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.

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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back in the saddle

I started working again this week. I’m three days in and feel like we’re going to survive.

Back in April, I was in the middle of some projects when I was suddenly summoned to the hospital to have my second miracle baby. I somehow had the foresight to get those projects as close to completion, or at least to a stopping point, before EMM arrived.

My daughter was born on a Saturday, and on the preceding Tuesday, I sent everything I had on one of the projects, including a draft decision memo for signature, to my supervisor and her supervisor. At the time, I had some expectation that I would be asked to revise some things, but I also felt like I had put together enough information for the decision makers to be able to make their decision.

Well, guess what.

I found out today that while I was away taking care of the wee one, my boss and her boss put the results of my work on said project in front of the decision makers, and the decision makers made a decision based on my recommendation. And man, I just feel so good knowing that something I worked on got over the goal line and made a difference.

Put another — more succinct — way, I found out today that I saved taxpayers $9 million. And because of my research, someone else had enough information to be able to save another $4 million.

I know it’s pennies compared to the billions and trillions that get talked about re government spending and deficits and debts. But you guys, I played a part in saving $13 million. That’s super cool to be able to say and is a highlight of my 14 years as a federal employee.

Happy hump day.

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Three Months – 7/22

Little EMM is 9 lbs 13 oz now. She has climbed her way up to the 5th percentile in weight for her age. She is no longer on the preemie charts at all. She is getting rolls and chub, and it’s divine. 

She has some sort of issue that causes frightening choking/gagging fits in the night every so often. I must do my best to get good burps after her overnight feeding and hold her upright for a while before I put her down again. Easier said than done at 2 am. Apparently, it’s silent reflux. 

The overnight fits are new for me. Nothing like it ever happened with our son. She also doesn’t have other classic symptoms of reflux so it has been hard to diagnose with certainty. After an unsettling episode this week we ended up in the pediatric ward to make sure the night fits weren’t a sign of something more serious. 

She passed all the tests. 

She also passed out from exhaustion. 

And finally, for those of you who are reading all the way through to the end, here’s a side-by-side comparison to show how far we’ve come in three months. (I should also do a side-by-side of her preemie pjs and her current pjs.) The left photo was taken at 2:56 am on 4/22 (an hour after she was born and the second photo ever taken of her). The right was taken at 2:44 am on 7/19. 

Verdict after the ekg and X-rays and blood work and umpteen rectal temperature readings is that she is healthy as a horse. A horse now on Zantac. 

She was very excited to be going home. 

P.S. I start work on Monday. {sad face}

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Here and there

I go back to work in two weeks. Can’t even wrap my mind around what that will be like. I will be able to work exclusively from home for at least the next little while so that is a huge blessing. But I will be on the clock for the better part of all my weekdays. Sigh. 

Potty training our son is what it is. As they say. He knows how to pee pee on the toilet and knows how to get to the toilet before he pees. All good things. 

But poop is a different story. Nothing we’ve tried so far has worked. And believe me, we’ve received all kinds of suggestions. Someday, it will happen. Someday, this will all be a distant memory. Maybe I’ll even forget the smushes of poop I wiped off my son’s foot with my bare hand after he stepped on it when I was trying to get his pooped underwear off of him. I suppose it’s a rite of passage. I can now count myself in the vast sisterhood of mothers who have handled toddler poop. 

Our daughter – so far – is a much better sleeper than our son ever was. Especially at naptime. I am alternating between gratitude and elation and fear of when the other shoe will drop and she won’t sleep anymore. 

We now nurse on both breasts. Have been for almost a week. My lactation consultant friend came over and helped me get her on and watched and pronounced everything beautiful, and the rest is history. Like her vote of confidence was all we needed. And we’re off to the races. 

I think she knows something. She must. Look at that face. 

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