Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Welcome to the world my sweet baby Vander, I still can’t believe that you are actually mine. I think I’ve spent most of the last month soaking up your sweet face, kissing you all over and trying to imprint every moment into my memory. While these weeks have challenged me in new ways, they’ve also been the most rewarding experience of my life.
My aunt sent me this quote the day I gave birth and I think it perfectly sums up how I’m currently feeling:
Yes, that’s it. I’m still me but things are so different. It’s like my perspective on everything has changed and my heart has completely cracked open. I’ve never experienced a love like this before; at the same time I’m also much more anxious and paradoxically empowered. I’m worried about doing things right while also comforted in the idea that I somehow already know exactly what to do.
When I was pregnant BL kept assuring me that intuition was the greatest teacher we had. Which, didn’t feel super comforting as I poured over book after book of new-age parenting. Now that V is here, his words clicked. I know what to do even when I don’t know what to do. And, I don’t know what to do most of time. There have been a few rough patches but somehow, we’re dancing together. We’re learning him, he’s learning us and together we are forming a life-long bond. It’s pretty magical.
I debated sharing my birth story in this space. On one hand, I read close to a hundred birth stories before going in for my own and loved every one of them. I’ve cried on stories of people I’ve never met and felt comforted by the births of strangers. But, I also know that only a small percentage of you are interested in this topic. So, a compromise. I’m planning on sharing life/motherhood updates every now and then. If you’re interested, awesome. If not, I’ll be back the following day with a new recipe for you. I pinkie promise.
Not what I planned, but everything I wanted. That’s exactly how I would sum up how Van came into this world.
The moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I wanted a natural birth. I really can’t articulate why, but it felt like the most natural (no pun intended) path for me. I remember hearing my old yoga teacher describe her home births and feeling intensely drawn to that experience. Birthing in the comfort of my own home in chair pose? Yes, please. But, I was also a realist. The idea of doing a home birth sounded awesome until I started considering all of the possibilities and my type-A personality knew I would need to feel comforted by the idea of having medical support close by. So, the perfect compromise. We found a fantastic midwifery group that would allow me to birth in a suite sans interventions, but in a hospital setting just in case. The just in case part seemed comforting to just about everyone: myself, BL and our families.
My whole pregnancy I kept saying how I really didn’t want to be induced. When my friends would tell their horror birth stories, they usually started out with some type of induction. It seemed like the gateway path into the type of birth I didn’t want: overly medicated, lying in a bed, and on a time clock to get the baby out.
What’s that universal law? The things you say you don’t want to happen end up being your path? As I inched closer to 42 weeks I knew the possibility of being induced was higher and higher. After trying almost every natural induction trick in the book, the end of the road was almost near. In all honesty, I think this reality tripped me out the most. I don’t know why. I really can’t explain why I was so resistant to being induced, but the moment I got the call that my induction was scheduled, I panicked. After 10 months, we were finally going to meet our little babe.
I ended up going into labor very late Wednesday night, 48 hours before Vander was born (and before my induction was to begin.) My contractions came on suddenly, then would regress, then intensify again. Every time I would start timing them, they would slow down.
We spent most of Thursday morning trying to accelerate things; walking around the neighborhood, curb walking and taking stairs two at a time. My midwives kept telling me to try and get some rest since my contractions were all over the place, but I just couldn’t get in that place. Every time I tried to lay down, I’d be in pain again and have to get up to work through the contraction. For whatever reason, it was easier to get through them if I was active. Sitting or reclining felt so much more intense.
By 4AM Friday morning, the pain was almost unbearable. I had a hard time talking through the contractions and I was so mentally and physically exhausted, I found myself crying during the downtime. Our midwives gave us permission to come in to get checked on our progress and I was relieved to think that things were on their way.
After learning that I was only 3cm dilated, my heart completely sank. By this point I had been laboring for over 24 hours and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t made that much progress, especially since my pain was accelerating quickly. Our incredible doula Stacy met us at the birthing center and we decided it would be best to go home and try and get a little more rest as it would be a long day/night.
By 9AM, we were back in the birthing center. I couldn’t sleep once we got home and tried a few more interventions to try and push things faster. It worked slightly, I was 5cm by 9am and in much better spirits. I felt in my heart that this was his birthday and I couldn’t wait to meet him.
We got right into what I can only describe as birthing bootcamp. Our doula Stacy was a complete warrior, applying counter pressure to my low back through every contraction and coaching me on the birth ball, through squats/lunges, and in the shower. I honestly don’t know if I could have gotten through the next few hours without her love and support.
Every contraction felt like another step toward meeting him. I had read so many birth stories and mantras on how to push through the pain and the one that resonated with me so much was the idea that every contraction got me closer to my baby. I held onto that emotion as tightly as I could, especially in moments I didn’t think I could go on any longer. I also had BL remind me over and over again that my body was literally made for this. When I started doubting my energy levels, he was so good at calming me down and retraining my focus.
By 1PM, I started fading fast. The contractions were intensifying so much and I was completely wiped. My midwife once told me that birth is more of a mental game then a physical one and I understand that whole heartedly now. It felt like an out of body experience; I looked at BL and told him through tears that I wanted to be done. I could barely keep my eyes open, yet unable to sleep. I built up so much anxiety over how long this process had been already and we still had such a way to go. I stressed myself out that I would be too exhausted to hold my son when he finally did arrive and was saddened by the idea that I was already at this breaking point not even halfway through the process.
I asked my midwife to check me again so see how much progress my active labor had done. 5cm, the exact same place I was 4 hours ago. If I wasn’t mentally done before this, I was done now. I felt like I was at the bottom of a never ending hike, with the top of the mountain never in full view. If I’m this tired now, how will I be when Vander finally arrives? Will I have enough energy to hold him? What if I’m too exhausted to be present in his first few hours of life? That thought crippled me and ultimately become my decision to get an epidural.
My team and I decided we would break my water to see if that would help speed things along. That decision led to the realization that V had swallowed some of the meconium and that his heart rate was continuing to drop. At 42 weeks and with such a long labor already, this was becoming as hard on him as it was on me. My midwife told me that I would likely have ended upstairs in the hospital setting because of these factors anyways, which felt really comforting when I asked to go upstairs. I know that BL and Stacy were concerned that I would end up regretting this decision, but I don’t. If I had to do it all over again, I know I’d make the same decision.
Once I was upstairs in the maternity rooms, I was quickly given an epidural which felt like the sweetest relief. Finally, I was able to rest and relax. Vander’s heart rate was strong and I was able to take a long nap. The end really was near. By 6PM, I was given a small dose of pitocin to try and move him down into the birth canal on his own. His heart rate had dipped again and they wanted him to move down as much as possible on his own before I started pushing. I knew that if his heart rate continued to drop they would opt for a C-section, so I remember willing him to move down if he could; that we had gotten so far together and only had a little bit more to go.
I got the OK to start pushing around 8:30PM and the energy in the room was palpable. Our doula was coaching me through every push, while BL held my legs and kept the encouragement going. Pushing felt so visceral and strong; this was the only point where I regretted my epidural. I wanted to feel more of this sensation, the literal birthing process.
A short hour later and he was crowning. I don’t actually remember most of the minute details of this experience, but I’m thankful that our doula captured so much of it on video and in photographs. Seeing BL’s face when he first gets to see our son’s head is pretty powerful and a moment I will never forget. One of the reasons we initially choose the birthing center was how they allow Dad’s to be so involved in the birth. Not only did BL assist in my pushing, he was able to pull Vander out by his shoulders, place him on me and cut the cord. Pretty cool.
Vander was born at 9:59PM and I was too. Like Yogi Rajneesh so beautifully put it, when a child is born so is a mother. My beautiful son was finally here and in my arms. It was like a calming peace blanketed us in those first few minutes of meeting him. Life is never going to be the same.
Our parenthood journey has been years in the making and it’s almost surreal to look at my son right now, safely sleeping on his dad’s chest. I don’t question the obstacles we faced in order to get to this place. For whatever reason, they were there for a reason. Eerily enough, our V was born exactly one year after the expected due-date of our last baby. Perhaps this was the reason he ended up being so late. That, or he didn’t want to leave his mama.
We’ve got such a cuddly babe; he loves nothing more than to be snuggled up to our chest, which feels like a blessing. Even though it’s been hard for me to completely unplug from checking emails/social media (a giant thank you to my communications assistant for scheduling/posting for me during this month) it feels right that most of my day is spent hugging Vander back, knowing that he’ll outgrow this stage too soon and I don’t want to regret swapping work for time with him.
The biggest challenge so far has been breastfeeding/feeding. Since this post is already well over the 2000 word place, I think I’ll save that story and my research for another post. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that breastfeeding is hard for so many women and we don’t talk about it. I reached out to some colleagues for advice on my very low-milk supply and the response and “me toos” that I received was overwhelming.
I’m finally in a place where I feel OK with how things have gone; shedding the guilt and shame that I felt for the first few weeks of not being able to produce enough to meet his needs.
Since this story is more common that I thought, I plan on sharing my journey and research behind the various ways to increase milk supply in the future. If this is something you’ve struggled with as well, I want to hear from you. Email works too.
Lastly, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. The love and support we’ve received from you has been nothing short of incredible. When you put your life and story out there, it’s hard to know what kind of feedback you’ll receive. With everything personal that I share, my hope is that is resonates on some level or provides value. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that I’ve learned and continue to learn so much from my mama friends.
I’m convinced that there’s no right way for everyone, but hearing about other’s struggles, triumphs and advice has already proved to be helpful just in this first month alone. So, that’s where we’re going with this. Sharing, supporting and just being there for one another. xo
P.S. all of these photos were taken by my incredibly talented friend Amanda of Feed Me with Amanda. If you’re in the STL area, I highly recommend her for your newborn/family photos. She’s a doll to work with and takes amazing photographs. Her recipes are pretty amazing as well. Check her out!
The Ultimate Plant-Based Protein Cookbook + Course
(Includes 40+ recipes!)
FREE 7-DAY COURSE + COOKBOOK