Monthly Archives: July 2012

Thoughts on our NICU experience

I mentioned in a post last week that we were fortunate to end up at the hospital that had a good NICU, but I didn’t say that it is not only good, but actually the best neonatal unit in northern Israel.  Our experience at this hospital – Western Galilee Nahariya Hospital – has been very positive, and I want to share about some things that we appreciated.

Firstly, the staff in the NICU is warm and supportive as was the staff in the high risk maternity ward, where I stayed for four days after the birth).  The NICU has a high ratio of nurses to babies (I don’t know if it’s always like this, but our nurse was responsible for just two babies and when he was in isolation he had his own nurse), and it felt like someone was always watching our baby and making sure things were okay.

The neonatal doctors were very professional, and I was impressed at how available they were.  Literally any time I went over to any doctor to find out what the latest with our baby was, they were right away available to speak to me.  Not only that, they always knew the details of what was happening with the baby without having to even check the records.  There were specialists who also checked the baby, and they also made time to sit down with me to detail everything and be sure I understood what was going on and had a chance to ask questions.

The nurses were extremely encouraging and supportive of breastfeeding.  They encourage all mothers to pump milk for their babies from the very beginning, and have a room with two hospital grade pumps, seating, a water cooler, and a privacy screen for when two women are in the room at once.  They show each mother how to use the pumps, where the equipment is, etc.  If you don’t have enough milk, they will supplement with formula but prefer not to have to do this.

Logistically I wasn’t able to pump enough for my baby’s needs for part of the time he was in the NICU (got behind when I was away for Shabbos) so he did need to be supplemented.  The nurses regularly reminded me to be sure I left him enough milk so they wouldn’t have to give him formula.  One nurse told me, “Mother’s milk is the best and most precious thing!”  This seems to be the feeling all the nurses shared.

When I was gone for Shabbos, I left several containers of frozen milk there for the baby, and though they prefer that parents prepare the exact amount necessary for each feeding, they understood that I wouldn’t know how much to prepare in advance (since every day the amount the baby was given was upped, usually twice a day), and were willing to defrost it and take care of it themselves rather than give him formula.  When I was finally able to nurse my baby, the nurses offered breastfeeding advice and made sure that I knew what I was doing (though the social worker and nurse joked together that I could probably give the staff lessons!).

The day after I left, I had to call the NICU about something, and the person who answered the phone immediately knew who I was.  There are so many nurses and staff on hand at all times, that this was impressive to me – they all know what’s going on with the babies, and which parents belong to which babies.

I’m really glad to be home but the NICU at Nahariya Hospital was a very positive experience for us.

Avivah

Baby’s homecoming

Yesterday morning I was at the hospital at 9:15 am, as usual. When I came in, a nurse asked me if I was ready to take my baby home that day, and I said I certainly was!

Our baby in his corner of the NICU – after being unhooked from most of his paraphanelia

About an hour and a half later, I asked the nurse to check that the paperwork would be ready when I needed to leave, sometime around noon. She told me she didn’t think so, that it would take a long time. I spoke to the head doctor and he told me they wouldn’t get back the latest bloodwork until 12:30, and only at that time would they know if they would release him. And then they’d start preparing the paperwork at that point.

I was in a bit of a dilemma. There are only two buses each day from my city to the city where the hospital was. One left at 12:45 pm, and the other left six hours later. If I waited around to find out if they were releasing the baby or not, I would have to take the later bus and would be away from my other children all day long, from 8 am – 8 pm. It wasn’t certain that I’d be able to bring the baby home even if I did stay, and if I didn’t, I’d be back the next morning as usual.

So after going back and forth in my mind about what to do, I told them I’d leave as usual and come back the next morning to get him. I know too well that when someone tells you something will be done by 12:30, it can be another two hours until it happens, and then they’ll tell you the office where something else needs to happen closed in the meantime, and you can waste hours and a lot of emotional energy waiting for something to happen.

And that’s what I did. I knew the baby was in good hands and even though I really didn’t want to go back home without him after being geared up to take him home (especially knowing how disappointed the kids would be if I came home myself), I took my regular bus home. It was 2 pm when I got home, and five minutes after that dh got home from another appointment for another child in another city (:)), and told me a friend had called and offered to drive me to pick up the baby. I was exhausted by then and the thought of going back to this city and getting the baby really felt beyond my physical capacity.  And I wasn’t even sure the paperwork would be ready if I did.

So dh called the hospital and they said the head doctor had authorized everything already (before I left I spoke to him and requested that as soon as the results come in, that he prepare the release paperwork so I wouldn’t be in the same situation the next morning when I came in). Dh has missed tons of work time between needing to be available for our child who was hospitalized for two weeks (two weeks before I gave birth), and then this baby being in the NICU for ten days. So he really couldn’t go to the hospital to pick up the baby, though usually he would do this knowing how wiped out I was.

I decided even though I was so tired it would be really nice to bring the baby home that day, and easier to do it with a friend driving me than by bus the next day. I’m really glad we did it this way, because even driving directly there, it was a 3.5 hour process! Another good thing was that she had a car seat she brought along for me to borrow, and the NICU staff said they couldn’t release him until they saw the car seat! I had a baby wrap and was planning to wear him until we got to the parking lot where we were parked, because it’s so much easier than carrying a baby around in a heavy car seat. But they said that wasn’t allowed, which left me wondering if they would have released the baby if I had only had the baby wrap and no car seat (like that morning), since I was planning to take a bus?

They gave me an extensive list of medical follow up care that will keep me busy the next two or three weeks – a visit to our pediatrician, a nephrologist, a hematologist, a pediatric cardiologist, need to get an ultrasound done, more bloodwork, a visit with the child development center – I know I’m forgetting stuff but I have it written down.  Some of these can be taken care of in our city but two of them will need to be at the hospital next week.  I was busy on the phone this morning trying to get the first of these appointments made, which was challenging since as a newborn he’s not yet registered at the clinic and they told me I wasn’t able to make appointments other than for the pediatrician.  Tomorrow after that visit I should be able to get the rest of the appointments scheduled.

Admiring baby in car seat right after we got home

The kids were so excited to see the baby! Most of the kids were waiting outside for me when I got home, and from the point we got into our home until late that evening, the baby wasn’t put down for even a second. He just was passed from person to person.  Even when he’s sleeping, someone is holding him.

Sleeping but still being held

So many siblings to admire him!

“Oh my gosh, he’s SOOO cute!” – this is what I heard for hours, and then it started again as soon as he woke up again in the morning. It’s really nice how excited everyone is about the baby. And it’s so nice to be home!

Avivah

Update on our baby

I’m sorry I haven’t been posting; I know many of you have been concerned about what’s happening with our baby.  I’ve been going to the hospital to be with him every day and that takes almost six hours a day, which especially in the immediate postpartum stage takes a lot of energy.  So I’ve been too tired to blog.

But I feel like I have to update you because I don’t want anyone to think that the absence of posting means things aren’t going well.  Actually, the baby is doing amazingly!  His white blood cell count is down to normal, his heart is functioning totally normally (no sign of the structural problems they expected to find), he’s off oxygen and breathing normally on his own, and he’s off a feeding tube.  Yesterday I was able to nurse him for the first time, and today the doctor said that he can eat as much and as often as he wants.

And more cautiously good news is that the doctor said we should be able to bring him home tomorrow!  Assuming that he continues to do as well as he’s been doing until now, is the only caveat.  We were hoping at best that he’d be home for Shabbos, so this was beyond what we were hoping for.  The kids are very excited and hopefully when I call the hospital in the morning before I catch my bus, they’ll tell me that we still have a go-ahead for that!

To all of you who kept us in your prayers, thank you very much – they obviously worked!

Avivah

Taking steps to avoid postpartum depression

I don’t want to be presumptuous nor hurtful, so please ignore me if I’m out of place, but…

You did undergo a majorly negative emotional experience and also don’t have as much time to bond with your baby as usual, and I’m concerned about the potential of PPD creeping in. I am positive you know the best ways to abet it and I’m not here to tell you that, but with all that is going on, please watch out for yourself too…not just the health of your baby.

Firstly, I appreciate the concern!

I’m in no way an expert about postpartum depression – far from it.  But I’ll share my thoughts about this here, because it is something I’ve thought about for the last few weeks.  Why for the past weeks?  Because I’ve had a lot on my plate recently and I think these things can dribble over beyond the birth experience in how they affect you if you aren’t consciously dealing with them.

As mothers we can’t just take care of everyone else.  At a certain point we’ll just collapse physically and/or emotionally if we can’t find space for ourselves.  This is something I was very consciously trying to attend to, to find space for me to take care of myself.  I was talking with a friend who shared with me her thoughts about how crucial fun is, especially for people like us who are so responsible that we consider checking off everything on our ‘to do’ list to be the  most fun thing about our day!  :)

Yesterday she sent me an email in which she followed up with our recent talk, and shared her criteria for fun: 1) it feeds your soul; b) it empowers you; and c) there isn’t a goal.  What’s fun for you might not be fun for someone else.   My husband plays tennis, guitar and draws – all of which are renewing for him but not one of those things would be fun for me.  If I sit in front of a waterfall by myself for an hour, that’s my ‘fun’ – not what you might think of when thinking of fun as it’s typically defined, but it definitely meets the three criteria.

For me, it’s ‘fun’ to have time to myself.  That’s why my hospital vacation was so valuable for me at this time.  These last few days have been invaluable in processing the birth and finding a lot of inner peace.  It’s been very renewing to have time to myself and that’s why I haven’t answered the phone hardly at all and have told anyone who wanted to visit that I really would rather be left to myself for now.  It’s been great!  Even my husband wasn’t here after the first night, until he came to pick me up yesterday (before we knew I’d be allowed to stay another day).

People sometimes tell me how positive I am, so this next point is one that I also try to be conscious of.  I think a person has to be very careful about being positive versus putting on a happy face for the world and being miserable inside.  You really have to be honest with yourself about who you are and what your limitations are.  There’s a lightness inside when you’re feeling positive.  When you’re putting on a happy face, it’s more like you’re weighted down by smiling because you know that you’re fooling everyone else but really inside you’re miserable.  I don’t feel I have to tell everyone around me how miserable I am but it’s not a value for me to pretend to be what I’m not.

Physically, I’ve been loading up on B vitamins because that’s an important preventive aspect for PPD – I’ve been taking two heaping tablespoons of brewers yeast in my milk every morning leading up to the birth (don’t have it here in the hospital), in addition to herbs, rescue remedy (for the trauma), and other vitamins.

As far as bonding with the baby, it’s been amazing being at the hospital with just him, and getting to sit and be with him for hours without interruption. There’s no pressure or expectation of how much I have to be with him or how I should interact with him – it’s my experience to have in the way that’s meaningful to me.   I can stand over his crib and talk or sing to him, or massage him, or give him a kiss – or none of those – and it’s all okay.  If I just sit next to him without touching him or talking to him, it’s okay. If I rest my head on the side of his crib and fall asleep holding his hand, it’s okay.  It’s been another renewing and relaxing aspect of being at the hospital – I’m here as his mother because I want to be, not because he’s screaming to be held or changed or fed and I have to do it.  I don’t have to do any of it; all of those things can be done by the NICU staff.  But they can’t be his mother and love him like I do.

Last night I was with him when the nurse suddenly said to me, “Your baby loves you, do you know that?”  I looked up and asked her why she said that.  She pointed to the monitor and she said, “Look at how his breathing gets better when you’re here.”  I didn’t know what numbers on the monitor corresponded to what, so she showed me how his oxygenation level went all the way up to the maximum when I was with him.  So it looks like we’re bonding  pretty well even if I’m not nursing him.  :)

I’ve been thinking about how to manage the transition back to home.  After being gone for four days – and I’m hardly ever gone more than a few hours – I’m anticipating a lot of emotional intensity on the part of the littles, and just because the older kids are older doesn’t mean they don’t have some emotion to me not being around.  I’ve made the effort to physically rest earlier in the day so I’ll have energy to actively be with them, and also thought about some special ways I can be with them each one on one.

This birth experience definitely had some strongly negative aspects to it, but I haven’t denied my feelings to myself about it, or suppressed it or not felt the sadness of the difference between what I wanted and what I got.  I’ve been resolving it inside myself.  And you know what?  Sometimes you get powerful help in putting things in perspective.  Yesterday the baby in the incubator right next to my baby died – he was born the day before my baby.  The day before another baby died just an hour after she was born.  I feel like a very lucky woman to have my gorgeous baby boy.  And that’s not just putting on a happy face.

Avivah

My hospital vacation

A few weeks ago I saw a notice that a three day women’s retreat was being generously subsidized and though I usually look at these retreats as something nice but not for me at this stage, this time I really, really wanted to go.  I was feeling a lot of pressure to take care of many things (all of which were very important), and I was emotionally salivating at the thought of some time to myself away from everyone and everything.

But when I called about the subsidized price, it was only a discount of 100 shekels from the total price of 750, which wasn’t really a compelling discount for me.  So I told myself it obviously wasn’t meant to be, and Hashem would send me what I was meant to have when I was meant to have it.

Today I was thinking how amazing it is that I didn’t have to wait long for my paid for vacation getaway, right here in the hospital!  This is just one more example of how sometimes things that look bad really can turn out beautifully!

To recap, I had a baby at the beginning of this week and contrary to my plan to leave the hospital as soon as possible, my baby needed to be in the NICU.  And that meant that I needed to be in the hospital with him.

When I was first taken to my room, my initial impression was that it was dreary and depressing.  There was no lock on the bathroom door, the room was super dumpy, and I couldn’t get anything to eat since I arrived at the hospital half hour after dinner was served.  I was separated from my two roommates by a thin curtain which is pretty normal here but both of them were very talkative with visitors and cell phones.  One roommate insisted she needed all of the overhead fluorescents on late in the evening (after 11 pm) because the partial lighting to her section of the room wasn’t enough for her to see her baby.  During the part of the night when people usually sleep, I was repeatedly woken from my partial restless sleep by non stop sounds of crying babies being wheeled down the hallways and in and out of my room.  I finally feel into a deep sleep out of sheer exhaustion when at 2:30 am, a nurse walked in, turned on all the overhead lights, and loudly asked, “Which one of you is Avivah?”  When I told her I was, she told me I needed bloodwork done.  The reason I know it was 2:30 despite not having a watch is that I blearily said, “Bloodwork now?  Isn’t it something like 3 in the  morning?”  And she briskly responded, “Of course right now!  It’s 2:30.”  There’s no time like the present, right?  :)

When my baby was transferred from the regular nursery to the NICU, he was on a different floor than I was which meant a long walk for me.  And when preparing for sleep and then again in the morning, I had nothing I needed from home like pajamas, a change of clothes, a toothbrush or hairbrush because of having to rush out with the ambulance.   Fortunately, that was just the first night!

Then I was offered the chance to be transferred to the high risk maternity ward, which was on the same floor as the NICU, and I jumped at the opportunity.  Nothing against women who just had babies, but hearing babies screaming right next to me all night long just isn’t refreshing.  When I got to my new room, I was pleasantly surprised to see everything about it was much newer and nicer, the bathroom had a lock (did I mention there are times that I appreciate my privacy? :)), and it was much more convenient to visit my baby in the NICU.

Another bonus was when I found out that I had wireless internet service in my new room, which I didn’t have in the first room.  This was great because I could be in touch with people to share our good news, not to mention post here!

Though I’m not exactly sitting around all day drinking martinis or lolling on the beach, I do have a chance to spend the day with my own thoughts and without being responsible for anyone but myself and the baby.  My day is full – filled with being in the NICU with the baby and pumping for him, speaking with doctors and nurses and eating meals (I haven’t had a chance for a nap yet) – but it’s not a stressful kind of full.  It’s really different than having a newborn who is nursing and being held all day long.

I can take a shower when I want, and if I pump an hour later or earlier, it doesn’t really matter.  I don’t love being away from my other children but they’re all doing great, working together to get things done and people have been very generous with their offers of help.  The food here is decent and meals are served on time with no effort needed on my part except to go get it from the dining room.  The nurses have all been pleasant and only come around a couple of times a day to check temps and blood pressure.  I’ve figured out where everything I need is without having to ask them to get it for me, which I appreciate because it takes so much longer to get something when you have to ask someone and then wait for them to bring it (I know since one morning I asked for my breakfast tray to be brought to me since I was asleep when it was being served and didn’t want to rush to get dressed before it was cleared away (I don’t walk around in a robe in a hospital, I have to be fully dressed just like anywhere else), and it took them an hour to bring it- and the dining room is a two minute walk away!).  So I’m pretty much set.

Today the doctor was filling out my release paperwork, and kind of rhetorically asked, “Right you’re supposed to be released today?”  So I answered kind of jokingly, “Yes, but if you want to let me stay here another day I’ll be very happy to stay!”  She looked at me and asked if I meant it, and I told her I did, that it would help me a lot since my baby was in the NICU and wasn’t coming home with me.  So she said she’d request authorization and let me know.

Dh was already here to pick me up when we had this interchange (and had unfortunately spent a lot of money renting a vehicle since he didn’t want me to have to go home using public transportation), but she came back in a short time later to tell me the insurance company had approved the request, and that I could be here for another day!  This was such a nice surprise and a really big help to me! Until now I’ve been able to pump enough for the baby to almost keep up with his feeding schedule, but not to get ahead.  By being here a bit longer, I’ll hopefully be able to prepare feedings for Shabbos and Sunday morning, and I’m going to try to take  advantage of this last day and actively plan a nap so that I’ll get back home refreshed and ready to fully be available emotionally for my other kids.

I feel really fortunate to have been able to have this bit of a breather.  I wrote in a recent post about the stress I felt from the chaos of the entire birth and post-birth process, and this was a really valuable chance for me to recharge before going back home to be with everyone.

Avivah

Moving from shellshocked to grateful

Shellshocked – that’s how I was feeling after this birth.  I felt disconnected from almost every part of the process.  Here’s what I wrote to process some of my feelings while waiting to see our baby:

************************

I feel powerless at how so many people were suddenly involved in our private moment and there was no time to savor the birth. I didn’t have any time to process any part of the birth or to have quiet moments to share with my husband or our children.

I feel upset to have been treated like I was controlling when I wanted to at least have some say in things that were important to me after the birth, not even to be able to go to the bathroom or shower without someone trying to walk in.

I feel frustrated to get to the hospital and not feel even minimally equipped with what I would have felt was important to have on hand.

I feel cheated of a certain kind of experience, of serenity or at least privacy.

I feel so upset that my baby almost stopped belonging to me after I got to the hospital; it feels so wrong to be apart from him for such a long time and to hardly be able to catch more than a glance of him from the time he was born until now.

I really want to go home and be in my own bed, to be with people who I love around me.

I want to cry for all that I missed in this birth, and I feel guilty for feeling so sad and empty when I should be so happy. It’s just all so different than what I wanted.

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At about 11 pm, the nurse from the nursery asked me to come and try to nurse the baby again since he had woken up.  (I had to give him back to be put on a warmer after the first time I tried to nurse him.)  After I finished holding him (since he was too sleepy to nurse), we were asked to come to the nursery to speak to the doctor.

This was the point when I was able to change from sad/mad to glad.  I had made a list of things I was grateful for before this but I didn’t make the internal shift until this conversation.  This was the first time a staff member told me what was happening, and it changed my entire view of the situation.

The baby had been having trouble breathing since he arrived, and had to repeatedly be stabilized.  In addition to this, his heartrate was fluctuating significantly and had to be monitored.  He wasn’t maintaining his body temperature.  The blood test showed an extremely high white blood cell count.  He was jaundiced and was too weak to physically nurse.  And the doctor told us at this point that they wanted to move him to the newborn intensive care unit immediately.

It was when I looked in the eyes of the doctor that I saw how compassionate she was, that she had been trying not to overwhelm us by telling us all these things at once.  This is why they kept pushing off letting me hold the baby, and why they insisted I had to stay close by the nursery when I held him.

And when I understood this, I suddenly was able to see why everything had to go the way it did so that our baby would be in a place where he could be best taken care of.  If I had had a good experience at the first hospital, he would have been born there, but the hospital here has a much better NICU.  If he had pinked up even a couple minutes sooner, we wouldn’t have called the ambulance and wouldn’t have been transported immediately, and we wouldn’t have noticed signs of these issues as they arose the way a professional staff did.  So all of that chaos and seeming unpleasantness of the birth was really there for our good – which intellectually I always know is the case, but it’s so amazing when you have the opportunity to see it clearly.

And now I feel the entire birth was really the way it was meant to be; though that doesn’t erase the unpleasantness, it makes it much easier to accept.

The baby is currently in the NICU, and my plans to leave as soon as possible have changed to hoping to stay here as long as possible so I can be with him.  Right now no one knows how long he’ll need to be here; it depends on his response.  Today I was able to pump my milk and that’s what he’s getting now through a tube, which I’m happy about (have to go prepare more feedings after I post this – I put it in labeled syringes of the current amount he’s supposed to eat per feeding).  I spent a long time today just sitting next to him and keeping my hand on him and talking to him so he knows I’m there.

They’re running a lot of tests on him to see what is wrong, and for now the tests are coming back looking good.  They thought he might have severe heart problems and I was mentally imagining complicated surgeries, but now it looks like his heart is just enlarged.  His breathing is getting better, and he’s under the   phototherapy lights to address the jaundice.  We have to wait out the white blood cell situation (which has already shown improvement), and wait for confirmation on a couple more tests.

He looks a little like he’s in a spaceship, with so many wires coming out of him and these cute little sunglasses looking band over his eyes to protect them from the bright lights!  He’s as cute as can be, and we’re looking forward to being able to bring him home soon.

If you’re able to say a prayer for him, I would very much appreciate it.  He hasn’t yet been named so for now, you can pray for Rach hanolad (the newborn baby) ben (son of) Avivah Michaela.  Thank you!

Avivah

Baby no. 10 arrives!

(continued from last post)

I had contractions every ten minutes on the way home from the hospital, but the ride was quick and pleasant. And I was so happy to see my kids when I got back!  I was really, really exhausted mentally and physically from my hospital experience, so I went to sleep soon after getting home. I had some contractions when I was sleeping, but I hazily thought to myself it was lots easier to deal with without the monitor on me.  Then suddenly I had a huge amount of pressure and woke up enough to call my husband, who rushed in and immediately called the midwife and told her to come.  I wasn’t quite awake yet and was wondering why he felt so urgent about it, and was having an unwilling sense of deja vu from my past birth.  This all felt very familiar but the likelihood seemed to be very small of a repeat since that was such an unusual scenario that would have been very, very difficult to replicate even if we tried, and I wasn’t really wrapping my mind around the current scenario.

I asked dh to get some things ready for the birth, while still in bed with my eyes closed and wondering if things were really moving as fast as it seemed. Within a short time – I didn’t have a watch or clock to look at, but less than fifteen minutes from when I first called my husband– our baby was born with dh once again being the baby catcher!  It was just an hour after we had gotten home from the hospital.

However, what followed was very different from our last birth, which was a relaxed and beautiful experience for us all.  This time, dh told me it was a boy, and then a minute or two later in a worried voice told me something was wrong, that the baby wasn’t breathing.  I told him to pass him to me while dh called the midwife to ask her what to do; the baby was floppy and hardly made a sound, just a little gurgle.  (Dh later told me he had unwrapped the cord from around his neck right after he was born.)  I was suctioning his nose and mouth when she said to put him on his stomach at a 60 degree angle facing down, to massage his back and then to breathe into his mouth.  I had such a sense of being disconnected from reality while this was happening, like I was watching myself from ouside of my body doing all of this.  While we were doing this, I told dh to call the ambulance.  The midwife arrived a few minutes later, bursting into the room and quickly grabbing the baby to get him breathing. This was an intense few minutes but thankfully he pinked up and started breathing on his own.

A couple of minutes after this, the ambulance crew arrived and all four of them started trooping into my bedroom.  This was a bit much for the small space we had, since there were already three of us there, and it was also mentally a bit too much for me, since I had just given birth less than ten minutes before and wasn’t exactly interested in visitors!  So I asked the two young female volunteers to stay outside.

The baby was already breathing normally before they arrived, but we couldn’t cancel the call once it was made, and they refused to accept that we didn’t need their help.   The male ambulance volunteers assumed a very commanding attitude which didn’t exactly enhance the atmosphere for me – when they were about to cut the cord, I asked the one doing it if he could do it over a chux pad so blood wouldn’t get all over, and he told me, “Geveret (Mrs), I’m in charge here.”  So he cut it and blood got on my clothes and on the sheets.  It was distressing to me how very hectic and disorganized the physical and emotional environment was and there was nothing I could even say, without being told, “You just had a baby, we’ll take care of it (our way).”

Quick family picture with two medics in the background right before leaving to hospital

They insisted on taking us to the hospital right away which wasn’t a bad thing since I was going to have to go to the hospital to register the baby anyway, but I would have chosen to go a little later and have time with my family before rushing out to have some emotional closure and time to process the birth.  I told them I needed to change into fresh clothing and sent dh to the living room with the baby so that the kids could see him before we left.  Usually everyone comes into my room and I speak to each of them and let them hold the baby, but it was really different for them this time with the ambulance volunteers telling my kids to be careful, me not anywhere in sight, and the littles didn’t have a framework to process what was happening.  Ds3 looked at the baby and said, “I want the baby to go back”.  I think the littles were expecting an older baby that crawls around and were kind of put off by the newborn size!

The volunteers were getting antsy about how long it was taking even though I really wasn’t taking long at all, but I managed to get a picture of everyone before we left, including the volunteers.  Ds13 carried the baby to the ambulance and all of the kids followed and watched them load me onto a stretcher and lift me into the ambulance, and as they closed the ambulance door I saw the first of my neighbors walk over to find out what was happening.  Dh was trying to get some things together for me to take to the hospital because without thinking he had unpacked the bag that I had packed for the hospital when we got home, and ran out when the ambulance started leaving without him!

I couldn’t hold the baby since I had an iv in one arm in a location that made it impossible to bend that arm, and then a blood pressure cuff on the other arm, so all I could do was to hold both arms straight in front of me.  Since I couldn’t hold the baby, one of the young female volunteers did instead, and I asked her if dh could hold the baby and sit in the back of the ambulance with me.  But she said there was no room so he stayed up in the front and we couldn’t talk to each other at all.  But he was able to pass the arnica back to me and I took several doses of that every fifteen minutes to help with shock/trauma/bleeding until what was left in the container was finished.

We decided to go to a different hospital than where we were at earlier, because I wasn’t interested in dealing with the staff at the first place and felt it would be easier in the second hospital, which also is closer to our home.  So off we went, and when we got there they took me (again, on the stretcher) to the labor and delivery ward while I instructed dh to stick to the baby like glue and not let them do anything to him that we didn’t want done.

When they finished processing me, I was taken to the maternity ward but there still no sight of dh and the baby.  The person who transported me insisted that I needed help in moving to the bed from the bed they ‘drove’ me there in, as well as with more personal needs, and when I told her that I was thought I could manage on my own and that I’d let her know if I needed help, she was a tad indignant.  But I felt entitled to at least a tiny bit of dignity, even if I had to be in the hospital, don’t you think?  I assured her that I’d knock on the bathroom door and let her know if I needed help.

I waited and waited for dh, and when he finally came, it was without the baby.  He told me they were bringing the baby right after him.  But they weren’t.  After waiting a while, I sent dh back to the nursery to get him.  After a while, he came back saying that they needed to warm him up and we could have him afterward.  Some more time went by, and I asked dh to go get him again.  This time he was gone even longer and when he got back told me that the baby’s heartrate was fluctuating so they said I couldn’t hold him yet.   A few hours after the birth, and I still couldn’t hold my baby…I was feeling so sad then, when a little later dh came in and told me that the staff told him I should come to the nursery to nurse the baby.

Our newest delicious addition!

It was a long walk to the nursery but they said he couldn’t be brought to me, and when I got to him, he was already five hours old and I had missed the initial alert stage of a newborn.  He was sleeping deeply and I could hardly get him to even partially open his eyes.  But I was really glad to be able to see him and hold him against me….

Avivah

Birthing at the hospital…or maybe not

On Sunday, we had the first day of Machane Mommy (Camp Mommy), and our ending activity of the day was a local carnival, to which I took ds6, ds4, and ds3. They had a great time, and so did I, though I began having a lot of contractions during the three hours we were out. After I got home, these continued but I was unsure about if I wanted to go to the hospital yet.  It was still two weeks until my due date, and the hospital is an expensive taxi ride away.  My preference is to get to the hospital as late in labor is possible so there’s less time for them to do things that are unnecessary, but I didn’t want to go through the registration and check in process while in advanced labor, or have the concern about giving birth in the taxi on the way!

After resting and listening to some meditations for an hour or so, I had a feeling of clarity that I should go to the hospital at that point, about 1 am. We called a taxi and I have to say that having intense contractions while the driver makes sudden jerky stops isn’t the most comfortable thing! We got there and registered, and dh said my contractions were about every three minutes. Perfect.  We went upstairs to labor and delivery, but it was quite a wait until a staff member noticed we were there.  Dh was shocked – he asked, what would happen if someone got there ready to deliver?  I told him, now he understands my concern about when to get there!

My hope in going to this hospital was to use their natural birthing suite, in which I was told that women are given a lot of privacy and much more flexibility than in the regular birthing rooms.  I was told by a doula who goes to frequent births at this hospital that I’d have to qualify for the room (I was told this by the staff as well), and that I’d be best off to make it as easy as possible for them to qualify me by letting them run their standard protocol on me.  So that’s what I did.

First was the mandatory 30 minutes of monitoring, which turned into an hour. Every time I asked about having it taken off, I was told “A couple more minutes”.  Then I had to have an ultrasound to determine the size of the baby (over a certain size wouldn’t be allowed), then an internal exam – and when it was determined I was healthy, the baby wasn’t too big, I was in active labor – the doctor on shift refused to let me use the natural birthing suite because I had so many children already that I was too high risk. (When I asked what was so dangerous about using that room, they said because it had a regular bed instead of a hospital birthing bed and it would be less convenient for them if something went wrong.)

At this point I told my husband I wasn’t interested in staying around at this hospital and I wanted to go home.  Not because of the room itself, but because being in the regular room meant being treated in a very different way than what I felt able to accept.  I was supposed to have a visit with my private midwife four hours later (I had decided to continue having private prenatal care with her even though I couldn’t afford a home birth) so I called her to ask her opinion – I wanted to ask her if she’d consider lowering her price in order for me to have a homebirth with her when she showed up for the prenatal visit! But there was no answer at either of her numbers, and not knowing what choice I had when it looked like I’d give birth in three or four hours, I very reluctantly stayed at the hospital.

They put me in the nicest regular suite as a compromise to not letting me use the room I wanted, but to me it didn’t matter much.  They said they’d need to monitor me for about thirty minutes out of every hour, and when I asked about the cordless version, told me it was only available in the natural birthing suite. This made contractions much more difficult, but what was really hardest for me is that I was unable to feel safe in the environment I found myself in.  When the midwife was trying to tell me how it would be the same birth regardless of what room I was in, I explained to here that if I didn’t emotionally feel comfortable, I was concerned that my labor wasn’t going to progress. She was very nice – everyone was, really – but they all said the same thing: we respect what you’re saying and it’s your baby but it’s our responsibility to be sure your baby is safe.

Dh brought a relaxation cd with music in the background, since it’s the only suitable music I had for the birth, and it was great. When I was admitted the actual labor room, I also drank the strong red raspberry infusion we prepared before leaving.  But I was having a very hard time picturing the end of the birth, something that’s never been an issue. It was like there was a big concrete wall in my mind between labor and the final result. After a few hours of contractions, the doctors came around for my visit and asked if I noticed that my contractions were getting further apart and less effective. Yes, I noticed that.

Then the head doctor told me he wants to send me for an ultrasound at their clinic since things slowed down.  What?  I told him I already had an ultrasound when I came in. He said that it showed my baby was four kilos; I told him that the technician told me 3.800 and that she couldn’t measure accurately because the head was so low.

He said that since I hadn’t done the gestational diabetes tests earlier in pregnancy as well as some other tests, that I didn’t have the necessary profile to show that the baby wouldn’t be too big to be birthed naturally. I told him that our children had ranged in size up to 4.5 kilo that I didn’t have a single sign of gestational diabetes. We finally agreed that I needed to be released from the labor and delivery ward and transferred to the maternity ward since labor had slowed down so much by then. I told him I was exhausted – I hadn’t slept or eaten for hours, and there’s no way that labor was going to start again until I did.

I finally was transferred to the maternity ward, which was good since I had a quiet place to be, had lunch, and didn’t have as many people questioning me repeatedly about the same questions.  At this point I told dh again that I couldn’t stay in this hospital; emotionally I didn’t feel safe at all and didn’t think my labor was going to restart again for days if they kept me there. We finally reached our private midwife – she had been away overseas and gotten back twelve hours later than she expected; when we called she had just walked in the door from her trip. She wasn’t in a frame of mind to advise me, and I put down the phone feeling more alone than ever. I just didn’t know what to do.  I felt like I was beyond my ability to think positively or let go or whatever else – I felt so trapped in the hospital.

Soon after this dh called her, and told me we’d work out the money for the homebirth (this was my main concern), that I shouldn’t have to stay in the hospital when clearly it was the wrong thing for me, and that we were leaving the hospital. I felt a bit apprehensive about this because the decision to go to the hospital wasn’t made out of thin air. It took them a few hours to prepare the necessary paperwork, and I had to sign an against medical advice form. When I did that, the doctor told me I needed to have an ultrasound before I left, and when I asked why, he told me that my baby was so big that he was likely to have shoulder dystocia on the way out. (Somehow the size of our baby went from an estimated 3.800 – which I thought was an overestimate and highly unlikely considering his gestational age – to 4 kilos to 4.5 kilos.) I told him that our biggest baby had been 4.5 kilos and didn’t anticipate a problem birthing a baby that size, but that in any case I could do another ultrasound when I came back to the hospital to give birth.

He agreed, then told me I needed to do a glucose screening. I asked why, and he said I wouldn’t be allowed to have a natural birth when I came back nless I did and the ultrasound showed the size of the baby was under 4.5 kilo. If I didn’t agree to this, they would only allow a trial of labor if the ultrasound showed the baby to be under 4 kilos. In case you don’t understand the veiled language, it means that I would have to have a ceasarian. I was really puzzled about this since there was no sign of me having a big baby but I said I’d take care of it when I checked back in, signed the paperwork, and after a couple more hours of waiting, were on our way home! I was so relieved just at the thought of leaving, and not surprisingly, about a half hour before we left, I started having contractions again…..

Avivah

Cellular memory – emotional imprinting on unborn child

Several weeks ago I met with the midwife I was planning to have at my birth, and we we had a long and fascinating conversation.  One of the things that I appreciated about when taking my detailed personal birthing history was how insightful her questions were.  For example, when I detailed one very long and difficult birth in which the baby was asynclitic, she told me it sounded like a child who wasn’t ready to be born.  And then she asked me about that child’s personality and way of dealing currently with new situations, and how it correlates (strong correlation).  It was fascinating, and very much in line with my belief that every unborn child is imprinted at a deep level with the emotions his mother experiences during her pregnancy.

When I recently took one of my children for an appointment for reflexology, a meditation was played aloud during the session and the practitioner told me I would probably benefit by letting myself follow along with it, too.  I told her that I already do regular meditations and surprised, she asked why.  I answered that I have so many stresses in my life right now that I feel I have to make a conscious effort to stay emotionally balanced in order to be present for my family and myself in a healthy way.

After she finished the session, she asked me about how the pregnancy and birth of this child were.  At the end of that pregnancy I had a lot of stress in my life and correspondingly, a lot of negative thinking.  (Since then I’ve tried to be much more careful about my thoughts and feelings during pregnancy.)  I told the practitioner, who knows that I’ve been recently dealing with some  intense stresses in a very concentrated period of time, that this is a large part of why I’ve made a conscious effort to relax with meditations.  I don’t want to imprint emotionally in a negative way on this baby.  She immediately agreed with me that imprinting happens on the cellular level, known as cell memory, before a child’s birth, and becomes part of a child’s makeup.

It was very interesting to have had these two conversations with the midwife and naturopath.  This is the kind of thing that people don’t talk about much, you don’t see much written about, because it’s not quantifiable.  It’s something that happens almost at the soul level to a child, and is very real regardless of if you can see it or not.  When I used to go to my chiropractor in the US, she did deep energy clearing at this level, which I appreciated.  Now I don’t have access to that, but I did bring my Bach flower essence kit with me, and this is an ideal tool for facilitating soul level healing.

You know the saying, “You are what you eat”?  I think it’s just as accurate, perhaps even more so, to say, “You are what you think”!

Avivah