Monday, January 3, 2022

Claire's Birth Story

Claire Elisabeth Fredericks was born on Monday, October 25th, 2021 at 1:51 p.m., weighing 7 pounds and 4 ounces at 19 inches long.

Signs of Labor

On Sunday morning, around 4:30 a.m., I woke up for the fourth time that night before finally wondering, "okay, what is keeping me awake right now?" I assumed something was causing me pain, so I began tracking my contractions for about an hour. They were about 1-2 minutes long, and 8-10 minutes apart. For those who have never been pregnant, the rule of thumb varies when it comes to labor. From what I'd read, you wanted to be having contractions that were 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour. I knew I might be close, but wasn't worried yet.

I managed to fall back asleep, and continued having intermittent pain throughout the day after I woke up later that morning. My friend Leigh came over with sushi for lunch, and we sat on the couch and talked for a few hours before she went home. At that point, my contractions were still just every so often and not overly painful. Since I hardly moved that day, Ryan and I decided to take a walk around the block before dinner -- stuffed bell peppers from Costco. Thankfully, I'd opted for two instead of just one, because that was the last meal I had for awhile! We ate on the couch with our TV trays, watched the season finale of The Morning Show, and went about our usual Sunday evening routine of mourning the end of the weekend, even though it was supposed to be my last week anyway. 

To wind down, I took an epsom salt bath in our future little girl's bathroom, rubbing my belly and wondering to myself, "soon?"

We went to get into bed a bit earlier than usual, around 9:30, when I started feeling contractions again. This time, they were consistently 6 minutes apart before slowing to 9 minutes apart. I texted my friend Brianna, who was just a few weeks behind me in her pregnancy, and she replied, "I think this might be it!" but I still felt in denial. No way. This early? I thought for certain we would have a November baby. My only premonition had been October 22nd, which had come and gone, so my guess was as good as anyone's. 

Still, I called the hospital, and they said that based on how far along I was in the pregnancy to just come into triage and see what was going on. 

Ryan later told me that he was certain we were going to be turned away. Ha!

In a semi-calm panic, we confused the hell out of the dogs by packing up the last of our hospital bags and leaving around 11:40 p.m. It was raining for the first time in weeks, and the roads were nearly empty. It was then that I realized I totally forgot to shower, eat, and "pre-labor" as much as I could within the comfort of our own home. Whoops. Who needs sleep anyway? Or food? Who wouldn't want to spend as much time in the hospital as possible...?

Hospital Time

I checked into triage right at about midnight, and we had our first nurse of the week, Mariah. She did a cervical check right as we got there and I was just 3 cm dilated (for reference, they usual admit you to labor and delivery when you're 4 cm). She decided to wait for an hour to see how I would continue. The next nurse we encountered was not as sweet and accommodating...more like awkward and borderline rude. She attempted to place the IV in my right hand, then my left, before finally recruiting another nurse to do it. She also knocked over my water bottle (clearly not on purpose), which was the cherry on top of a weird experience.

By 1:30 a.m., I was 4 cm dilated and having body chills all over. We were officially admitted to the hospital with our next nurse - Rimma - a wonderful, older European woman who was such a calming force, especially as I went against my own birth plan and allowed a student to administer my epidural, which was definitely less "pressure" and more "pain." To be fair, I knew I didn't want a student to assist in delivery of the baby, but it never occurred to me that a student would be giving me my epidural. If you're pregnant and want some advice: don't be the guinea pig. They can learn on someone else!

In addition to feeling more pain than pressure, they also didn't give me a bolus, which allows you to give yourself more doses of the epidural with the push of a button every 10 minutes. Thus, the ease I did feel from the epidural was short-lived, but I was still able to rest a bit, as was Ryan. Rimma placed a birthing ball between my legs and turned me on my side with a heating pad, making sure I was as comfortable as I could be throughout the process. She really was one of the best nurses we had, and while we had a good experience with our next nurse, I wish she'd been the one to assist in delivery! A couple hours after the epidural, I still hadn't progressed beyond 4 cm, so they put me on Pitocin to induce active labor.

At shift change, we said goodbye to Rimma and Mariah, and hello to our next and final L&D nurse. We also found out that we'd be delivering with a different doctor (my OB/GYN office operates on a rotation of providers). I wasn't initially thrilled, but what choice did we have?

As it turns out, however, this doctor was delivering a baby via c-section at another hospital 20 minutes away. So they told me that they'd be taking me off of Pitocin at 9 cm dilated to "labor down" on my own for nearly three hours. Unamused, impatient, and frustrated is what I was feeling, but I tried to keep my shit together. Ryan stayed by my side, voicing his own frustration, and feeling helpless. 

Finally, just after 1:00, 12 hours after being admitted, it was go-time! 

My nurse suggested I stop self-administering the epidural so I could feel my contractions and know when to push. My suggestion to any future laboring moms: yeah, don't do that. Ended up completely defeating the purpose of the epidural!

"Breathe in deep, hold for 8-10 seconds, and push like you're pooping. Short breath out, repeat."

Completely different breath work than I'd read about and watched on YouTube, but okay, let's do this.

After being 9 cm dilated for so long, I was certain that I wouldn't be pushing for a long time. Surely, just a few rounds and done, right? Imagine my surprise when, about 20 minutes in, I asked if we'd made progress. My doctor replied, "we have about three more hours to try [before c-section]."

"THREE HOURS?!" Absolutely not, I thought.


Pushing was literally the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Not even painful, but simply exhausting! I could feel myself falling asleep between pushes because I was just so damn tired. I started doing more pushes, four instead of three. I was desperate to meet our girl, and to be done with labor.

45 minutes later, I felt something close to the "ring of fire" (because remember, I was told to stop giving myself the medication...LOL, joke's on me!). I finally heard, 

"Sam, are you ready to meet your baby?"

I saw her beautiful face, all covered in blood and gunk, completely thrown by what had just happened, in awe that it was all finally over, and we had a daughter!

They placed her on my stomach, and I instinctively pulled her to my chest for skin to skin...and that's when I felt it. The umbilical cord snapped, and blood went everywhere. Things went from joyous to scary, as the doctor went to clamp her cord far sooner than I'd planned. I wanted her to have an extra minute or two on her cord, isn't that what's supposed to happen? Insert opportunity for mom guilt, #1.

She was taken from me, and we were told she had excessive fluid in her lungs. In a state of shock, I'm not even sure what I was feeling at the time. It never occurred to me that she would go to the NICU. Everything during pregnancy had been so uncomplicated, so why was it that birth had to be?

While delivering the placenta and getting stitches, I watched the doctor look back and forth between me and baby on the warming table, surrounded by a team of nurses. She remained calm throughout the chaos, which made me feel a bit better. 

Just under an hour later, the nurses brought her to me in her little clear box, all clean and cozy. But instead of getting to hold her to my chest, I only got to hold her finger. I wouldn't hold her to my chest for nearly 24 hours longer. Insert opportunity for mom guilt, #2.

"You're my mama," one of the nurses narrated for me as I held her little fingers.

Sure am, baby girl.

Since the nurse had advised that I go off the boluses so I could feel my contractions, I also felt a whole lot of everything else, including some of the stitching and numbing. In a sense, I felt like I had a half natural birth, as I felt more pain than pressure during those final pushes. So not what I planned. Didn't plan on having a baby in the NICU, either. Wild how little of the things in your hospital bag are necessary when your little one has been taken away from you until further notice.

Our Hospital Stay 

The next few days felt like a blur. My parents brought us subs from Jersey Mikes. Ryan and I visited her separately in the NICU that first night. I had to use a peribottle to pee, add witch hazel pads to my disposable underwear. Everything hurt, and my whole body felt like I'd been hit by a bus, but somehow, time continued to pass. Looking back, I wonder if we could have visited her more often that first night, for longer, even overnight (insert opportunity for mom guilt, #3), but I think I was just trying to process everything. Even now, it's a strange concept to me that other people got to keep their babies in their hospital room with them. I start to tear up thinking about how we didn't get to have that special time with her, how I wasn't there for her every time she cried, how she didn't get to latch to me within those first few moments of her life. Instead, I had to ask a nurse to wheel me down several hallways and up an elevator to meet another nurse to escort me from NICU checkin to her room. Overall, our hospital stay was a blur of going back and forth to the NICU, ordering food, and for me, just feeling down. 

(The first picture we took of her in the NICU, a few hours after delivery)


We had the best nurses at the NICU: Melody, Sarah, and Amanda. They made us feel like the most important family in the NICU, even though our little babe likely had the least complications out of majority of the babies there. We were discharged from the hospital on Wednesday, with Claire's pending departure for Thursday or Friday. They'd found an increase in her white blood cell count and had her on antibiotics, which meant they had to keep her for three days minimum. 

Ryan and I drove home Wednesday night, ordered dinner, and came home without our baby. Everyone told us, "at least you can enjoy one more night of rest!" In reality, it isn't easy to rest knowing that your two-day old baby isn't safe at home with you. Instead of waking to a crying, hungry baby, I set an alarm to wake myself up to pump...something I wasn't even planning on doing for at least another four weeks.

Thursday morning, we woke up excited! We got to the hospital around 8:30 a.m., feeling confident that she would be able to come home with us...until they told us she'd lost 10% of her body weight. Even though babies generally lose 7-10% of their body weight within those first few days, it was apparently reason enough for her to stay there one more night. We felt completely deflated. They offered us to "room in" at the NICU, which basically means to stay with her in a small suite overnight with a nurse on call to assist, if needed. I stayed at the hospital with her while Ryan went home to gather our things, round two. I spent all day with her, attempting to get her to latch (with the help of an amazing lactation consultant). Despite getting to finally spend time with our brand new daughter, being cooped up in a stuffy NICU room as opposed to our home was not the way I wanted to spend these first few days.

Around 6:30 p.m. that night, we went to a room with the most uncomfortable pullout couch, linens, and pillows, and had the hardest night of our lives. It's one thing to be at home with your crying, fussy newborn, but it's a completely different can of worms to take care of a baby who is still a patient in the NICU. She was hooked up to so many wires, and every time she cried, her heart rate set off tons of anxiety-inducing beeps, which likely caused her even more frustration and fear, which then stressed us out even more. Changing her diapers amongst all of those wires was terrifying. We had the least personable nurse of our stay come in and check on us more frequently than we would have liked because Claire kept kicking off her oxygen monitor, causing the machines to beep even more ferociously. My poor baby, having such a harsh entry into the world. I didn't go into the hospital with a detailed birth plan, but this was absolutely not a part of our plan.

I cried the whole night. Ryan and I had no idea what to do, and hardly knew how to help. We pieced together a whopping two hours of sleep, and by 6:45 the next morning, we were chomping at the bit to get out of that room and back to our regular NICU room with the friendly nurses. I watched Claire get yet another blood test (her right foot had 4+ tiny marks from getting poked and prodded). We received news later, after another near hiccup (the blood test revealed that her thyroid levels were potentially abnormal...?!), that we would be able to take her home that afternoon. Finally, after spending Monday-Friday in the hospital, away from her mama, scared and confused. 

Final thoughts

My heart still breaks for her and our family, but it breaks even harder for those families who have to endure it longer for more complicated circumstances. I know that, at the end of the day, we are extremely lucky that sweet baby Claire was overall very healthy, and five days in the NICU is nothing compared to what other families experience. That said, our feelings are still valid, as our experience is our own. I know it was just a few days, and not everyone has a dream birth experience, but it was simply not what we expected. While it was complicated and scary and totally not what we'd planned, our experience brought us our Claire, who is the healthiest little chunk now. We are so looking forward to watching her grow up, and feel so lucky that we get to be her parents.


Saturday, December 25, 2021

christmas with claire

Merry Christmas, friends!

I've been looking forward to this holiday season since I found out I was pregnant in February. Since my due date was early November, I knew I'd get to spend all the holidays with our brand new daughter without worrying about taking time off from work. 

What I didn't anticipate (naively) was that not working would be the least of my worries, and that the holidays would look a lot different for us, and not always in the romanticized way I'd initially imagined:

  • It took us almost three weeks to get the tree completely decorated, with large storage boxes full of unused ornaments and decor hovering around the living room for days, adding to the mental chaos that we were already feeling with our baby who was fighting her daytime naps.
  • As much as I wanted to make Christmas treats and cookies, it turns out that finding recipes, going to the grocery store, and actually making something was a project that I simply did not have the energy for after all.
  • Outside of a secret Santa amongst Ryan's family and buying a couple gifts, we really dropped the ball on Christmas gifts this year. By the end of each day, I hardly felt like looking for anything online, and we didn't have much time to shop in person.

But even though things looked and felt a little different in ways I didn't expect this year, there was also so much joy to be had, like:
  • Saying goodnight to the Christmas tree with Claire every night. Calming Claire with the Christmas tree  lights. Plopping Claire in a swing in front of the Christmas tree lights so I could throw back a cup of coffee or clean a bottle. Basically anything that involved Claire + our Christmas tree.
  • Walking Claire around downtown St. Pete, showing her (more!) Christmas lights on our walk back to the car after our first happy hour out with her.
  • Watching Christmas movies at all hours of the day, even on weekdays.
  • Finally finding my favorite holiday coffee creamer (Silk dark chocolate peppermint almond creamer), because mama neeeeeds her coffee. I'd rather have a nap, but coffee is a close second.
  • Getting to have a few hours out with work friends for a holiday themed Christmas happy hour.
  • Having a few weeks off with Ryan, as he took the rest of his parent leave + PTO this month. It's been wonderful having him here to fully co-parent with me vs. working from home!
I get so excited (and borderline emotional? ...hormones!) when I think about all of the holiday seasons to come, the traditions we'll continue, the new traditions we'll start, the activities, the baking, the gifting, the magic. We can't wait to watch this little lady grow up, and I know that having her around during the holidays will make them even more special as the years go on.

So again, Merry Christmas and happy holidays from my family to yours! 


Thursday, September 2, 2021

second & third trimester "bumpdates"

Hello, 31 weeks!

What a time warp pregnancy has been thus far. September has begun, and pumpkins, fall fashion, and all things autumn related have made their way into stores (and right back out of them, into my home and my stomach). I've spent all of spring and summer being pregnant, looking toward fall as my "final destination," aka little one's due date, so to think that summer is nearly gone really puts things into perspective for me. Ryan and I are going to be parents in two months (give or take)!

Second Trimester

I'm officially up and out of the glorious second trimester and into my third. After easing out of my all-day nausea and sickness in the first few weeks of my second, I felt like I was living the pregnancy dream by about 18 weeks. I didn't have the "energy boost" that I was promised. The way people talk about energy in their second trimester, I was anticipating more of a transition from Gary the Snail to the Energizer bunny. As it turns out, I just started to feel like myself again. I started craving more than just macaroni and cheese, I began cooking dinner again, making plans, exercising, etc. The only thing that felt different was my growing belly, with the occasional bout of discomfort. 

We went on a little baby moon down in Naples in the middle of June, which is about a two and a half hour road trip down I75. With a lot of expenses to come in the following months, we really wanted something short and sweet with minimal travel involved (though in retrospect, I would have been perfectly happy with just one extra day). We stayed at the Escalante Hotel right in the historic district of Naples, and spent the weekend eating out at cute restaurants, lounging by the pool and getting (complimentary!) cabana service at the beach. We even snuck in a little bit of family time, as a few of Ryan's cousins who live in Naples met us downtown for ice cream on our last night.

A few weeks later, we road tripped up to North Carolina to spend some time at a friend's family cabin with a couple girlfriends, and their husbands and kiddos! Both girlfriends are also pregnant, so it was nice to be in sober company...LOL. I'm so glad I still had plenty of energy on this trip (minus one random mid-day nap) because we filled it with hikes, exploring, and lake swims. It really was the perfect summer trip, and I was still feeling okay enough for two 11-12 hour car trips. Not ideal at 24 weeks pregnant, but it was certainly doable! Shoutout to my husband for driving about 90% of the time.

Third Trimester

The exact day I hit 27 weeks, it felt like my body did a 180 and I went from bopping along, happy as a clam, to feeling straight up uncomfortable. I'd spent so much of my time in the second trimester feeling good that I forgot it was likely going to get worse again.

Since beginning the third trimester, I've been experiencing:
  • wrist pain, similar to that of carpal tunnel, but it's in both wrists?
  • overall joint pain in my hands. 
  • upper rib pain, almost like a big bruise that feels like someone is constantly digging their elbow (or foot!) into them. I should note this has been on the left side only (right side rib pain can be a sign of preeclampsia).
  • difficulty sleeping, due to everything above.
Thankfully, some of these symptoms have been coming and going. Right now, I'm mostly having the pain in my wrists, which has been really fun when it comes to typing, using my phone, opening bags, existing, etc. 

On a brighter note, we are getting closer and closer to baby girl's due date. In fact, it's exactly two months from today! Because she's due November 2nd, she could even be an October baby. I'm hoping she stays snuggled in tightly, at least until after October 28th, as that is tentatively my last day of work. But she's in charge, right? I just keep rubbing my tummy and whispering to her "full term, full term, full term" and hoping she gets the hint.

(Most recent "bump" picture - 31 weeks, on the dot!)


We have a running list of about 3-5 names at any given time. I still look at lists every so often, just to make sure I'm not "overlooking" anything that I could potentially love. I was listening to a podcast about naming your baby, and one of the pieces of advice that stuck with me was that hearing a baby name is kind of like listening to a new song. You might think it's just okay at first, but the more you hear it, the more you love it! We likely won't decide on a name until the day she's born and we actually see her, but that could change.

Next on our "to do" list:

  • Get the nursery set up! Or at least, organize it, wash and wipe down everything we'll be using. We don't have the crib up and running yet, but we plan on using a bassinet for the first few months anyway. I know there are only so many things a newborn truly needs in those initial weeks, but I know our minds will likely be a chaotic mess once baby gets here, so I would prefer our home to be relatively clean and put together when she comes!
  • Finish our guest/baby bathroom renovation and get a fence installed in the backyard for easy pooch release once baby is here.
  • Attend a newborn preparation class (if possible...thanks COVID!) and watch some birthing classes online. I'm leaning toward Tinyhood, but if there is something else anyone recommends, please comment down below!

The countdown is on, my friends!


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

gratitude for this season of life

Lately, I've been having sporadic moments of gratitude for this life.

I think I read somewhere in one of my baby apps that this is typical for the second trimester of pregnancy. For one, I'm exceedingly grateful that my daily nausea has finally subsided, as it's been about six weeks since I last got sick. Aside from my consistent lower back pain and intermittent growing pains, I'm actually feeling pretty good, and it's making this pregnancy a lot more enjoyable thus far. I'm still waiting on that burst of energy I've been promised, but overall, it's been a pleasant couple of months.


Now that we have a little one on the way, we've kick started a lot of bigger house projects. Ryan (with the help of some friends and family) has been demolishing our guest-soon-to-be-kid's bathroom, and we'll likely be adding a fence and gate to our front and back yard in the next couple of months. We'd like to get started on our porch renovation, and I'm toying with the idea of adding a board and batten wall to our dining room situation and throwing in a few pops of wall paint color. On top of that, I'm starting to get a cohesive idea of what we want our little girl's nursery to look like, and getting the itch to begin "nesting."

While our list of house projects can be daunting, and it seems like we'll never have the time, money, or dedication to accomplish it all, I can't help but feel grateful for this home we get to build together (in the figurative sense). I feel it when I sit in specific corners of the house, like our living room couch facing the open shutters on a rainy day, or walk into our bedroom with the basket lights emitting a warm glow next to our fiddle fig tree. Our house is finally starting to feel cozy, like ours

I look at Ryan and feel so, so thankful that he is going to be a father to our daughter. Shortly after meeting him (almost eight years ago!), I just knew he'd be a wonderful dad. He's literally the kindest person I know; someone who continuously goes above and beyond. He's thoughtful, silly, active, adventurous, appreciative...all of the things I could want in a partner on this parenting journey. To say I feel lucky is an understatement.

I'm not blind to the difficult times to come. I know there will be long nights, sleep-deprived arguments, excessive diaper changes, tantrums, and even thankless days ahead. But with those moments, no matter how long they feel, there will also be laughter and baby cackles, neighborhood walks, new traditions, story time, and memories made in this house, as a [bigger] family. I'm ready for the milestones and the big moments, but I think I'm even more excited for those tiny moments of joy that truly create a beautiful life.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It's a GIRL!

A few weeks ago, I announced on Instagram that we're having a girl! We couldn't be more excited to add a little girl to our family this fall. 

"Do you want a boy or a girl?!"

If you'd asked us prior to my bloodwork, we would have told you that we'd be excited for a boy or a girl, which was completely true! Everyone just wants a healthy baby, and I think that's fair to say. Having said that, and now that we know the baby's sex for certain, I can tell you that we were both gunning for a girl from the get-go.

I've always been fairly sure that I wanted to have children. Ryan and I talked about it before even getting married - we both wanted kids, but if for some reason we weren't able to, we would promised to each other that we would continue to find fulfillment in other ways (as there are so many ways to lead a full, happy life). In my mid-twenties, I had brief moments where I felt as though I could go either way - become a mom, or become the really fun "aunt Sam" to all of our friends' children. In any case, I knew I definitely didn't want us to start trying until after I turned 30...or, that's what I thought, anyway. It wasn't until around this time last year, just before turning 29, that my mindset began shifting. When I thought about waiting to get pregnant, I felt sad thinking about how long it would be until Ryan and I would become parents, and I realized that maybe I didn't want to stick to my self-created timeline after all.

But even within my moments of uncertainty, I'd always pictured myself as a girl mom. I had far more girl friends than guy friends growing up, even into high school and college. I loved playing dress up, getting new clothes for my American Girl doll, playing with makeup (which boys can do, too, of course). Long story longer: I realized that, when I pictured myself as a mother, I always pictured myself with a daughter. And after seeing Ryan interact with his cousin's daughters over the past few years, I knew that he would be the very best "girl dad," too.

How We Found Out

I know "gender reveals" are all the rage right now, but Ryan and I really wanted to find the news out together, just us. I took a non-invasive prenatal test (a blood draw) back in April, and after patiently(ish) waiting a week for the results, I reached out to my doctor's office to see if they'd heard anything from the third party company. I got a message back 20 minutes later:

"We do have the results! How would you like to receive them?"

Ummm, immediately, that's how!

I quickly sent back a message saying that I'd be happy with an email or a phone call, and they didn't open it for an hour. Ryan had gone out to pick up some to-go lunch for us, but I couldn't eat. I was too anxious/excited. When the doctor's office finally did call, I ran outside to where Ryan was hitting golf balls in our practice net in the backyard.

"Alright, guys. What are your bets?"

Ryan quickly said girl, but I hesitated. Earlier in my pregnancy, I'd been so sure our baby was a girl. But then I began having doubts...was I projecting?! I knew I'd be happy with a sweet little mama's boy, especially a mini version of my husband. It wasn't what I'd initially pictured, but I knew that I would love being a mother to any little nugget we could call our own. I said, "I think it's a boy."

"Alright, dad, go out and buy a lotto ticket. It's a girl!"

Me: "IT'S A GIRL?!?!??!!!!"

And just like that, we found out that we would have a daughter this fall. We are over the moon excited, and I haven't stopped looking at adorable dresses and boho onesies since. 

"Do you have a name picked out?"

I thought picking out a girl name would be a lot easier, but as it turns out, we have a handful of names that we can't seem to decide on. As of now, our plan is to have a list of three names and see what she looks like when she's born!

Thank you to everyone who has reached out and congratulated us during this time in our lives. I love being able to document this journey.

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