Thursday, November 22, 2012

birth story

Five weeks later and just in time for Thanksgiving, here is Evan's birth story:

Contractions started on Wednesday, October 17, sometime around 6 or 7pm, but I thought that they were more of the same Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been experiencing for the last few months. Having just been to the doctor earlier that afternoon for my 38 (and a half) week appointment, I assumed that the increased frequency of the contractions was due to the exam. So I didn't think much of it when they started. It was a nice warm evening, and I was busy in the park with Bonnie, Bruce, and Elsa. We had done a little photo shoot with Elsa in her Detroit Tigers outfit, which was followed by some swinging and then chatting with a father and his three little girls. Carmen had gone inside to work on dinner, and Steve and Dan joined us for a while when they got home from work.

I had always pictured walking around the neighborhood while in early labor, trying to get contractions going, like my mother did when she was in labor with me. I guess I did end up spending some of that time outside, standing around by the swings; I just didn't know it was the beginning of labor. I was 2cm dilated at my appointment that day, and I had been 1cm for at least two weeks before that, so I probably didn't have as far to go in that stage anyway.

When we went inside that evening, Steve started dinner—zucchini carbonara—and I started going through the pictures I had taken. About halfway through, I noticed that the contractions were getting just a little more uncomfortable. They also seemed to be pretty frequent, so I decided to try out the contraction timer app that I had gotten for my phone. If nothing else, it seemed like a good time to figure out how to use it before the real thing. That was at 7:34pm, and the contractions ended up being about 5 minutes apart, although they weren't necessarily each a minute long.

I timed contractions through dinner, but I took a break for an hour while Steve and I loaded the dishwasher. Afterward, we watched a little more of Life After Top Chef, and I sat on the yoga ball for a while. Meanwhile, contractions continued. I started timing them again at about 9:20pm, and they were coming about every 3 minutes or so. They were also lasting closer to a minute each now.

Around 10pm, I decided that maybe I should finish up my hospital packing, just in case we needed to head to CPMC that night. I had packed what I could already, but I had a list of things that couldn't be packed until the last minute. I was glad I had the list too, because it was hard to concentrate on what I might be forgetting when I was also timing contractions and trying to decide if I was actually in labor or not. Everything I had read about real contractions vs. Braxton Hicks seemed to say, "If you're really in labor, you'll know." Well, I didn't. The contractions were getting a little more uncomfortable, but I could still walk, talk, and pack through them.

Steve heard me rustling around in the bedroom and bathroom and came to see what I was up to. I told him I was packing... just in case...? and filled him in. He got a little nervous when I told him that the contractions were about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long. After all, the general rule for heading to the hospital is 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour.

Once we were all packed, I called the 24-hour line and gave the nurse my details. She said to come on into the hospital, so Steve brought the car up to the house. It was a little before 11pm at this point, and Dan was out walking Enzo. So Dan and Carmen found out we were going to the hospital, and I spent part of the drive there texting Carmen while continuing to time contractions. She asked what they felt like, and I told her they felt like bad cramps. I still wasn't convinced that we weren't going to be sent home right away, but maybe I was just in denial.

We arrived at the hospital after 11pm, and lucked into one of the parking spots across the street from the entrance—one of the few streets not requiring a neighborhood permit for more than 2 hours of parking. After checking in at the OB Triage desk, we were shown to a small exam room, where I changed out of my clothes so they could look at my progress. I was now 3cm dilated and 100% effaced, so they admitted me around 11:30pm. Steve called his parents, I texted Carmen, and I also made a quick post to Facebook to indicate that I might have a baby soon. Our first labor/delivery nurse, Leah, came down to get us not long after, and we took the elevator up to our room on the second floor. That's where the rest of the action happened.

I was hooked up to the monitors on and off for a while, and Steve and I settled in a bit. The contractions slowly got more intense over the next few hours. At first, I was able to get through them just fine. When I was allowed out of bed, I took a few pictures. I also brushed my teeth, took off my mascara from earlier in the day, and removed my contacts. All this with only a minute or two at a time of being pain-free.


At 2:30am, I was about 4cm dilated, and the contractions were getting worse. I had been texting Carmen—she was still awake—and bouncing on the yoga ball a little, but by then I was needing more help from Steve. What seemed to work the best was leaning over the bed or being on all fours while Steve did a combination of two of the lower back/hip massages that we learned in the childbirth prep class. I didn't really use the breathing we learned, though. I just stuck with breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, rather more forcefully as the pain got worse. I could have walked around the hospital floor to move things along faster, but the thought of straying from my room when I would just have to stop for contractions every minute or two was pretty unappealing.

I decided to try the shower sometime between 3-4am. I was ready for something different, and the warm water helped for a little while. The nurse gave me about 15-20 minutes in there, which was about right. By the end, even the warm water wasn't helping, and I decided that it was about time for the epidural. It meant that I would have to stay in bed for the rest of the time, but I was tired enough by 4am that I was ready to lie down without being in pain.

Of course, the anesthesiologist had to finish up with someone else first, so there was a span of 15-30 minutes before I actually got the epidural. (Just in case I needed more contractions to confirm that I wanted it.) The worst part was the length of time it took once the anesthesiologist started, when I had to be sitting still, hunched over through my contractions, rather than in a position that allowed Steve to continue the massaging. It felt really odd when the anesthesiologist administered the drugs—like nails on a chalkboard—but I was feeling much better soon. My legs went mostly numb, my toes felt like they had been in winter boots in the cold for too long, and more importantly, I couldn't feel the contractions anymore.

We were actually able to sleep for a couple hours after that, not that I actually fell asleep. Between the music playing on our iPod dock and everything going on in my head, I don't think I really slept at all. The bit of rest helped, though, and Steve got to sleep a little.

The nurse was back around 6am to check on my meds and such. That's also when they started me on pitocin. The epidural and being in bed had slowed down the labor, so they wanted to get things moving again. Then, when that hadn't produced a significant enough change, the doctor broke my water at 7:20am. I was at about 5cm dilated then, but by about 10am, I was fully dilated with the baby at +1 or +2 station. The nurse told us that we would be ready to start pushing in about an hour!

Steve, killing time

At 11am, the baby was +2 or +3 station, and we were about ready to push. Since my doctor was off that day, we waited a little longer to see if she would be coming anyway to deliver the baby or if it would be the on-call doctor. It ended up being the on-call doctor, but she seemed nice too. (My doctor came by to see me the next morning and returned to do the baby's circumcision later.)

Pushing lasted about an hour and a half, from 11:30am to 1pm, and we had two nurses during that time. Leah had gone home after the night shift ended and had been replaced by Mary Kate, who I liked even better. Mary Kate was 34 weeks pregnant herself and reminded me a little of Ingrid Michaelson. When she took a break for lunch, the charge nurse took over for a bit. She noticed Steve's "Praise the Lard" t-shirt, and chatted with us about food between pushes.

The actual pushing was pretty interesting. With the epidural, I couldn't feel a whole lot, so I had to rely on the nurse to tell me when I was having a contraction at first. But by the end, I was feeling the tension and the urge to push on each one. I would have to push for a count of ten, take a quick breath, push for another ten, breathe, and push again. Mostly, I just focused on tensing up my abs and thinking in the upward direction like they told me to. The nurses seemed happy with my pushing skills, so I guess I didn't take as long as some people.

They asked me toward the end if I wanted reach down and feel the baby's head. I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about it, but I said yes anyway. I was glad that I did; it was pretty strange, but it was also kind of cool to feel the soft hair on his head before I could actually see it.

The doctor came in for the last few pushes, and before I knew it, Evan's (slightly cone-shaped) head was out. That was quickly followed by the rest of him, and he started to cry. It was kind of a squeaky cry that sounded like a baby pterodactyl. They laid him on my chest, and he was slightly grayish from all the white vernix that was covering his skin. I couldn't believe how much of it there was and how sticky it turned out to be, but he was also soft and warm. Meanwhile, he had stopped crying, but he was still whimpering a little. For how alien he looked and sounded, he was pretty cute.

Mary Kate took Evan to the other side of the room after a few minutes so she could clean him off and do all the necessary newborn procedures while the doctor stitched me back up. Evan also got a sponge bath then. His temperature had been a little high—probably because it was a warm day—and the sponge bath cooled him off a bit. Steve watched the whole process, taking pictures and videos with my camera.

Once Evan was done and ready, he was swaddled up and handed back to Steve. Mary Kate took a picture of the three of us, which turned out to be slightly out of focus, but oh well.

And just like that, we had a baby.

Evan Christopher
born at 1:09pm on October 18, 2012
7lbs 15oz
21 inches long

Friday, November 9, 2012

the third trimester

I had high hopes—too high, apparently—of writing this third trimester blog post while I was still actually in my third trimester of pregnancy. I kept putting it off, but I told myself that I would write it over the weekend that marked the beginning of week 39 so that the details would all be current. As it turned out, I was a little busy coming home from the hospital with a newborn that weekend. And so, here is the wrap-up with slightly less fresh details.

For a little visual reference, we're talking about week 28...

to week 38.

Clearly, I grew a lot. In fact, week 29 was when I started to feel like my belly was getting in the way of things a little. I was still thinking like a skinny girl, trying to squeeze by things, and then I'd end up bumping something with my belly. Somehow, I just never felt as huge as I thought I would. It took more effort to get to my feet from a sitting position as time went on, but I could still see my feet and even reach them to cut my toenails. Walking wasn't even very difficult at the end, although I felt a bit more winded than usual on the walk back to my car from the OB's office that last day.

Likewise, I never felt the need to get one of those huge pregnancy pillows for sleeping. I started wedging a small neck pillow under the side of my belly around week 26 instead. (It was never great as a neck pillow, but I was glad that I had kept it around.) I had some stiffness in my back in the mornings, but it was never enough to warrant big pillows crowding the bed. How do people turn over with those anyway? At the most, I just kept an extra pillow next to the bed to put between my knees occasionally. I didn't usually need it until maybe the last hour or two of sleep in the mornings.

In terms of baby movement, there was no slowing down during the third trimester. He had lots of hiccups, which became more and more obvious on the right side of my belly—where his back was. And there was a lot of foot movement on the left side. Occasionally, a foot would poke straight out towards my side in a way that felt rather unnerving, like I wasn't supposed to be stretched in that direction. Putting my hand there usually helped, since it seemed to provide a bit of support and confine the movement a little. Still, I was glad that most of the jabs were directed outward rather than inward at my organs or my ribs.

Braxton Hicks contractions: I started feeling them in the second trimester, but they continued to be common during the third. They got more and more frequent, and occasionally, they were a little more uncomfortable. Often it just felt like my blood pressure was rising suddenly, and then I'd realize that it was a contraction that was tightening things up. When labor started, I actually thought the contractions were Braxton Hicks for the first few hours. I was so used to those that I really didn't think it was true labor... But that's for a separate blog entry.

Next comes fatigue. Probably because I wasn't working, I didn't really feel a lot of the typical third trimester fatigue. There was a little—I'd sometimes hit a wall around 2 or 3pm and not feel like I wanted to do much. It was nowhere near the fatigue of the first trimester, however. And I actually never took any naps over the course of the pregnancy; I was just a little slower to get out of bed some mornings.

Appetite wasn't a huge issue either. The stereotype is that you'll want to eat everything in sight during the third trimester, but I didn't feel exceptionally starved. That might have had a lot to do with the gestational diabetes diet and its requirements that I eat or snack every 2-3 hours. I was already feeling like I was being told to eat constantly, so I probably didn't have the opportunity to get that hungry.

Finally, we come to my list of things that I do not miss about pregnancy:

1) Gestational Diabetes. The diet actually didn't turn out to be a huge deal; in fact, it probably kept my overall weight gain down and allowed me to lose it much faster afterward. The recommended 30-minute walks were good for keeping me out and about too. What I don't miss is not being able to eat sweet stuff or pasta without feeling like I was cheating. I also don't miss having to set a timer at the start of each meal and then stopping everything an hour later to test my blood sugar. The daily testing and having to keep food logs got a little old.

2) Constant Peeing. I don't miss feeling like I needed to pee literally every time I stood up. (That includes when I stood up from peeing too...) Since the baby was head-down from at least 31 weeks, there was probably increasing pressure on my bladder for quite a while. I would say that I don't miss getting up to go to the bathroom once or twice every night, but I still do that when I get up to feed the baby. At least I know that's just from all the water I've been drinking.

3) Heartburn. It was a problem throughout the pregnancy, but it definitely got worse as the weeks went by. I took Pepcid daily before dinner and Tums a lot the rest of the day, and I still frequently ended up having to take out my retainer and chew another Tums in the middle of the night. In fact, I was still taking Tums while I was in labor. Luckily, I had some in my bag and was allowed to take them. It was amazing when I realized a day or two later—after having the baby—that the heartburn was just... gone. Suddenly, I was drinking all this water (and burping, as one does) and there was no hint of acid reflux.

So it was fun being pregnant for a while, and I will miss feeling the baby's movements. And the uninterrupted sleep... However, I'm enjoying having Evan out where I can see him and of course, being done with the various pregnancy nuisances.

Monday, November 5, 2012

the to-do list

Week 41 was all about checking things off of my pre-baby to-do list. Steve's parents were arriving the next Monday, and while I had no indication of when I would go into labor, Monday was kind of my unofficial deadline for getting stuff done. After that, I told myself that the baby was allowed to come anytime. (I went into labor two days later.)

That weekend, we wrestled with getting the car seat installed in our car. We weren't entirely successful on Saturday, prior to our Macy's trip, but we had better luck on Sunday. That's when we managed to find the other LATCH system attachments in the back seat of the car. (The middle ones were hidden differently than the side ones, making them more difficult to spot.) We went back another day and added a towel underneath the foot of the seat to perfect the leveling, but this shot from Sunday is pretty much how the car seat ended up looking.

281/366 car seat: check

Then on Monday, I decided that the time had finally come to take the official "after" pictures of the nursery. We had finally received all the things I had ordered, and everything was in place. I just had to get out my widest angle lenses and make pretty pictures out of it. I intend to do a full post on the nursery and its inspiration one of these days, but I'm not entirely sure when I'll get around to it.

282/366 into the nursery

Tuesday was a baking day. I made two loaves of pumpkin chocolate chip bread from the Baked cookbook. With the gestational diabetes, I was trying to avoid eating a lot of baked goods, but nothing was stopping me from freezing them for post-baby! This way, I knew I'd have my tasty fall treats on standby when I was allowed to have them again.

283/366 pumpkin loaves

The next night, Steve and I decided to go out to dinner at Contigo for the last time before the baby came. We got our usual selection of tapas (pictured below) and some other small plates. We also got to say hi to Brett (the chef), as well as Elan and Tilden (his wife and their 1-year old daughter) who stopped by briefly. It was a good last night out.

284/366 last meal

I had taken note of a jewelry store display featuring owls on the way to Contigo on Wednesday night, so I decided to go to Noe Valley again on Thursday to take some pictures of it. I needed to go to a Walgreens anyway, and the Noe Valley one gave me a better walk than the store closer to us. It seems like I also might have stopped at Whole Foods on that trip and bought some snacks to pack for the hospital, but those walks were frequent enough that they all tend to blend together a bit now.

285/366 owl tree

I did a few more detail shots of the nursery on Friday, since I noticed that I didn't have many from Monday that weren't wide angle. One of the pictures I wanted to take was of the Sharon Montrose animal prints above the shelves. After all, the baby deer picture was one of the first things I picked out for the nursery.

286/366 animal prints

On Saturday, Carmen and Elsa came up for another little photo shoot in the baby's room. Carmen wanted to take some pictures of Elsa with me and my belly, and since that ended up being my last weekend of being pregnant, the timing was perfect. It was challenging to wrangle Elsa for the pictures, though. Her usual interest in my belly button didn't last very long, so we had to put stickers over it to hold her attention. We eventually managed to get a few cute shots, and I took the below picture of Carmen and Elsa during a break in the action.

287/366 nose kiss

And so ended my last full week of pregnancy. In the next installment: a wrap-up of the third trimester.