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.