Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chronicles of a Nursing Newbie

I'm proud to say it. I'm a new momma...and a nursing momma. I'm everything to my son right now, and I love that so much.

I'm also proud to say that I have stood by my convictions of wanting to breastfeed my baby, and been respected about it...with a little help from my amazing hubby! Our first few days of nursing were wonderful...both for the soul, the heart and even my physical recovery...

As you've all read, Conner was born via emergency C-section and taken immediately to the NICU to have his heart monitored and to be given empirical antibiotics. While I was in the operating room being put back together, Derek went with our little boy to the NICU. And let me tell you, the incredible man I am married to knew how much it meant to me to breastfeed our son...and so when the question came upon him (while I was in recovery) as to whether or not they could give him formula until I was there and so that I could recover, my husband told them no...and made sure to help me down to the NICU as soon as I could,  as often as I needed, and as often as Conner was hungry so that I could nurse my little boy. And to my pleasant surprise, the NICU nurses gladly obliged! Before I was even brought to my room out of recovery, I was taken to my son. Though we didn't have the chance to have the immediate moments I wanted to right when he was born, I immediately had the chance to nurse him right away...and that bonding few moments was just what I needed.

Throughout the night, Conner's nurses would call when he seemed hungry and I would be wheeled down to feed him and love on him...and the next day, I got so sick of sitting in that awful wheel chair that I got myself up on my feet and walked my tush down there to the comfy rocking chair they had waiting at Conner's little "station". I blame the ease of my recovery on my determination to nurse my little boy...and the fact that he wasn't in the room with me.

I will say that nursing wasn't quite so easy those first few days though. Conner had trouble latching, in which a genius nurse discovered it was caused by the fact that he's got a high arch in his palette. It was an easy fix with the use of a Medela latching aid, and Conner is now eating up a storm. We're getting ready to wean off of using the latching aid, now that he's a few weeks old, and luckily for me our hospital on base has a wonderful staff of lactation consultants who run weekly meetings to help moms with breastfeeding support. I'm grateful to the fact that our medical system here is so BF friendly and incredibly encouraging!

Breastfeeding is something I was a bit weary about in the beginning...but something I've grown to enjoy. I love just how much my son needs me, and I love being his everything. And while nursing has certainly had it's challenges thus far (holy engorgement!! I swear just looking at them made them hurt those awful few days...), knowing how good it is for my baby...and myself....makes the challenges all worth it!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Life After an Emergency C-Section

If you didn't happen to read Conner's birth story below, the gist of it all is this: unfortunately during labor I contracted an infection called chorioamnionitis, and as a result ended up needing to have an emergency C-section in order to safely bring my son into the world.

It wasn't at all what I had planned, envisioned, hoped for...and while I was so grateful and glad that my little boy was born happy, healthy and just plain beautiful, I still have had to deal with the fact that my dreams of being able to push my son out myself were shattered.

Shortly before I was taken into surgery, I called my mom. I remember saying to her in tears how disappointed I was. I wanted to do it myself, I told her...I felt like I had failed. My body had failed me. I knew that the infection wasn't anything I could have prevented...and I knew that the doctors, nurses and midwife who took care of me that day did everything they could to avoid the C-section...but it just wasn't in the cards for me or Conner...and that was hard to swallow.

I still find myself getting emotional thinking about the whole thing. More than once I have broken down in tears over the fact that I didn't get to have the experience I wanted to. What's worse than that is the guilt I feel. My son was brought to me by my husband as I laid on the operating table so that I could give him a kiss before he was taken to the NICU. It's standard procedure when a woman develops chorio that the baby is taken to the NICU for evaluation, but because they had discovered the infection had affected my entire placenta, they needed to take Conner immediately and get him on antibiotics in case the chorio had begun to enter his blood stream. I didn't get more than a few seconds to kiss my son...and I didn't get to see him for several hours later as they needed to get my temperature under control, and a dose of antibiotics in me as well. I have never felt so guilty in my life. Guilty that my baby had to go through that. Guilty that it was my body's fault that that's how everything ended up.

It was so hard watching my baby be taken to the NICU and being so helpless on the operating table. I can say though that I was so grateful for my husband that night. He couldn't have been more amazing and I was so glad that he was able to stay with our baby boy the entire time I wasn't able to be. He went with Conner right away, making sure our baby was ok...and even that my wishes regarding nursing him were followed. What a guy, right?

Luckily for me there's been a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. A few hours after my surgery, before I was moved from the operating room to my room on the Mother-Baby unit, I was brought to the NICU. I had the opportunity to hold, kiss and nurse my son right away and it was incredible. Throughout the night, Conner's nurse would call when he seemed hungry, and my nurses would help me into a wheelchair and send me down to feed him and love on him for as long as I wanted. The next day, I was even on my feet and walking myself down to the NICU to spend my time with my baby. I was determined not to let the fact that I had a C-section limit me from being with Conner. I hated being in the wheelchair, and I refused to lay in bed without my son there with me, so I made a point to get on my feet as quickly as possible. I made sure that I could walk myself there and sit in the comfy rocking chair with my little love. For having such a rough delivery, the recovery wasn't so bad.

Even better for me was and still is the fact that the doctors, nurses and midwives at our hospital HIGHLY encourage VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), so even though my hopes were a bit thwarted this time, I can hope, dream and pray for my perfect delivery when we're ready for Conner to be a big brother....but that's not going to be for a while :)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Conner

Four days after I wrote my last post, I awoke at 4 am to the worst, most uncomfortable pain I have ever experienced in my life. Thirteen hours later, at 5:01 pm, my sweet baby boy entered this world...

At 7:00 my contractions were becoming stronger, and closer together so Derek and I decided it was time to go to the hospital. We arrived to the hospital on our base to a triage nurse who could clearly see that my visit wasn't a question of "could this be labor?"...it was a matter of how much progress was my body making, and when is this baby going to arrive? The sweet nurse immediately escorted Derek and I into a triage room where they monitored my contractions and Conner's heartbeat. During each contraction, Derek held my hand and this amazing nurse talked me through the pain. Telling me to imagine my happy place (which, ironically ended up being an image of swimming in the pool at the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World...where Derek and I had been honeymooning almost a year ago to the date), breathe, and keep "soft hands", this nurse had a calming voice and a demeanor about her that was beyond comforting. I have to say that having such a wonderful triage nurse should have been my first clue that while my labor didn't end up exactly as I had hoped and prayed, my experience was still equally as beautiful and wonderful as I had wanted it to be.

Thirty minutes into triage, I was being given an IV, as I appeared a bit dehydrated and was planning to receive an epidural, being put into a gown and robe and being escorted to the cozy (yes, it really was cozy and nice!) labor and delivery room where I would spend the rest of the day. To give you a good idea of my room, the walls were a warm brown color, the bed (believe it or not) was comfy with warm blankets and soft pillows, the lights were adjustable, the TV was new and there was a comfy chair for Derek. It really was more than I was expecting.

I was met in my L&D room by another amazing nurse who ended up reminding me very much of one of my best friends, who also happens to be a nurse. Again, I found this to be comforting. She was friendly and not in the least bit overbearing, and she had no problems talking to Derek and I and answering any of the questions I had. I couldn't have been happier to have such a great nurse that day.

Around 10:30, I was in some pretty severe pain and was luckily ready enough to have my epidural. I wanted to be able to relax and be calm and enjoy experiencing my little boy's birth and with the nasty contractions I was having, it wouldn't have been possible. The anesthesiologist, Kelly, was wonderful. She gave me what's called a "walking epidural" where I still had muscle control in my lower half, legs included, and was still able to feel the pressure of contractions, just not the pain. Let me tell you, it was wonderful...and any fears I had of that damn needle went straight out the window. I'm now standing firm with the allegation that the IV was more painful than the epidural.

About thirty minutes later, some concerns were raised about Conner's heart rate. The base line reading was a bit high, as was my blood pressure, and it didn't decrease when I had received the epidural...which sent up a red flag that something may have been wrong, rather than everything being elevated because of my pain. At that point the doctors decided to have me try laying in different positions to get more oxygen to the baby. Laying on my side, I decided to take a nap and rest. I was already feeling exhausted, and was hoping that by allowing myself to rest, it would help Conner's heart rate lower as well as my blood pressure.

After a few hours of cat napping and changing positions, I was given an oxygen mask. The baby's heart rate still hadn't lowered it's baseline reading...instead it would raise a bit before a contraction and drop during. The hope was that by giving me extra oxygen, it would help regulate Conner....but things never really go as planned....

At about 2 o'clock I awoke from a nap uncontrollably shivering, and hot as a maniac. I was now running a fairly high fever, and Conner's heart rate hadn't changed. The doctors determined that I had developed an infection called chorioamnionitis, or chorio for short. A chorio infection, in my case, meant that my placenta had contracted the infection and this was causing a lack of oxygen flow to the baby. Essentially my placenta was becoming a toxic piece of the environment my little boy was surviving in. This lack of oxygen was the cause of Conner's heart rate being so wonky. As a contraction would start, it would begin to stress out the baby which would shoot up his rate. As it dropped and Conner relaxed, his heart rate would dramatically drop because of the lack of oxygen. Unfortunately, my infection was a bit of a mindbender to the docs and nurses because most women who develop chorio have had their water break...and mine was still completely in tact.

At that time a staff midwife came in as a consultant to the doctors and nurses who were taking care of me. The doctors and nurses wanted to do to everything they could to help me progress so that Conner could be born quickly, sans C-section if possible. Her suggestion was to continue monitoring Conner's heart rate, start me on antibiotics, administer Tylenol and have ice packs under my arms to try and regulate my temperature, and she broke my water to try and get things moving a little faster. They needed me to start dilating faster before it became too dangerous for the baby to continue in the stress of my laboring body, and they wanted to avoid a C-section at all costs.

After a few hours though, it was becoming unsafe for both the baby and myself to continue on in labor. They needed to get Conner out, and my body just wasn't cooperating. The doctors and midwives did all they could to try and avoid a C-section...but Conner's little heart was just working too hard for too long and he needed to be born. Around 4:30, I was being prepped, comforted and wheeled into the operating room. Lying on an operating table, surrounded by my loving husband, the caring anesthiseologist and the gentle midwife at my head, I breathed deep. Thirty one minutes later, the sound of a newborn baby boy filled the room and my eyes filled with tears. He was finally here. And he was ok. Ten fingers, ten toes, LOTS of hair, the sweetest little cry I had ever heard and big beautiful eyes. He was perfect. He is perfect.

Conner was immediately taken to the NICU where he spent the first few days of his life. Because of my chorio infection, he needed to be on antibiotics...and his heart was still a bit wonky after he was born, probably because of the infection, so he needed to be monitored as a precaution. The nurses there were beyond wonderful with him and me, and Conner spent our recovering days snuggled in a NICU rocking chair, learning to nurse :)


I'll never ever forget it.

It was truly the best day (and few days in the NICU) of my life...even if it didn't go the way I had really wanted it to...




Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Frustration and Worry

This week I had my 38-39 week doctor's appointment, which included discussing my labor plans, checking for progress and discussing the results of my group strep b test. I can easily say that this week was the most frustrating I've had throughout my entire pregnancy.

Part of the reason I'm not a huge fan of doctors stems from the fact that I find them to be overly clinical, under-sensitive, and too willing to explain bad things rather than good. Prime example? The results from my strep test.

Normally I see a nurse practitioner for my appointments, and have opted for a nurse or midwife to assist with my labor rather than a doctor (for the record, I'm not a fan of using the term "delivery"...no one is delivering my baby to me, I am giving birth!). I have always felt that nurses and midwives are more compassionate and empathetic, and more willing to take the time to spend with patients than doctors are. However, for this particular appointment, the only provider available was a female doctor. Fine. I can deal with that. It's a woman (I have a "thing" with male docs. Hate em.), and it's a short appointment. No big deal. By the end of the appointment though, I stood corrected. Once again, I found a doctor to be upsettingly clinical, uncompassionate and just not my cup of tea...

Immediately at the beginning of my appointment I was informed that I am strep-positive. About 30% of pregnant women become strep-positive during gestation, and it's something that is easily handled during labor. However, the way this doctor explained everything to me made it seem horrifically scary...and made me bawl like a baby when I left the office. I don't quite understand where this doctor's logic came from, but rather than telling me how easy it is to treat, her choice of explanation was one in which she told me every possible awful outcome of being strep-positive, and the terrifying potential that my baby could become very sick, even septic. Seriously?

Seriously. Rather than telling me that there are small potentials for things to happen, as there are in any case of carrying a child and giving birth regardless of strep status, she chose to scare the crap out of me. Rather than telling me that all it takes is a dose of medication when I get to the hospital, she chose to inform me of what would happen if I didn't get the medicine, or my baby didn't get it quickly enough.

I find this approach to be incredibly unnecessary. Why upset someone and make them worry over something that is dealt with every day? All I can say is thank goodness for the nice nurse who explained that everything was fine and really how "not that big of a deal, I promise" this is...for the medics my husband works with for confirming this fact...for my good friend Kim who's dealt with the same thing...and for my mom who made it all better. I don't know what I'd do without the support system I have....but I do know I wanted to smack that doctor.

On top of everything else, it seems I'm not making much progress towards active labor. While the baby is dropped and in a really good position, my body doesn't seem to agree and hasn't started to progress much at all. I know that I'm still 9 days from my due date...but I'm so anxious to have this baby, that not making much progress is incredibly frustrating. I guess it's just one of those weeks....