Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Experiencing the Extremes of Childbirth; This Mom has Done it All!

For mother-of-two Jessica Utt, childbirth has been anything but typical.  Her first child, daughter Lillian, was born after 37 hours of grueling labor. Two years later, her second daughter, Evelyn, brought her to the extreme by arriving so suddenly that she never made it to the hospital, and gave birth to Evelyn in her bedroom. Both of Jessica’s birthing experiences are extremely rare, according to Denita Speyer, MD, OB/GYN of Reston Hospital

“In my career I have treated only three or four patients that weren’t able to make it to the hospital in time, and in each case it was not their first delivery”. 

Evelyn was born July 30th, 2014, less than two minutes after a team of paramedics arrived, and after only an hour of intense “active” labor.  She had her first contraction around 8pm, after attending a prenatal yoga class.  They were mild, and longer than seven minutes apart until about 1:45 am, when she suddenly experienced what she termed a “monster” contraction that made her fall to her knees.  This wasn’t something she that had been prepared for.  “They told me to go to the hospital when they were five minutes apart, but that never happened!”  Soon the contractions had moved from two to one minute apart, and Evelyn was born about an hour later. Jessica recounts: 
Jessica Utt with her daughters Lillian (left) and Evelyn.
Photo Credit Jacki G Photography, Richmond. 

"Around 2am, I finally made it upstairs to tell my husband Tyson that I was in labor. I had a contraction and lay on the bed moaning. He said "You need to relax, we have a long way to go!" Based on what happened with our first child, he thought I was in early labor!  At that point, I decided to get in the shower to try and slow things down, but I never made it. I was having contractions one on top of another, and within minutes I feel myself pushing!  I had him call 911- I could feel her head! Thankfully, the paramedics arrived fast, because the baby was crowning when they walked in! The next contraction I pushed her shoulders out and there she was!

Most women experience shorter labors in 2nd or later pregnancies, though typically the difference in duration is nowhere near so dramatic as Jessica’s.

Jessica approached her first delivery, of baby Lillian, hoping for a natural, drug-free experience.  But as a trained Physician Assistant at a Richmond area family practice, she was resolved to prepare herself for anything that may come. Two years before Lillian was born, Jessica also had the unusual opportunity to serve as a doula for the delivery of her identical twin sister’s first child.  Her nephew’s birth had been the result of more than 22 hours of labor, so Jessica had some suspicion that her own labor might be on the long side. However, a 37-hour labor wasn’t even on her radar.  Dr. Speyer would have concurred, stating that “labors lasting 24-30 hours occur in less than 5% of all births, and a 37-hour labor is extremely rare.”

 According to Jessica, however, the length wasn’t even the worst part-- it was the extended, unrelenting pain.  Her midwife later confessed that Jessica’s early labor contractions seemed “on par with the pain level most women experience towards the end of active labor, which is called transition.”  In fact, Utt had strong contractions one or two minutes apart or less for 28 hours straight.  She went into labor at 3am on April 17th, 2012. She labored at home and in the birth center for almost 24 hours before her water broke and showed mecomium- a sign of fetal distress.  She was transferred to the hospital immediately, and received an epidural as well as pitocin, but it took an additional 13 hours for daughter, Lillian Christine, to arrive.

Asked if she would’ve done anything differently, Jessica said that with her first, she may have tried to spend more time at home before going to the birthing center, but that she probably wouldn’t have gotten an epidural any sooner. “My contractions slowed down dramatically when I got the epidural.”  With her 2nd, she admits she probably should’ve woken her husband sooner, but doesn’t believe she would’ve made it to the hospital either way.  Besides, who can blame her? She was expecting another marathon labor!  Jessica also has some hard-earned advice for new moms: “Babies come when they want and how they want. Accept your birth as your experience and embrace it. Labor is not easy, it's the most difficult thing a women can do, but women are strong!”  I also asked Dr. Speyer if she had any advice for moms worried about either of the above scenarios happening to them: “Be prepared for both a marathon and a sprint!” 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Leesburg Animal Park and Pumpkin Village- Updated for 2014!

Welcome to Pumpkin Village!
If you're looking for an alternative from traditional garden center and farm-style fall festivals, Leesburg Animal Parks "Pumpkin Village" is for you!  The fabulous new indoor play areas and expansive zoo, in addition to the the gigantic fall festival area, make this festival one you don't want to miss. There are so many attractions and activities that a family could easily spend an entire day exploring.

I took my 4 year old son on a Friday afternoon.  It wasn't crowded, and my son didn't have to wait to participate in any of the activities.  When we purchased our tickets ($11.95 for children and $13.95 for adults), we also bought a cup of animal feed, a bit pricey at $5 a cup (they also have smaller sizes), but the large cup was worth it when entering the animal exhibits.  The animals were healthy and well-cared-for, and included many beautiful and rare species; gibbons, lemurs, and sloths, in addition to dozens of farm animals.  My son enjoyed feeding the many varieties of cattle, deer, and goats the interactive exhibits had to offer, and the feed was gone before we knew it.

We then ventured into the festival area, and sampled some delicious cider and apples (free) before making our grand entrance down one of the giant hill slides.   First, my son jumped on the various high-quality moon bounces, which included a giant jack-o-lantern.  We then checked out the camels (rides available!) before climbing up a mountain made of hay bales.  One of his favorite exhibits was a kid-size maze made out of hay-bales, with a playground in the middle.  He also loved racing around the go-kart track, with several high-quality and easy to use pedal-karts for children and adults alike.  The hay-ride was nice and long, shaded, and passed through fun halloween exhibits. My son got a kick out of the giant, realistic T-Rex "attacking" a school bus.

Indoor Seating by the Playground
The last thing we did was explore the inside the brand-new indoor play facility, animal enclosures, and shop, which opened earlier this year.  The highlight was the modern, high-quality playground, complete with trampoline, three fun levels, and other features.  An additional large play area for toddlers is located next to the playground.  We also stumbled onto an arts and crafts/ educational room, where kids can use all sorts of craft supplies to make fun creations, read a book, or, like my son did, put together a giant floor puzzle.   Regularly scheduled animal shows are also held in in a small auditorium inside.  

Before we left, we went back outside to snag our free pie-pumpkin, and check out the farmers market.  My son summed up our day nicely by saying "Mommy, can we come back tomorrow?"

Leesburg Animal Park's Pumpkin Village Fall Festival is open daily 9:30-6 (5pm once Daylight Savings time begins).
19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg VA, 20175.
(703) 433-0002

*I was not paid or compensated in any way for this article.