This has been in my drafts forever. Months, if not a year. Oh and this has a LOT of detail. Just to warn you. Well, not as much detail as some birth stories I've read but still a lot. Just to let you know. That means it's long and has many words. I'm sleepy.
I was talking to Shannon the other day and mentioned that I'd written down Nathan's birth story but never put it on the blog, since I started it when he was a toddler. I figured now's as good a time as any to share it, so I'm typing it up for you to enjoy or ignore at your leisure. I added a couple of things and comments, though, as I was typing.
Also, it's addressed to Nathan, since it's in a journal I started as sort of letters to him but unfortunately never kept up. Story of my life. Moving on. (but would I ever let him read this? I probably should
have even edited it for the blog, but that would have been more work and I figure most people who read it
have been through this before, and if you haven't, I apologize if it freaks you out or anything - although I really don't think it's that bad, it just makes me feel weird to think of my son reading it as is) Ok, now really moving on.
You were born on August 13, a Sunday, at 11:21 pm in a hospital. I did not realize that I was in labor from about 3 am that morning, but later decided that must have been the case. I started having slightly painful contractions about 4 to 6 times an hour at around that point. All day long they kept up at about that rate. I remember tensing up my legs and concentrating during contractions while we were sitting in Sunday school. At around 7 or 8 that evening, after we'd been at your great-grandparents' house for a couple of hours playing games, they started to get a lot more painful and closer together. We were playing Pit when I realized I was getting a contraction every round. I put my phone on the table so I could watch the time to keep track of them. After a bit we stopped playing pit and played Continental Rummy instead (we'd somehow got it into our heads that the stress of pit was making me have contractions). I watched my phone for nearly an hour but they were still coming like clockwork: every 3 to 4 minutes. I really should have called the doctor hours before, but as a first-time mom at only 31 weeks and change, it didn't even occur to me that something was wrong until that evening. At some point while we were playing I told Jared how close the contractions were to each other and he said I should probably lie down (I didn't know you're supposed to walk around to see if they stop, but fortunately I didn't because later whenever I got up the contractions only got worse) and see if they slowed down any. This is actually something we had been told four days earlier at our first Lamaze class. Anyway, I called your grandma (my mom) and talked to her for a little bit. The contractions did slow down, but some of them were more painful than before. I was having them every 5 to 6 minutes. When I told your grandma this, she said I should probably call the doctor and ask him what I should do - if I would need to get to the hospital. After I hung up with her, I called the doctor. However, when I was in the middle of answering his questions, intense worry combined with another contraction made me start crying so I handed the phone over to your dad. He answered the rest of the routine questions and hung up. I had no spotting and my water hadn't broken, plus you were still moving a little between contractions. I still didn't actually think I was in labor (modern day me here, I can't believe I still didn't think I was in labor. Holy cow what does it take?) and I knew that you, at least, were fine. We were about to go into the hospital (which we hadn't had time to visit yet, just to find out where labor and delivery was) when my grandpa asked if I wanted a blessing. I said that that would probably be a good idea. Your daddy gave me the blessing and said that whatever happened that night, you and I would be fine and that it was Heavenly Father's will. Your dad later told me that he had actually been prompted to say, "if he comes tonight, everything will be fine... etc." but he thought that might freak me out. He definitely got the distinct impression that you were probably coming that night.
Anyway, after that, we got in the car and drove down to the hospital. At that point, the contractions were getting even more painful and closer together and the pain was definitely making me cry. You would think that this would have tipped me off to what was happening, but I guess I was in denial, and the pain was too distracting for me to think clearly, anyway. As we got near the hospital, your daddy pulled into the closest parking lot only to find that we had to get to the other side of the medical campus. I may have yelled at him, or just yelled at the universe, but we eventually got to the right part of the hospital and while he went to park, I slowly walked inside and up to the security desk. I don't remember clearly everything that was said, but I clearly looked like I was pregnant and in pain so the security guard asked me if I was in labor. I felt so confused I wasn't sure what to say (again, what does it take?? Also, those of you who know me well know I hate to answer questions if the answer isn't cut and dry - which is a stupid habit, I know, especially in cases like these. Whatevs, I wasn't even 21 yet.) so I said I didn't know and almost started crying again. I turned around to see if your daddy was coming yet and there he was. Somehow we ended up in the elevator and went up to the labor and delivery floor. We were allowed in pretty quickly (there's a security camera and phone so they can beep you in, but I don't remember if they made us jump through that hoop or not - your dad thinks maybe the security guard called up while we were in the elevator, but we might remember that wrong). Anyway, we got checked in and I changed into the hospital gown. I sat in the bed and a couple of nurses came in, one to check to see how dilated I was, and another to ask your daddy about my medical history and about our insurance and stuff. The nurse checking me said in a slightly surprised voice that I was at 8 1/2 centimeters and that the baby was coming tonight! I felt so worried but was still pretty distracted by the pain. I remember I hated lying down (it hurt worse than sitting) and would have preferred to squat but they needed to monitor your heart rate. At some point they hooked me up to an I.V. (in my right hand, I still have a tiny scar from it) and I think that's when they told me if I wanted an epidural I had to decide NOW. I said I didn't know because I had wanted to try having you come without medication but it was also very painful. And as I had mentioned before, we had only been to one Lamaze class and I had no training on how to deal with labor pains so I could focus through them instead of just being blindsided by contractions. Anyway, your dad said I probably should (he has said several times since then that from what he can tell labor looks incredibly painful and why would you choose to feel that?) and that everything would be fine if I had an epidural (as in that nothing would go wrong like I thought it might). I think he was just very worried and wanted me to feel better. So I told them I wanted the epidural and they sent for the anesthesiologist. At some point before the guy came they asked me to lie down on my back, but when he did come, they wanted me to turn onto my side so he could get to my spine. I remember thinking that I wished they would make up their minds. They told me to hold very still for the shot but I was shaking too badly (a symptom of late labor, which I didn't know at the time). Your daddy and a nurse (or two?) tried to hold me still so the anesthesiologist could give me the spinal shot. I remember he said "little mosquito bite" before sticking me and then when he did it I said, "that was a mosquito bite?" It was a lot worse than he said but I didn't care anymore after a bit. It started kicking in shortly after.
Almost immediately after (seemed longer since everything still hurt) they wheeled me into a delivery room and had me get into the delivery "bed". I remember it being difficult to move because I was still in pain. With some help, however, I was able to get onto the bed and put my feet up. As soon as I was in the right position, Dr. Jacob(s?) broke my water. I was starting to get pretty numb. At first, your daddy was holding my hand, but then I had to start pushing (fully numb at that point - I remember thinking I felt too numb) and so they wanted me to pull my legs up and towards my chest. I remember thinking it felt like an unnatural-feeling position to give birth in, lying on one's back with one's feet in the air. But since I wasn't in pain anymore, I didn't mind so much. I do remember that when the pain left, however, I started to feel how exhausted I was. Anyway, Dr. Jacob(s) said it was going fast and that your head was going to appear soon so your daddy went around to see. Before you came out, though, the doctor gave me a quick episiotomy (FYI don't google that... lol). Your dad said he had to look away because it freaked him out. I didn't even feel it though. Anyway, I only had to push a few times before your head came out. I remember feeling a little regret that I couldn't feel a thing except a lot of pressure when you came out. I was able to sit up a little and look down at your head before having to put my head back again to push out the rest of your body. I remember the nurse kept saying I was doing great and me replying that I'd have to take her word for it. Anyway, the rest of your body came out quickly and they cut the umbilical cord, held you up long enough for them to say, "here he is," and then they took you into another room. They didn't ask your dad if he wanted to cut the cord because of how early you were but he was allowed to go into the next room with you. It was all over so quickly. Your daddy said that when he went with you they checked your vitals, including your Apgar score and cleaned you up. He said they may have also hooked you up to a ventilator at that point he can't remember for sure. I do remember you crying a little when you were born though, so I knew you were breathing. They said you couldn't get enough oxygen at first, but you were really only on a ventilator for about 6 hours. Anyway, after you left, the doctor helped me deliver the placenta, stitched me back up and cleaned me up. After that is even more of a blur because I was so exhausted and still kind of in shock about you coming so early and so quickly. The time between when we arrived at the hospital and when you were born was less than 45 minutes. I think what happened was that they took me down to the next floor where the mothers recover and gave me clean things to change into so I was able to get some rest. I didn't go to sleep for a little while though, because your daddy and I talked for a while and called our families to let them know things were fine and that you had come early! They were worried, but happy to hear that we were okay. Anyway, after that, a nurse brought Jared a blanket and pillow so he could sleep on the convertible chair/bed and also brought me some water and juice. Also, later that night, Dr. Jacob or a nurse (I said I was tired!) came and told us that you were in the NICU and on a ventilator but that you were doing fine. I wasn't worried at this point, just kind of in shock and feeling tired. After that we went to sleep, although a nurse came in a couple of times during the night to massage my uterus to make sure it kept contracting and go back to its original size (eventually). That was painful.
Earlyish the next morning (probably around 6 or 7) they came and told us we could come see you. I got in a wheelchair (my legs were still like jelly) and your dad and I went up to the next floor where the NICU was. You were in the more intensive care part of the NICU (there are two parts: more intensive care, where the incubators and special plastic "beds" are, and the less intensive care, with metal cribs) but you didn't have to be in an enclosed incubator because you were strangely fat for your age (5 pounds, 1 ounce, and possibly around 18 inches!) and thus better able to keep yourself warm. You still had a warming lamp thing though. When we first saw you, you were already off the ventilator. I'm guessing pretty soon after you were off it they let us know we could come see you. Because of that, I guess, we were able to hold you for a little while. You didn't have the I.V. in your head yet at that point. I remember feeling so awkward at first because I didn't know how to hold a baby, period, let alone a premature one. I thought I was going to hurt you, but the nurse there helped me and soon you were snuggled up to my chest (in kangaroo care/skin to skin, which helps little babies grow, especially when they're premature). I felt so many emotions at that point. Some sad, like worry and regret that I had possibly done something to cause you to be born early (I had been at work at the bookstore only two days before), fears that you wouldn't ever be completely healthy; but there were happy ones too: giddiness and a feeling of surreality about finally meeting you, definitely contentment just to hold you and kiss you. I remember that holding you felt like the most important thing I had to do in the entire world. I may have been taking the kangaroo care thing too seriously, but since I didn't know you yet or how to take care of you, I think I latched onto that one thing. After that your daddy held you too, but I accidentally hogged you to myself for most of the time. I realized later I should have shared you with your daddy more but it didn't even occur to me at first. Of course, I didn't realize at that point that there was a time limit of about 15 or 20 minutes, but there was. After that the nurse told us you needed to rest, so we had to leave you and go back downstairs again. I was sad to give you back but I was also still pretty numb from shock so I didn't cry or anything. When we went back down to the room, your daddy decided that he would go home and shower, eat and come back. I stayed and showered also, and then they brought me some breakfast. I remember it felt nice to be served like that. Not too long after that, they asked me if I planned to breastfeed. I told them yes, so they brought in an electrical pump. I had to pump as frequently as a newborn eats, and I tried to get every last drop. That was fine at first, but I wish someone had told me I didn't have to keep it up the entire time he was in the NICU. I ended up storing more than double the milk that I could possibly store and didn't know at the time that you can donate leftover milk so we ended up throwing a lot away. Anyway, they stored the milk in a freezer in the NICU so you could be fed through a tube. They mixed it with some kind of formula so that you could get extra calories. The only thing is, the electrical pump HURT! The first time or two wasn't bad, but after that it just made me so sore. I didn't want to quit, though, because I wanted to be able to nurse you when you got stronger.
So that first day, I pumped, watched the hospital TV, drank lots of fluids and ate some, and talked to a few people who visited. Your dad came back soon and brought some stuff I needed (like toothpaste!) and some things I didn't need but still wanted and proved useful, like VHS movies (there was only a VCR) for when I got bored of watching the hospital programs over and over. We also named you so we could complete your birth certificate. Your daddy had suggested "Nathan" a month or two before, and I liked the name "Rivers", so when we made that your middle name we liked the sound of it. There wasn't any real meaning behind choosing those names, we just liked them. I did like that Nathan meant "gift from God" though. We still probably would have named you Nathan if it had meant something else, though, as long as it wasn't something like "booger face" or "he who took the hill by force". Actually I kinda like that second one. Anyway, sometime that afternoon, they brought us a binder that was supposed to serve as some kind of guide to the NICU and premature infants. It was supposed to stay at the hospital for your entire stay and then we could take it home when you were released.
As I mentioned, I received some visitors. Your aunt Adrien and uncle Eric came (they didn't get married until December that year, but I'm still calling him your uncle Eric), my old roommates Rochelle and Jessica came with my cousin Katie, and my cousin Kelly and her boyfriend (now husband) Zach came also. Later, your grandparents (Tom and Beth Swinford) came with Aubrie! That was one thing that was kind of a funny coincidence. They were already coming into town to visit. We all decided that you must have come early so that you could see them before January (when we were planning to visit daddy's family in Indiana). Also that morning your daddy and I called our places of work to say we wouldn't be in (although daddy went in a couple of times for a little while). That week was supposed to have been my last at the bookstore since getting around and lifting things was becoming pronouncedly more difficult - and I did feel kind of bad since they'd been relying on me to come in that week (most of the others were sick or on vacation). It did make it kind of intense for the couple of people left, and I was glad that the ones left were able to take care of things when I couldn't come in. I actually did think about going in at first, since I didn't have a baby to take care of, but I really couldn't have worked for a week or two, and then only handling a few light things, so I didn't bring it up.
Anyway, that day or the next your grandma (my mom) came up from California, and she came in to visit you with my grandparents. Even though you weren't out of the hospital yet, she wanted to help me with things, especially with getting things you needed since all we had so far was a pair of pajamas and maybe a couple of onesies (plus the hospital pump we'd rented). At some point while you stayed in the hospital we bought a carseat, a glider, a crib, a few clothes, a couple of blankets and a baby monitor. We also borrowed some clothes, blankets, a bathtub, a swinging bassinet and a couple of toys from my aunt Lanee. Your grandma Spees also sent some clothes later. It wasn't long before you were well provided for!
Tuesday evening I was released from the hospital and I think that's when it finally hit me that we were going to have to leave you there. It was hard but your daddy had thought to develop a few pictures of you that afternoon so we could put them in frames around the apartment. When we were at the store I stayed in the car while your dad picked up the pictures, prescriptions, and other things. A couple of strangers came to my door and asked if they could get a ride somewhere and I was in a thick haze of pain, emotional numbness/rawness, and tiredness so I just told them to ask your dad. He told them he might be able to come back after he took me home but they declined. It was just kind of a weird, random thing. The next 6 weeks were a blur of getting the apartment ready for you to come home, pumping every three hours, visiting you twice a day (the maximum allowed at that point - after a few weeks or so they had me come in to try feeding you more often) and trying to eat and drink enough. I didn't realize producing milk could make me feel so hungry all the time!
There's so much I could write about your experience in the hospital, and our side of it as well, but I'll summarize with this: After almost 6 weeks of an emotional roller coaster (I never understood that metaphor till then), jaundice, weight loss and gains, learning how to take care of you and learning things like what a canula is, and hearing several "maybe he'll be able to go home this week"s, they said you were ready for the carseat test (when they put you in a carseat for an hour or something and make sure your oxygen levels don't get too low) and then the 24 hour (maybe it was less?) on-demand feeding test. That basically meant I stayed in a room during the night and they would wake me up when you wanted to be fed. I don't remember if you had to take the carseat test twice or just one time... Anyway, we still had to do supplemental bottles twice a day and I almost always used a nipple shield at first, but I was able to nurse you (up until around 6 months, when you decided you preferred the bottles). Anyway, exactly 6 weeks later, on a Sunday afternoon, they told us we could take you home. We couldn't believe it was really happening. It didn't feel real. So we got the carseat (and that was when we picked up some things from my aunt, including the bassinet you slept in for a few months) and gathered up all your things you'd gotten in the hospital (some very kind people had made blankets and boppy-type pillows for the babies in the NICU) and they escorted us out of the hospital. I remember the nurses being very nice and cheering for you for finally being able to go home. When we drove home I sat in the back with you because I was afraid of your head flopping down. Then we got home, put you on a blanket on the floor of your room and just sat there watching you and talking for a while. Your aunt Aubrie came by to visit that day, also. I think it took at least a week before it really hit me that you were here to stay and that we didn't have to take you back to the hospital (as long as you didn't get sick - and speaking of which, they recommended you didn't go out in public for about 6 months and you also qualified for insurance to cover your RSV shots - synagis, I think).
Holy cats there's more I could say and that I skipped but I've got to stop this novel in its wordy tracks. Anyway, if you've read this in its entirety, I congratulate you. I'd give you a cookie if you were sitting here in my kitchen, but since you're not, you'll have to accept my congratulations as well as my sympathies.