July 25, 2011

Birth Story - Violet Emilia - Part 2

Without further adieu here is the conclusion of Violet Emilia's birth story...

Dr. Crane had already let me stall long past the point when many doctors would, and he finally said they needed to give me pitocin to get me to progress. They had put a monitor inside me to measure my contractions (which was not comfortable) and my uterus was also getting tired, so the contractions weren’t doing as much as they should. I didn’t think I could take stronger contractions than I’d been having for an undetermined length of time and still have enough energy to push, and I told Dr. Crane that, assuming that meant I'd need a c-section. He said he thought I could do it, but after I'd told him no a few times, he gave our doula a pointed look and she said gently, "You know, you could get an epidural with the pitocin." It hadn't occurred to me that I could get one and it wasn't until later that I realized Dr. Crane wasn't offering one because it said not to in our birth plan. That was the best idea I'd heard all day. After that it took about an hour to hydrate me through an IV and get the anesthesiologist in, but I asked with almost every contraction when my epidural was coming.

It arrived at about 4 p.m. and really did take away all of the pain. It was surreal. I could see on the monitor that I was having a contraction and occasionally feel a bit of pressure, but really nothing. I was supposed to rest and I think I slept for about a half hour, but it turns out they gave me too much of the epidural. It made me get sick again and my left leg was so numb I could barely move it and I was freezing cold and shivering. At 6:30 p.m., everyone expected me to be fully dilated, but I was only 9 ½ cm. By 7:30 I was so close Dr. Crane manipulated the last bit of the cervix out of the way during a contraction so I could finally push.  

Cheryl told me I needed to get the baby out quickly and I knew I didn’t have much time. I found out later Dr. Crane had pulled Anthony aside in the hallway to tell him this was my last chance. They were worried about the baby’s heart rate and also about my blood pressure. They turned the epidural off so I could feel everything to try to make me more efficient. My first push was pretty effective, but the baby’s heart rate dropped below a safe level and they made me stop pushing for the next few contractions. 

The nurse was trying to get me to turn over, which would have slowed things down more, but the baby’s heart rate came back up just in time and I was able to resume pushing. Cheryl was on one leg, the nurse on another and Anthony behind my back and they all helped me basically do a crunch with each contraction. A few pushes in, Dr. Crane was able to reach inside me and turn the baby to face the right direction, which stabilized her heartbeat. Anthony was great, telling me how much I was progressing each time I pushed, and after several more pushes they told me to reach down to feel the top of her head. The pushing didn’t hurt nearly as much as my contractions and was actually pretty cool. It definitely hurt, but it was a different kind of pain. 

Violet was born at 8:08 p.m. on December 6th, 2010, after only 40 minutes of pushing and a 41 hour labor. I always assumed I'd sob when she was finally born. Anthony was crying, and I may have shed a tear or two, but I was mostly in shock. We just kept staring at our amazing baby, in between the doctor tidying me up and Cheryl helping us start breastfeeding and all that new baby stuff.
{Emma, Anthony and Baby Violet!}

They put Violet directly on my chest when she was born, but Dr. Crane asked to weigh her before he left, since he'd been hinting at her size for weeks. She came in at a whopping 9 lb 6 oz and 22 inches. 
{A big girl!}
Everyone assumes I must be miserable about my labor, I guess because it was so long, but it was the most incredible day(s) of my life. And I'm not just saying that because it ended with the best bonus you can ever get. It was fascinating to go through the whole journey and I'd do it again the same way. I feel so lucky to have the doula and doctor we did, when almost any other OB would have had me in an operating room hours before the end. And although all babies are pretty special, Violet is extra super amazing. We love her so much!
{Beautiful Violet}

Thank you so much, Emma and Anthony for sharing your amazing story with us. I am so amazed at the similarities and differences between all these stories. Every baby comes into this world with it's own story. It's beautiful.
July 24, 2011

Birth Story - Violet Emilia - Part 1

I have another wonderful birth story for you today from the Baby Momma series - Violet Emilia!

She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her mom, Emma, and father, Anthony. Emma is a researcher for a global search firm and did an amazing job telling her birth story. Violet is now 7 month old. Take it away, Emma...

Like Sara, I'd always wanted a natural birth. At first it was partly to know what it felt like and partly to see if I could do it, like some kind of test. Enough people I knew had done it that I thought I could too. Once I actually got pregnant and learned about all of the benefits to the baby, I was more determined than ever to forgo drugs or any interventions, if at all possible. We took Bradley Method classes and ended up hiring the teacher, Cheryl, as our doula. 

Our doctor, Dr. Crane, said how your birth turns out is mostly luck. I wanted to influence what I could and the Bradley Method includes all these exercises to make sure the baby is in the right position. I never ended up doing all the prenatal yoga I envisioned and the exercise DVDs I bought went mostly unused, but I was disciplined about those damn arches and squats...anything to avoid the back labor my mom had with me. At 28 weeks, we learned the baby was in the posterior position (facing the front, which causes back labor), but by the next visit, with a lot of Bradley exercises and a few bouts of baby movement that looked like the movie Alien, I got her into the anterior position (facing my back, which is good) and she was still there for my last doctor's visit.
Dr. Crane is like an absent-minded, socialist professor in the form of a Beverly Hills OB to the rich and famous (and us). We switched to him at 24 weeks because he's known for not intervening unless he has to, but about six weeks before my due date he started saying he'd be happy if she came any time, because: "this is a big baby and you are a relatively small person." I'm not that mini and have a full set of hips, so I laughed him off and hoped she'd at least wait till I was done with work. I started having pretty regular contractions about two weeks out, so I wasn't sure she would. In the week before my due date, when I started dilating and effacing and all that fun stuff, Dr. Crane offered multiple times to sweep my membranes: "Just so you know it's an option. This is a big baby and you want a natural birth." I declined. She would come when she was ready. And when she was almost a week late and I was no longer working, I figured I might as well enjoy it. I took long walks with Anthony, my awesome husband, and got acupuncture to try to coax her out as naturally as possible; I went to a restaurant for a salad that's supposed to bring on labor within 24 hours of eating it (which seems like a clever marketing gimmick), and mostly I read and read, curled up on the couch in a very un-Bradley position (you're supposed to sit up straight). 

{Darling Emma trying to walking it out}

On Sunday morning, December 5th, five days after my due date, I woke up at 3 a.m. with strong contractions every 10 minutes. I'd had these before, but there were more of them this time, then they stretched out to about every 20 minutes as it got light out. Cheryl had said if labor's not getting stronger when the sun comes up, the baby probably won't come until dark, so I figured I had a while to wait. I tried to relax as much as possible and tried to read the last book of the Hunger Games Trilogy, but even though I'd zoomed through the first two books in a few hours, it was hard to concentrate. Anthony fixed me some stew at about 1 p.m. and then convinced me to lie down. I was able to sleep in the gaps between a couple of contractions. 

By about 4 p.m. the contractions had worked their way back to 10 minutes apart. I finally gave up on reading and Anthony made me eat some yogurt. The most amazing thing to me about my labor (besides bringing a person into the world) is that I didn't want to eat. I normally need to eat every two to three hours or I become a lunatic. I was convinced I'd want to carboload for the biggest physical challenge of my life, so I'd planned yummy meals of pancakes and snacks of mochi and Anthony had been making ice cubes out of Recharge for weeks. But whatever I put in wanted to come out and that just wasn't comfortable, so I couldn't eat and had to force myself to keep drinking. 

By 9 p.m., my contractions were generally about five minutes apart, but sometimes they were two minutes, sometimes eight minutes and a lot of times they were back to back, which I later learned is called coupling. My actual back hurt a LOT during the contractions and I kept asking Anthony to press as hard as he could on a spot by my spine. 

The idea was to stay home as long as possible, but we called Cheryl at this point to have her come over and called the doctor’s office, since we were supposed to let him know when contractions were five minutes apart. The doctor on call did notify our doctor, but he also told us that because my contractions were irregular they probably weren’t doing as much as they should and we should wait until they became more predictable to actually talk to Dr. Crane. This was frustrating, because I felt like he was telling me what was happening didn’t count, but Cheryl got to our house right after that and was able to help with another set of hands to press on my back and positions to make me more comfortable. She was just the right height for me to collapse onto during each contraction. She also told me that the pain in my back wasn't just how a contraction feels - I was having the dreaded back labor. All that curling up on the couch backfired and the baby turned in my last week of pregnancy!  This also explained the irregular contractions and coupling. Cheryl gave me some homeopathics to try to make my contractions more efficient and put me in some other, very uncomfortable positions to see if the baby would turn, but things pretty much continued on the same way. By 4 a.m. I was getting discouraged. My contractions were still two to five minutes apart and were very painful. I'd been throwing up for hours and was tired. And I uttered the dreaded words: "I want to go to the hospital to get an epidural." Cheryl just looked at me and said, "Why? All that will do is get rid of the pain." I have no idea why that shut me up, but it seemed like reasonable logic. I kept going and soon after that Dr. Crane called to check in. 

We made arrangements to meet him at his office at 6 a.m. to be checked.  When I got there I was 5 to 5 ½ cm. dilated. I was hoping for more like 8 cm, but he said this was good progress. My water looked ready to break and he called the hospital so I could be admitted directly to a labor and delivery room. If we hurried, we could get the last room with a window, which I didn't really didn't care about, but they're in high demand and I wasn't going to dawdle. 

{The view from the LA hospital}

Once I was admitted and in the labor dress I'd bought so I didn't have to wear a hospital gown, they hooked me up to a monitor. The baby’s heart rate dropped during a contraction, so I was put on a portable monitor that still let me move around. My contractions continued to be pretty much every two to five minutes, like they had been all night, but at 9 a.m. I was 8 cm dilated, which was encouraging. 

At 11:30 a.m. I was still at 8 cm. Dr. Crane convinced me to let him break the amniotic sac, which relieved some of the intense pressure I was feeling, but at 1 p.m. I was still at 8 cm.

{Emma - 34 hours in - wearing her labor dress. So much better than a hospital gown!}

By 3 p.m. I was feeling the urge to push. I even let out one of those primal screams actors playing women in labor make, but when I got checked I was STILL at 8 cm, so I had to actively resist pushing. 

I was trying to stand up because this made the contractions stronger, but I was exhausted and my legs were shaking so badly it was hard to stay upright. 

July 2, 2011

Birth Story - Alice Mae

Lindsey & Alice

Next up in the Baby Momma's birth story series we have Alice Mae, daughter of Louisvillians, Lindsey & Matt. Lindsey, 31, is a high school arts teacher and amazing artist and photographer herself. Sweet Alice was born on March 10, 2011 at 1:07am and was 8 lbs., 3 oz., 22 inches long.

Here's Lindsey!

Alice was a dream baby from the beginning. Throughout my pregnancy, which was my first, she posed very few problems for me. I was able to work pretty much the whole time I was pregnant – a remarkable blessing considering I teach high school art & photography! Aside from the occasional bout of nausea and extreme fatigue that is often commonplace, there were no scares or worries. The only real tragedy was that our community garden bit the dust…the smell of dirt and taste of vegetables made me want to vomit!

Leading up to Alice's arrival I met with the midwives, read every pregnancy book I could get my hands on, took a nine week natural childbirth education class, hired and met with our doula, found out the baby was a girl, researched and registered for all the "right" baby gear, attended three baby showers (thanks again, everyone!), prepared the nursery, made practice runs to the hospital, and packed our bags. We'd already picked the name Alice Mae after my great aunt Alyce and Matt's grandma (her middle name was May), and kept it as our little secret the entire time I was pregnant. Matt read a book on being an expectant father and attended the classes with me, on top of being a new partner in a design firm and making late night runs to Kroger for the ice cream and chocolate that I craved so much (best husband ever). I was hell-bent on having a natural birth with no interventions, so I wrote a birth plan and submitted it to the hospital - after all, women have been giving birth for centuries with no drugs, right?! We were both as prepared as newbie parents could be, which is to say not much. 

So we waited. And waited. I hoped she would come early, but she had other plans. I worked a week past my due date and still nothing. I was HUGE and very uncomfortable those last few weeks. People kept asking me, "When's this baby gonna show up?" and "I thought you'd be gone by now!" and it became very difficult to concentrate on anything else. It was also hard to be on my feet that long every day, so I decided it would be best to take some time off work to regain my physical and mental strength for labor and delivery. 

At my 41 week appointment with the midwives, I elected to have my membranes stripped (yes, it's painful) and said they would have to induce the next week if there was no progress. This is not what I wanted to hear, being pro-natural birth, but I made that fateful appointment and crossed my fingers that Alice would show up on her own. In tears I called our doula, Jenny Claire, and she reminded me that due dates are only rough estimates and to stay strong.

A few nights later, my prayers were answered. Just as I was getting into bed at midnight, I heard a slight "pop"…my water had broken! YEE-HAW!!! After freaking out for a few minutes, I tried to remain calm. All that was running through my head was, "We're going to meet our baby!" over and over again. Sleep was no option because I immediately began having contractions about 10 minutes apart. I reluctantly called Jenny Claire (who was 7 months pregnant at the time) and she told me to try to eat something and rest as much as possible. Around 2am Matt made me one of the most delicious egg and cheese sandwiches of my life and I hung out in my favorite chair until morning, trying to relax between contractions. Matt didn't get much sleep, either, because every time I breathed heavily through a contraction or got up to go to the bathroom he awoke with a jolt, ready to help.

Jenny Claire arrived at our house around 9:30 in the morning and my contractions became much longer, stronger, and closer together. We hung out and watched "Let's Make A Deal" and other terrible morning TV programming to keep my mind off the pain. We decided to go to the hospital when they were about 4 minutes apart. Although it was drizzling and chilly outside, I remember thinking that it was a beautiful day to have a baby but PLEASE not in the car on the Kennedy Bridge!

Upon our arrival I was wheeled up to Labor & Delivery and got the last private room available that morning. I was in really good spirits considering the pain that was washing over me. We met our first set of nurses, one of which was named Mae (the middle name we had chosen for Alice). I took this as a good omen while they prepped me with an IV port and hooked me up to the fetal monitor among other things. They checked me and I was only 3cm, but almost fully effaced - good news. Little did we know, it would be a long day and night.

Thankfully, the room we were given had a large tub and I climbed in as soon as the nurses finished with their tasks. Baths have always been soothing for me, and this was no exception. The water took the edge off and Matt brought our iPod and speakers in for me to listen to the Relaxation Mix I made specifically for my time in labor. There I sat for hours singing along to Nina Simone, Bjork, Air, The Sea & Cake, etc. between moments of low-pitched moaning and strain. Matt and Jenny Claire took turns rubbing my shoulders, keeping me hydrated, and helping me up every so often so the nurses could hear the baby's heartbeat. One of our nurses on duty for the second round was even named Alice…I was sure we'd picked the perfect name! These are the warm, fuzzy moments of labor that I will always cherish. This was the calm before the storm.

After awhile we all realized that laboring in the tub, pleasant enough as it was, would probably not make Alice arrive any sooner. She seemed perfectly content to stay in the womb forever, our little Pisces water baby! I had no idea what time it was, but I assumed it was early afternoon judging by how wrinkly my hands were from soaking in the tub. I dried off, wrapped up in a blanket, and sat in a chair next to the bed while the nurses hooked me up to the fetal monitoring machine. Alison, my midwife, showed up and hung out for awhile thinking she would deliver me soon. (Did I mention she was ALSO very pregnant? Crazy, right?!) I was excited to see her because this meant I should be pushing soon! Little did I know, Alice would not come into the world so easily.     

From that point on everything became a fever dream - the room was undulating around me and time was suspended. I heard voices, but they were muffled and unintelligible. My vision was blurry and I rocked back and forth to cope with the intensity of the pain. I had one contraction on top of another with very few breaks for hours on end. I remember feeling like I'd truly lost my mind. At one point I was sobbing uncontrollably and saying something to the effect of, "I just want to meet her already!" I am never that whiny and impatient in real life!

When it seemed I had a break, I changed positions and tried to squat on the bed. This proved VERY painful, so I laid on my side for a little while and worked through another round of crushing contractions. Alison came over to the side of the bed and checked my progress. At this point it was around 9pm (I remember asking because everything was hazy and I couldn't see straight) and I was positive that we were close. Turns out, I was only 7cm - not much progress! I was completely crushed by the news and needed to get some rest, so everyone except Matt and Jenny Claire left the room and I was assured some peace and quiet. As soon as I closed my eyes to sleep, a nurse walked in to ask me something inconsequential. By this point I had been awake almost 36 hours straight and this was NOT the time for questions. Thankfully, Matt shooed her away before I got a chance to give her a piece of my mind! Just then, the contractions started coming again in waves, only this time they were excruciating. I held on to the side rail of the bed with my body in the fetal position and braced myself for each one. I pulled the side rail toward me with such force that Matt thought it would break off any moment. I was absolutely in the worst pain of my life and I was sure I was going to die. SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE. 
I cried out for Matt, who had been right next to me the entire time, and Jenny Claire to ask them what I should do. Obviously, some rest would help and I wasn't getting anywhere at the rate I was going. Jenny Claire fetched Alison and she sat down to explain our options. "All that matters is a healthy mom and a healthy baby", I chanted in my mind. "I don't have to kill myself trying to have it my way." It basically went down like this from my perspective:

Me: (thrashing around like a wild animal): "AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH! I need SOMETHING!
Alison: "Well, you could blah blah blah, or get an epidural which will numb you from the waist down so you can get some rest, or blah blah blah…" 
Me: (looking sideways at Matt, eyes wide and hope restored): "Did you just say EPIDURAL? And I'll be able to SLEEP?!"
Alison: "Yes, but there are risks…blah blah blah…"
Me: (with the utmost clarity): "LET'S DO THIS."

After signing some paperwork I waited for what seemed to be an hour for the doctor on-call, but in reality it was only a few minutes. Alison, Matt, and Jenny Claire had to leave the room for 30 minutes (hospital policy) while the doctor and anesthesiologist to came in and did their thang. I was told to sit up, lean forward, and remain still while she inserted the needle. That part was not so fun, but I did have the help of a great nurse who coached me through it. Then came the sweet sweet drugs that saved me. I was myself again and no longer felt like I was transforming into The Incredible Hulk. Matt and Jenny Claire came back into the room and we all collapsed to rest up for delivery, which would begin in a couple of hours.

I awoke from a deep sleep to the nurses wheeling in the cart for delivery and Alison close behind. She checked me and I was FINALLY dilated to 10cm and fully effaced! The epidural had worked its strange magic. She said, "Are you ready to meet this baby?" and we all responded with an excited "YES!" in unison. My lifeless legs were hoisted onto the stirrups and I was instructed to bear down and push even though I couldn't feel a thing. The room was buzzing with anticipation as every push got us closer to meeting our sweet baby. When her head crowned, Alison declared there was a huge curl on top -  one she still has to this day.  

Then it happened. With one big push, our sweet Alice was finally born. Everyone in the room let out a collective gasp, and our angel appeared sunny-side up (no wonder she was being so stubborn), with a loud cry! She was instantly placed on my chest and she remains the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever seen. "Hi, baby!" I said over and over again, for lack of better words to express myself. Matt and I were awestruck by this tiny person that would forever change our lives. It was love at first sight, pure and simple. As she laid there taking her first breaths, we cried tears of joy and I made Matt count her fingers and toes (10 and 10? Excellent!). Her little fingers wrapped around ours and we cuddled family-style in our little love bubble, getting to know our beautiful Alice Mae. 
 A current photo of Alice, who is now 4 months.

Amazing story! Thank you, Lindsey, so much for sharing your beautiful story. I think there's a theme with these stories - we plan, the babies call the shots. So goes the rest of our lives, or at least the next 18ish years.

Beckett - 9 Months

Starring his brand new bottom teeth!

Last week Becks turned 9 months. He's officially been with us out of the womb as long as he was in. The amount of change and growth has been no less impressive than those first 3 trimesters. He crawls like a master, but it already totally over that and is walking along the furniture. I fear he will be toddling around here in no time.

Of course, his bottom teeth have broken and are even toothier now than in the picture above. He's experimenting with all sorts of finger foods. Bananas and avocados are a fav, but they are pretty slippery so most don't end up in his mouth. He HATES Swiss cheese for some reason. He crunches up his nose and clamps his mouth shut at even the suggestion. It must be the smell. Or he inherited the distaste from his Grandma Kate, who does the same.

Sleep is still...well let's not go there. The bottom line is he's really become quite a delightful child and is rarely cranky. I could not say the same if I was as sleep deprived.

Je t'adore, Beezey.