Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Birth Story, Part 3: Circle of Life

So the spinal block is finally in... actually, I forgot to mention that not only was it extremely painful (I was legit sobbing in pain), it was even more stressful because I knew that if they couldn’t get the spinal block in, they would have to put me under general anesthesia to “give birth”! No way was I letting that happen!

But the needle was at last placed. The spinal block was finally in, and suddenly it was back to BOOM BOOM BOOM let’s GO GO GO!

They stuck a catheter in me (ew). I also got my arms strapped to either side of me, like Jesus on the cross (Kevin’s description, and not inaccurate). They must have a history of moms trying to escape the OR while they are half temporarily paralyzed and being cut open, right?!

Kevin is finally allowed into the room and he is whiter than a ghost. He looks like he is about to simultaneously throw up, pass out, and run away. Luckily we had amazing nurses to comfort us!

I don’t remember who told me that C-sections are really fast, and why I was naive enough to think that our scenario would be anything like anyone else’s story. It seemed like it took forever; I was told “you might feel just a little pressure”, there was a lot of extremely barbaric yanking and pulling, and finally we heard our baby crying. At 8:37am, they pulled out this giant baby covered in waxy stuff and raised her up like Simba in the Lion King over the blue curtain so we could see her.

Cue Circle of Life, Lion King:

Kevin suddenly stood up, looked me in the eye and said “I love you but I GOTTA GO” and it seemed that everyone in the room yelled at him to sit down. He later told me he suddenly felt sick from seeing all the horrible expressions on my face and he wanted to run out of the room in case he threw up. Meanwhile I was thinking—this is your gut reaction to our baby being born, to run away?!

So as tall as he is, all the doctors and nurses knew he would be able to see over the curtain at my GUTS AND STUFF, and especially if he headed out the doorway, since he would have to walk right by my GUTS AND STUFF going that direction. And we all already knew he was squeamish. Hence why they all yelled at him to sit back down. 

It was surreal hearing this little human crying and crying. I couldn’t believe she was just inside of me. They took her to the warming area and to do all their measurements, and meanwhile the surgery felt more and more uncomfortable...I wouldn’t say I was in pain, because you’re not supposed to feel pain, but I felt a very high level of discomfort.

I have a great women's health/pelvic floor physical therapist, Anne Duch, who I worked with both pre- and postpartum, and she had trained me well to prepare for an epidural-free vaginal birth. Obviously we had a plot twist in this story, but I was actually able to utilize all the deep breathing I had practiced  while laying on the operating table! To manage the extreme discomfort of being put back together like Humpty Dumpty, I watched my heart rate on the monitor and took deep breaths. My HR was in the mid-40’s and I hadn’t seen it that low since before I got pregnant. (My normal non-pregnant resting heart rate.)

I remember my “birth preferences list” said I wanted skin-to-skin with my baby ASAP, and the other OB said that is always the plan, unless the mom is not feeling well and wouldn’t be able to hold onto the baby safely. Of course I didn’t remember that at the time, I was just really impatient and anxious to hold my baby that had been inside of me and a part of me for 9 whole months.

What the heck was taking so long?!

HMMM what's taking so long, Mommy?

Later, I was able to look up our surgery notes in my hospital patient portal and here is a fun snippet:

“The placenta was expressed. An attempt was made to exteriorize the uterus; however, this was unsuccessful. The decision was made to repair the hysterotomy while the uterus was within the abdomen.”

So apparently normal uterus repairs involve repairing it outside the body? WHAAAT? And my uterus was so big they couldn’t “exteriorize” it. WOOOOOOOW. She also was so big they needed to use the vacuum to pull her out. Which I did NOT realize they did in C-sections. My scar is only like 4.5 inches long and I’m still surprised that such a giant baby came out.

Right before they weighed her, they asked me how much I thought she was. I stuck with the 12 pounds I had graphed out! But she was a mere 11 pounds, 6 ounces. I’m convinced she would’ve hit 12 and came a week after my due date if we let her chill like she wanted to. Then I heard “Oh my god!” And the nurse laughed and exclaimed “24 inches!” Which apparently is Dr. Smith’s record for the longest baby she’s ever delivered.

It felt like forever, and was in fact a long 30 minutes--I was able to look back at all the time stamps from our photos. That UD nursing student had my phone and he did good! At 9:09am, I finally got little Ainsley on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. I then cried for the third time that morning! 

To summarize, in a few short hours, I experienced:

1. Tears of fear

2. Tears of pain (stupid spinal block)

3. Tears of joy!

She was so big, yet so little. She looked just like her ultrasound images, but not creepy. 

This was the creature that had been jumping up and down on my bladder, kicking my ribs, and craving all sorts of both weird and delicious food...

Love at first sight!

First trimester: Chef Boyardee Spaghetti-O’s with meatballs (!), Bagel Bites and Kix cereal—all food I hadn’t eaten in probably 3 decades

Second trimester: Avocado toast with smoked salmon, on sourdough

Third trimester: BLT’s

Kevin couldn’t believe how beautiful she was (and still is! More beautiful each and every day).

 He was really convinced she was going to come out looking like a creepy alien.

And that concludes Ainsley Jade’s big entrance into the world! A wild journey full of unexpected feelings, twists, and turns, but above all, immense love and gratitude for our little big one and the amazing team of doctors and nurses for getting her out of me safely.

With our OB, Dr. Kirsten Smith of Women Living Well

She was longer than a Capriotti's large sandwich! Of course we had to do a side-by-side comparison.

Dimples for days! Just like Mom and Dad.

I also wanted to give a shoutout to all the Cesarean birth mamas, both planned and unplanned: they slice and dice through 7 layers of tissue (like a 7-layer burrito!), so don't let anyone tell you that it's the "easy way out". You are amazing! Take your time getting active again, and your body will thank you! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

2022 Race Thoughts

It's "new blog Tuesday" and Birth Story part 3 still needs some polishing up, so give me another week please. In the meantime, I didn't want to break my weekly blog streak (this will be 4 for 4!) so here's a quickie with a tentative race schedule for 2022!

I have a short attention span, so I've split up the year into 3 distinct blocks:

BLOCK #1: Pre-season

March 26. Inaugural First State Half Marathon. Newark, DE.
This route runs through my neighborhood. Like actually down my street. So it's a no-brainer and will encourage me back into double-digit runs!

BLOCK #2: Triathlon season!

May 15. Bear Sprint Triathlon, Lums Pond, Bear, DE. (15-minute drive)

July 9. Diamond in the Rough Sprint Triathlon, Perryville, MD. (30-minute drive)

August 21. North East Olympic Triathlon. North East, MD. (25-minute drive)

BLOCK #3: JFK 50 training block (kind of overlaps with triathlon season)

October 1. Waterman's Half???? Rock Hall, MD. (70-minute drive)

November 19. JFK 50-miler! Boonsboro, MD. (about 2 hours away)

Do you notice a pattern? I'm sticking to races that are pretty local, after learning it was a bit of a production traveling with the little one. And I like to race somewhat often (I am otherwise not motivated to train much), so backyard races it is. JFK 50 will be my huge focus race for the year, and accommodations are already booked!

I was even okay ending triathlon season in August...but I have this leftover Waterman's triathlon festival deferral from last year. I was supposed to do the Olympic...then switched to the sprint distance as I was not training much...then decided to defer since it would've been 3 weekends of traveling in a row and by then I was over it. I now have the option of which distance I want to do and thought...a half ironman would be great training for a 50-miler! HAHA! I actually have until RACE DAY to decide, so this is a big TO BE DETERMINED.

Anyone else got their race plans set for next year yet? Will I see you at one of these??

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Birth Story, Part II: 22 jabs of the spine!

Scheduling your birth is actually pretty darn convenient. You know when exactly you need to go to the hospital, you've got your bags packed (so many snacks!), and you know it'll be your own doctor that you've been working with who is delivering your baby. Not some rando!

I even gave Aero one last bath the night before. She wasn't going to be the only child for much longer, and we didn't want her being stinky meeting her baby sister.

We had a 5am check-in for our 7am surgery. I got a photo with my own Mom before we left:

We got to the hospital early. It was nice being first, but SO early. We were excited. Well, I was excited. I’m sure Kevin was nervous as hell. Whenever anyone greeted us, I would exclaim “I’m having a 12-pound baby today!” And the nurses would laugh and say “no way, you’re so small, I don’t think so...” (which is really cute that they would tell me I was so small) and then Kevin would walk into the room and they would say “OH. Well, maybe you are having a 12-lb baby!”

All the nurses and staff were so nice. It was such a chill morning and they had Kevin get suited up in scrubs. But apparently they don't make shoe covers that fit over size 18 shoes. They did their best. We asked if he could just be in his socks with the shoe covers, but they said it could get slippery if…you know, bodily fluids. (EW!) So he just had the shoe covers kind of flapping around the tops of his sneakers and we laughed about it.

We met our nursing team, and they asked if it was okay that we had a University of Delaware student nurse observing and helping. I said "of course!" Then they asked if it was okay if he was a dude. I hesitated, but only because they actually asked that, and I thought that was weird. "Of course! He's gotta learn too!" Turns out this was the first surgery he has ever witnessed. So fun!

The anesthesiologist then came in to go over the spinal block procedure. The spinal block basically paralyzes you from the waist down so you don’t feel them cutting into your belly. This was the part that I was most nervous about, because who wants a giant needle in their back? But he assured me it was super quick, maybe 5 minutes at the most, and joked that it wasn't his first time doing this. ***OMINOUS MUSIC*** Kevin, who has pretty good intuition about people, later said he didn't like this guy from the start, because he was young and cocky!

So they were all “take your time, you've got plenty of time” and then suddenly it was almost 7am and it seemed that everyone had this cartoon bubble over their heads that said “OH SHIT IT’S ALMOST 7AM” and it went from super chill to GO GO GO GO GO.

I was wheeled very quickly down the hallway towards the operating room...it was pretty exciting, just like Grey's Anatomy, and I was the star of the show!

But suddenly we were inside the OR...and I was surprised it was so cold, and there were metal instruments everywhere, and actually, it was kind of scary, and not fun like Grey’s Anatomy at all. I went from being very excited “I’m having a 12-pound baby today!” to OMG this is a really scary place and I don't want to be star of this show.

Kirsten, AKA Dr. Smith, was my OB who I have known for many years and would be the one doing the surgery. I knew her through a personal friend and have been to her house for dinner and met her daughter years ago. She was all scrubbed up and asked how I was doing…she saw the look of terror in my eyes and said “it’s ok, you don’t have to be brave.” I let some tears fall, and she then held my hands as the anesthesiologist did the spinal block... Or attempted to.

And again.
And again.

This guy had trouble getting it in. (That’s what she said!) It was really painful. Like shooting pain down your body painful. The anesthesia team would tell me to try to relax, and lean over—two things that are really hard to do when you are pregnant with a MASSIVE BABY and someone is trying to put a huge needle into your back!

They actually had to call in a second anesthesiologist. I knew this second doc was cool because he had a Baby Yoda scrub cap on. But he had some trouble too. They eventually got it. When I talked to Kirsten two days later, she said it took them 22 tries to get the needle placed. I'm glad I couldn't see behind me, because I honestly thought they only tried like 3 or 4 times. But 22?! That's INSANE. Even the second doctor took 3 tries (which means…the first doc took 19 tries. OMG.) She said it was actually very unusual, since I have a pretty lean body type (minus the giant belly) which typically makes it pretty quick and easy to do the spinal block.

They tried to say I had scoliosis, which I know I don’t. (I'm a prosthetist-orthotist and I definitely know what scoliosis is, because we make custom back braces for it!) They tried to distract me during the whole process by asking me about marathons and triathlons and how many Ironmans I have done (22! ironically the same number of jabs to the back!). So then they blamed my really tight back muscles from my extensive triathlon history (not untrue). Later, my chiropractor theorized that my spine was a bit warped from carrying such a large baby, and we knew that my already tight paraspinal muscles in the low back got even tighter during pregnancy.

That big belly sure did a number to my spine!

Apparently it took over 30 minutes just to get the needle placed into my back. They had told Kevin to wait outside as it would only be 5 minutes. So the poor guy was already freaked out in the first place, wondering what the heck is taking so long, and of course starts to freak out more when 30 minutes later, he’s told that there are some complications. OMG.

To be continued…


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A birth story of EPIC PROPORTIONS. Part 1.

We all knew she was going to be big. (Kevin is 6’9” and I’m 5’9”.) But I guess we didn’t think she was going to be THAT BIG. Kevin was just under 10 lbs (9lbs 14oz), while I was 7lbs 4oz. Both of our moms are about 5 feet tall!

Remember our birth announcement photo? We tall.

Since I was 38 going on 39, I was flagged as an “old ass mom” (AKA “advanced maternal age” or less nicely, a “geriatric pregnancy” *BARF*) which actually is what they call any pregnant lady over 35 years old. (Yeah, what?!) This meant that I got extra tests like extra ultrasounds. 

Apparently the young’uns only get a 20-week anatomy scan. I had the 20-week scan and got another one every 4 weeks after that! We all know that "Asian don't raisin" and I could still pass for 25, but they had to go by my real age. I actually didn’t mind because it was fun seeing her creepy little 3D face regularly.

definitely creepy

not so creepy, kind of cute

Every OB appointment you go to, they also measure your “fundal height” which is putting a tape measure over your growing mountain of a belly. From the very beginning, I was consistently measuring 4-5 weeks more than I actually was. 

Like all new future mamas, I got a little obsessed with having a great birth experience and birth story. My mom had 3 of us, and her labors were only like 2 hours, 1 hour (that was ME! Always the competitive middle child, I was the fastest to come out!), and 2 hours. Granted, we were all smaller than Ainsley would be (and my mom is way smaller than I am), but as my PT said, my mom practically pooped us out! I was pretty confident I could push out a 10-pound baby, if she ended up being that big. 

Feeling huge but glam

Oh yeah. I did my research. Most of the time, when they estimate you’re gonna have a really big baby and recommend a C-section, it’s not actually necessary. (See this link: Evidence on: Induction or Cesarean for a Big Baby) The measurements aren’t super accurate. I totally wanted to go the unmedicated, low intervention, vaginal route. (Soap box: I have learned not to call a vaginal birth the more common term “natural birth” because that’s just people being afraid to say the V-word.)

So here’s some fun stats:

28-week scan: 3lbs 9oz. 98th percentile
32-week scan: 6lbs 10oz. 99.98th percentile
36-week scan: 9lbs 7oz. 99.98th percentile 

Well… when you have 4 more weeks to go, and the baby inside your belly already measures as huge for a baby OUTSIDE your belly… you plot the data points and extrapolate the graph, like the good little nerd you are.

And you get an estimated birth weight of 12lbs.


I was not super confident I could push out a 12lb baby. 

But I didn’t have to make that choice, because my OB team made that for me. Apparently, the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommendation for a baby estimated to be more than 5kg (11lbs exactly) in the absence of gestational diabetes is a scheduled Cesarean. You don’t want to go into labor and have the baby get stuck, get suffocated, dislocate a shoulder, get a permanent nerve injury, etc etc etc. Or have like all kinds of *GULP* vaginal tearing.

They scheduled me for 3 days before my due date and I was pretty sure I was going to go into labor early and that we needed to schedule for much earlier. I actually stopped working 3 weeks before my due date because I was HUUUUUUUGE and could barely manuever myself to do really simple things at work, like cast a patient’s leg or get myself around the parallel bars. And just in case I went into labor early, because I looked like I was about to give birth, like yesterday.

The supply of Costco "bath tissue" shall
forever memorialize the Great TP Shortage of 2020

But we did not go into labor early. AT ALL. None of the signs. 

So we had a date set. December 2, 2020.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Reflections on 40

I turned 40 last week, on Thanksgiving. There was much to be grateful for, and I realized it was time for some new big scary goals. That way…I won’t feel like I “peaked” at 40!

I used to make huge lists, kind of with deadlines, like my “30 before 30”, “19 for 2019” and then “19 during COVID-19” (which you know, is still ongoing…so the list is not done, bwahaha). But I’ve realized the danger of setting these arbitrary deadlines. When I was approaching my 30th birthday, a DECADE AGO… I was an injured professional triathlete. I had only competed for less than 3 seasons (half of 2009, all of 2010 and half of 2011) but started panicking like “what am I doing with my life?!” I had so much student loan debt and I wasn’t in the most supportive relationship at the time. My plan had been to return to work in prosthetics & orthotics part-time while continuing to race, but getting hit by a car during Ironman Korea really put a damper on things. As that milestone 30th birthday loomed, I made the "grown up" decision to retire from professional triathlon, and to focus on my prosthetics & orthotics career. My decision to retire early from pro triathlon would haunt me for years afterwards. I’m at peace with it now, but I do look back at how young I was and believe that I could’ve made it happen under different circumstances.

By 30 years old, I had hit some major goals of becoming the first Asian-American female professional triathlete, traveled the world training and racing as such, specialized in the freakin’ IRONMAN distance, and broke 10 hours a couple times—all triathlon things I had only ever dreamt of.

The original blog heading circa 2011

As of February 2020, I had paid off all my student loans that had sat stagnant during my pro triathlon career, that I later focused on eliminating when I was able to transition to a “real job” as my mom called it. It was over $95,000…a really daunting and seemingly impossible amount to tackle. But it got done!

Thanksgiving 2020 vs. Thanksgiving 2021

 And nearly 12 months ago, my primary “before 40” goal (the only one with a real biological deadline)—we had our baby Ainsley! There was admittedly procrastination on both Mom and Dad’s side. I gave myself a lot of grace during pregnancy and postpartum to not be one of those moms who did TOO MUCH. I have a great pelvic floor physical therapist who gave the best advice…”just because you CAN…doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” 

I did a super sprint triathlon at 23 weeks pregnant to commemorate my 20th year in the sport, but couldn’t run much or bike outside shortly afterwards. I tried to then swim more, but eventually got super tired and just waddled around the block with our dog Aero. I got really huge because our baby was pretty huge. She wanted to be 12lbs but the 36-week ultrasound (when she was already over 9lbs) necessitated a scheduled Cesarean…so she was evicted 3 days early at a mere 11lbs 6oz. (The birth story will perhaps needs its own entire blog post...)

Baby's first race podium

Postpartum, I’ve only run up to 5-6 miles at the most, and did a handful of sprint triathlons over the summer. We’ve done a couple stroller 5k’s. My body is starting to feel normal…ish…maybe. The 65lbs I gained during pregnancy eventually came off (and then some, actually). Apparently breastfeeding a very large baby burns like 1000 calories a day, because my training is fairly nonexistent other than daily stroller walks, heavy baby lifting and the occasional 5k (both with and without the fancy BOB stroller).

5k stroller PR!

Actually, I’m sure my body will never quite be the same. My feet went up a half size, from 10 to 10.5 (the most annoying size because a lot of brands skip 10.5 and jump to 11…which is usually the biggest size in women’s carried in stores). I might weigh less but it’s all distributed differently.

Baby's first 5k podium

And time management—where do I even try to fit in training as a new mom, who works full-time, with a baby and a dog? Parents with more than 1 child really impress me! I’m hoping to get back into some sort of blogging, as I would love to tackle some big athletic goals again, now that I’ve essentially made it to 12 months postpartum, and hit my milestone 40th birthday. Stay tuned!! 

Must distract baby while incapacitated by Normatecs

 In the meantime, here are some highlights from our first year: