Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monday, June 14, 2010

Conner's Birth Story Part 2

So I left off explaining how Conner was taken within our first hour together for some additional testing. We were just getting settled into our new room, Conner was in my arms, and I was just staring at him. He had his eyes closed and was pressed up against my bare skin. He was breathing so fast. He didn't appear to be any pain, just very tired. I remember thinking that he has to be fine; he just has to be... there is no other option. I was just so exhausted and relieved that nothing else mattered except for that moment between me and my new son.

Within 30 minutes, there was a knock on my door and a nurse walked in. She took Conner out of my arms, put him in his bassinet, and wheeled him away. I watched my son leave the room without knowing when I would be able to hold him again. We had no idea what was going on and if he was in any trouble. We were so worried. I just remember talking to Dave and trying to make sense of Conner's breathing. I tried to get some sleep as Dave assured me that everything was going to be fine and Conner would be back soon. I fell asleep for a few hours and woke up to another nurse wanting to come in to talk to me about Conner and check my incision. She basically explained that they took some x-rays and blood tests, and that he would be held in the Special Care nursery overnight. The pediatrician that was present at his delivery would come and talk to us as soon as the x-rays had been read. We were told we could go and see him and we were warned that he would be covered in monitors and wires, and that his head would be under an oxygen mask. We were warned that it may be a little scary seeing him like that and to prepare ourselves.

We arrived at the nursery only to see our son exactly as described. He was in a bassinet under a warming light with wires stuck all over him monitoring his heart rate, O2 absorption, and breathing rate. He was receiving fluids through an IV and his head was under an oxygen mask. I was so sad... that is the only word. I was so worried and sad and felt an indescribable pull towards him that I could not satisfy. He was sound asleep and so little.

The doctor that was present at his birth was reading the x-ray and came to talk to us shortly after we went into visit Conner. He informed us that Conner was diagnosed with a pneumothorax. When he took his first breath, it was so strong that it punctured a small hole into his lung causing an air pocket to form in between his lung and the tissue outside his lung restricting his breathing capacity. They had additional concerns also. They were worried that because of the condition, he was not absorbing enough oxygen, that he would not be able to breastfeed as he would not be able to master the breathe suck swallow instinct as he was struggling to breathe, and that he may develop an infection. We were shocked and had so many questions. We were told that the doctor could go in with a special needle and clear the air that had accumulated and that would help improve his oxygen intake and breathing capacity. It would be up to Conner to regulate his breathing and up to the antibiotics to fight any infection. We approved the procedure as we were so anxious to have him healthy and back into our arms.

Conner made it through the procedure and was held in the NICU overnight. He would receive new blood tests and x-rays in the morning and we were told to get some sleep. I have never felt so guilty and torn when I left him behind. They told me that for him to stay strong I had to stay strong and that I had more work to do by producing colostrum and milk for him to regain his strength. I needed to rest and eat. We went back to the room where I was taught how to use the breast pump and took my next round of medication. My mother in law stopped by with food for Dave and I just couldn't face her. I was so sad and so worried and so confused by the day in general that I just didn't have any energy for anyone. She left behind a photo album that she had made of the pictures she took moments after Conner's birth and when I looked at them I broke down. I completely lost it and cried harder than I ever have in my entire life. I truly thought that I could not handle what had been handed to me. I doubted my strength and my ability to deal with the situation. Dave just held me and let me cry and told me that we would get through it and that Conner was going to be fine. I really don't remember the rest of the night. The nurses gave me a sleeping aid and I was out until the next morning.

The next day was especially hard for me. I woke up with this sense of urgency that I could feel in my bones but I was in so much pain that I was moving slower than I ever had in my entire life. All I wanted to do was spend time with Conner so I made it out of bed, ate my breakfast, pumped, and bee lined for the nursery. When I got there I felt instant relief. Conner was sleeping peacefully on his tummy and the room was dark and quiet. I just sat there staring at him. Dave was off spending time with his dad who had made a four hour trip to visit us. He was trying to keep visitors at bay so I could focus on Conner. I sat there for about an hour just staring and staring. A nurse came by shortly after to check his vitals and asked me if I would like to hold him. I instantly lit up and of course was thrilled. I sat there for two hours straight with him stroking his head, talking in his ear telling him of all the things we have to look forward together and kissing his cheek. The nurses gave me my privacy and only checked on us when necessary. It was a wonderful moment for us... we got a chance to bond a little and he was able to hear my voice and know I was there for him. I left him to sleep that night knowing that things were going to get better. The doctor came in and informed me that his pneumothorax had disappeared completely, his x-rays showed increased lung function, his O2 absorption was improving and his blood tests looked great. They decided to put him on antibiotics as a proactive measure to fend off any infection that may creep up. They said their biggest worry was pneumonia as fluid could have collected in his lung as a result of the puncture. We were not out of the woods yet. Conner was still on an IV, not breastfeeding, under an oxygen mask and hooked up to the monitors. He would stay in the nursery for at least two more days.

When I got back to my room Friday night I was feeling better. I had taken the doctor's update as good news and as improvement so I was feeling optimistic and excited. I remember spending a lot of time on the phone with my mother in law updating her on the situation and just hearing myself say all the improvements out loud really made it less scary. I slept well again knowing I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow. Dave's brother and sisters were coming to visit and I would be able to feed Conner.

Saturday was great. I woke up feeling better. I was able to take a shower and walk around with a little more strength. I could get in and out of bed easier and was feeling less pain. My appetite had come back and I even put on a little make up. I ate, pumped, and went down to see Conner. He was wide awake this time and he was hungry. The nurses said that he was ready to start eating but they were still worried that he was breathing too fast and he still would not be able to master the suck swallow breathe reflex. He would need to breastfeed and they were considering a feeding tube. The tube would be inserted into his nose and the food would be delivered via syringe. This for me was especially hard because I was aching to feed him myself and I knew the breast milk would benefit him immensely. I complied because it was what was best for Conner. We left him for a bit to allow the doctor to insert the tube and came back to a hungry baby. I was allowed to feed him myself and sat with him in my arms slowly delivering his nourishment through a tube. It was tough and he was not connecting the hunger to the food in his belly so it took awhile for him to realize he was full. It all worked out for the best though and in no time he was sleeping in my arms like an angel. Dave's family came into town to see Conner, so they all stopped down later to take a peek. I really didn't want to pass him around to everyone yet so I held him while everyone stood around me and got a chance to see him. It was a good day. I went to bed that night sad still but with hope in my heart.

Sunday was my favorite day. I woke up very early excited that it was my first mothers day and I was told that the antibiotics were being discontinued and the feeding tube was coming out. I would be able to breastfeed him. I wanted to make this day especially memorable so I called my mother in law and my mother and asked them if they could make time to come to the hospital. As my mother's day gift to them, I wanted them to each be able to hold Conner. After I breastfed him for the first time that day, Dave's mom finally got to hold him. She was so thrilled that she was able to do that it really made her feel like a real grandma. She had really been looking forward to that moment. My mom and sister were able to come and hold him too. It was a great day because I was able to see Conner in a healthy light and I was able to spend time with the two moms that I love. The rest of the day is a blur, but I just remember sitting there with him in my arms feeding on exactly what he needed to gain his strength and I finally felt that crazy loving bond that only a mom can feel for her child.

Monday was our last day. Conner had fully recovered in record time and we were told it would be our last day. I went through all the discharge information as soon as I could to get myself all straightened out so I could focus on getting Conner home. The day was nuts. I was back and forth with getting ready to go home, breastfeeding, and talking to the nurses and doctors about what needed to get done before we could leave. We were thankful for all the hospital staff's work, but we were so anxious to just be home. The pediatrician on call that day came in to update us on our son and told us he had one last hurdle to jump then he would be in the clear. We had opted to have Conner circumcised and if he made it through the procedure he would be given the green light to go home. Turns out my little man is a champ and made it through with flying colors. We were able to take him back to our room for the first time since he had been born and we all just took a nap together. Later, we went back to the nursery for pictures, a bath, and some last minute advice. I mostly just remember the feeling I had of pure elation and excitement that I was finally able to bring my son home.

At about 4pm we loaded up the car strapped Conner in and made our way home. We made our way into our house as a new family one member bigger and a hell of a lot stronger. It was a long road home but we made it safe and sound.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Love Him...

Conner's Birth Story

Conner has been in this world for four weeks and six days. I am finally giving myself the opportunity to sit down and write the story of how he made his miraculous entrance. It was a rough ride, so readers beware...I do not want to scare anyone.

It was Monday, May 3rd. Dave and I went in for our 42 week ultrasound very anxious and hopeful that we would receive good news and things would start happening. He and I had been trying everything the past two weeks to get the ball rolling. I was becoming very uncomfortable, Conner was taking up a lot of space, I was retaining so much water I could not even make a fist, and I was exhausted. I was just looking forward to my son. We tried walking every night, moving around on an exercise ball, nipple stimulation, sex, raspberry tea, lunges, up and down the stairs - you name it we tried it. I was feeling what I thought at the time were contractions, but they were always mostly random, mostly painless, and would drop off by the time I woke up. So at that 42 week appointment, Dave and I were asked when we wanted to start induction as I was full term and had to be induced no later than the 6th. We were advised that it can be a slow process that can last a few days so we decided to make our admission into the hospital for the next day. We were in shock. Not only had we wanted to avoid induction at all costs, but we were actually making plans to walk into the hospital to have our son. So we went home. We packed our bags, cleaned the house, and picked fresh flowers so the house would smell good. I did all the laundry and made sure everything was ready for the arrival home of Conner. Really, we were both on such edge that if we didn't have these things to do we would have gone insane.

Tuesday came - we had our scheduled time to arrive at the hospital at 8am. We called, as requested, two hours in advance to make sure there was a birthing room available. Turned out there was not. We were devastated. We had worked up so much anticipation and were so let down. We were told to come in ten hours later at 6pm. So we waited... I slept and watched Bones on Netflix, and Dave went upstairs for a nap. Finally 4:30 rolled around and we decided to get ready, go grab a bite to eat, and make our way to the hospital. We sat down at Boston's for some pizza and talked about what we thought would happen. Went through our birth plan and discussed what was on our minds. Finally the time came to get to the hospital so off we went.

We arrived and were greeted with a huge birthing room equipped with a tub, an exercise ball, special bed, and all the equipment that goes along with having a baby. I remember staring at the bassinet that they place the baby in after he is born and thinking to myself, "my son will be in there". I was so happy. Once we were admitted, had the paperwork filled out and had met our nurse, we started the induction process. The midwife came in and checked my cervix which at this point had dilated to about a fingertip and I had not effaced at all. She gave me a vaginal suppository that was supposed to help along the process and I was told I could not get up for about a half hour. It was about 9pm at this point. Six hours went by - Dave and I talked, watched TV, and tried to stay positive as much as possible. We were both pretty awake as it is so hard to sleep in a hospital. Every hour you have nurses coming in and checking your BP, the baby's heart rate, my contractions, so I was up all night. At 3am the midwife came back to check my cervix again. No movement. We opted for another dose. I was so disappointed. I was not feeling anything, I was not contracting, and I was getting frustrated.

Another six hours went by and the midwives had a shift change. The new midwife came in at 10am and we decided to try a different vaginal suppository that was known to be a bit stronger. She checked my cervix and again nothing had changed. I felt like I was doing something wrong, that my body was failing me - and I started to get down on myself. I feared the worst and was beginning to lose sight of the goal. I was unable to move around a lot. I was strapped to the monitors, which was something I wanted to avoid from the beginning, but they had to keep an eye on Conner's heart rate, so I complied. I was able to wear my own clothes though, so that helped. It was a very busy day in the maternity ward at the hospital I was in. All the birthing rooms were filled and my midwife was assisting in another induction and another birth. Because I was not progressing into labor, I barely was attended to by her - not her fault at all, she was just busy. Finally after one more dose at about 2pm on Wednesday May fifth, my water broke. I was laying in bed trying to sleep and I felt a painful pop and a small gush. I remember thinking that I had never felt that feeling before and I realized what had happened. Dave was sleeping on a cot next to me and I woke him up whispering loudly, "My water broke! My water broke!” It took a few minutes for it to register for him because at this point he was a bit sleep deprived, but we started to get excited. I called in the nurse, she verified it, and I was immediately put into a gown, strapped back in, and told that things should start moving pretty soon.

I remember the next 24 hours so clearly that I almost don't want to write it down.

My contractions started almost immediately after my water broke. Dave was so ready and excited that I was in labor; he was on top of everything. Asking what I needed, being there to support me. The first two hours were so amazing. I was finally feeling pain and contracting almost every two minutes for about a minute straight. The contractions became increasingly more painful. I remember a strong feeling of intense pressure on my pelvic floor and there was no relief. The best I could do was to hang my arms on Dave's shoulders and rock back and forth with my knees bent, like we were slow dancing. After about two hours I tried different positions. I was on the bed on my knees, I sat on the ball with my chest on the bed, I even tried sitting on the toilet to see if that would provide any relief - it did not. My mother in law came to check on me and was there for about an hour of my contractions. She was a great help as well, and held my hand through some bad ones. Finally I called my sister, who I needed to have there, and she came when things started to really get intense. By this time I had been contracting about every minute and a half for as long as two minutes and was having a really hard time with the pain. I was crying and groaning - I could not find anything to relieve the pain.

Six hours of this had gone by and I decided that I wanted to try the birthing tub. I remember that I could not get comfortable and the pain was so intense while sitting down that the water was not helping at all like I thought it would. My senses would not let it in as my entire body was focusing on the pain. I continued to breathe through and relax my body as much as I could. I remember feeling like I was being torn in two and at the same time trying to let my body be calm and work through the contractions. Every time one would hit I pictured my baby coming down, my cervix dilating, my son being born, and these things inspired me and helped me work through it. I remember I had a picture of my backyard taken a few years ago that I used as my focus point for the pain. Finally, I broke. I looked at my husband and cried that I could not do it anymore. I wanted something to take the edge off. I opted for an IV narcotic. My birth plan was so disrupted by this point and I was in so much pain, I felt I had no choice.

Once the medication hit, I was not feeling any comfort. The only thing it allowed me to do was pass out between contractions. They were still coming about every minute to a minute and a half and were lasting some as long as three minutes. Dave and my sister told me that I would snore while I was passed out and talk in my sleep - my body was so exhausted that it had no choice but to shut down whenever it could. I went through this pattern for another two hours - sleep, contraction, sleep, contraction. I was in the bed the entire time and when they would hit it was so painful that I could not breathe or move. Every muscle in my body tensed up and I was inconsolable. I finally decided that I needed to use the bathroom and took advantage of the time between contractions to do so. I had one while trying to get up, one on the way to the bathroom, and three while I was in there. When I finally made it back into the room, I looked at my husband and told him that I wanted to be checked for dilation. The midwife quickly checked and told me that I had effaced 100% but was still only a fingertip dilated. I was broken at this point. I could not believe that after ten hours of full on labor that my body was still not cooperating. That was when I decided that I just could not handle the pain any longer and asked for the epidural.

Within a half hour of my request the anesthesiologist was in the room prepping me for the medication. I remember being so relieved that I just broke down and sobbed when she came in the room. I knew relief was coming and that I had made the best choice for myself. Within ten minutes of receiving the meds, I was laying down comfortably, feeling only pressure when I had a contraction, and smiling at my husband. I felt like I had fought a war. I was not going to let myself think about the decision I had just made at that point. I had said all along through my pregnancy that an epidural was not what I wanted, but where I was at that moment, nothing mattered except for the rest I was about to allow myself. Everyone was relieved. My mom and mother in law had waited out the entire evening in the waiting room and were so happy to hear that I was OK. My sister and husband who had battled the past ten hours with me finally had a chance to process what they had just witnessed, get some air, some food, and some rest. It was about midnight at this point and my room was full of hope and expectation. I was able to get some rest and I slept for about three hours while the nurse kept a close watch on my contractions and Conner's heart rate. The midwife came in at about 4am to check my cervix again. At this point I had actually dilated 4cm and had bleeding which I was thrilled about. I started to think about the next step and became so excited that I was going to start pushing, that Conner would soon be here, and that this would all be over.

Then, BAM... stall. At 6am I had not dilated anymore than I had at 3am and my contractions were causing a concern as they were very long and close together and Conner's heart rate was dropping during each one. The midwife kept a close eye and was very hesitant to introduce Pitocin as the contractions may become a danger to Conner. For about two more hours, my monitor was watched closely as the contractions came and went. With each one, the room became silent and the looks on the faces of the medical staff became worried. My sister was watching the monitor like a hawk and making sure that I was OK, and that I was not worrying myself. Dave was talking every one through with the nurse and the concern mounted. Again, there was shift change with the midwives and once the new midwife was briefed with my situation she swooped in and took over.

Once she looked over all the details of my induction and labor, took in the results of the monitor and the state we were in, things moved very fast. She told me that the contractions were causing distress for Conner and with each one his heart rate was dropping. Her prediction was that he was not descending at all and was causing my labor to stall, he could be too big for a vaginal delivery, he was in distress, and that I was in labor for too long. She checked my cervix and found that Conner was still very high up and I had not dilated any more. She offered the option of Pitocin but stressed that it would cause unknown harm to the baby. She looked me right in the eye and suggested that a cesarean section was the safest way to deliver my son.

I looked at Dave and began to cry realizing that not only was my worst fear coming true, but that I had to make the best decision for Conner and for myself. We decided to go ahead with the surgery. Within minutes, my birthing room was flooded with nurses, doctors, and information given to me at warp speed. I was told they were going to treat the procedure as routine and not as an emergency. I was given a number of drugs to help with the pain, my hair was tied back, my husband was given a pair of scrubs and I was wheeled away within minutes to the surgical room. In the room I was then transferred to the "table" as they call it. I was completely numb from the neck down and could feel nothing. They strapped my arms down so I looked as if I was placed on a cross and the procedure began. I was terrified through the entire thing. Dave was right there with me, holding my hand and talking to me about all the wonderful times we were going to have with our new son. He kept me focused on something other than the fear and gave me a safe place to go in my mind. In the meantime, I could feel lots of pressure. I was told that the incision would be made right above my pubic bone, Conner's head would be delivered first and then his body would be pushed out from my chest down. I could feel the doctors pushing down on me to deliver his body. The pressure was painful but lasted only about three minutes... then I heard it.

Conner's first cry was so loud that my family heard him from in the hall. Dave said to me that my son had been born and to listen to that cry. We both started to cry and I felt a sense of peace rush over me. He was alive, crying, and HUGE! Everyone in the room was immediately commenting on his size... 9 pounds 2 ounces. He just looked big! He was wailing and I could not have been happier. After they cleaned him up they handed him to me and I was able to hold my son for the first time. I just remember closing my eyes and saying a prayer thanking God. Conner was screaming in my ear and letting me know that he was there to stay.  Turns out that the reason that he was not descending and that his heart rate was dropping was the cord was around his neck twice.  With each contraction, the cord became too entangled stopping blood flow from reaching him - thus the drop.  He also had an enormous head (thanks to my side of the family) and it would have been an almost impossible feat to have him vaginally.  Luckily though, he was a big boy and his size and strengh helped him survive against the difficult birth that he had to endure.  Conner was born at 10:16 am May 6th at 9 pounds 2 ounces at a length of 22 inches.  He has his father's eyes, hands, and feet and my nose.  He was a perfect baby...

They took him back shortly after that and I was stitched up and moved back to the birthing room. The entire procedure lasted about 30 minutes and I was able to sit up in bed and have visitors right away. First my mother in law came in with tears in her eyes telling me my son was perfect. Then my father, mother, sister and brother visited, and finally my husband and son. I was able to breastfeed right away and Conner latched on with no problems. This was the moment I had been envisioning in my mind for months. That first skin to skin contact with my little man. He was hungry and I was so relieved to have him safely in my arms. Nothing in my life will ever compare to that moment.

It was over. I was in recovery, my son was born and healthy, and we were being moved into an overnight room to spend time together, Dave and I, getting to know our little boy. Things were right in the world... Dave had mentioned to me that the pediatrician was having a few concerns that Conner's breathing was a little fast and that we were supposed to keep an eye on him. I remember sitting up in my hospital bed, proudly holding my son while my husband slept, and watching him breathe in and out and in and out... not knowing that the entire time he was struggling. Within the first hour of my son's life and our first crucial moments together to bond, I was told that he required additional medical attention and was whisked away in his bassinet for blood tests and x-rays.

I will tell the rest of the story in my next blog post... Conner is upstairs and he is hungry.

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