Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Baby Story

Photo credit John Norling

I spent many hours of my disability-ridden pregnancy watching TLC's A Baby Story. I was fascinated with the various ways babies are birthed, and I just wanted to prepare myself for what to expect when my time came. I was usually moved to tears each time the precious baby made his or her grand appearance and was placed in the mother's arms. An everyday miracle, for sure.

So, this is my baby story.

If you've known me for a while, then you know that Michael and I met many years ago, but that we had just recently married in late 2007. It was a happy marriage, but we had our challenges when it came to getting pregnant. Several attempts with IUI and then an IVF in March 2009 were unsuccessful. Then Michael was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2009, and all attempts to get pregnant were put on hold. Once he passed, I took up the quest again, and became pregnant in late summer of 2010 via IVF.

After a difficult pregnancy riddled with morning sickness (and other digestive upsets), migraines, sciatica and other back problems, and edema, I opted for a c-section on May 18th. I was so ready to have my baby in my arms at last!

I could not sleep at all the night before Michaela's birth. Yes, I was excited, but more than that I was too uncomfortable to relax and fall asleep. So, when it was time to get up before the sun rose and get ready to go to the hospital, I was eager to do so!

My sister had spent the night with me, and she drove us to the hospital where our parents met us for a moment of prayer. Once we were in the pre-op room, we were met by two nurses, one of whom is a friend of Julie's from church. The nurses monitored the baby for a while, got my IV started, and then walked me to the operating room. Once there, my OB held me (isn't that sweet?) while the anesthesiologist gave me a spinal block. What a weird sensation that was - my legs became numb very quickly, and then they lost all sensation.

There were so many people in the OR - several nurses, three or four doctors, a nursing student and her advisor (who was also a friend of my sister's from church or Bible study). Finally, my sister arrived and surgery began. I wasn't nervous, just curious about everything that was going on, and so eager to see my baby. My sister prayed with me as we waited.

Then we heard Michaela's first cry, and a nurse came around the curtain to give us our first look at her. The first thing that I noticed was her full head of hair! I knew she was going to have hair on her head, but it was so long and thick! Then they whisked my baby away for a quick check up, and Julie went to observe.

That's when things got a little crazy!

The doctors began to finish up the surgery by having the surgical nurses count the equipment that was used. They counted several times (each time their voices became a little more distressed), and it seemed that a piece of equipment was unaccounted for. There was talk of getting an x-ray machine into the OR to find the missing piece, and I began to worry. I felt very helpless in that position, and my sister wasn't there with me any longer because she was with the baby. Fortunately, the anesthesiologist was right behind me and he was a really nice guy. He kept talking to me and asking me how I was doing. I told him I didn't feel right. In retrospect, I think I was starting to have an anxiety attack. He said he could give me some medicine that would make me feel a bit drowsy, and that it would take the edge off of my fear. I told him to give it to me! Minutes later, the missing piece (a sponge) was found. It was just inside me, and they had not stitched me up just yet. Crisis averted. Whew!

But, another crisis was taking place with Michaela.

Prior to the c-section, she had aspirated meconium into her lungs. So, her pulse oxygen wasn't normal. She was allowed to go with me into recovery, and we began breastfeeding right away, but when she didn't improve, she was taken to the nursery for monitoring. We were separated for eight hours while the doctors and nurses made sure that she didn't need to be taken to the NICU. Finally, her pulse ox became normal, and by about eight o'clock that evening we were reunited. In the meantime, my sister had taken family visitors one-by-one to the nursery to meet Michaela, and she took my Flip camera and made little videos of her for me. I was so tuckered out from all the excitement, and my sister kept me so well-informed, that although I missed Michaela, I did not stress about her condition. When we saw the pediatrician a couple days ago, he told me that the timing of my c-section was fortuitous because she could have been much worse off if she had been born later.

From that point on we were allowed to room-in together. I studied every aspect of her sweet self, and I could see Michael all over her - her hairline, her eyebrows, her nose, her eyes, her left ear because of the way the top of it "folds down" just like his did, her upper lip. She is a beautiful reminder of her daddy.

I put her to the breast on a regular basis, and she nursed like a champ. But, after a couple of days, the nurses advised that we begin supplementing with formula. I don't remember why exactly. Perhaps it was because of the amount of weight she'd lost since birth. We used a plastic syringe to give her a small amount of formula with each breastfeeding. It was a pain in the butt, and just the beginning of our feeding challenges.

Our stay at "Hotel Hoag" was very nice. Julie and Michael's mom took turns staying with me overnight. The nursing staff was wonderful, with one exception (and I simply asked that she not be assigned to us again the next night - problem solved). We had a view through a huge window looking up the coast toward Huntington Beach, the food was pretty good, my recovery was normal, etc.

Come Saturday, I was discharged and we headed home to start our new life together. Every day I learn something new about baby care, or what she likes or doesn't like. I've also learned that everyone has an opinion about the way things should be, but the one that really matters is mine. I'm her mommy, and she's ultimately my responsibility.

She's an easy baby, now that we've got her feeding routine figured out. She loves the bottle, loves to cuddle, and each day she becomes more aware of her surroundings. She is a miracle, a delight, a blessing from the Lord, and the answer to my prayers. I couldn't be happier.

And that's my baby story!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mommy Guilt, Chapter One

It was that title, or "Mommy's Intuition, Chapter One".


The routine I was advised to follow for Michaela's feeding schedule was tortuous in my opinion. After nursing on each side for fifteen minutes, I then gave her 1 ounce of formula, and completed the cycle with fifteen minutes on the breast pump. Mind you, the most I ever pumped was 10 mL of colostrum. I was supposed to repeat this every three hours round the clock.

Besides being a grueling schedule, I didn't feel like Michaela was getting the nutrition she needed. I was really frustrated and I gave up on the pumping a couple days ago. I also felt that the breastfeeding wasn't even as bonding and pleasurable for us both as the time with the bottle was. She latches on like a barracuda and then falls asleep.

What caused me the most concern was that Michaela's stools were still dark as of this morning. They had not transitioned to yellow like all my baby books said they should have several days ago, and one of my books said that was a reason to contact our pediatrician.

So I did, and we were seen this morning by one of our pediatrician's colleagues. A very sweet, older gentleman. The kind of doctor we'd all like to have growing up - warm and gentle. Michaela was weighed and she only weigh eight pounds. That's more than she weighed when we left the hospital, but it's not her birth weight. We took a dirty diaper with us, and he said her poopy didn't have meconium in it, but that its dark color was indicative of starvation.


Thus the "mommy guilt".

I told him what our routine had been for the last week, and he told me that one ounce of formula was not enough. Michaela is to be given as many ounces as she will consume after being on the breast. He also advised me to get some nipple shields for nursing because she has done a number on me. Like I said, she's a chomper!!! He said that our nursing time is for intimacy and bonding, but the bottle will ensure that she is getting the amount of nutrition she needs. He said by the time we return for our next appointment next week, he expects her to have gained a half pound. And gone is the three-hour routine. He said she is to eat whenever she wants to. (Note: we just tried the breastfeeding with the nipple shields, and she was not into it at all! I don't know if that will work for us.)

I felt really good walking out of there knowing better what to do for my precious daughter. I just want her to have what she needs. I don't care about breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. I just want her to be well-fed and satisfied.

Here's a picture from yesterday. I was trying to get her to wake up for our required feeding time, but she just wanted to keep on sleeping. Today she's getting to sleep and eat whenever she wants to, and we're both happier about it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

First Week Challenges

Breastfeeding is hard! Michaela is a super sucker, but my milk hasn't come in. We're having to supplement with formula, and in addition to having her at the breast every three hours, I then have to use my pump to stimulate milk production. I had no idea that this would be such a challenge.

That and I'm still experiencing severe edema in my legs and feet. I'm so blessed to have so many family members willing to be here to help, because if I didn't we'd really be up a creek.

So the birth story will be late in coming, but I will get to it when things settle down.

I'll leave you with a sweet picture of Michaela (because that's what you really want):

Photo credit John Norling

Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Michaela Grace was born on May 18th at 9:07 am weighing 8 lbs. and 6 oz., and measuring 20 inches long. We are hopelessly in love!

Birth story to come soon. I just wanted to let you know we are well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Forty Weeks (Just About)

And my wait is almost over!

Today, I saw my OB again. She checked me, and I had not progressed at all since Tuesday. Not dilated even a teensy weensy bit. Then she measured the baby, and by her measurements Michaela is about nine pounds.

Inducing is not an option. The hospital's policy is that induction without a medical reason (mother's or baby's health) before 41 weeks is a no no. And, being that I'm not dilated at all, an induction would likely not be successful and could result in a c-section.

However, the hospital will allow me to elect to have a c-section anytime after 39 weeks. So, with my doctor's blessing, I have elected to do so. I am scheduled to deliver on Wednesday, May 18th unless Michaela should decide to arrive before then.

I am greatly relieved to know when this difficult pregnancy will be over, and my new life with my daughter will begin. I had been feeling more and more discouraged with each passing day, and now my spirits are much lighter.

I know some people have strong opinions about natural births versus c-sections. You are entitled to your opinion, of course. But, if you are thinking about dissuading me from my choice, don't waste your breath (or your keystrokes). I am comfortable with my decision and I believe it is the best choice for me and my daughter.

So, if not before, then Wednesday for sure!

Lastly, I think it's a wonderful irony that Michaela's birthday will be on a date that has been a sad reminder to me in the last two years, for it is the date on which we first learned that Michael had cancer. I have considered May 18th, 2009 to be the worst day of my life. But May 18th, 2011 will certainly be the best.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Waiting is the Hardest Part

I'm sure that by this point in a pregnancy the vast majority of women are just sick of waiting for their babies to arrive, and that they are sick and tired of all the physical challenges late pregnancy brings. That's certainly the way I feel, and from the things I've read on the pregnancy message board I belong to, I'm in good company.

But, in addition to that, I've been waiting for this baby for about twenty years. All I ever wanted was to be married and have a family. But my twenties went by, and that did not happen. Then my thirties went by, and that did not happen. I watched my friends marry and start families, and I felt like life was passing me by.

By late summer or early fall of 2005, I was done waiting. Michael was in my life, and I knew he loved me, but I didn't see him committing to me anytime soon. I figured I could get married at any point in life, but that if I wanted to have children I'd better start thinking about that because I was already thirty-seven. It didn't take too long for me to decide that adoption was my best choice, and I chose to adopt from China.

My paperchase began in early 2006, just as I began my masters program. I was incredibly busy! My decision caused Michael to tell me that he was reevaluating his life, and that he thought he would like to do this "family thing" with me. I was overjoyed at that prospect! As we talked more about it, we had a loose plan that I'd complete the adoption, then we'd get married and he'd adopt my daughter, and we'd add to our family with biological children or more adopted children.

Then he drug his feet for eighteen months. Unsure of what to do. Unsure of what he really wanted. Pretty soon it was all we talked about and it was a huge bone of contention between us.

As I completed the paperchase, the wait for China grew and grew. When I first decided to adopt, the wait was just about eight months long, but by the time my paperwork landed in China, the wait was now about a year long and growing. Just to put things in perspective, I'd still be waiting if I hadn't forfeited the adoption to marry Michael. However, I did forfeit the adoption in September of 2007, just a couple of months before our wedding.

We began working with a reproductive endocrinologist two weeks before our wedding, and did our first IUI a month after we were married. The first eighteen months of our marriage would see us do four more IUIs and an IVF before learning that Michael had stage IV kidney cancer. Then all attempts to get pregnant were put on hold. All that mattered at that point was Michael's health. We still wanted a family together, but it just wasn't our number one priority.

After his passing, I had two frozen embryos and Michael's frozen sperm from our IVF. The frozen embryo transfer didn't work, and although I didn't think I was up for doing another IVF without my husband's emotional and physical support, I did it anyway. This pregnancy is the result of that huge emotional and financial risk.

So, waiting for me has been a lot more than just nine or ten months. It's been about half my lifetime. I have known hope deferred and it has made my heart sick, but anytime now I will finally hold my precious child in my arms and have a lifelong dream fulfilled.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thirty-nine Weeks

And nothing seems to be happening. Ugh!

I saw my acupuncturist on Thursday and Friday so that she could put her needles in the points on my hands and feet that are known to bring on labor. I did have some cramping and contractions after my session with her on Thursday, but nothing yesterday. She told me that of the last three patients she saw for this, one went into labor in two days, and the others went into labor within four and five days. So I'm still in that window of time. Hope lives!

I was really hoping Michaela would be born today because it's the Kentucky Derby and Michael was such a big fan of horse racing. The day is still young, but I kind of doubt it will be today. I will watch the derby in honor of Michael. If he were here, he'd be spending this morning handicapping the race. Then he'd ask me which horse or horses I'd like to bet on, and I'd make my choice by choosing a name I liked. My other strategy was to choose long shots because if they win there's a big payout. We'd both have about the same level of success, which is to say we would not have a winning bet. Michael was one to overthink his bets, and I was one to just have fun with it.

The edema in my feet is so bad. Nothing really seems to help either. I've soaked them in epsom salts, put cold packs on them, and had them massaged, but they swell up and that's just the way it is. So I hobble around the best I can. All I can wear at this point are my flip flops.

I had gotten away without buying any maternity sleepwear during my pregnancy, but in the last couple of weeks nothing fit anymore. My mom took me shopping and I bought some BIG nighties. If you need a small tent for a camping trip later this summer, let me know and I'll let you borrow one of my nighties. My maternity pants are also too small. The stretchy panel still fits, but the hips are too small and they are uncomfortable. I bought two maternity dresses at Target and while the weather was hot earlier this week, they were perfect. Now, it's cooled off and we are expecting drizzle or rain for the next three days. All that to say that getting dressed has become quite a challenge. Putting on anything from the waist down is frustrating because I just can't bend over enough. It would be funny if it weren't so frustrating to me.

Anyway, the wait continues.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Labrador Time

This baby girl is on "Labrador Time". If you knew my husband, you know exactly what that means. If not, I'll tell you. He was never in a hurry. Drove me nuts!

When my OB checked me this afternoon, she said that there was no change since last week's exam. My cervix is still in a posterior position, and that means that the kind of induction method we've considered would be very hard to do and very unlikely to be successful. Next OB appointment is scheduled for Wednesday.

I am very disappointed, but I know that things can change at any time.

I also saw my chiropractor today, and I was surprised to learn that she knew how to treat my round ligament pain (which was bothering me during my treatment). I wish I'd known that before. She also worked my hip flexors and she said that can help open up the pelvis and contribute to progression. Prenatal chiropractic care is really impressive, and I'm so glad that I was referred to this practice.

So, there you have it.

No induction.

No progression.

No idea when Little Miss will arrive.