Saturday, December 22, 2012

One month

To my dearest Katherine,

In the hours before your birth, my darling girl, I worried about your early arrival.  But as soon as you were here, squalling, small and mighty, your APGAR score (9 initially, 10 out of 10 at 10 minutes) showed you in rude good health and you've given us no reason to worry since then.  You only lost 30g and gained back all that and more in the first 5 days. 

They took you to the Special Care unit solely because, at 4 lbs 2 oz., you were under 2 kilograms, and after monitoring your blood sugar for 24 hours, you were sent up to room in with Mummy.  We spent 8 days cocooned in a lovely warm bubble being looked after by the brilliant staff on the JR Radcliffe Maternity Ward 5 in Oxford.  The SCBU nurse told me when you were only 12 hours old that you are a laid back baby, and she's been proven right.  You hardly fuss or cry at all.  You've been an absolute doll, and don't think I don't appreciate it.

Why were we in the hospital so long?  Because, dearest, you needed to kick a bout of jaundice.  You spent the first two nights serenely sleeping under the bili-light in your cot.  After a night off, because we thought you might have licked it, a nurse came in at 2 am with the bad news you had to go back under.  When the light was set up again, the nurse said to me "well, at least she doesn't seem bothered about it" and left the room.  Ten minutes later, I pushed the call button because you were screaming and I was in tears, as it was unbearable to see you so distressed.  So they set the light up over my bed and you were perfectly happy as we slept under the lamp together.

Eventually, it was time for us to enter the big bad world.  You looked so teeny, swallowed up in your snowsuit in the car seat.  I was feeling quite emotional and delicate at this time, and I blinked back tears as we walked out of the hospital into brilliant sunshine on a crisp, cold day and your Daddy said, "Welcome to the world, little one!"

The first night home was a tough one for me, as I came to grips with pumping my milk and feeding you every three hours without the luxury of an endless supply of sterilized bottles.  But soon I settled into the routine with the help of your Daddy, who has taken fabulous care of me so that I can take care of you.

Because you were so tiny when you were born, you feel like a real live babydoll to me so "Babydoll" has naturally evolved as my nickname for you.  However, Daddy has adopted the equally apt "Squeaker."  You make squeaky little cooing sounds when you sleep, and when you've got wind, you make this odd little noise that sounds like a pigeon crossed with a turkey gobble.  Daddy said you could be the Squeaky the 12th dwarf... at which point I had to remind him that there are actually only seven dwarves.  He's got a lot to learn, your daddy. :-) But while watching him calm you during an intense set of hiccups during one your first days home, I told him "I don't think I have ever loved you more."

A wise friend told me that whatever you and I are experiencing right now in these first months, in 10 days it will be different.  Three weeks ago, I was struggling to get you to take 25 mils in a half-hour feeding.  This week I've seen you sink 60 mils in 10 minutes if you're really hungry.  This month has flown by and we can tell you're already so much bigger and stronger. Today you weighed in at a whopping 5 lbs 10 oz, piling on 1 1/2 lbs since you were born, you little star. You've outgrown a couple of your smallest clothes, and I'm already feeling sentimental about how quickly you are growing.

Another wise friend who endured the "pump-and-feed" routine with her twin daughters told me that the grueling schedule made her feel like she never got to hold her babies.  The truth of this statement was a real eye opener for me, and after that I made sure to fit in as much cuddle time with you as I can manage.  The sensation of your warm, soft weight melting into my arms whilst I breathe in deeply your divine newborn smell is one of the most sublime feelings in the world.

In the final entry of my pregnancy journal, I mused on the easy pregnancy and wondered when it might get hard and whether I can be really be this lucky.  I've bounced right back from the pregnancy and an easy delivery and, my darling, you are an absolute joy to care for.  So the answer is yes, yes I am this lucky.  I am so lucky I get to be your Mummy.

I love you with all my heart, my sweet baby girl,


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Katherine's Birth Story

In the Special Care Unit - 12 hours old
When last I wrote in my pregnancy journal, I was 34 weeks pregnant and feeling brilliant, looking forward to delivering the baby sometime, fingers crossed, just before Christmas.  So it was a bit of a shock to find myself in labor over a month early.

On Tuesday night (Nov 20, 35 weeks +1), D and I played our customary evening round of Wii Golf and I retired to bed.  Nothing unusual at all.

Except at about 12:30 am Wednesday, I woke suddenly to the feeling that I was wetting myself and jumped quickly out of bed to avoid a mess.  Bladder incontinence, though not something I had experienced myself, is not unheard of in late pregnancy.  I went to the bathroom and then realized that I was soaked to my knees.  Not having been able to pee more than a thimble-full in several months, I became concerned that my water had broken.  Sitting on the toilet, the fluid just kept coming and coming... and I started to panic.

I just sort of sat there moaning "oh, no, oh, no" and after a few moments, managed to weakly call D's name.  I heard him say from the other room "Are you okay, babe?"  He hadn't heard me call him, but just sensed something was wrong.

"I don't think so," I moaned.  "I woke up and I'm not sure if I wet myself or my waters have broke."

Thinking quickly, he jumped on Google and said, "Apparently if it smells like pee, it's pee, but if it smells of bleach its probably amniotic fluid."

I picked up my soaking PJ bottoms and sniffed deeply. "I can't smell anything."  Bless him, D did the same - with the same conclusion.

"It's still coming - this can't be pee."  I was shaking and cold now, and nearly in tears.  It was time to call the hospital.

The midwife I spoke to assured me it wasn't an emergency and that my baby should be fine.  I was told to gather my things and get to the hospital in my own good time.  D was a total star.  He had expressly told me (on the advice of our prenatal class) to pack a hospital bag the previous weekend... advice I had foolishly ignored... but he gamely gathered up all I needed whilst I directed the process from the porcelain throne.  And he managed say "I told you so" only once, which I took with the appropriate good humor, since he was totally right.

Eventually it was time to drive to the hospital... but I was still leaking profusely.  I stuffed a maternity pad and one of my baby's diapers into my knickers, sat a towel under my bum on the car seat and we headed off around 1:30 am.  Despite the precautions, when I arrived at the hospital, my clean PJ bottoms were soaking and I was walking like an 80-yr-old invalid just to avoid leaking a trail of fluid behind me.

I was examined by the triage midwife, who found me not dilated at all, which was unsurprising as I'd had no painful contractions.  Since the scan that was to determine whether I needed a c-section hadn't scheduled for another 6 days, they wanted to wait until the ultrasound tech came on duty at 10 am to decide whether I would be induced for a normal delivery or go straight to a c-section.  During my wait, I asked what to expect when delivering a baby at 35 weeks.  They said its lungs should be fine, but that it might need initially a breathing tube or a feeding tube because it was quite small, and might spend a couple of weeks in the special care unit.  Since there was nothing to do but wait, I sent D home to get some sleep and tried to do the same myself... still leaking like a, well, leaky thing.

At 10 am, I was scanned and they estimated the baby's size at 3 lbs 13 oz.  I was also cleared for a trial of delivery, as the baby's tiny head had managed to slip below the problematic fibroid.  They were going to induce labor.

Since I had been waiting for the results of the following week's scan regarding a c-section, I hadn't prepared myself for birth at all.  My birth plan had been: make a birth plan next week.  Oops, there was no help for it now.  At one point, I was asked if I wanted an epidural.  I told them I didn't not want an epidural, but that I'd see how things went.  I had no idea what my tolerance for pain might be, but I consider myself a bit of a wimp.

At 11 am, I called D and said he might want to consider coming back to the hospital as I was about to be induced.  Then I called him back and told him not to rush because I figured this would take a while.  I have a sister-in-law that was induced on a Thursday and had her baby on Sunday.  So I was prepared to settle in for a good long wait.

At noon, they started the IVs and noted that I was already dilated to 3 cm... so despite not feeling anything going on, apparently early labor had indeed started after my water broke.  Left alone in a darkened delivery suite, I watched a film on my laptop and dozed off and on.  I was checked on periodically, but always claimed that contractions which I could feel weren't yet painful.

Around 2:30 pm the contractions began strengthening.  While they weren't particularly comfortable, I don't remember them being very painful.  I asked the midwife when I should consider options for pain relief in case labor got all hurt-y.  She offered me gas-and-air (laughing gas and oxygen) which I began inhaling during the contractions, but never really went for it because I was worried that it might make me nauseous.  For the next 90 minutes or so, I simply needed three deep breaths to get through the contractions and I was relaxing in between.  The midwife had me laying on my side because it was difficult to monitor the fetal heart rate in other positions, but around 3 pm I asked if I could sit up on my knees in bed.  I just felt that needed to be done to move things along.  D arrived around that time and I warned him that I still thought it could be a while.

At 4 pm, I was checked and dilated to only 4 cm, confirming my theory that we were in for a long wait.  What I didn't know was they were about to jack up the induction drug.

At 4:30, I started to feel like I needed to poop.  Like really bad.  And I was concerned because I was hooked up to all these monitors and IV lines and how was I going to get to the bathroom.  The midwife went into overdrive preparing the room for delivery, and I was all "it can't be time yet, I was only 4 cm a little while ago!"

It all gets a little fuzzy for me here.  D told me that at some point the midwife hit the emergency button and an obstetrician and another midwife showed up.  At 4:45 I was told to lay on my back and start to push.  The transition from a comfortable first stage of labor to active pushing came very quickly and I was no more prepared for that than I had been for any of this.  Used to weight-lifting, where you must breathe out through the muscle contraction, I tried the same approach which was totally wrong.  The second midwife who was on my shoulder said, "Krysta, I need you to hold your breath and push like you are going to take the biggest poop of your life."

So I did.  I pushed so hard I saw stars.  And when I started to breathe again I was hyperventilating because I felt so deprived of oxygen I thought I was going to pass out or puke or both.  The next contraction came and I did it again.  It was all very sting-y and painful, and after about three of those I was seriously regretting that I hadn't had a chance to ask for an epidural.

I started to panic and moan about how I can't do this.  I really wanted someone to make it stop.  But the 2nd midwife told me what a great job I was doing and that I can do this.  So I did it again for another contraction.  Then the doctor told me they really needed to get the baby out and he wanted my consent for an episiotomy and forceps delivery, and I said "NONONONONONONO!"

The doctor explained that it wouldn't hurt the baby, and I was thinking "I know it won't hurt the baby, but fuck that, it's going to hurt me!"

So he got my consent for at least the episiotomy and told me I had to push with everything I had.  I didn't realize that he had pulled D aside and explained that it was really important to get the baby delivered pronto as its heart rate was dropping alamingly.  Two or three more contractions, giving it my all, and then they told me the head was delivered.  Another contraction and a gentler push and my baby was born.  I'd pushed for a total 15 minutes.

The baby started to cry.

It was the sweetest sound I've ever heard.

I asked "what did we have?" and they set her on my chest and said "take a look." I've never seen newborn bits before and hers were all swollen and confusing, so I said "I still can't tell" and D later told me he wasn't prepared to venture a guess and look foolish, so they said "you've had a baby girl!"

I looked up at D and said, "Look what we made!" and the look on his face, of pride and amazement, is one I'll treasure forever.

* * *

In my next post, I'll tell you how we're all doing now.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Baby Katherine made a surprise early appearance, born on November 21, a squalling 4lbs, 2oz.  She's small but mighty and so tiny that she charms every one she meets.