Monday, April 27, 2009

And More

My mom made this carrier for me when I was a baby. She and my dad carried my sister and I in it--now I carry Greta in it!


Visit from Aunt Melissa

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A New Mama's Tired Reflection

I really didn't believe it was true. The prenatal classes and books said all you do the first few weeks of motherhood is feed your baby, change your baby, and try to get some sleep when you can. This has been my life for the past week--in addition to recovering from labor and delivery. By the time I hit the operating room last Saturday morning I thought...hmmm, maybe next time we'll adopt...but by the next day I decided it really wasn't so bad after all, and that I'd certainly do it all over again!! I am so thankful for the possibility of a cesarean birth, because without it one or both of us might not have survived. It was an amazing experience.
Well this blog entry is taking about all the energy reserves I have (or I am pretending to have...) so I better sign off. Happy Easter everyone!

Our Easter Bundle

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

About a week ago...

Well, as most of you should know by now, Greta was born last Saturday morning, at around 4am. Let me try to explain how it all happened.

Thursday night, April 2, the day I posted my last, impatient entry, Megan went out for a movie night with the Mom's group at church. I decided to watch a movie myself, in spite of the fact that I had some reading to do. I reasoned with myself - 'you've seen this movie (There Will Be Blood) before, you can keep one eye on the movie and still finish your reading.' And so I proceeded to watch the movie and neglect my reading. Megan came home at around 11:30 and went to bed. The movie I was watching ended around midnight, and then I dutifully began my reading. I finally gave up at around 2am, and got in bed by 2:30am.

Four hours later, I awoke to the sound of Megan's slow, deep, intentional breathing in and out: phiiiiiii, phuuuuu. Then the breathing sound stopped. When it started again about twenty minutes later, I rolled over and gave Megan an inquisitive look, which she returned with a nod yes. I laughed, but then she started another contraction and I remembered that she was feeling pain, and stopped laughing. I rolled back over to find my cell phone and check the time. My brain did the math automatically: four hours of sleep. (It seems that from the very beginning, Greta did not like to let me sleep for very long at one time!) Nevertheless, I was wide awake, and popped out of bed to start doing all the things that were beginning to race through my mind. I finished my reading while eating breakfast, showered and dressed, wrote an annotation for the reading I had just finished, then started working on the church bulletin for the upcoming Sunday. Meanwhile, Megan was lying in bed resting in between contractions. At around 8:30 am, while I was at my desk, Megan finally called her mom to tell her to head on up here. I began to notify family too. By about 10:30, I was finished with the bulletin, and I need to print it off at the church. So I called Petra, who is on the pastoral team at our church, and asked her if she would come hang out with Megan while I went to print off the bulletin. (Petra is awesome, she has helped many mothers at every stage of mothering, we were very grateful for her calming presence that morning.) I rushed off to the church, frantic to try and do this mindless task as quickly as possible and get back to Megan.

I returned at about 12:30pm, and Megan's mom Kathy had arrived. Petra hung out with us for a while and helped me fold the bulletins and stuff flyers in them. By this point, Megan's contractions had increased in severity and were coming every five minutes. Petra left and Kathy and I began to settle into a rhythm of helping Megan during her contractions. We took turns rubbing her back when the contractions came. In between we took care of ourselves, tried to clean up the apartment in preparation for our return from the hospital, and made sure that everything we needed was packed in our hospital bags. By around this same time, we made our first call to the hospital. The doctor assessed where she thought Megan was over the phone, and said that she would come and visit us at our apartment in a couple of hours.

We passed the time until the doctor arrived in much the same way as we had gotten on before the call. When the doctor came, at about 4pm, she examined Megan and determined that Megan was only dilated to two and a half centimeters. Megan had been laboring for ten hours by this time, and we were all a little surprised and disappointed to learn that she had not progressed any further. The doctor told us that we should just stay at home and she would come see us again at around 7pm. She recommended that Megan start trying the shower to help manage the discomfort. Megan spent nearly the whole time from 4 to 7 in the shower.

Just after the doctor left the first time, Megan's sister Jenny arrived. My mom Judy, had also made it to Vancouver by that time too. Jenny was very helpful, and brought Megan a smoothie, and coffee for me and Kathy. I ordered some sushi for delivery, and Jenny and I had just started eating when the doctor arrived again. This time she determined that Megan was dilated to five and a half or six centimeters. She left saying that we could go into the hospital anytime we wanted, but she recommended that we stay at home as long as possible. Megan got back into the shower.

Finally, at about 8:30pm, fourteen hours into Megan's laboring, we headed to the hospital. Kathy's husband Shayne arrived just before we left for the hospital. He got to watch as we ventured down the two flights of stairs from our apartment to the street. This was quite a trial for Megan.

We got admitted to the hospital. While she was in the examination room, during admission, Megan got to try nitrous oxide for the first time. She seemed to like it from the start. But the tanks and inhaler that she was given initially was a dud, and by the time we made it to our delivery room, she had had it with the gas, and was starting to ask for something more. However, as we were discussing the options she had, our nurse Amman, realized that the gas tank was not working and set her up with another one. This new set up elicited an entirely different response from Megan who was now getting messed up. She loved her some nitrous oxide! Jenny, Judy, and Shayne were brought into the room for a quick visit, and they all got to hear how great the gas was, and how Megan was never going to give birth anywhere but in Canada (the U.S. does not offer nitrous oxide to birthing mothers), and how great Canada was as a country, and... you get the idea. She even compared this little gathering in the delivery room to a cocktail party.

Unfortunately, shortly after the family left the room, the contractions became worse and the gas was only barely taking the edge off. It must have been about 10:30pm at that point. The doctor came in and broke Megan's waters. Afterwards, it was clear that the baby had pooped while inside. Since this can potentially cause some complications, Megan was fitted with two external monitors around her stomach: one to monitor the baby's heart rate, and another to monitor the contractions. Now we were able to see Greta's heart rate on the screen, and below that, Megan's contractions were being graphed. Greta's heart rate was moving gradually between 135 and 150. Megan's contractions were now coming less than a minute apart and lasting for over a minute: the graph showed ten minutes of activity, and as it moved along, there was always at least six or seven spikes in the chart per ten minute interval. I noticed that many of the spikes were going off the chart, the line would climb and climb until it disappeared, and then a few seconds later begin its descent and reappear on the chart. Amman remarked that Megan's contractions were unusually strong and frequent.

Now, you have to remember that while I write, and you read, the chronology of events as they unfold, Megan was in profound and increasing pain throughout the whole duration. By this point in the sequence of events, my memory becomes quite hazy. Of course, I was tired - having only slept for four hours the night before - but I also began to struggle to endure Megan's visible pain. I know that it seems absurd, she is the one who was in pain, but I began to have a hard time dealing with her pain. It's hard to watch the person you love in so much pain.

During most of the labor, I was pretty quiet, and just tried to focus on comforting Megan and finding useful ways to help. Kathy, who was there with us the whole time, was more vocal, offering Megan encouragement.

So a few hours passed after the doctor broke the water. Megan, Kathy, Amman, and I just hung out in the room and tried to pass the time as best we could. Eventually, Amman decided to go fetch the doctor to check Megan again. We were now at around 18 hours of labor. Amman came back and reported that the doctor was busy but would come as soon as possible. It seemed to take forever for the doctor to arrive. When she came, she discovered that Megan was dilated to nine and a half centimeters. She also decided to encourage Megan to take something for the pain. I remember that she told Megan that she had been having really hard contractions and that this had been going on a long time now and that it could take another several hours. She told Megan that she had done the "heroic" thing, but that now it was time to give herself some rest.

When she told Megan that, something switched inside Megan. Prior to the labor, Megan had told me that she really did not want an epidural. (We knew that the hospital's policy was to not offer the drugs, but to wait for the mother to specifically ask for it, so the doctor's explicitly mentioning an epidural seemed significant.) But when, at around 1:30 am on April 4th, the doctor actually told her she should consider it, Megan changed her mind with a vengeance. She wanted morphine and an epidural and she wanted it NOW!

Of course, it takes a little time for Amman to find the anesthesiologist and for the anesthesiologist to leave what he was doing and come help Megan. All this time, Kathy and I were in the room with Megan who was demanding that the drugs start helping her right away. She kept wanting to know how many more contractions she would have to feel before the drugs would get there and start working. That wait was awful. She was in a lot of pain, and had been given permission by the doctor to accept that it was now too much. We all felt the tension while she gave her self over to the pain and began to panic for relief.

Amman, who was a really good nurse - he kept a cool and calm head the whole time, returned and began looking for a vein to insert an I.V. in. While he worked Megan was shouting about him as though he wasn't in the room. Just after the I.V. was in, the doctor arrived with the anesthesiologist. After introducing the anesthesiologist, the doctor announced that she was going to leave the room. Kathy decided to leave too. As I noticed the two of them were leaving, I began to recall some horror stories about anesthesiologists making repeated
attempts to find the nerve while the mother's pain gets worse due to fumbling attempts to hit the nerve. As I thought about what was about to happen, I became little faint.

This anesthesiologist was a pro, while efficiently preparing everything, he looked around, told me where to position myself so that I could not see what he was about to do, and then said "I am worried about you, maybe you should sit down so that you do not faint." I happily obliged. As he worked he explained to us everything that he was going to do. The first step was to give Megan the morphine. That must have worked well, because by the end of his explanation, Megan asked if it was going to hurt when he put in the epidural. His response was, "Well, I guess not, since I have just finished."

Megan laid back and began to wait. The anesthesiologist (God bless that man!) tidied up his things and left the room. Now it was just Amman, Megan, and myself in the room, (and Greta too, of course.) After a few minutes the pain was beginning to subside.

Now, I had learned from an earlier conversation between Kathy and the doctor that the "danger zone" for Greta's heart rate, which was still beeping across the screen, was around 80-90. So far, the number had hovered between 135 and 150. As I sat holding Megan's hand waiting for the epidural to take full effect, I happened to glance up at the screen and noticed that the baby's heart rate was at 84. While this fact was processing in my mind, the intercom in the room buzzed, and Amman looked up at it and said, very urgently, "I need Dr. ____ in here immediately!" Suddenly, three nurses rushed into the room. A doctor who we had never seen before entered, and began gloving up while he introduced himself. There was a lot of commotion, and talk about losing the baby's heart rate, and more commotion, and Amman was moving the monitoring device around on Megan's stomach to try and find the baby's heart rate again. Then our doctor came into the room. She quickly consulted with Dr. no. 2 and they told me that the external heart rate monitor had lost the baby's heart rate just at the point when the baby's heart rate began to plummet. They said that they would have to install an internal heart rate monitor. I struggled to compose myself, while Dr. no. 2 put in the internal monitor. Our doctor came over to me, and asked me if I was alright. That was when I realized: I was not alright. The internal monitor showed that the baby's heart rate was climbing steadily and it leveled off at around 145.

That episode scared me badly. I began to think about myself a bit. I planned to wait until the epidural was in full effect and Kathy had returned to the room, and then I would go and
try to find a cigarette or a stiff drink or just bawl. So I sat down and waited for what felt like forever. Finally Kathy returned, and I excused myself and went towards the waiting room. As soon as my mom saw me, she stood up to hug me, and I just started bawling. She cried too. I announced that I needed a cigarette (I don't smoke so I did not have any with me) and my mom and Jenny said that they couldn't help me with that. So I went outside with my mom and told her about what had just happened. Then I went inside, went to the bathroom, and returned to the delivery room.

As I entered the room, it must have been about 3am at that time, the doctor was examining Megan again. She was now at 10 centimeters, but the baby had not dropped, and was still posterior. The doctor pointed out that the baby's heart rate had become erratic, and that it could be a while before the baby would descend enough for Megan to try pushing. She said that the baby might not descend, and if it did, she was sure by now that it was a big baby, and she had some doubts about whether it could come through Megan's pelvic bone. In any case, we needed to started making sure that baby was enduring the labor adequately. She said that if we did not decide to do a Cesarean they would have to take additional measures to monitor the baby's well-being. Then she left to get Dr. no.2 for another opinion. He confirmed all that she had said.

Kathy asked the doctors for their gut feelings. Neither of them hesitated to say that Megan should have a Cesarean. So, we decided that that was what would have to happen.

Only one person could accompany Megan into the operating room. Kathy said good by, and I went to get changed into sterile scrubs for the O.R. Several nurses wheeled Megan into the O.R. and I sat outside waiting for them to show me in.

I came into the operating room at 4am. I looked at the wall as I walked around the table towards the end where Megan's head was resting behind a curtain. I sat there and held Megan's hand and we whispered a few things to each other and waited to hear a cry. The drugs they gave Megan had made her start to shake violently. It was scary to see her shake like that, and to know that on the other side of the curtain they were cutting into Megan. It was also exciting to know that in a few minutes we would meet Greta.

A few minutes later - the paper says 4:03, but my watch read 4:04am - I heard the surgeon struggle, and Megan let out a "ugh!" Then I saw from around the side of the curtain, the surgeon handed a purplish lump to the pediatrician who was standing by. There was no cry - I was on pins and needles waiting to hear a cry. The pediatrician set Greta on a table and began to shake her limbs saying, "come on baby, come on!" Finally there was a little cry. Then another little cry. More shaking and another little cry. Eventually, the pediatrician was content that Greta was breathing, and she set her down on the scale. Then she shouted out that baby was x amount of kilograms, which meant nothing to me. All the doctors and surgeons and nurses and anesthesiologists in the room gasped and said how big she was. The surgeon said "this was the right decision." Then the pediatrician looked at a conversion chart and said, "that's nine pounds, nine and a half ounces!"

She was quiet during this whole time, only letting out a few whimpering cries when the pediatrician shook her. Then the pediatrician wrapped her up in a couple of towels and walked over and handed her to me. I kissed her, and leaned over with her towards Megan's face so that she could see her. Then Megan kissed her. Then we kept looking at her and kissing her, and talking to her. It took about 30 minutes for the doctors to put Megan back together. While they worked, I walked Greta out to the waiting room and showed her off to Kathy, Judy, Jenny, and Shayne. Then I went back into Megan.

Once it was all done, Megan, Greta, and I went to the recovery room for an hour before being admitted to a hospital ward that we would live in for the next four days. But I will have to write about those days another time.

I will go on record here to say that I am so grateful that we had all the help that we had. We thank God for a healthy baby and a (rightfully) proud, recovering mom. I hope you all can meet her soon, because she is by far, the best thing to ever happen to me. Until you can meet her, we will try to keep some photos and reports posted here. And maybe I will write another long detailed description of our time in hospital.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Can't Take It Anymore.

I, Matthew, am starting to unravel. This was supposed to be over now. I am not very good at waiting for things, even when those things are relatively small or insignificant things. This is the most significant thing to happen to me, probably ever, and now it is taking forever. I just want to see Greta, hold her, and start relating to her face to face.

I cannot think about anything besides Greta. I have been having the hardest time reading and writing for school. I sit down to read or write, and I instantly start thinking about Greta, and birth, and all that will follow. I have difficultly focusing at the best of times, but this is a whole new level of distraction that I have never known. It is so uncomfortable.

I wonder if I will be able to focus again when after Greta is born.