41 ½ Weeks

It wasn’t supposed to happen to me. Second babies are never overdue, I thought, and I was pretty sure I read somewhere that most women have all of their kids around the same point of gestation. My son’s labor began at 38 weeks and 3 days, and so while my daughter’s due date was December 25, I informed anyone who asked that she would most likely be home in time for Christmas. But the holidays came and went, and as I stared down the final days of the year, my Google history filled with increasingly desperate searches:

how to induce labor

do late babies sleep better?

has anyone ever been pregnant forever???

The weekly emails and updates from my pregnancy apps stopped comparing my fetus to a fruit and started questioning my sanity. “Are you sure you’re really pregnant?” They asked gently. “Maybe you should see someone.” Strangers no longer smiled warmly when they saw me waddling down the sidewalk and instead crossed the street like I might have some infectious disease. My phone lit up with calls from the bravest among my family members, gleefully posing the dreaded question:

Have you had that baby yet?

Medical induction wasn’t an option for me, so I turned to the Old Wives for their recommendations. Black cohash sounded sinister, like something an ancient Greek philosopher would use to poison his rival. Evening primrose oil required more flexibility than I possessed at 10 months pregnant. Castor oil had the most promising data behind it, but I was not quite prepared to poop myself into labor. I drank red raspberry leaf tea and walked for an hour every morning, which did succeed in getting the baby into the entryway, but did nothing about opening the door.

“Anything you recommend?” I asked my doctor at my 57-week appointment, after she informed me that if it was possible to be negative-dilated, I was.

“There is one thing,” she said.

I reconsidered the castor oil.

New Year’s Eve came and went. One evening, while hauling my substantial bulk off of the yoga ball and lowering myself into a forward-leaning inversion, I turned to my husband and said, “I think we’re going to have to try.” He looked like a third-string quarterback that had just been called in for the final play against Alabama. A squirrel that fell into the lion cage. The young squire thrown into battle. For God and country, we were going to get this baby out.

“I think I have a headache,” he said.

The Saturday night before the Monday of my scheduled repeat C-section, I gave up. My husband and I stayed up late talking, mourning the lost chance of a spontaneous labor and a VBAC, pointing out all of the benefits of a scheduled birth. At least we would be well rested. We went to sleep at midnight, at peace with the way things were going to be.

Labor began at 3am.

My baby girl was born 26 hours later, at 41 weeks and 4 days—just a few days shy of forever.

41 weeks pregnant, feeling as sexy as a beluga whale.

41 weeks pregnant, feeling as sexy as a beluga whale.

Popping the Baby Cork

Sometime around 30 weeks pregnant, you begin to look past your varicose veins and foot bloat and realize that sooner or later, somehow and in some way, that angry badger you’re housing in your abdomen is going to have to come out of your body. After you’ve done enough Googling to form a basic understanding of the mechanics of labor and delivery, you will still be left with the most pressing pregnancy question of all—is this random twinge or cramp or feeling labor, or is it gas?

Labor, like everything else that has to do with pregnancy, child-rearing, or being a human, is unique to the person experiencing it. Some women progress through the Signs of Labor check-list with OCD-like precision, while others feel no symptoms until they are doubled-over in the Costco parking lot with a head poking out between their legs. Plus, as I learned the hard way, labor can start and then stop, over and over, for a period of days or even weeks, like you’re under the spell of some comic book villain who plans to take over the world by driving women insane.

Many people will tell you that once you are truly in labor, “you’ll just know.” Those people are assholes. You may not just know, or you may know and be wrong, at least by the strictest definition of active labor. I had a very textbook start to my first labor, which began mid-38 weeks. My son dropped early, and his head was engaged by my 35-week appointment. I had Braxton-Hicks contractions throughout the third trimester, and they dutifully increased in strength, length, and frequency as the final weeks wore on. Back pain and cramps followed suit, and within 12 hours of my (first) trip to the hospital, I peered into the toilet and heard a voice in the back of my head announce in Michael Cain’s accent, “it’s the bloody show!” Then, of course, I proceeded to have the world’s longest labor, with contractions starting and stopping, growing longer and then shorter, for the next 60 hours, until my doctor mercifully faked a cervical check, announced I was sufficiently dilated, and ordered a nurse with a wheelchair to whisk me across the parking deck to the epidural palace.

Despite the individual variations, however, there are still a few signs you can obsess over in your final weeks that may or may not indicate that labor will begin sometime between this afternoon and three weeks from Thursday. As always, if you think you may be in labor, consult your doctor or midwife, and don’t be afraid to be wrong.

Possible Signs of Labor OR Food Poisoning

  • Stable Weight or Weight Loss: If you are not me and have thus decided against the post-37-weeks All Cookie Diet, you may find that your weight gain slows, stops, or back-tracks in the final lap. Good for you—why don’t you go try to squeeze into your wedding gown in celebration while I make myself another sandwich.
  • Restlessness/Energy Burst/Nesting: Another symptom that my inherent laziness has successfully combated for both pregnancies. I do recall a sort of a brain buzz or rush of adrenaline that accompanied the start of early labor with my first, and subconsciously I knew that I had reached the point where mama cats start shredding paper towels in the kitchen and surreptitiously dragging them into the closet to create a birthing bed in the laundry hamper. Building a nest, or watching a lot of HGTV, is our primitive brain’s sign that the show is about to begin.
  • Increased Bathroom Visits: According to Science, all of the muscles in your body will begin to relax in preparation for the stretching and loosening and accommodating of human skulls that certain parts will soon have to do to deliver your baby. Relaxin is an equal-opportunity hormone, thus your stomach, intestines, and colon will join the party. I would compare this particular style of bodily house-cleaning to what happens when you eat too much Tex-Mex—not terribly aggressive in the way of tainted sushi, but thorough nonetheless.
  • Losing the Mucus Plug/Bloody Show: Because hemorrhoids and nipple leakage aren’t gross enough, mother nature has prepared this special pregnancy capstone event to usher you into the house of horrors that is labor, delivery, and the post-partum era. In truth, the name is worse than the experience. Your mucus plug may come out over a period of days and thus be easy to confuse with all the other weird ick that’s been emerging from your body since last Easter, or it may come out all at once, appearing like a giant loogey in your toilet. It may be white, pink, or brown, but if it’s bright red or accompanies as much bleeding as your period, call your OB to check in. Bleeding throughout all of the stages of labor is pretty common and usually normal, but it’s one of those “better to be safe” symptoms.
  • Water Breaking: According to Dr. Internet, only about 15% of women experience their water breaking before labor is well underway, but among my circle of friends, about 95% of them experience this one-way ticket to the L&D fast-lane. Your water may break in a huge splash like in the movies, or it may come in a slow, uncontrollable trickle, the way your pee will be doing for months after birth. Supposedly you can distinguish amniotic fluid from urine by the smell, but I’m not sure who really gets that up close and personal with her underwear this late in the pregnancy game. I was most surprised to learn that your water doesn’t just break once like a water balloon, it may continue gushing during each contraction for hours. If you are having a hospital birth, your water breaking starts the clock on your labor, so clean yourself up, slap on an adult diaper, and get yourself to your OB’s office or L&D within an hour or two.
  • Contractions: Duh, right? Contractions are the most obvious sign that labor is imminent, but the problem is, no one can tell you what real contractions feel like. Last time around my doctor gave me the whole “5-1-1” rule, meaning I should call when my contractions were five minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for at least one hour. I am such an overachiever I waited until 5-1-2 before triumphantly showing up to the hospital, secretly gloating about my above-average pain tolerance, only to be told I was 1cm dilated and should go back home and wait another week like the rest of the sissies. This time around I will be following the “F-5-5-5” rule, meaning I will go to the hospital when I have said the work “fuck” at least five times in five minutes to five different people. They say that productive contractions grow stronger, more frequent, and more intense over time—but if you’ve been stuck in the purgatory of early labor for days and you just want an IV of narcotics and an Ambien to take the edge off, I recommend bursting into tears at the hospital admissions desk and hoping a nurse takes pity on you.

At the dawn of my third day of strong but irregular contractions with my first child, as I sat in a sleep-deprived haze in the recliner in our living room trying to remember to breathe, I realized that I was never, ever going to have this baby. It simply was not going to happen for me, and I was absolutely certain I would be stuck in that chair, unable to move or speak or sleep or wake up, for all eternity. In that moment, no one could have convinced me that a baby would soon emerge from my body—I had lost all capacity for rational thought. And that was the surest sign of all that active labor had finally begun. As a first-time mom, you won’t know until you know, whether that knowledge sets in before, during, or after labor is underway. So go ahead and do whatever your doctor tells you to do, because maybe you do have an above-average tolerance for pain, and no one wants to give birth in the back seat of her brand new Subaru Outback because she listened to my advice and waited too long to get moving.

Written by: Kathleen

Busting out of Hollywood!

For those of you who have never given birth and are basing the whole experience on how Hollywood portrays childbirth, I thought I’d review a few scenes from famous movies and give you a run down from least to most realistic: 

#1 JUNIOR (1994)This one needs no explanation. I couldn’t find a clip of the actual birth, but who needs it? The movie studio heads that approved the making of this film also made "Problem Child"-- enough said. California, this was your Governor :)

#2 LOOK WHO'S TALKING (1989): Bruce Willis does a stellar job narrating the terror of a newborns experience, but Kirstie Alley’s birth canal is shown has the fastest slip and slide in the world AND she gives birth to a 3-month old baby. Pretty special. 

#3 MEN IN BLACK (1997): I can imagine this is EXACTLY what vehicular labor is like, but they make it look like Will Smith’s character is the one having the hard time. They don’t even focus on the poor woman/creature popping out the squid!

#4 KNOCKED UP (2007)While Katherine Hegiel’s intensity is pretty spot on, she loses points for the fact that she can still talk and her knees are no where near her ears. I do give mad props for the quick peek at the baby crowning.  Too many movies deny where babies actually come out of during these scenes

#5: ALIEN (1979): This one not only displays how out of control you feel, but the sheer panic that everyone around you is in. They even know there’s a human coming out of you and that this is the most natural thing on earth, but they still stare at you as if E.T. could burst out of you at any moment. 

Written by: Alice

The Two-Week Wait

The longest two weeks of any planned pregnancy are the two that stand between the tiny twinge of suspected ovulation and the twenty minutes spent staring at the positive pee stick and muttering “holy shit” as it slowly dawns on you that sex really works. Sometimes! But not every time, hence the 336 interminable hours of wondering whether your martini and brie binges are turning a bundle of cells into a knubbly carrot stick or whether a free-floating blastocyst can be psychologically damaged by your repeated viewing of the season finale of The Walking Dead.

The hardest part of the first two weeks of a pregnancy—or a non-pregnancy—is that every little blip and flip your body creates is both a perfectly ordinary function of a non-pregnant person and an absolutely positive sign that you are pregnant. These 14 days create a comforting symmetry to the final few weeks of pregnancy, when every flip and flop your body creates is both a perfectly ordinary function of a third-trimester pregnant person and an absolutely positive sign that you are in labor and your water is about to break all over your conference room chair during your quarterly all-division staff meeting.

Take heart. If you are pregnant, you are in the first days of a 40-ish week journey filled with tummy-clenching uncertainty, heart-palpitating second-guessing, and insomnia-inducing Googling. Also, insomnia, heart palpitations, and a clenched tummy are all possible early signs of pregnancy, while also being perfectly normal bodily functions of a non-pregnant person with a moderate anxiety disorder or a penchant for drinking too much wine on weeknights.

Because the only thing any woman in the midst of the two-week wait wants to know is whether or not this or that vague feeling is an early sign of pregnancy, I will share a few of the signals my body was sending before it was time to take a test. Keep in mind that scientifically speaking, the only way to know for certain that you are pregnant is by giving birth to a human infant.

Things I Vaguely Recall Feeling Very Early in My First Pregnancy (Before the Double-Lined Pee Stick):

  • Like I was definitely not pregnant.
  • Like just in case, I should probably drink up all the good wine in the house.
  • Like everyone on the planet was pregnant but me.
  • Cramps that were not at all dissimilar to pre-period cramps, and only after I learned I was pregnant did I discern a possible difference in that pre-period cramps feel more “squeezy” and these cramps felt more “stretchy.”

Things I Felt Very Early in My Second Pregnancy that Caused Me to Drink Up All the Good Wine in the House:

  • Nausea—All of the real official medical websites say that morning sickness does not begin until at least three weeks after conception, and all of the ladies on the message boards claim they started puking the moment sperm met egg. The first week of waiting I felt pretty yakky, but I think that was the six or seven cups of coffee I was drinking per morning. The second week I felt differently yakky, like the way I imagine a panting cat feels, but I figured that could’ve been the metric ton of leftover Easter candy I consumed.
  • Cramps that felt maybe stretchy, maybe squeezy, maybe just the quart of Pad Thai I ate last night.
  • Like I was definitely not pregnant.
  • Like I was definitely pregnant.
  • Like all of the same people who were pregnant last time were pregnant again.

Intuition is incredibly reliable in hindsight.

Of course, both times I eventually confirmed that the cramps were not PMS and the queasiness wasn’t the leftover Pad Thai, it was a microscopic embryo burrowing into my uterine lining and doubling her HcG like a champion. No matter what you hope or think or feel or read on the internet while you’re waiting to build up enough good, concentrated pee to whip out a stick, there is no way to know until you know. The nail-biting uncertainty of the two-week wait is maddening, but as I learned, it is excellent training for parenthood.

Written by: Kathleen

The Second Trimester: Pregnancy's Middle Child

Second trimester is supposed to be a period of rainbows and sunshine and zen-like bliss. You’re over the first trimester with its puking and crying and 2pm naps, yet you’re miles away from the third trimester, when you can’t get out of bed without a decent rolling start and you’re pretty sure your baby’s head is actually poking out of your vagina most hours of the day. Oh second trimester, you mythical 13 weeks of superhuman energy, teenage sex drive, and beautiful maternal glow, why do you dangle your sparkling wares in our faces, dragging us through these middle weeks whispering sweet lies in our desperate ears? While the second trimester is perhaps not as abjectly miserable as the first or third, it still has many unique traits that remind you that pregnancy has no pause button. Below are just a few of the ways the second trimester shines own its special star over the 40 week shit-storm that is growing a human:

  • Nausea II: The Revenge—All of your pregnancy apps and weekly emails begin to inform you around Week 6 that nausea and vomiting may soon be upon you, but each is quick to reassure that morning sickness disappears the moment the clock strikes midnight the day you enter the 2nd trimester. Then when you’re actually in the 13th or 14th week (because no single resource can agree when ol’ 2T really begins), your app is all like, “JK, BTW, nausea often recurs until 16 weeks, and sometimes it lasts the whole pregnancy, but it will DEFINITELY be gone by the time your kid starts kindergarten, trust us, winky face, heart.” I have found that there are some notable differences between first- and second-trimester nausea. Whereas my 1st trimester morning sickness arrived after breakfast and just kind of hung around in the background all day like your pot-head college boyfriend, my 2nd trimester nausea has been a sneaky little bastard, leaping in with a karate chop in the afternoon and forcing me to mainline tortilla chips and Gatorade ‘til dinner.
  • Weight Gain—Those same hateful pregnancy apps that lied about morning sickness may also welcome you to the 2nd trimester by telling you that it’s OK if you haven’t gained any weight yet, but you’ll probably start adding a pound or so a week going forward. For both of my pregnancies, I gained 5 lbs the moment I saw two lines on the stick. Something about the act of peeing on a pregnancy test sends my body into a spiral of carb collecting and calorie hoarding that results in an impressive accumulation of back fat by Week 3. But the real fun starts at about 15 weeks when your wee one begins the journey from tomato to watermelon and you being your own journey from freshman sorority girl to hibernating grizzly bear.
  • Bleeding Gums/Nose Bleeds—Apparently Nature has her reasons for absolutely ensuring no father will ever get laid during his wife’s pregnancy, and boy is she thorough.
  • Braxton Hicks—Braxton Hicks contractions are like real labor contractions in that they both involve your uterus, and otherwise they have absolutely nothing in common. But you won’t necessarily know that, so it’s OK to panic the first time your stomach seizes into a hard knot for several seconds. For me, BH contractions feel like a charley horse in the uterus, and while they may be uncomfortable, they don’t hurt (just an FYI for first-time moms looking for a comparison: no matter what Ina May Gaskin says, labor contractions hurt, and not in that “holy crap, that really hurts” kind of way, more in that “holy crap, I am being eaten by a tiger” kind of way). Mine show up around 18-20 weeks, whereas some people don’t feel them until the end of the 3rd trimester, and a few lucky ladies won’t experience them at all. Exertion and dehydration make them worse, so if they are frequent enough to ignite the twinge of worry that inevitably leads you to WebMD, park yourself in front of a House Hunters marathon with a bottle of SmartWater and tell your spouse you can’t do the dishes until next week. As always, if you feel something is off or funny in that general region, don’t be afraid to call your doctor’s office so that the nurses can have a good giggle behind your back.
  • Frequent Peeing/Heartburn/Aches & Pains—So begin the minor foibles of pregnancy that by 38 weeks will have you feeling homicidal, if only you could get off the couch without grunting like your grandpa. I have to pee about 45 times per day, with approximately 80% of those times occurring in the 20 minutes between turning off the lights and falling asleep at night. I am only up twice per night, however, which is a far cry from the bi-hourly pee breaks that will begin around week 30 and make you twitchy with rage every time some moronic jack-hole in your office elevator says, “Sleep now while you still can!” Also, I generally have to pee far less often this time around because I spent the first few months of my son’s life only getting to pee once every four days, thus re-training my bladder for the lifestyle of a cactus. The heartburn has started, but again, it’s merely a harbinger of misery to come—the canary in the mineshaft of my esophagus is still tweeting merrily with nary a premonition of the volcanic hellfire that will erupt in late September. Likewise, the back and hip aches are only just beginning to flare up, most often when I have to carry my two year-old home from the park because he threw his $40 sneakers in the creek again. 

Despite my rage against the machine of lies about the glories of the second trimester, I must note that many of these discomforts become relative in your second and subsequent pregnancies. First-time moms are delicate flowers, dedicating most of their days to sensing, experiencing, and Googling every single symptom of their magical journey. Second-time moms are often a bit heartier and/or more distracted—is that sciatica I feel or just the result of crawling under the electronics display at Target this morning to retrieve my toddler and the armful of women’s underwear he sprinted off with while I tried to find a belly band? I imagine third-plus-time moms are downright Amazonian about the whole process, and I’m surprised more of them don’t accidentally give birth while waiting in line at McDonald’s to exchange the Minion toys in their kids’ happy meals because they already have the purple one and want the caveman one that supposedly swears. And to be fair, second trimester has its perks, like you’re allowed to have an occasional glass of wine, assuming you live in Europe where they’re cool like that, and you’re probably wearing maternity pants now, so feel free to belly on up to the buffet at Golden Corral for thirds because you’ve got room to spare. And sleep while you can, because seriously, the whole house of cards is about to come crashing down, and also you’re about to get hemorrhoids. 

Written by: Kathleen

The best part about the 2nd trimester is getting to find our your baby’s sex so friends and family don’t lose any time imposing ridiculous gender stereotypes!

The best part about the 2nd trimester is getting to find our your baby’s sex so friends and family don’t lose any time imposing ridiculous gender stereotypes!

Baby Boom

We’re having a baby! I couldn’t let Alice have all the fun and new blog material. Plus, my husband and I decided that after having one child, we were still too well-rested and had too much money leftover each month and we needed to remedy that as quickly as possible.

This was not always the plan. My husband is an only child and maintains the deluded notion that being the focal point of his parents’ love, energy, and financial resources somehow contributed to him turning into the well-adjusted, successful individual that he is today. Bearing witness to the occasional fights between me and my brothers that involve hurling verbal daggers at one another’s deepest insecurities has done nothing to convince him of the superiority of a childhood shared with siblings.

He wasn’t the only one with reservations. At my six-week postpartum appointment following C’s birth, my doctor asked me how many more children I wanted and I told her I wasn’t even sure I wanted to keep the one we had. Yet as our baby grew into an amazing little boy, we couldn’t help but think that we owed it to the planet to further perpetuate our gene pool.

The best part is, the new baby is due on Christmas Day. So not only will we instill in C the notion that Santa is a vengeful bastard not to be fucked with, but our second child will forever be competing for attention with the world’s most popular firstborn son. The kid’s not even born yet and we’ve already done our level-best to give him or her a serious inferiority complex. Parenting A+!

Written by: Kathleen

   C's big brother field test did not go as well as we'd hoped...

   C's big brother field test did not go as well as we'd hoped...

Oops! I did it again . . .

That’s right, round two here we come!! We did it, and now we are nervous. The decision to have a second child now seems completely irrational when you look at the hard facts. You couldn’t afford the first one, your social and professional lives have suffered, and you will never again have furniture that isn’t stained. It’s like crawling out of a poop tunnel after escaping from prison, deciding freedom isn’t for you, and turning around to go back through for more. That is the stinky trip I made the sober(ish) decision to embark upon.   

For those of you still in the throes of your first pregnancy or recent delivery of 1.0, you can’t imagine signing up for another round. The sneaky part is that you completely forget about all the physical discomfort and emotional havoc that comes with pregnancy, labor and postpartum. This is called “postpartum dementia”, because I just decided to call it that. This is where you lose the ability to connect with any of the pain and feel completely fine to go through all of it repeatedly until you lose all feeling in your lower extremities. Hence a world birth rate of 255 babies per minute—that’s 134,028,000 placentas hitting the floor or field, depending, every year people!!!  You are welcome world. I am doing my part to contribute. 

You tell yourself that your little one will only be able to feel the full joy of life if she can share it with another child who is blessed with the exact same set of amazing parents. WRONG! Do you know how amazing it is to be the only child in your parents’ and, if you’re lucky, grandparents’ lives? I am surprised we don’t have more first born children marching on Washington petitioning that 2nd and 3rd borns be pushed off the highest peak! Don't take this as me saying we should all come from single-child families. As a middle child myself, I am very thankful that my parents drank the same crazy juice as everyone else and decided to double down (they even went for thirds later), but I am certain that my older sibling spent the better part of my youth trying to figure out a way to feed me to the fishes, and can I really blame her? She had a world that was completely run by her giggles and scheduled around her potty breaks. When I showed up, it put a huge cramp in her style. She would have likely been a Mensa candidate if my parents hadn’t dispersed their attention and wisdom across all three of us.  To my first child: I apologize for ruining your chances of being exceptional.  

In all seriousness, we are thrilled to have the chance to give this parenting thing another go. Surely we can’t screw up two children. There’s always one that’s good right?  

D is completely underwhelmed by the idea of a sibling. 

D is completely underwhelmed by the idea of a sibling.