Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ainsley's Birth Story

I want to write our Ainsley's labor and delivery story while it's fresh in my mind. This will be a TMI post, so if you're a male, eating dinner, or don't want to read labor/delivery details, this post may not be for you ;). You've been warned!  It's also quite long! I wanted to note all these details to be able to look back on them. The above photo was taken at 39 weeks by my talented friend Amy Polley. I'm so glad we could get in that last photo session of our sweet girl in my belly! 

Back to the birth story. I had been having contractions off and on for 1.5 weeks, since about 39.5 weeks. Each time my midwives would check my cervix, I'd have contractions for the next day or so too, so I had lots of false labor before real labor. Our "due date" was 9/3, the day before Labor Day. I thought that weekend would be perfect to have a baby. Nope! Haha:) that didn't happen. 

39.5 weeks pregnant
40.5 weeks
41 weeks pregnant

On Monday 9/11, my midwives stripped my membranes to help get things going. I was 41 weeks 1 day at this point. I was scared that would hurt, but it wasn't much more uncomfortable than having my cervix checked. She said I was 2 cm dilated and 80% effaced which was encouraging. That was my last midwife appointment since they wouldn't let me go past 42 weeks. So we scheduled an induction for Sunday 9/17 at 7pm in case our baby hadn't arrived by then. It felt good knowing one way or another, we were meeting this baby within the next 7 (or so) days! After our appointment, Nick treated me to lunch wherever I wanted - I picked one of my fave Chinese restaurants, Szechuan

The rest of that day, we went home and I had contractions and "bloody show" which I took as encouragement. I think we went on a walk that night and I spent time on the birth ball. Tuesday morning, I woke up at 3am with contractions I couldn't sleep through, so I was up for a while with them. Nick didn't go into work since I was really uncomfortable with contractions all morning and we weren't sure if this was it. I had them on and off all day so we went on walks, used my birth ball and did other natural things I'd heard about to encourage labor. For the record, I'm not sure any really helped - it seemed the membrane sweep did get things moving, but the other things (drinking raspberry leaf tea, using evening primrose oil capsules, sex, lol anything I could try, I did!) I had been doing for two weeks, so I don't think they made much of a difference in pushing my body into labor. My body was taking its time which is okay. 

Wednesday morning 9/13, I woke up at 1am with contractions and couldn't sleep the rest of the morning since they were regular & painful. Contractions were strong and getting closer together. Nick got up with me since I was really feeling them and was in pain. I tried a shower and lots of things to keep comfortable. I think it was around 4-5am we got in touch with our doula to tell her contractions were 3-6 minutes apart on average. I was starting to get scared and anxious at this point because they were so painful and I didn't like being at home without someone to help coach us through this. I also worried it could be happening soon (which is funny looking back, since it wasn't fast at all!).  

Our doula suggested another shower to see if contractions would slow (if they do, she thought it'd be false labor).  They didn't slow, and she could tell I was scared and wasn't breathing through my contractions properly since I was starting to feel panicky. So she asked if she should come to our house to labor, or if I wanted to go to the hospital. I was scared staying home, so we packed things up quickly (which isn't easy when you're in labor with regular contractions!) and met her at the hospital. We met her after 8am and worked through contractions outside of the hospital for a few hours on the stairs and outside. We wanted to do what we could before getting admitted or checking in. Sweet ladies would pass by outside and in the hallway asking if I was in labor and wished me luck, telling me I've got this! It was very sweet. Others were asking if it's a boy or girl to see if their guesses were correct.

At the hospital cafeteria, attempting to eat food in between contractions. I was so not hungry at this point, but I'm glad Nick could get some food, and I did eat a little bit. 
I think it was after 11am (I wasn't watching the clock!) we went upstairs to labor and delivery to get checked to see where we were at. They were initially concerned about my blood pressure and when they learned I was 41 weeks 3 days, they admitted me and said - "Yep, you're here to have a baby!". When the midwife came in, she said "You're going to have a baby today!" That was such a surreal moment realizing we would meet this girl very soon. She checked me and I was 3-4 cm dilated. I was encouraged by that, knowing my body was progressing. 

I don't look cute, because: labor. Love this man of mine though. He perfected the hip squeeze and helped me through contractions.
I tried to eat food as I could, but had no appetite and had regular contractions all day. We worked with the doula for the afternoon in the hall, toilet, bed, etc., to work through contractions. Nick would help squeeze my hips to give counter pressure which was so helpful. Around 7pm, the midwife checked me again and I was 5cm dilated. It felt like slow progress, but I was glad to be getting somewhere. We were getting exhausted after a night with little sleep (plus a hard night before that too!), no appetite and basically working out all day, but our doula had a plan for the next 5 hours, until midnight, to hit the contractions hard since she could see I was getting worn out. Honestly, Nick was too at that point, after being up with me since 1am that morning. We did hands & knees through contractions, squats in the hall during contractions (not fun!), laying on my side, and contractions straddling the toilet. Oddly, each time I would pee, I would have a painful contraction, so they wanted me to try to work with those contractions. My mindset was struggling, where I would be scared when I could feel each contraction coming. I was getting so tired- emotionally and physically. My doula reminded me to embrace the contractions, that they were my means of meeting my baby, but it was so hard in those long hours laboring, not knowing how much longer we would have to endure. 

Hugging my parents, who were at the hospital waiting to meet their first grandbaby! I think this is when we told them to go home and sleep for the night:) I'm adopted remember, so they've never been through labor.
It was hard work (they don't call it labor for nothing), but we tried lots of positions to work with the contractions and help my body progress. We got to 12am or so and the midwife on the next shift came in and we told her we'd like to get checked to see where we were at. She checked me but didn't say a number. That was my first clue it wasn't news I hoped for. I asked her what it was and she said it was the same. 5cm. In that moment, I knew we needed to move onto a plan B. It seemed my uterus was working in overdrive (it was constantly flexed at this point) and needed some help. I could've cried feeling like those 5 hours of hard work didn't result in any further progress. We were exhausted after a few days of this off and on, little sleep, and we knew we still had a long road and pushing ahead once we got to 10cm. So we talked with the midwife and doula about options and decided to move forward with pitocin and an epidural. {Pitocin was the one thing I swore I wouldn't do. But things don't always go according to plan, and we all knew in that moment that it was the right choice for us}. We got those around 3:30am (those hours took forever waiting for my relief to kick in!), and after one failed epidural (that hit bone, ouch!), we were in business. Finally some relief and a chance to sleep before we would need to push. They placed a peanut ball in between my legs to help my body keep dilating while we would get some shut eye. Nick waited to make sure I was good to go in bed, then he was OUT. Poor hubby was so exhausted, right along with me. I learned that labor isn't just physically tiring, but emotionally tiring too when it drags on for so long. 

Talking with my doula, getting ready to get some sleep. 
We slept from maybe 4am - 8:30am, off and on. Of course nurses would be in to check the monitors for contractions and baby's heart rate on my belly (my basketball shaped belly made it hard for the monitors to stay on, so they had to come in and move them often!) and machines beeping all night, but we were so tired so got some sleep while the pitocin went to work to keep the contractions going. I also had group B strep, so had to have antibiotics in my IV every 4 hours during labor. Once I woke up around 8:30am, I finally felt hungry so asked the nurse if she'd help me sit up (since I couldn't move my legs!) so I could eat, since I hadn't eaten much the day before. She said, "Oh - did they not tell you about the liquid diet?" Nope. Lol. Great. So no food for me, but I knew today should (finally) be the day I get to meet this baby girl! 

Around 9am (this is Thursday now:)), the new midwife on shift came to check in, and said we were at 10cm dilated! Woohoo! She needed to do a few things with other patients and would be back in 1.5 hours then we'd start pushing. It started to feel even more real that we were meeting this baby SOON! 

Nick called our doula to have her come back to the hospital (she had gone home when we got the epidural so she could get some sleep too), I think he told a few family members maybe?, and we got a bit cleaned up to prepare to meet this baby. I wanted to have a bit of makeup and clean teeth to meet my baby girl. Nick had been manning both of our phones to update friends and family as he could. There was so much going on, I'm sure it was crazy for him to try to be the communicator while he was helping me through all of the contractions during that 37 hour labor. 

The midwife came back in the room and our doula wasn't there quite yet, but she said it was go time. Nick made sure our music and diffuser (with believe & harmony oils) was going and with our midwife, a student, and nurse, we started pushing. It was an odd feeling since I couldn't feel it due to the epidural! They said push like I was pooping but I literally couldn't feel those sensations so I had no idea if I was doing it right. Our doula came soon after and we got into a rhythm of pushing. She asked which oil I wanted to inhale while I was pushing and I said "EN-R-GEE please!". It wasn't long until you could see her head right there, and they exclaimed, "Look at her hair!", ahhhh that was another real moment. That's our baby right there! We would push 3 times during each contraction for 10 seconds each and it was HARD work. After about 1.5 hours, the midwife was seeing that the baby needed more room to come through, so said she'd recommend an episiotomy. We agreed that was fine if it was needed to get this baby out. After that, we kept pushing but still seemed stuck not making more progress. We tried a few different things then she said we needed to get things going to avoid the baby getting stressed (her heart rate was starting to show we needed to keep things moving), so she recommended a vacuum. 

We were scared of the vacuum due to Nick's sister's experience with one, so Nick asked if there were any other options. She basically said to avoid a c-section, this was the next best choice. The nurse went out of the room to get the doctor to do a vacuum and my doula over my shoulder was telling me we had a few more shots to do this to avoid the vacuum, and told me I can do it! I could feel my belly get harder with each contraction, so I asked the midwife if I could still push through the next few contractions even though she seemed okay waiting for the vacuum at that point. They said yes so we pushed really hard the next few contractions. The doula raised my legs higher saying she thought it would help my pelvic position so Nick followed her lead and this baby girl came shooting right out! It was crazy! Baby girl was born at 1:23pm Thursday, September 14th. She was 6 lbs even, and 18 inches long. So tiny for being a week and 4 days past our due date! Everyone in the room was shocked she was out so suddenly, telling me I did so great. It was a moment of the ultimate relief knowing we did it! Nick had planned to catch her, but the midwife hardly caught her since she came out so fast in one big push.

I'm not sure what's happening in this one, haha! I assume the baby was right there at this point. 
Taking a breather in between pushes. 

I believe this is the moment after she was out! 

First time meeting my baby girl. Oh the emotions looking back at this photo! I'm so grateful our doula snapped these photos for us! 

In that moment, she was placed on my chest and it was a crazy rush of emotions. My doula was intensely telling me to keep her alert and pat her back and I kept wondering, "Is she okay?!". She had meconium, so they were watching closely and had already called NICU to check her out. All of the sudden, it felt like there were 20 people in the room - some checking her out and clearing her mouth and lungs. The midwife told me that I've experienced a significant tear and I may need to go to the operating room to be sewn up. I immediately asked, "Can my husband come?!". The reality was setting in that I had a little bit of an emergency that needed urgent care. I had so many emotions having this sweet precious baby on me, realizing I had a big issue too. The doctor ended up being able to come to our room to sew me up rather than going to the operating room which was really helpful, and less scary. It took a while for them to stitch me up. While they did that, the doula was helping our baby get latched to nurse and I felt in a bit of a haze with everything happening all at once. 

Thinking back, I'm a bit sad I didn't have the peaceful skin to skin time with her I always dreamed about, but again - I learned things don't always go according to plan, and am thankful our baby was well and that I didn't have to leave her to go to the operating room. I pictured that hour of skin to skin time to be so blissful, but with the extent of my recovery, I was realizing how serious the 3 people working on me were. Then as the epidural wore off I could feel some stitching which was not fun. Before the doctor who stitched me left, she said, "You CANNOT get constipated in the next 8 weeks, okay?". Eesh. This was going to be a long recovery process.They recommended a diet to keep things moving, and told me I needed to take stool softeners + laxatives. Due to the extent of the tear, they didn't want me needing to push out bowel movements, or the chance of any stoppage to cause issues.  

In the end, we pushed for 2 hours before she came out, and I had a 4th degree tear (hole to hole + muscle). It's the worst kind of tear you can have, and I've learned tearing the "front half" isn't as bad/painful/uncomfortable as tearing the "back half". Haha. Not fun at all! That day, I felt pretty great though to be honest. (Yay for modern medicine!;)) I told Nick pushing was way better than contractions (haha that epidural was nice in the end, even though it wasn't part of my ideal plan!). 

6lbs 0oz and a good set of lungs :)

The next day however, without the epidural, it felt like my body had been run over and beat up all over. I'm sure my fibro was making it hurt worse too. Every muscle in my body was so sore, and I was too scared to even pee with the tear hurting so bad. After many attempts, they even had to give me another catheter since I couldn't pee. Then they had me on so many stool softeners/laxatives that I couldn't make it to the bathroom a couple times. Ugh! So embarrassing.  But that was my unexpected reality for the first few days. I wasn't in control. I also didn't have full control of the rectal muscles since they tore. Then came the fear of going to the bathroom that I had for the next few weeks. The reality of my "injury" was setting in and those first days at the hospital are kind of a dark memory at this point. Just being scared about the injury, if I would ever fully heal from it, being so tired, emotionally & physically exhausted, having a hard time nursing (she had a lip & tongue tie), having a precious baby that needed me, and feeling like I wasn't capable of anything other than healing. The nurses were awesome to make me ice packs around the clock, bring me pain meds and help with breastfeeding. Nick had to help me out of bed all weekend, and I could hardly walk the first couple days. My parents visited us each day too. 

I was set to leave the hospital Saturday, and as the time got closer, I kept telling Nick I wasn't ready to go home and care for this tear and this baby on my own. My pain still wasn't under control and I felt so anxious to go home when I couldn't even get out of the hospital bed without Nick's help. One of my sweet midwives agreed to let me stay at the hospital another day since my pain wasn't in control. She said she thought my fibro was making it harder to get my pain controlled, so they discharged our babe later that day and kept me. And I think she understood my fears in the condition I was in, and I was so grateful for her empathy. I was in rough shape honestly friends, and felt so sad those first few days especially. That tear was so painful and I was so worried about the healing process ahead of us. Different nurses caring for me kept saying I was the first 4th degree patient they've seen, which didn't help me feel any better about it. 

You can't see them as well in these photos, but the nurses were so in awe of her long eyelashes! 

Saturday afternoon, this baby girl finally was named Ainsley Kay. Her middle name, Kay, is after Nick's sweet grandma Kathryn, who went by Kay and passed away a few years ago. She was the most sweet and loving lady and we are honored to have Ainsley use her namesake. The hospital staff were pleased this girl finally had a name since they had been asking us for days what her name was so we could get her birth certificate and paperwork going. With all of the craziness, we hardly had time until that day to talk about our final name choices for this sweet face. This name had been on my list for months though! We just had to be sure it was the one once we saw her sweet face. 

Luckily when we went home Sunday afternoon (after being at the hospital since Wednesday morning!), Nick's mom had made it in town so she was able to help us that first handful of days. It was even more helpful with my recovery since I still had such a hard time getting up and around. She was a huge help to change diapers, burp Ainsley, and hold her while I could try to get some rest for my body. I was an emotional wreck at times that first 1.5 weeks after she was born. My physical recovery was so hard, I was in so much pain (had to stay on narcotics for 10 days), sitting, standing, getting in/out of bed, and everything felt hard. It was hard to handle my pain & recovery with sleepless nights, learning to breastfeed, and being overwhelmed with it all. I was feeling baby blues in those first few weeks for sure. This intro into motherhood was so much different than I expected and I was so scared, exhausted, anxious, sad, happy, and fearful all at the same time. 

Nick has been amazing. Literally I couldn't have done this without him. He was amazing during labor, delivery, my recovery and with Ainsley. He made our meals, cleaned our house, helped literally get me out of the hospital bed when I couldn't on my own, heard more TMI stuff than he ever thought he would I'm sure, made my padsicles with his mom, prepared my herbal sitz baths, changed tons of diapers when I've been unable to get around easily. Ran all of our errands. Listened to my emotional rants, talked with me through my fears and pain, I could go on forever. 

I was so sad for him to go back to work after those first weeks having him home, but my mom has been coming over to help with has been so great! My best friends have been amazing, answering all of my crazy new mom questions, saying YES it's hard, and YES it gets better. We have the best support system, and talking about all of my feelings with any friends who care to listen has been so good for me. Some that also had 4th degree tears, some who felt baby blues and can relate to my emotions, some assuring me it gets better. It all has made such a difference during these first weeks!

Ainsley is so sweet, and I still can hardly believe she's our precious baby. As each week has gone by, my healing has gotten better and her little personality is taking shape. It's wild she's two months old now! It's been 9 weeks since delivery and my tear is still painful here and there, so I am careful when sitting and pace myself to not stand or sit in the same position for too long. I've used all the dermaplast, tucks pads, padsicles and what not to my heart's content. I still use pads with cooling aloe on them 9 weeks later to keep comfortable! And I've done sitz baths just about every day since I could get into the bath tub at about 1 week post partum. I even developed a super painful abscess two weeks ago, and the midwife said unfortunately things like that can just happen with 4th degree tears since there is so much healing down there. 

Day by day, I see more progress which is encouraging. I pray I recover fully and don't have lasting issues that some have experienced. I've found myself needing to grieve my birth experience a bit to be honest. It's the hardest "injury" I've ever had all while becoming a mama which I knew would be a hard adjustment (even though we love her so much!). It wasn't the birth I had in mind, but in the end, I know I am grateful to carry and birth this girl. I've talked with many other mamas who had hard birth stories and I wanted to throw out there that I can relate to you if you've had these hard feelings about your birth. It can be hard to hear stories of mamas who had an easy labor and delivery. But the end result is our sweet girl and I am so grateful for her. And I hope any of you who have gone through hard situations can know I'm with ya. I do believe things happen for a reason, even if we don't see the reason clearly yet. Maybe it's so I know how much I'm capable of, or to help other mamas who may go through something similar someday. 

Newborn photos thanks again to my friend Amy Polley!

I wouldn't recommend a tear of this degree to anyone! ;) And I'm sure I'll keep processing it as the weeks and months go by, but I am grateful for a healthy baby girl and know things happen for a reason. Our paths aren't always easy, but in my experience, there is a purpose we don't always know in the moment. I'm grateful for the best family and friends and God who love me! 

Capturing a smiley moment when she was about 6 weeks old. 
Our first family walk
Her smiles melt my heart!

It wasn't an easy path getting you here, but we thank the Lord for you, Ainsley Kay! 

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