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.

Zumbini

Zumbini

Before I had a child, I knew I’d be the monitored screen time, oil using, breastfeeding, crunchy-kind of mama. When Millie was born, the television wasn’t turned on for weeks because I read in a parenting magazine that baby’s can sense when you’re multi-tasking, like folding laundry and watching Grey’s Anatomy. Multitasking can make a baby anxious so the tv remained off. My mom finally said, “You have to be able to put her down for a moment and the tv will help.” She found a channel called, Baby First and Millie was entranced!

The vibrant colors, the songs, the high-pitched voices, the close ups of baby faces; Millie loves it. There is a a flower in the corner of the screen and the petals change color based on the learning elements in that particular show. The best aspect of the channel, in my opinion, is Zumbini. I love to dance and Zumba is my favorite way to work out. Zumbini is a baby’s Zumba. It incorporates dancing, singing, instrument playing, ball rolling, etc. Millie loves to dance and sing to the short Zumbini episodes in our living room. She smiles and rocks her body – she is completely engaged! At the end of the show it instructs the viewer to, “Go online and register for a Zumbini class near you!” So, I did.

The class was being offered near my undergraduate campus so I felt comfortable with the location. The instructor was quick to answer all of my questions and she was just as helpful and kind when we met in class. I am a music teacher and a “retired”, collegiate Zumba instructor so one could assume that I would be judgmental towards another’s class however, I’m new at this parenting thing and I have nothing to gain from judging and everything to gain from creating experiences with Millie.

When registering for Zumbini, we received a book with the lyrics to all the songs in the class, music downloads, and a little doll (that has seriously won over Millie’s heart, she loves her, “TJ”). Zumbini promotes freedom for the children to do as they please as they listen the up-beat music. I dance with Millie on my hip, I dance in front of her while she sits on the floor, I play instruments while she puts hers directly into her mouth. At six months old, Millie was the youngest in the class however, everyone was willing to help her, they doted over her and her big, blue eyes, and it never felt like she didn’t belong.

The music from Zumbini, incorporates different languages, styles, tempo, and time. I like that Millie is exposed to such diversity. The class materials include rhythm sticks, scarves, miscellaneous percussion instruments, balls, and bongos. Mill has taken two, nine week sessions and we don’t plan on stopping. This girl is shaking what her momma gave her!

Managing Migraines

Managing Migraines

I have always hated bumper cars. I would drive my car around the edge of the raceway, as to stay clear of the congested middle. The steering wheel, violently shaking, was difficult to hold onto. WHAM! Rear ended; stalked for the “bump”. My body jolts forward, my head ricochets off the back, and then nausea. This is exactly what has been happening inside of my head; bumper cars.

Light; crash! Noise; ouch! Touch; bam! Every sense was hypersensitive and I couldn’t focus. I didn’t have an appetite. I drank water and I ate salty food but felt no relief. I took two ibuprofen and still, no change. I tried to sleep but was frequently interrupted to breastfeed Millie. The pressure behind my eyebrows was difficult to ignore. I have never experienced headache pain like this before so this feeling was new and unwelcome.

I woke up the next morning with an unsettling, dull ache beneath my skull and I made an appointment with my family doctor. My 20/20 vision was distorted from the intense pain and driving seemed dangerous. Thankfully, my grandma was able to drive me to my appointment and I rested my throbbing head against the passenger side window.

I arrived at the doctors and was pleasantly surprised with the number on the scale. I was further impressed by my blood pressure, especially because eclampsia can occur after delivery and headaches can be a symptom. My lungs sounded fine and my heart murmur had subsided. After two neurological tests, I was told that I had been experiencing postpartum migraines. I immediately felt angry; yet another issue from pregnancy that I’ve never heard of. Postpartum migraines occur due to the hormonal fluctuations while breastfeeding; migraines can last for days at a time – great. I was instructed to lay in a dark room and stay on a regiment of ibuprofen; three pills, four times a day, with food. If I wanted to take migraine specific medication, I would have to pump-and-dump – not an option. I know others who dull migraines with caffeine however, because I don’t consume caffeine on a regular basis, my doctor did not think that caffeine would help me. I was instructed to go to the ER if the migraines got any worse. Thankfully, 48 hours later, the bumper cars stopped.

Preeclampsia, rupturing ovarian cysts, postpartum migraines; I’ll take it all as long as Millie is healthy. And praise God, she’s perfect.

Raising and Rupturing

Raising and Rupturing

I assumed labor was the end of my gut-wrenching pain, doubling over from cramping agony, but cue ruptured ovarian cyst.

I delivered my beautiful baby, naturally. I dilated quicker than expected and therefore, could not receive an epidural. People have asked, “What does natural, childbirth feel like?” Well, have you ever been set on fire? Labor was long, exhausting, and painful but I kept telling myself that when it was all over, I’d be able to hold my precious baby. I love my daughter and I’m so grateful that she is here and healthy however, the birthing experience is not something I look back on with a smile.

Fast forward 14 weeks and I started back to work. My Wednesday was interrupted when I felt a sharp, stabbing pain in my abdomen. I gasped, grabbed my gut, and leaned forward. Appendicitis? Cold sweats, dizziness, nausea – the pain wasn’t going away. I had to stop teaching, I didn’t want to pass out in front of my students! All too soon, I found myself laying in a hospital bed again with my post-traumatic-delivery-anxiety triggered.

After I told the nurse that my left arm was best for IV insertion, she persisted to dig around in my right arm, fishing for a vein. Why?! She switched arms and the IV went right in. I told her so. The saline flush had a skunky smell and the IV fluid made me feel cold. The pain meds were inserted and I immediately felt delirious. I was given additional meds to help subdue the nausea that the pain medication caused. With both medications administered, I couldn’t help but to worry about what was being filtered into my breastmilk. The doctor thought it would be safest if I would, “pump and dump” for the next 24 hours. This was an issue – My body does not create excess milk and while working full time, my storage isn’t built. I knew with this hospitalization, we’d go though every ounce that was stored.

I was wheeled into the CT scanning room and was given an iodine-contrast through my IV. My body felt warm for thirty seconds as the contrast entered my blood stream; my throat, bladder, and ears especially. Unfortunately, this was another med that one probably shouldn’t breast feed on. I was instructed to lay still as the scan took place; it didn’t take long, but the stillness allowed my mind to wonder about scary what-if’s. Once the scan was complete, I was wheeled back into my room and instructed to drink lots of water to flush the contrast from my kidneys.

I had dozed off waiting for the CT results. Wow did it feel nice to sleep without a baby. All too soon, I was woken up by the doctor with the results of the scan. Due to the amount of fluid in my abdominal cavity, he could conclude that I had a 2-3cm ovarian cyst rupture. He informed me that this is not uncommon 6-12 months after pregnancy, due hormone irregularities. Apparently, cysts occur often during ovulation but they don’t always burst nor cause horrific pain. Naturally, I wanted to know how to prevent the cysts in the future and he gave me two options; get on birth control to stop ovulation or get a hysterectomy. What?! I’m not ready to kiss my reproductive years goodbye! I also was not about to start taking birth control pills – hormone altering, cancer causing, weight gaining, mood swinging, “birth control” pills. As grateful as I was to not need my appendix removed, the possibility of painful ovulation every month was concerning.

Now, it’s just a waiting game; will the cysts return? Will they continue after I finish breastfeeding? It’s possible that if the cyst is 7cm or larger, it could twist my ovaries during rupture and cut off my blood flow to my reproductive parts – terrifying! The heating pad helped, so did hot tea and the fetal position however, dealing with that intense pain every month will significantly decrease my quality of life. The doctors don’t know the future anymore than I do, and in the meantime, I will be diligently praying big. Go away rupturing cysts; I have a life to live and a baby to raise!

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?