Thursday, October 01, 2015

Coronary Concern

After Diana was born we received all kinds of advice about services and therapies for which she qualified. One is Supplemental Security Income for the Aged, Blind, and Disabled. [I will have to comment another day on how it feels to receive a reminder every month that my kid is "disabled."] We calculated that even though her monthly benefit was less than one quarter of what I was earning,  it was enough for me to leave the workforce.

I did not choose to quit my job so that we could mooch off the government. I chose to quit my (fantastic!) job and stay at home with my daughter because she has an Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD). Basically instead of flowing neatly in and out of her coronary piping, blood sort of goes in and swooshes around before finding its way out. This is hard on her heart and lungs. In July, we saw a pediatric cardiologist who told us Diana would require surgery before the December. Diana's case has been seen by a board of surgeons who have determined her heart defect is mild enough to wait one year before operation. If we forgo the surgery, however, her life expectancy drops to about 6 years.

The doctors want to wait to operate on Diana for two main reasons: (1) giving her anatomy time to grow makes her parts easier for the surgeon to work on, increasing likelihood of a favorable outcome, and (2) the longer they wait to operate, the less likely repeat surgeries become. In the meantime, my job is to keep Diana well so that she can (a) wait until the optimal time for surgery, and (b) be immunologically strong so that surgery does not have to be delayed.

Before we found out about Diana's heart, the plan was for me to return to work 12 weeks postpartum. There was a school/daycare down the sidewalk from the church where I worked as an administrative assistant. I was going to pump breastmilk and give it to them to feed her. When we received her diagnosis, my husband and I decided together that the best way to achieve health and growth for Diana was for me to stay home with her.

It's weird how little I used to think about others' health before our daughter was born. It didn't matter to me when other people had colds, I would just stay away from them or load up on Vitamin C. If my sinuses acted up, I still went to work because I still had a job to do. After her birth, however, our vast world of trust closed around me. Fellow grocery store shoppers often approached us and touched my baby -- her toes, her hands, her face...never invited and never asking permission. I learned the art of strategic positioning, but I was still afraid to take her anywhere. I didn't want her to catch any germ that could complicate her heart condition.

Then we heard whispers of measles in the USA. December 2014. I felt trapped. I had friends who weren't vaccinating and I knew I would be near them and their children over the summer. Diana was well enough to follow the standard immunization schedule but her first MMR shot wouldn't happen until age 1, and she wouldn't be fully vaccinated until age 5! I wanted to quarantine. I wanted to grab my friends and shake them. We lived in the Midwest but measles didn't care about that.

best pro-vax argument of all timeWe made it through the summer without contracting any eradicated diseases and Diana received her 12 month immunizations as planned. It's hard for me to be civil when it comes to this [non]issue. The science is as obvious as the fear-mongering and the hiding behind religious freedom. I love vaccines. I wish there were more. I really appreciate Amy Parker's thought on the matter expressed in her Voices for Vaccines article:
"If you think your child’s immune system is strong enough to fight off vaccine-preventable diseases, then it’s strong enough to fight off the tiny amounts of dead or weakened pathogens present in any of the vaccines. But not everyone around you is that strong, not everyone has a choice, not everyone can fight those illnesses, and not everyone can be vaccinated. If you have a healthy child, then your healthy child can cope with vaccines and can care about those unhealthy children who can’t. Teach your child compassion, and teach your child a sense of responsibility for those around them. Don’t teach your child to be self serving and scared of the world in which it lives and the people around him/her."
I love my children and I love you. May we all look out for each other.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How Are You Feeling?

Though I didn't have a name for it until a month ago, I've been dealing with prenatal depression for five months. I didn't know it was happening, though.

My firstborn daughter was eight months old. She wanted to nurse every hour for twenty minutes. She had been sleeping through the night but now started waking for feedings. We weren't sure if she was sick, but figured I would nurse her out of whatever was ailing her, as I had victoriously done since her birth.

As this behavior continued, we thought, "It must be a growth spurt! Look: her wrists are thinning, she must be getting taller!" Confident I was feeding my daughter with the same vigor and supply as ever, I pressed on. The night nursings increased. I was grouchy and tired, but knew my efforts would pay off. Her wet diapers decreased. We started to worry. At her nine month well-check, the scale revealed she had lost weight. We admitted to her pediatrician I was ten weeks pregnant.

We were having difficulty starting solids, so the pediatrician was gentle but firm that Diana would need formula. We went to a convention that weekend but I barely attended any sessions due to exhaustion. This was a huge, unwanted change and I cried frequently. We kept trying solids but Diana was insisting on the breast. I continued to acquiesce her requests on demand, certain that the old wisdom, "demand creates supply" was still true.

My breasts were deflated. I had been milking myself for about 5 mL every night to mix with Diana's crushed pill, but for days I could barely muster this amount. We returned to the doctor's office for a weigh-feed-weigh and discovered that even after twenty minutes, Diana had only transferred one ounce! I was devastated. I cried some more. My husband put his hand on my shoulder and softly suggested that attempting to draw from a dry well might not be good for the new life growing inside me.

But I didn't care about that new life! I hadn't made any commitments to her! I was DIANA'S mom, I quit my job to stay home with her and take care of her! Why couldn't I have just THREE MORE MONTHS to reach my nursing goal? Why did we get pregnant? What were we thinking, having children 16 months apart?

I had worked so hard to bring my supply in. I had the support of my husband, family, in-laws, friends, and Diana's medical team. I spoke with two different IBCLCs who both apologetically told me there was nothing I could do to increase supply while pregnant. I wept. I hated Baby #2. I wished she would die inside me, but I was fairly certain my milk would still be gone -- and then there would be another loss to mourn, as well as Diana still without her milk but then with nothing to show for it!

I was not joyfully expecting this second baby. I was indifferent to her. Fear of her impending birth mounted as I was sure everyone would know what an uncaring mother I am as soon as she arrives. Most days I saw her as a parasite and me the impatient host. I still struggle every day to be optimistic and convince myself that I will feel different once I see her. When #2 is born, will I nurse her begrudgingly because it's the right thing to do, trying to dwell on how special our bond is, while stuffing my grief over the end of my nursing relationship with #1?

To add insult to injury, Diana truly seems happy with formula. I am now free to leave her in someone else's care for the day as my body is no longer sustaining hers. But I hate buying formula, cleaning bottles, making sure all her supplies are on-hand or taken with us when we leave the house, trying to find non-distracting places to feed her so that she'll finish a bottle, and finding hot water on the road. I hate that formula requires preparation and is not available on tap. I hate that we don't automatically know who is going to feed the "baby," that there is more to pack and consider and plan. But what I hate the MOST -- what absolutely makes me grind my teeth with rage -- is that we did this.

Like every other life preceding hers, it is not #2's fault that she was conceived. And it's not her fault that my milk dried up. Some women are able to nurse through pregnancy, and maybe one day I will be one of them, but not this time. I held out hope for months that I would miscarry. When she ushered in the third trimester with kicks and rolls, I realized I should let go of the expectation that losing this life could fix anything.

Prenatal/antepartum depression may look different for every single expecting mother. I was able to see myself in the description on this Wikipedia page. I have difficulty concentrating, making decisions, forgiving myself and others, and relaxing. I am paranoid, angry, withdrawn, and tired. I fear that I won't love this child, and that she will be able to sense it. I'm anxious about having two children in diapers. I'm terrified I won't be able to take care of them both by myself. I'm worried that I will hate her if she is even remotely more difficult than Diana. I'm scared she will learn to resent her sister. I'm nervous my husband will leave me if I can't pull it together.

These are just a few of the things I am thinking when you ask, "how are you feeling?" If you ask me that overwhelming question, I will probably tell you I'm tired and sore but otherwise healthy. I might tell you how far along I am and describe vital stats from a recent doctor appointment. I might try to distract you by letting you feel her kick. You will NOT catch me saying how much I am looking forward to meeting this baby. I am not eager for her birth or to set my eyes on the tiny human about to change our lives forever. I wrestle with controlling my thoughts and feelings toward her every day. Some days I can get out of the fog just long enough to catch a glimpse of the sunshine I am sure is there -- though it feels far away and unobtainable.

I am feeling discouraged and inadequate. Please carry me through the moments I am too preserved in doubt to walk or crawl or move on my own.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Genes

During our first pregnancy, we were offered genetic testing around 13 weeks gestation. We declined, assuming that anyone who would test their baby for genetic abnormalities must only be doing so to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy. As "good Christians," we would never abort our baby, so we would certainly forego the testing.

My obstetrician explained that while yes, some people do make that choice, most parents choose the testing in order to ease anxiety over uncertainty. She said many people would like to know BEFORE the birth so they can be prepared not only for the news but also to accommodate any special needs.

I was very healthy and we were both certain our baby would be genetically flawless; and even if not, the test results wouldn't hinder us from keeping our baby. We stood by our decision to not test.

Diana was born perfectly after 13 hours of labor. We were told shortly afterward that she appeared to have Down syndrome. I also had a hard time learning to breastfeed, and as a result, Diana lost 15% of her birth weight in a week. She needed a vigilant feeding schedule until she gained the weight back. This feeding schedule included nursing for 20 minutes at each side, then another 20 minutes at the breast pumping while Daddy bottlefed her pumped milk. She had acid reflux so one of us then spent the next 20 minutes holding her upright while the other washed bottle and pump parts.

We were feeding her EVERY TWO HOURS in the beginning, so we then had less than an hour until we needed to start over again. This was around the clock. We had our alarms set to wake us all up through the night and make sure our baby was getting fed.

No one had the time, stamina, or concentration to read (or be read to!) about Down syndrome during those sleepless weeks. It would have been great to find out what we needed to know BEFORE the exhausting newborn days--which also included endless doctor appointments for weight checks and specialists.

We were ignorant and nearly powerless to educate ourselves. We vowed that if we ever conceived again (and we hoped to), we would take the genetic testing.

Our baby is 9 months old and we are 13 weeks pregnant with our second child. Last week I went in for the testing. All they did was take ONE vial of blood from my ARM. Some of the baby's DNA is in my blood, so the test doesn't need to be any more invasive than that to check for chromosomal abnormalities.

Our doctor called with the test results one week later and reported our new baby did not have any of the conditions the test detects. We were extremely relieved, not only for this news but because our minds were at rest.

The funny thing about chromosomes is that they also tell us more basic information about humans, like sex. XX for female, XY for male. My doctor then asked if we wanted to know whether we were having a boy or a girl. "Yes!" I breathlessly answered.

Baby #2 is a girl!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Lucky One

8 months big!
Eight months ago, we began telling our friends and family that our daughter has Down syndrome. Immediately the love poured out. People rejoiced with us over Diana’s textbook natural birth, they cried with us over our unexpected discovery, and they encouraged us to see our newborn as our baby, not our baby with Down syndrome.

Many people told us Diana could not have been born to two better parents. They told us she was blessed to have us. Hearing our friends and family tell us Diana was lucky to have Tim and I for parents stung a little, but I could not identify why at first.

As I mulled it over in my mind and talked it over with some other parents, I realized that I felt like having a child with special needs was a punishment. When folks said Diana was born to the very best home possible, I immediately thought of the dozens of couples I knew who would be better suited to raise her. Couples with more parenting experience, who had more money than we did, who lived closer to better medical care than we did.

Why would God give a child with Down syndrome to a preacher and a church secretary? I thought this was unfair for Diana. Surely there was someone who could provide for her better than we could. But a child is not a punishment just as much as her parents are not a reward. We are family. Diana is the physical manifestation of her father’s and my love for each other.

Diana is not a punishment—as clich├ęd as it sounds, she is the answer to our prayers! As I write this, she is growling at some sensory toys—the sound of her fills me with joy and pride. I see her smile and I know that she is my treasure, but one I did not earn!

Thoughts of other parents providing Diana a better life were slowly replaced by thoughts of worse homes for her to have. I did not have to picture too many bleak scenarios before her future appeared grim. It’s a place in my mind I try not to visit often. I began to suspect that maybe the love of her parents is exactly what Diana needs.

Another observation parents of children with special needs often hear is “I don’t know how you do it.” You discover that you are a saint. Well-meaning people tell you, “God only gives special kids to special parents.” Most of the time, people are only saying this casually, as small talk, but I resent the implication that only parents of children with disabilities are special. No parent is more special than another parent, because no child is more special than another child.

Parents of children with disabilities are no more saints than parents of little people, redheads, or twins. I play the hand I’m dealt. I have no idea if my life is easier or harder than anyone else’s because I live this life. I didn’t intend to become an expert on chromosomes or genetics. I didn’t know I would always worry if my child was being treated equally, but every parent has to advocate for their child’s best interests at some point.

How do I do it?

I wake up to our daughter’s precious yawns and soft moans. She bosses me in baby talk as I change her diaper. I bring her to bed with me and she peacefully nurses with her eyes closed, but hands and feet fidgeting. We briefly nap together before I dress her. She wants to sit up, but hasn’t figured out how yet. She loves standing, with support—she strongly grips my fingers and clenches her arms, opens her eyes wide and hollers at me! I holler back—we howl together! She gums everything she can bring to her mouth. When Diana lies on her back, one chubby fist reaches for the corresponding kicking foot, she growls triumphantly when she catches it. When I hold her close and pat her back, she innocently tastes my face. I smile at her and she responds with full, dimpled cheeks. She is my daughter. She is my love.

Some days, we see doctors. Some days, we see therapists. Some days, she needs blood drawn. The extra medical attention Diana requires makes her different, but not more important. The next time you see me with my baby, don’t tell me that you can’t imagine how I “do it.” Use your imagination! Imagine how I do it! Imagine that I love my child as much as you love yours. Choose to comment on the weather instead of comparing our parental qualifications.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Diagnosis Discovery

Tuesday, December 16, my daughter turned twenty-six weeks old. Wednesday, December 17, she turned six months old. Either way you slice it, she is half a year old—and what a half-year it has been!

Half a year ago, I called my office to say I would not come in that day. I labored at home for nine hours, plus the hour and a half car-ride to the hospital. My husband, Tim and I had studied the Bradley Method in preparation for this day. At 6:53 PM, I gave birth to our daughter naturally and without medication. She weighed 6 lbs, 5 oz, and had a healthy little cry!

The nurses assessed Diana and returned her to me for breastfeeding. A few minutes later, a pediatrician entered the room and asked everyone else to leave. She sat down next to Tim and I and told us that while looking Diana over, she noticed several physical characteristics indicating that Diana has Down syndrome. She proceeded to tell us that Diana was otherwise perfectly healthy, that she was our daughter, and that a genetics counselor could tell us more.

We were shocked. We had refused prenatal genetic testing on the premise that we would be keeping our baby no matter what the tests showed. This was my first regret. I assumed that even having the testing indicated I would consider terminating the pregnancy. My obstetrician clarified that the testing is just to present the information to parents. Some parents do indeed terminate their pregnancies upon receiving a diagnosis of Down syndrome. Some parents decide to continue with the pregnancy but give their baby to be adopted. Some parents decide to carry the baby to term and raise it as best they can, preparing themselves before the child is born.

Testing does not mean you are pro-life or pro-choice. Testing is just testing. What you do with the results of the testing is up to you. I was 27, and wrongly assumed that only women over 35 had babies with DS. I experienced an almost completely symptom-free pregnancy; wouldn't I have mother's intuition if something was going to be wrong with my baby? I never smoked or drank, I ate well, slept well, and exercised. My baby should be perfectly normal and healthy. I was planning a natural birth—I knew what to do if my baby was breech, transverse, early, late, prolapsed cord, aspirated, tongue-tied, or cross-eyed. I was not ready to receive a child with a genetic defect.

Or was I? A baby born without Down syndrome needs food, a dry diaper, safety, warmth, and love. A baby born with Down syndrome needs food, a dry diaper, safety, warmth, and love. I needed to be reminded of this over and over in Diana's first months of life. I was constantly worried about her future: how would I react when she came home crying because someone made fun of her? Would people encourage her to work hard, or would they just assume she is limited? Can she play sports? How smart will she be? Can she ever obtain a driver's license? Is it ethical for us to let her date? Will she outlive us? If so, what will happen to her when Tim and I are gone?

We, like other parents when they discover their child has an intellectual or developmental disability, went through a period of mourning. We did not lose a baby so much as the future we had envisioned for her. Our child can still have an awesome (even inspiring!) life, but it may not be exactly as we had planned for her. Some of you have found this to be true in your own lives, even when your children do not have special needs. That is where keeping things in perspective is helpful for us.

Had we opted to have the blood draw to test for genetic abnormalities while I was still pregnant, we would have been able to experience this mourning before Diana was born. We would have been able to read about Down syndrome before our sleepless newborn nights. We would have been able to interview other parents and see that having a firstborn with Down syndrome did not keep them from having more children. We could look back on our daughter's birth as a joyful night of accomplishment—unclouded by worry, doubt, confusion, and fear.

Happy half-birthday, Diana!

Despite all the difficult emotions I felt on the night Diana was born, nothing will ever overpower the immediate, overwhelming, and eternal love that enveloped me when I met my daughter. Swaddled in a hospital blanket, she looked up at me, blew bubbles, and dreamily closed her eyes again. I cried tears of joy and hugged my most treasured possession. I would not trade her for any other child; I am certain that the baby God gave us is the one we prayed for. 
 

This article was published in the Special News column of the Linn County Leader, December 24, 2014.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Why I Hate Pink

No, not Alecia Moore. I actually like her a lot. She stands for strength, independence, individuality, and authenticity. All traits I desire for myself and my offspring. Plus she is a breastfeeding advocate.

I hate the COLOR pink. No, that is not true either. The color pink never did anything to hurt me. I have hot pink running shoes that I think are pretty cool. Good for visibility, too.

I hate the assumption that my daughter will wear and love pink simply because both of her sex chromosomes are an X. No other color has a gender assigned to it. (Please don't argue for blue. No one bats an eye when a baby girl wears blue.)

When we announced our daughter's sex, people immediately decided that she was a princess and she would and SHOULD love pink. As a woman who never cared for the color in general, this reaction floored and baffled me. I was visibly confused and bothered.

Someone said to me, "bring on the pink!" I replied, "why?" Not to be snarky but because I truly did not understand that reaction to our daughter's female-ness. The person looked at me with incredulity equal only to my own, and informed me confidently, "because she'll be a princess! All princesses need a pink palace." I matched her surety when I answered, "yes, she'll be a princess, but a warrior one." My daughter's room may be her palace, but it is still located within the kingdom of MY home. And pink bores me. So...yeah, we're not doing that.

there are no pink TMNTs
As an adult, I really never thought about this. When a clothing option was presented, I chose what color I wanted (often choosing purple--it's my fave). Same for various other objects of desire (hairbrushes, cell phones, pens, etc.). But when I started shopping for my baby, before she was born, her options were limited. You want a nautical outfit? Fine, here's a navy blue onesie with a pink anchor, the navy blue pants will have pink stripes,and the cardigan will be navy blue...with pink buttons.WHAT THE WHAT? Being suddenly confronted with this reality when I had given it very little thought beforehand made my head spin. [If an anchor has to be an unnatural color--why pink?]

In Sweden, there is no boy or girl section from which to purchase baby clothing. There is only baby clothing. Stripes, animals, nature...I really like this idea. Objects don't have a sex. Pink is a color, not a gender. Putting pink on a baby doesn't make it a girl. Similarly, putting a rocket ship on a baby doesn't make it a boy.

I'm not saying it's WRONG to like pink. If pink is your favorite color, more power to you. It's terrific that you were presented with the choice and you decided for yourself what you like. All I ask is that my daughter be given the freedom to do the same.

How do parents of boys feel? Are you sick of only finding tractors and sports equipment when you shop? What's annoying to you in children's wear?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Firstborn's Birth Story

Just to clarify, this is my birth story. It is not to make you feel better or worse about yourself or your experience(s). This is neither a demonstrative nor a persuasive essay. It's a narrative. Please enjoy with no expectations. Thank you!

Sunday, June 15, 2014 at Long Branch State Park
Let's begin Father's Day 2014, at exactly 40 weeks gestation.

Sunday morning we went to church as usual. I had some sharp pains in my lower trunk during Sunday School that morning but did not think they were contractions because they were irregular. (They were contractions. I was in denial because I wanted to work as long as I could before having to take off.) During communion, I leaned over to my husband and said, "She's going to be here soon. I don't think you're going to preach next week."

Sunday, June 15, 2014
Later that afternoon, we went to camp because I was the Registrar. Around 5 PM I had more "sharp pains" but chalked them up to having stood all day. My husband and Bradley Method birth coach, Tim, suggested we time the "pains," just to see if they were regular at all. They were all about the same length but occurred sporadically, so we knew not to get excited. In fact, we went to dinner.

At AJ's restaurant in Macon, Tim kept his contraction timer app open and recorded my pains. They were 2-3 minutes long and 8-10 minutes apart. This regularity was astonishing and Tim was all smiles through the meal. But we didn't get worked up because we knew it wasn't actually time; the contractions were still too inconsistent to go to the hospital. We had a doctor appointment already scheduled for the following day so we planned to keep it and not make any special trips.

After dinner, we went to Long Branch State Park to enjoy (what we thought might be) our last walk together as a family of two. We were only out for a few minutes because I kept having contractions and needing to lean on Tim. (TIP: having studied labor positions proved extremely helpful at this point) A jogger nearby actually asked us if we needed help. That was enough publicity for me. We drove home and called our parents and Doula on the way to fill them in on my progress.

Sunday Night, June 15
Monday morning I had my regularly scheduled 40-week OB appointment. I was 3 cm dilated and 80% effaced. (The previous week, I was 2 and 60. I couldn't believe I had made it to 2 and 60 without contractions but only 3 and 80 WITH contractions!) My doctor explained that I would need to be induced by June 27 if I had not delivered before then. I was disappointed and discouraged at the thought of induction. I went to work after my appointment and then went home and tried to relax. Monday I only had a few contractions on the way home from work.

I woke up about 6 am Tuesday morning with contractions. I timed them on my contraction app and was shocked but thrilled that they were 13 minutes apart. I woke Tim up at 7, and told him I didn't know if we would meet our daughter today but I couldn't go to work with the contractions I was experiencing. He called my boss for me and we began our last day together as a family of two.

Monday, June 16, 2014
I ate a hearty breakfast, knowing I wouldn't be permitted to eat while in labor in the hospital. I showered, donned my birthing gown, and watched TV with my hubby, including "The Price is Right." We were in high spirits. (Excitement is the first emotional signpost of labor.) Contractions are kind of like stomach cramps, so I had to go #2 frequently, OK? This is the body's way of making room for the baby to move down. Tim was very attentive. He made sure I was comfortable and hydrated all day.

Things got real at 1:10 PM. I was no longer comfortable in the living room and I told Tim I needed to lay down. (Seriousness is the second emotional signpost of labor.) I labored in bed for an hour and a half. Tim stayed by my side the entire time, coaching me to relax, rubbing my back, making sure I drank water, and helping me to the bathroom.

Our OB's nurse called to schedule an ultrasound next week to check amniotic fluid levels, but Tim told her that would probably not be necessary as I was deep into labor. He informed the nurse about how long the contractions were, and how far apart they were coming. She said that we should begin the trip to the hospital when the contractions got to be 4 to 5 minutes apart.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 -- Laboring at Home
We started the 90-minute drive to the hospital around 2:45 pm, me contracting and Tim recording the contractions and coaching me all the way. I sat up in the car with my arms spread out, and my eyes closed. My left hand was on Tim's leg, and whenever I began a contraction I tapped my finger to let him know when to begin to time it on his app. Between contractions Tim called our Doula, our parents, and church people from the car to let them know that we were headed for the hospital, and God willing, our baby would be here soon.

We pulled into the Boone Family Birthplace parking lot at 4:10 pm. I got out of the car and began walking slowly toward the door while Tim unloaded our bags. We walked through several hallways and an elevator, stopping every so many yards for contractions--during which I leaned on Tim or a wall. I closed my eyes through the contractions. They felt like a huge fist was clutching my abdomen tightly. I had to concentrate to breathe. Tim would remind me to relax through the contractions, especially my abdomen, allowing my midsection to sag.

The Hard Work of Labor
As we ascended to the labor and delivery area, a nurse asked if I would like a wheelchair. We had already arrived on foot and I knew it would use a lot of energy to sit and then get back up again (imagine that it hurts to flex your abs--my contractions felt like sudden internal bruises), so I declined. Besides, we were just a few steps from the admittance desk, anyway.

I continued to breathe through contractions and hunch over the admittance desk while Tim checked us in. He gave the desk a copy of our birth plan and our admission paperwork he had pre-filled-out. The process still took several minutes because "our machines are running slow." (!) Finally, they were ready to process me and I had to step on a scale. That was extremely difficult through the disorienting pain of labor.

Then we were led to a room and our Doula (who was also our Bradley Method Instructor) arrived. [Insert "Hallelujah Chorus" here.] The nurse came in and instructed me to give a urine sample. Then she attached the fetal monitors to my belly (one measured the baby's heart rate and the other measured my contractions). Then she checked me -- I was 8 cm dilated! Yep, definitely in labor. At this point, Tim stopped tracking my contractions with his app. So we were ready to deliver but then were told that we were actually in a triage room and would need to move across the hall.

Our spectacular Doula, Teresa; amazingly helpful!
Tim was very confused and upset about this. He had forgotten that this was the standard practice. The triage room exists because of women who go to the hospital at the faintest sign of labor. If we had done that, we would have gone to the hospital on Sunday when I first had contractions. I am very glad we had those days at home to labor there.

They wheeled my bed across the hall to the actual delivery room and then lifted me onto the delivery room bed. The contractions were so hard at that point that I was involuntarily groaning, and soon after, I was involuntarily curling into a fetal position. I thought this meant that my body wanted to vomit, so I was scared to move or push. I laid on my left side and I was extremely hot and sweaty. Tim and Teresa asked the nurses to bring in a fan and Teresa went and prepared a warm compress for my back. After the fan was on for a little while, I quit sweating. They inserted an IV into my hand (the only part of our birth plan they could not acquiesce) but it was not connected to anything, it was just a saline lock in case of -- you know -- emergency. I lay there, trying to relax through several contractions. Our Doula suggested I try pushing at the next contraction. I did not feel nauseous but I was afraid the fetal position my body was throwing me into meant I was going to puke. I pushed and felt something wet and warm. I lifted my head and breathlessly asked, "did my water just break?" Tim and Teresa looked and said, "Yes!" I thought, "Holy smokes, my water broke, I think this is for real!"


The Snoogle that saw me through it all!
My doctor asked me if I felt the urge to bear down. As a first time deliverer, this was an extremely irritating question. I did not know if my doctor and I both had the same definition of "bear down," so I couldn't fathom how to answer her -- and attempting to ponder this with contractions so close together was impossible. So I replied, "I don't know." (The third emotional signpost of labor is self-doubt.) It occurred to me, however, that with my body involuntarily curling into a fetal position, perhaps THAT was the urge to bear down. When the next one began, I was still laying on my side, and I decided to attempt to push. Pushing felt good! WHAT A RELIEF! That was when I knew it was business time.

Teresa, our Doula, proposed that I try out the squatting position. I could not fathom how to change positions so I just nodded my head and let her help [wise!]. They raised the back of my bed up and I raised my knees to my chest. Teresa got behind me on the bed, and I leaned back against her between contractions while someone fetched the birthing bar. The foot of our delivery bed lowered about six inches [see example] and the birthing bar attached to the sides, which I held to squat and bear down through pushing contractions. Teresa got down, and between contractions, I rested my bottom on the ledge created by the transforming bed.

Ex: Hospital Delivery Bed Using Birthing Bar
And though I don't remember it, Tim told me that Teresa rubbed my scalp between contractions, it really calmed me down and gave me the rest I needed in the hard work of labor. Her touch also reminded me to relax my face--I didn't want to divert any energy away from my uterus! One nurse kept pressing on my belly to hold the fetal monitor in a place where she could get a good read on the baby's heart rate. I was sure the baby was great and I was almost done, so I had to say, "Annette, I need you to give me a break on the pressing." It was painful and distracting. She kindly obliged!

Tim was at the foot of the bed with my obstetrician and several nurses, cheering me on with every push! No, really--they cheered for me! They told me they could see our baby's head, which Tim touched before it ever emerged! He was an awesome coach. He kept telling me I could do it, I was doing it, and that he was proud of me and amazed by me and I was almost there. I was so overcome by pain and doubt and fear that I just believed him. I didn't know what else to do. I had my eyes closed almost the entire time from when we arrived at the hospital to this point. Teresa told me to look at Tim the next time I pushed. So I took a deep breath, lowered my chin to my chest, and pushed! When I looked down at Tim, I saw him grinning from ear to ear. THIS WAS IT. My doctor said, "only a couple more good pushes!" I like to come in under deadline, so I took another deep breath, concentrated, and pushed really hard, visualizing her head coming out of me like a balloon through a shirt sleeve! For reference: to me, my baby emerging from the birth canal felt like a bruise that stings. While sitting on a softball.

Diana Cletabell Mitchell was born June 17, 2014 at 6:53 pm. Tim held his hands out and caught her with my final push. [<3] Her umbilical cord was too short for me to place her immediately on my chest so I just stared at her, in awe of her and myself. My doctor told me, "you can touch her!" So I did! I couldn't believe a baby just came out of me! And I could feel everything the whole time! Once the umbilical cord was drained and stopped pulsing, the doctor clamped it and Tim cut it. He didn't want to because he felt like the physicians needed something to do, but the nurses encouraged him, "come on! You've done everything else!" So he did! It was so cool. Diana weighed 6 lbs, 5.4 oz and was 19" long, pink, and had a healthy little cry!

Happy Birth Day, Diana!

Stay tuned for adventures in breastfeeding...