He’s here!

ryderjamesOn Friday, March 27th at 4:48 p.m, Kevin and I embarked on our newest adventure together when we welcomed this little man into the world. Weighing 7 pounds, 5 ounces, and measuring 20 inches, he made his debut after a very long and difficult two-day journey. But he’s healthy and so am I, and that is all that matters.mcclainbaby2It’s a good thing my birth plan was so loosey goosey, because basically every “I hope this doesn’t happen” fear I had came true. I plan on writing out his birth story at some point because I think it would be therapeutic for me, but right now both Kevin and I are still having a hard time processing the whole experience. I look at my actual “birth preferences” sheet that I brought to the hospital and I can’t help but laugh and cry at the same time because literally nothing on it went according to plan. After 38 hours of intense labor and 4 hours of pushing to the point where I thought my eyeballs were going to explode, I ended up having to get a cesarean section. Because of various complications during the surgery, the recovery process has been rough, to say the least. These hormones are no joke, and coupled with the pain and slow recovery of a c-section, well… it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. But it’s getting better every day.

On the bright side, our little dude is fucking awesome and we couldn’t be happier that he picked us to be his parents. He doesn’t have a whole lot of personality yet and his days consist of eating, sleeping, and driving us insane with his “there’s nothing wrong but I’m just going to scream because I feel like it” crying, but we keep getting little sneak peaks of what he’s going to be like and we can’t wait to get to know him as his personality starts to emerge. We have absolutely no idea what we are doing but apparently this is normal. When we left the hospital we were like “wait you’re just going to let us leave with him? Shouldn’t we have to take a test or something?” but nope, they just go through a check list and send you on your way! And suddenly you’re sitting in the car driving home at 10 miles an hour scared to go faster than that because holy shit you are responsible for an entire human being and it’s just beyond nuts. Even with him here sleeping next to me I can’t really wrap my head around the fact that we made that. 

mcclainbaby3The insane crazy love they talk about is real. It’s so real it can be overwhelming and scary because you just want to do your very best and constantly worry that you’re not, and your hormones are on crazy overdrive so rational thought ceases to exist. I always thought it was so cliche when people say parenthood is like being part of this secret club, and I still do, but I definitely feel a camaraderie with others that I hadn’t felt before. I just want to give big huge hugs to every mom that had ever had a hard labor and I start to cry every time someone drops off food or sends us an encouraging note to let us know that they’ve been there too and are here to help and that we are not alone.

Everyone tells you how hard the first few weeks are, and theoretically you understand that, but you don’t really get it until you’re actually experiencing it. It’s hard work. It’s work that you are more than happy doing because you love this little person more than you can imagine possible, but it doesn’t make it any easier. And in case you are curious… five or six one-hour naps in a 24 hour period is NOT the same as five or six hours of consecutive sleep. There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. I had no idea that getting basic tasks done – eating, responding to an email, writing this post –  could be such a difficult process. Even watching TV! It took us over three hours to watch the Walking Dead finale, and while that is such a minor thing, it was kind of a eureka moment where we were both like “wow, life really is different now!”

And Kevin… well, I’ll become a big blob of tears if I try to really write it out but Kevin has been the most incredibly amazing supportive person in the entire world. I’m so limited in my mobility so Kevin has to do everything – outside of breastfeeding, I would say he’s doing far more than me. When I was pregnant people kept telling us that the dad doesn’t do much the first few weeks, but that’s not the case when you have a c-section. The dad has to do everything. And Kevin does it all. I cannot imagine what it would be like to go through something like this without someone so supportive and  I am so grateful. I love him even more than I did before which is kind of beyond comprehension.

So that’s where we are today. Learning how to live as a family of three, soaking in the good, shrugging off the bad, and taking it day by day.

photo 1 (1)Ryder needs to work on his modeling cues as he decided to scream like a banshee every time we tried to get a picture of the three of us. He’s apparently not a fan of his easter duck hat either.

 

SamApril 6, 2015 - 7:46 am

The biggest and best congratulations to you both, and welcome to little Ryder! I hope that you get to settle in well and that everything goes to a more predictable plan from now on. :)
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Patty McClainApril 6, 2015 - 8:05 am

Thank you for writing! I am so filled with joy for you….and me! Wish I could be there to stay up nights with him so you and Kevin could get more sleep. I will do that when I come. Hang in there and take care if yourself, Serena (which is the best thing you can do for Ryder’s Mom). I am so proud of you and Kevin. Lucky baby!

MargaretApril 6, 2015 - 8:06 am

He is absolutely adorable!! Congratulations :)
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Kari HughesApril 6, 2015 - 8:10 am

Congratulations from all of us at Buy The Change. Your baby is beautiful! We wish you all the best and look forward to continuing to follow your journey.

Karen McGeeApril 6, 2015 - 8:21 am

He is precious! Our Amy had 2 C-sections so far-one for twins -at 30-one fora a at 40 and now she is 2 mo. Peggy!!, so a third at 44. I have been there to help each time and see the pain. Take care of yourself

LoraApril 6, 2015 - 8:37 am

Beautifully said.
Would love to hear the whole story!

Michelle LimApril 6, 2015 - 11:13 am

He is so stinkin’ cute! You all look amazing and hats off to you guys for what sounded like the longest and hardest experience ever. I can’t even imagine. Seriously, I cannot. But look at the little amazing babe that came of it! :) Congrats again!! xoxo

nancy @ adore to adornApril 6, 2015 - 1:17 pm

Congratulations!!
Seeing that I’ll be in a similar boat with you soon enough, I just can’t get caught up in everyone’s thoughts on how child birth will go. Asking me if I choose this or that is making me feel a bit crazed since, as most have said, you won’t know until you’re in it. It’s not like a shared experience like eating your first root beer float or riding your first bike. Either some will know this experience or not. There is no in between. So, I’m on a similar path…play it by ear because I don’t know how strong/not strong I am. But, thanks for saying what you have shared already. I find comfort in that. =)
xo,
nancy
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Lisa @ Two MartinisApril 6, 2015 - 6:15 pm

YAY!!!!! Congrats, congrats, congrats!! I’m sorry to hear about the c-section… those things are no joke and I just started going to PT to regain some ab strength – 9 months later!
Lisa @ Two Martinis recently posted…What should I keep?! (Stitch Fix decision-making)

KariApril 7, 2015 - 11:07 am

CONGRATULATIONS!!! He’s beautiful!! I’m so sorry the labor was so rough, though, but happy to hear you all are doing well:) I’m about 18 weeks pregnant, so I was especially interested to read this post and see how it is “on the other side”:) I’m sure it won’t really make sense until we’re going through it. Hope you’re having a great day, new mommy!

Kelly VillersApril 8, 2015 - 9:12 am

Congratulations!! I’m so enjoying following along on your journey and look forward to the birth story!! :)
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A Birth Plan. Kind of.

Oh, the birth plan. While we all know that you can’t really plan how your childbirth is going to go, you’ll find that most hospitals/OBs/midwifes/doulas encourage you to write out your birth preferences (or at least they do in San Francisco). Some people get REALLY into their birth plan, stating what kind of lighting they would like, the music they want, the tone of voice they would like to be spoken to in, etc. etc. It can get pretty nuts. But really, the main point of the birth plan is to provide quick and easy access to important health info that your medical records might not provide, such as your stance on pain medication, who is going to cut the cord, who will be with you in the room in the event of a cesarean, circumcision, bathing the baby… things like that. 

 


My ideal birth plan looks just like the clip above.
In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Brooklyn Decker simply sneezes and out pops a baby!
And obviously I’m going to look exactly like that while giving birth.
Duh. 

With less than a week to go until my due date, a lot of people seem to be asking me about my birth plan and sharing their opinions with me. People without kids ask if I’m scared and launch into some horrible story they heard about someone. People who had an epidural tell me it was fabulous. And people who went pain med free tell me that going all natural is the best thing I can do for myself and my baby.

After A LOT of talking and reading and researching, after taking classes and really going somewhat crazy with all the information there is out there regarding childbirth and labor, my birth plan pretty much comes down to this:

Do my best, try my hardest, and be okay if things don’t go as ideally as I had originally hoped they would. 

Obviously I’ve put a lot more thought into it than that (Kevin and I have created a nice long document that includes all sorts of relevant information), but really, ultimately, my birth plan is just to do my best and not beat myself up over it when or if things don’t go as planned. I know girls that have been so anti-epidural and then tortured themselves with guilt over the fact that they “caved in” and got an epidural, or women that have been so incredibly depressed that their birth experience resulted in a c-section. Birth is hugely important, and while I completely understand being disappointed when it doesn’t go as you had hoped it would, the last thing I need is to enter into parenthood already feeling guilty. I am no stranger to anxiety, so I really have to work at not letting my anxiety and fears take over, or for my emotions to catapult downward in a spiral of negativity.

So, I am going to try my best, and be okay with whatever happens after that. In San Francisco, natural childbirth is all the rage. Natural childbirth seems to have become synonymous with empowerment, and I find that when I admit to being open to getting an epidural people generally launch into a speech about why epidurals are bad and why I should really try my best to go medication free.

These comments don’t come from people looking to be rude – they are all well meaning, but their casual mention of how epidurals “drug your baby” or lead to a cascade of interventions, or that “women have been doing this for thousands of years without pain meds, you can too!” don’t really help me. They just leave me feeling wimpy and disheartened. In my birth class I was the only person that admitted to being open to pain medication, and I felt like such an outcast because of it. I’ve done all the research. I know the pros and cons of both. And most importantly, I know myself.

And the thing is, I don’t like pain. From what I’ve been told, childbirth can be horribly, terribly, mind blowingly painful. So while I am totally open to having a natural birth and would be thrilled if it turns out that my pain threshold is much higher than I am imagining it to be, I also know that having a super painful birth experience could be more traumatic for me than empowering.

I have tried to get on the totally natural bandwagon. I really have. I’ve read all the recommended books. I got a doula. I went to the crunchy birth class instead of taking one at my hospital. I’ve read story after story about natural births, and I admit – some of them seem great! But others… not so much. In the holy grail of natural birthing books, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, there are a lot of stories from women who talk about having a blast during labor. These women write about making out with their husband between contractions, laughing hysterically, and just having an overall great time. They describe their birth as basically painless and just slightly uncomfortable, and that sounds awesome! If that’s the case, then sign me up!

But alongside those stories there are the those from women who say the pain was so bad that they lost their mind and blacked out. Women who thought they were dying and screamed in ways they didn’t know they could scream. And while all of these women still say natural childbirth was an amazing and empowering experience, their stories scare me. One woman said the pain got so intense that she became animalistic and actually bit her husband and tried to bite her midwife!

I don’t want to go through pain so intense that I end up biting someone without meaning to. That does not sound empowering to me. That sounds horrifying and gives me anxiety that I don’t need.

So I am going to try my best, and if my best means I need an epidural, then I’m getting an epidural. And if things don’t go as planned, I am going to be as zen about it as possible. I hope that none of these things happen. I really hope that I don’t have to get induced, and I really really hope that I don’t end up having to get a c-section. But if I do, that’s okay too. The health of my baby and myself is the most important thing, and ultimately how I get there doesn’t really matter.

We all have our own mountains to conquer and if for you that’s natural childbirth, more power to you! But that is not my mountain. I don’t feel the need to withstand an extraordinary level of pain in order to feel empowered. I’m still finding it pretty empowering that somehow, without me doing a whole lot, my body has managed to grow a human being! So as long as I come home with a husband that loves me and a healthy baby, it doesn’t really matter to me how I get there.

For those of you mamas out there or mamas to be, did/do you have a birth plan? Did your birth experience live up to your expectations?

Patty McClainMarch 23, 2015 - 10:52 am

I’m proud of you! You sound very sane to me! Healthy Mom, healthy baby, calm Dad ….. Competent and caring assistance ….. May it all go well.

Emily PerrymanMarch 23, 2015 - 11:18 am

Just do whatever you and your body feel is best, that’s the most important thing! Best of luck, you have so much to look forward to!

SamMarch 23, 2015 - 1:33 pm

Wishing you both the best of luck Serena. I think you’re going in with a great attitude. I believe that it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get a healthy baby at the end! Looking forward to some posts once they’ve arrived!
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Jessica NMarch 23, 2015 - 2:52 pm

I had the same birth plan as you. My mantra was just to go with the flow and not let anything get set in stone- cause that’s when you get super upset and disappointed. I got an epidural cause I was having horrible, horrible back labor. And guess what- I went from 5cm to a 10cm dialated in an hour. An hour!!! I was having a hard time relaxing and once I got the epidural then bam my body was able to relax and do it’s thing. So yeah, it would have been great to due to natural but things happen. A since I ended up having to use a vacuum and get an episiotomy, I’m kinda happy I got the epidural. Hey there’s always natural next time- at least that’s what I’m hoping. You got this thing!!! Can’t believe he will be here soon!
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StephanieMarch 24, 2015 - 5:34 am

I don’t have kids – but I’m an aunt a dozen times over, so I’ve heard these conversations amongst my friends. My mom said the same was true 30+ years ago when she was having babies. Everyone has an opinion about everything! I think you absolutely have the right attitude about it – do your best! Us anxious peeps have enough crap and worry floating around in our heads – all you can do is listen to your body and your mind in the moment and you’ll make the right decision. I can’t wait to hear how it goes . . .it’s gonna be great. You’re gonna be great. Good luck!

Kathie MacalusoMarch 24, 2015 - 2:32 pm

You will do great. Almost too much preplanning. Every delivery is different. It is great that you know yourself so well and you and Kevin will do well. Putting you three into my prayers. Blessings.

He’s here! | SpillerenaApril 6, 2015 - 7:30 am

[…] a good thing my birth plan was so loosey goosey, because basically every “I hope this doesn’t happen” fear I […]

Pregnancy isn’t all bad…

The other day I received an email alerting me to a new comment on this much neglected blog of mine. I eagerly opened the message, anxious to see what lovely words awaited me, and was greeted with this:

twat

hahahaha. Thanks Gaben!

So with that lovely term of endearment representing my most recent blog correspondence, I thought this was a perfect time for my “twat” like self to pop on in and say hello!

In my last post so many months ago I wrote about how Kevin and I were going to Italy for a babymoon of sorts. We went. We ate. We lounged. We explored. It was wonderful. It was cold and quiet and misty and though not nearly as fun as it would have been not pregnant, we still had a great time.

For those wondering, yes, I am still pregnant! I’m almost 38 weeks so theoretically this little man of ours could make his arrival any day now. I still don’t particularly enjoy being pregnant, especially the larger and more uncomfortable I get, but since the finish line is so close I’m not quite as miserable as I was in the beginning. The end is in sight! Soon I will no longer be a hostage in my own body! I will be able to eat and drink and bend over and not have to pee every 20 minutes! Oh the glory!

 

Me at 36 weeks

Me at 36 weeks. Feeling large and not so much in charge.

While I know that my life is about to change completely, I feel like at least it’s changing for a purpose. A good and wonderful and life enriching purpose. Right now I just feel like I’ve been in this very long, very uncomfortable limbo stage in which I can’t really appreciate the process because I still don’t know what the payoff will be like. It’s too abstract for me to wrap my head around. Soon there will be a person that Kevin and I are 100% responsible and in charge of? How is that even possible? While I know it’s very real it still seems very surreal, if that makes any sense at all.

I’m well aware that I have sounded like a huge Debbie Downer regarding pregnancy, and that’s not my intention. It hasn’t been all bad. In fact, there are even a few things about being pregnant that I dare say I enjoy!

For example:

In general people are much nicer to you. In Italy, people treat you like you are famous! Strangers on the street would come up to me and fawn over my stomach. Hotels would upgrade our rooms. Restaurants would put us at the top of the wait list. Italians have a deep respect for mothers and I honestly felt as though I had celebrity-like status while I was there. It was awesome.

The United States doesn’t have quite the same reverence for us preggos, but people are still much friendlier. Even homeless people and crackheads. A while ago I was walking and a homeless man started following me and asking for money (a not so uncommon occurrence in SF). When he realized that I was pregnant, he apologized for following me, asked when I was due, and then congratulated me! It was unreal! A couple of weeks ago Kevin and I were walking in a somewhat sketchy part of downtown and passed a group of no-doubt-about-it crackheads. One woman yelled at me repeatedly “it’s gonna hurt! it’s gonna hurt!” (which I am well aware of, thank you very much) but everyone else was very nice and congratulatory. One dude said to Kevin “Congratulations! Nice work OG!” (and for those, like me, that had no idea what “OG” means, it apparently stands for “original gangster”).

Only in San Francisco, my friends, only in San Francisco.

Another pregnancy benefit is that for the first time in my life, I’m not self-consciously trying to suck in my stomach. I’ve always been a thin person, but abs have never been my strong suit, so a significant portion of my teenage and adult life has been spent sucking in my stomach in an attempt to appear more in shape than I actually am. But no more! Now it just hangs out for all to see, and people tell me how cute it is! And unlike a lot of pregnant women I’ve talked to, it doesn’t bother me when people ask if they can touch my belly. I let them go for it. There’s a human being in there! And that is so super weird! I would want to touch it too. I get it.

Lastly, I love that I can eat whatever I want without any judgement. Donuts for breakfast? Totally acceptable – I’m pregnant! A milkshake with lunch? Why not! Ice cream every night after dinner? I deserve it! My appetite has been total crap the entire pregnancy, but sugar is the one thing that tastes just as good to me now as it did to me before I was pregnant. While I try not to go too crazy with the sweets because I know that it is unhealthy, it’s still really great to be able to indulge like this without feeling guilty about it.

So like I said, pregnancy isn’t all bad. Don’t get me wrong – I still prefer not being pregnant and really truly do not understand when people tell me that I will miss this time, but who knows. Maybe I’ll be singing a different tune down the road when I find myself covered in spit up and other gross things in the middle of the night. However, I’ve had quite a few people tell me they much preferred having a newborn to pregnancy, and I suspect that I will fall into that category as well. Some women’s bodies just don’t react well to pregnancy. I am one of them.

And that’s what’s going on with me! Any tips on how to best enjoy these last couple of baby-free weeks?

CharlotteMarch 17, 2015 - 4:30 pm

I can’t believe how far along you are… that flew by. Well, easy for me to say, observing from afar.

In any case, I just wanted to share that while I ate a lot when I was pregnant, I eat even MORE now that I’m breastfeeding. I capitalize “more” because I eat A LOT, at least for someone my size. Eating was one of the joys of pregnancy for me, and it has continued. I know it was different for you, and I hope your appetite returns post-baby!

For now, good luck with everything, and see you on the other side =).

— Charlotte

Italy Bound!

Four-in-a-half years ago Kevin and I got engaged in Rome. It was a very hot muggy day in July, and sadly, we had been bickering for most of it. I was hungover, he was jet-lagged, and all I wanted to do was find some air conditioning. After walking around rather aimlessly for what felt like hours, Kevin finally gave up his secret quest for finding the perfect location, and in the middle of an alley in Rome’s Jewish ghetto, he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

I said yes.

romeengaged

Engaged in Rome – 2010

In just a few short hours, the two (three?) of us are boarding a flight to take us back to that magical city that we officially decided to become a family in. We had booked our international Thanksgiving escape right before I found out I was pregnant, so what was originally going to be a wine-centric holiday getaway has morphed into our babymoon. We’re spending a few days in Rome (my most favorite of all European cities), and then renting a car and cruising around the Tuscan countryside. We’re basing ourselves in Montepulciano in the Val d’Orcia region of Tuscany, and this will be the first time in the history of our relationship that I will have no choice but to be the designated driver. I’m really hoping my appetite cooperates on this trip, because while Kevin is indulging in glass after glass of delicious fine red wine, I plan on eating until I burst.

Italy holds a special place in my heart, and it always will. In addition to getting engaged there, I studied abroad in Perugia in college, and I’ve been fortunate to have been back a handful of times since. I know it sounds cliche, but Italy is a truly magical place to me.

We have no idea what our life is going to be like when our little dude arrives, so I’m not sure when our feet will be gracing international territory next. I hope it won’t be too long, but people keep telling me that life has a way of turning things upside down once kids enter the equation, so it might be longer than I would like. Because of that, I plan on reveling in every single delicious moment.

Neither one of us have ever been to the Val d’Orcia region, so if you have and have any recommendations (must-see towns to visit, restaurants, wineries, etc) please send them our way.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Jessica NNovember 21, 2014 - 1:04 pm

Have so much fun! Can’t wait to see all the pictures when you are back! And yes enjoy every minute. Life with baby is so amazing, but so different (ie no time for yourself)!
Jessica N recently posted…We are out of the fourth trimester!

MelissaNovember 21, 2014 - 2:18 pm

If you make it to Montelcino, Grappolo Blu is is a delicious and charming restaurant…or Poggio Antico if you’re looking to splurge!

AngieNovember 23, 2014 - 8:45 am

Have a great trip!

Mona Lisa GandzjukNovember 24, 2014 - 6:57 pm

you two are my inspiration ! You go , girl! I also am proud you picked the Perfect match.

I survived!

On Monday night, I stood up in front of a room full of more than 60 people, and read my story.

And… it felt awesome.

People laughed when they were supposed to laugh. Cheered when they were supposed to cheer. Clapped when they were supposed to clapped. My friend Lindsey cried when she wasn’t necessarily supposed to cry, but it worked. Though I’m quite sure that even if I had done a horrendous job no one would have told me that, I felt like I did relatively well.

I was by far the least accomplished of all the speakers, which, while definitely adding to my nerves, also made me really proud and excited that I had been asked to speak among them. Though I felt like I was way out of my league, it was inspiring because it made me think… maybe that could be me one day.

So, despite being so nervous I almost made myself sick (seriously) the experience was overall really cool and great and wonderful. I’m so glad I didn’t let my fear of public speaking hold me back from doing it, because I would have regretted it.

I am still a long ways away from conquering that fear. I’m not sure if there will ever be a time where I’m completely comfortable speaking in front of large groups, and I am baffled by those that are so at ease with it. But Monday night was a small victory for me.

And that’s something to celebrate.

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The very accomplished and inspiring readers I was somehow invited to be among.
From left to right, Lavinia Spalding, Amanda Jones, Kimberley Lovato, Don George, and me.
 

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A horrible picture, but there I am! Trying my best not to shit my pants!

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I survived!

And just in case you forgot, you can read my story in the The Best Women’s Travel Writing: Volume 10 by purchasing it here.

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Patty McClainNovember 19, 2014 - 9:31 am

Way to go!!

Mona Lisa GandzjukNovember 19, 2014 - 12:09 pm

You are Amazing, and quite Beautiful

Lisa @ Two MartinisNovember 23, 2014 - 6:35 pm
Megan C. StroupDecember 5, 2014 - 2:12 pm

Yay you!!! Belated congrats on this awesome accomplishment. :)
Megan C. Stroup recently posted…5 Fun Things We Did on our Honeymoon