Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Eight Years Ago...

Eight years ago today I was having breakfast with Rob at our kitchen island (the house in Savoy which we had just moved into a couple months before...we'd moved to Illinois from Maryland) when I had an odd feeling. I went to the bathroom and came back to let Rob know I was pretty sure my water had broken (yes, for those of you not into birth stories...this is one so go ahead and skip this entry).

We were excited and calm at the same time. We knew first time mom's tend to have long labors so we figured we had some time. We hung around the house and made some phone calls and repacked my bag for the next four hours.

I had wanted a home birth, but we found out at our "last ultrasound" (it turned out to be anything but the last) that our baby had "issues with his heart" by a doctor we had met only seconds before. When I asked if it could be a mistake, he turned the ultrasound monitor toward me and said, "Does this look like a healthy heart to you?" I don't know why I didn't start hating him at that moment, but I did feel like saying back that all the ultrasounds looked like little aliens and I didn't see how anyone could even tell it was a human from the pictures, but I didn't. The couple of months we had lived in Illinois was spent on this emotional roller-coaster ride with finding out this late in my pregnancy that my child would have a heart defect and having my lay-midwife respond with "You never talked to me. You don't know me." when telling her the news and asking if she thought a home birth could still possibly be an option. I had to go for regular "non-stress tests" which are really stressful for everyone involved. I went so often, I was able to hook myself up to the machine and the nurse left me alone.

I was told by our doctor (Mr. DoesThisLookLikeAHealthyHeart) that "they" would prefer I have the baby in Peoria, Illinois (where the pediatric heart surgeons are). He was very supportive of me having a natural labor (good for the baby), but wanted me to come in to the hospital in our town as soon as labor started and then get helicoptered to Peoria (my husband would have to drive in the car). When I told him I didn't think going for a helicopter ride during labor would be my preference, he told me "You'll get a cool t-shirt." He wasn't joking and really seemed to think this would convince me to go along with this plan. I told him I had a relative near Peoria I could stay with. They gave me a date I should go to her house and they wouldn't induce if I was living with her since I'd be close enough to the Peoria hospital for their comfort.

My water broke two days before I was to go live with my mom's cousin. I didn't go into the hospital in our town. I rode in my car with my husband to Peoria (about an hour and half drive). While Rob drove, I slept (with the notebook with contraction timing on my lap) since I was preparing myself for a long labor. We checked into a hotel near the hospital in Peoria to continue laboring there. While I sat in the car breathing through contractions, Rob was inside getting a room and a car hit our car...not hard, but hit us and the driver was going to keep going. I jumped out of the car, holding me contraction notebook in one hand and the other hand on my belly. I yelled at the driver and said what I thought about being in a hit and run and how could he not even stop to see if he had done any damage and....you get the picture. He looked horrified, apologized, and after we both looked at the back of my car to make sure no damage was done, he drove slowly away. I don't think I told Rob about this until after the baby was born.

We went up to the room and we had called my doula and my sister (among other people). My mom's cousin kept calling us to see if we'd checked into the hospital yet...she was very worried. My sister didn't have a cell phone at this time, but still managed to track down what hotel we were in and she showed up after we'd ordered pizza. We ate vegan pizza and watched "Raising Arizona" on the TV until the contractions got serious enough for me to get annoyed that my husband and sister were laughing at "Raising Arizona" while I was sitting there having a baby. Soon after my insisting the TV get turned off, my doula showed up. She took one look at me and said we needed to get things going.

My doula said I was smiling too much to be far enough along (although now that I've had two more children...this is just what I do) and she asked if I'd like help getting things going. I said sure and she did some acupressure stuff with my feet and told me take a shower. While I was in the shower the contractions were strong enough to make me get on my knees or lean against the wall so my doula was happy. I labored for while longer (at this point, we were about twelve hours after my water broke) and my doula said if I really wanted to have the baby in the hospital I should probably go because I wouldn't be up for the two minute ride in the car if I waited much longer.

We were quite the site on the way to the car. During the contractions (which were very close together at this point), I would do this swaying dance thing with my doula and maybe a low moan. People were definitely wondering what was going on. When we got to the hospital it was late enough at night that the first entrance we tried was locked, but we found one and went up to Labor and Delivery. My mom's cousin had called hours before to say we should be on our way and we had called so they were expecting us.

We had preregistered, but that apparently mean nothing because "Sadistic Nurse" wanted me to fill out all this paperwork anyway. I have to admit the chronology of what was said is a little of a blur so I don't know what happened first, but I know that I told "Sadistic Nurse" that I was going to have a natural birth and I remember her laughing and saying extremely unsupportive things. She put a pen in my face during a particularly strong contraction when I asked for her to please wait a second until I was done with it. I took the pen from her claw...I mean hand and as she was saying all this stuff about signing a waiver...blah, blah, blah...more noise and looks from her so I threw the pen...possibly in her general direction. Okay, I might have thrown the pen at "Sadistic Nurse", but I don't think it hit her and she sort of deserved it or should have known better...let us just move on.

At some point, someone asked if I had eaten anything and about that time I went through transition and threw up all the vegan pizza from the hotel into the trash. Rob and/or my doula said something like "Well, it doesn't matter now since it is all out of her stomach now." Even though it was a very tidy may to puke my guts out, I still apologized and my doula and/or Rob handled it all. My sister was there for most of this and although she doesn't have any children, she has seen many dogs give birth (she used to work where they bred guide dogs for the blind). I never asked her how Parker's birth compared. It felt like there were quite a few people watching (I sort of remember "Nice Quiet Out of My Way Nurse" sitting in a chair just watching it all. I didn't care who was there. I was in my "zone" and in my own nightgown. This was really important to me. I love this nightgown...it is warm and snuggly and "they" (mainly Sadist Nurse) didn't want me to wear it, but my doula fought that battle for me and I'm grateful. Don't ask me why, but I am happy I have never had to birth in a hospital gown.

They did hook me up to some monitors which were just dangling since I was not in the bed most of the two hours I labored in the hospital. I was kind of all over...it was a nice big room. I don't remember if we ever played the music I brought. The nurses (all nice by this time) said they would like to check to see how far along I was and were surprised to see the head. My doula suggested I feel the head while the nurse ran out of the room for the on-call OB.

I have to say feeling the head of my first baby for the first time was the most amazing feeling and I couldn't help buy smile (I may have even laughed). I still remember the wet hair and the head. It was like the moment when it really came home to me that I had a life, another life. I know I should have probably come to that realization in the previous nine months, but here it was...well, almost...I had to push and this is really the only regret I have. My doula suggested I push on my side and in my birth plan I had said I wanted to swat, but in the hospital the doctors like to be able to see what is going on...even if they aren't doing anything.

Parker came out with his hand balled up in a fist next to his head. Very cute, but this made his head a fist size bigger and it was my first and...well, I tore a bit. Knowing what I know now...well, it doesn't matter because what is done is done. After a very quiet 14 hours, I let out a little yelp when I tore and that was that because then I had my beautiful baby boy in my arms.

Of course, this is when all hell breaks loose when you have a child with a congenital "defect". His apgar was great, but they had to all look him over and they had warned me that I may not get to hold him at all, but I think I had a good 10 or 15 minutes before they had to take him to NICU. It seemed so crazy since Parker was so perfect looking. Not blue, no troubles breathing, nothing. They bent the rules and let Rob carry him to the NICU (a floor or two away). I was heartbroken to have Parker leave me, but at least Rob was with him.

I then had to push out the placenta and I remembered thinking...what? Now I have to push something else out? I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but I didn't...I have issues with the placenta as my birth story with Dema and Josie confirm. They said I had x number of minutes to push it out or I'd get pitocin...not gonna happen...so I did the placenta and they gave me a shot to sew (two stitches). The first shot didn't take and I shouldn't have said anything because the shot hurt more than the stitch, but whatever. I should have refused to be stitched at all, but all I could think about was Parker.

They got me settled into a room and the staff was so sweet at this point. One of the nurses said she was very impressed with my labor and she thought it was amazing. She brought me a fruit plate at midnight...I don't know her name or remember what she looked like, but I love her. The OB came up to my room to tell me how he was so touched by the delivery that he was going to have midwife in his practice and suggest every woman have a doula. He had never seen a natural labor before. Never. Several of the nurses said the same. This is why I had a hospital birth. It was all worth it for this. Even "Saddist Nurse" had softened. My sister stayed in the hotel room we'd rented since it was already paid for and she was tired...my doula turned down our offer for her to stay there too. I believe Karen told the hotel staff that I'd labored there...she couldn't help herself.

Rob and I never left Parker's side once they let me go to NICU (which seemed like forever, but it was about an hour after he was born). The nurses left me notes in my room to say I should check in with them at some point (they had blood pressure numbers to take or something like that). After a couple days of observation they decided Parker could nurse (I had pumped and another wonderful NICU nurse...most of them were great!...helped me get the hang of pumping and then nursing) since prior to that they were worried it would be too much stress on his heart. He didn't need immediate surgery and I fell in love with the pediatric cardiologist (he was young and married with kids of his own, but even my doula that he was dreamy). Rob was fine with my crush...it is hard not to be in love with someone who seemed to care so deeply for my new son and who had all this information we waited with baited breath to hear every day. He was also cute, had the softest hands, and did I mention he had my son's life in those soft hands...he moved so I can go on like this.

NICU was an eye-opening experience. We were amazed at how little we saw other parents. Most of the other babies were preemies and some were there for a long time and it is understandable that parents with other children and jobs (a NICU stay is not cheap) could not be by their child's side every second. We were lucky to be able to be there with him all the time. Sometimes I would fall asleep with Parker sucking my finger. My mom's cousin was so supportive and it was nice to have her so close. Her daughter brought us vegan Thai food (since the cardiologists told us we wouldn't be able to find anything vegan...other than some fruit...in the cafeteria). We had other friends who brought us a care package of vegan snacks. The few pictures taken at Parker's birth were ruined (35 mm, not digital) when we had an issue with not rewinding the film or something....sad, very sad for me. When we took Parker home, we regretted the lack of sleep since there was snow on the ground and we really hadn't slept much, but we made it.

Now, it is eight years later and Parker is this amazing person. He is one of the sweetest, most empathic people I know and I am lucky to have him in my life. He had open heart surgery at 2 1/2 years old and may need more surgery in the future. He has regular check-ups with his pediatric cardiologist (still a great guy, but more of a grandfather type). We've been told our vegan lifestyle should be a great help to his heart and that we have no more chance for having another child with a heart defect than anyone else. The surgeon said he wanted us to forget that Parker has a heart defect when his back is to us (when we can't see the scar) and for the most part we do. Parker is a very strong person and he has never been on any meds or shown any symptoms because of his heart. Some day I will give the story of his surgery. Rob and I agree his birth in the hospital prepared us for dealing with his surgery. It is funny how things work out.

I love you Parker, happy birthday!


Lisa said...

What a terrific story - so much information, all of it awesome.

Happy birthday to you, Rob, & Parker!

Cynthia said...

oh what a wonderful story. I agree, I think Parker is a very special little soul......

Stef said...

Happy Birthday to Parker and his amazing heart!

Loretta said...

Happy Birthday, Parker!

What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it, Linda.

Leeanthro said...

Wow! Happy Birthday Parker.

As I read the first few paragraphs I was hoping you would say that you went to all that trouble and when he was born his heart was just fine.

I know several people who don't want lots of prenatal tests because they wouldn't terminate. But I think it's so much better to know in advance if there are problems because then you can be prepared. Your story is proof of that.

VeganLinda said...

Thanks everyone!

Leeanthro, I totally understand why people like to have tests done and why they don't. After this experience with Parker we decided no testing for our next two children and to home birth (we almost did an unassisted home birth for Parker because if he was only to have a few moments to live...I wanted it to be in my arms and not being examined by the doctors). If one is not going to be able to do anything with the information or the information has a good chance of being "wrong" then I think it is best not to have the test done.