PJ’s Birth- Labor & Delivery

I’ve been asked a few times what exactly happened with PJ’s birth. Honestly, everything I never wanted happened. But I’m a firm believer in God, and I know that his plan is perfect {Jeremiah 29:11}. PJ’s birth has given us a new perspective on life.

I try not to go into too much detail, but pregnancy and birth aren’t roses. Trigger-warning for those who have had traumatic births, infant loss, etc. You may not want to read this. It’s hard stuff at times.

February 14, 2017- I was 3 days past my due date and not loving it. We never dreamed we’d still be waiting on a baby for Valentine’s Day, so we had no plans. We also needed groceries, so despite Jett’s hesitation I went grocery shopping. I went grocery shopping x10 and filled the freezer and cabinets for the better-be-soon-I’m-tired-of-waiting arrival of PJ. When I got home I put away all the groceries and made a huge steak dinner for Valentine’s day.

Jett had work the next day so we went to bed as usual, and I laid awake as usual. I was having some pains, but really didn’t think they were contractions. They weren’t regular and at my last appt I wasn’t dilated or effaced at all. Around 11:30pm I had to pee (no surprise) so I went to the bathroom. After I finished peeing I felt PJ kick and a pop with a small gush of fluid. {Side note: I’d been telling Jett and my mom for a few weeks that it felt like PJ was going to pop something.} Nothing else happened so I didn’t think it could possibly be my water… and all the little “stand up and see if water gushes” google tricks didn’t illicit any other fluid. So, I made myself lay back down. After about 20 minutes I needed to pee again. When I sat down I had another slightly bigger gush of liquid. Upon examination, it seemed like this could be my water breaking. I shook Jett awake. Oh my, he was nervous! I called L&D and they encouraged me to come in after hearing how far along I was. I decided to take a shower and shave my legs and arms because you know, people would see those! {queasy people stop reading the whole story here-} By the time I got out of the shower I was sure this was it. It was pouring out. I soaked my underwear and pad in about 5 seconds soooo I put on a diaper. Yes, a diaper. Someone told me they bought adult diapers for postpartum bleeding so I grabbed a small pack. There was no way I was making it to the hospital remotely dry without it.

We gathered all of our bags a few things I thought of and we got in my car and away we went. The roads were really icy, so it took about 45 minutes to get to the hospital. 45 minutes in a small car in active labor is uncomfortable, to say the least. We checked in at the ER and a L&D nurse came down to get us. They took me to L&D admitting station and told me to put on a gown so they could determine if my water had in fact broke. When I came out of the bathroom it was running down my legs. The nurse looked at me and said yep, you’re admitted, I’ll show you your room. Room 207. It was 1:30am, February 15, 2017.

To put what happened in my perspective- I wanted a calm birth. I wanted to avoid an epidural if I could handle it. I wanted immediate skin-to-skin and delayed cord clamping. I wanted his vitals taken on my chest, his examinations on my chest, and I wanted him to initiate breast-feeding. I wanted a few hours with him before they took him off my chest for measurements. I wanted Jett to do skin-to-skin. I wanted to keep him just between the 2 of us for a while before introducing him to the world.

We passed our time by walking the halls, swaying, rocking in the chair, bouncing and rolling on the exercise ball, and laid down for one contraction before determining I might just have a baby standing up.

At 4:30am I was 4cm dilated and asked my nurse to alert the anesthesiologist that I would want an epidural. She called my midwife, he okayed it, and the nurse called the anesthesiologist. The pain was totally manageable, but at this point they weren’t even a minute apart and I was having trouble catching my breath between. The anesthesiologist came and 3 tries later I had an epidural at around 5:30am.

Around 7am PJ’s heart rate dropped and nurses came running in. They couldn’t get it back up so they asked me if I could move. I said yes. We swapped from left to right and it didn’t work. Finally after getting on my hands and knees {no small feat with an epidural} and giving me an oxygen mask, his heart rate regulated. This would end up happening 6 times over the course of the next few hours, always being able to regulate it. My midwife called in an OB to second him. They told me if it happened one more time they were taking me for a c-section. I DID NOT want a c-section and was so scared. Luckily, after Jett rubbed my belly for an hour and talked soothingly to both PJ and I, his heart rate regulated for good.

At 11am I was 9cm dilated, and everyone thought we’d have a baby by Noon. Then, everything slowed down.

Around 1pm I was ready other than one small bit of cervix that was taking it’s sweet time. They decided it was time to try some pushing. I pushed for a few contractions and they decided to give me a break and see if my cervix came around for the party. Then, meconium. My midwife explained that because PJ released meconium, a pediatrician would now be attending his birth. I was worried about my baby and not a little concerned this would affect my opportunity for skin-to-skin, of all things. Meanwhile, they placed a wire monitor on PJ’s head. At this point I did not feel glamorous. I had a wire hanging out. I was tired. My epidural site was starting to feel weird. And each time I pushed the epidural button I was getting excruciating pain in my upper back for a few minutes after. They had me pushing it every 15 minutes because it was wearing off. I had been in labor for quite a while at this point, and I was way past ready for my baby.

About an hour later they started to get concerned and said it was time. I pushed and pushed and pushed. My nurse got on the bed with me and made Jett climb up to. They held my legs and everyone encouraged me while I pushed my little heart out. My midwife and doctor told me I was an excellent pusher. They gave me pitocin to strengthen my contractions and I pushed some more. PJ was stuck. The doctors could see his head. Jett told me he had hair. No matter what though, he wasn’t coming out. He was stuck on the last bit of pelvis. Each push was an attempt for his head to come out. They told me if I could just get his head out, we’d be minutes away from birth.

By this time it was around 5:30pm and they were telling me I needed to prepare for a c-section. I was adamant that I did not want a c-section. We all agreed a vaginal birth was better for mom and baby. They told me they would try one last thing- the vacuum. My midwife explained that we had 3 chances with the vacuum. If it popped off of PJ’s head 3 times then we were done, I would get a c-section. It never crossed my mind that could actually happen. We tried it on my next contraction. I pushed so hard, but it popped off. We did this twice more, each time hearing the disgusting, heart wrenching sound of it popping off my baby’s tender head. As it popped off the 3rd time they immediately put the rails up on my bed and told Jett the nurse would help him prepare. They wheeled me off to a surgical room where a team was already assembling. The anesthesiologist was there because I was definitely feeling it now. He gave me more meds and away we went.

Things start getting foggy here, so I’m not sure I can convey a lot of detail.

I’ll stop the weak stomach and squeamish here…

I remember my arms stretched out on each side and feeling trapped as I looked at them. I remember them putting their hand in and pushing PJ back up into my body. I mean really, the kid was totally in the birth canal. I remember the OB saying she thought she needed to cut me wider. There was something about not being able to find my uterus…? But I really don’t understand that one. I DON’T KNOW. They started to get panicked at this point. It was taking way too long to get him out. They told me later it took 4x longer than it should have to get him out. I believe they told me it should have taken less than a minute, but again, my memories are not very clear.

I want to pause for a moment to explain just how wonderful the nurses, hospital staff, my midwife, and the OB I was risked over to are. I truly in my heart believe that God put them in our path for a reason. Their efforts and skill, along with God, attribute 100% to the happy and healthy people PJ and I are today. They gave us excellent care and we will be thankful for them for all of our lives.

At 6:11 pm they finally pulled him out. He had one heart beat, and then no more. They rushed him over to the NICU team that was waiting on him. I saw them doing CPR and Jett cutting his cord, but at this point I was feeling all the pain and I’m pretty gray on these details. I later found out they used the defibrillator and his first APGAR was 1. They were able to bring him back.

I was begging them to just show him to me. As they ran out of the room they flashed his face to me and they were gone.

Jett and I had agreed long before this that he would accompany PJ anywhere I couldn’t go. I wish I could explain just how wonderful my husband is. He saw up close some of the worst things a person could see. His strength had to stretch far enough to cover me and PJ, and it did.

Meanwhile in the OR, my epidural was mostly gone. The OB kept asking the anesthesiologist if there was anything else he could give me. I think he gave me a little more, but I remember him eventually saying that was all he could give. I felt everything. I felt them moving around inside me, I felt them stitching me up,  I remember yelling that I could feel it. Most c-section Mamas tell you they mostly feel pressure. I felt pressure accompanied by pain. The epidural worked decently for the first part of my c-section, so I had a good comparison. I think I blacked out at this point because I don’t remember anything other than waking up in recovery.

This has gotten long, so I’m going to stop here. I hope to share a part 2 soon. I couldn’t give proper homage to PJ’s birth unless I shared his first moments of life and our stay at the hospital as well. Look for that in the upcoming days.

HERE IS PART TWO! I WROTE IT!!

After telling this, I want to reiterate how GOOD God is. His hand was over us the entire time, and he never let us down. Not ever. We had prayer warriors that truly came to battle for us, and we could never thank them enough.

God is good!

{Photo credit: Leigh Rose Photography}

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PJ’s Birth- NICU & Hospital Stay

I shared Part 1 of PJ’s birth, but I can’t properly tell the story without everything that happened after.

We left off with me waking up in recovery. I faded in and out. There was a nurse who gave me a cup of ice and was there to watch me. I remember I kept fading out but jolting back because I was afraid I’d drop my ice. She asked if I could raise up. I was in a lot of pain but we got me into a slightly inclined position. I couldn’t take raising up any more than that. I wanted my phone so I could call Jett, but it was in my room.

Finally Jett showed up with a NICU doctor. She went over some things about PJ, She let me know Jett had okayed the use of a pacifier to comfort PJ and wanted to double-check with me. Then she explained that he needed a line in his stomach and needed me to okay the procedure. I was so fuzzy, but I believe I signed something. I couldn’t comprehend the umbilical line.

It ended up being a central line to the main artery in his stomach, accessed through his belly button. His body was in shock, so they couldn’t get an IV in any other way. They did a small procedure and inserted the line. Through the line he was receiving sugar water and lipids to sustain his body.

After Jett spent some time in recovery with me he went back to PJ and then met me back in our room. He brought me pictures of PJ. He was beautiful! He seemed so helpless.

What I didn’t understand is that PJ had swelling on his head from the failed vacuum attempts. Fortunately it was between his skull and scalp, and not affecting his brain. Because of the fluid he was in a lot of pain. He basically had an extreme migraine that was worsened by movement, sound, and light. He spent his first day and night in his own  quiet room in the NICU. He was in so much pain all he could do was scream. It was the worst sound I’d ever heard, only seconded by the vacuum popping off his head. You can see some of the swelling in the pictures, but I can never describe how it felt, how it looked in person, how it settled in my mother heart, and how sad it made me.

A nurse came in around midnight and told me I could see PJ… If I got out of bed, got cleaned up, put on some postpartum products, and could get in the wheelchair. It took me over an hour and a bolus of morphine because of the pain, but they wheeled me in the door of the NICU around 1:30am. My sweet husband taught me how to scrub in. If you’ve never been in a NICU, when you walk in the front door you arrive at a hand washing station where you scrub in. You scrub to your elbows or beyond, you scrub under your nails with a scrub brush, and you scrub for 2+ minutes. Our NICU had a TV above the wash stations that played a slideshow for the length of time you needed to scrub.

He led me to a little room where our sweet baby laid in the dark. Little PJ was completely withdrawn into himself. I asked if I could hold him. Again, I didn’t understand what was wrong with him! I was so fuzzy in recovery that I didn’t comprehend what the NICU doctor had told me. The nurse looked at me bewildered but told me I could as long as we didn’t move him around much. She looked worried. We settled him onto my chest. I asked about breastfeeding and she told me it may be more than he was up to. We tried for a few minutes, but it was definitely too much for him. We settled in and spent around 4 hours with him.

I’m not sure how, but somehow I walked all the way back to my room less than 12 hours after having my abdomen cut open. It was a LONG way. It was extremely slow. We came back to the room and tried to rest some.

After a few scant hours of sleep, I was back in the NICU. They had moved PJ in with the rest of the babies. We spent the day going back and forth to the NICU, pumping every few hours, and trying to rest. I got less than 8 hours of sleep in the first 72 hours of our hospital stay.

My mom arrived later that day and we explained everything that had happened. We had included her on the list of people allowed to see PJ, so I took her down. Only 2 people are allowed per baby at one time. {Because of the umbilical line she wasn’t able to hold him until about day 5.}

The next few days were spent going back and forth to the the NICU. I was pumping every 3 hours, trying to breastfeed, spending 3-4 hours in the NICU, and then 3 hours sleeping. I didn’t get my milk in until day 5. I was starting to get really nervous. Each time I would get a few drops Jett would run them down to the NICU nurses on Q-tips if we weren’t there. Fortunately PJ had his central line keeping him going. Around day 4 we also starting giving him a tiny bit of formula through finger feeding. They would run a small tube down our fingers or my breast while pushing formula down it slowly to help PJ get the hang of sucking and eating.

We saw so many doctors while we were there. PJ was considered a “slow start.” They {FINALLY!} told us not to expect any lifelong issues, but that he could be delayed for his first year. Music to our ears!

On day 4 I was discharged and we were permitted to stay in our room unless L&D needed it. They started slowly weaning PJ off of his sugar and lipids on day 5 and on the morning of day 6 PJ got his umbilical line out! By the evening of day 6, the NICU was overrun with babies. They decided to let PJ do a sleep in with us! The nurse unhooked him from his monitors and put him in a bassinet. She wheeled him to our room, gave us our marching orders, and there we were. We were alone with our baby for the first time, and for the first time we held him without any medical devices!

Before PJ could go home he had to prove he could keep his glucose levels up. We had to feed PJ at least every 2 hours and after each feed we had to call a nurse to come check his glucose. PJ was struggling. He wasn’t maintaining and his poor feet already looked like raw hamburger meat from a week of twice daily labs. I felt so bad for him with each stick of the needle. Finally we realized he was tiring out from the effort of getting enough milk and gave him a small amount of formula. His glucose immediately went up and stayed up as long as we were following each feed with a very small bit of formula.

The next morning they told us we could go home after the doctor checked PJ to ensure he was ready for his grand exit. Meanwhile, my OB and midwife stopped by to see me. They noticed I didn’t look well and took my temp. It was 99 degrees. They called in labs for me. While waiting for the pediatrician I went for urine and blood samples. The OB told me to call her should my fever go up or I felt suddenly worse. Y’all, can I take a minute and brag about my midwife and OB I was risked over to? My midwife came to see me every single day even though I was risked out of his care. So did my new OB, even though I was discharged on day 4. My midwife even visited PJ in the NICU every single day.

Finally, PJ got discharged! We couldn’t believe our luck!

But, on the way home the doctor called me and told me I needed to stop for antibiotics because they had picked up an infection in my urine. Great. She also thought I had some other infections, but was waiting for the rest of my labs. She told me to watch my temp and take my meds.

By the time we got home we were in the middle of a blizzard, our 4-wheel drive was broken down so we were driving my tiny car, and I was shivering so hard I couldn’t keep my body still. I was sitting on the couch to feed PJ when I got a call from the doctor. She asked me to take my temp. It was 102. She told me she was admitting me and to get back to the hospital as soon as possible. I won’t lie, I questioned her on whether it was really necessary. She assured me it was and made arrangements so that PJ and Jett could come too. I packed our bags and we headed back.

At this point we had less than 1/4 mile of visibility and my car was not doing well on the roads. It took us almost 1.5 hours to get to the hospital. We were a direct admit, so we went straight to L&D after getting my new bracelets at the ER desk.

I had sepsis. And a uterus infection. And a kidney infection. And a UTI. And a staff infection that caused cellulitis at my incision. They put me on 3 antibiotics while waiting for cultures to come back on what strain of bacteria I had.

This hospital stay was a whole new ballgame. Between nursing a newborn and being woke up every 1 hour 45 minutes for another bag of antibiotics and my temp, I was delusional from the lack of sleep. I wasn’t allowed to be left alone with PJ, and I wasn’t allowed to hold him anywhere other than my bed. Each night my fever would rise back up to 102-103 and they would whisper and shake their heads more.

The only 2 veins I had left were in the tops of my hand. On day 3 my right hand’s vein blew and they prepped me for a new IV. Not before I convinced them to let me shower though! It had been over 4 days since I had showered! They gave me 15 minutes. That was one of the most glorious showers I have ever had.

Kind of gross sick people stuff ahead… I really debated sharing this part because of how it made me feel about myself, which I’ll explain later. But, I can’t explain some things unless I do.

I got out of the shower, put on a fresh gown, hobbled back out into my room, and then felt something liquid pouring down my legs and onto the floor. The hard mass of cellulitis at my incision had burst open and was draining. We called the nurse. They put me back in bed, cleaned me up, dressed my wound, and put my new IV in my left hand. I was less than happy having my IV back. A hand IV is inconvenient in the best times, but nursing a grabby newborn with one is…. unfortunate, to say the least.

{Note: Surgery predisposes you for cellulitis. The infection and my white blood cells grouping together to attack it caused the mass.}

The clearest memory I have of being in the hospital was that night. I woke up abruptly and immediately knew, to my core, “I’m going to die.” I never went back to sleep. I stayed up begging god for another chance at life. I promised I would do my best to live for him. {Update: Today I’m proud to say that our little family found a wonderful church home. We became members. We are all serving in the church. We are there every Sunday. I thank God every day.}

My doctor stopped by to inspect my new wound late that night. She was pretty intrigued by it. I felt like a science project. She told me to keep warm compresses on it and massage  it. If you don’t know, cellulitis hurts, and touching it was not high on my list. She wanted it encouraged to drain, and I wanted to crawl in a hole.

However, that night I didn’t get a fever. My requirements to go home were to go without a fever for 24 hours. My doctor came in that morning and said I could go home. Here’s why I had to include the cellulitis… For some reason I couldn’t handle it. It made me feel gross. It made me feel low. I couldn’t fathom going home with it, but home I went that afternoon.

After 2 days of being home I didn’t want my sweet perfect baby anymore. Each time we got ready for bed at night my anxiety rose so high I could barely breathe. I was exhausted, but I had a baby to feed about every 1.5-2 hours. My body couldn’t produce enough milk while fighting infection. PJ cluster fed for 12 and 14 hours with breaks of only a few minutes while he dozed on my chest. I had never been so tired in my life, and I regretted ever wanting to get pregnant. I felt disgusting from the cellulitis. I wanted to run away. I wanted my life before baby back. I wanted to sleep.

My mom and Jett finally made me call my OB, who sent me to a counselor. I saw a counselor for a while to work through a Postpartum Depression and Post Traumatic Stress. I stopped breastfeeding. The cluster feeding and hungry baby affected us all negatively. Breastfeeding is hard! I still beat myself up for it, but my baby is happy and fed.

{If you or someone you know isn’t acting right after baby, please seek help! There’s nothing worse than not wanting the sweet baby you just worked so hard to create.}

I stayed on antibiotics for 4 weeks, got on another round at 6 weeks for another kidney infection, and was finally cleared from care at 10 weeks postpartum.

Today I’m okay. My kidneys suck and I feel like a slug most days, but I’m alive!  My baby is alive! He is thriving! Momming is hard but I love every minute!

God saved us. And now I get to enjoy my little man every single day. What a good God he is.

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