childbirth, Hypnobabies

Elliot’s Birth Story

So it’s been over two weeks since Elliot was born (and actually three weeks since this birth story begins!), but I think it’s time for me to share my story. As I’ve written about in the past, I prepared for my birthing time by doing the Hypnobabies home study course, so I wanted to make a note here that I don’t use Hypnobabies language throughout this story. If you’re currently taking a Hypnobabies class and are looking for stories, I’d highly recommend having a strong Bubble of Peace before diving into this one. It’s definitely a “change of plans” story. If you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry about it.

Anyway, I supposed my birth story starts at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday, December 26th, when I had an appointment with an OB at my practice for a cervical check. Because I was still only at about 1 cm dilated, I was all set to keep my appointment at the hospital that evening to start “ripening,” where they would give me Cytotec to help my cervix ripen and hopefully start the labor process.

We went home, double-checked that we’d taken care of everything we needed to for the next few days, and I made myself a nice, big lunch. Then, we packed our hospital bags into the car and headed to the hospital around 3pm. We got there around 3:40 and were in a room shortly after 4. I changed into a gown and got settled into the room. We were in the High-Risk Perinatal Center for the evening, not a Labor & Delivery room, so the room was different than the ones we’d seen on our tour.

Then, we met our first nurse, who got me set up with a saline IV lock and the monitors for the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. Around 6 p.m. I got my first dose of Cytotec. Now, I know there’s some controversy around Cytotec, and I don’t want to get into that. Suffice to say, I had a good experience and trust that my doctors chose it for good reasons. I was initially a bit concerned because I had used Cytotec for my missed miscarriage the year before and it had had some unpleasant side effects, but the dose used for ripening was much, much smaller. Rather than 4 pills all at once, I got 1/4 of a pill every 2 hours, so that even after 8 doses and 14 hours, I’d still taken half what I’d taken all at once for the miscarriage. And I had no adverse side effects.

Unfortunately, because I had doses every 2 hours, it was difficult to get much sleep. But I was allowed to eat dinner (and breakfast and lunch the next day!), so I ordered some food, checked out the movies they had, and settled in for the night. After my second dose, the nurse pointed out that I was having some “good contractions” according to the monitors. At this point, I didn’t really feel anything. I did a Hypnobabies Fear-Clearing track and tried to relax, as I was still having a bit of anxiety about pitocin and labor the next day.

A little after midnight, and my fourth dose, I had a bit of excitement when the baby’s heart rate dipped during one of those contractions. I had been turned away from the computer screen (laying on my left side, which will become relevant later on), so I didn’t realize I was having a contraction and was completely shocked when three nurses came in to stabilize me. My main night nurse decided she wanted to put me on IV fluids at that point, so she hooked up to my saline lock. After that, I put an episode of Great British Bakeoff on my iPad and then dozed off until my next dose of Cytotec.

From about 2-6 a.m., I attempted to sleep in between doses, which was made more difficult by the fact that the baby was really good at running away from the monitors, or just kicking them off my belly, so I was constantly interrupted by the nurse coming to put them back into place and get the signal back. It was particularly frustrating because I could feel the kid moving the entire time, so I knew things were fine. Around 7 a.m., I ordered breakfast and had Dan (who had been sleeping for most of the night on the couch in the room with me) make me a cup of tea. Around 9 I got my last dose of Cytotec, and at 11 a.m., the doctor checked me and declared that I was at 2-3 cm dilated and ready to move to L&D for pitocin.

At this point, I was sort of feeling the contractions, though they definitely felt more like “pressure waves,” as the Hypnobabies language suggested. The doctor said that I could get off the monitors until I was moved, so we took the opportunity to walk up and down the hallway a little. I also ordered some lunch, which came 15 minutes before we moved to the L&D room. Not knowing how soon they would want to start pitocin, I opted to scarf my cheeseburger and mashed potatoes before moving down the hall to the L&D room.

The L&D room was huge compared to the perinatal room. I joked that it looked like a yoga studio. I was a little disappointed that being induced with pitocin meant that I had to be tied to monitors and I could take advantage of all that room. The nurse tried to get me a wireless monitor, but the one available was already in use. While we were waiting in the room, I did my “Your Birthing Time Begins” track. At 1:30 p.m., they started pitocin, starting at 2 units and increasing it every so often. I did another fear-clearing session after starting pitocin. I felt the pressure waves becoming more intense, increasing particularly after they increased the pitocin (although I didn’t alway notice when they increased me). I listened to my Birthing Day Affirmations and let the doula know that she should probably come to the hospital.

Around 3, I felt a little trickle and assumed I peed a little, but at 4-ish, I went to the toilet and felt a gush, which had some blood in it. When I mentioned the previous trickle, the doctor checked the pad on my bed and said it looked like my water had broken. The doula arrived, the doctor came in to check on me, and my water broke at the same time, so it felt a bit hectic for a minute. My pitocin was around 10 at that point, so I had already talked to Dan about probably being ready for an epidural soon.

When Jenny, our doula, got there, we discussed the epidural and when the doctor checked me and said I’d progressed to 4 cm, I decided it would be good to get the epidural now so I could get some rest, rather than waiting until I was exhausted. Of course, the whole time, Dan was helping me with my Hypnobabies cues, and when Jenny got there, she helped, too. I’m pretty sure Dan picked up on some of the specific ways she helped me stay relaxed through contractions, which were actually starting to feel pretty painful at this point.

A little less than an hour later, the anesthesiologist came in and did the epidural and I had to lie flat for 20-30 minutes to let it start working. I think I actually got a little sleep at this point. Then, I moved to my side with my leg up on a peanut ball to try to encourage the baby to descend (I was dilating and softening, but he was still at -2 station). After a bit, I noticed I was starting to feel pain from each contraction localized in my left hip. We thought maybe it was the epidural pooling because I was on my right side, so I switched sides. Well, at this point, we started realizing that laying on my left side was something the baby didn’t like because he had a few heart rate decelerations. I also noticed that the pain in my hip was getting worse, not better, and starting to spread across my body.

I mentioned that I thought my epidural might not be working, and the nurses tried pushing the button to give me a little surge of medicine. That didn’t help. At this point, my contractions are coming back in full force. They’d also been increasing the pitocin, so by the time it became clear my epidural was failing after only a couple hours, I was at the maximum dose. They called in an anesthesiologist, who tried some of the same things as the nurses in terms of giving me a boost of medicine, including injecting a dose directly into the epidural line. This sent an icy wave down the right side of my body, but I felt no relief on the left. I was probably pretty close to the pitocin equivalent of transition because I was shaking and crying. This couple of hours was the worst of the entire experience, and I was honestly very close to begging them to just take the baby out however they could, but Dan kept me calm and helped me through the experience. Eventually, the anesthesiologist came in with an ice cube and tested my feeling. When I jumped at the coldness when he put the ice cube on my right hip, he said it was time to redo the epidural, at about 9:30 p.m.

I didn’t think I was going to be able to sit up and hold the position necessary for the epidural a second time, while going through these worse contractions, but the combination of Dan being awesome and the anesthesiologist being extremely quick made it happen. And it was ah-maaaaa-zing. It did take a few minutes to really take effect, but I swear I instantly felt the edge taken off. And then I was able to rest.

Unfortunately, between 2 and 3 a.m., the doctor checked me again, and apparently I had been stalled at 7-8 cm with the baby still at -2 station for several hours. Also, the baby kept having increasing distress when I lay on my left side to try to encourage the baby to drop. Apparently, this was particularly scary for Dan because he just saw the monitors and, like the nurses, worried something was seriously wrong. I didn’t realize how worried everyone was because 1.) drugs and 2.) I could feel the baby moving the whole time so I just assumed he was fine.

At about 3 in the morning on Friday, the doctor sat down to discuss “options,” given that the baby wasn’t descending. I asked her “Just to be clear, is this a c-section conversation?” and she said yes. We discussed it with Dan and Jenny and Jenny suggested that, while there were exercises that she thought could help the baby engage better (he was slightly off-kilter and his skull was crammed up against a bone in my pelvis), they all involved lying on my side, which seemed to be a no-go for the baby. So I decided that it would be best to proceed with the c-section now, rather than waiting until it was actually an emergency.

I had to wait for an operating room for a little over an hour, but by 4:20 a.m., I was in the operating room. Dan joined me soon after and helped me stay calm. I didn’t realize how much the anesthesia would make my arms shake, and having Dan there helped me feel calmer, even though he says he didn’t notice me shaking any less. The c-section experience was a little surreal. I definitely felt pressure and pulling, but nothing even remotely resembling pain. It probably helped that I have a lot of trust in my OB practice, so I was confident this was the right decision and that they would take care of me, so I didn’t have any regrets or disappointment about having a c-section.

At 4:43 a.m., on Friday, December 28th, Elliot was born, via c-section. He came out crying and peeing on everything. And when they lowered the opaque part of the drape to show him to me, I cried like I had when I first saw him on the ultrasound screen. My little boy was here and was doing great. He definitely got delayed cord clamping because there was a minute of laughing while he peed on the OB, the pediatrician, and a couple nurses. And then they called Dan over to cut the cord and hold him. I was exhausted and actually dozed off for a minute before jerking awake at some point.

A little after 5 a.m., I was wheeled back to the L&D room to recover and do skin-to-skin with Elliot. We got about 20 minutes of skin-to-skin and nursing before I allowed the nurse to take him for a few tests, and then he was brought back for at least an hour. I was so exhausted, but the nurse offered to sit with me and watch us so that I could keep him on my chest without worrying that he would roll off if I fell asleep. After a couple hours in recovery, we were taken up to the maternity room, where our postpartum journey began for real.

Well, this has already become quite long, so I’m going to stop there. I’ll talk about my c-section recovery, and how Dan was so key in helping me through the birth in later posts. But for now, that’s the story of my exciting, 30+-hour induction and c-section and the arrival of baby Elliot.

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baby, Fourth trimester, Postpartum Diaries

Postpartum Diaries: Two Weeks

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve done a weekly update. Last time I checked in, I was 41 weeks pregnant and looking at an induction in a few days. I’ll be posting my birth experience next week, but I thought I’d start by sharing how our first two weeks with Elliot have been going.

How I’m Doing:

So, the postpartum period (or “fourth trimester,” as it’s sometimes called) isn’t just about baby development. It’s also about maternal healing. And I’ve definitely found the postpartum healing period more challenging than I thought it would be. I was completely unprepared for how much pretty much any normal daily activity would hurt with my c-section incision. The first week was mostly spent figuring out how to cope with reduced mobility. Dan has been invaluable, doing pretty much everything except feeding the baby.

I’ll be honest, I’m extremely frustrated that I can’t do almost anything. Earlier this week, I ended up back at the doctor for a last-minute appointment because I was having so much pain my lower abdomen. The doctor said I’d probably strained something, and given where I was hurting, I’m pretty sure I hurt myself lifting Elliot out of his bassinet at night. So I had to pull back even further and rely on Dan even more, which didn’t help the frustration (or the fact that we couldn’t really take shifts at night).

But we’re slowly adjusting and figuring out a sort-of routine. And Elliot is obliging and letting us sleep for a few hours at a time overnight, rather than staying up all night cluster feeding the way he did the first few nights at home.

How Elliot’s Doing:

Well, little guy seems to be having some congestion the past couple of days, but he seems mostly content and healthy. After several days of hourly feeds overnight, he’s calmed down, probably because he finished a growth spurt.

In the hospital, we had some trouble with him losing weight too quickly after birth, so we supplemented a little bit of formula after feeding him at the breast, but the day after we got home from the hospital, my milk came in, and he started refusing his formula supplements. When we had our first pediatrician checkup, he’d started gaining weight again nicely, and we were given the green light to go back to exclusive breastfeeding. At our two-week appointment this week, he’d already gained back to his birthweight (and then some!) so feeding seems to be going pretty well.

Over the last couple of days, we’ve noticed that he’s been a lot more alert and interactive during the day, instead of only waking up to fuss because he’s wet or hungry. His umbilical cord stump still hasn’t fallen off, so we’re being careful with tummy time, but I do occasionally put him on my chest to practice holding his head up and pushing up a little. He has remarkable neck control for a newborn and has since birth (he was holding his head up during skin-to-skin in the recovery room).

He’s also starting to noticeably outgrow his clothes. I think he’ll be out of newborn sizes fully in a week or two, though I’m glad we got newborn-sized clothes because the larger size was slightly too baggy for my comfort while sleeping. But our growing little guy is growing like a weed. As precious as these sweet, sleepy newborn moments are, I’m excited to see how he develops over the next months and years.

Current Stats: 8 lbs. 3 oz., 21.5″

Fourth trimester

Welcome, Elliot

 

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this space. If you follow my Instagram, you’ll know that’s because baby Elliot decided to arrive just over a week ago. We’re all very busy at home getting used to our new little family, but as soon as I find some time, I’ll share the story of Elliot’s birth and start updating with how these first weeks are going.

Holidays, Recipes

Holiday Treats: Sorta-Healthy Spice Rolls

As I mentioned earlier this week, my one concession to the holiday season was preparing a special breakfast for Christmas morning. Christmas breakfast has always been a thing in my family. When I was very young, we would usually have Christmas brunch with my dad’s family, and as we got older, and our family circumstances changed, Christmas breakfast with my mother became a firm tradition. Our favorite Christmas breakfast was panettone french toast.

But first, every morning, before we could open our gifts, someone would have to make my mother a cup of tea. As it turned out, I was the one who remembered best how she liked it: Earl Grey, steeped for just a minute or two, with a quarter teaspoon of sugar. Then, we could coax our parents downstairs to open gifts (my father was very much a morning person, but my mother needed her cuppa before she was willing to rise so early on a holiday).

These days, I’ve tried to move from food being a preamble or postscript to gift-opening to more of the main event. As my relationship with Dan has evolved, we’ve started spending more time together in the kitchen and eating together as a part of our holiday traditions, rather than spending our time on material gifts. This year, as I mentioned, we didn’t exchange gifts between the two of us at all. But we still had a nice breakfast.

This recipe is based on the Molasses & Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls from Nourished Kitchen. Jenny’s recipe uses unrefined sugars and sprouted whole-grain flour to create a treat that is delicious and yet not as full of sugar and white flour as the average cinnamon roll. Then, I used Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon roll method to proof the rolls because I like the texture it yields. I’ve tweaked the recipe just a bit to fit what I keep in my kitchen and what I wanted from the recipe (and to allow for Dan’s dislike of cranberries). And I made them with a mix of spices because I didn’t check how much cinnamon I had on hand, but they would also be delicious as just cinnamon rolls.

Christmas Morning Sorta-Healthy Spice Rolls

Dough:

2 cups of einkorn all-purpose flour
3 cups of sprouted spelt flour
1 packet of yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup of dairy-like liquid (the original recipe calls for whole milk, but I used a mix of plain yogurt and cashew milk)
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs

Filling:

1/4 cup butter, very soft
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sucanat
1 Tbsp. Ceylon cinnamon
2 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. powdered ginger

Glaze:

1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Make the dough: Mix together the flours, yeast, and salt. Warm the milk, butter, and honey until the butter melts and it comes to about body temperature. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and stream in the warm milk mixture, beating constantly. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until a dough forms.

2. Grease your hands and work surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic and doesn’t stick to things (about 5-10 minutes). Put in a greased bowl, cover, and set aside to rise for an hour or so.

3. Make the filling: Beat together the butter, salt, sucanat, and spices until they make a smooth paste.

4. Roll the dough out to about 1/3” in thickness, and roughly 12” square. Spread the filling on the dough and roll. Slice into nine rolls and place into a 10” square pan that’s been greased and lined with parchment.

5. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

6. The next morning, place the pan in a turned-off oven along with a pan of boiling water to proof for one hour. Remove the pan and the water and preheat the oven to 375F. Bake for 30 minutes or until they read at least 190F internally.

7. Make the glaze by melting together the butter and honey and brush over hot rolls. Enjoy!

Holidays

Thoughts on a Quiet Christmas à Deux

Well, we had thought this would be our first Christmas with a baby. Had my due date proven a more accurate guess, we would probably be in the throes of cluster feeding and sleepless nights still. But due dates, like the pirate’s code, are really more like guidelines, and here we are, waiting on our baby, fielding well-meaning inquiries from friends, and getting a lot of comments about having our own “baby Jesus” (for what it’s worth, I did suggest that if the baby came on Christmas, we’d have to consider using “Noel/Noelle” as the name, but Dan vetoed that.

We had always planned on this Christmas being a quiet affair with just the two of us. We hadn’t even planned on making the 20-minute drive to my mother’s house nearby because, if we had a newborn (and a recently-postpartum body, for me), there was little chance we were going to both put on real clothes, let alone leave the house. But the eerie calm-before-the-storm feeling of being overdue and alone together during Christmas wasn’t expected.

I’ve had quiet Christmases before, and Christmases without a large gathering, and even Christmases where we woke up on Christmas morning with just the two of us in our house. But somehow, this one feels different. We didn’t really have anything planned because the hope was always that I would wake up suddenly and be gearing up to give birth at any moment, so why make big plans for one specific day?

This year has also been a bit of a trial run for an idea we had for future Christmases with our child: gift-free. This year, we’re not buying gifts for each other and just focusing on spending time together on a quiet day off. Our hope is that in the future, we can make this holiday about spending time together and not about gifts, at least in our immediate little family. That way, we’re not adding our own excesses to the inevitable pile of gifts from grandparents.

So this year, we’re having a quiet day in, waiting patiently to see if I manage an eleventh-hour birth on my own before my scheduled induction later this week. I’m making a bit of a special breakfast because we need something to mark the day, and just generally trying to celebrate the return of sunlight into the world without as much to-do as usually goes on.

pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Forty-one Weeks Pregnant

Yup, still pregnant. I now refer to myself as “excessively pregnant.” And it’s certainly been a week. I spent this week working from home, which was at least nice because I didn’t have to fight crowds on my commute, but it also meant that I didn’t get the benefit of interacting with other people on a regular basis. It did get a little lonely and made me wonder how I’m going to handle being at home with the baby for three months after Dan goes back to work.

I’m also just starting to feel big, ungainly, and tired. The baby is obviously running out of room, and is starting to grow back up into my stomach, causing my reflux to get worse. Friday and Saturday nights were the worst, but I’m hoping that upping my Zantac dosage (doctor’s suggestion) will help that. I’m still not showing any signs that the baby is coming soon. I’ve had some contractions, off and on, but nothing major and nothing that progresses.

So I’m scheduled for an induction this week and that’s when the baby will probably come out. At least I know this is my last full week of pregnancy and have an end in sight, but I do hope my next few days are better than the last couple have been.

Dan and I are now both officially off work. I’m using my paid time off to cover any days between now and the birth, and Dan has two Federal holidays and an undetermined amount of time furloughed before he can get his leave re-approved. Thankfully, our finances are robust enough to weather the shutdown at the same time as I’m heading out on partial paid leave.

So we’ve spent our time being relatively lazy and just resting mostly. I prepped some homemade gelatin to have on hand, since it’s what I’m allowed to eat right before my induction, and I’ll probably make a batch of lactation bars to take with me to the hospital for after the baby comes out, for when I need an easy, hand-held snack. But other than that, we’re mostly as ready as we’ll ever be.

childbirth, pregnancy

Seemingly-Simple Wisdom from our Doula

I’ve made references to our doulas in the past. We’re having a doula from Silver Spring Doula attend our birth. Since both of them share duties, either Jenny or Rose will attend the birth, but our “primary contact doula” is Rose. She’s a certified Hypnobabies instructor and has been really helpful as I’ve gone through my self-study, and has been working as a doula for over a decade. Plus she has two kids of her own. So she’s learned a thing or two. And I thought I’d share some of her little wisdom gems.

  1. Freezer meals: I’ve mentioned this one before, but rather than carving out separate time to prepare “freezer meals,” simply make a double-batch of whatever you’re making for dinner that night. And then freeze half. It’s so simple, and yet I hadn’t thought of it. I was dreading figuring out when I was going to have time to make casseroles, not to mention buying spare dishes to freeze them in and figure out the freezer space. But since I’m only freezing two servings at a time and cooking when I would already be cooking anyway, it works out with much less headache.
  2. Shelf-stable high-protein snacks: She suggests having some shelf-stable snacks that are high in protein stashed around the house for eating while breastfeeding. Energy bars and peanut butter are good ideas. I imagine beef jerky would also work (although I’ve heard you get incredibly thirsty while breastfeeding, so that might be counter-productive).
  3. Hospital bags: Rather than packing a “his” and “hers” bag, pack a bag for during labor and after labor. That way, you only need to bring one bag in with you when you get to the hospital, and your partner can run out to the car to grab the other one after the baby’s come out. We actually re-packed our bags after hearing this and I feel much more confident about our packing because it also gave us a better way to organize things to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.

I know, I know. This all seems so simple and obvious, right? Well, I hadn’t thought of it. And I’ve mentioned it to other pregnant women I know and they were surprised not to have thought about it. But it’s helped me feel so much more prepared for birthing and the postpartum period to have these little ways to get things done. That way, my mental energy can go where it’s really needed: washing so many things for the baby.