PPD

The fall of 2019 was a hard season. Ears deep in a mountain of personal turmoil, I was also struggling to bond with my one month old baby. In hindsight, I can attribute that struggle to many things (like his NICU admission/experience), but I’m lying if I don’t say that amidst all that was going on, I had become one of the ten percent of women who experience postpartum depression.

10.28.19

“I think I’m finally in a place where I can admit I’m having some postpartum depression…

The fall of 2019 was a hard season. Ears deep in a mountain of personal turmoil, I was also struggling to bond with my one month old baby. In hindsight, I can attribute that struggle to many things (like his NICU admission/experience), but I’m lying if I don’t say that amidst all that was going on, I had become one of the ten percent of women who experience postpartum depression.

In regards to our baby, things were going fine. Win was eating and growing and sleeping and being so cute. He was fussy a lot, but babies are like that some times, so we gave him grace.

It took me several weeks of feeling “not myself” before putting two and two together and calling a spade a spade. I’d always known postpartum depression was common, but now I know it’s a misnomer as well. I didn’t feel depressed. I had no urges to hurt my baby like they say you’re going to feel. I felt extremely anxious and indecisive and nowhere near as though my son was an extension of myself.

When I forgot to pack my daughter’s blankie for Grandpa and Grandma’s house, I literally could not decide if I should drive it over there before nap time. When my son’s flailing arms and legs were getting in the way of a middle-of-the-night diaper change, I had a panic attack. I was constantly counting down the time I had left on maternity, completely freaked out about whether or not I would be able to return to work a functioning adult. I was tired all the time – no matter the amount of sleep our kids allowed us at night.

I was rational much of the time, but I knew I was being irrational in every irrational moment I had. I just could not, for the life of me, flip the switch to rational. Some days were fine. Others were nightmares. Not many were all that great.

I danced around the words “postpartum depression” for a few weeks, telling my husband, “I’m just not myself,” and putting on a happy face for everyone else.

Depression? Not me. I would never!

But admitting to myself that maybe something is wrong right now (and will be ok again some day when I’m a little more postpartum), and maybe what people call this doesn’t actually sound like what it is, and maybe, even if it did sound like what it is, that would be ok, too – was a huge first step in the direction I needed to go.

It took me a while to say the words to myself. It took me longer to say them to my husband. But naming what was going on, opened up a level of acceptance of myself that cracked the door to healing.

“I don’t want to miss out on these times because I’m hormonally imbalanced. I just want to enjoy and love on my kiddos.”

In the stats: 
Adjusted Age: 2 weeks
Actual Age: 5 weeks, 3 days

2020 in 2020: A Bonus Biking Post

Ride 2020 miles in 2020? Check!

As of October 17, I completed 2020 miles in the year 2020! If you’re like me, you might be curious as to how those 2020 miles broke down statistically, so…

It took me 291 days total, averaging 6.9 miles per day though I took 68 days off, averaging 9.1 miles per ride.
When counting miles per day, I only ever rounded down and, while my average might give the appearance of otherwise, I ended every single day at an even number count of miles. 9.5 mile ride? That would have been counted as 8 miles. Go ahead, call me superstitious, but we’re all a little crazy somewhere.
I rode a total of 240 rides, 163 indoor + 77 outdoor with 43 “Burley Rides” as we call them in our house.
Of the 2020, 1391 miles were indoors, 629 miles were outdoors, and 333 miles were “Burley Rides”, which brings me to my next argument…

Burley Rides with both kids means, I’m pulling approximately 55lbs behind me on said ride. While I did not inflate my mileage to take this into account, I think it’s worth doing the math to accommodate for the extra work. 55lbs is a certain percentage of my weight. If we times my Burley Ride miles by, say, 1.4, it’s really like I rode 466.2 miles instead of 333, which would have given me a total of 2153 miles and had me finishing 2020 in 2020 on October 2.

Regardless, some of my notable rides along the way:
Win took his very first Burley ride on April 3 and Oaklee held his hand and wiped up his spit to help him through it.
Oaklee rode alongside me for 2 miles on her balance bike on May 23. This was my shortest ride. It was also my sweetest.
I rode my half-way ride (1010 miles) on Memorial Day.
I got my very first flat tire on July 11 and the good Lord sent a more than equipped stranger to the right place at the right time who helped me, my kid, my bike and my Burley get home.
On August 23, we left our old house for our last time on bike, riding 6 miles to our new house.
I rode my longest ride on Labor Day (24 miles).
And, of course, I rode my last 2 miles on October 17.

On October 17 I celebrated with champagne, a Barbie cake and a 4 person awards presentation (my husband, my kids and me). A co-worker of mine bought me the most perfect medal. And while my true gift to myself hasn’t arrived yet (a silver ring with a bike on it), finally ordering the Barbie cake I’ve wanted for like 23 years was pretty sweet (though the cake itself was not sweet – it was everything I ever dreamed of until I took a bite – quite possibly the worst tasting cake I have ever tasted – utterly inedible – there’s $35 I’ll never get back).

Before we talk about what’s next, for your enjoyment, my acceptance speech:

It is an honor to accept the award I am 100% presenting myself today. I’ve dreamed of this award literally for decades and finally deemed it well deserved after such a feat as biking 2020 miles this year. This milestone would not have been possible without the help of many others, so allow me to take a moment to thank those who’ve helped me along the way.

I first have to thank the Lord for giving me a body I can use, a community I can explore, and the safety and health to complete such an endeavor as this. I also have to thank and attribute much of my accomplishment to the support and occasional neglect of my husband, Kevin. To my children, their stuffed animals and dolls for literally being along for the ride whether they excitedly jumped into the Burley en route to the playground or were lured in with snacks. To my parents for teaching me to ride a bike and then buying me the bike 12 years ago that I still ride today. To my high school cheer experience that formed me into a goal setter/getter. To the guy who took me, my kid, my bike and my Burley home when we were were stranded with a flat tire. To the owners of the ponies on Barry St and the owner of the goats on Quincy who provided above par pit stops for my kids. To Ms. Whitmer for never shutting down sidewalks, trails and roads (too soon? 😬). To the books that kept me company on my indoor rides. To every friend and family member who checked in or encouraged me along the way – you may have thought your words were small, but they were fuel.

When I set out to ride 2020 miles this year, I had no idea when or if I would actually finish it. So today, I’m honestly surprised to be celebrating two months early. Many have assumed I have always been an avid biker. This is untrue. My bike is nothing special. It’s never been “tuned up”. Last year, I probably rode 300 miles max. The only special biking gear I have is a helmet (though I did have to buy biking shorts because chafing – ow). I fought hard to make today happen and I ran into many challenges along the way. From knee pain, to a flat tire, to a shutdown that made it almost impossible to find time away from my kids to ride, to major life changes like moving, I had to rework plans, go with the flow, be persistent, multitask, take breaks and find ways to make it happen in times it felt like it might not.

If you journeyed along with me this year and thought, “I could do that,” I would say DO IT. And if you journeyed along with me and thought, I could never do that, I would say you’re probably right. The difference is, undoubtedly, thinking you can.

So today I celebrate accomplishment. This wasn’t about changing my body or testing it. It was about taking time for myself, showing my kids what healthy habits look like, practicing dedication to a task, and accomplishing goals. Ride 2020 miles in 2020? Check! Now onto the cake I’ve been waiting 23 years to eat…

So I’m done. A lot of people have been asking, “Now what?” I still have two months in 2020, am I just done? In short, no. But up until this point I’d been prioritizing biking over other areas of my life, and I don’t feel a need to continue in that trajectory. I also need some time to recover. Two days before the end, I fell down our stairs and hurt my knee (why do we still do this as adults?). Having already ordered the Barbie cake, I had to finish 14 miles at a time when I should have realistically rested. I’ll go easy for a couple of weeks now, riding when it sounds nice instead of riding to cross an item off my to-do list, and then I’ll jump back in and see where I end the year at.

As far as next year, will I continue riding? Absolutely. Part of this process was simply about forming a healthy habit. I once realized that if I want to be fit forever, I need to have realistic fitness goals. Do I think I’ll run a marathon at 50? Probably not. But could I ride my bike for 20 miles at 50? I sure hope so. So I’ll continue leaning into this healthy habit, but I might not as meticulously track my mileage and every detail along the way. We’ve got other plans for 2021, and I honestly cannot wait for those to begin panning out.

It’s been an amazing 10 months in regards to biking. The goal getter side of me is sad that it’s over, but my biking journey as a whole will never truly be over. Cheers to this experience, to celebration, and to goal achievement! I’ll keep you posted on where I end the year at.

Slightly Monumental

In the world of premature babies, there are preemies, and then there are PREEMIES. My son is a preemie. My daughter is a PREEMIE. As the parent of a PREEMIE, we often struggle to consider other preemies “true preemies”. When other parents want to relate to (or commiserate on) our experience of a premature birth, it’s hard to engage in a conversation of two experiences that are so vastly different.

10.14.19

“It’s Win’s due date. It seems much less monumental to me because he’s never seemed like a preemie.

In the world of premature babies, there are preemies, and then there are PREEMIES. My son is a preemie. My daughter is a PREEMIE. As the parent of a PREEMIE, we often struggle to consider other preemies “true preemies”. When other parents want to relate to (or commiserate on) our experience of a premature birth, it’s hard to engage in a conversation of two experiences that are so vastly different. Statistically speaking, of the 10% of babies who happen to be born premature only about 6% are born before 28 weeks. So for every premature kid (born before 37 weeks gestation) we meet, only about 1 in 167 of them can understand what this was like for us. (And yes, we have met some.)

While I’m grateful my kids will forever be bonded by their premature births, they are the perfect example of those vastly different experiences. I’m incredibly grateful my son did not have to undergo the experience his sister did. After his brief NICU visit, he came home a pretty normal baby. By his two week checkup, he weighed in at 8lbs, 2oz – a very respectable weight for a two week old baby.

At this age, my daughter was still receiving milliliters of breastmilk – not ounces – through a nasogastric tube. Win, on the other hand, was eating like a champ. He knew when he was hungry (and boy, was that often), and he ate as much as he wanted. I didn’t have to set alarms to wake us up in the middle of the night to remind him to eat and grow. I didn’t have to count the minutes he spent breastfeeding to know he was getting enough. I didn’t have to pump, bottle feed and record to the nearest milliliter how much he’d taken. I didn’t have to track wet and dirty diapers to confirm his output was good. Win was an eater. He was a big boy. There was a certain side of anxiety I did not have to experience this time around, and that felt so good.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 40 weeks
Actual Age: 3 weeks, 3 days

September’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Books

35. Find Layla by Meg Elison (Young Adult, Contemporary)
I have a soft spot for underprivileged kids, so I knew this book would get me. An Amazon First Reads choice, I finished this short, emotion-packed book quickly on my Kindle. Though the story is fictional, the situation Layla faces is too common for kids. Layla basically raises herself without being given any tools to succeed in doing so. And still, she thrives. While I would never expect someone in her situation to thrive, this story gave me hope for those who do find themselves there. 4 STARS

36. When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald (Young Adult, Contemporary)
This was a former Book of the Month choice of mine. I wanted to believe it was going to be similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, but nope. While it was a fine book, it felt boring for too long before we got into the thick of the story. I think the story had a lot of potential had it taken off sooner. I loved the point of view, and maybe that played into the boring-ness of it even, but it still just missed something. 3 STARS

37. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger (Historical Fiction, Coming of Age)
Think Huck Finn in every way, but put him in the 1930s. This book has all the makings of a modern classic. A coming of age novel, it closely reflected themes Mark Twain clung to. I loved each section in its own unique way. The thoughts Odie had felt real and genuine. The big inner concepts he grapples with on his journey were real things boys (and girls) face and the author did such a good job of getting into the right frame of mind with this character. They story felt so real. I didn’t always have it placed in the right time frame while reading it because it felt so Huck Finn-y, but that might just go to show that stories on these topics are timeless. Some things never change. 5 STARS

38. Dream Big by Bob Goff (Inspirational Nonfiction, Christian)
This particular genre is not my preferred genre, but when the nonprofit I work for got Bob Goff to agree to speak at our virtual conference, I offered to read his newest book and comb through it for little useful tidbits here and there for our social media approach to promoting our conference. Here’s the thing, though. I think I already dream big. The whole point of this book is to get you to take steps towards your ambitions. I’m 38 books into my 40 book goal and less than 150 miles from my goal of riding 2020 miles this year… and it’s only the end of September. I’ve never really had a problem with dreaming big. I’m a goal setter AND a goal getter. This book just wasn’t written for me. But… I did appreciate his sense of humor. Stay tuned for more Bob Goff thoughts because he has more books and I have more work. 3 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike. (And I think that’s the last time I can say “onward” because the end is near…)

This month I made my longest ride – 24 miles, taking turns with my husband, pulling the kiddos. My husband and I rode, on Labor Day, from our house to Upper Macatawa Natural Area in Zeeland, through the trails, and back home, stopping just to give the kiddos a break from the Burley and to make lunch out of a gas station pit stop. In this stage of life, that will likely be my longest ride. And I’m honestly shocked we pulled it off. That’s a long time for the kids to be in the Burley. In fact, Win threw up afterward from the swaying and bumping of the ride. Oops.

My current total: 1878

587 of those miles having been outside (303 of them pulling a kid).

Hope you had a great September!

Home Again

Approximately 36 hours after the approximately 36 hour NICU stay, we were discharged to go home. By that point, we couldn’t wait to get out of there, but the 36 hours between the NICU and home were not exactly uneventful. It’s not as though we were bored.

9.23.19

“My babies are sleeping under the same roof…

Approximately 36 hours after the approximately 36 hour NICU stay, we were discharged to go home. By that point, we couldn’t wait to get out of there, but the 36 hours between the NICU and home were not exactly uneventful. It’s not as though we were bored.

Both sets of grandparents had come to meet Win while he was still in the NICU. Post-NICU discharge, we spent two more nights at the hospital. By night two, a little problem had escalated and robbed us of really any sleep at all.

On the 22nd, we had three groups of visitors – some friends and two of our siblings/spouses. Somewhere in the midst of visitor group two, my body decided it was going to feed an army. I had had a breastmilk overproduction issue with my daughter but, exclusively pumping at the time, it was relatively easy to manage and resolve in time for her to catch on to breastfeeding at six months old. This time around I was set on skipping the exclusive pumping bit. Win had been doing great with nursing any attempt he’d made since birth. But then this.

It’s not uncommon for a mother’s milk to take a few days to come in (especially in the event of a premature birth). It doesn’t even usually come in regulated in the perfect amount for baby at the perfect times he/she needs to eat. But in literally a matter of an hour, on day two, I found myself uncommonly engorged. I was swollen, rock hard to my collar bones. I was recovering from a surgery that extracted a 7lb baby from my body, but I was begging for pain meds that could alleviate the situation in my chest. We called on the lactation consultant (LC) who began putting together a plan for me. We strapped diapers packed with ice to my chest, which I wore during visitor group three because I couldn’t fathom attempting to suck this up for the sake of my pride.

The level of engorgement was beyond belief. The LC acknowledged that this was one of the worst cases she’d ever seen. I began worrying that this might cause irreversible damage to a part of my body I would be relying on so heavily in the many months to come. Could I actually pop? I needed to get this under control fast.

After our visitors left, I began a power-pumping approach – 15 minutes pumping, 15 minutes icing, 15 minutes pumping, 15 minutes icing. I was encouraged to do this for hours until I began to see progress. The LC feared that if we didn’t remove the milk, I would face a more serious issue – mastitis. I’d briefly experienced mastitis with my daughter, and while I did not want to land there again, I also knew from my experience with my daughter that my body tends to quickly replace every drop of milk I remove.

Breastfeeding works by supply and demand. If you’re fortunate to be able to breastfeed well, your body will supply the breastmilk your baby demands. So when we introduced our middle man, the pump, it was as if I was asking my over-eager body to supply milk for the demands of Win and the pump. I dutifully did as I was told for approximately one hour. Not only was I experiencing excruciating pain, but I was also dealing with extreme doubt. There was no way this approach could work for me.

I eased up on pumping that evening, only pumping when I could no longer handle the pain and needed even just the mental relief of withdrawing milk from my overstuffed breasts. We closed our eyes that night in failed attempts to sleep many times. Around midnight, I woke up from a three to five minute slumber in a panic attack. My chest hurt so bad, but I couldn’t sit up to communicate it because my incision was also painful. And so I sobbed, my breath escaping me in exhaustive shallow blows, my heart pounding, my body sweating. I thought I was going to throw up, but I didn’t want the muscles that had just been rearranged to make way for a baby to have go through those motions.

Once calmed down, I decided the hospital was not the place for me. I’d taken care of engorgement on my own before, and I could do it again. I needed to be home. I needed to be away from the LC who didn’t know how to handle my situation, the nurses who woke us up for various checks, the bed that wasn’t mine. I needed to be able to relax – to be comfortable. If I could just stick it out until the morning, then I would become another cog in another wheel.

And I made it to the morning. We had the pediatrician circumcise Win and approve his discharge to go home. We pushed our nurse (one I’d met during my stay two years prior during my pregnancy for my daughter) to get my discharge going. And then we, our baby, and the 100 or so ounces I’d already pumped were off. We drove home and were soon reunited with our daughter.

Being home didn’t immediately alleviate my engorgement. I continued to ice and pump when necessary, but it gave me hope. We were a family of four. But now our life as a family of four could begin. My babies were sleeping under the same roof. We were home. Again.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 37 weeks
Actual Age: 3 days

The Cog in the Wheel

When Oaklee rounded the corner to lay eyes on her brother for the first time, I completely lost it. The height of this moment was everything: my “big” NICU grad meeting her brother for the very first time as a NICU patient himself. I was so happy to see her. I was sad to see her in the NICU. I was excited to show her new baby brother to her. I was flooded with emotions. 

9.21.19

“It’s frustrating to have this start. We’re exhausted and angry, making for a stressful situation on top of a stressful situation.

If I learned anything in my first NICU experience, it’s that you have to be an advocate for your child. There are times when you might actually know what’s better for your child than the nurse or doctor who gets paid to know what’s best – to make decisions about and care for your child.

So at 7:00pm on the 20th, almost 12 hours after he was born, when I was finally allowed to hold and feed my baby, I told the nurse I forbid bottles. Bottles make feeds easier on babies. I didn’t believe Win needed the easy route. He would eat, and he would eat from me. And if I wasn’t there because my own recovery required me to be in a different building, she would have to call me back. She would have to call me back at 7:00pm, at 10:00pm, at midnight, at 3:00am, at 6:30am. Oh, she would be seeing a lot of me.

I vowed to be the cog in the wheel. I was not along for the ride this time. We made it very clear that we did not feel our son needed to be in the NICU. We would not be playing their game.

Had Win’s initial blood sugar not been an issue, we would have skipped over the close monitoring that comes with the cords and sensors of NICU life. We would have never known he was slightly tachyneic. We would have never known his blood sugar was dipping into questionable territory and rising every few hours. His little heals would not have had to be poked. He would not have needed an IV, pumping him full of man-made “nutrients”. We could have held him skin-to-skin sooner. He could have relaxed with us instead of being on his own his first hours in this bright, cold, scary world. And his sister wouldn’t have had to go back to the very NICU she started in to meet her brother.

It’s not as though Oaklee would remember anything about the NICU, but I knew seeing her there again would be hard for me. We put off her visit the first 24 hours, hoping to be out of there before she met her brother, but it was starting to feel like she needed to come despite our location.

When Oaklee rounded the corner to lay eyes on her brother for the first time, I completely lost it. The height of this moment was everything: my “big” NICU grad meeting her brother for the very first time as a NICU patient himself. I was so happy to see her. I was sad to see her in the NICU. I was excited to show her new baby brother to her. I was flooded with emotions.

She leaned over and gave me the stuffed monkey I’d bought for her to bring to Win. She tickled his toes. She kissed his forehead. She was quiet and confused and observant.

And we were a family of four.

Hours later Win got the okay to be discharged. He teetered on the edge with his blood sugars, but I truly believe they saw our determination and knew that we knew he’d be fine. We exhaustedly waited for our escort back to the other building, and settled in by about 10:00pm for whatever sleep we could get.

We’d done it. We got him out of the NICU. We may not have come off as the most patient, the most understanding, the most gracious people. But we just wanted what everyone wants. We wanted to snuggle and love on and be with our newborn son. And we’d seen enough in the past to know that he could not only handle that, but probably benefit from it, too.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 36 weeks, 5 days
Actual Age: 1 day

The Kiss

For probably 20-30 minutes, there was a back-and-forth whisper of whether or not Win would go to the NICU. But my husband and I knew this territory all too well. He would go. It’s an easy place to get into. And once you’re in, it’s hard to get out.

9.20.19

“How quickly we went from over-the-moon happy to pissed.

A continuation of C-Section in 4 Min.

It was 8:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2019. As I clung to my minutes-old baby, safe and warm on my chest, the nurses buzzed around us testing, whispering, questioning.

Winslow’s blood sugar was dangerously low – 18 mg/dL – an automatic admission to the NICU. I think I physically felt my spirit drop through the floor. How quickly we went from over-the-moon happy to just pissed off. After a glucose gel failed to instantly raise his blood sugar, the nurses suggested formula for an extra boost. He was an hour old and I had a bottle of formula thrusted in my face to feed him (a route I’d never intended to take). Win did what I didn’t have the guts to do – refused. But then the nurse suggested we force the formula into him and began explaining the process of a nasogastric tube for a gavage feeding. I was honestly offended as she flooded my mind with painful memories of my daughter’s first months. “We’re familiar,” I cut her off with the only couple of words I could manage to get out.

For probably 20-30 minutes, there was a back-and-forth whisper of whether or not Win would go to the NICU. But my husband and I knew this territory all too well. He would go. It’s an easy place to get into. And once you’re in, it’s hard to get out.

At last the call was made; Win would be admitted. And before I knew it, some stranger was holding my baby near my face asking if I wanted to give a kiss goodbye. Again. No, I didn’t want to give a kiss goodbye. Because I didn’t want to have to say goodbye. I wanted to snuggle my baby and enjoy that moment with my husband. But that infamous kiss sealed the deal again. A stranger walked away with my baby again. I sat in the recovery room without a baby again. My desires for my baby and me were stripped from me again. Someone else got to make the decisions about my baby again.

It was hard not to be disappointed in my son despite the fact that he not only did nothing wrong, but the situation was also just so far beyond the control of a human, let alone one who is minutes old. However, phrases were thrown out like, “If he could just get his blood sugar up,” pinning the pressure on him as if raising his blood sugar was something he could do on command. To say he was “failing” tests implied he was in a situation where, if he just tried a little harder, he might succeed. The language, in this moment, was unfair. It set the tone of my initial relationship with my son. And then the actions came into play. They took my son away from me, and they brought him to a place I loathed and essentially kept me hostage in another building, waiting on an incision check, before allowing me to see him but telling me I couldn’t hold him or feed him.

Post-cesarean, you have to prove silly things like your ability to pee, walk and eat before you can leave your room. When your baby is in a different building than you, that means you have to prove you can pee, walk and eat before being with your baby. Never in my life have I been more motivated to pee, walk and eat. Get. It. Over. With. I need to go get my son out of there.

Within his first hour in the NICU, Win’s blood sugar stabilized, but then he became a bit tachypneic. Had he not been sent to the NICU for his blood sugar, his minor tachypnea (something many people experience without ever noticing) would have gone unnoticed. We were smack dab in the middle of the viscous cycle we begged God to help us avoid.

“Feels kind of like he just needs his mom if you ask me… I think Win went in at a point where he could have done better with us than in the NICU.”

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 36 weeks, 4 days
Actual Age: 0 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 11
Ultrasounds: 4
Makena Injections: 19

C-Section in 4 Min

It was 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2019. My husband and I grabbed our bags, headed to our car, and quietly slipped out of our neighborhood. As we drove the mostly empty highway toward the hospital, we tried to predict the size of a 36 week baby. Would he be big enough to host lungs that could keep his little body going without help?

9.20.19

“As I walked into the non-emergency entrance to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning for the birth of our son, I glanced at my phone. ‘C-Section in 4 min.’ The moment felt too simple. In 4 minutes, I would check in with the nurse waiting for me. I’d change into my hospital gown and meet with my doctor and anesthesiologist. I’d walk into the operating room, and after a quick procedure, I’d come out with a son.

It was 5:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2019. My husband and I grabbed our bags, headed to our car, and quietly slipped out of our neighborhood. As we drove the mostly empty highway toward the hospital, we tried to predict the size of a 36 week baby. Would he be big enough to host lungs that could keep his little body going without help?

We parked our car in the parking ramp we were told to use and walked towards the door. I glanced at my phone. “C-Section in 4 min,” my calendar reminder read as if this were as simple as a dentist appointment or dinner party. I took a screenshot as I took in the weight of this moment. These 4 minutes, these are the final moments. We walked through those doors as 2. We’d walk out as 3.

As we walked the hall to OB Triage, the woman at the end was waiting for us. Expecting us, she knew my name. She checked me in and led us to the room we were to get prepared in. I changed into my gown, put my hairnet on, had my IV started, chatted with the nurses, my doctor, the anesthesiologist…

As 7:30am rolled around, I walked with my nurse into the operating room. I hoisted myself onto the table. My doctor held my hand as the anesthesiologist administered lidocaine and then my spinal that was literally over before I knew it. They helped me lay down, brought my husband in and got to work.

One labor and delivery team, the anesthesiologist, a NICU Nurse Practitioner (just in case) and my husband. Together, we brought my son into the world less than 20 minutes after the procedure began. As the doctor removed him from my womb, he cried. And I cried. Because I forgot that was a thing healthy babies would do at birth. He cried. He had breath in his lungs. He was doing it.

The doctor held up my son for me to see. Through my tears I took in his tiny, scrunched up face. His long arms and big hands. His pinkness. My boy. There he was.

They measured him, assessed him, wrapped him up and handed him to my husband who held him by my face as the doctor finished her part with me. And then the three of us made our way to my recovery room, and I was finally handed my son. Winslow – Win – we snuggled skin-to-skin. He filled his tiny belly up with milk as I filled my big heart up with love.

It was 8:00am on Thursday, September 20, 2019.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 36 weeks, 4 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 11
Ultrasounds: 4
Makena Injections: 19

The Final Hours

we buttoned up any project we had left, packed our bags and took Oaklee out to ice cream to cherish our final moments as a family of 3 before dropping her off at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. We drove home to an eerily quiet house – one chock full of a palpable anticipation of the events coming the next morning. 

9.19.19

“Taking a hot second to try to breathe and reflect in the middle of a crazy week. Tomorrow, we will have a son. We will become a family of four. Oaklee will have a brother. I’ve got all the emotions. I’m mourning the loss of Oaklee’s only childness. I’m anxious about the procedure and baby boy’s development and overall health. I’m trying to soak in what could potentially be my final hours of ever being pregnant. I’m thinking about the nursing journey ahead – a journey I just concluded with Oaklee only 4 months ago. I’m wrapping things up at work and at home. I can’t believe this day is here. I can’t believe we made it. I honestly thought we wouldn’t.

I have no idea what to expect of these next 3-4 days. I don’t know what to pack. I don’t know what the procedure or recovery will be like. I don’t know how Oaklee will do away from us or when she comes home to a baby brother. I don’t know what our hospital visits will be like…

But I feel like I’ve done everything I can to prepare ourselves for this. For the most part, I’m ready. We will figure out anything we didn’t prepare for, and we’ll make accommodations there. We’ll be fine.

Praying for a safe, healthy and happy arrival of baby boy… TOMORROW.”

On the 19th, we buttoned up any project we had left, packed our bags and took Oaklee out to ice cream to cherish our final moments as a family of 3 before dropping her off at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. We drove home to an eerily quiet house – one chock full of a palpable anticipation of the events coming the next morning. 

We turned in early that night – attempting to get any sleep we could before our lives changed at the crack of dawn.

We’d made it. Our baby would be born on the day agreed upon by us and our doctor. He’d be early, sure, but he’d be as late as possible.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 36 weeks, 3 days
Doctor’s Appointments: 11
Ultrasounds: 4
Makena Injections: 19

August’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.


Books

30. Circe by Madeline Miller (Fantasy, Mythology)
100% this was me trying to be all intellectual and well-exposed to all the genres. I have never liked mythology. It’s always felt old, staunch, boring to me. And, well, Circe was no different. I can’t say I regret the experience I had of pushing myself, but this was a definite challenge to get through. I feel like I could have read a synopsis of Circe’s story and skipped the book. 2 STARS

31. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson (Historical Fiction)
This little highly rated book tackles topics of identity, class, education, parenthood, generational expectations and more. But while it’s a heavy hitter, I really struggled with the writing style. The book jumps around, focusing on the coming-of-age ceremony of 16-year-old Melody, but exploring her family history as well. I found it difficult at times to know when we were in what time-frame and who we were talking about. However, I loved the emphasis on Melody’s comparison to her mother who, at 16, gave birth to Melody and did not have her “coming-of-age” ceremony. 3 STARS

32. The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin (Chick Lit, Contemporary)
I was so unexcited by this choice of book by my book club. Emily Giffin has always just seemed ok to me – light, chick lit, airy, cute – I’m just looking for more right now in a book. The first half or so was everything I expected of it. However, the further it got, the more solid the plot lines were for me. I pretty automatically dock a star on any book that references pop culture in a way that limits its ability to be timeless, and references such as those were very frequent in this book. There were things that made me roll my eyes, but then September 11 happened in the book and things got serious and the story got real. 3.5 STARS

33. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Non-Fiction, Memoir, Race)
This book is not new, but it speaks so strongly into what we’re facing in our country right now in regards to race, that it felt as if Coates wrote it just a month ago. A letter from a black man to his son, this book dives into the history of our country and shockingly confronts the reality of why growing up black is different from growing up white. I think every middle- and upper-class white American should read this book. It might make you feel uncomfortable. It might make you cry. But it’s probably time that us comfortable, happy whites learn what it feels like to be uncomfortable and saddened for our black brothers, sisters, children, neighbors… For me, the greatest conviction was that of my chasing the white Dream. I cannot say I am not doing this, for we are programmed to do it. We are taught from a very young age that we are to aspire to one day live in a beautiful home with our perfect family and work at our steady, overly-sufficient jobs and be happy as fricken clams. This had come to my attention shortly before reading this book as I moved into my new, semi-rural, cul de sac neighborhood. I felt both a sense of a arrival and a sense of shame. Who am I to deserve this? Who am I to even want this? And while I grappled with those questions, the concept of race could not be ignored. I am chasing my white dream. I am chasing the white Dream. It will take me time to come to terms with this and to learn how to compensate for where I feel my lifestyle might be wrong, but reading books like this, I believe, are imperative for any of us to make a change. Some quotes, because I just can’t hold back this beauty:

“… enslavement is not a parable. It is damnation. It is the never-ending night. And the length of that night is most of our history. Never forget that we were enslaved in this country longer than we have been free. Never forget that for 250 years black people were born into chains—whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains.”

“The galaxy belonged to them (whites), and as terror was communicated to our children, I saw mastery communicated to theirs.”

“And she [the mother of a highly intelligent, murdered by police, black young adult] could not lean on her country for help. When it came to her son, Dr. Jones’s country did what it does best—it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world. I am convinced that the Dreamers, at least the Dreamers of today, would rather live white than live free.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

At times the book was so high-level that I had to re-read portions, that is why I’m not giving it full marks, but this book is not only worth your time, it should be a priority for you. 4.5 STARS

34. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (Fantasy, Young Adult)
Back from my HP hiatus, I tackled this chunker via audiobook during my move, and 870 pages later… I think I made the right choice (though I could use an arm workout I suppose). But the content: what even happened in this, the 5th, book? Probably 700 pages of this were just meh. The last bit was great, and interesting, and I can only imagine that the reason for this being the longest book yet the shortest movie is because the movie really only had content from the last 170 pages to work with. I’m enjoying the HP process, because, this far into, I know these characters and care about them, and want to know where they’re going, but I can’t help but realize that each book has a similar flow and many of their several hundred pages are kind of pointless. 3 STARS


Biking

And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

My current total: 1662

498 of those miles having been outside (257 of them pulling a kid).

This month held an extra special ride as we made our final departure from our old house via bikes. We looped around our favorite trail one last time and then went the 5 miles to our new house.

And now, our new neighborhood taps into a trail system I have already (slightly) begun to love! It’s challenging to ride more than 10 miles max because I am always on a kid’s napping/eating schedule, but I cannot wait to get on that trail and seriously take off one day.

Hope you had a great August! Stay healthy everyone (ugh, why are we still telling people that? 2020 is over halfway done)!