Levi’s birth story

birth story

Hey! This is a birth story. Consider yourself warned, though as far as birth stories go, this one is entry-level: no trauma, and light on words like lochia and placenta.   

I was due June 15, but all my pregnant friends were having babies at 37 weeks, so starting in mid-May I started prepping for impending baby-bearing.

I had my maternity transition plan for Fit Approach locked and loaded by 37 weeks, which of course meant I spent the next month that I was still pregnant continually updating that damned document instead of doing, you know, productive things.

40 weeks came, and 40 weeks went.

By his due date, I’d been having contractions every night for about a week. Five or six mild, but real, contractions would come for a visit right around 10pm every night, then ghost within the hour. This routine was just enough to work me up into a state of anxiety: maybe this is happening, now? And then, by 11pm, I’d realize I’d been had again, at the cost of an hour or more of much needed sleep.

My head played so many tricks on me that week. Was this a contraction? Had it started? Had it ended? I had to keep reminding myself that if there was any lesson I’d learned about birth, it was that contractions are not mysterious or shy. They let you know when they’re real. If there’s any doubt, well, that’s not a contraction.

I went into Labor and Delivery for monitoring at 40 weeks, 6 days, and everything was fine, though the midwife on duty had itchy induction fingers. She gave me some serious side eye for working with a home birth midwife but planning on a hospital birth, and she kept reminding me of the risks of going past 40 weeks, repeated a few times that they routinely offer inductions at 41 weeks, and suggested that we make an appointment for me to come back tomorrow and get induced. She kept looking at the clock (it was 8pm) and I swear she was trying to cook up a strategy for inadvertently holding me for the four hours until I turned into an elective induction candidate.

There was nothing I wanted more than for my body to go into labor naturally. I had induced labor before and what I most hoped for with this birth was to experience labor starting on its own.

Well, that’s a lie: what I actually wanted most was for baby to stay with me, and not require any NICU time. But a naturally-started labor was second on my wish list.

With those goals in mind, and since baby looked healthy and strong, I dodged that pitocin-happy provider, consented to a deadline of 41 weeks and 4 days, and went home to be teased again by dead-end contractions.

On Saturday night (41 weeks, 1 day), yet again, I had a brief run of contractions. I brushed it off and decided to go to sleep, knowing that if they continued or escalated, they’d absolutely wake me up.

And wake me up they did, at 3:30am. Right on schedule, really; the 3am hour had been baby boy’s most active throughout third trimester. I laid in bed a while, waiting to see if these, too, would fizzle.

Though the contractions were mild and completely manageable, I could feel the early rumblings of back labor. My midwife had recommended that at the first hint of back labor, I should get onto my hands and knees and stay there for an hour with no position changes—a recent study had shown it would correct baby’s position and reduce back labor—so I got into position and turned on Girls Trip to keep myself distracted. I only half paid attention, but the peeing scene seemed strangely prescient.

I waited until 5am to call Monika (my midwife) and at that point the contractions were 10 minutes apart and still manageable, but increasing in intensity.

(Side note: I worked with a home birth midwife for pre- and post-natal care, with the plan to deliver in the hospital. It was an unconventional choice, as several people let me know during my hospital stay, but it was the dream arrangement for me. If you haven’t looked into midwife care, I highly recommend it, and if you’re in Austin, look no further than Monika Stone.)

She told me to keep going, and that I should call back when I felt them shift. I figured I had some time, so I kept watching the movie, sipping on water, and even managed to eat a bowl of Cheerios. I woke up my parents, letting them know things were happening.

By 6:30, the contractions were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting 60 seconds. I called Monika again and she said to go into the hospital. I was skeptical; even though I was contracting at a fairly rapid clip, they were nowhere near as strong as what I’d experienced early on in my first birth. I imagined I’d go in, get checked, and get sent home at a paltry 1 or 2 centimeters. But I trusted Monika, and the last thing I wanted to was to miss my window for the epidural, so my mom, Nathan and I hopped in the car, leaving my dad to take care of the menagerie at home: a toddler and three dogs. (Thanks Dad!).

Nathan dropped me off at the door to the hospital. My big plan this time was to walk through the revolving door—the same one I’d crawled through last time—but some friendly soul was holding open the regular door, so I settled for casting a triumphant eye back at the inconvenient place where I’d moaned through a particularly tough contraction two and a half years before.

Check in was a breeze. Monika had called to warn them of my arrival and I was shown immediately into a labor and delivery room (I guess the beauty of an early Sunday morning is that you get to skip the triage rooms?). The nurse took my vitals and then did the dreaded exam.

When she announced, you’re at a 5 or 6, and 100% effaced, I cried tears of joy. It was the best news I’ve ever gotten after having a stranger’s fist inside my body.

The contractions at this point were not even in the same category as those I experienced well before reaching even 3 centimeters with my first birth. They were still so manageable. And here I’d arrived at the perfect time to get an epidural. I wouldn’t have to visit that edge I’d met before. Best news ever.

As we waited for anaesthesia, the contractions really picked up in strength. I had to breathe through them, and took some perverse pleasure in squeezing the life force out of Nathan’s hand, but again: a shadow of what I remember from last time.

The anaesthesiologist was efficient: I felt nothing as he placed the epidural, and shortly thereafter, the contractions faded into memory. Sweet bliss.

The next couple hours were lovely. I snoozed, I spaced, and knowing what was likely at the other end of this reprieve, I really luxuriated in this chance to rest. It would probably be my best sleep for months, or maybe even years. I was so present with that nap and that rest time, even despite all the wires hanging off my body and an eager audience staring at me, anxious for a new human to emerge from my lady parts.

I’ll never sleep this well again.

After a while the midwife on staff checked me again, and suggested breaking my water to help things move along.

I could feel the gush of liquid but nothing more, and a few moments later, it was time to push. I could feel pressure that hinged on pain, and wow, I had forgotten how intense it is having so many people shouting encouragement in your face when all sensation in your lower half has gone dark.

Mid-push, the midwife asked, “Did your first baby have a lot of hair?”

“Yes,” I said, grateful to think about anything other than pushing.

“Well this one doesn’t,” she responded, and in that red-faced, bearing-down moment, it was the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

That roaring head and a triumphant hand finally appeared.

For a moment I was a two headed human and I felt a moment of peace: the head is out, people, isn’t my work here done?

But more pushing there was to do. And a few minutes of interminable straining later, he slipped out, to general surprise and a round of betting all related to his robust size.

The medical team’s estimates clustered around 9lbs; the scale reported back a proud 9lbs 12oz.

No wonder I was so tired those last few weeks.

The midwife stitched me up—just a couple of first degree tears to address, no big deal—and I held that baby close. Just like his sister, he blessed me with a meconium deposit on my chest.

As they wheeled me to a recovery room, I whispered a heartfelt thank you and farewell to the epidural. I’m almost a little sad that was likely my last epidural ever.

 My gratitude for the epidural is overshadowed, though, by my gratitude for how straightforward this entire birth was. It felt like a redemption achieved in just nine hours.

The first time around, my expectations were so contorted by a cultural insistence that birthing is natural, and that your body knows what to do, that I felt like a failure for needing intervention after intervention. Wasn’t birthing supposed to be handled by some kind of blood memory passed down from my mom (3 unmedicated births) and my grandmothers (5 births apiece) and on and on, a ceaseless ancestral drumbeat of bodies that delivered?

I know that feeling of inadequacy is nonsense. That birth is a dangerous and unpredictable and above all loaded with infinite potential and unrepeatable iterations.

That leaves me with nothing but gratitude. For all my kvetching about still being pregnant as my time wound down, I’m grateful some internal mechanism triggered my labor, not a ticking clock of escalating risk. I’m grateful for how textbook this birth was, with zero detours or dalliances.

I’m grateful that labor progressed as though my body knew just what it was doing. The blood memory, I guess, had to come from my own experiences. What a tremendous gift my daughter gave me and her new brother: she paved the way for this birth—my last birth—to be an easy, healing one.

Speaking of Mac, here’s her birth story.

Finding the right kind of accountability partner

Let’s talk about accountability. Specifically, about accountability partners. I’ve accepted the hard fact about myself that I NEED accountability to get anything done. I’m not one of those people who will work hard for the journey.

Oh, no.

I need deadlines, buddies, groups, classes, requirements, deliverables, and peer reviews to get into GSD mode. Even better if there’s a shiny reward at the end: grades, gold stars, and other meaningless markers of success are literally the wind beneath my wings.

I’ve learned that the best way for me to get to that shiny reward is to enlist some accountability partners to join me on the ride, and more importantly, to enlist the right kind of accountability partner for a given goal.

I divide accountability partners into two groups: there are motivating accountability partners, and there are irritating accountability partners.*

The health app telling me to stand up when I’ve been baby stuck for hours: irritating.

A coach on Gixo encouraging me to run faster to meet a goal: motivating.

My husband reminding me to drink more water: irritating.

Joining the Sweat Pink community and Gerolsteiner for a hydration challenge: motivating.

So as I work on getting myself back into healthy routines post-baby, I’m rounding up my accountability partners to help me get there. It’s NECESSARY, y’all, to resist the siren call of red vines and another nap.

Here’s who I’m leaning on, and for what goals:

Goal 1: drink more water

Accountability partner: Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water and the Sweat Pink Community.

As I embark on the Gerolsteiner Sparkling Detox for the third year in a row, the support from my community is crucial. Giving up coffee is pretty much the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know I could do it again thanks to going through that challenge with a supportive, engaged community around me.

If you’re new to The Sparkling Detox, here’s how it works: for one week, you replace all beverages with Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water. It’s a fun way to really focus in on your hydration, plus you get all the extra benefits of the mineral content in Gerolsteiner (reader take note: not all sparkling waters are created equal!). A liter of Gerolsteiner contains 2,500 mg of essential minerals in total, which support the healthy function of your digestive and immune systems. To be honest, while I’m generally aware of how much protein, or how many servings of vegetables I’ve had in a given day, mineral intake just isn’t something I think about that often. It’s nice to know that Gerolsteiner has me covered with highly bioavailable minerals (since they’re in water, they’re more easily absorbed. Boom.)

There’s still time to register for Gerolsteiner’s Sparkling Detox (August 27-31) and you’ll be automatically entered to win a case of Gerolsteiner!

Hitting my stride with hydration is going to be key to tackling my next two goals, too. I see proper hydration as a catalyst for making my other fitness goals happen: being on top of my water intake is basically non-negotiable in the Austin heat, especially because I’m currently breastfeeding.

 

Goal 2: become a stronger runner

Accountability partner: my neighbor Kristina, Strava and the Sweat Pink community

Up until a few months ago, I had a regular weekly run date with my neighbor, and I can’t wait to jump back into our early morning runs. I so enjoy meeting her in the dark early hours of Monday morning and knocking out a short run to start the week. We each track our runs on different apps, and I loved watching our average time go down on the same route we did every week. Which leads me to…

Confession time. I’ve been a secret Strava user for years. I never made my runs public or even accepted follow requests because I was embarrassed by everything about my profile: my inconsistency, my low mileage, and my turtle speed.

Now I’m embarrassed to admit all those reasons out loud. It’s the opposite of what I believe in, and what our community stands for. So I’m officially coming out on Strava with a public profile and will be sharing my runs there. Because there is no shame in starting over, or in being right where you are.

Here’s my profile. Let’s connect!

 

Goal 3: easily fit fitness in wherever, whenever

Accountability partner: Gixo & Gixo Teammates

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Gixo app is the best thing that happened to new moms for getting back in shape. I took classes up until I was about 34 weeks pregnant (actually, I did join one at 38 weeks, but quickly realized that my jump squats ship had sailed, so I don’t really count that one), and I credit Gixo for helping me feel awesome through most of pregnancy.

I’m counting on it to help me feel awesome now that I’m cleared for exercise, and to help me gain my strength back after a few months of really low activity.

So there you have it, friends. My plan for roping in my accountability partners and reclaiming my fitness. It’s everything I need to jump start a return to regular fitness and to really feel confident and healthy

*There is also a third kind of accountability partner: the fun, no-accountability partner. Long ago, my friend Jackie and I were workout buddies who regularly talked ourselves into brunching and shopping instead of going to the gym. She’s now an Ironman triathlete, and I can only imagine how much sooner she would have crossed that finish line without my “help”.

Honey I fired the sleep trainer

Sleep has been our constant struggle, as I’ve shared over and over again. There are so many times I’ve reached the end of my rope with sleep deprivation, so many mornings when I was sure I could not keep going like this.

Each time, I’ve bounced back, always through the help of my husband or my mom or my village, all of whom are so gracious in taking a night or two and forgiving whatever nasty things I say when I’m at my sleepy craziest.

The last time I hit my edge, I finally called a number that I’d saved several breaking points ago: the number for a sleep coach that several of my mom friends had recommended to me, promising that she was a baby whisperer, and that there was virtually no crying involved in her bag of tricks.

It’s at those desperate moments that the yearning for a magic bullet overpowers your judgment and your critical thinking. There’s no choice but to just dial the number, and groggily ask the questions you’ve been formulating in the small dark hours of the night, night after night.

What is your method.

How much crying do you allow.

What are your success rates.

In which category of the baby product industrial complex should we purchase two of everything to adequately prepare for this process?

Can you come today.

This time, the answers to those questions didn’t turn me off, as they had with previous phone calls I’d made. Most notably: 2 minutes crying max. And, specifically, only the fussing kind of crying, not the hysterical, soul-shredding crying that I am biologically incompatible with.

Two weeks and too much cautious optimism later, my would-be savior showed up, and she took charge of the night shift.

Nathan installed himself in front of his phone so he could monitor the proceedings, with every intention of staying up all night.

I hid in my room and pretended like nothing was happening, except that I anxiously scrolled Facebook and drank a beer and couldn’t fall asleep.

Nathan came in a couple hours into it, and said, I know you don’t want to see this, but I think you should see this. This has been going on for over an hour.

And there, on the video monitor, was my toddler, hysterically screaming bloody murder while frantically trying to open the door to her room.

The coach came in, laid Mac back down in her bed, then left, and immediately, Mac was scrambling out of bed, face and body contorted with rage, twisting and tripping over her sleep sack as she charged the door again.

I marched upstairs and ended it.

Over the next hour, her breathing finally slowed back to its normal rhythm, and she spent the full night sleeping on my chest, like she was brand new to this world. My sweaty barnacle didn’t even want to nurse. She just wanted full body contact.

I realize I am on perhaps the extreme end of the sensitive spectrum when it comes to my baby crying. Maybe with the second one I’ll have developed better coping mechanisms. But I would so much rather drink a lot of coffee and pull in backup support (husbands & grandmas FTW!) than have my child experience that kind of emotional intensity in the service of my convenience.

Sleep training for us lasted less than three hours, all said and done. If anything, our brief flirtation with it set us back, sleep-wise. And I’ve said it before, but I really mean it this time: I’m done with treating this like a problem to be solved.

There’s no magic bullet. And that’s something I just need to keep remembering, every time I think I’ve hit rock bottom.

PSA: Hopefully this is redundant, but it bears repeating since sleep is such a polarizing topic: I have ZERO judgment for—and have zero place to judge—however you are parenting, sleep related or otherwise. This is where I’m at. End of story. 

 

 

Skip the hassle, eat more sushi

I try to lead a pretty healthy lifestyle: to eat well, exercise, all the good stuff. But one area where I typically fall short is in seeing the doctor. I try to avoid it as much as possible, entirely because of all the hoops you have to jump through in order to spend 5 minutes with her: parking, waiting rooms, sitting on hold to make the appointment in the first place … I mean, what a drag.

So you can bet my on-demand, delivery-loving self was 100% on board with trying out Everlywell, which basically eliminates all the rigamarole associated with getting labs done. No scheduling a doctor’s appointment to get a lab order. No finding a lab close to you. No traveling however far and finding and paying for parking and waiting in some drab waiting room for 30 seconds of action. No waiting to hear from your doctor about your results. No traffic or parking or waiting rooms or online scheduling or clipboards full of cramped forms to fill out. YESSS.

I tried out the DHA test for breastfeeding mothers, because Mac’s brain development is (shocker) really important to me. So is eating sushi, so I could only see getting good news from this test: I was either giving Mac enough DHA for optimal brain development, or I needed to eat more sushi. (Or both, I mean, why not?)

The test shows up so perfectly packaged, with super simple, clear instructions. I took this test in my pajamas, without having to load the whole kit & caboodle & toddler into the car.

The breastmilk test requires just a few drops of milk. I had packed away my pump over two months ago, and I wasn’t about to bring it back out—I’m retired—but luckily a simple manual expression did the trick. I waited till Mac got the pipes flowing, then expressed a few drops into the smallest glass I had, which happened to be a wineglass. #partytime

What I didn’t anticipate was just how upset Mac would get by those few drops getting rerouted from her belly. She let me know just how unhappy about it she was. But after I’d used the pipette to drop my milk onto the little sample card, I gave it to her to play with and there was once again peace in the kingdom.

She also got to play with the cute little bandaid container included. Since my test required no blood, those went straight into the diaper bag for future emergencies. (Thanks, Everlywell!).

From there, you just pack up in the included envelope, slap on the included shipping label, and drop it in the mailbox. It literally couldn’t be easier.

Five days later, my results were in my inbox. I loved getting to see easy-to-understand charts instead of a cursory phone call from the doctor’s office with a bare bones “everything was normal” summary of results.

Unfortunately, everything was not normal… my DHA levels are below recommended.  🙁

I guess that means more sushi… or, since I’m currently in Hawaii, more poke.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Besides guzzling more fish, I’m taking my results to my next doctor’s appointment so I can make an action plan and make sure I am fueling Mac’s brain every way I can.

Want to be the boss of your health, from home, in pajamas? Cool. You can try this DHA test for 15% off with the code ALYSE15.

Or, if you’re not breastfeeding, Everlywell has a whole other suite of at-home tests, including food sensitivity, metabolism, sleep, fertility, and so much more. You can save 10%  on any (or all!) of those with the code FitApp10.

At-home testing is the way to go, for real. Who doesn’t love delivery??

This post was sponsored by Everlywell via the Sweat Pink community. All opinions are my own, and I so appreciate your support of the brands who support me and Sweat Pink?

My 16 month old’s guide to a delightful in-flight experience

Or, the mile-high menace

Or, mastering a gentle inner-thigh caress

Or, the complete guide to tasting strangers’ shoes… and getting away with it

Listen, toddlers, mastering the art of a fun flight is a careful balancing act. You must find that level of fun that teeters just on the edge of tipping your mom’s (and the flight crew’s) tolerance into the no-fly zone. You must ensure that your escapades are, for all their daringness, still a better option than listening to you scream.

Needless to say, the meltdown option in always available to you.

This guide is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will help inspire you for your next flight. These strategies are designed for long-haul flights; we recommend being a perfect, quiet angel on shorter legs. It’s the most certain way to lull your parents into thinking they can handle a cross-country or even trans-continental jaunt.

Ready? Dive right in …

Pre-flight considerations.

Be ever alert. Threats to your plan abound: unless she still cowers under the watchful eye of screen-time-shamers, your mom will try to bribe you with Daniel Tiger. DO NOT FALL VICTIM. Resist the screen, no matter how intriguing the plot line about how to communicate your food allergies at school. If you play this right, you’ll get that screen time later, at your destination, when her energy and fear of judgment have been obliterated.

She might also have a new toy or snack as a “surprise” for you. Please, mom, that “surprise” is so overdone. Also, spoiler alert, there are way more fun toys to be discovered on a plane.

Moving sidewalks: just one of many exhilarating warmup activities.

Boarding the plane.

When your mom finds your seat, the time is ripe: spill that coffee she purchased knowing the chances of that sweet, sweet caffeine making it into her bloodstream were nearly zero, but which she precariously juggled through the airport and onto the plane along with the diaper bag and the roller bag and your wiggly body and her secret stash of toys and snacks. Make sure to splash that coffee all over neighboring seats, her clothes, and everything she’s carrying, including yourself. She’ll get distracted using up the rest of her baby wipes mopping up coffee and her caffeine-withdrawal tears, and you’ll have time to unload the seat back pockets and distribute the literature, perfectly beaded with stray drops of coffee, to surrounding rows. You’ll probably also have time to finger paint the window with the spilled coffee she hasn’t mopped up yet.

Establish dominance

As the plane is taking off, make as much noise as possible and move as much as possible. You’re setting a precedent here: if you sit quietly now, she’ll have less incentive to tolerate your next move. Unless, of course, you want to nurse, in which case you should make sure to bob back and forth between sides every few seconds so that she is as exposed as possible. Just think, she will be so absorbed in trying to alternately cover each breast, she’ll have reduced capacity to restrain you.

This is an ideal time to let your neighbor know who’s boss: give them a few well-timed kicks and jabs so your mom feels guilty and the neighbor gives her a stink eye.

Get the lay of the land

Focus! Now is not the time to be admiring the view.

Once you’re off the ground, or done nursing, squirm away from your mom and, even if you have literally never crawled in your life because crawling is for babies, army crawl up the aisle, occasionally stopping to turn back and smirk at her. Your coffee-soaked t-shirt will handily collect stray crumbs and hair and other detritus along the aisle. When she tries to pick you up, immediately execute FULL LIMP BODY and scream at the top of your lungs.

Trust me, she’ll let you keep army crawling.

Being on your belly gives you the best access to a few key in-flight amenities: wayward peanuts and other people’s purses. It’s best to casually remove an item or two from each purse you pass, just to deflect your mom from trying to pick you up again. She’ll be so busy handing people their lost pens and phones and slobbery wallets that you’ll be able to make significant progress down the aisle. If you get distracted, remember, follow the trail of peanuts. Especially the honey roasted ones. The “lightly salted” ones are so not worth the effort.

When you get bored with ground-level pursuits, stand up and start walking down the aisle. This step is all about speed and noise. Happy shrieks are less likely to cause interventions but still garner maximum attention from the entire plane.

Make new friends

If the mom hot on your tail looks away for even the tiniest second, to apologize to a stranger or to re-assemble the last purse you unloaded, seize the opportunity: casually lay your hand on the nearest stranger’s thigh, as high up on their inner thigh as you can reach, and gaze intently into their face. Bonus points if the thigh’s owner is asleep.

If their thigh isn’t accessible, try untying their shoe, or putting it in your mouth. Again, sleeping targets are worth the most, both in points and in potential reactions. If you get kicked in the face by a startled-awake shoe-wearer, scream bloody murder, tweet an angry missive to the airline, and make sure it gets captured on video so you can sue later.

And repeat. You got this. 

Then, when you land…

Just be your unbelievably cute self.

Works like a charm.