Joaquin Emiliano

A birth story.  

Monday, April 6th, started out like any ordinary day. Santi and I left the house early and went to our mommy and me preschool class. By the end of class, around 11am, I mentioned to another mom that I thought I might be having contractions. We headed home for lunch. Abe and his friend were leaving as we arrived home. I mentioned to Abe that I felt a little crampy and was pretty sure I was in early labor. Not wanting to alarm anyone or get worked up over false labor I told them to go ahead and run their errands. 

I paid close attention to the contractions for a few hours. They were inconsistent and weak. I was certain it was just Braxton Hicks. But by 3:30pm, things were picking up and I knew Joaquin was on his way. I sent a text to Abe's parents to head over so they could stay with Santi. When they arrived, we all went to dinner at Burger Lounge, which was tradition. My last meal before Santi was born, was also at Burger Lounge. After dinner, I gave Santi his bath, tucked him in bed and told him that Daddy and I were going to go to the hospital to get his baby brother. He was very excited to hear that the wait was over and that he would meet his baby brother soon. 

The last picture of Santi & I before Joaquin was born

The last picture of Santi & I before Joaquin was born

Let's do this!! 

Let's do this!! 

I delivered at UCSD Hillcrest which is 30-40 minutes away from our house. On the drive, my contractions started getting more intense, closer together and down right scary! I kept thinking about all the conversations I've had recently with friends who have more than one child. Two of them shared their experience of barely getting to the hospital in time and how much faster the second baby arrives.

We arrived at 10:30pm. I didn't want an epidural right away, and i wasn't 5cm yet, so they wouldn't officially admit me. They set us up in a small standby room. I walked around as much as I could, but the contractions were SO PAINFUL I was afraid I was going to collapse.  Abe was rubbing my back and doing everything he could to keep me comfortable.  We were admitted at 12:30am. 

I had the most amazing midwife coach me through contractions. She used a wave analogy to help me visualize the swell of the contraction. I used my breath to ride the wave and get back to a calm peaceful place. 

My body is amazing. It's really good at growing babies and having uncomplicated births. Is labor painful and uncomfortable? Yes! Did I ask for an epidural? Yes!! The epidural was all set and in full glorious effect at 2:00am. Luckily, I was still able to feel everything I needed to feel and have control over my muscles. Pretty soon, the urge to push was undeniable. I used my breath, my power, my inner goddess, and encouragement from Abe and the midwife.

And just like that, with 5 solid pushes, Joaquin was born at 2:33am. Our world has gotten brighter, bigger and more full of love.

8lbs, 20.5inches. Full head of dark hair. Big round cheeks. Perfect in every way.


Guilt Trip

Why is it, that as a mom, you can't do anything for yourself without feeling guilty?

While we were in EP, I needed some "me" time. A short get-a-way. I called my BFF (of 20+ years!) Lindsay in Kansas City and she said, come on over! She even offered her pack n' play and old car seat so Santi could come. But this trip was just for me. Abe is the best dad in the world and I knew he could handle a couple nights on his own. Plus, his parents are so helpful and always just a phone call away.

So I packed up my pump and set off to KC. Nothing makes me feel more like myself than traveling. I love everything about it. Naturally, I missed my loves like crazy, but I wasn't worried, not for one second. And honestly, I didn't even feel guilty about leaving. What's wrong with me? I'm suppose to feel guilty for leaving my son. But I didn't and I still don't.

As a mother, (especially heart moms!) it is so important to take time for yourself...without feeling guilty about it. Workout, get a massage, meet a friend for dinner, take a short trip! The better you feel, the better you make everyone around you feel. Everyone wins. Happy mama, happy daddy, happy bebe! I came back after my 48 hours away feeling recharged and more like my formerly independent self!

Yes! That is a ^MIMOSA^

I had an amazing time with the Littles. Their sweet Eva is 16 months and so, SO bright. Her vocabulary and comprehension just blew me away. Spending time with her gave me a beautiful glimpse of what's ahead for Santi and I.


Doing his nights

Wanna guess what this is?

These numbers represent time.

They represent hours.

More specifically they represent the hours in which Santi has slept over the past three nights. Oh my goodness...can you believe it?!

At his check up on Monday I asked his Cardiologist if it was okay to let him sleep. That sounds strange but I was previously instructed to make sure he ate every 3-4 hours, 24 hours a day, to prevent dehydration and make sure he gained enough weight (dehydration + HLHS can = death!). Well, our hungry hungry hippo now weighs 12.8lbs and he's almost 24 inches long! He's in the 50th percentile...for a heart baby that's HUGE! So anyway, she said "YES, let him sleep" and guess what? He is sleeping SOOOOO GOOOOOOD! I'm still nervous that this is a fluke, but three nights in a row is pret-ty good.

His bedtime routine used to go like this: 6pm bath, 6:30/7ish bottle & swaddle, 7/8pm bedtime. Then, I'd wake him up at 11pm/12am to give him his nightly meds and one last bottle and he'd sleep until 6 or 7am (I know thats more than 4 hours, but my motherly instinct told me that we both needed to sleep). He was getting 8-10 hours of sleep, but it was interrupted sleep.

Monday night I put him to bed at 8:15pm and I was sure he would wake up at 11 or 12 wanting his bottle. But he didn't. And you know why, because I used to wake him up for that bottle...I woke him up, he didn't wake up hungry, I would wake him up! Crazy. Little Sleepy Santi didn't wake up until 7:40am on Tuesday. And when he woke up, he woke up happy! Happy that I finally left him alone to absorb the benefits of getting 11 hours and 23 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. The funny thing is that I slept horribly on Monday night. I woke up every couple of hours in anticipation of him waking up.

Tuesday night we were a little off schedule and I didn't put him to bed until 9:08pm. Because I was late putting him down, he was overtired and fussy. Had I put him down earlier, like 8pm, his usual bedtime, he probably would have fallen asleep faster and without being fussy. Tuesday night Abe and I decided to try something outrageous, we slept in another room for the first time since Santi came home from the hospital. We have two baby monitors, the motorola video monitor and the AngelCare motion monitor. The AngelCare is so sensitive it monitors breathing. If he were to stop breathing for 20 seconds an alarm would sound. Armed with this technology we both slept great. In fact, we all slept great.

Last night I put him down at 7:57pm, (Abe and I slept downstairs, Santi slept upstairs) and I didn't hear a peep until 7:20am.

Another great thing about this sleep schedule is that when he wakes up in the morning, he gets a fresh diaper and a big bottle (he's eating 5+oz now!) and then he goes back to sleep for another hour or so. It's amazing. He continues to have great naps during the day and when he's awake, he's calm and alert and smiley and charming. Santi is a well rested, cutie-pie, sweetheart.

Now listen, I'm not SuperMom and he's not SuperBaby (and goodness gracious it's only been three days! this could all fly out the window tomorrow!). 3 months ago I didn't know squat about sleeping babies. There are only two books (and common sense) that have taught me everything I know about getting my love to sleep through the night. I started reading "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" while I was pregnant and actually had time to read. I really like it, but I haven't finished it. And just last week a friend recommended "Bringing Up Bebe." I'm only a few chapters in but I LOVE it and I've learned so much already. It's about an American woman and her British husband raising their kids in Paris. In France, parents don't ask each other "how" their babies are sleeping at night like Americans do. It is expected and very common that by 2-3 months old the babies are "doing their night," meaning sleeping through the night.

This post is getting a little long for my taste. So, with respect to your time as my reader, I'll blog about my current reading material next time, because I have a lot to say about these books.


Music & Friends

We went home to Carlsbad for what was suppose to be a few days and stayed for a week and a half! There truly is no place like home!

While we were there I took Santi for his first trip to the beach. I met up with my lovely friend Anika and we did our usual walk down the coast in Cardiff By The Sea. I forgot to take a photo (mom fail) but trust me, he loved it.

We also learned that Santi LOVES the guitar. One morning he was being a little fussfuss so Abe grabbed his guitar and started to play. Santi froze in silence. He was mesmerized. It was so cute. To make sure it wasn't a fluke, we tried it a few more times and every time he was just captivated by the music.

Santi also met his first baby friend! Sweet Penny Rae is just six weeks old. She was stylin' in her Orbit stroller. Her mom Tina, my bestie Melissa (who's due in August) and I met for lunch at Sammy's. Both babies did great, no fussing or crying. Just sweet little angel babies.

Happy mothers day!

For my first Mothers Day, Abe got me the mother of all pumps!

The Medela Symphony!! WhooHoo! It's a hospital grade pump that will make pumping for the next year(!) much easier. Happy Mothers Day to ME:)


Being a mother is something you cannot fully understand until you do it. I thought I knew what it would be like and how much love I'd have for Santiago, but the truth is, I had NO IDEA it would be like this and the amount of love I have for my child surpasses any love I have ever felt before.

You know the cliche... "everything happens for a reason." Well, the reason Abe and I met and fell in love was so that Santi could come into this world, Abe could be his father and I could be his mother. He is the reason I exist.

As I sit here and write this with baby poop staining my sweats, it's very clear that being a mom is the hardest and most rewarding thing I've ever done, poop and all.

Cheers for beers

Who are these people?

We are still in Carlsbad...can't bring ourselves to leave!

Six nights in our own bed has been so good for us. This week Abe painted a mural with friends at the UCSD Good Life Festival. I ventured out of the house (gasp!) for a much needed pedicure and a much needed kettlebell class. I now have pretty toes and sore buns, loving both equally!

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo. To celebrate we loaded Santi up in the car, oxygen and all, and went to Islands for burgers and beer. I can't tell you how excited we were! We kept high-fiving and telling each other "we're doing it, we're doing it!" It's these simple things that we used to take for granted that we now cherish. I had not had a sip of alcohol since August 1, 2011. I'm not a huge beer drinker, but let. me. tell. you. That Islands Golden Ale was a deliciously tasty beverage! I thoroughly enjoyed it :) And then I drank a ton of water and waited 3 hours before I pumped.

Santi, as usual, slept through all of the excitement. (I'm surprised all of our high fives didn't wake him.)

It's these little adventures and taking time to connect with our former selves that reassure me that our true-selves are still here. They are trapped in the tired bodies of sleepy, unshowered, unshaven zombie parents...but they're still here.


48 hours

Santi has been home for a total of 48 hours and we are all doing great.

The first night was rough. The combination of adrenaline, no sleep, figuring out how to set up all of Santi's accessories in the most functional way and then needing to leave the house by 8am Friday morning for his first pediatric check up, left Abe and I very sleepy, but we did it.

Last night was much smoother. Abe and I both napped in the afternoon which made the overnight feedings a lot better. We changed Santiago's nasal cannula during bath time. While he was without oxygen, we hooked up his pulse ox so we could monitor his sats and heart rate. Santi did so great. He was without oxygen for about an hour and his sats were perfect, 79-83 and his heart rate was perfect too. Hopefully we can wean him off oxygen within the next few weeks.

Finally photos without tubes!



Having him home is the best. He is so sweet and cute and such a good baby! We are in awe of him, his strength and his charming personality. I truly believe that he can feel the love that all of you, our friends, family and even strangers have been sending him. We couldn't have gotten this far without all of your love and prayers. THANK YOU!

Please keep it up. We need to keep him healthy this summer until his next surgery.

The feeding challenge

Feeding and gaining weight is the most important goal right now. Santi needs to get enough, by mouth, without working too hard to get it.

In an effort to keep up with Santiago's feedings I have stayed with him the past few nights nights. As a result, the blog has suffered (sorry!) but his feeding has improved everyday.

He eats every 3 hours starting at 12:30am then 3:30am, 6:30am and so on. We started nursing (or trying to) on Thursday afternoon. He did okay. He has pretty good suck and swallow coordination but he didn't quite "get it" at first. Which everyone assured me was normal.

I nursed him through every feeding on Thursday night/Friday morning. He was only taking roughly 10cc's from me, then he would be so exhausted he'd fall asleep. The rest, up to 45cc was given through his NG tube. That's the feeding tube that goes into his nose, down to his tummy.

On Friday our nurse rigged a "paci-trainer." Basically a pacifier with a tube and syringe of food attached. This was to help him put together the idea of sucking and getting the reward of food without having to work as hard as he does while breast feeding.

So we alternated breast feeding and the paci-trainer Friday night/Saturday morning. He did GREAT with the paci-trainer and a little better at nursing.

On Saturday morning he got a new nurse with a new plan. She wanted him to started eating from a bottle. I didn't love the idea, but the most important thing for Santi is that he gets my milk, by mouth and he gets enough of it. I have never fed a baby from a bottle, so I had some training. It started kinda rough, but overnight he really started to pick it up. This morning he finished his 55cc bottle in no time!

Since gaining weight is a major goal, my milk is being fortified with 24 calories of formula. I didn't love that idea either. But if he doesn't gain enough weight or learn to take his entire feed by mouth, the future alternative is a G-tube. A feeding tube straight through his belly. This terrifies me and we'll do whatever we need to to avoid a G-tube!

Hollywood reservoir

Abe and I hiked up to the Hollywood Reservoir this morning with Ricky and Renee. It was my first postpartum "workout." Technically, I won't be cleared from my doctor to workout for another 5 weeks but I can't help it. I feel great and I needed to do something.

The reservoir is a short walk up the hill from our house. On a clear day you can see the hollywood sign and all across LA to downtown. It felt so good to get some fresh air!

The best way we can take care of our baby boy is by first taking care of ourselves and staying healthy.

Photos from the first 3 days

In the NICU at Hollywood Presbyterian he had oxygen and a feeding tube.

With Dad in the CT-ICU (Cardiothoracic ICU) at CHLA. They removed his feeding tube becasue he will not eat until after he is stablized and recovering from the Norwood. They have the SAME hair!

Then our little show off decided that he could breathe just fine on his own and they removed his oxygen.


Spending the night with Santi

Abe and I stayed at CHLA last night. We got to help bathe Santi and put him to bed. He is a great sleeper and is soothed very easily. We didn't get much sleep. It's 5am now and the surgery team will be here between 6 and 7am.

Today is his Norwood. The first of 3 planned, open heart surgeries. We know he will be in good hands but we can't help but be worried, nervous, sad, anxious, scared, overwhelmed and every other adjective that describes new parents who are about to see their newborn undergo a MAJOR operation.

We are so grateful for the time we spent with him last night. He is our little love, so perfect and tiny. Yet so strong and feisty. He's a warrior, I just wish his didn't have to go to battle so soon.

Cervidil is my Friend: A Birth story

I knew for a few months that my doctors wanted my delivery be a scheduled induction. The process they explained was something like this: Cervidil for 12 hours, followed by Pitocin for up to 20 hours. No food or drinks, only ice chips. No getting out of bed, not even to use the bathroom. If the baby didn't come within 20 hours of Pitocin or if his heart rate dropped they would do a C-Section. I was not thrilled with this plan. But I didn't have much of a choice. All I could do was go with the flow, hope for the best and use the power of positive energy to get me through it.

So that's what I did. I excepted that the situation was beyond my control and at 12pm on 3/22 I checked in to Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital with a hopeful heart and a smile on my face.

Nothing happened right away. I didn't even put on my hospital gown until 2pm. Abe took notes throughout the night which helped us remember the sequence of events. I'm so glad he did, otherwise the whole experience would be a big blur. This is from his timeline:

2:20pm- I was 1cm. This was great because it meant that my body had already started the labor process on its own. If my induction had stayed on the original day 3/26, I probably would have gone into labor on my own.

3:05pm- Cervidil was inserted. It would be left in for 12 hours as planned. Cervidil looks like a little shoe string. They insert it into the cervix and it secretes prostaglandins to help the cervix soften and dilate.

4:45pm- I started to feeling crampy. I later learned those "cramps" were actually contractions. I was allowed to get up and use the bathroom as often as I needed. I was so relieved to be able to get up and move around.

7:00pm- My contractions were irregular, coming about 3-6 minutes apart. At this point, I thought we might be able to have him by midnight and he and Abe could share a birthday. (Just like my mom and I) But the nurses let me know that the doctors would rather he come in the morning. I was afraid that not being able to eat or drink anything would make me feel weak. But honestly, I was not hungry and eating ice chips was plenty.

10:00pm- Painful contractions coming regularly convinced me that I should get some pain meds and potentially sleep so I'd have energy to deliver in the morning.

10:45pm- I was given a half dose of Nubain to help me sleep.

11:30pm- The second half of the dose was administered. They told me it would last 2-3 hours. The Nubain definitely helped me relax and made the contractions bearable, but I could not fall asleep. I shifted from side to side, listened to his beautiful heartbeat on the monitor and talked to him to prepare him for what was to come.

2:00am- On the dot, the meds wore off. From 2-3am, I breathed through contractions and listened to my iPod. The contractions were coming at a very consistent pace of 2 minutes apart.

3:00am- The nurse removed the Cervidil and checked my cervix, I was only 2-3cm. The contractions were VERY strong. Knowing that I had 7cm to go and feeling the unmedicated pain of consistent contractions I requested an epidural. The nurse said it could take an hour before the anesthesiologist was available to administer the epi.

3:20am- My water broke on its own. I was in A LOT of pain.

3:30am- The nurse checked me, 4cm.

3:45am- Insanely strong contractions 2 minutes apart. I'm dying for the epidural and the anesthesiologist is no where in sight. They strapped oxygen to my face and it made breathing very distracting. I reached into my deepest depths, trying everything I could think of to get through it. I remembered holding ice in my hand during our birthing class. I tried deep breathing and even howling. Abe squeezed my feet during contractions in an effort to displace the pain. Nothing worked, I was convinced I would die.  The Doctor told us that when my water broke the cord got pinched and was causing additional pain.

4:00am- EPIDURAL, hallelujah! Seeing the anesthesiologist was like seeing an angel! But the 5 minutes it took for him to get set up felt endless. Luckily he was good at his job, sweet relief.

4:20am- The doctor checked me, 8cm dilated! But she told me that his heart rate was dropping and if that continued they would have to do a c-section. I told her no and I told Santi to get ready. We were going for it!

4:40am- It was like troops deploying, so much hustle and bustle, the doctors started yelling "GO, GO, GO..." they needed to move me to the delivery room. Abe scrambled to gather our things as we would not return to the labor room and we had to have all of our belongings with us. Once we were in the delivery room, Abe furiously tried calling our parents who where asleep just a few miles away. Unfortunately, our LA rental house has really bad reception and no ones phone could get service. So it was just me, Abe and 10 doctors.

4:50am- The doctor told me that his heart rate was dropping and my contractions were slowing down. They might need to use the vacuum. Instead, they started Pitocin, which helped my contractions pick back up and thanks to the Epidural I could not feel their strength. I said out loud, to my son, "Santiago, my love, you have 10 minutes, you need to be here by 5am or else they are coming in to get you." He is a great listener and very punctual.

4:57am- Santiago Banks Aguilar was born. Our lives are forever changed. We are madly in love.


Thursday, 3/22 12pm to Saturday, 3/24 10am

The day before the day

The day before a monumental day is almost as big as the big day itself.

When I found out on Tuesday that I'd be induced on Thursday, suddenly Wednesday became the most important day of my life.

Here's how I spent my day. (Which also happeneds to be Abe's Birthday, HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOVE!)

I started with an old fashioned glazed donut from Bobs at the LA Farmers Market. Followed by a blow-out, mani and pedi at the Paint Shop of Beverly Hills.

Then we made a last minute run to Babies R Us and I FINALLY got to use one of those "Expectant Mother" parking spots, score!

We did a little more shopping at the Grove and got Uggs for the whole family. How cute are Santi's!!

I double checked my hospital bag.

Then we ended our day at Burger Lounge (my fave!). My last supper consisted of a delicious turkey burger and fries. Simply perfect.