Birth story – better late than never!

There have been so many changes in life. A new baby, a new home (tbd) in a new country and I’m in the beginning stages of starting a new business. It’s on!

But let’s start with the baby, because that’s where we left off.

Oh pregnancy. Never have I been so equally happy and miserable. I was constantly queasy and exhausted for 14 weeks. Then I just felt rough and in pain. Except for a brief period.

Taken 36 hours before my daughters birth.

It was during this brief period of energy that I went to the UK for a “baby moon” for 3 weeks with my son. On the final week my belly doubled, I was exhausted and my son became a homesick demon! It was not the best time. I returned back to the USA and spent the rest of my pregnancy feeling like I was trying not to give birth. I stopped work on summer solstice. It was indeed the longest day.

This is where it gets crazy. I wanted to take my son to his dibling reunion – in spite of being almost 36 weeks pregnant. I checked with the doctors and all said I should be fine and gave me permission to go. My worst symptom at that point was hemorrhoids (ouch those hurt!)

14 hours on a train later I arrived in Virginia. 3 hours into the train ride I began spotting. Midwife said not to worry too much but keep an eye on it. 3 days later I began having contractions during a thunderstorm. (What a cliche!) and shortly after went to hospital where I was told to get home ASAP.

My knight in shining armor drove 600 miles to my rescue. He had enough time to go for a swim and load up the car then he turned around and drove us home. We drove for 2 days and arrived back on 4th July. Time enough to eat a big meal and pass out. I was so glad to be home.

11 hours later (after my 6th pee of the night, maybe less, maybe more.) I felt the sensation of peeing again. This time different from the others.

You’ve never seen a pregnant woman move quicker! I got out of bed just in time for my waters to rupture all over the floor. I sat on the toilet for a full 40 minutes while it drained out of me. I would never have believed that it could take that long if it hadn’t happened to me.

Wearing a male adult diaper I packed my hospital bag and 2 hours later arrived at the ER which was locked (because that’s what always seems to happen in these stories.)

Once I got in, it became clear that something was off. I was only 36+1 pregnant but there was meconium in the water along with old blood. Nobody understood why.

I was told I was still a good candidate for a VBAC if I wanted to try. Unfortunately my contractions were far apart, I was only a fingertip dilated and they wanted to give me pitocin.

It was then that my inner voice started screaming at me to get the baby out. No matter how much I’d wanted to experience a vaginal birth I felt that something was wrong. I felt inexplicable fear. I asked for a c section, put away my disappointment and focused on the end goal – a healthy baby and Mama.

30 mins later my daughter entered the world. The c section was rough. Much tougher than the first. To the point of being traumatizing for both my mother and I. I had to get treated for pain in my shoulders weeks later from the violence of it.

Sweet baby E, fresh out of the oven and not too pleased about it!

I noticed, when they handed me my daughter that she smelled weird. The surgeon said that this was because I had an infection in my uterus. She said this was why my water had ruptured. I later discovered that this could have been very dangerous for the baby and my gut instinct to get her out had probably saved her from becoming very very sick. Even the midwives congratulated me on the decision I’d made!

In spite of my fears, thankfully baby seemed pretty much ok. She did have low glucose though and that was touch and go for a while. They had to give her a couple of packets of the sugary gel to get that up to par. NICU was threatened a lot. It didn’t happen. She was dosed with a LOT of antibiotics which was 100% necessary to insure her safety from the infection. I too was given them to help kill it.

Lastly she spent 24 hours under the blue light. Jaundice. It was the least of the bad things that could have happened so I accepted it and took the time she was in there to rest.

Under the blue light. I think she liked it in there.

Her levels dropped so rapidly that they were amazed.

I never realized how many hurdles a slightly premature baby would have to jump through. How much more attention they get. How many more fears are instilled in us.

Next time I’ll talk about nursing and my experience second time around. About advocating for yourself and trusting your gut!

For now I just want to end by saying how grateful I am that I got to take home my tiny baby who was 5lb 6oz when she left the hospital. She was small but mighty and by some miracle – healthy!

My perfect little family has been completed.

The beautiful chaos of my new life. I wouldn’t change a thing

A Breastfeeding Story.

Firstly let me start by saying that I believe that ‘Fed is Best’.  I feel that there is an inordinate amount of pressure on women to breastfeed.  I also believe that women are set up to fail.  We are scared that it’s not going to work before we have even given birth.  We are filled with stories of engorgement, thrush, tongue/lip ties etc.  A great disservice is being done.  Women need to be lifted up and supported (no pun intended!) We need to step back and tell ourselves that if we want to do it, then we can and if it doesn’t work out then we need to create a culture where we allow one another to walk away without guilt.

End of PSA.

Here is my story:

The best piece of advice I received while doing my hospital tour was this:

“Do whatever you can to avoid having visitors in the hospital.  Put off family and friends until you get home.  Focus on learning how to feed your baby and getting to know your baby without the constant interruption of people coming in and out of your room.  If you must have visitors set a 15 minute limit on them before they arrive.”

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My Ride or Die

I remember thinking to myself how this nurse should perhaps mind her own business a little.  I thought she was too harsh and jaded or maybe just sick of people coming in and out of a ward that has 24 hour visiting allowed?

Some part of what she said must have had an effect on me however.  I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone that the baby had arrived until 24 hours after his birth so that I could evaluate how I was feeling.   I also figured that as a single woman whose mother was going to be at the birth, it would be easy to not have visitors.

Fast forward to the day my son was born. I was in a euphoric blur after his first feed, my boobs were clearly going to be out all day and I was so grateful that nobody knew that my son had arrived.

Breastfeeding as a first time mother is no joke.  I say this as a person who had an incredibly easy, painless breastfeeding journey.  Even so, for the first 48 hours I was constantly wondering “how is a person supposed to achieve all this with just one set of hands?”

For the first 48 hours I had to enlist the help of a lactation consultant every.single.time my son wanted to feed.  C Section had rendered me incapable of shifting myself into position, rearranging my pillows and holding a baby at the same time.  Then working out how to hold his head and my boob simultaneously was it’s own special conundrum.  Don’t even talk to me about hand expressing!  I would try for a minute then just hit the buzzer and some wonder woman would come in and position him, squeeze my boob a little and away he would go.

Lactation consultants are amazing but they all have slightly different ways of doing things.  They have their ‘holds’ that they think are the easiest and I found that they were constantly putting my son in positions that felt unnatural to me.  I didn’t want to hold my baby like a football!! I wanted to cradle him and I made that clear.  Luckily I had a little confidence thanks to a book that a friend had given me – making me promise I would read it before giving birth.  I’m going to do the same for you…

161020 Tania & Xenon Panasewicz

2 months old – his 2nd photoshoot.

If you are thinking of breastfeeding, I cannot recommend the book “Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy – A Photographic Guide for Mom and Those who Help Her” by Laura Keegan enough.  It’s mainly pictures with just a little text.  It gave me the confidence I needed to cancel out the worries I had about failing!  Just remember – Open Wide and Nipple to Nose.  The other great advice I was given was to use Earth Mama Organics nipple butter. I used it religiously and never had a chapped nipple… perhaps coincidence but maybe not.

2 days after his birth my sons little mouth started rooting.  I got him in position like I had every time before and this time, instead of having to hit the button for help, he latched on like a champ all by himself!!!  Oh my goodness, the elation I felt!

We were going to be able to master this.  We felt like an unstoppable team and I never looked back.

I was so grateful that I had followed the advice of that nurse and kept my room free from people.  The only exceptions had been a fifteen minute visit from my Grandfather (right after a feed!) and another short visit from a friend whose baby I had been the first person after her husband to hold. I also didn’t mind this friend seeing my giant exposed breasts!  It was just my Mother for much of the time, my newborn and me.

By the time I took my son home 2 days later we were like old pros at the nursing game.  I no longer needed my breasts to be constantly on display.  It still took a few attempts to latch him on but it no longer worried me, I knew we would get there.

20 months later and he is still going strong.  A milk fiend.  If you had told me that I would be nursing a toddler, I’d have laughed at you.  I used to say that if my child could pull at my top and ask for milk then that meant it was time to stop.  Well, my son can do both of those things now and I have no intentions of stopping until he is ready (Or I am done.)  I think I’m addicted to the endorphins (so long as they aren’t happening at 3am).  This child may well be my only child so it will be a bittersweet day that he no longer needs the comfort that he gets at my breast.  I’ll be grateful that he is grown and becoming more independent but I will dearly cherish the memories of the baby he was.

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C Section – a birth story.

I am sorry to say that I was one of those people who thought that a C Section birth was not a ‘real’ birth or a ‘natural’ birth.  I remember rolling my eyes at women who were ‘too posh to push’.

Not to say that I didn’t have respect for the existence of C Section as a practice.  Of course I realized that it was a necessary and life saving procedure.  I just didn’t feel like it should be the ‘go to’ for so many people.

There are so many things that I have sat in judgement of merely because I hadn’t experienced them and therefore didn’t truly understand.  Infertility is an equalizer and an educator.  It really does make you think about things in ways that you didn’t realize you were capable of thinking.  It has also made me a better, less judgmental person in all aspects of life.

As I have mentioned before, I was diagnosed with having a Unicornuate Uterus and therefore I spent a lot of my pregnancy concerned that I was going to run out of space and go into labor prematurely.  I joined a wonderful Facebook group and soon saw that the success rate of carrying to term was very good.  It made me feel a lot better but didn’t change the fact that once my LO reached a certain size the chance of his being able to go head down went to virtually zero.

Sure enough my son lounged in my uterus with his feet in his face and his bottom on my bladder for almost all of my pregnancy.  A very stubborn  breach baby!

Scheduled C Section it was.  And I did feel cheated out of the birth experience I had dreamed of.  I wanted the water birth, the doula and the self hypnosis, not the blue cloth, surgeons knife and spinal block.  Knowing that birth doesn’t often go according to plan, I resigned myself to my fate, learned a lesson about my prior judgey self and set about making an alternate birth plan.

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Day before C section with my first baby.

There is nothing more surreal than going to bed knowing that the next day you will be a Mother.  After all the pain, the procedures, the heartbreak and the longing, I was going to be a Mum!!  Of course I barely got a wink of sleep.

 

I remember the car journey to the hospital at 5.30am vividly.  It was a hot summer day and the sun was rising.  I was terrified of the surgery but so joyful that I would meet my son in a few short hours.

Prep for a C Section is intense.  Showers with disinfecting soap, IV line (which they couldn’t get in due to my tiny veins – ouch!), ultrasound to check baby was still breach then off to the OR where they did the Spinal.  Nobody is allowed in the room with you until after the spinal so that was scary for me.  The anesthesiologist was amazing and talked me through everything.  My surgeon (whom I had hand selected based on his reputation for being a perfectionist) was also wonderful and talked me through what was about to happen.  He even sang me a song!

Once the spinal was done my Mother was brought in.  The sensation of losing your legs is horrible.  I’m not gonna lie… I found the whole thing terrifying.  The tugging and pulling, each second felt like 5 minutes.  I had no idea how much sensation there would be.  There was no pain but I felt like a corpse.  My Mother talked me down and my anesthesiologist talked me through it.  Finally after what felt like 3 hours my son emerged and his high pitched screams filled the room!  He had what is known as a ‘gentle c section’ which means that he had pushed himself out of the incision rather than being tugged.  The cord clamping was slightly delayed too and my placenta was saved for me and encapsulated later that day.

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My Newborn Son, a few minutes old. Cutest Squish!

Unfortunately both of our temperatures had dropped significantly during the birth and he had to be placed under the heat lamp for a few minutes whilst we were both warmed up.  They held him up for a moment so I could see him under the heat lamp but I didn’t see his face again for an hour.  Once they put him on me, under blankets, I wasn’t allowed to look at him as we had to be kept warm.  I didn’t mind.  My son was on my chest and I could feel his little movements from the outside.  He was so familiar to me.  I was filled with endorphins and overwhelming, completing love.

It took a while to stitch me up, I went through the shakes (before my son was brought to me) but it was finally over and I left the OR one blissfully happy Mother!