Category Archives: birth

the first weeks (not home)

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If A. and I have learned anything in the past two weeks, since our third boy, L., arrived at almost 11 p.m. on July 5, it is to respect the fever.

In L.’s first two weeks, he spent three nights at home. All of the rest were in the hospital. The first two were the standard recovery nights. The next one was because his bilirubin numbers (jaundice) were too high and he needed light therapy. And then, a week after he was born, I was admitted for a 104 fever.

The fever came on five days after L. was born. And it broke with Tylenol. But by the third day, I knew we had to go in. Something wasn’t right.

At the OB/GYN triage, my fever spiked. The pain was concentrated in my lower back and head and I was so cold the nurses put four warmed blankets on me and I was still shaking.

That Tuesday evening, my pulse reached 220, which had the doctors running to see what was going on. I was on IV antibiotics, but it wasn’t till the next morning that they knew that I was septic (blood infection). That afternoon my right lung started to hurt when I breathed. And by Thursday, my liver enzymes were rising.

The blood cultures finally showed I had group a strep — an aggressive bacteria that releases toxins to shut down your organs. And the way to treat it is to act fast and get rid of the source of the infection. For me, that meant an emergency hysterectomy.

My doctor told me I was the fifth case the hospital had seen in two years (some were flown in from rural New Mexico, one was after a home birth), and the other four ended up in the ICU. One of them died. Because my doctors acted fast, I didn’t have to go to the ICU and I came home a week after I was admitted. I’m still finishing up IV antibiotics to get rid of the blood infection.

It was a scary week, and I plan to write about it more fully, but that’s what we’ve been up to. And I’m grateful for good health care, fast-acting doctors and, truly, my life.

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baby no. 2 and my fear of a desert hospital

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When A. and I moved to the desert last year, to a small town with a regional hospital, A.’s coworker told us that a woman had died there in childbirth earlier that year. These stories are so rare that I was shocked, so I searched online for a newspaper article, but came up dry. Ever since, I’ve heard multiple stories about this incident. But the most solid one so far it that the woman was high-risk, overweight and needed a C-section, but waited too long against the doctor’s advice. It was a windy day — so windy that when she was bleeding, the staff couldn’t land a helicopter to fly her to another hospital. And the regional hospital didn’t have enough blood to replenish her.

When C. turned 18 months, I was ready to try for another baby — mostly. But I was a little nervous about what that meant for my delivery should we be successful. We tried, and we’re one of those freak (or lucky) couples that gets pregnant first try, each time. My morning sickness was more manageable this time, save for the desert heat, and I’ve treated this baby like the classic second baby: Haven’t given it much thought — no photos of my belly, no letters to the fetus, no stress.

Except, of course, where to deliver. I’ve been obsessed. We had such a good experience at Georgetown in D.C., and I felt like I was in expert hands, that anywhere in the countryside feels like I’ll be delivering in a barn. I made appointments at the local hospital and at one with a better reputation an hour and 15 minutes away. I’ve seen a fetal diagnostician in the other town, too. (The baby is due on my 37th birthday). But my local doctor wanted me to decide, now, at 20 weeks, because she’s “anal” and doesn’t want to miss anything. She told me to “pray on it or whatever I do” and let her know.

So, after much deliberation, I decided to stay in town. I decided to stay close in case this baby comes quickly. I decided to go with a doctor I trust, even if I don’t quite trust the hospital, because she’s thorough, conscientious and well-trained. I decided to continue to see the fetal expert, who last week told me the baby was “on the big side” and to come back at 28 weeks. And I decided to put faith and trust in my body that I’ll be OK. To stay fit, make good decisions and hope it’s not windy the day I deliver. It helps that I know at least 10 women who delivered there safely, successfully and (relatively) happily.

A friend asked me recently if I was excited about baby no. 2. It doesn’t seem real yet, but I have moments of heart-pumping excitement to meet this little person. And then I have moments where I’m dreading those first six months of no sleep, intense hormones and giving my body over to a wiggly, helpless creature. But right now, I’m just relieved I’ve made my decision about the hospital and can enjoy the little kicks and dream about whether C. will have a brother or sister.

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a birth plan? ha, good one (C.’s birth story, long overdue)

Photo by Stacey Vaeth

Photo by Stacey Vaeth

A. and I sit cross-legged in the back room at the Potters House in D.C. on a rainy November evening with about 20 small slips of paper in front of us. We’re charged with arranging them on the carpet from least important to most important.

I breathe hard and reach over my massive belly to grab one of them. It reads, in small type at the top, “It is important to us to…” and then, in large type, “Wear our own clothes.” I make a face and put it at the bottom of our list of priorities. I’ll probably be naked.

After that, it gets harder. I want all of them, really. Access to a shower/bath. Yes. Avoid labor induction. Yep. Have freedom of movement. Yes. Avoid epidural. Definitely. Delay cord cutting. Check. Avoid forceps/manual extraction. Oh goodness yes. Avoid Cesarean surgery. Absolutely.

At the top of priorities, I put “Have a healthy baby.”

A. looks at me with disapproval.

He grabs the slip that says “Have a healthy mother,” and slaps it above healthy baby.

“If something happens, we can always try for another,” he admonishes me. “There’s only one you.”

We’re taking a Bradley Method class and learning about labor and delivery. We signed up so we’d meet other couples in the same boat. And we want to learn how to be our own advocates in the delivery room. Turns out, most of the women are birthing at home or in a birthing center. They’re anti-hospital and anti-intervention. I do have wishes around giving birth, but really, I just want me and my baby to get out of this alive.

A month later, and seven days after my due date, my water breaks in a gush all over my black maternity pants. My contractions haven’t started. And all of a sudden, I’m on a clock: I have 24 hours to get this baby out of me.

It’s 11 a.m. on a Friday in early December when I check in at the hospital, brimming with adrenaline. I put my bathing suit on under the hospital robe. “Is this the birthing tub?” I ask a nurse. “Yes,” she says, “but since your water broke, you can’t use it.” Oh, I think, disappointed. One wish, rejected.

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