Our Birth Story

I went back and forth on whether I wanted to share our birth story. On one hand, it’s very personal. On the other hand, I’m a writer and sharing things is what I do. On the other hand (I have three hands in this scenario), I LOVE reading birth stories. What made up my mind for me was that several of my friends have wanted to know the details of our experience, so I figured why not share it here? If you want the true nitty-gritty and the embarrassing details, you’re going to have to talk to me in person, but here’s most of the story! Warning: there’s A LOT of cervix talk, so if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the blog post (you know, that old saying).

I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled on my due date, and part of me thought, “Maybe she’ll check me and I’ll be so dilated that I’ll have to go straight to the hospital!” But I didn’t feel different, and I definitely wasn’t feeling contractions. Then on the way to my appointment, I turned on the radio and the Usher/Alicia Keys song “My Boo” was playing, and I thought perhaps that was a sign. You so rarely hear that jam on the radio in the year 2016. It had to mean good things.

I typed and erased a bunch of boring medical details here, but the short version is that my doctor said we should probably induce labor. That night. Although I thought I was mentally prepared for this, I definitely wasn’t. I mean, H. and I had dinner plans with a friend that night! I left the doctor’s office and cried on the phone to H. because I was so scared; I’d heard so many horror stories about induction (spoiler alert: this isn’t a horror story!! So keep reading!) and although my doctor assured me that she would do everything in her power to avoid a c-section, she was honest that the chances of a c-section are higher when you induce.

I went home and grabbed my bag and sat around for a few hours, panicking. I gave Merlin a lot of attention because I knew it wouldn’t be the same after the baby was here. I ate a chicken sandwich and a lot of watermelon (it was in the fridge and I didn’t want to waste it, but in retrospect this was not the most filling pre-labor food). And that evening, we checked into the hospital.

One of the suckiest parts was getting my IV put in. I know that sounds weird, because isn’t labor much more painful? Sure, but you don’t get an epidural for an IV, and it took THREE NURSES and SIX TRIES to get the needle in. After a lifetime of nurses telling me how good my veins were, all of a sudden I was feeling very vein-insecure. At one point, one of the nurses said, “That’s gonna leave a bad bruise, sorry,” and she was right. I ended up with multiple nearly-black bruises on my arm (which is still not that bad, all things considered).

The labor induction was a two-part process. First, they put in a “cervix ripening” device (I warned you) that was just supposed to….well, ripen my cervix (ew). But what it REALLY did was jumpstart labor and freak out the baby, so they had to take it back out. Which was…not fun! The on-call doctor was a man and when he initially put the thing in, he said, “Has anyone ever told you that you have a hard to find cervix?”

“Um…what?” I asked.

“Your cervix is very difficult to locate,” he said.

No. No one’s ever told me that before, because my doctor isn’t a psychotic weirdo who wants to give me a complex about my cervix. And also, HOW MANY PLACES COULD IT BE? Sorry my cervix is making it difficult for you, bro!

Anyway, a nurse took that thing back out of me, and she was much nicer but still talked about my (apparently) elusive cervix.

At this point I was feeling my contractions, which meant that the night of sleep I was supposed to get…didn’t happen. The contractions weren’t terrible by any means, but they were noticeable. We were able to watch some terrible television, including a Hallmark Christmas movie (it was Christmas in July, y’all!) about a woman who came back to her small town and ended up directing an elementary school musical. The nurse was definitely skeptical about our viewing choices, but I didn’t care.

Eventually, my contractions got worse. Much worse. They went from “manageable cramps” to “not-that-manageable cramps” to “me telling H. I couldn’t do this anymore.” Here’s where I should point out that I always knew I wanted an epidural. Obviously it’s a personal choice and every woman should do whatever she feels is right for her baby and her body, but I’ve always known that a medicated hospital birth was what I wanted. Many people say that they want to be fully present for the birth and that’s why they don’t use medication, but for me the epidural allowed me to be fully present by greatly reducing my anxiety about pain. I know A LOT of people who had medication-free births (I don’t like to use the word “natural,” because my birth wasn’t “unnatural”), and they all loved their birth experiences so I knew I didn’t NEED an epidural. Then again, I don’t need a second donut and I’m still eating it. The point is, I wanted an epidural but I wasn’t dilated enough yet for it.

Then yet ANOTHER doctor came in to break my water and hopefully get this show on the road. But, big surprise, something about my body was weird there too. This was, by far, the most uncomfortable part of the entire process. I don’t know if it was the doctor’s fault or if it would’ve been painful no matter what, but I could hardly stand it and when he said, “Well, I wasn’t really able to break it but I did snag it, so hopefully the water will trickle out,” I wanted to puke. Like, please dude, get the job done while you’re in there.

But it was fine. Then, blessing of all blessings, I was dilated enough for the epidural. Hallelujah. The anesthesiologist was an extremely nice, soft spoken tall man who reminded me of Zach Woods, who I find to be a very comforting on-screen presence. I did not feel the epidural at all, and the anesthesiologist was so understanding and kind and I liked him much more than any other man I met that day. Maybe part of that was because he didn’t touch or comment on my cervix, but I guess we’ll never know. 20 minutes later I was feeling the sweet, sweet relief of modern medicine and I even got to sleep a little bit.

Then the contractions came back with a vengeance. Well, they were always there, but I started feeling them again. I made my nice anesthesiologist come back. I kept pressing the “more drugs” button. Nothing worked. I felt like I had intense heartburn that made it impossible to think about anything else. H. tried to get me to watch Sherlock but I couldn’t make myself care about Benedict Cumberbatch at a time like this.

At one point my dad wandered in (my wonderful parents showed up at the hospital at like 9 am and hung around ALL DAY) and H was trying to explain to him the monitor that showed my contractions. They marveled over it and my dad said things like, “Huh, looks like there’s a big one happening right now!” I was like, “YES. I’M AWARE.” Then I was gripped by a wave of nausea and I yelled “GET OUT OF HERE I’M GOING TO PUKE.” (I did not puke).

FINALLY the nurse said it was time to push. Thank God. I was nervous about it because I didn’t know HOW to push. Maybe that sounds silly, but I’d never had a baby before so I didn’t really know what to do. But it turns out that it was pretty instinctual.

The nurse asked me if I wanted a mirror to see what was happening and I was like, “Oh, I’m good, no thank you.” But when I glanced up at the turned-off television, I realized that I could see a perfectly clear reflection of everything that was happening, in all its bloody glory. “Whatever you do, don’t look at the TV,” I whispered to H. Of course he immediately turned and looked at it.

The nurse closed the TV cabinet.

I kept hearing the strains of “My Boo” in my head as I chewed on ice chips and kept pushing. I was seriously afraid I was going to burst a blood vessel in my eye or grind my teeth into powder, but Baby H. was staying in there, refusing to get past my pubic bone.

This was what I was worried about, because I’d heard a lot of stories of babies that got “stuck,” went into distress, and then a c-section was necessary. I really didn’t want to have to recover from major surgery in addition to taking care of a baby, so I asked the nurse what I could do to get him out of there.

“Do you want to try tug of war?” she asked.

“…okay?”

Tug of war was exactly what it sounds like. The nurse had a sheet, and she pulled on one side of it while I pulled on the other and tried to push the baby out. It felt ridiculous and I was afraid I would let go and send the tiny nurse flying across the room, but after only two contractions’ worth of pushing, Baby H. got past my pubic bone.

This was when things really got crazy. There were three nurses, my doctor, the doctor who only had unkind things to say about my cervix, and a medical student in there, all of them staring directly at me. I’m an extremely modest person normally, but I DID NOT CARE. I wouldn’t have noticed if Barack Obama walked into the room, made a rude remark about my cervix, and walked out again. Literally all I cared about was getting this baby out. The epidural was blessedly effective, but I could still DEFINITELY feel my contractions and they DEFINITELY felt terrible (more like being sick than actual pain).

This part of labor was maybe the most exciting time of my entire life. Imagine a room full of people literally cheering you on as you attempt to bring a brand-new member of your family into the world. It was amazing. With every push, Baby H got a little bit closer to being out. Then his head was out, then his shoulders, then they were ripping off the top of my hospital gown, then he was on my chest, pink and purple and gooey and beautiful.

I thought I would cry when he was born, but I didn’t. I was just overwhelmed; that he was here, that he’d been in there the whole time, that I’d done it. If you’re considering a medicated birth and wondering if you won’t feel that sense of “empowerment” that people talk about with unmedicated birth, let me tell you: I felt INCREDIBLY empowered with my epidural-assisted, full-of-interventions, regular old hospital birth. I’ve done a lot of things I’m proud of in my life, but I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like this before. It seemed unreal (and still seems unreal) that I DID IT.

The nurse told us that he was tall and that he looked like his dad, both of which were true. We told everyone his name and he held onto my finger, his grip already so strong. I just couldn’t believe he was here…sometimes I still can’t believe it. The little person I’d dreamed and wondered about for nine months as I worked and walked and sewed and wrote. My pregnancy was very easy physically, but very difficult emotionally, and there were so many times that I worried he’d be absorbing my sadness or anxiety. But here he was, the little guy who’d been with me the whole time. Absolutely perfect.

baby-h

Hello, hello!

I can’t really start this without mentioning that it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I mean, it’s been MONTHS. And, oh man, have things ever been happening. In November alone, I found out I was pregnant, Love and Other Alien Experiences was released, and my beloved grandfather died. Then, Love and Other Alien Experiences was picked up by Feiwel & Friends as part of a two book deal (!), which means it will be released IN PRINT in spring of 2017. Then my beloved mother in law passed away after a long illness.

To say it’s been an emotional seven months would be an understatement. I keep coming back to this quote from Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions, which I read before I even knew I was pregnant, before any of this stuff happened:
anne lamott quote

You’ve already gone ahead and done it before you realize you couldn’t possibly do it. That’s how I’ve felt about everything. I would never have thought I could even handle so much grief, so much worry, so much crying. Thanksgiving was the day after my grandpa’s funeral, and no one knew I was pregnant. I felt too sick to eat much of anything, and then I went upstairs and fell asleep while my entire extended family was at my parents’ house (~*~just grief and pregnancy things~*~). Part of the reason I was so eager to get pregnant when we did (besides the fact that I, you know, wanted a baby) was that I wanted our relatives to be around to meet our child. Did I think that I would attend two funerals while I was pregnant? Did I think that my grandpa would die before he even knew I was pregnant? Did I think that my mother in law would die before our baby was born? No, I did not. And it’s been hard, and I didn’t write much of anything for months. I love to work and I measure my self-worth by my productivity, but there were so many days I didn’t want to get out of bed or so many nights when I just put a marathon of Murder, She Wrote on Netflix because I couldn’t even deal with picking out what to watch (turns out Jessica Fletcher is pretty cool to watch in any situation).

And I definitely wasn’t in a frame of mind to really appreciate the launch of my first book. On the day of my grandpa’s funeral, one of my favorite book bloggers wrote the nicest post about LAOAE. Somewhere in the deep part of my brain, I appreciated it, but it’s hard to really feel excited when you’re so sad. And I found out my mother in law would be receiving hospice care the same week my new book deal was announced. When things like that happen, it’s hard to care about work, even though my writing philosophy has always been that I want to write books for people in the waiting rooms. It’s easy to say that, but harder to live it.

When I was in college, a professor I liked quite a bit told me, “If you’re a real writer, you write every day. You write no matter what, even if your boyfriend dumps you or your grandma dies. You write because you’re a writer and that’s what you do.”

What all of this has shown me is that I don’t want to be that kind of writer. I can’t, and don’t want to, write when I’m miserable and spending time in a hospital and saying goodbye to someone for the last time. And if that makes me any less of a writer…well, I don’t think it does, but even if that’s true, who cares? Life happens, and like Stephen King says, “Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Anyway. I’m back now, mostly. I’m in a much better mental space, I’m working on Book 2 and other projects, and I’m feeling much more creative than I have in awhile.

Also, my son is due in five weeks, and his arrival will absolutely shake up my entire life and any sort of creative routine I have.

And you know what? That’s okay. Because I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals for sad reasons over the past half a year, and I’m excited to be in one for a happy reason. I’ve cried a lot of sad tears, and I’m ready to cry some joyful ones. I’ve dealt with a lot of shitty stuff, and I’m not going to spend a single second of my time worrying about how my baby will change my writing. I’m ready for disruptions, emotions, sleepless nights, and trying to figure out how to take care of a child and write a book. I have a hard time talking to my friends about being pregnant, because there’s nothing snarky or funny in my feelings. I’m just happy. I don’t want to complain about pregnancy symptoms because I’m just happy to be carrying this baby in my body. He’s been our lifeline throughout a really hard time, and I’m so excited to meet him in five weeks (but please not much earlier…we still have to set up the nursery).

I will probably still not be very active here on Welcome to Ladyville, but know that I’m working hard on book 2 and living a life that’s much more than a support system for art. And in case you’re interested, here’s the announcement:
kerry PW announcement

Love and Other Alien Experiences: the book trailer

Guys! My book is coming out very soon (November 10th, to be exact). And I now have a book trailer.

I don’t usually like book trailers, to be honest. They almost never capture the vibe of the book. What’s more, they never make me want to read a book, and if a trailer doesn’t do that, then what’s the point?

But when I saw the trailer for Robyn Schneider’s Extraordinary Means, I thought Oh. That’s what a book trailer can do. It was beautiful and it looked like a real movie. It used a real song. It actually made me feel what the book would be like, and most importantly…it made me want to read the book.

Luckily, I know a filmmaker. His name is Alex Winfrey, and if you’re wondering why our names look similar, it’s because he’s MY BROTHER. That’s right, I totally took advantage of my family connection to get a sweet book trailer. Alex is one of the most talented people I know (here is one of his latest short films, Why I Run. It also stars my other brother, Chase, and it always makes me laugh.), but just as importantly, he’s really easy to work with and he always understands the kind of stuff I want to create, which I know because I’ve also forced him to design my wedding invitations, take my engagement photos, and take my author photo. I knew that if I described what I wanted, he’d be able to make something even better than anything I could imagine.

And what I wanted was just something that captured the vibe of the book. Something that felt exciting and hopeful and ready to explode. I wanted something that explained a little bit about the book, but that mostly made you feel what the book was about. I wanted running and music and magic.

And Alex did that, and then some. He worked so hard on creating my perfect book trailer. Our friend Emily played the main character, Mallory, and some of Alex’s hunky college friends played the hunky brothers. Those are pictures of my parents (and video footage of my dad!). Alex MADE THE MUSIC HIMSELF, a fact that blows my mind.

It’s a surreal feeling to see scenes you’ve written come to life. I’m just so, so happy with this book trailer and I hope you guys like it too.

If you want to know more about Love and Other Alien Experiences, you can check out the website. There are preorder links at the bottom if you’re so inclined!

My Favorite Brother-Sister Friendships in TV & Books

freaks and geeks lindsay sam
I love reading about sisters. Little Women? Pride & Prejudice? I love it all. But the thing is, brother and sisters don’t show up a lot in fiction. Which is a shame, because as a big sister to two brothers, I always want to read more and see more about brothers and sisters. I’m very close with my brothers, and I feel comfortable talking to them about pretty much anything I’d discuss with a sister. Also, I watch things from Gilmore Girls to the Kardashians to that Michael Douglas Liberace biopic with them. Whenever people say something to the effect of, “Well, having brothers is just different than having sisters,” I think, Is it? I don’t think so. You can have a super close and important relationship with your brothers, provided your brothers are cool dudes who you actually want to be friends with. And in that vein, Lincoln in Love and Other Alien Experiences is pretty heavily based on both of my brothers. Just like Mallory always wants to protect Lincoln, I worry about my brothers, like, 95% of every day. It’s just my way.

So, in that spirit, here are a few of my fave brother/sister friendships in books and television. Do you have any other favorites? Let me know!

Maggie & Zach in Playing House
Playing House - Season 1
Would I dress up in a costume so I could observe my brothers on a date? Maybe. Okay, yes. I would absolutely do that. I love that Maggie is so concerned about protecting Zach that she sometimes does crazy things. Personally, I like to remind my brothers “Buzzed driving is drunk driving!” whenever they leave the house, even if they aren’t going somewhere with alcohol because YOU NEVER KNOW. I have also said the sentence, “Next time you’re at a party, just imagine my disapproving face in your head.” They’re lucky to have me. And while I would not necessarily want my brothers to become trained as doulas so they could assist during the birth of my child, I would certainly find their presences comforting.

Amber and Drew on Parenthood

Poor Drew. So, so many tears.

Poor Drew. So, so many tears.


Oh, Amber. Oh, Drew. I tear up just thinking about them and their relationship. When Drew gets so worried about helping Amber out with her Big Life Change (no spoilers, even though this show already ended) that he starts taking a bunch of boring Econ classes? Yeah, I get it. They have one of the only seriously close brother-sister friendships I’ve seen on TV. Remember that time they went to their family dinner while stoned? They have real inside jokes, real emotional conversations, and they can bond over how weird the rest of their family is. Same.

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern
into the wild nerd yonder
There are SO many YA books about sisters, but very few with a strong brother/sister relationship. This one is one of my faves because it’s funny, believable, and it’s nice to see a brother and sister being for-real friends. I also sympathize with Jessie’s fear about her brother going off to college because both of my brothers are going to spread their metaphorical wings and fly somewhere other than Ohio, thus ruining my perfect Parenthood plan for us to all live in the same city and fight constantly.

Lindsay and Sam on Freaks and Geeks

I saved the best for last, because Lindsay and Sam perfectly capture the sort of contentious relationship that occurs when both brother and sister are still in school. Like, you know Lindsay and Sam are going to grow up to be BFFs, but for now their bonding moments are limited to eye rolls when their dad says something ridiculous at dinner (“You know where he is now? He’s DEAD!”) or when Lindsay gives Sam girl advice. This is the brother-sister friendship that gives me the biggest range of feelings–nostalgia, happiness, regret, you name it.

What brother-sister friendships am I forgetting? Let me know! And if you want to read about another brother-sister friendship that involves lots of the things I mentioned above (bonding over crazy parents, emotional conversations, etc.), you can preorder my book, LOVE AND OTHER ALIEN EXPERIENCES. It costs just SLIGHTLY more than a Little Caesar’s Hot-n-Ready pizza.

My Writing Philosophy, AKA Meg Cabot is My Hero

Have you read the Princess Diaries books? If not, please go read them. I’ll wait.

Okay, so you’re set now? Great. Then you get why I’ve always loved them so much. I mean, it’s pretty easy to understand. For one thing, they’re funny. Like, actually laugh-out-loud funny, filled with weird side characters and hilarious situations and a voice-y narrator who instantly feels like she’s your real best friend. And just as importantly, they’re romantic. Michael Moscovitz is near the top of my list of Ideal YA Book Boyfriends (and I’ve read a lot of YA, you guys). The most recent PD book, Royal Wedding, was just as funny and romantic and goofy and sweet as every other book in the series. Meg Cabot is the queen of the YA (and adult!) romcom.

But, if I can keep fangirling over Meg Cabot for a little while longer, she also gave me something even more important than wonderful books: a writing philosophy.

So here’s the thing. I have a lot of friends who are extremely educated. They have multiple degrees and letters after their names. They have big, important jobs where they make actual money and save actual lives. They talk about doing things at work that I can’t even imagine. It’s all enough to sometimes make me feel a little bit inadequate, with my little bachelor’s degree and my job that basically involves sitting at a computer and listening to a weird Youtube mix called STUDY MUSIC BRAIN POWER because it helps me zone out and write fighting scenes, or kissing scenes, or fighting and kissing scenes.

Because that’s what I write! Kissing books! Okay, so I’ve only written the one, but the likelihood that I’ll ever write a book that doesn’t prominently feature a climactic first kiss is pretty slim. That’s what I like, but I’ve spent a long time feeling like it’s not enough. I was lucky to study creative writing with professors who were surprisingly open to genre fiction (that’s not always the case!), but creative writing programs are almost exclusively focused on literary fiction. That means, basically, that you’re gonna end up with a room full of 21 year olds writing about divorce and aging. When I was in school, I just sort of assumed I’d write stories like Lorrie Moore or Charles Baxter or George Saunders. That was partly because I love their stories–there’s no one funnier than Lorrie Moore, or more emotional than Charles Baxter, or better at making me sob while laughing than George Saunders. But it was also because I thought that’s what I was supposed to write. After all, I was “studying” the Best American Short Stories compilation, not paperbacks from the romance section of Barnes and Noble.

Although I love literary fiction as much as the next girl, commercial fiction has always taken up the biggest piece of my heart. Commercial YA, specifically. I’ve mentioned this on the blog before, but I actually read one of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books hidden behind in a textbook. Contemporary YA, the kind that’s funny and involves a whole lot of kissing, is my jam. It’s just what I like!

But even though I like it, there was a part of me that felt like it wasn’t enough. I’m certainly not saving lives with it, like my friends do at their jobs. And writing isn’t exactly a great career to pick if you’re set on making reliable bank. And then there’s the whole thing about how I like to write funny things that involve kissing, not the next Great American Novel. Like, Jonathan Franzen would actually hate everything I’ve ever written (as well as everything about me, if I’m being honest).

That’s where Meg Cabot comes in (seriously, thanks for hanging in there for so long). In one of the later Princess Diaries books, when Mia is writing a romance novel and Michael, her boyfriend, is busy inventing this high-tech robotic arm that’s going to be used by doctors during surgery, Mia starts feeling kind of useless. She’s got this genius boyfriend who’s literally saving lives, and she doesn’t feel like her kissing books are as important. Michael tells her something that really stuck with me: While his fancy robot arm is saving someone’s life, that person’s family members are sitting in the waiting room. And those people are sad and scared and freaked out, and they need something to comfort them. Maybe Mia’s books don’t save lives in the literal robot arm sense, but to those people who need something to read to distract themselves from what’s happening and to comfort themselves when they’re scared, those books can be life-saving in a different way.

It’s something that I’ve come back to over and over again in a year that’s been emotional enough that I simply haven’t wanted to read anything “serious” or “depressing.” I’ve been reading a lot of kissing books, a lot of funny books, a lot of straight up romance novels. And you know what? The Nora Roberts Bride Quartet may not have literally saved my life, but it sure did make it better. When I was younger, I used to think that using art as a means of escaping from your life was somehow weak or sad. (I was dumb.) The thing is, life is hard sometimes. Sometimes it’s really hard. And maybe you deal with it by dancing with your friends to some dope Outkast jams at a wedding (ahem, me last week), or maybe you deal with it by helping other people, or maybe you deal with it by picking up a book that has a guaranteed happy ending. That escapism and comfort is important, and meaningful, and honestly, sometimes essential.

So maybe I’m not operating on anybody, or counseling anybody, or saving any animals’ lives. But I do believe that what I’m doing is making a difference, even if it’s in a less obvious way. I probably would have realized this on my own eventually, but hearing Meg Cabot say it through the words of Michael Moscovitz helped a lot. I remember those words every single time I sit down to write, and I keep them in mind throughout every kiss, every friendship, and every happy ending.