Wednesday, February 23, 2011


One year. I knew my life would change, and I wanted the change, but I had no way of knowing how it would change. And while I can't say that I have loved every minute of it...I have loved every minute of it. The other mommies and daddies reading this probably understand the sensical nonsense of that last sentence. Being a mom is the absolute hardest thing I have ever done (and I am now seeing glimmers of our sweet Jelly Bean's toddler self, so I don't think it's getting easier any time soon)...but oh, it's just the most fabulous thing.

So without further ado, I shall offer a retelling of Ava Denise Pinto's entrance into our world.

On Monday morning, 2/22, I went to an appointment at my OB's office. I was three days past my due date and as big as a house. (At least a single-wide, people. I had some serious water weight. And Taco Bell weight. But anyway...) By some miracle I was still able to pee into a cup (sorry if TMI) and my urine specimen had protein in it. This coupled with my high blood pressure and blurry vision indicated to my OB (Dr. Sellers - love him!) that I had preeclampsia. This is a potentially dangerous situation, and he was noticably concerned. He told me that I needed to check into the hospital that night to be observed, and then they would induce labor the next day, Tuesday 2/23. My sister, Holly, was at the appointment with me which was a really good thing b/c I proceeded to bawl my eyes out from disappointment that I could not have natural childbirth. Um. No comments from the peanut gallery. It's really what I wanted, but it didn't work out, so maybe next time.

But very soon my disappointment was overshadowed by excitement upon the realization that I would get to meet my sweet girl in just one day! Dr. Sellers sent me home to "rest," which is like telling a child to rest on Christmas Eve times a thousand. But given the fact that I was as huge as a trailer, I couldn't get around very well anyway, so I basically laid on the couch while my mom and Nana got my hospital bag together. Jeff got home from work a little early, and we were at the hospital by 7pm. I got an IV (ouch! According to my husband the RN, the nurse was terrible at it), a sleeping pill, and something to help me dilate...and then I was off to sleep.

I woke up at 6am on 2/23, and at 7am received my first dose of Pitocin. No pain meds at this point because I just wanted to see how it would go. My thinking was, I've never experienced this type of pain before, so let's just see what happens and I can get meds at any point along the way. And really, it wasn't too bad until Doc came in at 1pm and broke my water. And then, oh baby! Pain level went from a 2-3 to a 8-9 in the matter of a few minutes. Actual natural childbirth is progressive, so that (I hear from my amazing sister who has delivered three babies naturally) you can stay on top of the pain mentally. But with that sudden jump-up in pain level, I was having a hard time holding on mentally and emotionally. I wasn't screaming or crying or any other stuff that happens in the movies...but I could tell that something was "off". Little did I know... (I should say here that my mom and Jeff were both in the room with me this entire time, and they did a fabulous job of maintaining a peaceful and supportive environment so I could focus on my labor.)

Around 3pm I asked my Mom to go get the nurse to check my progress. I told myself that if I was beyond 5cm, I would continue laboring without meds. But if I was less than 5cm, I would probably get meds. I didn't share this with anyone else at that point. So the nurse checked my progress. She said, "I think you're probably about a three. But look at this." And she showed me her surgical glove. Meconium. Lots of it. I didn't really know what I was looking at, so she helped me out. She said, "I don't think that was a head that I just felt. I think it was a booty." Oh, WOW. A wave of fright washed over me. I laid my head back against the bed, started crying, and said, "C-section."

"What did you say?" asked Jeff.

"Nothing." I was in pain, and I started to get really scared right then. But I had felt the Holy Spirit with me throughout the entire process, ever since the appointment the day before. And especially during these moments, as I lay there having all of those emotions He was saying to my spirit, "I am with you. Don't be afraid. Be brave. I am with you." I'm not sure what your beliefs are about stuff like this, but His presence and comfort were as real as what I was receiving from Jeff or my mom.

Our nurse brought the charge nurse in and they did an ultrasound to confirm that Ava was frank breech. I asked them for an epidural, and I swear my mom and Jeff let out a HUGE sigh of relief when I said that word. I know it was difficult for them to stand by and watch me go through that much pain and not be able to do anything about it. Less than 20 minutes later, we were inserting the epidural (which was a pain unique unto itself, let me tell ya) and I eventually felt better. Dr. Sellers came at 4pm to do an ultrasound, confirmed that Ava was breech, and told me that we needed to do a C-section. Some more fright at this point, because I had never been to surgery before, and my sweet doctor offered to pray with me. I accepted, and then when he and the nurses left the room - and it was just me, Jeff, and my mom - I just let it all out. I cried and cried and then cried some more. I don't think I have ever in my life cried so hard. What was I feeling? Um, pretty much everything. Sad, scared, happy, excited, and just overwhelmed that I would see my girl in just a couple of hours.

We were scheduled to go into surgery at 5:30pm. I don't remember much of what happened in the next couple hours. I know we were delayed until 6pm, but I was so tired and emotionally exhausted that I may have slept or just spaced out.

Then it was time, and they wheeled me into surgery. Ok, operating rooms look like what I would imagine a panic room to look like. Not the most comfortable place, number one. And number two, there are about 15 people in there, all with a different and I'm sure very good reason...but still, it was like, "Oh hi everyone. I'm just huge and naked and about to experience the single greatest moment of my life. Don't mind me." And if I hadn't noticed by then (which I certainly had), I saw it now that dignity is a casualty of motherhood.

So in the last 48 hours I had experienced several surprises:: preeclampsia, painful IV, painful labor, breech baby, painful epidural. So when Dr. Sellers told me, "I'm about to pinch you and if you feel it at all, you should tell me," and then I felt it...I mean, really felt just fits, right? Except not really. They dosed my epidural three more times over the next fifteen minutes, with no change. At least not to my midsection. My arms and legs were completely numb and useless, but I could still feel the pinching on my belly. So then they told me that they needed to do a spinal block, right then and there. Perhaps at this point I had about three crumbs of dignity left...and when my nurse and three nursing students had to lift my paralyzed (and huge, have I mentioned that?) body off of the operating table for the spinal tap insertion, that was it. Zero dignity. I'm telling this in a humorous way right now, but in that moment I thought, "Ok, just check out so you won't go berserk." And so I just went numb, emotionally and mentally. The spinal tap was inserted - with no pain this time - and it worked.

When I was finally laying back down on the table, and I couldn't feel the pinching, it was apparent that I was really and actually about to meet my little girl. Finally. Dr. Sellers explained what he was about to do, and what I may feel, and that he would have to hand Ava to the NICU nurses as soon as she was delivered to clean out her airways. Another of my labor desires was compromised here, in that I couldn't be the first to hold my baby.

I didn't feel the cutting, but I did feel some movement...kind of like someone was pulling on my legs, and then pressing down really hard on my chest. Then she was out, and everyone was saying how big she was, and I could see her little legs and hear her little cries. Tears of joy, and "Thank You, Jesus," over and over. She was with the NICU nurses, crying like a champ, and I didn't want her to think she was alone. I told Jeff to go stand next to the warming table and talk to her. He didn't miss a beat. Just walked over there, let her wrap her little fingers around his thumb, and said over and over, "Ava, this is your daddy. I'm right here with you. Everything is going to be okay. Ava, this is your daddy. I'm right here with you. Everything is going to be okay..." Definitely one of the most special moments of the day.

And then, finally. My moment. Our moment, me and her. They brought her to me, and suddenly I was a mama. Certainly when I was pregnant, I was a mama. And as we continue on this path, I will know more of what that means. But that moment was so pivotal, so life-changing. I thought (and maybe said), "Oh wow, this changes everything."

I have never worshipped like I worshipped in those moments after Ava was born. My God. My God gave us this exquisite miniature of His glory. I told her, "I'm your mama, and I will always be here for you no matter what." She was so beautiful; I just couldn't stop looking at her.

And you know what? I still can't. Ava Denise, we love you more than life itself. And we love being your parents. You are so fun and adventurous and intelligent. You have brought so much joy to our life, and we thank God for you every day. Happy birthday, Jelly Bean!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Baby Weight

Ok, so I pretty much decided last month that I can't call it "baby weight" anymore. My daughter is almost a year old after all. Not sure where that line is exactly for me (and it is a purely personal decision), but once the new year rolled around, my patience with my Mom Body reached critical mass. No pun intended.

I think a lot of mommies can identify with me on this. Before pregnancy, I had a pretty healthy self image. Sure, there were some days where I felt bloated or frumpy, but most of the time I was comfortable and confident with my body. When I would hear pregnant ladies complain about their bodies and the amount of weight they were gaining, I was usually the first to remind them that "It's for the baby." Then, I was pregnant. And I was the one whose waistline DIS-AP-PEARED and who saw some mind-boggling numbers on the scale at the doctor's office. And you know, it still helped to hear people say I was beautiful and glowing and that the weight gain was for the baby. But let me be honest -- all of that weight was not for the baby. A lot of it was due to the extra burrito from Taco Bell or the mozzarella sticks from Sonic or the real Coca-Cola I had about every other day during my third trimester. And I promised my future self that I would lose all the weight relatively easily after our girl was born. After all, I would be breastfeeding which supposedly burns like 100,000 extra calories a day or something.

And you know what? I did lose a lot of the weight. Most of it. But weaning time came and went with little fanfare (thanks to a very laid-back and adaptive baby girl), and I realized that I still had more than a few pounds to lose. It wasn't about the number. I probably couldn't tell you right now what I weigh. For me it was about how I looked, and how I felt about how I looked. On one of my harder PPD days, I told a friend, "I just don't feel alluring anymore." But that day was like in November or something. I just kinda sat there for awhile, literally and figuratively.

I learned in one of my grad classes that a depressed person actually has to come out of the pit a little before she'll make any lasting changes. Someone who is truly at rock bottom cannot - by virtue of being at their very lowest point - pull themselves out. There has to be some sort of inciting event, a bounce if you will. (I love finding grace in the most unexpected places, don't you?) My grace happened on or around January 1st. I can't remember exactly when, but it was like the curtains on the windows of my mind were opened and I saw the cobwebs and dust and dank for the first time. I told myself, "2010 was baby year, and 2011 will be recovery year." I gave myself two goals: read the Bible all the way through, and get my body back. The Bible reading I felt would give some structure to getting some Light and Truth into my tired soul, and it has. And getting my body back has been a healing event as well, empowering and enlightening.

When I was pregnant and a brand new mommy, I plunged way into that identity. Listen, I wanted it so badly, and when it happened I was more thrilled than any blog post can describe. But by the time JB was drinking bottles and crawling around, and we had found a workable rhythm at home, I actually had a little time to look at myself in the mirror. And the words of Fred Willard, wha' happened?!? So, you know what? I am not just a mommy. I'll tell ya, I am primarily a mommy and all you have to do is try to mess with my baby or family if you need to be convinced. It is the biggest part of me now, but it's still just a part. I'm also a wife, and a friend, and a sister, and a professional. And it's time for the outside "me" to reflect the inside "me" again.

So. How am I doing it? I devised (ok, more like stumbled's how I find all my good ideas to be honest) a two-step approach:

1) Start with The Master Cleanse (shout out to Carmen and Andrea here). Follow the link for more information. I did three days of Ease-In, five days of the Cleanse, and three days of Ease-Out.

a. Pros: It was like hitting the reset button on my appetite. It is essentially a fast, and I made it a spiritual as well as physical exercise. I would get hungry at mealtimes - no big surprise there. But I would also get hungry if I smelled food, or if I saw a food commercial on TV, or if I drove past a food billboard. My stomach was responding to my eyes seeing the pictures of yummy food. I wasn't any hungrier 30 seconds after seeing the advertisement than before, but my body wanted me to think I was. I think I read this in one of Richard Foster's books, but the stomach really does act like a spoiled child sometimes.

b. Cons: Bathroom time. Please reference the website.

2) Super Top Secret Mysterious Weight Loss Plan: reduce intake of energy, increase output of energy. Diet and exercise, people. I am using the LoseIt! app on my iPhone, which is also available on the good ol' interweb. It tracks calories and other nutrition info of the food I eat, and calories burned for the exercises I do (even housework is included in their available exercises, and sexual activity...can I get a what, what?!). But my favorite part of the app is that it asked for my goal weight, and how much weight I want to lose each week (0.5 lb, 1 lb, 1.5 lb, 2 lb)...and then it calculated my net daily calories based on that. Too cool!

But you know, the main thing is that whatever plan you choose, you stick with it. It's not magic. But it has been fun, finding new recipes ( and both have lots of healthy recipes) and -- the best part -- RESULTS. Can I get an amen on that one?! I was wearing my biggest pair of jeans the other day, the ones I wore during my first trimester, and my Mom said, "Wow, Rachel, those pants are about to fall off you! You're gonna have to get some new ones soon." I could have done the Rocky shadow-boxing dance. "Getting strong now...won't be long nooowwww!" I was so pumped.

And that, my friends, is exactly the kind of empowerment this mommy/wife/grad student/sister/friend/soon-to-be-professional needs.