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The Birth of Joseph Matthew

22 Aug

Wow I can’t believe it has been almost two months since my last post, but I have been busy!  I finally had the baby and have been meaning to write the birth story but my hands have been full with two little ones and I needed some time to actually sit down by myself–a real rarity these days.  I have time now so before it runs out here we go…

During almost my entire pregnancy I was convinced that our baby would be born early; not excessively so, but probably right around 38 and a half weeks.  Especially towards the end, when I got SO HUGE, I figured that he or she was getting uncomfortable and would come out to meet us sooner rather than later.  At my 37 week appointment one of my midwives, Whitney, said that the baby was perfectly positioned and ready to go.  Because I had developed preeclampsia so late in my pregnancy with Ruby I was anxious to get this baby out and thus be less likely to avoid complications and induction.  Well 38 weeks came and went…then 39 weeks…then my due date.  Still no baby.  I was drinking red raspberry leaf tea infusions, taking evening primrose oil, getting induction acupuncture, eating spicy food, and doing pretty much everything else I had heard of to try and get labor going.  I was having lots of contractions and had one false alarm when I really thought that things were happening.  Still no baby.

A week after my due date I had a non-stress test (perfectly normal) and an appointment with Marsha, another midwife.  She stripped my membranes and assured me that the baby would eventually come.  I wasn’t miserable or anything and luckily my midwives do not induce vaginal births after caesarian (VBACs) and would have let me keep going under close observation unless there was a problem, but I was ready to meet our baby.  That afternoon I went to another acupuncture session then had a lovely dinner with my family.  My dad had driven up for the day and I announced at dinner that I really thought that the baby would be born sometime the following day.  I wasn’t having contractions but could feel that the time was finally here.

I put Ruby to sleep around 8 and then headed to bed a few hours later.  I still wasn’t having contractions and slept well until 12:30, when I woke up to use the bathroom.  I had a contraction…then another…then another.  Unlike my previous contractions these were pretty uncomfortable and I started timing them using my iphone app at 12:47.  45 minutes later I could see that they were pretty steadily lasting one minute every two and a half minutes.  As a VBAC I was supposed to go to the hospital at five minutes but apparently I had skipped that stage altogether.  I called my doula, Kerry, and then the midwife on duty, Nora.  Nora said to come in to the hospital but I wanted to take a shower first, which she said was fine.  I got in the shower and decided to shave my legs (why?  I couldn’t tell you, but apparently this is pretty common among laboring women).  The shower took for. ev. er because I had to stop every two minutes.  Matty and my mom were running around getting everything together and wondering what the hell was taking me so long.  At one point I knocked over the stool we have in the shower and gave them both minor panic attacks because it was super loud.  I finally finished showering and proceeded to take my sweet time getting dressed because of my now fairly painful contractions.  We left the house sometime after two and arrived at George Washington University Hospital at 2:15.  The hospital is only a few miles from our house and thankfully there was no traffic in the middle of the night so I only had to deal with about four contractions on the way there.  Matty dropped my mom and me off at the ER and then parked and Kerry met us right as we were walking through the door.

By this point my contractions were really strong and close together.  To cope while we were filling out admissions paperwork and waiting for a room I would sway and do some sort of weird hippie dance.  This was not intentional–I just felt like I needed to crawl out of my skin or something–but Matty thought it was hilarious and looking back I’m sure it was!

I had planned on using one of the three labor and delivery rooms with birthing tubs, but there was a pretty significant baby boom going on and they were all full.  I was honestly only disappointed for about half a second before another contraction took over and I forgot all about the tub.  We got settled into the room and I put on the nightgown I had packed in my hospital bag a few weeks before.  I wanted a dark, peaceful space and Mom, Matty, and Kerry placed the battery operated vanilla scented candles ($9.99 at Costco!) around the room, which really did provide a nice ambience.  Nora came in to check me and said that I was 6-7 centimeters, which made me happy and excited.  I figured we still had quite a long road ahead, but were well on the way.

As a VBAC I had to have constant fetal monitoring.  During my labor with Ruby the telemetry straps had not worked well even though I was immobile in a hospital bed and I was worried that they wouldn’t work at all during an upright, walking labor.  Whitney had said to bring a belly band to put over the straps and hold them in place.  This worked wonderfully well–the baby’s heartbeat never dropped and my contractions tracked perfectly.  I was also positive for strep B and had to receive IV antibiotics upon admission and every four hours thereafter.  This had disappointed me when I found out but ended up not being a big deal at all.  Somebody had brought in a yoga ball and as soon as Nora was done with my quick exam I bounced on it while leaning against the bed.  Katie, the (excellent) nurse, started my line and gave me the medicine while I bounced away and Kerry massaged my back.  Matty got my ipod speakers set up and started playing the Beatles.  Later we would listen to James Taylor, Paul McCartney, and Simon and Garfunkel.

The music helped regulate my breathing and relax me.  I was tired and (surprisingly, for anyone who knows me) didn’t talk much.  I couldn’t talk through the contractions and in between just wanted to rest.  I don’t know how long I stayed on the yoga ball but Kerry massaged my back the whole time, which helped tremendously.  I remember her telling me that the contractions would get longer, stronger, and closer together, and saying that I could deal with these but didn’t know if I could handle worse.  At one point I also remember saying that I now knew why women asked for epidurals, although I never considered one, or any other type of pain medication.

After a while Kerry suggested that I get in the shower to help with the pain.  When I stood up my water broke.  I got in the screaming hot shower and Kerry positioned the spray so that it was directly on my lower back.  During contractions I would brace myself with my face against the wall.  I think I was in there for about an hour when Nora wanted to get my vitals and check me again.  Matty and Kerry helped me out of the shower and suggested I sit on the yoga ball while they dried me off.  I agreed and plopped right down then promptly fell over onto the floor.  I was totally fine but everyone else had a quick scare.

I walked over and sat on the edge of the bed so Katie could get my blood pressure.  My contractions were so strong and close together that even when she started the monitor as soon as one was over by the time it finished cycling I would already have  started another so my bp readings were super high.  Nora had come back into the room to check me and I told her that all of that stuff that Ina May (Gaskin, patron saint of American midwifery) said about envisioning the cervix opening up like a flower was bullshit.  Right after that all of a sudden I had an incredible urge to push.  It completely overtook my body and I could not have stopped even if I had wanted to.  I  let out a guttural wail and pushed then yelled “am I dilated?  Am I allowed to do that?”  Nora smiled and said “I would say so.”

I was helped back onto the bed and pushed when I felt the urge.  The room was peaceful, Simon and Garfunkel was playing in the background, and only Matty, Mom, Kerry, Nora, and Katie were present with me.  Katie kept busy applying hot compresses, which helped prevent tearing.  No one yelled at me or told me what to do.  When I pushed I received loving encouragement but also rested when I wanted to, which was wonderful.  I probably pushed for about 30 minutes but less than 8 times total.  I channeled Ina May and breathed the baby down, then gave a few good pushes and out he came!

Our beautiful baby boy was born on June 25th at 6:19 in the morning, naturally and peacefully.  He was massive and magnificent and when he was placed on my chest I looked up at Matty and said “Joseph?”  We hadn’t decided on names, but he looked like big Joe Shellock to me.  Joseph was my grandfather’s name and we had discussed either Walter (for Matty’s grandfather) or Matthew for a possible middle name.  I told Matty to pick and he chose Matthew.  Joseph Matthew Shellock was perfect and I was ecstatic.  A little later he was weighed and measured and found to be 11(!) lbs and 22 inches long.  Joe nursed for an hour right after being weighed–he was a hungry boy!

Matty’s parents had driven down from NJ right as I was going to the hospital and got to the house a little after 7.  Ruby woke up at 7:30 and walked downstairs to find three of her grandparents sitting around the living room.  We facetimed with everyone and showed Ruby her new brother.  She was instantly smitten and has remained so.  Later that morning the grandparents brought Ruby to the hospital and she held and kissed her “baby brudder Jofes.”  She also told him “I love you,” which was the first time she had ever said that completely spontaneously.  My heart felt like it would burst with joy.

I had been convinced of the benefits of natural childbirth during my pregnancy with Ruby.  Her birth (I wrote about it here) turned out very differently from how I had envisioned and I had a rough recovery.  When I became pregnant again I knew I wanted a VBAC and sought out the very best medical care.  I was incredibly fortunate to find the midwives at GWU Hospital.  They greatly encourage doulas, especially for first time moms and VBACs, and I was blessed to work with Kerry from Birth in Bloom.  Another huge help for me was reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  I didn’t do any sort of childbirth classes like hypnobirthing or lamaze, but the wisdom in that book really centered me and gave me confidence in my ability to give birth.   Matty and my mom were, of course, invaluable and I will be forever grateful to have such an amazing support system, both before and after Joseph’s birth.

joe r&j

Officially Overdue

18 Jun

Still no baby, but I can’t really complain because life has been pretty nice with my Mommy here taking care of me. Plenty of sleep, delicious meals, help with Ruby…not too shabby!

Seriously, I was disappointed when my contractions stopped on Sunday night because I was getting really excited to meet this little baby, and I am hoping that things pick up here soon. In the meantime I am trying to be patient and enjoy this time with Ruby. Matty and I also got a date night tonight, which was amazing–thanks Mom!




Waiting for Baby

16 Jun

I thought I was making good progress today but things have slowed down since supper. Hopefully they will pick up again soon–Matty’s parents are on their way down from NJ and I am ready to have this baby!

In the meantime, Ruby and I are bouncing on my yoga ball and we took her bunny for a walk to get things moving.



Happy Flag Day!

14 Jun

And even more importantly, happy birthday to my wonderful sister Elise! Ruby really wanted to help Elise blow out her candles today, but the 3,000 miles between us made that difficult.

Today has been my target due date since I found out I was due in such close proximity to Elise’s birthday, but alas I do not think that is going to happen. I did go in for labor induction acupuncture and then we all went on a nice walk, which has produced some contractions. Hopefully they continue and this baby is born sooner rather than later! We shall see.

I can’t believe I am posting these because I look SO HUGE but here we are on our walk this evening:



Well hello there third trimester

18 Mar

As of yesterday I am officially in my third trimester! Woohoo! The next three months are going to be super busy so the time should fly by, just like the first two trimesters have.

Matty took this picture of me tonight before I went to the Alexandria Commission for Women’s Salute to Women Awards Banquet. My Commonwealth Republican Women’s Club was a major sponsor of the banquet and one of our members received an award. I am pretty sure that out of the hundreds of people who attended we were the only Republicans, which ended up being nice because former Governor Jim Gilmore sat at our table. My family actually campaigned to elect him Attorney General back in 1993, along with George Allen for Governor and Michael Farris for Lieutenant Governor. That was my first foray into politics, and it was fun to talk to Jim 20 years later. He gave me a pin as thanks for my work back then, at the age of eleven.

For a quick Ruby fix here is our darling girl at Target today, eating the cherry Chapstick that she fished out of my purse. I am letting her because she is being quiet and well-behaved. Ah parenthood.


Passport Photos and a Preggo Pic

19 Jan

Sometimes I forget just how delightful Ruby truly is until I see her through other people’s eyes.  Yesterday I took her to the post office to apply for a passport for our upcoming trip to Australia and she was so very cute.  When it was time to take the picture I had to tell her to open her eyes because she was smiling so much.  Precious!ImageImageImageImageImage

Last night I finally had Matty take a picture of my very pregnant-looking belly.  I will be 19 weeks tomorrow and am looking a lot more pregnant than I did with Ruby at this point!  It’s a bit blurry, but here it is:Image


11 Jan

I joined a small group at our church (Restoration Anglican in Arlington) in September, and one of the women, Rachel, happens to live right around the corner from us. She and I have been getting together and I am so enjoying her friendship. Ruby just loves her three kids, including Selah (9 months older than Ruby):

and sweet baby Silas:


Oh my

18 Nov

I am about to devolve into a complete mommy-blogger cliche.  It has taken me several days to come to grips with this, but I have decided it’s time.

I’m going to write about poop.

Lord help us.

I hate even writing the word, but here I sit, about to tell two stories about my daughter’s bowel movements.  If this turns your stomach stop reading right now.  I certainly won’t be offended.

For those of you who wish to continue, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Here we go.

On Friday morning Ruby woke up as usual and snuggled in bed with us for a bit.  When she got up she went into our bathroom, patted her bottom, said “book” (her word for poop), and simultaneously patted the closed toilet lid.  I asked her if she had a poopy diaper and she said no.  I asked her if she wanted to poop on the potty and she said yes.  I figured we could give it a shot so I stripped her down and sat her on the toilet.  She proceeded to grunt a little and after about five minutes she had pooped!


I was now certain that our daughter is a genius, or at least some sort of bathroom savant.  We haven’t been pushing the potty-training at all, so I was just blown away that she would take the initiative to ask to poop on the potty and then actually do it.  Huzzah!

Yesterday we flew a bit too close to the sun.

I was so impressed by Ruby’s performance the previous day that I decided to try to replicate it.  Upon waking after a lovely sleep-in during which my wonderful husband watched the baby, I stripped her down again and plopped her on the potty.  She sat there for a few minutes and tinkled a bit, and then announced that she was done.  I was hopeful that she would try again in a few minutes so while I brushed my teeth I let her run around in the nude.

I heard our closet door close and then open about 30 seconds later, and then saw Ruby run back into the bathroom and grab some toilet paper.  When Matty announced “it smells like poop in here!” I knew that something had gone terribly awry.  Sure enough, Ruby had apparently decided that she needed some privacy or perhaps just liked being surrounded by clothes and shoes and purses while she did her business.

So a genius she is not, but she is still pretty cute.  Oh and Matty cleaned up the mess–how lucky am I?


12 Sep

As I write this I am miscarrying my baby.

It is very painful.

Physically, yes, but emotionally–spiritually–much more so.

I feel…so…broken.

And I miss my tiny baby.  My itty bitty baby who never had a heartbeat, but who we loved nonetheless.  I am (was?) seven weeks pregnant with our second child.  Ruby, our first, is delightful and brave.  And busy.  Always busy.  At 18 months she is in desperate need of a sibling, and I am oh so ready to give her one.

I’ve been ready, for awhile now, but just wasn’t getting pregnant.  Finally we used the First Response Ovulation Test and conceived the first month.  We found out on August 18th.  We were ecstatic.

I started spotting a week and a half ago, and went in for an ultrasound.  Everything looked ok and it was still a little early for a heartbeat, but I sensed that something was amiss.  I didn’t feel pregnant–I felt amazing, energetic–and thought that maybe I was just very lucky this time around.  Maybe I would avoid the nausea and crushing exhaustion I had experienced with Ruby.  Outwardly I attributed this to paleo.

Deep down inside I think I knew.

Yesterday the spotting got worse.  After consulting with the advice nurse over the phone I went in for an ultrasound and a chat with one of the midwives.   I had the same ultrasound tech as last week, and she was so nice.  She took a long time, but still could not detect a heartbeat, and the baby had not grown since last week.

The midwife, Laura, broke the news that we would lose the baby.  She was lovely and reassuring and kind.  She said all the right things: that I had no trouble getting pregnant, that I carried Ruby to term, that I would have more beautiful, healthy babies.  I sobbed and sobbed.  Matty, my mom, and Ruby were all there with me.  They were sad too, but rocks for me to lean on.  Laura said that she would do a blood test to be sure, and then we could discuss my options: miscarrying at home, with or without medication; or a D&C.

I didn’t end up needing any confirmation, nor did I have time to think about options.  Last night, shortly after arriving home from the hospital, the bleeding and cramping got exponentially worse, and lasted through the night.  I tried to sleep, to no avail.  I cried, watched reruns of sitcoms on late-night TV, and came downstairs to start writing this post.  Eventually the pain subsided enough for me to fall into an uncomfortable sleep.

Yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.  Compared to the tragedy of that horrible day, my pain is tiny, minuscule.  To me it is vast and deep.  We will never know this baby, never hold him or her in our arms.  Ruby will never kiss the baby’s tiny cheek.

Now I understand why expectant mothers wait until after the first trimester to announce a pregnancy.  I dislike keeping secrets, especially happy ones, and there is no history of miscarriage among my maternal grandmother (nine children), my mother (five), or my older sister (four).  We joke that God gave us child-bearing hips for a reason.  At 30 I am still young; surely this couldn’t happen to me.

So I told people, and now I have to un-tell them, and that just seems like a terrible burden right now.

know that I am blessed beyond measure; with a loving, supportive husband and family, and with a daughter who is precocious and sweet.  We wanted this baby, had already carved out a space for him or her, and I am not yet ready to let go and move on.

Goodbye sweet baby, you are loved.  I carry you in my heart.


30 Days that Changed My Life

10 Sep

So a few months ago I was stuck in a bit of a rut.

Okay okay I lie.

It was a huge rut.

In March I resigned from the Navy after seven years on active duty, became a stay-at-home mom, and moved across the country. It was a *lot* of change all at once, and I don’t think that I handled it all very well.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore Ruby and love spending time with her, but at first it seemed like…well…a whole lot of time to be spending one-on-one with a baby, even though she is the coolest baby in the world. I also realized that a good deal of my identity had been wrapped up in being a naval officer, and it was very hard for me to hang up my uniform one last time and stop being Lieutenant Shellock.

When I was working I had envisioned this awesome life in DC–I would go to the gym every day and finally shed a few (or more) lbs, Ruby and I would go to museums and some sort of yuppie baby and me classes, and I would cook healthy, gourmet meals every night.

None of that happened.

I joined the Y and din’t go one. single. time.  It was all I could do to get out of my pajamas some days.  Matty thinks I was depressed, but I wasn’t sad or anything.  I was just…I don’t know…unmotivated maybe?  There just didn’t seem to be any point to doing anything, and everything seemed to require a great deal of effort, for whatever reason.  The house was a mess (except when Matty cleaned, which was fairly often), and although I generally tried to cook there were plenty of nights when we ended up ordering takeout, even though I had had all day to plan a menu and shop for groceries, and I love to cook.

It was time for a change.

On July 16 Matty and I started this program:   It is a pretty hardcore paleo diet program–no sugar, no grains, no processed food, no dairy, no alcohol, etc.  My youngest sister and her husband have been doing paleo since January, and earlier in the summer my parents and older sister jumped on the bandwagon.  Matty’s cousin had also had great success on paleo, losing 75 lbs over the past year.  I have battled my weight for the past 18 years and was really not interested in some sort of fad diet, but all of the information I have read about paleo just makes so much sense I thought we should give it a try.

I also used the opportunity to change a few other things in my life.  I was addicted to Facebook, and it was a particularly unhealthy addiction for me.  I am a pretty competitive person and even though I was so happy for all of my friends whenever they had good news it was a little hard for me to see everyone else thriving while I flailed about.  So I quit, cold turkey, the day we started the Whole 30.  I thought that Facebook would be hard to give up, but it ended up not being that big of a deal, and I was especially glad to not be on during the whole Chik-Fil-A craziness.

On August 2nd I attened my first political meeting and have been pretty involved since.  This is something that I am passionate about and my involvement has given me something productive to do, often with Ruby.  One of the things I loved about being in the Navy was that every single day I put on my uniform I felt like I was making some sort of difference in the world, and in this pivotal election year I love having that feeling again.

So the 30 days flew by.  We were not 100% strict with paleo, which technically means we failed the Whole 30, but in my eyes it was a success.  We certainly changed our eating habits permanently and continue eating paleo as much as possible–probably about 95% of the time.  One of the things that I love about paleo is that it is not entirely focused on weight loss.  I have lost about 16 lbs over the past two months, which I am happy with, but I feel so much better.  My mind is clear, I have tons of energy, and I love the fact that we are eating healthy, nourishing food.

I ended up back on Facebook after about 40 days (I think).  I just missed seeing pictures of my friends and family, and pseudo-catching up with long lost friends.  However, I did not reinstall the app on my phone, so I am only on a few times a day.  This is a happy medium for me.

The best change was that I have really tried to just be present with Ruby, and I am enjoying being home with her so much more now.  She is so precious and time is moving so quickly, and I was wasting it.  Believe me, I am still nowhere near the perfect mom and there are plenty of moments when I would love to just escape for a bit, but I feel incredibly blessed to be able to mother her full-time, and that I have a wonderful, supportive husband.

So there it is!  30 days that changed my life.  I tried to have a few, measurable goals, and even though I fell a little short my whole life seems uplifted, so I will call it a success!

If you were doing a 30 day challenge, what would you change?