Posts by rachelelwood:
- 1 1/2 cups hot water (105-115 degrees)
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) yeast
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup cool water
- 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Who doesn’t love a good loaf of fresh-baked homemade bread?
This recipe comes from The Hay Day Country Market Cookbook, which we picked up at a Cracker Barrel years ago. It’s very much a “farm stand” cookbook, with recipes heavily focused on produce. The recipes also seem to lean just slightly more complicated than I like to tackle everyday, but don’t let that scare you away. There’s a recipe for cranberry-orange muffins I make every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are that good! Also several extremely tasty soup recipes.
And to go along with a lovely soup, one of the recipes that I thought was intriguing – but I never made it until recently! – was Everybody’s Favorite Peasant Bread. I first made it one day last fall when we had a guest; I know, a cardinal rule of hosting broken: never serve something you’ve never made before to company. But our kind of company is so very rarely the kind where you have to scour the house and prepare a picture-perfect meal. In this case, I had the time to do it and I’m a fairly confident bread-maker. Since then, I’ve made this bread about four or five times.
It was delicious! It’s an English-muffin style loaf, chewy from the baking soda with a light, spongy crumb. Like all yeast breads, it takes time to prepare, with all the kneedings and risings and punchings-down. The actual hands-on time isn’t all that bad, though.
The recipe makes two loaves, one to serve hot and fresh that day, and one to freeze for another meal! Wrapped carefully, it freezes well.
Everybody’s Favorite Peasant Bread
- Combine hot water, sugar, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve yeast and sugar and let it stand until the mixture is nice and bubbly, about 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine cool water and baking soda. Add to yeast mixture.
- Over a period of some amount of time (the recipe said 10-15 minutes, but I didn’t take anywhere near this long. Too impatient!) gradually add 5 cups flour and salt using a large wooden spoon or the paddle attachment on a mixer set on low speed. The mixture will form an elastic dough that just begins to ball up and pull away from the sides of the bowl in ribbons. Work in enough of the remaining flour to form a firm but sticky dough that comes together in a ball. It should not be as firm as traditional bread dough and will be too sticky to knead like you normally would with yeast bread. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest until the dough has doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I approved of being able to leave it to rise in the mixer bowl – one less dish to wash!
- Grease two loaf pans.
- Using buttered hands, or hands spritzed with Pam, turn the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Shape the halves and tuck them inside the prepared pans. Let them rise uncovered for about two hours, or until they have doubled in size and risen about 1 inch above the sides of the pans. Longer is fine. The bread works for you, not the other way around.
- Preheat oven to 400, and while you’re at it, toss the butter in the microwave to melt.
- Brush the tops of the loaves with the melted butter, and bake 30 minutes or until crisp and nicely browned on top. To test doneness, tap the bottom of a loaf. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done. Turn them out of the pans to cool on a wire rack. The lightly crisp crust will soften as the loaves cool.
Source: The Hay Day Country Market Cookbook (By Kim Rizk, Workman Publishing Company, 1998)
Mmm, fresh-baked bread. It slices way easier if you wait a few minutes to cut. But if you have guests waiting to eat and your toddlers are howling for food, just go for it. The bread keeps great for a few days in a plastic container on the counter. After the first day, the bread is a little drier, but it’s fine for toast.
Breakfast menu: watermelon, toasted bread, and egg with basil.
Full of surprises. This kid sure has given us a bunch already!
First, we didn’t know we were expecting until I was 15 weeks along – over a third of the way done. No symptoms beyond being tired, and um, with a growing and active toddler, that was life! I’d taken a pregnancy test in mid-February, right before we went to Europe, because I was a couple weeks late and was just starting to wonder. Hey, did you know sometimes you can get a false negative? Also, I’d recommend avoiding CVS generic pregnancy tests!
By April, I was training for a marathon. Yes, once again. (Steve says no more marathons because apparently they make us pregnant.) And I noticed that rather than my runs getting easier and faster, they were getting harder and slower. Generally not the way you want them to go. Also, I just started feeling pregnant. No explanation, because I didn’t have any real symptoms. Finally, I took another pregnancy test, and had an interesting 6:00am “We-need-to-talk” conversation with Steve. Although maybe Thing #2 came along a little sooner than we had envisioned, we were very very happy that we would have this addition to our family! Still, thanks to the false negative test in February, we had the shock of a lifetime when we went to our ultrasound appointment the next week. Our baby was not eight or so weeks old like we assumed, but a perfectly formed, 15-week-old BOY.
Pregnancy went great for the most part. I had very few symptoms beyond swelling and tiredness, and I’d had this feeling the whole time that he would be early. Our due date was September 29, but as we planned out projects and things to get ready for him, I was aiming for being done with everything closer to Labor Day. (yes, ha.)
At 38 weeks (around the 15th), I was having stronger Braxton-Hicks contractions. I’d been having them since August, off and on, but now they were far more regular. Between then and when I finally delivered over three weeks later, I’d had about six “events” of regular, relatively strong contractions for several hours. Two had us packing up for the hospital before they petered off.
I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. My stomach felt permanently clenched. I was so tired.
At my 40-week appointment, we scheduled an induction for the following week. Not my first choice, but I was just ready to be DONE. The plan was to come in on Tuesday the 6th to take cervidil, which would prep the cervix for pitocin the next day. We had a nice, quiet week, finishing up stuff at work, spending time with my parents and Amelia, and resting.
When we got to the hospital Tuesday night, we found out I was already 3cm dilated! So I was not given the cervidil and we were offered the choice to stay there that night or go home and come in at 5:00 the next morning. We choose to go home, which was great because we got really good sleep and felt much more refreshed that we would have if we’d stayed. Fortunately the hospital is only about 10 minutes from our house!
Unbeknownst to me, Dr Knapp had stripped my membranes a bit while she was checking me. She totally gets me; she knew that if I’d known she’d done that, I would have been obsessing over it and overthinking everything.
The next morning, we got up at 3:30 to get ready to leave and by 4:00, I was having regular contractions. By 5:00, when we were walking into the hospital, we had to stop several times for me to get through before going on. We got up to the Labor and Delivery floor, and the nurses weren’t surprised at all to see I was already in labor. Contractions were 5 minutes apart and still not super strong, so I was given pitocin to augment the process. That started around 8:00, and things picked up quickly. I was about 4-5 cm dilated at this point.
Steve was the world’s best labor coach, breathing with me through each contraction. I think one of the things that makes a good coach in anything is the recognition that the person you’re coaching is capable of doing better than they realize they can. Steve was definitely that person for me, helping me through the incredible pain that comes with labor and reminding me to breathe and relax. At some point during this first hour, during an intense contraction, I felt a huge POP, yelled, and my water broke. I think I might have scared Steve with the yell. No, but seriously, this water-breaking-pop is the most messed-up feeling. It’s like you know that there is no WAY that something inside you should pop like that.
Overall, thanks to Steve’s coaching, I was able to control my breathing and not give way to outright crying out. Labor without a doubt brings you to the absolute brink. But I tried to focus on the contractions as productive tools that would eventually give me my son.
Within an hour and a half or so, I was ready for the stadol, a medication I’d taken last time that helps you relax between contractions. We’d already discussed at which point in the awfulness of labor that I’d take it, so I was watching my pain tolerance and the strength of the contractions. After it was administered, I quickly went to a nice happy place that lasted for what seemed like a very short time. (This time it was a claymation village – like Wallace and Grommet. Last time with Amelia, I kept going back to an herb garden. Funny stuff.) Overall, in the back of my mind, I knew this labor was going miles faster than Amelia’s. I mostly had my eyes closed so it’s not like I was watching the clock, but I still had a sense that things were moving quickly. That both scared me and invigorated me. Steve said at one point that we knew we would have the baby today. I’m not sure I verbalized it, but I thought/said back, “Try before lunch.”
At the first holy-cow-he’s-coming contraction, I could tell pressure was increasing, and I told Steve. Okay, maybe more like gasped to Steve. He asked the nurse to check me again, and I was at 7. I heard him tell the nurse that I was going to go fast and that they needed to call the doctor. I think it was only about half an hour later that the doctor arrived, checked me to find that I was 10cm, and got everything set up for delivery. During that time, it was everything I could do to focus on not caving into the pain of the pressure. I remember realizing that my body was doing a one-horrible-hard-two-slightly-less-hard contraction pattern and feeling grateful. I remember wondering why I wasn’t screaming, like I did with Amelia.
The nurses were working around me, adjusting the bed and the stirrups while Dr Swan got ready. At the next contraction, they told me to grab my legs and push. But everything was too far away – I couldn’t get a good grip, the stirrups were up to high – and I lost my control (hey, there’s the screaming). When the contraction abated, Dr Swan said, “The head is right here, this can be all over with in the next contraction.” Steve helped me gather my resources, the nurses gave me better instruction, and at the next contraction, with two pushes, our son entered the world at 11:03am. He has a very nice real name, but on this blog we’re calling him Joel.
Dr Swan immediately put him on my stomach for me to hold because the cord was very short. Steve cut the cord, and I pulled Joel up to me and we just gazed at the wonder of our son. His full head of dark hair. His chin dimple. Just perfect in every way.
The nurses gave us all the skin-to-skin time we wanted as Dr Swan patched me up. After Joel got cleaned up, we started on nursing and to my shock, he took to it right away. As if he knew what he was doing or something. He’s been a champion nurser ever since. One of my big takeaways from this has been that everyone should have a second baby, just so they can enjoy parts of pregnancy/childbirth/parenting that they were too stressed about to enjoy the first time around! I want to exclusively nurse Joel, but I know that if I can’t, no biggie – he’ll be fine.
Once again, we had a great birthing experience at Marion General Hospital. The nurses there are top notch, caring and compassionate, and truly supported our choices to the best of their ability. I definitely feel it’s important for patients to be educated and know what they want before entering into a medical situation, especially childbirth. Recognizing that things can change quickly, too. At one point, the fetal monitor wasn’t picking up his heartbeat, and the nurse asked if we would be OK with an internal monitor (it would go just under the skin of the baby’s head). I was absolutely not OK with that, and responded (I was contracting and somewhat irate), “Nope. Find another solution.” Fortunately Steve was neither contracting nor irate, so he discussed it much more diplomatically. I got up to use the bathroom and by the time I came back, kiddo had shifted and was able to be picked up again on the external monitor. But I am all about being empowered in making health choices. I’m not unreasonable, and if greater intervention had truly been necessary, I would have been more than willing to do so.
And now, we’re home. We have a 16-month-old toddler big sister in addition to our six-day-old newborn. The sleep deprivation is back. The soreness and awfulness of postpartum recovery is back. But I feel calm and relaxed. Each day I’m in less and less pain. Each day I’m amazed by God’s gifts. Each day I’m beyond grateful for a mega-supportive husband, parents who have given so much to us, and friends willing to help in any way they can.
Steve and I are Daddy and Mommy to Amelia and Joel. And well, that’s just so great.
Or, I Can’t Throw Away My Throwaway Sweatshirt.
I’ll delve into that part of the story in a minute. The Indianapolis Monumental was just overall an awesome racing experience with LOTS of cool moments. It all began over a year ago…(cue flashback music)
When we found out I was pregnant last October, I was training for last year’s marathon. In fact, I’d run 18 miles the day before. Even though I had my doctor’s OK to run the race, Steve and I made the decision for me not to run. I quickly became first-trimester tired and we had concerns about possibly hurting the baby. We’d been trying for too long and gone through too much to risk anything happening to her. So, I FB messaged the race organizers and told them I wouldn’t be running and why. I wasn’t looking for a refund or anything, I just wanted to let them know. They very kindly offered me a free deferral for this year! A couple months ago, I downgraded to the half when it became quite obvious that I wasn’t up to running the full.
(And return-to-present-day music)
There was no race-day packet pickup, so on Friday afternoon (Halloween) we drove down to Indy. Our friends Phil and Judy had offered to watch Amelia that day and during the race, and our dogs are puppy buddies, so we swung by their house to drop off the little creatures before we headed downtown. We found parking pretty easily, right across from the expo in the convention center. It was really crowded, and we weren’t really in the browsing mood since we wanted to get back to the house, so we just grabbed my packet and split.
We had a really nice evening with Phil and Judy – and a few trick or treaters who were braving the horrible weather. We had grilled kebabs and veggies, green beans, rice, and this tasty yogurt/coolwhip/fruit salad. An excellent pre-race meal. We hit the hay pretty early since I was planning to get up at 5:00 the next morning.
Steve took Amelia’s first feeding so I got mostly unbroken sleep, which was a HUGE blessing! I was able to pump, have breakfast (banana and peanut butter toast) and get almost all ready before she woke up again. I fed her right before we left, hoping she would give Phil and Judy a couple more hours of sleep. I should have been more worried about the dog instead; she has a tendency to howl when she feels abandoned, and apparently, howl she did right after Steve and I left the house.
We headed back to downtown and parked about five blocks from the start line. I had brought along my pump and made sure I was as empty as possible before we left the car. Experience has also taught me to wear two sports bras for runs longer than an hour. (Breastfeeding and running are not without challenges, but we power through!) I was also wearing my running skirt with capris, wicking t-shirt, and two sweatshirts. My First West Olson sweatshirt from my FRESHMAN YEAR was going to be my throwaway layer. It was SO cold – 30 degrees and windy. On our way to the starting line, I hopped into a Panera to use the restroom. Yay for avoiding the porta-johns!
This was my first big race – over 15,000 people were competing in the full, half, and 5K. All my other races had fields ranging from 50-1500. The starting area was packed. I scooted in towards the back, but Steve said there were easily 1,000 people behind me. As we stood there trying to keep warm before the start, we started randomly talking to another lady, who had given birth just three months before! She gave me a great tip, too – take Advil a couple times during the race. She even shared her Advil with me, and gave Steve the rest of the bottle since she didn’t want to haul it with her. And it really helped, too! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. I didn’t realize how much pain I’d just been enduring.
And We’re Off!
Mile 1: It took me 10 minutes to reach the starting line because there were so many people ahead of me. For the first mile, I was just happy to warm up. The course wound around downtown, past Lucas Oil Stadium, Monument Circle, the Murat Theatre, etc. A really great course. Although it was a little odd running past the area where the IPD parks their crime scene forensics vans. Fastest mile: 9:11 pace.
Miles 2-3: I was warming up and took off my hat and gloves (one of which went MIA, bummer.) I started thinking that soon I would have to pitch my outer sweatshirt. I seriously spent at least two miles saying goodbye to this sweatshirt, which dated from my freshman year of college. I thought about how lonely and foreign I felt that year, and how those girls on my wing loved me despite my issues. That sweatshirt, with First West on the front and Hepworth on the back, really symbolized a shift in my heart, when I finally allowed myself to belong here in this country. And then, within a couple years, my name changed when Steve and I got married, and there was a little grief with no longer being a Hepworth. Obviously, I have no problem being an Elwood, but I think many women who take their husbands’ names can identify. But this sweatshirt was a physical symbol of my pre-married identity. And then I thought about my friends from the wing, how we have gone our separate ways…I haven’t seen them for a long time. Anyway, maybe you can see why this took me a couple miles to come to grips with!
Miles 4-5: Mass Ave is a super fun street, and I really enjoyed running through that neighborhood. I passed a guy wearing a kilt. A guy not in the race decided to try to navigate through the wall o’runners and almost took me out. A blast of cold air made me decide to hang on to my sweatshirt for a bit longer. Then, I heard from the sidewalk, “Yeah, First West! You got it, baby!” Well, that just made me want to keep it even more! Favorite signs: “Sweat is sexy!” “Worst Parade Ever!” “There’s beer at the finish!”
Miles 6-7: At the 10K mark, we ran over a sensor mat. I’d signed Steve up to get a text at that point and he texted me to say that I was on target for making my 2:30 goal. But I knew I was getting tired and couldn’t sustain that pace. Coming towards the halfway mark, the marathoners split from the rest of us. We were in a more residential neighborhood with lots of pretty houses and churches. I was so impressed at the way the faith community was represented. At least two aid stations were in front of churches (probably because the parking lots made setup easier) and about six churches had live bands or spectators cheering. I stopped at every aid station. I needed the walking breaks. I was super glad I’d used the bathroom before the race; at every porta-john station, the lines were like 10 deep. Nope, nope, nope. The sun was out, but it was windy and I was feeling chilled; my sweatshirt was going nowhere.
Miles 8-9: I was still feeling pretty good. I laughed as I passed the 9 mile mark. My longest training run had been only 8 miles, so with this mile mark, I surpassed all my runs for over a year! I knew I was going to come in well after 2:30, but I was OK with that. I focused on enjoying myself, thanking the police officers who were blocking traffic for us, thanking the volunteers, and soaking in energy from cheering spectators. Also, at this point, we were joined back up with the marathon course, and the elites were zooming by next to us. It was SO cool! I saw both the male and female winners. Very inspirational to be left in their dust.
Miles 10-12: Things started hurting. I was taking more walking breaks. My toes, my knees, my hips all were aching. But at this point, heck, Imma keep my sweatshirt! I’d had several more people call out, “Go First West!” during the race and I mean, that’s just fun. I noticed an older runner wearing a tshirt that said, “In honor of my wife and running buddy.” Underneath was her name and dates of birth and death. Very moving. Then another older dude wearing what appeared to be khakis and and old-man jacket powerwalked past me. Nice.
Mile 13: I stepped to the side and tied my sweatshirt around my waist so my number was visible. The number of spectators increased as we got closer, and they were so encouraging. Coming into the finish line area, I scanned the crowd for Steve, finally spotting him waving at me. I did some kind of weird victory gesture and crossed the finish line.
Volunteers handed me a hat, coverup, and medal. I tried to catch my breath and got a little teary. I couldn’t believe I’d just run 13.1 miles, five months after giving birth. I’m so lucky. I have a beautiful daughter, amazing husband, and supportive friends. AND MY FIRST WEST SWEATSHIRT!!! Stained, ripped pocket, and 14 years old, I just couldn’t give it up.
I grabbed water, chocolate milk, a couple bananas, a cookie, and met up with Steve. After also taking three small Jimmy John’s sandwiches, too. Seriously, eating is the best part of running. We walked (I hobbled) back to the car and headed back to Fishers to retrieve our small creatures. What an awesome race. The organizers were top notch and volunteers and police were the best. I would totally run this one again!
Or, A 5K Makes Rachel Cry.
But they were tears of joy, so it was OK.
Here’s my race report for the 2014 Girls Night Out All-Female 5K!
I had a work commitment in the morning, where I helped to man a WGM booth at a local n0nprofit event. Fortunately, I was able to stay off my feet for a good bit of the morning. I definitely didn’t want to be footsore before the race even started! We had pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, and watermelon for lunch. Not my usual pre-race fare, but it wasn’t super heavy so it actually worked out well. I did a few things around the house, then waited until the last possible moment to do a final pump so I was as empty as possible.
We piled into our car with Tim and Kassie, and headed to Kokomo. Like last year, registration and packet pick-up was held in Grace United Methodist Church. The setup was great and volunteers were awesome. And it was nice to have a bathroom to visit, too! Steve was on baby duty and he and Tim staked out a spot near the finish line. K and I joined the 200+ women and girls who had gathered to go on a run together. The weather was crisp and cool; I opted for a t-shirt instead long sleeves. (It was my new Blerch t-shirt, gift from Steve!) I also chose to use my headphones and music. Last time, I did without, and I think it would have helped to have my tunes.
Oh, first there was an ADORBS fun run for teeny tiny girls. This one little 2-year-old was beyond awesome as she came determinedly bouncing in. That’ll be Amelia in a few years, I hope!
The run started near downtown, and you run on streets for a few blocks before hopping onto a Cardinal Greenway-like trail that went under a main road and into a park along the river. K quickly scooted past me, as I’d expected. Amelia is only three months old, and it’s taken me longer than I thought it would to return to my pre-pregnancy strength. Heck, I’m a ways off still. So I just decided to do my best, push when I could, and accept my body and strength for what it is right now. I passed the first mile marker and the volunteer called out 10:55. Okay, not bad. It would be cool if I could do 33.
The second mile is really nice, winding up a little neighborhood and through some pretty woods. There are also a couple of hills. I played around with speeding up a bit going downhill, since I figured that I was expending the same amount of energy if I sped up. By now, I’d passed a number of people, mostly young girls who went out too fast. At the second mile marker, I heard 21:57. Sweet, I was still on track.
In the last mile, you do a quick jaunt across the river and back. The bridge is some kind of suspension bridge that bounces when people run on it, so that was a little disorienting. There’s a serious uphill just a quarter mile from the finish. I think that’s what slowed me down. And THEN, you can see the finish three blocks away, and you can see the big timer, and you’re like AHHH, get there faster!!!
But mostly, during that last mile, I thought about Amelia. You’re not actually supposed to think about your baby when you run if you breastfeed because it can make you let down…but I thought about how a year ago, even though I was pregnant, I didn’t know it. I thought about being pregnant, the labor, the recovery. I thought about how very blessed I am to even be able to run right now! I thought about my amazing husband who was at the finish line, taking care of our baby. Our baby. I thought about our friends who have walked this road with us. And I started to cry. “Hold it together, Rach, hold it together…”
Then, as I got closer, I saw Steve standing in the street, holding up Amelia. He waved at me, urging me to sprint the finish. Well, it hurts to sprint still, but I did pick it up a bit. Final time: 33:50.
And then I burst into tears. Happy tears.
(Thanks to Tim for the photo!)
Note: this post contains some frank details of the birthing process. Not insanely graphic, but there’s no way of getting around how we all end up in this world. So, if that kind of stuff bothers you, might want to skip this post!
Nothing like the adventure of giving birth! We are now in the midst of feedings, naps, pumping, and adjusting to life as parents of a newborn. I have learned so much over these days, more than I ever could have dreamed. The love I feel for our little girl is overwhelming. As part of her story, I wanted to record her birth experience.
I’d been having false labor for over a week. One word: maddening. In fact, we spent all afternoon at the hospital on May 27th because the contractions were regular and speeding up. This being my first kid, I had no idea what intensity to pay attention to. As it turns out, um, they have to be really, really intense! So we knew we were close, but close at this stage of pregnancy means either a couple hours or a couple weeks. I was starting to think, though, that I would be pregnant forever.
On June 3rd, I had my 40-week appointment and was 2 cm dilated. My doctor told me to plan to come to the hospital on the following Monday to be induced if nothing happened before then, but he seemed fairly confident that I’d go into labor on my own. On Wednesday evening, we went for a walk and then I did some cleaning and slammed out a pile of thank-you cards for baby gifts. Burst of energy? Maybe.
At about 5:30 the next morning, on June 5, I woke up and went to the restroom. Whilst within, I had a largish contraction, felt a weird internal pop, and out gushed my water. I woke up Steve to tell him and we started getting ready. We took our time because I wasn’t having very regular contractions. I ate a big, fortifying breakfast (I thought back to my pre-race brekkies for inspiration), cleaned up the kitchen, tidied the bedroom, and got the guest room ready for my parents. We finally left the house at 7:30, and I’d still only had a couple more contractions. Baby Elwood (bloggy nickname still to come) was still moving around, which surprised me.
One surprise that I did NOT read about in my books: you keep producing amniotic fluid! So in addition to that first gush, I kept randomly leaking/gushing for several more hours until her head descended enough to basically plug the tear. Who knew?? Feels like maybe that could have been mentioned somewhere!
We were admitted to Marion General Hospital and the contractions got more frequent, but still weren’t super strong. When we got up to the birthing center, all the labor and delivery rooms were full and we had to wait in the hallway while they moved out one family and cleaned the room. I got all checked in and attached to the monitors to see where I was at. By about 9:00, I still wasn’t having very strong contractions, and my doctor came in to talk about administering pitocin to get things going. While that was not my first choice (and holy wow, I hope I won’t have to have it for our next kid), we made the choice to go ahead to prevent a long, unprofitable labor that might end in a c-section.
Before the pitocin kicked in (and I was given the lowest possible dose) I was really relaxed. We watched a couple episodes of Outsourced on my Kindle. They brought in a clear-foods meal tray, and as I was devouring my Jello, things started to get real, man. Regular, every 3-5 minutes hard contractions that required focused breathing. I changed my position about every half hour for a while – hands and knees on the floor, sitting on the ball, leaning over the bed with Steve applying counter-pressure on my back, etc. He was amazing throughout the entire experience. He breathed with me, let me crush his hand, massaged my back, coached me through it all. I couldn’t have done it without him. He was there every step of the way.
I stayed on top of the pain for a while, but things started to get fuzzy after several hours like this. The contractions were every two minutes, and hard. Steve kept saying how strong I was, but I was starting to feel defeated. How could I stand this level of pain for much longer? I was committed to a natural, no-epidural birth. But could I do it?
By 3:00, I was ready to talk options. I was so tired, in so much pain. I just couldn’t keep up with it. The nurse suggested a IV medication called Stadol, which wouldn’t dull the pain but would help me relax in between contractions. I knew someone who had used it and hadn’t been a fan, but maybe it would give me what I needed to power through. At this point, I was about 4 cm dilated. I fully expected to be at this for another six+ hours.
They administered the medication, and I was able to relax so much in between contractions that I fell asleep! I even remember going back to the same dream several times…something about an herb garden. I was also more able to manage my breathing, at least for a little while. At this point, apparently things started happening rapidly because I was able to relax so much. Even with the drug, I was highly aware of how much was going on inside me. I was so overstimulated, I basically kept my eyes closed for the last few hours of labor. Couldn’t handle seeing anything…or smelling, unfortunately for Steve and his Jimmy John’s sandwich. (“Remove your sandwich!!”) Steve tried to distract me with HGTV at one point, and that didn’t work out well either. (“Turn it off! Can’t handle stupid!”)
Things became more intense. The pressure was building and I felt like I needed to push. But the monitor wasn’t picking up on the contractions well, because when Steve told the nurse, she said, “Really? Well, OK, I’ll check her.” I was nine centimeters, and she rushed out of the room to have someone call my doctor, who was across town at his office.
The books all call it an “urge to push.” It’s not so much an urge as it is a frenetic, uncontrollable force with a mind of its own bent on destroying you. I couldn’t help myself several times; I screamed with everything I could muster. Which isn’t helpful, wasting energy and breath on making noise. Steve and the nurse were working overtime to keep me calm and reminding me to breathe.
Through my closed eyes, I could tell that a bright light had come on. Steve told me that they were getting ready for delivery, and that I was super close. “I don’t believe you!” I kept saying. Even though I felt this “urge” I didn’t believe that my body could actually expel the baby. And my body agreed with my head, so all in all, it almost took reaching outside of my mind and body to convince myself I could do it in those last moments. I opened my eyes briefly to see my doctor putting on his gear, and that the table was set up behind him with supplies. The room seemed to rapidly fill with people.
Dr Mueller told me to push, and with just three pushes (and possibly, yes, screams) our baby arrived. In those moments, I reached into a strength that I don’t even understand. I’m not sure I even believed it when she was out. I just stared at her in shock as Dr Mueller cleaned her up, cleared her airways, and placed her on me while he clamped the cord. Steve got to cut it. She was here, she was ours, and she was perfect. Born at 5:10pm on June 5, 8 pounds 10 ounces, 20 3/4 inches long after almost 12 hours of labor.
Meanwhile, I was aware that things were still happening. Dr Mueller was saying something about a lot of bleeding. I felt the placenta come out, and then a burst of pain. I yelled out, “No surprises! What are you doing?!” And in very measured tones, he replied, “Honey, you’re losing a lot of blood and I need to stitch you up.” A nurse who was assisting him started giving me a play-by-play, letting me know when he was giving me local anesthetic and when he was stitching. I was shaking uncontrollably – also something I missed hearing about before birth! Apparently it’s caused by hormone changes, is completely normal, and lots of people do it.
Steve and the nurses kept reminding me to breathe and to focus on the baby. I remember staring at her hand – it was so beautiful and her fingers seemed so long. And while I’m maybe possibly biased, she looked so good even from the start! No funky shaped head, her skin was a pretty color, and she was completely, entirely whole and healthy. Steve and I were in love.
Post-delivery, we stayed in the room for a few more hours. We had a long skin-to-skin time and started working on breastfeeding. The room was cold, and she had a relatively low core temperature, so they put her under a heating device and monitored her until it was raised to the right temp so she could have a proper bath. We Skyped with our parents to tell them the name. They were located in Pennsylvania (my parents), Hungary (Steve’s dad), and Turkey (Steve’s mom) and at one point, we had three different devices pointing at her so we could tell them all at the same time.
I got to walk to our recovery room, pushing baby in the bassinet. I was exhausted, but it felt so nice to stretch my legs after essentially being in bed all day. We got all settled in, and Steve left to pick up take out at Applebee’s. Which I went to TOWN on.
And then, we started our journey of being a family.
Quick note on the hospital: Our experience at MGH was great. The nurses were awesome, a lactation consultant came to our room, and even the food was good! We were very thankful that our hospital experience was so positive. The nurses especially were super kind, helpful, and supportive.