Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Six months ago, today...

... I arrived at my regularly scheduled prenatal appointment frazzled, exhausted, and at my wit's end.  I'd been in prodromal labor since 32 weeks gestation, which was initially suspected to be pre-term labor and was treated as such.  It required a grueling visit to L & D, in which I lay on an uncomfortable cot, my heart racing from the drugs I was given, and weak with hunger and thirst after hours of getting monitored rather than eating and drinking.  What followed was an overnight stay in the High-Risk Perinatal ward (where the staff was so wonderful and supportive), and about a week in which I could barely move without setting off painful contractions.

Once that first, difficult week was over, I was able to come off of total bed rest, and wean myself off of the blood-pressure lowering pills that were supposed to relax my uterus, but also left me feeling ill.  I still had to endure 2-4 contractions an hour until I gave birth five weeks later, but most contractions, thankfully, were barely noticeable, and were not usually prone to increase if I kept my activities to a reasonable level.

However, the stress and and anxiety were building as the weeks went by, sleep became harder to come by, and I agonized over the decision placed before me as I inched closer to full-term: whether to agree to an induction at 39 or 40 weeks, or let the pregnancy run its course.  If anyone had asked me at the very beginning, I would have scoffed at the idea.  Michael was measuring rather large, but still not as large as his sister, and I figured, if I could give birth to one ten pound baby, surely I could handle another of a similar size.

I didn't feel nearly so sure about any of that by the end, having spent several weeks worrying about possibly having a preemie, and then switching gears to worry about possibly carrying the baby long enough that he might outgrow his sister.  His measurements at 30 weeks indicated that he was a bit smaller, but those measurements are notoriously inaccurate, and I didn't know where things stood closer to the end.  Had he had a huge growth spurt and caught up or surpassed her?  Or maybe his head and/or shoulders were bigger, and that might be enough to cause problems.

It seems almost silly to me in retrospect- I should have had more faith in my own body.  But my nerves were frayed, and I was emotionally spent.  I went ahead and scheduled an induction for 39 weeks, feeling guilty and unsure all the while, and praying that Michael would come on his own before then.

In the meantime, my body was teasing me beyond endurance.  When I first had my pre-term labor scare, I was dilated to one cm.  It remained so until 35 weeks, when it increased to 2 cm.  At 36 weeks, it was 3 cm.  At 37, it was 4.  I couldn't believe it when my doctor reported this to me at my weekly appointment.  Four centimeters was where I was at when I was admitted to L & D triage with Abigail, writhing in pain  at 2 am after having suffered through intense contractions from about 9 pm onward the night before.  And I was walking around like that, still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That Wednesday, six months ago, I was 38 weeks and three days pregnant.  I had spent the previous week trying to be as active as possible, to encourage my body to get things going.  Two days before, I had stayed up for hours one evening timing contractions that were coming every 5-8 minutes, but weren't terribly strong. Eventually, I fell asleep, hoping that they would increase enough in intensity to wake me.  They did not, and I burst into tears when I opened my eyes to greet the next day having made no progress.

As my doctor did the internal exam, she said, in amazement, "You're six centimeters dilated!  Have you been contracting?"  Exasperated, I explained that yes, I had, but not with any regularity or sufficient strength indicate to me that anything was actually happening.  "Well," she said.  "I'm not going to make you go home like this.  I'm going to strip your membranes and then send you directly to the hospital to have your water broken.  You should have your baby by the end of the day."  I was so relieved that I barely noticed the discomfort of the procedure, and once it was over, Tom and I busied ourselves with quickly making arrangements for Abigail and formulating a plan of action.

We first stopped at the apartment to gather what we would need for the hospital (no, we had amazingly not packed a bag, even though we had weeks and weeks to prepare it).  We had to go there anyway, though, to wait for my mother to arrive and take over Abigail's care.  We had arranged for Nana to watch Abby during my hospital stay, but she was coming from New Jersey and would require a few hours for travel time.

I waited in the car, not wishing to deal with the stairs up to the apartment as I started to experience some pretty hefty contractions.  As strong as some of them were, however, they were spaced apart anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes.  This haphazard pattern continued even as I arrived at the hospital with Tom around noon, my mother and Abby nicely settled in the apartment to wait for news.

We waited around first in the main lobby, and then in the lobby of  L & D.  I joked and chatted with Tom, and some of the nurses.  We even took one last belly pic.

Once we finally got into a room and I informed the nurses that I was six centimeters dilated, everyone got moving pretty quickly.  I don't remember doing this with Abigail, so I'm not sure why I had to with Michael, but I had to answer a slew of questions, just as active labor really kicked into gear.  In hindsight, I feel that it was actually a good thing, as it really did distract me from the increasing levels of pain.  Once the nurses left Tom and me alone, I had time to really start to get scared.  It was at a point of near-hysteria over the fear that grabbed a hold of me suddenly (that I understood to be a natural stage of labor, but that understanding didn't help me cope with it), that I finally requested an epidural.

I should mention, I got one with Abigail, even though I had planned to try to have her naturally.  My labor started late in the evening, after about a week with no sleep, and the pain was very different than what I had expected it to be.  I was too exhausted to cope with it, and knew almost immediately that I would have difficulty lasting through the labor, and having energy left over to push, without help.

For Michael, I had been planning since before he was conceived to really do it, this time.  However, I never really came up with a game plan for how to handle the pain- I just hoped that having experienced it once before, I wouldn't be taken so unawares by it.  And I wasn't.  Beyond that, I have to say that Michael's labor was less painful for me.  I'm not sure if it's because he was my second child, or because he was smaller, but I didn't start to really feel the desperation that I felt at the beginning of Abby's labor until the end of his.

According to the nurses, once requested, an epidural usually took forty-five minutes to get.  And so they kept asking, over and over, whether I had decided if I wanted it.  I should have said, "no."  But somehow, in all of the stress of the previous weeks, the strength of my initial commitment had faded, and I was unsure.  I just kept putting off a decision, and handling the pain as best I could.  And I was doing really, really well!  However, I am a bit of a people-pleaser, to a ridiculous extreme, and even in the midst of my pain I was worrying that my indecision must be driving the nurses crazy.  So when that big fear moment hit, I gave in entirely.  I remembered the relaxation and nothingness that I felt during Abby's labor, and I wanted to feel that, rather than my growing apprehension over how I would deal both with the pain of contractions, and the pain of actual birth (which I could not feel at all with Abigail).  I didn't want to be afraid anymore.  Ever the amazing, supportive husband, Tom tried to honor my desires and stalled me, suggesting that I find out how close I was to the end, first.  However, the nurses seemed reluctant to check my progress, conceding that role to the doctor (whenever she might return), and my desperation was not subsiding, so I pushed forward with my decision.

If the anesthesiologist had taken forty-five minutes, he would have been too late.  But he was right down the hall, and arrived within five minutes.  I had to sit up for the procedure, which I was barely able to do at that point, but I managed.  I did have the presence-of-mind to insist that I receive a low dosage, because I did not want to have to rely on nurse's commands to know when to push, as I had had to do with Abby.

Once it was over, I lay back, waiting for relief.  It did not come.  Several contractions came and went.  The nurses began to inquire about a dosage increase.  After they left the room to follow up, my water broke, and I screamed as a bit of membrane passed through and momentarily made me think that I was crowning.  A nurse came back in at Tom's request, and I explained what happened.  She assured me that it was not the baby's head that I had felt, but at that point I began to feel tremendous pressure, so she checked on me.  She announced that I was nine centimeters, but that she thought I might open completely on the next contraction, so she followed it through.  Suddenly, I was crowning, and the doctor was being urgently paged.

That epidural never did kick in, and I found myself reluctant to actually push as I heard the chants of encouragement begin.  The burning sensation that accompanied the crowning was unexpected, and breathtaking.  But I squeezed Tom's hand, and focused on my goal.  And in about seven pushes, he was out.  All covered in vernix and goo.

Born at 2:35 pm, January 18th, 2012.  8 lbs, 14 oz., 20.5 inches long.
Yeah, no idea what I was thinking there.

He did end up being smaller than his sister, by a good bit.  But his head was 1.5 cm bigger around.

Skip ahead six months, and here we are.  I had a pretty awesome "photo shoot," all things considered, but there are some things I've definitely learned from the experience.

  • I need a new backdrop.  The white makes a nice background, but the quilt lines on the duvet that I used are distracting.
  • While the 55-200 mm lens was, indeed, amazing for portraits, it was difficult to use today because I had to back up so far from Michael, and I had to be both photographer and baby-amuser in one.
  • I really need a lot more practice to get the lighting right.  I had excellent conditions to work with, I'm just really not there yet in learning how to adjust the camera settings for maximum quality.
  • I should start incorporating some more interesting props (not that Pooh and Tigger weren't adorable- but I'd like to also find things that Michael can interact with more).
  • With all the time that it took to edit these (mainly cropping and watermarking- I only gave in and adjusted the brightness on one of them) I should start doing this days ahead of time...

Michael, however, was in a splendid mood, and I got a few shots that I am pretty proud of.  Here are my favorites (out of 76 pictures- I went a little crazy).

Abby face!

Another Abby face.

But this one is all Michael.

Abby, by the way, was back to her usual self today, and up to her usual tricks.

Good times.


  1. OK, I love all the stuff about Michael... but that last picture of Abby just made me laugh out loud! And ummm... I LOVE that shelf!

    1. Ha ha! I must ashamedly admit that the last picture wasn't even taken by me. I slipped away for a quick nap, and Tom was working in "the office" (which is on the other side of that shelf, in the basement) while keeping an eye on the kids. Abby moved one of the little bins aside to check out what Daddy was doing, and he recognized an awesome photo opportunity. It made me laugh, too, when he showed it to me. And it's just such a great shot, I had to slip it in, even though this is a "Michael" post. The shelf? It's an Ikea Expedit, that we got for $60 on Craig's List. Tom has been searching the listings incessantly since the move and driving all over NoVA to pick stuff up, but it has definitely paid off. :)

  2. You think that's something? She's been working on that tunnel for months--kept it hidden behind a poster of Rita Hayworth...