Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kate: A Birth Story, Part IV

I'm telling my birth story this week. Part I herePart II here. Part III here.

Jay had been bugging me for a couple months to make a playlist of songs to listen to during labor, but I never got around to it.  Mostly because I was unsure what type of music I'd be wanting--something upbeat to pump me up like Eye of the Tiger?  Something cultured that I wouldn't be embarrassed of listening to in front of a doctor, like Albinoni's Adagio in G minor?  Or something super emotional like Adele's Someone Like You or Journey's Open Arms?  In the end, I never did make a playlist, but while the nurses were getting everything ready, he asked me what music I wanted to listen to.  I wanted something calm and beautiful, so I asked Jay to turn on a Josh Groban mix.  

{Our matching wristbands that proved Kate belonged to us}

One thing I'd been nervous about from the hospital tour we'd taken was the "spot lights" that were mounted in the ceiling, aimed right at the bed I'd be laboring on.  Thankfully, Amy left those off, as well as most of the other lights in the room.  It was cool and dark and filled with the dulcet tones of Josh Groban's voice.  Amy got everything ready, and Jay stood at my side holding one of my legs.  He brought me water and ice chips between my contractions to cool my feverish mouth.  

I still felt sick and worried about pushing, but after that first push, adrenaline took over and I was in the zone--I was so focused on my body and what it was doing that I no longer felt the discomfort of illness.  I watched my progress in a mirror (which I thought might be weird but mostly wasn't) and was as surprised as Jay to see that our baby had hair.  

{Jay giving Kate her first bath}

I've heard some people have problems knowing how to push when they have an epidural, but that wasn't the case for me.  I could feel the contractions in my pelvis (though not in my stomach) when the baby's head pushed down, so I knew when to push, and I instinctively knew what to do to push her out.  I felt very in tune with my body.  I remember thinking, "This is what my body was made for.  This is what I was made to do."  

I will never forget the way Jay looked at me as I labored to push our child into the world, his eyes soft and shining, his expression awed.  I could clearly see how much he loved me, how much he appreciated my efforts, how much he was impressed by my strength.  No one has ever looked at me like that before, like I was the most amazing person on earth.  

{Brand new, sleepy Kate}

I started pushing at 10:45, and Kate was born at 11:05 in a burst of unbelievable pressure and a slippery slurping gush as her body followed.  

I wasn't aware of much at that point, but I cried out at the strangeness of the feeling, the release and then the emptiness.  I watched through half-lidded eyes as Amy yanked the black cord over my baby's head even before she was fully out of me.  She quickly tied some things off and handed some scissors to Jay to cut the cord.  "Hurry," she said.  

I briefly saw my baby lying there beneath me; she was floppy and still.  I didn't understand what was going on when they handed my new, slippery baby to the nurse to be cleaned up.  I wanted to hold her close, to rub at the downy vernix with my fingertips, to share our moment of exhaustion and triumph, bruised and bloody.  

{Ten toes}

As they rubbed her vigorously with a towel under a warming light, my baby let out a little mewl and started waving her arms.  A split-second later, two people with wheelie carts burst into the room.  "We're here for the baby.  From NICU," one nurse said breathlessly.  

What? I thought.  NICU??  

But the nurse holding my baby said, "Actually... I think she's okay."  

They turned and left, still empty-handed, and my heart started beating again.

Apparently the cord had been wrapped twice--tightly--around Kate's neck.  Amy had felt that something was slowing the baby's descent (I thought 20 minutes of pushing was pretty quick, but I guess Amy expected it to be shorter), but she thought the baby's hand was just up by her face.  As soon as she saw the cord, she acted quickly.  We never heard the nurses call for backup.  

I sat on my bed as Amy pulled out the placenta (a second, smaller birth) and worked to clean me up.  Despite a few small abrasions, I didn't end up needing stitches.  I had to watch as they weighed my baby, took her temperature, measured her head.  I wanted to yell at them, to tell them I wanted to hold her, that she was mine.  Jay stood guardian, hovering and snapping pictures.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kate: A Birth Story, Part III

I'm telling my birth story this week. Part I here. Part II here.

The night nurse arrived, and she was wonderful.  I was her only patient, and she gave me her complete attention.  She woke me every 45 minutes or so to have me turn over.  After about an hour of blissful sleep, I started feeling ill, overcome by an achy, feverish malaise, likely brought on by infection since my water had been broken so long.  She took my temperature: 99.5.  "If it gets above 100.4," she said, "we'll put you on antibiotics and Tylenol."  

{Cleaned up}

I drifted back to sleep.  My nurse, Johann, soon wondered if I was ready to push, and she called for Amy to come in and check me.  I was at a seven.  Since it had been two hours since the epidural and I'd only progressed one centimeter, Amy suggested pitocin to speed things along.  I didn't care--I didn't care about anything at that point except sleep.  Amy left, promising she'd return in another two hours.  

I slept, my feeling of general illness increasing as time went on.  Jay thought I was losing it because I asked my long-suffering nurse to take my temperature at least 30 times over the next couple hours.  The highest it ever got was 99.9, but I felt so sick I could hardly stand it. She brought me Tylenol, and I slept more.  

I was relieved to find that I could still move my legs. I didn't have the strength to lift them or to turn myself over, but I could clench and unclench my calf muscles (which I did almost compulsively) and move my legs and feet to shift my position.  I didn't feel the pain anymore, and I didn't feel the paralysis I'd been so afraid of.

{My hospital "jewelry"}

At around 10:00, I could feel pressure low in my pelvis with each contraction.  I knew the baby was probably close, but I didn't care--I felt ill and just wanted to sleep.  I couldn't imagine trying to push a baby out while feeling so awful.  Jay had started watching the monitors and was getting anxious because the baby's vitals weren't doing as well as they were previously.  He didn't tell me this, but he started pushing for the midwife to come in.  I was shaking uncontrollably and still felt achy and feverish.  I could see worry in his eyes, but I was too exhausted to care about anyone but myself.

In my delirious state, despite my apathy, I kept hoping my baby would be born before midnight. Not because I wanted to be done, but because I wanted her birthday to be on the 24th. Call me crazy, but I come from a family of numbers nerds, and I've always liked even numbers the best: 2/24/12 sounded so much cooler to me than 2/25/12--especially since 2x12=24 and they're all divisible by two. 

Amy came back at 10:30.  "You're at a 10 and plus two," she said--the baby's head had already started to descend past the cervix.  "It's time to push." 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kate: A Birth Story, Part II

I'm telling my birth story this week. Read Part I here.

The next several hours are a blur.  I remember walking over to the hospital, giving my entire health history to a nurse, getting a saline lock (ouch), putting on a hospital gown, and finally seeing Jay (they don't let husbands back during the health history in case they're abusive nut jobs).  

{Calling Mom to give her the update shortly after being admitted}

One of the things I loved about working with Amy was that she allowed things to progress on their own and didn't preemptively put me on pitocin.  As long as I wasn't taking any drugs, I didn't have to be hooked up to the IV pole and the baby only had to be monitored for 15 minutes every hour or so, so Jay and I spent some time walking the halls.  I also used a birthing ball and the rocking chair in my room to help ease the pain.  I found the rocking soothing as the contractions came with increasing intensity, locking my muscles from my chest to my knees.

{on the birthing ball}

Labor and delivery was really hopping that day, and due to a couple complicated births, we didn't see the nurse or the midwife for a few hours.  When the nurses started making rounds again (we were only supposed to have one but ended up seeing three during the day shift), I started asking for Amy.  I was in some pain, and I wanted to know if my labor had progressed enough that I could get an epidural.  

When she finally came in around 4:30 pm, she talked me through my epidural fears (I'm not too afraid of needles; I am afraid of not feeling or being in control of my body) and checked my cervix.  "You're dilated to a four," she said.  "You're in active labor, and I think now would be a great time to get an epidural.  I know a two to a four doesn't sound like a lot of progress, but it is, and the rest will go much faster."  Relieved, I asked to get the ball rolling on the epidural.  Since I wasn't connected to an IV and had been drinking my own water (and eating my own snacks, too, that I guiltily hid every time a nurse walked in even though the midwife was okay with it), I had to wait for the epidural until they pumped a liter or two of fluid in me through IV.  

As I waited for the nurse, Jay tried to distract me with another round of Stone Age.  After several turns, I became increasingly distracted and unable to focus.  When Jay reminded me, yet again, that it was my turn, I snapped.  "I can't focus on anything!" I said.  "I can't even... can't even think!  It's all I can do to get through these contractions!"  I rolled onto my side, curled into the fetal position, and gripped the bedrail, my knuckles white and my breathing heavy.  I don't know how long I lay like that; it felt like forever but was probably about 30 minutes.  

{7 lbs 11 oz)

Finally (finally!) the nurse came in and hooked me up to the IV.  Amy came back in around 20 minutes later and stopped short.  "You don't have your epidural yet?"  And just then, the anesthesiologist wheeled her cart into the room.  "I'll be back in a few minutes," Amy said.  I looked at the clock: it was 6:00--an hour and a half after I was supposed to get the IV.  

I had been nervous about the epidural, but I was so worn out from pain and 16 hours of labor that I didn't really care anymore.  Jay sat near the bed and held onto my foot as I buried my face in the nurse's shoulder while I got the injections.  "Uncomfortable" is not a strong enough word to describe the experience--it was a different kind of pain than I'd ever felt before--an intense pressure radiating from my back to my hips.  I breathed as deeply as I could and hung on, knowing it would be worth it.

{Asleep the next morning}

And it was.  I would finally be able to sleep for the first time since 2:30 that morning.  But first, Amy returned and checked me again, passing the anesthesiologist on her way in.  "Six," she said, surprised.  "You went from a four to a six in an hour and a half."  She told me to get some rest, and I gratefully, finally, took a nap.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kate: A Birth Story, Part I

In honor of Kate's birth anniversary, I decided to post her "birth story." I wrote it months ago but debated whether I wanted to post it since it's intensely personal and somewhat graphic, but I decided to go for it because I love reading others'.  If words like "placenta," "crowning," or "slimy" make you squeamish, I suggest you read this instead.

Since the finished product is ridiculously long, I've split it into five parts and will be posting them this week. 

Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

{Holding sweet Kate for the first time}

At my first prenatal doctor appointment, my OB looked at my projected due date--February 26th--and said, "that's my 12th anniversary!"  A few months later, she informed me that she and her husband were going to NYC for five days. Being the control freak that I am, I told her I was uncomfortable with the thought of seeing an on-call doctor I'd never met and asked if I could have the practice's midwives cover my call if my doctor was unavailable.  Thankfully, the arrangements were made, and I was able to meet each of the four midwives and discuss my plans and concerns with them.  They were all incredibly supportive.  I think my doctor would have liked to induce me before she left town so she could deliver my baby, but I really wanted to go into labor on my own.  As time went on, though, I became convinced that I was going to go past my due date, and I made plans with my doctor to be induced the Thursday or Friday after my due date if the baby hadn't come already. 

Turns out I needn't have worried; Kate decided to make her debut on what was supposed to be my last day of work before maternity leave. 


I woke up at 2:30 AM fighting the urge to go to the bathroom.  That pretty much typified my last month or so of pregnancy: I'd wake up between two and five AM a few times and try to ignore my protesting bladder and go back to sleep (if I get up, it's hard for me to fall asleep again).  I usually gave in and got up at least once, but it didn't keep me from trying.  

This time, though, I felt...wet.  And as that registered, I became aware that I was still in the process of losing some fluid.  I didn't know what was going on, but I "knew" my water hadn't broken because they said in birthing class that only 10-20% of women experience spontaneous rupturing of the amniotic sac before they go to the hospital.  So I grumbled a bit but got up.  Once I was in the bathroom, I was suddenly overcome with extreme nausea and some intestinal distress.  I'd heard the body sometimes "cleanses" itself before labor begins, but I was still in denial, so I figured the nausea was secondary to anxiety--my brain thought I might be in labor, which freaked it out, hence nausea (sounds crazy, but stuff like that happens to me sometimes).  

{Kate sleeping in her little bassinet} 

After getting things mostly under control, I went back to bed.  My nausea finally went away after an hour or so, but my contractions were strong enough and I felt crappy enough that I couldn't sleep.  After about my fourth bathroom trip, Jay asked what was going on and I finally admitted (to him and to myself) that I might be in labor and that my water might have broken ("but probably  not--it was probably just something else--I don't think it really did--but it might have.").  

I've received advice from friends, doctors, and books that if labor begins in the middle of the night, you should try and go back to sleep because you have a long day ahead of you.  To them, all I can say is "Ha."  I lay in bed for about four more hours, but sleep eluded me.  The fact that the contractions had wrapped around my middle and made my back ache may have had something to do with that.  I finally climbed out of bed and took a shower and ate a couple pieces of toast.  Jay loaded the car with our hospital bag and gathered the things we hadn't been able to pack in advance.  

It was six o'clock in the morning, and my remaining nesting instincts kicked into gear.  Since this baby was coming earlier than I'd expected, my house was not as clean as I wanted, and I  started toward the kitchen.  Jay, on the other hand, was not in a cleaning mood--he wanted to play a game while we waited.  Somehow sensing, though, that it would look bad if he sat around while his laboring wife cleaned the house, he gamely started doing the dishes, insisted I stay on the couch, and we played a game (Stone Age) online while he scrubbed.

{Yes, I felt just as bloated and uncomfortable as I look.  And, yes, I did wear those very clothes to the doctor's office and hospital.  Nothing else fit.}

I called Amy, the on-call midwife, at around 7:30.  At first, she told me to go to the hospital, but after reminding her I was one of their patients, she said since it didn't sound like I was in a lot of pain, I could just come see her once the clinic opened and she'd check me.  Jay and I waited a couple hours (I trounced him at our game), and then headed to the doctor.  

As we waited in the exam room (for at least 45 minutes), Jay read his book and I breathed through my intensifying contractions while trying to sleep on his shoulder.  Amy came in, gloved up, and told me that based on what I'd told her, she didn't think my water had broken, but she'd check it out.  

"Looks like I was wrong," she said.  "Your water definitely broke, and you're dilated to a two.  I think we should go ahead and admit you to the hospital.  You're going to have this baby today."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Growing Up Christmas

These pictures were taken on Christmas Eve. We had a lovely family gathering at my cousin Jana's house. I got a strange feeling seeing all my cousins' little kids running around--it made me flash back to not so long ago when it was us playing together and nearly trembling with excitement to see what the morning would bring. Sometimes it seems my life could be summarized by the Christmases I've lived. I wonder what it would be like to string them together and live them all in succession.

There was the year when I was just over one. I don't remember it, but my parents fondly relate how I proudly hung a dozen silk-wrapped ornaments all on the same low branch.

I remember a Christmas morning at my grandma's large house: her 12-foot Christmas tree covered in glowing lights, my mom's siblings sitting on long couches in robes, feeling like it took forever between my "turns" opening gifts in the sequence of youngest to oldest. Santa brought me a little shopping cart that year, and I pushed it around impatiently as my grandma meticulously collected the discarded wrappings in a large black sack.

We lived in a small house on Jarvis Avenue in San Jose, and we woke up one Christmas to a large plastic playhouse, complete with a blue slide, in our family room. I'm not sure if it was the same year, but I remember watching proudly as my sister opened the little gift I'd bought her at my school store: a pencil with a large red Clifford eraser on it.

One year, my little brother Steven, who lived in a chronic state of hypochondriasis, told us frequently even before December that he was going to be sick on Christmas. Sure enough, he was. That may have happened a couple years in a row. He hailed himself a prophet; the rest of us agreed, but of the self-fulfilling variety.

We rounded the corner into the living room and were confronted with a 7+ foot tall inflatable tyrannosaurus rex. Steven was thrilled, and my parents were pleased my dad's lightheadedness and spent lungs weren't for nothing.

I knelt in front of a modest Christmas tree one Christmas Eve on my mission and desperately prayed. I awoke the next morning filled with light and love, peace and hope--the best Christmas gift I've ever received.

Now that I've experienced 29 Christmases, it's hard to separate the swirl of memories into specific years. It's growing difficult to remember specifics at all. But replacing crisp-edged memories of that magical time in December is an overarching feeling of warmth, of love, of fun, and of family.

How much life can change in a year! Kate is so big with her little barrette, her two teeth, her jabbering, and her interest in toys.

But still, how much life stays the same--a string of Christmases filled with light.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sickies Uncensored

{I took some pictures to accompany this blog post. They are true to today. No attempt has been made to dress Kate up like a Gap model or hide her toy mess. Extra points if you can spot the Sharpie, the runny nose, the unsnapped shirt she's been wearing since yesterday, and the awesomely messy hair.}

We have the plague at our house. Yesterday afternoon Jay and I lay in bed with Kate rolling between us like a squirmy puppy, her inexplicable energy augmenting our exhaustion. Our trashcans, toilet bowls, and nightstands are filled with mountains of tissues. We wheeze, we sneeze. Noses flow, noses blow.

Why is it when I'm sick that I feel the most guilt? Guilt that my house is a mess. Guilt that my baby is rolling around on the floor, jabbering between hacking coughs, playing with a (capped, for now) permanent marker that I don't want to take from her because right now she's happy and I DON'T WANT TO MESS THAT UP. Guilt that I can't exercise (since when do I exercise?). Guilt that I don't want to cook. Guilt that, "oh, I should call that friend I've been meaning to help, but wait--I can't because now I'm sick and don't want to infect her kids."

Yesterday I forced myself to do dishes, fold laundry, go through papers, and finally crochet sitting in bed while watching The Bachelor (because OMG that Tierra is such a hot mess). Later, Jay watched Kate and made breadsticks (because he is that kind of man) while I went to Winco and bought almost everything on my list, plus some random items like Oreos and bubbles and three different kinds of tissues and about 500 things of Tillamook yogurt since it's on sale. I felt like Zombie Woman in the grocery store because I'd catch myself staring at things until I snapped out of it and wondered how long I'd been standing there: flaxseed in the bulk section. Pomelos in the produce section. A scary guy with a Playboy bunny tattooed on his face standing next to the pomelos.

I wouldn't have braved the grocery store at all except that poor Kate has been eating the same four things (oatmeal, cheerios, peas, sweet potatoes, and sometimes bits of our food) for every meal the past five days--the child NEEDED bananas.  (MORE GUILT--this is why I went to the store.)

So now it's all worth it, because as I'm writing this, cozied up on the couch with my tissue box and wearing my baggiest, saggiest jeans with tube socks and an old white windbreaker (you're welcome for that mental image), Kate is stuffing her face with bananas and strawberries (okay, and Cheerios). I just fed her a bowlful of freshly pureed peas (she eats those much better than regular peas), and I feel like I'm doing right by my baby when I provide her with a variety of healthy foods.

{Kate scoots all the time now--she has the cutest little army crawl. As soon as I pulled out the camera, she was on her way over to me. She'll follow me around the downstairs when I'm out of her sight--I love it.}

Except now I'm wondering if maybe I should cut back on the fruit because as I'm writing this, Kate is pooping for the THIRD TIME TODAY. And it's only 12:30. Saints preserve us.

{And you wouldn't even know from looking at these pictures (other than the tell-tale snot) that she's sick, would you? Despite being a bit more whiny and fragile, she's really quite the cheerful sickie.}