13 Reasons Why

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

If you have a pulse and an internet connection, then you've probably heard of "13 Reasons Why". Spoiler alert: It's about a girl who died by suicide after... a bunch of stuff happens. And she leaves a bunch of cassette tapes (who even has those anymore?), detailing how each person in her life contributed to her death. It was a book before it was a series directed by Selena Gomez. Apparently, it's pretty popular and addictive. I watched it. Well, most of it. I watched the first 9 episodes and then skipped to the end and watched pieces of the last episode. I'll tell you why.

You shouldn't watch it. No one should. Here are a few reasons (not thirteen, because who needs that many?) you shouldn't watch 13 Reasons Why. And, uh, spoiler alert, I guess.

No one is responsible for anyone's suicide.

Period. End of story. Suicide is a horrible cause of death, often following a protracted battle with depression or other mental illness. The people left after the suicide always, always, always, need to know why. They want a reason why their loved one chose to end their life. They want to know if there was anything they could have done. Or if they did something to cause it. The rest of their lives, some of these people will probably blame themselves in one way or another. The last thing we need is for mainstream media to purport the idea that one or many people can cause someone to kill themselves. Or perhaps more dangerously, the idea that if we're all just really kind to one another and we just love one another better that we can prevent suicide. Depression that ends in suicide cannot be prevented by simple kindness. Full stop.

Getting help is essentially not discussed.

The only time Hannah Baker tries to access the mental health system, it is through her guidance counselor at school, which turns into an unmitigated disaster. She can't and won't tell him who assaulted her, and without that information, he glibly says that she other option is to "move on". She leaves the office in a huff, saying that she "needs to get over it", finishes recording her 13th tape, and then goes home to kill herself. Not once was this girl referred to any kind of actual health professional. Despite the fact that she displayed multiple signs of needing help, including saying things like she wanted life to stop and that she thought she was a burden, her school performance dropping, withdrawing from friendships, feeling worthless, and withdrawing from hobbies and activities. No one hauled that girl into a doctor's office, no one sat her down and made her talk. No one tried to find out why she was in so much pain. No one. There are so many options. 1-800-CONTACT and 1-800-273-8255 are both 24 hour hotlines that anyone can call and talk to a real human about something going on in their lives. You can call 911. Your job probably has an Employee Assistance Program. Your college has a counseling center. Hell, leave me a comment here and I will personally help you find someone to talk to. You are not alone. 

It glorifies and glamorizes suicide.

When someone dies by suicide, there are things that you and others SHOULD. NOT. DO. One of those things is don't glamorize or sensationalize the suicide. This entire show violates this and makes it the centerpiece of many classroom discussions. Furthermore, in death, Hannah Baker received everything she hoped would happen when people listened to her tapes: sympathy, anger, regret, guilt, and lastly, most importantly, love. She was vindicated in these tapes. People realized how awful they had been to her, they all felt bad, things HAPPENED. Will things change? Probably not, because people, teenagers especially, are terrible. But in the show, Clay Jensen decides to be nice to that weird girl, and her parents get closure (???), and there's a court case in process. (Sure, there's also that lingering, terrifying, idea that there's a kid planning a school shooting, and that yet another kid has tried to die by suicide, but let's leave that for the moment.) Overall, the entire thing is just handled incorrectly, and really the exact opposite of how any suicide death should be handled.

The suicide scene is gratuitous.

It reads like a how-to on slitting your wrists. Not only does it depict the entirety of the act, it does so gruesomely and painfully. I have a strong stomach and an equally strong mental fortitude for things, and it made me nauseated. It chilled me. Maybe that was the point. But I'm also 30 years old and I know better than to try and die by suicide because I understand that death is FINAL and there is no coming back. In the novel, Hannah's suicide is vague, but it can be inferred that she dies by taking an overdose of pills. In an interview with Seventeen, Jay Asher, author of the book, was quoted as saying, "We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide."

Welp, Jay and Selena, it was gratuitous. And you skipped the middle part. You know, the actual dying. You went from bleeding in a bathtub to totally dead. You didn't talk about how when your blood pressure plummets, your heart rate goes up to try and correct it, and you become starved of oxygen because there isn't enough blood in your body to get it to your brain, even though you're breathing just fine. In fact, you're probably hyperventilating. Feeling panicky because at this point, yeah, you're going to die, probably and now you can feel it. You forgot that part.

So no. There is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide. You just certainly wouldn't get that idea from watching 13 Reasons Why.

So, why should we listen to you?

I mean, go ahead, don't listen to me. You're a grown-up. I'm only one person, shouting into the void of the internet along with millions of other people. But I can tell you this. When I was 16, I was suicidal. I spent 10 days in an intensive, outpatient program. It was hell. I was contemplating suicide a second time at 27. That time, I spent 4 days as an inpatient on a psychiatric ward of a hospital. It was also hell, in case you were wondering. For 14 years, I self-injured. For 4 years, I have been a recovering self-injurer. When my depression gets bad, it is a conscious choice I have to make to not hurt myself. It is not always easy. Depression is hard. It lies. Constantly.

While I can't say how I would have felt if I had read this book or seen this series when I was 16, I can pretty much guarantee that the answer wouldn't be, "Way better and way less likely to hurt myself,". What did help me wasn't books or shows about other teenagers dying by suicide and the dramatics that followed. What helped were my friends and teachers who weren't afraid to tell my mom they were worried about me, even after I "swore them to secrecy". Therapists I saw on a regular basis. Oh, and drugs. SSRI's are a huge part of why I'm here today. Better living through chemistry.

If you have already watched the show, or you're still going to watch it, then I want you to remember this. Suicide is not meant to be consumed as mass entertainment. 13 Reasons Why wants you to think it is.

If you've watched the show, how did you feel about it? Did you read the book beforehand? Let's chat.

Spring Cleaning

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hello! This has been a long time coming, but it's finally here! A rebrand! A new name! A new design! For awhile now, Simply A hasn't felt... quite right. Anyone who reads this blog (hi, hello, yes, you there!) knows that in no way, shape, or form does the word "simple" enter into the calculus of my life. Quite the opposite. (In fact, "Organized Chaos" was another new title option.)

When I started blogging, I had no real idea about where I would go or what I would do with it. I used it as a dumping ground for my feelings (of which there are many), life updates, and occasionally, opinion pieces on mental health, med school, or being married. Ever since GoogleReader died (RIP, GoogleReader), I feel like blog readership has been down, and the days of blogging about nothing are all but gone. To make it big now, you have to have a product, run courses, or work with sponsors. I've written a few sponsored posts here and there, but I certainly don't have either of the other two draws for people to read my blog. Essentially, I'm shouting into the void out here. 

Now though, I am involved in in-Training, an online magazine for medical students, as part of their writing interns for the year. I want to get serious about writing, because if I ever want to actually write that book I keep talking about, I'm going to need to hone some skills. Also, I wanted to narrow the focus of my blog from what was previously described as "life, the universe, and everything," to a few key topics: medicine, motherhood, mental health. 

Of course, I'll also be updating about the baby, general life happens, applications to residency, etc. The driving force though behind this blog are those three topics, though. So, if you have anything you want to hear about, check out the "Say Hello!" contact form on the lower right hand sidebar and let me know! 

I hope you enjoy the new look and feel as much as I do, and as always, thanks for coming around to see the place. Stay awhile!

Motherhood Is Just One Surprise After Another

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Real talk: I thought I was going to hate breastfeeding.

I can distinctly remember sitting in my therapist's office, hugely pregnant, talking about the creature in my belly becoming an outside baby in the not-too-distant future. The subject of nursing came up, and I said, "I think breastfeeding is great, but I have no desire to feed a human off of my body." My therapist laughed and said that I might change my mind, that when the nurse hands you your baby, sometimes, something clicks. I am 99% sure I actually rolled my eyes at her and promptly changed the subject.

Every time someone asked (which was weirdly often), my answer was always the same. "I'll try it. We'll see." Even when talking to our doula before the birth, I expressed my concern that I might not like breastfeeding, and that I really wanted to start pumping early. I was entirely convinced that I was not going to a Nursing Mom. Full stop.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong. So wrong.

If you read my birth story, you'll recall that I had a very protracted labor, that ended in an emergency c-section. Because I wasn't feeling well, I wasn't able to do immediate skin-to-skin in the delivery room, so it was about 20 minutes before I was able to hold my daughter. I was still a little feverish, I was thirsty, I couldn't feel my legs, and I was exhausted from being awake and in labor for the previous 25 hours. Then, the nurse handed me our baby, and nothing else mattered. Aviva had been trying to nurse since approximately 3 minutes after she was born, including on Ken's clean suit that he had to wear in the OR, and this moment was no different. She immediately started rooting, and all of a sudden, all of my old feelings and worries were gone. I just wanted to nurse this baby. Our doula helped me get positioned and talked me through getting Aviva to latch. I was very fortunate, and this tiny babe was a nursing rock star. And me? I was blissed out. Was it a little uncomfortable? Sure. Was it weird? Yeah, kind of. But it didn't matter. From that moment on, I was hooked.

Over the next couple of days, Aviva and I learned more about this whole breastfeeding thing. My milk started to come in, which was bizarre, but also great. Ken and I went to a breastfeeding class that one of the lactation consultants led each day, and I had a visit with my own lactation consultant every day. Most of the time, things went really well. There was one night that things got a little hairy, of course. It was three in the morning and Aviva woke up and she was hangry. Her tiny, newborn wails filled the room and I hobbled over to the bassinet as fast as my c-section incision would allow. I scooped her up, brought her back to my bed, and tried to get her to latch. She was rage-crying at this point, her little face was so red, and she just would. not. latch. Panicking, I paged the nurse from the room phone and tried to explain what was happening over Aviva's cries... but of course, the nurse couldn't hear me. Moments later, she swooped into the room, an angel clad in navy scrubs, and, for lack of a better word, man-handled Aviva onto my boob. And just like that... quiet. Well, quiet except for the happy nursing noises of a contented newborn. Sigh of relief.

After we were discharged, I was nervous to go home. What if I couldn't get Aviva to latch at home? What if I didn't have enough milk? What if she didn't gain enough weight? What if, what if, what if. Astonishingly, none of that happened. In fact, I had a bit of an oversupply problem and a really forceful letdown, so I spent a lot of time apologizing to Aviva for shooting milk in her face. I had a few clogged ducts every day, so I showered to help work them out, used warm compresses and nursed as much as i could.  (Again, this is the part where I tell you how glamorous motherhood is and then laugh until I cry.) Things were going well until (dun dun DUNNNNN) I was struck down by mastitis. It was the craziest thing. I felt kind of tired and gross, got in the shower, and in the span of ten minutes went from "gross but manageable" to "chills, 102 degree fever, body aches, wishing for death". Oh, and my boob was KILLING me. Fortunately, my OB's office called me in a script for antibiotics and I was able to start them really quickly. Within 24 hours, I was no longer trying to formulate a plan to amputate my breast, and I no longer wished for death. It would have been so easy to give up at that point, but I knew that I would regret it, so onward I pushed.

Before I knew it, days turned into weeks. With the help of our doula, I was able to start pumping in between nursing sessions, so I built up a nice stash in the fridge. It was really important for me to do that because about two weeks after Aviva was born, I had to go back to studying for boards, which meant leaving the house for a few hours every day. Thank goodness Aviva was happy to take a bottle of expressed milk, so long as it was warm-bordering-on-hot, and Ken was more than happy to snuggle her while she ate. Keeping up with nursing and pumping while studying for the most important exam of my life to-date was definitely not easy. Again, it would have been so much easier if we had switched to formula. I wouldn't have had limits on how long I could be out studying, and Ken and I could have split the night feedings. Something inside me was able to help me persevere, though. When I was nursing, everything else melted away, and it was just Aviva and me in our own world.

When I went back to school at 12 weeks postpartum, I was terrified. I was going to have to pump multiple times per day, and I was going to be on a busy, general surgery rotation. On top of that, I was going to be getting up during the night to nurse, then I would be working 12 hour days. This was the hardest thing yet, for sure. It was kind of awkward to have to tell my almost-entirely-male surgical team that I needed to go pump. There was the time I was accidentally let into the incorrect call room to pump (before anyone had found the lactation room and told me where it was), and an OBGYN resident yelled at me and made me cry (those postpartum hormones are no joke). I was exhausted, and there were multiple times that I nearly fell asleep while driving to or from the hospital. And of course, I missed my baby so much it physically hurt. It would have been so easy to give up during that period, too, but the one thing I looked forward to was getting to snuggle Aviva while she nursed, even if that was happening at 11 pm... and 2 am... and 4 am...

And so it went. With every new rotation, a new challenge. Finding a new place to pump, navigating the pumping conversation with a new team of students, residents, and attending physicians, and stressing out about not having enough milk. Some days, I would get to my car and realized that I had been so busy that I hadn't pumped for 7 hours, and so then I started pumping in my car on my drive home. Real talk? I really do not like pumping. But, I do love nursing, so I will continue to pump. At some point, maybe it won't be worth the trouble to me, but I will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.

This is addressed directly to all the moms out there. I will never be a breastfeeding evangelist. I believe that however you want to feed your baby, so long as you aren't giving them Mountain Dew and Cheetos, is great. I know so many women who were made to feel inferior or like failures because they chose not to breastfeed, even if they physically were unable to do so. Being a mom is a hard enough job on a daily basis that the last thing anyone needs is another voice in your head telling you that you're not doing it right. If you're feeding your baby, you're doing it right. If you're breastfeeding and having doubts, maybe my story will help you realize your strength, or maybe my story will remind you that it's okay to not breastfeed, and that it doesn't make you any less of a mother. One of the most beautiful things about motherhood is that there are so many ways to do it.

Lastly, you are doing a great job, and your hair looks really nice today.

*This post was not sponsored by The Honest Company, but it may be featured on their blog as part of  Honest Feeding Stories. I did not receive any compensation for this post, and all ideas and opinions are my own.*

Life Lately

Monday, February 6, 2017

Well, it's been a minute. A lot of minutes. As you can imagine, medical school + infant leaves me precious little time to do anything, including laundry, eating, reading anything that isn't a textbook, and sleeping, let alone blogging. And so, without further ado, here's what's been going on.

Parks & Rec! I know that I'm about 400 years behind here, but man, so good! Ken and I needed something to watch after we finished Jessica Jones, and while we really want to watch Luke Cage and a few other things, we needed something to bring a little levity to our lives. We've been watching an episode or two every night and I am totally in love. I'm also still watching Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Law and Order: SVU, and Criminal Minds, and I'm part of the way through The OA. I am not 100% on board with The OA, but I'm giving it a chance. Anyone have opinions about it?

My Kaplan review book for OBGYN, which is about as thrilling as it sounds. I'm also reading The Girl Before by JP Delaney, which is (yet another book) billed as "the next Gone Girl," for whatever that is worth. So far, I am intrigued, although if it ends up to be disappointing, I won't be too upset because I received a free copy of it through NetGalley. I'll be posting my review on Goodreads, so feel free to follow me over there!

For Aviva to go back to sleeping (mostly) through the night. She's getting her first tooth and I think she's in the middle of a growth spurt, so she's been waking up at 2;30 and 4 am to eat, which is super fun when I go to bed at 10 or 11 and our alarm goes off at 5:30 (or 5, depending on where I have to be and when). The answer, I'm sure, is to go to bed earlier, but I'm apparently a terrible adult and cannot get myself to bed before 10. (As I write this, it is 9:57 pm and I am nowhere near bed, so... perhaps tomorrow.) And maybe it's neither the tooth nor the growth spurt, but rather just babies gonna baby, so I am trying to go with the flow. And drink more coffee.

About OBGYN and that I definitely do not want to be an OB. I was about 98% sure that I wanted to do peds, but was semi-prepared to fall in love with OB on this rotation. Don't get me wrong, I think delivering babies is pretty much the actual coolest thing ever, and if I could do just that in residency and as my job, I would be down. Unfortunately, that is not reality, and there is a lot more to OBGYN than bringing babies into this world. Also, as soon as the baby is out, whether vaginally or via c-section, I am over dealing with the mom and want to follow the baby to the warmer and get it all checked out, so I'm pretty sure that means I'm supposed to be a pediatrician. There is part of me that wishes I loved OB, because it's definitely a "sexier" field than peds (no pun intended), but alas, I have to follow my heart and my gut here. Peds it is!

To way too many podcasts to keep track of, let's be real. My current subscription list includes Welcome to Nightvale, Radiolab, Archive 81, Small Town Horror, NoSleep, Sword & Scale, My Favorite Murder, and Lore. I've also downloaded all of the second season of Undisclosed and the entirety of Someone Knows Something, Criminal, and True Murder, but haven't started them yet. Also, I swear I'm not a total creep, I just really love true crime podcasts. I basically have stopped listening to the radio and any music because apparently, I just love having people talk at me while I drive or grocery shop. I do want to listen to the latest Ingrid Michaelson album, though, and I'm WAY into "Shape of You," by Ed Sheeran... but if the radio and every single public location continues to play it every 27 seconds, I'm going to be over it RULL FAST.

On not losing my goddamn mind thanks to the 24 hour news cycle. None of this is normal and none of this is okay, and at least 4 times a week, I ask Ken if he thinks we're going to be nuked off the face of the planet by Iran/China/the latest country our illustrious leader has pissed off this week (Australia? REALLY!? It's Australia!) But seriously, I have a lot of anxiety about this and I'm a cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle-class, white lady, which means that, as Pam reminded me, "You're white. You're like, 4 rungs up from me. Doom spiral about something smaller than the constitution." (This conversation then turned into how I am anxious about strange things like the Grand Canyon, pinatas, and really large fish.... don't ask.) Anyway, I'm trying to walk the fine line between remaining engaged, realizing my privilege, and utilizing it to combat the injustices of the world.... and also remaining sane and not defaulting to "the world is ending, I am never leaving my house, where is my tinfoil hat" level of batshit-bananapants-bonkers. I'll let you know how that goes.

My monologue for my school's production of The Vagina Monologues, which is being performed this week! Shameless plug:

Who: The amazing women of Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine
What: The Vagina Monologues
Where: Rowan SOM, Academic Center Auditorium
When: February 8th at 7:00 pm
Why: All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Camden Center for Family Services
https://www.centerffs.org/ )

This is the third year I've performed in the show, and every year, I am so impressed with everyone's talent. In a related story, I've been practicing applying the perfect red lip for this occasion.

.... my life? For one, trying to get this blog back up and running is on my to-do list but is proving more difficult than planned. I am also trying to organize all the crap I need to get done for audition/away rotation applications, as well as early prep for residency applications. I'm also helping to plan V's baby shower, which is more fun than work, and there's the endless task of trying to keep my house organized while being a full time med student and mama who also occasionally eats, sleeps, and leaves the house to do things other than go to the hospital or school. Let's just say... it's an uphill battle. 

Aviva, duh. She is 7 months old now and still remains the best thing ever in my whole life. I have posts detailing the first 6 months of her life and motherhood that will be published um.... eventually. Until then, here is a photo of my darling girl from her 7 month photo shoot:

And with that, I'm off to bed. With any luck, I'll be unconscious by 11:30 and I'll get to sleep until 5... but that's unlikely, so if you happen to be up at 2:30 or 4, Aviva and I may be around. 

What have you been up to lately? Fill me in!

PS: As usual, Chrystina's post about verbs and emotions to use for "currently" posts was extremely helpful!

Pregnancy Retrospective: A Birth Day

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Now that our darling girl is 3 months old (WHAT?), I suppose it's time to write her actual birth story. It makes me smile that almost exactly a year to the day that I found out that I was pregnant, I'm writing the birth story of that same baby. Here we go.

June 19th came and went without so much as a real contraction. Ken and I had plans to go to Ocean City that day, but I was just too tired to walk more than 5 minutes at a time, and it was HOT. Instead, we opted to do what any sane adults on the cusp of parenthood do; go see a Pixar movie. Obviously. After I obtained my required popcorn with extra "butter", we settled into our cushy, reclining, seats in the most deliciously air conditioned theater and prepared to watch Finding Dory.

(Note to self and all pregnant ladies, Finding Dory is very emotional and has lots of parent-related feelings and I cried... so you might cry, too. Ken only made fun of me a LITTLE bit, so at least there's that.)

In the days leading up to THE BIG DAY, I kept people updated on Facebook with the following statuses:

June 13th - Still pregnant. Send popsicles. Or watermelon. I will accept either.

June 14th - State of the Alison: Still pregnant

|June 15th -
Returns shipped ✔ License plates acquired ✔ Health insurance BS sorted 
 Still pregnant ✔ Next: Grocery shopping, Old Navy returns, maybe a pedicure?

June 16th - Late-breaking update: Still pregnant. Have attempted acupuncture as a way to possibly get things going. No signs yet. Contemplating making a key lime pie

June 17th - Captain's Log, Day 278: Still no sign of Baby Girl. Have eaten copious amounts of ice cream. That second part isn't really related, but it happened.

June 18th - State of #TheNotoriousBGB: Still contentedly hanging out in her uterine lodging.
State of the Womb-Haver: Very hot. Have made a trip to Lowe's and a thrift store for kids' stuff. May acquire water ice.

June 20th - For those playing the home game, still pregnant. The #NotoriousBGB is clearly on her own schedule. Eventually, she'll be evicted, but not today. Until that time, lots of Netflix, walking, and ice cream.

On June 20th, I had a scheduled OB check-up, during which I had my doctor attempt a membrane sweep. (TMI WARNING). "But Alison, what is a membrane sweep?" you may be asking. Well. It's when your doctor (midwife, nurse, whoever), inserts a finger through your cervix (ow) and sweeps it around (ow ow) to attempt to separate the amniotic membranes from the side of the uterus (ow ow ow). This causes a local release of hormones that can often induce labor. I knew it wasn't going to be fun, but hearing my OB tell me that he wasn't going to stop until I said "STOP," and would be ignoring all other sounds or words I said during the procedure did not inspire in me a feeling of calm. He ended up only being able to do the sweep for less than 30 seconds because I was going to crush Ken's hand, but the good news is that I was almost 2 cm dilated. The bad news is that I was 0% effaced. (Effacement is when your cervix shortens and thins out to prepare for labor. 0% effaced means no change, 50% effaced means the cervix is half of its normal thickness, 100% means the cervix has thinned out completely and just the uterine opening is there. Being 10 cm dilated and 100% effaced means you are "complete" and THINGS ARE HAPPENING.) After that, I scheduled an induction for June 27th, silently prayed that I would not still be pregnant by then, and away we went.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Lots of walks were taken. Lots of ice cream was eaten. Lots of sitting on the couch, talking to the bump, telling her it was time to come out. Finally around midnight, I started having some semi-regular contractions, and by 1 am, I was definitely sure that things were happening. My contractions were 12-15 minutes apart, and only about 30-60 seconds long, so I knew it would be awhile before we would have to head anywhere. I was having a lot of back labor since Baby Girl was still "sunny side up", so lying down was extremely painful. I told Ken to sleep and spent the next 5 hours on the sofa, half-sitting, half-lying down, sometimes walking, sleeping in between contractions. I hung out with the cats, texted my mom, and talked to Baby Girl. At 6:30, I woke Ken and said that it was probably going to be time to go in a few hours. At 7 am, I called Lee (our doula) and she talked me through a few contractions. Since they were still about 10 minutes apart, she told me to eat, shower, stay hydrated, and let her know when we were heading to the hospital. At 8:30, Ken decided it was time to go since he was worried about traffic, and so we packed up the car and started on our journey to Pennsylvania Hospital.

The commute to Pennsy takes about 45 minutes on average. I think that morning, it took 93 days. Every bump made me want to cry. I squeezed Ken's hand the entire ride, so major props to him for driving to Philly with one hand on the wheel for 95% of the time. By 9:30, we were upstairs in the triage waiting area. The nurses made me fill out some paperwork (note to self: FILL OUT THE DAMN PAPERWORK BEFOREHAND NEXT TIME), and I was shocked that I could even sign my name because I was so tired and not focused on the task at hand. Our nurse got me into a hospital gown and hooked me up to the monitor, and then a resident came in to check me to see where we were. I was still only 2 cm, but I was 70% effaced. Active labor is considered to be after 6 cm, so I was nowhere near that, and my contractions were only 5 minutes apart. I think they were about 27 seconds away from sending me home, but then Baby Girl decided to give us some excitement and her heart rate dropped... so they admitted me because they wanted to induce me.

Pause: I hadn't written out a "birth plan," per se, because I kind of believe that writing out a birth plan immediately guarantees you a c-section. Also, my plans were so generic. They were, "Avoid being induced, avoid c-section, labor as long as I can without an epidural, get an epidural when I wanted it, have a healthy baby." So, right away, less than 24 hours into this extravaganza, I was having to give up on my "avoid induction" plan. Could I have refused the induction? Sure. But then they would have sent me home and since BG was showing some signs of distress, I would have been freaking out. I agreed to the foley bulb insertion (to get me to 4 cm) and to be started on pitocin (synthetic labor hormone), with the idea that hopefully, my body would get the memo and we could remove the interventions once things got going.

(Ha, I'm adorable.)

By the time I got over to Labor and Delivery, I had gone from 2 cm to 4 cm, so no foley bulb (yay!), but they started an IV for a low dose of pitocin. I called Lee to let her know what was going on and that she didn't need to come over yet because I wasn't even in active labor. She was in the neighborhood, so she said she would stop by and see how I was doing. She got there around 11 and ended up staying because my contractions were getting stronger and I needed support. Because I was on pitocin, I had to stayed hooked up to the monitor, which meant no wandering the halls or getting in the shower, which made me sad. (Cross those off of my labor plans/desires...). Fortunately, I was allowed to get out of bed, walk around my room, and sit on the labor ball, all of which helped a lot. I labored with Lee and Ken until 3:30 or so, and it was rough, but manageable. Breathing, counter-pressure and massage, heat, and walking helped me get through each contraction, which were about a minute long and 5 minutes apart. Without Lee and Ken, I would have been a disaster.

At 3:30, my nurse and a resident came back to check me again, and I was 4 cm and 100%. BG's heart rate was still not ideal, so my OB wanted to break my water to move things along. I went back and forth on this, but in the end, decided that it was a good idea, since my body didn't seem to be getting with the program by itself. The actual rupturing of membranes didn't hurt at all; it was just messy. We also found out at that point that BG had gotten a little over-excited and pooped, as there was meconium (baby's first poop) in the amniotic fluid. As you can imagine, this is not ideal, as baby is still "breathing" amniotic fluid, so breathing poop isn't great. And so, do not pass go, do not collect $200, the NICU team was now invited to our delivery in case any poop was aspirated during the birth.

After my water broke, shit got REAL. My contractions were more intense, about 3 minutes apart, and almost 2 minutes long. There was yelling. There was crying. There was a lot of, "I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't do this," while I rocked back and forth on the labor ball, bent over into Lee's lap, while Ken rubbed my back and pressed warm compresses into my sacrum. Around 6:30, I asked for an epidural. Knowing that I had wanted to labor for as long as possible without an epidural, Lee reminded me, and asked if I wanted to have the doctor check my cervix again to see if I was close. We all figured that since labor had been so intense for the last three hours that I must be close to transition.

... I wasn't. I was still only 5 centimeters.

I couldn't even contemplate continuing what I had been doing for the last three hours, knowing it could be hours and hours more until I was ready to push. I needed the epidural, and I wanted it NOW. Of course, I had to wait about 20 minutes to get more IV fluids and for the anesthesiologist to arrive. I wasn't allowed to get out of bed and walk around or get on the ball at this point because my nurse was having trouble keeping the baby on the monitor, so I had to lie in bed, which was torture. I was having a lot of back labor, and every contraction felt like it lasted forever. They came on, one after another, with barely time to breathe between them. While we were waiting, I ended up getting sick and throwing up all over the floor, and then thought I had peed everywhere, but it was just amniotic fluid. Never in my life have I cared less about my dignity as when I was sitting, nude on the bed, soaking wet, crying, apologizing to the nurse (who kept saying that I didn't have to apologize), trying to get into a hospital gown, trying not to throw up. (This is the part where I tell you that pregnancy and birth are so magical and glamorous and you simply must cherish every moment, and then I laugh maniacally.)

Once the anesthesiologist arrived, things happened quickly. I swear that she had me prepped and had that epidural in within 5 minutes, but Ken maintains it was longer than that. I didn't care; I would have proposed marriage to this beautiful, amazing, pain-relieving angel if I wasn't already married (And if that wouldn't have been totally weird and also unethical for her. Details.) I feel bad, because I forget the name of the nurse who was taking care of me at that point (we had a few throughout our stay in labor and delivery), but without her, I would not have been able to sit still and get my epidural. I was starting to freak out and she basically grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "LOOK AT ME. LOOK RIGHT HERE. You are amazing! You are determined! You are strong!" and she coached me through contractions while I sat as still as I possibly could, knowing there was a giant needle in my spine.

And then... relief. Magical, wonderful, blissful, pain relief. I sat and watched the monitors as my body handled contraction after contraction, but now I could sit still and not scream and know where I was in space and time. It was odd. After a couple of hours, Ken went to get dinner and when he got back, we told Lee to go home and rest and that we'd call her when I was closer to pushing. That was around 9:30. Ken took a nap, and I tried to nap. Instead, I started having incredibly bad breakthrough pain, and the anesthesiologist had to come back to my room twice to bolus me with pain meds. Then, I spiked a fever. And the baby's heart rate was too high. And then I threw up again. I was having so much pain and pressure that I couldn't get away from, it was torturous. One of the OB residents came back to check me again since I was feeling a lot of pressure, so the team thought I must be getting close to pushing.

I was barely 6 centimeters.

At this point, things are a little fuzzy. It was 1 am. I had been in labor for 25 hours and my water had been broken for 9 hours. I had a fever. My OB was actually the physician on call that night, which was nice, because there were at least 17 different doctors who could have been on call. He came into my room and asked how I was doing, and then told me that he had been trying to give me as much space as possible to have this baby with as few interventions as possible, since he knew that was what I wanted. But... the time had come. Her heart rate was too high, I had a fever, and now there was some blood in the amniotic fluid, so he was concerned about a placental abruption or an infection. He suggested it was time for a c-section. I immediately consented, because I just wanted our baby to be okay. I woke Ken and told him what was happening, and then I called Lee and told her I would be heading back to the OR shortly. By 1:30, I was being wheeled back, and Lee met Ken in our room.

As I lay on the table while the OR nurses prepped me and the room, I tried not to think about the fact that in mere moments, my abdomen would be incised and stretched open to accommodate removing a human from my body. I chatted with the anesthesiologist and waited for Ken to be brought back to the OR. My doctor and a resident came in and made sure I was numb, and then it was go time. There was a lot of pulling and pushing and pressure, and I listened as my OB talked to the resident, pointing out anatomy and guiding technique. It was kind of surreal, knowing that right now, I was a patient, but in a few months, I could be standing on the other side of the drape, assisting in the same surgery I was undergoing.

They had told us before they started that our baby wouldn't cry right away because they wanted to suction her fully to make sure she didn't aspirate any meconium. The neonatalogy team was there to check her out, just in case, too. Before she was born, my doctor announced that it was time, and that she looked like a pretty big baby! Then, they took her out, and the first thing someone said on the other side of the drape was, "You're covered in poo!" We all laughed, and they held her up over the drape so we could see her. She was, in fact, covered in a greenish-brown sheen, and she had a look on her face like she knew she was covered in her own poop, too. She was quickly whisked away to the warmer, and even though it was just a few seconds, it felt like an eternity until her tiny wails filled the room. I exclaimed, "Happy birthday, baby!" and tears filled my eyes. I kept craning my neck to see if I could catch a glimpse of her on the warmer, and I started to get really anxious because she was suddenly quiet. I asked if everything was okay, and the pediatrician replied, "Yup! She's just checking everything out!" Ken went over to take some pictures, and he showed them to me on his phone when he got back. Once she was cleaned up a bit, they swaddled her up and handed her to Ken. I wanted so badly to hold her, but as my abdomen was still open for the world to see, I had to wait. Meanwhile, Baby Girl was busily trying to nurse on Ken's "bunny suit" scrubs (no actual bunny ears or tail, just a pull-on "clean suit" for the OR). Honestly, I don't really remember what happened after this or how long it took to get back to recovery. All I knew is that our baby was here and healthy and just like that, we went from being Ken and Alison, to Mama and Daddy.

First family portrait!
In recovery, I got to hold our baby for the first time. I looked into her chubby little face, and marveled at her tiny hands and feet. Her eyes, large and blue, were open and she seemed to be taking it all in. She also was hungry. VERY hungry. With the help of Lee and my recovery room nurse, I was able to nurse her, and she latched on right away. I really, really, really wanted water and ice chips, but they had to wait to make sure I wasn't going to have to emergently go back to the OR for any reason. By the time we were taken up to our room, it was 4:30 in the morning. I was exhausted and thirsty and sweaty and gross, and I just wanted to sleep. As the sun came up over Philadelphia, we stared at this tiny, new, human and picked out her name. And then, for the first time as a family of three, we slept.

Aviva Jane, our Rainbow Baby
7 lbs, 8 oz, 20 inches long
100% perfect

From Facebook:

Finnal state of the womb address for this term: Aviva Jane is here! Born via semi-emergent c-section on 6/22 at 2:26 am. Ken and I are overflowing with love, and we can't believe this tiny miracle is ours. Thank you to EVERYONE who has called, emailed, texted, visited, sent congratulations and good vibes... you are all the best. We can't wait for Aviva to meet the people who have been waiting for her and loving her since day 1!! 

Pure bliss

Pregnancy Retrospective - Letters to Baby Girl Part II

Monday, August 22, 2016

January 22, 2016

Dear Baby Girl,

I love that I can address these letters like that now! It has been a whole month since I wrote to you last. As I’m writing this, the first snow of the winter is falling outside, and it’s quite the blizzard! I can’t wait until you’re big enough to play in the snow. I don’t like being cold, but I can’t wait to see how you feel about it. It’s is amazing to think that at this time next year, you’ll have been here for 6 months. What kind of person will you be? I can’t wait to find out. (But please don’t come early. Please, please, please stay in until at least June 10th.)

Since I last wrote, a lot has happened, as it tends to do over a month. Our last OB appointment was with Dr. Salva, and while I’m sure she’s a fine doctor, she wasn’t the most personable. We didn’t get to peek in and see you, but we did get to listen to your heartbeat and you sounded great. It was exciting, but since we have the at-home Doppler, we can listen to you whenever we want! We try not to disturb you too much, but sometimes, your Mama and Daddy can’t help but check on you! The next time we’ll get to see you for sure is on Tuesday, the 29th. We have our anatomy scan, so we’ll have a nice, hour-long session to make sure you have all of the important parts. All of the screening tests that we’ve had have been perfect, so we’re expecting Tuesday to go well, too.

We spent New Year’s Eve as we have for the last few years; at Victoria and Vinny’s house. Victoria is one of my college best friends, and we were each other’s maid of honor in our weddings! She and Vinny will be your Aunt Victoria and Uncle Vinny, and they are SO excited to meet you. Another couple we’re friends with, Alicia and John, were there too. Victoria and Vinny already knew that you were in there, but we told everyone that you are a girl, and it was a great moment. At midnight, we clinked glasses (I had sparkling cider, don’t worry!), then ate apples for a sweet new year, and threw pennies in the street to make a wish for the new year. When you’re older, I’ll tell you what I wished for.

We started the new year with a dinner date with another “aunt” and “uncle” of yours, Mike and Jen! I’ve known Mike since we were 11, and I was the “best man” in his wedding. We also saw the new Star Wars movie, and let me tell you, Daddy is the biggest Star Wars fan out there. He is already excited to share his favorite movies with you, and I think it’s incredibly sweet. He is going to be such a great dad, and he loves you so much already.

The second semester of my second year of med school started shortly after that, and it was rough getting back into the swing of things. Things are cruising along with the pregnancy, and my bump is getting bigger every week. I haven’t really felt you yet; at least, I can’t be sure. Sometimes when I lay down to go to sleep at night, I think I feel you fluttering around in there. It’s still pretty early to feel things regularly though, so I’m trying not to be too anxious. (Spoiler alert: It’s not working very well. I’ve been listening to you more frequently because of that!) Over the long weekend we had for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Daddy and I went to Florida to see your Grandpa and Bubbe. It was really exciting for me, because they didn’t know that you existed yet, so I got to surprise Grandpa at the airport. He was SO happy, he started to cry a little! When we got home and we told Bubbe, she wouldn’t stop yelling, “Oh my God! Mazel tov!” and rubbing my belly. It was cute! It was nice to be in Florida while it was so cold back at home. I love visiting there, and I can’t wait to take you there to see the beaches and the palm trees! Bubbe and Grandpa are so excited, because you will be their first grandchild! I’m pretty sure your Bubbe is going to go overboard and buy you lots of little outfits. On Monday, before we left, she took me shopping for maternity clothes, and of course we had to pick up a few things for you! It was sad for us to come home; I love spending time with your Grandpa, and I wish we lived closer together. Maybe someday we’ll live in Florida… who knows!

And now here we are, in the middle of a snow storm. I’ve been having a lot of hip and pelvic joint pain, so I have an appointment on Tuesday morning for OMM at the clinic at school. Then Tuesday afternoon, we’ll head to the Maternal Fetal Medicine office to have our anatomy ultrasound! We’re also meeting with a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist to talk about any complications that might arise due to some of my health issues. Hopefully, everything will be fine, but it will be good to talk to a specialist who will keep a close eye on you!

It is so crazy and amazing to me that we’ve almost reached the halfway point of my pregnancy. This past week, we met and interviewed 5 doulas to see who we wanted to hire to help with your birth. We met lots of nice women, and two who were kind of crazy, but in the end, we decided to hire a woman named Lee. She is very chill and Daddy and I both got really good vibes from her. We’ll be in contact with her via email and phone, and she wants to know all about how you’re doing while you’re growing in there. Then we’ll meet with her around 30 weeks and then again at 36 weeks to discuss our birthing plan (which trust me, is flexible, because we just want you out here safe and healthy), as well as some tools for pain relief and ways to make labor easier. After you’re here and we’re settled in, Lee is going to come to the house and help us get into a good groove as a new family. It should be really nice.

Daddy and I are also 99% sure we know what your name is, but we reserve the right to change our minds! Right now, we think you’re Mara Jane. I know I said before that my Mom-mom’s middle name was Jane, but her first name was Mary, so Mara Jane is pretty close to that. Some other options that are still on the list are Aveline, Aviva, and Everly. Really, we’re just going to have to see who you are once you get here, so we won’t be getting anything monogrammed any time soon! The next thing on our to-do list is to get a color picked out for your bedroom and then get the room painted, and then we get to register for lots of new things for you, like your bedroom furniture, some toys, and other important things like a swing, a car seat, and a stroller. I am glad you’re going to be a summer baby, because it means we can take lots of outdoor walks even when you’re brand new. I think you’re going to like it here. Until then, stay nice and warm in my belly, where you are safe and have everything you need. And if you don’t mind, give me a kick soon! I want to know you’re okay in there. I’ll try to write sooner next time. Daddy and I love you so much, Baby Girl. See you in about 5 months!

Love always,

January 31, 2016

Dear Baby Girl,

You are officially half-baked! I can’t decide what is crazier; that you’ve been in there for 20 weeks already, or that in 20 more weeks, you’ll be here! It was nice that you listened to my request in my last letter and started moving around so I could feel you. It’s still only every once in awhile, but I love it every time. Keep up the good work!

This past Tuesday, the 26th, we got to see you again! We spent about 45 minutes getting an anatomy scan to make sure that all of your parts were present and accounted for, and then we met with a Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor named Dr. Oxford. The anatomy scan was amazing! You were lying on your back for most of the time, and you were wiggling and moving around so much! The sonographer was really good, and told Daddy and me about everything she was looking at. Daddy was so amazed by how big you’ve gotten! Apparently, you weigh 12 ounces and are about 10 inches long. My phone app that keeps track of this stuff says that you’re the size of a banana, or a Belgian endive. I don’t really know what an endive is, so we’re going to go with banana. I have another app that compares your size to non-food items, and one of the categories is “weird but cute animals”. This week, on that setting, you’re the size of an Axlotl, which is a Mexican amphibian. They’re pretty cute, but you’re cuter.

This is an Axolotl...
And this is you at 19 weeks! See? Way cuter. 
Anyway, the anatomy scan was great. I was nervous because I wanted to know that everything was 100% normal. As the scan was going on, I kept a running tally in my head; 4 chambered heart, 2 kidneys, stomach below the diaphragm, both halves of your brain, cerebellum, all of your bones, and on and on. You were a little stubborn and made it hard to take pictures of your heart, but once we got it in focus, it was amazing to watch those little valves open and close. I could watch that all day. We got LOTS of pictures to take home with us. Your Mom-Mom says that your ultrasound looks a LOT like mine from when she was 20 weeks pregnant with me, so maybe you’ll look like me? I keep saying I hope that you have blonde hair, but since Daddy has almost black hair, it’s probably not likely. We’ll love you no matter what color your hair is though. I’m sure you’re going to be beautiful!

After our ultrasound, we met with Dr. Oxford, who said you looked great. Because I have an autoimmune disease and PCOS, I’m at a higher risk of having issues with pregnancy, so they’re going to do extra monitoring just to make sure you’re growing and doing well. At 28, 32, and 36 weeks, I’ll be having growth scans, which means I get to see you more frequently, so I’m pretty excited. Also, at 32 weeks, they’ll start doing twice weekly non-stress tests, which look at how your heartrate responds to your movements. Don’t worry, it won’t bother you. We’re just going to listen for 20-30 minutes to see how you’re doing. You are so precious, little one, I would do anything for you.

This week, Daddy and I are going to try and pick out a final color for your room, and next weekend, I’m hoping we can start registering! Your Mom-mom has been buying you little presents every month, and you are collecting quite the assortment of adorable clothes. We also have to sign up for birth classes, so we can kind of know what we’re doing when you decide to arrive, and we’re going to start interviewing daycare centers for you to go to once Daddy has to go back to work and I have to go back to school. We are so excited that we will both be home for 2 months with you, then I’ll be with you for another month, and then Daddy will take over for another 6 weeks! Since we can’t leave you with the cats once we’re both out of the house, you’ll go to daycare and get to hang out and play with other babies. I bet you’ll love it!

As for me, this week is going to be full of studying because I have another big exam on Friday. I’ve been resting a lot and trying to stay off of my feet because my hips, pelvis, and pubic bone start to hurt after being up for an hour or so. I started seeing Dr. Cooley for OMM treatment, which I think will help. I’m also getting trigger point injections for my migraines, which helps to keep them from coming back. Fortunately, studying is pretty low-impact, although it is hard to sit in one place for so long! I’m going to try and walk for at least 30 minutes a day, just to get some exercise, even though it’s cold out now. When you get here, it will be nice and warm, so we can go outside for walks all the time. I’m looking forward to it, and to so many things that we’ll get to do with you this summer. Until then, keep growing, growing, growing! And keep it up with the kicking. We love you so much, Baby Girl.

Love always,

March 11, 2016

Dear Baby Girl,

It’s been almost 6 weeks since I wrote last, and a lot has happened! We finally made our “announcement” to the world that you are joining our family. It wasn’t much of an announcement, as all of the important people in our lives already knew, but we still had a lot of fun. This was around 22 weeks, and you were the size of spaghetti squash or a papaya, and weighed almost a pound!

Sorry kiddo, your parents are nerds.
Anyway, my med school friend, Margaret, took the photos for us, and I think they came out great! School has been pretty nuts, and I need to be studying a lot more for my boards and I am… not. I should really get on that, because they’ll be here before I know it. And then you’ll be here right after that! Please don’t be early; as much as we love you and can’t wait to meet you, I want you to be fully cooked in there! (Also, I really need to take my board exam before you get here, so… don’t be early.)

A few weeks later, I saw one of the midwives in my obstetrician’s practice on February 26th, which was almost 24 weeks. It was a quick appointment, but your hear rate sounded great. It’s always so strong! Through the Doppler, it sounds like you’re going, “wub wub wub” in there, so we joke that you’re “dropping the bass” like we’re at an EDM concert or something. (Will that reference even be relevant by the time you read these? Who knows.) My next appointment will be around 28 weeks, but before then, I have to do my 1-hour glucose tolerance test and get some bloodwork done. After the appointment at 28 weeks, I’ll start seeing the doctors every 2 weeks instead of every 4. Also, we’ll get to see you again for a growth scan at 28 weeks, and then again at 32 and 36 weeks! I’m glad we get to see you so frequently. I love watching you move around in there!

The second trimester has been pretty nice, honestly. I’m not nauseated at all, just tired, but not nearly as tired as the first trimester! My hips, back, and pubic bone still cause a lot of pain, but between OMM, ice, Extra Strength Tylenol, and resting as much as I can, it’s manageable. I recently picked up a support belt, so I’ve started wearing that when I’m up and around, and I think it’s helping. We’re trying to get a few things done around the house before things get too nuts with school and studying. In the next couple of weeks, Daddy and Uncle Levi are going to paint your bedroom, and Kristian, one of my friends, is going to install your closet shelving. We recently ordered your bedroom furniture, which means you don’t have to fight with the cats to sleep in the cat bed, and we won’t have to stick you in a drawer or something. Mom-Mom, Aunt Kathy, and Uncle Don got together to give us your furniture as a gift, and we are so thankful. Grandma and Grandpa are taking care of your stroller and car seat, which is another weight off of our shoulders. Things are starting to come together!

You and I had quite the adventure on Wednesday, the 9th. On my way home from the neurologist’s appointment, I took a sip of water and started choking, and then I rolled into the back of the car in front of me! There was a ton of traffic, and I felt really stupid about the whole thing. It was especially silly because I was driving a rental car, because my regular car is on the body shop because I hit a curb a few weeks ago! Your mom is not doing well with operating motor vehicles, lately. I called the doctor’s on-call line to make sure I didn’t have to go in to the office, and much to my surprise, they told me to come in to the OB Triage unit to get monitored for 4 hours. So, at 8 pm, I drove over the bridge to Philadelphia and spent 4 hours in the Perinatal Evaluation and Treatment Unit (PETU), making sure everything was okay with you. You sounded great, but you kept kicking the monitor. I don’t think you liked having it there very much! Finally, at 1:30 in the morning, I was able to drive home and go to bed. I was so happy that you were okay though, so being up all night was worth it. Hopefully the next time we go back to triage, it will be to welcome you to the world!

Love always,

March 28, 2016

Dear Baby Girl,

Here we are at 28 weeks, officially in the third trimester (!!!), and you’re still doing great! Last week was spring break for school, so I flew to Kentucky to see one of my best friends, your Aunt Sarah, and her husband, your Uncle Josh and their son, Patrick, who is 18 months old. I spent a few days there, then drove to Columbus to have dinner with a friend, and then spent a couple of days visiting your Aunt Emily (yes, you have a real life Auntie Em, which I realize you don’t know who that is, but hopefully we’ll have shown you The Wizard of Oz at some point!). We had a lot of fun, and went to the Cincinnati Zoo, where I fed a giraffe named Tessa. It was pretty cool. After that, Aunt Emily and I drove up to Cleveland and I met another friend, also named Sarah, and she is having a baby in May, so hopefully, you’ll have a cool friend in Cleveland!

Me and Sarah, with our babies (and coffee!)

I was really excited to feed this giraffe, Baby Girl!
Since then, I came back and took my 1 hour glucose tolerance test. It was pretty gross, but I felt okay. Hopefully the results will show that my glucose levels are just fine, and I don’t have to do the three hour test. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to take it, because with a huge family history of diabetes, it wouldn’t surprise me if gestational diabetes was in the cards for me. I suppose we shall see! We also had our first growth scan with Maternal-Fetal Medicine, to make sure you were growing on schedule. You looked perfect! It was such a relief to know that you’re doing well in there. You are so important to us, and we love you so much already. Lastly, I went to a baby shower for Daddy’s cousin Lori, and that was fun.

Aunt Lori is growing one of your friends! 
You seemed to get pretty excited and were moving around a lot that day. In another month or so, we’ll be having the shower for you! I can’t wait to get your nursery set up; it will feel even more real that you’re going to be a part of our family soon. Until then, keep on growing! Daddy and I love you more than anything, Baby Girl. You are so precious.

Love always,

April 30, 2016

Dear Baby Girl,

Holy cow, another month has flown by! A lot has happened in the last month, too. At the very beginning of April, I went to a baby shower for your Aunt Colleen, who is having identical twin boys sometime in June! You should be close in age with them, so they will hopefully be good playmates for you. In fact, we took this photo:

We also had our first prenatal meeting with our doula, Lee, who will be there at your birth to help Daddy and me. We learned about the birth process and everything you need to do to get out here, and we talked about pain management and some labor positions. I’d like to be able to labor as long as possible without an epidural so I can get out of bed and walk around, but if I’m in a lot of pain, I’m definitely going to get one. It’s all so uncertain and hard to plan, which is really difficult for me to wrap my brain around sometimes. As I’ve been saying, I guess we’ll see?

A lot of other things happened in April too, including Aunt Julie’s bridal shower, a trip to Maryland to see some family, lots of med school exams and finishing my second year of med school, touring daycare centers, and going to see contemporary ballet! You reacted a lot to the music at the ballet, so I’m hoping that means you love music when you’re here! We chose Chesterbrook Academy for your daycare, once Daddy has to go back to work and I’m back in school. You’ll be almost 5 months old when you start there, so I think it will be okay. You’ll get to meet lots of other kids, and hopefully you’ll make some friends! It’s going to be hard to be away from you after being with you all day for so long, but it will be good for both of us. You’ll get to go to a “try-out” day there before we start you there for real, so I hope that you like it and get to play with lots of fun toys. It blows my mind that we’re already thinking about daycare and you aren’t even here yet!

Then today, we had our second growth scan at Maternal Fetal Medicine to see how you were looking. You were kind of stubborn and didn’t want to show the ultrasound tech your kidneys, but she finally got a few pictures. The best part was that you are 100% healthy and growing exactly on schedule. You have been head down since 28 weeks, so we’re all hoping you stay that way because it makes being born a lot easier for you (and easier on me, too!).

Here you are, 32 weeks and 5 days!
It looks like you’re blowing bubbles, but that’s the umbilical cord in front of your face. Daddy thinks that your profile looks just like mine. I definitely think you have my nose and my lips, but I think you have Dad’s chin. We can’t wait to see what you look like when you get here. You’re going to be so perfect, no matter who you look like. It was a big relief to see you today, and to know that you’re doing great in there. We’ll check up on you again in 4 weeks. Until then, stay put, keep growing, and we’ll be ready for you when you get here!

Love always,

May 27, 2016

Dear Baby Girl,

Getting close now! You’ll be here in less than a month, which is completely insane and also totally awesome. You are very active, especially at night and not so much in the mornings. Your dad and I love to sleep in, so hopefully, you will too! Your favorite thing to do lately is to push your little butt into my rib cage, and you’ve started to slide what I think are your hands and feet around in there against my belly, which feels really weird. I love feeling you move though, and I will miss you when you’re not in there anymore! May was pretty busy, because even though I didn’t have any classes and have been studying for my board exam, our weekends were super busy.

First, we had your baby shower on May 15th! Lots of people came to celebrate your impending arrival, and we had a great time with lots of food and cake. Also, you got a ton of presents. There are so many people who love you so much, and you’re not even here yet! It made me feel really special to know that you are so loved by so many. Aunt V and Mom-Mom did a great job planning the shower. It was book themed, and everyone brought you a book for your library! You have tons of books now, and I can’t wait to read them all with you. I wonder which will be your favorites? We got a lot more set up in the nursery, and now I go in there and sit and try to imagine what it will be like when you’re here. It’s a very calm room, and I think you’ll like it. (Also, I hope it makes you sleepy, and that you have lots of nice dreams there!)

After the shower weekend, Aunt Julie and Uncle Michael got married! I was Julie’s matron of honor, and it was a really great day. She looked so beautiful and they are so in love. There were actually 2 babies in her bridal party! There were supposed to be 4, but Aunt Colleen didn't know if she'd be able to be at the wedding. We took this photo with all of us, which I think turned out pretty cute.

Ledya, Steph (with Baby Boy), Aunt Jules, Aunt Colleen (with Tater and Tot), me (and you!), and Liz!
Your daddy and I always have so much fun at weddings, dancing and eating lots of delicious food. We especially love dancing to the first song we danced to at our own wedding, “At Last”. In fact, they started playing it while they were waiting to announce the bridal party, and your dad came to get me because he couldn’t let it go by without dancing to it! It was very sweet. Your dad is pretty romantic and sentimental, and I am so lucky that he is my partner. You couldn’t ask for a better daddy, either!

The following weekend, we had our maternity photos taken by my friend Chrystina! We had a lot of fun, and the pictures came out so nice. I forget how big and round my belly is because I never see it from the front, so seeing the pictures was really fun. I am really glad that we had them taken to remember the time when it was just me and dad, when we were so anxiously waiting for you to arrive. It won’t be long, now!

Photo by Chrystina Noel

We also had our final growth scan with MFM, and once again, everything looked great! You are really running out of room now, and your cute, little, face is smooshed into my placenta, so we couldn’t get very good pictures of your profile. The important stuff was all easy to see though, and we don’t have to see MFM anymore! Next time we see you, you’ll be in our arms. Just another month to go!

Love always,

June 8, 2016

Dear Baby Girl,

We’re getting impatient to meet you! But not too impatient; we want you to be ready! Really, you’re “fully baked” and are just putting on weight now, so if you wanted to come early, you’d be okay. Just a few updates since the last time I wrote.

First, Aunt Colleen had her baby boys on May 31st! So much for June babies! Their names are Sam and Elliot, and they are very small right now. Fortunately, they are both champs and are already home with their mom and dad, learning about life. Daddy and I are going to go meet them on Sunday, and I’m very excited. They seem to be doing well, so hopefully they’ll grow lots before you get here and then they can come meet you!

Tater and Tot, your new best friends!
Also, I changed my board exam date. Last week, I took a practice test and I failed it, which really freaked me out because I had done decently on the last one I took two weeks before that. I talked to the Dean of Academic Affairs at school, and we decided that it would be best if I took my exam in August, after you’ve arrived. I feel so relieved! I’m still studying, but not intensely, and I’ll take a couple weeks off when you get here before going back to it. Now my exam is August 23rd, and I think I’ll be able to do really well. I can even push it back until September if I need to, but I don’t think I will. I hope that I can spend September just hanging out with you!

You gave us a little bit of a scare this past weekend, by the way! I woke up on Sunday morning and you weren’t moving a lot, which was scary. I drank a glass of cold Gatorade, which usually wakes you right up, and laid down on my left side for awhile to see if you would get more active, but you didn’t. I went back and forth about whether to call the on-call doctor, but I did, because my gut just said something wasn’t right. They told us to come to triage right away, so we did. They put me on the monitor and right away, you were there, and your heartbeat was perfect and strong. It was the best sound I had ever heard. After 20 minutes, you showed the doctors what they wanted to see, so they took the monitor off. You’re still not a fan of it, and like to kick it when it’s on. The doctor came in and did a quick ultrasound to see what the fluid levels in there are looking like, and they’re also great.

The general consensus is that you’re just out of room, so you weren’t moving so much. Since then, you’ve been back to your wiggling around, which makes me feel a lot better. You’re especially active between 9 and midnight, and I have lots of uterine cramping, which I guess is my body getting ready for the real thing! You’re still head down, but you’re facing up, so we hope that you turn over at some point. Again, it’s way easier if you do that. Daddy and I were joking that since I moved my exam, I’ll go into labor tomorrow, exactly when I should have been taking my exam. I don’t think that’s actually going to happen, but it would be pretty funny. We’re hoping you stay put until Dad is finished with the school year, next Thursday, but whenever you want to come, we’ll be ready!

For now, I’m just doing some light studying, trying to catch up with friends, and getting the last few things ready for you at home! We installed your car seat in the car, and we’re getting it checked for safety tomorrow by the fire department. We also interviewed a pediatrician for you, and are interviewing one more on Monday. I’m going to spend Saturday with Mom-Mom to get some more organizing done, and then I think the house will be really ready for you! We can’t wait to meet you, Baby Girl. You are my heart, and I cannot wait to say, “I’m your mama,” when they put you in my arms.

Love always,


Pregnancy Retrospective: Letters to Baby Girl - Part I

Friday, August 12, 2016

November 3, 2015

Dear Baby,

You were a complete surprise! The month after our second baby left us, my body was all kinds of messed up. We didn’t even get to do our third IUI because the timing and my hormones and basically everything were wrong. Your dad and I had chalked this month up to being a complete bust. Then two weeks later, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was pregnant. You were already telling me you were here, and I barely believed you. When I took the home test, I fully expected it to be negative. I was brushing my teeth while the test developed, and when I looked down after I was done and saw that faint second line, I nearly passed out in our bathroom! It was October 8th, a Thursday. I decided to keep it a secret from your dad until our 3rd wedding anniversary, October 14th. It was the hardest secret I’ve ever kept! Even though I knew you were already there, I took nine more tests between the 8th and the 14th. It was a little crazy, I’ll admit it. I just loved seeing 2 lines and knowing you were there!

The day after I found out about you, I had my hCG tested and the number came back a little low, at 50. Four days later, it had to be over 200 to be good news, and it was 404! The next day, Daddy and I went to dinner, and at dessert, I gave him the box full of positive tests and a teensy pair of socks that someday you’ll wear! He was so happy! The next day, my hCG it had to be 800 or more, and it was 973! You are so strong! We were scheduled to see you the next Monday, and we were so excited. On Monday, we saw the sac you live in, and the yolk sac that’s feeding you, but you were nowhere to be found. It was so scary when Dr. Sondheimer said he couldn’t find you. I thought that it might be because you were just too small. After 10 agonizing minutes, Dr. Sondheimer realized that I was only 5 weeks pregnant, a mere 3 weeks after you had come into existence, so it was totally normal that we couldn’t see you yet. I made the doctor tell me three more times that you were okay in there, and I spent the next 9 days freaking out that you might leave us like your siblings did before you. I was so scared.

The next week, I was so anxious waiting for Wednesday. While your dad and I waited for Dr. Sondheimer to come into the room, I felt like I might throw up. When he finally came in and started the scan, I could barely look at the screen because I was afraid that nothing would be there. Right away though, he said, “Oh wow, everything looks great!” I turned to look and there you were! Your sac was so big, and you were right behind the yolk sac. You were 6.1 mm long, right on track, and we even got to see your little heartbeat, flickering away! Your dad and I almost cried when we saw you. We’ll get to see you again next Wednesday. I can’t wait to see what you look like then!

When I first found out that I was pregnant with you, the only symptoms I had were exhaustion, sore boobs, and I was hungry all the time! The only thing I craved for a week and a half was hummus, and I ate so much of it. In the middle of the fifth week though, hummus started to sound disgusting and I started to get nauseated. Now, at almost 7 weeks, I’m not craving much of anything except water and sleep. Growing a human is hard work, it turns out. I’ve had to get out my bigger bras, but most of my pants still fit. I did order 2 pairs of maternity pants because they were on sale, which was a big step for me because it meant that I thought you would be around long enough for me to have to wear them. I also have been thinking about your bedroom, and how I want to decorate it. But mostly, I’ve been thinking about what it will be like to meet you. Daddy thinks you’re a boy; I’m not sure what you are yet, besides a little miracle.

I know that it’s not a guarantee that I’ll ever meet you in this life, but I have felt different about you since you made yourself known. You are a fighter, little one. You surprised us all, and I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us next. Keep on growing, getting bigger and stronger. I don’t mind being tired and sick if it means that you are getting what you need. On Monday, you’ll be the size of a raspberry! It’s really amazing. I’ll write again soon, my darling. Mommy and Daddy love you very much.

Love always,

November 25, 2015

Dear Baby,

It’s been a busy few weeks! You are now the size of a kumquat; 10 weeks! You dad didn’t know what a kumquat was, so I had to Google a picture a show him. We saw you 2 weeks ago on the 11th, and you were doing great! Dr. Sondheimer said that I could stop coming to see him and could start seeing my new obstetrician, but I was really nervous about not checking on you between now and when my appointment would, on the 30th. Thankfully, Dr. Sondheimer said that it would be okay if I came in for a quick scan on the 23rd.

The week before the ultrasound, I had a dentist appointment to get molds made for a night guard. I was so nauseated that I ended up throwing up on the dental assistant and the dentist! It was really embarrassing. Fortunately, the dentist and her assistant were both really nice about it, and I didn’t have to go anywhere after my appointment. Other than that, I haven’t thrown up many times, but I’ve been very nauseated! It’s not really a fun times, but I know that you are safe in there, so it’s worth it. I keep joking with Daddy that you are made of peppermint tea, dry Cheerios, and peanut butter sandwiches, because that’s all I can eat right now. I’ve also been keeping peppermint Altoids with me, and I got some hard candies that are supposed to help with morning sickness. (Also, morning sickness is a terrible name. I am more nauseated at night than any other time!)

At our 10 week ultrasound, one of the fellows, Dr. Sullivan-Pike, was there. The doctors at the reproductive endocrinologist’s office usually don’t see babies as big as you, so everyone was very excited. You must have woken up when we started looking, because you were wiggling around like crazy! You dad was so excited, and kept pointing out things he was seeing, like your heart, and your fingers and toes. We got some nice pictures of you, too. You’re already so cute!

Now we’re just waiting for next week’s appointment with Dr. Gearhart, who is my new doctor. Both Dr. Sondheimer and Dr. Goldstein, my psychiatrist, said that he is a great doctor. Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and Daddy and I are going to New York to have dinner with Dad’s best friend, Pete and his family. It should be pretty exciting. Then on Saturday, your dad, your Uncle Levi, and I are cooking dinner again for 10 people! We still haven’t told a lot of people about you, but we think we will soon.

It’s crazy to think that this time next year, you’ll have been here for 5 months! I hope you like sweet potatoes as much as I do. They’re really yummy, I promise.

Anyway, I’ll write again soon. Oh, also. I think you are a girl. Daddy still thinks that you’re a boy. One of us will be right, but really, we just want you to be here and healthy. We love you!


December 10, 2015

Dear Baby,

Just a quick note this time, because medical school is keeping me really busy with the end of the semester! You are now the size of a lime! You are growing so fast, and it’s strange to think that you’re in there, moving around, and I just can’t feel you yet. Keep up the good work!

I met Dr. Gearhart on the 30th and he was very nice. Daddy couldn’t come with me because he had to work, but that was okay because it was mainly an appointment for talking and getting lots of information. I didn’t get to see you, but Dr. Gearhart was able to find your heartbeat! It was so fast and strong; it was beautiful. It made me teary! (Hormones are crazy, little one!) My next appointment won’t be until December 29th, which feels very far away.

Your dad and I decided that we wanted to have prenatal genetic testing done, just to be sure that you’re okay in there. We also wanted to find out if you are a boy or a girl before I was 20 weeks pregnant. It’s pretty cool that the lab can draw my blood, then process it and look at your DNA that’s floating around in there. The results should be back in one or two weeks, and I am very anxious to know that everything is okay. We’ve been asking our friends if they think you’re a boy or a girl, and it’s pretty split. Daddy is still sure you’re a boy, and I’m still sure you’re a girl. I guess we’ll see!
We’re hoping to tell people about you before Christmas, but we’re going to wait until we have our test results. I am getting anxious because I haven’t heard you for almost 3 weeks. I know that there’s no reason to think that you’re not okay, but I guess I’m just going to be worried about you forever. I borrowed an at-home Doppler from my friend Maria, and she said she used to listen to her baby’s heart with it all the time. The battery needs to be charged, and I’m afraid to use it because if I can’t find your heartbeat, I will lose my mind. So I’m trying to wait. It’s not easy!

For now, I have to get back to studying. Just another couple of weeks and I’ll be on winter break! It’s not very cold yet, which is weird for New Jersey. I’m not too upset though, I don’t like the cold! It’s nice to know that you’re nice and warm in there, though.

Love always,

December 20, 2015

Dear Baby,

Hello in there! You are now the size of a beet, or a large lemon, (depending on which app you look at, haha), and I am 14 weeks pregnant. We’re officially in the second trimester, which means that you’re going to be doubling your weight EVERY week! Right now, you are around 3.4 inches long and weigh 1.5 ounces. According to the internet, that means you weigh a little bit more than an average slice of whole-wheat bread. Congratulations? Daddy thinks it’s very silly that my apps compare you to foods, and he often makes up funny comparisons. It makes me laugh; your dad is very good at that.

This is my first week off from school for the break, and I really need it. The semester was hard, but I think I did well. I am looking forward to baking cookies, watching movies, seeing friends, and taking lots of naps. We’ll also hopefully be finding out the results from your genetic testing this week, so we can tell people all about you! Also, since we’ll know if you’re a boy or a girl, we can start thinking about your name. I always thought that picking out names for my pets was hard, but picking out a name for a new person is a whole different thing! Don’t worry, we won’t name you something weird or silly, like Apple or Blanket. (Yes, there are kids out there with names like that. Celebrities are weird.)

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing Dr. Salva, one of Dr. Gearhart’s colleagues, next Tuesday. Your dad will be on vacation from school, so he’ll be able to come with me. I’m hoping they will do an ultrasound so we can see how you’re doing. I miss seeing you! The doctors say that in a couple of weeks, I might start to feel you moving around, but not to be upset if it doesn’t happen for another month. I’d rather you didn’t make me wait that long, haha. The last couple of ultrasounds, you’ve been measuring a few days ahead of schedule. Your dad was a big baby and weighed 10 lbs, 1 ounce, so I keep telling him that you better not be that big. I don’t know where I’d put you! I was a little baby, and only weighed 6 lbs, 10 ounces. We’d like you to be somewhere in between there, so do what you can, okay? Don’t worry, we’ll love you no matter what.

Pregnancy symptoms have gotten a lot better recently, too. I am not nearly as nauseated as I was, but I’m still really tired all the time! Also, it’s getting difficult to get comfortable at night to fall asleep, and I wake up at least once to use the bathroom. Guess you’re sitting on my bladder! I’ve been wearing maternity pants since 10 weeks, even though I don’t really look pregnant. I have a tiny bump, but most people don’t notice it unless they’re already looking for it. I can’t wait until I have a nice tummy, so people will know that you’re in there! The cats for sure know that you are in there, which is pretty funny. They all want to lay on my belly, like they’re going to keep you warm or hatch you like an egg. It’s very cute. I can’t wait for you to meet them! Keep growing, little one. Daddy and
I love you very much.

Love always,

December 22, 2015

Dear Baby,

It’s been an exciting couple of days here! I finished my fall semester of my second year of medical school, and your dad will wrap up his school year before the break tomorrow. Yesterday, I spent a lot of time on the phone with Quest Labs and the Maternal Fetal Medicine office, trying to get a hold of the geneticist to tell me your results! At one point, I called Quest and they said that the doctor who had ordered the test had to call them because there was a question about one of the labs, and I immediately thought that it meant something was wrong. Fortunately, my friends talked me down from that one!

Eventually, I got our genetic counselor, Rose, on the phone, and she told me that all of our screening was negative! Genetically, you look pretty good from here, little one! Daddy and I were so excited to know that you are doing well. I asked Rose not to tell us if you were a boy or girl, because I wanted to find out when I was with your dad. I had her seal the results in an envelope and I said I would pick them up today. I had them with me all day, from 2:00 until I saw your dad at 6:00, and we were so excited to open the envelope when I finally got home. Your dad opened the envelope and I got to read what the paper said.

You’re a little girl!

I knew it! I didn’t rub it in your dad’s face too much, just a little bit. We are both so excited, and it feels so much more real that we’re having a baby! You’re like your own little person in there. We’re working on picking out some names, but so far, we don’t agree on very much. I really wanted to name you Esme, but Dad says no way. We’re pretty sure that your middle name will be Jane, after my Mom-Mom, who was very special to me. I’m sad that you won’t get to meet her; she would have loved you, I’m sure. Other than that, we have no idea what we’re going to call you. It’s a good thing we have 6 months to figure it out! I can’t wait for Tuesday when we get to go to the doctor’s office again. Hopefully we’ll have an ultrasound so we can peek in and see how you’re doing. Keep on growing! Daddy and I love you very much.

Love always,

The night we found out we were expecting our Baby Girl!

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