Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Birth Story Part 2: Push Comes to Shove

If you read part one of Snow Pea's birth story, you know that my labor was induced a week after my due date, and that after a slow progression I had reached the point of labor when I was ready to begin pushing.

Once it was confirmed that I was fully dilated, my nurse began focusing her checks on Snow Pea's position. She was at about +1 when I became fully dilated, and things were looking good. The nurse could see my baby girl's head and I was excited when she told us that it definitely was covered in hair! I myself was born with quite a puff of white hair, so hearing my daughter would be too made me feel connected to her, confirming that we had at least one thing in common right from the start.

In addition to seeing all of her gorgeous waves, the nurse could see that Snow Pea was attempting to fit through an opening in my pelvis that was a bit more narrow than her head, which looked like it was beginning to cone in order to fit. Chad was a teeny bit concerned about having a cone-head baby, but the nurse quickly reassured him that her head was made to do this and we could have cute hats on her for pictures for the few days it normally takes for baby's heads to look a little rounder. After laboring down for an hour to give her little noggin a chance to move a bit farther down, I got into position and started pushing.

Contrary to what I have been led to believe by TV and the movies, there was not a lot of commotion during the pushing stage. It was just me, Chad and my nurse. We were actually both surprised by just how relaxed this part of the process really was. There weren't even any stirrups involved. Chad was by side holding my head as I curled my body into each push and my nurse gently tried turning and easing Snow Pea's head down. As they counted me through, I put every bit of focus and energy into sucking in one big breath and holding for a count of ten as I pushed, then blowing it out and repeating it two more times during each contraction. Most of the contractions anyway. Every once in a while we'd take a break so that I could rest or so that the nurse could check in with my OB, Dr Casual, who had been in touch with her all day.

I was doing exactly what I needed to during the pushing and Snow Pea was handling it perfectly, her heart rate never once went outside the guidelines. She was never distressed or tired and neither was I. We were both feeling great. The problem was no matter how well I pushed, or how much my baby tried to wiggle, her head just wasn't coming down. I tried laying on my side for a few pushes, because a change of angle can often do the trick, but that didn't work either.

After almost 2 hours of pushing and another shift change, I got word from my 3rd nurse that Dr Casual had arrived at the hospital. I was shocked and happy to hear he was there. When I had checked in the night before, we had been told that the on-call OB would be delivering the baby and since Dr Casual was not on call that weekend, we probably wouldn't see him at all until my post-natal check up in 6 weeks. But there he was, calmly strolling into the room as if he had been hanging out in the hospital all day. He sat down and casually said "Hey guys, how's it goin?" exactly the same way as he had at the start of every prenatal appointment. We chatted for a bit and then I began pushing again.

After a few pushes, Dr. Casual told me that Snow Pea just wasn't coming down. He said that my pelvic inlet was narrow and my baby's head was not. Further complicating things, my tailbone has a rare trait in that it curves into my pelvic cavity, making the area even narrower and providing a nice bump for Snow Pea's head to get stuck on. Then he and the nurse uttered the word I had been dreading: cesarean. He knew though how much I wanted to avoid surgery if at all possible, and gave me the option of attempting a vacuum assisted birth. My labor was going perfectly and she would just slide out if he could just get her head past the lip that my tailbone had created. I agreed to it and almost instantly the room changed.

The nurse started breaking down the bottom half of the bed as more nurses and neonatalologists began crowding in. Suddenly there were three new people standing around my bed as Dr. Casual attempted to remove the internal monitor that had been attached to Snow Pea's scalp earlier in the day. When the monitor was being placed, Snow Pea's hair had caused some trouble, frequently knocking it loose and setting off the monitor's alarm each time it lost signal. Finally after setting off the alarm at least ten times, a nurse had re-attached it more securely, maybe too securely because now Snow Pea's hair caused trouble again. This time instead of being knocked loose by her mane, it was tangled up in it. Dr. Casual was gently trying to untangle it for quite a while before it finally came free, but not without taking a few hairs with it. We all chuckled at Snow Pea's "first haircut", as Dr. Casual began getting all of his tools ready.

Getting the vacuum into a good position proved challenging as well because of the coning on Snow Pea's head. It works best to have a flatter surface to attach to and more and more of her head was becoming pointy and swollen. Her hair also continued to make things difficult because it was so thick, not the ideal smooth surface for this procedure. But Dr. Casual knew how much it meant to me so he continued adjusting the instrument until he was able to get it right. Then it was time for me to push while he pulled. With the new and expanded team of medical staff in the room, it was beginning to feel and look a lot more like the "holy crap I am about to have a baby" delivery I had seen on TV. Chad was my biggest cheerleader but the rest of the team was also coaching me through each breath and contraction, telling me to "push down through my bottom" and to "get mad". If I hadn't been so focused on what I was doing, I would have laughed. But with the threat of c-section looming over me, I was giving each and every push everything I had.

I could tell that Dr. Casual was doing the same as he tried to simultaneously pull the baby's head down forcefully and gently. There were a few times when we was tugging and the vacuum shot free of Snow Pea's head and sent him flying backward from the force of it. We did quite a few pushes with the vacuum and my army of cheerleaders. All the while I fought back the fear that I was somehow doing it wrong and I was going to fail at giving birth. Finally, Dr. Casual said her head just wouldn't budge despite all of our best efforts and it was time to go into the OR for a c-section.

I couldn't accept it at first. I looked at him pleadingly, begging to try something else. Another position, something, anything to avoid the surgery. He looked at me with a slight sadness and told me this really was the only option we had if I wanted a safe, healthy delivery and baby. Despite all the pushing and even being stuck, Snow Pea had never been stressed. Her heart stayed strong and steady, but the longer we put through this, the more likely she would become distressed. It was better to do a safe, planned c-section now than to keep trying and be in a truly emergency situation. Chad asked one of the nurses what we would be doing had this been the situation outside the hospital or in the 1800s. She replied that we would've kept pushing until a terrible outcome would have ultimately resulted. That was all that he needed to hear to know that he was ok with the doctor's decision. I, on the other hand, was still freaking out in desperation and disbelief that I was being wheeled into the operating room.

But one way or another, it was time for Snow Pea to be born, and I knew that despite how I had wished things would happen, what was most important to me was finally holding my sweet girl in my arms, happy and healthy. So I took a deep breath and signed the consent forms for my c-section. I had been born by c-section nearly three decades earlier, so it looked like being born with a full head of hair wouldn't be the only thing mine and my daughter's births would have in common. And now it was almost time...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Birth Story Part 1: It Starts...

I feel like queen of the slackers lately. 6 weeks have passed since Snow Pea was born, and I have yet to write her birth story. I think about it every day and keep telling myself I will sit and write this post, but I never seem to actually do the writing part. So much of my last moments of pregnancy and her arrival into the world are still so fresh to me, it seems like I will always remember them, but I know the reality is that more and more details will slip my mind the longer I wait to write them down, so I have resolved to write at least part one of her birth story today. Beginning, of course, with the day before she was born.

The week after Snow Pea's official due date was full of hope, excitement and anxiety. Chad and I had spent lots of time reading up on and trying all of the old wives tales we could find to try coaxing Snow Pea into coming on her own but as my scheduled induction neared, we instead began emotionally embracing and preparing for that moment much as we did as children waiting for Christmas. We wanted to make the most of those last hours before heading into the hospital and they were so perfect and poignant for me, that this story really does start there.

We scheduled the induction for midnight on a Friday and at first I worried it would be a mistake to go into the hospital in the middle of the night, but once the last 24 hours began, I was so glad we made the decision we did. That day I created a "Last Day" list that included a few chores and errands I wanted to finish before we left, as well as a few fun things I wanted to enjoy. And because we went in at the end of the day, instead of the beginning, I was able to leisurely enjoy every moment of that last day. I went for long walk, rubbing my still pregnant belly the entire time, spent some time in Barnes & Noble enjoying a book and a coffee, met with a few of our closest friends for dinner and re-packed my hospital bag taking into account the reality that when I came home again, it would be as a family of three. It was undoubtedly the most exciting, anticipatory day of my life and when it was time to leave the house Chad and I were both nearly breathless from the butterflies flapping away in our stomachs. It was a drizzly drive down the freeway, and of course incredibly surreal as each mile went by.

After we arrived and signed all of the admittance paperwork I was brought to my room where I was asked to pee in a cup one last time and then change into a hospital gown. My nurse, Suzanne, seemed a bit insecure but she was sweet and took good care of me that night. She went over all of the admittance questions as she started my IV and the lowest dose of Pitocin. She showed Chad where he could go to get himself coffee and my hourly allowance of juice, popsicles or jello. After getting my ID bracelet on, Chad and I gave her our birth plan attached to a box of See's chocolate for her and the rest of the nursing staff. I am not sure if it was the chocolate or just that they liked us, but we did feel that we received excellent treatment from all of the labor and delivery staff.

Once the external contraction and heart rate monitors were on, she did a check of Snow Pea's and my status and found that I was between 80% effaced, 2 & 3centimeters dilated and Snow Pea was at -1 station. It was a good place to start and my contractions were very mild, so we took advantage of that early stage and got plenty of rest.

At about 4am my contractions were still very mild, too mild to be making much progress,so Dr.Casual ordered my water to be broken. In our childbirth classes the instructor showed us the slender plastic pokey stick they use to puncture the bag of waters and explained how quick,easy and painless the process is. Apparently my membranes missed that memo because it took the on-call OB a lot of time and effort to actually break my water, which was less than comfortable. The slight discomfort of having my water broken didn't compare to the discomfort of the contractions that followed. Literally within minutes my mild,easy contractions became surges of hard, hollow cramping pain. For about 3 hours I breathed and walked through each wave of pain, but by 7am and at close to 4cm, I succumbed to temptation and had my epidural placed by an anesthesiologist who could have taught a course in bedside manner, while I watched a gorgeous sunrise over Newport Harbor.

Shift change came and while I had liked my night nurse, I really loved Ashley who eventually became my nurse for the day. She was very sincere and easy to relate to. She kept telling us how happy she was for us and I could tell she really meant it. By mid-morning my epidural had made my contraction pain a distant memory but it had been replaced by the most insane itching of my life! No one had ever told me about the possibility of that side effect. It was unreal! The IV fluids coupled with being bed bound by the epidural also caused my feet and legs to swell to nearly epic proportions. I looked like I had sprouted sausages on the end of my torso. Ultimately though, I was able to sleep much better with the drugs than I ever would have without them, so Chad rubbed my legs for me in between naps as my body continued the slow and steady progression of labor.

Snow Pea's birth day was unbelievably exciting and surreal for me and Chad. We napped, chatted with the nurse, enjoyed a delicious lunch of jello and juice, watched the sailboats glide by outside our window and continually marveled at just how amazing and wonderful this whole thing was. I now realize that I was in labor for 18 hours before I began pushing, and it was another 3 hours until Snow Pea was finally born. Not a short amount of time by any means, but for us, giddily enjoying every second, the day seemed to fly by.

There were a few moments throughout the day when I worried I wasn't progressing enough. The nurse would come in to check me and hour after hour, my cervix would be exactly the same. I was so paranoid I would fall victim to the so-called "cascade of interventions" and my progression would stop altogether or Snow Pea would be put into distress and I would end up having to have a c-section, my greatest fear. Thankfully, Snow Pea was never stressed for a second, her heart rate stayed perfect throughout the entire labor and then all at once I went from 6cm to fully dilated. After laboring down for another hour so that Snow Pea could move into position, it was time to push. That's where the real story of her birth begins...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Say Cheese!

Making photo books is always a daunting task for me, but I had a free book and 155 beautiful newborn pictures of my sweet baby girl, so I found the time and created this album. I am so glad we were able to have Amy at Miracle Made, come take these gorgeous pictures of Snow Pea (and give me a mini mommy make-over!). I will always cherish these precious photos and the memories of having them taken. I am just in awe every single time I see Eliana's sweet face, and I always will be.

Click here to view this photo book larger

Monday, May 9, 2011

One Month

My Dear Precious Snow Pea, Eliana,

You are one month old today! It is amazing that even though time seems to be moving at warp speed since you were born, it also feels like you have always been here, where you were meant to be. I know you have only been physically here for one month, but you have been alive and real in mine and Daddy's hearts for much, much longer than that. Now that you are finally here, we can't imagine a world without you in it.

Your first month in the world has been a busy one. Your Grammy came to visit from Florida, your Aunt Pammy came from Alaska and your Grandmommy and Granddaddy drove from Georgia to see your sweet face and spend time with you. Everyone just instantly falls in love with you and then misses you like crazy once they leave. Living far away from so many of the people that love you has been one of the hardest parts of this month, but always remember that no matter how far away they are, there are so many people that wanted you to be here and they all hoped and prayed for you, almost as much as Mommy and Daddy did.

I really can't believe how quickly this time has flown by or how much you have already grown and changed in one short month.You cheeks get squishier and more kissable every day as you become more and more aware of the world around you. It has been incredible to watch you as you notice something for the first time. Lately, you have become more interested in watching and trying to imitate faces. If Daddy or I blow raspberries at you, you start sticking out your tongue and flicking it in an attempt to do it too! It is the cutest thing in the world!

Yesterday thanks to you, I got to do something I thought at times I may never be able to do, celebrate my first Mother's Day. You gave me the most amazing and incredible gift for my first Mother's Day too, your first real smile! In the morning you slept in, while Daddy brought me breakfast in bed. After you woke up and had your breakfast, Daddy and I sat in the nursery playing with you. I was tickling your sweet, little chin and giggling at you like Ernie from "Sesame Street". You locked eyes with me as I kept doing that and at that moment the biggest smile spread across your face. It was incredible! Both mine and Daddy's hearts melted. We thought you were gorgeous before but seeing you smile was true beauty.

I still can't believe I got to celebrate such a special day with you. Last year at this time, I was heartbroken and devastated by longing and loss. My first mother's day was bittersweet because of that. I won't lie to you, I cried quite a bit yesterday morning, for a mixture of reasons. I cried tears of remembrance at last year's pain, tears of empathy for my friends still in longing, tears of gratitude for the support and love of your Daddy, tears of joy at seeing your amazing smile and tears of awe that this is real, I really am a mommy, your mommy, and that is an honor I will strive every day to be worthy of.

Happy one month of life, Baby Girl. You have made this past month the best of my life. I thought I knew love the moment I held you in my arms for the first time, but each day of this past month I've realized that the love I felt for you yesterday, pales next to the love I have for you today. And even though tomorrow hasn't come yet, I know that the love I will have for you then will be even greater still.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Bathing Beauty

Today was baby girl's first REAL (not sponge) bath. I was worried she would scream through the whole thing but she LOVED the water almost as much as she loved watching herself in the mirror. The adventure of the bath came before and after. While I was holding her naked bottom in my hand, she decided it was a good time to poop! All over me, the counter and in the bath water. Then after she was all clean and dried off, she peed all over her cute hooded towel and her daddy. It was definitely a fun and memorable event that I will cherish the memory of forever.