Saturday, May 30, 2015

Final Weeks of Pregnancy and Ava's Birth

I've got sunshine on a cloudy day
When it's cold outside, I've got the month of May
I guess you'd say
What can make me feel this way
My girl (my girl, my girl)
Talkin' 'bout my girl (my girl)
(The Temptations)

Since my last update 7 months ago, our daughter Ava was born, and she's already over 6.5 months old! I've been wanting to share about the end of my pregnancy, her birth, and her first few months for several months now, but haven't had much of an opportunity or the energy. The past half-year has simultaneously been the longest, hardest time of my life, but also such a blur. Having a baby truly changes everything. The difference between pregnancy and motherhood was quite a shock to the system, and it makes me feel a little guilty that I sometimes miss the ease of waddling around with a giant belly in comparison. And there was absolutely no amount of reading, breathing, meditations, or mantras I could have done to prepare for childbirth, or recovery, for that matter.

I've been posting photos of Ava on Instagram and Facebook, and will eventually get the blog more up-to-date, but for now, please see below for weeks 37, 38, 39, and 40 of my pregnancy, and Ava's birth on November 12, 2014.

37 Weeks
  • Baby is the size of a winter melon.
  • She is full-term, gaining about 1/2 ounce a day, and getting her first meconium ready; she's also brushing up on skills for the outside world: inhaling, exhaling, sucking, blinking, and gripping.
  • Chiropractic appointment at 37w0d: Used Webster Technique for adjustment.
  • Appointment at 37w0d: Urine screen, weight, and blood pressure taken. My OB measured me, checked baby's heart rate, and performed ultrasound, which showed that baby was head-down (butt on left side, legs on right side), and cervical check. Even though baby was no longer breech, I still had to see an ultrasound specialist for other reasons, primarily to check on my uterine fibroid. She checked baby's heart rhythm and rate (approximately 134 bpm), took various measurements, checked level of amniotic fluid, and determined location and current size of fibroid; they said they won't know if it will present a problem until I'm in labor.
  • 37w2d: Prenatal massage.
  • 37w5d: Sam and I went to Crittenton Hospital's annual Baby Fair. I found out later that I won a newborn photography session, but it would have taken place at Crittenton, which is not where I delivered, and it didn't make sense for me to bring Ava there after the fact. Plus, in hindsight, considering how hard the adjustment was for me, it never would have happened.
  • Symptoms: Increased discomfort at night, pressure against right ribcage, acid reflux.  

Ava's profile at 37w0d
Pouty lips
Post-brunch, pre-baby fair at 37w5d
(I didn't know that I would match our brunch spot!)
Info and goodies gained from Crittenton Hospital's Baby Fair

38 Weeks
  • Baby is the size of a pumpkin.
  • She is slowly shedding vernix caseosa and lanugo; her head is about the same circumference as her abdomen, and may have an inch or so of hair.
  • Appointment at 38w1d: Urine screen, weight, and blood pressure taken. NP measured me, checked heart rate (approximately 130 bpm), felt to confirm baby was still head-down, and performed cervical check.
  • 38w2d: Sam's coworkers threw him a surprise man baby shower at Rochester Mills Beer Co.
  • 38w4d: We went to a Halloween party at Main Street Billiards.
  • Symptoms: Braxton Hicks contractions.
  • Cravings: Everything bagel with veggie cream cheese, thin crust pizza.

Tiara, feather boa, Glenlivet, and U of M baby clothes
My Halloween "costume," a moon to Sam's sun, at 38w4d
Pumpkin patch following a corn maze at 38w5d

39 Weeks
  • Baby is the size of a watermelon.
  • Her brain is still rapidly developing; her skin has taken on a paler shade thanks to a thicker layer of fat around the blood vessels; she can now flex her limbs; and her nails might extend past her fingertips.
  • Appointment at 39w0d: Urine screen, weight, and blood pressure taken. OB measured me, checked heart rate, felt to confirm baby is still head-down. Performed cervical check which showed that I was 1-1.5 cm dilated and cervix was softening. Performed ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels, and took measurements to estimate baby's weight at 6 lbs. 10 oz. I was put on fetal monitors for about 45 minutes because my OB was concerned about heart rate deceleration. Baby was very active and heart rate ranged from 130s-170s.
  • 39w1d: I took an adult, child, and infant CPR class.
  • 39w2d: Prenatal massage.
  • Symptoms: Braxton Hicks contractions and pre-labor contractions; acid reflux; extra fatigued despite finally getting longer, less interrupted sleep at night; increased trips to bathroom.
  • Cravings: Carrot cake.

I think this was at 39w5d

40 Weeks, Baby's Coming!
  • Baby is the size of a jackfruit.
  • Her hair and nails continue to grow, and her lungs keep developing.
  • Appointment at 40w0d (my due date): Urine screen, weight, and blood pressure taken. OB measured me, checked heart rate, performed cervical check with showed that I was around 2 cm dilated and cervix was softening, and stripped membranes a little to keep things moving along. Performed ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels, which were good, but told me that baby had not grown in the past few weeks and was measuring small (said it could be that I just won't have big babies, or possibly that my fibroid was keeping her from getting bigger). I was put on the fetal monitors for about 25 minutes (baby's heart rate ranged from 130s-150s) and had a contraction halfway through. Later that day, I received a call from the office to schedule me for an induction at 40w3d; a little later that evening, I received another call, telling me that after my OB reviewed an earlier ultrasound, she wanted me to get induced even sooner, at 40w1d, which was the next day.
  • Symptoms: Pre/early labor contractions; bloody show at 40w1d (induction date).

40w1d, at the hospital a day after my due date

"Pregnancy is like training your body for the biggest marathon of your life.
Your body could not ask more of you than this."
(Prenatal yoga class)

"The good Lord gave you a body that can stand most anything.
It's your mind you have to convince."
(Vince Lombardi)

Labor and Delivery

Pregnancy and childbirth are ancient, primal, and sacred, and at the same time, utterly commonplace. Every single one of us was birthed by a woman. Our bodies were built for this, right? When I was pregnant, I didn't worry or stress about labor and delivery, and I thought, "If this random lady at the grocery store could give birth to 3 kids, surely I can do it. I got this."

I gave birth to Ava Yejin Son on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 at 6:39 PM. She weighed 6 lbs. 7 oz. and measured 20 inches long. She received very high Apgar scores (9/10, 9/10), which was a little surprising considered some of the drama that took place in the labor and delivery room. I've been unsure of how to share the story of Ava's birth without coming across as too negative or dramatic, especially since I'm sure my experience is similar to many others. It was fairly traumatizing to me at the time, as I had imagined a different experience, but I've accepted that this is how my daughter was meant to come into the world. Just like parenting books can't prepare you for parenthood, reading up on labor and delivery ultimately doesn't help much, if at all. I had always considered my birth plan to be very fluid and flexible, and good thing, because it went out the window. I still wish I had not had a scheduled induction -- since I believe all signs pointed towards me going into labor naturally that week -- but because my OB had serious concerns, I went to the hospital to be induced on Tuesday, November 11, the day after my due date.

Below is some of what happened during the 22 hours at the hospital before Ava was born:
I received IV fluids and Pitocin. My body does not do well with IVs. I'd rather have a spinal injection any day, seriously. / Ava's heart rate repeatedly dropped or stopped registering on the fetal monitors, and all of the medical staff on the floor rushed in like a Grey's Anatomy episode. After I moved to my hands and knees -- extremely difficult for a full-term pregnant woman in labor -- had the Pitocin drip stopped, and was given an oxygen mask to breathe, they had to reach in to stimulate Ava's head, and ended up screwing in a metal eletronic monitor into her scalp. When her heart rate went back up, they started the Pitocin again. / This entire scenario happened 3 separate times. / Each time, after everything was stabilized, the oxygen mask was kept on me for 20 minutes or so and the Pitocin was increased slowly to avoid distressing the baby. / My doctor and one of the nurses got into an argument about the levels of Pitocin I was getting, and later on we were told that the nurse had to go home because "she hurt her back," but of course we knew the truth. / I got an epidural about 10 hours in, but it did not really work to dull the pressure or pain, of which I felt a great deal. / Sam says it was incredible that I gave birth vaginally, because my Bishop score indicated that I would most likely require an emergency C-section, which I did not know. / Ava came out with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, which I also was not told until later. Thank God the nuchal cord didn't cause any injuries, or worse. / Though the epidural did not succeed in blocking pain, the entire left side of my body was completely numb and I could not move, stand, or walk on my own for almost 2 days, and remained partially numb for around 6 months (I only recently noticed that the numbness is gone). At my 6 week postpartum appointment, my OB had said it must be a nerve issue. I found out later that it was likely lumbosacral plexopathy, nerve injuries to the spine and lower extremities.

Despite all this, I was actually very calm during my whole labor and delivery, as the doctors and nurses noted. What can I say, I guess I'm just a mellow person. I'm grateful to the medical staff for doing their best to keep me and Ava healthy while also managing to help me deliver her without surgery, knowing that was unlikely. I won't even go into detail about my recovery, which was very slow-going and in some ways more traumatizing. I know every mother has a different and unique experience -- some wonderful and beautiful and some not so much so -- but I feel it's important to keep it real and be honest with mine. Was it worth it? Absolutely; I've always wanted to be a mom and I love Ava like crazy. Would I do it all again? If you had asked me then, I might have said maybe not. But the more time that passes, and the more I am enjoying the end result, I have to say that I definitely want at least 1 more baby. 

Labor and delivery room
Fresh from the womb. Poor baby went through a lot!
Baby Girl Son
After her antibiotic eye drops
Spending time with Mommy
Hi Daddy
She was so quiet that 1st night...
My how things have changed!
Close-ups of her little feet, ears, hands, nose, mouth.
She has as much hair now as she did then, maybe less!

Going Home

I was discharged from the hospital on Friday, and Sam and I took our little baby bundle home. My parents flew in from NY the day after I delivered, and my sister flew in the day I was discharged. They couldn't stay long, but I'm glad they all got to meet Ava right after she was born. They saw her again in February when we went to visit NY.

Going home from the hospital
Note and drawing from Peter, my nephew

For at least a month after Ava was born, my mother-in-law had me eating traditional Korean postpartum foods everyday like seaweed soup, red bean rice porridge, pumpkin porridge with and without rice dumplings, and high-protein foods like hard-boiled eggs. I didn't strictly follow all of the Korean postpartum recovery rituals, but I did stay inside for 1 month -- aside from pediatric visits -- and avoided spicy, hard, or cold foods and beverages, including ice, for longer. I couldn't wear socks for a week because my feet were too swollen, but after the swelling went down, I kept my feet warm and covered. I did not intentionally limit activity or showers, but it was really difficult for me to do much of either for a while.

The only foods I really missed eating during pregnancy were runny eggs (poached or fried, like Benedict or sunny-side up) and smoked salmon (on bagels), and I also craved raw cookie dough. I'm happy to report that I've enjoyed all of the above in the past months since Ava's birth.

Seaweed soup with chicken, red bean rice porridge, eggs, and pumpkin porridge
Lactation cookies and Mother's Milk tea

I continue to eat a lot -- I always have and probably always will -- and I have to because I'm exclusively breastfeeding. I think the notion that you lose weight quickly or easily if you breastfeed is misleading. You definitely burn a lot of calories, but you need to take in a lot more. I was weighed at my 6 week postpartum appointment, and at that point I had lost about 20 of the 30 pounds I gained, but since then I think I've gained back a few. Losing weight is the last thing on my mind right now. It takes 9 months to gain the weight, I figure it can take at least the same to lose it, especially when your focus is on having the energy and milk supply to feed your baby and keep her healthy. When I scarf down too much pizza and cookies, or shovel protein bars into my mouth in the middle of the night, I say, "This is for you, Ava." 

Breastfeeding has been really important to me, but it's also been the hardest and most demanding job I've ever had. If being a mom is a full-time job, and being a stay-at-home-mom is a full-time job on top of that, then being an exclusively breastfeeding mom is yet another full-time job on top of that! Literally; the first few months I spent 8 hours a day nursing Ava. Like labor, like childbirth, like parenthood, breastfeeding is something you really don't understand until you experience it yourself. I could write a dedicated blog post about our breastfeeding journey, which has been full of ups and downs -- nothing with this child has been easy, let me tell you -- but I'm proud of how far we've come, that we've surpassed 6 months, and I hope to be able to continue for at least another 6 months.

There you have it, the end of my pregnancy through the very beginning of Ava's life, in a nutshell. We just took family photos to celebrate our 3rd wedding anniversary, Ava's 1/2 birthday outside the womb, and our final month in Michigan before we move back to the east coast. Stay tuned, because there is so much more to say. And there is so much to do over the next few weeks!


  1. You've been incredible throughout the whole process. Even the mellowness and patience show in your description! ^_* - country bread bkr


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