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My First "Mom Friend"

From the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, I am in constant communication with my sister. She is my favorite person without a doubt. Really hilarious.

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She's my perfect and beautiful sounding board. When I know I am being difficult or trying to figure out what to do, she is always the first person I go to. Followed quickly with a call to my mom. While we are very different people, I value her point of view and count on her for a well balanced non-judgemental view of the situations that I find myself in and I find myself in "situations" quite frequently.

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Siblings are so important, and while I might not have another child, I truly believe that. I don't know what I would do without her. Siblings have an insight into your soul that no one else can understand. They have been to the dark side with you. They get it. Even when they make you crazy. We have a special bond and I love her so much. I definitely don't do enough for her. She's like one of those sisters who is good about sending things in the mail. I gotta get better at that. In fact all day long I have been thinking about all the things that I need to put in the mail for family and friends. She has 3 boys and can make it happen and I can't. Ok, fine! I'll step up my game! Get off my back!

My sister is an amazing woman, strong in her beliefs, and while mine are very different than hers, I always feel like she respects mine just as much as she would anyone else who had the same beliefs as her.

Robin was one of the first people that I thought of to interview when I decided to start doing this. She was my first "mom friend."

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Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up in Bowie, MD and live in Howard County MD now.

What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

I think I wanted to be a lawyer for a long time.

What sort of things were you into as a child?

As a young girl I remember being in to Rainbow Bright, Jem and the Holograms, unicorns and music.

Where did you meet your husband and how did that relationship evolve?

I met my husband, Jon, at Washington Bible College. We were both transfer students serving in youth and worship ministries at the time. We both commuted to school and had the same circle of friends. I had a boyfriend at the time, which was a good thing because I got to know Jon as a friend before we started dating. Jon was such a great friend to everyone we knew. Besides the fact that he was and is super good-looking, his heart was very servant-oriented. He really did model Christ-like servanthood that was refreshingly captivating to me. After my previous dating relationship ended my heart was freed up to see him as more than just a really good guy friend and so we started hanging out more together until the day we had the official, DTRT: Define the Relationship Talk Ha! Fast forward twelve years and we have now been together for 12.5 years, 10.5 of those, married. My husband was very romantic while we were dating and early on in our marriage. He still is, it’s just a little trickier now to cultivate that with three busy boys!

Did you always want to be a mom?

I don’t think that was ever a question. Growing up my thinking was more like, “when I’m a mom ….”

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What was your first pregnancy like?

My first pregnancy was good over all but also had some challenges. When I was working semi-locally full time and near the end of my second trimester, my company closed our office and moved it to another town increasing my commute to just over an hour more than I was already commuting. The long commute made it difficult to add exercise into my day. The change as also just really hard anyway so that was kind of tough. I developed pregnancy-induced kidney stones too which was pretty awful to get sick with those at my work which was now roughly 1.5 hours away (one way) from where I lived. I also had a sensitivity to salt that made me swell (but I also didn’t realize how much I was consuming either at the time). I gained a lot more weight than I anticipated too, 50+lbs which is hard to get rid of after delivery. I was happy to be pregnant though and eager for our little miracle to enter the world and change our lives forever.

Was it everything that you thought it would be?

That’s an interesting question. I think pregnancy the first time was in some ways easier and also harder than I thought it would be. Pregnancy the first time is so not like the rest because there’s so much you just don’t know about how your body is going to react and be during pregnancy. There’s things you don’t feel the first time because your body is “younger” and your muscles are “tighter” than with proceeding pregnancies.

What was that first labor like?

My first labor is kind of a funny story. Our oldest son, Cubby came 2.5 weeks early so what I initially thought was just extreme discomfort toward the end of my pregnancy turned out to be labor. I went in to labor with him the night before my scheduled last day in the office. Since I was so uncomfortable and had gotten little sleep that night, we called my MIL (a former L & D nurse) to run

my symptoms by her. I’d just been in for a check up two days before and there was no dilation or contractions yet. I’d also never heard of anyone going into labor around this time so it was totally off my radar of possibilities. So, I went in to my OB’s office so they could check me out and I was indeed in labor. I walked into the hospital at about 7 or 8cm dilated and was breathing quite well through them. I got an epidural and didn’t really consider not having one. I always just assumed I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain and was concerned about tiring out. I had no problems with the epidural but the level was too strong for me to feel when my body was contracting at first. Thankfully my MIL

took notice and mentioned that we may want to have them turn the level down so I could feel when to push. Cubby’s labor was 26 hours all together. I pushed for two hours and he finally came. I was so happy to have that boy out of me and to be done pushing. My body was shaking and I found it a challenge to hold him because I just felt so weak. So, he soon went to his very proud daddy who was there the whole time supporting me and also cut the umbilical chord. Cubby had low blood sugar and he also had jaundice so he went into the NICU for 4 days. This was really hard to handle because I was not prepared for this. I didn’t know what jaundice was or how it could impact his health. I was expecting to leave the hospital with our baby after the standard two days and we didn’t. It was scary and sad seeing my baby in the NICU under his blue light. I did not like it. I knew it could be much worse but my heart was not prepared for this unexpected challenge. Thankfully our hospital had a wing for parents to stay in for those who had babies in the NICU and we didn’t have to leave without him.

And how were those first days and weeks after you brought Cubby home?

The first few days and weeks were hard mostly due to the lack of sleep. Cub was not the best sleeper and not until recently (he’s 6yo now), did he sleep consistently through the night. He just doesn’t want to miss anything. A humorous thing to note is that we didn’t even have his crib assembled yet when we came home. It was still in the box. I think his coming early was God’s grace

to me because there was no time to stress, the baby was coming so we had to just roll with it.

When did you go back to work?

I went back to work when Cub was three months old (when my maternity leave was up).

How was balancing work and family after Cubby was here?

It was really hard for me because I did not want to go back to work and leave my baby. I hated my long commute, my job was stressful and had other challenges too and what I had envisioned for myself as a young girl was not my reality at the time. I was very grateful though that my husband had enough flexibility with his job (a youth pastor at the time), to work from home and take care of our son as well as supportive in-laws who were willing and wanting to help assist in the care of our precious nugget It softened the struggle for me but it still remained very hard for me. I lasted about another year and a half at that job and then finally quit. I also continued to service as a youth leader with our high school ministry and would bring him with me which was always fun. I remember that season of life as always being tired, good but tired.

How long after did you have Colin?

Colin is our second son. Cubby was just a bit more than 3.5 years old when Colin was born. It look a little bit longer to conceive Colin so the age difference is a little bit more than I’d intended but, we believe that our children came in God’s timing and since He knows all things, His timing is best.

How was that pregnancy? How was that labor?

My pregnancy with Colin was the best pregnancy of all three. I was in good shape, getting consistent exercise, eating much better, not commuting three hours a day for work, not crazy stressed. Cubby was at a good stage in his own development too (minus potty training), to handle mommy being pregnant. I was also finishing up my masters in counseling full time too. I had a great support network in my husband and in-laws to help me finish my degree 4 weeks before baby boy #2 was born. [Side note, due to a course scheduling change, I ended having to take one more class after Colin was born! It began the week he came!]

Was it different from your first? How so?

With Colin, around seven months in I finally felt pregnant. He also decided to try and rearrange my hips with his position in my belly. I have a pretty high pain tolerance but there were times where all I could do was just lay down and try to rest because I was in too much pain to do anything. With Colin’s delivery I probably could have done it epidural free but then chose to have it last minute. Again, at 2.5 weeks early, I walked in to the hospital at 8cm and was breathing through the contractions quite well. The nursing staff had quite the challenge getting my IV set up in my hand which was almost more painful than the contractions. At the fifth attempt I told the staff this was the last time they were allowed to poke me or otherwise I would go with out it. After delivery, the staff discovered a heart murmur and we again were at the hospital an additional 2 days. This was a new and scary development for us as young parents.

Again, something we did not anticipate with possible implications that were unknown. Again, we stayed at the hospital wing for parents with newborns in the NICU and left for home in the snow after 4 days. We are happy to say that after Colin’s 6 month check up the hole in his heart had completely closed up and the murmur was gone. Praise God!

And how was it having 2 babies in those first weeks when Colin came home?

Again, sleep is always so hard. My mom was up and stayed with us so that helped give me/us a break at times. She would also help get other house things and laundry done. My MIL would help provide us with meals. The hardest was probably our oldest son adjusting to this new little person who required so much of our attention and time. We sought to include Cub in anything we could in the care of Colin so that he new he was still just as loved and treasured as he was before his baby brother arrived. Since Cub was older when we had Colin, he was more independent and able to be a helper to me which was good for all of us.

How was your 3rd pregnancy?

My third pregnancy was kind of hard. Our third son, Micah, remained really low in my belly for most of my pregnancy. I had a lot of groin pain because of the pressure. Walking was hard at times and my leg would some times try and give out on me due to the pain. The constant pain made me feel very tired and took a lot of energy. I was pretty healthy though; although exercise was tough, weight gain was ok for most of it. I did gain more than I’d wanted but it wasn’t out of the top range for my height and stature. I did some prenatal yoga to try and help with the discomfort and open up my hips. I also had a lot of issues with heartburn and had to be careful. Milk would often remedy the burn for me. During this pregnancy I was working part time outside the home but had two busy little boys that I was taking care of so I had various good reasons to be tired

How was your labor with Micah? How was it different from your previous births?

My labor and delivery with Micah was completely different than with Cub and Colin. Micah did not come 2.5 weeks early and I thought I was going to lose my mind. My belly was “so big” and uncomfortable I did not understand how this child was not ready to come when his brothers did. At 3cm 3 weeks out I had no contractions. The following week I was only 4cm. This was very disappointing because I was in so much pain that I thought I was much farther along. When I finally went in to labor with Micah at 1.5 weeks early (roughly), it was very painful and very slow. I did not have pain at this point with my other two, just “discomfort” at 7 and 8cm dilation. By the time I got to the hospital, I was only 6 cm dilated and having a hard time with the pain, oh (and I forgot to mention that this was birth I’d planned to go epidural free since this was my third pregnancy and delivery I thought I would just sneeze my child out, like I would push 2-3 times and he would be here.) That was so not the case! Jon and I walked those halls of the hospital and I struggled to breath through the painful contractions. I did a warm shower, I used the birth ball and was bent over the bed and kept a rotation going for several hours. We’d come at 12:15 AM-ish and by 4:30 were growing a bit weary. We carried on some more and eventually had my OB break my water. That was an intense feeling I’d not experienced before because by that time, I’d already had an epidural with our two older boys. It was a bit much for me. After that, the contractions got really intense and really

painful. I was really struggling to remain epidural free but my husband was a good encourager and advocate to help me carry on with this decision. My nurse was also really great during this delivery. She knew I wanted to do epidural free but that I would be open to having it if I couldn’t take any more. I struggled to keep my focus and to push well during my contractions. The pain made me feel like I wanted to just climb the walls. This was much harder than I anticipated and oh the burn when you push! My nurse was great about helping me to regroup and regain focus so that I could push and wouldn’t just scream in pain. I had to literally pause and process the directions in my head and

out loud for pushing before I could regain focus to work with what my body was doing. It was intense and I was seriously reconsidering that epidural! I think I pushed for about 45 minutes to an hour and then we had our precious little Micah Thomas! The thing is, he wasn’t so little. That boy was 8lbs 12 oz of baby meat! We were like, “that is a big baby! No wonder I was so uncomfortable!”

My post-partum recovery has been the longest with Micah. I’m still not fully recovered which is tough.

I think of you as a champion breastfeeding mommy. How has that evolved from your first pregnancy till now?

Well all three boys nursed really well out the womb. I think one of the challenges with breastfeeding is that although it is “natural” and the way our bodies are “designed to work”, but it’s still something that has to be learned to do together for the baby and mom. I always expected to BF as long as I was able to physically. I believe it’s healthy and important for both mom and baby for post-partum recovery, nutrients, bonding etc. With each child I used the hospital lactation services and help and practice. BF takes a lot of energy and when you are in recovery mode, it’s especially hard. If there are challenges with the baby not latching well that can be frustrating and stressful which is a lot to

handle post-partum. I nursed each boys for different durations.

I endeavored to continue nursing after my return to FT work with Cub but it became too hard to maintain with such a long commute that I just gave up on it after a month of return to work. Colin I nursed till he was 16 months! Much longer than my initial goal of 12 months. Micah is 7 months old and is still nursed. He also eats pureed foods and sips milk from a cup. His teeth have also come in a bit earlier than his brothers’ did and so he might not be nursed till 12 months if I can’t get him to stop nipping during feedings. I had no nursing issues with Jonny, just the first time mom learning to nurse.

With Colin, he was a cluster feeder and I became engorged which was horrible. I did not know about cluster feeding and I also didn’t know it could cause engorgement. That was a tough lesson to learn. Micah was also a cluster feeder and I had early stages of engorgement but it didn’t get anywhere near as bad as it was with Colin-thank God! With Micah I’ve developed mastitis which is painful and tiring. I don’t have every symptom but I have enough to warrant a prescription to rid of it.

I think a key with breastfeeding is to keep in mind that there is always more to learn so to not get discouraged if you aren’t able to anticipate every little thing. Also, to prepare your heart ahead of time that nursing may not work out as one had hoped and that that is ok. You’re still a good mom if you can’t breastfeed or if you aren’t able to breastfeed as long as you’d hoped to with your baby.

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#sisters #momfriends #doula #fargo #maryland #nicu #barnes #robinebarnes #naturalbirth #epideral #mom