Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Mind & Body by Samantha Nichole

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Annie's Birth Story!

An Unmedicated Hospital Birth Story


It was February 3rd, 2016, the day before my expected due date. I woke up that morning feeling different. After having 12 hours of consistent practice contractions the week prior, I was hesitant to believe what I was feeling could be early signs of labor, but I was able to believe that giving birth was in my near future. I trusted my gut. That morning I informed my employer that I would be coming in late to work since I didn’t feel well. I took my time getting ready and went into work.

When I was at work, I started getting contractions that were consistently 20 minutes apart but distinctly different from those I was feeling the week before. They started in my hips, wrapped around to my lower abdomen, and sent a soft but shooting sensation down the side of both my legs. There was no doubt in my mind that something positive was happening, but I’m well aware that early labor is a process that can take several days or weeks, depending on the mother. Even so, I trusted my instincts, wrapped up any last-minute business at work, and left for home a little early.

This was my second birth. One of the things I so badly wanted for my first birth was a natural, unmedicated birthing experience for my baby and for me; and although I consider my first birth to have been a good experience, the cards did not fall in place for an unmedicated birth. With all the research I have done to this point, and with what I have witnessed as a birth doula, it was my intention for both births to have as few unnecessary interventions as possible. That can be easier said than done when planning a hospital birth as I had. My plan for this birth was simply to stay home longer--until I felt like it was time to leave for the hospital--and I hoped I could wait until my contractions were 5 minutes apart and lasting for one minute at a time. The truth is that every woman experiences labor differently, so the 5-1-1 rule professionals tell women to go by is a general guideline. I knew in my heart and mind that a hands-off labor and delivery is what’s usually best for a positive birthing experience with a healthy mother and her baby, so that’s what I was seeking--it’s what I felt was best for my baby and for me.

First & Second Stage of Labor:

I left work early that day and immediately went into the shower to slow down my contractions and freshen-up. I had my parents pick up my daughter at about 5:00 in the evening. My husband and I made dinner, ate early, and I went to bed at about 7:00 p.m. I was awoken with contractions at 9:30 p.m. and they stayed consistent at 15 minutes apart from that time until about 3:00 a.m. the next morning (February 4th) when they were roughly 10 minutes apart. Partial sleep was my saving grace during this time; I was able to drift off to sleep after each surge, and each time I ignored the fact that I just had a contraction. I continued that pattern until 5:00 a.m. when I couldn’t ignore them anymore, and I woke up my husband at 5:30 a.m. and gave my doula a heads-up.

I labored for a lot of the time in the bathroom and in our living room. Most of my laboring was actually done alone and by choice, but I knew when I needed support from my birthing team. With my labor partners (being my husband and doula) I listened to classical music on Pandora, and I used my favorite doula tool, doTERRA Deep Blue rub (which works like Icy Hot), on my stomach and lower back. I labored in the restroom for a long time as well, but I was also sure to stay hydrated and eat throughout the morning. (Being properly hydrated and having something light in your stomach are two really important things when you labor! You need to be hydrated and have enough energy to run a marathon.)

I asked for my doula when contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but I felt like I could easily keep laboring at the house. A part of me was fearful that we would arrive at the hospital and the staff would say, “You’re only at 3 or 4 centimeters,” which I knew would make me feel defeated. I wanted to go in once I saw classic signs of transition or simply needed something more for pain relief. Thankfully, my goal was to trust the process of birth. This may sound cliche, but my only fear was fear itself. (Fear or a sense of insecurity can often stall labor.)

We labored at home with our doula for just under two hours when my husband said, “I’m not rushing you, but your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart, so we might want to think about when we’re going into the hospital.” I was thinking the same thing right before he said something, so his instincts validated mine, and I decided I would make a decision about how I felt after a few more contractions.

We went into the living room, and my birth partners helped me through a few more contractions. I started to shake slightly, I suddenly felt nauseous, and I entertained the thought of pushing. My contractions were also coming at about 2 minutes apart. The time was 9:05 a.m. on my due date, February 4th, 2016. I told my birth partners it was time to leave for the hospital, and I got into the car for the bumpiest and most uncomfortable ride of my life. We arrived at 9:15 a.m.

My husband called the OB triage to tell them we were on our way. They informed us we needed to go to the clinic to be checked first, but upon hearing my labor cries in the car the triage nurse immediately changed her mind and had us come to the hospital directly. That was a very good decision, because if she hadn’t, we would’ve had our baby in the clinic’s lobby.   

Transition & Birth:

I was quickly taken to our room, checked, and the birthing process began shortly after. I was 9.5 cm dilated when they checked. Sadly, my midwife was on vacation and her backup midwife wasn’t able to get there in time, but thankfully I had a very kind OB who attended my birth. I was able to have my most important requests on my birth plan granted. I was offered an epidural but declined, and therefore an IV wasn’t necessary.

Annie Eloise was born at 10:00 a.m. on her due date, February 4th, within a few contractions and after roughly 9 minutes of pushing. She weighed 8 lbs 12 oz and was 20 inches long. Although it would have been nice if the hospital had more time to prepare for my arrival, this was a very empowering birthing experience for me because I was able to trust my body. The hospital staff kept their word in allowing me to have immediate skin-to-skin with my daughter, also. She didn’t leave my chest for the first two hours of her life outside the womb, and I had a very minimal amount of interventions--perhaps the bare-minimum in a hospital setting. Oh yes, and the first thing I said when I gave birth to my first daughter, Audrey, was something about her ears looking good for piercing. The first thing I said after the birth of this daughter, Annie, was “Shit.” #sorrynotsorry

I am very thankful to my birth partners and to the hospital staff for helping me have the hands-off experience I was hoping for, which I believed to best for the health of my daughter and me. I’m excited to share my story with other women and continue empowering women as a birth doula--once I’m done cuddling my newborn for several months, of course.

Daddy and sisters bonding.

Helpful Links:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

How We're Preparing Our Toddler for Big Sisterhood!

At 36 weeks pregnant, the arrival of our baby is just around the corner. She (the baby) isn't expected to be here for another four weeks, but considering the normal range for babies to make their arrival is between 37 and 42 weeks, and this pregnancy has been so different from the previous (as all pregnancies and childbirth experiences are different) I'm ready for whatever comes my way, within reason.

My husband and I have been preparing our 2 year-old for what will likely be a difficult transition. We've been talking about the baby with her, and she even helped pick out the baby's name. We were torn between two names and we asked her which one she liked better. She told us, and that's the name we chose! The name is our little secret, and so far--as far as I know--she hasn't told a soul. (What a fun way to choose a baby name, and what an awesome story to share with her in the future.)

You know you're a birth worker when your two year-old daughter insists on watching YouTube videos of home water births. Whenever she wants to watch something, it's between Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and "Baby in the water! Baby in the water!" as she says. For several months I have been browsing the internet for videos and pictures of birth and taking care of babies, and my daughter has been diligently taking care of the babies she has at home.

This week my daughter and I brought up the bedside co-sleeper for the baby. It needed some cleaning, and the sheets had to be washed, so I had her help me wipe down the crib and set it up. We wheeled it next to the bed, and she practiced putting her babies in there while we talked about what the bed was used for and who was going to go in it!

Most recently, I decided to get some gifts for my toddler to congratulate her on becoming a big sister, and the plan is to give these to her when she comes to meet us after the birth. Since Christmas was so fun this year, we know that she understands gift-giving, and she will understand why she's getting the gifts. We bought her a Daniel Tiger plush--since she loves that show so much that she tried bringing her toy trolley to bed--and a Daniel Tiger older sibling book called "Big Brother Daniel". Did I mention her favorite show is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood? Yep, in case you couldn't tell.

I'm not sure if our tactics for introducing baby to our toddler will work in the way that we expect, but as adults we often underestimate the power of little ones to comprehend what's going on in our world. I don't want to assume that she won't remember this and doesn't understand that she's becoming a big sister. In fact, I think it would be very traumatic to bring a little baby home without any explanation or preparation, so that's why I think that--even if she does have a hard time with the new sibling transition--our efforts will never be in vain. She understands she's going to be a big sister, and it's just a matter of time before her little sister will be here to change her life.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Favorites & 2016 Book List

I’m not one for only setting goals during the holidays, but this year is different. It might be the warm winter, my pregnancy, or the calling I feel to do something extraordinary, but I’m interested in setting goals today--on New Year’s Eve--like no other year before.

Some of my successes this year have been staying organized, detaching from material objects in the home, and living a healthier life. Although I workout at the gym less often than before, I am eating healthier and making better choices. I have also been reading more (nonfiction) and engaging in news and politics; however, I am able to recognize when being informed turns into me becoming a human pile of emotional stress, and I’m able to take a break when I need to. I'm thankful for that.

My Favorite (Easy!) Recipe, 2015

Like I mentioned above, one of the things I have been doing is eating healthier. It was difficult for me to notice the benefits at first because I was so nauseous and fatigued during this pregnancy, but now that I’m full-term and I’m realizing that I have gained the ideal amount of weight and have very little water retention, I’m thankful for my snacking and eating habits.

My favorite recipe of 2015 is slow-cooker vegetable soup. I liked using the vegetables from the Farmer’s Market in West Bend. My husband would complain it’s bland, but add kind of meat you want to it to achieve the flavor you seek.

  • ½ an onion
  • mixed vegetables of your choice
  • lima beans
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups of water
  • Optional: ground beef or ground turkey

If adding meat, cook it first. Add all vegetables, diced tomatoes, beans, and water to the slow cooker. (Add meat once browned.) Cook on low for 4 hours.

Inspiration and Photo Credit: Click Here

My Biggest News, 2015

Um, this one's a no-brainer. We’re having a baby, and she should be here within a few weeks! How exciting is that? Also, I must say my biggest accomplishment of 2015 might have been our baby announcement and announcing that we’re having another girl.

My Favorite Place Traveled, 2015

New York City will remain to be one of my favorite places. Although Italy--specifically Rome--is my favorite place to visit, NYC (Manhattan) is my favorite American city to visit, and I'm looking forward to making another trip there in the near future. Here is my blog post about this year's trip.

My To-Read List, 2016

In the year 2015 I read only nonfiction, aside from rereading one book that was far more boring than I remember the first time (The Jane Austen Book Club). My goal for 2016 is to add in at least one fiction read for 2016. Here are my top fiction to-read novels.

My inspiration for my list comes from Lauren Conrad's book club and my Goodreads account. I highly recommend starting a Goodreads account if you don’t already have one.

Fiction On My To-Read List
  • P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
  • Forever by Judy Blume
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Nonfiction On My To-Read List
  • I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Good luck in your future endeavors, and enjoy the last few hours of 2015! Cheers!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Fall Haul: Purchased Secondhand

It's not often that I go shopping, and when I do I don't spend much at all. (Did you know the average American family spends $1,700 per year on clothes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics?) I'm not above receiving things secondhand, and it's rare that I purchase items brand-new. If I do, I make sure the piece I'm purchasing is timeless, durable, and I try to purchase it on sale. Don't get me wrong--I'm definitely not the perfect shopper. One example is there are things I could do to be more environmentally conscious when shopping. I typically don't buy used jeans because I can never seem to find a style and size that fits correctly. I haven't purchased a new pair of jeans since 2012, so my purchases are few and far between, but that's something I could work on.

Total: $9.00

Today I was feeling very ambitious. I stopped by the consignment shop to drop off a book and pair of snow boots. (I usually just donate to Goodwill unless I'm confident the item will sell.) My goal was to find something my daughter would like for Christmas. My favorite thing is finding an unused item being sold secondhand!

At the consignment shop, I picked out a Green Bay Packer cheerleading outfit for my unborn daughter, and for Audrey I picked out a caterpillar toy made by LeapFrog that teaches kids the alphabet. When I teach at the YMCA, Audrey loves playing with that caterpillar. Once I got to the checkout, the clerk told me that I had a $10 credit, so that was a great surprise. 

The $10 credit came from a violet Bumbo Floor Seat that was given to me. Audrey didn't like it very much, and I didn't anticipate using it for the next baby. When I went to sell it at the consignment shop, they told me that it had been recalled. I looked online and found that the company ships a seat belt for free to customers. The belt needed to be installed to fix the product. Once I did that, the consignment shop was able to take it, and the resell value was high. It was exciting! 

I went to Goodwill after that in search of new or gently used kids' stuff. I found a brand new backpack that Audrey needs (and will love) as well as a newborn onesie. I went to the checkout counter and learned it was student discount day, so I showed my Seminary ID and Goodwill Club Card, and the total came out to be $6.00. My only downfall on this trip is that I forgot about a 20% coupon I had at home. That would have been better than my student discount.

This past August, West Bend held a city-wide garage sale day. I was on a tight schedule, but I found a beautiful green Christmas dress and blue GAP jacket in a size Audrey didn't have. The jacket and dress were timeless and in great shape. I paid $3.00 for the lot.

It's strange to think about shopping being a hobby for someone who's trying to become minimalist. It's contradictory, and I understand that. I'll admit that I don't think I needed the items that I purchased, but I'm pleased with the way I shop and value material objects. Our home is cozy, so we don't have a lot of room for excess; however, I find joy in finding bargains for fun items, re-purposing things that are old, and swapping out used household items for other used household items. It might not be a minimalist mindset, but it's fun, nevertheless. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Welcoming Change and Finding Routines

I can't believe it's already the end of October. The warm weather, thanks to El NiƱo, has provided us with the illusion of a never-ending summer despite our Wisconsin leaves falling. Before we know it they will all be gone, and we'll be awaiting the arrival snow and winter. Autumn remains to be my favorite season, despite what lies ahead. Fall is a time of the year that symbolizes shedding the old and mundane of the summer. Spring is a time for rebirth, but with the way our society works (back to school and generally no more vacations) fall represents shedding one's old ways. We snuggle into winter with Advent and bid farewell during the Lenten season. In the spring we are again ready for something new, so we wait for the sun to warm our faces and bring forth new beginnings once more.

Throughout the month of September there were a lot of new things starting in my life, and the combination made it difficult for me to find balance. In the beginning of the month I attended a birth and started Seminary--both in the same week--and at the end of the month I went to Tennessee to visit my great-grandparents. Throughout the month of September I began teaching new classes, and my daughter, whose birthday is the 4th of September, was moved to a new classroom with a new teacher, new rules, and new friends. October is my favorite autumn month because it's always the time I settle into a routine. Thanks to October, I have finally been able to slow down and appreciate the beauty of this pregnancy, as well as start new routines.

My mother (center) with my niece (left) and daughter (right)
in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Having a routine is essential to being successful, it's healthy, and it can relieve stress. My husband and I decided that we would go grocery shopping every Thursday in preparation for the week. On Thursdays I plan each meal of the day for one week, taking our schedules into consideration, and using Pinterest or my cookbook. I remember to be realistic, so this time of year I make a lot of crock-pot meals.

My school and reading schedule has been harder to nail down. I'm taking two rigorous online courses, and I typically have about 500 pages of reading per week, not including responses and other projects. The kind of reading I'm doing isn't the kind I can skim through; I'm being challenged every day. While I love it, and while it is an escape, finding a reading schedule (and the peace and quiet to read) has proven to be difficult.

Nevertheless, the month of September has gone and passed. I welcome the end of October, the beginning of Advent, and brisk weather with open arms. I'm getting to know my unborn child and am ready to "hunker-down" (as a friend said) and appreciate this pregnancy from the warmth of my home.

Reflection: October 19, 2015

I wrote this reflection post last week in a group I'm a part of called "52 Weeks of Tranquility" with writer, activist, and do-gooder Kimberly Wilson. In my short reflection I shared how I was reminded to slow down by my rambunctious 2 year-old.

I went to Tennessee a couple weeks ago, and I brought my 2 year old daughter, Audrey, with me. We went to a flea market, and I was trying to hurry through so we could eat lunch and get to our other tasks for the day. Audrey wouldn't have any of it. She insisted we spend at least 20 minutes looking at the pigs. This was a gentle reminder for me to slow down, and in the end I liked that we spent more time than I planned for her to enjoy the animals.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy Birthday! Up-cycled Gifts & Heirlooms

We didn't buy our daughter anything for her birthday, and here's why. 

My daughter's second birthday is coming up, and in just over one week we will be celebrating. I'm looking forward to her celebration and I'm sure she'll have a great time, especially since we will have a beach and play equipment nearby. After Audrey's first birthday party last year, I remembered packing the car with her gifts and thinking to myself that we really didn't need to get her anything. Why should we bother in the future? Instead of purchasing gifts, this year I did a few things that will change the course of our family's gift receiving while keeping a precious item in working order for generations to come. 

My grandfather made me a beautiful kitchenette set when I was a little girl. It's complete with 4 cabinets and an area for the stove. My parents held onto it for me, and it made its way into our house last spring. It's been one of Audrey's favorite toys in the past few months, but it needed some things.
  • The kitchenette was initially white, but there were parts that were stained yellow and it lost its brightness.
  • Two doors were falling off, and one was completely off.
I up-cycled my old kitchenette to give to Audrey, and now the maintenance is complete and I'm ready to add decor the kitchenette didn't have previously, although I don't have a design at the moment.
  • I sandpapered the entire piece, 
  • I cleaned the hinges,
  • I re-attached the doors,
  • I re-painted with three coats of white paint to get rid of stains, pen marks, pencil, and marker. 
I also chose to grab one of our green tables from storage and paint that white so the kitchenette has a matching table, and I can now move her plastic table to the basement for when I do laundry. 

The other decision I made--not necessarily for Audrey's birthday but more for the future--is to take my old American Girl doll and Bitty Baby doll to the Doll Doctor at American Girl. I'm unsure of how much "surgery" the babies will need, but it could cost me up to $40, which is not bad considering buying her one brand new American Girl doll would cost at least $115, and giving her my refurbished doll will be both resourceful and sentimental in addition to cost-effective. 

Furthermore, now our families will know what sort of gifts Audrey (and maybe baby number two) will want. These dolls can be our main toys, minimizing the amount of excess toys they are bound to have. Instead of buying several small, less expensive dolls, there will always be Bitty Baby and American Girl.

In total, Audrey's second birthday present cost us $8, but it's likely to be an exciting surprise for her. I'm not sure if she'll notice the changes that were made unless I do an awesome job decorating, but I know she has missed the kitchenette and will be ecstatic once it's back in her bedroom where it belongs.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Roll With the Punches

I am currently 13 weeks pregnant. My last pregnancy I had morning sickness, but I remember being able to function at work and simply being happy that I was pregnant. This pregnancy was also planned, but I sadly don’t feel as excited as before, and here’s why. 

I have been having extreme morning sickness. To put it simply, I am sick all the time and because of my sickness have lost weight and have an abundance of migraines. My midwife gave me the option of two different medications, and I was written a prescription for one of them. The other medication I wasn’t completely sold on because there’s controversy over the side effects. When I went to pick up my prescription, the pharmacist told me that it would cost me—after insurance—over $400.00. I was speechless. Upset, I told him, “No thanks, I’ll suffer.” I left and cried in my car. (I later learned that there was actually a mistake, and the prescription would have been $700.00.) 

I decided not to let my inability to get an affordable prescription ruin my pregnancy experience and livelihood, so I got proactive. I made an appointment with an acupuncturist, I’ve been seeing my chiropractor, and I’ve been making myself exercise again. The nurse at the clinic told me some safe over the counter medications I can take that will help, as well. (All alternative remedies together are less than that prescription, and not all are covered by my insurance.) 

This past week has been an improvement, and I think it's actually because I forced myself to exercise in an air conditioned environment. I tried exercising earlier in my pregnancy but it made me sick, and I recently realized that the heat and humidity of our Wisconsin summer could be contributing to me getting sick.

While I don’t feel like myself, I’m generally feeling better, and it’s not because my morning sickness is over or cured. It's actually because I’ve come to accept the fact that I might not ever feel wonderful during this pregnancy. I am grateful to have had an experience with minimal migraines and manageable morning sickness in the past, but as a mother and birth doula I'm well aware that each pregnancy is different, and each birthing experience is different, so until this baby is born I will roll with the punches.