Welcoming Wells

Welcoming Wells

At 33 weeks pregnant with Millie, my OB instructed me to go to labor and delivery. I felt miserable; pounding headaches, swelling to point of discomfort, dizziness and fatigue. I left the OBs office completely unable to accept the reality of induction. Instead of rushing to the hospital, I had my husband take me to Arby’s. As I pumped ketchup onto my tray, a lady grabbing napkins said to me, “If you have a girl and see blood in her diaper, don’t be alarmed, it’s her hormones.” What? Suddenly, I had lost my appetite for ketchup.

33 weeks came and went during my second pregnancy yet, everyday the thought of preeclampsia was a very real concern. I checked my blood pressure with an at-home monitor, I constantly analyzed the size of my ankles, and I actually iced and elevated my feet at night. 34 weeks into my pregnancy, we lost my step-father due to a massive heart attack, just four months after unexpectedly, losing my sister. I was fearful that the grief and stress would throw me into labor but thankfully, the baby stayed put.

37 weeks of pregnancy is considered full term; something I never was able to experience with Millie. I still feel a tinge of guilt for not being able to carry her longer. I was ecstatic to have made it to term with this pregnancy and also surprised I didn’t feel entirely miserable. Don’t get me wrong, the pelvic pressure was painful and sleeping comfortably was a challenge, but life wasn’t completely intolerable; nothing like what 33 weeks pregnant with preeclampsia felt like. My OB said we made it to term because of the daily dose of baby aspirin but I like to think that he was comfortable in my sisters arms, in heaven.

At 37 weeks and 6 days, I started having contractions seven minutes apart. Laying in bed, I would check my phone with each pain; 3:07, 3:14, 3:21. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, I was being woken up by my alarm. As I was getting ready for work, my husband urged me to stay home and call the doctor. Wanting to save my sick time, I went in to teach. During my planning period, I called my OB to tell him I had contractions through the night. He responded, “get to labor and delivery”. I drove home, snuggled with Mill on the couch, and waited for my baby daddy to come home. My husband packed the car, we kissed Millie goodbye, and this time, we didn’t stop for a cherry turnover.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were sent into triage where a nurse took my temperature, blood pressure, checked my lungs and pulse, and she gave me a sani-wipe and cup to collect my urine. As I sat down on the toilet, I opened the wipe and simultaneously, it jumped out of my hands! The wet wipe flew through the air, nearly six feet, before hitting the tile floor! Reactively, I screamed and then I couldn’t stop laughing! My husband and the nurse thought I was crazy but it kept the atmosphere light; labor terrified me after my experience with Mill.

My vitals were normal except my blood pressure, 118 over 96. The nurse explained that the reading was a mistake; the bottom number “didn’t match” the top number. She checked it again; 135 over 95. She seemed concerned that the readings were slightly elevated so she was going to consult the resident doctor on duty. Of course I was stressing thinking that the pre-e had returned but there were no traces of protein in my urine, so that kept me sane. Waiting for my blood pressure to go down, I ate a bag of mini pretzels, watched an episode of Friends (ironically, it was the episode where Rachel and Ross are at the gynecologist), texted my parents, and peed again. The nurse returned, checked my BP, and it was even higher than before! Over and over again, the cuff would squeeze my arm, release the pressure, and I would dauntingly peek at the numbers on the monitor; my blood pressure remained high. The resident doctor, who looked younger than me, asked about my birth plan. I explained to her that if the preeclampsia had returned, I wanted a c-section, which had been discussed numerous times with my OB. She began explaining to me why she would not give me a c-section, even if the pre-e had returned. I stopped her and said, “I know that I am able to elect for a cesarean birth.” I was no longer interested in speaking to this resident. My blood pressure reading was highest after that conversation.

My OB was in the hospital giving a tour to a newly hired doctor in the practice, so he stopped by my room to discuss my, “options”. He told me that he was admitting me for gestational hypertension. He explained that my history with pre-e made him too concerned to send me home with an elevated blood pressure. The doctor informed us that there were risks to induction, especially premature lung development, particularly in boys. A day before Millie was born, a steroid shot was administered into my leg to better develop her lungs. Unfortunately, there is no evidence shows the steroid being effective after 34 weeks of pregnancy, so the shot was not an option this time around. There is a fine line between gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia and my doctor thought the induction outweighed the risks, given my history. Gestational hypertension is a form of high blood pressure and it occurs in about 6 percent of all pregnancies. Delivery heals the mother from the hypertension.

I was being induced for a vaginal birth, with a c-section as plan B if my blood pressure continued to rise. The doctor promised me that this delivery would be different than my first and that I was being closely monitored. I signed some papers, shoved my underwear into my purse, and tightly held my husbands hand as we left triage. I was full term. This baby spent weeks longer in utero compared to Millie. I’ve done this before; affirmations I told myself walking to labor and delivery.

We started the induction at 4pm with a twelve hour dose of cervadil; a vaginal insert that ripens the cervix. Like a tampon, the medicine is attached to a string. Unlike a tampon, it is placed super far up the vaginal canal (I swear, the nurse was elbow deep). The first four hours on the cervadil were a breeze – mild cramping. My grandma brought Millie to see us before her bedtime. This was the first night that I wasn’t sleeping under the same roof as her. It broke my heart when she didn’t want anything to do with me. She was scared of the machines and my IV.

I was uncomfortable during the next four hours as the contractions grew stronger and closer together. Around 3am, I wanted the epidural but I was only 3cm dilated. The resident OB wanted to wait on ordering the epidural until I dilated further so he offered to give me pain meds through my IV to take off the edge. I urged both him, and the nurse to consult with my doctor because we had discussed this exact situation after my traumatic experience with Millie. I had dilated so quickly with her that I was unable to get the epidural and I did not want that to happen again. Thankfully, they consulted my doctor who approved the epidural.

I gave birth to Millie without an epidural and I was not about to do that again. Although, I was scared that the epidural would hurt, that I would move during insertion and become paralyzed, that it wouldn’t take, or that the baby’s heart rate would drop, I was terrified of another natural labor. I was overwhelmed with the pain from the contractions so I pulled up a video of Millie on my phone, to focus my energy on her pure joy. As I watched, tears rolled down my cheeks; partially due to the pain I was experiencing but also because of my love for her. I was assured that the anesthesiologist was the best they had. He was an older man who talked me through everything he was doing. My husband was asked to wear a mask and a hair cap while the procedure took place. He held my hands as I sat up straight, at the edge of the bed. The medicine felt like a bead of cold water rushing down my spine. I do not remember any pain during insertion. Slowly, my legs started feeling heavy and I knew the epidural had worked.

Pitocin was administered and for the next two hours, 4:30-6:30am, I experienced some mild cramping. The epidural provided great relief to the clinching pain of the earlier contractions. My grandma had joined us in the birthing room. Her presence was calming as she rubbed my legs. My birth photographer, Sarah Shambaugh, arrived and began taking pictures of the process. Around 6:30, it felt like I needed to poop; nothing hurt, I just felt a sense of urgency. I remembered feeling that way before Millie was born and I knew it was time to push. The nurse examined me and sure enough, I was fully effaced and 9.5cm dilated. The nurse called my doctor, who was twelve minutes away. Longest twelve minutes of my life.

I was instructed not to push until my OB arrived. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks in response to the discomfort I was enduring. I told my husband that I didn’t care to wait for my doctor any longer, as long as someone would catch my baby, I needed to start pushing. My bed was raised, nurses helped lift my legs into the stirrups, and a resident doctor began dressing to do the job. In that same moment, my doctor entered the room and prepared for the delivery. I breathed a sigh of relief while grimacing through a contraction.

Pushing was difficult because I couldn’t exactly feel what I was supposed to be doing due to the epidural. I was anxious to push and didn’t like the wait time between contractions. I forced all of my energy down and with every push, the baby moved further through the canal. My doctor was so supportive; using words of encouragement and massaging the tissue so I wouldn’t tear. My father snuck into the room and held up a “little brother” onesie as a means of encouragement. The thought was endearing but I also didn’t want my dad to see my vagina. My husband helped lift my head up towards my chest and my grandma pulled my legs back while I pushed. I could not understand why this labor was taking so long – comparatively to my three push labor with Millie. My OB used his hands to turn the baby’s head in a more opportune position. Impatient, I decided that I didn’t want to wait for the next contraction to start pushing again and that is when the baby progressed enough that my doctor could see the hair on his head. My husband looked – gross. My doctor predicted that the next push would do it; I would meet my son.

Clinched teeth, chin to chest, toes curled; all of the tension released when Wells was born. It is absolutely amazing how exhaustion and pain evaporate away the moment of birth. A wiggly, slime-covered, baby boy was placed on my chest and my entire being began taking him in; he was heavy, he was pink, he had hair, and he was crying. My husband cut the umbilical cord as nurses suctioned fluid from his mouth. We stayed skin-on-skin while my family met him. When it was time to feed him, he latched quickly and correctly, which made nursing simple. While he was on my breast, I felt the bottom of his little feet; so soft.

My sweet, perfect boy. Life may be unpredictable, but my love for you will forever be constant. Welcome to the world, Wells.

Laboring Love

Laboring Love

It’s very appropriately called “labor” but some things made it just 0.014x better…

  • My mom drove in from out of town and brought me my favorite childhood stuffed-animal, Max Goof. I didn’t even know that she kept him! It was such a special gift that momentarily took my mind off of the labor ahead.
  • Due to preeclampsia, I was in the hospital for three days before giving birth. I was not able to eat, should an emergency cesarean become necessary. I was able to sip water and eat ice-chips. Yay. My grandmother brought me in a box of Luigi’s Italian Ice and my taste buds had a party! My nurse put my name on the box and kept it in the freezer; I was able to eat cherry and lemon Italian ice as much as I wanted.
  • My husband asked the nurse, “Can she get something to help her sleep? There’s a lot of extra noise in here.” I was given an Ambien and I slept better than I had in months! It was the best “push present” that any pregnant wife could’ve asked for.
  •  I adore my family and friends however, answering all their texts and calls while trying to focus on the task at hand, was not at the top of my priority list. I was incredibly grateful that my husband had my phone and kept everyone informed.
  • The same hospital gowns that people die in, are given to you to wear when you birth your baby. Ew. I bought a Gownies set from Baby Be Mine and I’m so glad that I did. I was happy with how they fit and felt, they smelled like home, and I liked how I looked!
  • There can be a lot of smells permeating in a hospital. When we were admitted into the labor and delivery room, we used our humidifier with drops of on-guard oil; cleaning the air. Next, we used balance to help with the atmosphere of the birthing space. So many nurses complimented us on our use of essential oils. One nurse, who wasn’t even mine, came into the room because she smelled a “spa aroma” from the hall!
  • My sister flew in from out of town for the birth. She braided my hair for me before I went into active labor. She also took videos on her phone, before and after Millie was born. At the time, it seemed pretty silly. Now that Millie is three months old, we cherish those videos. Our conversations, the doctor checks, how small she was, and the sound of her cry, won’t be forgotten.
  • Water-proof mascara and chapstick.
  • Hospital resources – use them. I used many snap-ice cold packs on the back of my neck, forehead, and in my underwear after giving birth; these are way better than a wet washcloth. The supplied water jug is still my best friend – if you are planning to breastfeed, this will become your lifeline. The large, mesh underwear – no shame, I packed ten pairs to take home and wore them for the next two weeks. The huge pads. During recovery, the hospital provided a plastic squirt bottle that could spray warm water after using the bathroom; trust me, you don’t want to be using toilet paper down there for a while. I received a bottle for every bathroom in my house. Another relief was witch-hazel pads. I made some of my own once I was home and added some lavender oil for extra soothing.
  • Because we were sent to the hospital at 34 weeks, my house had not been properly cleaned for a new baby. My family cleaned my house until it sparkled while I was in the hospital. It was such a relief knowing I was bringing the baby into a clean home.

No doubt — giving birth is laborious, but there is not a mom out there who doesn’t recognize it as a labor of love.

What made labor 0.014x better for you?

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

Magnesium – Miso – Motherhood

“Did you have a difficult day at work?” the nurse asked upon taking my blood pressure. Teaching elementary music was never a breeze however, that day in particular, was fine. (Meaning my blood pressure had no business being 149/99.) She told me to relax, take a couple deep breaths, and she’d try to take it again – of course by then I was freaking out; why was my blood pressure so high?! My doctor came into the room and told me that they found traces of protein in my urine, I had significant swelling in my legs and ankles, and that I had gained too much weight since my last visit. Preeclampsia. I had heard of it but I never thought that it was something that I would suffer from. So many thoughts were racing around in my head; Isn’t preeclampsia rare? Don’t you have to be obese to get it? Has anyone in my family ever had preeclampsia? What’s going to happen to my baby? What’s going to happen to me? AH! My head was pounding; yet another symptom of preeclampsia.

I was instructed to take the next day off of work, to collect my urine for twenty-four hours, and to try to relax. I would go back to the OB’s office the next day for a blood pressure check and an ultrasound. I did as I was told; laid on the couch watching Netflix, drank plenty of water, and I had a decent nights sleep considering my bladder was being used as a trampoline. I hated having to take a day off of work for, “bed rest” but I knew it was necessary for both mine and the baby’s health. The next day, my husband and I were flabbergasted upon hearing that my blood pressure was even higher than the day before! The ultrasound showed that the baby was head-down and I was told to go to the hospital. My doctor apologized for not having me go the night before; he truly thought my blood pressure would lower. I felt fine other than being very pregnant and a lingering headache that wasn’t fading.

The nursery had been completed before the end of my first trimester and our hospital bags had been packed by the end of the second. My extreme nesting and “over preparedness” made my friends laugh and annoyed my husband however, it turned out to be a blessing considering we were on our way to the hospital during week 34 of my pregnancy. 160/114 was my blood pressure reading in triage. Those numbers were too high and the doctor was concerned that I would seize. I felt scared and wanted to go home but the doctor was not going to let me leave without signing an AMA, against medical advice document. Realizing that even at home my blood pressure wasn’t under control, I agreed to being admitted into labor and delivery.

I was placed in a beautiful, spacious room however, the television screen was smaller than that of my laptop and the static on every channel was awful. Watching college football was near impossible and it did nothing but raise my blood pressure. OSU losing to Iowa; embarrassing. Even worse, the nurses informed me that my blood pressure had been spiking through my sleep. The high-risk doctor gave the orders; the only way to stop the preeclampsia symptoms was to deliver the baby. The delivery-plan that I took so much time creating was now thrown out the window.

Because the baby was going to be born early, I was given two steroid shots in my theigh to help her lungs develop, ouch. The incredibly nice NICU doctor verbally prepared us for the worst; I was devastated hearing that after delivery, I may have to leave the hospital without my baby. I felt so guilty and defeated; my body was failing her. To keep my blood pressure down, I was given magnesium through my wrist IV. The nurse told me that I would be extremely weak on this medicine and I may experience flu-like symptoms. I had to be catheterized (which was not a pleasant experience) because I was not able to get out of bed while on the mag. How was I supposed to move through my contractions if I was immobile on this medication? Having the catheter in was awful – I felt like I had to pee constantly; there was no relief. Worser still, the swelling that I experienced was unfathomable. I was scalding hot; I thought my skin was going to burst open like an overcooked hot dog. I had a splitting headache that would not quit. I asked my nurse, “How am I supposed to deliver this baby, the hardest thing that my body has ever experienced, when I am so weak and can’t move?” She simply said, “You’ll do it.”

I was given two rounds of cervidil; a cervix ripening insert. During this time, I was getting checked for dilation frequently – let me tell you, that starts to feel incredibly uncomfortable too; raw, like pulling out a dry tampon over and over again. I didn’t dilate on the cervidil however, the doctor wasn’t surprised because this was six weeks before the baby was supposed to arrive and my body was not responding. We started miso through the night, another induction insert, which dilated me to 1cm and “a wiggle”. My husband and I prayed with such intensity; we were so conflicted – happy that our baby was coming however, we knew there was a rough road ahead. I told the nurse that it felt like I was peeing on my leg, I knew that couldn’t be the case but I was feeling a secretion of fluid. She did another dilation check and my water broke all over the nurse’s arm. The water was warm and there was a lot of it. I felt a tinge of embarrassment but I was so relieved that it broke on its own; talks of ballooning and other induction mechanisms terrified me. After my water broke, I was given pitocin, level 10 and the real contractions began.

During my pregnancy, My husband and I took a labor course where the midwife explained the pain during active labor. She instructed that if you could power through seven centimeters of dilation, you were two hours away from seeing your baby – no pain medicine needed. I wanted to try to deliver my baby without pain medication. During my contractions I just kept thinking, when the pain gets worse, I will ask for the epidural. I focused “down”; that might not make a lot of sense but visualizing what was happening internally, helped. I reminded myself of positive affirmations; “My body is capable and strong. I’m choosing to be calm and confident during my baby’s birth.” We had a humidifier in the room, releasing essential oils (dōTERRA’s balance). I listened to my birthing playlist, which consisted of instrumental Christian music (After All These Years – Bethel Music). Ice chips. Even though my body was weak from the magnesium, I was somehow still able to move around in the bed to position myself through the contractions; on my side, grabbing the bed frame, leaning over, etc. After two hours of active labor, I felt a burning like I had never felt before. Was I on fire? I began to shake uncontrollably. It felt like my butt cheeks were being ripped apart and I wanted to literally crawl out of my skin. I knew the Lord had not forsaken me however, I knew something was happening and I was terrified. I wanted that epidural – NOW!

The nurse said, “Let’s hope that you’re more than three centimeters dilated.” as she checked my cervix. This is what three centimeters feels like?! She turned around and got on the phone; my husband was speaking very intently, “What’s wrong, tell us what’s going on?!” The nurse was dialing the doctor as I was more than 9cm dilated and it was time to push. I had gone from 1-9cm’s in two hours time. The bed raised up, the catheter came out, the room got brighter, and the doctor came in with a shield up and goggles on. It became clear that I was not getting any pain medicine.

The contractions were so long, I couldn’t possibly push that long! How could I focus on pushing when my body was set on fire? The shaking continued and it’s possible that I occasionally blacked out. My first push wasn’t nearly long enough – I could feel the baby’s body in the birth canal. During my second push, the baby had come down and went back up; I know this not only because the doctor told me, but because when you don’t have any numbing medicine, you feel everything. I just knew that my legs had ripped from my hips. The third push happened in slow motion; baby’s head, shoulders, hips; I felt it all. The doctor placed a wide-eyed, powder-blue baby upon my chest. She started to cry and I told her, “happy birthday”. I didn’t recognize my voice; it was horse from the hours of screaming out in pain. My husband was in awe and he cut the umbilical cord. Everything else didn’t matter; the after-birth, the cramping and discomfort, the stitching – Amelia Jane was born and the earth stood still.