What it’s like

I went back to work after giving birth to my second child a little over three months ago. About a week later a good friend of mine asked me if I would like to write an article for her about my experience going back to work. Sure, I said. I could do that, I said. I have something to say that’s worth saying, I said.

I still haven’t written the article.

And that, dear reader of my blog, is what going back to work after having your second child is like.

I could do and say a lot of things.

But I don’t. Because when am I going to do and say them?

Let’s establish from the outset that I have a pretty sweet gig as a working mother.

  1. I am incredibly blessed to be able to work from home.
  2. I also have a stay-at-home husband who shoulders the parenting responsibilities during my work day. Another huge blessing.
  3. My six-month-old daughter who was born six weeks early started sleeping for stretches that qualify as “sleeping through the night” by the time I was back on the clock.
  4. My daughter is also the happiest baby. Maybe ever.

I’m sure the list could go on.

However.

Even with all that I have going for me, I’m still going to play the overwhelmed card.

I work from 7 am to 4:30 pm each day. My daughter wakes me up somewhere between 5:45 and 6:45 every morning. I give her her first dose of Zantac and then get myself and my things together to get my work day started while waiting the obligatory 30 minutes before feeding her.

My work day consists of emails and conference calls and research and writing and thinking and figuring and more writing and rewriting and deleting and refiguring and more conference calls. Somewhere in there I pump and feed my daughter and grab some food here and there for myself.

I usually finish work on time. Usually. Except for a day like today when I needed to get something out the door before signing off and ended up working until 5:22 pm.

So. I close up shop at about 4:30. While that might seem early (and is certainly earlier than a mom who has to drive home after finishing her day), it feels to me like my day has already gotten away from me. Because I have a baby who likes to go to bed right around 6:30 pm.

That leaves me a two-hour window during which I try to

  1. make dinner for and eat dinner with my family.
  2. spend time with my oft-neglected (at least by me) three-year-old son.
  3. think about taking a shower.
  4. think about the fact that I’m not exercising but should.
  5. get my daughter ready for bed and otherwise get things situated for her bedtime.
  6. get myself ready for my daughter’s bedtime.
  7. the list could go on.

I hardly ever do most of those things. So I should add telling myself I’m a bit of a slug to the list of things I do during my two-hour window.

Then I take my daughter to bed. Some night she eats and goes to bed quickly. Sometimes she takes her time. Sometimes I let her take her time.

Occasionally, I will put my son to bed. Typically, though, my husband does it.

After both kids are in bed, we sometimes talk a little. We sometimes watch TV a little. But usually, I go to bed not long after my daughter does.

Except for a night like tonight. Tonight, I am writing. Reporting. Recording.

I do not wish these days away. Someday, my kids won’t be small. Someday, I won’t be working at home; I will be going to D.C. again.

But tonight I am wishing I had time to write that article, time to capture on the page how it feels to be a working mom, to be the breadwinner, to be the only food source for my daughter, to be who I am.

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Hospital Highlights 1991

The scariest part of my hospital stay happened when they brought me back to my room after the surgery. It’s another thing I don’t remember. But my mom wrote a poem about it. Read it here.

I actually walked with the aid of a walker the day after my surgery. Rods in legs are pretty amazing. However. Something felt funny in my left knee when I walked, I said. They took a look and decided I needed to take my recovery more slowly. I would be using a wheelchair instead of a walker.

My right leg was in traction. I can show you the scar from it if you’re interested.

My hair was matted with blood.

My forehead was covered in stitches.

I was on a morphine drip. I really liked morphine. It made everything better.

My hospital gown was at times revealing. I got very concerned that I might be revealing a little too much up top when one group of visitors arrived. My inquiry to my mom of “Am I covered?!” was frantic. Desperate. How mortifying to be accidentally showing a bare breast to someone.

The Rutter family came to visit on Saturday. Paul was an upperclassman. Swoon. He asked me if I would be back at school on Monday. I, under the influence of morphine, told him I would be. He, not under the influence of morphine, believed me. And thus began the rumor that I would be attending Capital High. You know, since Capital was the only high school with an elevator and I clearly wouldn’t be walking anytime soon. So I must be transferring schools.

Some guy friends from my year also came to visit. Four of them. And I really only remember for sure that one of them was Justin Curtis. I was chit-chatting away and asking about this and that when suddenly Justin disappeared. This time, he was the one who swooned. Well, maybe not swooned. He passed out. Hit his head on the sink. Bonk. A really funny story now. But I felt so bad for him at the time. Poor Justin.

I am sure that Lisa and Jessy came to visit. Probably more than once.

I got wheeled down to see John in his hospital room. Can’t remember if I saw him, though. I feel like maybe I arrived just in time to learn he had been discharged. Not sure if that memory is right.

I was in the hospital for 8 days. 8 days. And I have just shared with you the extent of my memories.

Well, I have two other memories.

The first is a memory I have of my dad. It’s the first memory I have after rolling down the hallways and watching the lights on the ceiling. He was wearing a suit and sitting next to my bed. It was bright. He was taking care of me. That’s what I remember.

The other memory is this. I was going home just in time for all the Halloween parties the next weekend. I had a serious conversation with my mom about would she please let me go to the party I had been invited to. You should not be surprised to learn that I did not go to the party.

 

 

 

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October 24 1991

I was a sophomore at Boise High School. Almost 16 years old. Currently enrolled in a driver’s ed course that met in the classroom where I would take algebra 3/trigonometry from Mr. Stubblefield the next year.

John Weatherby already had his license. And he had a car and could drive places.

I have no clue how it came to be that John Weatherby, Josh Jaynes, Bryndi Joyce and I were all wanting to go to the mall together after school that day. (It was a Thursday, btw.) Suffice it to say that we were teenagers with a car. Doesn’t that usually mean you end up at the mall?

I have no memory of how I would normally get home from school. I guess I rode the bus. It is incredible to me that I can’t remember how I got to and from school my sophomore year in high school. Before or after October 24.

Whatever the case, I called my parents to ask if I could go with John and Josh and Bryndi and then have John drive me home. Note: I either got permission to use a phone in the office or I used a pay phone to make this call. Who had heard of cell phones then? But I note it because even as I write this story, my mind automatically pictures myself using a cell phone to call my parents.

I can’t remember if I told my mom we were going to the mall or if I told her we were going somewhere else. But I do remember that I lied to her about some part of it — either our destination or the reason that we NEEDED to go wherever I told her we were going. There was a lie in there somewhere. I’m sorry about that.

This is a lame story so far because I keep saying I can’t remember things.

Something else I don’t recall at all:  driving to the mall. Or being at the mall. Or leaving the mall.

It’s not like I even remember calling my mom.

I just know that all this stuff happened before the part that I actually do remember.

What I remember:  I am sitting behind John Weatherby in his station wagon. We are heading south on Leadville Avenue. We are not going particularly fast. I look up and see a stop sign up ahead. I have this odd sensation of knowing we should be slowing down as we approach the stop sign. But we are not slowing down. We are driving through the intersection without stopping. I look to the left as we enter the intersection and see the grill of a Ford Bronco.

End of memory.

More things I know but don’t remember.

The intersection where we got hit was the second stop sign we ran that day.

I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The station wagon was old. It only had lap belts, which were buried and unreachable in the crevice between the seat and the seat back.

The impact of the Bronco sent me flying toward Bryndi.

 

Bryndi cracked some vertebrae in her neck.

Josh was basically unharmed and got out of the car and sat on the ground and waited.

John broke some ribs and punctured a lung.

I broke my right femur, right humerus, and right clavicle.

Many, many pieces of glass ended up embedded in the left side of my face.

I was taken by ambulance to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.

I was wearing my favorite blue v-neck sweater. It — and my other clothes — had to be cut off me in the ER.

I did not lose consciousness. I was screaming/crying in the car after it came to rest against a telephone pole on the southwest corner of the intersection. I was also awake and talking to people — including my parents, who had been urgently summoned to the hospital — in the ER.

My next memory:  I am lying on my back and can see the lights pass by as I roll down a hallway.

I was on my way to the OR to have a plate fastened to my humerus with 11 screws and a rod inserted into my femur. No casts for my broken bones.

I believe the surgery happened on October 24. But I can’t really be sure because, well, you know… I don’t remember.

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The Birth Story

Dr. Stenman left around 9:30 pm.

Other than calling my husband and sister and spinning contractions, I have no concrete memory after Dr. Stenman left until the nurses’ shift change at 11 pm. I helped Cathy fill ________ (she was awesome, and I’m ashamed to say I can no longer remember her name) in on what was going on and what the plan was. She predicted that the baby would be here before her shift ended.

What time does your shift end, I asked.

7 am.

I laughed at her for thinking the baby would be here that soon.

She, in turn, assured me she had a knack at predicting these things.

I know I told the new nurse that I was having contractions pretty regularly but that I was managing them fine. I also told her that we planned to get an epidural.

Once the preeclampsia thing got real, my husband and I had talked and decided an epidural was the way to go notwithstanding my desires for a “natural” birth. We knew that my high blood pressure would only get higher as the contractions intensified. Higher and higher blood pressure = greater chance for seizures, emergency c-section, stress on baby, and other complications. An epidural would reduce the risks of all that and help to keep things calm and therefore increase the chances for a vaginal delivery.

My new nurse said to let her know when I wanted it and she would make it happen. Then she and Cathy left to meet the other patients she would be responsible for on her shift.

Almost immediately (at least to my impaired awareness), the contractions got serious. They were coming fast and hard. They felt constant. I was no longer able to spin them and keep my breath even and calm.

I feel like I was lying on my left side and kind of curled up. I could not articulate what was happening, but I knew something was changing. I knew it was time for my epidural. I also knew that I needed to poop. I reached for the call button. I looked at the clock and it was 11:45 pm.

A nurse’s aid came in. I told her I needed help getting to the bathroom and that I needed the epidural because I couldn’t deal with the pain of the contractions anymore.

Getting to the bathroom was difficult. My legs didn’t work; my contractions were also debilitating.

I was really wanting that epidural and not able to think straight.

The nurse finally arrived. I asked for the epidural. She called to have someone come down.

I asked if she thought she should check my dilation before the epidural to make sure I wasn’t too far already.

You’re not about to push the baby out, are you?

No, I said. I don’t think so.

Then I don’t need to check you.

I lay in the bed and waited for the anesthesiologist. The contractions continued to pile up and pile it on.

When she arrived to administer the epidural, I was helped into a sitting position with my legs hanging off the side of the bed. I was told to hold very still.

Holding still at all, let alone very, was not possible. I was in pain, and I was in a constant state of contraction. My body was shaking and rolling involuntarily.

Baby girl disappeared from the monitor. The nurse got down on the floor and pressed the monitor into my stomach, trying to find her heartbeat. She finally found it but had to stay there, squatting on the floor, and hold the monitor against me in order to keep track of BGL’s heartbeat.

The anesthesiologist would stick a needle in. Something would go wrong — i.e., I would move at just the wrong moment — and she would have to take it out and try again somewhere else. I could feel sweat running down my back, running down my face.

After several sticks (I believe it was 6 or 7), she finally got the needle in “right” and went about getting the epidural started. I cannot describe the specifics.

Meanwhile, on the monitor, BGL’s heart rate was dropping. It got low. Uncomfortably low. The nurse, while squatting and pressing the monitor into me, was on the phone with the doctor. You need to look at the monitor. Are you seeing the heart rate? I’m trying to wait until the epidural is in place. She’s working on it now. What do you want to do? Yes, I’m trying to wait until the epidural is going. You should probably come.

She threw the phone onto the counter. The unspoken fear was that we needed to get me in for an emergency c-section.

The anesthesiologist said she was almost there. I needed to hold still. The baby’s heart rate was frighteningly low. The pain and discomfort was excruciating. The sweat continued to drip off my face, run down my back.

I know I spoke to the nurse. Asked what was going on.

She needed her phone again. Needed to call for help. But she had thrown it on the counter and couldn’t reach it while still holding the monitor just right to track BGL’s dangerously low heartbeat.

What was I thinking, she said out loud, throwing it onto the counter. She stretched as far as she could and grabbed the phone again.

Several things seemed to happen simultaneously then. (1) Nearly half a dozen nurses came running into the room. (2) My blood pressure dropped through the floor. (3) The anesthesiologist said she had gotten the epidural in and flowing.

Writing about it now makes me realize how terrifying the situation was. Or should have been. I was physically in a bad way. Because of the pain and as far as the monitors and instruments were concerned. The baby was also not doing great. But mentally, I was totally calm. I felt fine. And I was not concerned about BGL. I knew somehow that she was fine.

Dr. Stenman arrived soon after the nurse brigade. As soon as the epidural was in, he told someone to get me horizontal. Suddenly, I was lying on my back and someone was putting an oxygen mask over my face and asking if I was okay and could respond.

I think I’m fine, I said.

I didn’t understand what was going on or why they were suddenly worried about me because I did not yet know how low my blood pressure had gotten.

Baby’s heart rate is back up, someone said. She’s looking good. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. And maybe someone said they knew it would be fine once I wasn’t hunched over hanging off the bed.

I looked around the room. I inhaled deeply. Oxygen masks are my jam.

Well, hello doctor. I had just become aware of his arrival.

I want to say that the nurse brigade departed. But who can be sure. I do know that the room was quiet again. Those who remained looked at each other expectantly.

Well, why don’t we check you? Dr. Stenman spoke first.

Everyone agreed that it was the most reasonable course of action.

I assumed the position, and he checked the status of things.

(Yes, I was still having contractions, and no, the epidural had not taken effect yet. And apparently, my nurse had turned off the pitocin during the excitement of the epidural.)

He looked up and said, You’re complete. Let’s have a baby.

Can I call my husband? I asked.

It was about 1:15 am.

Hello, he said. Obviously, I woke him up.

I gave him a quick summary of all that had happened and told him to come. We had wisely asked his mother to spend the night, so all he had to do was walk across the hall and let her know he was leaving.

Soon after I got off the phone with him, I could feel my toes get tingly. Hallelujah, the epidural was working.

After what seemed like no time to me but a long time to the doctor and nurse, he got there. It was 1:40 am. My husband wasn’t there 90 seconds before we got started with pushing. The NICU team arrived shortly after he did.

I pushed three times during each contraction. BGL was so small that I couldn’t feel much of what was going on.

On the second push of the second round of pushing, I felt and saw an explosion. Fluid was flying in all directions. My water had broken and gotten everywhere. On my husband’s arm. On the medical staff. We heard it hit the floor in numerous plops a second or two after we saw the explosion. It was a thing to behold. An image I won’t soon forget.

On the fourth round of pushing, my baby girl shot out and landed in Dr. Stenman’s arms. Literally.

It was 1:54 am.

She was here. Before I even saw her, the NICU staff was checking her out.

After a few minutes, they placed a swaddled tiny little thing in my arms for long enough to take a picture.

IMG_0002
Then she was off to the NICU. Her new home for the next two-and-a-half weeks. My husband went with her, and I stayed behind to get sewn up because, yes, I had torn and to have the pieces of placenta that had been left behind after the explosive delivery removed.

I could say so much more about that day. That it was over 12 hours before I saw her again. That I had no energy or motor skills because I still had 24 hours of mag to live through. That I was crazy hungry. That I learned that the nurse brigade showed up in my room because my nurse had “called a code” (<– that’s not a good thing).

But this is long enough. If you’ve even made it this far. I hope you did because the little girl that showed up that morning is amazing. Her arrival story deserves to be told.

 

 

 

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Prepping for Birth, Part 3

Where were we. 

Dr. H came in.

I told him I wasn’t noticing contractions at all. Like the pitocin wasn’t even on. (Until today, I still have no idea if contractions were registering on the monitor and I wasn’t noticing them or if they weren’t happening at all.)

Dr. H said that he was about to leave and Dr. Stenman would be taking over. He could not speak for Dr. Stenman, but he said, if the pitocin isn’t doing anything, then he would recommend turning it off and doing another cervix softening thing overnight. Cervidil, it’s called. And then he would start pitocin up again in the morning. That’s what he would do.

My husband and I told him how long it took for pitocin to do anything at all to my cervix the first time I gave birth. And that time the pitocin didn’t have the mag working against it.

Dr. H left.

My husband and I talked. He should go home. I still needed the second steroid shot. It was likely they were taking me off pitocin in the next few hours. The baby wasn’t coming tonight, we said. Another good night of sleep was the best thing for him.

After he left, I wrote my April 21 blog post. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Seriously. I couldn’t see straight. My phone screen was blurry and swimmy. I could not get my thumb and fingers to work.

A few hours passed. I may or may not have started to notice some contractions. I can’t be sure, but I think I did.

The magnesium sulfate helped me to ride the contractions really well. I actually enjoyed them. I was alone in a dark and quiet room. Or if the room wasn’t dark, my eyes were closed. I wasn’t moving otherwise. I wasn’t talking to anyone. It was just me and my breath and the contractions.

I could sense them and would start to picture myself catching a wave or spinning or expanding. I would spin the contraction up through my body and out the top of my head. Like I could actually move it through me with my mind. Each contraction would peak and then subside, and I would relax and wait for the next one. “Wait” probably meant sleep in a hazy mag fog.

Somewhere in there I got my second steroid shot.

Somewhere during that time it was also determined that I hadn’t been checked for group beta strep.

Dr. Stenman came in between 9 and 9:30 pm.

He checked my dilation. I was a 3.

To my uneducated mind, that meant the pitocin wasn’t helping me to progress. After all, I had been a 1 a whole day ago. I asked him when he was going to turn it off and do the Cervidil.

He said that, in fact, he felt like the pitocin was working and planned to let it keep doing its thing. He would come back around 1 am to see where I was and to break the waters, as they say, to encourage things along.

We also determined while he was there that the group beta strep results wouldn’t be back for a while. So they were going to start giving me penicillin just in case. Add another bag to the IV drip.

I have said nothing about BGL. She was doing fine. Cathy occasionally had trouble finding her on the monitor. Like she was hiding. But other than that, she was doing just dandy.

Dr. Stenman left. I called my husband and told him the plan. He asked if he should come back. Cathy said it wasn’t necessary. Even after my water gets broken, she said, it will still be several hours. We all agreed he could wait till the morning to come back.

Then I called my younger sister and told her what was going on. She asked about the fact that the second steroid shot was supposed to be “in there” for 24 hours before BGL was “out here.” Good question.

Nurse Cathy called Dr. Stenman to ask. He said that it was good enough that I had gotten the second steroid shot and that getting BGL out was more important.

So. The plan was in place. BGL would be here sometime on Saturday.

 

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Prepping for Birth, Part 2

Jolene was my first L&D nurse. Yes, she is named after the Dolly Parton song. She was also very pregnant. 37 weeks, she said. Her second baby. She was so much more pregnant than me.

She asked if I wanted to take a shower before she started the IV and all the monitors. The idea seemed strange to me. I had just showered that morning. Not even 12 hours ago.

Looking back, it was just a “duh” thing. She knew that I might not get to shower for a good long time if I didn’t shower right then.

So I showered. Jolene provided shampoo and soap and towel. I hadn’t brought any of that with me. Because, you know, I packed my hospital bag in a hurry. All those times I told myself to get it packed but didn’t…

Then came the IV and blood pressure cuff and baby monitor.

Soon after that was my introduction to magnesium sulfate and some pregnancy-safe blood pressure medication.

The first dose of magnesium sulfate is a double-strength dose. Jolene told me it would probably not be very fun. That I might not feel well. In the first few moments after the drug started flowing through the IV, I thought I might be okay. Maybe not so bad.

I was wrong. I told Jolene as much.

The best way I’ve been able to describe that first round of magnesium sulfate is that I felt like I was being pressed into the bed everywhere at the same time. Smashed. Pulled from below. Every part of me flattened. Everything was blurry and in slow motion.

My memory from there on out is also blurry and in slow motion.

Here’s what I know.

  1. I talked to my husband and told him to stay home and get some sleep in his own bed. The baby was not coming that night and probably not even the next day since we were wanting to do another steroid shot.
  2. Dr. S checked to see how dilated and effaced I was. (<– I can’t be sure if this happened before in Triage or once I was in L&D, but I think it was in L&D.) She also inserted a balloon thing in my cervix to encourage softening. I feel like that was a 12-hr thing. Can’t be sure. It’s a blur. But I do know that she had to try a few different times to get the balloon in. It kept popping out. I was out of it, yes, but was with it enough to be stressed out and praying that she could get the balloon to stay. Thankfully, she finally got it to work.
  3. I slept a lot. Of course, Jolene woke me up regularly to check my vitals.
  4. At some point Thursday became Friday. After Jolene was nurse Christina. (I only know her name because of my real time blog post about April 21.) She was also pregnant. I want to say 28 weeks.
  5. When the balloon came out, I was mostly effaced, which was awesome, but not more dilated.
  6. Pitocin started at some point. For many hours, I was basically not aware of it. The magnesium sulfate, administered to me to protect against seizures, also functioned to deaden any contractions the pitocin was trying to encourage.
  7. My husband spent a good part of the day with me. He reports that I would fall asleep in the middle of a conversation or in the middle of a sentence.
  8. If I needed to use the bathroom, someone had to help me get there because I couldn’t stand on my own.
  9. I also know I hardly ate a thing. Some chicken broth here and there. Some jello (sugar-free) once or twice. Lots of water.
  10. I also know that my next nurse was Cathy (from Triage). It was good to see a familiar face and to have someone who met me and my bubbly and effervescent (cough) self before I met “the mag.” She liked me. Said I wasn’t difficult or obnoxious like other women in other rooms. (Cough.)

That gets us to about 5:30 pm on Friday, April 21 when Dr. Habecker came in to chat.

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Prepping for Birth, Part 1

I already wrote about being summoned to the hospital. Now I’m going to fill in some details of that day. If no one else read this, that’s okay. I want to remember.

Someday I will write – maybe a poem – about saying goodbye to my son as I got ready to leave for the hospital. So much crying. On my part, not his. He told me not to cry and that everything would be okay.

I got to triage. Checked in. Got to my room and met nurse Cathy.

Pee in a cup. Blood draw. Blood pressure monitor. Baby monitor. Wait. Chit-chat with Cathy when she stops by to let me know this and that. Triage and Labor and Delivery were so busy that I got a crummy old hospital gown and not one of the new ones.

Dr. Stull came in. The protein in my pee said severe preeclampsia. Baby needs to be born to stop this preeclampsia’s progression toward eclampsia (read: seizures and possibly worse).

Side story: The previous Monday we had talked to Dr. Larkin about the good and bad numbers for protein in your spot check (as opposed to 24-hr) pee. He said .1 is good, .2 is iffy, .3 or above needs attention. On Saturday, April 15 my pee protein was .1. Found out later that on April 20 my pee protein was .7.

Dr. S presented the options. C-section would be the fastest and safest route. But vaginal birth was also an option, though more lengthy and with the possibility of a c-section anyway if my body wasn’t ready to give birth.

She left. I called my husband. I wanted a vaginal delivery. He wanted me to be safe from harm. What about a steroid shot for the baby? And aren’t there supposed to be two of them? How is this going to work? More questions.

Dr. S came back. She had talked to the NICU. They were overflowing. Baby might have to go to the NICU at another hospital if she comes very soon. The revelation made a c-section a very unattractive option.

Oh yes, I remember, and tell Dr S. BGL was breech as recently as of the ultrasound 4 days ago. We need to do an ultrasound to see if vaginal delivery is even an option.

Miracle. She is now head down.

Dr. S recommends vaginal delivery as best option knowing that we needed to buy some time for the NICU to discharge some babies.

Before I go to Labor and Delivery, Cathy gives me my first steroid shot.

 

 

 

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