Baby / Lark / Pregnancy

Welcome, Little One!

February 19, 2017

Meet our newest love: Lark Adelaide Deatsch! 

Our sweet little Lark arrived on February 16th at 8:56am in Amsterdam — four days ahead of schedule.

In case you’re curious, here’s how it all happened… (Like all good birth stories, it’s long — even though my labor was short!)Since I was induced with Prim at 38 weeks due to late-onset preeclampsia, I was hoping to avoid induction (and preeclampsia, obviously) this go-round, and was really keeping my fingers crossed to make it until at least 39 weeks.

On Saturday morning, two days before I hit 39 weeks, I started having regular contractions in the morning. They were annoying but mild and continued throughout the day. That night they got a bit more intense and closer together, and even though I didn’t think it was the “real thing,” I decided to call my midwife just to be safe. I explained that I’d been having contractions that were about a minute long, five minutes apart, for the past hour and a half, but wasn’t sure that it was real labor because they were so mild. Since I didn’t go into labor naturally with Prim, I had no frame of reference for how “real” labor felt — only pitocin-induced contractions.

The midwife said I was right to call and came over to check me out. She said I was only 1cm dilated and 50% effaced, so these contractions were most likely just pre-labor or prodromal contractions. She said that they might progress into the real thing overnight, but that there was no way to really predict.

I continued to have these contractions everyday from Saturday until my next midwife appointment on Wednesday. I explained to the midwife how I’d been feeling and how I was worried about my blood pressure (as it occasionally would rise, and I had noticed that it was higher in the mornings with these continuous contractions). I was determined to avoid induction if at all possible, and asked the midwife if she could check me again to see if I’d made any progress over the past four days. The midwife thought a membrane sweep might help move things along, given that I seemed to be stalled in pre-labor, which I agreed to.

I should also note that my mom had arrived the day before my appointment, on Tuesday, but was only staying until Friday morning, so there was a big part of me that was hoping to go into labor during her stay. This would ensure that Prim would be covered while we were at the hospital and my mom would get to meet her newest granddaughter before heading back to the states — win/win.

The midwife checked me and determined that I hadn’t made any progress since Saturday night, which was a little disheartening. She performed the sweep and said that I had progressed to 2cm and my cervix seemed favorable afterwards, so we would just have to wait and see. I went home and continued to have mild contractions and cramping throughout the day, but nothing that seemed like the real thing.

After going to bed that night, I woke up at 3:45am with what I knew was a real contraction. I tried to go back to sleep, but the contractions were too uncomfortable, so I decided to time them even though they seemed pretty far apart. I timed them for an hour and determined that they were coming regularly at 9 minutes apart. I knew they were too far apart to bother the midwife, but couldn’t sleep through them, so I got up and headed downstairs at 5am. My contractions immediately started coming at 3 1/2 minutes apart, so I decided to ring the midwife after half an hour to see what she said. I was surprised when she told me she would be over in 20 minutes and that I should get my things ready to head to the hospital, but figured she just wanted us to be prepared, so I went back upstairs and woke up KC and let my mom know that the midwife was headed over.

The midwife arrived around 6am and checked me, saying I was 3cm. I had another contraction and she stopped and said, “Well, you’re at 4 – 4 1/2 actually. I think it’s time to head to the hospital.”

One of the weird things about Amsterdam is that if you want to have a hospital birth, you have to call the hospital before heading in to make sure they have room for you. I had planned to deliver at the hospital that was less than half a mile from our apartment — OLVG Oost, not only because it was close, but because it had tubs you could use during labor. (The hospital I delivered Prim at did not have baths, but the shower was so helpful during labor that I was determined to deliver at a hospital with tubs this go-round, if at all possible.) Unfortunately, OLVG said it didn’t have room when the midwife called to see if they could admit me. I was really bummed, but tried to just let it go — the best laid plans for childbirth often go out the window at the last second. The next two hospitals the midwife called also said they had no space, so she said that she was going to call OLVG again to force them to accommodate us. She spoke in Dutch to the person on the phone, but I was able to make out snippets of the conversation where she threw in “second baby,” “5 centimeters,” and explained my prior postpartum hemorrhage (since that qualified me for a hospital birth based on necessity). She apparently got the answer she was looking for, as she hung up the phone and announced that we could head over there.

We arrived at the hospital sometime between 6:30 and 7am and the place was deserted. The check-in process was us literally breezing past a desk clerk in labor and delivery who pointed us to room 1. No forms, no signatures, no nothing.

We put our stuff down in the birthing suite and the midwife started assembling and filling a huge labor tub. I walked around and breathed through the contractions, KC put on music, and I paced around, waiting for the contractions to become unmanageable.

At 7:30am the midwife checked me again and said I was 6cm dilated. Shortly afterwards the contractions got a little stronger so I decided to try out the tub. The tub was amazing. It took the pressure off my back and hips and made the intense contractions still manageable. My water broke on its own while I was in the tub, which felt totally strange. I was still able to relax and breathe through my contractions so I didn’t even realize how far along I was until the midwife came in and told me to push a little during the next contraction if I felt the urge.

(I should note that I didn’t really even fully realize that I was in transition while I was going through it. During Prim’s birth I was on pitocin and had crazy-intense contractions that rolled together with virtually no break in between. They were so intense and so painful that I couldn’t breathe while they were happening, much less even attempt to stay relaxed. Going through transition with Lark was completely different — the contractions were painful and required a lot of focus and deep breaths, but I was able to relax through them, and there were noticeable breaks in between surges which allowed me to relax further and re-center myself.)

Trying to push while in the tub was a little tricky, as there’s no gravity and nothing grounding you (not to mention your ab muscles are just generally hard to find late in pregnancy). I used the first set of pushes as practice to find my leverage (and my ab muscles) in the tub. I figured out how to push and then quickly felt the baby crown during the next set of pushes. I will tell you this — I was terrified. Pushing without drugs is INTENSE and totally scary. I was lucky that my midwife was experienced and was able to get me to focus and breathe between contractions, but still, there was a moment where I was certain that my body was going to break in half. At this point I knew that the only way out of the pain was through it, so with the next contraction I pushed as hard as I could and out she came. I was lucky that pushing was very quick — three pushes and she was out.

I hadn’t actually gone in with the intention to give birth in the tub, but at the point my midwife said to start pushing I think I didn’t really comprehend that I was pushing for real and it all happened so fast that I didn’t have much of a chance to change my mind and move to another location. Ultimately, delivering in the tub was amazing, once I figured out how to push without the help of gravity or anyone holding my legs. Once Lark was out the midwife had me keep her underwater for a moment, as babies born in the bath don’t take their first breath until they’re brought out of the water. That moment of holding her and looking at her under the water was so surreal and is something I will never forget.

I brought her out of the water and onto my chest and promptly started panicking that she wasn’t crying. Luckily the midwife informed me that she looked perfect and pink, and that because she was born into the water she had a gentler entrance into the world, which was why she wasn’t exhibiting the startled newborn crying of a non-water birth; she simply curled up and fell asleep on my chest. I moved out of the bath onto the bed to finish the sort of “after-logistics” of giving birth, which included getting stitched up sans epidural (funnnn).

^^ squeezing KC’s hand and taking some deep breaths through the stitching process ^^

So one of the craziest things about the Dutch system is what happens after you deliver. After having Lark just before 9am, I had an hour of skin-to-skin with her where I was able to breastfeed and bond uninterrupted. Lark’s cord was clamped and cut by KC after quite awhile, as the Dutch have a general practice of delayed cord clamping.

After the hour was up, Lark was weighed, wiped down a bit (no bath here — they believe in waiting at least 24 hours after delivery to give a bath, so baby gets all the benefits of the vernix) and dressed.

^^ Lark’s position in the womb ^^

While Lark was being weighed and dressed, I was given a meal and took a shower. I got dressed (no hospital gowns here!)

…and then we were told that we could leave.

KC and I both said, “…Really?” and the midwife and kraamzorg both sort of looked at us and said, “Do you want to stay?”

So we left the hospital at 11:30am, 2.5 hours after I delivered. The kraamzorg accompanied us to the elevator, but then left us to find our way out. Again — no discharge paperwork, no assisted walk to the car. We were home before noon.  Prim got to meet her new sister in the comfort of her own home less than 3 hours after she was born. It was pretty amazing… and so very Dutch.

Welcome to our family, little Lark. We love you so, so much.

My overall thoughts and some more details of the Dutch maternity system and birth model will be coming up in a later post. But for now, I’ve got two little ladies to attend to. 🙂

Life Abroad / weekend

Snow Day!

February 13, 2017

It snowed over the weekend in Amsterdam! It has snowed here before, but usually the flurries don’t last long and don’t really stick for more than an hour or two, so it was exciting to have a few legit inches throughout the day that stuck around for all of Saturday and Sunday.  Prim was bundled up and spent some time out on our terrace with KC while I was inside dealing with some fun contractions (yayyy for prodromal labor. Not.)  Prim’s outfit was complete with her plastic multi-colored elastic heart bracelet. Obviously.KC built Prim a little snowman, but she was really more interested in just hanging out and eating the snow.Thanks for the awesome snowy weekend, Amsterdam! (And kudos to baby #2 for staying put during the storm since KC is stressed out enough waiting for your arrival 😉 )

Gluten-Free / Soup / Stay Healthy

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock

February 10, 2017

Here in the Netherlands they don’t have ready-made chicken stock like they do in the states — only bouillon (which I assure you, is not the same thing). And while bouillon is fine for some recipes, for others (like Winter Minestrone), I find that it just doesn’t work well. I decided to make my own chicken stock since I have Winter Minestrone plans this weekend, and I have to admit that while making stock is time-consuming, it’s pretty dang basic.

I used chicken carcasses in my stock, rather than whole chickens, because I make roast chicken somewhat regularly and throw the carcass in the freezer until I’m ready to make stock. I do this with my veggie odds and ends as well, which you could totally just throw in with your old chicken bones, but I save mine for when I’m making veggie stock, which is why I opted to use fresh veggies in this.

Here’s the recipe I used, in case you’re looking to make your own stock and/or wondering what you should do with your old chicken carcasses and vegetable odds and ends. Please note that this recipe is totally open to interpretation, so feel free to toss in what you have on hand. Leeks, parsnips, dill, etc. would all make delicious additions.

Homemade Chicken Stock
Active time: 20 minutes / Total time: about 5 hours
makes about 3 quarts

  • 2 chicken carcasses
  • 2 yellow onions, unpeeled, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 4 carrots, halved or quartered
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into thirds
  • 1 small bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  1. Throw it all into a big pot, cover with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours.
  2. Remove solids and chill overnight. Skim any fat that has accumulated overnight off the top. Use within a week or freeze in quart containers for up to 3 months.

 

Motherhood / Primrose

Motherhood Update: Prim at 21 months

February 9, 2017

Saying: Make no mistake, Prim is a talker. KC recently asked me, “Do all kids talk this much?” and I had to inform him that no, Prim is really exceptionally chatty. In addition to her own made-up language which she still whips out on a daily basis, Prim has mastered a lot of two- and three-word phrases now. She’s exploring possession (“Prim’s water! Mama’s coffee!”) and has really embraced command phrases (“Close it! More books! Mama sit!”) I can already see the makings of the best and bossiest big sister forming.

Doing: Prim is still obsessed with books. She goes to bed with a stack of books and it’s grown to be a little absurd — she’s literally going to bed with around a dozen books these days, and the first thing she says to me upon waking up is, “More books.” But being someone who is a little book-obsessed myself, I can hardly blame Prim for her love of reading.

Reading: Since Prim is so into reading I thought it would be fun to list out a few of the books that are currently topping her favorites list. She’s currently enthralled by the Frog and Toad series, The Little Red Hen, Jessie Bear What Will You Wear?, Miss Rumphius, Goodnight Yogaand The Friendly Beasts which is a holdover from Christmas that we just can’t seem to let go of. (Also very funny and very sweet — Prim has discovered a printed photo book I made for KC for our first wedding anniversary which has a bunch of our wedding pictures. She’s obsessed with looking through it and naming everyone she knows in the pictures. We’re literally looking through it upwards of six times a day.)

Latest trick: Prim is rapidly approaching age 2, and the big two-year-old behavior is starting to rear its head. Since our day is full of Prim making commands, she inevitably hears the word “no” in one form or another fairly often. This is now sometimes met with her standing stick-straight and screaming as loud as she can. I have to admit that it’s half terrifying and half totally hilarious.

Favorite toys: Prim is entering the world of pretend play which is really sweet. She still loves to “cook” in her kitchen and play with her baby doll, but she’s recently starting pretending to be a kitty and a baby without any props or toys necessary (just lots of sound effects and belly pets). Prim is also starting to play dress up (as evidenced by the photo at the top of the post). I don’t have a dress up box for her yet, so this exercise is her pulling out the basket containing all her winter gear and putting as much of it on herself as she can manage (often after removing her pants, because those clearly just get in the way.)

Sweetest things: Prim is the sweetest and snuggliest child a lot of the time. Whenever KC or I leaves she insists on “kiss” and “snuggle” before we depart (and how could we ever resist that request?)

Favorite thing about this age: Prim seems to comprehend that she has a little sister on the way (though we’ll see how it is when the reality of bringing an actual baby home hits!) She regularly snuggles up to my belly and says, “Baby sister! Kiss. Snuggle.” She also loves going to the midwife with me. She happily climbs the stairs to the office and yells, “Check the baby!” She even knows the whole drill and immediately heads over to the exam table as soon as they start taking my blood pressure, insisting on being right next to me while they measure and feel my belly and listen to little sister’s heart.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy Update — January

January 20, 2017

I’m in the home stretch now, and I have a feeling that this will likely be my last pregnancy update for this little one. Because my belly is still measuring behind (though not by much — measuring 33.5 at 35 weeks) I was sent for an additional ultrasound to check on baby’s growth. Much like Prim, this little one is measuring a little below average but completely within normal limits, and to no one’s surprise (or at least those of us who know Prim), baby’s biggest measurements came from leg length followed by belly size. Prim, long-lean kiddo that she is, is pretty much all legs and belly — and has been since day one. And frankly, with the size of Dutch babies, I have to admit that I’m a little relieved that this baby isn’t measuring above-average (because, guys, the kids here are enormous.)

weeks: 35 1/2

baby’s size: honeydew

i’m feeling: tired and achey. I’m getting into that “real pregnant” phase where my body is just exhausted at the end of the day. Everyday tasks require a lot more effort and are getting increasingly more uncomfortable as my belly grows, and the baby is super low and engaged in my pelvis which means she hits all kinds of fun nerves which give me lightening pain in my back, belly, and legs pretty much all day long.

food love: fruit and baked goods. I’ve been on a baking kick lately and, among other things, have made homemade peanut butter brownies, raspberry scones, and chocolate chip walnut blondies. Sugar is so, so delicious during pregnancy.

food hate: I don’t have any major food aversions at the moment, though certain things are still sounding pretty unappealing most days (like a giant cheeseburger — mmm, no thanks).

3 pros for january: 1. KC and I have a sitter coming weekly until the baby comes so we get to escape once a week for date night. It’s only for a few hours, but it’s so nice to get out of the house together. 2. It’s been snowing on and off here in Amsterdam, which is so pretty and magical. I’m sure I would grow tired of it if I lived here permanently, but since it’s new for me (being a California native) I’m still thrilled by the little flurries.  3. We have everything we need for the new baby now, and I’ve done all the laundry and organized the whole house. The nesting phase was definitely less intense this time around than it was when I was pregnant with Prim, but man did it make me productive when it finally hit!

3 cons for january: 1. The cold weather means that the streets here are getting increasingly more icy. Since I’m worried about falling, I’ve officially stopped riding my bike around until post-baby (and likely for quite awhile beyond that). 2. My blood pressure has risen a little bit recently, which is worrisome with my history of pre-eclampsia. There’s no reason to be worried just yet, but I was really hoping to avoid the whole hypertension/pre-eclampsia/induction conversation completely this time around. 3. I’m trying to get into the “birth mindset” as my due date is rapidly approaching. I don’t really remember exactly how I felt at this point when I was pregnant with Prim, but I feel mentally unprepared for birth at this moment. I’m hoping that instinct kicks in and takes over when the big day actually arrives.

currently living in: pajamas and KC’s enormous sweatshirts, because I basically want nothing tight on my body at this point. When I do manage to get dressed (which, between Prim’s constant colds and the frigid weather, is rare at this point), I’m still wearing my maternity jeans and tops (though I’ve noticed that a few pairs of shoes have recently become too tight!)

looking forward to: meeting this little lady, though I’d really prefer that she cook for a few more weeks! (Ahem, please take note, little one!)

dreaming about: drinking champagne. Lots of it.