Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pregnancy/Delivery Recovery

I never got to write much about how I was doing after Landon was born because I was so preoccupied with how he was doing. I had been dreading the delivery recovery process- any message board I stumbled upon talked about 4th degree tears, pain for months, etc. I was also dreading the arduous return to my pre-pregnancy weight. My mom insisted that she felt great after having me and my two siblings, but she's something of a freak of nature in all things physical- she's weighed the exact same since she was 18 (think head cheerleader/prom queen type figure), eats a large popcorn drowning in butter every time we go to the movies, and even though she gained over 50 lbs when she was pregnant with me, she was back in her tiny jeans in two weeks. So yeah... I wasn't exactly taking her word for it.

Anyway, it turns out that I felt pretty darn good after getting that baby out as well. Yeah I was sore, swollen, and stitched up, but you just wear those pad-like ice packs (loved those), take the ibuprofen regularly (I never had to take the narcotic that I was allotted- I was sore, but not in pain), use your peri-bottle every time you go to the bathroom, and exercise care when transitioning from standing to sitting. I also bought those moist cottonelle wipes to use instead of toilet paper and that made a big difference. Since we were in the NICU all day, it was hard to keep using my peri bottle so I just stuck those wipes in my purse. I was lucky with my tearing- I just had one first degree tear and another one too small to even get a degree designation. I think my skin is quite stretchy because I didn't get stretch marks either. I was very sore for about 3 days, rather sore for another 3-4, and honestly felt pretty great after that. By the time we took Landon home from the NICU (12 days post-partum), I had been feeling totally normal for several days. I do wonder if my recovery was quicker because I didn't have a baby to take care of. When we weren't visiting him, I was resting in my hospital bed, and even when we were with him, I was just sitting in a chair next to his isolette. There's also nothing like worrying about someone else to make you forget or minimalize your own pain. So having a baby in the "Special Care Nursery" (Northwestern's euphemism for the NICU) is probably a positive thing for your physical recovery- not that I'd recommend it or ever want to use that method again.

As far as the weight goes, I was at +41 lbs the day I went into labor. I'm now +11. It's amazing how much of that weight must have just been fluid. My wedding rings fit the day after delivery and I tried on every single pair of shoes last week and they all fit (thank goodness!). I'm pretty much wearing normal tops and maternity bottoms- it's very comfy and I'm really not that excited about trying on my old jeans again. I've grown quite attached to the cute jeans with the stretchy waist band. Sitting in the library was so much more comfortable with those on- they were like jean PJ pants. My stomach is still quite squishy and I find it unbelievable that it will ever return to its original size, but we'll see. Luckily, I have all of Fall, Winter, and Spring before I even have to think of wearing a bikini again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Full-Time Parenting

Landon's been home for 3 nights now. My mom left yesterday (she's coming back in 2 weeks, otherwise I might have refused to drive her to the airport), so last night was JP and my first night on our own. All in all things are going really well. We love having him here- we spend a lot of time just sitting and smiling at him while he sleeps in his papasan chair. He was always swaddled in the NICU and we've found he really prefers to sleep that way (prefers as in, he won't sleep unless he's swaddled) so we swaddle him and then stick him in the papasan chair. He's quite cozy and sleeps a solid 4 hours between meals that way.


The first night was rough- he had been on Enfamil with Iron in the nursery and chose Thursday night to stop tolerating it, get gassy, and cry any second he wasn't being held and bounced. My mom stayed up with him until 2:30am, I stayed with him from 2:30-5:30, and JP was with him from 5:30 until he left for work. Luckily we already had a pediatrician appointment for Friday morning (preemies have to be seen within 48 hours of leaving the NICU) and she suggested soy formula. I really like our pediatrician- she's obviously very knowledgeable, but she seems quite practical as well. She introduced herself to Landon (sounds silly, but I liked it) and he behaved much better for her than he did for us the night before! He has put some weight back on (he's back up to 7 lbs. 1 oz after getting down to 6 lb 10 oz) and he has a follow up appointment Tuesday to check his weight again. He's been doing great on the soy formula and Friday night my mom stayed up with him anytime he woke up so that we could get a solid's night rest before we were on our own- she must be exhausted, but we really appreciated it! He seems to have his nights and days confused- his deep sleep is during the day and his lighter sleeping and awake time are at night. Now that he's able to eat more he's sleeping better at night- he still likes to be held, but we just put him on our chest and sleep in the recliner. Today we went on our first walk and his eyes were wide open the whole time. It was a beautiful day in Chicago and hopefully we can get his "awake time" to be during daylight hours!


I've already watched more TV and movies in the past 2 days than I did all summer. The Godfather I, II, and III were on TV Friday so my mom and I watched the whole trilogy. Last night JP and I watched the Bourne Identity and Supremacy (mom's babysitting when she comes back so that we can go see the Ultimatum). I'm filling out his baby book and going through all the pictures we've taken over the past few days. I look at him and still find it rather amazing that I made him and that he's ours forever- I'm pretty adjusted to the fact that I have a newborn, but the idea that I'll also have a toddler, young child, and teenager surprises me. JP's already concerned that Landon is growing up too fast (he's very attached to his baby boy), but I'm excited to see who he becomes as he grows. I wonder how much of ourselves we'll see in him.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

He's Home

After 12 days in the NICU, Landon is finally home with us! He and his daddy are napping on the couch while my mom and I wait for our dinner to be delivered. It's been tough 12 days, but we have amazing family and friends (and blogging friends) that have really helped us get through it. He's slept in his papasan chair, drank from his first non-hospital bottle, and been changed on his snazzy changing table. It's strange not being able to turn to a nurse for approval for each step, but I think we'll get along okay. And I don't think two parents have ever been so excited about getting up for a nighttime feeding :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

There's Talk of Going Home!

Yesterday Landon had a day full of eating, sleeping, and being ridiculously cute without one de-sat! I just talked to his night nurse and last night was de-sat free as well, so we're now on Day 3 of 5 and it looks like we'll get to take him home on Thursday! I spoke with his doctor yesterday and she's so happy with his progress- she started talking about the steps we'll take before he's discharged. I could barely pay attention because I was so excited to hear the word "discharge" again- they stopped saying it for a few days there. Today he'll be circumcised and Wednesday he'll get his Hepatitis shot and have his car seat check (they put all preemies in their car seat for one hour to make sure they tolerate it well and are fully supported).

It's been a long 10 days, but hopefully we're nearing the end!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Emotional Meltdown

After hearing and reading so many stories of other parents whose babies had to stay in NICU for any amount of time, I started to think it was odd I hadn't cried yet. Pretty much every email I get tells me of a mother who cried all night when she came home babyless, but I haven't shed a tear- or even felt a need to. He improves a little everyday, and while it sucks that he's in NICU, that's where he needs to be and there's not a whole lot we can do about it except enjoy every second we're with him.

And then yesterday, in the Foodlife restaurant of Water Tower Place mall, over a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes, I lost it. With almost no warning tears just started running down my face- totally alarming JP. I think that now that Landon is doing better, (he had no de-sats yesterday or last night!) I could let myself break down and feel upset, angry, sad, and cheated over the fact that he'll have been in the NICU for nearly two weeks before he gets to come home and we get to really be his parents. I allowed myself to think about what it would have been like to bring him home last Tuesday when we were discharged- it seems like he's already changed so much from the day he was born, and I feel like we're missing it. He still barely feels like he's mine- I look to the nurse for permission to pick him up even though I don't have to. Yesterday I found myself wondering that if there were 100 babies all lined up, would I know which one was mine? JP seems like such a natural at everything- he's so comfortable with Landon's diaper changes, feeding, burping, and swaddling- and is perfectly happy to spend hours by his crib just looking at him. I feel bad that I get bored after a while and need breaks.

Looking back, it's been a tougher week than I thought while going through it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

One Week

It alternates between being amazing to me that it's already been a week and that it's only been a week since Landon was born. It doesn't seem like very long ago that I was still pregnant and counting down the days until his due date, but JP and I are such NICU regulars now that it feels like we've been spending our days there forever. We have an assigned locker, we know everyone at the front desk, we have our favorite nurses, we know the shift change schedule, and we know the names (and cries) of all the babies in his nursery. Landon and one other baby boy are the only ones who remain from our first night- the other 4 beds have been changed up. I try not to get too jealous when I see another couple bring in their car seat to take their baby home.

Yesterday, like the few before it, was a day of progress and set-backs. His bilirubin levels went back up, so he's back on the blue bililights. However because he's getting so active and eating so well, they gave him the glow worm bililight that just goes on his back under his t-shirt. So this time we can still pick him up and hold him as much as we want (under the big bililights he could only be out of his crib 1 hour a day). He had a few de-sats over Friday night and into Saturday morning and a big de-sat yesterday afternoon- he went down to about 70% and turned very blue/grey. It took some stiff reminders to get him to breathe, although he was able to return to 86% without the oxygen mask. So I think we're now pushed back to at least Thursday for when he can come home- we're now just thinking anytime before the end of next weekend is pretty good.

On the plus side, his doctor said she felt that he sounded better without his nasal cannula in- that the amount of oxygen he's getting is so low that it may be getting in the way of his breathing more than it's helping him. So at 2pm the cannula were taken out and we got to see his handsome face free of tubes for the first time! I just talked to the nurse this morning and she said he had a few small de-sats last night, but each time he came up on his own and didn't require any hands-on intervention like he did yesterday afternoon. He's eating like a champ and has brief periods where he's so awake and active- we have so much fun just sitting and staring at him all day.

JP is going back to work tomorrow. He'll be working reduced hours and hopefully leaving by 4pm (he's an investment banker- that's very reduced), but I think that's going to make things quite a bit harder. So far we've been doing fine with it just being the two of us- we sit in awe of his cuteness, keep each other company while he's sleeping, and take breaks to walk around outside together when we need it. He's so in love with his little boy- he keeps me from getting down about the fact that we're still in the NICU because he's so excited to see Landon whenever we're there, the circumstances of how we're seeing him just don't matter very much to him. My mom arrives on Wednesday. We thought we were timing her arrival to be after Landon comes home and right around when JP goes back to work. Now it looks like she'll be hanging out in the NICU with me and I'm so glad she'll be there.

At least I have my Harry Potter book to keep me company while Landon is sleeping. Amazon is supposed to delivery my pre-ordered copy, but we're never home and don't have a doorman so I knew it would be a while before I actually got my hands on it. I bought another copy at the hospital book store and I'm reading it slowly to savor the last of Harry Potter's magical world. I've talked to Landon about the basic plot line and I'm sure he's looking forward to hearing more details when he's older and we can read all the books together.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Day 6: Bumps in the Road

Like I did the other day, here's the e-mail I just sent out to family/friends to update them on Landon's progress. I'm off to bed, but I know there are people reading the blog to find out what he's doing, so I wanted to keep you in the loop as well. It's so comforting to know there are so many people out there thinking and praying for us- even so many that I've never met! The internet can be such a lovely thing.
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Hello all,

Yesterday we were concerned about Landon's episodes of de-saturation (de-sats) where his oxygen saturation would go down and he'd turn blue until the nurse put the oxygen mask near his face. Every time he has an "episode", the clock restarts for five days until he can come home. We were hoping yesterday would be the end of them, but when we called his nurse at 8am we found out that he had several episodes over last night and one already this morning. Obviously, this was incredibly disappointing- we were so encouraged by his progress the past few days- I think that was keeping us going. We headed out for the NICU to spend another day by his isolette feeling a little down- it was starting to sink in that it could be many more days of driving back and forth and leaving him each night.

Luckily there was some good news. We spoke with the doctor after we arrived and she didn't seem worried about his de-sats. She felt they were just bumps along the road of him learning how to breathe on his own- apparently he hasn't quite figured out that breathing is not optional and that yes, he must do it all the time. It's tough learning all these rules of surviving in the outside world! He de-satted twice this morning while he was sleeping, but each time he only needed a little nudge to remind him to take a deep breath (no oxygen mask required). This afternoon he did great- no de-sat episodes, even during his feedings and some pretty deep sleeping. We'll call his nurse again to hear how he's doing before we go to bed.

Other bits of progress: he was moved out of his isolette and into a regular crib this morning. His temperature stayed regulated so the isolette was officially taken away! He also had his IV removed (it was turned off yesterday, but they left it in just in case) so he has one less attachment. He's getting quite squirmy so I'm sure he's enjoying his increased freedom. JP and I spend most of the day just sitting by his crib watching him move around in his sleep- he's getting so much more active, it's incredibly entertaining. Now that he's doing so much better and is off the bilirubin lights, we get to be a lot more involved in his care- we fed him his bottles, burped him (our favorite photo ops), and changed his diapers throughout the day. We also spend far too much time staring at the numbers on his monitor, holding our breath every time the oxygen saturation number starts to go down. The nurse threatened to turn off the monitor if we didn't stop watching (she has her own viewer), so we're trying not to fixate on it.

JP actually just called the night nurse and he's doing great- no de-sat episodes! Hopefully we'll hear the same when we call in the morning, but as he's shown us since the moment he decided to arrive- Landon is pretty much in charge of his own timeline. As always we're thankful that we're just waiting for when he's ready to come home and not worrying about the if. Send thoughts of 96% saturation his way!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Today was a little tougher than yesterday. The separation and the driving home from the NICU without Landon are starting to wear on me. He's still doing great- he was taken down to Level 1 of breathing assistance, the bilirubin lights are gone because his jaundice is under control, his IV was turned off, and he's drinking quite a lot of formula. On the downside, the bradycardia episodes he had the other night, the ones we were hoping to blame on the CPAP machine, happened again- this time without a CPAP machine as a scapegoat. He also had two "de-sats" where his oxygen saturation levels plummeted and he started to turn blue- the nurse put an oxygen mask near his face and the levels quickly returned to normal, but it was still a little scary (it happened once while I was holding him). He has to go five full days without any episodes of bradycardia or de-saturation before he'll be discharged, so it was sad to have another day tacked on to his stay. However, if he's randomly turning blue, we definitely want him in the NICU and not in our apartment. I can picture us hovering over him with a flashlight at night to check his coloring- hell, we may be doing that anyway.

Alright, on to me... My milk came in Tuesday night. Very Bizarre- instantly rock hard, Pamela Anderson sized, supremely sensitive boobs. I've been living in a sports bra with breast pads and holding bags of frozen food to my chest while I sleep. There have been several varieties of frozen foods: I had purchased frozen peas for this event, but JP was so tired that first night when I asked him to grab them for me that I ended up sleeping with one bag of frozen peas and one bag of frozen chopped onions. I woke up smelling quite flavorful. Last night I somehow ended up with a bag of frozen peas and a bag of Trader Joe's vegetable fried rice. Who knows what frozen delicacies I'll clutch to my chest tonight.

The recovery hasn't been too bad. I was very sore and swollen for the first 2-3 days, but I was obsessed with those pad-like ice packs that the hospital had and they helped so much. Now I feel fine when I'm up and walking around- the only thing that is still uncomfortable is when I transition from sitting to standing and vice versa. My stomach is quite jiggly, but it's so much smaller than it was at 8 months pregnant that I feel almost skinny (despite not being anywhere close to fitting into my old jeans).

I got an exciting e-mail today- Chicago Firm has decided to pay me my summer associate salary through August 3rd (my anticipated last day)! I only worked there for 2 weeks, but I'm getting paid for 5! I was stunned- I never expected that. We were kind of counting on having that money available over the next year, so there was a lot of relief mixed in with the shock and happiness.

It's so strange to not be pregnant anymore, but not have a baby at home. I feel like a half-parent. JP and I are by his isolette all day in NICU, but we have nice lunches together and get lots of sleep at night. I came to terms with the fact that he wasn't coming home with us, but the days don't go by near quick enough. Every little set back is so hard to take- the nursery is all ready now and we just can't wait until he's here with us. Overall he's progressing so well- we're just trying to stay positive and hold on to that. We're really very lucky- we know he's going to be fine- there's no if, only when.

Landon Update- Day 4


The following is an e-mail I just sent out to family and friends regarding Landon's progress- there's more I'd like to say in this blog post (for example, my milk came in last night- quite an interesting experience), but it's late and I'm exhausted, so I'll chat about that tomorrow.
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Greetings,

Landon has had a fantastic last 2 days!! In the last email he was still on "Level 7" of breathing assistance and I wrote that the doctors were hoping to take him down to a 6 this morning. Well, he ended up going to a 6 last night and this morning jumped down to a 4- this means he was taken off the giant CPAP machine (that he Hated) and just has nasal cannula instead (little tubes in his nose- much less invasive). He was on the "high flow cannula" this morning and when we visited this afternoon he was already down to the "low flow cannula" and his oxygen volume had been decreased - he's now on Level 2! He also made the big step to taking formula from a bottle, so his stomach tube has been removed! He's turned out to be a voracious eater (much like his dad) so they've doubled his formula volume and, because he was getting so cranky having to wait 4 hours, he's now feeding "on demand". He still has his IV in place to supplement his bottle feedings, but the nurse felt it would be removed in the morning. He remained on the phototherapy all day for the jaundice (that's why some of the pictures have a bizarre blue tint to them), but that will be turned off tomorrow at 6am. He should also be moved out of his isolette and into a normal crib sometime tomorrow.

We visited him several times today. [JP] did the kangaroo time with him at noon and Landon was very busy looking around while laying on his daddy's chest. Now that he's doing so much better we can fully understand how bad he was doing those first two days when all he could do was heave his chest trying to breathe. Now he squirms around, stretches his arms and legs, and (finally!) opens his eyes to look around. We also heard him cry for the first time- I don't think we'll ever be that happy again to hear him wail. We went back to see him this evening and I got to give him the last few ounces of a bottle (I also had the honor of changing his diaper for the first time that morning). We stuck around for his next bottle and spent the 2.5 hours until then looking at him sleep, wake up, explore, and sleep again. It was wonderful to see him so active! We were there for his "hands-on check" at 9pm so we saw him get weighed (he's down to 6lb 14 oz, but that'll go up again now that he's on formula), measured, and have his diaper changed. I got to give him another bottle, which he devoured. He was then so exhausted that the burping process was kind of a lost cause- he just fell into a baby food coma and we eventually gave up and let him lay down. (The picture clearly shows his "Why won't you leave me alone and let me sleep?" opinion of the whole burping process).

So everything is going really well- his hopeful discharge date remains Monday because he had a few episodes of apnea and bradycardia (sharply decreased heart rate) last night. The doctors think that was just because of the CPAP machine (something with the tubes getting in the way of measurements), but they want to watch him for at least 4 nights to make sure it doesn't happen again before he's sent home to us. [JP] and I are doing fine- we're so thrilled about his progress each time we have to say goodbye that it makes the parting quite bearable. We'll be back in the NICU all day tomorrow- I get to kangaroo and [JP] will give him a bottle. I've added a bunch more pictures online as well as a few video clips. You can really see how active he's getting!

Thanks again for everyone's emails- the upside of leaving the NICU after each visit with Landon is that we get to check our email and read your messages :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Law School Intrusion

Yesterday, in between midwife visits, vitals checks, and visiting the NICU, I received an email about my student loans for next year. Apparently I had screwed something up on the application (which I manage to do in some way every year) and had to reapply for all my loans. It was the first email I've gotten since Sunday from someone who didn't know I'd just had a baby- it was strange to realize that the rest of the world is just going about it's business. I corresponded with the very helpful financial aid advisor, re-filled out all my forms, and received confirmation that my tuition would be covered when classes begin in the Fall. Every time I replied to her I was tempted to mention that I was writing the email from a hospital bed, but I resisted. Besides, she may have seen my absolute failure to ever apply for loans properly as a bad indicator of my ability to care for another human being.

Home and Babyless, but Smiling

Today has been a great day for Landon. When I last posted I was about to go down for some Kangaroo time with him. It was amazing to have him on my chest like that- I could feel him relax as we lay there together. His arms were stretched out across me and his breathing stayed nice and slow... I'm not sure I've ever been so happy. I think it was the first time I really felt like his mother- I finally felt like I was doing something to help him intead of watching other people take care of him. He also got his first bit of formula- he still can't take a bottle because he's too busy breathing, but they used a syringe to put some in the tube going to his stomach. His little mouth opened and closed while the nurse was giving it to him- I think he knew he was getting something tastier than IV fluids. He'll continue getting three ounces every three hours through the tube until his breathing is much closer to normal.

I was discharged, so we went down to visit him at 4pm before we drove back to the apartment. We got more good news- his oxygen was at 21% (the lowest they'll put it at) and his breathing rate was in the range of normal (about 40-50 breaths a minute). The nurse thought the doctors might reduce him to a Level 6 today after all. It was a tough leaving the NICU to head home without him- I got a little choked up- but we'd had enough time to adjust to the idea and really we were just so excited over his progress that we couldn't stop smiling anyway.

We talked to his nurse at 9:30pm tonight and got even more good news- the doctors took him down to Level 6 and there's talk of taking him off the CPAP machine and just using the nasal cannula tomorrow- that's Level 4! We're still thinking it'll be next Monday when he can come home (no one's told us to adjust that expectation yet, and I'd rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed), but he's a scrapper (as JP constantly says) and we're so excited that he's doing so well. We'll be back to visit in the morning and we get some more Kangaroo time at noon!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Really Good Night

Last night JP and I went down to say goodnight to Landon at about 9:30pm. The nurse said he was doing better than expected and had a great afternoon. We asked when we could hold him again and she suggested Kangaroo Care. JP took off his shirt and they placed Landon, tubes and all, on his chest for some skin-to-skin cuddling contact. It was amazing. His breathing, which had been hovering at around 90-100 breaths per minute went down to 30-50 bpm. They were able to turn his oxygen percentage down from the 36% to 25% (after his bad first night it had been all the way up at 53)! It was incredible seeing him so calm and happy- it was our first time to see him without a heaving chest. We had a family picture taken and sat blissfully for nearly two hours. When we got back up to my room I got to take a shower for the first time- a truly glorious event.

It was a wonderful evening- seeing him do so well and getting to really hold him made our separation so much easier to bear. Now that we have had time to accept the fact he won't be going home with us, we're much better at just enjoying the time we spend with him and looking forward to his discharge day- whenever it arrives. We had a quick visit this morning- his respiration and oxygen numbers have continued to stay down (yay!), but his bilirubin levels have gone up due to some jaundice. He'll be under the blue lights for the next couple of days to help his body break down the bilirubin (his liver isn't quite up to the task yet and usually digesting food helps, but he's still purely on the IV). We'll go down again at noon and I get to be the kangaroo!

Monday, July 16, 2007

NICU update (updated)

~ 7am: We found out last night that Landon's lungs hadn't improved- he's basically walking the line between needing further intervention (intubation) or just staying on the respirator a little while longer before they can start weaning him off it. Even if he picks the good side right now, and they can start reducing the oxygen they're giving him, it'll be at least one week before he can come home and quite realistically two or more weeks. I'm really sad.

Update at 1pm: We visited Landon twice this morning- after the first visit it sounded like they were going to intubate because he had a difficult night and now needed 53% pure oxygen rather than the 20-22% he was on yesterday. After breakfast we went back down and were able to talk with the NICU attending. She said he was improving (now at 32% oxygen) and they were going to watch him very closely, but they had not made the decision to intubate at that time. If he makes it through this evening without that step then it probably means he's on the road to improvement (though it might be a long road- tubing him might actually make the recovery shorter but it's quite a bit more invasive so they want to avoid it). He's still breathing far too rapidly- over 100x/minute rather than the usual 30-60. You can see the dents in his chest from working so hard. We'll go visit again this afternoon- it's hard just seeing him a couple of times a day, but we're trying to balance our desire to see him with the fact that our visits get him worked up and breathing faster (although I know he likes holding our hand- which you can see in the picture- it's hard to get him to let go when we leave). Once his breathing has relaxed and he's really improving we can spend more time with him.

It's been tough- I only feel like half a parent. I think I'm still in a bit of shock that this whole thing happened and not having him around to constantly remind me that I'm a mother makes it even less real. He's being (well) cared for the NICU team and I'm just a visitor. I know the connection will grow when I can hold him and spend more time with him, but for now when I see him laying there I have to continually remind myself that he's my son. I think JP feels a stronger bond than I do- maybe because he wasn't able to be close to the baby until now. I had the little guy squirming around in my belly for eight months- he actually feels less "mine" now than he did before. The timeline for his homecoming is looking at just over a week- best case scenario. I'm glad he's in such good care, but I can't wait until he's in my care.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Landon's Labor & Delivery Story

I really wanted to write down my labor story- mostly for my own memories, but also for anyone else wondering about one person's experience. It was just last night, but it already feels like so long ago. All the times are approximate and I may edit this as I remember more details.

Sat, July 14 - Sun, July 15
7:45pm: My water breaks in the Big Bowl chinese restaurant. I page my OB/midwife practice and get a phone call back telling me to come straight to the hospital. JP says something to the waiter about his wife being in labor and we jump in a cab.

8:20pm: We're in the Labor Evaluation Unit. My water is confirmed to have broken (and is in fact running down my legs and pooling in my shoes). I have no noticeable contractions and will be started on pitocin to get things going (once the water breaks you need to have the baby within about 24 hours). I am in some form of shock that this is actually happening right now- I'm quite hung up on the fact that I don't have a bag packed. JP is calm and excited.

8:40pm: I call a good friend of mine who lives nearby. She comes to sit with me while JP and her husband drive to our apartment to get my camera and a few other necessities. I get taken to my (huge) labor and delivery room. I'm now hooked up to penicillin (I hadn't made it to the 37-week appointment where they test you for Group B Strep), pitocin, and IV fluids. My contractions have started, but they pretty much just feel like cramps and are very irregular- I can (and do!) talk through them pretty easily. My midwife arrives and talks me through what might happen over the next several hours. I also meet my labor and delivery nurse who I really like.

10:00pm: JP gets back from our apartment and my friends leave. I can definitely feel the contractions now and they are getting more regular. I've already spoken with the anesthesiologist about getting an epidural when the pain gets too intense, so knowing that will be coming is very comforting.

11:45pm: I decide it's time for the epidural. My contractions are regular and intense- I can get through them, but I really can't imagine continuing to do so for an unknown number of hours. JP has to leave the room for the procedure, which is convenient since the dinner he ordered has finally arrived. I get the spinal/epidural block. It's totally painless except for the initial numbing shots and the relief is almost immediate. I can still feel and move my legs, and I'm still very aware that I'm having a contraction, but that painful edge is gone. I also get a catheter since I'm now confined to the bed until the baby is born- that process is completely painless and I actually start thinking that one of those would have been nice over the last few weeks when I was getting up every 2 hours at night to pee.

12:00am: I get my first internal exam- I'd been warned that my progress could be slow because my water broke without contractions and I was a first-time mother. But to everyone's surprise I'm 100% effaced and 6 cm dilated!

~2:00am: My contractions are getting downright painful, even through the epidural. I'm examined and it turns out I'm 9.5cm dilated already. We decide that I should get another dose of the epidural meds to get me through the last 0.5cm. This will also allow me to rest for a little while (you usually can't push right after getting a dose because your pain is numbed too much). JP falls asleep immediately and I try but spend most of the time in a semi-sleep-state dreaming about climbing up and falling back down a mountain.

4am-5am: I'm awake again and feeling more intense contractions, now with increasing rectal pressure because the baby's head is descending. The epidural is still doing it's job, but I'm definitely looking forward to the end- I want to meet my son and I really want to get some sleep. The contractions just won't stop- as soon as one ends I know another is beginning soon. I can't get comfortable. My midwife comes in- I'm a full 10 cm dilated and the head is engaged.

5:30am: Time to start pushing. This is really intense- the epidural seems to have disappeared. My L&D nurse is on my right, JP is on my left, and my midwife is in the middle. We leave the bed intact (most doctors shorten the bed and put your feet up in paddles), the lights down low, and everything is really quiet. My midwife talks me through the contractions and pushing, and JP and the nurse offer encouragement. JP was so amazing during the whole experience- he knew just how to encourage me without annoying me (tough at that point). Each push burns and stings more than anything has ever burnt or stung me before- my midwife called it pushing through a ring of fire and that sounds about right. I'm surprised to find that I feel discouraged even though it's only been about 15 minutes- this part is harder than I thought it would be. My midwife is encouraging me and JP tells me he can see the head. That motivates me again- I want this to be done and I'm so excited about meeting my baby. About 2 contractions later- with several pushes within each contraction- I hear my midwife say "keep pushing for the shoulders." At first I think she is just trying to encourage me (I must have missed everyone telling me the head was out), but the next thing I know there is a baby laying on my chest! It's incredible- absolutely incredible.

6:04 am: His official birth time. I get to hold him for a few moments and then he's taken away by the NICU team. I have two 1st degree tears my midwife is stitching up. I then deliver the placenta, which wouldn't hurt too much except that the thought of anything coming out of that area is somewhat horrifying. There's a little more pressure and then it's all over.

At about 8 am we meet our nurse from the recovery floor and stop by the NICU on our way up to the new room. Landon looks so tiny in his isolette all hooked up to different machines. We touch and comfort him the best we can and then go up to our new room and pass out.

Introducing Landon

Here he is! All 7 lbs. 7 ounces, 20.5 inches of him! I'm going to do a separate post about the labor and delivery, but it went really well (and really quickly!). They turned up my epidural so I could get some sleep before pushing- I got about 2 hours and then he was born at 6:04am. Unfortunately his lungs aren't fully matured so they whisked him off to NICU almost immediately after he was born. I was able to hold him briefly- I looked him in the eyes and couldn't believe he was mine and that he was who I had been carrying around for eight months.

He's still in NICU and will be there until at least Tuesday morning- and will possibly have to stay after we are discharged Tuesday afternoon. I really hope that doesn't happen- I'm sad that he isn't in the room with us. We head down to his nursery at 2pm- we've visited him several times, but this will be the first time we can try to hold him so we're really excited about that. He looks so lonely in the NICU bed, but his respirations are still really fast and I'm glad that he's being cared for down there.

I still can't really believe we have a baby- I'm so happy, nervous, exhausted, and happy again. It's been such a journey- the whole process is pretty incredible.

Surprise!

So JP and I attended our 8 hour "Great Expectations" class this morning. We learned all about the different stages of labor, various ways of managing pain, post-partnum recovery, and newborn basic care. We also got a tour of the hospital and learned what to expect on the big day. After the class, during which JP spent much of his time making fun of the people in the 80's era videos, we decided that since our parking was paid for the next 24 hours we might as well spend some time downtown. I'd been wanting to see the new Harry Potter movie and we managed to get tickets to a show starting in twenty minutes. The movie was good- though I thought the 3rd and 4th were better. We then walked to a chinese restaurant for dinner. We had just ordered our drinks and appetizers when suddenly I felt a gush of liquid. I went to the bathroom and saw that everything was soaked- and I now had liquid running down my legs. I went back to the table and calmly (through the shock) informed JP that my water had broken. I left the restaurant (there was now a lot of liquid running down my legs), left JP to explain what just happened to the waiter, and called my midwife. Because I'm a full four weeks early she said we needed to go directly to the hospital. JP ran out a few seconds later (apparently the restaurant wrote off our bill) and we hopped in a cab back to the place we had just left a few hours earlier.

So here I am in labor & delivery. I was admitted immediately as my water had most definitely broken, but I couldn't feel any contractions yet. I'm hooked up to a few IVs (one with pitocin) and am waiting for the contractions to become more regular so I can get my epidural. The last few have been quite intense (enough to where I'm thinking women who don't get epidurals are incredible- and possibly a bit insane), so that glorious event will probably be soon.

I'm pretty much in shock. This is early. He's officially premature (though only by 5 days, so he should be fine). I'm supposed to work for 3 more weeks- and get 3 more weeks of paychecks. His baby clothes are all over his bed. His mobile hasn't arrived. I never packed a hospital bag. I didn't read this chapter of my pregnancy books. But I'm also excited- we get to meet our son sometime in the next 24 hours! And in my next post- so will you!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

36 Weeks and a Kielbasa Update

Today I begin Week 37. Apparently my son can be born anytime between now and 6 weeks from now- don't you love the narrow window for such a huge event? We've got the nursery pretty much arranged. It has furniture (that has been assembled), lots of toys (including two train sets JP insisted on purchasing and spent last night "testing out"), and a large stuffed Bevo (UT's longhorn mascot). There are lots of clothes that I washed yesterday and am planning to put in bins today. We ended up purchasing the Trofast storage system from Ikea over the weekend. The baby's bedding is all primary colors and we were able to get blue, red, and green bins to go in the Trofast unit. It looks really cute and seems practical- I can just toss his onesies, socks, toys, etc. in a bin. When he gets older we'll buy a proper dresser and just use the bins for all the toys I'm sure he will possess by then (being the first grandchild on both sides and all). His sheets and mobile should arrive in the mail any day. We've got two brands of bottles ready to test out. There are diapers in the diaper stacker. The envelopes for the baby announcements are addressed and stamped. I'm dividing my leftover time between staring longingly at the August calendar and enjoying my time with JP in the new apartment (oh, and working at the Firm).

My Kielbasa toes and ankles look a bit better today. Last night they were of epic proportions and I was experiencing "pitting edema" where you poke your ankle and the indention remains for a few seconds. That freaked out JP and I was ordered to call my midwife. She asked me all the preeclampsia questions and said the swelling was most likely normal "4-weeks to go + July heat" type swelling, but if I get a headache I need to come in for a blood pressure check. I remain headache free, so I'm just trying to enjoy the fact that I get to wear rubber flip flops to the office. I've gained 38 lbs., which is more than I was hoping, but I think at least 3 lbs. of it is in each foot. JP refers to "the belly" as if it is an independent thing that just happens to accompany me everywhere, and a lot of the time, that's pretty much how I feel about it. It still surprises me to look down and see it sticking out like that. It's easy to forget how "natural" pregnancy is- a lot of it is really quite bizarre.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Honoring the Legal Secretary

No one at my Chicago Firm has been more concerned about my "condition" than the legal secretaries in the office. My back was really hurting by the end of last week. I mentioned it to two secretaries who had come into my office to say hello and they sprang into action. One got a bouncy ball she had sat on while she was pregnant- that helped quite a bit after all the unpacking and organizing I had been doing at the new apartment. Another went to Staples last night, found a back rest to put on my chair, sought approval to purchase it, and placed it on my desk chair as a surprise for me this morning. I am so grateful for their help and concern. I don't have a working relationship with a legal secretary yet (I'm pretty sure half the projects I do are ones normally handed out to the attorney's secretary), but I know mine will be an invaluable resource one day and I look forward to repaying him or her with the same kindness these secretaries have shown me.

A Brief Rant

I don't post about politics nearly as much as I think or talk about it- mostly because I find it difficult to express my fury and disgust with this administration in an eloquent manner. Every headline and news article I read just makes me more cynical about politicians in general and this administration in particular. I shudder to think of all the behind-the-scenes, unconstitutional crap that is going on (interesting how Cheney always seems to be involved where basic rights have been trampled on, yet he's never accountable and he's pretty much in control of Bush, yet he's always wrong). I was raised Christian and am still very much a believer in my religion, but it drives me crazy that religion has so captured the national government- things like science, constitutional rights/truths, and law should not be at the mercy of right wing evangelists. Which brings me to what prompted this post. In an article on cnn.com, the most recent surgeon general of the US (Dr. Carmona) talks about how the government actively interfered with his work. He wasn't allowed to publish a paper about global health challenges and his speeches were edited to remove any mention of sex education beyond purely advocating abstinence. The article talks about a SG under Raegan, Dr. Koop, who "is probably the most recognized former surgeon general. He talked about AIDS as a public health issue rather than a moral issue, which won him many admirers and some critics. He said President Reagan was pressed to fire him every day, but Reagan would not interfere." I think if the AIDS outbreak occurred during Bush's presidency, the SG would never have been able to talk about it as a health issue- and that is really sad (and scary).

JP's blog, The Rational Republican, has a lot of the ranting I would be doing if I had the energy. We're on different ends of the political spectrum, but the Bush presidency has done a lot to push us together since he's as disgusted as I am. Someday, if there's a good Republican president (i.e. one who believes in the Republican ideals we learned in high school government and not one bent on taking over the world, squashing civil liberties, pardoning his buddies, and being the nation's religious leader), we'll have a lot more debating going on at home- now there's just agreement and sad shaking of the head.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Looking Like Kielbasas

A little background: While on our cross-country road trip between Austin and Chicago, JP and I were determined to stop for a nice dinner. We needed a real break from the car and the firm was paying our travel expenses. Unfortunately there is nothing in the way of fine dining between Illinois and Texas- somehow on both of our car trips we ended up having dinner at the Perkins restaurant in Blytheville, Arkansas. Both times I had a satisfying meal of pancakes, and both times we marveled at the "Manly Breakfast Platter" complete with not one, not two, but FOUR types of sausage. One of those four varieties was the imposing "kielbasa sausage" and when I looked at my fingers this morning, those kielbasas were precisely what came to mind.

So I now have my first real nuisance of a third-trimester symptom: swelling. After wearing high heels and skirts during my 5-week internship in Texas, I'm now hiding my ever fattening ankles with pants and barely squeezing my feet into flip flops. So far no one at work has commented on my less than professional footwear and I'm really hoping they don't- I vastly prefer heels and don't want to buy wide, flat work shoes that I'll only wear for the next 4 weeks. I have some nice looking sandals and with the pants they're barely noticeable anyway. I tried to wear boots yesterday and even though I had on JP's large socks, they left a rather deep impressions in my ankles after only 20 minutes. I'd be alarmed except that I have no other signs of preeclampsia, my blood pressure is normal, and according to every pregnancy authority, swelling is to be expected this late in the game.

Just now I noticed that my toes are swelling and touching each other. I thought toes always touched, but they must not because I am suddenly very aware of their proximity. My ankles have no shape, they just bulge their way down to my foot. It's all very bizarre. Oh- and for the first time in my life, my thighs rub together when I walk. That has nothing to do with swelling and everything to do with my daily dessert eating, but I thought I'd throw it out there- it seems to fit with the "looking like kielbasas" theme of this post.

Sigh... only 4 weeks and 2 days to go until August 9th. I realize the due date is practically arbitrary as only about 10% of babies are born precisely on that day, but if I wake up on the 10th without a baby I'm going to be really upset. I keep reading that first babies are often late, but nothing will tell me how often and how late- any anecdotes? I figure a random sampling of blog readers is about as scientific as some of the official pregnancy articles out there on the internet.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Random Acts of Kindness

I was irritated by the apparent lack of courtesy in the world when I wrote yesterday's post, but I was reminded today that there are innumerable random acts of kindness going on all around me. I was stuck in horrendous traffic on North Avenue this afternoon when I saw a middle-aged city employee sweeping up garbage that had collected in the gutters. For those who don't live here, today was an unusually hot day for Chicago- my car thermometer insisted it was 106, but it was probably in the mid-nineties. So this man was working hard when I saw a young guy, probably in his early-twenties, walk up and offer him a cold bottle of water he had just bought at a market on the corner. It was such a little thing, but I felt so happy and touched seeing it. I started wondering if I'd ever do that- notice someone working hard at a hot job and buy them a drink. I usually walk right by- I'm polite and try to smile or say hello, but I can't say I've taken the extra steps of kindness that the passerby did.

Seeing that little scene reminded me of the commercial where people see others doing small acts of kindness for a stranger and then passing it on. I'm now determined to pass on a few acts myself.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Common Courtesy

I've always appreciated it when a man offers his seat to me on a bus or train. I never expect it and I nearly always say that I'm fine standing, but I think it's nice of them to do. (I'm a staunch believer in equality of the sexes, but I believe there's room for chivalry and courtesy amongst equality.) Now that I'm nearly 9 months pregnant I pretty much expect someone to offer me their seat on the crowded and hot buses and trains I take to and from work every day. So far someone has immediately offered one to me and each time I've gratefully taken it. This morning, however, I stood amongst SIX sitting men in their 20's and 30's on a crowded El and not a single one offered me their seat. Two stops later people were tightly pressed up against me and I was really getting uncomfortable. Finally an older woman saw me and offered me her seat- of all the people on that end of the train, the only other person who should be sitting down, got up! I felt bad accepting, but my back was already hurting and I had several stops left to go.

I understand that I'm not actually entitled to a seat, but I think it's common courtesy to offer yours to a largely pregnant woman if you are capable of standing. It's not just about men giving up their seats to a woman- I've offered my seat to someone who is elderly, pregnant, or otherwise looks like they need to sit down more than I do. I got to work seriously irritated at those men for looking at me and then looking back out the window. One more thing to add to my list of "things I want to teach my son".

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Mission Accomplished

We put in a full 10 hours of physical labor today and the apartment is finished. Not just unpacked, but organized, cleaned, and decorated- and it looks great! Everything ended up fitting pretty well and I think it's going to be a great place for us to live for the next year. JP even put together the crib and changing table in the nursery- we now have a place for our son to sleep! (Well, the crib is currently full of his other possessions while we wait to buy a set of shelves, but still it's there!). We also have our first bit of baby creep- I cleared out a shelf in the kitchen for the assorted baby feeding accessories we've received as shower gifts. So far all the baby stuff has been segregated in its own piles, so seeing bottles and baby spoons right next to our drinking glasses was strange (but a good/exciting kind of strange).

Now I'm just sitting here in our beautiful living room, reveling in the fact that there is nothing left for me to do except watch TV and cuddle with JP!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Overwhelming Chaos

I very rarely get overwhelmed. With the small exception of the entire second half of 1L year, I'm usually able to keep an upbeat attitude amidst to-do lists, deadlines, and general chaos. Returning home from Texas Sunday night to an unpacked apartment and non-existent nursery, with my family coming to visit this Friday, with a cracked car windshield, and starting a new job in 12 hours got me overwhelmed. I wanted to curl up in a ball, close my eyes, and make it all go away.

Monday didn't get much better. At some point during our cross-country drive (I think it might have been Missouri) a rock flew out from under a truck, directly at my face in the passenger seat, and cracked my windshield from top to bottom. Glass shards flew around the inside and outside of the car, but the middle layer of the windshield held strong (which is a really good thing since it was raining and we didn't want to have to find a car glass place in a really tiny midwest town). Once I recovered from the shock of seeing a rock fly at my face, I was pretty much just annoyed that now I had another item on my to-do list. At my first day of work yesterday I got a huge assignment with an urgent Thursday morning deadline- soooo not what I wanted to start with. I still managed to sneak out early with the intention of getting my car fixed. Unfortunately the el and buses were insanely slow and it took me nearly an hour to get home to my car, and then the traffic was terrible getting to the car place. I got there right when they were supposed to close and begged them (almost through tears) to take me anyway. They were awesome and did the job quickly, cheaply, and perfectly. If you ever need a a car glass place- Pilsen Auto Glass is your place. I then went to Target and Bed Bath & Beyond to spend a fortune on stuff to help organize our apartment. I got home at 8:30 totally exhausted and worked with JP to unpack until 11.

Today I got to the office really early to work through more of the awful assignment- it's on a confusing topic I know nothing about. I escaped for a doctor's appointment at 10 (everything looks great- blood pressure back to normal- kind of surprising giving the last few days). When I returned I found out the firm was "closing" at 3pm so everyone could start their holiday early. I had to stay until 5:30 anyway to get my assignment finished, but it is finished, and when I got home I decided the apartment wasn't so awful. We've definitely made progress and I now believe that someday I will come home from work, sit on the couch, and turn on the TV because there won't be a single thing for me to put away. I'm guessing I'll get a week of laziness, max, before our bouncing baby boy arrives to throw everything into chaos again.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Unpacking Update

Six boxes are unpacked and the place looks a little more livable, but my back is absolutely killing me. Eight months pregnant and sitting, bending, lifting, reaching, and all the other motions that come with unpacking do not go together very well. I have never, ever needed Motrin and a glass (or bottle) of wine more.

Overwhelmed

We're back in Chicago. The drive was fine except for the 3 hours it took to go the last 50 miles into the city- very frustrating to be so close and move so slow.

I am staring at the complete disaster that is our apartment and feeling completely overwhelmed. I can't imagine what JP faced during those first few days- he did a lot of work and it's still barely livable. I just got a "Week 35" update email from one of the pregnancy websites I signed up with in the early days and it says I should have my hospital bag packed. Packed? I have to spend at least the next 2 weeks unpacking. Usually a daunting to-do list launches me into action, but right now I just want to curl up in a little ball on the couch and cry. Except I can't because the couch is covered with stuff. Perhaps I'll clear myself a spot on the floor.