Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Congratulations!


So excited for these students who won the departmental short story contest out of a large amount of entries! Very proud to have both Michael Jorgensen and Cara Triebold in my Writing Fiction & Poetry class this semester, and I am glad to see their good work honored and recognized!

Michael also recorded a reading of his winning story, "Disconnect," for Olivet's Scholar Week.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Bent But Not Broken

It will come as no surprise to anyone that this spring has not turned out at all like we believed or hoped that it would. As my blog would be the millionth-and-oneish published source about coronavirus disease (COVID-19), I will not attempt to detail any past frustrations, current fears, or future predictions, as they are all so fluid they could change by the time I have finished this post anyway. Instead, I will give an update on what life has looked like within our walls and refer any reader to the World Health Organization's website for the most current, reputable information.

As I was on maternity leave for one third of the fall semester, I was looking forward to a more normal spring semester; however, that has not been the case. Academically, the first eight weeks went by pretty smoothly before the virus roadblocked the second half of the semester. Olivet has moved all classes online for the remainder of the semester. I feel lucky that the impact for me was minimal, but it has been a big adjustment for both my students and my colleagues. My students have had to leave campus, travel home, and then try to figure out a new normal from there. I do feel for each of them as they have been thrown into these sudden changes, but my heart breaks for my senior students who will not be able to finish their college careers on campus with their friends. That being said, I know my students have shown great resilience, and there are many sweet and inspiring stories emerging from around the world as we collectively grapple with our current human condition.

I have been continuously impressed with the work ethic, communication, and dedication of my students in their course work this semester. I am currently teaching a ENGL 210: College Writing II with 54 students and ENGL 329: Writing Fiction and Poetry with 12 students. The work that my students have composed and produced this semester is really on the next level. My 210 students just submitted plans for conducting primary research, and I am excited by their ideas to do personal observations, interview family members, survey their friends, or analyze existing interviews or data sets. My 329 students are submitting very original and compelling fiction and poetry work. I've been impressed by their ability to dive into their created worlds and bring the reader along with them. My students have really taken these changes in stride, and I'm proud of the work they have done.

In addition to my teaching work, I have been working to prepare for the full launch of the new writing major! I'm really excited for this opportunity for our current English students, as well as a way to draw other majors to our department through a double major. Through a set up of new course and internship offerings, I think our students will have access to a lot of great material and experiences. Happy to have been able to work towards this end. Wade, Coco, and I were able to make the trip down to Olivet at the beginning of the semester. I met with my 210 students in large groups, I met individually with my 329 students, and I was able to touch base in person with my department chair on the work we are doing this semester as I continue to help create materials and plans for the writing program.

Though I totally agree with the decision, I was very disappointed that CCCC 2020 in Milwaukee, WI was canceled for this year. I would have been traveling down to Milwaukee today, and I'm sad to not be able to see my friends or grow from the knowledge sharing and energy production that each conference brings. I also will not be traveling down to Olivet for our departmental workshop dates in April, as the workshops have also been canceled. One bright spot of the semester, though, was that my article "Food Memoirs: Agency in Public and Private Domains" was published in the fall 2019/ winter 2020 edition of Peitho. It was really rewarding to see my work finally in print, and I'm glad to be counted among the authors published in Peitho. Would love for you to check out the article!

Looking ahead, the landscape is somewhat foggy. I don't know what this spring or summer will bring, so we are just trying to enjoy our days at home. Wade and I are both working fully remotely, and we have the cutest six-month old baby and two sweetest doggos as co-workers. We take fun lunch breaks, walk outside, and drive through the country together. We have dance parties in the kitchen, listen to episodes of Armchair Expert, and bake a lot of treats. We cuddle up in bed on Saturday mornings, grill out on the deck, and watch episodes of Schitt's Creek on our laptop. Life is very, very complicated outside for many, including some of our close friends and family members, but we are counting our blessings that we are safe and can spend simple and sweet days together.


Keep calm, friends, and carry on. 





Sunday, 12 January 2020

A Baby Blog: Post Bump Products

A little less than three months before the baby was born I did a post called "A Baby Blog." I discussed various suggestions we had while preparing for the baby, some of the pre-baby celebrations, and some hopes I had for the future. We had, overall, a really great birth experience, which I documented in the "Birth Story" post, so I won't revisit that here. Instead, now that our son is over three months old, I want to document some of the specific items that have been most helpful to us in these first months of his life and our adjustment to all things parenthood. This will serve to remind me of these things later on, but I'd also like to be able to offer these suggestions to others who may be looking for suggestions in the future for themselves or for gifts. We are planning to do a bit of a remodel on Cohen's room, so I'll do a post about that and the items we have in there once we have that done! I've sourced all of these items from Amazon* because it's so convenient to ship it to the door or add it to an online registry.

1) Twelve Hours' Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old by Suzy Giordano

Our number one concern/prayer/planning focus before the baby was born was in regard to SLEEP. We both like to sleep (me even more than Wade), and we both know how important it is to our well-being to get as much sleep as possible. So, we asked, we read, and we talked about sleep a lot before our baby made his debut. The very best resource we found was this book by Suzy Giordano. It's short, well laid out, and it gives an overview not just for sleeping but for eating and awake time activity as well, for the first three months. Now, in real life there are always small adaptations or concessions, but by consistently following this guide, we have found that we have been able to be better attuned to our sons wants and needs regarding schedule, sleep, and eating. It's really worked for us, and I recommend it as a must read to all new parents.

2) Fisher-Price Baby's Bouncer

Our next favorite item was a recommendation from a colleague when I asked what "must haves" I should put on my baby list. Her first suggestion was this geo meadow baby bouncer, and she wasn't wrong. Our baby has loved this thing since his first days at home, though, he needed some neck support to sit in it for awhile. Like all baby products it needs to be used according to the instructions, under supervision, etc., but it's a really great place to put the baby down. I think he likes it because he can see the world, be entertained (now) by the toy bar, and even drift off in it before we move him for a nap. We don't use the vibrating feature because it is not recommended in Giordano's book, but I'm not sure he would have liked that much anyway. We have also affectionally nicknamed it his "pooping chair," because as his pediatrician explained, it is hard to poop laying down! So this chair really helps things get moving through him after some yummy milk.

3) RaZbaby JollyPop Baby Pacifier

These pacifiers are really wonderful for appeasement, particularly before feeding or bedtime. We were given one of these in the hospital with the recommendation to wait until the baby was about two or three weeks old to give it to him to insure a good nursing latch. We did wait a couple weeks, but once we gave him this pacifier, he loved it. He hasn't been a fan of any other kinds, but he's always taken well to these. He never had any latching issues, either, so I think they are good to use once the latch is established. He had been using our fingers as soothers before this, so we were all glad that he took to the pacifier so well! He uses it primarily during the day now as he seems much more interested in sucking his thumb before bedtime.

4) Boppy Original Nursing Pillow

Before I even had a thought about having a baby I knew of Boppy pillows. They seemed all the rage at baby showers and in every nursery. I was a bit on the fence about requesting one because I don't like a lot of clutter, so I thought it might just sit around taking up space. I did get one, though, and I love it. As I alluded to, breastfeeding came pretty easy to the little, which was so helpful to me. That being said, I've used this Boppy pillow in the hospital and everyday (multiple times) since. I've brought it with me in the car and to Chicago. I can nurse him without it, but it just makes everything so much easier (and nicer on my back and neck), so why stop using it? I am nervous about him getting too long to be comfortable on it, but we'll address that as it happens. The covers are easy to switch and wash, which I also like. I do also like the Boppy lounger that we were given. Babies shouldn't sleep in it, but it is a comfy, safe place to set them down.

5) Moby Wrap & Ergo Carrier 

For baby carriers, we were gifted a couple. We were given the Moby Wrap and an Ergo Carrier. Now, we really liked both carriers for the first couple months, but we seem to have hit kind of an in-between spot in using them. I used the Moby in restaurants and at church quite a bit when the baby was really little-- like one to two months. We also used the Ergo for walks and soothing up until about that point as well; however, he seems to have outgrown the infant holds (he's a long boy!), but since he can't hold his head up yet, we haven't been able to transition to the other holds. As is, he just gets cranky or uncomfortable because he doesn't quite fit in the carriers right now. That being said, we did really like using them for him as an infant, and I think we will like them again soon, as soon as he is able to hold is head up and be stable in the alternate holds. We also have a Milk Snob Nursing Cover that I've used both on his carseat in the warmer weather and to nurse him.

6) Infantino Go Gaga Infant to Toddler Play Gym

As another option for a fun and safe place to set the baby while we are doing laundry, cooking, eating, etc., we have really liked this baby play teepee. Again, I was a bit hesitant to have something set up that takes up so much space, but it is a very fun little area for the baby to kick and explore. For this teepee in particular, there is a mirror where he can see himself, as well as some fun music from the hanging owl. Otherwise, he can watch the animals swirl around and will eventually be able to touch and tug on them. Like our Summer Infant Clean Baby Bather, it's hard to know what item is right from the myriad of options available. We chose the teepee (and bather) from suggestions from friends, and I think that is often the best way to go! Our friends have the teepee for their baby girl, and they called it "the best babysitter!" and I think they were right!


7) Halo & Zen Sack Sleepers 

For having done quite a bit of research and reading about sleep before the baby came, we didn't have much of a plan for what the baby would sleep in. We knew we couldn't do blankets and would definitely follow the "back is best" campaign, but I guess we figured we would just figure out what to put him in once we came, and we did! The first night in the hospital we tried swaddling him, but we couldn't get the blankets tight enough without a nurse helping us. But then I saw the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle in a drawer and thought we should try that, and it worked like a charm! So easy to use and take a part and do back up when we needed to change him. Before we left the hospital we asked the nurse if we could have another one, so she snuck it into our going away bag. We ordered a size up once he started to grow, but soon he found his thumb, so we didn't want to swaddle both arms so that he could self soothe. Once we had transitioned to having two arms out of the swaddle we switched over the to Nested Bean Zen Sack, and that has also been awesome. I think the weighted beans are very soothing and comforting throughout the night, and it seems to provide the right amount of warmth with a full onesie underneath. I anticipate us using the Zen Sack for a good while. We use Dreft baby detergent to launder all of his clothes, and I really like it. He has had baby eczema on his face for a few months, so we've started using Eucerin cream for that, but he hasn't had any problems on his body, and I think the Dreft helps with that.

8) Comotomo Baby Bottles 

Like the pacifier, Cohen has done well taking a bottle from the beginning. Like most of these items, someone recommended the Comotomo Baby Bottles to us, and they are great! The nipples are soft and they are easy to use and then run through the dishwasher. Again, we were told to wait on introducing a bottle to avoid nipple confusion, so we didn't give Cohen a bottle until he was about four weeks old. When we did, I left the house, as some online articles had warned that even being in the house could confuse him a bit, as he could smell the real milk. So, I took Lacy for a walk while Wade heated up the milk and gave him his first bottle! He took it great and drank the whole thing. We only use a bottle intermittently, as I work from home, but it has never been a problem having him take one or switching between them. I do think these bottles helped that transition! We use this Munchkin High Capacity Drying Rack to dry out the bottles, as well as pacifiers, pump equipment, etc.

9) SmartNoggin Rattle 

One of the more random things that the baby really loves is this SmartNoggin Rattle. I believe that I first saw the rattle listed on some kind of list of developmental toys for infants, but I cannot find that list anywhere. That being said, I added this rattle to our registry, and it is the toy that the baby is by far the most interested in so far. It rattles, it lights up, and it has a good counter weight that he can hold it in his little hand. It's great for helping him develop eyesight tracking, and he is often mesmerized by the changing lights. There is also a little mirror on the bottom, but he hasn't been as interested in that yet. We use this toy to encourage him to roll over, and it's a great way to entertain him if he's getting a little fussy. We've also gotten out his Sophie the Giraffe toy, but he's much more interested in the rattle at this point... although, Sophie is very cute.

10) Evenflo Carseat & Stroller 

One of the only required baby items that you need to have leaving the hospital is a good carseat. It obviously makes sense, and we also wanted to make sure the carseat was not only safe for the baby but worked well for us. We did some online and in person looking and researching, and we eventually decided upon this Evenflo car seat and stroller combo. Now, I really don't know if this is the very best out there because it is the only set we've tried, but we have liked it, and it has already given us flexibility as the baby has grown. We have two bases-- one in each car-- and then we keep the stroller ready to go. Both the stroller and the car seat took a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to work, but we have figured them out. The one struggle I was having was trying to figure out how to keep the baby warm enough in the carseat while not creating any extra layers. A friend suggested this JJ Cole car seat cover, and it is so great. So much easier to keep the baby warm getting in and out of the car.

It's hard to imagine that such a tiny person needs so much stuff before they are even walking or eating solid foods! Of course, this is also all in addition to the myriads of clothes, books, blankets, toys, and decor. We're even storing several items like, a snowsuit, high chair, activity center, and pack-n-play that we haven't even used yet! It's all worth it to have such a sweet little person in our home, but it does make me consider the moms of one or two hundred years ago who had a rocking chair and a blanket for their baby. Ah, well, here we are. Happy baby shopping!


*All opinions are my own and come from personal use. Some affiliate links are included.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Article Publication

So excited to share that my article, "Food Memoirs: Agency in Public and Private Rhetorical Domains," about Diana Abu-Jaber's memoir, The Language of Baklava, and feminist rhetorical domains is out! Check out the latest issue of Peitho: Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition if you'd like to read it.


Monday, 9 December 2019

A Very Full Fall

And here we are, just like that, at the end of another semester. This semester has required more discipline and focus than in years past because with a little baby around every moment is precious! I want to be sure to not waste time that I could be spending with him, but I also want to do my work well and be totally focused on that when I'm working. This balance is tricky to strike and some days are better than others. I am glad to have made it to the end of the semester! I have about three more days worth of grading to do, and I plan to have my students' final grades submitted by the end of the week.

Baby Cohen Matthew was born on September 27th, 2019, but he was due on September 18th. I had things ready to go for my online classes until week eight of the semester by the 18th, but when he took his time making his appearance, I used that last week to work ahead and get my classes fully set up until week twelve of the semester. I took my maternity leave from Monday, September 23rd to Wednesday, October 23rd. During that time I answered some emails and calls, but I primarily let my wonderful TA and colleagues take the majority of the questions, student help, and grading responsibilities. I'm so grateful to them for doing so and to my students for understanding the circumstances. I'm also very grateful to my mom who watches the baby for four hours every morning so that I can have uninterrupted work time, and I'm grateful for a baby who likes to take naps in the afternoon... except right now, apparently. We have had some fun this fall including Wade running a half-marathon for World Vision in the Madison Marathon, hosting visiting friends and then family for Thanksgiving, and taking Cohen on his first mini road trip down to Chicago to see my family who were visiting from Colorado and New Mexico. 

I think things have really gone as smoothly as possible this semester. I've communicated with my students via email, phone, Canvas chat, Canvas announcements, and video announcements, and I've joined department meetings vis Skype. I haven't made it down to Olivet this semester with the baby arriving about a fourth of the way into the semester and then not getting his first immunization shots until the last full week. I have already planned three visits down to Olivet in the spring, and I'm looking forward to connecting to my colleagues and students in person. 

I taught two sections of College Writing II this semester and one section of Advanced Writing. In both courses the students work toward one major written composition for the majority of the semester. They all turned in their work just before Thanksgiving break, and I was honestly so impressed. Overall, the students were creative in their topics, articulate in their expression, thorough in their secondary research, creative in their primary research, and expressive in their investment in the ideas. I think that large composition projects can be overwhelming no matter when they begin, but I was glad to see that the students tried their best to use the time given to them to compose strong, original academic texts. My Advanced Writing students were expected to submit their work for consideration for publication, and I would be so excited to see some of these thoughtful, well-researched compositions be published and read by a wider audience.


In addition to my teaching work, I have also been a part of proposing a writing major for the English department. Based on input and feedback from my department chair and colleagues, I composed a rationale for the importance of implementing a writing major. That, along with a proposal drafted by our department last spring, was presented and distributed to various stakeholders, and the proposal was accepted in October! The Department of English at Olivet will now having a writing major offered starting in the fall of 2020. I'm so excited about the possibilities and opportunities that this major will offer to current and future Olivet students.

I also participated in an online course development module in the student role, alongside teaching online classes, this semester. I had the opportunity to develop two online course modules for the department, and this six-week course development training helped me in my preparation for creating ENGL 329: Writing Fiction and Poetry, which I will be teaching starting in January. I'm looking forward to working with upper division creative writing students again this spring, and I am curious as to how the online setup will affect the course experience. I will be teaching two more sections of College Writing II in the spring, as well as continuing to develop course descriptions and outcomes for our writing major.

I wasn't able to attend Feminisms & Rhetorics 2019 in Harrisonburg, VA this year, nor the Bloom Women's Retreat in Green Lake, WI. Those are two fall staples that I am disappointed to have missed out on, but I look forward to future attendance. I did get to attend our Bloom move night closer to home, and I was glad to get some time with that community of women. I am looking forward to attending the Conference on College Composition and Communication 2020 in Milwaukee, WI this spring, as well as for my article manuscript, "Food Memoir: Agency in Public and Private Rhetorical Domains" to be published in Peitho this fall. That article has been through several iterations over the past few years, and I am very glad to have it finally be finished and published.

In addition to my scholarly work, I was proud to have completed my reading goal of reading 19 books in 2019. In line with the year itself, there is quite a bit of variety represented here. I really enjoyed most of the books, and I have recommended several of them to others. My favorite fiction book of the year was The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. It had just the right amount of intrigue, romance, whimsy, and literary references to be so satisfying. My favorite nonfiction book was Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, which I listened to on Audible. I included an overview of that book in my "Baby Blog" post. All but two of the books that I read this year were written by women, and I think overall it was a great year of reading. Looking forward to reading 20 books in 2020.

I started this year with a trip to Thailand over my 30th birthday and am ending it at home with a three month old baby. There was lots of questioning, excitement, work, and planning in between, but we've made it! I realized the other day that this decade has been my first one as an adult, and it really has been one for the books! In this decade, I've: taught English at the college level for nine years at five different institutions, gotten six tattoos, traveled to four continents, lost three close family members, earned three post-secondary degrees, lived in three different states, bought two houses, owned two dogs, gotten married, and had a baby boy. I'm ready, though, for what the next decade will bring.


Friday, 25 October 2019

Our Birth Story


BACKGROUND
Wade and I met in middle school, became friends our sophomore year of high school, and started dating January 2nd, 2006 after attending our junior year homecoming dance together earlier that fall. Before Wade and I got married in 2011 we discussed having children, and we felt pretty comfortable with the thought: “if it happens, it happens." So when I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in 2012, we weren’t too disappointed. While there are treatments for PCOS and medical intervention to help women get pregnant, I knew I didn’t want to go down that road, though I did want to get healthier for myself. I treated my PCOS naturally, and Wade and I continued to use birth contraceptives to prevent pregnancy, as about a third of women with PCOS do still get pregnant without intervention. 

Fast forward about seven and a half years to January 2019, and Wade and I had just returned from an amazing trip to Thailand, where we spent a week (including my 30th birthday!) at Boon Lott’s Elephant Sanctuary in Sukhothai, Thailand. The trip was literally a dream come true for me! We returned home to snow storms and canceled classes at Olivet, and I was glad to have that week pretty much off, as I could not seem to get over the jet lag or slight nausea I was assuming was brought on by our travels. I taught one day of classes, but I spent the first week at home pretty much asleep. 

One week after we returned from Thailand, I was beginning my weekly commute from Madison to Bourbonnais for work, and I had to pull my car over on the side of the interstate to vomit. This felt strange, so I contacted my doctor’s office to schedule a test for a bacterial infection when I returned to Madison that Friday. On the nurse’s suggestion, I took a pregnancy test after teaching that evening just to be sure I wasn’t pregnant. When that test came back positive, I figured it was a fluke, and I waited to take another until after teaching the next day. When the second test came back negative, I went out to sushi to celebrate my and my friend's thirtieth birthdays and cooed over another friend’s little baby, thinking: “phew, that was close!” I took the third test when I got home from dinner that night. I realized then I’d read the second test wrong, and I had three positive pregnancy tests sitting in front of me. I called Wade on FaceTime within a minute and gave him the news. It was quite a shock for both of us!

That Friday, once I returned to Madison, we went to an ultrasound appointment instead of the bacterial test I had been planning. On the screen, we saw our eight-week old little nugget and found out he’d been hanging out there since before Christmas! We got back in the car, and Wade told me that he’d bought me and the baby a present. He’d gone to the fair trade store, Serrv, on State Street and purchased a stuffed, multicolored cloth elephant, made in India. For the first time, I started to cry, realizing how much our lives were about to change. 

The sight of the elephant also brought me back to the sanctuary in Thailand and specifically back to the daily interactions that we had with the beautiful elephant Pang Fai , which means “aunty of light,” while were there. Pang Fai was one of the newest rescues at the sanctuary, though she had been in the logging industry for over 30 years before her rescue. At the sanctuary, there is no contact with the elephants unless they initiate it and the mahout (their keeper/companion) says it’s OK. Every morning we’d watch Pang Fai eat the vitamin balls that we prepared for her, and then after she ate, she’d reach her trunk out slowly and touch my stomach. I was thrilled because it meant I got to gently touch her trunk and look closely into her eyes, but I didn’t know why she was doing that. After Wade pulled out the cloth elephant that day of the ultrasound, it clicked in my mind. This aunty elephant was telling me that there was a little life inside of me. She was the first to know! It's such a sweet memory to have now.


I was glad we had the next seven months to process and prepare for this life change. My pregnancy was relatively easy and very normal. The worst of it was some intense sciatic nerve pain during my third trimester due to the baby’s position. My job shifted so I wouldn’t have to commute to school but could instead teach remotely, we bought a brand new, lovely home in a quiet community, and we felt pretty settled back in the Madison area. If there was a right time for a baby, this seemed to be it, so we got ready to meet our son who was due on September 18th.

Though I am chronically late for things, I was a bit surprised that our baby took his sweet time to make his debut. He seemed quite content to just stay inside! Soon after his due date passed we set an induction date for Wednesday, September 25th, 2019. That week consisted of some minor cramping and other labor signs but mostly we just waited. We took it easy the morning of the 25th, brought our dogs over to my parent’s, and then we headed to the hospital for our induction appointment. 

BIRTH 

We checked into our room at Meriter Hospital at 3:00 PM on September 25th, and that’s when all the fun began. We worked with the team of nine UnityPoint Health midwives throughout the pregnancy, and we knew we would probably be seeing a few of them during our stay in the hospital. Our first midwife was Carol, and then we also worked with Anastasia throughout the stay, and Denise delivered the baby. We started the induction process with Misoprostol to thin my cervix, and we settled in and watched Property Brothers and ate dinner from Noodles & Company that my parents brought us. We settled into the room with an essential oil diffuser, a lamp, and a fan from home. The nurses and midwives monitored my contractions until they checked my cervix at about 1:30 AM on the morning of the 26th. I was only dilated about one centimeter, but I was having regular contractions.

After Benadryl did nothing to take the edge off the contractions, we decided to do a dose of the narcotic. Almost immediately I dropped off to sleep for about two and a half hours. It was a welcome relief. I had a bloody show at about 7:00 AM, but the 7:30 AM cervix check showed I wasn’t dilated any more than a centimeter, though my cervix was ripening. I ordered some breakfast from room service, talked to our midwife, Carol, and then we started the Pitocin IV at 11:00 AM. By 3:00 PM on the 26th we’d been in the hospital a full day, and the contractions were averaging about four minutes apart. 

By 5:15 PM I was up to 14 units of Pitocin, and the pain was starting to get really intense. At the suggestion of the nurses, I got in the bathtub at about 6:00 PM. I was starting to feel pretty intense waves of pain in my back as I labored through each contraction. My midwife Anastasia told me later she was really hoping it was just muscular pain, but I think we all had a sense that back labor was starting. I labored in the bath for a little over an hour, and though the setting was peaceful with Christmas lights on the sink and a supportive team of Wade, the midwife, the nurse, and our photographer, Nicole Streeter, things were taking a turn. 

We had taken a five-week birth class with Jodi Bubenzer called Embracing Birth during our second and third trimester. Through that class we learned about labor positions, medication options, and how to best work with our birth partner and care teams. It was a really informative course, but the one message that Jodi focused on the most was this mantra: “pain not suffering.” She told us that, of course, labor and childbirth is going to be painful, but she repeatedly emphasized that that did not mean that we had to suffer. We talked about how suffering is a mental state, and we wrote down practical, tangible ways to combat suffering. My list included items like, essential oils, pictures of my dogs, and practicing yoga breathing. I had or did all those things in the labor room, but on the night of the 26th, none of that was enough to combat the labor pain-- specifically in my back. 

Soon after getting in the tub I cried to Wade that I didn’t know how long I could do this. After laboring there for almost an hour, one contraction seemed to just rip through me. The pain in my back stayed tight and high far longer than the contraction, and as soon as the wave broke, so did I. I sobbed that it was just too much. I knew I was suffering, and Wade asked to see the midwife. Carol came in, and I told her I needed an epidural. She gave the order as the midwife Denise and the nurse Ashley stepped in to oversee my care. Jodi’s mantra of "pain not suffering" rang clearly through my head, and in that moment, it made the decision very easy. I hadn’t planned on getting an epidural, but I knew I would just continue to suffer without it. I was sure that physically, emotionally, and mentally I just could not continue laboring without some relief.

It took a little time, then, for me to get out of the tub, get blood drawn, have the anesthesiologist team come in, but I got the epidural soon after 8:00 PM. As the medication started to work through my body, I needed to return to my previously identified labor techniques. We started the oil diffuser, I looked at the photo of my pups, and I practiced my yoga breathing-- this time not so much to combat the pain but to combat the panic of being incapacitated in bed. 

I was glad to have those coping techniques especially once our nurse Ashley came in and told me they were having trouble reading the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor. She gave me some oxygen, I tried laying in a few different positions, but by 10:00 PM they had to turn the Pitocin drip down to give the baby some time to rest, and by midnight, they turned it off. My anxiety was high, as I was worried not only for my baby, but for how long I would be stuck in the bed with the epidural. I had already had a second boost of the medication, as I continued to feel strong pressure in my pelvis after the epidural. The pressure and anxiety kept me up throughout the night. Ashley was very reassuring, attentive, and helpful, doing everything she could to make me comfortable. Wade and Nicole our photographer were also helpful by offering quiet support as we waited. 

As our stay in the hospital creeped into the third day of Friday, September 27th, I basically waited in bed. Around 1:00 AM Ashley said that the baby’s heartbeat seemed to be doing well, and they turned the Pitocin back up. Though the contractions were nothing compared to the pain prior to the epidural, I was definitely feeling the pressure of them as they came and went. Ashley gave me the peanut ball to help open things up around 3:00 AM and soon after I felt a small gush of water, as if a balloon had popped. I asked to have Denise the midwife check my cervix again, and she did so at about 3:15 AM. She said I was dilated to 10 centimeters, and then she asked me one of the simplest yet most profound questions I’ve ever been asked: would you like to have your baby? The pressure in my pelvis was building with every contraction, but I also knew I was very ready, so I said yes. 

Wade, Denise, Ashley, and Nicole started to prepare around me. I felt both very much in this moment and yet somehow removed, as if I was watching it from afar. At 3:47 AM Denise said to push when I was ready, so I did. Wade held my left leg, and Ashley held my right. I pushed through several contractions, picturing myself doing yoga squats and trying to activate those muscles and breathing patterns. Just thirty minutes later, at 4:17 AM on Friday, September 27th, 2019, a crying, floppy, warm baby boy was placed on my chest. Cohen Matthew Bruce was here! 

The relief and joy of having delivered the baby was palpable. I felt very little pain as the placenta was delivered and Denise stitched my second degree tear. I knew I had pushed him out, but it didn’t seem real that he was actually here and that he was actually mine. Though we had been in the hospital about 37 hours by that point, the end came so quickly, and I was very thankful for that. 

Cohen weighed in at nine pounds, eight ounces, and he was 22 inches long-- a much bigger baby than anyone expected! He seemed absolutely perfect to me. Throughout his delivery I felt so surrounded by strong, calm, centered, encouraging energy as Wade and Ashley held my legs, Nicole stood by my head, and Denise helped coax the baby out. I honestly can’t imagine having a better team of people surrounding me in that moment. I might have felt some pain, but Cohen was delivered into this world, and into my arms, without any suffering, which is exactly what I wanted.