A little love story: Part 1

Friday, May 23, 2014

A little while ago I stumbled on an online journal I had started around the time Alex and I were dating. The journal was actually created to document how I saw the hand of the Lord in my life that day. How I felt blessed, in small ways or big. And although it has a lot of my spiritual thoughts in there, it also has a lot of thoughts about Alex in there too. I suppose I couldn’t help it, I was so grateful to have this amazing guy pop into my life! 

I’m surprised I’ve never shared mine and Alex’s little love story on here before. It was quite the whirlwind. Our first date was July 5th, and we were married December 17th. The summary of it sounds so cliché BYU couple, but to me it is the most romantic story I’ve ever heard. I was literally giggling like a schoolgirl when reading through these entries. Maybe I’m a little biased? Definitely. So here we go, if you’re up for it.

A Little Love Story: Part 1

Towards the end of my freshman year at BYU, I decided last minute that I didn’t want to go home for the summer. I was having too much fun, why go back to my room in Connecticut where I had no idea what I’d even be doing? So I started to look for apartments. I had already done a lot of apartment shopping with my friends for next fall. In particular we loved the Avenues (great location and fun atmosphere), but it was pricey and we ended up deciding on an adorable townhouse called Campus Lane, across from Liberty Square. So for the summer, I really wanted to live in the Avenues, even though I didn’t know a single person who was there. Plus I could get a much better price with girls desperate to sell their contracts. I found someone who was moving out and she agreed to sell me her contract. It was perfect! But during finals and a week before moving in, she decided to stay and the contract was no longer available. Are you kidding?! Not even bothering to look anywhere else, I started knocking random doors in the building, asking if anyone was selling their spring/summer contract and quickly found one conveniently located on the first floor. I moved in a few days later to an apartment with three other girls I had never met. 

Oh my. I was so intimidated!! I was a lowly freshman (well, now technically a sophmore) and these girls were entering their senior year and had been roommates/best friends for the past two years. Laura, Natalie, and Kellie. But let me tell you, I lucked out big time! They were so welcoming and sweet, and totally included me in all their social circles and outings- which I was in desperate need of, considering all my homesick friends had eagerly gone home. 

My first night I was unpacking kitchen supplies when a group of guys came over. They lived in another apartment complex, where my roommates used to live and were all good friends. They all seemed really nice and approachable, except one. A really cute one. Towhead, tall, and I couldn’t help but notice that great build. (What can I say- us Neeleman girls like big guys?) But he seemed pretty reserved, and the conversation didn’t move past basic introductions. After they left, I told my roommates “Woahhh who was that?!” One of them jokingly said, “Oh great, now another one likes Alex!” They also mentioned that he might still be dating one of the BYU cheerleaders, an amazing girl apparently. 

A few days later, my roommate was squealing with excitement over a conversation she was having with Alex over facebook. Yep, I was definitely going to leave this one alone. No way I was going to be that girl coming in and shaking things up! 

The same group of guys came over regularly the next couple months. I usually made myself pretty sparse when they did and was careful not to be flirty. One time I played Jenga with all of them though, and randomly ended up next to Alex. Naturally, I toppled the Jenga tower twice in a row. I am so bad at that game, thanks to my impatient nature. Alex later told me that he noticed an NFL app on my phone that night, which immediately spiked his interest in me.  (Little did he know, that automatically came with my blackberry and hadn’t thought to delete it. Ha!)

It wasn’t until summer semester was starting that we actually started talking. Sorta. I had just taken American Heritage, and apparently Alex would be summer semester. He started asking around if anyone had the textbook, and Kellie told him I did. I had no need for it anymore, and said that Alex can come get it whenever he wants. Well, apparently he wanted a little more direct communication because a few days later I got a text, “Hey Victoria, you probably don’t remember me but this is Alex from the Elms. Kellie mentioned that you’d be willing to lend me your AH textbook. Thanks! When will you be around so I can pick it up?” I was at work, and gave a brief response that I left it on my kitchen table and he could stop by the apartment anytime, because chances are one of my roommates would be there. I figured that would be the end of the conversation, until he quickly responded, “Oh ok. Well let me know when you are there. What are you up to?” A few hours later I gave another short (and slightly rude) response, “At work. I’ll let you know, but like I said- you can stop by any time.” I had only heard the best things about him and obviously thought he was really attractive, but never considered pursuing anything. I didn’t want to be stepping on any toes, plus he might have a girlfriend. It wasn’t much later that he texted back, “Ok. So where do you work?” 

And that’s when our first “real” conversation started. Yes, our relationship started over text. That is also when I started to consider this guy. After all, I hadn’t heard anything further about a girlfriend and nothing seemed to be developing with my roommates. Turns out they weren’t seriously interested anyway. 

When I got home, I wrote out a quick note wishing him luck on this beast of a class, and slid it in the textbook. He stopped by looking good as ever in a shirt and tie, (at the time he was teaching at the MTC and on his way to work) we exchanged a few quick words, and that was it. 

Until a few days later when I got another text. “How can I repay you for lending out your book?” I couldn’t help but smile at that. I mean really?

Part 2 here.

One Month

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Liam is 1 month old! How bizarre is that? I've also been a mother for 1 month. Just in time for Mother's Day- which was wonderful.

We went to the park for a few hours, then came home and Alex made dinner. I think I might have even snuck in a nap. Does it get better?

At one month old, I can't believe how fast he is already changing! I was just looking through the pictures RaKae took a couple weeks ago, and already there is a huge difference.  Time needs to stop for a little bit, I am looving this stage of constant cuddling too much.

RaKae took some more pictures for us a few days ago.  I can't stop looking through them, namely the ones of Alex and Liam. I am crazy for these boys of mine!

How I got through a natural labor

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Disclaimer: Everyone’s births are so different. By this post, I’m not trying to say going natural is the way to go for everyone.

Up until I was around 6 months pregnant, I was all about the epidural. Even though my three older sisters are all major natural supporters, I didn’t get it. I figured after a long pregnancy, I was going to welcome any help with open arms. We do live in the 21st century after all, and we don’t need to do it the old fashioned way! But more than anything, I had no idea how I would deal with pain of that kind of magnitude, and it scared the living daylights out of me.

And honestly, I felt like some people who went through with natural births were obnoxious about it. Like they were above the “weak” majority that accept pain medications, and you should do it too. Or you’re selfish. That is probably too harsh, but that’s the vibe I would get. And it bugged me.

A big part of my decision to go natural was the fact that I’m living in Brazil, which has one of the world’s highest rates of cesarean births. For instance, the hospital I birthed in has a 90% c-section rate. For this reason, hospitals are really geared for this- and doctors are most comfortable with this method. However, that is something I most definitely didn’t want. I was worried that having an epidural would start a domino effect of interventions that would lead to a c-section.

I also did a lot of research that changed my perspective. But I'm not going into why- that isn't the purpose of this post. I'm writing this for women who are looking for more help in preparing for a natural labor. Because I know that I wanted all the advice I could get!

  • Educate yourself. Once I decided I wanted to have a natural birth, I studied everything I could and took pages of notes. First, I read The Bradley Method. Even though it seems a bit outdated, I full heartedly recommend it. A lot of the techniques I used were found there. I also watched lots of videos, browsed other books, and read through countless natural birth stories. Even though each birth is so different, these gave me a sense of confidence that every pregnant woman has to go through the birth process- and I can do it too.
  • Involve your husband/partner. I made Alex read The Bradley Method with me. We would read a little bit at night, and if we were going for a long car ride I’d bring it along. Even though he wasn't very interested, I insisted. And it was worth it! Once I hit the transition phase and pushing- Alex was everything. I relied on him so heavily, and he was such an amazing support when I was about to lose it. It sounds funny, but after the birth I felt like I loved him 10x more than before. Going through an experience like that and seeing him in that role- of being so strong and comforting to me when I was incredibly desperate, still gets me emotional just thinking about it! I think Alex would have been great either way, but I’m sure the preparation helped him. Because it is a difficult time for them too.
  • Having a doula. For me, this was crucial. At first I was hesitant. I didn’t really want a stranger in my home coaching me through it. But my doctor really encouraged this, and I figured being my first baby it would be nice having someone who was very experienced around. Not to mention someone who spoke English. It ended up being one of the best decisions! Especially because I had Liam before my mom got here. Alex was fantastic, but also having someone that knew exactly how this process works was very reassuring. It also enabled me to spend the majority of my labor at home, otherwise I probably would have gone in unnecessarily early. With my particular hospital, this would have made a much more stressful experience.
  • Relaxing atmosphere. If possible, being at home for as long as you can is best. You’re in your own environment and it is easier to relax. If not, you can create this at the hospital too. Dim lighting, calming music, etc… Whatever soothes you.
  • Mental imagery. This was my saving grace during labor! I was never the type of person that could do this. I had tried meditating many times before but could never maintain that type of concentration. A big mantra for me was, “this isn’t pain, it is progress”. I tried to relax as much as possible during contractions as well, by relaxing any tense muscles (particularly in my back and shoulders). I visualized relaxing everything so that I could work with the pain, not against it with a stressed body.

    • Another was visualizing that I was surfing over a wave during the contraction, picturing riding the top of the wave during the climax and slowly riding down as it lessened. The key was to be on top of the pain, and not let the pain take over me. (Reading through this sounds looney, but trust me- you need something specific to focus on.)
    • There were some contractions where I would lose concentration and the pain would overwhelm me. It was when I would break this focus, and say things like “it hurts so bad!!" These were the moments that I felt like I couldn’t handle it. Luckily in between contractions is a time to gather yourself for the next one.
    • However, there comes a point (transition phase) when this mental imagery became too difficult. From this point on, I was completely focused on just breathing in and out and nothing else.
  • Try different positions. A lot of my preparation was in a lying down position, which the Bradley Method highly recommends. However, for me I found lying down to be the worst type of torture. I used an exercise ball, walked around, took long showers etc… This also goes for pushing. It baffles me how the majority push on their backs. I couldn’t imagine doing that- for me the pain would have been too much to bear! So instead I pushed on a chair designed for that type of thing. This felt so much more natural to do, and gravity is on your side that way. Basically, allow your body to be in charge and do what feels right.
  • Stay hydrated. And if you can, eat light snacks. You need all the energy you can get!
  • If comfortable and able to do so, stay at home as long as possible. If I showed up at the hospital when is typically recommended (3 min apart) I would have been there for nearly 12 hours! A lot of women have that experience, but the hospital can’t do much more for you than you can do at home (unless you have certain medical needs, of course). Except give you pain medications or stress you out. For me, I’m sure the nurses would have encouraged me to lay down, gotten impatient with my slow progress, and I definitely would have been more tempted by the epidural. You’re in the candy store, after all.
  • Pray. All the time.
  • Finally, trust in the process. Countless women have done this before, and our bodies were virtually designed for this. The more you can relax, the better your body can do what it is supposed to do.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

My friend RaKae came over last week and took some pictures of Liam. She did such a great job, I absolutely love them! Next is somehow convincing Alex to pose for a few... wish us luck.

Liam Lance: A Birth Story

Thursday, May 1, 2014

On Sunday, April 13th we went on a walk with Daniel, Hannah, and their boys at Parque Taqueral. I was complaining that I hadn’t felt a single braxton hick in 2 weeks, and was convinced that this little man did not get the memo that he wasn’t supposed to stay in there forever.

We had a good time on the walk... still nothing. But at 3AM I woke up to some mild period-like contractions. I couldn’t fall back asleep, since every time I was just about to another contraction would wake me up. Contractions were long but far between (around 30 minutes apart) until around 9, when they seemed to be petering off. So I decided to go to the gym, and see if I could get things moving. Just as I was reaching down to tie my shoes, the largest contraction that I’ve had up to that point hit and took my breath away. I decided I should probably pack my hospital bag first, just in case. From that point on, the contractions were coming every 10 min or whenever I changed positions (i.e. standing up, sitting down, bending over). 

Little did I know this would be my last bump picture!

By 5pm the contractions were around 5 minutes apart, so I took a long shower and insisted we go through with a dinner we had planned with a bunch of friends. I figured it would be the perfect distraction, and it was! So much fun.

When we came back, we got ready for bed and tried to fall asleep around 10. I really tried to sleep since the previous night had been rough, and likely I would be having the baby tomorrow. But lying down only seemed to the make the pain worse. So eventually I got up and hung out in the living room. Thankfully Hilary was around so we were texting back and forth, which I needed desperately.

The next 3 hours I paced around the living room, leaning over the couch and swaying during the contractions, and took another long shower. By 1:30AM dealing with the pain alone was starting to get to me. At this time my contractions were consistently 3.5-4 minutes apart and I called Dorothe (my doula). I felt horrible about waking her up, but like I said I was starting to get desperate.

When she arrived at 2:30, I was dilated to a 4/5. I was pretty happy with that. I got on my exercise ball and that helped a lot with the pain. I sat there for the next 3 hours until we checked again around 5:30, to decide whether we should leave for the hospital before or after rush hour. I was at a 6 so we decided to wait.

The next check was around 9, and I was sure we were ready to head out. The past 3.5 hrs had been the hardest so far, and I was expecting good progress. Unfortunately I was at a 6/7 and that was really discouraging. I was happy to still be progressing, but I couldn’t believe how slow it was going! I was at a 4/5 nearly 7 hours ago! Also the contractions felt like they were overlapping with back labor and pressure from him descending.

After texting back and forth with my doctor, she suggested we leave for the hospital around 9:45 and she would meet us there. We grabbed our hospital bags and headed out.

The car ride seemed to take forever. The contractions were incredibly strong, and I was SO grateful that we decided against staying with our doctor in São Paulo. Nobody seemed to think that a long car ride (minimum 2 hours) was a big deal, but I beg to differ! Alex was so crucial during this part. He would guide us in breathing together, while my eyes were tightly shut to block out the traffic and anything else.

Priscila (my doctor) was late in arriving and we needed her there to fill out some forms. It felt like we were waiting in that stupid room for ages! I could practically feel everyone in the waiting room staring at me, and I can't really blame them. I was teary eyed, swaying obsessively, and of course intense breathing. The pain coupled with a distracting and hectic atmosphere was making concentration so much more difficult- and therefore managing the pain. Whenever someone asked me a question I could barely manage a whisper in response, all my energy was invested in focusing through the pain.

By the time my doctor arrived and checked me (an hour and a half later), I was at a 9. This was when it got bad. For this, they brought me into a temporary room that appeared to be a doctor’s office with a large desk and medical bed. Alex and Dorothe were downstairs filling out paperwork, and it was just the doctor and I. 

Her checking me was really painful, but I realized after a bunch of water gushed out that it was because she was breaking my water. After doing so, she got back up and went to sit at the desk. In a panicky voice I asked, “did you just break my water??” She looked up dismissively, said yes, and went back to whatever she was doing on the computer. I was now soaking wet and alone, and suddenly the pressure seemed to skyrocket. Naturally, I started to panic. Was I going to have this baby here, without Alex?? She told me we would be changing rooms soon, but when I told her I was soaking wet she just motioned to a paper towel dispenser across the room. I shuffled over there, totally baffled, and tried to mop myself off. Then threw up. This room, that didn’t look like it was supposed to be used for this type of thing, was quickly turning into a disgusting mess. Water everywhere (and I was continuing to leak), and now throw up all over the floor and all over me. Is this too much information? It was gross.

After what seemed like an eternity, Alex and Dorothe got there. They helped me change into a hospital gown, and soon they brought in a bed to wheel me to the delivery room. I begged them to not make me lie down, but they insisted. That ride was the very worst! Alex was walking along side, trying to calm my breathing that was quickly escalating.

Right before they wheeled me in, they told Alex and Dorothe that they had to change their clothes. I (very) reluctantly let Alex go, while they brought me into a room that looked a lot like a lab. Everyone was wearing hair nets (which they put on me too), matching clothes that covered every inch of their bodies, and masks. Not even my doctor was there yet, but they had me move to yet another medical bed and told me to “lay down and start pushing.” 

This is when I semi lost it. Nobody I knew was there, and I most definitely did NOT want to lie down and not ready to push. I was struggling to find the words for this in Portuguese, and at this point my breathing was more like hyperventilating. I was panting “where’s my husband??” and “I’m not lying down!” and causing a frantic scene I’m sure. But it was traumatizing being surrounded by so many people that I didn’t recognize, and telling me things I was struggling to understand.

Finally Alex, my doula, and my doctor came in and they moved me to a little stool that we had decided beforehand I would use for pushing. As we were doing this, my doctor asked if I wanted an epidural. I looked at her like she was nuts. I was about to start pushing! Thankfully, getting an epidural hadn’t even crossed my mind up to this point. With all the mental imagery and being in a peaceful environment at home, I was able to handle the majority of the labor just fine. And through all the chaos at the hospital, there wouldn’t have been time anyway. But I had really prepared for a natural birth, and was so happy that it worked out!

Pushing was intense, but thankfully short lived. Probably a set of 4 contractions and our little Liam came!

After he came out, they put him right on my chest. At first he didn’t even cry and I was completely in awe. He was so beautiful- one of the first things I noticed was his adorable lips when he started to pout and cry. I couldn’t believe he was mine, this little baby that had been in my stomach growing the past 10 months. The little guy whose kicks and rolls I cherished so much. Now he was here! In my arms! It is a moment that is so hard to describe into words. Such a moment of pure, heavenly joy after enduring more than you ever thought you could.

At 6.7lbs and 19 inches, he was the most perfect thing I had ever seen. It amazed me how much love you can feel for someone you just met, and how quickly and exponentially that love grows. Basically those long 10 months and then the labor, was so so worth it.

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