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7.30.2015

Baker Beach & Sutro Baths Engagement Session | Myles & Lesly

Shortly before the holidays, Myles contacted me about setting up an engagement session for him and his love, Lesly, while they were in town visiting family in Napa.  San Francisco is a particularly special city for the two of them because it was on a trip to the City by the Bay that they first said the L word to each other - Love.  When Myles told me the story of their engagement, and shared the awesome video he made for Lesly, I couldn't help but fall in love with the two of them myself.  And spending two hours with them capturing their love through my lens was all that I hoped it would be.  He brightens her already-mega-watt smile and she brings out the spark in his eyes.  After just a few minutes with them, it was clear this was the stuff dreams are made of.  I'll let Myles tell the story of how they met and became engaged in his own words. :)

From Myles:

I was going to school in Dallas, Texas, and heard about $5 men’s haircuts going on at The Paul Mitchell School in Arlington.  I scheduled an appointment with a girl named Lesly and my life was forever changed.  I immediately hit it off with the cute little stylist who was doing my hair.  Talk of movies, music, and dreams filled the time and a 20 minute haircut turned into an hour.  She gave me her number as I left and I texted her later that same day.  We've never stopped laughing, living, and loving ever since.  Who knew a haircut could change your life.

On October 11, 2014, I proposed to Lesly in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas, Texas.  I had choreographed dancing that led her through the neighborhood to a store where she watched a video I made (testimonials from family and friends).  When she came out of the store, all of our friends were lined up in the brick alleyway next door.  As the sun set behind the cafe lights, I knelt down and asked her to marry me.  Then like any good celebration, we ended it with pizza and drinks with our friends.

engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at baker beach
engagement photos at sutro baths
engagement photos at sutro baths
engagement photos at sutro baths
engagement photos at sutro baths
engagement photos at sutro baths
engagement photos at sutro baths


sunset engagement photos at sutro baths
Aren't they the cutest?

xo

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7.28.2015

Life Lately


So right after I give myself credit for getting back in the blogging groove, I go a full week without a post.  Talk about speaking too soon.  I want to blog.  I want to come here to this special space, chat with you, share some photos, and just hang out but the only time I have to do that is when Baby T is sleeping.  Right now, his napping schedule is consistent in that he naps after eating and playing for a little while, but the naps themselves are pretty inconsistent.  Sometimes they last for two hours, sometimes they're only twenty minutes.  And when a long nap sets in, I don't really want to sit at my desk.  I want to do fun, exciting, adventurous things - you know, like showering and eating.  Such is life with a newborn I guess.  Actually, a one-month old.

(Side note, is a one-month old still a newborn?  Or are we officially in the infant stage?  I'm not sure.  I do know we're officially in size 3-months clothes though because this kid is huge.)

Life is starting to regain some semblance of normalcy, though, despite my virtual absence.  Baby T is sleeping for about 4-hour stretches at night, which means The Husband and I are getting a little more sleep now, too.  We've ventured out for a few family outings, mostly to the grocery store but also to Starbucks and Off the Grid.  Baby T and I have even had our own outing as a twosome - Whole Foods!  It's a little thing but felt like such a huge accomplishment managing the stroller and grocery list at the same time.  And we've had friends come by for visits and adult conversation, too, which always feels great especially since The Husband and I seem to be spending a lot of time talking about poop and feeding schedules lately.


My sister-in-law and nieces came up for a visit last week and took Baby T to the park so I could have some Me time.  I took full advantage by going to a local coffee shop, munching on a gluten-free bagel, and just reading.  A real, live, grown-up book.  All by myself.  It was glorious.  When I got home, I felt recharged and happy, and it was pretty cute seeing the three cousins together for the first time since we left the hospital.


So that's about it.  That's my life lately.  Baby baths, baby cuddles, lots of coffee, and the occasional bit of time to myself.  I knew having a baby would be a big adjustment but I didn't realize just how enormous it would be.  People always talk about what a change it is, and we were sufficiently warned, but I would always keep thinking, "How much of a difference could it really be?"  I fully admit it's hard to envision what it's like until you're actually in the midst of it.



And now, he's starting to stir.  The morning nap that I thought would last another hour has come to a premature end.  And based on the sounds I was hearing during the last few minutes of said nap, I'm pretty sure it's time for a diaper change, too.  C'est la vie.

xo

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7.17.2015

Friday Five

1 // I never really pictured myself as the baby-wearing type but our little guy loves being held upright against my chest and since that's not exactly convenient when trying to get other things done, I caved and ordered a Moby Wrap.  It took me quite a few tries, and instructional videos, to figure out how to tie it and get Baby T in but once I did, it worked like magic.  He loved it, which means it's now my new favorite baby item.


2 // So far, I've only been wearing the wrap around the house because I've been limited on how much weight I can carry (my 3-week old already exceeds my doctor-prescribed 10lb weight limit...) but I'm looking forward to testing it out this weekend.  We're planning to hit up Picnic in the Presidio with some friends this Sunday!  It'll be Baby's first social outing (doctor's appointments and Whole Foods don't count) and I think the wrap might just be the key to our success.

3 // Amazon has become my new best friend.  Basically anything and everything we need, I order it from there.  Vitamin D drops for baby?  Ordered.  Birthday present for my niece?  Ordered.  Random spray bottle?  Ordered.  Thanks to Amazon Prime's free shipping, I don't even think twice these days about clicking and checking out.  Saves so much time and energy!  Now if only Trader Joe's delivered, too...

4 // I have big plans to bake some cookies this weekend.  These cookies, to be more specific.  Gluten free versions with a few added lactation-friendly ingredients (maybe flaxseed and almonds?).  Of course, that's assuming the overwhelming urge to nap doesn't get the best of me.



5 // I'm having a hard time coming up with a fifth item but I'd like to just acknowledge that I actually wrote THREE blog posts this week!  That's a record since Baby T came along.  I feel like I'm starting to get by blogging groove back and that, my friends, is worthy of the Number 5 spot in and of itself.

Happy weekend!!!
xo

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7.14.2015

Here Comes The Son | Part 2

In case you missed it, Part 1 can be found here.
* * * * * * * * * *
newborn photography


“We want to start a Pitocin drip to get things back on track with the contractions.”  We were essentially jumping from one labor crisis to the next and just trying to manage them as best we could. In my sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden state, all I could manage to say was, “Okay.”  After stalling at 8cm for about seven hours, it took two separate rounds of Pitocin and another couple of hours before I finally reached the elusive 10cm goal.  It was actually time to start pushing!  It felt like such a momentous occasion.  We'd finally be meeting our baby!

The nurse gave us a few minutes to mentally prepare for what was ahead.  At this point, I’d been in labor for over 25 hours.  My body was exhausted, my mind was drifting, and I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me to do another few hours of pushing on top of everything else that had happened.  To help pep me up, The Husband opened the shades to let some daylight in and turned on a Pandora station for a little musical jolt.  I requested Jack Johnson radio knowing the reggae-leaning tendencies of that station would help simultaneously relax and energize me.  The midwife came in to check Baby’s position and the nurse brought me a popsicle for a little sugar rush of energy.  It was the only food I’d eaten since my Chipotle lunch nearly 30 hours before.

The sonogram confirmed Baby was still turned sunny-side up, which meant pushing was going to be a little more challenging but not necessarily more painful since the epidural was still in full effect.  (Well, almost full effect.  It never actually took 100% and I could still feel some of the contractions on my right side, but they were manageable.)  The midwife suggested I attempt pushing for a bit before bringing in the doctor, an “expert” at flipping babies, to work her magic.  “Sometimes babies flip on their own during pushing so let's see what we can do.”

Right after I began pushing, Here Comes The Sun came on our Pandora station.  We still didn't know the baby’s gender and I couldn't help but think, "Wouldn't it be funny if it was a boy?"  Here comes the son, indeed.

After an hour or so of pushing, we paused for the nurse to check my vitals.  The infection we thought I’d defeated earlier was back.  I had 100-degree fever and threw up the Tylenol (and red popsicle) they gave me in an attempt to bring it down.  Twice.  Nothing like trying to push out a kid while nauseous and feverous.

I continued pushing for another half an hour before the midwife decided to bring in the doctor to check on Baby’s status.  My fever was now at 102 with no signs of going down.  The doctor came in and explained the flipping process to me.  She said the nurse & midwife both said I’d been an efficient pusher and felt confident I’d made good progress over the last hour and a half.  “You're almost there."  Famous last words…

The doctor set to work confirming Baby’s position via sonogram then attempting to right my sunny-side up kid.  After a few tries. she simply looked at me and shook her head.  I knew instantly by the expression on her face that Baby couldn’t be flipped.  "That's okay," I thought.  "I can do this."  I wasn’t at all prepared for what she was about to say next.

“Unfortunately, your baby is literally stuck in your pelvis.”

She explained that, despite my efforts of the last hour and half, Baby hadn’t budged at all.  “Simply put, Baby’s head and your pelvis are not a good fit for each other.  You're doing a great job pushing but this baby is just too big to come out the natural way.”

On top of that, my fever wasn’t going down and the infection was progressively getting worse.  “The only way to bring down your fever is to separate you & the baby, and the only way to do that is by c-section.  I’m so sorry.”

She explained the c-section process then left The Husband & me alone while she went to get the consent forms.  Throughout the previous 27 hours of labor, The Husband kept reminding me of our ultimate goal: healthy mom, healthy baby.  We’d jumped from one complication to the next, with all my worst labor fears becoming our reality.  Knowing Baby was measuring about two weeks ahead in our last few ultrasounds, I’d told The Husband and my doctor in my final weeks of pregnancy that my ultimate fear was that Baby would be too big for me to deliver the old-fashioned way and that I would need to have a c-section instead.  Call it "mother's intuition" or "plain irrational fear" but I somehow just knew this exact scenario was a very real possibility.  Both reassured me that my baby was the right size for my body and my body would know what to do when the time came.  And now, here we were, preparing to have a c-section for exactly the reason I'd feared most.  Baby was not the right size for my body and my body did not know what to do.  I couldn’t help but feel like a failure in some way.

A short while later, I was wheeled off to the operating room while The Husband was instructed to wash up and dress in head-to-toe scrubs.  They’d be back to get him as soon I as I was prepped for surgery.  I was nervous.  I was scared.  I was totally freaked out.  I’d never had surgery before and here I was, about to undergo a major abdominal operation while still awake.  The doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, everyone was great and tried to reassure me as best they could.  Before I knew it, I was numb from the chest down and they were ready to begin.  The Husband was ushered in to the operating room and escorted to a spot right beside my head.  I heard the doctors go over their pre-operation routine and within minutes, I felt a heavy pressure on my belly.  After some pulling and pushing - no pain or sharpness but a definite awareness that my body was being forcefully manipulated - I heard one of the doctors say, “Whoa!  That’s a BIG baby!”  And another, “10 pounds at least!”  “No, I’d say maybe 9.5.”  Then finally, “It’s a BOY!  You have a son!”

The Husband went over to check him out, our son, and to cut the cord.  He weighed in at 10 pounds, 1.6 ounces and measured 21.5 inches long!  No wonder my body couldn’t get him out!  He was a little on the purple side and his head was misshapen from being lodged in my pelvis for so long but he was otherwise healthy and perfect.

Meanwhile, I heard what seemed like a far off and distant voice say, "She's losing blood, BP is dropping" as I was fighting off drowsiness and struggling to keep my eyes open.  "Stay awake, Stephanie.  I need you to stay awake.  Keep your eyes open,” the anesthesiologist kept repeating.  “Tell me what you’re feeling.”  I felt some poking.  A sharp twinge here and there, almost as if I was starting to feel each stitch the doctor was making.  “Okay, I need to increase your anesthesia.  You should just be feeling pressure, not sharpness or poking.  Stay with me.”

Then a wave a nausea hit.  I threw up four times while lying cut open on the operating table as the doctors slowly stitched me up.  I can't even explain how bizarre it is to be throwing up while lying flat on your back and not being able to actually feel your stomach heaving and retching the way you normally would when sick.  I choked briefly on whatever little contents my stomach was trying to expel and the anesthesiologist lifted my head and turned it sideways for me.  I fought as hard as I could to keep my eyes open and not give in to the temptations of sleep.  A lot easier said than done.  Finally, the blue curtain separating me from the rest of my body was lowered and the doctor leaned over to tell me it was all over.

“Your blood pressure dropped significantly and you lost a lot more blood than we expected but not enough to need a transfusion.  Other than that, everything went smoothly.  It’s over.”

As I was taken to the post-op recovery room for observation, I slowly started to feel normal again and within minutes of the surgery being over, my fever broke and my temperature returned to normal.  After a few minutes in the recovery room, I was finally able to hold my baby, but only briefly.  He needed a bath and monitoring as well, so The Husband accompanied him to the nursery while I was left to recover under the observation of the nurse until we were later reunited in our postpartum room.

I couldn’t believe the experience was finally over.  I knew I had a few days to recover in the hospital, with lots of pain meds and antibiotics awaiting me followed by a long process of recovery at home, but the worst of it was actually over.  It felt like everything that could possibly go wrong, did.  Everything I wanted to avoid - Pitocin, early epidural, constant monitoring that limited my mobility, infection, c-section - confronted me with a vengeance and forced us into crisis-management mode and I was relieved to finally be done with it.

At one point during the 27+ hours of labor, The Husband asked, “If you had any advice for someone about to go through labor for the first time, what would it be?”  The first thing that came to mind was, be flexible because you never know what could happen.  By all accounts, I had a healthy, normal, low-risk pregnancy and no one could've predicted all the complications that arose during my labor & delivery experience.  The next bit of advice that quickly followed that was, choose a hospital/medical team that you trust implicitly.  I would not wish my labor experience on anyone but I am grateful for the doctors, nurses, midwives, and medical staff that helped us through it.  Never once did I question whether they had my and my baby's best interest at heart and never once did I feel pressured to agree to any course of treatment that I wasn't comfortable with.  Despite all the challenges thrown at us during that 27+ hours, and despite my worst fear of an emergency c-section becoming our reality, I’m grateful that in the end, our main goal of healthy mom, healthy baby finally came to fruition.

newborn photography
newborn photography


xo


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7.13.2015

Here Comes The Son | Part 1

It's taken me about three weeks to actually sit down and write this.  Part of it is because I simply didn't have the time and part of it (okay, most of it) is because I needed to process all that happened.  I've read a lot of birth stories, both during pregnancy and before, because I found them to be fascinating but I also couldn't help noticing a trend in the ones I read.  The stories were either all about a mostly positive experience or, if there was a negative experience documented, the story always ended with a "but it was all worth it!" or "I do it all over again!"  In the abstract, my labor experience was "worth it" in the sense that it was the only way Baby T could be born but would I want to experience it all over again?  Nope.  Not really.  So I thought I'd share with you my story, exactly as it happened, without being filtered through a rose-colored lens.  It's a long one so I'm sharing it in two parts.  I hope in some way it helps other first time moms-to-be prepare for all that might come or, at the very least, I hope you find it entertaining.

* * * * * * * * * *

newborn photography


Four days after my due date, we arrived at the hospital for an antenatal ultrasound.  My doc wanted to make sure all was well in the womb as we awaited baby’s now-late arrival.  After a half hour of monitoring, the nurse came over and said, “You’re having contractions.  Did you feel them?”  Nope.  I didn’t feel anything.  “That’s normal.  It seems like you’re having prodromal labor.  The contractions are irregular and may start and stop as the days go by.  It’s like the uterus is practicing for real labor to begin.”  Interesting.  Since I couldn’t really feel anything, there’s no way of knowing just how long this had been going on.  Everything else looked healthy and normal so The Husband and I headed out of the office, relieved to know at least something was happening, even if it was just "practice" labor.

We went about our day as usual.  A stop at Target to make a return and grab a few last minute baby things, a stop at Chipotle because neither of us felt like making lunch when we got home.  The Husband worked from home that day, as he had for the week before just waiting for The Moment when things started up for real, and I took advantage of the extra time to relax and catch up on a few of my fave TV shows.  Later in the afternoon, my lower back started to ache a bit.  Nothing too bad, just a little soreness.  I thought it might’ve been because of how I was laying in bed so I asked The Husband if he wanted to take a break and go for a walk.  We lapped around the park across the street and made a few circles around the block, deftly avoiding all the hills in our neighborhood.  When we got home, my back was still achey so I decided to take a hot bath.  There was a slight twinge of guilt as I filled the tub knowing we’re in the midst of a major drought but I was nearly 41 weeks pregnant and figured I could indulge just this once.  Around 5pm, as I was enjoying the luxurious bubble-filled soak, the lower back ache suddenly radiated around to my hips and abdomen as my belly tightened up in a cramp.  I knew without a doubt it was my first contraction - or at least, the first one I could feel.  It didn’t last very long but about five minutes later, another one hit.  Then another.  Everything we were told in our child-birthing class said contractions would start out 20-30 minutes apart then gradually get closer together.  These were starting out close already, much closer than I expected, so I decided to get out of the tub and ask The Husband to start timing.  I had a few more before I even finished dressing, and they were strong enough to stop me in my tracks and force me to breathe through them until they passed.

Within about half an hour, the contractions were coming about 4 minutes apart and lasting for 45 seconds or more.  This was all happening a lot faster than we anticipated.  The Husband finished packing my bag and tried to eat a little bit, all the while keeping an eye on the timer and stopping every few minutes to rub my back or hold my hand as the contractions became stronger and stronger.  After two hours, he decided it was time to call the hospital.  The contractions were coming every three minutes and lasting for a minute to a minute and a half, and they were so strong and I had to close my eyes and do my best to remember the visualization and breathing techniques I’d learned to cope with the pain.  I couldn’t even talk if I wanted to.  We slowly made our way to the car, pausing on the steps to breath through a contraction, and pausing yet again as another one hit while I tried to get into the car.  Luckily the hospital was only about a 5-minute drive from our apartment.  When we arrived, the security guard immediately brought a wheel chair over since I couldn’t even walk to the elevator.  Normally, I pride myself on having a pretty high threshold for pain and being able to handle almost anything with a calm, cool, collected attitude but this was much more than I expected, especially so early on in the labor process.  I thought I’d be one of those pregnant women who breathed through each contraction with ease and didn’t make much noise, but that was not the case.  I was much more vocal than I ever imagined I’d be, with my yoga breaths (lots of “ho's” and “om's”) being the only thing I could remember to do in my pain-induced haze.

When we got to triage, the labor & delivery nurse checked my progress.  I was only 2 centimeters dilated but the contractions were now less than two minutes apart and lasting an average of a minute and a half each.  I was having pretty severe back labor and, at one point, The Husband asked me what it felt like.  The only way I can describe it is this: like someone is cutting your belly open with a hot knife while simultaneously breaking your back in half.  Things were getting intense to say the least.

They wanted me to progress to at least 4 cm before moving to a labor & delivery room so the nurse turned off the lights, closed the door, and left me & The Husband to breathe our way through the process.  The contractions felt like they were coming even closer together, and with significantly more intensity and it turns out they were now a minute or less apart.  I knew I didn’t want an epidural just yet but I also knew the L&D room had nitrous oxide, which I could use to help manage the pain until I felt I needed something else.  I really thought I could make it through all of labor with just the nitrous oxide but boy, was I wrong.  The nitrous oxide helped for a while but the contractions were coming practically back-to-back, with no break in between.  On top of that, the back labor was getting worse.  One of the nurses asked me if I worked out during pregnancy and The Husband answered, “She walked a lot and went to prenatal yoga every week.”  The nurse said, “I can tell.  She’s handling this a lot better than most women, especially since she’s not getting any breaks in between contractions.”

After five and a half hours of contractions being nearly back-to-back, I’d only progressed to 6cm.  Things were a blur at this point, and all my hopes of shifting positions or walking to help manage the pain went out the window.  Just as one contraction would be winding down, the next one would start up again, with no opportunity to even pause for a sip of water.  I barely muttered the word “epidural” before the anesthesiologist came in.  I initially wanted to go as long as I could without it, or possibly not get it at all if I was managing the pain with other means, but I felt my body was quickly fatiguing and needed a break.  A few minutes after it was administered, my water broke.  And a few minutes after that, the doctor came in with some bad news.  The contractions that weren’t giving me a break until the epidural were also not giving Baby a break.  Baby’s heart rate was quickly dropping with each contraction, reaching critically low levels.  “Imagine if you held your breath through each and every contraction you’re having.  That’s what’s happening to your baby right now.”  She wanted to give me a shot to slow down the contractions and give Baby a break, just as the epidural had given me a break.  I agreed, since my only other option was emergency c-section to get the baby out of such harsh conditions.

Unfortunately, the shot worked even better than expected.  The contractions slowed to 3 minutes apart, then 5 minutes, then became irregular with some being back-to-back again and others being as much as 7 minutes apart.  The medicine in the shot was supposed to wear off after about two hours and allow things to progress at a more normal rate, but they never did.  Instead, I developed an infection about two hours after my water breaking and I had a 102-degree fever.  Antibiotics were added to my IV and I was given Tylenol to help bring down the fever but neither worked.  Now baby’s heart rate was far too fast as the internal conditions of the womb became even more inhospitable with each feverous minute that passed.  The nurses covered me in ice packs - under my arms, behind my neck and back, all over my belly - the temperature of the room was lowered, a cold compress was placed on my forehead, and I began chugging ice water like it was my job, all in an effort to bring down the fever and get the baby’s heart rate back to a normal range.  The poor Husband was freezing in my 60-degree room but we had to do anything and everything to get my fever down.  Once again, the C word came up.  If the fever didn’t break, we’d have to go in for an emergency c-section.

The Husband was watching the fetal heart rate monitor nonstop, and kept updating me.

“Still over 200.”

“We’re down to 190!”

“It’s in the 170s now!”

Below 160 was the goal and, eventually, after a few hours, we got there.  Things were back on track and the emergency c-section was off the table.  At least, for now.  After 15 hours of labor, my contractions were still irregular thanks to the earlier shot and I was still only 7 cm dilated.

(Part 2 continued here)

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