Day in the Life family photo session

As we look forward into 2018, the marking of time makes me realize just how quickly life changes. In the day-to-day, life trudges on slowly, but as I look back over a year, I see how much happened in those days. Family has grown, history has been made, and it's all we can do to keep up with it. What seems incremental may have been monumental.

It is the small moments I believe we will cherish when we look back, which is why we invited Emily Ward to come and capture "A Day in the Life" of our family. I wanted her to capture our small family in mid-2017, mostly because my breastfeeding relationship with Leo was coming to and end and I wanted something to savor from those special years.

Below are some of my favorites that Emily captured of our family in July 2017. Already, I look back on them with fondness.

One year of motherhood

Last year on Mother's Day, I was 2 weeks over-due for my first baby and I desperately wanted to make my motherhood official, but Leo still left me waiting a couple more days.  In my desperation and expectancy, I drafted this letter to my baby that day.

May 10, 2015:
Dear baby,
Today is Mothers' Day and I hoped to hold you in my arms by now, to get to know you a little more beyond your kicks and movements. I am already your mother here on this Earth and in this lifetime and I am beyond excited to begin such a privileged job.
You are currently 15 days past your due date and each morning for the past 3 weeks I have woken up hoping it would be the day you leave my womb and join us in this world. I wonder about who you are and who you will become. As your mother, I see my job as providing you with the opportunities, the space, and the protection to simply become who you are and mostly to give you the best love to affirm that.
Just as I wish I could be in control over the day you arrive, I know I will wish to be in control over many other things in our life together, but I promise to do my best to simply trust The One Who Knows and to relish in the moment, in what is.
I don't even know you yet, but I already love you immeasurably and I know that even 20 years down the road, there will still be so much I don't know about you, but I will always be watching anxiously to see who you become and I will always love you, no matter what, every step of the way.
Your father and I await your arrival with so much hope and excitement.
Your mother

Two days later, I became Leo's mother.  It has been quite the year of motherhood, with so many emotions and milestones wrapped up in the first 12 months, as any parent will tell you.  In looking over my daily journal, I'm reminded of the lessons, the emotions, the hardships, and the joys from this past year.  Here is a glimpse of it all, through snippets taken from my journal:

May 12, 2015 (the day of Leo's birth):
I am in total awe of this experience and so thankful for this life.

May 14, 2015:
The night was really hard.  My milk has started to come in and nursing is painful.  In the middle of the night, Leo was crying and I went over to pump some milk so we could spoon feed him, but instead I just started sobbing.  Poor Eric had to go in between the two of us criers.  All my emotions of the past few days just came out - emotions about the birth not going as planned, having to deal with the pediatrician and hospital policies, the pain of breastfeeding, and the fear of being on our own.  It has been the hardest 3 days of my life.  I just keep thinking of all the mothers in this world and I now have a much deeper appreciation for all of them, most especially my own mother.  I wanted to go over to her house and hug her.  I also thought of how incredibly strong African women are.  I can't imagine how they do it, giving birth over and over, often in the village and then they are soon on their feet making meals, fetching water or firewood, etc.  I think they are the strongest people in the world.  Here I am, with my breast pump, amazing support around me, and lots of privileges and it's still so hard.

May 16, 2015:
I had another good cry today as I talked with Eric and told him that I felt overlooked by him and even a little jealous of his love for Leo.  I feel like I have gone through a lot of work and hardship to produce this baby and he just gets to be enthralled by him.  I love that Eric is so in love with Leo and that he's bonded so much with him.  There is nothing more attractive than my husband being a loving father.  But I told him that I need to know that he still loves me, too, because I feel so vulnerable right now and I don't want to be overlooked.  I badly need to hear that I'm strong and beautiful and that he's proud of me and loves me.

May 17, 2015:
Breastfeeding went smoother throughout the day today, although I hate that I have to leave company when it's time to feed.  It's so sad to ostracize myself to feed my child, but I know it is awkward to nurse in front of some people.

May 18, 2015:
Today I felt so many fears arising, but also hopes that go along with those fears: What will Eric and my relationship be like now with Leo here?  Will he still see me as ME, apart from being a mother?

I also have so much hope for the man Leo will become.  I've thought of how great a responsibility it is to raise an American middle-class white male, one of the most privileged people in the world according to demographics.  However, my biggest two wishes for him is that he will simply be a compassionate man and that he will follow his heart which I know will lead him to his true purpose and identity.  I have so much hope that Leo will be an incredible man.


May 21, 2015:
The good news is, breastfeeding is going quite smoothly now.  However, it seems I have a hemorrhoid.  Also, Leo has also developed some baby acne and a worsening diaper rash.

May 26, 2015:
I really don't feel ready to go back to Uganda so soon. The thought of it really scares me because it just seems like one obstacle after another keeps coming up.  I don't feel like I've established a rhythm and I'm so nervous about the long trip back home and all the adjustments waiting for us.  It was another night of crying - for me, not Leo!

May 27, 2015:
The rest of the day was pretty much filled with pumping, nursing, and resting to deal with this mastitis.  I feel pretty useless right now.

May 28, 2015:
I still don't feel very on-track.  My right breast is producing next to nothing while my left is so large and full, it's like a fire hose when Leo drinks from it.  He can only suck for a few seconds at a time before he becomes so overwhelmed and he has to unlatch and swallow.  We have to take several breaks when he's on that side to burp.  So my breasts have completely opposite issues and neither one of them is really satisfying my baby right now.  It's such an emotional thing.  I fed him and pumped while we watched episodes of Parks and Rec tonight and afterward I had another good cry.  It just seems like it's one thing after another. 

In these past couple of weeks, there has been so much pain and hardship all wrapped up with an incredible amount of joy and love.  There have been many moments so beautiful it breaks my hearts and I want to stop time to take it all in.  He's already growing so fast and I just want him to stay this tiny and perfect!  But there are other moments that are just hard and frustrating, mostly in relation to my body and to nursing.  It's incredible how closely the physical is tied with the emotional.

Sometimes I feel so weak when I think of all the billions of other women who have had a baby and who did just fine.  What is my problem?  But then other times I feel very strong because I think of how much I have persisted in the past couple of weeks through the problems that have arisen.  I persisted in having a natural birth and to keep breastfeeding, something that is increasingly rare in my own culture.

May 29, 2015:
Every day, I fall a bit more in love with Leo and here are some of my favorite things that he does:
-He reaches back with one hand behind his head when he's nursing and holds my finger
-When he's wide awake and looking around, it's almost as if he has something to tell me.
-He makes me laugh with the smallest things.  Yesterday he burped so hard he almost gave himself whiplash!
-He gets his arms waving around and bonks himself in the head
-When he's on my chest, he crosses his arms and rests his cheek on them
-He nuzzles up under my chin
-He places his tiny little hand on my breast when he nurses

May 31, 2015:
In our culture, it seems that a mother can't be as close to her son, that we cannot be buddies after a certain age without Leo being labeled a "momma's boy."  Boys who are close with their mothers are seen as weak, but boys and girls can have close relationships with their fathers without a social stigma attached to it.  So I worry that I will somehow be left out, that we won't be close after he gets to a certain age.  I know it's silly to worry about this now, but I just do.


June 1, 2015:
Mastitis is back.  The rest of the day I did the mastitis care.  I nursed, rested, pumped, yada yada yada.  I accomplished nothing else and I still feel useless when this happens.

June 13, 2015:
I just can't believe how much I love Leo!  It is such an incredible thing that I had heard about, but I couldn't have imagined feeling so much in love with my baby.  I have come to love breastfeeding and our moments with just the two of us.  I find that I miss him after not holding him for a little while.  I could stare at him and watching all his little movements and expressions all day long.

I feel like there is so much to do and I'm not sure when I'll be able to catch up, but I also feel like Leo is the most important thing for me right now.  I just know deep inside that being there to admire him and to talk to him is often the best thing I can do with my time.


June 14, 2015:
Last night was a really rough one.  I only got 1 hour of sleep until 7am when Eric woke up and took Leo.  I was about to lose my mind and I cried myself to sleep after Eric took him.  Then I slept until 1:30pm.

June 16, 2015:
I thought today about the spirituality of motherhood and how much has changed for me in this area since being a mother.  Suddenly, words mean so little to me and the typical "spiritual" things that I would try to incorporate into my life like meditation and yoga aren't as important.  I have so much else to do, but I also don't end up doing much during my days except nursing, eating, and sleeping.  There is also a bit of time for cleaning around the house.  I'm finding that motherhood is this intersection between being and doing, which really has a lot of depth.  I think this has always been something women have offered the world, but has been so under appreciated and under valued.  Many women are left out of religious conversation, the formation of theology, and spiritual practices, often because we are considered lower, dirty, or that we have nothing to offer.  In these first few weeks as a mother, I found an opposite truth - that mothers have much to teach us in these areas should we decide to listen (or maybe just watch), but the words and the theories are often unimportant to us.  Ours is a spirituality of the moment, of doing and being all at once, of serving.  It is not one formed in the mind and argued, but one given from our very bodies and lived out in the most simple, yet moving, way.

June 18, 2015:
It was a long night last night.  I didn't get much sleep and the whole night was up to me because Eric had to leave early in the morning for his guys' group.  Leo was wide awake in the morning and I was exhausted, so we just lay in bed talking and cuddling while a rain storm went on outside.

June 20, 2015:
Tonight Leo gave me his first real smile!  It was so wonderful!  He wouldn't fall asleep, so I was patiently nursing him.  I got up to go to the bathroom between nursings and when I came back, he gave me a big smile!  I just knew it was a real one and that he was happy to see me again.  It made my day!


June 23, 2015:
Here are some more things I love about Leo:
-His crazy huge farts and adult-sized burps
-How he plays with my shirt when nursing or just moves his fingers on my breast
-How he comes up for air sometimes when he drinks too much too fast and then gulps down what is in his mouth that he hasn't yet swallowed
-How he kicks his legs when he gets excited or impatient to feed
-How he pumps his left arm when he's really working hard on a burp or fart, as if he's "tapping out"

July 12, 2015:
Leo didn't want to go to sleep tonight, so it took a little more work.  I sung a couple of lullabys to him and slowly his eyes started to shut while his mouth gave little smiles.  It was one of those tiny, beautiful momma moments.

July 16, 2015:
I was home all day today with Leo.  I'm starting to figure out how to get things done when I'm with him.  When he's awake, I'll do things around the house like clean or cook or garden.  Then when he's sleeping, that's my chance to do work on the computer.

July 20, 2015:
I'm afraid I may have scheduled too many things for myself this week.  I have this habit of wanting to please everyone and of wanting to prove that I can do it all.  I want to be the woman who can have a kid and a job and take an online class and start a small business on the side.  I've been this way for as long as I can remember - taking on all I can, especially when I feel that others want me to.  It's so deeply engrained in me and I'm just now starting to see how deep it is.  But then when I overdo it, I inevitably have a day where I crash.  This evening was one of those crashes.  I don't know why I do this to myself.  Who am I proving myself to and why?

July 21, 2015:
I'm so thankful for a work environment that is inviting to my baby.  Eric was holding Leo during our meeting until he started crying and I was able to just nurse him and change his diaper during the meeting.  Nobody even blinked an eye!

August 5, 2015:
Tonight, I nursed Leo to sleep and stayed with him for a while to just cuddle.  I’ve been trying to be mindful about the time when I nurse him.  I try, when I can, to let it be a time to meditate and be entirely present.  It is such a gift.  He brings me so much joy and peace.

August 31, 2015:
I stayed up late tonight, although I didn’t intend to.  I need to get out of the habit of using my night hours when Leo is sleeping to get everything done.  I found myself pumping milk and hanging out cloth diapers all at the same time.  I had a moment when I laughed to myself and thought, “So this is motherhood.”

September 2, 2015:
I stayed home today with Leo and got little accomplished. 

September 23, 2015:
Today, in the midst of the rush to prepare for the dinner, I had a big motherhood fail moment.  Leo fell off the couch after I set him beside me and looked away for just one second!  He banged his head and I felt absolutely terrible.

November 4, 2015:
I stayed at home today with Leo.  For a while, I sat him in a basin on the porch where he could look at the dogs while I took some product photos for the Baby Lionheart website.  He was entertained for at least an hour there, happy as could be.

November 13, 2015:
Today, I took Leo's clothes off and lay him naked on a mat on the floor, letting him play in the buff for a while.  He was satisfied on his tummy, looking at the dogs, so I stepped into the kitchen to warm up my lunch.  When I came out a minute later, he had moved off the mat and pooped all over for floor.  Of course, he had scooted around in it, too.  I plopped him right in the wash basin.

November 16, 2015:
I took Leo in for his 6-month check-up and vaccinations this morning.  The doctor said that all is well and said I was “doing everything perfectly,” which definitely felt nice to hear. 

January 12, 2016:
Each night during this training, when Leo falls asleep, I still have to go over the lessons for the next day, not to mention try to keep up with my other emails and responsibilities.  It’s a lot to juggle.

February 19, 2016:
Leo has been taking so much food lately and it’s making me SO hungry.  My body is hardly able to keep up in producing milk.  Then I’m trying to watch what I eat, so I get stressed over what I can and cannot eat.  Then I get hangry.  This morning I ate an entire pack of bacon along with a couple of eggs and a grilled tomato.

April 3, 2016:
There is nothing quite like the smile he gives me when we are apart and then he spots me.  There is no question that we are head over heels for each other, so I guess I’ll soak that in because maybe there will come a time in his teenage years when I don’t get this look!

April 5, 2016:
This morning, as Eric and I were pulling out of the house, I reached back and gave Leo a cassava chip.  Eric jokingly said, “Thanks Mom!” and Leo imitated him!  I’m not sure if he knows what he said, but I would say it was his first word!  Then, after ladies’ fellowship, Lindsey and I were playing with Leo in the basement of the office and when I put him down, he stepped toward Lindsey without hesitation.  It was only a step or two, with a lunge toward her, but it was his first steps!  Two firsts in one day!

April 11, 2016:
Leo hangs out all day with Justine and many other women who fawn over him constantly in the office basement.  He has quite the life down there and I’m incredibly thankful for it.  Justine is great with him and it’s a huge blessing to have him at the office where I can go down and nurse him or play with him in the middle of the day.

April 25, 2016:
I haven’t been back to the states in nearly a year, which may be the longest time I’ve been away.  I’m actually a bit nervous to go back.  I have only been a mother in America for a few weeks and during that time, I was mostly holed up at home.  I worry about breastfeeding a 1-year old in public and the reactions I will get, but I’m more worried about breastfeeding in front of those who I know and making them feel uncomfortable.  I worry about judgment on how I’m raising Leo and I worry that I can’t even predict what I will be judged about.  But I guess if there is one thing I have learned about being a mother, it is that you must choose what to do and stick to it with confidence – that it doesn’t matter what others think, as long as I know I’m doing what is best for me and my child.


My body
Your first home,
first nation
first residence.

My breasts
Your first dinner table.
Your first bed and pillow
with my arms, your first blankets.

My body
Your first jungle gym,
roller coaster,
mountain to climb.

My face
Your first love,
first toy,
first discovery you ever explored.

My body
Your first mode of transport.
Your very first safety net.

I was your beginning.
The notch in your belly
demands you never forget
your Motherland.

Discernment and cross-cultural parenting

I count myself lucky to mother between two cultures.  While my heritage is from the West, I live in Uganda and this affords me the opportunity to take a step back and have a look at parenting from a couple different perspectives. Parents in my own country value "experts" and efficiency; we devour books and choose our individual "parenting style" -  a term that can bring nearly as much division as religion and politics.  Ugandans, on the other hand, have a common way to parent and they count on wisdom that has been passed down.  Everyone helps because everyone does it the same.  I can't count the number of times I've lost track of my baby as he was passed from one set of hands to the next, quite often to someone I have never met, a practice we Americans would never dream of (I'm still working on my comfort level with this). 

I have been privileged to compare these two ways, helping me see what is universal and what is simply cultural and I've identified goodness and the weaknesses in both cultures' approaches to parenting.  While I believe there is something beautiful in trusting the time-honored ways of mothering, I'm also grateful for scientific research to quell the many myths floating about.  And while I love the scientific evidence, I try to stick with books and other resources that don't instill fear or undermine mothers' wisdom, but instead encourage me to trust my instincts and love for my child.

Through it all, each mother and father must choose their own ways to discern what is best for their child and their family.  Over the last several months, somewhat subconsciously at first, I developed a few questions to help guide me in the many decisions parents must make on a daily basis.  In the end, people from both Uganda and America have questioned my ways.  I glean from both cultures, but tend not to fit well into either one.  But then, all a mother can do is march on doing her best, with confidence, boldness, and most of all, love.

My questions for discernment in parenthood:

Have mothers/parents throughout the millennia counted on this product/method?  Or has this product/method just come into existence in the last couple of generations and is it unique to my culture?

Does this product/method encourage closeness or distance between me and my child?  Does it build trust in our relationship?

Does this product/method place my comfort and needs over that of my child?

Is there good scientific evidence supporting the use of this product/method?

What is my motivation for using this product/method?  Is it to have control?  To be accepted by others?  Do I really have my baby's best interest in mind?

My favorite books:

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker
Sweet Sleep by La Leche League International
The Tao of Motherhood by Vimala McClure

What would you add?

Leo's birth story

Leo’s due date was April 25, 2015 but he decided to wait another 2 ½ weeks to arrive.  Every day, for two weeks, I woke up thinking, “This HAS to be the day.”  Then I would go to bed that night, hopeful contractions would start while I was sleeping, but I would wake up in the morning feeling no different. At 2 weeks overdue, my midwife, Rhoda, referred me to Dr. Stroud’s office to have check-ups and make sure the baby was still healthy and not under any stress.  

On May 11th, I went into Dr. Stroud’s office to get a biophysical profile, or BPP, which monitors the baby’s heart rate, practice breathing, and other indicators to make sure it was still fine.  While lying down, the nurse pointed to my stomach, which was tightening, and told me I was having a contraction.  I had no idea that was a contraction because it happened quite often over the last several weeks.  I just thought the baby was moving.  So after we left the doctor’s office, I began paying attention to the contractions and they kept coming, although I couldn’t really feel them.  When we got home, Eric and I went for a walk, which we had been doing every day to encourage labor along.  I had a hard time finishing the walk and I felt a ton of pressure in the bottom of my belly, but this was nothing new.  It had happened before and those other times I thought maybe labor would start, but I was always left disappointed, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.  After dinner, Dad said he was going to check some fields in the Ranger and I thought taking a bumpy ride might also help a bit. I also took any excuse to get out of the house, so I went along.  I could feel some contractions coming and going, but they were very slight.  Eric and I watched some television that night and I paid more attention to the contractions, which certainly seemed more regular, although I still could hardly feel them.

I decided to go to bed, thinking I would need lots of rest, and I slept well.  I woke up early the next morning, on the 12th, feeling more crampy than normal and I went over to my mom and dad’s house and told Mom that I really thought today was the day.  The contractions started being 6-7 minutes apart, and at this point I tried to go on with life as normal.  At 7:00am, I texted Rhoda and my doula, Kristin, telling them I was pretty sure this was it.  I caught up on a couple of photo projects I had been putting off and wrote some emails while sitting on a birth ball.  After a while, I had to stop what I was doing when a contraction came and close my eyes.  I imagined myself on a swing that took me high in the air and then back down again.  I’m not sure why that visualization came to mind, but it helped make each contraction seem less painful at that point.  Eric was doing some reading for his PhD and he told me to let him know if I needed him.

At about 2:00pm, I started making some vocalizations with each contraction and I texted Rhoda and Kristin again, letting them know contractions were stronger and closer together.  Rhoda advised me to get some rest if I could, so I lay down, but I couldn’t fall asleep.  My doula, Kristin, came within the hour.  Eric started filling the labor tub and he put on some music while Kristin pressed on my lower back with each contraction to help ease the pain.  I was a bit hurt that Eric was focusing on tasks and not on me, so I asked Kristin to switch jobs with him.  From that time onward, Eric never once left my side.  I wouldn’t let him!  Even if I asked for some water or chapstick, I did not want him to leave the room and I made someone else get it.  I wanted him right there with me and he was definitely my biggest support!

I asked Kristin to tell Rhoda that I would like her to come soon, and she showed up around 4:30pm.  When she arrived, Kristin walked over to my parents’ house to give my mom an update and to tell her things were progressing nicely.  She and Catie, the midwife’s assistant, were trying to fill the birth pool, but didn’t have enough hot water, so they began boiling pots of water on the stovetop.  Catie also began preparing an herbal bath for after delivery.

Rhoda checked my cervix and I was only 2 cm dilated, but she told me that I should not be discouraged because the hard part of labor for first-time mothers is the thinning of the cervix and mine was about 70% effaced.  She monitored my and the baby’s vital signs, which looked great.  I was laboring in the bed and on the bathroom floor.  It felt good to put my chest on the ground and my butt up in the air to relieve some of the pressure.  It had been a few hours of active labor and I remember wanting to know how much longer it would take which, of course, nobody could tell me.  I asked, “Is it going to be several more hours of this?”

I didn’t want to get into the tub too early, because I had heard that the water can help relieve contractions a bit and I wanted to wait until I really needed that relief.  Around 5:30pm, I decided I needed the relief and I got into the tub.  I was pissed when my first leg went in and the water was hardly lukewarm.  “It’s cold!” I protested.  I was looking forward to immersing myself in really warm water.  Both Kristin and Catie continued to boil water on the stove and dump it in the tub.   After a couple of contractions in the tub, I asked someone to get me my labor beads that my friends gave me during my birthing blessingway in Kampala.  I really wanted something to squeeze in my hand and the beads also reminded me of women who were thinking of me and standing with me from afar.


I started feeling sick with each contraction and I didn’t want to poop in the pool, so I was really holding back, which made each contraction worse.  I got out of the pool and went to the bathroom after grabbing a bowl to throw up in while sitting on the toilet.  I was so cold and shivering from getting out of the water, so Eric and Kristin covered me with lots of towels while I sat on the toilet.  It felt good to be on the toilet, in a seated position, where I mentally knew I could release and let it all go if I needed to!  With each contraction, my stomach tightened so much and I could see it tighten around the baby.  I started dreading that sight and it made me feel nauseous. I used a lot of vocalization throughout my labor and I didn’t hold back!  I was loud!  I commented that I couldn’t imagine laboring at a hospital where I would be self-conscious of the noise I was making.  I was grateful that the people who were with me didn’t mind and even encouraged me to make as much noise as I wanted!  My contractions were about 2-3 minutes apart at this point.

I asked Rhoda to check me again and I was now 5cm dilated.  Rhoda had Kristin do “rebozo sifting” on my tummy, which involved putting a cloth around my tummy while I lay over a birth ball and she shifted the cloth back and forth, which apparently encouraged optimal positioning of the baby’s head on the cervix.  She did this while Eric ate dinner.  After this, Kristin went again to my parents’ house to let them know all was still progressing well. 

I felt like the contractions kept coming so close together and I couldn’t get a break.  When it got hard, I went back to my favorite position with my chest on the ground and my butt in the air, but after a while, Rhoda told me that I would have to lean into the pain, to relax and let go.  She advised me to find another position that allowed gravity to do its work.  She first advised me to sit on the toilet again and lean back.  This did seem to help, even just mentally, knowing that this is what it would take to move things along.  After some time here, she had me try something else with Eric.  He sat on the birth ball, his back against a wall and his legs spread apart.  With each contraction, I squatted between his legs and leaned back onto him.  It was hard at this point, but it did make me feel like things were progressing.  I kept thinking of something I had read, which said when I am in labor, 300,000 other women around the world are also with me in labor.  That was a mantra to me.  I kept repeating that number in my head and I loved thinking that we were all in this together.  It was about 8:00pm.

Rhoda had been monitoring the baby’s heart tones during my different positions and I didn’t know that she was seeing something a bit concerning for about 20 minutes.  She finally told me that the baby’s heart rate was staying too low in between contractions and she would feel better if we transferred into the hospital so the baby could be more closely monitored.  I completely trusted her judgment and although I faced a moment of disappointment that my baby would not be born in the cabin, I knew it was the right thing to do. She delivered her suggestion very calmly and then began to contact the hospital and the OB/GYN whom she partners with, Dr. Stroud.  We hadn’t prepared a hospital bag, so we started walking around the cabin, throwing things into a bag.  I threw on some clothes and a fuzzy robe to keep warm.  I didn’t feel scared.  It was all I could do to just stay with each contraction when it came and do whatever else I needed to do in between contractions so we could leave. I felt completely in the moment and this prevented any fear from arising.  Rhoda’s calmness through it all also helped me feel like there was no reason to be scared.  I asked Eric to be the one to tell my parents that we were going to the hospital, so he went and let them know.  He and I rode with Rhoda during the 20-minute drive to the hospital. During the drive, my contractions mostly stopped and I commented about it to Rhoda, who told me that the adrenaline has kicked in, which slowed down my contractions.

We arrived at Dupont Hospital around 9:00 pm and I was put in a wheelchair.  They pushed me through a hallway where there were lots of pictures of newborn babies lining the wall and those pictures gave me so much hope.  It reminded me of what all this labor was for and that I would soon have one of those in my arms!  We met Dr. Stroud in the elevator.  I had heard so many great things about him from many different sources, and he was so calm and nice right away.  I had even contacted him early on in my pregnancy, asking about midwives and he told me about Rhoda, so I reminded him of that.  Everyone at the hospital was calm and they moved very smoothly in all that needed to be done.  They set up a fetal heart rate monitor, put me on an antibiotic IV for my Group B strep, and checked my cervix, which was 6-7 cm dilated.  The baby’s head was at 0 station.  

During this time, a woman was by my bed on a computer, asking Eric and I questions to register us.  Contractions were really coming one after another and at this point, the woman asked me what my pain goal is.  “What?!” I asked.  “What is your pain goal?” she repeated.  I snapped back, “What the hell is a pain goal!?”  And she promptly replied, “I’ll put you down as an 8.”  It seemed like the dumbest question to me, especially in the midst of pain that I certainly could not think about rating.  It was all I could to do just make it through the pain and I did not want to come out of myself to think about answering such a ridiculous question!

Dr. Stroud wanted to break my bag of waters to see if there was any meconium in the amniotic fluid, which would be a sign of the baby’s stress level.  I asked him if it would make contractions worse and he smiled and said “I like to think it makes them more efficient.”  There was slight meconium in the amniotic fluid, but he said it wasn’t enough to worry about.  Breaking my bag of waters certainly did make the contractions stronger.  I had to lie down in the bed for him to break it, which was a horrible position to labor in, but the contractions were so strong and I wasn’t getting a break in between them, so I felt like I was incapacitated and couldn’t move to another position.  I felt like I was thrashing in the bed and I reached for anyone and anything to hang on to.  I swore I heard someone whisper the word, “c-section” and I felt so sad.  I silently began to mourn to myself.  After a few more contractions, I finally spoke up and said, “I heard someone say c-section.  Is everything ok?”  Dr. Stroud was surprised and he replied, “I didn’t hear that.  If someone said ‘c-section’ they must have been talking about someone else!”

Within 20 minutes of my arrival at the hospital, my baby’s low heart tones resolved itself, but I still needed to wear a wireless monitor.  Someone finally asked me if I wanted to get out of bed and I said I did, but I didn’t feel like I could move.  “Well we can help you with that!” they said.  So a few people helped me out of bed and I went into the shower, where Catie held the shower hose and sprayed it back and forth over my belly while Eric sat just outside the shower.  The water kept moving the heart rate monitor, so she kept spraying the water on the side of my belly, near my leg and I started to get annoyed at this because I wanted it on my stomach.

I remembered the squats that Rhoda suggested when we were at home, and there was a bench in the shower that I could lean into, so I kept doing those squats with each contraction.  I also used the bar in the shower to hold on to.  The IV in my hand came out around this time.  Dr. Stroud asked me if I wanted him to check how far along I was, but I was scared that I wouldn’t have progressed, so I answered, “Only if it’s good news.” He didn’t check me.

While laboring in the shower for about 30 minutes, I began to feel the urge to push with each contraction and my little team cheered me on.  Kristin reported that there was a table in the hallway with vaginal delivery supplies, so clearly nobody was thinking about a c-section.  I felt so encouraged when the urge to push came, because I knew this meant I was nearing the end; I was so tired.  I was also now getting some breaks between contractions, which gave me some much-needed rest.  Eric was just outside the shower, holding my hand and encouraging me.  Once, he touched my stomach and I really didn’t like that, so I pushed his hand away.

The urge to push kept getting stronger and stronger.  After a while, I felt like the contractions and pushing was like the movies, so I thought I must really be getting close, but Rhoda and Dr. Stroud were on the other side of the room, whispering to each other and they didn’t seem very concerned, so I was confused.  I asked Dr. Stroud to check me, so he came into the shower and soon told me that I was completely dilated!  He suggested we move out of the bathroom and I ended up squatting with my knees on the floor and my arms and chest on the bed.  Dr. Stroud said he could feel the baby’s head and he encouraged me to really push with each contraction.  A few people kept asking if I wanted something under my knees, as it must hurt for them to be on the floor, but it was the least of my worries.  I was so concentrated that I didn’t even notice, although the next day some big bruises showed up.  I just wanted to get this baby out! 

I was so hot and started sweating.  Someone began fanning me and someone else put a cold towel on my back.  It was awesome how they knew just what I needed.  It felt amazing.

The baby started to crown and Dr. Stroud told me I could reach down and feel the baby’s head if I wanted.  It was so beautiful to feel that and know how close we were to meeting each other!  He had me stand up and lean over the bed so he could catch the baby.  He also told me that since there was some slight meconium in the amniotic fluid earlier, the NICU team had to be present at the birth in case the baby needed assistance breathing, but if the baby cried, they would leave.

I had to give really big pushes now. Dr. Stroud told me to curl over myself with each contraction. I pushed as hard as I could, 2 or 3 times with each contraction.  I pushed even when I didn’t think I could anymore because I didn’t want to prolong labor any more.  Finally, I pushed the head out and I could see the head while looking in between my legs!  Dr. Stroud had me stop pushing for a minute and then another big push for the shoulders and the baby was out!

I instantly turned around and sat on the ground while they wiped him off and he cried.  I yelled, “Oh my god! Oh my god! Give me my baby!”  I wanted him in my arms ASAP.  I didn’t even think about checking the sex of the baby, but Eric announced that it was a boy!  Although we had decided not to know the sex of our baby beforehand, I had been convinced I was having a girl, so I was surprised!  They handed him over to me as quickly as they could and I held him while sitting there on the floor.  What a beautiful moment!  After a minute, everyone helped me get into bed with him.  His cord wasn’t very long, so he lay a bit low on my tummy.  When the cord stopped pulsing, Dr. Stroud had Eric cut it.

About 15 minutes after the birth, I delivered my placenta and they held it up for me to see.  I thought it was beautiful with all the veins running through it. I’m so glad they let me see it.

As I held my son and Eric stood beside the bed, we all made our own remarks about him, most notably that his eyes were wide open and alert. He was so magical and perfect! The staff asked us if we had a name and Eric and I looked at each other in anticipation of what the other would say.  We had talked about a couple of choices, but hadn’t finalized on anything.  Then Eric said exactly what I was thinking: “Leo Walker Kreutter”