Okay, so weaning. Not in the British sense of the word where they mean feeding your baby food. What I mean is no longer breastfeeding. Though I guess you should probably be feeding your baby some food before ending breastfeeding anyway. But
When I was pregnant with my daughter I just assumed that I would breastfeed her. My own Mother had breastfed me back in the 90s for 18 months and I so figured if it was easy for her then I could do it too. I prepared myself by reading a couple of breastfeeding books (Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding) and just figured that I was a mammal and this is what mammals do. Well when my newborn little angel arrived I tried to breastfeed but had some challenges due do my daughter having a severe lip tie and tongue tie. We got those fixed and I went on to get untreated thrush for a month which was torture but I told myself I was going to breastfeed until 6 months and then I would reevaluate. Though I had plenty of milk, my breasts didn’t respond to a pump and to leave my daughter I found myself having to pump for days to get enough to feed her even one bottle. I persevered anyway.
At 6 months I decided to continue until a year and as the year mark approached me and my daughter had settled into a routine where I was enjoyed nursing her. She nursed like a champ and I didn’t mind at all. I could step out of the house for longer as she was eating solids. Figuring out bottles and pumps and cow’s milk seemed like some mystery I had never really cracked and I just kept breastfeeding right up to the year mark. Then my daughter turned a year old and learned to walk and started that transition from baby to toddler. I had decided that I would nurse her until I didn’t enjoy it anymore. At 16 months I said I was going to quit. But I didn’t. Instead I just quit daytime nursing, cutting back to once before bed and once when she woke up in the mornings. I started to feel tethered to her. like I wasn’t free in the mornings. I didn’t like that feeling. I wanted to stop. Everyone talks about how hard breastfeeding is. And it is hard. It’s even hard to stop. When I got my daughter out of her crib in the morning she would cling to me and cry and scream until I nursed her.
Finally I recruited my husband to stage an intervention when she was 18 months old. For several days he got her up in the mornings and got her downstairs to breakfast and a cup of milk without me there. She fussed a little the first day, but without me there she accepted there would be no nursing. After a few days I stepped back in and to my relief we had dropped that nursing session. There was only the one time before bed now.
At this point I still felt like a hostage to my toddler. Any enjoyment of nursing was gone. Those old days of staring down at her adorable face as she latched were replaced by me shuddering as I thought of putting her back to my breast. But at the same time it was me who couldn’t let go. Yes, she would cry for it but we are talking about a toddler here. She also cries because I won’t let her play with an electrical outlet. I could have just said no. But I felt guilty, like I was robbing her of something she deserved if I took this last nursing session away from her. I felt that by nursing her I was holding onto my baby, even as she was firmly in toddler territory and approaching 2. But I hated it.
And then an absolute miracle happened. I got Covid. I didn’t get a few sniffles Covid. I got full blown, 103 degree fever, aches, fatigue, loss of smell, cough and the works Covid. And honestly it was the best thing that could have happened. Because for a day or two I was physically unable to care for my daughter. Which meant my husband took over and when bedtime came I wasn’t able to insist on giving my daughter breastmilk. Instead, my husband gave her a cup of milk and put her to bed. Did she cry? Yes. I heard her calling for “Mama” from her room as she was getting ready for bed. And that broke my heart a little but I knew that couldn’t physically breastfeed her with me sick like that. Not a wiggly big toddler. And then I got better and she was weaned! Hallelujah! She was weaned! I felt like shouting from the rooftops in complete joy.
It’s been a month since then and in that time I have lost 5 pounds without any effort on my part. I was one of the unlucky women who hold onto weight when breastfeeding instead of it acting like some sort of magic weight loss bullet. I’m enjoying my freedom now and am trying not to think too much about how traditional societies didn’t wean until 2 or 3. For me the 21 months was quite enough and it was time to stop.
I started out on my cloth diapering journey using regular disposable wipes even though I was using cloth diapers. I had heard about cloth wipes but wasn’t sure if I was ready for that. Eventually I got tired of having a diaper pail and a trash can for the disposable wipes in the nursery and decided to try some cloth wipes so I could just throw everything in the same pail. I started using cloth wipes and they are awesome. Seriously. I think I like cloth wipes more than I like cloth diapers. I can use only one wipe where I used to have to use multiple because they work so well. I got the Osocozy flannel cloth wipes and they are the perfect size. I make my own cloth diaper solution for the wipes because my baby’s butt is pretty sensitive and I like to control what is in it. I was having some problems with different types of disposable wipes making my baby’s butt break out into a rash so cloth wipes have really helped with that. I make the solution in batches and pour it over about a days worth of wipes each day that I keep in a reusable wipe container. This works well for me as I can just reach in a grab an already made wipe whenever I need one.
DIY Cloth Wipe Solution Recipe:
3 cups of water
Chamomile tea ( 1 tea bag)
1 tbsp oil per cup of water (I’ve used almond oil and olive oil and both work well, one time I used coconut oil and it did not work well because the coconut oil turned solid and just kind of floated there in the container)
1 tsp per cup of water of the baby soap or shampoo of your choice
1 tbsp per cup of water of witch hazel
1-2 drops of tea tree oil
Bring water to a boil and add the tea bag and let it seep until the water has cooled. Remove tea bag and add in oil, witch hazel, soap, and tea tree oil. I make a bunch at once so it lasts a few days.
I have tried a whole bunch of recipes and tweaked mine until I came up with this one. I love this one because it uses the chamomile tea base, which is very soothing and good for your skin. I included oil to moisturize and help the wipe glide across the skin. The soap helps to get the baby clean and witch hazel is a natural astringent which also helps prevent mildew on the wipes. I include tea tree oil because tea tree oil is a natural antifungal and antibacterial, plus I like the way it smells.
Make sure to clearly mark whatever container you put the solution in as wipe solution if you make a batch for a few days at once. I put mine in an old juice container and my husband was eyeballing it to drink until I told him what it was. Now it has WIPE SOLUTION in big letters on the bottle.
I hate disposable diapers. I had always thought that the concept of cloth diapering was kinda cool as a way to save money and to reduce the amount that we are throwing away, but I wasn’t really sure I was up to the whole cloth diapering thing. Then when I was pregnant, I had an experience that changed my mind. We were at someone’s house for a dinner and their toddler was running around in their diaper. The diaper was wet and it had the the telltale droopy butt, the wet soppiness hanging like a pendulum between their little baby legs as they toddled around. I imagined the tiny crystals inside the diapers expanded with urine and chemicals. Being pregnant as I was, I had never been more disgusted in my life. I said to my husband that day that I wanted to cloth diaper our baby. That experience sparked a hatred of disposable diapers that has only grown with time.
I share this experience because I want you to understand that my reasons and motivations for cloth diapering are a little bit different than most people’s. I went into cloth diapering simply because I hated the alternative.
There’s Gonna be Poop Everywhere Anyway
One of the biggest reactions/objections I hear about cloth diapering is “But what about the poop?”. Yes, what about the poop? This is a valid concern. People seem very concerned about the fact that cloth diapers contain poop and that you have to do something about this said contained poop. But that is just it. IT CONTAINS THE POOP. When my baby poops in a cloth diaper, the poop stays in the cloth daiper. Which is AMAZING. No blowouts. Ever. Whenever I use a disposable no matter the brand, no matter how expensive or nice it is supposed to be, the poop escapes the diaper a bit too often for comfort. Then you have poop on the baby’s clothes which means you’re washing poop out of fabric anyway. Also you might also be cleaning the poop out of your clothes/the rug/the carseat/the floor/you/the baby’s hair. Really, the possibilities of where the poop can go after it escapes the diaper are endless. From my perspective, I would rather wash a diaper that contained the poop then everything else that now has poop on it because the disposable diaper didn’t contain the mess anyway. If you have a baby, you’re gonna be cleaning up poop. No denying it. Just sayin’.
It’s Supposed to be Cheaper
There’s lots of articles all over the internet breaking down the cost of disposable diapers and comparing it to cloth diapering. Really, I don’t think any of them are really that accurate because there is so many ways to diaper your baby that these breakdowns could never account for how you diaper your baby. With disposables you can buy name brand fancy eco diapers in small packs from your local swanky store and end up paying A LOT for disposable diapers. Or you could only buy them with mega discounts/coupons in the huge value packs and save a nice bit. Or anything in between. Also with cloth diapers, you can spend upwards of over $30 per diaper and get all the fancy accessories (wet pails, wet bags, spray pals, bidet sprayers, drying racks, 2 dozen types of inserts, doublers, extra wool covers, lanolin, detergent, liners, diaper cleaning services, oh my!) and have that quickly add up. Or you could cloth diaper for less than $100 dollars total using secondhand diapers or flats with covers. Also it really depends when your kid is potty trained, how many kids you use the diapers for, and if you resell them at the end to get some of the money back. It really just depends on what you do.
In general, most of these analyses agree that you can save money by cloth diapering. I hope to one day look into this more. They certainly aren’t cheaper up front. You pay all the cost up front for the diapers and then over time you get your money back and then some. I think that it definitely saved us money though since we would have been buying the fancy name brand chemical free and clear diapers that are more expensive if we had gone down the disposable route fulltime.
Saving the Planet?
Most people say that cloth diapering is good for the environment because less trash is ending up in the landfill. Just like the cost breakdown, there’s a lot of debate around this one. There’s the argument that with the transportation and materials and the washing and drying of the cloth diapers that really it isn’t any better than disposables for the planet. They also argue that now disposables are coming out that are biodegradable. (I would like to point out that if you use these biodegradable daipers and then throw them away inside a normal plastic bag then it kinds defeats the point because they can’t biodegrade inside that bag). Then there’s the whole microfiber shedding conundrum where cloth diapers that are made up of or contain microfiber shed tiny filaments of the microfiber into the environment when they are washed. (This is why natural fibers are better!)
Overall I find the claims that cloth isn’t better for the environment a little far fetched. The average baby goes through about 6,000 diapers from birth to potty training. That is a lot of diapers! Any way you look at it, if you cloth diaper that is a lot of trash that is not being generated and sitting in our landfills until god knows when. I guess there are ways to do cloth so that its isn’t as good for the environment but the way I do it (wash at home with HE washer, hang dry, use as many natural fibers as possible) I’m pretty sure the environment is getting a net positive. I hope to look more into this at a later date also.
Gentle on Little Baby Behinds
Several years ago I made the switch from disposable period products to using a menstrual cup and reusable menstrual pads. And let me tell you, I ain’t ever going back. They are amazingly comfortable and convienent. Commercial disposable hygiene products are full of all sorts of chemicals and materials that I don’t want anywhere near my reproductive parts. And diapers are the same way. Disposables always have that weird powder smell and are full of all sorts of chemicals. (I know that you can get special diapers that are unbleached and free of a lot of those chemicals but they cost a lot more.) I don’t want that wierd plastic stuff on my butt and I want my baby to be as comfy as possible. Plus, with cloth diapering my baby never gets a diaper rash! The only times she has started to get irritated on her butt was when she was in disposables. I told my Pediatrician and he seemed surprised that she has never had a serious diaper rash EVER.
They are Cute
Cloth diapers can be cute. Really cute. I love seeing my baby crawling around with blossoms on her little butt. There are so many colors and patterns that there really is something for everyone. In my collection I have ducks, woodland scenes, stripes, beautiful solids, flowers, fruits, desserts, spots, dragon scales, elephants, stripes, leaves and more! Plus, when you put them on your baby it makes their butt really fluffy, which is adorable.
I thought I would write down what to pack in my hospital bag next time (assuming there’s a next time) I have a baby. Last time I definitely brought a lot of stuff that I never ended up using and then there was a lot of things that I wish I had had.
Lotion for me. Hospitals have dry air.
Toiletries. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste. People will claim that the hospital provides this, but mine didn’t.
Condiments for the hospital food. Especially butter. And whole fat everything because they didn’t have whole fat anything and it was gross. I really, really wish that hospital food was nutritious. But it wasn’t. At least not my idea of nutritious. And it didn’t taste that great either. I follow a mix-up of paleo, Weston Price diet, and the Specific Carb diet and let me tell you, none of the food at the hospital was what I usually eat at all.
Slip on shoes. Hospital floors are gross.
Breastfeeding pillow. Everyone said not to bring it and just use the hospital pillows and it would be fine. Well maybe it was fine for them but for me I need a breastfeeding pillow to help hold my newborn in the correct position. Definitely bringing next time.
Pillow for my head. The hospital pillows suck. Also bring a colorful pillowcase to distinguish your pillow from the hospital pillows.
Hair ties. You want lots of hair ties to pull up your hair during labor and for postpartum. The last thing you want to be dealing with during labor is your hair.
Robe. I ended up not using the robe last time because we never had any visitors because we weren’t allowed visitors because of Covid-19 but if I did have visitors I would want a robe I could put on quickly and feel more put together and covered. Hospital gowns just aren’t that flattering or modest.
Water cup with straw and lid. Last time I brought my own big water cup with a straw and a lid and it was great. It was much larger than the cups at the hospital and having a straw and lid made it easier to drink while I was in bed.
Birth plan and other documents. I had my birth plan and other details for the birth all written out before I went to the hospital. I also had all of my insurance information, personal history, allergies, doctors office contact info and the info for my pediatrician all written down. This was great because I could just hand it to them when they asked questions and I was too tired/ distracted to answer coherently.
A really long phone charger cord. Sometimes the outlets aren’t in the best spots and you want your phone charged.
Clothes for going home in. Yay going home outfit. I just wore a dress with a cardigan over it. It was comfy and easy to put on. I wouldn’t want to put on jeans right after delivery because your crouch is kinda sore. If you end up with a cesarean you want something that won’t irritate the incision. Also keep in mind that you will have big bulky maternity pads on so don’t wear something too tight that they might show through (unless you don’t care).
Clothes for your hospital stay. I thought I might want to wear these. Turns out I didn’t use them. During labor I ended up tearing all my clothes off so no clothes for that. I would have liked to have worn a sports bra or something but that didn’t work out. Afterwards I felt content wearing the hospital gown. It was nice that it was some laundry that I didn’t have to wash.
What to Bring For the Baby
Bring clothes for the baby to go home in. They kept the baby swaddled in a blanket most of the time in the hospital so I really didn’t need anything for the baby to wear until we were going home. I also brought a little pink hat with a bow for my newborn to wear because it was so much cuter than the hospital supplied hat and was great for all the pictures we sent out to family and friends. I will definitely be doing that again if I have another little girl.
Baby blankets. They supply blankets in the hospital but you want some blankets for the ride home too.
Lotion and coconut oil for the baby. The hospital has really dry air. Like seriously. My poor baby’s skin was cracked from all the dry air and that was with us not giving her bath instantly at birth.
Something to handle razor sharp newborn nails. They are born with these sharp little nails that they scratch themselves ( and you! ) with. Bring socks or mittens to cover up their hands and feet to keep them from scratching themselves. Or you could tackle the nails head on and bring nail clippers/ nail file to trim those sharp tiny tallons back. I liked the electric manicure set for newborns.
There are a lot of lists that say to bring a lot more stuff. For instance they will say to bring something to entertain you. I don’t understand that. Boredom was the last of my concerns when I was in the hospital having my baby. Labor was such an intense experience that I never felt like I needed something to do. This would probably be different if I had an induction and there was a lot of waiting around. And postpartum I spent every minute staring at my baby, nursing or trying to rest when someone wasn’t in my room wanting something (to check on the baby/ check on me/delivering food/taking my blood/doing tests/lactation consultant/etc.)
The list certainly isn’t comprehensive and I’ll probably end up bringing more stuff than this as I did last time. But I definitely need these items. What items did you think you would need that you didn’t end up using and then what items did you wish you would of had that you didn’t?
The newborn phase. Also known as the phase where as a new parent you just don’t sleep. Or practically don’t sleep. The nights are long, the days are too and to be honest, its hard. But there are just some things in the newborn phase that I miss now that I have an older baby. Let’s get to it.
Things to Love About the Newborn Phase
The smell. Oh. My. God. The smell. Newborn baby smell is the best smell in the whole world.
They make the cutest little squeaking sound. (When they eat, when they sleep)
Just pure adorableness.
They’re so cuddly. I remember I called her my little peanut.
How they grab your finger. (I miss this so much)
It is temporary. One day you will sleep again.
How tiny their clothes are.
How tiny they are. So much easier to carry around with one arm.
They will go to sleep anywhere. In your arms, on the floor when they are supposed to be having tummy time, in their stroller, in their carrier… but mostly in your arms.
Things to Not Love About the Newborn Phase
They can’t hold up their own heads. Always obsessing about supporting the head when both of your hands are already busy is not fun.
So much laundry. They throw up and spit up and drool and poop on so many outfits.
How helpless they are. I know I was always so worried about my baby when they were this small because they were completely helpless.
How utterly exhausting it is.
The witching hour.
They eat just about constantly. Seriouly, I know they say you’re supposed to feed them every 2-3 hours starting from the beginning of the last feeding, but what if the feeding itself took over an hour?
Overall, the newborn stage is sweet and short. It is hard when you are in the trenches of it but it is temporary. I wish had said to me how much easier it got. Because, though rewarding, the newborn phase is a lot of hard work.
I wrote the following several years ago and never published it because I didn’t want anyone from my job to realize how I felt. Reading it now it goes to show how unsuitable the job I had at the time was. Later, I switched to a different job at the same company and my outlook changed drastically. I will write about that sometime. Hopefully.
I always read a bunch of FIRE people online saying that they don’t hate their jobs and that this is more about having the freedom to choose. I am not like those people. Its time for real talk. I do sometimes hate my job. I find times when I’m sitting at my desk staring out the window that I would rather be anywhere other than at my job.
I hear other people talk about the fulfillment they find in their work, that they feel that they get something from work that they cannot get other places. I just don’t feel that way.
I find myself during hour three of the meetings that I know will basically last all day completely zoning out to another world. I fantasize about standing up and screaming at the people who are arguing about whatever topic that probably doesn’t even matter. Or at least I don’t think it matters. I find them mystifying. My coworkers seem genuinely concerned and engaged in their jobs. That’s seems such a foreign idea to me.
I wonder if I fit in with them. Do I look defiant from the outside? Or do I mask it as well as I try to? I try to be a good little worker. A good little slave. Because that’s what working is. Its slavery. I try to be a good slave, and not let on that I am plotting my escape.
Because I am. I’m counting down the days until I am free.
Maybe I am not like most people. Maybe most people do not feel like ill-fitting cogs in a giant machine. But I do. I read this article entitled “An employee is basically an “obedient, housebroken dog.”” at LinkedIn recently and it deeply resonated with me.
As long as I am working I will be a dog. I have a good job. I am a pampered spoiled little lap dog but a dog nonetheless.
I wanted to share my birth story here because I believe that it is important to share these stories to normalize birth. Here is my positive birth story. It might be a little TMI for some people. If you don’t like graphic detail then this isn’t for you.
I prepared for my labor and delivery like I was studying to become a board certified midwife and doula. I probably read at least a dozen books on pregnancy and childbirth, watched countless videos on youtube, and asked everyone I knew about their birth story. I found out everything that could possibly go wrong and rather than scare me I felt empowered. The more research I did the more sure of some things I became.
I went into it not afraid of the pain of birth but rather more afraid of complications that could have long term consequences. I wasn’t afraid of pain for a few hours. I was afraid of permanently messing up my spine or having a migraine or back pain for weeks. Because I already had horrible back pain from pregnancy and I wanted that OVER.
I believed that my body was made to give birth. I believed that the worst I had to fear was the medical field itself. I feared them pressuring me, I was afraid of them not catching something. After all, the medical field doesn’t exactly have a stellar record with the whole of missing things, treating things unnecessarily, and causing the problems themselves with overtreatment.
My labor Begins
I have no freaking clue when my labor began because I don’t even know what that means. It wasn’t like labor started out of nowhere. I was 40 weeks pregnant and I felt it in my body. My body was changing. I could feel it. It was preparing itself for labor. I spent those last weeks waddling around, doing stretches, and trying to sleep as best as I could. I felt the baby drop down, perched on top of my public bone, grinding away painfully whenever I walked. I felt my ligaments loosen up. My body was preparing. I felt more and more reassured. The birth books had said that a woman’s body changes to help labor be easier and here it was changing just like they said.
In one of my birth classes that I watched for free online (because I’m too cheap to pay for birth classes) it said that early labor can last for days, even up to a week. And that labor can start and stop during that time. It warned me not to get too excited if things started happening that seemed like early labor.
And so 40 weeks came and went. I felt mild cramps occasionally. I figured they were Braxton Hicks. I didn’t really pay that much attention to them except to pack my hospital bag. At 40 weeks +2 days (Saturday night) I started to feel some cramps in the evening that were more significant and seemed to have a pattern to them. For the most part I ignored them and watched the movie Sixteen Candles. Because I had never seen it before and by gone it I wouldn’t have time once I had a baby. When I went to the bathroom however I saw a snotty pink-reddish mess on the toilet paper. It appeared that it was my mucus plug. My husband shocked me at this point by sticking his face close to my underwear and inspecting it, then googled pictures of “bloody show” and “Mucus plug” completely unphased. He determined thats what I had or at least it looked like the pictures. This man had acted completely uninterested in birth or medical things before this point and I had worried how he was going to deal with the birth. I knew that losing your mucus plug could mean that you were going into labor soon, but it also could mean nothing. We continued to monitor the cramps and then went to bed early. I figured if labor was going to start I needed as much sleep as I could get.
I woke up the next morning and went about my day. I cleaned the house. I made chili. I called my parents and questioned them about my own birth to see if I could glean any information to see if I might be in labor. All the while about once an hour I would feel a cramp or contraction or whatever. I just ignored them, breathed through them, bounced on my exercise ball and didn’t tell anyone that they were happening. I also continued to lose more of the mucus plug as the day wore on. I took my normal evening waddle around the neighborhood, pausing when the contractions hit me as they got closer and closer together. They were about every 15 minutes apart when I went to bed.
I woke up at 1:30AM, no longer able to sleep through the contractions. I went and got in the bathtub, trying to relax and timing them. They got closer and closer together. After they had been about 5 minutes apart for awhile I woke up my husband.
My obgyn had told me to call them when I was having contractions every 5 minutes, so my husband called them and they told us to come to the hospital. We got our bags packed and drove to the hospital at about 5 in the morning. The pain wasn’t so bad at this point. Just like really bad period cramps.
I remember it was sprinkling rain and it was cool but we got a great parking spot, we walked in, pausing when I had a contraction in the parking lot, the rain coming down on us. At the front desk they screened us for Covid by asking us some questions and taking our temperatures and gave us masks to wear. Sonya from OBGYN triage came and got me and brought me to a triage room. I remember that Sonya had little earrings that looked like fetuses and I complimented her on them. They hooked me up to the monitor and sure enough my contractions were 4-5 minutes apart like I had said. But when they checked I was only 1cm dilated and 80% effaced. This wasn’t enough to be admitted. They told me to stay for an hour or 2 and see if I progressed since my contractions were sorta close together. I stayed, we walked around and 2 hours later she came to check on me again. She asked me if I had made progress and I answered “ i don’t think so”. I was right. Still at 1cm. They gave me an Ambien to help me get some sleep and told me to go home.
At this point my contractions were 2-4 minutes apart. They had originally told me to come to the hospital when my contractions were 5 minutes apart and here they were sending me home with contractions 2-4 minutes apart. How was I supposed to know when to come back? They shrugged and said that “I would know”…..whatever that means. So I trudged out of the hospital pausing to have a contraction in the lobby. One of the nurses saw me on the way out and said, “You’re in labor. How far apart are your contractions?”
“About 2-3 minutes.”
She looked at me in disbelief. “And they’re sending you home?”
I shrugged. “I’m only 1 cm, so they’re sending me home.”
She studied me for a moment and asked me my name. When I answered her she seemed simultaneously disappointed and excited. She had recognized my name from where I was scheduled for an induction later that week. “You won’t make it to the induction. You’ll have that baby today,” she said looking at her schedule.
We went home. The Ambien knocked me out, but the nurse who had given it to me was wrong. They had said that it would knock me out for 8 hours. 4 hours later I woke up to more serious cramping. I couldn’t sleep through these contractions, sleeping pill or not.
I got up, tried to eat some breakfast. I ate about 3 bites of buckwheat and went to find my husband. He was working on his computer on our couch. I joined him on the couch and tried to read Ina May’s Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. I was reading the front section that had birth stories. That didn’t last long. Soon the pain was too much and I wasn’t able to read anymore. I got on the floor in front of the couch and ended up laying on my side. My husband tried to make me comfortable, trying to get me on the couch, bringing the mattress down to try to get me to lay on it. I refused. I just wanted to lay on the floor. He settled over giving me some pillows and blankets.
The next few hours are a blur really. I spent them on the floor, my husband trying to comfort me while I mostly could not be comforted. The contractions got more and more intense until they were to the point where all I could do between them was try to recover before the next one started. I have no idea how far apart they were. My husband might have timed them. I have no idea. Earlier in the day he had said that we weren’t going back to the hospital until I could “put on a show”. I eventually migrated to the right of the couch and my husband was holding me. During one of the contractions I felt a pop like a change of pressure and felt wet. I went to the bathroom and looked at my underwear. I was pretty sure that my water had broken. I had kinda thought that there would be more liquid even though my clothes were definitely wet. My underwear were sort of brownish green and the last bit of the mucus plug was there.
My husband jumped into analytical mode again and was staring at it and said “It looks a bit green. Is it supposed to be green?”
I remembered what I had read. I knew what green amniotic fluid was. That meant meconium which could mean trouble. I told my husband to call the doctor.
Then my contractions and pain went from a level 7 to a level 10. Everything got so much more intense. I grabbed a towel and laid in the floor. My husband was busy calling the hospital. The way our OBGYN office worked is you called them if you thought that you were in labor and then they paged the doctor/ midwife on call and then they called you back. The first time talking to them on the phone it had taken a while to actually get the call back from the on call provider. I have no idea how long it took the second time. I screamed in the background while my husband talked to them. They told him to bring me into the hospital. I don’t think he mentioned the meconium, just that we were pretty sure that my water had broken. At this point I felt completely paralyzed. My husband told me to get up and get dressed (I had taken my clothes off when my water broke and never found new ones), but I couldn’t. I literally could not move. The pain was hitting me and I didn’t want to move. He yelled at me to get up and get dressed, that we had to go to the hospital and I just moaned “No, I can’t.” I was trying to tell him that I could NOT MOVE. I kept telling him I needed to throw up. He didn’t understand. He found a skirt somewhere and forced it on me. Then he dragged me to the car with me crying “No” the whole time. He didn’t even try to get underwear on me, just shoved a towel under me to catch the slowly dripping amniotic fluid.
We now joke that if any neighbors were watching that they probably would have concluded that I was being murdered since I was screaming and he was having to drag me to the car. He later said that he knew that he had to get me to the hospital because I was no longer coherent and that the more I said no the more he was determined to get me to the hospital.
We drove to the hospital. I remember looking at the time on the dashboard and it said 5:37pm. There was no traffic. I was thankful for Covid at that moment because it meant that there was no rush hour. It would have been hell driving to the hospital in rush hour with me in labor. I screamed for him to stop, that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. Sitting on my butt in the car made the pain 1000% worse.
We arrived at the hospital and he pulled the car right up to the entrance to this time, not even bothering to park. He put it in park and went around to get me out of the car. He practically dragged me to the desk and they tried to ask me my information, but I couldn’t speak. He had to tell them my information. They tried to screen me again for Covid, asking me the questions and trying to take my temperature. I remember as soon as they tried to put the thermometer near my head a contraction hit. I basically screamed “NOOOOOOOoooooooooooo……!” and bent over the counter, unable to remain standing. They gave up screening me and got me a wheelchair, paging the nurse to come get me. It took forever for the nurse to get there. She came to get me and my husband looked uncertainly behind him. The car was still idling right outside the doors to the maternity ward. He couldn’t just very well follow me into the labor and delivery wing with the car still sitting out there. He looked at the nurse, indecision plain on his face. “Should I bring the stuff in?”, he asked the nurse. The car was packed with all of our stuff for staying at the hospital. We had been told that because of Covid we would have to bring all the stuff that we needed for the entire stay when we first got there as we would not be allowed to go back out and in again. That morning the triage nurse had told him to not worry about bringing in the stuff, that we would only need it if we were actually admitted. This time, without any hesitation, she said to go get it now. Things were starting to get really real.
She wheeled me back to triage. As soon as my husband was out of my sight I started to freak out. I was terrified that I wouldn’t see him again. She brought me back to the same triage room I had been in that morning and tried to get me on my back on the table. I refused. She also tried to get me into a hospital gown. I also refused to do that. I yelled, “My husband worked really hard to put me in this skirt!”. Which was true but the nurse had no idea what I was talking about. I just kept asking for my husband. In retrospect, I feel sorry for that nurse.
My husband showed up (carrying all of our bags) and they ended up convincing me to at least lay on my side on the table so they could put the monitors on me. This time I didn’t look at the monitors. I just didn’t care at this point. I didn’t need a monitor to tell me I was having a contraction. I bloody well knew I was having a contraction. The nurse tried to get me to breathe through the contractions. I continued to moan loudly and cry. I said “Please, make it stop. I just want my baby.”
A doctor I had never seen before showed up and checked my cervix. I was sure that I was going to be a high number. This had to be active labor. I had never been in as much pain in my life. The doctor announced that I was at 4cm.
“WHAT?!” I shrieked. “4cm. Thats not possible. What do you mean 4 cm? How is it possible for me to be in this much pain if its only 4cm?!” I stared at him in disbelief. I had been certain that I was about to have a baby. That it couldn’t possibly hurt more than this.
Another contraction hit. They assured me that 4cm was progress from this morning and that I was 90% effaced and that the baby was low. I told them I needed to vomit. My husband said that I had been saying that for over an hour.
The man disappeared for a few minutes. He returned and announced, “Good news! I talked to Dr. Munro, the doctor on call for you and you’re admitted.” They probably wanted to get me out of triage because I was probably scaring the other patients.
My mind almost completely ignored the news. Of course I was admitted. How could I NOT be admitted? There was no possible physical way that I could have gotten up and left that hospital. In fact I seriously doubted my ability to move at all. My mind was still reeling from the fact that I was only 4cm.
I responded to him by saying that I wanted it to stop and that I just wanted my baby. He attempted to soothe me. “There, there. We’ll get you your epidural and the pain will stop.”
Epidural! I didn’t want an epidural. Even in the midst of back to back contractions the idea of a long needle being inserted into my spine horrified me. And not to even mention the risks involved like spinal headaches, back problems, and the slim possibility of nerve damage. I gasped “No! No epidural. I don’t want an epidural.”
The doctor and nurse looked at me like I had 2 heads. They wanted to know why and I tried to explain. They tried to put my fears to rest but I was still envisioning that long needle in my spine and I shook my head. I could tell that the doctor was taken aback. He was clearly thinking You aren’t dealing with the pain very well. How could you not want an epidural? They offered me opioids then. I refused them too. “Absolutely not,” I said. The highly addictive nature of opioids made me strongly against them. Plus in every story I had read about childbirth and opioids, they never actually seem to help.
He recommended that I get in the tub when I got to the room then to help with the pain and then they would check back to see if I had changed my mind about the epidural. Before he left he said “With the slow progress you’ve made so far and this being your first baby, you probably won’t give birth until tomorrow morning.” It was 6:30pm.
The nurse came back in to give me my heplock. I didn’t really want one but it was hospital policy. I’m usually terrified of needles and wasn’t looking forward to the IV but at that moment all I could think was that I was going to throw up. I told her I was going to throw up and struggled to stay still while she started the heplock. The nausea got worse. I urgently told her I was going to throw up. She handed me a bag right after she finished putting the hep lock in place. I instantly vomited in the bag, almost completely filling it. As I vomited my body convulsed and I felt warm liquid come out all between my legs.
I instantly thought I had vomited so hard that I had peed myself. My husband didn’t miss a beat. Before I could tell him not to, he was lifting my skirt and saying how he thought my water had finished breaking. “Its all green and there’s blood.” I was relieved it hadn’t all been urine. Also completely horrified at this point because I was covered in vomit/blood/amniotic fluid. I felt sorry for whoever had to clean this room when we were finished. They went to see if my room was ready.
A few minutes later the nurse came back and announced that my room was ready. She asked me if I wanted to walk or if I wanted a wheelchair. I was in agony. I couldn’t imagine moving. Couldn’t they just wheel me on a gurney or something? I asked if that was an option. It wasn’t. So wheelchair it was for me. I screamed through the contractions in the hallway on the way to the room, announcing my arrival on the labor and delivery ward. We passed one couple who looked frightened by my appearance. I honestly can’t blame them.
Prior to being in labor I had put a lot of thought into what I would wear during labor. I had been very concerned about my modesty and not wanting people I didn’t know to see me naked. All of that had gone out the window after the contractions had picked up. Upon getting to my room, I stood up and walked across the room to the tub, taking my soiled clothes off as I went. I was utterly disgusted by myself and just wanted to get clean. I went ahead and climbed into the giant bathtub.
I had actually chosen this hospital partially for this exact giant bathtub. Some people choose a provider and then go to whatever hospital they deliver at. I did the opposite. I chose a hospital and then went with a provider that delivered there. There had been other reasons for the choice too like the low cesarean rate, the remodeled rooms, the proximity to my house, but I had to admit that the tub had been a big selling point. Whenever I was sick, taking a bath often comforted me, I wanted a tub to comfort me during labor as well.
The tub didn’t help as much as I had hoped for. For starters, the water was cold. I had climbed into the empty tub and the water had been turned on afterwards. I huddled in the corner away from the cold water, waiting for it to warm up. The nurse turned the shower on to get the warm water flowing through the pipes. By the time the water had even turned moderately warm, I was shivering and just gave up, plugging the tub up so that the warmish water could at least get on me. All the while, the contractions continued to hit me mercilessly, barely giving me a break. The tub filled up slowly and I continued to wither in pain now trying to keep the stupid heplock on my arm out of the water. This wasn’t going as I had envisioned at all. The nurses changed shifts( shift change was at 7pm) and my new nurse was introduced to me. Her name was Amy, but spelled funny. I saw her looking over the birth plan papers that I had brought (my husband had given them to her). Then she started asking us questions about the labor and my preferences. I don’t remember the responses. I just remember pain. Terrible, terrible pain. I begged them to make it stop. I didn’t understand how anything could hurt this much and that I was not even halfway there. Only 4cm.
That’s when the epidural began to seem like something that might actually happen. I had always known that I wasn’t afraid of the pain of labor and that if I got an epidural it would be a matter of my endurance running out. It was just past 7 and I knew I couldn’t do 8 more hours of this. The nurse started explaining the process of getting an epidural to us. This time, I listened as best I could. Apparently you were required to get a bag of fluid before you could get an epidural and that the bag of fluid took about an hour to administer. Then they had to call the anesthesiologist and they could take quite some time to come. Basically getting an epidural could be a multi hour affair. We decided to go ahead and start the bag of fluid then and reevaluate after it was over in an hour what I wanted to do. That way if the pain somehow became worse and I decided that I did need an epidural at least I was an hour closer to it. She started the bag of saline while I was still in the tub.
I have no idea how long I was in the tub. I withered, I moaned. I tried to keep myself in control, to not shriek, to keep my mouth relaxed. I clung to my husband’s hand as he looked at me helplessly. I was pretty sure that I was dying. And then the urge started. I recognized it from my periods. You see, I had had pretty bad period cramps in the past that sometimes were accompanied by an urge to push. I don’t think thats a common thing, but that was how cramps manifested for me. And here it was again. That urge to push. I panicked a little, my mind thinking about the danger of pushing when you weren’t dilated enough. I had read that it could damage your cervix. This made me scared. I didn’t understand. I rocked back and forth trying to fight that urge. Suddenly I couldn’t take it, between the next contractions I got out of the tub that was full of water and got on all fours next to the tub. I grabbed one of the birth balls that was nearby and leaned on it dripping wet as the next contractions hit. I screamed “I’m going to die!”. The nurse said “No, you’re not going to die. You’re having a baby.” She put her fingers on my lower back and it seemed to help the pain. But something else was going on in me. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt like I had to push and that I had to poop. I thought maybe if I pooped the feeling would go away. I told the nurse. She wouldn’t let me go to the toilet. Instead she said “Let me check you, maybe you’ve progressed.” I agreed and they helped me to the bed.
I was hopeful that maybe I had progressed to 6 or 7 but I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to do about the pressure mounting in my abdomen. She checked me and announced “Oh, you’re 9 cm and fully effaced. You can push.”
“What?!” I was so confused. I had just made peace in my head that I had failed natural childbirth and that I was going to get an epidural and here they were telling me that I was ready to push?
I dumbly blurted out, “But I was going to get an epidural….”
I would later learn that in the background behind my head my husband was frantically shaking his head to say no epidural. She responded, “Its too late for that. Its time to push.”
I didn’t even want an epidural. I was just so overwhelmed by the change in events. Suddenly, everything made sense, the urge to push, the intense pain. I had felt like I was about to have a baby because well….. I WAS about to have a baby. 4cms an hour before be damned. The nurse ran from the room presumably to alert people to my change in status from “overreacting drama queen who wasn’t handling the pain well” to “giving birth right now”. My husband seemed relieved. I don’t think he had been looking forward to a long night of me screaming my head off. It would be over sooner than we had planned and that was a relief.
The room started to quickly fill up with people and the doctor arrived. I laid in the bed on my left side. The doctor arrived and checked me again. This time I was fully dilated. It was game time.
Some women say that they didn’t know how to push or that it took them awhile to figure out how to effectively push. Not me. As soon as the doctor arrived I gave in to my body wanting to push. To me pushing was almost involuntary like really forceful vomiting where your whole body is taken over by the motion and you feel as if you aren’t actually doing much but that something is happening to you. When the contractions came my body just pushed and heaved. Pushing is also described as the worst part to some people. Not to me. The pushing felt like a relief after that hour before of wave after wave of pain. I finally felt like I was doing something. It distracted me from the pain. The contractions morphed from a painful assault to a helpful force, pushing my baby out towards the world. During this I could see 2 of the nurses in front of me, the one from earlier and then the nurse Sonya who had been with me that morning so many hours before in triage when I had been sent home. I was glad that she was back.
The nurses tried to get me to push when they counted. They wanted me to push 3 different times during a contraction. I tried to tell them that I couldn’t. I couldn’t control the pushing. It just happened, but I couldn’t explain that to them. I couldn’t speak. I proceeded to vomit several times during the forceful pushing and someone gave me ice chips to suck on. They were glorious. I wanted more. At one point they tried to move me off my side and put me on my back, I screamed “NO!” at that. I was NOT going to give birth on my back so help me god. The room was hot. So hot, I tried to rearrange and found myself getting tangled in wires and the hospital gown that I had on. I realized I had all sorts of monitors on me. I yelled “What is all this CRAP on me?! Get it off!” The nurses laughed at that and helped me get my gown off and took off some of the monitors so that I wasn’t tangled anymore. I didn’t give a shit who saw me naked at this point. I was having a baby.
My husband, being the champ that he was, was down by my leg, holding up my one leg in the air as I laid on my side. He seemed completely fascinated by what was going on and was talking to the doctors and nurses. The baby’s head was coming into view. They offered to let my husband touch it, he did and he said that it was the cord. That shot me into a panic! “WHAT?! The cord?! She has a prolapsed cord?!”, I yelled, using the medical term for when the cord was coming out first. I told you that I had studied for childbirth like I was going to become a freaking midwife. The doctor instantly was reassuring me that my husband was wrong and that it wasn’t the cord, it was the head. They asked if I wanted to feel the head. I did. I understood why he had thought that it was a cord. The baby’s head was crushed impossibly small. It was squishy, not hard as I would have imagined that a head would be.
The room was crowded with at least 10 people in there. I didn’t understand why there were so many people there. Someone explained to me that there was a whole infant specialist team there because there had been meconium in the amniotic fluid, that they might need to help the baby when she came out. This was the first time this had been mentioned to me since I had gotten to the hospital. I understood though, I guess they had seen it when my water had broken all over the triage room. I supposed that they hadn’t talked to me about it because I had went to the pushing stage so quickly. I realized that this would affect what I had wanted to happen after the birth. That she would probably be taken from me, that the cord might not get to have delayed cord clamping. I tried to make peace with this as I continued to push. Someone patted my face with a wet rag. It felt nice. I kept trying to close my legs and they wouldn’t let me. This frustrated me and they continued to tell me to push, counting away while I ignored them and pushed my own way, wishing they would shut up. The baby was crowning. I desperately wanted to close my legs and thrashed about trying to. They wouldn’t let go of my leg. People describe the ring of fire when the baby is being born. I have no idea where the emphasis on that came from. After the pain from the contractions, this stretching pain of my skin was nothing. I pushed and half her head came out during a contraction, and then the contraction stopped, leaving me stranded there with her head half out, my vagina stretched impossibly big and taunt. Now it hurt. I screamed, “It hurts! It hurts!” My husband later told me that when I screamed that he was looking at her head thinking “Yeah, I bet that does hurt.” but I was stuck there, unable to push effectively until the next contraction would start. Now the doctor got serious. “You have to deliver her with this next contraction, okay? I need you to really push this time.” I got scared from her tone. Was the baby okay? Was she going to give me an episiotomy? I was terrified of getting an episiotomy. The next contraction hit. I pushed with everything I had. And then the pressure was gone and I felt her slipping into this world. Only a moment later she was placed on my tummy and I could hear her. I looked down at her in shock and confusion. She was perfectly pink and plump, her crying showing that she was healthy and not in distress at all. The infant team never had to do anything. She was perfect. The emergency infant care team headed out of the room, wheeling their equipment with them.
I tried to hold her to my chest but I was so confused. I had prepared my brain for them to take her, that she wasn’t going to be okay. But here she was, big and healthy on me. I tried to cling to her, but she was so slippery I was afraid that I would drop her. She became silent on my chest as I cooed at her.
After the Birth
I had read so much about the golden hour after birth when babies and mothers should be together. I tried to hold her close. Then the nurses were pushing on my belly and I cried out. When I cried out, my baby cried out too as if seeing me in distress upset her. I tried to calm her. It seemed like my placenta was being delivered. I barely even noticed. But then the shaking started. I began to tremble uncontrollably. I was shaking so bad I was afraid I was going to drop her slippery naked body. I told my husband to take her. Maybe him, maybe the nurse took her. I felt better knowing that I couldn’t drop her. I felt woozy and disconnected. They were giving me pitocin and I didn’t understand why. I tried to figure out what had happened. I only had minor 1st degree tearing and no perineal tearing (maybe perineal massage worked?) but I had to get some stitches. They stitched me up and eventually I stopped shaking (apparently this is a thing?) and my little one was returned to me. I have this photo of me cooing at her at this point. She was perfect and healthy at 8lbs 3oz and she was all ours.
Overall, I think it went well considering everything. Not how I had read about (dilating 4cm to 10cm so quickly!) but definitely okay. And the best part is that I got a baby!
Everyone is always trying to tell you what you absolutely “need” for baby. The reality is that you don’t actually need that much for a baby. Especially a newborn. It’s true that there are some things that some people need or enjoy having, but not everyone “needs” all of these things. Most of those things are not required. I’m going over things that I either didn’t have or didn’t use. Maybe you do need some of these things. Maybe my life would have been easier and I’ll get them the second time around. But really, those long lists of things you need to buy are ridiculous reasons to buy more stuff and spend more than you have to. And babies are expensive enough without buying a bunch of stuff that you might never use. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars on baby gear. Here are some things I skipped buying for my baby.
1. An Infant Car Seat
I see an infant car seat on so many must have lists for babies. And when you walk into BuyBuyBaby you see rows and rows of these infant “bucket” car seats. You know the kind that just pop right out of your car without ever having to take the baby out and then you carry around this heavy car seat instead of just carrying your baby? Yeah you might be able to get away with not buying one of those. You can put a newborn in a convertible car seat from day one as long as your baby fits the height and weight recommendations. The carseat I bought fit babies all the way down to 4 pounds. This is great because you have to buy a convertible carseat anyway after your infant outgrows their bucket carseat so by skipping the infant seat altogether you can save a lot of money. Granted, some people want the convienence of being able to snap the carseat out but for me it wasn’t an issue as I preferred to wear my baby in a carrier when she was small and didn’t want to carry her carseat around everywhere. I also saved on the stroller because of this because I didn’t need the kind that you click the carseat into.
2. Newborn Bath Items
In this category I am going to put a infant bathtub and newborn towels. I didn’t have either of these and I was fine. I just bathed my newborn in the sink or I just got in the bathtub with her and held her. It was nice and relaxing holding my newborn in the warm water. The few times I did try to give my baby a bath using someone else’s infant bathtub I got so frustrated trying to bend over the tub with the thing and hearing my baby scream that I just gave up on them entirely. Also, one less thing to clean and it gave me an excuse to take a bath. And postpartum I will take any bath I can get. I’ve heard the foam mat in the tub works well and maybe one day in the future I will try that. Also, you don’t need special towels for a newborn. Just use a small towel.
3. A Humidifier
When I first saw this on a lot of the must have lists I have to admit I was puzzled. I was confused. I didn’t understand what the humdifier was for. I live in the Southeastern United States where we breathe in our water instead of drinking it (just kidding, we still drink water). Seriously, it is HUMID. So humid that controlling mildew and mold growth inside is a much bigger concern to me than if it was humid enough for my baby. I think this could be a necessary item if you lived somewhere drier or had a baby in the winter months. But not everyone needs this item. If my baby gets a cold during the winter when its sort of dry inside and she has trouble breathing I will buy one then.
4. A NoseFrida
Yeah, these don’t appeal to me. Plus, I’m pretty sure that the filter in them doesn’t block viruses. You are literally sucking whatever germs your little one has straight into your own lungs. Plus, I’m lucky! My baby has never been sick, but I do have the bulb sucker they gave me at the hospital just in case.
5. Breastfeeding Covers
I might be a little controversial here but I don’t use breastfeeding covers. At all. In the language that I have heard people use to describe breastfeeding in public, I just “whip it out”, stick it in my baby’s mouth and hold her there, pleasantly nursing without a blanket on her head until she is done. If I did want to cover up, I don’t need a fancy breastfeeding cover, I would just use a baby blanket or a scarf.
6. Car seat cover
Just like with the breastfeeding cover, just use a blanket.
7. Baby food maker
This one truly puzzles me. If you are making your own baby food you can just use a normal food processor or blender. There’s no need to have a special “baby” version. Some foods can just be mashed by hand or you can forgo all that altogether and do Baby Led Weaning. I have made all of my baby’s food myself or just given them non-baby food and I haven’t needed a baby food maker. Also, newborns don’t eat baby food. They eat milk or formula.
8. Baby Bottles
I had planned to use baby bottles with my baby. I even got some bottles that I received for free to try. But I quickly realized that my baby didn’t really like bottles and as a breastfeeding mother, its so much easier to pop the baby onto my breast than worry about pumping milk. Also, I don’t want to wash all those bottles. If you don’t use baby bottles you don’t need special drying racks or cleaning supplies for them either.
9. Bottle sterilizer/ bottle warmer/ formula maker
I’m putting these all in the same category because they all assume you are bottle feeding a lot. Some people swear by these things. As someone who didn’t use bottles much, having a bottle sterilizer would have been a total waste of counter space. For the few bottles that I did use we either hand washed or just put them in the dishwasher. Bottle warmers seem like a waste also when you can warm up bottles with warm water and formula bottle makers don’t seem much easier than making it by hand. ( I wouldn’t know since I’ve never used one)
10. A baby bouncer
I had really wanted to buy a baby bouncer but ended up just getting a swing for my newborn. Part of the reason I didn’t buy one is because we moved when my newborn was only 6 weeks old and I wanted to minimize the things that we needed to worry about moving. We did however bounce the baby in our laps on the exercise ball we have. We ended up making due without one.
11. Wipe warmer
The purpose of the wipe warmer is too make the the wipes warm so they don’t shock the little baby behinds with a cold wipe during a diaper change. I ended up not getting one because I heard that they could dry out the wipes. Instead I like to ball up the wipe in my hand for a few seconds to warm it a little before I use it.
Babies are only little for a short amount of time. These infant loungers are small and your baby will quickly outgrow them. Plus, the doc-a-tot is $200 dollars.
13. Infant seat/activity center/jumper/walker
I didn’t want to get many baby “holders” that restrained my baby. I follow a lot of REI ideas when it comes to infants and one of the ideas is to never put your child into something they couldn’t get out of. All of these products prevent your little one from moving on their own and they can’t get out by themselves. I tried to minimie the time that my baby was in that situation. She spent lots of time on the floor on her tummy or back when she was small and now that she is older she spends a lot of time crawling around.
14. Baby Shoes
Baby shoes are rather adorable. But what is the purpose of shoes for a baby? They don’t walk. Instead I put little booties and socks on my baby to keep her feet warm. I was given a few pairs of shoes but my baby was born with rather large feet so she didn’t even fit any of them.
“Did you crush it when you were little or something or is it just a deformity?”
I have heard these questions about my thumb my entire life. Because one of my thumbs is different than the other. Not just different than the other thumbs, but different from most thumbs. Look down at your thumbs right now they probably look something like this:
Okay maybe yours is nicer than mine and you have time to actually take care of your nails, but most thumbs look something like this. But not my right hand thumb. My right hand thumb looks like this:
My right hand thumb is stubby. Growing up, this was just a curiosity. I never really thought much about it. It was just my thumb. Occasionally I would get someone asking if I had an accident when I was small that had crushed it or something. I would assure them they had just grown that way. When bidden I would show my two thumbs beside each other and people would remark how strange it was and that would be that. It wasn’t until recently that I figured out once in for all what was going on with my thumb.
I have a cool genetic variant known as brachydactyly type D (BDD for short). I like the name brachydactyly because it reminds me of something you would name a type of dinosaur. The brachydactyly literally means “shortness of the fingers and toes” and the type D refers to it being in the thumbs. It is more commonly known as “clubbed thumb” or “stub thumb”. Other names for this are “Potters thumb”, “shovel thumb”, “royal thumb”, “toe thumb”, or more ominously – the “murderers thumb”.
This type of thumb is sort of rare with only 0.4% of the population of Caucasian people in America having it. That’s like 4 out of 1000 people. And of those 4 out of 1000 people who have it, 3 of them have it on both thumbs. But not me. I’m the one out of 1000 that has just one stubby thumb. I don’t have any other fingers or toes that are affected by it. In other populations the prevalence can be up to 4% of the population.
After a bit of researching I figured out that brachydactyly type D is caused by a variant in the HOXD13 gene. It actually causes a skeletal change in the terminal phalanx of my thumb that just made it grow this way. I don’t call it a mutation because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, its just the way my thumbs grew. It can be autosomal dominant with variable expressivity and penetrance. It tends to have more of a complete penetrance in women so women are more likely to have it than men.
How I figured out that I had brachydactyly was through the mass media. Someone was looking at my thumbs saying how weird they were when someone else remarked, “Oh, they’re like Megan Fox’s thumbs!”. So I looked up Megan Fox’s thumbs. And sure enough, there was her thumb looking stubby just like mine. I was astonished by all the negative things that people had to say about Megan Fox’s thumbs. She was included on one list of celebrity’s with deformities. I find this offensive because I do not consider my thumb to be a deformity. (Though my thumbs do make certain things harder, ex. I cannot light a lighter with my right hand thumb) Others have embraced her thumb. There’s even an entire website dedicated to her thumbs. (It has since been taken down).
And this is for good reason since one of the nicknames for the brachydactyly thumb is “Royal Thumb”. It is rumored that this type of thumb was common in the royal bloodlines of Europe, hence the name. The more ominous sounding “murderers thumb” comes from palm reading where the stubbed thumb is supposed to be a sign of an impulsive and angry and explosive nature, leading to murder. Overall I like the “Royal Thumb” better.
Growing up, my Mother was the worst for pointing out the differences in my thumbs. She would always grab my hands, feeling my stubby thumb with her fingers and frowning. It annoyed me then because I didn’t think it was a big deal. Little did I know that my Mother was certain that she must have crushed it when I was a baby and didn’t realize it. She was looking at thumb, full of guilt for something she couldn’t remember doing. She was the most excited when I told her that it was from brachydactyly and that I really was born that way. I hope this article will bring peace of mind to everyone out there that wonders what is up with their weird thumb(s).
The first sign I had that I was pregnant was clumsiness. No one talks about that as a pregnancy symptom, but it is. It started with a coffee mug. By the time I actually got to my missed period and a positive pregnancy test I was down another coffee mug, 2 glasses, and a bowl. This continued throughout my whole pregnancy. I broke almost all of my portable coffee mugs, most of which were freaking PLASTIC. I still managed to break them. My husband started refusing to let me empty the dishwasher because he was tired of glass being all over the floor. Which really says something because usually my husband never voluntarily cleans anything.
And all of this didn’t end with the breaking of things. Oh no.
I would just be standing there and I would just fall over. Like I would just be sitting there or standing there or whatever and I would just fall over. I fell down the stairs twice. I was constantly covered in bruises from my ever expanding body hitting new things. When visiting my in laws over Christmas I had to steal the toddler’s stool to climb into bed because I could not maneuver myself into the bed otherwise without falling in the floor. When said toddler asked his grandma why I had stolen his stool she said it was because I was short. I am not short, I am just clumsy as hell.
Then it got even better. My belly got even bigger and then I would start hitting things and knocking them over with my belly. Just knock everything on the table completely off while I reel in the shock of hitting something and end up falling over again, lying helplessly on my back like a beached whale or turtle trying to figure out how to get up again. Maybe I’m not the only one, this article mentions clumsiness also.