Monday, December 31, 2012

Two Thousand Thirteen

As I mentioned last year, New Years Eve is not my favorite holiday.  The good news is that I'm not the least bit stressed out about it this year because, let's face it, the only way I'm making it up til midnight tonight is if I'm nursing a fussy baby.  And I'm a-ok with that.  In fact, I cannot think of a better way to ring in the new year.

I'm feeling uncharacteristically optimistic about this holiday and the year ahead.  It may be because we accomplished so much in 2012.  In fact, 2012 may just go down as one of the best years we've ever had.  Our lives were picked up, shaken around, and then unceremoniously dumped upside down in a way that made them virtually unrecognizable to us.  And as someone who isn't crazy about change, this should have completely thrown me for a loop -- but it didn't.  I'm loving every minute of this.  I've loved almost every minute of this past year, from the day we found out I was pregnant, to the day I realized I no longer had any ankles, until the day my ankles miraculously reappeared.  I would do every single second of this past year over in a heartbeat.  I guess that's a sign of a year well lived.

2012 was notable in big ways (welcome to the world Henry Allan!) but in smaller ways that we didn't dwell much on.  In October, I graduated from college.  I didn't just graduate, I kicked college's butt.  I exited with a 4.0 GPA - which is nothing short of miraculous if you know anything about my first attempt at college 15(ish) years ago.  It's amazing what a little perspective and maturity can do.  I took the long way to get here, and unfortunately that means I'll be paying off student loans for the next infinity, but I'm proud of this accomplishment and the opportunities it will open up for me.  I worked hard for this.

Todd found a permanent position in 2012 after almost two years of unemployment.  This was a tremendous weight off our shoulders and an amazing opportunity for Todd.  It's been a challenging transition and career change for him, but he's been thriving and has tackled all the challenges thrown his way with determination and grace.  The two years of unemployment gave us some perspective on all of this and we're incredibly grateful that this opportunity was given to us.  It couldn't have been more timely.  In fact, if you look at all the gifts we've been given and goals we've accomplished this year, it's not difficult to see God's hand in all of this - how He literally paved the way for Henry's arrival.  It's pretty awe inspiring when looked at from that angle.

We're feeling very blessed.  It's been a tremendous year and we're feeling very hopeful and optimistic about the year ahead.  We'll ring in 2013 in a quiet, sleep deprived, unremarkable way - but it's the most satisfying way I've ever welcomed a new year. 

Wishing all of you the same "cup runneth over" feeling on this night and the year ahead.  Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Henry Allan

I'm embarrassed that it's taken me so long to get around to writing Henry's birth story.  I've actually tried to start it a couple of times, but wound up getting interrupted and having to abandon the attempt.  A text from Todd, sent at 2:30 this morning, let me know that it's time to get this out in blog form - before we forget all the gory details.  So -- here we go...

Monday, December 3, 2012.

It was just supposed to be a routine check-up.  I had been going in for weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) biophysical profiles for about 6 weeks and we had passed every single one with flying colors.  Sometimes the ultrasounds were only 5 minutes long as the baby performed all the required life skills in such a short time that we were in and out quickly and with little drama.  I'd skated by all the tests before this and just days before had passed another urine protein test that said I didn't have pre-eclampsia.  I was 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant and up until that point everything had gone perfectly.  I distinctly recall saying - as I was leaving work for the appointment - that I wasn't going to have a baby that day.  I'd be back.  I left everything at work - my car, my lunch and caught the shuttle downtown for my early afternoon appointment.

I remember sitting in the waiting room feeling Henry (then Nerdlet) squiggling around.  Everything felt so normal.  So it wasn't terribly concerning to me when we got back to the ultrasound room and they couldn't get the baby to respond.  We saw good heartbeat.  We saw good fluid levels.  But Henry wouldn't practice breathing and he wouldn't move.  They tried jiggling my belly.  They tried using a buzzer to startle him into moving.  He responded to nothing.  Two techs tried to get him to respond - and then they went to consult with the doctor.  When they came back in they handed me some weirdly indistinguishable pictures and sent me back out to the lobby to re-check in to see the doctor.  I was seeing a new doctor.  This wasn't unusual by now since I was coming in so often, I had seen MANY new doctors.  So when this new doctor came in and sat down, I still wasn't really concerned.  I'm setting this all up to show you how completely blindsided  I was when she said to me "we need to get your baby out today."

As the smile melted off my face I stuttered out a "what does that mean, exactly."
"It means you need to have an emergency c-section today.  Your baby got a 2 out of 8 on the biophysical profile.  It's in distress.  We need to take the baby."
"Do I have time to go home first?"
"No.  We're going directly to Labor & Delivery.  I'll walk you over there."

It was at this point that I stopped being able to hold it together.  I was SO not expecting this.  I figured my baby was just sleeping.  The baby hadn't always been the most cooperative when they tried to get him to do things, and I had FELT movement less than a half hour before the actual ultrasound.  I wasn't worried.  I didn't recognize an emergency.  And - just like that - I was terrified.  I was crying uncontrollably - which made for a super fun walk over to L&D.  On top of that, I had no idea how to get ahold of Todd.  I wasn't prepared for this.  Todd was at work and I'd never had to contact him at work before.  It all happened so fast - they walked me over and checked me in, handed me a gown and told me to put it on and they would hook me up to some monitors.  I didn't even know where to begin.  I tried Todd's cell phone but of course, got no answer because he was working.  I had to call my own co-worker (sobbing) and ask her to look up Todd's number for me.  When I finally left a message for him to call me back, the nurse came running over and gave me a big hug.  "You look like you need one of these right now."  Then she hooked me up to the monitors and settled me in to bed.  A few minutes later Todd called and I let him know to come straight to L&D -- we were having a baby.  And then....we waited.

About a half hour later the doctor on duty came in and performed another ultrasound in the room. After a few minutes of this, he finished up and left the room but came back a short time later looking puzzled, and said "I'm not sure what's going on here.  We've never seen anything like this.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that based on these monitors, you have the healthiest baby on the floor right now.  So - I'm not sure how to reconcile that with the 2 out of 8 biophysical profile.  I'm not sure what could have caused that because he just scored a 8 out of 8 now.  Maybe the baby was laying on its umbilical cord cutting off its own oxygen or something.  Or maybe it was just sleeping deeply.  In any case, I don't think we need to rush you in for an emergency C-section, but based on what we have in your file now, along with the hypertension - I think we will induce you slowly."

What a relief to hear that the baby was okay.  And at that point we agreed that it was time to get the baby out -- as long as there was no distress, we would let it go at its own pace.  But because we had the fear of God in us now - we were ready to move forward with this.  So - several hours after I was rushed to Labor & Delivery for an emergency C-section, we started Pitocin to induce labor.

Aaaaaaaand, my body didn't respond.  The nurses kept coming in to increase the dosage and promising me that at some point, I wouldn't be smiling at them anymore when they came in.  That never happened.  They'd maxed out what they could give me before getting a doctors approval to give me more, and the most I was feeling was a little pressure. No pain.  Not really even any discomfort.  I'd heard terrible horror stories about pitocin so I was expecting excruciating pain and was puzzled why I wasn't feeling that.  My body was just not ready.  So - the doctors regrouped and came up with a new plan.

My cervix needed ripening. 

There are a couple of ways that this can be done.  Because of the bad biophysical profile, they weren't sure how the baby would respond to the drugs to ripen the cervix.  And once the drugs were given, there was no way to stop them.  So - in light of this - they decided that the best way to ripen my cervix was also the most painful and barbaric way.  They inserted a Foley catheter

Prior to this we'd had some discussion about how uncomfortable this was going to be.  Despite having many surgeries throughout my life, I didn't really have a good idea of how my pain tolerance was.  I didn't really have anything to compare it to.  The doctors told me that some people have no problem with the Foley catheter, and some people have such a tough time with it, they wind up getting an epidural.  When they first inserted it, I wasn't sure what the big deal was.  Then they began tugging on it.  Every time they tugged I'd have about 10-15 minutes of excruciating pain and then it would subside and I would relax -- and then they'd come in and tug at it again.  This went on for hours - until it finally came out about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday (12/4) morning.  At that point they checked my cervix for the first time and - after all of that, I was dilated only to 2.   It hadn't worked. 

By this time they had many hours of data showing that the baby was healthy and not at all in distress.  My cervix was still not ready and until it was, I wasn't likely to respond to the pitocin.  At this point, they decided that it was probably safe to give the medication.  They went with Cytotec - which is inserted into the uterus and then takes 4 hours to work.  I had 4 doses of the Cytotec.  That means we spent about 16 hours sitting around waiting for my cervix to ripen.  At the end of that 16 hours, they checked me again and found that I was dilated to 4. 

At this point we were about 36 hours into this induction and we had made hardly any progress.  It was Wednesday morning (12/5) and our doctor (our real doctor) came in to talk to us about the possibility of letting us go home.

That did not go over well for a couple of reasons.  Most of what I had already been through had been thoroughly unpleasant.  No WAY was I going to come back in in a week and go through it all again.  Additionally, I hadn't been afraid before I was admitted to the hospital.  But the fact that THEY, the medical professionals, were concerned enough about me to admit me made me terrified.  What happened at that ultrasound was most likely a fluke, but what if it wasn't.  What if they sent me home and something happened?  How would I live with myself?  So, ultimately the doctor asked us if we were just going to be stressed out and freaking out the whole time if they sent us home -- we answered that we absolutely would.  She consulted with some other physicians and ultimately told us that if she were in private practice, she would not send us home.  so that is how she made the decision.  We were going to proceed as planned.

At that point, we started pitocin again.
THIS time - I responded.

They'd increased my Pitocin levels about 3 times before I was finally uncomfortable enough to consider an epidural.  I was hesitant because I didn't want to get it too soon, but I also didn't want to get it too late and have my pain get out of control.  So first we tried a narcotic meant to relax me so that the contractions weren't so strong.  It basically made me feel drunk and sleepy and lasted for approximately a half hour before reality came crashing back in.  At that point we realized that there probably wasn't another way around it.  It was time for an epidural.

Let me tell you - I had always planned to have an epidural.  I'm not a hero.  There are no rewards for going through labor without pain management.  And I have always, always been afraid of the pain.  However, the only thing I was afraid of almost equal to my fear of the pain - was the epidural.  I'd heard lots of people tell me that by the time you're getting the epidural, it's not that scary anymore.  The pain outweighs the fear.  I still told the anesthesiologist that I was afraid though, and he took the time to tell me all the reasons not to be afraid.  He walked me through exactly what was going to happen and exactly what I would feel.  I've heard some horror stories about anesthesiologists who were not wonderful, but that was not my experience.  It's actually never been my experience in all the surgeries I've ever had -- the anesthesiologists are always the best.  This was no exception.  They injected Lidocaine into my back (which almost made me leap off the bed into the nurses arms) and then after that I felt only pressure.  It wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't painful.  It didn't take long and then they sat me back into bed and I felt my lower half slowly go numb.  Not numb, exactly, but...dull.  I could move my left leg side to side but I could no longer lift it.  I felt the pressure of touch but not the physical sensation.  It was the weirdest feeling I've ever had, and also the most wonderful.  I no longer felt my contractions.  I was thoroughly relaxed.  And so, around 10 p.m. on Wednesday (12/5) I fell into a peaceful sleep.

Before I fell asleep they had checked me and I was dilated to 6.  I had been dilated to 6 most of that day.  We were starting to get a little nervous that after ALL of this, I was going to need a C-section. They had broken my water earlier that day, so I was on borrowed time. 

I woke up shortly before midnight extremely uncomfortable.  It felt like extreme bladder pressure so I figured I needed my bladder emptied.  I called the nurse to have the catheter team sent in.  In the meantime, I noticed that I was feeling my contractions again.  I was also shaking uncontrollably and feeling panicky.  At this point it'd been over 3 days since we were admitted for our "emergency c-section" and I was done.  I was at my wits end.  As the nurses promised me - I was no longer smiling.  The nurse promised me that these were good signs and that the doctor would be in in about an hour and a half to check me.  About 20 minutes later I realized that an hour and a half wasn't going to cut it.  So the doctor came to check me, and I was dilated to 9!  Progress!  The anesthesiologist was called in to help manage the pain and panic and she administered some miracle drugs that stopped the shaking and allowed me to feel my contractions without the excruciating pain of them.  I proposed to her.  She was fantastic. 

About an hour later, it was go time.  They gave me a brief tutorial on how to push.  Hooked me up so some more monitors for my blood pressure and then we set to the business of delivering a baby.  One of the doctors let me know that the pushing could take a while.  I told her that as long as it didn't take 3 days, we'd be okay.  She told me "not 3 days, but maybe 3 hours..."  Determined not to push 3 hours after the marathon induction we'd had - I pushed like nobody's business.  Henry Allan was born about 30 minutes later, at 3:08 a.m. on Thursday, December 6.  I'd been pushing so hard and they asked for one more -- I told them I couldn't and then, out of nowhere, they plopped this gorgeous baby boy on my chest.

I had been pretty convinced it was a girl.  I was surprised to see this furry little guy on my chest.  He did some squawking and then curled up and fell asleep on me as if it was the most natural thing in the world.  I had him curled up on my chest while the doctors took care of all the "after" work that they had to do.  Finally they took him to weigh him (6 lb 11 oz) and measure him (19 inches). 

We were transferred to the post-partum unit around 6 a.m. and spent almost that whole day introducing Henry to his family and friends.  Typically for a vaginal delivery the hospital stay is 2 days long.  Henry didn't think this was long enough though, and he bought us an extra day and a half by losing too much weight.  We had some struggles initially with breastfeeding and my milk coming in.  Henry lost about 12% of his (already bitty) body weight in the hospital and they wouldn't let us leave before they saw a turnaround.  All told, we spent almost an entire week in the hospital between the induction and the post-partum.  It never felt so good to get home. 

Going home!
Going home - though a huge relief, was also really scary.  But we've settled into life here.  We're completely smitten by this little guy, as is just about anyone who has met him so far.  He's a little squawker and a grunter, but he's a good sleeper (in that he's not a sensitive sleeper -- he's very tolerant of noises, which is convenient for us and our two barking dogs).  Speaking of the dogs - I was a little worried about how they would adjust, but they seem to be doing okay.  Oliver could pretty much care less.  He's much more worried about when he's going to get his next treat than the baby.  Daisy gets concerned about Henry - she doesn't like it when he cries.  She sets up guard in front of him until he settles down.  I think these two will be best friends someday. 

Todd goes back to work tomorrow, which will be another new adjustment for us.  We've been taking shifts at night ensuring that we each get about 5 hours of sleep at a time.  That will probably end now.  We're hoping that it won't be too long before Henry's sleep habits get a little more predictable so we are better able to plan around them. 

So - there you have it.  It's a long story, but it's got a happy ending.  We could not be more in love or more thrilled with this new addition to our family.  Hands down, the very best Christmas gift we could have asked for.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Full Term

Today I am 37 weeks pregnant.

You know what that means?  It means I'm officially considered full term.  It means that if labor starts today, nobody's going to try to stop it.  In fact, they'll probably encourage it.  It means that Nerdlet will do just as good outside of my belly as he/she is doing inside of my belly.  It also means that we're going to be meeting little Nerdlet -- soon! 

Nerdlet is still looking fantastic in there.  I had an appointment yesterday where we saw breathing, heartbeat, movement, and blinking!  This baby passes every biophysical profile with flying colors - and even my amniotic fluid levels have fallen back into place with 11 cm measured at the last two appointments (a vast improvement over the 6 we were looking at before).  Last week Nerdlet had flipped transverse which was both uncomfortable and a little alarming, but this week we're back to being head down and cooperative.  In fact, in a rare show of cooperation with the ultrasound tech - we got one of the best pictures of Nerdlet's little face yesterday (it's a picture of a picture -- so not the greatest quality - but I still think you can pretty clearly make out that little face):

I can't stop staring at it.  Those little lips and nose -- I just want to squish them! 

My own body's tolerance of this pregnancy is starting to wane.  I'm pretty uncomfortable by now.  My back has begun to protest and I am finding it impossible to get comfortable in any one position for very long.  I can't sleep for more than two hours at a time, and last night I had my first experience with pregnancy induced insomnia.  It didn't last long, thankfully.  I think Nerdlet was just hungry.  One piece of pizza later, and I was blissfully snoring away again (until Daisy licked my face around 6:30 this morning). 

My blood pressure has been slowly but fairly steadily climbing in the last couple of weeks.  At my appointment yesterday they were concerned enough by that, plus the increase in fluid retention I've been experiencing, that I was rewarded with a 24 hour urine collection to check for protein.  My understanding is that if I fail this test, Nerdlet is coming much much sooner than later.  Like days, instead of weeks.  Like maybe even one day.  I don't even know how that would work, so I'm spending my time sending positive vibes to my urine (which believe me, is not a sentence I ever thought that I'd write) that we pass this test.  However, regardless of this test - we found out yesterday that they will not allow me to carry this baby past 39 weeks.  So - whether we meet Nerdlet tomorrow, or 2 weeks from tomorrow -- this baby is coming SOON.  Before Christmas!  We are as prepared as we're going to be from an organizational standpoint.  The challenge now is to wrap our brains around it. 

For so long it seemed like I wished this pregnancy away. We spent so much time reaching for the next milestone, holding our breaths until we hit it, and then setting our sights on the next one and now, suddenly, it's HERE. And oh my gosh - this is a game changer! We are beyond excited -- and scared, and nervous. tells me that Nerdlet is about the size of a watermelon right now - so...that's fun to think about!  We've been given a lot of support, education, and good advice - but the bottom line is that when it's something you've never experienced before there is no really effective way to prepare for it.  Like every major life change - you just have to dive in and do it.  So - that's where we are.  Enjoying these last days when it's just the two of us, and readying ourselves for this major cliff dive into parenthood.