Sunday, July 23, 2017

the day I was a real badass

Four+ months in and I'm just now getting around to writing down my labor and delivery story. *shrug* Better late than never. (disclaimer: I'm writing this mainly for myself, so I won't be sparing any gross details. you're warned.)


(^^taken about two weeks before I gave birth)

I was due March 10, but let me tell you, the two weeks leading up to that date felt like two months. It's cliche, but it's true. I did everything they say to do to put yourself into labor - I walked, drank raspberry tea, ate this crazy fricken pizza. I was so done being pregnant. I felt like a whale and a penguin and everything that is just all around miserable. I was sleeping horribly, I couldn't get off the couch without help, and I couldn't get dressed on my own so, it was a really fun, sexy time for me. (Arrested Development, anyone?) 

Monday, the 6th, Ryan's wonderful coworkers threw us a little baby shower at his school. I was sort of resigned to the fact that I was probably going to be pregnant for another 40 weeks at that point so I wasn't getting my hopes up that I'd be putting all those cute baby clothes on anyone any time soon. After the shower, we went to Chipotle and I got the biggest spiciest burrito possible. After eating, we went home and Ryan massaged my ankles because apparently massaging the Achilles can prompt labor? We watched some Friends on Netflix and went to bed around 10 or 11. I woke up and looked at my phone to see it was 12:37 am. I felt sort of like I was about to start my period and sort of like that burrito was about to leave my body with a fury. I was sure I wasn't in labor yet because why would I be? I definitely was going to be overdue, right? I was not about to get my hopes up. I headed in to the bathroom to take care of business. After the business was taken care of, I realized I was spotting, so I thought, well maybe this is actually a thing. I laid back down in bed but sleep was definitely not going to happen without some distraction. So, I went out to the couch and turned Friends back on, hoping it would be enough to distract me from the weird cramp feelings that were happening so I could get a little sleep. I dozed off and on for a few hours as the contractions slightly intensified. Around 4:30, I went to the bathroom again (yeah, that burrito was definitely gone) and figured I should probably fill Ryan in on what was going on. I woke him up with, "Love... I think we're gonna have a baby today." (Now, keep in mind, I had been saying, "Maybe we'll have a baby today!" for a good week or so, so there was absolutely no reason for him to think this was anything special.) He replied, "...okay..." But, when he saw I was going out to the living room, he said, "Aren't you getting back in bed?" "No, I've been up for four hours with contractions." He quickly replied again, "OH! You could've said that!" He followed me out to the living room and we talked about what we should do. The contractions weren't coming on too strong or too quickly yet, so I told him to go in to work for the first half of the day and that I'd text my mom to come over. I wanted to labor at home as long as possible. I knew that my mom would be up soon, it was, after all, nearly 5am at this point, prime time for my mom. I told her that I was pretty sure I was in labor and asked her if she could come hang out with me. She said she'd be right over with breakfast and coffee. What a queen. Ryan left for work around 7:30, right as my mom showed up with Dutch Bros, a carton of eggs and cheddar cheese, and lots of good vibes. The best. 

The contractions were intensifying and all my natural labor methods were kicking in. I was cat-cow yoga-ing all over the living room, doing my vocal exercises (yes, those help), and looking forward to using all the essential oils my mother-in-love had loaned me. Also, I was going to have a midwife at the hospital. (Obviously, I was trying to be as much of a hippie as possible without giving birth in a field.) My mom made me breakfast and I got in the shower, hoping the hot water on my back would help a lot, which it did. I tried to eat some yummy scrambled eggs and I think I got about two bites in before I said, "I can't eat any more of this," to which my mom replied, "I didn't think so." At that point, my contractions were about six or so minutes apart. I was showing my mom videos of the Academy Awards film of the year mix-up when she said, "If your contractions get to about five minutes apart, I think we should take you in." So, within a half an hour of that, around 10am, she took me in to Kaiser. I went in to triage and they asked me a bunch of questions and the midwife checked to see if I was dilated. Sidenote, this midwife, Gina, was awesome. She had a pink streak in her long white hair and she was the most chill. When she saw me trilling my lips, she said, "Oh yes! Great! Keep doing that!" She kept complimenting my natural laboring methods, so, of course, I was feeling like a champ. I was 4cm dilated, enough for them to reassure me that I was, in fact, in labor, and I could be admitted to labor and delivery. YES PRAISE HALLELUJAH. I texted Ryan to tell him what was up and that I thought things were progressing quickly and that he should probably get over here (ha ha ha ha). About two hours later, he was at the hospital. I walked around the outdoor patio, took showers, did all my vocalizing, etc. for about four hours or so. The nurse showed Ryan this special pressure point thing to do on my hips so literally every single time I had a contraction while I was standing up, he'd come over and push on my hips while I rolled through the contraction. It seriously helped so much. Also, he's the best. At some point during this time, my stepdad picked up our Apple TV at the house so I could watch Parks and Rec. on the hospital tv. Because, let's be real, Amy Poehler can make basically any scenario better. 

At this point, our families were gathered in the waiting room, expecting a baby at any time. (Those poor sad souls.)

Around 2:00, Gina checked to see how much I was progressing. I was dilated 6cm, so I had made good progress. The nurse assured me that, a lot of the time, getting from 4 to 6 cm can be the hardest part, so I was feeling good. I continued to walk, yoga, diffuse yummy oils (all the staff that came into my room would say, "Mmm! It smells so good in here!), vocalize, take showers, etc. But, this was when my labor started intensifying immensely. The contractions were getting so so difficult. I kept going with my natural methods but, at this point, I hadn't slept really at all, so I was just exhausted, and the labor was taking a toll on me, mentally. I was losing steam and willpower. I'd lay down to try and rest which made my contractions SO much more difficult. 

Around 8:00 or so, my midwife's shift was ending, which only made me feel even more like my labor was taking forever. Gina filled in my new midwife, Jenn, on how my labor was going. I had been outside when they both came to find me, to tell me about the shift change. Gina said, "I have to go home to check on my goats! Don't I seem like the type of person who would have goats??" (my hero) Jenn prepped to check my cervix again. I was hoping hoping hoping that I was near the full 10cm because my labor had been so intense the last six hours. I thought, if I'm at 10cm, I can finish this thing, naturally. I was sure I had made progress. Jenn checked me, and quickly said, "You're still at 6." I had made no. progress. at all. Immediately, I doubled over and started sobbing. She asked me how I was feeling, and I said, "I just thought I had made progress. I'm just so tired." (My mom told me later that the nurse on duty, that had been with me since the beginning, had to turn away because she was fighting back tears at that moment.) This was the hardest point, for me. I didn't know what to do. I was so completely exhausted, I couldn't hardly think clearly. I asked again, for an explanation of the different methods of pain management. Aka, the drugs. And they explained again, all the options. I wasn't ready to get a full epidural so I decided on a dosage of fentanyl so I could try and get some sleep. And boy, was that a trip. No, really. They explained to me that I would feel pretty drunk, to which I responded, "Oh, I'd love to be drunk right now." I laid down and they administered the dose and I immediately started dozing off. I could still sort of feel the contractions but I was trying to go to sleep. Trying. Not succeeding. I went in and out but then I could feel the contractions start to come back with a vengeance after and hour or so, when the drug started to wear off. I started to get so mad. "Seriously?? It's over already? I didn't even sleep." My mouth started to shiver, even though I wasn't cold, and I was getting so frustrated. I didn't want to get an epidural but I couldn't keep doing this. 

Jenn came back in my room to talk to me. I told her exactly what I was thinking, that I didn't have the willpower or the energy to keep at this without help. I didn't want to say the word epidural, but when I finally did, she looked at me and said, "I think it's time. After we give you an epidural, we can give you pitocin which will get your labor going again." When she could see I still wasn't ready to commit, she turned to Ryan - who hadn't said a word about the epidural up until this point - and asked what he thought. I think she could tell I needed some sort of permission to allow myself to get an epidural and leave my sweet hippie methods behind. Ryan said, "You've said from the beginning that you don't want to be a hero." And I said, "Okay. Okay." Then he said, "I need to actually hear you say the words, 'I want an epidural.'" (He knows me. Sigh.) So, I said the words, the fated words I didn't want to say but gosh, they were a WEIGHT OFF. "I WANT AN EPIDURAL." Jenn swiftly got up off her chair - "Okay!" - on a mission. Ryan came over to me to make sure I was okay, that I felt good about this decision, then went to tell everyone in the waiting room what was up. I had labored about 20ish hours naturally at this point and was ready to be done with that garbage. I had wanted to labor naturally and I did. Even in that moment, I was so proud of myself. I didn't feel like I was giving up. My body had done everything it could and now it was time for help. Praise modern medicine. Truly. 

As the staff swirled around me, prepping me for the epidural, I remember saying, "I am so excited for these ****ing drugs." (#truth) The nurse who'd been with me the whole day, held my hand while Ryan held the other and I got a huge needle stuck in my spine. (It actually sounds way worse than it was. I think there was a poke? But, let's be real, at that point, nothing was painful.) My nurse had to leave me at that point because, yet another shift change, because I had been there for so dang long. My new nurse, Terry, swooped in and began explaining to me all the normal parts of the end of labor. She explained that there are a lot of things that can happen in a normal, average labor and delivery that can seem really scary if you don't know what they are. Once on an epidural, they keep a constant monitor on the baby as well as mama. She explained that they can see the baby's heart rate at all times and that it's common for it to drop as the baby gets closer to delivering. She explained that sometimes they have to help mama move to a different position to take pressure off baby. I remember feeling so assured with this nurse. She was amazing. She was professional and straightforward but she made me feel so incredibly safe. The plan was for me to just have the epidural for a couple hours before the pitocin so I could *hopefully* get some rest. I dozed in and out of sleep and woke up a couple of times with Jenn and Terry around me, moving my body to take pressure of off the baby. It was really scary but also I knew I was in good hands and that they were keeping a constant eye on her. 

At some point after I got the epidural, I remember Ryan got up from his little couch bed to take a shower because he knew the baby would be here soon and he was feeling gross. I don't know why but I vividly remember that and thinking it was funny and cute that he was planning ahead and wanting to be clean. HA. 

Around 1:30am, they administered the pitocin and my labor very quickly intensified again. I could feel the contractions but not nearly the way I could before the epidural. (The stuff is MAGIC, I tell you.) I labored for about another three hours or so when Jenn came in to check my progress. At that point, I was at 10cm (HALLEFREAKINLUJAH) and she said I was nearly ready to push. I don't remember this at all, but Ryan told me later that when it was time to push, the bed transformed into this table situation. He said there was basically a biohazard bucket that all the blood and water fell into. When I began to push, I quickly learned that there is a very specific way to do this. You're not just sitting on the toilet, pushing with all your might. Oh no, it's more of an *inhale, curl spine, push, exhale* three times during the contraction but don't lose momentum because you have to ride the wave of the contraction while you push a human being out of your hoo-ha. Let me tell you, it's the most primal dance I've ever done. At some point (I've said "at some point" several times now but there's no other way to say it, everything just sort of meshes together in my mind), Jenn and Terry were, like, flipping me over onto my side. I wasn't totally sure why but, Terry told me later, that the cord was wrapped around the baby's stomach so they had to somehow unwrap it??)  I pushed for what felt like not long at all. I had my eyes closed almost the whole time because it took so much concentrating, but, I did hear Ryan very quietly say towards the end, "...Is that the head?" so I knew I was getting close. The whole time I was pushing, I could tell how I was progressing because of his encouragement. It would go from a very sincere but steady, "Good job, good job," to "GOOD. JOB." The nurse called in a "baby nurse" so I knew this was THE END THIS WAS FINALLY THE END. I gave a final push and then this is all a blur of baby and towel and hyperventilating and me whimpering and they placed her tiny little body on my chest. I heard them say, "5:11." I was sort of crying and hearing myself sound like I'd never sounded before. "Hi hi hi hi sweetie, is she okay? Is she okay?" The baby nurse gently patted her back and she let out a tiny little whimper. I looked at Ryan and he was looking back and forth at me and the baby and the biohazard bucket. I gave another little push and the placenta was delivered which honestly felt like literally nothing compared to what I had just done. The midwife immediately began stitching me up but I didn't even care. I did see what looked like a tiny c-shaped fishing hook in her hand but nothing mattered. My tiny little girl was perfect and perfect and perfect, laying there on my chest. "Is that a normal amount of blood?" I heard Ryan ask the midwife. "Yes. DO YOU NEED TO SIT DOWN?" "No, I'm good, I just wanted to make sure that was okay." 

We spent a blissful hour together before they weighed and measured her.

This was the longest, most empowering experience of my life. I have no regrets. And Kaiser was kind of amazing. Everyone that we encountered, every single staff member was incredible. 

And most importantly, we got our little girl. 
7 pounds, 13 ounces, 20 1/4 inches of perfection, born after 29 hours of labor on March 8th, 2017. Our precious Brynlee. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

eve of 28

It's the eve of my 28th birthday and I just need to write. I don't know what about. But, here it is.

27 hasn't been my favorite year.
Not because it wasn't eventful. It was the most eventful year of my existence. I had a baby. A beautiful, perfect baby who is strong and opinionated and incredible. And I am so so honored to have been the person to bring her into the world. But, nonetheless, 27 has not been my favorite year.

This was a year of a lot of transition, a lot of unknown, a lot of pain. A lot of physical pain and a lot of emotional and spiritual pain. I wondered and questioned and doubted and hoped. I felt sharp pains in my abdomen and my legs felt tired after walking for ten minutes. My body grew and expanded with a new life inside of me while I watched my country make a huge huge huge mistake. And now this little life is in the world and that scares the $hit out of me.

I don't know what's going on in the world. Everything feels a little bit off and a little bit wonky. I'm not doing what I've been doing the majority of my adult life and that is scary too. Suddenly I am fully responsible for another whole entire life. Should I have brought her into the world at this moment in history? I don't know. I think about that literally every day.

But there was a voice inside me that was screaming screaming screaming out, telling me she needed to be here.

And now here she is.

And my house is a disaster. Nothing is ever put away. Even though we clean all the time. It's like once something is clean, the other something is dirty again. There's laundry everywhere. I literally never put my clothes away because I just don't have the time or the inclination. If I have a second that doesn't involve taking care of my beautiful little girl, I sure as hell don't want to spend it putting the laundry away. I'd rather hang out with Ryan or take a fricken shower.

I miss the stage. I miss the stage. so. much. And I know I'll go back. I will. I've always known I will. But, being away from it is really really hard right now. It's been a little bit over a year since I performed last but somehow it feels like ten years.

In some ways, I feel like my life had to sort of fall apart to bring this little woman into the world. Pieces of me are sort of scattered all over the place. There's that dramatic writing book that I bought that I'm dying to read but haven't started yet. There's my rolled up yoga mat in the corner that I'm dying to take to a studio. My website is still up, begging for a new headshot. That breast pump is just laying on the floor because I have to go use it every day so I can make more milk for my baby. My favorite jeans cut into my once rock solid stomach. My dreams of directing float around in my brain, poking me, prodding me, every day.

And then there's that little precious perfect baby that I GREW IN MY BODY. With her perfect dark blue eyes and her smile that takes over her entire face and the way that she sighs but it sounds like she's saying, "uh huh." And the pieces of my life stare back at me as I stare at her. There they all are. All the pieces. And I'm there, in the midst of them. I'm there, somewhere.

Who knows what the pieces will look like at 28. Who knows what the new whole is going to look like. I don't know what the new whole will look like, but I do know that someday, that whole is going to be bigger and broader and deeper and sadder and more joyful than any other Alissa there's ever been.

And maybe that's it. Maybe that's what I want to say.
Maybe that's the point.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

can't even

I had a baby on International Women's Day - a beautiful, perfect baby girl named Brynlee. In some ways, I feel like a completely different person. My world has been turned completely upside down. I was expecting this but you never ever know how it's actually going to feel until it takes place. The whole I'd-lay-down-in-front-of-a-moving-train-for-this-tiny-human brand of love that people talk about? Yeah it's so so real.

But, at least for me, eleven whole days postpartum, it's not quite that simple. My world has not only been turned upside down, my body has gone through upheaval. After 29 hours (maybe I'll write about that next time), my body delivered my daughter and promptly transitioned into the next phase of motherhood. And let me tell you, this stuff is not for the faint of heart. They told me I'd be weepy, but good god, I didn't expect this. Yesterday, after a long day with my girl of what felt like constant feeding and feeding and feeding, Ryan walked in the door after work and I just started bawling. For no reason. Literally no reason. Then after I calmed down (barely), an ice cream truck drove down our street and all the neighborhood kids came outside to buy ice cream and I stepped out to watch and started weeping again. I didn't even know ice cream trucks were still a thing. And they still play the same song. Are you serious? There is so much good in this world and there is a friggen ice cream truck driving down my street and all the cute kiddos can buy ice cream in front of their house and they'll never forget it and someday Brynlee will run outside and buy ice cream and I'M NOT CRYING YOU'RE CRYING.

Several times over the last week and a half, I've just looked at my baby and then looked at Ryan and been so completely overwhelmed with being so in love that I can't even. I used to say "I can't even" but that wasn't true. It wasn't true until now. Now, I literally cannot.

Today we went to Whole Foods to get lunch and a couple things we needed and just to get out of the house for a while, and after a few minutes in the store, I started to have a panic attack. Don't ask me why. I don't know. I rushed outside with my water and the clif bar I had stashed in my bag while Ryan finished up buying stuff and I had to remind myself, "You are safe, you are okay, you are safe, you are loved." I'm sure part of the reason was because I had only had a yogurt to eat up until that point and it was 1:00 in the afternoon. I have to remind myself to eat a LOT more when I'm breastfeeding, especially when my baby is a little bear and wants to eat all the time. Be it hormonal or due to lack of sustenance, it was a hard moment.

This afternoon, I was feeling super annoyed at how much I literally just sit holding my baby while she eats eats eats eats eat. And as I scrolled through Instagram, I saw a picture my friend posted - a picture of her with her arm around her friend, a mother that had to deliver her baby two months early. And now that sweet one lb, fourteen oz. baby will be in the nicu for the next two months to finish growing. I saw that and, again, I started to cry. I sat there cuddling my nearly eight pound baby, so so incredibly thankful that she is perfectly perfect and I am home with her and can feed her myself and she is doing amazingly well.

I'm feeling overwhelmed with love but also overwhelmed with a whole lot of other things. I've never felt so anxious while driving or so aware of all the stupid drivers around. I've never felt so completely out of control of my own emotions. Every single other mom that I've talked to about this has said to me, "This is so completely normal," and I cannot tell you how much better that makes me feel. Kindness and understanding and patience go a long way.

As do visits from your mom, even when they're just to deliver lunch.
As do sunflowers and a box of brownies when you can't even. Thank you, Ryan. I don't know what I would do without you.

All this to say - hi. I'm here. I'm figuring out this new me and it's scary and wonderful and really intense. But I am thankful for the kindness and love surrounding me.

Be kind to each other. Everyone is fighting a hard battle. Even when the battle is the best battle they've ever fought.