Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Birth Story

So here we go. This is the PG version. You're welcome, Dad (and every man who reads this blog). There won't be any words like "cervix" or "placenta". I wrote up the FULL version for some girlfriends who requested all the details, but this...this is the reader-friendly version. Some details just don't need to be published, youknowwhatI'msaying?

Here we go.

Friday, January 30th.
Z and I were at the weekly home church/military ministry gathering that we attend on Friday nights. The potluck theme was Southern food, so I was particularly excited about some good grits, chicken and dumplings...that sort of thing. Friday nights are always a great time and I was enjoying the food and fellowship with good friends and looking forward to our plans for the weekend. The night was delightful, but at 35 weeks and a few days pregnant, I was completely uncomfortable. Throughout the worship and message portion of the evening, I must have been visibly uncomfortable as I kept repositioning myself on the hard folding chair and taking deep breaths every so often to try to move the baby's legs away from my lungs and get a good full gulp of air...afterwards three different friends made comments about how uncomfortable I looked and there were a few jokes about me going into labor right then and there. I took it all in stride but the same thought plagued me...how was I going to do FIVE MORE WEEKS of this? I was miserable. We headed home that evening and went to bed as usual...nothing at all out of the ordinary.

Saturday, February 1st.

At around 2am, I woke up to use the bathroom (as usual). I felt totally normal...got up, went to the bathroom, got back in bed. As I got back in bed, my water broke. But I was in denial...I honestly thought I had just reached the stage of pregnancy that so many had warned me about...where you start to lose control of your bladder a little bit when you laugh or sneeze or whatever. "Well, this is unfortunate..." I thought. But at least it happened in the privacy of my own home in the middle of the night. I got back in bed and about 20 minutes later, a similar sensation. Oh jeez. I pushed away the unsettling thought that maybe my water had broke...I didn't want to even entertain the idea. It was too early...I wasn't ready. No. So I handled it like any other situation I encounter that I don't want to deal with: I went back to sleep. I woke up a few hours later to more of the same. This time I knew I couldn't ignore it...we needed to go get this checked out. I decided to wake up Z, who has the amazing ability to go from being dead asleep to wide awake as soon as I say his name (but can sleep right through all kinds of pushing and poking and shaking...it's a mystery).

*his eyes fly open*
"We need to go to the hospital"
*sits up abruptly*
"What's wrong?!"
"I think my water broke...but I want to take a shower and pack a bag, so just go back to sleep for a little bit."

It sounds like I was really calm, but really I think I was having a totally out-of-body experience. It felt surreal. Inside, I was freaking out. Z went back to sleep (but he swears he didn't actually sleep) and I got in the shower, got ready, and started packing hospital bags. Yes, bags plural. Still in denial, I decided I needed a bag for "we're just going to monitor you for a few hours and then you can go home" and a bag for "we're keeping you here on bed rest for a few days". I instructed Z to just leave both bags in the car once we got to the hospital. We left the house around 6am...I was very nervous and very aware of how unprepared we were to have a baby so early...there was still way too much that needed to be done. I was also concerned about what could be happening...I was having no contractions, no weird feelings...I didn't feel like I was in labor. It was all very unsettling. We got to the hospital and were buzzed in to the labor and delivery ward.

Both doctors on duty spoke limited English...but enough to know what was going on. We gave them our paperwork and they hooked me up to the fetal monitor while taking about 4 vials of blood (nothing was being explained to me, so I was nervous about everything). They looked over my paperwork and were visibly relieved to see my midwife, Susan, was mentioned in my file. She is fluent in German and English, and I could tell they wanted her there. Z gave her a call and explained what was happening and she said she'd swing by in a few hours. We later learned that the doctors called her back shortly after Z talked to her and asked that she come right away...she showed up about 30 minutes later. The doctors originally told me they didn't think my water broke. They mentioned a UTI and kind of shrugged as if they weren't really sure what was going on...I wasn't dilated, I wasn't having contractions...nothing. Once Susan came, she had no doubt. She talked with the head doctor (who needed to be involved since I was only 35 weeks) and they decided that if I hadn't progressed by noon on Saturday, they would induce via cervical gel (woops, I said I wouldn't say "cervix", minus one Thin Mint for me) and if nothing happened by noon on Sunday, they'd want to do a C-section. Either way, we were having the baby that weekend. Whoa. I must have looked shaken because Susan, who is an angel, diverted my attention by taking Z and I on a tour of the NICU and preemie wards and talking us through exactly what would happen when our little one arrived and what to expect based on which unit she would end up in. After we got back to L&D, Z took off to take care of arrangements for Olive and get snacks and other various items that I wanted/needed for the impending labor, delivery and hospital stay. (Side note: I told Zach that snack-wise, some granola bars would be good. He returned with about 6 boxes of different granola bars. God bless that man.) Susan hooked me up to an IV to receive antibiotics to prevent infection and then I was alone. This is when everything started to sink in. And I was scared. After the IV, Susan encouraged me to walk around and try to get things progressing, so off I went. I must have walked up and down 4 flights of stairs about 100 times. I listened to my worship playlist, I emailed my friends to let them know what was going on, I texted Z...around 9am he encouraged me to call my parents on FaceTime. I was worried since it was only 3am in the states, and I was also fairly sure I would burst into tears upon seeing them...but I did get in touch with them and I ended up feeling much better after talking to them. They were so excited and encouraging and that helped calm my nerves. It sucked to be so far away from them (and in a German hospital) when all of this was happening.

Noon rolled around and Susan came back to check on my progress...not much. I was only at 1cm, so they gave me the induction gel, warned me that it may take 2 or 3 doses to work, and told me to relax for the next hour. Within about 30 minutes I started feeling contractions...I put my headphones back on, turned on my music and tried to completely relax and nap for the next hour. I then texted Z to find out where he was and when he would get back...I was getting nervous as the contractions were coming regularly now, but I wasn't in significant pain yet. He arrived about 20 minutes later, fully stocked with drinks and snacks (so many snacks). At this point, Susan took us to the recovery room I would be staying in. We finally brought my bags in and got settled. After this, we took off on a walk...there is a trail around the hospital and it felt so good to be outside in the cold air as the contractions got worse. We walked and talked, stopping for each contraction so I could breathe through it, squat down, bend over...do whatever to work through the rapidly increasing pain. Contractions were 2 minutes apart now, lasting about 90 seconds each. Zach was incredible, encouraging me through each one, reminding me to relax my jaw and my shoulders and breathe deeply. We walked around the entire hospital like this for the next hour or so. At one point, towards the end of the walk as the contractions were really hurting, we passed a family walking their dog and I said to Z, "I just really need a therapy dog to pet and distract me through the contractions..." and I told him about the therapy dogs that were in the hospice center my grandfather spent his final days in and how much comfort I found in them. Minutes after this conversation, we were back in the hospital and Susan found us and said "Come on, let's take another walk!" So we headed back out...and sitting outside the hospital was the biggest teddy bear of a dog, a beautiful Bernese Mountain dog named Theo. God's little gift to me. He was Susan's dog and she brought him to walk with us...my therapy dog!! He trotted right up to me and let me pet him and love on him for a few minutes before we started walking again. Theo ran around with us, playing in the snow and providing a great distraction. After about 20 minutes, the pain was getting more intense and Susan suggested we head back in and I get in the tub. 

This is where things start getting fuzzy for me...I was completely focused on getting through each contraction, so a lot of the details and timing of things have kind of disappeared. For example, I have no memory of walking back in the hospital, getting things from my room, and walking to the tub room. But OH the tub!! The hospital has two tubs...one in a delivery room that is a huge, medical-grade, self-heating tub (this room was unavailable) and then one "regular" tub in a separate room. Since I had already been told I couldn't have the baby in the tub since my water broke early, I was happy to be in the simple tub room rather than the tub in the delivery room. We walked into this  intimate, dimly lit room with candles burning and aromatherapy and a tub full of hot water...just a small little room off to the side. And OH getting into that warm water was one of THE BEST feelings ever. The contractions immediately were more manageable and I was able to completely relax during the breaks. I had my headphones back in and everything became about resting through the breaks and focusing on breathing through the pain of each contraction. We were in the tub room for a few hours...Susan was in and out checking on us and doing some additional fetal monitoring. Zach was a rock...he held my iPhone so I could listen to my worship music from the tub, he gave me water, he got me ice to chew on and to put on my back during the contractions, and he massaged my back as the contractions got really bad. At some point, Susan had changed into her scrubs and told us she wasn't going anywhere (she had been in and out throughout the day)...this barely registered on my radar, but Z said he knew we were getting close. Susan then brought two women into the room to meet us and explained these were the pediatricians who would be taking care of our baby as soon as she was born...Susan explained we'd have a minute or so to hold her, then she'd have to be taken immediately due to her premature status, so it was really nice to see and meet the people who would be taking her. Just another reason why Susan was so wonderful...

After a few hours, things had really started to heat up. I was in extreme pain and finding it harder and harder to remain calm and control my breathing through each contraction. I was exhausted and felt like I was losing control. I remember tearing up and saying to Zach "I don't think I can do this anymore..." Susan and Zach were incredibly encouraging and a great support at this point. As I started to panic when I couldn't catch my breath during the contractions, I looked at Susan and said "What are my options?" She told me that there was still time for the epidural, but I asked to be checked before making any decisions. I was 8cm and knew that I would eventually have to get out of the tub (a move I was dreading more and more as the contractions got worse and worse). I decided I needed the epidural (and knew I had to get it soon or the doctor wouldn't administer it...although I'm confident Susan would have advocated for me had he refused. He, as the chief hospital OB, is known to be very pro-natural birth, which is why the hospital doesn't use Pitocin for induction. Had I waited, there is a good chance he would have said I was too close to delivery to bother with the epidural. This is common based on the German birth stories I've heard and I was very concerned.) After deciding to get the epidural, I had to finally move out of the tub and into a delivery room.

This was by far the worst part of the entire process. The contractions I had outside of the tub, moving to the delivery room, and while I was getting the epidural were absolutely excruciating. The doctor administered the PDA (walking epidural, meaning I still had full use of my legs and I still had sensation and could feel the contractions, just without the pain) and within 30 minutes I was a happy camper. As soon as the epi took effect, Susan let Zach know there were some visitors outside. Some fabulous friends dropped by to bring Z a sandwich (how brilliant and thoughtful was that?!) and a bag of goodies for my recovery room as well. By the time Z came back in, it was getting close to pushing time.

I was in no way prepared for the amount of work and the intensity of this stage of labor, but really, who is? I have no idea how long I pushed...it felt like forever, but in reality was probably less than an hour. Susan kept having me reposition myself to help the baby move down and out most effectively, but finally she and the doctor explained that progress was stalled and they were going to discuss suction or forceps...I didn't love hearing this, but of course, wanted her out safely and quickly. They opted for suction and decided to use it only to turn her body and not to "pull her out" (phew). I didn't feel much while they turned her...it just took a few minutes and then I was able to push again. The rest is a blur...minutes later Susan said to me "open your eyes!! Look at your daughter!". I didn't even realize how tightly I had my eyes closed but I'm so glad she noticed and had me open them, because there was our sweet little Zoe Marie, entering the world at 8:38pm! What an amazing moment.

Susan put her right on my chest and I got to hold our Zoe for just a few minutes before they took her away. Z went with the doctors and was able to stay with her until they had her set up in the preemie ward, then he came back to me. They stuck me in a wheelchair and took us to see our girl one more time before I was wheeled back down to the recovery room and put in bed. The whole process, from water breaking to delivery was less than 24 hours, with only about 9 hours of labor.

The rest is history...I was in the hospital for 5 days before being released (which was actually really nice because I was able to spend big chunks of the day with Zoe). They kept her in the preemie ward an additional 6 days for a total of 11 days. We were THRILLED to bring her home and it's been a blur of wonderful and exhausting ever since.

So there is it. The birth story.

Placenta. (Shame on me. No Thin Mints today.)

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