One Year Ago -- A birth story
I wasn't expecting to go into labor for at least another two weeks. I had my routine weekly OB appointment on December 17th and had absolutely no progress. I was horribly uncomfortable and hoped she would tell me something was changing. The baby was still high up and cozy. My doctor asked me about induction and I told her I didn't want to be induced without medical reason. She was fine with it, and told me she'd let me go until 42 weeks, which would have put me around January 12th. My original due date was December 29th, so I was at 38 weeks. Despite my discomfort, I was going to let the baby come when he was ready, especially since he was predicted to be quite small.
I got home from the doctor and had a breakdown. My hormones were going wild. Every little thing made me cry. A calender, a baby on a TV show, even my cats. I went through work on December 18th with tears in my eyes. My heartburn flared. I was on an emotional roller coaster, and it was really the only time in my pregnancy that I was in that spot. I was always so calm and cool, even when I was working 20 hours of overtime a week for months straight.
We made plans for the weekend. The 20th was my husband's birthday. We bought movie tickets and set a time to go to the art museum. We bought groceries. We sat on the couch and watched a movie and then went to bed.
I had woken up several times each night ever since I was 6 weeks along, so waking up in the middle of the night on the 19th was nothing unusual. I went to the bathroom, and I wiped away a glob of goo and a little blood, again nothing too unusual, since it happened every time I was checked by the doctor. I woke up a final time at 6:30am and when I stood up after using the toilet, a large amount of liquid ran down my leg. I thought I might have urinated on myself, a common pregnancy problem, but when I shifted, it happened again and I noticed that there was a little bit of pink in the liquid.
I woke up my husband and he groggily rolled out of bed after I told him I thought my water had broken. He has always been a really difficult person to wake up, so I think it took him a good 10 minutes to figure out what I was telling him. Since we weren't expecting labor for a couple more weeks, we didn't even have our bags packed. We got our things together and called the doctor. My doctor wasn't on call on Saturdays, so we ended up talking to another in her practice.
We headed to the hospital at 9:30. I was still only having light cramping instead of noticeable contractions, but since my water had broken and I had tested positive for Group B Strep, I was told to come in so I could start antibiotics. The hospital we had chosen was a 20 minute drive and it was snowing lightly. My husband made me sit on towels over a garbage bag because I was making a mess.
I had pre-registered at the hospital and we had called ahead, so they knew I was coming. We walked to our L&D room and the nurse tested and confirmed that what I was leaking was amniotic fluid. It took two nurses and an anesthesiologist to get the hep-lock in my arm. I have terrible veins for sticking. They are tough, roll, and have many valves that tend to blow. It took seven sticks to get the hep-lock in so I could get started on antibiotics. I ended up getting fluids at some point later because I ended up vomiting throughout my labor and couldn't even keep down ice chips.
I had a check and was only at 2cm and still wasn't having significant contractions. At around 11am, I had my first real contraction, a ten-minute long tetanic nightmare. I held onto a steady tone, a D-flat, and breathed through the contraction, but the monitor showed that my baby's heart rate had dropped as a result of the extreme contraction. It didn't go back up when the contraction ended. I got onto my hands and knees and the nurse gave me an oxygen mask and the change in position made his heart rate go back up to normal.
The doctor came in and told me that if it happened again and a position change didn't help, they'd be taking me for a Cesarean. As it was, I wouldn't be able to use the jacuzzi tub because he wanted me hooked up to the external monitor. I was still only 2cm dilated so the tetanic did nothing for progression. The doctor wanted to give me pitocin, but I told him no. I told him I wanted some time to try to progress on my own and only use interventions if absolutely necessary.
I spent the next hour and a half bouncing on a birthing ball while playing Diablo 2 on my laptop and watching Kung Fu Panda. My method worked and I progressed to 4cm two hours after the pitocin threat. I didn't get on the bed until transition. I spent the next 9 hours or so on the ball, standing and leaning over, walking, rocking in a chair, and in the shower when they let me go off the monitor for a while. My baby's heart rate stayed up. I rocked through the contractions. Even when I was just standing, I was dancing, swaying side to side. We listened to music, played games, and watched movies for distraction. A friend came by to bring my husband dinner around 5, but other than that, it was just him, me, and the nurses. The anesthesiologist came by once to tell me that he could give me a high epidural despite my spina bifida, but I basically told him off. There was no way I was going to let anyone stick anything in my spine. I was handling the pain really well and I didn't need anyone trying to tell me that I should just take the drugs.
I'm not sure when I hit transition, somewhere around 9 or 9:30pm. At that point, I couldn't stand up anymore because the pain was constant. I kept humming my D-flat while lying on my side, rocking front to back. At 10:20 I was ready to push. The nurse told us the baby had a lot of dark hair. I never felt the crowning or the "ring of fire". I pushed with each contraction, which greatly relieved the pain.
At 10:49pm on December 19, 2009, my son Rowan was born and was placed on my chest while my husband cut the cord and I was stitched up. He had a full head of black hair and dark blue-indigo eyes. He was a hairy little guy. He even had fine, dark hair on his forehead, ears, back, and arms. His hairline and eyebrows were connected. He was a tiny guy, weighing in at 6lbs 5oz and was 18.5 inches long. He had quite a conehead, which resolved over the next 12 hours. He had an incredible set of lungs, which he still likes to demonstrate. He was extremely alert, active, and rooting like mad. We had a little trouble initiating nursing because his mouth was tiny, but he got it after a while. He kept looking at me with those big bright eyes. He was absolutely beautiful.
I had such an endorphin rush that I couldn't sleep for 12 hours after birth. I was out of bed 30 minutes after being stitched up and was able to take a shower an hour later when my husband went with Rowan for his first bath. I turned the bathroom into a crime scene, but getting on my feet so quickly was definitely a major perk of natural birth. Rowan was brought back to me in the room we'd be staying in and we snuggled up for some more latching practice while my husband slept. I think he was far more tired than I was.
My regular doctor came to visit the next morning. She kept calling me a "rock star" because of the way I handled my labor. I was always calm and in control. She was surprised that I was out of bed and moving around when she came in. I guess they don't get many unmedicated births, even though it was a low-intervention hospital with the lowest Cesarean rate in the area. He ended up going to the nursery for a couple of hours because he had trouble maintaining his body temperature even with skin-to-skin contact, but he was completely healthy. He was better able to maintain his body temperature and we were home 36 hours after he was born and on to our great adventure.
Today I am nursing a toddler
The in-between matters, but this isn't about the year, it is about a year ago and today, so that is what I will observe.
My little boy's first birthday is today. Instead of a helpless itty bitty baby, I now have an independent-minded tiny tot who asks for milk, and eagerly crawls to me to get it. Our cuddle time is better than ever, since milk time is the only time he wants to sit still. Rowan is busy exploring the world, but always comes crawling back to me when he needs a little milk. He isn't walking yet, but he makes up for that by being a very early talker. He started asking for "nana" at 8 months, and now he asks for "meh". His first three words were "mama", "dada", and "kitty", and now he has added book baby, yeah, hi, up, crackers, done, more, stinky, poopy, Loki, Rhappy (sometimes called Pawpaw by him... her full name is Rhapsody), play, my, and done. He is extremely animated and only falls asleep on accident. He is observant and doesn't want to miss anything. I get comments from strangers all the time on how smart they think he looks. There just seems to be some light in those gray-brown eyes (used to be blue, but not anymore).
We're halfway to my vague goal of two years for breastfeeding. The dynamic of our nursing sessions has changed considerably, even just in the last month. He's faster now because he wants to get back to playing. It is a huge change from the 45 minute marathons of even 3 months ago. Our positioning has become acrobatic as he first learned to hold his head up, then sit, then crawl, and now stand. The teeth weren't even a challenge after the initial problems I had with severe engorgement that lasted for over two weeks and Reynaud's phenomenon vasospasms. He's got 8 teeth now and the points of a couple molars are starting to make an appearance. He only nips when he's falling asleep, and only once did he nip hard enough to draw blood.
We've dealt with RSV/bronchiolitis (and a 4 day hospitalization), coxsackievirus, and gastroenteritis, but Rowan made it through his first year without an ear infection, diaper rash, or food allergy. The last one was a huge concern for us, since DH and I both have food allergies, mine multiple and severe. Rowan is vegan and loves to eat beans, tofu, leafy greens, tempeh, and mushrooms. He chowed down on a pineapple cupcake at his birthday party, and followed it up with a few minutes of mommy milk before he went back to being overwhelmed by wrapping paper, sparkles, bows, and too many toys.
All the nursing pain I went through at the beginning was worth it just for this moment. Rowan sprawled on my lap, napping off his party, a drop of milk still on his chin. He is worth the hours and hours I spent pumping at work before I left my job. He is healthy and intelligent and fantastic. We are heading into unknown territory with toddler nursing, but I decided a while ago that I absolutely do not care if the ignorant criticize my parenting style. I look down on my lap and see not an infant, but a little boy who still has a lot of growing to do, a little boy whose future is still forming, and I am only writing the prologue.