Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Summer: Day 1

I have to confess I'm feeling pretty smug about day 1 of summer. I've been nervous about being home on my own with the baby and the big girls. Zuzu and Coco are pretty independent--but sometimes that's actually the problem! Often, they don't really feel a need to check in with us or ask for permission. They just do whatever the hell they want when we are not actively managing them (which is how they end up drawing make up on their faces with marker or attempting to ramp their kiddie jeep over a huge pile of mulch). And it's a lot harder to have an eye on them all the time when I'm also caring for a newborn.

But, somehow, this morning is going swimmingly! The girls have not been fighting or whining for screentime and they've already been awake for four hours--amazing!

Here are my lofty goals for summer so we can all have a good laugh about this later:

- "Homework." I have a couple of those grade-level work books and I'm inviting them to do a couple of sheets each day. I put it out on the breakfast table. I did this last night but didn't say anything to the girls about it. Sure enough, when G and I came downstairs this morning, they were already working on their worksheets! I know it's a novelty today, but we'll see if we can keep it up for a while.

- Reading time. I also selected a book for each of them to read. Zuzu read I Am a Unicorn and Coco read Dad and Sam. We're signing up today for library reading contests, so this was a good start.

- Read aloud time. I've decided to start the summer reading The Secret Garden. I'm not sure it will hold Coco's attention, but she's good about holding the baby or playing quietly with Barbies or characters while I read, so we'll see how it goes.

Everything else will be gravy... I anticipate lots of trips to the library. I am going to try to get myself in gear this summer and give the girls an allowance and then we'll do some thrift store shopping to practice counting and spending (and saving, hopefully!). We won't be doing the pool as much since G is so tiny, but I do have them signed up for two weeks of swimming lessons. The lessons are 30 minutes a day for two weeks and Baby G and I will either sit in the shade and watch or walk next door to the air conditioned office if the weather is too hot.

I have them signed up to go to a Vacation Bible School at a friend's church for a week, and a week at an art camp. I think the girls will also go to my parents' for a long weekend, although when my mom asked Coco about it, Coco said she wants to stay here with Mama. So it might just be Zuzu going to Grammy and Bops's. We'll see what Coco decides. I'm fine with it either way. I know my mom would like her to go, but she also doesn't want her to go and then have homesickness and regrets! So we'll just let Coco make that call.

The big excitement today was the decision to have them do a summer session of gymnastics. Actually, Coco is going to do gymnastics and Zuzu is going to try the kids ninja classes! I want to take adult ninja classes, really. The obstacles look so fun! I'm excited to watch her. She's pretty tenacious and definitely fearless, so I think she'll have a good time. I was kind of surprised Coco didn't want to do the same thing Zuzu chose, but I also love that she made up her own mind. Fortunately, the two classes are offered at the same time at a gym very close to our house, so that worked out really well.

Knock on wood, but Baby G has been easy enough that we're considering taking her to my parents' later on. And we're still considering a trip to West Virginia. I keep going back and forth about it, just because the drive feels daunting. I know that it would be fun, it just feels like a lot with a little bitty baby. We definitely will make a trip to Indiana for a family reunion like we did last summer (my Uncle Tim's house is half the distance and has a few more amenities than my brother's rustic cabin... mostly air conditioning!).

Anyway, I know every morning won't go as smoothly as this one has, but I'm relieved that summer got off to a good start.

Will check back tomorrow when everything goes off the rails, LOL. It's only a matter of time...

Sunday, May 26, 2019

5 Things I'm Loving

In an effort to maintain perspective in the wake of my (impending) job loss, I've started a gratitude journal. Each night before bed, I list three to five things I'm grateful for. Here are five material objects that are making my life easier:

(1) Haaka manual pump. If you're a nursing mom, you probably know all about this already. If not, you NEED to know. The haaka is this silicone bottle/flange that you suction on to one boob while you nurse the baby on the other boob. It collects milk that might otherwise get wasted and allows you start building a stash of breast milk without pumping. It is THE BEST.

We've been working on getting Baby G to gain weight and breast feeding burns a lot of calories for baby (and mama) so, at the advice of a lactation consultant, I started topping her off by giving her a bottle after some of our feeding sessions. It totally worked (she was 7lbs 3oz with clothes on yesterday!) and it's super easy. I can collect 1-2 ounces each time so I already have several ounces frozen, too. And it's inexpensive. I have the first generation, which costs $12.99 and is as simple as it gets. I'm playing it fast and loose without a topper or suction cup bottom (available on other models) and I do fear that it will spill sometimes before I get it transferred to another container, but I'm not buying a different one because even thought it feels like breastfeeding will never end, I know that this stage of leaky boobs and tiny infant will actually be over really soon.

(2) Loopy phone case. This thing is a lifesaver. You know how you need to carry a million things and then you drop your phone? Not if you have a loopy phone case.

I admit that I don't love the price (should a silicone loop really cost so much?) but it's been worth it for me. To be able to literally loop my phone over one finger while I carry water, bottles, baby, diaper bag, etc. has been revolutionary. I'm still tracking baby feeding and diapers on my phone (I am ready to stop tracking diapers, but still in the habit), so I need my phone with me because my head can't remember what time it is, what time I last fed her, or what side we started on, so I rely on the phone to be my brain. (I use the free Baby Tracker app and it's been great.)

Plus the Loopy seems to be kind of cool... when I was in the hospital with Genevieve, a few of the nurses commented on it and said they loved my phone case or wanted one, and they all appeared to be much younger and cooler than I am, so maybe it's a thing? I'm not sure. The practicality won me over, but the cute prints on the cases are also fun (I have the rose gold marble because I like my cell phone to be a little extra).

(3) Family Reading Time app. So... I have a summer bucket list for this summer that is probably way too ambitious. It has every little thing on it that I'd like to do this summer, from making our own popsicles to visiting my brother's cabin in West Virginia. I'm telling myself that it's just a list of suggestions rather than a to-do list. When I asked the girls what they want to do this summer, they said go to the pool and watch movies. Coco also wants to go to a baseball game. I feel like we can manage these things.

BUT The thing I want to focus on this summer is reading--reading out loud to the girls and having them practice reading. We'll sign up for the library reading challenges and Zuzu has a reading log to keep for school, but I remember it was a pain to track the books we read last year. So THIS year, I have an app for that! I heard about it on a podcast. The free app allows you to create logs for two readers, but I went ahead and upgraded to the full featured app for $1.99 so that I could have a list for Zuzu, a list for Coco, and a list for reading aloud. (I track my own books in Goodreads because some of my students like to follow me and see what I'm reading for fun, but I may create a list for me in Reading Time if that ends up being easier...).

Zuzu's reading has come such a long way this year and I'm so proud of her and so excited to get her reading some of my old favorites! This summer we plan to get through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Secret Garden, The Penderwicks, Understood Betsy, Matilda, the Birchbark books, and some Beverly Cleary, as well as lots of picture books! (And I have a whole list of summer reading for me, too!)

I heard about this app on a podcast recently and the same podcast (Sorta Awesome) recommended picking one thing for the summer--just a focus for your family rather than a huge to-do list. We still have a to-do list of things like Ted Drewes custard and go to a matinee movie, but I'm focusing on reading as the thing we're going to do every single morning. This feels manageable since I can do it even with a baby on my boob, and manageable because it's something I WANT to do (as opposed to teaching Zuzu to finally ride a bike without training wheels, which I need David to just freaking DO ALREADY because she's definitely old enough and coordinated enough but she's got this mental block against it and also we don't have a flat street to practice on and I don't have the patience for it). All this to say: She may get to August on training wheels, but we're going to read a shit ton of books in the meantime.

(4) Family Movie Night. I guess this isn't a material item, but we've started doing movie night on Friday nights and it's been really fun. We started with the first three Harry Potter movies, then we watched a couple animated films, and last week we watched Annie. I want to watch Parent Trap with the girls (the one with Hayley Mills), David wants to watch Smallfoot, and Coco just requested "that Santa movie we watched at Uncle Buck's house" so I guess we'll watch The Christmas Chronicles again for a Christmas-in-July themed movie night! Speaking of Uncle Buck, I feel like we should watch Uncle Buck as well. The girls get really into it and it's such an easy and fun thing to do to make it a Friday night ritual.

(5) Books... I have had a book called Stitch in my kindle app for a while, and I started reading it while nursing Baby G. This book was written by a fellow baby loss mom who has become a friend of mine, Samantha Durante. Sam has been hugely supportive of my own book project and I trust her because she knows the process of book writing and all the different methods of publication.

Full disclosure: I was a little nervous to read her work because what if you read something written by someone you like and then you don't really care for it? But Sam's books (there's a trilogy) are great page-turners. They are dystopian fiction, but not predictable. Here's the official description, which is spot-on: The opening installment in a twist-laden trilogy, Stitch spans the genres of paranormal romance and dystopian sci-fi to explore the challenges of a society in transition, where morality, vision, and pragmatism collide leaving the average citizen to suffer the results.

I totally thought the first novel was headed one direction and then it did an about-face that I did NOT see coming and was way better than what I had been imagining. I think I actually liked the second book (Shudder) even better than the first, and I'm about to start on book number three (Stuck) today--I'm so curious to see how she wraps it up, especially the love triangle (rectangle? pentagon?). 

Another book I highly recommend: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. I thought this book was absolutely beautiful and I love how it captures the tender and fierce parts of parenting, especially parenting a child you know will struggle in the world. I finished reading it in the NICU with G and this passage made me weepy:

"You could sit down with another mom, even one halfway around the world whose life was very different from your own, and find easy conversation, shared spirit, someone who understood why you might bring your ten-year-old into a malarial jungle rather than leave him behind, someone who understood what unspeakable things sometimes befell children and to what lengths you might to go fend them off, someone who saw the horrors and the threats and the carving up and the carving out and also how hard they were to schedule around and how little they cared about your job and how much they wanted just to be touching you all the time and what they looked like when they first woke up in the morning and how they learned to talk and walk and read and how quickly they outgrew their clothes and how it was to live every moment of every day in that world..."

Even though this passage is about motherhood in general, it made me think particularly of the connection bereaved parents have with one another, no matter how different our lives are, and that sense of understanding that we have with one another. The entire book is fantastic, though, and I love the way it depicts marriage and family and the central questions of identity and gender.

Friday, May 24, 2019


Apologies if you came here for cute baby pictures or an update on Baby G. I have something else on my mind at the moment, and I need to get it out there.

We got home from the NICU with Genevieve on a Thursday. The following Monday, I lost my job. Or, to be more specific, I found out that I will lose my job a year from now.

The campus where I teach is closing its undergraduate program next year. Full stop. All faculty jobs over (this university did away with the tenure system years and years ago and all faculty are on annual contracts).

We have the opportunity to apply for jobs at the other, larger campus. (Spoiler: The likelihood of them hiring an English professor is slim to none.) We are being given an incentive in the form of a severance package if we stay on through May of 2020.

After that... who knows?

I got this in an e-mail because I was at home with a newborn. I texted my friends who were on campus because I couldn't believe it. They were told at a meeting. They couldn't believe it either. I cried a lot.

I love my job. I feel like I was meant to be an English professor. Talking about literature with a captive audience where I'm in charge of the discussion is a dream come true for me! Sure, grading papers is the worst, but I love the autonomy and freedom of my job, the mix of people-time and alone-time, and my office on campus. I love the students--especially the English majors--and I really like my colleagues--especially the English department, where there's just three of us and we call ourselves the Best Friends Club.

It's a huge loss for me.

A few weeks after Eliza died, I was encouraged to apply for this job and I said no. I couldn't do it. I didn't have the energy or the wherewithal to make it happen. Several weeks later, they reached out again, and this time I did it. I put together the materials and I put on a game face for the interviews. And I got the job.

It was a huge thing for me, to have something that made me feel capable and professional and like someone besides a mom whose baby died. It literally gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. And after a while, I started to get good at it. I felt good about it. I love thinking about complicated ideas with my students--post-colonialism, unreliable narrators, literary criticism. I love unpacking lines of poetry with students and seeing them have a light-bulb moment of understanding. I love working hard for two semesters and then having summers at home with my kids.

It's not an easy job, and there are weeks I work more than 40 hours between grading and prepping and responding to e-mails and committee work. But it feels meaningful. I feel like my work has a purpose AND I enjoy it.

And now it's gone.

Or it will be gone. It's so odd to mourn it a year in advance, but it's impossible not to mourn now that I know.

It gives me a feeling of failure even though I obviously have no control over the closure of the campus. I hadn't realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in being able to tell people, "I'm an English professor" or "I teach literature at the university." It's embarrassing to say that I've lost my job, even if it's through no fault of my own, and even when people are totally cool and sympathetic.

I spent seven years in graduate school, struggling with being a small fish in a big pond, with being unprepared for the rigors of graduate school, with feeling like an imposter, with stressing out so much about each step in the process. And then I finished my PhD and I got a job in a difficult market and I was able to stay in the city where we wanted to live and it finally felt like in a world where so many of the most important things (like, for example, whether your baby lives or dies) can be completely out of your control, this was something I could control and this was something that worked out in my favor. I got super lucky, yes, but I also worked super hard to make it happen.

And now I'm trying to imagine what life looks like after next May... and I have no idea.

The chances of me landing another job as an English professor at another university are quite unlikely. Openings are few and far between, especially if we are unwilling to relocate (we have no desire to relocate at this point). I'm also not particularly marketable, as my teaching institution emphasized teaching (heavy course load) and service (lots of committee work) rather than research and publishing, and I haven't attended many conferences since having kids, so I'm not sure I'd even get another job anywhere. The market is vicious and I'm sure there are fresh PhDs who have a better publishing record than I do at this point.

It's more likely I could get a job doing something like working at a writing center... but I'm more interested in teaching and pedagogy than I am in tutoring students in writing.

My old boss at the Kumon center will want me to buy his Kumon center so he can retire, but Kumon is sales and customer service and that's just not where I want to put my energy.

David suggested I get certified to teach high school... or teach at a private high school... neither of those ideas is particularly appealing to me, except for the academic schedule.

I might look into a job focused on writing--it would be like technical writing or copy writing... but maybe something I could do from home?

The other thing is that I need a job that really makes it worthwhile for me to work. Otherwise, by the time we pay for before/after school care and baby G's daycare, it might not be financially worth it for me to work at all. But I never imagined myself staying home full time. Sometimes I think it could be great--I could do the kind of writing I want to do and get this time with my last baby. Other times, all I can think about is how stressful the budgeting will be, and how unfulfilling and lonely it might be. Do I want to try to work from home? I don't exactly know what that would look like either.

So that is what is weighing on me most lately. I don't want it to be a cloud over this time with Genevieve, so I've mostly tried to push it to the side of my mind. Our pediatrician was asking me about it yesterday and I was telling her how weird it is to lose my job a year in advance... like I WANT to problem solve now and figure out next steps and job search and all of that, but I'm ahead of schedule and it makes the most sense financially and for my sanity to stay there through this year. She also pointed out that summer at home with two big kids and a newborn is probably not the time that I need to be focused on figuring all of this out.

I know she's right, but I hate the uncertainty. I hate not knowing. I hate feeling like my PhD and the years I've spent teaching have been a waste and that I'm a failure. (I know this isn't logical, but it's where my mind goes at 3am when I'm feeding the baby in a dark house and thinking about what comes next...) I worry about our retirement savings and what happens to our plans to pay off our mortgage and save for college when we're suddenly down to one income with three kids. I know we're actually quite fortunate, but it still feels difficult and scary not knowing what comes next. I cried for a while because I felt like I was losing summers at home with my kids and I'm so unwilling to give that up. Does that sound bratty of me? It's just that it was truly the biggest perk of my job outside of the job itself. But I'm not sure what options I'm left with if I'm not looking for a 12-month gig.

I'd love to hear from people who have made big career transitions, or who write and work from home, or who want to hire me to teach literature to college students (ha).

I'm trying to be optimistic, but I'm quite skeptical of windows opening when doors close and paths unfolding and the universe catching me when I take a leap of faith. I keep telling myself that if the worst case is that I stay at home with baby G for a while, that I'll be fine. Life is big and what happens next doesn't have to be forever.

But in addition to being scared and uncertain, I keep circling back to being really, really sad. Sad that I don't get to keep doing what I'm doing. Sad that what we worked so hard for on our campus wasn't enough. Sad that so many of us are displaced and unemployed and waking with a pit in our stomachs.

I will say that baby snuggles soften the blow of terrible news, so I'm trying to focus on that. Today is the girls' last day of school, so they'll certainly keep me busy in the coming weeks. And I know that I can be resilient, but damn, being resilient is exhausting, you know? I'd rather just be gainfully employed doing what I love to do.

Saturday, May 18, 2019


After all of the drama bringing Genevieve into the world, I was really hoping the hard part was over.

They tested her blood sugar shortly after she was born, and the numbers were lower than hoped for... they gave her some glucose gel, and retested a few hours later.

To be honest, these hours are really foggy in memory. She was born shortly before midnight on Sunday, and we were moved to the mother and baby room in the wee hours of Monday morning. I remember waking up feeling hot and sick to my stomach again, and I know they kept testing her blood sugar. She was very sleepy and not interested in nursing. We gave her a bit of formula and her blood sugar still wasn’t where it needed to be.

All this to say, baby girl ended up getting herself admitted to the NICU because of her low blood sugar.

Apparently this is an issue that is relatively common for "late pre-term" babies, and can show up in babies that have very long labors or very short labors. We're not really sure which one I had, since I was hooked up to an IV and having mild contractions for more than 48 hours, but I really didn't get anything going until the doctor broke my waters, and then she was born two hours later. So... fast or slow, she needed IV glucose.

They called her a "big kid" in the NICU because compared to their wee premies, a six pounder apparently seemed big to them. (Having had eight-and-a-half-pound Coco, I still felt like she was a teensy little thing.) They also called her one of their "sugar babies," which was cute sounding, except it all still meant that she was hooked up to an IV and monitor and had cords everywhere and her poor little heel was getting pricked every three hours to test her blood.

We were feeding her formula every three hours and upping her glucose IV as needed until her numbers got up above 60.

I have to say, I really liked the NICU doctor and the nurses were great. But being there was scary. We were in this dark little cubical of a room with a couch and what was literally the most uncomfortable recliner in existence. Sitting in in was painful, and it was so hard to put the foot rest down that I literally didn't have the core strength to do it. The monitors beeped incessantly.

The hospital gives you two nights for a vaginal birth... and since she was born at 11:32pm, the midnight that came half an hour later counted as my first night. My second night they moved me down to the NICU floor, which was good because I was close to Baby G and because there were far fewer interruptions--nobody took my vitals every few hours, so I actually got a bit of sleep that night, except that I got up to go feed the baby because I wanted to try breastfeeding before each bottle of formula that she was getting.

The nurses kept wanting me to pump, but I knew my milk hadn't come in and also I hate pumping. I have always had oversupply issues, and I knew that my milk would come in regardless of whether or not I was trying to "stimulate" it with a pump because it definitely came in after I lost Eliza and the engorgement was horrifying and traumatic. So it was just a waiting game. I pumped a couple of times as a show of good faith and gave her a couple pumped drops of colostrum, in addition to nursing her before each bottle feeding. It's freaking discouraging to pump for fifteen minutes and get nothing!

It was amazing to me how quickly we acclimated to the NICU. I went in wide eyed and terrified, and cried through the whole explanation from the nurse of what was happening and how she'd be monitored. By the end of the day, I was navigating the Giraffe pod and the parents lounge and the dim, beeping room suddenly felt like home.

I had to check out of the hospital on Tuesday, but Baby G was in the NICU for a couple more nights. David convinced me to go home and sleep for a few hours on Tuesday night after her midnight feeding, mostly because my poor mom had caught the stomach bug and was not functioning, so we wanted to help my dad manage getting the girls up and off to school in the morning.

We had sort of disappeared on the girls on Friday--one friend picked them up from school and fed them dinner, another friend picked them up from there are brought them home and put them to bed and waited for my parents to arrive. They got to meet Genevieve briefly on Monday morning before going to school, but then she was in the NICU and my mom was sick so no one was visiting. Coco was struggling a little bit (metldown city), so we decided it would be helpful for us to be at home briefly.

But let me tell you, leaving the hospital and leaving her there in the NICU felt impossible. I literally couldn't think about it. I walked out of the hospital and got in the car and drove home but I just couldn't wrap my head around what was happening.

The next morning, we were back in the NICU and told David that I was sleeping there until she got released. I was so swollen from my IV meds that my feet were unrecognizable. My eyelids felt grainy and dry.  My nasal congestion had immediately cleared up when I delivered, and my face was slightly less puffy as a result, but my muscles were still sore from the body aches. I felt like I had no appetite, but I had to eat and drink to flush the fluids out of my body. All I did was sit and hold the baby and drink water.

Her numbers were getting better at this point, but it was a slow weaning process from the glucose IV and she had to pass a "car seat test" where they put her in the car seat for 90 minutes and monitor all her vitals to make sure her heart rate and oxygen levels don't drop.

She failed the car seat test the first time--after an hour, her oxygen level dropped below 90 for 32 seconds (30 seconds is the limit). And this was so discouraging--we couldn't leave until she passed, and all I wanted to do was go home, but also I didn't want to take her home if she was in any danger of her oxygen levels dropping. I feel like I spent those NICU days just weeping on and off, knowing that it could be so much worse, but wanting everything to be different.

David went home again Wednesday night, and I stayed and slept on the couch in the NICU room. I felt like I didn't sleep at all, except apparently I was sound asleep when our pediatrician came through. (Side note: I loved so much that our pediatrician visited Genevieve in the hospital every single day--and she was friends with the NICU doctor from medical school, so it made me feel like they were a really collaborative team.)

Finally, it was Thursday and she was completely off the glucose IV and we tried the car seat test again that afternoon, with a specialist car seat fitter person making sure that everything was set up exactly right for our little six-pounder. This time, she passed the test perfectly and I cried again with happiness because we were finally headed home, almost a week after I'd initially been admitted to the hospital.

Of course, Thursday night I called the pediatrician in a panic because I thought Genevieve looked really jaundiced (and she was a little jaundiced, but the doctor assured me that her levels couldn't rise from where they'd been that afternoon to the danger zone in just a few hours. I was scheduled to see the pediatrician the next morning at 9am, so I went to bed feeling reassured). I was beyond relieved to be home, but suddenly it was terrifying not to have monitors and experienced eyes on all her vitals... it was just me!

(Well, me and the Owlet sock, which was definitely a good investment for my peace of mind.)

And so here we are... at home, baby asleep in my arms, the NICU in the rearview mirror. So grateful for the care she got, and so incredibly thankful that she is home with us now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Genevieve's Birth Story

I'm starting this post by saying that there are parts that are scary and maybe triggery for anyone who has lost a baby late in pregnancy. One of the biggest struggles was keeping my mind off of the stories I know of babies in situations not unlike Genevieve's. Anyway, here it goes... it'a long, but I can promise you a happy ending.

I had a regular non-stress scheduled for Friday, May 3, along with a growth ultrasound. I'd had a monitoring appointment on Monday, saw my OB on Thursday, and had this appointment on Friday, so I was feeling relatively calm. I'd just finished up the last week of classes and had finished writing my final exams. I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant. My biggest concern was that my ankles and feet were swelling--not necessarily a big deal, but something I associate with my pregnancy with Eliza. Basically, I just kept asking every health care professional I saw last week to reassure me that it was fine (and they all did).

I'd mentioned to David that this would probably be my last big ultrasound, so if he had time, he should try to be there. He was swamped with meetings and end of year stuff at school, so I was shocked when I saw him walk into the waiting room. He gave me a quick kiss and then explained that he wasn't actually there to see me--he'd had to bring a student to the hospital. That was unfortunate, but then he did get to be there to see the ultrasound after all.

Baby looked perfect on the ultrasound. She practiced breathing, her weight was estimated around 6 pounds, they printed some pictures for us. D hung out with me as we started the NST and everything was going just fine. He decided he needed to get back to work and I told him that I'd stop by Trader Joe's on the way home.

Maybe ten minutes later, I was feeling a lot of movement and watching the monitor. I noticed that the baby's heartrate was going down instead of up as she moved, which I knew was problematic. I remember thinking that I want to ask the nurses about that. Then my phone dinged that I had a text and I looked down at it. I don't even remember who that text was from or what it said, because the next thing I knew, there were three nurses in the room with me. They leaned my chair all the way back and had me roll onto my side. I immediately started crying and shaking even though I wasn't sure what was going on. Later, I would learn that baby was having a serious deceleration--the downward trend I'd noticed kept going and ended up lasting three and a half minutes.

The nurse asked where my husband had gone and told me to call him and tell him to come back. Tell him that we were going to have the baby. The maternal fetal medicine doctor had made the call to admit me. I was still crying when they put me on a gurney and rushed me upstairs. They got me on monitors upstairs right away and I calmed down when baby looked absolutely fine and I knew that lots of eyes were watching her heart rate.

The nurse who checked me in was wonderful. She told me that the deceleration alone wasn't necessarily that "exciting," but combined with my history, they wanted to be extremely cautious. I remember asking her to call my OB and her explaining that he wasn't on call but she'd talk to his partner who was and I tried to explain that he is always on call for me! She knew my doctor (and all the nurses love him because he's awesome and because he brings them candy) so she said she would tell his partner to just give him a call. She told me that in this situation it was likely that they'd ask me what I wanted to do--be monitored for 24 hours or be induced. I told her that I wanted my doctor to make that decision (which he ended up doing).

At some point, David showed up and we were moved to another room. I texted my doula to let her know what was happening and she happened to be driving past the hospital on her way home from downtown, so she went ahead and came up to see us. Around that time, we learned that my doctor had given the orders to go ahead and induce. But instead of our usual game plan of cervidil, as I'd done successfully with both Zuzu and Coco, he wanted a pitocin drip instead. Pitocin can be shut off quickly, should the baby should appear to be in distress and they needed to do an emergency c-section. But once cervidil starts, it gets absorbed so you can't exactly turn it off.

This wasn't great news because of the terrible Bradley method class I took when I was pregnant with Eliza, which convinced me that pitocin was the devil and would always result in a "cascade of interventions." I was still hoping to deliver naturally without an epidural, but I also was more than ready to have a c-section to get this baby out alive, so I was definitely willing to follow my doctor's advice even though I'd never had pitocin before and it made me nervous.

We started the pitocin drip around 9pm and they upped the dosage every hour overnight. I had mild contractions--nothing I couldn't talk through--but I felt like we were making progress and it didn't seem to be the horror drug that the Bradley method woman had insisted it was.

My doula came back Saturday morning around 9am and I was hoping that we'd follow the same kind of timeline as we had with Zuzu and Coco--start induction overnight, deliver the baby in early afternoon, recover from all of that Saturday evening, have the girls come visit on Sunday, and spend Sunday evening with baby on breast watching Game of Thrones.

Despite the contractions being mild, I found it difficult to sleep Friday night. The bed felt to me like it was stuffed with gravel. Every point of contact was painfully sore. Then on Saturday morning, I started feeling cold, hot, and generally feverish. I wondered if these body aches were a side effect of the pitocin. I kept trying to articulate the discomfort I was feeling, but no one really expects to feel comfortable during natural labor. It wasn't long though, before I was sitting on an exercise ball and realized I felt light-headed. I lay down on the bed and then realized that I was going to throw up.

Now, I'm no stranger to puking during labor. I did this a LOT when I was delivering Zuzu--sometimes the contractions are just so strong that you've gotta barf. But this was different. Yes, I was having contractions. But they weren't connected to the waves of nausea that I was experiencing. The contractions were mild compared to the uncontrollable barfing that started happening.

Seriously, I could not stop puking. Even when there was nothing left in me, I was lying in the hospital bed on my left side, my hip and shoulder aching where they met the mattress, my stomach enormous and filled with moving baby and an intermittently contracting uterus, just dry-heaving my guts out. I puked so hard I wet the bed. And I felt so freaking sick that I didn't even care at all.

It was at the moment of bed-wetting that I realized this was unsustainable. I could not do this. The nurses were also realizing that what was going on with my fever and barfing had nothing to do with the induction. David--who by this point was also feeling nauseous and looking pale and gray--mentioned that Zuzu came home from school on Wednesday with a stomach virus and it wasn't long before it was determined that the same stomach bug had struck me--just at the very moment I was being induced.

They turned off the pitocin to focus on getting me through the worst of it. My pitocin drip was replaced with anti-nausea medicine and fluids to replenish everything I'd barfed (and peed) out. I still had occasional mild contractions, but the worst of it was the body aches, which just hurt all over and made lying in bed painful. Plus I started swelling from the fluids, so my legs and feet were unrecognizable.

Through all of this, baby is on the monitor looking 100% absolutely fine.

By Saturday night, my poor doula had already been with us for something like 10 hours and I was no where near having a baby. She had rubbed my sore muscles and put cold rags on my neck while I vomited, but that was just treating a stomach virus--it actually had nothing to do with pregnancy, labor, or delivery! As it turned out, I suppose having that stomach bug strike at the hospital was fortunate in that I had excellent care and IV meds that probably pulled me through much faster than I would have recovered at home--plus someone else to clean up all the vomit and urine. It was still pretty nightmareish, though. I'd never  even thought about being sick and being in labor at the same time!

Saturday night I was drained and exhausted, but I still felt much better, and we decided to restart the pitocin slowly around midnight. Baby still had to be born! My doula (bless her heart) agreed to come back the next day around 9:30am. I was still hopeful that things would go smoothly and I'd have the baby in time to watch Game of Thrones.

(Spoiler: I didn't get to see Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones.)

As it turned out, the fearsome pitocin, devil drug of pregnancy, was ineffective. My doctor shrugged and said, "Some uteruses are unresponsive to pitocin." And I apparently have one of them. They started cranking it up every half hour because I was never getting anything but mild and inconsistent contractions and around 4:30pm on Sunday, the pitocin was giving me 20 mUnit/min and we weren't really making any progress.

I mean really WTF.

Baby still looked perfect on the monitors, but I had been on IV fluids for more than 48 hours and was like a swollen tick. I asked David if he could believe how big my face was and he said he didn't think it looked that bad and I was like, "YOU THINK I ALWAYS LOOK LIKE THIS?"

It was time to take next steps. The nurse kept talking about when they'd break my waters, but I wanted to let my waters break on their own. My labor and delivery with Coco was so amazing and I think letting the waters break on their own was a big part of that. Plus I was like 1 1/2 cm dilated and maybe 70% effaced? My doctor suggested a Foley bulb.

I had just heard of this device from a friend of mine--and heard that it was a horror show. I was initially resistant based on her experience, but when it was that or break my waters, it seemed like the lesser of the two evils. Plus, I was sort of on a timeline since I'd been on the IV for so long and had been induced due to the baby being in distress (although she never showed further signs of distress once I got up to labor and delivery).

So my doctor inserted this balloon up above my cervix, promising that if I hated it or wanted it out, they'd remove it.

It felt disgusting. It felt gross and heavy and kind of like having a speculum inserted for a pap smear. Unpleasant and unnatural. But it was supposed to get me to dilate and I was so, so ready to get this baby out. So I hung out with it, first just resting, then taped to my thigh to put more pressure on the cervix. When it fell out, my doula was sort of astonished. She told me I was her first client to actually use the Foley bulb successfully rather than insist on having it removed. David said he was going to start calling me "Nails" because I was so tough. I was just VERY motivated, folks. I'd already been in the hospital for two days!

So I was four centimeters dilated, having more contractions, but still things weren't moving along super fast. We totally missed Game of Thrones and by 9:30pm I was SO ready to get this baby out of me.

A nurse had told me earlier that due to my low platelet count, anesthesiology wasn't sure I was a candidate for an epidural. I said that was fine; I didn't want one anyway, but she explained that it meant that in the case of an emergency c-section I'd have to go totally under general anesthesia. I was starting to get concerned that if I didn't deliver relatively soon that I'd end up needing a c-section, and I think if I'd had a different doctor, we probably would have gone in that direction. I'm so fortunate that baby's heart rate remained perfect on the monitor, no matter how much puking I did. But at this point, having a c-section on top of a stomach bug was really unappealing. I was ready to give it a go at pushing the baby out.

Once they broke my waters (around 9:30pm), I got in the big tub in the room to labor there. I was so uncomfortable because my legs were so swollen I couldn't sit on my knees and rest my butt on my heels. I ended up sitting sideways like a cheerleader in the tub. But finally the contractions started FOR REAL.

All the intensity and frequency that had been missing from my "surges" (in doula speak) showed up and I labored in the tub, trying to yoga breathe. I was not as cool, calm, and collected as I had been during Coco's birth. I was tired. I was still achy. I was swollen. I was scared.

(Baby still looked great on the monitor.)

I couldn't have told you how long I was in there, but labor progressed pretty rapidly. The nurse asked if she could check me and I told her no (in what could only be called an unfriendly tone). I also horked up the soup and bread bowl I'd eaten for dinner. Poor David thought that was going to make him puke, but instead he let me breathe barf breath all over him while he held the bucket and I squeezed his hand. This was vomiting directly related to contractions, although I still felt a bit nauseous the next morning (the bug also lingered a bit longer for David since he didn't get any IV meds for nausea and just had to soldier through it).

My doula told me to let her know when I had to push, and the way she whispered it to me, I thought it would be like a secret and I wouldn't have to get out of the tub. But no. When I said that I wanted to push, she went and told the nurse, and they had me get out of the tub and move over to the bed. Things got super painful and I had a flashback to Zuzu's birth when I thought she was broken into sharp pieces inside me. I remember yelling (screaming?) that something was wrong but everyone kept assuring me that everything was great and I was doing everything right. David said he was kind of worried when I started freaking out, but he kept watching my doctor's face and the doctor was so calm that he knew everything was fine. In fact, the doctor apparently got called to another birth WHILE I was pushing the baby out and he answered his cell phone with one hand and said calmly, "Okay, I'll be there as soon as I finish up here," before putting his phone away, pulling on a new glove and catching the baby.

And then finally, FINALLY she was out of me and I was so relieved and my doctor had to tell me to reach down and grab the baby, and I did and she was perfect. Tiny, but perfect.

6 pounds, 9 ounces. 20 inches long. Born at 36 weeks and 6 days after an entire weekend of being in labor or barfing or both. A perfect little punkin, and we are so grateful that she's ours.