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.

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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.

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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.

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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.