Category Archives: Pregnancy

Caroline’s birth story – pt 1

Possibly in labor... Possibly not.

Possibly in labor… Possibly not.

If you ask people how long I was in labor you can get a range of answers. My OB would say “5 weeks”. When our pediatrician asked my husband, he said “2 hours”. My Mum would probably say somewhere in between. The truth is, I have no idea how long labor was for me. At 36 weeks, Caroline had dramatically stopped moving and no amount of icy lemonade, loud noises nor pokes with a wand could get her move on the ultrasound nor even take a breath. So we had a non stress test (NST) to check she was OK at our routine OB visit. Caroline was fine and passed with flying colors – just heavily sleeping and then moving like a champ when she deigned to wake up. What surprised everyone was the fairly strong, very regular contractions I was having.

Picture perfect contractions

Picture perfect contractions

My nurse read my output and said “Did you know you were contracting? Like… for a minute every 5 minutes?” *cue awkward pause* She asked: “Are you in pain?” and I said that honestly, I was having the least comfortable pregnancy ever and was always in pain. However, I told her that I didn’t “feel like” I was going into labor, and she said “I don’t know… I think we might be seeing you tonight”. That is when my OB could count my labor as starting.

Of course, Caroline didn’t come that night and made me wait another 4 weeks and 5 days. But in discussing the results of the NST with my OB, who similarly asked me if I thought I was in labor, I did say “so what does labor feel like?”. I explained “I missed being labor with my son… I got an epidural because I thought labor had not even started after a couple of days on pitocin, but when they gave me the epidural I was actually 10 cm and it was a bit of a mistake… so I am wondering what it feels like”. My OB  squinted at me and said “Are you telling me that you think you won’t know when you are in labor??” which sounded so darn ridiculous when said like that in the cold light of day that I quickly laughed and said ‘No, of course not, I’m sure it will be obvious”.

Ha. Famous last words.

This general pattern of things happening and people telling me I was in labor happened for weeks… My high-risk OB gave me a final scan and was worried about the contractions and ordered more tests… I got actual contractions…. I lost my mucus plug… I bled… and everyone kept saying “We’ll be seeing you at labor and delivery within 24 hours…” but they never did. On Friday 10th, I thought my water had broken so Wes and I went to labor and delivery. It hadn’t… the doctor used the litmus paper type test and it was negative, but then there was so much fluid just generally about she couldn’t believe my water hadn’t broken so did more tests. All negative. She reluctantly let me go saying “it really looks like your water has broken… I am sure we will be seeing you very, very soon”. I rolled my eyes and went home.

Water *not* broken then. Sigh.

Water *not* broken then. Sigh.

At about that point, I pretty much decided I was never going to go into labor naturally. Google confirmed my fears that some women’s bodies just don’t go into labor. This was going to be me… I was going to get induced again. I tried to make my peace with that and stopped looking for clues I was in labor. So, when I started to get stomach cramps on Saturday 11th, I didn’t give them much thought. I have no idea when they actually started, all I know is that at 6 pm, I got up from dinner to get a drink and remarked that my stomach cramps were so bad I could not stand up straight. I remember hunching over as I brought Sam his juice. After dinner I took Sam to bath (we bathed together) and I remember more cramps in the bath – cramps with backache. I wouldn’t say they were rhythmic but there was relief between them. I also felt uncharacteristically grumpy (actually, scratch that, that was very characteristic of me in during Caroline’s pregnancy). I remember being shorter tempered with Sam than I should have been and lying on the bed after the bath feeling like the pain was making me very reluctant to actually go through his bedtime routine. But I did, and the nagging pain made me think that baby might have wiggled into an odd position so I did some spinning babies to try to maneuver her into a more comfortable position.

At 9 pm ish, I went downstairs and found Mum ready to go to bed. I told her about my stomach / back pains and kept trying to stretch out over my yoga ball to relieve them. Mum asked if I thought this was labor and I snapped “I am sick of this! Everyone keeps telling me I am in labor and I never am!”. So, Mum went to bed, and then came back to see me, finding me in my bedroom again trying to work out my cramps. We chatted for a while and Mum said “Sweetie, I think you are in labor. I think you should phone Wes”.

I thought about it. I knew I was supposed to go into hospital early because I needed antibiotics for group B strep, and I needed blood tests to determine the need for clotting factors. But, again, I had had so many false alarms and even dragged Wes to hospital the very day before – I’d feel such a fool if this was another false alarm. Plus there wasn’t really anything to indicate this was actually labor. I decided that I would text Wes telling him how I felt, and try to sleep. As I said to Mum “I mean, if I am in labor, I won’t be able to sleep, right? If I am not, I can sleep off the pain”. She agreed this was a good idea and I went to bed, watched an episode of Girls, and decided against a second one as it was now 11 pm and I didn’t want to be tired the next day.

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Of course I found time to snap a 2 am selfie

At about 1,30 am Wes came home from work, and woke me on his way to bed. He asked me how I was feeling and I said “Oh fine… it wasn’t labor… AGAIN”, so we chatted for a while, during which time I kept curling around my tummy saying “It hurts”. I decided to go and “walk off my cramps” but I couldn’t, so Wes asked me to at least time the cramps. I dragged out my little ‘contraction timer’ app and blow me – even though I kept forgetting to hit ‘start’ until a way through the contraction they were 1  minute apart and the little app said “You are in transition”. “My app says they are one minute apart” I yelped in surprise. “We have to go to hospital NOW” said Wes, and went downstairs to collect his stuff. Then the cramps became seriously strong – I remember yelping for Wes during one, and he rubbed my back before bundling me in the car. I remember my Mum coming in when I was fussing about the pain and saying “Breathe, Lekki, Breathe” and thinking “oh yes! breathing, that’s supposed to help”.

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The car ride was pretty harsh, although all the changes and hassle had slowed the contractions to every 3 minutes or so. At the peak, I would kind of arch my back in the seat and hold my breath and repeat like a mantra “it will end… it will pass”. And it would. Between contractions I felt great – totally normal and no pain! I even said to Wes “I hope this is really it and I am not wasting anyone’s time…” and he got a bit shirty and said that if I was still thinking like that there was nothing he could say to help me and convince me to be sensible and I thought that this was mean and not very understanding and I thought about being stroppy about it, but didn’t really have the energy and maybe this wasn’t the time to start a fight anyway. So I TOOK THE HIGH ROAD (while in labor – major points to me I think) and we distracted ourselves getting pissed off at all the drunk drivers around.

We arrived at labor and delivery at about 2.40 am and when we pulled up the valet helped me out of the car. A contraction hit and I bent over and gritted my teeth and probably wailed a little and the valet looked totally shocked and I remember thinking “Don’t you see women like this all the time? I mean, this is a labor and delivery hospital!”, so then I did get annoyed because I figured I was acting all wrong and started to feel awkward about it all.  I coldly declined his offer of a wheelchair because: high horse, and marched up to labor and delivery.

At check-in they also seemed quite surprised to deal with someone in pain, which was really starting to get my goat. But they did check me in super quickly, and put me in triage where a nurse came and got me within a few minutes, although I wouldn’t go to a room without Wes because I THINK AHEAD and could just see Wes coming out to an empty hallway and not knowing what blinking room I was in, and really – I could foresee what kind of mess that would create. So the nurse and I waited in triage while I sank to my knees in pain (50% I sank to my knees because squatting felt good and 50% of the reason I sank to my knees is because I thought that looked ‘laborly’ and what I had seen people do in sitcoms when they rocked up to deliver a baby and as no one actually prepares you for how to act when you turn up to hospital in labor I decided to copy American TV for a lack of any other ideas). She didn’t look shocked to see a woman in pain, but she also didn’t seem very sympathetic to my plight so maybe I did something wrong after all.

We got into an assessment room, they made me put all my clothes in a plastic bag, dressed me in one of the ugliest hospital gowns I had seen, hooked me up a monitor, took blood to check my clotting factors, did a check and said “You’re 7 cm dilated with no cervix and the baby’s head is right there, I can feel it with my hand.”. I don’t know what we said to the doctor… if we told her that it was only on the third day in hospital that I had actually managed to have my son, or if I started wittering on about needing blood tests and anti biotics but it still had not really sunk in that I was definitely in labor. I think, honestly, I may have said that I needed time to poop before having a baby. The doctor said, firmly,  “No, you have declared yourself by showing up 7 cm dilated, you’re having this baby now”. And I just had to wait for our nurse to show up with a wheelchair.

A moment of "OK, we are going to do this".

A moment of “OK, we are going to do this”.

And off I went in a wheelchair out of ‘labor’ and into ‘delivery’ and the fun really began.

Where, by ‘fun’, I mean ‘gut wrenching agony and me being a giant baby about it all and things did not go as I had planned (but they never do)’. Which is sort of fun I guess.

 

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End of the second trimester

28 weeks, 28 week bump, second trimester bump

28 weeks

Doctor’s orders – I have been relegated to bed. Well, doctor’s and Wesley’s and just for the afternoon. We had a scan last week (all looking good. Bubble at ~50th percentile, currently no polyhydramnios, movement as expected but still transverse) and I mentioned I was having ‘rather a lot of Braxton Hicks, but this is normal, right?’. The doctor said no, nothing too concerning, but it was soon. We talked about the importance of rest (the nurse said ‘Are you still working?’ – Girlfriend, this is the US. I’ll be working in labor and again soon after!) and carried on with the scan. While scanning the nurse noticed how strong and how frequent my Braxton Hicks were, and worried a little more. She asked if I was a ‘Type A’ person and when Wes responded to the affirmative (why do I ever think it will  be a good idea to take him with me??) a lengthy lecture ensued on how how Type A people are problems and how they don’t relax enough and how the house should just be left – I was to work, but then at the end of the work day I was to rest.

28 week scan; second trimester scan

Alien baby. AKA one of those pictures parents think is adorable and the rest of the world can’t make out / get scared by.

Hello? I have a toddler. And a large house with a garden. That has a toddler in it. And I’m nesting. With a toddler. Did I mention I had a toddler? They don’t tend to respond well to ‘hey, Mom is tired, why don’t you just open yourself a bag of crisps for dinner and sit quietly? Perhaps you could bath yourself and put yourself to bed before, say, 8?”, Apart from the crisps part. Sam would happily comply with that.

Why I don't rest. This is him taking his scooter up the stairs of the water slide.

Why I don’t rest. This is him taking his scooter up the stairs of the water slide.

Anyway, Wes came back from getting the car detailed to find me following up 3 hysterical texts with a babbling about how we were never going to get the house in order for the cleaner coming. He looked around at 2 previously horrendous and now immaculate rooms (including a throughly cleaned and organized larder) and glanced regretfully down at his new fish purchases, seeing his Sunday of leisure fly away before his eyes. “You’ve been working hard haven’t you?”. “Yes! Of course! It’s never going to get done!”. He sighed. “OK, here is the deal. We set a timer for an hour, you go to bed for an hour, and I clear up. At the end of the hour, if you still think the house won’t be ready you can get back after it”. Seemed fair enough, so here I am in bed.

The second half of the second trimester has been way better. My exhaustion has eased somewhat and I can do some work and run the house a little. I don’t feel like I have the ‘flu 24/7. My nausea is minimized. I have found changing my diet up a bit has helped – adding in more protein, reducing fat, and lots of lots of salads, although I still think I have too much caffeine. I have also been seeing a great chiropractor who has made a big difference to my back pain. The heat (100 degrees and counting) and humidity is a challenge, but hey, that’s what air conditioning and pools are for, right? I am even considering finding time to go back to the gym as I am quite disappointed by how inactive I have been this pregnancy.

37 weeks with Sam

37 weeks with Sam

27 week bump second baby

27 weeks with Bubble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have suddenly grown – however. I walked passed a mirror with no top on the other day was did a double take – I am pretty sure I look quite like I did at 37 weeks with Sam. I wouldn’t mid, but with 12 more to go I am worried about how far this is going to go (!). Cliche though it is someone *actually* asked me the other day “how many are in there”. Bloody cheek! For those that care, I have gained ~15 lbs which is not bad for 28 weeks, so I’m not worried about it. Just generally disconcerted and surprised by the number of spaces I can no longer squeeze through.

And, I am oscillating between tearful sadness that this will be my last child, and my last pregnancy (Wes decrees it is so) and my dream of 3 children is ending soon, and cold, soul gripping fear at how we will manage with 2. I really do go between the two. I sit here in bed and think about how I always wanted 3 children, how I pictured them (although I pictured 2 older boys, 2 years apart and then a little girl 4 years later… so it was never going to be anyway), how I always thought it would be that way… And then I think about the practicalities of how it can take 2 of us to manage him at a party, and how hectic the mornings can get, and I wonder how we are going to deal with 2 in these situations. Of course we will, and many do, and many do with twins, triplets and more. But, you know, there is still some trepidation.

sick toddler 2 year old

It’s not always like this you know

Plus, it is nice to think about clearing out all the crap you have to store (fits with my crazy nesting instinct). We can slowly starting giving away / donating the car seats, bouncers, pack n plays, endless clothes etc. I am starting to think about how it will be nice to have the time and motivation to get fit again (a looooong way down the line, I am sure, and I am OK with that). And how I am slowly regaining my sense of me 2.5 years into Sam’s life (loving make-up, trying to hair styles, making some vague nod to fashion, even wearing – gasp – perfume), but I know it will go in the haze of postpartum life in a body that doesn’t feel mine so it will be nice to eventually get that back (again, a  long way down the road, I am sure). It’s positive, it’s just not how I pictured it.

Roll on the third trimester! These next 12 (I hope 12!) weeks will fly by, and I pray I will have some time to savor them too.

EDIT: OH MY. Lest anyone doubt I am bigger this time around and want to say ‘it is all in your mind’; this is how I looked at 29 weeks with Sam:

29 weeks with Sam

29 weeks with Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Methinks the “secret” that I wasn’t very good about maintaining an active lifestyle between kiddos is out ;-). Oh well, I like to think I made better hair decisions this time around at least.

21 weeks – nesting

20 week bump; 20 weeks pregnancy; second trimester

20 weeks

Half way there. It feels great, I can’t wait to meet this little girl (although, obviously, please keep baking for a hood while longer). The sickness clears more and more each week – and I feel my old brain come back more and more. It has been nice not only to be able to focus on work when needed, but to enjoy doing so.

This pregnancy is different from Sam. Although I am less hungry, and seem to eat less, I am putting on more weight – 10 lbs so far. I don’t mind really, but I try to be mindful of only eating when I am hungry and stopping when I am full. Other than that, the second trimester (so far) has been characterized by exhaustion and nesting – neither of which I really felt with Sam.

The exhaustion is mind-blowing. By 9 am I feel like my limbs are heavy and my head is already fuzzy with tiredness. The physical exhaustion seems to be accompanied by a general malaise: everything seems like too much effort. A blog post? Too much. Do some crafting? Can’t lift this mass off the sofa to get to my crafting room. I have spent a lot of time on the internet surfing around, ‘pinning’ pictures for the nursery and watching TV (Parenthood is my current binge watch of choice).

Binge watching buddy

Binge watching buddy

It is sort of sad because Wes is determined that this will be my last pregnancy, so I had decided to full revel in it, in a way I couldn’t with Sam as so much was going on (new marriage, new job, new state, new house… yeah, not sure I would recommend that as a course of action).  And I love looking back and reading my posts about being pregnant with Sam (if that sounds weird, I am generally obsessed with pregnancy blogs), so I know I’ll regret not having more for Bubble.

But the tiredness is pervasive and unexpected. It might be because I am chasing around after an (adorable) toddler, or it might be because, as expected, I am bigger this time around

21 weeks with Sam

21 weeks with Sam

21 weeks with Bubble

21 weeks with Bubble

Or

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

because work has been harder, or because I am 100% less fit going into this endeavor (think 1/2 marathon running body builder benchpressing her bodyweight vs. struggling with a 5K and doing 10bs weight while walking on the treadmill). Doubtless it is a combination of all these things. But it also feels different, this pregnancy (almost as if my 1.5 children are totally different individuals 😉 ). The other sad upshot is that I have been having caffeine every day, which I have been really trying to limit to one cup a day. Not always 100% successful if I am honest. And I am also cramming sugar into my mouth to help with the tiredness. So yes, I’ll take my tea with a side of McVities Caramel Digestives and a dose of guilt, thanks.

Have also developed a teapot obsession. This one was $100 (!). That's maybe a topic for another post.

Have also developed a teapot obsession. This one was $100 (!). That’s maybe a topic for another post.

Wes is often on at me to ‘slow down’ and spending time doing nothing immediately productive has been a fun discovery. Discomforting but fun.

The other major difference to Sam’s pregnancy is nesting (not hugely compatible with exhaustion, I have to say). Serious nesting. I never understood what nesting was, and really thought it was just a fancy name given to people who wanted to decorate their nursery, or some such. Ha! Now I know. Now I know that it is fixating on every little out-of-place object. It is feeling deep discomfort that WE HAVE NOWHERE TO SORT OUR MAIL – and demanding hysterically to know: what are we, Savages? It is staring at a PC lying quietly in the corner of the room and hearing it mock you until you scream “I can’t take it anymore” drag it into the garage. None of this happened. OK. All of this happened.

Wes pressure washing the house. An essential home task, I felt.

Wes pressure washing the house. An essential home task, I felt.

Luckily Wes has been supportive – think two IKEA tips on his own. And pressure washing the house. And building a bed for my Mum who  is coming immediately in August. Why, you ask? Either (a) He feels sorry for me, as I have been dragging my ass out of bed at 6 am and cleaning like a crazy person until 8, while also getting ready for work and getting Sam ready for school. Picture me, toast wedged between teeth, mug of tea in hand, wielding a duster while potty-ing a toddler; (b) He likes the result and wants to contribute to it; (c) he can’t take the nagging; or (d) he is having an affair with a lady who doesn’t need chub run in the Texas heat and feels guilty about it (I did get flowers this week. Hmmmm). IN THE END I DON’T CARE. As long as he is hanging up our chalkboard mail sorter, dressing windows and choosing rugs, I am good with the motivation.

And, while the nesting is genuinely stressful and exhausting, I am glad it is here for a minute. I have cleaned out almost every room, coordinated all the upstairs to a palette of grey, white, blue and yellow, got the downstairs functional and cute and our home is now just that: our home – not an impersonal house. The kid(s) (

Greatest thing ever

Greatest thing ever

So… I’m wondering, with he house furnishings budget depleted to nearly nothing, and the cleaning covered, what I am going to spend up to 2 hours a day doing now? What will be my new ‘thing‘? What on Earth will I nag Wesley about? Can our marriage take the strain of a tidy house? Probably. I am sure there is something else I can obsess over.

17 weeks second pregnancy

Second trimester

7 week scan

This makes it all worth it, right?

It’s been a rough ride to get to 18 weeks. It started out so well – I was way more relaxed about the whole pregnancy than I was with Sam. With Sam there was this constant disbelief that my body would actually grow and birth a baby and while I was not sure that something would go wrong, I lived in fear of it. I was lucky enough that my first pregnancy went well, and so I went into my second pregnancy aware of the statistics, but more relaxed, more confident. No pestering doctors, no terror about a single – gasp – caffeinated drink. I just relaxed into it. More than that: I looked forward to it.

12 week bump

12 weeks – really?

Sam’s pregnancy was consumed with choosing a job, finishing up a postdoc, findgin a home, buy a home, packing up an apartment, moving to a new state, starting a new job – by the time all that was done and I felt vaguely settled I was well into my third trimester and the whole thing had passed. I’m a pintrest-er and a scrapbook-er and a project life-r and a blogger and and and…  and there were no weekly photographs with kitchy chalkboard, no announcements, baby books – I barely even blogged about it. I was looking forward to this pregnancy being different – Wes has made me swear that it will be my last (which breaks my heart), so I wanted to document it!

IMG_8653

But then there was the spotting, and the sudden blood loss, and then the vomiting, so much vomiting, until 24 hours of keeping nothing down had passed, and I threw up a lone popsicle. So then there was the hospital and the doctors, and the weeks of it continung, and the isolation and the fear of getting behind – so behind – at work, and the worry about losing earnings, and the heartbreak of not being able to be with Sam, and the talk of zofran pumps, but the need to wait until after week 9 for insurance reasons and UGH, I couldn’t lift my head without heaving so I certainly wasn’t taking any photos or writing any blog posts. And I thought I would go back and do it retrospectively but I find myself pretty unwilling to revisit that time.

IMG_8654

But then, at 10 weeks, I could at least get myself into work and keep the vomiting down to a few times a day. And I could function, if somewhat unwillingly. I could be around my son without the smell of him making me hurl. I could contemplate a few foods that sounded good to me.

17 weeks second pregnancy

17 weeks

And then at week 16 the vomiting stopped and my brain seemed to return and I thought – yes, I can enjoy this now, I can look forward to it. I might even write a blog post or two about it 🙂

Post-partum complication reflections

Sam’s birth really comes in three stages to me: the ‘last day‘, the induction and birth, and the post-partum aftermath. Although I was happy to share, in glorious details (too glorious for some?) the first two parts, I have decided not to blog in detail about the last bit. This is because:

(1) I don’t want to be another internet scare story;

(2) It is incredibly painful for my family, and some of my friends, to think about and thus they do not need a permanent reminder to pour over;

(3) I don’t think I have fully processed everything – for example, I still see pictures that haunt me or feel funny when someone writes ‘you nearly died in childbirth’, it’s as if it didn’t actually happen in my mind, at least, it still seems like a story someone told me.

So, in the spirit of positivity, I am not going to rehash the sorry tale (although any curious peeps are perfectly welcome to email me about it – I have a fairly blow-by-blow account I can forward on with no problem), but instead leave you with the thoughts that are in head, as I process the whole sorry tale:

(1) Dear God, I am glad I did not give birth in a birth center after all. Quite simply, I would not be here now. I now do not know where I stand on home / birth center births.

ICU machines

Not available at a birth center…

(2) Wes’ Aunt is a nurse, and is fairly sure that many hospitals in the US would not have been able to cope with the demands of a 10-unit blood transfusion. I ended up at Texas Children’s utterly by chance: they were about the only people who would take me as I moved state mid-pregnancy. I wonder if God was looking out for me at that time.

(3) I am ridiculously grateful I am a health nut. When we went in for the cervadil, as is standard procedure, I was monitored overnight. My temperature is 1 full degree lower than average, my reflexes are (literally) kick ass, and my heart rate drops so low in my sleep that the machines kept sounding alarms for the nurse to come as I had dropped into a Brady (below 50 beats per minute). These are all indicators of good health and our nurse commented “Why, you’re just going to live forever” [words that would later haunt Wes]. I suspect the speed of my recovery, and possibly my recovery itself, was due to a long relationship with weight-lifting, healthy eating and running. I really would urge all my readers to care for their health.

(4) I am amazed at how much humans can rebuild a body. I was left as a kind of shell and it blows my mind how much blood, plasma, fluid etc the doctors could pump into me, and how much they could do to keep my body going: it was for a brief while, almost like I was a vessel and the ‘life’ was just happening artificially outside of me with machines and so on doing all the work. The gifts that Science has given us are incredible.

Body not really functioning outside of the machines here…

(5) That being said, I am also amazed at all the things Science / Medicine couldn’t do. After rebuilding as much as possible, and troubleshooting, the doctors just had to wait to see if my ‘body would take over’. Of course it did, but it took time. It was interesting to me to watch certain systems start working again and reminded me what an amazingly complex and phenomenal thing the human body is.

Body working again

(6) I am clearly not at all used to ‘giving in’ to my body, when it wants to be weak. Every physical and mental challenge, I have just pushed through at taken my body to limits people did not think I was capable of: Tough Mudder? I’ll do it all. Grant due? I’ll work until 2 am every night and STILL train twice a day… I’ll recoup and recover later. This gave me a feeling of invincibility, and it has been hard learning I am not. The recovery was / is difficult… when I pushed it too hard (with ooooh, a trip to the grocery store), I got two infections. My anemia is bad enough that my heart is skipping beats / fluttering as it works extra heard to get oxygen around. Nothing to worry about, but serious signs that I have to be careful. I literally have had to bow down to my body holding me back, or watch it fail. It sucks to be reminded of my limitations, frailty, and human-ness.

Recovering at home – finally.

Writing this out made me realise something hidden deep inside: I used to love my body, because it was so strong. Now I hate it because its weakness betrayed me, and still does, every day. I’ll get over it.

(7) The hardest thing of all – of all – is that Sam’s coming into this world was not met with joy. I still cry when I think of how he – as an innocent little baby – got his start. I came across a picture Wesley took of himself right after he was handed Sam:

 

It breaks my heart that there is no joy here, just sadness that no one could tell him if he would see his wife again. When he called my parents when I was out of OR he said “Well… you have a grandson” but because it was followed up with “but we don’t know if you’ll have a daughter” my parents did not celebrate. In fact, they did not tell anyone about Sam for a couple of days when I was in the clear.

Possibly what breaks my heart the most is that when I was out of the OR and regained consciousness, I was in a lot of pain. I literally yelled and writhed my way through the first night. The nurses asked if Sam should be taken to the nursery and although ‘no separation’ was drummed into me, I was so consumed by my own pain, and so inward looking, I just said “yes. Take him”. I hate that I did that. My head says it was necessary… my heart says I was not a good mother.

Sam watching his Mum in ICU the next day

I also hate that I couldn’t really care for him initially. Sam was placed in my arms and I just held him passively – Wes did feeds and diaper changes, cuddled him, brought him to me. Wes placed him in my arms and I just held him passively. When most people are going home with their babies, I was considered too ill to be allowed to be alone with Sam and had to call a nurse to take him to the nursery if Wes went out (to get food or something). When I was out of ICU, we had a family photo shoot. Usually the Mum holds the baby and the Dad sits behind. I couldn’t really do this, as I could not get close enough to the camera while attached to IV lines, so the photographer said “OK, Dad come to the front, Mum can be in the background”. I wanted to cry as I felt this summed up Sam’s start in life: Mum a useless figure in the background. I worry that there is vital bonding time we’ll never get back.

Not ideal conditions for being a Mum…

Ultimately, the physical recovery was (and still is) tough. I have no immune system and still not enough red blood cells. I get infections easily, and I don’t beat them well. I have an extra layer to my tiredness, and my heart has an irregular beat (this will sort itself out!). But, though I hate that, and hate that I can’t just beat my body into submission, I get better and better every day and soon will be left with no visible traces of the ordeal. Emotionally, I think the wounds will take a bit longer to heal. That is where the scars will be.

On a happier note, it was of course all worth it, and if the Frazier-Wood’s can get through this OK, they can get through anything! Wes was amazing, and this was a bonding experience for us. There were happy times even in that first week, and there will be many more.

Now… back to blogging about happy topics. It’s advent, which means I have a whole lot of decorating and crafts to tell you about 🙂

Samuel’s Birth Story

This is the story of how Samuel Clarke Frazier came into the world 🙂 It ends at that joyous moment, so there is no dwelling or rehashing of the difficult time that followed – just a history of the moments leading up to one of the happiest points in my life. However, it is a birth story. It is graphic. On other blogs I have seen the authors put up birth stories and readers complain that words like ‘cervix’ and ‘discharge’ spoiled their breakfast. Well… expect that and more, if you stick with this post, you may know me VERY well by the end (although note: it is safe for work, and suitable for my students to read and still respect me afterwards).

We left off when the hospital had called. I had been merrily distracted by an awesome ‘shower in a box’ but as soon as the phone rang, all the emotions hit me: fear (perhaps terror), panic, excitement. At that moment, all I could think was ‘I am not ready… I just need another day…’. I answered the call, and the nurse told me that the hospital was not sure they could fit me in that day after all – but she would call and let me know later if it was a possibility. She could call us, but if we had not heard by 9, we could call her.

Ugh. Talk about a mood changer. OK, I might not have felt ‘ready’ but I did not want to delay this. I cried, so Wes got me out of the house to a gorgeous little Italian in Bellaire (where I ate about 3 bites of pizza and boxed the rest) and we got ‘Rock of Ages’ on DVD to distract ourselves. 9 came… no phone call, and at 9.00 and 1 second I dialed the hospital. Come on in they said! Come in for 11. Woo-hoo. That was a difficult hour to kill, but we changed and packed and tidied and faffed and left ridiculously early.

We got to the hospital at 10.50 and were not turned away! This was it… it was happening! Then began wait after wait… waiting for a room, waiting for a nurse, waiting for the cervadil (I am not complaining, I utterly accept that on a labor ward, the woman NOT in labor is the least of their priorities)… the upshot was, it was 2 am (yawn) before the induction began.

Induction part 1: Friday night: Cervadil.

Induction of labor

Waiting for the first stage

Cervadil is a gel they put on your cervix overnight, to ‘ripen’ it (nice terminology, always reminded of ‘the reaping’ in The Hunger Games). Hopefully it thins the cervix and dilates it, meaning the pitocin has less to do – some women respond so well they go into labor, but that is not the purpose per se. The cervadil basically looks like a long tampon, but a doctor has to insert it (boo). Unfortunately, my doctor (the resident for that night) was very heavy handed – placing it and then pushing, and shoving more. I did get quite bruised, from the heavy-handed insertion, otherwise it would have been utterly painless. Once it was in, it was painless (I couldn’t feel it at all) and time for lights out.

Cervadil in, and no discomfort

Many hospitals give a sleeping pill at this stage, but I was not offered one (I don’t know if this is because my OB practice is as hands-off / anti-interference as possible, or because I had told them that minimal intervention was my choice) and I did not want one. Slept like a log anyway, until I was woken up at about 6 to see how it had worked.

Bed for the husband in hospital with labor

Wes’ cot

I was pleased to see my OB, Dr. Boswell, in the morning. We love her, and she did the examination to see how the cervadil had worked. The result? No effacement, no dilation. Nothing. No change. Boo. I was disheartened, but Dr. Boswell was upbeat and said it was just time to start phase 2: round 1 of pitocin.

Stage 2: Saturday morning: Round 1 of pitocin

IV for pictocin

IV line for the pitocin

The turned the pitocin on at about 9. As I had wanted to try to labor without an epidural (even on pitocin) they started, as promised, at the very lowest dose: a 2. I waited, with some fear, for the hugely painful contractions pitocin is supposed to give, but… nothing. So after 30 mins, they upped it to a 4. And I waited… and nothing… this carried on all day, until at 2 pm Dr Boswell came back. She asked how I was feeling, and I gave a very merry “Wonderful! I feel great!” but her response was “Rats. I was hoping you would be in a lot of pain by now”. She didn’t think the pitocin was working – we could see my uterus contracting on the monitor, but no nice rhythmic contractions, nothing that seemed productive. And no pain meant that clearly, nothing was really happening. I asked if getting up and walking would help, but she said, not at this stage. I was welcome to, but resting for actual labor might be better.

So… I waited… and waited.. and we upped the dose every 30-60 mins. When the dose was at a 12 (not very high, it goes up to 20), at about 7 pm, Dr Boswell recommended the pitocin be turned off. You could see that my uterus was contracting constantly, with no break in between, but I could not feel it. I was still spending my time reading, watching TV, texting, Skyping my Mum. Basically: completely ineffective contractions. They checked my cervix: no effacement, maybe a fingertip dilation. Again: basically zilch.

Here, I am very grateful to have been with The Women’s Specialists of Houston. Not only did the doctor leave me alone all day (very few internal examinations… in fact, just one, with an intern who again was extremely heavy handed until she bought tears to my eyes) but many doctor’s would have just upped and upped the pitocin, labelled it a ‘failed induction’ and gone for the C-section. Dr Boswell said that this can occur for a number of reasons and that the game was not up yet. She said that nerves / tiredness / stress / hunger (I had not been allowed to eat before being admitted) can cause pitocin to fail: she wanted me to have a relaxing evening, with a big meal, and a good sleep. She also said that pitocin causes the cells that trigger contractions in response to pitocin to be expressed on the wall of the uterus, therefore they can work better on a second attempt, but you need a rest so your uterus doesn’t get ‘exhausted’ (yes… really). So, feeling doomed to failure I agreed to take a break. At this stage, I began to feel quite depressed about the whole thing: I had really wanted as natural of a labor as possible, and this felt anything but. My body just felt like a passive vessel for medical intervention: I felt nothing, I felt my body was doing nothing. Still, when Dr. Boswell suggested one last intervention to help tomorrow’s pitocin: a foley balloon, I agreed to try it to help avoid a C-section.

Stage 3: Saturday pm: Foley Balloon

A foley balloon is another method of helping dilation, but it is mechanical rather than pharmaceutical. Basically, they insert two balloons into you, one in your uterus between the baby’s head and your cervix, one just outside the uterus resting on the cervix. They fill the balloons with water and hope the pressure mimics the pressure of a baby’s head descending in labor, and so causes your cervix to dilate. Bleugh. I will say, Dr Boswell absolutely gave me the choice of having the balloon or not. She also sad that she would stop at any point when it was uncomfortable, and if we could not fill the balloons with the recommended amount of water without discomfort – we just wouldn’t. She saw no point in discomfort, nor wearing me out more. She is awesome.

The insertion was about as pleasant as it sounds – luckily Dr Boswell is a wonder at doing these procedures and it was just unpleasant / uncomfortable more than anything. At least, that was the physical side, emotionally I felt a bit like I was sick of being prodded and poked and my body not being my own. But hey ho. Dr Boswell saw all my bruising from the heavy handed intern examinations and offered me ice, which was nice, and sympathy, which I think was nicer 🙂

But once it was in, actually, no problem. I could not feel it at all, and ended up like this moments later:

Foley Balloon not hindering sleep.

It was weird getting up and going to the bathroom with it in… but otherwise, it really didn’t bother me.

At 6 am (why so early?? Why??) Dr Boswell (phew) came to remove the foley balloon. It was simple and painless – she drained the water and it kinda slipped out. Moment of truth time: had it done anything? Had it made any difference?? YES! I was 4 cm dilated! This is the stage they will often admit you to hospital (if you are not being induced), and evidence that my body might actually respond to something.

Stage 4: Saturday am, Pitocin round 2

Nice day to have a baby?

So, we were all go on the pitocin. They worked the same way as before: starting low and increasing the dose until it was effective, but not letting it get so high my uterus got exhausted (for real… they actually said this… hence the need for an overnight break and some food). Dr. Boswell came to wish us goodbye 😦 So sad to see her go, but she handed us over to her colleague Dr. Dryden with promises that she was ‘wonderful’ and ‘very experienced’ and had delivered both of Dr. Boswell’s babies. Dr Boswell said not to start the pitocin until the change of nurses shift at 9, so that the nurse can monitor the whole reaction of my uterus, and see it’s responses and patterns. She warned me that the time was probably coming to break my waters, she emphasized that given all the excess fluid, no one, but no one was to break my water except Dr. Dryden, in case of a prolapse. Then Dr. Boswell left for some much needed sleep (she had been at the hospital all Saturday and on call all Saturday night).

Waiting… waiting… by the time the nurses had switched and done their rounds, the pitocin was started at 10… again, I could not feel much, although it did feel a little bit more like rhythmic menstrual cramps. Dr. Dryden came in at 10.30 and determined it was time to break the water. I liked Dr Dryden (and she did a wonderful, wonderful job at the birth and after) but she was quite different to Dr. Boswell – I felt everything was an option and my choice with Dr B.; with Dr. Dryden felt more that things were going to be done her way. But I did like her and felt quite comfortable around her – plus she did the most wonderful job of the actual delivery so am eternally grateful for that. I got a bit antsy when she mentioned breaking my waters – we had been taught in Bradley that this increases the risk of C-section because once your water is broken, if the baby was not out in 24 hours, it was an automatic C-section. Wes asked if this was the case and Dr. D said ‘No, you are absolutely not on any clock’ so we agreed – again, I have a feeling that was going to happen anyway 😉

Dr. D. pronounced me still 4 centimeters and broke my waters. It took all of 2 seconds, I didn’t feel it at all, and then there was just a horrible hot gush. Ugh. Dr. D left, the nurse upped the pit and left Wes and I were left to our own devices. Before the nurse left she mentioned again that she could give me wireless monitoring so I could get up and walk – AS REQUESTED IN MY BIRTH PLAN – but you know when you are in pain and all you want to do is curl up and laze around? Yeah, I was there. All I will say is that breaking the waters is darn effective. Immediately, I began to feel contractions. Painful, but spaced out. I practiced my Bradley relaxation techniques to get through them – they came about every 2 minutes. Whether they are more painful than non-pit contractions I will never know, but I will say that you do get thrown straight into later stages of labor – for example, straight into 2 mins apart, painful contractions, which is often not the case with natural labor.

At about 11, the nurse came in and told me that she had read my birth plan and was here to get me walking. I wasn’t really given a choice, but in a good way. I had given them detailed reasons why I wanted to walk and use the birthing ball (pain relief, good positioning, speeding up labor) so the nurse played hard ball and made Wes walk me up and down the corridors. Again, a highly effective way to get labor kicked up a notch. The contractions got more painful and about a minute apart. Again, although painful, it was bearable as I could get a complete pain-break as these photos taken 30 sec apart show:

Labor contraction

Contraction


Break from contraction 😉

I tried the birthing ball, which pre-labor I was convinced would be the best place for me. It hurt more, hurt my tailbone and I practically kicked the thing out of the room. I also, with Wes’ help, tried squatting, which was equally as miserable. Walking it was.

Then I needed the loo. No. 2. Wes told me I would have to buzz for a nurse, but I didn’t see why. I buzzed and the nurse said “wait! Wait for me’ which I tried to do, but she was ages coming. Ages. I was in pain, in labor and I needed to go. I tried to wait, but eventually, I figured I would either go on the floor or in the loo, so I might as well use the loo.

Waiting for the nurse so I could use the loo! Gave up and used it anyway, much to her chagrin.

The nurse busted in while I was going (see? Labor is just so not dignified – and yes, I was with it enough to be horribly embarrassed) and chastized me. She told me that needing the loo was often a sign that the baby was coming and she was cross I might have had the baby in the loo. What was I supposed to do? Holding it was not an option!! She had to come quicker if she wanted me to wait! So, she wanted an exam afterwards to see if the baby was coming. So – at 11.15 what amazing progress had I made? 4 cm, maybe 4.5. UGH. Back to labor.

When the nurse left, the contractions got really bad. They just didn’t stop one on top of another. The pain was bad (but I could cope with it):

Ow. Ow. Ow.

Then I needed the loo again. Really, like upset tummy needed to go. I buzzed for the nurse and waited and waited and buzzed and begged them to come (I was close to going anyway, but torn between my discomfort and being told off again!), when she came she wanted me to use a bedpan! No freakin’ way! Gross. So, I pointed out that just a few minutes ago I had been 4.5 at most and so really, no baby was going to be falling out of me. She agreed and let me use the bathroom (although she insisted on being in there with me! When I had an upset tummy! Told you: labor is not dignified).

While in there, I had a mental breakdown. The pain was horrific, and I was not progressing. I could deal with this pain, but given that I was dilating 1 cm every 2 hours, and had 5.5 cm to go – not for another 11 hours. Plus, if this was early labor, how bad would transition be? F that, I’ll take the pain relief. So, I asked for the epidural.

It was administered quickly (within 5 mins) and within 10 I had gone from this:

Ow. Ow. Ow.

To this:

Bliss.

As soon as the epidural had kicked in – about 11.45 the nurse wanted an exam, so they could ascertain in the future whether the epi had caused me to stall. I was annoyed: what was the point? I had been at 4.5 forever, and so finding out I was 5 was not going to help. I acquiesced, a resident Dr was called, and I grumpily let her announce that I was “9.5, maybe more, there was just a lip, and the baby was coming NOW”.

What? What the F-ing F? Some 40 hours to get get 4 cm, then to 9.5 in 40 minutes? So looking back, this:

Ow. Ow. Ow.

was transition. We had been taught in Bradley that transition was the most painful time, and the time the women find it most emotionally difficult and cry for the epidural. Our plan had been for Wes to step in at that stage and talk me out of it.. however, we just had no idea we were in transition. We thought it was too soon. I was annoyed that I had an epidural so late: I was moments away from giving birth when I got it, and most of the hard stuff had been done. I could have had a non-epidural (one can hardly call all the cervadil, balloons and pit natural…) birth, but hey ho. While I was annoyed that we had managed this slightly wrong, I was also pleased that I was enjoying this last stage. Plus, most of my fears about an epidural were unfounded: I could feel my legs, I could use my legs and I could certainly feel the contractions.

The nurse took a picture of us as a 2-some, promising to take the same picture but with the baby between us, when he was out (we never got this latter picture as everything went a bit Pete Tong, but hey ho)

Last picture as a 2-some

Doctors were called, and it was time to push. I declined the mirror and pushed – again, the epidural did not affect my ability to push as I could certainly feel quite a lot. I could tell the nurse when my contractions were coming, and she often had to help me hold off on pushing the urge was so strong, so that I could let the pressure build. Pushing went pretty well, Firework moved quickly – so quickly, they had to chase him with the little monitors.

After about 30-40 mins we could see the head, then poor old FW got stuck 😦 I had been warned about a very narrow pelvis and nothing seemed to get him past it. We tried squat bars, different positions, breaks, laboring down, I even let them get the dratted mirror. After 2 hours of pushing, they called Dr. D. She watched a few contractions and coached me. I actually said “It is OK to use forceps if you need, or cut me” but she didn’t think we needed that yet. She put her hands inside me (owww… just owwww… the epidural seemed to be doing F all at this stage) and said that FW was a slight transverse – he was facing the wrong way (up, not down – ah back labor also explains the yell for the epidural earlier) and slightly sideways. Again, I am grateful I was with the Women’s Specialists, many OB’s would have gone for an emergency C-section at this stage. Not Dr. D. Mindful of my ‘no C-section if possible’ [and now it does seem silly I was so adamant about that] scrawled all over my birth plan, she just turned him manually while he was inside me.

That. Is. The. Most. Pain. I. Have. Ever. Experienced. I swore violently – then apologized. But Dr. D was doing absolutely the right thing, using each contraction and push to slowly stretch me and rotate FW. I began to worry that FW was in danger as his heart rate was dropping, but Dr. D was wonderfully calm. I even said “if you need to do a C-section, do it!” but she said “I don’t need to see him now. I do need to see him soon, but he is OK now” and quietly called some extra pediatricians in. Once Dr D had figured out he was the wrong way and stuck in my weird pelvis it was all quick quick. Another 30 mins or so of pushing, with her help, and my beautiful boy was born:

He was handed straight to me:

and taken off for some checks as he had been stuck for quite a while. All the checks were done in the room, and Wes got to help, although he mostly took photos:

FW had become Sam! The long pushing didn’t affect him at all. He took a while to cry which freaked me out (I got slightly panicked over that) but his apgar scores were 8 and 9 and his lungs, when he decided to use them, were certainly powerful enough 🙂

Sam was little enough that I only had a minor second degree tear which Dr D and an intern stitched up, while Sam was assessed. Sadly, as I was quite ill, I didn’t get Sam back after that 😦 But, that is not this story. This is the story of how the lovely Samuel Clarke Frazier came into the world at 16.32 on November 4th 2012, weighing 6 lb and 15 oz. A wonderful, wonderful day: