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Britton's Birth Story, Part IV

I have never been as grateful for family as I was in the hours and days after we had to rush Britton to MUSC for those tests. While Landon rode in the pediatric ambulance with our little girl, my mom and Landon's dad rushed downtown to the hospital to meet the two of them there.

Since I wasn't even 48 hours out of surgery, the nursing staff begged me to stay where I was; I could barely walk and was still incredibly weak, so I chose to remain in the hospital with my dad, my sister, and Landon's mom by my side.

As soon as Britton arrived at the research hospital, the staff there began to run tests on her to determine what was causing her to vomit so violently; they also needed to figure out a way to keep her heart rate and blood oxygen saturation stable. She was x-rayed, and the attending physician determined that Britton had an infection in her lungs, possibly pneumonia. She was given antibiotics for that, but, since the pediatric radiologist wouldn't be able to see her until the early morning, we still didn't know if she had an intestinal blockage.

That night was the longest night of my life. I couldn't sleep, even with all of the pain medication I was taking. I could only sit and stare at the ceiling and worry about my two-day-old baby who was going through something I couldn't help her with. The worst part was that I was so far away from her and completely helpless myself. I was told that I would be discharged as soon as I could get up and walk around, so my sister and I walked the halls as much as I could in my weak state. I was determined to see my baby the next day.

Saturday morning finally dawned, and the pediatric radiologist at Britton's hospital administered the tests to see if she had a bowel obstruction. Two tense hours later, Landon called with the news that Britton's tests had come back negative! The doctors had determined that the infection in her lungs and her abnormal vomiting were two symptoms from the same root cause: her aspiration of meconium during her delivery. While that wasn't great news, it gave us a course of action to take--one that didn't involve surgery (thank goodness).

When the day shift nurse at my hospital came on, she assured me that I would be placed at the top of the list for discharge. By 1 p.m. that afternoon, I'd made the horrendous journey into the heart of downtown Charleston. It wasn't horrendous because of the distance (it was only 7 or 8 miles), but because of all of the potholes and uneven roads, which were not kind to my brand new abdominal scar.

I was so excited to see Britton and Landon again. Britton looked really great, even after being poked and prodded for all two-and-a-half days of her existence. Landon had been up all night with her, holding her and keeping her company.

Even though Britton made my heart happy, I hated being up in the NICU at that hospital--there were so many very sick babies, some of whom had been there for months. There was one baby across from Britton who had been permanently sedated to keep him out of pain; he'd been in the NICU for six months and was still extremely delicate. Seeing them made me that much more grateful for my almost-healthy baby; I only wish all of those babies could have the quick diagnosis and recovery that Britton did.

Even though she was doing much better when I got up there on Saturday afternoon, she wasn't out of the woods yet. Britton's doctors wanted to make sure that her lung infection cleared without any more complications and that she was able to eat without additional vomiting.

I got extremely frustrated with the nursing staff because I wanted to breastfeed her (the one part of my birth plan that I had clung to since I'd had to make so many other changes in my labor and delivery); even though they claimed to be friendly to breastfeeding moms, they didn't want me to pick her up very much (so how can I breastfeed?!?) nor did they want to give her the tiny bits of milk that I was producing at the time (but what else can one expect--usually milk doesn't come in until the fourth day or so). I ended up pumping as much as I could, but it still wasn't enough for them. Landon and I argued and argued with them about not giving her formula (our original plan), but they told us that if we let them supplement what I was pumping with formula, they could then see if she would really eat, and she could go home soon. That Saturday, I stuck to my guns and told them that I only wanted her to have breastmilk.

When I went back up to the NICU Sunday morning (after getting up every two hours to pump), I was exhausted and ready to bring my baby home. Landon, who'd had all of about nine hours of sleep since Thursday night, was edgy and annoyed. The nursing staff had all but thrown him out of the NICU around three that morning when they couldn't get Britton's IV in. They still weren't feeding her what I had worked so hard to pump, and Britton was solely on a dextrose drip to keep her blood sugar stable. Their rationale: if we give her just the little bit of milk that you're producing and we don't supplement, then she'll still be hungry and will get upset. Maybe so, but if Britton had been home like a regular newborn, she'd only be eating what I was producing anyway.

I saw Britton for about twenty minutes that morning before I had to step away and collect myself. I just couldn't stand looking at her IV that they'd stuck in her leg or the black and blue marks on her little hands where the nurses hadn't been able to get the IV back in. The charge nurse found me in the family waiting room around the corner, bawling my eyes out. She and I had a frank talk about Britton's treatment, and we tried to come up with some answers to make everyone happy.

The nurse told me that Britton was really a Level II baby, but MUSC's Level II nursery didn't have any open beds. They couldn't move her to Level I because she hadn't eaten yet and, thus, still needed an IV. Our insurance wouldn't cover a transfer back to the Level II at our original hospital, so we were stuck in a situation where we had the healthy, recovering baby in a room full of extremely sick babies. In an effort to get Britton closer to being released, Landon and I agreed to allow the nurses to feed her what I had pumped and then (and only then) give her formula to supplement. It wasn't ideal, but I wanted my baby home.

I went back to my parents' house that night at 7 p.m., exhausted from a long day at the hospital and sore from moving around so much. I had just stretched out to take a little nap when my mom brought the phone into my room: it was Landon. "Can you come back down here?" he asked, and my heart stopped--I immediately assumed the worst. But then: "The night staff is going to discharge Britton as soon as you can get up here."

What a surprise! I jumped up and threw clothes on. I was going to bring my little girl home! I didn't even care that I had to bump along those terrible roads in downtown Charleston again: the pain and exhaustion would be worth it.

By the time my parents and I arrived at MUSC, Landon had dressed Britton in her going home outfit. He and I went through a quick discharge meeting with one of the nurses, and then the nurse helped carry her to the car. Four days after her birthday, Britton finally came home!

Britton's Birth Story, Part III

After my c-section, I had to lay in the recovery room with my nurse, Kim, for an hour. I still hadn't seen my new baby, and Landon was all the way on the other side of the labor and delivery ward with Britton as the nursery staff attempted to make her more stable after her difficult delivery. As I lay there, all I could do was sob and shake uncontrollably. My delivery had been anything but expected, and I was terrified about what was going on with my hour-old baby. 

At eleven o'clock that night (an hour after I came out of surgery), the neonatalogist who was directing Britton's treatment came into the recovery room and told me that Britton had been stabilized in the level II nursery. Britton was having trouble breathing because of the meconium that she'd aspirated, but the nursing staff had gotten her breathing under control enough to have me visit quickly.

Landon took this picture while I was in recovery and brought them to me so I could see our daughter.
Landon came down to escort me to the nursery, and I was wheeled in on my gurney to meet my daughter. Because of the epidural, I couldn't do much more than touch her little foot, but the nurses did get my gurney as close to her tiny bed so I could see her. She was so small and beautiful, and she looked exactly as I had imagined: she had a swatch of dark hair and my nose. I hated that I couldn't pick her up and hold her, but I knew that she and I had both gone through a difficult time, and we needed to rest. 

The nurses pushed me back to my room, and I saw my parents, Landon's parents, my sister, and Landon's brother for a few minutes before I passed out from exhaustion and my pain medication. 

The next day, Thursday, Landon took me to the nursery so I could interact with Britton more. I even got to hold her for the first time!

I hated seeing all of the medical stuff that she had on her, but her breathing and oxygen saturation had to be monitored. She was doing really well until Thursday afternoon when my sister and mom came to visit; they both held her and her blood oxygen level plummeted. Because of that, Landon and I had to be very careful about overstimulating her during our nursery visits. 

By Friday, she was still having trouble regulating her breathing and oxygen level, and the nurses talked with us about the possibility of her staying in the hospital for several more days until those issues had been taken care of. I couldn't be discharged until late Saturday or Sunday, but the nursing staff ran us through their "Rest Easy" program, which would be available to us if Britton did have to stay extra days--through that program, Landon and I would have a room to ourselves for the duration of Britton's hospital stay for free. We were feeling optimistic that her medical issues would soon be over, and that we would be able to stay near her until the nursing staff was ready to send her home. 

Around four p.m. on Friday, I lay down for nap. Landon told me he was going to spend my nap time in the nursery with Britton, and I fell asleep comforted by the fact that Britton wouldn't be by herself for a little while.

I hadn't been asleep even an hour when I woke up to Landon shaking me. I knew as soon as I looked at him that something was very, very wrong. Landon choked back tears as he told me that Britton had taken a turn for the worse, and the neonatalogist on call was recommending an immediate transfer to a level III nursery at a local research hospital. Britton had been throwing up in the last hour, and the nursing staff was concerned because the vomit was green, which can be a sign of intestinal obstruction.

The neonatalogist came into my room to explain what needed to be done: Britton needed x-rays and tests done to determine if she had an obstruction. If she did, then she would be rushed into surgery to correct the obstruction, or she could risk dying. Needless to say, Landon and I were an absolute wreck.

In less than an hour, the pediatric ambulance from MUSC came to pick up Britton. She was wheeled into my room so that I could see her again before she was transferred. She looked so small in the transport incubator that they had her in, and I cried as I was allowed to hold her little hand. I gave Landon one more hug, and the two of them were rushed out of the room by the transport team.

Part IV here.

Britton's Birth Story, Part II

Read part I here.

Around 6 p.m. on June 5, the midwife in charge of my labor and delivery announced that I was completed dilated and effaced and ready to push. Just about this time, the nurse that had been with me all day, Rachel, had to trade off with our night nurse, Kim, because of the shift change. I was sad to see Rachel go, but Kim ended up being an awesome part of our delivery team as well!

The midwife, Gene, and Kim coached me through a few practice pushes so that I would know what a helpful push would feel like. I figured that out quickly and started pushing through the contractions. Landon, Gene and Kim were awesome at keeping me positive through each of the contractions, and the two and a half hours went by surprisingly quickly. At one point, I even thought, "Wow, this part is way easier than earlier" (but that may have had to do with the fact that my epidural was working extremely well, and my contractions were under control). 

So, I began to push. 

And push.

And push. 

For nearly three hours. 

Britton had actively been descending for much of this time, but in the last half an hour or so, she stopped moving down and essentially became stuck. No matter how hard I pushed, she couldn't make the turn around my pelvic bone. Her heart rate started going up, and my temperature went up. 

Gene the midwife told me that I had chorioamnionitis, which can occur when a birth goes on too long. At this point, I had been in labor almost 14 hours, and I could feel myself getting very weak. She had me rest for about ten minutes and then push one more time. I knew as soon as I looked at her after that series of pushes that things were going from bad to worse very quickly. 

This complication was putting too much stress on myself and the baby, so Gene ordered an emergency c-section. Gene and the nurses were also worried that Britton would aspirate the meconium in her amniotic fluid because of the stress and prolonged birthing process, so it was essential that I go into surgery right away. 

As soon as I heard that I had to have a c-section, I started crying. Everything that I'd wanted in this birth had gone completely in the other direction. I'd wanted a completely natural birth, but ended up getting an epidural and an induction. I'd wanted to avoid a c-section, but now had to get one to keep my baby and myself safe. Looking back, I know that all of these decisions were absolutely the right ones for myself and Britton, but it was so hard to wrap my mind around the sudden changes after preparing for a particular birth experience for nine months. 

Kim, the nurse, quickly explained what would happen in surgery: the doctor would make my incision and the baby would be delivered in less than ten minutes. As soon as the baby was delivered, she would be quickly assessed and cleaned, and then she'd be brought around to the side of the surgery curtain where Landon and I were. The entire surgery would take around 45 minutes, then I would go to the recovery room for about an hour before going back to my room to rest. 

I cried as the midwife notified the doctor on call to prepare for surgery and the anesthesiologist to up my medication.

I cried as Landon put on his surgery scrubs.

I cried as I was wheeled into the operating room. I cried as I was prepped for surgery.

And then I cried all the way through the surgery. On top of all of that, I shook the entire time, which is apparently normal for that stage of labor. 

The surgery was scary--I've never had anything worse done than my wisdom teeth taken out, so I was completely unprepared for the experience. The worst part was when the doctor had to take Britton out. There was a huge amount of pressure where the midwife had to press on my stomach while the doctor pulled Britton out because Britton was stuck under my pelvic bone. 

The surgery started at 9:05, and at 9:13 p.m., the doctor announced that Britton was born. Landon and I looked at each other and were so, so happy. We heard Britton cry just once, and then there was complete silence, which scared both of us. We could hear the nurses scurrying around, but other than that, nothing. 

Kim (who was amazing during and after the surgery) told us that Britton was having trouble breathing, and they strongly suspected that she had aspirated meconium during the birthing process. Because of this, the nurses were trying to keep her from crying and, thus, from swallowing or breathing in more of the toxic liquid. She explained that a neonatologist had been called in to assess Britton. 

When that doctor came in, he recommended that Britton go to the Level II nursery immediately for tests and monitoring. Landon and I had to make a snap decision about where he'd go; I told him to go with the baby and make sure she was okay. While I was still on the operating table, Landon had to follow Britton to the other side of the labor and delivery ward to accompany her during her procedures. 

I lay helpless on the table as my brand new baby was wheeled past me in an incubator. I could only see her tiny leg as she went by. Neither Landon nor I knew what she looked like yet. 

For the next thirty minutes, I clung to the anesthesiologist's hand while my surgery was finished up. Kim stayed with me the entire time and sat with me in the recovery room: she kept trying to find out what was going on in the nursery with Landon and the baby, but no one had any definite answers. 

Stay tuned for part III...

Britton's Birth Story, Part I

I had known for several weeks that Britton had grown faster than we'd all expected. By week 38, she was measuring like a 42 week baby, which presented some issues for her upcoming birth: the major ones being that she might be too big for me to birth naturally, or she might have expelled meconium into her amniotic fluid. I also had tested positive for Group B Strep, which--if left untreated during delivery--could have devastating effects on Britton. Because of these risks, we went ahead and scheduled an induction for her 39th week.

On Wednesday, June 5, Landon and I woke up bright and early at 4:30 a.m. so that we could be at the hospital by 6 a.m. After I had settled into my labor and delivery room, and a TON of paperwork had been completed at the hospital, my doctor broke my water (weirdest feeling ever) and I was encouraged to walk around to start the contractions. The nurse noticed that my amniotic fluid was slightly tinged with meconium, so the medical staff was careful to keep an eye on that while I labored.

In the hospital waiting for the doctor to come break my water and get this party started.
Landon and I took several laps around the labor and delivery ward to no avail. My contractions had started, but were erratic. The nurse started me on pitocin at a very low dose (about 4 milliunits per minute) to see if that would start things along. The contractions started to even out and get closer together, but, as the doctor wanted them to be two to three minutes apart, they still weren't doing what they needed to. The pitocin got slowly increased over the course of seven hours.

The nursing staff encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to in order to stay comfortable--I used a birthing ball, walked around, leaned on the bed, and sat in a hot shower. The shower really helped me focused through the increasing discomfort. Throughout all of that, Landon coached me using our Hypnobabies techniques; he kept me calm and focused through each of the contractions, and I wouldn't have been able to deal with the contractions as well as I did without him.

By two thirty, the contractions were coming less than two minutes apart, and I had little to no recovery time between some of them because of the way that Britton was positioned. I was exhausted after over seven hours of completely natural labor; the final straw was learning that (in those seven hours) I had only dilated another 1.5 cm to 6.5 cm total. At that point, I really didn't think I would be able to continue to labor for additional hours without some sort of pain relief, so I asked for an epidural.

I had originally been against an epidural because 1) I have a super sensitive back and I hate people touching it, and 2) I detest needles. By the time I'd been through those hours of pitocin-labor, I was ready for help wherever it came from, even if it meant I had to deal with the 1-2 punch of back touching and needles.

The anesthesiologist came almost immediately to administer the epidural (during which I tried to hit the doctor, but that's another issue all together) and my contractions were reduced within just one or two waves.

I don't remember much about the next few hours, other than I tried to relax and recover some of my strength so that I could push when it was time. I could still feel the contractions a little bit, but the pain was much, much more tolerable. During this time, I also found out that my doctor who had seen me through my pregnancy had gone home with strep throat, so she was being replaced with a midwife from the same OB group.

Around six p.m. the midwife told me that I had completely dilated and it was time to push!

On to Part II...

She's Here!

Britton arrived Wednesday, June 5 at 9:13 p.m.
Mom, Dad and baby are loving their new family! :)

Birth story to come soon!

39 Weeks!

This will definitely be my last weekly update, as baby Britton will be making her debut tomorrow! I'm 39 weeks and 1 day according to my original due date, and Britton is measuring like a 42 week old baby or so. She'll be induced tomorrow morning beginning at the horrendous hour of 6 a.m.

We thought long and hard about the decision to be induced. I was originally completely opposed to any sort of medical intervention and wanted a natural birth through and through. Babies, however, have a mind of their own, and I've decided that a slightly-less-than-natural-birth is the best thing for me and for Britton.

For one thing, I tested positive for Group B Strep, which I wasn't expecting. It can be passed to the baby during delivery and can have some horrendous effects on a newborn if the mom hasn't had antibiotics to treat it during the birthing process. That, coupled with the fact that I am over halfway dilated at this point, made me nervous that my birthing process might go too quickly to administer the necessary medications to protect my baby girl if we weren't already at the hospital when my labor began.

Britton is big and healthy and ready to rumble, so it only made sense to schedule an induction. I'm covering all of my bases, and I am protecting my daughter as best as I can.

My doctor is going to try every possible natural method of inducing me before recommending Pitocin or other invasive labor-starting techniques, so I'm still getting the birth experience I wanted (close to it, anyway). At least I will have my baby with me very, very soon!

Keep us in your thoughts and prayers tomorrow. It's going to be monumental for our family! :)

The Weekly Stats:

How far along? 39 weeks and 1 day.
Total weight gain: No comment.
Maternity clothes: I have been living in some soft cotton maternity shorts and Landon's t-shirts. Everything else just feels tight and binding at this point.
Sleep: I am officially in baby sleep mode: I don't sleep more than an hour and a half at a time (thanks, tiny bladder), and false contractions often wake me up in the middle of the night.
Best moment this week: Seeing Britton on the final ultrasound. She looks healthy and amazing!
Miss anything? Eating sugar without getting pummeled by my baby afterwards (she's strong!). Being able to stand up and sit down without my knees hurting. Wearing normal clothes. [I could go on and on but I won't bring the post down with lots of complaining.]
Movement: For someone whose house is so snug, she still moves around all the time. Landon and I joke that she has cardio class at 1:30 p.m., kickboxing at 3:00, and dance around 4:30. She's especially active after I eat something sugary, and particularly loved my cookies and cream milkshake I had before the ultrasound last Thursday. 
Food cravings: Anything cold, like ice lollies or ice cream. Fruit is also a big draw (watermelon and strawberries, especially). And oh, what I would do for a sub sandwich! (Guess what Landon's mom and dad are bringing me tomorrow when they come to the hospital?!?!)
Anything making you queasy or sick?  Still a little heartburn here and there, but nothing I can't cure with a Tums or two.
Gender: Girl! Her name is Britton.
Labor signs: Being 5 cm dilated. Having insane amounts of false labor contractions. 

Symptoms: Hugeness in the stomach area. Swollen feet and hands. 
Belly button in or out? STILL an innie! It is clinging to that status within an inch of its life, but I think I can safely say that I will not ever have an outie during this pregnancy.
Wedding rings on or off? Off. I'm glad I took them off when I did because they would be super uncomfortable right about now.
Happy or moody most of the time: Moody. I am so uncomfortable that so many things annoy me (see: every song on the radio, things being repeating more than once, moving).
Looking forward to: Holding Britton for the first time. I am going to be an emotional wreck in the best way!

Dear Britton,

Daddy and I are so excited to meet you and make you a part of our family. You are so loved and treasured already, and I know that those feelings will only intensify once you're here.

I need you to be brave and strong tomorrow because it's going to be a tough day--but don't worry because I will be strong and brave right along side you.

Only about twelve more hours before we start the process of getting you here.

I love you!