Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Must-Haves: For Labor and Recovery

Yup, still here. It's amazing how little time or energy I have for blogging right now.

Ethan and I are doing great, enjoying our days together while we can! I've had the go-ahead from my doctor to resume exercise, sex and all other normal activity, which is a wonderful thing! I have lots to blog about, but for now let me list some must-have things for my labor and recovery for all of you expectant moms out there.

I have not been paid or compensated in any way for these reviews - they are simply my opinion.

So here we go! In no particular order:

Always Infinity pads: These thin, comfortable pads do an amazing job. Even when I was hemorraging and going to the ER, my little pad held the blood in. They are expensive, but totally worth it. The overnights were especially great right after delivery when the bleeding was heaviest.

Cheap, dark-colored wash cloths: If you have a vaginal birth with a tear that requires stitches, your doctor will forbid you from using toilet paper. Invest in some cheap, dark wash cloths for use in the bathroom and make sure you wash them in HOT water, or buy white ones and wash them with bleach to sanitize. I carried one in my purse in a plastic bag for any time I needed a bathroom away from home.

Tuck's Witch Hazel Pads: These are AMAZING for helping soothe sore lady parts. I believe you can buy them at a drug store, but the hospital sent me home with enough to last me. They really do feel wonderful on the sore parts.

Dermoplast spray: This is a pain relief spray that also numbs - great on the sore parts! My hospital sent me home with a canister, and in combination with the Tucks it helped relieve a lot of pain!

Cotonelle Fresh Wipes: For when you have to go "Number 2" and aren't allowed toilet paper! They also make travel packs which slip easily into a purse or diaper bag.

Big, loose sweatpants: The day after I was released I could be found staggering the aisles of T.arget looking for sweatpants or yoga pants that were loose enough in my waist to not put pressure on my tender abdomen.

Mesh panties/granny panties: The hospital loaded me up with mesh panties before I left, and I used them until I ran out. Then I switched to big, soft "granny panties" - they are comfy on a sore abdomen, don't press tightly on sore lady parts and won't break your heart if ruined.

Stool softener such as Colace: They gave me this regularly in the hospital and told me to continue taking it at home. The first BM was a little scary, but nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be!

Good slippers for the hospital: These are great for shuffling about on the cold hospital floors. Since I spent so much time back and forth between the NICU, these came in really handy.

Sleep mask and ear plugs: Ear plugs are a MUST in a noisy hospital, although I annoyed a couple of nurses who didn't realize I had them in and was just ignoring them. :) A sleep mask is great as well, because a the room was never totally dark.

Comfortable pajamas/robe that look nice: The once thing I didn't have that I really wished I did. I simply didn't have time to buy any before my very early labor (at home I sleep in a tank top and yoga pants which have been worn so much they are practically see-through). I had to wear the hospital gowns, which were comfortable but made me feel very self-conscious in the NICU, where there were lots of nurses and parents around.

A bag of snacks: After delivery, I was able to eat, but mostly the snacks were there for Mr. M. and anyone else that might be there and hungry. I also tossed in a little bag with some quarters and dollar bills for vending machines, which we never used.

That's all I can think of for now! Let me know if you have any questions of any kind!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Ethan's Birth Story

Finally have a few minutes and the kid is asleep in his Rock N Play, so here we go!

If you've read my previous posts, you know that on Thursday December 8 I went for a check-up and discovered that I was already 4 cm dialated and 90 percent effaced. !! We went in to panic mode trying to scramble and get things ready, as we were pretty sure baby was coming withing the next week or two. Friday and Saturday were spent running around to various stores picking up last-minute essentials.

Saturday night we went to a holiday party at a friend's house. There was all kinds of food sitting out and I tried some of everything. Unfortunately, once I got home I spent the evening with stomach cramps. I realize now that these were probably early contractions, but since my tummy had been cramping every time I had a BM before this I just assumed I had eaten something "off."

Sunday morning I felt better and roused myself out of bed. My mom and grandmother came to town to help me wash, sort and put away all the baby clothes and linens. Our good friends LJ and LR came over to help as well. LJ spent the morning scrubbing our bathroom to within and inch of its life, and LR helped Mr. M. assemble things and move Christmas stuff. At about two LR and Mr. M. headed out to T.arget to pick up a bookcase for baby's room.

Since my stomach had been upset, I hadn't eaten much all day except toast and applesauce. I made myself some chicken soup and sat down on the couch. All of a sudden I couldn't get comfortable because my back was hurting really bad. It would hurt, I would change position and it would get better, then start hurting again. I finally gave up on the contractions and headed to bed with a heat pack to see if that would help.

Mr. M. and LR returned while I was laying down. I wondered why he hadn't come to check on me, and later learned that my grandmother had just told him I "wasn't feeling well and went to lie down." Thanks, Grandma.

At this point the back cramps were getting stronger, but my belly was still soft and wasn't getting a round and tight. I even called Labor and Delivery, and they said it probably wasn't contractions since my belly was still soft. I downloaded a free contraction timer app to my phone and was startled to realize the cramps were coming every 5 to 6 minutes and lasting about 45 seconds, again all in my back. Mr. M. had come to check on me by this point, and he took one look at my face during one of the "spasms" and declared that we were going to the hospital.

We already had a labor bag packed, so we threw some things in an overnight bag and left our friends, family and dogs at our house with promises to call with updates. At this point I didn't really know if I was in labor or not.

The ride across town was an interesting experience. Mr. M. and I were pretty silent, just holding each others' hands and feeling the nervousness and excitement that you would expect us to feel. It was a companionable and close silence, and for some reason it's one of my favorite memories from that night.

We got to the hospital and checked in, the registrar promising to "make it quick" when she saw my face. I then headed up to the Triage area, where they evaluate you to see if you are really in labor before admitting you or not. I got in my hospital gown and they hooked me up to monitors - one for contractions and one for baby's heartbeat. After an agonizingly painful cerivcal check, she said I was at 4 cm and she would be back to check on me in a hour to see if I had progressed.

By now the contractions (which the monitor confirmed) had gotten a lot worse. I could tell when one was coming on because I would get a weird burny feeling like I had to pee for a few seconds before the pain started. The pain was still centered completely in my lower back. Mr. M. did a great job of feeding me ice chips and helping me to breathe through the pain.

After an interminable hour, she checked me again and I was at a 4.5 or 5. We then had to wait for her to get ahold of my doctor (who was just by chance the doctor on call that weekend, a fact I am SO grateful for).

The nurse came back and said they were going to go ahead and admit me and give me some pain meds, but since I was early (35.5 weeks) they couldn't do anything to help my labor along. She said that if I progressed to a 7 or so, they could help labor.

However, as soon as they wheeled me into a delivery room, another nurse said "Did they tell you Dr. A. is going to break your water?" Mr. M. and I were both totally surprised and he immediately rushed out into the hall and started calling people.

Dr. A. came in and said she was "impressed" by my contractions, which were now so bad I couldn't get through them without groaning out loud. I asked if I could have my epidural, but she wanted to wait and see what happened after she broke my water.

Having my water broken HURT. Not the actual breaking, but the instruments going up there and such were really painful. Then there was a big, hot gush of fluid. If felt strange.

Dr. A and the nurse immediately noticed some "old blood" in my water, but what was more alarming was the fact that after she broke my water, I went almost immediately from 5 cm to 8! They slapped an oxygen mask on me because the sudden change was stressing the baby a little bit.

Everything went into fast forward. The nurses were scurrying around slapping bracelets on me and asking me questions while trying to get anesthesia up in time for my epidural. By now the contractions were so bad that I was clinging to the bed rails and wailing with every single one, despite trying as hard as I could to just breathe through them. Dr. A. told me in all honesty that it might be too late for the epi to even work, a fact which terrified me.

Getting the epidural was not bad, maybe because I was in so much pain and so wanting it to work. I had to sit completely still and was worried that a contraction might come, but it didn't. The needle with the numbing medicine hurt a little bit, and the actualy catheter going in just felt strange.

After it was over, I laid back and waited. And waited. And gradually, the pain got less and less until finally, blessedly, I could feel nothing.

Back labor ain't for sissies, y'all.

Things slowed down a bit after that. My grandma arrived and came into the room. She and Mr. M. both stayed for the whole process. I was feeling good but very nervous about the actual pushing part, afraid it was going to hurt, afraid of complications, afraid of everything but so looking forward to meeting our little man.

I pushed for an hour and 40 minutes and no, it didn't hurt at all. It actually was hard to know how to push since I couldn't feel anything, but I did my best. At one point my nurse had me hold onto a towel and she held the other end and we played tug of war during the contractions to help me know how to push.

We encountered some difficulties. Ethan was turned to the side a little, so Dr. A. had to reach in and try to rotate him. His cord was wrapped around his neck but hadn't affected his heartrate so he was okay. Watching him emerge and be placed on my stomach was one of the strangest experiences of my life. He came out crying and peeing. :)

We were all surprised at how big he was for an early baby! Six pounds, ten ounces and 18 inches. Dr. A. said that if I had gone full term, he would have been so big that I would have needed a C-section.

I had a second degree tear which needed sewing up, so I watched while they weighed him and checked him out. I didn't get a chance for any skin to skin or an opportunity to try to nurse him, since they took him almost immediately up to the nursery to be evaluated.

Mr. M. announced the name and successful delivery to the many family and friends who had gathered for the birth while the nurses got me cleaned up and comfortable. I kept saying, "I can't believe I had a baby and it didn't hurt!" Still very true - I can't believe it!

A little while later they came down and told me Ethan had been taken to the NICU for some possible respiratory issues. That was really hard to hear. I hadn't even held him yet at this point and I burst into tears. Friends and family came in to congratulate me, but since they couldn't even see the baby most of them went on home.

They got me moved into my recovery room and settled in with ice packs and pain meds. At this point I was missing the wonderful epidural. :) Finally a nurse wheeled my down to the NICU, where I got to hold my son for the first time and feed him his first bottle. I couldn't believe how beautiful he was, or how much hair he had on his head! We got to spend a little time in the NICU before heading back to the room.

You know pretty much the rest of the story. The rest of my time in the hospital was spent either sleeping, pumping or visiting Ethan in the NICU. I left the hospital without him and didn't get to take him home for two weeks while he fought off jaundice and eating issues in the NICU. Being at home alone with Mr. M. while our baby was in the hospital was a very sad, confusing experience.

Now it appears (fingers crossed) that things have settled down. We have an appointment with the pediatrician in the morning, so we'll see how much weight E has gained and how he is going. Mr. M. going back to work tomorrow, so we'll also see how I do on my first day by myself with him!

And my first solo night tonight. Mr. M. is going to sleep in the spare bedroom and leave me in the master with E so he can get some sleep before work tomorrow. I'm not much looking forward to flying solo tonight, but I know I can do it.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Well, this week has been alternately wonderful and completely hellish.

WARNING: This post may be a bit TMI or not for those with weak stomachs.

On the wonderful side: looking at my sweet boy, snuggling him against my chest, covering his fuzzy head with kisses and just basically falling more and more in love every single day.

As for the hellish: take breastfeeding. It has not and did not work for us for a variety of reasons (I'll post more about it later) and today I had to officially give up. It is completely breaking my heart and I can't even really bear to think about it, so I'm not going to right now.

Then there was Thursday. Ah, Thursday.

With a vaginal birth and a second degree tear, I have been hurting and bleeding for quite a while. The bleeding was finally tapering off and I was delighted.

After spending some time on the couch on Thursday, I stood up and felt a GUSH. I raced to the bathroom to discover I had gushed a fair amount of bright red blood, but it had stopped. I called my doctor and they said as long as I wasn't saturating more than a pad an hour or passing large or multiple clots, I was fine.

Later that night, I felt the weirdest sensation from "down there" and again a gush. Another race to the bathroom to discover a fairly large clot and more blood, which once again stopped after it came out. I called the doctor again and was told not to worry.

Friday I was feeling good because a while had passed since the bleeding. A good friend came by to visit us and the baby. After she left, I stood up and felt again that weird feeling and rushed to the bathroom.

This time it was like something out of a horror movie. Lots and lots of clots (which look like bright red pieces of flesh or something) and lots of blood that wasn't stopping. I watched in horror as it continued to drip into the toilet and yelled for my husband. I knew we had to go to the ER.

Packing up an infant in an emergency is never an easy thing, and as new parents I think we did a great job of not forgetting anything. Either way, it was ten minutes before we were in the car. We encountered every handicapped driver and Sunday driver in between here and the hospital and it was awful. I was beginning to cramp and feel weak and just knew something was wrong. That weird feeling and gushing continued.

Mr. M. dropped me off at the door to the ER and I staggered in, barely able to answer the questions and sign in. I don't think she believed me when I said I was bleeding a LOT, but once she got me in a room she sure did. I had to disrobe from the waist down, and once my underwear came off a clot the size of an orange hit the floor, along with a lot of blood. Her face would have been funny if I hadn't been so scared.

In no time I was in the bed with oxygen tubes in my nose, an IV dripping fluids and another (MOTHER EFFING) catheter in my bladder. Poor Mr. M. had tried to come back but since the room was such a mess they sent him and the baby away. They gave me some morphine for the cramps which helped, and the doctor finally came in to check me out.

After a bedside ultrasound and pelvic exam, she sent for a big ultrasound machine to see if it was just clots still in my uterus or if some of the placenta had stayed behind. She was pretty certain I was going to have to head up to surgery for a D&C. The ultrasound tech came in and used the F*ing catheter to FILL my bladder so that she could see - an experience I never want to have again. She saw one small clot still hanging out in my uterus but not much else.

Mr. M. and the baby were finally allowed to come back after they spent a half hour cleaning me and the room up. By then my bleeding had slowed significantly and the morphine had taken away most of the sting of the catheter. We had to wait about an hour for the ER doctor to get ahold of my doctor, but the decision was NO surgery. My doctor was sure everything (placenta and all) had come out during my delivery and that I was just passing clots. She gave me a script for a medicine to cause my uterus to contract to help stop the bleeding and an antibiotic to help fight off any infection.

Five hours later, we were home. The uterine stimulant gives me awful, contraction-like cramps and the antibiotic makes me super nauseous. But the bleeding has stopped and after passing that one last clot, I haven't seen any more.

Nothing about this pregnancy has been easy or fun. I am so ready to feel "normal" again, whatever that is.

So that's my story. Have to go now because the squirt is waking up. I promise a birth story soon.