Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Kenny's Birth Story

A month ago (wow!), I gave birth to our first child, Kenny.  Considering that his due date was just a week ago, it was a roller coaster ride to be sure.  I finally found a few minutes, jotting notes here and there over the past month, to share the story here.

I'd gone to my OB for my regular weekly appointment at 37 weeks, expecting a normal visit, but my preeclampsia symptoms (which began around 35 weeks) were getting worse.  I was carrying a ton of water weight, my blood pressure was going up, and I had protein in my urine.  My doctor ordered additional labwork to be run that day, telling me I needed to put my feet up from now until the baby was born.  So I headed back to the office, let everyone know I'd be working from home for a while, then headed to dinner with my friends.  I had a blast with them, and then afterwards I was sitting on the couch at home eating a candy bar when the on-call doctor phoned.  They told me that I needed to come to the hospital for induction that night.  Dan wasn't even done with work yet; I had to call him to tell him to come home.  I was shaking!

Photographic proof that I was out with my friends P & M that night, not knowing I'd be heading to the hospital

We arrived at the hospital late on January 30th for me to have medicine placed to prepare my cervix.  I guess my preparedness paid off in some ways...  I already had my bag packed in the car, with a copy of my hospital pre-admission paperwork and everything we needed ready to go.  We also had the carseat installed and inspected the weekend prior!

The next morning, my water broke on its own.  I was coming back to bed from the bathroom, and it just happened.  I wasn't exactly sure if I was correct about it, but the nurses confirmed what it was.  It was such a crazy sensation!

At about 10 a.m., we started the medicine pitocin to induce delivery.  I made quick progress with dilation over the course of the day, and I remember being hungry (of course LOL).  I remember the joy I felt when I was given a popsicle, and I was so glad that I ate a big meal with my friends the night before!  My contractions kept getting stronger and stronger, to the point I was ready for my epidural.  Oh boy, I loved that epidural!  Meanwhile, my parents drove down from Indiana and arrived around 3 p.m.

By 5:30 p.m., I was prepared to push.  Dan and my mom were on my left side to support me during delivery.  Pushing with the epidural was definitely challenging in a way... As a first-timer, I didn't know what I was doing, or what was productive, and I needed a nurse coaching me on when a contraction was coming.  But my doctor and nurses were so great, and I got the hang of things in the end.  After an hour of pushing, our Kenny was born!  He cried right away (I heard him before I saw him), and they placed him on my chest, goo and all.

I remember crying.  I remember my Mom was crying, and that Dan cut the umbilical cord.  I think my first reaction upon seeing Kenny was just surprise...  did I really have that little guy inside me all this time?  (That's what she said... LOL)  But seriously, I couldn't believe that this little person was ours, and that he had such a sweet face.  It was all such a blur.  Our hospital really emphasizes skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, and within his first hour of life I was nursing him for the first time.

This photo is my everything!

The hospital cafeteria was closed by the time I was allowed to eat, so Dad and Dan went and got me some Steak 'n' Shake.  Dan fed me chicken tenders while I lay in bed.  It was the best-tasting chicken ever given the circumstances.

Kenny was born on a Wednesday, so we moved to a recovery room and spent that night and Thursday night in the hospital.  Dan stayed in the room with me, and we had our first sleepless nights with a newborn.  We had no idea what we were doing, and it was scary even just picking him up.  Were we doing it right?  Clueless.  Fortunately the nursery nurses were amazing.  We had some coaching on breastfeeding from a lactation consultant, Kenny got checked out by a pediatrician, and I got checked out by a doctor from my OB's office.  A photographer came by too, so we have some precious photos of Kenny from when he was less than 24 hours old!

By Friday, my preeclampsia symptoms seemed to have subsided, and we were discharged to go home.  But the story doesn't end there.

On Saturday, I wasn't feeling great, but I figured that was normal after giving birth.  I had a headache that wouldn't go away, and I was seeing sparkly "floaters" in my vision.  Dan went to work that day for his brewery's anniversary party, and I remember thinking that maybe I was tired and dehydrated from being up at night with a newborn.  But then I recalled the symptoms of preeclampsia that my doctor had repeated to me over and over...  so I told Dan to bring home a Gatorade and a blood pressure cuff from Walgreens, so we could see what was up. When we took my blood pressure, twice, it was through the roof.

Everything became a blur.  My parents were staying with us, and my Mom was going to be with us for a couple of weeks.  We knew that I needed to get to the ER, since my doctor's office was closed.  So we left the baby with my parents (thankfully I had saved formula samples in the pantry!) and went to the hospital immediately.  We knew we made the right call by the way the ER personnel acted when I arrived.  In fact, the ER doctor told Dan (while I was out of the room) that if we hadn't known to come in, I could have ended up having seizures and in a coma!  I was admitted to the hospital for preeclampsia and spent 24 hours on magnesium treatment, then another night for observation.

Those two nights in the hospital were gut-wrenching.  I was not allowed out of bed except for the nurse to take me to the bathroom, and the treatment made me feel terrible.  In addition, because Kenny had been discharged from the hospital, he couldn't go back into the nursery, so having him room with me at the hospital (not to mention the terrible flu season) felt risky.  Not to mention I was being checked every hour, on the hour, by nurses.  Instead, he stayed home with Dan and my parents, and I got familiar with the hospital's breast pump.  I didn't see him from Saturday night until Monday afternoon.  Not being able to control anything, I set an alarm for every three hours to pump milk for Kenny.  I'm so glad that I did, because my milk came in while I was there!  The nurses stored it for me in the NICU fridge, and Dan would come back and forth (we live three miles away) to bring home food for our son.

I took these photos while I was in the hospital for the 2nd time, to commemorate my misery.

I cried and cried every night being away from the baby.  It was so hard, even though I know I made the right call at the time!  In some ways, if you look for silver linings, I got some reassurance out of it.  I learned that I could survive being separated from my baby (as tough as it was), and Dan got the experience of being a full-time caregiver in a way most new fathers don't get right away.  He had two nights to bond with that baby, which made me feel better.  I also learned that Kenny was fine with formula (and later breastmilk) from a bottle.  He was nourished, and I didn't have to worry about that.  Lastly, I learned that I have to take care of my own well-being to be able to take care of my baby.  The hospital stay allowed me to rest (somewhat) and recuperate fully so I could go home to my baby.  Kenny was thriving, so I couldn't let myself feel any guilt over how things happened.

Once I got home on Monday, I did notice that my "baby blues" hit in the evenings, and that I was experiencing anxiety related to our health.  Every time I had a headache or something, I was worried I was going to end up back in the hospital.  Every time anything happened with Kenny that I wasn't sure was normal, I was suddenly paralyzed with fear that he was going to overheat or starve or stop breathing or be sick.  In hindsight, I think that my feelings were very normal, but that second week post-partum (let's face it, my first week was a hospital stay) was definitely tough.  Thank goodness my Mom was there to help me through it, and that Dan was so great throughout.  Once my doctor reassured me that I was out of the woods for preeclampsia, my anxiety subsided.

So there you have it!  Kenny's birth story, plus my bonus hospital stay.  A month later, I definitely feel recovered from delivery and preeclampsia, and now I'm full-on in newborn land.  It's a whole new level of exhausting, but ultimately everything I've been through has been worth it!

I mean, look at this guy...  :)

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