Wrens Birth Story, Part 1

Wren Marí Clifford

November 18, 2015


6 lbs 14.1 oz, 18 inches long

I think labor really started for me on Monday, November 16th. I had been having non-stress tests (NST’s) once a week since I was 36 weeks pregnant because we found an echogenic intracardiac focus (bright spot on the heart) at our 20 week anatomy scan. Sometimes these bright spots can be  markers for other problems with the baby, so we went on to have a detailed ultrasound performed by a perinatologist as well as noninvasive prenatal testing to look for possible chromosomal abnormalities. Our testing and ultrasound came back normal and we were cleared. Although the EIF was ruled an “incidental finding” and nothing of concern, my OBGYN wanted us to have the NST’s just to be on the extra safe side. An NST is a simple way to confirm that the baby is still doing well in utero & is tolerating everything well as they near the end of their time in mommy’s tummy. I was to have a NST once a week from 36 weeks until I had the baby.

I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions (during activity) since I was about 20 weeks pregnant and started getting them throughout the day around 36 or 37 weeks. There was no pain or pattern with them, just periodic tightening. At my 37 week NST, the Braxton Hicks were picked up on the contraction monitor and we could see that they were regularly about 8-10 minutes apart, but I was only 1/2cm dilated (same as the previous week), so they sent me home. The contractions continued but never developed any kind of pattern. At my 38 week NST (11/16) I was again having pretty regular Braxton Hicks and they were picked up on the monitor at about 3 minutes apart for the full 30 minutes I was there. I also had my first painful contraction while I was there, but it was only that one. Because I was having such frequent contractions, they almost didn’t let me leave the hospital! They called my OBGYN, who came to check my cervix, and I was still only 1/2 cm dilated. Since I hadn’t made any progress, they sent me on my way and told me that since I was full term, I was welcome to come back and have the baby any time after that. Oh, thanks. I’ll get right on that!

Most of my pregnancy, my doctor and I had been sure that I was going to have the baby early, but I was starting to think that maybe I would go the full 40 weeks (I wasn’t even willing to entertain the idea that I could possibly go longer than 40). I was scheduled to finish work that Friday, November 20th, at 39 weeks. Since I wasn’t due until November 27th & this was my first baby, I figured I was ahead of the game and would have plenty of time once I finished work to get the house and everything ready. I continued my work week as usual and spent most of my days rolling and bouncing on the yoga ball as I worked. My hips and back were incredibly sore and the ball was far more comfortable than a desk chair.

Wednesday, the 17th, was a normal day… nothing out of the ordinary. I came home from work, we got take-out for dinner, and I lazed around on the couch until bedtime. I didn’t have any inkling of an idea of what was about to happen. At 1:40am, I woke up to a weird pain and thought it might have been because I had to pee, so I got up and went to the bathroom. As I laid back down, I had another strange pain. This time, I thought I must have just moved funny while I was laying down. Being that pregnant and huge, pretty much every movement caused some type of discomfort, so I didn’t think too much about it. These pains felt NOTHING like what I expected contractions to feel like. I laid in bed and a few minutes later, another pain. This third one made me a tiny bit suspicious that something might be up. A few more minutes passed & I had yet another pain. I decided to just stand up and see if anything changed if I switched positions. I was leaning over our dresser for a few minutes and had two more contractions. Aaron woke up and said “Are you having a baby?” which made me laugh and I told him I wasn’t sure but that I was going to head out to the living room for a bit so I didn’t keep him awake. He said he was going to try to sleep incase it was labor so that he’d have the energy he needed when the time came.

Out in the living room, I got out my contraction timer app and started timing the pains. They were consistently 3 minutes apart and each lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. I was a little bit confused because I had kind of expected to ease into labor. Most of what I’d read about labor went over scenarios where the mom starts having contractions about 10-12 minutes apart that slowly grow closer and closer together over the course of several hours. These books said to go to the hospital when contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute each, for one hour. However, these were coming pretty fast (already closer together than 5 minutes) and increasing rapidly in intensity. I think I only went through about 30 minutes of contractions before I went and woke Aaron up. To be honest, I think he definitely thought I was being dramatic.

I decided to call the hospital because I wasn’t sure what to do. I had only been in labor for like 45 minutes but the contractions were already getting pretty serious. The nurse that answered told me that since I’m a first time mom, I have a long while to go and I should drink some water and take a bath and stay at home for as long as possible. She said that if I came to the hospital now, I would probably end up with a bunch of interventions that I didn’t want. Hm. So I decided I would try and wait. Probably 20-30 more minutes passed and the contractions were getting more & more painful and closer together. I was panicking at the thought of having to sit in the car during contractions to get to the hospital. Despite what the nurse told me, I told Aaron it was time to go so we packed up and off we went. Even then, I think he thought we would probably get to the hospital and they would just check me and send me home.

The car ride sucked as much as I thought it would. Once we got to the hospital, they took us into a room and the same nurse I spoke to on the phone came in. She said that I didn’t need to change into the gown to be checked since they would probably be sending us home (seriously?! I don’t know why she was so convinced I wasn’t in labor). They checked me and I was 4cm dilated, the baby was engaged, and contractions were very clear on the monitor. Much to everyones surprise (well, except mine), they confirmed that I was in active labor & admitted me. This was at about 4am, give or take. At this point, the contractions were pretty rough and I was having to concentrate to get through them.

The following two hours were such a blur. Labor was hard and fast and I really didn’t feel like I was getting much of a break to get ahead of the next contraction. I spent most of the time leaning over a yoga ball that was on the bed while Aaron rubbed my lower back. I just zoned out and don’t think I talked almost at all during this time. I would just moan and get into position and that way Aaron knew it was time to rub my back. Later, we would realize that I’d had him rub my back so hard that there were big blistered spots on both sides of my back. Whoops!

Throughout this time, the heart rate monitor for the baby wouldn’t stay in place, so we kept losing her heartbeat. I knew she was okay, but they had to be able to keep a consistent heartbeat to know that the baby wasn’t in distress. So during contractions, a nurse would wrap herself around me to hold the monitor in place. It was really difficult to labor comfortably with a nurse all up in my space, but I knew they were trying to help me avoid an unnecessary intervention.

At about 6am, my doctor arrived and they checked me again and I was complete (fully dilated). I’d dilated 6cm in two hours… that certainly explains the level of intensity! I was so thrilled to be almost done. My water still hadn’t broken so my doc wanted to break it to get the pushing process started. I had put in my birth plan that I did NOT want my water broken, but I hadn’t thought about what I would do if I was fully dilated and it hadn’t broken, so I let her do it. I was desperate to meet my baby girl. She said it was a very tough bag and she had a hard time breaking it and I often wonder if Wren would have been born en caul (in the bag of waters) if the doc hadn’t broken it.

From here, things started to go downhill.

Keep an eye out for the rest of Wrens birth story in Part 2! Subscribe to our blog to be notified when it’s posted!

When the Music Stops

We are all connected in some shape or form, of that much I am fairly certain. Even if we are connected in ways no more evident or profound than that fleeting moment we lock eyes with a total stranger in line at the grocery store and feel that sudden, subtle “click,” we are still an influence on and are affected by the people around us.

I compare this feeling of connectivity to the way in which gears work and fit together in an old grandfather clock – a finely tuned piece of very precise workmanship that you can rely on to function exactly as it should. Although, at times it may be more appropriate to compare this connectedness to the way two cars fuse together in a fiery collision, or get tangled in a shared knot of metal and glass in a miles-long pile up, but the point remains: we do not live isolated and independent lives the way we think we do.

I am by no means insisting that there is some deep cosmic or spiritual bond uniting us with our fellow humans that we are powerless to escape, but sometimes it’s just undeniable that people can affect those around them simply by being present. People give off a sort of tune, a note in an ever-changing symphony. Just being there, playing your notes in a volume too quiet for the ear to hear, is enough to affect someone else’s rhythm.

In our home of three humans and three dogs, we usually play our notes in harmony. I would compare the connectedness at home to the relationship between the keys on a piano or strings on a guitar. On most days, we play our song well and we complement each other with our tunes in a sweet, flowing harmony.

But a few days ago, in a break from the norm, we played an awful noise – like nails on a chalkboard. I forgot the basics of which musical steps create a dissonant sound, but it is safe to write that we were not playing the soundtrack to a Broadway musical. We were all over whatever frequencies create that agonizing, dizzying, and wavering tremor that we hear when notes are played out of harmony… like when you’re driving with the car windows down just enough to distort the pressure in a way that makes it seem like the air is boxing your ears over and over again.

Well that day our ears were getting boxed in, over and over and over…

My wife started the day stressed and emotional, on the verge of crying and screaming for no apparent reason. It’s easy to chalk this up to “lady problems,” but you do so at your own peril. I woke up from a really rough night of sleep feeling that I had only gotten about a 20-minute nap, depressed and lethargic.

And to cap it all off, our little baby girl refused to nap at all until after 5pm that day, and by then she was a horrible cranky mess who chose not to share with anyone her precious smiling eyes.

There was no external stimulus that pushed us all toward this funk, and there was nothing on which to put the blame for it, at least not that we could identify.

We went through the day like this, basically just going through the motions trying to keep ourselves together. That night, while in bed, our little girl was finally contentedly nestled up against her mom’s chest. I leaned over her and smiled, trying to get her to laugh, but instead she winced, puckered, and started crying.

This actually hurt my feelings.

Rather than being an adult, though, and taking this snub for exactly what it was (just a baby being a baby), I took it personally. I knew I was reacting inappropriately, but the little voice that was telling me to grow the hell up! was fighting against the droning, raucous shrill of our off-kilter home vibes. Instead of kissing my girl goodnight and leaving her be in her mommy’s arms, I flopped over onto my side, my back to the daughter who had just so coldly shunned me, and scooted as far away as the edge of the bed would allow.

I actually had a tantrum, staying like this until I fell asleep.

Just as suddenly as this funk had come over our home, it departed. We woke up the next morning feeling remarkably okay. Everything was normal. Nothing was slightly left or right of center. The air stopped boxing our ears and the chaos of the discordant chords subsided, the harmony returning to our home.

We do not know what tipped that first domino that knocked the rest of us over. We may never understand what makes this sort of thing happen. I guess, when all is said and done, we don’t really need to understand why we are sometimes all a little “off,” it just matters how we react.

I, of course, failed miserably in my reaction. You don’t take it personally when your 4 month-old baby cries instead of laughs. That’s ridiculous. You act like an adult and bitch about it on Facebook.

That’s where that stuff goes, right? Facebook?

Anyway. If there is a moral to this story, it’s this: try to remember that everyone around you has a head full of dreams and ideas just like you do, and all of them are be-bopping along to their own subsonic music of the soul. If you feel like you’re playing out of tune, fix yourself before you bring the whole orchestra down with you.

And if you see someone out of tune, give them a pitch to match. Smile. Say “good morning,” or “god bless you,” or something to that effect. Be a conductor, don’t be a critic.

If you don’t know how to fix yourself or find it hard to smile, then in the very least don’t throw a fit when your infant daughter hurts your feelings. You’re better than that.

image lifted from THIS ARTICLE written by Paul Philips. Not sure where he got it…

The Dreaded 4-Month Sleep Regression

As I sit on the floor of my daughters room, letting her cry a little bit while she tries to learn to put herself to sleep, I can’t even think about writing anything else this week other than this. The 4-month sleep regression, or as I like to call it “death by sleep deprivation”. I may or may not also be crying.

Before we had our sweet little lady, if you’d asked me how I hoped to approach sleep with her, I would have told you that I definitely wanted to sleep train. I was all judgy about people who didn’t have a strict schedule and let their babies “run shit” for lack of a better term. I’d clearly never had a baby, because I didn’t realize that they kind of run shit, anyway. I’m very type A and I like things to be a certain way, organized, and predictable. Ha! I had another thing coming. 

The moment we had Wren Marí, everything changed. I became this incredibly lax mom that has followed a very baby-led lifestyle for the last 4 months. I immediately ditched  all the research I’d done in preparation of becoming the “perfect mom” and just did what felt natural and right for our family and little girl. For us, “right” has been nursing on demand, napping generally whenever she seemed tired (usually 1-1.5 hours wake time between naps), and bed sharing. Both my husband and I have been in total agreement that this is what’s best for our daughter and for us. It’s actually been going swimmingly and she’s been a very joyful & easy baby. 

Until about a week ago. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still a happy girl & the light of our lives, but mom life has gotten real. Real fast. Nursing her to sleep and then laying her in her crib for a nap have become a thing of the past. She suddenly started popping right up the moment I tried to lay her down. She started fighting nap time, taking sometimes an hour or more to soothe to sleep. She’s only napping for about 10-15 minutes at a time and sleeping in hour-long increments throughout the night. This makes for a sleep-deprived mom & baby. I think the only decent naps we’ve had have been during walks when I wear her in our Tula baby carrier. It’s truly crossed my mind to go for an hour long walk every single time she needs a nap. See? I’m clearly losing it from lack of sleep.

Mind you, this has only been going on for a few days… But it has made me question everything I’ve been doing as a mom. Did I make a mistake following my baby’s lead? Should I have been sleep training and letting her cry it out? Should I have had her on a clear schedule? Would this all be easier if I had done things differently? 

By nature, I’m a researcher, so I’ve read all about both sides of the spectrum on sleep training and everything in between. To (over) simplify it, many proponents of the “no-cry” method suggest that letting your baby cry it out is teaching them that mom and dad will not come if they need them and will lead to attachment problems later in life. The sleep-training model suggests that letting them cry will teach them to soothe themselves to sleep and that letting them cry during this time is not ignoring a need, it’s ignoring a want. Research aside, my natural inclination is in support of no-cry. I want Wren to know that we will come anytime she needs us and feel that we should respond when she cries (real cries, not just fusses) regardless of the cause.

In the last couple of days, I’ve also been reading a lot about this huge change that happens for babies around 4 months. They make huge developmental leaps and their sleeping abilities change as well. I won’t go in depth, but I thought *this* site had great information if you’d like to read more. Basically, around 4 months- babies stop sleeping like babies. They can no longer fall asleep anywhere at anytime. They stop sleeping in a constant deep sleep and start cycling through light and deep sleep and are easily awoken. Often, they will wake up just because they are in the “light” part of their sleep cycle and don’t know how to put themselves back to sleep. Hence the 10-15 minute naps we’ve been having. 

It’s incredibly comforting to just know that this is a normal developmental stage for our little nugget and even exciting to know that she’s meeting her milestones like a rockstar, but it also means that we have to make some adjustments that account for her current developmental stage. This “sleep-regression” is not a short phase that will pass on its own, rather it is a permanent change in sleep as our baby girls brain matures. We need to find the best way to help her learn how to sleep again in a way that is appropriate for her age while still following our maternal and paternal instincts as to what’s best for our girl. I think some experimenting is in order.

I wish I was ending this post with some miraculous solution for other moms and dads out there. But I’m not. I’m ending this post after picking my daughter up out of her crib because I couldn’t stand to let her cry & letting her nurse and nap in my lap while I typed this on my phone. I haven’t gotten anything done, haven’t showered or had lunch, have a to-do list that’s growing faster than I can check things off, but my mommy heart is happy. I hope that I’m able to separate my motherly instincts from MY emotional wants & find the right way to move forward for Wren. This is just one of many hurdles we will face and I honestly don’t know how we’ll decide to handle this. But I do know that we’ll only grow stronger as a family for moving through it and that literally everything we do is out of the deepest love for our baby bird. 

Have you dealt with the 4 month sleep regression? How did you get through it? What worked and didn’t work for you? We would love to hear your experiences!

Breastfeeding: The Brussel Sprouts of Public Consumption

I think I’ll start my “side of the bed” on breastfeeding in public with a little story. This story does not belong to me, but belongs to a close friend who gave me permission to share it. I can’t imagine the way she must have felt in this situation because to say I was enraged to hear this would be putting it gently. For the purpose of anonymity, we will call this person B (and no, that is not the first letter of her name. C’mon guys).

B is a first time mom with a happy, healthy, adorable, exclusively breastfed baby. She was heading out of town to visit family and was traveling alone. This means she packed up and made the long drive to the Atlanta airport, unpacked all their stuff from the car, checked in, & headed for security, all with a 6-or-so month-old baby in tow. That alone should have won her a gold medal in my opinion.

So naturally, since it’s been about 3 hours since the baby last ate, he is hungry. B is stuck in the ridiculous marathon of a security line, which is miserable for anyone, and the baby is screaming because he’s hungry. B is fumbling around with her bag, the baby’s diaper bag, carseat, and obviously, the baby. She starts to nurse him because that’s what you do with hungry babies- you feed them. You can’t explain to an infant that they just need to hold on for 45 more minutes while you drudge through this long ass line. That’s not how it works. You just feed the them.

As she has just finished getting the baby latched and he’s finally happily eating away, an airport employee approaches her and tells her she cannot nurse him there. WHAT! Is that even allowed?? He tells her that she must wait to get through security and use one of the new “nursing stations” that the airport has in a few of their terminals. So she obliges & stops feeding her (hungry) infant and continues to struggle through the line until she can finally get to a “nursing station” about an hour later.

There are so many things to say here.

First- I just want to preface any further discussion by saying that I have been around B nursing her baby many times and you can never see any part of her breast. Not that it would be inappropriate in any way even if you could, but with a nursing tank top on and a loose shirt over it, there is literally no skin showing while the baby nurses. You’re bound to see more skin & boobage from teenage girls or desperate cougars walking around the airport than you are a nursing mama.

Next, while I commend Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport for *trying* to be nursing friendly by adding “nursing stations”, I think it’s safe to say they failed nursing moms & babies in a huge way. First of all, the “nursing stations” are tiny, claustrophobic, porta-potty-like bubbles. B described it as having bright florescent lights with the nice feel of a quarantine room. Not exactly the ideal atmosphere to settle down and feed your baby. Secondly, if installing a handful of “nursing stations” means that we can no longer breastfeed anywhere else in the airport, then this move was clearly made to appease those who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding, NOT to support breastfeeding mothers. Nice try, though. Really.

Beyond all of this, though, is a much bigger issue. Why is breastfeeding in public taboo? Literally everyone else eats in public. I can see your food while you eat. If you’re eating brussel sprouts (which ARE actually disgusting & I don’t want to see them), you’re still not going to hide under a sheet or go eat in a bathroom stall, are you? No, no you’re not. And breastfeeding moms & babies shouldn’t have to either. If you see a nursing mama, rather than being uncomfortable about heaven-forbid seeing a little breast, see the mother that is doing what is undoubtedly the best thing for her child.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural thing that has been around since the beginning of human existence. It is indisputably the best, most perfect nourishment for our little humans & is something that should be celebrated and encouraged. It’s a hard enough world out there with very many real social issues that need to be addressed. Let’s focus on those leave our babies to eat in peace.

Cheers to the booby milk.

*Cartoon image borrowed from www.momcomic.com

The Great Boobymilk Spectacle

I had originally started writing a sort of scathing bit about rude individuals making unsolicited comments and judgements to breastfeeding mothers in public, but decided to change course mid-stride and take on a new strategy.

The reason for this change is twofold; I felt very strongly that something that needed to be written was going to be lost in all of the jokes, and also I read my wife’s blog last night and she pretty much already covered everything I had written… with the authority of an actual mother of a nursing baby. So, yeah. My thoughts in that regard are pretty much echoes of an actual mother. I can’t add anything to a dialogue on breastfeeding that way, so I’m going to take this one in a new direction. Continue reading “The Great Boobymilk Spectacle”

Infertility, From Dad’s Side of the Bed

The minutiae of our fertility treatment journey is better captured in my wife’s post, and as she has already written about it I am not going to redundantly chime in about the progression in fertility treatments from a midwife up to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). All of the details aside, it will suffice to say that getting my wife pregnant was going to take some teamwork. Continue reading “Infertility, From Dad’s Side of the Bed”

Infertility, from Mom’s Side of the Bed

I’ve really looked forward to sharing this story for quite a while. Even when we were still in the depths of this journey, unsure of what the outcome would be, I knew I wanted to tell the world about our experience with infertility. We have been very open about it, so if you’ve been close to us in the last few years you probably already know some of this. Infertility is incredibly common, even in “young & healthy” couples. However, like many uncomfortable and/or controversial things, it’s a topic that often goes untouched in even our deepest conversations with our closest friends. I understand that for many, it’s just a very personal part of a relationship that they don’t want to share… but I think so many feel shame because they feel like something is wrong with them. Why can’t my body do what it’s literally made to do? It’s a hard matter to accept- that maybe we won’t be able to have our own child, or that we’ll need medical assistance in order to do so. Beyond that, when we make the decision to start a family, it’s just not something most of us would think about. I know that when we started trying to get pregnant in the summer of 2013, I did not think we would struggle, and I certainly didn’t expect it to take 22 cycles. I honestly didn’t know much about my body or pregnancy at all, but I figured I would just stop taking my birth control and I’d be pregnant within a few months at the most. So, let’s go back to July of 2013.

Continue reading “Infertility, from Mom’s Side of the Bed”