Monday, January 28, 2013

Your Birth Story: Part Three

Dear Em,

* This is a post about childbirth & the aftermath. It was not an easy childbirth. You may not want to read this is if you are about to have a baby or descriptions of childbirth make you feel uncomfortable. *
* This is the third part of a four part series, You can also read Your Birth Story: Part One, Your Birth Story: Part Two, & Your Birth Story: Part Four. *

All of a sudden, I was alone. I went from being surrounded by people to being completely by myself. Don't get me wrong, I was OK with that. If there was something wrong, I wanted every specialist in the hospital to surround our baby until I knew you were OK. Still, it felt weird to lay there all alone.

"Can someone tell me if she is a little girl? Otherwise, we're going to have some serious issues when it comes to the name we chose." I said it partly joking, but really I was serious. I had been dying to know for sure for nine long months. Now you were born & you were gone & I felt like I didn't know anything. A nurse turned & gave me a comforting look, "Yes, she's a girl."

I'm not sure how much time had passed. It could have been very little. It felt like forever, but I wasn't really in any condition to grasp time at that point. Then I heard your little cry. Finally they carried you back into our room & let me peak at you. "She's healthy & she's beautiful. I really want to give her to you, but she won't stop pooping," the nurse holding you giggled as she held you out for me to see. "I've never seen a newborn poop so much," the pediatrician exclaimed (I swear your daddy smiled at you with pride as the pediatrician said those words).

At that point I didn't care about poop. I wanted to hold you in my arms. You were mine, & I wanted to breathe in your baby smell (even if it was poopy) & feel your heart beat as I snuggled you in. Except that I really didn't have the strength to disagree with what was going on. Instead, I just smiled as I watched everyone crowd around you. They were measuring you & weighing you & cleaning you off. Your daddy was beaming with pride.

I heard my doctor ask a nurse for more sutures. "Oh, did I tear?" I asked her. "Oh, hunny, yes. I'm so sorry, but it's going to take a little while to put you back together." Put me back together? What did that mean? It was later that I realized an episiotomy had to be done before using the vacuum to pull you out. It was later that your daddy told me he saw them bringing out the cutting devices, but thought it was best not to mention to me during labor (yet another example of how your daddy was exactly what I needed during the labor process). It was later I found out I had torn through to my rectum.

Your daddy was being bombarded with text messages & stepped outside to call & tell our parents that you were born & healthy. It was then that they finally brought you over to me. They had dressed you & cleaned you. The first time I held you, you were swaddled in a little blanket & had a tiny baby hat on. You were beautiful & you were perfect & you were mine.

The student who had at first seemed so sheepish was now full of excitement. "That was awesome. You did awesome. She's so beautiful! Do you want me to take a picture?" Your daddy had the camera with him, but I somehow located my phone. Using my phone, the student snapped a picture of that magical moment, the first time I held you in my arms (I'm so thankful that he took the picture. We soon lost all of the pictures on a our camera from that day & this was the only one we have now). Your daddy walked back in, excited from sharing the news with our families. He stood next to the two of us, & for the first time we were together as a family of three. I don't think my heart had ever been so full. At that moment, everything felt like it had fallen into place & there was nothing in the world that could bring me more happiness.

Unfortunately, the moment was fleeting. I had held you for only minutes, but I asked your daddy to take you. I was starting to feel weird, & I didn't trust my body. I mentioned that I was feeling really dizzy. Everyone rushed back over to me. I was given epinephrine & then it seemed like everyone took turns roughly pushing on my stomach. I was still experiencing the effects of my epidural, & yet each time they pushed I felt agonizing pain.

At some point one of the nurses told me she was taking you down to the nursery to warm you up. She assured me that they would return you to me as soon as they brought me down to the recovery room. It was hard for me to see her walk away with you, but as they pushed on my stomach & I cried out in pain I knew it was the right thing for you.

An emergency was going on in another delivery room. We heard a page for help. Our nurse ran out the door. For the first time in what seemed like forever, your daddy & I were alone. It was so nice to lay in quietness. I had been such a hectic day. Your daddy smiled as we quietly talked about how cute & funny you you had captured our hearts already. Then I started to feel weird again. I knew that an electronic blood pressure monitor was periodically taking my blood pressure. "Hey, babe, what are the numbers on that machine?" Your daddy looked. "Um, 40/20. Is that good?" I had a pretty extensive knowledge of blood pressure, & I knew mine was dangerously low. I tried to speak as calmly & gently as possible, because I knew what I was going to say would frighten your daddy. "Hey, babe, can you do me a favor? Would you mind pushing the call button, because I am going to pass out." Panic filled your daddy's eyes as he fumbled for the call button & dropped it on the floor. "It's OK. You'll get it," I said as I began to lose consciousness.

It's weird, but all through my pregnancy I had a weird feeling that I was going to die during childbirth. I had frequent nightmares about it. I tried to have the "if something happens to me" talk with your daddy, but he quickly cut me off each time. "I'm not talking about this. You're going to be fine," he would say as he shook his head. So instead of talking to him about it, I just prayed to God that you would be healthy & that love & support would surround you & your daddy if something happened to me.

As I lost consciousness I thought, "this is it. I am dying. At least I got to see her. At least I know she is healthy & she is safe & that's all that matters." It all seems so melodramatic now, because of course I didn't die. I was given more epinephrine & regained consciousness. "We had such a great afternoon, I thought you guys were going to be easy, but you're turning into such a trouble maker," our nurse jokingly scolded me as I opened my eyes. "Sorry," I mumbled as I tried to find the strength to smile. More painful pushing on my stomach followed. I cried out in pain. "I'm so sorry, hunny, it's just that you have blood clots the size of oranges, & we have to get them out."

Hours of the same passed. I wasn't really aware of how much time was passing. I would like to say that you were the only thing I thought about during that time, but I was too tired & weak to even think. They covered me in blankets as my whole body shivered.

Finally, they determined I was stabilized & wheeled me on a bed, down to my recovery room. A nurse asked if I wanted to rest or if I wanted her to bring you into the room. I had been awake for 24 hours. I was weak & more tired than I had ever been, but there was nothing I wanted in the world more than you in my arms. It was 5:30am. You had been born at 10:59. 6 1/2 hours later, we were finally together.

As I breathed in your sweet baby scent, I sent your daddy to his parent's house. We had talked about it during my pregnancy. The fold-out couches they have at the hospital are terribly uncomfortable, & his parents' house was only 15 minutes away. It would be better for him to get some decent sleep while he could, because once we were home he would be taking care of both of us. He hesitated, asking if I was sure I was OK, but I shooed him out. I snuggled you close. At that moment, everything was perfect. I looked at your ten little fingers & ten teeny toes. You were so tiny & squishy & adorable. I was in love.

I could have spent the rest of my life just looking at you, but other challenges were ahead. I felt like I had been run over by a mack truck, which had then backed up & run over me again. Everything...everything...hurt. I was on IV antibiotics & constantly monitored. I laughed to myself about all the things we had packed in my hospital bag. I didn't have the strength to walk to the shower, let alone take one. Make-up was not going to happen. Oh, & the comfy sweatpants we packed for me to wear, yeah those weren't going to happen for me either (we called my mom & asked if she would pick up a nightgown for me).

We had decided to donate your umbilical cord blood. While in most cases, parents have to pay to privately store their child's cord blood, Rhode Islanders have the option of donating it to the Rhode Island Blood Center's state-wide public cord bank. If someone else needs your cord blood, we will be contacted to let us know that it was being used. Otherwise, it is available for you if you one day need it. We were given the sweetest newborn top that said "Already a Hero." There was just one problem. They needed a blood sample from me within 48 hours after donation. My veins generally prove to be challenging for blood draw, but in this case I was also very dehydrated. After poking me four separate times, they gave up. They told me they would pump me with fluids intravenously & try again the next day (luckily they were able to get a blood sample eventually).

When my epidural was started I had been hooked up to a catheter, but now it was time for it to come out. This meant I would have to pee on my own. Things that came easy, all of a sudden seemed impossible. I needed a nurse even to help me walk just the few steps to the bathroom. After peeing, she asked if I needed help or if I wanted to clean myself. Any modesty I had left, I lost right there. I asked her for help. It hard enough for me to try to sit upright. My body felt absolutely & completely broken, & I wondered if I would ever feel right again.

I never understood postpartum depression before this. I honestly felt that women were just making it up, but now I know it's real. My body was a mess (every doctor or nurse who came in to examine me looked at my chart & said, "whoa, you're in really rough shape. That was one hell of a labor you had). I had never experienced anything close to the kind of pain & exhaustion I was feeling, but yet I was over the moon with joy. It doesn't even really make sense how unbelievably blissful I was. Hormones are the only thing that could explain it. If they could make me that happy, they can certainly do the opposite to someone else. I thank God I experienced joy rather than depression.

At 2pm, an hour before visiting hours started. I was still holding you in my arms, taking in every inch of you. Your daddy was sitting next to us. I'm sure goofy smiles covered our faces. My nurse came in & asked, "have you gotten any sleep at all?" "Well, I kind of nodded off for a few minutes a couple times," I explained. It was so hard with people walking in every few minutes to push on my stomach, check on me, & check on the baby. Plus, I had this teeny, tiny fascination in my arms. "I'm going to take her to the nursery, & put a do not disturb sign on the door. You really need sleep." I've heard from people that the nurses aren't even supposed to offer to take the babies to the nursery, but that nurse we an angel. I got a whole hour of uninterrupted sleep, & after being awake for almost 33 challenging hours, I really needed it.

Visiting hours came, & nothing made me more happy than to see you being loved by our parents. "She has a full head of hair. We have you to thank for that," your papa smiled at me. Tears filled your grandma & nonnie's eyes the first time they held you & the biggest smile I'd ever seen was plastered across your papi's face that whole afternoon. As I watched my mother smiling down at you, I knew my heart had never been so happy. "You know what, mom? That wasn't that bad. I could totally do that again." Seriously?! Looking back now, I can't believe those words came out of my mouth so soon after my delivery. I'm telling you, hormones play funny little tricks on you.

It was as my parent's were visiting that the hospital lactation consultant came in. Your Papi took that as his cue to leave. I had planned to breastfeed, but I was a little confused about why a consultant was needed. I always thought that nursing just came naturally. I thought once given the opportunity, the baby would just know what to do. Well, you can add that to the list of things I was totally wrong about. I guess each baby has to learn to latch. For some it comes easier than others. The consultant asked me if I had tried nursing, & I immediately reddened with embarrassment & guilt. You had been born almost 12 hours ago, & I hadn't even thought about feeding you. "That's OK. Let's try now," she said.  There were a number of things she instructed me to do to help you learn to latch. At one point I had both my mother and my mother in law pushing on my boobs in an attempt to help you latch while the lactation consultant watched on. It was for sure one of the top five most uncomfortable moments of my life.

Once visiting hours were over, your daddy & I sat down to a gourmet meal. In place of the typical hospital food, Women and Infants offers a Stork Club Dinner for new parents. Your daddy's company was so sweet to gift it to us. Our first dinner as parents was a yummy, candle-lit steak dinner with dessert & wine (don't judge). While you slept sweetly in your hospital basinet, Daddy & I toasted to new adventures as a family of three. Then we all snuggled in my hospital bed together & watched the New York City ball drop on TV. It was a brand new year, & we knew it would be the best one yet.

After a few more family snuggles, your daddy wheeled you to the nursery before heading to his parents' house. We both needed a good night's rest. I was hoping we would be able to go home the next day. It was the last full day your nonnie & papi would be able to spend in Rhode Island, & I wanted them to share it with you. I wanted to start our new year in the comfort of our cozy home, where I would be able to take my pain medication without having to wait for hospital staff to drop it by & wouldn't have to endure my stomach being pushed on every few hours.

My nurse told me it was a long shot. I was still on IV antibiotics & fluids. She told me the doctor would have to give me the OK, & she didn't think I was well enough. So, I prayed that my body would be strong enough for us to go home.

I love you so,

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