An Open Letter To My Daughter’s Teacher

Tomorrow is the last day of school before summer break begins. I can imagine that the last few weeks of school are rough. The kids are restless and eager for all of the fun, end-of-year activities and then summer. The parents are anxiously awaiting that last test, asking for that last conference to see if little Timmy or Sally will be moving on to the next grade. Your days must be spent corralling and calming children and parents alike.

I wanted to take a moment to talk to you. I wanted you to be able to read this on your time table, though, not mine. This isn’t urgent. Sally will still be headed for the next grade level even if you never read this.

I wanted to say something important, though. I wish it was profound and original. If I were more ingenious, perhaps I could contrive something to accurately convey my feelings. Instead, I’m left with an over-used, often obligatory little sentence as my medium of expression. In this scenario, it isn’t obligatory at all but rather from the heart. So here it is:

Thank you.

I have heard you speak to your student’s family members many times throughout this school year. I have often heard these words from you: “Thank you for entrusting your child to me.”

You have even said those words to me. Those words, backed up by your actions, have prompted this most heartfelt thank you. Those words reassured me that you see my daughter as the precious and vulnerable little individual she is. Those words have reassured me that you understand the potential impact your words and actions can have on my child.

So much of my daughter’s future self will be built upon the foundation that is forming right now. You have made a conscious effort to encourage her to improve the things that needed improving and then to praise her once she has succeeded. You have added some strong, sound bricks to her foundation.

Thank you for giving her praise only where she has earned it. Thank you for showing her that there is always room for improvement. Thank you for giving her goals and allowing her to experience the thrill of meeting those goals.

There are some things that just don’t mean as much coming from mom. Thank you for pointing out her strengths to her. She trusts your opinion to be honest and true; your praise holds high value for her.

Mostly, I just want to say thank you for your heart. Your heart is in everything you do as my daughter’s teacher. I couldn’t possibly ask for anything better than that. My best wishes go to you.

More Eva

Today, Eva had a talent show at school. Her profound talent she wanted to share with the school is hula hooping. More precisely, hula hooping around her neck.

As we were getting ready this morning, she made sure I knew which one of us was to be the star today.

Me: Do you know where any of my hair clips are?
Eva: Mom, you know you’re just coming to watch the show not be in it, right?
Me: Yes, I’m aware.
Eva: So why do you want a hair clip today?
Me: Why would anyone want a hair clip–to put in my hair. I don’t want my hair in my face.
Eva: Then why don’t you wear a ponytail?
Me: Do you know where my clips are or not?
Eva: Nope.

Perfection Personified (or so she thinks)

My wonderful now 7-year-old daughter Eva has made it this far in life without taking any serious hits to her self-esteem. It probably started at birth when she began frequently hearing all her loved ones repeatedly tell her she is so pretty and she is so smart. It has evolved a bit since then.

Around age 5, she was really, truly convinced she was the prettiest and smartest girl in the world. This prompted a change in how we would compliment her. We began saying she was the smartest girl we know. Good self-esteem is one thing, and conceit is quite another. We were trying to avoid conceit.

I’m not sure how well we are doing in that respect.

Last week, on a sunny day in the bank drive-through:

Me: (I hand Eva a sucker) Here, dear. Tell the lady thank you.
Eva: Thank you! Do you think she saw me because of my hair? (Eva has long blond hair)
Me: What about your hair? What do you mean?
Eva: The sun is shining on my hair. I bet my hair reflected it in her face and that’s why she saw me.
Me: What?
Eva: Don’t you know that you can’t look directly at my hair in the sun or it will hurt your eyes because it’s so shiny?
Me: (suppressing laughter) No, I was unaware.

Someone will knock her down a peg or two at some point in life, but I don’t think it has to be me or has to be now.

Postpartum: My Breastfeeding Experience

As I have mentioned before, I’m not a fan of breastfeeding. It wasn’t something that conjured warm, fuzzy feelings for me. My plan was to pump and then bottle feed my son. Feeding directly from the tap (the boobies) was something I was prepared to do long enough to establish my milk supply, but that’s it. I do not have any desire to breastfeed.

That being said, my plans have changed. I still do not remotely enjoy breastfeeding, but I can’t pump enough milk to meet my son’s needs. So, from the tap it shall be!

I will start from the beginning:

In the hospital immediately following my c-section, a nurse helped me breastfeed. I had lots of colostrum and my son was born a pro. He had a perfect latch and the nurses called him ‘Hoover’ because of the strength of his suck. Such a wonderful nickname to make my nipples cringe in anticipation.

My boobs were numb from the c-section anesthesia for the first several feedings. The first feeding, the nurse helped keep my son latched until he fell asleep and wouldn’t continue. That was a 50 minute feeding. The next feeding lasted somewhere around an hour. The next one was around the 40 minute mark, and so things went every couple of hours until the next day. A lactation specialist stopped in to check on us and every nurse I had asked to watch him eat to make sure everything was going well. Each proclaimed his latch to be perfect.

Day 2 of breastfeeding began with bloody nipples followed by scabs and lots of tears. I had zero pain from my c-section at this point. I was only saying yes to pain management drugs because of the agony that came every time my son latched on, or anytime anything touched my nipples or boobs.

By that evening, I was sobbing every time he latched and for the duration of each feeding. If he needed to re-latch during a feeding, I had to employ pain management techniques I had used during labor just to keep going.

The next day, I saw lactation consultant number 2. She also said his latch was perfect. I had her, the house pediatrician, and a nurse all check him for a lip and tongue tie, just in case. Nothing, which was a relief, sort of. I was hoping for a fixable solution to make breastfeeding less painful, but I was also hoping we wouldn’t have to decided whether we would have to have a tie clipped.

After shift change that night, I got to meet a fantastic nurse. She brought me gel soothies for my boobies. She was also a huge source of encouragement. I don’t think I will ever forget her! She was the only nurse to address the obvious pain I was in while breastfeeding.

Around 4 am and another weigh in for my son, she encouraged me to try to let him eat as long as I could stand it. She then gently said that after that, maybe I could think about supplementing just a little to get a break and give him some extra nourishment. My milk had come in, but my son was spending more time screaming than anything else because he just wasn’t getting enough to make his belly happy. She approached it so gently, obviously not wanting to discourage me or undermine my breastfeeding, it made me want to give her a big hug.

Looking back now, I feel so foolish for not bringing up supplementation on my own. I knew we needed it around 4:00 am the previous night, but I wasn’t going to be the one to bring up supplementation. I already felt like I had given in to pain when I got the epidural, and I shouldn’t do it again so early. My baby boy was so unhappy and there was no doubt that his cries were hunger cries. Still, I didn’t ask for a bottle and some formula. The stress and pain of it all was only further compounding the situation. My supply was never going to respond if I didn’t get a bit of peace and sleep, which is why I am so thankful to that nurse for knowing what was needed.

My husband got to feed our son for the very first time on the third night. We limited this feeding to 10 mL, but I think our son could have easily drank all 40 mL of that bottle. We were all very much relieved at the end of those 10 mL. We supplemented a couple more times the next day as well after breastfeeding until I was obviously empty.

We spent one more night in the hospital before heading home. On our last day there, I realized when I went to shower that I had a giant lump in my right arm pit that was painful when pushed on and slightly warm. It was the size of a golf ball.

Oh yay. This should be fun.

I called my nurse. She brought lots of wash cloths to be used as warm compresses. She also demonstrated how I should massage it while breastfeeding to help get things moving. The compresses and massaging didn’t seem to make a difference.

Once we were home, the lump got bigger. I continued to put warm compresses on it and massaged from arm pit to breast while pumping or breastfeeding (which hurt intensely). I also pumped my arm like I was a chicken trying to take flight. The more you flex the muscles in that area the more lymph and such gets circulated. I knew this was all related to my milk coming in, but I was terrified I was going to end up with mastitis.

This is where things get awkward, but bear with me. Not only was my arm pit lumpy, but now my breasts were getting lumpy and I started to feel achy all over. I knew I needed to massage while pumping or breastfeeding to get the lumps out, but it was so painful I couldn’t bring myself to do it with enough pressure to get anywhere. So, my husband came to the rescue. He massaged while I pumped (couldn’t handle the pain combo of breastfeeding AND massage simultaneously). We did this for two whole days, pumping every time after nursing. My lumps all reduced and eventually vanished.

My husband couldn’t let the opportunity pass to make jokes, though, comparing the situation to milking a cow.

Ha ha. I’m laughing on the inside.

My nipples were shedding scabs only to build new ones every time I fed him for the first two weeks. I sobbed every time I fed him. I was still limiting his feedings to 12-20 minutes on each side for the sake of my sanity, which is why I pumped after every feeding.

I was pumping or feeding him every two hours in an effort to increase my supply. I knew the real answer to increasing my supply was to let him nurse as long as he liked as often as he liked, but I just couldn’t do it. Pumping hurt much less, thankfully.

I began taking Fenugreek and trying to drink Milk Maid tea. The tea was about the most disgusting stuff I had ever tried to force down my gullet, and that’s saying something. Did I mention I have been to the Philippines a couple of times and ate tribal cuisine?

OK, I might be exaggerating slightly. I drank the tea for a couple of days. My supply improved around the second week.

I also got a bit of advice from my son’s pediatrician. When I told her I was struggling to produce enough milk but I was pumping or breastfeeding every two hours, she suggested instead that I sleep. She said to get some rest for the next couple of days and she would bet my supply would increase.

She was right.

At the second week mark, my nipples started to toughen up and I began to cry less during feedings. The initial latch was still awful, but it was getting better. By the third week, I was only crying during night feedings. My nipples were much better, but now let down was another issue.

In the hospital when my milk came in, I felt a fiery, stinging sensation in my breasts. This feeling continued to manifest every time I fed my son. It seemed to coincide with let down. The wonderful nurse in the hospital told me it is just something some people experience and there really isn’t anything to be done about it. She also encouraged me by saying that I would probably get used to the sensation and not find it quite so painful after a couple of weeks.

Also with let down came a headache and a super weird sensation that felt like something was being tugged from my shoulder blade area every time my son sucked. The stinging sensation was very intense at each feeding, and my boobs were intensely itchy during each feeding as well.

We are getting close to week 7 now. I’m glad to say I don’t cry anymore now from breastfeeding. My nipples aren’t bloody or scabbed. They are frequently bruised looking, though, and this week my right nipple is tender. I attribute this tenderness to supplementing and bottle feeding less this week and letting him eat a little longer just to make sure my supply stays up. But, everything is manageable these days. The stinging sensation is still there, but it isn’t so overwhelming anymore. I believe I had gotten used to it. The itching still happens when let down initially occurs, but it lessens and disappears.

I am also proud to say that I have managed to get my son down from 40 minutes for each session to 20 minutes or less. He can completely empty both sides so much quicker now which makes such a difference in nipple wear and tear.

If I hadn’t resolved to stick it out for two weeks minimum prior to my son’s birth, I think I would have quit before we hit one week. I would have rather labored all over again than continue to breastfeed, or at least that’s how I felt about it three days in.

Things I learned that might be helpful to others:

1. Bring two of the softest, stretchiest nursing bras you can find.

2. Ask for the lanolin and gel soothies right away; don’t wait until you’re sore. Start using them ASAP.

3. Nipple pain does not necessarily mean a bad latch or a problem.

4. Some people just have extra sensitive nipples. I am one of them.

5. Breast milk really is the best for helping your nipples heal.

6. Babies that drink primarily breast milk have the best smelling poop. Well, I mean their poop doesn’t smell as bad as babies who drink formula only.

7. Most nurses in the hospital are very adamant about you feeding your child every two hours, from start of one feeding to the next. So, like the 50 minute feeding meant I only had about an hour break before I was supposed to feed him again. I adhered to this until our last day. He was much better at eating if I waited for him to be interested.

8. Partner involvement in breastfeeding is such a big deal! I don’t think it gets stressed enough. A shoulder/neck massage from my husband while I was feeding my son (and sobbing) made it so much more bearable. It didn’t really take any of the pain away, but it kept me from feeling alone or ignored. It made me feel like he empathized with my pain, and it made me feel so loved. He would also bring me water and have me drink sips while I was breastfeeding, like holding the straw to my lips even. Or if I was breastfeeding at our meal time, he would feed me bites. His involvement and supplementation saved the day. I don’t know I could have stuck with it without him.

9. Side-lying position while breastfeeding is the best way to breastfeed ever! It was especially nice to use when I was still stuck in bed and my arms weren’t all that reliable yet after my c-section.

10. Breastfeeding isn’t more of a bonding experience for me than bottle feeding.

11. My nipples randomly have insufficient blood flow due to some spasms of the blood vessels. When the blood flow returns, it is enough to make me want to rip them off and stomp on them and light them on fire! And there is no fix for this problem!

12. If the pain hadn’t lessened significantly by the 6 week mark, I would have switched to formula and never looked back. I would have been completely guilt free about that decision. I didn’t want to continue to cringe every time my son wailed out his hungry cry. For the first couple of weeks, I had wanted to hide under a rock every time he was hungry because I knew how much I was about to hurt. Luckily, things did improve for us.

All the moms out there who beat themselves up for not being able to or choosing not to breastfeed for whatever reason–knock it off! My son (breastfed) clings to mom just as much as my daughter did (formula fed). I feel just as much love for both of them. Both are equally healthy (thank you, God!). Being a mom is all about knowing what is best for your child at that moment in time. No book can give you that answer. Hats off to you, Mom, for listening to your mommy brain! 

 

Postpartum: My Physical Experience

Warning: This post is going to be a bit gross and personal as I discuss things like postpartum bleeding. If you aren’t up for that, stop reading now.

My obstetrician lied to me. She was very confident that I would only bleed for two weeks, maximum. I told her about last time with Eva (my 7-year-old daughter); I bled for a full six weeks. She looked at me with one raised eyebrow and then moved on. Well, like I said, she lied.

I bled for a bit over four weeks.

Then I started a period.

Lord, help me.

What happened to my PCOS and all of my really random, spaced out periods? What is this? Does this mean things are working a bit better than before?

Cue unexplained weight gain of 10 pounds in four days.

Whaa? Huh? Color me clueless.

I started pregnancy at 217 lbs. The day before I delivered, I weighed 223.6 lbs. Two weeks postpartum, I was at 208 lbs. So, in fairness to all the women trying to shed baby weight I guess the universe decided I needed those 10 lbs back. 218 lbs now.

Cue a small meltdown. I know, I’m ridiculous.

But the point I was getting to is this:

Could this sudden weight gain be a sign that my PCOS is indeed back in high gear already? Did that period somehow trigger it?

At my six week appointment, my obstetrician didn’t know what to say about the 10 lbs, but she was confident it wasn’t a result of PCOS coming back with a vengeance. At least she has faith things will be better on the PCOS front for a bit. I’m certainly not in the least bit confident. She was also confident that I am probably ovulating all on my own these days for at least the next couple of months (she said 6 months but I hate to be that optimistic).

So what do I do about birth control? Do I even want birth control? I am game for another baby.

Yes, I should probably see a psychiatrist to get my head examined.

I haven’t managed to bring myself to terms with taking any form of birth control that will screw with my hormones. They have been screwed with enough. I also don’t want any sort of device either.

I asked my husband if he would like to get a vasectomy. His response: “Only if they will knock me out completely to do it.”

I explained to him that, sadly, they do not “knock you out” and most of the time they do it in the doctor’s office with some lidocaine. Needless to say, he wasn’t interested in this scenario. He was suddenly completely fine with having another child.

After having to work so hard to conceive this baby, it is so weird talking about ways to PREVENT pregnancy. I just haven’t been able to commit to anything yet. I even have a filled prescription for birth control pills sitting at the pharmacy waiting for pick up. The pills are even free, for crying out loud. I just can’t yet.

Getting back to the point of this post (supposed to be talking about the physical, not the mental), I have had the best c-section recovery ever. I have had very little pain (AH-mazing). I was walking around Costco (giant store), baby strapped into his baby carrier seven days after his birth. And I was fine!

There is no way I could have done that that soon after my c-section with Eva. I think the hard labor we went through made a big difference in recovery for me. I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with all the extra hormones that were released naturally by my body this time. Last time, I was induced and I never dilated past a four.

I did need frequent naps the first couple of weeks. The more we did, the longer the nap.

As for my recovery from the epidural, things have been much better this time around as well. I haven’t had any severe back pain. No weird numbness or tingling either. I have felt some weakness in my legs on a couple of occasions, but nothing serious.

The bleeding I did for four weeks wasn’t too extreme, either. No large clots, thankfully. I also noticed a direct correlation between bleeding and activity. The more active I was, the more I bled.

For the two weeks my husband was home, I didn’t do anything except take care of the baby and myself. He cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, refilled my ice water a million times and kept Eva entertained and on time for school every morning. I didn’t bleed that heavily at all until he went back to work. Then I wised up and decided the dishes, trash, laundry and dinner could wait on days that things were flowing more intensely.

Now, my main complaint is tired, tense muscles from carrying my now 10 pound baby around day and night.

The gestational diabetes behaved exactly as advertised. It was POOF! gone immediately following delivery. There haven’t been any lasting effects.

As far as recoveries go, I’m doing great! Except for breastfeeding, but that’s a post soon to be written.

Postpartum: My Emotional Experience

Well, it has been about six weeks since my little bundle of joy arrived. It seems impossible that he was born that long ago, but it also seems impossible that is has only been six weeks. That was as clear as mud. Time alternately stands still and rapidly accelerates several times a day.

My time is measured much differently these days. I used to plan out my weeks, plotting which days would be devoted to errands and which days would be devoted to my current writing contracts. I would plan my late afternoons and evenings around Eva’s needs and dinner with my husband and Eva.

Now, my days are planned out hour by hour. There is an adorable, often screaming, little dictator in my life whose needs supersede all others’. His needs, whether it be a diaper change or a nap, are met immediately. I now prioritize my days based on what is most important to me at the moment I get him down for a long nap.

I choose between showering, taking a nap myself, eating, or working. On good days, I manage to shower and take him somewhere. Sometimes, I even arrive at scheduled events on time. Sometimes.

Today, I’m choosing writing. This means my shower will have to wait until this evening most likely. Eating lunch will happen around 3:00 pm. Working will happen sometime in the middle of the night. Once Eva is home from school, I will spend some time doing none of these things while we do homework, ignoring everything but the baby’s needs and my need to sometimes urinate (thank God for a strategically placed bouncy seat or bassinet for the moments in which I have to pee NOW).

My guilt in putting this little being’s needs ahead of Eva’s was grossly overwhelming initially. She has been my first priority for so long (over seven years now), it was a heart-hurting transition. I cried repeatedly in the first 48 hours home from the hospital because of my guilt.

Her needs are still being met, but now it’s primarily her Bubba (my husband) meeting her needs. For the first two weeks, all of her meals were prepared by my mother or my husband. All of her snuggling with me came in short spurts and she had to come to me. I couldn’t pick her up and hold her or swing her around. I wasn’t even the one taking her to school anymore, nor did I pick her up from school for two weeks.

Amazing how much upheaval comes with a c-section. Not being able to physically pick her up made the biggest impact on me. Soon, though, I will be picking all 50 pounds of her up again.

Surprisingly, Eva has transitioned to being a big sister with grace and love. I thought having a baby screaming so loud she couldn’t hear that episode of Pound Puppies or Wild Kratts she has already watched twelve times would annoy her. I thought that having to share me with her brother would frustrate her. Instead, she responds to his needs. When he cries, she tries to soothe him. When I need to sit for forty minutes to breastfeed him, interrupting time that was meant to be spent playing outside, she will bring me a drink of water and wait patiently. She will ask if I want one of her snacks. She will inform me from his cries what she thinks he wants. She spends time every afternoon trying to convince him to say her name.

I couldn’t be more proud of her loving care toward her brother.

She expects to hold him every evening. If he starts crying while she’s holding him, she gets annoyed with me if I take him away to soothe him. She feels fully capable of soothing him herself. If he’s screaming but I need to set him down, she will gladly hold him repeating “It’s ok, it’s ok” to him as I complete whatever task that required two hands.

As for the crazy postpartum hormones that are so famous…well, week two was the most intense. I cried if my husband displayed even a moment of frustration or impatience. I cried every time I breast fed (because it was pretty awful, like worse than the pain from my c-section). I cried the day my husband went back to work, too. We were fine without him, but the last two weeks had been so nice being all together. I still occasionally cry if we are having a long night without much sleep. Overall, though, I am doing really well emotionally, I think. Compared to last time with Eva, it is like night and day.

Breastfeeding has been the biggest emotional drain out of it all. By the second night in the hospital, my milk came in. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to satisfy my little man. He was starving! He had a perfect latch from birth, luckily, but it doesn’t really matter how great the latch when your baby is sucking you dry every hour of every day. I cried when the nurse suggested we supplement with formula.

My tears were tears of relief. I didn’t feel a moment of disappointment or inadequacy, which is exactly how I expected to feel when introducing formula. He only gets 1-2 bottles of formula every day now (I pump and freeze during those feedings typically), and I could quit giving him formula completely because my supply is sufficient. But, I keep giving him the formula. I like having a stash of breast milk in the freezer. I like sharing the feeding responsibilities with Eva (she likes to give him a bottle every once in a while) or my husband. Mostly, I like being able to give my poor nipples and boobs a break.

My plan to pump and feed almost exclusively from bottles is out the window. I can’t get enough pumping to completely replace the amount he gets from me when he breastfeeds. So, that isn’t really going to work out for me.

I didn’t get my VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). I was disappointed, of course, but I feel that there wasn’t really any other option. He was trying to some out face first. It wasn’t just a brow presentation, it was nose, eyes and chin. The obstetrician tried to manually reposition him, but he wouldn’t have any part of it. The backward bend to his cervical spine on the ultrasound when the obstetrician was evaluating the situation was scary. I know babies are bendy and their bones aren’t solid yet, but oh man! The bend to his neck looked incredibly painful.

It has taken me four days to write this post. I’m hoping things even out soon with him learning to be a bit more content on his own in the next few weeks. I am a believer of crying it out, but I think the baby has to be old enough first. Right now, I feel like we are still establishing trust. I need him to trust that his cried will be answered and his needs met. I don’t think it is possible to spoil him at this stage. So, to try to foster a bit of independence, I put him in a bouncer or bassinet or his crib as often as possible. Fingers crossed that this approach buys me a bit more time for things like showering or writing or cooking.

Our Birth Story

The following is a pretty lengthy account (over 3000 words; you’ve been warned) of Morgan’s birth story. I was hoping for a VBAC that was 100% drug and intervention free. I had an obstetrician that was supportive and on board with my wishes. I also had my husband to support me through this, and I really have to say that his help was incredible! I wouldn’t have made it past Tuesday evening without his help.

As I’m sure you have already guessed, nothing went according to plan, because births never do. Here is our story:

Friday

I began having regular contractions around 2 pm on Friday. I called my husband at work to let him know that it would be wise for him to finish up any loose ends he might have because I didn’t think he would be going to work come Monday.

After he came home, we ate dinner and then went for a walk. Things picked up, and I was having a contraction lasting around 45 seconds every 2-4 minutes. The contractions were very mild, so I wasn’t too confident we were getting anywhere.

That night, I continued to have contractions, but things spaced out to once every 5+ minutes.

Saturday

My contractions stopped completely for a little bit in the morning. They soon picked back up but the intensity didn’t increase. I was still able to walk and talk without difficulty through each contraction. My belly was visibly tightening with most, though, which gave me hope.

I did a lot of walking. I also took a bath and my husband worked on my accupressure points. I was contracting anywhere from 3 to 10 times an hours. Nothing was consistent. I was beginning to get pretty frustrated and just stopped paying attention to them.

Sunday

Still contracting, but nothing had changed. Nothing was consistent, and the intensity was still manageable.

Around 1 pm, I noticed my contractions stopped completely. I also noticed that my son’s position had changed, bringing his bottom almost to my belly button, which caused my belly button to suddenly become an outie.

Around 2:15 pm, there are still no contractions, but I discovered bloody show! I have never been more excited to see grossness come out of my vagina in my life! I also began to lose chunks of mucus. More gross. More excited, though!

That evening, things pick up in intensity. My contractions were still very random, but they definitely grabbed my attention with each one.

Monday

My contractions continued all night, waking me every 10-12 minutes. After I get up for the day, my contractions suddenly stopped. Nothing was happening. My frustration has hit a new level. At this point, I’m also beginning to get concerned about the possible impact this drawn out early labor may be having on my son. I call my obstetrician who, thankfully, can squeeze me in for a nonstress test and evaluation.

I called my husband to come home around mid-morning because at this point I’m just very concerned; I need to hear my baby’s heart beat through a contraction for some reassurance. I also knew that if everything wasn’t perfect at this point my obstetrician would be admitting me for monitoring at the least. He encouraged me to squeeze in a nap, which I did, then we were on our way to the doctor. My mother had already come to pick up Eva, who was home sick from school.

While at the doctor, the medical assistant took my blood pressure while I was having a contraction. It was high enough that she wouldn’t even tell me what she got. My obstetrician checked me, discovering that I was dilated to 2 cm, 70% effaced, and she completed a membrane sweep while she was there (with my consent, obviously). She pushed (gently) on my son’s head while she did the membrane sweep, showing me how close his head was to my cervix. It was definitely a weird feeling. She was confident that she would be hearing from me in the next day.

The medical assistant waited until the end of the appointment to take my blood pressure again. Unfortunately, my contractions had picked up (thank you membrane sweep) and another contraction started while she took my blood pressure. Again.

It was 160/98. Off to labor and delivery we went for some monitoring and blood tests.

My blood pressure readings in labor in delivery were never above 120/80. The nurse also made a point to not take the readings during a contraction for the first few times. All of my blood work came back perfect, as well. We were sent home (about 5 hours later).

At home, we ate a nice meal and called Eva and my mother to make sure she had everything she needed since she would be spending the night with grandma.

Things soon picked up, with contractions that stopped me in my tracks. I was nauseated and could barely force myself to take bites between contractions. We left for the hospital around 9 pm when I could no longer talk through my contractions.

We arrived around 10 pm and after a lengthy check-in process, I was checked. I was only dilated to 3 cm. So, let the walking begin! I snacked, keeping my blood glucose levels in normal range, drank as much water as I could, and walked. We did some yoga and Spinning Babies moves along with squats and even relaxation. I was checked again at midnight, only to discover no progress had been made with dilation.

We were given the option to stay and continue to work on dilation, or to return home. I chose to return home. I was exhausted, and I knew every time I went home my contractions increased. So, I was hoping I could relax at home which would in turn speed things along. I was also feeling a bit shaky at this point.

Tuesday

We finally made it home around 1:15 am. I sent my husband straight to bed, and I even tried to lay down next to him. My contractions were such that I needed to make noise and focus on relaxing all my muscles to get through each one. I quickly moved to the couch hoping he could get some sleep while I hopefully made some progress.

I took a long, hot shower, which helped quite a bit with managing my pain. I didn’t even try to get dressed again after my shower, instead curling up on the couch with my giant towel and my favorite pillow. I feel the need to add that I laid down disposable absorbent puppy pads on the couch before I laid down, afraid my water might break and ruin my couch.

I dozed between each contraction, until suddenly things got too intense to deal with laying down. I began shaking, and I was afraid I was going to puke all over my couch, but I couldn’t manage to get up to get a bowl or anything either.

After several more of these contractions, I managed to leverage myself up to go get my husband. I was shaking pretty violently at this point, and I had myself convinced that I was nearing transition. I woke him up and said, “Time to go to the hospital, and if this isn’t transition or if I haven’t made progress I don’t care! We’re staying anyway!”

He was instantly wide-eyed and up. He took in my towel-wrapped shaking body, hair still wet, and I could tell he was a bit alarmed. We arrived at the hospital around 4 am. This time, I let him push me in the wheel chair. Last time, I had been too zen and determined to be a trooper for something like a wheel chair. This time, I wanted to get there already and stopping every 2-3 minutes to get through a contraction wasn’t appealing.

I also have to mention, that was the worst, most painful car ride I had ever endured. I was moaning with each contraction, but because of the shaking, I ended up sounding more like a goat or sheep most of the time. We had brought some pillows and my favorite blanket for the car ride to help me be as comfortable as possible and maybe help with the shaking, but pillows and a blanket can only do so much.

We arrived at the hospital, checked in and were sent to a room. I was checked and we discovered I was dilated to 4 cm and the water bag was bulging! This was it! I was so relieved to hear we had made some progress.

I was promptly hooked up to a fetal heart rate monitor. My son seemed to be weathering the storm rather well so far. Blood was also taken and the IV placed (I wasn’t hooked up to fluids at this point, though).

This is where things start to get a bit foggy. Time started to run together, and I didn’t even realize it until my obstetrician showed up for her morning rounds. I labored standing and swaying, on a ball, and on my hands and knees on the bed primarily. I tried laying down several times, but it seemed to make my contractions much more intense.

At the hospital in which I was laboring, they assign nurses in a 1:1 ratio with laboring women. So, each of my nurses (we went through a shift change) spent quite a bit of time in the room with us. I was peeing what seemed like constantly, which really sucked because every time I needed to pee this triggered a really intense contraction while I was peeing.

My obstetrician showed up sometime between 7 and 8 am with the new nurse. I grieved the loss of the last nurse because she had been amazing and perfect, but the new nurse turned out to be fantastic as well.

My obstetrician sat next to me and tried to chit chat while the nurse checked me again. The nurse discovered that I was dilated to 6 cm, but she was also instantly puzzled. She addressed my obstetrician saying, “Um, there is something there that shouldn’t be there”. My doc checked things out. She pronounced that it felt like a knuckle was presenting first, instead of his head.

Oh fun.

My doc said everything looked fine at this point and to keep at it, though. Off she went, and the nurse soon left telling us to call her if we needed anything.

Some time passed, but not too much, when we called her for something that wasn’t that important. I think it was for another pillow or blanket or some such nonsense. As she was leaving our room to fetch whatever we needed, my water broke.

I kicked off my slippers and hobbled awkwardly to the bathroom. I had been wearing underwear with a pad because I had been losing lots of grossness since Sunday when I lost my mucus plug. This is the only reason my slippers didn’t get ruined, thank you very much pad (and goodbye underwear because I was not packing them away to take home to wash)!

I stood in the shower and my husband stood there thoroughly grossed out with me. The nurse came back in with whatever it was we had requested and I told her my water had broken and let her see what was in the shower before I began rinsing my legs and feet. Gross. Just gross. I was glad to see there was no meconium, though.

The nurse checked me again, and I watched her every move to make sure she was maintaining a sterile field quite easily otherwise I wasn’t going to allow her to check me since my water had broken. She was perfect, maintaining her sterile field without being overly cautious or not cautious enough (for my liking, obviously). She said I was dilated to 7 or 8 cm. She was also hopeful that the weird something they had felt earlier was just two suture lines of his head sticking out as his head was molding to fit through my pelvis.

She left us alone with instructions to call her if something changed or felt different.

Pretty quickly after this, my contractions picked up. I had been getting contractions every 2-3 minutes that were lasting about a minute to a minute and 15 seconds. They slowly began lasting longer and longer, and then the time between them was getting shorter and shorter.

I noticed I was feeling the need to pee with almost every single contraction. I continued to stand through most of my contractions, swaying at the beginning and end of each. I also sat on the ball and did imaginary figure 8’s with my hips between contractions because it brought some relief. My lower back had started to hurt after my water broke. I couldn’t move during the most intense part of a contraction or it hurt just so much more, but I really wanted to stretch my back some.

At some point, I decided to move to the bed. I alternated several positions, but I was beginning to have a really hard time getting through each contraction. I couldn’t do anything other than stick my arm out to my husband to signal to him that I needed him to massage my hand (it was my only source of relief at this point). Each contraction began to leave me pretty wiped.

Little did I know that at this point my contractions had been lasting about 6 minutes long with a minute or less between each contraction. After about an hour of this, I called the nurse. I told her something had changed.

She came in mid-contraction and I could hear her encouraging me to focus on my breathing. Once I could speak again, I told her “I need a break; is there something that you would recommend at this point other than an epidural?”

She said she wanted to check me again before we discussed options. She discovered we had a problem–my cervix was swelling and this meant I was now at 6 cm again. I had either been bearing down or my body was bearing down without me realizing it. I can’t honestly say.

She said that she didn’t want to recommend something I had previously stated I did not want (the epidural; she knew I didn’t want one), but she didn’t have any good options at this point. I asked her if it was possible to get the epidural while laying on my side because I didn’t think I could sit up with a rounded back through one of my contractions. This is when I was informed by my husband that my contractions were lasting so long.

I didn’t really listen to her immediate response because another contraction just kicked in just after the end of the last one, taking my breath away. A moment later I realized she was on the phone, calling to see who was available to give an epidural. Whoever it was, she knew they could give an epidural while I was laying down and she gave me the thumbs up.

I only had to make it through two more contractions before the anesthesiologist showed up. I was happy to see her, yet sad that I was about to get an epidural. I HATED my epidural last time with Eva, and getting it placed had been a difficult process. I had been very determined to have a natural birth that was completely intervention free.

The anesthesiologist, at least, was pretty fantastic. One stick to numb, another stick to place it without difficulty around 10:15 am.

Shortly after having it placed, my nurse also placed an internal fetal and contraction monitor. It had become increasingly difficult to get a consistent heart beat from the baby, but I had resisted getting the internal monitor placed because I wanted to continue to be mobile. Now, since my mobility was already gone I consented to the internal monitoring. I was also getting increasingly worried about my son since things had definitely taken a strange left turn. We also discovered that his heart rate dropped rapidly if I tried laying on my right side. A urinary catheter was also placed at this time and IV fluids were also started.

I cried to my husband once the nurse left the room.  I told him that I was proud of him and me, but I thought something was off and I didn’t know what.  I fell asleep shortly after this conversation.

The nurse woke me again around 11 or 11:30 am. She checked my cervix again to discover that all swelling had reduced and I was at 8+ cm (her words), but the thing that she hoped was just his head molding seemed like not his head at all. She called for the house obstetrician to come check him out before calling my obstetrician.

The house doctor, who I had met the day before when I was being monitored for high blood pressure, was super nice and efficient. She quickly checked me internally, asked the nurse to get the portable ultrasound machine, and told me while we waited that she was pretty sure my son was presenting face first. She said she wanted to check his exact placement before making any assumptions, though.

I woke my husband up, because he had also fallen asleep after I fell asleep. The ultrasound clearly showed that our baby was trying to enter the world face first and that his little neck was already pushed pretty far backwards. It looked very painful, to say the least!

At this point, I wanted to cry. I knew this probably meant a repeat c-section for me. I also knew that his improper position probably explained the pretty ridiculous contractions after my water broke.

The nurse called my obstetrician, who arrived right around noon. She tried repositioning my son, but he wanted no part of it. He immediately went right back to the way he was. She tried again, and once more, but to no avail. She laughed as she was trying to reposition him because her first try, she accidentally poked him in the eye. Her next try, she said she might have just picked his nose. Her last try, he flailed his head around to express his displeasure at her efforts.

So, c-section it is.

I asked for the lightest dose possible for the c-section (as I had with originally getting the epidural) because I am sensitive to anesthesia. The anesthesiologist accommodated as far as I could tell.

My hands were free during the surgery, and my husband was at my head (along with the anesthesiologist). My baby boy was brought into this world at 1:03 pm! His left eye was swollen from where my doctor had poked him earlier and he had some bruising and swelling around his nose. He also had an indent across his forehead from where he had been pushed against my pelvis for hours. By the next day, only the bruising remained.

While he was getting cleaned up, I noticed I was having an increasingly difficult time catching my breath. The anesthesiologist gave me some oxygen and propped me up a bit, which helped tremendously. I ended up numb a bit too high.

Once my son was cleaned up and swaddled appropriately, my husband and he sat by me while the c-section was completed. My obstetrician also came and checked out the baby once she was done closing (she apologized to him for the eye-poking incident).

Here we are a little over two weeks later, and I am still very thankful for my hard, drawn out labor. I think it helped with my recovery at the very least, and I think it made my son better equipped for this world. I’m not even taking ibuprofen for pain and haven’t been since he was about 10 days old. I am moving really well, and I only have twinges of pain when I cough or sneeze. I still haven’t picked up anything too heavy (the baby in his car seat has been the heaviest thing) so I don’t ruin this great recovery. I can’t stress enough how completely different this recovery is compared to the last time. I was consistently rating my pain at less than a 3 during my hospital stay.

As for labor helping my son, he is a strong little bugger. We haven’t had a single problem with latch (more on breastfeeding another time). The nurses in the hospital called him “Hoover” from the get-go because he has such a strong latch and suck (my poor boobies). He also kicked the jaundice pretty quickly, which was a bonus.

Did I mention he has lungs unlike any newborn I have ever met? He could wake the dead with his cries! Except his father…he can’t wake him. No one can manage that feat (except Eva when she jumps on him to wake him up).

Well, that’s our story. It went as all births usually do–completely different than what was planned.

One last note:

My blood glucose levels during labor were great…until I quit sneaking snacks. I had snack food that I was having my husband give to me in one bite increments about every 4th contraction. Once things got more intense, though, I was too nauseated to continue to eat. My blood sugar then dropped and then spiked. My body was eating into my reserves which was setting loose ketones into my urine. Some lactated Ringer’s via IV seemed to help balance things out a bit.

Immediately following my c-section, my numbers were back to ideal. My son’s numbers were perfect as well. I haven’t had a single high reading since, and I quit checking while I was still in the hospital.

Nothing Exciting

I thought for sure last night was THE night. I was having contractions every 2-4 minutes that were lasting 45 seconds to over a minute. I was nauseated and energized. I had lots of pressure, you know, down there.

But no, I’m still waiting for this boy to decide to enter the world.

My view throughout the night as I continued to contract without a lot of sleep:

image

Only one of many more nights to come with limited sleep. Bring on the feedings every two hours, though, because I’m ready!

My Appointment

40 weeks and 4 days.

That’s 284 days.

That’s a lot of days.

Today’s ultrasound appointment went pretty well. The ultrasound showed that my placenta looks nice and healthy as does my son. He is guestimated to be 7 lbs. 9 oz. (give or take a pound as the ultrasound tech informed me), which is a pound and 2 oz. heavier than he was last month, but still pretty close to average. There is plenty of amniotic fluid in there still, too, and he is practice breathing pretty well.

The appointment with my obstetrician went, too. She is obviously getting more nervous the more/longer pregnant I am. She told me point blank today that she would be “cutting me off” at 42 weeks. I asked her why she would be imposing a deadline besides the slightly increased rate of stillbirth and placental failure.

She said, “I don’t have another medical reason other than my heart just can’t take it.”

I didn’t answer, I just sat patiently, and she eventually added that in her practice, no one goes past 41 1/2 weeks. She said she has never had a patient with gestational diabetes go all the way to 42 weeks, either. She gave me kudos for maintaining ideal blood glucose levels and keeping my weight so steady and sited these things along with my son’s weight/size (and ideal blood pressure and no swelling) as her reasoning for being willing to work with me and try to allow things to progress naturally.

At this point, I reassured her that I wasn’t having any sight problems, that I have no swelling since I quit wearing flip flops, that I haven’t had any headaches, and that really, I feel great other than some sore pelvic muscles. I reassured her that he doesn’t make any spastic movements but that instead just jabs and rolls frequently throughout the day.

She then asked if we could try for an induction instead of going straight for a c-section at 42 weeks. I told her that I wasn’t willing to have the gel (cervidil–an artificial prostaglandin gel that is supposed to ripen and dilate the cervix) or Pitocin, so that if I’m not dilated quite a bit we were out of options.

She then said she wouldn’t want to use the gel or Pitocin on me either, but that she would like to to try a membrane sweep next week if I am dilated. She also said that if I am dilated enough, she would like to artificially rupture my membranes at the 42 week mark if things don’t happen naturally/with the membrane sweep by then.

I told her that I might be open to induction via an artificial membrane rupture. My husband and I will have to do some thinking and praying on that front. I’m still hopeful that I go into labor all on my own before then! I find it hard to swallow to have an end date imposed on the pregnancy if all is well.

So, my prayer and hope is that I go into labor before 42 weeks so we don’t even have to address the end date.

Thank you, everyone, for all of the well wishes for today’s appointment! It was so good to see that my son is measuring just fine, that there is plenty of amniotic fluid and that the placenta is still looking perfect! Thank you all so much!