#51: Have a baby (part 1)

Oh man. When I first made my 100 List, having a baby seemed SO far away. And I wanted it that way.

But now I can't imagine our life without this little guy!

Brendan Abbett Seymour
The day before Brendan's birth, a Saturday, was what every Saturday should be. I started out the day with breakfast with my friend Jessica at the Hi-Life in Ballard. If you haven't been there for breakfast, you're missing out on the most wonderful smashed potatoes that are fried to golden perfection. Kind of like tater tots, but better! Then Mark and I took books to one of our favorite parks in Seattle, Carkeek Park, and read on the beach. I had a feeling that this day may be the last day we could do that, whether because of the arrival of baby or the arrival of terrible weather. After the beach, Mark and I got takeout from our new favorite Thai restaurant in north Seattle, Chada Thai, and chowed down at home. I hear spicy food sends people into labor so I thought I'd take that for a test drive. The spicy food was a backup measure though because by 3 p.m. I started experiencing my first real contractions, which were very different than the small contractions I'd had in the previous weeks. They were manageable though and about 20 minutes apart. Manageable enough where I thought, hey, this isn't so bad! By the time dinner rolled around, the contractions had become even farther apart so it didn't look like we were going to the hospital just yet. Even so, I started tracking when they occurred and their duration so I had a record of the pattern.

Carkeek Park
I had irregular contractions for several hours after dinner but they still weren't getting closer together so we headed to bed. They woke me up about every hour but I could still sleep in between them until 3 a.m. when they took a turn for the worse. I knew I was progressing when breathing through them started to get harder (my natural inclination was to hold my breath through the pain). When one particularly painful contraction hit I shut my eyes to concentrate on breathing through it but I had to let out a few tears into my pillow. You should know that I approach most situations anticipating the worst but hoping for the best. I thought of labor the same way: I knew it could be really painful and intense but I truly hoped I would be one of those exceptions who would turn out to have an incredible pain tolerance or something. In that moment though, I realized that if I was only in the early stages, this was going to be bad.

I kept noting when the contractions hit and watched them come 20 minutes apart, then 18 minutes apart, then 15 minutes apart, then 12 minutes apart. By that time 5 a.m. had rolled around and I hadn't slept a wink since the contractions started getting closer together. I told Mark I was getting in the shower and to get his bag together! The hot water helped immensely, as did standing up as opposed to laying down, and my contractions became eight minutes apart, then six minutes. At 6 a.m. we left for the hospital. My water still hadn't broken but in the absence of that occurrence, my doctor told me to head to the hospital when contractions were five minutes apart and about a minute long. It seemed to me that I was progressing rather quickly, and I was so thankful that we were making the hospital drive early on a Sunday morning instead of in rush hour! The drive only took about 10 minutes. Thanks to the hospital tour, we knew exactly where to park and what elevators to take. Seriously, TAKE THE HOSPITAL TOUR - at 6:15 a.m., the lobby of the hospital was a ghost town. We would have had to call labor and delivery to figure out where to go since there was no one to ask. As we made our way slowly toward labor and delivery, I kept stopping to grab anything I could - a wheelchair, a guardrail - to support myself through another contraction. Mark asked if I wanted to take the wheelchair and for some reason I said no. If you find yourself in a similar position, just take the darn wheelchair.

Once at labor and delivery, we were shown into a triage room and I was attended to by a truly wonderful nurse. At this point the pain was reaching considerable proportions and I was also getting hit by waves of nausea. All advice I had read said to eat before you get to the hospital but I'm so thankful I didn't. I'm sure I would've thrown it all up! The contractions seemed to be coming every three minutes but no doctors were available to check how dilated I was; the nurse told me that despite the quiet of the floor, there were actually several other women readying for birth and the doctors were swamped. I said I had to go to the bathroom. She helped me into the adjoining bathroom and my body started to shake uncontrollably. It was the weirdest thing to watch - I felt like my body was freaking out and I couldn't do anything about it. I didn't even feel that bad when I wasn't going through a contraction but my body shook just the same. The shaking seemed to be a turning point because the nurse left again and returned with one of the residents. The resident checked my cervix and informed me that my water was still intact and I was six centimeters dilated. Six! We were over halfway to pushing time. The resident left and I asked the nurse at what point people normally get an epidural if they want one. She said I could get it at any time. I said oh good, I'll take it right now, please!

Tomorrow: part 2

38 weeks

At 38 weeks pregnant, there's plenty to complain about. If I wanted to, I could give you a depressing rundown of my interrupted sleep schedule, how Tums have invaded my nightstand, and what it feels like to have a tiny heel connect with your rib (like being stabbed, or how I'd imagine being stabbed). Every day brings new opportunities to complain, since everyone likes to ask how you're feeling at this point. I don't mind this at all - honestly, I'm flattered people care or are interested at all, even strangers - but the questions present a choice. Tell the truth? Or give my usual cheery "Oh, fine!" Usually it's a mix of the two, something like "Ready to be done!" with some sort of cutesy laugh, a laugh that might fool some but to the perceptive few sound somewhat maniacal.

To cope with the temptation to complain, I want to make a list below of reasons I have to be grateful. Nothing curbs negativity like an exercise in gratitude!

I'm grateful to be pregnant at all. Many women struggle with fertility issues and I know how fortunate I am to have had no problem conceiving.

I'm grateful to have had a relatively easy pregnancy. Though I've heard horror stories of nine-month-long nausea, debilitating fatigue, bed rest at 32 weeks, and weakened immune systems, I've experienced very little serious discomfort. Not even a head cold! The only time I had to take even half a sick day from work was from an unrelated food poisoning incident. A positive diagnosis for gestational diabetes was a minor setback but even that has been manageable and given me even more of an awareness of what kind of food I put in my body.

I'm grateful to live in a house that remains shaded for most of the day. Any Seattleite will tell you what an amazing summer we've had, endless days of 80 degrees and up. Of course, any pregnant Seattleite will tell you that this is a recipe for disaster: the lack of air conditioning in most homes and apartments here coupled with a rise in body temperature can make for a miserable summer. Most of the time you'll find me complaining about how dang cold it is in our house. Tall trees and a master bedroom in the basement mean that most of the time, I need a sweater and some slippers to remain comfortable. But this summer has made me so thankful for our house! The temperature has been perfect for me and is a wonderful refuge at the end of the day. I know I would be much more uncomfortable in different circumstances. Everyone asks how I'm doing in this heat (yes, 85 degrees is hot for Seattle!) and I can honestly say that I haven't been too affected, thanks to our icebox of a house.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. (My husband! My family! My friends!) But I wanted to take a few minutes to record some thoughts so I can look back and remember how good I had it, and focus on the positives rather than the negatives. To everyone who has taken an interest in how I've been, I truly appreciate it!

#48: Go to the Guinness Storehouse in Ireland

We ended up in Dublin three times during our recent UK/Ireland trip and had four flights in or out of the Dublin Airport! Seattle/Dublin, Dublin/London, Bristol/Dublin, and Dublin/Seattle. That airport became old hat after a while. This might make more sense if I explained our itinerary:

Fly into Dublin
Drive immediately to Galway (2 nights)
Drive to Portrush and the Giant’s Causeway (1 night)
Drive to Belfast (1 night)
Drive to Dublin (1 night)
Fly to London (4 nights)
Bus to Bath (1 night)
Train to Oxford (1 night)
Fly to Dublin (3 nights)

When we vacation, we go hard! The itinerary was ambitious but I never felt like we were moving too fast. We reserved the same Airbnb host for the one night we had to spend in Dublin before flying to London as well as the last three nights before flying back to Seattle. Already knowing how to get where we were staying was really helpful by the end of the trip – by that time you’re getting tired of navigating and feeling lost.

One of the highlights of Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse. Whether you’re a fan of the beer or not, it’s a fun place to visit! The top of the storehouse is a bar with 360-degree views of Dublin where you can enjoy your pint of Guinness. The storehouse is in a more industrial section of Dublin, away from the throngs of tourists. On the way we encountered a teenager whose brogue was SO strong we could barely understand what he was saying. We finally figured out that he was asking us to buy beer for him and had to turn him down. Ha.

#16: Repaint the kitchen

I knew moving into our house that the first repainting job would be the kitchen. Not that it was particularly bad. But I wasn't quite feeling the mid-toned gray that was in there - it made the kitchen unnecessarily dark. We lived with it for over a year while I tried to decide what color I wanted in there instead. A light sandy tan to go with the tile? Classic white?

Here are some terrible cell phone pictures of what it looked like with the gray (after taping).

Then I saw these images on Pinterest.

And my interest in mint was born. The tile in the inspiration pictures was very similar to ours, we also had white cabinets, and I found the mint color intriguing. I worried it might be too trendy but I figured we could always repaint at some point if we got sick of it. I ran it by Mark and he was surprisingly on board. So I bought a few samples and slapped them on the wall and we eventually decided on Breath of Spring by Behr.

For my first ever attempt at painting walls, we definitely chose the hardest room. We had tons of cutting in to do around cabinets and trim, not to mention the taping beforehand. However, since the kitchen mainly consists of cabinets, there wasn't really much surface area to paint. Just lots of prep work! We spent one evening taping, the second evening painting the first coat, and a third evening painting the second coat and removing tape. The whole process was relatively painless, or at least much less of a pain than I thought it would be! 

I love the end result. There is just enough surface area to make the mint a nice focal point, but still subdued. Plus, it's so much brighter in there!

#62: Create a gallery wall

I really love the look of mismatched frames on the wall and thought it would be a great collage idea for our living room, which still had a lot of empty wall space a year after moving in. Frames can get expensive but that's where the mismatched frames come in handy - I picked up most of these from Ross or Marshalls on sale! No need to matchy match when you're going for this type of look.

Here's my gallery wall. Not quite a full wall but you get the point.

The pictures are all from our travels or from our wedding. I like that they all have a personal connection - a story in each frame.

Speaking of stories, funny story: Mark happened to look over my shoulder and burst out laughing as I was writing this post. I said what, one of my 100 list items was to create a gallery wall, so here it is! And he said the reason why he was laughing was because in his cursory glance of the photo, he thought oh, that's a nice living room, not even realizing that it was ours! Made me laugh.

Pregnancy Faves

Pregnancy Faves
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens... here are a few of my favorite pregnancy things!
I did already mention this in a previous post but of course I had to include it here. The stretches feel amazing and I love how limber I feel afterward. My friend said you can also find these workouts on YouTube! I just got my library copy again but I'll have to return it before the baby comes.
These are the best pregnancy jeans I've found for me, and at a reasonable price to boot. I also tried Old Navy jeans but I found the belly band to be too constricting (even at 20 weeks) and the jeans themselves to be baggy. I never tried Gap jeans but I did try Gap maternity slacks and they were a total fail for me. I then decided I'd try a more expensive pair of jeans, and ordered a nice pair from A Pea in the Pod. They were OK, but if I'm going to spend $100 on jeans, they better be darn near perfect. So back they went. I next tried a pair of Motherhood jeans and the Jessica Simpson jeans, which are also from Motherhood. You can get petite sizing online from Motherhood and the JS line, which I was really hoping would work for me and solve the baggy jeans problem. The Motherhood jeans were STILL too baggy (even in petite XS) but the JS jeans fit me perfectly! And since the JS jeans were in petite sizing, I didn't have to hem them! Joy, let me tell you. They've been my only pair and I'm still not sick of them. There's a serious dearth of maternity clothes for petite sizes - someone should really get on that. I normally wear a petite XS or S and I've run into a lot of petite-maternity XS pieces (usually the smallest size available) that are either baggy on me or fit just fine - but on the spectrum of smaller petites, I fall in the middle. Many non-maternity lines offer petite XXS and XXXS, and these ladies are really left in the dark!
This is the most comfortable maternity tee I've found! The only problem with Gap is the color selection. BORING. Old Navy has more fun colors, as does Motherhood. But I could live in my gray Gap tee and probably would if that was more socially acceptable.
Supposedly, this oil is supposed to aid in the prevention of stretch marks. Everyone is different and I think genetics play a large part in stretch marks but I've been lucky to avoid them so far. I'm not saying it's my dedicated application of this oil each morning... but I'm not saying it's NOT because of it! It smells incredible and feels lovely. I bought my bottle about three and a half months ago and might be able to get away with not having to buy another one. I may be hooked on it though so I'll probably give in and get another bottle, even after baby!
Every woman is different during pregnancy but my first pieces of maternity clothes weren't cute slub-knit tees, but expensive bras because there was no way I was fitting into my old ones. It was a good introduction to the money I'd have to start spending. I couldn't even make it out of the first trimester without new bras! The salesperson gave me a little card with my size on it, saying that some women liked to save all the cards to commemorate how their bodies changed. Meanwhile, I was hoping to goodness these would be the only bras I'd have to buy (I've since learned about nursing bras, so that illusion was shattered). Now that baby is taking up considerably more room in there, my ribs are expanding to fit him. Rather than buy new bras (the cups fit fine), I picked up these extenders that you can clip into your existing bras and thus gain a couple inches of breathing room. They are lifesavers and you can get three of them for about $8! MUCH better than another expensive and awkward shopping trip.

On gestational diabetes (or on how I stab myself four times a day)

A routine test that all pregnant women must subject themselves to is the gestational diabetes screening: you drink a bottle of sugary liquid provided by the doctor and get your blood drawn an hour later. The blood draw reveals how your body responds to the sugar by measuring your glucose level: a higher number after a certain period of time means the body isn’t managing the sugar properly. Risks to the baby include a higher birth weight and the accompanying complications (no one wants a 12-pound baby, least of all me) and too high of a blood glucose level at birth, meaning baby’s blood glucose level will plummet after the cord is cut and require some stabilization.

I never thought of myself as at risk for gestational diabetes. Though my dad does have type-2 diabetes, which is apparently a risk factor, I’ve always maintained a healthy weight and a fairly balanced relationship to sugar. I’ve never been one to crave sweets or chocolate, and would generally say I eat a pretty healthy diet: think oatmeal and fruit for breakfast and salads for lunch. So I honestly thought this test was at worst completely unnecessary and at best one I’d breeze through with flying colors. Because look how healthy I am!

You can imagine my complete shock when I didn’t pass the screening. As I told my sister-in-law, I DON’T FAIL TESTS. That just doesn’t happen to me! So I tried to swallow the shock and pass it as a one-off. Surely my next glucose test would show that this was a false positive and I could skip on my way.

The second test is more of a commitment than the first. You have to fast for several hours before testing, get a preliminary blood draw to determine your fasting blood glucose level, then drink a more concentrated sugary drink than the previous screening. Then you had to hang around the doctor’s office so they could do three more blood draws: one every hour. As someone who is mildly afraid of blood draws, this did NOT sound like my idea of a good time.

Nonetheless, like good kids everywhere, I sucked it up and got it done. Good thing they weren’t also taking my blood pressure because my anxiety continued to mount with each successive blood draw. By the last one I felt like a ball of sweat. Correction: a ball of STARVING sweat because you can’t eat anything. Thankfully, the lab techs I had were all very professional and barely had a problem with my veins. I was so thankful! Good experience notwithstanding, I told them all at the end that no offense, but I hoped I didn’t have to see any of them for a long time. Afterward I treated myself to Qdoba.

But as you can guess by the title of this post, the test definitively showed that my body couldn't regulate my blood sugar. And guys, I was devastated. And by devastated, I mean crying in the conference room devastated. Looking back, I'm not sure why I felt so strongly about this (oh wait, hormones). I think it was a combination of the shock of having a condition I never thought I’d have and getting told that there was something “wrong” with me. Plus, the word diabetes is scary anyway!

The next steps included meeting with a nutritionist to discuss my diet (ME meet with a nutritionist? But look how healthy I am!), picking up my glucose testing kit, and meeting with a nurse to learn how to check my blood sugar. For the uninitiated, checking blood sugar entails holding your finger to a little lancing device that jabs the fingertip to produce a tiny droplet of blood. Then you hold that droplet of blood against a testing strip, which tells you your glucose (or sugar) level. I was worried my fingertips would get bruised or sensitive but after the first couple of days, it’s really not bad at all. Having to test my levels is more just a pain in the rear since I have to check it four times a day: before I eat in the morning, an hour after breakfast, an hour after lunch, and an hour after dinner. I’m a slave to my blood sugar alarm!

I haven’t had to make huge changes in my diet but I did learn that my breakfasts had been too carby for my body to handle. For example, my breakfast carbohydrate limit is 30 grams, or 2 “carb choices” (1 carb choice = 15 grams). Now let’s take one of my standard breakfasts of oatmeal and fruit. The serving of oatmeal alone is nearly 30 grams. Add in some honey (1 carb choice) and a half-cup of fruit (1 carb choice) and I was consuming double the amount of carbs than I needed, without even trying! Now I’m eating LOTS of eggs. My latest egg concoction have been egg muffins: a mixture of eggs, chicken sausage, spinach, cheese and peppers cooked in muffin tins. High-protein popovers!

Before anyone gets worried, I should mention that gestational diabetes goes away after delivery. It’s a temporary hassle but it’ll be worth it in the end!