giving birth during a global pandemic

It was a dark and stormy night.

Just kidding. It was a dark, frigid night with a giant supermoon looming overhead. Exactly one week before my due date. 

The day before, I had my 39 week appointment. Neither my OB nor I had expected that I would make it to 39 weeks, but lo and behold, I had. Instead of scheduling an induction like we had discussed, she said my body had inexplicably stopped progressing, which was wildly confusing with the raging  contractions I had been having all week. We decided to wait it out. I might make it to my due date after all! Wonders never cease! I called my mom and told her we can stick to the original plan of her coming the next Monday. I felt very at peace and excited that I most likely had a little time left.

I was very ready to not be pregnant ever again, but at the same time very ready to stay pregnant whenever I thought about labor and delivery. 

39 weeks!
The next day, April 9th, was one of the only calm days I'd had in a month. I hardly had any contractions. I worked on finishing the blanket I was knitting, figuring I'd actually be able to get it done in time now. I felt completely exhausted thanks to three nights in a row of wild thunderstorms and a 5 year old petrified of thunder. By the end of the day, I took one of my morning sickness pills, which is basically a glorified sleeping pill, because I was so desperate for a good night of sleep. I laid down in bed, grabbed my kindle, and suddenly felt a pain in my back so intense I could barely breathe. It subsided after a few minutes, and then I felt a weird sensation in my lower abdomen, and WOOSH.

Niagara Falls.

Oh yes, my water broke. Except I was in denial and hopped out of bed as quickly as an exhausted 9 months pregnant woman under the influence of Unisom can hop, and screamed "I PEED MYSELF!" I knew full well I didn't pee myself, but I was desperate for that to be true. 

I ran to the bathroom and called my OB's office and left a completely hysterical message. "I think my water broke but maybe it didn't but maybe it did it's gushing what do I do omg." Something like that. I knew the answer was to go to the hospital, but denial is a strong drug and all I wanted to do was go back to bed and sleep. While I waited for a call back, I called my mom. The reality of the situation hit me, and I started hyperventilating. I sobbed on the phone and kept saying I wasn't ready, I can't do this! It's not supposed to happen yet! I just want to go back to bed and sleep! I could hear James pacing the halls and getting things ready to go. In the middle of my meltdown, the OB's office called. My doctor was the one on call, and as soon as I heard her voice I instantly calmed down. If she would be the one delivering my baby, I knew I would be ok. One of my biggest concerns was if she would be the one on call if and when I went into labor. She told me to hurry and get to the hospital, because labor could start quickly and I didn't live super close by. If not, they would need to induce me. 

James yanked Gracie out of bed and I called my friend to tell her what happened and make sure we could still drop Gracie off on the way to the hospital. Movies get every single thing wrong about labor and delivery, but this was actually like a scene from a movie. We frantically ran through the house throwing last minute things in the hospital bed and trying to explain to Gracie what was happening. I went through three pairs of pants and probably four towels in ten minutes. Niagara Falls would not stop. I didn't know there could be that much amniotic fluid in there. I left a trail of destruction through the house that my poor mom had to come home to the next day. 

We raced to my friend's house and dropped Gracie off. I had a few mild contractions but nothing much. Everything felt weird and fuzzy thanks to the medicine I took to help me sleep. All I wanted to do was sleep! I kept waiting for contractions to pick up, but it was relatively calm. For the first time in a month, my body decided to take a break. Regardless, I was a bundle of nerves and still half-scared I would have the baby in the car on the 40 minute drive to the hospital. Halfway there, the road was closed thanks to middle of the night construction. We were completely stuck in a line of traffic until James, channeling every freaked out dad with a wife in labor in the movies, suddenly pulled into the opposite lane, sped past the other cars, and turned onto another street. I screamed the whole way. 

We walked into the emergency room around 11pm and immediately had our temperatures taken. They asked James if he had everything he needed, because he wouldn't be allowed back in if he left. They handed us face masks, and then a kerfuffle between several staff members started over whether or not we really needed the face masks. They eventually decided we needed them, and I was wheeled up to labor and delivery. The L&D nurse said I didn't need to wear the mask unless I was in a hallway. A guy from registration came in and said JK, you need to wear it if anyone else is in the room. Another nurse told me I needed to wear it while pushing, and I threatened her life with my eyes. Those horrible masks make me claustrophobic and fog my glasses up and at the risk of sounding selfish or like I want everyone's grandmas to die, I HATE wearing a mask and will find every reason not to. Sue me.

The nurse checked me, and I had dilated a little more from the day before, which was good news. I heard the triage nurse on speaker phone with my doctor, and she said "She can have whatever she wants, and make sure she gets an epidural." 


I'm not sure if I can put into words the joy that flowered in my soul in that moment. 

I was moved to a delivery room, where I was told I had to keep the mask on the whole time. I had my IV put in by a girl who looked suspiciously like JWoww from Jersey Shore, which turned into a complete saga of multiple needle stabs and some kind of allergic reaction to the tape or needle or something. My entire forearm was burning and itching like crazy through my entire hospital stay. I laid there for an hour and a half hooked up to the monitors to see if my body went into labor on its own. Crickets.

By 1:30 am, they started me on Pitocin. I've heard horror stories of Pitocin contractions, and all I could ever think was "But did you have 20 hours of back labor?" I wasn't too scared, but I was apprehensive of the pain in general. I didn't feel physically ready at all to give birth. I was exhausted, I was nervous, I felt blindsided by the whole situation. I still kept hoping there was an alternate reality where I could go home and go to bed.

The nurse said the Pitocin would kick in in about 25-30 minutes, but three minutes later I had one of the most intense contractions of my life. Every 2.5 minutes for two hours, I roared through contractions, trembling the entire time and begging God to make it end quickly. I had James put on the Dinner Party episode of The Office to distract me, and I tried so hard to laugh instead of scream. The "SNIP SNAP SNIP SNAP SNIP SNAP" scene felt especially relevant. 

They checked me after an hour or two and I had only dilated one more centimeter. I can't even tell you how discouraged I was. I quickly felt better when the nurse said she was calling Anesthesia so I could get my epidural. That and another dose of Michael Scott gave me the will to keep going. And also ripping my mask off when everyone left the room.

The epidural was like the IV all over again. I was sitting on the edge of the bed clutching a pillow, Niagara Falls still flowing everywhere, a blood pressure cuff continually taking my blood pressure and squeezing so tight it was like having contractions in my arm, and my left arm on fire and itching from the IV. Not to mention CONTRACTIONS in the front and the back. "Keep your shoulders down and relaxed! Breathe! No, shoulders down! Tuck your chin in! This is going right next to your spine and you cannot move." 

I almost killed everyone in the room.

Then I heard "Oops, I have to take this out and start over before it hits your entire body. I accidentally hit a blood vessel." I almost asked her to leave it in, because full body numbness sounded AMAZING. James continued to "encourage" me to relax my shoulders until I finally yelled "BITE ME" much to the amusement of everyone else in the room. I was not playing. At some point I ripped off my mask and never put it on again.

Finally the epidural took, and I got to lay down. They rolled me like a beached whale onto my left side, and I started to doze off into a fuzzy numbness. I could still feel the contractions and had to wince through them, but they were manageable. My OB came in at one point to check on me. We were both surprised at how fast this happened. She asked if I had any symptoms, anything weird happen before my water broke. Nope, nothing. I was just lying in bed, minding my own business, until I had a weird pain. She said that almost never happens without some kind of warning sign, and according to my research, your water breaking spontaneously before labor happens in only 5-8% of women. I shouldn't be surprised, since Hyperemesis only affects 2% of women. I love to beat the odds. 

The contractions quickly turned horrendous again, and after hearing me moan like an entire dying barnyard, the nurse came in and rolled me to my right side. It helped for approximately 5 minutes until the left side of me was contracting so bad I thought I was going to die. The nurse and OB came in around 6am to check me, and I was at 6 cm. Progress, but not much. I was still discouraged. My OB told the nurse to call her if I'm ready to go by the end of her shift at 7. I laughed in my head. No way will this baby be born in the next hour. Shouldn't they know that???

The next half hour was beyond words. It was like I didn't even have an epidural. A few times I thought I felt the urge to push, but I figured I had to be wrong. I'm only a 6! At 6:30, the nurse came back in. She was acting a big strange and said she felt like she needed to check me again. Whatever. Do your thing. I didn't care about anything but trying to survive. She didn't even tell me how far along I was, she just immediately grabbed her pager thing and yelled "I NEED SOMEONE TO COME CATCH A BABY RIGHT NOW." Nothing has ever perked me up more in my life. She looked at me and said she could see the baby on its way out. I would not have been more shocked if she told me I was birthing a unicorn.

She immediately got me into position to push, and like some kind of beautiful magic, all the right places went numb again and the pain eased. My OB and a nurse ran into the room and I immediately started pushing.

Less than 10 minutes later, at 6:41 am just as the sun was rising on Good Friday, Clara Jane was born as I screamed "WOW! She's real!!!'

You know there's a baby in there, but to actually see that human baby in the flesh is surreal. There's no way to describe it.

She had the cord wrapped around her neck three times but was completely fine. The doctor commented that the umbilical cord was unusually long and she must have been playing jump rope with it. Clara herself was also incredibly long.

It turned out to be the most calm, peaceful birth despite how it started. Even though labor was horrendous, the epidural worked beautifully when it counted and the delivery was completely and blessedly painless. My actual labor was only 5 hours long, which was a gift after the 20 hours of Gracie's labor. We all talked and joked around between pushes. It was night and day from Gracie's birth and felt completely redemptive. I was immediately given a shot and IV meds to keep me from hemorrhaging again. I held Clara on me while I was stitched up and could not get over how quickly everything happened. The nurse commented that she had a feeling I'd have the baby before her shift ended. I still have no idea how she called that, but she was right. Once the doctor and nurses left, we had breakfast delivered and James fed me bacon and eggs while I tried to nurse.

The new nurse came in, handed us masks again, and asked where the carseat is. In the car, of course! 

"You know, your husband isn't allowed to come back in the hospital if he leaves, which means he can't go get the carseat and bring it back in when you're discharged. You have a problem."

I glared at her through my fogged up glasses thanks to the mask she shoved on me.

We left the hospital 24 hours later. The carseat crisis turned out to be a nonissue, thanks to a very kind nurse who let me hold Clara until James pulled the car up. I was given the option to stay another day, but strongly encouraged to get the heck out due to "The Virus." I was dying to leave anyway, since James wasn't allowed to leave our room, we couldn't have visitors, and we had no access to food from 7pm-7am which is prime junk food snacking time when you have a newborn, and thanks to the abrupt nature of my water breaking, I forgot to grab enough snacks. Physically, I didn't feel ready to leave, mostly because I hadn't even been cleared to use the bathroom alone until that morning thanks to a couple fainting spells. Mentally, I thought I was going to scream if I had to lay in that hospital bed for one more second.

We got home, where Gracie and my mom were waiting, and I collapsed on the couch and slept for three hours thanks to zero sleep since I took the sleeping pill two days earlier. By Easter morning, I could tell Clara was looking a bit jaundiced. We didn't have her newborn appointment until Tuesday, and I tried not to worry, and on Monday the nurse said she should be fine as long as she's still eating well.

I'm still not very ready to talk about it because it all felt Way Too Much to handle immediately after giving birth, but her first week of life was incredibly difficult. The pediatrician sent us to the Children's Hospital lab to get her bilirubin levels checked. They came back much higher than any of us thought they would be. We had to go straight back to the doctor's office to rent a bili blanket, which is basically an ultraviolet light pad that has to be on her back 24/7. And it has to be plugged into the wall which made it incredibly hard to snuggle her and move around. Nearly every day we went back for more labs, and in the meantime I got multiple phone calls a day from nurses, lactation consultants, and doctors checking on her eating, her color, her sleeping, grilling me with a hundred questions in every call. They only seemed to call right when I had finally fallen asleep for a desperately needed nap, and I was up cluster feeding all night every night. One pediatrician pushed me to give formula when the only thing going well was breastfeeding, something I had prayed for my whole pregnancy. I refused. After a week of this, she finally showed enough progress that we could stop therapy. More importantly, the phone calls stopped, and even though I FULLY appreciate how on the ball the doctor's office was, I was so tired of feeling judged on every tiny thing I did while dealing with the massive rollercoaster of postpartum hormones and lack of sleep and physical recovery. And all in the midst of global pandemic.

I started spotting and cramping at 16 weeks, so my doctor did an ultrasound later that day to make sure the baby was alright. Not only was she thriving, but we found out a few weeks early that she was a girl. We had been discussing names but hadn't settled on a girl name since we didn't like each other's favorites. Clara is the one name we both agreed on and loved. Since Gracie was born, I knew that if I was ever fortunate enough to have another girl, her middle name would be Jane for Jane Austen/Jane Eyre. On the car ride home, we settled on Clara Jane as her name. I looked up Jane to see the meaning, and it said "God is gracious." After thinking I may have been losing the baby, seeing that meaning confirmed this was meant to be her name.

The last day Clara had her bilirubin labs done, the numbers were not where I thought they needed to be, and I cried the whole way to the doctor's office. The doctor, however, was pleased with her progress and said she's officially done with treatment. Not to mention, her weight gain was perfectly on track, which can be impacted by jaundice. When I told James, his response was how gracious God is. And it reminded me all over again why we chose her name and how gracious God truly is for giving us this baby.

I find so much joy that she was born during Holy Week, just like Gracie was 5 years ago. She was also born with a full head of hair, and to my GREAT amusement, she was born on National Siblings Day. I broke the long only child streak in my family on National Sibling's Day.

We're deep in the throes of cluster feeding, growth spurts, night sweats, anxiety, and sporadic sleep. I am exhausted and perpetually nervous yet loving this so, so much.

Especially since I don't have to wear a face mask at home.


the middle days of quarantine and the last days of pregnancy

I've lost track of how many weeks we've been forcibly cooped up now, and honestly that whole situation is the last thing I want to talk about. Even the memes are getting old and derivative. I'm just tired of it. I'm tired of the polarized opinions, the lack of toilet paper, the way we're being brainwashed to fear each other, everything. I miss society and I want life to go back to normal.

But here we are, still at home and I'm going to have a baby any minute. It's worth talking about so I can come back and read this someday and say "Thank you Jesus that things are different now! I can grocery shop without having to stay 6 feet away from everyone (kind of something I would do anyway, knowing me), I can go for a drive without the threat of being pulled over for leaving my house, AND! I'm not pregnant anymore!" Because those days are coming, right?

If these contractions I've been having for THE PAST MONTH have anything to say, then hopefully the end of this pregnancy is near. It hit me the other day that I've been having false labor nearly every day for a month now. No wonder I'm so exhausted all the time. I decided to time them the other night just for giggles, and after a bit I got a notification on my phone that I needed to leave for the hospital. HA. I live for the day I don't feel a contraction, painful or otherwise, again. Unfortunately it's going to get worse before it gets better.

1. Here's what I wore to church on Palm Sunday. By church I mean the couch. The side view of this photo is hilarious. This baby is huge. I easily wore this sweatshirt until my due date with Gracie, and it was about to rip at the seams yesterday. Also---haven't done my hair in probably a month. Not planning to, either. I did do a face mask and sort of paint my toes (as much as I can in my current state) and thought "Ok, I can go into labor now!" Pregnancy is a weird thing. Didn't have my hospital bag packed, but my face was freshly moisturized and that's what brought me comfort.

Then I woke up Saturday feeling jittery and contractiony and packed my bag. So now I'm actually ready.

I'm so tired of the word "contraction." It can die a slow, painful death with "social-distancing" and "Covid-19." Apparently I'm so frequently telling Gracie that I can't do xyz thanks to a bout of contractions that now when I tell her to do something, she'll grab her stomach and say "Hang on, I'm having a contraction." 

2. Gracie turned five. I have a five year old. It hasn't registered yet. I love having a five year old. She's the very best thing even if I frequently want to bang my head against a wall. I felt bad that we couldn't go do anything for her birthday, but she was perfectly content at home. We don't do a lot of birthday traditions, but every year I hang a birthday dress on her door when she's sleeping, and I make her Minnie Mouse pancakes in the morning. James took over the pancakes this year, but I made her a strawberry lemonade cake with the help of my good friend Betty Crocker. This was not the year for baking from scratch. She played with her new toys and outside all day long and told me over and over how great her birthday was. The neighbor dropped off gifts and her friends sent her videos. It was so sweet. Also, our one and only daffodil bloomed the morning of her birthday. She said it was her present from God, and I have to agree. It was such a good day and I hope it's something she'll remember fondly. 

3. Preschool is officially over for the year. Gracie said it makes her heart sad, and honestly it makes mine sad too. The day she was supposed to go back was the day we were going to celebrate her birthday at school. Her teacher is amazing and has been posting videos of lessons, and she had us pick up their projects from throughout the year as well as craft supplies and worksheets for them to work on. I am so impressed with everything she put together, and it's so nice to know exactly what to do with Gracie each day and have all the supplies ready. I picked her work up yesterday, got home, and realized there must be a Gracie in the afternoon class. The neat handwriting and tidy drawings were a dead giveaway that this stuff did not belong to my kid. Sure enough, the teacher had switched it and brought the correct stuff over that afternoon. I opened her journal to see this page and immediately knew this belonged to my Gracie.

I just love her.

4. Having her home and having James home has been the best part of this whole ordeal. I literally would not survive if James wasn't working from home. He does everything for me (other than the laundry and small amount of cleaning I try to do each day) and still works full time. On his lunch break he does the dishes since my back absolutely cannot handle standing at the sink anymore and makes food for Gracie. He makes dinner for us every night. He plays with Gracie outside on the weekends and during the evenings. There is one local golf course open (for now), and they stagger tee times so no one is around anyone else, and since you bring your own stuff and walk the course, there's no sharing anything. It was cold and drizzly, but he took Gracie with him over the weekend. She ran the entire golf course and helped him golf. They're getting so much good quality time in, and I got to be home ALONE!!!! for the first time in.....only the Lord knows. I watched a movie and knit and drank coffee and lit a candle and just basked in it. This probably won't happen again for another 37 years.

Gracie has also been the best little helper, just like she was when I was newly pregnant and puking nonstop. I feel like I've reverted back to the first trimester, just for different reasons. She brings me breakfast and coffee in bed every morning. It's usually a bowl of cereal. I've been anti-cereal my whole life but am currently living for Frosted Mini Wheats. She brings me my "surprise" every morning when I wake up. We usually read some books after, and she's been dying to read all her old board books again. Anyway, these slow mornings have been AMAZING. Occasionally on days like this when it's warm and sunny, she plays outside all day and I literally do not know what to do with myself. SUCH LUXURY. And here I am starting over again with a newborn soon.

5. I'm still obsessed with cleaning vicariously through others. The Youtube area rug cleaning videos are soothing my soul in ways I can't explain. It's a good thing I didn't know about these when I was pregnant with Gracie because I bet I would've gone off the deep-end then too. I remember James changed the air filter in my car, and the new one had some wonderful clean smell that would make me just sit in my car and sniff it for an eternity. I hate how much of an obsessed psycho I become at the end of pregnancy. I can't control my weird obsessions, they control me. Multiple times a day I watch someone shampoo and scrape the scum out of area rugs while chewing on my crushed ice, and all is right with the world. Occasionally I move onto videos on car detailing when I'm feeling extra frisky. I have so many cleaning products on my Amazon wishlist, and I literally fantasize about setting up a cleaning schedule and organizing my cabinet of cleaning supplies once I get my head above water with two kids. And organizing the garage. And detailing my car, myself.

I'm not the only one obsessed with these videos, for the record. It must be a thing. The comments on every video say "Can you zoom in on the dirty water next time?" "Can you remove the background music so I can hear the scrubbing?" and my personal favorite, "Oh my God thank you for the long brush scrubbing! So wonderful!!!!! <3 <3" At least I haven't gone that far. I have retained SOME sanity, thank you very much.

6. I think it's important to state that I still have not used Zoom.

7. James is super stoic and not one to get concerned or worried or really show much emotion. But with all this false labor and the comment from my doctor that I could have this baby any minute, he's like a sleeping dog who suddenly hears a car pull in the driveway. If I suddenly start breathing deeply, moan, or make any kind of noise that could be associated with discomfort, I'll look up to find him giving me a wide-eyed stare. It's kind of hilarious. He was outside with Gracie, near the living room window, when I must have made some "UGHHHSJDBGSKDJF" sound during one of the MANY cringey moments in He's Just Not That Into You (seriously that movie is a breeding ground for secondhand embarrassment), and he ran inside asking if I'm ok and if the baby's coming. If I'm having contractions, he asks if they're Braxton Hicks or labor, and honestly I don't even know what's going on half the time. The baby needs to come soon before we both lose it. We are on edge over here! Hence the steady diet of ice and cleaning videos.

8. This is not relevant to anything and not worth writing about, but even though some things are going well, a whole host of things have not. Illness, childcare drama, miserable pregnancy things, etc. I woke 5 times one night last week feeling like my toe was on fire and also itching. I hadn't been outside where I would've gotten a bite. It was confusing. In the morning I discovered my toe was swollen to about three times its normal size, bruising, and hurting and itching so bad I wanted to die. Of course I had an OB appointment that morning and COULD NOT fit my shoes on with my toe so swollen. I had to wear the loosest pair I could find and still wanted to die from discomfort. I literally hobbled into the office. I have no idea what happened to my toe. Clearly something bit it. A week later and it is STILL swollen but getting better. Sometimes the littlest things just feel cruel.

8b. Speaking of the doctor. That experience was so strange. The section of the hospital I was in was empty. I was the only patient in the office. I had to stand 6 feet from the reception desk, behind the tape on the floor and basically yell my information, which would have been a major HIPPA violation just a few weeks ago. I was asked on the phone before my visit and while I was there if I've had any flu or cold symptoms recently. Every employee had a mask on. I completely understand why, but it made me feel diseased. There was a van out front where people could donate medical supplies. The whole thing was a surreal, bizarre experience. It did not feel like I was in the US. I've mostly made peace with the fact that I'm giving birth during this awful time, but I do worry a bit about the care and resources that will be available to me and my baby in the hospital.

9. The pregnancy dreams are back in full force. So far in the past week I've dreamed that I ran off with the mailman and we started a library together, John Stamos was my uncle (it took me several days to realize this is probably because he's Uncle Jesse on Full House), James tried to starve our bunny to death (I'd do that before he would!), and James got a call that he was fired while I was giving birth. It's been an exhausting time.

How are you surviving lately? Are you ready to give up on life yet? Are you loving it? Tell me. I think I'll feel so much more human when I'm on the other side of birth and recovery and can take long walks and be my normal self again, quarantined or not.


reading rainbow: lockdown edition

I'll be the first to admit I've been in a major reading rut lately. Mentally, I just don't have much energy for reading. I haven't felt much of a desire to read until bedtime, and the book I'm trying to finish is dense and wordy nonfiction which is not jiving with my exhausted mind right now. It's a struggle. Plus, I don't know about where you are, but our libraries have been closed for weeks and will be for at least another month. So yay! Thankfully we can still check out e-books, but there's such a long waitlist for all of them now. And I do have lots of unread books I own, but many of them are nonfiction, and I just want to be swept up in another world, not reading about important things. Not because I don't value it, but because this baby has eaten my brain cells.

So maybe giving book recommendations right now is silly since they're a little harder than usual to come by, but if you have access to e-books or want to buy some, here we go!

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow--This is going to be the best book I'll read all year. We still have plenty of reading months left, I know, but I don't see how any other book could top this one. Ronan Farrow was a reporter for NBC and was the first to successfully break the scandal about Harvey Weinstein when all others before him had been silenced. He details the way Weinstein had NBC wrapped around his finger, summoning all the forces of the universe to keep his sins from finding him out. I was shocked, nauseated, astonished, and completely enthralled. It was graphic at times and very difficult to read, and it really was horrifying to have the blinders pulled off about how terrible some of these people in power are. Farrow also goes into the allegations against Matt Lauer and Trump which are also disturbing. Lauer's especially. I know I just railed against my ability to read nonfiction, but this was more gripping than many thrillers I've read.

Warning: be prepared to hate NBC with a fiery passion.

For fans of: thrillers, good v. evil, journalism, Dirty John

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra--This is a modern retelling of Little Women, but it focuses mainly on Meg and Jo (duh). I have a lot of thoughts. As a novel, it's entertaining. As a retelling of Little Women, I was not amused. If you want my opinion (and of course you do), she took the modern bit a little too far. Jo was a little more promiscuous than I think she'd actually be, and Meg was a martyr SAHM who wouldn't let her husband help her no matter how much he wanted to. Both extremes felt ridiculous. And don't even talk to me about how horrible a certain beloved character turned out to be. Some parts of the retelling felt a bit too on the nose while other parts felt like too much of a stretch. Once again, a very entertaining novel if you take it at face value, but it loses the wholesome charm and sweetness that makes Little Women what it is. Do what you will with that information, aka my opinion.

For fans of: reading Little Women but wishing it was saucier, big families, sister relationships

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve---In a twist you'll probably never see coming, this book is about the wife of a pilot. Her husband dies in a plane crash, and she's suddenly faced with information telling her that she never actually knew her husband at all. This book was ok. It didn't suck me in that much and it was kind of depressing. I guessed a lot of the twists and overall I was underwhelmed. However, I know people who loved it, so maybe it was just me or my frame of mind.

For fans of: Lifetime movies, marriage drama

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou--Once again, this was not the right time for wordy nonfiction. Everyone has probably heard of Elizabeth Holmes by now, the girl who idolized Steve Jobs and started Theranos, a company that produced a machine that allegedly could give an accurate blood test result with a drop of blood. Except homegirl was lying. And she was a terrible boss. And she buried herself and her company in lies upon lies. The story itself is pretty riveting, but I struggled with the book. I honestly don't know if it's my current lack of brain cells, the fact that I had just finished Catch & Kill and felt like nothing could ever surprise me again, or if in fact it is just a rambly, dense book that is hard to follow.

For fans of: medical dramas, Steve Jobs, Silicon Valley

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella--This is unfortunately the only kind of book that can hold my attention right now. I loved it. It was clever, full of British charm, and cracked me up. I don't even know how to explain the plot. The main character, whatever her name is (it's been awhile since I read it), lost her engagement ring and goes to great lengths to hide that from her fiance. In the meantime, she finds an abandoned cell phone after hers is stolen, and it turns out to be the old phone of an assistant to some important business dude. She uses it as her personal phone to help track down her ring while also fielding calls directed at the former assistant/owner of the phone and relaying them to the boss. Chaos ensues. Lots of cringey, embarrassing, funny moments. Total escapism. It was delightful. Kinsella always wins for the best easy-read books. Props to Ashley for recommending it to me.

For fans of: quirky British comedies, awkward moments, My Not So Perfect Life

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott--This book is a collection of memoir-ish essays, and I loved it. Thanks to the zombie baby who is growing huge on a diet of my brain cells, I'm struggling to remember the details of what I loved/didn't love, but ultimately I just remember feeling VERY understood by many of the essays and also literally laughing out loud. The wit is top-notch. Some of her essays, like on her dogs or working or something, did nothing for me, but most of them were just so good and well-written that I loved them even if I couldn't relate. Memoirs are extremely hit or miss for me, and this was a hit. I follow her on Instagram now and she's every bit as delightful there as well.

For fans of: Sloane Crosley, writers writing about writing

The Sunrise at Normandy Trilogy by Sarah Sundin--This trilogy is comprised of three books: The Sea Before Us, The Sky Above Us, and The Land Beneath Us. It follows three brothers after a horrible tragedy and falling out. Each one enlists in a different branch of the military, unbeknownst to the others, and they all convene on D-Day. This series is Christian fiction which can be very....yikes...but I LOVED this trilogy. It had a few cheesy moments, but overall it was gripping and sucked me right in. Sure, you can probably guess how each book ends, but it transports you to another time, and it reminded me a lot that even though our current situation is not ideal, things could be much worse. Overall a great series on the value of relationships, family, and reconciliation. I found them all so hard to put down.

For fans of: WWII, historical fiction, heartwarming stories, family drama

Pure by Linda Kay Klein---Woof. I could honestly write a book in response to this one. Klein writes about growing up in the Purity Culture of the 90s/early 2000s. She interviews old friends from her church and how the teachings damaged their future relationships and guided them theologically. I grew up in a similar sort of church, though not as extreme as Klein's, and I felt SO VALIDATED by some of her criticisms of the teachings. I won't go into it all here, but I'm happy to discuss if you have no idea what the purity culture is all about or why it can be harmful, though I also don't think every single aspect of it was evil. Ultimately, she ONLY talks to people from her church that she knew had a bad experience, and she uses those experiences to paint all of evangelical Christianity as evil and wrong. She still claims to be a Christian, but she only believes in a small amount of the Bible and openly says she disagrees with much of it. Doesn't work that way, girl! Her criticisms of the time period were mostly justified, but I wholeheartedly disagree with her ultimate conclusions. It came across as an angry rant against her childhood. She offers no solutions or suggestions, just anger and bitterness. I felt like she missed the point entirely, which was disappointing. Mayyyybe worth reading if you had a similar experience in church and want some solidarity, but I would never recommend it for theological purposes.

For fans of: hating your childhood? trauma? theological confusion?

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary--This is the perfect book for a pandemic, because it's about two roommates who share a flat and a bed yet have never met because they have opposite schedules. Social distancing and stuff! It was so cute. Once again, perfect escapism in perfect Kinsella fashion. It was a bit saucier than I would normally want to read (you can call me a prude, it's fine), but the story was adorable and so were the characters.

For fans of: Sophie Kinsella, Jenny Colgan, British charm, escapism 

With all that said, I'm ALMOST done with The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larson. Usually I devour his books, as dense as they are, and even though this is on a topic I love, I'm STRUGGLING. My goal is to finish it before the baby is born so I can wallow in fiction again for awhile. The biggest perk of the library being closed is taking as long as I need to read this monster.


quarantine: week 2, pregnancy: month 9

Hey there all you cool cats and kittens!

If you understand that reference, we have a LOT to discuss.

This is the end of the second week of quarantine, and it's also my ninth month of pregnancy. I'm basically hanging on by a thread. Last week I was positive and mostly upbeat, and this week I've been a wreck. I blame most of it on the pregnancy part.

This week started with Gracie suddenly coming down with a horrendous cough. We hadn't been anywhere, James and I weren't sick, there was NO REASON for it. All I could think of was what we were going to do with her if I went into labor had to drop off my coughing kid somewhere during a pandemic that revolves around coughing. It turned into croup at night which hasn't happened in nearly a year. Thankfully she's mostly on the other side of it, but how does one get sick while quarantined? Tis one of the great mysteries of life.

It has been pouring rain all week. Torrential rain. Freezing cold outside. Always a great mood booster! I've stopped sleeping. I've slept pretty well this whole pregnancy which has been a pleasant surprise, but this week I just stopped. By day four, I hit a wall and I hit it at full speed. It was the same day James was on the phone all day for work and couldn't help with anything, and then he had to join some video chat going away party after work, and let's just say I curled up on the couch sobbing because I was completely past coping with anything. Being 9 months pregnant is never fun or easy, but being 9 months pregnant during a global pandemic and unable to function normally thanks to discomfort and lack of sleep and trying to keep a baby in a little longer and wrangling a kid who NEVER STOPS like the energizer bunny---Jesus take the wheel. It has been A LOT. I kicked everyone outside when I realized I hadn't had any alone time in two weeks.

Then there's the ever-stricter hospital policies. By the time I deliver, I'll be forced to do it alone on the roof of the hospital without even a doctor or blanket. My friend who has promised to take Gracie when I'm in labor was exposed to ~tHe ViRuS~ and is in a super strict quarantine. I mean...LOL. Of course. And my mom is currently battling a dental emergency. Every day is another reason to scream into a pillow, but that's where memes come in. Thank the Lord for the memes! And Tiger King! I can laugh when all I want to do is cry.

Now that that is out of my system...I don't mean to complain. We are in SUCH a fortunate position during this whole nightmare. I love being with my people all day. I'm just personally a wreck thanks to sleep-deprivation and major anxiety over labor and delivery and childcare and recovery and and and AND! Take this as tongue in cheek and just know that I'm a hysterical pregnant woman who is SO thankful for life and her family, but who also just really wants to sit in a dark room by herself with a personal chocolate cake.

Last week I was a Superstar Pinterest Homeschool Mom. It was so fun! I found free activities online and printed them off. We read books. We had fun! This week, I handed the teaching reigns over to Octonauts. If she doesn't grow up to be a marine biologist after this, then I don't even know. I've fallen asleep on the couch multiple times instead of making lunch. The one day I had a single molecule of energy, I deep cleaned Gracie's room because it was giving me fits. Another issue with being massively pregnant and NESTING but unable to do what you want to do is that no one else in my house is bothered by messes. I crawl out of my skin daily over the teeny tiny paper scraps on the floor and the crumbs on the chair and the grass and footprints on the kitchen floor and NO ONE ELSE NOTICES THESE THINGS. This isn't even important. But when you lay in bed literally fantasizing about scrubbing the floor mats in your car with a toothbrush, IT MATTERS.

Which brings me to the other day, when I laid on the couch trying to cope by watching videos of professional carpet cleaners. Specifically this one. It's just so majestic! And the soothing music! When I feel my blood pressure start to skyrocket, I think about the soapy water cleaning the rug and I take a deep breath. Carpet cleaning videos are my version of smelling salts. While I like things clean in general, I'm not usually this out of control. But during pregnancy, I become a possessed Danny Tanner and NOTHING IS EVER CLEAN ENOUGH. I literally get tingles when I think about cleaning things.

And then I do things like spill an entire mug of coffee on my couch and white rug.


Anyway, just had to take a break from writing to watch more carpet cleaning. Then I discovered a whole world of videos of people power washing things, so now I have a new rabbit trail to explore!

I also need therapy.

Speaking of cleaning and rabbit trails, Gracie took it upon herself today to dump water on our bunny when she was in her pen outside today. So that was fun to deal with.

You know what's tricky right now? Besides, well, everything? Meal planning. This is something that in general I'm pretty good at. But I can't exactly stand long enough in the kitchen right now to make a full meal, not to mention the stores are still sold out of a lot. How do you plan meals when you have no idea what ingredients are available? And you can't get super creative and bake from scratch right now? It's been tricky. We've eaten A LOT of BLTs and frozen pizza lately. Most of our meals don't make sense. It's FINE. I'm FINE. It is what it is. I've forgotten what a vegetable is but who needs those anyway? My MIL would say otherwise as she has been sending me weight loss recipes this week. I've also started getting targeted Facebook ads for "size-inclusive" workout apparel. Y'all, I'M PREGNANT, not super overweight. Once again, I laugh so I don't cry.

I want to make banana bread. I want to hike (aka walking through a flat, foresty area in the midwest), go on walks, I want to deep clean every inch of my life, I want to wear something other than maternity leggings. But my time will come, and I have to remind myself every 30 seconds. I won't always be pregnant, it won't rain forever, I'll be able to mop my floors again without paying for it by staying up all night with contractions. Gracie may not be able to go back to school this year, but her teacher is doing video lessons and having them submit art projects online. We've spent HOURS this week drawing monsters and coming up with stories for them. It's been so fun, and James and I have been in tears laughing over her creativity. I've kicked her outside every time the sun has peeked out. So it's not all bad! Things could always be worse. I could have a haircut like Joe Exotic.

We have it really good. But I'm 9 months pregnant, so I'm allowing myself to word vomit all my problems. Also because none of them are really problems. What WOULD be a problem would be running out of crushed ice. My crushed ice obsession is right up there with my cleaning obsession. If this were My Big Fat Greek Wedding, ice would be my Windex. Instead, it's My Big Fat Pregnant Quarantine, and I claw a piece of ice out of my water cup every time I'm stressed. Which is always. Gracie wants another snack? Pop a piece of ice. Heartburn? Ice. Gracie rubs kinetic sand into the couch cushion? LOTS of ice. It's a pregnant woman's alcoholic drink.

Every time I open the freezer and look at the ice machine, Trust by the Jonas Brothers starts playing.

I haven't put on real clothes in over a week. This is mostly because nothing really fits anymore and also because WHY?

For dinner the other night, I had two (smallish) burritos, cheese pierogies, carrots, a bowl of ice cream, and a bagel and cream cheese. And just like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, I WAS STILL HUNGRY.

Gracie told me tonight that daddy makes the best pizza she's ever had. Better than anything I've made. It was a frozen pizza.

Heartburn is no longer a symptom but a lifestyle.

If you're asking if I've stress-ordered cute baby clothes, the answer is no. Except yes.

I had never heard of Zoom until last week, and now I want to ban it from my life just like the phrase "social distancing."

I went outside during our 5 minutes of sunshine this week, and now I have a mosquito bite. IN MARCH. In Ohio!! My daffodils haven't even bloomed yet.

I haven't panic-bought cleaning supplies or toilet paper or paper towels. I've panic-bought Doritos. And the afternoon I ran out of them was a true dark night of the soul.

I had to log out of FB this week when a local mom group went ballistic because a group of kids were playing basketball and they weren't playing six feet apart. The police were called. I get the safety issue and all that, it's valid, but reminds me of a time our history books talked about....in the 1940s...in Germany....

There's a donut shop nearby that takes it upon themselves to drop off a dozen donuts every day to a local business. I love that they do this. I wonder if I could qualify for this as a local, desperate, starving pregnant mom? I'm not a business, but I do work hard with no salary. It's the least they could do.

It's time for me to have my daily 15 minutes of alone time, aka a shower. I'll leave you with this, which is how my family and I cope. Memes and jokes. My mom didn't participate only because she was dealing with the aforementioned dental emergency.

We will be the people laughing at our own jokes while the world around us burns.


very unoriginal thoughts on quarantine life

Kristin mentioned it and so have other websites, but I think it's so important to keep a record of these crazy days (if you want! No pressure!). We'll want to look back on this one day and remember what it was like so we can tell our kids, and so I can tell my unborn daughter what the world was like when she was born. I mean, hopefully this is a once in a lifetime thing and not the reaction to next flu season or something. Time will tell. Regardless, rereading my pregnancy posts from 5 years ago has been very enlightening, and nothing like giving birth when the world is spinning out of control! Gotta keep that documented.

With that said.

It's 5pm and I'm drinking a coffee, which is sure to bite me in my massively-sized hind end later, and I just discovered that I've been walking around with my shirt tucked into the maternity band of my leggings.

So basically it's a good thing I'm stuck at home right now. The cons? I just ordered a pair of sandals because they were so pretty and MAYBE we will all leave our houses someday and the sun will shine again and it won't rain and be freezing cold? Optimism.

(Update: got an email that shipping will be delayed because everyone else had the same idea. It's supposed to be 36 this weekend so I guess it doesn't matter.)

To be fair, my life has hardly changed. I have a lot less alone time, though. James is always lurking around, working. Which I love. I always feel so much better when he's home, even if he leaves his snacks and bottles of soda everywhere and we have very different ideas of the word "clean". Gracie isn't in school, and surprisingly it hasn't been much of an adjustment. Maybe because this was already our life for 4.5 years until she started preschool 6 months ago. I always feel safest, I guess you could say, when we're all together, so I'm relishing this even if the chaos drives me insane at times. Blaring Justin Timberlake in the car alone on the way home from my OB appt was definitely part of the highlight reel of this week. Gracie has been learning so much at school that I've been homeschooling her this past week just so she doesn't lose momentum. Nothing crazy, just some writing and counting practice. Something that's not another episode of Sheriff Callie, ya know? My parents gave her a huge kindergarten workbook for Christmas, and I squirreled it away, somehow knowing I would need it at some point. Well, it hasn't even been a week and she's done most of it. I was fine if she wanted to do only 1-2 pages a day, but once she hits her groove, there's no pulling her away. The last two days I've been laying low to keep the baby in as long as possible, and James has taken over the homeschooling which has been really sweet to watch.

We've been reading and playing games and building robots with legos. And then some days, Disney + is on all day while I wallow on the couch with that epic 9th month of pregnancy fatigue. Balance! But while G was watching tv, I was looking up homeschool Easter activities so basically I'm on top of things. Big LOLs. I'm actually really glad for this opportunity to kind of practice homeschooling. The stakes are extremely low since it's preschool, and I'm basically just trying to keep numbers and letters and such fresh in her mind. Playing is the best thing she can do at this age, so making it all a game is the key. She loves it. I mean, she loves it until she remembers she could be watching TV. I can relate, honestly. Don't think our attitudes are all sunshine and rainbows over here. I'm having a lot of fun finding free activities and such online. Basically, it's confirmed that I've made the right decision in choosing this path for now.

Not a legit homeschool mom yet, but this made me cackle. 
There are so many things I want to do. SO MANY THINGS. I laid in bed last night thinking about scrubbing things and vacuuming my baseboards and organizing EVERYTHING and things I want to bake and I just can't do any of it. It's eating me up inside. At this point with Gracie, I would vacuum every single day and it was like this MASSIVE sigh of relief and comfort. Something about the smell of the vacuum is what I imagine oil people feel when they whiff some lavender or something. That's how I feel whenever I smell a cleaning product these days or chew on some crushed ice. Pregnancy is so weird. James and a friend of mine both told me the other day that I have got to chill out and rest more, which honestly is not something anyone has ever had to tell me before but never underestimate the nesting instinct, so I've been taking them seriously and it has helped so much. I'm much less anxious and my body is calmer overall. I've been staying off social media and trying to focus on reading and knitting and interacting with my family instead. Not saying I'm doing a great job, but I can definitely tell a difference.

Sunday was my birthday, and even though technically we should have stayed home, we went out for one last outing. According to certain people in my life, this was not a wise choice, but I have zero regrets. All I wanted was to hit my favorite spots in German Village. I've been hoarding a gift card to The Bookloft that my friend Colleen gave me before she died, and it felt like finally the right time to use it. We also got coffee and went to a nearby bakery that I love. It was exactly what I needed, and it was good timing since the bookstore closed the next day, and all the restaurants and such were shut down that night. I had really wanted one last date night before the baby comes since we haven't had one in nearly a year, but that's completely impossible now. Oh well. This is a season that won't last forever. Right? RIGHT?


It took us three grocery stores to find bread and eggs over the weekend, and another four stores to get toilet paper last night. I'm still not scared of the virus, but I am scared of the implications. The dang hoarding is just making me so angry. Let other people get what they need! We are very fortunate in that our income is not at risk, but it's still difficult to find some basic staples. We have a small house with no basement or pantry, so it's not like I could ever build a stockpile even if I wanted to, but this has definitely changed the way I plan to shop from here on out. As a general rule I believe in only buying what you need and what you'll use, and though I do keep a small amount of canned goods on hand, I'm going to be more mindful about keeping the cupboards and freezer well-stocked. If nothing else, it's been a good learning opportunity, and now I'm very seriously flirting with a Costco membership. I just so happened to ask for a bread machine for my birthday, so I baked some bread in it to go with some stew this week, and it was SO good. I could not have picked a better year to ask for that. Even if we can't find bread again (unlikely but you never know), I can at least make it at home. I also got some knitting needles, so watch me start knitting underwear or something ridiculous.

I knew my love of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Amish would pay off eventually!

The libraries are closed, which would normally give me a panic attack, but I already had a stack of books that's been taking me a long time to get through, so I'm perfectly ok. Plus, ebooks! I've already checked a few out, and James has been downloading some to read to Gracie at night. I spent many years making snide comments about Kindles, but here I am so thankful for mine. The churches are closed, which we've been really bad about attending anyway, but it's still bizarre.

The weirdest and most unsettling part of this whole situation has been navigating it while nine months pregnant. At my 36 week appointment, my OB did basically half the stuff she had said she would at that appointment and then said since my blood pressure has been good, I don't have to go back for 2 more weeks. That COMPLETELY threw me for a loop. I'm supposed to be going weekly, and I never thought they would cut back prenatal appointments. It's not that I enjoy going to the doctor, but there's a level of reassurance I get that I cling to these days. Plus I always have some ridiculous questions and need to hear my doctor give me the answer even though I already know what the answer is. I still don't even know for sure that the baby is head down, though I suspect she is. She's been in weird positions throughout most of this pregnancy and I've gotten pretty good at discerning where she is, but I would like the confirmation since I could basically have her any minute. Thanks to this lockdown, only James can be in the hospital with me. No one else in the delivery room, no visitors while I'm in the hospital. This is a huge bummer because I really didn't want to wait until I got home for my mom and Gracie to meet the baby. I've been picturing the moment Gracie walks into the hospital room to meet her sister, and now that won't happen and I'm unreasonably sad about it. I was also hoping my mom could be with me while I'm in labor, because she is an amazing birth coach and helped me so much last time. And because my dad works in healthcare on the front lines of this whole crisis, there is a good chance my mom won't be able to come when the baby comes due to a high likelihood of exposure. Which means trying to find people willing to take Gracie during a quarantine for the extent of my hospital stay. And then there's the whole no bread or toilet paper or meat or whatever in stores right now.

So I guess you could say I've been super calm and relaxed lately.


Also---bad choice---went to the hospital's website to confirm the visitor info. Saw a picture of a delivery room. Need to go breathe in a paper bag now. NOT READY. Very excited but VERY NOT READY.

I've had a couple days lately where I've been bogged down with anxiety trying to figure out how to manage these huge unknowns. I opened my Bible the other night and immediately saw Psalm 37:25, which says "I once was young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread." While I'm not concerned about completely running out of food, the bare shelves are unnerving in a time when I was expecting to make freezer meals. It was such a balm to my soul to remember that everything will work out one way or another, even though this is NOT how I envisioned this month going.

If I wasn't pregnant, this would probably feel more like a fun adventure than it does right now. I don't mean to use the word fun when lives and incomes are at risk, but figuring out meals based on what is in stores and keeping Gracie occupied and working on things around the house is all totally up my alley. I wish I could do yard work, paint the girls' room, bake like crazy, rearrange everything in the kitchen, etc. But I can't and I'm trying to embrace it for what it is. The timing couldn't be worse. The weather is awful. My body is refusing to cooperate. We were going to surprise Gracie with a fun outing on her birthday because my extremely pregnant self cannot handle a party right now, but that's off the table. As everyone knows, I'm a major introvert, but in this time of uncertainty I've been dying to schedule playdates so I can talk to my friends and feel encouraged. But it's probably not wise. Nor can I visit my elderly next door neighbor who's on oxygen and who I love dearly. But it's ok. I'm so thankful my baby shower was when it was and I got to visit the homeschool group before all of this came crashing down. I got some big things out of the way that needed to take place before having this baby. God is in control of every aspect of this and we will not go without, we will somehow have childcare when the time comes, and He knows how and when this baby will come. It will be okay. It's hard to not have the answers or be in control, but thank goodness I am not alone or forsaken at any point.

I know that this is causing a huge burden on people whose income relies on restaurants or small businesses or whatever else is impacted, and I can't even begin to speak on that. I can't imagine how hard it must be for working parents with schools shut down. It's a nightmare situation. In all other situations (speaking broadly here), I think it's great that families are getting more quality time together. I think it can be a huge blessing that the busyness is suddenly slashed from our lives and we're forced to all be home together. Trying to look at the bright side here. Knowing I don't have to go anywhere or really do a whole lot has been exactly what I need in this phase of life, despite all the setbacks its brought as well. I've seen a good amount of moms whining about having their kids home, needing wine to cope, etc., and it makes me really sad. The attitude that our kids are a distraction and a burden is an awful perspective to have, and trust me, I've fallen into it many times. Our kids are more important than our jobs, our social lives, stocking up on toilet paper. I'm saying this as someone who has struggled with patience all week and who has an extroverted, high energy kid who has been cooped up with a cranky pregnant mom due to torrential rain. This same kid who found the box to the video baby monitor, set it up 100% herself, put the camera in the bassinet with her dolls and kept an eye on them all day. I was DYING. This probably wouldn't have happened if she was at preschool, and I'm going to laugh about it forever. Also, she had to teach me how to use the monitor. Why is she so smart?

Wrapping this up now, because I could go on for ages. Turns out us introverts can have a lot to say when we've been locked up for awhile! Tell me what life is like for you!