30 September 2015

The Birth Story of Bennett

Warning!! This is all about Bennett's birth. Like, ALL about it. Since this blog is a scrapbook of sorts, and since I think the birth of my baby is the best thing I've ever done, I'm sharing. But, I know that if it wasn't my baby, I might be a little squeamish. So if that's you, or if you'd rather just skip to the part when the happy and healthy baby Bennett arrived, then read this post instead!

Having a baby when you already have a baby and when your husband isn't home is hard. But Bennett's birth was one of the best moments of my life. I'm so grateful for a positive, peaceful experience of bringing our baby to meet us!

I refuse to begin this blog post in any other way than introducing you to Katie. I had a difficult delivery and long recovery after Eli's birth, so I was a little nervous doing it again only 15 months later. I was set on getting a doula this time, and from our first coffee meeting, I knew Katie was my girl! Having her with me was one of the best decisions I've ever made. She took the time in the weeks before the birth to get to know our family and me and was with us every step of the way. She is a significant part of why Bennett's story is so beautiful.

It was a week before Bennett's due date, and I was about to go to bed. Eli was asleep in his crib, and I was thinking about how different life was going to be with two babies. It was increasingly difficult to take care of Eli with my giant belly, and while I knew the baby being on the outside would present many new challenges, I was ready for a change. I wasn't sleeping, I couldn't carry Eli across a room- let alone up our stairs- without getting winded, and forget about crouching down to give him baths. I couldn't play in the floor with him without wondering how I was going to get up again. I was over it. And while I had no idea how I would do any of those in the weeks recovering post-delivery or nursing a newborn, but I figured I would cross that bridge when I got there. So, that night, as I got into bed, I massaged my ankles with clary calm essential oil blend, knowing that the pressure and the oil could help start labor if Bennett was ready. And I was sure, at 39 weeks and with my mama instincts, that he was.

I woke up about 2am having contractions. I had Braxton Hicks for the past two months, but these were different. Still, I knew it was possibly false labor. For one thing, they weren't nearly as intense as the contractions I started out with when Eli was on his way. Secondly, because I had used ankle pressure and clary clam, I knew it was possible to have some strong contracting without actually being in labor. I started timing the pains, breathing down, and using positions to work with them. They were pretty consistent, so I texted my doula at 3am to give her a heads up. I also texted Hubs. Since my night was his day, I knew he would be at work. I wanted to have a text waiting that he should contact me when he came back to his room.

I tried to lay back down and go to sleep knowing I might not be getting a whole lot of that in the near future. I was also really hoping to let Eli sleep in his crib for as long as possible. (And my friend, Amanda, was going to keep Eli, and she would have to get her two young girls out of bed to come get him.) I rested for a while but got up again after about an hour because I just kinda knew this was it. I took a shower, ate, and made sure I had everything packed while the contractions started getting stronger. I also turned on the TV for a distraction. I think it was HGTV. I just remember giggling at all the "Labor Day" sales commercials. The contractions kept growing, and I texted Katie to come over. Hubs had gotten back with me too, so I told him I was definitely in labor. Katie and Amanda both arrived at 6:30am. I rode with Amanda to the hospital and Katie followed. I was pretty emotional saying bye to Eli. I had never left him for that long, and it was the last time it would be just us two. I wondered how he would react and adjust to the new guy. I just couldn't wait to see those brothers together!

That right there could tell you just how different this labor was from the last one. I could think about stuff. And be excited about things! The last time I came to the hospital in labor, I was doubled over a chair and just screamed when the janitor asked if I was ok while Hubs was at the ER desk being asked questions he didn't know the answer to. This time, when the random person outside the hospital doors (who ended up being my doctor!) asked if I was ok, I smiled and said, "yep, just having a baby!" I can still picture breathing through a contraction in the hallway, just me and Katie, as the doors to L&D opened. The last time, I was wheeled in, terrified and yelling in pain. This time I breathed through, walked myself into my room about 7am, and settled in for the long haul. I felt seasoned. I felt so at peace. I felt ready. The first thing we did, as the hospital staff was getting everything prepared, was check out phone service and internet connection. It was tricky, but we made a plan with Hubs for how and when to connect. Everyone was so calm and positive and kind to each other. My nurse, Felicia, and was amazing. Katie and Felicia both have the most positive and approachable personalities. The three of us made a great team from the very beginning.

I had talked through my birth plan so many times with Katie, and she knew exactly what my concerns and hopes were for this time around. I wanted to do a few things differently than with Eli. Basically, I focused on preventing the worst parts about my first delivery and, consequently, my extremely long recovery. (With Hubs deployed and two babies under one and a half years old, I couldn't afford to be immobile, medicated, and miserable for three months.) Otherwise, I knew I couldn't control how this all went and would truly going to be happy with however this little human decided to come meet us. But I could still make educated decisions so that I could play a more active part in labor and have a voice in the process. So I narrowed down my birth plan to just the essentials. I could not have asked for it to go any better than it did, and the only thing I would change is Hubs being there.

I really wanted to try laboring in water, so that's the first thing we did after getting a stint put in and the initial baby monitoring. I labored in the tub for several hours. It was a dream. The water assisted gravity, and it really did alleviate a great deal of the pressure. Katie said I sang through contractions. (Not like singing songs- more like controlled breathing by humming really low.) I was in the zone and even fell asleep a few times.

I decided I wanted out because the contractions were getting very strong and I was getting antsy. You know that weird, warm, clammy feeling you get after being in a hot tub too long? I was also starting to get scared because I was having a harder time managing the pain and knew I needed to switch it up. As soon as the water was drained, I felt 100 lbs heavier, and my fears were confirmed. The next contraction hit me like a train. The anesthesiologist had come to my room to have me sign forms a few minutes earlier "just in case". I told him not to go anywhere.

They checked my progress and I was at 7cm. I got the epidural at around 11:45am and was able to relax. I had been laboring for almost 10 hours and was so proud of coming this far. I was working with my body and doing everything Katie and I knew to help Bennett on his way. And, at that point, the epidural was the best choice because I was tired. I had started feeling very scared and the pain was taking over and I needed a break. I knew, especially without hubs there, that I would need my energy when Bennett arrived.

After taking some time to stabilize my blood pressure, Katie went to the waiting room to study for an exam and Felicia turned all the lights down so that I could nap. I didn't actually get to sleep due an unexpected and enthusiastic guest a little before 1pm, but it was rest from laboring. After my visitor left close to 4pm, Katie and I got down to business. I had become very anxious and wanted to be proactive about the labor. I was also starting to feel sharp pains in one hip because the epidural was wearing off. Our first order of business was to find a really positive and peaceful place again. I asked Katie to turn off my phone and we just talked. When I was ready a couple of hours later, I turned on my phone again to text Andrew (he had been trying to sleep too) and we let our families know that Bennett was on his way.

We had waited a while before telling our family I was at the hospital because we didn't know how long I'd be laboring or if I'd have phone service. What we did know was that they would worry (as good families do), and I was not going to be in any position to keep them all updated. Hubs wouldn't either, because he was going to be in touch with me! We didn't want them getting concerned after not hearing anything for so many hours without a way to get in touch with us or get information.

Shift change came, and a new precious nurse came in to introduce herself. The next time they checked, I was at 9cm and, soon after, at 10cm. The nurse had me do a practice push, which she interrupted because it was apparently effective enough to inform the doctor that it was time. She had just began a c-section with another patient, so they had to notify the on-call mid-wife. I could feel a little pressure from my contractions at this point, which was a really good thing because it helped me know when to work with it. I relaxed and slowly breathed down on each contraction while we waited. I just remember us all being excited, knowing we were about to see the sweet little baby we were all working so hard to meet. But it was such an easy-going, laid-back excitement. Everything was going so smoothly. We just chatted and laughed a little and waited. The mid-wife got there about 20 minutes later, and Bennett was here 3 contractions after. She had about enough time to get her gear on and make a joke about her hair not being fixed. We talked to Hubs in between contractions and made sure he knew what was going on. Hubs was on FaceTime and, even though the video didn't work in the hospital, he was right beside me and heard the whole thing. Katie was on my right side and my nurse was on my left. It was just the four of us, and it was perfect.

The midwife wasn't shy about expecting my participation. She had me feel his tiny head before the last contraction. On the last push I heard three sweet voices saying, "Open your eyes!" I looked down at this tiny smushy face. The midwife told me to reach down to get him, and I brought him out the rest of the way. He was born at 8:57pm. The midwife had me cut the cord and took her time making sure all the post-delivery work was done well. Waiting a little while for the mid-wife was a great thing. More stretching = less tearing. I only had a few stitches, mostly from problems with Eli's delivery. Bennett was adorable and very alert. He immediately rested on my chest and looked right at me. One of the first things I told him was that he looked just like his dad. He decided to nurse within the first ten minutes.

I was a little apprehensive at the time about being so hands on, but am now so grateful for this woman who gave me the ability to be such an active part of the birth. The support I had from Katie, our nurse, and the midwife helped me feel empowered and confidant through the whole process. They all knew this was something I was doing, not just something that was happening to me. I really don’t know what I would’ve done without Katie. The times that seemed scary, she made hopeful and exciting. She brought me back when the pain or process started to be overwhelming and helped me find control again. She explained and helped me understand what was going on if I had questions. She never made a decision for me or pushed me in any direction. She was 100% supportive in every decision I made and was fully present for whatever was happening. She let me take initiative but knew exactly when she needed to be assertive. Katie kept telling me that I can do it and that I was going to do it. And I did! It was the most incredible feeling. Bennett’s delivery was beautiful, peaceful, calm, and…fun!

Katie stayed with me for a couple hours after he was born, other than leaving to send all the photos and videos she had taken to Hubs. (She had to go outside the building because there was no service.) She made sure to include and involve him as much as she could the entire time, and I'm so grateful. Bennett and I got bathed and dressed and our sweet nurses were so patient getting us ready to go to the post-natal part of the hospital. We finally got settled in well after midnight, almost 24 hours after it all began.

We had many incredible nurses, doctors, midwives, and techs take care of me during my few days in the hospital. They were my company and my support and my partners. I could barely get service to FaceTime or make calls and only had one visitor, even though it was the best one ever! Amanda brought Eli the day after Bennett was born, and I will never forget seeing the boys together for the first time. It is my favorite moment of my whole life. Other than their visit, I tried to soak in the quiet times of it being just Bennett and me. It was a little lonely, knowing we were only half of our new little family. I missed Hubs more than I ever had, and I know he was just dying to get to us. It's the strangest sensation to have your heart be so full and so broken at the same time. But my time alone with this sweet baby was short, and I drank it in.

Amanda drove me and Bennett home and then brought Eli and Jessie to join us. It was such a precious time for me. Over the next four days, ladies from our unit brought us meals. We had a great routine going, and I loved our nap times everyday. Six days after Bennett was born, Hubs came home and we were finally able to share this sweetness. 

One of the hardest things I've had to do was let Hubs leave again. But it's not long now (in the grand scheme of things) that we'll be finding our new normal as a family of five! Welcome to the world, Bennett Bear. We couldn't be happier to be yours.

Bennett Oak Woodard
September 2, 2015
8:57 pm
8lbs 5oz
21 inches

04 September 2015

Five Year Anniversary

Hubs and I are five years into our happily ever after. Year one (2011), he was deployed to Iraq and I was house/dog sitting for his aunt and uncle. Year two (2012), he was at Ft Lee, VA on an unaccompanied TDY for Army's phase 1 of EOD school. I drove up from Fayetteville, and we spent Labor Day weekend in D.C. Year three (2013), we were in the middle of a big road trip up to Alaska and had stopped for a couple of days in Juneau. We had made the unfortunate decision to camp in a soft tent and Jessie and I watched Hubs pack up the campsite in a downpour through the car headlights around 4am. Little did we know, we would find out about a week later that we had a very special and small someone on the way. Year four (2014) was particularly uneventful. We had originally planned for the three of us to spend a night at Alyeska Resort but spending over $300 to lug baby equipment for a night away an hour down the road seemed more like work than romance. But he was home. This year, Hubs spent our anniversary overseas on his second deployment, while I brought our second baby boy home from the hospital. A few days later, I got a precious package in the mail. Hubs had bought me a necklace with both boys' birthstone and initial for our anniversary. (I don't know what the 5 year gift is supposed to be. But I could not care less.) Oh, and I gave Hubs a son.

I feel like five years is a big one. Five moves, five jobs, two deployments, two baby boys, two promotions (almost), two degrees, one chiweenie, and a partridge in a pear tree. Five years married to my sweet man, my favorite, my best friend, my team mate, my baby daddy. Our boys will grow up and leave and it'll just be us again. Here's to being in love when we're old. Here's to choosing "I do" again every day. Here's to saying sorry and to giving grace, to taking the hits and not taking it out on each other, to missing each other apart and to making the most of being together, to giving everything we've got and to never giving up. 

Here's to the rest of our anniversaries being celebrated together in the same place!
(Mil spouses, you can quit laughing now. Let me dream.)

03 September 2015

Welcoming Bennett

Bennett Oak Woodard
born September 2, 2015 at 8:57pm
weighing 8lbs 5oz and 21in long

Bennett means blessed
 [ Woodard Family Name ]

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,

to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—

to bestow on them
a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

the oil of joy instead of mourning,

and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called OAKS of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of His splendor.