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.

March for Millie

March for Millie

https://www.marchforbabies.org/team/MarchingforMillie

“Would you like to round up your total to the nearest dollar for charity?” I do it every time – mainly because I’m a sucker for even numbers. I’m that person at the gas station whose goal is to land on .00 exactly. My husband and I agreed years ago, that we will would always donate to children and veterans in need. Donations are also tax deductible and it feels good to give what we can, when we can. We have been monetarily giving to the March of Dimes for four years, never thinking that it would be us experiencing unlikely circumstances during childbirth. In November, I was induced six weeks early, due to pre-eclampsia, and my daughter was born premature. I developed a heart murmur, while my newborn was living in this world weighing a mere 4.8lbs.

Did you know that prematurity is the leading cause of infant mortality? I didn’t. I’m educating myself now, knowing that my chances of having another preterm delivery are heightened because of the pre-eclampsia with Millie. The March of Dimes has become a movement promoting healthy babies and moms and they raise money to help spread awareness of birthing difficulties, to better prenatal care, and to research deliveries in the U.S. #thecarewomendeserve

Next month, we will be walking 3 miles representing Team Millie with the March of Dimes. I am excited to be in the presence of so many others who have shared similar birth experiences. Millie will be with us, sporting a purple headband. I’m so proud of her and our family. At Mill’s four month doctors appointment, we found out that she is in the 50th percentile for height and weight, not including her adjusted age! It’s looking like our growth struggles are behind us, praise God. For any mother living minute by minute, I’m praying for you; the tiniest of sparks can become the strongest flame – you’ve got this!

If you would like to have more information about the event or would like to donate to the March of Dimes, check out my team page: https://www.marchforbabies.org/team/MarchingforMillie

Next time the cashier asks you if you want to donate, do it. Support your community and help make this world that we all live in, a better place. I will walk for babies!

Will you?

Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave

As a full-time, public elementary school music teacher, I received six weeks of paid maternity leave by using my accumulated sick time. Preeclampsia caused me to deliver preterm and just six weeks later, I would not have been prepared to leave my premature angel for work. Any mother would agree that six weeks is a ridiculously limited amount of time to bond with a newborn. For those mothers who have to rely on outside childcare after six weeks, I am so sorry; I will pray for your continued bonding, physical and mental health, and safety. Fortunately, I was able to take additional time off using FMLA. This time off of work was unpaid however, my husband and I had monetarily saved. In total, I had fourteen weeks off of work for maternity leave and I still wished that I could have taken more time. Whether you have six weeks or six months, the time you’ll spend with your newborn is priceless. The fourth trimester is a blur but before I completely forget, due to juggling work and infancy, here’s some thoughts of my time on maternity leave.

After we were discharged from the hospital, my body was recovering from the trauma of birth; breastfeeding was a learning curve, my blood pressure was regulating after the high levels due to pre-e, and I was profusely sweating out all the excess fluid that my body was retaining. While all of this was occurring, I was also bonding with my fragile, four pound newborn. It’s difficult for me to look back on the first month because I feel guilty – there’s so much growing that she did that I just slept through; I’d nap on the couch with Netflix on. There were so many moments that I forget due to sheer exhaustion. My advice for any new mom is to tape your eyes open – of course I’m kidding! I encourage you to take so many pictures and journal as often as you can; you never get that precious time again and so much of it can become lost in the exhausted haze of motherhood.

I was so grateful to have an overwhelming outpour of help from my family and friends during this time. Having a meal-train was extremely helpful; we had prepared meals for a week! My mom stayed with us the first two weeks after Millie was born. Everything was new; I didn’t know that I was supposed to log every diaper change by time and contents, I didn’t know what cluster feeding was or how to handle it, and I had never given a newborn a bath before. Having an additional person to help clean pump parts, make dinner, take a nighttime shift, run a load of laundry, etc., was so helpful. My mom successfully raised three children and was there whenever I asked, “Is this normal?”. My husband was allotted no paternity leave; he had to use his vacation time for my hospital stay, so he was incredibly grateful for the support from my mom as well. Thanks, mom.

It was traumatic getting Millie’s blood tested when managing her jaundice level. As I held my daughter in my arms, she was pricked in the heel of her foot and then milked of her blood, which of course made Millie cry and her tears broke my heart in two. My mom was there with me so I didn’t have to experience that alone. Pumping was difficult for me in the beginning. I truly thought that I’d have more comfortably with the pump than breastfeeding however, it felt impersonal and I had a hard time doing it. My mom would stay up with me and care for Millie while I pumped to increase my milk supply. Those late night talks of motherhood and watching my mother bond with my little one; I hope to never forget those moments.

My mother returned home and my mother-in-law came to stay with us. For the first month of Millie’s life, I was never alone with her. Some people may read this and think, wow – this woman is crazy however, I was relieved having someone else there with me. It was more eyes on my preemie, someone to watch her while I showered or napped, and it was socialization when I couldn’t leave the house (I was terrified that I would bring home germs that would put Millie back in the hospital.)

I loved taking Millie for walks when the weather was fair. I loved holding her tight, rocking her, having skin-to-skin time, and resting my cheek upon her cheek. I think my heart skipped a beat every time my husband would speak to her. I didn’t completely despise changing her diapers like I thought I would. I enjoyed online shopping while breastfeeding – maybe a little too much. I watched her grow from a thin four to a chunky twelve pounds. Listening to her sigh, smelling her head, seeing her smile – there’s nothing else like it. I feel so incredibly blessed to be Millie’s mother. Even though my maternity leave is over, I am grateful for the time that I had and I cherish my moments with her now, even more.