Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lilah Grace's Birth Story.

The past two weeks have been the best two weeks of my life.

Our little angel, Miss Lilah Grace, came into the world on Monday, May 6th, 2013, at 9:05 PM.

Sunday, May 5th.
Tuckered out, carrying an extra 55 pounds around!
(My last "bump" pic)
The day prior to her birth, George, Teddy, Stella, and I took a nice walk through the country. I was having contractions, but they just felt tight; not painful. When we got back to his parents' house, he ran me a milk bath in their clawfoot bathtub. I had a couple initial signs/symptoms of impending labor (some of which I don't feel comfortable sharing in my blog!!), and knew we were going to meet our daughter very soon.

We went back to Flower Mound, and got our bags ready (pregnant ladies of the world...yes, I waited until I was in labor to pack my bag and diaper bag, and we are all just fine). George and my dad put together the Baby Bjorn carrier (yes, it took them both...it was super confusing, and this is just the beginning of assembling!). I excitedly packed our little baby's going home outfit, and tried to imagine what she would look like.

I went into labor, on my own, 6 hours before my scheduled induction on Monday morning. I was so excited to go into labor naturally, feeling the contractions, knowing my daughter was about to make her appearance. I had been having contractions all day, but by 11:00 or so, they were getting much stronger and were about 3-4 minutes apart. I got into the bathtub again, at my parents' home, and walked around, preparing my mind and body for what was about to be the most physically and spiritually intense moment of my life.

At midnight, I woke up George and told him that I thought we should go to the hospital. He was so excited. In the past, waking him up has not been a pleasant experience. Ever since May 5th, he has woken up like a champ in the middle of the night. Such a good husband and now, such a good papa.

We went in through the emergency room exit at Lewisville Medical Center. I was already dilated to a 3! They offered me a wheelchair, and I told them I wanted to walk. The man pushing the chair looked at me like I was crazy. Fortunately, I took the ride. It was quite a hike to the labor/delivery unit! Once we got to my room, 111, at 1:11 in the morning (a very significant sign of 'oneness' to George's mom), I got settled in. George went back to the car and grabbed my stained glass lamp and aromatherapy. The nurses made comments on how peaceful my room was, and how they'd never seen anything like it! It was important to me to have a beautiful and calming environment, and I am so glad that we accomplished that, even in a hospital.

Despite being in labor for 22 hours, we didn't manage to get any photos of the room. Go figure.

I immediately got onto the birthing ball, and felt instant relief. I would highly recommend the birthing ball to any woman going through labor. The difference in my pain level was night and day. My water broke on the ball when I stood up, and I felt an instant relief. Unfortunately, the water was green. My midwife inserted a hook to completely break the bag, as apparently I had only a partial tear. The amount of fluid was unreal. And apparently, a concern to the medical staff with the amount of meconium. Despite the thick meconium, my midwife allowed me to continue to labor naturally.

The L&D nurse, me on the ball, and my mommy.

What helped me most during this time was the birthing ball, my playlist (and headphones...at times I would put these on and block out all other stimuli and just get into my head), and George. He was the best birthing coach. I couldn't have done it without him, and fell in love with him more than I ever thought possible. Prior to the birth, I complied a list of affirmations, and he would recite them in my ear, in a calm and soothing voice, during the contractions. He also would rub my back, and I know his arms had to be sore after 13 hours of constant back massage. My back pain was far worse than any abdomen pain, and I found out later as to why...

I went without medication for 13 hours, and dilated to a 6. I thought that was impressive, since 10 was the goal, and I made it over halfway there, but the disappointing part was that I only dilated 3 cm in 13 hours. The goal is 1cm per hour, and I was moving at a much slower rate.

Around noon, my midwife and labor/delivery nurse talked to me about the pace of my labor. My midwife strongly suggested Pitocin, which I never wanted. I understood, however, that my baby was breathing the poop water while I was laboring, and this wasn't good for her lungs for an extended period of time. I also told George prior to the birth, "If Pitocin goes up, the epidural goes in!!!" In my opinion, any medication that augments labor takes away from the natural process. And Pitocin makes the contractions much stronger and closer together than the body naturally produces. Why would I want to feel an un-natural contraction without un-natural help??? So the epidural went in around noon.

Getting the epidural was a little scary, and felt weird going in. My right leg kicked when something touched a nerve, and that freaked me out a little bit. But I have to say, I had no regrets after it kicked in, and I could finally rest. I hadn't slept since Saturday (5/4), and after 13 hours of labor, I was exhausted. Once the epidural kicked in, I felt no pain at all. I just slept and saw the contractions on the monitor. They were three times stronger and much closer together.

That went on for 8 hours. And I finally dilated to a 9. Meanwhile, my temperature was rising. When it hit 102, my midwife sat down and disappointingly told me it was only safe to labor for one more hour. She said that with my temperature rising, my baby's was probably rising too, and all the while she was breathing meconium and was at risk for aspiration pneumonia at birth. She said we could do the c-section then, or try for one more hour. Either way, the NICU team was going to be present for her birth to suction her and help her breathe.

I gave it the extra hour, and my midwife let me try to push, but I was still only at a 9, and the pushing didn't help. They called the OBGYN and anesthesiologist, and got the operating room ready for what I thought would never happen. I was so determined to have a natural birth, the thought of having a c-section barely crossed my mind. If you'd asked me the likelihood of a c-section, I would have guessed 1%. I never visualized a c-section, and I'd visualized the birth I wanted hundreds of times.

Once they were inside, they told me that my spine was pointing anteriorly rather than posteriorly, and this was blocking the baby from progressing down in the pelvis. My pelvis opened horizontally, but my backbone was blocking her from making her way down. I felt so sorry for my baby, knowing that she had felt all the contractions, and was being slammed against my bone for almost 24 hours.

The surgery was horrible. I cannot comprehend why somebody would elect to have this surgery. Being awake and feeling pushing and pulling, and electrical shocks...smelling my own flesh burning from the cautery...and hearing the OR staff talk about instruments and sutures (and knowing exactly what they look like, since I work in an operating room)...was horrible. A few times, I felt so nauseated, and I wasn't sure if it was psychological, or because my stomach was literally being displaced.

At 9:05 PM, she was out (another strange sensation that I felt...as if something was ripped from my inside...because she was...), and there was a brick wall of NICU staff around her. I couldn't see her. George was beside me up until that point, then he got to see her. They suctioned her, and did the APGAR scores. George brought her over to me, and I got to see from the sides of my eyes, the side of her face. I couldn't move, I couldn't touch her, I couldn't hold her. For 15 hours...

I asked George if she was Lilah. We had endearingly called her "Sprout" from conception, and had three different names. We thought we would know when we saw her. George asked, "Are you Everleigh Joy?" and she continued to cry. He asked, "Are you Lilah Grace?" and she stopped crying, and made an attempt to open her eyes. He said it was as if she was responding, and knew that was her name. He never got around to asking if she was Ardyn Brooke. She was our sweet little Lilah.

She had a temperature, too, and was kept in the NICU until noon the next day. She received IV antibiotics for the week. They told me I wasn't allowed to see her until I was fever-free for 24 hours. THIS WAS THE WORST PART OF THE ENTIRE LABOR EXPERIENCE. After 22 hours of labor and a c-section, holding my baby was supposed to be the reward. Not getting to see her first feeding...or change her first diaper...or even kiss her or hold her...literally drove me mad. I called the NICU relentlessly. I know I annoyed those nurses, but I was going to stop at nothing. I called during shift change, hoping to get a different answer from an unaware new nurse (and I did, and got my hopes up, only to get a call 10 seconds later from the charge nurse saying, "Ms. Van Meter, no, it has not been 24 hours, I'm sorry, it's our policy...").

My blood pressure cuff, and Lilah's little blood pressure cuff.

Thankfully, George was there, and created a strong bond with Lilah from the start. He was an amazing husband, labor coach, dad, and fill-in mom. He changed her first diaper. He gave her the first bottle. He even brought me a little hat she had been wearing, and then brought her a towel that had been on my body, so we could at least smell eachother. I held onto that little hat and cried, begging to see my baby. Finally, she was discharged from the NICU, and they rolled her carrier into my hospital room. When they put her in my arms...the floodgates opened. I felt a love I'd never felt before, and was overwhelmed with relief that my baby was finally in my arms.

George slept on the fold-out chair beside my hospital bed every night. 
Her hat and my blanket/towel. 
We were blessed with countless visitors and dozens of floral bouquets. We felt really loved and uplifted.

Several of my friends have asked why I've chosen not to put any photos of her on Facebook, Instagram, or this blog. I'm a media whore, so it doesn't make much sense to anybody.


The way I see it, I have chosen to make elements of my life public. But the choice was mine. When I was a baby and a little girl, my parents took pictures and home videos, but I always chose who saw them. I can post a "#tbt #throwbackthursday" Instagram post with a childhood pic anytime I want of myself, and it is up to my discretion. I would've been mortified if some photos/videos of me had been online without my consent! Also, my dad is a private person. He never got into the social media (e-mail being the only exception). What if Lilah takes after him? I feel like I have the right to post and share any of my life experiences that I want...and she will too, when she's old enough to make that decision. But until then, it's not my decision to make. It's hers. 

So, I'm taking photos...and keeping them. And someday, if she wants, she can post them. Until then, we are sharing with our family and close friends. And we have had many visitors come by the house since we've been discharged, too! We are very proud of our healthy, strong, beautiful daughter.

I never knew a love like this before. But what surprised me most of the entire experience...even more than the c-section...was how much more I instantly loved everybody else in my life. After just 2 days of being a mom, I had so much more love and appreciation for my parents. And feeling George's love, support, and adoration during the birthing experience...followed by witnessing him turning into a loving father...I fell more in love with him than I ever felt possible. I look at him differently now, and it's a stronger love than I knew existed.

These days we have been enjoying our "babymoon."
3 weeks of not working, just bonding with our baby.
Walks and talks. Late night feedings. Lots of hugs and kisses.

All of my pregnancy posts:
Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Hold.
The Farm, Ina May, and Edward Sharpe. AKA The Best Dream EVER.
Circle of Life
Life Within and Life Around
Musings From a Pro-Choice Preggo
The Farm, The Clot, and The Due Date
Patiently Waiting
Preparing For Sprout's Arrival

I'm incredibly grateful to be living with our parents right now. I was so stressed before she came, thinking that life wasn't the way it was supposed to be, but now I realize it is exactly as it should be. I have SO MUCH HELP. I've been able to focus on healing and bonding with my baby, thanks to the help of our families. Lilah has the most peaceful and loving disposition, and I'm convinced this is in part due to being passed from one family member to another, all the time. George got a new job that will provide health insurance for the three of us. We have paid off all of our debt. We have saved more money than I thought possible. I am no longer stressed about money or the house-hunt; when we find the right one, we will move into it! Until then, life is good. I am so in love with the people in my life. My life has never been so sweet. I'm so grateful that she came to us. We are so lucky to be her parents. She is a strong and very sweet, beautiful baby girl. I'm just floating on a cloud.