I met Meredith only a few weeks ago, and I knew instantly that I liked her a lot! You know when you feel instantly comfortable with someone because they're so warm and genuine? That's exactly how I felt with Meredith, and I'm guessing that's how most people feel when they meet her. Meredith is a charming combination of Southern kindness mixed with East Coast sophistication. We became fast friends over a drink and a chat, and I knew she had to be the next subject of our blog series. Meredith discusses her crazy blizzard birthing experience, who helped her through those early days and months after her son arrived, and what's it's like to balance motherhood with a career.
What’s your getting pregnant story?
I’m definitely a planner, so when we decided to start trying, I hoped I would get pregnant right away since I had made the decision that we would. That’s not how it happened. It took us eight months, and it was the longest eight months ever because I felt ready from month one. Having no control over the situation was really frustrating. In retrospect, it would have been more fun to leave things to chance a little, instead of having the process be so planned.
What was your pregnancy style like?
I lived in maternity jeans and maternity leggings. I also bought up a size in pants and wore them with a bellyband. I already like a loose, flowing silhouette, so I bought a lot of dresses a size up that I could still wear after I gave birth. I didn’t want to make a big investment in clothes that I would only wear for a short time, so even for our babymoon I bought bikinis in a bigger size that had ties I could adjust. I felt more comfortable than if I had bought an unattractive one-piece with a large print on it.
What was your labor & birth experience like?
I was due February 25th, so I encouraged my husband, Harold, to take one last Florida fishing trip. Incidentally, the weekend he was able to schedule it was when I was going to be 35 weeks. According to my Dr., there was no indication that I would deliver early, so I told Harold to go. He left for Florida on a Wednesday, and that weekend there was a huge blizzard that was going to hit New York (Jonas the blizzard). I was excited about vegging out with just the TV and the dog. It’s January 23rd, the blizzard dumps almost 27 inches on us, and the city set a travel ban for all vehicles – but what did I care?! I only left the house that day to walk the dog and buy junk food. I woke up late that night, and I had to go to the bathroom – but then I couldn’t stop! The indicators were there – it seemed that my water broke. It was midnight so I called my doctor who said I had to get to the hospital right away. Well, Uber wasn’t running, and I wasn’t taking the subway, so I had to call 911. I explained my situation and the 911 operator started walking me through these instructions... She said to get a clean sheet, a warm basin of water, sterilized kitchen shears, etc – in case I had to deliver my own baby?! I said, “OH NO! That’s what the paramedics are for!”
Finally, the ambulance arrived. I didn’t even have an overnight bag packed yet, so I just grabbed my purse and a phone charger. I thought I would be back in bed in a few hours. After hiking in the snow to the ambulance, because they couldn’t get down the street, off I went to NY Methodist. I had never been there before or met any of their doctors (my doctors were through NYU). After being admitted and checked out, the doctor told me the baby was definitely coming. I was in shock! I didn’t have a crib put together, I hadn’t wrapped things up at work, Harold was in Florida…this was not my PLAN! Meanwhile, I’m on the phone with Harold, my family, and coordinating with two of my best friends. One of them went to my apartment with her husband and they put together the crib, washed baby clothes, packed me a bag, and brought me a car seat. Another friend came to the hospital and was there while I got my epidural. I was so lucky to have my sweet friends helping me though out the process. My sisters were in Atlanta trying to figure out how to get to NY. Harold finally landed in NY, on one of the first flights to land at LaGuardia, but he was stuck on the plane because his gate wasn’t open. It was getting to be close to 5pm, and my contractions were getting very close together. An 1.5 hour of sitting on the runway and he finally arrived at the hospital at 5:30pm. After all the drama leading up to my delivery, I only pushed for 25 minutes, and Hank was born at 9:30pm. He was 5 pounds 10 oz and perfectly healthy even though he was five weeks early!
What were those first six weeks like?
Oh my gosh, the first three months were hard. Hank was eating every 1-2 hours (as most premies do). His digestive tract just wasn’t fully developed at birth, so he had reflux – who knew babies could have reflux?! I wanted to breastfeed, but for several weeks he took expressed milk from the bottle because he wasn’t strong enough to breastfeed. My pumping allowed Harold and me to split up the night feedings into shifts, so we were able to trade off. As hard as those first months were, the 3 of us were figuring it out together. And, we had some help from family, friends, and the occasional night nurse. I feel very fortunate to have a husband that is so hands on.
Other than your husband, what helped the most during those early days?
I was part of a Mom group that was based around our due dates, so we all had babies close in age. Meeting with other new moms and being able to talk about our bodies, and our babies, and all the changes in real time helped put everything in perspective. We all live in the neighborhood and met for coffee or drinks every week. It was a good excuse to get Hank and I out of the house, and I made some great new mom friends from it too!
What’s the best advice you received?
This isn’t exactly advice, but it’s true. A family friend came over when Hank was 2 weeks old and she said, “Babies are the most wonderful thing ever, but babies will break you.” Harold and I still laugh about that, because it felt so real at the time. As new parents, there’s so much you’re figuring out, and you’re also sleep deprived. It was a moment when you have to laugh, or you’ll cry. New moms don’t talk enough about how hard and confusing motherhood is. Your hormones are raging, and you experience all these changes both physically and emotionally. On top of having this new person depending on you for everything, your body is healing from delivering and you’re figuring out breastfeeding. I wish people talked about it more.
We used an app called Baby Tracker Pro, which helped my husband and me track when we had fed him, changed him, etc. Our app synced with each other and made it easier for us to seamlessly switch off and coordinate.
What’s currently the toughest part of your schedule?
Juggling my career with being there for Hank. I get up early so I can spend the most time with him in the morning. I usually get an hour to 90 minutes with him. It’s just us while we hang out, and I drink my coffee. And then at the end of the day I rush out of work and get home just in time to give him a bath and put him down. I usually can’t make it home to feed him dinner, which is a bummer because I love being able to see him try new foods. And forget about working out, because if I work out then I don’t see my son.
He’s about to be one, what’s changing for you as a Mom?
It’s bittersweet to watch him hit these milestones. You’re such a zombie for those early weeks and months that you don’t get to fully appreciate when they’re still a snuggly, sweet newborn. So just as I’m starting to embrace and appreciate the baby stage, now he’s moving into the toddler stage. And I know that there will be a lot that comes along with him getting older. Now I need to start treating him more like the little man he’s becoming and not as much like a baby. But, there are certain allowances that I give myself, thinking, “I’ll just do this while he’s little.”
What’s been the best part?
Even when I’ve had a heavy week at work, it just melts away when I walk through the door. It’s like it never happened. Watching him experience the world and seeing it through his eyes is amazing, and it puts the fun back into things that seemed monotonous and boring.