Baby

Welcome, Sam! Birth Story and the First Week

Our baby has arrived! Obviously, that’s why I’ve been MIA from here for the past few weeks.

I will tell you all about him, but first, let me catch up from the beginning of June!

June 4th and 5th was a HOT weekend, with temperatures in the high 90s! I was thinking it would be a good weekend to spend in the hospital, and that if I went outside and stayed active and maybe got dehydrated, I might go into labor (and I found out later that it actually was very busy weekend on the labor and delivery floor, so in retrospect I’m glad I wasn’t there, too!). So, one day we went to the Jamison Square splash pad downtown.

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Then Ari found out there’s a library downtown, so we had to go there!

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The next day, we took Ari and Andrew to throw and chase balls on our old college campus.

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I was feeling HUGE!

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Our friends came over for some pool time:

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A.’s parents had been staying with us for a couple of weeks (they came to watch Ari during my last shift, on a day we didn’t have daycare, and to take care of him when I went into labor), so A. and I had been able to go out for some walks together, with Andrew, on those warm summer evenings we were having. That was something we did before Ari was born, too, and it was nice being able to do that again. I don’t remember whether we walked that Sunday night, or if I just walked Andrew by myself, or just stayed in. At some point that weekend, I think, I mowed the lawn with our push mower, trying to exert myself into labor (and I realized that pushing that mower made me do lunges, which were supposed to be good for positioning the baby and stimulating labor!). Almost every evening for several nights, I’d been having regular contractions when we walked that would sometimes continue until I fell asleep, but they always stopped by the next morning. So I went to bed with contractions about every 7 minutes on Sunday night, but not wanting to get too excited about it.

At about 5:15 am on Monday, I sat up and thought my water might have broken. I felt crampy and my lower back ached and I was still having contractions, now about 4 to 5 minutes apart. I timed them for a half hour or so, but didn’t want to wait too long because Ari’s delivery had been so fast (3 and a half hours after we got to the hospital) and I’d been told I’d better get there earlier this time. Plus, I’d arrived right in the middle of change of shift, at 7:15, with Ari, and I didn’t want to do that again. As a nurse, I know how annoying a change-of-shift admit is! So by 6am, I woke A. up and told him we’d better go, and his mom heard us moving around and came upstairs to be there when Ari woke up. We already had our hospital bag packed and in the car, and on our way to the hospital I called the labor and delivery floor to let them know we were coming. There was no traffic that early in the morning, and the drive was less painful than it had been with Ari because my contractions weren’t that painful yet.

When I’d arrived with Ari, I’d been so obviously in labor that they’d just checked me in right away, but this time I was put into a triage room. It was about 6:15 am. I saw my male midwife in the hall and let him know what was going on. A nurse hooked me up to a couple of monitors and a doctor came in to check me. At this point, I figured I was going to be sent home because it felt like the contractions were waning, and I was pretty comfortable chatting with everyone and probably didn’t look like a woman in labor, but at least the monitor confirmed that I was actually having contractions. The doctor told me my water had not broken, and I was starting to feel pretty silly, but then she checked my dilation and grinned. “Welcome to labor and delivery!” she said, “You’re at 5 and a half centimeters!”

So, after the time in triage, it was once again about 7:15 am and change of shift. The oncoming nurse who came to get me was cheerful, though!

Now what follows will be a fairly detailed (but still abbreviated) birth experience story that you are welcome to skip, but I enjoyed reading them when I was pregnant so I’m posting it here. I also want to share a natural hospital birth story that is very positive. I was so impressed with the doctors and nurses, especially compared with the attitudes and actions I saw in a couple of births at another hospital when I was a nursing student.

Labor and Delivery

When I had Ari, I’d been so in the thick of it with painful contractions that they hadn’t attempted even an IV start. This time, they checked my blood sugar and asked if I wouldn’t mind if they started an IV. First, they offered some drink choices and I said that Sprite sounded wonderful because I felt a bit nauseated, but was told it had to be Diet because of the gestational diabetes. However, my blood sugar result was only 59! I said, “Oh no, it’s low in the morning sometimes! I’m sorry!” because I knew the nurse would now have to follow a protocol for a critically low blood sugar and check it frequently until it went above 90 (at least where I work). She laughed and said I could have the regular Sprite after all, and then I drank as fast as I could to get my blood sugar up.

I usually have great veins and other students used me for practice in nursing school, but it took a couple of tries and another nurse to get one this time, probably because I was dehydrated and cold. During the process, I sat on a ball, leaning over the foot of the bed and bouncing and rocking my hips through contractions, which worked pretty well at that point.

As the contractions got more intense, I started getting scared, remembering labor with Ari and how much worse things were going to get. It was feeling like the point of no return or escape!

Then they filled the bathtub and I got in there, which really helped for a while, allowing my muscles to relax in between contractions. But soon the contractions were too intense and I was throwing up so I went back to the bed.

Apparently several people were out looking for a birthing stool for me, which they found and brought in but I never used. But what a nice thing for a hospital to offer! I’d read about them in natural birthing articles, for help with using a squatting position.

Speaking of squatting, I’d been practicing sitting on my heels in a deep squat and had imagined I might give birth that way, because it’s supposed to be the best position, but at this point, that sounded way too painful and I was trembling all over and hardly had the strength to walk across the room. I don’t know how women can actually give birth like that! I’d also practiced belly dancing moves that were supposed to help, and did a little early on, but at this point with my whole body seizing up and feeling absolutely rigid, I certainly did not want to try to move my hips!

The nurses were amazing. They traded off to cover breaks so that someone was almost always in there with me, and they all had things to try. One told me to keep my eyes open and find a focus point, which helped a little. They all encouraged me to keep the sounds I was making low-pitched, which required a huge effort of willpower to try to make myself bigger than the pain, rather than being caught up in it, if that makes any sense – but it did help. They also told me to focus on getting through each contraction, rather than worrying about the ones to come, and I used a couple of thoughts from the Dancing for Birth workshop I’d taken: one from the instructor, to think of each contraction as “one contraction closer to the baby” and one thought from another student, which was to “be the buffalo,” because buffalo apparently run into storms rather than away from them. I also found myself visualizing gorillas when I tried to make my voice low, and focusing on an image of a gorilla in my head kind of helped. One nurse also had me lunge and squat with one foot on a chair, which got me through one or two contractions but then I couldn’t stand up any more. Anyway, I felt that the nurses were like doulas! They were supportive and encouraging. At one point, I thought, they must think this is ridiculous, me making such a scene when I could just get an epidural, and why am I doing this to myself, anyway? So I grunted to the nurse that I was thinking about an epidural, and she said in a very nice way, “Well, we can do that, but I’ll have to pump some fluids into you and you’ll have to hold still while they put it in, even through contractions.” Ha! Holding still and being hooked up to fluids sounded like even worse torture, so I said, “never mind.”

I think it was around 9:30 am that I started insisting that I needed to push and I wanted to be checked. That was almost the time I had started pushing with Ari, so I expected to be “complete” and was very disappointed when they said I wasn’t. They offered to break the bag of water to speed things along, because it wasn’t broken yet, but I said no. In the next hour or so, however, let’s just say things got more dramatic, and I agreed to have my water broken to get it over with. I started pushing almost right away, I think.

Pushing involves a new kind of pain, but it’s better for me because it seems like there’s more of a break between contractions and because I get more focused and quieter and enjoy having a more active role rather than just suffering though pain that I feel like I have no control over. After only 10 minutes (I found out later – I had no sense of time in the moment!), his head was out! However, his shoulders were stuck. They put oxygen on me to keep his levels up and encouraged me to do “small pushes” and in just over a minute, his shoulders were out too. This situation is called a “shoulder dystocia.” I believe there is increased risk of it with gestational diabetes and with big babies, and it carries with it some risks, including damage to the nerves in the baby’s shoulder. However, the levels of the gases in the cord blood were good and his arm has been fine. Also, there was only one tiny tear, so I think they did a great job with everything they did and told me to do!

It’s such a relief when that slimy baby slides out! I think I pushed stronger this time, remembering the feeling from having Ari. They took him away for a quick resuscitation at the other side of the room, just like with Ari, with A. and the doctors and nurses all calling out or coming over at various points to let me know that he was doing fine, and pretty soon I heard him crying. Somebody told me that he weighed 9 pounds! When they brought him back and put his naked little body on my stomach, I pulled him up to my chest and looked at him and thought, “Oh, yes, it IS worth it!” His skin was dark and reddened and there was soft, dark hair on his back and legs – and a LOT of it on his head!

It took a while for him to latch on and nurse a little bit, with lots of crying (from him). I thought they were going to take him to the NICU for 4 hours, like with Ari, but they told me they could leave him with me and the doctor would look at him at the 2-hour point and if he was okay, we would go up to the Mother-Baby unit together, and that’s what happened. In the meantime, I ordered food, and the first thing I ate was some chocolate ice cream that A. spooned into my mouth.

Sam’s First Week

So, cutting to the chase, baby Sam was born at 10:46 am on June 6th, the day before he was due! I thought the timing was funny because Ari was born at 10:43 am (on his due date). But Sam weighed 9 pounds, and Ari wasn’t that big until he was about 5 weeks old!

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A.’s mom brought Ari in for a little while that afternoon. He looked a little scared of the baby and didn’t want to get too close at first, but then he got on the bed with us and I read him some of his new library books. Every now and then, he mentioned “the baby,” saying that he was crying because part of the book had scared him, and that he wanted to eat some apples. (When I said that he could only eat milk, Ari said, “But I can eat apples, because I’m a big boy!”) He had brought a soft giraffe doll attached to a blanket that had been his as a baby, and handed it over for Sam when he first saw him but then grabbed it back. 🙂 We gave him a little toy medical kit that we said was a gift from the baby. Pretty soon, he wanted to go home, and he didn’t complain about me staying in the hospital. A. went home with them but came back to stay the night in the hospital room.

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We stayed one night and went home on Tuesday. The time in the hospital went by so fast! Our nurses were great, but of course there was constantly someone coming into the room to do something, along with the breastfeeding struggles and sending photos and updates to friends and family. When I was ready to eat, it would usually take me at least an hour to get around to ordering the food and then, after it was delivered, it would take me an hour or two to get around to eating it!

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When we got home, A. picked Ari up from school and brought him home and he looked at the baby a little bit. We took a video, so I know that he picked out a book and brought it over for me to read, and said, “Baby, we’re going to read this book. That will be exciting, Baby!” As we settled in to read, he said, “I’m going to touch his little, tiny toes,” and he did.

Andrew greeted him enthusiastically, licking his feet and head as much as we let him. He has been more anxious recently and on the alert for the baby’s welfare. For the first several days, he would jump up and run to him whenever he cried!

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A couple of other photos from that first day:

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Overall, Ari has been very cautious and gentle with Sam but not interacting with him much (not that Sam does much interacting yet, anyway) and not talking about him very much. One night, we read one of his big brother books and he pointed to the baby in the book and said, “That’s not like our baby!” When I asked him what was different, he said that our baby has dark hair. I asked if he was surprised by that, and he said yes. A couple of times, he’s said that he was going to “teach the baby” how to stand or walk or something that he was doing, and then he said, “Baby, you [stand, walk, whatever…] like this” and “showed” him. The other day, he wanted to do laundry with me, and as we headed down the stairs, I said, “Only big boys can do laundry,” and he said, “Yeah! Not babies!”

It’s very sweet and almost sad to me, at times, how accepting Ari has been, because I know it must be hard for him but he hasn’t complained about it. It was so hard for me to spend time with him those first few days, with Sam wanting to eat constantly and me feeling tired, painful, and extremely anxious. He never tried to climb in my lap when I was holding Sam, and when I was trying to sing him to sleep one night and was interrupted by Sam crying, he didn’t protest or even say anything at all when I said I had to go. There was just one time when I brought Sam in with me to his room and he said, “No! Don’t bring the baby!” but he instantly stopped complaining when I said I had to.

One day, I was driving Ari to school with Sam in the back seat with him, thinking about how important of a figure Ari will be in Sam’s life and how much time Sam is spending looking at Ari’s face and hearing his voice, instead of mine. I also thought, what have I done? I’ll never have my special relationship with Ari again! Then I thought, no, I’ve sacrificed that so that he can have a brother, and that’s way better. Then I reassured myself that not only will they have each other, but they will still have me and I will be able to have special time with each of them. But those early days were pretty overwhelming, wondering how I will ever meet both of their needs!

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For these photos, Ari was eager at first to hold Sam, then as soon as he was holding him, he said, “All done! Done! I’m all done!” but we asked him to smile for some photos so he did.

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And we asked him to kiss his brother. 🙂 Many nights, especially in the beginning, he has said goodnight to Sam after doing hugs and kisses with me. He will very lightly and carefully put his hands on Sam’s shoulders and say, “Hug!” and then give him a little kiss on his forehead.

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A.’s mom stayed until Wednesday morning, then A. stayed home from work the rest of that first week and on Monday and Wednesday the following week, because those were the days that Ari would be home. When Ari was born, he only got three days off, which was basically just the time we were in the hospital, and it was so nice this time to have a few days to be home together. A. made some nice breakfasts and coffee in the mornings and took care of Ari and Andrew. I woke him up when I needed help in the middle of the night instead of having to let him sleep for work. Together, we took care of the phone calls and paperwork needed to arrange my leave from work, for doctor appointments for the kids, to get Sam on our insurance, and other business. I held Sam and tried to keep him fed.

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We like these newborn-sized all-in-one cloth diapers! However, we only got 10 so we run through them every day and then have to use disposables until I’ve got them washed and dried again.

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A nice breakfast that A. made me and sunflowers that his mom got when we came home:

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Those first few days and nights were tough, of course. Sam seemed so hungry and he was having a little trouble latching on and my milk hadn’t come in yet so there was a lot of crying, especially in the middle of the night, which can be a lonely and scary time for a new breastfeeding mom, I think. However, I remembered going through the same thing with Ari, plus with him it had been a lot more painful for me, so overall, breastfeeding has been a lot easier this time. Now that we’ve hit the 3-week mark it’s going pretty smoothly. We saw a lactation consultant a couple of times but now he’s gained back his birth weight, right on track, so we’re good. Also, by this point with Ari I think I was on my second round of antibiotics for mastitis, and so far with Sam there hasn’t been even one clogged duct! I’m taking lecithin because that helped before, and I’m staying home more and feeding him more often.

Well, I feed him more often during the day, but since maybe the fifth night or so, he’s been wanting to sleep at night! They told me at first to wake him up and feed him every 2-3 hours, though, so one night I spent from about 12:45 am until about 3 am trying to wake him up! When all I wanted to do was sleep!  Then he finally woke up and I think he ate until about 4 am. Now he sleeps about four hours, wakes up and eats, sleeps another 3-4 hours, then eats a lot around 7 am and then goes back to sleep for a couple of hours.

The first weekend, most of our friends came over for separate visits, and we had a visit from A.’s cousin who was on a road trip. We also made our first family trip to the park, wearing Sam in the wrap, walking Andrew on the leash, and pushing Ari in the stroller. I was SO TENSE! I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath, and my lower back was aching and felt rigid. I thought, what is wrong with me? We were out and about so much more with Ari! Why am I so nervous? I think it’s partly having two of them to worry about. I don’t know. On the walk home, A. had to run an errand so he took Ari with him and I walked home with both Sam and Andrew, feeling panicked.

I do remember anxiety with Ari, too, though. Going through this again has reminded me how hard it is to even think clearly during the early days with a newborn. My body felt wrecked, my hormones were going crazy so I was sweating all the time, I couldn’t sleep, I felt horribly guilty any time I wasn’t holding or feeding the baby, and was just plain terrified all the time that something might be wrong with him or that I was going to let something bad happen to him. Now, the anxiety has eased quite a bit, but I still frequently get that feeling that I’m going to do something awful, like when you’re standing at the edge of a cliff and start to imagine that you’re going to jump off of it. Except I imagine that I’ve just run over a baby while backing my car up, or that I’m going to walk away while he’s on the changing table, or some other horrible or dangerous scenario.

Here are some pictures from that first weekend:

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And then Sam was one week old! Ari helped me pick animals for his weekly/monthly pictures.

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I’m going to stop here because I keep writing more and more, and more time passes so there’s more to write… So I’m just going to publish one week at a time! Stay tuned for weeks 2 and 3, Ari’s 3-year post, and maybe some of my thoughts on baby and toddler sleep (I think about that a lot!!). And, one day, some more recipes and book reviews!

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6 thoughts on “Welcome, Sam! Birth Story and the First Week

  1. I agree with Lynn. Since I don’t get to be there very often, it’s great to be included this way, and to know what’s going on in your lives with these sweet little guys! Looking forward to each installment.

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