Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The birth story

Ah, the best laid plans. Where to start with this all? I mentioned before that I was scheduled for an induction last Saturday. Unfortunately after I called the hospital that day, but before we got there, one woman needed an emergency C-section and they had someone else walk in in active labor. So I shot to the bottom of the priority list. We were admitted for all of five minutes before they sent us home, saying that they'd call us later. On the way home, frustrated, I told Shane that I couldn't even be mad because "an emergency C-section must suck so much." So we waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. I called them several times and was always told that it would be just a little bit longer. Finally, around 8:00 that night, Shane got fed up and took over the phone call. He demanded to talk to someone else, and it turned out that they'd pretty much cancelled us for the day as soon as they couldn't fit us in by noon. That would have been nice to know, right? I guess the receptionists and the nurses didn't think it was worth talking about to each other.
So we spent an anxious night, determined to wake up much earlier the next day and get to the hospital as early as possible. Neither of us slept very much, although I think I'm the winner with about 5 hours. Shane thinks he only got about 3. But we woke up, called the hospital, and rushed over there as quickly as possible. Good thing, too, since right after we showed up, so did another woman who was actually in labor. ("3rd baby, though, so she's already at 7 centimeters and we should be able to start your induction very soon.") They might have pushed us off again if we'd waited.
By about 10 a.m., we had started the medicine to "ripen" my cervix. That worked, getting my labor started all by itself, and by around 11:30 I was feeling labor pains. I never thought I'd be so happy to be in pain, or that I'd ever welcome it so much, but I did.
I was hoping that the interventions could stop there, but while I was having labor pains, it was slow going. Late in the afternoon, after consulting with the doctor, she inserted a bulb catheter to get my cervix to dilate more. That worked really well and really fast, too, getting me to a little over 5 centimeters in under 2 hours, whereas I'd gone in being a little over 2 centimeters dilated, and it had taken me most of the day to get to 3 centimeters. So, progress! At that point, although I'd been laboring all day, I was officially in labor.
The night wore on and my labor got a lot slower again. My water broke--or rather, my first water. I guess some women can have more than one bag of amniotic fluid and I was one of them. Who knew? The first one broke all on its own, and unlike the movies where there's just one quick gush of fluid, after that point I felt like I was just leaking over and over. Seriously, I kept checking to see if I'd accidentally peed myself. I also didn't expect all of the blood. I knew about the "bloody show" (pregnancy has the most disturbing names for things), but everything I'd read made it seem like a one and done sort of thing, rather than, "You'll probably be bleeding for most of your labor." And, leaking amniotic fluid.
The nurses had told me to expect my labor pains to get worse after my water broke, but I didn't expect the sudden onset of severe back labor. Baby was still positioned just a bit wrong, so instead of the painful but bearable normal contractions, they were shooting up and down my back horribly. I'd read up on all of this, of course, hoping to avoid an epidural if at all possible. None of the positions I tried helped, though, and I asked to get in the tub they have, which I'd been told would help. It did, some. But not enough. This was also around 5 in the morning. I was exhausted, sobbing with each contraction and dozing in between. Shane was so tired that he fell asleep on the floor next to the tub, holding my hand. We'd been awake for about 24 hours, I'd been in labor for most of that, and we were worn out.
Around 7, I threw in the towel. I'd been counting the minutes, telling myself that the passage of time meant that I was closer to actually having my baby. Progress, right? No. I was so tense and tired that I still wasn't progressing much, even though they'd begun giving me pitocin. I figured that the best thing I could do for all of us was to have the epidural and let us all relax some. It was a good decision, although it took forever. I sent Shane to ask about an epidural pretty much right at 7 but the anesthesiologists didn't come to see me until 8:30. I don't blame them, I think someone mentioned that they'd been in a surgery. (In my haze of pain and exhaustion, I'm not entirely sure what anyone said then.)
Say what you will, but it seems that getting the epidural was a good decision. Shane and I both got to fall asleep. I could still vaguely feel my contractions, enough to know that things were happening, but I wasn't in the excruciating pain I had been before. And I did relax, enough to let my body do what it needed to. By the time the doctor came to check me again at 11:00 I'd gone from just barely 6 centimeters to a little over 8, almost there! (You're supposed to be at 10 cm before pushing.) She broke my second bag of water, too, and told me that it was going well. I honestly think that just being able to relax and rest made all the difference, since that was the fastest part of labor for me. Shane was still napping, but I was too excited to rest anymore. As I said, I could feel the contractions vaguely so I kept track of them and was daydreaming about getting to finally hold my baby.
At 11:30, I looked at the baby's heartbeat monitor and saw that it was incredibly low. Normally a baby's heartbeat is over 130, and according to the monitor hers was around 75. Then it dropped lower still. I know I saw it drop into the 40s at one point, before heading back up. But still not enough. I watched for maybe, maybe, 30 seconds, telling myself that the monitor was hooked up to their computers and that the nurses were watching. However, just about the time I thought that I should call someone just to check, 3 nurses burst into the room. One of them was shouting over her shoulder to call my doctor. They got me to roll over on my hands and knees, put oxygen over my mouth, and did I don't even know what. Poor Shane had still been sleeping when all of this started, and I didn't get a chance to explain anything because of the oxygen mask. Since the nurses were tossing around terms like "emergency", he didn't want to stop any of them to ask what was going on. He rushed over and grabbed my hand but I didn't know until later that he was clueless as to what the problem was.
The doctor came in and said she was going to try a couple of things real quick. I was so focused inward, whispering to Baby to hang on in there, trying not to freak out. According to Shane, the doctor did about one thing, then stripped off her gloves and said, "Prep the OR, we need to go now."
It was the scariest moment in our lives, and Shane couldn't follow me. He held my hand as they wheeled me into the hallway, but passing through one set of doors I heard them explaining that he couldn't go there unless he was scrubbed in and there just wasn't time. I wish I could erase from my mind the look on his face. "Devastation" doesn't really seem to cover it. He said later that he was watching his entire world be wheeled into emergency surgery, and he still didn't even know why.
It was maybe 10-15 minutes, total, from the time Baby was first in distress until I was knocked out by general anesthesia for the C-section. That is an eternity in which to wonder if you will, instead of experiencing one of the best moments of your life, be going home baby-less instead. Poor Shane was pacing around for about 20 minutes before a nurse brought Baby out. He got to be there as they cleaned her up, weighed her, all that good stuff. As soon as they'd brought her out the nurse told him that he had a healthy baby girl. Shane asked, "And the mother?" The guy shrugged and said, "Her heart's beating." He was a pediatric nurse, not a labor and delivery nurse, so he might not have known any more than that since he was just there for Baby. But poor Shane was left an anxious mess, wondering if something was wrong and the nurse didn't want to tell him, or if I was just fine. So not only did he have the initial fear of going home without a baby, but once that fear was taken care of it was replaced by the fear that he might be wifeless.
After getting knocked out for surgery, the next thing I knew I was being woken up with Shane at my bedside, holding our baby girl. He handed her to me and told me her stats as I got to look her over for the first time. I know everyone says this, or thinks it, but I really do have the most beautiful baby in the world. She's got a full head of dark hair the same color as her daddy's, dark blue/gray eyes (as Buttercup says in 'The Princess Bride', "Eyes like the sea after a storm"), and chubby cheeks. Perfection. Looking down at her little face as I cradle her has become my new favorite sight in the entire world. A close second is seeing her snuggled in her dad's arms. We're so enraptured by this tiny person we made.
I wish my saga of birth ended there, that everything was fine. But I had apparently lost a lot of blood during the surgery. They didn't tell me this the first night, which is fine since I was still so out of it that I probably wouldn't have understood anyway. They did make me get up and out of bed, just for as long as I could, and that is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It hurt so bad that I almost started crying, thinking that it would take me months to recover from this surgery. I got dizzy and light-headed from being upright, so I just stood there for a few seconds before they made me lie back down.
They tested my blood and basically I had, based on some points scale that I didn't inquire about too much, about half as many points as I should have. (A healthy, non-pregnant person should be up around 13, I was at 5.something.) So I got two pints of blood, I'm taking an iron supplement, and I'll still be low on blood for the next 3-6 months. They warned me that I would tire more easily, and I can actually tell that I do. Oh, I'm sure some of it is new parent sleep deprivation. But so far, between my mom and my husband they've been helping me to get at least 6-7 hours each day, generally more toward the 7 end of things. It helps, too, that Baby B is such an easy-going little girl. She doesn't fuss much, and usually when she does it's for a good reason: her diaper seriously needs changing or she's hungry.
And speaking of hunger, adding to my first week of motherhood's woes, we've had some lactation issues. I thought I knew what a deep latch should look like, but it turns out that I didn't and not only was Baby not being fed effectively, but I got sores on my nipples. Yes, ouch. Then, most likely due to all the physical trauma I'd been through, my milk didn't come in until nearly a full week after she was born. I felt like such a failure. Unable to give birth properly, unable to feed my child, I spent a couple of attempted feedings sobbing my heart out. Thank God for my mom, who was there to tell me that I'm not a failure, that I'm a good mom, and to hug me. I'm also grateful for the public health system we have here, where they have lactation nurses to help new moms. Even better, they'll actually come out to your house rather than making you drive a baby out into the cold to see them. (I just knew we'd be bringing Baby home on the coldest day of the year so far--I think it was about -30.) I did go there once, after our first pediatric appointment. Baby had lost a bit more weight than they want to see, so the doctor gave me some supplemental formula and the nurse showed me how to use it. It's pretty cool, she gave us a small bottle and a feeding tube. So when Baby latches on I can snake the tube into the side of her mouth and she's both nursing and getting the formula. It's not ideal--ideal would be if my milk had come in after a day or two like it should have. But keeping my baby healthy and happy is the most important thing, and this helped. Now that my milk has actually come in, I'm weaning both of us off the formula. In the last day she's gotten only about half an ounce, just to be sure. The measure of "is my baby getting enough to eat?" is through their diapers, and she's still not peeing as much as she should so thus the small amount of supplementation. I think it will take a bit more time before my milk supply is fully up to the task of feeding her. However, I'm doing what I should by both eating and drinking lots. In fact, I feel like a hobbit, eating at least three meals and three large "snacks" each day. (When your snack is the same size as your other meals, can it still be called a snack?)
As annoying, harrowing, and disappointing as much of this has been, I'm so happy. I have the most beautiful baby, a sweet little girl who makes me deliriously joyful. Just as good, seeing my husband as a devoted new father makes me melt. So the process of becoming a mother wasn't what I planned or expected. So what? The outcome is what's important.
I am ridiculously in love with my baby.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Due date

I finished work on Friday, which was both a wonderful and a very odd feeling. Wrapping up some of my projects before going, and making sure that everyone else in the office knew about things I was doing so that I didn't end up being the only one knowing what was supposed to happen or what was going on, felt strange. I know I'll be back, but I'm not even allowed to check my work email so I'm essentially cut off until I get back. (It's not technically allowed, but my coworker and I will text and communicate so that I don't come back totally not knowing what's going on.) The thing that I'm most proud of myself for, though? The fact that I walked to and from work the whole nine months. It didn't even feel all that impressive to me, but everyone else seems to be blown away by it. Even Shane said he was proud of me for keeping up with the walking. He knew that I wouldn't drive, but walking halfway and then taking a shuttle bus up the rest of the hill was an option, just not one I ever really considered. The 'trick', as I see it, is that I never told myself I couldn't do this. So it didn't seem like an unusual feat, or anything extraordinary, but just what I do. After all, we're not too far removed from the days when a pregnant woman would have had to move with her tribe and keep up. I am no delicate flower, I'm a capable woman who just happens to be pregnant.
Despite the fact that yesterday was only an estimated due date, everyone around me was on high alert. I got several "happy due date!" messages, and every time I've called someone for the past week or so I've started with something along the lines of, "Don't get excited, I'm not in labor." I even sent a text to one of my brothers just to say there was no news. (He thanked me, since his wife had apparently been scouring Facebook to see if I'd posted something about being in labor.) I even got one, "When is she going to pop out?? She sure does like staying in there!" And when I went to the doctor's yesterday morning the nurse said, "So, you're overdue? ...Oh, no, it's your due date, that's right." Um, wow people. Just wow. Since when did making it to your due date become "overdue"? (The doctor herself said, "Don't worry about going past today, that's perfectly normal.")
It honestly sort of feels like I'm the person who's put the least amount of awkward pressure on my due date. I know that it's an estimation, and only around 5% of babies are actually born on their due dates, which leaves the rest to scatter before and after. It would be so, so nice if they could, in fact, pinpoint one date and say, "Yes, your baby will be born on X date." But it doesn't work like that, and I know it.
What I half expected, and dreaded, was that I would end up like my mother and not actually go into labor. So far, that appears to be what's happening. Baby hasn't dropped, I haven't really effaced, and I'm not really dilated. 1 cm, which is basically nothing, especially since I haven't effaced, and I've been this way for about three weeks. It was so frustrating to go to the doctor's yesterday and hear that there'd been no change. Until then I could tell myself that at least all the achiness and pain and cramping I've been experiencing was doing something, it was getting my body ready for labor. Nope. I'm all kinds of hurting for no progress. Wouldn't you be just a bit insulted by that?
Technically speaking, this lack of progress doesn't mean very much as I could still go into labor at any minute, but my body just doesn't show signs of doing what it's supposed to. So, I've scheduled an induction for this weekend. And I'm really of two minds about it. On the one hand, yay! There's a definite end point, a time when I really will get to hold my baby! On the other hand, I was really, really hoping that I would just go into labor naturally. But it's seeming less and less likely that that will happen. So, an induction. It's the least invasive thing they can do, first a medicine to "ripen" my cervix, which could start labor all by itself, and then pitocin if I need it.
If nothing happens before Saturday, that is. I still have a little hope. I've been talking to Baby Girl and telling her that she'd really be doing her parents a solid favor if she could make an appearance soon. And yes, I've been walking a lot. And cleaning, and doing yoga, and just generally moving around. It hasn't helped.
I could have put off the induction until sometime next week. But I talked it over with Shane, and honestly it interrupts his schoolwork less to do it over a weekend, especially since the doctor warned that even starting it on Saturday could mean that it spills over into Sunday. Yes, we're those silly people who are trying to fit in a baby's birth to our schedule. But if we have to schedule it anyway, it might as well work for us. And his schoolwork will need to get done at some point, so why not interrupt it as little as possible from the start?
I'm sure there are natural birth advocates out there who would shake their heads and fists at what I'm doing. They'd tell me to go as late as possible before letting the doctors do any sort of intervention. (Or, even better, they'd tell me that it's not possible for a woman to not go into labor on her own. Uh, yeah. Tell that to my mom, whose oldest baby was over a month late, and who ended up having four C-sections. Just try it, see how well that goes over.) I do realize that being induced puts me at a slightly increased risk of needing a cesarean. However, the earlier they induce the less risk there is. So by doing the induction this weekend, rather than waiting one more, I was making a bet that this induction will lead to less needed intervention overall. We'll see how that works out.

I had to order more prenatal vitamins, since I'm planning to breastfeed and according to my doc it's actually arguably more important to take a vitamin while breastfeeding than while pregnant. (Except, of course, for the all-important folic acid in the very start of pregnancy.) I took a survey for someone's research at the U and got a $10 Amazon gift card, which I knew I'd be using for more vitamins. I love the logic of shipping to Alaska. When I went through most of the checkout process for just the vitamins, my order total was over $23, even with the gift card. They were going to charge me, at minimum, $10.55 for shipping. (Unless I tried Amazon Prime, but I don't feel that I order enough from them to justify that.) So, I looked around for something I wanted to get for one of my brothers for Christmas. When all was said and done, adding a nearly $20 item to my total actually only added about $6 ($29 rather than $23) because I was able to then get free shipping. The logic of shipping to Alaska.
At least I didn't get all the way through ordering only to then get the message, "We're sorry, we can't ship this item outside of the continental U.S." That's a fun one, and I love that they leave it for the very end of the process.

It is my second day as a hausfrau and I'm already worried that I'll run out of things to do. I mean, I don't do "sitting around waiting" very well. So even with my appointment yesterday I managed to go grocery shopping, take the dog for a walk to deliver Shane's thermos to him on campus, I re-potted a plant, thoroughly cleaned the kitchen, made bread, called my mom, cleaned the toilet, did four loads of laundry, and that was all just before Shane got home at 7. After he got home, the one thing we did (other than making dinner and, you know, relaxing) was move the baby's cradle into the closet finally. It fits even better than we thought it would! We can close the curtains and Shane joked, "It'll be like we don't even have a baby at all! We can totally ignore her." I laughed. It might sound like a terrible joke but, well, we're quite certain that any baby of ours won't let herself be ignored, ever. Besides, she's already being stubborn just about being born! When I put it that way Shane said, "That's my girl!"
On today's to-do list: tackle all floors (sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming), clean the bathroom, organize some of the baby stuff a bit more, dust, clean some of the window screens, clean off/out the stove, finish the laundry, take the dog for another walk, do yoga, finish sewing that nightgown I was making. And if I manage to get all of this done today, I'll be going crazy tomorrow because I'll have nothing left to do. Except maybe to clean off my desk....