Reflections...on Julie, Dr. Soper, and Methodist Hospital

Julie, Ryan, Noah, and me about an hour after Noah's birth

This time I want to reflect on what it was like working with a doula, having Dr. Soper as our OB, and giving birth at Methodist Hospital. I remember when we were considering working with a doula, my only hesitation was the it would take away from Ryan's and my experience of going through Noah's labor and deliver together. I was worried that Ryan would be forced to take a back seat role and that a doula would be more of the primary support person. When we first met with Julie (http://birth-by-design.com/index.html), I shared that concern and quickly learned that Ryan's role during labor and delivery could be as hands on as his comfort level would allow. After this entire experience of being pregnant and having a natural childbirth, I would DEFINITELY work with Julie again!!! Her services cost $600, and like Ryan said, it was worth every single penny. After having our initial consultation to see if we were a good fit, Ryan and I scheduled our first prenatal meeting, where we paid Julie the first $300. She talked us through the stages of labor in a much different way than how I had read about it in books. That talk was VERY helpful to me when we were in labor because it really did match what I experienced. I can't actually remember everything we covered during our two prenatal sessions, but I do remember it including our birth preferences, a discussion of our fears, a relaxation session, a simulation of pushing positions, instruction on counterpressure, etc. All of those things and many others that I am forgetting truly helped prepare my mind to endure a natural childbirth. I know it would have been MUCH more difficult without that preparation! Julie also accompanied me to one of my prenatal appointments with Dr. Soper where we shared my birth preferences. We also knew that we could call Julie at any time if we had questions about the pregnancy, which is really nice! Once I was in labor, Julie came to the house around noon and stayed until well past midnight to help with breastfeeding. She took pictures at our prenatal visits, throughout the labor, and during the delivery and then complied them into the birth story that she wrote. It is such a great gift that I will get to enjoy for the rest of my life! Julie called often in the days and weeks following Noah's birth to check to see how I was doing, how Noah was progressing, etc. Again, it's just so nice to have someone else to call other than your doctor's office. I always felt like a bother to make those calls, so I loved having Julie's support for answering my questions and finding out what was normal/abnormal. In sum, I know that I probably wouldn't have had a natural childbirth without with support from both Ryan and Julie! I would HIGHLY recommend working with a doula to all of my friends and family members who are planning to have children. It was just so helpful in preparing my mind for the big event!!

You all read about some of my issues with working with Dr. Soper throughout the second half of our pregnancy. Mainly, I felt like she lacked bedside manner, and the prenatal appointments were about 3 minutes long. I just didn't feel like she gave us much time or attention, which was frustrating for me. Ryan and I kept telling ourselves that we hired her for the delivery of our baby, knowing that her reputation was impeccable around Indianapolis for using medical intervention only when absolutely necessary and backing up the midwives in the area. I wondered who I would have deliver our next baby, even though I don't want any more kids for a few years. Well, after seeing Dr. Soper in action in the delivery room, I would most definitely want her to be there for any subsequent children we may have!!! I didn't at all expect to feel that way, but Dr. Soper was really amazing during Noah's birth! She was motherly, nurturing, encouraging, etc. during the last hour or two of labor, pushing, and Noah's birth. I was completely shocked and really happy to see her take that role! Dr. Soper respected our birth preferences completely. Babies heart rates drop when you are pushing during a contraction. It's completely normal and they typically will come back up after the contraction is over. At one point, Noah's heartrate didn't come up as high as Dr. Soper would have liked. Instead of panicking me in any way by announcing it, getting the vacuum, or talking about C-Sections, Dr. Soper simply had the nurse put an oxygen mask on my face to help Noah get the air he needed. It also reminded me that my breathing was still really important...that Noah couldn't breathe well if I didn't. The oxygen was just what he needed to pop back to the right level! She encouraged me throughout the pushing stage and really helped stretch out my perineum so that I wouldn't tear...one of the worst fears that every pregnant woman has. Because Dr. Soper worked so hard at that, I didn't tear, and my recovery has been that much better because of it!! On both Friday and Saturday mornings, Dr. Soper came to the hospital to check in on Noah and me. I'm pretty sure I even saw her smile a little bit each time! She brough Noah a "Dr. Soper's Sweetheart" t-shirt and did his circumcision, too. Overall, I was very pleased Dr. Soper's role during Noah's birth! Whenever we decide to have another child, we'll go back to Dr. Soper and just know ahead of time how she is during prenatal visits. Again, a doctor's biggest role happens during the baby's delivery unless you have issues that come up during your pregnancy. Since Dr. Soper was so great during the delivery, we'll definitely work with her again! If you are wanting a doctor who is great about using medical interventions only when they truly are needed rather than a first line of defense (which there are some doctors who are and who do intervene more than is truly necessary), I would definitely recommend Dr. Soper! Just know that you aren't going to get much nurturing throughout your pregnancy. That need will have to be met by someone else. :)

Crystal...our 2nd nurse at Methodist who helped with Noah's delivery

Last, I wanted to share my thoughts about Methodist Hospital. Because of all the negative press Methodist got when those babies died from high doses of Heparin a couple years ago, as well as it's location downtown, I really hadn't considered going there for the birth of our baby. Living on the southside of Indy, I just assumed I would go to Community South because it was the closest, and the current OB was seeing delivered there. A friend of mine is a doula and works in the network of community hospitals, which has given her a perspective on how many of the OBs and hospital staff operate during a natural childbirth experience. She encouraged me to check out Methodist if I was really considering natural childbirth because of their philosophy. My friend had a 10 lb. baby at Methodist NATURALLY!! Yeah, she's a superstar. :) So, I actually decided to do my search for an OB and hospital a little bit differently. Rather than just stick with my current OB because I knew that lady and go to the hospital where she is able to deliver babies, I decided to choose a hospital first and then choose an midwife/OB who delivered at that hospital. I toured both Community South and Methodist, and Ryan and I took a birth options class at Methodist. We were quickly sold on delivering our baby at Methodist since they were very open and encouraging of natural childbirth and the low use of medical interventions unless needed or requested. Here is an example to help make this make sense. A friend of ours is a labor and delivery nurse at St. Vincents Hospital. She said that almost every single patient has to have an IV, has constant fetal monitoring (which requires more wires, making it more difficult to move around the room), and must stay very close to the hospital bed. At Methodist, I didn't even have a port put in for an IV. We had intermittent fetal monitoring, which allowed for me to move around the room wherever I wanted to be (e.g., shower and tub). As you read in my birth story, I was ALL OVER THE ROOM. I had to have that freedom of movement in order to cope with my contractions. Had I been stuck in my bed having to deal with contractions, I am pretty sure that I would have had an epidural. It is just to hard to lay down and cope with contractions in my opinion based on my experience. The nurses were really respectful of our birth preferences and adhered to all of them. They were very supportive and encouraging throughout the labor and delivery. The nurse was great about letting Ryan help with Noah's first bath, teaching him how to do this or that. In our postpartum room, I was at first disappointed with how little we saw our nurses. Then I remembered Methodist's philosophy for postpartum, wanting to respect the new family and allow them time to bond. Anytime we needed something, the nurses were right there supporting us! Otherwise, they really left us alone. I think it helped make our transition home easier. In fact, we were so used to taking care of Noah by ourselves, we were confident and ready to leave Saturday afternoon, just 40 hours after Noah was born. Another WONDERFUL thing about Methodist is that they have a nurse/lactation consultant come to your house within a week after the baby's birth. This visit was PERFECT because you have been home for long enough to just start questioning your own body's recovery. Plus, you might have questions about the baby or about breastfeeding, so the visit from a nurse is great! She stayed for about an hour and a half to two hours. It was an invaluable experience! The nurse said that Methodist is one of the only hospitals in the area that does that. :) I received a card in the mail congratulating us on Noah's birth, and it was signed by the nurses we worked with during our stay. It was just a nice, thoughtful touch!

So those are my thoughts about working with a doula, specifically Julie, having Dr. Soper as our OB, and delivering Noah at Methodist. I really have nothing but good things to say about each one!


Reflection...on Ryan

I am so glad that I had a chance to finally write our birth story! Hopefully you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed experiencing it. I wanted to take some time to reflect on a few different things because it's one thing to have an experience like that...and it's another to really view the situation in hindsight.

First of all, I have to say that I am the luckiest person in the world to have Ryan for a husband. When we started dating 7 years ago, I couldn't have dreamt that he would become the man, the husband, and the father that he is today. During my pregnancy, Ryan was nothing short of supportive, excited, encouraging, and reassuring. Most of pregnancy, I felt happy and excited about everything, but there were definitely some days that were harder than others. You all have read how hard it was for me to cope with all of the comments people made about my changing body. That was really the only negative experience I had during this pregnancy. Ryan was the person at home who really had to help me sort through a lot of those feelings, and he did a great job! I only had a few meltdowns...for example the salad incident. :) We got a lot of good laughs out of that story. I really attribute my lack of breaking down to Ryan. Had he not been so good to me over the past 9 months, it could have been a more challenging experience. When I told Ryan that I was hoping to have a natural childbirth, I think he was skeptical. He really didn't understand why I wouldn't want an epidural, pitocin, and other medical interventions. With time and many conversations later, he began to understand everything much better and was supportive of my goal. I really needed to believe that he truly understood the reasoning...that he bought into the reasoning...and that he would support me throughout my labor and delivery. A husband's job is REALLY DIFFICULT when you're experiencing a natural labor. Had I had an epidural and been resting in bed for several hours before it came time to push, Ryan could have just sat on a couch watching TV, sleeping, whatever. Because I really needed him to be with me while I was in labor, he had a lot of work to do! Not all husbands would be ok with having that type of role, so it makes me that more appreciative of everything he did. If only I could describe to you how supportive he was when I was in labor...you would just be amazed. First of all, Ryan was CALM...from the start to the finish...he was CALM. When we were driving to the hospital, I asked if he was scared, and he said not at all. I needed to hear that....whether it was true or not. When my labor became more intense, and I wanted to get in the shower, Ryan put on his swim trunks and joined me! He sprayed water on my back...got towels to keep me warm...and just reassured me that I was doing the work. Ryan breathed through my contractions with me, too. When I would have a really difficult one...especially those double and triple contractions that would last several minutes...I would sometimes lose my focus. My breathing would become quick and shallow, and Ryan would say, "Amy, look at me. Look at me. Breath with me." He was the only person who could help me relax, re-focus, and breath. That was probably the most valuable thing I remember him doing. When I was pushing and in my mind was questioning whether or not I was going to be able to do push out that baby, it's like he read my mind and quickly said, "Amy, I can see our baby. You can do this!" It was all I needed to really focus my body and mind to push that baby out! There is nothing more beautiful than seeing your husband take care of your son. Watching Ryan give Noah his first bath, having never done anything like that before, was honestly breathtaking. I fell in love all over again...and continue to fall more and more in love everyday. Since we've been home, Ryan has been 100% there for taking care of Noah, Layla, Kya, and me. Layla's situation was a lot for him to take on, as much of it had to be done without me there. He was so brave and courageous for taking the lead in conversations that we needed to have and visits to the vet's offices. Ever since Layla has been gone, you can imagine how lost Kya is these days. Ryan has taken on the responsibility of walking her, playing with her, and training her all throughout the day in order to help her make this transition. Dogs aside, he has been so extremely helpful to Noah and me. I can't imagine being a single parent and doing this alone. Ryan has done so much around our house. He's ran errands, cooked meals, cleaned the house, done yard work, changed diapers, helped with bathing/dressing Noah, and most of all...helping Noah calm down when he gets upset. Ryan has this magical touch. If Noah is screaming with me, I can hand him over to Ryan, and 95% of the time, Noah will instantly calm down. He loves to hear his dad talk and sing...it's really sweet! As I sit here writing this blog, Ryan is putting sod in our backyard along one of our fence lines. He just hasn't stopped helping or working since we came home from the hospital except to sleep, and even that has been much less than he used to get. :) I honestly could go on and on about how proud I am of Ryan...how much I love this man...and how incredible it is to watch him interacting with his son. I had planned to reflect on two other things: working with a doula and having a natural childbirth experience. However, I think I'm going to save those two for next time. I want to grab a bite to eat and get the baby inside. We've been on the porch getting some fresh air and enjoying this beautiful Memorial Day. I love my new family!


Layla Jean Abell

I'm up for a 2 a.m. feeding and wanted to share some sad news about Layla with you. I think we have told all of you this, but Layla has had seizures since May 2007. The year prior to that, she was on medication for severe anxiety, which she didn't display at all during the first 9 months of her life. With the medication and some environmental changes, we were able to get the anxiety under control. Like I said, though...the seizures began in May 2007. We have changed her medication (type and dosage) several times in order to get them to decrease. For the past several months, Layla would have a seizure everyone month and a half to two months, typically in the middle of the night. They would last for no longer than a minute and were completely manageable.

However, Wednesday afternoon things went to a new level. Layla had what they call cluster seizures, where she had a seizure, and then just as it was stopping, she went into another seizure. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen happen to a dog. I am usually cool, calm, and collected during her seizures, but these were very violent (flipping backward), and she wasn't getting a break. Ryan got her outside after the second seizure as I was in the middle of calling the vet, but she then had a third seizure outside. It was horrible. We gave her two pills of her regular medication, and then Ryan brought her inside. She was really jumpy and not at all herself, but the seizures had stopped. Well, 20 minutes later, she had another seizure in the house. At that point, Ryan loaded her in the car and drove her to Franklin Animal Hospital. They gave her oral Valium, and we gave her another dose of oral Valium at midnight. She was very subdued the entire evening and not quite herself, but we were thankful that the seizures had stopped. We had an appointment with our vet the next day (he had been out of town the day of the seizures) and were looking forward to hearing what he had to say. Ryan and I both agreed the night of the seizures on a few things. First, we were not going to give her to anyone else. Our goal had always been to make sure that Layla's quality of life was positive, happy, and strong. With the seizures reaching the cluster level, we knew that her quality of life would only decrease. With clusters comes brain damage, risk of injuring herself/others, and behavioral changes. We didn't want to see her go through those risks and challenges. Second, we had to put Noah's safety first. When it was the two of us, Layla didn't pose a threat to us. However, with a seizing dog who has no control over herself and a little newborn who will gradually spend more time on the floor, we couldn't guarantee Noah's safety. Third, if the doctor could increase her medication to a point that the seizures would stay at a minimal level, and if he could guarantee that Noah would be ok, then we would consider doing that. Otherwise, we were going to have to say our goodbyes and put her to sleep.

So, Ryan met with Dr. Dave (Briarcrest Animal Hospital...best vet in the world), and we got our answers. Layla's seizures had progressed to a new level, and she wouldn't return to the seizures that only occurred approximately 6-8 times per year. He was concerned that she was having seizures that often given the dosage of medication we had her on. Even with doubling that dosage, he said she would still have the clusters. Noah's safety was most definitely at risk. He told Ryan that we had done a really good job with her from the day we had her and said that most people would've given up with the anxiety problems she first displayed. It made us feel good to know that he didn't think we were just giving us or taking the easy way out because we had this new baby. In no way did I ever want to say goodbye to Layla...I had a better relationship with her than I did with Kya. I knew as a parent that I would have to make difficult decisions, but we just had no idea it would be in the first week of Noah's life. In sum, the doctor felt that Layla was a risk to hurting herself significantly (internally and externally), and now she could really hurt Noah, as well. Ryan made an appointment to put her to sleep for later that afternoon (Thursday) at 3 p.m.

When Ryan and Layla got home from the vet, we both shed a lot of tears. You know how much we love dogs, and Layla was really the happiest, most gentle, most obediant dog either of us had ever had. Her biggest crime was wagging her tail so hard out of joy that it would snap people in the legs. We poured all of the dogs' toys in the back yard and just let them run crazy and play! It was a gorgeous day, and Layla had the time of her life. We took a million pictures and even some video of her and tried to stay strong all day. Of course doubt creeps into your mind...are we rushing things? Are we making this decision too quickly? After playing outside for a couple hours and giving her some ham (a real treat since we never give her people food!), we went inside and took a few more pictures/video of her. Ryan was laying on the floor with her afterward, and poor Layla had another seizure at 1 p.m. While I hated to see her experience that, it was just what I needed to know that we were for sure making the right decision. Ryan remembered that the Franklin Animal Hospital vet had given him Valium to inject in her rectally to stop a cluster if it happened again, so he did just that. Layla snapped back from that seizure quickly and just stayed relaxed for the next two hours. My mom came to watch Baby Noah while we went to the vet. However, before we left, we had Kya say goodbye to Layla. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen, but they were best friends, and the moment was very special. We took Layla to the vet's office in Bargersville. We asked the doc if he could put her to sleep outside so that she didn't have to go inside, which makes her really anxious. We wanted her last moments to be happy ones. He happily agreed, so we just laid Layla in the grass, held her tight, told her we loved her, and it was over within seconds. Her last moments on earth were outside, on a beautiful sunny day, in the grass...her favorite.

Our hearts are aching right now, and it is really difficult to see Kya without Layla. She is really lost at home right now, and we're doing our best to help her through this, too. We really appreciate your thoughts and prayers right now because we both feel somewhat empty without Layla. I know she is a dog, but she was truly one of our very best friends. The birth of Noah is helping of course. It helps ground us and keeps us focused on the future. Layla had been wonderful to him ever since he came home, and we are so grateful for those days they had together, too. Ryan and I are completely at peace with our decision, knowing it was what had to be done. Her last day was beautiful and perfect while she played in the yard, and we will always remember that. We love her very much and will miss her so much!

Again, we would really appreciate your prayers for us. We can feel God holding us right now, and Noah gives us a lot of strength, too. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope I didn't upset you too much, but I wanted you to know exactly what happened and what we're experiencing right now. We love all of you and cannot thank you enough for your support right now.


Noah's Birth Story

I am so excited to share the story of Noah's birth! I have already written about the morning that my water broke, so I will pick up from where I left off. Ryan and I enjoyed the morning together, and my contractions slowly became a little closer together and a little stronger. They were completely manageable, as I had approximately 4-5 minutes to just relax between contractions. At this point, it just felt like menstrual cramps that would come for about a minute and then would be gone for a bit. Since the amniotic fluid was clear when my water broke, and my beta strep test came back negative, Dr. Soper said to just hang out until my contractions were every 5 minutes for an hour. We had been in touch with Julie (our birth doula) throughout the morning, and we invited her to join us at noon, thinking that things would probably have picked up a little more by then. After she arrived, Julie and I talked about how things were going while Ryan continued to pack up the car and get other things finished up. He was calm, collected, and excited that the day had finally arrived! Once everything was ready to go, Ryan, Julie, and I went on a walk around the neighborhood to try to make the contractions come even closer together, as well as to increase their intensity. So Ryan got the dogs on leashes, and our journey around the neighborhood began. The walk was great and completely helped to continue everything down the path of stronger labor. The amniotic fluid continued to leak all morning, which is completely annoying I have to say! You see, when your water breaks, it's often just the amniotic fluid between the baby's head and your cervix that comes out. The leaking continues as the baby's head moves off your cervix, which can happen from contractions, from changing positions, etc. So, with the help of some washcloths, I was able to get around pretty comfortably (well, as comfortable as one can be with a wet washcloth!).

After the walk, my contractions were more like 4-5 minutes apart, but they were lasting 1 1/2 to 2 minutes long. This meant that the contractions had more time to do their work (thinning out and dilating my cervix). I was still feeling completely normal between contractions, and whenever I would have one, I would usually become a little quieter in order to concentrate on breathing through the contraction. By this time, they were steadily getting stronger. I could feel them start in my lower back and pull/tighten around my abdomen. I would probably describe it as a 3-4 on the pain scale. I continued to snack when I was hungry in order to keep up my energy level. I also drank a ton of water in order to stay hydrated. Since your uterus is contracting, we wanted to make sure that the muscles had plenty of water to help do the work. Plus, emptying your bladder can help move things along, too. Ryan, Julie, and I attempted to watch 27 Dresses, which I hadn't previously seen. I was able to watch a few minutes here and there between contractions, but they started getting even stronger, so we decided to turn it off.

At that point, I started to ask questions about the hospital. Going through the labor wasn't scaring me in the least. I had done so much reading...Ryan and I had communicated for several months about our birth preferences...and I trusted that Ryan and Julie would take good care of me. I was, however, afraid of the hospital. Never having been admitted to the hospital before and not liking medical situations anyway, I was really nervous about what would happen once I got there. Julie took Ryan and I through the process...going to triage to be checked to make sure I really was in labor...getting a hep-lock (IV Port) in case I needed intravenous fluids or medications...answering the nurse's questions, etc. I told Julie that I wanted my contractions to be very regular and more intense before we left. I feared that if things hadn't progressed enough, they would just send me home.

Once those two things were well established, I told Ryan and Julie that I needed an exact time for when we would leave. Those of you who know me understand my NEED for a schedule! :) We chose 3:30 p.m. as the time to leave and did just that! Ryan helped me into the passenger's seat. We reclined the seat, they buckled me in, and off we went. I asked Ryan if he was scared to drive, and he said that he wasn't scared at all. I had contractions about every 3-4 minutes on the way there. It was a bumpy 30 minute drive at times, but again, everything was totally manageable because of the breaks I had between contractions to relax. I was no longer able to talk during them; instead, I had to really focus on my breathing (thank you prenatal yoga!). Then, as soon as they were over, Ryan and I would start talking again. We listened to music to stay relaxed, and Ryan would just turn it down whenever I had a contraction. At this point I was going more and more into my body with each passing contraction.

Julie drove separately to the hospital and parked in the garage. Ryan dropped me off at the main entrance to Methodist once Julie had walked from her car to the front doors. I breathed through my contractions in a lobby area, leaning over a couch with Julie by my side. In the meantime, Ryan parked the car and brought in all of our bags, pillows, cameras, etc. We began our journey to the 3rd floor of Methodist. I continued to have contractions in the hallways and elevator. We would just stop walking each time so that I could breath through them. After they subsided, we were back to walking! In the short walk from the elevator to the triage area, I had two more contractions. This older lady tried to stop Julie from coming into triage with us, saying that the policy was for only one support person to go into triage with us. Julie explained that she was our birth doula and that Dr. Soper had given us the ok to have both her and Ryan in triage. The lady continued to hassle me and was trying to grab my arm to pull me into triage, but I was having a contraction. Needless to say, I almost punched her in the face (hee, hee!). Ryan was raising his voice telling her to leave me alone, and I'm not 100% sure what happened, but in the end, both Ryan and Julie accompanied me into triage. The lady at the front desk in that area said that she had just spoken with Dr. Soper, who had said I could go ahead and go back to my room, skipping triage altogether! Now this had been my hope all along, so it was incredible that it worked out!

When we reached the labor, delivery, and recovery room, I was pretty impressed. We got one of the largest rooms because we wanted to be able to use their labor tubs, which take up a lot of room. Our first nurse, Dawn, asked us a bunch of questions while I worked through my contractions. It still wasn't difficult to talk in between them, but I had to take breaks from the questions whenever a new contraction would come about. Dawn checked my cervix, and I was 99% effaced (paper thin cervix) and 3 cm dilated. I have to admit, I was a little discouraged for about 2 seconds because I thought I was further than 3 cm. However, I knew that you can get through several centimeters in little time and not to worry. The fact that my cervix was 99% effaced, and it had only been maybe 25% effaced the day before, made me feel that much more confident in my body to do the work. I wanted the freedom to move around the room while laboring in order to help me better cope with the contractions. Sitting/lying in a bed while experiencing contractions would have been really difficult! Your body just naturally wants to move, rock, sway, etc. to help stay relaxed and to bring the baby down.

First, I labored standing up, leaning over a hospital tray. Then I got into the bed on my knees, leaning over the back of the bed. At this point, my contractions were getting closer together and more intense. Ryan and Julie were helping me stay focused, and they were putting counter pressure on various places on my back and hips to help me cope with the contractions. I knew I needed to wait until I was at least 5 cm to get into the labor tub or risk the chance of slowing down the progression of my labor. I told Julie and Ryan that I wanted to get into the shower to have some of the water pressure on my back. So Ryan grabbed his swim trunks and joined me in the bathroom! Is my husband the best or what? :) I sat on a chair while Ryan sprayed my back with water. I had warm towels on my legs to help stay warm, and the water pressure felt really good. Julie was taking a break during this time, and I started to get a little scared because I began having lots of double and triple contractions. This happens when your contraction peaks...begins to come down...and then goes up again right away without a break. This happened frequently throughout the rest of my labor. Ryan said that I would say, "Here comes another one," and that he dreaded hearing me say those words because he knew they were intense. I asked the nurse to check me again because I was starting to get a little scared and less focused, which affected my ability to breathe well through the contractions. At that time, I was only 4 cm. I about died! I really wanted to get to 5 cm quickly before I lost my mind. So, I laid down on the floor of the bathroom, and Ryan stayed right by my side, helping with counter pressure and guiding my breathing. After being on the floor for a bit, Ryan helped me to the birth ball, where I sat down and leaned over the bed. I swayed and rocked with my contractions, which again were still getting closer together and more intense. I climbed into the bed and dealt with more contractions on my knees leaning over the back of the bed again. Julie and Ryan continued to help me focus on my breathing, which was mostly just a deep breath in and a deep breath out. I wasn't doing any of the "hee-hee-hoos" or "choo-choos". Prenatal yoga really helped me practice those deep breathing techniques, so I strongly recommend it to my friends and family if they are ever wanting a birth experience like this one. After being in the bed for a bit, I asked the new nurse, Crystal, to check me again. I was still only 4-5 cm. I thought I was going to cry. I knew if I could just get in that water, my body would relax enough for my cervix to open completely. Crystal called Dr. Soper to see if she was ok with me getting in the tub. At this point, I was praying to God that she would say yes...and she did!

They started the water in the tub, and once it was filled, I climbed in. The pressure of water surrounding your body really does take the edge off the pain! It's like the water absorbs some of the pressure and pain so that you don't experience your contractions as much. Now I'm not saying it didn't still hurt...it definitely was a painful situation. However, the warm water really helped me relax between contractions, even though that time was getting shorter and shorter, especially during double and triple contractions. I was having a lot of back pain, so by swaying my body side to side during a contraction and rubbing my back against these ledges in the tub really helped me cope with the intensity. Between contractions, I would just allow my body to go completely limp, and I would begin to float on my back in the water. Ryan said I was in a trance almost. He and Julie could talk to me, but I wouldn't say anything back. I think I had gone completely within my own body and was just so focused on my breathing and getting through each contraction. So my body would rise and fall in the water as I would breathe. Then, I would have a contraction, begin my deep breathing, and sway back and forth. When I asked the nurse to check me again, I was 8-9 centimeters...HOORAY! That meant that I went from 4-5 cm to 8-9 cm in an hour and a half. The end was close. They called Dr. Soper to come into the hospital, which seemed to take forever. I was beginning to have the urge to push, and the contractions were completely at their strongest, closest, and most intense. By the time Dr. Soper arrived, she checked me, and I was 9 cm...one to go! I was starting to lose my mind again. Ryan really helped pull me out of the pain, telling me to look at him and to breathe with him. THIS WAS INVALUABLE!!! I cannot tell you how important that was throughout the entire day but especially at the end when I had so little time to recover from the most intense contractions I would have. Julie encouraged me to try to labor for a bit on my hands and knees in the tub. I was mad and asked her why because I felt safe in the position my body was in at the time. She said that I had been in that position for a long time and that changing my position would maybe help get through that last centimeter. So, I took her advice and flipped over. I don't know how long I was on my hands and knees. I was so focused on breathing, getting through a contraction, resting, and going through that process over and over again. Ryan was again amazing at keeping me focused and breathing correctly. They had me do some short breaths out, kind of like blowing out candles on a cake but blowing out each candle independently. This really helped get through those final intense contractions. I was really having the urge to push, so we called the doctor back in. My cervix was completely dilated on one side, but there was still some cervix left on the other side. So, with my next contraction, Dr. Soper pushed that part of my cervix behind the baby's head. If it stayed in that position through the next contraction, she would let me push...and it did!!! I told the doctor that I didn't think I could get out of the tub. Again, it was my safe place where I had dealt with the most intense contractions I would experience. Dr. Soper got real with me and explained that she really didn't want me to push in the water. She wouldn't be able to see everything as well for one. She gave me some other reasons, but I don't really remember all of them. So, Ryan, Julie, and Dr. Soper helped me out of the tub and into the bed to get ready to push.

I started out laying down on my back. As a contraction would come, I would announce it, pull my knees to my chest, arch my back forward into a C-shape, and push. The key of pushing was to push, take a really quick breath, and immediately push again before the baby slipped back.I usually was able to push 4 times for each contraction. Pushing contractions are different because you have more time to rest during the pushing stage than during the previous part of labor. I pushed on my back for awhile until Dr. Soper suggested that I move to my right side to push. I didn't know it at the time, but the baby's face was facing to the right. By having me push on my side, Dr. Soper was hoping that the baby would turn...and turn he did! The baby's face was now facing up, though it is best for them to be face down. The pushing didn't hurt as far as the baby coming out, but I was having a lot of pain in my abdomen. I don't know if the baby was pushing his knees upward on his way out, but it was really painful! At one point during pushing, I remember thinking for the very first time, "What if I can't do this?" Visions of a vacuum extraction, episiotomy, and C-section were starting to appear in my mind, and that was all the motivation I needed to really push that baby out! I started to have another contraction and told Dr. Soper. She said something like, "You don't need me for this. You are doing just fine, so just push whenever you feel the urge." I loved not being forced to push for a particular amount of time, and I enjoyed even more that I was listening to the cues from my own body to push rather than a doctor telling me that I was having a contraction and should push. Ryan and I wanted to donate the baby's umbilical cord blood to help a family in need of stem cells or to further stem cell research. So, Dr. Soper and Crystal began to get everything ready for the collection. It was awesome! During one of the rest periods, Ryan told me to look at him, and he said, "Amy, I can see our baby! You can do this." Again, I had a surge of energy and adrenalin. They got a mirror for me to see the baby's head coming out. I was in awe!!! Ryan was at my left side the whole time, and Julie was at my right side. Crystal and Dr. Soper were both right in front of me. Finally, Dr. Soper announced, "I have 1/3 of a head, and with this next contraction, we'll have a baby. I got SOOO excited/determined and pushed with all of my might. Ryan later told me that my face wasn't red...it was purple! So, with my next contraction, I pushed with every ounce of energy and strength that I had. After the fourth time of pushing, I looked in the mirror and saw the baby being born. It was absolutely incredible! Words really can't describe how I felt or what I saw. All I can say is that it was breathtaking. Noah Ryan Abell was born at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 15, 2008 weighing 7 lbs., 4 oz. and was 19 1/2 inches long.

Dr. Soper put the baby on my stomach but didn't announce the sex. The baby was lying in my arms with its bottom in my hand. I said, "Oh my gosh, it's a boy! I can feel his little balls!" I know it wasn't my most eloquent moment, but that was my reaction! I just looked at Ryan with tears in my eyes and in amazement. He was looking right back at me with the same expression. I just held onto the baby for a good ten minutes before they took him for measuring and other hospital procedures. I was so thankful for those moments! Ryan cut the cord, the doctor collected the stem cells, and Ryan then followed Crystal back to take pictures and to watch her do various procedures with the baby. In the meantime, I was given a pill to help the placenta detach. It just didn't want to budge, and I made the joke that it wanted me to have gestational diabetes forever!! Dr. Soper began pushing really hard on my abdomen to try to push the placenta out. That was excrutiating!!! I was gripping her arm and was trying to pry it off my belly. She said, "Amy, please let me do this." But seriously, it is a gut reaction to fight someone off when they are hurting you, and this really hurt! Finally, my placenta released, and it was over. I didn't tear or have an episiotomy...BOOYAH! The baby was very healthy, and I was doing fine!

Ryan went down to the waiting area to start bringing up the grandparents two at a time. Ryan didn't want to tell them the sex of the baby until they came to the room to visit us. My mom and her husband came in first, visiting for a bit and holding little baby Noah. Then, my dad and Danette came in to see us and to meet Noah, too. Ryan's parents then came in and were excited to meet their fourth grandchild. Afterwards, all of the grandparents were invited back in together to visit with us and to celebrate this new life! By this time it was past 1 a.m. I think, and everyone was really tired. I felt great and was having a really easy recovery from the labor and delivery. Ryan helped Crystal give Noah his first bath, and I watched from my bed, not really wanting to stand a whole lot at that point! :) Ryan was so sweet with the baby and did a great job with the bath. He brought Noah over to me afterwards, and we just held onto him, loving every second of it. While waiting to be transferred to our postpartum room, Ryan fell asleep, and I just stared in awe at Noah. That was my son, who had been hiccuping and stretching and kicking me for the past several months...who had grown from microscopic size to this beautiful little man in 9 months. It is something I will never forget!!!


Introducing...Noah Ryan Abell!!!

Good morning family and friends!!! Noah and I were just up for our 2:15 a.m. feeding, so I thought I would finally take a moment to blog and catch you up on life. :) I have been really excited to share the story of his birth, but I also know that will take quite a long time to write, so I will try to get to that in the next couple days. For now, I thought I'd catch you up about life since leaving the hospital!

As soon as we were discharged from the hospital, we went to visit our friends Alyssa, Beckie, and Tim. I know...you must think we are crazy, but we were so excited to introduce our new baby boy to people and thought it would be easier than having people over to our house with the dogs. It was so nice to see them and fun to show off Noah! When we got home, Ryan saw a special treat that my dad and Danette had waiting for me: caffeine free coke and grenadine to make CHERRY COKE! BOOYAH! So, I was upstairs getting settled in when he brought me a TALL, COLD, drink-till-your-throat-burns cherry Coke! It was GLORIOUS! Many people have asked about how the dogs have been, and they have been wonderful. When we walked in teh door, the dogs just smelled Noah but were really gentle. My dad and Danette had brought blankets and a gown home from the hospital so that they could get used to Noah's scent. They put everything on the puppys' bed, and let me just say...they have been there ever since. The dogs haven't tried to chew them up, hide them, or anything. Instead, they will go lay down on the bed and just put their faces on the clothing/blankets while they sleep. It is precious! We haven't had a since issue with either of them. If anything, they just like to watch us with Noah and then also watch over him when we aren't close by. Layla is so tall that she can put her head into his bassinette, which she does sometimes when he cries. It is so sweet! Sometimes Kya will growl or bark at Ryan and me a bit if Noah is crying while we hold him. I'm not sure exactly what she's trying to communicate, but I'd like to think it's more like, "You better take care of that kid!" than "Will you get him to be quiet already?!" Moral of the story is this...the dogs are adjusting very well, and we couldn't be more pleased with them.

My friends Beckie and Amanda made 12 meals for us at Dinner A Fare and Entree Vous, which each have their own menu from which you can choose your meals, prepare them, and freeze them for later use. It's WONDERFUL! This had been on my list of things to do, but when I really felt like things were going to happen with Noah sooner than later, I asked them to do it for me, andthey readily and happily agreed (Love you girls!!). Anyway, on top of those meals, Beckie has been organizing meals for Ryan and me for the next two weeks. It has been so helpful! Amanda brought us soup and cookies (GOODBYE GESTATIONAL DIABETES!!!) on Sunday night. She had also brought us milkshakes and rice krispie treats to the hospital. In her words, Amanda is the bomb-dot-com! Our friend Brittany brought us homemade vegetable beef soup, cookies, cherry Coke, and cheddar bread (YUM!) on Monday, which all tasted so great considering that Ryan and I both got head colds. Wednesday (this one is incredible) my friend Michella and her husband Tony are buying our dinner. Why is this so great?? Because they live in Massachussetts...so imagine my surprise and amazement that they were finding a way to help us out! They are getting us pizza and salad delivered from Donatos!!! Is that so thoughtful or what??? I would never have thought to do that in a million years. Beckie said there was an out-pour of people wanting to help make meals for us. Again, this is just another perfect example of how supportive our friends and family are to us! We are so thankful for everyone's generosity and appreciate these gestures more than you will ever know!!!

One last thing, and then I better get some sleep before Noah wakes up for his next feeding. Breastfeeding has been going really well so far! We did have a difficult start because Noah's latch wasn't very strong. After talking to a lactation consultant, she explained that he wasn't sticking out his tongue far enough to really make a good suction. So, she gave us a nipple shield to help him learn how to do it. This little silicone structure has been priceless! Noah is latching on so quickly and effortlessly now, and I feel really good about the amount of nourishment he is getting! Noah got an amazing start on life with taking in colostrum (
http://www.babycenter.com/404_whats-colostrum_8896.bc), and then my milk came in around midnight on Tuesday. YOWSERS!!! Yes, it is completely true what they say. People would tell me that you will know when your milk comes in, and they were right! With the colostrum, my chest was definitely fuller, but when my milk came in...WHOA! I suddenly had two large pieces of rock on my chest! Noah has been loving the milk and sleeping a little more soundly I think because he's just a little more satisfied now. My chest did hurt so bad yesterday afternoon that we had to break out the breast pump. Now that's a piece of machinery that will make you feel like a dairy cow!! But ahhh...the relief! I got 2 oz. from each side and called it a day! It was just enough to make things feel a little better until the next feeding.

Well, Noah somehow managed to kick out of his swaddle and is starting to cry. I'm going to go wrap up my baby burrito and hopefully get some sleep. More to come soon!


It's Time!!!

So for the last week or so, everytime I call Ryan on the phone, he'll answer and say, "Is it time???" Well, it's time!! You probalby think I'm crazy to blog right now, but I am feeling really well and wanted to share what has happened up until this point.

All week at work I've been trying to wrap things up, really feeling like I wouldn't be at work to finish the week. For about a month now, I've said I think the baby is coming on the 16th, and it looks like I might be right after all!! I could just tell that mentally my mind was focused on getting things finished at work in preparation for this baby. The dogs have been watching me much more closely lately...especially Kya. She really doesn't leave my side, which is NOT typical of her. She's much more independent!

Anyway, last night I was having contractions about every ten minutes for about 45 seconds to a minute. I already told you I was effaced 25% and dialated 1 cm, too. Well, I lost my mucous plug last night around 10: 15 p.m. I won't go into too many details, but if you're curious to know what that is check out this website: http://pregnancy.emedtv.com/mucus-plug/mucous-plug.html. So I'm sitting on the toilet and say to Ryan, who is in the bedroom, "Honey, I just lost my plug." He was like, "Honey that's great!" and came into the bathroom. Of course I had to show him because how many times do you see something like that! By the way, I'm so sorry for those of you who think this is too much information, but I'm just telling you the whole story! Just when I was getting ready to start crying (out of joy!), Ryan said, "Now let's stay calm ok?" It was perfect and brought me back to Earth. :) I called our doula to let her know, and she suggested that I take a bath and try to relax so that I could get some sleep overnight in case my contractions really were leading up to the big event. I told her that first we had to clean the house! Hahaha...I know I'm insane, but again, this is a TOTALLY normal thing to do. :) It's a mother's instinct, I guess. So Ryan was SO KIND and vacuumed upstairs while I disinfected the tub and sink in the master bathroom. He did the spare bathroom and finished the toilet and floor in the main bathroom while I took a bath. It was relaxing, but the contractions continued. We went to bed, and it took me awhile to fall asleep. Some of the contractions were intense, but eventually I dosed off. I woke up throughout the night and would time the contractions...they were still coming about every ten minutes. I did get some decent sleep throughout the night but again, I woke up about every hour or so with stronger contractions. At about 7:15 a.m., a pretty intense contraction woke me up. I started to sit up and felt a little gush of water. So I walked to the bathroom and sat on the toilet to see if that was my water breaking and sure enough, IT WAS! I said, "Ryan, I think my water just broke." He jumped out of bed, stood in the doorway of the bathroom, and said, "I'm up!" and was putting on his shorts. It was pretty funny because he still was half asleep. :) We made phone calls, sent emails, and sent text messages to everyone. Since that time, Ryan has been packing up everything for the hospital, and I've been doing some cleaning (JUST DUSTING!) and timing contractions. I had some breakfast, and now we're going to go on a walk around the neighborhood to see if we can get these contractions closer together. :) Once they are 5 minutes apart for an hour, we'll call the doc and possibly head to the hospital at that point. This will be my last blog until we get home from the hospital. I love all of you and appreciate any positive thoughts and prayers you can send my way. I know your strength will help me get through the intensity of labor and delivery. I can't wait to meet our baby!!!


We're Making Progress!

We hit the 38 week mark today! Here is information about the baby's development:


When I got home from work last night, I started having contractions, which isn't unusual at all. However, this time around I was having cramping with each contraction that would go away once the contraction ended. The nesting went into gear full force last night, and I didn't bother timing anything because I figure that when things get closer together, more regular, and more intense, I'll notice and not be able to ignore it! Actually, as I am writing this email, I'm having a pretty good contraction. My belly is ROCK HARD but there is a lot of cramping in my lower abdomen. I would say it's a good sign that things are progressing!

We had a prenatal appointment today at 3:30 p.m. On my way to the doctor's office, Celine Dion's "A New Day" came on the radio. I hadn't heard that song forever, but I did remember that she wrote it about her son. Let me tell you...I just had the biggest chills listening to that song...feeling the baby moving...touching my belly. Tears just rolled down my face! I am so excited to meet our baby, and I just feel so at peace with the idea of bringing him or her home soon! It was quite a moment, and I need to make sure to purchase that song on iTunes to load on my new iPod. :)

My total weight gain is still 26 lbs., and I feel really good about that! My blood pressure was fine, and the baby's heartrate was 140 beats per minute. :) It is always music to my ears! I feel bad that this baby just gets squeezed all day long during the contractions. I wonder what it thinks about that?? The doctor checked my cervix for the first time today, too. I have to admit, I was a little nervous because I didn't know what to expect. It wasn't bad at all! The fun news is that I'm one centimeter dialated and 25% effaced!! That means that my cervix is changing...these contractions are doing something...and that we are that much closer to meeting our baby. :) The doctor said that the baby is really low. She could feel it's head with her finger!! Can you believe that??? I definitely believed her, though, because I can tell that the baby is right there.

As far as everything else goes, I'm feeling really well for the most part. I have reached the point where I don't want to chit chat about the baby with strangers or even acquaintences. No more cutesy chatter about how I look, when the baby is coming, if I think it's a boy or girl, etc. I'm just over it for lack of better words. :) Talking about everything with friends and family is still fun, and I love that part! Nesting has taken over full-force. In fact, I would be cleaning the house now if Ryan hadn't sentenced me to the couch. My feet and legs are pretty swollen today, so I'm trying to be good and just sit here. The other night around 9 p.m., though, I just HAD to disinfect (here comes another contraction) the kitchen...sinks, counters, refrigerator, etc. Ryan was like, "Umm...are you doing this to be funny, or do you really need to clean right now?" I was like, "There is bacteria all over the kitchen, and we have to get rid of it before the baby comes!" Hilarious! Ryan installed the camera in the nursery so that we can see him/her sleeping while we watch TV downstairs...it's awesome! We got the dresser all set up, too. Ryan installed a gate at the top of our stairs, and he put in the hooks for the guest bedroom curtains. That room is finished for now until we can paint and hang pictures! I worked on lists...I mean there are lists coming out the WAHZOO! I made a list for the people taking care of our dogs while we are in the hospital, another one for Ryan to take care of before we leave for the hospital, and a "who to call/text message when the baby comes list", etc. We just need to clean the bathrooms, dust, vacuum, and mop...then we'll be good to go!! Two of my friends from church are going to go to Entree Vous and Dinner a Fare to make us a bunch of meals to freeze for after the baby comes. I really wanted to do have that in place, but I just don't have time! I don't like to ask for help very often. Almost always, I just want to do things myself and not be helped. It's just how I am! So, asking them for help was totally out of the norm for me, but it did feel really good! I already feel less stressed out about final preparations. Thanks again girls!!!

That's all for me. I'll check back in soon and post some new pictures! In the meantime, thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers!!!


An Unforgettable Weekend

I have been so excited to blog tonight because I just had the most unforgettable weekend. It started out with Ryan attending the Men's Conference at our church Friday night and Saturday until early afternoon. He shared with me some of the things they did and talked about, and he was so thankful that he went. I cannot tell you how much I love watching him be the spiritual leader of our house. Not only does he lead our small Bible study group, but he plays guitar in the church band every weekend, too, which requires a lot of practice and time on his part. I love knowing that we are both growing in Christ together and that we will be able to raise our baby with the ideals and values that we share. It's so amazing! I can't help but be attracted to him and to love him that much more for taking time out of his weekend and free time to go spend time with other male Christians for the sole purpose of growing, learning, and evolving. I am seriously the luckiest person in the world to be married to this man!

My mom came over Saturday morning, and we got to spend several hours together to celebrate Mother's Day. I took her out to lunch in Zionsville, and it was just a perfect day for it. Afterwards, we drove to Ryan's parents' house in Westfield for my last baby shower. Can you believe that I had FIVE? This shower was quite the finale to everything! My cousin's wife, Katey, invited all of the women in my family to this shower. She wanted to have tea party with some delicious desserts, and let me tell you, she pulled it off with flying colors! I walked into my in-laws' basement, and there were long tables with the most adorable tea cups, saucers, plates, flowers, etc. The dishes were all Katey's family heirlooms that she brought down from my hometown, two hours away. We had a variety of teas, and then Katey made an amazing cheesecake with fresh fruit, a chocolate strawberry shortcake, and homemade chocolates and peanut butter cups. She really out-did herself! Ryan's mom, Danette, and my sister-in-law Kristen all pitched in to help set up (and tear down) everything, so they have to be formally thanked and recognized, too! I saved my carbs from lunch so that I could indulge in the wonderful desserts, and it was well worth it! We played a game, and then Katey had everyone write a blessing/wish for the baby. One will be revealed to the baby each year on his/her birthday. How fun is that?? I opened gifts afterward, and wow...I got some really great things! It really helped us get some things we still needed, as well as some adorable items that are just fun, too. :) Katey made this incredible shadow box for me with this beautiful saying:

Once upon a time there was a child ready to be born. One day before the child left Heaven, he asked God, "They tell me you are sending me to earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there because I am so small and helpless?" God answered, "Among the many angels, I chose one for you. She will be waiting for you and she will love you and take care of you." The little child said, "But God, here in Heaven I don't do anything else but sing and smile, and that's enough for me to be happy." God said, "Your angel will sing for you and also will smile for you every day and you will feel your angel's love and be happy." The child asked, "How am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don't know the language that men talk?" God said, "Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear and, with much patience and care, your angel will teach you to speak." The child asked, "What am I going to do when I want to talk to you?" God said, "Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray." The child said, "I heard there are bad men. Who will protect me?" God said, "Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life." The child said, "But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore." God said "Your angel will talk to you about me and will teach you the way for you to come back to me. I will always be in your heart and next to you." The child smiled and waited for the next moment. At that point, there was a great peace in Heaven, but voices from afar on the earth could already be heard. The child, in a hurry, turned to God and asked softly, "I'm about to leave. What is my angel's name?"God answered, "You will simply call her Mommy."

As soon as I got to the part about teaching the baby how to pray, I just lost it. The tears just welled up in my eyes and flowed down my face. Katey had to finish reading it aloud to everyone because I just couldn't pull it together. It was beautiful, and I can't wait to find the perfect place to hang it in our home. It meant so much to me to have the women in my family together to celebrate this new life and to feel their support and encouragement.

Mom and I drove home, and then Ryan arrived shortly after that. I showed him all of the great new gifts we had received and then (of course) started organizing everything. There is a load of laundry going as we speak. :) Ryan told me that he made a playlist of songs for me to listen to while I'm in labor, so we laid down on the floor and just went through the songs. I have to tell you, there was something very special about those moments. All of the sudden, it felt like our last night together before the baby's arrival. We were just relaxed, hanging out with each other and the pups, listening to this music that we'll play again whenever the baby is on the way. For weeks now, I've had a hard time imagining reaching the point where we are close to finally meeting the baby. Last night, we both turned a corner. The journey that lies ahead of us seems so close, and we were so at peace with life. It was beautiful!

This morning I woke up to breakfast in bed! At first I forgot why, and then I realized that it was Mother's Day. Ryan brought me scrambled eggs and mandarin oranges on the breakfast tray, along with a small vase of flowers. It was so sweet! Then, he told me to stay where I was while he worked on something. In the meantime, I read this book that my dad and Danette put together for me about daughters. The book had all of these passages written by other people, but Dad and Danette had added pictures and their own thoughts throughout the book. It was just so special reading the book, eating my first Mother's Day breakfast, and feeling the baby moving around all at the same time. Those are moments in life you just never want to forget!

Ryan came in after I finished eating and brought me a great surprise. First, his mom had given him a book in 1989 about a mother's love for her son. He found a passage in that book and asked that I read it aloud. I gave it my best shot, but before I knew it, I was in tears again. He had to finish it for me! It was just beautiful, but the surprises just kept getting better and better. The next part of the surprise a letter that Ryan had written for me. Again, tears just flowed down my face...it was just the sweetest thing ever that I know I will always cherish. The last part of my Mother's Day surprise was the best surprise of all. He bought me an iPod nano. I know what you may be thinking...hmm...what's so special about that? Well, not only had he added the playlist he had created for my labor, but Ryan had a BIG surprise for me! In the video section of the iPod, he had videotaped some of my family members and my friends, each sharing a special message for me to hear before going into labor. Words cannot even describe how much everyone's thoughts, advice, and words of encouragement mean to me. They have been dancing around in my head all day! Now you thought I had cried a lot already, well the down pour was non-stop at this point (except when Kelli, my sister-in-law, was pretending to do Lamaze breathing..."Hee, hee, hoo...Hee, hee, hoo", which totally cracked me up!). Some things have been standing out to me all day. First, a good friend of mine said something, much more eloquently than I can write it on here. She said, "Remember that this baby is God's child first. He is entrusting you and Ryan to watch over this little one as he or she grows." That has really hit home with me. I think all too often we try to take on the world when actually everything really is in God's hands. It was really incredible to think about this baby as God's child. I feel like it's such a privilege that we were chosen for this little person...amazing. It also reminds me of something my cousin's wife, Angie, said to me months ago. She told me that you can worry all the time about your child, especially when you're not right there watching over him/her. But she reminded me that when we can't watch, because we are sleeping or are away, that God is watching over the baby. That just brings me so much peace! It's not to say that accidents will never happen...we know that is untrue, but again it gets tied in with the idea that this is God's child first and foremost. We are just the lucky people who get to guide the baby throughout his or her walk on Earth. :) Another thing that stands out was another good friend of mine reminding me about part of this book we've both read, The Red Tent. I highly recommend it to all women! She reminded me that labor is what gives a woman strength to be mother. Everyone who is a parent has told me that there is nothing more wonderful and more trying than being a parent. I like to think about my experience in labor as a time to gain strength and endurance to be a good mother to this baby as he/she grows. One of my good friends shared some great thoughts with me for awhile, and then at the end of her message, she picked up her newborn baby girl and said something about how wonderful a treasure you will have after the pregnancy has ended. It will be the perfect visual to help me remember what I will be working so hard for during labor. My mom and Ryan's parents both gave me such encouraging words, reassuring me that they will be thinking about me and praying for me during the labor and delivery. My dad and Danette said beautiful things, too, and then my dad read this book that we had given him to read to the baby someday. Ryan put the speakers next to my belly while my dad read the book so that the baby could hear. It was really sweet because the baby just starting moving all over the place! I think he/she is really excited to meet all of the special people in our lives. Ryan has a couple more messages to add to the iPod, which is exciting because that means there are more to come! It made for a perfect first Mother's Day, and I truly feel that we turned a corner this weekend. The baby will be here anytime in the next four weeks, and I honestly can't wait!

I hope you've all enjoyed reading about this weekend. I will always remember it as one of the best weekends of my life...possibly one of the last weekends Ryan and I will have together before the baby comes. Now that the weekend is coming to an end, we are ready for this final gift to arrive!


Full Term Fun!

We are officially considered full term now (37 weeks), so the baby could come anytime between now and June 11th (2 weeks after our due date). Here is some information about the baby's development:


I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday, and Julie (our doula) went with me. The baby's heart beat was 148, and my total weight gain is 26 lbs. I was glad that I put on a couple pounds because my weight gain had really stopped over the previous 5 weeks, and I want to make sure that the baby is getting everything that it needs. My blood sugars have all been fine, too, with the exception of dinner the other night consisting of 2 cups of Rice Chex and 1 cup of skim milk. Even though I was below my allotted carbs for dinner, my blood sugar skyrocketed. I think rice just really does that to me! So, needless to say, I won't be having Rice Chex until post pregnancy. Dr. Soper was really pleased with my sugars and doesn't see any problem with having an elevated measure here and there. While Julie and I were at the appointment, we also gave Dr. Soper a copy of our birth preferences. She was very supportive and felt that everything was completely reasonable. It helped to remind me why we chose Dr. Soper to begin with...she is very good at not intervening in labor and delivery unless it is truly necessary. Some doctors first line of defense is to use a medical procedure when something happens, but that's not the way our doctor operates, and I'm so thankful for that. :) Dr. Soper was also very reassuring, as she said, "In nearly every situation, if things are going to move toward a C-Section, you can see it coming a long time before getting to that point, and we will be having conversations along the way to prepare." It made me feel really good because the last thing I want is to think that everything is peachy and then be scared to death that something has to suddenly be done. Again, I know emergency situations happen, but I do feel some peace knowing that big problems are usually preceded by many smaller problems along the way.

Speaking of going to the hospital when we are in labor, I still have NOT packed our hospital bag! I know, it is so unlike me to act like that, but I just can't make myself do it yet. We have purchased everything we need (e.g., toothbrushes and toothpaste b/c the last thing I want is Ryan scrambling around to pack our toiletries right before we leave for the hospital), and my new pjs are washed. I think I have figured out why I haven't packed the bag yet. Once I pack that bag, I know that I'm giving my body the green light to go into labor. At this point, we still need to finish giving the house a deep clean. Plus, I have a baby shower on Saturday with my side of the family. I would be SO sad if all of my cousin's wife's planning went down the drain because the baby decided to come over the next couple days. At the same time, I know I would be super excited that the baby was coming, too! Anyway, I really think I'll pack Saturday because then things will be finished for the most part. I only have one report to write for work, and I am done with everything that must be done before the baby comes, too. HOORAY!

Here are the little outfits we picked out to bring the baby home in after leaving the hospital:

Are they adorable or what??? I think there's an 90% chance it's a boy, and if they announce that we've had a baby girl, I will be SHOCKED...super excited but absolutely shocked! I think part of it is that the majority of people have said that they think we're having a boy, mostly based on how I am carrying the baby. We will see soon enough!

Here are some other pictures to show you the most up-to-date pictures of the nursery. The only thing I forsee us changing is the diaper thing...it is just too low on the wall. Last night Ryan hung up the collage of picture frames in the nursery, and it turned out great! The middle picture will be of the baby, as well as two of the other frames. The last two frames will hold pictures of Ryan and me when we were little. I can't wait to see the final product!

A view from the doorway.

Just need to put a lightbulb in the lamp...probably paint the lamp base, and we'll be set!

This is between the closet door and the entryway to the nursery.

The Braxton Hicks contractions continue to steadily increase. I've probably had four since I started writing this blog. Again, they really don't hurt...just feel like tightening across my belly. I have also had more of that pain sensation I wrote about before, but I really get excited when it happens because it makes me feel like we are that much closer! I can't believe that we'll be bringing home our baby soon. I can't wait to meet him/her and get to know the baby's personality. It will also mean that summer will officially begin, meaning that I get to be home for the next few months to enjoy this new life. I can't wait!!! Thank you for all of your positive thoughts and prayers. They mean so much to us!


Birth Preferences

Birth Preferences for Ryan and Amy Abell

My husband and I are both excited about the birth of our first child. We chose this hospital because of its respect for natural childbirth and encouragement of breastfeeding. Ryan and Julie Pichon (our doula) will be in attendance at our birth. While we understand that Methodist is a teaching hospital, since this is our first birth and are attempting a natural childbirth, we would prefer to limit who works with us to Julie, Dr. Soper, and the labor and delivery nurse(s).

Our goal is to give birth to a healthy child while having as natural a birth as possible. Our definition of natural includes the following:

§ Allowing labor to progress naturally without the use of inducing agents such as Pitocin.
§ Natural rupture of the amniotic sack.
§ Intermittent fetal monitoring and freedom of movement.
§ Allowing the use of Snacks/Drinks rather than IV fluids for nourishment.
§ Labor and delivery without the use of anesthesia. Please do not offer any pain reducing agents.
§ For pain management, Ryan and Amy plan to use the following: aromatherapy, birth ball, breathing, focal point/visualization, hot/cold compresses, counter-pressure/massage, prayer, shower, and the birthing tub.
§ Allowing the perineum to tear naturally if necessary rather than undergoing an episiotomy. If massage of the perineum can help prevent tearing, this is encouraged.
§ Waiting until the umbilical cord has stopped pulsating before cutting it and placing the baby on Amy after birth. Please ask Ryan if he would like to cut the cord.
§ Allowing Ryan to be present during any checks and treatment done to the baby. Explaining any procedures you do is very much appreciated.

After the baby is born, Amy is planning to breastfeed. Please do not give the baby any fluids, bottles, or pacifiers during our stay at the hospital. Ryan and Amy would like to help with giving the baby its first bath after both new parents have the opportunity to bond with the baby. We are planning to have the baby room in with us in order to help establish breastfeeding and to get to know our new baby.

We would like all procedures explained to us, including the benefits and risks. Please consider the following medical interventions as a last resort:

§ Using labor inducing agents
§ Episiotomy
§ The use of forceps or vacuum extraction
§ Caesarian section

We understand that medical interventions are necessary in certain situations and would only like for them to be used in high-risk situations. We want to thank you in advance for your understanding, support, and encouragement during the birth of our first baby.

God Bless,
Ryan & Amy Abell

36 Weeks! Time is Winding Down...

I'm sorry that I've been such a slacker on blogging lately. I just can't seem to make myself write as frequently as I had in the past. We hit the 36 week mark this week...hooray! Here is some information about the baby's development this week:


It is just wild to think that we will be considered full-term next Wednesday! I did have a really funny dream the other night about the baby. Ryan and I were at home, and I went into labor. He was sleeping, and no matter how hard I tried, Ryan just would not wake up. So, I ended up giving birth to FOUR babies by myself, two of which did not have left eye balls, and again they looked like Garbage Pail Kids! It was hysterical!

On Tuesday night, Ryan and I were watching The Bachelor online, and I started getting some pretty frequent contractions. We decided to check out http://contractionmaster.com/, a website that our doula told us about a few weeks ago. This website is WONDERFUL because when you time contractions, you have to time from the beginning of one to the beginning of the next one. You also have to time the duration of each contraction. This website does it all for you! All you have to do is hit the space bar at the beginning and end of each contraction. The last thing I want Ryan to worry about is clicking a stopwatch and writing down all of that information. This will make it really easy! So anyway, I was having contractions Tuesday night, and I knew they were more than Braxton Hicks because I definitely felt more of a stabbing sensation that accompanied the normal squeezing. I had a few that were every five minutes, and some lasted more than a minute. Then, after I laid down on my left side, they started to become less frequent and didn't last as long either. It definitely was a wake-up call that we seriously need to pack our hospital bag! Of course, the bag still isn't packed, but it's on the "MUST DO LIST" for the weekend.

As far as how I'm feeling at this point in the pregnancy, I really do feel pretty well. The mornings and afternoons are the easiest, and then by the time I get off work and relax on the couch, I am definitely more swollen (legs and feet), and my pelvic bone just aches. I can tell the baby is just moving lower, and with the painful sensations I'm having throughout the day, I am really hoping that my cervix is starting to efface and dialate. The more work the baby does now the less we have to do when I'm in labor! :) My hands are also getting pretty swollen in the middle of the night, so they do ache some when I'm sleeping. I'm still only waking up once or twice a night to go to the bathroom, and otherwise, I'm sleeping all night long! It's glorious. I'm really wondering which is happening...either I am a really deep sleeper, and the baby's movements don't wake me up...or the baby is sleeping at night, too. Let's hope it's the latter and that they baby continues to sleep well at night. We'll see soon enough!

We met with Julie (our doula) for our final meeting Thursday night. She was here from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. We talked about all sorts of things (e.g., breastfeeding) and also practiced some relaxation techniques, positions for labor, and positions for pushing. It was really, really good to mentally prepare even more for what is to come. Going through that practice session has really made me realize how hard Ryan is going to have to work through this labor, too. If we were planning to get an epidural, he and I could both just lay around and wait until it was time to push. Since we're attempting a non-medicated labor, it's going to be a lot of effort for both of us! I'm so lucky to have a husband who is so supportive of this type of birth experience and so willing to help me achieve these goals. We wrote down our birth preferences to give to our OB and to the hospital staff so that they know what we want and don't want during the labor and delivery of our little one. I'll post that in a separate blog so you can get an idea about what our preferences are. :)

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these 36 week belly pictures! We met with Dr. Soper on Wednesday, and my beta-strep test came back negative, so that is one less thing to worry about. No IV antibiotics will be needed while I'm in labor, which is great because I'm not trying to be hooked up to an IV while coping with the intensity of labor. My total weight gain is 23 lbs...I lost a pound between last week and this week. Because my blood sugars have been so low despite eating my normal amounts (and I'm definitely getting in milk and cookies for my nighttime snack), I think the baby must have been going through a growth spurt, stealing any calories that would have accumulated as weight gain for me. Dr. Soper was really happy with my sugars! The baby's heartbeat was 132 beats per minute, and my blood pressure was still fine. For the first time, my fundal height was less than expected. I measured 35 cm, and I'm 36 weeks...HOORAY! Maybe the baby's weight gain has slowed down. :)

Well, Ryan and I need to get to bed. He's running the Mini Marathon here in Indy tomorrow morning. Good night!

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