The Best Laid Plans…

It has been exactly one week since the birth of my son and already so much has changed in my life. Labor was one of the hardest physical and mental missions I’ve endured and while my birthing plan didn’t exactly go as planned, I’m content with the outcome. This is my birth story…

On Wednesday night, May 11th, my labor pains began… I had been feeling crampy all night and when my partner came home around midnight, I excitedly announced, I think this is it… but, I don’t want to get my hopes up. At this point I was already a week overdue with an induction scheduled for Friday morning. I had been hoping for things to start on their own, so my enthusiasm for possibly getting the birth that I’d prepared for was quite uncontainable. At 6am on Thursday morning, the 12th, I woke up to gripping pains… I waddled my way to the toilet to no avail, so at 7.37am I pulled up my contraction timer app on my phone and started timing them. Around this time, I lost my mucus plug, and if that grosses you out, you can stop reading here.

My contractions were regular, every 4-5 mins lasting anywhere between 45 seconds to 1.15 minutes. They were intense and there was no mistaking them for anything else. Everything I I had been told, read or heard had led me to believe that contractions would start out mild and build in intensity and when they were 5 mins apart and 1 min long with a minute in between, 5-1-1, it was time to head to the hospital. So, I was a bit confused at this pattern right off the bat. I texted my doctor who asked me to come into his office asap for a check up. When we got there at 10am, to my disappointment, I was still 90% effaced but no where close to being dilated. So, off we went home to labor some more. The waves were coming steadily and I listened to my Hypnobabies® tracks and tried to relax through them. At 2:30pm, we went back to the doctor’s office only to hear that things were moving at a snail’s pace. My cervix was maybe at a 1. While I had mentally prepared for getting not so good news, it still stung. At this point, my doctor had a couple of suggestions, go back home and labor some more or head to the hospital… You’re definitely in labor, he announced. I think this baby is coming tonight.

We decided to head to the hospital before rush hour traffic and got there without any issues. We were checked into our birthing suite at 3:30pm and left to labor on our own. For the next 4 hours we walked the halls of the birthing center. The pressure waves were not letting down and I had to stop frequently to either hang on my partner for support or brace myself against the wall. Still, determined to move this baby down, I walked, rocked against the birthing ball, stayed on my feet for most of the 4 hours. When my doctor came in to check me around 7:30pm, I was hoping he would say I was close to a 4 or 5, but again to my disappointment, I had barely progressed to a 3. I looked over at my partner, defeated, what should we do now? I asked. It didn’t seem like I could go on like this for a minute longer. Let’s wait till 10pm he suggested. I agreed. Why don’t you try a hot shower? my doctor chimed in. I don’t want you to give up on your goal for a natural birth.

The hot shower felt refreshing and relaxing. I stayed in the shower for 30 mins, maybe longer. I could’ve stayed in there forever, but I could barely hold myself up. The pressure waves were manageable in the shower, but once I got out, they were relentless. By 8:30pm I was asking for an epidural. I wish I could take a break, I whimpered to my partner. This is your decision, he said, I support you no matter what you decide. The anesthesiologist was a sweet Indian lady and she arrived promptly at 9pm. My  waves were on top of each other and I could barely sit still, but by 9:30 she had finished her business. You’re going to go fast. Your contractions are too close together, she reassured me before leaving the room. the relief was indescribable. I can see now why people ask for them almost immediately. My doctor broke my waters to speed things up, checked me and proclaimed that I was a full 5 maybe even a 6. Everything pointed towards a speedy vaginal birth… only it didn’t happen.

The next 24 hours turned out to be the stuff of nightmares… okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it was pretty bad. Whatever could go wrong, went wrong. I had known that epidurals tend to slow down labor, if given too early and 4 hours later I still had not progressed any so, Pitocin, a synthetic hormone that mimics oxytocin in the brain was started at 2am. I was told to sleep and conserve my energy for pushing, so I tried to do that, but with nurses and doctors checking in on you every so often, it isn’t so easy. Kudos to my doctor who stayed with us in the hospital overnight just in case I was fully dilated and ready to push. I don’t know too many who would do that! At 7am he checked me again and still no progress, so he increased the Pitocin dose and left for his clinic. Also at 7am there was a nursing shift change and in comes the nurse from hell… everything pretty much went down hill from here.

I have tremendous respect for the nursing profession. So many of my family members are nurses and with my mom’s recent hospital stay, I have witnessed some amazing nurses who take such pride and joy in their job. Our nurse, however, was the opposite of everything I’ve known. She was abrasive, insensitive and barked orders at us right from the start. Kindness goes a long way, especially when you’re 30+ hours into labor. She totally ruined our zen and the more we tried to shut her out the more she intruded, not leaving my room at one point for several hours, adjusting and readjusting my sensors as she wasn’t getting a good read on my contractions. The day wore on us, as we tried to stay in our bubble of peace. In retrospect, we should’ve requested a different nurse right off the bat, but both me and my partner sincerely wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. In some morbid way, I thought perhaps her militant demeanor would help me push harder when it came time… I don’t know what I was thinking, but we definitely dropped the ball on this one.

6pm came around and my doctor came back to check me. Almost 48 hrs after my very first pressure wave had started, I was finally progressed to a 9.75, close to 10 and ready to start pushing. Hallelujah! Pushing, when you can’t feel anything, is the most unrewarding feeling ever. I kept looking over the monitors to see when the waves were starting to peak to time my push. At one point, I remember our nurse from hell asking me if I could feel anything. I said no, just pressure. I vaguely remember her adjusting something on the monitor but thought nothing of it. Every time a pressure wave would start, I would brace myself to push as hard as I could… in some ways it felt liberating, but in others it felt suffocating, yet I gave it my all. In total, I pushed for almost 4 hrs… switching positions and trying everything I was asked to do. I was in a state of delirium as the exhaustion took over… I honestly can’t remember periods of it, but I distinctly remember that during one push I felt pressure and during the next I felt pain.

There is pain and there is birthing pain… It’s maddening, really, to think of how much pain a human body can endure. It felt like my insides were being ripped apart by a jack hammer. It was sudden and deliberate. It was all consuming and for a moment it threw me off my game. The sweet night nurse who sat with me during my epidural had said, you won’t feel any pain when you push, just enough pressure to push your baby out. Where was this pain coming from? I looked around the room… there was a new nurse and my partner, looking bleary eyed. It hurts, I cried… it really, really hurts. What’s happening? before anyone could answer there was another pressure wave but this time I could feel its wrath. I pushed through the pain, hoping to get my baby out and felt my insides explode. Something is wrong, I sobbed. I don’t know if I can do this. Call dr. G. Another contraction came and I pushed again in spite of myself. I was feeling everything now and I thought I was going to shatter.

Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. Nurse from hell came barreling into the room and started barking orders again.The nurse who had replaced her froze in place. I don’t remember her saying a word and shortly afterwards, she left the room. My doctor, who had another patient in the OR, was summoned and he arrived shortly to find me writhing in pain. It burns, I cried. One quick look and he knew that someone had shut off the epidural. Nurse from hell looked flustered and my partner, who had been watching me in labor for almost 40 hrs, twisting in pain for more than half hour, finally lost his patience and asked the nurse to leave the room. Things got a bit awkward at this point… a new nurse took over and the anesthesiologist was paged. He finally showed up and turned my epidural drip back on, sheets were changed, I was given a break before I had to push again and somehow in the middle of all this, I had spiked a fever of 103.

At 10pm, my doctor came back into the room… Things were a lot calmer now. The medicine was working and I was feeling like a human being. We had to start you on antibiotics, he announced. Your fever was pretty high. Your baby will be taken to the NICU for observation as soon as he’s born since it’s hospital protocol in these situations. I nodded. Can I start pushing again? I asked. Yes, if you feel like it, but you’re very very swollen everywhere… he trailed off. During the next contraction I pushed but I had nothing left in me. I felt weak and frail. I pushed again during another wave and I could barely lift my body up. I was checked again and told that my baby was right there, but his head was stuck in my pelvis unable to get through. 20 mins later I was nowhere close to having this baby. I think we have to make the call now… said my doctor. I have to recommend a c-section. I think we’ve given it enough time.

And just like that, the best laid plans came to a screeching halt… I had desperately wanted to avoid a c-section and tried everything in my power to have a vaginal birth. Are you sure, I said reluctantly. What about vacuum or forceps delivery? I asked. I wouldn’t recommend it, said my doctor. Okay, I said. Let’s do it. Sometimes you just have to let go of the plan in your head and trust the Universe. There were no tears, no disappointments or regrets, only an end in sight after a long battle which had left both sides weary. The next 30 minutes were a blur. I was taken to the operating room and prepped for surgery, my partner changed into scrubs and was told to wait outside, of all the songs in the world, Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc was blasting on the speakers as the surgeons drew the infamous blue curtain over me, I tried to make small talk but my speech was severely slurred from the anesthesia, which made for good comedy, my partner was finally ushered in and after a couple of serious tugs and pulls, exactly 13 minutes past midnight, 52 hours past the onset of labor, on Saturday, May 14, 2016, our son Lelan was born into this world.

As it was hospital protocol, our baby was taken to the NICU and started on a course of antibiotics. After a week’s stint in the NICU, which seemed like the longest week in time, our precious little boy is finally home with us. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that life is truly a blessing and the moment you start acting like it, it really starts to feel like one. And, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…

Babies are born on their birthdays!

20160511_230243.jpgWhen Monday morning rolled around, I was positively irritated. Another weekend had come and gone, and this time along with my due date, and I was no closer to having this baby. I had already started my maternity leave 10 days earlier and was beginning to second guess everything. It didn’t help knowing that most women in my family had delivered well before their due date. Must be that cervix of steel, I jested to my partner… but I wasn’t laughing.

I had been experiencing pretty frequent, yet completely random, stomach tightenings aka Braxton Hicks on and off. But nothing serious or painful. In fact, I was and still am convinced that I haven’t experienced a real pressure wave (contraction) yet. You’ll know when you have one, my doctor had warned me, but I was seriously starting to wonder about it and no amount of googling, what does a contraction feel like, was helping my cause.

Still pregnant at 40 weeks, I texted a friend later in the day, I’m ready for this boy to come out.
Keep that bubble of peace strong, she texted back. Baby will come when he’s ready!

By all accounts, I’ve had a dream pregnancy… until now. So, I guess a little delay is nothing to gripe about. It is estimated that only 5% of babies are actually born on their due dates. 11% are delivered prematurely and 80% arrive between 37 and 42 weeks. First time moms are notorious for going over and one study found that boy babies are more likely to go beyond their due date than girls.

Due dates, it seems, are anything but predictable so, why do we let ourselves get hung up on them? When my phone started ringing right around my due date from well-meaning friends and relatives wanting a status update, reality started to stress me out. I mean, how many ways can you really say, any day now… we’re still waiting… you’ll be the first to know… stop texting me… do you think I would have the baby and not tell you? I resorted to answering texts with pictures while I still had a sense of humor! Eventually, I stopped answering my phone altogether. Sorry mom.

Man proposes, God disposes. We can make all the plans we want, but it’s ultimately the universe that decides its outcome. My partner and I have spent countless hours preparing for an intervention free labor and we always knew that things were out of our hands.We agreed early on that we would be at peace with whatever outcome as long as we had a healthy, happy baby. We were prepared to wait it out until 42 weeks, but our good doctor felt that it was best to medically intervene on Friday, the 13th! Cue horror music here.

An induction, while quite common these days, is still risky, unpredictable and is basically an interruption of normal physiology. “The strict medical definition of “post-term” (aka “post-date”) is a pregnancy that goes beyond 42 weeks. However, recent research has shown that delivery after 40 weeks may come with certain risks, and OB-GYNs have responded in kind. “We now change our clinical practices at 40 weeks to prevent potential complications in both mom and baby,” says Carri R. Warshak, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Cincinnati.”

I’ve enjoyed every minute of this experience, even the somewhat gross, uncomfortable bits. I’m very healthy and so is my baby. Even my doctor has joked that I was a boring patient so, there is no reason to expect the worse on Friday. Still, hospitals are intimidating with their uniforms, rules and protocols and it’s natural to be overwhelmed…

During our 6 week Hypnobabies® class, we were empowered to take the lead in establishing good communication with our caregiver and that’s precisely what we’ve done. As we approach a reality we haven’t planned for, I find myself making a mental list to make this process easier to manage.

  1. Be prepared for a prolonged birthing process. Inductions are notoriously time consuming and draining with a lot of downtime.
  2. Write down your birth preferences in short bullet points, no longer than a page, and have a couple of copies available for hospital staff.
  3. Always be respectful and calm while speaking to hospital personnel. They want to help you.
  4. Never consent to any medical treatment without being fully informed. If you feel bullied or rushed into making a decision, don’t forget that you have a legal right to request additional time and information. You can also request another nurse, politely, if you feel like you’re not being heard.
    • Is there a medical emergency right now?1cb7a1eee4fba35a82d0f933a93c5f33.jpg
    • Am I or is my baby in danger right now?
    • What are the risks for this procedure?
    • What are the benefits/ alternatives?
    • What happens if we do nothing and wait it out?
    • How much time do I have to make a decision?
  5. Be open to change and don’t forget to breathe! You will be holding your baby in your arms very soon!

I can still have a gratifying, yet safe, birthing experience. So much of becoming a parent is
about giving up control and why should this phase be any different? I can’t predict when my son will be born, but I can visualize a wonderful birthing experience, with the kindest nursing staff and a quick and effective induction. I can still envision a calm and peaceful birthing room and project the kind of day that I want to experience with my partner as we bring our son into this world together.

The dilemma of an elephant mom

A few years ago I read an article by Priyanka Sharma Sindhar about being an elephant mom and it struck a chord with me. “If you’re wondering what an ‘elephant parent‘ means, it’s the kind of parent who does the exact opposite of what the tiger mom, the ultra-strict disciplinarian, does. Parents who believe that they need to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they’re still impressionable and very, very young.”

My childhood memories don’t necessarily reflect this reality. My parents weren’t ultra-strict disciplinarians, but they weren’t elephant parents either. Their love, while unconditional, came with expectations. And, more often than not I felt like I had disappointed them. The more I rebelled, the tighter they held on, until we both had to break free just to breathe. Reflecting on their parenting skills, I can’t help but feel that they did their very best… they learned how to parent from their parents and now that I’m about to become one, naturally, I want to do the best that I can.

There are so many parenting methods out there and as my partner and I fine tune what makes sense for our family, we find ourselves talking more and more about creating an emotionally safe environment for our son to grow up in, as opposed to raising the perfect kid. Who defines perfection anyway? As much as I don’t care for labels, there are some positively reassuring qualities about elephant parenting.

  • Elephant moms don’t do it alone. It takes a herd to raise a baby and they are not afraid to delegate.
  • Elephant parents don’t rush their young. They nurture and protect them until they’re ready… Some wait until they’re teenagers.
  • Elephant parents are very attentive. They are not afraid to show emotion and are always waiting in the wings, watching cautiously
  • Elephant parents are always there to lend a helping hand… errr, trunk. There are countless heartwarming videos online of elephants rushing to help their young when in trouble.

Yet, parenting is not a one size fits all promise. No two children are alike, not even twins. Herein lies the challenge… As a parent, it is my responsibility to set boundaries and help my kid navigate through the challeges of this world. Not only will he need structure from the beginning with sleep training and behavior modifications etc., but it is vital for his well being and safety as he gets older. At what age can I arbitrarily decide to reverse the bad behaviors I’ve allowed to fester? Why should he suddenly listen to me when he’s gotten away with so much for so long? While I want to be there for my son, no matter what, I certainly don’t want to enable him to make bad choices in life. Let’s face it, I’m all for letting kids be kids for as long as possible, but I sure as hell don’t want to raise a brat!

Do you  consider yourself an elephant parent? If so, how do you deal with this dilemma?

Lelan’s Nursery Reveal

It is no secret that I love elephants and it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I chose them as the theme for my son’s room. Have you ever seen a baby elephant at play? It has to be one of the purest expressions of joy out there in the world. When I found out I was pregnant, all I could picture was a little elephant rolling around in my belly. As my belly grew, I imagined him tickling me with his trunk, pushing on my bladder with his chubby legs… ah, it was all sweet and happy thoughts and I knew I had to remember this feeling forever.

il_570xn.849910577_3n6b.jpgAs I searched for inspiration for his room, I came across this blanket on Etsy and instantly fell in love with the vibrant colors and patterns. The backing is a brown goose down velour and the front is a soft organic cotton. It is a cornucopia of happy colors… navy, yellow, burnt orange, red and teal… all of which is reflected in the room.16558892.jpg

 

Then came the crib… I wanted something inexpensive and classic. This Fisher Price crib was under $200, including the mattress and just the right size. As it was tradition, my in-laws bought us this beauty and helped set it up too. It is an added bonus that this converts to a toddler bed and then a full-size bed if we ever need it to.

The rest of the items are a mix-match of items found on craigslist, eBay, discount shopping bins and hand-me-downs. The entire budget for this nursery came in under $500. The cotton rug was given to me by my sister a few years ago and anchors the room nicely. The window treatments were an eBay bargain @ $12 and the dresser (which is really an oversize nightstand and part of our bedroom set) and shelves were painted with General Finishes Persimmon milk paint and distressed to match. The rocker chair was a bargain at $100 on Craigslist and it fits perfectly in the reading nook and the plush elephant throw, a gift from my mother in law, adds some much needed warmth to an otherwise dark corner. The inspiration for the wall paint treatment came from Pinterest and you can read all about it here. With a  little washi tape and a whole lot of imagination, you can make your walls come alive. And, the best news is it’s temporary.

So, without further ado here’s the big nursery reveal…

I simply adore this room… and honestly, it wouldn’t have been possible without my partner’s assistance. He really pushed me to finish the room on Sunday by jumping in and doing all the heavy lifting. There is a great sense of accomplishment when something comes together better than you had imagined… and we are so ready to enjoy this room with our son for years to come!