Monday, August 18, 2014

Welcome to the World, Sally Grace!

Our little Sally Grace will be four weeks old tomorrow.  I had no idea that life after pregnancy would feel so chaotic and overwhelming.  Between recovering physically, dealing with hormone freak-outs,  attempting to breastfeed, caring for a rambunctious three-year-old, and trying to keep the house at least minimally picked up, I feel like I've hardly had a moment to catch my breath, let alone blog!  (All I have to say is THANK GOODNESS for the family members who have come to stay with us and help this past month--much more on all of that in another post.)  In my last post, I promised more details about my labor and delivery and more photos of Sally "in a few days"...uh, make that a few weeks!  (Better late than never, right?)

I know some friends and family are interested in the gory details of how Sally's birth went down, and although I will try to leave out the gory stuff, I am going to include lots of details here.  I want my experiences, thoughts, and feelings from that special day to be recorded for posterity--especially for Sally.

At my 38-week appointment on Monday morning July 21st, the doctor decided that Baby Girl needed to be delivered pronto because she had been diagnosed with IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) and her heart rate was dipping during the non-stress test that day.  He told me to go home, get my hospital bag, arrange childcare for Noah, and come right back.  He wanted the baby on the monitors, and he wanted the nurses to get me started on Cervadil.  I was only barely dilated and effaced, and Cervadil was supposed to get things going a bit before they started me on Pitocin to fully induce labor.

It was super exciting to call Ryan and family and tell them that the baby would be arriving in the next 24 hours.  I had gotten an ultrasound that morning to check the baby's growth, and I kept looking at the photos of her squished little face and squealing inside that I would be holding that sweet girl within the next day or so.  

When I got home, Noah and the babysitter were sitting at the kitchen table creating a dot-art picture for "Baby Sister."  When Noah saw me, he lit up and said, "Baby Sister is coming today???!!!" (I had called the babysitter to see if she could stay with Noah until my mother-in-law arrived from Pocatello, and she had told Noah the news.)  He ran over and threw his arms around me in excitement, and I showed him the ultrasound pictures from that morning.  He loved them so much that he almost refused to give them back to me--so I cut one from the roll and put it in a ziploc baggie for him to keep and look at throughout the day.  

I hastily finished packing my bag while I waited for Ryan to get home from work.  When he walked in, he was flustered and grinning, and he said "Wife!!" while wrapping me in a big hug.  It felt surreal and exciting--heading off to the hospital together to have our baby.  Before we left, we gave Noah a big family squeeze.  I said, "We've had a great three years with just the three of us, haven't we, Noah?"  "Yeah," he responded lazily, as if he weren't really listening.  "Are you ready to share Mommy and Daddy with your Baby Sister?" I asked.  "Yeah," he responded again without having any idea what he was actually saying and committing to. :)  I felt nostalgic and a little teary as we left Noah, knowing that it would never be just the three of us again.  Oh how life was about to change!

Once we arrived at the hospital, it took several hours for them to get the paperwork done and the doctor's clearance to start Cervadil.  It was frustrating to just be sitting there for hours with no progress whatsoever being made, but I was grateful to be on the monitors and listening to Baby's heartbeat loud and clear.  They finally got me going with the Cervadil around 4:30 p.m., and they told me it had to set for 12 hours before they could start Pitocin.  So Ryan and I settled in for date night at the hospital.  He ran and got us Cafe Rio (I wouldn't be able to eat once I was in active labor) and we watched a made-for-tv movie about the life of JK Rowling.  (Random, I know!)  It was actually really fun to be together, even if it was in a hospital room.

We also had a visitor come to interrupt our date night: Noah arrived with his Grandma around 7 p.m. to make sure that Mommy and Daddy were alright.  He was super hyper and only wanted to push the buttons up and down on my hospital bed, but it was still so good to see him.  I am a sentimental sap, and I was missing him and wanted him to be as much a part of the experience of welcoming Baby Sister as possible.  I was glad he was able to come be with us for a few minutes.

Ryan and I went to bed early.  Even with the help of a strong sleep pill the doctor prescribed for me, I had a hard time resting because I was too excited and nervous.  I could feel subtle contractions that weren't super regular--and just knowing that the Baby was on her way kept me awake.  The nurse said I could disconnect the monitors while I slept, but I was too anxious about Baby's well-being to do that.  So the sound of her little heartbeat filled our room all night, even as I wrote her a letter at 3:30 a.m.  I loved listening to that sound and feeling her kick and hiccup inside of me.

The nurse checked me around 5:00 a.m., and I had progressed a little with the Cervadil, but not much.  She told me to get up and take a shower, walk around, eat something--whatever I needed to do for a break before they started Pitocin in an hour.  

This is where things got crazy.  The minute that I stood up, contractions started fast and furious.  I mean, I was absolutely doubled over in the shower, crying and writhing in pain.  There would be no eating and no walking around.  With Ryan's help, I stumbled out of the shower and onto the bed, and I thought, "Is this what early labor feels like?  I feel like I'm dying, and they haven't even started Pitocin yet!"  Ryan let the nurse know that I was ready for Pitocin whenever, but when she saw how much pain I was in, she decided to check me.  Sure enough, I had dilated to a 5 in less than an hour, and there would be no need for Pitocin.  My body skipped the whole "early labor" thing.  I never had far apart contractions where I was able to walk around and breathe deep and get counter pressure from Ryan and all of that.  My body had decided it was ready to get that Baby out, and it went into overdrive to make it happen.

I had heard that first-time moms are usually in labor for a long time, and I didn't want to have an epidural for 12 hours, so I tried to wait it out a while before I called the nurse anesthetist, who happened to be our good friend from Buffalo, Ben King.  (Crazy, right?)  But within an hour, I honestly felt like I was going to die, so the nurse called him.  When he entered the room, I said, "Ben!  Save me!"  I couldn't believe how much pain I was in.  When Ryan tried to comfort me during contractions, saying things like, "Rachel, you're okay!" I shot back angrily, "I AM NOT OKAY!!!"  Kind of hilarious in retrospect.  I am a somewhat reserved person, and I didn't think I would be willing to make a scene during labor in front of anyone but Ryan--but with that level of pain, I was moaning and acting like a crazy woman when the contractions hit, no matter who was in the room.  I was in way too much agony to even care who saw me in that state.  Ben and the labor nurses certainly saw me at my worst!  (For the record, Ryan claims that I wasn't that bad.  Smart man.)

As soon as the epidural was inserted, the nurse decided to check me again.  She said, "With the level of pain you were in, I guess it's possible that you are almost fully dilated, though for a first-time mom, I highly doubt it."  But to everyone's surprise, when she checked, I was a ten and ready to push.  This made me feel a little better about my dramatic scene pre-epidural.  My body had gotten to a 10 in a ridiculously short amount of time, and I'm pretty sure I was in transition about the time that Ben arrived to give me an epidural--no wonder I was flipping out!

Then it was time to push, which was awkward and hard with an epidural--I kind of hated the feeling of my legs being numb (though I was certainly grateful not to be in agony anymore).  After over an hour of hard pushing, I was super light-headed and felt sick, so they turned the epidural off.  I was still numb but could feel the pressure of the contractions better and had more control, plus I no longer wanted to throw up.  I was making progress but still had a ways to go, so the doctor was summoned, and he was the first person to discover that our little Sally Girl was posterior.  As he felt around, he realized that she was face up instead of face down, which he said explained the excruciating labor pains I'd felt in my back, as well as the lengthy amount of time it was taking to push. He said I should still be able to deliver vaginally since she was measuring small, but the baby's face would likely be very bruised.

After 2.5 hours of pushing, Sally was almost here, but she was also starting to be in distress.  Everyone in the room could hear her heart rate dropping when I had a contraction, and I will admit that I was slightly terrified.  I prayed during each contraction that she would be okay and that I could push effectively to get her out.  The doctor told me that he was going to have to get her on the next contraction, even if that meant an episiotomy and using the vacuum.  Of course, I was okay with that--anything to get our girl here safe and sound.  He did end up giving me an episiotomy but did not use the vacuum.  

When she emerged, she didn't really cry, so the nurses rushed her to the other side of the room and suctioned her mouth and worked on getting her more responsive.  I lay in bed and watched helplessly as they worked on my tiny baby.  I shed a few tears and kept asking everyone if she was okay.  The doctor was calm and the nurses were calm, so I figured she wasn't in any real danger, but I just wanted to hear her cry and to have her in my arms.  After about 15 minutes, the nurses brought her over to me, and I got to snuggle that perfect little bundle to my chest, skin-to-skin.  Heaven.

She was worth every moment of the struggle it took to get her here.  I felt overwhelming happiness and relief holding her for the first time.

5 lbs 12 oz, 18.5 inches of pure perfection

The doctor was certainly right that she would be bruised!  Holy moly--she was our little purple creature for a few days.  Still pretty stinkin' cute, though, if I do say so myself! 

A highlight of my year--maybe my whole life--was watching Noah meet his Baby Sister later that night.  We had talked about the baby for months, and he had been super interested in everything to do with my pregnancy.  Honestly, I am wondering if the kid is going to be an OBGYN or something because he was so fascinated by it all.  He loved watching the videos from the Baby Center app of the baby's development, and he constantly asked me things like, "Is the baby in the birth canal yet, Mom?  Did your water break yet?"  That kid!  Needless to say, he was beside himself with excitement when the moment came for him to finally meet "our baby."  When he looked at her for the first time, he started doing this squeak that I'm pretty sure is his version of baby talk--he just kept pointing and squeaking.  Then he climbed up on the bed next to me and "held" her, and as he gazed down at her, he said, "Oh mom, she's so beautiful!!"  Melt my heart.  He didn't even notice or mention the ginormous purple bruise on her face.  So sweet. 

I love my children.  I am so lucky to be their mom.  Taking our little peanut home from the hospital, I felt overwhelmed but so grateful and happy.  What a miracle little Sally is, just like her brother Noah.  The road to parenthood has not been straightforward or easy for us--but it has been so, so, SO worth it.

Welcome to the world, precious Sally Grace!  You are so loved!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Letter to My Daughter on her Birth Day

My Sweet Daughter,

I am sitting here in a dark hospital room, listening to your constant heartbeat on the monitor, and wondering when you will be in my arms.  It is 3:30 a.m. and Daddy is asleep on the couch just across the room (probably more like half-asleep with those accommodations), and though I know that I should be sleeping now, before the pain becomes too intense, I just can’t—I can’t stop thinking of you.  And though the doctor warned me not to watch the monitors that track your heart rate and my contractions, I also can’t stop doing that.  It is exciting to be in the midst of this, in the process of bringing you into this beautiful world. 

My contractions right now are subtle and inconsistent.  They come and go.  The doctor decided to induce me today after my appointment in his office this morning when your heart rate started dropping during the non-stress test.  They have been monitoring you closely these past few days because, at my appointment last week, they recognized signs that my placenta is petering out and you may not be getting enough nutrition.  My uterus is measuring small, you are measuring small on the ultrasound, and most concerning, your abdomen is measuring disproportionately smaller than the rest of your little body.  To make matters worse, your S/D ratio, which measures blood flow into and out of the umbilical chord, is elevated which is another sign of this placenta problem.  The doctor felt it was best to wait to induce as long as we could, to give your little lungs more time to grow and develop, but after this morning’s results, he decided it is time to get you here.  Daddy and I agree—we don’t want to take any chances when it comes to your safety and well being. 

You will be arriving just over two weeks early, so you might be a peanut, but I think you will be just fine.  I can’t wait to hold you in my arms, to kiss your chubby little cheeks (at least they looked chubby on the ultrasound this morning), and to look into your eyes for the first time—to stare deeply into the eyes of my daughter and to see you searching my face, learning me, and seeing for the first time the woman who will cherish you and be your mother throughout this life and into eternity.

I’m sure I won’t be perfect at it, my little love.  In the past few weeks, mingled with my feelings of sheer excitement at the prospect of your impending arrival, I’ve felt a twinge of fear now and then—fear and inadequacy and nervousness.  Because I won’t be perfect.  And when I picture you wearing the tiny pink pajamas that I brought to the hospital, all swaddled up and ready to go home and begin the adventure of life, I know that you deserve all the love and all the good things this world has to offer.

I promise I will do the best that I can.  I promise that I will love you with every piece and particle of my soul.  We will figure out this life together—you, Daddy, Big Brother, and I.  We are so ready to add you to our “family squeeze” before bed each night (we will squeeze you softly at first, I promise), and we are ready to try our best to meet your needs, whatever those may be.  

It has been an honor to be pregnant with you.  Just the other day, I was staring in the mirror at my “baby bump” thinking, “Is this really happening?  To me?”  I never knew if I would have the opportunity to carry a child in my womb, and as incredibly difficult as it has been to be pregnant at times, due to sickness and other complications, it has been an experience that I would not trade—to feel you kicking inside of me, to see my belly growing over the weeks and months, to put my hand on my stomach and know that a baby girl is in there all nuzzled up, safe and growing.  Pregnancy has been long and much harder than I ever anticipated it would be, but sitting here in the dark, listening to your heartbeat and feeling the contractions that will eventually (but probably not for a long time at this rate!) bring you into the world, I know that it was worth every moment of the pain to be a part of this experience. 

You are almost here.  In a few minutes, they plan to start me on Pitocin, so I am sitting here contemplating the unknowns.  What hour of the day will you arrive?  How will my labor progress?  Will I end up with a C-section if your heart rate drops during contractions as it did this morning during the non-stress test?  In my mind, I have an idyllic picture of how I’d love the next 24 hours to go (and that picture does not include a C-section or vomiting during labor or many of the other unpleasant things that often occur during delivery), but writing this letter has reminded me that no matter what today holds, it’s going to be a great day.  Because, at the end of it, the world is going to be blessed with a beautiful, fresh, new soul.  Certainly, my world will never be the same.

Happy birth day, my precious Sally Grace.  Come quickly—I am waiting for you.

With love beyond words,
Your Mama  

Sally Grace was born at 11:08 a.m.
She measured 5 lbs 12 oz, 18.5 inches.
She is healthy and perfect in every way.

**More details and photos to come in another post in a few days! **

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Mega Update

I feel like it's been a big couple of months.  Lots going on.  I am quite tired and ready to veg out for the next couple of weeks until this baby is born.  Here's a list of what we've been up to this summer:

*Sometime in early May, Noah switched from a crib to a big boy bed.  This was probably a long time coming, and he did just great with the change--never came out of his room even once.  (I attribute this to the success we've had with his "light turns green" clock, which is the best parenting purchase I've ever made.  It initially took some training to get him to respond to it, but boy do I recommend it.)  When I say he switched to a "big boy bed," I do mean "big."  We put him in our old bed, and I actually really like that he has so much space because all three of us can snuggle in to read a story together, and sometimes after he's sound asleep, I crawl into his bed and wrap my arms around him for a few minutes.  Funnest.

Forgive the awful photo quality--the light in his room is terrible
Noah likes to "read" to himself in bed before naptime and bedtime.  I love standing outside of his room and listening to him flipping pages and reciting the stories he remembers (making up the details as he goes along).  One day I found him sound asleep during naptime with a book on his face. :)  I hope he's always a reader.

*We attempted potty training for the third time.  It did not go well.  This probably deserves its own blog post, but I will summarize by saying that my very smart and very stubborn son simply will not be forced by his mother to use the potty.  Man, he humbles me sometimes.  He totally knows how to use the toilet but flat out refuses when he knows that I want him to do it.  I've decided to let it go for the time being and see what happens.  Please don't judge me when you see my thirteen-year-old in diapers.

*We spent a weekend in Pocatello for Mother's Day.  A few of Ryan's siblings and their kids were there as well, and it was a fun weekend of chatting, kite-flying, celebrating mothers, and being together.

"Brothers gotta hug"--name that movie

Come on!  Give Mama a smooch!
Smash kiss
Love the photo bomb by Ryan
*We've spent time as a family outdoors in Twin Falls.  It is really beautiful this time of year--well, except for the past two weeks which have been between 95-100 every day (way too hot for this pregnant woman, and the forecast isn't changing anytime soon).  In May and June, the weather was great and we went for walks, did some simple hikes, and spent lots of time in our backyard.  Despite the heat, last week Ry and Noah went on a father-and-son date to a nearby cave, and then Ryan and I got away for a dessert date at a restaurant on the edge of the canyon.  We love being outside as a fam.

*We spent another weekend in Pocatello for Father's Day.  Again, a few of Ryan's siblings and their kids were there--I didn't get many photos but, as always, it was a good time.  On the way home, we got off the highway and drove up close to the big windmills that we always see on our way to Poky.  Noah was ecstatic.  He has been obsessed with these windmills for almost a year and had never been near one up close.  He kept saying that it really "freaked [him] out" to be so close to one.

*Noah did two weeks of swimming lessons.  This was very traumatic for both of us.  I had no idea when I signed him up that these were "tough love" swimming lessons where the intent is to really teach the kids how to swim, not just splash around and get comfortable in the water.  Noah and I were both shocked when the first thing that the teacher did was dunk him under the water and hold him there for a few seconds.  I don't consider myself an overprotective mom, but it was painful to watch.  He came up screaming, coughing, and sputtering, and as I listened to him sobbing, "Oh please don't sink me!" over and over for half an hour, every motherly instinct in me wanted to grab him and pull him out of that pool.  I made it through the lesson without intervening, but afterwards I did talk to the teacher about my concerns.  I felt like *that* mom, but I'm glad I followed my gut and spoke up for Noah because they were much gentler with him from then on out.  I'm also glad I didn't pull him out of the lesson altogether because he ended up having a good experience and learning a lot.  They still pushed him, but they weren't so aggressive about it, and he made a lot of progress.  By the end of his session, he was going under the water willingly for several seconds, and he even jumped off the diving board to his teacher a few times.

*I organized and labeled everything in the house.  I am thinking this must be an odd pregnancy thing.  I don't have much energy these days, but for some reason, when I do have energy, I feel the urgent need to organize.  This irrational project is slow going, but I get a little done each week.  Our office supplies look pretty rockin' now, if I do say so myself--I even made a bin for "adhesives," so if you ever come to visit us and are in need of some glue or tape, you will be able to find it quickly.  You're welcome.

*Noah's been camping three times this summer with his dad, and he loves it.  He does pretty well.  Though it takes him a while to fall asleep, he sleeps through the night and often sleeps in late in the morning.  He enjoys being in nature and eating smores.  I am excited for next summer when I'm not hugely pregnant and I can join them (with an infant...hmmm...we shall see...).

*My dad came to visit for a weekend!  It was so nice to have him here.  He entertained Noah, helped me organize stuff in the nursery, took me shopping for baby girl clothes, made freezer meals with me, and did tons of dishes.  Seriously--Dad of the Year.  I didn't want him to leave!!  We also had some fun while he was in town, including going canoeing on the Snake River.

*Noah has spent a little time with his favorite babysitter, Baylee.  This darling 13-year-old lives in our neighborhood, and she rides her bike over once a week to play with Noah for a couple of hours while I get stuff done, work on Power of Moms, or (since I've been pregnant and sick) take a nap.  Noah adores her, and I love listening to them playing trains and playdoh--this break is as good for him as it is for me.  

*Our friends from college, the Adamsons, came to visit.  Back in 2004, they set us up on our first date (did you know that Ryan and I met on a blind date?), so we will be forever indebted to them.  We hadn't seen them in seven years, so we had lots of chatting and catching up to do.  They and their three kids stayed in our little house with us for three days and two nights, and it was very chaotic and very fun.

*We went on a family trip to Sun Valley with my in-laws for the 4th of July.  Everyone was there except for Ryan's youngest brother, Tanner, who is on a mission for our church.  It was great to be together.  We went to a parade on the 4th, spent a day on the beach at Red Fish Lake, and celebrated Gordon's birthday.  The guys learned to fly fish one day, and I think Ryan is hooked (no pun intended).  He went out the next night with his dad, and he caught a real whopper on the river (and by whopper, I mean someone's pet goldfish).  He's been watching fly fishing videos on YouTube and reading fly fishing books ever since we got back.  I can totally see Ryan becoming a fly fisherman.

Lookin' good, gentlemen!

*And last but not least (are you tired yet? because I totally am), Noah got his tonsils and adenoids out this past week. He had absolutely ginormous tonsils that the pediatrician and ENT were afraid were blocking his airway, so out they came.  He was a trooper on the day of the surgery--didn't even cry as they were taking him away for surgery in a little wagon--but recovery has been pretty tough on him.  The first day, he was writhing and shrieking in pain and could not be consoled.  It's been a little better since, but he still doesn't want to swallow or eat much, and he has at least one horrendous freaking-out-in-pain episode every day (just had one that woke him from sleep as I am writing this blog post--thank goodness for his big bed so I could snuggle him).  The doctor and others acted like recovery from this procedure would be no big deal for a kid Noah's age, so I think I had unreasonable expectations going into it.  Hopefully he will be back to himself soon because it breaks my heart to see him like this.
Before surgery
After surgery--his face says it all
Sweet boy, still a little groggy from the anesthesia...
And then the pain set in. :( :( :(
Watching movies and recovering
So yes, that's all.  And I have almost nothing on the calendar for the next three weeks until the baby is due.  And I am so glad--I couldn't keep up that pace for much longer!

It's a happy and busy life.  We are blessed.