Friday, August 26, 2016

Welcome SJ!

Baby #5 is here, and it's another girl! Since it's been so long since I last posted, let me give a brief run-down of my pregnancy (skip the bullet points if you just want to read the birth story):
  • I found out I was pregnant at the end of November. Decided I wanted to surprise B1 (if at all possible), so I didn't tell him.
  • Announced pregnancy at Christmas, when E opened a gift of a pink shirt saying that she was a big sister.
  • "Morning" Sickness arrived pretty quickly (around 5-6 weeks), and brought a friend this time too--Fatigue. These two stuck around until about 20 weeks. I spent most of this time not wanting to eat and/or too exhausted to eat. Thankfully Jr was old enough to help me feed the kids. They survived on healthy, home-cooked meals like cereal and boxed mac and cheese.
  • At 21-week ultrasound, I was barely feeling the baby move, which was very odd. I was terrified that something was wrong. Statistically, I felt we had been too lucky. I have never miscarried, or had any complications (pregnancy or delivery), and my babies have always been healthy and full-term. It felt like our time was due. So, I was scared to go to the ultrasound and hear what was wrong with our baby--why we hadn't felt him/her move, what genetic problems there were, etc. Happily, everything was fine. It turns out that the placenta had attached itself to the front of my uterus, so it was blocking most of the movements. The tech said that as the baby grew stronger, we would feel more movements. B1 and I decided to have another surprise baby, so we did not find out the baby's sex at the appointment.
Baby is a thumb sucker

  • Shortly after the ultrasound, leg and groin pain kicked in. It got progressively worse until it became extremely painful to get out of bed, walk up/down stairs, push a grocery cart, change E's know, live the mom life. I read about various causes of these pains, and most said they got better around 24-26 weeks, so I waited...and waited. At 26 weeks I was still dying, so I called my OB's office and got a referral to a physical therapist, and called a scheduled an appointment--a month later. 4 more weeks of pain, and finally went to the physical therapist at 30 weeks along. Turns out my abductor muscles (groin muscles, but sounds better) were extremely tight, and that was causing my pain. Easy enough solution: heat, massage, and stretching. I walked out of there feeling better than I had in 2 months, and over the next 8-9 weeks it got progressively better.
  • At 33 weeks, we went to California for a week and a half. It was the only time that summer that we would be able to go, and the kids were dying to see their other grandparents. B1 was not able to drive down or back with us, but was able to fly down in the middle of the trip and spend a few days with us. Thanks to the long car drives, I had some wicked swelling in my legs. It started that first day we drove down, and my legs remained swollen throughout the rest of the pregnancy. My hands started swelling too, a few weeks later, so I wasn't able to wear my wedding ring. :(
  • Around 35-36 weeks, I was feeling the best I had all pregnancy. Leg/groin pain was mostly gone (swelling was still there, but I could handle that), fatigue and nausea were gone, and life was good. Braxton Hicks contractions started, and were pretty consistent and frequent. At my 36 week check-up, I was already dilated to 3 cm and baby was head down. Everyone kept trying to tell me I was going to have the baby early, but I was adamant that I was not. Sure enough, at 37 weeks, I was still 3 cm. We stripped my membranes, but nothing happened. It was around the 37 week mark that baby decided to give me regular headbutts to the cervix. Super uncomfortable (at times painful), but I figure that this at least had to be helping me dilate, right? No. At 38 weeks, I was still 3 cm (no membrane stripping this time, because B1 had a busy flight schedule that week and I didn't want to risk him being gone). At 39 weeks, I was still 3 cm, and we stripped membranes again--nothing.
  • Due date was August 5th. At this point, I had had 3 non-induced babies: B2 and E were born on their due dates, and A was born the day after. So, I was planning on a delivery on August 5th or 6th. By the time August 5th rolled around, I had already lost count of the number of comments I had had -- "Haven't you had that baby yet?" "Aren't you due sometime soon?" "Has baby arrived?" "Any time now, right?" August 5th came...and went. No worries, I told myself. It'll be tomorrow. August 6th came...and went. I think I cried a little that night. I seriously debated going to church on the 7th, but I did -- and only cried 2 or 3 times as people asked me about the baby and when he/she was coming. And then August 7th passed, and August 8th too.
Well, onto the birth story. On August 9th (B1's birthday), we had our 40 week/5 day appointment. I was not happy about still being pregnant, but still hoping for a natural, non-induced labor. I was happy to hear that I had actually dilated! I was now 4 cm. The doctor stripped my membranes around 4:00 p.m., and we all pretty much knew that this was it. Sure enough, within the hour contractions started. We did lots and lots of walking to encourage them, and they were coming every 3-5 minutes and increasing in intensity. B1 went home and packed overnight supplies for the kids (they were sleeping at Grandma White's house). Around 9:30 p.m., B1 offers a trial "drive" to see if the contractions stay consistent when I sit down. The drive destination? The hospital, of course. To his surprise, I say yes, and we take off. During the 30 minute drive, I have 3 contractions. Great. So, when we get there, we walk a few laps of the parking lot, and the contractions go back to 3-5 min apart. We go inside and get set up in the triage room, and I'm now 5.5 cm dilated, so I am admitted.

Now begins the waiting game. We watch a little bit of the Olympic coverage, and then an interesting show about how the grandiose nature of the Olympics can be traced back to Hitler, and I even get some sleep. The downside is that this means my contractions are slow and weak, and 2 hours later I hadn't even dilated a smidge--still 5.5 cm. We're now in the wee hours of August 10th, and the nurse (under doctor's orders) suggests either breaking my waters or starting a pitocin drip. I had wanted a.) a natural, un-medicated, non-medical-intervention birth with b.) no IV in my hand/arm (if you remember, I was all ready to throw a fit about not getting the IV with E's birth, but I was Group B positive so I had to have it for the antibiotics; I was Group B negative this time, so I was looking forward to no IV. However, at one of my later appointments, Dr. Melendez explained that one reason they encourage the IV, even if it's locked off, is because the risk of hemorrhage increases with each pregnancy, and if there's an emergency and the mother is hemorrhaging, it can be difficult to insert an IV). However, I was also SO done being pregnant, and had scheduled our induction for the following day (August 11th). I opted for the pitocin, since it was something I could turn off if my contractions picked up speed or I changed my mind, but I couldn't go back on breaking the waters. Also, it just seems like it's so much easier to push out the baby when the waters are still in tact. So, they hooked me up with pitocin, and after a few adjustments, my contractions picked up. It wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered with D, which was nice.

At 6:00 a.m. the nurse informs me that they changed doctors early, and Dr Ollerton was now on. I knew that August 10th was his day, and also knew that Dr Lamoreaux was the back-up doctor. Over the course of the pregnancy, I had 3 or 4 separate conversations with different doctors at Valley OB, and they all had confirmed that if I didn't like the on-call doctor, I could call in the back-up doctor. So, I explained this to the nurse, and asked her to call Dr. Lamoreaux. She tried to convince me to use Dr. Ollerton, and seemed hesitant, but I insisted that she call Dr. Lamoreaux. She did, and came to let me know that Dr. Lamoreaux would be the delivering doctor. He came in at 7:00 a.m. to check on me. I was now 9 cm dilated, and he offered (he did not "recommend" or "insist" -- just offered; this is one of many reasons why I love this doctor so much) to break my water. At this point, I would have done just about anything to birth this baby, so I agreed. 38 minutes later, our baby was born, waving (she came out with one hand up by her head, making birthing her shoulders the most painful thing I've ever felt). The nurse lifted my head so I could see that we had another daughter. This was the first time the baby's sex had not been announced to me, but where I had seen for myself. They put her on my stomach while they cleaned her up a bit and cut the cord. I was so relieved to finally have this awful pregnancy behind me and to start feeling better.

B1 and I named our baby girl SJ. And yes, those are both her first names (no middle name), and we plan to call her SJ, not S or J (though I think the nickname my brother gave her of SayJay is pretty cute). She was 7 lbs, 12 oz, and 19.5 inches long, and absolutely perfect.

As they took SJ to weigh her and all, Dr. Lamoreaux kept working on me. The placenta was being stubborn and not wanting to come out. Usually it doesn't take long for me to deliver the placenta, but this one wasn't coming. Dr. Lamoreaux was being very patient, careful not to yank it out prematurely. When it finally was delivered, he said that it was looking ragged, though whole, so he had the nurses bring in an ultrasound machine to double-check that no pieces were left behind. After a few minutes with the ultrasound, he said everything looked good, congratulated us, and headed off for his appointments in the office.

It seems every time we have a baby, there's a new policy or procedure in place at the hospital. This time, as the nurse explains, it's common for the hospital to keep us in the delivery room for 1-2 hours after birth before moving us to our room on the floor below. While we're waiting, I ordered and ate a big breakfast (I was starving after the long night), I tried feeding SJ (I never know if babies actually get anything from those early feedings), and we just enjoyed our time with our brand new baby. And, of course, the nurse bustles around, cleaning up the messes, checking my bleeding, etc. As she does, she keeps pushing back our relocation time, saying that she is noticing that I'm still bleeding more than I should. Every 15 minutes or so, she "massages" (reads: applies extreme force to) my uterus to help it contract; with each "massage" my body gets a little more sore, meaning that each "massage" is a little more painful. In addition to the pain of having my uterus pounded on, I was also having pains in my upper abdomen, right under my sternum and into my rib cage. After several hours of this, I'm also getting more and more tired from the pain. This is usually my "I feel great" time, where I'm going to the bathroom on my own and getting frustrated with the nurses' concern because I feel perfectly fine, but instead I'm still in lots of pain and getting weaker, not stronger. During this time, the nurse is giving me two different types of medicine to help my uterus contract. According to her, there are two main reasons why someone continues to bleed heavily after giving birth: placenta being left in the uterus, or a "lazy uterus" that doesn't contract back down to size. Since the ultrasound didn't show any placenta left in my uterus, they give me medication (one is a shot in the thigh, and the other is some type of pill that goes up to help the uterus contract. And, at some point during the day, a doctor comes in (I don't even remember who) and says that my upper abdomen pain was stomach spasms.

Around 11:00, I'm starting to feel pretty miserable, and the bleeding is just as bad as right after I delivered. I asked B1 to call his dad to come in and give me a blessing. He came down, and by this point I was so tired that I was just lying still, trying to control the pain. They gave me a blessing, and I felt much better--not so much physically, but emotionally. I had faith that I would be okay. I also asked B1 to let the families know what was going on so we could have some extra prayers being said on my behalf. I've always heard people say that they could feel the power of others' prayers, but I had never experienced that until this day. I really did feel the power of their faith.

The next few hours are a bit of a blur. For me, it was a never-ending pattern of uterus "massage" followed by trying to sleep (aside from small naps around midnight, I hadn't really slept in over 24 hours) but being unsuccessful due to the close timings of the "massages." Just as I was starting to recover from the pain of the last "massage," the nurse would come back in and dig into my stomach. While I didn't always see what was coming out with each massage, I could feel it, and I knew that I was still passing large clots and large volumes of blood. She was also weighing the blood and keeping a running total. At some point they also had someone take blood to start matching, just in case I needed a transfusion. I remember wondering why they were taking it out of my elbow when I had two separate IVs (one in my left forearm and one in my right wrist). This would not be the last time that poor elbow was used for blood draws.

Sometime in the early afternoon, the nurse commented that she wanted to change my linens. I felt super gross, and asked if I could take a bath while she did that and try to clean off some of the blood that was on me. She agreed, though hesitantly, and B1 helped me to the tub. I wasn't in there too long. She asked how I was feeling, and I said a little sick to my stomach, to which she immediately and firmly told B1 that I needed to get out of the tub NOW. I was slightly reclined, and as I sat up to get out, I started to black out and my body went limp. I don't think I completely lost consciousness, as I remember being dragged out of the tub (it was odd, because I wanted to help get myself out, but for some reason my body wasn't working) and across the floor of the room. The nurse and B1 were desperately trying to get me back in bed, but as B1 later described it, I was like a "greased up pig" -- slippery from the water from the tub and the blood that was still coming out. As I was lying next to the bed while they were trying to get a good hold on me (I was still unable to move my limbs), I started throwing up. And then I threw up some more. And some more. That big, delicious breakfast all came up, and even though I was now lying in a pool of water, blood, and barf, at least my stomach felt better. I don't recall getting back onto the bed, but somehow the nurse and B1 got me there, and more nurses came in and helped clean up the mess that was just made. My nurse also kindly cleaned me up, sponge-bath style. From that point on, I couldn't handle anything in my stomach. The nurse gave me Percocet to handle the pain -- I threw it up. I was so thirsty, so B1 got me juice, Sprite, and water -- I threw that up. I ate an ice chip--I threw it up. Throughout the morning, I was getting fluids through my IV, but I was so incredibly thirsty, and so very, very tired. The stomach spasms calmed down as long as my stomach remained empty.

It was around 3:00, I think, that I just wanted to hold my baby. I hadn't been able to hold her since the morning. She had been given a formula bottle sometime in the early afternoon, as I was just too weak to feed her. So, I asked B1 to let me hold her. He brought SJ over, and I was too weak to move my arms to hold her, so he placed her next to me and I turned my head to be as close to her as possible. I hoped that having her near me would give me the strength I needed to get better.

Sometime after that, an ultrasound machine was brought back up and another ultrasound done on my uterus. Almost immediately, the tech said he could see a piece of placenta still in there. The doctor was called, and this time it was Dr. Jones who came in. He saw the ultrasound pictures and agreed that there was still placenta in the uterus. He explained that ultrasounds done immediately after delivery, when the uterus is still large and full of blood, are harder to see clearly. But, now that the uterus had time to shrink back down, it was much easier to see the placenta piece that was left behind. He recommended an immediate D and C surgery to remove the remaining piece. When he told me that I would be put under anesthesia for the surgery, I was thrilled. For me, this meant that I would have a good amount of time in which I wouldn't be conscious of pain. Preparations were made, and I was wheeled out for surgery, leaving B1 alone with SJ.

I was wheeled downstairs, and I remember some brief conversation with the anesthesiologist about being put under. I don't even remember having a mask put on my face -- maybe they gave me something via IV first, I don't know. I just know I woke up later, and as I was coming to, that nurse was explaining to someone that I had lost another 400 ML of blood in surgery, so I was up to 2400 ML (or 2.4 liters) of blood lost, and that I had been given one unit of blood in surgery. I was then wheeled back upstairs, but finally taken to the 2nd floor instead of back to the labor/delivery room. Almost immediately, I was feeling better. I ate dinner that night and kept it all down, and was able to drink again. I was, however, SUPER swollen from all the fluids that had been put into my IVs during the day. I was so swollen that every time I blinked, a bit of water would leak out my eyes. It felt like I was squeezing water from my eyes by blinking the way one might squeeze water from a sponge. Every hour that passed had me feeling better and better, and each trip to the bathroom released what felt like 3 gallons of fluid from my face. I could sit up on my own. I was even able to feed SJ again. I went to bed fairly early that night, and slept well despite the nurses checking on me regularly. 
Sometime in the early hours on the 11th, blood was drawn to check my hematocrit levels. Other than a growing headache, I was feeling pretty well. However, a while later, the results came back and my hematocrit was way low. According to the nurse, normal levels are around 38 or 39. Transfusion levels (where a transfusion is needed) is around 21. My levels were 16. So, I was given 2 more units of blood. After the first bag was hooked up, I suddenly got really tired, and fell asleep (like, dead to the world, not even noticing that they changed the blood bag while I was sleeping) for several hours. When I woke up, I was surprisingly refreshed. The nurse commented on how much better I was looking. I felt great, and was even given the okay to take a shower. What a difference that made! I felt just like I normally do post-delivery -- I wasn't in any pain, the swelling was gone, my headache was gone, and I was ready to receive visitors. B1 went to pick up the kids from Grandma's house so they could come meet SJ, but unfortunately as he loaded them into the van E started coughing a croup-like cough. So, she was left behind and the 3 boys were able to come meet their new sister. The boys were very excited to hold her. A asked me if we were going to have another baby (as he put it, "put another baby in [my] tummy"). I told him no and he asked why not. I said, "Don't you remember how sick Mommy was when the baby was in my tummy? And how sick I got when the baby came out?" He responded, "But we can just say more prayers for you and you'll be okay." I'll admit, I had tears welling up at the wonderful, simple faith of my little boy. I don't doubt that much of my recovery was due to his prayers, and the prayers of my other children.

During the day on the 11th, I got visits from both Dr. Lamoreaux and Dr. Jones. Poor Dr. Lamoreaux -- he looked like he was taking my hemorrhaging personally. I kept trying to reassure him that I held no hard feelings, and still trusted him. I still think he's the best doctor, and know he did everything he could have to make sure I was fine. He kept reassuring me that he was in continual contact with my nurse about my bleeding, and said how sad he was that he couldn't have performed the D&C personally. Dr. Jones also checked on me, and said that if Dr. Lamoreaux missed the placenta in that initial ultrasound, no one would have found it because he's the best in the business. I agree with Dr. Jones -- Dr. Lamoreaux is the best there is. Both doctors (as well as Dr. Aagard, who checked me out on Friday before releasing us from the hospital) mentioned that it was a good thing I had delivered in the hospital, because there was a very real possibility that I would have bleed to death had I not been treated in time. B1 was very smug about this -- while I hadn't ever pushed super hard about having a home birth, it's definitely something I had considered when pregnant with A and E, and had discussed such possibilities with B1. Had we lived closer to a hospital, I may have pushed harder. But this experience just solidified in B1's mind that he was right not to give in to a home birth.

That's pretty much the craziness that is SJ's birth. I'm now recovering at home. In most ways, it's a normal post-birth recovery: my bleeding is normal, I'm not in any pain (minus hemorrhoids and nursing pain), but I also get really tired easily, and sometimes get dizzy. Some basic errands or chores can just wipe me out for hours, so I have to keep my daily schedule pretty simple. B1 extended his FMLA leave an extra week to be able to help me out, and my mom will be here the week after he gets back. I'll end up having live-in help for 3.5 weeks, much longer than I initially thought I'd need (lets be honest: I didn't think I'd *need* any help), but for which I am immensely grateful.

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