My pregnancy came to a happy ending, and baby Alina’s life has begun with much to be thankful for. I feel like I gave birth to a lucky little leprechaun; I couldn’t have asked for a better-timed birth or a healthier baby.
My last two days of the clinical trials management program went well. I had fun with the final exam; we had to write an essay discussing the circumstances of the removal of Xigris (recombinant activated protein C) from the market. Since this was a critical care pharmacy topic, it was right up my alley!
My first three days as a bona fide laboratory logistics specialist were mostly spent taking care of administrative issues and meeting members of the clinical logistics services department. Happily, my manager was in town those days, so he was able to offer a warm welcome and help me get oriented. Knowing that I would soon be taking maternity leave, though, he didn’t want to put me on any projects or have me complete any work other than e-learning modules. That was perfectly reasonable, but unfortunately, no e-learning modules had been assigned on my first day of work, and I had completed all the general corporate e-learning modules by the end of the day on Friday. How could I keep busy if I stayed pregnant another two or three weeks?
Of course, that ended up being a non-issue.
I woke up at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning as I often did: with achy hips and the need to void my bladder. I felt very awake, so I didn’t try to fall back to sleep. Instead, I noticed that my uterus felt irritable, surfed online a bit, and voided my bladder again. And again.
At 4 a.m., the “bloody show” made its appearance, and I started having timeable contractions. At that point, I knew that my baby was coming that weekend. Probably that day. I decided to take a shower. I was due for a shower, and people always say that water feels good when you’re in labor, right? And if I made it to sunrise, I could take my 38-weeks bump photo.
Or maybe not. I started timing my contractions after my shower, at about 4:30 a.m. They were 2 or 3 minutes apart but not particularly painful or long in duration. Around 5 a.m., the contractions became sufficiently painful that I needed to stop and brace myself through them, so I decided that it was at least time to tell Son that the baby was coming. He asked me whether I should call my doctor. I paced indecisively through another contraction. I didn’t think that I needed to call my doctor, but I wasn’t sure whether it was time to head to the hospital. Thankfully, Son saw through my indecisiveness and made the call: it was time to take Peter to his day care provider and take me to the hospital.
We dropped off Peter at about 5:15, and I waved sheepishly to Kathie as she wished me good luck. Her grandson’s birthday party was later that morning; I hoped that this wouldn’t interfere with her attending Miles’ party.
We got to the hospital emergency room at about 5:35. I kneeled through a contraction in the parking lot. And another in the emergency waiting room. A security officer got a wheelchair for me and directed us up to the maternity floor. We were asked to step into the maternity registration office to confirm my identity and sign a few papers. I gave consent for my treatment and consent for the baby’s treatment. I then had an intense contraction – longer and more painful than the others had been. I let out a moan, and the registration coordinator told me to breathe. And then she asked me to sign a new HIPAA form. I couldn’t sign the stupid HIPAA form, though, because another contraction came quickly and brought with it the need to push. I reached into my pants and felt the forewaters bulging.
That’s the point where everything became a blur. I started screaming like a banshee, and the labor and delivery staff knew what that meant. A nurse came running from triage. The staff asked who my doctor was and noted that Dr. DeMone was on-call that morning. I was told to lay down on the floor since they couldn’t get me into a bed at that point. Dr. DeMone quickly appeared in the door of the office with her resident. Son stepped out of the office as the room quickly filled with staff members. They confirmed that my cervix was definitely fully dilated and indicated that the baby was almost out. It was terribly painful, and I just wanted it over, so I pushed as aggressively as I could. I’m really not sure how many times I pushed, but at 5:45 a.m., she was out. And I stopped screaming.
Alina had a tight nuchal cord and loose truncal cord, so she didn’t cry immediately, but after suctioning, her Apgar scores were fine at 7 and 9. Son didn’t cut the cord (again, because he felt that the tiny office was too crowded), but he didn’t mind. He stayed near Alina as they brought her to a delivery room, let her suck his finger, and took pictures as she was cleaned up and weighed. Alina weighed 6 lbs, 14.6 oz and measured 20 inches long.
I somehow made it into a bed and was taken to the delivery room with Alina. I still needed to deliver the placenta and had a second degree perineal tear that had to be stitched up. My uterus was flaccid after pushing out Alina, and I, of course, didn’t have an IV line, so I received two doses of intramuscular Pitocin and rectal misoprostol 800 mcg. Compared to the delivery, the third stage of labor and perineal laceration repair seemed quite drawn-out. I mostly wanted to be left alone. Women often describe feelings of euphoria and an instant bond with the baby after an unmedicated vaginal delivery, but that wasn’t the case for me. From a physiologic perspective, I suppose that my labor was probably too fast for me to build up the endorphins that most women who give birth without analgesia benefit from. The delivery wasn’t emotionally traumatic the way Peter’s was, but it was still pretty abrupt, and the pain lingered more than it had after Peter’s delivery. Perhaps this prevented my catecholamines from dropping after the delivery. I didn’t shiver the way I did after Peter’s birth, and the continued high catecholamine levels may help to explain why my uterus was flaccid after delivery: oxytocin production was suppressed.
Anyhow, it was eventually time to put my baby on my chest. She looked like a little stranger to me, somehow different from the baby I imagined. I had forgotten how small newborn faces are. But happily, Alina had an amazing rooting reflex and figured out how to latch on without much trouble. Hour by hour, I grew more in love with her, and she became very recognizable to me as Peter’s sister and a baby of comparable size to Peter on his due date. She has his smile. Son says she has my nose. Her eyes are almost black, darker than I remember Peter’s being. I think her skin is a bit darker than Peter’s was, too. Unlike Peter, she has Mongolian spots on her back and one of her calves. And she has more hair than Peter had on his due date. But overall, she is obviously Peter’s sister.
Son left to fetch Peter, wash my clothes, and bring some food and entertainment for us. Peter was a bit disappointed to find out how loudly Alina can cry but was otherwise proud to be the big brother. He helped Son pick out gifts from the gift shop: a Willow Tree figurine and a plush musical puppy. My friend, Rose, visited and brought an impressive assortment of gifts: lip balm, hand lotion, snacks and treats, a coloring book for Peter, a lovie for the baby, nipple cream for me, and a huge balloon. Since it was Pi Day (3.14.15), Son bought a slice of Boston cream pie (and a slice of carrot cake). I breastfed as much as my uterus could tolerate. Thankfully, Alina became very sleepy a couple hours after the delivery; my uterus was pretty crampy even without a suckling baby.
That night was my first night away from Peter since we brought him home from the NICU. I didn’t sleep much because I was still excited (and not exhausted) from the delivery. Alina had lost 4% of her birth weight by that evening – more than the nurses wanted to see – but I attribute that to the fact that she pooped three times in her first 24 hours of life. Alina cluster fed through her second day in the hospital, and the nurses were happy with her 6.5% weight drop. As for me, I was mostly pleased that her bilirubin levels stayed low; I saw jaundice as our biggest threat to “rooming in” and timely discharge.
Baby Alina came home with me on Monday. Although the gap between my emotions on Alina’s delivery day and discharge day was not as great as it was with Peter, I decided that discharge day is still my favorite. Nothing gets my tears of happiness flowing like walking out of the hospital with a healthy baby.
My parents flew into Logan Airport on Tuesday. Son cooked delicious pho for lunch and had a dinner job interview. Alina had her first pediatrican appointment. Breast feeding became less painful. Alina slept better than she had at the hospital. Everything was perfect. It was a blessed St. Patrick’s Day.
On Wednesday, we stayed home while Son had his full-day interview. I cooked pizza. Son bought a new mailbox post to replace the one that had snapped in half under the force of a snow plow.
On Thursday, I was ready to get out of the house, so we went to an antique shop and the library. Baby’s first outing was a success! But Peter was bouncing off the walls after almost a week at the hospital and at home, so we resolved to take him to day care on Friday. My dad left that afternoon as he had to work Saturday morning.
On Friday, Son went to work. My mom and I convinced Peter to introduce “Gram” and Baby Alina to his friends at school. Peter was proud to show off his sister and tell his friends that they couldn’t touch her. Then the musicians arrived for “Music Time,” and Peter decided that staying at day care to play wouldn’t be so bad, after all. My mom and I snuck out with the baby and made a trip to Babies R Us to pick up an infant wrap, breastmilk storage bags, and Aquaphor for the baby’s butt. We had tasty corned beef sandwiches at home for lunch and made beef stew for dinner.
Alina turned one week old on Saturday. We took her to Tower Hill Botanic Garden for a couple hours. It was warm and fragrant in the greenhouses, and Peter let out some of his energy while exploring the flora. We had beef stroganoff – courtesy of the office manager at Son’s workplace. And once again, everything was perfect.