Friday, May 31, 2013

Birth story & beyond

I've been meaning to post this for a while now, but I never got around to it. Here goes:

I ended up being sent for induction on the evening of Wednesday 5/15, because we had a non-reactive NST and my BP had increased. We were told to expect to wait in OB triage for 2-3 hours for a L&D room, but were moved to our room in a little under an hour. They started the induction with a gel at around 8 or 9pm, and we were sent to walk the hospital halls for a few hours in total in between being monitored. My cervix started out at 1.5 cm dilated, but every time they checked me I'd made progress. Those checks were seriously uncomfortable, I have to say. I had a lot of bloody show after them, too. Anyway, I was given loads of IV fluids and then I was started on pitocin at 5am on Thursday 5/16. My contractions had been regular up until then, but not that bad. Pitocin definitely changed that! I ended up having really bad back labor because the baby was sideways. I also found out when I was 3cm dilated that I definitely could not have an epidural due to the syrinx in my spine. I was miserable by the time I was 4cm, and that was a long way off from delivery! I asked for some IV pain meds around that time, which did help a little. My contractions were still very intense but the time in between was more manageable.

At 8:15am my OB broke my water, and that made everything progress more. I also had an internal contraction monitor placed so they could figure out how much pitocin to give me. A lot of my contractions were off the chart, it was crazy. My hubby was a great support, he applied counter pressure to my lower back which was where I was feeling the contractions. If he hadn't done that I don't know how I would have coped.

Once I hit 7 cm, everything was crazy. I was quiet in between contractions and made low moan sounds during them. I tried to focus on keeping my breathing regular and deep, but sometimes it was too hard to breathe through them. The next time I was checked I was 9 cm, and it felt like my body was pushing on its own during my contractions. We tried different positions, like lying on my side with a peanut shaped inflatable ball between my legs, but the baby's position made that one horrendous. I stood for a while "slow dancing" with my hubby but that was pretty damn unbearable too. I ended up sitting on my exercise ball for a while, which hurt a lot but I wanted to let gravity do some of the work. I think it did help because after that I stood up, had a really terrible contraction which made me double over, and then they checked me and I was 10 cm. That was at 5pm. I had to be catheterized briefly because I was completely unable to empty my bladder due to the baby squishing my urethra. Just as well they did that, because they got about 800 ml from me! At 5:15pm I started pushing, 3 times per contraction as directed. Honestly the pushing felt much better than just having to tolerate the contractions! It was really hard work, but I felt better knowing the end was somewhat in sight. My OB and nurse were amazing and really encouraged me a lot. They told me I was pushing really well and kept me updated on my progress. I remember my OB telling me that our baby had peach fuzz hair - pretty surreal, since he hadn't been born yet! I kept my eyes closed the whole time I was pushing; it wasn't really a conscious thing, I just needed to focus on the task without any distractions. I remember being worried that I'd have to push for hours, and that I wouldn't have the energy. I didn't talk between contractions at that point, except to let them know when I needed to push.

My hubby gave me ice water after every contraction, which really helped. My mouth felt so dry after each set of pushes, so that small thing was very much appreciated. He was right there by my side the whole time, holding my right leg and telling me I was doing great. I remember looking at him at one point and thinking he was going to cry. The whole situation was pretty overwhelming for him, I think. He always said during my pregnancy that he wasn't going to watch the baby emerging, and I would tell him he might feel differently about that when I was actually giving birth. It turns out I was right - he watched the whole thing! Just as well he's not squeamish!! He was amazed by my strength and determination to get the baby out. My memory of the actual delivery is a little hazy - I wasn't really out of it, but there was so much going on and it was all pretty overwhelming. I remember the push where the baby's head came out, and how weird that felt. Getting his shoulders out was difficult but it happened quickly. Then he was here! He was placed on a towel on my chest and my hubby cut the umbilical cord, then they took the baby to clean him up and get his measurements etc. He never left the room, I could see him and my hubby was taking photos for me. I just remember feeling in a bit of a daze, but so so happy. Our baby came out kicking and screaming, and the sound of his screams was the best thing ever.

My OB had done her best to make sure I didn't tear too much, which I was (and am) very grateful for. I did have a small tear, and I remember it happening but didn't feel any pain at the time. I guess all the pressure makes it impossible to feel? I don't know. Anyway I needed a couple of stitches, but nothing extreme. I remember watching my OB stitching me up but I didn't feel a single thing. I know they used local anesthetic but I didn't even feel them give me that, which surprised me. I think at that point I didn't care anymore, I was just so relieved the baby was out and I was desperate to hold him again!

My labor was timed from the moment the pitocin started - so 5 a.m. In total, I was in labor for 13 hours and 6 minutes, with 51 minutes spent pushing. It could have been so much worse, but back labor is no joke! I totally would have taken the epidural if it had been an option for me, but it wasn't. I will admit though that I was/am so proud of myself for getting through it without an epi. I'd never fully decided before whether I definitely wanted an epi or not, but I was open to having one if I needed it. My OB was seriously impressed that I did it without any real pain relief, especially given that this was my first baby and he was in a difficult position. She kept saying she couldn't believe how well I kept control and she was really surprised I wasn't screaming. There was a woman in the next room who delivered maybe 5-10 minutes before I did, who was screaming so loud it was pretty disconcerting. I just remembered from our birthing class that screaming doesn't really help, and that low moans help more. Plus I do tend to be pretty quiet when I'm in pain - at worst I might cry, but I don't usually get loud. I don't think I would have had the energy to scream, honestly. I just had to focus on what needed to be done. In my head I was rationalizing things to myself - it was kind of weird. I never could have articulated myself at that point, but I was aware of the things going on around me and I knew why they were doing certain things. Like when they catheterized me to empty my bladder, I remember thinking "oh good, my bladder won't rupture". I also thought "I bet this is going to be awful", LOL, but I didn't feel a thing. My OB used a numbing gel on me, which I was very grateful for. I'm sure it couldn't have possibly hurt as much as the contractions did, anyway. When my OB told me how brave I was, I remember thinking that it's not like I had a choice - the epidural was off the table, so I had to get on with it without the epi. If I'd had the option I would've taken the epi - so in my mind, not so brave! She came to visit me the morning after when I was in my postpartum room, and again told me how great I did and said that she was going to brag about me to her coworkers. Too funny!

Oh, she also ordered a spine MRI for me to check the syrinx out. I had it done 5/17, the day after delivery. I saw my OB on Tuesday afternoon and she told me the syrinx had shrunk down, which was a big surprise to me. I expected it to be the same or possibly a little bigger. She gave me a referral to a neurologist, just to get it cleared officially, but I'm not worried. I'm thinking it'll probably turn out that I could have had the epidural, but either way, I'm still glad I didn't get one (even though it wasn't by choice, LOL). If we have another baby in the future, maybe an epidural will be an option. If not, though, it's fine. I did it this time, so I could do it again. That doesn't mean I'm in a rush to, though!!

It's true that you forget some of the pain once the baby's here. When I think back to my labor, I just remember that the contractions got seriously painful. I remember struggling to breathe through the really bad ones. I don't look back in horror, though, and think I would never do it again. It was very painful, but it didn't last that long in the grand scheme of things, and it was so worthwhile.

My recovery has been pretty good overall. I had a lot of swelling in my legs, ankles and feet from all the IV fluids I was given, but that's all gone now. The bleeding hasn't been nearly as heavy as I expected; it was heavy in the very beginning, and I got through quite a few of those enormous hospital maxi pads, but most of the time now it's just like spotting, and I'm only 15 days postpartum. To give you an idea how bad the swelling was, when I left the hospital 2 days after giving birth, I hadn't lost any weight whatsoever from when I entered the hospital. That was pretty depressing! When I had my appointment 12 days postpartum, I'd lost between 15 and 16 pounds. I only have 4 or 5 pounds to go and then I'll be at my pre-pregnancy weight. I could stand to lose a lot more than that, though, if I'm honest.

Breastfeeding was challenging in the beginning, but we're doing well now. At first, before my milk came in, we were doing OK. When my milk came in on day 3, it got much harder because it was almost impossible to get a good latch due to engorgement. Luckily I already had a breast pump, so I used it a few times and that helped. The advice is not to give the baby any bottles until breastfeeding is well established - a lot of people say a month or so - but my nipples were very sore and cracked at one point and I'd pumped so my hubby gave him a bottle of my pumped milk. I'm happy to say it made no difference to breastfeeding, except to give my nipples a chance to recover a bit.

Our air conditioning at home broke down completely when our baby was 4 days old. We live in the Arizona desert, so it was a bad situation! We had to wait on the replacement part, so ended up going to a hotel for a few nights and boarding our dogs. Staying in a hotel with a newborn was very stressful - when the baby cried at night I felt terrible, in case he was waking everyone else up, and the amount of stuff you have to take with you for an overnight trip is just insane. We were very glad we'd bought portable baby gear, because otherwise it would have been even worse! There was one time in the hotel that we ended up giving pumped breast milk, because I just couldn't get the baby to latch on properly and he was getting so upset and so was I because I tried for absolutely ages. Since then, though, we've been doing really well with nursing and I haven't pumped at all. I think I will pump though, just to have a back-up supply in case we ever need it. It might be useful!

Baby boy had his 2 week check-up yesterday, and we were very curious to find out what he weighed. At birth he was 6 lb 11 oz and at his first appointment (6 days old) he was 6 lb 4 oz. Since then he's been nursing a lot, and I guessed he might be 6 lb 12 oz. Well, he was 7 lb 1.5 oz! We were both pretty surprised by that! He still easily fits into newborn clothes - he probably will for a while, since he's not chunky. I'm so pleased that he's gaining weight well, though. It's hard to know how much milk a breastfed baby is actually getting, you know?

This post wouldn't be complete without a few photos:

Grumpy face :)

In his swing

I'll write more soon, but I think it's time for coffee right now! :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Right on time!

At 6:06pm on Thursday May 16th, we welcomed our baby boy into the world! He was born on his due date (I was induced starting the night before), weighing 6 pounds 11 ounces, and measuring 20.25 inches long. We're absolutely in love with him! He looks so much like my husband, it's crazy. We really couldn't be happier! I'll post our birth story soon, but in the meantime here are some photos:

Our first family photo, taken very shortly after delivery

3 days old!

Friday, May 10, 2013

39 weeks yesterday... we have a plan!

Yesterday marked 39 weeks! I had my appointment and everything is going well. The NST was good, no worries there. I asked my OB about the syrinx/epidural thing and she thinks it will be OK, but will check with an anesthesiologist to be sure. I'm not planning on getting one anyway, but I'd kind of like for it to be an option if I feel I need it. I mean I have no idea just how bad labor is going to be, so I'm trying to keep my options open!

I didn't get a cervix check, she said there was no need and I know she's right. Hopefully things are progressing, though. We talked about induction and the plan is that I'll have my next appointment on Wednesday, 39+6, and probably go to the hospital that night. I'm not in a desperate hurry to get the baby out, but my OB doesn't want me going much beyond 40 weeks. My blood pressure is generally OK but has been rising a little recently, and I think that's part of it. If they start inducing on Wednesday night, baby boy might actually arrive on his due date - 5/16. Not that that really matters, but it would be pretty cool I guess. I'm still hoping our baby will have other plans and I'll go into labor on my own before then, though! :)

My hubby has told his manager what's likely to happen - obviously the dates are subject to change, if the baby comes on his own earlier or if for some reason they don't induce me on Wednesday, but he's trying to keep them in the loop. He has 7 vacation days left to take, so if everything goes according to plan he'll be off Thursday and Friday, and then all of the following week. Hopefully we'll be out of the hospital by Sunday at the latest. If the baby is born on Thursday, we might get out by Saturday. Ideally I want to see one of the hospital's lactation consultants before we leave, to make sure everything is going well with feeding before going home.

It's all getting very real now! :)

Saturday, May 4, 2013

38 week appointment

On Thursday afternoon I should have had my 38 week appointment. I got a call from my OB office (about 20 minutes before leaving the house) to say that my OB wasn't there. Ugh! I had a few questions I wanted to ask her, and I was hoping to find out the status of my cervix too (just out of curiosity). Anyway, since I was supposed to have another NST as well as my appointment, they said I could have the NST done at the hospital instead. We had to go to the OB office to collect the script for that, and then we went to the hospital.

We waited about half an hour to be seen, which isn't bad really! My doctor actually asked for a NST and a biophysical profile (BPP). I think she hadn't seen the report from the BPP I had on Monday - everything was fine at that ultrasound, so I don't think she would have sent me for another if she'd seen the report, but I couldn't exactly find anything out at that point.

Anyway, the baby did great on the NST and then we went to ultrasound for the BPP. Baby scored 8/8, so that's awesome! :) After that we were taken back to L&D and waited to be sent home. Altogether we were in the hospital for about 2 and a half hours, which we weren't exactly planning on, but then again sometimes at the OB office we've waited ages too, and had fewer things done! It was nice to know everything was still going well, of course. Maybe my OB thought that since we were already having to go to the hospital, I might as well have another BPP? I don't know, really. I know we'll be getting another bill from the hospital, though!

I could have rescheduled my OB appointment, but since I already have my next 2 set up and they're weekly, I didn't think there was much point. My OB office is closed Friday afternoon, and I don't think they would have been able to get me in for a routine appointment much earlier than Thursday anyway. If anything happens in the meantime I'll either call my OB or go to L&D. I just hope that I'm able to see her on Thursday as planned, because I'll be 39 weeks then and I really need to know the answers to these questions!

The main question is whether I can even get an epidural if needed, because I have a syrinx in my spine. It's a fluid sac in my spinal cord, which was an incidental finding on an MRI scan I had more than 4 years ago. I've googled the question and it seems as though there's conflicting information out there. I wasn't planning on getting an epidural anyway, and honestly since the syrinx doesn't cause me any problems (knock on wood) and has probably been there my whole life, I don't really think about it! It's in my thoracic spine so I didn't think it would cause any issues if I did get an epidural, but I'd like to know for sure of course. I certainly don't want to cause any issues with something that's currently asymptomatic! I'm sure my OB will probably want to consult with an anesthesiologist, so I don't want to wait until I'm in labor to ask this! Hopefully Thursday my appointment will happen as planned. Fingers crossed!! :)