Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Kenny's Birth Story

A month ago (wow!), I gave birth to our first child, Kenny.  Considering that his due date was just a week ago, it was a roller coaster ride to be sure.  I finally found a few minutes, jotting notes here and there over the past month, to share the story here.

I'd gone to my OB for my regular weekly appointment at 37 weeks, expecting a normal visit, but my preeclampsia symptoms (which began around 35 weeks) were getting worse.  I was carrying a ton of water weight, my blood pressure was going up, and I had protein in my urine.  My doctor ordered additional labwork to be run that day, telling me I needed to put my feet up from now until the baby was born.  So I headed back to the office, let everyone know I'd be working from home for a while, then headed to dinner with my friends.  I had a blast with them, and then afterwards I was sitting on the couch at home eating a candy bar when the on-call doctor phoned.  They told me that I needed to come to the hospital for induction that night.  Dan wasn't even done with work yet; I had to call him to tell him to come home.  I was shaking!

Photographic proof that I was out with my friends P & M that night, not knowing I'd be heading to the hospital

We arrived at the hospital late on January 30th for me to have medicine placed to prepare my cervix.  I guess my preparedness paid off in some ways...  I already had my bag packed in the car, with a copy of my hospital pre-admission paperwork and everything we needed ready to go.  We also had the carseat installed and inspected the weekend prior!

The next morning, my water broke on its own.  I was coming back to bed from the bathroom, and it just happened.  I wasn't exactly sure if I was correct about it, but the nurses confirmed what it was.  It was such a crazy sensation!

At about 10 a.m., we started the medicine pitocin to induce delivery.  I made quick progress with dilation over the course of the day, and I remember being hungry (of course LOL).  I remember the joy I felt when I was given a popsicle, and I was so glad that I ate a big meal with my friends the night before!  My contractions kept getting stronger and stronger, to the point I was ready for my epidural.  Oh boy, I loved that epidural!  Meanwhile, my parents drove down from Indiana and arrived around 3 p.m.

By 5:30 p.m., I was prepared to push.  Dan and my mom were on my left side to support me during delivery.  Pushing with the epidural was definitely challenging in a way... As a first-timer, I didn't know what I was doing, or what was productive, and I needed a nurse coaching me on when a contraction was coming.  But my doctor and nurses were so great, and I got the hang of things in the end.  After an hour of pushing, our Kenny was born!  He cried right away (I heard him before I saw him), and they placed him on my chest, goo and all.

I remember crying.  I remember my Mom was crying, and that Dan cut the umbilical cord.  I think my first reaction upon seeing Kenny was just surprise...  did I really have that little guy inside me all this time?  (That's what she said... LOL)  But seriously, I couldn't believe that this little person was ours, and that he had such a sweet face.  It was all such a blur.  Our hospital really emphasizes skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, and within his first hour of life I was nursing him for the first time.

This photo is my everything!

The hospital cafeteria was closed by the time I was allowed to eat, so Dad and Dan went and got me some Steak 'n' Shake.  Dan fed me chicken tenders while I lay in bed.  It was the best-tasting chicken ever given the circumstances.

Kenny was born on a Wednesday, so we moved to a recovery room and spent that night and Thursday night in the hospital.  Dan stayed in the room with me, and we had our first sleepless nights with a newborn.  We had no idea what we were doing, and it was scary even just picking him up.  Were we doing it right?  Clueless.  Fortunately the nursery nurses were amazing.  We had some coaching on breastfeeding from a lactation consultant, Kenny got checked out by a pediatrician, and I got checked out by a doctor from my OB's office.  A photographer came by too, so we have some precious photos of Kenny from when he was less than 24 hours old!

By Friday, my preeclampsia symptoms seemed to have subsided, and we were discharged to go home.  But the story doesn't end there.

On Saturday, I wasn't feeling great, but I figured that was normal after giving birth.  I had a headache that wouldn't go away, and I was seeing sparkly "floaters" in my vision.  Dan went to work that day for his brewery's anniversary party, and I remember thinking that maybe I was tired and dehydrated from being up at night with a newborn.  But then I recalled the symptoms of preeclampsia that my doctor had repeated to me over and over...  so I told Dan to bring home a Gatorade and a blood pressure cuff from Walgreens, so we could see what was up. When we took my blood pressure, twice, it was through the roof.

Everything became a blur.  My parents were staying with us, and my Mom was going to be with us for a couple of weeks.  We knew that I needed to get to the ER, since my doctor's office was closed.  So we left the baby with my parents (thankfully I had saved formula samples in the pantry!) and went to the hospital immediately.  We knew we made the right call by the way the ER personnel acted when I arrived.  In fact, the ER doctor told Dan (while I was out of the room) that if we hadn't known to come in, I could have ended up having seizures and in a coma!  I was admitted to the hospital for preeclampsia and spent 24 hours on magnesium treatment, then another night for observation.

Those two nights in the hospital were gut-wrenching.  I was not allowed out of bed except for the nurse to take me to the bathroom, and the treatment made me feel terrible.  In addition, because Kenny had been discharged from the hospital, he couldn't go back into the nursery, so having him room with me at the hospital (not to mention the terrible flu season) felt risky.  Not to mention I was being checked every hour, on the hour, by nurses.  Instead, he stayed home with Dan and my parents, and I got familiar with the hospital's breast pump.  I didn't see him from Saturday night until Monday afternoon.  Not being able to control anything, I set an alarm for every three hours to pump milk for Kenny.  I'm so glad that I did, because my milk came in while I was there!  The nurses stored it for me in the NICU fridge, and Dan would come back and forth (we live three miles away) to bring home food for our son.

I took these photos while I was in the hospital for the 2nd time, to commemorate my misery.

I cried and cried every night being away from the baby.  It was so hard, even though I know I made the right call at the time!  In some ways, if you look for silver linings, I got some reassurance out of it.  I learned that I could survive being separated from my baby (as tough as it was), and Dan got the experience of being a full-time caregiver in a way most new fathers don't get right away.  He had two nights to bond with that baby, which made me feel better.  I also learned that Kenny was fine with formula (and later breastmilk) from a bottle.  He was nourished, and I didn't have to worry about that.  Lastly, I learned that I have to take care of my own well-being to be able to take care of my baby.  The hospital stay allowed me to rest (somewhat) and recuperate fully so I could go home to my baby.  Kenny was thriving, so I couldn't let myself feel any guilt over how things happened.

Once I got home on Monday, I did notice that my "baby blues" hit in the evenings, and that I was experiencing anxiety related to our health.  Every time I had a headache or something, I was worried I was going to end up back in the hospital.  Every time anything happened with Kenny that I wasn't sure was normal, I was suddenly paralyzed with fear that he was going to overheat or starve or stop breathing or be sick.  In hindsight, I think that my feelings were very normal, but that second week post-partum (let's face it, my first week was a hospital stay) was definitely tough.  Thank goodness my Mom was there to help me through it, and that Dan was so great throughout.  Once my doctor reassured me that I was out of the woods for preeclampsia, my anxiety subsided.

So there you have it!  Kenny's birth story, plus my bonus hospital stay.  A month later, I definitely feel recovered from delivery and preeclampsia, and now I'm full-on in newborn land.  It's a whole new level of exhausting, but ultimately everything I've been through has been worth it!

I mean, look at this guy...  :)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Maternity Photos

I wanted to get some photos with Dan before the baby came, so of course we called upon our talented friend Steve Cross to take them for us!  Steve shot our engagement photos and wedding photos, all in Franklin, so it was only fitting to head back to the park at Harlinsdale Farm where Dan and I got married in 2015 to take some pictures.

I did my own hair and makeup, which is not my forte, but in the end I think that it made it just that much more natural and authentic.  I was 36 weeks pregnant, so baby was moving quite a bit during the shoot!  It felt like our first family portrait with him, in a way.

You may recognize the barn area from our wedding photos if you've been around this blog for a while.  It was kind of magical to stand where we said our vows and think about how our relationship and family have evolved.

There's going to be lots more baby stuff on this blog, I imagine.  It's hard not to be consumed by it when you're largely pregnant or about to dedicate so much of your time to caring for someone else.  But I'm hoping that this blog and our family continue to be authentic and natural, always Aubrey as my blog title says.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Pregnancy: Things I've Learned These 9 Months

So... my baby was born on January 31st, and I never posted this!  Here you go... promise to come back later with maternity photos, baby birth story, and more.

At my last general pregnancy check-in here on the blog, I'd made it 7 months... and now I'm past 9 months, and I have a few more notes to share!  Honestly, if I had to sum up my pregnancy, Weeks 0-20 felt like this endless nauseous, heartburn-filled saga of exhaustion.  Weeks 20-37 have been more relatively easy, though I'm at the point I'm starting to get uncomfortable.  I feel like this is the complete opposite experience from what some women go through.  It's crazy how every pregnancy is so completely different for everyone!

Attending my company holiday party

My favorite pregnancy app has been The Bump (free), though there are a lot of similar apps out there.  I liked that each week I could read up on baby's development but also what symptoms I could expect for myself or changes in my own body.  I think that it's the kind of thing you only use during your first pregnancy (kind of like reading pregnancy books, if you're into that like I was!) but for us it was useful.  Dan downloaded it to his own phone, so it was nice because he kind of felt connected to how the baby was doing and also informed him of some of the things he might observe in my behavior or health.

My favorite photo app has been Little Nugget (not free), which will also be useful once baby arrives.  I feel like the stickers are on trend and plentiful once you buy it, and I found that I liked it more than using my letterboard or something else.  It keeps things at your fingertips, and you can customize colors and whatnot!

My least favorite pregnancy symptom, aside from the pregnancy nausea last year, has been swelling.  CANKLES.  In my 35th week, I ballooned up in weight, and it was almost entirely in my feet, legs, and hands from water retention and swelling.  Most of my shoes don't fit!  We had to keep an eye on my symptoms in case preeclampsia became a risk, which was nerve-wracking for me.  I did find my compression socks (with cute cats of course) were helpful, as was elevating my feet whenever I could.

Sausage feet stuffed into socks

My favorite maternity clothes were either non-maternity (like my Three Bears Company pieces), Target maternity solid-colored dresses and tops from my Mom, and a handful of maternity pieces I got via Stitch Fix.   I got a lot of compliments on my Dwell & Slumber pieces too, but I found that as the weather cooled off I got a lot more wear out of mixing solid layers and leggings with dresses.  (I found the Dwell & Slumber pieces harder to layer because of the way the caftan sleeves bunched up for me.)  I wore a lot of non-maternity stuff the entire time, using leggings and maternity camisoles to make them work.

The Stitch Fix pieces I kept

My maternity clothing fails were Le Tote for Maternity (I just didn't like the fit of what I ended up with, so I cancelled), maternity jeans and pants that weren't ponte or leggings (like a bad tube top, I kept having to pull them up), and buying tops with a distinctive print.  The two print tops I had, I felt like I couldn't wear them as often as solid colored pieces, which could be mixed and matched more often.  That's why I recommend solids, because you can wear the same stuff every week and just remix it like a capsule wardrobe.

What else have I learned since my last post?

I still stand by a lot of what I wrote a couple of months ago.  Pregnancy is still gross.  And you still have to surrender, even more as you get bigger and rounder and more exhausted.

Other thoughts...  Nesting is real, and I love it.  People love to talk about pregnancy and be super nice to you.   People love babies and will surprise you with gifts.  Sometimes I cried for stupid reasons, like because I felt too tired and swollen to go out with my girlfriends one night, or because my laundry basket was too heavy.  Hormones!

One thing I've grappled with overall is just fear...  I've never been hospitalized, and I've never had major surgery.  So yeah, childbirth feels scary.  And not knowing when it's going to happen?  That's scary too.  But now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel, the level of discomfort that I feel plus the excitement of meeting my baby is starting to outpace the fear.  I think a little fear is natural, but it definitely feels like it's going to be worth it!

Lastly, I'm trying to be kind to myself.  I think a lot of women beat themselves up over things related to childbirth, breastfeeding, motherhood, etc.  I hate seeing wonderful mothers do that.  So while I know I'll have those moments, I'm still going to try to focus on not having crazy expectations of how things are going to go.

Here's hoping these last weeks of pregnancy are healthy and happy as can be!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Baby Showers & Breakfast

In January, I was blessed with TWO more baby showers, both of which ended up being brunch or breakfast events!  Given that I love breakfast foods, it was pretty perfect!  The first, thrown by my friend S, was a local celebration that brought together a bunch of my favorite Tennessee ladies and some out of staters too.

I didn't do a great job getting a bunch of photos, but my favorites were the mimosa/bellini bar (with sparkling water for me!), the breakfast buffet with favorites like biscuits and hash brown casserole, and doughnuts instead of cake.  Yum!

We had folks from Nashville, Brentwood, and Franklin, but also longer hauls like Knoxville, Cookville, Crossville, Chattanooga, Monteagle, and even Illinois and Indiana!  I think it was really good for my Mom to see what a great community I have here in Tennessee.  After six years, it's definitely my favorite place I've lived thus far as an adult.

Then at work, my friends J and P put together a shower in one of our conference rooms.  The snowy weather caused a reschedule, but it ended up being a really nice breakfast "open house" style shower.

And the super-fun balloons from my shower made their way up to my desk later too.  :)  People who missed the shower are still bringing gifts by my desk, and it's so touching and sweet!

Something we've received that wasn't necessarily on our registries: tons of books!  Here's a nursery sneak peek where you can see how we've displayed a bunch of them, and we are going to store the rest in a book bin.  We love reading (I worked at the public library in high school) so it's wonderful to have these already to read to baby Kenny!

Now after three (yes, three!) baby showers, I've written over 100 thank you notes and counting.  We are just so grateful for all of the gifts and love that we've received, I wanted to make sure to thank everyone individually for thinking of us.  I'm old school about notes and snail mail like that.

I also wanted a way to keep all of the adorable cards we've received.  I decided to use the same method I used for our wedding cards; I punch a hole in the corner and use a loose binder ring to keep everything together.  I even included the invitations to the baby showers, so I could keep those together with the cards.

When I'm sitting in the living room with swollen pregnancy feet, it's encouraging to flip through the cards and read what people wrote to us.  I'm tempted to stick it in our hospital bag, just so I can read it if I need the encouragement.  :)

I'm so grateful for the blessings and love we've received in anticipation of our new arrival!

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