Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dear Ellie - One Month

My dear Ellie,

Today you are one month old. Already! I know, I can't believe it either. Since you have joined our family, the days seem to pass slowly but the weeks have flown by.

When I look back at the pictures from the day you were born, you already seem so different. You seem so much older and more grown up already, and I feel like I know you so much better. It's hard to believe you can change so much in just four weeks.

These four weeks with you have been both challenging and wonderful. There have been times when you have cried and either I couldn't get to you (as I was recovering myself), or I just didn't know what you needed or how to soothe you, and I just cried right along with you. I felt like I was in over my head and wondered how I ended up here with this little baby that was relying entirely on me for everything. I wondered if this new situation would ever feel "normal." But then, there have been countless moments when you are sleeping peacefully, or making that turtle face I love so much, or looking up at me with those big blue eyes, or smiling your sweet, gummy baby smile and I just can't imagine life any other way.

You have been smiling a lot more lately. I don't know if any of them are purposeful yet, but your smile is the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. You're also starting to "talk" more and make more baby cooing noises. I can't wait until the day when we can make you laugh!

One of our favorite things that you do is your sneeze moan. More often than not, after you sneeze, you let out the most adorable, sad little moan, like you just can't figure out what this sneezing thing is and it's really stressing you out. It both breaks my heart and makes me laugh every time. Your daddy has been trying desperately to capture it on film, but just like when I tried to videotape you moving in my belly before you were born, you don't seem to want to cooperate when the camera comes out!

You do love your daddy, that's for sure. You and he got in some good bonding time while I was recovering from everything after you were born. So many times, you have been crying and I haven't been able to quiet you, but all Daddy has to do is pick you up and you are calm. You love when he holds you as he bounces on our exercise ball and reads to you. Just last week he was even just reading some financial accounting standards to you and you were captivated, bless your heart. You just stare up at him and listen to every word he says. I love to watch the two of you together. I hope you continue to have that bond all throughout your life. He loves you so much!

You have been a very good sleeper since the beginning, something Daddy and I have been very grateful for! We usually have to wake you up to remind you to eat during the day, and this past Friday night you slept for six hours straight during the night! You also love to nap curled up into me after nursing. I love that cuddle time and am perfectly willing to keep myself planted on the couch for the duration of your nap so as not to disturb you.

As good of a sleeper as you are, you probably are an even better eater! You were born hungry, looking for food right away. You and I got the nursing thing down pretty quickly, although sometimes I do feel like we're still finding our groove. We have to wake you up to feed you most of the time, but once you are awake, you are ready to EAT. You're already starting to outgrow some of your smaller clothes so I know I'm doing a good job of giving you what you need, which is a very cool feeling. Just don't get too big too fast - I will miss my little baby!

You had your first bath last week, and you seemed to really enjoy it. You only cried when it was time to get out of the tub and dry off! I assume this is your Floridian background coming out - you love being in the water and only get upset when it's time to get out. I hope that means that when you get a little bigger, you'll love the pool and the beach as much as Daddy and I do. Daddy and I even met at the pool, you know!

Aside from Daddy and me (and maybe even Achilles, too), you have so many people who are so happy that you're here. Your family is all so excited to meet you and people have been sending gifts and cards to you. You are very loved, little girl. I hope you always remember that.

This has been one crazy month, my dear Ellie. I'm so excited to continue watching you grow and change as the months pass. You are my sunshine and I love you so much.

Happy One Month Birthday, baby.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear Ellie,

Thank you for sleeping really well and for all the cute faces and noises. I don't have any experience with new babies, but my reading of the Internet leads me to believe that you are a really good one. As frustrating as it can be to listen to you cry and as uncertain as I have felt at times about giving up a lifestyle I have enjoyed, watching you sleep or holding you in my arms gives me the most satisfied and contented feelings I have ever felt. You are an overwhelmingly net positive and I would not change a single thing about you or my life. I am so eager to watch you grow up and develop, but also in no hurry for you to lose any bit of your current perfection.

At one month old, I can't decide if you are getting super big or if you are still so very small. I suppose I would say that you are getting big because you already seem like much more of a real person than when we met at the hospital. You are very alert when you are awake (even though you usually get upset when being awake is not soon followed by a meal), there are things you seem to like (walking in the stroller and bouncing on the exercise ball) and things you seem not to like (getting dried off after a bath and most food smells).You also seem to have started being able to hold your head up, which is nice because it is one fewer thing I have to worry about breaking.

More recently, you may have smiled on purpose. Although you have given your mother and me glimpses of it for a few weeks, to be honest, I'm not sure I can handle it yet. You are still the cutest thing I have ever seen and my heart is regularly ready to explode when you grasp my finger or stop crying to stare at me when I am reading to you. I don't know what I will do when you start smiling at me (assuming you like me as much as you seem to). Also on the "I can sense I am in big trouble when you get older" front, you have been working on an adorable pouty face. I feel a little bad smiling at it because it is always followed by tears, but it is honestly that cute. If you ever start using that one on purpose, I am not sure I will be able to say no to anything you ask (hopefully you don't read this until you are away at college).

Anyway, happy one month birthday! Keep up the good work.

You and your mommy are the best.

All my love,

Friday, April 27, 2012

My Loves

One of the things nobody tells you about giving birth is what it can do for your relationship with your husband. Everyone talks about the love you'll feel for your baby, but nobody tells you that you will fall exponentially more in love with your husband, too. From the moment labor started through the birth and now that we are home as a family, I have fallen more deeply in love with Eric every single day.

I'm so in love with both of them, I can hardly stand it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Four Years

Last week as I was going on and on about my birth story, I missed my four-year blogiversary! That's right, I've been recording our lives here for four years now. When I first started blogging, we were newlyweds, Eric was about to finish up law school and we were preparing to move from Washington, D.C. to NYC in a few months. Now, we're quickly approaching our fifth wedding anniversary, we've been living in NYC for 3.5 years, and we just welcomed our baby girl into our family. How times change, am I right?

Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me. It has been quite an adventure, and it isn't over yet!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Few More Thoughts...

Well, today Eric is back at work after his paternity leave, so it's just me, Ellie and the pup hanging out at home today. However, tomorrow my dad is coming to visit and staying until Friday, and then next week my mom is coming. So we still have lots to look forward to!

In the meantime, now that my birth story has been told in its (exceptionally long) entirety, I just wanted to make note of a few additional thoughts that either didn't come up during the birth story proper, or simply warrant mentioning again. It was an experience that I won't soon forget, and it's a very emotionally charged memory. I've been working hard to process everything that happened, before, during and after the birth, and so I just wanted to record a few more of my thoughts, if you don't mind.

My Preparations for the Birth

As I have mentioned on here, Eric and I did do some preparing before the birth to try to set ourselves up to have the best chance possible for the birth we wanted: an intervention-free natural birth. I didn't want to be induced, I didn't want an epidural, I definitely didn't want a cesarean section. I wanted a med-free vaginal birth, I wanted the baby put on my chest for skin-to-skin contact as soon as she was born, I wanted delayed cord clamping, I wanted all newborn procedures delayed until breastfeeding was established in the first hour after birth. Of course I knew that birth is unpredictable and not something you can plan for (OBVIOUSLY, and if I didn't know that before, I certainly do now), but I wanted to do the best I could to try for my ideal experience.

Of the two of us, Eric was the reader. He read tons of books about pregnancy, labor, being a good birth partner, and parenting. I didn't read to nearly the extent that he did (he has the advantage of being able to read on the train during his commute without getting motion sick, unlike me), but having one of us be really knowledgeable about what we may encounter was invaluable. We had lots of decisions to make as the labor wore on, and Eric was so well-informed, he was able to be an excellent advocate for me and help make sure we were making the right decisions for us. (His favorite book was The Birth Partner, if you are expecting and looking for some reading!)

One thing we did together was the Hypnobabies Home Study Course. As I mentioned in the past, this course was excellent for keeping me relaxed in the last couple of months of my pregnancy. I loved the daily affirmations, which helped me feel very positive and confident. I did all the other hypnosis tracks before bed each night and I largely credit them with my ability to fall right to sleep each night. I'm usually the type who stays awake at night worrying about things, but that was never a problem for me, I think because I was so relaxed. Honestly, those feelings of confidence and calm were well worth the cost of the program to me. However, as far as actually helping me during labor, I can't say that it did anything for me. Granted, I didn't have your standard labor. Maybe if things had played out along a more normal timeline, it might have helped a bit more. But really, I didn't use much of what I learned during labor. Far more helpful to me was my doula...

My Doula

Jess, my doula, massaging my back during a contraction

Jess was AMAZING. I can't imagine what my labor experience would have been like without her. Could Eric and I have done it without her? Sure, we can do anything, and all that. But I wouldn't have wanted to do that, that's for sure.

Probably the best preparation for labor for me was my prenatal meetings with Jess, and more specifically, the breathing techniques she practiced with us as well as talking through my hopes and fears for birth. Each of my prenatal meetings with her were very therapeutic, and one that proved especially helpful had focused on my fears of a c-section. To try to alleviate my fears a bit, Jess had walked me through exactly what a c-section would entail - what would happen, what the room would look like, what I might hear, what I might smell, everything. This helped me immensely before the fact in that it eliminated some fear of the unknown, and when I did end up needing a c-section, I was able to remember some of the things Jess told me to expect and it helped calm me in the moment.

Of course, Jess was also a great source of support during the whole labor and delivery. She helped me try different things to cope with contractions, was very encouraging, kept us apprised of our options as labor wore on, helped us to fully understand decisions we were making, stayed by my side in the operating room when Eric went to be with the baby, and even helped us get breastfeeding underway. After the birth, we had a postpartum meeting with her as well, where we did some debriefing and she brought us a meal (Daisy May's BBQ, our favorite NYC 'cue!).

An unexpected but invaluable service she provided was being a support for Eric. As I mentioned, Eric did tons of reading. He knew his stuff going into labor. But, my labor was long and I don't think he expected the emotional toll that seeing someone you love in so much pain can take on you. Having Jess there gave him someone to talk to during down times, someone to bounce his thoughts off of when we were trying to make a decision (such as deciding to go for the epidural), etc. Even something so simple as making sure he had the camera in the operating room - he would have forgotten it had she not grabbed it, and we would have missed out on pictures from Ellie's first moments, pictures that I will treasure forever. It was just so nice for Eric to have someone not so emotionally invested in the situation to talk to and confer with during the whole process. I'm so grateful for the support she gave to him.

Bottom line, in my personal opinion, if you spend any money on birth preparation, get a doula. She was an absolutely invaluable source of support to us and I can't imagine having done it without her.

My Medical Team

I also just wanted to rave about my doctors, the hospital, and the nurses. Everyone was so kind to us. From the moment we checked in to the hospital, I felt like the staff cared about what we wanted and they really did all they could to try to give us the birth experience we hoped for. When that couldn't happen, they handled it with respect and consideration and did all they could to take good care of us, both physically and mentally.

Of course, I chose my doctors based on their reputation as being the best in town and very supportive of natural birth. I know that I made the right decision - each one tried so hard to give me that birth experience I wanted, but ultimately, they did what they had to do to take care of me and Ellie. Even when they knew that my plans were going to fall apart, they handled it in such a way that I still felt like I had some control over the situation. I appreciated their care and demeanor very, very much.

With Dr. Migliaccio in the recovery room after my c-section

Beyond just my doctors, the whole hospital staff was wonderful. Given all the various complications, we met many different people from many different departments, and everyone (with the exception of the one lactation consultant) was excellent - very nice, and they provided great care. Overall, we were very happy with our experience at Palisades Medical Center. Choosing a hospital was a very stressful decision for us, and in the end we actually sort of got forced into going to Palisades, but now after the fact I know that we absolutely ended up where we needed to be. It was perfect.

With Ana, one of our favorite nurses

This guy wasn't medical staff, but while we're talking about people going out of their way to care for us, it bears mentioning that our cab driver when we came home from the hospital was also awesome. He went out of his way to avoid potholes and bumps in the road, and made sure to pull up right to our front door so my poor, in-pain self wouldn't have far to walk. It was a kindness that was not requested but certainly didn't go unnoticed or unappreciated. Really, our whole experience was just like that cab driver - people doing all they could to make things as easy on us as possible.


I said it before but I want to say it again - Eric was incredible through this whole thing. I know he thinks it's just his job as my husband, but sadly, I don't think all husbands behave the way he did. He never left my side, from the early moments of labor through my entire recovery. He did whatever I needed, whether it was to be my support as I swayed through contractions, feeding me ice chips when I thought I might die of thirst, holding my hand in the operating room, brushing my hair after I had been laying in a hospital bed for days, putting a cool washcloth on my head when my fever left me sweaty, taking care of Ellie so I didn't have to worry about her as I tried to recover, and on and on. He really went above and beyond and I can never thank him enough for being such a support to me. He is such an incredible husband and father, and Ellie and I are very lucky ladies.

My handsome, amazing husband and my beautiful baby girl

Processing the Birth

One thing that has been a bit of a struggle for me (and will continue to be for a while, I expect) is coming to terms with how everything played out. On the one hand, everything happened just as it needed to for me to feel at peace with every decision we made. For instance, I had sworn I wouldn't get an epidural. However, by the time my labor hit the 76-hour mark, and I was so uncomfortable, I was able to make peace with that decision and I have no regrets about getting that epidural at all. It was what I had to do at the time and it was absolutely, 100% the right decision. In a way, I'm glad that things happened in the way that they did so that I could say that at every step of the way, we made the decisions that were right for us in that moment. No regrets.

However, a part of me still feels cheated out of the experience I wanted. The thing I had been looking forward to the most was that skin-to-skin contact right after birth - having my baby put on my chest immediately, feeding her right away, holding her and cuddling with her and bonding with her in her very first moments of life. Instead, I was laying on an operating table and first saw her through pictures. I didn't get to hold her until over an hour later. Of course, then we still got our skin-to-skin and breastfeeding time, but it just wasn't how I had wanted it to happen. I missed the first few moments of her life. There are times when I think about that and it just breaks my heart, and I feel so angry at how it all happened. Again, I'm not upset about any decisions we made, but I'm just upset at the situation. I'm upset that the situation forced us into those decisions. We did what was best for Ellie and for me, but I hate that it came to that.

A big fear that I have now is how this experience will impact future pregnancies. For one thing, I always thought I wanted a big family. After having gone through this, I can't say that with such certainty anymore. Of course, as I get some distance from the whole thing, my feelings may change. But having been told that I will now be predisposed for HELLP syndrome in future pregnancies, it worries me. I don't want to go through this again and I don't want to put any future babies at risk. I know there is time to think about all this and of course I'll be talking with my doctors about what this all means for my future, but right now I just worry.

I think it will take time to really come to terms with how it all went down. I still can't tell the birth story out loud without getting choked up. But, I know that's normal. It will just take some time to grieve the experience I missed out on and come to terms with what actually happened. And that's okay.


At the end of the day, none of what happened matters because Ellie is here and she's perfectly healthy. THAT'S what matters. And if either of us had to face complications and setbacks, I'm so glad it was me and not her. I am so lucky to have this happy, healthy little girl sleeping next to me right now, and how she actually got here doesn't matter one bit because she's here and she's perfect. I couldn't ask for anything more.

Taking Ellie home from the hospital

Friday, April 20, 2012


Like my labor and delivery, my recovery after birth was no walk in the park.

The night of the birth was pretty much a blur. I was so exhausted and there was still a lot going on, but I really didn't have any idea what was happening or why. I was hooked up to tons of tubes, IVs and monitors - IVs in both arms, a blood pressure cuff that went off automatically every 15 minutes, a catheter, I still had my epidural hook-up in, cuffs on my legs that massaged my ankles, oxygen mask, etc., etc. I tried to sleep as much as I could but the night nurse was coming in constantly to check my vitals, my kidneys, ask about my pain level, tell me to breathe deeply into the oxygen mask, and so on. At that point, I really didn't know what all the fuss was about but I was just too tired to ask for full explanations. I was pretty out of it. I do remember that the nurse kept asking me to send my baby to the nursery so I could just get some rest, but I just didn't want to be apart from her so I refused. I didn't see the point anyway, as I was exclusively breastfeeding so they would bring her back whenever she was hungry anyway. She was such an angel in the hospital and really only fussed when she was hungry, so the nursery wasn't much help to me.

The next morning, in the light of day after some rest, we started to fill in the blanks a bit. There were concerns about my blood pressure (hence that obnoxious cuff that squeezed my arm every 15 minutes), my kidneys (they were checking output hourly), and that I was not oxygenating my blood properly (so, the oxygen mask). I felt like I was covered in tubes and was so frustrated that I couldn't even cuddle with my baby without tubes sticking out of me everywhere. Whenever it was time for her to eat, I had to have Eric help me position her (careful - don't pull on any IVs!) and get her to latch on because I didn't have the freedom of movement to do it myself.

That afternoon we had a very negative interaction with a lactation consultant - the only negative experience we had with anyone at the hospital. Despite everything that was going on with me, the one thing that was going right was Ellie. She was perfectly healthy and breastfeeding was going so smoothly, which was such a pleasant (and very, very welcome) surprise. When the lactation consultant stopped by that afternoon to check on us, we told her how well things were going, but I did ask a question - something about how you know when the baby is finished or just fell off, because sometimes she would come off and I would try to get her to relatch and she would just cry. To be clear, this was after 15-25 minutes of eating, so I was trying to make sure she was getting enough.  Now, please note that this was also less than 24 hours after Ellie's birth, so "sometimes" meant maybe twice. However, that part of my question was all the consultant would focus on. After watching Ellie latch right on and eat for 25 minutes, she tried to force her on the other breast for 10 minutes, which caused Ellie to freak and brought on the loudest cries of her life to that point.  The consultant then took Ellie away and claimed she had a "soft suck" when she tested with her finger. The consultant seemed to think I needed a nipple shield and tried that for a bit. When Ellie was still having none of the forceful pushing of her mouth onto things, the consultant left for a short time. When she came back a bit later, she said, although she hated to do it, she wanted to give Ellie formula because she was afraid Ellie wasn't getting enough to eat. Eric got forceful himself at this point and gave a very firm, "absolutely not." He told her that Ellie had peed three diapers and passed meconium prior to birth, which seemed to be in line with the consultant's prior-stated goal of one each within the first 24 hours. We had been having no trouble with breastfeeding and the baby seemed to be otherwise happy and healthy (at least, until the consultant got involved!). Given how nothing else had gone well to this point, we were not going to let go of this one positive. We refused the formula and kept on as we were without the consultant's help, and lo and behold, we have a very well-fed, happy, weight-gaining little girl on our hands. That whole encounter was just a stressful situation we did not need.

Speaking of those dirty diapers, this is Eric changing Ellie's diaper for the first time!

Eric really took care of his family in the hospital, and since.

Friday evening brought another stressful situation as well. Our day nurse had been very eager to try to get some of my IVs and monitors and such removed so I could get out of bed as soon as possible. I didn't make it out of bed that day, but she did remove several things, including my catheter, before she left for the day. It really felt like we were making progress. Then, the night nurse returned with instructions from the doctor to reinsert the catheter, hook me back up to oxygen and continue all sorts of monitoring. Again, Eric stood up for me and fought against this. It just felt like such a step back after we finally made some positive progress, but it was a no-go. That night felt like a huge backslide. They were still monitoring my kidneys, so the catheter went back in, and they were also still so concerned about the blood oxygenation. That night brought more blood work (by this point I had so much blood work done, my arm was green and bruised and they were running out of spots on my arm to even poke and started using my hand instead), a visit from a respiratory doctor, chest x-rays and breathing treatments. They were concerned that I might have blood clots in my lungs and were trying to rule that out. We were starting to get discouraged that I might never be able to be just a normal c-section recovery - there was so much else going on! Of course we were glad the doctors were checking into everything, but we were just so ready to be done with all the extra attention.

Saturday was a much more positive day. All my respiratory stuff from the night before was looking much better, and that afternoon I was finally able to have everything removed so that I could get out of bed (painfully, but I did it!). I still had to do breathing exercises and treatments, but at least I wasn't tethered to all sorts of medical equipment anymore. I also was able to eat my first solid food since coming to the hospital on Wednesday, so that was very exciting! That evening I also took a shower for the first time in days (with lots of help), which was painful but glorious. It's amazing how much a little soap can do to make you feel human again.

Breakfast! My first solid food in days.

Check me out - I'm out of the bed!

That was also the day when all my doctors kept coming by and saying things like "you're looking so much better" and "you seem to have turned a corner." I had known there was lots going on, but I was sort of like, "uhhh, I didn't realize I was around the corner in the first place?" I guess it was good that they kept the serious nature of their concerns pretty well-concealed in the moment, honestly. The last thing I needed was a major freak-out.

Overall, the hardest part of my recovery was not being able to care fully for Ellie. Of course I still got to feed her and be near her, but I couldn't lift her or go to her because I was bedridden and in a lot of pain. Eric did everything else for her - diaper changes, swaddling, soothing her when she cried. It would just break my heart that if she would cry while he was out of the room for a moment, I would just have to lay there and listen to her until he got back. I couldn't get up and go to her and comfort her like I wanted to. I really hated that.

Eric did take really good care of Ellie, and she loves her daddy!

My baby girl

By Sunday, however, I was back to being a normal c-section recovery patient. I was still doing my breathing treatments, and would continue to do them until we left the hospital, but I was unhooked from all the various machines and the nurses were coming into my room much more infrequently. That afternoon we even got ourselves moved to the postpartum unit! After five days in Room 208 in L&D, we were finally promoted to postpartum. Our new room had a view of the Manhattan skyline and we felt like we were really making progress. That night I took another shower (this time Eric helped me wash my hair, which was wonderful) and we ordered in food from a local Italian place instead of having hospital meatloaf for dinner. That baked ziti was the best baked ziti ever, just because it was finally something real. I was really starting to feel like maybe there would be an end in sight and someday I would feel normal again.

A last look at our L&D room. I spent so many hours confined in this room.

Our new postpartum room! It was much smaller, but it sure did feel like a step up in the world.

View from our new room

The pain was still very bad, of course. I was pretty much taking any pain meds I could get my hands on, and getting up and out of bed was quite a process that involved lots of psyching myself up mentally, deep breaths, and grimacing. But, I could do it.

Monday was the big day to finally leave the hospital. Ellie got a clean bill of health from the pediatrician and was okay-ed to leave (although we're told the nurses didn't want her to go because she was such a good baby!), and then I got the go-ahead shortly after. We finished all our paperwork (including birth certificate stuff!) and by early afternoon, we were in a cab on our way back to Hoboken. Farewell, Palisades Hospital!

Eric and Ellie testing out the car seat before it was time to go. You gotta be ready!

On our way out of the hospital!

Free at last! Finally on the other side of those L&D doors!

Ellie asleep in the cab on the way home

Welcome home, baby girl!

The whole family was happy to be back together! Well, I think the jury is still out for Achilles re: Ellie.

My recovery at home continued to be painful and it continued to break my heart that I couldn't just leap out of bed whenever Ellie would fuss or cry. Eric continued to do more than his fair share of the work around the house, taking excellent care of both Ellie and me. He did basically everything for Ellie short of feeding her (for obvious reasons) and took great care of me - administering pain meds, cooking meals, getting me whatever I needed, taking care of the house. He really went above and beyond. I don't even have words for how grateful I am for all that he did. I like to imagine that every husband would do that for his wife, but sadly, I don't think that's the case. I'm so lucky.

Not only did Eric take great care of us, he also had these beautiful flowers sent to the apartment so they'd be waiting for me when we got home!

After about a week my pain started to subside enough that I could go for small walks. A week after Ellie's birth, we took her to the pediatrician (she was already above her birth weight!) and I saw my doctor to get my staples out. It was my first outing since her birth and it felt so good to be out. Walking was still painful and I was still very slow, but hey, I did it!

Look at me, out in the world like a real person!

As days passed, the pain really subsided quite a bit and I was finally starting to feel normal. I was looking forward to last week, which was to be Eric's last week of paternity leave, thinking that I would feel up to daily walks and doing more of the work taking care of Ellie. Then BAM, another setback: the worst kidney infection of my life, complete with all the normal symptoms as well as fever, the shakes, the chills, the sweats, nausea, etc. It was brutal. I could barely get out of bed and I felt like death. Once again, Eric went above and beyond - on the night that I was at my worst, he even kept Ellie out in the living room with him all night (she slept in her Pack 'N Play bassinet) and would just bring her into the bedroom to me when she needed to eat. Then he would take her right back out so I could sleep. I got on antibiotics quickly, but the first prescription wasn't strong enough so we had to try another. My doctor was also concerned about my fever and mentioned that if it didn't get under control, I might be looking at re-hospitalization for some IV antibiotics. Luckily, that wasn't necessary, but from Tuesday through Friday I was pretty useless and miserable. I finally started to feel better over the weekend, but Eric took another week off work just in case I still needed more help. Honestly, he's a saint.

What was even worse than the discomfort of the kidney infection was the frustration at another complication coming into play. I had many a pity party breakdown, moaning through tears that I had been in pain every day for three weeks straight, and would it ever end? I was not mentally cut out for another setback.

But now I'm finally feeling almost normal. I move around pretty easily now, although I'm still a bit slower than I used to be. I can do just about everything for Ellie now, so I'm finally starting to get my feet under me as a mother. I may not be 100% yet, but I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and that is really all I can ask for.

Nope, I take that back. This little munchkin is all that I can ask for:

My sweet girl

One of my favorite pictures of her so far.

A little Glo-worm asleep in her crib

Mama and Ellie!

She was worth every last second of labor, every twinge of pain, every setback, every frustrated tear I shed, every single moment of the last four weeks. Definitely, definitely worth it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ellie's Birth, Part 3: She's Finally Here!

If you're just joining us and want to catch up, in Part 1 I labored for days at home, and in Part 2 we went on in to the hospital and did some laboring there. When we left off in Part 2, I had just gotten my epidural and was finally getting some sleep for the first time in three days.

Thursday, March 29, 2012 Continued...

Just before 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, another doctor from my practice, Dr. Migliaccio (a/k/a "Dr. Mig") came to check my progress. Even though I had continued to have good, constant contractions all night (sometimes an epidural can cause them to stop, but not in my case), I was only eight centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. Dr. Mig then suggested breaking my water and starting me on Pitocin for a few hours in the hopes that my dilation would finally speed up so I could be in a position to push by late morning. He anticipated it would take me an hour to dilate per centimeter, so with only two centimeters left to go, we hoped I'd have the baby by lunchtime (and Eric texted our families to tell them as much).

Eric got a kick out of watching my contractions peak on the monitors

Morning message to family

Dr. Mig also went over the results of some blood work I had done over night. He explained that my blood platelet count was extremely low. He said that my platelets were around 60,000 when I was admitted on Wednesday morning, but had fallen to an alarming 43,000. He said that I would need a blood platelet transfusion before I could deliver my baby, but that he would need to order the blood platelets from the blood bank, as they are not kept at the hospital. He also said he wanted to start me on Sol-Medrol, which is a steroid, although I can't quite remember what its purpose was.

After the doctor left, the nurse came and put a hep-lock in my other wrist so they could do the blood transfusion and have access to another vein in case they needed it later. About an hour later, they began the transfusion of three units of blood platelets. While this was going on, Jess arrived back at the hospital after fighting through bad rush hour traffic. We filled her in on what was going on and then just basically waited to see what would happen.

Dr. Migliaccio returned later that morning to check my progress. At that time, I was nine centimeters. That is when he first started talking to us about HELLP syndrome. He explained that it is a progressive disorder of the placenta and that it is in the same family as preeclampsia but a step more serious. It is diagnosed based on blood platelet levels as well as liver and kidney function. (The "H" in "HELLP" stands for hemolysis, the breakdown of red blood cells; "EL" is for elevated liver enzymes; and "LP" is for low platelet count.) This syndrome occurs in about 1-2 of every 1,000 pregnancies, and the only cure for HELLP is delivery of the baby. Dr. Mig informed me that my platelet count was extremely low (hence the need for the transfusion) and that my liver and kidney numbers were either at the high end of the normal range or just above it. He told me that it would be far safer to deliver naturally because of the potential blood loss and the concerns over my body's ability to clot. I felt relieved about that because, I thought, there was no way I could end up with a c-section after having gone through so many hours of labor. I just couldn't let it happen. Either way, however, I needed the blood transfusion to be successful for delivery to be safe. Before he left, Dr. Mig turned down my epidural so that I would be able to help push when the time came. We were still holding out hope that lunchtime would be go time.

[Side note: After the fact, I came to realize that my regular discomforts - the shortness of breath, heartburn, nausea, etc. - were early symptoms of HELLP that I just didn't recognize. The doctors dismissed them because my blood pressure was not abnormally high, and frankly, they just sound like pretty normal end-of-pregnancy complaints. Fortunately, I went to the hospital when I did, where they could do blood work and understand what was going on.]

As we waited to see if the transfusion worked, the nurse would come in pretty regularly to check my vitals and ask if I was having any pressure or feeling the need to push at all. She was very sweet and was really pushing for me to have the baby naturally and soon. They also started to express some concern about dips in the baby's heart rate, and made sure I kept my oxygen mask on. They also had me lay on my side and every now and then would have me flip to my other side.

Trying to breathe in lots of oxygen for the baby while I wait

The transfusion did bring up my platelet levels (to a safer but still less than ideal level), but I was still progressing very slowly. Dr. Mig came back to check me again around 12:30 p.m. By then I had almost made it to 10 centimeters, with just a rim of cervix left on one side (that's less than one centimeter in about two hours, not exactly the "one centimeter per hour" rule of thumb we had been hoping I'd follow, even with the Pitocin). However, at this check, Dr. Mig saw that the baby had passed meconium, a sign of possible distress. But, we thought we were so close to being able to push, it wasn't yet a major concern. Dr. Mig turned down the epidural even more at this point so I would be ready to go. I was really starting to feel the contractions again and was very uncomfortable, as I was forced to remain in bed now and the contractions were coming fast and strong. I was starting to feel mentally and physically fatigued again but was hopeful that the end was in sight. I kept holding on to the encouraging thought that we were pushing for a vaginal delivery because a c-section wouldn't even be safe.

We thought I would be pushing soon, so we took a last picture as a family of two while we waited!

At 2:00 p.m., Dr. Mig again came to check me. He told me he was really hoping I was ready to push because he had seen "some things [he] didn't like" on the monitor and had been "sitting on [his] hands." However, when he checked me, I had lost ground. He said this time there was a full rim of cervix, and I was really closer to nine centimeters than 10 centimeters. At that point he moved to the other side of the bed and sat down next to me. As soon as he sat down, I knew what he was going to say. I just knew it was coming. He was going to say c-section.

Sure enough, he started off by saying, "you're not going to want to hear this." He then explained that the transfusion had brought my platelet levels up for the time being, but we had no idea where they would be in a couple of hours. If I had been ready to push at that time, we would have been in good shape. But because I lost ground, we had to think about how things would ultimately play out. Because I still needed more time to dilate before I could push, by waiting for that to happen we would run the risk that my platelet levels would drop again and I would need another transfusion. In that scenario, I would not be able to push until the transfusion was complete, which could take a couple of hours. Because he was now seeing signs of distress in the baby, that did not seem like a good option. Rather, he thought it best that so long as my levels were relatively stable right then, we should just do an emergency c-section and get the baby out.

As he said it, I cried. I just couldn't believe it was going to end that way. I kept thinking, "I went through all this...all these days, all these hours, all these contractions...for a c-section. If only I had known it would end this way, I could have just called and scheduled myself for a c-section on Monday and saved myself all this effort." Jess then asked him if there was any harm in giving us a little more time, perhaps only 30 minutes, to see if I could get to 10 centimeters.

Dr. Mig, Eric and Jess were all looking at me to say something, but I just didn't know what to say. Dr. Mig could see me battling through the contractions and asked if I would like him to turn my epidural back up to take the edge off the pain and I said yes, even though I knew that both his offer and my answer basically meant that no matter what we discussed, it would be a c-section. Dr. Mig turned the epidural up (to a level higher than it had been overnight), then left us alone to talk.

Jess, Eric and I discussed everything that was going on. Eric said that because Dr. Mig had offered extra time, that we should take it. Even though he could see I was struggling, he thought that looking back it would be important for me to be able to say that at the end of the day, we tried every single thing we could and fought till the bitter end. I told them I just didn't think I could do it. I told them I didn't know that I still had it in me to push. I knew in my heart how it would end up. However, I agreed with them that we should ask for one more half hour. I didn't want to look back and ever wonder, "well what if I had just...?"

When Dr. Mig came back in around 2:40 p.m. (already 30 minutes later than the last meeting), we told him we wanted him to check again when he was ready to see if I had reversed course and might make it to 10 centimeters. He agreed to come back at 3:00 p.m. I remember looking at the clock and thinking how far away 3:00 looked. I wasn't sure how I would make it.

Although I knew how it would end, that half hour or so was actually a good time for us to try to wrap our heads around the idea of a c-section and sort of get used to the idea. Jess kept telling me how strong I was, although I was having a hard time believing it. I do remember feeling relieved that it would all be over soon, even though this was not the outcome I wanted.

At 3:00, another doctor from my practice, Dr. Moon, came in to check on me. He said he had been called in for the day and was going to check me while Dr. Mig assisted in another birth (in retrospect, we got the impression that Dr. Moon had not actually been "on call" but had been called in specifically to assist Dr. Mig with my c-section). When he checked me, he immediately said, "we need to do a c-section now." We asked what the status was, and he told us I was basically back at 7 centimeters and he was sure the umbilical cord was wrapped somewhere around the baby.

All of a sudden, it was chaos. They started disconnecting monitors and unplugging IVs so they could wheel my bed out to the operating room. Someone told me I had to remove my earrings, but I only had time to get one off before they were ready to take me out so they just put tape over my other one. I realized I did not have my glasses on and had Eric hand them to me as we got moving - I wanted to be sure I could see my baby when they held her up! They gave me a hairnet to put on but I had a hard time getting it over my head by myself, so it was barely on. As they rushed me out of the room, Eric kissed me and told me he loved me. He wouldn't be able to join me in the operating room until the doctors gave him the okay.

Our room was very close to the OR so we didn't have far to go. When they wheeled me in, they put my bed right next to the operating table and had me help scoot as much as I could to get over onto the table. They stretched my arms straight out next to me and put up the sheet so I couldn't see anything. The anesthesiologist started doing his thing and fussing with my tubes. I laid there on the operating table, looking up at the big, circular, bright lights and listening to the flurry of activity going on around me and I lost it. I was so scared and it was all happening so fast. I started sobbing uncontrollably and actually wondered if I might start hyperventilating. I felt very alone and it all felt very surreal. Both Drs. Moon and Mig were in the room at that point and Dr. Mig must have noticed my panic attack because he joked, "Don't worry, we do this all the time. Well, except for Dr. Moon over here. He's a first-timer fresh out of med school." I couldn't help but chuckle and I really appreciated that my doctors were trying to keep me calm.

Of course, jokes only go so far and I was still so scared. I don't think I stopped crying until Eric was able to get into the room. Until then, I tried not to think too much about what was going on around me. At first I felt like I should pray, but I was too frightened to know what to say, so I just said the Lord's Prayer. Then I sang the prayer my family used to sing at bedtime when I was a child: the last verse of "Away in a Manger" ("Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.") Then I started forcing myself to stop thinking about my fears and instead think about Ellie. Through the latter part of my pregnancy, I had been singing "You Are My Sunshine" to her, so I started singing that over and over in my head and under my breath. I sang and sang until Eric finally could join me. It felt like it took forever but it was probably only about 15 minutes.

Before Eric was able to come in, the doctors explained that I would feel a lot of pressure, tugging and pulling, but nothing sharp or painful. They tested this to make sure I couldn't feel anything by first pushing on my belly, then pricking me with something sharp and asking if I could feel it. I felt it at first but the second time they tried it, I didn't feel anything.

Meanwhile, back in our original room, Eric was given a pile of scrubs to put on while he waited (coveralls, shoe covers, hat and mask). Before he got dressed, he broke down. Jess gave him a hug and said that everything would be okay and he was going to meet his daughter soon. But all he could think of at that moment was me. He remembers the only thing he could say was that it wasn't fair. We had spent so much energy avoiding a c-section and tried so hard, that to be in this position was too much to deal with.

Eric got dressed and went to wait into the hallway to be called into the operating room. In the meantime, Jess grabbed her own set of scrubs (despite having been told she could not come in the OR). Luckily, she also thought to grab the camera before joining Eric in the hallway. Before putting on his mask and being told he could come in, Eric sent another message to our families.

Another update to family

Finally, Eric was able to join me and Jess followed him in (I did hear the doctors say it was okay if she came, too). As soon as he got to my side, Eric pulled his mask down and kissed me and told me he loves me. I told him I was so scared and asked him to hold my hand. I also told him about singing "You Are My Sunshine" to Ellie in my head and he had a hard time holding back tears even though he wanted to seem strong for me.

The next 15 minutes or so are a blur. I just remember Dr. Mig finally telling me the baby was about to be born, and I felt a big bout of pressure then a release and then she was here, merely 91 hours after labor began. Elizabeth Alice was born at 3:27 p.m. on March 29, 2012. As soon as they said, "Here she is!" both Eric and I were completely overcome. I just wept instantly. Then I heard her cry and I cried even harder - it was the most beautiful sound in the whole world. It was by far the most emotionally intense moment of my life, so much so that I can't even describe it. Dr. Mig held her up and Eric was able to see her, but I wasn't able to catch a glimpse of her over the sheet before they took her away to clean her up and check her out. (I won't post it here because it's a little "messy" and graphic, but if you want to see one of Ellie's first fresh-out-of-the-womb photos, click here.)

As it turned out, despite being in perfect position until the very end of my pregnancy, Ellie had turned posterior (sunny side up) at some point and her cord was wrapped around her body. Her head had gotten stuck which had caused the swelling that caused me to basically un-dilate at the end.

When they took the baby, Eric went with her over to the far corner of the room. Jess then came and took his place holding my hand. As the doctors kept working on me, Eric would call out Ellie's stats from across the room and Jess would relay them to me if I couldn't hear them myself. He also took pictures and videos of her with our camera and then passed the camera off to Jess so she could show me the pictures of Ellie. The first time I ever saw my daughter's face, it was on our camera screen. I was so grateful for those pictures, though - I had Jess scroll through them over and over again and just kept saying how beautiful Ellie was and how much I loved her.

This was one of my most favorites.

My sweet girl 

Finally, they brought Ellie over to me. The first thing I did was kiss her when they put her by my head. I said, "she's perfect." And she was. I finally realized my arm wasn't tied down so I pulled it in so that I could touch her, and I was talking to her and telling her I love her. Eric came in so we could take our first family photo, and then they took Ellie away again and Eric went with her.

Me with my daughter

Our happy family

Jess stayed with me while the doctors finished working on me. I felt lots of tugging and pulling. Dr. Mig told me that they stitched me up in way that would enable me to go for a vaginal birth in a subsequent pregnancy if I so choose, and I thought that was so kind of him to think to mention that to me - like my preferences were never far from his mind, regardless of how this pregnancy turned out. They also explained that they had to use staples on my incision instead of stitches so it would be easier to monitor and address any internal bleeding. It took them about an hour to finish up with me.

Meanwhile, Eric went with Ellie to the nursery and took picture after picture of her. He started to get more comfortable touching and talking to her as no one ever really said what he could or could not do. At this point, no one had said whether Ellie was okay or when she could go see her mom, so he wanted to make sure he had enough pictures for me to look at. After about half an hour, Eric left to go find me in the recovery room so he could drop off the camera. When I wasn't there yet, he went back to the nursery to talk to the baby and take more pictures. He also got to watch them weigh and measure her. She was 8 lb, 7 oz and 21 inches long. The nurse told him he should take pictures of the baby being measured and actually ended up using his picture to confirm her weight when the machine lost the last reading! After this, the nurse gave Ellie a bath and a shot, which she handled very well. Eventually, Eric left again to try to find me.

Being weighed

Tiny foot

Precious little hands

Showing off her blue eyes

They wheeled me out of the operating room and over to recovery, where both Eric and Jess were waiting for me. Eric then left me with the camera to look at the photos while he went to the nursery to get Ellie. Luckily, despite having passed meconium and being distressed, Ellie came out perfect. She didn't need any extra observation or time in the NICU or anything, which was such a blessing. I was so excited when I saw Eric coming with her bassinet. He held her first, and it was so sweet. Then it was my turn. I was so exhausted but so relieved that it was over and she was finally here. I put her on my chest and held her there for a bit, then Jess helped me get started breastfeeding. Right away, she latched on like a champ and ate for 25 minutes. Eric said she was born hungry - as soon as she came out of the womb she was rooting, looking for some food! My hungry girl! After she ate, she and I both dozed off a bit. Jess left us shortly after breastfeeding was under way.

Eric holding Ellie for the first time

So happy to finally be with my baby girl

Bonding time in recovery

Family time

Doctors and nurses were still fussing all around at that point. They were concerned about my blood pressure so they started me on magnesium. They also hooked up my pain meds and were checking on my kidneys and blood pressure regularly. Eric used our extra time in recovery to send one last group text message to our families. He sent them a picture, but withheld the name, which caused a bit of unrest among certain family members!

No name included - what a tease!

I remember being so, so thirsty. All I wanted was a huge glass of ice water, then a glass of orange Gatorade, and then a nice, cold Cherry Coke, exactly and in that order. I wasn't allowed anything to drink but Eric fed me all the ice chips I could possibly eat. I was so thirsty. I was thirsty for about 24 hours straight.

We had to wait for one of the bags on my IV to finish before we were allowed to leave recovery and go back to our room, but that happened to coincide with a shift change so we ended up staying in recovery longer. Finally, around 8:00 p.m. things got moving (after Eric kept getting ice to walk past the nurse's station and remind them we were waiting to move). We were told we would be kept in L&D that night so the nurses could keep a closer eye on me (apparently there are still risks associated with HELLP syndrome even after delivery, such as liver or kidney failure, but luckily that didn't turn out to be an issue for me), so Eric and Ellie went back to our original room to wait for me. A nurse came to clean me up and check me out and then wheeled me back to the room as well.

As soon as I got into the room, Eric was so excited to tell me about the great five minutes he had just had interacting with Ellie. He had been shielding her eyes from the light so she would open them up and look at him, and he was just so excited. It made me so happy to see that and hear all about it.

Eric spending some quality time with his daughter

When we were settled in a little bit, we started making phone calls to family to share the good news. We also uploaded pictures and sent out a small album to family. In the first five hours of Ellie's life, we managed to take over 350 pictures! Those few hours were really amazing - we felt on top of the world. I was so tired but so deliriously happy. We just couldn't get enough of our little girl.

As the night wore on I fed Ellie again and once again, it went perfectly. I was so relieved that we seemed to be having an unbelievably easy time with breastfeeding, considering that nothing else to that point had been easy! Finally, something was going right!

As we prepared for bed, we realized that we still had this baby but really no idea what to do with her. We felt like we needed some sort of orientation or something! Eric wasn't sure if there was such a thing and that we missed it because we didn't go to a postpartum room, so he went to the nursery to ask if there was anything in particular we needed to know. They seemed to think that was crazy, but hey, we're new at this!

And so, back in room 208, we began our first night as a family!

My sweetheart


Thank you again for reading - I know this has been epically long. Next time, I still want to talk a bit about my recovery and I'd eventually like to do a little debriefing. You all are so kind to indulge me!

I'm so glad to be able to show off my little girl to you at last!