Wednesday, August 29, 2012

6 weeks old!

My smiley girl!
    Happy six week birthday, Abby Kate!  I can't believe you are six weeks old already!  It's been a rough six weeks, but you are so worth it!  After we got used to feeding you formula and got your weight loss under control, you started screaming all day long. After the third day, I couldn't take it anymore and called the doctor. They asked me a bunch of questions about you, and finally suggested I bring you in for an exam. They checked your eyes to see if maybe you had scratched them, they checked for urinary tract infections, they poked and prodded and finally figured out that you are sensitive to the milk proteins in your formula. We switched to a special kind of formula, and within a few days you were back to your happy self.  Hopefully we can just enjoy getting to know each other now, and the worst is behind us.
Our Peanut is growing up fast!
   Today we went for your "two month" checkup, which is a little early, but they wanted to keep an eye on your weight, so we scheduled a little sooner. You weighed ten pounds today, which is at the 50th percentile!  You were about 22.5 inches long, around the 65th percentile, and your head was 15 inches, also at the 50th percentile.  What a nice average sized baby you are!  You seem so much bigger than the tiny baby we brought home just six weeks ago.  You had to get three shots today, which made you very unhappy. I managed to wait until the nurse left before I cried a little too.  It was just heartbreaking to see you so sad!
   You're eating between 3 and 4 ounces of formula at a time, about every three hours during the day and every four hours at night, which mommy and daddy appreciate.  You have outgrown most of your newborn sized clothes because your body is so long, and because your cloth diapers add a little "fluff" to your bum.  You're mostly wearing 0-3 month sized clothes now.  You are getting much better at holding your head up and looking around for a few seconds when we hold you upright, and you are starting to gurgle and coo at us when we talk to you.  The most fun thing has been that you are starting to recognize our voices and faces, and smile when we talk to you.  Nothing beats your happy little face! 
   We've started a bedtime routine in hopes that you will begin to learn that nighttime is for sleeping, not playing, and that you will slowly learn how to go to bed.  I'm not rushing that part though. I like having you right beside me at night!  We give you bath and put on clean diaper and PJs, you eat one last time, and we read a page or two out of a children's bible that was mine when I was little. Then we sing whatever hymn pops into my head and "Jesus Loves Me", rock a little, then I put you in your bassinet in your room. You don't love to sleep in your crib yet. I think you like the cradled position that your bassinet keeps you in. Usually you sleep there for three or four hours, then we bring you into our room when you wake up to eat and keep you with us until morning. 
   I know that I still have lots to learn about how to be your mommy, but we seem to be surviving so far, and I know that you have lots to teach me!  We love you so much, Abby-girl! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not so crunchy afterall...

First day home!
   A big thank you to those of you who stuck with me through yesterday's novel of a post.  I try to keep things more condensed than that around here, but I wanted to make sure I got my memories of Abby's birth documented somewhere, and hey, it's my blog and I do what I want.  :)  It was somewhat cathartic to have to sit down and really think about those days and process the emotions and the choices we made.  Because so many things didn't go as I had planned, it was something that I've really had to make peace with.  Of course, healthy mom and healthy baby and all that jazz...and of course it was worth it to get my squishy little cuddle bug here.  I mean, look at those cheeks.  Gotta love it. And yes, the blog is likely to consist almost entirely of baby photos from here on out.  Again, it's my blog.  :)
Bath time baby!
    As I've said before, we were planning on a med-free natural birth using relaxation techniques we learned in our Hypnobabies class.  I enjoyed the classes, and really truly learned how to completely relax muscles that I never even realized were carrying tension. I had done my homework, and I believe that a med-free birth is the best-case optimal scenario for the health of both mom and baby for lots of reasons (if you'd like to discuss, feel free to ask me!), and I knew it would be lots of work and likely somewhat unpleasant for me. I didn't go into delivery unprepared for what I would face. We had planned to let our baby choose her birthday. I wasn't uncomfortable, even in the last days of my pregnancy, and I didn't mind going "late" if my baby needed a few more days to bake. Well, all of that went out the window.  Induction, IV, epidural, lots of cervical checks, not wearing my own clothes...everything I didn't want, short of a C-section.  It's a pretty helpless feeling. 

Sweet moments
    Things didn't really stop there.  Because of her rough arrival into the world, Abby had a decent amount of bruising which caused some jaundice problems after birth. Not enough that they had to keep her under the lights, but enough that we had to make frequent trips to the doctor after we left the hospital to monitor her levels. During these office visits, we began to notice that she wasn't gaining weight. Of course, it's normal for newborns to lose a little from their birth weight, but it's expected that they should return to birth weight by two weeks of age. Not only did our girl not reach her birth weight, she continued to lose weight. At her lowest, she was only 7 lb 9 oz, quite a drop from her 8 lb 12 oz birth weight. I breastfed, and she was nursing like a champ after a few bumps in the road, but continued to lose weight. They ran blood and urine tests, checked both of us out, and found nothing. I had to begin supplementing with formula--yet another blow to my crunchy plans.
   After weeks of nursing AND pumping every two hours, diet changes, lots of rest, fenugreek, and whatever else anyone suggested, my supply was still not established. I could barely pump anything, and Abby would cry to eat less than an hour after her last meal. She wasn't sleeping well (which meant WE weren't sleeping well), and was starting to look skinny.  Apparently babies are supposed to gain nearly an ounce a day, and she had only gained an ounce over the course of a week.  Last week I continued nursing, but increased the amount of formula supplemented. She began eating almost twice as much formula as we had been giving her.  No wonder she was unhappy--she was starving!  Finally yesterday at her weight check, she had gained a significant amount of weight, and we made the incredibly difficult decision to primarily formula feed.
   I pretty much cried all day. I felt like my body had betrayed me. I couldn't birth on my own, I couldn't feed my child...the blows just kept coming. I strongly feel like breastfeeding is best, but in our case, it just wasn't possible. We still nurse a few times a day, most before and after bedtime, because I can't seem to quit cold turkey, but she's a bottle-fed baby now. 
   The past four weeks have been pretty profound for me. Of course there's the learning how to care for a baby and such, but I've faced some deep stuff too. Some spiritual, some social. I mentioned on Facebook a while back that I've learned that God's will is sovereign over my best-laid plans. Even when I really truly believe that I had my baby's best at heart. I don't know why He thought it necessary that she be born how she was, or that she be fed how she is, but I hope that some day my experience will be able to help someone. I've also learned not to judge others' decisions because you never know what circumstance led them to that point.  Prior to having Abby, I turned up my nose at people who chose to be induced or have a c-section for non-medical reasons. Or reasons that I felt weren't "good enough." I looked down at people who didn't breastfeed. Why wouldn't you do what's best for your baby? You're a parent now, your wants aren't the most important! I never would have been anything less than gracious to someone in person, but that's what my heart was saying. (Maybe that's worse. Maybe I should have been judgy to people's faces.)  Now I know that sometimes those things aren't possible, even in non-emergency situations. And sometimes it's just too painful to talk about, so you'll never know the reasons.
Love that little face!
   I promise that my blog has not turned into my angsty adolescent diary.  I love being a mom, and I love my sweet Abby more than anything. There were just a few things I needed to get off my chest and think through.  Maybe I felt like I needed to justify some things, I don't know.  Anyone else need some therapy time?  Have a difficult birth?  Learn a life lesson lately?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Birth Story! (This is a long one, folks...)

At the hospital, waiting for our girl!
   It seems so weird to have a birth story.  Honestly, it's a little like my wedding--I know it happened, but all of my memories are a little out-of-body feeling, like it was a dream.  I figure I should write out what I remember before it slips away!
   As I mentioned, having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes and needing medication to control it, I was encouraged to deliver by my due date because of the increased risk of stillbirth with going post dates.  As I also mentioned, this was NOT my plan.  I worried and prayed and worried and prayed, and on Sunday, July 8, I was very convicted while sitting in church. I had been asking God to do what only He could do--start my labor--but I hadn't done anything on my end to prepare for it.  As if I didn't expect Him to do it.  Some faith, huh?  So as soon as I got home from church, I went into "we're having a baby" mode. Cleaning, last minute projects, all those little things that I wanted to do before having a baby, but I hadn't done. If God decided not to answer my prayer the way I wanted to, it wasn't going to be due to lack of expectation on my part! 
   I was scheduled for an induction on the day after my due date.  I didn't really think much about it because my midwife and I were pretty certain I would be going into labor on my own any time. I had been dilated to 3 cm and 75% effaced for over a week.  My mom and sis arrived about a week before my due date, and we had big plans to walk all over creation until things got moving.  So we did.  I cannot tell you how many hours and miles we walked.  Outside in the heat, inside the mall, fast, slow, name it, we walked it. And waited.  My dad arrived that Sunday, the 15th. Everyone was certain it would happen any time.  So we waited. Nothing.  Not even a twitch.
   Chris and I dutifully went to the hospital on July 17 to start the induction process.  Since I was already so far dilated, we all expected things to move quickly with minimal pharmaceutical "encouragement". Pitocin was started at 7 am, and a few hours later our families began to arrive for the big event.  Since I was still feeling good, I told them they could hang out in the room to keep me company until things got more intense and I needed to focus.  I explained that we had taken Hypnobabies classes, and I would need to be able to concentrate in order to manage my contractions. We chit-chatted and killed time, waiting for the pitocin to do its thing. 
   Flash forward to 5 pm. The monitor was picking up contractions, but they weren't anything I even noticed all the time, much less needed to concentrate for. I had walked the halls, stood, swayed, squatted, anything I could think of. No more dilation than I came in with, no more contractions than the Braxton-Hicks I'd felt before.  I had maxed out the available dosage of pitocin.  The midwife on call came in, and we talked about our options. We all decided to try a Cook's catheter, which is a little balloon that manually dilates the cervix from the inside and the outside simultaneously.  This would be left overnight, and we'd start the process over again in the morning.  Around 7 pm. the midwife and a nurse arrived to place the catheter.  Holy cow.  I have now given birth, and I can honestly say that was so much worse than childbirth.  I have truly never felt pain like that in my life, and I hope I never do again.  The pain lasted for hours after it was placed. I couldn't sit, couldn't lie flat, couldn't stand or move without horrible pain. I managed to find a position lying on my side that wasn't awful, and finally dozed off for the first time since 4:30 that morning. I felt a little more in control after my nap, and the pain began to subside around 10:00.
   The next morning, I got up ridiculously early and took a shower. The catheter was removed around 6:00 am, and pitocin started again shortly after. This time things were more promising, as the catheter had gotten me to almost 7 cm.  Again, our families trickled in to resume their faithful waiting positions. Again, nothing.  A few little contractions, gradually I began to notice them, but I've had menstrual cramps that were worse.  Around 3:00, I was at only 7.5 cm.  The midwife came in again to discuss our options. We decided to break my water and see if that sped things up. Boy, did it!!!
   Almost immediately, my contractions were MUCH more intense.  Chris and I resumed walking the halls, and this time I had to stop and sway through the contractions.  Things continued to increase in intensity, frequency, and duration with the pitocin drip still being turned up as we went.  We came to the point where the only way I could handle the contractions was to stand and sway with my eyes closed. I kept relaxing best I could, breathing as I had been taught, but nothing had prepared me for the sudden onset of transition-type labor.  It felt like there was no break between the contractions, only changes in intensity. After nearly two days of labor, I was getting mentally and physically fatigued.
   After a quick check, I was told I was 9 cm. We decided to try getting in the tub to see if that would provide some relief.  I think it did for a few minutes, but I felt out of control. I couldn't stand or sway, the water made me overwhelmingly hot, the pressure of sitting was getting unbearable.  I felt myself slipping in and out of lucidity, and getting rapidly panicky.  I wasn't in control of my body or my mind, and I was feeling a little hysterical.  At that point I told Chris I wanted to get an epidural.  Just like we'd discussed, he suggested I change positions, wait through another contraction, was I sure?  As disappointed as I was, I was sure.  He let the nurse and the midwife know, and they called anesthesia.
   The next few hours are a but of a blur to me.  I recall being helped out of the tub, and I recall flashes of the team placing the epidural.  I remember that the most excruciating thing was being forced to sit still during the placement, and I truly think I was on the verge of losing consciousness.  It seemed like there were lots of people and bright lights and busyness in the room that was previously calm and peaceful.  I remember telling a nurse that I was going to be sick.  Thankfully, that passed and I didn't have to throw up.  Then all of a sudden, it stopped. 
   The medicine blessedly did its job swiftly and effectively.  I could open my eyes.  I could breathe.  I could rest.  I fell asleep almost immediately, and the staff was gracious enough to let me sleep.  After an hour or two, they checked me, and I was fully dilated!  We started the pushing process around 7:00 that evening.  I didn't push my button for any extra medication in my epidural because I didn't want it to interfere with my ability to push, and I'm fairly certain that it was wearing off because while I didn't have much pain in my abdomen, I believe I could feel every inch of my pelvic floor!
   I honestly thought that the pushing would be the easiest part of my delivery.  Not that it isn't hard work, but have you seen these hips?  This would not be a problem.  But like everything else thus far, that was not the case.  I pushed and pushed and pushed with minimal progress. The nurse asked at one point if I wanted to use the vacuum, and I said yes, if it will get her out!  Luckily, the midwife arrived about then and tactfully ignored my request, assuring me that we were getting close.  The fatigue was catching up with me again, and I was having trouble sustaining my pushes for the 10 counts that the nurse was shouting, having trouble keeping my legs in the right position, having trouble thinking!  Just. So. Tired.  They don't call it labor for nothing!
   At long last, I found some hidden store of energy or adrenaline or whatever, and our precious Abby was born at 10:01 pm!  The midwife exclaimed, "No wonder that was so hard!  She was face up and had her head tilted to the side!" Of course MY child would be stubborn.  They placed her on my chest, and she looked around with big round eyes, taking in the world she'd just entered.  We snuggled for a few minutes until her cord stopped pulsing, then it was clamped and cut. While I worked on delivering the placenta (that was an odd sensation), she was weighed and measured and tested.  Our big girl weighed 8 lbs 12 oz and was 21.5 inches long.  I finally heard a few cries from her after that, and before long Chris came back to my side with our daughter wrapped up in a blanket. The nurses and midwife slipped out, and we had a few minutes to marvel at this miracle that had just happened before our families joined us to celebrate.
Brand new miracle!
First nap together!
   I'm so thankful that Chris was there with me through it all.  I had no idea how emotionally taxing birth would be.  I think I experienced every emotion I can think of, and it seemed like I felt them all to the extreme.  He encouraged me, calmed me, thought clearly when I could not, asked questions I didn't know I had, protected the peace in our room, and physically supported me when I needed. I certainly could not have done it by myself.  I also wholeheartedly believe that things would not have gone as well as they did without the fervent prayers of many many people. If you were one of my prayer warriors over those two days, thank you!!!  Every last one of you!!!

My sweet Abby
      Life as a family of three has been an adventure. Not everything has gone according to plan, but that's another post for another day. I'm enjoying every day snuggling this precious little pink bundle, and it's amazing to see how much she changes every single day!