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A Fall to Remember

September had two major events for me and my family.

First, I defended my PhD dissertation the second week of September. This is huge! I started my PhD at the University of New Mexico, where I study geology, in 2010. I took a year off following the birth of my first daughter (2012-2013), but otherwise, have been working my way through the PhD process for nearly 5 years. Finding out I was pregnant again pushed me into high gear last spring, and I spent the summer focused on getting through my oral defense before our baby was slated to arrive. In fact, I had about 8 days during which I could schedule my defense: after the fall semester started, but leaving me a couple weeks before my due date, just in case the baby decided to arrive early.

Dissertation defense announcement!

Timing being what it was, I ended up having my defense scheduled while I was a day shy of 38 weeks pregnant: the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend. I had been experiencing false labor contractions all weekend (the irony!), but no true labor, thank goodness. I was nervous and pretty tightly wound during the last weeks of preparation for my defense, and being so near the end of pregnancy made things more interesting. Suffice to say: my husband is a saint. Luckily, my nightmare of going into labor during my defense did not occur, and I gave my talk and passed my oral exam without incident.

After my dissertation defense, I moved into what I call “hermit mode” and basically saw very few people, did a lot of walking, a lot of nesting in preparation for our new arrival. I savored the last few days alone with MariaElena, [finally] did some nursery preparation, and I did a lot of sewing, my creative outlet of choice. False labor kept me on my toes: on the day of the supermoon & lunar eclipse I was sure I was going into labor after 14 hours of regular contractions, but then….they went away while we watched the spectacular eclipse.

Due date donuts. If I eat enough of them, the baby will arrive, right?

September closed out spectacularly for us with the birth of our daughter, Penélope. A week past her due date, I was advised to induce labor due to decreased movement, lowered amniotic fluid levels, and variable response to contractions by my (awesome) O.B. We settled our older daughter at home with my mom, who came to stay for a few days, and spent the afternoon fighting nerves (me) and feeling giddy about the imminent arrival of our baby.

Once at the hospital, I was given an IV and checked by the doctor on call; I had requested only intermittent monitoring and IV fluids as was allowable, so I was able to walk around freely most of the time. Apparently I just needed a little ‘push’ to get started: one dose of misoprostol to enhance dilation (I was <.5 cm dilated!) quickly resulted in my going into full-fledged labor. Pain escalated just as quickly as labor was progressing, and I requested an epidural when I reached ~5cm dilation. This was a hard request to make: I’m terrified of needles, the thought of one going into my spine was not appealing. However, it was the best request I made: three hours after induction began, our daughter was born, and I was able to enjoy the last hour of it calmly, holding Johns’ hand, fully aware and watching our daughter make her entrance into the world after only 4 rounds of pushing (less than 5 minutes). Fastest! Labor! Imaginable!

Ten minutes old.

It’s been nearly three weeks, and our daughter has been sweet, calm, and incredible. We are enjoying our lives as a family of four, and MariaElena loves being an older sister. It was hard to imagine that our lives could be more full of love before our baby was born, but somehow each day seems to get even better. I’m re-exploring the quirks of the newborn stage, but as a much calmer and confident mother than the first time around – it’s a lot of fun!

Family of 4: Balloon Fiesta.

Next up on the blog: So I just had a baby…How to start running again?

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