Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Birthing Story

5/1/11: 5 PM Induction scheduled: Upon arrival my cervix was not dilated; at 740 PM the first misoprostol pill was inserted and contractions started more frequently. (Mom arrived at 8 PM that evening.) The pain for me was worse in my lower abdomen; it felt like severe cramping. After almost four hours my cervix was checked again and I was only dilated to one centimeter and contractions weren't coming steadily enough; so the second misprostol pill was inserted at about 11:30 PM. This pill really got contractions moving for me and I became quite uncomfortable, still the lower abdomen cramping was the worse pain for me (over the pain of my belly tightening).
(Background) Since I was high risk, we were fetal monitoring for 20 minutes every hour and while in bed I was also wearing compression boots on my calves - every 60 seconds or so they would fill with air and release. I was told by being induced it would likely take me 2-3 days until I would be fully dilated and that I should expect a quiet, restful evening. At about 10 PM my Mom went to our house for the evening to sleep.
With contractions/cramping occurring more frequently (pain) and the boots filling with air like crazy I was getting very uncomfortable. I asked my nurse, Lisa Kauffman, (who happened to be my good friend's Laura Nickel's sister) what I would need to do to get all this "stuff" wires, cords, boots, etc off of me. She said if I got up out of bed and moved around I could take them off; so gladly I labored the majority of the time on a birthing ball, leaning over the foot of the bed, with Andy giving me steady, firm pats on the back during each contraction. In pain with lots of moaning and groaning, but not knowing how active I was laboring, I tried to hold off on calling my mom for as long as I could. I was having to go to the bathroom about every 30 minutes, so it seemed, and the final time I got up to go I felt light headed and sweaty (turns out this was me going through “the transition phase”). Finally at 2:30 AM Andy called my Mom to come back to the hospital. She wasn't expecting a call that evening and was questioning whether she should really forfeit her sleep, still not knowing if we had days to go. I asked for the phone and told her, "I'm here to labor and I'm laboring, so it's time to come." She woke up, got herself together and arrived to help comfort me at 3:30 AM.
When she arrived, she wanted to ask me how I was doing, but I was in the middle of a contraction, and signaled I couldn't talk. She asked Andy how I was doing and Andy was unsure of how far along I was. Within 90 seconds I was having my next contraction. Mom took one look at this and told Andy to go get the nurse, “we need someone in here now.”
In the meantime, I told Lisa that if I had my cervix checked again and found out that I was only 2-3 cm dilated I wasn’t sure what I was going to do; that I would need to seriously consider pain medications as I didn't think I could keep feeling this pain and keep up my stamina much longer. Just before 4 AM she called, Duke Maternal Fetal Medicine, Dr. Avinash Patil in to check my cervix; it was very uncomfortable but I crawled back into bed for this, and couldn't have been happier to hear that in less than 4 hours time I was now 8 cm dilated and it was almost time to start pushing. He immediately said, “Let’s get you an epidural.” This caused me turmoil, because I was hoping to deliver without any pain meds and had heard once a woman was 8 cm dilated there was really no point in having one; however, I was in a lot of pain when the cramping/contractions hit and wasn’t sure how much more I could take. After thinking a minute, I agreed to it and told him, “fly like the wind, if we’re going to do it, let’s go”…he never made it back to the room again (so glad for this, as you came very quickly).
At this point Andy also quickly stepped out to call his parents, he told them, “if you want to be here when she’s born – she’s on her way.” (They arrived to the waiting room just after you were born at 4:34 AM.) The three of us (Andy, Mom and me) were now getting very excited and emotional, and I began having a strong urge to push but was told not to until they had confirmed my cervix was 10 cm. The urge was very hard to resist. After the next contraction Lisa checked me again and I was given the go to start the final phase of delivery. Before I knew it 8 additional hospital staff were in the room and I found it to be a very supportive, relaxed environment; not sterile and formal as I would have imagined it to be. Pediatrician Dr. Sarah Germana led the delivery. Lisa continued coaching me, giving me short and specific reminders, such as “during the next contraction, instead of moaning, hold your breath and use all your energy to push – this will be more effective and make the delivery quicker.” Not long after pushing, I felt a warm, water sensation and mentioned this to the staff, they informed me this was my water starting to break and they were going to now assist in releasing the rest of it. A moment later I felt a larger warm gush, it felt nice to have it break and delivery started going even more quickly.
I continued to give 2-3 big pushes during each contraction, holding my breath during each one. I asked if the baby was crowning yet and was told not quite yet but that they could see your hair; this was a very emotional, happy feeling. I knew we were so close then and had a burst of energy to complete the delivery. I continued pushing, giving it my all. Lisa, on my left, who was 37 weeks pregnant, placed my leg on her belly and Mom and Andy, on my right, held up my other leg…the next thing we knew you were born at 4:32 AM!!!! The happiest, most emotional moment of our lives had just occurred!!!
Andy cut the umbilical cord and once you had begun to dry, Dr. Germana placed you, skin to skin, on my chest. You were so beautiful (sweet and warm) with a dark head of hair, we were all very overwhelmed. It was unbelievable that you were finally here and were all ours!
Dr. Germana and her team then delivered my placenta, which went easily and quickly. The surprise came when it took about 45 minutes for them to stitch my perineum back up. I was told there are 3 degrees of tears and mine was a second degree tear and that there were certain areas that were deep. During this time, I held you in my arms, and the nurses gave me lots of praise for being so strong and handling your delivery so well. One of them even joked that she wanted me as her doula one day. I told them I had listened to two audio downloads before coming into the hospital from a website called “Hypnobabies”.
My labor was active from 11:30 PM until delivery at 4:32 AM, about 5 hours. Gretchen Wyatt Johnstone was born at 39 weeks, 1 day at 4:32 AM EST. She weighed 6lbs, 10 oz and was 19 inches long. Daddy age 31, Mommy age 30. We all agree that you are absolutely perfect and the most beautiful baby we’ve ever seen!
Notes from Hypnobabies: Think “birthing waves” not contractions – these are positive pulling, pressure, stretching, pushing sensations – born gently and very easily. Expect a normal, natural and easy delivery. Count backwards during birthing waves and think “peaceful breathing”. Be relaxed, calm, and confident. Think “baby is towards the back, headed down and out”.
My mantra: “Greta is my beautiful, healthy baby that arrived safely, perfectly, and easily in my arms!”

3 month photo shoot

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Newborn Baby Favorites




  • Blue Canoe Organic sleep/nursing bra, started using it while pregnant
  • washable nursing pads
  • Mustela pump
  • Leachco Back 'N Belly - Contoured Body Pillow, Ivory
  • Itzbeen timer for naps and nursing
  • Boppy pillow (plus an additional regular pillow for proper height)
  • neck pillow

Cloth Diapering

Other Tips

  • pets groomed/nails
  • baby courses (we did Infant CPR, Birthing, and Breastfeeding)
  • On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo M.A. and Robert Bucknam M.D. - read during 3rd trimester and highlght/flag pages
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp M.D.
  • 25 Things Every Nursing Mother Needs to Know by Kathleen Huggins, RN, MS and Jan Ellen Brown
  • Dunstan Baby Language dvd
  • Amazon Mom
  • maternity and newborn photo shoot
  • stocked freezer with easy meals
  • close friends or church group - meals with leftovers 3-5 nights a week for first 2-3 weeks

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Greta’s arrived!!!

Our precious little “Greta” finally arrived! Gretchen Wyatt Johnstone was born at 4:32 AM on May 2, 2011 weighing 6 lbs, 10 oz and 19 inches long.
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I was induced the evening of May 1st at Duke Hospital and was told it could be 2-3 days until she arrived…but after only 5 hours of active laboring (without any pain medications) here she was. She is a sweetheart; a calm little being that completely exhausts us, yet fills us with an enormous amount of joy.
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sesame Chicken

This was a great Asian chicken dish. I wish I had thought to add some broccoli florets to the pan as I roasted the chicken, I would definitely do this next time. We served this with Lemony Egg Soup, but I wasn’t so fond of it.

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  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, nearly thawed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Rice, for serving
  • additional marmalade/soy mixture or Hoisin sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes (easiest when not completely thawed). In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, orange marmalade, wine, and crushed red pepper flakes. Toss in the chicken cubes and marinate for at least 10 minutes and up to 8 hours in the refrigerator.

In another bowl or plastic bag, mix together the flour and sesame seeds. Drain the chicken cubes and blot any excess liquid, and then toss in the flour to coat lightly. Spread the chicken cubes on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle with the melted butter. Bake until the chicken is crispy but not dry, about 20 minutes, turning the cubes halfway through. Serve with rice. Toss with additional sauce of your choice, suggestions above.

Original Recipe

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers

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  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups cubed or shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry or pie crust, thawed
  • 1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the onions, carrots, and celery with salt and pepper, to taste, until the carrots soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for an additional minute, stirring frequently. Add the flour and cook off the raw flavor, about 1 minute more. Turn up the heat to medium-high and deglaze the pan with the wine. Whisk in the stock and Dijon mustard. Add the peas and chicken and cook on a very low simmer until the sauce thickens up into a gravy, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, unfold the pastry dough and cut into 4 even squares or triangles if using pie crust. Gently roll out each, increasing the size of the square by about 20 percent. Place them on a baking sheet and spoon the chicken mixture in the center. Fold the squares diagonally to create triangles (or gather the edges into a purse shape as I did). Pinch the edges together to create turnovers (use a little water if needed to bind). Press the edges with a fork to create a decorative border. Whisk the egg with a splash of water and brush the turnovers with the egg wash. Cut a small slit in the top to allow the steam to escape during baking. Bake the turnovers until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving as the insides will be very hot.

Original Recipe

Triple Chocolate Cookies

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  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate (2 ounces)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate (2 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans, optional (I added a mix of 1/3 cup pecans and 1/3 cup sweetened, dried cranberries)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mash together the butter and sugars with a fork until well combined. Add the oil and egg and beat until creamy. Mix in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and the pecans and mix well. Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Original Recipe

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Homemade Frosty Paws

We used to buy these frequently for our dogs, so I was excited to find a homemade version that uses real ingredients and takes just seconds to make. I wasn’t sure what container to put these in and then I remembered I had a silicone cupcake mold, which ended up working perfectly. They popped out super easily and I can just place one in each of their dogs bowls for them to enjoy. Ours dogs love them!

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  • 32 oz light vanilla or banana yogurt
  • 1-2 ripe bananas, depending on size
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter

Place all ingredients in a blender, blend about 1 minute on high. Pour into separate small containers and freeze. Makes about 10-12 small treats for your dog.


Original Recipe

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sausage Gravy & Biscuits (with Oven Home Fries)

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  • 1 pound bulk breakfast sausage (used turkey)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • Salt and pepper

Cook sausage in a cast iron skillet. When done, remove sausage from pan and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat (id using a lean meat add enough oil to equal 2 Tbsp). Whisk flour into the fat and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in milk a little at a time. Return to medium-high heat and stir occasionally while the gravy comes to a simmer and thickens. (Be sure to scrape up any brown bits that might be stuck to the bottom of the pan, that's where the flavor is.) Check seasoning, add crumbled sausage and serve over biscuits.

Original Recipe

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kielbasa and Apple Pasta Bake

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  • 1  pound  rigatoni
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1  large  onion, sliced
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1    quart milk
  • 1    block (10 ounces) extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
  • 1  teaspoon  hot-pepper sauce
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  package  fully-cooked kielbasa (14 ounces), sliced into 1/4-inch-thick coins
  • 3    Fuji apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2    scallions, thinly sliced

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat oval 10-cup baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In large deep pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook rigatoni until al dente, firm but tender, following package directions. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, in large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in flour; cook 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to boiling, stirring continuously; boil until thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

4. Set aside 1 cup cheese for topping the casserole. Stir the remaining 2 cups of cheese, the hot-pepper sauce and salt into milk mixture until smooth.

5. In pasta cooking pot, toss together pasta, cheese sauce, kielbasa and apples. Spoon into prepared baking dish, mounding slightly. Cover.

6. Bake in 350 degree oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover. Stir rigatoni mixture. Sprinkle top with reserved cheese and the scallions. Bake until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Original Recipe

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Maternity Photo Shoot

Last weekend, at 32 weeks pregnant, we had a great time working with Melissa DeVoe for a maternity photo shoot. We met early in the morning (best lighting) at West Point on the Eno in Durham. It was our first time going there; I loved the simplistic beauty of the area. After about 45 minutes, we headed back to our house for some more intimate shots (which ended up being my very favorites).

Melissa well exceeded my expectations, doing such a fabulous job and I highly recommend her. You can view a few of our photos on her blog here. We can't wait to have her back at our house just after our little Greta is born for a newborn photo session!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Peanut-Sesame Noodles

I wasn’t planning on blogging this one, but the sauce was too good not too! So I took a quick photo (excuse the bad lighting, I was too tired and hungry to spend time on a good one).

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I added chopped, cooked broccoli to the mix too. It can be eaten warm (skip the ice bath steps), room temperature, or cold.

  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth plus 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Asian dark sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons peeled ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and sliced on the diagonal

1. Cook linguine in a large pot of lightly salted water following package directions. Drain, and immediately plunge into an ice water bath. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in medium-size saucepan, combine peanut butter, chicken broth and water, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Whisk until combined. Cook on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat.

3. While sauce simmers, toast sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes, shaking pan to keep seeds from burning.

4. Drain noodles, discarding ice cubes. Toss with half of the dressing (about 3/4 cup), and allow to soak in for a few minutes. Add remaining dressing and toasted sesame seeds to noodles and toss until well combined. Top with sliced scallions and serve cold. Best if served on the day it is made.

Recipe courtesy of Parents Magazine

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nursery Complete (almost)

We’ve continued to work on the nursery little by little and we finally have it almost complete. I say almost because we still need to get a few items - video monitor, Seuss mobile and lamp, and changing pad are the main visual items missing (and a pack n’ play to use in the beginning in our bedroom). I struggled a little with exactly how to arrange the wall decals and framed pictures, but I think I finally got it worked out nicely.

(You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Entering the nursery

Baby Nursery faves March 2011

Back wall

Baby Nursery faves March 2011 (1)

new furniture and Seuss book shelf (the chest has all her clothes with each drawer organized by size and the dresser has cloth diapers and supplies, blankets, swaddle wraps, etc.)

Baby Nursery faves March 2011 (2)

new convertible crib

Baby Nursery faves March 2011 (3)

closet wall

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I bought this Irish linen when I traveled to Ireland in 2000 and have been saving it ever since. I decided to hang it on the back of the nursery door and place the small stuffed animals we've been given in it for now. I think the pattern is darling.

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Nursery Door (Kristin made this as a baby shower decoration, I placed 3M wall tape on the back and placed it on the nursery door.)

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The guest bathroom also got a bit of a Seuss makeover.

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Baby Shower: March 12

My friend Kristin was ultra sweet to throw me a baby shower this weekend. She did such a beautiful job: her home was beautiful, the food was fantastic (gourmet cheeses, Italian meats, antipasto, shrimp dip, individual quiches, artichoke dip, veggie tray, olive tapenade, Asian chicken, nuts, homemade cupcakes, brownie bites, and fresh strawberry daiquiri's), beautiful flowers throughout her house, and even a diaper cake - she was such a fabulous hostess! It was such a nice day and so wonderful to get to share it with my close friends. Here are a few photos from the day and of some of the items I was so fortunate to receive.

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Embroidered dress and crochet sandals, ducky rattle and lovie blanket

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Dr. Seuss changing pad and diaper kit, plus jammies

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Hooded ducky bath towels and an umbrella stroller

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spicy Nacho Bake


1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped, optional
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (16 ounces) hot chili beans, drained
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 package (13 ounces) spicy nacho or regular tortilla chips
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a Dutch oven, cook the beef, onions and green peppers over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes (mixture will be thin).

In a 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish, spoon in meat mixture. Top with chips and cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Original Recipe

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup

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  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika, preferably Hungarian
  • 2 tablespoons dried dill
  • 4 cups mushroom broth or reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are very soft, about 3 minutes more. Add flour, paprika and dill and cook, stirring, for 15 seconds. Add broth, milk and potatoes; cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in sour cream and salt.

Original Recipe

Monday, February 14, 2011

28 week ultrasound

Ultrasound 2-14-11 28 weeks (8) Ultrasound 2-14-11 28 weeks (7)

She looks so snuggly in the first photo and as if she's signing "I love you" in the second <3

I had a great ultrasound and doctor apt today; it was a lot of fun to see Gretchen "Greta" after going eight weeks since the last time. She was moving around like crazy and kept putting her hands and feet! in front of her face. She currently weighs 2lbs, 15 oz, at the 72nd growth percentile. We saw these characteristics about her today:

  • she has a little bit of hair on the back of her head
  • long femur bones
  • flexible, with putting her feet up over her head
  • and has big, bright eyes

Ultrasound 2-14-11 28 weeks (2)

Such a little cutie!

I also took the 1-hr glucose test today (tasted like thinned out orange triaminic cough syrup to me - which I always loved as a kid and didn't think was bad at all). The doctors office will call tomorrow only if I there is concern, same with my iron level that was tested too.

Ultrasound 2-14-11 28 weeks (11)

I'm told that my next ultrasound will be in 6 weeks, when I'm 34 weeks along.