I keep meaning to write out Riley’s birth story before I forget it. Given that it has been 13 weeks already (edit: it’s been like 16 weeks and I take forever to do anything anymore), I’m quite certain that I have forgotten many of the details I wish I could hold onto, but better late than never right?
OK so quick recap: at my 37 week OB visit, I was measuring ahead (around 40 weeks), so they ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound tech’s measurements estimated that baby at 9lbs 12oz at 37 weeks 4 days, so my OB recommended a planned C-section at 39 weeks. I was scheduled for a c-section at 10:30am on Friday November 4.
Em and I were SO nervous and excited and terrified and all-of-the-feels that morning. We also probably forgot when they told us not to bring everything in with us right away, so we showed up with a suitcase, duffle bag, pillows, etc … it was a little excessive. I actually don’t think what we packed was excessive but we didn’t really think through the fact that it wouldn’t be too hard to go out to the car and bring everything in once we had a room. Apparently Riley was born on a busy day/weekend, because there weren’t any recovery rooms available. So I ended up in a monitoring room for both pre- and post-op until I was ready for a hospital room.
The last picture of Riley on the inside! This was the little room we were in before and immediately after the c-section.
In terms of the actual delivery, once I knew I wouldn’t be going into labor (unless, of course, I spontaneously went into labor before 39 weeks, which I didn’t), the thing I was most nervous about was the spinal. It was a silly thing to be nervous about, it was totally a walk in the park. Just a little prick for the local and then I didn’t even feel the spinal going in. Em wasn’t in the room for the spinal, and didn’t come in until I was already on the table all rigged up with an IV and numb from the chest down. The anesthesia felt warm and kind of pooled in my feet first and then spread upward. The sensation of knowing my body was there but not being able to control it in any way was really fascinating and gave me a new respect for folks with physical disabilities (what a weird thing to be thinking when you’re about to give birth, right?!). It took maybe 10 minutes or maybe 30 minutes for them to prep me. At the time, it felt like an eternity and also the blink of an eye. Then all of a sudden the OB told me they were starting. I couldn’t feel anything but movement and pressure. It kind of felt like they were taking my pregnant belly and just pushing it back and forth. I remember feeling really nauseous at one point, and the anesthesiologist tweaking something which apparently helped as I felt better within a couple of minutes. I think it took about 15 minutes for them to get to the point where they were ready to deliver Riley. Once she was out, the OB asked if we wanted to know the sex, and when we said yes she asked if we’d like to just look. I have to say that I LOVE that the first words spoken to my child weren’t “it’s a girl!” She held up the baby for Em to see, who took a second and then turned to me and said “it’s a girl?!” kind of incredulously. Em had been so convinced it was a boy for the last couple of weeks. Also apparently she took a second because she couldn’t actually tell if it was a boy or girl – the umbilical cord and swollen genitals were throwing her off haha.
Once she was vacated from my uterus, Em left my side to help the nurses weigh her, get her footprints, etc. Riley came into the world a whopping 10 lbs 4 oz! Our pediatrician later said that c-section babies sometimes have slightly inflated birth weights because they take on some of the fluid that is given intravenously to the mother, which makes a lot of sense.
Although I wasn’t able to do skin-to-skin right away, they brought her back to me and put her on my chest as soon as they finished weighing her and checking her APGARs, etc. I have never experienced such a rush of emotion as I did when I met her.
The best moment of my life. LOOK AT THOSE CHEEKS.
Overall, I am a little bummed I didn’t have a vaginal birth or go into labor only because I’m super curious. I experienced the whole pregnancy and didn’t get to experience a contraction. But overall, I’m glad I had the c-section. I have really narrow hips and I’m just not convinced all 10+ pounds of her would have come out that way – especially without doing some serious damage. Really, I’m so happy that she is here and that she came the way she did. And I hope that next time I have an opportunity to experience labor and vaginal birth, if it’s in the cards. I guess I really expected to be more disappointed that I ended up having a c-section, but I just can’t bring myself to want it any other way.
Quick aside: I’m pretty sure these are the first pictures I’ve ever shared of my face. Obviously we are not really “in the closet” about any of this anymore so the need to be anonymous has kind of dissipated. Still, feels crazy after 3 years.
Anyway … after she arrived I don’t remember too much of the physical/medical things. Actually all I remember was my nurse coming in to do uterine “massage” which should obviously be renamed “uterine murder” or “uterine punching bag” or something. Basically she put her whole body weight on my uterus and pushed all of the extra crap out. Disgusting and also (mostly) very painful. I had Riley with me in the OR recovery room, where we were for about an hour I think. Then they rolled me down to our hospital room. I got SUPER nauseous and told them so, apparently right as we arrived to the room. Instead of just bringing me through the door and into the room, they stopped rolling the bed right in front of the doorway to let me get less nauseous, which I thought was so weird. Like, just take me into the room – it’s right there.
We were in the hospital for 4 nights (standard for a c-section). For the first 24 hours, I still had an IV, compression things on my legs, and a catheter. Once those were gone, I feel like my physical recovery went really really well. I was able to be up and walking to the bathroom right away, my incision didn’t give me any trouble at all (until around 8 weeks when I started to really up my activity level – then I had a little bit of bleeding here and there for a few weeks). In fact, whenever someone came into the room (a billion times a day), Em and I swear there were more compliments on my incision than the baby. I remember the hardest thing about recovering from the surgery was waiting for the morphine (part of the spinal cocktail) to leave my body because it was making me SO itchy. They gave me Benadryl for it, which helped a little bit but not a lot. It probably took 2 days to stop itching actually. In terms of pain meds, I just took Tylenol and Motrin for 3 or 4 days and then stopped. I was really surprised at how well the recovery went overall.
Most of my memories from the hospital are obviously about Riley. I was just so in awe that she came out of me and that all of a sudden we were moms. They were testing her regularly for all of the regular things, but also for her sugar levels, which is typical for bigger babies. Luckily, hers consistently stayed normal (apparently they sometimes drop really low?). Our hospital encourages rooming in, so she was with us pretty much the whole time. We did have them keep her in the nursery one of the nights for about 3 hours between feeds so that we could sleep. Other than that, all I remember is feeding/trying to feed her!
Still my favorite picture of Em and Riley. I love how similar their coloring is, despite the lack of a genetic link.
OK, so the breastfeeding journey … here we go. Her bilirubin numbers were slightly high early on, so they wanted us to supplement with formula as my milk hadn’t come in yet. Our hospital has a wonderful lactation consultant program, and the LC suggested we use a supplemental nursing system (SNS) for the formula – that way Riley was learning to latch and suck at my nipple but also getting the formula. In general, she had a really hard time latching right away. She would get on for a couple of minutes and then pull off/stop. I noticed on the first day that she had a tongue tie. BUT I totally didn’t want to be that person (tongue ties are sooooo trendy, and I know this because I’m a speech pathologist and everyone wants to tell me that their child’s tongue tie is the cause of all of their woes). But seriously, it was significant – her tongue is STILL heart-shaped because it was pulled back by the tight frenulum. And wouldn’t you know, the pediatrician actually noticed it too and had the pediatric surgeon consult. They clipped it when she was just a day old, which is amazingly early (especially given that most pediatricians don’t think revisions are necessary). Anyway, I am quite certain that her tongue affected her latch early on, but so did my nipples and so did the fact that we were both so new at this. Looking back, I wish that I had asked for another day before they had us supplement, because my milk ended up coming in early and I really think that using the SNS affected our nursing relationship. After that, Riley would just get SO frustrated trying to latch onto my nipple without the SNS because she wasn’t getting instant gratification. It took 3 weeks to really get to the point where she would latch on and eat without me enticing her with a bottle first or getting her suck reflex going with my finger.
Anyway, in addition to the tongue tie, my nipples are apparently not protrude-y enough (::eye roll::), so I was also using a nipple shield. For those of you keeping track at home, so far that’s: tongue tie revision, nipple shield, and SNS. Of course, when you are using a nipple shield, they want you pumping to stimulate supply as well (apparently nipple shields can decrease stimulation), so I was pumping every two hours as well as trying to feed her with the nipple shield and SNS. The one thing that went right is that I was able to pump my own milk really early on, and we only supplemented with formula for less than a day. After that, I was able to use my own colostrum and breastmilk in the SNS. Then, on our very last night, we had the night nurse from hell. I asked her to come in and help us get Riley latched (I was having trouble even with the shield and SNS), and she did not even try to help. Instead she lectured me that my baby had lost close to 10% of her birth weight and I just needed to feed her with a bottle or else she was going to lose more weight and blah blah blah I’m a terrible mother. So, obviously, that night I cried for hours on end and ended up feeding her a bottle, which she actually refused later in the night and we had to finger feed her with the SNS. It was just terrible. And we were so overwhelmed with all of the interventions! Pumping, nipple shield, SNS, and now a bottle – it was crazy. That night left us scarred for days! Thank god for the wonderful lactation consultant, who was the first person we saw when nurse-from-hell went off shift in the morning. Our LC helped us make a plan to get her fed and also work toward breastfeeding. We went home feeding her bottles of my pumped milk, and attempting to breastfeed 3 times per day. We also went home with a follow up appointment on the books, which was really the best part. I felt like we had a plan and a check in and everything was going to work out.
Now, everything totally did work out, but it took weeks, and breastfeeding/learning to breastfeed successfully was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. Obviously Riley had some hurdles to overcome (newly freed tongue, etc), and there was no shortage of intervention which I honestly think served to only confuse Riley. If I could go back and do it again, I would ask for an extra day to try to get her eating from the breast before supplementing with formula. I really think that getting used to the instant gratification of the SNS was the hardest thing to overcome when trying to go back to the breast. For the first three weeks, I couldn’t get her latched onto my breast without first enticing her with a bottle and stimulating her suck reflex. Eventually, I was able to get her sucking on my finger instead of a bottle first, which was great. And then she finally started latching on her own and breastfeeding successfully (still with the nipple shield). After all of that pumping early on, I ended up having oversupply. I was pumping close to twice what she needed, so I was able to get a good freezer stash going early on. But with a good supply sometimes comes an overwhelming let down, so even though Riley was able to feed successfully she would often pull off and cry or get excessively gassy from the crazy let down. We definitely had a rough go of things early on! Thankfully, I was able to wean off the nipple shield at about 11 weeks, and she’s now doing great on her own.
Phew – that was quite a bit of verbal diarrhea. I’m glad I could get it all written down though. I feel like I could write a novel about how hard breastfeeding is but that story has been told (just not to me prior to doing it myself …). All in all, November 4, 2016 was the best day of my life and I am so grateful for every single part of our journey so far. And if you read all the way down to here – good for you, you’re a better blog reader than I!