Baby Nora: Week 1

Thank you for all your sweet comments on Nora's birth story! It truly was an amazing experience and one we will remember forever. I'm here today to update you on life with Nora. Just as I documented my pregnancy, I plan to do a weekly update every Tuesday (though the first one is already late) to track how Nora is growing and changing! 
Disclaimer: I will describe our parenting style and how it evolves as we learn what works for us and what doesn't. Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, and questions. By no means am I claiming to be doing things the best way, just our way. 

Weight: Nora weighed 7 pounds, 5.5 ounces at her 1 week check-up! Her birth weight was 7 lb, 1.5 oz and she was 6 lb, 15 oz when she was discharged. This is incredible because doctors typically don't expect babies to be back to their birth weight for two weeks!

Health: We saw Dr. Lohse on Monday morning and got an excellent report! Other than a bit of dry skin, Nora is perfectly healthy! Dry skin is also very common for post-term babies, so it is no surprise that she was born with cracked hands and feet and her skin is peeling now - she baked in there for a long time!

Sleep: I am so surprised how much Nora sleeps! She even slept through her entire doctor's visit after we undressed her. We have had to wake her up at night to eat, otherwise she would sleep right through feedings. She is currently sleeping in the bassinet portion of a pack n' play in our bedroom, which has been very convenient while I'm healing from surgery. We swaddle her for bedtime, but usually not during day time sleep.

Social: Nora met quite a few people in her first week of life! She met both sets of grandparents, and all aunts (4) and uncles (4) with the exception of 1! Our small group came to the hospital to see her, as well as our friends Ryan and Paloma and two of Matt's friends from college. After her doctor's appointment on Monday, we went out for lunch with a few of Matt's coworkers, so she met the Healthspring team too.

Diet: Mommy's milk! We've experimented with feeding times over the past week. We have settled into a semi-routine of feeding every 3 hours with one 4 hour stretch at night. We try to aim for 20 minute feedings, but sometimes she only lasts for 10 or 15 before I can no longer wake her up. I was worried about this at first, but after finding out that she is gaining weight (and therefore eating well), I'm a bit more relaxed about it. If she gives me hunger cues outside of these times, I feed her then as well.

Clothes: Nora is wearing newborn clothes (and diapers), but they won't fit for long. I wasn't sure if they would fit at all since she was 2 weeks late, but most of them fit either perfectly or with a little room to grow. I'm thinking by 3 or 4 weeks she'll be out of them.

Baby Gear: We've tried out the bouncer, swing, and play mat. Of course she just lays on the play mat right now, but it's an alternative to the bouncer and swing that usually put her to sleep. We're using the Boppy for most feedings now that my incision is less sore.

Crying: I think Nora is the quietest baby I've been around. Seriously! There have only been 2 or 3 occasions in the past week where it took more than just holding her for a minute or two to calm her down. I hope she stays like this forever! She's such an easy going baby.

Postpartum: Recovery from the csection was harder than I thought it would be. The first days in the hospital I had to have help for everything - getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, showering, etc. It was such a lesson in humility and accepting service from Matt and the nurses. I am not one to take medicine unless I really need to, and I think I've had more pain medication in the past week than I have in my entire life! Each day pain has subsided though. Now, a week later, I just have a little tenderness near the incision. I'm still having back pain from the spinal block, especially after I'm fairly active. I'm praying there is no permanent damage there. My staples were removed before I left the hospital on Friday, and tomorrow I see the midwives to have my incision checked and the tape removed.

I think I've lost most of my fluid weight, around 17 pounds. I was surprised how fast the initial weight came off, and I'm in no hurry to lose the rest for fear of messing with my milk supply.

A lot of people have asked about my emotions. I am overjoyed that Nora is here and love caring for her. Even during a 3am feeding, the time is so special to me, and I would never wish it away. Days 5 and 6 were the most emotional for me so far. I've cried about ridiculous things - like feeling empty without my belly and that I couldn't protect her as well. Nora is so gorgeous, and sometimes I cry over how beautiful she is and how great Jesus is. I don't think I mentioned the meaning of her name earlier. Nora means light or honor, and Jane means gift from God. She a precious gift indeed!! The first few days home, I experienced some anxiety related to feeding - was I feeding her often enough for long enough ? why wasn't she waking up to eat? And mostly, I've been emotional over just how fast time is going by already.

Milestones: Nora had her first bath at home at 4 days old. She also went to the pediatrician for the first time. At just 1 week, she doesn't even look like a newborn anymore! I can't believe how much she has changed. Her coloring is less pink, she is getting bigger, and she is more alert (in those few minutes she is awake!). She has also started straightening her legs and lifting them. Matt likes to call it "planking." For some reason I think it's hilarious.

Nora is changing so quickly, and I can't believe the first week is over. 
Now it's on to Week 2!

Happy Halloween!
+, Lauren Aiken


Nora's Birth Story

Hi everyone! I am sharing Nora's birth story with you today. I think reading birth stories can calm a lot of fears and also help prepare you for what to expect, or rather not expect. I know it is very long and detailed, but I think you will enjoy her story if you read it. Her birth wasn't easy and certainly wasn't as we planned, but it is a testament to God's love for his children, of His sovereignty, and His perfect timing.

After enduring two long weeks of waiting past my October 8th due date, Matt and I decided to make one final visit to the midwives to see if they could do anything to get labor going (my induction was scheduled for 9pm that night). We headed to their office around 11am on Monday the 22nd. Midwife Lauren did a membrane stretch and sweep, and Baby's heart rate slowed down quite a bit. She wasn't overly worried but did tell us to head to the hospital. At this point, our bags had been packed and in the trunk for well over a week so we grabbed some lunch and headed on over to Vanderbilt Hospital. 

Right before heading to the Midwifery Clinic

We got settled into our room around 1pm. I was feeling pretty nervous about the induction. We had trained and prepared for a natural birth, so an induction was the last thing I wanted. We had been praying hard for Baby to come soon and for her to be healthy (they started monitoring for fetal stress post-40 weeks). Jesus really started to impress upon us the idea of desiring His perfect plan, and this is the point where that really began.

A pic right before they induced me

Around 3pm the induction began. We decided to start with a Foley Catheter to begin cervical ripening. This is a drug-free way to start labor, but they explained that most of the time multiple interventions are needed to keep labor progressing. The Foley bulb had to be inserted twice (the first one broke). No more than a couple minutes after the second one was in, I felt a lot of warm fluid and knew my water had broke. I panicked a little, knowing that my entire labor lay ahead and this would now pose a risk of infection. After Matt and the midwives reassured me that it was ok and that my water had been likely ready to break on its own, I began to realize that this was a blessing because I would probably dilate faster. 

At this point, my contractions were pretty mild. Matt and I took some photos to document laboring at the hospital and even turned on the SF Giants playoff game. The bulb quickly began to make laboring difficult though. I don't know if we would choose this method again. We tried walking around and laboring in a rocking chair and on a birth ball. The bulb caused so much pressure and discomfort that I ended up laboring in bed and changing sides every few contractions. The discomfort wasn't only during contractions. The worst of it was between contractions which made laboring with it in seemed very long and very uncomfortable. The discomfort also caused me back pain as I wasn't able to relax a lot of muscles between the contractions. The nurse periodically came in and added resistance to the bulb. The more resistance, the more discomfort. It was supposed to fall out around 4 - 5 cm.

Around 8pm, the midwives suggested that I eat something, and then they would give me a 25 mcg dose of Cytotec around 9. Cytotec ripens (thins) the cervix but doesn't cause contractions, so they anticipated following this with pitocin. The Cytotec made labor a bit harder, especially with the Foley bulb still in. After 4 hours, they decided to remove the Foley bulb because it had done whatever it was going to do. I was pretty discouraged because labor had become even harder. Since the bulb usually comes out around 4cm, I thought I was maybe a 2 or 3 and had a very long night ahead. When the midwives checked me, I had dilated from 1 to 5cm and was 60% effaced - great news to Matt and I! 

I started receiving pitocin, which causes contractions even if your body isn't ready, at 2:10am. It can make contractions longer and stronger than you are ready to handle since your body hasn't had the time to gradually build up oxytocin. Regardless, we needed to get things moving so we agreed. She looked healthy on the monitor, but we were still seeing occasional dips in her heart rate during contractions. Around 3:30am, there was a long deceleration that didn't regulate quickly. At this point, only our nurse was in the room, but people started to arrive. First, (almost) Midwife Lily came into the room and started to work through some laboring positions with us. I was also having back labor at this point. I was getting scared and asked Lily to stay with me. Normally, the decelerations were remediated by changing positions between contractions, but this was no longer the case. I was hooked up to the monitor constantly now. Lily and Matt alternated positions - one encouraging me and and the other rubbing my lower back as hard as possible. My focus was on getting through each contraction, but I could also hear Baby's heartbeat and see the monitor drop down to ~70 bmp instead of the normal ~135 bpm with each one. More and more people filtered into the room, and I realized that something was really wrong. They put an oxygen mask around my nose and mouth and told me to take very deep breaths when I could. The next steps happened probably in a matter of minutes, but each each contraction seemed to last so long. I was terrified at this point, and all I could do was breathe in that oxygen as slowly and deeply as I could to get more oxygen to the baby and pray to Jesus to still my fear and protect Baby. 

Next, they tried to halt my contractions. They took me off Pitocin and gave me some kind of injection to completely stop contractions (which worked immediately). They placed a fetal monitor on Baby as a last resort, showing that she was pretty stressed and her heart rate wasn't improving. I was 7cm, and we didn't know how much longer it would take to bring her here if I labored on my own. Around 4am, the midwives told us that if Baby's heart rate didn't settle, they would need to go in a get her. An OB came in the room and explained the risks of Cesareans. Contractions had stopped, but my back was still killing me so I was on hands and knees and still breathing as deeply as I could, nodding big to signify that I understood. At this point, a natural birth was far from my mind, and all I wanted was to bring Baby here safely and soon (the last thing I remember Matt praying for out loud during contractions). I signed the papers, changed into a gown as fast as I could, and they rushed me off to the OR. My two midwives came with me and encouraged me. Matt had to stay in the room while they tried to get a spinal block to work. If it had not worked, I would be put under completely, and Matt would not have been allowed in the room. 

Matt said it seemed like forever before they called him back to join me. During that time he paced in the room, packed, cleaned, and read Galatians. The following thoughts are from an email he wrote to his family.

All night, the Spirit reminded me that Jesus reigns, high and lifted up, king of the universe, and my friend. He was not surprised that Lauren was in the OR or baby needed to come out. He knew. 
In fact, this was him answering our prayers. We had asked that He would calm Lauren's fears of a natural birth, He did. We asked that He would bring her when she needed to come, He did (laboring a long time at home - which we had planned to do - would have caused her a lot of stress). We asked that we would want His will. He did, we do.

Matt came into the OR about 20 minutes later. They had gotten the spinal block to work! Matt later told me that there was a team of at least 15 people in the room. When he came in, they had prepped me and were opening me up. It seemed like an eternity, lying there, still trying to breath in oxygen steadily. I don't remember thinking much at that point. I just tried to focus on looking into Matt's eyes and reminding myself that God was with us holding our hands too. One of the midwives leaned over and said Baby was here, born on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 at 4:29am. We didn't hear any cries, but I could hear a man counting to 5. She had arrived with heavy mucous clogging her lungs so they were doing chest compressions. Finally we heard a faint little cry! The neo-natal doctor came over and asked if we had a name for our daughter. 

We had picked two names well before her birth. We both thought we had decided on one, but we wanted to hold her and see her before we were sure. I looked into Matt's eyes, and he looked back at the doctor. 

Nora Jane Aiken.

The doctor explained that Nora was struggling. They were going to take her to the NICU. He said Matt could go with Nora or stay with me, but if he went he could not come back into the OR. I told him he should go with Nora, and he did. Midwives Lily and Lori stayed with me, and Lily held my hand and talked to me for the next 45 minutes while they finished things up. I am so thankful that we went with this group of midwives. They are all amazing women, and I hope I can deliver all of our babies with them. I got a glimpse of Nora as she was being wheeled out of the OR to head to the NICU. I could really only see her little face and her head of brown hair, more beautiful than I had imagined. 
In the NICU, Matt said there were 4 nurses around Nora, all frantically working to get IV's in, take vitals, and care for her. 

We later learned that the umbilical cord had been across her face in two different places. Every time I had a contraction, the cord was being compressed. Because of this, her oxygen levels were low when she was born, and her tone was not good. Her Apgar score was a 1. The tube in her head in the pictures below is a glucose IV. She was also treated with antibiotics while they waited for some test results to get back. Her breathing, oxygen levels, and heart rate were closely monitored. The doctors said that after the initial 30 minutes, it was clear she was going to be ok. Within 2 hours after birth, they said you wouldn't even know she needed to be admitted to the NICU. Praise Jesus for this miracle!! (Nora stayed in the NICU for about 36 hours. After she was released on Wednesday afternoon, she was able to room in with us until I was discharged Friday morning.)

Matt came back to me in the labor (now recovery) room. We prayed, praised Jesus, called our parents to tell them her name, and headed down to postpartum. I was completely numb from the C5 vertebra down. It was around 7am now, and Matt was exhausted so he slept for an hour. I don't remember much from this period of time, just that my body felt so foreign since I couldn't feel a thing. 

About 6 hours later, around 10:30am, Matt wheeled me down to the NICU where I got to hold our Sweet Girl for the very first time. It was the most precious moment of my life, and I cried to Matt last night as her first week of life was coming to a close. I want to go back and relive each moment with her again, but instead, I'll praise Jesus for bringing this special little miracle into the world and look forward with joy to each week ahead.  

Her birth is far from what I expected it would be. Every intervention (literally) that we did not want, we received. Recovery from Cesarean was rough. Matt was the best birth coach, nurse, and encourager, and I'm so glad he was with me for every single step. Even though our time in the hospital was really hard, we joked to each other near the end saying that it somehow it felt like a long date. Now, I'm sitting in bed recounting every detail with a gorgeous little girl lying next to me. I would do it all one thousand times over again for sweet Nora Jane.

Matt is working on a slideshow of photos, but for now I'll leave you with our first moments with Nora. 

+, Lauren Aiken


Nora Jane

Nora Jane Aiken entered the world on October 23, 2012 at 4:29am by emergency cesarean. She weighed 7 pounds, 1.5 ounces and was 19 inches long. She is so precious to Matt and I, and we are embracing our new roles as mom and dad. 
+, Lauren Aiken


We are ready to meet our baby girl.

Today I am two days into my 41st week of pregnancy. I decided to stop posting weekly photo updates at 40 weeks, but Matt encouraged me to share a little of what I've (we've) been feeling as we get closer to meeting our little girl.

First, thank you so much for all your sweet comments, encouragement, and suggestions over my pregnancy journey! It has been so fun to share updates every week, and I have connected with other moms or moms-to-be, which was one of my hopes in sharing this blog publicly!

We are ready to meet our baby girl. We're sad that she isn't here yet, but we wait with hope, knowing that she will be here soon.

My mom was past her due date with all three of us girls, so I fully expected to go a little over, especially since this is my first baby. What I didn't anticipate, though, is how long each day could feel as we wait and the emotions that would come and go with it. As ridiculous as it is, some days I think she is never coming. The past week has been filled with excitement, anxiety, eagerness, patience, frustration, waiting, and longing for our little girl to be here - soon and safely.

In one of our many conversations this weekend about the baby, Matt said that his love for her has grown in this time of waiting. It is truly amazing how deep our love is for this little girl whom we have yet to see, hold, and care for. I went back to this blog post that I sent to a friend going through the adoption process several months ago. Marci describes this longing desire saying, "I get a glimpse of the overwhelming love our Father has for us. We are the now and not yet children of our Father. Now adopted into his family. Not yet with him." 

As far as logistics go - Since full-term is considered anywhere between 38 and 42 weeks, my midwife will allow us to delay induction until the 42 week mark. For that we are thankful. As I've mentioned before, Matt and I have been praying for a natural birth from the beginning, and induction of any sort is not what we would choose. Baby A passed a non-stress test yesterday, showing no signs of fetal distress (such an answered prayer!!). On Thursday afternoon, I'll go in for a biophysical profile ultrasound to make sure fluid levels look good, the placenta is functioning well, etc. My induction is scheduled for next Monday at 9pm if she isn't here before then.

Pray for me. Pray for us. Pray that we would stay focused on Jesus and not our immediate desire for our baby to come. That we would endure this period of waiting and respond with joy and not sadness or anxiousness. That the baby would come soon! That there would be no need for induction next week. And if there is, that I would not be afraid.

Thanks so much for joining us in this journey!

+, Lauren Aiken


40 Weeks

How far along? 40 weeks, 4 days.
Baby Size: Our families' guesses range from 6 pounds 4 ounces to 9 pounds. We will find out soon!
Total weight gain: 35ish pounds.
Maternity clothes? I'm so ready for something non-maternity!
Stretch marks? I ended up with just a few light ones and am hoping not to get any more when my milk comes in!
Sleep: Even though I'm waking up every 1.5-2 hours to go to the bathroom, I really haven't had much problem sleeping throughout my pregnancy - even in these last couple of weeks! There have only been a couple times in the past two weeks where I've laid awake for a couple hours.
Best moment(s) this week: Thoroughly enjoying relaxing and spending time with Matt. 
Miss Anything? Mostly just being able to move easily. 
Movement: She's still moving well, just slowly. A lot of times it feels more like pressure than anything else. And we can feel body parts pretty clearly too.
Food cravings: Frozen yogurt - but that's a regular :).
Anything making you queasy or sick: Nope.
Gender: Girl!
Labor Signs:  At my 39 week appointment, I was 1cm with assistance and 50% effaced. Braxton-Hicks contractions are still frequent, and we have timed them when they happen repeatedly, though nothing has become regular just yet. I have another appointment this afternoon so we'll see if anything has changed then.
Symptoms: My hands are less swollen this week (maybe due to cooler temps?)! Lots of pressure in my pelvis, and I can tell she's moved down a bit. And a little bit of hip pain some days.
Belly Button in or out? The top pokes out and the bottom is flat.
Wedding rings on or off? Still off.
Mood: A mix of nervousness, eagerness, and lots of excitement!!!
Looking forward to: Bringing this baby girl into the world and holding her for the first time!

+, Lauren Aiken