R.I.P. Sir Robert Edward

By chance, I was in the car listening to NPR today, and I heard the newscaster report that Nobel Prize winning scientist, Sir Robert Edward – the father of IVF – died today. I was soon overcome with emotion and in tears, for a man I never knew, but who changed my life completely. I owe him so much. I am so grateful. My whole family is so grateful. How can you thank someone enough for giving your life meaning and purpose? For making all your dreams of motherhood come true? For making me the happiest, luckiest woman alive? For my beautiful, beautiful daughter?

I came home and Googled this wonderful man. I learned that by the time he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2010, he was too far gone with dementia to appreciate the honor. The same goes for him being knighted by Queen Elizabeth the following year. I read about Louise Brown, the first “test tube” baby and how Robert had become a part of her family.

He started research on IVF in the Fifties and was driven by the belief that people had the right to receive help in having a family.

He once said: I have seen how infertility is a cause of great and lasting human sadness. It demands treatment. The most important thing in life is having a child.

What an incredible man… and what a huge debt our family and countless other families owe him. In one of the articles, I read that – among many tributes written to him – the most profound was from a young man whose note simply read, “Thank you for my life.”

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Birth Story [Part 2… long and graphic]

The doctor says, “Get her oxygen, now!” A nurse straps the oxygen mask onto my face and instructs me to take deep breaths. My doctor says, “Breathe the oxygen down to your baby!” So I breathe, deep, quick breaths, visualizing the oxygen going to the baby. I don’t really know what is going on.

There I am with all five nurses, my doula, my husband, and the doctor (who usually doesn’t show up until the delivery) hovering over either me or the monitor showing the baby’s heart rate & my contractions, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is going on! Someone (I don’t remember who) tells me the baby’s heart rate has decelerated — apparently to a dangerously low level. They decide to insert an internal fetal monitor. I remember seeing one of these at the baby prep class… and a part of it actually goes into the baby’s scalp so they can accurately monitor her heart rate, since the external monitor is not nearly as accurate. It freaks me out a little, but at that point, I want them to do whatever it takes to make sure my baby is okay.

The whole chaotic mess lasts about 5 minutes before my relieved doctor announces that the baby’s heart rate is back to normal and she’s happy that the baby was able to recover so quickly. I still have no idea what happened or what it meant, but my husband has now gone ghost white and is covering his mouth with his hand, as if he’s still in some terrible shock. In fact, the look on his face is scaring me more than anything else. The doctor steps out and my husband rushes after her. This worries me as I wonder if there’s something they’re not telling me.

When they return to the room, the doctor explains that the baby’s heart rate dropped so low that she wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her brain, which is why they gave me extra oxygen. My husband is beside himself because he’s worried our daughter will have some type of brain damage. Our doctor reassures him over and over that the baby has more than a 5 minute supply of oxygen and no damage has been done… but she also stresses that we can’t afford another episode of the same. She says she doesn’t know if the baby’s head is too big for the birth canal or if the baby has a cord wrapped around her neck, but the monitors show that whenever I have a contraction and the baby’s head descends, that her heart rate slows down. She tells me that because she knows how much I want a vaginal birth… and I’ve already worked so long… that she’s going to monitor us for half an hour and see how well the baby tolerates my contractions.

“If she’s not tolerating them well, I’m not going to let her decel again – we’ll get this baby out!” she says. And by that time, I’m so afraid that some last minute tragedy is going to occur and that my husband’s long-time fear of us having an impaired child is going to come to pass, that I actually just want the doctor to wheel me in to the surgery room and get the baby out immediately. But I don’t say anything – partly out of shock and partly because I’ve now mentally/emotionally handed over all decision making power to my doctor. And I pray, with all my heart, that my baby is born healthy. This is the first time in my life that I have known real fear.

The baby doesn’t seem to be doing well, but not poorly enough to rush me into a C-Section, either. Everyone in the room is now staring intently at the monitors. No one is looking at me. Except for my husband, it almost seems like no one even knows I’m there. At a certain point, the baby isn’t tolerating labor even in between contractions. My doctor is trying to wait it out… and then notices that I haven’t had a contraction in a while.

At nearly 29 hours of labor, my uterus has reached fatigue and stopped contracting. There’s nowhere else to go now, and a C-Section is imminent. The nurses have been prepping the surgery room and now they prep me… putting me into a hospital gown and covering my hair with a surgical bonnet… then wheeling me into the O.R. My husband and the doula are given scrubs as well.

I’m in the surgery room and everything feels a bit surreal. Oddly, the operating lights overhead give me a feeling a familiarity – I looked up at similar lights during every egg retrieval. I find this thought strangely comforting. From beginning to end, this entire process seems to come full circle.

The anesthesiologist is there, ready to connect me to the morphine drip. His droll humor is now amusing. It’s something to focus on in the quiet, sterile environment. As he adds the morphine to the epidural, I begin to convulse. I feel like a fish out of water, flailing everywhere. To me, the convulsions feel violent and uncontrollable. My teeth start to chatter. He asks me if I’m cold. I can barely stop them long enough to form the word, “No.”

I take a closer look at the light fixture above me and notice it has a smooth metallic disc in the center, serving as a makeshift mirror, and the way it’s positioned, I can see exactly what’s happening on the other side of the “germ guard” they put up. “The nurses are going to prep you now,” someone says, and I watch them swab Betadine over my belly. I realize that I could watch my entire surgery. How could they not know? I quickly make the decision to close my eyes, fearing that seeing what’s happening to me will somehow make me feel it, too.

My husband and the doula arrive in their scrubs. My husband is seated next to me. He strokes my cheek and tells me I’m doing really well. The doctor’s assistant warns of an unpleasant smell. It’s flesh burning. It’s my flesh, as they cauterize the incision. It’s a very peculiar sensation to be conscious during surgery.

The operation lasts about 15 minutes, with all kinds of minor chatter. The anesthesiologist asks if we have a name for the baby and my husband says, “Yes. Samantha!” I smile. Because we hadn’t officially come to any conclusion, but earlier Friday morning, I had mentioned that I was really leaning toward “Samantha.” I guess 30 hours of labor will get me whatever name I want!

A few minutes later, the doctor says, “Yep, she’s got the cord wrapped around her neck! So that’s what was happening!” Then the doctor says, “Are you ready to meet your daughter? She’s coming!” And she pulls a very pink and healthy baby Samantha out! The anesthesiologist holds up a mirror so I can see my baby over the germ guard. But he doesn’t realize that I can also see behind the baby at the gaping hole in my body. I can see my skin cut open, the blood, the layers of tissue and fat, and the huge open gash. Luckily, seeing it does not make me feel the pain.

I turn my gaze back to my daughter. I’m overwhelmed. Crying. Convulsing. My husband keeps saying, “Oh my God, she is so beautiful!” in a voice that makes me cry even now as I remember it, because it was so full of unadulterated love. Even the doctor says she’s beautiful and quickly adds, “and I don’t say that to all my patients!”

She is beautiful. None of it seems real… but there she is, this beautiful creature of ours. Nurses are cleaning and weighing her. One of them asks my husband if he wants to cut her umbilical cord… yet another aspect of my birth plan goes by the wayside, as they were supposed to wait until the cord stopped pulsating before severing it. But it doesn’t matter… nothing matters other than the fact that we have a healthy baby!

The anesthesiologist arranges for photographs with me, my husband, and Samantha. They bring her close to me and she opens her eyes and gazes into mine. I am so in love already. I’m crying… still shaking… but so happy now that my family is all together and that everything has turned out alright. I tell her I love her. My husband sings to her — the same song he sang every single night when she was inside me: “My Girl.” For a moment, no one else exists. We are in our own brand new cocoon. The world is perfect.

When they take Samantha away, my husband follows her. I am still being sewn up on the table. Later, my husband tells me that when was on the other side of the germ guard, he saw me laying there, wide open, with my guts piled onto two separate tables. He says he’s never seen anything like that outside of a horror film where a zombie gets disemboweled. (Lovely image, no?) No. It’s brutal. This entire process has been remarkably so.

Eventually, I get wheeled to a recovery room. I still can’t move my legs and my belly feels sore. Thank God my doula was there with me, otherwise, I would have been completely alone. It’s a very strange feeling to have gone through all that… to give birth and then not have a chance to hold your baby.

When they finally brought her to me, I was overjoyed. I took her into my arms and marveled at her fine features. Her little nose, her big eyes, her chubby cheeks… and her little hands. And just as I touched her little hand, one distinct middle finger rose up to greet me. I turned to my doula and said, “Is she seriously flipping me off right now?” And she burst out laughing because it was undeniably true. My precious daughter’s very first communication to me was to give me the bird! It was hilarious. And I thought to myself, “Oh, she’s going to love this story when she becomes a teenager!”

Who the heck is Betsy?!

Last night something strange happened. My husband woke up three separate times during the night (and woke me up twice in the process) by yelling. This has never happened before. The one time I was awake and breastfeeding in the nursery next door, he shouted “Yes!” as if I’d called his name. I told him I hadn’t called him and he said, “Oh, sorry. I thought I heard you call my name.” I thought he must have been dreaming… although it still struck me as odd.

I don’t remember what the next thing he yelled was (as I was asleep) but I do remember the last thing. Out of what seemed like a dead sleep, he yelled, “You stay away from her!” and jumped towards our baby, as if to protect her. It was startling to say the least and he apologized for waking me up. But he also took the unusual move of grabbing pillows and blankets and sleeping on the floor next to our daughter in her rocker (which was already near our bed). Had I had more sleep, I may have paid more attention to this… but being severely sleep deprived, I drifted quickly back to my dreams.

When morning came and we were both up for the Samantha’s next feeding, [Did I mention that we named our daughter Samantha? ;-)] I asked him what had happened and why he had bolted awake so many times. (Let me also preface this by saying my husband claims not to believe in anything supernatural or occult.) He said, “Didn’t you hear the voices?” I assumed he was talking about loud neighbors of some kind. “No. What voices?” I asked.

“They were talking about her,” he said. “About who?” I asked. “About Samantha,” he said. “Who was talking about Samantha?” I asked… starting to get goosebumps. He went on to explain that he heard voices talking about our daughter all night long. He was in an alpha state, between sleep and wakefulness, and could hear two distinct voices although he couldn’t make out everything they were saying. He did identify them as being clearly black voices. When pressed, he admitted the speech wasn’t exactly from present day, but from the last century. He heard them laughing and referring to our daughter as “Betsy.” He heard one of them making fun of her and saying, “Sam, Sammy… they should have named her Betsy!” And then he heard one of them say, “I’m just fucking with Betsy!” and that’s when he yelled, “You stay away from her!” and went to sleep next to Samantha.

I don’t know the tone of the voices, but he clearly perceived a threat, otherwise, he wouldn’t have reacted the way he did. He seemed rattled by the events and tried to shake them off by saying he was probably dreaming. I told him if he really believed it was a dream, he wouldn’t have gotten pillows & blankets and slept near Samantha to protect her. He never wants to admit what he knows. Something – some entities – were clearly in our space and aware of our daughter, if not toying with her somehow. I know it sounds creepy, but I believe that what he heard was real. I don’t know what it was or who the voices/spirits were.

My best guess is that they were relatives or loved ones from a past life. Regardless, I don’t like the idea of anything approaching my daughter without clearing it with us first. I have no way of knowing what their intentions were/are. I do know that they seemed to go away when my husband told them to… it was also near daybreak, so that could have had an effect as well.

It’s crazy to think that there’s possibly something we can’t protect her from. Our entire lives revolve around meeting our daughter’s needs and protecting her. I contacted a few of my spooky friends to see if they could help me figure out who these spirits were and how to deal with them. In the meantime, I had a word with them – or at least, I addressed them and explained that Samantha is our daughter and they need permission from us to communicate with her. I also prayed, mainly to Archangel Michael, for his protection. (I may not be religious, but I have had direct experience with angels saving my life, so I really do believe in their power.)

Samantha seems unfazed by the whole thing. I’m a little unnerved and I know my husband is, too, although he’ll just act like it never happened. I want Samantha to remember who she was before this life… and I don’t mind if her relatives want to keep in touch… I just have to know for sure that that’s what this is – otherwise, I will have to make sure it never happens again.

Super-quick Update…

I’m exhausted and clearly not equipped with enough arms for parenthood! I really, really want to write about my birth experience in detail (hopefully) soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to provide a quickie update.

After 6 months of coincidental clock checking at exactly 10:13 am and 10:13 pm, our daughter was born on October 13, 2012, exactly 13 minutes to midnight. She was born after 30 1/2 hours of labor (the first 24 without pain meds!) At 30 hrs of labor, we had a big scare and had to have an emergency c-section. I have mixed feelings about this, but no regrets about doing what was best to save my daughter’s life.

Luckily, she is perfect! And perfectly healthy. Born weighing 8 lbs. and 1 oz., measuring 19.75 inches… and, I have to say, utterly gorgeous!

Her parents are already madly in love with her! (If she lets mommy sleep a little bit more at night, detailed reports may come sooner rather than later!)

My decision?

Just got back from the doc a short while ago. We’re 4 days from the official due date and things are looking good (plenty of amniotic fluid, good heartbeat, good fetal movement, etc.) – the only thing is that her head is measuring at 41 weeks – and that’s definitely on the bigger side! She did point out that if we wait another week, the baby will only be getting bigger. That’s something to consider.

She gave me the option of “augmenting” the labor (which is different to induction) since I’m already 2 cm dialated and 80% effaced. That basically means they would start me on a low dose of pitocin to see if they could jump start my contractions. I could do that as soon as Thursday. Not sure what the right thing to do is.

I find my mind being clouded by all kinds of logical and illogical reasoning. 10-11-12 would be a cool birthday… what if I left it alone and she was born on Oct. 13, hubby’s ex-wife’s birthday? Yuck. What if I leave it alone and her head is too big and I end up with a c-section? What if artificially starting labor has unintended risks, causes me a lot more pain – or just isn’t the birth I envisioned?

My doula pointed out that if they start the pitocin, I’ll be under constant monitoring and won’t be able to walk around – or labor at home as I had planned. Just how important this is to me or how much weight to give it against other factors, I’m not sure. I mean, I don’t know a single person whose birth went exactly as they’d planned it (okay, so I was hoping to be the first!) But how much does that matter in the end?

I’m feeling a bit lost right now. Maybe there’s no right or wrong decision on this? I just don’t know. I’m leaning towards allowing the augmentation on Thursday, but certainly haven’t made up my mind yet. I feel like I need to mull it over some more… maybe even sleep on it for tonight before giving the doc an answer. I wish there were a clear “right” answer… or at least some divine inspiration!

 

No news yet.

Every single day, I wake up and think/hope/pray that today will be the day she arrives. I try to make sure that everything is in order – more or less – so that we don’t have any huge last-minute items to take care of before heading off to the hospital. Fridge is mostly stocked, house is mostly clean, laundry is mostly done, etc. This routine has been going on for two weeks now and it is becoming more than a little tiresome — especially on those days when I get upwards of ten text messages ranging from the cute, “maybe baby?” to the super irritating, “well?!” (The person who send me that last text is really lucky she wasn’t right in front of me at the time, because I swear to God with the mood swings I’ve been having, I wouldn’t have hesitated to punch her in the face. You can always apologize later, right? Hahaha.)

My good days consist of running an errand or two (before my energy supply for the day runs out) and possibly cooking and/or listening to a Hypnobabies CD if I can be bothered. I spend time reading articles on hastening labor, even though by now I already know that there’s nothing that reliably works. I read, like a lazy explorer, in search of some hidden-treasure article that will somehow reveal the magic elixir and I will cleverly usher my baby into this world on my terms – or at least, on my timing.

This is the type of wishful thinking I engage in, but in truth, I know – and she proves it to me on a daily basis – that our little angel will arrive strictly on her own schedule. Sometimes I am at peace with that, and other times, I argue, plead, and bargain with her to arrive sooner.

This last week of pregnancy hasn’t been nearly as physically uncomfortable as I expected. (Don’t get me wrong, it still takes a forklift to get me out of any seated or reclining position.) But I thought it would be worse. I’m actually fine. It’s the emotional and psychological part that I find draining. You know how stressful it is to be alone somewhere, say a restaurant or bar, waiting for another person to arrive? You keep checking the door, your watch, your phone. It feels unsettled somehow and the minutes drag on and on… until the person finally shows up and time & space are returned to their normal continuum? Well… imagine that waiting feeling lasting for weeks! These feel like the longest weeks of my life, like I’m keeping track of time via an hour-glass and the sand is falling in slow motion.

I have done nearly every practical thing (and old wives’ tale) that has been suggested by, oh, everyone! And none of it works (big surprise). Today, I am five days away from the official due date of October 12th. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was 2 cm dialated and about 70% effaced. That was last week! I was sure I couldn’t possibly make it to my next appointment without going into labor, but unless I go into labor tonight, it looks like I’ll make it to my appointment tomorrow just fine. Sigh.

If you’re reading this… please send me speedy delivery thoughts! I am so ready to have this baby!!!

38 Weeks

Okay, right off the bat, let me just say that I’m antsy and cranky today… and more than a little irked that I’m even writing an update at 38 weeks — especially since everyone thought I’d have the baby by now! Grrr!

I don’t even care if I sound whiny or bitchy. I’m huge. I can’t do anything but lay on the couch like a slug. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and definitely hormonal. I never really thought I’d be one of those “get this baby out of me!” women, but I am! I’m officially tired of being pregnant, and while I’m lucky to have had a very easy and delightful pregnancy for over 8 months, I’ve now reached the point where discomfort and impatience have taken over. Plus, I just want to hold her in my arms and look at her face! I want to breastfeed and change diapers (yes, really). I am beside myself with anticipation.

So, here we go with the usual questions:

How big is the baby? The charts say she’s the size of a pumpkin. This may be the first time I agree with the fruit ticker!

Symptoms:  Heartburn & swollen ankles, mainly. I also have the agility of a giant sack of potatoes.

Total Weight Loss/Gain:  25 lbs., which for most people would be pretty good, so why-oh-why am I not allowed to have any sugar?! Meh!

Maternity Clothes: There are only certain dresses I can wear now because all the other clothes can’t quite cover my HUGE belly.

Sleep: Always an issue. I’m up several times a night still. And, overall, I find it hard to sleep more than five or six hours. Oh, and, bonus — I’m sleepy all day long.

Best Moment This Week: Probably the phone call where my dad said that if I went into labor and my husband was at work, that my dad could call an ambulance to take me to the hospital! He’s so dramatic. It’s endearing. I explained that even if I did go into labor on my own, I was going to try to spend as much time at home as possible and that it wasn’t an emergency-type situation. His response? “I don’t like this, you’re too calm!”

Oh – I forgot the other great moment of the week. We went back to the fertility clinic because our doc said he wanted to see us before we had the baby. I felt really weird about walking into the clinic so obviously pregnant, but he said he thought it was good advertising. (Not sure I agree, but luckily, there was no one in the waiting room when we got there.) Our old doc was so happy to see us and told me that he just loved pregnant women so much that he got his wife pregnant with their third child just so he could see her pregnant! (A little odd, no?)

Anyway, he was great and thanked us again for sticking with him. I thanked him for believing in us and for being a part of our miracle. On our way out, I spotted one of the nurses who usually drew my blood and she came running over to hug me. She and another nurse were just fawning over me with excitement and squealing about what a cute pregnant lady I was. I wasn’t expecting them to be so happy for me… and it really felt genuine. I was surprised and overwhelmed. I didn’t realize they cared so much. That felt absolutely amazing!

Movement: Still experiencing lots of big moves and the occasional jab.

Food Cravings: Sweets. I want sweets! (same as last time)

Labor Signs: Absolutely none.

Belly Button In or Out? Well, much to my chagrin, we’ve crossed the threshold on this one. My belly button is now a definite “outie” and I can’t stand it! Plus, it’s really tender and I’m always bumping my belly up against something – like the kitchen counter – because I haven’t gotten used to how fast it has grown. One of the main reasons I want to give birth soon is to get my “innie” back – is that very superficial?

What I miss: I miss feeling good and full of energy.

What I am looking forward to:  I’m looking forward to the start of labor, having a quick and easy delivery … and of course, I’m looking forward to meeting our precious angel! In fact, I cannot wait to see her face!!!

Next Appointment: Tuesday. And I hope I don’t make it there because she’ll already have been born!

Milestones: Just reaching 38 weeks … and being so close to meeting our daughter!

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