Thursday, October 15, 2020

Surprise, it's a birth story!

Oh hi. It's been almost a month since my last post, where I mentioned that I had planned to sign on to write Wes' birth story, but instead accidentally deleted the many, many words I'd typed over the course of several months' worth of tiny moments to write. Sigh. I guess I've finally come to terms with deleting that post, and feel ready to re-write some version of the tale. And today yesterday (took me a few hours to write this and now it's tomorrow), Wes is 6 months old, so it felt like a good time to get this story out of me already. Margie and I made him half a cake today (well, really a whole cake, but I cut the layers in half, and it's a 4-layer "half cake"), and gave him one tiny lick of frosting. He has two teeth, has mastered rolling in one direction, is doing okay with bedtime sleep training, LOVES eating baby food and teething crackers, and has a smile that lights up his whole face. His sister makes him laugh a lot. He thinks I'm hilarious, too. We've been staying with my in-laws for the last couple of months because of covid and needing childcare help, and while I am incredibly grateful for their hospitality, care, and companionship, it's heartbreaking that my family hasn't met this guy yet. He's good with FaceTime, but it's obviously not enough, and I'm hopeful we can make it work to see them soon, because wow does it make me sad to be so far from them as this guy just keeps growing. He is usually a bundle of smiles and happiness, though right now he's crying because he woke up and I haven't gone in to nurse him (sleep training).

But I digress. This was supposed to be a birth story. I don't really have it in me to do the super detailed paragraphs of prose, but I'll tell the story. It will probably end up being long.

My last month of pregnancy was the first month of shelter-in-place. To say it was weird is an understatement. Margie home from preschool, Will working from home, me trying to figure out if I was going to go into labor or get induced (gestational diabetes, yay), and our families not knowing how and when and if they would be able to come visit. We all assumed this would last a few weeks or a few months, tops. Sigh.

We eventually landed on our beloved nanny quarantining for two weeks and then coming to stay with Margie the day I was scheduled to be induced (one day before my due date), which was honestly wonderful from a planning perspective. We were able to be relaxed and calm about the whole going to the hospital experience, which was great for Margie. We had a day at home all together, hanging out and packing our bags and waiting for our time to go. I'm so grateful that we got to do that, instead of being home when I went into labor, hurried and stressed and in pain. 

When we arrived at the hospital, around 3pm, we were delighted to run into Nurse Kate (from Margie's birth) in the parking lot. We were giddy with anticipation and the joy of seeing a friendly face, and she escorted us into the building (we were all masked but social distancing wasn't really a thing yet). We were taken to the delivery room quickly, since they were expecting us, and settled in for the day. They started me off with a dose of misoprostol and fentanyl (wow, fentanyl is the good stuff. I can see why it's addictive and nobody should be allowed to self-administer it. wow.), but nothing really started happening. I was feeling chipper, and excited that Kate and our other friend Bry were both working (we had definitely tried to plan for this, but there was no guarantee). They weren't assigned to us, but it wasn't too busy so they were able to come and hang out, and our other nurses were delightful as well. It felt like a big clubhouse of women, coming together to socialize and get a baby born, and I definitely felt a sort of high just from being in a room of friends, laughing and talking, as if we weren't in the early stages of a pandemic. 

After several hours, and another round of miso+fentanyl, we amped it up to a foley balloon and catheter. Now, originally we had considered a plan that would have me getting the foley and going home for 12 hours to begin labor at home before returning...I am very glad we did not do that plan. I can't imagine waddling around the house with a balloon in my cervix and a catheter taped to my thigh, Margie hanging all over me, as I went into labor without medication. No thanks. The balloon did its thing, but eventually we moved on to pitocin and an epidural. The pitocin moved things along, albeit slowly; I had gone from zero to 5cm over the course of about 24 hours, and it was time to make things happen. 

At about 3pm or so, on April 14 (my due date), someone manually broke my water, and labor picked up. Within the hour, I was at 7cm, but then it became harder to get the baby's heartbeat on the monitor. The doctor checked me (still at 7cm), and suggested we place an internal monitor and have me move onto all fours for better tracking positioning. The nurse started to place the monitor, and was going to have me switch to all fours, when the doctor decided to check me one last time before leaving. It had only been about 90 seconds, but suddenly I was at 10cm and ready to push! Apparently the reason they were having trouble getting a heartbeat was that Wes was in the birth canal trying to be born. 

After only two rounds of pushing, Wes was born. It took less than 10 minutes (barely more than 5 minutes, really - they call it "two pushes" but technically it's like, 6 pushes, 3 at a time?) and when they pulled him out and handed him to me, I couldn't believe it. One minute I was pushing and they were exclaiming that they could see his head, and the next, I was being given a baby. I remember thinking, "what?! already?! I'm done pushing (possibly forever? since this is likely our last baby? I'll never push again? that was it?) and somehow being disappointed that it had happened so quickly (after 24 hours in the hospital, but still). It was super smooth, with no tearing, and as Margie had encouragingly requested, "fast as a shooting star." 4/14/20 at 4:59pm. 

I delivered the placenta without much fanfare, and we have a nice video of the placenta coming out and the doctor explaining all the parts of it (we did the same when Margie was born, though we didn't capture the actual delivery that time), and it's pretty neat to see that now. I nursed Wes just a little, and he latched easily, though I'm not sure he was getting much at that point. Eventually, the epidural had worn off and the nurse said it was time to see if I could get to the bathroom on my own. I had no trouble walking the few feet to the toilet, but once I sat down I instantly got very dizzy. I mentioned this to her, and she asked if I thought I would pass out, and I remember thinking, "no, of course not oh yes actually I am going to pass out this is what it feels like when you're going to pass out I guess" and she shoved an alcohol wipe under my nose to wake me up. She told me to try to stay with her, and moved me back into the wheelchair, since I could not walk to the bed. I felt ok after a minute, but when she asked if I could stand up and get back in the bed, I think I may have laughed. At the very least, I said no way.

Somehow they got me back into the bed, and that's when the fun really started. I was still dizzy, and had to lay down with my eyes closed. I was cold, but feverish. Started getting uncontrollable shakes. They started in on my fundal massage, and I was just splooging clots out...apparently some very large ones. Will reports that they were golf-ball-sized. The nurses and doctor seemed concerned, and tried a few different things to stop the hemorrhaging. I don't remember what they all were because I was pretty out of it; I remember asking for blankets, mostly. I don't remember feeling stressed out or scared. They had hooked my epidural back up, I think. Or maybe given me fentanyl. It was 6 months ago and my memory is pretty blurry. And the post-visit summaries are...long and kind of hard to read. But I know that they tried a few things before eventually resorting to the ole "doctor sticks her hand up into your uterus and literally scrapes out the remaining blood clots with her hand" trick (I couldn't feel a thing), which worked. The whole thing probably lasted about 10-15 minutes. Will remembers that suddenly there were a bunch of people in the room when I came out of the bathroom and was put back in bed, and then just as suddenly, when the bleeding had slowed enough, they all left. That whole time, he had Wes and had given him a bottle (baby's first formula!) and really just was a champ taking care of Wes even though I know he was stressed out.

I spent the next several hours laying in bed hooked up to a variety of IVs that I don't remember - except the big bag of iron, because that was, well, iron-colored. Once I had perked up a little, we started ordering copious amounts of delicious hospital food (seriously, the selection was great) and our friends did a socially-distant sidewalk dropoff of burgers and milkshakes. 

I wasn't feeling great, emotionally, and we had a great visit with a doctor who was able to prescribe me Zoloft to start in the hospital. I don't know if it's the pandemic, the second-kid, or what, but I am really grateful to have had that help. I recognized some of those "first 3 weeks" hormonal rollercoaster feelings that I had had with Margie, and I thought that since I was already feeling them in the hospital, and I knew we were going home to zero extra support and help in person (thanks, covid), it was better to address it head on. I remain really grateful for modern medicine and my personal (privileged) education and destigmatization of mental health. 

Anyway, Wes was a happy, sleepy baby in the hospital, and really remained a great lil sleeper for the first several months (he's still pretty good, just going through a bit of 6-month old "oh I can get snuggles instead of sleeping alone? I'll take that, please!" at the moment). Bright eyed and bushy tailed and just a very mellow lil dude. We love him very much. 

Margie is a loving big sister, and is starting to enjoy interacting with him (though she still does not like how drooly he is, and has decided that his middle name should be Goo-ball) (he still doesn't have a middle name; we have not agreed on one yet, nor have we found the time to discuss it at enough length). It's wild to see them together. Sometimes I can't believe we have two kids. I can't believe Margie is four. I can't believe Wes is 6 months old. I can't believe it's October. Every day is still a bit of a blur, and time stretches on and shrinks down predictably (it's "the longest shortest time", after all). But I'm grateful for our little family, and our health, and that in general, we have two happy and well-adjusted (adjusting, I suppose) kids. 

We're doing our best to give them a full and joyful life amidst the awfulness of covid and racial injustice and the general political shitstorm that is our country right now. Every day is a new chance to try again, and every night is another opportunity to stay up way too late, carving out tiny moments of quiet time to myself. It's a bizarre time to have a new baby. I miss my family, and our friends, and home. I grieve the maternity and newborn experience I wanted to have and will never have again. I am exhausted and sad and grinding my teeth constantly even though I try to stop. I often have two children touching my body, and rarely have more than 5 minutes to myself in any given day (hence the staying up way too late). I smell like maple syrup from the fenugreek supplements I take to increase my milk supply.

But we keep moving forward, and making the best choices we can with the information we have, day by day. And here we are.