On one hand, it feels like Annie just made her grand entrance. (She’s two weeks today!) On the other hand, I feel like she’s been here forever. She has already grown and changed so much, and in the 14 days since we’ve known each other (outside the belly, that is), I’ve spent at least 38529732859372 hours just staring at her little face.
I’m thrilled to report that Annie is sweet, snuggly, and pretty chill. She loves snoozing while I hold her, and I’m pretty content to ignore anything on my to-do list in favor of holding her, looking at her, and cuddling with her.
I loved sharing Annie’s birth story last week. And now, I’m answering all of your questions!
What do you wish you had known at the start of your pregnancy?
Nothing! I Googled and asked questions as I went along, but generally my pregnancy was very smooth, and for that I’m very grateful.
Were you on medications during pregnancy?
Yup! I stayed on Stelara, which is the medication I’m on for Crohn’s disease. (It’s a shot I give myself at home every eight weeks.) When the Crohn’s flare proved relentless, my gastroenterologist put me on a 60-day dose of Uceris, which is a mild steroid targeting the colon. In the past, Uceris has been the magical drug to help me out of my flares. Unfortunately, it didn’t really take this time around, but we gave it a shot. I was also taking prenatal vitamins, DHA, and calcium, per my midwife’s recommendation.
LABOR & DELIVERY STUFF
Is there anything that you found useful to bring to the hospital?
I went crazy Googling this and reading what other bloggers were packing in their hospital bags. In the end, I packed a tiny fraction of what most of them packed, and I never felt like I was missing anything. Everyone is different, of course, but these were the things I was happiest to have on hand:
- My stuffed dog. So silly, I know, but it brought my comfort when those Pitocin contractions ramped up.
- Trader Joe’s peanut butter sandwich crackers. I packed a ton of snacks (my midwife was fine with me eating during labor), and of everything I brought (all my favorite foods!), these crackers were the only things I wanted the entire time.
- These fuzzy socks. They kept my feet warm and are grippy on the bottom.
- These cozy PJs. After I gave birth, got cleaned up, and moved to our recovery room, I took a quick shower and then put on these pajamas.
- A nursing tank.
- The best slippers ever. I wore the fuzzy socks during labor and delivery, and these slippers once I was cleaned and in recovery.
- My own pillow. The hospital pillows are fine enough, but I was happy to have my own pillow from home.
- A shower towel. I don’t know what the hospital towels were like because I never saw or was offered one. I’m sure all hospitals are different, but I was glad I brought a shower towel.
- My playlists. They were the best.
Things I packed but didn’t use: my breastfeeding pillow (there were plenty of pillows at the hospital I used to prop myself and baby up while feeding), this robe (I’ve worn it daily since coming home, but never wore it in the hospital), and cute baby outfits (she was in the hospital-provided clothes and swaddles during our stay, and only put on her own clothes when it was time to leave the hospital).
Did you know right away when you were in labor? I’m paranoid I will either be sent home or wait too long.
N/A! My water broke while my OB/GYN was stripping my membranes at my weekly appointment. He sent me straight to the hospital where I was eventually given Pitocin to induce labor.
What was your favorite part?
It was all pretty awesome (easy to say in hindsight — pretty sure I wouldn’t have described it all as “awesome” when I was puking mid-contraction). But nothing beats the moment they plopped Annie on my chest and we met for the first time.
What was your least favorite part?
Those last few contractions before I got the epidural. I truly already forget what the pain was like, but I remember not being a huge fan.
Did you have a medicated or unmedicated birth?
I was given Pitocin to induce labor, and opted for an epidural.
Did you poop on the table?
I didn’t! Which is crazy considering all the other places I’ve gone…
Silly, but how painful was it?
Pushing wasn’t necessarily painful — it was just weird and uncomfortable. The contractions were painful. Kind of like really intense period cramps plus Crohn’s cramps plus being kicked repeatedly in the lower abdomen.
What about the placenta? Did you notice that? Are you saving it?
I didn’t really have to “deliver” my placenta in the way I expected. I’d heard people talk about having to push again after baby comes out to deliver the placenta, but I definitely didn’t do that. I just felt a huge relief when it came out — no effort required on my part. I did not save it or do anything with it.
Always hear “birth is like running a marathon.” Any part of it similar? Mental game, pain?
Oh totally. My labor was pretty short for a first-timer (around 12.5 hours), but it definitely felt like an endurance event. And like a marathon (or any workout), I reminded myself that each contraction was temporary and would pass. I also remember telling myself to get through one contraction at a time — sort of like being reminded to “run the mile you’re in” during a race.
Where was Ellie when all this was happening?!?
She was at home! One of her teachers from school came to stay with her the first night we were gone, and then my parents came and stayed and played with her until we came home.
Were you scared?
Did you have an epidural and if so, how scary was it?
I did, and it wasn’t scary at all. By the time I asked for the epidural, I was in enough pain that I knew it would provide a huge relief. My anesthesiologist was incredible and narrated every move. He told me I’d feel “a bee sting” when he gave me the local anesthesia to numb the area, and it was barely even a bee sting. Maybe from a really wimpy, sad bee or something. I never saw the giant needle, and fortunately when I did feel a contraction coming on, he was at a point where we could pause and I could breathe through it. The entire epidural process was pretty painless and stress-free. And then I felt so much wonderful relief.
Does giving birth hurt more than a marathon?
The pain is totally different. Both hurt, both are temporary, and both come with amnesia — it’s been two years since my last marathon and two weeks since I gave birth, and I can’t remember the pain from either.
How did your hair look so good in those birth photos?
Good lighting, maybe? I remember at one point in my pregnancy actually thinking about what I would do with my hair when I went into labor. Did I want to throw it in braids? An out-of-my-face top knot? But when it came time to actually do the thing, my hair was the last thing on my mind. I guess it was down?
What’s the first thing you said to Annie?
I’m pretty sure I said, “Hi! You’re here!!!”
MIDWIFE & DOULA STUFF
Did you have a birth plan? Or go in with more of an open mind?
Open mind! My “plan” was to do whatever my midwife and doula suggested. And I felt strongly about not suffering. I expected discomfort and some pain, but I didn’t want it to be a horrible, stress-riddled experience. If the pain got to be too much, I would go for an epidural (which, ultimately, is what I ended up doing).
What was it like working with a doula? Would you recommend it?
YES. I loved our doula, Jessica. She works part-time at my midwife’s office, which is how we met, and I immediately really liked her. She was warm, friendly, and honest. I got to see her every time I had an appointment with our midwife, which was great, because by the time I was having the baby, we had a really good relationship. We texted occasionally, she checked in with me regularly, and I asked her questions all throughout the nine-month journey.
Still deciding on a doula. How do you think it impacted your birth process?
It kept me really calm and stress-free. Jessica was there with us the entire time, and was my voice and my advocate when I needed or wanted it. Since I knew we’d have Jessica there with us, I never worried about how my delivery would go. I knew I was in really good, capable hands, and I knew it would help both Brian and I stay relaxed. When my contractions started to get bad, Jessica swooped in to give me massages, push on pressure points, and get me moving around when I just wanted to curl up in a ball and weep a little. I love Brian, but if he had been the one telling me to get out of bed, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But when Jessica suggested it, I was all for it.
Would love to hear your experience with your midwife/doula practice.
I am obsessed with my midwife, Kristin. After a really disappointing and frustrating experience at an OB/GYN practice that came highly recommended in a local mom group on Facebook, I knew I wanted something different — something better. I found Integrative Obstetrics on Yelp, and the reviews were fantastic. I called to learn more, and could tell immediately that it was going to be a good fit. Every single appointment was perfect — the sonographer was lovely and answered all my questions every single time, we never had to wait in the waiting room (they were always ready and waiting for us), and I loved Kristin’s laid-back approach. From that first appointment through my delivery, I felt like I was getting the best care in the world, and for that I am so grateful.
How is your Crohn’s feeling?
The most asked post-baby question! And honestly, it’s kind of hard to tell! It just hasn’t been a focus of mine lately. But I think it’s a little better! I’m not running for the bathroom every two seconds like I was before, so maybe when I gave birth, some of the Crohn’s disease disappeared! (No really, they say that can happen.) Wearing a diaper for the first week post-birth probably helped ease my anxiety, too! (Note to self: Just start wearing diapers during flares. Suck it up. Who cares.)
Were there any Crohn’s medications you got off for pregnancy and now you are going back on?
Nope. I stayed on the same medication, which Brian and I went back and forth on a bit, but with the OK from my GI and midwife, decided to stay on.
As someone with a chronic condition, you’re used to pain. So how was labor? Did you think having had medical issues prepared you mentally to handle the pain of labor?
Yes. While the pain was totally different than any Crohn’s-related pain, I know that having a chronic illness has made me physically and mentally tougher than I probably would be otherwise.
More or less painful than you expected? Can you compare contractions to Crohn’s cramps?
I thought I would be able to compare, but they were totally different. I would say contractions were worse than any Crohn’s pain I’ve had. But pain isn’t my worst Crohn’s symptom — my worst symptom is the urgency and the constant pooping. I’ve learned to deal with that pain.
Tell us how you are feeling after labor. Physically, not just emotionally.
Really good. Physically, I felt shockingly amazing almost immediately after giving birth. I felt like I had a little sore spot, like a bruise, on my back where the epidural was inserted, but otherwise, I felt great. We had to wait hours to get moved to a recovery room, and then had to wait longer for a wheelchair to be available for me, and I kept insisting I didn’t need one — I felt totally fine. But apparently it’s “protocol,” so I had to get wheeled up, but I was fine walking around. I wondered if it was just endorphins or something and if the post-labor pain would hit me later, but it never did. Recovery has been so unlike what I expected.
Emotionally, I feel mostly great. I have definitely cried a lot in the past two weeks. Sometimes the tears are happy, overwhelmed, OMG-I-love-this-child-so-much-it-scares-me tears. Other times, they are tears brought on by nothing at all. (Hormones!) And other times, the tears are out of frustration, because breastfeeding has been a bit of a challenge over here.
What should we buy or have for our house when we get home? Frozen sanitary pads?
I bought all that recovery stuff people suggested — the witch hazel pads, diapers, squirt bottles, etc. But since my recovery has been pretty breezy, I didn’t need most of it. I wore diapers for the first week or so, and then was able to drop down to thin pads. As of now, my bleeding has mostly stopped. I know it may pick back up again, but for now, it’s low key.
And honestly, we didn’t use 99% of the stuff we bought. That nursery I was so obsessed with? Yeah, as we were told, we don’t use most of that stuff. We will eventually, but for the first two weeks, it’s mostly snoozing, diaper changing, eating, and burping around here.
Oh, and none of Annie’s newborn clothes fit since she’s teeny tiny, so Brian ended up running out the first day we were home to get some preemie-sized stuff. Little nugget!
Did you have her umbilical cord blood harvested? Are people still doing that?
Yes! We chose to bank Annie’s cord blood. There’s so much research being done with Crohn’s disease and stem cells, and for that reason we decided to save and store the cord blood.
OMG I HAVE A BABY NOW STUFF
What were your emotions when you left your home for the hospital?
“I hope the traffic isn’t too bad.” (It was.)
And then, when it was time to leave the hospital to go home: “How the heck does this car seat work?” I was excited to take her home, and the reality of it all definitely hadn’t sunk in. It still hasn’t.
Did you know she was going to be so small?
We didn’t know exactly, but yes, she had been measuring small throughout my pregnancy.
Why did you choose the name Annie?
Read this post!
Are you breastfeeding? If so, how did the first latch go and has it been easy?
I’m trying! Right now I’m pumping and trying to breastfeed. We’ve had a hard time getting Annie to latch. Tiny mouth + big boobs + flat-ish nipples (never TMI over here! #themoreyouknow #aboutmyboobs) means it’s been tough. Within the first few days, she had completely chewed up my nipples, and they were cracked and bleeding and so painful. (Tears. So many tears!) I saw the lactation consultant in the hospital, who wasn’t super helpful (it was clear she was rushing from room to room), and then I had a different one come to our apartment for a session. That was great, and the consultant was amazing. While she was here, we got Annie to latch and feed beautifully. I felt so confident afterward — but of course, as soon as the consultant was gone, we sucked at it again. So right now I’m trying to feed her, but am also pumping and feeding her bottles of breast milk. We’re going to keep at it in hopes it works, but I’ll be honest, I was so stressed those first few days over this. Physically yeah, it hurt like a bitch. But emotionally, I was struggling and felt like I was failing, and was feeling all those feelings I know are common, but are still tough. As soon as I decided to ease up and pump in addition to trying to breastfeed, it was like this huge weight was lifted. Pumping is annoying and takes a lot of time, but it’s OK. Annie is getting fed and she’s growing! (She was back at her birth weight within a week!)
Why is she so perfect and cute?!?!
Because she takes after Ellie.
How do you handle her cuteness?
I don’t. I stare at her all day.
Would you do it all over again?
Will you use Mawness as a nickname as a tribute to Abby?
Probably not, but apparently the day Annie was born, Abby went to school and told all her teachers and classmates that her cousin Annie was her, but that “her real name is Mawness.” Classic Abby.
Did you do something special to make her SO CUTE?
Made her with Brian Cristiano. He’s a good looking dude.
What baby products have been most helpful so far?
REFLECTIONS & STUFF
What do you wish you knew or prepared for now that you’ve been through the experience?
I wish that when Nurse Lauren in triage gave me the hospital gown to put on, I would’ve asked if I could wear my own robe or something instead. A tiny thing, but I really hated that gown!
What’s the number one piece of advice?
Roll with it. I think not having a hard-set birth plan worked really well for me. I know lots of women who have a hard time when their deliveries don’t go according to their hopes and dreams, and I totally get that, but I reminded myself often that the way our baby came into the world was just one little part of her future existence. It’s easy to say that now, because it all went really well and smooth and drama-free, but I would just say not to put too much stake in the labor and delivery. It’s kind of like running, right? You can train your heart out for months and then bonk the day of your big race. You can have the perfect pregnancy and a tough delivery. It’s all hard to predict, but ultimately, it’s all going to be OK. If that makes sense.
What surprised you most?
I was surprised how much the contractions hurt. I thought Crohn’s made me the toughest woman on the planet! But those contractions hurt. I didn’t expect them not to hurt, but I didn’t expect them to level me quite as much as they did.
What’s the most fun thing that’s happened so far?
Every face Annie makes. I’m officially one of those people who thinks every little move her child makes is incredible. I believe she is a genius. I think she is very advanced for her 13-day-old age. And this past Friday, Ellie officially fell in love with Annie and we watched it happen. We were all hanging out in the nursery, and it was like Ellie — who had been curious about Annie before but hadn’t fully obsessed over her — woke up and noticed her little sister. Since then, she has been all about Annie. She’s constantly checking on her and watching over her and looking for her.
What was the best part?! When you finally held her? When you saw Brian with her for the first time?
I loved when they held Annie in front of me so I could see her little face.
How was it different than you expected?
The pushing part was so low key. Physically it was intense, but I expected a room full of people and bright lights and for it to feel more medical than it did.
Was it as scary as it all sounds / looks on the movies?
No! I can only speak to my experience, of course, but I didn’t have a dramatic water-breaking-on-the-street-while-talking-to-Mr.-Big situation, we weren’t driving 100 mph on the highway to get to the hospital while the baby was crowning, and I never screamed at Brian that “he did this to me” or any of the other things women on TV shout at their partners mid-labor.
After the first “practice push” I remember questioning whether or not I could do it, because pushing required a big effort. But I reminded myself that billions of women do this daily (this may not be an exact statistic, IDK), and I could do it, too.
Will you please promise us you won’t stop blogging now?
ANYTHING I MISSED?