Monday, January 29, 2018

Welcoming Elizabeth Grace

Who knew that this blog even still existed? I guess writing about the birth of a child is something that most people would write in a journal, but let's be honest - typing is way faster for me, and this way I can share Lizzies birth story with whoever else cares to read it. I guess you could say I'm a birth story junkie, and I figure there are a few others out there too who love a good read. It's a bit of a novel, but here we go!

I guess maybe I'll just backup a little bit. I found out I was a pregnant with Elizabeth in February-ish (I think?) when I was about 6 weeks. Halfway through week 7 I started feeling sick, and boy, did this pregnancy knock me off my feet! I've decided that this is when the terrible twos start - when mom gets pregnant with the next baby and lets the toddler do whatever they want! From about week 7 to week 14 I. Was. Miserable. I spent the majority of the day in bed, and Hazel got a lot more screen time than I like to admit. We were in survival mode. We lived on crackers and jello, and a whole lot of Doritos. Healthy, right? In fact, I remember going to my doctor's appointment at about 10 weeks and laughing when she handed me the healthy eating pamphlet. The idea of a healthy, well rounded diet sounded great, but at that point I was just aiming to get calories in my body. During those weeks I would move from my bed to the couch, and then back to my bed again, bucket by my side. A few times I debated whether or not we needed to go into the hospital for fluids because I was having a hard time keeping water down, but luckily we never had to do that. Brandon was such a trooper during those weeks too, and really stepped it up with taking care of Hazel. He would come home from work every day and take her to the park so she could get out of the house and I could get some rest, and he always made sure that my Dorito stash was well stocked. At about the 12 week mark, my friend Andrea took me into the clinic where she worked and did an ultrasound on me, and we discovered that I was actually only about 10 weeks, which I'm not going to lie, was a bit of a disappointment. Only because I was counting down the days until I could feel like a normal human being again, and those extra couple weeks seemed like an eternity! I'm pretty sure I told Brandon multiple times throughout my first trimester that we were only having two kids, but luckily we all survived and the sickness went away!

Well, second trimester cruised right along, and we got to the 28 week mark and the dreaded glucose test! Truth be told, I actually don't mind it, and I didn't even think twice about my diet leading up to it. I went to a Relief Society cooking activity the night before the test and taste tested all the different foods, then began my fast and went in for my bloodwork the next morning. A few days later I received a phone call from my doctor's office saying that I needed to come in to discuss some blood work results, but that it was non-urgent. I figured they would want to see me right away if it was gestational diabetes, so I was a bit shocked when I went to my appointment and found out that I had failed the glucose test by 0.2. Anything 8.5 and higher was considered gestational diabetes, and I was an 8.6. Well then the drama came. At that point, my doctor, who was an Obstetrician at the hospital for 20 years but had gone into family practice for a lifestyle change, told me that she needed me to be seen by the obstetricians at the hospital. And normally, that would not have been a big deal at all, but because we are not permanent residents yet and don't have Medicare, we were going to have to pay $350 for each hospital appointment (whether it was with a doctor or with a midwife) versus $85 per appointment with a family doctor. In a bit of a panic I called the hospital to see what their normal protocol for Gestational Diabetes patients was, and they informed me that I would need to be seen at least every 2 weeks by a doctor and then weekly after 36 weeks, have regular dietician appointments (also $350 each), and that I would have to have at least 2 extra ultrasounds and then be induced at 38 weeks. So having gestational diabetes meant that this baby was going to cost us a LOT of money and I was basically going to live at the hospital having appointments! I also knew that being induced before your body was really ready for labor increased the chance of an emergency c-section, and I was afraid of that happening too. Basically I was a mess. I would like to say that I stayed super positive about it all, but the reality is I turned into a bit of a drama queen for a few weeks. I can laugh about it now, but at the time I felt like I went through the whole grieving process – denial and wanting my doctor to repeat the test, anger at myself for not taking care of my health better, disappointment and feeling like my body had failed me, and after a lot of fear and stress and tears, I finally came to the acceptance stage. And now that I'm on the other side of it, I can say that it really wasn't that big of a deal.

With all the stress of the diagnosis, I started to research my options. I looked into going through the private health system, which would have saved a lot of money in appointments, but if my delivery ended up being complicated, it had the potential to rack up quite a hefty bill pretty quick. So we decided to stick to the public system and just see a private dietician. To be honest, the whole thing was a bit of a gongshow with a lot of back and forth about who was supposed to see me and when, so finally I just borrowed a glucometer and started taking my blood sugars 4 times a day on my own. I was super strict at first because I was afraid of showing up to the doctor with a list of out of control blood sugars, but after a couple of weeks or so of only one or two spikes, I felt like I knew what foods to stay away from and that I could finally relax a little. I ended up seeing one of the obstetricians at the hospital who was so super helpful and understanding of our situation, and he offered to see me free of charge as Brandon was on his obstetrics rotation and worked with him often. That was seriously such a relief! My blood sugars were pretty stable, with only the very occasional spike, so I was basically treated like any other normal pregnant woman – no extra appointments or scans, and no need for an early induction. Thank the heavens! Seriously I was so relieved.

As my due date got closer, I started to feel a little bit panicked to be honest. When I was pregnant with Hazel I felt like I had prepared fairly well mentally, but this time around I had hardly even thought about the whole labor part until the very end! On Thursday, October 12, I went to my 39 week appointment and had a rather uncomfortable stretch and sweep, and my doctor offered to break my water to get things going. I think that's when it hit me that this baby could come soon! I wasn't in a rush to have a baby in the next 24 hours, so I decided not to go for it, but as I left, he mentioned to Brandon that he thought I'd have the baby in the next few days.

On Sunday, October 15, our branch was having district conference out of town, so we just went and watched a 2 hour video broadcast for church. I was joking with my friend Rachel that I was going to go home, take a nap, and then have a baby that day. On our way out of church, Brandon was visiting with a couple that was visiting from out of town, and came back to the car to tell me that he had invited them over for dinner. I'm not going to lie - I was less than thrilled to hear that. I was exhausted and not in the mood to entertain, let alone cook a big meal. Brandon suggested that we could just pull the enchilada freezer meal out and cook them up, and my hormonal self was even less impressed with that. Didn't he know that I made freezer meals to feed my family when I had a baby, and not some strangers?! haha. Ohhh hormones. You make me so crazy. Well that afternoon we came home, made some lunch, and then Brandon sent me to go take a nap. I laid down about 2:00, and about 3:00 I woke up having some fairly consistent contractions. At that point I wasn't sure if they were the real deal, so I started timing them and they were about 3-5 minutes apart, but mild enough that I could still walk and talk through them. At about 4:00 I noticed things were getting a little stronger, so I got in the bath to relax a little bit, and that felt like heaven! I'm a girl that loves bath on a regular day, and the warm water did wonders for helping me relax. About a half hour later I got out of the tub, still having consistent contractions, and told Brandon I thought this was the real deal. He was on his obstetrics rotation at the time, and knew that shift change was at 8pm, and he figured that would be about the time that we would need to go into the hospital. In the meantime, our guests had just called to see if the invite for dinner was still open, so Brandon gave them a call back to politely tell them we may have to reschedule. haha. I finished packing my bag and a bag for Hazel, and sent a text to Rachel to see if she'd still be free to watch Hazel.

Because I was induced with Hazel, I wasn't totally sure when we should go into the hospital, so I gave them a call to see what they thought. They suggested waiting until the contractions picked up a little more, and said that they could still die off tonight. Well I sure hoped that they didn't die off, because by that point I was getting fairly uncomfortable and having to focus through my contractions, and the thought of going through all of that for nothing was not an option in my books. I knelt down next to my bed and swayed my hips back and forth to get through each contraction, and by this point it was 6:30 and we decided Brandon should go and drop Hazel off with Rachel, who lived just up the road. When he got back, we packed up the car (or should I say Brandon packed up the car while I breathed through contractions) and made the 15 minute drive to the hospital. Not the most comfortable drive I've ever done. I remember thinking multiple times how I needed to relax and just get into the zone, and I searched through my phone for some relaxing music that would help me with that.

When we got to the hospital, we parked next to the after hours door and made a mad dash to get inside before another contraction started. When we got to the labor assessment area, there was nobody in sight, so Brandon headed off to find someone while I paced the hallway to get through another contraction. Then we moved into the assessment area where we were met by our midwife, who said she needed to put me on the monitor for 30 minutes and then she would come back and check to see how dilated I was. Well, that lasted all of about 5 minutes. With strong contractions coming every few minutes, there was no way that I was going to lay flat on my back on a stretcher for 30 minutes. After a few minutes she decided to just check me and I was 5cm with my membranes still intact. Our friend and Brandon's coworker Sonia happened to be the doctor on that night, so she popped her head in to say hi, and let us know that she had spoken with the consultant, who was going to come in for the delivery as a courtesy to us because Brandon worked at the hospital (normally with uncomplicated deliveries its just the midwives or junior doctors who do the deliveries). It was a crazy night in labor and delivery (I think about 7 babies born?) and by that point I wasn't feeling like chatting, so Sonia went on her way and our midwife moved us into our room.

Because I had gestational diabetes with this pregnancy, I had to be monitored my entire labor. When we got settled into our room, the midwife asked if I wanted to get into the shower, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was allowed to while wearing the monitor. I was REALLY hoping I could get in the tub, since it had helped me relax so much at home, but if I was allowed the shower, I'd take it! By this point I think it was about 8:30pm and I was needing something to help with the pain. I got settled in the shower, sitting on a chair and resting my head against the wall while I had 2 showerheads pouring down on me, and I decided to give the gas a try. And let me tell you, that stuff became my best friend! I spent the next hour or so in the shower, but we kept losing the baby's heartbeat on the monitor, so eventually I had to get out. And I'll be honest, I totally tried to ignore the midwife multiple times when she suggested I come out of the shower. I was comfortable (or as comfortable as I could be at that point!) in there and did not want to move! But eventually I gave in and did as I was told. Haha.

The next little bit is kind of a blur to be honest. One of the biggest differences that I noticed with this birth compared to Hazel's was that the midwives just kind of left me alone to do my own thing, where when I had Hazel, my nurse helped to coach me a lot. Not sure if thats a nurse vs midwife thing, if they figured that it was my second baby and Brandon was a doctor and we knew what we were doing, or if it was just because there were so many other babies being born at the same time. But personally, I kind of liked having someone to coach me along! By the time I got out of the shower, I was having pretty strong contractions pretty close together, so getting comfortable and into a groove was a struggle. When I had Hazel I loved sitting on the ball and leaning over the bed, so I gave that a try, but the ball was too small and I just couldn't get comfortable that way. I paced the room a little bit and hung on Brandon during contractions, but eventually I just ended up laying on my side on the bed, still clinging to that gas for dear life. At that point I remember telling Brandon how the gas was my best friend, and it was pretty much what was getting me through each contraction. I think it was around this point that Brandon mentioned that our baby's birthday was either going to be October 15 or October 16, and I told him it had to be October 15, because having the baby after midnight would mean that I had to be in labor for way too long!

By this time it was probably about 11:00 and things were getting a bit crazy. Contractions were coming hard and fast, and I felt like maybe I needed to push. This was another big difference having a midwife in Australia vs a nurse/doctor when I had Hazel in Canada – when I had Hazel and mentioned that I needed to push, they checked me right away, let me know when I was fully dilated, and gave me the go ahead to push. But with this birth, when I mentioned to the midwife that I felt like I needed to push, she just responded with “that's great, that means the head is coming down!” I asked if she could check me to see if I was ready to push, to which she responded that they don't really just check for no reason. (Isn't checking to see if I'm ready to push a good reason?!) My face must have shown my thoughts to that response, because Brandon knew right away that I really just wanted to know where I was at. I told her that if she wasn't going to check me, then I needed to know what my pain options were, because at that point the gas wasn't cutting it anymore. She said that the next option would be Morphine, but that I needed to be checked before I could have any. (Great! That's what I wanted in the first place!) I was 8cm with bulging membranes, so morphine wasn't an option. I had definitely hit transition and while I'd love to say that I was totally under control, I was starting to lose it a little bit. I asked if the midwife could break my water, knowing that things would likely go quickly once that happened, but didn't get a straight answer from her. I was kneeling up on the bed with my arms over the head, and with every contraction I tried to convince myself that my water had just broken. I just wanted so badly for it to break so I could finally push this baby out! And then came the magical moment. Sonia (our doctor friend) had been talking to our midwife in the hallway, and the midwife mentioned that things were going well, and that I wanted my water to break naturally (not sure where she got that idea!). Thinking that that didn't really sound like our style, Sonia popped her head into the room to assess the situation for herself.

“Hey Amy, so you want your water to break on its own, is that right?”

“I don't care, just get this baby out of me!”

“Okay, I can do that for you right now!”

One contraction later, and Sonia broke my water, and I heard her tell the midwife that I was now dilated to a 10 and there was meconium in the fluid. Nobody was telling me to push or not to push, but by that point, I decided I was just doing whatever I wanted until someone stopped me. I gave 2 good pushes and then everyone started telling me to stop pushing and start taking panting breaths. The baby's head was out and after one more push at 11:46pm, so was her whole body. The biggest relief and the best feeling in the world was when they placed her on my chest. After a rough pregnancy and exhausting labor, she was finally here! She had come out with one hand up by her face, so I ended up with a second degree tear that needed a little stitching up, but by that point I didn't even care. She was our perfect little girl and worth every bit of effort.

Our hospital stay was fairly uneventful. They were nice enough to give us a private room (perks of being hospital staff!) and thankfully, Lizzie's blood sugars were all stable, so she didn't have to go to the nursery at all. Brandon brought Hazel in the next day to see her, and at first she wasn't quite sure what to think. Tears welled up in her eyes and she started saying “No, no!” while shaking her head, but after the initial shock, she became just as smitten as the rest of us. We were now a family of FOUR and have been loving every (exhausting) minute since!