I'm having a blissful moment. It's quiet here with Sam and Mom at church. Anna just finished eating and is asleep on my chest. She is so soft and warm and cuddling her makes me so relaxed and eases any pain I had been feeling in my abdomen. It has been a crazy week and I love that it has brought me to this point: quiet, comfortable, contemplative, with a beautiful new daughter just in time for Mother's Day.
Several people have asked, so I thought I'd write about what happened between last Friday and today.
As you read two posts ago, I started having contractions on Friday evening. They continued through the night, and though they were more painful than any of the Braxton-Hicks contractions I'd had before, they seemed pretty irregular to me (I was so naive). So, I spent the night on the couch breathing and forcing my self to relax during contractions, and sleeping for the 15-25 minutes between each one. I thought about waking up Sam to rub my back, but I thought, "I'll feel so bad and silly if I keep him up all night for no reason," and just stuck it out for several hours. Eventually Sam woke up and got me some breakfast. I showered (thank goodness) and got ready for the day. We had planned on going to the Space Center, but I told Sam I didn't think I was up to it and instead made a grocery and movie list so we'd be prepared for the coming week of me just resting.
So, Sam went shopping and I talked on the phone with my mom and a friend. By noon I was really tired and came in to lay on the bed. Sam got home sometime after one and asked how I was doing. I was having some contractions close together by this point, but there would still be periods of up to 20 minutes without one. I told Sam I wanted him to rub my back and got up out of bed. Suddenly, a really hard contraction came that sent me kneeling to the floor. It was worse than all the others and ended with me calling to Sam that my water had broken.
Our bag wasn't packed for the hospital and Sam had only been home for five or ten minutes. I could tell he was nervous, but he got together everything we needed, called some people to come take care of things around the apartment, and attended to me when I'd call him. In the mean time, I crawled into the bathtub and started the warm water. It felt great. I am sold on the idea of a water birth. While there, I called my mom and told her the news. She bought a plane ticket and left for the airport an hour later.
Eventually things were ready and Sam got me into the car. I had a few contractions on the way to the hospital (a 12-minute drive) and was happy to be up and walking again once we pulled up. By this time, the contractions were really strong, but I could handle them as long as I could hold onto Sam as they happened.
We got into the delivery room and I changed into a hospital gown. The nurses started asking all sorts of questions that I was in no mood to answer and started hooking me up the the electronic fetal monitor. I don't remember things very clearly from this point on, but I know there was some talk of an ultrasound and someone told me I was dilated to 9 cm and should resist any urge to push.
Through what seemed like an eternity, but was, in reality just a few minutes, I got an IV in (on the fourth try...) and several other uncomfortable things. I asked what was going on and the nurses explained that the baby was breech and that she'd have to be delivered by c-section. They took Sam to suit him up for the OR and sign some papers while they took off the EFM and got me ready for the OR. Those were the worst moments when there was a flurry of activity going on around me, and I didn't have Sam or anyone else to get me through really strong, painful contractions. I felt so out of control and was probably in shock since my whole body was shaking and was freezing.
Finally, they got me to the OR and waited for a contraction to end to administer the anesthesia. I felt immediate relief flood my body and warmth came back. That feeling is the best argument in favor of an epidural that I've ever had. Soon, Sam was back with me, stroking my head and telling me how great I was doing. I felt calm and eager for the baby to come. The surgery took about half an hour and after a little tugging a pressure, I heard the doctors say, "There's one arm, and the other" and soon, a healthy cry filled the room. A nurse brought the baby to show her to us and of course, I started crying. I was so happy and relieved. I just kept thinking, "She's here!" They cleaned her and let Sam hold her a little before they went to weigh and measure her.
Sam left to be with Anna while I got cleaned up. They used some glue to hold the incision closed and complimented me on how fat-free my belly was. I thought it pretty funny that even with my belly cut open, I was still getting comments about my figure. We sure are an image-focused society, aren't we?
The next couple days were the hardest. It was hours before I was allowed to even see Anna, and when I did, she was in an isolette with oxygen pumping, a tube in her mouth to her stomach to release gas, an IV, heart monitors, a respiration monitor, a blood oxygen monitor, and blood pressure cuff. Her lungs were both underdeveloped (from being premature) and had liquid in them that hadn't been squeezed out in the normal fashion of being pushed through a birth canal. It was almost 24 hours after her birth that I was first allowed to hold her, but every time Sam or I did, all the levels that should have been going up went down and all the ones that should have been going down went up because of all the unfamiliar stimulation. So every couple of minutes, another alarm would go off on one thing or another and annoy both Anna and the nurses. I cried almost every time I saw her (fluctuating hormones and pain medication didn't help that). The nurses always made sure to tell me she was OK and that she just needed time and I shouldn't worry. I knew they were right, and I was honestly not worried at all, it was just so difficult to not be able to hold and comfort my baby, and to know that any effort to do so made things worse, not better.
By the third day, Anna was pretty stable, but wasn't making great improvements. One morning I went in to see her (I was doing great by this point, by the way, and was able to walk to the nursery from my room-- a great accomplishment for a c-section mommy, the nurses said) and the nurse on duty asked where I went to school. I was wearing a BYU t-shirt and told her I had gone to Brigham Young University in Utah. At that, she told me she was also a member of the LDS church and was friends with many people I knew. She was so comforting, and such a help. She even gave me her cell phone number in case I had any questions. She mentioned, in that first conversation that many NICU babies made a turn-around at about 72 hours, just hours away for our Anna.
Needless to say, she did just that. Within that same day, the nurses started feeding her my pumped breastmilk. Soon, the stomach tube came out, and soon after that, the oxygen was taken off. I went home from the hospital on Tuesday. A day or so later, they let me start breast feeding her directly, and I loved being so close to her. I went to the hospital for feedings at noon, 3, 6, and 9. In between, I would rest, and mom and I would get out about once a day. I got to drive one of those electric shopping carts at Walmart while we stocked up on diapers, wipes, diaper cream, nursing pads, baby wash, etc.
On Friday, the nurse told us that aside from the results of an EKG, and the "carseat challenge" (an hour in the car seat to make sure all her vitals were normal afterwards), Anna was ready to come home. We fed her at noon and came back for the 3 PM feeding. After feeding her and rocking her, the nurse explained that Anna was ready to go home right then! I called mom and had her come to the hospital to take pictures. We went through lots of paperwork and freed Anna of all her cords. We got lots of goodies to take home, as well. Finally, it was all done, and she was ours! We successfully got her into the car seat and introduced her to home.
It's so wonderful to have her home with us, and know she's healthy. She eats like a champ and we love watching her wiggle. She is a very light crier and heavy sleeper so far, and we hope those will continue to be her habit. We love her so very much and will continue to keep you updated on how cute she's getting with each day. Thanks everyone for all your prayers and offers of help. We've felt so supported through this whole process. We know the Lord protected both me and Anna and we are so grateful to Him for his watchful care. Being given one of His children to care for is the greatest gift we've ever been given.