As you all now know from my last post, I am a planner. Motherhood has really made this aspect of my life a lot more challenging. As you learned in my birth story, things don't always go according to plan. In addition to planning to have a natural childbirth, a huge part of my plan was to breast feed my baby. Again, I was influenced by the women in my life (my mother and grandmother) to make this decision. I was breast fed and I knew all the benefits of breast milk for your baby. Not to mention, people pretty much look down on moms nowadays who don't breast feed. It's almost like feeding your baby food from McDonald's. Also, breast milk is free. Why wouldn't you choose to nurse your baby? Due to my track record, you can probably tell where this is going. Yeah...me breast feeding, it didn't work out so well.
When EJ was first born and we were in the recovery room after the c-section, he was given to me to begin nursing. They placed him on my belly and he crawled up to my chest and immediately began rooting. He latched on without any hesitation or problem. It didn't even hurt. I was ecstatic...#winning..LOL. My excitement came to a screeching halt when the nurses took EJ for the routine newborn procedures. I noticed that they were feeding him formula out of a bottle. I mean, he was fresh out of my womb and they're giving him formula!! From the other side of the room I notice this and ask what was going on. I was planning on breast feeding exclusively. It was then brought to my attention that EJ was born with very low blood sugar. It was necessary to feed him formula to get it back up. I would have to supplement my breast milk with formula everyday until his blood sugar stabilized. As you can imagine, for a mother who was planning to breast feed exclusively, this was a huge blow and yet another deviation from my "plan."
I continued to breast feed him while my husband would feed him the formula in the bottle. EJ did well with nursing for the first 2 days. Then on day 3, while still in the hospital, EJ was taken to get circumcised and when he came back, he began to struggle with the latch. He just would not latch on. He would attempt and then just start screaming. You don't know how frustrating this was for me. He was latching fine before. What was going on?! After meeting with lactation consultants, it was determined that I was not producing enough milk and my supply was not enough to sustain EJ on its own. After a visit to our pediatrician, she suggested that I pump as often as we feed EJ his formula (every 2 1/2 to 3 hours) in order to increase my supply. I took her advice and did just that. Unfortunately, I still was having significant issues with my supply, even after taking herbal supplements, drinking beer, etc. You name it, I tried it. I began to feel extremely guilty and saddened that I had missed out on the critical initial bonding that nursing provides. Aside from that, in order to avoid confusion, my husband was exclusively feeding EJ out of the bottle. I couldn't feed my baby at all. I didn't want to give up. At this point EJ was almost 3 weeks old.
Since we were going through lots of formula and the samples of the brand name formula we had gotten from the pediatrician were about to run out, we decided to purchase a generic version of the formula. We had heard from friends and through research that it was the same stuff, just cheaper. We began feeding EJ the generic formula. After a few days we noticed that EJ seemed to be in a lot of pain when moving his bowels. We also noticed that he had developed a redness on his bottom that was getting brighter and brighter red with each day. He would scream in agony with every diaper change. We knew that something wasn't right and it was time to take a visit back to the pediatrician. We were told that he may just have very severe gas and that is why he was in pain when moving his bowels and the redness was due to his stool being acidic and it was literally burning his skin. That was a good reason to change back to the brand-named formula. So we took the doctor's advice and changed back to the brand-named ($10.00 more expensive) formula. After a couple days back on the formula, we saw no improvement. Actually, the exact opposite happened. It got worse. The redness was not going away, the screaming continued and, a new development, there was blood in his stool. I couldn't take it. I couldn't take seeing my baby in agony and I didn't know what was wrong.
So we find ourselves back at the doctor. Thank goodness for emergency Saturday appointments. We actually were able to see our regular doctor. (She was on-call that day. Did I mention that I love her? The only thing is she is pregnant with her second baby and will eventually be gone on maternity leave. Not happy about that, but anyway...) She asked us to bring a soiled diaper with us. (This was a new experience, but apparently it's not uncommon in the world of parenting.) They tested his stool to confirm the blood. It turns out EJ has an allergy to cow's milk protein. This was causing his intestine to be enflamed which explained the bleeding. This also caused the acidic stool. What was the solution? New formula! This time it is $20.00 more...YES! Can you sense my sarcasm? But, all joking aside, I am happy that the doctor was able to provide us with a solution. I would pay any amount of money to make sure my baby is healthy. The type of formula is called Alimentum (and no it's not soy-based...he would be allergic to that too.) So what about my breast milk? I'm glad you asked. If I wanted to continue to "try" to nurse EJ I would have to have a completely dairy and gluten-free diet. This was what I needed to hear to make the decision to let go of my nursing dreams. With the little bit of milk that I was producing, it just wasn't worth it. Not to mention, foods that contain dairy and gluten are just the types of food you need in your diet to help with milk production.
So now my baby is strictly formula-fed. I'm shaking my head. If I haven't learned anything else from motherhood, I've learned that I need to stop making plans or actually, better yet, make plans just be flexible. As my yoga teacher always says, "Blessed are the flexible. For, they will never be bent out of shape."
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Everything is better with a plan, right? I truly believe that and the birth of a child is no exception. I am a master planner and I didn’t want to experience the birth of my first child unprepared. However, I was not prepared for how my “birth plan, “ or lack there of, would affect me and profoundly change my outlook on life.
Some of you, who have been following my pregnancy journey through social media or if you have the pleasure of being a friend or family member, already know that a “natural” childbirth is what I desired for the birth of my son. When you are asked about your intended birth plan during your pregnancy and you say you want to “go natural” most people think you are crazy; in this country, that is. Do you know that about 90% of all births in this country have some sort of medical intervention involved and if you were to poll labor and delivery nurses that have been working within the last 10 years, most of them would tell you that they have never seen a natural childbirth in the hospital. Quite interesting, isn’t it? Most other countries around the world, like the UK for instance, still use midwives for childbirth and a small percentage of the births require medical intervention. They also get 1 year paid maternity leave in the UK and if you have multiples, you get a nanny as well. Just some interesting food for thought.
Why did I choose natural childbirth as a part of my birth plan? It was something I always knew I would do. My mother gave birth to me naturally and my grandmother did the same with her children. I thought if they could do it, why can’t I? I grew up thinking that is how you birth babies, with no drugs and through your vagina. The only exception was in my mother’s case with my sisters who are twins. She had every intention on delivering them naturally and vaginally, however they were not in an optimal position. She got a pass for that one. She also carried them full-term during the summer. She was definitely a trooper.
So halfway into my pregnancy journey I began to research different techniques for natural childbirth. Yes, there are different techniques. This is not something that anyone should go into lightly. You need training. It’s like saying, “I’m going to register to run a marathon,” and then never train for it. Childbirth is a LOT more strenuous than a marathon, believe me, I know. After careful consideration and a conversation with a friend, my husband and I decided on The Bradley Method. This method is a very extensive 12-week training program for expectant couples where the father-to-be takes on the role of the “Coach.” His role is a very active one. I would even argue that the mother would not be able to succeed without him. This is a far cry from a panicked father in the delivery room pacing back and forth or fetching ice chips. This class/training gave my husband and I a totally different outlook on the childbirth experience. I went in wanting a natural birth and came out fearing what would happen if I couldn’t have one. Not only did we learn how to manage the pain of labor without drugs, but we also learned what said drugs could do to your labor and birth experience. This is something called “the domino effect.” One medical intervention leads to another and another and so on until you ultimately had a c-section. I did NOT want this to happen to me.
As people began to tell me their birth stories (which always happens during your pregnancy) I would pick them apart in my mind and pinpoint where exactly they went wrong and what led to the outcome of their experience. After our 12 weeks of Bradley training, my husband and I were ready. We knew everything we needed to know backwards, forwards and inside out. You couldn’t tell us we weren’t ready to have this baby the natural way. I even had other expectant mothers that I knew asking me for advice on natural childbirth and those who had given birth wanting me to share my experience with them.
Week 40 came and went along with my due date. This was the first of many shockers for me. I’m not naïve. I know that most first-time moms deliver after their due date and less than 5% of women actually deliver on their due date. I also knew that you could look at when your mom delivered to get an idea of what your experience would be like. That being said, my mother and grandmother both delivered within a few days before their due dates. I just had to follow suit, right? Wrong. The first doctor’s appointment that I had after my due date passed was so difficult. I couldn’t believe that the baby still had not come. I had taken my maternity leave 2 weeks before my due date because I just knew my baby was coming early and I was bored out of my mind and there was no sign of this baby. The further I got from my due date, the closer I got to the induction date that my OB had set for me. This was the LAST thing that I wanted. I didn’t want to have any interventions, including induction of labor. I heard about a technique to “naturally” help labor to begin called “stripping of membranes.” Those who had this done could expect for labor to begin within 24-48 hours. This was something that could be done by my OB in the office. There was no guarantee that it would work, but it was worth a shot. At this appointment I asked her if she would be willing to do this and if she thought this was a good course of action for me. She agreed that it was and did the procedure that day. I wasn’t sure how this would all turn out, but I was hopeful. Just to be sure, I picked up some raspberry leaf tea on the way home. My husband and I also decided to go out for eggplant Parmesan for dinner. (Both are actions that are said to induce labor.)
My doctor’s appointment was on Wednesday, March 12th. On the way to dinner, at about 7pm that night, I had my first contraction. I was able to make it through dinner with my contractions coming about 15 minutes apart. We decided to head home and by the time we got there my contractions were about 10 minutes apart. At this time I was thinking that it was getting late and I really needed to get some sleep before I went into active labor and the contractions were closer together. We learned in our Bradley class that if you want to slow down your labor, in the early stage, you should take a bath. That’s exactly what I did. However, it didn’t work. My contractions were still coming 10 minutes apart. This made for a very disruptive night’s sleep. I woke every 10 minutes to manage a contraction. This continued all night long. I knew for sure that we would be headed to the hospital in the morning.
I wake up the next morning on Thursday, March 13th to find that I had slept for the last hour without waking up. My contractions had slowed down. They now were coming at about 30-45 minutes apart. What!!?? How could this happen? I just knew this was it and we were going to the hospital today. So in order to speed up the contractions, I took a shower and my husband and I headed to the mall to walk. I will tell you it is a very interesting experience to be in labor in a public place. I thought everyone was staring at me, especially when I would have a contraction. The walking helped slightly. The contractions did speed up, but not enough for us to go to the hospital. We left the mall feeling frustrated and tired. We had the car packed and were not expecting to make this trip back home. Once we got there, I called my doctor to let her know what I had been experiencing. She confirmed that I was actually in labor, but a lot of first time moms have contractions that take a long time to establish a pattern. She let me know that I should head to the hospital if my water broke, I felt the urge to push or if my contractions sped up to 5 minutes apart. We had made it to Thursday evening and at this point the contractions had slowed down so much that I almost forgot about them. My husband and I went to bed that night with little to no expectations for the day ahead. Boy, were we wrong.
At about 3:00am on Friday, March 14th I was awakened from my sleep with a strong pop that I felt in my stomach. I knew from talking to other moms that this sensation is what it sometimes feels like when your water breaks. I immediately felt around in my bed for dampness. My sheets were completely bone dry. I got up out of bed expecting a trickle to come down or maybe even a gush, but there was nothing. That’s odd. I was about to shake it off and chalk it up to nothing when out of nowhere I felt the most excruciating pain known to man. What in the world was this? It couldn’t be a contraction. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. It lasted for about 2-3 minutes. Contractions aren’t supposed to last longer than 70 seconds right? All of the contractions that I had felt over the last 2 days were manageable. Notice I did not say pain free, but manageable. This was on a whole different level. So much so that I just knew something had to be wrong. I was remembering what our Bradley instructor had said about knowing the difference between a muscular contraction and a pain that feels like an injury. This pain was definitely injury status. I cried out during the pain like I had never done before and my husband jumped up out of his sleep to find me sobbing in a squat on the side of the bed. I told him that I thought something was wrong. When the pain had stopped, I decided to get back in the bed. About 45 seconds later, the pain came back, just as strong and as painful as before, only this time I felt the urge to use the bathroom. Those of you who are experienced mothers know that the urge to push feels like you have to make a giant BM and that was just what I was feeling. I headed to the bathroom doubled over in pain. I could barely even stand up. I remember just barely making it into the bathroom before the pain began again. These things were coming less than a minute apart and they were lasting for about 2-3 minutes. I was scared. We hadn’t studied anything about pains like this. As I continued to feel the urge to push, I just knew that the baby was coming and we weren’t going to make it to the hospital. My husband enters the bathroom as I have turned myself around and am seated backwards on the toilet (another technique for managing pain that we learned in our Bradley class). He sees how much pain I am in and how close the pains are coming. With no recovery time in between the contractions, I am exhausted and he is scared. He asks if he should call 911. I tell him no. Then after experiencing another excruciating pain, I told him to call. I remember hearing bits and pieces of my husband’s conversation with the 911 operator. I have to admit that I think I may have blacked out a little due to the pain. I just remember him trying to get me off the toilet and the operator asking if he could see the head. I heard him say that the paramedics were on the way. All I could think of at this moment was that I didn’t want the paramedics to see me half naked. (I know, that’s a bit crazy considering the amount of pain that I was in and that they are paramedics. I’m sure they have seen worse.) As my husband went downstairs to unlock the front door and put the dogs in their crates, I was attempting to put on clothes. I am still wondering how I was able to do this. I heard the paramedics enter, so I decide to make my way downstairs, all while still having monstrous pains. My husband looks up at me like I’m crazy while I scream and moan through another pain. The paramedics ask if my water has broken and I say no. Their whole mood and sense of urgency changes after finding out this bit of info. They say, “Oh, you have plenty of time to get to the hospital if your water hasn’t broken, you guys can definitely make it.” I’m still on the fence about this, but the thought of riding in an ambulance and having to bear these pains did not sit well with me. My husband and I decided that we would brave it and try to make it to the hospital on our own. My husband helped me into the car and went back inside to do a last minute check and lock up the house. While he is doing this, I am screaming in agony in the garage as I had about 4 more of these pains. He finally gets in the car after, what seems like and eternity, and we make our way to the hospital. One thing that is in our favor is that it is about 5:00am on a Friday morning and rush hour hasn’t begun yet. We are about a block away from our house when my husband mentions that he forgot to grab my cell phone. I give him a look that I’m sure would have caused anyone to drop dead. We circle back around and he grabbed it and we continued back on our way. (I recently found out after the birth that he had my phone the whole time in his inside coat pocket! I’m so glad he left that out until after all of this was over.)
We arrived at the hospital in about 15 minutes. Again, this seemed like the longest 15 minutes known to man. I felt like I spent the whole trip in pain. We pulled up to the front and it happened, my husband just froze. He didn’t move for almost a whole minute. Of course I go crazy. I say, “What are you waiting for? Help me out.” This is the first time throughout this whole experience that I visibly saw the fear on my husband’s face. I began to wonder if he was going to be able to handle this and get me through this birth. We walk in and I am in mid-contraction and the ladies behind the desk are looking at me like, “Oh boy we’ve got one of those.” Mind you, my whole goal in life was never to be one of those women who came into the delivery room screaming as if someone was torturing them like a prisoner of war. But, yes I was that person. They grabbed me a wheelchair and wheeled me to a window. They began to ask me questions. These questions irritated me because as everyone knows when you are in extreme pain, you have no filter and I had already pre-registered so they had all of this info. I yell out, “Don’t you already have this info? Why am I answering these questions again?” I began to get so belligerent that they suggested that they just take me to triage. Once I got there, I was asked to remove my clothes, put on a gown and give a urine sample. Wait a minute, WHAT a urine sample? Did they see how much pain I was in? How did they really expect me to give a urine sample?? I looked at my husband and said that I didn’t know how I was going to do this. I was convinced that the hospital staff just did not believe that I was really in as much pain as I was saying. However, I was able to get undressed and give the sample, by the grace of God. I leave the bathroom on my hands and knees crawling my way over to the hospital bed. After this everything is pretty much a blur. They hooked me up to the monitors, although I don’t remember that and they checked me to see how dilated I was. Remember, my contractions were less than a minute apart and lasting for about 2-3 minutes and they had been this way for almost 2 hours. Once I was connected to the monitors, the nurses could see the frequency and strength of the contractions and their sense of urgency began to shift. I could tell that they were expecting this baby to come soon. Well, they checked me and they said I was 2, yes only 2 cm dilated. You have got to be kidding me. When I heard this, all I could do was cry. I knew that I had a long road left until I was pushing and I didn’t think I had enough strength left to handle the pain and then deliver the baby. The nurse stepped out to page my doctor and my husband and I discussed what our next step would be as far as continuing with our plan for a natural childbirth. This was that hardest decision that I have ever had to make, especially when I am making it in between contractions. I was literally sobbing because I knew what decision that I had to make. It had been well over 36 hours since I began labor and I was tired and weak. My husband and I made the decision to have an epidural.
They admitted me and moved me into my labor and delivery suite. All I could think of was having some relief and rest. It couldn’t come soon enough. I was also thinking about “the domino effect” that we had learned about in our Bradley Method class. Was this going to happen to me? At this point I felt like I had plunged down the “rabbit hole” of medical intervention with no chance of return. When I got the epidural and it kicked in, I didn’t seem to care as much. After that, we were all good. I got a kick out of watching my contractions on the monitor. I remember saying, “Oh wow that was a big one,” all the while feeling numb to the pain. I went along like this quite well until about noon when the calvary of nurses entered my room. I’m so glad that there were no alarms that I could hear that were going off in my room, because if so, I would have freaked out. My baby was in distress and I needed to be put on oxygen. After about an hour, I was able to come off of the oxygen because my baby had stabilized. At this time, my doctor comes in to check my progress. She checks me and I am about 5cm dilated. She seemed ok with that, but wanted to see some more progress, so she mentioned she would break my water and asked if that was okay. I told her yes. To my surprise, when she went to break my water she asked me if I was sure my water didn’t break. Of course I was sure. I think I would notice if I was leaking fluid from my vagina. I told her that there was no leaking. She said my water had definitely been broken because she could feel my baby’s hair. I asked how that was possible. She said that in rare cases the bag of waters is behind the baby. This means that when it is broken, the baby acts as a plug and prevents the water from leaking. The water would come out behind the baby as it passes through the birth canal. So now this changes everything. Remember the pop I felt at 3:30 that morning that woke me from my sleep? That was when my water broke. So we were approaching 12 hours since this happened. My doctor then informed me that my contractions had taken on a pattern that had slowed down the progression of the labor. She let me know that I was experiencing protracted labor, which is characterized as labor that lasts 20 or more hours. Right now, I was working on 48. I would continue to progress, just very slowly. Since my water was already broken, this presented a huge issue. So here we go with the “domino effect.” Pitocin was started. I spent the afternoon and early evening on Pitocin waiting for my labor to progress so that I could deliver my baby. During this time, my baby went into distress about two more times. I was put on oxygen and I spiked a fever. I had to be given two different antibiotics to prevent infection. At about 10:30pm on Friday, March 14th, I was 9 cm dilated and not budging. My baby was still showing signs of distress and the decision was made that I needed to have a c-section. This, to me, was a fate worse than death. My husband and I, along with my parents and sisters, who had arrived at my bedside by now, took a moment to mourn our destroyed birth plan. We prayed for a safe delivery and surgery and I headed into the OR.
After 52 hours and 38 minutes of labor, Baby EJ was born on Friday, March 14th (My husband’s father’s birthday) at 11:38pm. He was 6 pounds 2 ounces and 18 ¾ inches long. Like I stated earlier this experience has had a profound effect on me. It is one that I could have never predicted. Everything in my plan was completely deviated. However, my baby was born healthy, which was definitely part of the plan. It has taken me a long time to cope with my birth experience. I have even felt that since I didn’t push my baby out, I didn’t truly give birth to him. I find myself envious of other mothers’ birth experiences and wondering what I could have done differently. Almost every day after EJ’s birth I have gone through every part of my birth story with a fine tooth comb to figure out what I could have done differently. People have said that although we have our plans, God’s plan is ultimately what will be carried out. I believe that 100%, but how could God’s plan leave me recovering from a surgery and having to care for a newborn?
Writing this post has been very therapeutic for me. I am learning to cope with all that has happened. One thing that helps is for me to look at my beautiful baby boy. It wasn’t about just having things go “my way.” It was more about what was best for my baby and I thought going “natural” was it. I guess my experience proves that is not always the case. In church this morning, my pastor mentioned this:
Real Life Is:
Yup, that about sums it up and I am loving every minute of it.
Baby EJ (2 days Old)