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Chubby Cheeks!

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Lucy Everygreen Mark’s Birth Story.

Lucy had her two month check up today. Two months! Measuring 23 in long and a whopping 14lbs, 7 oz (which is off the growth charts!) my girl is apparently the breast feeding champion of the world. And after two month I realized it’s either now or never if I’m going to write her birth story. So I chose now.

I spent the morning of Lucy’s due date in Melissa’s Saturday morning yoga class. My son had come a week early, so as far as I was concerned I was already a week overdue. With my 1 cm dilation and 50% effacement I listened to 37-38 week pregnant ladies report of their 4 cm status and thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” I was going to need a little more than savasana to clear away my anxiety.

After eating a case of pineapple, spending every free moment walking, and convinced that sex being the best way to naturally induce labor was a lie perpetuated by men, I woke up Thursday morning still pregnant for yet another postpartum appointment with the midwives at St Francis.

I took my usual morning walk, telling Lucy how wonderful the outside world was (leaving out key details like the 115 degree heat). Despite my frustration I was convinced that Lucy had the benefit of patience and time on her side. We’d been through a lot: not one, but two markers for Downs syndrome; a report that she was too small; a questionable mass growing in my right ovary. It wasn’t a surprise she needed some extra time to collect her thoughts.

So I was shocked when Gene met me with a long face and Leslie asked, “Why do you think you’re still pregnant?” (Which is still the dumbest question anyone has ever asked me). But I was grief stricken when, despite the walking, 5W, evening primrose oil, sex and pounds upon pounds of pineapple I was still only 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced.

Then Leslie dropped the A bomb. Dr Miller was going on vacation and the OB taking his place would not “allow” me to be pregnant two weeks past my due date and I needed a plan B so I could “advocate for myself” with this women.

I had spent the better part of a year doing everything in my power to avoid a second cesarean. Now, a mere five days past my due date, I was finding myself at the mercy of a doctor I’d never met who wanted to induce me yesterday and two midwives who I felt were wimping out on me. My hopes of a VBAC were fading fast with ever moment that passed. I could tell I was a lost cause as far as Leslie was concerned and I would be out of their hands once the induction was administered.

Thank God for doulas! I called McKenzie in a panic and if it weren’t for her I probably would’ve driven frantically to Tennessee in search of Ina May herself. Instead I made an appointment to see an acupuncturist the following day and was reassured that my body was doing exactly what it was suppose to and Lucy would come when she was damn well ready.

I don’t know if acupuncture moved things along, but regardless, it was the most relaxing experience I’d had in ages. It was like floating and there wasn’t a worry in my brain. Keith told me this is called “accustoned.” It was so wonderful I’m surprised it’s legal. Afterwards Don and I had a mini date while our son was with Grandma (Chipotle and a child free stroll around Barnes and Noble). Things were looking up.

Another Saturday came and went and I woke up Sunday still freakin pregnant! My husband was headed to the airport to pick my mom up and I was mentally preparing myself for battle at my next prenatal appointment. That night my mom gave me one of her killer foot rubs and I broke down and had a glass of red wine before bed.

Around 3:30 am I woke up feeling a little sore and thought it was from sleeping on one side for too long. But the aching was coming and going in regular intervals so I went downstairs, made coffee, checked my email and timed the waves for about an hour. They were approximately 15-20 minutes apart. It was finally happening!

I went upstairs and quietly told Don, “Don’t get up, but I just wanted to let you know my contractions started about an hour ago.” Don’t get up?! Ha! Don bounced out of bed and we went downstairs to have some coffee and talk. We put on our shoes and went for a nice 5 am walk while my mom and three year old slept. When we got home an hour and a half later my mom was awake and we let her know that labor had started.

Around 9 am I gave McKenzie the heads up that I was in labor and I’d keep her posted on the progress every hour or so. I went for another walk with my mom. This time the 100-degree heat was kicking in so she brought a cold rag and during contractions I’d lean on her or a fence or the hood of a parked car and she’d rub my lower back.

Thus began the day of laboring around the house. I sat on a birth ball while we ate Subway sandwiches and during contractions would get up and lean on the back of a chair or against the wall and moan. My three year old Owen was a trooper through all of it. He asked his dad and grandma, “Why is mom acting crazy?” and they told him it was because the baby was going to be born soon. This apparently made total sense to him because he said, “OOOhh. Okay” and continued to eat his lunch.

As the contractions got more intense (they were no longer “waves”) I’d get in the shower and the water made everything better. The shower would space the contractions out again and so I’d walk up and down the stairs and then they’d get to about 5-7 minutes apart and I’d get in the shower again… repeat a couple of times.

By 5pm Don had to do the talking on the phone with McKenzie because I wasn’t up for it. I reeeaaaally didn’t want to leave for the hospital yet, but Mom and Don were getting a little anxious and the thought of laboring in the car with the contractions any stronger or closer together sounded like my idea of hell. So we agreed that we’d at least be near the hospital but wouldn’t check in until absolutely necessary.

Once we got to St Francis Don and I walked the parking lot at a snails pace, stopping to let me lean against him during contractions and telling everyone that passed us, yes we were okay, and no we didn’t need a wheel chair. The contractions were about 3-3:30 minutes apart and when we got back to the car (6pm) I threw up. It was time to check in.

Gene was the midwife on call and she checked my progress. After laboring for about 15 hours I was 3-4 centimeters dilated. It was going to be a long night. The nurse hooked up the fetal monitor (this was a mandate by the hospital because of the previous c-section). The monitor was of little consequence to me at that point. I hardly even noticed it. McKenzie would suggest different positions for labor and the nurse simply adjusted the monitor.

At some point Gene suggested getting in the tub. There is something magical about water and this got me through transition. It’s funny to imagine now — me in the tub with Gene checking Lucy’s heart rate with the Doppler ever so often, Mom stroking my hair, Don rubbing my shoulders and McKenzie rubbing my arm and telling me “bring those sounds down Morgan.” It was almost relaxing. I got very quiet, closed my eyes and went deep inside myself…. Until I realized that this was insanity and I told Gene, “I can’t do this! I change my mind!! I want an epidural.” To which McKenzie and Gene said “You ARE doing this Morgan. You are doing fantastic! You’re almost done.” And “You can do this!” (I apologized for this afterwards. Gene laughed out loud and said 9 out of 10 women say the same thing and it usually means they are almost finished).

I got out of the tub and the nurse brought in the birth bar, which I used during the pushing stage. I don’t even know what to say about pushing. Pushing is a huge relief during the contractions. It is also the hardest work I have ever done. I used the bar so I could push standing up and squatting. I pushed against the bar while sitting down. I pushed on my hands and knees. I pushed and pushed and pushed… for two and a half hours.

My eyes were shut tight 99% of the time. I looked up once in between contractions and remember thinking how tired everyone looked. I remember looking up once to check on Owen, who slept through the entire thing on a cot. And I remember opening my eyes and seeing what seemed like a million people dressed in blue, pushing carts covered in blue come into the room and I knew that Gene was telling the truth. It was almost over for real.

My motivation during pushing at first was all of the doctors who have told women that they’re bodies weren’t built for vaginal birth and for all of the women who believed them. Then my motivation was just for Lucy and me. I was so tired and I knew that she was probably hating this as much as I was (being squeezed out of a birth canal doesn’t sound like a good time). I should mention here that my daughter was an absolute rock star. Her heart rate stayed just as strong as ever through all of this.

Gene was amazing. Thanks to her patients (and olive oil) I didn’t have any tearing even with Lucy having her arm up by her head. And by God’s grace all of the people who needed to be present were exactly where they needed to be. My mom was able to witness the birth of her granddaughter and the doctor who was on call that night was the best person to be present for a VBAC who pushed for 2 and a half hours (McKenzie told me she was very supportive of natural, vaginal birth). I guess Lucy knew what she was doing after all.

And she was perfect. An absolutely gorgeous 7 lb. , 8 oz and 21 in. Holding her for the first time, was incredible and I’m so grateful I wasn’t in the same dizzying, drug induced fog I was in when Owen was born. And Owen? He slept through the whole thing despite all the noise I made. What finally woke him up was Lucy’s cries while a nurse weighed her and cleaned her up. I wish I knew what he was thinking at that moment. I’m sure it was pretty wild.

I’ve never been so proud of myself. After 25 hours of labor I felt surprisingly full of energy. Everyone around me looked like a Mac truck had hit them. They say I did all of the work but I feel like they worked just as hard as I did.

Hours later, after moving to our room and taking a shower I noticed my arms were super sore. I couldn’t even lift them about my head. I couldn’t think of why that would be. My mom was like, “You pushed against a bar for over two hours!!” The endorphins your body produces are no joke because I had no idea. Labor land is a real place. I listen to my mom tell me the story and it’s like we were in two different places.

It’s funny how quickly all of this pregnancy and labor business slips from our memory. Just a month ago I told my husband that this was it. No more kids. The last month of pregnancy, the worry, the four days in the hospital holding Lucy under bili lights for jaundice, were all too fresh in my mind despite the infant induced sleep deprivation. And now, as I type this, looking at my two month old daughter sleeping in her swing and watching my son wave around a light saber while wearing an Iron Man costume and cape I think, “My next VBAC will probably be at home.”

Side note: More pictures of Ms Lucy Goosey are HERE. Two month pictures coming soon…

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Celebrating the Belly

Two weeks and 3 days to go… but lets say a prayer she gets here sooner 🙂 It’s been a smooth pregnancy physically, but it has been quite the emotional journey. Not only because of my hopes for a VBAC (which I’ve been lucky to meet one women after another who has a beautiful, successful VBAC story that is totally inspiring). And various baby development scares (the latest being “she’s too small.”) It’s been a growing experience for sure. Sometimes it feels more like stretching than growing. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves. So that makes me thankful for the ups AND the downs as well. And we certainly haven’t been alone. I am so blessed to have such wonderful people in my life who have helped make this pregnancy even more special (and the scary parts less scary). I’m grateful to have sounding board for my fears and women surrounding me who are just as excited as I am about our Little Bell Pepper.

Ms. Zoe made and painted this lovely belly cast for me. This is the belly around 35 weeks.

These are the girls in my hood. Lia had a little party for me and Ms. Lucy and she had a henna artist came and painted the belly. I’m not standing like that because I’m showing it off… it was just drying 🙂 From Left to Right: Zoe, Lia, Amanda, Sara, Melissa (has moved but drove from Delaware!), me, Vittoria, and Shea (who just had a baby girl this past Sunday!). And our friend Lindsey was in labor with her baby boy when this picture was being taken!

Everyone there that day was connected with a single piece of thread and then Zoe cut each bracelett off. We’ll be wearing them until the little lady arrives. So for their sake let’s hope that’s soon because the yarn is getting a little funky 🙂

Here’s the belly after the henna set. Owen is going to be an amazing big brother.

I found a book at our library titled, “What’s in your tummy, Mommy.” It’s a month by month picture book of babies development. You can read it holding it up to your belly and your child can see how big their sibling is.

All my love you wonderful people you!

For good measure, I’m posting this song again. Just because, there’s no place like home:

** I know I’ve been a bit slack on this whole blog thing (my mother has been gently asking when I was going to post something again). We went camping at Kiptopeak State Park on the Eastern Shore. Mom, Dad, and my Grandparents came down for a visit. We have our chickens now and they are getting big. All kinds of crazy good stuff has been growing in the garden. Cloth diapers arrived in the mail. Owen’s been a character as usual and we’ve been making the best of this insane heat wave (it broke a bit today and we enjoyed some time down by the river). Don’s on the church softball team, and I’ve yet to bring the camera with me for that. We have Lucy’s room all done up (Evergreen made the crib blanket, Zoe made the curtains) even though we plan on cosleeping for a while. I’ll get some pictures up… as soon as I take some. **

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Flying Squirrels

We took this picture right before the Flying Squirrels game in Richmond. We went with some friends from church and it was a great time. Richmond played the Bowie Baysox, which is an Orioles AA team. There must be a curse, because the Bowie Baysox were just as terrible as their major league affiliate. It was still a blast.

After the game Owen (and hundreds of other kids) got to run the bases around the field. Our big boy looked so tiny running along side all of the big kids. He was very careful to make sure he hit every single base. Don waited in line with Owen at the first base gate (parents weren’t allowed to go with their kids, no matter how young) and I waited for him at the third base gate where the kids exited.

I half expected Owen to be too nerves to go onto the field by himself… I guess I forgot for a moment how much the kid loves baseball. An older boy took his hand to get him started and off they went. As he rounded third base I made sure I was right at the entrance so he wouldn’t get swallowed up in the crowd. He was so cute!

I thanked his little friend for helping and you know what that kid did? Took Owen’s hand, walked away and waited for Don. He didn’t know me from a hole in the wall so he waited to make sure Owen got to the parent he knew he belonged with. Which was Don. It was awesome. I wish I had met his parents to tell them what a good job they’d done raising their son.

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Who can be unhappy…

when there’s a baby on the way?!

I promise this is not the only thing I’m going post about for the next four months. We got a phone call yesterday from a concerned loved . To be fair  I can see why those who care about us are worried because all they’ve read are my two somewhat melancholy blog entries. So I thought I’d give you an update on our state of mind.

In a word: Good. After the small possibility of Lucy (there you have it, that’s her name. I’m sick of typing nicknames) having downs syndrome we just needed some time to wallow. And boy oh boy did we wallow. I haven’t cried like that in ages. After a couple of days to process, things started to come back into focus and we gained some perspective.

The odds are overwhelmingly in favor of Lucy Bell (okay, can’t give up the nicknames completely) not having downs syndrome. I’m talking 99.5% that she doesn’t. That remaining half a percent is not worth the 1% risk of a miscarriage with amniocentesis. For us it’s not. That 1% chance of killing her his waaay scarier than the .5% she has DS. Not to mention, that even with a certain diagnosis at this point there is zilch, nada, absolutely nothing we could do to prepare from a practical standpoint. We couldn’t start talking to doctors or lining up specialist. We’d do exactly what we have to do now. Wait. Most parents had no forewarning before their child was born that they were going to have special needs. If that .5% chance rules we won’t be completely blindsided and that’s something to be thankful for too.

Here’s the other piece of it. Worst case scenario at this point it Lucy has Downs Syndrome. That’s it. That’s the scariest thing. After a few days of thinking about this, that doesn’t even sound that scary. I mean, even if we had a 100% positive diagnosis there is still way more to be excited about than there is to be sad or worried about. We’re having a baby in four more months! She’s already amazing. She’s already ours.

Over dinner Don was talking about his mental image of our soon to be family of four. Adding Lucy to our trips to Camedon Yards and camping and sitting with us at the dinner table. Imagining Lucy as a child with Downs Syndrome or not, the picture hardly changes.

So please don’t worry about us. I prayed for peace of mind, and I got it. Quicker than I expected. Now were back to thinking about how we really ought to start getting her room ready. Besides, who on God’s green Earth can be sad while listening to this song and knowing there’s a baby on the way…

The video makes me want to join a hippy commune caravan crossing the country in a converted school bus. I think I’ve been reading too much Spiritual Midwifery. On second thought, having a baby on a bus doesn’t sound so romantic.

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Tomorrow Always Comes

Yesterday was long. I cried so hard my eyes hurt by the end of the day and I had some strange dreams. I dreamt I was in a church choir (which is ludicrous to begin with as my singing abilities are laughable at best) and I criticized something or other that elicited a harsh reaction. I decided to leave and never return. Later in the dream my arm was bit by an alligator. I wonder what this says about the terms God and I have been on most of this Lenten season (not just yesterday). Pregnancy dreams are totally bizarre. I haven’t prayed for everything to be okay. I know that’s a given. I just keep praying for Peace.

I took a lot of hot baths because I just couldn’t get warm. I cried and cried some more. I stared at the 3D ultrasound picture to see if I could tell by looking at our daughters face. And Ina May took a back seat on my bedside table and I read and read and read about Downs Syndrome. I know this is premature. We by no means know what’s going on with Ms. Baby Bell at this point. We really won’t know for sure for another four months when we meet her. Everything could be totally normal.

We opted out of a blood test for DS early on in my pregnancy. I felt that worrying for 9 months would be a worthless pursuit. Besides, we weren’t in a high risk category. We did opt for the ultrasound because we wanted to know the sex of the baby. I never thought this would give us uncertainty and something to worry about. If our boat takes a detour I worry about what kind of parents we’ll be. I worry about how this would impact Owen as a big brother. I worry about things that we would have no way of planning for even if we knew for sure Little Girl had DS. An amnio is off the table for us personally as it poses a slight risk of miscarriage. So we wait.

This morning I read an article called Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley, who wrote a book Roadmap to Holland. The essay is beautiful. In the back of my mind we are still on a plane to Italy. But if we get off the plane and are surprised to find ourselves in Holland, Holland will be beautiful too.

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