Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jayne: A Birth Story, Part IV

I'm sharing Jayne's birth story this week. 

We waited another 30 minutes or so for the blood work results. The anesthesiologist came right in and got the epidural going. I lay back and waited as the pain of the contractions was gradually swept away until only the intense pressure of them remained, and after about 20 minutes, my midwife broke my water.

She pushed on my distended midsection again and again, and when the gush ebbed to a seep, she eased off.

A few minutes later, and I was pushing. The midwife had stepped out, and the quirky nurse had checked me and determined all systems were go. "This baby's head is huge," she said, eyes wide. "I hope the skull will mold as you push her out, because that head is like a bowling ball."

It was shortly after these and other similar comments that this nurse was "called out" to assist on another birth and was replaced by the condescending nurse I'd had that morning. Jay is convinced the midwife had requested the change since we'd heard her berating the first nurse ["Don't tell patients their babies' heads are as big as bowling balls! What is wrong with you??"].

{This hospital opened in 2008, yet their maternity gowns look like they're from the darkest fashion era of the early '90's. Not sure I want to know why that is.}

The new nurse's manner was both obsequious and patronizing. She talked to me in a baby voice as she held up one of my legs and coached me through each contraction. I wanted to punch her.

I pushed for about 45 minutes, and the further down Jayne came, the more I realized the epidural wasn't completely effective. It had certainly dulled the contractions, but mostly stopped at about the level of my pelvis. I remember feeling anxious, wanting to get the baby out, but afraid of the tearing and pain. They told me to push harder, but I felt that if I used any more force I would throw up. My delivery was accompanied by two beautiful classical pieces played on Jay's phone on repeat (one was Adagio in G minor; I forget the other).

Finally, she was getting close. I gave a few more mighty heaves as a contraction ended, and I could feel Jayne's head crowning and that agonizing "ring of fire." I kicked my legs (epidural notwithstanding) and probably yelled, back arching, as we waited another two minutes for the next contraction.

It came. The nurse told me to curl my chin to my chest but I couldn't; I pushed Jayne into the world with my head thrown backward and a series of gutteral yelps.

The rest is hazy; Jay cut the cord, they wiped her off a bit, and they handed me this wet little human and placed her on my chest. It was 5:55 pm.

{Bath time. How my body housed that enormous baby is beyond me.}

I remember, when Kate was born, that adrenaline overtook my malaise and exhaustion, but I was not so lucky this time. My body felt wrong, uncomfortable. And while after Kate was born I longed to hold her as they assessed her, my arms ached with strain after mere moments of holding Jayne. I felt none of the relief I'd craved after delivery--my whole body ached and my head throbbed. Somehow, miraculously, I needed no stitches, but the tuggings and pinchings of the midwife were sharp.

At this hospital, they had separate nurses for the mothers and babies, and we waited nearly an hour before the baby nurses came in to weigh and measure Jayne. The midwife and the nurses who delivered me hung around the whole time to find out just how big Jayne was. They repeated several times, "That's a big baby. Big baby."

And she was. Even cradling her in my arms, she felt enormous. It turned out Jayne weighed at birth as much as Kate weighed at two months old: 9 lbs 6 oz. I watched as they bathed her and could not get past the sheer size of her: her round tummy and thigh rolls and double chin were marvels to me.

We stayed in the hospital barely 24 hours after she was born--despite Jayne's large size, she had no problems with blood sugar. My mom took Kate to St. George so that the baby wouldn't catch her illness, and Jay and I took care of Jayne ourselves the first few days. It was blissful and relaxing, and I think we surprised ourselves with how much more calm and competent we both felt this time around. I healed quickly, and Jayne slept frequently (during the day, at least).

{With Grandma. You can see the purple bruises on Jayne's cheeks.}

After Kate's birth, I remember feeling powerful for several days. I was in awe of my body, my strength, myself. After Jayne's birth, I felt worn and weak. Birth had been brutal for both of us; Jayne ruptured blood vessels in both of her eyes and had bruises on her cheeks from her traumatic entry into the world. But the baby in my arms was solid and real; she knew me--knew my voice and felt the familiarity of my skin--and I knew every curve of her.

Despite--or because of--the pain of delivery and the nine months of growing and stretching together, we belonged to each other.

Birth percentiles:
  • Length: 21 inches; 90-95th percentile
  • Weight: 9 lb 6 oz; >95th percentile

Jayne's stats at 3 days old:
  • Height: 20.3 inches; 83rd percentile
  • Weight: 8 lb 11 oz; 90th percentile
  • Head circumference: 36.3 cm; 96th percentile

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Jayne: A Birth Story, Part III

I'm sharing Jayne's birth story this week. 

{Completely spent.}

We announced ourselves at the window, our arms laden down with pillows and backpacks. The receptionist was the same CNA from earlier in the morning, and she told me they would take me back to triage while they transferred a patient and cleaned the room. She asked me to take a seat in a small consult room. She didn't ask me how far apart my contractions were or how intense my pain was or how long I'd been laboring.

And then we waited. We waited for 45 minutes. We listened to the nurses gossip at their station. I timed my contractions and gripped the arms of the chair. I was hesitant to ask Jay to go see what the hold up was or to make any demands because I was so afraid I'd throw a fit just to be told I was only at a four and be sneered at by a condescending nurse. I fervently wished I hadn't gone to the hospital earlier in the morning so that I could feel I had some credibility.

Finally, the CNA came to lead us back, not to triage (where I would have been checked and cared for, at least), but to a room. I had to stop just inside the ward doors as another contraction coiled iron rings around me. I made a weak joke as I stood there, my body so focused on the contraction there was no way I could move. The nurses at the station commented on our abundance of bags and pillows and someone said, "looks like you think you're going to get to stay." There was a note of patronizing doubt in her voice.

Finally in the room, the CNA instructed me, for the second time that day, to change into a gown and leave a urine sample. I went into the bathroom and immediately recoiled. Though the toilet had a strip of paper over it proclaiming it had just been cleaned, there were spots of urine, a smear of blood, and a hair on the seat. I asked the CNA to please get me a clorox wipe so I could wipe it down and change. "Oh, no; you shouldn't have to do that," she said. "I'll get housekeeping in here."

So I sat on the bed, my fingers threaded through the rails, enduring three more contractions in the 15 minutes I had to wait for housekeeping to arrive and clean the commode.

I finally changed and made my way back to the bed. My nurse had me stretch out on my back in the least comfortable position I could imagine while she checked me. She was quiet for a moment.

"You're at an eight--no, wait... a nine." She pulled back and eyed me in surprise. "You weren't wanting an epidural, were you?"

I informed her I absolutely was wanting an epidural and to please start pumping me full of water so I could get some blessed relief. "I'll be able to get the epidural in about 30 minutes, right?" I asked her. I tried to keep the desperation out of my voice.

"Oh, no," she said. "It will be much longer than that." At first I thought she was joking. 

She wasn't. "We need to get some blood work back first," she said.

{Sleeping the next morning} 

With only a shade of desperation in my voice, I asked, "And how long will that take?"

"At least an hour and a half. I'll tell them to rush it for you. I just passed the anesthesiologist in the hall, and he said with as far along as you are, he might catch the baby, but there's probably no way he'll give you an epidural." She chuckled. "All the girls at the station are talking about how they can't believe you came in at a nine."

[At this point in the story, I feel the need to say that I have nothing against nurses. I've known some fabulous nurses, both as friends and as professionals. But for some reason, my experiences that day with nurses in L&D and postpartum ranged from disappointingly mediocre to rage-inducingly sub-par. And can I also say that it's never a good sign to be talked about at the nurses' station. Anyway.]

I resignedly held out my arm to her while she went about inserting a line. It took her awhile to position it, and the "discomfort" was great enough it distracted me from my contractions. In a bad way. She started me on a saline drip and went about prepping my blood vials to send to the lab.

I didn't mind this nurse's personality; she was quirky and matter of fact (which I appreciated), but she had no bedside manner (which I did not). It took her 20 minutes to get the computer to create an order for my blood work. Twenty minutes of play-by-play ["It won't go through! The computer isn't working! I'm not sure what's going on. I'll go try another one. That one didn't work either! I can't create the lab order! I hate computers. I don't know what to do!"], and all the while I was lying there with a strained look of worried sympathy on my face, but in my mind I was screaming, "My cervix is NINE freaking centimeters dilated and every contraction feels like I'm being body slammed by three sumo wrestlers; just LIE TO ME and tell me you have it all under control!"

About 45 minutes later, my midwife arrived. She checked me and said, "You're still at a nine. You won't be at a ten until your water breaks. If you want, I can break your water right now and you'll be pushing in the next 15 minutes."

Cue the nurse telling me about how she pushed out all three of her babies sans epidural.

{Jayne had the thickest peach fuzz all over her body. Her hair was coppery, fluffy down.}

Jay looked at me with his eyebrows raised. "What do you think?" he asked.

I looked from him to the midwife.

"You know," she said, "you are handling these contractions remarkably well. You're very composed. Do you want to go for it?"

The nurse vigorously nodded her support. Jay said, "Well, you already made it this far..." And I started thinking about how I'd always toyed with the idea of doing an unmedicated birth. About how empowering it's supposed to be. How I always wondered if I'd be able to do it, and how nice it would be to just get this baby out NOW.

But instead, I laughed weakly. "You know, I have nothing to prove," I said. "I want the epidural."

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jayne: A Birth Story, Part II

I'm sharing Jayne's birth story this week. 
Part I
Part III
Part IV

{In the hospital waiting room}

Kate came two days early; Jayne came three days late. On the morning of August 19th, I lay half asleep in bed around seven in the morning when I felt a surge of wetness, not unlike the sensation I'd had when my water broke and labor initiated with Kate. My doctor had told me that if my water broke, I needed to go to the hospital right away because the polyhydramnios presented a risk of cord prolapse. So even though I wasn't sure my water had broken, we secured care for Kate and headed across the street to the hospital.

After a couple hours in triage, they determined my water hadn't broken, and I was cleared to go home (the nurse had the audacity to suggest that I had peed my pants, even when I insisted the sensation was completely different). All the while, though, my contractions were winding increasingly tighter and with consistent frequency. My back and thighs ached. I'd had an appointment with my midwife the day before, and I'd been dilated to a loose one and 60% effaced. That morning in the hospital, I was three centimeters and 90% effaced. The nurse attending me (who I really didn't care for) breezily discharged me with a sheaf of care instructions.

{Waiting for the epidural}

"How will I know when to come back?" I asked.

"When your contractions are consistently 5-10 minutes apart."

"And how far apart are they now?"

She consulted the long, curling readout and counted the distance between the steady, rounded rise and fall of contractions. "About six minutes."

I knew I was in labor, but I preferred to labor at home anyway, so I doffed my hospital robe and headed back to the car with Jay. We arrived home at around 10:30. All I really remember of the ensuing hours was increasing crankiness as I became increasingly uncomfortable. Finally, while Kate took a nap, Jay and I lay down. He curled behind me and slept as I willed my body to relax and breathed through my contractions.

{I'm pretty sure my abdomen was breaking at least two laws of physics.}

I was irrationally afraid of arriving at the hospital without having made any significant "progress," so I was determined to weather it out myself until I was absolutely certain they wouldn't send me home from the hospital again.

Finally, I told Jay I was ready to go. Not because I couldn't stand the pain--I was still managing it and could talk through my contractions with some effort--but because I was afraid that if I waited too much longer, the pain would become too great and I'd be that crazy pregnant lady screaming in the waiting room. We called Jay's cousin, and she headed over. After about five minutes, I realized I didn't want to wait the remaining 15 minutes of her drive, so I had a friend come over to sit for a few minutes while Kate napped until Jenna arrived, and Jay and I hopped in the car and drove across the street (seriously, it's less than a quarter mile away from our house--I used to walk to my doctor appointments) to the hospital. My mom began her two hour drive from St. George, and we walked in and made our way to the maternity ward.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jayne: A Birth Story, Part I

Since yesterday marked one year since Jayne's birth, I thought it would be a good time to post her birth story. I included all of [well, most of] the gory details, so feel free to skip this series if birth stories aren't your thing. I've broken it into four parts and will be posting them over the next few days.

Part II
Part III
Part IV

My poor, already neglected second child. I have a plethora of pregnancy posts from when I was expecting Kate (I just counted at least ten), and this baby barely got an announcement.

Just like with Kate, my morning sickness was minimal, but I was plagued by aching, bone-deep exhaustion. It lasted much longer this time around--until about 16 or 17 weeks. I wonder if it's because I'm not working full time and my body knew it could demand more rest.

Everything was similar to my first pregnancy: I started feeling movements right around 19 weeks again. I started "showing" at around the same time. I started feeling contractions around 24 weeks (last time, it was 28 weeks). For the most part, things were smooth and manageable.

Jayne was a very active baby. For the last couple months of my pregnancy, I had polyhydramnios, a condition characterized by excess amniotic fluid. I tend to get really big in pregnancy anyway, but all the extra fluid certainly didn't help matters. Additionally, Jayne seemed to have a lot of room to move around--my body acted as her own personal swimming pool--and she got stronger and stronger. Because of the polyhydramnios, I had to go in for weekly non stress tests, and Jayne's heart rate was always erratic because she was so active. At my first appointment, Jayne flipped and hiccuped and wiggled so much that the nurse couldn't get a baseline heart rate after 35 minutes, so she sent me to the hospital for prolonged monitoring. By the time I got there, Jayne was fine--in fact, she fell asleep and needed to be "woken up" before I could leave.

Since my body tolerates pregnancy fairly well, I was in no hurry to have my baby--my growing discomfort was still lesser than my fear of birth, of the fully immersive experience of parenting a newborn, of having two children. But, as it happened with Kate, I eventually hit the tipping point where "better in than out" turned to "better out than in," and I craved relief and deliverance through delivery.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Father's Day

{June 21, 2015}

These girls absolutely love their dad, as evidenced by these pre-church Father's Day snuggles.

 Of course, when church is from 1-4 and both of the girls still nap, it's less a religious experience and more a rodeo where we wrangle an obstinate child and a thrashing baby.

One o'clock church is the worst when you have little kids. The absolute worst. Jayne grabbed a quick snooze on our drive to Mar Mar's house for dinner. She was worn out from all the thrashing.

Jay's Aunt Marlene made the bulk of the dinner (it included steak, and it was delicious), but we were assigned dessert. Jay asked for key lime cheesecake. It was out of my comfort zone--I'd never made cheesecake before--but it turned out well.

That is, if you like cheesecake and key lime; I'm up in the air about both.

It can't always be easy to live with three girls, but Jay does it with aplomb. I have a slight edge in our daughters' affections for the first year or so of their lives--there is just something comforting about the soft familiarity of Mom's body that Dad's just can't replicate--but Kate "favorited" her Daddy shortly after she turned one, and she hasn't looked back since. I have no doubt Jayne will follow suit.

Because, really, how could she not?