Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Our Birth Story

Blog readers will forgive me for being out of commission the last few weeks.  Adjustment to parenthood is rarely smooth and our adjustment has been no exception.  My precious few free moments I must debate whether I should a) nap, b) shower, c) clean,  d) pay bills, or e) blog.  Usually, I choose a.

Milo’s birth was as “smooth” as possible, though it still hurt like hell.  I had prepared for childbirth as much as I could, taking 2 childbirth classes, including hypnobirthing and months of practicing pre-natal yoga.  Nothing prepares you for the actual pain of childbirth, however.  I knew this intellectually, but was still surprised—shocked, even—at the intensity of the pain.

Our due date was Friday, December 4th.  On Monday, November 30th, I woke up at 2:00am to pee and when I looked in the toilet, I noticed I had passed my mucous plug.  The pregnancy books say that once you pass your mucous plug, labor could start in a few hours or a few weeks.  So I went back to bed.

At around 4:00am, I had what felt like contractions.  They were mild and not very painful, so they could still be pre-labor Braxton-Hicks contractions.  They continued to increase in intensity, though, so around 5:30am, I woke Hubby.

“I’m having contractions,” I said.

“Really?” he said.  “You sure?”

“Pretty sure,” I said.  “They’re starting to hurt.”

Hubby timed the contractions at about 9 minutes apart at that point.  We turned on our hypnobirthing CD and labored in bed.  Hubby massaged my back, which helped the pain a lot.

At 7:00am, we called our doula, Kelly, who hopped in her car and was at our door by 8:00am.  By this time, the contractions were about 5 minutes apart and pretty painful.  However Kelly, who has coached many births and had 3 children of her own, said I was still in early labor because I was fairly lucid between contractions.  Okay, then.

At 8:30am, Hubby called the midwifery practice to let them know I was in labor.  The plan had been to labor at home as long as we could, but at 9:30am the midwife on duty called back and told Hubby they wanted me to come into the hospital sooner rather than later.  I had had high blood pressure at my last prenatal checkup and they wanted to monitor me more closely.  That was okay with me at this point, as I was becoming less and less lucid between contractions.

Kelly told me to visualize the contractions like diving through a wave; instead of bracing against it, swim into the wave and let it wash over you.  This visualization helped a lot.  Contractions are much more painful if you fight them, but if you can accept the pain and relax through the contractions, they are much more bearable.  Visualization and deep breaths helped me through each contraction.

We arrived at the hospital at 10:30am. (The ride to the hospital was mostly a blur, but I remember it seeming to take a really long time!)  The contractions were coming pretty close together at this point.  The nurses were trying to prep me for admission, taking my blood pressure and getting an IV prep into me in case I would need one later on.  They were having difficulty finding a vein for the IV and had to stab me more than once.  This was not at all pleasant.

Around noon, the midwife, Dorice, checked my cervix and I was already 10 centimeters dilated!  This was good news.  I would have been very discouraged if I had been only 4 centimeters along, with my contractions coming so close together and so intense.  I kept thinking, as I breathed through each contraction, I was crazy for wanting a natural birth.  If only I could have a little something to take the edge off.  Like a little pot.  But at this point, I knew there was no turning back.  I was 10 centimeters dilated and getting ready to push my baby into the world.

At this point, Dorice suggested breaking my water, since I was fully dilated.  There were concerns that if the labor continued too long, they might have to give me high blood pressure medication, which might complicate things.  I was already feeling the urge to push, so breaking my water would help the labor along.  I agreed.  And the pushing began.

Pushing was the hardest part for me.  I pushed in several different positions: on my hands and knees, on my side, on the birthing stool, and on my back.  It felt like the baby would never come out.  But the key thing was the coaching I received from Kelly and Dorice: push into the pain.  In other words, make it hurt more. This seems so counterintuitive.  Why would one want to make the pain hurt more?  But this is exactly the point of childbirth labor.

With each contraction—which I could feel because I didn’t have any drugs—I pushed with my body to help push the baby out.  I could rest in between contractions.  It took me a while to figure things out, but once I did, things progressed.  At one point, Dorice could tell the baby was coming down.  Hubby asked how did she know, because they couldn’t see anything at this point.  Dorice said it was because my vocalizations had changed.  At another point (this is Hubby’s favorite part), Dorice said, “Now it’s going to hurt like fire.”  And it did.  It felt like the biggest bowel movement in mankind’s existence.

The plan was for Hubby to help catch the baby, so he sat at the foot of the bed with Dorice and watched the progress.  It was his reactions that helped me know I was doing well.  He could see the baby’s head crowning and would exclaim, “Wow! That’s incredible!”  Hubby is not usually prone to such exclamations, so I knew the baby was making progress.  Everyone told me I was doing well, but I was convinced they were lying.  Hubby was not going to lie to me.  This much I knew.

At 2:43pm, I heard a few burbling cries and Hubby placed a squirmy baby on my abdomen.  “It’s a baby!” he announced.

“It’s a boy!” I said.  He was tiny and perfect.

The baby, alert and blinking, looked up at me.  It was as if he knew me, knew who I was, and knew all about me.   His eyes held infinite wisdom.  Here was my son.

Milo is now 5 weeks old.

Mommy and Milo

By the way, I was 1400 words short of finishing National Novel Writing Month when I went into labor.  So I didn’t finish, but an interesting tidbit: my friend Lillian, who was doing NaNoWriMo with me, had some sixth sense that something was up and called me that day to see if I was okay.  Lillian is a mother of three.  I think she could feel my pain!

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Baby Registry

35 weeks and counting.  Several friends have inquired where we are registered for our baby.  Since most of our friends are on the West Coast, we have a few options online:

  • Target.com for baby gear.  We have inherited most of our essential baby gear, furniture, clothes, etc., thanks to enthusiastic first-time grandparents on both sides.  Whatever we haven’t inherited, we’ve registered for here.  Extra points for whoever gets us the “Tiny Democrat” onesie.
  • Amazon.com for children’s books.  In my opinion, you can never have too many books.  This list was put together with suggestions from friends who are parents, aunts, uncles, and writers.  I am looking forward to reading to our baby.
  • To help in our vision to raise our child as a world citizen, please consider a donation to Rebuild Sudan.  Last spring, Hubby traveled to Sudan with this organization and helped design a school for the region of Jalle, in Southern Sudan, where thousands of children have been displaced by 20+ years of civil war.  We think our kid can afford to share a little.  Click on the website to donate and check out Hubby’s school design: rebuildsudan.org.
Mural design courtesy of Nancy Hom

Mural design courtesy of Nancy Hom

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Birth by Choice

Irony.  Readers of my blog will know that I am far from the earthy-crunchy advocate for natural childbirth.  Before getting pregnant, my attitude was give me drugs, epidurals are God’s gift to womankind.  (See previous post: Pondering Pain.)  But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reading since then and I am surprised to find myself in my current position, moving towards natural childbirth.  

Informally asking my friends who have given birth, I was stunned to learn how many of them had had C-sections.  It was perhaps 40% of them.  This really surprised me.  In every case, the mother was told that the baby was in distress and needed assistance to be born.  Nationally in the U.S., the Cesarean rate is 31%.  That’s 1 in 3 babies born in the U.S.!  To me, that seems awfully high.  People will argue that fewer women and babies die in childbirth these days, thanks to modern medical technology; however, does that mean 1/3 of all babies born in the U.S. would have died without the C-section?  Why, then, is the C-section rate in the Netherlands only 12%?  And why, then, does the World Health Organization recommend the C-section rate for developed countries to be 10-15%?

Evidence seems to point to, alas, modern medical technology.  Drug-initiated induction of labor and epidurals lead to higher rates of C-sections than do natural childbirth.  If your body is let alone to do what it was designed to do, the vast majority of the time, it works.  Women have been giving birth for millennia.  Why mess with a good thing?

Because of a recent political brouhaha with our obstetrician practice, Hubby and I chose to check out the midwifery practice at Catholic Medical Center.  Their C-section rate hovers around 6-7%.  Their epidural rate is only 18%.  This tells me that the midwives know what they’re doing and that they’re utilizing every natural means possible before resorting to drugs.  The same is not true of high-tech obstetricians, who have been trained to cut flesh and perform surgeries.  

I must say, because of my previous suboptimal experience with the medical establishment (see previous post Preggers, finally), I am less likely to swallow the doctors’ advice hook, line, and sinker.  In the age of managed health care, I have learned that I must educate myself and be my own advocate.  Especially regarding the birth of my child.

I do feel fortunate that I have been able to find resources here in New Hampshire, which is remarkably progressive in its options for childbirth.  We have contracted with a doula and taken a childbirth class with hypnobirthing.  I am doing prenatal yoga, which I look forward to every week.  Who knows?  In the end, there may be an emergency and I may require a C-section.  For this reason, we still chose to birth in a hospital, where emergency services are available.  However, we’re going give this kid every chance there is to come into the world on his/her own terms.  Hopefully, not by scalpel.

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As a pregnant woman, I am on the U.S. government’s priority list for those to receive the new H1N1 flu vaccination, which should be available in the next few weeks.  The Center for Disease Control strongly recommends it for pregnant women, as does my OB and several doctor friends.  Pregnant women are more susceptible to infection as our immune systems are compromised in order to carry the “foreign” body that becomes our baby.  Out of 100 pregnant women hospitalized in intensive-care units for H1N1 since last spring, 28 have died.  Not a very good statistic.

Still, the H1N1 vaccination is a brand new product, FDA approved, but not terribly well tested, as it was rushed to market by those oh-so-wonderful pharmaceutical companies.  Other pregnant women I talk to are dubious, as I am, about putting a brand new vaccine into our bodies and how it will affect our babies.  I’ve been paranoid about taking any drugs during this pregnancy; I believe the strongest thing I’ve taken has been Tylenol PM.  

Hubby wants me to get the vaccine.  He’s all about statistics.  But he’s not the one carrying this baby.  One doctor friend suggests waiting a month or so to see if anything shakes out for pregnant women from the first wave of vaccinations.  That might not be a bad idea, though that puts my vaccination at about mid-November, just a few weeks away from my due date.  At that point, I’m wondering if the best course of action is just to wait until the baby is born and then get myself vaccinated?  Questions, questions.

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Politics & Pregnancy

Hubby says politics seem to follow me around wherever I go.  But I think politics is just everywhere, so we can’t avoid it.

Last weekend, we received a form letter from our obstetrician’s office that the practice was switching hospitals starting November 1st.  We were more than a little irked by this announcement.  We moved from San Francisco, where we had an OB whom we loved, and had to find a provider here in New Hampshire.  We went with this particular hospital, Catholic Medical Center, because it has an excellent reputation for labor & delivery.  We had just gotten settled into the OB practice and found a doctor with whom we felt comfortable.  And now we got this notice.  Bleah.

Turns out there were some political shenanigans going on at the OB practice that led them to switch hospitals.  We are not privvy to the gory details, but we did learn that the practice is basically splitting in half, with three of the doctors going to the new hospital and three staying with CMC and joining their midwifery practice.  Thankfully, it sounds like our doctor is staying with CMC, so we will still be able to deliver there; we will, however, need to officially switch OB practices to the midwifery group.  Not optimal for a pregnant woman 10 weeks away from her due date.

I can swing with this, annoyed as I am.  It’s yet another decision we have to make in a year of major decisions.  I would like a respite, please.

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Yesterday, I had to take my wedding rings off because my fingers had started to plump up.  I will be 30 weeks pregnant tomorrow and the increased fluid retention in my body is causing some achy joints and swelling.  It took me a while to pry the rings off my finger; if I had waited a few weeks longer, they may have cut off my circulation.  It feels strange not to have my rings on my finger.  I typically do not ever take them off, for fear of losing them. 

I’ve recently been pondering my impending motherhood and the roles of women in general.  Taking off my rings reminds me that I was single not too long ago, without my current role as a wife.  I got married at the age of 38 and am now pregnant at 41.  Some would call me a “late bloomer.”  But does that mean that I was less of a woman before I got married?  Was I less of a woman before becoming pregnant?  Will I be more of a woman when I give birth?


I realize these are all rites of passage for a woman in our society.  When I was single, I was bitter about the fact that women are not really celebrated until they get married and have children.  Who throws you a shower when you’re single?  Certainly, you can have birthday parties, but that’s different from a bridal shower or a baby shower.  It doesn’t mean you’re not loved, you’re just loved differently.  I went to so many showers in my 20’s and early 30’s and, as much as I wanted to honor my friends, it was hard not to think of when my turn would come.  And what if it never came?  Did that mean I was less worthy than my friends?

Of course not.  But I am struck by society’s expectation of women to get married and have babies, even in the 21st century, when women are often more educated and capable than their male counterparts.  And single women, especially.  Those who have put their careers before family are often powerful, gifted enough in their activism to help change the world.  Still, single women have a difficult time finding acceptance in the world.   Why is that?

The same goes for motherhood.  I was recently struck by this essay in the New York Times, written by a woman who gave up trying to have a baby after 8 years of infertility treatments.  You feel like you’re not welcome in the club of motherhood, that you won’t ever have that experience of being pregnant and giving birth—rites of passage expected to fulfill you as a woman.  But does that mean that a pregnant 16-year-old is more of a woman than I was at 38, single, but well-educated, well-traveled, and accomplished as a writer and community activist?  It seems an incongruous comparison.

Don’t get me wrong—I am thrilled to be pregnant and excited to be a mother.  It is certainly very different for me to be writing this from my perspective.  But it’s easy for me to have compassion for the single woman with no kids, who I was not too long ago.  And it feels horribly patronizing to tell that younger-me, “Don’t worry, have faith, it’ll happen for you too,” as if the ultimate goal for my life was to get married and procreate.  How that sticks in my progressive craw.

Instead, I think I would tell that younger-me: This is your life.  You have been given great gifts and opportunity.  Live it.

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The Arc of a Story

We are currently 20 weeks pregnant and people have been asking us if we know the gender of the baby.  At this stage, an ultrasound will show the baby’s gender.  At 10 weeks, we had genetic testing performed through chorionic villus sampling (CVS), a procedure that analyzes the baby’s chromosomes.  The CVS detected the baby’s gender at 10 weeks.

We decided not to learn the baby’s gender before the birth.  I should say I decided not to know and Hubby gave in to my wishes.  Hubby felt that more information would decrease his anxiety and knowing the baby’s gender was one piece of information that would help.  However, I felt I wanted the surprise of meeting the baby when he/she is born. 

Several years ago, a friend of mine, pregnant with her first child, announced to the world that she was having a baby girl and her name was going to be Isabel.  While I was happy for her, it felt as if I was told the story’s ending without reading the book.  It almost felt like cheating. 

I’m sure for my friend and her husband, Isabel’s arrival was the most joyous event of their lives and the fact that they knew her gender and name did nothing to dampen that joy.  But I like reading the whole book, getting to know the character, his or her trials and surprises, and the nine months’ of gestation that will form this young person.  To me, uncovering the baby’s gender at birth is part of that discovery.

Another couple went into their child’s birth with six names, three for each gender.  When their baby girl was born, they decided she looked like a Cordelia.  I liked how they let the baby have a say in her name.  So right now, that’s our game plan for naming the baby.  Let the baby play a part in writing his or her own story.

All this being said, Hubby really does want to know the baby’s gender, but is conceding to my wishes.  Good Hubby.

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This week, I have been battling some bouts of heartburn.  Typically, pregnancy heartburn is more common in the third trimester as the uterus pushes all the other abdominal organs out of the way, but for some reason, heartburn is hitting me now, at 20 weeks.  It’s not painful, but quite uncomfortable and renders me mostly useless in the mornings. 

Maybe it’s payback time for having a relatively easy first trimester.  Bummer.

Last night we had dinner with a friend who had gone through natural childbirth twice.  (Her children are now in their 20’s.)  She said the image she kept in her mind was that of pregnant African women who would give birth while working in the fields.  After the birth was all done, they would then pick up their baskets and keep working.  

Okay, I’m soft.  I may have lived 2 years in a developing country, hiked 250 miles through the Oregon wilderness, and lived in a cabin in the woods without electricity for a year, but I can’t handle a little heartburn.  Labor won’t be pretty.

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We had our first appointment with our new OB/GYN here in New Hampshire.  We are currently 19 weeks along.  They did an extensive fetal survey with the ultrasound.  Baby is 12 cm from head to rump and approximately 9 ounces.  The ultrasound showed the baby moving quite a bit, but I have yet to feel movement, unless I’m mistaking it for gas.  All tests show the baby is developing normally.  The doctor says I have the uterus of a 25-year-old.  

I tend to get a wee anxious between doctor’s visits, when I am reassured that the baby is doing fine.  I suppose that will change once I feel the baby moving–perhaps so much that the baby may keep me awake at night.  Hubby says I kick at night and maybe the baby will make me kick more.  Poor guy will never get any sleep.  We must buy a king-size bed.

We are almost half-way through our pregnancy and the reality of baby is starting to feel more real.  I’m very excited.  Hubby even more so.  Though I do wonder if I’ll be a good mother.  My family has a tendency towards helicopter parenting, which is not optimal.  We’re Chinese, you know.


Baby Bean at 19 weeks

Baby Bean at 19 weeks



Baby seems to have quite a prominent nose, which must be attributed to Hubby’s genes.  Hope Baby inherits my palate, though.

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Pondering Pain

I just saw a program on TLC that documented a woman in natural childbirth.  She gave birth in a birthing tub with her husband, mother, sister, and best friend encircling her.  The woman was in tremendous pain.  The husband, while kind and supportive, looked absolutely clueless, as if he didn’t have a functioning brain cell in his head.  He came across this way even in the after birth interviews: vacant eyes, deer in headlights expression.  The mother didn’t seem that bright either.

I know there are many people with many opinions about childbirth, but I am in the process of making up my own mind about natural childbirth vs. drugs.  Let it be known that I have a very low tolerance for pain.  I have several friends who went through natural childbirth and who rave about the experience. Both my mother and my mother-in-law did not have drugs during their labors.  (They popped out 5 babies between the 2 of them.)  All these women were, however, quite a bit younger than I will be at the time of delivery and probably had more limber, energetic bodies than mine.  Nevertheless, it would behoove me to exercise more during this pregnancy.  They say labor is like running a marathon, so I should be in training.  Fine.

I imagine I will be screaming bloody murder and strangling Hubby during labor.  I imagine it will not be pleasant.  I repeat, I have a very low tolerance for pain.

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