Baby Catching – Part I

Ellie is a good baby. A sweet baby. She doesn’t cry unless she needs something (for now at least, I know this could change). She nuzzles my neck with her little fuzzy head, makes little cooing “eh-eh-eh” noises, and has expressions that make us laugh with delight. I spend my days drinking in the smell of her, kissing her satiny cheeks, and staring into her blue eyes in wonder and joy. She looks back at me as if to say “what took you so long, mom? I’ve been waiting here this whole time.” My daughter. My daughter. Holding her in my arms feels like a reunion, like a long lost traveller has finally come home.

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Baby Catching – Part I

Friday morning (January 31st) I woke up to a labor pain. I’d been having contractions for weeks, but this one HURT. I thought I knew what a painful contraction was. I did not. I was so, so naive.

I had a scheduled OB appointment that morning, and I was desperately hoping they would tell me I had dilated beyond the paltry 1 centimeter I had been for two weeks.

At the appointment I complained to the Nurse Practitioner about my PUPPPs, and while she was sympathetic, she told me it was probably not a good enough reason to induce. I was still only 1 centimeter dilated (goddamnittalltohell), and I wasn’t so overdue that it was medically necessary to get the baby out. Tammy and I reconciled ourselves to the sad state of my cervix (what is the holdup, cervix) while she went to check with a doctor about a steroid cream for my belly. But instead of coming back with some cream, she came back with an offer to induce. The doctor had told her the steroid cream isn’t really very effective, and that only delivery would provide me with some relief. Since I was past 40 weeks, I could be induced any time.

We hadn’t really prepared to have that offer thrown at us, and I think the panic of making an important decision like that showed on our faces. The NP offered us some time to think about it while we went off to our scheduled Non Stress Test (NST, something they had me doing for the past few weeks – another post about that another time), and told us to stop by on our way back with a decisions. The NST was absolutely fine – baby’s heartbeat was healthy, I was having contractions that showed up on the monitor, but as my cervix had just been checked and showed minimal dilation, they weren’t too concerned I might go into imminent labor.

Tammy and I agonized over the induction decision on the slow, painful (still contracting!) walk between the OB’s office and the office where they did the NST. We went back and forth on pros and cons, but ultimately decided to give my body a few more days to do it’s thing without medical intervention, which would hopefully avoid a C-section. We asked the NP if we could get an induction set for Sunday night, both to give my body more time to “ripen” (like a damn peach or something) and because our doctor, whom we love, was on call at the hospital on Mondays. She called us later to let us know they didn’t have any slots available for Sunday night, but they did have one for Monday morning at 8AM, so we booked it. Tammy was relieved that we wouldn’t be having the baby until Monday – she was glad to have the weekend to do final preparations, notify work, etc. Poor Tammy. Wish not granted.

Meanwhile, I was still having painful contractions. They were 10 minutes apart in the morning, but by the time we got back from the doctor’s office around 1PM they were 7-8 minutes apart. And they fucking hurt. I was starting to think I was in labor, but we’d had so many false alarms before – contractions getting closer together, only to space out and piss me the hell off disappoint – so I kept my inkling to myself. Around 4:30, Tammy asked me if we could order Chinese for dinner. She had been timing the contractions, which were a solid 6-7 minutes apart at this point, and she didn’t want to have the hassle of cooking something while she was also trying to time my contractions and hold my hand while I had them. I had absolutely zero interest in food, but I told her Chinese was fine. Looking back, this was another indication that I was in labor – All I’d eaten that day was a slice of toast for breakfast and half a bag of popcorn for lunch but I could hardly bear to think about dinner.

By the time the food came, the contractions were so painful all I could do during them was moan or wail and grip Tammy’s hand with all my might. They were also 5-6 minutes apart. I looked at her after a particularly painful one and said, “I want to go to the hospital and I want an epidural.” Me saying that flipped a switch with her. She absolutely LEAPED into action, grabbing the last of the items for the baby bag, throwing dishes into the dishwasher, feeding the cat, all while running back to me every 3-4 minutes now to hold my hand during a contraction. Poor thing only got to have a few bites of dinner.

The car ride to the hospital was awful. Every bump in the road was magnified, and each contraction felt like my body was being ripped into pieces.

They way our hospital is set up meant we had to check in at the ER desk and would then be admitted to Labor and Delivery. Tammy pulled up out front and walked me in (I was totally incapable of walking on my own), and the second we got inside a bad contraction hit. I had found the most comforting position during contractions was to bend at the (non existent) waist, clutch Tammy’s midsection, bury my face into her stomach or back, and moan. The admissions desk took one look at us standing there and called for a wheelchair to take me up to L&D (I wonder how they could tell I was in labor?). Somehow I climbed in and was whisked off to the fifth floor while Tammy went and parked.

(A note here about the pain: It’s hard to describe what labor felt like, except to say it was so, SO much worse than I could ever have imagine. I think my mom, as much as I love her, set me up badly because she told me her labor pains just felt like “pressure”. And sure, we could call labor pains pressure, if by “pressure” you mean a wild animal ripping apart my belly with its teeth.)

When I got up to L&D the disgustingly chipper orderly made me get up out of the wheelchair and the nurses made me check in. I was leaning over the desk panting and wailing while they asked me questions like “how far along are you?” and, “is this your first baby?” I’m not sure how I restrained myself from telling them to go fuck themselves. All I could think about was making the pain stop. I could barely remember my own name.

Somehow I ended up sitting alone in a chair by the check in desk. Tammy came running in (she had run all the way from the parking garage with our gigantic hospital bag (we totally overpacked)) and found me there, huddled and shaking and whimpering to myself. I’m sure I looked pathetic, but what they say is true: when you are in labor you truly, truly do not care what you look like. I could have been butt naked in front of my boss and I would not have cared in the slightest.

We got into our room and I was told to put on a hospital gown and provide them with a urine sample. A motherfucking urine sample, y’all. Sitting down on the toilet was the most painful position yet (in retrospect I’m sure it had something to do with the baby bearing down on my cervix) and I was shaking so badly I could barely hold the cup between my legs. I ended up handing a pee soaked cup to Tammy to label and hand off to the nurse.

(A note here about Tammy: she was a rockstar. An absolute rockstar. She kept it together when I’m sure I would have been panicking, validated my every whim, every choice, every decision and did her best to keep me calm. She never left my side. I would have been absolutely lost without her.)

At this point I was begging every nurse, tech, and doctor (really, anyone I thought had a remote chance of working at the hospital – I would have asked a janitor) for an epidural. I had started throwing up from the pain (half digested popcorn looks disgusting as vomit, FYI) and I had to endure a painful cervix check during a contraction. I was 4 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. I’d gone from 1cm and 0% effaced at 10:30am to 4cm and 100% effaced at 7:30pm.

Finally, finally, after I got the requisite amount of IV fluid in my system, I was given an epidural. Oh my GOD you guys. The needle hurt a tiny bit, but nothing worse than a pinch and it was only for a moment. Maybe I would feel differently about epidurals if I’d had a some of those bad side effects you hear about (itching skin, for example, or bad headaches) but I had no adverse reaction whatsoever. I thought I might be disappointed that I opted for an epidural rather than the non-medicated labor I had planned on, but I wasn’t disappointed then and I’m not now, not in the slightest. They told me it might take up to 15 minutes for the epidural to kick in, but within two minutes I was no longer in pain. The relief I felt was so immense, so overwhelming, that I cried in gratitude. Tammy hadn’t been allowed to stay with me while the inserted the epidural, but when she came back in the room she told me later that one look at my face made her a believer in epidurals.

(A note here about medicated vs. non-medicated births: I’m so uninterested in this debate, if one is better than the other, what it says about you if you have an epidural vs. go without, blah blah. For me, I’m grateful I had the option. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to labor at home, grateful we went to the hospital when we did, grateful I asked for the epidural, and grateful I received it. I’m also grateful that women who want a labor free from medicated pain relief have that option. I’m all about options, and I’m most of all grateful that we have them.)

An hour and a half after I received the epidural, my cervix was checked again. At 10pm I was 8 centimeters dilated. The nurse cheerfully told us to start placing bets on a delivery before or after midnight. Unfortunately, they checked me at midnight and I was still 8cm, and the baby hadn’t moved down at all. They broke my water, hoping that would put the baby’s head closer to my cervix, thus applying more pressure and dilating me further. It didn’t work though, and the baby’s heart rate started showing signs of distress. They made me stay lying on my right side because being on my left or on my back made her heart rate slow to unacceptable speeds. I had to wear an oxygen mask for the rest of the night in hopes that it would help.

Sometime in the early morning the doctor started discussing c-sections with me. She told me she wasn’t sure why I was stuck at 8 centimeters, but it could be that the baby’s head was too big to properly engage (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix), it could be that the baby’s head was at an odd angle in my pelvis (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix). Before they recommended a c-section however, they wanted to try me on a low dose of pitocin, to see if contractions of increased strength did the trick.

Half an hour on the lowest possible dose of pitocin and I was 10 centimeters and ready to push. I was so relieved to avoid a c-section and really excited to push. The epidural had worn off enough that I could feel contractions coming on, but they mainly felt like a tightness and pressure, similar to braxton-hix, rather than the searing pain of real contractions.

The doctor had me do a few practice pushes (“pretend you’re constipated and pushing out a great big poop”) and then called the team in (because I delivered at a teaching hospital, there was the doctor, a resident, a med student and a handful of nurses all there at various points in the pushing process).  After the first few pushes, the doctor asked if I wanted to watch myself push, and I said yes. Watching myself, splayed open, pooping, bleeding, and stretching open was both awesome and horrifying. I didn’t enjoy watching myself poop (truly bizarre) but seeing this small dark oval get larger, ever so slowly larger made was worth every view of the gore and poop.

I was pretty cheerful for the first hour of pushing. I felt strong and confident and was filled with adrenaline and excitement. Halfway through the second hour my strength began to fade, and I got more and more tired. I felt like I’d been pushing forever, and started to get weepy.

Pushing hadn’t really hurt up to the point of her crowning – just the pressure and tightness from the (epidurally reduced) contractions. By the time she was crowning, however, everything burned. I was so tightly stretched, and the doctor kept pouring oil over me, then running her finger along the edge of Ellie’s head and my skin to try to stretch me further. I kept telling her that it hurt (because it fucking did) and she kept telling me that the baby was almost here. At one point she had me reach down and feel Ellie’s head, and it was such a strange, exhilarating, rejuvenating feeling.

Just a few minutes before I hit two hours of pushing there was suddenly a lot of activity in the room. All of the various people who had drifted in and out of the room during my pushing process all came back in. Everyone put on these blue paper gowns over their scrubs, and the bottom of the hospital bed was removed. Stirrups were pulled up.

I can’t remember how many more times I pushed. I do remember the final push though – the push that birthed her head. The delivery team was chanting and cheering, and the doctor was saying, “just a little bit more, just a little bit more!” I pushed and screamed and felt my back rise up off the bed. I felt myself tearing – it was like I was being split open. And then, all of a sudden, it was over.

“Stop pushing! Stop pushing, Sarah, for just a second!” The doctor said. “Now one more big push! Push! You can do it!” I pushed again, and felt a tremendous release as her body slipped, all in a rush, into the world.

“Now reach down, Sarah. Reach down and catch your baby!”

And I reached down, and caught my baby, and pulled her up onto me. I was sobbing and shaking. I held my baby girl in my arms and told her it was her birthday, that I loved her, that I was her mommy. I looked at my crying Tammy and said “this is our baby.”

Finally. Finally. Welcome home, Ellie.

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Deliriously Tired, Deliriously Happy

Baby Ellie* was born at 7:36 AM on Saturday, February 1st. She was 8lbs, 6oz, and had a full head of hair. Birth story to follow, probably in a few parts. The short story is that labor was not what I was expecting. So much more painful and traumatic, but so much more astonishing, magical and awe inspiring at the same time.

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*Ellie is not her real name. It is however, a play on her real name and the one we’ve decided to use for the blog. For reasons of privacy and self-comfort, Tammy and I have decided not to share her real name. I hope you understand that this is not done in an effort to keep you out of an important part of our life, but to protect our daughter from some of the scarier elements of the world.

Fully Cooked

Ding! Today is my due date. The turkey is officially done, but apparently this turkey wants to be little crispy or something.

The best part about being due today is people asking “when are you due?” and watching their reaction when I say “today.”

I was enjoying this yesterday as well, although obviously saying “tomorrow,” instead of “today.”  One woman shrieked, one man literally ran away from me (was he afraid of my placenta exploding on him or something?), another woman gasped and asked what I would do if my water broke (um, go home?). I had multiple people ask me what I was still doing at work.

And (so far) I’ve been able to respond politely to all of these comments and questions, including the “what are you still doing at work” question, even though it is highly irritating. It’s irritating in part because I would love to be home right now. I’m in a considerable amount of pelvic/pubic pain, which makes walking extremely awful, I’ve developed PUPPP, which is driving me absolutely batshit insane (I’m sitting here at my desk with my shirt pulled up, cool wet paper towels draped over my belly), I have a chronic bloody nose (damn winter), etc. etc. etc.

It’s also irritating because I would like to respond with something along the lines of “if I got more paid maternity leave I would absolutely be home right now.” The company I work for does offer some paid leave – 20 days – which I know is more than most people get in this country. And I’ve been able to save a month’s worth of vacation so all together I have about 3 fully paid months that I’ll be taking once the baby is born. And I’m grateful for that, truly I am. But I find the maternity leave policies (or lack thereof) in this country so offensive I can hardly talk about it. Three months is not enough. It just is not. To add insult to injury, if I were farther up the food chain in my company I would get 6 months of paid maternity leave, with the option to go on partial pay for additional time off.

(Another annoying thing that the higher-ups at my company keep doing is offering advice along the lines of “hire a night nurse – we did and it saved our lives”. SURE. Because night nurses are so inexpensive! And you pay me such an enormous salary! That’s totally affordable for me!)

Anyway, that’s about it. Most thrilling blog post ever. Here’s the tl;dr version: I’m due today. People are dumb. Maternity leave in this country is pathetic.

Patience & Sarah

My mom told me when I was little about a Native American tribe that had a tradition of giving children a middle name with a virtue they needed to work on. She bestowed me with the middle name “patience”.

(Off topic: have you read that book? Not the best book I’ve ever read, but it’s about lesbians in a puritan/old-timey setting, and y’all know how much I love old-timey settings.)

I’m 39 weeks today and my emotions are…complicated. Obviously I’m in considerable physical discomfort. My back hurts. My stomach aches from cramps and contractions. I can’t poop anything besides tiny little nuggets after the largest effort you’ve ever seen (yeah, I said it), I can’t sleep for more than a few hours – at most – at a time, I can’t get comfortable, etc etc blah blah.

Emotionally I’m all over the map. I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m exasperated, I’m irritable, I’m short tempered, I’m weepy, etc etc blah blah. One second I want to murder the cat because he won’t stop trying to jump in the pack ‘n’ play and the next second I’m cuddling him and leaking tears over how his life is going to change once the baby gets here and I won’t have time for him anymore and *sob*.

Phew! Time for a palate cleanser.

kitten-situps

I told Tammy the other day that I feel like a five year old waiting for Christmas combined with a person suffering from odontophobia knowing they have an appointment at the dentist soon but no one will tell them when that appointment is. It could be sprung on them at any moment! Out of nowhere a dentist looms toward them with the mask and the scary light and the instruments of dental torture!

dentist 2

I never thought I’d make it as far as I have. Even knowing that first time moms tend to go a little over their due date, I was sure, deep down in my bones, that this baby girl would come early. I still technically have a week until my due date but the constant cycle of hope (“could this be it?!”) to defeat (“nope. fuck.”) brings up uncomfortably depressing memories of the two week wait.

I’ve been having regular, time-able contractions since this past weekend. Most of the time they’re about 10 minutes apart, but occasionally they spread out to more like 15 or 20 (or even 30) minutes apart, of they get closer together – like 5 minutes or even 3 minutes. I’ll get all excited about the 3 or 5 minute apart contractions but until a few days ago changing positions or eating/drinking would make them go away. HOWEVER, yesterday walking around and/or eating didn’t make them go away – and plus they were getting stronger and more intense. After days of having my hope crushed I allowed myself to start to think that maybe, possibly, could be…and then it wasn’t. They spaced out and got more sporadic – some 8 minutes apart, some 15, etc.

unimpressed cat

We read in our Lamaze labor and delivery book that this is classic pre-labor. It was comforting and exciting to read about my symptoms as being normal and generally part of the overall process, but I nearly threw the book across the room when I read this could continue for days or even weeks. What do you mean weeks, Lamaze book?! Weeks is not an acceptable word to use in this context!! These contractions are mostly not too terrible – just uncomfortable. Every now and then I have one that ups the ante on the ol’ pain scale and takes my breath away. But then they go back to being uncomfortable.

wtf is that

Honestly, I do feel like I’ll make to delivery physically OK, but mentally?

kermit dance

Your bet is as good as mine.

An Unworthy Cassandra

I’m officially full term today, by anyone’s standards! 38 weeks!

Those sentences are about as cheery as this post is going to be, so if that’s all you’re here for (you must come here…infrequently) you can quit reading now.

I’ve had two episodes so far of thinking “maybe…could this be…am I imagining this?” Both episodes involved me waking up in the middle of the night to cramping and contractions – and a full blown panic attack. Last night was the most recent one, and it was preceded by a whole day of period like cramps, an evening of irregular and far apart contractions, a teary panic attack, and then the nighttime wake up.

I feel absolutely ridiculous. The nursery is ready. The car seat is installed. I’ve passed off 90% of my work at the office, my out-of-office message is primed and ready. We’ve got tons of food in the freezer. My parents are on stand-by. I am physically uncomfortable and desperately anxious to meet our baby girl. So why the panic? Why the tears?

Well, for one, because it hurts.  And I lay there, watching the minutes tick by (3:34….3:35….3:36…) and think to myself, “Ouch. Fuck. That actually kind of hurt. Ugh, I hate period cramps and this totally feels like period cramps. Now I feel like I’m going to barf. Awesome. Wait, THAT feels like my stomach has been put into a vice. FUCK. That HURTS. FUCK THIS SHIT. TAMMY WAKE UP OW OW OW.” etc. And then I remember that, hey, I’m not even really in labor yet. Regardless if it is early labor (unlikely considering I’m not having contractions now, and only super mild cramping) or false labor, things are going to get a whole lot more painful before I’m done. And, to be brutally honest, I’m not sure I can stand it.

Emotionally, I’m a complete and total wreck. I’m cognizant enough to know it all comes from a place of fear. Fear of labor and delivery. Fear of the recovery. Fear of postpartum depression. Fear that I won’t somehow recognize my daughter. Fear that I won’t love her. Fear that Tammy won’t love her. Fear that she won’t love us. Fear that my relationship with Tammy will deteriorate. Fear that all those instincts you hear about just…won’t exist in me – that my trouble getting pregnant was some kind of indicator, some kind of Cassandra warning that I should have heeded.

Fear. Sickening, gut wrenching fear. Somehow, the birth of my daughter only became real in the past week or two. All through the months of fertility treatment and all through this pregnancy I never really allowed myself to imagine holding my child in my arms. And that fear, the fear that my dream would never happen, was awful and soul crushing but it only made me double down and grit my teeth. I was bound and determined that I would have a baby if it was the last thing I ever did. It became an all consuming obsession. Now that I’m faced with the reality of that obsessive, angry, steadfast drive coming to fruition, I find myself staring into the abyss – one of pain and darkness and I am unworthy of this.

Baby girl, please come out and prove me wrong.

Fingers and Internet Safety

Guess who is NOT 3-4 centimeters and 90% effaced? Me. Obviously. I am a “fingertip” dilated, but he couldn’t tell how effaced I was (if at all) because the OB couldn’t get his finger in there – as fun as that sounds.  Ahh, romance.

Dreams dashed, once again.

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Awkward transition here!

Can I ask you all some questions? Where is your personal line on what you share and don’t share online? Tammy and I have been discussing this lately, mostly in regard to our soon to be daughter. She’s much more uncomfortable sharing things about her than I am (although that could change when she’s born) and generally has a higher standard regarding safety and security with technology (and in general) than I do, not that I’m super out there myself.

The people who read this blog and the blogs I follow pretty much ran the gamut – from sharing pictures and full names and locations to blogging under pseudonyms and keeping a tight lid on any identifying information.

How did you come to a balance that worked for you and your spouse or significant other (if you have one). (And side note – does your spouse/SO know you blog? Do they read your blog? Mine does.) Do you think your balance would shift if you had a kid? Or, if you already have a kid, did that change your mind at all on what you were willing to share with a public audience – like a blog?

Full Termish, and Thoughts Thereof

I’m full term today! Maybe! Depending on who you ask! Apparently, 38 weeks is the new 37 weeks, according to some or other doctors association. Oddly enough for me (it is me, after all) I’m not stressing about it.

You know what I am stressing about? Having this baby already. I’m scared of labor, don’t get me wrong. The only thing that scares me more than labor is being pregnant for one iota longer than I need to be.

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I had a prenatal massage on Sunday. I went into it thinking how relaxing it was going to be, and was unreasonably excited about the pop out belly section that would allow me to lay on my stomach. O happy day in the morning, they had one and I settled into it with glee. But y’all, that was the last ounce of glee I experienced during the massage. The massage hurt. Like a mother. I literally have bruises on my ass from her pressing into me, an ass that she accessed by tucking the sheet that covered me into my ass crack. It was about as dignified as you can imagine, and felt like the biggest wedgie you’ve ever experienced. To her credit, she warned me that was she was doing would be painful during and for a day after, but I would feel “wonderful” 48 hours later. I’m calling bullshit on “wonderful,” as I’m 37 weeks pregnant and I don’t think “wonderful” is remotely possible but I do feel looser in my hips. I’ll take looser, but I’m not sure it was worth the burning, intense pain it took to get there.

can report victory that the damn Lamaze class was good for something – I used it on my left side beat down after nearly crawling off the massage table while she pummeled my right. It didn’t make the pain go away, but it somehow made it more manageable, and because I was relaxed she was able to finish faster. Who knew breathing could help that much?

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I’m at the point of weekly OB appointments now that I’m in my 9th month. At my last one (January 3rd) I had a cervical check. I had worked this whole fantasy up in my mind that I was going to be 3 or 4 centimeters dilated and 75% effaced.  They were going to be hugely impressed with my silent strength, and assure me that my labor, once officially started, would be quick. They would also tell me to keep my hospital bag packed because labor would start “any time”.

Hahahaha!! Zero inches dilated, zero percent effaced. She did say that my cervix had moved into a good position (I…wasn’t aware the cervix moved positions, but OK) and that she could feel the baby’s head through my cervix (I resisted the urge to shout “watch out for her eye!!!” mostly because she had what felt like her entire forearm up my vagina, and should you ever find yourself in that happy circumstances, you don’t want to make said practitioner jump).

I have another appointment tomorrow and the fantasy has firmly reestablished itself in my mind. Only now I’m 3-4 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced.

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I’ve reached the stage where people at work keep making suuuuuper clever remarks like “you haven’t had that baby yet?” No, idiot. I haven’t. Thanks for reminding me. I’d totally forgotten I’m scheduled for this big event at the end of the month. My response thus far has been to kind of weakly smile and say “no, not yet….” and trail off. I’m quickly reaching a point where I’m going to start responding with a “obviously not”. The “dumbass” at the end of that sentence will be implied, unless I go over my due date, in which case all bets are off.

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I’m on Constant Alert for anything that could signal the start of labor. I’m back to doing toilet paper checks, to look for a bloody show, and I’m texting Tammy updates throughout the day about contractions (which I have, but super sporadically and often related to the status of my bowels – you’re welcome for that information!) and discharge (or is it amniotic fluid? Or did I just pee myself?). Lord are our conversations sexy.

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Did you know there are no dates on the calendar after January 30th? I looked. It drops into a black void of nothingness.

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The nursery is 99% ready. The hospital bag is packed. The car seat is installed. My mind is fully blown that I’m fairly certain to come home with a…baby one of these days.

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