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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Mom of the Month - Gwendolyn Fernald

I am always excited each month to feature a new Mom of the Month, but particularly so in January I love this because it's a great time of year to be hopeful and looking forward to good things in the New Year! Our first 2016 Mom of the Month is someone who I truly admire and see such strength and courage from. Gwendolyn Fernald is one of those moms who just does what she does because she is strong, has to and is determined - and yet someone who the rest of us can really look up to and aspire to be like someday! Having gone through hell and back to bring her beautiful babies into the world - IVF, miscarriage, hemorrhage, etc. - she has gone through it all. And she's still smiling, doing her best, and being real with her advice to new moms.

This is a must-read! Thanks, Gwen, for sharing your beautiful stories with us. These three littles are SO lucky to call you their Mom.

Images shared from Gwendolyn Fernald

1. Describe your children in 3­-5 words. How did you choose their names?
Chloe Jayne is strong-willed, independent, loving, intelligent, and deep-thinking. My husband picked her name, but I didn’t care for it at first. As we got closer to the end of the pregnancy, we felt pressure to choose a name.  We went back and looked at our list of possibles. My husband again focused on the name Chloe. That week, every time I saw a cute little girl, it would turn out that her name was Chloe. I took that as a sign that Chloe was our baby’s name. Her middle name, Jayne, was easier. It fit well with Chloe. I liked the spelling with the “y” because it kept it from being “plain Jane.” I think we chose well. Her name perfectly fits her personality.

Kaia Lizabeth is gregarious, funny, snuggly, intelligent, and creative. When choosing her name, I wanted to find a name that followed the same formula as her sister’s. Chloe was originally a Greek goddess’s name, so I looked for names with a Greek background for the first name. “Kaia” means pure in Greek. I really loved the name from the moment I found it. My husband grew to like it as well. Her middle name, Lizabeth, was a two part choice. First, it was a variant of a very traditional name. Second, my younger sister’s name is Elizabeth and I was planning on asking her to be godmother. Although Kaia’s name fits her well, she is most often known by her nickname, Zuzu, in our house.

Levi John is snuggly, content, happy, and strong. My husband has always liked the name Levi. It was understood that if we had a son, Levi would be his name. His middle name, John, is the name of my husband’s step-father, who my husband thinks of as a second father. Giving Levi his name felt like a good way to symbolize this connection.

2. How old are your children? How did you tell people you were expecting a baby?
Chloe is 8. Since I had IVF, most of my family already knew we were trying. We waited until our first ultrasound at six weeks to make the announcement. I think that we just called everyone. Kaia is 5. I also conceived via IVF with her. However, we had to announce the pregnancy much sooner due to a reaction to the fertility medication. I had a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation, which caused my stomach to distend to the size of a five or six month pregnancy in the matter of hours. At the time, I was about seven days pregnant! It was so obvious, we just told people. I was happy for the moral support, since it was a rocky pregnancy. Levi is 3 months old. 

I became spontaneously pregnant (no IVF or fertility assistance!!!) with him last winter. We were so excited by the news, that we told everyone in the family before the first doctor’s appointment! They were really surprised, since we were not undergoing any fertility treatments at the time. When I told my father, I said that we were going to have a new addition to our family in the fall. His response was, “Oh, are you getting a puppy?”

3. How would you describe your pregnancies? How was delivery, birth and labor for you?
I have PCOS and my husband has a high percentage bad morphology sperm. As a result, we were told that we could never get pregnant successfully on our own. We were told to skip over all of the minor fertility treatments and went straight to in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant.

With Chloe, we got pregnant on the first round of IVF. I had a minor scare with her at about five weeks gestation, when I passed a small amount of blood and mucus. However, the bleeding stopped after resting for a weekend. The rest of the pregnancy passed smoothly with only minor morning sickness and very little other bothersome symptoms. At the end of my pregnancy, my blood pressure started to rise and I was put on partial bed rest for the last month. When I walked into the doctor’s office on my due date and announced that I wanted to be induced, my doctor agreed to it.

Early in the morning on May 2, 2007, I reported to the labor and delivery floor of the hospital. It turned out that I was already 4 cm dilated and contracting regularly. They started me on pitocin and broke my water when the doctor got to the hospital. I labored without drugs until I got to about 9.5 cm. At that point, I freaked out that I wouldn’t be able to stand the pain of delivery. I asked for an epidural. Unfortunately, I started pushing pretty soon after that point. The epidural made it really hard for me to push effectively, since I was so numb. I ended up pushing for two and a half hours, but I made very little progress moving Chloe down the birth canal. She had a rather large head and it got wedged at a weird angle in my pelvic opening. Since my pushing was not very effective, I was not able to move her from that position before the pushing caused my body to start to swell. She was hopelessly stuck and I was exhausted. My doctor made the call to perform a c-section.

When I heard the word “c-section,” I freaked out and started to cry. Surgery was my worst nightmare. I had never even considered it a possibility for me when I was planning how my birth experience would play out. Things moved quickly and soon they were moving me to the operating room. I was so scared and upset, that her delivery was a blur. Once she was born, they showed her to me, took the requisite photos, and whisked her out of the room to the nursery to be weighed, measured, and cleaned up. My husband went with her, leaving me alone in the operating room waiting for the surgery to be completed. I have never felt so alone and scared.

After surgery, I was wheeled to a recovery room. I was sick and scared. It was over an hour before I saw my baby. She was beautiful, but I didn’t feel an immediate connection to her. My milk took three days to come in due to the trauma of the birth. Chloe had jaundice and required formula to supplement. I felt like a failure, who couldn’t even feed her baby. The entire birth experience led to one of the blackest periods of my life.

I hid my postpartum depression/anxiety from most people. However, at times I truly think that it bordered on psychosis. I heard voices. I worried that I might hurt my baby. All the classic signs. Luckily, my family members recognized the signs and got me to call the doctor. The medication I took was a godsend. It helped me through the roughest times. Additionally, exercise and time cured my symptoms. 

My pregnancy with Kaia was rocky. I became pregnant with her after two unsuccessful IVF cycles and directly after an early miscarriage at 6 weeks. I had ovarian hyperstimulation at one week that made me look five months along. Then, at seven weeks, I was at home and felt something pass. Since I had just had a miscarriage, my stomach dropped. I went to the bathroom, and sure enough, I was bleeding. I immediately called the doctor. It was the weekend, so the U/S technician saw us at the hospital. I could tell from her look that something was wrong. I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. When we got home, the doctor called. She told me that the bleed was significant and only time would tell. Over the course of the next four months, my bleeding would go from spotting to gushing. There were several times I felt sure that I had lost Kaia, only to find a heartbeat on ultrasound. Finally, at 21 weeks, the bleeding stopped.

I was due on June 8, so my planned c-section was scheduled was for June 1, 2010. I was convinced that I would go to term. However, early on May 26, I felt a pop followed by a little gush as I rolled over in bed. I waddled to the bathroom thinking that I had peed myself. I inspected my underwear and realized that there was a different smell than pee. I stood up to call for my husband and my water fully broke. I called the doctor and she told me to come in as quickly as possible, since second births can occur quicker. I ignored her. I took a shower. I packed a bag. I waited for my daycare to open. I was giddy with excitement to see my daughter. 45 minutes later, I was talking to my sister and a big contraction hit me. It was clear she was going to need to make the daycare drop off, while hubbie and I went to the hospital.

When my husband dropped me off at the entrance to park, the guard took one look at me and ran for a wheelchair. I told him that I was fine, but he was insistent. Soon, I was being wheeled onto the maternity floor and into a delivery room, where my dilation was checked. When my nurse announced that I was at 9.5 cm, people started running down the halls to get things ready!

The surgery went smoothly. My baby was beautiful and healthy. Again, they took her away to clean after I met her. On the way out of surgery, the nurse put her back on my chest on my exposed skin. We remained skin to skin for the next 24 hours. This made a huge difference in my milk coming in quicker. Even though Kaia also had jaundice, we never had to supplement. Thankfully, I never showed any sign of PPD after the birth.

Levi’s gestation and birth were by far my favorite. Despite having morning sickness for half the pregnancy, I didn’t have any of the terrifying complications of my other pregnancies. My c-section was scheduled for October 6, 2015. This time, I carried right up to that date.

This c-section was different than my other ones. Since VBACs aren’t allowed in Portsmouth, I researched ways to have a better birth experience. My doctor and I discussed “gentle” or “natural” c-sections. She brought our plan to the hospital administration and got approval for most of what I wanted. The object of natural c-sections is to make them as close to a vaginal birth as possible. So, the sheet that separates the surgery area from my head was lowered during the birth, so that I could see my baby take his first breath. When Levi was born, his cord remained uncut for as long as possible. Then, he was minimally cleaned and brought directly to my chest. My arms were free of restraint so that I could hold him. The heart monitor leads were placed on my shoulders and back, so that they were out of the way of the baby. I was able to hold Levi the entire time that the doctors were finishing and in the recovery room. I am so happy that I finally got to have some control over my birth experience. I highly recommend natural c-section for anyone requiring a planned c-section.

4. Describe yourself as a mom in 3­5 words.
Loving, Caring, Fierce, Anxious

5. What type of mom do you hope your children think you were someday when they're old enough to tell you?
I hope that my children see how much I love them. I am trying to teach them to be a better person than I am. I hope that they understand this and appreciate it. I hope they forgive my flaws as a mother.

6. What things have you done as a mom that you're most proud of?

I am so proud of just being a mother. It took me so long to become one that I count each of my babies as a miracle. For a long time I thought my body had failed me. I am proud that my body is strong enough to create three gorgeous little people.

7. What have been the most difficult parts to being a mom?
I have a hard time remaining patient when my children are testing their boundaries. They can really test your nerves. It is also difficult to switch gears when you first have a baby from selfish to selfless. I had a hard time accepting that there was no such thing as “me time” anymore when Chloe was born. Now, it is the norm. Sometimes my husband forces me to do things for myself to give me a break.

8. What is your favorite baby/child product(s) that makes your mom job easier?
Currently, with a sick baby, I am in love with the NoseFrieda.

9. What advice about being a mom would you give to a brand new mother?

Cut yourself a break. Stop trying to be a perfect mom. There’s no such thing. Any woman who appears perfect is just better at hiding her flaws. Relax and your baby will benefit from your calm, centered parenting. They won’t notice or care that you nailed some stupid Pinterest craft.

10. What is a typical day like for you?
6:30 am - finally wake up (after hitting snooze 3 times)
6:35 am - shower and dress
7:00 am - wake and nurse Levi, wake girls, and my husband feeds them
7:25 am - eat breakfast
7:30-8:00 am - dress Levi, get pump and bottles ready for day, help husband get girls ready
8:00 am - leave for work with Levi
8:20-8:30 am - drop Levi off at daycare
8:30 am-12:30 pm - work (pump at 10:00 for 15 minutes)
12:30 pm - eat lunch at desk, while working
1:30-2:30 pm - drive to daycare, nurse and snuggle Levi, drive back to work
2:30-5:30 pm - work (pump at 4:30 for 15 minutes)
5:35 pm - pick up Levi at daycare
6:00 pm - arrive home
6:00 pm-7:30 pm nurse Levi, help girls with homework, try to do some kind of housework
7:30 pm - dinner with family (husband cooks)
8:00-8:30 pm - watch movie or play a game with family
8:30 pm - get the girls ready for bed
9:00 pm - girls in bed (husband reads them stories)
9:00-10:00 pm nurse Levi (he tanks up for an hour before bed) while watching tv, working, or reading
10:00 pm put Levi to bed
11:00 pm (at the latest) go to bed

(2:00 or 3:00 am) sometimes nurse Levi (he mostly sleeps through the night)

11. What 5 things would you like to do with your kids someday, if anything were possible and money no object?
Travel through Europe, see the Grand Canyon, go to Australia, see the Northern Lights from somewhere in Canada, vacation in Hawaii

12. What are 5 things you want to do in this New Year, things you hope for, want to see happen with your family or yourself?
I hope that we will get to take a family vacation to Disney World. We are Disney fanatics and can’t wait to expose Levi to the magic!

I would like to teach my girls better communication. They both get emotional quickly and don’t understand that others don’t know what is going on in their heads. We are working on getting them to discuss their feelings, instead of acting out.

I plan to lose my baby weight this year. My ultimate goal is to lose 50 lbs. I want to do this through cutting sugars and exercise.

I hope to advance professionally. Getting pregnant has set my work goals back somewhat. I would like to regain my footing professionally.

I want to take a trip to Quebec with my husband.

13. Tell us a time where you felt like you failed at parenting... but then realized you truly had not failed, things worked out fine.
Chloe once fell off of a bed head first. I was just about to tell her to get away from the edge, but didn’t get it out fast in the end, she turned out just fine with no concussion and just a bump. 

14. What makes you a strong mom?
I am good at keeping my cool in stressful situations. I take care of the little crises and find logical solutions. This is a good quality to have as a mother. Crises occur frequently in parenting, and my family relies on my to guide them through them. 

15. Anything else you want to add?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my parenting journey. 

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