Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Birth Story

I went to a St. Paddy's Day party this past Saturday and saw some friends I used to work with. The friends I worked with when I lost the baby. Who covered my classes, wrote lesson plans, found ways for me to get paid for the sick days even though I had used up my allotment for the year, who packed up my room when I had the second loss and missed the end of the school year, who still invite me to all their events even though I haven't worked with them in two years. They are truly wonderful people. The best people I've ever worked with. Why oh why did I leave that job?

But that's not what this post is about. I mention the party because they asked me about the birth and as I was telling the story I realized I'm already forgetting things. Greg corrected me a couple of times or added things I had COMPLETELY forgotten (which is probably for the best). So before I forget all the gory details, I shall attempt to get the story down for posterity's sake.

I had Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks before I gave birth. We even ended up in Labor and Delivery twice because they were so frequent. They weren't really painful, just uncomfortable. So on Christmas Eve, when they went from uncomfortable to painful, I didn't think TOO much of it. I had been running around all day getting ready for Christmas - wrapping presents, baking, doing laundry. I thought I was just overdoing it. I just needed to drink a bunch of water and get off my feet. But when we went to my parents house for dinner, I started keeping my eye on the clock and told the husband not to drink too much just in case. As the night went on, they got more painful and more regular, but I think I was in denial. I kept saying, "I'm sure this isn't it." My family told me afterwards that they could tell that I was actually in pain and that this WAS in fact it. While we were opening presents, I felt like I was in a fog. I kept having to stop and concentrate to get through them. I even had my sister in law do a little trim on my hair. I joked that if I was going to have my baby that night, I wanted my hair to look good in the pictures. I guess I am just THAT vain. And actually, after 32 hours of labor, the only thing that looked good in the pictures was my baby and my hair. But I am jumping ahead...

When Greg and I got home and I decided to call Labor and Delivery because the contractions were 5 to 6 minutes apart. They told me that since my water hadn't broken and I hadn't lost the plug to just stay at home for the time being - take a shower, try to sleep, etc. I did take a shower and I tried to sleep but I couldn't. The pain was too bad. It got progressively worse and worse. When they were about 4 minutes apart, I decided we were going in. By this time, it was 6 o'clock in the morning on Christmas Day. We were so excited because we were going to get a baby for Christmas!

At this point, the contractions were really starting to hurt. Not just hurt, but HURT. I was SURE they would check me right in and out would come a baby a couple of hours later. Ha. The triage nurse checked me and said I was only 1 and a half centimeters dilated!!! I was like....EXCUSE ME? Even though I had lost my plug in the bathroom while changing in to the hospital gown (which, by the way was GUH-ROSS - the plug, not the gown), she was about to send me home or out for a walk. But then I felt a whole bunch of wetness in the nether-region. She checked me and said "Well, your water broke, that's your ticket in." Woo hoo! Again, I was SURE that now that my water had broken, things would start moving along and we would have a baby in a few hours. Ha.

Now let me stop here and say that I didn't really have a birth plan. The only thing I cared about was having a live baby. That was the plan. However that could be accomplished was okay with me. But I did have this feeling like I wanted to go natural as long as I could. I never said I would definitely NOT get an epidural, I never said that I felt that using drugs in labor was EVIL or anything. But I did say I would try to go as long as I could without them. I just felt like, natural childbirth is NATURAL. That's the way women have done it for thousands of years. If they can do it, I can do it. I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, went to the birthing classes, bought a birthing ball. I was ready to give natural childbirth the old college try. Ha.

Approximately 1 hour after checking into our room, I asked for Fentanyl. I didn't want to do the epidural yet because I still wanted to be able to get up. But I was so friggin tired and the pain was keeping me from sleeping. So I thought, one shot of this stuff, I'll sleep a little and then we'll finish up. Let's just say I told myself this THREE times and never got to sleep. The Fentanyl helped dull the pain a LITTLE. All the while, I was doing my breathing and attempting the relaxation techniques, trying different positions, the husband was holding my hand, massaging my back - we were doing all the things we had learned. And I was doing okay.

Then came this hour period (my husband will say it was 10 minutes) of contraction after contraction. NO breaks in between. It was pretty awful. Let's just say this is when I asked (begged) for the epidural. Me, the person who used to pass out in the waiting room before having a blood test, asked someone to stick a needle in my spine (and didn't even flinch when they did it by the way). When the epidural had taken effect, I turned to Greg and said - and WHY did I wait so long to get this? Before the epidural - bad. After the epidural - good. So no more natural childbirth.

They checked me again after the epidural was started. I was only THREE centimeters dilated. It was noon on Christmas, I had been in labor for 20 hours and I was only dilated three centimeters! But I still thought I would have a baby for Christmas. I mean, how could I not right? Ha.

So the next 12 hours are a bit of a blur. They put an oxygen mask on me when the baby's heart rate dropped. They tried pitocin to move things along and then stopped it when the baby's heart rate dropped. There were a few scary moments when my nurses rushed in to move me around when the baby's heart rate dropped for no apparent reason. It always went right back up and they told me not to worry, that lots of babies do this. Not worry? Yeah right. I had my eyes on the monitor ALL DAY. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't pay attention to the TV (we brought some West Wing DVDs). I didn't freak out or vocalize my fears, but I was definitely nervous. I kept thinking - I can't have made it this far to lose him now.

Around 10pm (we had just about given up on having the baby for Christmas), my nurse told me it was time to push. Yay! After 30 hours of labor, I finally got to DO something and the end was near! It was my nurse, Greg and me. They held my legs. I pushed. I felt great. Things were progressing. Greg even got to take a peek at the top of his head starting to show through. The epidural made me comfortable but I could still feel the contractions so I knew when to push. My nurse was fabulous. She and Greg were cheering me along and supporting me. This was the best hour of the whole labor experience.

And then it all went bad. The monitor starting beeping LOUDLY. HIs heart rate was dropping again. Only really low this time. The doors bursts open and doctors and nurses rush in. They turned on all the lights. They all stood at the foot of the bed and around me, pushing my legs back, telling me to push the hardest I ever pushed. I'm thinking, I HAVE BEEN. I could hear the monitor beeping this whole time and it was the worst sound - like a knife in my heart. The doctor decided to try to vaccuum him out. I had to push while she was doing this. I officially started to lose it at this point. I was crying and pushing and praying. I kept looking at Greg and he was so calm. Telling me I'm doing great, its going to be okay. He kept me from have a total breakdown. Because I just really started to feel like, it wasn't going to happen. For nine months I had kept the fear at bay, focused on the positive, slowly but surely relaxed and let my guard down a bit and now, at the very end, something scary was happening. Something was going wrong. Again. And I was so afraid of losing him. It was a truly horrible few minutes.

At some point, his heart rate stabilized. I can't remember when. It may have been before the doctor told me she thought we needed to do a c-section or after. But I VIVIDLY remember saying "Do whatever you have to do to get my baby out alive." And I kept asking one of the nurses 'Is he okay now?" Since the danger had past, they probably thought I was being a bit dramatic. But I was done waiting and trying to remain calm and feeling scared. I just wanted him OUT.

The c-section was a bit of a blur too. Mind you, I had been awake for over 48 hours at this point. But I do know that I did NOT like it. No duh right? I mean, it was worth it. I'd do it again. I'd do it a hundred more times. I would have done ANYTHING to get my baby out and into my arms. But, honestly, I found it very disturbing. The whole being awake while your opened up thing. Especially after Greg and the baby left and they were finishing me up. I felt very alone. And nauseous. And cold. And scared. They had to bring in a second surgeon to help. Apparently they thought they nicked my bladder and there was "lots of cleaning up to do." I could hear them talking behind the drape but they weren't telling me anything directly so I was scared. Afterwards when I was in recovery the doctor told me that "this was not your average c-section." Awesome. She said that because I had been in labor for so long (over 30 hours) and the baby had started to descend into the birth canal, it was harder to get him out and clean me up.

But now let's backtrack to the good stuff. The moment I will never forget. I heard him cry before I actually saw him. He cried as soon as they got him out. The most wonderful sound I have ever heard. I remember thinking - that's a good strong cry. HE'S OKAY. He's alive. WE MADE IT.

A nurse swept him up and past me over to a table. They asked Greg what his name was and he said we didn't know yet. He looked over at me like "Well?", but he knew what name I really wanted. We had gone in with two or three possibilities, but wanted to wait to decide until we saw the baby. He told me he looked at the baby, saw his red cheeks and his angry-looking little face (I'd be angry too after what he went through to get out of there) and knew that Finley was perfect.

They measured and weighed him. I remember thinking - 6 pounds 15 ounces? That's not very big. I gained 50 pounds and he measured big at every ultrasound AND after trying to vacuum him out, the doctor said she thought maybe he was too big to come out that way. Hence the c-section. Obviously this was not the case. They told me later that he was sunny side up and after 30 hours of labor he was probably just too tired to get out that way. This also explains the HORRENDOUS back labor I had.

They wrapped him up and brought him over to me. He was so adorable. His face was all squished and red. He did look like a cute little angry Irishman. I got to touch his cheeks and tell him that he was beautiful and that I loved him. I just felt such wonder. I was looking at MY baby. It was surreal. And amazing. Not amazing like, "your new hair cut is amazing" or "this lasagna is amazing." But amazing like, nothing in my life can ever match this moment. Amazing like, this beautiful little person was just inside of me and now here he is looking at me. Unfortunately, I also felt terribly nauseous and was thinking to myself - don't puke on your baby. Just don't puke on the baby. After a few minutes they said they had to take him to the nursery. It took a few hours to get me finished up, into recovery, and then to our room. Our nurse said we could leave the baby in the nursery so we could get some sleep, but there was no way we weren't having him with us. I had only gotten a few moments with him in the three hours since he had been born and I needed him with me.

***Okay, I started writing this post a month ago and finally came back to finish it. And after re-reading it, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I feel like maybe I was focusing the story too much on how hard it was. But I mean, who really cares about how hard it was getting him here? Yes, 32 hours of labor was hard. Yes, there were scary moments. No, having a c-section was not ideal. I would much rather have pushed him out and had him immediately placed on my chest with Greg standing next to us for a beautiful, calm, non-puky, family bonding moment. But that's not how it turned out. Such is life. The whole three year process of trying to have a baby was hard. The pregnancy was hard. Birthing him was hard. Life can be difficult. But so what? He is here. He is healthy and beautiful. And I am very aware that some people don't have that. Some people are still where I was a year ago. Some people would do anything to get to have 32 hours of labor and a c-section. That's how I felt a year ago. The hard stuff about the birth is the stuff I had trouble remembering and for some reason felt the need to get down on paper before I forgot it. The wonderful moments like hearing him cry and seeing him for the first time are burned in my memory. Those are mental pictures and sounds that I will never forget.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

This Year is Different

So Sunday was March 7. Three years ago on that date, I terminated my pregnancy. My baby girl died on March 7. She had anencephaly, no chance at life outside my womb. The week that we found out our baby's diagnosis, made our choice and lost her was the worst week of my life. I had never known such a loss, such sadness or experienced such grief before. March 7, 2007 marked the beginning of a very difficult period in my life. That loss would be followed by difficulty getting pregnant again, a second loss, more difficulty getting pregnant and then trying to conceive through fertility treatments. Those experiences changed me. Who I was and how I looked at the world shifted.

And I pretty much felt like shit for about 3 years. I mean, I was able to function quite well - continue working, take a vacation here and there, see friends, even celebrate the births of many of my friends' babies. I went to baby showers and kid birthday parties, I enjoyed the holidays with my family, I loved to sit in the sun and read, my husband and I worked on our house and the backyard.....I feel like I kept on living. I mean, what was the alternative? Curl up into a ball and cry for three years? Become bitter and angry, withdraw from the people who loved me? No. I was determined not to do those things. But there was a hole in my heart and a sadness in my being that was always there. Even when I felt pretty okay. Something was missing from my life - the baby that I lost and the baby I still wanted so badly - and that was always present. It wasn't necessarily always at the forefront of my mind, but it was always lurking in the background. Always with me. Even when I got pregnant with my son. The fear of losing him too was always present. Every milestone was surreal. I was cautious and careful with my heart. And while I slowly but surely allowed myself to enjoy moments of my pregnancy, not until I heard him cry after they took him out of me could I breathe deeply and let go of that fear.

And I don't think I truly appreciated what I was feeling and how I made my way through life before until after my son was born. You know how you never know how bad you really felt until you feel better? And actually, I think its more that I wasn't really FEELING. Not completely anyway. I wasn't miserable all the time, I just wasn't ever truly happy. I felt grey. Sometimes just a little grey and sometimes very grey, but definitely grey. And now the color is back. Having my son fills me with joy and brings me peace.

That doesn't mean I have forgotten how we got here. Or what we lost along the way. I still cried on Sunday for my baby girl. I thought about her all day. But its different this year. I cried and then looked at my beautiful baby boy who has filled the hole in my heart. Who has put the color back in my life. And I could smile through the tears.

On the second morning we were in the hospital, the doctor who did rounds was the doctor who performed the D&E three years ago. I haven't seen her since then, but I recognized her name instantly. And she recognized me. She said she was so happy to see me under these circumstances. After she left, I broke down and sobbed. I mean I cried like I haven't cried for almost three years. Cried like I almost never do. Just sobbed and sobbed. I cried because I hadn't thought about my first baby once since my son had been born two days earlier. Not once until I saw the doctor. That made me feel guilty and free at the same time. Guilty because I always imagined that she would be on my mind right as he was born and the first times I looked at him - like I wanted her to be a part of it and not forgotten. But I also felt freed. Freed from the pain and sadness of the past three years. Free because I could cry and cry and cry for the baby I lost, but then I could go and pick up my son and feel such overwhelming love and joy. I could feel, really FEEL, both extremes. I feel like that doctor came to me that morning for a reason.

This year is different. Better. Better doesn't begin to describe it. I am so blessed and grateful.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tired in my bones.....

My son is two months old (last Friday). Which means I have have not had a good sleep for 2 months. And I'm really starting to feel it. I feel like an old woman. At the end of the day I ACHE. My back and my legs HURT. My bones ache. And since that can't be attributed to working out or doing excessive physical activity, I chalk it up to complete and total exhaustion. In a way, I've gotten used to the lack of sleep. I can function quite normally throughout the day. I just really feel it in my body. And see it on my face. Oh the luggage under my eyes. And my skin is pretty hurting as well. I swear I look 5 years older than before I had the baby.

So I think I have to figure out how to get the husband to take a night or early morning feeding. Don't get me wrong - he is more than willing. He seems to feel quite guilty that he has been able to sleep so well. Its just that because of the hyperlactation thing, pumping is sort of a no-no, so I have been the only one able to feed him (which, by the way, means that the longest stretch of sleep that I have had in 2 months is a little over 3 hours...). And his work schedule is so wacky, its hard to know which feeding to put him on. But I have to do something. I need to get a good stretch in here and there. Its time.

On the baby front, my son gets cuter by the day. I can't believe how quickly he grows and changes. Lots of smiles and coos - I just love sitting and talking to him. And he "talks" back! He is such a neat little guy. He loves to smile and laugh. And other times he just stares at me with this look that I don't quite know how to describe. It feels like he is looking into me so deeply, so intently. It seems like an older person's look. I just wonder WHAT is he thinking? Forgive the juvenile phrase, but being his mother, watching him grow....its the best thing ever.

Thankfully his tummy is better - only one or two bad episodes a day instead of 24 hour misery. Either he's growing into his digestive system or my dairy-free diet or a combination both is helping.

He had his two month doctor's appointment. Dr. L says he is perfectly healthy and gaining weight at a good pace. He weighs almost 10 and a half pounds - 25th percentile, he's a little fella. He also got his first shots. He did NOT like that - I mean, why would he right? He scuh-REAMED bloody murder for 10 minutes or so and then passed out. The nurses said things like "Isn't it so hard to hear him cry like that?" and "The mommies usually cry more than the baby." I think that was some sort of a remark because I did not cry. Don't get me wrong, I hated to see my little guy in pain, but I have heard him cry like that MANY TIMES. That kind of crying was upsetting like a month and a half ago.

So I feel like I'm starting to get the hang of things around here. We have good days and bad. But we seem to have more and more good ones. I am SO glad that I am not working. First of all, I just don't know how I would do it. Between the lack of sleep and the breastfeeding...I think it would push me over the edge. Second of all, I don't want to be away from him. I get to see everything he does. Hear all his new noises. Put him in the new outfits. Peek in and look at him while he takes a nap. Soothe him when he cries. He's growing so fast - I don't want to miss anything.

Well, I can miss an hour or two (or three or four) here and there.....for some me-time or some girl-time which I have finally gotten to enjoy and do TRULY enjoy. Pedicures never felt so wonderful. A Bloody Mary at brunch with some of my buddies never tasted so good. Grocery shopping was never so fun. The little things have taken on a whole new meaning.....