Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Birth of Aeris

Her story began on 2/15/2013 – that was the day that I found out that we’d be welcoming a new member into our little family of three. After the first ultrasound, we found out that she would be arriving on or about 10/31 – the day before daddy’s birthday!

We chose Breath of Life for my care because of the experience that I’d had with my first delivery. The hospital was by no means bad, and the midwife did her job well, but it just wasn’t an environment that I felt comfortable in. I wanted to be comfortable; I wanted to feel at home. That’s why a birth center was right for us.   

Throughout my 39 weeks and 2 days of pregnancy, I visualized a serene birth experience. I wanted candles, aromatherapy lotions, a flowing dress, and to walk around outside in labor. I wanted to float, weightless in the tub while I birthed my baby. All of that went out the window when my labor began, though, and I was lucky even to make it to BoL in time!

I had come home from work at midnight the night before and slept peacefully until 10 am, at which point I woke up but stayed in bed. I had a few small contractions, but nothing to tell me that I was in labor until that fateful moment at 11:45am when I felt a pop and a gush! I told my husband to bring me a towel, because my water had just broken and I didn’t want to leak all over the bed. I made my way to the bathroom where I first tried to call my mom – no answer. I called my doula and close friend, Tracy, and told her to get ready because the contractions were getting regular. Then I made the call to Vikki – she urged me to stay home another 15 minutes, because they’d had 3 laboring moms that night and she was still getting the room ready for me! At that point, 15 minutes felt totally doable.

In reality, however, 15 minutes later I was rocking my hips on my exercise ball and moaning through contractions that were getting ever closer together and ever more intense. My two-year-old daughter, Sofia, tried to keep me happy during the labor by bringing me her Minnie Mouse toys and asking if we could watch Little Einsteins. I remember telling her that we could as soon as the baby was born. We were frantically trying to get in touch with someone to come care for her at that point, as both of my parents were at work and we knew that neither would be there in time. Finally, I told Fred to go change Sofia’s diaper and that we would just take her with us.         

He changed her and got her buckled into the car as I got dressed and made my way to the front door to leave – I dropped to my knees at the door and started chanting “don’t push, don’t push” over and over again, urging myself to get off of the floor and get to the car. We got into the car and made our way quickly up East Bay from our new apartment (we had just moved exactly a week before!) to the birth center. We pulled in at the same time as Tracy and my dad. As soon as Vikki let us in the door, I took off towards the birthing rooms, knowing that my favorite room was the one that was all ready for us. I peeled off my shorts unceremoniously as I got into the bathroom and could have dived headfirst into the warm water of the birthing tub! Instead, I stepped in carefully and quickly, feeling an immense sense of relief as I lowered my body into the water. I felt so light! I really wished at that moment that I’d had that experience with my first birth as it made such a difference so immediately.

Clinging on to the cold tile edge of the tub, I asked for pain relief. I wanted the laughing gas, and I wanted it then. Everything just hurt so bad and I just felt like, in that moment, that I couldn’t do it on my own. Tracy took to rubbing my hips and back and Fred held my hands in front of me, letting me use his arm for a pillow. He tried to tell me something and I shushed him (sorry!) I was too in the moment and in tune with my body to break out of it. I visualized my daughter moving lower in my pelvis as I felt a huge wave of pressure and pain wash over me and I knew that it was time to push.

We had arrived at BoL at 12:50 pm – at 12:58pm on 10/26/2013, and after just 4 big pushes, she was born – Aeris Aaliyah. 8lbs 14.5oz, 21” long. She was incredibly gorgeous – perfect, just like her big sister. I remember crying and saying, “she’s born!” and proclaiming that I had done it and that she was beautiful! That was seriously the best feeling! I was on cloud nine for a long time – I still am, really. I did it!

Just born!

After Sofia’s birth, I was head over heels in love with her, but disappointed in my body and myself for a long time for not having been able to do everything on my own, unmedicated.  This was my moment of redemption – my body could do it, the circumstances just weren’t with me the first time.

Vikki checking us out

After some placenta issues, during which daddy sat skin-to-skin with his newest little girl, I got to move out of the bathroom and into the bed, where I was given fluids to help me recuperate, and I sat for a long time, just cuddling. Sofia came in at that point to meet her sister. She proclaimed that she was black and purple! Aeris came out with so much dark hair that it was the first thing Sofia noticed about her! She was instantly in love with her, just like daddy and I. We relaxed for a while after birth, and ultimately ended up taking Aeris to All Children’s instead of going straight home – the one down side to a quick labor like I had is that sometimes not everything is expelled from the baby’s lungs as they’re born, as was the case with Aeris. Vikki just didn’t feel comfortable sending us home, and I thank her for that – it would have been terrible to go home with something being wrong instead of just going and getting it treated as soon as possible. Our pediatrician backed her up on it, as well, and with two opinions from two care providers that we know and trust, I couldn’t in good conscience go against that recommendation!

Meeting her big sister, Sofia

Aeris – who was Baby #500 born at BoL – ended up spending 7 full days in the NICU at ACH in St. Pete before coming home to her mommy, daddy, and big sister. She’s doing amazing now at 2 and a half weeks old and is the perfect addition to our family. She is so loved <3

Snuggling with Daddy, Fred, at ACH in the NICU

Home at last! 

Settling In

Life is finally getting back to normal. We made our big move on the 19th, yet there are still moving boxes galore in the new place. My desk, and along with it, the PC, are finally set up so that I can blog and craft again! That was my project for yesterday. It's amazing that a few weeks ago I was thinking how difficult it was to move and unpack anything as pregnant as I was at the time. After the 26th, it got even more difficult! Aeris was born that afternoon and spent a full week in the NICU after a peaceful water birth, as she still had some fluid in her lungs from her time in utero and needed some extra attention and antibiotics.

I spent that whole time in the hospital with her - it sure is crazy to spend a week sleeping on a fold out chair under a thin sheet while your newborn is asleep in an incubator (without the top down) attached to an IV and all sorts of monitors. Thank goodness there was no damage in my nether region, as I don't think I would have made it through that first night in that stupid chair/bed thing had I been in pain!

Anyway, more on that in the next post (I'll do a full birth story write up, because it was seriously fantastic!). We're home now and it's been hectic with a non-stop nursling, a two year old that is all over the place all the time, and the never ending maze of boxes that we'd found ourselves living in. The boxes are slowly but surely giving way to surfaces covered in the contents of said boxes, which then get sorted and put away or sorted and tossed. I've been tossing a LOT of things! It feels weird to get rid of some things that were so meaningful to me at some point in my life, but they're just material things. The things that really matter to me now are all people - my husband and my kids - they're the only things that I need in my life. Yarn helps, too, but I could live without it. I saw somewhere one that someone used chopsticks and stringy licorice to knit....

It feels so good to be out of that toxic condo. My mood was dropping by the day until we finally bid it adieu and moved on to our new home. This. is. home. We will be here for years to come. Sure, it's not our ideal location, but it's a decent place, comfortable, safe, and it's got a washer and dryer, which is awesome while the girls are in diapers still! We've got a fireplace and room for all of our crap (barely). I love the kitchen - it's a little narrow, but at least I've got counter space again, and our dishwasher actually works! I love knowing that if that or any other appliance does stop working, we're not going to have to twist anyone's arm to get it replaced or repaired - they just do it. It's one of the nice things about living in an apartment with a management company instead of just renting from a private owner.

Now just to unpack everything so that I finally have room and the will to knit again!
Overall, life is good. <3

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Moving On, Moving Up

This week is tough :/ A year ago today I was about to go to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I was in and out of consciousness and in an overall bad situation. I remember being thankful that we had had the scan the day before and already knew what was happening. If everything would have just been that way without us knowing what was going on, it would have been a lot more terrifying than it was. I went home the following afternoon, no longer pregnant and without a baby. I felt broken. The classy grey walls that we'd just painted in the new apartment no longer felt that way - they felt like my mood was reflecting throughout the living room.
I tried spending time in Sofia's bright green room, but the color just kept reminding me that the only reason that it wasn't painted purple was because we didn't know the gender of the baby that I was carrying and we decided to go with a neutral color and could decorate accordingly.
As much as I grew to like this place, I'm remembering now how cold and sad it felt here when we first moved in. I remember now the fact that I couldn't go into our guest bathroom (where I had passed out after hemorrhaging) without shaking for months after the fact. I was sad and upset when I learned we would have to move at the end of our lease (which is the day after my due date, naturally.), but now with that date approaching and this unhappy anniversary hitting me like a ton of bricks, I can't help but say 'good riddance' and move on. Sure, moving on means moving back to our old apartment complex, but it's to a new apartment. It's to some place without any real history attached. It's to the same area where I took Sofia out for walks when she was a newborn and enjoyed so many happy first memories with her. She turned one when we lived there, she took her first steps there. We might not be moving back into that same unit, but the only thing that that place really held for us was good memories. There was not tragedy, no trauma in that apartment. It happened here.
It's almost making me think that this place was bad luck from the start. You know it's a bad sign when you leave in an ambulance with the whole neighborhood watching just 2 days after you've moved in... When I had gone back to grab the very last of the stuff from the old place, I remembered that the last time that I had been there, I had been happy. I had been pregnant and happy. There I was, just a few days later - no longer pregnant, no longer happy - just cold and a little bit empty.
We're moving back, but moving up at the same time. We have a nicer floor plan, now, with a fireplace and walk in closets. It's got all new appliances, and a nicer porch for Sofia to enjoy. It's even closer to work for both of us, although it takes us away from the nice neighborhood that we've been enjoying for the last year. Oh well. I guess you can't have it all! As much as the memories that this week holds are painful, I'm trying to look past all of that. I hate to dwell on the past. I think I would have tried to forget about it, but with moving, my due date (10/31) fast approaching, and the fact that 10/15 was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, I couldn't help but get dragged down by the overwhelming sadness that came with those remembrances.
Today, I break free of that. My new baby will be here any time now, and I so cannot wait to meet her! Sofia has been an amazing positive through everything that we've been through as a family over the last year. She's laughing and playing beside me right now, and I can't help but feel upset at myself for blogging instead of playing with her. I'm enjoying watching her come up with her own little games, though. I'm amazed by the imagination that she has at 2! Tomorrow, I finish what little packing I'm able to accomplish (mostly clothes and crafting supplies), and will sew and dye a new ring sling for my newest addition (I'm wanting to do a black/grey gradient so that maybe DH will wear her in it since it won't be too girly!)
I don't expect for this to ever go away. To have a piece of you torn away like that is something that I don't think anyone ever fully gets over, but I hope that one day I can look back and smile for the memory of that pregnancy and the fact that losing that one (a blighted ovum, so not even technically a baby lost, just a fertilized egg) is what ended up bringing me Aeris. I hope I can look at her and think of how much it was meant to be for her to join our family - if I hadn't gotten pregnant when I had and lost that pregnancy, she'd never have come to be. As strange as a sentiment it is in dealing with loss, everything happens for a reason. She was destined to be with us, and she will be soon enough. The pain that was experienced along the way will just make us appreciate her - and her big sister - that much more <3

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Looking Back - The Birth of Sofia - 7/10/2011

The Birth of Sofia

I spent so much of my adolescent life never wanting to become pregnant, never wanting to welcome a child into the world, and never wanting to be a mother. It seemed like too much responsibility to become someone’s mother and I feared that I would be an epic failure at raising children. And then, at the wise old age of twenty, I got married to a man who wanted nothing more than to become a father and I knew in the moment that I fell in love with him that my plans were a bit more malleable than I had thought them to be.
About a year after we got married, I ditched my birth control pills and we did not so much begin trying as we just stopped not trying to prevent pregnancy. I think that makes sense… We were not trying, but we weren’t not trying. That was in 2009. Towards the end of that year, I realized that my military service was going to be a short one once I found out that I had severe shin splints and stress fractures in both legs, and we again began to prevent pregnancy until we settled back into civilian life back home in Florida.
We started trying again just after Valentine’s day that year, but didn’t get a positive pregnancy test until 11/1/2010 – my husband’s 25th birthday! And so, with bright blue hair (my last streak of rebellion, and an amazing compliment to that year’s Halloween costume), I learned that I was going to be a mother and everything kicked in for me – it was happening and I was happy. So freaking happy!
I had an easy, low risk pregnancy, and so I decided that I would do everything as naturally as possible. We took Bradley Method classes with an awesome teacher in Tampa. We spent every Sunday evening driving back and forth to attend the 3-hour classes for the last 10 weeks of my pregnancy. The last class was actually on my due date, 7 /3/2011.
 I visualized an amazing and peaceful water birth every day while I awaited the arrival of my sweet baby girl, but I had no idea that all of my planning would be for naught and that I would end up with a crazy, intervention laden birth. At the time, I felt like an epic failure for my inability to birth my baby without any outside help, but looking back on it a little over two years later, I realize that while I didn’t have the birth that I wanted, I had the birth that I needed.
It all began one sunny summer Saturday. On 7/9/2011 (6 days past my EDD) I woke up around 10 in the morning and spent the day doing homework, folding laundry, hanging out with my husband, and playing video games. He and his friends spent the afternoon and evening playing Heroscape, a table top RPG, kind of like D&D lite. We ate a terribly greasy pizza covered in every kind of meat you can imagine, including fried chicken, for dinner, and it really threw off my stomach. I felt miserable, and finally went in to lay down and go to sleep around 9pm. I awoke two hours later with my cat, Scraps, curled up on my chest. My eyes and nose were streaming and I began to sneeze. I threw the poor little grey cat off me and ran to the bathroom, fearing that I might pee myself with the next sneeze. What happened instead was even more of a shock. As I sat on the toilet in between sneezes, my water had broken with a huge pop and a gush.
Frantic, I called the midwife and explained that my water had broken but that I had not had any contractions yet. She told me if they had not started in the next two hours to go to the hospital, but if they had; I could stay home longer and labor there where I was comfortable until they were four minutes apart for one hour. I hung up the phone and went out to tell my husband what was going on – everyone else offered to leave, seeing as they were in the presence of a woman in labor – a new experience for all of them to be sure! They left and I worked through contraction after contraction – they were slow but painful. I tried to get some more sleep. Finally, around 4 am, they were getting terrible. I woke up completely at that point, writhing in pain and screaming that we needed to go because I felt like she’d be born in the house if we didn’t leave right at that second. We got everything ready to go and the contractions backed off – I was fine on the way to the hospital, only having a few contractions while we travelled. Had we left too early? Would they intervene when we got there to get things going again? What was going to happen?
We arrived around 6 (we took our sweet time leaving the house and driving there!) and I was triaged. The nurse who was tending to me said that she could not find any traces of amniotic fluid and that I must have peed myself. I have never felt so invalidated than I did in that moment – how dare she tell me that I was wrong? Turns out, I was not – she just did not get a good enough swab. Another nurse ended up coming in to do it and confirmed my suspicions.
I was hooked up to an IV of fluids at that point and to the fetal monitor because I was dehydrated. I guess they have never heard of just letting you drink water? Whatever. It was annoying, but I agreed to it. My dad ended up coming after we had been there for a bit and brought breakfast – McDonald’s. McDonald’s food has never smelled so freaking disgusting to me in my life! Just being in the presence of the offending food had me running to the toilet to vomit yet again. The same thing happened when I tried to eat the snacks that I had packed stealthily away in my hospital bag.
I tried getting up and walking around the L&D floor to get things going faster, as I was still at 3cm in the late morning.  It felt like it was working! I had to stop every 10 steps or so to work through yet another contraction. By now, my dad had decided to leave and to come back closer to the birth. There was really nothing he could do for me and I think that seeing me in intense labor pain was a lot for him to bear. I was somewhat grateful that he left then, as it let me concentrate on me and what my body was doing.
I remember my mother in law calling a lot. My husband had just gotten a new phone and it was set to a default ring tone – super annoying and super loud! It was going off every few minutes. She had driven down from her home about four hours away and had no clue how to get to the hospital now that she was nearby. I remember threatening to throw the phone out the window if it went off one more time – I am pretty sure he silenced it after that. There might have been some f bombs in there, too – I cannot really recall now.
The next thing I knew, my mom and his mom were both there and my dad was back. My midwife, Nancy, came in to check me and declared (at around 2 pm) that I was still only 3, maybe 4cm dilated. She told me that I needed to have Pitocin to kick-start everything again (not that the contractions had ever stopped – they were every 2.5 minutes and very strong at this point, but not doing anything!) and that my hopes of a water birth were pretty much gone if I chose the epidural, as well. I did. The Pitocin hurt so very badly – it made every contraction 100 times worse than it had been before the drug and I could not stand the pain.
I cried. I broke the fuck down. I felt like a failure. How could I be pumping so much strong pain medication into my unborn child and myself just because I was uncomfortable? Would she be sleepy at birth? Would she nurse correctly? Would I have that rush of oxytocin that you are supposed to have when your baby is born? Would we bond? Would I love her? Ugh. It was the worst five minutes of my life. After that, I was asleep. For hours. I was desperately tired, and that exhaustion had been what was preventing me from opening up and allowing my child into the world. I remember waking up a few times, freezing. I was shaking from the medication. I asked for more blankets. I was bundled up under a whole pile by the time I was ready to push.
I was checked once when I woke up, about a half hour after the epidural, and was told that I was at 5cm then.  The next time was about 2 hours later and I was at 10cm – ready to go. I knew that I was before she even checked. I had started to feel the surge of pain again from the contractions and knew that my baby was almost ready to be born. I felt them stronger and stronger, and when I was instructed to push, with my mom holding one leg and my mother in law and my husband holding the other, I told the nurses to stop telling me what to do and that I’d push without their guidance. It worked – I pushed for an hour and forty-five minutes, at the end of which, my amazing Sofia Giana was born.

Sofia at 1 day old

It was 7:28pm on 7/10/2011. She weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and was 19.5” long. She was beautiful and perfect and I was so in love with her! I brought her right to my chest and my eyes filled with tears of joy. I was no longer mad at my midwife or myself. I was not mad at the nurses. I was not mad that my husband’s phone had been ringing – I was just happy. I was a mom. I was her mom. It was a magical, transformational, crazy, hectic, life-changing moment, but it is one of those moments that you hope to never ever forget. I still have flashbacks to that moment on a daily basis when I look into her gorgeous brown eyes when she is asking me for a hug and a kiss in her amazing little toddler voice that is becoming more and more grown up every day.

           I did fail, I will admit it, but I am not bitter about it. What would have been an even huger failure would have been to ignore the advice that I was getting from my care providers and putting either one of us in a risky situation. Once you meet your baby and hold them, you realize that sometimes there are interventions for a reason. It is not about what you want or why – ultimately, it is about what will keep you both safe and healthy. Yeah, it sucks to “not be able to do it,” but it would have sucked a lot more if anything had happened to either one of us in that delivery room. Looking back on past me, I’m happy to tell her that life has not turned out how she imagined, and that having a husband and kids (yes, there is more than one now!) is what she secretly wanted all along. I would also like to tell the girl who was afraid of failure that sometimes failing is not really failing as long as there is still a happy ending, which is exactly what she has ended up with. <3

Sofia and I, just after her 2nd birthday this year

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Sofia the First

When I was pregnant with Sofia, I wanted to give her a beautiful, strong name. Sofia, since our family values wisdom; and Giana to honor a friend named John who was taken away far too soon. It's a great name, it reflects that both my husband and I have family roots in Italy, and it fits her really well. Oh, and there were no princesses named Sofia - as pretty as the names Jasmine, Aurora, and Belle are, we weren't going to be having a baby princess...

After she was born, however, we not only realized that it was one of the most popular names of the year (Sophia was number one on the list, and Sofia was number 19), but it was also the name of the newest Disney Princess - Sofia the First. Don't get me wrong - it is an adorable show. The stories are cute, the voice acting is incredible (gotta love Tim Gunn and Wayne Brady!), and it's one of the less annoying shows out there for the bigger kids. After almost 2 years of raising my own Sofia, with only the last six months or so including the existence of the fictional princess, I am so sick of people asking if her name comes from the show. The first of such conversations occurred between myself and a friend's four-year old niece and went something like this:

K: What's the baby's name?
Me: Her name is Sofia.
K: (excited) Like Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess?
Me: Well, it's spelled the same way, but she was here before Princess Sofia.
K: Nuh uh - Sofia is a big kid and that's just a baby.
Me: facepalm

Yup, that happened. Now I get it mostly from my fellow moms, who I know mean no harm by it. At least once a week, after introducing my daughter, or calling after her at the playground, I'll hear "Oh my kids love that show!"

Why is this such a big deal to me? Because I painted her room green, not pink. She owns one Disney Princess branded toy, two Minnie Mouse Shirts, and has never even touched a Barbie. I'm not the in-your-face feminist (really, I promise!), but I decided when I found out that I was having a daughter that I wouldn't give in to all of the stereotypical "stuff" that is marketed towards young girls. I wanted to be free of the endless requests for princess this and princess that. It has worked, so far, in that she's never asked for anything princess specific. If we step into the Disney Store and she sees anything Minnie Mouse, though, it's game over. That being said, she was Cinderella last year for Halloween, but that was a last ditch effort when we realized that she was not going to keep the Minnie Mouse ears on her head and I'd run out of time to make an adorable and realistic Ewok costume....

There's nothing wrong with girls liking pink, or favoring dolls over Legos, but I have been making a conscious effort to avoid all of that stuff... and along comes Sofia. Sofia doesn't say her own name yet when you ask her what it is, but if you ask her who that princess is, she can tell you, in her adorable two-year old vocabulary, "Sfia!" True, there are millions of other Sofias in the world, but none of them were characters whose faces would be on TV everyday and find themselves plastered on every piece of merchandise that Disney manufactures.  I guess I'm just a little sad that her name isn't just her name anymore.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Finally! A Breather!

Friday June 21st - I'm 21 weeks pregnant, Sofia is 3 weeks away from turning 2, and in between all of the mini braxton hicks contractions that I've been having, the increasingly powerful kicks, and toddler tantrums, I'm finally able to breathe. Yesterday marked my last day of class for Summer semester session A. I'm still taking online classes, but those are a cake walk, and don't worry me in the slightest. I get the rest of this and all of next week off to breathe and relax before jumping into a 4000 level Shakespeare class, which will end my final semester as an undergraduate!

So far today, I've managed to shower (alone! Sofia was still asleep!), finish the invitations for her birthday party and send them out (electronically, of course - going to the post office is so two pregnancies ago!), and made her a yummy bowl of peach yogurt for breakfast. I know it doesn't seem like much, but to the ever-stressed mom, it's a lot.

Next on the list? Job applications. Blerg. I've been blissfully unemployed for the last three years while I've been a full-time student. It's been pretty amazing, and I'm crushed that I won't be able to stay home with Aeris while she's little like I was with Sofia, but keeping the bills paid and a roof over our heads is pretty darn important. I'm hoping to find work at a preschool or day care for the first year or two, so that I could at least, hopefully, be near my kids during the day instead of having to go off somewhere else. If it's only part time, I'm thinking that I can be a sub on my off-days to make up the difference.

Being a stay-at-home mom was never in the plan for me - I wanted to stay in the Navy through these years. It was a steady job, paid decently, and I liked it. My legs just weren't built for running, so here I am. :/ It's been great while it's lasted, and I think that if I wasn't as pregnant as I currently am (or not at all, even) I would be really excited about going back to work. I was always supposed to graduate this semester, and I was always supposed to go back to work after graduation - I just didn't think I'd be pregnant right now.

I'm ecstatic about this pregnancy and this baby. I think, had I not been pregnant at my due date from the last one, April would have crushed me. It didn't, though, as I let the day pass while looking forward to October (or November), when Aeris will join our family. It's definitely a weird feeling, though. I'm excited, but nervous; happy, but sad. I want to make sure that I have the same kind of bond with her that I do with her sister, and I'm suddenly terrified of how working moms do it. I know that mine did, and I turned out fine and we have a great relationship, but there has to be some measure of guilt about leaving your child with someone besides you or their father while you go off to work for the day. I guess the only way to know is to keep putting out the applications and cross that bridge when I get to it.

Signing off for now to go make some liquid energy with the help of my Keurig,


Friday, May 24, 2013


I've been keeping a journal again, mostly for class, but I think that it's time to give this blog another shot. I've had so much on my mind lately that it all needs to go somewhere! <3