Sunday, December 5, 2010

Annie Quinn McGinnis

Welcome to the world, Anna Quinn McGinnis born 12/1/10 at 10:51 am. For all you NICU folk, she weighed in at 7lb. 10.78oz. with APGARs of 8 & 9. We are calling her Annie and she has already changed me to my core. I know so many people have been calling/texting/facebooking and I want you all to know we are so grateful for your words of encouragement and love- things have been pretty crazy (full stories to follow) so I figured a blogpost to catch everyone up is the easiest way to catch everyone up and give you all the details of Annie’s amazing life. We all are still in the falling in love and healing from the delivery phase, but will be ready for visitors soon.

Annie’s Birth Story

After weeks of thinking that I would be pregnant forever and feeling like I would probably go post-term (having had no early labor changes), I was shocked on Tuesday’s appointment to learn that my amniotic fluid level was dangerously low and she needed to be delivered quickly. I was worried, but she still looked very stable and still was the feisty little mover she’s been my entire pregnancy. My doctor gave me the option of going straight for a c-section because my cervix had not really started to make any changes and induction would be very difficult. I felt that because the baby was so stable, induction with a cervical ripening agent was worth a try so we went across the street and checked into Kennestone.

When they put me on the monitors as I was being admitted, I was very surprised to learn that I was already contracting every 1-2minutes because I wasn’t feeling anything yet. The trouble was that obviously with their strength, these contractions were not being productive, but they couldn’t augment my labor with anything because I was contracting too close together. Their solution was a very rough exam that ramped up my contractions to the ouch zone so that they could get my cervix open enough to break my water. After laboring for the rest of the afternoon, I was 2cm by the evening and was gaining hope for a natural delivery.

Dr. Street came over to the hospital when her office hours and tried to break my water, but it was extremely painful with the contractions and my cervix still very posterior. I accepted a dose of IV pain meds to try and that relaxed me enough that they were able to break my water after several attempts, and my contractions slowed enough to allow them to start some pitocin to get things really going. I’ve heard from so many people that pitocin contractions are significantly worse than natural contractions, but wow. I was coping with the pain pretty well, but not getting much breaks in between contractions. Those hours all blur together now, but time seemed to move very slowly and I was all over the place just trying to cope with the pain. I labored without meds until Dr. Street came back around midnight to check my progress. I was still contracting every minute despite them lowering the pitocin and had made it to 6cm. I really wanted to go without an epidural, but I knew it was time. Holding still through mind-rocking contractions while it was being inserted was THE hardest thing I have ever done. After it was in, I could relax and cope with the contractions until about 3am when I had pain just as bad if not worse than before the epidural was placed. I had made a lot of progress, but was back-laboring. No sleep for the weary.

By 7am I had spiked a fever but was 9 and ½ cm. Dr. Street had spent the night at the hospital checking in on me regularly. I cannot say enough good things about this doctor- she went above and beyond to give us great care and keep our baby girl safe. They started amp & gent and gave me a couple hours and by 9am, I still could not push the baby out because she was positioned face up and my cervix was too swollen from interventions to dilate any further. It was hard to accept after so many painful hours of laboring that this delivery would end in a c-section, but I knew it was the right thing for the baby. Her heart rate was still normal despite my increasing fever as they wheeled us to the OR. Regardless, I was very fearful that she would be born septic or depressed, but not my Annie girl.

As I’m told by Dr. Street, when they made the incision, out came her hand reaching for help. She knew it was time. Unfortunately, the incision had to be made a little larger than what is normal because the baby was so low already after a couple hours of pushing. I guess I never expected to feel near as much during the section than I did. Not pain, just immense pressure as my whole body rocked back and forth behind the drapes as I prayed my baby girl would be okay. Her cry erupted immediately after she was pulled from my belly as we cried tears of joy. She only required some suctioning, labs were drawn due to my fever, and then she came over in Kenneth’s arms. I just cried and cried and kissed her head while they were closing me. I don’t know the details, but I had some bleeding that was difficult to stop. I could hear them working and started to get worried- about Kenneth and the baby: its ironic how that concern for self changes so quickly to concern for your child immediately. I kissed them both over and over. The bleeding was soon under control but I did lose over a liter.

Holding her as they wheeled me back to the room was the most amazing thing I’ve ever felt. I had no pain. She latched quickly after several attempts and I could not have been happier. Later when they wheeled me up a floor to postpartum, they were surprised that I did not react to the bumps in the elevator and said that most c-sections get very nauseas during transport. Baby love IS the best medicine. While I continued to have some fevers after delivery, the baby was fine and beautiful and vigorous- never any fears of sepsis, thank God!

One proud new grandma (more photos to come of Annie's many admirers)

The First of Many Firsts

That first night with her proved to be very challenging. After all the visitors had left, Kenneth and I throbbed with love over this perfect baby girl we had been given. We decided on her name: Anna Quinn McGinnis (Anna Quinn was my great grandma who went by Annie). One of the sweetest moments was getting to call my grandma in the morning to let her know what we had named the baby and hearing the joy and surprise in her voice. Annie comes from a line of pretty incredible, strong, and feisty women. To prove her namesake, she passed her pediatrician exam with flying colors. Dr. Strauss was amazed at her alertness, tone, and strength. He had turned his back to her bassinette with her unwrapped and jumped as she kicked against the wall of it with a resounding thunk. Yes, I told him, I was well aware of just how strong she was after months of similar antics while I was carrying her.

During the night, she had some trouble latching and I couldn’t get her or myself positioned right because of my pain and movement limitations. Poor Kenneth was so tired he could not be roused so Annie and I both wept tears of frustration. Her cry hurts me so deep and after hours of no sleep, no food, and still only ice chips, I found it very difficult to cope. I take care of hundreds of babies and consider myself very good at soothing babies, but it felt like I was failing her as a mother. This was the first of several meltdowns. That seems like a distant memory now- just four days later- as I have developed such an intense trusting bond with my baby. It’s a deeper connection already than I could have ever imagined. We survived the first night.

May the Circle Be Unbroken

Mom brought a picture from when I was born- check out these photos:

On Love

I loved this baby more than words before she was born, but I cannot even explain the crazy love now. I spend my every hour feeding/gazing/adoring her and she looks back at me with that same power. I have been with Kenneth for ten years now and didn’t think I could love him anymore, but to see him with our daughter has brought so much love I could have never imagined. I don’t even know why I’m trying to explain any of it, because I know that I can’t- but I now understand. Annie was born knowing her father. Even in utero, he had an amazing ability to calm her and she responds to his voice as soon as he enters into the room. Seeing their bond develop is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed.

Eileen told me that having a child is like leaving your heart out in the open walking around where someone could hurt it- it is extremely scary. I felt like this immediately and then unfortunately had to come to terms with the reality of the fact that there are people in this world that would try and harm my precious little baby, my heart.

I had just finished nursing her and my mom was sitting in the postpartum room with me- there was some talk about possible discharge but I still had to finish my course of IV antibiotics. We heard a knock at the door and I said to come in (expecting the pediatrician/OB/tech/nurse/lactation consultant or any of the various visitors that were constantly knocking at the door). The door opened and a strange woman in street clothes pulled the curtain to the side and said she was here to see the baby. My heart started pounding and I told her she had the wrong room (my mom was not sure if this was Kenneth’s family or a friend she did not know). The woman continued into our room saying that there was no nursery and she was here to see the baby. I was not even covered and my mom got up to guide her out as I pushed the call button frantically. My mom had pushed her out the door, but I had already given the nursing station a description of her and security apprehended her as she and the woman she was with got on the elevators.

While she certainly had mental health issues, it seemed as though she and her friend were in the hospital for a husband’s surgery and genuinely just wanted to see the babies in the nursery and after learning that there was not one, did not see what was wrong with just knocking on a random door. Her story, however, was not consistent with what happened: she told security that someone had pointed to my room and told her it was okay to go inside (which would have never happened) and that we never told her to leave the room. She was not arrested, but guarded by security in the day surgery area and forbidden to go anywhere else in the hospital. I felt as though she should have at least be detained for a psych eval.

After the immediate panic, I broke down big time. ‘What if I had been asleep and alone?’ ‘What if she wants my baby and knows where we live?’ There is a world full of bad people and bad things and the thought of any harm to my child tore at my heart with a pain I have never known. Nothing like this had happened in the past 20 years at Kennestone, but by the end of the month, the unit will be on lockdown where visitation can be more tightly controlled. We were visited by endless nursing supervisors/hospital administrators/security directors/etc to check in on us and apologize for what had happened. It was all a bit much and I finally had our amazing nurse, Sara (who cared for us the whole time we were in postpartum), fend off any more visitors. It was Sara that called our doctors and arranged for early discharge knowing that I would follow up with any issues that might develop at home. My sympathies to everyone with children- the fear that we live with and the deepest love that is so vulnerable. I cannot even imagine the depth of pain our families at Egleston must feel.


It is wonderful to be home. It was a little difficult at first because I was already starting to worry about Annie’s bili levels (jaundice) in the hospital starting Friday morning, but the pediatrician was not concerned. She was nursing well and still having good diapers. After the drama and we learned about early discharge, I wanted her bili level checked prior to discharge. The skin check was 12 and we headed home, but based on her appearance, I was already planning on doing some supplemental feeds when we got home. She had a really rough night that first night with gas after offering her some formula, did not have any wet diapers, and no sign of my milk coming in (probably delayed from all of the exhaustion and emotion from the previous days). In the morning, I demanded an appointment at our pediatrician and they were able to get her in. Sure enough, her bili was 16 and she needed phototherapy. They ordered a bili-bed through home health so she would not have to be admitted and it was delivered almost immediately. Thank you to all of my Egleston family for helping with that- particularly Myra : ) My milk was starting to come in so I was confident it would be short-lived, but it was still hard to have my baby in bed and not in my arms on my birthday after all we had been through. Kenneth and I took turns sitting with her to make sure she was alright under the lights and she fed great throughout the night.

My little glowworm

The worried momma's watch with Jack on duty

This morning we were back at the peds office for a bili check and she is off of phototherapy and back to breastfeeding exclusively. We couldn’t be happier. Things today were smooth sailing: no tears except for the love kind.

Thank you everyone for all of your well wishes and welcomings to our little girl. I will never take her for granted. I will never be the same.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ready & Waiting

The room is ready, the bags are packed, and the baby is in position, ready for the outside world. The excitement is building and I'm focusing on replacing all anxiety & worry with calm & trust. Even my work has wrapped up nicely for me to take a little break as I was able to discharge two of my long-term primary patients home with their loving families just in time for Thanksgiving. Last night, Kenneth & I went out with friends to Scalini's- an Atlanta restaurant famed for inducing labor with its eggplant parmesan. There were at least 10 other very pregnant women there all eating the eggplant. Our waiter said that both of his girls were born the day after his wife ate the eggplant parm. And tonight is the full moon. . . .

Here are some pictures of the baby room that I've been obsessing over for the past several months:

Friday, October 29, 2010

The More She Grows. . .

Just another month. I love this baby more than I ever thought possible- and I can't even imagine the love I'll feel when she is born. Our photographer friend, Curtis Baker, took these shots on Thursday.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hound Ears 2010

This weekend marked the 17th Hound Ears Bouldering Competition (now part of the well-known Triple Crown Bouldering Season). Hound Ears is such a special place and a special event- as climbers pour into the forbidden boulderfield for one day a year to try their finger strength (and skin) at some of NC's finest problems. I went to my first Hound Ears competition nine years ago when I had just started bouldering and have been back most years- now with several wins under my belt. I've always thought that Hound Ears is like Christmas and the problems are the presents. This year was a little different, though, because I did not climb.

A couple of weeks ago after working some pretty intense shifts at work, I had some warning signs of preterm labor. While I'm fine now and the baby's fine, I decided then to stop climbing until after her birth for fear that something would happen and I would always then wonder if it was something I did. It's strange not to climb, but I know that it is temporary and the cause could not be more important. Still, it was strange to be on the other side: spending the day up at Hound Ears enjoying watching climbing, offering beta to the younger climbers, and hanging out with old friends. The weather was fall-in-Boone perfect, the attitude was fairly laid back, and the company was great.

I spent my evenings at the Prana tent brewing up some tea for the chilly, serving cookies, and listening to folks' tall tales about their climbing adventures. I realized that next time I make the pilgrimage to an October Hound Ears, I'll have my daughter in tow and that has left a smile on my face.

A view from above: everywhere you look there's pads & spotters- that's my kind of climbing comp!
I brought my personal electrician/husband to help me set up the tent this year
serving up some tea at the Prana booth
The two baddest judges in town: Meesh & Kim!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Summer Growing Season

I realize it's been quite some time since I've posted, so here's a photo/video essay of how I spent my summer:

Growing a Baby

Growing a Belly

Growing Food

Growing Skills

Growing Strength

Saturday, July 10, 2010

She's a GIRL!

Can't even put into words how excited we have been since we found out that our baby is a girl. Just when I started to get used to the words "I'm going to have a baby", my mind has had to start all over with "we're going to have a daughter". No longer do my thoughts focus only on baby, but now an entire lifetime of hopes and dreams.

My belly is growing by the day, but I've still been climbing a good bit and pretty good! Still climbing 12+/13- with all this extra weight gives me hope that I'll continue to climb strong after pregnancy. . . we'll see! I had to upsize my harness last week, but I'm still going strong. All of our climbing friends have shown us amazing support and all expect this little girl to be a climber like her parents. I am now sitting as an athlete representative on the USA Climbing Board of Directors and went to my first meeting earlier in the week. It was so interesting to learn about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into growing a sport. Watching the kids compete at nationals, I kept envisioning my daughter at their age and all of the opportunity she will have available to her as the sport continues to grow.

Who knows if she'll love to climb or not, but our friends feel pretty strongly that she will. I just had to post a couple of the gifts we received from them. Allison & Jonathan gave us our first baby gift over a month ago: none other than hand-knit 5.10 booties. And then last week, James & Laurel showered us with love when they met up with us at IKEA and surprised us with a card announcing that they were buying her crib. We (including the little girl on the way) are so lucky to have such amazing friends.

Before her first five tennies will be her 5.10 booties!
James actually thinks the baby will be born boasting a six-pack & anasazi velcros

Sunday, June 20, 2010

If You Build It. . .

Saturday marked a monumental day for climbers in Atlanta: the opening of Stone Summit (now the nation's largest climbing gym). Never before has a climbing gym brought together the climbing community like it did on Saturday. Old schoolers (who I have not seen in a gym as long as I've known them) and new schoolers roped up together and explored the new air-conditioned crag in downtown. The canyon has been wet for weeks and the temp reached 93 degrees with 90% humidity: the result- hundreds of native climbers showing up as the doors opened to the public for the first time. It was Christmas for climbers.

Prana was there for the occasion with a table of posters, hats, chalkbags, etc- and a raffle for a $200 shopping spree. The hats went to adoring Prana fans, the chalkbags to newbies and kiddos that did not already have one, and the posters to EVERYONE. I even had a couple of grandmas come by the table and grab a couple of Sharma posters for their walls: classic!

All in all- the opening could not have gone any better. I was even able to rope up for an hour to show that pregnant ladies can still crush. And all the fears that lead up to the event (the intimidation factor of the enormous walls would keep people from climbing, the giant monster-mega gym would turn away the old schoolers, the gym would be too packed to climb) were all diffused within hours of the doors opening. Over the course of the day, at least a hundred people topped the main wall, all the crowds diffused throughout the facility and I never saw anyone even waiting for a route, and it was a total reunion for the climbing community. I am so excited for this gym and what it means for the future of our up-and-coming youth climbers. With any luck, Atlanta will be seeing some World Cup action in the next couple of years!

Lonely walls await their adoring fans

Moments before doors opening
This gym eats crowds for breakfast!

Monday, June 7, 2010


I have been waiting for months to share this news with the world- and now it's time! At only 15 weeks pregnant, I can't even begin to explain how much my life has changed and I can only imagine how much more it will change with the months ahead. I need to start at the beginning of this amazing story because I think it's certainly one worth telling.

I've always known I wanted to have children and part of the reason I fell in love with Kenneth was because I knew how great of a father he would be one day. The 'if' I wanted to have kids was always a given, but the 'when' was a whole lot trickier. I work in a neonatal intensive care unit and constantly have very real reminders of what can go wrong during childbirth and during fetal growth/development. I knew that I didn't want to wait long enough to be considered high risk just because of my age. At 28 years old, with a solid marriage and a home that we've finished remodeling, it was time to think about the 'when. I stopped taking birth control pills in December (having been on them for the past 10 years) to get regular again so that we could start trying for a family later in 2010.

By April I was terribly worried because I had not had a period after 4 months off the pill so I went to see my primary care doctor. I had talked to other female athletes and they warned me that conception would probably take a long time. My doctor seemed more concerned than I expected. She was concerned about my body weight (even though my BMI is right in the middle of what it's supposed to be) and ordered a bunch of lab work, letting me know that she would call with the results in a week.

The next Monday while I was working, I got the worst call I could imagine. It was my doctor calling to tell me that the labwork was strongly suggestive of ovarian failure- translation: you can never have children. I was devastated and had to find some other nurses to watch my patients while I went in the hallway to continue my phone conversation with my doctor. "Are you sure?" "What could have caused this?" "What do I do now?" She said that my hormone levels were undetectable- below what even a man's should be- and she wanted me to see a specialist as soon as possible. Anorexia and cancer were possible causes that she suggested. My diet is great and my calorie intake maybe a little too good- 'could I be dying'? She also let me know that ovarian failure was irreversible and even if everything else checked out, I would probably have to go on hormone replacement therapy.

I was pretty hysterical that day and did all the irrational bargaining in my mind: I would give my right arm to have a baby with Kenneth. Maybe I would rather it be cancer if the ovarian failure might then be reversible with treatment. Would my marriage survive this? All these years, that deep love that I feel for my husband has included our unborn children- would it just hurt too bad if that could not be? Could I continue to work in the NICU?

I made an appointment at an OBGYN office that was willing to take the 'ovarian failure' referral for that Friday. It was the longest week ever. I still had to go to work and get through my shifts because I didn't know what the future would bring and knew I had to save my time off in case I required hospitalization. I couldn't look at Kenneth without tearing up and when I went in to work I would request the sickest patient so that I would be too busy to think about what was going on inside my own body. I did have one day off before the appointment which I spent scavenging the internet and picking up the labwork results from my doctor's office. There was a glimmer of hope as I combed through my medical file. Not all hormone levels were measured- only the brain hormones that are responsible for sending the signal to the ovaries to ovulate. To me, the labwork did not seem consistent with ovarian failure from my research, but something did seem very off.

Kenneth and I were waiting in the parking lot that Friday when the doctor's office opened- wounded and scared of what the day would bring, but still holding on to some hope that somehow my doctor had just made a mistake and that we would be able to have a baby someday. We met Dr. Street and she asked us a lot of questions and read through all the referral paperwork. She could not believe that the doctor had not done a pregnancy test. I didn't think there was anyway that I could be pregnant because I had taken a test to rule that out a month or so earlier. She seemed unconcerned that my FSH/LH were so suppressed and wanted to do an ultrasound. That ultrasound was the first time we saw our baby's heartbeat. "Not only can you have children, but you're going to soon!" The doctor measured the head to rump and estimated the due date. "How does December 4th sound to you?" Kenneth and I (already in stunned joy) stared at each other in amazement. December 4th is my birthday. With tears of joy, I promised myself that I would never take this for granted and would give this baby all the love in the world. As far as I'm concerned, this baby is a miracle.

That was at 6wks and now I am well in to my second trimester. I'm still climbing, but my harness is getting pretty snug. I'm sticking to routes only and will start bouldering again after this baby is safely on the outside. More to come soon!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'm on a Boat!

While I didn't think anything could top Tunnels beach- the boat tour was AMAZING! We got to see everything we hoped to and more. The whale season here is usually over this time of the year, but a group of humpbacks have stayed here longer- one with her baby calf. While we saw the whale spouts in the distance one morning at Polihale, we could never have guessed that we would get to be close enough to hear them breathing which is exactly what happened this afternoon.

The boat was a large catamaran that was motored the whole time because the winds were not good for sailing. We left Port Allen and after rounding the edge of the naval base and approaching Polihale, we were able to watch several pods of spinner dolphins come play in front of the boat, flirting with the rudder and giving us a show of jumps and spins. We continued out to the Napali coast and snorkeled in a calmer cove where we again got to swim with enormous sea turtles. After turning around at Kalalou, we turned back towards the port and were gifted by two rare sightings. The first was a bottle nosed dolphin that is rarely seen off of Kauai because they are more private and don't like the boats. This one, however, was very large and impressed us with jumps and flops. Next we saw a monk seal out in the water that was timid, but we got a good look before it swam away. The captain of the boat was very judicious in his proximity to the wildlife and was not overly aggressive to get too close.

As we were headed back to port he spotted whale spouts in the distance and we veered off course to try and get "the last treat of this whale season". It was difficult to catch up to the group of whales. His thought that it was most likely a group of males vying for the female's attention. When we finally caught up with whales, the motor was turned off so all we could hear was the deep in & out breaths the whales took as they surfaced, arched, and dove down displaying their footprint black & white tail fins. We were in absolute awe.
The boat tour made us all VERY happy
Laurel & I watching humpback whales spout from the front of the boat
happiest captain of the boat
i'm on a boat-don't you ever forget
Laurel & sea turtle
I'm just lucky to know these guys
After the snorkeling comes the booze

hawaiian monk seal out swimming
large pod of spinner dolphins

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hiking in Koke'e & Polihale Beach

Last night we celebrated Laurel's brother, Woody's, birthday by a big cookout at Ke'e beach (the last one on the road/trailhead to Kalalou). We got to watch the sea turtles swim as the sun set and eat fire-cooked fish, and of course, more elixer. Today, Woody took us on a hike in Koke'e (the highest part of the island & the wettest place on earth). Kauai is a very cool island because it has desert, swamps, canyons, beaches, and rainforest-like places. We took the winding drive up Waimea Canyon and started our hike at about 4000 elevation.

The hike was fun and not quite as long as the one that we took to Hanakaupiai Falls. As we approached the sea cliffs, the vegetation laid off of us and we were able to walk a thin ridgeline and see down the thousands of feet at the beaches that we've been to: Ke'e, Kalalau, Hanakaupiai. . . a bird's eye view of the Napali coast. After the hike we headed to Polihale beach to set up camp. There are many legends and history surrounding Polihale and it is tradition in Laurel's family to take camping trips there and sleep under the stars.

Woody leading the way for his birthday hike

mountain goat perched on a ledge
Kenneth & I on top of Kauai

The Graefe siblings reunited- this photoshoot was for Isa's mother's day gift
Now an honorary Graefe