It’s our anniversary!!!!!!!
It’s our anniversary!!!!!!!
It’s our anniversary!!!!!!!
When you go out with friends or family, how often do you fidget with your phone? When you have to wait or sit physically still – such as at the doctor’s office, the DMV, waiting in line at the grocery store, awaiting a teller at the bank, etc. – do you take in your surroundings and wait patiently? Or do you search frantically for a distraction or force for speeding up the experience?I don’t normally aim to interrogate in these blog posts, but I’m hoping that anyone else reading this might learn some things about themselves by providing honest answers to these questions. I had to answer these questions honestly, too, and I didn’t like what I saw. When I was still on social media, it was often the first place I would go when the day started, and the last place I would touch base before ending the day. I would give half-interested “Uh-huhs” as people I loved, like my child, husband, parents, and/or friends would attempt to spend time with me over a meal, an outing, or even just a simple conversation. I found myself looking too far into the future and becoming concerned over situations that hadn’t developed and likely never would. I was constantly distracted, which for me is a lot like creating the busy bustle of noise and stimuli of Grand Central Station inside my brain.
This was the equivalent of giving 40%-60% of myself to the people I claimed to care most for.
The life reset I enacted in June of 2016 was kicked off as an effort to correct this. I didn’t want to be a drone wife and mom. I didn’t want to be the inconsiderate cell phone person. I didn’t want to miss out on the precious moments because I was too busy trying to create moments in a separate, alternate reality that existed on the internet or in my mind.
This is called living in the present. It’s also often referred to as being intentional.
Even since the life reset, I am not always 100% intentional, but perfection isn’t practical. However, I would say that I’ve increased my ability to be present, mindful, and intentional to the benefit of myself and those around me since I made the decision to try.
And so I challenge you – if you know you can pay more attention, give more of yourself, do a better job of listening, or simply dial down the phone/app addiction…I challenge you to take the steps to do that. Your steps may not look like mine (an entire exile on social media, and a general pullback from most social circles) but I encourage you to still take them. The people who love you will probably appreciate it.
I actually dreamed of getting to give a blog post this title, and the day has come.
(This is a long post. You’ve been warned.)
Our son was born last week after a tiring cycle of ups and downs. I’ve hardly caught up on my sleep with having a newborn and a toddler under the same roof now, and my memories of his delivery have been swirling back up in chunks, but here’s the story:
The first question most people ask when you explain your labor is, “How long did it take?” It’s hard for me to answer that because my labor with Adrian was spread out over several weeks. At week 37, I was dilated to 4cm, 60% effaced. My OB didn’t expect to see me again after this appointment, but I still kept my schedule with him. At 39 weeks, he checked me again and found me to be dilated to 5cm with 70% effacement. He scraped my membranes at this appointment, and I left feeling a bit nauseous. On the way out, I stopped off at my acupuncturist’s office. We made an appointment for the following morning at 10:30am, assuming I didn’t have a new baby before then.
I went home feeling some irregular contractions, and decided to do some walking and bouncing on the exercise ball to see if that’d bring on anything significant. My contractions got stronger with physical activity, and came as close together one minute. However, they weren’t consistent, ever. I’d experience contractions every two minutes for about 10 minutes, but then I’d have one spaced out to three or four minutes apart from the one before it. It was frustrating, because I’d been trained to understand that true labor is exact; if your contractions don’t stay exactly the same interval apart for at least an hour, you’re not in labor. So, by popular definition, I wasn’t in labor.
I left a message for my OB’s nurse, and she called back and told my husband that though my contractions were not consistent, they were all indeed less than five minutes apart, and that my doctor would like to see me. I’d settled in to take a bath and do some meditation when my husband relayed the news, and I had fears about going back to the hospital. If this wasn’t actually labor, I’d be faced with another stalled situation like I faced when I went in for Kennedy’s birth. I didn’t want to place myself in a situation where doctors and nurses were pushing things on me. I didn’t stick to my birth plan before, but I was adamant about doing it right this time. If I never give birth to any other children, I don’t want regret to loom over me because I never had the wherewithal to stand up for myself in labor and delivery. I sat in the tub and prayed, I asked for a sign of something and got nothing, but ultimately figured I’d go back to the OB just to see if I was dilating anymore.
About 40 minutes later, I was back with the OB, and he confirmed I was dilated to 6cm. I’d dilated one more centimeter between seeing him late that morning, and at about 4:30 in the afternoon. I was clearly progressing through something, so my husband and I agreed to go down to labor and delivery.
Once in L&D, I began moving and staying in motion to bring back and keep my contractions coming. Maybe now they’d get consistent, my water would break, and I’d be pushing out a baby a couple hours later.
Five hours after my admission, my contractions stopped. I’d dilated a little past 6cm, but overall, nothing was happening. I requested a discharge, and the attending physician advised me that going home wasn’t a good idea. For starters, this was my second child, and labor with second, third, fourth babies tends to go faster than the first. Given that I was so far dilated, if my water indeed broke en route to the house, we could be faced with an emergency situation where baby is born in the car on the side of the road, or possibly at home. I didn’t want a home birth (or a car birth…). She also had a feeling that something might happen during the course of the night, and perhaps my baby would be born in the morning. We went back and forth for a while, but ultimately, I decided to stay the night. I still refused Pitocin as well as an artificial breaking of my water. I also declined all medicines offered to help me sleep except for Benadryl, only because I’d taken it prior in the pregnancy for the same purpose.
Morning came, and still nothing. I looked over at my exhausted husband, told him we’d need to go home, and asked the nurse for discharge papers. Thankfully, they let me go without a fight. I was already defeated, so I’m glad they didn’t come at me with swords raised. I felt embarrassed. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let my husband down, though he insists that I didn’t:
We grabbed some breakfast at IHOP, went to my parents’ house to check in on Kennedy, and killed a little time before my acupuncture appointment. Acupuncture helped release some tension, and I felt a few more contractions while lying on the table during treatment. I thanked my doctor for his help and left for home. I needed a nap and a shower. I wanted to relish in the environment of my own house. I wanted to give my body a chance to do what it needed to do without pressure, though I’d stayed relatively calm through everything thus far. And I needed to find a safe space to just pray and be still. I took a nap and woke to my husband walking in with a fresh Cobb salad he’d crafted me (Cobb salads were my main craving during those last few weeks of pregnancy). We ate together, snuggled up to watch some TV, and then he asked if I’d like to take a walk with him. We took the dogs and decided to walk around the block a few times. My contractions returned, and once again they were close together. We agreed that if they came closer than three minutes together, we’d go to the hospital and continue walking around the pond there. We knew we were close, and we didn’t want to chance having our baby at home. I also told my husband that if labor stalled again, I’d take the Pitocin. He asked if I was sure, and truthfully, I wasn’t. But after two days of back and forth, my body was tired. I was tired. I couldn’t keep putting him through this. I just wanted it to be over.
It’s 5pm, we’re back in Labor & Delivery, and I’m even back in the same room as before. My mother showed up, much to our surprise, and decided to ride it out with us. I chat with the nurses about what had happened the night before, and I ask if I should just go onto Pitocin right away. The nurse admitting me advises that if I want to indeed stay natural for this process, perhaps breaking the water is a better way to go. Given how far dilated I was (which was 7cm at this point) that’d be sure to kick start things for real, and help me avoid the drugs. I refused at first – and this wasn’t because I had a logical reason for doing so – I was afraid. I used the excuse that having my water broken ruined my labor with Kennedy before, but that wasn’t an informed deduction of my process with her. When my water was broken with Kennedy, I had already been on Pitocin for about three hours. Pitocin is known to make contractions much more intense, so the pain I felt after having my water broken was indeed painful, but beyond what it probably would’ve been had I just had my water broken on its own. Another more glaring reality that I didn’t want to face: The water would have to break at some point, regardless. Delaying having my water broken was like delaying the inevitable end that I claimed to want so bad. Labor hurts, Antoinette, and you said you wanted to do this, so just do it. Thank you, internal voice. Once again, you knew exactly what to say.
I had to wait two hours to have the doctor come break my water. A host of other pregnant women came in around the same time as I did, but they were all progressing through their labors and required immediate care. I sat and waited, and waited, and waited. I got frustrated with myself again, snapped at the nurse whose fault it wasn’t, and finally got the doctor to “crochet hook“ my amniotic sack. “This is when shit gets real,” I whispered to my husband. My mother nodded…
Hour One of Dry Labor:
The first few contractions weren’t so bad, but by the fourth one, I was feeling it. They were about five minutes apart, so I had some time to rest and crack jokes in between them, but they were rough when they hit. I coped by squeezing my husband’s hands and practicing slow breathing. “This isn’t so bad,” I thought, but I was nowhere near the peak of what was coming.
Hour Two of Dry Labor:
At this point, I’m sitting on my exercise ball exclusively. Somehow, the ball helped alleviate some of the pressure in my back. Not by much. Pain was at level 10 at this point during contractions, and I was feeling extremely nauseous. The contractions were also lasting longer, making them harder to endure. I squeezed my husband’s hands, and my mom did things like apply lip balm to my lips and pass me drinks when I asked.
About an hour and a half after my water was broken, the nausea became so bad that…I vomited. Everything hurt so bad, and I’d been pounding clear juices and water to stay hydrated. The breathing I had to do to cope with each contraction left me with dry mouth, and my once freezing hospital room suddenly felt like a sauna. I had to pee at one point, and the walk from the exercise ball to the bathroom felt like miles. Despite what others had said, laboring on the toilet wasn’t any more comfortable. Get me back to my ball I thought. Walking hurt; gravity turned my level 10 pain into 11, and I just couldn’t do it. I shuffled back to the ball as quickly as I could after peeing. The mesh panties and pad they’d given me to wear were soaked in amniotic fluid. I asked for a change, but ultimately decided that I’d just stay commando. They’d only be in the way later.
I remember speaking to the nurse between contractions and not finishing my sentence before the next one hit. Nothing had really been textbook up to this point, but I do remember reading very clearly that labor is progressing when the woman is unable to speak through contractions. I definitely couldn’t talk through these. It was all I could do to intentionally breathe. Around the end of this second hour was when I asked to be checked for progression. I felt more pressure in my pelvis, and was hopeful that perhaps I’d be there.
I was dilated to 8cm with 100% effacement. Only 8?! F—!!!!! The nurse told me not to be discouraged. I was progressing, these contractions weren’t for nothing, and my baby’s position had descended significantly since her last check. She told me to be calm and trust in this process. Fatigue was setting in at this point, but I nodded with her. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I looked at my mom, and my face must’ve explained it all, because without my speaking she just said to me, “You are almost there, and I’m so proud.” I couldn’t respond. I didn’t know how to feel. I just whispered ever so softly to myself, “I can do this…I can do this…” That’s when my husband whispered to me, “You ARE doing this, my queen…” My cracking heart healed over.
Hour Three of Dry Labor:
At this point, the physical and mental fatigue was taking its toll. I told my husband and mother repeatedly that I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could take. About 10 minutes after I’d been told I was at 8cm, I asked for another check. The nurse found me to be at 9cm, and I heard her call the doctor…”Doctor, she’s dilated from 8 to 9cm in 10 minutes. I think you should stay nearby.”
Is that a good sign? Will I breeze through this last centimeter quickly? Jesus, please, if there was EVER a time for you to step in and save me, it is now. Please…
They left me in the bed at this point (all these “checks” you’re reading about are happening in the hospital bed – not on the ball). It’s not the most comfortable place to be, but nothing really is anymore. From this vantage point, I can see my mom’s face clearly, and my husband is on the other side of the bed, still holding my hand. The nurse quietly encourages me, and I keep hoping that the immense pressure I feel with each contraction is helping me dilate that much faster to 10. The contractions seem to be lasting longer at this point, but it’s hard to tell if they’re just longer, or if they’re doubling up. The nurse is talking me through each one by saying things like, “That was the peak…” “You should start to feel some relief…” “That one’s over…” Yes, I could feel these things myself, but having someone to “coach” me through these painful periods gave me something else to concentrate on. However, as I’m barely holding on to get through the peaks of these contractions, I catch a glimpse of my mom’s face as she’s glancing at the monitor and back at me. I see a look of panic cross her face as she views the monitor, and she looks away from me quickly. I thought, “Oh no. This is gonna be a double…yep, this is a double.” The contraction strengthens to its peak, lessens in intensity a bit, but then strengthens to peak again. This all lasts for about 90 seconds. I’m still breathing slowly with longer exhalations, but that measure is really just for keeping me calm. The pain is what it is and will not go away until this is over.
I gasp and whisper the word “pressure” to the nurse, and she decides to check me again. “You’re about 9.5cm,” she says. I wince. She calls the doctor again and says, “Doctor, she’s at anterior lip. Are you close?” quick pause “All right, thank you.”
“My wife pushes fast,” my husband advised, “so make sure the doctor is ready, please.” (Refer to Kennedy Faye’s birth story to understand why he said this)
Then she turns to me and advises that only a small piece of my cervix is lying in the way. Baby is in perfect position, effacement is complete. She advises that with the next contraction, I give a gentle push – she will attempt to pull the cervix up so that it’s out of the way. I pull my knees to my chest as she instructs, and give the best push I can. It was weak. I was out of energy. Oh, and if I didn’t mention it, I was in the worst pain of my life.
But her strategy worked.
The next part is a little blurry, but a lot of folks started showing up. A doctor, another nurse, a respiratory therapist, a pediatric nurse, and at least two other people associated with baby’s care upon birth. The end of the bed detaches, and my waist is suddenly at the edge. The doctor instructs me to pull my knees back, wait for the next contraction, take in a deep breath, and push with everything I have. It’s go-time, finally. THIS is what I came here for. C’mon, Antoinette, let’s get this done.
In come my knees, here comes the tightening of the next contraction, I take a deep breath, and start pushing. Up until this point, my noise level hadn’t reached much above a whisper, but upon starting the push, I screamed. I let out a feral, raw, maternal scream. I was that voice you hear behind closed doors when a woman is in labor. My entire bottom half seemed to be coming apart. My mom’s face was sympathetic, as well as impressed. She did this twice, and now I was finally getting to see what it was all about.
Another deep breath in, and another push. I gave this one more of me because I wanted to this part to just be over. Suddenly, it was as if the Earth was opening up. I saw the moon and stars, heard a symphony playing, saw a dolphin swim past, felt an earthquake, and oh my gosh, ring of fire, ring of fire, RING OF FIRE. RING OF FIRE.
I couldn’t tell how far I’d gotten, but I kept taking in deep breaths and concentrating on the push. Everyone seemed to be cheering. My entire body was trembling. I was covered in a cold sweat. I’d ditched the gown and was completely nude. I didn’t care who saw or what anyone thought; I just wanted my baby.
Somewhere amidst the chaos, I found my doctor’s voice. She calmly advised that I look down at my baby, whose face was looking up at me with two arms free. “Reach down and pull up your baby, she said.” I paused and looked to my husband’s face. “Pull him out,” he said. I reached down and pulled a slippery, slightly grayish blue, extremely warm newborn out of my own birth canal and up to my chest, and the post-birth euphoria I’d met last time pounded me in the face, heart, and lungs with unbridled, unmedicated intensity. This was the greatest moment of my life.
And just like that, it was over. Placenta came out, breastfeeding went off without a hitch, I got moved to a recovery room, and my family and I got to celebrate our new blessing. I’m still piecing together my observations after this experience, but having done this with an epidural before, and without any drugs this time, I’d have to say that I will choose the med-free route again if we decide to welcome a third child.I’ll be back to write more about second-time momhood later.
The nesting bug has hit me. Last night, despite having a cold, I washed and organized all of Adrian’s clothes and sheets and began decorating his nursery. I have no idea where the energy came from.
I have devoted chunks of this blog to my anxiety, that it only seems appropriate to start detailing my battle, and triumph, at gaining the upper hand over it.
Though I’ve worked at this for well over a year, I see the story really starting in September 2016.
My dad had just set off for San Diego in his truck to take care of some business with the home he and my mom still owned there – the house that I grew up in. The minute he told me he was leaving, I became terrified. I thought of all the turmoil being reported in the news with police officers seemingly shooting Black men for being simply that: Black. I thought of how far the trip was and how though he’s a youthful man still, my dad was indeed 60 years old. The surge of hormones happening within me as my first trimester came to a close wasn’t helpful. I tinkered on nauseous and paranoid, depressed and anxious – a real cocktail of instability. But life pressed forward despite my internal cries to just make everything stop.
A few days after my dad took off, the first hurricane to come in off the Gulf coast in decades formed, and its projected path was set to hit our area. This would mark the first time my husband and I would experience a hurricane warning for where we lived. So, not only was my dad gone, leaving my mom alone at their home, but now a hurricane was headed for us and I had no idea how to cope.
I called some friends and freaked out on the phone. I stayed up waiting for my husband to come home from work in the few nights before the storm hit. He shipped me off to my mom’s, likely for two reasons – 1) because he knew I would do better with her and 2) he was probably growing tired of witnessing my chaos but not being able to do anything whilst also working to secure our home and pets for the incoming storm.
Once the storm hit, I remember my heart pounding, my stomach being in knots, having hot flashes, and feeling like I was failing my children – both my unborn and my toddler. It was at this moment, I remember clearly, that I heard a distinct voice. The message verbatim is a little foggy, but overall, it said to me, “Antoinette, how do you expect to progress as the mother you want to be if you crumble at the slightest onset of trouble? If you think you’ll be strong enough for childbirth at the end of this pregnancy by acting this way, you are wrong.”
The voice then went on to say, “I’ve commanded your father to leave for now. When have I ever let you down? Would it be like me to let something happen to him when I have called him to take on this challenge right now?”
I sobbed in reply and stated, “no…”
It was at that moment that I realized that I needed to get a grip. I’ve always wanted to be seen as strong, powerful, fearless…but I wasn’t being any of those things. And it wasn’t just one day of weakness – it was a week long of weakness. Not my finest snapshot in time. I’m almost embarrassed to write these words.
But it was this embarrassing psychological intervention that fortified my resolve. Not only was I going to stop letting myself be a victim to my thoughts and circumstances, but I was also going to start actively working to pass them.
The first lesson I had to learn was that thoughts are simply that – thoughts. They are not reality. Like one might pick up and examine apples at the market to find the best ones for purchase, thoughts may come in, but that doesn’t mean they must then shape the narrative of my life at the time, or even ever. I can pick up a thought, and just as quickly, put it back down. So, thoughts of bad things happening to me or my family don’t have to take over. They’re just thoughts. If nothing tangible is playing out in front of me to support these thoughts, why go there? Stopping the late night/early morning rumination has been most helpful on my journey.
The next lesson I had to learn was that I indeed am enough. We hear that phrase tossed around all the time, and I feel it means different things to different people, depending on who you ask. For me, it’s the notion that I don’t need to work any harder or be anything more to be worthy. Anyone who doesn’t see me as such when I am who I am isn’t worth it.
And that contributed to the drastic drop in my overall social circle. I stopped paying attention to others and started focusing on myself and my family first and foremost. To them, I will always be more than enough, even on the days when I am barely at full capacity. I had to emotionally release myself from feeling responsible for certain relationships and prioritize the relationships I truly was responsible for, mainly, the ones with the people with whom I share a home, and the ones who raised me. That’s it. Everything and everyone else became peripheral with the understanding that the change was not personal, nor aimed at anyone in particular, but that this is the new normal for me. I can’t uphold the expectations of others when I’m too busy meeting the expectations I have of myself (which mostly center on making sure I’m the best mom and wife I can be). Anyone who couldn’t get down with that was phased out.
I changed my number. Lots of folks didn’t get the new one. Oh well. It’s been a nice measure in breaking away.
Lastly, I had to remember the true meaning of the semicolon I had tattooed onto my arm – a reminder to pause.
I used to think strength was something that had to be bestowed upon you; someone would have to show up and hand me “strength” in order for me to be strong. No, you’re strong the moment you decide to not succumb to your circumstances. You’re strong the minute you decide that though things may not be ideal, you will deal. Strength doesn’t always show up as being stoic or hardened – many people cry through strength. They feel themselves falling apart. But they don’t give up. I’ve faced a lot through this pregnancy alone and had to learn to toughen up for myself and for my son. It’s come with hard moments, but those hard moments have made me so much better. I’m even a better manager at work now. It’s almost over, and though I will be glad to not be pregnant anymore (seriously, it’s been a blessing and all but just gimme dat baby already!) I wouldn’t trade a single trial or challenge that’s come with it. I am propelling past my anxiety by remembering all that I am and forgetting all I do not have to be. I am enough. And I am ready.
Ran across some old photos and videos. I sure am anxious to get back to being active. I’ve had to learn to take it down a few notches in the last 9 months, which has been humbling, challenging, frustrating, and also refreshing. All in all it’s made me a stronger woman, and I’m grateful for how much I’ve had to transform through learning my own limits. Yet, I can’t help but anticipate the possibilities when I see these:
SIMPLE, INTENTIONAL LIVING
Seeds of Inspiration, Wisdom, and Positivity
Live with an Attitude of Gratitude