Charlotte Frances {1 month}

[I've had this post in my drafts for close to three weeks now, but am just now getting around to posting it! What can I say - the whole concept of time completely changes once you have a baby. I'm really working to stay on top of the posts going forward.]

Our sweet Charlotte Frances is one month old today! There is nothing in this world that I love more than being her mama - it's changed me in so many wonderful ways, and I wouldn't trade these last four weeks for anything in the world.

Those teeny tiny socks are tucked away - they were the only pair that fit her for her first three weeks and I cried when she outgrew them.

To say becoming a parent has been a learning experience is the understatement of the year. There is no way to prepare for any of it, until you're in the trenches and just have to... figure it out. I've been pooped and spit up on. There have been lots of tears (some from Charlotte, lots from mama). I've never been so exhausted in my life, but have also never experienced the desire to just sit and hold and stare at this amazing little human all day, every day. There have been the most fantastic highs and some really low lows, but we've made it and now here we are. We fall in love with her more every single day and all of those cliches about parenthood are so true. We can't wait to watch this sweet girl grow up!

My parents stayed with us for the first two weeks, and while I was originally a little reluctant for them to be here that long, by the time the day came to drive them to the airport, all I could think was "How can I be a mom without my mom here with me?" It was completely awful saying goodbye, and I can't really think about it much or I'll cry again. The first week, I thought I knew everything, but Charlotte was kind of still in the "newborn daze" - once she started waking up and I realized that my parents actually knew a thing or two about taking care of a newborn, I couldn't ask them enough questions. I was also deep in the baby blues at this point, so having my mom there for me was huge. Brian had two weeks of paternity leave that he could split up however he wanted, so he took the first week that we were home, then Monday/Tuesday for the last couple of weeks. 

There is no real schedule for us right now. The days are long but they also fly by, and I feel so lucky to have this maternity leave to soak up every single second with my girl. One of the best things I've done personally is have somewhat of a routine. We wake up for the day when Brian leaves for work, and move downstairs for coffee and breakfast, Good Morning America and Live with Kelly. I try to prep dinner and switch out/fold laundry, then we head back upstairs so I can shower (while Charlotte hangs in the bouncer in the bathroom with me. From there, depending on what kind of day Charlotte is having, the afternoon either flies by or drags until Brian gets home. We try to get out of the house every single day, even if it's just to drive to get a coffee. It keeps everyone sane - we can go a little stir crazy when we're in the house all day long. 

Breastfeeding has gone remarkably well. It was one of the things that I was most nervous about - I think maybe just fear of the unknown? But Charlotte latched immediately after birth and we had great encouragement from the nurses and lactation consultants while we were in the hospital. We had a little struggle around 3 weeks old with a lot of pain in my right breast - we figured out that I had a clogged duct, and Charlotte and I went to a breastfeeding support group that my hospital offers. It was helpful but... overwhelming. There were 21 moms with 21 newborns plus a few older siblings running around, so I had a moment to ask my questions and the lactation consultants were helpful, but it was just... a lot. We ended up working through it together, and things have gone so much better. 

All in all, our girl is healthy and thriving, and we couldn't be happier or feel more lucky to have this sweet baby in our lives! I wake up every morning so excited to see her, and just want to soak in every second that I can with her.

Now, for the start of our monthly updates!

Weight: Charlotte, you weighed 7lbs, 9oz when you were born, dropped down to 7lbs, 1 oz the day we were discharged from the hospital, and were back up to 7lbs, 14oz at your newborn checkup on Tuesday, January 10. The last time you were weighed was at our breastfeeding support group on Wednesday, January 25, and you clocked in at a whopping 8lbs, 9oz! Your 1 month checkup is on Monday, February 13 and I can't wait to see how much more you've grown!

So tiny at your first checkup at four days old!

Clothes: All newborn, but they're getting super snug! Your coming home outfit was Magnolia Baby and fit perfectly, and we've had several fleece Carters sleepers in the rotation that were initially slightly big on you. And the Janie and Jack one-piece that I bought when we found out you were on the way swallowed you up in the hospital and is still big. I'm having MAJOR mom feels this week because you're officially growing out of everything - tiny white newborn onesies, your newborn sleeper gowns, all of your footed jammies, and your newborn pants. We're kind of stuck because the majority of your 0-3 months clothes are still way too big, but we're out of options in your newborn drawer! I just bought a couple of Carters newborn sleepers and they're working for right now. Oh, my mama heart will break the day I have to pack up that sweet newborn drawer that I spent so much time shopping to fill, washing and folding, waiting for you to join us. I've definitely cried this past week as I've realized with the wear of each outfit that it's likely the last time you'll wear it, especially your fox sleeper and your "Hello Daddy" onesie (it's what I bought and tucked away to someday use to tell your Daddy that I was pregnant). 

This sweet fox sleeper was an impulse purchase a few days before you were born - I dressed you in it until the neck started to pull because you were too long! 

All the tears for this - I bought this onesie when you were just a dream and a prayer of mine, and I gave it to your daddy to unwrap to tell him you were on the way. 

Sleep: You're waking every two hours to eat and for a diaper change, but going back down has been a little touch and go. Some nights you fall right back to sleep, but we've also walked and rocked for hours to get you settled back to sleep. You're a great sleeper, though - you never startle and can sleep anywhere, but are especially fond of napping in our arms (and I'm not in any hurry to break that habit). At night, you sleep in your Pack n Play bassinet next to my side of the bed, and during the day nap in either your Boppy Lounger or the Mamaroo. Something I want to remember - we know you're in a deep sleep when your little mouth falls open and you make your "purring" noises (sweetest sound in the world).

Schedule: I will be the first to admit that I was that annoying pre-parent who told anyone who would listen about how we were going to put you on a schedule at 2 weeks old. Yep, didn't happen, and I'm in no rush to do so. I quickly figured out that my main priority is making sure you're fed and rested, and we do what it takes to make that happen. 

Health: You are healthy and thriving, baby girl!
Crying: You only fuss a tiny bit when you're hungry or need a diaper change, but even then it's the daintiest little sounds. We call them your kitten meows and baby lamb noises - I have countless videos saved of them!
Feeding: Breastfeeding has gone exceptionally well for us, which is such a relief for me. Right now we're nursing on demand, and you eat for around 10 minutes on each side. We're exclusively nursing, although I know we'll need to introduce a bottle at some point. 
Likes: Sleeping in our arms, bathtime, being in motion (in the car, stroller), eating, being snuggled and warm, the Mamaroo, listening to Adele with Daddy
Dislikes: Being cold, dirty diapers, getting buckled into your carseat
Milestones: I'm going to say being born was your biggest (and best) milestone this past month.
Places You’ve Gone: We've been really good about getting out and about as much as possible! We made our first trip to Target with Gigi on your 1 week birthday, and have been back... many, many times since. You've had pediatrician visits, and went to my office to meet my coworkers (they loved you!). 
Visitors: Your Gigi and Papa were here from Texas for two weeks, which was amazing. Caitlin and Andrew, and Brad and Jackie also came to see you and were so excited to love on you.

Postpartum: Major baby blues over here, which deserves its own post entirely. Physically, I feel great and feel like I've had a very easy go of it in regards to my recovery.

Molly: She was a little suspicious of you at the beginning and definitely nailed a look that screams "Just so you remember, this was NOT my idea, guys..." but she's been super sweet and gentle. We can't wait for you to grow up with a built-in best friend!

Shortly after walking in the front door from the hospital! The most surreal moment - sitting in the nursery we worked on for so long, holding the baby I'd hoped and prayed for... with our sweet Molly at my feet.

Two day old Charlotte!


Our first (very tired) family picture! 

"Let's snuggle and be cozy" - the motto of my maternity leave with my girl.

So teeny tiny and snuggled up.
The most tired (and happy) I've ever been in my life.

One week old! OBSESSED with this precious baby.

Charlotte and her Gigi (my mom).

Charlotte's first trip to Target at one week old!

My sweet little family (and deeeeep in the world of post partum sads - more to come on that...)

Charlotte's first sink bath (before her umbilical cord fell off)

Me and my girl.

Charlotte's first bath! Her umbilical cord fell off (obviously)... and I cried. And then Molly ate it. You can't make this stuff up, y'all... I kept thinking of the episode of SATC where Brady's cord stump falls off and Miranda's cat takes it and is playing with it and she has to call Steve... and that this was SO much worse.

Dressed my girl in her white "Future President" onesie for Inauguration Day. Again - all of the tears.

The morning my parents left - so many sads.

Charlotte meeting her great grandmother, DeeDee (Brian's grandmother). Charlotte is DD's fifth great grandchild!

Daddy and his girls.

My dad told me when I Facetimed him on this night that she looked like a mime. 

Wearing the Janie and Jack outfit that I bought the afternoon that my doctor told us that we had nothing to worry about and that my pregnancy was healthy and strong (teary again just typing that).

Her favorite place to sleep (and my favorite place to let her sleep).
Her daddy's little Pats fan on Superbowl Sunday!

My sweet CC

Getting so big already - the night before her 1 month birthday!

Charlotte's Birth Story

It's taken me a couple of weeks to sit down and write Charlotte's birth story because, in all honesty, I have been so full of emotion that it was almost too much for my new mommy feelings to think back on all of the memories from that completely perfect day, but I don't want to forget a single second (and am likely going to cry my way through writing this). Also, you've been warned - this is extremely long, but I didn't want to break it up into multiple parts. So feel free to either read, skim, or skip - I won't be offended. I wrote down every single detail I could possibly remember, so I'll have this for myself to look back on and also to share with my girl someday. So, here we go.

Pretty much since the beginning of my third trimester, I've been convinced that I was going to have this sweet baby early. Nothing that the doctors said (aside from my OB's comment at my 37 week appointment that I would go around 39 weeks) and nothing that I was feeling necessarily indicated that, but it was just an intuitive feeling that I couldn't shake. Brian and I had also decided that aside from going to work, I wouldn't go anywhere by myself - I ran to Trader Joe's on New Years Day morning to pick up a few groceries, and felt like I was going to pass out, which was super unsettling. So, we were basically settling in to ride out the last days before our girl made her debut.

On Monday, January 2, I had basically convinced myself that I was going into labor. I'd read SO MANY birth stories and was prepared to basically feel anything out of the ordinary and consider it a sign of labor. So when I started feeling crampy that evening and had an upset stomach, I immediately started texting friends with the "Is this it?!" questions. I was freaked out - totally not the way that I thought I would react if I WAS going into labor, but we didn't have bags packed, Brian was in the middle of hanging shelves in the nursery and kept asking me "Is this it? Is this the Big L&D?" which made me kind of want to throat-punch him, the house was a wreck. Needless to say, this wasn't how I'd pictured anything happening (I'd like to call this IRONIC FORESHADOWING). I went to bed, actually got a good night's sleep, and woke up the next morning still feeling very pregnant, but the cramps had stopped.

Tuesday, January 3, was super rainy and gross outside, and I'd had plans that night to go to dinner with two of my best girlfriends. I was feeling super uncomfortable and tired, and the thought of going out in the rain in the dark by myself stressed me out, so I proposed lunch instead to my girls, and they were totally on board (they're the best). Throughout the morning, I'd had a headache off and on and had started feeling light cramps again, so on my way to lunch, I called my doctor's office and ran the symptoms by them. The nurse basically told me that what I was feeling could be the start of labor, but if it was, it was very early. She also said if my headache didn't get better, to definitely call them back. Lunch was perfect and exactly what I was needing - we joked that the next time we'd all see each other, I would be a mom and we'd have a new lady joining us for our lunches, and I drove back to work with the biggest smile on my face. I went on with the rest of my day and tracked when I felt cramps, how bad my headache was, if anything helped it to go away, etc.

Wednesday, January 4, I woke up very much in a "get things done" mode. I had originally scheduled our cleaners to come on Thursday, 1/12, but with all of my "I could go early" thoughts, I'd rescheduled them to come on Thursday the 5th, so I reconfirmed that, made my final packing list for the hospital, and flew through my maternity leave list at work to tie up loose ends. I'd had a haircut/color appointment scheduled that night, but something told me to cancel it - I was literally sitting in my car with the engine running, debating whether or not to go, and something inside me said "GO INSIDE AND GET THINGS DONE." So I cancelled, and went into overdrive while Brian was studying. I packed everything that we would need for the hospital and set the bags, pillows, etc. to the side in our bedroom so Brian could easily find them, which gave me a huge sense of relief to finally have done, and laid everything out for the cleaners to come the next day and for our dog walker to be set for Molly.

This brings us to Thursday, January 5. I had my regularly scheduled 38 week doctors appointment that morning at 10am, and woke up feeling SO good. It was a beautiful day outside and I was praying that my doctor would be able to tell me that I'd progressed further along. I was having a great hair day and felt pretty and actually remembered to take a picture of myself in the bathroom at work before my appointment, "just in case" it was the last time I would see myself with my baby bump. 

I sent a last few emails and headed off to my appointment, with my manager and great coworker (also moms who have been above and beyond amazing throughout this pregnancy) wishing me luck for progress. Heading into my appointment, I proudly took the stairs instead of the elevator (I made a vow to myself to take those stairs as long as possible!), paused at the top to catch my breath and waddled down to check-in. My favorite nurse took me back to the exam room and we went through the normal routine - weight (which stayed the same from the week before) and vitals. 

She took my blood pressure on my left arm with the standard cuff - "Hm. That's a little higher than we'd like to see. I'm going to check with another machine." I thought nothing of it as she cheerfully wheeled in a portable monitor and took my blood pressure again. As I got my phone ready to record baby girl's heartbeat, she told me again that my blood pressure was really high, and started going through a list of symptoms that I knew were related to preeclampsia. At this point, I started to feel a little nervous - my mom had preeclampsia with me and I was delivered two weeks early, so they've kept a careful eye on things since there was a chance that I could also have it. I've had a couple of higher than normal BP readings during my pregnancy, but nothing that was cause for concern, they just always remind me to call if any red flag symptoms present. I immediately thought of the headache that I couldn't seem to shake the past few days and told the nurse. She nodded, said the doctor would be right in... and I felt like I was going to cry. 

The doctor that I was seeing, whom I love for her cheerfulness and ability to make me feel like she knows what she's talking about professionally but has also "been there" as a mom herself, came in and I could immediately tell that she was all-business. She went through the standard routine of the weekly exam, checked my girl's heartbeat (which was perfect), and then took my blood pressure herself for a third time. She turned to me and said that my blood pressure was higher than they'd like to see, and she wanted to send me up to the main hospital to be monitored to see if it was going to come down. If it didn't, then they would induce me so that the baby wasn't in any danger. 

This would be one of those "Oh my goodness, is this really happening?" moments that I know I'll never forget. I was completely giddy (and also nervous) as I walked out to my car. I called Brian and told him he needed to leave work to come and meet me, that it was probably nothing but that I didn't want to sit there alone while I was monitored, and he was on his way. I then called my mom to let her know that she and my dad should be on standby to change their flights, and that I'd keep her updated. I stopped by my office on the way to the hospital to let my manager know what was going on, and to take a picture of Molly off of my desk (I was feeling majorly guilty for not kissing her goodbye that morning), then headed up to the maternity floor.

I laughed at myself as I took a photo of the hallway walking towards the maternity area - I'd been there just a day before to take pictures for a group of midwives for an article I was working on, and remember thinking "I wonder if the next time I'm here, I'll be in labor!"

I checked in at triage and let them know that I wasn't in labor but had been sent over by Dr. Fullerton to be monitored for high blood pressure. I laughed and joked with the receptionist about husbands and man colds and they took me back to hook me up to the belly strap. Seriously - at this point, it hadn't even crossed my mind that I could possibly be having a baby, hence all of the laughing and joking going on. While I was in bed getting settled with the monitor straps (around 11:30am), Brian arrived - I didn't realize how nervous I was and how much I was needing him there with me until he walked into the room and I felt myself sigh with relief. The first question out of his mouth? "Do you think they have the Golf Channel?" Ah, yes - priorities right? The nurse came back to tell us that she was waiting on my blood work and urine results from my appointment earlier that morning, but that she was thinking we would be discharged within the next couple of hours. She advised us to eat something, so Brian headed to the dining room to pick up lunch - vegetable soup and pretzels for me, chicken salad (gag) for him. We flipped channels on the crummy hospital TV, Brian studied, and I took a nap in between discussing what we would pick up for dinner and how we wanted to go home and take a good nap with Molly in our own bed. I had been pounding water and finally had to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. When I passed the monitor, I could see the tracking of my blood pressure over the last 3 hours - it was climbing higher and higher. I told Brian, and he just said not to get worried yet. 

Around 2:45pm, my doctor came in with the nurse and the words that would rock my world - "Well, it looks like you're staying!" Brian and I looked at each other, and looked back at her in shock. She told us that she had talked to one of the maternal fetal medicine doctors and he said that since my blood pressure was high and I was a healthy 38.6 weeks pregnant, he saw no reason to prolong my pregnancy versus delivering within the next couple of days while both I and the baby were healthy. Brian was so excited - I'll never forget the look on his face of shock mixed with excitement. But I was honestly panicked and started tearing up and then felt guilty - I should feel excited to meet my baby, not freaked out because things weren't going according to plan. I needed to give Molly one last "only dog-child" snuggle. I didn't have my bags with me. I wanted my mom.

At my appointment that morning, the doctor had said that I was dilated 1-2cm and was 70% effaced, so since I wasn't in active labor, the plan was to induce me. My doctor warned me that induction for first time moms can take awhile... like there was a chance I may not deliver until Sunday (and remember, this was Thursday morning) and that wouldn't be out of the ordinary. I had honestly never even contemplated induction, so I read nothing about it and had zero clue what we were in for. The approach they were taking was to give one pill (Cytotec) every three-four hours, for a total of six pills over 18 hours. The pill would increase contractions, and they would then start Pitocin and see how things go from there. Hearing my doctor say that induction could be difficult FREAKED ME OUT. Nobody wants to hear that going into labor.

The nurse told me to make any calls that I needed to and she'd be back to walk us over to labor and delivery to get settled. We called my mom first - I know she must have been absolutely freaking out, but she managed to stay calm for me when I said the words "Well, rebook your flights - they're inducing me!" Hearing the excitement in her voice made me that much more excited (sometimes you just need to hear your mama) and she quickly hung up so she could call my dad and coordinate. My mother-in-law had literally just texted me to ask how my doctor's appointment had gone and if there was any progression, so when we called her next with the news, she was very excited and teary. Our last call was to my manager - she was so excited but all I could think of were the last few projects I'd been working on and planning to wrap up by the end of the week, and she immediately told me to forget about it all and just focus on me, Brian and the baby. Once we hung up, Brian and I had a brief "I can't believe this is happening!" moment, and the nurse came back to walk us to L&D.

Delivering in the same hospital that you work in is funny - I felt like a celebrity (ha) as I walked down the hallway and the nurses and admins chatted with me about work. Sorry people - roles are reversed today! We got to our labor and delivery room and I still felt very... unsettled. The room was HUGE but felt very empty and cold, and the nurse had been talking up how the room had a great view... which we quickly noticed was wide open to the roof, where construction guys were working and actually looking in. Brian closed the curtains, and I tried to get comfortable on the bed. It was weird - since they were just going to start the pills, I hung out in my leggings and a gown so they had easy access for the belly monitor for the baby, but I didn't really feel like a patient. I literally kept forgetting that I was there to have my baby. Around 3:45pm they started an IV line (which was SO PAINFUL and in the most awkward spot - on my right wrist and in a weird spot so I felt the IV every time I bent my hand) and gave me my first pill, and I sent Brian home to get our bags, and to take Molly to his parents house. When he left, I cried and started to text my closest girlfriends to let them know what was going on. I felt like such a baby, but all I could think was that I really wanted my mom there, and that I was scared of what was to come (I'd been deleting the "Preparing for Labor" emails from my pregnancy apps for weeks and was realllly starting to regret doing that...). 

At 6:30pm, the nurse came in and told me they needed to move me to another room since I wasn't in active labor and they were busy that night. We ended up in a high-risk room which I felt SO much more comfortable in. It was smaller and more cozy, and the bed was more comfortable. Brian finally came back within the hour with quite the story - the night before, we'd thrown away a gingerbread house that we made around Christmas and while we were at work that day, Molly got into the trashcan and found it. And broke it up into a million pieces. And hid the million pieces allll over our freshly cleaned house. There were gingerbread pieces (including the wet icing and candies) tucked into our couch cushions, our beds, Charlotte's PBK chair in the nursery, the hamper in the nursery... girlfriend had a GOOD TIME with that gingerbread. So he cleaned up as much as possible before he left. He wasn't going to tell me but I needed the laugh! I realized at that point that all I'd eaten that day was a cup of vegetable soup and pretzels, so Brian ran to the dining room to find me mashed potatoes (the only thing that sounded good). I ate, the nurse brought in pill #2 around 7:30pm, and we tried to get comfortable. We kept talking about how we wanted to be home on Sunday to watch the Golden Globes but considering how slow things were going, it wasn't likely that I'd deliver and have my two nights in the hospital before then (I call this foreshadowing - labor is a funny, unpredictable thing). We had an amazing nurse who had just started her shift, and she immediately asked if I wanted to change my IV arm - she advised me to, reminding me that while it was uncomfortable now, it would be way worse later on during actual labor I would need my hands/arms. We switched to my left arm and while it HURT, I was immediately glad that we'd made the change - I honestly forgot that it was there. She left us to get settled, and while I flipped through the channels on the TV (it's a bad habit, but I almost always want the TV on when I'm sleeping somewhere I'm unfamiliar with - it's like my white noise), Brian got settled on his awful fold out chair/bed and was of course asleep within minutes. This was (knock on wood) the first time I'd ever spent the night in a hospital, so I had no clue how interrupted my sleep would be - aside from coming in to give me the induction pills again at 11:30pm and 4am, the nurses came in every 2-3 hours to check my vitals, the baby's vitals, and to give me doses of Robitussin for my lingering cough, and me constantly checking the status of my parents' flight, I basically didn't sleep at all. 

Around 4am, I started to feel really light contractions - this was the first time I'd felt anything that felt like period cramps. I got really excited and started tracking them on my "Full Term" app, but quickly realized that a) they weren't all that painful or significant, and b) they weren't consistent. When my nurse came in around 7am to check my vitals, I mentioned the contractions and she said that's normal and what we want to happen, and said they'd check me to see if I'd made any progress once the doctor made her rounds but she didn't sound all that hopeful (I was hoping I was feeling legit contractions and would deliver soon. Ha. Hahahah). I'm someone who HAS to shower in the morning to feel human, so I asked if I could get up and shower/get ready, and she said absolutely. At this point, the only thing that made me feel like I was there to have a baby was the IV in my arm - I was proud of how good I was feeling. I showered with my toiletries in the tiniest shower ever (shaved my legs, deep conditioned my hair... I'm telling you, I was in zero pain), got dressed in real clothes and sat down on the bed to put my makeup on. 

It was around 11:30am and I was super annoyed because the only show I could find was Rachael Ray, but I left it on for background noise. At this point we knew that my parents had landed, and Brian's dad was waiting for them to get their luggage at the airport, and then would bring them to the hospital. As I was putting on my blush (this memory is VIVID or I'd never remember that detail), I sneezed really hard and immediately felt like I'd wet my pants (sorry if that's TMI but I'd want to know if I were reading this and curious about labor!) and felt terrible cramping. I told Brian that I thought I'd peed my pants when I sneezed and we both kind of laughed as I got off of the bed to go to the bathroom and assess. My water still hadn't broken, so I knew that either this was it, or I had legitimately peed my pants, but as I was standing in the bathroom, I felt another really bad cramp and realized that it wasn't cramping... it was a contraction. I walked out and told Brian I thought we should maybe call the nurse to tell her what was going on and get all of our stuff together in case they moved us - I had a feeling that things were definitely happening and wanted to be ready... I also realized that my hair was still wet so I found the blow dryer because PRIORITIES. The contractions were getting worse and I asked Brian to call his dad and check the status of my parents. He still hadn't found them and I was feeling panicky and distinctly remember this... "the wheels are coming off" emotion. The contractions were getting stronger and closer together and all I could think was "I don't want anyone to touch me" and "I want my mom" and I couldn't get my head around getting through the contractions with breathing. I climbed back on the bed to sit down and felt so restless - my whole body felt tense and I couldn't get comfortable, and the only place I kind of felt at ease was sitting on the toilet (pants on, people) - I think it helped with the crazy pressure and pain that I was feeling. 

Brian called the nurse and she finally came in and was so laidback - "Oh, let's just take a look and see what's going on here." I wanted to shake her and say "Can you get on my level?! I'm freaking out here! I am in pain! This is not time for calm!" The doctor came in behind her to check my progress (holy mother of God with THAT pain) and I was only at 3cm... and I wanted to cry. All that I could think was "This HURTS and I'm only at 3cm?! I can't do this!" 

As soon as we had been admitted, I had made sure to tell any nurse and doctor that crossed my path that I was on the epidural train, so with the pain so bad, I was asking what we could do - the nurse basically told me that I wasn't far enough along for anything. She left to check and see when I could move to a birthing room and... shit got real. My contractions started coming every 2-3 minutes and lasting about a minute (but each one felt like an eternity). I was trying to walk through the pain in our room and it was just... the worst pain I've ever felt. There's no way to sugarcoat that. Brian's dad called to say he had my parents and they were on their way, about 20 minutes from the hospital, and the worst contraction yet hit - Brian quickly hung up and tried to coach me (but who can coach an insane woman in labor who doesn't want anyone to touch her?). I remember swearing loudly (many, many times) and trying to breathe. As soon as one contraction would end and I'd get my bearings, another would start. The nurse finally came back and said to get our things together, that we were going to take a walk down to my delivery room. 

Y'all. The contractions were so intense and close together, I looked at her and said (rather rudely), "You want me to WALK THERE?!" Brian had packed our bags up earlier, so while he gathered them up, the nurse held my arm and walked me out into the hall. I was so nervous because I just knew I was going to have contractions during the walk, and didn't want anyone to see me. I actually asked her "What do I do if I have a contraction while we're walking?" and she responded with "Oh, we'll just walk and breathe through it!" Uh huh, easier said than done. As we turned the corner in the hallway, a contraction hit at the exact moment that I looked up to see my parents rounding the corner. I could have cried with relief - even though things were obviously happening, a part of me had been so nervous that I was going to have this baby without having seen my mom and dad that I was resisting the reality that I was in labor (keep in mind that I hadn't seen my dad since August, and my mom since she was in Boston for my baby shower in October, so I was needing that parental reassurance, big time). With them finally there, it was officially GAME ON.

My mom came right over and tried to comfort me while I leaned against the railing on the wall but I was in so much pain that I legit swatted her away while my dad stood a few feet away looking shocked at the whole scene in front of him. I'm not gonna lie - it wasn't my proudest moment, but I'm still also fairly annoyed with the nurse for not just wheeling me (quickly) down to my delivery room so I could go through the pain in private. BUT it is what it is. We made the rest of the walk to my room and everyone got situated - my plan had been for my parents to wait in the waiting room but with it having taken them so long to get there, I just wanted them around until I got my epidural and could actually enjoy their company for a bit. 

Since we had moved to L&D, the carefree nurse was gone and our new nurse, Maura, came in to introduce herself around 2pm... and it was an immediate amazing connection. I was in SO much pain and she went right into caretaker role, and it was just what I needed to try and relax. She coached me through my breathing, told me that I was doing a wonderful job, and would suggest to Brian what he could do to help me. She somehow got me to focus and told me that she understood that I wanted an epidural, and she was going to help me get there, but that I needed to be in the bed and hooked up to the monitors for half an hour before she could call the anesthesiologist. She offered to give me a shot in the meantime to help with the pain and... it didn't do anything except make me feel like I'd had a few glasses of wine. The pain was still very much there, but I guess it helped to distract me, more than reduce the pain. I don't know how I did it, but I did - through a lot of breathing and swearing and breaking Brian's hand, but I got through the contractions for the next half hour. Maura taught Brian how to read the monitor, so he and my mom would tell me when a contraction was coming - it helped me to know when a big contraction was coming, and how long it was going to last. 

At 2:45pm, Maura came back and told me that both the baby and I were doing great, and that she'd placed the order for my epidural. At that point, my parents left to get lunch in the hospital dining room and Maura came back to check my progress. I was at 4cm and she told us that her shift ended at 7pm and her guess was that I'd deliver somewhere around 8pm, but that I could always go more quickly. Shortly after that, the doctor came in and I could have cried with relief. There were moments that I thought I was going to blackout from the pain - I remember the doctor walking into the room but it was very hazy. He was super nice and was talking to Brian - he asked him if he'd eaten recently and when Brian said no, he told him it was a good time for him to go get something to eat, and that I was in good hands. I'm okay with shots, so I just wanted it to happen and told Brian to go and I'd be fine. Maura stood in front of me as I turned to hang my legs off of the side of the bed, and the doctor told me that the worst part would be the numbing shot. They weren't lying - it was a really intense burning sensation, and the next thing I knew, the doctor told me that he'd placed the epidural. I knew something was... off. It didn't hurt, but I could feel it, and told him. He said that he knew it was placed funny, and that he was going to take it out and redo it. I had a contraction while he said it, and he waited to move anything until the contraction was over. As soon as it was, he was FAST - he placed the epidural for the second time and I didn't feel a thing. He taped the bandage on my back, arranged the tubing, and packed up his stuff. Maura gave a big dose and got me settled back in the bed and... I was in heaven. The epidural combined with the shot I'd already been given had me feeling no pain, and it was such a relief. Brian came back in the room and I know he was relieved to see me calmer and smiling again. My parents came back in shortly after that, and it was exactly what I'd been hoping for. Anytime I felt pain, I'd ask Maura if I was supposed to feel that - she'd say "Nope!" and push the button for the epidural. I truly think that I couldn't have had a better epidural - I felt no pain for any contractions but could still feel the pressure, but I could still feel and move my legs around to some degree, so once it came time to push, I felt like I was in control.

Maura advised that I get some rest, but I knew there was no way that was happening, despite how exhausted I was. We dimmed the lights and my dad played on his phone while my mom read, and Brian closed his eyes. The Notebook was on TV so I watched that and dozed off and on... and started to feel super uncomfortable (sorry if this is TMI but...) like I had to go to the bathroom. I asked Maura about it the next time she came in, and she told me that was good, and that that meant we were getting close. A few minutes later, I noticed a weird feeling and saw a bit of blood - I panicked and asked Brian to find me ice chips so I could ask my mom about it. While she was helping me, Maura came back in and also looked, and said that we were totally fine, but that I was moving quickly. She checked me again and I was 8cm dilated - from 4-8cm in 2ish hours. I'm not sure what it was about that moment, but I couldn't stop smiling. It hit me that we were going to meet our daughter very soon, and I felt overwhelmed with happiness and excitement and a little nervous about the actual delivery part. The bathroom feeling was getting worse and worse and Maura said she was going to find my doctor to check me. I asked my parents if they could pack up and head to the waiting room so that Brian and I could have some time alone together. Hands down, the best decision I could have made right then. It had been such a crazy, exhausting last couple of days, and having that time just the two of us before our baby was born was exactly what we needed.

Maura came back in with the doctor, and the doctor explained that she was going to check me again and we'd assess. Well, I was 10cm and ready to push! She asked if I wanted to do a practice push, or wait an hour and let my body adjust a little. I told her that the pressure was too much and wanted to do a practice push, so we went for it. It was so different from... anything I'd pictured. It was just Brian, Maura, the doctor and me, and the bed was simple - not the crazy big, complicated bed with all of the stirrups and such (in retrospect, the bed likely had all of this stuff but we didn't use it, and I didn't see it). Maura was on one side and Brian was on the other, and we did a practice push - the doctor immediately told me to stop, and Maura got everything prepped. They both said this baby was coming quickly and not to push again. I couldn't stop smiling - I wasn't in any pain (just lots of pressure) and just wanted to take everything in. Brian looked so unbelievably happy and proud and did such an awesome job as my coach/daddy-to-be. Once they gave me the okay to push again, we went for it, and 4 minutes later, Charlotte was here and placed on my stomach. Seeing her and feeling her, after 38 weeks of growing her inside of me and a lifetime of dreaming of being her mama, was the most surreal moment of my entire life. Brian and I were in absolute awe of this perfect little human and couldn't stop smiling and saying "I can't believe she's here! She's perfect!" 

I will never, for all of anything in the world, forget that feeling of her being born. I'm so grateful that I was able to have the epidural and be pain free and truly soak in every second of that incredible moment. I'd fully expected the delivery to be the worst part, but for me, the laboring was the most challenging - one I had the epidural, the entire experience was perfect. 

We both immediately did skin-to-skin with Charlotte and spent a good hour just getting to snuggle with her before the nurses took her to be weighed/measured and the doctor took care of me. Our parents came in to meet her (one of the nurses actually stuck her head in the room and said "I have a grandmother out here who is, um... extremely anxious to come in. Is that okay?"... she was definitely talking about my mom) and let's just say that grandparents all around were elated. We had an awesome nurse who had taken over for Maura and she cleared the grandparents out after a few minutes so I could have a bite to eat and we could get ready to move to our postpartum room. We did the whole "try to walk and go to the bathroom" routine, and I passed with flying colors - before I knew it, I was loaded into a wheelchair with Charlotte as the nurse pushed us to our room and Brian followed behind with our bags.

The grandparents descended again and Brian's dad opened a bottle of champagne - let me tell you, best bubbles I've ever tasted! We Facetimed my brother in Texas, and Brian's two sisters and our nieces and nephew in Baltimore, and everyone was just so smitten with our girl. Everyone finally left for the night around 11pm and it was just us and Charlotte - talk about a "things are getting real" moment. I was beyond exhausted and, let's be honest, starting to feel a bit sore, but I just could not stop staring at my sweet baby. Brian, of course, was knocked out and dead to the world, but I think I immediately went into Mama Mode and just wanted to make sure she was perfect. Not to mention that doctors and nurses were in and out all night long to check on everyone.

Brian's sisters and our nieces and nephew Facetiming with "Baby Chawlotte"

We spent the next day snuggled up and getting used to being parents! Charlotte was perfect and never fussed or cried, and she took to breastfeeding quickly and well. This was a huge relief - breastfeeding was a big concern/worry for me throughout my pregnancy, so the fact that it all worked out so naturally was wonderful. Boston, of course, was hit with a snowstorm which started around 11am on Saturday, so my parents stopped in quickly to see us before heading home to settle in with Molly. We watched lots of TV, napped, took a million pictures... and got REALLY stir crazy. 

We actually asked if we could be discharged that evening, since everything was going so well, but the pediatrician but a quick stop to that request. It was for the best because that night, the nurses warned us that we would likely be introduced to cluster feeding and... yes, yes we were. It was a long, tear-filled night, but we survived and I woke up with this angel the next morning. 


The snow had stopped, Charlotte and I were given the OK by our respective doctors, and we were discharged! I dressed my girl in her sweet going home outfit, as figured out the carseat, and stepped out into the world as a family of three.

As we walked out to the car with Charlotte in her carseat and with our bags, I kept waiting for someone to stop us and tell us to bring the baby back - nope, we were off and on our own! After a stop at Dunkin Donuts for a REAL coffee, we headed home to see our Molly girl and start life as a family of 3 (plus a pooch). Driving away from the hospital with Charlotte next to me in the backseat was the best, scariest, happiest, most emotional feeling. I clearly remember looking at Brian in the rear view mirror with tears streaming down my face and telling him "I just love her so, so much." 

I couldn't have imagined a better labor and delivery experience if I tried, and I'm so grateful for that. We're blessed with this amazing baby girl who we get to have in our world every day, and that whole "I can't remember life without her in it" thing? Yea... yea, it's so very, very true. We're in a good routine now, and I'm making it a point to keep this updated, if even just as a way to look back as a journal of this time as Charlotte grows. It's likely going to become very baby-fied around here but that's life for me now and I wouldn't have it any other way.