My counseling specialty is Reproductive Mental Health. I understand and can talk about the emotions related to birth and postpartum. Logically, I was expecting some heightened emotions after David’s arrival. Being logically prepared for something and emotionally prepared for something are 2 very different things. On Saturday, 4 days after David was born, I had my first emotional breakdown. I wrote the following post that day in the midst of my sadness. I can’t say that all of the emotions have gone away, but each day is an improvement:
I’m exhausted. And I’m sore. And I just want my son. I’m tired of telling people he’s in the NICU. I’m tired of not knowing when he’ll come home. I’m tired of feeling like I still only have 1 child. Sometimes I feel like a fraud. What have I actually done to be a mother to him yet? His birth seemed so effortless & easy I feel like it didn’t count. I know how much attachment & bonding take place the first 3 years of life. I keep thinking about this first month of his life & how nurses are providing his nourishment & life sources. What if he doesn’t attach to me after this? What if the hospital begins to feel normal to him & when we bring him home he feels ripped away from his comfort zone? I remember the excitement of bringing Ella home & those wonderful 1st few days & how this experience seems so anticlimactic. I feel guilty that he’s not in my belly anymore & that I can’t provide him with nutrition, comfort & warmth.
So, yes, there are lows on this journey. I have cried every day to see my tiny son laying in his bed with tubes and wires and lights and beeps. It’s not what I planned for his first few weeks. But there are also highs. Last night I went to the NICU. I walked into David’s room and gave him a big kiss. It took me a second to realize his tube was out!! After surgery they had inserted a tube to begin sucking out the bile that he isn’t able to process through his stomach and intestines until he heals. I immediately burst into tears! (good tears) I haven’t seen his face without tubes and wires since he was born! It was such a surprise and a few days earlier than expected! Unfortunately, this morning, they had to insert it again, but we were prepared for a few setbacks. It was a beautiful few hours to stare at his sweet face.
David with tubes
David without tubes
Walking into the hospital
I have been anticipating writing this post since I began the blog. I had no idea I’d be writing it so soon! David’s original ‘due date’ was August 20th and he surprised us all by arriving this last Tuesday at 36 weeks.
On Tuesday morning at 3:30, I got up to go to the bathroom (one of many trips as any 8 month pregnant woman will tell you) I noticed some fluid, but wasn’t initially concerned. After my 3rd trip to the bathroom and my 3rd change of clothes, I realized it might be time to get a little panicky. I woke Jason up, but we both knew there was nothing to ‘do’ until normal business hours when I could get in touch with my Dr. I woke up around 6:30 on Tuesday morning and packed a bag ‘just in case’ (Ironically, I had put on my calendar to pack my bag the night before so I’d be prepared early, but we had just gotten home from a trip to South Dakota and I didn’t have the energy to repack so I decided to put it off). We called my Dr. and they said to come into the hospital to be checked. Jason got Ella ready for daycare and around 9:30, we headed for the hospital. Once we got there, they checked & confirmed I was leaking amniotic fluid. Jason asked what that meant and the nurse said, “It means you two are having a baby today.” Everything about this pregnancy and birth has been the polar opposite of Ella’s. Since I wasn’t contracting yet, they encouraged me to walk the halls and sit on the birthing ball. Around noon, they gave me some fluids and around 2:00, started Pitocin to start my contractions. At 6:00 I still was only dilated 2cm so they broke my water. I had SO MUCH extra fluid (see every earlier post) so this release helped me feel better and really got labor progressing. My mom brought Ella over around 6:30 and I was pretty uncomfortable. I was contracting every 2 minutes (which really confused poor Ella as I had to stop speaking and just close my eyes and breathe through the contractions) At 7:00 they decided to go home and I told Jason I wanted an epidural. I had wanted to have another unmedicated birth, but as anyone who’s had Pitocin will agree, the contractions are Intense!!! I didn’t feel I was progressing enough to make it without an intervention. I finally was hydrated enough at 8:00 to get the epidural. I expected immediate relief but it took about 25 min to really say I felt ‘good’. The nurse checked me again and at 8:40 I was dilated to 6cm. She started cleaning up the room a little and not even 10 minutes later, I told her I felt a lot of pressure and could feel his head. She checked me again a 8:50 and confirmed I was dilated to 10cm and could begin pushing. 4cm in 10 min! I couldn’t believe it! (Thank you to the inventor of the epidural) I was so tired at that point, I didn’t have the energy to push. The Dr. and nurses all kept telling me I was doing great, so even though I couldn’t feel a thing, I kept pushing and our sweet, precious boy was born at 9:01. They put him on my chest immediately and he was so calm and peaceful. It took a lot of rubbing and coaxing by the nurses to get him to cry. They took him to the warmer, weighed him (6lbs 3oz) and brought him back to me all wrapped up. I had thought it would be very frantic and they’d be anxious to get him to the NICU, but they were wonderful and let me snuggle him and talk for about 10 min. At first, I couldn’t even tell he had Down syndrome. Even after it become more apparent, it didn’t matter. I just am in awe of how cute and sweet he is. Jason went with him to the NICU where he was poked and stuck with all kinds of IV’s and tubes to prep him for his surgery. I got to be wheeled over to see him around 1am. Everyone comments (and we agree) that he is so peaceful and sweet. He is my quiet baby (thank you Lord!) and has such a calm spirit. I’ll write more about his surgery (which he rocked) in my next post, but his arrival, as unexpected and surreal as it was, was amazing. My mind is still spinning from the details but he is here!
Today my firstborn turns 3! It’s her last birthday as an only child. My love of parties and my obsession with making her feel special before David comes, naturally progressed into a luau party yesterday (My idea, not hers. I figured it was my last year to dictate what kind of party she’ll have. I see many princess parties in my future) Our original plan was to have it at the park, but after torrential rain the day before and a 60% chance of rain yesterday, we decided to move it to our house. Incidentally, it did NOT rain which was disappointing after all the work we did to move the location, but the overall point of the party (celebrating another year and spending time with friends) was accomplished. I had an outdoor ‘vision’ in mind for this party and my decor was perfectly planned to fit in a tent, so moving everything to my home 3 hours before everyone arrived didn’t exactly line up with the ‘vision’ I had been focused on since February (Yes, February. I started planning this party 5 months ago. I’m obsessed!) Jason kindly reminded me all day that I had to let my vision go and just enjoy the day and the celebration. It’s also worth noting that I consistently do the opposite of what parenting magazines and experts would tell me to do. I totally live vicariously through my daughter. Her parties are always outside, usually a BBQ, with some sort of water theme; all the things I wished I could do for my December birthday growing up.
So, despite the change of venue, the last birthday party for my girl as an only child went off without a hitch. She had a great time and I think everyone who attended did too. I considered this party to be my last milestone before David comes. Now I can officially focus all my energy on preparing for him and trying to relax in the last few weeks before his arrival.
This weekend Jason and I were discussing where we were a year ago. Right after Ella’s 2nd birthday, my doctor called to let us know he had some concerns about my egg quality and reserve. He highly encouraged us to make an appointment with Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine. I’ll never forget getting off the phone and bursting into tears at the thought of Ella being an only child. Jason and I had thought we’d wait until the fall to start trying, but after that news, we decided to focus on baby #2 right away. We both agreed it was important for us to add to our family. If we had known then what we know now, would we have felt the same way? If someone had asked us, “Your choices are: Ella as an only child or a sibling with special needs” what would we have picked? We have discussed it and truthfully, we would have picked this. Although we know very little about Down syndrome and the life our son will have, we both agree, it’s important for us to expand our family. Whether this was our ‘plan’ or not, it’s our reality and we know, truly we are blessed.
My Dr. has asked that I start coming in for twice weekly non-stress tests (NST). I had one this week on Tuesday morning and, barring all complications it should take about 20 minutes. I expected to be out of the office around 10:00 am. I was hooked up to the monitors, took out my book and relaxed. Periodically, the nurse came in to check on me and at one point she said, “Are you feeling those contractions?” I wasn’t feeling anything and I told her. She checked back a couple more times and each time said, “Seriously, you’re not feeling anything?” I wasn’t trying to be tough, I truly wasn’t feeling any discomfort (beyond the ‘normal’ discomfort of pregnancy). She took my scan to my Dr. for review and he came in and told me they were sending me to the hospital for some continued monitoring. I initially wasn’t very nervous about it because I had had a few NST’s with Ella and had been monitored in the hospital once before she was born. I drove to the hospital and called Jason to let him know that I was contracting every 2 minutes but not to be concerned. I’m only 33 weeks and I knew that David wasn’t making his appearance that day.
When I got to the hospital, they again hooked me up to the monitor and began asking routine questions. The nurses were all very nice and they were joking with me as they watched my contractions on the monitor. They couldn’t believe I still wasn’t feeling anything! The Dr. came in with 3 nurses a little after 12:00 and that’s when I began to get nervous. The presence of multiple hospital staff made me anxious. He decided to send me over to get an ultrasound. Unfortunately for me, the ultrasound tech had no bedside manner. She very quickly took 4 pictures and then printed out 2 profile pictures that she handed to me. She asked me where my fluid levels had been at my last u/s. I told her I’d remained steady at 28cc’s for the last month. She told me she was measuring 40cc’s. My immediate thought was, “I want a second opinion!” It seemed unreal to me that I would go from 28cc’s to 40cc’s in 4 days. I decided to ask the Dr. for a second opinion when he came in, but unfortunately, she never left the room and I felt uncomfortable asking in front of her. The Dr. reviewed her pictures and the measurements and told me based on the new, higher levels and the fact that I was contracting, he wanted to do an amniotic reduction. An amniotic reduction is an amniocentesis where they stick a very long needle into my belly, into my uterus and extract fluid. I had known since we received our “double bubble” diagnosis that this was an option, but since my fluid had remained steady and I was so far along, I thought maybe I was one of the lucky ones who could avoid it. I am very torn about this procedure because 1) it carries with it a risk of miscarriage and 2) it sounds incredibly painful, unnatural and just plain ridiculous BUT I also knew that removing excess fluid would relieve pressure and I’d feel much more comfortable. Within 5 minutes he explained to me why it was time I did it, asked me to sign the papers authorizing the procedure and began preparing the room. I was completely taken aback and began shaking and crying. Everything seemed to be happening so fast! I wanted to ask if it had to be done right then or if I could wait for Jason so he could hold my hand, but I was completely flustered and couldn’t ask rational questions. I was still holding the profile pictures the ultrasound tech had printed for me which at that point seemed so silly and superfluous. I finally managed to ask, “Can someone take these pictures please?” because my hands were shaking too badly to hold them. I also had the presence of mind to ask to not see the needle and to have a nurse come hold my hand. They swabbed by belly with the orange/black fluid that they do when prepping for a C-section and after that I couldn’t look any more. I just lay on the table while they injected me with something to numb the area and then inserted the long needle (I have no idea how long, I couldn’t look!) The whole procedure took about 20 minutes and they extracted 2500ml of fluid. It wasn’t painful, but I felt a lot of pressure and tugging and it was Very uncomfortable.
As soon as they were finished, I began cramping. I think it was a combination of my muscles reacting to the injection, my uterus not tolerating a needle in its environment and the fluid finally being low enough that I could feel the contractions. They took me back to my room and put me on the monitor again and this time I could feel the contractions. They gave me a shot to try and stop them. When that didn’t work, they gave me a pill. When THAT didn’t work they gave me a shot again. Finally, at about 4:00 I stopped contracting. They monitored me until about 5:00 and then gave me a prescription for muscle relaxers to stop my uterus from contracting and finally sent me home. It was an incredibly long, intense, unexpected day. Probably the second worst day of this pregnancy after the day we received the diagnosis. There were however, a few silver linings:
- I hated my outfit on Tuesday. I did not feel cute and felt like a fat, pregnant blob. Fortunately, I was not out in public and only the nurses had to see me 🙂
- While they were extracting fluid, they took some to send to the lab. An amniocentesis is 100% accurate for detecting Down syndrome. We got the call today that our original diagnosis of Down syndrome is correct. This may seem like an odd silver lining, but there was always part of me that thought ‘what if?’ and I was worried about carrying some of that hope into the delivery room. Now I know for sure and can be completely prepared for birth and moving forward with our diagnosis.
- Removing 2500ml of fluid feels great! I’m still a little sore from the procedure, but overall, I can breathe and bend and don’t feel nearly as ‘full’ as I did before.
Stay tuned for the last 4-6 weeks before our little guys appearance!
DISCLAIMER: I reserve the right to take back everything I said in this post and do a complete 180 once David is born. In fact, I hope that I can eat my words!
Today I am in a ranting mood. I want to process hopes vs. reality and the disappointments that come with both. There are so many things that I am disappointed and fearful about. I am jealous when I see other pregnant women. It’s ridiculous because I’m STILL pregnant, I shouldn’t be jealous! But I assume they are having a ‘normal’ pregnancy and expecting a ‘typical’ baby and I envy their carefree experience. I’m jealous when I see facebook posts about new babies and pictures of newborns. I feel as though I’ve been robbed of that excitement and I wonder if I’m going to want to post pictures or rave about my son. Having a 2nd baby was something I really wanted and was focused on for months before we conceived. It was my ‘plan’ to enjoy it and become consumed with the baby and the pregnancy in a way I don’t feel I did in my first pregnancy. But, the morning sickness completely took over in the first trimester and the stress of having an active toddler and feeling stuck inside by the constant snow and cold weather (it snowed on May 1st here in Denver!) led to me falling into a depression. At the start of the 2nd trimester we received our positive diagnosis, so just when I should have been feeling physically better, I began to feel emotionally worse.
I get irritated when I read about moms who had a ‘large’ nuchal thickness and then received negative results on their Down syndrome test. (Nuchal thickness is the measurement of soft tissue thickness at the babies neck taken between 11 and 13 weeks and a ‘thick’ measurement can be a soft marker for Down syndrome) Many of them had a nuchal fold of 6 or 7 mm. ‘Normal’ is anything from 2 – 3 mm. Ours was 3.2mm! Not really cause for concern in my opinion but then we still ended up with a positive diagnosis based on blood work. It doesn’t seem ‘fair’ that women who had double or triple the results that I did get to go home with typical babies and I am left dealing with this new reality.
I am angry that there are no celebrities or well known people that have children with Down syndrome. I am looking for positive role models on this journey (not that celebrities are positive role models) but I’d like to be able to look up to a few with-it, put together moms who are handling Down syndrome with grace, class and maybe even cute shoes. Statistically, there HAVE to have been a few celebrities who have received a Down syndrome diagnosis, but since I don’t know of any who have Down syndrome children, it leads me to believe they have chosen to terminate. This makes me angry because it adds to the stigma that only ‘perfect’ babies should be born.
I feel guilty that I’m not enjoying being pregnant. This will most likely be the last time I am pregnant and I feel I should be relishing all of the things that I will likely never experience again. I should feel giddy when he kicks and ecstatic that people treat me delicately. I should enjoy eating whatever I want and having people tell me how cute my belly is. I’m experiencing a lot of ‘shoulds’ during this pregnancy. Trying to manage reality with expectations has turned this pregnancy into something I wasn’t mentally prepared for.