The Baby Bean Blog

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Birth Story, Part 1

WARNING: This is not one of the birth stories where everything goes according to plan. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and you don't want to hear about how things don't go the way you want them to go, these Birth Story posts are probably ones that you should skip. But this blog is to chronicle my story, and this is part of it, so here goes.

I'm going to tell this story day by day. Yes, giving birth was not "at most 24 hours of my life" like I thought it would be. It was quite a bit longer. I'm going to go ahead and put Saturday, August 13, and Sunday, August 14, together.

On Saturday, I had a lot of lower back pain, which can be a sign that labor is approaching or even that labor has started. I thought about this with some excitement: I could be having my baby soon! But I also tried to remain grounded in the reality that I have lower back problems anyway, and these pains could just be a result of that. However, late Saturday night, I began to pay more attention to my abdomen and decided that what I was feeling, in addition to the lower back pain, were contractions. The contractions were spaced far apart. Only two of them were even 10 minutes apart, and I could go without a contraction for hours. But it definitely seemed like the start of something. Of course, that "something" could have be "prodromal labor," which can go on for days, but it was good to think that things were happening.

I went to sleep Saturday night around 11pm. I told my partner that labor could be starting, and she got a little panicked, which for her meant that she started to organize and clean. We still hadn't finished packing the labor bag completely, and she set her sights on that. I was quite confident that even if this was the beginning of labor, it would still be quite some time before I had progressed enough to go to the birth center, so I went to sleep.

I woke up between midnight and 1am to pee. Of course. At this point, I had to pee about every hour, asleep or awake. Occassionally, I could go for two hours, but that was the max. So I got up to pee, and when I wiped, it seemed like there was some fairly watery discharge going on down there. I wondered if my amniotic fluid was leaking or if this was just the normal discharge that a lot of pregnant women get: leukorrhea. I was familiar with leukorrhea because I had been having that more and more of it over the past couple of weeks.

I went to the bathroom several times between midnight and 2am, and the watery discharge persisted. Since I was group B strep (GBS) positive, if I was leaking amniotic fluid, I would have to go and get my labor started because they would want to limit my baby's exposure to the bacteria. If I had been GBS negative, I would have been given 3 days to go into labor by myself.

I thought about calling the midwife, but I decided that I was just being paranoid. I mean, I've been paranoid about so many things going wrong with this pregnancy, and with the exception of being GBS+, all my fears were unfounded. So I finally decided that I would see how things went for the rest of the night and then call the midwife in the morning at a decent hour.

The watery-ness of the discharge did slow down a bit by the morning, but I decided to call anyway at 9am, thinking I would just be assured that it was nothing. However, the midwife asked me to come in and be tested to see if it was amniotic fluid. I told my partner, and we hopped in the car and headed to the birth center. I was SO SURE that it was nothing that it never even occurred to me to bring the labor bag with us.

We got there around 9:45am, and the midwife did an internal exam where she took a sample of the discharge that had pooled around my cervix. The fact that there was discharge pooled around my cervix indicated that my water had indeed started leaking. She put the sample of it on one of those little rectangles of glass that you put under a microscope. 20 minutes later, she confirmed that there was amniotic fluid present in the sample.

I stayed at the birth center while my partner went to get me a milkshake from McDonalds. When she returned, the midwife poured 4 ounces of castor oil into the milkshake and told me to drink it up. She also started me on the antibiotic--vancomycin--that I would need to receive every 12 hours until I gave birth, I started the antibiotic and the castor oil milkshake around noon.

After all that was in progress, my partner went home to take care of the dogs and called my mother to come and get them--since she was the one who would take care of three of them for the first week of the baby's life (a friend who lived near my mom would take care of the fourth). My partner also straightened out a few more things at the house, threw some more things in the labor bag, and came back to the birth center.

Now about castor oil. Basically, it gives you a really, REALLY nasty case of diarrhea. All the spasms and gurgling of your intestines around your uterus cause you to release the hormone prostanglandin, which is the same hormone that softens and thins the cervix. It's a "natural" way to induce labor. Not a pleasant way, but a way that doesn't use drugs. My partner got back right around the time the castor oil started to work. Lucky her.

I basically had pure liquid diarrhea for about 5 or 6 hours. This was made worse by the fact that the birth center had horrible, scratchy, single ply toilet paper. After a few hours, I was RAW. I finally asked my partner to go to the drug store to get me some decent toilet paper and some Tucks pads. Note to self: DO NOT EVER, EVER PUT TUCKS PADS ON A RAW AREA AGAIN. I almost cried as it felt like putting rubbing alcohol on my raw "area." Wait. Let me rephrase. I didn't "almost" cry. I CRIED. IT HURT THAT MUCH. So ixnay on the ucksTay.

As the hours went by, I became more and more afraid that I would not be able to have my baby at the birth center. I could feel my dream of having a non-medicated (except the vanco and the castor oil) childbirth slip away. I thought that I had about 18 hours after my water broke to be in active labor. The castor oil was givng me contractions at last, but they were still pretty far apart. Sometimes as close as 7 minutes apart. Sometimes 10 or 15 minutes apart. This was not active labor, I needed contractions at least 5 minutes apart--4 mintues would be better. If I couldn't get there by myself (and the help of the castor oil), I would be transferred to the hospital where I would be put on pitocin--a synthetic hormone that mimics the natural hormone oxytocin, which causes contractions.

Things were hopping at the birth center. All three birth suites were full by the afternoon. Two women arrived after me and had their babies while I waited for my body to kick things into gear. Another woman also arrived and was put into the family room because all the birth suites were full. I felt bad for taking up a birth suite since not much was going on with me. And at midnight on Sunday, that's how things stood.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

It's a Girl!

My little Ella Bean was born on Tuesday, August 16, 2005, at 7:22 AM. She weighed in at 9 pounds, 9 ounces, and is 22 inches long and perfect! My birth story will follow when I have time....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bloody Show

Yesterday morning, when I woke up and when to the bathroom, there was some pink tinged discharge on my toilet paper. I knew that it was probably what they call "bloody show," but I called the midwife anyway because you're supposed to for any vaginal bleeding. She basically confirmed that it was probably a sign that my mucus plug was coming out. I was quite excited. A little bit concerned, too, because I haven't experienced any bleeding with this pregnancy, but I just told myself it was a good sign. I had some bright red spotting later that morning, and then all afternoon, I had brown spotting. I wore a panty liner all day, but nothing much got on it except a few spots.

As for my mucus plug, I don't know if I dilated enough for it to come out because I never found any clumps. I'm sure I would have noticed the whole plug if it had fallen out intact. So who knows exactly what is going on with that whole scene. At my next prenatal appointment next week, I'm going to ask for an internal exam to see if I have dilated some yet or not.

One of my pregnancy books said that after a bloody show and losing your mucus plug, you'll probably go into labor within 24-48 hours. That sounds good to me right about now, although I don't have my labor bag completely packed yet. But I know from reading various pregnancy boards that you can lose your mucus plug and then just stay pregnant for quite some time--weeks and weeks--afterwards. So I'm not getting my hopes up too high. I'm just trying to say to myself that this is a sign that some dilation is occuring, and that means we're on the right track.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Trying to Get This Party Started

I'm 38 weeks pregnant, and although I know that first babies tend to come about a week late, I'd rather that this one showed up on time or maybe even up to a week early. That would be fine with me. To help this happen, I've started doing some homeopathic stuff, upon the advice of my midwife.

Evening Primrose Oil. This is a natural form of prostaglandin, which ripens and softens the cervix, thereby helping it to thin and dilate and also helping the baby's head to settle down into the cervix (the pressure of which, in turn, helps to thin and dilate the cervix as well). Another big source of prostaglandin is found in semen, which is one of the reasons that pregnant women are encouraged to have sex with their male partner to get labor started. I, however, will stick with the little pills. I'm taking three a day, one with each meal.

Raspberry Leaf Tea. Not "raspberry tea," but raspberry leaf tea. This stuff is supposed to "tone the uterus." Basically, it doesn't get labor started, but it preps the uterus so that when labor does start, the uterus will be in good shape, be more efficient, and therefore labor will be shorter. The box of tea that I bought recommended 3 cups a day. My midwife told me I could have as much as I want, so I've been having 8 cups a day. Yes, you read that right. Why not? I brew a pot of it at night, stick it in the fridge, and then I drink it all day long. With some sugar and mixed with lemonade, it's quite tasty. And no caffeine, so I don't have to worry about that.

Those are the two things that I'm doing to help the process along. Nothing extreme, like taking castor oil. Or I read in one of my pregnancy books that there was a study done that showed that if a woman started doing nipple stimulation for three hours a day once she hit 39 weeks, she had a significantly lower chance to go past her due date. Three hours a day! That's a lot of nipple stimulation, if I do say so myself, although my partner says she is willing. By next week, I might be willing, too. And if I go past my due date, castor oil could also be in my future. That will be quite a post if I do it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Dammit, I'm Group B Strep Positive

At my prenatal appointment yesterday, I found out that I'm Group B Strep (GBS) positive. What is Group B Strep? Well, basically, it's a bacteria that about 20% of adults carry in their lower intestines--women can also carry the bacteria in their vaginas. For adults, it is harmless. However, if a baby were to be infected by GBS while being born, it can cause devastating illness and/or death. However, only 1 in 200 babies born to women who are GBS positive will get infected. That means that there's a 99.5% chance that such a baby would not get infected. Nonetheless, GBS is the number one infectious killer of newborns.

As I mentioned before, the chances of my baby contracting GBS from me are quite small: 0.5%. But because of the seriousness of the infection should my baby contract it, steps are taken to further minimize the risk. Gone is my completely unmedicated, untethered birth plan. Now I will be given IV antibiotics once I go into labor. Depending on the antibiotic I receive, it will take 20 to 90 minutes to administer, after which time they will leave the "hep lock" in my arm so that I can get another course of antibiotics every 4-8 hours (depending on the antibiotic) until I deliver. By administering antibiotics to me during labor, the chances of my baby being infected with GBS are reduced to 1 in 800.

After the baby is born, they will do a heel stick to get a few drops of blood from him or her, and this sample will be tested for infection. Previously, I could have left the birth center 4 hours after my baby was born. Now I will stay for 12 hours so that the baby can be observed. Also previously, I could have waited two or three days to see a pediatrician. Now I will take my baby to a pediatrician within 24 hours of being released from the birth center.

All in all, it's not that big of a deal. I'm not particularly worried about my little one contracting GBS. The odds are pretty remote. And getting the IV antibiotics shouldn't be too annoying. I guess I just saw this as the last hurdle to jump, and I hoped I'd make it over. I've passed the other tests, like the one for gestational diabetes, and the baby did well on the quad screen and the ultrasounds. My blood pressure is always nice and low. I had it in the back of my mind that I might fail this test. Not for any reason. Like I said, being a carrier of GBS doesn't cause any symptoms to an adult. But I had the feeling nonetheless. Sort of reminds me of this line from a Sarah Harmer song: "Everything was going so good I thought something bad might happen."

Oh well. C'est la vie. I just tell myself that of all the tests I could have failed during this pregnancy, this one is really the best one to fail.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I've Done Enough

Here we are, August 1st. I've finally made it to the month of my due date (August 20). And I have to admit, I feel like I've done enough.

I started lurking on a board for women who are due in August. There's at least 200 participants on this board. As of last week, 40 of them had given birth. And it wasn't even August yet. At first, this worried me, and I held onto my tummy and said to my baby, "You have to stay put until at least 35 weeks. Longer would be better." At 35 weeks, there's a 99% chance that a baby born then would not have any major complications. 35 weeks came and went, and I felt relieved. I waited for 36 weeks to come, because then things were even better--a shorter stay in the NICU if the baby came then or maybe no stay at all. I made it to 36 weeks. My mother threw me a baby shower, and I got just about everything needed for the arrival of the baby. At last, I was set. More or less ready. Although a part of me still enjoyed having the baby in my tummy, safe, sound, and protected.

Then, last week, things started to change. Two days after my shower, I woke up to an incredible pain in my lower right abdomen. It wouldn't go away, no matter what I did, and the pain was intense enough that I couldn't sleep. The pain didn't feel like contractions. It didn't come and go, but rather was sharp and constant. It started around 2am. Around 7am, I called my midwife. She said that it sounded like round ligament pain.

Of course I had heard about round ligament pain, but I had no idea it could be this bad. Basically, there are ligaments that attach the top of the uterus to the pelvic bones to hold it in place. As the uterus grows, these ligaments can get stretched and then cause pain--usually a dull, muscle ache type of pain. Apparently, my right round ligament was spasming, probably because the baby was dropping and putting sudden pressure on it (the baby is almost always hanging out on the right side of my uterus).

The next night, as I lay in bed in pain, unable to sleep, unable to do anything to make it better, for the first time I thought, "I just can't do this anymore. There's no way I can make it three and a half more weeks." The midwife had told me that the ligament should stretch and heal in a few days, but I had a hard time believing her. Luckily for me, she turned out to be right. After three days, the sharp pain had dwindled to muscle soreness.

Around that time, I noticed something new going on inside my body. With the baby's head settled down in my pelvis, I noticed that when s/he moved around, sometimes a shooting pain would go down one of my legs. Yes, the baby had found my sciatic nerve and was rubbing against it. Thank god the baby doesn't rest on it constantly the way some babies do, but it happens enough, trust me.

I hit 37 weeks this past weekend, and even though pregnancy is 40 weeks, a baby is considered full term at 37 weeks. This means that chances are that if I were to go into labor right this second, the baby would be 100% okay and come home with me right away. And realizing that, this new feeling has come over me: I've done enough. It's been 37 weeks. I've housed, and nurtured, and taken care of this little one to the best of my ability. I feel him or her move around inside me, and instead of that warm, fuzzy feeling I used to get, I think, "You seem quite big and strong, kid. Maybe it's time for you to come out, eh?" Right now, the baby is moving through its paces: punching my stomach out, cramming down on my bladder, and occassionally hitting my sciatic nerve. I love the baby and all that jazz, but let's face it. There's not enough room in there anymore.

August 20. In some respect, that's not that far away. In others, it seems like a damn long time. Especially when you can't sleep, so now you're counting the daytime hours and the nighttime hours as well. And far worse than the idea of August 20 is the idea that the baby most probably will not arrive by then. I'll probably go a week late, maybe two. Now we're not talking about three weeks anymore. We're talking about four or five more weeks.

I know that I can do it. I know that I will do it. But the fact of the matter is, I don't want to do it. Really, I honestly feel at this point that I've done enough.