Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Norah's First Two Weeks

Little Norah is nearly two weeks old already! She has already changed so much since she was born. Let me tell you a little bit about her.

Her hair looked medium brown when she was first born, but now it looks almost blonde, and in the sunlight it looks red. I also think it might get curly when it gets longer. Her eyelashes are VERY light and very long. Her eyes are the classic newborn shade of dark blue-grey. My mom thinks they're getting lighter and bluer, but I can't tell. Her (adorable!) face looks like both of us, I think.

The first couple of days, we had trouble getting her to eat. She just wanted to sleep and sleep! She's doing WAY better now. She only lost 4.5 ounces, and at her doctor's appointment on Friday she was already back up to her birth weight of 8 lbs. 4.5 oz. The help I received from my midwife and from a lactation consultant was invaluable.

She is such a good baby! She never cries unless she's hungry or sometimes when we're changing her diaper. Oh, and when we give her a bath! She hates that. :-(

She is very strong. She has been holding her head up since day one. She also smiles! :-) I love the expressions she makes.

She likes to clasp her hands together, and she likes to suck on her fingers, but she hasn’t quite found her thumb. She also likes to be sung to. J

We just started using cloth diapers yesterday. So far it's going great! We had to wait until her cord fell off, which happened when she was 8 days old.

She has been sleeping really well some nights. It's sort of hit or miss, but it seems like if she's really comfortable she'll sleep longer. My mom stayed with us for a week, and last night was our first night without her. She discovered that if she held her and kept her really warm she would sleep for at least 5 or 6 hours. Last night we set up the Pack 'n' Play next to our bed, swaddled her in a knitted blanket, and propped her in the Boppy pillow in the Pack 'n' Play. She slept until 6:00, and she would have slept even longer if I hadn't moved her (I noticed that she had slid down and looked uncomfortable). After I fed her, she slept between us until about 9:45.

I am feeling fine now. It took me about a week to feel normal again (and to be able to sit in a chair...). My belly is getting smaller by the day, but the stretch marks haven't faded yet!

Travis is an AMAZING daddy. He loves taking pictures of Norah. I think we have about 500 now. He also changes tons of diapers (I didn't change one until maybe day four or five) and never complains. He loves spending time with her. He also waits on me hand and foot while I'm nursing! :-)

Here are some photos from our first 12 days! We could stare at her all day long!

Ready for the drive home!

Hours old, with Travis's mom

One day old

Two days old (hungry!)

Four days old, holding her own bottle!
(Daddy got to feed her some pumped milk)

After her first bath

Napping with Mommy

With Travis's dad

Kissing Daddy

10 days old, with my mom

Nine days old

With my dad

11 days old, in one of her cloth diapers

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Birth of Norah Claire

What an absolutely life changing few days we’ve had!

I am going to tell you all about the labor and delivery of baby Norah, but first I would like to say that my experience was very unusual. To give you something to compare it to, here is how the average labor and delivery would go for a first time mother (according to what we learned in our class).

Labor begins with mild contractions that are several minutes apart (let’s say 10 to 20). They slowly intensify and get closer together, and gradually the cervix (baby’s entrance to the birth canal) dilates. The baby can come out when it is fully dilated (10 centimeters). This usually takes several hours (12 to 24 is common), especially if the cervix is not already partially dilated prior to the beginning of labor. Labor is considered “active” once the cervix is four centimeters dilated.

Before this point, the mother should be able to go about her business, breathing through each contraction as it comes.

Active labor has probably begun when the contractions are strong enough that the mother has to concentrate to get through them, she does not want to eat anything, she is more serious, and contractions are about five minutes apart and lasting for at least one minute. This is the point where one would head to the hospital or other place of birth. The mother should still be able to cope with contractions by breathing deeply and focusing on relaxation. She should never be in excruciating pain. Most women describe contractions as very strong cramps, or like your belly is being squeezed very tightly all the way around.

Once the mother is at or near full dilation, she may experience a stage of labor called transition. She may be nauseous, shivering, and almost unable to cope with the pain. She will probably say that she wants an epidural and will feel as though there is no way she can get through the rest of the labor and delivery process. The water will have broken by this point.

Transition may last for about 10 minutes, and then the pushing phase begins. If no pain medication has been administered, the mother will feel an uncontrollable urge to push during each contraction, and doing so will ease the pain. Now she feels a new sense of determination. Pushing may last for a few minutes or a few hours before the baby is born. 45 minutes is about average. And voila: Baby!

Here is my story.

I was having mildly painful contractions here and there for at least a couple of days. Frustrated that my body seemed to be in a state of limbo, Travis and I tried all of the recommended tricks to get labor started in earnest. Finally, one of them worked (I am being purposefully vague here). :-P

Around 7:30 on Wednesday evening, I suddenly began having much stronger contractions. They were very close together from the get go, but not consistently so. I might have one that lasted for 40 seconds with a two minute break, another that lasted a minute with a 90 second break, and so on. Just a few contractions in, I was already having to concentrate on breathing deeply to cope.

Probably a little after 8:00 I decided I wanted to call Amy (our midwife). Travis called while I changed clothes, etc. She told him that she was at the hospital with another mother in labor, and that she would have Linda (the other midwife, who we also felt comfortable with) meet us at the birth center. We left as soon as we could get all of our things together, and arrived there at about 9:00.

Linda checked me for dilation as soon as we got there. I was disappointed to hear that I was only one centimeter. She gave us the option to stay or go home, advising us that we might rest better at home, and it would probably take several hours before I was in active labor.

With that, we left, and I cried on the way home because I didn’t see how I would be able to handle these intense contractions for several more hours. They were getting stronger and stronger, and it was already impossible to relax through them. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was already telling Travis that I wanted an epidural, even though I knew that I would be disappointed in myself if I went through with that idea.

After we arrived at home and unpacked everything from the car, I soon realized that there really was no way I could get any rest, and I felt I needed to be at the birth center. I needed help finding a way to cope with the pain. I cried some more at the thought of another car ride.

Travis called Linda, who was very nice about the whole thing and said she would have to change clothes (I presume she was ready for bed) and would meet us back at the birth center as soon as she could.

Travis packed everything up again, and right when we were about to leave he said he wanted to make a pot of coffee (he later told me that he was using this as a way to test the seriousness of the situation). When I replied with, “Right now?!” he realized that I was desperate and we left for the second time.

This car ride was very difficult. Travis went slow and turned on the hazard lights because I really could not bear any jostling. I was shivering and beginning to feel nauseous. By this time I was vocalizing (not exactly moaning, and not screaming – more like singing one long note loudly on “ah”). I don’t know why that seemed to ease the pain just a bit, but it did.

I think we got there a little after 10:00. Right away Linda tried to help me find a position that would feel a little more comfortable, but nothing did. Absolutely nothing besides vocalizing seemed to help the pain at all, and moving around made it worse.

After assessing the situation, Linda determined that even though my contractions were coming very close together, they were so short that they were probably not effectively dilating my cervix. I was beyond disappointed by the thought that all this pain might be getting me nowhere. I was distraught, and I desperately wanted to get out of my own body.

She suggested that I try a rotation: two contractions on my left side, two on all fours, two on my right side, etc., to try to regulate the contractions. She also started running the bath for me, thinking that may help as well, even though under normal circumstances you shouldn’t get in the water until you are at least four centimeters dilated because it can slow labor down or even stop it.

I tried hard to be cooperative and do the rotation, but it was way too painful to keep changing positions. Most women have a break between contractions where they are completely free of pain, but this was not my experience. During contractions the pain was almost unbearable, and between them it was intense, but I could stand it if I could stay still (and if Norah stayed still as well). I was also throwing up by this point (sorry to be gross…I just want to write a thorough account), and still shivering.

While I was on my left side on the bed, dreading having to turn onto all fours, my water broke. I didn’t feel it break, I just felt totally soaked all of a sudden. Linda seemed surprised and decided to check me for dilation a second time. It was now about 11:00 pm.

We were all shocked and excited to learn that I had dilated all the way to six centimeters in just two hours!

Now that my water had broken and I was definitely in active labor, I could labor in the tub knowing that we would have our baby soon.

Having heard multiple accounts of how relaxing the water can be for a laboring woman and hearing it referred to as “the midwife’s epidural,” I was looking forward to a bit of relief.

It never came. The contractions were just as bad in the water, and still getting harder and harder to handle.

Around this time, a nurse midwife arrived in case I was to need stitches. She was very nice, and I felt bad that I was unable to exchange pleasantries with her.

During each contraction I was breathing fast and hard, sometimes vocalizing as I had been, sometimes crying, sometimes screaming. After several contractions of just screaming my lungs out, I tried to do “horsey blows,” like we had learned in class and I had read about in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I was able to do this a little bit during two or three contractions, and then I couldn’t do it anymore. I had to push.

Throughout all of this, Travis was amazing. He was so supportive the whole time, and I know it was incredibly hard for him to see me like that. He tried to rub my back or my belly a few times to give me something else to focus on, but I couldn’t stand to be touched. I had to tell him to stop.

After several contractions of pushing whenever I felt the urge, Linda said she wanted to check to see if I still had a “lip” of cervix. The way I was pushing made her suspect it. This means that instead of being evenly dilated all the way around, the cervix looks sort of like this:

I was reluctant to even let her check because it was so uncomfortable, but she insisted, and she was right. I tried doing the same rotation technique again at her suggestion, but in the end she advised that we would probably have the baby sooner if I would let her hold the lip out of the way while I pushed Norah’s head past it. Finally I agreed to this.

Linda could feel Norah moving down each time I pushed, and she was very pleased with my progress.

As soon as we were finished with this process, which lasted through three or four contractions, Amy arrived. I was glad that she made it to the birth. From then on, it was mostly her who coached me through contractions.

By this point, the pain of the contractions was beginning to ease up when I pushed. The beginning of each contraction was the worst because it took a few seconds before I felt the urge. I dreaded each one and kept saying, “No, no, no, no, no…” and almost crying when I felt one coming. This was how Travis knew it was time to come back and be with me (he paced around between contractions to calm himself down so he could be supportive and strong when I needed him next to me).

*Click photos to enlarge*

I could not cooperate with anything the midwives were asking me to do at this point. I had to totally follow my body’s cues. They suggested I hold my breath while I was pushing, instead of screaming and pushing at the same time, so that I could push harder. I couldn’t. If I pushed that hard I thought I would tear in half. They also suggested that I hold my legs back with my hands. I couldn’t do that either. It just plain hurt. It felt better to be in a sort of semi-squat position, with my feet almost under me.

I kept asking Amy how much of the head she could see, and she would show me with her hands. She could see a little more with each contraction.

After Norah’s head was almost crowning, she slid back up between contractions. The midwives weren’t concerned and said that it would just take a second for me to push her back down to where she had been, and they commented that “They would have a fit if that happened in the hospital.” They were right, though. She came right back down on the next contraction. (I also think the hospital staff would probably have been pretty annoyed by all the noise I was making. I honestly could not help it, though. I felt bad that Travis and the midwives had to put up with it.)

Her head was out after another couple of contractions. I was amazed, and I just stared at the back of her beautiful head until the next contraction, when I pushed as hard as I could and screamed even harder to get her body out. During those few seconds, the pain was the worst yet – and the next second it was gone. The most beautiful creature I have ever seen was placed on my chest, and time stopped.

She looked at me with her beautiful big eyes, and I loved her instantly. Oh, do I love her. She breathed on her own right away, and she hardly cried.

As soon as they gave her to me, everyone helped me get up out of the tub and onto the bed, where the three of us got acquainted with each other. The cord stopped pulsing after only a couple of minutes, and Travis cut it. After we had some time to get to know our perfect daughter, Linda did the newborn exam while I got stitched up (I tore pretty badly). We were very surprised to learn that Norah weighed 8 lbs 4.5 oz! I cannot imagine how she fit inside my belly!

We spent the rest of the night there, with Norah between us in the bed, absolutely in awe of the whole experience. Our baby girl was finally here.

Some final thoughts:

I am now absolutely convinced that women’s labor and delivery experiences are extremely diverse and unique. I have spoken to several women who say they would not describe their labor as painful, just intense. I had PAIN. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my pain at a 13, no joke. I never imagined pain like that existed. I thought a person would either pass out or die before it got that bad.

On a related note, I feel like I can handle anything after going through that.

I feel that I was absolutely in the best hands with Amy and Linda. I would (and did) trust them with my life (and my baby’s).

And the one I’m sure you’re wondering: yes, I would do it again. I am so happy to have given my daughter a gentle entrance into the world. She was born into warm water, dim lights, and gentle hands. Now that it’s all over, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I also got to have control over my own experience. I got to make all the decisions, and I was given the freedom to let my body do what it wanted to do, which in my case seems to have been to get this baby out as quick as possible! It feels so good to own my birth experience, for lack of better wording. The experience was mine and Norah’s, and it was exactly how it was meant to be.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Baby Norah Is Here!!!

On Thursday, May 19th at 2:45 in the morning, Norah Claire Galloway arrived weighing 8 pounds, 4.5 ounces and measuring 2o and a half inches long. I will post all about it in a couple days. For now, enjoy a few pictures of our sweet baby girl!

Monday, May 16, 2011

40 Weeks Pregnant...No Baby Yet!

Oh, my God, I have a PLANET attached to me. Ok, Norah, you can come out now!

I know it was only a few days ago when I said that I really wasn’t that anxious to be done with pregnancy just yet, but now I’m ready.

Psychologically, even though I have expected her to come late all along, now that my due date has come and gone I find myself wondering what’s taking so long.

Physically, I’ve been feeling different in the past few days.

Braxton-Hicks are continuing to get stronger and more frequent.

Norah’s kicking and stretching is sometimes painful. At night, even when it doesn’t hurt it’s annoying.

I keep crying over nothing. I cried in the middle of Target last week because we couldn’t decide on which blinds to buy and my feet hurt.

I’m tired. I don’t feel like doing much of anything, and even when I sleep late I still sometimes take a nap in the afternoon.

My belly is itchy and feels like it can’t stretch any more.

I have random annoying aches and pains.

That pretty much covers my list of complaints. Norah is just getting too big for this!

At today’s appointment, we found out that Norah’s head is still not engaged, and there isn’t much I can do to get her to move down. It just takes time. The midwives don’t do pelvic exams unless you ask them to, so I don’t know if I’m dilated at all or not. They don’t do it because it can introduce bacteria, and it doesn’t tell you much. They’ve had a mother who was walking around at 5 centimeters for two weeks, and they’ve had women who weren’t dilated at all and then gave birth within 48 hours. I don’t want to know, because it would probably either disappoint me or give me a false sense of hope. I feel like Norah and I are slowly but surely heading in the right direction. Other than that, I’ll just have to wait and see what happens. She has to come out sometime. I just hope it isn’t at 42 weeks in a hospital after having been medically induced.

I guess one good sign is that when we arrived for the appointment, we could hear a baby crying and learned that there had just been a birth a couple of hours earlier. The midwives are always telling us that for whatever unknown reason, their clients always seem to give birth in clusters. We also ate Chinese for lunch and Travis’s fortune cookie said that we would be surprised by a long time friend. J It didn’t say when, though.

After the appointment I felt weird. Kind of nauseous and hungry. Several weeks ago when I felt that way our Bradley instructor told me it was probably a hormonal shift. I think that’s what it was this time, too, especially since I then broke down in tears for no reason. Again. Hopefully this is also a sign of impending labor.

I felt better as soon as we got home and I could get some food in my stomach and open a fun package that had arrived: the last six diapers we had ordered! Norah’s stash is now complete. And completely adorable.

Getting Ready For Norah

Our bags are packed. Norah’s bag is packed. Our cooler full of (nonperishable) food is packed.

Our house is almost clean.

ALL of the laundry is done.

I’ve gone slightly OCD labeling things and typing out instructions on how to wash the diapers, etc., so that whoever does the housework while I’m recovering will know exactly what to do.

I think that about covers it. We’re ready. Bring on the bébé.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Here is a video tour of the nursery! If you click the icon in the bottom right corner, you can watch it full screen!


Friday, May 13, 2011

39 Weeks Pregnant

The stretch marks are taking over!!!! AAAAHHHH!

As I write this “39 week blog” I actually only have three days until my due date! Sorry it’s another late one.

I am finally done with all of my lessons and recitals for the year! Both recitals went really well. I feel like I’m an awkward public speaker, but I guess I did ok. My students did a great job, too. Now I can relax a bit and focus on all of the last minute preparations for Norah! I still think she won’t be here for another week or more, so I’m planning on doing a 40 week blog. I might also do one or two bonus video blogs before then if I can figure out how to edit and upload them.

Norah’s pretty much just hanging out in there and putting on more weight at this point! I’ve been advised not to eat too many carbs and sugars, since they make babies put on unneeded weight. I’m trying, but those are some of my favorite foods!

I did notice that Norah seems to have a new trick! Or at least one I couldn’t feel until now. I’m pretty sure I have felt her practicing breathing a couple of times! I was lying on my side, and I could just feel constant up-down movements on the side where her back is. It was very cool.

This week’s appointment was pretty uneventful, as usual – I guess I should count that as a positive thing! I am measuring 37 centimeters now, and my weight was 140 lbs., which is slightly less than I weighed two weeks ago. Amy didn’t say anything about it, so I guess that’s normal. I’ve heard that after 38 weeks or so some women stop gaining. The heartbeat is still great, of course. The most interesting piece of news, which really isn’t news at all, is that Norah’s head is not yet “engaged,” meaning it probably isn’t low enough in my pelvis for labor to begin just yet.

I’ve been getting a few questions on a daily basis from people, so I thought I would address them here (even though I don’t mind when people ask).

The first is, “So, are you ready?!”

I don’t know how to answer this question. I guess…mostly?

As far as being prepared, we’re almost there. We still have some things we should do before I’m in labor, like pack our bags! It just hasn’t quite made it to the top of our list. Maybe tonight. I’m going to call the nursery “done enough.” It still needs blinds and a curtain, and I am planning to make some sort of mobile to hang over the crib. I bought most of the supplies.

The mental/emotional readiness is also still in progress for me. I think Travis is more ready than I am. Isn’t it usually the other way around? As I said in a previous blog, I think the trick is to not think too far ahead – to take things one step at a time. Am I ready to be a parent for the rest of my life? Or am I even ready to handle parenting a toddler? I’m not sure of those. But I feel ready to deal with the immediate future, which is taking care of a newborn. Everything else will fall into place when the time comes.

The next question – or comment, really – is related to the first one: “You must be just dying to get her out of there!”

No, not really. I’m excited to meet her and all, but I’m still quite content being pregnant. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’ve been lucky to have such an easy pregnancy thus far. I do have my moments, like when I can’t put my own socks on, or find anything to wear, or get up off the couch without help, or when Braxton-Hicks contractions and a full bladder wake me up in the middle of the night, sometimes three times. But I’m not constantly uncomfortable or anything, and I still like feeling and watching her move, and I like my basketball belly, even though the stretch marks aren’t pretty.

Lastly, “How will I know when you’re in labor?”

Well…you might not. Sorry. :-/

It kind of depends on how things progress, but here is our plan.

When it is apparent that labor has begun, we will inform the midwives. We will stay at home until contractions are 4 or 5 minutes apart, or until I just feel like things are urgent enough that I should go to the birth center. We will probably call our parents at this point, and they can keep our siblings informed. Depending on how quickly labor progresses once we are at the birth center, we may or may not call our parents again at some point. Everyone else will be informed after Norah is born.

We have a few reasons for only telling close family members when I’m in labor.

Travis is my labor coach. I am going to need his constant presence, support and attention once I’m in hard labor. We don’t want to feel like we have to keep updating everyone throughout the process. I need a low stress environment.

Labor could last for 24 hours or even longer. I don’t want to feel like people are waiting on me, otherwise I won’t be able to relax.

We aren’t planning on having any visitors at the birth center. We want some time to bond with our baby and let our new parenthood sink in. When we come home, which could be anywhere between two and 12 hours after the birth, we will be ready to have everyone come over and visit.

I really hope I’m not coming across as rude. I am really excited for everyone to meet baby Norah! I just know that we will probably be tired and emotional and will want to spend every minute together staring at and cuddling with our new daughter.

Last Thursday was our final baby shower! It was thrown by all the teachers at Travis’s school, and was a combined shower for us and for one of the gym teachers and his wife, whose baby is due at the beginning of June. It was so nice! We got some diapers we had registered for, some more adorable clothes, and some other very cute and useful things, plus some money and gift cards! We sure have been thoroughly showered in the past few months! We’ve hardly had to buy anything! THANK YOU SOOO MUCH EVERYONE!

Sunday was my first Mother’s Day! I wasn’t sure if it counted, but I got cards and gifts from a few people, which was really nice! Travis made me a really sweet card telling me how proud he is of me for taking such good care of Norah for the past nine months, and for all the research I’ve done on everything. J

Getting Ready for Norah

We’ve actually gotten a lot done in the past week!

We got oil changes for both of our cars, and of course they check the fluids and tires and all too, so we shouldn’t have to worry about any car problems in the near future.

We also got the car seat inspected. They said Travis did a wonderful job installing it! We have another base to put in my car, but we haven’t done it yet because we probably won’t need it right away.

Norah has a little baby book that we filled out the other night. There are family trees for both sides, questions about us, and questions about the pregnancy. We’ve almost filled out everything we can before she’s born (there are other sections on her birth story and milestones throughout the first year), but we still need to add a few pictures.

I’ve finished sewing the changing table cover and the crib skirt. As I mentioned, there are a couple more nursery projects I’d like to do. Travis is also still working on his little paintings.

Travis’s parents brought us the cradle that they used for their three children. It’s a really nice wooden one that kind of swings from side to side instead of being on rockers. We’re going to put it next to our bed and Norah will probably sleep there for a few months.

Yesterday I sterilized all of the baby bottles, pacifiers, breast pump parts, and nasal aspirators. J We probably won’t use the bottles until we go to Pennsylvania next month, but I think you only have to sterilize them once, and after that you can just wash them with dish soap. Let me know if I’m wrong about that. You are supposed to sterilize the nasal aspirators after each use, which seems like a pain.

I also finished washing all of Norah’s new clothes and diapers. I had ordered a diaper cover and several inserts from www.nickisdiapers.com, and they came in the mail yesterday so I decided to go ahead and wash them all. I wanted to wait until they were all here so I could do them all at once because you’re supposed to wash and rinse them several times before you use them, otherwise they won’t absorb very well. First I boiled the hemp inserts (twice) because I heard that’s a good way to get the natural oils out of them, then I put all the diapers through a hot prewash with vinegar, a heavy duty wash with just a little detergent, a rinse with more vinegar, and a second rinse with just water. Hopefully that did the trick!

Travis installed the diaper sprayer in the closest bathroom to Norah’s room, so we can spray off the grossness into the toilet.

And finally…SURPRISE!! Here are some photos of the nursery!