Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Birth Story - Part 2

Everything that happened immediately after the birth is a bit of a blur. One of the side effects of magnesium is extreme drowsiness. I remember holding baby skin to skin, David cutting the cord, breastfeeding, and then at one point, both myself and the baby getting extremely cold. I remember them taking her away from me when this happened.

A few hours later, the nurses came in and said they wanted to try to help me move down to the postpartum floor, but I was so sick that I was unable to get out of bed. Every time I sat up or tried to get out of bed, I would get so lightheaded and almost pass out. At one point I just started throwing up, so they let me stay in bed a little longer until I was feeling a little better. Eventually, they got me down to the postpartum room, which I must say, was a lot less glamorous than the labor and delivery room. The second nurse I had wanted to put me back on high blood pressure medicine, which I remembered my labor & delivery nurse taking me off of. When I questioned her about it, she mentioned another doctor's name (not my doctor) so I immediately got concerned. I called the Labor & Delivery department and they spoke to my doctor who spoke to the nurse and got things straightened out. I was worried we got off on the wrong foot, but that nurse turned out to be the nicest one.

The next few hours were torture because I was unable to get out of bed to go see the baby, and they were unable to bring her to me. They were concerned about her weight/size and at the time, I was adamant about not wanting them to introduce a pacifier, nipple, or formula. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed, which is pretty difficult to do when you can't physically be with your baby. They kept me on the magnesium for 24 hours after the delivery, so for the next 24 hours, I laid in bed with a catheter (which they inserted while I was awake), trying to keep food down. A nurse and then an assistant came every hour to check my vitals, blood pressure, uterus, etc. Someone from phlebotomy also regularly came to take my blood. In the wee hours of the morning, a girl from phlebotomy came and missed my vein twice and I just lost it and broke down in tears. I was worried about feeding the baby, and I was only making tiny amounts of colostrum, which David painstakingly helped collect into a small syringe which he would then take down to the NICU. Both her nurse and doctor came up to see me in my room to assure me she was doing ok and they were taking good care of her, which meant so much to me.

A few hours after they took me off the magnesium, I was finally well enough to be wheeled down to the NICU to see the baby. Oh my gosh, I fell in love! It was difficult to see her hooked up to so many tubes and monitors. She was hooked up to a Bili Blanket due to jaundice, and they had the cutest little eye mask on her. When David and first seen her like that, he returned to my room and told me she was getting the "blue light special." The nurses even drew some eyelashes on her eye mask, and so I always joked that she was tanning in a tanning bed.

After her weight fell to 3 lb. 11 oz., they decided to put in a nasogastric (NG) tube to help feed her and were also giving her IV nutrition. I tried to breastfeed, and she seemed to be latching, although she kept falling asleep at the breast. One night when David and I were collecting my colostrum, we noticed that it kept flowing! He suggested I try pumping again (when previously I had not pumped out anything), so I gave it a shot, and to my surprise, collected a decent amount of milk! From that moment on, I was able to pump more and more. I was discharged from the hospital on Monday, 6.26.17. Thankfully, the NICU had a family room available for David and I to stay in, which was right off the nursery, so we moved right in. Luckily, the dogs were still boarding at the vet's kennel.

After making some progress and gaining weight, they decided to try a day without the NG tube and strictly breastfeeding. This was the most exhausting day. The nurses called me almost every hour (sometimes two) to come feed her when she awoke. Unfortunately, the next day, she had lost all the weight she'd gained which meant she was not transferring milk. The nurses and lactation consultants kept assuring me that she would get better at breastfeeding as she got older/bigger, and not to get discouraged, but I was so upset and felt like I had been starving my baby. The doctors made me feel much better though, so we talked about a few alternatives such as bottle feeding, formula, and a _____. One evening, the nurse helped me take a pre-feed and post-feed weight to see if the baby was transferring milk. Unfortunately, the scale was inaccurate and she actually weighed less the second time. Next, we decided to try the ____. The lactation consultant tried a pre- and post-feed weight again, but she remained the same. I finally relented to giving her a bottle. The nurse and doctor helped me come up with a compromise: I would breastfeed her for ten minutes, and then give her a bottle of breastmilk. David and the nurses had talked to me and made me realize that yes, it would have been nice to strictly breastfeed as planned...but things didn't go as planned. She came 5 weeks early, and with that, some of my plans had to change. I realized that this didn't mean I couldn't still breastfeed her later. The goal was to get her to a healthy weight, so that she could go home and we could learn to breastfeed as she got older/bigger. The next few days, she started gaining weight and doing a lot better. The nurses removed her IV (which kept coming out), and she was even taken off the Bili Blanket (though she was later put back on). After nine days, the doctor felt she was ready to go home! It was perfect timing. The last night she was there, my mom had flown in, and it was the first night that the family room was unavailable. We were able to take my mom home and I got a good night's rest in my own bed. The next day, the nurses told me the baby had passed all her tests (hearing, car seat etc.) and we were finally able to take her home in a car bed (since she was still too small for her carseat). 

The past 6.5 weeks have been exhausting, but amazing. My mom was able to stay with us for a little over 4 weeks (7.1.17-8.2.17), and she was a lifesaver. She cooked for us everyday, took care of the baby so we could rest, watched the baby so we could go out on a couple dates, and helped me re-organize the house (including multiple closets and cabinets). I was a mess when she finally had to go home. I didn't realize how exhausting caring for a newborn can be. The baby has not been wanting to sleep in her crib or pack and play and instead prefers to sleep in our arms or the rock and play, which is not ideal for long-term sleep. We finally got this co-sleeper bassinet which has helped a little. She still grunts and groans a lot during her sleep, but the good thing about it is that if she cries, we can reach over and soothe her with a pacifier, or pick her up to feed her without getting out of bed. 

Last week, David's parents and our sister-in-law came to meet the baby. Our sister-in-law is a photographer back in NC where we used to live, and I was so excited to fly her out here to take photos of the baby and the nursery. David took his family to Sedona and to the Grand Canyon, and we got to spend a few nights together eating dinner and just catching up. This is my first full week home alone with the baby. Yesterday, I took her out to run some errands including stopping to get my tires fixed, and going to the grocery store and Target. Everything with a baby takes extra time, and I feel like I'm always late to every appointment. I'm a slave to the breast pump, and I'm running on only a couple hours of sleep, but I could not be more in love with this tiny human being. She is amazing. :)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Our Birth Story - Part 1

On June 23, 2017, at 10:10am, I went in for a routine NST at my OB's office. I had had a couple of high blood pressure readings and some higher-than-normal creatinine levels in my blood work, so the doctor had put me on bed rest and had me coming in twice weekly for NSTs. I also had low fluid, so I was drinking water like crazy (nearly a gallon per day) and it seemed to be working. At this appointment, my blood pressure measured extremely high and there was protein in my urine, so the doctor sent me to Labor & Delivery for blood work and monitoring.

As I drove across the street, the thought occurred to me that I could be induced that day and that baby would be here 5 weeks early...but at the same time, I thought that maybe my blood pressure would come down and they'd just send me home. I called David and told him what was going on. He, of course, wanted to come to the hospital to be with me, but I told him not to worry about it yet, because I still had the hope that I'd be sent home. While in triage, they monitored my blood pressure, which was not coming down, and ran some blood work. Finally, around 2:43pm, the results from the blood work came in, and the nurse informed me that the doctor wanted to admit and induce me! The doctor came to see me and informed me that I had reached the severe preeclampsia stage and that she would induce me that night. She would come back in the morning, as she didn't expect me to go into labor until then.

Looking back on it now, I was extremely calm given the circumstances. I told David not to come yet, because even with inducing, it could take 1-3 days before I'd go into active labor. Instead, I gave him a list of things to do at home including washing baby clothes, packing my hospital bag, and bringing the dogs to the kennel. I was moved into one of the labor and delivery rooms, and I got settled in. My good friend, Amy, came to visit and brought me a phone charger and some treats. I was so glad she was there, because they put me on IV Magnesium Sulfate which was awful. I immediately got really hot and uncomfortable. Then they started inducing me around 5:20pm using prostaglandin gel. Around this time, David arrived at the hospital, so I felt a lot better. At 5:27pm, the baby was at -2 and I was 1 cm dilated, 60% effaced. They applied a total of 3 gels every 2 hours (7:30pm, 9:30pm). At 7:49pm baby was -3, I was 1-1.5cm dilated 60-70% effaced. To be completely honest, much of that night is a blur to me, but I remember that I started feeling period-like cramping after a couple gels, and then full on contractions in the middle of the night. At around 1:00am, I felt dampness and asked a nurse to check if my water had broke, and it had--on its own! At 2:56am, baby was -2, and I was 3.5 cm dilated, 75% effaced. They gave me Pitocin at 3am.

While this was going on, David was sleeping. I didn't want to wake him up because I felt I had time and could power through some of the less painful contractions until full on labor started. At 6:03am, the contractions were approximately 4 minutes apart and becoming more and more painful. I had the urge to push/bear down whenever the contractions came, even though I knew I should avoid doing so, so as not to inflame the cervix. When the contractions would come, they would get progressively more and more painful and peak, and then diminish, just like a bell curve. At the peaks, I felt myself clutching the bed rail as hard as I could. (I now know that the baby was a lot lower than we thought, and I was progressing much quicker than we all thought, so the pressure I felt down there was really baby's head pressing on my cervix.) At this point, David was awake and texting my doula for me, because I could no longer do it myself. At 7:19am the nurse checked me again and said "She is definitely a 6." At this point, I was in so much pain and ready for the epidural. (Up to this point, I had been refusing it because I wanted to go as long as I could without it so as to avoid a c-section.) The on-call anesthesiologist was at home and needed to get to the hospital, and then administer the epidural, which would take 45 minutes to begin working! I was so happy to see him when he came in at 8:02am. (-2, 6 cm, 80%) I don't remember much, except that he was extremely tall and that not long after he administered the epidural, I felt so much better. I was finally able to take a nap. The plan was for the doula to come around 10:30-11:00am, when it would be closer to pushing time...but at 9:09am, the nurses told me I was fully dilated (10 cm) and would start pushing soon! At 9:40am the doctor came and I began pushing, and baby was born at 9:59am and 31 seconds!