Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Katherine -- 1 Month

Dear Precious Katherine,

In many ways, this month has flown by.  Likely because there are two older siblings to help life stay busy!  In other ways, this month has been slow.  Likely because Mommy doesn't get much sleep ;).  But I have learned that life will return to "normal" (a new normal, of course, which includes you), and as I look at Corbin and Lynnaea, I am reminded that you will grow up all too quickly.  And so I am trying to enjoy these moments.

Mommy is crazy.  And can't remember a lot from when Lynnaea and Corbin were babies.  As a result, I was trying to introduce you to the idea of a schedule after 2 weeks.  You pretty much put me in my place with your absolute refusal to be scheduled.  Ha!  So I looked back over the posts I wrote like this for your big brother and big sister and was reminded that you're still too young.  You are, however, pretty willing to go with the sleep-wake-eat-play-sleep schedule, so that's great.  It helps me know why you might be fussy at a given time.

Speaking of fussing, the truth is you're a pretty mellow baby.  You do fuss, but you're usually pretty easy to calm, and it's usually only because you are hungry or tired.  Or if you aren't being held and want to be (which is most of the time, though you are getting more tolerant of sleeping in your swing for a couple of naps each day).  And, like Corbin, you can certainly wind up with your screaming when you are upset and we don't fix it right away.  Oh how that kind of crying stresses Mommy out.  I try to keep those times to a minimum, but with an older brother and sister, there have been times where you've just had to cry while I tended to other issues.  Boo.

As there always seem to be with me, we had some struggles with breast-feeding.  But this time, they were different struggles:  you decided you didn't want to latch after realizing the bottle nipples were so much easier.  So I spent most of the month pumping to keep up my supply (and I sure dislike pumping!) and then feeding you breast-milk in the bottle.  But with some extra coaxing, this past weekend, we successfully got you to latch every feeding, and now you're a nursing pro!  Well, almost.  Sometimes it takes a few tries to latch correctly.  But we do it!  And I can pack away that breast pump.  Hooray!  I'm glad for the bonding time and closeness nursing provides.  I was actually really sad to not share that with you.  And I'm glad we have it back.  You're a trooper, my little miss.

We spend every night together in the computer room in the recliner.  We watch movies like Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and 13 Going on 30 and Pride and Prejudice; and TV shows like Frasier.  And you are getting that same heat rash on your face that Corbin did as a result of sleeping skin to skin with me for hours every night.  Though you started out completely unpredictable (as newborns do), you are getting slightly more predictable:  you will usually sleep a 4 hour stretch from midnight to 4, and then another 2.5 to 3 hour stretch to about 7.  This is awesome, in my opinion.  Part of me is looking forward to full nights of uninterrupted sleep in my own bed; but there is still that part that is cherishing these nights of you sleeping on me.  They will become practically non-existent in the months and years ahead (I know from experience), so I'm trying not to rush it too much.  It's a strange feeling to be so torn about these things.

Like your big brother, you like baths.  You are a little unsure still, probably because you're so "free" without clothes on.  But you don't cry or fuss.  You just sit there while I bathe you.  You also are like both Lynnaea and Corbin in that you are a champ at holding up your head!!  And, interesting tidbit:  your umbilical cord stub took almost 3 weeks to fall off!  It was a healthy cord!

And unlike your siblings, you seem to enjoy helping us go through 2 to 3 diapers per diaper change (because you are notorious already for peeing and pooping mid-diaper change).  We go through lots of diapers this way.  You haven't had any blow-outs so far (that was Lynnaea's specialty, I guess ;)), but one thing we are learning is you have very sensitive skin.  You had a bad diaper rash/burn at 3 1/2 weeks old, and I was so sad and felt like such a failure as a result.  But we've got you healed up and use diaper cream every single time now, because I tried skipping it once you were clear-skinned again, and almost immediately you got red again (but not really bad like before). And that's with diaper changes every feeding!  So yep, you are our sensitive-skinned girl.

You are starting to smile.  You gave me one of your precious open-mouthed squinty-eyed smiles about a week ago.  And just today you've been practicing more and more with those smiles.  It's adorable.  You're awake more and more, and you're learning to tolerate (which will one day be enjoyment) your older siblings and the constant attention they want to shower on you.  They really do love you.

Well, my precious girl, I'm thankful for you.  I love you.  That's the one thing I want my babies to know the most, and I hope I tell them enough and SHOW them even more.  You are precious to me, my sweet girl.  And I'm looking so forward to watching you grow and learn, even if a part of my heart wants you to be little forever.

Love Always,


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Katherine: A Baby Story

I decided to blog the majority of the details of the births of each of my babies.  I have found that I have left out some of the grosser details of childbirth, and that will likely hold true for this baby story as well.  Anyone who has delivered a baby vaginally probably knows all the gross stuff anyway ;).  But even without some of those yucky parts, I find documenting the births of my babies to be an important thing.  And I've returned to both Lynnaea's and Corbin's birth stories to re-read them and have found myself grateful that I chose to take the time, while the memory was still fresh, to record them.  Time is a precious commodity -- always -- but especially when there is a new baby.  But Katherine will want to read these details one day, and so I am taking the time to record the story of her arrival.

I visited the doctor on Thursday, December 28.  At that point, I was 38 weeks + 6 days pregnant.  I'd had some contractions, so opted to be checked.  What we found wasn't as promising as I'd hoped, but still progress:  50% effaced and almost 3 centimeters dilated.  Dr. Phillips informed me she was on-call all weekend, so if I did go into labor over the weekend, it was likely she'd deliver me.  If not, she'd see me in the office the following week.  I told her we were aiming for Sunday at the earliest.  Jeremy was on-call at Farley through Sunday, and having to figure out what to do for child-care and getting me to the hospital and all that if he was at work was stressful.  We figured we would be in the clear on Sunday and he wouldn't likely get called in that day.

But then he did get called in at 5:40 a.m. on Saturday.  And he was there all. day. long.  Literally.  He finally got home at 10 p.m. Saturday night.

Jeremy and I headed to bed about 11 pm on the 30th. At about 1:15 am, I woke up because I needed to pee (not surprisingly).  But then I noticed it felt like already HAD peed. (Sounds lovely, no?).  So I rolled out of bed and stood up, and felt more gushing as I did so.  Still uncertain if I was peeing or if this was what it feels like to have your water break (which had never happened to me before), I walked to the bathroom.  And still couldn't determine for sure if this was urine or amniotic fluid...  I pondered it for about 5 minutes before waking up Jeremy to tell him.  I knew we probably needed to go in and be checked, because I had read numerous times that when it comes to the water breaking, one should never try to guess whether it was urine or fluid... It's too risky for the baby and risks infection.

So I woke Jeremy and told him. I hated to do that since he has had such little sleep. But he came right awake and went right into "go mode".  I called my mom to have her come to the house to watch the kids and told her it might be nothing, but we have to go get checked. Then I got dressed and finished packing the hospital bag.  I was feeling really anxious.  This was not part of the plan!  I was expecting labor to be as it had been before. I always had clear, strong contractions before heading to the hospital. This time I wasn't having any!

My dad dropped my mom off at about 1:40, and Jeremy and I headed to the hospital. I wasn't feeling any baby movement, which added to my nerves and anxiety. We got to the medical center easily (not lots of traffic at that time of the morning!), parked, and headed to the birth center.  And found a sign at the reception desk sending us to the emergency room to register, which was completely NOT what we were told would happen when we went for our tour.  We had been told that no matter what time we came in, there would be someone to register us there on the 4th floor. 

So we got back on the elevator to try to head to emergency. But that proved harder than we thought it would be, so we went back to the 4th floor and buzzed their call thing to ask how to get to emergency. They buzzed us through and pointed out the other elevator that goes straight to the ER.  We got on that and went down to the ER. When the registration lady looked at me, I could see the confusion on her face as I said, "I think my water may have broken, and a sign on the 4th floor told us to come here."  In the end, they escorted us back up to the birthing center where we were finally taken to a triage room.

Let's just say I am glad I wasn't having massive contractions at that point, seeing as it took a while for us to get into a room and included lots of walking!  Or waddling, in my case.

So I was given a gown and told it would be an easy to test to see if my water had, in fact, broken. So I went into the bathroom to change (and pee again). And every single movement I made, I dribbled out liquid. I know that sounds gross. It was.  I told the nurse, "either my water really has broken or I have the worst incontinence problem ever.  Oh, and that bathroom floor now needs a good cleaning..."  she laughed and told me not to worry, then got ready to do the swab for the test.  But as she was about to, she got a nice big gush and said, "well, your water definitely broke. I don't need to even do the swab to see that, but I will anyway."  So there was no question about it: we would be admitted.  A baby would be born to our family in 2017 after all.

I also learned that I was having contractions, but they weren't very strong. And they found baby's heartbeat, so I could stop feeling anxious about that. And, of course, they did the pelvic exam and I learned I was dilated to a 4/5 and about 75% effaced.  Definitely not as far progressed as I would have hoped to be, but at least further than I had been at my Thursday appointment.

After what felt like a long time, I was finally moved to a delivery room.  Oh how I love the dignity of hospital gowns. Ugh.  I went pee one last time without a million cords attached to me. And leaked more on the floor :/. Then got in the hospital bed to start all the procedures.  First thing was the IV placement. I hate having an IV. They got it placed in my left hand, but couldn't get enough blood for the CBC, so they drew that from the back of my right hand.  And they started running the antibiotics, because this time, unlike both previous times, I was Group B Strep positive. Let's just say this pregnancy was full of firsts. By this time I was also actually starting to feel the contractions. But they weren't painful. 

Jeremy pulled out the couch and slept. I tried to sleep, but that didn't happen. I was too wound up.  I was expecting a quick labor, since Corbin came in 5 1/2 hours and everyone said 3rd babies come fast anyway. In fact, I later learned my OB was so certain I would go fast that she went in to the hospital at 3 when she learned I had been admitted.

Life had other plans, I guess.  I kept laboring, and eventually, the nurse came in and asked me to turn on my side, because the baby's heart rate kept dropping. This was before 7 am, because it was the night nurse who did all this. She also checked my progress again.  I was still only about 75 to 80% effaced, but had dilated to a 7/8.  I was getting excited about that, since I took that to mean all this would be over sooner than later.

So I was on my side for a while, and the contractions started picking up in intensity and were coming about 4 minutes apart. I got a new day-time nurse (the one who would ultimately be in assisting in delivery).  Eventually, I asked if I could flip off my back, because my hip was hurting and the contractions were getting more painful.  They said sure.  And once I did that, the relief was amazing.  I could actually rest a bit between contractions, and the contractions weren't that bad at all.  I was thrilled.  I was thinking this could be my easiest labor yet!  And when the charge nurse came in to start setting up the table with all the instruments the doctor would need, I took this as a very good sign.  It couldn't have been past 9 in the morning at this point.  She said the charts they were watching with the baby's heart-rate were indicating baby was slipping down into the birth canal and would be ready to be born soon.  I was so thrilled.  The charge nurse also mentioned that me laboring on my side would speed up the progress and delivery, but the contractions would be more intense.  She said if I wanted to get into a weird "pretzel" position, it would help things move along.  I opted out of that, as anything that made the pain worse wasn't high on my list of things I wanted to do.

And labor continued.  And again, the contractions started to intensify. Eventually I had Jeremy's hand to squeeze through contractions and he helped me focus on my breathing, etc.  It's funny...  When we didn't know when all this was going to go down and where he would be in terms of on-call at work and such, I was thinking, "You know, I got through this with Corbin, and Jeremy was there, but I think if he wasn't I would have been okay.  So if the worst happens and he isn't there, I'll get through it!"  In hind-sight, I know that -- at least with this labor -- there is no way that is true.  I needed Jeremy a lot this labor.  I don't know what I'd have done without him. 

Eventually the pain got so intense and the contractions so close together that both Jeremy and I were sure it had to be time to push.  So he went and asked them to come check me, because I really was starting to struggle with the pain.  My doctor came in at this point and they said they wondered if they should come in and check, but were waiting to see what I'd do.  They had offered pitocin to speed along the process, since my water had broken, but I have only heard that pitocin makes labor more intense, and I wasn't super interested in that (as mentioned above).  So I opted to see what my body would do on its own.  Because, as you can probably tell, I didn't get the epidural, so I felt every ounce of this.

So they checked me.  I had progressed to about 90% in effacement, but there had been NO progress with dilation.  Oh, and the getting checked was now excruciatingly painful.  And that news was just about as painful.  It was right around 12:15 at this point, and I was so done with this.  I was exhausted and the pain was a lot worse than I remembered.  And here's what was going on:  half of my cervix wasn't cooperating.  I didn't know this was possible.  But apparently it is.  Half of it wasn't thinned enough to be "complete," so my dilation was impacted.

And at this point, the suggestion was again made by my doctor (and seconded by the charge nurse) that I labor on my side (the side on which my cervix was not completely thinned) with my leg backwards in a stirrup.  I would labor in that position for 10 to 15 minutes.  They said it would really intensify the contractions, but would force the baby's head onto my cervix and that would open up my cervix.  Then they'd flip me to the other side for about 10 minutes to shift the baby's head over again, and then they'd check me to see if I was ready.  I agreed to this. 

Let me just say I cannot even describe the pain this was.  I actually cried and just kept saying, "I don't know what to do, the pain won't stop!"  The charge nurse was placing a cold damp rag all over my back and neck as Jeremy blew on my face and held my hand and let me squeeze so hard I was grinding his wedding ring into bone.  I have never experienced anything else this painful.  Ever.  And then they flipped me to the other side.  The flipping and moving was also painful.  I was told I could push gently against the contraction to alleviate pressure, but not to push too hard.  I kept asking how long it had been, because this felt interminable.  It hurt SO badly. 

Finally the doctor came back in and they had me roll to my back to check me.  Which, by the way, I couldn't even do by myself.  I was in so much pain, they pretty much had to move me.  And if I thought the previous check was painful, it was nothing compared to this one.  I tensed up immediately and was like, "Oh my goodness that hurts so bad!" 

I don't think a single swear word came out of mouth, but I definitely had the thought that one might.  I also had thoughts (during this whole side-labor process) that I wondered if it was too late for an epidural and I also considered telling them I'd rather opt for a c-section now and just have them cut the kid out.  Which, in my rational mind, I wouldn't choose to have surgery for no reason.  But I was not rational. 

So they checked me and at least brought the blessed news that I was "complete" and ready to push.

Did I mention it was excruciatingly painful to be checked?  Yeesh.  I was in pretty much constant pain, and as soon as I was on my back and they had checked me and announced my being ready to push, I felt a huge contraction and the desire to push. Unfortunately nobody was ready for me to do that yet. I think they were getting my legs in the stirrups and the doctor was gowning up.  I kept saying, "what am I supposed to do!?!"  

And finally the stars aligned and it was time to push. I hate pushing. I never push correctly at first, so it's just wasted efforts. And I was exhausted enough after 12 hours of labor.  With every contraction I pushed 3 times.  I remember them saying, "just one more!" And me saying, "I am trying!"  I had a lot of help from the two nurses assisting to pull my legs up.  

There is so much going on on those moments. I could feel EVERYTHING.  Contractions. Pushing. My doctor putting pressure on the spot "down there" where she wanted me to focus my pushing.  I felt them throw something on my torso as they said I was almost there.  And then, with my next contraction, I pushed four times, and felt that relief as she was pulled out of me and placed on my chest.  

In that moment, everything felt surreal.  I remember thinking that: how surreal it was.  I had just survived the worst pain of my life and I opened my eyes to a baby on me.  And she was mine. Crazy.

Katherine came out covered in the yucky stuff my doctor likes to call cottage cheese.  She finally gave a good loud scream after 30 seconds or so.  I could still feel her connected to me via umbilical cord until they had Jeremy cut the cord. And after that I could still feel the cord as my doctor held it, waiting for my placenta to be delivered.  Which took about 10 minutes, and a nurse had to massage my abdomen to help it along, and that was painful.  I remember feeling the contractions build again, and I just dreaded it, even though I knew it would not be hard.  I had to push a little, and I felt the placenta fall out of me too (kinds of a gross feeling).  Then, because I had a very small tear (which required 1 stitch), I had to wait to be stitched up.  Funny how, after all of that, you don't even know you have a bleeding wound.  She had some sort of numbing medication that she injected and said it would feel like fire.  I felt nothing of the sort.  I did, however, feel the pinch when she used the needle to sew me up and also the sensation of the string (or whatever they use) being pulled through my skin.  It didn't hurt, just was weird to feel the tugging and such. 

By this point, they'd gotten the baby wrapped up and cleaned off a bit.  Weighed and measured (8 pounds 15 ounces and 20 inches long!) and done her first shot (which I can't remember what it was).  Oh, I should mention she and I did skin-to-skin for a while while they were taking care of me.  I didn't do it with my other two babies (not sure why?  I think because I wasn't asked, but they asked here).  Actually, with Lynnaea, because she came out floppy and pale and didn't respond like they wanted her to, they whisked her to the nursery for a few hours.  With Corbin, I'm not sure why.  Anyway, she really was so sweet snuggled against me.  She was very content and happy.  So she was pretty unhappy when they took her to weigh her and all that jazz.  Which you can probably tell from her picture on the scale.  LOL. 

While they were cleaning Katherine up, the doctor asked me if I wanted to see my placenta.  I figured why not.  Well, that was a massive placenta!  Really thick.  The doctor said that well-fed babies have big placentas.  And my babies are nothing if not well-fed.  Their momma likes food!  Apparently a few weeks before I was due, one of Jeremy's co-workers asked if I was interested in keeping my placenta, because his wife does some sort of thing where she dries it and grinds it up and encapsulates it for the mom to ingest.  Okay, I know there are animals that eat their placentas.  And I know other women who actually do this.  But gag me.  I am not one of them.  They say you get so much energy from that.  Well, energy sounds lovely, but I'm sorry...  I could never mentally get past my knowledge of what I was ingesting.  So instead, I just let my placenta go to be used for burn victims.  I'm okay with that.

For the first time in all my deliveries, I got to stay in the same room I delivered in.  Both times I delivered in Washington, I delivered at their busiest time of year, so they needed the delivery rooms for new patients and I would be moved to a post-partum room.  If it hadn't been a busy time, I would have stayed in my original room.  Same thing here, I guess, but either they have more rooms here or there were just fewer deliveries, because I was able to stay where I started for almost 48 hours.  Although I will say I much prefer getting to leave after 24, which they do in WA, but here they keep you for 48 (but you can ask to leave a little early... so we did).  Hospital stays are hard, because it's not the "normal" and there's no way to get started on figuring out normal until you get home.  So it just feels like limbo to me, and there are so many rules, making it much harder to get sleep.  Plus all the interruptions of the staff taking vitals, etc. 

Jeremy stayed with me both nights (I learned my lesson about that after having Corbin and staying with him alone so Jeremy could be with Lynnaea!).  This time, my mom came over and took care of the kids until we got home.  I love my mom.  Immensely.  Jeremy would come home and bring the kids up to visit and he spent all of New Years Day at the house with the kids so my mom could go home and get stuff done.  But at night my mom was here with the kids, and I had Jeremy to help me at the hospital. 

It took us a day to come up with her name.  Jeremy and I never agree on names, and I had picked one that I really wanted, but he really wasn't on board with it.  And by the time he told me that, it was almost time to deliver and I couldn't come up with another name.  As we discussed it in the hospital, Jeremy said he had looked at her and thought she looked like British royalty, so he had started thinking about British royal names.  Ironically one of those names he'd thought of was a name someone I love (my cousin) had jokingly suggested to me as an awesome name, because it's hers.  Haha.  I told Jeremy that, and he said, "You know, that was actually on my list!"  So we decided she would be Katherine.  And finally, after the second night, we came up with Emmeline.  Which is a name I loved and had considered for Corbin, had he been a girl; but I had forgotten about it!  And we continued the pattern that my mother-in-law noticed in our first two kids:  the last letter of their first name is the first letter of their middle name.  She thought maybe we'd done that on purpose.  And I hadn't even realized it was like that until she pointed it out to me!

We were discharged on Tuesday, January 2nd at about 11:00 in the morning.  And since then, we've had ups and downs.  I always get the baby blues, so I have battled that (mostly in the first week, and since it's taken me a whole week to finish writing this, I'm already feeling better).  We have had new breast-feeding problems this time around, which has been a disappointment.  Mainly because I am producing more at this point than I ever have, but Katherine prefers not to latch, because of nipple confusion, I think.  We introduced the bottle quickly, because I have always been bad at helping brand new babies to latch, and then I get blistered and have to stop to heal.  And I think that all happened too fast this time, so Katherine learned that it's much easier to drink from a bottle and now prefers that.  She will latch occasionally and nurse, and I still maintain hope that she will start doing that regularly.  We will still have to supplement with formula.  It's just the way it is with my body.  But for now, in order to get her as much of my milk as possible -- and to encourage my body to continue producing -- I am having to pump, which I loathe.  But, because I want it for her, I will continue to do it. 

So that's Katherine's story.  I may have missed a few details.  Like I said, 1.5 weeks later and some things get forgotten.  Her labor and delivery did not go at all as planned.  But she arrived safely, and I made it through naturally, and we are well on our way to figuring out life with 3 children.  And that's what matters most.
 I look rough!  But I seriously was retaining so much water and was so swollen.  Thankfully, at this point (as I type this), my feet and ankles are back to normal!  I'm already down 22 pounds!  Hurrah!
 Not happy to be taken from mommy...
 Ready to go home!!!

Lynnaea and Corbin were excited to have Katherine home!
 Our first family of 5 picture :).  We'll have to re-do this once we aren't quite so rough looking ;).