Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Violet Carol: The Birth Story

It took two weeks for me to get this post up, but our baby girl safely arrived! Introducing Violet Carol Sheppard, born August 11th at 9:10 pm. I love this picture of her in Chris' arms, sleeping like a little cherub:

We're so happy with our little darling girl and she seems pretty happy to be with us as well. She loves to snuggle and we could spend hours rocking her to sleep and smelling that intoxicating newborn smell. It's a state of bliss we haven't known before. 

Of course, getting her here was no easy task. For those interested, here's our story: 


At eleven days late, I was preparing for a doctor appointment the next morning where we'd discuss induction and pick a date. I felt pretty lousy those last days, unable to move much and not eating or sleeping well, and crying every other day out of sheer frustration.

I was grateful when the contractions started that Monday night; I busied myself cleaning, finishing packing for the hospital, and giving myself a manicure and pedicure. I labored through the night, unable to comfortably sit down. Lying down was out of the question, too, so I paced around and attempted to pay attention to a movie. After eight hours of timing contractions we called the hospital and headed over. The contractions were quickly growing more frequent and more painful, so it was disappointing to discover that after all those hours I was only a centimeter dilated. 

Several hours later in the hospital...same thing. One centimeter. So while I wasn't eager to start a pitocin drip, I took the doctor's advice and did it. I'd heard from others that pitocin really got things moving, but for me, labor still dragged on. Oh, it grew more painful, enough so that they gave me fentanyl twice. I didn't ask for the drugs but was grateful for the temporary relief and even slept a bit. The day was marked by small horrors like vomiting from pain, having my water forcibly broken by a hook, and the placement of an intrauterine catheter to better measure contractions, a regular catheter, and difficulty getting an IV started because my veins wouldn't cooperate. None of these things were fun. Sometime after the second dose of fentanyl wore off I asked for an epidural. The pain was so intense that I was shaking like a leaf. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Taylor, moved quickly and became my instant BFF. 

The day moved in a blur as we watched the dilation progress very slowly. My lower body was completely numb and the nurses turned me from side to side every so often, putting me on oxygen each time Violet's heart rate dropped. She did not like when I laid on my right side. Eventually the epidural wore off and they ramped it up again as the blinding pain returned. The nurses were baffled as the pain wasn't progressing down the uterus the way it should have, but remained firmly and horribly at the top. After more than 25 hours of labor the doctor mentioned that the baby was sitting in my pelvis with a cone-shaped head and that it might be time to consider a c-section. The baby was a little champ throughout the day and showed no distress. It felt right to go into surgery before it became an emergency.

I was scared and Chris was scared. He texted our families to let them know the new plan and both of my parents called, trying to hide the concern in their voices. I was ready to just get it done and within 30 minutes I was prepped and on the operating table, a team of eight people swarming around, comforting me, counting instruments out loud, and buzzing around under the bright lights. 

Chris and I were separated for 20 minutes and I was grateful when he came in with scrubs on and stood by my side. I should mention that Dr. Taylor stayed by my side the whole time, too, talking to me and telling me when the surgery had started. I couldn't feel much, but sensed movement and shifting in my body. I begged Chris not to look at my guts out on the table, but he did anyway. Only a few minutes went by before Dr. Taylor leaned in and said, "Get ready." I felt a heavy weight that constricted my breathing for a moment followed by the sensation of a weight being lifted out of me. 

And then...a piercing cry that caused the whole room to jump! Everyone remarked that she didn't want to leave my body so I guess she was holding on tight. Her loud cries produced real tears, which newborns typically don't have. Her extra days in the womb caused her to be advanced in some areas, like the crying. Chris and I cried a few real tears, too, and it was a wonderful, overwhelming moment. 

She stuck her fingers in her mouth and sucked away; no problem with latching for this kid. I remained on the table while they put me back together and Chris stood by Violet as they bathed and weighed her. I should note that when they pulled her out I heard a chorus of, "Wow, she's big!" and "What a BIG baby!" She was 9 pounds, 8 ounces, slightly smaller than Chris' own birth weight. Had we known her size, we would have went right for the c-section and skipped all the drama. 

The Hospital

Delivering at Seton Southwest was the best decision we could have made. We had a huge room to ourselves and were quite comfortable there. The staff was so loving and we bonded with many of our nurses, who were so genuinely loving to little Violet. Perks included pretty good food, a beautiful hand-knitted blanket made by volunteers, a post delivery massage, and full access to a kitchen, wifi, and middle-of-the-night baby sitters so we could get some sleep. 

We felt so cared for all week and it was a nice place to heal and just dote on our baby. 

The Aftermath

We were ready to head home Friday afternoon when they let us go. My incision was healing well and I never even bruised. I stopped the pain medication and switched to regular ole' Tylenol because I felt pretty good. Violet had some jaundice but regular feedings and some supplementing allowed her to put on the weight she needed to gain back and knock out the jaundice without any light therapy.

I shouldn't even brag about this because maybe it'll jinx it, but Violet sleeps through the night. I think that's gone a long way to helping me heal quicker. Not to mention she smiles a lot and is easy to calm by just feeding or snuggling her. She likes to be swaddled and self soothes with a pacifier. She doesn't cry when she wakes up in the morning, but just coos and gurgles in her bassinet until I scoop her up. And when she does cry, it goes from zero to exorcist in one second flat. Sometimes it reaches another level that I've dubbed Baby Ringwraith.

My mom's been with us for two weeks, which is time we've all treasured. My friend Mary Helen organized a meal train and we've had friends stopping by around the clock dropping off delicious dinners and well wishes for Violet. It's truly been a magical time and we are so grateful. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Well this is anticlimactic, no? Six days later and there are no signs of this baby. After mentally preparing for the big date, it's come and gone without so much as a peep. We were so geared up for August 1st, or the possibility of her arriving early, that we didn't really really think about what it would be like if she was late.

First babies usually are late, so maybe that was our own short-sightedness. But I've felt so big and uncomfortable that it was unfathomable that I'd keep lasting like this. And now, I don't even feel as uncomfortable anymore. Am I just used to living in this purgatory? What the heck is going on?!

At my doctor's appointment two days ago we did a check on the placenta, amniotic fluid, baby movements, and a few other things. We walked out with a perfect score and an appointment for next Tuesday. If she's not here by then, we'll pick an induction date. A medical intervention is not how I wanted to start this thing off, but I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. (No one says that in Texas, by the way. Very much a Jersey phrase. But it still brings my Yankee heart comfort.)

About a month or so ago my doctor said the baby was in Kansas. Two weeks later, Oklahoma. Tuesday it was Waco. So while she still has a ways to go, at least she's in the right state and starting to descend. And it makes sense that she's in Waco because we're naming her David Koresh Dr. Pepper Baylor Sheppard.

Anyway, I'll keep everyone updated as we wait for her to make her way to Austin. She's in for a surprise. It's hotter out here than it is in there.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Elusive Due Date

Now that I'm just five days away from my due date, it's hitting home that we don't really know when she's coming. In my mind we'll go to the hospital on the due date and that'll be it, the three of us sticking to this fictional appointment. But that's just not how it works. So we're hanging out in limbo, waiting.

I've also been nervous about going early, because I feel like I need every single day to prepare.

But the truth is, we're ready and if it happened this week we could handle it. I'm at the point where there's very little I feel like doing, including laying down, sitting up, standing, walking, sleeping, eating, breathing, talking, thinking, working, writing, texting, watching TV, reading, etc. There's no escaping this uncomfortable feeling and I'm a prisoner in my own body. The skin on my stomach is stretched so tight that it feels too sensitive to be touched even in the gentlest way. I'll karate chop anyone who tries to go near my belly button. It didn't turn into an outie, by the way. It's flat, sure, but I don't think it's going to pop out.

At my weekly checkup today the doctor confirmed that nothing is happening to signify I'm heading into labor. That doesn't mean it won't happen soon enough, as I could be one of those people who go from zero to sixty. Her terrifying words, not mine. I'm hoping for things to occur naturally and without medical intervention to get the ball rolling, but I'm not downing any castor oil or other old wives tonics to get there.

So for now, we wait. And I'll continue my restless sleeping, interrupted by heartburn and bathroom breaks. I don't think Chris is getting enough sleep either, but he hasn't complained. Cross your fingers for us that she comes at just the right time.

Friday, July 17, 2015


The final ultrasound was anticlimactic. After months of watching her wave, bite toes, suck her thumb, and generally act cute as a button for her pictures, baby girl just wasn't feeling enthusiastic this last time. She was facing my back and while she hasn't dropped down into position yet, there's definitely less room for acrobatics.

What we know: She looks healthy and is growing at a good rate. At over seven pounds, she's just about full size. She's got long legs like her daddy. She's assertive like her mama, at least, that's how I'm interpreting the firm jabs I'm feeling from the inside.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Birth Plan

There's all this talk of preparing a birth plan and outlining your "dream scenario" for caregivers to cater to your wishes the best they can. A few people have suggested bringing in typed multiple copies for various staff and extras to accommodate for shift changes. Also, attach a treat to each plan so you don't seem pushy. (Because a biscotti is adequate payment for a nurse's unwavering energy and support for hours on end?)

My dream scenario is that I take a luxurious nap in a hammock and wake up--pain free--with a healthy baby in my arms. Since that's not an option, my plan is this:

1. Let's try this without the aid of any drugs.
2. If that doesn't work, I'll do whatever it takes to get through it.
3. I don't want a c-section.
4. But go ahead if that's what needs to be done.
5. Please don't unnecessarily rush me, cut me, or drug me.

In short, I'm going in with hopes for the simplest route possible but no major demands or expectations. I'm not fooling myself into thinking I'll have much control over the situation. I'll do what I can to mentally and physically prepare, but I think the best tool in my arsenal will be an open mind.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Scenes from a shower

I'm a little slow to upload photos these days, but I did get some shots from the fantastic baby shower my friends threw last month. I'm glad I took some photos right when I got there, because soon enough I was enveloped in the fun, yummy eats, and seemingly endless parade of gifts and friends. I'll always feel touched when I think back on it.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Counting Down

We're less than a month away from the due date...26 days to be exact! And with only five days until I'm officially full term, the countdown could be even shorter. First babies usually arrive late, but as a first baby who came two weeks early myself, I'm not banking on any set length of time. 

Some days I feel prepared; others, not so much. The nursery is still a mess and we don't have a crib yet. When friends stop over to see the house, I notice a subtle eyebrow raise when they see the nursery, quickly followed by, "It's okay. You'll get there!" I need to kick it into gear this week. But in the most basic ways, we are ready. I have changing table and diapers within reach, teeny tiny clothes washed, and swaddle blankets primed for the swaddling! 

I also want to review the materials we were given at our childbirth, infant care, and breast feeding classes. This week I also plan on packing a bag for the hospital and lining up someone to come feed the cats. 

We took a tour of the maternity ward at Seton Southwest last week. It's a small, quiet hospital, with a very calming atmosphere. It's small enough that it doesn't even have a cafeteria. But we will have a fridge to bring food for Chris and I'll have the wonderful luxury of a private room for the three of us. I felt weird snapping photos on the tour, but I did get a stealthy shot of the baby's first bed, where she'll reside in the room with us during our stay: