Sunday, February 22, 2015

The End.

This past week I made a really hard decision. I decided to stop pumping. I knew Eli was moving to Florida and on top of pumping, bagging, and storing, I'd have to add in packing and shipping. I was getting very little milk and was feeling a lot of pressure (not from anyone but myself) to pump more, more, more. I started feeling like my family was getting less of me because it was hard to keep up with them and the house with pumping for an hour, 6 times a day. 

So, on his 6 week birthday I had my last pumping session. A huge weight was lifted when I washed and stored my pump parts. The first couple of days were great. I felt a new freedom. I could have an alcoholic beverage without calculating when I'd pump. I could have caffeine guilt free. I could cut my daily calories without worry. I could leave the house without dragging along my pump and a cooler. I didn't have to set my alarm for the next session. 

And then I started feeling sadness. I felt regret. I felt unsure. Should I have continued to provide for Eli? I know Erin has so many wonderful people pumping and donating to sweet Eli, but my milk is made for him. Did I make the right decision? I've asked myself that question over and over. 

I don't think there is a clear answer. I could have continued and then began feeling stressed about my production, about the time commitment, about toting all the extras with me everywhere. I may have felt peace with my 2-3oz/hour session, gotten used to loading up pumping supplies every time I left the house, had a good routine that became apart of my day. I don't know.

What I do know is, I feel good about the 6 weeks I pumped for him. The middle of the night pumps, the driving in my car pumps, the sitting at the birth center pumps, the "I'll be on my way as soon as I pump" pumps.

And now, there is a sense of finality. Now I am no longer supplying this precious little being with nourishment. I spent nearly a year nourishing him. And that last pump was it. I was done. It was over. 

As I watched Eli and his family drive off with the last bit of milk I pumped it was officially the end of this journey. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

He's exactly where he's supposed to be...

How are you? Are you okay? Do you miss the baby? Are you adjusting fine?

These are some of the questions I've been asked over the last two and a half weeks. And, I love them. I love that my friends and family...and, well, people I don't even know care enough to ask.

As a student midwife and someone who had a very big birth team filled with women who really understand birth, we all planned for the "worst". For an emotional backlash, baby blues, even postpartum depression. We know that a woman's body doesn't understand that the baby it just birthed is not staying. Biologically, psychologically, physiologically, our body, mind, heart, and soul expect to be caring for a squishy newborn. To hold a baby against our chest, nurse the baby every couple of hours, wake up throughout the night with the wee one. 

Because we know this, we planned for it. We planned for weepy days and all the possibilities of missing someone. My birth team was on standby for those possibilities. For those lows. For that sadness. And seriously, I couldn't of had sweeter people making sure I was okay. 

So how am I? I'm great!! I'm happy, I'm healed, I'm rested, I'm blessed. My body did have a couple of days of adjustment; waking up throughout the night, but it quickly passed. On day 3 I slept through the night and it was magical! On day 4 my hubby and I went on a lunch date and that was the only day I shed tears of anything other than happiness. I was looking for something to wear where I didn't look 4 days postpartum without a cute little newborn to take out with me, and after the fourth, or maybe it was the fifth outfit, I shut my closet door and cried. Was it sadness? Or frustration? I'm not sure. 

We went to lunch and while it was nice to be out, it was strange. I realized that I had been in a bubble the days before, surrounded by friends and family who knew my "secret". They knew I had just birthed a baby, but I didn't actually *have* a baby. And I decided I'd go back to that bubble.

A week later I tried again. I got dressed and went out with some girlfriends for dinner. I had a blast!! (And I wore the first outfit I tried on) 

I fully expected some sadness, but I think I got through this postpartum period with nothing but complete happiness in my heart for several reasons....

I had A LOT of support. Family, friends, the people who followed my blog, my birth team...

I prepared for it. And even though I never had to call on anyone, I knew I could. And that was reassuring.

I stayed in my little bubble. I took time to sleep, and heal, and recover. I ate well and drank plenty of water. I took care of myself while my family took care of my nuggets. 

I was CRAZY HAPPY for Erin and Jose. Her texts and pictures made my heart overflow. Seeing them as parents on social media made me smile. Knowing I had helped them get their sweet baby made me proud... And so incredibly happy.

And, if I'm being totally honest, I didn't lose anyone. I have four beautiful, healthy babies. But I did know people who had lost someone... Two babies left Earth too soon during my pregnancy. A little girl, Baby P, was born sleeping. I was about 5 months pregnant when I attended her birth. Then about three months later one of my closest friends lost her first son, Baby C, shortly after he was born. My heart ached for them and their mommies. Those losses made me even more grateful for my healthy children. And even more honored to be growing a baby for someone who knew loss too. Someone who had tried for years and years to have a baby of her own. I knew Eli didn't belong to me. He belonged to someone who loved him long before he grew inside of my uterus. I knew that I didn't know loss and sadness like L, or J, or even Erin. 

So, no, my heart doesn't hurt for Eli. I went into this journey with the intentions of becoming pregnant to help make a family. I knew he was never mine to keep. He was merely mine to grow and love for 40 weeks. (Though I'll love him for a lifetime) He's in the arms of the mommy he belongs to. He's healthy, he's loved, and he's finally here.

And, he's exactly where he's supposed to be....

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Eli's Birth Story

For Erin, this birth story starts seven years ago when they first started trying for a baby, but I'll fast forward to Eli's birth day....

At 2:10am I woke up to a sharp pain in my uterus and then a trickle of warm liquid. I jumped up, ran for the bathroom, and prayed it wasn't blood. By the time I got there my pajamas were soaked. And then it kept coming. I was shocked. My water broke! With my first three births I ruptured at the very end, usually 9-10cm. With my last I didn't rupture until his shoulders were birthed. I first panicked that labor wouldn't start on it's own and I'd need an induction. And then I panicked that it would start and it would be fast. I decided to clean up the house real quick and then get some sleep. Just about 3:10a I got my first contraction and another gush of fluid. I was surprised by how intense that first contraction was and headed to bed. 

I didn't time contractions, but I did put my birth playlist on to try to relax and ended up judging how far apart they were based on how many songs would pass before the next. They were pretty sporadic and short when they came, but always strong. Making it impossible to sleep. 

At 5a I decided I should probably have my mom and doula, Maria, head my way (they were both an hour away). I didn't think I'd need them yet, but figured if they had to fight traffic I'd regret not calling them earlier. I also let my husband know I was in labor and he should try to get home. I text our midwife, Christy, a head's up but told her I didn't think I needed her yet. Contractions started coming every 2-3mins and were strong, but I could still handle them on my own and they weren't a minute long yet. Plus, they had really just started. I was sure I had another 8-10 hours before a baby. My shortest labor yet was about 15hours, 10ish being active labor. 

Nearing 6a I text Christy and said I thought she should come. Contractions were about the same, but coming so quickly. I worried something was wrong. Then I called our assistant midwife, Katie, and asked her to head to us. I then made my final call to Erin, which lasted all of 1min. "I'm in labor." "Are you okay?" "Yes. Get here" "Okay, bye"...or something along those lines. About 6:30a the contractions changed. They were long, intense--unbearable really, and just coming one after another. 

Maria and Christy arrived just about that time with our photogs, Natasha and Jamie, arriving right after. I'm pretty sure our student midwife, Jamie, came in just about the same time as well. (It starts getting blurry here.....)

Labor was going so fast. It was like a freight train and I couldn't get my footing. I felt completely out of control and was scared. I didn't know what was happening, I had never experienced anything like this before. Suddenly my body started pushing. Thinking this was around 7:00a. Christy called Erin and Jose and so calmly said, "things are progressing quickly and we're pushing. Going to put you on speaker phone so you can hear everything". I felt terrible for not calling them sooner, but had no idea this is how my birth would go. It was the opposite of my four previous births. (Fast forward--my hubby didn't even make it because he thought he had plenty of time based on our children)

**Abbey and my mom were filling the birth tub up in the livingroom when Rylie and Finn came out in their bathing suits ready for a swim!! LOL **

Once I started pushing, Eli started having heart decels. At first they were little drops and he would recover quickly. Once he started moving down and his head started molding, the decels were lower with a longer recovery period. I heard the decels and started worrying, but didn't want to say anything out loud and scare Erin and Jose, who were (I knew) "flying" from Dallas to get here in time. I tried taking deep breaths, reminding myself Eli needed oxygen. And then I watched Christy, Jamie, and Katie (who was now here) to see what they were going to do. They got out the oxygen for me and asked me to try not pushing with contractions. That's when I noticed Eli's Grandma, Debbie, and was relieved to know Erin and Jose were there. I remember looking at Christy and asking what her plan was. I could hear Eli's heart rate, and while he would recover, the dips were not good and he was still high. I knew the call was coming.

Christy then said she believed we needed help and should call 911. I completely agreed and said okay. Breathing through contractions, fully dilated, while your body is pushing is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's not the first time, though. This is my story with my third, Rylie. Although he never moved down at all, nor did his head even try to mold. He was my c-section. I could feel Eli moving down, making the pressure unbearable. But I knew we were heading for a cesarean. 

I asked someone to get my mom, who was in the livingroom with the kids, and tell her what was happening. I wanted her with me for surgery and had her call my friend Jayme to come babysit. Abbey, our other doula, volunteered to stay behind and wait for her to get here. (She and Jayme broke down the tub, did laundry, cleaned up my house, and then Abbey brought me a bag of clothes and Jayme brought the kids to the hospital later)

The fire department got here first and then the paramedics. It didn't take long to load up on the stretcher and get into the ambulance. I hear my kids were thoroughly impressed with the fire truck being at our house. I'm thankful for that because they didn't pay any attention to their mommy being wheeled out of the house and the scrambling of my birth team to grab their stuff, make plans, and get in their cars. 

My mom rode in the front of the ambulance and Christy rode in the back listening to Eli the entire way. They asked if we wanted a smooth ride or a bumpy and fast one. Thankfully Christy said bumpy and fast. My birth team also made the decision to go a bit further to Harris Downtown, knowing we'd have a much better experience there. I'm SO thankful for that call!! It felt like forever, but was actually a pretty quick trip. I had several contractions that I could get halfway through breathing using "horse lips", the second half was too intense, too much pressure to not bear down. The paramedics were so sweet, holding my hand, petting my head, telling me I was doing a good job. It was incredibly reassuring. 

We arrived at the hospital and were met by an anesthesiologist and a very young, good looking OB, who I didn't recognize. The anesthesiologist talked to me about how they were likely just going to put me under for surgery since we didn't have much time. I knew that meant I probably wouldn't meet Eli or see my kids until the next day. But at that point I wanted Eli safe, out, and I wanted to be done. And then another contraction came. I yelled that he was coming. I could feel him right there. The OB checked and he was! I tried pushing with the contraction but the burning was so intense. No part of my labor, besides those first few hours after my water broke, wasn't intense. I felt like I was shutting down. It was just too much. I couldn't push. The doctor, as OB's do, tried stretching my perineum and I yelled at him to get his fingers out of my vagina and to stop stretching my perineum. I'm pretty sure this caught him totally off guard, but he did as he was told and stood patiently while my uterus began to push Eli Earthside.

**Natasha, Jamie (our student MW), Erin, Jose, and Debbie arrived at the hospital at the same time. Knowing they didn't have long they were feverishly trying to get upstairs. Jose had surgery 2 days before and could barely walk. Jamie ran inside to grab a wheelchair and ran back across the street getting Jose (I even heard the chair wasn't completely open and when Jamie took off, the chair seat opened, with Jose thudding which Erin giggled as she told me the story later,lol) and then started running, pushing him the entire way. She yelled which ways to turn and kept Erin and Debbie running ahead of them to make it in time**

He was out. Vaginally. Naturally. And about 10 minutes after we arrived at the hospital. My second VBAC. Born at 8:28a. I asked the doctor to wait on the cord so they could cut it, but sadly he didn't. (Although he ended up coming around to all of my midwifery ways throughout the morning.) I reached down and grabbed Eli and held him tight. I did it! He was out, he was pink, he was perfect. I kissed him, so relieved he was finally here. It was magical finally meeting this little person I had journeyed so long with. My pregnancy was filled with excitement and heartache, new life, the end of life, laughs and tears, and it was now over. And his birth was no different than than pregnancy; wild and filled with love. Our last adventure together. We laughed about how much he looked like his daddy as our photographers came in the door. Not far behind Erin ran in. She didn't realize Eli was born until I handed him to her and said, "look how beautiful he is". Jamie came in out of breath with Jose, right after. They missed it by minutes. 

Tears flowed as Erin and Jose met their baby boy. Seven years, fertility treatments, two miscarriages, cancer, hysterectomy... And he was finally here. Their miracle baby. I'm pretty sure there wasn't a dry eye as the rest of my birth team begin filling the room. 

I kept saying how I would never birth again once Eli was out. I had planned to do another journey, but the thought of birthing like that again was too much. Then I look over at Erin sitting on the couch with Eli tucked into her shirt, skin to skin, on top of the world, and it was all worth it. I probably won't ever birth a baby again, but I'd birth Eli a thousand times over just for that moment. 

I thought about the birth I planned for, sitting there. Peacefully laboring in front of my lit up Christmas tree and roaring fireplace. My mom making everyone chili. My kids quielty witnessing new life. The calm water birth with Erin catching her baby. The champagne toast out of the glasses I hand painted for every member of our team. The sweet celebration in our home. I was sad but decided I'd put that away to process later. For now, Eli is Earthside, he's healthy, I feel great, and his parents were over the moon. 

And then the day unfolded. Our awesome nurse commented on how she knew every member of my birth team (even recognizing me from serving clients at that hospital) and said, "You have everyone on your birth team. All the best people!". Our OB ended up being hysterical and he and I joked back and forth. They even let me call Eli's APGARs, I said, 8 and 9. They agreed and put it in his charts. Erin got to do an herbal bath with Eli. She asked that I nurse Eli, which was an absolute honor...and the little guy made his IBCLC momma proud, latching right on! My nuggets and hubby came up and met him and loved on me. One of my chiropractors, Terry, came to give him his first adjustment. It was a party in room 113. And it was definitely still a sweet, sweet celebration. 

Slowly each member of my team said their goodbyes and headed out. Soon we were moved to the postpartum floor. My hubby and nuggets left and then Jose headed back to Dallas to take care of their dog (they didn't expect a night in the hospital). It was eventually just me, Jayme, my mom, Erin, and her mom. We all sat around chatting and laughing about the wild morning. Swapping stories about what happened when we weren't with each other and teasing Eli about his hurry to meet his mommy and daddy. I nursed Eli for the third time before I got discharged and then let him just sleep on my chest while his mommy finally ate something. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day. 

I said my goodbyes, squeezed and kissed Eli, told him how much I love him...hugged his mommy and grandma and then we left. On my way down to the car I realized I had no regrets. There would be nothing to process. My birth plan changed, but the ending didn't. I still naturally birthed Eli. Erin and Jose still became parents. And I still helped make a family on January 6, 2015. 

Break down of the birth timeline:
Eli was born 6.5 hours after my membranes ruptured.
5.5 hours after the very first contraction.
3.5 hours after my first phone calls to notify my birth team.
2 hours after my contractions really kicked in.
10 mins after arriving at the hospital (I think he just wanted that ambulance ride. BOYS!) ❤

My surro baby, forever in my heart. 

Eli Thomas. Born 01-06-15, 8:28am. 8 pounds 7 ounces, 20 inches. Pure perfection.