Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Our Birth & Recovery Story

I cannot believe our sweet girl is already 7 months old! Those early weeks were such a blur of diaper changes, middle of the night feedings, and just basically trying to survive and adjust to our new normal. Now that I've had a little bit of time to catch my breath and I finally feel more like myself after a rather difficult recovery, I wanted to share our birth story. 

When I unexpectedly gave birth to our son at only 20 weeks along, it was a completely devastating and traumatic event. I desperately wanted our experience this second time around to be one where we felt prepared and excited when it was finally time to meet our daughter. Because of my history with preterm birth, I was considered high risk throughout this pregnancy and was much more closely monitored by a team of maternal-fetal specialists. As far as they could assess, both the baby and I were healthy throughout my entire pregnancy but, since the same was true for my previous pregnancy, I'm not sure I ever fully relaxed. 

Annie Immello Photography

I wasn't due until January 25th, however, I ended up going to the hospital with contractions at 34.5 weeks pregnant. I was sent to triage and they monitored my contractions and told me I was already 2cm dilated. Many women walk around for weeks while dilated before they deliver, so when my contractions stopped and I hadn't progressed any further, they felt comfortable sending me home. The doctors recommended I have steroid shots, which would help the baby's lungs develop faster just in case she did eventually end up coming early, so they gave me a shot before we headed home (I had to go back the next night for a second dose and boy do those shots hurt...ouch). 

For the next couple weeks I made sure to rest, drink lots of water, and just generally take it easy in an attempt to keep the baby in as long as possible. Since I had made it to 34 weeks already, the doctors felt confident that if she came early, at this point along she would have a really good chance of not only surviving but thriving without any major long term issues. Still, I desperately wanted to make it to full term, which the doctors considered 37 weeks. 

Fast forward two more weeks (December 30th) and I decided it was a good day to take down our Christmas tree and decorations. Normally I'd wait until after New Year's Eve to do this but I just wanted things cleaned up and put away before our baby decided to make her arrival. Sure enough, that evening around 7pm I started feeling a bit off so I went to bed to rest. I started feeling mild contractions and by 8pm they had gotten intense enough that I asked my husband to start timing them. Not even an hour later the contractions had increased in intensity and were 5 minutes apart so we knew it was time to head to the hospital because things were progressing quickly. We live almost an hour away from where I would deliver so we weren't taking any chances by waiting around. Fortunately, because of our scare two weeks earlier, our bags were packed and ready to go! 

Christmas 2020 
(our sweet girl would arrive 6 days later)

When they assessed me at the hospital at 10pm I was 4cm dilated and the contractions were still consistent so I was admitted. I immediately asked for an epidural but they said because I was a few days shy of 37 weeks I was still considered preterm and couldn't have an epidural until I was 6cm dilated. When they checked me again an hour later I was dilated enough and got some relief! Things initially progressed pretty quickly and I was fully dilated and effaced by 1am. However, the baby wasn't moving down into place in order for me to start pushing because she was sunny side up (ideally babies should not only be head down but should also be facing down when moving through the pelvis)! The doctors tried going in manually and turning her (which hurt!!!!!) but she turned right back. 

I was told that it was still possible for me to push her out but it was going to take a lot more effort than if she were facing down in the ideal delivery position. They would only let me push for up to four hours before they would elect to do a c-section (while also monitoring the baby's heart rate). All I heard was that I was going to have to push for FOUR HOURS and still end up with a c-section so I told them to just go ahead with a c-section...the thought of having to labor that long and then still end up with a c-section just put me over the edge! 

Apparently some women don't feel the relief of the epidural as effectively and unfortunately I am one of those women, which I learned when I started gradually feeling more pain as labor progressed! But, the team that was with me offered a lot of support and encouragement by telling me there was a good chance I could push her out in less than four hours and they helped by having me labor in lots of different positions to encourage the baby to make her way down and out. 

Fortunately from that point, it only ended up taking two hours of pushing (which was still A LOT) to get her out and Miss Charlotte Anne was born at 11:28am on New Year's Eve! She turned face down right before I pushed her out so I suppose this just means she does things in her own time!

She let out a cry immediately and so did I...I sobbed from relief, both from the pain of labor and from hearing that she was strong and healthy upon their initial assessment. They put her on my chest and we were just so thankful that she was here. Although, she was 3.5 weeks early and a little peanut at 5lbs, 14oz, she was perfectly healthy!

Those next couple of days in the hospital were such a blur. I was exhausted and because the baby was essentially stalled in one place during labor since she was facing the wrong way, she put a lot of pressure on my bladder. I ended up having some unforeseen complications which really limited my mobility while in the hospital and for quite a while after. 

We stayed at the hospital for a few days so both baby and I could be monitored and then we went home to a very excited dog and a half naked Christmas tree still standing in the middle of the living room. Unfortunately, I had to have a catheter during my entire hospital stay and even had to go home with one as my bladder still couldn't function properly and it needed more rest to return to normal. Farmer Man took on the majority of the baby care because I was essentially bedridden until the catheter was removed a few days later at my doctor's office. 

One Week Old

We also found out at Charlotte's first pediatrician appointment (which was two days after going home from the hospital) that she had jaundice and that we would need to immediately bring her to the children's hospital so she could have light therapy. So, we packed everything back up and headed to the hospital to spend the night. I was having horrible pains in my abdomen and ended up going over to the emergency room while Farmer Man stayed with the baby. Apparently both my uterus and my bladder were contracting as they were essentially trying to get back to normal and causing me pain and I also had a bladder infection caused by the catheter being inserted and removed so many times in the days following Charlotte's birth. 

The light therapy worked and we were able to take the baby home the next afternoon. We consider ourselves so very fortunate that this was the extent of her medical needs considering she was preterm at 36.5 weeks. Unfortunately, this was only the start of my postpartum recovery issues as the antibiotics that I was given for the bladder infection essentially caused a chain reaction of other infections that would last months. I ended up needing surgery a few months later to heal a fissure that was caused from the extremely long period of pushing during labor (again, due to her being 'sunny side up'). I was completely unfamiliar with what a fissure was and really wish more people talked about this issue because it could have saved me months and months of significant pain if only I had known to see a doctor about this issue sooner. I also ended up needing to see a pelvic floor physical therapist for a couple months to help correct a bladder prolapse. 

At this point, the infections from the antibiotics have cleared up and I'm no longer in physical therapy, but I'm still healing from the fissure surgery and I also recently found out I will need to have one more surgery to address some vaginal tissue that still hasn't healed from when I tore giving birth. This will mean another 4-6 weeks of stitches, but hopefully it's the last of the surgeries needed as a result of giving birth almost 8 months ago! 

Taking care of a newborn and adjusting to new parenthood is in itself quite challenging, but doing it while also having a lot of physical pain for months following giving birth is incredibly demoralizing. I often couldn't take care of the baby or get back to normal household activities in the way that I wanted and I cried myself to sleep very often from sheer pain and exhaustion. These complications also had a significant impact on my milk supply and breastfeeding in general but I'm proud that I was able to give her at least some breast milk for the first 8 weeks. Before she was born, I never planned on giving my baby formula but I also never anticipated having so many recovery issues. Although at first I felt a lot of guilt, ending breast feeding early was a huge weight lifted off of me physically and mentally and was absolutely the best decision for our family.

 Annie Immello Photography

Charlotte is now a happy, healthy, thriving baby and we are cherishing every day with her. New motherhood has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience, watching her change so quickly and discovery the world around her. We are so very lucky to have her here with us and I know her big brother John is watching over our family. 

Check out Charlotte's Sweet Floral Nursery HERE!

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