Family Time in Portland

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July was a big month for travel! After our trip to Maine, we had less that a week at home before heading out again to Portland, Oregon. Travis had a conference to attend there for work and Kenneth and I came along to visit with my brother, sister-in-law, and parents. It was a great combo trip!

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Kenneth got to meet his my brother, Adam, and his wife, Nina, for the first time. He liked them both, but Nina could really get him to smile! Nina and Adam are both completing their Oncology/Hematology fellowships at OHSU. They work really hard. I’m impressed by their dedication!

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Travis and I have been to Portland many times (most recently two years ago) and we had to check out a few of our favorite places (like Papa Haydn’s and Dutch Bros), but we also did a few new things this time…

My favorite things to see/eat/do in Portland, Oregon:

  • Screen Door – Our first restaurant stop! We did brunch on Sunday and I had the praline bacon waffle. It reminded me of New Orleans.
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  • Ava Gene’s – Delicious, fancy restaurant from the people who make Stumptown coffee.
  • Sizzle Pie – Creative pizza with lots of hipster, vegan, gluten free, etc options.
  • Blue Star Donuts – So much better than Voodoo Doughnuts.
  • Salt & Straw – Amazing ice cream (with the long lines to prove it).
  • Lan Su Chinese Garden – A pretty oasis in downtown. We had tea and moon cakes in the tea house. So lovely.
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  • Powell’s Books – ALL the books. I couldn’t resist buying Ken four new kids books.
  • Multnomah Falls – This was my first time visiting and the falls were quite impressive. We ate at the lodge restaurant and Adam and I climbed the uphill mile to the top.
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  • Haystack Rock – At Cannon Beach on the coast west of Portland. Some of the scenes from Goonies were filmed there!
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In addition to meeting his aunt and uncle for the first time, Kenneth got to spend a lot of time with his grandparents… and he loved it! They spent a lot of time holding him, playing with him, and strolling him. They babysat him while Travis and I went out on a double date with Adam and Nina to Ava Gene’s. Very nice!

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While Travis, Adam, and Nina were doing work stuff, Ken and I got to go with Grandma and Grandpa to Haystack Rock on the coast west of Portland. It was Ken’s first time touching the Pacific Ocean! We also did some sight seeing and walking around the city, including checking out Powell’s and the Chinese Garden.

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Once Travis was finished with his conference, our little Johnson family had a nice day of walking around downtown Portland. We shopped, I drank too much Stumptown coffee, and we went to check out the Timbers’ arena.

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I love Portland. I think it is such a fun, cool, easy city with great food and a lot to see. I really think anyone would love visiting this lovely Pacific Northwest hot spot. Bonus points if you also get to spend quality time with family while you are there!!

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Check out all of my photos from the trip in my Portland 2015 Flickr Album.

Maine Escape 2015

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Earlier this month, Travis, Kenneth, and I took our first ever trip to Maine to visit with family and friends. We stayed in the tiny island town of Stonington, Maine, as guests of our awesome friends, the Billings. The lobster fishing town has about 1,000 residents, a beautiful view of the sea, and a cute main street.

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This was our first road trip with Kenneth and he did quite well on the drives. We stopped in Boston on our way up and back from Maine and got to check out a few sights, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Blackbird Doughnuts, and Fenway Stadium.

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This was my very first time in Maine and I was blown away by the beauty of the stone and sea and sky. Even though I wouldn’t describe myself as an ocean person (I was born in the landlocked midwest!) I really enjoyed being on the water and seeing all of the sea life, like seals, jellyfish, lobsters, and seagulls.

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We had a great week of kayaking (my first time — I loved it!), boating to a small, uninhabited island to hike and picnic, visiting Cadillac Mountain and Bar Harbor, shopping in town in Stonington, and my favorite: eating the local lobster and clams.

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Ken achieved a lot of milestones on this, his first road trip: he sat in a restaurant high chair for the first time, he rode in a grocery store cart for the first time, he road in his first boat and touched the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, and he attended his third baseball game at Fenway Stadium.

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Traveling with a baby is more difficult than not — I was quite sleep deprived all week from sharing a bed with Ken and waking to feed him more often than usual — but it is still a lot of fun and worth the effort. I think Ken enjoyed spending time with family and friends. We plan to keep dragging him along on many more adventures!

See all of my photos from the trip in my #MaineEscape2015 Flickr album.

Kenneth at six months…

Kenneth at 6 months

Kenneth is six months old! This feels like such an epic milestone. Like, we should have a 1/2 birthday party to celebrate. Happy 1/2 year of life, Baby Boy!!

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Ken has been simply amazing over the last month. He has mastered so many new skills: rolling over all the time, sitting up unsupported, standing on his own while holding onto something, getting into the crawling position, using a high chair, riding in the big jog stroller, and most amazingly, sleeping in his crib every night. I know that I am biased, but I’m impressed. He most definitely inherited Travis’ hard working and chill demeanor.

That being said, he is also a six-month-old baby, a rolly-polly wiggle worm who loves to move, kick, squeal, and grab anything within reach and put it in his mouth. Taking his portrait this month was a challenge. He was quite upset with me for not just letting him chew on his sticker the whole time. The word I would currently use to describe him is determined. I think he gets that from me.

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He is definitely expressing himself more strongly these days. This is what happens when he doesn’t get his way with the sticker…

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Fun Facts about Kenneth:

  • At his 6-month doctor visit today, he weighed 18 lbs and 12 ozs and he was 28 inches tall. He is still above the 90th percentile for height, but his weight, although growing steadily, is around the 70th percentile. The pediatrician said his stats were “perfect” so I will try not to worry that he weighs three pounds less than his dad at the same age.
  • He is eating all sorts of solid food now. He loves chomping on bananas and plums, and eating bits of avocado and bread. We’ve also been giving him a few ounces of these organic baby foods each day. He seems to love it all!
  • No teeth yet, but he has grown a whole lot of white-blonde hair!
  • He is REALLY into toys these days. Especially new ones. He studies them intently and loves any type of moving parts that he can fiddle with.
  • He seems to respond to his name, but he has so many different ones — Kenneth, Ken, Kenny, KennyG, SpecialK, BabyJ, Gunner, G4, hashtag — that it must be confusing!
  • He is very interested in Crusher and always reaches for him when he is near. Crusher seems to be more open to interacting with him, too. I hope they become good friends.
  • Just within the last few weeks, he has started trying to crawl. He can get up on all fours and rock forward and back, but he can’t actually go anywhere, yet. He wears himself out trying, though!
  • He is still sleeping in his crib most of the time, but he has also gotten back in the habit of waking up to eat AT LEAST once in the night. I hope we can start helping him to sleep through the night asap.
  • Kenneth has been on a train trip to Philadelphia, a plane trip to Kansas, and this month he took his first road trip to Maine. He was, once again, an excellent travel baby, but ten days away from home started to get tough by the end of the trip. There were some tears on the car ride home, but we made it.

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Mama thoughts:

Ken is such a good baby. Smart, and fun, and sweet. I really have no complaints about him. (Well, except for when he pinches me or pulls my hair, but we are working on that.) But being a mom is tough. Especially when I am trying my best to be a “work-at-home-mom” and keep Swap-bot running to some degree.

I have always known that taking care of children is hard work, but I regret that I also secretly questioned work-at-home-moms who hired nannies so that they could take a nap, go to an exercise class, or, your know, work. I thought for sure I could handle it all on my own, but having zero family help or child care options is becoming untenable. Sure, I can throw in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, or read a few emails while Ken plays, but working on complicated design projects or composing email responses and blog posts is much more difficult to do with one hand and half of your brain. Nap time is key, but it is never guaranteed. So… I have started looking into child care options. I am not sure how it will play out, but I daydream about having a few extra hours of work time per week.

What else do I daydream about? The end of breastfeeding. I know some will say I’ll miss it when it is over, but I’m not convinced. Thankfully, my infections have been eradicated and it is not currently painful, but I still haven’t come around to enjoying it. It has NOT helped me lose weight. (I swear that is a lie used to trick women into doing it.) It hinders my fitness aspirations. (Running with jugs of milk attached to your torso is not fun or easy.) And it is getting harder and harder to convince myself that “breast is best” when there are plenty of excellent humans in the world who did just fine with formula. Anyway, protesting and complaining is a waste of time when deep down I know that I am too stubborn to stop anywhere short of my one-year goal, but still! Breastfeeding. Ugh.

Anyhoo, I’ll try to end on a positive note… I hope I am a good mom, because Kenneth deserves the best. His smiles and giggles are the most wonderful things in the world. I pray for endless patience and tons of fun and educational play time ideas. I hope he can feel my love.

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Also, check out Kenneth at one month, Kenneth at two months, Kenneth at three months, Kenneth at four months, and Kenneth at five months.

Kenneth at five months…

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So much fun! That is how I would describe Kenneth at five months old. He loves playing with toys (especially new ones!) and moving all around. He loves for us to read him books, looking astounded at each new colorful page. (He even seems to be attempting to turn the pages himself, but maybe I’m reading too much into his grabbing reflex.) He likes his dad and me to sing him to sleep, that or talk to each other about something very boring. He doesn’t have any teeth yet, but he definitely wants to put everything in his mouth to chew on. And he drools. A lot. Sometimes he is very serious, observing the world around him intently. But overall he is just a sweet, easy-going, happy baby.

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I know that I can’t really be objective, but to me he is absolutely perfect. I love him so much.

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Some Fun Facts…

  • Kenneth weighs 17.5 lbs and is somewhere over 27 inches tall. He went into the doctor’s for an extra 5-month weight check last week since his weight hadn’t been increasing as quickly as his height. The doctors were pleased with his gain and didn’t even check his height… so I guess that means all is good.
  • Kenneth’s two passions lately seem to be blowing spit bubbles and doing backbends out of mom or dad’s arms. Both of which I don’t love. But I try to support him in his interests…
  • In addition to the backbends, Kenneth is much more rolly-polly and movement-focused lately. He loves to try to sit, and stand, and roll, and even attempt to crawl. He sort of throws himself out of our arms in an attempt to get places, which makes him somewhat difficult to wrangle. He is a boy who loves to move!!
  • He can sit unassisted for a few seconds at a time… and he is very proud of himself when he does!
  • He giggles when I kiss his neck and pretend to munch on his fingers or toes, and he LOVES “flying” around as Super Baby with his dad.
  • We started feeding Kenneth a bit of solid (ish) food just after his four month birthday on the advice of his pediatrician. So far he has had rice cereal, mashed bananas, a little steamed and mashed carrot, sweet potatoes, and a little avocado.
  • Ken went on his first plan ride to Kansas City on May 22nd to visit his grandparents and aunts and uncles. He was an awesome travel baby, sleeping for the majority of the flights and barely fussing. The entire trip went well. Ken went to his first Royals game on the 23rd, spent a lot of quality time with his grandparents and great Grammy, and got to meet most of his aunts and uncles for the first time.
  • Nearly all of Ken’s brownish-red baby hair has fallen out and fine, white-blonde hair is taking its place. He looks like such a different baby than he did at one month!

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I read somewhere that the only thing more profound than the love you have for your child is your fear of losing them. That thought has stuck with me. I am a defiantly optimistic person and try hard not to dwell on fear and worry, but Kenneth is so precious to me that it is scary. I just hope and pray that I can give him the love and support he needs to have an incredible, rewarding, happy, long life.

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Also, check out Kenneth at one month, Kenneth at two months, Kenneth at three months, and Kenneth at four months.

Kenneth at four months…

Time is going more and more quickly and I’m starting to panic about not keeping a diligent record of all the cute things Ken has been doing. Turns out that blogging takes a lot of time, computer time that I don’t really have these days…

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Last week Kenneth turned fourth months old, and he just keeps getting more and more fun. He is more like a little person and less like a hungry little crying creature. He has likes and dislikes, and he loves interacting with his mom and dad.

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Things I don’t want to forget:

  • At his four month doctor check up he weighed 16 lbs and was 27 inches tall. His height is off the charts (greater than the 98th percentile), but his weight is a little low (75th percentile). The doctor suggested we start him on a little solid food to supplement. I am very grateful that breast feeding has gotten less painful and I am proud of myself for breastfeeding him exclusively for these last four months, but I welcome any relief in the feeding department.
  • He is so cheery (and wiggly) when he wakes up in the morning. All smiles and giggles.
  • When Travis and I read and sing to him in our bed while getting him ready for sleep, he reaches his arms out to either side to make sure he is touching us both.
  • The way he strokes my hand while he is eating.
  • How excited he gets when I lean in to give him kisses on his face. He looks at me with such adoration. It is such a sweet feeling.
  • He is working on rolling, but hasn’t quite made the back-to-front roll totally by himself yet. He rolls side to side often to grab toys and he is able to wiggle himself all over the floor by throwing his legs in the air repeatedly.
  • He loves trying to sit and stand with assistance ALL THE TIME… which can get tiring for mom and dad.
  • He visited the Brooklyn Museum for the first time this month, and got his very own passport!
  • He had his tongue tie treated with a laser on April 17th. He recovered quickly and seems to enjoy his new tongue mobility.
  • He went to his first baseball game on May 8th at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were playing the Orioles, and he slept through most of it despite the noise.

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Travis and I were and are so thrilled to be parents and we couldn’t have hoped for a better baby… But for a while it was was hard to admit that the pain and difficulty of the first few months was worth it. Motherhood is the most difficult challenge I’ve ever embarked on. But at the same time, Ken is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Maybe that sounds like something that parents HAVE to say, but it is actually exactly how I feel. My love for him just keeps growing. To me, he is perfect and precious. He is so amazing that it borders on magical. It boggles my mind to think of what a unique person he is — someone we never could have predicted before meeting him. It may sound cliche, but his smiles and little advancements really are immensely rewarding. Parenthood just keeps getting better and better.

A few more cute pics:

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Want more cute pics? I have almost 3,500 photos of Ken in his Flickr album.

Also, check out Ken at one month, Ken at two months, and Kenneth at three months.

kenneth at three months…

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Yesterday was Kenneth’s three month birthday! Wow. He is a growing boy! Ken and I are close and inseparable friends these days. He and I have been going on a lot more adventures this month, heading into Manhattan at least once a week and running errands all around Brooklyn. He is a fun baby who loves to interact, babble, and trade smiles. We spend a lot of time adoringly staring into each others eyes and grinning.

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Facts about Kenneth at three months…

  • I’m not exactly sure what his measurements are because we don’t go back to the doctor until next month, but he definitely weighs more than 14 pounds and is over 25 inches long. He is wearing some of his 6-month clothes already!
  • We are blessed in that he is a great sleeper at night. He sleeps in an initial eight-hour chunk, wakes for a feeding around 4 am, and then sleeps another three hours. We all feel pretty well rested.
  • He loves the mornings and is a cheerful little early bird.
  • He lights up when you smile or talk to him. He has been trying out all sorts of new sounds and loves conversing back and forth.
  • He is getting much stronger at tummy time, and even enjoys it. He is also working on arching his back and swinging his legs in preparation for rolling over. He loves trying to “stand” with assistance from mom or dad.
  • He loves his toy mirrors and holds intricate conversations with the baby he sees in them.
  • He still hasn’t quite figured out his thumb, but he loves sucking on his hands and fingers. He also loves clasping his hands together and admiring his feat of dexterity.
  • Sometimes his hair looks brown, sometimes red, but it seems to be growing in light blonde at the roots.
  • He has seen the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building, and last weekend he went on his first big train trip to Philadelphia. He did great riding in his stroller all over town and he loved the art museum and the Liberty Bell.

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Mama Update:

I want to show no weakness and tell you that everything is going well… and it certainly is in the sense that Ken is an awesome and healthy baby… BUT I am in pain. Unrelenting, endless pain and discomfort. All of the new baby things you worry about before the baby is born — sleepless nights, poop explosions, spit-up, their constant need for attention — all of those things are minuscule inconveniences when compared to being in pain all of the time. I feel like if I could just feel comfortable in my body again, I could really kick butt at this mom thing. This is how you’ll know things are serious: I really don’t even care about losing weight or ever running again, I just want to feel less pain. It sounds dramatic and I wish it wasn’t the truth, but it is.

Breastfeeding is still very painful. We are working on getting Ken’s severe tongue tie treated, which may end up being the solution, but the process has been frustrating. The pediatricians have been dismissive of tongue tie in general, but I finally insisted on a referral to a specialist. The specialist saw him and agreed that he should be treated, but now we are stuck in limbo waiting for insurance to approve the procedure. Which is ridiculous, because the “procedure” will literally take 30 seconds. But at this point I am worried that there may be more problems going on in addition to the tongue tie… my breasts are always tender and in pain, during and in between feedings. After reading what seems like every breastfeeding resource on the planet, I’ve started every possible homeopathic treatment for breast infections while I wait to see my doctor in two weeks.

Competing with breastfeeding for first place in the pain and discomfort category is my entire hip and pelvic region. Walking while wearing Ken in the baby carrier is hard on my body, which isn’t good because it is a necessity if I want to leave the house. The good news is that physical therapy does seem to be helping. It is slow going and I still need to avoid high impact activity, but I think I will eventually make some progress. And my therapist, Justine, at Renew is so professional, kind, and helpful. I am grateful to have access to the therapy… and that they let me bring Ken to my sessions.

Minus the pain, everything is going so well. Travis and Ken are wonderful. (Crusher is a bit of a stinker these days, but he is wonderful, too.) I just keep trying to stay strong and get through this tough time. I try to remind myself that in a year I will have gotten through all of this and I probably won’t even remember why it was so tough. And I can honestly say from the heart that it is worth it.

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Want more cute pics? I have almost 3,000 photos of Ken in his Flickr album.

Also, check out Ken at one month & Ken at two months.

Kenneth at two months…

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On Sunday, Kenneth turned two months old. He seems so big and so old now! It has been fun to watch him awaken to the world and start interacting with us a bit more. What else has he been up to? Practicing his smiles, discovering toys, requesting kisses, and of course, sleeping quite a bit.

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Facts about Kenneth at two months:

  • At his two-month doctor appointment last week he weighed 12 lbs 10 ozs and was 24.25 inches long! Very tall (99th percentile!) and a bit skinny, but the doctor was pleased with his weight gain.
  • He has been sleeping longer at night, which is amazing. On Sunday night he slept for eight full hours straight! That was a big deal, but on most nights he gets in at least one 4-6 hour chunk. Not bad at all on his parents. We are feeling good!
  • He has started smiling a lot more and even initiates smile conversations. He giggles a bit, but we can’t wait for more!
  • He is not a big fan of sleeping in his crib and isn’t really on a strict nap schedule. But he does like looking at his play mirror in his crib.
  • He likes blowing drool bubbles. Bibs have become a necessity.
  • He loves getting kisses on his face and even “asks” for them by putting his mouth up in the air. Very cute.
  • He still likes being swaddled at night and loves riding in his baby carriers during the day.
  • He seems to have noticed Crusher and sometimes watches him walk around. Crusher has attempted to “play” with Ken by barking at him and teasing him, but Ken doesn’t seem to understand the game.
  • All four of us have really started to get to know one another and become a more cohesive family. It is a fun time!

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Mama Update:

You guys, things are getting SO MUCH BETTER. (I had real coffee for the first time today, which may be positively affecting my mood.)

Breastfeeding can still be uncomfortable and demanding, but Ken seems to be eating less frequently and my boobs are feeling much better. Feeding him feels more natural now, even if it is still time consuming. I am proud of myself for making it for more than eight weeks of exclusively breastfeeding. I plan to try to make it a year, but whatever happens, I am happy that I have stuck it out as long as I have.

Over the last two weeks I have started working out again. It feels great. I am out of shape and running is still nearly impossible with my wonky hips, but I really like my video workouts and can already notice strength improvements. And I have lost two pounds! Thank goodness for progress!

The weather is finally better this week and I have actually been getting stuff done. Ken and I have met up with a few friends for food, we’ve gone to mom & baby yoga, and we’ve even gone to the grocery store AND fixed dinner on the same day! I didn’t know if that last thing would ever be possible again. I feel confident taking Ken out and even feeding him in public.

Sunday was a down day after attempting to run and then attempting to buy new workout clothes. Neither attempt was very successful and I started feeling sorry for myself again… but I am having many more good days than down days lately and I feel like I am coming into my own in this new mommy life. Hooray!

And that is all I can post for now because Ken just started crying for his afternoon snack…

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Kenneth at one month…

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Little Ken is one month old! We are extremely fortunate and grateful that he is healthy and sweet and progressing perfectly. It is amazing that he is a miniature human made of equal parts Travis and me. He is not quite what I expected, but instead a unique individual with a distinct personality starting to emerge. He is a lot of fun. He looks like Travis, my brothers, my dad, my father-in-law, and myself all at once. The last month has flown by and dragged on. I hope Kenneth has enjoyed getting to know us as much as we’ve loved meeting him.

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Facts about Kenneth at one month:

  • He weighed 9 lbs 10.5 oz at his four week doctor appointment. Two pounds more than at birth!
  • He sleeps in 3-4 hour chunks at night… which isn’t too bad on his mom.
  • He is a champion eater and has been meeting all of his dirty diaper quotas.
  • It took a few weeks, but he has been making eye contact, making lots of cute noises, and even cracking a few adorable smiles.
  • He loves riding in his baby carriers and being swaddled at night.
  • He makes endless funny faces, especially when I give him kisses on his face.
  • He has had lots of visitors and he has been on trips to Shake Shack, Ample Hills, Calexico, and Prospect Park.
  • He is the best baby in the world!

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Postpartum Update:

I was ready for a lot of the things that come with bringing home a new baby — sleepless nights, getting little accomplished except baby care, dealing with a flabby, out-of-shape, recovering body, emotional highs and lows — but you add it all together and this new life can feel TOUGH sometimes. Thankfully, Travis has been a huge help. He has done the grocery shopping and much of the cooking. And despite being back at work full time now, he stays up with the baby when I desperately need to sleep. We are adults and I know we will get through this early baby time just as billions of other parents have. Hopefully, we will even remember it fondly. I try to keep things in perspective and remember that everything is actually going very smoothly…

BUT I need to vent about one major challenge… breast feeding. Ugh. Overall, Ken and I have had a lot of success and I am going to stick with it, but I am sad to admit that I don’t really like it. I had high hopes in the first week, but then the pain set in. It was excruciating for about a week. There was blood and blisters and a lot of tears. It felt terrible to dread feeding him. But as all of the lactation resources predicted, things have gotten better. (These nipple pads and this lanolin help.) I no longer dread it, but it is still uncomfortable, time-consuming, and utterly (udderly?) draining. I have a low level dehydration headache at all times despite my best hydration efforts. Also, my boobs are unmanageably huge and sore and stretched to the max. I know Ken is getting plenty to eat (he makes lots of dirty diapers and is gaining weight) but his feeding schedule is still unpredictable, and he can be quite demanding! Oh, and my weight is absolutely NOT “falling off” as everyone said it would if I breast fed…

It has only been a month and I know things will continue to get easier, but even compared to my fertility struggles, the pregnancy, and childbirth, I consider breast feeding during this postpartum period to be my least favorite and most difficult challenge. Of course, maybe my feelings will change once I get through it…

Kenneth’s birth story

It has been three weeks since Kenneth arrived on January 8th. I have been thinking a lot about his birth and have wanted to write it all down before I forget all of the details. I know that I am already revising the experience in my mind and underestimating the pain and intensity of the day…. but hopefully, I can get as close to the reality as possible. I will try to be somewhat discreet about the medical stuff, but proceed with caution if you don’t want to read the details of labor and birth!

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THE SHORT VERSION:

My labor and Kenneth’s birth was fast, intense, mind-blowing, painful, overwhelming and amazing. It was my dream birth situation, but it was not what I was expecting and it caught me off guard. Ken was born nine days before his due date at NYU Langone hospital in Manhattan. I was in “real” labor for just six hours and we barely made it to the hospital in time! The labor and vaginal delivery were totally natural and medication-free. They were also scary and all-consuming. Travis was the perfect husband, dad, and birth companion, and Ken and I both made it through the experience totally healthy and happy. January 8th was a very good day!

THE SUPER LONG VERSION…

The Day Before:

On January 7th, I had what turned out to be my final prenatal doctor appointment. The doctor checked my cervix and said I was about one centimeter dilated, but not efaced very far. She didn’t think it meant much and told me that if I hadn’t gone into labor by the next week’s appointment, she would strip my membranes then. She also discussed what would happen if I went past my due date.

So… I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about BabyJ arriving early. I was a little bummed to think that I still had a long time to wait, so despite the very cold weather, Travis took me out on a date to Stone Park Cafe to cheer me up. We shared a really delicious meal (not too big or rich, which turned out to be a very good thing) and had a great night together.

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Labor:

After going to bed around midnight, I woke up with some minor cramping at about 3:00 am. Being woken up by contractions is a definite sign of labor, but I really didn’t think much of it. The cramps didn’t hurt much and they were really sporadic. I had maybe four or five of them between 3 and 4 am, and then I sort of fell asleep on the couch until Travis woke up at 7. I told him I was having some light contractions, but that they had pretty much dissipated and that it was probably just Braxton Hicks or practice labor. I think we ate breakfast. I told him to go to work.

I thought that even if it was early labor, I had hours and hours until the real deal. In our Prepared Childbirth class our instructor really reinforced the fact that first baby labor can last a REALLY long time, on average 18-22 hours. We spent a LOT of time in class discussing all of the things a woman can do while in early labor — get her nails done, make cookies, go out to eat, watch movies, etc. I figured that I was NOT even in early labor yet, since there wasn’t much pain, and once I was, I would still have tons of time.

I did some computer work, took Crusher for a walk, vacuumed, texted with some friends, and started thinking about what I wanted to get done before going to the hospital IF I really was in labor. My list included going to get a pedicure, cleaning the bathroom, baking cookies, and showering. I actually texted Travis and asked if he thought I should try to make an appointment to get my hair highlighted, too. ha! But I was feeling a little worn out and decided to nap before tackling my list…

This will be too much info for most, but another sign of labor that I sort of ignored? I had three bowel movements during the course of the morning, which is three times what is normal for me. Clearing your system out can be a sign of early labor, which I knew, but didn’t think much about at the time.

At about 12:30 I woke up from my nap to a really painful contraction. I tried to get up during it, but couldn’t walk until it passed. I think it was actually when my water broke. There was some liquid, but not much, so I wasn’t sure. I also might have lost my mucus plug then. All of a sudden, I got worried. It was real pain. I actually thought, “this whole labor thing isn’t going to be easy.” I started texting Travis even though he was in a meeting…

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The contractions started at about three minutes apart before 1 pm, but quickly sped up. I tried using my app, but I couldn’t really time them. I was still thinking that once Travis got home maybe he could time them while I watched a movie (I was thinking Aliens)… but the contractions just kept coming faster and were getting more intense. I got through a shower, but had to stop to lean against the wall for each contraction. The pain was intense. It is hard to be objective about it, but it was definitely white-knuckle, stop-what-you-are-doing, focus-on-getting-through-it pain. Sitting on the toilet or being on all fours on the bed helped.

Our hospital bag was already packed, but I managed to round up a few extra things in between contractions (including snacks — thank goodness!). Then, I called my mom at 2:30 pm. She says I didn’t sound like I was in pain, but I was. I thought I sounded terrible. I was on all fours in bed with wet hair and I finally admitted to her (and myself) that I thought the baby was coming that day. She said that if I thought he was coming, he was!

Travis got home shortly after that at about 2:45. I think my water sort of broke again then. More liquid came out, anyway. At some point I called my doctor’s office. I talked to a nurse and told her my water had broken and that the contractions were a minute a part. She clarified that they weren’t actually AN HOUR a part and when I said no, she told us to come in to the hospital asap.

Getting to the Hospital:

Travis stayed calm, took Crusher out, and rounded up all of our things while I worked on drying my hair. (It was very cold that day and I didn’t want to go out with wet hair.) We called an Uber car at around 3:20 and I quickly made it down the stairs from our apartment in between contractions.

The car ride was one of the most difficult things I have ever withstood. It was a bumpy ride and the contractions seemed to be coming less than 30 seconds apart. There weren’t really any breaks, just waves of pain. I think I might have held Travis’ hand, but I also remember worrying about hurting him. I was grasping the car door with white knuckles and just trying my best not to make too much noise. The driver was really nervous and asked us whether we needed an ambulance instead. I was definitely getting worried and was in focused survival mode, but I still didn’t really know how deep into labor I was. I certainly didn’t want to show up to the hospital in an ambulance and then be told that I was barely even dilated!! Despite the intensity of the contractions, I was still afraid that I might show up and they would tell me I had hours and hours of labor left…

A natural, medication and intervention-free delivery was my goal, but during the car ride I decided to ask for an epidural if my labor was not very far progressed. I felt weak for mentally giving up on my plan, but I couldn’t have handled hours more of those extreme contractions.

It turns out that I should have been a little more worried about not making it to the hospital in time…

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Delivery:

We made it to the hospital at around 4 pm. I thought I could make it up to the Mother and Baby unit on foot, but as soon as I walked into the hospital, I doubled over a trash can to get through a contraction. A woman in the lobby scolded Travis and told him to get me a wheel chair. I was so focused on getting through the pain that I didn’t totally know what was happening, but somehow I got in the wheel chair and they got me into an elevator and up to the check in desk. Travis checked me in — i think — and they took me to triage.

I had been dreading triage because it is in a more public area and you have to stay there while they monitor the baby and your contractions for 20 minutes. I was thinking of this when we arrived, but really, I wasn’t thinking of much but getting through the pain. I don’t even know if my vision was working. I don’t know how my clothes were removed. I do sort of remember the nurses putting the monitors on me, and me saying that I couldn’t lay on my back for 20 minutes. I asked if I could be on all fours instead. The resident doctor (I think) did an internal exam and… OMG guys… I was fully dilated!!

In retrospect, I think I was in transition while we were arriving at the hospital. My body was doing what I described as “convulsing” but I think it was actually pushing. They quickly transported me to a delivery room.

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The doctor excitedly said, “You are going to have a baby today!” There was no time for an epidural, and I am glad that I didn’t have to make a decision about getting one. I think the nurses and doctors thought I would have the baby within a few minutes, and maybe I would have, but once I transferred to the delivery room at 4:25 things seemed to slow down. (How did I get in the new bed? I don’t know.)

I was scared. Much more scared than I thought I would be. I needed a mental break. I hadn’t anticipated the labor progressing so quickly and I felt like I had to catch my breath. I had more time in between each contraction during the pushing stage, like 2-3 minutes, to rest. Maybe my own anxiety slowed things down. I know that it decreased the efficiency of my pushing. I had thought I was going to be really good at pushing — empowered and strong — but I felt weak and scared. I felt bad for wanting a way out. If I had been given a way out, I would have taken it, which is humbling. I even thought about asking for a c-section, but I don’t think I said it out loud. Travis tried to remind me that I would be meeting our baby soon, but even that didn’t feel like sufficient motivation. I didn’t really care. I just wanted the pain to stop. But I kept going.

The nurses and Doctor Erin Conroy (who I loved — she was wearing a NYRR race t-shirt under her scrubs) coached me through pushing during each contraction. The last book I had read was Hypnobirthing, which describes labor as “breathing your baby out” and advises against coached, forced pushing. So I was confused about whether I needed to follow the pushing instructions. I felt a little annoyed at the doctors and nurses for telling me what to do. I wanted to do things my way… but thank goodness I listened to them instead. I pushed for two and half hours, which isn’t a short time period, but it would have been way longer if I had been left up to my own devices. I think I would have just held the baby in indefinitely. I really hadn’t anticipated being so scared of the actual birth.

I was half sitting up in the hospital bed and pushed while pulling on a bar over the bed, on handles by the side of the bed, and even while pulling on a sheet held by the doctor. Eventually a nurse and Travis started holding my legs while I pushed and they set up a mirror for me to watch my progress. I was fine with having the mirror, but it definitely was not an attractive sight!

The two+ hours passed quickly with what seemed like little progress. The doctor was a little concerned about Ken being in distress during contractions and they encouraged me to keep working hard. I think I asked the doctor how long it would take. They wanted me to hold my breath while pushing and do two or three per contraction. Many of my pushes were ineffective. They only seemed to work when I could push in conjunction with my body’s natural pushing action. The doctor suggested Pitocin to get things moving faster, which I didn’t want. I was a little frustrated but tried to muster up my courage and determination to just GET THE BABY OUT!

Ken is here:

Finally, at 6:41 pm, Ken’s head was crowning and he was born quickly after that! They had moved the mirror, but I looked down and could mostly see him being born. Following his head, he had his little hand up under his chin. “He’s waving at you!” the doctor said and she helped pull him the rest of the way out. It all happened so quickly that I couldn’t tell you the exact details. They quickly put him up on my chest. I was very happy and relieved and in love with our new little baby.

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I got to hold Ken for a bit. I did not cry, which is a little strange. I was just so happy and overwhelmed. Ken cried a bit, but not loudly. Travis cut the cord at some point. Time passed quickly. The nurses rubbed Ken clean — he had a lot of vernix on his body. The nurses called him “cheesy” — yum. He also had a lot of mucus in his nose, mouth, and lungs, so a nurse had to take him for a bit to suction it out, but she did it right by my bed. He also got foot printed and “tagged” with all his hospital bands.

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Unfortunately, I did have a second degree perineum tear, but I couldn’t tell you when it happened. It didn’t hurt as far as I could tell. Maybe my anxiety (and all those Kegels I had been doing) prevented me from relaxing my pelvic floor during the birth, but who knows. While Ken was cleaned up, I had to get a few stitches. That was NOT fun. I wanted a break from all the discomfort, but I was also really happy and excited, so I got through it. Another pre-birth fear that I really didn’t need to worry about? Pooping during labor. I do not think I did, but I really couldn’t tell you, and no one in the room would have cared at all either way. I was so focused on getting through the pain and getting out the baby, that I was not worried about much of anything else. I also didn’t care that I had an IV in my hand or the fetal monitor around my waist — two things that I had anticipated not wanting. Everything happened so quickly and I was very happy with the help that the hospital staff gave me during labor and the birth.

After Ken was suctioned and cleaned, he was put on my bare chest. I am so glad Travis took photos because the time went so quickly. I just enjoyed holding him. Travis and I ate some of the snacks we had brought, and Ken nursed a bit while we waited for his eye ointment and Vitamin K shot. I think this is also when they gave me the Pitocin drip, but I am not sure. I had been suspicious of the hospital for requiring Pitocin after every delivery, but in the end, I did not care at all and I had no side effects from it. If anything, I was just insanely happy, excited, and at peace.

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Hospital Stay:

Staying at the hospital was not something I was looking forward to, but despite my anxiety, I was very happy with my stay and care at NYU Langone hospital. The nurses were all fantastic. I saw two lactation consultants, two pediatricians, and took a breast feeding class and baby care class all within my 40 hours at the hospital. The nurses helped me breastfeed and taught me how to use a breast pump.

I ended up with a private room, but only because the other bed in the room was broken. Despite the privacy, we decided Travis should go home to sleep at night and to take care of Crusher. The hospital food actually wasn’t bad, but Travis also brought me Doughnut Plant donuts the day after the delivery. Our friends, Joel and Amanda, came to visit on Friday evening.

It must have been the hormones, but I just felt thrilled and at peace in the hospital. I felt like I had accomplished something big and I was just so pleased that Kenneth had arrived.

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Bringing Ken home:

On Saturday morning we got discharged really quickly. We were out of our room by about 10 am. They require that you sit whenever you carry your baby in the hospital, so I got to take another wheel chair ride down to the hospital exit. You can tell by my goofy smile, I was just deliriously happy and excited.

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Travis had borrowed Joel’s car and had already installed our car seat. He went to go get the car while I waited in the lobby. (Side note: as far as we can tell, you do NOT officially need a car seat to leave the hospital in NYC. No one checked us or asked us how we were getting home. Of course, you SHOULD use a car seat.)

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There wasn’t much traffic on our way home. Travis says he wasn’t very nervous while driving. I sat in back with Ken and told him all about his home borough of Brooklyn.

Crusher was very excited to meet his new brother when we got home. He went a little crazy and both wanted to get close to Ken, but also was a little nervous. He has since warmed up to him, but he doesn’t like his crying.

The four of us have spent the last three weeks getting used to the very literal blood, sweat, and tears of caring for a brand new baby. We are having fun together and slowly finding our rhythm. My recovery has gone well, but between that and breast feeding, there has been a lot of pain and discomfort. But things are getting better. I had felt so proud and pleased to have gotten through the pregnancy and birth, but bringing home a newborn is a fresh new challenge that may be the hardest yet.

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Childbirth vs Marathoning:

I was very interested to learn how the experience of labor and birth compared to running a marathon. Prepping for childbirth was not my main motivation for running marathons, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of my reasons.

I AM very glad to have had nine marathons under my belt before giving birth because it gave me a lot of self confidence and knowledge that I could endure pain and hard physical work. BUT, childbirth was MUCH more difficult than running a marathon.

I was lucky in that my labor was super-short, but even so, it was six hours of intense pain. Some marathons are six hours long, but you aren’t in pain that full time. Labor pain is like the last hour of the marathon, but for a much longer period of time.

Other differences: In a marathon you can adjust your pace or even stop if needed. You don’t have much control over labor. And you don’t know how long it is going to be. During my marathons, I’ve definitely thought, “I’m never doing one of these again.” But I’ve never thought about quitting. Labor was much scarier. I am sad to say that I think I would have quit if I had been given the opportunity. It is definitely hard to remember and compare pain, but I do know that I was thinking I would much rather be running a marathon than trying to push out a baby. But of course, a sweet, little baby is a much better prize than a medal!

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Don’t worry. I don’t actually sleep with the baby like this. We were just lounging.

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You can see LOTS more photos of Kenneth in his Flickr album.

Introducing…


Kenneth Gunner Johnson!

January 8th, 2015 – 6:41 pm

7 pounds, 8.6 ounces

20 inches long

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Wow. We are in love. Ken is already five days old an we’ve been having a magical time with him. (It is going too fast!) His birth was early, fast, and intense, but I’ll save that story for a future post. He is healthy and sweet and adorable. We are amazed and thrilled that he is ours.

If you want even more photos, you can see LOTS in Ken’s Flickr album.