The Menschkin
Monday, June 21, 2004
 
Petra's birth: only slightly abridged
Well, the last few weeks have been quite a blur. Petra Katharine was born on her due date, by Cesarean section as expected -- but not scheduled C-section. (Yay! I really wanted to be able to experience at least part of a natural labor.) I went into labor the night before, just as we were having a conversation about what to do if we didn't go into labor soon. Probably I'd been in labor since the afternoon, but I didn't recognize the feelings I was having as contractions rather than some kind of GI problem until 8:30 p.m. Tim and I timed them and found them pretty close together, so we called our doula and the hospital and got things moving.

We were admitted to the hospital just before midnight. No dilation, even though the contractions were coming every 4 minutes or so for a couple of hours at home. They were easy ones, though. I breathed through a lot of them because it made them more pleasant to handle, but I could speak in sentences if I needed to, so I was pretty sure it wasn't full, active labor yet. Our doula (bless her heart for this and many other reasons) and our labor nurse convinced the doctors that they shouldn't wait until the morning shift or even later to do the surgery, as they'd suggested, because if I went into active labor and my water broke, we could be looking at a much more urgent situation. (We found out later that our doula had had such a situation, involving a breech baby and umbilical cord prolapse, in one of her own children's births, so she knew whereof she spoke.)

So -- they prepped me for surgery at 6:30 a.m., and by 7:04, we had our baby girl out in the open. The labor never got intense, and I never dilated. No, the scary stuff happened in the operating room. The thing is, I just took for granted that my anesthesia would be like that of friends and relatives who'd described their C-sections to me; that is, that I wouldn't feel a thing down there during the surgery, except when they pushed down on the top of my uterus to get the baby out (I figured that was different because it was up so high). But I found out, after entering the OR with no support person (anesthesiologists don't like audiences, I guess, so they didn't let Tim in until they were making the first incision, about 15 minutes after I went in), that the spinal block would only get rid of pain. I would feel every bit of pushing, pulling, and so on. I was NOT mentally prepared for that, and it scared the hell out of me. But then Tim came in and helped me get my head into a better place. I cried a lot after that, but it was for better reasons than being terrified. Our doula had called out helpfully, as I entered the OR, "You're having a baby!" She said she got some weird looks from staff: "What, does she think she's having her appendix out after all that?" But it got me focused where I needed to be: not on fear of the surgery, but on the result. After Tim got me out of my anesthesia panic, then, it was back to baby thoughts. Petra was out very quickly, and I was experiencing simultaneous, overwhelming feelings of "That's my BABY over there [on the warming table, with Tim holding her tiny hand]!" and "That's my baby OVER THERE!" Major tears. I would have laughed a lot, too, but I was afraid it would screw up the stitching, and oh boy, did I want to be in the recovery room with her ASAP.

Petra was born very healthy, 6 lbs 11 oz, a little over 18 inches long -- but because she was breech for so long, her little legs were firmly folded up toward her torso, and so she was hard to measure. They say that should loosen up over a few weeks or months, and it has started to. In the meanwhile, at least she's not putting her feet in her poop when we change her diaper, and she enjoys sucking her toes when she can get to them! She is, of course, the most beautiful baby imaginable.

A day and a half or so after she was born, Petra had an overlong interval between feedings that sent her into a hypoglycemic tailspin.(We were so thankful that she had a big feeding and then slept 4 hours, we didn't think about the consequences of a newborn not eating for 5-6 hours; though to be fair, we didn't know about the consequences until later.) She started feeding less and less often, taking less at each feeding, and sucking more and more weakly. After a day and a half of trying and trying to get her to eat enough at the breast, we started finger-feeding formula and pumping breast milk (on the advice of a great lactation consultant at Kaiser). We fed her on a tight schedule for several days, mostly just getting her to take in enough calories to get her strength back, so she could get back to her birth weight and get strong enough to breastfeed directly full-time.

Over the course of three weeks, she went from a sluggish, sleepy feeder to an eager, hungry babe who tells US when she wants to eat. She also regained her birth weight ahead of schedule and went into her 3-week growth spurt (read: feeding all the time, parents get no sleep) on time. Fortunately, the milk supply situation was great, so we didn't need any more formula after the first couple of days. As of midsummer day, Petra has a diploma from the lactation consultant for an honorary BS (Best Sucker) degree in "nursing."

Petra's urgent situation was mirrored by one for me, which fortunately was more easily resolved. I had been managing since the first day post-op with just Motrin, but when she slept so long, I also slept through my meds. It was very interesting to have the experience of unmedicated second-day post-op pain, but I wouldn't recommend the experience to everyone. It's one of those things that was sheer hell at the time, but it's not a bad thing to have stashed in my "I can survive this, too" file. To get out of the pain crisis, I went on Vicodin, which probably exacerbated the sleepy-baby problems. I got off it as soon as I could, and off ibuprofen not too long after. It was difficult getting around for a while, but my family has been a great help, doing anything that involved walking around or carrying things until I could manage.

Sleep deprivation is really something. We're mostly out of the woods now, but Tim and I each had one episode of near-psychotic confusion during the night due to sleep deprivation in the first several days postpartum.

My mom stayed for twelve days, my dad for a few. They were a HUGE help. In between helping with washing up feeding and pumping equipment, diapering Petra, making sure we ate, and so forth, they attacked the mess that was our house with gusto. When they were done, it looked better than I've ever seen it. I had to get around a certain amount of embarrassment to accept the help graciously, but my mom made it as easy for me as she could.

That's the news from baby central at 3 weeks, 2 days. Watch this space for our further adventures in parenting.


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