10 January 2011

on the morning of my 35th birthday

I planned a post for this morning titled, "it's my birthday and i'll cry if i want to" because over the weekend the baby blues began to creep up on me, my husband was scheduled to return to work this morning and I was terrified of being left with four kids on my own – and with a highly probable snow that they'd want to play in as well – and, well, life felt a little bit like it might spin out of control.

But this morning it was actually a very different story around here. . .

I got snow on my birthday. I'm guessing 4-5 inches which is amazing and highly unusual around here. My whole life I've wanted snow on my birthday (we live far enough South that a skimming or what you saw when Bitsy was born is really a years' supply of snow). I've been happy with flurries at 6am, but today my world was white, beautiful, soft-spoken white of fresh snow.

John's office closed because of the amount of snow (and ice – what we usually end up with) that fell in the night, meaning he's home to play (and he's doing homeschool with Little B in between times….boy howdy, I should get a job and let him be a stay at home dad!). The kids are beside themselves with delight.

Bitsy slept over 9 (yes, NINE) hours last night. I knew she was a good sleeper, but I was floored by that. Apparently, I started doing that at 2 weeks old also. I realize it may not repeat itself, but honestly she's only been waking up once at night anyway, which is just nothing in my book. She is a champ, and so happy. (And growing just fine – she was at an ounce from her birth weight at 1 week, so they didn't even feel a need for a second weight check on her.)

My mother is here helping a bit – I was afraid John would be at work and I'd need another adult with the snow dynamics. Turns out I didn't because there's even a chance he'll be off tomorrow (then working like a madman to meet a deadline the rest of the week – oh boy. . .). Mom and I stayed up a bit last night, chatting after the house was quiet, having muffins and milk and admiring Bitsy.

Today, I've chatted on the phone, had lunch, watched the kids play, put on (maternity) jeans for the first time (they don't hit the incision like I feared, and it's lovely to be in jeans again), and am sipping my most favorite tea in the world, Republic of Tea's Green Tea with Honey and Ginseng. It's been a long time since I bought it but saw it recently and discovered that it's like catching up with an old friend to have an old favorite after a long time. I even have a sizable secret stash of dark chocolate from a friend who sent me a package this past week!

So, if the family can hold their own, I will continue to stay a bit out of the way and perhaps nap. I feel such a selfish creature, but I find I crave the quiet and the lack of stress that goes with staying in my room and caring for a new baby and resting. Wednesday, we have doctor's visits and John will definitely be back at work – so that little bubble with burst into oblivion. I had better rest while I can. . .

05 January 2011

the birth of bitsy

(Oh my....this is horribly long! I'm so sorry. If you barely skim it or just don't read it, I won't be offended. You can peruse the few pictures without reading and keep it easy on yourself - really. At the very least, it documents my journey for ME.)

Let me start by saying that this doesn't "feel" like a birth story because in many ways I do not "feel" like I gave birth. For anyone who has had a vaginal delivery, you are familiar with the heavy post-partum bleeding, the swelling that eases with a newborn diaper full of ice, and the Tucks pads that become almost an addiction. After three such births, these are among the trademark details that define a birth experience to me. Though uncomfortable, they are not really that awful, and are just par for the course in my mind. Bitsy's birth lacks these things. In many ways, I feel as though I just had major surgery (which I did) and simultaneously I'm wondering where my baby girl came from; my mind has trouble connecting the two, apparently. That said, there are still many things about my body that testify to her birth: some bleeding (but wow is it light!), the milk that comes in so fast and so excessively like it has every other time, the uterine cramping with each nursing session, the belly that decreases so dramatically each day (in spite of a ravenous appetite), the back muscles that attest to holding, carrying and nursing a newborn babe. Please don't get me wrong in any of this. I am not regretting my choice and I am not grieving the differences. I am simply wrapping my mind around it, and telling myself that though very different, it is indeed still a birth story. After all, it is about life, fresh and new; it is about the birth of a girl God has placed specifically on this earth. It's not how it happened; it's that it did happen.

I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 5:30am Monday morning, with the c-section to start at 7:30am (though my doctor had told me this hospital always starts a few minutes late). He said she would most likely be born before 8:00am. This plan requires leaving my house at 4:45am (yuck). Not that I expected to sleep much the night before anyway – far too much anticipation! My parents and children would have to follow a couple hours later to be there before the birth, which had given us pause because that is so early for little ones. And for my parents. (Yes, I really wanted everyone there when she was born, especially since we could arrange it!) We won't even go into the fact that the week ahead would be stressful on the kids simply because of the changes taking place and mommy not being home. Of course, we all know about plans and mice and men. (Thankfully, no mice were involved in the birthing of this baby.)

In our part of the country, snow only happens once or twice a year. We'd actually gotten flurries and ice two weeks before, so when we experienced a true "White Christmas" (something all the kids in our neck of the woods called a "Christmas Miracle" as they gazed in wonder), we were a bit shocked. The weatherman is usually wrong about such things, and you know they are always hopeful regarding snow on Christmas. I swore they were bluffing. Apparently, I was wrong.

Saturday afternoon found us pondering the potential road conditions for our drive to the hospital. The weather did clear and we likely would have been fine, but there was really no way to be certain of that until too late to change things. And so we figure the Lord actually had His own plans for our Christmas bonus that we got – a hotel next to the hospital! In many ways, this helped change things up and distracted the kids from their anxieties and made a grand adventure of the week. We got a "suite" that provided enough beds for my parent, kids, and us (well, me on the first night anyway). And it had a fridge for all the quirky safe foods we must drag everywhere we go. They stayed 3 nights making shorter, simpler trips for the kids to see their baby sister and me.

(Me, at the hotel, the night before she was born)

Being 3 minutes from parking spot to parking spot, we were only 15 minutes late to the hospital (chronically slow family, what can I say?). Then when we arrived the administrator had to do a bit of extra paperwork that was supposed to have been done when I dropped off my pre-registration. Which led to arriving upstairs fairly late I guess, since they asked at some point when I'd gotten there; the night shift was trying to do all the pre-op stuff before the day shift came on to start the surgery. But you know what? My doctor was later than all the rest of us. So, I had zero guilt. That admin guy, however – it seems that was a common problem so someone else can address him. Ha!

I was taken to an LDR room – Labor, Delivery & Recovery. I changed, got hooked up to monitors, and chatted my nerves away with the nurses who had a million questions. And then. The anesthesiologist arrived. You must understand that in my na├»ve days BC (before children), I initially looked into natural childbirth simply to avoid an epidural. They terrified me (I believe now that there are many other reasons natural is a good choice, for the record!). Then this particular doctor was making decisions for me ("I think we'll do a spinal on you") – which I did not like. Perhaps being assertive about my choice for an epidural instead, based on what research I had done, helped me work through the rising fear. Once I convinced him I did indeed want the epidural, not the spinal (my choice took longer which clearly was not in his plan), he got started. And my blood pressure went up – they commented on it when it showed on the screen. Ha! I totally expected that. But, it was an excellent opportunity to use the relaxing skills I've obtained during my previous births. Breathe deeply in. Breathe deeply out. Talk through it, distract myself, be sure I am relaxing all of my muscles, and keep breathing deeply.

There was a lively, fun nurse on his staff that held onto me during the epidural. She had the right balance of humor and asking/answering questions. (She was delightful, really, and stayed with me, at my head, the entire time I was in the Operating Room.) So I felt zings and tingling feet and no numbness in my tongue, I felt the cold alcohol wipe in the right places. I was numb on the left but not the right, then slowly, slowly, the right followed suit. It was never quite balanced, though. It is such an odd sensation to feel nothing but my feet and above my belly. Not an experience I care to repeat. But, I will say that receiving the epidural was not as terrifying as I'd expected.

Once it took, I saw one of my two doctors (the one new to the practice, but old friends with my original doctor), who said he was waiting on the other one (the one whose practice I've been a patient of for many years), and he chatted for a moment before saying he'd see me in a few. Eventually, I was laid back and taken to the Operating Room (John would be brought in soon), where we heard the doctor was almost there (this is when I decided I had zero reason to worry about being late – it was now well past the planned time to start). And so the team began doing all kinds of things around me, but I was flat on my back with oxygen in my nose, a screen being pulled up at my armpits and a blanket that blew hot air draped heavily over my arms to keep me warm. I could see nothing of the goings-on and even if I could I doubt I'd remember the details. I was working on that relaxing thing again and feeling teary as I realized it was not long before I'd see my baby girl (and the fact I was about to be cut wide open while wide awake).

Finally, my doctor arrived. He had come in especially for me, at my request. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. It took that relaxing thing a looong ways. John was brought in a few moments later, and I realized they were already starting. I felt nothing. I can't say I even felt tugging. The epidural was adjusted more than once based on how much I felt or didn't feel. I could smell the cauterizing as they cut into me. I heard odd sounds and many voices. I had my husband by my side, close and reassuring. I asked a million questions about the things I noticed – especially what sounds were. It took a bit longer than they thought because I had an old scar from an abdominal surgery 11 years ago and they had to work through the scar tissue. Eventually, there was a loud squalling and screaming sound, and I double checked to make sure it was her – none of my babies cried at birth, and I could still feel her inside my body. It was indeed her. My sweet Bitsy.

It was 8:13am, clearly not before 8am as "planned" – and later it reminded me that babies come on God's timing, even when they're scheduled. It was comforting to me since I never liked having to "plan" her birth to start with. I love knowing that she was born exactly when He decided. And yes, He did arrange every detail of her birth for me. I rest in that.

They rubbed her down, got her foot prints, and I believe I was finger printed at the same time. Then we got those lovely shots in the previous post with mommy and daddy. But in under 15 minutes she was whisked away to be weighed and meet the rest of her family. John went with her, of course. Leaving me to have my tubes tied and be sewn up. That epidural was going back and forth enough that I was feeling things I didn't like, especially from the left side, so they finally gave me some narcotics that drowsed me in and out the rest of the OR time. Once I was back in the LDR room with my family, I was put on a morphine drip and pump that really spaced me out.

See the green button in my hand? I remember that button now. IF I could remember it while doped up I was allowed to press it every 6 minutes for the additional morphine. Those 6 minutes went by awfully fast. I do remember that the first thing I was encouraged to do once I was in the room was nurse my baby girl. I loved that. I got to hold her and nurse her and love on her before her bath. Then Little B took a video of her bath while I watched from a distance. I loved that, too. What a treasure and what a sweet bonding for him.

I was monitored for a while then moved to a mother-care room. It was on that short journey that I became horribly nauseated from the morphine. It eventually made me so ill I had to have anti-nausea meds. Bitsy and I both slept about 7 hours that afternoon before my doctor came in and told me he'd switch me to Percocet; morphine was never his choice. It was apparently that same anesthesiologist who wanted me to have a spinal. (And a few days later there was another new mom having the same experience, per my nurse. Huh.)

Recovery has been a mixed bag for me. Thanks to Miss C's birth nearly six years ago, a slow, painful recovery is not really a new experience. It's just the location of the pain being so odd in relation. I've had a few odd headaches, but not the baby blues I expected. I feel more mellowed out than I did the entire pregnancy, and much more myself. I'm relieved to be only taking Motrin now, not the stronger pain killer, and I took off the steri-strips today – my doctor does an amazing job and there are no external stitches, much like a plastic surgeon, from what I hear (I even had nurses who commented how great he did). I miss being able to get up and around easier, and I'm thankful John was able to take 2 full weeks off after her birth (plus the long weekend before). I am constantly reminding myself that my turn is coming – John needs to be doing these things while I recover and I need to let him (cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, bringing me things. . .)! I secretly dread being alone with 4 kids on Monday. I know that's several days away, but I feel a bit nervous about just how well I'll be feeling. For now, I will try to take it one day at a time.