Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tummy time!

We are giving Kate a little tummy time each day after feeding. Notice that she turned her head from one side to the other--GO KATE!

She is starting to look at our faces more now and maintains eye contact for a little longer each time

Our doula, Nancy, came over yesterday. She's just a wonderful person and I'm so glad we had her with us for the delivery.

Feeding is exhausting for everybody...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Getting close to birth weight

Kate's checkup today revealed that she had gained another 2 1/2 ounces to put her at 5lbs, 4 1/2 oz. We go back next Tuesday for another weigh-in.

She had her first bath a few days ago after her umbilical cord had fallen off. Although she loved floating in the water, she wasn't real keen on having her hair washed the first time and she expressed her outrage by shrieking as loud as she could until I could get out of the tub, dry off and get her latched on for a feeding. By her second bath, she was better about the whole bathing thing but being handed off to Len for towel drying elicited quite a few outraged screams, followed by another quick exit out of the tub and more breastfeeding...I'm sensing a pattern...maybe I should just cut to the chase and feed her in the tub.

The good thing is that she does calm down rather quickly once she's given comfort, either with feeding or by holding her close. Really, she's been quite an easy baby thus far...

Meanwhile, back in Nepal...

Several different agencies (but not ours) have been saying that all the 2009 dossiers will be completed by March 2010. Considering how little they actually accomplished in 2009, I find this news unrealistic to say the least. At least one agency is also reporting that travel approvals for those families matched in September will be forthcoming by Monday. I do hope that at least some of this news is true. I always thought it would be infinitely harder to have a referral in hand, pictures and all, and then hear nothing about when you can go get your child. But maybe this will be a better year--it has certainly started out that way for us--and our Nepal-adoption friends will get some good news here soon.

In the meantime, here is another article on the latest political situation in Nepal from the NY Times.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Early morning wake up

Kate gained another 2oz at her checkup on Monday so she is now 5lbs, 2oz. We go back tomorrow for another weigh-in. Although she is still in preemie clothes (we bought her a pair of pajamas yesterday in preemie size so she wouldn't need to be swaddled all the time), we can tell she is gaining weight. Her cheeks are chubbier and her arms are starting to fill in a bit.

Here she is in her new pjs:

These are her feet sticking out below my arm during breastfeeding. So tiny!

Kate loves to stretch out after being swaddled for sleep. We video'd her morning stretch routine:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Labor Story, Len's version

Monday, January 11 seemed to be rolling along nicely, and quietly. I was preparing to leave the office to head home and get ready for our weekly Bradley Class when Lisa called with the words I didn't expect to hear...at least not on that particular Monday:

My water broke and I'm calling the midwife now. Come home.

As I rushed around shutting down my computer and donning commuter garb, I began to hyperventilate...almost. I sure had trouble taking a deep breath, because a bunch of questions started running through my head. Were we really going to the hospital tonight? Would Lisa have the baby soon? Why did her water break so early? Was everything going to be okay? What about all the work I still needed to complete in advance of our due date of Feb 15?

As I hustled off to the train for the trip home, I flashed back to Lisa's very first pregnancy (and subsequent miscarriage) many years ago. Not long after we found out Lisa was pregnant the first time, I woke up late one night from a very vivid and very frightening nightmare that ended with Lisa dying in the delivery room. I relived the panic I felt that night, which didn't help my breathing in the least.

I also kept wondering what I should do, who I should tell, but when I hit the tunnel to get to the train, I remembered that I never get a signal underground. So I stood and I waited and I tried to breathe. And I counted the stops until my train was above ground again.

In that addled state, I decided it was a good idea to do a Facebook update on things, just so everyone would know what was going on and could offer their thoughts and prayers for us as we moved into the unknown at the hospital. Lisa told you already about the result of that.

Then I Googled 35 weeks water broke to find stories about what to expect at the hospital. Luckily, the one story I saw was relatively positive

he only needed oxygen for 1-1/2 days and was fine after that, so I began to calm down a bit, but only a little bit.

Once I made it home, Lisa and I rushed around trying to pack all the crap we thought we’d need—birth ball…check, phone chargers…check, a change of clothes…check. In fact, an entire suitcase full of stuff, none of which we needed or used. We headed off to the hospital, discussing whether this was “it” and panicking about all the things we still hadn’t checked off our “get done before baby comes” list.

When we arrived, we first met Amy, the midwife who would be on call that night. Ironically, she was the last midwife in the practice who Lisa hadn’t yet met—they had an appointment for the next day. I guess we’ll have our appointment a little early, said Amy when we told her this.

Off to the triage room to get checked out. Everything was fine, but this was the point we learned that the first half or so of our four page birth plan was already obsolete…now THAT’S good for the stress level. And speaking of stress, Lisa kept coming back to all the things we’d planned to do to prepare for the baby over the next few weeks—including installing the car seat, buying a bassinet to keep Kate in our room early on, finishing our baby shopping, and finishing the final 5 sessions of our Bradley Class—which also kept her anxiety level up. In the back of my mind, I remembered Julie, our Bradley instructor saying over and over, If you are not relaxed, your labor WILL hurt more and it WILL take much longer, but the front of my mind was occupied with everything Amy was telling us and with trying to keep Lisa calm. When Nancy, our amazing doula, arrived, Lisa was still panicking about everything left undone. Instead of trying to talk her down from the anxiety, Nancy simply took out a pen and a notepad and said, Okay, tell me everything that still needs to be done, and I’ll write it down, so you won’t forget it later. That certainly focused Lisa and helped her to relax, but somehow Nancy never got around to actually giving us that list...

Lisa was only half effaced and not dilated at all and her contractions were relatively weak and inconsistent, even though we were now at two hours past her water breaking, so Amy said we’d need to consider helping the process along a bit. She suggested Cervadil, mainly because it is the mildest option on the spectrum of interventions into the natural labor process, but she also explained the other possibilities to us. We knew going into this that we preferred as little medical intervention as possible, because most times those interventions create a domino effect of conditions requiring additional, and often more drastic, interventions.

So Cervadil it was. And since Cervadil is known to take a long time to work (at least 12 hours, according to Amy) Lisa also received an Ambien to allow her to rest for the hard work ahead. With a 12-plus hour wait ahead of us, we were advised to sleep and our doula headed home to do the same.

Except…the Ambien didn’t work and the Cervadil did, and quickly. Of course it was probably a combination of the Cervadil and Mother Nature, but we’ll never know exactly.

Within a couple hours (I think)—and forgive me, but my sense of time passing was pretty faulty through most of the labor and delivery—Lisa’s contractions began in earnest. Amy came back in, watched Lisa for a bit and then decided it was time to recheck her. By then, Lisa was 4cm dilated and 90% effaced, which meant things were now moving pretty quickly. Amy advised us to call our doula to have her return to the hospital, which I did. Turns out Nancy had just made it home and into her jammies, but when I gave her Lisa’s new numbers, she just said, I’m on my way.

With labor rolling along, Lisa soon entered the next stage—the I can’t do this stage. Over and over, Lisa told me she couldn’t handle the contractions, that she needed an epidural, that it was too hard, that it hurt too much, that she didn’t know what she was thinking in wanting to have a natural birth. This reaction is textbook for advancing labor according to our Bradley Class, so I knew to expect it and I knew what it meant—that things were progressing naturally.

Instead of yelling for the midwife to GET THE DAMN EPIDURAL...STAT! , I knew I needed to keep Lisa calm and let her know I heard and understood her. So I kept calmly repeating, I know. Yes, I know it hurts. I know it’s hard. I know… That sympathetic tone, I learned later, helped her stay calm and let her know that I really got it. Plus, I knew there would be no doubt if she absolutely NEEDED an epidural a little later that I would know that, since we had over 20 years practice “reading” each other.

Once Lisa made it through that stage, it was obvious that she began to move inward in preparation for the real work ahead. The moaning that came with each contraction even started changing. The moans started normally but ended at a much lower pitch—almost guttural. Because of our Bradley Class and the birth videos we watched each week, I knew this was another natural progression toward delivery, and having that knowledge helped me remain very calm.

At one point, I noticed something really interesting. Lisa had a team of three—doula Nancy, midwife Amy, and me—with her at all times during labor, but the interesting part was how we worked together. During the time between contractions, Lisa rested, and the three of us rested too. Nancy and I sat in chairs on either side of the bed, while Amy sat nearby, occasionally checking the fetal heart monitor. Mostly we chatted during rest periods—How was Lisa doing? Does everything look normal so far? Was there anything we needed her to do or focus on during the next contraction? It was a pretty routine and relaxed time for us too.

But then Lisa would start to stir again, signaling that another contraction was building, and we would rise almost simultaneously and assume our work positions. Nancy worked hard to keep Lisa physically relaxed, mainly by helping her unclench the vise grip she had on the bed rail during the pain of each contraction. I worked the mental relaxation angle by keeping a hand on Lisa (NOT ON THE BACK…DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH MY BACK!) and talking quietly in her ear about her favorite place on Earth—the beach—and trying to take her there mentally. I talked about feeling the heat of the sun, smelling and tasting the salt spray, reveling in the presence of good friends and the sheer joy we’d have of taking Kate to the beach with us this summer. Amy supervised the medical side with an absolute calm and she updated us on things or offered coaching advice as needed.

It was weird, because we all moved in concert…first relaxing, then working, then relaxing again with the ebb and flow of the contractions. I described it to Lisa as if we were a single organism, breathing and moving together in common purpose. It still strikes me as a strange phenomenon.

After years of things going wrong in the child-having department, I kept finding myself surprised that things were moving along so normally and naturally. So normal and natural, in fact, that I never even went to that dark place, the one my imagination often takes me too when things aren’t exactly as planned. The place that would make me see everything as a potential problem with the most dire implications. You know, the place I went during Lisa’s first pregnancy. But normal and natural they were, so I just went with it. I had no choice, after all, Lisa was already there and I had to support her.

And then things got serious…still normal, but serious. Lisa’s sounds went from guttural moaning to a series of deep and quick grunts, which means it’s time to push. At first, Amy wanted us to keep Lisa from pushing, but really, other than saying Don’t push yet, there’s nothing we can do to stop a laboring woman from pushing. When Lisa insisted she needed to push, Amy did a quick check and found that everything appeared ready for it. I think she was a little surprised it all went so fast, but there we were.

I remember asking Amy, Is this the point where Lisa will start calling me bad names? This was what I was used to seeing on TV and in the movies—pregnant women in serious pain, yelling, screaming and swearing. Amy gave me the same serene look she’d had from the beginning of labor and said, We’re beyond that point already. I guess she won’t be calling you names at all.

But our roles did change…at least mine and Amy’s did. Nancy kept Lisa focused on physical relaxation. Amy shifted to sitting on Lisa’s bed to monitor the baby’s progress directly and to support the perineum during pushing. Lisa rolled partially onto her left side to push, and I moved down to support Lisa’s right leg for the final effort.

Several months into this pregnancy, we discussed how we wanted the whole labor and delivery to go down, and Lisa insisted she wanted me at her head, holding her hand and talking her through the process. Definitely NOT down at the business end of things. And I never thought I wanted to be down there either.

Another important thing we learned in the few Bradley Classes we’d been to was to learn and plan but always remain flexible, because the mother will just know what to do when it comes down to it. Since Lisa was on her side, that’s where she needed to be, and my job was to be down where I was needed, holding her leg.

Of course, that means I have a full view of the entire delivery, and I do mean everything. First of all, there is an insane amount of blood coming out. Yes, I know Lisa’s blood volume increased by about 50% during the pregnancy, but that was still a lot of blood. I checked in with Amy, who assured me that everything was normal, but still….

After Lisa pushed through several contractions, I started noticing Kate’s head appearing. Amy told Lisa to reach down and feel the baby’s head. I’m sure that was supposed to remind her how close she was to having Kate in her arms, but it reminded me of that too.

Each time Lisa pushed, Kate’s head emerged a little further out but then receded when pushing stopped. We all tried to get Lisa to push for longer and to renew the push with every breath, but Lisa wouldn’t do it. Instead she’d take several breaths before pushing again. Again, mom knew best. Amy pointed out that the way Lisa pushed actually saved her from tearing, because it gave everything time to stretch properly and make room for Kate’s head.

Two more times Amy instructed Lisa to reach down and feel her baby—once right at the crowning and then after Kate’s head was delivered. Both times seemed to give Lisa an additional boost of stamina to finish the job.

In what seemed like 15 minutes—but was an hour and 15 minutes according to Amy—Kate was finally here. Her umbilical cord was pretty short, so they were only able to get her onto Lisa’s tummy, not at her breast like we’d hoped. But she was here, she was alive and Lisa was doing great too! After a bit, the cord stopped pulsing, so Amy clamped it off and I cut the cord. Even though I knew the cord would be tough, I didn’t know just how tough. I managed to get through it without too much angst.

Kate was quite a tiny monkey at 5lbs 6oz and 5 weeks early, so they took her over to the in-room warming table (the tanning booth) to regulate her body temperature and to take her through a battery of tests. They wanted to make sure Kate wasn’t having any of the typical preemie problems. Amy and Nancy were with Lisa helping her deliver the placenta and making sure she was okay, and I stayed at the table with the pediatrician who was checking Kate out, quizzing her about everything she was doing. I’m sure I annoyed Dr. Choi, but she was great about answering all the questions I asked. What are you doing? Why? What did you learn? Is this normal? Bottom line, Kate was small and early, but in good health.

And then they left us alone with Kate to breastfeed. WHAT!?! She was five weeks early and they’re just leaving her here with us? She’s okay? Really?

Okay…now what? Lisa and I had changed a total of one diaper between us…ever. And that was on a two year old, who basically told us what to do.

But you know what? We’ve figured it out. And everything’s been great so far—a blur sometimes because of the lack of sleep, but a great blur!

We were the people who expected everything to go wrong with this latest attempt to start a family. That attitude would infect the best of us after everything we’ve been through—five years of desperately wanting kids, four miscarriages and countless failures to even conceive, three years (and counting) of waiting for a China adoption that was supposed to take about half that time, two years of hearing that our Nepal adoption would happen “any day now” and most of one year always expecting the worst with this pregnancy.

For a long time, this little countdown of ours ended at zero...zero babies, zero hope of ever having one, zero reasons to keep trying and zero motivation to keep a positive attitude about the whole damn mess. That’s a grim place to be, trust me. Zero fun, if you will….

But this countdown ends at one for us—one tiny, beautiful, amazing, miraculous, awe-inspiring little package that flipped our world upside down.

It also ends with infinity—an infinite store of love we didn’t know we had in us. The kind of love that takes our breath away. Sends us to the nursery every five minutes to watch her sleep. Expands the heart to bursting before expanding it even more. Makes us question why we resisted this so much for so long. And sets us up for many sleepless nights reveling in the minutiae that make this tiny creature so precious to us.

None of which came up in my 35 weeks water broke Google search.

Monday, January 25, 2010

How small is small?

Just to give you an idea of how small our little Kate is, take a look at this picture.

The outfit on the left is a 0-3 month outfit--typical of most of the clothes in Kate's closet. The outfit on the right was a gift from Sara and Gustav who showed up with a preemie outfit and preemie diapers--yay! No more plumber's crack on our little girl when her diaper starts to fall off. Not that her little hiney isn't too cute for words but we're trying to avoid the working-girl look at this stage in her life.

We take her in this afternoon for another weigh-in at the doctor's office. Hopefully she will have gained a little more weight from this weekend.

Below are some test shots we are working on for a birth announcement. Finding that short window of opportunity when her eyes are actually open (and ours too for that matter) is proving to be challenging.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Kate's first shopping trip

We finally managed to make it outside for something more than a trip to the pediatrician. It felt so nice to be outside and walking again in some fresh air! We wrapped Kate up in the Moby (which is a two-person job at the very least for now) and headed up to Clark Street for a shopping adventure and an early dinner at the pizza place. Once the Moby was wrapped and on I found it incredibly comfortable and apparently so did Kate as she slept through the three hours we were gone.

We bought some baby soap/shampoo in anticipation of her first bath since her umbilical cord fell off sometime Thursday. We thought we had lost it until I found it today, on the floor near the rocking chair where I feed her. Good thing we no longer have a cat as that could have become a surprise crunchy treat....Ummm, it's like pork rind, just made from Baby Kate.

Here's the Moby in action:

And all bundled up for the elements, although it was surprisingly warm today--in the upper 30's I think. (I can't believe I just said that upper 30's is warm....a year in Chicago will totally skew your view on what is warm and what isn't).

At Friday's ped. appointment, Kate had gained another ounce, putting her at an even 5 lbs. We go back for another weigh-in on Monday.

Kate has had a few visitors. Karen came by yesterday and Sara and Gustav (from our Bradley class) are coming over in a few minutes. She's a popular girl!

Here's Karen trying to get Kate to wake up and make eye contact...it proved to be a fruitless effort.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lip-smacking good

Good news from the pediatrician. Kate weighed 4 lbs 15 oz at her checkup yesterday so that was a 2 oz gain in 2 days. We're still working at latching on for breastfeeding so we are supplementing with pumped milk and formula and doing paced bottle-feeding to mimic how milk comes out of the breast. She's doing much better now than just a few days ago. She was also a tad bit jaundiced on the lower half of her body on Monday but is now pink all over.

Enjoy the video of dinnertime. She does this lip-smack after eating that cracks us up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Labor Story, Part 2

Monday, January 11th, started out what was supposed to be a busy week of appointments and last-minute shopping to get baby supplies in place. I interviewed another pediatrician that morning, came home and had some lunch and then went to the gym to do my ordeal on the treadmill. I managed 45 minutes at 2.3mph and then spent about 15 minutes doing my stretches from my Bradley class. I came home and settled onto the sofa with a snack to watch some Anthony Bourdain that I had DVR’d. It was around 4:45pm. And then it happened….

I felt what seemed to be a water balloon POP inside me and the next thing I know, water (or rather, amniotic fluid) is EVERYWHERE! All I could think was Oh no, the chocolate leathery goodness that is our sofa! Fortunately, I had on Len’s sweatpants and they soaked up most of the fluid as I raced to the bathroom. What I didn’t know was that the fluid would just keep coming…how much was in there for heaven’s sake?? After changing clothes and lining my underwear with multiple layers of pads, I called Len at work.

Me: Come home—my water broke! I have to call my midwife and my doula.

And then I hung up on him.


I left him hanging there, with no other news and a long train ride home. I soon found out what a panicked husband does with no other resources. He posts an update on Facebook. And I only know this because my mom calls and says she saw Len's post on FB and is everything ok?

In the meantime, I called Amy, our midwife. After a few questions, she told me to have a light dinner, pack a bag, and then come to the birth center at the hospital. Pack a bag? Does this mean this is it? I don't know what I was thinking but having a baby 5 weeks early when we aren't ready was not on my list of things to do this week.

Once we made it to the birth center/hospital, Amy met us to evaluate the situation. Len had been timing my contractions at about every 3 minutes and they lasted less than 30 seconds and weren’t really that strong yet. I was 50% effaced but not dilated at all and the baby was at -2 station.

This refers to how far the baby is "down" in the pelvis, measured by the relationship of the fetal head to the ischial spines (sit bones). Measured in negative and positive numbers, -5 is a floating baby, 0 station is said to be engaged in the pelvis, and +5 is crowning

Because I was 35 weeks, the baby was considered pre-term which automatically meant I had to be hooked up to a fetal heart monitor on my abdomen which limited my mobility (I had hoped to labor by walking, squatting, etc). I also had not been tested for Group B Strep (that was scheduled for Tuesday’s midwife appointment) so I had to be hooked up to a penicillin IV drip. The nurse had to stick the needle in 5 separate times to find a vein that would work (what is with me and the needle poking??? First the CVS and the 3 tries at getting samples, then the gestational diabetes testing and now this?). I had to keep making her stop when a contraction would hit since I would move during the attempt. Alas, it turns out it was for the best as I did test positive for Group B strep.

With the help of my doula, Nancy, and the midwife, we discussed the options available to help things progress. I was adamantly against Pitocin as I knew it could bring on contractions so hard that most of the time you scream for an epidural and the stronger contractions can stress the baby. It just cannot mimic what should happen naturally. Fortunately, that never came up and instead Amy recommended inserting Cervidil. She said it is usually a 12 hour wait for the drug to do its work but that would allow me to rest up for the task at hand come Tuesday morning. In addition, Nancy put some partridge berry on a cloth and tied it near my head on the bed. This is a natural herb that will also stimulate the uterus to do its job.

Nancy then headed to a local restaurant to get some takeout for us since we had not had much of a dinner. It was around 10pm. She brought back a BLT for me and a cheeseburger for Len. I had maybe ¼ of the sandwich but was not feeling particularly hungry at that point.

After that, Nancy headed home to get some sleep, I was given an Ambien to help me sleep through the mild contractions and everybody assumed we would resume again around 8am on Tuesday.

As you can see below, I am still smiling. As Julie, my Bradley instructor would say, If you're still smiling, you're not in active labor.

I have no idea how much time elapsed (Len said it was about 2 hours) but I do know that the Ambien never did its job as the contractions became stronger and lasted a bit longer. I had been trying to labor by standing by the bed but the contractions literally buckled my knees so Len helped me back into bed to labor on my side. Amy came in and I remember looking at Len and saying over and over and over again, I don’t think I can do this anymore, I can’t do this without drugs, WHAT WAS I THINKING?? Len, to his credit, remained calm and just kept saying I know, I know. And this is where the Bradley class helped me. It helped Len remain calm because he knew that my doubt about continuing meant I was entering active labor. It helped him focus me and keep me relaxed. For me, it became a touchstone to let me know what stage of labor I was in so that the journey wasn’t so foreign or traumatic. I could see the end even at this point.

One of the most surreal things during this whole process is that I seemed to be in two places during most of the laboring. On the one hand, I was inside the pain, feeling every second of the contraction. On the other hand, I was hovering outside my body, watching and hearing the low groaning coming from my body, and thinking Ok, the moans are coming on deeper so that must mean I am in the transitional phase which is progress.

As I was saying that I couldn’t take the pain anymore, Amy did another exam and was surprised to find that in the four hours since inserting the cervidil, I was now 100% effaced, 4cm dilated and the baby was now at -1 station. She removed the cervidil and Len called Nancy who had just gotten into bed to tell her that I was now in active labor (it was now midnight). Notice the smile is now gone...

And the remaining 3 ½ hours is where Len’s and my stories are wildly divergent (he will be writing his version her at some point as well). I remember Nancy coming back and feeling like Ah, I’m safe now. I have Len, Nancy and Amy and I will be ok. I could swear that I had whole conversations with all three of them but they all insist I never said much of anything during the rest of labor. The whole labor process was very quiet, the lighting was low (Nancy had provided battery-powered candles) and it was all very calm. It was nothing like the TLC Baby Story tv show. There was never any screaming, no bright lights, no nurse telling me to PUSHPUSHPUSHPUSHPUSH!!! It was all very primal for me.

And here’s where I explain how I coped with the pain.

OH MY. THE PAIN. There is a lot of pain. Pain, pain, pain, and I thought I was going to want to walk around and sit on a ball or drape myself around Len’s neck, but the only position that feels good is to roll over, grab the side rail and bury my head into the bed. Nancy kept holding my hand, uncurling it from the clenched fist as I gripped the rail and telling me to relax into the pain, not to fight it. And Len is behind me, talking about the beach and how warm the water is and how good the hot sand feels on my feet. And that's where I stay for I don't know how long because when you're in that kind of pain time turns into a mystical, ethereal wind chime with pointy-eared fairies and stars on it, and it starts to speak one of those languages in a Tolkien book, and I keep looking up from the bed between contractions and asking, Is this real? Am I really here? Is this really happening? except that no one can understand me. Len just keeps talking about the beach, Nancy keeps holding my hand and Amy is rubbing my back.

And then I became annoyed with the back rubbing and most of all, with the nurse who kept moving the fetal heart monitor during my contractions. What could feel worse than to have something digging into your abdomen in the direct opposite direction that the baby is headed?? Fortunately, as I kept pushing her hand out of the way of the monitor, Amy stepped in and guided the nurse—as the baby descended, so did her heart which is why the monitor kept losing the beat. You would think the nurse could figure that out….

I had hoped to be more lucid and aware of Len and what was actually happening but suddenly I was out of my body again. I could hear myself moaning and then uttering this deep grunting and that’s where my out-of-body self said, Hey!It’s the pushing phase—the baby is coming! except that Amy kept telling me not to push. NOT TO PUSH?? That is physically impossible I say, except again, nobody seems to understand me. This goes on for what seems like an eternity when Amy decides that maybe she should check my cervix again since I keep grunting and trying to push. According to Len, it was now around 2:25am.

Amy is more than surprised to find I am 10cm dilated and ready to go. She tells me to start pushing so I push for what I thought was only 3 times but find out later that it was an hour and 10 minutes. I remember Nancy saying Reach down and feel your baby as she was descending.

And then the burning started. The proverbial RING OF FIRE you hear about. And they WERE NOT KIDDING ABOUT THE BURNING. I would push and start to feel the burn which made me stop. And Len, Nancy and Amy kept up the encouragement, telling me to push through the pain, that the baby was right there, that it was almost over, that our baby was almost here, just another push. And suddenly, I was feeling a round, hairy head in the palm of my hand.

SHE’S HERE! OH MY GOD, SHE’S REALLY HERE! And I think I’m done but NO!Amy says to keep pushing, she still has the rest of her body inside me. SERIOUSLY? I thought I was done!! So I push one more time and I am not even kidding you, it felt like a jack-in-the-box had exploded out of me, arms and legs a-flying and it was the best feeling in the world to know I had done it and made it through to the other side.

And here’s where things get really sketchy for me. I don’t remember anything really coherently for quite some time. Len says Kate was placed on my abdomen because her umbilical cord was abnormally short. After the cord had stopped pulsing, Len cut it and Kate was taken to a warming tray to be checked out since she was a preemie. I delivered the placenta and remember Amy showing it to me and describing which part was attached to my uterus, opening it up to show me where Kate had lived for the past 8+ months. We had what seemed like quite a long discussion about placentas. She delivered the good news that I had only a minor tear that would not require stitching.

And then I think I passed out because the next thing I remember is being wheeled to another room.

Once there, the hormones kicked in, or maybe it was the sharp contrast of going from that amount of pain to none at all, but I was totally high. Like, ten lines of cocaine high. HIGH. And that feeling was so strong and lasted so long that for three days straight all I did was stare at that baby and fall madly, deeply, and ferociously in love.

I did it. I totally did it. And I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be able to have this experience, that nothing went wrong. That they didn't have to intervene. That Kate was ok without the extra 5 weeks of cooking inside me. I know that. I know how lucky I am.

But I'm also so damn proud of myself for conquering this challenge, for doing the work and having it pay off, and having lived through that kind of pain, having gone into that place inside, I now have a new perspective on life. Yes, on life.

It's just changed everything, I can't deny it.

She changed everything.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Labor Story, Part 1

Warning: The jaded, sometimes cynical Lisa, will not be in evidence in this post. I know this will come as a surprise to those of you who are used to the oft-times snarky, disillusioned posts of a woman whose hopes to have a child have been thwarted for so long. All I can say is that this was the most sacred and spiritual experience I have ever had. Yes. Sacred and spiritual. Words you never thought you'd hear from someone who has had the rug ripped out from under her more times than she can count.

Up until the third or fourth month of pregnancy, I thought I would be the woman who walked in and demanded an epidural because I was “cramping” and thought I might be in labor. Give me the epidural and any other pain relief, maybe throw in a couple dozen shots of bourbon, and how about you just put me under general anesthesia and wake me up two days later. The fact that I'm not good with pain is an understatement. I tend to complain and holler and call people regrettable things. I was also all for technology and high risk specialists and the most superior hospital our insurance would pay for. Why would you do anything less?

I was also under the impression, having never really researched the subject whatsoever, that any woman who would opt for a homebirth was not only COMPLETELY OUT OF HER MIND but was also not interested in the safety of her unborn child. I mean, there's a reason that infant and maternal mortality rates are so much better than a hundred years ago, right? HOSPITALS. And MEDICINE. And smart people we call DOCTORS. Yes, women routinely used to go out into the field by themselves and give birth without any assistance, and many of them routinely did not return BECAUSE THEY DIED.

And then I read Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s book, Your Best Birth. I was all prepared to be totally against the “crunchy granola-iness” of the birthing experience and to view these people as tree-hugging hippies who don’t appreciate what modern medicine can do for you. I bet they don't even wear deoderant and smell like patchouli!

And then, oh God, the worst thing happened. And I didn't even see it coming, but I'm sitting there reading that book, gritting my teeth, shaking my head when all of a sudden it started to make sense. I started to see just how medicalized labor and birth have become in America AND THERE GOES MY WORLD VIEW.

So then I watched Ricki Lake's movie The Business of Being Born and my fate was sealed. I was on the computer, researching doulas and making a list of questions for my OB. I have to say that my first inkling that I was talking to a surgeon first and a labor/delivery-friendly doctor second was this conversation:

Me: My husband would like to know if you could refer us to someone who can perform a vasectomy (nothing like planning far in advance right?).

Dr. Scalpel: Well, when you have a c-section we can just tie your tubes.

Me: Blink. Blink blink. Uh, what? I’m only 12 weeks pregnant and you’re talking c-section?

Dr. Scalpel: You ARE of advanced maternal age and have had 4 previous miscarriages…

And on he went citing statistics for women my age delivering a healthy baby and DON’T I WANT WHAT IS BEST FOR MY BABY, SHE COULD DIE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DELIVER VAGINALLY!??

At the next appointment, I think I surprised him when suddenly the woman who was all EPIDURAL ON THE ROCKS, PLEASE! suddenly starting asking about the c-section rate at the hospital, and what was his policy on episiotomies? Laboring at home? And this? And that? And, what do you know, he started fidgeting nervously, setting his mouth in a patronizing smile, subtly shaking his head, and that was the quickest check-up I'd had the whole pregnancy!

So I spent a lot of time researching hospitals, interviewing various doctors and finally settled on the midwifery group at another hospital.

Yes, a home birth sounded appealing but I’m not completely crazy…I do know the statistics for women my age with my obstetrical history are not stellar. And I wanted the security that if something were to go dreadfully wrong, there would be an OB on call to take over from the midwives.

I also spent a lot of time sitting alone, just me and the baby in my womb, thinking and feeling and wrapping my brain around the fact that we might finally realize our dream. I studied pain management techniques and reached far down inside my gut to prepare myself for the ultimate experience a human being can have: giving someone life. Which is why I do not understand it when someone compares a root canal to giving birth when they say, well, you take pain medication for a root canal, why wouldn't you for labor? Do you not see the absurdity in that? Comparing the birth of a human being to a tooth? With a dental procedure, you are not a participant in the outcome of what is going on in your mouth. With labor, you are truly the one doing the work, fully participating and experiencing life as it comes into the world. It’s not anything like a root canal which is basically fixing something that has decayed. Birth is a natural process and I thought, if this is my only shot at giving birth, why would I want to miss that?

Ok, stepping off soap box now. It was very uncomfortable up there at that altitude. Feeling dizzy.

So, one of the ways we prepared was to sign up for a Bradley class taught by Julie Parache under the recommendation of my midwives. We never managed to finish the class but the several that we made it to were unbelievably helpful in preparing us for what to expect.

We also hired Nancy Cowans to be our doula. We wrote a birth plan, half of which went out the window as soon as my water broke 5 weeks early. But, it helped us to think in advance about what interventions we would want or not want, knowing that in the moment contractions became harder, I would be vulnerable to having more interventions. I wanted to experience everything as fully as I could but in a safe environment with people I trusted.

So I was preparing myself for the pain, mentally, physically, and emotionally, and surrounding myself with a team of people who could help me through it. We worked through what I wanted and how to make that happen. Mind you, I went into this knowing fully that what I wanted to happen could be completely derailed by any sort of crisis concerning me or the baby. Making it out alive with a healthy baby was my top priority, of course, but if there was no need for pitocin or an epidural or a vacuum or forceps or an emergency c-section, then that's what I wanted.

And really, that's not a lot to ask.

I know this is the part where you say, where is Lisa and why has she been replaced with Woodstock, tree-hugger Lisa? The next post will answer that question as I relate what happened over the course of the 11 hours that changed my life.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mostly pictures

Things are going well here but we are a bit tired (that's an understatement really...). Kate had her first doctor visit today and she weighed 4 lbs 13 oz so we're working hard to get some more weight on her. She likes to sleep so we really have to work hard to get her to feed every three hours. Feedings usually take anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on how easily she latches on for breastfeeding and then we have to follow up with the bottle to be sure she gets enough. We take her back to the doctor on Wednesday.

This is at the doctor's office:

Yet another outfit that swallows her!

She manages to get her hands free of the swaddling nearly every single time. This is naptime in her crib. During the night she sleeps in our room in a pack and play we were fortunate enough to borrow from our Bradley class instructor (more on the Bradley class when I get around to finishing the labor/birth story). During the day she sleeps in her crib in the nursery which is where this pic. was taken.

Sleeping on my lap after a feeding.

Bedtime! The only hats that fit her are from the hospital!

More napping after feeding. Boy am I tired!

Hard to sleep when she does since I love to hold her--still can't believe she's really here...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Early Arrival

Kate Evelyn decided to arrive 5 weeks early! She was born at 3:33am Tuesday, January 12 weighing 5 pounds, 6 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. I guess she knew that mommy was not enjoying her pregnancy and decided to cut her some slack. Kate was perfectly healthy and did not need to have oxygen or go to the NICU. She roomed with us in hospital and we all came home Thursday night at 10pm. We are adjusting to life with little sleep but are in heaven and enjoying every minute of our new lives together.

My middle name is Kate and was actually chosen by my mom so it has special meaning for us. Although I had a love/hate relationship with my middle name in my early years as I often heard it in the context of LISA KATE!! DON'T TALK BACK TO ME!, I have grown to love it. It also has the bonus of being Len's grandmother's name!

Evelyn is Len's mom's name. She passed away over 2 years ago but would have been overjoyed to have a new grandbaby in the family to spoil and hold. If she had had her way, I would have been pregnant the second we said I do, preferably in the minutes between the wedding ceremony and the reception (just, God forbid, not before the wedding).

When I am more coherent I will share more of the labor/birth story. It was truly the most amazing thing I've ever experienced and I can't wait to put it all down before my memory fades...

In the meantime, enjoy some photos.

On the warming tray a few minutes after birth

Len keeping her body temperature up with some skin/skin contact

More body warming which worked quite well according to the pediatrician who was checking on her quite often

Getting ready to go home!

Tiny feet

In her nursery, 5 days old

Friday, January 8, 2010

Holy Cow--not sure I should have looked at this

So, curiosity got the better of me and I checked our China agency's website to see how many of their dossiers were matched with children last year. That probably wasn't my best plan for today.

From January 2009-December 2009, the CCAA in China only matched files with LID's from March 1, 2006 to....are you ready? March 31, 2006.

It took one year to match one month of files. Seriously.

According to their information, that equals 143 children for that month/year of matching. There were two sets of twins matched so only 141 families were matched with children IN THE WHOLE OF 2009.

So, if they are just now looking at matching April 2006 files and our LID is April 2007....methinks we will not be seeing a referral from China...ever. Or at least before we near retirement age.

Meanwhile, a bit to the south of China, in Nepal, rumors continue to swirl that matches that were made in September will be issued travel approvals "soon" and new referrals will be sent "soon". There is a woman in our Nepal yahoo group who was in Nepal last week and spoke with both the Ministry officials and the officials at Bal Mandir (one of the largest orphanages) and the story seems to be that no one can agree with certain passages of the new agreement with the government so everything is still at a complete standstill. Some people's agencies are saying "2-4 weeks for TAs and referrals" but they've been saying that since last year. I've heard nothing from our agency so alas, Nepal seems to be no closer than China.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Yet another reason I want to be tall in my next life

Despite the fact that I feel miserable, all continues to go well with my midwife checkups. I had another one today and although the car slipped a few times on our unplowed alley, I managed to make it to the hospital and home through the 4-5" of snow that had accumulated by 11am today.

I gained 2 pounds since last week (after losing 1/2 pound) so if you are counting, that is 15 lbs total. Still measuring right on track for 35 weeks and she seems to be cooperating by staying head down, facing my back and providing a good heartrate number in addition to a few kicks when poked and prodded for measurements. Her favorite position seems to be pushing her hiney to my right so I get this rather mis-shapen bulge that looks remarkably like I have a large intestinal tumor. Her tiny foot keeps time on my left side and we can feel it usually after I've had a meal. I personally think it is all the Lady GaGa I make her listen to when Len isn't around.

Her head, unfortunately the largest part of her, is pressing more and more into my pelvis (hello bladder!) and is the cause of the round ligament pain that is mostly on my right groin. It is amazing how much that hurts at 3:30am when you really need to get up to pee but you are rendered immobile from the searing hot muscle spasm shooting into your lower abdomen.

I have also been experiencing tightening in my stomach that then seems to radiate up into my chest and feels frighteningly like a panic attack. For those of you unfamiliar with panic attacks, let me fill you in... I had my first one right after my OB/GYN told me (after our 2nd miscarriage) that we were infertile and probably would never have a baby on our own, much less with my own eggs (nice bedside manner huh?). Of course, it happened at 2am and felt like I was having a heart attack. After several hours and many tests at the emergency room, I was sent home to sleep upright until the panic attack had passed and I could breathe again laying down. I've been fortunate enough to have only had one more since then but when I felt that familiar sensation last week, of course I was not a happy camper.

Why would I be having a panic attack now?? Just because I could go into labor soon and we haven't finished our childbirth classes, I haven't packed, I'm totally not ready yet to bring home a real baby (although a fake one would be a disappointment), I have 5 more prenatal yoga classes I'm signed up for, 2 more pediatricians to interview, recurrent dreams where I am trapped and have no way out....still. No reason to panic right?

So I asked the midwife about it today b/c I seem to have that same sensation of tightening chest combined with not being able to breathe every night except that it goes away after about 30 seconds. Turns out that women of a certain height who don't have enough torso room for a growing uterus tend to experience this whenever a contraction hits. My uterus is now right at the top of my ribs although it feels like it's just underneath my chin frankly. Gina, my midwife, said that it looks like I will be expanding to the left and right and out the front from now on. I have already seen a bit of expansion on the sides but I'm afraid if I go to much more in front I may topple over into the snow. Short people really do get the shaft sometimes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

35 weeks

And feeling every single excruciating bit of being 35 weeks pregnant. See?

This was me last night, when I usually feel my worst. The banana is my snack that gets me through to 3:30am when the alarm goes off so I can eat another snack so my blood sugar remains stable and low. The good thing about these last weeks is that I am sleeping like a cat again--many, many hours. The bad thing is that the round ligament pain is back and is now situated in my groin so that when I do need to get out of bed, the pain in my groin/hip area is so intense that I am frozen in a semi-upright position and can neither move up nor down. Len usually awakens to find me groaning, on all fours, trying to breathe through the pain before I collapse back down and lay like a slug until I can regroup and try again, this time with Len pushing from behind.

Fortunately, our doula dropped by yesterday and recommended the hot rice bags she prepared for me and that helped tremendously last night. And today's prenatal yoga class had me smiling enough again to take updated photos when I got home from class:

I think the last picture, my view when I look down, is the most intimidating. Especially when navigating stairs since I cannot see my feet and my balance is sketchy at best. With tomorrow's expected foot of snowfall happening just in time for my next prenatal appointment, walking outside will take quite a bit of concentration.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Nursery is finished!

Thanks to my mom, Len and my strangely sudden nesting urges, the nursery is finally complete. The walls are zesty lime and the ceiling is a soft pink. The ceiling fixture is a chandelier from a downtown Chicago store, Mary Mary. The wall shelves are from Ikea. The stencil is from Blik. The curtains are from PBKids. The rug circles are from Flor. The dresser is from my childhood--I just painted the drawers pink and orange. The crib is by Pali.

The rocker and ottoman came from BuyBuyBaby, the table is from Ikea and the lamp and chair pillow are from Target.

The mirrors are from Ikea.

The bookcase and glass wall cabinet were yard sale finds that I painted, the dresser with removable changing tabletop we got on Craig's List.

The closet is Elfa from The Container Store. As you can see, we have plenty of clothes! Many thanks to Audrey who gave us two enormous bags of clothes from her daughter. Most of the toys, the high chair and the baby carriers came from Michelle so a huge shoutout to her as well.

The photo of the succulent flower on the shelf is by a local artist in Chicago. The porcelain Japanese doll in the glass case was a gift to me as a child by my Uncle Pat.

The frog was a fun find at a small shop in Winchester, VA a few years ago.

The painting is by a DC artist who sold her work at Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. The hanging elephants came from a small Nepalese shop in Asheville, NC.

Now all we need is the baby! Only 6 more weeks to go.


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