When Life Isn’t Manageable (AKA Life as a Mom)

overworked-women

There are seasons in life when the winds are gusting and the leaves are swirling, when the storms rage and the rain pours down. There are times when life can no longer be handled, period (much less so with any sort of ease). Nothing seems to be taken care of adequately…house, kids, relationships, yourself…you name it. In these labored times, when what you are doing to survive no longer works, you might feel yourself starting to sink. I know I am not alone in this. It appears to be one of those inseparable elements of the human experience. So, what’s a gal to do?

While I am by no means an expert, below are steps I’ve utilized during my own days of tohubohu. (Look it up…I promise it is a real word!) If you are currently hanging by a very bare thread, may these be of some value to you.

  • Reach out & connect.

If you are like me, when stress piles on and anxiety or depression creeps in, you pull back from life; you turn inward. Depending on the amount of stress, you may do a full out retreat!  The bigger predicament? Life with kids = an inevitable amount of stress, which may result in a regular merry-go-round of disappearing from regular life routines and re-emerging later when you feel like you can breathe again….only to swirl half-way around, hit a stress wall and tuck back once more into the safety of your own figurative shell.

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(Me comfy inside my shell)

I love my shell. Shell = safety. Shell = quiet. Shell = security. These are all so alluring when we feel out of control and lost. Being in the shell has clear benefits. Sometimes, we need to hang inside there awhile as we re-group. It’s okay to be in the shell! But even while you are in your shell…shielding yourself, resting, silencing the sounds of the outside world…make a small effort to let someone around you know you are in there. We are social beings, made to live together in communities, villages, tribes. Just as we cannot survive without food, water and adequate shelter, neither can we survive without connection. Reach out to someone you trust, let them walk with you on this leg of your journey and receive love from them. You will feel less alone, even if still inside your safe shell.

  • Prioritize & scale back, waaaayyy back if need be.

When life gets to be too much (which is OFTEN for women in modern day America), it is time to cut out the chaff. When your days feel too heavy, it’s your cue to release some of the stones you are carrying in your jar. (If you are unfamiliar with the reference, watch this 2-minute video!)

Step 1: Figure out what is truly *essential* to your daily life and make a list of your priorities. Things like physical nourishment, hydration, light activity, some minimal self-hygiene might go here. (Definition of “minimal” may vary from person to person, or even within one individual during different stages of life.) Include only what is imperative to your survival at this point. What is essential to you living and breathing every single day? In other words, what are your big rocks?

Step 2: Look at the list from step 1. Does it already feel overwhelming? If so, stop there and let go of everything else for a time. Really, I mean it. Cut out everything that is not directly contributing to your survival and take it one day at a time. Put one foot in front of the other; repeat endlessly. Surviving the day is your priority. When days begin to feel consistently lighter, it may be time to review your list and see if it can expand.

On the other hand, if the “essentials” list feels comfortable from the get-go, make a second list. Consider it a “bonus” or “nice to have” list of things to incorporate in your daily life. This could be time with friends, engaging in hobbies (e.g. writing, painting, crafting, music, etc.), quiet time with coffee. (If you are me, this is definitely an essential and not just a bonus!) Select one or two items at a time to incorporate. RESIST THE URGE to include too many bonus items. Continue to make additional lists that go higher up in the luxury scale, as needed. If someday, you get to regularly enjoy extravagant activities that contribute to your well-being, hooray! Until then, only add in the pebbles and sand that are allowed by the big rocks in your jar.

Step 3: Maintain vigilance regarding your priorities. It is so very tempting in 21st century life to do all of the things and wear all of the hats. But that is not sustainable, and definitely not manageable for most. Know your priorities in life and stick to them. Be on guard against things that seep in and weigh down your jar unnecessarily.

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(It’s okay to be on guard with less slobber and barking and sharp teeth.)
  • Love yourself.

When you feel like you can’t breathe, it is time to put on your oxygen mask. I know we’ve heard this one before, but reminders are necessary. Too often, we plow through life without remembering that extra support is needed at certain times (like when the atmosphere of air surrounding us is thinner, or less supportive, or the burdens we are carrying weigh us down more quickly). Stopping to breathe is not selfish; breathing is good self-care. Getting extra oxygen is necessary at times.

Now, take a moment to think of how you show love to those around you. Ask yourself: do I do these same things for me? If not, today is a great day to start. Put at least as much effort into showing yourself kindness and charity as you do to others.

oxygen-mask

(Photo credit Patrick Cheng)
  • Keep your eyes ahead of you.

Sounds impossible sometimes, doesn’t it? I get it, I do. I am a constantly-looking-back kind of gal…re-playing scenes from my life…analyzing thoughts, decisions, actions I have already made…wondering how they could have been perfected…evaluating where I fell short. You know where this leads, right? I end up wallowing in every possible past mistake I have ever made, while simultaneously adding to the burdensome weight of foul life-slime I am already drowning in for that particular moment in time.

The problem with looking back is that all we end up with are strained eyes and a crinked neck. No amount of peering behind us or classifying previous behaviors will lead to a changed story. It only keeps our eyes on the garbage of the past and our noses in the current stench of overwhelming feelings. Yet, when we dare to look ahead, we are providing an opportunity to potentially see the soft glow of a new horizon. When we keep our eyes forward, we prevent our past from continually whipping us and our present situations from paralyzing us. Tomorrow will probably not be instantaneously better or more manageable, but it does bring hope. And with hope, comes possibilities for renewal.

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  • Surrender.

On the spectrum of personal authority, there are certainly components of life that we have more control over than others. The foods we eat, the people we associate with, the type of clothes we wear – all of these are fairly governable and areas where we get to call the shots for the most part. (I recognize this is not 100% true for all segments of a population, but I am generalizing here for the sake of simplicity.) However, life in all its beautifully chaotic and unbridled energy, also provides us with unlimited instances that smack us across the face with the knowledge that we have absolutely zero control in this world. These are circumstances that no amount of planning, of bargaining, of mighty effort or sheer willpower can change. Instead, we are forced to accept what we are given (or live in perpetual denial). Childrens’ temperaments, sudden changes in health, natural disasters are examples of what I would put at the other end of the spectrum.

This begs the question….what the heck do we do with the end of the spectrum that is not subject to our whims and desires? What do we do when we are ambushed with seemingly insurmountable and unexpected obstacles in our path? WE SURRENDER. We allow things to be as they are, rather than what we hoped or planned for or anticipated. We permit things to unfold freely. We surrender when we loosen our knuckle-white grip on the life we believe we should have and open our hands to the life sitting in front of us. Grant yourself permission to grieve, yell, cry and feel your feelings along the way of the unexpected; that’s a healthy response. But ultimately, we have more space to breathe, less weight to carry and more ability to manage when we open ourselves up to life as is. Much easier said than done, for sure. Good thing life gives us repeated opportunities to surrender over and over again.

(Please know I wrote this post just as much for myself as for our blog readers. These words are every bit for my heart, as they are for yours. Take comfort in knowing you have at least one companion on this journey of insanity, friends!)

by Shannon Morber

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Surviving 3rd Trimester

baby due

Third trimester. Weeks 27-40 (and beyond). The most joyful time in your life! You’re about to meet your baby! I bet you can’t wait! …or not. If you’re enjoying your pregnancy in 3rd trimester, and feeling the love and joy and glowing and rocking that bump still, more power to you! For the rest of you…we feel you.

For many moms, 3rd trimester is just not all that glowy. Your baby is growing and gaining about 1/4 to 1/2 pound a week until birth. That means more weight throwing off your balance, pressing on your bladder (yay for peeing a hundred times in the middle of the night!), smooshing your other organs, and generally making you feel huge (tried rolling over lately?). The hormone relaxin is really kicking in, causing your hips, pubic symphysis, back, and knees to feel wobbly and out of whack. Your breasts may be starting to leak colostrum, your nether-regions may be experiencing increased leukorrhea (a fancy way of saying you have a lot more discharge going on down there), and your sex drive has probably taken quite the plunge. You’re exhausted. Your other kids have memorized the theme songs to just about every kid’s show on Netflix because you just.can’t.anymore.

Not to mention the mental game.

Oh the mental game.

The first question people ask now is when you’re due, either surprised by how big or small you are. Once you hit 37 weeks, the first question people want to know is if the baby is here yet, or how much you’re dilated (and can I just. When at any.other.point.in.life. is it okay to ask someone how their cervix is doing??). There is no more even attempting to hide that belly, and hands start reaching for it from every direction (and again, I ask…when is this ever okay??). Not only are you trying to just handle the day to day discomforts of being that pregnant, you have to start reminding people that your baby will come when s/he is ready to, or choose to share your induction or c/s date a zillion times. That your cervix is none of their business. That no, they may not touch/rub/pet/pat/stroke your belly.

Oh and also? You have to birth that baby.

One way or another, that baby has to come out.

Add birth to the list of things going on in your head, and it’s no wonder pregnant women even survive the 3rd trimester without a mini (or major) breakdown!

LUCKILY FOR YOU, there are ways to get through it, and, dare I say, even enjoy it a little bit.

 

Physically

While there is no magic button that you can push to help your body just sail gracefully through the physical demands of third trimester, you can make it easier on yourself.

  1. Invest in a pregnancy pillow. There are a bunch of different kinds to choose from, but the basic premise is that they support your belly, back, hips, and neck while that bump is beginning to take over the bed. They help keep you laying on your side so that you and the baby both get optimum blood flow. They help prevent your joints from waking up stiff and sore by keeping them in a good position while you sleep. Waking up in the morning not feeling like you’re 80 can help you get off to a great start to your day and prevent any extra morning grouchiness from waking up sore after a bad night’s sleep. Don’t want to spend the money on the pillow? Steal pillows from everyone else in your house to wedge between your knees, under your belly, and behind your back to help keep you in the optimal position for comfort at night. Don’t worry, they can’t say anything about their missing pillows…you’re very pregnant. They wouldn’t dare.
  2. Exercise. What?! Seriously?! Yes, seriously (with your care provider’s “ok”). Low-impact exercise is your friend! Pay attention to your body and do things that are enjoyable at this point in pregnancy. Swimming is glorious because for just a little while, your body gets to feel weightless while you easily move through the water. If your hips and pelvis are okay with it, go for a nice long morning or evening walk with your partner or family. Walking not feeling so great? Cycling on a recumbant bike at the gym can be a great option. You’re sitting back farther so your belly is not in the way, but your heart rate can still get pumping and get that blood flowing. Weight lifting is a great option (don’t do more than you’re comfortable with!), and so is prenatal yoga. Stretching and strengthening those muscles will help prepare your body for birth, as well as just keep everything moving smoothly.
  3. Chiropractic care. Visiting a chiropractor weekly or bi-weekly in 3rd trimester can be the difference between getting out of bed in the morning and, well, not. With your joints loosening in response to relaxin, everything can get a little out of whack. Visiting a licensed chiropractor (and preferably someone who practices the Webster Technique) will help keep your spine, hips, knees, pelvis, and neck aligned and in good working order. It can drastically decrease sciatic pain, and help with round ligament discomfort as well. Not to mention aligning your pelvis (which in turn aligns your uterus), ensuring that your body and your baby are in an optimal position for birth.
  4. Make sure to keep taking your prenatal vitamins, magnesium, and any other herbs or supplements that your care provider has recommended. Keep up on the high protein diet, and cut back on extra sugar and carbs. Now is the time to be making sure that your body is in prime condition for giving birth. In the last trimester, extra weight gain for you or baby comes from carbs, so try not to over do the ice cream even though it’s 50 billion degrees outside.
  5. Rest. I know this sounds like a given, but you’d be surprised how many exhausted pregnant women are still trying to do allthethings. Give yourself a break, and ask for help. Talk to your partner about hiring a cleaning service to help with the vacuuming and bathroom cleaning (bad for your back!). Consider asking a babysitter to come  for a few hours a week to help with any other kids you have so you can catch up on some much needed sleep. Take care of yourself so that when the time comes to give birth, you have the energy that you need to rock it.

 

Mentally

Obviously there is a lot going on in your head right now. You may be wondering how well you’re going to handle the transition to 1, 2, 3, 4 or more kids in the house. You may be wondering how you are going to make it through labor and delivery. You may be battling some fears from a previous pregnancy or birth. You may feel totally clueless about delivery and postpartum. You may be nervous about caring for a newborn, or breastfeeding, or, or, or, or…

I encourage you to stop, for just a second. Close your eyes wherever you are. Take a big deep breath, and breathe out slowly. Remember that as hard as it seems right now, it will pass. It’s true, your baby will be here before you know it, and you will be a great mom. A few  things you can try before this little one’s arrival to help you relax and de-stress:

  1. Find a trusted friend and get together to just spill your guts. Tell them if you don’t want advice ahead of time, and just download. Tell them everything on your mind and everything you’re worried about. It helps just to speak the fears/concerns/preoccupations out loud; putting them out in the open takes away some of their “power” over you.
  2. If you don’t want to talk to a friend, pick up a pen, find a blank notebook and a few minutes each day and jot down (or write an essay about) what’s on your mind. Journaling can be so freeing, with the added bonus of being able to look back to see how far you have come, and how things were or weren’t like you imagined they were going to be.
  3. Try to take time each day to practice focused relaxation. Sit quietly and try to detach from your thoughts. Notice them, but let them float out of your head without dwelling on them. Practice identifying your feelings without judgement, and let yourself just be in the moment, getting in tune with your growing baby. Taking time to center yourself in a positive place can make a big difference on the rest of your day. During this time, also consider taking a few minutes to really focus on what you envision for your birth. Come up a with a mantra that you can repeat to yourself when you’re feeling extra anxious or stressed about labor and delivery. Post it on your wall if you need to. If you’re nervous about certain aspects of your birth-day, jot down questions to ask to your doula or care provider. Try to work through any anxieties so that when the big day comes, there aren’t any emotional barriers holding you back.
  4. Exercise. I know I already mentioned this under the physical tips, but exercise also drastically improves our mental and emotional health. Take a walk or go for a swim or have a dance party in the living room with your kids. Get your blood pumping and you’ll be surprised to see how your mood is lifted.
  5. Take a break from social media. Let everyone know that you’ll be back when the baby is born, and you’d prefer not to hear from anyone right now that’s offering anything negative or questions about when the baby is coming. (DO take people up on offers of help, though!!) Stay away from as much negativity as you can in these last few weeks.

Keeping your mind and body healthy these last weeks of pregnancy is key to keeping you sane and preparing you for a great labor and delivery. This is not an exhaustive list..if you have been there already, what things help you get through those last weeks until baby come? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below.

 

Surprises in Parenting: Motherhood Edition

We all know that parenting is hard, but do you really know everything about it until you are in it? We have asked a few parents to share what things surprised them about being a parent.This month we are going to hear from a few mothers about the things they weren’t expecting when it came to caring for their kids.

Thanks to Karla Griesbaum, for sharing her story!

  1. That each child is different, and require different parenting. There are so many books, articles, magazines, and products that try to tell us how to raise our children. How to get them to sleep, what they should be eating, when they should eat it, or age-appropriate activities and milestone charts. The most important thing I’ve learned as a parent is to follow my instincts. Before I had kids, I thought that I’d be prepared, and most of my preparations were all for not. I had newborn cloth diapers that ended up digging into my son’s little legs. So that was a bust. I read about independent sleeping and put him down when he fell asleep all the time – something which I regret and vowed to hold my subsequent children as much as possible. I thought a pacifier was an evil devise used to silence a baby in need of attention. If I would have let my first use one, he may not have nursed so much he violently spit up all the time. My second didn’t want it. My third now uses it. I’ve learned that I need to follow their lead. I don’t treat all my children the same. It may not seem fair, and it wasn’t how I thought good parenting should be, but the truth is they are all different people, with different needs. There is no perfect answer for how to get a child to sleep, or to eat their vegetables, or to use manners. Each child learns differently and responds differently, and I have to be three different Moms to each.
  2. That there is nothing you can do to prevent “bad” behavior. Of course, as a parent, I’ve learned to see the behavior that I used to see as ornery as normal child development. Babies, toddlers, and kids are going to test limits. They are going to scream, throw fits, break down at the slightest thing, and break the rules. It’s in their nature and has nothing to do with being a “bad” parent. Of course, I take each episode as a learning opportunity – to teach them how to use their words, to let out their anger in safe ways, to be respectful…and it’s an ongoing process. I’ve gained patience from this (but still need more). I was a preschool teacher before having kids and said all the time “My kids will never do that!”. Well, they did. And they do. Because that’s what kids do; and once again, they are all different. My son is a rule-follower. He listens, wants to please. He is also very sensitive though, and it hurts when something doesn’t go how he planned (he is my clone, basically). My daughter never listens, it seems. She fights me tooth and nail, is dramatic, and screams. It’s not because I let her get away with anything…it’s because it’s in her nature, and while we are working on it, I now know that I didn’t cause her to be that way.
  3. That I have come to love my body more with each baby. As a young woman I would hear mothers blame pregnancy and motherhood for their unhappiness with their aging bodies. That each gained a few pounds with each and never lost it, that their skin never returned to normal, and these were all bad, hated things. However, being pregnant made me love my body for really the first time. Growing up I was never happy – I was too skinny as a kid…I had no curves or breasts. Then I was too heavy. Then too skinny again, then fat. My spine is curved making only my left hip stick out. Every woman around me criticized themselves, and I did the same. However, being pregnant I felt like I finally knew what my body was there for. I cherished the curves. I didn’t care about cellulite or my never ending behind. I felt healthy, like this is how I should always be. After three babies my body has changed a lot. However, I feel good. I feel healthy and accomplished. I may not like what I see when I look in the mirror, but that’s all the more reason to not even look, because it doesn’t matter. What matters is I’m active and healthy, and my children see a positive attitude towards body image that they can carry into adulthood to avoid the perils I went through in my youth. I never thought having three babies would make me love my body.KARLA final.jpg

What I Want to be When I Grow Up

We’re so happy to welcome April Hine, RN to our blog this week in honor of nurse’s week! April is a labor and delivery nurse at Presence Hospital, and we think she’s awesome. She is also a mom and expecting herself! Phew! Thanks for sharing yourself with us this week despite your crazy busy life, April, and thank you to ALL of the wonderful nurses with whom we have the privilege of working. april hine

What am I going to be when I grow up?  Has the thought ever crossed your mind?  I was 17 years old and shadowing a nurse in a 45 bed neonatal intensive care unit in South Dakota.  It was one of the most valuable experiences of my life.  I was able to see the care of the tiniest micro preemies to full term infants who needed extra love and support.  During my experience I had an overwhelming feeling that nursing was the career path for me.   After my experience, I understood that being a nurse is much bigger than being caring and compassionate.

Although tightly knit in the maternal child realm, I realized that being a labor and delivery nurse was more suitable for me.  Now, fast forward years later and I am working at Presence Covenant Medical Center.  I have been at Presence Covenant for almost 9 years and have enjoyed every minute of it.   I love how the unit census of labor and delivery can be low one minute and 30 minutes later you can be concerned with where the next patient will go.  I am blessed to work with some of the best nurses in the C-U area.

As your labor and delivery nurse, I am privileged to see you through one of your most monumental life events.  Let me tell you, no two births have ever been the same.  Most often families come to our unit with a plan and wishes for their birth experience.  It is extremely important to me to support and encourage families to meet their goals.  As part of a multidisciplinary team, those plans can change and it is my role to educate you on those changes, what to expect, and how we can still help you to reach your overall goal.  It is my job to build your trust, communicate, empathize with you, encourage you, educate you, after all this is your experience and I am blessed to be a part of it.

One of my most favorite moments to witness is when a baby is delivered and placed skin to skin with its mother.  The mother will start speaking to the baby and you can immediately see a response of love, affection, and the infant responds to her voice.  It is beautiful!  After delivery, I have the opportunity to educate, educate, and educate.  Another passion of mine is for breastfeeding.  In 2014, I obtained my certified lactation counselor certificate.  There is something powerful about breastfeeding your baby including the level of confidence one can gain.  From helping someone with their first latch to seeing them through potential complications that can arise, breastfeeding is best!  Practice and patience can help you achieve your breastfeeding goals!

Becoming a registered nurse was one of the best decisions of my life.  This week I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day at work. I helped a first time mom through the labor process.  It was a complete honor!  Now, we as a profession celebrate nurses week!   Being a nurse is so much more than caring and compassion although those are important pieces as well.  Nursing is about advocating, educating, critical thinking, promptness, being selfless, health promotion, communication, following gut instincts, intuition, and being assertive.     Someone once said, “It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together.”  I do not believe there is a better quote to describe my feelings regarding becoming an OB nurse!

 

International Day of the Midwife!

We are so pleased to be featuring a guest on our blog today! Laura Lawson, CNM, is the owner and midwife of Her Choice Midwifery Services in Bloomington, IL, serving the Central Illinois area with CNM attended home birth.

Laura Lawson photos2

Happy International Day of the Midwife to all my colleagues , midwives, and midwifery students. International Day of the Midwife (IDM) was an idea to honor and recognize midwives around the world. Wikipedia states IDM was first celebrated May 5, 1991, and has since been observed in over 50 nations around the world. The idea was conceived at the 1987 International Confederation of Midwives conference in the Netherlands.

The word midwife is translated “with” “woman”. A midwife comes in all varieties here in the states from a CPM, certified professional midwife, to a CM, certified midwife, to a CNM, Certified Nurse Midwife. We even have male midwives, we don’t discriminate. Midwives practice in the hospitals, clinics, birthing centers, free standing or attached to hospitals, and in homes. In some states it is possible for midwives to be in solo practices/own their own practices. Midwives work with women and their families and generally support and encourage natural childbirth. However, they can prescribe medications. In addition to providing care during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum, midwives provide well women care.

Regardless of our training, education and practice setting I do feel that midwifery has one common belief and that is to support, guide, educate and empower women. We as midwives specialize in normal and it is our job, passion and role to give to our patients the tools and knowledge to let them make an informed decision regarding their care.

I recently had the opportunity to open my own practice. I named it “Her Choice Midwifery Services”. I truly feel that every woman should have a choice in her care. Informed decision making should happen and be honored.

Laura Lawson photos3

My most recent homebirth was a returning client and she stated the only way she would do a homebirth was with me. Trusting your midwife/health care provider is important.

My patient had a waterbirth & used hypnobabies with her first birth at a local hospital. She was nervous about not being able to have a waterbirth this time around as local hospitals do no offer waterbirths any longer. So when I opened my practice, it only made since to her and her husband to have a homebirth. Her first labor was very short, 6 hours, and this labor was only 4 hours. She was able to have a waterbirth and she used utilized hypnobabies again.

The homebirth was so peaceful and a non-intervention delivery. It was different from the hospital birth as there were less vaginal exams, she was able to have who she wanted there, she was able to eat, move in any position she wanted, less monitoring, no IV during labor, and was in the comforts of her own home. Her baby was also born encaul, born in his amniotic sac. Her wishes were discussed prenatally and honored in labor. Her and her baby boy and family did well. She had a great homebirth and an amazing experience.

 

I am so happy to offer this service to the women in Bloomington/Normal and the surrounding areas. Currently there are only 3 CNMs in central Illinois that are offering homebirth services.

For questions re: midwifery services, homebirths or Her Choice Midwifery Services:

Call 309-585-3535

Bnherchoice.com

Facebook: Her Choice Midwifery Services

Laura Lawson, CNM/ Owner Her Choice Midwifery Services

Crystal’s Cesarean Birth Stories

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we are featuring some great birth experiences from moms who ended up having a cesarean for different reasons and moms who have had vaginal births after a cesarean.

These are Crystal’s Cesarean Birth Stories.

Caleb’s birth: August 2010

We get to the hospital the afternoon of August 25 for our scheduled induction and they hooked me up to the monitors. I was already having contractions about every 3-4 minutes but nothing painful. Pretty soon they started the pitocin, the contractions got a little more uncomfortable but nothing too bad. At about 3:15 that morning, I got up to use the restroom when my water broke! One giant gush. After that the contractions got a lot more uncomfortable and I made it until 6 before getting the epidural (I knew I wanted it!) The epidural was AMAZING. So awesome 🙂 🙂 I couldn’t feel ANYTHING until around 11:45 when I started getting uncomfortable again. Turns out I was at about 9.5 cm–I was at a 3 when my water broke at 3:15 am so I’d say things went quick after that. I started pushing an hour later–they wanted to let me “Labor Down” to see if he would get in place and to help pushing go easier.

I pushed from 12:45-2:45 when they decided that it had been long enough. They said I was a great pusher, but he was completely STUCK. At this point I was so exhausted that I was pretty much like “yeah, whatever… C-section… Ok” No fight or anything even though I was ADAMANT that I had wanted to avoid a c-section. I think I was just so exhausted that I didn’t care. Off to surgery we went. And he was STUCK. One person tried to push his head back up and another was pushing so hard on my ribs I thought they were going to break them. It felt like it took an eternity, but they finally got him out, then it was another eternity while they cleaned him up before I got to see him for 30 seconds and they whisked him away.  Turns out his first apgar was only a 2 or a 3 and so they needed to take him and help him. He recovered and his second apgar was a 9.

I ended up having major hemorrhaging–they said was partially attributed to the suction that had developed during pushing and also because he was too big for my body. They “threw everything they could think of” at me and I still wouldn’t “clamp down” (to explain it as the doc did.) I ended up getting 4 units of blood because the bleeding was so bad and they had to put a Bakri balloon in my uterus to try and control the bleeding. Apparently this is very rare and all of the nurses were interested in this procedure. They later told me that if the balloon didn’t do it’s job, it was back to surgery for me with worse case scenario resulting in a hysterectomy.

My recovery from this c-section took a long time, which is not a big surprise considering that it was a pretty bad c-section. Caleb recovered from his first apgar and will be 6 this year!

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Eli’s birth

March 2013

Scheduled C-section

So Elijah’s birth was so much better than Caleb’s! I had to get to the hospital between 5:30-6:00 am. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep more than an hour the night before just because I was so nervous about the c-section. I was really worried that I was going to feel it (again) and they would have to put me under. We arrived at the hospital and got checked in pretty quickly. They had me change into a gown and Josh and I just waited in my room for something to happen. Pretty soon the nurses (there were 3 of them that morning and no other patients so they were all helping me out! Plus they knew I was high-risk) came in and started having me fill out the final paperwork and getting me prepped. They put an IV in each hand (normally you just get one but I had to have an extra one in case I needed blood) and then we waited for the doctors to arrive. At this point various team members for the surgery started coming in an introducing  themselves to me, but I don’t remember exactly who all came in!

My surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am but ended up being late. Of course we had some light snow this morning and all of the roads were really slick so the doctors were late! To kill some time, one of the nurses was explaining the procedure for me and when she started talking about the spinal I had a little meltdown. This is also when I found out that they don’t keep Kleenex in the hospital rooms, you have to ask for it!!!

Finally my doctor made it to the hospital, we found the 2nd doctor, and the anesthesiologist came in and started talking to me and explaining the procedure in terms of what she would be doing. They had me walk down to the operating room and asked Josh to wait outside until they had me prepped. I walked in and they had me get up on the table and immediately started prepping for the spinal. I thought I would break down again, but surprisingly I didn’t! The doctor gave me that initial numbing shot and had me “slouch over my baby” to get the spinal in. It took a long time–a lot longer than I thought it would! She said it’s pretty difficult to find the exact spot because they have a very small window to work in and it has to be exact. I had this weird tingly sensation every so often when I think she would hit a nerve…it would make my hips tingle/feel bruised. Very difficult to describe! After probably 10-15 minutes she got the spinal in and they had me lie down (assisted me is more like it.) I could feel my feet and legs getting VERY heavy and eventually couldn’t feel them at all!!!!!! The nurses did their final prep (catheter, I don’t know what else) and then the doctors came in and got started. The anesthesiologist actually tested me this time and we KNEW I was numb–it was awesome! I didn’t feel a thing!!!!!!

I felt like the surgery went quick once they started. It was maybe 10 minutes or so (I think…I’m not entirely sure when they started cutting) before I felt TONS of pressure and then my doctor said “He’s peeing on me!” After that I heard the other doctor say “That is a BIG BOY!!!!!” and a few seconds later they lowered the drape so I could see him!!!! He was so beautiful, of course I teared up–I think I was relieved it was going so well and overjoyed with my new son. They took Elijah to the room adjacent to us (the door was open) and I could hear him crying while they cleaned him up and weighed him. He had LUNGS!! Caleb didn’t cry at all, but then again his first APGAR was a 3 and Elijah was 9 and 9 (I think…it might have been 8 and 9.) Josh went with while they cleaned him up and they were letting Josh come in to announce just how big he was, so it felt like a LONG time while they were away! I had guessed 9 lbs 4 oz when I saw him and Josh came back and said 9lb 2 oz and 22″!! My doctor made the comment that he would have been 9.4 if he hadn’t peed twice before they weighed him 🙂

After they had him cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket, Josh and Elijah were able to sit next to me for the duration of the surgery! It was soooo awesome and exactly what I wanted 🙂 We admired our new baby while the doctors finished sewing me up. They finished…we took a couple pictures in the operating room with my doctor, and then they put Elijah in my arms and wheeled us down the hall back to my room where we did recovery for an hour (basically, the nurses stayed in the room with me–it was the same L&D room we started in!)

While we were in recovery, I was able to start nursing Elijah! We actually unwrapped him and did skin-to-skin and let him do the newborn baby crawl to my breast. It was SOOO cool to watch him slowly making his way over! One of the nurses got a little handsy and came over and moved him…I don’t think she understood that I was watching him make his own way over (and he wasn’t upset about it, just going slow) so we latched at that point and they covered us with some blankets. The whole thing was awesome! I think we made it back to the room around 10am or so (Eli was born at 8:50am) and did “recovery” until about 11.

We wanted Caleb to be the first one to see him so eventually we called my parents (they were watching him) and said they could bring him up. They were out eating lunch and it took them probably another hour before they arrived. Caleb was so good! I could tell he was intimidated by the hospital setting, but it was amazing to watch him come in and give his new brother a kiss. He seemed to “get it” too–that this was the same Elijah who was living in my belly. We had told him that we were going to the hospital and Elijah was going to come out of mommy’s tummy and come home with us. I think he understood! Caleb gave Eli a blanket and a security animal and Elijah gave Caleb a bag full of new cars (Cars movie toys and matchbox cars) and Caleb still will pick up the cars from Eli and say “Eli gave me this!!!!!!” It’s adorable.

The pain has been so much more bearable this time. The worst part–one of the nights we were there, I was sleeping and so the nurse didn’t wake me to give me my pain meds overnight. I had no idea when I could have them again so I was waiting and waiting for them and I was in a TON of pain by the time she came in. I had asked to keep on top of the pain meds, I didn’t want to get behind because I didn’t want to be in pain! After that I made sure to ask how long between pills and call them if it seemed to be getting close. I’ve already been out walking and am feeling great.

Ashley’s HBAC Birth Story

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we are featuring some great birth experiences from moms who ended up having a cesarean for different reasons and moms who have had vaginal births after a cesarean.

A HBAC is a Home Birth After Cesarean. This is Ashley’s HBAC Birth Story.

My first birth, was a long homebirth turned c-section. I call this my Rainbows and Unicorns HBAC because it was as ridiculously perfect as a birth can get. I don’t know how I got so lucky.

My water broke Monday morning, but I had no more than 2 or 3 contractions in a row over the next 24 hours, despite my best efforts to get labor started naturally. So Tuesday afternoon I took castor oil, which worked pretty quickly. 2 hours later I was in labor, starting off with contractions 2 minutes apart. It was pretty intense skipping the early labor part, and getting my oldest out of there and everything (well, the pool) set up was a bit stressful. Contractions did eventually space out, thankfully, but they were strong. I went from 3cms to 10cms in about 3 hours.

The thing about progressing that fast is I was afraid I wasn’t doing it. With my first, labor was strong and long, but somewhat irregular and I had lots of back labor. This time it was strong and regular with a bit of back labor. I was dealing with things ok, but it felt like I was progressing quickly and I was so afraid I wasn’t. That sounds a bit convoluted, but hearing my dilation progress so quickly with so little trauma (I was dealing with it much better than the first time around) really upped my confidence.

Also, compared to Evie’s, it didn’t hurt that much. Sure, it hurt, but it wasn’t that bad. At no point did I have the burning sensation in my bones that sent me running to the hospital with Evie. I never even went through transition. I’ve talked to so many moms and read so many stories about reaching the point when you feel you’re going to die, or that you can’t do it, or that you’ll split in two; it never happened.

The hardest part was pushing against a cervical lip, and then my midwife holding it back. It took something like 10 contractions with her fingers in there to move past it, which sucked, but once it was gone everything changed. The urge to push felt great, but it wasn’t overwhelming and it wasn’t uncontrollable. I just really wanted to push. Not pushing during a pushing contraction sucked, even when it was only long enough for me to stop a push, catch my breath, and start another one. And those contractions were LONG. The joy of homebirth is that you don’t have people yelling at you how to push, but I was still doing something like 4-5 pushes per contraction. Also I’m apparently a stealth pusher. It wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd in a series that I made any noise at all.

Pushing took an hour and a half after that lip was gone, and it was hard work. Having had a c-section I wasn’t totally confident that I could do it, and for a long time I wasn’t making much progress. This was probably when his head was molding and it was normal, but I felt that hour and it was a long hour. Then, suddenly, he was coming through. Crowning was amazing. The ring of fire was nowhere near as bad as I feared, though it was intense. Yay water birth. The truly amazing thing was I knew I’d birth on my hands and knees, and I saw myself catching, but I didn’t know how that’d work out logistically. Well, for the record, it was on my knees, face on the side of the pool, and hands reaching down to feel his head come out.

Pushing a head into my hands was the single coolest experience of my life. Feeling his hair THEN his forehead THEN his ear (as opposed to Evie’s forehead and ear coming first), his cheek all slide out of me was amazing. That was when I realized there was a real person in there, and he was almost out! I felt him kick and turn, which was really unpleasant, then pushed out the shoulders and chest and pulled him out of my body myself. That moment was incredible, I don’t think I can explain how amazing it was.

His apgars were probably 8 and then 10, and he was so calm after birth. It was just this amazing ecstatic peaceful entrance. Literally, I had my ideal birth.

Tavian Miles Alexander
4/3/12
9lbs 13oz 22″ long 14″ head
And no stitching needed!

Karee’s Cesarean Birth Story

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we are featuring some great birth experiences from moms who ended up having a cesarean for different reasons and moms who have had vaginal births after a cesarean.

This is Karee’s Cesarean Birth Story…

When I got pregnant with my son in late 2012, I never entertained the idea of ever needing a c-section. I was very used to pregnancy, babies, and even birth when my mother had a home birth when I was 16 and my sister made me an aunt at 11 years old. My sisters and my mom never had any real birthing issues, so why would I? I also felt like I knew enough about pregnancy, labor, birth, etc (and saw The Business of Being Born like twice) before I even got pregnant. So I planned a home birth and also had check-ups at Carle Hospital as it was my first pregnancy and wanted to be sure everything was checking out. And it was. Until that 20 week anatomy scan.

Something was very wrong with my cervix. At barely 20 weeks along, I only had 1/2cm of cervix left when you’re supposed to have between 3-6cm. Up until this point my pregnancy was completely uneventful and nothing ever felt off or like it wasn’t a typical pregnancy symptom. It was a bit of a shock when the doctor told me I needed to go up to Labor and Delivery immediately and get a cerclage suture placed (to more or less sew up my cervix). I called my midwife first who confirmed I should get the cerclage placed and was confused as to why a perfectly healthy first-time pregnant 22-year old would have an Incompetent Cervix. She had seen the condition before, but only with women who had a large number of miscarriages and/or D&Cs.

The cerclage was placed and the next 4 weeks were spent on strict home bed rest. My cervix was almost non-existent and the internal cervix was starting to open, dropping baby right onto my paper thin cervix. By 23 weeks, I was 100% effaced. My OB had little hope I would continue to carry, and was surprised every week I came back in still pregnant. I was admitted onto hospital bed rest at 23 weeks and there I laid for the next 4 weeks wherein nothing happened. I never had a contraction, or bleeding or leaking fluids or any pain (except the aches that bed rest caused).

One night I went to bed unusually uncomfortable. (How much more uncomfortable can you get when you’ve been on strict hospital bed rest for almost 1 month?) I was just sore and achey everywhere. But I fell asleep around 11 p.m. and woke up at 5:30 a.m. to use the bathroom. I came back, got in bed and started having what could only be contractions. They didn’t really hurt much, but the pain came and went every 1-2 minutes. That’s when I started bleeding. Quite a bit. I finally convinced the nurse to get a doctor (like no really go get a doctor) and the doctor came in and did a manual exam. I was 26 weeks, 3 days. I was also 6cm dilated and she told me the baby was “right there.” Basically baby was “falling out” which is common with Incompetent Cervix.

Baby was breech though. He had been breech and happily dancing on top of my paper thin sewn up cervix since about 21 weeks. The doctor wanted to do an urgent c-section. I stopped her though and asked Why? My water hasn’t broken, shouldn’t we just wait? That was a no go. Baby was already coming and she was worried about his cord prolapsing. Plus, I guess it’s not the best way to birth a 26 weeker.

I was whisked away to a room in L&D, prepped, given shots and then taken into the OR. I was glad at that point that I had been on hospital bed rest! Looking back on my birth story, my c-section was the most insignificant part, and I guess that’s a good thing. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I had one. It was kind of a walk in the park, and the least of my worries.

I was given an epidural, and was awake for the c-section. I remember arguing with my husband over baby’s name. We didn’t know the gender and he wanted to name her Violet Lynn but I vetoed that multiple times saying it sounded too much like violin and that Violet Gwendolyn was better. Our arguing was in vain though, as to my extreme delight, we ended up with a boy just a few minutes later. I saw him distantly, briefly, before he was wheeled away to the NICU.

Recovery was excruciating. Of course I was out of it, and God bless nurses. Especially the ones who have to push down hard on recently c-sectioned abdomens. I’m sure I asked why they were doing it, and I’m sure they had a good reason. But Lord, I just had a kid and this was the worst pain in my life! Anyway. I was immediately given a breast pump, in the recovery room. They told me to get milk flowing, I had to start pumping immediately. I loved their sense of urgency! About an hour after being in recovery, I was wheeled up (in my bed) to the NICU to see my son. He was 2lbs 7ozs and breathing very well. I was worried that being born via c-section would decrease his chances of breathing well, but that was one thing he was always good at.

I pumped every 2-3 hours and my milk came in very quickly, though never at a huge volume. At any rate, during my son’s 15 week NICU stay, he was given my breastmilk the entire time barring the first week where he was additionally given a special human-based milk formula for micro-preemies.

I went home 2 days later and was incredibly happy to start walking again after 2 months on bed rest. They say walking is one of the best ways to heal up after a c-section, and boy, did I do a lot of it trekking back and forth from home to NICU. By 2 weeks post-surgery I felt great and by 3 weeks post-surgery I felt almost completely back to normal.

Today the scar is a reminder of my son’s awful but victorious birth. He will be 3 years old this summer and has never had a single medical issue after being released from NICU after 103 days. And we still nurse. 😉

 

Melissa’s VBA2C Birth Story

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we are featuring some great birth experiences from moms who ended up having a cesarean for different reasons and moms who have had vaginal births after a cesarean. This particular story is from a mom who had a vaginal birth after 2 cesarean births.

This is the story of the journey I took to have a VBA2C (vaginal birth after two cesareans).  Prior to getting pregnant, I read a book entitled Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. So I know how to stand in faith and have a healthy pregnancy. I am thankful to God that I have such enjoyable pregnancies, without morning sickness or complications. The only other book I remember reading during my first pregnancy, a recommendation from a friend, was Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon. I skipped the chapter on Cesarean Surgery – I definitely wasn’t having one of those.

As it turned out, I did have a c-section. My water broke before labor started, and I only dilated a centimeter or two. Because of recent research, my doctor did not recommend pitocin. After a few hours, the baby showed signs of distress. My doctor’s recommendation was c-section. I didn’t really want to have a c-section, but I didn’t know what to say otherwise. I put all my trust in his knowledge because I didn’t have any of my own. Looking back, there were many things I could have done to help the situation including: changing position, getting off my back, walking around, sitting on a birth ball, showering, nipple stimulation, or simply waiting (we were not in an emergency situation).  My lack of knowledge made the whole process seem scary. It wasn’t a good way to start motherhood.

For my second pregnancy, I switched providers and was going to have one of those VBACs. My doctor said she would allow me to attempt a VBAC. When I was at 40 weeks, she scheduled a c-section. I tried to stand up for myself, but I didn’t really know what to do. I decided to have a c-section with my provider, who I had developed a relationship with, on a Friday. If I waited and went into labor over the weekend, I would not see my provider until the next Tuesday. I didn’t want to attempt a VBAC with a provider I just met.

After the second surgery, I was determined to NOT have another c-section. I did LOTS of research between my second and third pregnancy. I met and chatted with a doula. I met and interviewed a VBA2C–friendly provider in another town. I picked up pamphlets at a local Labor Day Rally to Improve Birth. I attended an ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) meeting.

As soon as I was pregnant, I started digging even deeper into the world of childbirth.  Educating myself was very empowering.  I learned the facts about c-sections and VBACs (vbacfacts.com). I chatted with another VBA2C mom. She gave me several book recommendations including The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer and Silent Knife by Nancy Cohen and Lois Estner. She also introduced me (not personally) to Ina May Gaskin. I devoured Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  I enrolled in Shannon Morber’s Birth with Boldness class. In this class I was encouraged, empowered, and emboldened. I found my voice. I learned how to make informed, quality childbirth decisions while becoming aware of the physiological processes of labor and birth. This was very important to me because even though I was on my third pregnancy, I had not actually experienced labor. Another vital part of my success was finding a doula. We clicked immediately, and −bonus− she was a VBAC mom.

Finally the time came for baby #3 to be born. I was in early labor on and off for 4-5 days. I think the hardest part was I didn’t get much sleep during that time because of the discomfort. I finally thought it was “time” so we drove the 1hr, 10 min drive to our provider. It wasn’t “time”. There had not been any change since a doctor’s visit two days prior. This was discouraging because I thought I had started active labor. I decided I did not want to drive back home so we got a hotel room, and I labored through the night. I made tremendous progress during the night. I didn’t sleep. I was under nearly constant pain, stress, and tension. I couldn’t eat. On average, my contractions were two to three minutes long. My body was working very hard, and I got to the place mentally where I was thinking about another c-section. Around 7:30am we left for the hospital. It was a relief to get such good news when I learned that I had dilated 4-5 cm. I knew that I was going to deliver naturally at this point (!). I continued to labor at the hospital that morning. My contractions were still three minutes long. Finding comfort was not always easy. But it was important to me that I receive very little intervention, so I just kept moving around, changing positions and sitting on a birthing ball. The nurses read my birth plan so they knew I wanted to be up and moving. I requested intermittent monitoring. They were very helpful making that happen.  Early afternoon, my provider suggested breaking my water. She explained it would speed things up, and baby was doing great. I had labored long enough without sleep or food. I consented to this intervention. It was a good choice. Within 30 minutes, I progressed the rest of the way (2-3 cm) and started feeling the urge to push. The pushing stage lasted about 30-40 minutes. When they placed the baby on my chest it was the sweetest, most satisfying feeling in the world.

Erin’s Ceserean Birth

In honor of Cesarean Awareness Month, we are featuring some great birth experiences from moms who ended up having a cesarean for different reasons.

Erin said writing her birth story out was very therapeutic for her. Has anyone else felt this way?

I had a very easy, healthy, low risk pregnancy.  I exercised regularly and did prenatal yoga.  My husband and I took all the childbirth education classes Presence offered.  I had a birth plan and I thought I was prepared to have a baby.  I felt great at 41 weeks and at the time I felt I would have been fine staying pregnant forever.  At my 41 week appointment, my midwife informed me that she made an appointment for my induction for Monday at 8am, when I would be 41 weeks, 3 days.  At the 41 week appointment she tried to do a membrane sweep, but my cervix was only a fingertip dilated, so she couldn’t.  She did not tell me my Bishop score or discuss the risks of induction.  I didn’t know to ask at the time.  And she certainly didn’t make it seem like it was my choice to induce.  It was protocol.  I went home and read stories that induced labor was not any more painful than physiological labor.  I decided I would be fine, plus maybe I would go into labor on my own over the weekend, the odds of that were in my favor, after all.  My husband and I told our parents about our induction appointment.  My parents were in town.  My mother-in-law took off work for that day and the next, so she could be there to meet the baby.

On Monday morning, my husband and I drove to Presence Covenant Medical Center.  I called IKids and told them we were on our way to the hospital.  I expressed my disappointment that we were not in any rush to get to the hospital.  I had planned that I would labor at home until contractions were regular and no more than 4 or 5 minutes apart.  Then we would drive as quickly as possible to the hospital, like in the movies.  That didn’t happen.  Oh well, I was okay missing that step because I was going to meet my baby that day.  I was checked in and set up in a labor and delivery room.  I got medical bracelets and a heplock.  I had a vaginal exam and was 1½ cm and 50% effaced.  Hooray, progress!  At 9:30 am I was started on a 12 hour round of Cervidil.  The nurse seemed to have trouble placing it.  It felt like a tampon that wasn’t quite in all the way.  But I figured she knew what she was doing, so it was probably fine.

I was monitored intermittently until 9:30 pm, when the Cervidil was removed.  No change.  Still 1½ cm and 50% effaced.  After some brief research on my phone, I wasn’t surprised.  I read that Cervidil was prostaglandins, which are also in semen.  My husband and I had been having sex at least every day for the past month.  So, they put in another round at 11:30 pm.  I tried to sleep as best as I could on the hospital bed, but was not very successful.  I wanted the comfort of my own bed, where I could snuggle with my husband.  He slept even worse on the fold-out sofa in the labor and delivery room.  The next morning at 11:30 am the nurse took out the Cervidil and I was now at almost 2 cm and 50% effaced.  Ok, something happened!  Today is the day!

As soon as the second round of Cervidil was removed, a foley bulb was inserted into my cervix and I was started on Pitocin.  When the nurse started the IV in the heplock I had a shooting burning pain in my arm.  It didn’t feel right.  In hindsight, that was the greatest physical pain I experienced when I was at the hospital.  I told the nurse about the pain and she put a new IV in my right arm.  There was no pain that time.  As soon as the IV was in, I was told I was no longer allowed to use the shower or tub because I had to be continuously monitored, except for brief trips to the bathroom. I was also restricted to a clear liquid diet.  That was at 11:45 am on Tuesday.  Couldn’t they have waited until after I had a good lunch to tell me I wouldn’t be allowed to eat solids?  I had planned to eat throughout labor as I felt like it.  In the childbirth education class they said food was allowed during labor.  I was hungry at 11:45 am on Tuesday and I sulked as I sucked down my chicken broth while watching my husband eat a cheeseburger.

My parents and in-laws spent the day at the hospital, but left around 9 p.m.  My mother-in-law had to go back to work in Chicagoland.  I had planned to have her there for support, but she had to leave before I felt a single contraction.  Around 9:30 pm, the nurse checked the balloon and was able to pull it out. I was at a level 18 of Pitocin at that time and only barely feeling the contractions that were coming about 6 minutes apart, according to the monitor.  I was at 3cm and 50% effaced.  I heard screaming in another room.  The nurse said that there was a mom giving birth to a 10 lb. baby with no drugs.  She said, “She’s crazy.”  I thought, “That’s what I want.  When will I be screaming?”

I slept for close to an hour until the Pitocin was brought up to 22, at which point I couldn’t sleep through the contractions anymore. It was around 11 p.m.  That is when I started vomiting.  I got up to use the toilet, then, I decided not only did I have to poop, but I had to puke too.  While I was vomiting the nurse came in because I was unplugged from the monitor.  She took me back to the bed and gave me a bowl.  There was no nausea leading up to the vomiting, just all of a sudden, I have to throw up and I have no control of my bladder.  I must have vomited half a dozen times, and urine and bits of mucous plug came out every time I threw up.  I thought the contractions were tolerable, and I was able to talk through them.  I wasn’t able to sleep through them and I was tired.  Sick and tired and shaking.  I woke up my husband to get him to figure out how to help me rest.  He said, “Rest between the contractions.”  I said, “What between?”  The contractions felt like waves rushing over me, but while I was already submerged up to my chin.  Not just up to my belly while I lay on the beach.  I wanted to get into the tub.  I had planned to labor in the tub.  I labored on my back in the bed, hooked to monitors on both sides, unable to get into any position where the contractions felt any different.  I was not allowed to move too far from the monitors.  That lasted until about 5 a.m. when I was checked and at 5 cm.  I had planned for a natural birth.  I looked longingly at the labor tub in the corner of the room and gave up on all my plans.

I requested an epidural.  Rather, I had my husband request an epidural for me, so I could rest.  I gave him our code word, banana.  That was way too easy.  He didn’t argue with me at all, and he loves to argue.  I argued with myself.  I resolved that I wasn’t moving from the bed anyway, I might as well rest up, especially if it might take another 6+ hours to get to transition.  The nurse said I could get an epidural in 30 minutes, after I went through the bolus.  42 minutes after she told me “30 minutes”, I reminded her that the time had passed.  I got the epidural less than 5 minutes after that.  The anesthesiologist seemed mad when he got there.  One nurse told me it would feel like a bee sting.  I remarked, “That does feel like a bee sting.”  The other nurse asked if she should turn down the Pitocin.  I think I said, “Sure.”  Almost immediately after the epidural shot, I fell asleep for almost 2 hours.  I think that was the longest single stretch of sleep I got in the hospital.

When I was awoken, the Pitocin was back down to single digit levels, and contractions were about 6 minutes apart again on the monitor.  I thought, “This is going to take forever!”  I was woken at a little before 8am for the midwife to break my waters.  There was meconium in the water and the baby was facing sideways.  For the next two hours I was rolled from side to side to try to turn the baby.  I couldn’t feel anything from my waist to my knees.  At that point, I didn’t care.  I just wanted to go back to sleep.

A couple hours passed, the nurse checked me, and told me I was at 5 cm.  She said, “That’s great!”  I said, “So no change?”  After my comment, she looked worried and left the room.  A few minutes later the doctor came in with C-section paperwork.  I would have signed anything to go back to sleep.  We thought we had some time, but as I finished signing the papers, baby’s heart rate dropped and I was whisked away to the operating room.  I’m still not sure that the monitor didn’t just slip briefly, but I was so out of it, I didn’t know what was going on.  Either way, my husband got really nervous.  With prompting from the nurses he was able to change into scrubs and come into the room with me.  I was conscious.  I was happy I got the epidural so my husband could be with me.  I was relieved I was finally going to meet my baby.

There were a lot of people in the operating room.  I just heard their voices.  There was a thin blue curtain that kept flapping onto my face.  I could only see my husband.  My midwife told me she was shaving me.  Ok, whatever, that’s the part you think I’m worried about?  I felt a very gentle tugging.  I was shaking, and some guy (maybe an anesthesiologist, maybe a troll that lives in the operating room, I couldn’t see him, it could have been either) kept putting hot towels on me.  I didn’t feel cold, I just couldn’t stop shaking.  Still, I was struggling to stay awake, to keep my eyes open, so my husband wouldn’t worry about me.  He was still worried.  But he was in the room with me and was able to take a photo right when they pulled my baby out of the gaping hole in my belly.  They asked if he wanted to cut the cord.  He said no, just like we planned.  They dumped the cord and placenta into a medical waste bucket.  I had planned to delay cord clamping and to have IKids collect the cord blood.  Someone showed her to us over the curtain and asked if she had a name.  I just looked at my husband.  He told them her name, Violet.  They took her away.  She had inhaled and swallowed meconium in the womb and had to be taken to the NICU.  I had planned to keep my baby with me and to nurse her as soon after birth as possible.

The midwife stitched me up.  I was struggling to stay awake to prove to everyone that my blood pressure wasn’t too low, that I was fine.  Everyone, except me, already knew I was fine.  My midwife told me that I would be an excellent candidate for a VBAC.  That might have made me feel better if I ever planned to have more than one baby.  I really don’t remember much of what happened between then and when I woke up in the postpartum room in the middle of the night without my baby.  My husband was sleeping on the couch.  I was cold.  I cried.  I sobbed quietly so as not to wake my husband.  The nurse came to check on me and asked if I was crying.  I said, “Maybe.”  In response to her inquiry of why, I told her that I missed my baby.  My husband woke up, oblivious.  The nurse took us to the NICU and we looked at her in the box with all the wires and tubes attached.  She had a pacifier and was wearing only a diaper.  She was 7lbs 15oz, but she looked big to me.

The next morning I started pumping my breasts with the hospital pump.  I got what I thought was a lot at first.  More than fit in the syringe I was given.  I didn’t know what to do, so I poured what didn’t fit down the drain.  My husband took the syringe to the nurses in the NICU.  Every three hours, we got to hold her and feed her, with a bottle.  She got the colostrum first, then a lot more formula.  When she didn’t finish the 60mL she was supposed to eat, the rest was put through an NG tube.  I pumped for 30 minutes every three hours.  Each time I pumped I got less and less, until I was pumping for a half an hour and not getting anything.  My nipples were cracked and raw.  They didn’t hurt though.  Between all the painkillers and the belly band, I didn’t feel much of any pain.  Two days after the C-section, I met with the lactation consultant in the hospital and she showed me how to manually express.  I got a lot more by hand expressing and pretty much stopped pumping after that.  By then I was able to hobble, on my own, back and forth between my room and the NICU, with my little bottle of milk.  I would express for 45 minutes, go to the NICU for an hour to feed Violet a bottle, and then have an hour and 15 minutes every three hours to eat, shower, see visitors, or sleep.

Sleeping on the hospital couch and only being able to see Violet every 3 hours were torturous for my husband.  He was anxious and impatient all the time.  He was very concerned with Violet’s care, and frustrated that his questions weren’t clearly answered.  How does the doctor know she needs 2oz every 3 hours?  When can she get the tube out of her nose?  Is it really a good idea to keep waking her up?  Although we really liked the NICU doctor, we weren’t always convinced his decisions were in our family’s best interests.  We were quite thankful when one of the nurses convinced him to let me nurse her in the NICU.  The day after I first nursed her, which she took to much better than the bottles, and four excruciatingly long days after the C-section, Violet was allowed to be in the postpartum room with us.  The doctor finally acknowledged that she could eat on her own and was less concerned with measuring her intake.  By the time she was with us, I was technically discharged, but I was allowed to stay in the postpartum room as long as she needed to be in the hospital.  On Monday, June, 15, we got to take her home.  She was 8lbs 0oz when she was discharged.

We took her to the pediatrician the next day for her 1 week well visit and she had lost 5oz overnight.  We went back for a weight check a week later, and she weighed 7lbs 12oz.  We met with a lactation consultant at Carle twice in the next week, who told us that her latch looked good, my nipples looked bad (it now hurt to latch and unlatch and to pump), and she was taking too long to eat (45 minutes each side, every two to three hours).  Based on advice from the lactation consultant and the pediatrician, we started supplementing with formula.  She started gaining more weight.  At 1 month she was getting mostly formula, but it was a struggle to feed her from the bottle.  We got down to only 2oz of formula a day by 2 months.  When I went back to work 10 weeks after her birth, she was on all breastmilk.  She’s only had formula a few times since then.  I have had more success with my Spectra brand pump at work than the Medela, either at work, at home, or at the hospital.  Violet still isn’t a big fan of bottles, but she tolerates them at daycare.  Violet is now 10 months old, and doing great.  She just started walking and loves pointing things out to her father and me.

Looking back, I was disappointed with my birth experience.  It was not what I wanted or planned.  None of my care providers ever asked if I had a birth plan.  There was a lot of emphasis on pain, and no concern about stamina.  Each labor and delivery nurse had a different agenda, and it was never to make me, the patient, as informed as possible.  They didn’t seem all that informed anyway.  At the time you might have thought I was cool as a cucumber, but I was broken down inside, stripped of control, weak, and naked.  I’m just a stoic.  If I had known that with the induction I wouldn’t be allowed to use any of the pain management techniques I’d planned to, or that I wouldn’t be allowed to eat, or that my unfavorable cervix put my probability of a successful induction at about 50%, I probably wouldn’t have done it.  I would have waited, and probably given birth naturally between 42 and 43 weeks, like my mother, and her mother before her.  As it was, I really found the C-section to be a relief.  The surgery went well and I felt most supported while in the operating room.  I recovered pretty quickly.  It was only disappointing because it wasn’t what I had planned or expected.  And I will forever carry the reminder of my disappointment.