Little Moments

I know people say that you should sleep when the baby sleeps. But for me, it was always hard to. More often than not Ivy falls asleep on me and I find myself motionless, just enjoying the time spent cuddling with her. I know she’s getting bigger all the time (she’s already over 12 lbs!) and I want to enjoy all the time with her that I can.

It was during one of these little cuddle times when I noticed Ivy was dreaming. Her little eyelids were fluttering and you could see her eyes moving behind them. I’ve always wondered what a baby’s dream looks like. At this age they can hardly see anything around them clearly; the majority of the world looks like grey blobs of varying sharpness. My sister told me she thinks babies dream in smells and touch. An interesting idea.

But this time while she dreamt I noticed that her little eyebrows kept knitting themselves together in an expression of pain or sadness. Her chin quivered and her mouth opened ever so slightly as she moved in a silent sob. I don’t know if it was just gas pains or if she was having a nightmare but I slowly stroked the little monk’s ring of hair she has on the back of her head and softly shooshed her, doing what I do when I comfort her when she’s awake.

Ever so slowly her eyebrows relaxed and returned to their proper places as her mouth softly closed and her entire body unwound. Her breathing slowed down once again and her tiny fist which had been so tightly curled around my finger gradually loosened its grip. She went back into a regular sleep and I just stayed there, softly petting her ultra soft, downy hair.

These are the sorts of moments that made me want to become a parent.

Ivy’s Birth Story Part 2 Finale

Disclaimer: This is my birth story of Ivy and as you may or may not know, giving birth is kind of icky. There are fluids and other gross things involved. I am not scrimping on these ooky details that other people might find in bad taste (both figuratively and literally). Partially because I found some of my experiences to be things that I have never heard anyone talk about before, ever and I don’t want other people to go in as blind as I was. The majority reasoning is that this is my story and this is how I want to tell it. Happy moments, boring moments, gross stuff and all.

TLDR: There are gross descriptions of icky things ahead. Read at your own risk.

So when we left off I was in the hospital with HELLP syndrome, hooked up to an epidural, magnesium, and Pitocin to induce my baby into being born. Being on an epidural is weird. For the first 6 hours or so that I was on it I couldn’t feel anything below my waist at all. And depending on what side I was laying on, one leg would be more numb and impossible to move than the other.

While on the epidural they would flip what side I was laying on every two hours. The nurses would gently wake me up, ask me how I was feeling and go through the long song and dance of flipping me over, like a temperamental egg.

Everything had to be switched over when I got flipped. My blood pressure cuff (which took my blood pressure every half hour automatically) was either on my left arm or my right leg (they couldn’t put it on my right arm because of my IV line being in that arm). My catheter line and bag had to be moved from one side to the other so the cord wouldn’t get kinked. (Oh yes, if you’re on an epidural you get a catheter. You can’t get up to walk so you have to have something to help with the whole, “needing the bathroom” thing.) The peanut ball they kept between my legs to stimulate dilation had to be removed and replaced each time. The nurse would artfully roll me over by pulling the blanket that was under me in just such a way that I rolled over onto my other side perfectly. Then she would check out my and the baby’s heart rates on the monitor before asking me if I was comfortable or needed anything.

I had to be taken off the Pitocin almost immediately that first night. The nurse came in to flip me over and my heart rate was at 156 bpm while Ivy’s heart was going at 178 bpm. So that got shut off pretty immediately while the nurse and doctor decided to switch my IV solution from straight saline to a more, “sugar water” like solution. Apparently my blood sugar was so low that it was causing the Pitocin to put us both in physical distress. But after a bag and a half of the new sugar laden IV fluid I was put back on the Pitocin and this time there was no horrible heart racing accompanying it.

A word about the magnesium: it was used to keep me from having a seizure so it was awfully important but oh my GOD does it make you feel like shit. The nurse and doctor both warned me that the magnesium would not be pleasant and that I would have some reactions to it. Namely dizziness, tiredness, lightheadedness, a stiff achey feeling, and headache. The nurse put it perfectly when she said, “Basically you’ll feel like you are simultaneously the most drunk you’ve ever been AND the most hung over you’ve ever been.” Soooo that was fun.

I should also mention that Saturday night Red had emergency brought Matt and I a bunch of our stuff for our hospital stay. Because we had not though we were going in to have a baby, we had brought pretty much NOTHING with us. And had I packed my hospital bag before this happened? No! Of course I hadn’t! So if you’re a procrastinator like me, take this as your cue from the universe to stop what you’re doing right now and GET THAT BAG PACKED. Even having just *some* of your stuff together is way better than having NONE of it together like me. But Red pulled through like a gracious angel and got me and Matt not only everything we asked for, but a bunch of other stuff he had figured we’d forgotten or didn’t think of.

Sunday afternoon brought my family in to see me and be here for the birth. My sister is a labor and delivery nurse at a different hospital and I especially wanted her there when I gave birth. Though the doctors had warned me that my ability to have a vaginal birth was not guaranteed. They kept taking blood from me to monitor my platelets and liver enzymes and they made no secret of the fact that if those levels continued to get bad and reached a certain point, they would have to give me an emergency C-section. So it was a race to get me to be far enough in labor that I could give birth vaginally before my HELLP made things too dangerous.

And I am an awful person to draw blood from. I remember being 14 and my mom (who was an ER nurse) poked at my arms with her fingers and said to me, “Wow, you have total shit for veins!” I had been mildly insulted at the time but it’s too true. I have small, rolling veins that are prone to collapse. Of the two arms, my right arm is slightly better for getting blood from than my left; its veins are just a little more plump and less prone to collapse. But since my IV was in my right arm that meant all the nurses had to get blood from my left arm. By the time I left the hospital I had a huge bruise on the inside of my left arm, about the size of a softball from all the collapsed veins AND the left half of my left hand was one giant bruise because they frequently had to draw blood from the veins on top of my hand.

I was a little more awake on Sunday for most of the day, trying to rest when I could and wondering if/when I would progress in my labor enough to actually give birth. I also felt outrageously thirsty the whole time because it turns out your brain doesn’t care if you’re getting all the fluids you need intravenously; you will still feel thirsty because you haven’t’ physically had anything to drink all day. But no matter how careful I was with the ice chips I always ended up throwing up violently. So I just got to be thirsty. FUN

My delivery room was really nice though with plenty of space and a couch that folded into a bed for Matt to sleep. My family (mom, dad and sister; brother was at work), Matt and Red all had more than enough room to hang out though they were rarely all in the room with me.

Sunday night was when my contractions started getting bigger and closer together. I have no idea what time it started but I remember the feeling well enough. It was like a tight squeezing feeling that started high in my uterus but ended at the bottom and while I wouldn’t say it hurt exactly (probably thanks to the epidural) I can’t say it was pleasant or anything either. Honestly, it felt like the kind of cramping you get when you need to have the worst diarrhea of your life. It makes sense though because when the baby is entering the birth canal their huge heads put pressure on your rectum (since as a lady your vagina and rectum are pretty close to each other) making you feel like you have to poop.

My sister and nurse both said the baby was still too high up for me to start pushing yet so they told me to try not to push during the contractions. But that honestly felt like being told not to push when you have really bad intestinal distress so it wasn’t fun. My sister coached me through taking big breaths in and then exhaling in short, quick exhales to get through the pain. I did this for a while before I felt my body pushing involuntarily. I voiced this feeling and the nurse checked me only to feel the baby’s head in the +1 position. It was time.

I was flat on my back, the bed raised up flat so I would be more at eye level for the nurse and doctor (though he would not be coming in until the baby was crowning). My sister was on my left and Matt was on my right. For each contraction they would lift up one of my legs while my sister helped me sit upright so I could grab my legs and push. The nurse stood in front of me, often with a few fingers in me, so I could feel where to push.

A hint about pushing for any pregnant folk going for a vaginal delivery: you push like you’re pooping. Like you’re taking the biggest, most painful shit of your life. That’s the kind of pushing that moves the baby forward apparently.

So for each contraction, while I was held up, my sister had me take a deep breath in and hold it while I pushed for a ten count. At the end of the ten count, a quick exhale and then deep breath in for another ten count push. I usually did about 3-4 of these per contraction, at the end of which I would go limp back onto the bed before the next contraction started.

Soon the pushing began to feel different and my sister’s voice sounded tearful as she said that she could start to see the top of Ivy’s head! The nurse left to fetch the doctor and I lay there, trying not to push when the next contraction hit. It was harder this time, like trying to stop a fiery explosion mid-gush. The doctor came in and seemed surprised that I was as far along as I was. Two women also came in and began getting the heated bassinet in the room ready as well. I dimly recalled that they would have to take Ivy from me for a little while initially to make sure that there were no complications from the HELLP or the magnesium.

I pushed a little bit more before I was officially crowning. Nicknamed, “The Ring of Fire,” it was excruciating. The doctor told me not to push anymore and that he would tell me when I could push again. I laid back and bit my lip painfully as the doctor quickly rubbed what felt like oil in a circular motion, his fingers between the baby’s head and the edge of the birth canal. For those who don’t know, he was doing that to try and stretch me out slowly so I wouldn’t tear badly. The Ring of Fire gets its name from the feeling you experience when the vaginal opening is stretching that quickly and most likely tearing as well. Pushing as soon as the baby starts to crown will guarantee a more severe tear than if you just wait.

The doctor mumbled something under his breath and I heard only the word “push.” I didn’t want to hurt myself and I was annoyed that he hadn’t spoken clearly. In this one moment I lost my temper and snapped, “Did you say to push or not to push?!” He said I could push so I did.

One push brought her head out and my second push sent Ivy shooting out of me, like a baby bullet through a vagina cannon. The doctor literally caught her. I heard him say, “Yup, that’s a girl.” And Matt got to cut the cord (the cord is difficult to cut; you gotta put effort into it because Matt said it has the texture of like, cartilage and dried out Jell-O put together). I didn’t see much of Ivy initially as she was whisked away to be looked over by the two women in the corner. Matt followed them to record Ivy’s birth weight, head circumference, etc. My mom appeared in his place and took my hand and told me I had done well.

I was distracted by feeling a small little contraction again and pushed out the placenta. The doctor showed me the placenta and complemented me on its color and size. He also pointed out where it had attached to my uterus. I’m not one for placenta eating so I told them they were free to through it away and the doctor moved up to feel the top of my uterus.

I had been expecting this because I know they have to feel the top of the uterus to make sure it’s doing what it needs to do to keep you from bleeding too much. The placenta is “rooted” so to speak, to the uterus and when it comes out it creates a small sort of wound that can bleed and if left unchecked can be quite bad. Normally after the placenta detaches, the uterus sort of puckers in on itself to stop the bleeding but sometimes it doesn’t happen the way it’s supposed to.

What I didn’t expect was for the doctor to take both hands, press down painfully onto my uterus and then very rapidly whoosh his hands downward, pushing a cascade of blood, fluid and goop out of me in one big motion. I felt like I was playing the part of the worst piñata ever. It hurt, was outrageously disgusting and caught me 100% off guard. I mean, I get why it happened. It was so I wouldn’t have to slowly pass all of this grossness out of my body on my own over the next few days. And I guess if I have to choose between playing the Piñata from Hell or the Snail Trail of Blood Girl I suppose I would pick the former. But still, a warning would have been nice.

Ivy was still getting looked over after this was done so the doctor decided to stitch up my tear. I had a small tear on my left, near my urethra that didn’t require stitches and a second degree laceration on my right. He told me I shouldn’t be able to feel the needle, only a tugging pressure from the thread but you guys, I totally felt the needle. I told him this (cause it freaking hurt!) and he was kind of like, “Well, there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.” Somewhere in the middle of all this they put a mostly naked Ivy on top of my chest, under my hospital gown. I remember trying to look at her face but struggled because she was put in just such a way that I absolutely could not see her face and the doctor was still painfully stitching me up so, you know, that was kind of a distraction.

We stayed in the delivery room until Monday afternoon when we got moved to a spacious recovery room (normally you get moved sooner but I had to stay on the magnesium for 12 hours after giving birth as a precaution so we had to stay in the delivery room). Ivy wore an ankle bracelet that served as a security device that would trigger if anyone took her beyond certain points near the elevators and doors. There were actually TWO code pinks while we were there (code pink = stolen baby) so twice a nurse or doctor would come into our room to make sure we only had Ivy with us.

The rest of the hospital stay was fairly uneventful. I will say that after Ivy was born I had maybe four hours of sleep over the course of the next three days. This was caused by Ivy waking up every hour or so, needing to be fed and people coming in every hour or so all of them needing something. And of course, these events never lined up so I would fall asleep for maybe 5-10 minutes before waking up for something.

I never realized before just how much paperwork is involved in having a baby. I had to fill out so many forms and papers and the like, it was rather startling. And for whatever reason, even though Matt was there, I was the only person who could fill these out. Matt was never allowed to fill out paperwork for her. The rest of the time people were coming in to take my blood, take Ivy’s blood (I cried when they did the heel sticking for her PKU test), weigh Ivy, bring me food, clean the room, etc. When I was told that we had to stay an extra day or so because my platelet count was STILL going down (it was at 110k) I cried. I was just so tired and while I knew Ivy was still gonna cry and need attention at home, at least at home I wouldn’t have a never ending parade of nurses and administrators coming in all needing something from me.

So that was my experience in having a baby. It was hard at so many points in time and there were so many things I hadn’t expected but I am so happy that it all turned out okay in the end.

I am hoping to get some more posts up sooner rather than later, specifically talking a little bit about how things have been going now, having gallbladder surgery with a two week old newborn to look after and other small things that have been happening. I just have to hope that My Boss gives me the time to do so. She’s really strict but really cute too.

Ivy smile

Ivy’s Birth Story, Part 1

Disclaimer: This is my birth story of Ivy and as you may or may not know, giving birth is kind of icky. There are fluids and other gross things involved. I am not scrimping on these ooky details that other people might find in bad taste (both figuratively and literally). Partially because I found some of my experiences to be things that I have never heard anyone talk about before, ever and I don’t want other people to go in as blind as I was. The majority reasoning is that this is my story and this is how I want to tell it. Happy moments, boring moments, gross stuff and all.

TLDR: There are gross descriptions of icky things ahead. Read at your own risk.

So it was Saturday, June 25th. I wrote a brief blog post, hilariously enough, about how I was still waiting to have my baby. After posting I went out with Matt and a couple we had recently befriended to hang out and get lunch.

Lunch was at a small Indian food restaurant downtown. The food was good, the restaurant was unbearably hot, my feet were swollen as ever. We ate, talked, walked back to our cars, parted ways and started driving the long drive home.

We’re maybe halfway there when I start to feel a sharp, stabbing pain in my upper right side of my abdomen; right under my breast. It felt like an awful combination of being stabbed by tiny knives deep down inside me and like a pair of hands are in there squeezing and rending my flesh.

I tried not to be a drama queen about it and assumed it’s just gas pains (hey, really bad gas pains are no joke). I began fidgeting and squirming in my seat, trying to find a position that made the pain bearable. Not only did moving around do nothing, the pain was starting to amp up. I told Matt we needed to get home pronto but he needed gas. In a haze I called my sister.

By this point the pain was so bad that I could hardly talk. I was rolling around in the seat, hands on my stomach, happy to at least feel my baby’s kicks and rolls still going on strong inside me. My sister told me it sounded potentially like my gallbladder and that if I was still hurting in half an hour I needed to go into the hospital. I hung up the phone and threw up everything I had eaten into the trash bag in Matt’s car.

We were almost home and I couldn’t stop throwing up. Rather than feeling better, the vomiting made me feel worse. I missed the bag a bit and got vomit all over my dress. It was the most miserable and gross I have ever felt in my life. Once home I put on a nightgown and tried to fight through the pain. It had kept increasing and by this point I was nearly delirious. I don’t remember calling my sister again but I must have because the next thing I knew I was on the phone with her again and she was telling me to go to the hospital ASAP.

I began crying; partially because of how much I hurt but mostly because I could not fathom how I was going to get back in the car and drive to the hospital. It seemed like such a long distance and I didn’t want to get up again. The pain I felt under my right breast was the worst pain I had ever felt. Matt talked to my sister briefly and was like, well, let’s go. I slipped on my sandals without bothering to put on “real” clothes and somehow made it to the car.

When we got to the triage counter on the L&D floor I was barely coherent enough to tell them what was going on. I was put in a room and told to provide a urine sample and to change into a hospital gown. The nurse that came in after I left my sample came bearing a huge hospital cup filled with ice water.

“You are SUPER dehydrated,” she said, “Like, you need to drink all of this and drink another one and we’re getting you hooked up to an IV dehydrated.” I took the cup and drank. The nurse took vials of my blood and got an IV started on me. By this point my appetite had kicked in and I was starving. I asked her if there was anything I was allowed to eat and she said she would look into it.

After she left I rolled around on the bed, my body still convinced that the pain in my upper right quadrant would go away only if I could find the right position to lay in. The nurse came back in and handed me a turkey sandwich and a small bag of chips. I ate the chips and half the sandwich. It was about 7:00pm by this point and I felt famished after barfing all of my lunch.

The midwife on duty eventually came in to talk to me. She was a soft voiced woman with curly hair and a small, willowy frame. She looked exactly like how I have ever pictured any midwife ever in my head. The midwife was looking over my chart and asked me how my contractions were feeling.

“Contractions? I’m contracting?”

“Yeah.” She said, “You’ve got a few good ones going on here.”

I had no idea. I couldn’t even feel them over how badly I was hurting under my ribs. The midwife lightly whacked on my kidneys (which felt fine) before very gently prodding the area under my right breast, causing me to screech in pain. “That really hurt that bad?” She asked.

“Yes!” I wailed, tears springing to my eyes. “That really, really hurt!”

She frowned intensely and told me we would have to wait for my blood work to come back. She ordered me a Percocet for the pain at the moment which I took.

When she finally came back in ten minutes later she seemed kind of worried. She had me sit up and explained that my blood work had come back with some… concerns. Mainly that my liver enzymes were high and my platelet count was low; 142,000 (150k-450k is the range you want to be in).

“All signs point to you having HELLP syndrome.” She said. I looked at her blankly. I had never heard of HELLP and honestly couldn’t process what she was saying. “It’s like preeclampsia,” she said, “And like preeclampsia the only treatment for it is to have the baby. So we’re going to induce you.”

Well! That produced a weird slurry of emotions. The overwhelming emotion I felt at the time was relief. Relief that this meant they would be able to actually do something for my pain and make me stop feeling this fucked up. But under that relief was a sort of fear and unfairness. I didn’t want to be induced. I had read about being induced. It hadn’t sounded fun AT ALL. This wasn’t fair! And under all of that was a little quivering nervousness that I was going to have my baby now. But I’m not ready! I’m not to 40 weeks yet, I thought I still had time!

Outwardly I just meekly nodded and let the midwife lead me out of the triage room and into a delivery room, wheeling my IV pole along with me. Throughout this whole ordeal I never really knew what HELLP syndrome is or anything so I didn’t really get it. It’s fairly rare, with less than 200,00 reported cases a year in the US. The acronym tells you what it is:

H is for hemolysis, which is the process of breaking down red blood cells and passing them out through the urine. (This is why they thought I was so dehydrated; my urine was super dark because of my red blood cells being passed out. At the worst of it, my urine came out as dark as an amber ale. It was disconcerting.)

EL is for elevated liver enzymes. Apparently your liver releases more enzymes into your blood stream when it’s in distress. That extreme pain in my right upper quadrant? That was my liver, swelling and being in pain. At its worst, it can cause the liver to burst or cause a stroke. FUN TIMES ALL AROUND.

LP is for low platelet count. I couldn’t really find out why this happens other than it’s bad because you need your platelets for blood and oxygen related things!

So that’s HELLP in a nutshell. Apparently, if left untreated or without hospital intervention, HELLP has a 25% risk of mortality for both mama and baby so I’m glad I went in! But I didn’t know any of this at the time. In fact, the doctor’s explanation that HELLP is like preeclampsia made me tell a lot of people initially that I had preeclampsia. I learned all about this after safely getting through it.

But anyway! The midwife asked if I wanted an epidural for the pain and I all but screamed yes. I had originally wanted to at least try to give birth without drugs initially but the pain from my liver was so bad that I couldn’t even think straight. The thought of pushing seemed impossible.

While I waited for the anesthesiologist to come up and do his thang, I ended up throwing up everything I had eaten or drank (including the useless Percocet) into one of those weird little green hospital puke bags. It turns out that another symptom of HELLP is the inability to eat or drink anything without barfing so…. eating was mistake to say the least. But hey! At least my stomach was empty for the epidural!

My anesthesiologist was a tall thin man with a French accent who praised my staying still and not twitching abilities as he put the needle in my spine (hey, you tell me that a potential side effect if this thing gets messed up is DEATH then I’m gonna be like a fucking statue and not move). After about five or so minutes the numb feeling spread up high enough that I couldn’t feel my liver pain anymore. It put an end to the two hours of constant pain I had been in. I felt great.

They also had to give me an IV of magnesium and one of Pitocin. The magnesium was a muscle relaxer to prevent me from having seizures (another fun side effect of HELLP! Yay!). But since magnesium is a muscle relaxer that also meant it was telling my uterus, “Shhhhh, bro. It’s okay. Chill, bro, chill. You don’t need to be havin’ anymore of this contractions, ya hear? Just relaaaax. That’s it. Shhhhhh.” So the Pitocin was to make me continue having contractions.

So with these three drugs coursing through my system and the first sense of relief I’d had in what felt like ages, I started to fall asleep.

(I’m gonna end here, for now because my god this thing is so long already and I’m maybe like, halfway done AT BEST. Yes, I can write a lot about this because geeze, it was a crazy experience. I’ll try to get part 2 up sooner rather than later but no promises; Ivy is the boss now and I rather enjoy being there for her.)