Archive for the ‘pregnancy’ Category

Layia’s Birth Story, Part 2: The NICU   1 comment

Transporting immediately after Layia’s birth was a very odd experience for me. My head was practically spinning, seeing as how 2 hours earlier I had been turning out the light, expecting to spend the night sleeping a few minutes at a time between contractions. I was very focused on the basics. I got dressed in just a long sleeved t-shirt and a short skirt. I grabbed the electrolyte water that was next to the bed, and then walked to the kitchen to grab a snack. We never even dressed or diapered Layia. She was just wrapped in a blanket. I remembered my insurance card, but forgot my phone.

Rachel called the ER while we were on the road to let them know we were coming. When we pulled up, she grabbed a wheelchair for me (holding Layia). We went in, and were ushered almost immediately back to the the Ped ER. Mike and Martine had to park the cars, but I don’t remember how long it took for either of them to join us. We were led to a bay in the Ped ER where there were several nurses, residents, and an attending physician, I think. Layia was taken from me so they could examine her. That was the hardest thing. I wanted to protest and hold her in my lap while they examined her, not see her in the little infant hospital bed across the bay, and hear her crying but not be able to do anything. There were lots of questions that I had to answer, and I couldn’t tell you what they were or what I said because life was still a blur at that point. I do remember that we realized it had been so long since we picked her name (3 years – it’s the name Conan would have had if he had been a girl), that I wasn’t 100% certain how to spell it! Thankfully Mike remembered.

After a fairly brief exam the doctors and nurses agreed with Rachel that the noise seemed to be coming just from the nasal passages and not the lungs, but it was so noisy and there seemed to be an echo in the lungs so they couldn’t be certain. Then it was up to the NICU. Rachel wanted to try to check me in to Labor & Delivery so that I would have a bed and not be sitting in a chair all night, so once Layia was settled in the NICU, Rachel, Martine, and I went down to L&D. We were told that all beds were full, but they checked me in we waited in the reception area to be seen in triage where I would be able to lay down for a bit. And we waited. And waited. Got some water and waited. It was a busy night in L&D. Then I finally needed to pee, and thankfully they let me use the bathroom in the triage area. After that I decided that this just wasn’t worth the wait. I was starting to feel downright wrong about being away from Layia, and also figured that if I was going to spend the night sitting anyway it made no sense to do it two floors down from my newborn. So we gave up and went back up to the NICU.

I spent the night sitting on the hard rocking chair, with my legs propped up on the wheel chair, nursing Layia and holding her on my chest as near to skin-to-skin as I deemed possible what with there being leads on her chest. I didn’t really sleep much that night, but idly watched her monitor (heart rate, respirator rate, and oxygen saturation). I did doze off occasionally, but it wasn’t until morning that I started to crash. Of course the resident caught me sleeping with Layia on my chest as she did her rounds and wanted me to put Layia in the infant bed as they have had cases in the past of parents dozing off while holding their baby and dropping the baby. But as soon as Layia was in the bed she woke up and started crying, so came right back to my lap to nurse. During the night they had had to come back to draw blood twice, as the blood had clotted before the lab processed it the first two times. It was good to find out in the morning that the third blood draw had been successful, because I wasn’t planning to let them draw any more blood from her.

Friday morning was fairly quiet. Mike came to see us and got me some food. (Which I had to eat in the reception area since food is not allowed in the NICU. The medical team did rounds (and I mean “team” since there was the lead physician, two residents, and two more people whose roles I don’t remember; later the social worker came by and then someone else whose role I don’t remember), and since I was there I got to listen in. At the time I was hoping to be able to get her discharged before the initial 48 hours that we’d been told, since that was based on when the culture would be done to tell us if she needed antibiotics (because I had been GBS positive). When I came back from the bathroom one time there was a sleep chair waiting for me (much more comfortable on the behind!). Layia and I did a lot of sleeping – with her in my lap mostly. Throughout our stay she did not care for the crib at all. I’d always let the nurses know when I left the room so they’d be prepared to have to attend to her a bit in addition to the other babies in the room, but sometimes she’d start crying before I even managed to get out the door. And she didn’t really take a pacifier.

Friday afternoon was not quiet. At some point (apparently while I was down at L&D, using the bathroom, or eating) they had put a catheter down Layia’s nasal passages to determine if there was physical blockage (I did know this was the plan, just not when it was actually done). A 10 French catheter could not go through, but a 5 could. So the initial theory was that she just had very narrow nasal passages, causing very slow draining. By early afternoon her breathing sounded completely normal. The ENT residents came by to scope her nasal passages. They determined that there was nothing clinically wrong, and her passages would grow as she’d grow so there was nothing to do or worry about. But they wanted the pediatric specialist to come by and confirm that it wasn’t choanal atresia (a congenital narrow nasal passage that requires surgery). A while later the pediatric specialist came and attempted to scope Layia’s nasal passages again, but she had difficulty getting a clear view so she stopped. During all of this, the doctors and nurses confirmed what Rachel had experienced at home: suctioning did nothing. Rachel had been using a Delee suction catheter, and the nurses tried the wall suction with the normal tip and using a couple different sized small catheters, but they couldn’t get much of anything out and it made no difference to the sound of her breathing. In order to finish the scoping they used a decongestant spray, and then scoped her a third time.

Friday evening was as pleasant as a stay in the hospital can be. Lesley (midwife) came by to see us, and Mike came back and got me food before the cafe closed for the evening (that cafe has some strange night hours).

Friday night was pretty miserable (but at least I was in a comfortable chair and could put my feet up). All night long Layia would try to nurse about every half hour. Her breathing was horrible and while she tried to nurse her oxygen saturation would drop. When it dropped below 85% an alarm would go off, and the nurse would have to come over and silence it. This happened every half hour, all night long. It became part of the routine of the night. When her saturation dropped below 60% (I think that was the second level anyway), a more insistent alarm would go off and the nurse would have to come silence that and would usually stay and watch the monitor until Layia finished nursing and her heart rate, respirator rate, and O2 saturation came back to normal. A couple times during the night her saturation levels dropped to the 30’s and I could visibly see her skin going from pink to grey even in the dim light. The cherry on the miserable was spending the whole night staring at my own swollen ankles. My ankles hadn’t ever swelled up during pregnancy, and it worried me that they were swollen now.

After that miserable night, I couldn’t argue when the medical team did rounds and Dr. Rottkamp said that she wanted Layia to stay another night to make sure that the problems of the previous night were just due to swelling as a result of the scoping during the previous day. It was no longer an arguable issue of whether she needed antibiotics. So instead of arguing, I asked about the requirements for discharge and the nurse wrote down the checklist for me to work through in advance so that when we did get discharged there wouldn’t be a hold up.

Saturday was almost pleasant. I started actually taking care of myself and making sure I got enough water to drink and food to eat. I felt good enough to walk myself down to the cafe for food. Layia and I slept plenty. Mike’s mom and sister came to visit, bringing Conan, so I got to spend a few minutes in the reception area with him. My mom arrived in town and spent the afternoon with us. Mike came in the early evening after managing a booth at the gun show and we all got dinner before they went home. I learned how to recline the seat back, so I could adjust my position more. And Layia’s breathing was perfectly normal all day and all night. So Sunday morning she got discharged and we went home.

The experience of sitting for over two days in the NICU with a healthy baby (Friday night  was the only time when she was less than healthy, really) was very different. I’m extremely appreciative of the health of myself and my family, and the support that I have from family, midwives, and friends. And I’m very grateful that there’s nothing wrong with my daughter that a little time and growth won’t cure. (I just need to remember that when she gets her first baby cold.) I was sitting in my little bubble while hearing about women seizing during labor (and then I think later that baby was in the same NICU room as us), listening to a lumbar puncture being done on a baby, hearing the nurses celebrate a weight gain in one of the premies (and trying to picture a 2 lb baby in my mind), trying to imagine myself as one of the mothers or fathers who I heard visiting their babies every night or morning, trying to imagine setting an alarm to wake up and pump every couple hours all night long like one of the mothers of a premie, and hearing the various alarms going off throughout the night and day. Neonatal nurses are amazing people!

(If you missed it, here’s the link to Part 1: The Birth)

Posted November 3, 2015 by mayakey in pregnancy

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Layia’s Birth Story, Part 1: The Birth   1 comment

“They” kept telling me that subsequent children “always” come earlier than their siblings. However, I had I discounted such “information”, right along with all the “Are you actually going to make it to October?” questions. We did occasionally ask Baby #2 to wait until Grandma Key arrived, but we didn’t emphasize it like we had with Conan. (I was too concerned with asking Baby #2 to be a sleeper, or at least a napper.) Whoops. At least I went on maternity leave two weeks before the due date so that I could give Conan some focused parent time before Baby #2 arrived . I had neglected to realize that sibling rivalry can start in the womb. Since Baby #2 couldn’t have a cooler birthdate than her brother (12/12/12), she had to go for dramatic entry!

Thursday, 24 September 2015, shortly before 18:00
I was helping Conan to put away toys in the play room before dinner. Sitting on the futon, I leaned over to pick up a toy from the floor and felt a rush of fluid. My first thought was “I hope that was just pee. That better have been pee!” So I went to the bathroom, changed clothes, and went back into the play room to continue helping Conan pick up. When I walked into the play room I looked down to see drips down my legs. Back to the bathroom I went to change clothes again. When I walked into the dining room I told Mike “My water may or may not have just broken. It’s possible that I just peed myself twice.” Mike looked at me with a completely pole-axed facial expression. We were not exactly ready to have Baby #2 yet (yes I was full term, but still a week and a half from the estimated due date). My biggest worry, though, was that I was GBS (group B strep, a common bacteria that can cause problems in newborns) positive so if my water had just broken then baby had to be out within 18 hrs.

18:15 – Just in case, according to plan, I tucked into dinner. (I couldn’t keep food down during labor last time, so the extent of my birth plan this time was: #1 Conan to go to Grandma Sheldon’s house and #2 eat early and frequently.) During dinner I had a contraction. Since I was GBS positive, I decided it was time to call one of the midwives for advice. Since I had seen Rachel F-T just the day before, I called her and left a message. Then I called my mom and left a message for her, since her flight to Sacramento wasn’t for several days yet. I continued having mild contractions approximately 15 minutes apart.

19:00 – Rachel called back and we discussed what I needed to be doing since I was GBS positive. She needed to check with the other midwives about schedule to find out exactly what time Rachel K was going off-call that night and when Lesley was coming on-call for the next day. At that point, Mike and I decided that Conan needed to go to grandma’s house. Baby #2 was not being very considerate of grandma, since Thursday is bingo night. Between 19:00 and 19:45 I had no contractions while I finished packing Conan’s overnight bag, brushed his teeth, and put on his pajamas. As he walked down the front walkway holding grandma’s hand and his stuffed friend Bunny, and looking like a confident little boy, he turned to wave and say “bye” and I had a contraction.

19:45 – Now that Conan was gone it was time for post-dinner snack #1, and then Mike and I frantically tried to finish getting things ready (all of the final things that I had planned to do over the subsequent week). The play room had to be cleaned up to where it would function as a guest room again, the bassinet had to be set up and co-sleeper harness attached to the bed, chest moved into our bedroom to serve as a second diaper changing station, and birth kit/supplies set out. My mom also called back and I told her what was going on. Throughout this time I continued to have mild contractions 15-20 minutes apart. Rachel F-T checked back with me at 20:15 and gave me the specific call schedule.

Shortly before 22:00 – Once the last minute prep stuff was done it was time for post-dinner snack #2. By now I was finally slowing down and felt like it wouldn’t be pointless to go to bed. So I got ready for bed and laid down to journal before sleep. The contractions were still 15-20 minutes apart, but seemed stronger than what I recalled from this point in labor for Conan.

Around 22:15 – After lying down to journal it seemed like contractions started coming every 10 minutes, and were strong enough that I was not sure I’d be able to get much sleep at all.

22:45 – I finished journalling at 22:45 and turned out the light, hoping that when I rested the contractions would slow down. I checked my phone at the next contraction: 10:51. And the next one: 10:56. I thought to myself that if the next one came in 5 minutes, for three in a row, I would call Rachel K. Next contraction was 11:01, had me rocking back and forth in a half kneeling/half prone position, and left me too spent afterwards to pick up the phone right away. (Mike was in the office trying to relax for a bit during this time, before coming to bed himself in case it was an early morning birth.)

23:05 – At 11:06, I groaned and moaned through the next contraction, which brought Mike running. I managed to gasp out that he needed to call Rachel K, which he did. Then he unlocked the door, and jumped into the shower for a quick wash. As soon as Mike was out of the shower I got in to rinse off (from using the toilet). The warm water felt so good on my belly and I think I went a bit longer without a contraction, or so it seemed. Then the warm water didn’t feel so good any more as a contraction came on. I shut off the shower, grabbed my towel, walked out of the bathroom, dropped the towel on the floor next to the sofa, and dropped to my knees on top. After the contraction Mike helped spread out the towel so I could sit on it and rest. He asked if I wanted the tub and I said I did, since my legs felt like jelly, the warm water of the shower had felt so good, and I was hoping it would slow down contractions. So for the next few minutes Mike was running back and forth between the dining room where the tub was and the bedroom where I was. At some point my cloudy mind remembered that we needed to plug in the heating pad for the blankets, which was thankfully sitting next to the outlet that I was sitting next to. And at some point, I also realized (sometimes I’m a little slow) that this was fast labor: in just a few minutes I had gone from “resting” in bed to kneeling against the sofa in the bedroom, unable to move anywhere else. A voice in the back of my head reminded me that if this was fast labor, then we needed to spread out chux pads underneath me to protect the carpet. I didn’t have the mental power to actually voice that to Mike as he tried to be in two places at once.

Shortly before 23:30, Mike texted Rachel “Hurry, bitte (German for please)”.

23:30 – I don’t remember if I heard the front door open, but I heard voices, then Mike came back to let me know that Rachel K was here and I heard footsteps in the hall. How I heard these things I’m not sure, because I’m pretty sure I was screaming at the time (this was the first screaming contraction). I felt Rachel push the lined blanket under me on her way past to wash her hands. While she was washing her hands I felt things moving: fluids and a large something. I gasped something like “there’s something between my legs”. For whatever reason I didn’t want to say “is that a head between my legs?”. I just couldn’t believe that it had happened so fast, and without that “ring of pain!” But indeed, seconds later I heard Rachel say that the head was out and the shoulders would come out with the next contraction. She had arrived just in time to catch the baby! (and save Mike from having to do it, something he really didn’t want to have to do.) Layia Celeste Sheldon was born at 23:32.

It took several seconds for me to be able to look down and see her, and several more before Mike and Rachel could lower me down to sit and I could pick her up. Then they lined a path to the bed with plastic sheets and layered chux pads on half of the bed. After a couple of minutes, with their help I was able to stand up and walk to the bed. Layia and I got a little skin time, but her breathing was really noisy and her mucous was not draining at a normal rate. So Rachel did suctioning and postural drainage a couple times.

23:50 – I cut the cord and Rachel took Layia to the steamy bathroom to continue suctioning and doing postural drainage, in hopes of clearing her nasal passages. She was pretty sure the lungs were clear, and Layia had a strong cry, but the breathing was so noisy it was hard to tell. While Mike and Rachel were in the shower I could hear Rachel K on the phone with Rachel F-T, and could tell from her voice that she was concerned. Everything had happened so fast, though, and I was trying to catch up mentally, so it didn’t make me worry. I trust my midwives, and at that moment I needed to focus on myself.

Around midnight – The student midwife, Martine, arrived shortly after Rachel and Layia went into the bathroom. Martine stayed with me and helped me to get into a better position to push out the placenta. I was still feeling weak so I really had to lean on her.

00:20 – Within minutes after the placenta was born, Rachel suggested that we transport to the hospital. She was concerned that while the extremely slow drainage of Layia’s nasal passages might not be a problem, she couldn’t say for certain and didn’t want to risk us having a blue baby later in the night. For the next few minutes Rachel and Martine did a rough clean-up, Mike helped me get dressed, and I (carrying Layia) went to the kitchen to fuel up with crackers, dried cranberries, and the rest of my electrolyte water. I was HUNGRY!

00:45 – Just over an hour after Layia was born we were in the car on the way to the ER. Oddly enough, my only regret about transporting is that Layia and I didn’t get “birthday cake”, so Layia doesn’t have a birth day candle like Conan does. (A candle that was lit on the actual birth day, and that can be part of subsequent birthday celebrations.)

Continued in Part 2: The NICU

Posted November 2, 2015 by mayakey in pregnancy

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Amusing Lessons of My First Year+ as a Parent   Leave a comment

In my first year+ as a parent I’ve found a few lessons to be particularly surprising and/or amusing. I’m listing a few of them here.

  1. It is possible to be incompetent at snapping. I had previously classed snaps as being basically the same level of easiness as velcro. I mean it’s just position and push, and then presto you’re done. No finger twists, no real paying attention to what you’re doing needed, right? Then I had a baby, whose clothing and diapers have lots of snaps on them, and now I think I’d give myself a “D” on my snapping proficiency. Even while he was a newborn I was amazed at how often I failed at my first attempt to secure a snap! And once he started wiggling? Oh goodness, that was a struggle. The thing that really amazed me was not that I had trouble positioning the two halves of the snap together, but that after correct positioning I would be unable to get the snaps pressed together. My zipper and button proficiencies are at least a solid “B”, but I dread to find out what my “tying someone else’s shoe” proficiency is.
  2. Everybody’s wrong with the whole “eating for two while pregnant” thing. I already knew before getting pregnant that the old saw was not true for pregnancy. I wasn’t eating for two, just me and a parasite. Although dealing with hunger was certainly an important part of pregnancy. But then he was born and I started breastfeeding him. I thought I was hungry before?! Nobody ever talks about “eating for two while nursing a newborn” but that’s absolutely true. He needed to do all that initial growing fueled by me, which meant that I discovered new depths of hunger. And I am still eating what seems to me still to be crazy portion sizes. Mike and I joke around about it because there have been meals when we made what used to be enough for two dinner and two lunch portions, and then I went and ate three portions for dinner.
  3. For as long as I can remember I have not been able to get to bed before midnight. Whether I started getting ready for bed at 10pm or 11:30pm, I could not be in bed with the lights out before midnight. And then I got pregnant and my bedtime moved up a few hours. I don’t actually remember what time I was usually getting to bed, but I think 9pm was pretty normal while I was pregnant. And 16 months after giving birth I’m still able to get to bed earlier. For the first several months of Conan’s life I was in bed with the lights out by 9:30 (granted there were 2-4 arousals to nurse during the night). As his night sleep periods lengthened that gradually moved to 10 and then 10:30. I started napping with him for his morning nap every day and my bedtime moved to between 10:30 and 11. Now that he’s not napping in the morning anymore, 10:30 is much more attractive and it’s still doable. I hope this lasts, I like getting to bed earlier.
  4. Baby’s offer a great posture reminder when they start sitting. When we stand up straight in our society, we tend to lift our chins and tilt our heads back (so that our line of sight is straight forward?). But if you ever have read about posture, we’re supposed to be lifting the crown of our heads, not our chins. If you look at a sitting baby in profile they look like they’re looking down but it’s really just that they naturally hold their heads so that their crown is the highest point. Whenever I really looked at Conan sitting, it always made me adjust my posture. Of course now he’s standing and walking and looking up at us a lot, so I don’t get that reminder as much.
  5. Another great reminder I get from Conan while I’m nursing him sometimes is to unclench my jaw. I’m guessing I’m not the only person who has a bad habit of clenching my jaw when concentrating on something, either mental or physical. But I noticed that when Conan started wiggling while nursing, he’d be waving his butt in the air, kicking his legs, moving his arms all over, etc, but there was no change to his jaw pressure or suction. If it had been me there’s no way I could have wiggled my butt like that and not tightened my jaw a bit. I’m very thankful that he is able to keep the jaw relaxed, or as relaxed as it can be considered while nursing.
  6. Babies don’t just get garlic breath, they exude garlic from their entire being. I have to confess that I’ve rarely if ever noticed garlic breath or any whiff of garlic around adults who have just consumed it. (Maybe because I’ve usually also had garlic?) But when we started putting a clove of roasted garlic in Conan’s food I noticed that the garlic smell was on his breath, in his pee, and just coming from his skin, too. And it took at least a couple days to clear!  It’s not just garlic, it’s roasted onion as well, so this must be all albums. I considered it to be an amusing smell of healthy eating.

Posted April 6, 2014 by mayakey in musings, parenting, pregnancy

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My Costs for Pregnancy and Labor   Leave a comment

I have found myself missing blogging very much during the past year. On a regular basis my mind comes up with ideas for blog posts, but the reality of being a new mom has meant that I never managed to get any of those ideas typed up. I’m hoping to resume blogging, maybe on a monthly-ish frequency, now that Conan is a year old.

Shortly before Conan’s first birthday, I finally got resolution from my health insurance company regarding coverage for the cost of his birth and I’ve been wanting to write about my experience with the cost of homebirth. I must emphasize that this is my experience and should not be generalized.

Cost was not a significant reason for why I chose to give birth at home in the first place, and it probably doesn’t make an difference to someone who is not comfortable with the idea of homebirth. In retrospect I feel that within my values it is a strong plus in the homebirth column, though. There is a lot of complaining going on now about the cost of health care, and this is an example of how we have the power to make choices that affect the cost of health care for ourselves and others.

When I looked up the cost for a normal vaginal delivery last summer while writing my grievance letter to my insurance company (story to come later), the estimated range for Sacramento was $10k-21k. Checking again right now the website says the estimated range for three major hospitals in Sacramento is $15k-23k (approximately $3k of that out-of-pocket and the remainder paid through insurance). My total cost was $4,955, with $2,932 of that ultimately out of pocket. Yes, my cost was $5k. Between one fifth and half the cost of a normal hospital birth. My out of pocket expenses ended up being on a par with what they would have been for a hospital birth, but that is because I fought for reimbursement.

What was included in my total cost?

  • Midwife care (13 prenatal checkups, attendance of 2 midwives for the birth, 6 postnatal mother & baby checkups)
  • Two ultrasounds (nuchal translucency and 2nd tri)
  • Genetic Disease Screening Program
  • California Newborn Screen
  • Other lab tests
  • Birth kit
  • Six visits to a chiropractor

Nearly all of our costs were initially out of pocket. We paid our midwives out-of-pocket because the total fee is less if you pay out-of-pocket instead of having them go through insurance. And since I assumed that my insurance company would reject the claim, it just made sense to go the route with less cost even if it meant more effort on my part (to submit a member claim to insurance). I have a high deductible health insurance plan, so for the first $1.5k (in-network) each year it is all out-of-pocket, and the only thing that put us over that deductible was the charge for midwifery care.

When I submitted my member claim, my insurance company applied the charge to the out-of-network deductible ($3k) and stated that only half of the fee was allowed for the procedure. I submitted an appeal arguing that since there are no in-network midwives I couldn’t choose an in-network provider so I should not be penalized and the cost should be applied to the in-network deductible. I also pointed out that even applying the cost to the in-network deductible and reimbursing me at that rate, their total cost is still significantly lower than it would have been had I had a hospital birth. I’m guessing that the reason their allowed cost was so much lower than my actual cost was because their allowed cost was for the “childbirth, normal vaginal delivery” procedure only. When I got a $2k reimbursement check I figured that was good enough.

I did get a laugh when I got the response to my appeal. It read: “This administrative decision represents an exception and does not change Anthem’s position regarding plan benefits, as detailed in your EOC form. … Please note that your EOC specifically states that if there are no contracted midwives you may call customer service for a referral to a participating OB/GYN. …” Why on earth would I trade the awesome care I received from my midwives in my comfortable home for mediocre care by a doctor in a medical facility? (No offense to the vast majority of people who prefer birthing in the hospital. I’m just a li-i-ittle bit jaded about medical doctors having had more negative experiences than positive.)

Posted February 1, 2014 by mayakey in money, pregnancy

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Conan’s Birth Story   4 comments

For weeks leading up to the due date we asked Baby to come maybe a little bit early, but not until grandma Key (my mother) was here. It’s a good thing that we specified a contingent event and not just a date. We picked up my mother at the airport at around 7pm on December 11, one week before Conan’s due date. In the airport Mike leaned over to my belly and told Baby that now that grandma had arrived, it could come at any time. Personally, I was hoping for a few more days before the birth. We picked up dinner on the way home, and my mom and I enjoyed tacos while watching NCIS:LA. Afterwards she went to bed and I started putting away the sheets and baby laundry that I had done that day (all those tiny little socks!). At slightly before 9:30pm I felt a rush of fluid, and then another shortly after. I felt like I had peed my pants, but my bladder was not the cause. I went into the bedroom to check that I didn’t actually need to pee and change my clothes, then went back to putting away the laundry. After another rush of fluid I decided to put on a menstrual pad. I was starting to wonder if this could be my mucus plug or water breaking. The fluid was relatively clear and odorless, so there were no signs of a problem; but I had really hoped that the sack would stay intact for much of my labor to make movement easier for the baby. At 9:47pm I was sitting at my computer and felt what I thought could be a contraction. When I stood up I felt another rush of fluid. At that point I decided that I needed to call one of the midwives to let them know what was going on just in case something happened during the night. I sidled up to Mike and told him with a shaky voice, “Don’t freak out but I’m going to call one of the midwives. I think my water may have broken or the mucus plug may have come out and I may have started going in to early labor.” He was calm, responding that he was excited and the timing was perfect. I was the one who needed the “don’t freak out” admonishment. After all, I wasn’t supposed to go into labor only 2 1/2 hours after my mom arrived in town!

At around 10:15pm I went alphabetical in my phone and called Rachel F-T and left a message, then called Rachel H and talked to her about what had happened. She told me that she’d check in first thing the following morning unless we called her with an update. In the meantime I headed straight for bed to attempt to sleep. Attempt to sleep. Over the course of the night I was woken up at 15 or 20 minute intervals with contractions. I tried really hard to find comfortable positions (or rather positions that made the contractions more bearable): on my side, on my back, and partially sitting up. I kept a rough eye on the clock each time I was woken up so I knew that the time between contractions was variable with 3 or 4 per hour, and they hadn’t really increased in intensity through the night. Come morning I didn’t really want to linger in bed since laying down had not proven to be a very comfortable position during contractions. We got up around 6am, and Mike updated Rachel H over the phone and then called work to let them know he wouldn’t be in and would be starting his FMLA leave immediately. When my mom came out of her room we told her that I had gone into early labor. There were a few tasks that needed to be taken care of first thing, like washing the diapers so we’d have something ready to use! Sometime after 8am Rachel H came to check on me. It was comforting to have her tell me that sometimes the water breaks twice when only the outer membrane ruptures and what comes out is the fluid between the membranes.

Throughout the morning I continued having contractions. I stayed mostly in the living room, and moved from the sofa to one of the birthing balls at intervals to change positions. Walking was not appealing to me, as I felt weak and wanted to conserve my energy. I never had the “happy chatty” phase of contractions that we had been told about; probably because I was asleep for much of my early labor. Instead, during contractions throughout the morning I would stop talking (mid-phrase or mid-word) and focus on breathing and making it through the contraction. The morning is mostly a blur to me. My mom and Mike timed the contractions occasionally during the morning. It was pretty easy for them to do I guess because they could tell by my face, body position, breathing, and/or break in talking when a contraction had started. The contractions gradually increased in frequency over the course of the morning. Mike’s mother came for a while during the morning, then left for a while and came back in the afternoon. Listening to her conversation without joining in was very soothing. Around noon Mike talked to Rachel H again. My contractions were approximately 5 minutes apart at that point, and she told Mike to call her again when the pressure started moving down “like a bowel movement”. Around that point I had started standing up occasionally during contractions, leaning on the window or Mike or someone else. Shortly after 1pm we called Rachel back to let her know that I was starting to feel pressure moving down. The contractions were still around 5 minutes apart. Rachel arrived at the house at around 1:40pm.

At some point in the early morning I had had to rush to the bathroom to throw up the remains of dinner. So for breakfast I had toast. Which soon followed dinner down the toilet. We resorted to warm honey water, since I often do that when I’m sick to provide my body with energy without taxing the digestion. The honey water didn’t stay down either. Rachel H advised that I should stick to not more than 1 cup of room temperature water per hour. In early afternoon we decided to try a little more food since I hadn’t had anything to eat since the toast attempt, and had only been sipping the electrolyte water all morning. I managed to eat 3 pita chips, and 1 or 2 dried apricots. Later my mom fed me a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt with honey mixed in.

I don’t really recall, but according to the labor record by around 2:45pm I started moaning during contractions. I attempted to go to the bathroom sometime after that and just the walk from the living room to the bathroom was exhausting. When a contraction came on as I was returning to the front of the house I got on my knees leaning against the bed. I was feeling weak and scared at that point, on the verge of tears. For some time the world around me had been a blur and I wasn’t really sure what other people were doing as I was so internally focused. When I was kneeling at bedside I thought that I wanted to get into the tub with warm water. Mike helped me stand up and I remember gasping out the question of whether the tub had been filled. I think it took me so long to ask the question that it was interrupted by a contraction. They immediately started filling the tub while I continued kneeling against the bed.

As soon as the tub was full at around 3:15pm, I got in and I didn’t leave it until Conan was born. I don’t think I could have. I floated in the water, sort of sitting on my side at first. The contractions were still around 5 minutes apart, but getting stronger and longer. Rachel F-T arrived not long after I got into the tub. According to the labor record by 4pm the contractions were back to back. I just remember trying to float in the water using as little energy as possible and trying to let the warm water help me relax and ease the pain a bit. I don’t remember it working all that well at the latter. By around 4:20pm I started bearing down at the peak of some of the contractions. When that started I remember again being almost near tears thinking that this just meant several hours possibly of more intense labor. It turns out I’m close to being a screamer when pushing. It took constant gentle reminders to lower my pitch into more productive “oooo” sounds. This is surprising to me as I had expected that I would make similar grunt/groan sounds as when weightlifting. I tried to keep the “I am woman hear me roar” mantra in mind to help me stay low pitched and strong. I remember hearing my mom say that it was really hard to watch me go through this. I was really worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to see the labor through to the end. As dusk fell, other lights in the house were turned on to provide some illumination, but the dining room was left dusky. My world was the tub, Mike or my mom at the head of the tub supporting me and giving me sips of ginger ale between contractions, and the Rachels. Everything else faded into the background. Every once in awhile something would filter through. I remember hearing people talk about lights and suggesting that the entry light be turned on. I remember Marlene’s phone making lots of noise as she got emails about several EBay auctions that were ending. I remember looking up at some point and seeing her and my mom sitting at the dining room table. I remember that my arms and legs felt tingly and heavy.

One of the Rachels suggested that I move to a kneeling position with one leg up at around 5pm. They asked if I wanted to reach down and see if I could feel the top of the baby’s head. I didn’t want to at first because I was afraid of not being able to feel anything, since that would just confirm that I had lots of laboring left to do. When I did finally get up the courage to feel, I felt something smooth and thought I would have a bald baby. I was also frightened by the correlation of the magnitude of pain with how little of the head was visible. I started trying to visualize a blooming rose during contractions and while I was pushing, as a way of trying to visualize the tissues stretching and the head crowning and passing through. Not sure how effective that was. At some point I started praying that I would feel the “ring of fire” soon, if for no other reason than that it would mean I was almost done. Throughout this whole time Rachel F-T would periodically use the doppler to monitor Conan’s heart rate. It was so incredibly comforting to hear her say what the heart rate was since it stayed around 120-130’s. No matter how much I was struggling, I took that to mean that the baby wasn’t being traumatized and was not in any danger.

When I did start feeling the “ring of fire” of course, I just wanted it to be done. I was also afraid at that point that despite a honey straw I had been given shortly before, I’d run out of energy and the baby would be stuck in the birth canal. May seem crazy now, but at the moment… So I pushed long and hard with each wave. According to the birth log there were only five minutes between “almost crowning” and “baby born” notations. Conan Yeager was born at 5:57pm on 12/12/12.

Conan’s birth brought Mike to tears as he got to introduce his son to the world after having kept the gender a secret for so many months. My first thought was decidedly less emotional: “It must be a sea monkey, there’s no way I pushed out anything that big.” In my defense my first sight of him was of his back tinted slightly greenish from the water as he was floated between my legs and up to my arms. (After a water birth the baby is brought to the surface face down.) He was 21.25″ long and weighed 9 lb 2 oz.

Mike and I got to hold him for a few minutes in the tub before I was helped up and out of the tub, dried off, and almost carried into the bedroom by Mike while I held Conan. The placenta was delivered as I rested on our bed and then my mom cut the umbilical cord. Conan rested on Mike’s chest right next to me before he was moved to my chest to nurse. While I was being checked out and stitched up our mothers were sent off to get sushi. It wasn’t my first postnatal meal, since the Rachels had brought “birthday cake” of toast with almond butter and sliced apples, complete with a candle right before I nursed Conan for the first time, and I had finished the honey yogurt and indulged in some snack Bunnies shortly after moving into the bedroom. Some of our friends and family will remember us half joking/half serious that Mike was going to get me sushi while I was in labor, well that was tweaked a bit when we developed our actual birth plan.

When they inspected the placenta they found two holes, so when my water broke it was just the outer membrane that broke and released the fluid between the membranes. Just as I had hoped, Conan was in a fluid cushion until just before emerging. When I felt his head what I was feeling was the inner membrane, not a bald head.

Overall, with the exception of not being able to keep food down, this was a great experience. I am so so so glad we did a home birth. I could not imagine having to pack up in the middle of this to go somewhere unfamiliar with unfamiliar people around me. I do think it is funny that one of my reasons for home birth is that I would be able to move/eat/etc whenever & whatever I wanted; and then I couldn’t keep food down! And while I didn’t necessarily think that I would have a water birth, I knew I would want the tub at some point and am extremely glad that I had that option. I also really liked the fact that no one was tracking my dilation. It was freeing to not know how much time had passed and how much “progress” had been made, and just go with the sensations and experience. Our midwives were awesome, and really calming for me.

Posted February 8, 2013 by mayakey in pregnancy

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Pregnancy IS a Second Chakra Exercise in Letting Go Control   Leave a comment

For the last several months I’ve been working on catching up on my photo albums/memory books. They were a little out of date. The paper album hadn’t yet left 2004. The digital album really only had 2009 and 2010. Now my paper album is up-to-date (except for the wedding albums), my friends-and-family album is in progress, and the digital album is halfway through 2007. I chose to do this as a first chakra exercise (as well as clearing the mess from the collage table in the living room so that I can do some artwork) prior to Baby coming. I figured that it would be a good first chakra exercise because it reinforces my tribal history, reminding me of the friends and family that have made me who I am today.

I also wanted to figure out a second chakra exercise, since the second chakra is physically located in the sexual organs and it seemed like it would be appropriate as a part of labor prep. For the longest time I didn’t have any ideas what to do. Then a few weeks ago I realized that pregnancy in and of itself is a second chakra exercise. Not only that, but it’s an exercise in letting go control, which is my biggest second chakra issue. Yet another example of how well nature takes care of itself. During pregnancy I am no longer in control of my body/senses, sometimes my mind and emotions play with me and become “unpredictable”, and time after time after time there are circumstances where it doesn’t matter what I want because it’s just not going to happen. I can have the image of the ideal pregnancy: healthy diet, daily supplements, regular exercise, plenty of relaxation, a nursery that is carpeted before the baby becomes full term allowing plenty of time to pull together a nursery, a solid plan… However, that just ain’t reality and  the most important thing I can do is let go and accept what is reality. Yes, I know, that’s true in normal life as well, but it’s magnified during pregnancy. Stressing out is not an option. And when I have had breakdowns they need to be resolved asap; repression is not an option, depression is not an option. Most of those breakdowns have been related to either control issues or relationship issues, both of which are second chakra, and have resulted in me being able to work through some significant challenges that I hadn’t been facing. Mentally, conscious pregnancy has been very healthy for me.

And now I think I’m ready for labor and then letting go control of the rest of my life.

Posted December 10, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, musings, pregnancy

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Pregnancy Exercise   Leave a comment

I really wanted to run through my pregnancy. Oh well. How some women train for and run in marathons while pregnant is beyond me. I dropped as soon as the first trimester exhaustion train hit me. For a couple of months I could barely go for a mile walk. At one point I thought I had my energy back and I went running. I went on my previous short run route of two miles, and got almost three-quarters of the way before I had to stop and walk because I was afraid I’d collapse. I waited a few weeks before trying again. Then when I finally did have my energy back I got in one run before the temperature shot up into the mid-90’s. Given how difficult it is to stay hydrated while pregnant, and the risks of elevated body temperature to fetal development, I would not run while the daytime temperatures were above the low-90’s. And since we started October in the 100’s, that meant that I’ve only had a month of cool enough temperatures to even think about running. I was hoping to get in one 1-mile run per week, but I’ve only managed two runs in a month. I’ll take it. Unlike all the people who warned me that I wouldn’t be comfortable running with all the relaxin coursing through my body and stretched ligaments in my belly, I’ve had no pain in joints or abdominal region while running. Really intense soreness afterwards, yes, but pain no.

Since I couldn’t run through the summer I tried to figure out alternatives. Walks with the husband are good. Healthy for the body, the mind, and our relationship. Belly dancing, “slow calisthenics”, and light strength training have also been on my list. I’ve been trying to get back into regular strength training for a while now, with no success, so it’s not surprising that I haven’t been able to make it a go in the last few months. Occasionally I’ll do a couple arm exercises and some lunges or wall sits, but it’s been really hit or miss. I’m doing a little better with the slow calisthenics. By slow calisthenics I mean most of the same exercises I did back when I ran track and rowed crew: high knees, butt kicks, shallow jumps, and deep jumps. But what makes them slow is that I’m doing them without the jumping part. Even without the jumping aspect a few minutes of these exercises are both an aerobic and a strength workout. They are also the perfect way to finish off a little belly dancing session, as well. I never managed to drag myself out of the house to take a belly dance class, so I’ve only used the one video that I’ve had for years. At this point I know the basic moves from the video, I just suck at doing them, so I wrote down the list and instead of belly dancing in front of the TV in the living room I’m now belly dancing to a CD in our bathroom where I have a couple mirrors. One thing about belly dancing while pregnant is that I can’t see what my hips are doing, and my perception of what my belly is doing is totally off since in my peripheral vision it looks like my belly is always sticking out. Using the mirrors helps me know what I’m doing, and also helps to make sure that I’m not arching my back.

But what about those exercises that pregnant women are “supposed” to do? Things like pelvic tilts (aka cat and dog), leg lifts, and groin stretches? Well in my opinion slow calisthenics and belly dancing are a more fun way of doing pelvic tilts and leg lift-type exercises. I don’t do them every day, but hopefully it’s enough to keep my muscles toned and ready for the squatting etc of labor. I don’t have back pain, so I’m not worried about not doing daily cat and dog stretches. When I get out of the shower at night and my body is warm I try to remember to do some quick stretches. I’m rather proud of the fact that I can still touch my toes (I don’t think it counts as cheating that I have to spread my legs a bit to make room for the belly). In the next month I hope to focus more on flexibility and stretching, as well as not stressing out and tensing up my muscles. While I’m an expert at making life difficult for myself, I’d really like to have toned and relaxed muscles for labor and not make that any more difficult than it has to be.

Posted November 7, 2012 by mayakey in health, pregnancy

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Passing On the Best Gift I Ever Received   1 comment

What do I consider to be the best gift I’ve ever been given? The gift of college, fully paid by my parents (well I did have a small scholarship). Especially in today’s world I am incredibly grateful to have been able to go to the university of my choice, focus on my classes without needing to work during the school year, and get a college degree without having a loan to pay off afterwards. This is a gift that I really, really, really want to be able to pass on to my children as well. My parents did this using savings in bank accounts and CDs. We’re going to add another investment option to our arsenal: a 529 plan. Years ago when I first heard about 529 plans I didn’t think they were that great because I thought it meant you were picking the state where your kids would have to go to school. Having been given the choice to go anywhere in the country, except for schools located in-state or near home, I couldn’t imagine setting that kind of limitation for my kids. But when I realized that the invested money can be used for qualifying education expenses anywhere, I changed my tune.

To be honest, we’re not fully taking advantage of all the potential benefits of a 529 plan. Really the only benefits we’re taking advantage of are the tax-exempt nature of the distributions and the hopefully higher rate of return than a simple savings account or CD. Depending on the state there are other benefits available (I think typically only to residents) like tax deductions. This will seem kind of random, however, but we’re not enrolling in the California 529 plan, or the New Mexico 529 plan. We’ve enrolled in the DC 529 plan. It’s because SRI (socially responsible investing) is very important to me, and the DC plan is the only one (as far as I know) that is managed by an investment firm dedicated to SRI, Calvert. My Roth IRA is through Calvert and I really like the work that they do. TIAA-CREF, the plan manager for California ScholarShare, has some SRI funds but I don’t know that those funds would be part of the 529 plan. I don’t know if Oppenheimer, the plan manager for The Education Plan (NM) has SRI funds. By investing through the plan managed by Calvert I can rest assured that all of the funds in the plan are SRI funds. And I know that I am comfortable with the positive and negative screens that the company uses, and with the shareholder activism in which they engage.

Now we just have to manage to put enough money into savings in the next 18 years to be able to pay for whatever college will cost in 2030.

Posted October 17, 2012 by mayakey in conscious living, money, pregnancy

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Furnishing a Nursery, My Way   1 comment

Preparations for Baby’s birth are slooooowly happening. I hope that I don’t regret the balance that I have right now between experiencing the pregnancy now and preparing for the baby. Of course one of the big tasks is getting the nursery ready. If you walk in our house, though, I have to confess that it doesn’t look like we’ve gotten anywhere on that task. But looks can be deceiving. I hope.

Decor is a third of the way done: The room was painted a year and a half ago, with no-VOC paint for the top half and very low-VOC high gloss cabinet paint on the bottom half (hopefully easy to clean). The carpet isn’t installed but I’m working with the contractor and trying with some success to not get too frustrated at the slow pace (we’re installing the same carpet as in the other two bedrooms). The curtain rod is sitting on the floor (hopefully to be installed this weekend), and I’ll order the same organic black sateen as in our room to make the back curtain. The decorative front curtain can wait; we might as well see what the kid’s personality is first. The ceiling light installation will have to wait until the highs are no longer triple digits so we can hire someone to go into the crawlspace (yes, even always-cold me is ready for temps to drop from the 90’s and 100’s). We’ll get some black construction paper and make a fun black shape mobile, eventually to be replaced by a fun colorful one in a couple months. I plan on taking the “full length” mirror that I bought in grad school, flipping it sideways and installing it somewhere on the lower wall. And I have an adorable old calendar that I’ve been keeping so I could mount the pictures and put them on the walls to make it fun for me while we wait for kid personality to rise.

Furniture is two thirds of the way done. Rocking chair? Check, I have the one my parent’s bought when we lived in Costa Rica. Comfy chair? Check, we have the love seat from the old sofa set that has a few more years in it. Dresser? Sort-of-check. We’re not going to get a dresser right away. I have a hanging sweater rack that seems like it would be really convenient for storing the “clothing that fits right now”. And we’re going to move our old TV cabinet into the nursery to provide additional storage. Changing table? Sort-of-check. We have an office table that we were using as our dining room table when we moved into this house. I’m going to cover it with organic cotton batting (which I have), and a fabric cover (which I need to order still). It’s big enough to be able to fit a changing pad and have room to lay out the diapers and stuff.

The only big-ticket items that we don’t yet have are the crib and bassinet. The crib has been ordered but there’s a three-month lead time. We’re getting a solid maple wood crib, handmade in Oregon, with a low-VOC finish. In a week or two the mattress should be here: an organic cotton and wool mattress. The wool puddle pad and fitted sheets (Fair Trade organic cotton with natural dyes and no formaldehyde or other problem finishes) have already arrived.

The bassinet has been a sticking point. I have found some absolutely adorable Amish-made wooden ones, but they cost the same as a full-size crib. I’m really struggling with spending almost a thousand dollars on something that’ll only be used for a few months. I have looked into the Arms Reach bedside sleeper, and I’m thinking that we might go that route if I can see one in the bedside sleeper configuration first. It is plastic, but according to their FAQ it is nylon and polyester, not vinyl. I just need to confirm that I can get an organic and untreated mattress for it. It’s a trade off. I’d rather not be buying something plastic and probably-not-low-VOC paint, but it doesn’t really look like there’s a really practical alternative. And our bed is a conventional mattress anyway, which I’ve been sleeping on throughout the pregnancy, so I think this is a choice I can live with as one that doesn’t make a situation worse but only maintains the status quo.

Posted October 3, 2012 by mayakey in fair trade, home, organic, pregnancy, shopping, simple living

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Drinking Water Quality Confirmation   1 comment

One of the tasks recommended in The Complete Organic Pregnancy to do before getting pregnant is to have your water tested. For city dwellers served by a community water system the primary concern, unless you have taste and odor problems, is lead. I, however, had made the decision that I didn’t think it was worthwhile. I read the annual Consumer Confidence Reports produced by my water agency, and so I know that there aren’t any major concerns with the tap water that I receive relative to drinking water regulations. The concern for lead in water is due to leaching from pipes. Since we live in a house that was built in 1979, I’m not worried about old lead pipes anywhere in my tap water distribution system. Hence, feeling that there just wasn’t enough reason to pay for a tap water test. Then I actually got pregnant, and had a very strong fear about being wrong in my assumption. Considering how much unfiltered tap water I drink (that’s all I drink at home), it could add up to a not-insignificant exposure of my unborn baby to lead. So we had our water tested.

I feel lucky that I’m an environmental engineer and so to some degree this is what I do for a living, because I found that there’s just no good detailed information available online for typical laypeople. There’s a circular string of links talking about testing your tap water for lead without ever describing HOW to do so. Everybody just links to the EPA drinking water pages, which could certainly be more complete. The lab where we got our bottles did provide a one sheet printout describing what to do, and confirming that the sampling method I planned to use was correct. I’m not even sure how an average homeowner would find a lab; I used a local lab that I have used for work, and that is certified under the state laboratory certification program. For lead we wanted a first flush sample: the water that first comes out of the pipes after sitting for several hours. So first thing in the morning I turned on the kitchen cold water tap, let the water run for a few seconds and then filled my bottles. I put them in a box with ice and delivered them to the lab on the way to work. We sampled the kitchen tap because we really don’t ingest much water from the bathroom taps, and we only sampled cold water because we only use cold water for drinking and cooking (to avoid increased risk of contamination in hot water from pipe leaching or crud in the water heater). First flush samples are a worst case scenario for lead and copper because there is more time for leaching from the pipes. To be thorough we could have tested all three sinks, collected samples after the water had been running for a while in addition to first flush, and collected both cold and hot water; but that would have really been overkill.

And the results are (drumroll, please): good! Lead was not detected at the laboratory reporting limit (the lowest level at which the instruments can reliably detect and measure the concentration). Copper was detected at 88 parts per billion, relative to the EPA’s level for no adverse health effects of 1,300 parts per billion.

I also had our water tested for disinfection by-products, compounds like chloroform and dichloroacetic acid that are created in the process of drinking water disinfection (usually by chlorine), for my own curiosity. Again, our results were good with no compounds detected above the laboratory reporting limits. I did not test for chlorine itself because I know that there is a residual concentration in tap water. Water agencies are required to maintain a chlorine residual in order to ensure that the water stays disinfected all the way to the tap. I already have a chlorine-removing filter on our showerhead so that we’re not breathing massive amounts of chlorine while showering, and I’m not so concerned about chlorine right now that I want to deal with the hassle of filtering our water. Maybe some day I’ll collect a couple samples to confirm that the chlorine filter in the shower really works, but today I choose to stick my head in the sand at the possibility of exaggerated marketing.

Posted August 30, 2012 by mayakey in environment, home, pregnancy, water use

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