Friday, October 29, 2010


The first couple weeks of maternity leave were fantastic. T was off work. The boys went to school and the childcare provider. T and I got tasks done to settle into our new house, hung out with sweet little Lena, and went out for lunch.

This week everything changed. T went back to work, and the last two days the boys have been home the entire day. It's been exhausting. I am beginning to think having three little kids was not the best idea. Is it too late to reconsider?

The boys wake up around 6:00 a.m. I would like to sleep about four hours longer than that. T gives them breakfast while I feed Lena. Then I drag myself out of bed to chase them around the house. My utter exhaustion makes my patience a little thin.

The boys are there high-energy selves, piling up pillows and jumping off couches. Often when I am taking care of the baby, they are dismantling something in the next room. They are very sweet and loving toward Lena. They love to hold her and pat her head. I have to watch R very closely as he often tries to touch her eyes or push her in her swing. But so far I don't see any sibling rivalry with the baby. They are proud of their new little sister.

Life will be a lot easier and more enjoyable when Lena (and I) are sleeping through the night. In the meantime, I am looking forward to Monday when they go back to school and childcare.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Body after baby

I was a little freaked out about weight gain in my first pregnancy. I actually was the thinnest before that pregnancy, but I was positive I would be one of those people who gained 80 pounds during pregnancy and then kept it on.

I was also still in TV news at that point which creates a constant focus on appearance. Before, during, and after my pregnancy, I fielded constant comments about my weight gain and how I looked. Who wouldn't feel a bit self-conscious?

I exercised very often during that pregnancy and was careful about what I ate. I gained 34 pounds and didn't even go full term. Right after I gave birth, I expected my stomach to magically shrink. I was alarmed when I still looked about eight months pregnant in the following days. It was a bit depressing when I was buying a snack and the checker asked when my baby was due. "He has already been born," I answered bitterly.

After a few months, things slowly returned to their former position and the pounds came off. During my second pregnancy, I gained about 35 pounds again and was less stressed about my body after I gave birth. Though I still felt like I was under scrutiny by viewers who would approach me to let me know if they thought I was huge during my pregnancy or if I looked good two months after R was born. I so appreciated their input.

Things were quite different during this pregnancy. I did exercise through most of my pregnancy, but I took it a heck of a lot easier. I didn't want my hips and back to hurt as they had in the past. I watched what I ate, didn't go crazy with cravings, but certainly didn't deny myself. I had ice cream almost every day and ate when I was hungry, but I never pigged out. It was a relief to not feel the intense scrutiny of being on air every single day. I ended up gaining just 30 pounds, though I exercised a lot less than I had in the past.

Right after birth, I knew to expect the big squishy belly. I didn't love it of course, but I wasn't shocked by it at least. It has been steadily shrinking and though it still looks like I am about four months pregnant, I am moving in the right direction.

I have lost 15 pounds in two weeks, with 15 more to go. I can't exercise much until I am completely recovered from my C-section. I am anxious to get moving again, mostly because I can tell I am much more breathless than usual when I go up a flight of stairs, but I am not obsessed with it. I feel like I have a much healthier attitude all around. It feels good, I have to say.

I do examine my belly often and look at the six-inch pink incision healing well on my lower belly. I feel far from attractive as my belly is still soft, and I am not as toned as I like to be. But I am much more comfortable in my own skin these days. I am more self-assured at 32 then I was at 26. I look at my beautiful little daughter and marvel that I grew her inside my belly. I did good work. I am proud of my children and in awe that T and I produced them! But I would like to fit into my old clothes again, see the scale drop back to where it used to be, and see a hint of an abdominal muscle.

All in good time.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best birthday present

I turned 32 on October 14th. It was a bit anticlimactic after the previous week's events. My parents came over with dinner and cake, which was lovely, and T got me a little "L" to add to my necklace that already sports a "Q" and "R."
But my favorite present was snuggled up on my chest.

L's Birth Story-Part 2

I woke up in an utter fog laying on my back with various lines and tubes coming out of me. My eyelids felt extremely heavy. I slowly blinked and tried to orient myself to my surroundings. I can't even remember all the details of that first 24 hours looking back now. I know T was near me, and I asked where I was. In the recovery room apparently. I asked where the baby was and if it was a girl. He told me she was in the NICU and showed me pictures on the camera.

A nurse talked to me and then the Ob-GYN did. She told me something about thinking the baby was face up but finding she was forehead up. The neonatalogist came to talk to me and told me how the baby's blood was shunted to her heart and brain during delivery so they were monitoring her breathing and digestive systems to make sure they were OK. As she was explaining this, I felt a pang of panic that sliced through my drowsy fog. What was she telling me? Was something permanently wrong with Lena? Was she brain-damaged? She explained that Lena was doing OK, but couldn't eat for 24 hours while they monitored her digestive systems.

I was still confused and exhausted. I would fall asleep during conversations. I didn't understand why they kept explaining things to me when I clearly was out of it. We moved into the room we would stay in for a few days, and as I cleared my head a bit, I examined all the things strapped to me. I had an IV for fluids with Oxycodone attached. I could punch a button every ten minutes to give myself a dose. I regularly did that of course, which added to my fogginess. I had a catheter in still and a bag of pee hanging off the side of the bed. I had these odd compression things strapped to my lower legs squeezing every few seconds to prevent blood clots.

After a long wait, I finally got to be wheeled down to the NICU to peer at my daughter inside her isolette. What a pair we made with our wires sticking out everywhere. I looked forward to the day we would both be wireless and heading home. I couldn't even hold her.

I was wheeled back, my vitals were taken, my pee measured, my bed cleaned up. Again I mostly drifted in and out of sleep for hours. When I woke up, I was alarmed by how much my throat hurt. A nurse explained that was from the tube put down my throat during surgery for I could breathe. My lower belly hurt from the incision, but in those first 24 hours, the worst pain was just an utter soreness in nearly every muscle in my body. My shoulders, lower arms, neck, calves, and thighs ached. The intense hours of labor and pushing before the actual c-section took a toll.

The doctors finally told me a bit more about what happened before birth and during the C-section. Lena was in a brow presentation which only happens in about one in 1500 births. It means she descended into the birth canal forehead first with her neck partially extended. It was impossible for me to push her out since that area of her head (from her chin to the crown of her head) was so large. So, I was pushing and pushing and pushing the poor thing and basically just smashing her head into my pelvis. Eventually it was too much for her and her heart rate slowed and she wasn't breathing at birth. They described it as "extremely depressed." It was a sickening thought.

It is apparently hard to know if a baby is in that presentation until you are actually doing the C-section, but I wish we would have moved to that step a lot sooner. I knew something wasn't working correctly.

A nurse also said my leg was hanging off the side during the surgery and they didn't realize it. They spent some time examining my leg and taking notes. It was a bit odd, but I never noticed any issues. One doctor said it was hard to remove the placenta. Another doctor said they actually completely remove your uterus during the surgery and then put it back in and that air is trapped in your abdomen. They told me to expect to be gassy. Great.

I wish I had a video of what happened throughout the birth. Neither T nor I got to witness it, which was pretty surreal. It's strange to just have hours of your life missing. I could feel the aftermath, but couldn't remember it.

I was desperate to get out of bed and get all the wires off of me so I could hold my daughter. Eventually, I got to shed my IV, compression stocking things, and catheter. T pushed me to the NICU in a giant wheelchair. We lifted Lena out of her isolette and though she was still tangled in an IV and various monitors, it was wonderful to hold her.

I nursed her for awhile, which went extremely well, and when she was limp and drowsy, I put her in her bed. The nurse came and told me to feed her a small portion of formula. I was reluctant, but I did.

In the NICU they feed the babies every three hours and are very strict about the exact number of milliliters they get. That is completely understandable for tiny one-pound babies, but for my full-term daughter, I wanted to skip the formula if at all possible.

The next time we came to the NICU for a feeding, I nursed Lena for half an hour. The nurse told me to then feed her an ounce of formula. If I didn't she said she would.

"But she's satisfied and sleeping," I said. "I don't understand why I have to wake her up and force her to drink formula."

She kept arguing with me. I told her how our first son had been premature and how the nurses and lactation consultants had worked with us, weighing him before and after feedings to determine just how much he got.

She seemed reluctant and said she would have the doctor talk to me. When he came over and basically said the same thing, I started to cry. I felt like I had no say in the NICU. I didn't feel like I was the mother. I wasn't asking to do some crazy thing to my baby. I just wanted to breastfeed her and not give her formula unless absolutely necessary. I didn't want to have her get used to a bottle and then struggle needlessly with nursing. I was emotional and frustrated. I didn't like how they were treating me, and I didn't know if I actually had any power to make decisions.

Of course the NICU has extremely tight quarters, so as I was blubbering away and arguing with the doctor, another mom was about two feet away with her baby. Everything I hated about Q's birth had returned. I am so glad NICUs exist, and I have now relied on them for two of my children, but I really, really hate being in them.

The nurse finally relented, and for the next feeding, a new much nicer nurse weighed Lena before she ate. She got 30 mL or just over an ounce so no formula necessary. The next time I saw the mean nurse, I wanted to say, "I told you so!"

My muscle soreness began to abate, but now my belly hurt quite a bit. I switched from Vicodin to Percocet, which helped. Every three hours day and night I would painfully walk across the hospital floor to be buzzed into the NICU. I would scrub my hands and then feed Lena. They would scoot screens around me for a small measure of privacy. I am much less self-conscious now than I ever was before. One dad was clearly within view, but I couldn't have cared less.

Lena was doing well. Her fluids were reduced and soon she was in a crib instead of an isolette. On Sunday morning, the nurse told me she was ready to be transferred to the regular nursery. Yes! I practically skipped back to the room.

Lena was now wireless, and we wheeled her to the nursery. She was checked over, given a Hepatitis B shot, a hearing screening, and then a test to make sure she could sit in her car seat for an hour an maintain her breathing.

After a rough weekend, things were back on track, and we were ready to go home the next day. On Monday, both of us got a final check, I got a prescription for painkillers, and then we were ready to check out.

It felt wonderful to be home with her. We settled her into her nursery and waited for my parents to bring the boys home. They arrived in new jack-o-lantern shirts full of curiosity. They gently patted her head and Q examined my still-swollen belly. They took turns holding her and kissing her. "That's my sisser!" R repeatedly declared.

And now we are a family of five. I can't wrap my mind around being a mother of three. It is wonderful though. I am not sure how I got so lucky, but I look forward to watching them all grow and change.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

L's Birth Story-Part 1

The last week or so before I gave birth were very awkward. Except for a few weeks of intense hip and back pain, my pregnancy had been very comfortable. Even well into the ninth month, I was feeling good and getting around without a problem. Then the 37th week came, and I was training a class alone in tight quarters. I had to constantly be on my feet and try to squeeze between rows to see trainees' computer screens. By the end of the week, I was crampy and achy. I wasn't sleeping well. I was stressed with last-minute projects and ready to be done with pregnancy.

I could tell the baby was low, because I was getting shooting pains in my bladder area. My Braxton-Hicks contractions were nearly constant. Still I assumed I would go till near my due date. Then on Thursday, October 7th, I am pretty sure I lost my mucus plug. It's hard to really know, but it seemed like that's what it was. Still that could mean a few more hours, days, or weeks. I kept chugging along.

I went to work as usual on Friday, October 8th, and attended a 9:00 a.m. team meeting. Soon I felt a different type of ache that was distinctive though not yet overly painful and it shot down the front of my legs. I recognized that squeezing ache and was pretty sure this was it. I glanced at the clock and noted the length and time between my contractions. I took notes in tiny numbers in the corner of my notepad.

The contractions were getting stronger and a bit more painful during a meeting I had at 10:00 a.m. in my office. A teammate was explaining a complicated process to set up a computer simulation. I was confused about what he was talking about, but I also was wrapped up in my escalating contractions. I tried to follow along as I kept my eye on the clock.

Shortly after he left, I called T, told him it was time to head home, and packed up. At home, I ate a small lunch and packed bags for myself and the boys. They were at the sitter's house, and the plan was for my parents to come retrieve them and take them home.

We sat in the living room and waited. T slept and I watched TV. Around 1:30, the contractions were close together and quite strong. We got in the car and headed for St. Mary's Hospital. On the way, they were getting closer together, and I was wishing we had left half an hour earlier.

We pulled up to the front of the hospital, and T spoke to the valet. I self-consciously leaned against a pillar and breathed through a contraction. I could feel people staring at me. I would be too I suppose.

It was a long, painful walk to the birth center. The receptionist mercifully was quick checking us in. They led me to a triage area, though I wished we could have just skipped that portion and headed for the delivery room. I was sure I was in labor! The nurse kept questioning how I was so calm. Especially after they found I was seven centimeters dilated and 80% effaced. It was my third time around after all. I knew the drill. And that's just how I operate. I am not a dramatic person. You won't hear me screaming and cursing during labor, even if I am struggling inside.

When they finally determined I was actually in labor, I walked to the delivery room. My contractions were extremely strong and about every minute or so. I flopped on my side on the hospital bed, and declared I was going to throw up. I did just that, twice, in blue bags they handed me. Then I was ready to push. The nurse told me I was nine and a half centimeters and should breathe through the next contraction and then I would be ten centimeters and ready to go.

The pain was intense of course. I would feel a beginning ache in my lower abdomen signaling and oncoming contraction. Then the squeezing would take over, I would be compelled to bear down, and the front of my thighs would seize up in pain. At the same time, I knew it was all downhill from where I was. The most painful part is the "transition phase" right before you push. I was past that. Now I just had to push her out. My doctor had now arrived and a few nurses and a resident were crowded around me. T hovered nervously in the background snapping pictures. "It won't be long now," my doctor said.

But it would be. I pushed and pushed and pushed. Nothing seemed to be changing. This was very different from giving birth to R when I could distinctly feel the slow but steady progress. This time I was pushing with all my might and nothing seemed to be happening. They weren't telling me they could see the top of her head. They weren't telling me anything really.

The nurse talked me into various positions. I was laying down and on my side and then half squatting. She tried to get me on all fours, but I collapsed on my face in pain. That wasn't working. An hour passed. I kept my eyes tightly closed for the most part but when I did crack them open, I noticed everyone was gone except one nurse. I felt very discouraged. Obviously they didn't feel like the birth was imminent.

During the contractions my hips and legs would cramp up in agonizing pain. I desperately wanted to stretch them out, but they told me to just keep pushing. My legs were shaking and hurt very much between contractions when I tried to straighten them. Something didn't feel right.

An hour and a half had passed. I was getting desperately tired, frustrated, and discouraged. I asked the nurse what my options were. "Something is not working," I said. She described other positions I could try. I told T I was ready to consider a c-section. My primary care physician came to my side and said surgery was a last resort.

Of course it was, I thought. I had not planned to have surgery, and wanted a natural, intervention-free birth. But something was wrong. I was a strong, fit person, and I had pushed out two babies before including R who was hefty and possessed a melon head. Why couldn't I push out this baby?

My doctor went to call the OB-GYN on duty. Being a primary care physician, she didn't perform surgery. The nurse started to monitor the baby more closely. She kept placing the monitor on my lower belly, but wasn't getting an accurate reading. "We need to put a forehead monitor on her," she explained and began the painful process of affixing that.

The loud tones of the baby's heart rate filled the room. They skipped along quickly at around 150 beats per minute. "Here comes one," I said as I felt a contraction beginning and got into position to push. The heart rate tones suddenly slowed to a sickening pace. They lagged to 40 beats per minute at most.

Things happened very quickly then. I was in an exhausted, painful fog, but the nurse hurriedly explained the baby was not tolerating the contractions, and I would need a c-section. Hallelujah! I thought. I was desperate for this to be over.

They strapped oxygen across my face, slid an IV into the veins in my hand to give me fluids, and gave me a shot in my leg to slow contractions. It did not seem to have any effect. The contractions marched on every other minute, stronger than ever. The nurse told me to try not to push. That was nearly impossible. She told me to try to breathe slowly and deeply. I laid on my side gripping the bars of the hospital bed and endured.

Soon the OB-GYN was on her way. The nurses helped me make the seemingly momentous move to another hospital bed so I could be wheeled to the operating room. My body at this point was shaking uncontrollably and violently. It was an odd sensation to not be able to control it. I kept my eyes tightly closed and anxiously awaited sedation. What a relief that would be!

T was told he couldn't be in the room and would have to wait in the recovery room. I was told I would have to go under general anesthesia. Once under the bright lights of the operating room, I opened my eyes a tiny slit and looked around. I saw several people in gowns and masks hurrying around me barking commands. It was surreal.

I was shaking every harder now and my contractions were still intense. I worried about the little girl struggling in my belly. What was taking so long? The anesthesiologist was working over my head and asking me questions to which I tried to whisper responses. Was I allergic to anything? Had I had bad reactions to anesthesia in the past?

They uncovered my belly and started cleaning it and swirling iodine around it. I was still wide awake. I had the brief flash of fear that they would start cutting in to me before I was under anesthesia. My legs were strapped down, and I couldn't curl up or bear down to find relief from my contractions. My body was shaking violently. I felt utterly out of control of my muscles.

"When you wake up, you'll have a baby," someone said.

"Time to go to sleep," the voice over my head added. Finally.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Fast forward

Wow, it has been a crazy few weeks. I am sitting in my bedroom in my new house with my little daughter lying on our bed, born eight days before her due date. My lower belly is half numb and half aching from the puffy pink c-section incision sliced across it. My 32nd birthday was yesterday, and I barely noticed it. Life is a bit of a hurricane lately, and I am trying to calmly exist in the eye of it.

Today things are actually a bit calmer. I feel like I can take a breath. The past two weeks have been ridiculously stressful and busy. I felt some blissful highs and some devestating lows. I felt such joy and such agonizing pain all mixed up in the span of a few days.

The boys are at the sitter's house today, and T and I have some precious hours with our little girl. We are trying to enjoy every minute of our time with him off work.

I am absolutely in love with my daughter. She just consumes me. I want to constantly hold her and guarantee her every happiness and no pain in her life. She is my primary focus right now.

Later today, I will take some time to look back at the last two weeks. The grueling birth experience, the stress and tears, and the utter joy all wrapped up into October 2010.