Monday, May 11, 2009

1 Year Ago

Mother's Day 2008 was on Sunday, May 11th, and that was the day that S and I got our first ever BFP! IVF had worked, and a had a little "Blueberry" starting to grow inside of me.

I remember those early days: the OHSS fiasco, checking "The Visible Embryo" website every day, and the desperate hope and raw fear associated with each ultrasound at the RE's office.

Annalise is only 3.5 months old, and it's hard to believe that she already existed a full year ago. Our little Sesame Seed / Blueberry / Thumperina / Kicksie is now a growing girl called Sweetsie, Hunzey, Little One, Baby Love and a dozen other names each day. She smiles and reaches out for interesting things and immediately brings them to her mouth for a taste test. She likes to be carried facing forward a lot of the time, and she is a skilled connoisseur of breast milk from both the bottle and its natural source. She is becoming less shy when confronted by our reflections in the floor to ceiling mirrors on our bedroom closets. She also loves to "talk" -- whether with high pitched squeals or throaty croaks or something in between. And when she gets excited, her arms and legs pump in a vigorous frenzy.

This video was about 3 weeks ago:

video

What can I say? I'm head over heels in love!

Friday, May 1, 2009

3 Months!

I returned to work and I've already completed 3 weeks back on the job. The transition actually went smoother than I had feared, but it wasn't completely seamless. Annalise previously shunned bottles; during these 3 weeks she has started accepting them. However, she only took 4 oz per day during the first 1.5 weeks. This week she has ranged from 4 oz to 8 oz per day. These are usually 8 hour days, so 4 oz is probably way too little. I think she actually lost some weight during the first week or so, so I'm hoping that she'll start gaining again soon. She was 11 lbs 7 oz and at her 2 month week appointment, and my stupid digital scale is still measuring her in the 12 lb range a full month later. Granted, the "weigh mommy-and-baby, then weigh mommy and substract method" is probably not very accurate, so who knows... My friend has a digital scale so I may see where she is this weekend.

Pumping is going well. I can easily get 12-14 oz during the day and since she is only drinking 4-8 oz... well, my freezer is running out of space! I have actually looked online about breastmilk donation but I fear that she'll suddenly decide she wants more and then I won't have a stash to fall back on.

She has been rolling over tummy to back since 11 weeks old, but she doesn't do it at all consistently. She has rolled over about 8 times total, but I think it is accidental when it happens.

I love the vocalizations at this age. The other night we were treated to a whole bunch of cooing in our dark room at about 5AM. She is still in the bedside PnP, but I think we're going to transition to the crib next week. Oh, and she now wakes 2x/night instead of 1x/night. I'm attributing it to being hungry due to not eating enough during daytime hours. It doesn't really bother me too much...(probably I feel guilty about work or something). Anyway, I kinda like picking her squirmy 90% sleepy self up at 3AM and holding her close for a feed, and then rocking and lulling her back to sleep...

I also must say that S is a great dad! When he is in charge of her, his attention is almost always 100% focused on her and interacting with her. (I can't say the same for myself... On the other hand, I do have her a lot more hours overall, so it probably evens out).

We feel so lucky to have her, and we both love her so very much!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

2 Months and Counting

My days at home with Annalise are now so limited in number... I have less than two weeks left at home. A few months back, the idea of 11 weeks of maternity leave sounded like heaven... There were so many things that I imagined that I would do: shopping, writing, reading stuff for work, spending time with my mom/dad/sister, gardening, meeting up with friends to go on walks, baby & me fitness class, etc etc etc. Well, I've done most of these things (except the "reading stuff for work" and baby & me fitness class parts), but none of them nearly as much as I had imagined. And now my time at home is almost over and I am mourning it. It's not that I dislike my job, but I guess I just like having free time so much more. Also, I do not feel that I am the perfect mom by any means, but I feel like I am currently the best person to meet Annalise's needs.

We ended up meeting up with a home daycare provider, Cindy, and we really liked her, so Annalise will be going to her home. She is also caring for 2 other children; I believe that they will be 7 months and ~14 months when we start. I have no idea how she can do it, but I pray that she can.

I still have very serious concerns about Annalise's willingness to feed from a bottle. Please, anyone out there who is breastfeeding and who may return to work: START your baby on a bottle at some point in the first 2-3 weeks! I read that 3 weeks was the optimum time, and that earlier than that might cause "nipple confusion" and make them reject breastfeeding. Yes, perhaps, but we tried our first bottle at 4 weeks and she was already somewhat reluctant to take it. She was fussy afterwards, and I worried that she had gas, so I spent a few days looking for a fancier bottle (a Dr. Brown's) and didn't really give her a second bottle until 5 weeks. I think she refused it a time or two but eventually took it. Then someone told me about Playtex VentAire, and I tried that, but again, she was not thrilled.

Meanwhile, we were just not good about giving it to her every day. Starting at about 6-7 weeks I got really serious about it, but she is getting more and more stubborn against it. I have now also bought two other bottle systems which are supposed to be designed for picky breastfeeding babies such as my own: the Nuby Natural Nurser and the Adiri. Well, she is not thrilled with these, either. I have also tried moving her to a Stage 2 Dr. Brown's nipple, but that also has not made a difference. We have tried all kinds of combinations: different people giving the bottle (me, S, S's mom, my mom), positions that mimic breastfeeding, positions that are nothing like her breastfeeding position, room temperature breast milk, slightly heated breastmilk, heated nipple, and starting the feeding when she is really hungry, sort of hungry, or not hungry at all. She generally either plays with the nipple in her mouth but never latches (when she is in a good mood), or gets really upset and tries to almost push it away (when she is hungry).

Anyway, I am genuinely afraid that Cindy will not be able to calm her and that she will get really super hungry and fussy and tearful when I am away at work. My first day back is a Monday, and Mondays, unfortunately, are my worst day in that I am busy seeing patients all day long. I won't be able to leave work if things aren't going well. On other days, I could theoretically do so if necessary. One idea is to start her in daycare next week (before I go back) to see how it goes, and I will probably do this for part of the day on a couple of days, but I am still insanely worried about it. My anxiety was heightened by the fact that my mom came over today and was generally unable to calm her down when she was crying, but when I would hold her, she would pretty much calm down within a minute or so. I hope that Cindy has a "magic touch" with little babies.

Let's see, in other news, she had her two month appointment last Friday. She was 22.5" and 11 lbs, 7 oz. She is growing so quickly! I have put her newborn clothes aside and now she is in 0-3 and 3 month stuff all of the time. She has great eye contact now, and makes adorable cooing sounds and loves to smile. She doesn't really reach for things as far as I can tell, but she does seem to be getting a little bit more purposeful with her hands (bringing them to her mouth to suck on her fist, for example). I have not been good about enforcing tummy time since she seemed to hate it so much, but the doctor suggested that it was OK to put a rolled up towel under her chest to make it a bit more pleasant. That does seem to help, so I guess we'll be doing it more. She can certainly hold her head up well from my chest, but from the floor she can really only raise it a few inches at this point. I know she'll get getter with practice, though.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Childcare Worries

I am now actively searching for childcare. Let me preface this by saying that from the beginning, I have been in favor of daycare, and S has favored a nanny-type arrangement. Of course, we wish my mom could provide care, but she is only 55 and not yet able to retire from her job. S and I are both willing to consider the other's viewpoint, and so we are looking at both options.

I like daycare for the following reasons:
-- there are lots of adults present to monitor each other (less chance of any kind of abuse or neglect, hopefully)
-- we're not relying on someone to show up at our house every day (ie, I don't want to hear about someone else's experiences with traffic, car trouble, etc when I need to be to work at a certain time, ya know?)
-- the child gets to interact with other children (more important when the child is older, certainly)
-- there are games and activities not present in the home environment

I'm wary of nannies/solo daycare providers because:
-- who knows what they're doing when you're not there (TV for hours? ignoring her cries? or worse)
-- I don't want to trap the nanny in our home, but the idea of Annalise in someone else's car, rocketing down the freeway, makes me really nervous.
-- If I am really honest, I know that I could be threatened by a close relationship between a nanny and my precious baby. Particularly if I was otherwise "threatened" by the nanny, I think. For example, if we have a young, attractive, energetic nanny that my baby adores, that would make me feel worse than if a grandmotherly type was her object of affection.
-- obviously, they are much more expensive. I won't use this to make the decision, but saving a bit of money would be nice.
-- I don't think that hiring a nanny is a guarantee of a consistent, loving bond for Annalise. Nannies quit, need to be let go, etc. We know several families who have gone through 4+ nannies in just a few years.

S likes the idea of a nanny because:
-- he wants her to develop strong attachments with her care provider (and wants the care provider to be equally attached and invested in her well-being).

I think that our mutual concerns about daycares are reflected below, so I won't list them.

Have I mentioned that S is a clinical psychologist, and that half of his patients are children? At his urging, I've been reading this book of his called "The Irreducible Needs of Children" by Brazelton and Greenspan, and lemme tell ya, it's a very interesting read, but it will make you feel really crappy about putting your child in daycare. It kinda makes me want to quit my job and be a SAHM. Which would be nice, in many ways, but is not practical in my particular profession. I think the ideal think, really, would be to work part time with set hours and no call, etc. Kinda like that per diem Kaiser job (urgent care/same day appointments) that I did before starting heme/onc fellowship a few years ago.

I have visited 4 daycare centers so far, and we have an appointment with a home daycare provider on Sunday. S came with me to one of the daycare centers -- the one affiliated with my workplace, and only blocks from each of our offices. He was enthusiastic about the infant room, which has an amazing 2:1 child to teacher ratio. We were much less impressed with the toddler room (12-24 months). There is still an outstanding ratio of 10 kids to 3 adults, but we didn't like what we saw during the outdoor playtime. First of all, several of the children were sick; one with a wet cough and at least two with snot literally running down their little faces. Some of the children seemed kinda lonely/lost in the play area. Two of the teachers were talking to each other and generally ignoring the little ones. I think it was probably worse than normal because the "lead teachers" were in a meeting at the time we toured, so there were fewer teachers than usual around to supervise. Still, one can imagine that a shy (yet compliant) child could potentially be ignored for hours at a time. It made us really sad. Oh, and I didn't yet mention that this center actually has ZERO available spots. I got on the list a few days after finding out that I was pregnant last May, and yet I probably will not get a spot until she is well over a year old. My university has thousands and thousands of students and employees but only 6 infant daycare slots!

Two other centers that I toured are farther from our workplaces and have worse child to teacher ratios. I toured both of these during naptime, so I didn't get much sense of the interaction between staff and kids.

I visited one other center yesterday, and it is pretty ideal in terms of location, but again has a 4:1 ratio of children to teachers in the infant and toddler rooms. I stopped by yesterday and saw a lot of adorable babies (mostly in the 6-12 month range, it seemed) playing with various toys, but the adults were pretty busy changing diapers, feeding a crying child, etc, so that again, I can see that individual kids might not get attention for hours at a time if it is not their time to be changed, etc. I also can't quite picture how a less than 3 month old will fit into that environment, other than being set down in a crib for hours.

I am pinning all my hopes right now on a home daycare provider in our neighborhood. She was recommended by one of my colleagues, and I have spoken with her by phone and she seems nice. She cares for only up to 3 children at a time, and right now she is caring for a 6 month old and a 1 year old and has one available space. On the other hand, she has her own children (ages 6, 11, and 15), so they will be there too after school and presumably during summer vacation. We are meeting with her tomorrow and I am really really hoping that we click with her and love her, and that her house is decently clean, that there are no big dogs there, and that there is no swimming pool in the backyard.

As for nannies, my attempts to get a direct recommendation from someone have fizzled. Craigslist depresses me, and I haven't yet place my own ad or inquired with any agencies.

This feels like such an important decision, and I am dreading the day when I have to leave her with anyone.

Friday, March 13, 2009

March Marches On

I can't believe that Annalise is already 6.5 weeks old. How time flies!

We are getting used to each other, I think. Back when she was around 2 to 4 weeks old, she had much more of a tendency to cry without clear reason. Some of it was mere fussing, and some of it was downright wailing complete with red face, trembling jaw, and tears. This is the kind of cry that makes you feel like the worst parent in the world when you can't make it stop. I literally could not get anything done, and at times I felt almost trapped in the house because I didn't think she would tolerate going out. I think I had a touch of the baby blues, too. I could cry at anything. In fact, I started crying when song "Another Day in Paradise" (early 1990s song by Phil Collins about homeless people) came on the radio. S was back to work, and it was hard for me to deal with solo newborn care for ~12 hours per day.

These days, Annalise still has her moments of fussiness, but they are not nearly as frequent as they were. In addition, she rewards us with heart-melting smiles like this:




That was at 5 weeks.


We have gotten into a pretty good rhythm with breastfeeding. It is no longer painful, and she gets near the breast and knows what to do. I still have problems with what the lactation consultant calls "over-active letdown." This means that not only do I leak and drip milk, but sometimes jets of milk squirt all over the place. This does not only happen at the beginning of a feeding; it can happen even if she is basically finished on a particular side. The milk goes all over the place -- most of it on Annalise's face and head, but some onto the nearest couch, desk, Macy's dressing room... wherever I happen to be feeding. It is pretty crazy.

One thing we have not mastered yet is bottle feeding. We tried the first bottle at 4 weeks, and while she eventually took it, it was followed by her fussiest night ever and lots of gas. We weren't sure if the two were related, but we were concerned enough that we didn't have the mettle to try again for another week or more. I also got fancier bottles: one Dr. Brown's bottle, and then a pack of Playtex VentAire bottles on the advice of a friend. I have gotten her to take them a couple of times each, but usually she'll only take it after fussing and after she holds it in her mouth for ~20 minutes without seeming to understand that it is a nipple and that she can eat from it. I'm wondering if she is so used to a fast flow from me (see paragraph above) that she should go to the next stage of bottle nipple, which has a faster flow. We need to get this down because I'll be going back to work in about 5 short weeks (cry). I am writing an entire post devoted to the topic.

I just typed a LOT more about sleep and other topics, but the post-monster ate it. I didn't think that happened with blogger, but it just did. I'll have to write it all out again later.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Breastfeeding

I tried to put Annalise up to my breast in the first hour after her birth (before she was weighed, even), but she never quite understood what I was hoping for, and she didn't latch on. That evening, I was transferred up to the post-partum ward and our nurse tried to help out. Here, Annalise would seem to latch on with a big, open mouth, but wouldn't agree to suck, even a little bit. The nurse even tried putting a few drops of sugar-water on my nipple, but this didn't tempt her, either.

The next morning (Tuesday), a lactation consultant came in and tried to help, but we found the same latch-on-but-no-sucking routine occurring most of the time. At this point I was producing just a few droplets of thick, golden-yellow or white colostrum. By later that evening, she was finally agreeing to latch on and suck a little bit. Frequently, however, her latch was "off" and I was left with a whitish ridge across my nipple, intense pain, and even a droplet or two of blood under the surface of the nipple. We tried basically all of the positions including cradle, cross-cradle, and football. By Wednesday morning, she seemed to be getting the hang of it, but her weight had dropped from 7 lbs 15 oz at birth, to 7 lbs 6 oz only a bit over 24 hours later. We were told that we would need to go to the pediatrician for a weight check on Thursday morning. Also, before we left, our very nice nurse told us about giving a bit of formula by tube (either alongside the nipple or a finger), "just in case it is 2AM and you get desperate). She gave us two tiny bottles of ready-mixed formula along with a syringe and tiny tube for a feeding.

We went home on Wednesday afternoon. Feedings immediately seemed a bit harder as my left upper arm developed an intense pain, which I attributed to my weak muscles and lifting the baby. The pain made it much more difficult to get into certain nursing positions without S's help. A few hours later I realized that it was actually painful because of a tetanus/pertussis vaccine that I had received before hospital discharge. (Apparently this vaccine is recommended for people who have frequent contact with infants under age 12 months. S needs to get one, too). Poor Annalise seemed increasingly fussy, which I attributed to her suddenly getting hungry, but I just didn't have enough colostrum to satisfy her appetite. S was great in that he got up with me throughout the night, providing moral support and other assistance. Sometime around 4 AM, we figured out that maybe she was hungry and gave her some of the formula by tube-feeding. She couldn't seem to latch with the tube fastened to my breast, but she latched onto our fingers and eagerly drank it from there. That night, we actually only gave her 20 mL, which I believe is 2/3 oz. However, this seemed to help a lot and she was finally able to sleep.

Thursday morning, she went to the pediatrician and was weighed. She was down to 7 lbs 3.2 oz at this point, so we were told to return again in 4-5 days. Meanwhile, I think it was this day that I finally noticed some increase in milk production. However, Annalise's frantic suckling had meanwhile left me with scabs on both breasts. Between my left arm, my grade 2 tear, (TMI) hemorrhoids, this intense nipple pain with feeding, AND the general breast pain as they filled with milk, I was (physically) pretty miserable!

By Friday morning, I woke up feeling like I had gotten enormous breast implants. They were as hard as rocks, stuck straight out, and well...I have watched a lot of Dr. 90210 in my life, and I definitely looked like an "after" picture. (This was a novelty to me as I am usually a 34/36 A or B. Within the next several days, my milk seemed to be in oversupply. Annalise would latch on and be surprised by a flood of milk filling her little mouth before she even started sucking. My breasts were extremely uncomfortable after just a few hours and I would need to express some milk even before she latched to allow the nipple to protrude a bit. There were occasions when a "jet" of milk would spray milk up to 12 inches into the air... sort of entertaining, but messy! I quickly developed a new vocabulary, talking to Annalise about breastfeeding, too. My nipple is sometimes called my "nursie," the flannel blankets that we use to clean up the spraying/dripping milk are the "milky towels," and a nursie that is gives out a lot of milk without any real effort on Annalise's part is termed "juicy."

One week after Annalise's birth, we had a home visit from a nurse. A state-funded program sends a nurse to the home of all first-time moms in our county. It was sort of helpful, but definitely aimed more at moms who hadn't read every parenting/newborn care book out there. I was pretty familiar with most of the things that she reviewed with me ("back to sleep" and the like). Anyway, the nurse did weigh Annalise and we found that she had started gaining again and was 7 lbs 12 oz on that date. Thus, I cancelled the followup at the Pediatrician's office. Apparently our next visit there is now at two months! I have weighed her once (at a hospital-based nursing store, where I went in search of a sling/wrap). At that point (last Wednesday, age 2 weeks, 2 days), she was 8 lbs 12 oz, diapered and fully clothed. I think she is growing well and seems very healthy.

By the middle of last week, my milk supply was decreasing to better match her demands, and Annalise started to get frustrated when confronted by "nursies" which were not dripping with milk when presented to her. Her almost inconsolable crying caused a lot of stress on my part that I'll get to in another post. On several occasions, Annalise would be frantically searching for milk, wailing and crying, even as I was literally putting the nipple into her mouth and aiming it right to her palate. Just yesterday, S reminded me that the lactation consultant had suggested priming the nipple by squeezing and getting milk onto the tip before giving it to her. I had been focused on aiming the nipple toward her palate, but I had forgotten about that other suggestion! I started doing it last night and already things have improved... a lot!

I purchased my Medela PISA (Pump in Style Advanced) in the backpack version about a week and a half ago, but I haven't even opened the box yet. Somehow I am intimidated by the thought of breastfeeding AND pumping. However, apparently 3 weeks is the optimal age to introduce bottles (unlikely to reject either breast or bottle at this point), so I need to get started ASAP. I am very surprised about how expensive the breastmilk storage bags are...something like $10 for 20 of the Medela ones...that's 50 cents each! Sheesh! I will post on Ovusoft to find out whether there are other options.

We've abandoned the football hold altogether (she is too tall) and we usually do some sort of cradle hold with the help of the Boppy or another pillow. Side-lying is a new favorite. I just have a feeling that she is working toward being a co-sleeping baby, though. More on that later, too, I think.

I know that breastfeeding is supposed to be this magical bonding time, and sometimes it is. I murmur loving words and admire her, sing silly songs, or sometimes (especially at night) we both just fall asleep. At other times, I lean back in my chair with Annalise content on the Boppy, and I read... I've read many magazines, skimmed a bunch of childbirth and parenting books, and now I'm finishing up my second novel. It feels good to have books back into my life. I haven't read anything at all about breast cancer (my profession), and at this point it feels good to escape that.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Annalise's Birth Story

This gets REALLY long, so be warned!

It was Sunday, January 25th, and we were scheduled for induction at 9 PM. However, we were instructed to call in at 7 PM to make sure that there was enough space for me. Apparently it would be a rare occurrence, but if for some reason Labor & Delivery (L&D) was flooded with emergencies, my induction could be postponed. At about 5:30, S & I took a nap for an hour or so, anticipating a busy night ahead. I actually did fall asleep, but S said that he just rested. I don't think that I was having any significant BH contractions, as far as I could tell.

Halfway expecting to be delayed, I called L&D at 7 PM and was told that yes, they were expecting me at 9. The next 2 hours were a flurry of activity as I rushed to finish packing my toiletries, do two loads of laundry (why? I don't know... I guess I do laundry when I'm nervous!), and eat a few bites (S ran up to El Portal for a chicken fajita platter, which we split). We didn't actually leave until sometime around 8:50 PM, but I assured S that 9 was an estimate, not an exact appointment time.

Our trip to the hospital had that same air of anticipation that I always thought would accompany a trip to L&D, minus any pain, discomfort, or sitting-in-a-puddle sensation on my end. S dropped me off at a circular driveway in front of the hospital, and then went to park the car in the lot across the street. I stood there impatiently with our bags, pillows, etc as I watched him move the car at least 3 times to different spaces within the lot. S later explained that some spaces were designated "reserved," and others didn't have a number required to feed the payment machine. While I was waiting, a Bronx Pizza delivery car drove up within the driveway and the driver attempted to enter the hospital. The front door, however, was locked! I suddenly remember that on our hospital tour, we had been instructed to use the side entrance, near the ER, during evening/night hours. The pizza guy immediately got on his cell phone to try to figure out an alternate plan, and meanwhile another person walked up confidently to the locked sliding glass doors and literally pried them open with his hands and walked on in. Pizza delivery guy followed. S soon joined me, and I tried to pry open the doors myself. It turns out that it was easy! Later, I found out that the pizzas were actually for the residents working on L&D, so it was all around kinda funny.

It was about 9:15 by the time that S and I entered the L&D area and checked in at the window. It was really quiet, and I definitely had the impression that they had been waiting for me. I could see a whiteboard in the nurses area with "B____ [our last name], 40w5d, induction" written there. The triage nurse came out and escorted us to our room. There were actually a few staff members in there watching the TV, but they scattered quickly when they saw us coming. I was told to undress and put on a hospital gown, which I did awkwardly. Since I wasn't 100% certain that I was going to stay, I kept saying things like, "Are you sure that you want me to sit in this bed?" Yes. And when a woman from admissions came in to have me sign some papers, I sent her away as I wanted to talk to the doctor first before committing to the induction. Our triage nurse was friendly; she didn't have kids yet, but she was 14 weeks pregnant with her first child.

On the monitor, I was surprised to see that I was in fact having some contractions about every 7 minutes. I guess they were B-H contractions, but I couldn't feel them at all. Soon a resident named Dr. E came in and introduced himself. It was sort of awkward because he made a sort of big deal about saying, "OH, I know you from somewhere. We've worked together before, I'm sure of it!" I told him that he has probably seen me in clinic at the cancer center, as I work right next to the Gyn/Onc attendings, and they usually have a parade of residents accompanying them (and I usually have to kick them off of my computer). He agreed that I must be right. So a bit awkward, but whatever... He examined me and declared that I was still about 1-2 cm, now 70% effaced, and still -3 station. He reiterated Dr. K's plan to start with a Foley catheter bulb to dilate my cervix, then to give Pitocin and/or break my bag of waters (amniotomy) to induce contractions. We talked again about the risks/benefits, etc. He agreed that the rate of C-section would be higher than waiting for natural labor, but he also alluded to the small risk of Bad Fetal Outcomes. Thinking about our friends who had a stillborn daughter (one of twins), S & I decided to proceed. Yes, C-section was an outcome that I wanted to avoid, but obviously, our baby's health was paramount. Besides, I definitely was not going to be comfortable going beyond Wednesday (41w1d), and I wasn't convinced that I would be going into labor by then, in which case, I would be in the same situation, only three days later.

After we committed to staying, the triage nurse drew labs and tried to insert an IV into my left arm. Even though she went for the "intern's vein" (plump vein on the forearm, near the base of the thumb), and even though needles do not usually bother me, it really hurt and I glanced over to see a big hematoma forming around the needle. It took over a minute to stop the bleeding. Luckily, she was able to get the IV in on a second attempt. I was glad that she wouldn't be drawing any more blood from me, though. Soon, I met my "real" nurse for the evening, Katie, who was from Maryland and had a 3 year old child. Katie had been "on-call", and had been called in from home to be my nurse for the evening. She told us that I was actually the only patient in labor on this particular evening. There were other patients on the floor, but they were women with PPROM and other conditions.

The insertion of the Foley catheter was not as bad as I had feared, but immediately thereafter the contractions became closer together -- and suddenly very painful. As I had discovered by reading, the balloon part of the catheter was actually above the cervical os, simulating the pressure that a baby's head would put on the cervix. Katie could see that I was in pretty severe pain already, and encouraged me to take some morphine for some relief, and to hopefully get some rest. I resisted for a bit, but it didn't take long for me to change my mind. She told me that the usual dose was 5 mg IV and 5 mg SQ. I opted for the IV dose only, reasoning that I could take the SQ dose as well if needed. She was right; soon after getting it the pain improved to the point where I could make it through the contractions on my own, without S's attention. He dozed a bit. I tried, but there were weird tapping noises in the ventilation system, a car alarm, and the contractions that were still grabbing me every 4 minutes or so. Meanwhile, I was started on penicillin for the Group B Strep, and got this every 4 hours up until the time that I delivered Annalise.

Every hour, Katie was supposed to come into the room and tug on the catheter a couple of times. By the 3rd or 4th time, the Foley balloon suddenly popped out! Katie told me that this generally implied dilation to 4 cm, as this was the diameter of the balloon. Dr. E checked and confirmed this. I can't remember the effacement and station at this point, but there was not a major change. I asked to labor on my own for a while, as I was having regular contractions and hoped to avoid Pitocin. He agreed to let me go for an hour, and during that time, S got up with me and I sat on the birthing ball and we sort of watched some TV and chatted. It felt wonderful not to have a catheter taped to my leg, and to be unhooked from my IV. After an hour, Katie returned and said that Dr. E had decided to let me go another hour based on my still-regular contractions on the monitor. However, I did notice that since the Foley was out, the contractions were no longer painful again. When I was checked again, it was probably about 5 or 6 AM, and there had basically been no progress over the two hours. It was time to start Pitocin.

I can't recall the exact details, but basically they start a certain dose of Pitocin and then escalate it every 15 minutes or so as long as you are tolerating it. I think I did OK at the initial dose, but by dose 2 or 3, the contractions became extremely painful. I was told that I could have the epidural "at any time." I tried to wait for a bit, but after 10-15 minutes of ever-worsening pains, I pushed my call bell and asked for the anesthesiologist. Suddenly, my body became wracked by uncontrollable shaking. I remember going to the restroom and grabbing the bar next to the toilet during one such contraction, and getting hit by another one between the bathroom and my bed. By the time the anesthesiologist came, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to be still enough for the epidural. Meanwhile, I was begging the nurse to turn down the Pitocin, or stop it altogether, but she resisted, saying that she would have to start from zero if it was turned off. I eventually reasoned that I didn't care; it would only delay things by one hour if we had to start from zero.
The anesthesia resident who did the epidural was calm and efficient. By the time his attending arrived to supervise, I wasn't able to talk much at all due to severe pain and shaking. I do remember that they mentioned something about puncturing the dura (intentionally, I think), but I think that they never actually gave me any medication via this route (spinal). Instead, they administered standard bupivicaine and fentanyl by epidural. The pain relief was almost immediate, perhaps helped by the fact that my nurse finally relented and turned down the Pitocin. Around this time (just before 7AM), S had to go and move his car to avoid a ticket.

Sometime around this time I managed to call my mom, who was planning to come over as soon as she dropped my sister off at school. I was soon visited by a flurry of new faces as most of the teams seemed to turn over at 7AM. Two new anesthesiologists came in, I met my new nurse, Veronica, and Dr. E was replaced by Dr. V (attending) and Dr. W (resident). Dr. V told me that it was her first day back from maternity leave. Dr. V was actually the OB/GYN who I saw for an annual exam when I first suspected that S and I were having fertility problems. I was not impressed with her back then, but today I found her to be reassuring and straightforward, so I was happy about that. The resident, Dr. W, was sort of distant, and I didn't feel much of a connection with her. They told me that I would labor another hour or two, and that they would then plan to break the bag of waters.

My mom arrived around 8:45 or so, and had brought a half-dozen bagels and strawberry cream cheese. I was hungry, but was told not to eat. It's kind of sad, but a lot of the rest of the day was sort of a blur to me. At first, I thought that I was merely tired from being awake all night. I remember watching part of "A Baby Story," and that Dr. W came in a few times to check my progress, which was slow but seemed steady to me. The contractions were regular and didn't hurt much. They broke my waters some time in the mid-morning, but strangely, no amniotic fluid ever came out until I was at the pushing stage (many hours later). Some time in the early afternoon they didn't think I was progressing fast enough and they decided to put in an intrauterine pressure catheter to directly measure the strength of the contractions. They said this would be more accurate that the external device. They said that if my contractions were strong but ineffective over the next two hours, they might need to talk to me about C-section.
Sometime in the following hour, there were some fetal decelarations (I believe they were the relatively less-concerning type), and so I was checked earlier than originally planned. At this point, Dr. W was replaced by another resident (or maybe an intern) named Dr. B. I really liked Dr. B's bedside manner and trusted her immediately. She found that I had actually progressed, so the C-section was looking less likely at that point. For the fetal decelerations, she and the nurse found that my baby preferred for me to be on my right side, which is a bit unusual (most prefer the left side). At times I had to wear an oxygen mask, but no one ever seemed alarmed by the situation.

At some point I did have increasing pain and I was instructed to push the PCA button (PCA stands for "patient controlled anelgesia"; basically, I was giving myself an extra dose of the epidural medication by pushing the button. I could push the button as often as I wanted, but it would only deliver extra medication every 15 minutes.) Well, I needed to push the button several times over the next hour or so, but unfortunately, this made me increasingly groggy to the point where I could barely stay awake. Even more disturbing was the fact that I lost most of my ability to move my lower extremities. I could wiggle my toes and feet, but I completely lost the ability to life my legs off the bed, or even to turn from side to side. It was not a good feeling. I kept asking the nurse and the anesthesiologist whether it was normal for me to feel so groggy from the epidural medications (fentanyl and bupivicaine). They said that most people do not feel groggy from the epidural, but that it was possible that the narcotic component (the fentanyl) was giving me systemic side effects. I did ask about whether I could get a different combination of medications through the epidural, but I never got a clear answer about that. I think I actually had them turn it off for a while, which allowed me to wake up but also led to increasing pain.

At around 4:45 PM, I was told that I was around 9 cm , and that I had more cervix remaining on one side. Ideally, I should have been lying on my left side to help this, but again, the baby's heart rate tended to drop when I was on that side, so I had to stay on my right side. Now, up until this point, someone had been coming into the room every 15-20 minutes all day long. Suddenly, there was this 1+ hour period during which no one came to check on me. My contractions were very painful, and I needed lower back counterpressure from S and my mom's hands to squeeze to make it through them. I was able to feel the contractions very easily. I remember crying out, "Oh NO...here comes another one!", and I could feel it starting several seconds before it showed up on the monitor. My mom and S help me by telling me when it had peaked, and it felt good to know that an end was in sight. During this time, I wasn't feeling an urge to push or anything like that. We thought it was really strange that no one was coming to check on me, and we finally called for the nurse around 5:45. However, she was apparently busy, so I kept suffering through these contractions for a while longer. I think that my nurse finally came in around 6 PM. She explained that they had suddenly had a string of something like 4 deliveries and one other emergency situation come up in the past hour, and that is why no one had come in to check on me during that time.

I don't remember which doctor checked me, but it turns out that I was fully dilated at this point. It also turned out that Dr. K (the OB/GYN who had been taking care of me for my entire pregnancy) had come onto her shift at 5 PM, so she was going to be helping me deliver. Before I knew it, Dr. V was replaced by Dr. K and I was being told to push! They had me push to a count of 10, three times during each contraction. Now, prior to pushing I had felt every painful contraction, but for some reason during the pushing stage, I wasn't able to feel the contractions again. Thus, the nurse had to tell me when to push. For the pushing, I was lying down with me head tilted up. My mom lifted up my left leg and Veronica held up my right leg. S was on my left side, holding my hand, I think. Dr. K was at the end of the bed, and she placed her fingers in my perineal area to give me a target to push towards.

Dr. K was really encouraging with each push and kept saying how great I was doing. I didn't really believe her, but within what seemed like only minutes, she was saying that she could see the baby's head! They got a mirror and I was able to see it, too, a little bit; we were all surprised to see that she appeared to have a fair amount of dark hair! (S and I always assumed that we would have a bald or possibly a wispy blonde-haired child as we both had blonde hair as children and since we both still have baby-fine hair.)

After really only a few more pushes, Dr. K announced that the baby was about to crown! She told me to stop pushing as they still needed to remove the bottom section of the bed. Using the mirror, I could see that my perineum was bulging. Also, there was some blood coming out, and Dr. K said that I had torn a bit already. By the next contraction, I gave a push and Annalise's head and body came out without much difficulty! (I believe they came out in the same push.) I heard my Mom and S saying something like, "Oh my God! Here she is!" Dr K put Annalise directly onto my belly and then S cut the umbilical cord and she was moved up to my chest. I cried tears of joy and held her tight. I felt like I didn't really know how to even hold her. I can't even remember hearing her cry, but I remember that she initially looked a bit bluish but quickly turned to a rosy pink color in her face and trunk. Her hands/fingernails remained a bit bluish for several hours. She had some blood in her hair, and only a small amount of vernix on her skin. She was beautiful...perfectly beautiful! I held her for a long time (probably almost an hour) before she got measured, weighed, and diapered.





Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Dr. K delivered the placenta. I honestly did not even notice this part. After that, she sewed up my tear, which I was told was a second-degree tear. She later mentioned that my placenta was unusual in that the cord was inserted onto the membranous portion of the placenta. I don't think I quite understand the implications of this even now, but I believe that it could have caused Scary Things to happen to the baby, and I also later found out that because of this, she had to "reach into my uterus" to get the placenta out. (If I understood correctly, she was afraid that if she would have tugged on the cord, it might have detached from the placenta entirely). Anyway, because of this, I took IV antibiotics (Ancef) for an additional 24 hours starting the next morning.

My dad and sister (age 10) arrived pretty soon after the delivery and it was a nice family bonding time. I was still doing a lot of skin-to-skin contact with Annalise and somehow it didn't even bother me that my breasts were pretty much on display. My sister was a little surprised by my half-nudity at first, but quickly got used to it. My mom and S made a few phone calls to other family members, but I just laid there staring -- no, marveling, really -- at the new baby.

I feel SO lucky that we have her.