Sunday, January 26, 2014

Processing My REAL Birth Story

I haven't visited this blog for a long time and the reason may seem silly. While I could say that simply having a newborn made my life far too busy to blog the reality was that seeing the pictures in my last post upset me. I felt upset that instead of having the fabulous homebirth success story I had imagined, I had a horror story that included the words "I nearly died." When I wrote that post at 36 weeks my very worst fear for the birth was that I would go overdue, or that I would go into labor when my husband was at a difficult point in his graduate course. I wasn't afraid of having a homebirth. I was confident in my midwife and my choice in birth attendant. I felt very in control.

At 37 weeks we received a very disturbing letter from my health insurance company stating that despite the fact that they had paid for homebirth's attended by my midwife in the past, they were no longer covering them and in addition, if there was something to go wrong in the birth that would require a transfer to a hospital, they wouldn't cover that either. Could we really take that risk? This question required some soul searching and serious conversations with my midwife. According to her own record, the majority of women who transferred to a hospital during a birth that she supervised were first time mothers who did so for pain relief. I had already had given birth without an epidural so I felt pretty sure I could handle it. We felt peace about our choice.

On Friday July 5th, the day before my due date, I started to feel really grouchy, uncomfortable, nauseous and crampy. It felt like I was about to go into labor so I started to down red raspberry leaf tea in hopes to kick things into gear. Friday went by, then Saturday, then Sunday...UGH. But then, in the wee hours of Monday morning I woke up in labor. Hurray! I stayed up for about a half an hour but then decided to just go back to bed and get rest while I could. At 5:30 AM (for some reason I looked at the clock just as I was waking) I startled awake to a POP! My water broke! I shouted the news at Andrew as I rushed/waddled to the bathroom. Andrew started giddily chatting away, asking if we should call the midwife and then he heard me from the bathroom say, in a tone of voice he said he hopes he never hears again, "Oh my God."

I don't think I have ever used the Lord's name in vain in my whole life but in that moment there were no other words. Instead of seeing amniotic fluid pooling around my ankles (or cankles as they were at that point) I saw blood; lots of it and it just kept on coming. I knew something was very wrong but all I could do was peel off my wet clothing and sit on the toilet in shock. As Andrew told the midwife what was happening, she asked Andrew if there was more blood than half a cup and if I had felt the baby move. The answer to the first was "yes" and the second "not sure." She said she would meet us at the hospital and that she would call them first to let them know we were on our way.

I put on an adult diaper and a pair of capri's and somehow had the idea to grab my kindle fire and charger (just in case!) and with a couple of towels for me to sit on, we rushed to L&D. Luckily on the way there the baby gave me a sharp kick and I knew there was life still there. Arriving in record time at about 5:50, my contractions were about four minutes apart but with each one I could feel more blood gush out. Upon entering the Labor and Delivery bonehead at the front desk of actually tried to make me sign in despite my fairly obvious distress! I said forget it and rushed to triage. While in triage they made me wait, AGAIN, so that they could verify my insurance information. Finally I was assigned to a triage room where the nurses joked about my "broken water waddle" but were quickly silenced when they saw that in less than 20 minutes I had completely soaked that adult diaper.

They hooked me up to a monitor and the baby's vitals looked great. My contractions were steady and at that point I still held out some hope that I might be able to have a vaginal birth. Obviously, I didn't realize that I was slowly bleeding to death. My midwife arrived shortly after and then the attending OB AND the residents AND more nurses. There were a lot of people in that little room trying to assess the situation. Then the on call OB arrived and she checked my dilation (only 2 cm) and pronounced that not only had my water not broken (the pop was probably from the pressure of the pooling blood popping my mucous plug) a c-section was in order. We asked to speak with my midwife alone and in that short conversation one thing that she said really stood out: "Sometimes the decision is really clear." So the call was made.

In no time at all I was shaved, IV'd and hair netted. This is where the midwife's presence was invaluable. She reminded us we wanted skin-to-skin with the baby directly after birth not to bathe the baby or wrap her in blankets; told the surgery team that and instructed Andrew to take off his shirt before he suited up into his sterile gear; all things to help ensure that breastfeeding could get off to the best start possible. She got Andrew food because she knew that he probably wouldn't be able to get anything for several hours. Her presence gave me the courage to ask for things like a double suture on my incision, to give me a better chance at a successful future VBAC, and to leave the umbilical cord to pulsate. I so wanted her to be allowed to come with us to the operating room but to that request the surgeon very staunchly refused.

I was wheeled to the operating room and as we were about to enter they asked Andrew to wait outside until I was prepped for surgery. It was at that point that I broke down and started to sob. A nurse asked me why I was so upset and I couldn't give her a reason. I should've thought that it would be obvious. So with my naked butt on a cold, cold stainless steel operating table I was told to round my back as they inserted the spinal anesthesia. They kept shouting at me to make it rounder (my back not my butt). Andrew said this whole process took about fifteen minutes while he fretted outside.

Spinal in place, legs growing increasingly numb, I was laid down on the table in a pose that was disturbingly like Jesus on the cross with both arms outstretched. With sterile drapes Andrew was allowed back into the room and he held my left hand while the anesthesiologist was monitoring my vitals at my right. At this point it gets fuzzy. Lots of pulling and tugging and then PUSHING! I felt like my ribs were breaking and then at 7:14 AM people shouting "Big Baby! Big Baby!" and "She is holding onto to the umbilical cord and won't let go." As soon as I heard her gurgled cry I started sobbing again. Andrew immediately left my side to be with her. Her stomach had to be suctioned because there was so much bleeding into the amniotic fluid. Andrew kept trying to touch her and the neonatologist kept telling him not to. This whole time she was screaming and all I wanted was to hold her. It brings me to tears again just to write it. Also, I was all alone, aside from the silent anesthesiologist. When I started to shake he injected something in my line to make it stop and when I started hyperventilating he gave me something good to calm me down (I do remember telling him that I really liked that "stuff"). It was sometime during this period of alone time that I heard the surgical team counting as they put me back together. When I have flashbacks to the experience, that and Lorelei screaming is what I hear. Eventually baby Lorelei was given to Andrew where she cried softly, zipped up in his surgical suit but I couldn't even see her face.

Surgery over, the OB surgeon told me that it went well; that she was able to do a double suture but that she wasn't able to do delayed cord clamping because there was too much bleeding. I had lost nearly a liter of blood. She told Andrew that the placenta was 50% detached at the time of the c-section and it was, as she expected, a rare complication called a placental abruption, though mine was only partial. The abruption had been going on for a while, no idea how long, but long enough that Lorelei's meconium was bloody for several days after her birth, freaking all the nurses out who changed her diaper.

While I was still numb I was moved to a gurney and sent to post operative care where I was able give Lorelei her first breastfeed with the help of the nurses and finally get a good look at her. I was really out of it and felt nothing when I looked at her. I was so disconnected and then I started shaking violently and at that point I wanted nothing less than to be holding a baby. Andrew happily took her back. As soon as I could wiggle my toes again I was moved to my own room to recover and learned, to my great sorrow, that I was on a liquid diet until I was able to pass gas. Happily, as the drugs started wearing off, in a few hours I felt I was able to begin to bond with Lorelei. Our successful breastfeeding definitely helped with that. She was, and is, a champion. Born July 8: 8 lbs. 15 oz., 21 inches long.

A few hours after surgery

It took me over six months but I finally got it all out. I still have nightmares about it and I have struggled to come to terms with the physical ramifications of a c-section. My body is different in so many ways. I also developed mastitis/abscess that required additional surgery which my lactation consultant believes would not have happened if I hadn't been so worn down recovering from the surgery. Given time I think I will be able to come to peace with it. I still have so many questions about why it happened, if I should risk having more children, if my body is just really broken/unhealthy...but I am glad to have my daughter and to be alive. I am trying to focus on that.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

36 Weeks

 Here I am at 36 weeks gestation (I am now almost 38 weeks), looking pretty darn pregnant and feeling it too!
 Here is my beautiful henna, courtesy of the lovely Jenni. This is what is looked like after it was applied. It took about 30 minutes to do the design and then another 30 for it to dry. Then it was covered with medical tape and cure for 12 hours before being washed off in the shower the following morning.
This is what it looked like two days later. After two weeks later it is mostly gone, which is sad since it was so beautiful and such a labor of love on Jenni's part.

I have been keeping busy though I am definitely slowing down. To keep myself from going crazy I decided to do a weekly "Countdown to 40 weeks" chore chart. Here is what I have been up to:

Week 8: Prep cloth diapers
Week 7: Cook and freeze lots of beans
Week 6: Finish 2012 digital scrapbook
Week 5: Knit newborn baby cap/finish other knitting projects/ hang pictures in bedroom
Week 4: Feed the freezer bonanza/ make and can chicken stock
Week 3: Finish gathering baby stuff/deep clean house
Week 2: Set up pack and play/baby sleeping place
Week 1: Last big grocery run

This is week 3 and I can tell you honestly that there has been no cleaning going on this week. Whatever nesting instinct is supposed to kick in, it just isn't. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

28 Weeks

Here I am entering my third trimester. Yes, that is a forced smile; I was having a contraction.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Finished Objects: Winter 2012-13 Edition

Given that I was struck down with morning sickness until early January I am amazed that I was able to accomplish as much as I did this winter. First up is actually the last project I completed: My Norway Socks.

 This was such a fun project for me. When I was in Norway last summer visiting friends I met a young woman doing traditional color knitting at the Norwegian Cultural Center. I struck up a conversation with her and she said that color knitting is actually quite easy and that I should give it a try. Encouraged by that advice, my friend Elisabeth took me to a yarn store (quite easy to find in Norway) where I picked up a pattern book and a few skeins of Norwegian yarn to make these socks.

Hey look! I even have a picture! Notice how she knits with one skein of yarn on each side of her to help prevent twisted strands.

It took me months to get up the courage/find the time to start these but in early February I finally did. Despite struggling with the pattern translation, and interpreting Norwegian pattern directions which are much more open-ended than American patterns, I found that it was fairly easy and enjoyable to knit these socks. I am a much better knitter now because of this project and I am happy with how they turned out. I won't be able to wear them until next winter though because my legs have started to swell already and given that they are double thick 100% wool, they will be much too hot.

The pattern is number 20 in SandnesGarn Klassikere but the pattern is not found on Ravelry. The yarn was 100% Norwegian wool, Peer Gynt, in Hvit and Svart. This yarn was so awesome; it still smelled like sheep and occasionally had tiny pieces of grass weaved in.

 This birthday crown was crafted in November with the beginnings of my morning sickness. Apparently morning sickness makes me incapable of focusing the camera. The little girl this was gifted to opened it and promptly threw it in the garbage, much to her parents chagrin. Handmade gifts are not always so well received.
 For Christmas gifts I decided to make herbal healing salve to give to friends and family. This was my first time infusing oil with herbs and making a salve. I am quite happy with how they turned out and the finished product works really, really well!

These socks were made in January for my mom's birthday. I love the rainbow colored yarn and the honeycomb pattern. My mother-in-law, a big fan of my knitted socks, wanted to model these before I sent them to my mom; she also wanted to keep them for herself, but only if my mom didn't want them. These are the November Socks knitted with Jojoland Melody Superwash.

 Another birthday crown was a special request from my daughter's friend who loved Ravenna's felt birthday crown so much she requested one of her own. Weeks before her birthday was to arrive she would remind me to make her the birthday crown. I did a fairytale themed crown and this one did not get thrown out.

Monday, March 18, 2013

She Wants to Be a Midwife when She Grows Up

Trying to find the baby's heartbeat with a fetoscope 

24 Weeks. Yes, I do need to buy maternity clothes. If only this darned winter would finally end!

Friday, February 8, 2013

To WIC or not to WIC?

At 17 Weeks or "The Beer Belly Phase"
I have been dreading this day for a week now. The weather reported ice and I had to drive down to Columbia for an appointment to see if we qualify for WIC. I was nervous that I would miss the appointment because of the weather and have to wait another month, or that I would try to drive there anyway and then crash and die (I tend to think of worst case scenario when I am pregnant), but I was also kind of scared that we wouldn't qualify and it would be a waste of time, but the weather simply rainy and we did end up qualifying. The worst part of it was trying to convince Ravenna to let her finger get pricked for the iron test. For the next year or so I will be on WIC along with Ravenna for a few months until she turns 5 in a few months.

When I first told my mother-in-law that I was applying for WIC she said, "That's terrible!" When I asked her what she meant she replied, "It means that my son can't provide for his family." Well, not quite. On a teachers salary WIC is definitely a blessing for us. Could we live without it? Probably, and I guess that is why a lot of people decide not to use the program. Since it is a supplement the program doesn't provide a ton of food, and it is definitely a big hassle at the grocery store, but the deciding factor for me was twofold: First, using WIC would take a little stress out of our tight food budget; Second, I really needed a lactation consultant after Ravenna was born and then as now our health insurance doesn't cover it whereas WIC provides lactation support in addition to breast pumps, should I need one for a short time as I did before.

Delighted that we qualified with checks in hand I went to the grocery store but while there many times questioned my choice. WIC is insanely complicated, at least for a beginner. I had heard that the grocery store that I shop at has labels on all the WIC items, and they do, but they are very small and often my checks didn't cover the items that were marked. Sizes have to be exact except with cereal? Peanut butter was the worst culprit. I couldn't understand why the "Natural" peanut butter, though the same price and brand as the other WIC allowed peanut butter was not allowed. Why not? Frustrating as well was having to separate all the items on the checks and since both Ravenna and I qualified. I ended up having five piles for the four checks plus my non-WIC items. I definitely held up the line!

What I love about WIC in Pennsylvania vs. WIC in Utah (in 2007-08) was that WIC in PA actually lets you buy fresh produce and whole grains other than cereal. When I was on WIC in Utah we got zero fresh produce except for carrots during breastfeeding and had cereal as our only choice for a whole grain. The bulk of WIC still is and always been milk, cheese, eggs and cereal but in PA you get those AND a whole grain item like tortillas, rice and bread and a dollar amount to spend on fresh or frozen produce which means I also have the freedom to buy organic produce. Also during the summer you get farmers market vouchers to buy fresh local produce (the very best!).

Right now I am feeling relieved that we now have this resource. It would be awesome not to have to use it but I am just glad that it is there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

THIS Pregnancy

I have been pretty quiet about my current pregnancy to this point, aside from announcing it the very day that I saw that double pink line that is. I think after multiple miscarriages there tends to be a fear of  "jinxing it." I had this very irrational idea that if I talked about my pregnancy before "x" number of weeks I would miscarry. Since joining a support group for pregnancy after loss I have learned that this feeling isn't unusual and now that I have reached that magical number, which for me was 16 weeks pregnant, I feel that I can talk about it. Actually reaching 16 weeks wasn't the milestone so much as reaching 16 weeks and hearing the heartbeat and having my midwife tell me the baby is a-okay. So, here is my pregnancy to this point:

I started my pregnancy with very high health expectations, drinking herbal pregnancy infusions, walking for exercise, and eating a rather balanced diet. Well, winter came and with it the morning sickness and I was lost in the land of Sick, Tired and Cranky. These symptoms were probably exacerbated by the fact that in my previous pregnancies I could consume dairy with abandon, which was my morning sickness cure of choice. With cow dairy a no-go and goat dairy a little too strong for my sensitive palate, I was left with occasional cravings for fast food, so long as I ate slowly, and cereal with almond milk. Sometimes I would find a food that worked for a few days but then I would throw it up and that made it inedible. It just became a matter of fact that the moment I walked into the kitchen I would start either dry-heaving or throw up in the sink. Amazingly in the six weeks that I had morning sickness I only lost 8 lbs.

Aside from dealing with morning sickness, one of the things that was very difficult for me was my dear, kind, well-meaning friends would always ask how I was feeling (every pregnant woman hears this a lot) and when I would say, quite honestly, "sick, miserable, etc." they would say "GREAT! That means the baby is going to stay." Here I would just like to make a public service announcement: Morning sickness doesn't guarantee that you won't miscarry. I was sick even with my missed miscarriage where the baby died at 10 weeks. I was sick even after the baby died and it wasn't until a few days before I miscarried, somewhere in week 12, that I was feeling better. It is hard to know what to say to any sick pregnant woman but sometimes "Can I bring you meal?" is the very best thing and is always music to my ears.

Sadly, Pinzey and Posie had to go. Their  previous owner graciously agreed to take them back, so while we were out our investment, I could relax in the knowledge that they were being groomed by someone who had the time, energy and expertise to do a good job. I felt so bad that I wasn't able to give those rabbits the grooming time that they needed and really, if you have angora rabbits, you should be grooming them at least once per week, preferably twice. Andrew and I have decided to make a pact that we will no longer indulge each other in micro-homesteading with animals (aside from the worms, of course) until we have a house with a nice sized back yard and no HOA.

On New Years Eve, at 13 weeks pregnant, we were able to hear the heartbeat for the first time and for Andrew, that was the biggest relief in the world. For me, it just did not feel real no matter how hard I tried, possibly because the worrisome cramping that I had been having the entire pregnancy had continued with no sign of stopping. At week 14 I magically started to feel better. It was like a miracle how much better I felt, and then the little flutters that I had started feeling in week 12 really started to feel like baby movement. During week 15 I felt the baby kick my hand from the outside and it was such a surprise and a delight.

Today my midwife came by for my 4 month check-up and once again we heard the heart beat. More impressive to me was that my uterus had grown so much in the three weeks since my midwife had last visited and the top of my fundus was only two fingers below my navel. I had thought to have been feeling kicks up that high but couldn't believe it since my uterus should still be about 4 fingers below my navel. It was very validating that what I am feeling really is my baby moving about. Also it means that what I have thought of as my "pudge" is actually a baby where I just thought I was bloated. Fun stuff!

There is my pregnancy thus far. I am hoping this winter hurries up and gets over with so I can get on with my spring gardening plans: Potatoes! In just a few weeks we will have our anatomy ultrasound and maybe get a peek and our baby's gender. Things to look forward to.