Our Christmas surprise (part two)

I wish I could say that when my son was born, everything was hunky dory and we went home on Christmas day. But that’s a pipe dream with a premie. Once Jonathan was born, the OB placed him on my chest because it’s important for mother and baby to start bonding right away. He lay there for a few hours while the OB stitched me up. At one point she exclaimed, “Oooh, this is such an unusual tear! It’s like a star burst!” Great, lady, I’m glad one of us is happy about this ripped up hoo-ha, I remember thinking through the haze of having just pushed a person out said hoo-ha and feeling completely overwhelmed at the absolutely perfect amazingness of the tiny person on my chest. But ah, the glorious moments of soaking in the wonder of my little Jonathan Dean was pretty short-lived. I noticed after a while that he was sort of grunting. I mentioned it to a nurse and then it was time for him to go to the nursery because the nurses wanted to make sure he was breathing alright.

When I joined my husband and little boy in the nursery a little while later after taking a shower, there was a breathing tube in Jonathan’s nose. The nurses explained that premies frequently have “respiratory distress” — breathing too fast, something like 90 breaths a minute, which wears the little ones out — after birth and the breathing tube was fairly normal procedure. Random newborn fact: Did you know that drawing one’s first breath is something like 15 times more difficult than drawing a normal breath? Thankfully Jonathan only needed the tube for about six hours. But later on, Jonathan would get an IV in his head (baby veins are so tiny, often the easiest place to put an IV is in the head) with a glucose drip to keep his blood sugar up. Premies often don’t eat for the first few days because their little stomachs just aren’t ready to. Looking at photos of Jonathan’s “unicorn horn” still make me weak in the knees.

Jonathan also seemed to sprout cables… the doctors and nurses also monitored his blood oxygen saturation and his heart rate. In the nursery (thank goodness they never called it the NICU to my face), Jonathan’s bed was beneath a heater to make sure his temperature stayed consistent until his little body could regulate itself. All this meant no rooming in (having the baby in the hospital room with us). It also meant trips to the nursery every three hours around the clock to try to feed the little boy.

At first, Jonathan’s suck reflex was too weak, hence the pacifier in the above photo to give his sucking reflex a workout. The doctors gave him one bottle of formula at some point to make sure he got some nutrition while I frantically pumped in hopes my milk would come in (while agonizing over my suddenly basketball-sized and very painful breasts … OK they weren’t quite that big but they sure felt like it!). Finally the milk did, just a few drops at first and then in ample amounts (yeah, the deep freeze in our kitchen is full of sacks of milk… I think I could probably feed the neighborhood at this point). But Jonathan couldn’t really suck yet so we used a silicon nipple shield to help him suck while passing a supplemental nursing system cord underneath the shield full of milk. The SNS made it a lot easier for Jonathan to get the milk without having to try very hard. This was important because, like all babies, he lost weight after birth… but for him, that meant dipping to 4 pounds, 13 ounces. Oh my tiny boy.

And like many babies, Jonathan started to look a bit yellowy-orange after a few days. Jaundice is a condition of the liver, which is trying to process bilirubin (helps with pigmenting) in the baby’s blood. The liver is one of the (many) things that isn’t quite fully developed when a baby is born, and so many babies need some help processing the bilirubin under the bili lights, which are UV lights. Safe bilirubin levels are below 12. Higher than that and it’s time for treatment because excessive bilirubin levels can lead to brain damage. The nurses outfitted Jonathan with a face mask thing to keep his eyes covered so they wouldn’t be damaged by the light, and he got to lounge in the nice, heated bili lights box while a noise machine played sounds of ocean surf. Truly, like a day at the beach. Jonathan got two trips to the beach while we were in the hospital, the first for about eight hours, and the second time for 18 hours.

So where were Shawn and I during all of this? Well, Shawn drove back and forth from the hospital to home every day to feed the kitties, pick up fresh clothes, and get a little time away from the hospital. I only left the hospital in the last couple of days because of the constraints of Jonathan’s feeding schedule (every three hours). Frankly, it felt like the twilight zone in there. The days dragged by, but they zipped by, too. And honestly, I think completely living in the moment for that week kept Shawn and I from truly realizing the gravity of the situation, of having a premature baby — alone just us two — a thousand miles away from family. We just didn’t think about it. And that saved us.

And there were really good parts of that week in the hospital. Marveling at our beautiful son and his strength. Loving each other more than ever now that we have a child together. And for me, feeling a little bit of wonder at myself for giving birth. But by the end of the week, we were more than ready (and a little terrified since we wouldn’t have a bunch of nurses just down the hall anymore) to go home.

 

It’s not been an easy two months since that time. But it’s been a great two months (despite the fact that I have never been more tired in my life… getting up every three hours during the night takes a toll on a body). And I had Jonathan weighed today. Ten pounds, 9 ounces. More than double his birth weight. Still he continues to surprise. What an amazing son I have.

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Our Christmas surprise (part one)

OK, folks, I finally have found some time to get this post written! I apologize it took so long, but, well, babies are time consuming! This is a long story I have to share, so it’s going to be in two parts. This part is about labor and delivery. The next part will be about the week we spent in the hospital.

Let’s start at the beginning of our little saga. First of all, keep in mind that my son’s due date was January 23, 2012. So it was December 22, 2011. I got up about 3 a.m. (For the last month of my pregnancy I had terrible back pain. I couldn’t sleep for longer than five to six hours at a stretch without needing to get up and do something other than be prone for a while.) to use the bathroom and when I came back to bed I had several contractions in quick succession. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for weeks, but I knew these were different because they hurt. Not terribly, but no picnic either. But after 15 minutes or so, the contractions stopped and I went back to sleep.

That same day I had an OB appointment. Keep in mind that I live 75 miles from my OB. Anyway, we drove in for an appointment and things went normally. Because I have Factor V Leiden (I’m a super clotter! This is good because it will keep me from hemorrhaging during childbirth, but bad because of the Western diet… I’ve got to keep an very close eye on my blood pressure, eat healthily and exercise to keep my weight at a healthy point.), my OB had me come in weekly from 32 weeks on to be hooked up to a fetal monitor to make sure my little guy wasn’t in distress. And that Thursday, everything was just fine. I mentioned the contractions to my OB and he did a cervical examination. I was 2 cm dilated, but that’s pretty normal and many women walk around 2 or more cm dilated up to and past their due dates. My husband and I had lunch and went home.

Fast forward to 6:45 p.m. that evening. We were making dinner (homemade Swedish meatballs with lignonberries… so good!) and the contractions started again. Odd, but it was a month early. I couldn’t be in labor, right? After an hour or two we started writing down the times and duration of the contractions. At 9 p.m. I called my OB and asked for his advice. He said if the contractions got closer than five minutes apart, to head to the hospital. He also suggested I take a bath or shower because that can stop false labor. I took his advice and took a bath followed by a shower (glad I did! I was nice and clean when I got to the hospital!), but no dice. The contractions continued so Shawn and I threw a bunch of stuff in a little bag just in case (remember I didn’t think I was in labor).

At 11 p.m. we went to the hospital. We decided to go to the one here in town instead of traveling to my OB’s hospital 75 miles away, because I was certain the doctors there would check me out and send me home. On the way to the hospital, I had multiple contractions. Throughout all of this, the contractions hurt, yes, but they weren’t terrible. I always figured childbirth would be excruciating and so I think I convinced myself that it couldn’t be labor because it didn’t hurt enough! We quickly got checked in to the labor ward, and while Shawn was filling out paperwork signing my life away, a nurse examined me.

“You’re 8 cm dilated,” she said.

“What!” I yelled. It should be noted that “what” is not what I yelled. Let’s just say it’s a word that starts with an F. It’s a good thing Shawn and I decided to go to the close hospital, or we might have had a baby in the car on top of the continental divide in the middle of the night (Shawn thinks that would have been really cool… me? Not so much.)

A few minutes later an OB came running in to the labor room wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

“I’m ready!” she announced.

Apparently everybody thought I’d have that baby squeezed out within the hour.

Oh I wish. I had to have a penicillin drip because the results of my Strep B test weren’t back yet (I’d had the test that morning at my OB appointment, whoops.) and anybody who’s had a penicillin drip knows that’s nasty stuff and oh buddy, it burns.

I labored for another hour and got to 9 cm. The OB broke my water (Hey, it’s not like the movies folks – just as often as not the OB has to break the water for you! No gushing all over the sidewalk in public.), so the baby definitely had to make his entrance. But then things slowed and ground to a halt. I went back to 8 cm. And those contractions that before had been bothersome but not terrible became TERRIBLE. A few minutes apart and unbearable. My husband was holding me up because it hurt so badly I couldn’t support myself. It didn’t matter my position — on my side, standing, walking, on an exercise ball — the pain was beyond intense. The only thing getting me through them was the fact that they only lasted a minute. And while I was contracting I was focused on watching the fetal monitor to make sure my baby was doing OK throughout the process. I’m proud to report his heartbeat was steady as could be the entire time. What can I say, he’s a pretty chill little dude.

So the OB, concerned about the situation, recommended I have an epidural. She’d had time to put on scrubs at this point.

Oh the moment of truth. See, Shawn and I had decided that we were going to do this thing naturally. No drugs for my baby! And frankly the decision was just as much about the eye-popping cost of that shot — $1,400! — as it was about protecting my baby from unnecessary medications. But of course things like having a baby make the best-laid plans quickly fall apart. The OB said that we needed to get the show on the road and it clearly wasn’t going anywhere on its own. And one after another of excruciating (oh hey, there’s the excruciating pain like the movies) pain convinced me that she was right. The next 20 minutes waiting for the anesthesiologist to arrive were just about the longest 20 minutes of my life.

I think that was the hardest part of the labor — sitting completely still through several awful contractions (no small feat, my friends) while a doctor put a needle in my spinal column. Freaky?

Of course the minute the epidural went into effect — quickly, thank goodness — I felt relief and labor became a breeze. I dilated to 10 cm pretty much instantly and pushed for 45 minutes. And out into the world came Jonathan Dean! He was born at 4:54 a.m. — 5 pounds, 3 oz. — on December 23, 2011, a month early!

A thousand words

OK, this post is probably not quite that long. But as the saying goes, that’s what a picture’s worth. Just wanted to let everyone know to check out the Gallery tab (far right, below the banner that reads “The Morning District” on the top of this blog). I’ve finally added some photos (and plan to add more over time). Check them out at your leisure!

In other news, this is my 30th week of pregnancy, and I have another OB appointment later today. Hoping again for a clean bill of health for both baby and me. I have been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for a couple of weeks now, which I do plan to talk to the OB about, but hopefully that just means my uterus is just getting warmed up for the big event and will perform like a champion! I am planning on having a natural child birth (but if I have to have an epidural or an unplanned C-section because Baby C is in distress, well, so be it), so I’m trying to prepare myself. I’ve started doing special stretches a physical therapist at the childbirth class last weekend gave me to get my body open and supple. I’m also trying to find time each day to center myself and practice focusing. I’ve heard from other moms that being able to focus and concentrate through contractions and pushing is super important.

Speaking of the childbirth class Shawn and I took, I have to say that I’m really glad we did. It was six hours both Saturday and Sunday last week, but despite the length, we learned a lot. And I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with labor and delivery and breastfeeding following the class. There were probably eight other couples besides Shawn and me there, most of them due about a month ahead of me, though one lady isn’t due until the middle of February. It was interesting to see the range of bellies present! Mine wasn’t the biggest or the smallest, but right in the middle. Some ladies knew the genders of their babies, while others were waiting for the surprise. No twins in our class.

During the class, we learned about a wide range of topics. We did some physical therapy and were given a number of exercises to do, like I mentioned before. We learned about the different kinds of pain medication (still hoping that won’t apply to me!), about C-sections, about infant care in the first few weeks after birth. We watched a number of videos on the various topics. The dads got to diaper a “baby” (ours was a teddy bear… must’ve gotten mixed up in the nursery 😉 ), and learn to swaddle. We talked about breastfeeding versus formula. I learned all sorts of random little things too; for example, you’re not supposed to clip your baby’s fingernails for at least 10 days after birth because the nail hasn’t separated from the nail bed yet and you will cut their skin! We’ll need to pick up some baby mittens!

The most helpful part of the class for me was the breastfeeding information. I’ve been worrying about having trouble learning to breastfeed, and who knows, I may still struggle, but we went through ways to help the baby learn to nurse and nursing techniques. We even talked about proper breastfeeding posture! If anything, I’m more comfortable with everything now because I know a lot more than I did, even with reading books and chatting with moms. Plus the nurse who taught the class was a riot! She was so funny and made the class go by quickly. A definite talent!

The weekend before that, I got together with the ladies from my crafty club for some applesauce canning! It was a hoot! We canned about 40 pounds of apples, which came to about 40 jars of sauce. We divided the jars between us as well as the remaining apples (local Macintosh).

Here’s Camden showing those apples who’s boss! Camden and Sharie spent a long time chopping apples to toss in the pot to cook.

After the apples cooked down for a while, we transferred them to the chinois (a marvelous tool — pick one up!), where one of us ground them down with a pestle, which separates the skins and errant seeds from the sauce. Katie demonstrates below:

It’s messy but satisfying! To the sauce we added a little sugar (one or two cups, depending on the batch) and a some cinnamon. Then we filled mason jars with the applesauce and processed them in a boiling water bath for 15-20 minutes. We ate homemade pizza for dinner while listening to the pops of sealing jars. A great day spent with friends.

OK, according to my word counter thingie, this post is 797 words. See? Not quite 1,000.