Dear Connor: Month One

Dear Connor,

One month ago yesterday, you turned your Daddy’s and my lives upside-down with your early arrival. We hadn’t even installed the car seat yet when you decided it was time to make your appearance. If you’d waited until the doctor had guessed your arrival date would be, you’d only be one week old instead of one month!

You’re Mommy’s little squigglebug, always flailing your long arms all over the place. For the first couple of weeks of your life, you kept your long legs folded up indian-style, but now you stretch them out regularly. This helps you squirm out of Mommy and Daddy’s bedtime swaddles during the night, and we frequently find you in your crib either with your arms freed or with you having gotten completely unswaddled.

You eat every two or three hours, day and night. This is the biggest change for Mommy and Daddy right now, because we’re used to getting a lot more sleep than all that. But little Connor needs to eat, and Mommy decided to breastfeed, so Daddy helps by changing your diaper and burping you (and swaddling you at night) whenever he’s home for a feeding.

Mommy and Daddy used to go out to eat a lot, but you’ve changed all that. Last weekend, though, we took you out to an Indian restaurant on Saturday and to our favorite Chinese dim sum restaurant on Sunday, and you slept through the whole thing (which was what we had hoped). You even slept through our after-lunch Starbucks trips!

I could write so much more about this crazy first month with you in our lives, but you’re starting to get fussy and squirmy and sleepy here in your Moby Wrap.

I love you, little guy, no matter how frustrated I might get with your frequent feedings and fussy fighting-off of sleep. You’re way too cute for me to stay mad at for long.

Tummy Time

Connor’s Early Arrival, Part Two

(Start with Part One)

The first hour or two after we got checked into the hospital was a weird period of acclimation. As I got connected to more and more equipment, the experience became more and more real. I got as comfortable as possible on the labor bed (with absorbent pads beneath me, since I was still leaking amniotic fluid), was connected to external fetal monitors, got my IV put in, had blood taken, had a blood pressure cuff put on, and was asked all the standard medical history questions by several students and residents.

In bed with monitors attached

Since my Strep B test results hadn’t come in yet — I’d just had the culture taken that afternoon — the staff treated me as if I had tested positive, and gave me an IV line with penicillin. I also got the standard hydration solution along with my Pitocin drip, which they started at one milliunit (and eventually ramped up to 14 milliunits over the course of my labor).

Diana asleepOnce the initial hubbub died down, Aaron and I settled in to rest as much as we could. The blood pressure cuff automatically activated every half hour, but it surprisingly didn’t affect my ability to catch some Z’s during those few hours. Aaron attempted to relax in a squeaky and not very comfortable recliner.

We both managed to rest enough to take the edge off by the time the shift change happened at 7:00am. Cortnie was replaced by Karen, a motherly type who claimed to be “allergic to pain.” She unhooked me from the monitors and let me have my second potty break since I’d checked in, then helped me into a more comfortable position where my ass wasn’t falling asleep.

Karen reminded me to stay hydrated as much as possible, and to drink a glass of juice every hour or so to keep my blood sugar levels from dipping. So, I continued to try to doze as much as possible, and Karen brought me a glass of apple juice when I asked (about every other time she came to check in on me).

Turned up to 11!This whole time, first Cortnie then Karen had been slowly upping my dosage of Pitocin, increasing the frequency and intensity of the contractions. By mid-morning, they were more painful than menstrual cramps (and my period cramps can be seriously intense). Karen asked me to rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, but I felt like I didn’t have a frame of reference. I’d always thought that 10 should be “I Feel Like I Want To Die,” but Karen said to rate my 10 as the worst pain I’d ever felt.

What was my worst pain? Back pain? When was the last time I cried because of pain? I couldn’t remember, so I figured that I might be at a 4 or so. I guessed that a 7 or 8 would be where I’d start crying, so that became my arbitrary reference point.

Congratulations Connor!Back in our childbirth class, the nurse had taught us different breathing and massage techniques to manage the pain of contractions. Finally, I reached the point where I needed to use those techniques. Aaron massaged my leg (the easiest part for him to reach) while I did some deep breathing. I experimented with the Lamaze breathing patterns, but found (as I’d expected) that counting my breaths Zen-style, one to ten, was my most effective method of pain management. I also used the focal point idea that we learned, either staring at one particular ceiling vent or at the whiteboard where Karen had written, “Congratulations Connor!”

Anticipating the contractions became sort of a game for Aaron and me — we’d be listening to the monitor, to Connor’s heartbeat, and we’d hear the signal grow not so much faster as stronger. A few seconds later, the tightness would begin. At some point, I started identifying the contractions as “surges,” like the more, shall we call them, earth-mother-y types do — and it actually helped change my attitude toward them. They became less painful and more straight-up intense. I visualized my cervix pulling open with each one — not blooming like a flower, mind you, as that’s way too hippie an attitude for me, but I’m all about the visualization concept. Maybe it helped, maybe it didn’t, but it was a nice distraction for my mind.

Around 11am, Aaron called his dad and my mom to let them know that I was in labor. We hadn’t wanted to call too early, especially since Aaron’s dad (now retired) used to work nights, so we’re not sure what his sleep schedule is like, and my mom lives one time zone to the west, so we didn’t want to call too early. No one was expecting us to be in the hospital already, three weeks early, so there was some confusion on the other end of the line (and concern on my mom’s part).

It’s a good thing we called to give them a heads-up when we did, because my contractions really ramped up around noon. I’d requested a birthing ball a couple of hours earlier, and I asked Karen to help me onto it the next time she came to check on me. I felt like it was time to get serious, like something had changed. I would realize later that this was transition.

In the childbirth class, I’d found that leaning over the ball with my butt sticking out was the most comfortable position; here, though, Karen actually sat me on the ball, leaning my head and shoulders forward onto the labor bed, which wasn’t nearly as comfortable. With each contraction, I felt like I needed to raise myself up off of the ball because of the pressure it was putting on my nether regions.

Each contraction got more and more intense. I started hissing through my exhales, then moaning, then nearly crying. Aaron tried rubbing my back during contractions, but I had to ask him to stop because it wasn’t nearly as calming as the leg massage had been. I also started forgetting to count my inhales and exhales, which made the pain seem worse.

At one point, while on the birthing ball, I felt a contraction coming on sooner and stronger than I’d anticipated, and I let loose a frustrated, “Oh, fuck!” I immediately followed it with, “Sorry!” It was an automatic reaction, but it amused our nurse Karen to no end.

Eventually, I came to a realization: I had a shit on deck. A particularly loose one, I could tell. It was distracting me from the other sensations down below, so I asked Karen if I could go take a BM between contractions. She very gently told me that it would be OK if I had a BM while I was pushing, that the nurses had seen it all before. I explained that it was really just RIGHT THERE, and it was really loose, and if I could just move my bowels, I’d be able to concentrate better on what was going on down there.

Karen agreed to let me go take a shit. “Just let it fall out,” she advised, obviously not wanting me to push quite yet. I stood up from the birthing ball, let her unhook me from the monitors, took two steps toward the bathroom — and a contraction hit. Dammit. I doubled over, clutching my IV pole for support. I was concentrating on standing up, so any pain management techniques were long forgotten. Once it subsided, I made it into the bathroom before another one doubled me over — this time, my yells echoed in the bathroom, prompting Aaron to call through the door, “Are you OK, honey?” I had another contraction on the john, another after I stood up, and another on the way back to the bed.

At some point during this insanity, Karen left to get someone to check my cervix, realizing that something had changed. When I got back to the bed, Karen asked me to lie on my back so the other nurse could check me.

That’s when the REAL pain hit.

The nurse had her gloved hand spelunking around in my parts as I yelled, and she got a perplexed look on her face.

“You’re complete,” she said, meaning that I was fully dilated and effaced, “but I’m not sure that what I’m feeling is a head.”

Oh, no. My heart sank.

One of the nurses in the room called Dr. Ward, the OB on call from my practice, for her to check me herself and confirm whether it was Connor’s head that was presenting, or something else. While we were waiting for her to arrive, I had another contraction, and I suddenly felt an immense pressure “down there,” and had a very definite urge to push. I let the nurses know, and they very vehemently told me NOT to push.

When Dr. Ward checked me, I swear it felt like it took forever, and that she had to have been wrist-deep up my vagina. That was the most pain I’d ever been in up to that point; I was clinging to the bedrail and yelling uncontrollably, almost screaming. Finally, she confirmed that, no, his head wasn’t presenting — that was his scrotum.

That’s when things got crazy.

(Continue to Part Three)

40 Weeks Down: Connor’s Estimated Due Date

Diana and baby ConnorIt’s hard to imagine, but Connor could have still been on the inside this evening, instead of having just turned three weeks old.

It’s been a whirlwind — the learning curve of just caring for a baby; dealing with the standard sleep deprivation; having family and friends visit (a welcome distraction); and other non-baby stuff, like expensive plumbing problems. I haven’t even finished writing out Connor’s birth story yet, and he’ll be turning a month old soon!

My Mom (aka “Grandma”) has been visiting from Texas for the past week, and will be staying through the end of this week. It’s been so helpful to have another pair of experienced hands around, especially in the evenings after Aaron goes to work. Once she leaves, I’ll definitely miss having her around, but I’ll also feel like it’s my “stepping out” as a real Mom: taking care of Baby with no one right there to fall back on. Time to figure out our own schedule, mine and Connor’s.

And how am I feeling physically? Sleep deprived, still a little tender in the abdominal area, but otherwise OK. I’ve lost all but a few pounds of my baby weight, and am looking forward to getting the OK from my doctor in a few weeks to start exercising again. Also looking forward to making an appointment with my chiropractor at the six-week post-partum mark, as my back has been killing me. I’m pretty sure my Percocet was intended for relief of incision pain, not back pain, but it does the job in a pinch…

Now comes my valiant attempt to avoid becoming a typical “mommy blogger.” Not that there’s anything wrong with mommy bloggers; it’s just not my style. I don’t think. At least, I never thought it would be…

Connor’s Early Arrival, Part One

I had my 36-week OB appointment on Friday the 2nd, in the afternoon — I’d opted to take a half day off of work and make my Labor Day weekend just a little longer. This was the first visit where my doctor would check my cervix for dilation and effacement, to see how far along I was. She almost didn’t even check; she asked me if I wanted her to check me, and I asked in return, “Depends: do you want to check me?” So, she did, and she was surprised to find that I was already 2cm dilated and about 60% effaced.

Apart from that, everything went as expected: got my Strep B test (standard procedure at 36 weeks), got to hear the heartbeat (standard for every visit), got to ask all my weird questions (this time, I asked whether I could just have IV access without having to cart an actual IV pole around with me just for the hydrating solution). Left with everything looking awesome and on-track, scheduled the remainder of my OB visits, and proceeded with my long weekend.

Spent the late afternoon at home with Aaron, until he went to work. Spent the evening chilling out and watching Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network — actually took a nap through a couple of episodes around 8pm. Woke up hungry, so I warmed up a frozen meal and had second dinner before getting ready for bed.

Around 10:30pm, as I was about to undress for bed, I felt a small gush of fluid. Nothing big, but enough to make me take note. I got ready for bed and laid down for 20 minutes to research “amniotic fluid leak” on Google and BabyCenter. When I got up again, I got another small gush. This time, I called the OB on call for my practice, who was particularly unhelpful — “If there’s any question that your water has broken,” she advised me, “definitely come in to the hospital and get checked. Otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it.” Gee, thanks. I told her I’d just take it easy and see what happened, then.

I gave Aaron a quick heads-up via our Words With Friends game, just in case, and agreed to text or call if anything major happened. Then I went to bed.

But I didn’t really sleep. I was on high alert for leakage. I kept thinking I felt something, but didn’t want to get up for fear of making things worse. Finally, at 12:30am, there was no question: my water broke. It soaked through the maxi pad I was wearing, through my underwear, down to the sheets. Despite my knock-kneed break for the bathroom, it still spilled down my leg and onto the bathroom floor.

Yep, no questions now.

I was on the phone to Aaron within minutes, once I’d collected myself. I told him what had happened, and his response (after the initial “What do you want me to do?”) was, “So, this is really happening!” I was still in denial somehow, thinking that they’d check me and send me home on bed rest — I was still a little early, after all, not yet having hit the official 37-week full-term mark. But I asked Aaron if he could come home and take me to the hospital. No problem — he told his supervisor after we hung up and was out of there in no time.

Meanwhile, I had only just started packing our hospital bag earlier that week, so I started gathering what we’d need. Toiletries, clothes, a magazine to keep me busy (which I never did crack open), iPhone chargers, the sorts of things one might need for an overnight stay away from home. I’d never written out a formal birth plan (which was just as well), so I didn’t need to remember to pack that.

It didn’t take long for Aaron to get home. After our initial hellos and hugs and minor excited freak outs together, he went to get a shower while I called the OB on-call again, just to confirm that, yes, my water had really broken, no question, and to let them know that we were coming in. This time, I got a more definite response: yes, come to the hospital now. We’ll be expecting you.

So, we did. Aaron got his toiletries and a change of clothes into the hospital bag, and off we went. At this point, it was just before 2:00am. I hadn’t really researched and remembered how to get to Toledo Hospital from our house, since I wouldn’t be driving; maybe I should have, since Aaron experienced a minor anxiety-induced brain fart en route, and I had to whip out my iPhone to confirm which way we needed to turn to get to the hospital.

We tried to be as calm as we could as we parked the car and walked into the hospital — and promptly went the wrong way, going up the parking garage elevator instead of proceeding to the lobby and taking the visitor elevators. No problem; back down to Floor 2, to the lobby, then past the reception desk, past the Mom And Me Boutique, around the corner to the elevators, up to Floor 3, and follow the signs to Labor and Delivery.

“Hi!” I said to the ladies at the nurses’ station. “My water just broke.”

An RN named Cortnie took our info: name, OB’s name, gestational age (36 weeks 5 days), that sort of thing, then escorted us down to L&D Room 1. Our official check-in time was 1:58am.

Room 1 was actually pretty swanky, as hospital rooms go: much larger than the one we’d seen on our tour, with a dresser and a portable CD/cassette player (aka “boom box”), a loveseat, a recliner, and some unintrusive art on the walls. Of course, there was also a fetal monitor and a warmer contraption for after Baby’s arrival. I got changed into the gown that Cortnie had left for me, and Aaron and I got used to the idea that we weren’t being sent home, after all.

This was really happening.

(Continue to Part Two…)