Happy Mother's Day everyone! Today I'm excited to share Zanden's birth story with you all! Baby boy will be three weeks old on Tuesday, and I am so very grateful to God for this new gift. As I write this, I am holding my son in my arms, thanking the Lord for making me a mom and soaking in these precious moments. I wish I could say that I have loved every minute of being a new mama, but honestly it has been a pretty rough ride so far, as I'm sure it is for any first time parent. I adore my Zanden more than I could have imagined, but this truly has been the most challenging three weeks of my life - physically and emotionally. Between the constant breastfeeding (I'm still in pain and learning), intense c-section recovery, crying, diapering, pumping, laundry, broken sleep, and episodic self-doubt, it's a miracle that this somehow got checked off my to-do list! So enjoy and please know that this was written by my sleep deprived self. :)
On Monday, April 20th I was woken at 3:00 a.m. by a new type of contraction that I had never felt before. I had been having Braxton Hicks, or “practice" contractions since the second trimester of my pregnancy, but these were definitely different. The sensation was lower in my abdomen and back, similar to a severe menstrual cramp. These went on for an hour or two in what seemed to be regular intervals, so I woke Benny up and told him I think I may be in early labor. We decided to call the after hours doctor’s office line, and the on-call midwife told me to take a warm bath to see if that would help relax my uterus. After the bath, I fell back asleep for a few hours and woke up to the same contractions, so I called the doctor's office again. The nurse told me to monitor them for a couple more hours and to call if anything changed dramatically before then.
Benny went to work and I had the day off, so I stayed home to keep track of the crampy contractions. They came every 7-10 minutes at about the same intensity the entire day. At this point my OB was about 80% sure that this was early labor and that I would be going into full labor either that night or in the morning, so we rescheduled the planned c-section for Tuesday April 21st at 9:00 a.m. (instead of keeping our original appointment on April 22nd). We couldn’t believe that we were going to meet our baby boy so soon! I was instructed to keep monitoring, eat dinner, and call if my contractions worsened or if they started to come more frequently. Around 7:30 p.m., Benny and I ate a large meal and then tried to get a good night’s sleep before the procedure in the morning. At what seemed like the second I laid down to rest, the contractions began to intensify and I could no longer talk through them without groaning and squirming. A couple more severe contractions hit, and soon we realized it was time. So, we packed up the car, said goodnight to Khaleesi, and left for the hospital around 10:15 p.m. Benny and I laughed on the drive down the 5 as I unsuccessfully attempted to get through a contraction without grimacing or showing any sign of discomfort. This was the real deal!
At the Hospital
When we arrived at Scripps, I was immediately admitted to a labor and delivery room and hooked up to a fetal monitor and an IV. The contractions were very painful at this point, and I was one centimeter dilated. While checking my cervix, the nurse told us that she felt the baby's head down there, which would mean that he had flipped! I told her I was sure that he was still breech (head-up), but she was almost positive she felt the head and proceeded to ask me if I wanted to get started with my epidural for a vaginal delivery. I was so overwhelmed with the thought of my birth plan changing at that point - I couldn't control the tears. After having been told that the baby was breech since week 34 of my pregnancy and that there was a less than 3% chance of him turning head-down with how low my fluid and platelet levels were, I was not at all mentally prepared to push, even though originally and ultimately I did want to try for a natural birth.
A few minutes later, the midwife came in to do an ultrasound to confirm the position of the baby. He was still breech after all, and plans changed back to the c-section. What a roller coaster! Now the only wild card was when the we could get started, since usually you need to wait eight hours after a meal before a c-section, and we had eaten dinner only three hours ago. The thought of having to go through five more hours of worsening contractions before going in for surgery was agonizing. We were also still unsure if I would be able to be awake for it since that would be dependent on if my platelet level that night - 96,000 - was enough for the anesthesiologist to administer a regional vs general anesthesia (aka be awake or put to sleep). Apparently anything under a 100,000 platelet count is the usual cutoff point for regional, or to stay awake. Going under general anesthesia would have been tough because Benny wouldn’t have been allowed in the room, and both I and the baby would have been put to sleep. Thankfully the anesthesiologist felt fine about both my dinner and platelet count, so before I knew it I was being wheeled into the operation room.
The Operating Room
I remember shaking uncontrollably on the operating table – I was so nervous, it felt like a dream - like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I couldn't believe that within the hour I would be holding my baby boy and also be recovering from my first surgery experience. Benny had to wait outside in the hall until the doctors were done numbing my body with a spinal tap. I was scared and felt alone, especially because there were no familiar faces in the room since my OB was not on-call that night. But I knew I couldn’t let my emotions take over. I kept quiet and just tried to breathe and relax. I was curled up like a baby as the anesthesiologist placed the needle into my spine - I could barely feel it since I was in the midst of an awful contraction.
Once I was numb enough, Benny was allowed into the room dressed in scrubs. He talked to me and rubbed his fingers through my hair as the doctors began. I could feel them tugging around, and I kept asking Benny if they were pulling the baby out yet. Within a few minutes, the anesthediologist asked Benny if he wanted to see the baby being lifted from my body, so Benny looked over the curtain and watched as they pulled Zanden out of my abdomen. Benny said that Zanden was the most perfect baby he had ever seen, and I can still hear him [Benny that is] crying hysterically as he went over to the corner table to cut the umbilical cord. I couldn’t hold or see the baby yet, so I remained very quiet and waited patiently – aloof and emotionless. I still felt like I was in a dream - like I was watching myself on the table from the outside and couldn't really participate in what was going on. Once Zanden was cleaned up, he was brought to me in a swaddle blanket and placed on my chest as the doctor’s stapled my incision. Holding him for the first time was overwhelming and scary, and to be honest I was a little out of it because of the anesthesia and my nervousness. It was crazy to be lying numb on a table with my new son in my arms, with no control over my lower half while people yanked on my body. The nurses took the baby away again - this time to the recovery room with Benny. Again I laid there silently as the doctors finished stitching me up and talked amongst themselves. Once I was wheeled into the recovery room, I got to hold the baby and try breastfeeding for the first time. He was the most beautiful baby in the world, and in that moment he became my world.
We spent three sleepless nights in the hospital postpartum room (which are now all a blur to me). I was on Morphine through an IV and hooked up to a catheter for the first day or so, completely dependent on the nurses for everything - breastfeeding, pain medication, urinating, etc. Because the recovery was so intense, we limited our visitors in the hospital to just immediate family. Benny handled the diaper changes and baby care since I was totally helpless and could barely get out of bed. I remember the first day, the nurses had me try to stand up and walk to the in-room bathroom - I immediately felt dizzy and had severe pain at my incision site. The hardest part was the fear of the unknown - it was my first surgery, first baby, first IV, first catheter, etc, and I really didn't know how anything worked or what to expect. I was exhausted with worry over what may or may not cause me more physical pain and how much medication I should be taking. Breastfeeding also wasn't going well - Zanden was down 10% from his birth weight and the nurses said that if he lost any more, we would need to give him a bottle. That was a big stress for us, but thankfully on the third day we had a couple successful feeding sessions which bumped Zanden's weight up enough to continue to solely breastfeed. On April 24th we brought our little guy home and nothing has been the same since! I feel like I was always meant to be a mama and even though it hasn't been easy so far, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I am feeling physically stronger each day though still pretty fragile emotionally. There are times when I look at Zanden and am filled with so much love and joy that I think my heart may explode. And there are times (mostly in the middle of the night) when I wish I could run away and go back to the way things were a month ago. The love I have for Zanden is so consuming - it can be exhausting as my heart wants to empathize with his every cry and need but my body is aching for rest. Breastfeeding is still torturous but we recently found out that Zanden has a posterior tongue tie, which is most likely causing the severe pain for me. Now that we know, we can move forward with a solution, and I'm hopeful that things will start to get easier! Zanden has already gained a pound since birth on breastfeeding alone which is apparently amazing, so we must be doing something right! He is just the most darling little thing and I am so excited to watch who he becomes. I am already learning so much from him and I am grateful for the opportunity to trust and lean on the Lord for everything during this very joyful but also very challenging time.
This Mother's Day I am so very grateful for Zanden's grandmas, my sweet mom and mother-in-law. These two strong women have been showering us with love and support the past few weeks. They have helped us with groceries, laundry, meals, and watching Zanden when I just need to catch my breath. I can't imagine doing motherhood without their guidance.
Wishing you all a wonderful day filled with a mother's love!