Mommy 4-1-1

Mommies 4 Mommies: What We Wish We’d Known

Bed Rest Monday, April 21, 2008

Filed under: Antepartum Conditions,Pregnancy — Heather @ 11:04 am

When my sister-in-law was pregnant for the second time, an active blood clot formed between her placenta and uterine lining. If the clot got too big, it would separate the placenta from the wall of the uterus, effectively ending the pregnancy.  The clot would bleed whenever she moved around too much, so she was put on strict bed rest immediately. From her twelfth week of pregnancy until halfway through her seventh month, she laid in bed, using a wheelchair to go to the bathroom or doctor visits. My husband and I sent her care packages of DVDs, books, and games, and I remember thinking, “how fun that she gets to rest and watch TV all day!” I was actually jealous.

Flash forward to my pregnancy. When my water broke at 19 weeks, I was put on strict bed rest. I was only allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. I was allowed a five minute shower if I had a shower seat. I needed to lay on my side, preferably my left one, at all times. Never on my back, and I wasn’t ever supposed to sit up because that would stress my abdominal muscles. Gravity was a serious issue since I was constantly leaking amniotic fluid. Suddenly I realized that my sister-in-law’s bed rest might not have been the vacation I’d originally thought!

So many people told me, “enjoy the rest, because when the baby comes, you won’t get any.” Anyone who says that has never been on bed rest! While everyone obviously meant well, it did little to cheer me up. For me, there was nothing restful about it. I was constantly thinking about my condition. I did hours of research on the Internet about babies born to women like me. I wanted to be prepared for anything. It definitely helped once my daughter was born as I knew what to expect, but there were so many things to prepare for that it totally messed with my mind. Pregnant women are a pretty paranoid bunch these days anyway, what with all the things not to eat, do, etc. Throw in a high risk pregnancy and I can guarantee mental breakdowns! I had a lot of them. Even though I had my husband and my family and friends, I still felt like I was in solitary confinement. I started to wonder what I could have done differently. I shouldn’t have been outside over Labor Day weekend since the weather was so hot. I ran too many errands and I was on my feet too much. When you have nothing to do but think, your mind plays terrible tricks on you.

The one thing I never expected was how totally draining bed rest would be. Because all I could do was lay there, I would sleep in small bursts. Thirty minutes here, 45 minutes there. No long stretches, ever, even at night. I became very knowledgeable on the late night television schedule! I had trouble concentrating on everything. And physically, it destroyed me. I could feel my muscles twitching as they atrophied. My hips and lower back are still totally messed up from supporting all my weight. I had a pillow top mattress with a memory foam pad, and it still felt like I was laying on rough concrete. The special bed in the hospital wasn’t much better. I was scared that I wouldn’t have the endurance to go through labor or the strength to push my daughter out (which ended up not being an issue since I had a C-Section).

I had some really low moments. Times I just wanted to give up. I felt like I was going to crack and I couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t WANT to do it anymore. It was so hard, the enormity so overwhelming, that I just didn’t want to be pregnant and I didn’t CARE. I still feel guilty about that. Thank GOD I had my husband. He never judged me when I was at my most selfish, crying because I was uncomfortable or because I wouldn’t be able to do something. He never threw anything in my face. I never could have made it without him.

I taped up my ultrasound photos as motivation. I would remind myself, even during my low points, that every day I was on bed rest was a day my daughter wouldn’t have to be in the hospital. Instead of dwelling on everything I was missing out on by being on bed rest, I starting thinking about what I was gaining by laying there – my baby’s health. The sacrifices didn’t seem as big when I thought about it that way.

If you are on bed rest, I highly suggest moving your computer to your bedside. Read about your condition and get informed. Don’t dwell too much on what could go wrong. Ask your doctor if there are any stretches or easy exercises you can do in bed – you might even be able to get physical therapy. Find things to occupy your time – movies, DVDs of TV shows, books, computer games, word puzzles, anything. Above all, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I felt like such a burden to my family and friends, but they <i>wanted</i> to help me. They felt better knowing that they could do something for me, like cook or clean, and I felt better knowing that my house was still being cared for.

If you know someone on bed rest, DO NOT TELL THEM TO ENJOY THE REST!!!! It might seem like a good idea at the time, but stop and think about it for a sec – there is potentially something wrong with this pregnancy. Do you think your pregnant friend is feeling like bed rest is a vacation? She is most definitely scared out of her mind. Go over to her house, walk her dog, bring her and her husband dinner. She’ll always remember what a good friend you were to her in her time of need. I have a list a mile long of people I owe one to!

At the end of her bed rest, my sister-in-law gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy. She had the strength for a natural birth and, while her recovery was a bit longer because of her weakened condition, she was soon walking around like bed rest was a distant memory. My bed rest absolutely saved the life of my daughter. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

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My four kids Thursday, April 17, 2008

Filed under: Considering Motherhood,Delivery,Twins and Multiples — Kristin @ 9:06 pm

I have four children.  They are 7, 3 and 15 months (times two).  I have three girls and one boy.  While they have many similarities, they have their unique differences too.  My son is blonde and blue eyed.  The girls are all brown eyed (cue Van Morrison) and with varying shades of brown hair.  And each of their birth stories is unique.

I went into labor with Meg on Super Bowl Sunday, 2001.  I remember running into my parents at the grocery store and telling them I was having contractions.  I was so excited.  And nervous.  We hit my brother-in-law’s Super Bowl party, but left partway through because I was feeling awful.  Lots of contractions, and a horrible backache.  So we went home, watched the rest of the Super Bowl (my husband can tell you who played and who won but I don’t remember), and went to bed.  Never slept.  Contractions were 4-5 minutes apart.  I didn’t know what to expect, so we went into the hospital.  They sent me home.  Nothing happening.  Never slept.  Contractions started up again the next day, so we went to the doctor.  She told me I was 4 cm dilated and was going to admit me to the hospital.  That was a Monday around 2pm.  I spent the next many hours trying to get things going.  I had my membranes stripped (i.e. my water broken) to which the doctor said “hmm, I expected more” but nothing was really happening.  I tried the hot tub but it completely stopped my contractions.  I wandered the halls of the hospital for hours.  But, I had tested positive for Group B Strep and had to be hooked up to an IV, so I wasn’t going anywhere.  Sometime in the night the contractions got tougher to manage, so I first had a Nubane shot.  It worked enough to allow me to wander the halls some more trying to get that baby out.  But when it wore off, I was in serious pain.  I hadn’t slept since Saturday night, it was early Tuesday morning, and I had had enough.  I requested an epidural.  It was a nightmare for me while they tried to thread the needle.  I kept having contractions, the tech trying to thread the needle was nervous that he was hurting me, and they ended up getting a supervisor or someone to get the job done.  The epidural allowed me a couple hours of sleep.  I was awakened by the nurse at 6 to hear that while I slept my contractions ceased, AGAIN, so they were going to give me some Pitocin.  Two hours later I was ready to rock and roll.  But, I asked for a bit of time to wrap my head around the fact that I was about to become a mother.  She took two solid hours of pushing before she was born, but she was well worth the wait!  And of course, she likes to be punctual, as she was born on her due date. 

Drew was a completely different story.  He started testing my patience in utero.  I had several weeks of false labor with Drew.  I would go for hours with contractions four minutes apart, then not have them for days.  It was so frustrating.  We went to the doctor on Christmas Eve Day to be checked out because of the holiday weekend, and I was only 1 cm.  Nothing doing, again.  Christmas Day 2004 I thought for sure he was ready to make his appearance.  We ran all over creation visiting family and I had contraction upon contraction.  But nothing came from it, and the day after Christmas, no contractions at all.  A day later, nothing.  Then, on the 27th of December, the contractions started up again, every 4 mintues, for several hours.  Called the hospital and they told me to come in, just to be checked.  Called my parents, had them come to the house since we had an almost 4 year old who couldn’t just stay home alone.  NOTHING.  Go home and rest they said.  My husband did some work, I watched some tv, and went to bed.  About 3 hours later I woke screaming in pain.  I had really painful, couldn’t breathe thru them, contractions.  See, having an epidurual with Meg spared me these kind of contractions, so I had no real idea what was going on.  I hung around for a little bit longer, called my parents again (luckily they lived 2 minutes away at the time) and off we went.  I was still only 1cm when we arrived at the hospital (which was exactly 2 contractions from home-8 minutes) and they wouldn’t give me anything even though I was in obvious pain.  Why don’t you try the hot tub to ease the pain, they suggested.  Yes, the SAME hot tub that stopped my labor with Meg.  I got in the hot tub at about 5:10 am.  At 5:15 am I told Doug that I was pretty sure that the baby was RIGHT THERE and to get help ASAP.  He pulled the emergency chain, and I swear to you, it was like paratroopers invaded our little hot tub room.  Nurses and doctors came from every corner of the hospital it seemed, and they dragged me out of the hot tub.  The nurses doubted my statement that the baby was RIGHT THERE, but once the doctor got in the room, he said I was 10 cm plus 2 and to push on the next contraction.  Drew was born at 5:23 with 3 pushes.  It was the wildest ride!

Until the twins were born, that is.  At our hospital, twins are delivered in an operating room, just in case there are complications, but you labor in a birthing room.  I had a scheduled induction at 38 1/2 weeks, and again had my water broken at noon (I can tell you that having that done twice, either I had no amniotic fluid with Meg, or they did a bad job with her, because my water BROKE with the girls).  Then we waited.  I tried walking around a bit, but I was already 4 cm and huge, and uncomfortable, so I spent most of my time in the birthing room.  We had two nurses all to ourselves; they had no other patients that day.  We even had a male nurse, and I must say, I loved him.  He was truly wonderful to us that day.  I digress.  We didn’t wait long though.  Wait, let me go back and explain something funny.  We told our nurses about our two previous deliveries while we were waiting for them to break my water.  The resident who was going to be helping the doctor from our practice overheard us talking, and REMEMBERED US from 2004.  She was there when Drew was almost born in the hot tub.  The doctors and nurses had a pow wow, and decided to hold off inducing me until a scheduled c-section was complete in the operating room, in case things got out of hand again.  Glad they opted for that plan.  The broke my water at noon, and by 2 I was have some major contractions.  I was hooked up to every machine known to man~fetal monitor, IV, you name it.  I tried the Nubane again, but this time it didn’t help.  So, again, I asked for an epidural.  This time while they were threading it, I kept getting stabbing pains in my hip, along with horribly painful contractions.  I politely (nah, I yelled) told the doctor that he was KILLING MY HIP, and then something strange happened.  Annie decided that it was time.  I went thru two contractions feeling like she was coming right then and there and then again politely (nope, nope, nope, lots of yelling in pain) told them I had to push and NOW.  Upon examination they agreed that she was coming right then and I had to get thee to the operating room post haste.  My poor husband was hanking cords out of monitors, grabbing the IV and down the hall we raced.  I barely made it in the room and they got the bed pulled apart before Annie was born.  They whisked her to the table to examine her and she wasn’t crying, or doing anything.  I was freaking out because I couldn’t see her, the room was swarming with people (there had to have been at least 10 people there; so much for any vanity) and she was quiet.  I finally politely (you see the pattern now, right?) asked ordered my husband to let me see the baby.  She was fine, just surprised by her quick entrance into the world.  The portable ultrasound machine was brought back in to see if Izzie stayed head down, which of course she didn’t.  The doctors spent 11 long minutes trying to manipulate her from all kinds of angles and positions (internal and external) before she was head down and I could push her out.  I never did get my epidural, but I got two beautiful babies.

So my point is that if you’re thinking of having a child, you never know what’s going to happen.  I was terrified of laboring with Meg, and with Drew and the twins, I barely had time to think about it, and those final two births were without any epidurals.  You can’t have any preconceived notions about how it’s all going to work, because basically the babies are in charge and you’ll need to do what works best for them.  Be prepared, but don’t be disappointed if things don’t go the way you planned.  I know that I am grateful for healthy children, and that is the best I could hope for.

 

What to Expect When Expecting #2 Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Filed under: Delivery,Postpartum,Pregnancy — Dana @ 10:12 pm

It didn’t take as long to get pregnant with number two… Made me wonder if perhaps we weren’t a little overzealous to conceive number one. 😉

As men and women attempting conception over long periods will testify, sex can become utilitarian. (Again, I recommend the movie Maybe, Baby with Hugh Laurie.) It’s pretty inevitable that mechanics will win out over passion. But I deviate.

This story will be different coming from someone else. There’s a big difference between someone having a second child when their first is five years old and someone having a second child when their first is 2 years old. My scenario is the latter.

My second pregnancy was similar to the first except that I was much more exhausted during my first trimester. Perhaps it was because my first still woke me during the night or perhaps it was totally unrelated. Regardless, I had to take naps at work to survive. Colleagues started guessing the cause of my fatigue before I was ready to announce the news but that didn’t matter.

I didn’t gain as much weight this time even though baby was 2 oz heavier than #1. I was relieved because after you’ve had one kid, you realize the impact of getting it all off afterwards. On this note, recognize that it takes most women 6 months to a year to get rid of their “baby weight.” I carried 3 pounds over to my next pregnancy. Fortunately, this time, I’ve already attained my pre-2nd-pregnancy weight at 7-8 months postpartum. I’m hoping to get rid of those pesky 3 pounds leftover even though it won’t get rid of the stretch marks and droopy belly and breasts.

Don’t let anyone tell you that having children doesn’t change your body in one way or another. I have a friend who’s genetically-predisposed not to get stretch marks but she’s paid the price in smaller breasts. My mother gained weight during the breast-feeding period because she was always so ravenous. Breast-feeding is supposed to help you lose weight because you’re using calories to produce milk. Not everyone can afford private trainers to help get rid of pregnancy weight gain like Hollywood.

I was constantly asked what child #1 thought about having a baby around; a sibling. We didn’t bother going into great detail with our son because of his age; he had no clue what was coming. He would be turning 2 years old a couple of weeks after the baby was born. The situation may have been different had our first child been a girl. Girls love babies. 😉

The prenatal courses I took during pregnancy #1 informed you that when you start having contractions, it will probably still be quite some time before you deliver. Take your time, don’t rush to the hospital until your water has broken or you can’t handle the contractions. What they don’t really specify is that this advice doesn’t necessarily carry over to delivery #2.

I knew delivery #2 was likely to go faster. I guess once the birth canal has been breached (going outwards 😉 ), the way is paved for the rest of your deliveries. I had been having weak, random contractions for about 2 weeks. When they finally started coming more regularly, I waited for my water to break as it had with the first. The amniotic sac ruptured in a giant explosion of fluid with #1 so I was uncertain if it had really happened when the slight trickle came. When I got up and it was coming pretty steadily, I knew. My husband and I calmly prepared to go to the hospital, making necessary phone calls for care of #1, etc.

When women had told me that you forget the pain of delivery after each child, I didn’t believe them. But it’s absolutely true. It comes rushing back when you experience it again though! Every bump in the road, every turn that’s taken and every delay is agony.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have taken our sweet time getting to the hospital. I delivered within 45 minutes of arriving. Baby #1 had taken 7 hours. I had enjoyed the benefits of an epidural with number one and had planned to do the same with number two. Alas, there was no time! I felt every bit of birth #2.

Epidurals

I’m devoting a portion of this post to discuss the pros and cons of epidurals. For those unfamiliar with it, an epidural is when an anesthetist sticks a needle in between the vertebrae of your lower back for the purpose of administering blessedly numbing drugs. Depending on how good the anesthetist is, you shouldn’t feel anything from the waist down. A “patchy” epidural means you can feel a spot here or there.

During pregnancy #1, I had left the epidural option open. I was not automatically going to get one but I wasn’t adamantly opposed to it. When my first major contraction hit (right after my water broke), the first thing I said was “I’m getting an epidural!” It took awhile to get one due to no rooms being available (one of the cons of busy Canadian hospitals), but once received, I was sold. I was going to have an epidural for every subsequent delivery.

This experience in tow, I had not prepared myself for the pain of natural childbirth. In my (retrospective) opinion, this was pretty stupid. I’m not sure how one would prepare for it but because I had assumed I’d be pushing the baby into the world under the dredges of an epidural, I panicked when I could feel everything. My recommendation is to prepare!

My main memory is the impression that there was no way I was going to be able to push the baby out even though it wasn’t overly-large and I have ample birthing hips. 😉 The best advice the health providers around me gave was to divert my energy from screaming (just a little 😉 ) to pushing. It totally worked. It was, thank goodness, over quickly. I don’t even recall the famed “ring of fire,” which refers to the feeling accompanying a crowning baby.

My recovery after delivery #2 was incredible. I didn’t tear at all, though #1 had resulted in a second-degree tear. My mood was euphoric, I wanted to be discharged the same morning. After #1, recovery was slower and my mood nowhere near euphoria.

The ease of delivery #2 may have been only the result of experience but my conclusion was that epidurals aren’t necessarily the best way to go. My mom points out that she had all five of her children without. 😉 I can’t say that, given the opportunity, I wouldn’t get another epidural. Just a few things to think about, is all.

One of the pros to bringing a newborn home to a barely-two-year-old is there’s very little reaction. My son was quite indifferent to his new sister. We’ve been very lucky because he still rarely shows jealousy or malice. I’m not sure this is typical. Probably more of a personality thing.

Another pro is that child #1 entertains child #2! I recall how boring it was with one child at home. When it came to his entertainment, I was it. I’ve been lucky. My kids are usually content entertaining themselves. Still, when #2 is restless, nothing captures her attention like her big brother tearing around the house. She thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. 🙂

The unfortunate thing about having two children is that they don’t sleep at the same times! When #1 goes down for a nap (once a day), #2 is either awake or has a short or interrupted nap. All you want is for them both to sleep so you can too! Eventually, this evens out a bit.

The Gender Difference

So what’s harder? Boys or girls? Since I was blessed with one of each, I will share the differences that I’ve noticed.

When it comes to diapers, I think boys are easier. Sure, poop gets into the little wrinkles of the scrotum, but the delicate tissue that makes up girly privates can tear if one isn’t gentle enough and cleaning around in there is more effort.

Girls tend to be needier than boys. Translation: They require more attention. Don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of needy boys out there too. This is a general tendency that I’ve noticed talking to other mothers.

Bonding: It took me several weeks or months to bond to my son. It took days to bond to my little girl. I told my mother about this and she told me it was the same for her. She had had a girl first and so didn’t notice the difference until after she’d had a boy and then another girl.

 I’ve written this post over the course of several days so, unfortunately, I can’t remember everything that I was planning to share. If I recall anything later, I will add it on. If you have any specific questions, feel free to comment!

 

Twins plus two Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Filed under: Twins and Multiples — Kristin @ 9:13 pm
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Finding out we were having twins was a total surprise.  Twins DO NOT run in our families.  When we were pregnant with our son, my husband and I joked (often) that he was a multiple.  Just for fun of course.  And he wasn’t.  Hooray.  But when we decided to “go for a third, why not?”, we got more than we bargained for. 

Annie and Izzie were conceived naturally.  Most people we know have avoided asking us that question, although I’m sure they’ve wondered.  With our first two being so far apart in age (not really, but 4 years is NOT what we had in mind) I’m sure people wondered if we had to use artificial means. 

For the most part, it was a normal pregnancy.  Other than being horribly ill (morning sickness did not do this justice!), it was a quiet pregnancy.  We had monthly ultrasounds to track the girls’ progress, which helped reassure us that all was well.   But the reality of having twins didn’t really sink in until we started purchasing two of everything~two new car seats, two bouncy seats.  Seeing two bouncy seats in my living room was a bit overwhelming. 

I can’t imagine having twins as my first though~at least I had some idea what to expect going into it.

I delivered the girls at 38 1/2 weeks.  I had been sick with the rotavirus at 37 1/2 weeks, and while I was in the hospital getting fluids for 16 long hours, I begged to be induced.  Nope.  No room in NICU and besides, they told me, you don’t want to deliver after being sick.  You need your energy.  So, the following Tuesday I was scheduled for an induction, because I begged, begged, begged my doctor to let it be done with.  The girls were not showing any signs of wanting to come early and I was HUGE, tired and ready for them to be born.  Labor itself was blessedly short (less than 4 hours from the time they broke my water) but the girls came fast and furious.  Izzie had been breach most of my pregnancy, but the morning of the induction, she was head down.  No c-section for me!  I was adamant that I deliver vaginally, just to avoid recovering from a c-section (and 4 kids at home).  After Annie was born though, Izzie turned again.  The doctors heard my pleas and spent 11 minutes turning her so that I could avoid the c-section.  They were happy and healthy, and we left the hospital less than two days later to start our journey of twins, plus two.

 

Inauspicious Beginnings of Motherhood Friday, April 4, 2008

Everyone grows up hearing how it only takes once to get pregnant. So when you get married and eventually decide to have kids, you think you can plan when the kid’s born. I wanted a September baby. Um, no.

Well, let me clarify. I know plenty of women who are “easy knock-ups.” You know who you are. Comments like “He breathes on me and I get pregnant” and “Whoops!” take on a whole new meaning when your period keeps proving that you have failed to conceive yet again.

It took me two years to concieve our first child. This is piddly compared to plenty of other women. Let’s just say two years was enough to get me thinking.

A couple is considered infertile if the woman does not conceive a child after one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse or she has been unable to carry a pregnancy to a live birth. (For more info on “well-timed intercourse,” I recommend the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement and reproductive health by Toni Weschler.)

  1. Is there something wrong with himSince only 25% of infertility is caused primarily by a problem in the man, it’s less likely. However, testing men for infertility is much easier and so tends to be done first to rule it out.
  2. What if we can’t have children?!? This is probably the scariest question because if you’re trying to have children, then obviously you want to have children. I told myself, as a way to cope, that if I couldn’t have children then I probably wasn’t meant to have children. Not very reassuring. I also told myself that I actually didn’t want children anyway. Hm.

When it came to the decision of having children, I didn’t think that I had taken it lightly. I was a “mature” 24-year-old 😉 but hated kids in general. But other parents had assured me it was different when they were your own. (Totally true, by the way.) Relying on this cliché piece of wisdom, I had gone over all the cons of parenting I could think of (money, no sleep, diapers, no sleep, tantrums, no sleep, teenagers, no sleep) and decided I could hack it. Let’s face it. When women are in love, they usually end up wanting to make a baby with their significant other. I did NOT think I would be one of those. I’m a recovering feminist and not the nurturing type.

Anyway, once a year or so had ticked by with no conception and the above questions had been beaten to death in my head, we started considering testing. My sister-in-law had undergone extensive testing and procedures and so I wasn’t taking this step until my husband had proved fertile and my own doubts of being a competent parent were laid to rest. A good way to learn more about testing and infertility is to watch the movie “Maybe, Baby.” It has Hugh Laurie (from the popular TV show House MD) in it. It’s good for a few laughs anyway.

We got the lab requisition for hubby-testing. Somewhere in the shuffle of life, it was misplaced. We got another one. Husbands can be quite reluctant to submit to this type of thing. It may subconsciously threaten their masculinity. Before any testing was yielded to, however, my appetite became ravenous and my period was suspiciously light.

The night before the big, official pregnancy test was the only night that I felt like I had to pee all night. I kept dreaming that I was looking for a bathroom but even when I found one, I knew I had to wait for my husband because I had to test my urine. Finally, at six in the morning, I just got up and went. The test looked pretty inconclusive. I woke my husband to confirm. He was not happy about the early hour but he agreed it looked pretty inconclusive. Was that a plus sign?? We decided to go to a walk-in clinic to make certain.

I was pregnant.

I turned out to be one of those pregnant women that other pregnant women hate. I didn’t get sick at all. Even so, pregnancy blows.

I would always have wondered what it would be like to be pregnant if I hadn’t gotten pregnant. To feel the fetus moving inside me, more than anything else. But pregnancy takes forever! Even when you feel fat and have been wearing prego clothes for a month people don’t notice. “You’re pregnant??” So what, I was this fat before or something? You hit the halfway point (all going well) and realize you’re only at the halfway point. You’re paranoid the whole time: Is the baby normal? Should the baby be kicking? What if there’s something wrong and I don’t get that feeling ? Is this that feeling??? And forget sleeping once you hit that last month or so.

Then you hit your due date. Nothing happens. Oh, come on! Let me tell you that due dates don’t mean anything! When people ask when you’re due, lie. Give them a date that’s a month later.

You consider testing multiple old wives’ tales to get that darn baby out. I didn’t do anything drastic. 😉

I delivered the day I was scheduled for induction. I opted for Gravol since I was incredibly nauseated. I had decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to receive any narcotics. There are arguments for and against epidurals, but I had one and it was awesome. (See my post What to Expect When Expecting #2 for pros and cons on epidurals.)

Even though I’d taken multiple prenatal courses, I was unprepared for how much the postpartum period would suck. I thought it was worse than the pregnancy! The body has to get rid of all that fluid it retained during pregancy. My feet and ankles looked like one giant “cankle.” Then there’re the breast-feeding induced cramps (if you nurse, it stimulates a hormone that causes your uterine to contract back to normal size–it feels like menstrual cramps), the bleeding, the peri-bottle, the frozen pads, the engorged breasts and the fact that, if you were stitched up, you don’t feel right down there! And that all is only if you had a normal vaginal delivery! Other delivery methods include vacuum and/or forceps assisted and the (usually) dreaded cesarean section (c-section) and can bring complications of their own. This is all on top of sleep deprivation.

Is it worth it? It is! Until they turn two… 😉

In retrospect, the one negative thing that I didn’t ponder much was the lack of freedom. Sure, you have a cute baby that you take everywhere with you now. No big deal. But there are no more spontaneous evenings out. You always have to plan around the little grommit’s eating schedule, sleeping schedule, cranky schedule and so on. If you’re bottle-feeding, you have a little more freedom (I will discuss breast and bottle feeding in another post).

The thing is, even though insanity is touched upon now and then, you would never give them back. That’s what love is all about.

 

PPROM

Many pregnant women have a fear of their water breaking in a public place. That’s what always happens to the pregnant women on TV and in the movies, right? I didn’t know that only about 10-15% of labors start before the onset of contractions. I was mildly nervous about my water breaking at work. All my coworkers are men, and I could see them being freaked out instead of helpful. If I’d only known that instead of being worried about where my water broke, I should have been more concerned about when. My water broke at 19 weeks gestation.

Nothing about my pregnancy had been easy or routine. I’d always had difficult periods, so I’d long had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. When I got pregnant after five months of trying, my husband and I were very excited. I still felt a bit uneasy, though, and wanted confirmation from my OB that everything was okay.

At nine weeks I went in for my first meeting with my obstetrician. I had the regular work ups and all of that, but my ultrasound is where things got interesting. While we could see a little blob (the baby) with a flickering heartbeat, we also discovered a bigger blob that was somewhat ominous looking. My OB wasn’t sure what it was, but suspected it was a twin that “didn’t take.” She took lots of pictures of the image, and said she’d send copies to a specialist she knew. We set an appointment for me to return two weeks later.

A few days later, my OB called me back. The specialist that she had consulted wanted more images. My OB asked me to come in sooner than scheduled, only two days later. I started to get nervous, because when does a doctor ever want you to come in sooner?

When my husband and I went in, the news wasn’t good. The bigger blob was still there. That meant it wasn’t a twin, as it would have started reabsorbing at that point. My OB ran a bunch of different scans on the mass that the specialist requested, and then tried to look at the baby. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get a good look at the baby because the mass was in the way. We could still see the little flickering heartbeat, but that was it. My OB feared that the baby wasn’t developing the way it should. She told hubby and me that she would send the images on to the specialist but that this was an abnormal pregnancy and that things didn’t look good. She told us not to get attached to the pregnancy because the odds were that I would miscarry. Obviously, we were devastated.

Two days after THAT appointment, my OB called. She said that the specialist she’d been consulting with wanted to see me in person. We were very happy about this since she is a Perinatologist, which is a OB that specializes in high-risk pregnancies. My regular OB didn’t deal with complications like mine, so we felt encouraged that we were going to get some answers about what went wrong with this pregnancy. I set my appointment with the Perinatologist for the following week.

We went in with pretty low expectations. The Perinatologist was very guarded when she started her exam but was quickly surprised when she discovered a perfectly-developed baby. We saw and heard the little heart beating, the little arms and legs, and we could also see the brain and the two tiny hemispheres that comprise it. She spent a few minutes making sure the baby looked good, and then she started looking around at the other things. She discovered that there wasn’t one mass in there, but two. One mass was inside the sac with the baby, the other was outside of the sac. After doing a bunch of different scans, she determined that the masses weren’t getting any blood flow, and that they weren’t connected to the baby or to each other. The doctor was fairly confident in her assessment that the masses were actually giant blood clots (they were about three times the size of the baby). The worry then was that the clots could attach themselves to the baby, the umbilical cord, or the placenta. If this happened, the clots could steal nutrients from the baby, and then there would be a whole new mess of problems. However, at that time, the doctor seemed encouraged by the fact that the baby was developing normally, and the clots weren’t attached to anything. She was cautious because in all the cases where she’d seen masses like this, there had only been one mass and I had two.

When we went back three weeks later, everything still looked good. The masses were definitely two large organized blood clots but they weren’t impacting the baby’s growth at all. We were so relieved that our ordeal was over. IF WE ONLY KNEW.

At 20 weeks I was scheduled to go in to find out the sex of the baby. However, I woke up in the middle of the night when I was 19 weeks to go to the bathroom. When I sat down, I realized my shorts were soaked with what I’d originally thought was sweat caused by a hot summer night, but was actually red colored. I looked in the toilet and dark reddish-brown liquid was EVERYWHERE. I called for my husband in a panic and we then called my OB. She said that since I was only 19 weeks, I should just come in in the morning. I wish we’d followed our instincts and gone into the emergency room. Instead, it was a long six hours until her practice opened. I got no sleep, and when I’d get up to go to the bathroom, reddish-brown liquid would gush out. I was so terrified I’d miscarried.

When we arrived at my OB’s office, my leaking had stopped. She couldn’t even tell there had been bleeding until she did a vaginal exam and there were small traces of blood. She said it looked like one of the blood clots had burst, but the baby and my amniotic fluid levels were fine, although she couldn’t rule out that my water had broken. She didn’t do a nitrazine test. I wish I’d known about them then. I was put on bed rest until the end of the week and sent back to the Perinatologist I’d seen at the beginning of my pregnancy. After a thorough exam, the Perinatologist was still not able to rule out amniotic leakage. She determined the fluid around the baby was slightly lower than what it should have been, and there was some blood in the fluid. The placenta was also not functioning as well as it should, so as a result, the baby’s heart was slightly enlarged from working much harder than it ought to be. I was then placed on bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy.

After that, I was seen by my OB and three other Perinatologists, including an extremely well-known Perinatologist in Los Angeles. The doctors all told us that terminating the pregnancy was something we should consider as they didn’t expect the baby to make it and if s/he did, there was a strong likelihood that he or she would have health problems.  My OB said to me, “I would be medically irresposible  not to to tell you about the option of terminating. You would be induced and deliver vaginally.” That idea horrified me. I couldn’t imagine going through that. I know some women make this choice, and I respect that. I just couldn’t do it. I’d been feeling my baby move at that point and that just wasn’t going to be an option for us. I said as much to my OB and she said back to us, “I understand. I just wanted you to know that you might not like what comes out.” I was stunned by her gall. It wasn’t like I was going to give birth to a murderous alien; I was pretty certain that a babywas going to come out. MY baby. We didnt care if she had health problems, we would love her how she came.

Her thoughtless words motivated me more than anything. I was so determined to prove her wrong, that at the end of this I would have my baby and he or she would be perfect.

We kept going with the first goal being 24 weeks. I was on extremely strict bed rest. I was only allowed to get up to use the bathroom. I could take a 5-minute shower if I sat on a stool. I had to eat 2500 calories a day to help my insufficient placenta. I drank GALLONS of water. I could feel my muscles tingle as they atrophied. My mind easily wandered.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything except my baby. I did tons of internet research, typing my symptoms into Google, and I diagnosed my condition myself – Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PPROM). I had every symptom except I hadn’t gone into labor. Most women with PPROM go into labor within a week of their water breaking. I was more depressed than I’d ever been in my whole life. My wonderful family and friends did all they could to cheer me up. My husband took amazing care of me…I never would have made it without him.

I often worried that I was being selfish, that I was potentially allowing a baby to be born that would have painful diabilities, simply because I didn’t want to go through the pain of termination. I knew that the odds were against my daughter, and she would likely not survive the whole ordeal. But my husband and I decided that we were going to give her every chance possible. I just knew that I would spend my whole life wondering “what if” had we chosen termination. As strange as it sounds, we decided we’d rather have her die after birth than make that decision for her.

When we got to 24 weeks, I had a bag packed for the hospital but my OB decided not to admit me since I was doing well at home. It was nice to be at home, but I was devastated – I really wanted to be admitted so I could be monitored. I should have insisted on it, but instead I went back to bed. I was told to limit visitors to help prevent sickness. None of the doctors could believe I hadn’t gone into labor or developed an infection. At every visit, I had the nitrazine test and it always came back negative, which was SO FRUSTRATING because I KNEW my water had broken. It came out in small bursts, smelled sweet, and had an amber tint to it. I never leaked when I was at the doctor’s.

At 26 weeks, I had another appointment with the well-known Perinatologist. He did a sonogram, and managed to get the shot that had eluded us for weeks – there was a little girl in there. We were so excited – we knew who we were fighting for.

At 26 3/7 weeks, I got the flu and my temperature started to rise. I called my OB and she said to go by the hospital to be monitored. I was attached to monitors that watched the baby’s heart rate and checked me for contractions. A nurse took an initial amount of blood to check for an elevated white blood cell count (an indicator of infection), and then they started giving me cool fluids to help hydrate me and lower my blood pressure. After what felt like a million years, the hubby and I were finally left alone to sleep at about 12:45 am.

At 3:45, I went to the bathroom and started to feel a little stomach tightness. Worried I might be having contractions, I called my nurse, who came back in and hooked me back up to the monitors. While she was there, it was FINALLY positively determined that my membranes had prematurely ruptured. Despite the 10 previous appointments I’d had since I’d woken up bloody, I hadn’t had an episode when a doctor was present – until I was in the hospital.

Once the PPROM was officially diagnosed all hell broke loose!! I was admitted for the duration of my pregnancy. My doctor was called at home, and I was suddenly getting IV antibiotics and a HUGE shot of a steroid called betamethasone. I had another shot 24 hours later.(Steroids help fetal lungs develop more quickly before being delivered preterm.) I settled in with the goal of making it to 28 weeks. My hubby stayed with me as much as possible. We were so relieved that I would now be monitored. I had a private room and I got in touch with some of the other antepartum moms, some of whom also had PPROM. We took a tour of the NICU, which I HIGHLY recommend if it can be arranged. It definitely made the place less scary.

During the time I was in the hospital, I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I started to show the signs of pre-eclampsia (extreme headache, rising blood pressure), but never got far enough in the pregnancy for anything to be officially diagnosed.

After 28 weeks, my fluid started to take on a pink tint. The nurses and my OB were aware of the change but not overly concerned. I started to feel really uncomfortable. I’d have an occasional contraction but nothing regular. I was just miserable. Then, at 28 6/7 weeks, I leaked and when I wiped, the washcloth came back RED. I called the nurse, who took one look at it and paged my doctor. When she arrived I had a sterile speculum exam. It was the MOST PAINFUL exam I have had IN MY LIFE. It was determined that I was starting to transition towards labor, but I wasn’t dilated or effaced, so we decided to stay the course. A few hours later, I leaked and wiped away a huge bright red blood clot. I called the nurse, who paged my doctor again. For some reason, I wasn’t concerned. The exam had given me some security. I went to the bathroom while the nurse was out of the room and wiped away more clots. I flushed them, like an idiot. My husband wasn’t there but I didn’t call him. I really thought everything was fine.

While I was on the phone chatting with a friend, the nurse came back in and briskly announced I was going to have a C-Section RIGHT THEN. I went into shock! I called my husband, parents, and brother, and then I was immediately prepped for surgery. My husband got there as my epidural was being placed. I was shaking I was so scared. Since it was an emergency C-Section, I’d had lunch only a few hours before, which is normally a no-no. I was given a cup of  the nastiest antacid to help neutralize my stomach acids. The nurse told me I’d want to sip it because it was so gross, but I just tossed it back like it was a shot of fine tequila. I learned something in college.

 The C-Section didn’t take long and before I knew it, my husband and I were parents. I heard the doctors say, “she’s out,” and then I heard tiny, weak crying. Crying! It was the best thing I’d ever heard. They washed her and wrapped her up, and I was allowed a quick kiss before she was whisked to the NICU with my husband close behind. In recovery, we were euphoric. She’d cried! That meant she could breathe. Our happiness was short-lived, however, when a Neonatologist came in to see us. Our daughter was very sick, sicker than the hospital could treat, and she needed to be transferred to a teaching hospital a few miles away. We were so crushed. We knew she’d be in the NICU for a while but never anticipated she’d have to be at a different hospital than me.

I was wheeled into the hallway so I could see her little isolette roll by with the transport team. I waited in the hallway for more than an hour because the transport ventilator wasn’t providing enough air. I found out later that no one expected her to even survive the transport. She had to be hand-bagged the entire way. My husband left me to be with her. It killed me that I couldn’t go, too.  I had a lot of drugs, though, and I eventually fell asleep.

The next day, things got very bad for my daughter. My husband called and told me she wasn’t going to make it. I couldn’t stand the idea of my daughter dying without me by her side, so I checked myself out of the hospital against medical advice. The nurses were so great, they did everything they could to help get me out of the hospital as quickly as possible. I was rushed the few miles to the hospital where my daughter was, and when I arrived, she stabilized. I went back to my hospital and checked back in so I could get pain medication and a bit of sleep. The next morning, things were worse for my daughter. I checked back out of my hospital, this time for good. My OB signed my discharge form, and then, knowing that things were not looking well for my baby, said, “If you don’t nurse, bind your breasts tightly and use ice packs.” I was so pleased that her tact was the same as always.

My biggest advice to anyone going through this is to follow your instincts. Get as educated as you can so you can make informed decisions. If a doctor is advising you to do something and it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Be your own biggest advocate, and most importantly, be your baby’s advocate.  Parenthood starts with pregnancy – you would give your baby every chance if she was born, so why not do all you can before she’s born, too?

It was a long road for my daughter (which I will write about in another post) but she made it. The best day of our lives was when we took her home from the hospital after 68 long days. The second best day of my life was when I took my perfect baby to see my OB so she could see exactly what “came out.”

 

In the beginning…

Filed under: Cesarean Section (C-section),Twins and Multiples — our bit of heaven @ 11:02 am

Welcome to the world of multiples!  If you have or are expecting multiples you belong to a great “club”.  This is about my journey, I will start at the beginning.

Two and half years into our marriage we found out we were expecting our first baby.  We were so excited and had big plans for our little one.  In Canada, it is routine for your first ultrasound at 18 weeks.  We were no different; my pregnancy had been running smoothly except for extreme nausea and vomiting.  I was told at the ultrasound clinic that I would go in and the tech would do all the fetal measurements first then ask my husband to join us.  I was so excited to see this little monkey because I had been feeling movements for about two weeks.  The probe was placed on my belly and the tech asked if I was sure of my dates.  I was, he then put the probe down and handed me a towel.  He said I’ll be right back and left the room.  I began to get real scared.  He returned in about two long agonizing minutes and asked for my husband’s name, I told him.  He left the room and I was left sobbing as I was sure I had lost my baby, my precious baby that took so long to conceive.  My husband joined my side and asked if everything was alright, I couldn’t answer.  The tech came back in and apologized for disappearing, that he needed to tell the front desk he would be awhile.  Why, what was so wrong that we needed extra time?  He turned the monitor and said, “You are having twins.”  Our tears flowed down our faces as we spent the next hour watching and learning all we could about our Baby A and Baby B.   

At my next appointment, my doctor told me that things were going to be different.  I was to have more appointments, ultrasounds, fetal stress tests, and a c-section.  Whoa, wait. A c-section? I don’t want one!  He put his hand on mine and said, “These babies will determine how they will come out.  Right now Baby A (the bottom baby) is breech and Baby B is transverse (on top laying side ways.)  They could reposition themselves, but it is up to them.”  

I carried the twins to 39 weeks and 6 days.  One day shy of the 40 week mark.  The twins didn’t ever change positions; they stayed breech and transverse the whole time.  They were born on a Friday morning at 10:58am and 11:00am healthy and screaming.  (My delivery was a little difficult and I will share that in another post.) 

About two hours after the delivery room was when I met my babies for the first time. I sat up on the bed and placed the babies between my legs.  I said to myself, “This is it.”  It was survival mode from that point on. 

Future posts will follow on c-sections, breastfeeding twins, and life at home with two babies.