The Birth of Della Francie

Today is Thursday, March 21st and I am sitting on my couch with sore boobs and a baby sleeping on my chest, and life could not be any more perfect than it is in this moment. I wanted to get this down while it is still fresh and raw, but I need you all to understand that nothing I could possibly type will ever do this story the justice that it deserves. The women, and the man, who were in the room when this miracle arrived are the only other witnesses who held the space with me, and who helped usher Della into the world and into our hearts. I am forever grateful for their love and support, and without them, I could not have done this amazing thing that is childbirth.

Alright, let’s back it up a few weeks. Last time I wrote, I was 37 weeks and 2 days pregnant, and I had made a little bit of progress on my own. I was 1cm dilated and 50% effaced and absolutely ecstatic that my body seemed to be heading down the right road this time (versus a preeclampsia induction at 36 weeks like last time). At my almost-38-week appointment, I was 2cm dilated and 75% effaced and got to have an “aggressive cervical check” because my practice doesn’t technically do membrane sweeps until 39 weeks. I had also already lost my mucous plug at this point and was having several Braxton-Hicks contractions a day. So, we arrived at my last scheduled appointment on Friday, March 15th at 2pm while I was 38 weeks 5 days. I got to see one of my favorite midwives at the practice (the last three appointments I had were with my three favorite ladies – and then one of them delivered my baby!!) and she stripped my membranes for me and announced that I was about 4cm. Woohoo!!!! Here we go!!! Things are going to start happening!! Obviously, this was what I was telling myself – there is no guarantee that this procedure starts labor, but I was feeling pretty positive and had felt a lot of pelvic pressure for the 3 days leading up to my appointment, so rest assured I was feeling very… hopeful. I had also gotten all of my ducks in a row at school, and was ready for maternity leave, so it kind of felt like the stars were aligning and my mind was at ease/peace. Lights… camera… action:

Nick and I decided to take Harvey to Pizza Inn (one of our new family favorites) for dinner. We always have pizza on Friday nights, and UNC vs. Dook 2019 (round 3) was going to happen later that night, and we were in an all-around excited mood because we knew one way or the other we were about to meet our baby, or settle in for a nice weekend enjoying some two-on-one time with Harv. Right after sitting down to eat at 7pm, I felt my first contraction. It was light, but definitely NOT a Braxton-Hicks, and I felt a flutter of excitement. I didn’t want to get Nick worked up, and I also wanted to try and maintain a level of calm so as to not run them away with an adrenaline rush. So, we finished our dinner and got home around 7:30, and by that time, I had had about 5 or 6 more in a 30-minute time span. I figured I should go ahead and tell Nick about this, right as he was taking a picture of the pink evening sky and saying that Della was going to be born this weekend. We started to get Harvey ready for bed, and as soon as I realized that the contractions were definitely coming consistently, we tucked him in, texted Lolli and Pop and called my mom so she could start driving up here.

At about 8:20 I went ahead and called the midwife, who called me back pretty quickly, and I let Nick talk to her because I was having a contraction at the moment the phone rang. It was Amy!!! One of my favorites!! This was wonderful news!! I had loved my prenatal appointments with her, and felt like we had a great rapport, and she told us that she was there until 7am, at which time Stacie (one of my other favorites, yay!!) would come on. She said that she definitely felt like I was in labor, and that when it got to the point where the contractions were getting too painful to talk through, we should come on over. She said since we were 5 minutes from the hospital, to give her a call when we were on our way. It became pretty clear at this point, that we were not going to sleep that night.

By 9pm, Nick’s parents arrived at our house and we turned on the basketball pre-game stuff. My contractions were 3 minutes apart by this point, and some of them were more painful than others. At 9:45, upon Lolli’s good suggestion, we went ahead and left for the hospital, which ended up being a GREAT decision, because I got the last available L&D room at Duke Regional that night. Pop stayed behind to spend the night with Harvey, and the three of us arrived in my room at 10:15pm, where we turned on the game and had Amy check my cervix – 4cm. I asked if she could break my water to “really get the party started” and she said she was happy to do that – right after she finished assisting with a c-section. She said she would probably be back around midnight and that we should settle in for the evening while she was gone. We called my mom to let her know which room we were in, and Lolli started pulling out her bag of tricks for labor (suckers, life savers, and massage tools). The nurse got my IV port in, and I started pacing around the room, trying to keep my hips open while I worked through the contractions, which were still about 3 minutes apart.

img-0027.jpg
This was taken shortly after we arrived… as you can tell, we are still smiling, ha! 

My mom got there before the game ended, which was a bummer since we lost… but I actually didn’t care a whole lot because I was about to have a baby… and Amy came in about 12:30am to break my water. We all got to chat for a bit and I introduced her to my mom, and she said that she was going to do her best to be in the room laboring with me as much as she could, but that there was a full house that evening, and 2 more women had checked in to the triage rooms that they have for “overflow” – which made me super grateful for the big L&D room I had. Once she broke my water, I remembered that feeling from the first time – the strange water trickling down your legs, which is pretty continuous throughout the rest of the process, and after this, things really started to pick up quickly.

For 2 solid hours, I was having strong, intense, contractions. They were 2 minutes apart, and really starting to hurt. I was doing a few different things to try and manage the pain, like walking, leaning over things, sitting on the toilet, sitting on a ball, etc. Mimi and Lolli were very patient while I was in pain. I can’t imagine what this process must have been like through somebody else’s eyes and ears… but I picture it as a bit unpleasant. They were so great at talking me through it, and helping me come back to reality after each contraction. However, Nick was the real hero of this portion of the labor. He squeezed my hips, let me lean into him whenever I needed it, and was a trooper when I really started to growl/howl in his ear. I would not have been able to do ANY of this without him, but it was this part that really sticks out in my memory. Babe, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I had made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to do my damnedest to have a natural labor and delivery. This decision had been made before Harvey was born, and reflected in my choice to go to a birth center with that pregnancy. However, that went out the window with my induction, and here we were, so far, so good… I was getting the second chance I had hoped for, after a healthy pregnancy and good start to labor. It was at 2:30am that I started to lose some wind in my sails. Amy had come in, and said the noises I was making were starting to sound like I was “bearing down” and I really couldn’t communicate with words anymore at this point, and I think I said something like, “I DON”T FUCKING KNOW!!” (whilst on my hands and knees on the bed). During the contractions, I couldn’t do anything but focus on getting through the wave. However, when they ended, things were ok and I remember specifically thinking that was different from the last time I was in labor (the Pitocin was making me have non-stop, long and continuous contractions). Once that particular rush was over, Amy suggested that she check my cervix because she didn’t want me to push too soon. When she did so, my heart sank a bit, because I was 7cm. But… this is when my competitive/determined personality kicked in, and I told myself that I was going to start getting through the rest of this “five minutes at a time”, which is exactly what I do at the end of long distance races. The next hour is a blur.

This part is going to be short, because it felt like time stopped and was elongated all at once, and it was the most surreal hour of my life. My nurse suggested that I use the peanut ball to put between my knees and lay on the bed for a bit. She said that I could try a few contractions on one side, and then a few on the other side, and that this trick was one that usually worked to get women to 10cm. I’m not going to lie, I pretty much spent the next 45 minutes screaming because the contractions were actually “coupling” which meant that I was having one big contraction, followed immediately by a smaller one… leaving me no real break in between. I was getting close to giving up. In fact, I did at one point. I told the nurse I thought I needed the epidural, and she said she would check me to see if I had made progress. Around 3:15am my L&D nurse checked my progress, and announced that she didn’t think I was much past 7-8cm. Damnit… not done with transition yet… I was crushed. I said I needed the epidural, and she went to call the anesthesiologist. The last hour had been spent with me howling, my moms taking turns holding my hands and rubbing my back, and Nick coaching me in my ear while I used him for physical support as well as emotional.

IMG-0038

The nurse and my midwife came back into the room and said that relief was on the way. I, at one point, began to go from a deep groan into an all-out hysterical scream, and this memory is one that I am going to remember for the rest of my life. My L&D nurse got really close to my face, and took my hand in her hands and squeezed it and said very calmly, “Sarah, you’ve made it this far and you’ve worked too hard to lose control now… you’ve got this, come back to this.”

And then… all of the sudden… BAM!!! I felt the baby move down. I don’t know how to describe this feeling, other than exactly that… I could literally feel her body move down through my body, and it actually felt like the relief I needed. Nick said that was approximately 3:25am… and I yelled it out to the room, “I JUST FELT HER MOVE DOWN!” Amy then said, do you think you need to push? And I said “YES!!” So, she gently checked me because I was on my back at this point, and she said, “Sarah, she is right there, I can feel her head.” The room lit up… literally. I was so freaking elated. Amy then quickly got a gown on, while I pushed for the first time. I felt her head coming and I said to the room, “can you see her?!” and everybody said “yes!!” So, I pushed again and this time it started to burn a bit, and I could really feel her head coming out. I waited here for a minute while I panted a bit, and dang if that didn’t burn… but then with the next contraction, I pushed for a third and final time, and she was out at 3:36am!! HOLY SHIT what a feeling of release and accomplishment. I had done it… and I was in disbelief!! She was laid on my chest (after they unwrapped her chord from her neck) and she was absolutely perfect. The first thing I thought about her was that she had so much hair. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember feeling/thinking this when they laid Harvey on me, and I swear in that moment (just like the cliché Grinch story) my heart grew two sizes. What. A. Miracle.

4B561962-9BC9-40E9-B32E-E68205EF6AF5.JPG IMG-0044.JPG

Those first few minutes of Della on my chest were magical. I felt so alive and so present. I actually felt the oxytocin coursing through my body. The pain completely ended. I kept saying over and over, “I can’t believe I just did that… that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” It was true!! I remember being thirsty and feeling like the cotton mouth was intense, but Mimi kept the water and the straw close by – phew! Amy told me a few minutes later that my placenta was ready to deliver, and I pushed that out easily. We were actually doing it. All of the postpartum things I had wanted with Harvey… immediate skin to skin, delayed cord clamping, all of it. There was no rush. I felt like I was the one in charge of this whole process, and that my midwife and nurse were just listening and waiting for me to tell them what I wanted and needed. I truly cannot say enough good things about this hospital and this practice. They are absolute rock stars.

IMG-1628.JPG IMG-1626.JPG

For the next 3 hours we were all on cloud 9, getting Della cleaned up a bit, weighing her, snuggling her, staring at her. She was so alert and sweet. She latched on within 2 minutes of being born, and continued to nurse throughout those first few hours. I was in complete awe. This next part, although it is an important part of her birth story, I want to write about another time because it happened after Harvey was born as well, and I want to have a conversation with Amy at my 6 week appointment about it – but I did have a postpartum hemorrhage. Long story short, it was 30 minutes of some quick maneuvering by the nurses, midwife, and doctor… and I am perfectly fine on the other side, but it was a bit nerve-wracking right before we moved to my postpartum room at 7am. More on that later!

IMG-1191.JPG
Mimi got in the car and drove 2.5 hours to the hospital after working all day to be there for us! 
IMG-0053.JPG
Lolli was wearing a shirt that belonged to Grammy, who would have been so happy with the news of Della’s birth, the loss to Dook wouldn’t have mattered! ❤ 

Now, it has been five days of pure bliss. Harvey is very sweet and interested in his little sister, and she has been an extremely easy baby. She is eating like a champ, pooping, sleeping, and cooing. I feel like we won the lottery. How did I get so lucky? Just a short 31 hours after Della was born, we were discharged and on our way home. It doesn’t get any better than this.

IMG-0030.JPG IMG-0012.JPG

I am choosing to share these photos with you all because although they are pretty intense and graphic, they are so important to me. I grew a baby in my body for 9 months, and then I birthed her in what were the most incredible 8.5 hours of my life. I hope you all can appreciate this story and our journey. We have been so grateful for the outpouring of love and support from our village, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for our little family of four.

Love and peace,

Sarah xo

IMG-0023.JPG

Waiting on Della

As of last Wednesday, February 27th, I woke up the “most pregnant” I have ever been. Today, at 37 weeks and 2 days, I am wading into uncharted waters. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful that I’ve had the chance to carry this baby into the “full-term” phase, especially since Harvey was born at 36 weeks and 2 days… but this is so weird!!! I truly don’t know what I expected… like, I didn’t actually think in my heart of hearts that I would have a baby by now, but I also didn’t really think about what it would be like to wake up each day wondering when it was going to happen. I feel like the patience that mamas have to practice during this part is unlike any other kind that you develop in your life or as a new parent.

IMG-1152.JPG

I have the option of being induced when I am past 39 weeks. While this is appealing, and I am totally down with it, I still have mixed emotions about what it would be like if I waited on my body to do its own thing. Who knows, maybe I will change my mind and decide to wait, but the idea of meeting my daughter and going on maternity leave is mighty nice. My history of preeclampsia is also always on my mind. At my last appointment, my blood pressure was the highest it has been during my pregnancy, albeit still completely in the “normal range” and I was actually 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Wait… WHAT?! I am starting to make progress on my own??!! I don’t want to get my hopes up about what this means… but after being induced while I was, as the doctor put it, “zero, closed, and tight” this is like music to my ears. I am also taking evening primrose oil and drinking lots of raspberry leaf tea to get things ready for action. I’ve been having some Braxton Hicks contractions here and there – but nothing serious. The midwife also told me during my cervical check that she could “really feel” Della’s head down there… which obviously gives me fantasy thoughts about a wonderful, easy, quick, and relatively painless (hahahaha) labor and delivery.

IMG-1123.JPG

So, we wait. We wake up each day, go to work, and wait. I am really happy to have soccer season to keep me busy – otherwise I think I would be going insane. I am trying not to stress about school right now – there is currently no maternity sub in place for when I go, so I kind of feel like I’m jumping off a cliff there – but I know that it will all get taken care of in the end. I am also trying to be as present as possible with Harvey. He is so curious right now, and his questions about baby sister are starting to ramp up, which I just adore. I think when it does come time for me to go to the hospital and leave him at home, I am going to sob. But, the thought of seeing his face when he lays eyes on her for the first time is truly enough to get me through the next few days/weeks.

IMG-1132.JPG

As an aside, I do really love how helpful he likes to be – and as my friend Jessica put it, having a 3yro is pretty awesome when you have another baby because he actually understands and obeys commands like, “please bring me a diaper” or “can you hand me that burp cloth?” or “mommy needs a bottle of water” etc. He loves being helpful and feeling like he is included! 🙂

IMG-1097.JPG

Alrighty, well, I hope the next update is my birth story!! Until next time, send some good vibes to the labor goddess above – I need the birthing fairy to sprinkle some magic on me this time around! ❤

The Newest Cainade Adventure

Last night, we got a phone call around 7:45 with the most incredible news I’ve received since 1:14 PM on March 29, 2016.

Nick: Hello this is Nick (as he answered my phone for me and ran up the stairs to Harvey’s room where we were reading a book together).

Sue: Hey there Nick, this is Sue, is Sarah with you?

Nick: Yes!! We are right here together!

Sue: Well, I have some news for you all! Your NIPT results are in. What do you all think this baby is?

Nick: I think it is a girl, but Sarah is leaning towards “boy” right now.

Sue: Well, everything else on the test looks great – the chromosomal tests are negative for abnormality screenings. Are you ready to hear who’s right?

Nick and Sarah: YES YES YES!!!! (Harvey was also yelling YES at this point)

Sue: It looks like Nick is right tonight… it’s a BABY GIRL!!

And there is was. The most wonderful, joyous news. A sweet, little girl to complete our family.

We quickly began facetiming our family to share the news, and their individual reactions full of elation and excitement were the best. Harvey was shouting “baby sister” over and over. I obviously don’t think it has clicked for him yet, but come this March, he will be getting a pretty good idea of what that actually means.

I have so many things running around in my head right now. First, I am nervous. I can’t help feeling a little anxious about this pregnancy, especially because I experienced a chemical pregnancy earlier in the summer. In addition to that, I had some pretty significant spotting in the first few weeks of my pregnancy, which is always scary. I even convinced myself this was not going to work out.

Once I got over that initial stage of fear and stress, I moved into the next phase which is worrying about the baby and whether or not she is going to be healthy and happy. I also have a fear of recurring preeclampsia along with any other number of pregnancy complications. This is all normal, and it is something I’ve been talking to my midwives about, as well as my therapist.

Ultimately, I know things will work out however they are going to work out. I have a lot of positive feelings and hope for this new adventure. I think most of all, I am looking forward to Harvey’s transformation into a big brother role. He is such a sweet child with a caring heart and loving personality, and I really do think he will see himself as a friend and protector towards his little sister.

I also can’t wait to watch my husband father a daughter. I get teary-eyed thinking about the privilege I feel raising children. Good, kind, children. Two of them. A boy and a girl. I know Nick feels the same way. This is going to be the adventure of a lifetime, and the past few weeks, months, and years have already helped to prepare us for the weeks, months, and years ahead.

No matter what happens, the Cainades, all four of us, will face the days with love and positivity.

Here we go again!! ❤

3rd Anniversary Post… sort of?

As I sit here to write about our third anniversary, I have to be honest and say that it’s been a rough couple of days. I would love to wish my husband a happy 3 years of marriage, and let that be it. But, the truth is, the end of his Father’s Day, and the beginning of our anniversary week have been high-jacked. Trigger warning: this post is long and a bit sad. I’ll spare you the graphic details, but if you’re not in the place where you can read about pregnancy loss, then I urge you to skip it and return to it another day. I also curse – sorry, not sorry.

Last week, I had a positive pregnancy test. It wasn’t just the regular ole’ “two pink lines” one is bright and the other is hard-to-tell type of thing… it was a digital pregnancy test that said “YES+” and I was so excited. Our family plan has always been to wait until Harvey turned two, and then talk about trying again, and to aim for the whole three-years-a-part timing thing. Once May rolled around, we figured we would hop on board and get the ball rolling. And then, just like last time, BAM! First time’s a charm… pregnant!! Woohoo!! February due date! Right before Harvey’s 3rd birthday. Time to get the list started: call the doctor, tell immediate family, start telling Harvey about the “baby in mama’s belly” – you know, the usual.

For half a week, we did all of those things. I made a doctor’s appointment for my 8 week ultrasound, we told Nick’s parents, and read Harvey the Berenstain Bears’ “New Baby” book.

**Quick break for a funny story here (When we pointed to my belly and told Harvey there was a baby in there, he put his face close to my stomach and pointed to a mole above my belly button and said “aww it’s a baby!!!” Nick and I laughed hysterically and then Harv did too. As sad as I have been for the past few days, this is a memory I will cherish and keep).**

A few days into this new exciting adventure, I started to feel anxious because I was experiencing some light spotting. It wasn’t bright red, so I figured after everything I had seen on the internet that it was totally normal and I tried to put it out of my mind.

Sunday started off like our normal weekend days do. We woke up, had a blast at the NC Museum of Art, stopped by the Raleigh Flea Market and had lunch… and then we came home. After getting Harvey down for a nap, I went to the bathroom and there it was… exactly what you don’t want to see when you think you’re pregnant. Shit. Fuck. Damnit. I’m getting my period. Sadness… fear… uncertainty… frustration… anger.

Let’s pause for a minute here, Sarah. What the hell is wrong with you?! SO WHAT! You’re getting your period, big deal. Don’t act like this is that bad… you have friends who’ve lost pregnancies, babies, children, and close loved ones. It’s not that bad. There are families who have been torn apart down at the border. Parents separated from their children for extended periods of time… that is actually horrible. What you’re dealing with…? It’s not that bad. It’s not that bad. It’s not that bad…. Tears. Lots and lots of tears…. YES IT IS THAT BAD!!! I WANT TO BE PREGNANT!!! This isn’t fair. Ugh.

I immediately start going through the list of all the things I could have possibly done wrong. I went running the day I found out I was pregnant. And then again on Saturday. And then I spread mulch in our yard for hours. I overdid it. I drank a cup of coffee every morning I was pregnant. Should I have stopped that? I had headaches last time I stopped drinking coffee. Everybody says all of these things are fine when you’re pregnant but what if they aren’t… what if I did this?

Then, I start trying to minimize it. I tell myself I have no reason to be this upset. It’s not like I was even actually pregnant. There was no heartbeat. Some people call this a “chemical pregnancy” and some people call it an “early miscarriage.” I don’t care what you want to call it. It feels like a loss and I feel sad and I can’t help that. I won’t always feel this sad, and hopefully this is the only hiccup in the road. But it might not be. We might be starting down a long and scary road in order to grow our family to the size we’ve always hoped for. There is no way to know for sure.

After that, I start to get jealous. Envious. Of all the families out there who have their beautiful second children. There, I said it. It’s not my fault, it isn’t their fault. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy for them… but I’m allowed to be jealous. Just for a little while, ok?

And then… worst of all, Ed shows up in the corner. He says, “Sarah, let’s get through this together. Crawl into my arms, I’ll be there for you. I’m always here for you.” You see, Ed and I used to be a pretty dynamic duo. We do tragedy well together. But… that was a long time ago, and I now belong to a pretty terrific trio known as “The Cainades” and those are the people I do life with. Those are the people I will always do life with.  Although I am sad, although it feels like I could easily rejoin him, I am able to reply, “Kindly, Ed, go fuck yourself!” And for a moment, I am proud of how far I’ve come. Good thing I go to therapy on Thursday!

Now, for the first time, I have a very tiny, small glimpse into what this shame feels like. Honestly, I’m not even sure if that’s the right word. I understand why people keep pregnancy a secret. You don’t want to get your hopes up. Not only that… you don’t want to get other peoples’ hopes up. I don’t want to let anybody down. I don’t want to let my husband down, I don’t want to let myself down. I don’t want my family and friends to get excited over nothing. We are going to the beach at the end of the week, and I wanted to tell them about our news. Now, I have nothing to share, and I’m heartbroken over that fact.

When I called the doctor to cancel my appointment, I was half hoping that the person on the other end of the line would give me some sort of “hope.” I was hoping she would tell me to come in, that they would double-check, and that everything was actually just a bad dream. She was super sweet, and told me that if I needed anything at all to call them back, including resources for my current situation. Another quick side note here: I am switching practices after Harvey’s scary birth situation – although I absolutely LOVE the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center and recommend them to anybody who will listen, I have switched to the Durham Women’s Clinic where midwives (and OB’s) deliver in a hospital. I had an appointment there earlier this spring and loved it… but it occurs to me when I hang up the phone, that I might not have any actual, real prenatal visits with them. I hope this isn’t the case.

I am going to be ok. I have a great support network and an even better partner to walk this journey with me. All of our journeys look a little different. The unknown is hard, but ultimately, I know everything will be fine – one way or the other.

I’ve been hugging my child a little harder this week. They are miracles. I’ve always known that, but sometimes the universe has a particular way of reminding you. To my sweet Nick, I am so glad that we decided to get married 3 years ago. I’m sorry that we had to experience this as a family, but I am so grateful that we experienced it together. You are my rock and my love. I am looking forward to celebrating our anniversary with you, and to have a great week at the beach and a fabulous rest of the summer. I love you.

To everybody else, I hope you are well. In this world, we are all walking our own path. Nobody else can walk your path for you. But, if you want – if you let them – there are people who are willing to walk it with you for a little while if you need them to. I am here as one of those people. I might not know what to say to you. I might not know what it is you need. But I will be here. We can sit in silence, or we can chat for as long as you need. Don’t tell me that “everything will work out the way it is supposed to” because I don’t even know what that is “supposed” to be. Just be there, show up, and I will do the same. Take care of yourselves and love each other fiercely. Peace be with you. ❤

Harvey’s Birth Story

I’ve been trying to figure out how I wanted to start this story for a few days now. It is such an important story. In fact, it is the most significant thing that has happened to me in my life to date. I’ll try and limit the amount of times I use some silly cliché to describe having a child, but truly, nothing could ever possibly prepare you for the feelings that you will experience when your baby is being born.

The events leading up to Harvey’s birth and immediately after are actually the most perfect metaphors I can think of to relay the first, and probably most imperative, lessons I will learn about parenting in my entire life.

  1. Things are not always going to go according to plan… and that is ok. It just is. It has to be.
  2. You have to ask for help. You will need it. Receiving it doesn’t make you a bad parent. It makes you a better one.
  3. The most crucial part of being a parent is knowing that you are a team. Your partner is going to be the best advocate/resource/support you could ask for, and is the ONLY other person in the world who understands the love you have for YOUR baby. You all made the baby together, you will raise it together, and you will grow as people, together, when you set out on the journey known as parenthood.

Now, most of you know from Nick’s most recent post that I had planned on a natural birth at the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, NC. I wanted to eat and drink while I labored, use the birthing tub as I pleased, have scented oils, music playing, candles burning, etc. etc. etc… I am not going to go too much into this, because, my intention is to try and make this happen someday. I love my original birth plan, and fully believe in the power of natural birth and my ability as a woman to bring a child into this world without any medical interventions. However, my birth plan was thrown out of the window around 11:30 AM on 3/28/16.

Preeclampsia. It’s a scary word. It’s even scarier when it is happening to you. For those of you who watched Downton Abbey, yes… Lady Sybil died during childbirth because of the condition Eclampsia. When Preeclampsia is not treated, or becomes too severe, it can lead to Eclampsia (seizures), which is currently the cause behind approximately 12% of maternal deaths around the world. This is the crash course in medicine that Nick and I received between 11:30 and 11:45 AM on March 28th.

Looking back on the whole thing, we were obviously in shock. We knew that at the time, too. We knew how serious things were when, within 15 minutes of arriving, my midwife, two nurses, two resident doctors, and one attending physician came into our triage room to explain that we were going to be admitted, I was going to be induced, and that I would be transferring care immediately from the Birth Center to UNC. What I did not know, is that the doctors, nurses, and midwife were hovering so closely over me for the next hour because they were afraid that I might have a seizure at any moment. That’s how high my blood pressure was. The moment that I started to cry and freak out was when the doctors explained the possibility of me going under general anesthesia and having an emergency caesarian. This was the “worst case” scenario. My goal, from that point on, was to try and remain as calm as possible, for me and for my baby. I had to have a moment with myself and with Nick where I looked around the room, took a deep breath, and say, “this is what’s happening, end of story.” Hence, my first lesson in parenting.

Once I was able to accept this new reality, my fears really set in. At the end of the day, I realized that I was not so much upset about my birth plan going out the window as I was about my baby. After all, it was “too soon.” He was a month early. I was only 36 weeks 1 day pregnant, and I was fearful for all of the possible complications that could cause him. Although the doctors assured me several times that they were MUCH more concerned with my health than with nugget’s, when you’re a mom, you don’t hear that. You don’t care. All that matters is that your baby is healthy and safe. What I had trouble swallowing is this: the way for my baby to be safe and healthy was for me to calm the f*** down. I was having trouble doing it. I needed help. I needed my mommy. I need prayer warriors. I needed all of the love and positive energy I could possibly get. Hence, my second lesson in parenting. So, Nick got on the phone, called our moms, texted our friends, and filled people in on the situation. After all of this, a magnesium drip in my arm, a few tears, a shot of steroids for Nug’s lungs, and a few doses of Labetalol to control my blood pressure, we were ready for the next step: Pitocin.

This is where my third lesson in parenting comes in. Being induced is no joke. The Foley Catheter that the doctor inserted into my cervix to begin dilation was really, really painful. I screamed. Nick let me squeeze his hand the entire time. Then, for the next 12 hours, I was on Pitocin without an epidural, which they turned up every 30 minutes to bring on contractions. Once my contractions really kicked in, I needed that partner support. Nick was incredible. He never left my side. Neither did my mom. I never once felt “alone” or like I was “in it by myself.” Nick and I made every decision together, and he was 100% supportive of my feelings, desires, questions, concerns, etc. When, at 3am, I was only about 4-5cm dilated, the discussion of an epidural took place. This discussion took place because I was basically having one big long continuous contraction. That s*** hurt. I felt no relief. I wasn’t getting “breaks” in between them. That’s what Pitocin does. I was hesitant. I’ve read that epidurals can slow the process down, and the doctors confirmed this. However, they also confirmed that the epidural would help to keep my blood pressure down. The more you can manage your pain, hopefully, the lower your BP is. I couldn’t manage my pain on my own at all. I was strapped to a bed. Literally. I had a catheter in to drain my bladder, and so that the doctors could keep an eye on my kidney functions while I was on the magnesium. I had an IV in my hand that was giving me magnesium, fluids, and Pitocin, I had a monitor on my finger, a blood pressure cuff on my arm, and two large straps across my belly that were monitoring the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. I couldn’t move. So, when the contractions came, and came, and came… all I could do was lay there. I breathed through them as best I could, but the Pitocin made it unbearable. Finally, my mom stepped in and suggested that I get the epidural. In a way, it is what I needed. It was almost as if I needed somebody’s permission to do it. I had wanted a natural birth so badly, and I was still clinging to that hope. Nick was able to help me reason through it. He helped me understand that nothing about what was happening to me was “natural” and that I couldn’t possibly expect to cope with my circumstances in the ways I had practiced (moving, eating, breathing, bathing, etc.) and that along with everything else, we had to make a new plan as we went. So… I got the epidural.

In the end, I wasn’t sad about it. I had the perfect combination of pain meds in mine. I had built up some fear in my head about the epidural completely numbing me out, but it didn’t. I could feel my toes. I could bend my knees. I could roll from side to side. What it ultimately allowed me to do was sleep for a bit, which I ended up needing, because less than 8 hours later, the doctors came in and told me I was fully dilated and that I could start pushing. What an awesome feeling!! It was finally time to meet my baby. I had the best team I could possibly have with me. So, with the help of my mom, Nick’s mom, and Nick, I began to bear down.

Pushing was amazing. I loved every second of it. In fact, I asked for music to be played. I wanted to hear some powerful women singing, so naturally, I asked for things like Florence and the Machine and Beyoncé, haha! Because my epidural was the perfect amount of incredible and amazing, I was able to try lots of different positions while pushing. The moms held my knees, I held my knees, I got on my hands and knees, and I even got on my side at one point. Approximately 90 minutes later, I could see my baby’s head in the mirror. I didn’t know if nug was a boy or a girl yet, but I could see so much hair! The next few minutes to an hour are undoubtedly the best moments of my life. The only other thing that comes close is the day that I married Nick. And, although this is probably the most important part to describe, words just won’t do it justice. Seriously… they just won’t. Elation. That’s all I can remember. The feelings and emotions and hormones that flooded my body and mind in the minutes after Nick said, “It’s Harvey!!” are impossible to describe. He came out pink and grunting, and when they laid him on my chest, all I could do is cry. I cried because he was alive and beautiful. I cried because it was over. I cried because I knew this would be the defining moment in my life to date. I cried because my life, from that moment on, was going to be forever changed, and I would have gone through that scary 24 hours leading up to his birth one million more times if it meant that I got to have my sweet Harvey in the end.

He is perfect. That’s all I can say. In the days following his birth, my preeclampsia got a little worse before it got better, and I am still on blood pressure medication. I had lost 30 lbs. in water weight by the time we got home on April 2nd (yes, 30 pounds in 5 days) and my ankles and feet and face have returned. Harvey is two weeks old and eating like a champ. He was born at 5lbs14oz, got down to 5lbs6oz, and as of yesterday he is now 6lbs4.5oz. He is the light of our lives. The story of the day he was born is one I will never forget for as long as I live. I love him with my entire being, and cannot wait to see what this new adventure will bring.

12963739_10206751950983027_3359566552064128920_n.jpg

12998458_10206750462425814_6555795734094807604_n.jpg

12963907_10103436303901258_5569429301899195589_n.jpg

A Quick(ish) Update!

So, I wanted to update everyone on what’s been going on since Sarah’s last blogpost. I’ll do my best to keep it short, as I’m sure Sarah will want to do a much more detailed post in the near future!

Everything sort of started just after her last blog post a couple Mondays back. Sarah was feeling a little off and extremely swollen at the end of her work day, and because her blood pressure had been a concern, she went to CVS to check it. It was the highest it had been up to that point – 155/115. I made an appointment for her the next day at the birth center, where her blood pressure remained just as high. The midwives were quite concerned she could be developing preeclampsia and did her bloodwork and a urine test, which came back normal. At the birth center’s recommendation, Sarah went on bedrest in an attempt to control her blood pressure. We had another visit a couple of days later, and it was quite apparent being off her feet a done her a load of good – her blood pressure had dropped a bit, and she had actually lost two pounds in fluid over the two day period. We were optimistic that with continued bedrest her blood pressure would remain under control and a natural delivery at the birth center would be possible.

A few days later, on Monday morning, Sarah woke up with a rather severe backache. I headed to work, but couldn’t help but be worried about her. We then had the following text exchange.

With that we were at UNC less than an hour later, where her intake blood pressure was at 175/115. Things started happening really fast, and a lot of the details are hazy for me at this point. Our midwife told us that she had discussed the situation with the attending doctor and they both agreed that Sarah was unquestionably preeclamptic at this point, and that they should get her started on a magnesium drip, as well as other medications to get her blood pressure under control, followed quickly by an induction. We were in shock and in tears, but we agreed, and basically told them we were in their hands and to do whatever necessary to get us a healthy mom and baby.

Things got scarier before they got better. Before they could get Sarah set up on the medication, her blood pressure had soared (probably due to the circumstances) to 188/125. Fortunately, the medication worked great once they figured out the best cocktail Sarah responded to, and it was mostly a non-issue during her labor.

I don’t want to get into too much detail about the labor (I think Sarah will be much better at that), but before we forget, a basic timeline of everything is below.

11:30AM – Arrived at UNC

12:30PM – Checked into delivery room, magnesium (to control BP) started

2PM – Sarah induced – Pitosin started, Foley catheter inserted

5Pm – Sarah starts feeling light early labor contractions.

9PM – Foley catheter fell out (indicates 3 cm dialated)

12:30AM – Sarah’s water broke

1AM – 2:30AM – Contractions becoming very strong and more frequent. 4-5cm dialated

3AM – Epidural received (another measure suggested by the doctors and the midwife to control her blood pressure… although her original birth plan didn’t include one)

9AM – 6 cm dialated

9AM -11AM – Sarah starts feeling very strong, painful contractions, feeling head descending. Epidural rechecked and dosage increased.

11:30AM – 10cm dialated

11:45AM – Pushing begins

1:14PM – Harvey is born (On the same day as two of his great-grandparents!)

I will say Sarah’s courage, determination, and positive attitude during the entire labor process was UNBELIEVABLE. Sarah’s plan (and how she prepared) for labor had been one where she was free to move around, eat and drink freely, in a non-hospital environment. Instead she was confined to bed where she was hooked up to IV, blood pressure machine, catheter, and unable to eat (she had to wait 24 hours after delivery to eat). She handled it all with grace and barely complained. Her entire focus was getting baby out healthy and she embraced the entire experience for what it was, taking it all in, instead of focusing on how it wasn’t what she wanted. All of the nurses and doctors commented on how great she was doing and how well she was handling all the different stages of labor.

IMG_3895

The best part was when it came time to push. Sarah completely lit up and kept saying how much she loved it. Finally, she was in control of something, and she didn’t disappoint. Her mom, my mom, and I were all there to help encourage her, but she did it all herself. With each push you could sense she felt closer and closer to her baby. Overall, the pushing was only an hour and half, and the time from induction to delivery was less than 24 hours (very fast for an induction on a first child).

When the baby finally came, it was up to me to announce the gender. In what was the most amazing, surreal, elated moment of my life, Sarah pushed the baby all the way out, and as the doctor held him and turned him towards us, I yelled “It’s Harvey!!”. He came out looking pink and whimpering, so they were able to put him immediately on Sarah for skin to skin and we all laughed, cried, and I felt the most intense happiness and relief I’ve ever experienced in my life.

IMG_3902

As I write this on Saturday, its now Harvey’s 5th day in the world. During the past few days we’ve seen so many different sides of him already! It’s hard to have too much personality when your life consists of sleeping, eating and pooping but a few of my favorite physical and personality traits so far are below.

Harvey Dent – As soon as he came out, my mom was the first to notice his prominent chin dimple.

Harvey Milk – UNC had some fantastic lactation consultants that were able to help us make sure Harvey was feeding well. He’s done really great so far despite his wee little mouth. Other than witnessing the birth itself, the whole aspect of breast feeding and what all goes into it has really blown my mind. I certainly understand why some women choose formula, because it is not easy.

Pee Harvey Oswald – His favorite time to pee seems to be when he’s getting changed as to give the changer a nice spraying.

Harvey Cry-tel – When he first came out, his cries were just a little whimper and they were constant. After an hour or so of skin to skin time, they put him under the warmer, and he fell asleep for the first time. Since then his cry can still be very whimpery at times, but he’s not afraid to let out a good belt if he’s not content – usually when he’s being changed, moved, or hungry.

Thieve Harvey – He’s a real heart-stealer.

IMG_4030We’ve had a lot of questions about how we came up with the name “Harvey”. Eno is a little more self explanatory – we liked it because of a river and state park we do a lot of hiking. Also, it is similar to my middle name of “Eli”, and everyone in my immediate family has either a first or middle name beginning with “E”. Long before we knew Sarah was pregnant we had talked about what we’d name our kids. Our favorite names were those that had previously been popular long ago, but had since had a decline in popularity. Harvey fell in that category for us. I actually went back and found the conversation where we decided on Harvey. It was very short and sweet! For context, it wasn’t uncommon for us to just text either name ideas at the time. This was back in September, just a couple weeks after we found out Sarah was pregnant!

 

 

Finally, I wanted to let everyone know, I am writing this from the hospital, in what will be our final hour or two here – just waiting on all the discharge paperwork to go through. We had originally planned on leaving yesterday, but Sarah’s blood pressure took a bit of a spike yesterday morning. This isn’t uncommon with preeclampsia, IMG_4044and medication soon got it under control. She will continue to take medication for her blood pressure for a couple of weeks, and it should be under control at that point. Harvey, as it turns out needed an extra day to monitor his weight, and bilirubin (related to jaundice) levels, which are now fine, but were a little iffy yesterday. Additionally, he didn’t pass his “car seat test” after a couple of tries the past two nights. This is a test they do with preemies to make sure their oxygen levels don’t dip too low while in their car seat for 90 minutes. Unfortunately, Harvey didn’t do well in his car seat. Fortunately, they had a “Dream Ride” car seat, where Harvey is able to actually lay down in his car seat instead of sitting up, and Harvey passed the test just fine.

Ok, so that’s it for now! Excited beyond words that we are going home today!

I’ve included some more pictures for your enjoyment below.