Irmageddon

My family and I weathered our first hurricane together on the night of September 10th and into the morning of September 11, 2017. While the storm has moved on and dissipated, my internal climate has taken more time to calm down. The entire event was surreal, and the second major disaster I’ve experienced since turning 30.

Around September 3rd, I began paying attention to a new major hurricane in the Atlantic, but my main fears mostly went out to the people of the Caribbean. Hot on the heels of Harvey, Irma formed and gained intensity quickly as she menacingly traversed the Atlantic.

The news outlets of this area were quick to whip the people into a frenzy over Irma’s approach, and I wasn’t interested in jumping on the wagon. Hurricane Hermine swept through north Florida last year as did Hurricane Matthew, and in both cases, I saw folks either freaking the eff out or being nonchalant. No in-between. Given that this wasn’t our first rodeo with disaster preparation, we remained calm and did what we needed to. Ahead of the crowds, we bought a couple backup cases of water, gassed up our cars using fuel rewards offered to us by Shell, ordered in a crank powered emergency radio, and started going over the “plan.” It could be a real emergency or just Governor Scott trying to scare us all again (note: last year, he told us all that Matthew would KILL us and our children, so we don’t place much stock in the things he says) but we would be prepared either way. For the sake of our babies, we would be prepared.

As the days went by, the storm tracks released by the various models used by television meteorologists and The Weather Channel all placed Irma in differing vicinities of Florida. The earliest predictions showed her devastating the Islands and then turning sharply northward, missing Florida. Then later, they showed her grazing the east coast of the Sunshine State. By about September 6th or so, I got fed up trying to decipher what weather man Bob was trying to tell me, and just started studying Irma, hurricane patterns, wind patterns, and weather on my own.

I told myself the only reason to really be concerned was if Irma decided to swing west. Being that we are only about 45 miles inland from the Gulf Coast, as opposed to 90 miles inland from the Atlantic Coast, a western impact would cause us to feel things more. She had also strengthened to a Category 5 by this point, and my prayers were that she did not enter the Gulf and shift upward. Such a track would’ve put our family, as well as a lot of others that I know, in lots of danger.

As we crept closer to the weekend, it became clear that we would indeed experience this one. As I looked around me, I noticed things I haven’t ever since we moved down here. The stores began running out of basic needs items. Shelves were empty. Gas stations began running out of gas. Main Street here in my town became uncharacteristically crowded as South Floridians began their mass exodus of The Keys and cities like Miami, Naples, and Ft. Lauderdale. They were using any route to escape, and since the I-75 freeway literally turned into a slow moving snake of traffic (at times, a parking lot even) they were using the state routes to travel north. I wasn’t mad, just astonished…

Church marquees even displayed ominous messages such “Peace Be with You in the Storm,” and this one:

image1

I contacted our nanny to ask about her mother who lives in Miami, and she informed me that her family wasn’t going to make it out ahead of the storm. She asked if she could come ride it out with us, and we agreed it’d be best for her. It’d be nice for the kids to have another familiar face around, too. Kennedy’s school canceled preschool for Friday and Monday, and many businesses began boarding up.

Then came the weekend. Hurricane warning alerts were sent to our phones, along with tornado watches and severe weather warnings. I’d never seen anything like it. My father scoffed at the notion of it being that serious, but mandatory evacuation orders were issued for our county for all those in unsafe structures such as trailers and RV’s.

 

image2

 

I didn’t really start feeling nervous until I saw that.

I began cleaning the house from top to bottom. I figured that if we were stranded at home for a few days, I at least wanted the environment to be a clean one (clean is where I’m most comfortable). I cooked up a giant pot of chili that could easily be put on ice and heated bit by bit over the gas range in the event of power loss, and I started listening more closely to the weather radio to hear updates on the warnings. Sunday would be the day, but nobody knew just when.

It was midnight, actually.

image1

I was grateful it was at night when the kids were asleep. Mentally, I think that was easier on Kennedy. Adrian was awake as we had him sleeping in our bed and K was on the floor. The sounds were frightening – big limbs falling off of the trees and hitting our house; loud, swirling winds that made the doors and windows creak and crack; buckets and buckets of rain being dumped on us all at once. It went on this way for about four hours. Then total darkness as the power went out.

In pitch black, I kept myself calm as I quietly wrapped my hand in Fabian’s behind his pillow. Adrian was still cooing and making baby sounds, the dogs were stirring, K was sleeping. It was pretty perfect, because there was no panic, but I did dread the morning when we would have the light of day to inspect our home and property.

When morning came, we found tons of tree branches and limbs scattered everywhere, but nothing serious to our structure. The fence, the windows, our cars, all were intact. I was so grateful…

So many folks were not this lucky. There’s been widespread power outages, flooding, structural damage, and irreversible destruction in some places. Our babies were safe, as were our pets, and so were we.

The official report states Irma entered our county as a Category 1 and weakened to a tropical storm. If that’s what Cat 1 feels like, my heart goes even further out to the people who weathered storms like Katrina, Wilma, Rita, Harvey, and any other catastrophic storm. Cat 1 was scary enough.

But the experience is not lost on me. I’ve had to toughen up a lot since moving down to this crazy state, and Irma certainly aided me on that journey. She was a major trigger for my anxiety, but with the tools I’ve gained, I’m managing that okay. Kennedy’s school reopened today and she was excited to get back to her normal routine. We’ve all been happy to get back to doing what resembles normal in the wake of Irma. Here’s hoping we don’t have to tango with any more hurricanes for the remainder of our time as Floridians. Supposedly, Irma’s landfall in Florida was the first major one since Wilma in 2005.

 

 

My Son, the Game Changer

So much of who I am has been shaped by my kids, but the most profound changes I have made have been the result of my son’s presence in my life. Long before I even laid eyes on him, he began changing my soul’s trajectory, and as a result, my attitude is different, my outlook is different, the way I love others is different, and the way I love myself is different.

I suppose I can start this off at the space and time at which I found out I was expecting. Though I didn’t know he was a “he” yet, I viewed his message of incoming (that’s my made up term for positive pregnancy test) as a nod from God that we were doing right. My husband and I had been working through incredibly rough and painful obstacles in an effort to fight for our marriage. Though I won’t say this was the first time we’d done so, I will term it as the most real time. I had faith and high hopes, but I also had uncertainty. When we conceived quickly after reconciling, I took it as a sign that I was exactly where I needed to be – with him – and our relationship only seemed to flourish just as our new baby did.

But I also had to wrestle with some other, more personal issues upon conception. I had to start making some serious, more long-term decisions about just exactly what my life would be moving forward. I’ve referenced my Life Reset plenty of times on this blog, and that’s because it truly was one of the most defining moments of my thirties thus far. Like an artist in her own gallery, I took every painting down and scrutinized it to decide if it really represented my work. In this case, the gallery was a metaphor for my life, and the art was representation of the stuff my life was made of – social media accounts, a few close friends and family, an unnecessarily large circle of simple acquaintances that I was putting more effort into maintaining than I needed to, a foggy sense of self, and a disappointing relationship with anxiety. By the time I finished in my metaphorical gallery, it had almost no art left on the walls, representative of all the relationships I stopped making time for, the commitments I walked away from, the fluffy stuff in my life that I had been convinced I needed to care about that really didn’t matter at all – I threw it all in a dumpster. With more space on the walls of my life, I had a chance to start reinventing myself as an artist, and indeed, as a woman.

My aspirations are largely visionary; I cannot achieve something unless I am able to picture myself in the role realistically. As a woman in her early 30s expecting her second child, I had ideas for what I wanted to be, but I was not her. Hell, I’m STILL not her. I probably never will fully realize “dream wife and mom Antoinette,” but where I was before was really far off from what I am striving for, and I wanted to be closer. I wanted to resemble her more. For starters, I wanted to be stronger. I had claimed to be strong for quite some time now and it wasn’t an untrue statement. However, I knew I could do more. And do more I did as I sank into a valley of new medical impediments I had never faced before. Coupled with the other “fun” hoops pregnancy can throw you through, I was pretty much either in pain or nauseous or both from the moment I opened my eyes each morning, until I closed them again from exhaustion that evening. This happened consistently for the entirety of the pregnancy. Every day in pain. Every day sick. Sometimes both in the same day. I’d been sick before, but that was as a child when someone could take care of me. This time was different – this time there was no crutch or safe place to sit until I felt better. Life had to continue and I was still mom to a growing, walking, talking child while incubating another one. I was still a lead at work, and there were still projects to be done. I was still Antoinette, therefore had responsibilities that will not ever pause just because I have a sick day. I had to deal. That can take a mental toll after a while.

Outside of my physical ailments, I was eager, as well as forced, to confront my mental ailment of anxiety. I want to believe that I would’ve been proactive about making headway on this regardless of being pregnant or not, but I remember feeling on multiple occasions during my first trimester that I didn’t want to be home to a beautiful, growing baby and also house crippling thoughts in my brain. It seemed toxic. I didn’t want to be a slave to anxiety anymore – I was ready to gain the upper hand on it once and for all. I wanted my children to have a strong mom, in body, mind, and spirit. So I sought counseling and began studying meditation and hypnosis as a means for using my own soul’s power to meet the nastiness of my anxiety and reduce it to dust. It was not easy at first, but with practice, I got better.

I also began looking at my relationships with people critically, as relationships, boundaries, and trust have all been sources and triggers for my anxiety a lot in the past. I decided to ditch the relationships that I felt weren’t necessary anymore. It’s okay to have seasonal friends – some people are sent to us at just the right time to help us with what we’re going through, but not all of them are meant to stick around forever. I’ve learned this and accepted it, and through that have experienced healing from the wounds I had from past relationships broke up before I was ready or wanted them to. Trimming the landscape on my friendship front also meant I would no longer be letting anybody in who truly wasn’t worthy, thus protecting my family more. So many people who have claimed to value me and my friendship have in fact used my friendship and then very easily discarded me afterward. The difference now though is that 1) I no longer say a sentence like that sadly. I say it honestly and peacefully. 2) I am able to say that sentence peacefully because I am no longer tied to the validation of having a certain number of friends. Quantity is irrelevant, and while friends are nice to have, they should never shape who you are entirely.  3) While I do have friends and care for my family and those in my inner circle, my perspective now places much less weight on issues like those, favoring my faith and spirituality, my marriage, my children, and my personal development much, much more. Journeying to this peaceful place internally wasn’t easy either, but it was important that I reach this place before my son arrived so that I could teach him (and his sister, too) how to find it.

IMG_7487

Six days old

I dove deeper into my faith in order to become a more gracious, patient, focused, and honest person. The result has been better performance at work, a better relationship with my work, and a better regard for my work. In my personal life, my relationships with the people who mattered to me were given the much-needed TLC I was neglecting to give because I was so caught up in my digital self that I wasn’t giving much of my real self. I had to find my real self, dust her off, and start getting to know her again. I do not feel that I was walking around a liar – but I was much more a product of social engineering than I ever realized, and that wasn’t me.

(I’ll cover that topic in a different blog later)

It was important that I get clear on my own identity because that essence of me is being passed on to my children, and I want to do it justice. As a black girl with dark skin, I had to reacquaint myself with just exactly what makes me a unique person with value, outside of what the grand narrative may tell. I had to do this so that my own daughter will recognize the same of herself and love herself. I had to do this so that I’d be in a position to prepare both of my children, but especially my son, for the chaos that might follow them because of their skin tone. Racism isn’t going away, and when my babies come to me devastated because they’ve been greeted by it, I had to know how to respond. I had to be able to show them how to shine even in the face of negativity, which the world has in droves. That negativity doesn’t have to stop them, though. It’s only stopped me when I have allowed it to. I have seen many triumphs despite what others may have been hoping, plotting, or wickedly scheming up for me, and I want to be the kind of mom who gets her babies prepared for that. I knew I wanted to raise a smart, confident, self-loving black girl and an intelligent, savvy, self-loving black boy. I wanted them both to have the internal strength to topple mountains. But I knew couldn’t make them strong without being strong myself. It wouldn’t have been fair for me to expect them to be resilient against race-based criticism if I was not the same. I was almost there before, but I’m much closer now.

Becoming a mom to my son has forced me to grow stronger. Giving birth to him the way that I did was a symbolic crossing over for me from what I was to what I am now, and what better method of crossover than to have to muster mental and physical strength in order to triumph in a place where I had once failed? Even after the birth was over, I’ve successfully kept postpartum depression at bay, also with a med-free approach, which was another important personal choice I made for myself. Overall, I’m tackling much more and succeeding in the process and these are accomplishments that make the 2013 version of myself look quite watered down compared to who I’ve been in 2017. Maybe my son didn’t “make” me stronger, but he certainly prompted me to become so. He was my lighthouse in the midst of the perfect, dark storm. He IS my reason for not only wanting, but having to do better. He has forever altered the way I see and play the game (of life), and I am so grateful he is here.

Learned Behavior

Around 7ish every morning, my freshly awoken daughter usually makes her way to my office upstairs, wiping sleep from her eyes and carrying a plush toy. She always asks if we can spend some time together, and while I’m usually an hour or so into my work day, I try to pause and give her some time. Breaks are healthy. :)I noticed after about a week of this routine, she’s started showing up at my office more often. Truth be told, she’s always itching for reasons to go in there, and I can’t blame her for that. My office is chocked full of stuff a toddler would like to get into – markers, a glass angel figurine, paper, pens, a stapler, a turquoise file cabinet, a vase full of brightly colored artificial flowers, etc. (my office is my own personal paradise). But lately, when she shows up at my office, it’s with one of her wooden chairs, her play “computer” and a dolly that she’s lovingly referring to as her baby that day. 
She will plug away on her pretend laptop, scribble pretend notes on scratch paper, pick up her “baby” and sing to it, then gently tell it that she has a meeting to go to, and talk to her friends on her toy cell phone. 
She said to me, “I’m doing work just like you, mommy!” and I must say, my heart was touched. 

From last year. We like to sing along to the Frozen soundtrack when we do…just about everything.😏


First and foremost, our children learn how to act based on observing our behaviors, and it seems that I’ve been able to pass on some behaviors I was hoping my children would pick up, specifically, my daughter. I want her to see her mom as a working woman. 

I want her to see that it’s possible to be a career woman, and be a family woman, and be happy maintaining both. Now, don’t get me wrong – this is not my attempt to control her destiny in any way. She is free to choose what her adulthood will look like when the time comes. If she wants to be a stay at home mommy, she’s free to. She could marry a rich man and spend her days shopping and lounging (how nice, right?!). She could decide to work full time while attending night school to become a doctor or lawyer. She could also put herself through grad school while taking care of children of her own. I will support all of that as long as it’s what she wants because I love her. I also feel a sense of pride in getting to show her one version of womanhood that I’ve found to be respectable and commendable. 

While I was out grocery shopping with Adrian this week, another mom approached me as I was piling my selected goods onto the checkout conveyor belt with my 3-month old strapped onto my chest. “I’m impressed that you’re out shopping with your baby!” she told me. I thanked her for that compliment, and we chitchatted about diaper deals and managing outings with kiddos. Later that same day, as I was talking to my husband about future plans for our family, he reiterated his appreciation for the energy I bring to our home.

I think all moms can list at least 50 tasks that are just everyday responsibilities that have to be maintained in order for life to go on at home. What we don’t always do is step back to take in the scope of all these tasks. We chauffeur, we cook, we comfort and cuddle, we wake up in the middle of the night, we wipe noses, we wash and fold, and many of us do these things while also working jobs full time. Some of us even work those full time jobs out of the same homes we work so hard to keep clean and inviting (like me!).

Make no mistake, our children see us doing these things. They may not always express their gratitude (just two days ago, Kennedy told me to go away while I was dropping her off with her grandmother 🙄) but they do take notice of us tucking them in at night, waking them up in the morning, and always being there. My daughter sees me working and deems it cool and important, which I take as a positive step in building her identity. When she gets older, I can let her know about the time I spent in school to be able to work the job I have, and hopefully that will inspire her, too. 

I like this version of motherhood on me. It’s been a crazy ride to adjust to the growth of our family while also returning to work, but I feel like myself doing this. I also feel like I’m putting my best foot forward in setting an example for my children, who will hopefully come to conceptualize womanhood as including lots of things beyond just beauty or homemaking – it’s also intelligence, multitasking, and serving. 

Treat Yo Self

About a month ago, I decided, after a tiresome day of non-stop parenting, to add some dates to my calendar. I can schedule work calls, appointments with the pediatrician, and kids’ parties my daughter is invited to, which means I can schedule time to go sip a drink and eat appetizers with a friend, nap, and get my kid-free relaxation on. 

And this past Saturday was just such an occasion; it was my very first “Mama, Treat Yo Self.” 

Treat yo selfie! Dangly earrings, waxed eyebrows, and a cute top – my foray into mommy-of-two land has robbed me of opportunities to wear such accessories.


It’s probably apparent by the fact that I have only written in this blog three times since my son’s arrival that I have virtually no free time now. The time I do have free is usually spent with my family, unplugged from practically everything.

Speaking of family…

Airport Ussie


We just enjoyed a great vacation to Oregon to watch my cousin graduate from college. Oregon sure is a beaufitul place! I can see why people who are from there love it. 

Though I don’t always chronicle my journey on here anymore, I promise I’m still living life wholly and fully. Having Adrian has taught me so much, specifically, his presence in my life has forced me to grow up, grow stronger, and become more resilient. I’m a better woman through being mom to both of my kids, and I’m grateful God chose me for them. 

Now, I am off to make dinner! #ThatMomLife

Unwrapped Presence 

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. 

3 of 4


Since my son has joined us, I’ve been working hard to maintain this level of intention. My kids deserve all or most of me, as does my husband. I was chosen to live this life with them – to care for my two babies, to grow through challenges and obstacles with my husband, to set the best example I can, and to learn as I go. I am grateful I was the one God chose for this, even though I sometimes question whether or not I am right for it. I’ve had to unwrap my presence in order to be the best that I can for them. It’s simple, not easy, but I like this practice for its ability to make me feel as if I am living my life more fully for myself and the people around me. My sense of purpose and awareness grows through this practice. 

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. 

Adrian Curtis’ Med-Free Birth Story

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.

They didn’t.

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.

IMG_7269

8lbs, 5oz, 21 inches of perfect

I’ll be back to write more about second-time momhood later.

Nesting Like a Mutha.

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 got the bright idea to organize clothing he won’t be wearing into labeled bags. Always trying to be more organized around here.

I left all his 0-3 month clothing loose. Hope he’s not a huge baby!😅


Pinterest, along with all my friends and family, have gone gaga for those prints. I purchased the art on Etsy for $10, printed them at Walgreens, and framed them.

Japanese fish bunting purchased on Amazon


Full term as of yesterday.