Welcome, Charlie Wolfe!

July 15, 2017 § 1 Comment

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Introducing Charles Wolfe Storch, 7 lbs 14 oz, born Monday July 10 at 6:30pm!

After my friend Julia – my pregnancy partner/good friend who was due just 10 days after me – gave birth to her son on Saturday within hours of having her water broken, I knew I was over being pregnant. I was ready to meet Charlie and get this whole birth ordeal over with. Sunday morning and afternoon, Nick, Henry & I spent at two birthday parties in the hot sun, wrangling our excited kid. I was 5 days past my due date at that point and definitely exerted myself a bit in the heat, but by dinnertime, I was finally starting to feel contractions!

Around 9:30pm, I was suspecting that my water broke after a contraction. Getting ready to have a baby when you already have a 3 1/2 year-old is so different than your first time around. This meant that we had to have Henry’s babysitter on-call and ready to come over when my contractions were close enough together to go to the hospital, which also required a tricky balance of giving her enough notice to come over, but not going to the hospital too early and being sent home. We had also hired Aimee to be our doula again so Sunday night consisted of communicating with my midwife, doula, and babysitter in addition to giving my parents a heads up so they could think about booking their flights to come visit. It was a lot of texting! In any case, by 11:00 pm Henry was asleep in his room, but our sitter Valerie and her 10 year-old son Caylan, plus Aimee’s back up doula, then eventually also Aimee were all over while I was dealing with contractions. It’s a good thing we have a big sectional couch because Valerie, Caylan, and Aimee ended up sleeping over on the couch, waiting for me to get to the point of being ready to head to the hospital.

Of course, in that type of pressure, I never did. As soon as I heard Henry wake up early in the morning, my contractions had stopped altogether. (Apparently this is a common occurrence with moms when it’s not their first baby and they have other kids to worry about.) My midwife did call to let me know that because I thought my water broke the night before, I had to head down to the hospital around 10am to check it out. This actually worked out perfectly because I just needed to get out of my crowded apartment (thankfully Valerie took Henry with her to drop off Caylan at his soccer camp) and concentrate on going into labour.

I arrived at triage in the hospital and they ran the tests to see if my water had broken, which were inconclusive. I was still having contractions, but only when I’d move – sitting and lying down were not doing me any good. The doctors wanted to put me on an IV in bed on pitocin which I refused, and thankfully my awesome midwife called me directly on my cell after speaking with the hospital. She recommended we go get lunch and go for a walk for 2 hours, then come back, which seemed like a much better option than what the hospital wanted!

Nick, Aimee, and I got egg & cheese bagels, iced coffee, and walked around Fort Greene Park for two hours. Thank goodness there was a hilly park right beside the hospital – a much better place to deal with increasingly strong contractions than a busy Brooklyn sidewalk! By the time we returned at 2pm, I was 5 cm dilated, almost fully effaced, and Charlie was very low. Before Aimee arrived, my drug-free birth spirit was a little broken and I was just so tired I thought I’d have to get the epidural this time. By the time we were back at the hospital and things were happening, plus with Aimee’s great communication and encouragement, I was back on track. After all, with Henry I gave birth without an epidural, but on pitocin to make my contractions worse – if I wasn’t on pitocin, it wasn’t going to be quite as bad.

Well things were intense and I did so much yelling that my throat was sore by the end of it, but Charlie was born at 6:30 pm that day! Despite a bit of a scare of his heart rate dropping and the umbilical cord being wrapped around his arm on the way out, everything went well. My midwife on call, Beth, doula Aimee, and the nurse on staff were awesome and it was nice to have just those three people, plus Nick, in the room.

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We spent two nights recovering in the hospital and came home on Wednesday afternoon so Henry could finally meet Charlie. He had been telling everyone he’d run into that his brother was on the way! Charlie “got Henry a gift” – a truck he’d has his eye on – and when Henry got back with Valerie, Henry didn’t even know what he should be more excited about. Finally meeting his new little brother was an adorably special moment and although we’re still adjusting to our new situation, we’re so happy to be a new family of four.

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[Read about Henry’s birth story here.]

[Charlie’s middle name is a family name to pay homage to my awesome grandparents.]

I wish someone told me: The First 4 Months

February 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Henry will officially be 4 months old this weekend! This means that we are graduating from what some call “the fourth trimester“. Having made it out alive and still relatively sane, I have compiled my top things that I’d most like to share with new moms:

  • Literally as soon as he’s born, get as much sleep as you can. Even though my labour lasted 35 hours, once Henry popped out, I devoured a bagel, downed a bottle of water, then stayed up to take photos and call my family. I was hopped up on adrenaline and didn’t want to sleep! If you’re in a baby-friendly hospital, the baby will be sleeping in the room with you and guess what? Effective immediately, you’re not sleeping.
  • Once you’re home, give in to the sleeplessness. There’s nothing you can do to make your baby sleep through the night at this point (he needs to eat!) so just enjoy this time. It won’t last forever.
  • Every parent will swear they instantly fell madly in love with their new baby. I contest this. Of course we have always loved Henry, but I think it would be more appropriate to describe these initial feelings towards your tiny newborn as curiosity and fascination.
  • If you’re a busy body, aim to do just one errand a day. Then be proud you actually did it. After all, you’re recovering from labour, getting used to sleep deprivation, and adjusting to a totally different lifestyle.
  • That first growth spurt at 5 or 6 weeks is just brutal. Mainly because it’s the first one and your formerly passive, cuddly, sleepy baby just wants to eat and cry, all day long, for days on end. Just let him eat as much as he wants and get a good book or TV show to watch while you’re waiting for it to end. It will end!
  • Babies are very loud sleepers. They toss and turn and grunt and snort. Then when they finally fall asleep, you’re going to constantly check to see if they’re still breathing.
  • Baby outfits consisting of pants, shirts, hoodies, jackets, shoes and socks are very cute, but a huge pain in the ass. Onesies all day, everyday! Preferably ones with zippers instead of snaps.
  • After you hear or smell the poop happen, wait 5-10 minutes before changing the diaper. You (or the changing table, or the bookcase next to the changing table, or your Mom) will get pooped on. There’s a surprising amount of firepower.
  • Buy nipple shields to use his second week of life. This is a little graphic for non-moms, but learning to breastfeed is like learning to play guitar: you have to build up calluses and then as long as the latch is correct, it won’t hurt anymore. Nipple shields will allow you to nurse through the healing process.
  • Nursing pads are a must!
  • If you don’t have big boobs, you don’t really need a nursing bra. I have spent the last 4 months in tank tops (BOOB Design is especially handy!) and button downs. I occasionally wear soft bras I can easily pull to the side as well.
  • You are going to be HUNGRY! Get lots of healthy snacks and snack all day long. Stock your nursing area with granola bars, nuts, or any one-handed foods for midnight feedings. Also, lots of water.
  • A breast pump = freedom. (Or as much freedom as you’ll get at this point.)
  • Don’t be surprised if your grey hairs multiply like bunnies.
  • Finally, it will get so much easier once they complete their third month of life. Hang in there!

[Disclaimer: thanks to my friend Leah, who is a midwife in Toronto, for reminding me to be careful with the use of nipple shields. Only use them when you really have to so the baby doesn’t become reliant on them and the milk production isn’t affected.]

How To Practice Yoga During Pregnancy

December 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

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I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but thought I should wait until I completed my pregnancy to do it.

Over the past five years, I have really embraced yoga as a part of my life. I’ve been practicing Ashtanga for about three years and was really happy with my progress. When she learned I was planning on getting pregnant, my teacher and friend, Alana, actually pushed me to learn how to do dropbacks  because she thought the physical and mental challenge would be a great way to prepare me for childbirth. I have to agree with her, except for the fact that they are a piece of cake compared to 35 hours of contractions!

In any case, I did not want to give up my practice once I found out I was growing tiny Henry. Ashtanga yoga has its own set of rules and traditionally, it’s recommended that you don’t do any yoga in your first trimester. I couldn’t bring myself to follow this rule though; I found it actually helped my energy level and kept me from getting nauseated in the mornings. Plus I’d miss it too much! So with the help of this website and Alana’s advice, I modified my practice to be fetus-friendly.

The first things to go were the twists, headstands, and back bends. I had to keep from working my abs too much to ensure everything inside me would “attach” properly in the first three months, so the upward flow of the bandhas in Ashtanga had to be relaxed. I stopped going to the Guided Led Ashtanga classes in February or March and opted to just attend the weekday Mysore classes which are tailored to each individual and done at one’s own pace. It was nice to not have to worry about sitting out poses in a class full of people, some who didn’t even know I was pregnant yet.

I did Ashtanga exclusively, practicing 3 or 4 times a week, until I hit the 6 month mark. Then I added Prenatal yoga to my routine.

My first few Prenatal yoga classes were a lot different than the ones closer to my due date. I would do triangle pose, extended side angle, and forward folds as if I were in an Ashtanga class and the instructor would have to tell me to take it easy and do the simpler version. As my belly grew, these modified versions were necessary not only in Prenatal, but also Ashtanga. Don’t get me wrong though; Prenatal yoga had its challenges. For example, the exercise Aimee liked to do each class were wall squats while squeezing a block in between your thighs for 30, 60, and 90 seconds to simulate a contraction and that was hard work! The class was also helpful in teaching you poses specifically made for pregnancy and labour – I used a few of the poses, like a rocking squat, to deal with contractions.

Meanwhile, my Ashtanga practice had been shortened to from about 1 hour 15 minutes to 45 minutes. I’d practice up until Marichyasana A then do some restorative poses like a supported back bend, Baddha Konasana, and legs up the wall.

In my sixth month of pregnancy, I was practicing Ashtanga Mysore about 3 times a week and going to Prenatal once a week. This went on for another month and a half or so until I started getting heartburn from all the up and downs during Sun Salutations in Ashtanga and had to reduce it to twice a week, then just once. Prenatal yoga had finally become much more suited to my needs.

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I’m proud to say I managed to practice both styles up until I was 38 weeks pregnant and can’t fathom why every woman in the same situation wouldn’t practice some form of yoga. It really helped me get through not only pregnancy, but a very long and painful labour. The breathing alone is so valuable and such a powerful tool for dealing with pain. I also can’t help but explain to people who tell me I look great for having just had a baby that it must have been yoga that helped me bounce back so quickly.

When people ask me why I didn’t have an epidural, I tell them it’s because it was healthier for me and Henry to do it naturally, with a much lower chance of getting a caesarian, and also because I wanted to experience childbirth the way it’s supposed to be. Ashtanga has taught me that taking shortcuts to get to the end result as quickly and easily as possible may be fine for some people, but it isn’t the way I want to live my life.

Now, after 7 weeks off, I’m back at it. I went to my first Ashtanga Led class yesterday and although my body is quite sore today, it was absolutely fantastic. I feel like I’ve come full circle and I couldn’t be happier.

Welcome, Henry!

November 10, 2013 § 3 Comments

Internet, meet Henry Nichols Storch.

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Henry was born 7 lbs 9.2 oz, Saturday November 2 at 3:11 am after a loooong labour.

On Halloween at 12:45 pm, I got a membrane sweep from my doctor. This is a more natural way of giving labour a kick start and works in half the attempted cases. By about 2:30 pm, I was having contractions and getting excited. Nick came home from work early and we started to prepare ourselves. By 10:00, Aimee (our doula) came over to assess the situation. The three of us ended up getting some sleep until about 5:00 am Friday when I decided the contractions were getting too regular and strong to stay home.

We arrived at Manhattan’s Beth Israel Hospital in a car service just as my doctor was walking up to the entrance. It was perfect timing, even though I was grimacing through another contraction while trying to say hi. I ended up in a triage room for a few hours because they were cleaning the delivery rooms and the fetal heart monitor kept falling off and losing Henry’s heartbeat so they had to start over each time. Those first hours, I actually could not lie down and wanted to keep moving, including walking the halls and stopping to do rocking squats against my IV pole when contractions would come up.

By the time I got to the delivery room, time pretty much meant nothing anymore and I had no interest in leaving the room. I’m proud to say that I stuck to my birth plan and did not use an epidural or any sort of pain killer, and so I was alternating between incredibly painful contractions and almost total clarity in between them. I managed to get through the pain with keep breathing, lots of sounding, back massage from Aimee and Nick, using a birth ball, and using the shower. I did opt for a few interventions though, including having my water broken and adding Pitocin (to speed up and intensify contractions) at the end because I had kind of stalled out by the time I was almost fully dilated.

Finally, after 35 hours of labour, of only eating ice chips and coconut water, and of asking Aimee just once to remind me why I was doing this without drugs, Henry finally happened. I cannot even describe the physical feeling, but I can say the bazillion contractions I had were much worse than the actual birth.

Henry was born with a full head of hair and very healthy. I was able to lie with him on me immediately while I was fixed up. I’ve been reading about the rush you get after an unmedicated birth and have been so curious about how I would experience it. After a long and painful labour, I should have been passing out with relief, but I was wired afterwards and even joking around with the nurses and doctors. Nick and I arranged for a private recovery room so that he could stay over with us. He fell asleep as I stayed up and took photos of Henry, called my parents and sister, and sat in disbelief at what I had just accomplished.

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I have to say that first of all, my doctors and Beth Israel hospital were absolutely amazing. You hear about the majority of mothers-to-be just hoping that their doctor will be available the day they go into labour, but there’s no guarantee. I had both of my doctors I had been seeing for the past 9 months, plus a slew of incredible nurses and one super-tough midwife who came in at the end, took charge, and got Henry out. No one ever asked me if I wanted an epidural and they would first suggest natural ways of increasing contractions like nipple stimulation before suggesting something more intense. The nurses while I was in recovery were so helpful and involved. They helped me breast feed, brought us food and snacks all day, helped try to fix the crazy heat in our room, and more. Beth Israel was the first hospital in Manhattan to become “baby friendly” which means they heartily support breast feeding, delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, and the baby sleeping in your room with you.

Secondly, I knew that hiring a doula would be worthwhile, but I’m not sure if I knew just how important Aimee’s role would be. I could not have managed a 35 hour unmedicated labour without her help. She anticipated everything Nick and I needed before we knew we needed it. She handled each obstacle with calm and unbiased opinions as they came up and was with us the entire time, minus a few short breaks to get her and Nick food. This quote sums up Aimee’s efforts perfectly:

 “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” — Dr. John Kennell

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Thirdly, Henry is now a week old and surviving this first week would have been much much harder without my Mom’s help. She has been here since Monday, cooking, coming to pediatrician appointments, cuddling Henry so I can sleep, and teaching us other newborn skills. I am so happy that I still have another week with her.

Lastly, Nick has been so amazing throughout the entire pregnancy, birth, and our first week of being parents. From running around to get birth certificates to try and get Henry’s passport ready for Christmas to changing diapers at all hours of the day, he is already a great dad.

[Find out more about hiring Aimee McCabe-Karr as a doula, prenatal yoga teacher, and other pregnancy and birth services here.]

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