fondness of a Mother’s eye!
Nor wit nor eloquence her heart shall move
Like the first accents of thy feeble cry.

Haste, little captive, burst thy prison doors!
Launch on the living world, and spring to light!
Nature for thee displays her various stores,
Opens her thousand inlets of delight.

If charmed verse or muttered prayers had power,
With favouring spells to speed thee on thy way,
Anxious I’d bid my beads each passing hour,
Till thy wished smile thy mother’s pangs o’erpay.


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{embrace the camera} feb. 2

I’m embracing the camera with my baby girl this week.

I took this self-portrait of the two of us at 31 weeks, a milestone for this pregnancy since Brandt was born then.

Then, last week, I turned 32 the day after baby girl’s pregnancy hit 32 weeks, which seemed worth commemorating.

I’m starting to really believe that baby girl and I are heading to full-term!


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Baby Girl at 28 Weeks

As part of the extra precautions my OBs are taking with this pregnancy, we got a second high-level ultrasound last Friday. (I’ve also started doing daily kick counts. If girly doesn’t kick at least 10 times within 3 hours, I have to go to the doctor, but so far she’s been compliantly active.) She’s growing well, looking chubby even. Measuring about 2 lbs 15 oz by ultrasound estimate, she only weighs 3 oz less than her big brother did when he was born at 31 weeks! I’m relieved and grateful to God that this pregnancy continues to progress so smoothly.


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