Jack’s Birth Story

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to write this. Especially now, since it’s been so long (Jack is now 7 weeks old, after all). Plus, let’s be honest… who has time to write a lengthy blog post with a newborn in tow? But I feel like I it would be so abrupt to just leave Jack’s story on that last, 35-week pregnancy post. So let’s do this.

(Be warned, this one is long.)

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First, let me say that we had a plan. (Of course we had a plan… this is me we’re talking about.) My doctor wanted to induce on Friday, the 18th. My mom was going to fly in the day before, and we were going to go grocery shopping and finish getting the house ready for baby, and then she was going to take care of James while we were in the hospital. It was all going to work out so nicely.

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So the Saturday before, Robbie had gone to play airsoft and James was with his mom, so I had the house to myself. I spent it doing some last-minute nesting projects. I went to my favorite taqueria for a carnitas tostada (as was my almost daily ritual by this point). An awesome little foot soaker showed up at my door from Sydney, and I soaked my feet for a while in the afternoon. Then I met up with Robbie and some friends for pizza, and we laughed about her experience giving birth in the ER parking lot. We went home and stayed up late watching a movie, planning to sleep in the next day. We left all of the airsoft stuff all over the living room, thinking we’d have Sunday to clean it up. No big deal.

Until I woke up at 4:30 Sunday morning to use the bathroom, and found that my water had broken all over our bed. Funny enough, thinking something like this might happen, I had ordered a waterproof mattress pad from Amazon that was scheduled to be delivered that day. Luckily for us, my type-A medical brain had already put several chucks pads under the sheets on my side, so the mattress was mostly saved.

I phoned in to the labor and delivery department at the hospital to see what we should do. The on-call doctor decided we should come in. Luckily I already had my hospital bag mostly packed, so I threw in the last few things I would need. I showered, thinking it might be one of the last times I’d get to for a while. I texted my mom to tell her she’d probably need to change her flight. I stripped the sheets off our bed and set out our clean set for mom once she got there, unsure if we’d be back to make it for her. I looked at the living room, covered in airsoft gear, and at the piles of towels and other laundry that I had intended to wash on Sunday, and I cringed. I had intended to have my house so much more ready for my mom’s arrival than this. But there wasn’t time to deal with it now. So we  grabbed the bags and the car seat, and headed out the door.

Since I had been told that they probably wouldn’t let me eat while I was in labor, I had Robbie stop at Jack in the Box for a “last meal,” if you will. I knew I still had many, many hours to go, and I was not about to run a marathon on an empty stomach.

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We finally got checked into the hospital somewhere around 6am. Once they got me hooked up to the monitor, we could see that I was having semi-regular contractions, but they weren’t very strong and I could hardly feel them. They chose not to check my cervix, in order to minimize the risk of infection since my membranes were already ruptured. My blood pressure was on the higher side, but basically the same as it had been during the last several weeks of pregnancy. My blood sugar was high, because I had eaten a sandwich for my “last meal”, albeit a very protein-heavy one. The doctor decided we should stay.

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Looking back now, I realize that I probably could have labored at home for several hours had my water not broken. It took quite a while to really begin feeling anything, and there really wasn’t anything to do but walk the halls and watch football. Luckily, the hospital cable had the Broncos game that day (and they did, thankfully, let me eat). I walked a lot and spent a lot of time bouncing on the exercise ball to try to get things to progress. Slowly, they did. By the afternoon the contractions were getting stronger and coming with more regularity (though I didn’t time them, since we were already in the hospital and there wasn’t much point). They began to get uncomfortable, though not much worse than my worst menstrual cramps. I naively thought maybe this wasn’t so terrible. Maybe I could push through and go drug-free.

Now let me say that I really had no expectations going into my delivery. I had decided that I would simply see how I felt as things progressed, and would have no guilt about accepting medications or an epidural if I felt like that’s what I need to get through it. I knew that an epidural could slow my labor, so I wanted to labor naturally for as long as possible, but that was my only wish. Otherwise, I gave myself permission to do whatever I needed to.

By dinner time things had really started to pick up. Each contraction stopped me dead in my tracks. I remember trying to talk to my mom on the phone and being unable to speak as a contraction hit. I had taken to sitting on the exercise ball and leaning over a stack of pillows on the edge of the bed for comfort. By around 7pm I decided to try the bathtub.

The tub was actually really nice. I wasn’t lucky enough to get a room that had its own, so I had to use the tub down the hall that didn’t have working jets, but the warm water still felt really good. But even that soon ceased to provide enough relief. The pain had become so powerful that I dreaded each contraction, and I was afraid to move. And when I finally decided to get out and ask for an epidural, Robbie had to talk me into actually getting out because I was too afraid that moving would bring on another contraction and I wasn’t sure I could handle it.

By 9:30 I gave in and asked for an epidural. Of course, it took some time for the anesthesiologist to arrive and prepare everything, and by then I was borderline hysterical. I could barely talk, could barely open my eyes, and was openly crying. The nurse tried to check my cervix, but I was in too much pain to tolerate her touch. Once the nurse got my IV in she gave me a dose of Fentanyl, which was a total lifesaver. I don’t think I could have gotten through the epidural placement without it. The fentanyl kicked in, they finally got the epidural in, and by 11 I involuntarily passed out from exhaustion and newfound relief.

Somewhere around 1am I woke up very nauseated. After throwing up, I asked the nurse if she could try to check my cervix again. I had heard that nausea was sometimes a sign of transition, and I mentally needed to know where we were at in the process. It’s been so long now, I don’t remember exactly what I was dilated to, only that it was a disappointingly low number, like 2 or 3. I tried not to get discouraged, and went back to sleep. A few hours later, I threw up again. This time I noticed that I was also feeling more pain, especially on one side. The anesthesiologist checked that the catheter was still in good position, and gave me a bolus of medication. He had to do this again later that morning, too, and almost had to a third time until we realized that my catheter was somewhat positional, and a change in position helped the medication reach a more generalized area. Before long my legs felt like they weren’t even attached to me anymore.

Around 6am we noticed that my contractions had slowed. The epidural had slowed my labor, just as I’d feared. By 9am, nearly 30 hours since my water had broken, they checked my cervix again and I was only dilated to 5. With no improvement in my contractions, the midwife (the on call practitioner that day) decided to start Pitocin.

My mom finally arrived around 11:30. As tedious as labor had become, I was grateful that Jack had waited long enough for Grandma to get there. Now we needed him to hurry up! By around 1pm, my contractions had only minimally improved and I was still only dilated to around 7. The midwife opted to increase my Pitocin dose.

Finally, around 3:30, I was fully dilated and ready to push. I had witnessed enough deliveries that I felt like I knew what I was doing, but with the epidural I literally could not feel anything. Robbie held my right leg and my mama held my left, and I pushed. And as long as labor had been, delivery was equally quick. After a mere 45 minutes, my midwife asked me if I wanted to feel his head, and I did! He was right there! And finally, at 4:25pm on Monday, November 14, at exactly 37 weeks, my sweet boy was born. I heard him before I saw him – a perfect, loud, lusty cry. And then they placed him on my bare chest, and I fell in love. Robbie opted to let grandma cut the cord.

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We spent the next few hours getting to know each other, while grandma went to pick up James.

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James and grandma were both smitten.

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The next few days weren’t easy, unfortunately. Jack had some transient tachypnea, and wound up getting 48 hours of IV antibiotics just to be safe. He also got to experience the joys of phototherapy due to a high bilirubin level (jaundice), and wound up staying an extra day once his antibiotics were finished due to that. Luckily for us, our hospital was able to do all of this with him still in our room, so he didn’t have to go to the NICU as he would have at another facility. But between the sleep deprivation, the post-partum hormones, and the stress of these complications, it was a very emotional few days for this mama. And much to my surprise, no amount of NICU experience could have prepared me for how hard it was to see my own baby in pain. I was a bit of a mess.

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But finally, on Thursday afternoon, we got to take him home.

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I was so nervous our first night. I must have gotten up to check on him at least a dozen times.

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But it was so good to be home.

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And now, 7 weeks later, our sweet Jack is a chunky monkey, full of smiles and energy.

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And he’s absolutely perfect. 🙂

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Baby Starks: Week 35

Hello, friends! Care to join me in a happy dance? We’re in week 35!!!

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35 weeks is a magic number in the NICU world, because babies born around this time are often perfectly fine and don’t require a NICU stay at all. So this mama is breathing a big sigh of relief to see this number on the calendar!

How big is the baby?

Baby boy is likely almost at his birth length, around 18 inches, and likely weighs over 5 pounds! And it seems very true, since I feel like he’s had a major growth spurt just in the last 2 weeks.

What’s new?

Remember how in my last post I said I only had 2 more weeks of work left? Well, the very next day, after a long day of work and being on my feet a lot that day, I wound up in labor and delivery with tons of pelvic pressure, backaches, and cramping that were all very new to me. I honestly wondered if I was in early labor. After a couple of hours of monitoring and some more labs because my blood pressure was high, they determined that I was, indeed, having contractions, but I wasn’t dilated at all and my labs were ok, so they sent me home with orders to take it easy.

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At my regular 34-week appointment the following Monday, my blood pressure was still higher than normal, so they ran more labs and did more monitoring, and found that I was still having intermittent contractions despite having a lazy weekend. My doctor decided that 12-hour work days with an hour commute weren’t a good idea anymore, so my maternity leave officially started then. Even though it would not necessarily be bad to deliver the little guy now, it wouldn’t be ideal – our goal is to keep him in until at least 37 weeks so he has the most time to fully develop. At that point, if my blood pressure continues to climb or if any part of his monitoring strip isn’t reassuring, we may induce and just have him then. It’s crazy to think I might be meeting my little boy in just 2 weeks! But between now and then I get to go into the doctor twice a week for more monitoring. Which sounds pretty lame, but I don’t really mind getting to listen to his heartbeat more often. 🙂

How am I feeling?

Well, honestly, I feel pretty miserable a lot of the time. Little Jack has definitely moved down into my pelvis in preparation for his arrival, and it’s putting all kinds of uncomfortable pressure in places like my bladder and hips. I definitely waddle around like a pregnant lady right now, especially just after standing up, as the ligaments in my hips are becoming looser and less strong. After going away for a glorious few weeks, heartburn has come back with a vengeance, too.

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My hands continue to be the most frustrating thing for me, though. The weakness and numbness are at an all-time high, and my left hand in particular now has lots of muscle spasms and cramps whenever I try to do any kind of squeezing motion with it, like turning a doorknob or trying to pick something up. We painted pumpkins this year instead of carving them, because my hands just weren’t up to the task. Pumpkin carving is usually one of my favorite things to do, so it was a little disheartening that I wasn’t able to this year. I really, really hope this goes away after Jack is born, because I have major sympathy for people who deal with carpal tunnel all the time.

The whole gestational diabetes thing is getting really frustrating, too. I’m particularly burnt out on breakfast, and actually had a full-on meltdown the other day because I just did not want to eat another damn egg. Hell, I’d be happy if I could just roll out of bed and eat anything at all without going through the effort of having to cook it. Waaaah.

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It also doesn’t help my mood that I am royally bored a lot of the time. That didn’t take long, right? I’m trying to be grateful for the opportunity to rest, but I have never been one who likes to just sit around for long. I spent my first couple of days accomplishing a few last-minute projects and doing some needed housework, but a few too many trips up the stairs one day reminded me that I do actually need to take it easy. So I’ve been spending lots of time in my new rocking chair, binging on Netflix or reading or taking too many naps. And while a nap or two a day does feel pretty luxurious, it also keeps me from sleeping well at night. I suppose it’s just preparing me for all the broken sleep I’m about to experience in the newborn phase. I just wish my hands would cooperate so I could color with all this new free time. But I did order some puzzles from AmazonPrime that should be here tomorrow, so hopefully those will keep me occupied for a while.

Boy, I feel like I’ve done nothing but complain this post. But the third trimester is no joke! I’m feeling really glad that the end is in sight.

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Feel free to send book or TV recommendations! Otherwise I’ll see you guys in another 2 weeks! Peace!

Baby Starks: Week 33

Hello, friends! It’s week 33, and we are in the home stretch!

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How big is the baby?

Baby Jack is now roughly 17 inches long, and about the size of a honeydew melon! He could weigh over 4 pounds by now, and boy does that feel right. Definitely feeling enormous over here.

How am I feeling?

Honestly? Pretty tired and grumpy most of the time. Everything is a challenge these days. Transitioning from standing to sitting or getting back up again has become very hard, especially since our little guy seems to have positioned himself lower in my belly now and is putting lots of pressure on my pelvis. I can hardly bend over to put my socks on anymore, and if I drop something on the floor it is likely to stay there. My back is tight most days from trying to reach around my giant belly to do things as simple as wash the dishes.

And swelling is real, y’all. The other night, we went to the movies and I enjoyed some buttery, salty popcorn, and by the time we went home my flip flops were cutting into my feet and my hands were too swollen to make a fist. At work, I have a habit of kicking my Danskos off when I have time sit… well, the other day I couldn’t get them back on when I went to stand back up. And that swelling that’s been causing my fingers to go numb for the last few months has turned into full blown carpal tunnel. I have very little hand strength for doing things like squeezing my shampoo bottle or unscrewing the top off of the milk. I now sleep with a wrist brace, and simply deal with the fact that I won’t feel my right hand for most of the day.

Being tired and uncomfortable all of the time has also made me very grumpy. I do apologize to everyone for being so short-tempered lately… I’m just at the end of my patience with it all. Thankfully, a perk of living in socialized California means that I only have 3 more weeks left of work, and, especially since I have worked two jobs during the entirety of this pregnancy, I am so very ready for that date to be here.

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Of note, though, we did have a little scare last week. I had my normal 32-week doctor’s appointment last Monday, and mentioned to my OB that I had been having some cramping over that weekend. To be safe, she ran a fetal fibronectin test, which can indicate that preterm labor may be happening, and it came back positive. So I got to spend a couple of hours in the labor and delivery department at the hospital, hooked up to a monitor to make sure that baby’s heart rate was fine and that I wasn’t having contractions. Thankfully, everything was fine on that front, and I got a nice long opportunity to hear his heartbeat. It turns out, though, that I did have an infection… that was the likely cause of the cramps, and the cramps the likely cause of the positive fFN. They started me on some antibiotics, and thankfully I have not had any more cramping since.

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They say that every normal pregnancy has at least one scare, and hopefully that was mine. But I do have a sneaking suspicion that he’s going to make an early appearance… something tells me 37 weeks is as far as we’ll get. I’m hoping he’ll stay put long enough for me to have a good couple of weeks off from work first, though, to rest and prepare before he comes. But in case he doesn’t, I’m busy busy in full-blown nesting mode. I’ve washed and put away most of his clothes and linens, and our hospital bags are mostly packed. I’ve bought diapers and wipes and shampoo. I even have nursing tops and postpartum supplies for me. We’re definitely almost ready!

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Speaking of nursing tops, one little project I’m currently working on is altering some camis for myself. They make lovely nursing tanks that you can buy that have a loop to clip into your nursing bra, so the top of the tank easily comes down for feeding. However, the ones I’ve found run over $20 a piece, and that just seemed ridiculous to me, especially when I’m going to need several since I will probably wear one just about every day. So I just bought some cheap camis from Old Navy, cut the straps, and sewed a loop on each side myself. I have only done a few so far, as it’s taking me a little while to sew them with the current condition of my hands, but I feel pretty good about all the money I saved. Pinterest for the win!

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Things seem to be going well with the gestational diabetes, too. I’m kind of in a sweet spot, where I know what I can and cannot eat and how to pair things so I can get away with eating higher glycemic foods. For instance, my pancreas really seems to like red meat. I get my best numbers when I eat beef or pork, so I know that’s the best time to eat potatoes or to have a couple of bites of dessert. Which is good, considering that I have actually been craving steak for the first time in my life. I’ve also been randomly craving mushrooms for the first time ever… just ask my mother, I have never in my life even liked mushrooms, despite her best efforts throughout my childhood. Pregnancy is weird, y’all.

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And that’s about it for this week! I’ll be sure to keep you all updated if any more crazy changes pop up. 🙂 Later!

Baby Starks: Week 31

Happy week 31, friends! I know I say this every week, but 31 weeks feels like such a big number! Something about being in the 30’s really makes it hit home for me that my due date is coming soon. I feel like there’s still so much to do, and we’re running out of time!

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How big is baby?

Weighing in at an estimated 3.5 pounds and 16 inches in length, baby boy is now roughly the size of a winter squash!

Even though my mom couldn’t stop talking about how big I am the entire time she was here for my baby shower, I don’t feel like I’ve actually gotten much bigger. In fact, I’ve actually lost a little bit of weight since going on the low-carb diet for gestational diabetes. My dietician is actually a little concerned that I may not be eating enough, but man, a girl can only eat so much meat and eggs and nuts. It could be much worse though… there’s a lady at my diabetes clinic who isn’t as far along as I am but is already on two types of insulin to control her sugars. I’m grateful that mine are ok as long as I eat like I should.

How am I feeling?

Well, right now I feel pretty terrible. I have yet another cold, and this one is kicking my butt. I don’t doubt that pregnant women are immunocompromised, because I seem to catch everything this year. I had to come home sick from work on Sunday and took another sick day yesterday, and I still feel pretty deathly today. Aside from sneezing all the time and coughing up gross amounts of phlegm, I feel like I could simply sleep for days.

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Otherwise, my biggest complaints are about my hands. They continue to be numb a lot of the time, and I’m now finding it difficult to hold a pen or pencil for very long, even to do things like write down report at work or color a picture at home. They also now hurt a lot of the time. My knuckles are very sore, and it’s painful to do anything that requires squeezing or pressure from my hands. Mild swelling does not seem to be helping, either, and I’ve given up on wearing my rings.

But enough about complaints… let’s talk about the baby shower! 

We had so. much. fun! My sister-in-law, Chrystal, graciously threw it for us at her house, and she did such an amazing job. From the decorations…

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…to the food…

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…like these adorable baby rattle cake pops that she made herself! I was a good girl all week before the shower, so I ate whatever I wanted that day. I can attest, the cake pops were delicious!

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I wish I’d thought to get a picture of the epic stuffed mushrooms she made. I was too busy stuffing them into my face, because they were so delicious.

We played some hilarious games, like “Pin the Sperm on the Egg”…

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My friend, Lydia, got her little swimmer right on the egg! She’s pregnant, too, due about a month after me, and it seemed fitting for her to have won. 🙂

There was also this hilarious orange drop game….

…players had to put a balloon under their shirts to give them a pregnant belly, then they had to squeeze an orange between their knees (as if they were trying not to pee), and then shuffle a few feet over to a jar that they tried to drop the orange into.

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I don’t think I have laughed so hard in a very long time. Even the guys were great sports.

There was also this awesome photo prop that Chrystal made…

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…it was a big hit, for obvious reasons. 🙂

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And there were so many amazing gifts! The generosity of people never ceases to amaze me. My LPCH coworkers pooled together to get us some big ticket items, like a gliding rocking chair (which I still need to have the boys assemble for me), and the stroller-car seat combo that I never imagined anyone would actually buy for us. I assembled the stroller all by myself the other day, and felt like I deserved a medal after all the swearing from the terrible directions and my belly constantly getting in the way.

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There were also some really amazing handmade gifts, too. Like this adorable Christmas hat that Lydia made…

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…and this picture that Chrystal painted herself, which will go above Baby Jack’s crib.

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The shower was so much fun, and I am so grateful to Chrystal for all her hard work to make it happen! And thank you to everyone who was able to come… you guys know how to make a girl feel loved.

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It was also just a really awesome weekend, having my family in town. It’s hard being so far away from them, especially at times like these, so I really cherish any time I get with them.

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Aside from the shower, we mostly took it easy and spent as much time beside the ocean as we could. I think my mom would move to Capitola Village if she had the chance.

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It was so hard to say goodbye to them.

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I can’t believe the next time I see them I will have a newborn baby!

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I think I’ll leave it there for this week. 🙂 Until next time…

Baby Starks: Week 29

Hello friends, and welcome to the third trimester!

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How big is the baby?

Baby is now the length of a pineapple.

Let’s read that again.

A PINEAPPLE.

That’s huge. OMG.

And my apps tell me that he won’t actually get too much longer than this by delivery time, but instead will mostly be putting on fat and muscle from here on out. He probably weighs close to 3 pounds now, too. Chunky monkey!

And as you can kind of tell from the photo, I’m starting to outgrow some of my maternity shirts. Since I’m stingy and I don’t want to spend money on tops I’m only going to wear for a couple more months, I’ve taken to wearing some of Robbie’s t-shirts when I know I’m not going anywhere. My current favorite is apparently one that Robbie’s had since he was like 14, which he finds rather amusing. I just care that it’s big and it’s super soft!

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How am I feeling?

Honestly, I’m mostly just exhausted these days. I had a rough week of sleeping again last week, and I just can’t seem to catch up… I’ll take all the naps I can get, please. The heartburn seems to have settled down, for now, but I’m still having a lot of numbness in my right hand, especially in the mornings. Otherwise, I actually feel pretty good most of the time!

What’s new?

Baby has been moving like crazy for a while now, but those kicks are getting stronger and more frequent every day. His favorite time to move around seems to be bedtime, too, because as soon as I lie down it’s like a Bruce Lee movie is happening in there! His movements have also become more than just kicks and punches, and now I’m feeling more sweeping, pushing movements, too. I wonder if he feels like he’s running out of room! The sensation is honestly pretty strange, and I often giggle when it happens.

Also, I’m pretty sure that I can tell he’s positioned transverse (sideways) right now. I get stronger, more kick-like sensations against my right side, and softer, more sweeping, hand-like motions against my left, sometimes at the same time. It’s all good, just as long as he turns himself head down sometime in the next 11 weeks!

As expected, I was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes last week. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster, too, trying to figure out what I can and cannot eat. I was actually getting pretty frustrated and even wound up in tears last week, when even my best food choices were still giving me high glucose readings. I had my first appointment at the diabetes clinic last Friday, and was sharing my frustrations with the dietician when she told me that the meter I’ve been using is well-known for reading high. She gave me a different brand of meter to try, and imagine my surprise when the two meters were more than 20 points different off the same drop of blood! Since then I’ve been testing the two meters against each other, and the new meter is consistently lower every time.

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It’s been a major relief to have a more accurate meter. Now I know that I can actually eat some of the things that I didn’t think I could! I was also a little outraged to find this out about my old meter, though, because there was a very good chance that I would have wound up on medication with the numbers I had been getting. And considering that my fasting glucose has actually been more like 75-85 and not 105, that actually could have been dangerous, too! So, PSA, if you’re using the OneTouch Verio, I’d highly recommend talking to your doctor about trying a different brand. It might make a difference for you, too.

In other news, my baby shower is this weekend! I’m getting very excited, especially about seeing my family. I hope to have some pictures to share for the next post. 🙂

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And with that I’ll say adios until next time! Have a great rest of your week. 🙂