Thursday, April 10, 2014

Firstborn's Birth Story

Today is Firstborn's birthday!  He was born at the "turn of the century", in the year 2000, so he is now 14 years old.  I haven't posted any of my birth stories so I'd better start with his.  Warning, this post is long and involves lots of newborn pictures and a NICU stay at the end.  It also took me a while to finish because all of these pics are before the digital camera era.  Which means, they all had to be gathered and scanned in!  But totally worth it in the end.  We did not get a digital camera until Christmas 2004, so all baby pictures before that are on actual film.

First pregnancy pic...and we
didn't even know we were expecting!
Doug and I had only been married six months when we found out we were expecting Firstborn.  My cycle had been late and I took a pregnancy test, which came back negative, and then my cycle started the next day.  That month I found myself battling weird "all day" sickness, which I wrote off as a stomach ulcer and was popping antacids like crazy at work.  My boss was out and I was really busy at work that summer, putting in tons of overtime.  I figured the stomach issues and extreme exhaustion were just stress related and things would calm down as soon as my work settled.  Three weeks later the light bulb moment came when Doug and I went to the movies one evening with a friend and he absolutely insisted that we swing by the Krispie Kreme that had just opened down the road.  When we opened the door the smell of the frying food about did me in.  I almost lost it right there and had to go back outside.  I realized there was no way an ulcer would have issues with the smell of food.

I was glad I had a spare pregnancy test from the month before and took it the next morning.  It turned surprisingly fast, I now know why they make those test results so easy to read because I was in such shock that I just kept looking from the test to the box and back again, rereading the results.  I happened to have an appointment set up for that morning with my OB/GYN and when I told him he just said "congratulations"!  I asked if he was going to run his own test and he replied "no, those tests are pretty reliable" (right, well my first one was not), but I guess false positives are pretty rare.  I told Doug that evening while we were on our way to buy his books for his next semester working on his MBA.  We were waiting in the drive-thru at McDonald's, and he casually asked how my doctor appointment had went.  I said, "well, I'm pregnant" and he thought I was joking!  I actually had to show him all the pregnancy pamphlets the doctor had given me before it sunk in for him.  Shocked, but happy.  He then said next time I should probably take him out somewhere a bit fancier than McD's before dropping something like that on him, haha!

Celebrating our 1st anniversary
5 months along with Firstborn
We excitedly told both our families, who were supper thrilled because he would be the first grandchild on both sides.  A week later I found myself in the E.R. when I started hemorrhaging.  We were blessed that the bleeding stopped and during the ultrasound we got to see his heartbeat!  Come to find out, I was not four weeks pregnant, but 9 1/2 weeks along.  My due date got moved from May 12 to April 19th.  That was one of the quickest months of pregnancy I've ever endured!

The rest of Firstborn's pregnancy was pretty textbook.  I remember feeling him move for the first time when we were driving up to visit Doug's brother and soon-to-be-wife, who were taking their engagement pictures that weekend.  We found out he was a boy at his 18 week ultrasound, which the snobby nurse thought we shouldn't be at because we were only "14 weeks along" according to my charts (which of course were inaccurate due to having two cycles while pregnant).  I tried to explain the charts were wrong and she rolled her eyes at me but said since I was there I might as well have the ultrasound.  Then she exclaimed "oh, you really are 18 and 1/2 weeks!"  Like I would lie about something like that?

9 months pregnant with Firstborn
A week before his birth I woke up around 4 a.m. on a Monday morning with contractions that I realized were coming every 20 minutes.  I had been dilated to a 3 at that weeks doctor's appointment and my due date was still over two weeks away.  After stupidly laying awake timing them I decided to get up and get ready for work to see if they went away.  They did, right after I ate breakfast (drat), so I had to go in to work.  The following Monday morning the same thing happened, my due date was 10 days away, and this time I decided to go back to sleep.  I figured the contractions would wake me up if they got serious and if not I didn't want to go to work tired again.  As I got up to get ready for work they got stronger and were still timeable, so I called in to say I *might* be in labor and stayed home.  I sent Doug in to his office, we lived about 45 min. away from the hospital.  Doug worked in the city and his office was not far from the hospital.  The contractions were not that strong and about 20 minutes apart, so I called my mom and sister to come stay with me.  At this point, I was still thinking that the contractions would eventually go away again and I didn't want us both to miss work over nothing.  I puttered around the house, packed my bag and the baby's bag (no, I'm a procrastinator and hadn't done that yet).  My sister Julie showed up first and she went on a walk around the neighborhood with me to see if I could get the contractions to pick up a bit.  This turned out to be a bad idea, halfway around the block I became exhausted and then had to walk uphill to get back home!  I rested a bit and started feeling better.  My mom and her friend Connie showed up and decided to work on the nursery decorating while Julie and I timed contractions.  They were starting to get distracting now, I had to walk and breathe through them, but still not too painful.  They mostly just felt like strong menstrual cramps.  My labor crew needed lunch and wanted to order Steak-Out and I didn't feel like eating at all.  After lunch they resumed trying to finish the nursery and I found that my attitude had started to change and their small talk was becoming annoying.  When Mom asked me a question and I snapped at her that I didn't care about the nursery they realized it was time to leave for the hospital.  Connie wished me luck while Julie and Mom loaded me into Julie's new mustang which she threatened me with bodily harm if my water broke in her car!  I sat on trashbags and towels, just in case.

After epidural!
We called Doug en route and he met us at the hospital.  I was still a bit disillusioned and thinking they would send me home because the contractions were not all that painful.  They were intense, and I had to concentrate through them, but not like what I was expecting.  When they checked me I was shocked to discover I was already 6 cent. dilated!  Doug asked the nurse what that meant, and she said, "well that means she's having the baby".  He asked if there was a chance we would be sent home and she just laughed and said "no way, not without the baby".

I remember I walked up to Labor and Delivery instead of riding in the wheelchair, pulling the stupid I.V. bag with me (should have lied about how much water I had drank that day).  Another doctor checked me and pronounced me at 7 cent.  He then asked if he could break my water...what?!  The nurses had called my doctor and apparently he had a "dinner engagement" (his words, not mine) that evening and if I wanted him to do the delivery I would need to have my water broken.  This was to be the worse decision we made, in the future I would never again consent to having my water broken because of it.  I trusted my doctor so I told them to go ahead and holy cow!!  Contractions got a whole h*ll of a lot more painful when the water barrier was taken away.  (Knowing my body as I do now, I imagine it sent me straight into transition too).  All of a sudden the contractions were overwhelming and I couldn't walk around at all because I was now gushing fluid and tied to the bed by the I.V. line.  It wasn't long (maybe three back to back to back contractions) before I was begging for pain relief.  The anesthesiologist arrived and had me lie on my left side, Doug was in front of me holding my hand while I was trying to hold onto my sanity and I remember I was panting and whispering to him (or God, maybe) to help me.  He responded "I am helping you" (not wise) because I then lost it and started yelling at him "YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME...IT STILL HURTS AND YOU ARE NOT HELPING ME"!!  I must have looked possessed because all the color drained from his face and he looked over my shoulder at the nurse who yelled at him to "tell her to breathe"!   So he got right in my face and yelled BREATHE!!  It must have worked because I remember giving him a really dirty look but started doing the he he he breathing thru my teeth.  The anesthesiologist told me it would probably take about 10 contractions for the epidural to kick in (TEN...on all that is holy, I couldn't imagine surviving three more, let alone ten)!!  {This is no longer the case, now the epidurals kick in almost immediately, they must have changed the formula}  Finally, blessedly, it started to work, but I was not totally pain free.  The anesthesiologist decided the pain was from my full bladder (stupid I.V. fluids) but the nurse was nowhere to be found.  Since the anesthesiologist couldn't leave until I was comfortable she decided to give me another dose of the epidural, right as my nurse walked in.  Again, not good, because now I was totally numb from the waist down.  When my doctor arrived and came to check me 10 minutes later I was fully dilated and could feel nothing to push so he decided to let me lay there and he'd be back in an hour to check me.

An hour later (still at a 10) I had enough feeling back to push and Firstborn was born 20 minutes later, at 7:20 in the evening, weighing in at 8 lbs., 1 oz.  He inhaled a bit of fluid so the pediatric doctors worked on him off to the side while the doctor stitched up a minor tear on me.  When I finally got to hold him he seemed really tired and his head and face were pretty swollen from being in the birth canal for so long.  I couldn't get him to nurse, he kept falling asleep on me.  Doug went with Firstborn to the nursery for all the stuff they needed to do while I was rolled up to my new room and given a sponge bath because I still could not feel my legs!

They brought me something to eat, and now I really was famished and inhaled my food.  It was getting late, so my parents and sister congratulated me again and headed home.  Nurses were coming in and out checking on me (legs were still numb, but the epidural was finally starting to wear off).  I started asking them for my baby.  When were they bringing the baby back from the nursery?  Doug was back, the details are a bit fuzzy, but I believe my sister or Dad went to relieve him at the nursery so he could come back and eat and they never brought Firstborn out of the nursery, so they eventually came back to the room.  Every nurse that came through said she would check and the baby should be back any minute and then she would never return to the room.  It had now been a couple hours, and Doug was about to go back to the nursery when the pediatric cardiologist walked in.  He told us that Firstborn was in the N.I.C.U., that he had been born with a heart condition, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which basically means his heart was misfiring and that it was beating twice as fast as it should.  We were also told the normal protocol the hospital does to correct SVT did not work on Firstborn.  We were then told that they injected him with a drug to stop his heart and then injected him with another one to restart it to fix the issue.  (If you're, they didn't inform us before this was done...we were too young and shell shocked to inquire about this at the time).  Considering you have to sign all kinds of forms for your child to be circumcised, you would have thought that stopping his heart would have required consent on our part.  To this day, I think something slipped through the cracks at the hospital on that one and that is why it took so long for someone to come in and tell us what was going on.  We now had a newborn in the N.I.C.U. and the next few days at the hospital and weeks at home were quite a blur.  I didn't have time to dwell on what had happened, I only had time to deal with whatever was right in front of me.
Firstborn in the N.I.C.U.
Doug wheeled me into the N.I.C.U. to see our son (still couldn't walk, going on four hours later, thank you extra epidural dose).  He looked so helpless with all the wires and tubes.  The doctors needed to monitor him for awhile to make sure his heart was o.k.  He spent three days in the N.I.C.U. and I spent the time walking the long hallways between my room and him to take him pumped colostrum/milk and hold his hand.  I would try to nurse him, which was always an adventure because we would have to get all the wires positioned so I could hold him and then he would occasionally knock his heart monitor off.  Which would then set off a loud alarm that the nurse would come over and adjust and reset until he knocked it off again.  There were lots of alarms going off all the time in the N.I.C.U., I wondered how the nurses could tell which ones were important and which ones were not.  I guess they get used to it.  The nurses would tell me that he would always quite down when I was near and he heard my voice.  I couldn't really tell a difference but they swore they could.

The day he was to be discharged the N.I.C.U. nurses gave me lessons on how to listen to his heartbeat to make sure it was falling in a certain range.  Firstborn was sent home on Digoxin, which is a heart medicine.  If I overdosed him, it would stop his heart (no pressure on the new mom).  The meds would help prevent the SVT from returning, but it was important that his heartbeat was in a normal range before I gave it to him.  Doug and I decided that I would be the only one to administer it, since they had trained me and that way we wouldn't accidentally give him two doses.  Every morning I would check his heartbeat with a stethoscope (still have it, the kids were playing with it the other day) and then give him the meds.  He was weaned off by 6 months old.  Although the doctors told us his tachycardia could someday return, we have been blessed.  Firstborn has not had another episode since the day he was born.

Home at last!
Leaving the hospital with him was so surreal.  Here I was, 26 years old, doped up on painkillers, with a three day old baby, heart medicine, some ready made formula from the N.I.C.U. (my milk still hadn't come in) and a stethoscope.  We were such newbies we had to have the hospital transport girl help us adjust his carseat!  I felt like we better sprint out of the hospital before someone realized we had no idea what we were doing.

Although the ending was a bit dramatic I still look back on his labor and consider it one of my more "textbook" labors.  For a first timer, the labor and delivery were not that long.  It really only got painful after they broke my water and I was already at a 7 by then.  I would have a doula and an epidural free delivery for my second labor.  Firstborn's labor taught me a lot about what kind of delivery I wanted, what kind of things were hospital policy and what kind of things you have choices about.  Our first baby was also our most difficult, he had terrible colic and cried all night for weeks on end.  I went back to work six weeks later and felt a bit guilty because I was actually happy to be at work and away from the crying baby for a few hours.  He was one of those high maintenance, need to be nursed and held all the time types...our first babysitter actually quit because of it!

I'm happy to report Firstborn (and his parents) survived his colic and today (his birthday) he is now a normal 14 year old young man.  We are blessed indeed that God decided to give Doug and I the extreme honor of being his parents.  If I had his delivery to do over again, knowing what I know now, I would definitely choose to leave my water intact.  Everything turned out all right in the end, and for that I am grateful.  Here are some more pictures from the hospital and our first week home...
My Mom & Dad with Firstborn

My Mom in the N.I.C.U.

My grandmother

One of our first family shots!

Connie & daughter Mel
visiting the N.I.C.U.

My sister Julie

Me and newborn Firstborn

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