Six Things I’d Do Differently During Labor and Delivery (and some things I wouldn’t)

On this day last year, I was induced to give birth to my first child.

I can’t believe it’s been an entire year…it went by super fast.  As I usually do, I’ve been looking back on my experiences a year ago and have been having all the feelings.

I plan to eventually have another kid, and that makes me think of what I might like to do differently with the second labor and delivery.  And even as I write that previous sentence, I realize how pointless it would be to count on my wishes coming true, because for all I know, my second labor will be totally different because that’s how the universe works.

But, for the hell of it, here are some things I’d do differently, followed by some things I did that were totally right for me.

Things I’d do differently whilst expelling a baby from my body

  1. Advocate more fiercely against being induced

We have Kaiser Oregon insurance, and for some reason they have a guideline to push induction at 41 weeks.  I know plenty of other midwives/doctors/facilities who won’t induce until 42 weeks.  Either way, I don’t like feeling pushed to force my body into doing something it clearly isn’t ready to do.  Next time, I plan to bring this topic up sooner with my midwife and advocate for as natural a process as possible.

2. Ask my midwife when she plans to go on a frickin vacation

My midwife went on vacation the very week I was due, and then I had to have the induction discussion with a midwife I had just met.  It sucked.  Medical people – please tell your pregnant patients well in advance when you’re planning a vacation.  Grr.

3. Bring (even more of) my own crap to the hospital for delivery

Our Kaiser hospital claimed to be a “breastfeeding friendly” hospital.  What that really translated to was, “We won’t provide you with simple things like breastfeeding pillows, and the things we do provide, we’ll judge you for not bringing your own.”

I’ll start with the breastfeeding pillow.  I had one, but I left it at home.  My hospital only provided those thin, plasticy hospital pillows, and I had to stack 6-8 pillows around me in order to get my kid in the right position to even try latching.  It was awkward and very inconvenient.

Since my boy had trouble latching, they asked if I had brought my breast pump.  I said no.  They gave me one, but it came with a glare.

Next time, I am bringing all my own stuff.

4. Do everything I can to minimize interruptions and distractions

Nurses and doctors and photographers and clowns and dancing bears were coming in and out of my room juuust about every 30 minutes.  Are you frickin kidding me?!  There is no way anyone can get any sleep or try to breastfeed with that parade of crazy.  This hospital claimed to offer “collaborative care” for my baby and me, meaning that the baby’s doctor and my doctor would work together as a team.  Well you know what?  That never happened.  It didn’t help to have my doc come and take my vitals and then my baby’s doc came to take his vitals 20 minutes later.  After this happened to us many times, my husband and I finally had to actually yell at a nurse to get her to leave.  And my husband doesn’t yell.  We were pissed.

Next time, we plan to tell everyone straight up to take our vitals at the same time and to minimize visits.  And we’re bringing paper and tape and a pen to make signs to put on our door telling the photographer to stay the hell away.  And you too, dancing bears!

5.  Advocate to switch nurses if one isn’t meeting our needs

There was one nurse who came in juuuust after I was finished trying to get my boy to latch.  And by try, I mean that we spent 20 minutes wrestling with my boob and his mouth and he was having none of it.  I put him down so we could both sleep and we’d try again later.  Enter nurse, and she insisted that it was time to nurse.  I told her we’d just tried.  Like, just.  She didn’t believe me.  She brought my baby to me and insisted that she watch while I try to get him to latch in front of her.

Looking back, I should have asked for a new nurse right then.  If I have to do it over again, I hope I have the ladyballs to do it (ask for a new nurse), because she made me feel like crap and she sucks at her job.  At the very least, I’d have my husband go to the nurses’ desk and request a new nurse.  Passive-aggressive advocating is better than no advocating at all.

6. Advocate for leaving the hospital sooner

My boy was having trouble breastfeeding, and so it took us a bit longer to figure out a feeding plan that would work for us.  I am thankful that things didn’t turn out worse, because had my boy lost any more weight they would have discharged me and kept him and I would have been very worried and peeved.  Buuut, I still feel like they took their sweet time getting us ready to go.

We were in the hospital postpartum for 2 days, but when you tack that onto being induced and laboring in the hospital for 2 full days prior, it felt like a looong time.  We were tired and cranky.  I wanted my own bed and my own shower.  Next time, I am going to be packing my bags much sooner as long as we’re all good and healthy.

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Now, I know I’ve just done a bit of bitching, but overall I am satisfied and have made peace with my experience.

Hell, there were even some things we did really well that I’ll totally do again:

  1. Brought my own pillow

Cannot emphasize this enough.

2. Brought my own snacks

Because you can’t always (or ever) count on hospital food.

3. Brought my own DVDs

Our hospital room had a DVD player, and I think watching Ryan Gosling helped to move labor along.  Seriously.

4. Made a labor playlist

Music really helps to calm me down, and although it didn’t magically end up taking the pain away, it definitely helped.  Perhaps Led Zeppelin will work for you, too.

5. Yell at people who aren’t meeting my needs

This includes husbands.  Sometimes, you just need to take your pain out on others.  It’s not healthy, but it’s like giving birth: you don’t always get what you want.

Week 26 – Doctor’s Orders

Last Tuesday, Brian and I had our first appointment with our new midwife.  We switched because our health insurance switched due to Brian’s job (long story).  The short story is that we liked her.  Yay!

When we got to the clinic, I was informed to hold my bladder until I was called, but that if I absolutely couldn’t hold it, I should check in with the lady at the desk first.  Oh yeah, I thought, no problem.  I totally went before we left.  Unfortunately, it continues to surprise me at how quickly my bodily conditions can change.  Within 15 minutes, I was dying.  I waddled to the front desk and asked the ladies what I should do.  I felt like I was 5 years old asking Teacher permission to use the potty.  They looked at me funny, asked if I was pregnant, and told me to just go and to pee in a cup just in case they needed a sample.  I returned to my chair with a little brown bag and told Brian I had a present for him.  Crisis averted.

This was mainly just a checkup and most everything looks and feels good with baby.  We were sat down to watch a short video about preterm labor, and it scared me for two reasons.  One, preterm labor is scary and two, the 80s hairstyles.  I think we used the humor of the latter to get through the terror of the former for those 8 minutes.

In all seriousness, I’ve had two people close to me comment on how either they were born or birthed a child right around where I’m at now in my pregnancy (26 weeks), and that both terrifies and amazes me.  Terrifies because I look at where I’m at now and how much more growing Little Duck has to do, and it seems impossible, unthinkable that such a little squirmy worm could live outside me at this point.  At the same time, both of those babies lived and are very healthy and I am amazed at what modern medicine can do for us.  Looking at it this way, it gives me some comfort knowing that amazing things are possible if my Little Duck decides to make an early appearance.

I decided to do the glucose test at this doctor’s appointment, and my midwife ordered some other blood tests to be done at the same time.  Let the record show that there were no snacks (the glucose most definitely does not count) provided at this blood draw.  For some reason, I’d heard vague horror stories about the glucose test over the years, and I can’t remember specifically why.  For those who don’t know, they give you a 10 oz super sweet, syrupy drink that you have to drink within 5 minutes, then you wait an hour and get your blood drawn to test for gestational diabetes (pronounced a la Wilford Brimley).  Now, I have a hard time drinking any substantial quantity very quickly, save from water.  I could never guzzle, and forget kegstands.  Needless to say, it took me the full 5 minutes to drink this stuff.  The first few gulps were ok, but it had this ghastly lime aftertaste that just got worse and worse the more I drank.  And then I started to burp and it was all downhill from there.  At least I didn’t have any adverse reactions after drinking it, and hey, I passed the test.  I hope Little Duck thoroughly enjoyed that sugar rush, cuz I ain’t doing it again.

Remember how I talked about body issues from my last post?  Well, my midwife basically said that I’m not gaining weight fast enough.  I responded by saying that I just eat when I’m hungry, even if that means it’s 3:30am, and I’ll continue to do so.  My reasoning is that my body knows what it’s doing.  The other note to take away from the visit was that my vitamin D levels are a bit low.  I blame the Northwestern cloudcover; California would never have selfishly deprived me of my year-round sunny D.  The recommendation was to either take a supplement, eat more dairy, or get some more sunshine.

Basically, putting all these recommendations together in my head, I picture myself in full sun on the beach in a bikini, hugely pregnant, belly hanging over, wearing a floppy hat and ginormous round sunglasses and eating the biggest ice cream sundae you’ve ever seen.

Doctor’s orders!

Adventures of Week 20

On Tuesday, we got to see our little fetus again!  I had been looking forward to this visit for several weeks, which is awesome and crazy because it’s only the second time I’ve ever actually looked forward to having an ultrasound.

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B and I got to the doctor’s office right on time, and I was gulping water in the car on the way.  I’ve been able to perfect the art of making sure my bladder is juuust full enough by the time I’m called in for the procedure.  If I’m too full too early, then I have to pee or risk soaking my socks.  If I’m not full enough (not usually my problem) then they yell at me and make me wait.  And I don’t like to be yelled at.

We sat down in the waiting room and one of my first thoughts was: Yessss!  No blood draws today!

Which was quickly followed by:  Frick!  No blood draws means no snacks!

I turned to Brian.  “Do you think they’ll give us snacks if we ask?”

“Somehow I doubt it.”

“Well, they really should provide snacks.  Maybe I’ll write it on a comment card.”

“You do that.”

The ultrasound tech came out to get us and brought us into the exam room.

“Hi, my name is Li-”

“WE DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE SEX!”  I blurted out.  I was terrified that the surprise would be spoiled for us.

She laughed.  “Well ok then, I’ll tell you when to close your eyes.  You sure you don’t want it in an envelope for one of those gender reveal parties?”

“NO!  NO SEX!”  …and it’s impossible for our baby to have a gender identity at this point in development.  Yarg.  I cringe when I hear people use the term gender when they really mean sex, especially when it’s a medical professional.  I bit my tongue.

The experience of this ultrasound was pretty awe-inspiring.  I especially loved getting to see the interaction between me and the baby – when the baby pushed on my bladder, I could both feel it (very much so) and see the corresponding movement on the screen.  And when the tech pushed on my tummy and we saw my baby get jostled around and get all annoyed – precious.  This isn’t the first time you’re going to get annoyed by me, Little Duck.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain and emotions around the concept (that I understand intellectually just fine) that I am growing an independent being – something that moves of free will and can affect me, and me fe.  Blows my mindgrapes.

I was also fascinated by the physical development of my little duck.  We got to see all four chambers of the heart in motion, and when the tech zoomed in and slowed the picture, we could see the freaking valves!  I never knew heart valves could be so freaking cute!!  We saw the aorta, the stomach filled with fluid, all the little toe bones, and individual structures in the brain.  All this made me want to go and take an anatomy class, or at the very least, to look up brain development in my old psych books, which was the part I struggled through in my undergraduate career.

Overall, the human body amazes me.

Everything looked normal (and cute).  The only thing of note is that my placenta seems to be attached very close to my birth canal – to the tune of within 1cm.  I’m told that, as my uterus grows, that the placenta will creep farther away from the birth canal, hopefully enough so that I can plan on a vaginal birth.  Looks like I’ll have to have another ultrasound later on to check on the status of this situation.

After the ultrasound adventure, I wiped off all the goo as best I could (it never all really comes off entirely), and we went to see our midwife.

Where are all the snacks?!

She ignored my unvoiced thoughts and confirmed that everything looks normal and we got to hear the lovely whoosh, whoosh of my baby’s four chamber heart, complete with valves.  I expressed random concerns, mostly about being uncomfortable because I’m pregnant.  As before, her responses were varied versions of take Tylenol, power through it, nothing we can do.

Again – awesome.

“So, did you find out what you’re having?!” My midwife asked.

Uh…a baby!  Is what I wish I had said, because I cringe at that question, as if a penis or a vagina is the single most defining factor of what makes up a human being.

Deep breath.  “No, we don’t want to know the sex.”

“Oh, ok!  Well I might go and peek at the gender after you leave.”

Cringe.  Bite tongue.

The end of the visit was a bit sad – we had to say goodbye to our midwife because our medical insurance is set to change on April 1 (if everything goes well….please, everything go well).  At least we knew from the beginning that this would be happening, so we were well prepared for it.

So, I’m glad I got to see you again, Little Duck.  Feel free to keep kicking, but please aim clear of my bladder.

Week 16 checkup

I’ve never been excited to go to the doctor before, and it’s a very welcome change.  Before, my yearly exams were preceded by dread and anxiety, hoping that I didn’t get any bad news.  And then I’d always have relief afterwards that would last for most of the year…rinse and repeat.

But now…everything’s different.  I couldn’t wait to get back there and get more information about my little developing fetus.  Not only that, but I’ve never had a partner to experience these medical procedures with me before.  Having Brian there with me is incredibly comforting and a fun bonding experience.  For instance, I’ve had tons of ultrasounds and blood draws and pelvic exams, but Brian’s never seen any of that.  He’s never had the opportunity to really know what it’s like, to be able to support me and distract me and joke with me and celebrate with me.  I guess I never realized just how lonely it was walking through my cancer checkups by myself until my whole medical experience was turned upside down.

First up for this appointment – a blood draw.  Ug.  I asked Brian to come in with me, for all the above reasons and because why not?  I mean, he did this to me, so he might as well feel my pain vicariously.

Fortunately, I got the same lovely phlebotomist I had had for my previous blood draws.  She recognized me, and I could tell she was trying to place me.  When we got into the room, she said, “Now I feel like you were…different somehow…?”  And I reminded her about the horror we shared during my last blood draw, where she ran into scar tissue from all my previous blood draws and had to stick me three times.  Together, we figured out that it’s best when she uses the kid-sized needle on my dainty little scar-riddled veins, and then I get juice and Goldfish crackers afterwards and everyone’s happy.

Thankfully, this blood draw went perfectly with one clean stick.  Boo-yah.

As Brian and I sat in the waiting room, sharing our celebratory juice and crackers and getting jealous looks from the two year old across the way, I couldn’t help but wonder if she treated all her patients that way, or if she babied me as the only adult who got the kid snacks.  Then I realized I didn’t care because yum.

Then we got to go see the midwife and we got to hear the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.  I think that strong little whoosh, whoosh sound is one of the most amazing sounds in the whole world.  Incredible.

She asked if we had any questions or concerns, and just like I thought, the responses were all, yup, that’s normal, nothing we can do, just gotta power through it.

Awesome.

Then she felt my uterus, and everything felt good.  I like having more information about my body, so I asked her to show me how to find it on my own.  So start down here, and work your way up…oop, and there’s your full bladder, so your uterus is….here, off to the side because of all that pee.

The phlebotomist gave me juice, what do you expect?!  But thanks for the extra info, really.  At least we’re all friends here.

In conclusion, it was a successful and fun week 16 checkup!  Thankfully, I got to pee again before we left.  And by ‘got to,’ I mean I insisted on it.

I’m looking forward to the next one when we get to have the big 20 week ultrasound.  Squee!