Friday, January 3, 2020

Rudy J Barrett's Birth Story


Rudy, you came into this world with a style all your own, and we are so happy you’re here. 

Rudy J Barrett
December 23, 2019
At my 38 week appointment I was dilated 2-3 centimeters. When I told my midwife, Mindy, I was hoping for a January baby, she laughed. I asked if she thought I’d go that day, she shook her head, but there was no way I was making it to my due date. I still had hope. 

Your brother, Ray, came late—2 days after his due date. So when I woke up Sunday morning at 2 am with back pain and contractions, I didn’t think much of it. You still had two weeks to go! I must have been pretty tired because I didn’t really register how regular the contractions were coming on for about 3 hours. They were all back labor, and they were not fun. Around 5:30 they tapered off and I got some rest. But when I woke up at 8:30, they were back. This time more in the front.. and happening every ten minutes. Was this my body going into labor naturally? I doubted it. It hadn’t happened before so I wasn’t sure how to know. 

For the last two weeks I had been carrying around a piece of paper my midwife had given me that said: WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE IN LABOR. I had been given this paper at my 36 week appointment and then lost it, and when I tried to get a new copy, the check out desk ladies were laughing that I “needed a piece of paper to know that I was in labor.” I’m not sure why I didn’t think I could trust my body, but because I hadn’t had the experience of going into labor before, the paper came along with me everywhere I went. Other funny side note: my midwife also recommended I start taking an herbal supplement called Gentle Birthing starting at 35 weeks. It’s basically a potion, complete with False Unicorn Root and Motherwort herb and tastes about as good as it sounds. I realized at about 37.5 weeks that I had thought the dosage was 1/2 tsp three times a day. Turns out it was 1/4 tsp 3 times a day. I had been double dosing myself the entire time! Did this contribute to going early? We will never know. 

Back to Sunday morning: Andrew and I had been asked to perform in our Church’s Christmas Program, so between contractions and some spotting, I was hastily trying to get us all ready in our Christmas Best and practice our song. We barely made it to church on time after a bow conundrum, but I managed to get through our song in between contractions without feeling too out of breath. Miracle! After church we took a few pictures and then headed home. 


I was definitely in labor AND denial when this picture was taken.
Contractions were still coming about 10 minutes apart as we got Ray down for a nap. I wanted to take a nap myself, but decided I better get some things done in case this was the real deal. My handy piece of paper said to call if I was having contractions 5-7 minutes apart for an hour, but I wasn’t quite there yet. I finished wrapping most of the Christmas gifts and all of Andrew’s birthday presents, then I got started on making the dinner I had signed up to take to a friend who has recently had a baby. As I chopped and sautéed, I was timing my contractions and they were coming every 4-5 minutes. They weren’t anything too crazy, cooking was a good distraction, but they were definitely regular. An hour and a half later (around 5:30 pm), in a bit of a panic, I decided I should probably call the triage line. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t that my midwife would meet me at the hospital ASAP. I still had dinner to finish and Ray to take care of! I told them I needed more time, and they said as long as I was there within the hour it would be okay. That’s when things started to get real, and I was hit with a wave of anxiety. Was this really it? Had I really spent my last day as mom of one cooking and wrapping instead of playing with Ray? Did I have everything I needed? Was I ready to give birth again? I had wanted a January baby as I’m really big on birthdays, and with the holidays and Andrew’s birthday already happening at the end of December, the new year seemed like a great time for a new little one. Oh well, ready or not!

Multiple friends had offered to help with Ray in the case that my mom wasn’t in town yet (she had a ticket for January 2nd!), but when Ali Hales offered to come and pick Ray up from our house, it made the most sense—I think she could sense my panic! I am so grateful for the great people and support system I’ve already found here in Erie. I took a few minutes to sit with Ray and read him a book before saying goodbye. Luckily, I’d had a hospital bag packed for a few days, so I gathered some last remaining items (diffuser, speaker, etc.), I finished up cooking the soup I had made for my friend Bri, and got it ready to deliver. Luckily she lives near the hospital, so we could easily swing by on our way. I probably should have eaten something substantial, but a protein bar seemed easy so that’s what I grabbed. On our way out the door with dinner, another friend stopped by to pick up a package that my friend/neighbor had asked me to get to her as she was out of town—the timing was perfect. There was so much going on, I wasn’t even processing that my contractions were coming stronger and faster. 

One last story

Our last picture as a family of three. Can you sense my panic?
I had wondered for months what it would be like to go into labor naturally, and this wasn’t it. I thought for sure I would get to the hospital and they would tell me this was just early labor and send me home, especially as I walked in without assistance and turned down their offer of a wheelchair. As I checked in to triage, my midwife Mindy was there waiting, and her presences was grounding and calming. Sure enough, I was dilated to a 5 and contractions were coming every 3 minutes. This was really it! I got admitted to the hospital around 6:30 and they got me started on an antibiotic for Group B Strep. The birthing suites at UPMC Hamot are quite nice, and we had a view of the lake. Though it was dark, the tower was lit up in red and green for Christmas. My nurses were all super kind and were really excited to be working on the “surprise baby” case. We called family and gave them an update, and my mom started looking at potential flights to come as soon as possible. Andrew ran to grab some Jimmy Johns because he hadn’t eaten either, and I ate some strawberry jello (immediate regrets) and a pickle that Andrew brought me (no regrets). I got my diffuser going and started the playlist I had put together the night before (the first song that came on was Chocolate High - a definite good omen) and just walked around, danced, facetimed with my fam, and bounced on a birthing ball for an hour or two while the contractions picked up. 


Though my room had a giant tub, Mindy recommended skipping it because the temperature was highly regulated and wouldn’t go above lukewarm. She suggested the shower instead, so around 9 pm when I was really starting to feel the contractions, I decided to labor in the shower. It was a process getting my IV taped up and getting ready but it was worth it. The heat and the water pressure made the contractions so much more bearable. Andrew read lists of girl names while I bounced on the birthing ball. We still hadn’t decided on a name if it was going to be a girl, but we had a few solid options for a boy. Our nurses (and pretty much everyone) thought it would be a girl, especially since we didn’t have a name picked out. I was a bit worried about Ray, so I checked in with Ali and she reported that he was asleep, he hadn’t missed us one bit, and he was very excited about sleeping “on” a sleeping bag. I am so grateful that he was well taken care of! 



While in the shower, I accidentally pulled the emergency cord and Mindy and the nurses came sprinting in. They were glad everything was okay but I think a little bummed my water hadn’t broken or something. I was waiting for that “feeling” of being ready to push, and honestly thought I felt it a few times, but it always passed. Could I trust my body to know when I was ready? I wasn’t sure. I was super impressed with my midwife’s care through the whole experience. She stayed at the hospital the entire time and would check on me and encourage me periodically. After about an hour and a half in the shower, it was 11 pm and time for another dose of antibiotics so I got out and dried off. They had me lay down for a bit and use the peanut-shaped birthing ball between my knees to keep my pelvis open and encourage baby to descend. By this point I had only dilated to a 7, which was a little discouraging. I was hoping for a baby before midnight, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen. As the contractions continually got stronger, Mindy cheered me on with affirmations, “You are fearless. You are brave. You are strong. You ARE doing this. Your body is getting ready to welcome your baby into the world. Think of this contraction as baby knocking on the door. Deep breaths. Keep breathing.” It was a little cheesy but it honestly was very motivating. Andrew let me squeeze his hand through each contraction and stayed right by my side, and I was able to breathe my way through. Unlike last time when I was induced and the contractions came on strong and regular from the get-go, these contractions were all a little different. After a really difficult contraction, I’d usually get a break with one or two easier, shorter contractions after. Natural labor is pretty cool it turns out. 


Over the next couple of hours, I had some really intense contractions (in a variety of different positions, including “The Queen’s Throne”) and then they started to taper off. At around 1 AM, I was still only at an 8 so my midwife gave me the options of starting a low does of pitocin, breaking my water, or just listening to my body and riding it out. Because my water hadn’t broken yet, I was thinking about how amazing it would be to have an en caul birth, so I wanted to hold off on the water breaking, and I wanted to avoid pitocin at all costs after my last delivery and the trauma and poor recovery that ensued. I opted to listen to my body for the time being, and even snuck in an interrupted nap of sorts with some pretty lame contractions over the next hour. At 2 AM, Mindy suggested the pitocin, and I decided to go for it, as I’d been in labor for the last 24 hours. Though it hadn’t been too difficult for most of those 24 hours, I was feeling pretty tired and hungry and VERY ready for this baby to make an appearance. 

The Queen's Throne
My trusty peanut

I had told myself if I were induced this time, I would definitely get an epidural. My first delivery was an overall amazing and empowering experience, but a major tear left me in a lot of pain and it wasn’t until I went through 8 weeks of pelvic floor therapy about 2 years after Ray was born that my body finally got back to normal. The contractions were difficult but doable; it was the pushing that still lingers in my memory as painful and intense and basically awful. I honestly think my body remembered how rough it was the first time around and avoided progressing for that reason. I definitely had some lingering fear and anxiety and distrust in my body’s ability to push out baby number two without complications. So, when I got on a low does of pitocin, I brought up the epidural. My midwife was supportive of whatever I wanted, but suggested that I WAS already doing just fine. Andrew fought for my birth plan, for which I am grateful. He encouraged me and told me that I didn’t really want an epidural and that I could handle a couple hours of contractions on pitocin. I’d done it before, I could do it again, and I was already much farther along this time around.

Immediately the contractions started picking up. I got up out of bed and walked around and bounced on the peanut birthing ball to try and distract myself. I definitely got much calmer breaks this time around, no crazy shakes, but wow those pitocin contractions are something fierce. After an hour of that I had progressed to a 9. I didn’t think I could handle another hour of these contractions so I opted to have my water broken, even though I knew that would mean things would start getting crazy. At 3:15 AM on Monday the 23rd, Mindy broke my water. At 3:24 AM on Monday the 23rd, Baby Barrett #2 was born. 

In the nine minutes between my water breaking and birthing a baby, I thought I was going to die. Literally. I am grateful that my body took a break earlier because everything I had feared, the pain, the pushing, the intensity, all became very real, very quickly. That feeling of “needing to push”—I most definitely felt it, almost immediately after Mindy broke my water, which I wasn’t expecting. I felt as though I had lost all control of my body, I just desperately needed to push that baby out. It was very surreal. (Although after the fact Mindy told me I was doing a great job of listening and doing what she asked me to do to avoid tearing this time around.) All that open pelvis work I’d been doing had definitely gotten baby down into the right spot, and after about three pushes and a lot of coaching, “stop pushing,” and breathing work, Andrew was placing a baby on my chest. (Somehow in those nine minutes he managed to find and put on some sterile gloves, which is impressive.)

Happy Tears

“What is it?!?!!” Andrew double checked (Baby had come out facing away from him) and then told me that we had a BOY, and I burst into tears. Happy, happy tears. I was just so happy he was out and that he was a he and that he was here safe and sound. As soon as he was out, the pain completely stopped, and I had this major rush of adrenaline and emotion. I felt like super woman! My baby boy was here, two weeks early, and I did it without pain medication, just as I wanted. Mindy informed me that I hadn’t torn at all and that I had done an amazing job. No wonder I felt so great! It was a moment of pure, absolute bliss. I held that sweet, snuggly, sleepy little babe on my chest for two hours (he didn’t want to eat at all—apparently 25 hours of labor wore him out too). He was just so fresh and so new and had so much hair! After cutting the cord, Andrew fell asleep on a chair, and I figured we could discuss a name for our new little one once we all had gotten a little bit of rest. Baby and I rode out the delivery of my placenta and not-so-fun after birth prodding and pains. 


Even though it was 3 AM, I called my family and gave them the joyous news. They were all thrilled for another little Barrett boy. My mom had found a flight for later that day, which was also happy, happy news. I sent out a few texts, though I knew most people would be waking up to the news in a few hours. They weighed and measured our little man (7 lbs 11 oz, 20.25 inches long), and then we were transferred to a recovery room on the next floor up. I felt good enough to walk (I seriously couldn’t believe how good I felt compared to Ray’s delivery) but they had me sit in a wheelchair and rolled me up. Then they left the three of us to get some much needed rest. I still couldn’t believe that our baby was here, two weeks early. Andrew was able to sleep and I caught a few z’s between trying to feed my new baby and getting periodically poked and prodded and checked. I appreciate that they want to take care of us, but why so many blood pressure checks!? Since I wasn’t really getting sleep, I enjoyed watching a perfect sunrise over the lake and getting up and moving around a bit. At 6:30 AM, I realized that I was starving and ordered basically everything on the menu. The first thing I ate was a bag of salt and vinegar chips that Andrew had gotten for me, but I needed a bit more sustenance. The pediatrician came by and noted baby had a slight tongue tie (Ray did too) and mentioned that if he passed all his tests, there was a chance she’d let us go home the next day, a.k.a. Christmas Eve. Yippee! 

A quiet sunrise




Apparently that particular pediatrician is a stickler for the rules, and the nurses didn’t think she’d let us go home early. Because I was positive for Group B Strep and had a history of jaundiced babies, they were supposed to monitor baby for at least 48 hours. We were praying she would make a Christmas Eve exception. To avoid jaundice, I gave baby some formula to be sure that he wouldn’t get dehydrated like Ray did last time around. 

Around 9 AM, Andrew left to go pick up Ray from the Hale’s and bring him to meet his new brother! Ray still didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl. We hadn’t decided on a name and decided to get Ray’s input before we made a final decision.  For most of my pregnancy, he thought he was going to have a sister, and I hoped he wouldn’t be too bummed when he found out it was a boy. Apparently in the car ride over, he was telling Andrew how he thought it was a girl and then changed his mind and said he actually wanted a brother. I was filled with joy when I heard his little voice approaching the door. He walked in and gave me the biggest hug and I asked him if he thought we had a brother or a sister. He said sister, and when I told him it was a brother, he said, “That’s exactly right!” He couldn’t wait to meet the baby. My two boys meeting for the first time was such a tender moment. Ray had the sweetest smile on his face and was so gentle and loving. He is the best big brother. He gave baby the triceratops stuffy that he had picked out for him and then asked if he could hold the baby. I hope I never forget the look on Ray’s face when we put his new brother in his arms. So much tender love. We asked Ray about names, and he said he liked Rudy, so Rudy it was. Ray and Rudy, my two perfect little boys. I will treasure this moment forever. 




Rudy had always been a top name on my list, and I knew I wanted to use some sort of family name for a middle name. One day the idea came to me to use the letter, J, in honor of my sister, Jennifer, who I often call “J” as a nickname. She is the most genuinely kind, caring, sincere human I know, and someone I would love any son or daughter to look up to. I brought this idea up to Andrew, and at first he thought it was a bit odd to potentially name a boy after girl, but realized that it was indeed a cool tribute. Once we decided Rudy at the hospital, J seemed like the perfect addition, so after a quick call to J herself, we made it official: Rudy J Barrett. 

We then spent a quiet day in the hospital eating snacks, reading some new stories from Mindy and Milo about being a big brother, watching some Christmas movies, and trying to rest. Andrew took Ray on a few dinosaur hunts around the hospital as we awaited my mom’s arrival at 5 pm. Rudy passed his preliminary jaundice checks so we had hope for an early discharge. Ray and Andrew left to go pick up my mom, and my friend Arielle stopped by with some popcorn, dried fruit, and Lacroix. YUM! 




I am so glad that my mom hopped on the next flight to come meet Rudy and help with Ray. One perk of a long labor was that she got to meet him on his actual birthday. There is something so special about meeting and holding a brand new babe. I think she fell in love with Rudy immediately. She got some snuggles and took some pictures of our now family of four (FOUR?!?) and then took Ray home to get some sleep. Andrew stayed with me at the hospital as he had to round the next morning. They came and got Rudy for his bath and a few tests around 3 am, and I finally got in a few solid hours of sleep. He again passed everything with flying colors, and I kept praying for an early discharge.




Christmas Eve was another slow day in the hospital with lots of blood pressure checks, semi-okay food, paperwork, weird videos about safe sleep, and snuggling my little Rudy. I couldn’t believe his perfectly soft head of hair! Ray and Grandma came over around lunch time (with Chipotle!) after a morning spent cookie decorating with friends. We had to wait for the 36 hour mark to be discharged as long as Rudy was low risk for jaundice. The afternoon seemed to pass so slowly and as we got closer to 3:30 PM, I started having some anxiety about the jaundice check. All I wanted was to be home for Christmas morning, and we were so close! We started gathering our things (a.k.a. every diaper, mesh underwear, pad, peri bottle, and wipe in sight—we paid for it, might as well right?), and I hoped we wouldn’t jinx the test. Sure enough, Rudy was cleared to go home right around 3:30 and we celebrated with the congratulatory bottle of sparkling apple cider that was in our room. Of course it took some time to get discharged, but we changed Rudy into his going home outfit, put him in our carseat (so tiny!) and got cleared to go. 



On our way home we stopped at Target to snag a few necessities and some random stocking stuffers so Rudy could have a few gifts for his very first Christmas. While my mom and I shopped, Ray and Andrew snagged us all peppermint milkshakes at Chick Fil A, and the person in front of them in the drive-through bought our shakes! Another definite good omen. We eventually made it home with our sweet little Rudy and it was simply magical to hold him and love him by the Christmas tree. We opened our traditional Christmas Eve pajamas, got Ray to bed, and started preparing for a magical morning. 



What a wonder that Rudy came when he did. Today is his due date, and I’m still in a bit of shock that he came so early and that my two pregnancies and deliveries were so different. I’m so grateful for my body: even when I wasn’t sure I could do it, I did! I’m grateful for my amazing support system, my husband Andrew, my mom, and countless friends who have dropped by with meals or offered to take Ray so I could get some rest. I’m grateful for my midwife, for her encouragement and coaching. I’m grateful for my firstborn, Ray, his immediate love for his new brother and his love for me; he made me a mother, and for that I will be eternally grateful. I’m grateful for the newest addition to our family, my darling Rudy. I can’t wait to get to know him more each day. Although I’m now outnumbered 3 to 1, I couldn’t be happier to stay a “boy mom,” and I can’t wait to see how my two little boys are similar and different. 


My three boys!
Happy due date Rudy J. We love you, and we really are so happy you’re here.




Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Barretts Go Camping

Now that we live in good ole Erie, PA, we're about three hours from Palmyra, NY. The Palmyra Temple is actually "our temple," which is pretty neat as there is so much Church History to explore in the area. This year happened to be the penultimate year of the Palmyra Pageant, but we decided that we wouldn't try to get out there because Anj is so busy, we're in the midst of potty training, and it just seemed like the wrong time. I had a little bit of FOMO, but it seemed like the right call. 

On Friday night, Anj decided to spring it on me that he thought we should go. Why not? Last minute is our style. We always joke that while Andrew's parents tried to instill in him, "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail,"  our life seems to pan out more along the lines of, "When you make plans, your plans fail." So, we decided on a last minute adventure to Palmyra. Hotels were booked, Bnbs were full, but a little campground had one tent spot left--so camping it was! But, we don't camp. The one time we tried last year, we got smoked out and couldn't go. We own literally no camping gear. We were about to go out and buy a tent, but luckily, some friends we've made here were kind enough to lend us their camping supplies (Thanks, Bells!)

The next morning, we packed up and headed off for New York. After a good, long drive with several bathroom breaks (hooray for potty training) we made it to the Hill Cumorah and saved some seats then went to the temple grounds for a picnic lunch. Ray has always been a road trip champion, and for that I am grateful. He entertained himself with Star Wars books and his Boogie Board. 

(These are snakes)

This kid is literally my favorite human.



After our picnic and a meltdown when ants attacked Ray's pb&honey while he was in the bathroom, we took off for Cheerful Valley Campground. It was about 95° but felt like 107° with humidity (this stat brought to you by the weather app), which is a perfect temperature for camping. Especially for newbies. Luckily Ray's excitement for roasting marshmallows and sleeping on the ground kept us motivated to actually set up camp and get a fire rolling despite the heat. S'mores and ramen at 5 PM in 95 degree weather was surprisingly delightful. 

This camp set up brought to you by the Bells. 

He didn't actually eat this-just licked it. 


Ramen-camping dinner of champions.

Seriously so pumped about his "cave."


After dinner we got back into our beautifully air conditioned car to go explore the Smith Family Farm and Sacred Grove and then head to our seats for the pageant. The Sacred Grove was so beautiful and I loved being there with my little family and sharing my testimony with Ray. Even though he just wanted to find the biggest stick he could and run all the paths, he kept saying how "beautiful" it was and he could tell it was special. 


The Frame House - 85% original from the 1800s.

Loved this real, live farmhouse sink.

Oh, how lovely was the morning!
Radiant beamed the sun above.
Bees were humming, sweet birds singing,
Music ringing thru the grove,
When within the shady woodland
Joseph sought the God of love.




Andrew dropped us off at the Hill Cumorah Visitor's center while he parked the car and we hit the bathrooms (theme of this trip) and then went to find our seats. On our way we happened upon King Noah, who is literally Ray's favorite Book of Mormon character. Don't ask me why. He looks scared but he truly was ecstatic to "meet" King Noah and give him bones. We got to our seats around 7:30 and still had to wait until 9:15 for the Pageant to start, but we killed time eating popcorn and snow cones and talking to some of the pageanteers. Ray was so tired by the time it got rolling, but he couldn't stop watching and asking, "What's gonna happen next?!" It was quite the spectacle, and fun to be there with my family.





The best part of the night was actually the show the fireflies put on back at our campsite when we finally pulled in around 11:30. There were thousands of them lighting up the trees all around us--it seriously reminded me of the Eiffel Tower sparkling on the hour at night--and was simply magical. Ray zonked in the (very warm) tent, but Anj and I sat outside admiring the fireflies. I tried to capture it to no avail, oh well. 

I had LOW expectations, but we all got some sleep. Ray was up at 5 AM with the sun, but managed to fall back asleep to the music of mosquitos and flies trapped in our tent fly until 7:30, which was a miracle. We got up, had some oatmeal for breakfast, and packed up for church along with all the other 7000 people there for the pageant that weekend. We had decided on our way out the door to snag our passports in case we wanted to detour to Niagara, and figured why not. To Canada we go!

Niagara Falls is pretty amazing. The falls are breathtakingly huge and powerful. It was quite the view. All Ray wanted to see though was the dinosaur statues in the mini golf park near where we parked. Living his best life! We also snagged some poutine because A) we were in Canada and B) poutine is delicious. Please enjoy many pictures of Ray and water:





Being a dinosaur, duh.

I love waterfall rainbows!


French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. YES.

Highlight of the trip for Ray Ashby Barrett.
(Second place was getting to use his passport.)

Until next time, Canada.