Soap Box

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Blessed

Posted by eemilla on November 24, 2011

I’ve been thinking about what to write about this year for Thanksgiving, and it dawned on me on the way home from the family get together.  LB has helped me and my honey put so much into perspective, and I cannot believe how wonderful these past few months have been being her mama.  I know it’s cliched, but no one can tell you how wonderful and hard and amazing it is.

 

Like any new mother I had many fears about labor and delivery; I was scared of laboring for hours strapped to a bed with the fetal heart rate monitor.  I was scared of not being able to handle the pain and requesting an epidural.  I was scared of something going wrong enough to require a caesarean section, and least verbalized or thought about I was scared of birth and death coming hand in hand.

While my birth wasn’t what I hoped for, we eventually left the hospital with our sweet LB, and here is our story.

I cannot remember if LB’s official due date was my last day of work or the day that my labor actually began, but regardless she wasn’t born on either day.  The Sunday before Memorial Day I went to bed around midnight only to get up shortly thereafter due to discomfort in my back.  With all the weight I was carrying I didn’t think of it as labor until I noticed the pain was sporadically intense.  Around three in the morning I counted a few contractions, but they never got closer than five minutes apart so I decided to prepare for our trip to the hospital by baking some tofu for my labor snack and cleaning the bathroom rather than wake my husband and the midwife.  After those tasks were completed and I still couldn’t sleep I baked banana bread for the nurses.  Around five I had to get off my feet because they were so swollen that they hurt, but I still wasn’t able to lay down so I continued bouncing on my physio ball until around 9 am when I put in Fantasia and fell asleep on the couch.  I got up a bit later and went to sleep in the  bed, but I woke every hour or so with back pain.  While I was active I didn’t really notice the pain but being still made it all too noticeable.

Memorial Day progressed much the same way as the day before, although I really cannot recall how I passed the time while I was not able to sleep.  I attempted to get to sleep watching Fantasia 2000 as it had worked with Fantasia the day before, but I couldn’t sleep again.

I called my boss Tuesday to let her know that I was in labor as the contractions were stronger, but they were still more than five minutes apart.  My husband drove me to the my last scheduled appointment with the midwife, and when she felt my uterus the baby wasn’t engaged so she said that what I was experiencing was not labor.  This was so disheartening.  I wanted to have an unmedicated, vaginal birth, and if these pains weren’t labor pains, I was terrified of what active labor might feel like.  She suggested I try to sleep with the help of 50 mg of benydrl and some calcium magnesium to help with what she called cramping.  Neither provided any relief; twelve hours later, we called her back, and she recommended another dose along with a hot bath.  I had attempted the warm bath at her suggestion previously, but our tub is tiny so it wasn’t comfortable.  I did, however, get in the shower and use the massage feature on my low back.  This provided limited relief due to my poor massively swollen feet and ankles as laying or sitting was difficult due to the tight space.  She also suggested visiting a chiropractor the following day.  I wasn’t able to sleep during this time, and my honey was up heating a rice sock his stepmom had given him.  It provided some more comfort especially once the counter pressure left me with a tender back.

I did lose my mucous plug in the middle of the night, but my amniotic sac remained intact.  The recommended chiropractor didn’t have any availability, but frankly I am thankful as we found an appointment at a much closer office.  The adjustment did bring a modicum relief, but I was only able to squeeze in a twenty minute cat nap (propped up on every pillow in the house as laying down wasn’t an option).  Unfortunately the contractions were still spaced at more than five minutes apart.  Finally at around 12:40 I felt a small gush of clear, odorless liquid, and I assumed this was the amniotic sac leaking.  I called the midwife on call, and she advised to hang out at home until the contractions  got closer but with my group B strep we would plan on checking into the hospital that day (Wednesday) so I could start the IV antibiotics protocol.  She requested we call with an update in a few hours.  I called my mom and aunt to let them know what was going on, and Jeff finalized our hospital bag packing.  He also baked some more tofu (as I had eaten the batch I baked a few days before) and boiled some edamame for labor snacks.  He also steeped my sitz bath herbs.

Around three, my contractions were coming between three and six minutes apart so I called the midwife back and left her a voicemail.  She called back sometime near five to discuss my progress; due to the shift change a 7:30 check in would be better so she advised us to get a good final dinner, but when I mentioned that I had recently vomited and didn’t really have an appetite she advised us to get to the hospital so I get some IV fluids and start the antibiotics.

The drive to the hospital felt like it took forever with the contractions, but it is only about twenty minutes even with traffic.  We arrived just before shift change so I was admitted amoungst a whirlwind of activity with no less than five medical professionals, including the midwife, asking questions and taking vitals and drawing blood.  We had to be very adamant about not being listed in the directory, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way as we didn’t want visitors until we had had a chance to bond as a family and were settled at home.

After the admissions were completed, my midwife performed my first vaginal exam.  Much to my delight, she announced that I was at 8 cm.  My husband and I were both so stoked that neither of us realized that all that progress had happened over the course of three and a half days.

I had wanted to stay at home as long as possible to avoid the temptation of a medicated birth.  Ostensibly I wanted an unmedicated birth as it would be the best for my baby, and it would cost about $2,000.  I was also scared of it not working the first time not to mention some of the side effects.  However, looking back I wanted to prove my mother wrong.  She (and others) regaled me with stories of women dumb enough to just say no.  I do not regret having an unmedicated birth, and in fact I do believe, pride or not, LB benefited from an unmedicated labor.  Depressed respiration is a common side effect for the baby, and she had trouble breathing initially without any side effects from pain medication.

The twenty minute fetal heart rate strip was not nearly as horrid as I had built it up to be even though being stationary was anathema during my labor.  It was superb to be in the tub as the shower head once again provided a warm massage to my low back, and I had enough room to move around unlike our tub at home.  However, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.  My luxuriating in the nice warm tub increased my temperature too much so my midwife sent us to walk the halls.  We did one round around the labor and delivery floor before returning to our room.  I preferred less clothing than I felt comfortable walking around the floor in (not to mention that my feet were so swollen my size 9 feet were pushing it in a men’s size 10 flip flop).

I did return to the tub for another hour or so, but I began to prune up and to feel confined.  I attempted to use the hospital’s physio ball without comfort so I mostly paced and tried to find a comfortable position to sleep in.  Although I never counted or timed by contractions while we were at the hospital, I don’t recall them ever being really close.

Sometime between midnight and two, my midwife offered fentinyl to help calm me down and possibly get some rest.  I thought about it but ultimately declined since we were probably in the home stretch I would be disappointed in myself afterwards.  She performed another vaginal exam, and after six to eight hours I was about 9.5 cm with a swollen lip of cervix preventing me from being fully dilated.  She applied some arnica gel and had me lay on my side for a few contractions.  Although I don’t recall her stating it, I assume I was lying on my side to help encourage the baby to turn to a better position.

After three horrid contractions lying on my right side, I felt the urge to urinate. Unfortunately I was in the process of getting my IV antibiotics so the nurse asked if I could just go rather than have to wheel the IV pole into the bathroom; I insisted that I was not taking that course of action.  After using the bathroom I felt the urge to begin pushing so the nurse called the midwife back into the room (she was attending two labors that night).  I was terrified of giving birth on a toilet so I asked for something comparable, and the nurse suggested a birthing stool.  I thought it sounded like a good idea, but when the midwife returned it wasn’t mentioned again.

Getting the urge to push was awesome because finally something was changing.  I must say that as miserable as I was with no sleep, I feel like I lost my mind during transition.  My husband said it was about twenty minutes from the time I left the bathroom until the baby was born, but it certainly felt like much longer.

I was moved to the bed on my right side, and the midwife discovered that my amniotic sac had not actually broken so she performed the aminoity.  There was meconium present so the stable team was called to be ready in case LB needed help after her birth.

I did ask for the mirror as I thought that seeing the baby’s head would be encouraging, but the pain from her crowning was so intense that I was scared to look in the mirror.  I felt like I was being ripped open, and I did suffer some minor tearing that required stitching.  Unfortunately LB decided to come into this world with her hand beside her face, and her shoulder (no one could recall if it was the left or right one) decided not to wait for the head to be delivered.  Everyone was really supportive aside from one nurse who yelled at me, and I am sure it was no picnic listening to me whine about how much it hurt and how I couldn’t give birth.

The stable team apparently performed her Apgar test before her body was born so the results were less than desired.  While my nurse and midwife seemed to argue about this with the stable team, I am not sure how much difference it made based on hindsight.

Once she was completely born, she was laid on my tummy while my honey cut the cord then due to her low Apgar’s she was taken to the bassinet and the stable team examined her while I birthed the placenta.  Her cord had a perfect square knot in it, but with everything going on neither of us took a photo.

My husband said that she seemed to be breathing fine, but the nurses bulb syringed her, checked vitals, and gave her oxygen.  I then had to say goodbye as they were leaving for the NICU.  My husband was torn between whether to stay with me or go with her as it was obvious he was needed in both places. While I dealt with the continuing uterine massages, he sat with her for an hour as the nurses tried to start an IV in her hand, foot, & finally got one in her head.  The IV delivered sustenance and antibiotics which were required due to the meconium.  She received the IV diet the entire time she was in the hospital so our nursing relationship started off slowly, but we’ve outgrown those difficulties.

While my husband & LB were upstairs, I was cleaned & stitched.  I flitted in and out of sleep while suffering the injustice of periodic uterine massages, which is a cruel and misleading misnomer. After about an hour from their departure for the NICU my nurse cleaned the room and got me in a wheelchair so I could reunite with my honey & LB then get to my room in the mother/baby unit before shift change.  Between the exhaustion, blood loss and the drama/trauma of birth, I could barely sit up in the wheelchair much less walk.  My birth nurse wheeled me up to the NICU, and  it was so scary to see my sweet little girl hooked up to so many machines.  It was overwhelming to say the least, and due to the impending shift change everyone was trying to get us to our room and out of the way.  Exhaustion set in and we meekly acquiesed.

Much like the blur of the labor, those days in the mother/baby unit sans baby are a fog.  We would sleep a bit only to be awakened for a nurse to check on me or to get a call from the NICU that LB was awake and ready to nurse; even if the NICU didn’t call or no one needed to check my vitals, I had trouble sleeping more than an hour or two without waking up.

The first several attempts at nursing were not good, and it only added to the guilt I felt over her condition.  It wasn’t until Saturday when we met with another lactation consultant that we had the breakthrough.  She basically came in and said she wouldn’t leave until we had a successful nursing session; she also told me the nipple shield the first lactation consultant provided was superfluous, which was a boon to my flagging confidence (especially as all my pregnancy reading had advised against using nipple shields).  She helped me get a good latch, and I’ll never forgot the bliss I felt as LB really nursed for the first time.

It also wasn’t until Saturday that we were able to talk to her doctor about how long she would need to stay and why she needed to stay because to us she seemed healthy.  With her low Apgar scores, slight fever, and difficulty breathing on her own (she was on oxygen the first six hours of her life), they ran blood work which showed high C-reactive protein levels, but they were never able to determine what caused the infection due to the course of the antibiotics LB and I  shared for the group B strep.  We were dismayed to learn that our seemingly healthy little girl would have to stay an entire week getting IV antibiotics every twelve hours.  During her stay she had to endure four separate IV starts with multiple sticks to get a vein, and it wasn’t until the day before discharge that a lactation consultant suggested a hep lock as she was nursing enough to not need the IV nutrients, but they were keeping her on the lowest dose to keep the vein open for the IV antibiotics she was getting every twelve hours.

However, spending so much time in the NICU helped put everything into perspective.  Sure it sucked to have a wired baby and to have to stay in the hospital, but LB’s neighbor weighed two pounds and was in an isolette.  Her mom couldn’t even touch her for more than a few minutes because it overstimulated her, and here we were able to hold LB as much as we wanted.

I was discharged on Saturday night. Fortunately the hospital has sleep rooms so I could be close enough to nurse her without having to camp in the NICU.  Unfortunately the accommodations are worse than dorm rooms as most don’t even have windows.  The walls are paper thin, and three rooms share one full bathroom.  My room did have windows overlooking the roof, but I would spend most of the day at home because at least one of the other two couples were loud and dirty.

On Tuesday we were transferred to a transition room in the NICU. The transition rooms are just like the mother/baby rooms except they have a futon and a chair rather than the hospital bed and banquette sleeper. The chair opens into a chaise, but my husband said not even the Thermarest could make it bearable. The futon was a single so LB and I stayed in the hospital while my honey went home and got everything ready for us as well as keeping me fed.

With our NICU stay we had to complete a laundry list of items including taking a quiz and watching a couple of DVDs; we also had to bring her carseat to her room for inspection.  This seemed ridiculous because we had a huge convertible carseat rather than a baby bucket.  Our inspection deemed our carseat too large so my honey had to scramble and find another carseat (it ended up needing lots of cleaning after spending a couple of years in storage, but at least it was free).  This was really irksome (aside from the hassle my husband endured) because our seat was rated for 5-65 lbs (with a rear to front conversion somewhere around 30lbs), and LB was a bit over 8.5lbs and 22″ the day of the inspection so it should have easily adjusted to fit her.

After a week in the hospital, it seemed miraculous to be able to sit on the couch and nurse LB rather than sit on the couch and pump for LB.  Being able to sleep and snuggle in bed with her just made me cry tears of joy and gratitude.  Picking her up and not having to worry about tangling any of her monitor wires was bliss.

Almost six months later, she’s off the charts for her height, and her weight is normal.  She has a dazzling smile that greets me every day when I return home on my lunch break to nurse her.  She shrieks in delight at the dryer door, the remote control, and the lamp in her room; the cats and dog also provide many giggles, and she enjoys sleeping at night.

I feel blessed to have such a daughter and husband and family and friends.

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One Response to “Blessed”

  1. Beth said

    I’m sorry to be so late commenting, but wanted to say thank you for writing this. As you say, the important thing is that LB is now thriving and healthy and happy—indeed, you have much to be thankful for. Good for you for holding out for an unmedicated birth. I did the same for both of my children, and I never regretted it. Sure, it hurt like hell (a whole other dimension of pain!) and I would NEVER criticize anyone for choosing otherwise, but for me, it was the right choice.

    I’m so happy for you, your husband, and little LB. Thanks again for sharing your story.

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