Wednesday, June 8, 2011

End in sight ...

Well, we were 37 weeks on Monday!

We are closer every day to meeting Carys - now that we are out of the pre-term stage, however, she seems more than content to stay hidden away in her own little world. Although I am anxious to meet her, as everyone else is, I am feeling surprisingly relaxed about being on her timetable. Despite being hugely pregnant and all of the discomfort that entails, I'm enjoying these last few days/weeks. I am able to work on projects that will fall by the wayside if unfinished when she arrives, my house stays neat and clean for the moment and I set my own agenda. I don't think it's possible to fathom exactly how much our lives will change when she does decide to join us, but I know that much of the lifestyle we are accustomed to will change. I look forward to the busyness of being a parent, but for now am content to let things happen when they will.

At our last appointment, Carys had wiggled back up close to my ribs - because her head wasn't engaged any longer my cervix closed and lifted up. I have been doing some things to encourage her to drop (for comfort's sake as much as getting her ready for her birthday); walking, bouncing on my exercise ball, etc., and it seems to be working. She seems to have settled back down into the position she was in prior to my preterm labor. I am curious to see if it is causing any cervical changes.

Her movements did seem to slow briefly when she was in the higher position - presumably because her legs were too folded up. Now that she's dropped, there is a flurry of activity for most of the day again. She is constantly straightening her legs against the walls of my uterus - it pushes her little butt out and I can feel the vague outline of her feet on the opposite side until she relaxes again. The skin on the top of my stomach is starting to get sore (it feels like a sunburn) from being stretched, I suppose. It is painful to touch... I am surprised that I have not had any stretch marks on my stomach (yet)- it is distended to an almost comical degree. I really do look like I've swallowed a melon whole!

Our next appointment with Dr. W is on Thursday afternoon. She mentioned last week that after 39 weeks, if we'd like, she would schedule an induction. I'm not sure how I feel about this yet- I am having some physical issues with the strain of being this far along that would resolve with delivery but barring any issues with the baby's health, I don't think I'd mind letting her get to 40. I've heard both good and bad stories about induction, but until I'm a little closer to that point I'm not sure I'll be able to form an opinion.

At any rate, whenever she decides to come we'll be ready. The nursery is finished, our 'go' bags are packed, car seat is installed, so now we just wait.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

An open letter to my daughter...

My sweet Carys,

Daddy and I are only a few short weeks (at the most) from meeting you now - we could not be more excited! We have so many questions about you - will you have Daddy's big, blue eyes, my almond shaped, green ones, or will you have eyes that are all your own? Will you have corn-silk colored hair like he did when he was a baby and will it curl in the back like mine did? Are you going to be laid-back or will you be feisty and strong willed? Will you be outgoing and social or shy and reserved?

It seems like only yesterday we were finding out that we would be welcoming you into the world - my little miracle. We weren't sure we would ever be able to be parents and we are infinitely grateful that we were proven wrong. When I was 20, doctors told me that as a result of some physical problems I was dealing with it would be 'unlikely' that I would be able to conceive. This didn't bother me as much then as it did when I met your father, got married and our thoughts turned to starting a family. Hopeful excitement turned to disappointment, which eventually turned to bitter longing. We prayed, pleaded and cried together as we waited for you. After a painful year of medical intervention and futile grasping at hope, we decided to stop trying for a while, to recover and try to heal. I didn't understand at the time why God seemed to be denying the desires of our hearts, the only thing I knew was that my empty arms ached to be filled. I watched people around me starting their own families and withdrew from them- it wasn't their fault that they were able to have what I so desperately wanted but it didn't make a difference to the pain I carried with me.

I needed something to pour my energy into that would distract me from the gaping emptiness in my heart - something that would help me to move on. Your daddy and I talked for a while about me joining the Navy and some of the things that it would offer us - to be truthful, although I was genuinely interested in the opportunities it offered, I was running. I felt like I needed to get away, to immerse myself totally in a world where I was not constantly confronted by what I perceived to be my personal failure. I was prepared to throw myself as wholeheartedly into my work as I did into the training I needed to be ready to join. Over the next several months I immersed myself in cardio (losing almost 40 pounds), took the college courses I needed to qualify, and convinced myself that perhaps I was just not meant to be a mother, that maybe I was meant to dedicate my life to the service of my country. I was two weeks away from the date I was supposed to be sent for my medical examinations in order to be able to enlist...

and then there was you.

There were not any glaring signs that you were present, just a lot of little things- I was tired, moody and my eating habits changed a little, but since I wasn't watching for your arrival I took these symptoms individually and determined that it was just that I was getting burnt out. I was working 2 full time jobs and still taking college courses so there was good reason for being tired! One night on a whim I took a pregnancy test, fully expecting it to be negative. I even joked with your dad about there being no chance of it being positive, yet a few minutes later I was standing in the bathroom staring in shocked awe at a digital display that said 'pregnant'.

I don't remember the walk downstairs to where he was fiddling with a video game console, just standing in the living room trembling from head to toe and blurting out, "Jeremy..." to which he replied absently, "What?"

And then I dropped the bomb. "I'm pregnant."

He immediately dropped what he was doing, slack jawed in amazement as I had been a few moments earlier and asked incredulously, "What did you just say?!" I managed to stammer "I think I'm pregnant! Come see." I'd left the test sitting on the bathroom counter and as we climbed the stairs together to look at it doubts whirled through my mind. Were my eyes playing tricks on me? Was there some malfunction in the test itself that would've given a false positive?

When we reached the bathroom we found ourselves staring at the truth in bold, black letters - 'pregnant'. I looked up into his eyes and watched them fill with joyful tears even as I felt my own begin to well up. From that moment, our entire lives changed. Just like David proclaims in Psalm 30:11, my mourning was turned into dancing!

Despite all the worry I've had about you, the last 9 months have been the most wonderful of my life and I know it will only get better. I would go through every month we spent waiting a hundred times over if it meant that you were the end result. I didn't understand at the time why God wasn't blessing us with a baby when we trying, but all of those other months, if we had been successful it wouldn't have been you. He knew you before He formed you and His actions (or inaction, as it seemed at the time) were deliberate because you are the daughter He wanted us to have. Although I couldn't see His intentions, He knew that one day He would give us the desire of our hearts.

I am so thankful for you, my love, and I can't imagine what it would've been like if it wasn't you. We are incredibly in love with you already, and we can't wait to start our lives together. I can't promise you that we'll always know exactly what to do, but I can promise we will always try to do the right thing. I can't promise I'll be a perfect mother, but I promise I'll be the best one I know how to be. I can't promise I'll have all the answers, but I promise that I'll raise you to know the One that does. I can't tell what the future holds for us, but I can say with absolute certainty- I loved you from the moment I knew you and I will never stop loving you.

I have been anxiously waiting for you to come for the last 9 months and now that I am on the cusp of meeting you I find myself hoping that things slow down. I know some day when you are grown I'll look back on this time and your babyhood and think about how quickly it passed - I want to treasure each moment with you. Take your time growing up, sweet girl. I know you won't be old enough to understand this for a long time yet - there's no rush getting there.

I love you more than you could possibly imagine.

-- Mom

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

L & D, Act II.

So, it's been a few days since I was back in labor and delivery (5/29-it was Sunday night), but I haven't been able to scrape together the energy to relive the experience until now.

After Jeremy got home from work that night, we had supper and settled in to watch "A Game of Thrones" together. I'd been having a lot of contractions that day but didn't think much of it because I've been having them for weeks. I drank several glasses of water and tried to lie down to see if they would relent. Right before the show came on (at 9:00 pm), however, I started noticing a pattern of regular intervals. I'd already taken a Procardia (the medicine I was on to stop labor) a few hours prior and we were right on the cusp of the day Dr. W told me to stop taking it, so I called L&D to ask them what I should do. At this point my contractions were about 7 minutes apart. I called, explained the situation, and asked the nurse if she thought I should take another Procardia... (this next part will become important later) She said, "No, we want you to go ahead and come in." We got ready, put the hospital bags in the car and went.

When I was admitted, contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart and closing. The nurse assigned to me checked my cervix and it was at almost 3 cm and over 75% effaced (progression since my last appointment with Dr. W). The doctor on call, Dr. G, wasn't actually at the hospital so they had to call her to get instructions. They monitored my contractions for about an hour to determine whether or not they were going to send me home (false labor), or if it was the real deal (early labor).

The contractions got down to about 2 minutes apart and included strong lower back pain that included what felt like menstrual cramps. When the nurse reappeared, she told us that I was in fact, in early labor. I asked her at that point if they were going to try to stop my labor, or if I would be allowed to progress. She told me that they'd spoken to Dr. G and that they were not going to administer anything with the specific design of stopping labor (terbutaline) but that because Carys was technically premature they were going to give me morphine in an attempt to slow it along with pushing fluids to see if dehydration was the culprit (this neither made sense to me at the time or now looking back on it). Another nurse came in, placed an I.V., and I was given an injection of morphine in my left hip.

The only things the morphine accomplished were 1) making me feel floaty, and 2) causing my contractions to become extremely erratic in nature although they were still occurring at a regular interval. I felt the urge to walk and asked the nurses if I could- they informed me that I was on bedrest with 'bathroom privileges'. A few hours later, my contractions had stabilized and were starting to increase in intensity. The nurse checked back in with me and said that the morphine had not been successful (obviously). When she tried to check my cervix this time, however, it was so high that she wasn't able to reach it. She was trying to be gentle, but the exam was extremely painful. She had another nurse come in to see if she could reach it - the second nurse didn't try and didn't seem to notice/care that I was in the middle of a contraction. It was excruciating.

Nurse 2 mentioned that 'she couldn't really reach it', but that I was down to a fingertip and 50% effaced.

They went out to the nurses' station to confer with Dr. G by phone. Although my cervix was now high and closed for the most part, Dr. G wanted a better cervical check and so she asked for another dose of morphine to help me relax.

The second dose felt stronger than the first and made me a little nauseous. I could feel my body trying to fight the morphine again (my uterus was still making the attempt at contractions although they started to slow down), but I was so exhausted at this point after 6 or 7 hours in labor with no sleep that I was able to doze off for a few minutes at a time. By the time morning finally rolled around, I was only having 'irritability' contractions- uncomfortable but irregular, weak and unable to change my cervix. Dr. G was no longer on call, her younger counterpart Dr. G(2) was - she came in to speak with me after she arrived at the hospital for her shift. The nurses had also changed shifts. My new nurse, T, accompanied her.

Dr. G2 restated a lot of the things that I'd been told over the night - Carys is still premature, they don't want her to come this week, etc. She also informed me that although she wasn't going to ask me to continue taking Procardia because Dr. W didn't want me to after Monday, she was going to prescribe a different medication to 'stop false labor'. She assured me that if the contractions were 'real', it wouldn't have any impact on them. She also mentioned that she didn't think I was in labor the night before because the contractions didn't change my cervix. Never mind that my cervix was changing when I got to the hospital and only went to being high and closed during two rounds of narcotics, two bags of fluid and bedrest.

This frustrated me for two reasons. One, Dr. W wasn't around to be consulted for any of this. We decided together that I wasn't going to be on any medication after Monday. It's hard on my body to continue fighting labor and it seems to me that there are always tradeoffs to trying to interrupt a natural process with drugs. This brings me to point number two; this new medication has the unfortunate side effect of making me groggy/sleepy every time I take it. So, if I happen to go into labor and take this drug and it has no effect (as intended with 'real' labor), I'm going to be contracting and feeling drugged and tired.

Dr. G2 ordered my discharge and left, leaving Nurse T to give me my paperwork and explain the discharge instructions. Not before T continuously and incorrectly called my experience the night before 'false labor'. She even threw in an anecdote about how she 'thought' she was in labor prematurely when she was pregnant and then went on to carry a few days past her due date! She was also kind enough to explain the symptoms of real labor to me for future reference...

Regular contractions that increase in intensity and frequency.
May include lower back pain that radiates to the abdomen.
Do not go away after drinking water/lying down.


Don't get me wrong. I'm not upset that Carys was able to stay in for a little while longer. I'm upset because I felt like I was strung along all night. I labored for 9 hours before my contractions were stopped. I kept telling Jeremy "I wish they would just stop the labor and let me go home or let me progress." I was stuck in labor limbo all night long, with large gaps of time where I didn't know what was going on because no one would give me a straight answer. I get that it was Memorial Day weekend and people were busy and had their own plans. I felt like we got brushed off, however. If I had my rathers, I would have taken the Procardia again at home (which also serves the purpose of stopping labor) and waited it out. I saw a doctor one time while I was in the hospital, a few minutes before I was discharged. It felt like a giant waste of my time and energy. To be honest, I also wasn't thrilled about dosing (although minor amounts) my unborn child with morphine twice when they could have accomplished the same ends with a different medication that wouldn't have taken as long to work.

I am planning on having a medicated birth but this doesn't mean I want to dump narcotics into my system willy nilly at every given opportunity.

This post ended up turning into more of a vent than anything, but I was and still am frustrated at the way I was handled at the hospital. Dr. W has always been really good about explaining what's going on with my body and the baby in as much detail as I need and giving me reasons for why she is pursuing particular avenues of treatment. I feel like we're a doctor/patient team, and not like the ignorant recipient of whatever she decides is best. Not knowing what's going on, an absentee doctor calling the shots without ever speaking with me and being at the mercy of staff that are not in particularly chatty moods was really hard on me.

I am really ready for this experience to be over.

The last few days have been tough on my body and it seems like I've shifted into being irritable without reason during this phase. I'm exhausted, in pain, and eager to see what Dr. W has to say at my appointment tomorrow. I really hope I don't have four more weeks of this.