Friday, April 27, 2012

Luke's Story: Part III - Set Backs

First off - I can't tell you the rest of Nathan's story without first telling you part of Luke's. I have come to think of them as one in two bodies ... figuratively speaking!

After Nathan's birth, Luke had gone to stay at my mom's house 40 miles away. My mom had brought him to the hospital before we were discharged so I could give him a hug and a kiss goodbye. She would only be keeping him a couple of days, but I cried when they left. As I held him before they left, I noticed he seemed a little lethargic and had a fever. Mom said he hadn't been eating much and seemed tired. She said she would take him home and let him sleep; it'd been a long couple of days for him as he'd been shuffled between grandparents and friends while I was in the hospital. I missed him before he was even out the door.

Nathan and I were home for about four hours when my mom called. SD was at work and had my car so I was pretty much stranded. I answered the phone, expecting to hear my mom tell me that Luke wanted to say hi; I was totally unprepared for what I heard.

"Luke is seizing!" she screamed, "Call the doctor!"

It took me a minute to process what she'd said - as I was telling her to call 911, she hung up. I tried repeatedly to call her back but she wouldn't answer. I called 911. The dispatcher had to calm me down quite a bit before she could understand what I was trying to tell her. She assured me there was an ambulance on the way and her partner who took my  mom's call could hear Luke crying in the background. I was so relieved - my baby was breathing!

I called SD at work but he was on a delivery (he worked at a sandwich shop) and couldn't come get me. He called his sister, Tammy to come give me a ride. While I waited for her, I packed up a bag of clothes for myself and the boys and tucked Nathan into his carseat - all the while stressing about why in the world my baby would have had a seizure.

Tammy finally arrived and took me to meet the ambulance at the ER. You know when a scene in a movie slows down and gets really blurry and you can hear the character's heart beating? That's what it felt like as I tried to explain who I was and that my baby was there somewhere and I needed to see him. A nurse finally pointed me in the right direction and I ran down the hall, Nathan's carseat bouncing on my arm.

I gasped when I saw Luke - his little body laying on the bed, his sleeper open exposing his little chest with monitor leads stuck all over him and an oxygen tube across his face. I practically dropped poor Nathan and went to Luke. He started to cry when he saw me and I had to grit my teeth not to cry with him. I heard a nurse say something about me having to leave because my presence was causing Luke's heart rate to accelerate. I swallowed hard and began to sing to him, thinking it would calm him and his racing heart. It did, but it was hard for me to keep it together. I was singing "You Are My Sunshine" and as I got to the part where it says, "please don't take my sunshine away", my voice broke. The song became my prayer, my plea to God - whatever the cause of the seizure, please don't take my baby!

A nurse was there wanting to start an IV. I knew it needed to be done - Luke was dehydrated and had a fever of 104. He needed the fluid not just for hydration, but to cool his little body. I remember telling the nurse she had one chance to hit a vein. I would not allow him to become a human pin cushion so if she wasn't good at placing a line, she needed to find someone who was. She hit the vein the first time, but it was so difficult for me not to pull his little arm away from her as he screamed. I just held his hot little face in my hands and kept singing through my tears. They immobilized his arm and started the fluid.

A male nurse came in with an IV bag of medication and started to hang it but I stopped him. I wanted to know what it was and what it was for. He said he didn't know - he was just told to come start it into the IV. I was not kind in telling him he would not be starting anything until I knew what it was for. He went to find the doctor (one I hadn't seen and I was pretty sure hadn't seen Luke).

I disliked her the moment she walked in the room. She wanted to know who was questioning her orders. I peppered her with questions about the medication, Luke's condition, what the cause might be, etc. I wanted to know the pros and cons of the treatments and tests before I consented to anything. After many eye rolls, much shuffling of feet and my blood pressure hitting the ceiling, she said, "Ma'am, you need to understand your kid is not the only patient in this ER. I don't have time for your questions." I wasted no time in expressing my dislike for her and her conduct and I demanded a second opinion.

It took forever for the second doctor to get there. In the mean time, Nathan (who had been quiet the entire time and sleeping in his carseat) began to fuss and I took him out to nurse him. I walked to the waiting room to give an update to SD's parents. They offered to hold Nathan while I was with Luke but I declined - my mama bear instincts were running full boar and I felt I had to keep Nathan close.

The second doctor was (to my chagrin) from the Children's Clinic that I had dealt with after Luke's birth. I was not impressed, but she was, at least, a pediatrician. She agreed with the first doctor's assessment: Luke needed to be tested for meningitis as all of his other tests had come back normal. Testing for meningitis requires a spinal tap. My heart sank to the floor. My dad held me as I cried and tried to make sense of everything. It wasn't the end of the world, but to have to consent to inflict that kind of pain on your child when it was possibly unnecessary was just nerve wracking. My choices were have him tested just to be safe, or not have him tested and possibly have him die of meningitis. I consented to the test, but could not make myself be present for it. My wonderful parents held my baby as the nurses drew fluid from his spine.

A meningitis culture takes 48 hours to grow, so we were admitted to the pediatric floor. I slept in the bed with Luke on one side and Nathan on the other; trying to balance nursing Nathan and not disturbing Luke or his attachments as he'd finally fallen asleep. A nurse came in every two hours to take his temperature and check his vitals and he woke up every time. You'd think if a child is sick and needs sleep that the staff would LET THEM SLEEP! Not like he wasn't hooked up to a machine to monitor all of his vitals. (Rant over now.)

The next day was Luke's first birthday. He was drinking on his own by morning and I talked the nurse into removing the IV (after he'd had a mega dose of antibiotics, just in case). He was fussy and just wanted to be held while he slept, but the nurses kept telling us not to hold him because we would increase his fever (come to find out, the best thing you can do for a baby with a fever is put them skin to skin - it helps to regulate their body temperature and heart rate). They were pumping him with Tylenol and Motrin and he was refusing to eat. My milk finally came in that day and I walked over to Labor & Delivery and asked for a breast pump. All the hospital staff who learned what I intended to do seemed thoroughly baffled. But in my mind, breast milk was the best possible source of nutrition for a sick baby and he eagerly gulped down several ounces in a sippy cup. He improved almost immediately and I rang the nurse to try to get something for him to eat.

The nurses kept asking what kind of baby food he would eat and they just couldn't get why I didn't want baby food - Luke had been eating table food since he was six months old. He wouldn't have touched baby food. I called the cafeteria and ordered him a plate of spaghetti. I'd spotted a high chair in an unused room and brought it to Luke's room so he could eat. When the nurse walked in, I thought she'd have a stroke. There was spaghetti sauce everywhere and noodles all over the floor, but Luke was eating! Score one for Mama!

My dad came in the evening bearing cupcakes, balloons, toys, and bubbles. Luke loves his Grampa even when he's not offering gifts, but his eyes were alight with wonder at the bright colored balloons and brightly wrapped toys. We put a candle in a cupcake and sang happy birthday (which seemed to thoroughly confuse him) and clapped as Grampa "helped" him blow out the candle.

Luke gobbled down a cupcake (probably not the best idea to fill him with sugar, but he enjoyed it) and sat on the floor to play with the new toys. He even ventured to take a few wobbly steps between Grampa and me! But the fun was short lived as a nurse came in bearing a loaded syringe (more high powered antibiotics) and I held him while she jabbed his little thigh. He cried, I cried, and we rocked in the chair until the tears were gone. Luke crawled over and climbed up in his Grampa's lap and promptly fell asleep. And so did Grampa.

We were in the hospital with Luke for a total of three days. SD was rarely there, but that was probably for the best. The test came back negative and we were discharged with a prescription for more antibiotics "just in case". I never filled it - I was pretty sure his little body had had all the antibiotics it could stand.

The next day, my mom and I took Luke to a doctor in the next city who practices several forms of homeopathic medicine - among them are chiropractic, herbology, and kinesiology. He assessed Luke and determined that those first several months of his life were harder on him than we realized - his poor little liver was so backed up with toxins from the various formulas and medications he'd been on that his body sparked a fever to try and burn them off. A fever is the body's way of dealing with things like toxins - the problem came when Luke slept for several hours without waking to eat or drink causing his body to become dehydrated; eventually resulting in a febrile seizure. The doctor recommended feeding Luke a strictly organic diet with very limited exposure to processed foods even if they were organic.

The next few weeks were rough. I had a newborn (though thankfully, a rather quiet one) and Luke cried constantly. By the end of the first week after his hospitalization, he was not only crying but also banging his head on the floor, the wall, a toy - whatever he could get his hands on. He would bang so hard he made bruises. His regular doctor told me it was just a little boy phase and it would pass, but my gut told me there was something more - I'd never seen a child inflict such injuries on himself. I wanted a different answer. I took him to the CranioSacral Therapist he'd seen as a baby, just hoping he would be able to help.

Kevin, the therapist, quickly came to the conclusion that Luke's cerebral fluid was very low. In doing the spinal tap, the hospital had extracted as much fluid as they would have for an adult! No wonder Luke banged his head! He was probably experiencing migraine-type pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and difficulty sleeping. Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done for low fluid except to increase his electrolyte intake and make sure he got plenty to drink. Kevin also recommended a little caffeine for those times when Luke seemed to be beyond himself in pain. And he was right - after several days of feeding Luke super salty foods and a little caffeine here and there, he bounced back. He was my happy, smiling little cherub again! Praise God!

We celebrated Luke's first birthday with a chocolate cake, ice cream, and lots of friends and family. There was an air of thankfulness about the celebration - you never realize how fragile life is until you come to the brink of losing it. Although Luke was really not in danger of losing his life, he so easily could have been and I thank God for watching over us.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nathan's Story: Part I - Birth

Before Nathan's birth, I read everything I could get my hands on about the things that happened to Luke and I that I didn't intend to repeat. I searched high and low for a midwife that would attend a home birth. At the time, it was illegal to have a home birth in Wyoming (it is legal now!). I had two options. Have an unattended home birth or go to the hospital. Since I wasn't comfortable being unattended, I decided I really only had one option.

For several weeks I had been willing my body to go into labor. I had a separated pelvis for the last few months of my pregnancy and it was excruciating at times. Having that kind of constant pain and a toddler were just about all I could handle. I was so frustrated with my body for not starting labor 10 days early like Luke's labor that I worried I would end up being induced again.

About two days before Nathan's due date, I decided to give all my troubles up to God. After I had done that, I felt so much better! I was relaxed and didn't feel this cloud of worry hanging over me. I was able to enjoy my last days with Luke as an only child. I also realized how blessed I was to be able to carry a baby to term and that we were both healthy. Little did I know what the very next day would hold!

Around two in the morning, Luke woke up. I picked him up and took him to my bed and sang him back to sleep. When I was sure he was sleeping, I carried him back to his crib. As I laid him back down, I had a pretty strong contraction. I didn't think much of it - I'd been having contractions off and on for several months. I went back to bed, but couldn't sleep. I got up and started walking around the house, thinking the contractions would stop if I was moving as they had in the past. It didn't take long for me to realize this wasn't a drill, it was the real deal.

I started counting through the waves of contractions (one one thousand, two one thousand) as a way to focus my mind and "time" the contractions. Not wanting to alarm my mom, I called my friend Cindy. I didn't have a clock with a second hand to time the contractions with and I asked Cindy to time them for me. They were already only four minutes apart and lasting nearly a minute! Cindy came over to my house for support. I was determined to stay home as long as possible - the less time I spent at the hospital the less chance there was of medical intervention. Even though my contractions were close together and long, I didn't feel any pain unless someone interrupted my counting. That was my focus and as long as I was focused, my body did what it needed to.

I called Phyllis, my midwife. She told me to stay home as long as I was comfortable and it would probably be a while before I needed to head to the hospital. She thanked me for the heads up. I also called my doula since she had to travel about 60 miles - I wanted her to have plenty of time.

Within an hour, I felt that I needed some air. I went outside to walk down the street. I had to stop along the way twice to vomit. Now I know that is a sign of transition. I was also starting to confuse my numbers, counting some twice and skipping others. Confusion is also a sign of transition. I suddenly had to use the bathroom and waddled back to the house as fast as I could. Once there, my water broke. The fluid was clear and smelled sweet, a good sign! Cindy kept telling me I needed to go to the hospital, but I insisted it wasn't time. I had only been in labor 3 hours.

Around 5:30, I found myself on my hands and knees on the living room floor over a bucket. The contractions were making me extremely nauseous, but I continued to count through them. They still weren't really painful, but they were exhausting and by the time I counted to 50 I had to remind myself, "Okay, it's almost over, it won't last 'till 60". Most of the time, that was true, but some of them lasted long enough for me to count to 75! I went between the floor and the toilet for an hour or so - all the while SD (who finally woke up) and Cindy begging me to get in the car.

At 6:50, I finally decided to go to the hospital. Cindy let us use her SUV as I didn't think I could get into my little car. The drive to the hospital was the worst part of the night - I was unable to walk, sway or otherwise move my body in the way it was telling me to. When we got to the hospital, I walked past admissions to the elevator. The secretary asked if I wanted a nurse to bring down a wheelchair and I wasted no time in telling her (probably a little rudely) that I didn't have time for that. I had two contractions in the elevator.

When I got to Labor & Delivery, Phyllis was there behind the desk, knitting. She came to give me a hug and I used her support to get through the next contraction, still counting. As Phyllis and the nurses debated about what room to put me in (like they didn't know I was coming), I realized they had no idea how close I was to delivering. Finally a nurse showed me to a room and held up a specimen cup. "Just a little tinkle" she insisted. I tried to tell her I couldn't do that right now, I really just needed to make myself comfortable and regain my focus! I was starting to panic and the contractions became extremely painful when I wasn't counting through them. The nurse began to help me out of my coat and noticed I was counting and told me to stop. The computer would count the contractions once I was being monitored. I felt like biting her head off, but I said nothing - I didn't want to lose my focus over something so petty. I went into the bathroom with the cup and shut the door. I took off my shoes and pants, threw them into a corner and sat down. Oh, the relief! The pressure on my pelvis was gone as my legs supported my weight and it felt so much better. It was 7:05am.

Nearly ten minutes passed (so I'm told) before a nurse knocked on the door and asked if I was okay. I told her I was fine. I started to feel my whole midsection tighten - tight enough to make me involuntarily grunt. Then Phyllis came in and I noticed that my mom and sister, Jessie, and my doula had arrived. Phyllis sat down on the shower and said, "Tell me what you feel." I said, "Phyllis, I feel like pushing." Her eyes widened and she pulled a pair of gloves from her pocket to check me. I must have been ready to go because she said, "Ladies, suit up!" The nurses shuttled back and forth, talking under their breath about moving me to the bed. I prayed they wouldn't push the issue.

I closed my eyes and blocked everything out. I imagined being in the sun, the warmth of it on my shoulders. I remembered watching my mare, Rosie, having her first little foal. She didn't panic. She didn't fight it. She simply lay there and let nature take it's course. I was still counting, but I was also listening to my doula, Christi, tell me what a great job I was doing. I opened my eyes to see Phyllis sitting on the floor in front of me, patiently waiting to welcome my little guy into the world. It was right at shift change for the nurses, and there were four of them standing in the doorway along with my mom, sister, SD, and Christi. I looked at Phyllis and said, "I want to sleep." She just smiled as I closed my eyes. I really do think I dozed - even if it was just for a minute.

The next contraction brought renewed energy and I was ready for it. I could feel Nathan's little body moving and turning - then suddenly, I felt his head making it's way out. I started to panic a little, remembering the pain of Luke crowning, but I quickly got my thoughts under control and returned to counting. I stood up as Nathan's head slipped out into my hands and the rest of his body soon followed. I just looked at him for a bit - all 7 pounds and 8 ounces of him. After four hours of labor and only 20 minutes in the hospital, this was THE single most amazing moment of my life! I lifted my shirt and brought him to my chest. He didn't cry, but took a few gurgley breaths and blinked in the bright light. Then he turned his head and began to search for my breast. I just can't get over how amazing that moment was - it was as if I was being told I'd struggled enough and this little guy was going to heal the hurt from Luke's birth.

I was given a towel to dry him off, but I rubbed as much vernix into his skin as I could (rubbing it in prevents baby's skin from peeling in the weeks following birth). SD cut the cord once it stopped pulsing and I snuggled Nathan even closer. My work was not over, as the placenta had yet to make an appearance. Phyllis applied traction to the cord (basically, she pulled on it) and I could feel it on the inside - it didn't occur to me at the time, but even farmers and ranchers know that pulling on a cord can mean leaving a newborn motherless as she would likely bleed to death. The placenta did come out in it's entirety, but the bleeding was serious.

I moved to the bed with a towel between my legs (my pelvic pain was miraculously cured!) and the movement and gravity made the bleeding worsen. A nurse came at me with a loaded syringe and prepared to jab it into my thigh when I grabbed her wrist. "What do you think you're doing?!" I was not happy about not being asked or even told what was going on. She said it was pitocin, to make my uterus contract harder and try to stop the bleeding. Remembering my previous experience with pitocin, I said absolutely NOT. Phyllis came then and told me it was either that or get an IV with a pitocin drip but the bleeding had to be stopped. I agreed to the injection.

Nathan was left skin to skin with me for the first three hours of his life. No one else touched him aside from Phyllis holding him while I walked to the bed. He was not poked, prodded or bathed. I didn't even allow them to use a suction bulb to clean out his nose and mouth as he seemed to be breathing just fine. He was not vaccinated, given eye antibiotics, or injected with vitamin K. He was not circumcised - yet (but that's another post). The nurses just about had to sit on their hands after I had refused for him to be weighed and measured three times. Did they think he would shrink if I held him too long? The weight of his little body sleeping on my chest helped me immensely in the hours ahead.

The next few hours were miserable. The nurses came in every ten minutes to push on my uterus and when they did, not only was it excruciating, the blood just gushed. I had started to shiver from the blood loss. I was given two cytotec pills (a drug that causes such powerful contractions it is used for abortion) to help stop the bleeding by contracting my uterus. It was awful. I was ready to ask for an epidural and I'd already had my baby! When Nathan was nursing (which was pretty much constantly) it made the cramping worse. Fortunately, the bleeding eventually started to let up however; the effects of the cytotec lasted for days. It wasn't something I'd wish on my worst enemies.

We weren't even in the hospital 24 hours. With a clean bill of health, we went home the next morning. Nathan was a champion nurser and never lost any weight. When my supply came in on the third day after his birth, I was overjoyed to hear him greedily gulping down the milk. Sometimes I thought he was drowning he was swallowing so fast! I praise God for allowing me to have the healing, empowering birth experience I needed to help heal the hurt of the past.

If I had it to do over, I would have stayed home and had an unattended home birth. If the placenta had been left to detach on it's own, I would have had no problem delivering Nathan by myself  as I wouldn't have had the excessive bleeding.  But, lesson learned. I am thankful for the experience I had and for my healthy baby boy!

I love to read birth stories. It can be a healing and enlightening experience to write out your birth story and if you would like to, you're more than welcome to put it in the comments!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Luke's Story: Part II - Struggles

It was 2:30am. I was sitting in the dark in a rocking chair holding my tiny, screaming, two-week-old baby. My mind was totally blank. I was paying no attention to the baby in my lap - his screams had become such a part of everyday life I had sadly started to block them out. No one I talked to believed there was anything wrong with my baby - he was just "colicky".

After two weeks of fighting not to have him readmitted to the hospital for jaundice, I refused to let anyone else prick his poor little feet. He had band aids on both heels and they looked so awful I couldn't bear to look at them. I stopped taking him to appointments as they never told me anything different than the last time and it seemed to take so much out of Luke to have his clothes taken off, be weighed, measured, checked, and poked. I was being pressured to have him vaccinated (my children are 100% unvaxed, but that's another post) and because I was refusing I caught a lot of flack from the doctors at the clinic we were sent to by the hospital. I was madly searching for someone new.

In the mean time, I had started to notice that where he was once round and pudgy, Luke's skin was becoming loose and thin looking. At first, I thought the yellow of the jaundice must have made it appear that way. By the time he was 4 weeks old, he was still wearing newborn clothes and diapers and I could see his ribs. I finally found a doctor who would take on an unvaxed baby but she couldn't see him for two weeks.

During the entire first six weeks of his life, Luke screamed. I don't mean crying to be held or changed - I mean blue faced screaming. 24/7. When he wasn't crying, he attempted to nurse. These sessions were limited to about two minutes before he was screaming again. Sometimes I wondered what would happen if I just put a pillow over his face. I was so depressed and so sleep deprived that I considered harming my own child. As shameful as that is to admit, post-partum depression is very real and is not often addressed. Mine was never diagnosed and I praise God for getting me through the rough times.

When we finally got in to see the doctor, Luke had lost 8 ounces. He was dehydrated and starving. He was diagnosed failing to thrive. The doctor was not interested in addressing the problem; her solution was, "Just give him formula. He'll be fine." I wasted no time in telling her I would NOT be giving my child formula and I wanted to know why he was not gaining. Obviously there was a problem; wasn't it her job to help me fix it? After much conversation, she finally sent me back to the hospital to do a pre and post weight with a lactation nurse. First Luke was weighed, then he nursed, then was weighed again. After 40 minutes of breastfeeding, Luke had only taken one ounce of milk. A healthy baby should have been able to take at least four. Back to the doctor we went. I finally agreed (after much debate and lots of tears) to give him formula. Obviously there was a problem, but until it was resolved, Luke had to eat.

I tried with all my might to pump enough milk for my poor baby. For six weeks my supply had not been stimulated as much as it needed to be and I struggled to express even one ounce. I still pumped faithfully and mixed what little I got with the formula. Even with a bottle, it took him nearly 20 minutes to get down one ounce.

The first night on formula was an even bigger nightmare than the previous six weeks. My baby vomited constantly and had so much diarrhea I feared he would need IV fluids. I sobbed while bottle feeding him. I stopped giving him formula and called the doctor who told me to come in right away. She checked him over and discovered he'd lost even more weight. She put him on soy formula. This was the pattern for three weeks. After 16 (yes, sixteen!) different kinds of formula, she put him on a by-prescription-only-hypoallergenic-dairy-and-soy-free-$60-a-can formula. It caused the worst reaction. I had never before or since seen a peeling, bleeding diaper rash like my baby had from that awful stuff. At this point, I started making formula from scratch. I used organic rice milk, flax seed oil, protein powder and a few other ingredients to try to put weight on my little guy. It did work, but it was very slow and I kept looking for something better.

A friend told me about La Leche League. At first I thought, I've already seen lactation consultants - what else can seeing another one do for me? She finally talked me in to going to a meeting saying she would come with me. And it was there that I met Joy, my Godsend. She saw Luke and I privately, at her house. She took special care in examining Luke's mouth for problems like tongue tie or cleft palate. She watched him latch on and counted how many times he sucked and swallowed. A normal suck/swallow ratio is two sucks per one swallow. Luke was sucking 15 times before swallowing. He was working so hard to eat that he was just burning more calories than he was taking in. She told me that the little piece of tissue inside Luke's upper lip (called the labial frenulum; it ties your upper lip to your gums) was short and thick. This condition could definitely cause a problem. She also noticed that it appeared Luke's skull plates were on top of one another. She suggested a CranioSacral Therapist might be able to help. Joy also told me about the Mother's Milk Bank. Breastfeeding moms with an oversupply were carefully screened and then donated their milk to the bank where it was flash pasteurized, frozen, and distributed to people in need. The catch? It is by prescription only and the baby had to be failing to thrive.

I took Luke to two local Ear/Nose/Throat specialists to try and get his upper lip addressed. I gave all of the Milk Bank information to Luke's doctor and begged (to no avail) for her to write a prescription. I felt so helpless. I finally made Luke an appointment at a Children's Hospital 100 miles away.

Joy did quite a bit of research on my behalf and discovered a CranioSacral Therapist 70 miles away who would treat a baby. I wasted no time in arranging an appointment. Luke screamed all the way there. After ten minutes, the therapist informed me that no less than five of Luke's skull plates had been displaced by his face-up birth. He also had a dislocated jaw from being born with one hand next to his face. I cried. My poor, poor baby. All this time he'd been in so much pain and no one noticed! He was nearly four months old and not one "medical professional" had taken note of his pain. After one session, Luke slept all the way home.

If you look closely, you can see the ridge in Luke's head a little above and in front of his ear. This is after being treated once by a CST.

After a couple weeks, I finally secured an appointment with a pediatric ENT at the Children's Hospital. She confirmed what I already knew; Luke's labial frenulum was short and tight. She assured me this could not affect breastfeeding. She instead told me he probably suffered from acid reflux and had a sore throat thus making it painful to swallow. I thanked her for her time and sent her no less than a dozen links to scientifically proven research about how a labial tie DOES affect breastfeeding. She didn't thank me.

About a week later, Luke's doctor finally agreed that maybe it would be best if he was fed breastmilk. As Luke had been failing to thrive since the age of six weeks, we had already met that requirement. I got a shipment of milk from the bank frozen on dry ice. Luke drank 10 ounces in one sitting! I was SO happy! He normally took about four ounces if I was lucky! He was six months old when we got the breast milk and he gained four pounds in three weeks. Hallelujah!

                                                                                        Before breastmilk                                             After breastmilk!
These pictures were taken just four weeks apart. I will never be able to express the level of gratitude I have for the women who made it possible for my baby to be healthy!

Problem solved! Well, sort of. I still had to solve the problem of his lip tie. I ran across an article in my research about dentists knowing more about how the mouth has to function to effectively breastfeed. I immediately made an appointment with the dentist at the Children's Hospital. She also happened to be a breastfeeding mom and wasted no time in telling me Luke's lip absolutely was the issue and it needed taken care of. A topical numbing agent was applied to the lip and a laser was used to precisely cut the tissue, cauterizing the wound as it cut. There was no bleeding and it didn't seem to cause Luke any pain. For the first time in his life (only minutes after surgery) Luke was able to latch on and nurse as babies were intended to.
My battle was not lost! Praise God!
However, at the time, I was already pregnant with Nathan. I had virtually no milk. We still relied on the Milk Bank for nearly all of Luke's nutrition. When he was nine months old, he was no longer failing to thrive and the Milk Bank informed me that he no longer met their requirements. At their suggestion, I began using organic goat milk and we never looked back.
That first year was so hard, and at times I thought Luke and I would never make it through. But today, as I look back, if putting my story out there helps just one mom, it will all have been worth it.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Luke's Story: Part I - Birth

I know that my topics have been all over the place lately, but please be patient with me as I build up my archives with whatever I can think of!

I want you to know this is the first time I've written out Luke's birth story where anyone could read it. I know it's not as bad as some, but it was traumatic for me and for Luke and I refuse to let people make light of our trauma because "it wasn't that bad". To help you understand this story, you should know that I am terrified of needles and the smell of a hospital makes my blood preassure skyrocket.

The night I went into labor, SD and I had both been sick. He took several doses of Niquil and went to bed. I stayed awake for a bit thinking about all the things I had to get done before Luke made his appearance, but eventually I drifted off.
I woke two hours later (about 1:00am) to go to the bathroom. As I walked to the bathroom I had the fleeting thought that I was going to pee my pants! I made it, but I heard a little gush as I sat down. I wrestled with myslef for a few minutes ... was that my water breaking? Or did I just have to pee *really* bad? I finally decided it wasn't normal and went to wake SD. He was in a Niquil induced coma and rolled over.

I had been diagnosed with Group B Strep the week before and was scared into going to the hospital at the first sign of impending labor to be treated with IV antibiotics. I was told that waiting too long could have life threatening consequences for me or my baby.

I flew around the room packing things and making phone calls; I called the midwife, my mom and a few friends. I read through my carefully prepared and many times rewritten birth plan; it suddenly seemed like such weak defense against all that could happen - but I took a deep breath and stuffed it in the bag. SD finally got up and put some clothes on and just sat there at the end of the bed.

My house suddenly seemed so messy! I had nothing prepared! Luke's due date wasn't for 11 more days! (In hind sight, I should have just stayed home, slept, and done some cleaning.)

I was so nervous. I remember saying as we were heading to the hospital, "This is going to change our lives. We will not get back in this car the same people we are right now." SD responded with a grunt.

When we got to the hospital, first things first, they wanted to do an internal exam. The resident on call was a young man and I was not comfortable with him. I didn't know enough to say so. The exam was super painful and seemed to take forever. The resident said it probably wasn't my water breaking because I was only dialated to one. I argued with him. He said something to the effect of, "Well, you're just a first time mom." I argued with him some more. He finally ordered an ultrasound to measure the fluid. 

In the two hours we waited for the ultrasound, a lab tech came in to draw blood and a nurse to start an IV. I wanted neither. I finally made a deal with them - they could stick me one time; if they missed, too bad. So they called someone from ICU who was very good at placing an IV. He was very kind and studied my hands thoroughly before deciding where to quicky place the little plastic catheter in the back of my hand. I was thankful for him.

The ultrasound tech came and was very grouchy. The tired old lady pushed the ultrasound cart into my room while muttering to herself about being overworked. She pushed and poked and prodded with the machine's wand while scrutinizing the screen. Finally, she said, "Don't know why those damn doctors call me in here for this nonsense. Ain't one ounce of fluid in there. That baby is comin' today and he's comin' sunny side up." With that, she wrapped the wand cord around the machine and pushed it back out the door.

The doctor came back and told us we would be staying but that I'd had no documentable contractions. He suggested walking. So I walked. For 3 hours. It was five in the morning when I asked the nurse if I could please sleep. I wasn't having any contractions and I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't be allowed to sleep. She said I could and showed me to a room (after much persuasion) with a more comfortable bed (if you've ever been in a labor & delivery bed without at epidural and tried to sleep, you understand!).

I slept for one hour before being startled awake by a nurse saying I needed to be "checked". There was no change in my cervix. Phyllis, the midwife, came to talk to me about induction. She told me we had to get things moving before the risk of infection got any higher. She also said if I waited too long to start labor I could have a dry birth which is said to be exceedingly painful and possibly damaging to mother and baby. I consented to the pitocin.

Once the pitocin was started, I was more or less tied to the bed. I had to be constantly monitored. The straps for the monitors were making my skin red and itchy and the pitocin in the IV was making the back of my hand burn. The automatic blood pressure cuff was making little bruised lines on my arm and causing my arm to turn purple. I was tense and scared and wanted to be anywhere but where I was.

 I insisted on sitting on a yoga ball instead of being in the bed. Within twenty minutes, I went from having no contractions to contractions so intense I couldn't breath through them. I started crying for pain relief. The nurses pointed out in a rather mocking manner that I had requested no pain medication be administered in my birth plan. The nurse smiled at me as she shot Demoral into my IV. I wanted to slap her.

The Demoral affected me almost immediately. It looked like the floor was coming up to meet me and I felt like I was going to fall off the ball. I grabbed whatever I could reach. I felt like puking. Like the worst drunk I'd ever been. It did nothing for the pain. Between the bed spins and the contractions I began to hyperventilate. A nurse put an oxygen mask on my face and the constrictive feeling of it on my skin made me panic even more. I lost all sensation in my arms and legs because of the lack of oxygen. It took a good deal of mental effort to calm myself down - fortunately the Demoral wore off quickly and I was able to regain a little bit of sanity.

Durning this time, SD's parents had arrived. I don't know who called them but I was  not impressed. My mom had been sitting behind me for support but was quickly getting tired. SD's mother offered to take her position. I was not okay with that. She sat down behind me and I said the first thing that came to my mind, "Stop breathing on me!". She moved. People came and went all day and I don't really remember who - I do remember my friend Kyla being there - pretty sure I yelled at her but I don't remember what about.

By 3pm I had asked to move from the yoga ball to the bed. I asked that the squat bar be attatched and it seemed like it took days for the nurses to figure out how to put it on. When it was finally secure, I climed into the bed to try it out. Big NO! There was so much more pain when I squatted I just couldn't do it. I ended up on my hands and knees as it took all of the pressure of the baby off my back. My tail bone hurt like it had been crushed and I was becoming very discouraged. I wanted so much to walk! Like my body was telling me if I could just walk I'd be fine. But they would not let me take the monitors off.

Around 5:30, I asked for more pain relief. They gave me Stadol instead this time. It was worse than Demoral. I had to put my head in my hands and close my eyes because the room was spinning so fast and I just knew I'd fall off the bed. I couldn't feel my calves from sitting on my knees for so long but by that point I didn't care. I remember telling Phyllis I couldn't do it. I begged her to make it stop. The pitocin was running wide open at this point and I remember seeing black durning every contraction.

Phyllis checked my cervix again. She said I was at a 9 but couldn't push without causing damage until I was at a 10. She said she could hold that remaining 1cm out of the way if I wanted to push and I said yes. On the next contraction, she pushed my cervix back and it was the worst pain I have ever felt. I screamed for her to stop. She did. I told her we were not going to try that again.

At 8:30, I remember looking at the clock. Phyllis told me the baby's head was visible during the contractions but then went back inside. I decided I'd had enough and began to push so hard I couldn't see. I had almost become numb to the pain and though it made my back scream when I pushed, I had to get it over with.

At 9:19pm, after 22 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing, Lucas Robert Jones was born into the midwife's hands.  His first sound to me sounded angry. He just screamed. I had to be very careful as I turned over on my back because his cord was so short he had to stay close to my body. My first impression of his face was that he wasn't very happy about being evicted from the only home he'd ever known. His eyes were wide and dark and his cheeks plump and rosy. His cord was so short I couldn't even hold him until it had been cut. I'm pretty sure SD cut it, but I don't remember.

Luke did try to nurse, but never really latched on. With everything that was going on I didn't really notice how much he was struggling. I got to hold him while the placenta was delivered. It didn't take long to get cleaned up - I had no stitches; just a little skid mark.

Suddenly everyone was in the room wanting to see and hold him. The nurses took him to administer medication and shots and check his vitals. Someone ordered pizza. I was starving!!!

When everything settled down and I finally got to hold Luke again, he had been poked, prodded, jabbed, weighed, measured, bathed and swaddled. He was hurting, scared, drugged and exhausted. The nurse placed him in the cradle next to the bed and he began to cry. It was so quiet and so heart breaking - I quickly scooped him up and carefully unswaddled him. I put him inside my hospital gown and we slept.

Luke slept for nearly 18 hours straight. I tried to wake him to nurse, but his little eyes just wouldn't stay open. I saw two lactation consultants that told me I just needed to make him uncomfortable and he'd wake up. They wanted me to make him cold by taking his clothes off and blowing on him and keep him alert by flicking his feet. I refused. How could I intentionally inflict such discomforts on my precious newborn? Hadn't he had enough? And flicking his feet?! His poor little heels had already been jabbed enough times; I would not cause him more pain. And besides, I wouldn't be able to eat if I had someone blowing cold air on me or flicking my feet.

The doctor came to get him to be circumsized. I had a really hard time letting him go and looking back, I should have trusted my mama instincts. I wish I had held on to him. Of all the things I researched, circumcision was not one of them and that is probably the biggest regret of my life. SD went with Luke. When he came back, he wasn't crying. He was just staring. Not blinking, just looking straight ahead. He was in shock from blood loss and pain and I didn't even know it. His arms and legs were bluish and cold. Not one doctor or nurse told me the risks of that unnecessary surgery - nor did they come back in a timely manner to check for signs of shock. I shudder to think what could have happened if the shock had been anymore serious.

So I was sent home without any nurse actually seeing Luke breastfeed successfully. He was constantly crying and slept in long stretches. The wound caused by circumcision looked awful and seemed to cause him a great deal of pain. But everyone went about their business as if they had done me some kind of huge favor. I felt like a failure because I'd had pain meds that didn't work anyway. I had some excessive bleeding that was never addressed. I had developed post partum depression before even leaving the hospital and nobody noticed.

So I took my hurting, screaming baby and his super helpful SD and went home.

....Stay tuned for Part II!