September 11, 2014

The Epic Journey to Motherhood

Many of you have asked for details of Maggie's birth story. I'll try to keep it short and sweet.


Thanks for that one, Geico.

The majority of my pregnancy was pretty easy. By 'easy' I mean of course my bladder needed attention every five minutes and always lacked results. Of course I had food aversions to onions, butternut squash soup, and mushrooms [but couldn't get enough hot sauce, pickles, and salt]. Of course I wasn't able to inhale deep enough to complete an actual breath [which left me embarrassingly out-of-breath during conversations with my patients]. And of course I had to switch over to the dreaded maternity pants earlier than I wanted to [Why is there such a lack of cool maternity clothes? Enough stripes already!].

Then slowly, steadily, hell decided to break loose.

It was around week 30 when we decided to pack up and leave our beloved Portland and move into a hotel in Minnesota while we looked for a new home. Pack. Unpack. Pack. Repack. Bend. Try to bend. Pant. Pant. Pant.

30 weeks. The last night in our beloved Portland.
The pregnancy began to wreak havoc on my sleep. I had to do the impossible and try to sleep sitting up because I had trouble breathing when I would lay down. Due to all kinds of pressure in places it shouldn't be, I could only lean to the left. That left exactly one position I could sleep in: sitting up, leaning to the left. I'd be fine for the first hour (maybe two) and then wake up from the pain. From that point on I'd either be too sore, too breathless, or too uncomfortable to get back to sleep. Night after night I ended up pacing the house, lonely, frustrated, exhausted, and in tears. I dreaded the night.

So the last few weeks of the pregnancy I was trying to get by with less than two hours of sleep at night with a small nap during the day. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't function. Anyone that spoke with me during that time knew that I was walking around in a fog. Add to that the stress of newly locating, and well, you shouldn't just feel sorry for me, feel sorry for Andrew who had to deal with me [and who was a stud through the entire journey].

Finally! We found a house and settled in! Let the waiting begin!

Someone is pregnant.

From the beginning of the pregnancy I had a feeling Maggie would arrive early. Of course I had no idea how early or if I was actually right. It was week 36 when my lovely OB informed me Maggie was riding so low that she didn't understand how I could walk. She also gave me the welcomed news that I was "ripe and ready to go." We would discuss stripping my membrane the next week.

Well, that happened. Ouch. It was the worst pain I had ever felt [until labor, of course].

Over the next week things began picking up pace. Most importantly I realized that my Braxton-Hicks contractions now had a distinct beginning and ending and were increasing in pain and intensity. I found myself eating ice chips as a bedtime snack. I felt sick with the flu one day. I felt euphoric and like I wasn't pregnant the next day [thanks, hormones]. Then the next was spent making goodies in the kitchen [Pie? When was the last time I made a pie?].

Monday. 37 weeks and 4 days. Something had changed [mainly fluids- but I promised I wouldn't go into that much detail]. The contractions were consistent at every ten minutes and were once again increasing intensity. Eventually they shifted to being eight minutes apart. I called my OB's office.

Let me take a break and explain that even though things sound pretty straightforward and succinct thus far, Andrew and I were mostly living our lives in confusion during those last few weeks. Is this a contraction? No, it can't be. Is this one? Maybe? Wait, no THIS is one. That contraction didn't end but now this one is beginning, so does that mean my contractions are two minutes apart? I think I had my bloody show. No, now I had my bloody show. Did my water break? Did my water break now? What about NOW? WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON??

All I wanted were answers.

All I needed was one answer: Can someone please tell me if I am in labor?

Calling my OB's office never helped: Is this your first child? Oh, you're fine. You have plenty of time.

What they wanted to say but didn't was this: Stop overreacting. You'll know you are in labor when you are in labor. Your due date isn't for another two weeks. Most first pregnancies go late... [whispering over her shoulder to the other nurse]... It's just her first...

What I wanted to say was this: You don't get it... Listen to me... I know what my body is telling me! This baby is coming early! Please take me seriously!

Granted, I may have been slightly super sensitive at the time.

At that point, I could deal with the pain because I was prepared for it. What I wasn't prepared for was the confusion and lack of answers. Potentially dealing with that for two to three more weeks made me feel hopeless.

Because the contractions were every ten minutes, and because I thought my water may have been slowly and steadily leaking, we were instructed to go to the hospital. All tests to see if my water did indeed break were inconclusive. I was two centimeters dilated, 80% effaced. We were admitted to see if things would progress. Thankfully, my OB was on call that night and was able to monitor me closely and call the shots. No one could tell us what the night would bring. Would she be born then? Should we mentally prepare for it?

Unfortunately, even though I was waking up every ten minutes in pain the entire night through, nothing was progressing. In fact, things slowed down towards early morning. So to our frustration and to add to our confusion, we were sent home. Andrew went to work for a few hours. I tried to get some sleep on the couch. Andrew then came home and took a nap in the afternoon. Thinking this was how the next few weeks would be, we were both mentally, physically, and emotionally drained.

Monday night: I could still smile through the contractions.
It was while Andrew was napping that I realized I had been moaning, groaning, rocking, crying, and in the fetal position for hours. I realized that even though the contractions were still every ten minutes, my body couldn't handle the pain anymore. The accumulated stress of 48 hours of constant pain, weeks of no sleep, and months of not being able to breathe all led to this one moment: I was frustrated, confused, in pain, needing answers. I'm not exactly sure why I chose that particular instant, but in that moment I realized enough was enough. I had reached my breaking point.

I was mad. [I don't ever get mad]. I was mad at the nurses for not taking me seriously because this was my first pregnancy. I was irrationally mad at Andrew for being able to sleep when I was unable to do so. I was mad at myself for not being able to suck it up and handle the pain. As much as I dreaded going back to the hospital in order to be sent home again, I needed things to progress. I immediately woke Andrew and blurted out with as much breathless gusto as I could handle: I'M DONE. I CAN'T DO IT ANYMORE. WE NEED TO GO BACK TO THE HOSPITAL. NOW.

Tuesday. 37 weeks and 5 days.
I experienced deja vu as I walked into the emergency room. Except, unlike the day before, I wasn't joking with the staff. This time I was mad. I had my mean face on. Tears and snot were everywhere. I was hunched over in pain. I didn't even acknowledge the security guard who instructed me to please pull everything out of my pockets and go through the metal detector.  Back off, buddy, I'm doing what I want when I want. I walked around the metal detector. I guess he had sense enough to see that I wasn't a threat.

I didn't even have to say anything to the staff. All of a sudden I found myself being pushed down into a wheel chair, asked my name, and was briskly wheeled away. I'm assuming the condition of being pregnant is so obvious that I didn't need to fill out any Reason for today's visit? paperwork.  Sitting in that wheelchair I had my first, real moment of clarity: This. Was. Happening.

So for the second day in a row they poked and prodded and ran some more inconclusive tests. This time the tests were slightly more conclusive. I was still only two centimeters dilated with contractions, you guessed it, every ten minutes. Again, no one could tell me whether my water had actually broken. No one could tell me if I was actually in labor. I felt myself falling back into a frustrated confusion.

What I now realize, after the fact, is that the staff was trying to figure out if I was in active labor. Apparently, active labor is only when you are four centimeters dilated and/or your water breaks. Current standard of care is that they aren't allowed to induce labor unless the patient is in active labor and/or 39 weeks pregnant. So we wait it out.

Even though no one could tell me if my water had indeed broken, we were once again admitted for the night. As the nurse was wheeling me to the overnight room, I remember wishing someone could tell me if I was going to have this baby soon.  I remember thinking I did not want to live through another night of waking up every ten minutes in pain. I was exhausted. I was giving up. I was in a pretty dark spot.

With Andrew at my side, the nurse wheeled me into the overnight room. And immediately it happened.

I mean it.

I heard a pop. I felt pressure release. I found myself sitting in a puddle of warmth that just kept coming. And coming. And coming. My water had broken. My second moment of clarity: I was in active labor! 

That was probably my final moment of clarity because shortly thereafter I was administered a medication that made me feel loopy. A few minutes later I saw what I believed to be an angel. I was even able to speak with this angel. Apparently, it was only the anesthesiologist who had arrived to bring me good tidings of the epidural variety. In my loopy state, I may have even told him that I loved him.

Along with pain relief, this particular angel brought with him the gift of peace...

...After nine months of being uncomfortable, after two months of slow and steady torture [for that is what chronic insomnia really is], I was finally able to close my eyes in peaceful slumber.



I cannot tell you what I felt in that first moment of rest. Even now, remembering the feeling brings me to tears.

Labor was officially over. Delivery was beginning.

Andrew and I were able to sleep for a few hours in order to wait for me to dilate. At some point I was given Pitocin to help things progress.

Wednesday. 37 weeks and 6 days. The nurse woke me and asked if I would like to begin pushing. I cheerfully said no. Andrew had just gone out for coffee - we had to wait for him! A few minutes later, coffee in one hand, Andrew returned and was promptly instructed to grab a leg.

Maggie Lena Turner was born on July 9th at 5:17am. 5 pounds, 14 ounces. 18.5 inches long. Named after two of her great-grandmothers, she was happy and healthy. As she arrived I was able to watch the sun rise over the Mississippi River. It was such a precious moment.

In the end, the delivery was peaceful and quite fun. We were relaxed and in cheerful moods. My contractions were never really closer than ten minutes apart. I pushed for less than one hour. This made for quite a lot of downtime. Between the wonderful view, the smell of Andrew's coffee, the dim lighting, and the chilled-out atmosphere, it was almost as if we were meeting with old friends in a coffee shop. Except that my legs were hanging out up in the air...

[The head was crowning.]
Said the doctor: So, Andrew, I hear she will be a pastor's kid? 

Ten minutes later: PUSH.
[The head was out.]
So, you guys just moved from Portland? 

Ten minutes later: PUSH.
[The shoulder was out.]
So, Melissa, what do you do for work?


In all seriousness, if labor was hell then delivery was heaven. 

However, I didn't realize there would be a little more hell during my recovery at home. But that I will leave you to imagine [or re-live for those who have been through it]. It has taken seven weeks but I am finally proud to say that I feel myself again...

...except this time I have a precious little bundle of joy [aka a smelly sack of grunting cuteness] to enjoy life with!

Dear Smelly Sack of Grunting Cuteness,
I can still remember what life was like before you. 
Just a little. 
But I wouldn't change a thing.

I would gladly endure the pain and the hardship and the confusion of this epic journey all over 
just for the chance to meet you for the first time, again. 

You are perfectly created.
You are a miracle.

Welcome to this little thing that we call life. 
May you always feel secure, loved, and respected.

Mommy loves you.
Now come here. Hold still. Let me wipe your butt. Again.

Up next? Month one.

1 comment:

  1. Loved your journal. Except nothing on this earth is as bad as hell. You have a precious little darling. Keep sending the photos.