If you celebrate holidays this time of year, may you enjoy them to the fullest.
December 21, 2010
November 06, 2010
As I posted last time, I have been wanting to document my labour and delivery. Much of it was a blur right after it happened. The memories get fuzzier the more time passes and the worse the sleep deprivation becomes. Kai is asleep on my lap right now and, while I should be napping, I don't want to lose my recollection of his day of birth altogether. It is time to write, coherently or otherwise.
After threatening to arrive prematurely and precipitously, Kai changed his mind and decided to stay in the womb so long that labour had to be induced. On September 7, following an internal exam by the on-call doctor at the hospital, a gel was applied to my cervix to start dilation. The doctor happened to be male, and because of this Scott was decidedly uncomfortable. Have you ever seen footage of someone reaching into a cow to help her birth a calf? That was what came to mind every time a doctor or nurse had to give me an internal examination toward the end of my pregnancy. They appeared to be up to their elbows trying to reach my cervix. This was odd, seeing as Kai's head had been pressing on my cervix for the past several weeks and had felt as though it was about to emerge at any moment. At any rate, Scott's discomfort was nothing compared to mine. I put late-pregnancy cervical exams at the bottom of my fun-activities-for-a-rainy-day list.
Because my parents live much closer to the hospital than we do, Scott and I spent the night at their place. The next day I had a 10:30 am appointment to be induced. At 8:00 that morning, I awoke with the realization that the gel had done its job; Scott then awoke to the sound of me saying, "Water broke! Water broke!" while I grabbed tissues and tried to avoid wetting the carpet in my parents' spare bedroom. I was remarkably calm, except for worrying about the carpet. I had read up on the stages of childbirth and knew that my water breaking was not necessarily indicative of the baby's imminent arrival. Mild contractions began at about 8:15 am. I called the maternity ward and they instructed me to come in for my appointment as scheduled. Meanwhile, Scott walked through the kitchen, said good morning to my dad and mentioned that my water had broken. My father's feet barely touched the floor as he raced around getting ready to drive us to the hospital. I reassured my parents that there was no rush, and I took the time to shower and have breakfast.
Once at the hospital, Scott and I had a great deal of waiting in store for us. Most of the patients who had been booked for induction were being sent home, as the department was full of unscheduled labours and deliveries. I would have been sent home too if it weren't for my water having broken. I counted myself as lucky. Eventually I was brought to triage, examined, given a pair of hospital gowns and told to take a hike for a couple of hours. We found a quiet hallway where I paced while Scott timed my contractions. They came as close as three to five minutes apart. I found it difficult to determine when they started and ended, perhaps because they were fairly mild. Over the next several hours I split my time between pacing the halls and laying in a triage bed cringing at the wounded-animal sounds of the labouring women around me. At the time I had to wonder about the apparently low pain tolerance of my fellow patients, as my contractions weren't even bad enough to make me gasp.
I don't recall how my dilation was progressing, if at all, but I do remember that it took many hours and a shift change before I was actually admitted and brought to a labour and delivery room. It seemed that everyone was too busy to look at my chart; I was dismayed at having to tell each new staff member who saw me that my water had broken that morning. I had heard that a woman should not go too long between her water breaking and delivery, as every hour that passed meant an increased risk of infection.
Eleven hours elapsed between the onset of contractions and my first dose of Pitocin to induce labour. I was hooked up to monitors and both Scott and I were given blankets and pillows; it was going to be a long night. My contractions continued uneventfully. Scott and I chatted and I remained in good spirits. I was relieved to be out of the triage room full of drama queens who couldn't handle a few cramps. As punishment for thinking such a nasty thought, I was suddenly hit by a contraction that made my head spin. The Pitocin was working. "I need an epidural," I blurted. Scott left the room to find a nurse. He returned with an angel. Emily was to be my labour and delivery nurse for the remainder of her shift.
Emily called in the anesthesiologist. That was reason enough to love Emily, but her bedside manner sealed the deal. She was terrific. I won't go into detail about the epidural except to say that, due to my scoliosis, it was unpleasant and took two attempts. Scott and Emily kept me calm throughout the process. Once the painkillers kicked in, I was in good spirits again. This is also where my memories become confused. I recall that I began dilating rapidly. Parents visited, monitors were hooked up, Scott and I snoozed occasionally... not necessarily in that order. In fact, "not necessarily in that order" applies to this entire post. At some point we moved from a cramped, last-resort delivery room to a large corner room. I was rolled in on my bed, so the move made little difference to me except to confuse my memories further.
Thanks to the epidural I did not feel any pain, but the baby's heart rate plummeted with every contraction. I recall Emily requesting assistance, calling out what sounded like, "I need help with a bratty!" I was lucid enough to realize that she was talking about bradycardia, a low heart rate. My medication was adjusted repeatedly. The on-call doctor came in from time to time. At one point the baby's heart rate dipped to 40 and I asked how much longer he could tolerate the fluctuations. Although the baby was in distress and labour was not progressing as hoped, the doctor said that she wanted to avoid a C-section if possible. That led to many more hours of labour and additional scary episodes of fetal bradycardia.
Finally, after thirty-one hours of labour and a few attempts at pushing, it was determined that the baby was stuck. In medical terms, the doctors decided to perform a C-section due to "failure to progress and non-reassuring fetal tracing." Baby Kai was born on the afternoon of September 9, 2010. He was healthy, weighed 2950 grams (6 lbs 8 oz) and measured 47 cm long. And with that, life changed forever.
Because I was behind a surgical drape it was several minutes before I saw the baby. Or at least it felt like several minutes. My sense of time was skewed due to the medication. Following the surgery we moved to a recovery room. I thought that perhaps 20 minutes had passed before we invited our families in to meet Kai, but I am told that it was actually a couple of hours. What do I know, I was as high as a kite.
Scott, Kai and I spent the next two days in a private hospital room. "Private" refers only to the number of patients in the room and does not describe our first little while as a family. Nurses came and went at all hours, poking, pricking and medicating. Most were nice, but some were gruff and unpleasant. I noticed this in spite of being on an extended adrenaline rush that had me out of bed and fluttering about long before I should have been so active. Our hospital stay included incidents of incompetence, a great deal of contradictory advice, continually interrupted sleep and a startling amount of bloodshed after I accidentally pulled out my IV. I also found myself in tears off and on, which was to be expected. What I hadn't realized was just how long the tears would continue. But my post-partum depression is a topic for another post. For now, the happy side of things: some more photos of Kai.
October 04, 2010
I would like this post to be well written. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation and baby brain are impairing my ability to form coherent sentences. I doubt that I am capable of fully expressing my gratitude anyway, since my appreciation feels greater than something that can be captured in words.
Many people have been tremendously supportive while I simultaneously grow accustomed to motherhood and battle depression, but this post is dedicated to one person in particular, someone who knows firsthand what I am going through: my mother. My mother looked after me (and the entire household) during my two months of bed rest. She has now taken an unpaid leave of absence from work to aid me in coping with these first weeks with Kai. The practical help she provides includes meal planning, cooking, shopping, washing dishes, walking the dogs, stooping and scooping, sifting litter boxes, laundry, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming and baby care. The emotional support and encouragement that she gives me are invaluable. Since she usually stays over at our house, my mother is subjecting herself to nights of little sleep in order to give me precious hours of slumber. I fear that she is reliving her own post-partum depression to help me get through mine. She does this all without complaining.
As my mother has done all my life, she is demonstrating how to be a mom: loving unconditionally, sacrificing selflessly, being compassionate, sharing wisdom. Kai is lucky to have such an amazing Nana, and I am blessed to have an unbelievably supportive mother.
Thank you, Mom, for standing by me. If I am able to adopt even a fraction of what you have shown me, Kai will be okay.
September 13, 2010
September 07, 2010
So, dear readers, the next time I post I should have baby pictures and perhaps even a name to share. Wish me luck!
August 19, 2010
The photo that I used in my last post is also my current Facebook profile pic. Not to be outdone, Scott took a new profile pic of himself, too. Both are posted below. Isn't it wonderful that I inspire him so?
August 07, 2010
July 25, 2010
I'm not sure how Scott did it, but several days ago he managed to snap a shot of most of the family perched on the cinderblocks, and not a single one is hissing, not even the mom.
Momma cat is still around and as nasty as ever. I don't know if the neighbours are planning to try to catch her, too, but it would be wonderful if she could be spayed, at the very least.
P.S. On an unrelated note, I had tests at the hospital on Friday and learned that the baby is now 2 mm closer to making his exit.
July 20, 2010
The scary news began after I reminded my OB that she had meant to be monitoring my possibly "incompetent" cervix. She referred me for an ultrasound in my 30th week. As I mentioned in my last post, the images showed that I was already starting to dilate. (Sorry, Dad.) Consequently, my OB instructed me to avoid any type of exertion, including the Aquafit course I was about to begin. I tried to take it easy and I withdrew from the course, although I didn't believe that "Aquafit" and "exertion" belonged in the same sentence.
When I saw my OB at week 32 I again inquired about an ultrasound. She scheduled one for the following week. I did not have an appointment with my OB on the day of my ultrasound, and I knew something was wrong when the technologist sent me to see her immediately afterward. My OB walked into the examination room flanked by two medical students and bluntly stated that I was on bed rest effective immediately. Tears sprang to my eyes. I was not ready to leave work. I was not prepared to rely on others for things. I did not want to be sentenced to house arrest -- worse, even: couch arrest. The alternative, however, was bed rest in the hospital, and I definitely didn't want that.
I wasn't permitted to take public transit, so I took a taxi to my parents' house, which is far closer to the doctor's office than my own home. I lay down on the sofa feeling positively miserable. I was completely thrown off by the doctor's orders and could not believe that I would be unable to wrap things up at work prior to maternity leave, or to help prepare our house for the baby's arrival.
Originally I had cursed the fact that I would be gigantically pregnant during the heat of July and August, but it turned out to be fortuitous timing. My mother is off for the summer. Since my order of bed rest, she has faithfully been making the one-hour trip to my house by public transit almost every day to ensure that I stay off my feet while she cooks, cleans, keeps me company and minimizes the additional work that Scott is left with due to my condition. As well as working full time, Scott is also toiling away on weekends along with his dad, my dad and others to complete the nursery and bedroom renovations. When Scott's dad comes into the city to help, Scott's mom will usually accompany him, giving my mom a much-needed break from looking after me.
To some, the idea of bed rest may be appealing. The reality of bed rest, however, is truly frustrating. I feel terribly guilty that everyone else is having to work extra hard because I can't work at all. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for the generous efforts of my family and friends during this time, and I know that there is no way to thank them -- other than to obey the doctor's orders and to incubate my little one as long as possible.
I had my first hospital appointment last Friday, at which time the baby and I underwent a biophysical profile (BPP) and a nonstress test. The latter test showed mild cramping but was otherwise normal. I was relieved to learn that the baby is doing well, scoring eight out of eight on the BPP. That being said, at just short of 34 weeks it's still too early for him to emerge.
Another piece of good news is that the baby has been head-down for a while. Although his head pushing on my cervix is half of the problem, the vertex position beats breech any day. I am unable to attend prenatal classes, so I have desperately been reading and re-reading the labour and delivery section of a pregnancy manual to prepare myself for the big event. One chapter included diagrams of various birth presentations, including this one, the footling:
Horrifying. I can't imagine that being a pleasant birth for mother or child. As uncomfortable as it is having my son's feet sticking up between my ribs, I'd prefer that to having his feet sticking out. (You okay, Dad?)
Now that I'm at home 24 hours a day, one thing I have time for is reading the daily digests that I receive from various baby-related magazines. Two of the more recent articles were entitled Why You Really Do Need Childbirth Classes, and Staying Home: Are You Ready? My responses are Rub it in, jerseholes, and Am I ready? It's not like I have a choice. No, I may not have a choice, but I do have a great deal of support. And with only 1.3 cm between my baby and his exit route, I need it.
June 25, 2010
Being pregnant, I know it's more important than ever to avoid potentially germy things such as stray cats. After several days of bringing sustenance to the brood, the mother cat stopped hissing long enough to emerge from her hiding place as I filled her water bowl. I thought that I was making progress but I had no plans to touch her. She had her own plans, which involved marching up to me, scratching me and quickly retreating. I began to understand why no one was looking for her.
Earlier this week I was distracted from my feral-feeding duties after getting some frightening ultrasound results. (TMI alert here, folks.) At just 30 weeks of pregnancy, I am already starting to dilate. My obstetrician instructed me to avoid anything requiring exertion -- even the Aquafit course I recently registered for in a sad attempt to introduce exercise into my sedentary lifestyle. The doctor also made appointments for me at the hospital to receive Celestone injections to help the baby's lungs develop more quickly in case he makes an early appearance. Following yesterday's shot, I noticed no movement from the baby all day and just a few weak kicks in the evening. When I awoke this morning and still felt no movement, I proceeded to the hospital two hours before my appointment. By the time I was in Maternal Triage I was also in tears, fearing the worst.
In a hospital gown, lying on a bed with a fetal heart monitor strapped to my belly, I heard the most wonderful sound a paranoid expectant mother can hear: the rapid kaTHUMP kaTHUMP kaTHUMP of a healthy baby's heart. The on-call doctor then performed an ultrasound to show me that the baby was indeed moving, although I still couldn't feel anything. I had my second and final Celestone injection and went on my greatly relieved way, anxious to phone Scott with the good news. Well, the mostly good news. I wasn't thrilled to learn that, if I should go into labour early, there will be no attempt to stop it, as the baby has a "90-95%" chance of survival at this stage. I worry about his health if he is born prematurely, but all I can do is to take it easy, as per the doctor's orders.
Having had the distraction of the baby fright, I missed two visits with the felines next door. Scott and I bought a case of canned cat food this evening only to discover that the brood has moved on, leaving an empty plate, empty bowl and empty pet carrier. My great happiness from the morning's reassuring hospital visit was tempered by the sadness of knowing that I was unable to rescue the cats from joining the already large population of feral cats in our area. Priorities change when one is pregnant, and I certainly had to put my unborn baby's welfare above all else, but that doesn't prevent me from feeling like I let down the little ones next door.
June 13, 2010
-morning (all-day) sickness sucks, but it ends;
-bending down takes preparation, and standing up again often requires assistance;
-my body will never be the same, but that's okay since it wasn't all that great to begin with;
-I'm amazed at the strength of my backaches, and at my obstetrician's reaction when I reported them to her ("Well, it's only going to get worse");
-friends with little ones have been incredibly generous with hand-me-downs;
-the baby now kicks so hard he can move my laptop when I carelessly rest it on my belly;
-I'm going to miss the kicks, rolls and flutters once the little guy is born.
This isn't a very inspired post and I apologize, but it's hard to concentrate with sawing and drilling going on overhead. Did I mention that our bedroom and nursery have been completely gutted? Again, there are just twelve weeks left before my due date. Uh-huh. Scott and I owe huge thanks to my dad, brother and our friend Martin for taking care of the demolition while we were away on our babymoon. It was a hot, filthy, back-breaking job.
Scott and his dad have been slaving away for the past few weekends to frame the new walls and repair the roof and floors. They assure me that there will be a ceiling at some point as well. We've hired or are in the process of hiring an electrician, a window installer, a mason, a spray-foam insulator and a flooring refinisher. Once they have all completed their work, it will be time for drywall and paint. As hard as Scott and his dad are working, I have expressed my doubts about our ability to have both rooms completed in time for the baby's arrival. My mother reminded me that Jehovah's Witnesses can build a Kingdom Hall in six days. Perhaps the next time the Witnesses knock at my door I'll invite them in to help with the renos. I might seek out some Amish folks while I'm at it, as they only take one or two days to raise an entire barn. Maybe it has something to do with faith; it could be the fact that Scott is an atheist and I'm a Humanist that makes our renovation projects take so long.
May 27, 2010
May 16, 2010
For this trip we wanted to do activities that we hadn't done the last time -- and activities that were safe to do while pregnant. We took a tour of the road to Hana, with its more than 600 curves and 46 one-lane bridges. We enjoyed several stops along the way. The economy in Hawaii is suffering right now, and many residents make a living selling goods at roadside stands. I couldn't resist picking up some macadamia-nut brittle for my parents at one such stop. I also gathered a few pieces of coral. Visitors are not supposed to remove lava rock or sand from the islands, but coral is permitted.
Part of our tour to Hana included exploring inside a lava tube. One type of hardened lava resembled chocolate. It felt like being in a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Hana is known for its black-sand beach, where we dipped our feet in the Pacific waters.
Beaches come in a variety of colours on Maui.
Hawaii is astonishingly verdant for a place that has very little dirt. Plants, both native and imported, manage to flourish growing on rock. We spotted several of these little ones sprouting right out of the sand.
Wind, wing and water are the vehicles by which plants originally arrived in Hawaii. The coconut trees you see on the rock in the distance were planted by a handful of armed-forces members who swam out on a lark many years ago.
Everywhere we looked we saw plants in countless shades of green, and blooms ranging from delicately tiny to lusciously huge.
Normally I would think that our loudly-patterned clothing was out of place in such a beautiful setting, but then again, Hawaii is the home of aloha shirts. And yes, Hawaiians -- not just tourists -- do wear aloha shirts. Our tour guide informed us that there is no such thing as formal wear in Hawaii. Scott and I caught footage of some sort of city or county council meeting on TV while we were there, and most of the politicians were in aloha shirts or T-shirts.
I don't know why, but my baby bump was showing a lot in Hawaii. Scott swears that it shrank once we returned home. Anyway, here it is upstaging a waterfall.
One of the most spectacular things that we saw on our trip was this type of tree, the rainbow eucalyptus.
There are many chickens running free in Hawaii. According to our tour guide, this is the result of chicken coops being broken open during a tsunami years ago. Since there are no snakes in the state, the chickens' only natural predator is the mongoose. Our tour guide made a special stop to call the birds ("Heeeeeeere chickie chickie chickie!") and give them a snack.
While on our tour to Hana we drove through Paia, a hippie town that is home to Willie Nelson. Apparently Willie sometimes plays waiter at his favourite local restaurant, Charleys, just to see the patrons' reactions. Speaking of hippies, we saw several of them on the side of the road trying to thumb a ride. Our tour guide claimed that many of them live in the jungle and have lice, so it's best not to stop for hitchhikers unless you have a pick-up truck. I took that with a grain of salt, although I noticed that he didn't stop to feed any hippies.
Not realizing quite how small Maui was, I had us staying in three different hotels during our one-week vacation so that we could explore different areas. Our first hotel was a modest place on the shore close to the Kahului airport.
On our way out of Kahului, we stopped at K-Mart to pick up a cheap back-pack, as we knew that there would not be sufficient space in our luggage for souvenirs. If Scott had any doubt that Hawaii was paradise, it disappeared the moment he discovered the liquor aisle.
I was less impressed with K-Mart when I discovered a bathmat that, sadly, closely resembles my Hawaii-inspired tattoo.
Following our sightseeing at K-Mart, we explored Kihei and Wailea. We shopped, strolled and swam in the ocean. Later we enjoyed dinner overlooking a sunset-lit beach.
Our next stop was Lahaina, where we stayed in a historic plantation-style inn right on the wharf.
Our outdoor space would have been far more enjoyable had it not been for the fact that most of the occupants of the non-smoking rooms on our floor were happily puffing away on their own balconies. Even Scott picked up a Hula Girl cigar to enjoy in the formerly fresh air.
Our room overlooked the famous old banyan tree, which occupies an entire park.
On the weekend artisans set up tables in the park to sell their creations.
On our second day in Lahaina, we took the short drive to Ma'alaea Harbor to visit the Maui Ocean Center. (As a Canadian, it was a struggle to type that last sentence with the American spellings of "harbour" and "centre.") The aquarium was a treat.
We moved on to Ka'anapali for the duration of our trip. Since we had a few hours before it was time to check in to our third and final hotel, we decided to drive up the coast and check out the sights on the north end of the island. The next eight photos provide a glimpse of the beauty that we observed.
Thanks to a friend with connections, we had a great rate at our last hotel, which was actually a resort and spa featuring fully equipped villas.
We bought some kabobs at one of the resort's markets and Scott put his BBQing skills to work.
On our last night in Maui, I surprised Scott with reservations for "date night" at a fondue restaurant. The ambiance was as romantic as expected and the service was impeccable. When I had originally phoned for reservations, a staff member had asked me what we were celebrating. I had told her that we were expecting. At the end of our meal, the waiter dropped off a congratulatory card signed by the staff. Nice touch!
After dinner I was almost too full to move, so I lay in our room like a beached whale while Scott roamed the resort to take a few final photos. He spied this little fellow in the grass below our room.
When I was mobile again, I waddled out to the balcony and called down to Scott. He took a photo of me and immediately dropped the camera, so this is the end of our vacation album.