Leo Fox, a birth story

WARNING: Here be details of childbirth, some of which may be icky. Read at your own peril.

Ok, so if you’ve followed along with my Insta stories, I made no secret about the fact that I did not so much enjoy being pregnant the second time around. It was much harder on my body this time. I was super achy and tired, and basically just ready to meet the little guy. I was begging him to come early.

Turns out, he listened to his mama.

I went to bed on Tuesday night pretty resigned to the fact that I was going to go the distance, if not pass my due date. I just didn’t feel like he was anywhere near being born. I’d been having tons of irregular contractions, and even some false labor over Memorial Day weekend, but that had all stopped. He felt snug in there.

But at 2am on Wednesday morning I woke up to pee, stood up from bed, and gush. Yup, my water broke. Which was a huge shock, because did you know that only about 15% of women experience their water breaking spontaneously? For most women it happens during labor, and for quite a few (including me, with my first son) your doctor will break it during labor. But nope, this time I got to have the full movie experience.

I won’t lie, it was so shocking that I wasn’t entirely sure if my water broke, or if I was just peeing all over myself. I fled to the bathroom, where I called for Adam and asked him to smell the puddle on the floor to determine if it was pee.

Ladies, don’t marry anyone who won’t do this for you.

It was determined that yes, it was definitely my water breaking, which meant I needed to get to the hospital within the hour (instructions from my midwife/OB, because after an hour you can start to risk infection). Unfortunately, because I still had amniotic fluid coming out of me, all I could do was bark orders at Adam to throw the last of the items into the hospital bag while I tried to contain the mess. We called our friend Josephine, who rushed right over to be there for Freddie, and then off we went.

When I got into this room, I took one look at this board and said, “Oh my god, is that cervical dilation chart TO SCALE?!” My nurse looked at me like I was crazy. Yes, for the record, it is. And yes, I’ve given birth before. What?

I was not, at this point, experiencing any contractions. I got checked in at the hospital, got my IV started, filled out a bunch of paperwork (it still kills me that a giant pregnant lady walks into the maternity ward to say her water broke, and the first thing they do is ask for your insurance card … ugh, America, GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER), and they called my midwife. She recommended pitocin to try and get contractions going, but I decided to wait until the morning and see if my body would get things moving on its own.

It didn’t.

So come 9am, a pitocin drip was begun. And then upped. And then upped again. And upped about ten more times over the course of the morning (I got to recognize the metallic Dansko clogs of my nurse, which would appear behind the sheet covering the door, each time she’d come in to up the dose), until finally finally finally I was feeling contractions like I’d felt with Freddie. My labor and delivery nurse kept coming in to check, and I’d give her this big smile between breathing through them and say “yay contractions!” and she’d grin knowingly and say, “Not there yet, you’re still smiling!”

For the duration of my labor, this dude was painting the window sill. I swear, it got like, ten coats. Also, Adam was freezing and sat around draped in a blanket.

I tried to smile back at her, but in my head I was all Lady, you don’t know where I’ve been, ok? I seen shit, and I swear, this is labor and I am DOING THIS.

Me and my ever-present pitocin drip

I labored throughout the day. I paced the room and breathed through contractions that I thought were pretty painful while listening to Hamilton start to finish. And when my midwife came back around 1:30pm, they checked me, and I was a four. A FOUR. Seriously? All that, and only FOUR CENTIMETERS? Ugh. So they upped the pitocin big time. My L&D nurse asked me if I wanted the epidural, and I said no, because seriously, this was fine. It was fine. FINE, OK?

Yeah, looking back, this was not the face of a woman experiencing the worst of labor …

Well, that last pitocin dose must have done the trick, because all of a sudden I was in pain. Like, movie pain. Gripping my husbands hands so hard he was in pain, pain. I yelled. I groaned. I moaned. I held onto Adam for dear life through each contraction.

“I’m ready for the epidural,” I said with my face buried in his shoulder.

Yeah, about that. I still had to get a full bag of saline before I could have the epidural. Which meant another half hour of unmediated labor in which I was sure a kid was going to come rocketing out of me at any moment.

thought I knew what contractions were after Freddie, but oh ho ho, was I so very wrong.

Finally, the fluid was administered and the anesthesiologist arrived. Contractions were coming every couple of minutes, so I was just trying to hang on for dear life. Never in my life have I so desperately wanted someone to jam a needle in my back.

Though I was gritting my teeth silent the entire time, because I was still having epic contractions while trying to hold completely still for the epidural.

Finally finally finally the epidural was in and starting to work. I did manage to mutter to the anesthesiologist that last time my epidural was too high and I had a hard time pushing. I had no idea if she heard me or even cared. Frankly, I didn’t care. I just wanted that sweet relief. But apparently she did, because I still definitely felt contractions and pressure, just a whole hell of a lot less.

About 15 minutes post epidural, my L&D nurse checked me, and I was at 9 centimeters. HOLY SHIT I LABORED WITHOUT MEDICATION TO 9 CENTIMETERS. This is not a humble brag. This is a dammit, Lauren, you waited waaaaay too long to ask for that epidural statement.

If you’re sure you want the epidural, heed my warning, ladies, and don’t wait too long. Because from the time you ask for it to the time it starts working, you still probably have another 45 minutes to an hour of labor. And shit can get real FAST towards the end there.

Again, I had no pain getting the epidural. I barely even felt it. The lidocaine felt like tiny baby bee stings, and the insertion felt like someone pressing on my back, but otherwise? Nada.

A lot of women might think, “You were almost there! Do you wish you’d just skipped it?”

HELL TO THE NOPE.

That epidural gave me about half an hour of rest before I went on to push for an hour, and honestly? I don’t know if I would have had the strength otherwise.

So yeah, half an hour after the epidural I had my legs up, my midwife in front of me, and I was pushing.

And it was fucking hard.

They don’t call it labor for nothing, let me tell you.

But at least I didn’t end up pushing for 4 hours, and after just a scant 1 hour, I gave a good, hard, final push and Leo Fox was born. He was placed on my chest, and I’m not kidding, it was the best feeling in the whole wide world.

Our first meeting

For anyone curious about his name, Leo is a name we just really liked and felt it went with both my husband’s Italian last name and with Freddie. And Fox is my mother-in-law’s maiden name.

Proud dad

I got some stitches, but honestly, for as difficult as the second pregnancy has been, healing from the second birth has been proportionally as easy. Maybe it’s the I’ve been distracted by Freddie’s broken leg, or maybe it’s that this birth was shorter and easier, or maybe it’s just that my body’s done it before. Whatever it is, I’m feeling so much better at this point than I did at this point with Freddie.

Going home! Little did we know, things were about to get a LOT more difficult…

And want one fun little final coda? When I mentioned during labor that I’d pushed for 4 hours with Freddie, my L&D nurse said, “I’ve only had one mom push that long in the 15 years I’ve been doing this.” And we figured out … that mom was me! She was my delivery nurse last time! (Not the one who wasn’t super great … that nurse left shift just before I started pushing and this nurse came on).

Welcome to the mad house

So now I’m the mother of two fantastic little boys, and while our family is in a bit of a holding pattern while we wait for Freddie’s leg to heal, I can’t wait to get out with these little guys and start having adventures.

Leo on day 12 of his life, seeming to accept that this band of wierdos is his family for good

It’s been a time

Hey guys! Well, this isn’t *quite* the post I thought I’d be writing, but here we are. On Wednesday, May 31st, Adam and I welcomed Leo Fox into the world.

It was a great experience, as far as birth goes (I mean, ouch, but great). We fell immediately in love with this mellow little guy, and were eager to bring him home so we could start our lives as a family of four, which we did on Thursday. And then on Friday, his big brother Freddie was running through the house like a mad man (as 2.5 year olds are wont to do), when he stepped on a sweatshirt, skidded on the wood floor, his legs went flying, and what do you know … he broke his other leg.

Kiddo’s back in a spica cast, only this time we have a newborn to care for at the same time. Things here have gone thoroughly off the rails, though thanks to some ace assistance from my mom (who came for a week and made my house pristine), Adam’s parents (who are here now keeping Freddie entertained), and friends near and far who have made sure we don’t have to prepare a single meal, we’ve actually managed to settle into a decent groove. Leo is now 12 days old, the cast is 9 days old, and we’re just ticking by the days until we can try to get back to normal (do we even remember what that was? Jeez…).

I’m going to share Leo’s birth story at some point (I’m writing up now so I don’t forget it in the fog of newborn life + toddler broken leg). I’m going to get back to blogging about books and writing (I still have a revision for my 2019 book to do, and I’m really excited about the direction it’s taking). In the meantime, here’s some photos of adorable babies and cute (but broken) toddlers to tide you over.

This photo kills me, because it was taken minutes before the broken leg occurred. They were just getting to know each other!

Big brother helping with little brother

Snoozy little guy (don’t worry, he doesn’t sleep with the blanket!) #safesleep

Battling the terrible twos in a body cast is hard, so these moments of my smiley, happy guy are fantastic

Freddie got a quick chance to hold Leo, though not for long since the cast made it pretty difficutl

If there’s anything that’s going to make you swallow the words “newborns are so hard!” it’s simultaneously caring for a toddler in a body cast.

 

Memorial Day Weekend: Our last hurrah as a family of 3?

I know, I’m blogging a lot lately. Can you believe it? I think it’s that, as I get closer to baby #2 and Freddie gets more independent, that old saying, “The days are long but they years are short” keeps echoing in my mind. It all goes so fast, and I’d really like to have a record somewhere of what it was like to be in these good and exhausting and stressful and wonderful times!

So … Memorial Day Weekend!

There was no beach vacation or epic road trips or even big plans for us this year, as my due date is fast approaching and little brother could make his debut at any moment (which of course means he won’t, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles). I almost thought I was going into labor in a Chipotle, but it turned out to just be indigestion. Drat.

Saturday

Our favorite local brewpub added poutine to the menu, which is my favorite trash food item that I haven’t had an authentic version of since I left Boston (and thus couldn’t visit Montreal on the regular anymore). But this? You guys, this is real poutine, and I took this plate DOWN. If you’re passing through Macon, Georgia (and you do if you travel south from Atlanta on I-75), stop at Ocmulgee Brewpub and treat yourself. Adam says their beers are great too (I wouldn’t know, as I’ve been pregnant since they opened).

After that it was starting to bake, so we decided to hit up the university pool, where I probably scared some college girls straight (thank you GAPfit tank for hiding the enormity that is my midsection).

Freddie hadn’t been swimming since last summer, but he had a blast. And thanks to the weightlessness in the pool, I could actually hold him and play with him like I can’t on dry land. Trust me when I say this was huge for me. Also, thanks to the the water, I didn’t have a single ache or pain for the first time in many moons.

Sunday

Something came over me and I decided that taking a hike around the Ocmulgee River at a local park would be a good idea (spoiler alert: it wasn’t). This was my view as I lagged behind most of the way, waddling like a drunken penguin.

And this was me after I told Adam that he needed to leave me behind in the lower lot and please for the love of God go get the car.

These are the pithy snaps you’re missing if you don’t follow my Instagram stories. Bet you’re feeling major FOMO now, huh?

Monday

We planned to wrap up the weekend with a quiet day in, mostly doing some yard work (Adam) and laying on the couch (me). But then Freddie decided he wanted to see airplanes. Um, ok? Luckily, we have a really great Museum of Aviation nearby that’s free to visit and open on Memorial Day. We went and spent a half hour playing in this helicopter before heading home for a nap (yep, one attraction, the one literally right inside the door … toddler life can be pretty simple sometimes!).

Mostly I spent the weekend reading and trying to avoid the news cycle. It’s just too much sometimes, you know? I was also thinking about all those who’ve fought to defend our freedom, including a number of members of my own family. My grandfather David Morrill was killed in Vietnam when his plane was shot down, and his body wasn’t recovered until 2003. That’s why I cringe every time I hear someone say “Happy Memorial Day,” because while the three day weekend is a great opportunity to relax and spend time with family and friends, that’s not what we’re commemorating. So while I thoroughly enjoyed hanging around with my guys and soaking up the last of our days as a family of three, the reason for the weekend wasn’t far from my mind.

Oh, and of course I got some reading in! I sped through AS Green’s romance novel SUMMER GIRL, which was a fun diversion. I read my galley of Kasie West’s newest, LUCKY IN LOVE (her books are always a sweet delight), and now I’m reading Doree Shafrir’s STARTUP, which is sort of a Devil Wears Prada for the tech world. It’s juicy and I can’t put it down. I’m really looking forward to picking up WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon, which comes out tomorrow. I’ve heard such good things and have been jonesing for it for weeks!

Did you read anything fantastic this weekend? Any fun adventures? Share in the comments!

#TBT: Freddie’s Birth Story

Today I decided to throw it back to October of 2014 and share Freddie’s birth story, which I wrote up but never shared. I found a lot of comfort and anxiety relief in reading birth stories back when I was pregnant the first time (I also just really enjoy them!), and as I approach little brother’s big debut, I wanted to remind myself that birth really isn’t so bad (no, really!). So without further adieu, let’s fade back in time two and a half years…

October 20, 2014

My mom is leaving tomorrow (she’s been here since the day we brought Freddie home from the hospital), so I realized that if I didn’t write this down now, I’d probably never get to it. And I don’t want to forget it (well … not ALL of it). It’s going to be a novel, because frankly it’s as much for me as for anyone else, so I’m going to include LOTS of detail.

Ok, here we go!

Late Monday night, I got in bed feeling little twinges that I thought might be early contractions, but I wasn’t sure. I figured I ought to try and sleep, just in case it was the real deal and sleep became an impossibility. So I did, but come 2am, I woke with what I was pretty sure was a real contraction. Ten minutes later, another. And every ten minutes, pretty regularly until the morning. Adam, whose back was hurting, was sleeping on the couch and didn’t know any of this was happening. I decided not to wake him, again in case it was the real deal, I wanted him to have as much sleep as possible. One of us ought to be rested, after all.

By 6am, contractions were coming every 6-8 minutes, and I was having to really focus and breathe to get through them. I figured it was time to tell Adam, and the look on his face is one I’ll remember forever. Sort of a mix of shock and horror. But in a good way! I think reality hit him hard at that moment, but he recovered quickly and jumped in ready to help get me through it.

I grabbed a shower, which was one of my musts before heading to the hospital (during which I had a righteous contraction), and then decided I needed some food. So through the Starbucks drive-thru we went at 6am for a bagel and cream cheese (Adam drove, and that’s the moment where I realized that the position of sitting in the car was NOT going to cut it during contractions).

Contractions were jumping around between 10-6 minutes, and I wanted to avoid the hospital for as long as possible. I took a little cat nap, maybe 40 minutes, and then woke up with contractions. I needed a distraction. So I did the book nerdiest thing I could think of. I made Adam drive me to Barnes and Noble to buy My True Love Gave to Me, a book I was DYING for, and which came out that morning. And like a champ, he did it. Of course, at B&N I knew I wouldn’t make it through the store without a contraction, so I waited in the car while he went in. What a champ, right? And while he was in the store, we realized my contractions were suddenly regular, 5 minutes apart for the last hour or so. That was when I was told I could start to head to the hospital, but I knew I didn’t have to. And I didn’t want to. I wanted to do as much work at home as possible. So home we went to work through them until we decided it was hospital time.

A word about the pain. My contractions felt like a belt tightening around my waist, concentrating pain in my lower back and then upper abs. It was like a combination of the worst menstrual cramps plus the stitches you get in your side when you run. But thanks to my yoga breathing, I was able to tough it out. At home, I spent an hour walking in a slow circle around the dining room table, and then when a contraction would hit, I’d lean over on the table in an L-shape, and Adam would push on my lower back with both hands. And color me SHOCKED when the counter pressure made contraction pain nearly disappear. There was still tightening, and I still had to breathe and focus, but the sharpest pain was gone.

I was doing well toughing it out, but Adam was starting to get nervous. After a particularly intense contraction, he declared it time to go to the hospital, and I was starting to get excited to meet Freddie, so I agreed. We walked into the baby room, and Adam said, “Next time we see this, it’s going to have an occupant!” And I cried like a sap.

We live a mile from the hospital, maybe less. It’s literally a straight shot down the road, but those few minutes were BRUTAL. Without my dining room table and my L-shape bending over and the counter pressure, I was just gritting my teeth through contractions. Just as we were about to turn the corner to the hospital, I had a particular rough one and released a string of expletives at top volume. Adam replied, “NOW it’s like the movies!”

We parked in the designated garage (definitely make sure you know where you need to go ahead of time … we did a hospital tour so we’d basically done a dry run of it) and started to make our way across the bridge to the birthing center. I had to stop in the middle to bend over against the wall for a contraction. A volunteer kept trying to get me into a wheelchair, but I wanted to walk. It was the only comfort I had at that point, and dammit I was walking myself into that hospital.

Clearly in labor, I was ushered right into OB Assessment, where they’d check me to see if I was going to be sent home or if I’d be staying. Well guess what? OB Assessment was totally full. The docs were all blaming it on the storm we were having, saying the change in barometric pressure had sent all the pregnant ladies into labor. So they had to take me to recovery, where they put the C section moms. It meant I had to go into this tiny bathroom to get into a gown before climbing into a bed hidden behind a curtain, and there was no room for me to endure contractions in there. Did not like. But you know what I did like? When they checked me and told me I was 5 centimeters! I think everyone was shocked that a first time mom who was pretty calm walked in 5 centimeters. My midwife high fived me when she arrived. I was stoked. I could maybe do this, maybe even without an epidural! YAY!

Back when we thought Freddie’s arrival was imminent … ha!

And this is where things got difficult. Because I was 40w4days, they decided to break my water right there in recovery (I had to wait on a room because the place was so busy), and when they did they discovered meconium in my fluid. Everyone assured me it was no big deal, it just meant there would be extra people in the delivery room to assess him when he arrived, but they decided to insert a uterine catheter to flush out the fluid as much as possible to help alleviate too much ingestion of meconium during birth. And that meant I needed to stay in bed, on my back. Which meant no more walking, no more leaning over the bed, no more counter pressure. Laying in that bed, I was horribly uncomfortable during contractions, to the point where it was making me feel nauseous. And that’s when I decided you know what? Epidural time.

The only photo I allowed while I was actually in labor … just post epidural!

So the epidural. I was terrified of it. More than of any other part of labor and delivery. And I didn’t feel a thing! I felt the tiny bee stings of the lidocaine, and the pressure from when they inserted, but otherwise there was no pain from it. Which is great, because Adam said it took them several tries to get it placed (“I was seriously about to lose my shit on that anesthesiologist,” he told me later).

And when the epidural was set? I felt nothing. NOTHING. Cool, except my lower half was so numb that the nurse had to come in and roll me over every half hour or so. I couldn’t move my lower half at all. And that also meant my labor slowed to a halt. I stayed 5 centimeters for over two hours, which meant they gave me pitocin. A lot, apparently. I settled back, watched half an episode of Gilmore Girls on my phone, and then I was complete. Time to push.

Of course, I couldn’t feel or move my legs. So my practice pushes with the L&D nurse? Yeah, they did nothing, except for I pulled a muscle in my back. The pain of trying to push with that was so brutal I started to cry, and then I barfed my guts out (thank you Adam for being quick with the bag so I didn’t barf on myself). The L&D nurse made me a makeshift heating pad to help with my upper back, gave me a moment to collect myself, and then we tried pushing again. It did not go well. I couldn’t feel anything, so I had no idea if I was using the right muscles! It was the only time I regretted the epidural.

After about half an hour and a half, they way turned down my epidural. As the numbness started to fade, I felt like I knew what i was doing, but at the point I was tired and also starting to experience pain, so my pushes were just crap. I was having trouble getting him under my pelvis so that he’d stop turtling back in. I was pushing, and when I was done he’d go right back. It was so hard to function mentally when I was working so hard for zero result. And my L&D nurse was not a very good cheerleader, so I had no idea if what I was doing was working. She was very quiet.

Finally, Adam jumped in and asked if we could get the midwife. He could tell I needed some support. And as soon as she showed up, things got better, but still not easy. I was doing better with pushing, but still making very little progress. And at one point I pushed so hard that I barfed again. Neat. Once again, Adam sprung into action with the barf bag. He was a fabulous cheerleader (after he was gone to the nicu with Freddie, the nurses and my midwife could not stop saying how great he was).

By 2 and ½ hours, Jennifer (my midwife) says, “Maybe we could try the vaccuum?” I barely let her get the words out before I shouted YES PLEASE! Of course, that meant we had to call in my doctor from the practice, because the midwives aren’t allowed to use those interventions. So I had to wait for my doctor to arrive (about 20 minutes, during which I continued to fruitlessly push). And when she arrived I nearly cried tears of joy. We were at hour 3 of pushing. At one point, Adam asked Jennifer what her longest pushing session was. I closed my eyes and yelled “Show him with your fingers!” So I had no idea what she said.

Ok, so my doctor suits up, pulls out the vacuum, and off we go. Freddie’s starting to make his way, thanks to vacuum (which, by the way, is not an actual vacuum, but more of a glorified suction cup) and the lower epidural making my pushes a little better, but it’s still slow going. I’m thoroughly exhausted. I’ve done three hours of the most intense sit ups of my life, all while my epidural is gradually wearing off. My arms hurt from pulling my legs back, because they were totally dead weight at first. And my upper abs were screaming. After every contraction, I would lean back just dying from the upper ab pain. I barfed one more time. Neat.

And the vacuum? Yeah, it was helping, except for the fact that Freddie’s full head of hair meant she couldn’t get a good seal. It kept popping off! The first time I heard the popping sound of the vacuum snapping off, I swear to god I nearly had a heart attack. “What was that?!?!?!” I shouted.

I pushed for what felt like an eternity. Several times my doctor said, “This next one and his head should be out!” But then the vacuum would pop off and she’d have to stop herself from swearing, I could tell. We were all getting frustrated.

At one point, she said, “If he doesn’t come out in the next couple of pushes, we’re going to have to shove him back up and cut him out.” I don’t know if she was serious, or if she was trying to scare me, but I dug down deep and found some tiny reserve of energy. Two pushes later, at 10:10pm his head was out. They suctioned his nose and mouth, and then I pushed with my next contraction and out he came, all gooey and squirming, making little crying sounds. He was such a little chunk, and all that hair! I’ll never forget it. He was exactly what I pictured when we used to do visualizations in prenatal yoga. Exactly.

Finally holding my baby!

Unfortunately, because of the meconium, he was rushed straight to the warmer in the corner of the room, where the nicu respiratory team jumped into action. That’s the moment that I realized there were suddenly 11 people in the delivery room. Seriously, it was like a party in there, only everyone was very serious. They were suctioning and pushing oxygen, and I tried to watch, but this nicu nurse kept standing in the way. I hated her, because I wanted to see my baby! But Adam told me later that watching Freddie arch his back with every breath was such a brutal image, and she was probably trying to shield me from it. So I’m sorry that I wanted to hit her back then.

They suctioned him enough that I could hold him for a few minutes, but that was all I got before they took him off to the nicu to work on him. Adam went with him, and I was left to get stitched and put back together (yep, episiotomy happened, and I remember it vividly. My doctor grabbed a scalpel, and then I heard, “now he should have some more room,” and then there was a clatter as she tossed it back on the tray). I probably should have been panicking, but the nicu respiratory team was so reassuring and calming, my midwife was being really chipper, and I was so exhausted that I just trusted everything would be fine.

Oh, remember when Adam asked Jennifer about the longest pushing session she’d done? It was four hours. Guess how long I pushed? FOUR HOURS. My doctor told me she and Jennifer were going out for a drink after that delivery. Everyone looked exhausted.

Once I was all put back together, Adam returned with someone from the nicu who assured us that other than getting his lungs cleared out, Freddie was 100% healthy. They just needed to solve this one problem, which they were confident would happen in a couple hours, and then he’d be released to us in the morning. I had to wait until my epidural wore off and I could stand before they’d let me go to the nicu to see him, and that hour and a half was BRUTAL. I wanted to go see him. I was desperately trying to wake my legs up.

Adam in the NICU with Freddie

But eventually they did, and at 1am Adam and the nurse wheeled me down to the nicu where I sat next to his bassinet and held his little hand. At 8lbs 4oz, he looked crazy out of place in there, the little chunk. I worked really hard not to freak out, because they wanted to keep him overnight for observation, even though he was completely breathing on his own at that point. He only needed oxygen for two hours. He was fine, but I still had to wait. And so I was sent to my recovery room without my baby. And that was maybe the hardest part of the whole thing. I just tried to tell myself we were going old school, with the baby in the nursery and this new mama getting some sleep (I got no sleep).

Freddie was back with us by noon the next day, and then we had 24 hours in the hospital with him where we tried to make up for lost time.

Reunited in our tiny hospital room!

And 24 hours after he returned from the nicu, we were rolling out of the hospital. And when I put him in the hat I made him and wrapped him in that blanket I’d worked so hard on, it was the first time I became a total puddle of tears (I kept telling Adam I needed to pull it together or the nurses were going to think I was suffering from PPD and not let me leave with him!).

Finally going home in the blanket and hat I crocheted for him

Did the birth turn out how I imagined? No. But even though I pushed for four hours, and at the end of that they took my baby to the nicu for 12 hours, I can’t ignore the fact that a week later I’m home with a happy, healthy baby. So screw the perfect birth experience.

And that, my friends, is how Freddie got here.

And now, back to 2017…

Ok, so I’m now 2.5 years away from that experience, and not that far away from doing it again. Am I getting another epidural? Again, I’m going to try and go as long as I can without, and maybe without the meconium situation I’ll be able to push through to the end. But the epidural is definitely still on the table. I don’t need to be a hero. Natural birth is not a goal for any kind of emotional reason, I’d just like to avoid the epidural because it’s kind of a pain in the ass to recover from. I did talk to my doctor already about how the epidural I had was too strong, and this time I’m going to have a different combination of drugs to give me more control over my body. But otherwise, my first labor experience wasn’t that bad. I came away with a lot of confidence in myself and what my body can do, and while I wouldn’t say I’m looking forward to doing it again, I can honestly say that even with the complications I had, I don’t feel any sense of fear or dread. My biggest concern going into this experience is not scaring Freddie and making sure he has a smooth transition as we leave for the hospital (if I make it to my due date, my mom will be here to watch him, so that will basically eliminate that fear for me).

So wish me luck! And if you have a link to your birth story that you’d like the share with others, drop it down in the comments!

The Final Countdown…

Welcome to my happy place…

We’re just about into single digits to the due date around here, though I know from past experience that those things are merely suggestions (Freddie was 4 days late, and those 4 days felt as long as the entire pregnancy, I swear).

That hasn’t stopped me from keeping my eye on the calendar like a high school senior with graduation day fast approaching. And boy have I been busy. I cooked a metric ton of food to put in the freezer, which is notable because I usually loathe cooking (I also baked lemon cookies with lemon buttercream frosting for a potluck and made hummus from scratch, because hey, why not?).

In case you want the recipes … the first is Mediterranean Tuna Noodle Casserole (I added a bunch of garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the sauce to keep it from being too bland). The second is Vegetable Enchiladas (I subbed my fave taco seasoning for the plain cumin, and I added about double what the recipe called for). And finally, I made Salisbury Steak with Onion Gravy and a carrot and potato mash … basically homemade tv dinners!.

I’ve got the hospital bag all packed with the following (seriously, moms, this is all you need/will use):

  • Going home clothes for me and the baby
  • Going home blanket for the baby
  • Pacifiers
  • Basic toiletries
  • Nursing bra
  • Robe (seriously, cannot recommend a robe in the hospital enough)
  • Crocs (aka shoes that can be destroyed)
  • Snacks
  • Phone charger
  • Pillows (because the hospital never has enough, for real)

I’ve got the carseat installed, I’ve got the baby room set up, I’ve cleaned everything in sight … what I’m saying is YOU CAN GO AHEAD AND SHOW UP ANYTIME, KID.

And so now I’ve got just under two weeks left, two weeks which have the possibility of feeling like an eternity and a half. So what have I been doing? Well, turning to books, of course!

I finally pulled ILLUMINAE by Jay Kristoff and Meagan Spooner off my shelf (where it’s been sitting since the day it released) and burned through it. Holy wow, was that a wild ride. I grabbed GEMINA, the sequel, this weekend and plan to get that read, since those are definitely not good e-book reads and e-book reads are all I’ll be able to do once I’ve got an infant in my arms and a toddler running away from me. I also reread Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, which I’ve been meaning to do for years. Let me tell you, that book holds up. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend you get on that. And I just started a galley of Katie Cotugno’s October release (yes, she has TWO books coming out this year), called TOP TEN. I’m about a third of the way through, and holy crap you guys, it’s amazing. I think it’s going to be my favorite of her books.

On deck to read I’ve got:

All this reading has meant that for the first time in weeks, I can sort of forget that I’m enormous and hot and achy and uncomfortable. We’ll see how many of them I get through, or if I have to add to my list if I burn through these. I’m definitely going to try and keep myself busy so that I don’t go bananas trying to wish myself into labor (which is definitely not the most far-fetched labor-inducing tip I’ve ever heard).

Make sure to follow along on Instagram stories to see what I’m reading … and Instagram is probably where I’ll go first when this kiddo decides to make his debut! So make sure you’re following me, mmmkay?

Newborn Essentials

Adam and Freddie are in Florida for the next four days, leaving me with an empty house and oceans of time to accomplish some of the remaining tasks before little brother arrives. It’s funny, this time last pregnancy I had EVERYTHING done. The room was set up and photo-ready, the carseat was installed, the hospital bag packed … this time? Not really. Not quite. Not at all.

I decided to tackle the hospital bag first, because it seemed the easiest and also the least likely to send me collapsing onto my couch in exhaustion (as most tasks do these days). And that’s when I noticed another difference between baby #1 and baby #2 … the list of stuff you need for baby #2 is about half what you thought you needed for #1. My hospital bag feels downright empty compared to last time, but that’s because a) I know that there’s approximately zero chance I’m going to cram myself into that prison-like shower stall in my hospital room to attempt some kind of postpartum spa treatment and b) babies really don’t need that much stuff.

Really.

I know that the weekly emails from Baby Center and the notifications from your What to Expect app and all those Facebook targeted ads will tell you differently, but really, you don’t need that much stuff.

That being said, here’s the things that were absolutely essential with baby #1 that I’m putting front-and-center with baby #2.

Nesting Days Carrier

Baby carriers and wraps are the thing these days, and for good reason. Studies show the close contact with a parent is excellent for baby’s development, the baby-parent bond, and for infant sleep. But also it’s just really nice to have your hands free so you can, you know, feed yourself or access the remote when Netflix asks you if you’re still watching (YES NETFLIX DON’T JUDGE ME). I loved my Solly Wrap, but not in the early days. In the early days, when I was exhausted and recovering from birth and panicked about keeping the brand new human alive, I did not have the bandwidth to do full body origami. Which is where Nesting Days comes in. It’s basically a tank top that you slip on, tuck the baby in, and then tie one little sassy hip knot. And voila, baby is secured to you! And because the whole thing is a tank top, you can wear it by itself, allowing for maximum skin-to-skin and easy breastfeeding access without showing the whole world your business. You can only use them for the first three months of the kid’s life, but I promise, it’s worth it. I used this thing daily, and it’s way easier to get on in the parking lot of the grocery store than the wrap or the ergo. Give your new baby brain a break and get a Nesting Days carrier.

Some kind of swing/bouncer/robot chair situation

My advice? See if you can borrow a bunch of options from friends, so that your picky little new one can try them out. What one baby loves, another baby thinks is a torture device from the pits of hell. My kid loved his 4moms mamaRoo. We called it the robot chair, and he took basically all his naps in it. We also had a rock ‘n play, but he wouldn’t sleep in it. That was just a resting spot for the baby so that I could pee or shower. There’s Nuna and Baby Bjorn and Graco and Fisher Price and all manner of bouncers and swings. Try not to commit until your kid does, or you’ll find yourself midnight Amazon-priming one of everything in an effort to PLEASE LET ME PUT THIS CHILD DOWN!

 

Gerber Flat Fold Cloth Diapers

No, we’re not going to talk about disposable vs. cloth or eco friendly vs budget conscious (because really, you can’t have both, sorry). This is about one thing, and one thing only: SPIT UP. Most babies spit up. If you hear a mother crowing about how her little angel never spit up ever, walk away quickly before you feel the urge to hit her. My kid spit up OCEANS. It was unreal. I was surprised he had anything left inside him. And while you may be tempted to buy stacks of adorable (expensive) burp cloths, trust me on this: what you need is a stack of 20-30 Gerber flat fold cloth diapers. They’re white cotton and cheap. You can shove the end in your back pocket like you’re a barkeep, and when one gets soiled, you toss it in the laundry and move on to the next in your stack. They’re not fancy, but it doesn’t matter. You won’t care, as you mop spit up off your lap and your couch and the dog … oh yeah, and the baby. Buy a bunch (and then you’ll probably buy more once the kid gets here).

Pacifiers

I know, you’re not going to use a pacifier. You heard about nipple confusion and oral/speech development issues and little Haven/Horatio/Hortense next door just never liked a pacifier so no, you don’t need one of those. And maybe your kid won’t take one. Or won’t like one. But trust me, having one — just one — around to try when it’s the middle of the night and the crying won’t stop and you just want to sleep oh god the sleep! Yeah, you’ll thank me if you have at least one to just try. I recommend the Phillips Avent Soothie. These are the ones that hospitals use, even if they give you a dirty look and act like you shouldn’t. My hospital was so-called “baby friendly,” but when my kid had to spend his first night in the NICU, you better believe they had these on hand. When he came back to me, he had a new accessory, and if it’s good enough for NICU nurses, it’s good enough for me. The soothies are designed to be a baby-friendly pacifier, so if you’re breastfeeding, this is probably the one you’ll want to try.

Seriously, that’s it. Baby bath tub? Um, you have a sink, don’t you? A carseat? Ok, I didn’t include that because they literally won’t let you leave the hospital without one, and so I figured you had that covered. Yeah, you need clothes and diapers, but you knew that too (and the clothes were probably covered by all the people who ignored your practical and well-researched baby registry and instead bought you that hilarious/adorable onesie they saw. What you really need is an easy carrier, a place to put the baby down, a pacifier, and enough cheap burp cloths to fashion a small tent.

Next time I’ll tell you about new mama essentials, and that’s a whole different (and pretty gross) kettle of fish. Postpartum healing, man. It’s not pretty.

What was your invaluable newborn item? Lemme know in the comments!

What’s Making Me Happy This Week: ALL THE BOOKS!

Maybe it’s because we’re closing in on d-day (4 weeks until my due date!), but I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. I’ve been so lucky to get some incredible galleys of books that I may not have a chance to get to once little brother arrives, and they’ve been making me so happy. And because I want to pass that happy onto you, check the end of this post for a rad giveaway!

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

I’ve always loved Robin’s books, all the way back to Audrey, Wait! But let me tell you, Far From the Tree is the best thing she’s ever written. I could not put this book down. It was so full of emotion and heart, and it had me crying both happy and sad tears. I really felt connected to these characters and their story in a way I haven’t in a long time. Trust me when I tell you that this is a must-read. This one is out on October 3rd, but you should go ahead and preorder it. Trust me, give your future self a gift.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
October 3, 2017 from HarperTeen

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Sad you have to wait until October for Robin’s new book? No worries, because this one is out on May 9th. Yep, you only have to wait a couple more days to get Julie Murphy’s new book in your hot little hands. And it’s definitely one you don’t want to miss. My favorite thing about Dumplin was how real her characters felt, like they’re still off living their lives in Texas after the book ended. Those people felt real, and Julie brings that to Ramona Blue. The entire cast of characters, from Ramona and Freddie all the way to Agnes and Hattie and Saul and Ruth seemed like people Julie spent months observing as they moved through their lives. I loved this book, and can’t wait for you to read it, too!

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
May 9, 2017 from Balzer + Bray

And now … a giveaway!

I’m giving away some of the incredible galleys I’ve talked about in this post and others, and you could win them ALL. You’ll get:

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Once and For All by Sarah Dessen
Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

Head on over to my Instagram and follow the instructions (a simple like + follow + comment)  to be entered to win! I’ll draw a winner on Sunday at 5pm EST. Contest is US only (sorry, shipping is pricey!). So don’t wait, enter now!

As for me, I’m in the home stretch of this whole pregnancy extravaganza, and trust me when I say … I’M READY FOR HIM TO GET HERE! Ok, so I don’t quite have the baby room finished, and I have one last stripe to crochet in his baby blanket, and I still need to dig some of Freddie’s old stuff out and wash it. So maybe not totally ready, but close enough. I’ve got diapers and a place for him to sleep, so as far as I’m concerned, GET. THIS. KID. OUT. I’m feeling enormous amounts of pressure in my hips and pelvis, the braxton hicks contractions are frequent and uncomfortable, and if I drop something on the floor, it lives there now. I’m huge and tired and ready to hold this kid in my arms instead of nestled against my bladder. I’m trying not to get my hopes up that he’ll come early (as many second babies do), because Freddie was 4 days late and those last 4 days felt as long as the whole pregnancy. But still, if he wants to come, anytime after next week, I’d be ok with that… hear me, kid? Listen to your mother.

So what’s making you happy this week? What good books are you reading? What books are you looking forward to? Lemme know down in the comments!

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

I’m still on a high from finally announcing my new book deal, but it’s also been a pretty good week ’round these parts. So here it goes!

Macbook Pro

I treated myself BIG TIME this week when I ordered a new laptop. But my 6 year old Macbook Air was slowly dying (it held about a 6 minute charge by the time my new laptop arrived) and also … y’all I’m getting old, and I needed a bigger screen. It’s sad, but it’s true. So now I’m typing up this week’s What’s Making Me Happy This Week from my pretty space gray laptop with a very clicky clacky keyboard (which apparently some people don’t like, but what do they know?).

My Shiny New Book Idea

And thanks to the arrival of my snazzy new computer, I got a burst of inspiration and am now 5 chapters into the outline for my shiny new book idea. This would be book 6 for me, and book 2 in my new contract with FSG. I’m not going to tell you anything about it other than it’s funny, I love it, and I already have a title for it (which is crazy!).

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Oh this book, you guys. It’s funny and sweet and the voice is just so damn authentic. I recognized Molly and her friends as real teenagers, and some of Molly’s struggles rang so true for teenage Lauren. If you loved Becky’s first novel, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (soon to be a major motion picture!) or any of Stephanie Perkins books, you will love this book. Treat yourself to a sweet weekend read, ok?

 

 

Outshine Strawberry Popsicles

Guys, spring has arrived in Georgia, but if you live anywhere north of here, you’d probably call this weather summer. We’re in the mid-80s in the afternoons, and IT. IS. GLORIOUS. It also means popsicle weather, and I’ve been housing these like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, they’re made from actual strawberries, so that practically makes them a health food, right? (Don’t answer that)

So what’s making you happy this week! Share down in the comments?

What’s Making Me Happy This Week? MY BOOK DEAL!

In case you didn’t catch my social media barrage, I have a new book deal!

Yep, that’s right, books 5 and 6 are comin’ atcha in 2019 and 2020! So how’d you like to hear a little more info?

Better Than The Best Plan is a book about a girl whose single mother is arrested, and because she has no other family, she finds herself in foster care. Only it turns out, she was in foster care for the first two years of her life and never knew it. Twist? She’s going back to live with the foster mother who first cared for her for the first two years of her life. It’s a story about what family means, and how family can define you. It’s a story about experiencing the other side of life. And of course, because it’s a book written by me, it’s got a sweet summer romance.

The story of the way this book came to be is actually pretty cool. The idea first came to me in 2013, and I wrote the very first words (actually just a couple hundred) of it in the Las Vegas airport while leaving the Vegas Valley Book Festival (and some of those very first words actually made it into the draft that exists now!). But I promptly set it aside in order to work on other things.

Fast forward to November of 2015. I was in sort of a low place about writing. My books were having a hard time finding readers, my publisher had just passed on a partial I’d submitted, and it was starting to feel like maybe this wild author ride could be over for me (maybe irrational, but like I said, I was low). I’d also spent the last year learning how to be a mom to a sweet and wild little boy. It was a great but exhausting year. My head wasn’t completely on straight.

At the same time, like much of the rest of the country, I was furiously listening to the Hamilton cast album.  And one night, in a fit of optimism, I searched for tickets. I found a resale pair for January that wasn’t too terribly expensive, and also found a super cheap flight and a super cheap hotel (turns out there’s not a lot of tourism in NYC in January, so it’s a good time to visit if you don’t mind the cold!). My husband, because he is a saint and saw how sad I was about the state of my writing situation and exhausted from momming, urged me to treat myself. So I found a friend to buy the other ticket in the pair, and I booked the trip!

Now cue my super star agent, Stephen Barbara. He heard I was coming to New York and said he wanted to set up some meetings for me while I was there. Um, yes please! He said he had an editor in mind who was looking for an author like me to add to her list, and he thought we should meet. He wanted me to pitch her the partial I’d written. So before I headed back to midtown to see Hamilton, I headed down to the Flatiron Building to meet with Joy Peskin, the editorial director at Farrar Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers. We sat in her office for something like an hour gabbing about books while I told her about my hopes for my writing career. It was so relaxed and fun, and I loved talking to her. Stephen did some good matchmaking. We clearly had some chemistry on the literary front. She told me to send the partial when I got home.

And that night I saw Hamilton with the original Broadway cast and it was INCREDIBLE and life changing and I’ll never ever forget it.

Ok, so back to the book deal. I sent Joy the partial, she loved it, but she wanted to know if I had any other ideas. And so I said, “Well, I’ve got this idea I’ve sort of been thinking about, but I haven’t written any of it.” And I told her about this idea I had for a book about a girl who wound up in foster care for the second time, only she never knew there was a first time. She was instantly intrigued, and asked me to go write 20 pages and send it to her. So I did, and this time, the words poured out (I think I ended up sending her more like 40 pages!). She took it to acquisitions, they loved it, and suddenly I’d sold a book that I’d written only a couple chapters of. Crazy! But I was so thrilled, because again, my meeting with Joy had been fantastic and I knew I had to work with her.

This was March 2016. Yep, over a year ago. That’s how long I’ve been sitting on this news. It has been PURE TORTURE, but we had to finalize the deal, and then we had to come up with a title for this brand new book, and then we had to get through the holidays, and then … blah blah blah. But finally finally FINALLY the news came out on Tuesday, and I’m so happy!

I just turned in the revision on the completed manuscript for Better Than the Best Plan. As I imagined after that very first meeting, working with Joy on this book has been an absolute dream. I love getting on the phone with her to hash out plot problems or talk through characters. It has been the best writing experience I’ve ever had. And now I’m starting to develop the shiny new idea I have for the second book in the contract.

And the best part? I’m back to feeling optimistic about writing again. So thank you Stephen, for finding me the perfect home, and thank you Joy, for helping me find my voice again. I truly can’t wait for you guys to read this book. I think it’s going to be really great!

And that’s what’s making me happy this week!

Don’t miss the party TONIGHT!

Yep, this is the last day you have to hear me be annoying about this, because tonight’s the night of my LuLaRoe online popup shop! For 24 hours you’ll have the chance to shop in your jammies, and trust me, you don’t want to miss out. Just click the link to join the group!

And the best part? Jessica, fellow YA author and our lovely LuLaRoe consultant who’s running the party, is giving away a free pair of leggings! And you don’t even have to buy anything! Just head on over to the group and find the check-in post to enter. Click here to join!

I’m looking forward to checking out what Perfect Tees Jessica’s got in her inventory, and maybe picking up a maxi skirt for summer. Anything you’re looking for?

IMG_5923

Rocking my springy Carly swing dress this morning, belted with a vintage scarf!