Birth Story of my daughter Ellie

The Tummy Story Tradition – My mom has a special tradition – dubbed the “tummy story” – of telling each of us 4 kids the birth story on our birthday every year. I never tire of hearing it, and maybe that’s b/c it’s short and sweet and goes like this: “You were almost born in the car! When we got to the hospital and they asked for insurance, your dad said the baby was coming any moment, and lo and behold soon thereafter you were here!” She kept telling me that like in her experience, the second might come fast…Anyways, I’m writing down my dear Ellie’s birth story so I can continue to pass down the tummy story tradition.

Found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day! Exactly a year ago on mother’s day, I found out I was pregnant with our second child – how sweet is that?! While we celebrated mother’s day with our broader family, I had a special glow not only basking in being a mama to a wonderful 1.5 yr old, but knowing that we now had a special secret that we were blessed w/ a second child on the way.

Mother’s Day 2019 when I learned I was pregnant!

A smooth pregnancy with a couple of third tri bumps – Overall I was blessed with a relatively easy pregnancy like the first time around. I was notably more tired during the first trimester but otherwise had no nausea or other issues until my third trimester. At around 32 weeks pregnant, I had two issues crop up concurrently:

  1. Gestational diabetes – yes even a vegan half marathoner can get it! I tested just above the threshold of the 1 hour glucose test (that horribly disgusting tasting sugary drink) so they had me come back for the more diagnostic three hour glucose test which is fasting and they draw blood exactly on the hour every three hours after the glucola drink. Lo and behold, two of my results were just above threshold and they diagnosed me with gestational diabetes. I was super upset and surprised since I didn’t have too many risk factors (though I am over 35 and my maternal grandfather had diabetes). When reading about the risks to both mom and baby, which include higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes, macrosmoia (very large babies), babies with low blood sugar at birth and more, I was very anxious. Not to mention, I was hardly excited about the need to now check my blood sugars 4x/ day. Thankfully though I was able to adjust my diet slightly to (1) be more protein rich (to do so I did choose to temporarily become vegetarian vs. vegan to integrate eggs and cheese) and (2) cut out sweets altogether, and I was able to be diet controlled (so did not need insulin) the whole time and have normal blood sugar readings almost 100% of the time. I also found the book Real Food for Gestational Diabetes helpful as were some Facebook forums for moms with GD. Given I was able to stay diet controlled, they allowed me to go past 40 weeks pregnant (vs. on insulin often they induce at 39 wks). Additionally, they checked Ellie’s blood sugars at birth and 4 times in 24 hours post birth and thankfully hers were normal too.
  2. Belly was “measuring small” : Starting at 30 weeks they measure your belly and the number in centimerters should correlate to weeks pregnant . At 30 weeks I was right on track but at 34 weeks I was still measuring to 30 weeks and I had stopped gaining weight so they did a growth ultrasound. While my OBGYN reinforced that the ruler measurements are often imprecise, I was pretty freaked out awaiting the ultrasound results, but thankfully the growth ultrasound showed she was right on track. At 38 weeks, for the same reasons, they ordered another growth ultrasound and thankfully it also showed she was right on track and in fact was projected to be ~8 lbs. Ultimately she was an 8 lb 3 oz. baby so not small at all and I have a theory that while I stopped gaining weight due to my diet adjustments from GD (especially no sweets), thankfully she kept growing just fine. In all I gained ~20 lbs vs. the recommended 25-35 lbs for me but there were no issues b/c of this.
38 weeks pregnant

The second comes fast they say… Like with my mom’s experience with me (I’m the second of four children), a lot of my friends who are moms of 2+ kids warned me that the second often comes after much shorter labor so not to delay with going to the hospital once labor started (especially with Los Angeles traffic).

In active labor but didn’t know it! My son Luca came at 41 weeks and I had no early labor signs with Ellie and sensed she would also “go long”. In line with my intuition, my due date came and went uneventfully. At 41 weeks, consistent with Kaiser policy, they brought me in for a non stress test (where they hook you up for fetal monitoring). Lo and behold, during the monitoring, the screen was showing I was having contractions and they weren’t sporadic. In fact, every 3 minutes I was having contractions that were a minute in duration. Now all new parents know the “5-1-1” rule as the signal to head to labor & delivery (=contractions every 5 minutes that are 1 minute each for 1 hour). So according to the NST I was in active labor but didn’t even know it- maybe I was too distracted chasing around my toddler or maybe it was just still very early labor. They recommended I get checked by OBGYN, and she took one look at me and how I was still smiling and relaxed and even though I was 41 wks with contractions and 4 cm dilated, she recommended I go home and come back when contractions were more painful (and specifically said at Kaiser “6 cm is the new 4 cm” meaning they generally want you to be 6 cm dilated before they admit you, especially if you’re not in pain yet). This was Jan. 23 the night before my birthday so we heeded her advice and went for a sunset beach walk (albeit a slow one) and even went out to a birthday dinner at my favorite vegan spot Seabirds. I was convinced this would be the final meal before she arrived, but boy was I wrong!

Some anxiety about labor given traumatic first delivery – Our son Luca had a major emergency at birth where he suddenly stopped breathing and needed to be resuscitated and intubated despite being a full term baby with no signs of distress during pregnancy or labor. He then spent a week in the NICU for an infection of the lungs so I was definitely nervous about labor base on our first experience (see his full birth story here).

My birth affirmations – art credit goes to my husband Marcus 🙂

3 days later she arrived! After Jan. 23td non stress test, I suspected we would share a birthday on Jan 24th but that too came and passed uneventfully. On Saturday morning Jan. 25th at 3 am I observed what I was thought was water leaking but not full bag of water breaking since there was no gush but just a slight trickle. I called labor and delivery and they recommended I come in and they checked me and confirmed it was just a trickle of fluid. At this point they did offer to admit me but I chose to go home to rest since I still wasn’t feeling painful contractions. That afternoon I finally did feel the painful contractions – the kind you don’t want to talk through and need to pause to breathe and went back in (again!) knowing she was coming soon. I knew I wanted an epidural (had a dreamy epidural experience the first time) but held off until I felt I really needed it to try to have labor progress as much as possible first. Ultimately I did opt for pitocin since I was still at 4 cm even after days (!) of laboring – the pitocin got me to 5-7 cm after about 6 hours and then the doctor offered to break my bag of waters; while I had abstained from this with Luca w/ the desire to minimize intervention, I decided I was ready for her to come and it was low risk from what the OBGYN explained. After my water broke, I was ready to push about 10 minutes later! Now I hated the pushing part with Luca and again with Ellie. The ability to release and relax the pelvic floor was not natural to me at all (and I read that sometimes for runners and those who do bar method it can be more natural to have a tight pelvic floor and more challenging in turn to learn to relax- more on that in this great book The Fourth Trimester). I even recall saying “I f*cking hate this part.” But with some coaching from the nurse and the steady support of Marcus, about 50 minutes later at 12:51 am on January 26th our beautiful daughter Ellie Golda Rosenthal was born with a very full head of wild dark hair and a loud healthy cry. I held her skin to skin, and in the miracle of the moment remember an utter joy, deep exhaustion and anxiety about whether she would keep breathing (which thankfully she did). We were blessed beyond measure with another beautiful healthy child.

Photos from Ellie’s first 10 days
Ellie now at 3.5 months – wide eyed, curious and playful

Ellie’s name – Ellie Golda Rosenthal:

  • Ellie – We chose Ellie because we loved the name, which means “God of mine” in Hebrew and “Shining light” in Greek so taken together invokes a divine light
  • Golda – Golda was my grandma Hana’s oldest sister, who herself was a young mother pictured below, and sadly both she and her baby perished in Auschwitz along with all of my grandma’s siblings and her parents. We honor and carry on her memory through our daughter.
Golda- Ellie’s middle name honors my grandma Hana’s sister

So this mother’s day, in these uniquely isolating and stressful times, I hold Ellie (and Luca) tight knowing these moments are fleeting as she is already changing so much so fast. And a special prayer for all the mamas and mamas-to-be and those trying for continued health (physical and mental) during these challenging times.

Sending love and prayers to all the mamas and mamas to be – art by the talented Spirit y Sol

Healthy Pregnancy Tips

I have taken a long hiatus from posting during my pregnancy (though I have stayed active on Instagram – check out @vibrant_veg) but as I’m due very soon (this Friday!) with a baby boy, I thought I would share some things/ tips that have helped me through my first pregnancy.  I am grateful that to date I have been blessed with a relatively easy pregnancy – no first trimester nausea / vomiting, no heartburn, no major foot / ankle swelling, still sleeping 8+ hours, etc.  I believe this is likely partly due to genetics (both my sisters had relatively easy pregnancies too), and partly due to maintaining a very healthy vegetarian diet and staying very active (walking 4-5 miles a day and doing bar method / prenatal yoga a few times a week).   Now I doubt any
pregnancy is totally aches and pains free, and I have definitely been experiencing baby kicking my ribs over the past few weeks and did have a scare of what felt like pre-term labor at 26 weeks (in hindsight believe it was dehydration), but overall have thankfully been feeling very well and am sharing some things that have helped me.
Every woman’s body is so unique and different, and every pregnancy
experience will of course be unique, but I am hoping that some of these may help.
Prenatal yoga – cannot recommend this enough for the combination of gentle stretching, relaxation & breathing tips, and the wealth of knowledge and support that is shared by the community.   Most prenatal teachers are also doulas and some pregnant women who come are already moms, and both the teachers and students have shared helpful tips.   In fact when late in my second trimester I started getting some cramps in my calf during the night, a fellow student mentioned to try magnesium lotion and it worked like a miracle (never got the calf cramps again after applying).  I did prenatal yoga both in the Bay Area and LA and my favorite studios / teachers
are:
  • Oakland: Barefoot studio – This was just a few blocks from my work in downtown Oakland and offered daily prenatal yoga classes, which is very rare (most studios offer prenatal 1-2x / week if they offer it at all).  And not only do they offer daily classes but they are the most affordable too with unlimited prenatal for ~$65/ month and a first time student special of $40/ month if you are new to the studio.
  • Los Angeles: Any classes with Keya Nikoni – she teaches at YogaWorks Playa Vista, Moving Joint in Mar Vista and Red Diamond Yoga in Culver City.  Her energy is so grounding and nurturing and you get a great stretch too.  She also offers partner workshops and is a doula.  I also enjoyed Bridgette’s Monday / Wed. mid-day class at YogaWorks Montana in Santa Monica, which has a nice gentle pace.
o  At home online prenatal yoga videos on your own schedule: I subscribe for $15/ month to yogisanonymous.com and they have quite a few prenatal offerings ranging from short meditations to full classes.  My favorite class is a 30 min. shoulder, neck and heart opening sequence by Kate Cariati, which was very helpful for me as I tend to hold tension in my shoulders and neck and always felt better after this class.  If you do choose to do prenatal at home it is worth investing in blocks, a bolster and a strap if you don’t have these already as props are pretty essential for prenatal practice.
·
Sleeping:
o  Pregnancy pillow – This was the very first thing I got and it has been perhaps the single most helpful thing throughout my
pregnancy (okay probably second to prenatal vitamins & iron pills, but this is really high on the list and I am pretty obsessed with it).  My sister, who like me is petite, gifted this to me and mentioned that it is apparently especially great for petite women, and I have absolutely loved it.  Sometimes after I get up my husband will crawl into it and he loves it too.  I love it so much that I bought a second one to keep at my parent’s house for when I visit, and I even recommended this to a non-pregnant friend
who was having sleeping issues and she loves it too.  I started using this towards the end of my first trimester, probably before I needed to, and plan to continue to use it for a while after baby arrives.
o  I also slept on both my left side (most recommended position esp. post 20 weeks), but continued to sleep on my back too
propped up by 1-2 pillows.  Some doctors/ websites/ yoga teachers don’t recommend back sleeping but I am hearing more
and more that the science is coming around to suggest that it can be okay for some women, and since I feel very in touch with my body and baby (he moves a ton and lets me know when he is unhappy for example I cannot sleep on my right side), I think this has been fine for me and my doctor has been okay with it.
·    Preventing backache:  Being petite (I’m 5”2) and slim, the pregnancy weight gain as a % of total body weight can definitely take a toll on
the lower back.  Since my pre-pregnancy weight was 105 lbs and I gained 25 lbs throughout my pregnancy, I gained nearly 25% of my original body weight, which is in a good and healthy range and thankfully baby is measuring well, but I did intermittently feel like I needed
a little extra support for my back. Based on Amazon reviews, I tried this Azmed belly belt and it worked very well for me.  I did not need to use it daily and would only use it when I felt I needed it, which was more towards my third trimester, esp. during work days when I was sitting more often.
·     Staying cool:
Especially toward the end of my third trimester, I have been finding that I am feeling extra hot / flushed, esp. at night.  This is caused by hormones and exacerbated by the California heat waves we had been experiencing, and this little handheld fan has been surprisingly effective to cool me down and I plan to pack this in my hospital bag too for labor.
·     Pregnancy / nursing bras:  I only ordered these when I was 37 weeks and so wish I had gotten them sooner as they are so comfy (and I gained a full cup size in my first trimester so definitely could have gotten them sooner – extenders are a good, affordable interim solution too).  The quality for the price is quite literally unbelievable (they are basically $6 each!) and I have recommended these to all my pregnant friends.

·     Books:  My dear friend Nadine who is also having a baby boy recommended this birth partner book for my husband (who will be my acting doula / labor support as I decided not to go w/ a doula), and we actually both read it and found it very helpful to supplement the childbirth prep classes we took.

Iron Pills: If you are vegan or vegetarian, it is really important to get enough iron during pregnancy.  Given that blood volume increases during pregnancy, iron is so critical and while it is pretty common from what I learned to have slight anemia during pregnancy, this is likely more common among vegetarians even if you are vigilant about eating high iron foods like spinach, nuts & legumes, dried apricots/ figs, etc. I found out that I was slightly anemic early in my second trimester after some blood tests and started taking iron pills with orange juice (vitamin C helps absorption); in hindsight, I would have started taking these in my first trimester.

Well for whenever I do my next post, I will likely be a mama so wish me luck on my labor and birthing journey.  My intention is to try my best to relax, breathe through and surrender to contractions (one of my favorite affirmations is ‘I can do anything for 1 minute’ and another is the simple ‘I am fine; my baby is fine’), and be patient and open to my birth experience as it unfolds (trying not to get attached to any specific vision of how & when my birthing experience will unfold).