Willa’s Birth Story

WillaRose

On Friday, April 13, at 8:30 a.m. our family officially became a foursome with the birth of little Willa Rose. I haven’t had much time to devote to the blog (because newborn + two-year-old), but I did want to document her birth story while it’s fairly fresh in my mind (much like her brother’s here), mostly in case she wants to look back on it later.

But first – while we’re on the topic of birth – I wanted to take the opportunity to talk for a second about birth plans.

Can we all just agree that these add a lot of unwarranted pressure on moms? I’m not sure exactly when birth planning became a thing (aside from, “Let’s make a baby!” and “Let’s keep it alive outside of Mom’s belly”), but somehow we’ve come to a place where there’s now a big emphasis on them. So much so that there are all these new pressures, expectations and emotions surrounding the whole birthing “experience.”

Maybe it’s a fear thing; we want to have some semblance of control in a situation that cannot really be planned? Maybe it’s a societal (read: social media) thing; we want to wear some kind of warrior-woman-Earth-goddess status as a badge of honor? Or maybe it’s a gender thing; like all we needed was yet another way for women to feel like they had to measure up?

Whatever the reason, it’s time celebrate and appreciate birth in ALL its forms. Go, us, for growing and bringing a new life into the world!

I bring this up because I, too, got sucked into the hype the first time around – but found that during my second pregnancy (with more perspective or…less patience?) it became annoying more than anything.

I originally hoped to go the unmedicated, vaginal route with Wyatt…but as the saying goes, “man plans, and God laughs.”

As a breech baby, he dictated the plan in the end. And when it was Willa’s turn, my body ended up ultimately calling the shots, as you’ll see below.

So despite my best intentions, both births were out of my control. I fought against the first one and felt feelings of guilt, loss and even frustration afterward. But the second time around I ultimately found peace and rolled with the punches.

I’d even go as far as to say that this most recent experience was amazing – and cathartic. So, lesson learned, and I hope other mamas and mamas-to-be can benefit from reading this!

Now, let’s get to the good stuff – the story of Willa:

Just as with Wyatt, we decided early on not to find out the sex of the baby until delivery day. It was such a memorable experience last time that we wanted the same anticipation and excitement around the arrival of baby number two.

With the exception of added fatigue (hello, toddler), my second pregnancy was, thankfully, fairly uneventful and very similar to my first. Willa’s time in utero was remarkably low-key, marked by swift kicks to my right ribs and nightly hiccups.

Most notable was that she seemed to be following in the footsteps of her big brother by hanging out in a breech position. Up until week 33 or 34 I had resigned myself to the fact that we were headed for another scheduled c-section (I had been hoping for a VBAC but knew it wasn’t a guarantee).

Unlike her brother, however, a third trimester growth scan revealed that baby had flipped into the head-down position. This was also about the time she also started pressing on my sciatic nerve. Any exercise – or even walking, for that matter – came to a grinding halt, which was interesting because right up until that point running actually felt great!

With a few weeks left, I was thrilled to make a game plan for a VBAC attempt. I say “attempt” because they call it a “trial of labor” in the hospital consent form. Regardless, it was exciting because I was really hoping to avoid another c-section – mainly because A) I didn’t like feeling so drugged up after the first one, and B) I was worried about a more complex recovery with a toddler at home (you’re not supposed to lift anything heavier than baby for the first few weeks).

But as soon as I re-packed my hospital bags and wrapped my head around a new kind of birth, my body decided to throw us for a loop in the form of rapidly rising blood pressure – aka gestational hypertension – around week 37.

So fast forward to week 38. and my c-section-turned-VBAC “birth plan” changed once again. After testing for pre-eclampsia (negative) and spending in Labor & Delivery being monitored (her heartbeat dipped on the doppler during a routine visit, but it turned out she was fine), I was given a deadline by my OB: baby needed to come in the next week.

Now all that was left to do was make a game plan for getting her out safely.

Option one was to induce, but since I had a previous c-section we were limited in the range of drugs we could use (basically just Pitocin to stimulate contractions). But since I wasn’t dilated yet and we couldn’t use any medicine to soften my cervix, my OB calculated pretty low odds of success. Option two was to schedule a repeat c-section.

When I pressed (pleaded!) for a third option – buying more time for baby to come on his/her own – my OB cautioned strongly against it.

After plenty of tears (hello, hormones!) and time spent processing the situation, I decided that the best decision for me and baby would be to opt for a repeat c-section.

It wasn’t an easy decision by any means, and I won’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed after getting my hopes up for a VBAC…but in the end, it just made sense to prioritize both my and my baby’s immediate health over being able to say I attempted a vaginal delivery.

Once that was settled, I felt as if a huge weight was lifted. We could start planning for the big day (Friday the 13th was wide open in the surgery schedule – go figure!). So once again I re-packed that hospital bag and hoped for the best.

Surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am, so Ben and I arrived at the hospital by 5:30 am to get prepped. Driving in the car that morning, we were still going through baby names; the girl name we were pretty much settled on, but we were still going back and forth between several for boys.

Walking into Labor & Delivery, the nurses greeted us with a warm, “Hey, you’re here to have a baby!” which felt as surreal as the first time we were there…since I wasn’t actually in labor. But once I was in our hospital room with my gown on, things got real – really quickly.

My IV was probably the most painful part of this whole process! It took my poor nurse four or five attempts, apparently because the high blood pressure was making my veins “squiggly.” Each time she inserted the needle and catheter, I felt a strong nerve-y ache (and the resulting bruises took as long to heal as my incision).

Once that was done, the anesthesiologist stopped in to talk about the epidural (side note: I had a spinal the first time, but apparently there’s a shortage of that medicine and/or they’re switching to epidurals for c-sections anyway…at least at my hospital). I was nervous because this was all new to me, but he walked through the process and answered my questions patiently.

Getting the actual epidural was interesting – I don’t know how you ladies do it while in labor! They raised the bed up high and had Ben sit in front of me and hold my arms as I hunched over a pillow and held still. Neither the numbing needle nor the catheter were painful, but I felt a weird twinge in one hip at a point – nothing unbearable, though.

It was neat being able to compare my previous spinal to the epidural, too. The spinal was one quick shot and took effect almost immediately (feels like your legs are warm and falling asleep), while the epidural was a much longer process – both in how long it took to set up and take effect. They did a test to see if it was working before wheeling me into the operating room – and then it was go time!

I’m not sure if it was a difference in drugs or just knowing what to expect (I was nervous both times; it IS major surgery, after all), but I felt much more coherent in the OR this time around.

The anesthesiologist cranked up my epidural, the nurses did their final prep and my doctor got to work almost immediately behind the drape. Ben got to come into the room a few minutes later and sit by my head.

With Wyatt, I remember more tugging and my body being rocked back and forth, but absolutely no pain; with Willa there was a lot less movement, but greater pressure as they pushed her out – maybe because the babies were in different positions?

There was also a point where I could start feeling sensations of some of the tools in my abdomen. I had a moment of panic, alerting the anesthesiologist, and he adjusted my medication quickly.

We also opted again for the clear drape during surgery. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re having a c-section! Don’t worry – you won’t see any actual surgery, but they’ll drop it when the baby comes out so you’ll get to see him or her immediately through a clear plastic window, which is wonderful.

In a matter of minutes, Willa was on her way out; my doctor held her up to the drape for Ben to call out the sex. A short pause later he said, “It’s a little…girl? IT’S A GIRL!”

After wiping her down, checking her vitals and swaddling her, we got to get in a few minutes of cuddle time as I was being put back together and sewn up. Those first few moments with a new baby never cease to leave me in awe of the miracle of life.

Once my doctor was done, we rolled over to recovery for about an hour and a half for monitoring. The best part of this was uninterrupted skin-to-skin; those fresh-out-of-the-womb snuggles are second to none – the drugs didn’t knock me on my butt this time, thank goodness, but I was definitely riding a ‘mom high!’

Once we were back in our room, Ben and I spent the next few days getting to know Willa, re-learning how to care for a newborn (thank you, L&D nurses!) and introducing her to family (big brother, most importantly!).

Recovery from surgery went so smoothly that they gave us the option of being discharged a day early, although we opted to stay in for an extra night to make sure I was back on my feet (plus Willa was fighting through some jaundice). But before we knew it, we were packing up to head home to begin our life as a family of four.

Since then, it’s been an adventure, but Mama is slowly but surely learning the ropes handling two while Dad’s at work!

It’s easier with your second in that you know generally what to expect – and that babies are more resilient than we give them credit for. But it’s also tougher in that there are few breaks between toggling back and forth between a newborn and toddler – basically two “babies.”

The only way I can describe the first month home with two kids two-and-under is pure chaos. But we survived, thanks to family for pinch-hitting with babysitting and friends who brought meals, and each week it gets a little bit less intimidating being at home and outnumbered.

Fortunately, Willa’s a very mellow baby, too – we have been blessed with a good eater and sleeper this time around – so she’s very forgiving when Wyatt needs some special attention from Mama.

And while it’s tough to carve out much time for myself, I’ve been focused less on how quickly I can return to working out and more on how to do so safely. Which means that nearly three months out I have yet to do much beyond walking, but I’ve been doing plenty of rehab work with my PT, as well as other post-natal health and fitness experts.

If you’re a new mom (or any mom, for that matter), I can’t stress enough the importance of re-building a strong foundation before you jump back into training. More on that soon because this topic deserves its own post, but if you have any questions in the meantime please feel free to reach out and I can answer based on my personal experience or direct you to someone who can help!

Because there’s one truth that’s constant regardless of how many kids you do (or don’t) have: if you don’t take good care of yourself, how are you going to help care for anyone else?!

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Race Report: Vernonia Half Marathon

VernoniaHalf4.9.17.jpg

After a year and a half hiatus from racing, it feels SO good to be back in the saddle!

When my plans to race 26.2 last fall got put on hold (because sleep > running), I set my sights on what felt like a more manageable challenge: the half marathon (my 15th!).

My PR was 1:47 and change from a few years ago, so when I signed on with a coach to help me with my postpartum comeback and restrain keep me from over-training, I told him I was eyeing not only a PR, but also an even bolder post-baby goal of 1:45.

We started working together in early January with a mission to get me safely to the start line of the Vernonia Half Marathon on April 9. Training went smoothly; after figuring out my paces, we exchanged emails each week as I eagerly tackled my nap-time workouts on the treadmill.

It felt good to be on a schedule. It felt great to be running regularly. And it felt awesome to finally start pushing myself again.

Although I was nailing workouts, my coach was frank about setting expectations when it came to race day: Based on my tempo runs, overall paces and our conservative build-up of mileage (I started at square one, so my long runs maxed out at 10 miles by the time we got to race day), he warned me that a PR may not be in the cards this training cycle.

By that point, however, I was just happy to be toeing the start line well-trained and healthy, so I figured it’d be a good opportunity to set a baseline from which I could work for my next race. It also meant that I’d leave my watch at home and just run by feel.

Fast forward to race day, and I was battling a serious case of self-doubt. Would treadmill mileage translate to the roads? How would I handle the last few miles (which I’d likely be running on fumes)? Could I even get in the head-space to go hard? Hell, I wasn’t even sure if my race kit from 2016 would fit.

We arrived about an hour and a half before the 9 a.m. start because the course was point-to-point and there was a 20-minute bus ride to the start. Luckily, it’s a super low-key event (~150 marathoners & fewer than 400 half marathoners), so everything went smoothly and we soon found ourselves inside Stub Stewart State Park at Hilltop with a little more than an hour until the gun went off.

To say it was cold for Oregon in April would be putting it mildly; there were more than a few “penguin” jokes circulating as several hundred of us huddled in a shelter, hopping from foot to foot, in an attempt to share body warmth.

Several cups of water and trips to the HoneyBuckets later, Ben, Matt and I lined up at the start barely able to feel our feet. The race started without much pomp and circumstance; no National Anthem or so much as a countdown or warning before we were off.

The course took us uphill for the first mile or so before joining the Banks-Vernonia State Trail at mile two, so my plan was to A) warm up for the first mile, B) go out conservatively so I didn’t expend too much energy, and C) try to run separately from Ben and Matt because they were anticipating slightly slower and faster finish times, respectively.

When we hit the first mile marker and I was still next to Matt, I figured he was having an “off” day because I just assumed my first mile would be around a 9:00 pace due to the hill. But when he said we were at 8:20, I decided to double-down and go for it.

The next six miles or so took us along a paved trail, through scenic woods on an abandoned railroad bed. And since we had a gradual downhill until mile seven, everyone was taking full advantage of it.

Things were going well until somewhere after mile eight when we hit an open section of the course and the wind picked up; even though the final stretch was flat, the previous downhill had taken a toll on my quads. That, combined with a lack of mile markers at this point made for a total mental battle as I fought fatigue and wondered where I was on the course.

Not wanting to tempt the GI gods, I had also avoided any kind of fuel for the first hour or so. But after mile seven I paused at each water station to take a few sips of Gatorade. Somewhere around mile nine, I felt the first gut flutter and around what I think was mile 12, I pulled over to take a quick nip of Gu to help get me to the finish.

For those final few miles my brain was squarely at the intersection of “I-just-wanna-walk,” “the-faster-I-run-the-faster-I-am-done” and “uh-oh-my-gut.” But words of encouragement from my coach and fellow mama runner friends kept me pushing along.

When we turned off the trail and into town I knew we had to be close to the finish. In a matter of minutes, we turned in to the Banks High School parking lot and made our way to the track where we had one lap to complete the race.

Per usual, that last lap felt like the longest portion of the race. I didn’t allow myself to look at the finish line until we rounded the first curve, then silently cursed because it was, indeed, a full lap.

As I rounded the last curve, I saw the clock read 1:46:XX. With one final kick, I crossed the finish line, found Matt, then headed straight to the bathroom; thank goodness for ample facilities at this race!

Matt had finished in 1:42, an impressive PR. Ben ran a 1:49, which was fantastic for the amount of training he didn’t do did for this race. And my official time was 1:46:06, which was good enough for a new PR, a 4th place finish in my age group and a top 20 finish among women.

Immediately my mind went to what I did well (in order to replicate it) and what I can improve upon (i.e. remove a negative variable) next training cycle: Having a coach was beneficial in so many ways, as was the consistency of my training and speed-work. But I definitely need to focus on improving my nutrition going forward — not only fueling during the race, but also the days/weeks leading up to it.

And although I’m still in shock about the outcome, the wheels have started turning about what’s next. My coach assured me that 1:45 is doable with more mileage under my belt, which is tempting. But I’m also mulling over going shorter and faster; I’d love to finally beat my 5K PR from my high school track days.

But just as life evolves, so does a runner’s relationship with the sport. And as good as it feels to nail a new PR and chase after the next one, I’m also realizing that there’s much more to it now than just the numbers.

I run because it makes me feel alive. Running makes me feel like I’m unstoppable. It makes me feel as though I’m capable of anything.

But now I also run because I’ve got an example to set for Wyatt. I want him to see his mom setting goals and working hard to achieve them. I want him to learn that it takes dedication to reach our goals and that we can do hard things.

And my ultimate goal is that he’ll be inspired to chase after his own dreams, running or otherwise.

Body After Baby: Tried-and-true tips for new moms

Photo courtesy of BeyondFitPhysiques.com

Photo courtesy of BeyondFitPhysiques.com

After catching up with ultra-mama Sarah Evans a few weeks ago, I thought it’d be fun today to revisit some of the great advice from a few of my other “mom friends” about reclaiming their pre-baby bodies.

We’re not talking about fitting into some kind of Barbie doll-sized skinny jeans, though; we’re talking about getting your groove back — feeling good inside and out, finding a new routine and establishing healthy habits for the whole family.

That’s why I love the sentiment in the photo above, and it’s also why I find people like Sarah and the other moms I interviewed so inspiring.

I still don’t know how they find the time — or the energy — but I admire their creativity and determination for maintaining a fitness routine despite a new (and pretty darn demanding) member in the household.

And speaking of “homes,” Hubby and I are making our way north to our new one this week… More on that in this week’s marathon training recap!

Moms, how did you get back into your fitness groove post-baby?

5 tips for building a healthier Easter basket

Easter eggs // Ostereier

Easter eggs // Ostereier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Halloween still reigns supreme in candy consumption, Easter ranks as the second most sugar-laden occasion of the year for Americans.

According to the National Retail Foundation, nine in 10 (90.5%) of us will stock up on candy for the holiday, spending an average of $20.66 on jelly beans, chocolate and more.

The folks at DegreeSearch even created this interesting infographic, which doesn’t sugarcoat our less-than-healthy habits during this pastel-themed holiday.

Check out these startling stats:

  • Americans buy more than 120 million pounds of candy for Easter (enough to max out 4,615 dump trucks!)
  • 16 BILLION jelly beans are made for Easter every year
  • More than four million peeps marshmallow chicks and bunnies are made per day for Easter
  • Chocolate bunnies are one of the most popular chocolates made, with 90 million made just for Easter every year
  • 76 percent of Americans believe chocolate bunnies should be eaten ears first

If you’re indulging but still trying to keep weight management in mind, consider making a few small changes to keep your family from going into sugar shock this year:

  1. Forgo some sweets in favor of other treats, such as toys, books or small tech accessories
  2. Refrain from buying in bulk; it’ll save you from breaking into your favorites and skimming off the top
  3. Feed kids breakfast before breaking out baskets or hitting the local Easter egg hunt (that goes for parents, too)
  4. Partition booty from the Bunny into three piles immediately: Enjoy now, freeze for later, give away
  5. Finally, forget deprivation; DO partake in moderation, whether it’s a big-eared bunny, puffy peeps or those seriously addictive Cadbury Mini Eggs (my personal favorite!)