Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reed's Birthday - April 11, 2011

I know that Reed will probably ask us about the story of his birth a thousand times throughout his life, and we'll always be more than happy to oblige in the telling, but I wanted to record it here, so that I could try to capture as many of the details as possible.  Some things are already fuzzy, so I didn't want too much more time to pass by!

Reed's due date was April 6, a Wednesday, and by that point, we had already had two false alarms, one in the early morning of March 29 and one in the early morning of April 5.  I experienced regular contractions, about 5 minutes apart, on both occasions, and we even went to the hospital on April 5, but the contractions weren't true labor, and we were sent home.  At my doctor's appointment on April 5, Dr. Wolfgram (one of my favorite doctors in my OBGYN practice) said he thought I would be nursing our baby by that weekend, but to schedule an appointment for the next Monday, April 11, just in case.

April 6 came and went.  We were so ready at that point and every day we anxiously awaited Reed's arrival, but I experienced nothing more than Braxton Hicks contractions.  On the morning of April 11, we went to the doctor, expecting that we would have a discussion about when to induce my labor, since Reed was already five days late at this point. They hooked me up to a machine to monitor the baby's heart rate and my contractions.  Everything looked good, except for a 2-3 minute period when the baby's heart rate dropped to around 80 beats per minute.  I was pretty alarmed by that, since his heart rate had always been between 130 and 150 at every other appointment.  When the doctor, Jackie Apgar, came in to review everything, she also indicated some concern with the decreased heart rate and said that if it were her sister, she would send her to the hospital that day to be induced.  She said that it could be just a fluke, but at five days late, there was really no need for me to be pregnant anymore and that we should go home, get our bags, and head to the hospital.  She thought that they would give me Cervadil, a gel inserted into my cervix to help prepare for labor and start contractions, and then they would start Pitocin the following morning.

Jeff and I were surprised that this was "the day", but we were so excited and went home to load up the car.  We called Jeanne and Felicia on the way home to let them know, and everyone started making plans to head to the hospital.  After getting our bags, we checked into the hospital at around 1:30 p.m.  At that point, I was having lots of Braxton Hicks contractions, but feeling good and not in real labor. We loved that our room was all set for our little guy to arrive!

Ready to get the show on the road!

Diaper, hat, and incubator, all ready and waiting for our baby!

Our first nurse, Karen, was wonderful and made us feel really comfortable from the outset.  But after she hooked me up to the monitor and saw how many contractions I was having, she said she thought that the doctor on call, Dr. Alter, would probably not want to give me Cervadil, but start with Pitocin right away.  Once Cervadil has been inserted, the amount can't be monitored, while the amount of Pitocin can always be played with to get the right amount of stimulation.  Since I was already having contractions, Karen thought Pitocin would be a safer bet. 

When Dr. Alter came in to see me, at around 2:30 p.m., he actually said that he just wanted to "get things started" by breaking my water, seeing what happened, and then adding Pitocin in afterward.  Again, Jeff and I were surprised because we didn't think anything was really going to happen until the next day, but we were excited that things were happening more quickly.  We now realized there was a good chance that our baby would be born that day.  After the doctor broke my water, I started having contractions on my own, although they did administer a small amount of Pitocin a little while later to help things along.  At around 4:30 or 5 p.m. the contractions became much harder and came very frequently, so I asked for the epidural.  While getting the epidural wasn't the most pleasant experience, I was a very happy camper afterward and remained so throughout the rest of the labor.  Yay for epidurals!  After that point, I never felt anything more than slight pressure, which was wonderful.

A little loopy from the epidural

 After that, the labor progressed really well, with just a few hiccups.  Both Reed and I had some reactions to the epidural - Reed's heart rate dropped again into the 80s and my blood pressure dropped pretty low.  I was given some oxygen and told to lie on my side to help Reed.  The doctor, now Dr. Apgar from my morning appointment, was monitoring things the whole time, and we were fine, but it was a little scary at some points and we thought once that we might have to do a C-section if Reed's heart rate dropped again. Luckily, after 8:30 p.m. or so, everything stabilized.

By that point, Jeanne, Felicia, and Paul had all arrived at the hospital (Jeanne had arrived earlier, around 3 p.m., and Felicia and Paul arrived around 7), and the three grandparents-to-be went out to grab a bite to eat.  While they were gone, I dilated to 9 centimeters and by the time they got back, we were very close to pushing.  At 10 p.m., Dr. Apgar came back in to check on me and I had reached 10 centimeters.  She asked if I was ready to push and then the real work began!  But I was lucky - I only had to push for 35 minutes before our sweet boy entered the world - all 7 pounds, 9 ounces, and 21 1/2 inches of him!

Not all that happy to be on the outside!
It's so tough being a baby!
Proud Mama
Reed Alexander cried from the moment he came out and seemed perfectly healthy, with great Apgar scores.  I was so happy to hold this precious baby who had been inside of me for 10 months!  But when she was examining him, the nurse detected some irregularities in his breathing and they immediately called the neonatologist on duty to come in and look at him.  When she got to our room, she said that they would need to take him the NICU for further exams and X-rays.  Jeff and I were so disappointed, but still in something of a post-delivery haze.  I don't think we truly realized the potential seriousness of what was going on at that point.  Jeff surprised me with some beautiful sapphire and diamond earrings - Reed's and my birthstones - and we drank a bottle of sparkling cider with Jeanne, Felicia, and Paul to celebrate Reed's birth.

Amazing push present!

After that, we were moved to our Mother/Baby room - not so aptly named in our case, since we never got to have our baby in the room!  At that point, the reality that we did not have our baby with us had really sunk in, but the neonatologist had told us that Reed's diagnosis - a pneumothorax, also known as an air bubble in the lung or a partially collapsed lung - often resolves itself in newborns and that it would likely be better by the morning.  We went to bed exhausted and disappointed, but looking forward to having our baby back in the morning.

Unfortunately, the morning did not bring better news.  We were told that the pneumothorax had not resolved overnight and the x-rays showed it to be fairly large.  Reed would need to stay in the NICU at least another day, and most likely longer.  The doctors told us that if didn't go away on its own within a few days, they would have to perform a medical intervention - either inserting a needle to deflate the air bubble or inserting a chest tube - either of which could require much more time in the hospital, up to two weeks.  Jeff and I were devastated, scared, and disappointed.  We never really imagined that we would have anything other than a perfectly healthy baby, and I don't think either of us were emotionally prepared for dealing with our situation.

Overall, Reed spent two and a half days in the NICU.  Holding and nursing him was difficult because he was hooked up to monitors, but we spent as much time with him as we could.  He was by far the biggest baby in the NICU, which made us very proud!

Reed's first room and bed
Daddy time
On Wednesday evening we got the good news that we would most likely be able to take Reed home with us on Thursday, pending a final x-ray.  On Thursday, the x-rays showed that the air bubble had gone away and he received a clean bill of health. We were beyond thrilled to take Reed home and begin life as a new family!  From start to finish, nearly nothing about Reed's birth went "according to plan", but it showed us that we have a very strong little boy who is already able to conquer life's adversities, and it also made us more empathetic to those families who have an even longer stay in the NICU.  We feel very blessed!

First time in the car seat!
In the car, ready to go home

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