#66: See an orca in the wild

This summer I visited San Juan Island with my brother while he was in town. I hoped and hoped we would catch the orcas while we were there and they didn't disappoint! We caught a ferry and headed straight to Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of the island, where you're most likely to see passing whales. After waiting a while with no whales in sight, we retreated to the car to eat our lunch away from the bees of the park (BEES! THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! Name that movie.)

When we got back out, we overheard someone mention that a park ranger had radioed in and said the whales would be at the park in 10 minutes! This was proven by the line of cars streaming through the parking lot. Good thing we got there early! Richard and I ran back to one of the vantage points right in time to see a group of five whales approaching. They were a little far off but still close enough to catch a good look. Such magnificent creatures! 

I was SO happy we got to see them. There's obviously no guarantee they'll be around when you're around and as I had basically promised Richard some whales, I was really hoping they'd show up. 

Brendan didn't seem as excited about the whales as I was.
Then we drove up to Roche Harbor on the northern part of the island. Super cute little community if you get a chance to go. And good ice cream! This is why I love adventuring with my brother: he's game for anything. We only had a little over an hour to get up to Roche Harbor, look around, and get back to catch the return ferry. The time crunch only left us 15-20 minutes to run around Roche Harbor. Most people would say, eh, not worth it, but Richard said sure, let's do it! I love that attitude.

Roche Harbor
On the ferry
The day was so memorable, and all the more special because we could spend it with Richard. We got back around 7pm and had grilled salmon, potatoes and green beans for dinner. A perfect Seattle summer day.

Is this thing on?

According to my account, it has been over a year since I last posted.

Perhaps this has something to do with the day. Today is my one-year anniversary of returning to work after the birth of my son, Brendan. Since I returned to work, I've learned a lot about sacrifice, saying no, and way too much about pumping breast milk.

I want to return here to share some thoughts (and pictures, let's be real). Now that we're all getting more sleep, the idea of getting back to blogging is much more palatable!

Last week, Brendan had a "first" that I wanted to share!

Above: his first big owie. We were at the zoo and he face-planted into the asphalt. I thought for sure we were going to have to head home but he rallied like a champ after about a minute and was good to go for another hour of zoo entertainment!

We were on our way to the Zoomazium, the indoor gymnasium of sorts in the Woodland Park Zoo of Seattle, and a great rainy day option if you're in the area! I got a yearlong membership to the zoo for $39 (regularly $49 but I found a promo code) and it's the best money I ever spent. Living only 15 minutes away from the zoo helps to capitalize on it!

And because I'm weird, I created a spreadsheet that calculates my cost per visit. I'm down to $7.00 per visit, and I can't wait to see that number go down further. I know, it's weird!

My shoe problem

The past 10 weeks I've been off work has been a great time to rejuvenate my closet and get rid of items I don't wear anymore (and pack up those maternity clothes I don't care to see for a good while). My work shoe collection in particular needed a major overhauling. I'm very hard on shoes, which I've never quite understood given that I have a cushy desk job. I wore my old black pair of heeled booties into the ground two winters ago (I actually wore the sole down so much that a large crack formed, which I finally noticed when I walked through a puddle).

I ordered these Shoemint booties during a sale but initially didn't like them. Returning them was on my agenda but then we went to Hawaii on our babymoon and the return window passed. I stuck them in the back of my closet (I ordered them in April) and forgot about them until last week. Now that my return to work is looming, work-appropriate attire has been at the forefront of my mind. I tried these on again and decided I did indeed like them! Though, a 4.5" heel? What was I thinking? I'll have to keep a pair of flats in the car for the sole purpose of lugging Brendan's car seat into daycare.

I was also in need of some basic pumps so I picked up these classic beauties, also from Shoemint. I'm ALL about a classic looking pump. They never go out of style.

Since I decided two pairs wasn't enough, I also snagged this dark blue suede pair. I have a problem.

I've been living in a pair of black flats for a year now and decided to branch out into these suede flats. I really love them! I got the taupe color since they'll go with everything but I'm very tempted by the red ones. So far I've resisted. Can you tell I'm more of a classic shoe person versus trendy?

Last but certainly not least, it's boot weather. I found these boots at Target and they fit all my specifications: cognac color, slight heel, and no cutouts. I love them! They obviously aren't work friendly (at least for me) but I foresee a long future with them as soon as I get my act together and waterproof them.

Now I'm on a shoe spending moratorium. Also, I just happen to really like Shoemint. These aren't affiliate links and they aren't sponsoring me!

What I'll miss (and won't miss) about maternity leave

What I'll miss:


2. Even this face.

3. Making myself leisurely breakfasts. I've gotten really into chilaquiles lately, which involves frying up tortilla pieces in salsa and topping them with a fried egg. I learned about the dish from a friend and used this recipe as a guideline. It's a great way to use up corn tortillas after an enchilada supper.

4. The opportunity to visit people I normally don't see very much. I've taken Brendan to SPU to visit with some college advisers and former employers who I don't see very often because we all work nine-to-fives. I've enjoyed this time to catch up with old friends!

5. Being caught up on all my shows. Since Brendan still sleeps a ton, I can catch up on The Voice and Parenthood pretty easily. I know it won't always be this way so I'm taking advantage of those naps while I can!

6. Being my own sous chef throughout the day. While Brendan naps, I save myself some dinner hour labor by chopping vegetables, measuring spices, or whatever else I can do to prepare for dinner. Having those tasks already completed before cooking makes putting dinner together so fast! That's the secret on all the cooking shows: having everything ready before you start cooking.

What I won't miss: 

1. Underlying guilt that I should be getting more done throughout the day since I'm at home. But hey. You can't do it all. I already think staying at home is a lot of work (interspersed with keeping up with my shows...) and Brendan isn't even mobile yet! I just tell myself that the to-do list will always have items on it and that's OK. That's just life. Just say no to guilt!

Five observations on the postpartum period

1. Hierarchy of pain

The old joke of stomping on your left foot so you forget the pain in your right foot holds true. I could only recognize one area of pain at a time, which I suppose could be considered a blessing in disguise. As the epidural wore off, the spot on my back where the needle went in felt like a punching bag. I couldn't believe how sore my back was! I made Mark look at it, sure there was a pancake-sized bruise. There was no bruise, which felt slightly invalidating.

This pain went away by the day after birth, which is when the pain of vaginal childbirth really started to register. The best part of my time in the hospital was when the nurse came in with the Ibuprofen and Tylenol! Once that pain started to subside (each day brought an exponential improvement), I started to realize that now the muscles of my pelvic floor were sore. I think they were sore all along, but since the pain was lesser it didn't register.

Bottom line: the female body takes a beating in childbirth. We're awesome.

2. Feeling ready doesn't mean you are

Every time I thought I was ready to push myself, I was wrong. I thought I was ready for a trip to Target and the grocery store with my mom the second week after birth; I ended up crying in the Target parking lot from the pain of walking and we didn't make it to the grocery store at all (this is where I learned that you must keep on top of the painkillers, even if they are just Ibuprofen and Tylenol).

Six weeks after birth, which is usually when the doctors give you the green light to start working out again, I felt like my regular self. And my regular self wanted to take my jogging stroller out for a spin with Brendan! So off I went, baby in tow. I made it four blocks before it became embarrassingly apparent that my bladder (pelvic floor muscles) couldn't handle this extra effort. Talk about demoralizing! I headed home to change (it was that bad) and we went out for an hour-long walk instead. I went on my first solo run at seven and a half weeks and had no problems. That extra week and a half made a big difference. However, I tried another stroller run just this week (nine weeks postpartum) and ran into similar bladder issues so there must be something with the effort of pushing the stroller that sends me over the edge. Yay, childbirth. Everything's just loosey goosey in there!

3. Night sweats are real. Real gross.

I had to sleep with a towel next to the bed so I could mop myself up before Brendan could eat. My condolences to anyone who has to deal with night sweats on a regular basis! They went away by the third week but those three weeks were sure disgusting. Hormones. They'll get ya.

4. Take advantage of hospital resources

I thought breastfeeding was going fine. Until it wasn't. I ended up with a breast infection after the first time we gave Brendan a bottle (so I missed a feeding) and I haven't been that sick in a long time. I had put Brendan down for a nap in his crib upstairs and then gone downstairs to pack for our weekend trip to Portland. I felt like I was freezing (an infection gives you flu-like symptoms) so I huddled on the floor in front of our space heater and prayed that Brendan wasn't crying because I had no energy to pick my achy self up off the floor. It was bad. Several doses of Tylenol and plenty of fluids later, the infection seemed to be subsiding but the breast pain was just beginning. That Monday I called the hospital's lactation services in tears because the pain was so great. With their advice we made some progress in improving Brendan's latch but it wasn't until I met with a lactation specialist that we really had a breakthrough. Finally, breastfeeding isn't something I dread. It isn't all ponies and rainbows either but things are so much better, even though it took six weeks! If you have a concern, don't wait until you're ready to give up. Use every resource you have! Every nurse and professional I spoke with were incredibly eager to help.

5. It really does get better

The improvements in pain and mobility that I experienced every day after birth were staggering to me. I couldn't believe how fast my body bounced back. I was indeed tired from taking care of a newborn but that tiredness wasn't bad compared to how poorly I felt during the last couple weeks of pregnancy. Your body even gets used to the sleep deprivation. Right now I don't get a stretch of sleep longer than three hours but since that's become my new normal, I feel fine (Brendan sleeps longer than that but I get up in the middle of the night to pump to keep my milk supply up). You adapt because you have to.

Then they start smiling!

#51: Have a baby (part 2)

When I left off, I'd requested an epidural.

It was probably about 6:45 a.m. by the time I requested it. While the anesthesiologist was sought, we were moved into a a labor room and introduced to a new nurse. She told us we were definitely having this baby today, and for sure by the time her shift ended at 3 p.m.

The resident anesthesiologist came in to explain the procedure of the combined spinal/epidural: you get quick pain relief from the spinal block and much longer pain relief from the epidural through one procedure. I found it funny that they explain the procedure, its potential side effects and who knows what else to the woman in labor. I remember looking at him and thinking, I know he's talking to me and I am trying so hard to listen but these darn contractions just keep on coming and I can't focus on anything else! He left to get the drugs ready (you can't do that before the pep talk?) and I got hooked up to an IV to receive antibiotics since I tested positive for a common strain of strep. I had asked my doctor if the insertion of the IV was painful (I'd never been in the hospital before) and she said something along the lines of "Well, it's not the most painful thing you'll be experiencing that day." She also said that about checking the cervix. All very true yet not encouraging at the time.

The resident anesthesiologist came back along with the head anesthesiologist and the meds. I sat on one side of the bed and hugged a pillow, trying to hunch my back and relax like the anesthesiologists said. Contractions kept rolling and it was hard to keep such an unnatural position. The insertion of the needle was uncomfortable but I kept telling myself it would be over soon and the pain would be gone, so I could handle five more minutes of pain and discomfort! If you've seen "Finding Nemo," remember that part with the little girl at the dentist? She's banging on the glass of the aquarium and the starfish is losing his grip and saying, "Find a happy place, find a happy place!!" That's how I felt.

But the needle pokes kept coming and I felt fluid flowing down my back, which I imagined at first to be blood but later learned it was spinal fluid. I was not a very good judge of time at this point but it seemed like the procedure was taking a lot longer than previously billed. I heard afterward that the resident couldn't get the needle in the right spot and the chief anesthesiologist took over. He got the needle in and told me that I might feel a jolt as the medicine took effect. The sensation that followed was BY FAR the worst part of labor for me: what felt like an electric current flashed painfully through my back and down my left leg. The shock scared me so much that I actually screamed.

After that trauma, the anesthesiologist said I'd feel one more and then I wouldn't feel any more pain. What he meant was I'd feel another contraction but I thought he meant I'd feel another shock. I lost it, sobbing and saying some nonsensical things (I really can't remember what). Then Mark told me he meant one more contraction and I thought PRAISE GOD, a contraction I can handle. It came and went and then... relief. I could've hugged those anesthesiologists! Well, maybe not the resident. They told me afterward that I had a tricky curvature to my spine. Who knew!

The difference between the hour leading up to the epidural and the moments after it took effect was stunning. I felt like Dorothy when she left her black and white world behind and entered one of Technicolor. I know there are a lot of people who choose to receive no pain medication but I always knew I wouldn't be one of them. I don't regret it at all, even after experiencing the electric jolt, which they told me only 10 percent of people experience.

After the epidural, around 7:40 a.m., I was helped into bed and encouraged to order some chicken broth and juice to get up some energy for pushing. I even got in a nap! A couple hours went by and the resident doctor who had previously checked my cervix came in, along with my OB who thankfully happened to be on call that day. She and I laughed that I'd managed to "plan" my delivery on a day that she was on call. She said I was progressing well and that she'd be in and out during the pushing stage since there were other patients on the floor who were as far along as I was.

They left and my nurse gave me a crash course on what pushing would look like. I never took any labor classes so I soaked up the instruction and hoped I could do a fast job. The resident came back shortly after and checked my cervix again, which was much more pleasant with an epidural. During the check, my water broke. I heard the pop in time to see the resident's shocked face and felt (and stifled) a strong urge to laugh. I don't think that had ever happened to her before. Then I was told I had made it to 10 centimeters and it was time to start pushing!

Nothing could have prepared me for the physicality of pushing. My doctor told me that pushing out the baby would be one of the most physical things I'd ever do but I had no idea how hard and taxing it would be. Mark fed me Clif Shot Bloks (energy chews) in between pushes and I can honestly say those little snacks saved me. If you're pregnant, stock up on Shot Bloks. After about an hour of pushing, my doctor came back along with a slew of nurses who started readying the room for the arrival of a baby. That's how I knew he must be close! Well, that and they kept telling me I was SO close to being done and just keep going!

At this point we were out of Shot Bloks and I didn't know how I was going to go on much longer. They asked if I wanted a mirror (no thanks) and if I wanted to feel the baby's head (um, no, I know he's there, but thanks). I couldn't believe that some women can push for hours on end. I never knew exhaustion until those final pushes when I felt him slip out, which was the most relieving and emotional feeling I can't even come close to describing. I burst into tears the moment he was out; I wasn't conscious of anything else except how exhausted I was and that our boy was crying. They placed him on top of me and the first thought I had was of how big he was! That and he was covered in fine dark hair. No one warns you how potentially hairy babies can be!

You can't see all the hair.
I could barely reconcile that this tiny human had just come out of me. It didn't make sense. When they told us he weighed eight pounds and 12 ounces, I felt a rush of gratefulness that doctors screen for gestational diabetes. He might have been huge had I not been monitoring my blood sugar! We decided on his name, Brendan, while he lay on my chest and the doctors stitched me up.

Brendan was born exactly at noon on August 24, 2014. The next hours were a whirlwind of nurses, family, and barely being able to keep my eyes open. We had to stay in the delivery room for a while because the recovery rooms were full but that was fine with me - the room was huge.

Mac and cheese!
Mark's dad and Brendan
I couldn't believe that we had spent so much time thinking of when the baby would come and that the moment was finally here. It was so surreal. Even now, eight weeks post-birth, it's hard to believe that we are post-birth and not still preparing. For instance, I'd made some meals in advance and frozen them "for when the baby comes" and I feel like I have to give myself permission to eat those meals because the baby is now here and that's why I made them.

I also want to write posts on recovering from birth and transitioning to parenthood but all in good time. I feel like every time I sit down to start writing, Brendan wakes up. I guess that's life!

#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