Birth Story, continued.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


He grabs everything and gets it all into the car. All the coconut water. All the muffins. 

We’re not timing anymore so it just seems like I’m consistently contracting at this point. Things begin to blur here. My memory fades in and out and time speeds up.  I can no longer manage the pain in an effective way. We manage to get to the hospital without getting into a wreck. God’s grace.

We screech in on the wrong side of the road. I’m groaning and contracting in the parking lot, on the way to the entrance, in the lobby. A wheelchair appears. I’m contracting while waiting for the elevator, then again inside the elevator. Again at the nurses’ station. I’m hunched over in my nightgown, bleeding. Basically making a scene. They ask me to sign some papers and I scribble where the x’s are. I think it’s insane that you have to sign papers in this state. I don’t know what I’m signing, I can barely hold the pen. I want to throw it across the room. Instead, I drop it on the counter. I am the picture of self control. I’m destroying the marshmallow test. 

Lars has to leave to park the car while I wait to be seen in triage. It’s quiet there but not for long! I’m announcing my presence with every contraction. A friendly, smiling doctor/nurse/someone I barely register comes to check on how far I’ve dilated. This is it, I thought. This is where I find out I have to go home or walk around at some 24 hour store until I can be admitted. 

“You’re 9 centimeters!” Fully dilated is 10 centimeters, so I am stunned and make her repeat that back to me. We can’t chat for long though. She has to call my doctor and have someone prep a labor and delivery room, immediately!

I don’t remember how I got to that room, but suddenly, I’m there. Lars is back, with all of our things. A nurse walks in. She is petite and has beautiful nails. Her badge is clipped with a tiny, crystal encrusted panda. The panda is smiling. This woman is a woman who pays attention to details and I find that I trust her implicitly. We learn that we should have counted those small bursts of pain as contractions, that they were probably only 3 minutes apart by the time we called my OB. We also find out that I have back labor but she knows where to push against my lower back to get me through them. 

She is magic.

There are other people in the room and someone asks me what my birth plan is. I don’t have one, I tell them. And there really isn't a plan, per se. Just the general understanding that I will do the best that I can, on my own, and when things move beyond my own abilities, I will ask for and accept help. I was close to the point of needing help- I had labored for about as long as I could stand and was almost fully dilated. They ask me if I want an epidural. I wasn’t sure. Decide soon, they said. She’s coming. 

Trying to make a decision when the contractions were coming every minute was a very intense experience. 

Could I do it without meds? Probably. I had made it this far. I could see from the look on his face that Lars believed that I could get there. But it had been a marathon of a day. It was about one in the morning and I was so, so tired. You could rest, the doctor said. She hadn’t descended far enough, so we would have to wait for her to do that. It could take a couple of hours. My water hadn’t broken yet either. God, this was taking forever. 

I became a mom the moment I learned that I was pregnant. I was a mom when I found out about the gestational diabetes and at every single meal. She ate what I ate. I took care of my blood sugar so that her tiny pancreas wouldn’t have to. And when I could no longer control it with diet and exercise, I was grateful for the insulin shots. My emotions affected her development so I added meditation to the list of to do’s. It just wasn't about my own physical and mental health anymore. So when it came down to deciding on an epidural, I realized that this was a moment where by asking for help, I could protect my baby. 

The anesthesiologist prepped me quickly. My contractions were so close together that one started coming as the needle was going in, and I had to stay still for it. I grit my teeth. This was the last one, I said to myself. Everyone placed their hands on me and for a moment, save for my shaking breaths, the room was quiet. My body imploded.

Now was the time to rest. They shut the lights and leave. Lars lays down on the couch. It had been an intense day for him too. I closed my eyes but sleep was impossible. The adrenaline and the efforts of the day caused my body to shake uncontrollably, so I laid there with my eyes closed. Be still be still be still.


 
Except for this brief moment when I took creepy photos of ourselves in the dark.

An hour later, I felt her slowly moving downwards and a warmth slowly spread around my legs. 

Lars, I said, waking him. I think my water just broke. 

It’s time to get the nurse. She arrives to check on me and we hear a loud pop and a gush. The doctor is called to come back to the room for the delivery. In the meantime, the nurse suggests that I do a few practice pushes.

Here we go! I got into position and pushed.

STOP! She said. No more practicing. Lars’s eyes were wide. They had both seen the top of the baby’s head. I’ve got my meds but no visual so I have no idea what is happening. The nurse runs out to find the doctor. Lars and I wait. My legs in the air, baby crowning, pressure pressure pressure in the birth canal. The most grateful I’ve ever been for modern medicine and the numbing embrace of my epi.

We wait.

The doctor (finally) arrives and I’m given the go ahead to push again and I do. 

The room erupts in shouts of “keep pushing keep pushing look down she’s coming.” 

Suddenly, 252 days after that faint pink line appeared, after a thousand blood draws, fetal non stress tests, ultrasounds and hospital visits,
suddenly

there is a tiny, gray, living, slippery thing on my chest. The smallest (and the most impossibly perfect) fingers I’ve ever seen with fully formed nails were clawing and pinching at my skin, gurgles that turn into wailing. She blinks her dark eyes wetly in the light, her pain is my pain and our sobs dip and rise together. 

Lars stood there beside me. He pressed a blade against the cord and held us both.




Several hours later: our first family photo.




/ / /




It’s been about four months now. She is sleeping beside me. Her lower lip is folded inward, at the center, tucked neatly underneath her upper lip. The way only babies’ lips do. Everyone tells you that you’ll have amnesia about the physical pain. 

They were wrong. I remember.

It wasn’t just that it was painful. It was that and fear (so much fear) and anticipation, woven together and wrapped around that taut, aching belly.

You remember the pain because you remember the fear. 

I look at her mouth and her eyelashes and all that hair and know that I'd do it all again, a hundred thousand times over, just to watch her sleeping like this.













Previous post: Birth Story, part one.





Birth Story

Tuesday, July 26, 2016



We slept in that morning. 

For the past few weeks, every twinge set off a flurry of activity- he would run out for errands and I would haul my 30 pound midsection around, attempting housework and gathering things for the hospital. We didn’t know exactly when it would happen but we knew that it would be soon. Signs of early labor had begun at around 36 weeks. At my 38th week appointment, my OB told me that I would have to talk with my perinatologist to see if I needed to be induced by 39, as it was the standard practice for women with medically controlled gestational diabetes.

When we watched the birthing dvd a few months prior, we learned that induction increases the pain you experience during contractions.

Needless to say, I did not want to be induced.

But my sugars were well controlled, there weren’t any signs that she was growing faster than was expected, and I was only on a small amount of insulin, so it was possible that I would be allowed to go full term. 

My babe had always been very active but her recent activity was particularly rough. Driving home from a coffee date at 37 weeks, I had to press my hand down at the top of my belly while steering with the other. Her tiny foot was pushing against me there, stretching the skin so much that there was a visible bump. It was as if she was trying to get a kick-start out of there.

She was definitely coming soon.



Counting down the days during my last two weeks of pregnancy.
 Second photo: resting my hand on the spot where she loved to burrow her tiny foot. 



/ / /


I had been having contractions daily for weeks and weeks, so her arrival felt imminent. But having had a relatively rough go for the past several months, it also seemed like the pregnancy would never end. Like I would just be gigantic and useless for the rest of my days. Taking only a few steps at a time, gesturing at things I couldn’t reach- plates in the cabinet, my phone on the nightstand, faucets. Basically everything. Saturday night, it occurred to me that I had no idea what I was allowed to eat when I went into labor, am I allowed solids? Should I be preparing for an emergency c-section? I laid in bed and googled “foods for labor.” I started a list of things to gather- coconut water, jello. Dark chocolate (for energy, but low in sugar because friggin' diabetes). Ingredients to make Martha’s zucchini flax muffins

It was Sunday morning, and we had slept in. During a late breakfast, at around 11am, I was reviewing my list with Lars so that he could get the ingredients for the muffins when I felt.. something.

Something new. 

It didn’t feel like any of the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having for the past few months. By this point in the pregnancy, I was accustomed to various new discomforts. So he left for the store and I wobbled about the house with a renewed sense of urgency. I attempted to count contractions using an app but I couldn’t really tell if they were repeating. Maybe this was false labor?

At 4:30pm, things got serious. I called Lars, crying. You need to come home right now.

About an hour later, he ran in the door and laid out the fruits of his labor. The dining table was now covered with jello, containers of coconut water. Comedically large zucchinis. Make the muffins! I demanded, in between contractions. If this was real, I said, we were going to need those muffins!

If? I was on my knees, rocking and gripping the armchair, nails pressed into the performance velvet. This was not an “if” situation. 

I labored for the next seven hours. Prenatal yoga practice kicked in, and I groaned through my contractions. Emily, my instructor, said that groaning allowed your uterine muscles to do the work of pushing the baby out, so I did. Loudly. On the floor, in the shower. I asked for ice cold water with a straw and it appeared, inches from my face. A striped bendy straw floated, helplessly. WHY IS THAT STRAW SO DAMN SMALL, I hollered. Withholding the urge to fling the whole thing at his head. He ran out of the shower and continued to work on the muffins. 


Beautiful treats from my baby shower at Mission Heirloom 2 weeks before I went into labor. Not the aforementioned muffins.


We didn’t know how to time the contractions. Sometimes they were long and at other times, they were short. Should we time the short ones? Neither of us knew. But then I remembered that people often went to the hospital too early, especially with first babies, and the thought of being sent home was intolerable. So I told him to ignore the short ones. They were probably just aftershocks. Like in an earthquake. That’s a thing, right?*

Not counting the short bursts of pain, the contractions seemed to be 10 minutes apart. We were instructed to call the doctor when they were 5 minutes apart, so we dug our heels in and endured. Everyone says to rest in between, but how exactly? Perhaps they meant that you should just be still. I put my head down and closed my eyes. Be still be still be still. I forced myself to take slow, deep breaths.

Contractions are not the hardest part of laboring, you know? They’re tough in the way that running is tough. You’re running on the street and eventually your legs and lungs get that slow burn. And then you hit that threshold where the burn really gets going, so you lock your sights on that tree, that street lamp, that hydrant. And the burning tightness in your chest or legs is increasing til it’s almost unbearable, but that endpoint is getting closer, so you push on. In a few moments, you arrive and slow down to a stop. That’s a contraction. It sucks but it’s alright. 
 
The hardest part is actually trying to pee on a toilet. Stay hydrated, they said. You know what happens when you try to stay hydrated? What goes in must come out. Nobody teaches you how to get through sitting on the toilet, how to fold yourself in half while a 6, 7, 8, 9 pound bowling ball is pressing down on the inside of you, so I try to stifle my screams and keep from writhing because otherwise there’s pee on the floor and you don’t want to slip and fall while you’re in labor. 

PSA: Don’t be a hero. Just pee in the shower.

At some point, the muffins are finished. The fresh baked scent that fills the apartment makes me want to hurl. He proudly brings me a muffin, all soft and warm from the oven. I take a bite and immediately spit it out. In horror, I realized I just forced my husband to make two dozen muffins and I can’t even stomach a single bite. Did you know you can’t eat while in labor? As in, your body won’t let you? 

Later, I went back into the shower to labor for the second time. Needed that hot water against my back. The groaning seemed to come from some far away place. I felt lightheaded and my hands, which were gripping a towel bar on the wall, turned completely white. I called out and in a moment, Lars was there holding me up. Don’t faint while in labor, Laura. Let’s keep the medical emergencies to a minimum. My contractions, according to our amateur calculations, were 7 minutes apart. Lars, I said, we have to call the doctor. I can’t do this anymore.

So he calls her and puts me on the phone. She needs to hear how I’m doing, firsthand.

How far are you from the hospital, she asked. Ten minutes, I say. 

Go. she says. 

Go, now. 



______________________________

*No. That is not a thing.

Being Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes

Monday, March 14, 2016



© laura su



I didn't really understand that I was being diagnosed. I was sitting on the examining table and my OB was looking at my chart, telling me that I had failed two out of the three blood draws for the glucose tolerance tests I had taken.

"Ah." I looked at her.

She looked up from the laptop and patted my arm. "It's going to be okay."

I was confused by this gesture. "Does that mean I have gestational diabetes?"

"Yes."

"Oh." I paused. "Officially? I have gestational diabetes?"

The news didn't upset me. I never thought I was someone who could handle any sort of bad news well. I can be, shall we say, a little dramatic. I take after my mom in that way. In almost every instance, our minds first go to worst case scenarios. Growing up, I was always under the impression that my mom needed to be protected. She seemed so fragile, so prone to flying off the handle. As it turns out, when truly bad things happen, my mother is the vision of calm. She is able to have incredible perspective and the next task is always this- figure out a plan of action.

I was relieved to find that I take after her in this way too.

"Okay. What do we do about it?"

My OB referred me to the local Perinatal Care office, where I would be assigned a dietician and learn about what gestational diabetes was and how to manage it. The time between diagnosis and my appointment was tough. I still didn't know what I was able to eat and still in the midst of first trimester fatigue and morning sickness.

I did not want to be told I wasn't allowed to subsist on orange juice and dried mango slices.

Don't nobody be taking away my dried mango slices.

//

The first meeting was held like a class. At the head of the table, the dietician had surrounded herself with silicone versions of various foods. I looked around and saw that I was surrounded by women who were much farther along in their pregnancies (the standard practice is to check for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks). I was the only one with an almost nonexistent bump (at only 12 weeks pregnant). In addition to being part of the small fraction of women who were diagnosed with GDM, I was part of an even smaller group of people that were diagnosed early. Huzzah!

We were passed red folders full of useful information. Food schedules, types of food and their corresponding serving sizes, examples of meals that we could have. Each of us were given a starter kit with our own glucose monitor, lancets, and test strips. She taught us how to stick our fingers to draw a bit of blood (on the first digit of the finger and only on the sides, not the pad) to test after we woke in the morning and after each meal. We were to keep a food journal every day and the results of our monitoring would tell us whether we were keeping our blood sugars within a normal range.

The silicone food was there to give us a visual of what proper portions of food were for us now. Was that a real eye opener! Despite being someone who still shakes when face to face with a needle, this was the most disappointing part of the day.

It was an intense couple of hours.

But I was optimistic. I had been told what I could and couldn't eat. I could finally see, using the glucose monitor, what levels my blood sugar were at and that began to give me some feeling of control over the situation. It was like someone had drawn me a map and given me instructions on how to get to the end of this pregnancy.

And I was good at following instructions.






Previous Posts: On Pregnancy










Notes For My Daughter

Thursday, March 10, 2016



There is so much that I want for you already. I'll get to them all one day, but to start:

© laura su


I want to raise you in a home that smells of wood shelving, filled to the brim with stories. To give you a life as stable as the wall to ceiling bookshelves that surround you as you sleep, in your first few months of existence, beside our bed.


© laura su


I want to show you that it's possible, through these stories, to find a deep connection with those who inhabit completely different lifestyles. That it's possible to empathize and feel compassion for those whose paths you'll never have to walk.


© laura su


I want to give you the key to escaping, when you need to, into other worlds so fantastic that everything else falls away, even if for just a moment. And when you are ready, to come back to a life that feels solid. Strong, secure. Like the bookshelves your father built while you were tucked safely inside my belly.





Things Took A Turn

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


I was so damn smug.

And then things took a turn.

I didn't see the nausea coming and when it arrived, I was caught completely and utterly off guard. Totally KO'd.

Much of it came from my intensely heightened sense of smell. Chemicals, laundry detergent, soaps. Our century old apartment, with its layers of paint and ancient caulking. His deodorant. Our toothpaste.

(If this is you, you'll need a few new household products to keep gagging to a minimum. Scroll to the bottom of this post for a list of items we replaced to make life a little less awful.)

And then the aversions came. Some women get to have cravings. I got to experience a deep hatred for almost everything I used to love- coffee, garlic, that fresh wood smell you get from new furniture. Spices in Indian food. Did I mention coffee? That one hurt the most.

Every night, I cried while my helpless husband got ready for bed. My sense of smell was relentless and various, formerly benign, odors would wake me up every hour. We slept apart so that at least one of us would get some rest.

"I've ruined our lives!" I would sob. Misery can only see a few inches in front of it, and without a sense of a real baby, not even a semblance of a belly bump, I had forgotten that this was something we both wanted, so desperately, just a few weeks ago.


© laura su


Life went into a dark hole for the next four months.

In that dark hole, I was also diagnosed early with gestational diabetes mellitus. I was tired all the time. Some of it was normal first trimester sleepiness but not knowing what I could or couldn't eat also severely affected energy levels. I was too exhausted to attempt any type of research. If I had, I would have found ways to cope.
GDM pro tip: Do not do what I did and cut out all carbs! Carbs = energy. An excellent way to handle carbs is to balance with protein or fats, for example: cheese with whole wheat crackers. Scrums.
Gestational diabetes affects approximately 7% of pregnancies and I was one of the lucky ones! If you've found your way to this blog because you are also pregnant, don't worry. Statistically speaking, you probably won't get it.

If you do have it, it's okay. There are alot of misconceptions floating around that only cause you more stress. Before I continue, I want you to know these extremely important things:

  1. GDM is temporary.
  2. Your having GDM is not your fault.
  3. You can still enjoy food without hurting yourself or your baby. 

Stay tuned. I was diagnosed very early, so I have mucho to say on the topic.



Previous Posts: On Pregnancy

  • Things Took A Turn





Scent free/Lightly Scented Products For Sensitive Pregnant Noses:

Tide Free and Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Bar Soap, All-One Hemp Baby Unscented

Olivina Moisturizing Hand and Body Wash with Pump, Lavender
This is a fairly expensive product but something that really worked for me. Affordable options exist and a good workaround is reading the ingredient list. If the list is very short and the product is advertised as "natural", it might be just as effective.

Schmidt's Deodorant - Bergamot and Lime (All-Day Protection and Wetness Relief; Aluminum-Free)
This also comes in a bar/stick form, which we sometimes pick up at Urban Outfitters but the pot is the more affordable option to try.



The First Symptom

Thursday, March 3, 2016

About a week or so after the Line Appeared On The Test, the first symptom of my pregnancy appeared. The non-crazies who don't test until they've missed their period might miss this one (which is really unfortunate because it was the absolute BEST), but I had discovered that I was pregnant a full week before that milestone.

It was plenty of time for me to notice that something unusual was happening.

©laura su

In my natural state, the me that I present to the world is of a fairly calm person. At the end of a work day, I could be described as subdued. The week following my first positive test, a pregnancy symptom appeared and it was this: complete and utter euphoria.

If you didn't know me very well, you might have assumed this change in demeanor meant that I was just feeling happy about our life altering news- we were finally going to have a baby! What I was actually feeling was a mixture of fear and dread (not a big fan of change). I was good with fear and dread though. Fear and dread was a familiar and cozy place.

But in these first couple weeks of pregnancy, I felt terrifyingly happy. I would find mundane things simply delightful and at times, this would cause me to laugh spontaneously. That giddy sensation would feel so good that I would continue to grin stupidly for the next several minutes. If I was out in public, I would point that stupid grin at strangers on the street.

I'm a born and raised New Yorker. We wear black, walk briskly, avoid eye contact in close quarters. Smiling at strangers is something we absolutely do not do.

Yet there I was, doing it.

My husband didn't understand this new happy person that he was sharing his home with.

"Stop being so happy," he said. "It's freaking me out."

I laughed heartily. For several minutes.

Perhaps I would be one of the lucky few that had no terrible symptoms! Pregnancy was going to be the best nine months of my life.






Previous Posts: On Pregnancy

  • The First Symptom







Changing Our Lives Forever

Monday, February 29, 2016


©laura su

We had planned this pregnancy for years. First there was the general talking around the subject, then the purchasing of earthyhealthysupergoodforyou prenatal vitamins (we are Berkeleyans, after all), although I didn't start taking them for another few months. Still, we weren't quite ready but I kept on taking those vitamins for about a year. We thought it could happen quickly, so we took a carefree approach. It wasn't until 8 or so months after that, to which my OB replied, "Right on schedule," but by then I had gone to the crazy place. Where you are counting your days post ovulation (I knew that you may not be able to find out until day 10, but maybe we'll try to test on day 8 just in case) and those cheapy test strips are arriving at your doorstep in bulk.

So about a year and 8 months later, 10 days post ovulation, I ran what had become my usual routine during the latter half of the month- roll out of bed and pee in a tiny cup, dipped a stick while making a mental note: we were down to about 5 more of those test strips, would need to place an order for another shipment.

I left the test on its wrapper and went off to check email.

While I was distracting myself with The Daily Skimm, next to the control dye, a thin line, the faintest shade of pink, bloomed.

I stared at the line. Was it just wishful thinking? I had peed on so, so many sticks. I brought it by the bathroom window and tried to squint at it from all the angles. Trying to figure out if this was a real line.

Okay. Yes.

I called my husband.

"There's a line," I said. "A line. On The Test."

"A line," he repeated. "A Line On The Test."

He turned to his producer. "There's A Line On The Test."

/ / /

I kept testing, using up the last 5 strips, every day afterwards to be sure that line continued to get darker.

I thought I would be excited, happy. Relieved at least. This was a very much wanted baby that was planned for meticulously, after much discussion about logistics and theoretical parenting techniques, and implanted into a body hopped up on vitamins.

My first reaction was shock. And then a sinking realization that we had just changed our lives forever.