Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Obsession with BBC

In 2004 my friend Noelle M. convinced me to go to London with her for my birthday. I had never been and honestly, going there for vacation didn't appeal to me as I thought it was too "educational" compared to my preferred Caribbean vacation destinations prior to that year. Well, needless to say I LOVED London and became very much obsessed with it (and Virgin Airlines!). When Uka was in Finland a couple years later my friend and I planned another trip and during that trip Uka flew in to London for a 24hr visit. It was a whirlwind trip but we hit up all the major sites. Thank you Ryanair

2004 London Trip
2006 London Trip

Because of these trips I was introduced to the wonders of the BBC and became very much obsessed with all things British. Growing up I was familiar with Mr. Bean but I didn't realize the plethora of programs that the BBC had. I also discovered that I love British humor. 

Here's a rundown of my favorite shows: 

The Office - The British version is brilliant and I ended up buying the DVD series. I cringed when I heard the American version was being released and I couldn't even make it through an entire episode, but since I've come to appreciate it. Overall, I just love Ricky Gervais (Extras is good too!). This has to be my favorite clip, especially when David says, "She's not dead!" when Garreth tries to jump in and sing:



Mr. Bean - This clip cracked me up when I was a kid:



Little Britain - I fell in love with this show on Virgin Air. You HAVE to watch this clip:



 

NY-LON - I don't know why this suddenly disappeared from BBC America, but I  never got to finish watching the series. Rashida Jones was really good in it, and I liked the concept of documenting the time difference especially a long distance relationship (I could relate!):



Footballers Wives - Move over Desperate Housewives! This show is steamier and more scandalous! I have to admit that it got more and more outrageous each season, especially that Tanya Turner:



 

Gavin & Stacey - I like the theme song "Run" first of all! Secondly, I adore Ness and want a best friend just like her. Someone who will fight to the death for me!




Teachers -  Kinda obvious by the title, but essentially a dramedy following teachers in British public high school. The series stopped suddenly, but you can find the episodes here. I can't post a pic of video clip as they're all blocked :-(


Do any of our readers watch BBC? What are your favorite shows?




Monday, September 27, 2010

Braidout

As promised here's a pic of my braidout:

Before:



After:


And no, I didn't get my hair cut! It irks me when people ask me that. It's braids that have been let out, hence a braidout.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saving $ on Grocery Shopping

Since I've been out of the corporate arena, we've been budgeting our groceries. I personally LOVE grocery shopping especially in NYC where you can scour random stores for obscure items. When I lived a few blocks south of our current apartment I would frequent Fairway, and in the winter order from Fresh Direct, a delivery service. Now we're further away from Fairway so we shop at Pathmark, which I've written about before. It can be a very dramatic place to shop, and I find it both entertaining and frustrating at the same time. 

During my pregnancy Uka and I would shop together, but towards the end Uka would go on his own. He likes to say that I try to get him to spend more money and that he's more frugal than I am, but honestly, I just like good ingredients! Right now we don't buy organic as our budget doesn't allow and Pathmark has meager organic items, but I'd like to return to buying organic meat, dairy and produce which I used to do. 

Anyway, Uka became quite the bargain shopper during my pregnancy! We started shopping the circular and using coupons. Growing up my family used coupons (I was the official cutter and filer), but since we don't get the paper we don't use them as much. The highlight of Uka's shopping experience was when he got all of the following for only $19:


Here are a few tips we use to save on our grocery bill:
  • Make a list before we go - I know this seems to be a "common knowledge" tip, but I rarely see people shopping off a list at the grocery store, and Pathmark is notorious for people loading their carts then making final purchase decisions at the checkout
  •  Check the circular online before we go - I never realized the circular was online until Uka found it one day and started using it to check what was on sale; it saves us time and we try to buy only sale items each week
  • Shop the edges of the supermarket - Processed food is in the aisles and natural food (produce, dairy, meat etc.) is on the edges; while this might be considered more of a healthy-living tip vs. a save-money tip, I think because it affects your health in the long-run it can be a save-money tip too!
  • Purchase soon-to-expire meat - At first I was a bit skeptical of this, but we've found $2 off coupons attached to meat that expires in the next 24-48 hours; when we get home we just freeze it and it's fine for immediate use when we're ready
  • Buy store-brand food - While some items do taste substantially different (Cocoa Puffs and Cocoa Dots are completely different as I can attest from my childhood experience!), there are some items like mustard, spaghetti sauce and cheese that are on par with name brands. 
  • Sign up for Everyday Cheapskate - I've mentioned this newsletter before, but it gives such great money saving tips for not only grocery shopping but other everyday things as well
Now I wouldn't recommend this, but Apartment Therapy's The Kitchn showcased a story on a guy who ate food mostly from CVS for 31 days for $31. Honestly, I found it quite fascinating, but I wouldn't want to eat this diet for any length of time as its very nutrient poor:

Spent $31.00:
2 boxes of Quaker Instant oatmeal
4 packs of Philadelphia Cream Cheese Minis
1 package of Knudsen Light sour cream
10 apples
2 lbs of carrots
4 boxes (small) of Wheat Thins
1 jar of Skippy All Natural peanut butter
2 cans of pork and beans
1 bag of long grain brown rice
2 packages of Mission 100% whole wheat tortillas (10 count each)

What are your money saving grocery tips?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A "Someday" Post . . . Cottages at Cabot Cove

For years I've had the Cottages at Cabot Cove in Kennebunkport, Maine on my list of "someday" places to visit. Well, I was visiting Elements of Style (one of my favorite blogs), and I saw Erin celebrated her 5 year wedding anniversary there and had an insiders take on the cottages. It really looks amazing, and I know I would thoroughly enjoy it!

Here are a few pics:












I've never been to Maine before, but I know it would be a fantastic summer destination, especially with a few blueberries involved!


I think I might have to drop a hint hint to Mr. Love Bird for a future stay there...


Check out Erin's post here!


 


P.S. I ended up finally going here in 2015 after we moved to New Hampshire! Check out the pics here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Mrs. Love Bird is 30!

I turned 30 on Wednesday, September 22, and it was my mom's birthday too! I won't say how old she turned ;-) 

My mom & me

For my birthday Mr. Love Bird treated me to a hair appointment and another surprise which I'll get to later. I've written before about transitioning to natural hair and I've been without a relaxer since March. Honestly, it's been great not having to trek to the salon on Saturdays and spend several hours in the chair or under the hair dryer and it's been good to save money too! 

Now that my natural hair is longer it's competing more with the relaxed hair and I contemplated getting it cut off. This made several people nervous including Mr. Love Bird and my mother, but in the end the stylist recommended that I not do a "big chop" which is what many black women do when they decide to go natural. Instead she suggested that I get flat twists and continue doing braidouts to transition and ultimately get braid extensions to last 2-3 months. Prior to getting braids I'll get a few inches cut off (I last had about 5 inches cut off in June at Synergi while I was in Ohio; remember my "new do?"), then after the braids come out I'll get the rest cut off and have my natural texture only. I can't wait for that!

So right now I have flat twists:

 Don't mind the laundry in the background! 
It's all folded and put away now ;-)

Tomorrow I'll let it out into a braidout (I'll be sure to post a pic).

Here's the braided style I ultimately want to get:


So on to the rest of my birthday . . .

Uka surprised me and had my sister and two good friends Maria and Van come over for dinner and red velvet cake! Uka did all the preparations while watching Nia. We had shrimp scampi and Caesar salad and it was SO good. During dinner we were treated to a beautiful lightning show out our patio window. It was a fitting end to summer! Nia slept pretty much the entire time too, and it was great to have some adult time.

Here are a couple BlackBerry pics:




Overall, it was a good, quiet entrance to my third decade and ultimately, the best present I could have is being mom to Nia. I feel so blessed!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nia's First Video - 1 Month Old


Aunt Ariane shot this video. Nia loves her!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Trusting Birth


I know I'm past my birth experience, but I had bookmarked this article that I wanted to share with my readers, entitled Trusting Birth, Controlling Birth.

Essentially, this article starts with a story about a woman whose water was broken against her will and asks the question:

Inductions without clear medical necessity, breaking the bag of water for no reason, continuous fetal monitoring without an indication, and other common medical interventions may increase my risk of being unable to give birth normally.  Is the problem that I could not trust birth, or that my actions made it difficult or impossible for birth to take place normally?

I've read so many stories where women have regretted their birth experiences and have cried and cried. I feel good about mine although I would have wanted to go without drugs, I do appreciate that in my case the epidural worked wonders for me, and I was able to deliver vaginally. 

Ultimately the answer to the question of who controls birth is no one.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Squeaky Wheel - Update #7

Yet another update to post! My mom ordered Nia's nursery furniture from Walmart at the end of July during her visit, and it came very quickly ahead of the estimated arrival date.
We weren't in a rush with the nursery anyway because we'd figure Nia would sleep in our room for the first three months, but we were still excited to get the room in order. Well, when it arrived there were two of the same end for the dresser so we couldn't complete it. My mom called to have a replacement part sent, and after about 3-4 days it didn't arrive so she called again then wrote an e-mail. Well needless to say, Nia was born and we never received the part. Uka even called, and I did but they sent a crib part although we never even mentioned needing it, only the dresser part. 

It's been a very annoying pursuit, and I've called both the consumer department the manufacturer outsources too as well as the manufacturer directly trying to get the part and let them know what a headache their causing. Although Nia's not in her room yet, having the dresser set up would let us better organize her clothes (they're in a hanging closet organizer for now). It got to the point that the consumer department and the manufacturer knew who I was whenever I called!

Finally, I escalated it back to Walmart. Here's what I wrote them: 

This product was shipped incomplete, and I have called the customer service that the manufacturer outsources to as well as the actual manufacturer for the missing part (side A of the dresser as I had received 2 of side B). My mother ordered this for me and she called and e-mailed multiple times as well as my husband. They sent a follow-up part but it was for the crib instead of the dresser which we requested. I've now contacted them myself 3 times and as my daughter was born on August 12 and this product is now over one month delinquent. I am very upset as I have not been able to complete my daughter's nursery. This is my first child and this is such an embarrassment when guests come over especially as my parents who are visiting this weekend to see their first grandchild for the first time. I would like a refund for this product or for Walmart to step in and demand that the manufacturer send it to me immediately. Thank you.


Well Walmart customer service was fantastic! They stepped in and contacted the manufacturer and called me to issue a $20 credit. We finally received the correct part a few days ago and now can set up the last piece of Nia's furniture and get organized!

I know a lot of people take issue with Walmart, but we've bought pieces from them before and guests always thinks they're from Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn and I say, "Nope, it's from Walmart!" For people on a budget it really is a good go-to source for decorating. Now visiting Walmart . . .  that's a whole other issue entirely. That's what the funny site People of Walmart celebrates. Check it out! 


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Black Woman Breastfeeding

I had written a post prior to giving birth about whether or not breastfeeding hurts. Now that I'm a month into my breastfeeding relationship with Nia I wanted to post an update:

In the hospital and prior to giving birth as well as after I received conflicting information about how to breastfeed: Do/don't push the baby's head towards the breast, tickle the nose with your nipple/tickle her upper lip, let her feed as long as she wants/only let her feed for 15 minutes per side etc. You get the drift!

This was very confusing. 

When Nia was born after I was stitched up from my 4th degree tear, she was finally placed on my chest, and she latched right on and ate. The nurse showed me how to latch her own and it didn't hurt, but it was hard for me to latch her on in the same way from there on out, and I quickly became sore, raw even. 

I knew that I had to get just not the nipple, but the aerola into Nia's mouth but even one of the nurses told me that Nia didn't seem to open her mouth very wide, but assured me that would change as she grew. Well, still Nia doesn't open her mouth very wide, and her opening has become even smaller! She looks like a baby bird when she's ready to eat. 

Two weeks ago Nia gummed me hard, and I started to bleed. I took her off the breast for three days while I healed while using Lansinoh. During this time I pumped and fed her from the syringe which she hated (we waited until she was one month old to introduce the bottle as to avoid nipple confusion). I also fervently read online, especially Kelly Mom, so I would know how better to latch her on. That site really helped and while I was so scared of the possible pain when I finally decided to re-latch her, it actually worked and was painless (I practiced on the opposite breast first).  

How Nia holds her hands while breastfeeding 

Now that it's finally painless for me, I've noticed Nia has become fussy at the breast, spits up, has frequent hiccups and pulls away a lot. I've read online that this is most likely due to my oversupply and quick let down which overwhelms her. At first I thought it was reflux but a friend in a forum let me know it wasn't if Nia's been taking to the bottle fine which was the case. 

I've decided to switch positions when feeding Nia and laying side-by-side, which my mom suggested as worked best for night-time feedings when her fussiness tends to increase. Only issue is that she ends up laying in the bed with me, I fall asleep then wake up alarmed that I've crushed her (I haven't!). It's just too scary for me, but for now it's working so we'll see. Most times she's just laying there wide-eyed waving her arms and kicking her legs looking very content; it's kinda cute!


Well, getting back to the title of this post, my parents were in town this past weekend and saw the ad campaign encouraging breastfeeding. The blog Blacktating mentioned it as well and had this previous article about images of black women breastfeeding. 


Coming from an advertising background, in general I'm used to not seeing many mainstream images of black women, but lack of breastfeeding really is an epidemic in the black community. The more images we see the better. My parents took issue with the ad campaign showing breastfeeding in public. While I personally cover up in public, I don't think breastfeeding in public is something to be ashamed of. I decide to cover up (or use a "breast burqa," as some call it) because I don't want to give the perverts of NYC a free show. Lord knows I get enough lewd comments while fully clothed and even when I was pregnant, let alone exposing my breast. That is just my decision, and I'm happy with it. 


So that is my update on my breastfeeding experience. I'll be posting others as it continues . . .

Friday, September 17, 2010

Somthing's Missing . . .

Now that we got rid of cable, Uka and I rarely even watch network TV, but in recognition of fall TV I decided to post a little photo collage I've entitled, "Something's Missing:"


Brunettes must be feeling left out

Interesting article on young Hollywood.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NYPL Start-Up! Business Plan Competition

I had mentioned a few times about my big presentation I had coming up, and now that it's over I wanted to share the details.

Last fall Uka and I were at the Hamilton Grange Library and noticed a poster for a business plan competition. There were several information sessions so we decided to go. It was located at the SIBL - a great resource that I've mentioned before on my blog.

There were about 60-70 attendees, and it was one of many sessions. This initial session was required to be able to attend the following 3 of 4 required sessions needed to submit a plan. It was underwritten by Citi. 

While pregnant with Nia I worked on the plan, and it did become rough at times. Also, my initial idea wasn't the one I had submitted. My final idea struck me like a bold of lightning one night while watching TV with Uka.

I had planned my own destination wedding over an 18 month period and found the information to be scattered and disorganized. Additionally, I found the best information to be found online in forums, and I noticed print magazines were starting to fold. I decided to consolidate this information into an easy-to-use webinar based format I called a "Wedinar" thus Destination Wedinars was born.

Plans were due on June 15, and I found out the first week of August that I was a finalist. This past Monday was the awards ceremony, and while I didn't win a monetary prize it was a great experience. You can see the top 3 prize winners here. I think it's awesome that they're all women! I'm a huge fan of women entrepreneurs and love the organizations Ladies Who Launch and Savor the Success.

The final stage was presenting my plan 2 weeks after giving birth which is why a vaginal delivery was most important to me. I definitely lost preparation time due to my long hospital stay and all the activity leading up to it, but in the end I'm so honored to have been chosen to be a finalist. 

Out of the roughly 600 attendees of the orientation, about 350 attended the required 3 of 4 sessions and ultimately about 50 plans were submitted and 13 were chosen as finalists, including me. I really endured to the end!

I still hope to execute my idea as it's something I'm very passionate about and will give me the opportunity to work from home and raise Nia. 

I'm in the process of seeking alternate funding and tweaking a few things on my plan based on the judges feedback.
Here I am accepting my award of distinction

*I have to give a shout out to my lil sis Ariane who met me and Nia at the library for the ceremony and watched Nia for me. She kept her nice and content throughout and even changed her diaper. Thank you Ariane! You can read her blog here.*

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Squeaky Wheel - Update #6


So back to non-baby posts! It's been a while since the last squeaky wheel update, and I have a couple to report on. Here's the latest:

About 3 weeks ago Uka purchased Hormel bacon on sale at Pathmark, our local grocery store. We don't normally purchase bacon, but occasionally we do as a treat especially if we want pancakes or French toast a particular week. Anyway, the bacon was $2.50 on sale which was a good deal. This is what the bacon looked like cooked, and it tasted fine:



The following week he saw it on sale again and bought it. Now this is what that bacon looked like cooked, and it did not taste right:



It was as though the wrong part of the pig had been cut; it was fatty and thick. It tasted more like ham and didn't get crisp at all.

We cook our bacon in the oven which I discovered via my favorite America's Test Kitchen, and it keeps the house from smelling of bacon. Just stick the slices on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees, and you're done! Growing up my family made it on the range, and we and the house would reek of bacon for a couple days, but this method is much better and the bacon comes out delicious.

Anyway, back to the report . . .

I wrote the following to Hormel: 

I purchased the Black Label bacon the week of August 22 from Pathmark supermarket on 145th ST in New York, NY. It was on sale again this week so I purchased it again, however the taste and texture of the bacon was off. It was very fatty as though the wrong part of the pig had been cut and didn't even taste like bacon - more like ham. I have pictures of both bacon products and can e-mail them if needed. I'm very disappointed as the first week the bacon was fantastic, and now I have to throw away the remaining product. The consistency of the product will prevent me from purchasing the Black Label bacon again.

Well Hormel wrote me back and promptly sent the following:


Yes, a reimbursement for the bacon! It's only $2.50, but I appreciate their response. Besides, that's enough for a single ride on the subway! In this economy it all adds up . . .


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Life With Nia: One Month Old


So I decided to do monthly updates on Nia; it seems like this will be most manageable for me as I move onto transitioning out of the baby-centric posts. I have so many other topics I'd like to write about, but that doesn't mean these monthly Nia updates will be the only snapshot of her I provide. I'll play it by ear!

Anyway, here is update #1:

  • Baby's Weight: Her next well-baby appointment isn't until September 29, but I'd estimate she's almost 9 pounds; I can tell she's quite hefty by the back pain I'm starting to have from carrying her!
  • Baby's Height: Nia's height was 21" at birth (I had mistakenly been told it was 19" but found it in writing in her hospital documents); I'll know for sure in a few weeks where she's at 
  • What size of clothing does baby wear? Newborn sizes are getting tight especially sleeper foot length and sleeve length; We have SO much newborn stuff and I'm kinda bummed we didn't get more 6 month+ /warmer items as it's starting to get chilly here; I guess that means baby's first shopping trip is in order ;-)
  • Any milestones baby reached during the month:  
      • Nia is smiling and no, it's not just gas! It started in the past 4 days. My parents visited from Ohio this weekend and she smiled very clearly at me and my dad and she's making more playful, single syllable sounds in general. 
      • Also, her umbilical cord fell off on August 23. I thought it was a bit premature and it bled a bit and she was fussy for a few days after, but I'm still vigilant about it. 
      • We've given her the first bath too a couple days ago and she enjoyed it much more than a sponge bath - no tears!
 
      • She found her fingers around week 2 and sucks her thumb occasionally (she hates the binky!); she has swatted at the hanging toys of her jungle gym too so it looks like hand-eye coordination is coming along nicely
      • We introduced the bottle yesterday and she took too it very well! At first she was a bit fussy but she likes it and drinks very quickly. She had 2 oz the first day and 3oz today.
  • Special outings baby had during the month: Nia's been out and about all over Manhattan! I take her out in her Moby wrap about 1-2x/week. Today we went to church for the first time and when my best friend visited we went to Governor's Island. I had thought I'd keep her indoors for the first 3 months (as my mom's mentioned before), but from what I've researched there's really no reason to keep a newborn inside. I wear her close to me to prevent people poking at her. 
  • What are your thoughts about the past month? I think Nia is a sweet baby. It's not too hard to figure out what she needs and she's not overly fussy. I'm so incredibly exhausted at any given moment and getting out of the apartment is such a chore especially because of the on-demand feeding regimen. I do get frightened sometimes thinking about what if she gets sick and I can't figure out what's wrong or what happens if I fall or trip on the subway stairs or uneven sidewalks while carrying her. I tend to walk very slowly with her when I'm out and about! Overall, I feel so blessed to have a healthy, beautiful baby.
  • What was baby's routine? Right now she's playing more than she was before. She's napping more too - about two, three-hour naps/day and four hours overnight. Not quite the 16-18 hrs the books say newborns sleep. We give her daily time on her playmat and she loves it!
  • Reflect about the highlights of the month: Seeing Nia react to Uka is so adorable. When he walks in the room she cranes her neck to track his voice. She really loves her father! Her middle name, Adanna, means "father's daughter" so it's very appropriate.
 
  • Did any big changes occur, such as baby started daycare, stopped nursing, slept through the night, etc... No major changes yet
  • What are baby's favorites - toy, food, person, etc... Her favorite toy now is the jungle gym playmat, especially the hanging elephant rattle; we realized we don't have a stand-alone rattle for her so we may get one to help her sensory development (we won't give it to her, but we'll use it for eye movement and sound); her favorite person is her dad!

Nia's Newborn Photoshoot

My BFF Julie came to visit a couple weeks ago and took adorable pictures of Nia.  Mr. Love Bird and I were bummed that he wasn't included in the shoot as he had a hectic work schedule that weekend. We're hoping to do a make-up session soon.

Here's a sampling:





Isn't she talented?

The rest are here


Enjoy =)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mrs. Love Bird's Birth Story


Preface

I never thought much about writing a birth story until I started reading them on other blogs. I've kept a journal since I was 7 and had grown up assuming I'd probably just put all the details of my pregnancy and birth down in my journal, but now that I have a blog I don't mind sharing my story here.

One thing prior to writing my story that I really wanted to include was an accurate depiction of the pain of childbirth. My mother had given me the Lamaze method book from the 70s while I was pregnant which spoke about painless childbirth. I was indeed a bit skeptical and have said it before I was pregnant and now, afterward, I find it true: There is pain and then there is suffering. Yes, childbirth involves pain, but not suffering. I also appreciated the following quote in Ina May's Guide which I kept in mind throughout my experience: 

"Believe me: if you are told that some experience is going to hurt, it will hurt. Most pain is in the mind and when a woman absorbs the idea that the act of giving birth is excruciatingly painful - when she gets this information from her mother, her sisters, her married friends, and her physician – that ...woman has been mentally prepared to feel great agony." – Stephen King

Finally, in reading my birth story, please keep in mind that besides having a healthy baby as the end result, a vaginal delivery was top priority for me.

The Induction

So from all the previous updates I had been blogging (including the 4a.m. one from the bathroom), I had a serious debate about deciding to induce. Although my mom said "no pressure" I did feel pressure to produce Nia before my mom  and my sister departed for Ohio on the morning of Thursday, August 12.

When I had gone into the hospital on Saturday, August 7 to check my progress the dr. on duty explained that they typically wait until 41 weeks and 3 days to induce which would be Tuesday, August 10. My dr. would have induced immediately, but based on what that dr. said and another I had seen there at the hospital (who looked at my dr. like she was crazy when she said I could induce that day), I decided that it'd be best to wait and allow my body to make natural progress for as long as possible.

I returned on Tuesday August 10 to my dr.'s office with Uka (I had previously gone with my mother on Friday, August 6 to the dr.'s office), and she saw no progress so decided to strip my membranes for the third time (ouch). At that point I told her I wanted to be induced so she sent us to the hospital. We stopped and got Burger King on the way there  - I had a BK Big Fish (we decided to walk to the 10 blocks hoping it might get things going). L&D was very busy with two sets of twins so the odds of getting admitted were slim to none. We arrived around 12:15 and were taken back about an hour later for monitoring. Uka had to work so my mom and sister came and traded spots (my neighbors were so kind and drove them and my things to the hospital). I was monitored for about 4 hours and the first nurse I saw told me I wasn't going to get admitted but then the 41 weeks and 3 days dr. arrived and announced I'd be admitted.

I was ecstatic! However, later I found out it was due to the baby's low heartbeat.

Once in the birthing suite we all got settled and Uka returned a bit later. My college roommate visited me which was a welcome distraction! We had some family fun time and even played Wii. I had been at the Harlem Hospital before for a tour and the rooms were very comfortable and spacious. The guest sleeping accommodations weren't great, but we had brought extra blankets, and I'm so glad I brought an extra pillow and my own slippers. It was definitely a bit chilly, as most hospitals are, and later we asked for the AC to be turned down but they said they couldn't and that when I was in labor I'd actually be very hot and thankful that it was so cold (yes, that was true!).

My mom and me

I had been told that I couldn't eat and again, this was one of those "hospital rules" that annoyed me (they treat all admitted women as possible C-sections so they do not allow eating as there is a possibility of surgery). Ina May instructs that it's unrealistic to expect a woman to birth on little to no food when it's one of the most physically grueling task she'll ever have to endure. Regardless, I got by sneaking some Cheez-Itz, Gatorade and Fiber One bars! Throughout I also ate sugar free hard candy.


Uka being silly! 

By this point it was about 11p.m. I didn't really know what the timeline would be for induction, but I knew it could be a very long process once started so I wanted to get started ASAP. Unfortunately, it didn't get started until midnight. That's when I was given Cytotec to ripen my cervix by the nurse from hell. Before that I was a little over 1 cm dilated; virtually, no progress was made on my own at the end of my pregnancy.

Anyway, back to this nurse: she was rude, didn't seem to understand English and totally disregarded pretty much anything me or my family said to the point of being dangerous (when my mother comes to visit next weekend I'm going to work with her and Uka to write a formal complaint to the hospital). Besides her everything else at the Harlem Hospital was fine, and I had heard some horror stories but overall it really wasn't bad.

Now back to the induction . . .

It took only about 15 mintues for the Cytotec to kick in. By this time it was Wednesday, August 11 around 12:15a.m. I had read that Cervadil was the preferred induction medicine so I was a bit nervous about having Cytotec as it had worse side effects than Cervadil. Here's the rundown of the rest of the timeline:

-1a.m. my mother came to check on me 
-2:40a.m. I had my first "bed pan experience." I was so grossed out but hey, I had to do what I had to do!
-3a.m. I had intense hunger and Uka fed me ice chips.
-4a.m. the dr. came to check my progress which was NONE; I was still having contractions fairly close together but they weren't getting me anywhere. I was frustrated. 
-7a.m. the dr. came to check my progress; that's when I was told the heartbeat had dipped the day before and as a result I couldn't be "ambulatory" (walk around)
-7:45a.m. liquid breakfast
-10:45a.m. dr. arrived again; no progress but contracting on my own; membranes stripped for 4th time; dr. confirmed baby's heartbeat was fine; Uka asked if I could walk around (God bless him for pressing the issue!) and I was allowed until 1p.m.
-12:30p.m. liquid lunch
-1:30p.m. checked for progress. . . NONE

Throughout the afternoon of August 11 into August 12 there was a change of staff and the nurses and dr. were FANTASTIC (I will be writing a glowing review). The dr. was Nigerian and chatted a bit with Uka too. I think she was more sensitive to my wishes because of this. The nurses told me they were so surprised at how much I knew (Bishop score, various induction methods etc.). They said they weren't used to moms being so educated.

I was finally given Pitocin, but not for long. By this time I was nervous because of the slippery slope towards the C-section that I had researched about once a course of drugs is started. Fortunately, I didn't have to stay on it for long as my body picked up where Pitocin started but boy was it painful! And the worst part? I still wasn't progressing. ARGHHHH!

So at 3:40a.m. the morning of August 12 I discussed the epidural with my dr. (not the Nigerian dr. but my usual dr.). I had agreed to sign the consent form but right before they called the anesthesiologist to administer it, I asked for one more intervention: the Foley catheter. Later, they admitted that not many women even go that route but in the end (and a few hours later), it had me at a Bishop score of around 7 which was ideal for the epidural. Prior to that it was only 5 which I knew wasn't ideal for a vaginal birth. At this point I was 4 cm dilated and WORE OUT!

I had squeezed Uka's hand all night and had been moaning non-stop. I was tired and hungry from the long induction and knew physically that I could not endure the rest of the birth experience without drugs. I knew I had very little energy left to push so to conserve it I opted for the epidural.

Everyone had to leave the room but the nurse and anesthesiologist, and I was contracting so hard that I thought the needle would slip and I'd be paralyzed. It was so hard to stay still, but I did my best. It really didn't hurt going in but once it was administered . . .

OH BOY!!!

In less than 10 minutes the heavens opened up and angels came down to kiss my face!!!!

GLORIOUS!

I was on another level and yet, I could still feel enough to be able to use the bed pan no problem. I went right to sleep . . .


My progress was checked later after the Pitocin was resumed and at last I was at 7cm. Woohoo!

Now a note about my mom and sister who were visiting from Ohio:


They had extended their stay in anticipation of the birth, however they had to leave on an 11:30a.m. flight back to Ohio. Unfortunately, they had to leave at 9:30a.m. on August 12. Before they left however, my mother gathered us around the bed and prayed the most beautiful, encouraging birth prayer over me. We didn't know it until later, but the staff had patiently waited and honored our privacy behind the screen in the entrance to the birthing room. When my mom finished they came in and said they had never heard anything like that before and exclaimed what a beautiful prayer it was. Although my mom wasn't there for the rest of my birth experience I felt her covering and prayer after she left. I'm truly blessed to come from a family of faith!

Labor 

After a few more hours the epidural appeared to wear off, and I was jolted awake around some time between 1:30-2p.m. by a sudden urge to poop. Yep, everything they say about childbirth feeling like the urge to have the biggest bowel movement of your life is true.

No one was around. I texted Uka: "Come." That's all I could get out, and I also pressed the call button. Uka came to my bedside first, and I told him if the staff didn't come by the time I got to 60 seconds I was going to unhook myself from the IV, oxygen, epidural and Pitocin and I was going to go to the bathroom to push!  He pleaded with me not to do that. Meanwhile I started counting. . . but the staff came before I got to 60!

They checked my progress, and I was barely 9cm. They were surprised by my urge to push and the Nigerian dr. even mentioned a possible C-section. When she said that my eyes locked with hers, and I shot daggers. It reminded me of the scene in Kill Bill when Uma's character hones in on her target, "sees red" and the hazard theme starts playing. Yeah. It was just like that.

Delivery 

Once the dr. understood how serious I was she and the nurse got in gear and started coaching me to push. There wasn't enough time to grab another nurse so they had Uka stand on my left side to help hold up my leg. I honestly didn't want him there and had given him instructions not to go anywhere below my neck during labor but there really wasn't a choice!

I didn't count how many times I pushed, but I do remember the dr. saying long and loud, "PUUUUUUSH" over and over. I really didn't like that style, and I later overheard her using it in the next room so I guess it was just her thing, but the nurse was also encouraging me in a better way telling me how good I was doing. Uka was fantastic too because he had been quoting scripture before and continued telling me that I could do it!

Now there came a point when I started to tire out and Uka later told me he could tell. I got very nervous that they were still going to wheel me into the OR. I know later I must've dug deep into my thighs with my fingertips  becuase I was bruised, and still am bruised, pretty badly. The dr. decided to bring out the vacuum to help get Nia out. I was a bit nervous about it and not too happy about having another item inserted (between all the membrane stripping, checking for progress etc. I only wanted a baby coming OUT at that point!). Anyway the vacuum really did help because suddenly Uka's face become really animated and he exclaimed: "I see her hair! She has a lot of hair!"

That's when I knew I was in the final stretch and that I really was going to have a vaginal delivery. I pushed with my might and the nurse even slapped my thigh! I had heard that there'd be a "ring of fire" and honestly I don't know if it was because I was still partially numb but there wasn't much burning. It just felt again, like a large bowl movement and of course the baby's head being the biggest part, I felt an intense stretching without burning.

Later, I found out I had a 4th degree tear. I guess those endorphins had really kicked in because I didn't feel any indication of that immediately. Uka also later told me that it had looked pretty bad and he felt awful for me. I only knew the extent during the 30 minutes it took to stitch me up and to me that hurt worse than pushing Nia out!

The feeling of pushing Nia out - that final push (God bless it!) - was the greatest sense of relief I've ever felt. It was extremely emotional for me too because of my prayer of having a vaginal birth. All I could say was, "Thank you Jesus!" over and over and I started bawling. Just thinking back to that moment almost makes me cry. I felt so blessed that my prayer was answered!

Uka saw Nia's sweet face and with tears in his eyes reported, "She has eyelashes!" To see his emotion made me emotional, and I just cried and cried.

And a few moments later I heard Nia's sweet little cry. It wasn't loud like I thought it'd be. Just precious and beautiful!

I couldn't take her immediately because I had to be stitched up, but Uka cut the cord and held her. He later told me he was surprised at how quickly they just handed him the scissors and had him do it. He said it was tough to cut through and reminded him of calamari's texture (!). The cord was also the only "messy" part that I saw. Uka made me laugh when he told me that my placenta didn't look like the ones we saw on the videos. I had no problem not seeing it all!

After I was stitched up Nia was then brought to me and laid skin to skin and like a good eater I now know she is, she found her way to my breast bobbing her sweet little head! It was so precious!

The nurse congratulated us and by the end of her time with us remarked that it was record timing for having Nia with us post birth - 3 hours! It didn't seem that long. She also commended us for sticking with the birth plan of having a vaginal birth. She said she never saw someone so adamant about it!


They took her to the nursery then got us moved and settled into the recovery room.

Recovery 

I wasn't allowed to go to the recovery room until I relieved myself. They thought I'd have to use a bedpan, but I felt the urge to get up and go. Unfortunately, I "lost it" when I went to get up but the nurse said it was normal and helped me clean up and get into the bathroom. I apologized profusely but by the end of my stay 2 days later I realized the nurses were immune to all bodily functions!

I was very sore from my 4th degree tear and just wanted to sleep constantly but the hospital had a 24hr room-in (Uka had to leave by 11p.m. but sometimes would stretch it a bit to 11:30). Various community visitors came by to check on me and say hello. The cutest were two grandmother-types who brought Goodnight Moon. I was so excited about this because it was a book I really wanted for Nia!

My sister and her boyfriend also visited and my best friend and his boyfriend. It was good not to have too many visitors, but I was still sad that my mom and sister weren't there. 

 Our friend Patrick sent balloons to the hospital
The nurses weren't happy!

Having Nia in the room with me was a bit tiring considering how sore I was. I tried to get up and walk as much as possible but it was challenging. I really found myself looking forward to Uka's visits so I could sleep a bit. At night I took to holding Nia most of the night. Those were precious first nights.

On Saturday, August 14 I finally checked out. It was a gorgeous day! Not too humid. My sister and her boyfriend came to help me as Uka had to work. We packed everything up, filled out all the papers and headed out to catch a cab. After what I went through I completely understand why new moms have to be wheelchaired out. I definitely hadn't found my legs yet!


My sister Ariane and Nia in the cab

Uka's dad met us at our apartment bearing fruit and flowers. I was so happy as I LOVE flowers and never seem to get them as often as I'd like. The fruit was delicious too.

Uka came home a few hours later and my sister and boyfriend made our first welcome-home meal for us: enchiladas.

I can't believe it's been a little over 3 weeks since we've all been a new family. Nia's getting so big already (she had gained nearly 1/2 pound by her first well-baby appointment 4 days after discharge).

 Nia with monkeys! 
My BFF Julie visited for 4 days last week 
and did a newborn photoshoot

A few biological notes: 

  • overall I found the waves of pain from the Pitocin and natural contractions painfully worse than actual pushing and delivery; this pain was a throbbing, tiresome pain that wore me down after 20+ hours and I have never experienced anything like this before; I would not have asked for an epidural any earlier than I did (Bishop score was most important factor for getting me to the vaginal birth), but next time I will think more positively of the epidural!
  •  after 2 weeks I didn't feel further pain from the tear
  • the recovery and "snap backness" of my body from breastfeeding has been great although Uka and I are mourning the loss of what little booty I gained during pregnancy
  • it seems that I developed PUPPS or something similar as I have a rash on my legs; I've read that it can be due to the epidural, a reaction to my husband's DNA as exposed through birth or from hormones adjusting; from what I've read I can't take anything for it and just have to wait it out
  • unlike most of what I read I didn't get hemorrhoids, and I didn't do #2 during delivery (I was so dreading this!)

Overall, I truly feel blessed!

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