28 December 2007

where to begin?

So much to write down, so little time ... We are in that cozy cocoon of living simply from one feeding to the next, totally caught up in the wonders of umbilical cords falling off, remarking on the color of baby poo, counting bumps and ridges under soft baby hair, and catching smiles from a contented little face. It's a lovely time, and oh-so-fleeting. Though it leaves no time for the real world!

Arden has been home now since the evening of Christmas Eve, and I'm still pinching myself to make sure it's all for real. He continues to show a lot of yellow in his skin, and to be a lot quieter than Nicky or Rowen were. He's a bit like Max in that respect, but sleepier than Max ever was. When he's awake, he's very alert and calmly looks all around him, taking in his new home and family. He has a most remarkable gaze.

The midwife was by today to check on his growth, but the records from the hospital have not yet arrived, so we have nothing to compare his new weight to. There's a bit of concern about his weight (as in, is he gaining enough) and his navel will need to be looked at again to see if it continues to heal properly, but another midwife will come by on Monday and we'll have more knowledge to work with then.

It's funny - after months of being warned that he's big, than bigger than normal, than so big that we had to get special tests run ... Arden turned out to be a wee little fellow after all. At only 7.3 lbs and approximately 19.5 inches, he's the smallest of the four. All those measurements ... wrong. The one they were right on, but which they retracted, was the amniotic fluid. There must've been gallons of water in there! The midwife and nurse present at the birth couldn't believe it. LOL. Just goes to show that no matter how much we may think we know about the quiet miracles, like growing a baby, Mother Nature will always have the last word.

Since time is rather a difficult commodity to come by these days, I'll break his story down into chunks. I doubt it'll be too interesting for anyone, but I'd like him to know about it when he's older (if he's interested!).

The Labor and Birth
Niek and I were admitted to the maternity ward at IJsselland around 7 am on December 20th. They applied 1 dose of hormone cream to my cervix after monitoring Arden's heart/activity rates for about an hour. A half hour after that, I was allowed up to begin pacing - nothing like a bit of a nudge from gravity. I must've worn ruts into the linoleum in our room, but by the time the 1 pm check-up came, there was no additional dilation, though the attending GYN said the cervix felt a lot 'softer' to him and he deemed it worth the try of applying 2 doses of the cream to my cervix after further monitoring Arden's heart and activity rates. Even before I was allowed to get up and pace some more, I felt this time was going to be different. I walked and walked - only pausing when my back began to bother me too much to continue, but then springing up after a few minutes to walk some more. Luckily, it was a slow day on the ward and I was able to pace one of the corridors endlessly without annoying anyone. By 3 pm, my back was bothering me rather a lot and I decided to sit and rock instead, which did a lot for the back pain while still taking advantage of gravity and motion. By 3:15 pm, I began timing my contractions but still didn't say anything about them - I've "lost" contractions so many times in the past with the other kids that I didn't want to jinx myself. By the time the 5:00 pm check came, I knew I was having contractions that would allow us to proceed to the next stage - no way they were going to send me home to wait it out.

More time was spent hooked up to the fetal monitor, and the contractions were pretty close together though not too severe. Still, it's tiring having your body continually wracked by spasms without much of a break in between to rest. That was a result of the hormonal gel - if it works, it triggers contractions, but they are unregulated (as in a normal spontaneous labor, where you get several minutes between each spasm). I was also having trouble with coughing due to my leftover bronchitis and the fact that I had to lay down for the fetal monitoring. Still, everything was going very well and I was feeling ready to take it to the next level.

We were moved into the delivery room around 6:30 pm, which coincided with a shift change. The young male attending we had was replaced by a familiar and comforting face - Marloes, a midwife who had seen us shortly after we lost Arden's twin, and whose compassion and gentleness made a deep impact on us both. Our nurse was also a dear - very sweet as well as funny. We felt we were in good hands. Marloes decided to put me on an IV to regulate and increase the contractions. The ones I was having were not strong enough to actually birth the baby, and the fact that they came on one after the other without a break would become exhausting. We reviewed our birth wishes with them - everything from the cutting of the cord to handling the remains of the lost twin - and settled in for the duration.

Having had the same sort of IV with Nicky, Niek and I knew what to expect and were not at all surprised when the 'gentle' spasms became wracking and painful - but with a decent interval in between in which to recover. The medication used in them also makes me nauseous, but we were ready for that, too. I was able to get up for a little while, which took the strain off my back but made me feel like it was time to start pushing before that was actually the case. So, back into bed. The contraction-measuring device wasn't well calibrated, so unfortunately the nurse was under the assumption that the contractions were still not strong enough - nonetheless, she listened to Niek when he asked her to notch the IV back a bit. Thank heavens! Meanwhile, my breathing exercises and pain management tricks were working reasonably well. If it hadn't been for that rotten cough, I think it wouldn't have been any problem at all. Around 9 pm I told the midwife that the urge to push was growing, even though I was laying down, and she watched my belly through a couple of contractions and said that I wasn't ready. I kept on puffing my way through the contractions, sort of looking inward to feel when they would be strong enough. Awhile later the nurse asked me to turn on my side because Arden's heart rate had begun to drop. On my side, he would get a better blood flow. As soon as I turned, the pain in my back became - in my opinion - intolerable. Niek pushed on my lower back as we'd learned in haptonomy, and the level became tolerable (though barely!). And I started throwing up! That was a first for me! In the process of vomiting really violently, I realized my body had begun to push even if I hadn't, and I could feel Arden already making his entrance. Luckily at that moment Marloes returned and ordered me to turn on my back and stop pushing. I could comply with the first, but not with the latter - I really wasn't doing the pushing. I moved my breathing up into my chest, as we'd practiced, but the baby kept coming out and then he was already there! Thank heavens he was small enough not to get 'caught' as Max did from overly-large shoulders!

Marloes and the nurse immediately popped Arden onto my belly and I quickly pulled him up into my arms, asking everyone and no one if he was okay, if I'd hurt him by it going so fast, and essentially babbling like a woman who's just given birth. He let out a couple of mighty yells and then quickly snuggled into my arms. Niek and I were amazed. We may have four children, but that moment of birth is just incredible. Marloes was spectacular about following all of our requests, and we were able to wait for the cord to stop pulsing before Niek cut it, we kept Arden right in our arms the whole while, we could put him on the breast immediately, etc. It may not have been a home birth, but it certainly was the next best thing.

The delivery of the placenta was a bit trickier and took almost two more hours to occur. To finally get it out, I had to push while Marloes pushed very hard on my belly. When it finally came out, we were able to say goodbye to our lost baby which was difficult and emotional and sad, but also such a release. Everyone's gentleness and compassion made for a very supportive environment.

After that, we were left alone - Niek, Arden, and myself - for over an hour to just enjoy being together after all these months of waiting and worry. It was very private and special. Arden nursed a little bit, Niek and I stared till our eyes were popping ... it just didn't seem possible that this moment had finally arrived and that we were all together.

By then it was after midnight. I had a shower and then was wheeled off to the ward room for new mothers & babies while Niek was free to go home and hopefully catch a few winks of sleep. In the ward room, Arden quickly made his preferences clear - he was happy to sleep through the night, but only in my arms. That was happily arranged, and we snoozed and visited with each other all night long. I tried a few times to nurse him more, but he wasn't interested until around 6 am, when he did a reasonably good job but was certainly not the guzzle guts that his siblings were. Morning found us curled up asleep together, very much the picture of happy content.

25 December 2007

welcome to the world

Please welcome Arden Ellery, born 20 December 2007 at 21:38, weighing 7.3 pounds and measuring 19.5 inches!!

More details to follow, when his mama's brain starts functioning again. ;)

18 December 2007

oddly reticent

Maybe it's the reaction of the couple of people I've told, or maybe it's yet another case of jitters on my part ... but I'm feeling oddly reticent to admit that I got some big news from the GYN at today's checkup. I suppose I'm scared of jinxing the situation.

The good news:
At today's appointment, Dr. Schmitz found Arden's head all-but-engaged in my pelvis, which is very good. And I'm just shy of 2 cm dilation, which is also very good. Not good enough to check me in the hospital today, but good enough to make an appointment on the delivery ward for first thing Thursday morning. They'll check if I'm further dilated and will apply hormonal gel to my cervix to give Mother Nature a nudge in the right direction ... which will hopefully result in meeting Arden face-to-face by the end of the day.

The potential downside:
If the hospital is all booked up, we'll lose our appointment and have to wait for an opening. And there is the chance that the gel will have absolutely no effect and we'll be sent home after a few hours. But the doctor feels that the chances are very good that this will be just the gentle nudge that my body needs. I have had contractions off and on the past few days, but they fade away - I've had difficulty maintaining contractions during all but Rowen's birth ... I guess my body likes being pregnant. LOL.

The emotional weirdness:
It's all kind of huge suddenly and I am having the weirdest thoughts - like 'what if he doesn't like me?' Niek was comparing it to how you feel when you're in a losing position in chess and suddenly have the advantage on the board. I'll have to admit that his metaphor sailed right over my head, but apparently he's also feeling kind of strange. I'm not scared of the birth - after three children, that part doesn't phase me in the slightest - it's more a matter of grasping the reality of it after all the ups and downs we've had during the past months. Can this really be the happy ending (or beginning, to be more accurate) we've hoped for???

17 December 2007

Dear Arden,

Since you waved so cheerfully to me in your last ultrasound, I thought I'd return the favor (in a manner of speaking). Here you are from the perspective that we're used to seeing you.

This is the most hectic, chaotic week of the holiday season for us, mostly because of your brother's school schedules, but also because your Opa & Oma and many relatives are away this week on holiday. So, if you're going to take after the rest of the family, I told your Daddy last night that this will be the week you're born. ;)

It's been a rough time for you lately, being shaken up countless times of day and night by my coughing. It must feel like being inside a tumble-dryer or something. I can imagine it's awfully tiring for a wee fellow who's trying to find the exit and to catch some extra rest before The Big Arrival. I went back to the doctor again today - though she didn't have an answer as to why the antibiotics aren't working, she did prescribe a new inhaler and wished us both well.

Despite all the shaking and upheaval, I can feel that you're moving and growing in there. I've so enjoyed telling you stories about your grandparents, your siblings, and our lives. I hope you've been aware of the many kisses that Nicky and Rowen have showered on you, and of all the greetings that your biggest brother Max has sent your way. Speaking of greetings, you received your very first card today! Your Grammie is certain you'll be here before Christmas and sent you this card. Pretty cute, huh?

Well, my wee traveler, I needed to send you a special greeting today. Hopefully it won't be long now before we can communicate face-to-face (and hopefully I will not cough all over you!). Until that moment, know how much I love you.

Your Mama

11 December 2007

letting Mother Nature take the lead

So, today was another checkup with the GYN. At my last GYN appointment, the doctor had told us that a Cesarean was almost 100% certain to be necessary, so today's appointment would have been to make the arrangements for that. However, since Arden is in the right position now, and Dr. Schmitz knows how strongly I prefer a normal delivery, we are going to wait and see how things go.

It may turn out that his head is too big to fit through the birth canal and that we wind up having a Cesarean anyway, but it's a chance I'm willing to take. The doctor assured me that Arden is not in any way at any risk should this be the case. What would happen is that labor would start, but he would be unable to engage in the pelvis. The doctor would check to see why labor wasn't progressing and would find out that his head is too big, and then we would go to Plan B, the Cesarean. It would not be an emergency Cesarean, and he would not be at risk. They're also aware of the shoulder issue that occurred when Max was born, and will probably deliver Arden the same way they did with Nicky, calling for a halt to the pushing while they ease out first one shoulder and then the other. (A little easier said than done, but we've been practicing our breathing exercise for that!)

Basically, I guess I don't really have any news for you - no specific due date or anything thrilling like that. I will now visit the GYN weekly, and she'll check if I've dilated. If I have, she will check me in to the maternity ward and we'll focus on having the baby that day. Or if labor starts on its own, Niek and I will make another drive to the hospital. Just the usual wait & see game of having a baby. ;) I doubt very much we'll go beyond our due date of 4 January though, because he continues to measure out at about 4 weeks ahead of schedule. He waved to us during today's measurements!

06 December 2007

almost only counts in horseshoes

My dad used to say that to me all the time when I would go on about something that "almost" happened ... almost only counts in horseshoes and handgrenades.

Last night was a sleepless one here, due to Nicky being very ill with a stomach bug and Arden being very active in the stomach. ;) He was delving down deeper and deeper into my pelvis, and I was having occassional cramps. All good signs! Then when I got up a little after 6:30 with Nicky (for like the millionth time since we started at 1 am), I was sure my water broke. I'd had the whole night to think about what to do, and in what order, should this come up, so we were like a well-oiled machine here. Call the in-laws, leave a message at the school that the boys weren't coming, get Max up and dressed, care for the animals, grab the camera and hospital suitcase, etc. Seamless. Normally, I would not go to the hospital for "just" broken water, but the GYN had said to come at the first sign of spontaneous labor, so I was following directions.

We got there and had a lovely nurse, but unfortunately the midwife on duty thought she was Cleopatra reincarnated or something. At one point, if you can believe it, she actually told Niek to be quiet when he tried to ask a question because she was busy talking. Our 3-year old daughter isn't allowed to talk to people that way! We never even saw the GYN who was on duty.

Anyway, said midwife decided my water was not ruptured and sent me home, after giving me a big lecture. I am so seriously NOT a fan of so many of the people we've encountered at this hospital. Particularly, I'm sick and tired of being treated like some sort of pregnant nutcase with an overactive imagination.

But I digress, because a few hours after we came home, Dr. Schmitz (my GYN) called to say that thanks to Arden now being in perfect position, we can go ahead and try for the 'normal' delivery even if the ultrasound measurements indicate that his head has (slightly) exceeded 10 cm. So today's little story does have a happy ending - hooray!

05 December 2007

he turned!

Yesterday was probably the most uncomfortable, physically speaking, day of this pregnancy. I'll spare you the details, other than saying it was painful and that I felt intensely nauseous all day. But when I went to bed, guess who was vertical rather than horizontal!!!

Niek and I are burning with curiousity as to whether Arden will continue to mimic the actions of big brother Nicky, who also turned at the last moment. A couple of days after Nicky turned, my water broke and shortly after that, labor was induced in the hospital. If Arden were born this week, there is still a very large possibility that he could take the 'normal' route. Niek's already cautioning me not to get my hopes up, and he's right. So I'll simply add that from a purely practical point of view, the vertical position will also simplify the Cesarean. The transverse position he was in until last night makes the operation somewhat more complicated and also necessitates a bigger cut.

A few people have continued to ask why we didn't have Arden manually turned, which is normally a possibility. The reason is because the placenta is on the front, and the force necessary for a manual manipulation would've almost certainly torn the placenta loose.

And to the couple of commenters who've suggested haptonomy, thank you. We have had a haptonoom therapist for the past three pregnancies (including this one). So that base has already been covered. But for anyone who is pregnant or thinking of venturing down that path, haptonomy is something that Niek and I whole-heartedly suggest. It's an amazing way to begin bonding with your baby, to nurture your bond with your partner, and you learn so much that will help with the actual birthing process.

Today, instead of feeling like I have an opened ironing board in my belly, I feel rather like I've been beaten with sticks. But, boy, am I happy! :D