18 July, 2020

Birth Story. April 28, 2020

Leading up to the birth of my second daughter, I felt all sorts of emotions. Excitement eclipsed all the other emotions, but at various points in time, I felt worried that my husband would not be able to attend the birth, overwhelmed at trying to keep up with all the new rules being thrown my way from the hospital, nervous that the baby would not arrive when my darling aunt was visiting, and hopeful that I would have the type of birth I wanted.
My aunt arrived on April 23, rather late in the evening. My husband and I were so excited to see her, and not just because COVID-19 had restricted our in-person relations with others. We only chatted for a short period of time that night, but spent almost every other night talking for hours after my daughter had gone to bed. I am so thankful that we were able to strengthen our relationship with her and I hope we can keep up that relationship in the future.
As soon as my aunt arrived, we were a little anxious to get the baby out! I bounced quite a bit on my exercise ball. Sunday for dinner, we had spicy Thai food (normally I completely avoid spicy food because I have a food intolerance to onions, peppers, and garlic). 
Monday April 27, I went for a walk. I loaded my three-year-old in the stroller and power walked! ...for about 15 minutes until we started going uphill and then slowed down into a regular stroll. I texted a friend whose home we would be passing, hoping we could wave and talk across her lawn, but she did not see my message until we were on our way home. We meandered, smiled at all the dogs, observed any birds that passed us, and stared at a stream that cuts out a path near my subdivision.
When we got home, we sat and chatted with my aunt as my husband worked on one of his classes. It was the Monday of his last week of classes. As we talked, I noticed my Braxton Hicks were making an appearance again, but this was nothing new. I had felt their presence for at least thirty weeks. After a while, I made a comment that even though they felt uneventful, I noticed there was a pattern emerging. My aunt suggested I start keeping track of them. I recorded my first one at 3:28 that afternoon.
The next two hours, I did not pay much attention to my surroundings, but kept a close eye on the timer. At around 5, I started to really feel them. They were becoming real. I heated up leftovers for my daughter to eat for dinner and made myself a protein smoothie. I wanted healthy calories, but nothing that would sit heavy on my stomach or cause discomfort if my dinner ever wanted to make a reappearance.
After dinner, I tried to enjoy my time with my daughter and not appear too distracted. I helped with bath time and gave her a very long hug after I tucked her in. When she was successfully in bed, my husband said he was planning to mow the lawn that evening. I didn't respond. After he debated with himself for a few minutes, he ruled out that idea. At this point, the contractions were every 3-4 minutes apart and lasting approximately 45 seconds each. After some experimenting, I learned that they seemed to progress more quickly the more I moved around so I tried not to sit too much.
I took a shower at around 8:00. A friend that I had been keeping updated on my progress reminded me to have my husband give me a blessing before things got too crazy. I remained calm during the blessing until he paused at the end. He quickly told me that my mother would be there with me as I went through the labor. That brought the waterworks.
We debated what to do for the next hour. Finally, just after 10, we bid farewell to my aunt and headed out the door. The night was cool and quiet. I tossed my small bag in the car and fiddled with the Gatorade bottle I had brought. As soon as we started our car ride, the contractions immediately went to being over 7 minutes apart.
Right before we got on the freeway, my husband suggested we call my father. We had a nice chat before my call was dropped and continued the rest of our drive listening to solo classical piano music and talking off and on.
We arrived at the hospital at around 11. With the ability to move my body again, my contractions immediately went to 1-3 minutes apart again. We noticed that the main doors of the hospital were completely dark so we meandered towards the ER. We entered the doors and I chuckled under my breath. Those manning the front desk looked at us very expectantly and very ready for any COVID patient that might walk through the door. They were covered in medical gear and there were several medical personnel with a huge space for long lines, but no patients. Seeing my large state and the bag we carried, they probably could have made an educational guess, but instead, "Hello! What brings you to the hospital?"
"I am hoping I will have a baby!"
They chuckled and directed my husband to one person and had me go to another. For all the intensive COVID talk and for being in a county with a high count, I was surprised that they only asked a few questions. We were not tested for COVID nor was our temperature taken.
After we had passed, they told us to head down the hallway to the vending machines and a gentleman would escort us to Labor/Delivery. (Vending machines? That everyone can touch with their germy fingers? During COVID? Strange.) No sooner did we arrive at our destination then we saw our helper. I ensured him that I did not want a wheelchair and he took us down a hall, up an elevator, and a few steps over to the labor and delivery desk.
We checked in with the nurse at the desk and she printed off a sheet of 20 stickers with my information on it. As we waited for her to finish checking us in and fumbled with our masks one of my friends made for us, I noticed something vital on the stickers.
"Huh. Look at the doctor's name." My midwife's name was not listed. Nor was the OB that we had seen during the first trimester. It was the name of the only OB we had not met prior to that night. My husband shrugged. "Maybe they just put his name down, but the midwife will show up."
We were quickly walked down to the triage section, I was handed my attractive gown and shapeless socks and we were told someone would be by soon to connect me to all the monitors. The triage section in this hospital was at the end of a hallway. Each triage "booth" was just large enough for a bed, a chair on one side, and space on the opposite side of the bed for someone to shuffle to the computer. A curtain separated us from the other three triage rooms. As the next nurse came in, I asked if I could walk around, even just pace back and forth on one side of the bed.
"Nope. Sorry. I know that you 'natural birth' girls like doing that, but with COVID, we need you to stay in your bed." Huh? I didn't want to tango down the hallway of the labor and delivery section, hospital gown flying open behind me, breathing my diseased breath on all surfaces, tossing my mask at a nurse in a defiant way. (How does one tango well if they are overdue?) I wanted to pace the four feet to the side of the bed, still hidden from sight by the curtain.
And so we sat.
We settled into our nook at around 11:45. By examining the computer, it was easy to see that my contractions had slowed way down. I was at every 7-10 minutes.
Around 20 minutes passed and the nurse returned. Apparently one of my monitors had come loose. "It looks like your contractions are around every seven minutes. Does that seem accurate?" When I confirmed that what I felt was what I saw on the screen, she said they were consulting with my doctor on call to see if they should keep me.
Oh boy.
My husband and I looked at each other. I didn't want to be released because our drive was so long and it was so late and I was starting to feel so frustrated.
So then, I started what any slightly crazy, overdue woman would do. I stayed on my back as instructed, but started kicking my legs and moving as much as possible while serenading myself with a song of my own impromptu composition.
Whatever I was doing must have worked because not much longer, the nurse came back, said I was getting a room, and checked my dilation. I was only at a 4.5. I glamorously draped the monitor cables around my neck, my husband grabbed my hospital bag, and the nurse speed walked to my room. "Can we go a bit slower?" Pause for contraction.
The room we were led to was beautiful and large. I followed the nurse to the hospital bed, plopped down, and she hooked my up again. We were told that our delivery nurse would be in shortly to introduce herself to us and see if we needed anything. It was around 12:30.
When our nurse entered the room, something seemed off. She quickly introduced herself and after speaking to us for just a minute, quickly left the room. My birth plan sat untouched and we were at a slight loss. I struggled with contractions. I was incredibly warm. In the middle of one contraction, I turned to my husband and asked for a hair tie. My hair was still damp from my shower and it was making me miserable. After I asked, he requested I repeat myself.
"WILL YOU GET ME A HAIR TIE...PLEASE!" He fumbled at a tie on his wrist, handing it over and muttering something about the fact that I was lucky he had long hair.
Around half an hour later, we called in the nurse. Every time we requested her presence, it seemed to take a long time for her to enter the room.
The first time we called her in, I asked for water and ice. I could not believe how hot it was in the room. She came back with them five minutes later and quickly left.

Around thirty minutes later, I started to really feel the pain. I was expecting my midwife to be there and helping out. At the very least, I was expecting a nurse to be in the room with us and helping me with pressure points to help relieve what I was feeling. We called the nurse back in.
"I understand that I want a natural birth and it's something I need to do by myself, but are there any pressure points you can help with? I am struggling a bit here."
"Well, do you want me to check you?"
"Sure."
"Oh! You're at about an 8! It doesn't really look like you need much help. You're progressing just fine on your own."
...I may have been progressing, but I was not getting any enjoyment out of it.
She quickly left again.
Around that time, I started to do everything in my power to help myself. Every time I felt a contraction coming on, I furiously rubbed the area on my forehead between my eyebrows. My husband offered to try doing a counter pressure point that he had used when I was delivering my first child. It was very sweet of him, but it would not have worked in the bed I was tied to.

After she left, I turned to my husband and we started having a discussion. I laid it all out for him. This was not what I wanted. We were completely alone. I planned on my amazing midwife to be there and help coach me. I was basically strapped to the bed. I did not want to be in a bed at any point during my labor or delivery. I wanted to be walking around the room, possibly relaxing in the shower. I wanted to move. The nurse seemed very uninterested in us. "I am so frustrated. I do not care any more. I just want to hold my baby and get over this delivery. Let's call the nurse in and ask about an epidural. I'm done."
The nurse was summoned again.
"Can we discuss the possibility of an epidural?"
"Well, what do you feel?"
"I feel pain and pressure."
"Where do you feel it?"
Uh, I feel it where all women in labor feel it. "My lower uterus."
"Oh. An epidural wouldn't help with that pain."
...
What?
...
An epidural would not help with the pain of labor and delivery? I admit I do not know much about epidurals, but I am pretty sure that the entire purpose of an epidural is to help relieve the pain of labor and delivery.
She left.
Around this time, they started prepping my room for delivery. A sweet technician was moving equipment in and actually seemed to care. She stayed in my room, hovering over by the door. As she noticed me sweating profusely and frantically rubbing my forehead as the pain surged, she asked if I would like a cool washcloth. Yes, please!

Just before 2:00, we paged the nurse again.
"I need to pee."
"Oh! You might have to push!"
"No. I need to pee. I promise I will not push my baby into the toilet."
"I bet you're at a ten. You have the urge to push!"
"Nope. I just need to pee." Please release me from this bed!
She unhooked my monitors and helped me up. It felt so good to get out of that bed. I should have asked to use the bathroom an hour ago! I slowly (so as to savor more time out of bed) waddled to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. It felt so good. I did not want to move.
As I perched on the loo, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eyes. The door to the room had opened and in strolled the OB, confused at his patient sitting on the toilet.
"Why is she on the toilet?"
"She said she needed to pee."
"She might have to push! We need to get her back to the bed."
"She just said she needed to pee."
"I'll go back to the bed in just a minute."
It took the OB a couple minutes of coaxing for me to get off the toilet. I slowly walked back to the bed, but stopped five feet before the foot. I glared at the bed. All eyes were on me. I did not want to resume my stroll. I didn't care if I delivered my baby standing up. It sounded like a much better deal for me. Blood was pouring down my legs. The medical professionals in the room started looking a little anxious.
"It sounds like you're at a 10. Has your water broken?"
"Nope."
"Okay. After your next contraction, let's get you back on the bed. If you are okay with it, I can break your water. I bet your baby will come very quickly if I do that."
My brain was so foggy and I was very frustrated. I did not feel like I could make wise decisions at that point in time, so I turned to the person I trusted much more than anyone else in that room.
"I need you to make this decision for me."
My husband paused. "Let's do it."
A couple minutes later, I flopped back onto the bed. The OB pulled out his amniotic hook and moved to break my water. I squirmed and he pulled it back. Everyone paused. Nothing happened. My nurse turned to him. "Did you break her water?" He looked slightly perplexed. "I did. I think the baby's head is so far down that she's blocking anything from coming out.
Things got serious.
"I need you to push."
"I don't want to."
"Okay."
"Wait! I do now!"
The next few minutes were crazy and chaotic and not controlled. Thankfully, I only needed to push for four or five minutes before she came out. It was 2:18 am. I was handed my gorgeous baby and was so happy to be done with that experience. I gushed over her and cried and noticed that she seemed large. We eventually learned that the baby was 8 lbs 7 oz and 21.5 inches long.
The doctor seemed to take forever to stitch me back up (I had apparently torn in the exact same place as last time).
An hour later after things were cleaned up, we were left alone except for our nurse. My husband turned to her. "Now that my wife has given birth, is there anything she could have to eat?"
"The cafeteria is closed right now."
"When does it open?"
"6:00"
"Is there something she could have now?"
"I think there's a Steak and Shake that is open 24 hours around here."
My husband and I were confused again by this nurse. There were no snacks available? Especially if we were told we could not bring in any outside food?
It took my husband around 40 minutes to get back with something for me to eat. Because of COVID, hardly anything was open. He had to leave after just a few minutes so he could get home before my daughter woke up.
The rest of my stay at the hospital was delightful. The rest of my nurses were witty, helpful, kind. One brought me snacks when I mentioned I was getting hungry for dinner (so they did have snacks after all...). One went above and beyond with getting lactation to see me twice in one day. One of the nurses I knew from the OB clinic. My final nurse brought a present for my toddler and helped me get discharged early. She also grabbed the car seat from my car. She loaded my bag with lots of freebies from the hospital.

There are definite things I would have changed about my labor at that hospital, but I like to think that I came out of the experience with a positive mindset. Even though I had a very disgruntled nurse (I like to think she was jut having a bad night), because she was very uninvolved, I feel extremely empowered. I did basically everything myself except catch the baby. I think the experience may have been traumatic had I not had a very positive birthing experience with my first, but I used that knowledge to help when I  was literally left alone with this delivery.

26 April, 2020

OB Appointment 39 Weeks, 2 Days (And Reaching 40 Weeks)

My OB appointment at 39 weeks was uneventful. I sat in my hot car for 5-10 minutes prior to entering the office. Because of that, my temperature was up by a couple of degrees. I was told I barely made the cutoff. Joking with a friend later, she suggested they do drive thru OB appointments. You drive up, lean your seat back, and the doctor can quickly come by to do measurements and check for the heartbeat.
Today I was told that I would have a cervix check. It was not something I was interested in (because honestly, a cervix check means nothing), but I got ready for that. Baby's heartbeat sounded great and my cervix is apparently nice and soft right now. In my midwife's words, "I don't think you will make it to your next appointment."

And yet, here I am. It is my due date today and my next appointment is in two days. I never made it to my due date with my daughter. She was born two days early. One of my darling aunts arrived at our house this past Wednesday to help out when the baby comes. I knew, after inviting her in January, that there would be a chance that the baby would come early or late and my aunt would not be here. I feel slightly anxious to get the show on the road because I would love to take full advantage of having her here. My older daughter is adjusting to having her here (even though she still hisses like a snake at my aunt).
The baby still squirms like crazy every day. I honestly feel great. I need to visit the bathroom more frequently like all pregnant women. My only painful side effect is that my fingers are so bloated that the joints pop every time I bend my fingers-especially on the left side. As long as Baby is healthy and I am healthy, I have no qualms about being pregnant for as long as the baby needs. I do not plan on setting an induction date. If we reach 42 weeks, I will have a discussion with my midwife, but I do not know what will come of that conversation. That is not to say that I do not want to meet this little girl and cuddle with her and hibernate in bed for a week or two until we find some semblance of a routine.
So far I have had very few pre-labor signs. I have had very few real contractions, but have had Braxton Hicks since around week 10. My husband and I joke about making grand plans so that the baby can come and ruin them. The only problem is that with COVID going around, we cannot make any plans except what we plan on cooking. But I do not mind that we have been planning very delicious meals. Will I get to enjoy the delicious Thai curry with strawberry lassies and flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream for dessert? Probably. But if I end up in the hospital, that would be good too.

I would just ask someone to save me a slice of that cake.

16 April, 2020

OB Appointment 38 Weeks, 2 Days

As I planned on this appointment, my husband and I discussed the idea of having the whole family drive up together because he had a pharmacy pickup at Costco. (The nearest Costco to our home is just over an hour away. It is a mere two minutes from my doctor's office. He is more than a little fed up with CVS right now and determined that the savings for the Costco pharmacy would pay off the Costco membership every year.) We thought that they would hang out in the car while I was at the appointment and then my daughter and I would stay in the car while he visited Costco. We would then enjoy a picnic lunch at a nearby park before heading home. We were excited about this idea and I was looking forward to spending the drive with my little family. We ultimately decided against it so that my husband could grab a few more groceries from Costco without worrying about the timing with a three-year-old in the car.
I made the drive up North by myself and donned the beautiful homemade mask a dear friend had made for me. I was once again ushered back within moments of opening the side door of the OB office. The staff is incredible with dealing with all the changes. They know all the usual patients and simply asked for my birthday instead of name, phone, address.
As I chatted with the nurse before my midwife came in, I learned that she works in Labor and Delivery every other week at the hospital. I really like this nurse so it made me hope that my labor aligns with one of her shifts.
She informed me that when I get to the hospital, I will most likely have to check in at the ER to be tested before going to labor and delivery. In my non medical mind, this makes no sense. I made a mental note to have my husband call the hospital as we are on our way up so that we can learn what the regulations are for that specific day. She also was lucky enough to relay to me the information that I get to labor in a medical mask. "Bring the mask that you are wearing and we will make sure your husband wears one." I was told that I only had to wear it when there was a doctor or nurse in the room with us. She mentioned that none of the women had been bothered by it yet. I remembered how hot and uncomfortable I was as I labored with my daughter. This is something I am not looking forward to.
I am starting to feel so frustrated with being pregnant during this pandemic that I wondered (silently) in a very sarcastic tone if the baby would have to have a mask fastened to her face as soon as she emerged.
My midwife emerged and did her quick measurements of the heartbeat and fundal height. She mentioned something that took me aback and made me wonder if she wasn't actually going to be the one to deliver the baby. I was a little shocked so I did not think to ask questions.
I left the building feeling slightly frustrated at the new information I had gathered.

Since that appointment, I have started to notice a few signs of pre-labor including much more noticeable contractions, but I still do not expect her to make her appearance for at least a week. We cannot wait for this baby to make her appearance and then get out of the hospital as quickly as possible.

07 April, 2020

OB Appointment 37 Weeks, 2 Days

Today was my 37 week appointment! I cannot believe how close the delivery potentially is. My husband and I had a conversation tonight about projects we still want to accomplish and order of importance. In my mind, I am delivering within a week of my due date on either side, but as many nurses pointed out today, it would not be a surprise for it to happen any day.
On my drive up to the office, I stopped by a dear friend's home. She had made a fabric mask for myself and my husband. I was really touched that she had done that and it meant that I did not have to hold medical paper over my face for the entire time I was at the midwife's office. I followed her text instructions and grabbed the masks then rang her bell as I left. She popped out of her house for a couple of minutes so we could chat, 30 feet apart from each other. It was so good to see her! I miss seeing friends right now.
I made it to the office with a few minutes to spare. Like last week, I was greeted at the door and whisked back to be weighed in less than a minute. Because I had an ultrasound first, I was seated in an empty examination room for a few minutes while the ultrasound tech prepared for me. It was obviously not an OB room, but more of a GYN room. There were lots of posters about STDs, a container of condoms with instructions on how to use a condom, and information about what to do when you want to get pregnant.
The tech grabbed me and I excitedly went to her room. I will miss her examination table. For some strange reason, whenever she raises or lowers the exam table, it makes a noise like an air raid siren. As we got started on the ultrasound, I because so excited to have this baby! She is big and fully developed. Her head is 9.5 cm. I am okay with it not getting bigger. All her other measurements are also perfect. She was practicing breathing and her heart looked perfect. She is head down and managed to have a foot up to her mouth. I received three adorable pictures of my miracle baby. The coolest part of all is that I could see her hair! Not ever having an ultrasound this late, I did not even think about the possibility of seeing hair.
My 20 minutes of bliss ended and I was taken into a regular exam room. I was surprised when my midwife was a little late coming in. She has never been in the room more than a few minutes after I was brought back.
The exam was very fast. She measured me, listened to the heartbeat, and then asked about the ultrasound. When I told her that the current estimated weight was 7 lbs 5 oz, she laughed. "I thought your baby was tiny! That's why I had the ultrasound ordered. You are carrying this baby extremely well. It sounds like she is doing wonderfully." With an encouragement to go straight to the hospital if my water broke or I had regular contractions, the appointment ended.
As I checked out with the receptionist, she was the third person in the office to remind me that I could deliver any day now. "If I don't see you again, good luck! You will be great." It changed my mindset from still being laid back about the due date to realizing I should probably prepare a little faster.

06 April, 2020

OB Appointment 36 Weeks, 2 Days

Between my 35 week and 36 week appointments, I received yet another phone call with announcements. As they began to tell me what the changes were, I could not imagine what else they would be able to alter. Would I have to change into a sterile gown before entering the office? Would I need to wear a gas mask?
Thankfully, the only change was that the office was moving back to their former building. (I still have no idea why.) I was told I would enter in a side door and was not to go in the main entrance.
I pulled up on March 31 just before 1:15 to a sparsely populated parking lot. The side entrance was thankfully clearly marked. I opened the door to a small room with one patient who was in the process of being called back, a folding table with the receptionist and her computer, and a nurse ready to grab me. I was immediately asked for my name and date of birth before the door closed behind me. As I told the receptionist my information, the nurse grabbed my chart and guided me to a scale in the hallway. After my weight was noted, I was handed disposable medical paper (the kind a dentist uses for your bib during a dental exam) and asked to keep my nose and mouth covered the entire time I was in the building.
Once I got back to the examination room, everything else felt normal except for the fact that everyone was wearing masks and seemed slightly hurried. They were a finely tuned clock and I was out in ten minutes! The midwife said everything still looks and sounds great, but she ordered an ultrasound for next week. When I was reading my chart after the appointment, I noticed that under the associated diagnosis for the ultrasound order was listed, "small for dates infant." I have gone back and forth on what I feel about that. The midwife said everything seemed fine and I trust her. My husband reminded me not to borrow trouble. Maybe we just have a petite baby on our hands, but with the height genes she is receiving from my husband and myself, she probably will not be a short woman.
The other news is that my strep B test came back negative. I had completely forgotten about the test with all the craziness happening in the medical world right now, but I was very thankful to hear that I am negative.