We made it through celebrity blogger Jenna von Oy‘s pregnancy!
Best known for her roles as Six on Blossom and Stevie on The Parkers, von Oy is also a musician who has released two albums and is set to publish a book, The Betweeners.
They welcomed their first child, daughter Gray Audrey, on May 21. She is now four weeks old.
You can find her on Twitter @JennavonOy.
Four days old… – Impressions Professional Photography
If you thought my blogs were long-winded before, this one really takes the cake … Consider yourself warned. 🙂
When one looks up the word “miracle” in the dictionary, the first three definitions are something akin to:
1. an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.
2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.
3. a wonder; marvel.
All of these can be, and certainly are, true. However, I think the shape a miracle takes can adjust with age.
For instance, as a child, my miracle was when Santa dropped off the EXACT gift I’d been begging my parents for, and even ate every last one of the cookies I’d left out for him.
As a teenager, it was when I BS’d my way through a 50-page paper on Greek mythology (using only Cliff’s notes) and still managed to get an ‘A.’ (Though I’d argue that a close second might be the time I was backstage at Disneyland and witnessed Mickey Mouse smoking a cigarette…)
As an adult, I might say a miracle is coming home to a clean kitchen that I didn’t have to lift a finger for, because my husband wanted to surprise me. But there’s something about becoming a mommy that obliterates every miracle that came before it and alters your perception of what that word truly means. All other supposed “miracles” abruptly pale in comparison.
On that note, I’d like to introduce our new little miracle … drum roll, please … Miss Gray Audrey Bratcher! Born on May 21st, 18 inches long, weighing in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces, and with a head of hair that would make Donald Trump pout! (I know Brad and I both have thick hair, but that one was still a shocker…)
She is gorgeous, if I do say so myself, but I might be just a bit biased. 🙂 All I know is, she is the most stunning, magical, perfect thing I’ve ever seen. I am mesmerized by her, and I am madly in love in a way I never knew was possible.
Mommy and Gray – Courtesy Jenna von Oy
Before I go any further, I know there has been plenty of talk of the name we chose … some of it not so kind. I wanted to take some time to address this, as I think we tend to forget that just as words can heal, they can also wound.
For some background on the name “Gray” … No, we did not choose it because we thought that naming her a color was trendy. In fact, when Beyoncé announced the name of her daughter, Blue, I was a little bummed in anticipation of the comparison people might make. Since we’d chosen the name long before, and we already had our hearts set on it, we opted not to let outside forces influence our convictions.
Just as certain foods taste different from one palate to the next, names roll off the tongue differently from individual to individual. My husband and I happen to find the name Gray neither masculine nor feminine (it is a color, after all, so we thought it tough to place a gender on…). I’ve also met only one Gray in my life, and it happened to be a woman.
Personally, we perceive the moniker to be classy and slightly old-fashioned. As one PEOPLE.com reader stated, “It sounds literary.” We couldn’t agree more and love your choice of words!
Perhaps this doesn’t reflect the general consensus, but I can thoroughly appreciate that we all view the world through a different kaleidoscope. My husband and I have tried not to have our feelings hurt over the number of folks who made mean-spirited comments (for the record, no one likes to be berated or called an idiot for making a personal decision regarding their own child), but I think it’s fair to acknowledge some of the comments cut like razors. We are only human, after all.
Sometimes writing a blog can be a double-edged sword. It’s just too easy to speak ill of people when you don’t have to face them in person, and the Internet allows for blind expression. We understand we’ve opened ourselves up to public commentary and scrutiny, due to the nature of my job; sadly, it comes with the territory.
That said, I still truly believe whole-heartedly in the kindness of strangers … We can only say that we appreciate ALL opinions, good and bad, but hope that people will choose respectful ways to address that they aren’t fond of our daughter’s name, if such is the case.
And since the harsh words that have already been written have been captured in the Internet oblivion for all of time, I pray Gray takes it in stride, should she happen to stumble across them someday. My mama bear protective instincts definitely kick in on that one!
Gray’s birth announcement from MyPublisher – Impressions Professional Photography
And now, on to the birth story…
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and then Murphy shows up with his damn laws! As you may or may not be aware, my due date was June 11th. I’m sure you can imagine, with my proclivity for organizing, that I had my birth plan laid out WELL in advance. (Somewhere, I’m fairly certain God is chuckling at my ignorance!)
However, despite my mulish tendencies, I was viewing the whole process with a surprising amount of flexibility. I understand that no one can control the whens, whys, and hows of going into labor, so I’d wrapped myself around the thought that things might not fall in line with my ideals, and that I shouldn’t place expectations on myself or my baby.
I was feeling terribly proud of my open-minded outlook and was under the impression that I’d embraced my inner birth moxie and “go with the flow” attitude, until I heard the doctor utter the following dreaded words: C-section.
Now, I’ve spoken to many women who were thrilled at the prospect of a c-section, and some who even “wanted to have a zipper installed for the next go ’round.” I’m not shunning those of you who feel this way, nor am I suggesting you are less of a woman for it.
The beauty of it is, as with naming your child, it shouldn’t really matter what anyone else would choose for themselves, so long as you are comfortable with your own decisions. They are yours to live and breathe. But in all honesty, the words “c-section” were a disappointment for me.
I personally regarded it as my absolute last resort, reserved for complications that couldn’t be fixed any other way … and I was convinced there would ALWAYS be another way. I have very solid opinions about natural birth, which was the option I was really excited to work toward.
I do not purport to be an expert in the medical field, nor do I staunchly oppose one birth method in favor of another where everyone else is concerned. But in regard to my own experience, I felt connected to the idea of delivering naturally.
I didn’t base the decision on any current fad, or self-aggrandizing vision of martyrdom, and I certainly didn’t choose that method for bragging rights. I researched my options a great deal, and that’s what I was ultimately drawn to.
I want to be very clear about how personal these choices are, as I think far too much time is spent condemning other mothers for how they give birth or raise their children. I would prefer we spend our time building each other up instead!
I’m also in no way stating that c-sections are a bad thing. They are often necessary, as was the case with Gray’s birth. I have immense respect for everyone who goes through the birthing process, and each woman’s story is unique and beautiful in its own way.
I say all of this, as I realize that I am once again opening myself up to criticism, simply by relaying the tale of how Gray came into the world. My decision to share the story, despite the vulnerability it invites, has nothing to do with self-promotion or a need for validation. It is offered in the hopes of helping others who may be going through the same.
A week before delivery, while most folks were eager to tell me how “easy” and “great” a c-section would be (which really started to get on my nerves…), a friend let me know that she shared my struggles. It was such a relief to hear I wasn’t alone in my feelings, and I can only imagine there are others out there with similar insecurities.
My intention is to offer solace to them, as my friend offered to me. The truth is, having a c-section can pose internal conflicts and leave you with a sense of non-closure. Those feelings can be tough to reconcile, even when the surgery is medically imperative for the safe delivery of your child. Giving birth, after all, is a very emotional and draining time that each of us wishes to look back on with a happy heart.
If my story does not reflect your own experience or opinions, I hope that you can find it in yourself to be understanding and refrain from passing judgment. For those of you who are going through a similar ordeal, I hope my story gives you some comfort. Your feelings are valid, so please remember to be gentle on your heart!
My pregnancy was progressing perfectly. Every time I met with my OB, I was happy to hear what every mother hopes to hear … that things were normal, and there were no complications. My husband and I met with a doula, who we were thrilled to be working with, and we created a birth plan that involved a natural birth, immediate skin-to-skin contact, and a plethora of other choices that we knew had to be taken into consideration.
I’d gotten myself into a headspace where I was mentally prepared for “whatever” might happen. This meant I was even willing to entertain the thought of an epidural, if it came to that. I didn’t want to let myself down by creating self-imposed challenges or by putting myself in a position to fall short of my own expectations. It made more sense to me to prepare for a natural birth but be willing to bend if necessary.
That said, somehow, a c-section was never on my radar. The necessity of having one, especially since we received advanced notice of it, turned me upside down. I really had to restructure my thoughts about what my birth experience would look like, and I wanted to believe there was some way around it.
The idea of being helpless as my baby was taken from my belly left me with some feelings of inadequacy and disassociation. I was very concerned that I wouldn’t feel as bonded to my child because I couldn’t watch her pass through my birth canal, or do my part in helping her into the world. Those feelings were very consuming and arduous to work through emotionally.
Gray’s nursery sign – Courtesy Jenna von Oy
Here’s how it went down … At 33 weeks, I had a routine exam with my doctor, who was about to go on maternity leave herself. My belly wound up measuring at 35 weeks instead of 33, denoting that my girl was feeling a little bit ahead of the game! Knowing that she was about to take a leave of absence, my doctor suggested an ultrasound.
As our last one had been 13 weeks before, she felt it would be best to check the progress on everything prior to handing me over to another doctor. Secretly, Brad and I were just thrilled at the prospect of catching a glimpse of our little girl again! We expected everything to run smoothly, but it was during this ultrasound that I was diagnosed with oligohydramnios; I had abysmally low levels of amniotic fluid in my uterus.
On the upside, Gray was moving around in there like a champ, and all of her vitals were perfect. She was even practicing her breathing, which was a fantastic sign! The doctors told me to continue hydrating, to stay off my feet as much as humanly possible, and to do daily kick counts to measure Gray’s activity levels. They also began monitoring me more frequently, and doing ultrasounds twice a week.
I want to give some credit where credit is due here… First of all, my husband was a gift from God during this whole ordeal. He started making all of our meals, made sure I was resting, ran our errands, cleaned our house, and attended doctor appointments with me (while maintaining a full work schedule, might I add!). He was the best support system I could have asked for, and he deserves recognition for it and then some!
The other credit and high praise goes to my doctors — they were (refreshingly) unwilling to rush into anything, and were optimistic and honest. They never sugarcoated the facts, but they certainly weren’t alarmists either. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of that, as it kept me from worrying needlessly. I was able to continue getting full nights of solid sleep leading right up to the birth, thanks to them!
Oligohydramnios, it turns out, can reflect many different things. Evidently, it used to be that as soon as a woman was diagnosed with it, a c-section was promptly scheduled. It was thought to be automatically indicative of the placenta failing.
Fortunately, the medical field has a bit more information to go on these days, which was music to my ears. I wanted to keep Gray in there as long as possible, provided it was safe!
Obviously, 33 weeks would not have been the ideal time to deliver her, as she wasn’t full-term yet, and could afford the additional time for growth. I felt, as did the doctors, that the best place for that growth was in my belly, so long as everything else was working properly.
Thankfully, this was the case. Aside from the low fluid numbers, we were both healthy and progressing the way we should have been. From my understanding, oligohydramnios can often impede a baby’s growth process a bit, which clearly wasn’t the case with Gray! She was gaining weight consistently, and was even a little bigger than expected.
The only additional dilemma was that she was in the breech position. In and of itself, this may not have been an issue. However, the low fluid levels wouldn’t allow for the baby to turn on her own, nor were they significant enough for the doctors to turn her. We considered safe homeopathic methods that have the reputation of being successful, and consulted both our doctor and doula about them.
Unfortunately, none were viable options. The fluid levels thwarted any chance we had of helping Gray move into the correct position for a natural birth. This meant a c-section was inevitable and unavoidable.
During the four weeks that followed, my fluid levels fluctuated around the low end of average. During one ultrasound, in an amusing turn of events, a pocket of fluid was discovered that had been cleverly hiding itself under Gray’s bum. My little J. Lo was booty-blocking some fluid!
Alas, it was only good for a laugh, because it still wasn’t enough to help her turn. At my 36-week appointment, the levels started to nose dive. We still don’t know precisely what caused it, but it’s likely I was steadily leaking fluid the whole time, without realizing it.
Knowing that Gray’s vitals were still great, I was put on very strict bed rest over the weekend. As you can imagine, this was a tough request for someone who’s so type A!
I was also told to consume at least 96 ounces of water per day, to remain hydrated. I followed both guidelines diligently. In fact, my husband calculated that I drank four gallons of water that weekend! I was confident that my fluid levels would increase.
Daddy and Gray – Courtesy Jenna von Oy
Despite our efforts, come Monday morning (at exactly 37 weeks to the day), another ultrasound showed that my levels were unsettling. After consulting with a high-risk OB, and after a second ultrasound for verification, it was time to get Gray out of there.
I feel secure knowing that my doctors didn’t arrive at the decision lightly. I know in a time where c-sections are plentiful and have a bad reputation for being done without true cause, it may be easy to assume they rushed into it.
I’m confident this wasn’t the case, and I’m relieved to know that we did all we could do prior to delivering her that way. Natural birth is wonderful, and my preferred method … that is, until there are complications. Obviously, my first loyalty was getting Gray out in a healthy state.
I was sent over to the hospital immediately, and at 4:51 pm, my sweet little Gray was born! Before I even saw her, I heard one of the doctors exclaim, “Wow, those are some serious leg muscles!” and “Look at all that hair!” Sweet words when you can’t see your baby immediately, because they likely mean she’s healthy.
Hearing her first cry made me weep. Then the hard part came; the doctors were only able to put her on my chest for about 30 seconds, before whisking her away. Due to her early entrance, and because her breathing was a bit faster than they would have liked, Gray was sent to the transition nursery.
Brad and I had already decided, in advance, that he would go wherever Gray went. This meant he stayed with her as they wheeled her to the nursery, while I was left to be “put back together” like Humpty-Dumpty.
I’ll admit this was a devastating time for me. Not knowing if my daughter was okay was impossibly painful on my heart, and not having my support system right next to me wasn’t terribly fun either. It did, however, comfort me to know that Brad and Gray were together … I knew she needed his touch more than I did in that moment.
Once I was taken back to my room, the nurse told me they would wheel me up to see her as soon as I could wiggle my toes. I’ve never tried harder for something in my life! My frustration mounted each time I tried and failed.
Finally, after several hours, I was able to prove movement, and they brought me to see her. I wasn’t allowed to hold her yet, but at least I was able to touch her, rub her back, and hold her tiny hand.
Disappointingly, I started getting super nauseous after about five minutes of being in the warm nursery, and the nurses carted me back out.
I can’t explain how excruciating it was to leave Gray behind. All said, I was separated from my daughter for the first 17 hours of her life.
Not having the opportunity to feel her skin against mine for that period of time was shattering, and my insecurities and feelings of inadequacy returned ten-fold. I started wondering if our bond would be broken by my absence in those initial hours.
Part of me almost felt as though I’d never even given birth, since I wasn’t witness to any of it and had no baby next to me to prove it.
Worst of all, I knew I loved the baby that had grown in my belly, but I had very little recollection of the newborn version of her that went along with it, which made her presence seem surreal.
I can only imagine how difficult it is to have a child in the Intensive Care Unit; I feel deeply for those of you who have had to endure weeks or months without that bonding time. Even a few hours are far from easy.
We are blessed that Gray never wound up in the NICU; her breathing ultimately improved, and she never had to be put on oxygen.
In all honesty, I barely slept that night … I kept waking up expecting my little girl to be there. It’s strange how quickly that motherly instinct kicks in. Every half-hour, I awakened with the urge to feed my child!
By 10 o’clock the following morning, Gray was in my arms and breastfeeding. In that moment, all of the worries I’d had about any disassociation due to the c-section had vanished.
I was so relieved to discover that both the love and the bond were immediate and overwhelming. Those moments removed every trace of my self-doubt and sense of non-closure. It was an immense relief, and I started bawling on the spot.
Looking back a few weeks later, now that I have some perspective, it dawns on me that I still regard Gray’s birth as the most beautiful experience I could have had, natural birth or not. After all is said and done, the c-section is a part of her story, and that makes it something I view with intense love and appreciation.
It is a moving realization after so many weeks of being plagued by apprehension.
I hope those of you who may be experiencing some of the same concerns about an impending c-section will walk away with a changed heart … In the end, how your child comes into the world takes a back seat to the magic of having her in it.
Simply watching Gray breathe is so awe-inspiring, I am lost in her. I wish you the same.
Thank you, PLH Bows, for my fantastic hat! – Impressions Professional Photography
Until next time,
— Jenna von Oy
P.S. As always, please feel free to leave me comments here, or send me a message via Twitter!