Thursday, October 13, 2011

A healthy baby update

Thank you for your kind words and messages (both in comment and email form). I was so freaked out when I last wrote.

That day got worse, in fact, when my pediatrician decided that the best course of action was to go to the ER to get checked out. So off we went. It was better than I would have expected. I suppose when anyone brings a two week old baby into an ER, everyone will do whatever they can to ease the parents' worry and to keep the baby safe. That's what happened. They ran a bunch of blood tests to find out if she had low blood sugar, jaundice, and myriad other disorders and conditions. All came back negative/normal. They also did an ultrasound of her brain to ensure that there was nothing structural going on to prevent her from waking up and breathing normally. Again, the results came back normal. Lastly, they gave her IV fluids because she was a tad dehydrated, and they decided to keep her overnight and monitor her to get a full picture of what might be going on. Once more, all seemed normal. Her color improved as a result of the fluids and she had no apnea or low heartrate episodes during the period of observation. They also got a report from the heart rate monitor and found that there "may" have been a few low heart rate episodes, but there were no credible apnea episodes. I forget the words they used, but it was something like "the data is very poor for apnea."

In other words, E got a clean bill of health and we were able to take her home the next day. I felt better, but still stressed. So stressed, in fact, that I called the pediatrician yesterday because I thought I saw her breathing hard and having chest retractions (a lactation consultant saw them, too, and though she said there was nothing to worry about, I couldn't get them out of my mind). I'm glad I took her in yet again, though, because after looking E over thoroughly and hearing my long story, here is what the pedi said, paraphrased, of course, but in quote to indicate that this is how it sounded to me:

"Rachael, E is a perfectly healthy baby. She's had a slightly rough start, but there is nothing wrong with her. She has been monitored more than most babies of her age and she is fine. You need to make the switch from seeing her as a sick baby to seeing her as a healthy infant. Take her home and love her--that's all you need to do. If there were something serious going on, it would have shown itself by now. Relax and stop worrying."

So that's what I'm doing: I'm trying to treat her like a normal baby and I'm doing my best to put all thoughts of her being a sick baby out of my mind. I do feel relieved that she's been evaluated in multiple ways and nothing has been found. We're keeping her on the monitor, just in case (and as the pedi said, because it will allow me to sleep a bit because I can rely on the monitor to tell me if something is wrong). But otherwise: we. are. normal.

Phew. I'm feeling like I'm still dodging ppd here. I'm planning to call my therapist to check in and chat about the stress of all this worry--hopefully it will allow me to release some of the tension. But for now, I'm mostly sane and relaxed and hopefully, we're moving forward.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I am overwhelmed with anxiety and stress at the moment. E's apnea monitor has been going off lately, especially at night. When W had the monitor, most of the alarms were false and we knew it. The monitor would be beeping and we'd be watching him breathe and move--clearly not a real indication of a baby not breathing. After a month, the monitor went back.

But with E? The alarms are real. The instruction is to gently touch the baby when the alarm is going off, and hopefully, the touch will prompt the baby to breathe. It's worked, obviously, but it's terrifying to hear an alarm signaling that E hasn't breathed in 20 seconds. And then, for another terrifying few seconds, I'm holding my own breath to hope that the alarm goes off and she breathes.

This morning, it happened three times in five minutes.

On top of all this, E is an incredibly sleepy baby. She's awake for no more than two hours a day. Two. I should enjoy having a relaxed baby, right? But no. This sleepiness adds to my fear. Why won't she stay awake? Is it related to the apnea? Is something seriously wrong with my sweet little girl?

She's all snuggled up on my chest right now, sleeping (of course). It should be a happy snuggly peaceful tome, but all I do is cry and worry. The one saving grace is that she is eating, but I have to wake her to do so. She is making the right number of diapers.

I really am terrified. I had hoped that I could avoid any concern for ppd, but this stress is starting to eat away at me. I imAgine thus is normal--how could any mother not feels wiped out by this stress?

Sorry to dump all this out, but just writing it out is easing my mind. I'm going to call the dr now to check in. That's what they are there for, right?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

She's here!

Well, I meant to post long before this, but things are always more complicated than I expect them to be. First, let me announce the great news: the baby, a girl named Eliza (I'll call her E in future posts), was born healthy and happy on 9/23. She was 6 lbs, 9 oz and came into the world with a loud cry. She is absolutely adorable and I'll post a picture as soon as I can download my camera and get organized (ha!). Really, I will post a picture soon.

Nothing about labor and delivery went well. I was induced during week 39 because the MFM doing my non-stress tests noticed that her heartrate was dropping during my minor contractions. No big deal, really, but during the second NST where this showed up, I was sent over to the hospital for further monitoring. Sure enough, the pattern continued and the midwife called it: it was time to get this process moving. Now, on the one hand, I did not want to be induced again. I had seriously hoped to go into labor on my own this time around, but figuring that it was 39 weeks, I agreed. I really trust my midwife practice and I like the particular midwife on call that day, all of which made the decision clearer.

The induction was awful. No cervi.dil this time around--that's what was used in my last delivery and I found it to work wonderfully--kicked me into labor all on its own (no pitocin needed). This time, the hospital has switched to cy.totec, and this drug did absolutely nothing. I started the process of induction at 1 cm and 50% effaced, and after three doses of cy.totec, I was still 1 cm and 50% effaced. Stupid drug. It did, however, intensify my contractions and make them more real and painful (gee--thanks), and as a result, her heartrate kept up its plummeting during each one. They gave me oxygen, turned me around and around to see if we could dislodge her (going on the assumption that she was lying on the cord in a weird way and could be moved to stop the heartrate problem) and nothing worked. Finally, they hooked me up to pitocin to see if we could just speed things along and the heartrate got worse. A different midwife, someone I liked but didn't know well, came in and said that after conferring with the doctor on call, it was time to move on to a c-section. In everyone's opinion, something was going on with baby girl and since we couldn't fix it from the outside, it was time to intervene.

Cue the heartbreak. I cannot believe that I made it through my first labor and delivery without the threat of a c-section (I was so proud...again, I say: ha!) and yet for my second labor and delivery, I was going into major abdominal surgery. Everyone had promised me that the second baby was so much easier--I had spent hours (yes, hours) talking to the midwives about my desire for a different kind of coaching than I had gotten at my first birth, and I had visualized it many times in the hopes that it would all go smoothly. Nope. Next thing I knew, I was signing a release form of some kind and heading into the OR. It was not an emergency section, thank goodness, but it sucked nonetheless. I was freezing the entire time, shaking from the spinal, and terrified that I would somehow not survive the surgery. I know this sounds morbid, but one of the things I did in preparation for giving birth this second time around was to joke with my husband about not surviving this time. I made lists of things that he doesn't know in case I wasn't around. I showed him how to make W's favorite tofu dish. And it was all in a joking let-me-release-my-anxiety-in-a-silly-way. As I lay on the table, I thought about how unfunny it all was.

Obviously, and very thankfully, I lived. And so did Eliza. I am incredibly grateful for the skill of the surgeon and the medical community at large. I still hate that I had a c-section, but I don't think I was pushed into it. I think it really was medically necessary and in the end, I'm thrilled that we came through it alive and healthy. I have plenty to say about c-section recovery, however, but I'll save that for another post. No. Fun. At. All. Seriously.

Eliza is a delightful baby. She sleeps far more than she's awake, and yet when she's awake, she has such an amazing variety of faces, many of which remind me of a little old lady. All is not rosy, however. Breastfeeding was going wonderfully until we had to go back into the hospital--one day after being sent home--because her bilirubin number was too high. If you've read my previous posts, you may recall that my son had very serious jaundice and high bilirubin, and so it all felt like I was watching the same movie play out again, only in slightly lighter form. Her jaundice was not nearly as bad as W's, but there are other similarities: because they had her under lights for two days and on all kinds of monitors, they noticed that she has some apnea, just like W did. As I write this, I'm checking the heartrate monitor that they sent her home on to make sure that she's breathing and that her heart is beating without fail. I'll try to write about the heartrate monitor sometime--it's not as bad this time as it was last time, but it's given me deja-vu to carry around a tiny baby with cords coming out of the bottom of the swaddle attached to a blinking monitor.

The problem with breastfeeding is that while in the hospital, she got very used to the bottles of formula (the hospital had no place for me to stay overnight, so I had to agree to bottle feeding--some of formula and some of my expressed breastmilk). She got home on Friday and was clearly annoyed that my breasts were not like little spigots dumping milk into her mouth without effort. I think it's getting better, but I can't tell. I feel like my breasts have dried up completely as a result of the lack of suction (I should have pumped, but didn't want to get too I would give anything to feel engorged again!). Argh. Who designed this crazy system? I'm going to stick with it, but it's definitely provoking my anxiety.

I have other posts in the works. One about the weird grief I've been feeling for the change in my relationship to W--I adore Eliza, but I desperately miss the days when it was just W and me against the world. He's had a slightly rocky adjustment, too, and I'll write about it. I also have one about the many anxieties that plagued my last few weeks of pregnancy--they were very different this time around, and more intense, and I couldn't write about them in real time because they were, well, too real. Now that she's here I feel more free to express them out loud and in writing. I'm home for maternity leave for the next seven weeks (whoo hoo--I just wish it were longer!) and hope to get these posts finished and posted. In fact, my plan for writing is to continue focusing not on the new baby and how cute she is (of course she is...what baby isn't adorable to its mother!). Instead, I want to meditate on how all these external changes--babies, motherhood, work, politics--are affecting my sense of self as a woman, a person, a member of several communities. I hope to write more, think more deliberately about myself and my position in the world, and take care of a newborn, all at the same time. Should be easy, no? ;)