Friday, April 21, 2017

The Birth of Penelope

This pregnancy can only be described as horrible. From high AFP results to a nephrostomy tube to sepsis I have been through more than I ever cared to experience. The silver lining to all of this though is my beautiful baby girl in my arms. She makes all of that pain, worry, fear and frustration worth it. So come with me as I tell the story of how she arrived...

My birthday on Monday came and went and while I was hoping for a birthday baby I wasn't too surprised she did not arrive that day. I had been having some telltale signs she would probably be here soon, although I never say anything is for certain until the baby's head is out. I had been scheduled to be induced at 39 weeks on April 10th but was hoping to avoid that mess.

It was Thursday morning and I dragged myself out of bed and got the kids up and ready for daycare. At this point I had an incident of what I figured was just pregnancy related bladder leakage (pregnancy is awesome) and put a pad in my underpants just in case. The thought of my water leaking vaguely occurred to me but I wrote it off quickly. I dropped the kids off and then went off to my chiropractor appointment to hopefully get baby nice and aligned for birth. Walking up the stairs to the office I felt it. The rupture of membranes, the very distinct flooding feeling that I've felt three other times in my life. You would think a normal person might just pop in and say "sorry, can't stay." and leave. Nope. Not me. I was actually still in denial. No way I thought. No way was that my water. Nah. I continue to go in and get checked in. All through the appointment I was feeling the little gushes. Still in denial by the way. I managed to get adjusted and make it down the steps before that poor pad reached it's maximum and my shorts started getting soaked. I got to the car and took a second to be thankful for leather seats. I called Kenny first and told him what happened and what my plan was. Then I placed a series of calls to my mom and my mother in law to let them know. Then I drove my butt home to load up the car with all of our stuff, managing to forget one bag entirely by the way. Truth be told I was STILL not 100% convinced my water had gone. The denial is strong with me.

I arrived to the ER triage, wet shorts and all. I got checked in and they asked if I wanted to walk or take a wheelchair. I chose to walk. So I waltzed my way up to L&D. I ran into a previous co-worker in the elevator, that was a fun and sort of awkward moment. Oh hey...yeah...don't mind my wet shorts or the tiny puddle that might be forming under me, so how are you? I got to the L&D unit and they put me in the triage room. I was only at 2cm and still not contracting much. They did a test to check if it was amniotic fluid which of course was positive, I finally accepted that I was not going to be leaving the hospital without my baby in my arms. The put me into my room and got my IV in. I know most of the nurses there really well and they are all just amazing. I can't say how much I loved having them by my side for all of the kids.

They started pitocin right away to get contractions going. A little after noon or so the doctor came in and broke a forebag of water but I was still pretty much the same as when I arrived progress wise. They continued to up the pitocin throughout the day. The doctor came by and checked me out again in the evening. She had me get up and bounce on a big exercise ball to help push things along. That must have helped because sitting on that ball the contractions began getting worse. I felt her moving down further and knew the hard part was coming soon. I got back in bed and the contractions increased even more. I had already told the nurses what was going to happen: I would be chatty and happy until about 5cm when I'll get quiet and start focusing really hard through contractions. The journey to 5cm would take forever but once I hit that things would go faster. By 9 ish at night I was starting to get to that point. I had to focus a little more and my contractions began causing me to internally scream curse words in one continuous string. On the outside though I'm very quiet. I'd focus on something in the room, and for a long time it was the wheel of the baby bassinet. It looked like a scary duck. Don't ask. Many contractions were endured by staring at that wheel and thinking "scary duck, scary duck. scary duck." Hey, whatever works.

It was about 11:30 when I was getting to the point of making these weird little noises during contractions and having to really fight to breathe through them. I wanted to time out the IV pain medication as best as I could. I know I get one dose and that's pretty much it. Second doses do nothing for me. I put it off but lasted a whole 15 minutes before I asked for the drugs. There was some delay in getting them but once I had them the pain wasn't as sharp and I could relax in between the contractions. I remember actually falling asleep between some of them. The experience of those contractions though. I forgot how awful they are. As I felt one coming on I would instinctively look for Kenny. Locking on to his eyes and squeezing the hell out of his poor hand was the only way I could get through them. It feels like something is ripping you open from the inside out...every minute...for a minute long. I'm pretty proud of myself for not screaming at anybody though. At a certain point I had begun getting super sleepy in between contractions. To the point where I was not breathing. My oxygen levels were dropping to the high 60s at times. I remember Kenny and my mom telling me to breathe and then remembering oh yeah...I have to breathe that's right. It was an odd experience.

I had also let the nurses know when I hit transition, right around 7 ish centimeters then things would move very, very, very fast. I found myself in that transition and as per my usual I was saying I wanted the epidural. As with every kid, Kenny and I worked out an agreement about the epidural. I knew at some point the pain was probably going to be so bad I'd ask for one but when I'm not in unbearable pain I know I didn't really want one. I'm scared of them, have you seen that needle?! It's huge and I'm a big ol' baby with needles. Therefore when I asked for the epidural Kenny knew to tell me no and keep encouraging me that I could do this. The one exception being if I used the "safe word" which signaled to him that I was really needing it. I knew I was getting close, The nurse checked me and sure enough I was right around that 6-7cm range. I got another round of pain meds but of course they did pretty much nothing. Not much longer I knew I was getting close to the "pushy" feeling. I wasn't there yet but I know my body pretty dang well. I told them to call Dr. Weise. I was at 8cm but knew it wouldn't be long. I don't know how much longer it was really but it seems like mere minutes I felt the "pushy" feeling. The nurses were dismantling the bed, rolling in the delivery table and getting things set up. They checked me again and yup, I was complete and ready to have a baby! Dr. Weise got there and as soon as she said "Ok" I was on it. I knew the faster, better and harder I pushed the faster that pain was going to be gone. It's quite the motivator. There is also this weird paradoxical type of pain relief with pushing. It hurts like hell but it's also a relief from the contraction at the same time. It's weird. I had to be told a few times to breath and take a second in between pushes because I was just that determined. It didn't take but a few minutes and Penny was out. I was looking at this itty bitty baby plopped on my tummy and I couldn't believe it. The baby nurse was once again my OB clinical instructor from nursing school who also helped deliver Ellie. It was awesome getting to have her as a nurse again.

 Delivering the placenta was awful but once it was out we saw what was probably the reason for that high AFP result. It was covered in tons of cysts, including one hard lump on the umbilical cord. The cord itself was also very short which was abnormal. Due to those abnormalities I wasn't able to take it home and encapsulate it, but it's good we sent it off to make sure there wasn't anything nefarious with it. I don't yet know what the results of the patho are yet but hopefully it's all good. It's a good possibility that placenta wouldn't have kept up very well for a lot longer and it was also most likely a contributing factor to Penny's small size.

Ms. Penelope Estelle Stutler was born at 3:18am on March 31st, 2017 at 6lbs and 17.5 inches
She was perfect in every way. I loved her instantly and my heart has grown yet again to make room for another amazing little person. She had some difficulty keeping her body temperature up even while skin to skin with me and her blood sugar dropped really low. Unfortunately she did not latch or nurse very well at all and we had to give her some formula. The rest of the night was tough and I wanted so very much to be exclusively breastfeeding her but it just didn't work out that way. I wish I hadn't been so groggy and tired so I could have maybe tried to offer up more ideas besides formula in a bottle. She still didn't nurse the next day and I had to start pumping for her. I am still pumping for her and it's killing me inside not being able to nurse her like the other kids. We are still trying and working on it though.

Overall the birth of Penny was probably the best I've had all things considered. The nephrostomy tube didn't cause a single issue and I never even knew it was there. There was some bittersweetness to the whole ordeal. Penny will be our last baby and I'm having a hard time coming to terms with that. It's insane I know but closing this chapter of our lives is huge for me. For the past decade all I've known is having's over. We are on to bigger adventures now but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad about it.

SO that is the story of how Ms. Penny arrived in the world. I can't wait to see her learn and grow and see how she interacts with her many siblings. I also don't want her to grow too fast, I will be savoring every second I can and trying to commit as much of this time to my long term memory as possible.