Baby Boy’s Birth Story

 

Something we women don’t really get to talk about is our birthing experiences. It shouldn’t be this way since it’s one of the single most profound experiences of our lives. We don’t talk about it because it’s not socially acceptable. It’s too gory for public discourse and you definitely aren’t allowed to talk about it with first time moms because you’ll terrify them (as if they aren’t already terrified at the prospect…).

I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but the act of delivering a baby was something I wanted to avoid. When I was nine my mother had me and my sister attend the birth of my youngest sister. To be honest it was too much for me and in retrospect I don’t believe I was mature enough for that experience. While it was effective at preventing a teen pregnancy, I spent the next 20 years dreading childbirth. My hope was that by the time I was pregnant science would find a way for us to grow our children outside our bodies and they could just be incubated. Needless to say, my opinion has very much changed.

When I was 28 I was experiencing all sorts of nasty side effects from Depo-Provera. I wasn’t quite done with school, but Hubs and I decided that it was better for my health to come off the contraception. My last injection was in January 2014 but my menstrual cycle didn’t return until August. Each month I eagerly awaited to find out if I was pregnant. Like women who experience the sadness of infertility I was heartbroken each time my period came. I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. I questioned why other women – ones in my addled brain I felt didn’t necessarily deserve a baby – would get pregnant and I wasn’t. I was mad at God/the universe because I did everything in the order you were supposed to. I didn’t get pregnant as a teen. I got married, we bought a house and we were financially stable all before we even considered pregnancy.

In January 2015, I went to a family reunion and found out that a cousin was pregnant. I was devastated. At home I cried with my whole heart because I wanted a baby more than anything in the world. Little did I know, I was already pregnant. It was just too soon to know. A few weeks later I left work early because I was severely irritable and just felt off. I took a pregnancy test and instead of two pink lines there was one bright pink line and one faint line. Hubs cautioned me from getting too excited yet. He very understandably didn’t want me heartbroken if it turned out to be nothing. But I got very excited. A faint line is a positive no matter how faint. After the second one came back positively positive a few days later I finally had the courage to call the doctor. We were officially pregnant!

I had a beautiful pregnancy. I was sick the first half throwing up and had terrible headaches that required medication, but I was the happiest I had ever been. I loved being pregnant. I loved having a life grow inside me and feel it move. Even before the gender reveal I knew I was having a boy. Apparently, I inherited this intuition from my mother. She said  she too knew what gender she was having before it could be confirmed. I thought I would hate my belly being touched but I actually got to the point where I wondered why wouldn’t everyone want to touch my pregnant belly. I think I really just wanted to share my joy with everyone. My doctor was the best during all this. At my visits he’d say “You’re holding that belly again.” Not only wouldn’t he let me suffer from the headaches, but he knew I wanted to see the baby as often as possible. He had a hand held ultra sound machine that he would pull out during my visits. We would have a good laugh because I would point to the spots on my belly and say where I thought all the baby’s body parts were. I was amazingly accurate.

I finally graduated from college with my Bachelors and my due date neared. About a month out  I started having really strong and powerful Braxton Hicks contractions. It would get so bad that at work I would have a colleague/friend rub my back or would call Hubs to come help. (It was very convenient that at the time we both worked on the same campus.) In the evenings, like clock work the sun would go down and the contractions would get intense. Hubs would draw a warm bath and help me get in – after all I had gotten really huge and could barely see over my belly. He would even sit on the bathroom floor just to keep me company. Then my due date came and went. We talked to the doctor and we decided to induce because it felt like life had been put on hold. Plus I had reached that point that all pregnant women get to, and you’re just done. On top of that, the entire pregnancy I was scared I wouldn’t have my own doctor deliver my baby. I didn’t want a stranger doing this. Since Doc was on call all weekend we knew this was better than waiting around.

We checked into the hospital on a Friday evening. When we were finally taken to the delivery room Hubs asked the nurse, “Is this THE room?” She laughed and said yes. She left to let me change into a hospital gown and I broke down in tears. I was terrified. I was face to face with my biggest fear in life. I had no idea how I was going to get through delivering a baby. Soon they had me hooked up and the Pitocin was going. They suggested I try to sleep, but sometime around midnight my water broke. I had just reached that moment where you were crossing the line from consciousness to sleep when I was wet all over. I screamed, “You’ve gotta get the nurse! It’s going everywhere! Make it stop!” They gently laughed at my sudden panic. We decided previously that since I don’t handle pain well we would request an epidural as soon as real labor began. We had to wait a little bit for the doctor on call to approve its administration. I was scared of a needle going in my back, but I was even more scared of the pain that was coming.

Unfortunately, the epidural didn’t work. They had to re-administer the medication every two to three hours. At one point I told the nurse anesthesiologist, “Kevin, all the women must love you.” He just laughed and said, “sometimes.” I was glad each time he showed up.  I can only imagine how much worse the pain would have been had I chosen an unmedicated birth. I labored for something like twenty six hours. I lost count the number of shift changes we went through. Finally I transitioned into the final stages. It was awful. I was throwing up everywhere, and the pain became excruciating. I pushed and pushed for two hours. Every contraction I imagined myself a mama bear. In the midst of this I remember telling Hubs, “PLEASE DON’T LOOK!” The nurse made a sound of disgust at this but Hubs respected my request and even studied the monitors to know when I would have to push next. He coached me though telling me when the monitors showed the ideal time to push and holding my left leg. (The nurse had the right leg.)

Finally, Doc said I wasn’t progressing. He believed it to be an anatomical issue. He told Hubs we can let her keep pushing but that he really didn’t think I was going to get the baby out on my own. Right away he said, “Do the C-Section.” By this point I was out of my mind with so much pain. I remember yelling, “Please don’t let me die!” I don’t remember much about the next few minutes other than the room suddenly becoming a flurry of prep and I had to sign paperwork. They rolled me to the operating room and once there and on the table I remember asking, “Why am I naked, I don’t know any of you!” One really nice nurse yelled “Get this woman a blanket!” This was the same nurse that a few minutes later let me hug/hold on to her when “Kevin” gave me my spinal. I told him that I had heard that sometimes you could feel tugging and pulling during a c-section and that I wanted none of that, “That’s just not cool, man.” To this day I think that man was sent to be there at my birth. He stayed through the whole operation and talked me through it, keeping me calm.

On Sunday October 18th at 1:14 am the baby was born safely. I didn’t get to hold him immediately like I originally wanted, but Hubs stayed with Baby Boy like we had talked about while pregnant. I told him that no matter what was happening with me I didn’t want him to leave the baby. So, Hubs took it upon himself to make sure there were pictures taken and to make sure the baby was never alone while I was being stitched back up. (As an aside, do you know it takes less time for a doctor to get the baby out, than it does to stitch you back up?) Hubs, bless his heart, had never held a brand new baby and the nurses left him to hold the baby by himself. He later told me that he was so scared he was going to do something wrong and anxiously awaited for me to brought back. After a while I was reunited with my new little family. I finally got to hold my baby for the first time. Thank goodness Hubs was able to think more clearly than I was. By this point I was completely drugged and could only think about holding my baby – it was a very one track mind thing. I’m so grateful that he made sure to record the event. It was literally the happiest moment of my whole life. I had my baby and we both survived.

Unfortunately, things didn’t get better from that point. The happiness was brief. When we were placed in a family room, they took Baby Boy. I ran a fever during my labor so both me and the baby had to have antibiotics. They said they needed to put an IV in the baby for this. Hubs and I were exhausted at this point and trusting they knew best consented. I didn’t know they would take the baby for a long time. He was still gone when Doc came back to check on me. I was completely distraught by this time. He apologized for not warning me that they needed to take the baby but promised to get him back. Well the nurses stalled and stalled. I kept asking and kept being told “soon, just rest.” I asked where he was, and they said the NICU. I asked what happened to him that he needed to be in the NICU that he was healthy when I got to hold him. I was told that the NICU is better at getting baby IVs in. Finally, I snapped and said “How in the hell do you expect me to calm down when you’ve taken my baby away from me?” I got my baby back but was in total shock at what they had done to him. He came back with pin pricks all over his hands and IV tubes coming out of his head. I just cried and there was nothing I could do.

The post delivery hospital experience was just horrible. They wouldn’t let us sleep. They came in and out with lots of unnecessary visits. And they treated Hubs like he wasn’t even there; like he was unimportant part in all this. At one point the nurse left me stuck to an IV unit for more than an hour after the antibiotics course had finished and the hospital wouldn’t let my husband back in without my consent even though he had the obligatory authorizing tag on his shirt. It’s now why I understand why some do home births. We just wanted to celebrate and acknowledge this monumental moment in our lives, but also rest after such a traumatic birthing experience. We got none of that. I begged Doc to let me go home. I made my case that I would be much better off at home by showing him the schedule the nurses had me on. He promised that as long as my last round of blood work came back clear he could discharge me. Even with his approval it took FOREVER to be allowed out of the hospital. The oversight is ridiculous. You can’t just take your baby and go. They lecture you for more than an hour on different aspects of parenting, they escort you in a wheelchair to the pick up station not letting you get up, and they check your car seat and how you buckle your baby in.

It was a Tuesday afternoon and we finally got to breathe a sigh of relief once the hospital was in the rear view mirror.

Advertisements

My Many Colored Days

many colored days

Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days is read often at bedtime in our home. It’s usually read on days when I feel low, when I have an angry outburst, or even when Baby Boy is having a fussy day. It’s my way of helping my son understand why mommy is not always herself, and that sometimes Baby Boy won’t always feel himself either.  I have a lot of guilt that my son has a reactive and sometimes unstable mother. I grew up in a home with a highly explosive step father, and I always vowed my children would never experience the same. Well, as my mother says, “Never say never; you just don’t know what life will bring.” I have far more angry outbursts than I care to admit. My temperament is highly reactive, and sometimes little things set me off more than they should or I react with inappropriate elation.

Something that strikes me about this book is how much the alternating moods and colors so accurately represent the bipolar spectrum. You have your grey days (“nothing moves today”), purple days (“I’m sad. I groan. I drag my tail. I walk alone.”) and brown days (“I feel slow and low, low down.”) that fit so closely with  how our depressive days feel. And then you also have depictions of both hypomanic and manic days. The yellow days  so accurately represent the goal-driven days of hypomania can bring where you feel more productive and get lots done – “I am a busy, buzzy bee.” Or the pink days that so accurately reflect the euphoria hypomania can bring: “When my days are happy pink, it’s great to jump and just not think.” Full blown mania is represented in orange when “all of a sudden I’m a circus seal! or red days when “how good it feels to be a horse and kick my heals.” There is also the dark hypomania represented in black, “Mad. And loud. I howl. I growl at every cloud.” And thankfully you have peaceful stable days listed which are green and you’re “deep deep in the sea. Cool and quiet fish.”  You even have your mixed episodes represented and “Wham! I don’t know who or what I am!”

And the reason I read this book so much? It’s the final two pages that read, “But it all turns out all right, you see. And I go back to being…me.”

Sleep

When I was first doing research on bipolar disorder I read an article where the author believed that one day it will be reclassified as a terrible sleep disorder since there is a huge correlation between sleep and the course of the disease. Personally, I don’t believe this, but it is nonetheless an interesting argument. What I do know is that sleep is a trigger for me. If my sleep is disrupted, especially several nights in a row, then I’m very likely to have a mood disturbance. And if I am having a mood disturbance, especially if it’s in the depressive state, then likely a good night’s sleep will have me feeling back to my normal self. I also have nights, like last night and this morning, where I have trouble getting to sleep but then still be able to function perfectly normal the next day. I’ve been thinking about my sleep in both a present-day and a long-term perspective, and wondering if it should have clued me in on a mood disorder much sooner.

Starting in high school my sleep patterns were erratic. Most days after getting home I would crash and sleep for a couple hours. Then I would get up and do all my homework (I was an honors student so there was always plenty of it). When I was finally done I would hit the sack again around midnight or one o’clock. Some nights I would simply have insomnia and sleep would escape me. This particular problem lasted until I became pregnant. For most of my 20’s I functioned best with 9-10 hours of sleep but was up until odd hours of the night. I thought I was just a “night owl.” It was irritating but didn’t feel alarming.

In stark contrast with today, I find that most nights I’m incapable of staying up all night. Being a mother changed all that. When we first brought Baby Boy home I could somehow function with very little sleep. At the time, I did note that it was odd, but was enamored with my baby and just grateful to be functioning. And then it got worse. As the weeks and months wore on the baby just wouldn’t sleep and it caught up to me. I couldn’t regulate my emotions and Hubs said I acted like a a patient who’d been sleep deprived for experimental reasons. Little did we know this was a huge red flag.

This is one reason every night I pray that Baby Boy sleeps straight through the morning. He’s a toddler now, and has been sleeping through the night for a while, but he still frequently wakes in the middle of the night. If he’s sick, then it’s a virtual guarantee he’ll wake up. Sleep is the thing I worry most about when I think about having another baby. In the hospital with Baby Boy, we all three slept upright in the hospital bed, much to the nurses’s disapproval. (With the c-section scar it was just too difficult to lean over the bed to get him in and out of the cradle.) But then when I got him home I was inexplicably terrified to sleep with him. Finally Hubs said that co-sleeping was the right thing to do for us. Both he and my mother tried to convince me that I wouldn’t accidentally kill him in my sleep. If I didn’t co-sleep I was going to end up with a nervous breakdown. I relented and it was the single best decision we made in those early days.

Since co-sleeping was the only thing that allowed me to get sleep, we plan on doing this right away with baby #2. We’ll also start sleep training from day one. Obviously a newborn can’t literally sleep through the night since they need multiple feedings, but you can lay the ground work. You can make a clear distinction between night and day so that they can learn that nighttime is meant for sleeping. I don’t know how other bipolar moms handle this, but for us these are the most logical steps to take.

In the meantime, I do my best to get regular patterns of sleep. I’m not super consistent, but on weekdays the alarm goes off at 5:30 and I try to be in bed by 9 every day of the week. I’m aware that one is supposed to get up at the same time everyday, even on the weekends, but I’m still holding on to that extra hour or two on Saturdays and Sundays. For now, it feels the best way to survive the baby years.

Baby Fever

In a perfect world, I think I’d have five or six kids. I love being a mother that much.  I know most people think that’s too many. There are also those who still believe that that for a bipolar mom, even one is too many. Ever since Baby Boy was born, though, Hubs and I knew that we defintely wanted more children. Despite my feelings, I’ve practiced caution and have been adamant about waiting  until things were right to bring another child into this world. In the scheme of things my bipolar diagnosis is still relatively new. My psychiatrist knows I’d like to have a medication-free pregnancy since the guilt and worry would eat me up. I have a new hope, though.

After learning I was allergic to several medications that could treat my condition, he suggested I try a supplement called lithium orotate before we give up and go with the tried and true prescription lithium carbonate. I really don’t want to take lithium carbonate because of the side effects. Since taking the supplement I have become much more stable. It worked a whole lot better than I expected for something over the counter. Most importantly it’s restored my hope – hope that I can lead a life much less encumbered by bipolar disorder; hope that I can go back to being myself and actually attain all that I had envisioned for myself. While on it, motherhood has become more like how I expected it to be. I find that I can be present with my son, that most days I’m not plagued with emotions that prevent me from functioning like a normal person. Needless to say, I’ve become a believer.

This is all to say that now that my hope is restored baby fever has firmly taken root within me. The timing feels right now and much to Hubs’s delight I have let him know I’m ready. I feel such a difference within myself I feel comfortable enough to ask my psychiatrist if we can stop the Latuda (lurasidone) at my next appointment (about two weeks away). I’ve spoken to Hubs about it, and while he too has the same reservations about pregnancy and medications that I do, he has no worries about me taking the supplement. I’m hoping that it can be taken during pregnancy and will also allow me to breastfeed safely. I know there is so much to consider and so many challenges, but I look at my son and I feel such joy and such contentment. Nothing about bringing him into this world has been easy, but ALL of it has been worth it. I feel my truest self as a mother and firmly believe becoming one has been the single best thing I’ve done with my life.

Video

A Song for Today

Last night Baby Boy and I had a rough evening while Hubs worked on our A/C unit. Baby Boy wouldn’t eat dinner, he fussed and fussed, he continues to refuse a sippy cup and will only drink his milk in a bottle. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera… It all made me feel like I was going to explode and then of course after I put him down for bed I felt guilty for being so short tempered and cried on Hubs when he finally came in for the evening. And then I woke up still low today. I had to drag myself out of the bed. I cried on the way to daycare. I was late to work. A million thoughts are running through my mind telling me I’m deficient; that I’m simply not good enough. All this when I just thought I was in the clear. It’s been a month since my last mood disturbance so I let myself think I was “better.” I pray this is just a blip in the radar. Maybe I just need a really good night’s sleep, after all, it’s been three nights in a row that my sleep has been disrupted.

But until I feel myself again, I have to put on “the mask.” I’m a supervisor, and supervisors aren’t allowed to be this way in front of their staff. My direct reports don’t know I have a mood disorder so they probably think I’m crazy, never knowing what to expect…

I’ll leave you with a song. It came up on my playlist this morning on the ride into the office. The feelings it conveys perfectly reflects my state this morning.

Exercise

I really didn’t want to. I pulled another 9 hour day at work yesterday, and our A/C was (and still is) on the fritz. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a half hour sweating. But on Sunday while looking at our calendars, I vowed I wouldn’t let another week pass without exercising. I told myself, “It’s just a walk. 15 minutes out and then you can come right back. Plus the baby needs to get outside.” I even told my husband I needed him to tell me to just do it, to which her wryly said, “Get out there and just do it.”

So, I changed my clothes, filled up our water bottles with ice water and put my son in his stroller trike. I set the timer on my phone, turned on the tunes, and headed out. The nice thing about our neighborhood is that there are any number of ways you can mix up your route. I decided, “Let’s walk to the park, baby boy.” We did not take a leisurely pace. I was hot and sweaty and completely winded. I hated it, but found that I was able to push myself harder than I had in a long while.

For the final home stretch back to the house, I ran. It seemed like the distance didn’t get shorter until it did. My body hurt and I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t let my son see me give up even if he is just a year old and wouldn’t have any memory of our jaunt. When we got back in the house I was so wiped I thought I might collapse. It had been so long since I had done any challenging physical activity. As I cooled off though, I realized my mood had altered. I felt confident, I felt proud of myself for going 30 minutes instead of just 15, and, most importantly, I didn’t feel so damn tired. I actually had the energy to get through the rest of the night.

I thought, “This is why exercise is stressed so much at therapy.” Before I had the baby, I would take a long lunch once a week to head to barre class offered on campus where I work. I would also use the rowing machine at home a couple times a week. I have lots of excuses why I stopped. I’m sure most are the same ones other people use.

I’ve been blessed with a naturally petite frame, but I have a deep fear of becoming obese. It’s in the genetics. There are just too many in my family that are overweight, and I see how much it affects their quality of life, especially the women. We also have incidences of diabetes, hypertension, lots of cancers, as well as mental illness. All of these are very good reasons to do my best to take care of myself physically.

Even though I loved being pregnant, I frequently broke down in tears at my ever growing size. I was scared I would put on too much weight, and never get it back off. My doctor assured me at every appointment though that I was doing very well and not gaining too much too fast. Once I had the baby I wore my postpartum binder religiously, and breastfed to lose the baby fat. By the time I went back to work 11 weeks later, I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, 120 lbs. I was delighted.

And then I got sick. I spent lots of time in the doctors offices trying to find out what was wrong. I saw the weight come off even more than I planned. I got down to 109 lbs and a size 2. I was worried what it all meant, but I was also secretly ecstatic. Eventually, all they could say was that I got sick due to anxiety, after all I was a new mom with lots of new worries.

Fast forward a few months and a bipolar diagnosis, I stopped being physically ill all the time and instead dealt with trying to regain stability and find the right medicine combination. Much of the time I alternated from feeling insanely irritable to extremely depressed, and started eating for comfort. I ate like I could eat anything without consequence. Over the last couple months my weight shot up over 130 lbs and could barely fit into a size 4, my normal size. Which brings me to where I am now.

I need to get active again, not just so my clothes will fit right again, but also for my mental health. There’s a clear correlation, for me, that as I gain weight I feel depressed and lack confidence. I have accepted that a size 2 is unreasonable since it was the size I was while very sick. I’m a mother now, and the aim is to have the functional fitness to care for my family. I also need the mood balancing properties that exercise and activity brings.

I’m starting slow with my changes since I want lasting changes and not just a temporary quick fix. The goal these first four weeks is to walk with my son for 15-30 minutes 3 times a week. I’m also trying to cut out soda – regular and diet – and eat more wholesome foods instead of junk food. I hope to gain more energy for my day-to-day activities and to continue on my path of stability. I’m one month stable today, and so now that I’m here it’s time to focus on flourishing.