Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My "I-will-never's"

The following is a list of the things that, while pregnant, I said I'd never do... that are shot to hell now that I have an actual baby.

1. I'll never give a pacifier.
2. I'll never give a bottle before breastfeeding is established. (To be fair, these first two happened in the NICU while I wasn't there and I was too intimidated and tired to protest when I realized that they'd given them to her.)
3. I'll never consider switching to formula (no, I'm not actually switching, but it's crossed my mind a time or two because as I posted before, breastfeeding is OH MY GOD REALLY HARD AND AWFUL).
4. I'll never let the baby sleep with us in the bed. (I didn't cave on this one because she won't sleep anywhere else... she will, but I just really want to snuggle her and see her cute face anytime I want.)
5. I'll never dress my kid in cutesy bows and ribbons if she is a girl (see: enormous bow on hat, several posts below).
6. I'll never make Tyler get up in the middle of the night to do a feeding, because I can stay home and sleep but he has to get up early and go to school. (Whoops. I am a terrible wife.)
7. I'll never whip my boob out in front of anyone but Tyler. (The ladies have already been out in front of everyone in two NICUs, the pediatrician's office, and the UPS guy the other day when I forgot to button my shirt before answering the door.)

I'm sure there are more, but I am a bit sleep-deprived and can't remember what else.

But you know what? I don't really care about any of that. First of all, my new mantra is "if it works and no one dies, it's probably okay", and second of all, I am too busy soaking up every minute of her being this tiny, because I already know she's going to grow up too fast.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A paper cut on the eye

It's about time I wrote a post about breastfeeding...

Caroline and I had kind of a rough start with it due to her stay in the NICU. If you want to breastfeed but you happen to have a preemie or a baby unable to breastfeed for other reasons, they let you borrow a hospital-grade pump so you can get started without the baby (and hopefully provide a little colostrum to feed them with). A lactation consultant came and gave me the pump the day Caroline was born, but she didn't tell me that the pump was adjustable. (You would think I could figure this out, being a reasonably intelligent person, but all bets are off the day you give birth, okay?) I used it the way she gave it to me, on the maximum setting, and WOW did it hurt but I was so thrilled to get 3 whole mL of colostrum that I didn't complain.

I kept using it for several days like this until one day I went into the NICU without any milk and another LC asked me where my milk was, and I told her that I tried but I was in so much pain while pumping that I wasn't letting down. She asked if I turned the suction down on the pump, and I just gave her a blank stare. She widened her eyes and said "let me see them." I carefully pulled down my nursing bra and she looked horrified. (Note: when the sight of your nipples frightens a professional LC, it's time to get worried.) We're talking blood blisters and open sores here, people. Sorry for the TMI. But I literally have scars on them now, thanks to that evil first LC.

So once I turned down the suction on the pump (and used ridiculous amounts of lanolin cream), I slowly started to heal and things got a little easier. Then Caroline was transferred to the bigger NICU, and they weren't nearly as pro-breastfeeding there so they gave her bottles (of my milk, not formula, but she still started to prefer the bottle to the breast because it's so much less work). I nursed her every time I could, but since I couldn't be there around the clock, she got a lot of bottles. Even though she was a great nurser at first (one LC said she must have "read the book"), she seemed to be forgetting how to latch correctly, which gave me some realllly sore nipples. Now that I have her home, that bad latch is tearing up my boobs unless I focus and try really hard to get her latched on correctly and keep her there.

I've stuck with it and I'm glad I have, but let me tell you it has not been easy. It's also really stressful not knowing how much she's eating (boobs are very inconvenient in that way), especially since she still hasn't regained her birth weight due to all her health problems in the beginning. But we are slowly getting the hang of things! And I'm determined to keep going because I know that it's best for her.

Anyway, the title of this post comes from this hilarious breastfeeding book one of my friends gave me as a shower gift ("If these boobs could talk"). It has a top ten list of things worse than sore nipples, and #1 is "a paper cut on the eye". I read this and laughed hysterically for about ten minutes, because it's so true that there is almost nothing worse than injured nipples. And honestly, it's either laugh or cry at this point, and I've done enough crying for a lifetime over the past two weeks, so I choose laughing, thanks very much!

And because I can't resist showing her off every time I post, here's Caroline in her bouncy seat...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

She's home!!

We brought Caroline home from the NICU today!

I don't have to drive a half hour to see her. I don't have to scrub in to hold her. She is no longer "Babygirl L...", she is my Caroline.

I have to go now, because all I want to do is watch her sleep...


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Birth story

But before I get into that, a quick Caroline update-- she's doing great! She just needs to clear the last hurdle, which is getting rid of her oxygen requirement. A chest x-ray showed that the fluid in her lungs is clearing, so it's just a matter of time now. We're hoping just a couple more days...

Here's our little girl, wide awake and gripping her binky that she stole from the first hospital:

So... I didn't wake up on the morning of February 4th thinking I was going into labor. But, I was standing in the kitchen talking to Tyler before he left for school, and I felt a gush of... something. Yeah, gross. I started to panic, assuming that it was my water. I called the doctor and they asked me to come in right away because I hadn't had the Group B strep test yet. Tyler and I went to L&D, but for some reason we didn't bring our bags. I guess we had just had too many false alarms at that point, and we didn't really think we'd be staying.

They tested me for amniotic fluid and the tests all came up negative. They also did an ultrasound to check the fluid levels and they were fine (it also showed that the baby had flipped and was no longer breech!). I felt like an idiot, but I was relieved that it wasn't my water (I was 35w6d that day). My OB said that I could go home, but since I was contracting quite a bit she wanted to do a quick exam. She checked me, looked surprised, and said "you're 3cm and 90% effaced. You aren't going anywhere." Tyler and I were stunned. The irritable uterus strikes again... I was always afraid of going into labor and not knowing it!

They gave me some terbutaline to try and stop the contractions but warned me that if I was in labor, the terbutaline wouldn't work. An hour later, the contractions hadn't stopped and I was 3.5cm and 100% effaced. I was admitted and told that there was a 90% chance that I was in early labor.

Honestly, I wasn't really feeling a thing at this point. Maybe I had just had contractions for so long that I didn't notice them anymore. Maybe they just weren't that bad. Whatever the reason, I stayed at that hospital all day, slowly dilating to 6cm by a little after midnight without even really being in much pain. I am still baffled by this. I have always thought I had a very low tolerance for pain-- I'm a huge wimp. I assumed I'd come to the hospital in labor and be screaming for the epidural by 4cm, tops. But instead, I was just bored. I could sometimes tell when I was having a contraction, and sometimes it would be uncomfortable, but not always. Anyway, my OB checked me after midnight and said I was 6cm, -1 station, and would have the baby by morning. And at this point, she broke my water since it hadn't broken yet and there was no turning back anyway.

This is when I really started to freak out. For some reason, it didn't seem like a done deal until this. I wanted to have an epidural because that has always been my plan and I am reallllly not interested in finding out what transition is like or feeling myself tear, but after she said that, I actually wasn't sure what to do. I'd somehow gotten to 6cm without noticing much (let's all pause and contemplate what may have happened, had I not gone in for the water-breaking false alarm), so I just didn't know if it was worth it to go through the stress of getting the epidural if I wasn't even in pain. In the end I got tired of thinking about it and just wanted to get some sleep if I was really having a baby in the morning, so I went for it. Turns out it only worked on my right side, and I still didn't really care about the pain until I was towards the end of pushing. Very bizarre. So, my conclusion: labor is boring and for some reason, not all that painful.

Before you all hate me, though, let's discuss what happened when I started pushing. Labor might have been strangely easy, but pushing was absolute hell. I started pushing around 3am and by the time 6am rolled around and I was still pushing, I was in a significant amount of pain and was sobbing and saying that I just couldn't do it. They'd been telling me for the last 2 hours that I just had to get the baby's head past the pubic bone, that it was almost there... and finally I snapped and screamed at everyone that I just couldn't do it because I was getting more tired with every push.

So my doctor decided that my pelvic bones were too close together to get the baby's head through without help (looking back, it would have been best to decide this somewhere around 4 am rather than 6) and she busted out the vacuum extractor. Now, I have always been very against the vacuum extractor because it can hurt the baby. Let me tell you, though, once you've been pushing for 3 hours and you are literally so frustrated that you are crying because you haven't made any progress for hours and you are terrified of being threatened with a c-section after all that, that little vacuum sounds pretty good. Anyway, I went for it. The episiotomy too, since my doctor informed me that it was necessary. (Was it necessary to extend it all the way into my rectum? Probably not. Did you really need to hear this choice piece of personal information? Probably not.)

Anyway, our little Caroline was born at 6:08 am after several vacuum-assisted pushes. They put her on my belly and I held onto her slippery little body and just felt kind of dazed. I remember saying "hi" over and over again, but it just didn't seem real that there was suddenly a baby in the room... much less that she was mine. Tyler was crying (do not spread that around or he will kill me) and everyone in the room was beaming at me, despite the fact that minutes before, I had just yelled at them all. They took her over to the warmer and the nurses and pediatric specialist (who was present at the birth, since she was preterm) started doing all sorts of things to her while my OB delivered the placenta and stitched me up. (Side note: I felt so vindicated when they put her on the scale and it said 7 pounds... the entire time I was pushing I kept wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn't deliver a 5-pound baby!) I remember just staring over at her in the warmer and asking over and over in a weak voice if she was okay. I was desperately afraid that her lungs wouldn't be mature enough.

It turns out that they really weren't. We had two things going for us-- the fact that I went into labor naturally rather than being induced, and the fact that she was a girl (girls mature faster than boys in utero). Those two things, both of which should have meant she should be mature enough to breathe well on her own, were apparently not enough. They let me hold her for a little while right after delivery (probably the happiest moment of my life), but a little later a nurse came and took her to the NICU for observation because she seemed to be struggling to breathe. They told me it was just for a few hours, but... well, you know the rest!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My birth story will have to wait

Because wow, do I have a lot of other things to report. I'll let you have a picture, though :)... this is from the day after baby Caroline was born.

I don't have too many other pictures right now because unfortunately she is still covered in wires and tubes, and it breaks our hearts to see her that way.

Caroline is still in the hospital. Her breathing went downhill on Monday, and after a chest x-ray showed an infiltrate in one of her lungs, the doctors made the decision to transfer her to a bigger NICU. (She actually was moved to the NICU at the hospital which is my school-- which is SO weird for me.) We had been staying in the hospital with her, feeding her and worrying about her and staying by her bedside basically 24 hours a day. We had almost zero sleep since the day she was born, and we were really starting to lose it by Monday. I literally spent the entire day before she was transferred in the hospital room, pumping and crying, because I just knew that something was wrong. The nightmare just kept going like one of those weird dreams... Tyler and I followed the ambulance to my school in the middle of the night, and we drove up that same road I used to go up every day to class, but this time we were following our precious new baby and wondering what was happening to her and if we would ever take her home.

It still all just doesn't seem real. I was supposed to be one of those mommies who got wheeled out of the hospital with balloons tied to the wheelchair and holding my baby in my arms. But I wasn't, and somehow she still isn't home with us, and I'm terrified to take her home even when they say she's ready, because I don't know if I will ever recover from sitting there for days, listening to her monitor beep and watching my baby turn blue. And being completely helpless to do anything about it at all. I swear, after I delivered her, I would wake up in the middle of the night, positive that I still felt her kicking in my belly. Then everything would come back and I would remember where she was... for a couple of days, I couldn't think about her or look at her without crying because I wanted to take care of her and fix her and I just... couldn't. Thank God for Tyler, though. I don't know how I would have pulled through this without him. He has been so strong for me and is already so tender with our daughter that I tear up (with happiness!) whenever I see them together.

Today she finally turned a corner, which is why I am even able to blog about this at all. She hasn't had any episodes of apnea (stopping breathing for more than 20 seconds) since she's been at the bigger NICU, which is huge. She's been nursing well and has learned to pace herself so that she can breathe and eat at the same time. The diagnosis that the doctors have given us is that she has really bad acid reflux, and she refluxed into her lungs which is what caused the aspirate to show up on the chest x-ray ("aspiration pneumonia"), and what caused the new breathing problems on Monday. Otherwise, her problems (which are now resolving) were just due to her prematurity. Apparently there's a really wide range of what 36-weekers can look like maturity-wise, and my baby Caroline was just unlucky.

So now they are saying she only needs to be at the hospital until her IV antibiotics are finished, which is another 4-5 days. Honestly, I'm dying to take her home and have her with me all the time, but at the same time I'm scared to have her here away from the nurses... what if she stops breathing? I just will have to trust that they won't let us take her until she is truly ready. That's the only thing that keeps me sane when they tell us it's going to be another delay until she can leave the NICU.

This all sounds very depressing, but really today was a great day. We finally got a diagnosis that makes sense and isn't that scary (SO many babies have reflux, hers just happens to be serious). She did a great job nursing and hasn't had any apnea in days. All the doctors and nurses say she looks wonderful (and everyone loves her hair!)... I really do believe it will only be a matter of less than a week before she comes home with us where she belongs.

And I promise I'll post my birth story soon... just wanted to post an update on our baby girl. Here's hoping she only gets stronger and healthier from here on out.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's a girl!

Caroline Anne was born this morning at 6:08am. She was exactly one month early, weighs 7 lbs (big for her age!), measures 18 inches, and shares a birthday with her cousin. We are so happy and proud. I'll be posting my birth story and pics soon. She is in the special care nursery for a few days due to some breathing problems because she was early. It doesn't look like she'll be released when I am, but she should be just fine.

More pics to come soon, and the birth story, I promise! I'm too exhausted to do any of it now :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

I was hoping I wouldn't have to see it

But I was unlucky. I just (gag, TMI alert, warning!) lost my mucus plug today. I have to admit that I'm a little freaked out, beyond the grossness factor. It was a real, physical sign that one day really soon, I am going to go into labor and there will be no turning back. I'll have to go to the hospital and birth a child and then come home with it and try not to kill it. Holy. Crap. It also can mean labor is coming really soon, but I'm choosing to subscribe to the "hey, you could still have weeks left!" school of thought. I know I said I was uncomfortable and over it, and I am, but I have a lot of things left to do!

Let's focus on harmless, happy things! I had my second shower yesterday, it was so much fun. My mom's friends did an amazing job. It had a bumblebee theme (of course!) and there were gorgeous flowers and delicious food and so many gifts that I was almost embarrassed. This baby and I are so spoiled! There are actually gifts spilling out of the nursery. Everyone has been so generous to us! I think we literally have everything we really need except for the diaper pail and the bottle set. It was such a fun time, so good to see all my old friends and my mom's friends... overall, just a really great day. My mother-in-law flew out from North Dakota for it and stayed with us. We had a really good visit, I was a little nervous about how grouchy I'd be, but it turned out to be a fun time. (Full disclosure: I may not have been the best hostess at times, since I was preoccupied with the important questions, like "who is sneaking into my room at night and beating me in the crotch with a baseball bat, and how did I miss it".)

I promise I'll post shower pics as soon as I get some from the girls, but here's my 35 week (well, I guess I'm halfway through my 36th week) belly pic, from the day of my shower:

Still growing! (I promise I don't look that tired in real life...)