Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Peanut's Birth Story, Part 2

Read part one here.

Some family friends were in the area, so we were heading out to meet them for dinner.  I was 41 weeks and 2 days.  My mom had been in town for about 2 weeks now, and my dad had just showed up.  Mr. Geek's dad and his wife had been in town for about a week, and she'd already had to leave- she didn't even get to meet little Peanut, he was so late!

We were pulling into the parking lot when I felt my first contraction.  It was definitely a real contraction, lasted about 45 seconds, and 15 minutes later I felt a second one.

Oh no, no, no, little Peanut.  You made me wait this long, you're gonna let me eat a good dinner before this show gets started.

Dinner lasted just over 2 hours, and contractions came like clockwork every 15 minutes.  I quietly informed Mr. Geek of what was going on and told him not to say anything.  I didn't want anybody getting overly excited, and I wanted everyone to have the chance to finish their meals.  I carried on conversations and ate a nice little steak with a side of spinach (protein!  and also iron!) and drank lots of water.  When the two hours was over and conversations were wrapping up, I excused myself, stepped outside, and called the doctor's office.  The on call nurse asked me which doctor I'd like to speak with; I asked for the midwife.  In the ten or so minutes that I waited for her to call me back, I missed a contraction.  While we spoke, I missed another.  I told her that maybe it was a false alarm; things seemed to be slowing down again.  She said to go home, try and get some rest if I could, and to call back when they intensified again.  I rejoined the dinner party and the contractions came back, once again at regular intervals, but still weak enough that I could talk normally.

Our group posed for a picture outside the restaurant.  Just before the photographer took the shot, I said, "Everybody say 'Mrs Geek is in labor!'"

"If only!" replied my mom.

"I am, though.  Have been the whole time."

(There are a series of pictures on my mom's phone of everyone smiling for the camera, then looking at me, then her mouth falling open in shock, and then an enormous group hug.)

We all went our separate ways; my mom came home with us and my dad went to the hotel they were going to spend the next week in.  We wanted Chief to be able to sleep in her own bed through all of this, and since it was likely we'd be going to the hospital late that night, my mom agreed to stay at our house with Chief.

After a lot of pacing, a lot of breathing exercises, a lot of double-checking of our packed bags, and a bit of silent prayer (I didn't forget your intentions!), Mr. Geek and I got in the car  and headed to the hospital around 11pm.  I prayed some more on the ride over- including some prayers that labor would not slow down in the car the way it had with Chief's birth.  Because it was the middle of the night, we had to go in through the ER- they were supposed to just buzz us in to the maternity ward, but I guess the guy at the check-in desk was new, because he made us go through the entire check-in procedure with him, where he got multiple details wrong, and then made me ride in a wheelchair to the labor and delivery floor.  At this point, contractions were closer together and sitting was no longer comfortable.  Of course, we had to check in again at labor and delivery, and our wonderful midwife met us in triage.

She asked me to tell her about Chief's birth- anything I thought was important.  So I walked her through the high points- mentioning how pitocin did not help me progress and how the epidural made my pushing ineffective.  She asked what concerns I had about this birth, and I told her that I didn't want to tear quite so badly this time, so I really did not want an epidural if I could avoid it.  However, I knew that was probably the reason I progressed at all last time, so I told her that Mr. Geek and I had agreed that I would ask for an epidural at the 12 hour mark if I still hadn't started pushing (which would be around 5:30am the next day.)  She left us for a little while as a machine monitored my contractions.  When she came back, she explained what she felt needed to happen for a successful delivery, explaining everything thoroughly and asking for my thoughts.

It was the first time during this pregnancy that someone from the OB-GYN staff treated me like a person- like an adult with valid opinions who deserved an explanation before something just happened.  It was so refreshing.

She began by explaining that since they considered me to be High Risk, our number one priority was to get Peanut out faster than his sister had come, and to minimize bleeding.  She explained that she could administer a drug that was an alternative to pitocin to speed up contractions- that it could be more effective at helping me progress than pitocin had been.  She said she wanted me to stay on my feet as long as possible to try and make my water break on its own, but that they would eventually break my water if I wasn't progressing quick enough.  Finally, she said that when it was time to push, she wanted me to try different positions than I had last time- even if I had another epidural.

I agreed to the drug (I can't remember what it was called).  It came as a pill, not an IV drip, and she only gave me half of one tablet.  It definitely intensified contractions, but they were not nearly as awful as pitocin contractions had been.  (Then again, I wasn't having back labor, either.)  I walked around our labor and delivery room and tried to venture out into the hallway, but I didn't want to be too far from the bathroom in case I got sick.  (I'd just eaten quite the hearty dinner, remember!)  There was a birth ball in the room, so I bounced on that in between contractions, and stood up to lean on the bed during the contractions themselves.  I'm not sure how long it took, but my water did indeed break on its own after enough bouncing.  We hadn't quite reached 5am yet, but I was starting to wear out.  Although it wasn't back labor, contractions were indeed getting very intense, and I was reaching my breaking point.  I apologized to my husband (who immediately responded that there was nothing to apologize for) and went ahead and asked for the epidural.

Once again I was able to rest for a short while, and I finished progressing.  It was time to push out a baby!

...except, once again, the epidural made me completely useless from the waist down.  I could feel the contractions, but I couldn't move my legs on my own.  So, Mr Geek took one leg and the nurse took the other and they helped me push for about an hour.  I started to tear almost immediately, so my midwife performed some perineal massage- only instead of using baby shampoo like my last birth, we had brought some personal lubricant in the hopes that it would be more effective at preventing a tear.

Remember that steak dinner?  It made another appearance.  (That was absolutely awful.)

The midwife could see how exhausted I was and that pushing was just not accomplishing anything.  She suggested I lie on my side with what she called The Peanut- an oddly shaped inflated ball that she stuck between my knees.  I rested like that for a while, then we pushed again, this time lying on my side, bringing my knee to my ear each time.  Except I still couldn't actually lift my leg, so I was just grabbing my knee and pulling.  It sounds like that would be the same thing, but the difference is important.  The midwife had the same thought, so she asked me frankly what I thought about having the epidural dialed back a bit- the pain would come back a little, but so would the feeling in my legs, and I'd be more productive when pushing.  Once again I was so grateful for the respect she was showing- she was asking for my thoughts and making a suggestion, not an order.  I agreed that this was the right thing to do, so the anesthesiologist was called back in to reduce the intensity of the epidural.

Feeling came back- in one leg.  My right leg was still dead and useless, so we dialed it back some more.  I could basically feel everything now, and pushing became really difficult.  I needed to vomit again, and I felt like my lungs were going to explode.  The OB showed up at some point and mentioned seeing Peanut's head...but the midwife quietly disagreed.  The baby wasn't going anywhere.

And I'd started to feel back labor on my right side- sharp, paralyzing pains in my lower back with each contraction.  I couldn't take both those pains and the pain in my lungs with each push- I begged to up the epidural again.  No one argued, so it was turned back up again.

There was more useless pushing, and although my nurse continued to cheer me on, she was also suggesting that I rest more in between, and didn't argue when I asked to skip one or two.  The pain in my back was still there, just slightly dulled.  The midwife and the OB were conferring in quiet voices at the foot of the bed, occasionally looking over with a half-hearted "you can do it!"

Finally, the OB came over to speak to me.

"Listen," she said, "technically, there's nothing wrong with your baby.  He's doing just fine.  There's not technically anything wrong with you, either.  You could keep pushing for hours if you want to.  But you've been at this all morning-"

"-it's been probably 3 hours of active pushing," interjected the midwife.

"-and the baby is just not coming.  And it seems he rolled over which is why your back hurts so much.  We don't think he's engaged at all at this point, and, since he's so late, I'm betting his head is too hard to cone the way it should.  I don't think this is going to work."

I looked at all the faces in the room.  They all had the same sympathetic look on their face, frowning down at this pathetic girl who would never be capable of doing this right.  My husband squeezed my hand, and I asked him what I should do.

"It's entirely up to you," he replied.  "I'll support you no matter what."

I took a deep breath and gave the okay for a c-section.  And then I burst into tears.

I could not stop crying- I was such a failure, and I hurt so, so bad, and I had no idea what was about to happen.  Everyone, including the midwife, kept telling me I'd made the right decision and everything was going to be okay- but I didn't want this to be my decision anymore, I didn't want this to be my fault.  I wanted it to be something they had forced on me, I wanted there to be no other choice but this.

They brought Mr. Geek a gown as they got an OR ready for me.  They wheeled me out of the room with him walking by my side, but when we arrived at the OR down the hall, someone said, "Okay Dad, you wait right here!"

He stood by the door as they wheeled me in, waving at me like he was saying goodbye.

I started crying again- silent tears this time.  Was he not allowed in?  Was I going to go through this alone?  I thought my dad had been in the room for all of my mom's c-sections- was something different about this one that they wouldn't allow him in?

I was moved to a table in this small, white room full of too many people.  A radio was turned on and people were discussing their plans for later that evening.  My body was scrubbed and poked and prodded and stripped and moved and I was just lying there, tears rolling down my face, no one actually noticing me.  The anesthesiologist told me he'd be pumping up "the juice" and that it would be perfectly okay if I lost all feeling from the chest down.

I could no longer feel the contractions, but I still felt the periodic stab in my lower back.  I told him, and he bumped it up some more.  The back pain went away, but there was a soreness on my left side, like the baby was kicking me in the rib cage still.  I moved my hand to touch the place where I felt the pain, and I was immediately chastised- "Don't move anymore!" someone said, and I dutifully returned my hand to its place out to the side on the table.  I briefly noticed that I looked like I was being crucified.  I told the anesthesiologist about the chest pain, and all he said was "Well, honey, this is childbirth- it's just going to hurt."

Someone took something sharp- I couldn't see what it was- and started poking me below my belly button.  They instructed me to tell them if I could feel any pain.

"I feel the pressure, but it doesn't hurt," I said after the first poke.  The same response came from the second.  Then they started poking the right side of my abdomen.

"OUCH," I said loudly, but calmly.  "That felt sharp and painful."  "The juice" was again "pumped up" and the experiment started again.

"OUCH," I said once again.  "It still feels sharp."

"Oh for heaven's sake," grumbled the anesthesiologist.

I closed my eyes.  I knew that some women didn't respond well to this kind of pain medicine- some of them felt the entire surgery, or sometimes doctors decided to just put them under entirely.

I also knew that my grandfather had died during routine surgery at the hands of an incompetent anesthesiologist.

"Excuse me," I said quietly.  "Will my husband be allowed in?"

"Of course, honey," someone said off to my left.  "As soon as we're done prepping you."

One more poke test; this time, no pain.  Eventually, Mr. Geek showed up and held my hand.

I don't remember much of what happened next.  The actual surgery was incredibly fast.  At 12:17pm, a loud cry was heard, and somebody started taking bets on how heavy he was.  They seemed to take forever to weigh and measure him- and when 9lb 5oz!" was announced, everyone in the room gasped in disbelief.  "He's huge!" was the consensus.

Finally, they brought him to me.  My arms were still outstretched as they tucked him into the top of my gown so we could have that ever-important skin-to-skin contact.

"You can move your hands," laughed a nurse.  I placed one hand behind Peanut's head, covered in thick brown hair, and the other still held Mr. Geek's.  I closed my eyes and breathed him in.  He nuzzled into my neck, breathing deeply, no longer crying.  Again, there were tears in my eyes- I've never cried so much in one day, or for so many different reasons.  

We made it.  He's beautiful.

I won't bore you with the details of recovery- I'm actively trying to forget them myself.  Suffice it to say that I never, ever want this or any other surgery ever again.

So yes, I have a healthy baby, and I made it out with no lasting physical damage, as far as I know.  That should be all that matters.

But this was the single most terrifying experience of my life, and I'm not at peace with it, even after writing this.

Much love,
The Geeks

Comments are turned off for these posts, because this is a monologue, not a dialogue.  I need to say all this to help myself move past it, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to hear what anybody else has to say- and I mean that in the most charitable way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Peanut's Birth Story

Read the beginning here.

My first birth was a long one- 32 hours in total.  Labor started with my water breaking, contractions were very slow to begin, I wasn't fully dilated until hour 29, and I pushed for nearly three hours.  I asked for an epidural which removed all feeling from my legs, even a couple of hours after I had delivered.  I had a third-degree tear and I lost enough blood to require a transfusion.

In the weeks leading up to Peanut's birth, my doctors were all very concerned with that last part- the blood loss.  They did not want that to happen again.  Starting around the second trimester- when my blood pressure started to go up and when it was later determined that I was anemic- I received the label High Risk.

My OB-GYN practice has a staff of several doctors and one midwife.  Throughout the pregnancy, you have to rotate through seeing all of them, because you never know who will be on call when you deliver.  The thing is, each of these highly experienced medical professionals has a very distinct opinion on...everything, including what exactly constitutes a high blood pressure reading.  One doctor told me that my high reading was due to sitting in terrible traffic; he had me lie down and then they took another reading half an hour later that was "better".  A different doctor suggested the equipment was to blame, and sure enough, a manual cuff-and-scope produced a lower reading than the fancy automated machines they normally use.  Another was not concerned so much with the numbers themselves, just that they stayed within some undetermined range that constituted my own  personal "normal".  Another doctor was less concerned with my blood pressure and more concerned with the swelling in my legs- but the next doctor said my legs were swollen only a "normal" amount.  They also couldn't seem to agree on whether I needed to take iron supplements.  One said a pre-natal with iron was fine, while another said to take a separate supplement entirely.  One insisted I take it every day, while another suggested waiting a few days in between doses so as to give my upset stomach a break.

And then, at my 38 week appointment (which was really about 38-and-a-half weeks), when the midwife was searching for Peanut's heartbeat, she was concerned about his positioning.  She poked around for several minutes and declared that she believed him to be transverse- but wanted me to have an ultrasound to be sure.  We scheduled one for the end of that week (39 weeks and 1 day) and she gave me some information on exercises to "spin" babies.  I spent the next few nights standing on my head, praying that Peanut would flip himself to where he needed to be.  Either the prayers and exercises worked, or the midwife had just misjudged, because the ultrasound showed that Peanut's position was nothing to worry about- he was perfectly head down, even facing the right direction.

That's not to say I escaped this appointment worry-free, however.

This time, the doctor I was seeing was very concerned about my blood pressure levels.  Not only that day, but the previous 4 or 5 readings were simply too high, in her opinion.  On top of that, there was protein in my urine (not that anyone had brought that up with me before).  This, on top of the details of my last birth and the High Risk label appended to my chart, led her to order some blood work to check for preeclampsia.  "There is a very real chance that you have it, but then again, you may not.  Better safe than sorry."

All I knew about preeclampsia up to that point was that high blood pressure, swollen legs and hands, and protein in the urine were the symptoms, and that it could kill you during or after delivery if not treated.  I didn't know there were blood tests that could be run to check for anything definitive, or what treatment looked like.

She didn't explain any of those things, just told me that, since it was a Friday, I would receive a phone call with my results over the weekend.  Three vials of blood later, I went home, propped my feet up on the sofa as I'd been ordered, and started Googling.

What I found was that yes, there were blood tests that could be run to check for the other, less obvious symptoms, but that doctors still weren't sure exactly what causes the condition, exactly.  I also found that it's the leading cause of death during childbirth in the US, and that doctors tend to be more focused on the health of the child and tend to miss the signs in the mother until it's too late.

I never did get that phone call with my results that weekend.  Though I was dutifully doing my part to relax- barely leaving the sofa, even indulging in a glass of a good red wine- I was more stressed out than ever.  I confided in my husband- I was afraid I was going to die.

He didn't tell me I was being silly.  He did tell me to stop researching and to talk to my doctor, but he took my fears seriously.  And then he suggested that I go to Confession.  It had been a while (a long, long while) and it would be cathartic.

So that Monday, while my mom watched my daughter, I drove up to the church and went to Confession.  And as I knelt in a pew afterwards and said my penance, I cried.  I cried from the hormones swirling around that triggered my emotions at the slightest provocation.  I cried from the feeling of peace and relief that always washes over me after absolution.  I cried for my baby, worried that his birth would be full of complications that could put him in danger.  And I cried for myself- I was still so scared of what would happen next.

Later that day, I called the doctor's office myself and asked for the results of Friday's blood work.

"Oh yeah, sorry," came the response.  "We probably should have called you yesterday, I guess they forgot.  Everything's fine, no preeclampsia."

Gee, thanks.  I really appreciate that.

The next two weeks were a whirlwind of appointments.  When I saw my doctor (a different one than the one who had ordered the blood work, of course) at 40 weeks, he clarified- everything's fine now, but I wasn't necessarily out of the woods.  I still had to do whatever I could to relax and bring my blood pressure down.  He wouldn't go so far as to call it bed rest, but he told me to sit or lie down as much as I could and to let someone else take care of the housework.  Every few days, I came into the office for cervical checks, weight checks, blood pressure checks, fetal heart rate and movement checks, and at week 41, they asked me what day I'd like to be induced.  (I chose 41 weeks and 6 days as The Deadline- the day we'd give up on this baby coming naturally.)

Yeah, so, it turns out that all that hard work I'd been doing to bring down my blood pressure- that is, the lack of any work at all- was also probably responsible for the fact that Peanut was content to stay in his warm, happy, comfy place with not the slightest inclination to come out.

Tough luck, Peanut.

And so began Coach Daddy's Let's-Have-This-Baby exercise regimen, consisting of many long walks around the neighborhood, the shopping mall, and up and down the stairs of our town house, along with some exercises we'd learned in our birth class all those many years ago.  I drank orange juice, did squats, washed every scrap of dirty laundry, and cleaned the toilets.

It took only a couple of days of this intense regimen for the baby to get the picture.  At dinner time, 41 weeks and 2 days, I finally felt my first contraction.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of it!

Much love,
The Geeks

Comments are turned off for these posts, because this is a monologue, not a dialogue.  I need to say all this to help myself move past it, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to hear what anybody else has to say- and I mean that in the most charitable way.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Peanut's Birth Story: Lessons Learned

Well, it's been seven whole weeks since our little Peanut was born.  That's long enough for him to have been baptized, moved out of newborn-sized clothing, and experimented with bottle feeding in preparation for daycare.  It's long enough for me to have lost twenty pounds (although, if we're being honest, half of that was just him), begun a modest freezer stash of milk, and received the go-ahead from my doctor to begin an exercise regimen and engage in other activities which I am nowhere near mentally prepared for quite yet.  Seven weeks is a long time.

And yet it's not quite long enough to recover.

I've recovered physically, at least according to my doctor.  But I'm not really over it.

With our daughter's birth, I wrote up a little list of "lessons learned" as if giving birth is an exam that you study for, and everything will be fine if you know the right answers.  I do think that is a list of valuable takeaways from that particular birth, but if I learned anything from conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to this baby, it's that you just can't plan these things, not truly.

I had a very solid, smart plan for this baby.  I had planned exactly which month I'd get pregnant, so that maternity leave would line up just right with everything else going on in our lives.  I had planned to exercise more regularly during this pregnancy, enabling me to better endure labor and have a successful, trauma-free delivery.  I had planned to labor in different positions than I had the first time, to stay away from the stresses of the hospital for as long as possible, and to have the stamina to just not need an epidural and all the complications it brings.

It took us six months to conceive this baby.  I know that doesn't sound like a very long time to those couples who struggle for years to conceive, but when our first child was a total surprise- when we didn't even have to try- we sort of expected an actual planned pregnancy to be easy to achieve.

I was so, so tired during this pregnancy.  I couldn't sleep, and even when the sickness of the first trimester had passed, I still had a lingering nausea most of the time.  By the end, my feet and legs were so swollen that just walking from my car to my desk every day at work was painful and exhausting.

And though I had the perfect Birth Plan, I was completely unprepared for the way this child was going to enter the world.

Now, don't get me wrong- I still believe that Natural Family Planning is an incredible tool for understanding your fertility, I still believe that birth is like a marathon for which you have to train, physically and mentally, if you want to reach the finish line, and I still believe it is incredibly important to do that training with a coach whom you would trust with your very life and to have a clear list of priorities for your birth.


God's plans always, always, always trump our own.  The best we can hope for is to acknowledge what His plan is, and be flexible enough to adapt to the situation we find ourselves in.  In other words- go with the flow!

Says the girl who still occasionally has nightmares reliving this particular birth experience.

The actual story is much shorter this time.  Come back tomorrow if you'd like to read the prologue, and Wednesday for the meaty part.

Much love,
The Geeks

The story continues here.

Comments are turned off for these posts, because this is a monologue, not a dialogue.  I need to say all this to help myself move past it, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to hear what anybody else has to say- and I mean that in the most charitable way.