Thursday, April 30, 2015

Addy's Birth Story

And now for the most traumatic of them all.

When Lucy was 6 months old, I got pregnant with Mini-Mac #2.

Yes, I know how that happens. Yes, I have hobbies thank you very much. Yes, it was planned.

And frankly that's none of your darned beeswax.

So there I was, pregnant, with an active 6 month old baby. My pregnancy was very different from the first. Fortunately I wasn't as sick as I was with Lucy, but I was tired and uncomfortable most of the time. From the beginning even walking was uncomfortable. My hips ached and my belly was sore, and I was just plain exhausted. Toward the end of my pregnancy I was also extremely irritable and super cranky towards everyone. I was miserable and feeling sorry for myself.

One morning when I was 35 weeks pregnant, I woke up extremely sick. It was awful and I thought it was because of something I ate. My husband watched mini-mac #1 so that I could rest in bed. I was in and out of sleep throughout the day. In the early afternoon our new landlord and real estate team stopped by to inspect the place (our apartment complex was changing ownership) and inspected every room, including our bedroom where I was sick in bed. In case you've ever wondered what its like to meet your new landlord and his real estate agents while you're hugely pregnant, laying sick in bed in the middle of a messy house with a toddler running around, its weird.

Around 2 or 3 in the afternoon I woke up from a nap and realized I was having some contractions that felt different from Braxton Hicks. Thinking I was dehydrated because I had been so sick, I tried to drink a little water and distracted myself with a TV show. I did what they tell you to do when you think you're feeling contractions-change your activity, change your position, hydrate, distract yourself, or take a shower. In the late afternoon I told my husband that I thought I could be feeling some contractions but that I was going to rest and see if they went away.

I was in denial but on some level I think I knew that I was going to have the baby that day. In the evening the hubs put Lucy to bed and I decided to call my midwife.

"Kacie," she said, "You're too early to have this baby, you're only 34 weeks!"

"I'm thirty-FIVE weeks and I'm pretty sure these are real contractions so...?" I felt strongly that I was in labor but wasn't able to communicate it. I'm sure I sounded unconvincing on the phone.

"Why don't you head to the hospital and get checked out. They'll probably give you an IV for hydration and something to stop the contractions and send you home." Famous last words.

I called my parents to come stay with Lucy. At this point I was having pretty strong contractions but I wasn't in pain. When my parents got there 20 minutes later I was in the hallway leaning against a wall breathing through a contraction. After saying hi to them I walked 20 feet to the front door and paused as another contraction hit me. My mom later told me that when she arrived and saw the look on my face as I worked through a contraction and noticed I couldn't talk, she told Greg, "Get her to the hospital NOW!" When a woman, who has birthed a baby in the car on the way to the hospital and later delivered someone else's baby in the car on the way to the hospital, tells you to go to the hospital, you go!

At the door I paused and said, "I don't have a bag packed. Should I stop and pack a bag?" "No!" was the unanimous answer. I did have enough clarity of thought to grab my purse with my ID and insurance card. I had to pause on the steps and then on the walkway as contractions kept coming...and coming...and coming!

And THEN! The car wouldn't start! I waited, all the while breathing through contractions, while my husband ran to the back of the apartment complex to get our van out of the garage and drive half way around the block.

Fortunately we lived about a mile from the hospital. For some reason we parked in the regular parking lot instead of outside the Emergency Room and had a bit of a walk into the hospital. When we pulled into the parking lot I saw a large group of people at the entrance and thought, "Oh no! All these people are going to see me like this!" By the time we finally made it to the doors, after stopping several times for contractions, I no longer cared who saw me.

Because it was around 9:30 on Saturday night, the main admitting office was closed and we had to walk to the ER to check in. My contractions were now very strong and very close together and I was in pain (until now I'd had no pain, only a strong sensation of pressure in my body). By the time we got to the ER I was "in the zone". The hubs checked me in, very calmly trying to explain I was having contractions. As I sat there in a wheelchair (that someone FINALLY thought to bring me), dry heaving into a vomit bag, I heard the admitting nurse say, "Oh! She's probably in labor!"

As they wheeled me into the labor room, I had a difficult contraction. I heard the nurse say, "Okay, I can see that was really uncomfortable. When that's done I need you to get undressed and onto the bed." She was probably expecting me to be at 4 centimeters. She was in for quite a surprise.

I told her, "No! That wasn't uncomfortable, that was a REAL contraction!" I had a hard time getting undressed and into the hospital gown and into bed. I endured an EXCRUCIATING exam which ended with the nurse exclaiming, "Oh! You're 9 centimeters and crowning!"

"YES!" I thought. "I TOLD you, I'm about to have this baby!"

We knew from a recent ultrasound that the baby was in the frank breech position so we asked for me to be checked again, even though the nurse was insistent that she had felt the head. Another nurse examined me and proclaimed that in fact the baby was breech. After the second exam ended my water burst and I felt an EXTREMELY strong urge to push. "Don't push!" I was told. I rolled onto my side and clung to the metal railing on the hospital bed, trying with everything in me to hold the baby in.

Finally, FINALLY things started happening really quickly. As I lay writhing and screaming on the bed, fighting my body to not push this baby out of me, the nurses were running, pushing my hospital bed down to the operation room. The contractions were rolling one on top of the other and I was doing everything I could to not have the baby. In the moments between contractions they had me signing consent forms. It must have been a sight to see, nurses running down the hallway, pushing a gurney with a screaming woman signing papers.

Greg was taken to scrub up so that he could be in the delivery room. Once they got me to the operation room they asked me to switch beds; I remember a nurse telling me that when I had a break between contractions I needed to move myself from one bed onto the other. "Lady," I told her, "I can't! I don't have a break between contractions!" Somehow I heaved my elephant-sized, writhing self onto the operating table. A nurse took my hand and looked into my eyes, encouraging me, talking me through each contraction, helping me hold on for dear life. I will be forever grateful for that nurse who helped me through those excruciating moments when my body wanted to push my baby out but couldn't.

It was terrifying and the most awful physical sensation I've ever had. The only way I can describe the "need to push" feeling (and here's your TMI public service announcement) is that its comparable to the feeling you have when you need to throw up or have diarrhea, when your body is convulsing to expel something from you. It's like that but 100 times stronger; to go against what your body is naturally trying to do is incredibly painful.

Once on the operation table I heard the anesthesiologist introduce himself and ask me if I'd ever had an epidural. The nurses responded in unison, "NO! There's no time!" The last thing I remember is staring into that nurse's eyes, holding her hand, counting backwards from 100, and then not being able to breath at all. It must have been the moment I was going under but I was semi-conscious, trying to breath and I literally couldn't do it.

Apparently no one else is allowed in the operating room when a patient is undergoing general anesthesia, but we didn't know that at the time.  Just as Greg had gotten scrubbed up and ready to enter the operating room, a nurse shut the door and said, "There's too much going on in here." He didn't know what was happening, but after only 4 minutes they brought out Addy and whisked her off to the NICU. Because we knew she was breech we had discussed what would happen in case of c-section, and Greg knew that I wanted him to stay with the baby if she couldn't be with me. He followed her to the NICU and made sure she was stable before coming down to check on me.

In recovery, I saw my own doctor for the first time. He hadn't even had time to get to the hospital and seemed a bit bewildered as to why I was there. Greg told me that Addy had been taken to the NICU for some breathing issues but that she was okay. Then they wheeled me up to see Addy. It was such a surreal moment, I was groggy and there seemed to be a bright spotlight over me. There were several nurses surrounding me and Greg. They handed me my baby, this tiny, red, splotchy little thing with tubes going in every direction. She had a full head of dark hair and I thought, "Are you sure this is my baby?! She has so much hair!" They let me hold her for what felt like only a minute and then took her from me to put her back in her incubator and off I went to my room.

Looking back on it I realized there was a lot I just didn't, or couldn't, say and I couldn't make people understand I was close to having a baby. I was calm and really breathing through contractions like they show you on those labor videos. If I could have labored like that and then delivered my baby naturally it would have been the perfect labor and delivery (if there can be such a thing). Instead it ended up being quite traumatic. Everything turned out okay and I was incredibly grateful that we lived so close to the hospital and for a great medical team for both Addy and I. Although her birth and our recovery was joyful and yet difficult, I knew things could be so much worse and I was thankful for the way God took care of our needs during that time.

Adelaide was born at 10:30pm and weighed 5 pounds, 8 ounces and was 19 inches long. She was in the NICU for 12 days due to breathing and heart issues. After a bit of a rough start, she has grown into a healthy happy little one.

Read Lucy's birth story here.

Check out the birth story link up!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lucy's birth story

In honor of Mini Mac #1's birthday coming up I thought it would be nice to finally write out each of the mini-mac's birth stories. Partly so I can have some written record and remember everything later once my brain is foggier than it is now, and partly so that I can stop telling anyone who will listen all the gory details. And also partly so I can join this birth story link up. Seriously, that's a lot of birth stories! I love it!

Beginning at the beginning...

Once upon a time there lived a couple who decided to wait until they had been married for five years before having a baby. People told them that these things didn't go according to plan. People made bets as to when they would get pregnant. And then those people were surprised when things actually went according to plan. And then they told us to slow down once we started having all the babies.

As far as pregnancies go, my first wasn't bad. I know people can be so much sicker than I was and so I can't really complain. Still I was pregnant, which for me means feeling nauseous and exhausted for pretty much 9 months. I lived on Sprite and Chex Mix; that pregnancy was the demise of my veganism because I craved grilled cheese sandwiches with a passion and had an aversion to vegetables! Other than that I felt pretty well and was walking and swimming throughout my pregnancy, and on my due date I climbed stairs at the park to try to get things moving.

On my due date, a Friday, the hubs happened to have a day off, so we went out to lunch and to a movie. I thought things could be happening but as I had never done this before, I had no idea what to expect. Then for the next two days, nothing happened. On Sunday we went for a long walk and ran some errands. By the end of the day I was exhausted and generally in a bad mood. I just felt like laying around and resting. I had a hard time getting comfortable in bed and decided to sleep on the couch so I wouldn't wake up the hubs.

Around 4 or 5 am I noticed I was having some regular contractions but decided to try to go back to sleep. I sent the hubs to work around 6:30 after he woke up, figuring if this was actual labor it could take quite a while. I puttered around the house, packed my bag, ate breakfast, took a shower and finally decided to have him come home around noon. We headed for the birth center around 2:30 since it was about 40 minutes away and we wanted to avoid rush hour. For some reason we made a few stops along the way, including going to the post office, which for the life of me I don't remember why!

After we arrived at the birth center, the midwife examined me and told me I was 6 centimeters dilated. Unfortunately my labor stalled for about an hour, until we went for a long walk and things picked up quickly.

Its all a blur after that, but I know that I was in transition for a LONG time. My contractions were very painful and intense, and I was in and out of the birth tub several times. The midwives gave me some evening primrose to try and help me dilate. At 37 weeks I had an exam and was already 4 centimeters dilated; the doctor didn't expect me to go full term. But going from 6 to 10 centimeters took 13 hours! If I had been in the hospital the doctor probably would have given me pitocin or eventually a c-section, but the midwives knew other interventions and manipulations to try to help the baby get into the correct position. My water didn't break until the end, at which point I had a slight urge to push. I tried to push with contractions but after the first initial urges I didn't feel those strong "push" feelings anymore; my  midwife later told me that she was still quite high when I started pushing and actually pushed her down into the birth canal. The baby had her chin tucked and the cord wrapped around her neck so she took a long time to get into the correct position to come out.  She was never in any distress and her heartbeat was strong during the entire labor. My midwives were experienced and I really trusted them to let me know if I needed to go to the hospital.

I pushed for 3 1/2 hours, starting in the birth tub, and then on the bed with the entire birth team surrounding me. I was so exhausted that the hubs was behind me holding me up during each contraction so that I could push, a midwife was at each foot giving me counter pressure, and my midwife was doing some manipulations to help the baby move into the right position. When she arrived, everyone was completely exhausted and relieved and happy that she arrived safe and sound and that I was recovering well.

Both the hubs and I felt as prepared as possible for labor after taking a Bradley class, and I would NEVER attempt an unmedicated birth without some kind of intense training. Its sort of like running a marathon, you really have to prepare yourself and birthing coach mentally and emotionally. You have to have a plan for how to handle the pain and understand the phases of labor so that you can keep calm and get through it. Through the class we had learned what to expect when you're in transition, and because I was in transition for so long we were really thankful for all the prep. At one point during contractions I started to feel panicky and my midwife reminded me that was normal for transition. The hubs told me that during the pushing phase I asked to go to the hospital, that I didn't want to do this any more, and he knew that I was so close to being done. What I remember from the pushing phase was thinking that I was done being in labor, that the baby would just stay inside and I would have a rest and we would pick it up another time. I remember wondering if there were any stories where people stopped labor and the babies just waited until their mom was more rested and strong enough to push out a baby.

I had wanted to have a natural birth in the birthing tub, and even though that didn't happen I was thankful to be in a birth center in a comfortable and warm environment. I was glad that I didn't need any other intensive interventions and that I didn't have an epidural (because I was terrified of not being able to move my legs). Looking back on it, it was a bit a traumatic I suppose. Would I do it the same way if I had the opportunity? I don't know. After it was over I thought, "That was really hard and really painful. But it was doable".

We arrived at the birth center around 3:30pm but my labor probably really got going around 5pm. Lucy was born at 7:28 the next morning, after a night of intense labor and 3 1/2 hours of pushing.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ex-Pat Life Series Part 4: Longing for Home and Longing for There

This post is something that's been percolating as I have adjusted again to life overseas. We've been here 15 months already if you can believe that, an amount of time that makes us seasoned ex-pats here, no longer in the newbie crowd. Not only that, but we haven't had a home leave yet! We're entitled to an annual home leave, but with the arrival of Mini-Mac #3 we just haven't been able to make it happen. I've had the opportunity to take two brief trips to the States to attend weddings, two glorious yet exhausting respites from China. They weren't trips home though, and unfortunately (or fortunately?) the hubs and older mini-macs had to stay in China. I'm looking forward to spending time at home this summer!

If you enjoy traveling, you may be familiar with the sense of wanderlust and restlessness that sets in from time to time, the feeling that you get when you know its time to take another trip. I think this same feeling can apply to the ex-pat life. When overseas, I miss home. I miss the familiarity of daily life, knowing how to grocery shop, knowing how to get from point A to point B and being able to drive myself there in my own car. I miss one-stop shopping and knowing how to buy movie tickets, or knowing which bottle is laundry soap and which is toilet bowl cleaner. I miss understanding the language and being just another face in the crowd rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. I miss belonging.

Yet when I'm living at home, I get restless and hungry for another adventure. I miss the uncomfortable feeling of being somewhere new, the totally foreign smells, and how the feeling of the actual air exhausts me but the smell of exotic flowers intoxicates me. I miss the sense of panic from trying to cross a street with no apparent traffic rules, or the terror of riding in a taxi as it zooms down the opposite side of the street to avoid sitting in traffic. I actually miss the manic sensation of going from the highest excitement to the lowest homesickness. I miss the possibilities.

Its the longing for home and the longing for "there" that keeps ex-pats, well me at least, moving around. When I start to feel settled and rooted, a sense of restlessness also sets in and I know its time to set foot on uncharted territory once again.

Recently, when I had the opportunity to attend a wedding in the US, I checked Facebook and saw a friend from Shanghai post about having a "Shang-low" day. And I missed Shanghai. I actually missed being in China. Of course I missed my family and the home we've set up, but I also missed our community here and the friends that I've made. I missed the sense of camaraderie we have, the sense that we're all in this together. I felt like the crazy backpacker whose stories always began with, "Well in China they..." but I couldn't stop myself. To be sure this experience isn't unique to ex-pat life; you can experience this with any group you're a part of. But there is a unique sense that no matter where you're from or what company you work for, you are part of the same team, or dare I say it, even the same family.

And that makes me realize that this is now home, or a home, for now.

Have you experienced this? I'd love to hear about it!
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