Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Great Big Thank You!

The last ten months have been such an exciting adventure for us and we want all of you to know how much more special you have made it! We have been absolutely overwhelmed with the kind words, gifts, showers, and offers to baby-sit. It means so much to know that our new family will be so loved and supported and we feel truly blessed that all of you will be a part of little Paxton's life!

We can't wait to share all of the stories of this part of the adventure with him so that he will know how friends and family collected books for him to read, decorated onesies for him to wear, knitted blankets and hats and socks to keep him warm, helped to stock his nursery full of amazing goodies, and shared invaluable advice on how to take extra special care of him.

We have enjoyed celebrating this part of the journey with all of you and are so excited about the new chapter that has now begun. It means so much to know that our little guy is welcomed and loved by all the people that we care so much about. We are looking forward to introducing you to him very soon!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Paxton's Birth Story

This story  is very, very long, but since Pax's entry into the world was a long one, it seems appropriate. I also wanted to document everything that happened before it starts to get blurry. Here's the short version: Paxton Densler Willoughby was born on March 29th, 2009 at 8:51 pm. Pictures are available on our flickr page.  If you're interested in all the details, read on :)

Before we became pregnant, we knew that we wanted to have a natural birth experience.  So, when we found out that we would be expecting, we decided to see the midwives at UCSD and to birth our little one at the Birth Center in the UCSD hospital. We decided that this would be the best option for us because we could labor naturally in a large room with a jacuzzi tub, shower, birthing ball, and four poster bed, yet still be seconds away from medical intervention if, for some reason, we needed it. The Birth Center is on the fourth floor and the regular labor and delivery wing is on the second floor. In the event of an emergency, we would be right where we needed to be.

We also hired a doula to be present and support us in our birth. According to DONA International, a doula is "a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth." We feel so blessed to have found our doula, Kayti Ricker, who provided all of this and much more! 

As we started to reach the end of the pregnancy, we knew that Pax needed to arrive between 37 and 42 weeks for us to be eligible to deliver in the Birth Center. We weren't sure what to expect other than the fact that he would probably be late. We were told that the average first baby arrives about 8 days late. Once we passed our due date of March 23rd, I will admit that I started getting antsy and finally hit a point where I was just done (emotionally and physically) with being pregnant.

After about two weeks of pretty frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions or "just practice" as we referred to them, I finally started to feel the real thing on Friday night (March 27th).  Not only was my belly tightening each time, but I also started to feel cramps and it was happening about every 10 minutes. We decided that the best thing to do would be to go to bed and try to get as much rest as possible. We both had a pretty restless night, but managed to get some sleep. 

By the next morning, the contractions were coming a little closer, about eight minutes apart, but they were very mild and only about 30 seconds long. We called Kayti to give her a heads up and then decided to just keep going about the day. It was incredibly exciting to think that our little man would be joining us very soon! I decided to knit a hat for him that he could wear in the hospital and we also took a walk to the post office to mail our last couple thank you notes.

At about 3:00, Kayti came over to the house and the three of us went on a walk to Morley Field to see if we could get my contractions to pick up some more. They were currently about five to six minutes apart. We walked around the tennis courts and the baseball fields and did lunges up the hill on the way back. During each contraction, Brad and Kayti massaged my shoulders, applied pressure to my hips, and provided lots of support. I'm sure that it was interesting for all the passersby to see a very pregnant woman stopping every few minutes to hug a tree or telephone pole. 

We headed back to the house and the three of us had dinner along with our friends, Chris and Ruby, who had stopped by to bring us some takeout from Zensei Sushi. At this point, my appetite was starting to wane and  the contractions were getting a bit more intense. Brad and Kayti fixed me a bath and while I relaxed, they called the midwife on duty and found out that Rita, the midwife we had seen for the last couple months, was on call. We decided that we would go ahead and make our way to the hospital. We were very excited about Rita being there for the birth.

We arrived around 10 pm and our nurse, Joanna, got us settled in. Rita checked to see how far along I had progressed and I was only 3 cm dilated. She told us that we could go home if we wanted or stay and be admitted, but that the best thing would be to walk around and keep moving. We decided to stay and then did a lap around the hospital and a set of lunges up the stairs followed by a shower. Every hour, Joanna would come and listen to the baby's heartbeat with a Dopppler and his heart was beating strong every time. At 1:30 am and after a lot of laboring, Rita came back and checked me again to find that I had only progressed to 4 cm. Because I was pretty tired at this point, we thought the best thing would be for me to try and get some amount of sleep in between contractions. I was able to find a position kneeling on the bed with my upper body draped over a birthing ball where I could sleep. My contractions slowed down and spaced out a bit and I was able to sleep on and off for about two hours. Brad and Kayti also napped which was great because we didn't realize how much more was in store for us.

At 5 am, Rita checked again and I was now 5 cm dilated...five at five. At this point, the midwives and nurses changed shifts, but Rita promised to check in later to see how things were going. We found out that Jennifer would be the next midwife on duty. Again, we were thrilled because we had met Jennifer during our pre-natal appointments and we both really liked her. We continued to labor and I will be honest, things are a bit blurry from this point. I do remember trying very hard to focus on relaxing through the contractions. The body's initial reaction to pain is tense up and I knew that I needed to do just the opposite to get things to progress. I found that many of the techniques we learned from our Birthing from Within class came in very handy, but I did not expect that the vocalizations we did during the Coyote Circle exercise to be one of my main coping techniques. I had actually thought I might be a somewhat quiet laboring woman...just one of the many things I learned about myself during this journey.

Jennifer came in after a while with Kandace, a student midwife with two weeks left in her program, who would be helping out. They checked me again and I had gained one more cm...slowly but surely, I had dilated to 6 cm which would now put me in "active labor" and they would be checking the baby's heartbeat every 30 minutes. Being 6 cm also meant that I could get in the birthing tub. They had wanted me to wait until I was 6 cm because they were afraid that if I got in any earlier, I might slow the contractions down. The warm water felt wonderful and helped me to really relax in between contractions. I continued laboring throughout the morning and afternoon using a birthing stool, birthing ball, the shower, and all sorts of support from Brad, Kayti, and Kandace. 

At some point in the afternoon, Kandace decided I could begin to push if I felt the urge. I had dilated to somewhere between 9 and 10 cm and they would now monitor the baby's heartbeat during every contraction. Never once did his heartbeat show any signs of distress. At this point, the baby was low enough that they were able to determine that his head was not quite at the right angle for birthing and there was a lip of the cervix left. This is common when the baby's head is not applying equal pressure to all parts of the cervix creating uneven dilation. With some help from Kandace during a couple contractions, we were able to get the baby through the lip and I was now completely dilated to 10 cm. I continued pushing, but only occasionally did I feel a very strong urge to bear down. Jennifer then came in to check as well and slowly they started to determine that there were a couple of issues we would need to deal with. The baby was in an acynclitic position meaning that his head was at an angle and he was also posterior or "sunny side up" and both of these things would make delivery difficult. 

I was told that I could continue to push, but that the baby would need to tuck his chin and turn his head in order to progress through the birth canal. We tried many different positions in an attempt to get him to move, but we had no idea how stubborn the little guy was going to be. In the mean time, Jennifer was communicating with the doctors on the second floor who were wanting to have me brought downstairs. The agreement was made that if I continued to make progress, I could stay upstairs. At one point, we did make a bit of progress and the midwives were even able to see a tiny bit of his head. I thought for sure we would make it, but after somewhere around seven hours of pushing and little to no progress by the little guy, the decision was made to go downstairs.

So we ended up downstairs in the labor and delivery wing and they hooked me up to the continuous fetal monitoring system. In my room, I was now joined by Brad, Kayti, Jennifer, Kandace, Elizabeth (the midwife coming in to take the next shift), two nurses, and the doctor. I have to say that I am forever grateful to have birthed at UCSD and that I feel very blessed to have been surrounded by such a wise and skilled medical team. The doctor checked me and it was very comforting to have her tell me exactly the same thing that the midwives had determined. Everyone was definitely on the same page and I had two options at this point: 1) a Cesarean birth or 2) an epidural with some time to rest and then Pitocin and possibly an assisted (forceps or vacuum) vaginal delivery. I was told that because of the position of his head, it might be very difficult to have an assisted delivery and that they would have to consult with the other doctor. While having a Cesarean birth had been one of my biggest fears during pregnancy, I was also very wary of assisted deliveries because I have always felt that there is a lot of room for error. My gut feeling was that the Cesarean would have the least risk for the baby. Brad and Jennifer both agreed. Because the Cesarean would not be an emergency procedure, I was given time to ask lots of questions and never did I feel pressured into something I didn't want or need. I truly felt treated with respect by everyone involved.

The entire procedure happened very quickly. Since Kayti is also a volunteer doula at UCSD, they allowed her to be with me during the prep for the surgery. Because I was still managing the pain from contractions, I was very glad to have her there. They gave me a spinal to numb my body from the belly down. Once the warming sensation started to flow through my legs, the contractions were gone and I felt incredibly sleepy. They then draped the blue sheet in front of me and gave me a tube with a bit of extra oxygen. As soon as everything was prepped, Brad joined us. They allowed us to bring in our own music so we were able to listen to some of our favorite songs which was wonderful.

During the procedure, Brad and Kayti stayed by my head and talked to me. As soon as Paxton was born, they told me everything that was happening. From the moment I heard the first little cry, I started crying too. Brad was able to cut Pax's umbilical cord and be near him as they gave him his 1 minute and 5 minute APGAR scores which were 8 and 9, respectively. I had to wait until the second APGAR was given and I have to say that those 5 minutes were the longest of my entire life. I could not wait to see him for the first time. As soon as possible they brought him over and I was able to have skin-to-skin contact with the little guy. It was the most joyous moment to see and touch our baby for the first time! Brad and I were able to hold him and cuddle him while they finished the procedure. 

At 8:51 pm on March 29th, 2009, Paxton Densler Willoughby joined the world....all 8 lbs, 5oz and 21 inches of him!

At this point, something very magical happened. We realized that the song playing on our iPod was "Careful Not to Draw Your Maps in Pen and Ink" by the Cobalt Season. We have always loved this song and everything that it says about letting go of your plans and just living incredibly relevant in light of everything that had just happened! After months of "planning" our birth experience, we were forced to let go and take things as they happened even if they were far from what we imagined they would be. It was also very poignant that a Cobalt Season song was playing because the first time we heard the name Paxton was when they came to play at Missiongathering and brought along their son, Paxton. 

After the birth, we were able to put some more pieces together to figure out exactly what happened. We were very fortunate to have had Dr. Lisa Stellwagen, an amazing pediatrician at UCSD, check in on Pax. Very quickly after seeing him, she was able to explain to us what caused the delayed labor and the "stuck" baby. She asked if had spent a lot of time in one position in the womb and I told her that he lived almost exclusively on the right side of my belly. She said that sometimes, this can cause babies to develop torticollis which is a tightness in the neck muscles (she had just published a paper on this very condition). She showed us that his head could easily turn in one direction, but only part of the way in the other direction. His one ear was also flatter than the other and his lips pulled a little higher on one side, all symptoms of torticollis. Apparently, Pax's muscles were so tight that during labor, he wasn't able to straighten out his head and come out through the birth canal. This was what caused labor to progress so slowly and explained why he wouldn't come out even though I pushed with everything I had in me. She gave us a few exercises for his neck and we have already seen a huge improvement. Within a few weeks, it will probably not be noticeable at all.

In addition to the torticollis, Pax also had some jaundice which made for an extra long stay at the hospital. Because there was a history of severe jaundice in my family, Dr. Stellwagen decided to test his bilirubin very early at 12 hours. It was a good thing that she did because it was already high. So, they brought a special BiliBed into our room and Pax was able to sleep with the lights in our room rather than being whisked away to the NICU. He was allowed to come out to nurse, but otherwise had to stay exclusively on the lights. It was a little tough to not be able to hold him and cuddle him all the time, but I am so glad that we had him right by the bed. Between the lights and the feeding (both important to clearing the bilirubin), he was looking great by Thursday and we were all able to go home!

Now that we're home and adjusting to life without sleep, we love just staring at the little guy and learning all his squeaks and sighs.  We're so blessed to have a healthy baby and are treasuring each day of his brand new life.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The blog is updated, so he can come now

The little guy is now five days past due, so Merrilee and I have been using the time to finish all those last-minute things before he arrives. It's become a running joke: "Oh, X is done, so he can come now." Here's a list for posterity:
  • I cleaned the fishbowl, so he can come now.
  • Merrilee had a pedicure, so he can come now.
  • We washed Fergie, so he can come now.
  • My mom bought us a doggie gate to keep Fergie out of the nursery, so he can come now.
  • We mailed the last thank-you note from our baby showers, so he can come now.
  • I scrubbed the water fountain by the front door, so he can come now.
  • The gardeners did the yard, so he can come now.
  • We installed the child seat in the car, so he can come now.
  • We packed our bags for the hospital, so he can come now.
  • We finished the laundry, so he can come now.
  • We ran the dishwasher, so he can come now.
  • Merrilee gave a crash-course to her manager on her pending projects, so he can come now.
  • As of this morning, I bought an iPhone timer application called "Contractions," so he can come now.
And, of course, I just posted this blog entry, so he can come now.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The nursery is ready!

The nursery is finally in a state where we can come close to calling it "done" so we took a few pictures and posted them on Flickr. We've also included a few below. We decided the theme turned out to be "Adventureland," or more specifically, "Jungle Cruise meets the Tiki Room." It's great to look around the room and see old things (France & Son 1950's teak rocker), new things (Ikea lamps), things we already owned (the Tiki Room puzzle by Shag over the crib), things that were gifted to us (the furniture from my sister), and things we never thought we'd need (the wipe warmer on top of the changing table). We think the little guy is going to love it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Family Pictures

In honor of the big changes that are about to come our way, we decided that we needed to stop and take some time to savor things just as they are. We wanted to celebrate our family as its been over the last ten years. So a few weeks ago, we met with Carey Schumacher of San Diego Barefoot Memories at the beach in La Jolla to take some family pictures. We had a great time and we're thrilled with how the pictures turned out. We think they really reflect this special time in our lives and how excited we are about our new arrival. It's fun to imagine that the next time we take family pictures, there will be another little face in the frame. We posted some of our favorites up on Flickr.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


We're now down to less than 4 weeks before our little guy's due date (March 23rd), and it's getting more exciting by the day. His little punches and kicks have turned into serious heaves which are visible from a few feet away. It's now very easy (and fun) to hear his heartbeat by just putting my ear to Merrilee's belly. Speaking of her belly, she has basically lost sight of her toes and occasionally solicits my help to tie her shoes for her. We're starting to book things in our calendar in April and May, and are wondering what life will be like when are family turns to 3. "Sure, we can do that on Sunday evening." "Wait, *can* we do that on Sunday evening?"

And, of course, there is his room. Our former "Green Room" is now a full fledged nursery complete with changing table, baby furniture, and a crib. We'll post more pictures of the room later, but, as a teaser, we managed to find a beautiful 1950's vintage teak rocking chair and ottoman by Ole Wanscher for Danish manufacturer France and Son at Mid-Century Design in Hillcrest. Something old, perhaps, for our new little someone on the way.

Tonight we'll be packing for the hospital. Not that we're planning to go right away, but we've been instructed to have our bags ready for when the time comes. Once they're packed, their presence will turn into yet another daily reminder of the amazing changes in store. What a blessing it is to balance our excitement to meet our little guy face to face with our desire to savor each moment of this special time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What a difference two weeks makes

Over the last couple weeks it seems like I'm feeling more and more pregnant. Sleeping has become more difficult and getting out of bed in the morning has become next to impossible. It's amazing what an extra 20 pounds will do for you, especially when most of it is concentrated in your belly and screwing with your sense of gravity. Oh, and the charlie horses that wake me up in the middle of the night are loads of fun. Aside from the minor aches and pains though, I really can't complain. It seems like he's constantly moving around and I haven't tired of all the little kicks and punches. It's so wonderful to have these reminders of his presence throughout the day.

We decided to start taking a picture every week now that we're nearing the end. We've been told that my belly will grow to unimaginable proportions and very rapidly in the last couple months (I can't believe that is all that's left). Here are a couple of pics from weeks 29 and 31. He's definitely getting bigger. In case you're curious, that is a coconut that I'm drinking out of in the 29-week picture. We learned, courtesy of our doula, that coconut juice is a pregnancy superfood. It's a natural electrolyte replacement, full of potassium and magnesium, great for digestion, and boosts the immune system. Who knew? Since I've already been through an entire flat of coconuts from Ranch 99, I'd like to think that I'm maximizing the health benefits. I also just enjoy the novelty :)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 is finally here and for us and that means that the little guy will be here very soon! I've officially entered the third trimester and I can feel it, literally. He has decided that he really likes the right side of my belly and lives there almost exclusively. Lately, we have been able to identify various body parts (a foot, a hand) as he stretches himself out. He has started hiccuping every so often which apparently, is part of the process of getting him ready to breathe on his own. As of this week, he should be roughly 2 1/2 pounds and 15 inches long. 

The nesting phase has also begun at our 
house and it is in full force. We have started organizing everything from the laundry room to the kitchen pots and pans. I think there is an underlying fear that we will never, ever have time to do these things in the future so carpe diem! We have also moved in baby furniture and we're starting to get the nursery set up. Taking up residence in the nursery is our brand new stroller. A few weeks ago, our running buddies got together and presented us with the Bob! We couldn't believe how many people were a part of the gift and we are so grateful. We can't wait until we can take our little guy out for a run on Saturday morning with the crew. Until then, The Cheat has decided to keep the seat warm :)

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