Little Red Bird

Towards the end of my pregnancy I was up a lot during the night, at 3am every morning a bird would start singing the most beautiful tune.  Hearing him sing to world was comforting.  Being up during the night feels lonely, hearing that little guy though made me feel like I wasn’t alone.  After Esteban was born, being up through the night continued as did the bird’s singing.  I’d be up feeding Esteban when suddenly I’d hear the familiar song and without looking at the clock I knew it was 3a.  I wasn’t by myself any longer, my friend was awake too.

Winter came, the windows shut, and birds flew south.  I forgot about the bird.  House-Finch-in-SummerWithin the past month the weather here has warmed considerably and I put a bird feeder outside of our kitchen window.  I didn’t even think about the bird, more just about bringing a little more nature to our urban home.  I wanted Esteban to see something other than pigeons in the alley picking at garbage.

Shortly after hanging the feeder I heard the familiar song, this time much closer than I was used to.  Peeking through the blinds I saw a little red finch sitting on our deck’s rail with his head thrown back, his chest puffed out, and his mouth belting out a beautiful tune.  Now, he is at our bird feeder throughout the day and if he’s not at the feeder or on our deck he’s on a wire nearby singing away.

Having this little guy nearby has been such fun company to have.  Esteban and I watch him through the window, enjoy his singing, and say hello when we head out on our walk.  I love nature and often miss seeing much of it living in the city.  This little finch has been such a gift to us!

{photo credit}

Motherhood and Some of Its Surprises

In light of Mother’s Day this past Sunday and my son’s first birthday (!) this Sunday I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about being a mama to this little boy.  First I must say being a mother is the most intense, hardest thing I have ever done.  If you know me, you know I’ve done a lot of intense, hard things in my life so I don’t just throw that statement out there flippantly.  Birthday InviteBUT, I wouldn’t trade being Esteban’s mama for anything.  You hear so much of that gushy stuff from mothers – It’s the best job, their children are the best thing that happened to them, and they love, love being a mother.  The truth is all of that is so true, but it actually holds such a deeper meaning, one that is difficult to put into words.

Reflecting on the past year of being a mother, there were a lot of surprises along the way.  I thought I’d share a few with you all.

A few things I have been surprised by –

  • How selfish I am! Whew, I am reminded so often how often my actions and wants are fueled by ME. Having a baby shines a giant spotlight into that area in my life.  It’s almost like I had to break up with myself when Esteban was born.  All the things I used to love that I needed to give up was daunting and a bit disorienting.  You’re in this intense spot of life giving everything you have – energy, time, sleep, food – for this little one and most of the things I had prior to help with intense periods I couldn’t do/use/have.  I couldn’t stop what I was doing when it felt like too much and just go read a book or watch tv or eat some chocolate.  I couldn’t even really drink coffee to fuel my exhaustion.
  • Being this raw, intense space though taught (and still teaches) me so much about myself and pushed me to God in a way I had never experienced before. I remember shortly after Esteban was born a friend asked me what I had been studying in my quiet time and what I had been learning.  I paused, trying to rifle through my fuzzy brain to even recall when I last sat and read the Bible, journaled, and prayed.  All of that felt so long ago.  I felt guilty I hadn’t done any of that in weeks.  Then I realized how much my heart had been in this constant state of depending on God – for wisdom with Esteban, for strength when little man woke up 2 minutes after I fell asleep, etc.  No I hadn’t had a “devotional time” in weeks, but I had been learning and growing in huge ways.
  • How quickly time goes by each day. I look at the clock thinking it’s somewhere around 2 and Suddenly it’s 5!
  • How much I enjoy doing things for Esteban – whether is making his baby food, reading him books, or planning little outings for us. Thinking through what to incorporate into his days is so fun for me.
  • How people focus on your baby instead of you. As soon as Esteban was born everyone’s focus was on him.  This I understood, little babes are cute and new and so very special.  But this continued, friends didn’t introduce me to others as they used to.  No longer was I Liz Diaz, works at a non-profit health center and mentors girls, likes to read, etc. I was introduced as Liz Diaz, she is a mom.  This was a hard adjustment, because I love being a mom (see point above this one), so I felt guilty for not liking that kind of introduction but I also felt so unseen.  I’m still that person I used to be, I just am also a mom now.
  • My mama bear side. I am a pretty non-confrontational person; I’m introverted and generally can go with the flow on most things.  Unless, apparently, it threatens my son in any way, shape or form.  There have been a few times when my son’s safety was threatened and my mama bear side roared to life without me realizing it.  I am direct, firm, and sometimes use a few choice words if necessary. Always after the fact I am surprised not by my boldness abut how normal it seems to have that side of me.
  • How mind-blowing it is to watch a little one develop. It’s no wonder every parent thinks their child is a genius.  To watch this tiny, flailing newborn grow into a little boy in just a year is amazing.  Every new thing Esteban does I am so excited about.  I call Epi to share in full detail what new thing Esteban did and we both are thrilled.  Later I realize that skill, while very impressive, is also right on course with what he’s supposed to be doing at that age.  So amazing yes.  Genius?  Probably not.
  • How terrifying it is to have someone’s life depend on you. The first two weeks of Esteban’s life, I though every morning, “we did it.  We kept him alive another day!”  Even now, I still pause and think about the weight of all the responsibility we have been given to care for this little one’s heart, mind, body, and soul.  What a terrifying gift!

What a year it has been with this little guy of ours.  I’m so excited to celebrate him on Sunday and see the next year unfold.

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{Daily Life Wednesdays}: What I’m Reading

Since my last “What I’m Reading” post here is what I’ve read:

1.  Chasing FrancisChasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

This was kind of a weird book and not something I liked a lot, except there was a small part towards the beginning that had a big impact on a part of my life I was wrestling through.  If it were not for that portion though I don’t think I would have made it through the book.  It felt fake and that it would appeal more to the upper class, mega church kind of crowd.

Furious Longing of God2.  The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

I enjoy Brennan Manning’s works and liked this book as well.  A good reminder of God’s character and who I am as his child.

3. Antelope in the Living Room The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle

A humorous book on marriage with some good reminders and new ideas sprinkled throughout.  This is probably not a book I’d read over and over but I enjoyed it!

4.  Show Me the WayShow Me the Way by Henri Nouwen

A series of Lenten devotions by Nouwen that were a good acompanyment to the devotions my husband and I read through during the season of Lent.  Definitely something I will return to in future Lenten seasons.

5.  Life Changing Magic of Tidying UpThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō

This book has a lot of hype around it, and while parts are a little kooky (she talks about listening to each article you own and what it says to you and making sure you tell it thank you after using it each time), it’s a fast read and it really inspired me to do some thorough cleaning and simplifying in our home.

6.  Missional MomMissional Mom by Helen Lee (in progress)

I’m not quite done with this book, but wanted to include it in this list since I’m so close to being done.  It’s an excellent book for mom’s to read and has helped me a lot as I’ve struggled through what being a mom looks like paired with doing ministry in our neighborhood and using other skills I have.

{photo credit: Amazon}

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{Daily Life Wednesdays}: Family Life Update

Photo Apr 15, 11 50 46 AMA brief update on what’s been going on in our lives since the last update in January:Photo Apr 11, 2 21 04 PM

Esteban:  turns 11 months old on Friday, which is just crazy to me.  “The days are long, the years are short” has never rang more true.  He is such a personable little guy; he loves to greet all people and especially loves being around other kids.  Esteban pulls himself up to standing and loves to walk around with the help of our fingers to give him some balance.  Esteban also loves figuring out how things fit together – he has these little bath toys that he takes the lid off and then screws it back on.  With the nicer weather Esteban and I take lots of walks together and often go to the park to swing.

Photo Apr 15, 11 48 24 AMEpi:  has been especially busy with his running club – five of the boys are registered to run a half marathon in July so he has been working hard to get sponsorship for shirts, registration fees, running gear, etc.  He has gotten a lot of support both from individuals as well as organizations which is very encouraging.  Epi is gearing up to coach a soccer league which will begin in a couple of weeks and has been working hard with everything else for work as well.

Me:  The end of last month I had the privilege to be present for one of my mentees give birth to her son.  He is a cute little guy.  It has been a lot of fun to walk alongside her while she goes through the newborn phase of life again (she has a 4-year-old daughter as well), and give lots of snuggles to the little man.  The other girl I mentor is graduating from high school in June so we’ve been working hard to get things in order for her to start college and get a job.  The rest of my time when I’m not at work is spent with Esteban which is always a lot of fun.

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{Mama Mondays}: High Lipase in Breast Milk

Something else I’ve dealt with during breastfeeding that isn’t too common is high lipase in my milk.  Some women naturally make higher levels of the enzyme lipase in their breast milk, this enzyme is one that helps in breaking down the fat molecules in the milk.  While “normal” breast milk can be refrigerated for three days or frozen for three months, breast milk with high lipase can’t do either without developing a rancid taste and smell.  It is okay for the baby to drink, it isn’t actually spoiled milk, but it tastes so bad generally the baby won’t want it.

During my maternity leave we would bottle feed Esteban once every couple of days so he was used to a bottle and would be able to take one once I was at work.  Generally I would pump and then give the milk to Epi to feed Esteban.  Once though, I was at the gym and Epi un-thawed some of the frozen milk I’d been stocking up to give Esteban.  Esteban would not have it and while we knew he was hungry he just screamed and cried when we’d offer it to him.  This kept happening once I went to work too but only with milk that had been frozen first.

Within a week of Esteban refusing to eat over and over I remembered the little blips on high lipase in each of the breastfeeding books I read and thought maybe that was the problem.  I started doing some research on high lipase, ways to tell if you have it, and what to do about it.  I tasted the milk once it was thawed out (that was a kind of weird to do).  Sure enough, all of the milk tasted spoiled once frozen or if it sat in the fridge more than a day or so.

I was so frustrated! I had built up a large reserve of milk in the freezer for when I was at work and as a “just in case.”  ALL of it was bad and I had to pour it down the drain. (I did learn later you can donate the milk to a milk bank and it’s mixed in with enough other milk and whatever else they do to the milk takes care of the taste) Since Esteban had so many food allergies we couldn’t substitute formula very easily in the times he would get hungry and I wasn’t around.  I still needed to find a solution for storing the milk and deactivating the lipase.

The way to deactivate lipase is to raise the solution it’s in to a high temperature.  High heat deactivates the enzyme so it won’t break down the fat molecules.  If I scalded the milk I could then freeze it.  Scalding reaches that temperature without getting so hot all of the good things in the milk are killed.  Fresh milk is better, but scalded milk is still okay nutritionally for baby.

Here is the method I use for scalding:

  1. In a double boiler heat the milk to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (I use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature).
  2. While milk is heating, prepare an ice bath close by to transfer the milk to. Also have a container that can handle high temperature shifts well to hold the milk.
  3. Once the milk reaches 140 degrees set timer for 1 minute. Keep temperature around 140 degrees for that minute.
  4. At 1 minute remove the milk IMMEDIATELY from the heat, pour into the container in an ice bath to cool the milk quickly.
  5. When the milk is cool enough to not melt the storage bag/container, transfer it into the bag and place in freezer.

Scalding is a lot of work so my main method is to pump at work what Esteban needs for the next day while I’m gone.  Friday’s milk is the only milk I scald so that there was some for him on Monday.   This way I’m only doing that work once a week and most of the milk he drinks has its full nutritional value.

Here are some links to sites I found helpful in troubleshooting high lipase:

http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/milkstorage/lipase-expressedmilk/

http://www.thealphaparent.com/2013/10/triumphant-tuesday-breastfeeding-with.html

http://forums.llli.org/showthread.php?113621-How-to-be-sure-it-s-high-lipase

http://www.chroniclesofanursingmom.com/2011/08/excess-lipase-in-breastmilk.html

There you are! My thoughts and experience with high lipase.  Hope this is helpful to those dealing with it.  It’s frustrating at times but still totally doable!

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Thankfulness List

A few things I’ve been thankful for recently:

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Paths made in the snow to the car made by my sweet husband so I don’t slip while carrying Esteban

Photo Mar 05, 3 11 28 PM

Paperwhite bulbs that are growing (reminds me spring is coming!)

This book for lent

kind and strong bar

These delicious bars – no soy, no dairy and so tasty!

Fun pens and stickers – I’m like an 8-year-old girl inside when it comes to things like this, I love fun notebooks, pens, stickers, folders, etc.!

Photo Mar 05, 11 47 05 AM

This music

darkChocolate_0

Luna and Larry ice cream is the best substitute for the dairy ice cream.  It’s expensive but is such a treat and helps when I just want Häagen Dazs Pralines and Cream.

Photo Mar 02, 11 51 34 AM

Garfield Park Conservatory.  A haven during these long, grey, cold months.

Lots of walks with Esteban (and nice weather to be outside walking in!)

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{Mama Mondays}: Babies and Acid Reflux

babies with reflux

During his first two weeks Esteban was the typical sleepy newborn.  At exactly two weeks however, he started to cry a lot and seemed to be in pain.  He would yelp and pull up his legs, I’d feel his stomach tightening and cramping.   Nights were the worst.  We’d lay him down in his bassinet and he’d wake up right away screaming hard.  I suspected it might be acid reflux, but after an especially bad day with a lot of spitting up and a visit to the doctor, he pediatrician confirmed it.  Seeing my little guy in so much pain was terrible and made my mama heart hurt. Even more so because I had terrible acid reflux the last couple months of pregnancy.  I kept thinking about what I had felt and it made me sad Esteban was experiencing that kind of pain as well. Our pediatrician said there wasn’t much we could do. She prescribed a stomach acid reducer but that didn’t seem to help much so I did what I usually do as the typical nerdy, science-y person that I am – research!  Through a lot of reading, talking with other mamas, and some trial and error I found a few things that were particularly helpful with Esteban’s reflux.  I wanted to share with you what I found to be helpful for us:

#1 Elimination diet.  Esteban is breastfed, so to help with reflux I started working on what I ate by doing an elimination diet.  I read through a list of common allergens and took away all food except avocado, turkey, cucumbers, and pears.  I’d add things in slowly and see how he reacted.  Dairy proteins take two weeks to get out of baby’s and mama’s system so we had to sit at the very minimal diet for 2 ½ weeks to make sure it wasn’t the dairy bothering him instead of a new food I’d introduce.

We found that all citrus foods, beans, legumes, strawberries, pineapples, soy, and dairy were the main culprits bothering Esteban’s stomach.  This was hard for me, those are my main foods!  I’m not a big meat eater, and most of our meals during the week consist of beans, lentils, or dairy for our protein.  Also, soy lecithin is in so many foods!!   All this to say, this wasn’t easy especially as a nursing mama needing calories.  BUT, taking out all of these foods was a huge help and solved a lot of the issues.  His spitting up was still crazy, but he wasn’t having stomach cramps or yelping in pain anymore which was great.

#2 Being Propped Up.  Especially after eating.  I’d hold Esteban upright on my chest for about ten minutes after feeding him.  Often he’d nap on me like that through the day as well, or we’d put him in his swing which kept him a bit upright.  It was when we laid him completely horizontal that the acid backed up into his throat and caused the burning, so I would try to keep him at an upright angle as much as possible.  I know some people put a wedge underneath the crib’s mattress to help with this as well.  Our baby monitor has a sensor pad that sits under the mattress though so we were not able to do this option.

#3 Nat Phos.  homeopathic remedy that helped if I accidentally ate something that bothered his stomach or he has a random flare up of reflux and is in a lot of pain.  We did have to wait until Esteban was a bit older to give it to him and talked it through with our pediatrician on dosages, etc.  So if you try it make sure you run it by your pediatrician first.

#4.  Probiotics.  Reflux can be caused by a lack of the good bacteria in baby’s gut that helps with digestion.  I did tons of reading on what probiotic strains were safe for infants as well as dosages (and ran it past our pediatrician).  Once I figured out how much and what to give Esteban I was able to help build up the flora in his gut.

#5  Chamomile Tea.  I drink multiple cups of chamomile tea per day, this seems to help quite a bit especially right after feeding (when his reflux is at its peak) because he gets the chamomile through the breastmilk.

#6 These Necklaces.  The wood has alkaline properties which helps to neutralize the excess acid.  I was skeptical at first, and while it isn’t a huge night and day difference, I can tell a change if I consistently have Esteban wear it.

#7 Essential Oils.  I’m fairly conservative with essential oils with babies (and myself for that matter since I’m breastfeeding), but there are a few oils I’ll use on occasion to help Esteban – lavender, fennel, and Roman chamomile are the three main ones.

#8 Time.  Another aspect of reflux is an undeveloped esophageal sphincter, the closure that seals the esophagus off from the stomach. The sphincter should be fully developed by the time he’s a year old.  We can’t do much to help this reach full development other than wait.  Knowing this has been encouraging to me when I feel like I’ve done so much to help Esteban and he’s still in pain and/or spitting up a lot.  Some of reflux is simply development and I can’t do much other than wait.

Even with all of these things, Esteban still has rough nights of being in pain and spitting up.   Slowly his stomach is maturing and being able to handle some of the off-limits foods (I can now eat beans, strawberries and citrus in small amounts) and hopefully his esophageal sphincter will fully develop by a year which will help in sealing off his stomach completely.

How about you?  Any other things you found helpful for babies with acid reflux?

Photo Image Credit

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{Daily Life Wednesdays}: What I’m Reading

Books have always been my favorite way to spend time.  I remember when I read the first chapter book on my own (B is for Betsy by Carolyn Haywood); the freedom I felt! No longer did I have to wait for my mom to read me the next part in the story, or stop when she was tired. I was on my own and could read as much as I wanted.  From that point my love for books only increased.  My nose was always buried in a book and each trip to the library would bring a stack of new books home – so much so, my mom had to put a limit on how many I could check out at one time (I think it was 10!).

I thought it would be fun to start a monthly post where I share what I’m reading, a way for me to keep track of what I’ve read as well as hear new ideas from you.

So, without further ado, here is what I’ve read recently:

Bringing Up Bebe

Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

A fun book to read on what parenting looks like in France.  The author is an American living in Paris, she observes many differences between the way French parents raise their children and American parents.  Reading this book was a good reminder to me that while some parenting techniques I see here seem so important, they actually are not and that other cultures even do the opposite with good results!

Found  Found by Micha Boyett

This book came at a good time for me.  The author writes studies Benedictine monks and uses her the information she finds to help as she processes the changes becoming a mother brings.  Doing the simple daily tasks of raising a child and keeping a home is valuable even if it’s not exciting.

The tug of war I’ve felt since having Esteban has been hard; part of me wants to still do the “bigger” things of ministry, mentoring, and being a part of this community.  I often can’t though, because I have a little one who has his own schedule and needs.  This book helped as I wrestle through these changes.

Inner VoiceThe Inner Voice of Love by Henri J.M. Nouwen

I’ve read through this book numerous times, I relate so much to Nouwen’s wrestlings and struggles.  Reading his thought process and the truths he identifies in the midst of his struggles is encouraging to me.  One of my favorite quotes from this book is, “when you befriend your true self and discover that it is good and beautiful, you will see Jesus there.  Where you are most human, most yourself, weakest, there Jesus lives.  Bringing your fearful self home is bringing Jesus home.” (pg. 49)

Gift of ImperfectionThe Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

Currently, I am right in the middle of this book.  Brown’s work on shame has been an interesting topic I visit every so often.  This TED talk of hers is one of my favorites.  So far this book has been somewhat insightful on how to accept various areas of imperfection in life.  I wouldn’t say the book has been life changing though.

What I Know for Sure

What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

While, there are parts in this book that are a bit un-relateable – I (unfortunately) am not able to escape to Hawaii for a personal retreat on a whim.  There were, however, some good themes through the book that challenged me.  Specifically, what do I love to do and am I doing it?  In fact, that is where writing more frequently in this blog came from.  I love to write and wasn’t doing much of it.  After reading this book I made the decision to start blogging on a regular basis!

Have you read any of these books?  What were your thoughts?  Any books you read or are reading that you’d recommend?

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Raising Children Here.

Living in our neighborhood comes with a lot of wonderful aspects – the people, the culture, the closeness of friends, etc.  Living here also comes with challenges.  These challenges become a lot more intense once one has a child.  I remember when I was expecting Esteban one of the girls I mentor said, “You guys aren’t staying here once the baby comes, right?  I mean, why would you want to stay??”  A lot of people who live here have the goal to get out of the neighborhood, if they or their children are able to move to away they have “made it.”  To purposefully stay when we are able to leave seems strange to some. Today I met a woman, a neighbor of mine, we spoke about children and raising them in our neighborhood.  She has three kids, all in college now, all are doing well and love the neighborhood as well as where they’re at for school.  We talked about how difficult it is to find good schools around here and the challenges of where the kids play outside, the battle to want to give your child freedom to explore and be on their own but also to protect them and keep them safe. download The woman reminded me that while the struggles around here are hard, there are troubles everywhere.  She told me about when her daughter was in high school, she was a part of an honors program at a school in a wealthy area of the city.  She would come home and mention how many issues she saw every day among her classmates – things were not so much better just because she was in a “better area.” Earlier this week I sifted through my struggles and fears with raising kids in this neighborhood.  Well, I often sift through my fears and struggles, but this past week they’ve been especially present on my mind. I want our children to be friends with and a part of the neighborhood, not just living here and going outside of the neighborhood for everything. However, I don’t want my children exposed or pulled into all the awful things that also a part of our neighborhood. Towards the end of last year, a fifteen-year-old was stabbed in the neck and dumped into a trashcan in an alley, specifically because he told the group of guys hassling him that he didn’t want to join the gang they were in.  My heart aches when I think of that story.  The kid had been bothered for a while by these guys to join and then that happened.  With a little baby boy, I just want to keep him inside and never have to face all of that. I wrestle with loving the young men in the gangs, the young men my husband works with everyday, knowing they do things like this.  They are human beings, were once little boys just looking to be cared for, but also are murderers and are also murdered.  When I think of these things happening I wonder where my son will fit in with everything one day and how he will process things…how do I help him to process these things? Talking with the woman today though helped me to hear stories of other kids who are doing well, who enjoyed living in our neighborhood and still call it their home. She and her husband still live here.  If Epi and I are called to be in this neighborhood, which I believe we are currently, we need to trust that God has equipped our children to also live in this place.  He knew what he was doing when he gave us Esteban, and it wasn’t an accident his parents live in a sometimes scary neighborhood.  The work lies in trusting Him who is greater, with my son, and following His leading.

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{Mama Mondays}: Birth Story

I’m a bit late in sharing this with you all, but figured better late than never!

My hope through pregnancy was to deliver Esteban through a natural, drug-free delivery.  I had done a lot of reading, talked with friends who had delivered drug-free, and taken an amazing birth class that covered all sorts of topics but also went over pain management and helps for delivering without medicine.  However, I also understood things might not go the way I would like and was okay with that too; pending no complications though, my resolution was to deliver completely naturally.

The Wednesday after my due date I had an appointment with my doctor, Dr. K, my blood pressure was a little high but nothing severe.  Dr. K had labs taken to test for pre-eclampsia and said to come back in on Friday to have another blood pressure check but she wouldn’t be too concerned if the labs came back fine.  The labs did come back fine; Dr. K decided I should come in anyways though.

That Thursday night Epi and I were watching TV, I had a horrible headache but didn’t think too much about it – I get migraines pretty regularly and figured it was just another one. I also saw funny little sparks in my eyes every once in a while but just thought my contacts were being weird or it was the migraine.  Since my labs had been normal and I hadn’t had any issues during my pregnancy I wasn’t concerned.  That night though, I could not sleep my head hurt so incredibly bad so I just sat on the couch with Miklo, our cat, curled up next to me and waited for morning and my doctor appointment to come.

Epi, who had gone to all of my appointments with me, had a big case with one of his mentees and wouldn’t be able to go with me to this one.  Since I was just going in for a blood pressure check and everything had been fine we figured it wasn’t a big deal. At 10:30am I walked my 40 week pregnant self the half mile to the clinic.  The medical assistant took my blood pressure, told me it was normal.  My doctor had a lot of patients that day so had me see one of the midwives.

After hearing about my headache and the sparks the midwife decided to double check my blood pressure.  After taking it, she paused and re-took it.   “Liz, it’s really high.  With your headache and other symptoms, I need to send you to the hospital.”  “Ok…” I said totally unaware of what that meant. “Epi’s working the rest of the day, should I tell him to meet me there when he’s done?”  She informed me I shouldn’t be driving and she didn’t feel comfortable with me walking home by myself.  I called Epi, who said the fastest he could get back was an hour and a half.  After a bit, the doctors and midwife felt it was okay for me to walk back home.  I was instructed to get my bags together for the hospital, eat some lunch, and tell Epi to hurry.  As soon as he got home we needed to go to the ER.

Epi arrived; we grabbed our hospital bags, and drove to the hospital.  My hope still at that point was that my blood pressure would decrease and we could go back home where I could go into labor naturally.  I just kept thinking, my labs had been normal, I ate healthy, exercised, and hadn’t had any issues all pregnancy, there is no way things are bad now.

I was wheeled up to OB, my labs were taken again, and I was hooked up to a machine that took my blood pressure every fifteen minutes. Often the machine would read 145/102 (normal blood pressure is 120/80, my normal is usually even lower); Epi saw it get up to 197/145 a few times.  After a couple of hours my labs came back and were terrible (one doctor told me they were the worst he had ever seen for a pre-eclamptic patient); the doctor on call from our health clinic came in and told me I needed to be induced.

I was admitted to the hospital, hooked up to IVs and other machines, and the whole time was so confused. Physically I felt okay, I didn’t even have a headache anymore, and didn’t understand why I needed so much medicine to get labor started.  I texted Dr. K asking her what was going on & to give it me straight.  “Those meds are to prevent you from seizing and to keep your organs from shutting down.  Your labs are bad and your blood pressure is really high, you need them. You have severe pre-eclampsia and we’re worried about it moving into eclampsia.”   Okay then, that was all I needed to hear.

All through the night I was given medicine to get me to dilate and go into labor. For almost twelve hours nothing happened. Each time the midwife would come in to check me and each time we’d hear the same answer, “maybe a fingertip dilated, but that’s it.”

6:30 in the morning things kicked into gear, I was 2cm dilated and my water broke. Around 8:30am I was 4cm so could get an epidural.  We called our doula as well and told her she could head over in the next couple of hours. Even though I wasn’t having a natural/drug-free birth anymore, the main reason we had a doula, I still wanted her to be there to help!

My blood pressure was still really high, sitting around the 150/105 zone which was a bit unnerving. I was still hooked up to the machine that checked my blood pressure every fifteen minutes. After checking, alarms would go off because it was so high.  We’d then sit with the alarm until a nurse came in to shut it off.  So around 9:30am when an alarm went off Epi and I didn’t think much about it until our room flooded with people shouting and checking the machines. Our son’s heart beat had disappeared and they weren’t finding it quickly. One of the midwives rolled me to one side and then the other while another midwife moved the sensor around my belly trying to find his heartbeat.  I remember the urgency I heard in their voices and their yelling to get an OR ready for me.

One of the midwives told me to get on my hands and knees, “I can’t feel anything though [from the epidural].”  “I know,” she said, “but you have muscle memory and can do it even if you can’t feel what you’re doing”  I fumbled around and finally figured it out. Then his heartbeat came back.  Turns out the Pitocin was too high, the contractions too strong, and his little body couldn’t take all of that stress.

From there, things began to go fast. By the time our doula arrived, thirty minutes after we called her, I was at 9cm – I had dilated 5cm in 30 minutes! I stalled for just a little bit, but soon was at the point to push.

My epidural had worn off by that point.  The nurses offered to call the anesthesiologist; I decided it was probably better to feel what I was doing when pushing.   Pushing took two hours. I liked it better than contractions though, it felt much more productive.

Right before Esteban was born, his heart started slowing down. Alarms were going off and everyone started shouting I needed to push and get him out.  I was so tired at that point, and just wanted to be done.  I remember telling Dr. K to “just cut him out!” Dr. K who had been so positive and encouraging through the whole process looked at me with this very stern, serious face (quite like the one I’ve seen her use with her children when they are in trouble) and said “Liz, you have to push.  There is no time to do anything else to get your baby out.  His heart rate is dropping and if you don’t get him out fast we’re going to be in serious trouble.  You need to find it somewhere and push him out!” And so I did.

Out came a limp, purple baby with the cord around his neck.  They rushed him over the warming table and worked on him.  Meanwhile I was losing a lot of blood and had some other complications. I laid there for what felt like a long time waiting to hear our son’s cry.  I remember praying and praying that he was okay.  Watching the table where they were working on him I started talking to him, suddenly his little foot kicked up and a shrill, newborn cry filled the room.  I felt so relieved! Our doctor and the attending OB at the hospital finished working on me and then I got to hold my little son.   His tiny self was so perfect!  Epi and I spent hours taking in each little detail of him & could not get over how amazing he was.  IMG_5337

Two days later, my blood pressure went back to normal-ish territory and everything was given the green light for us to go home.  Driving home that rainy May afternoon was so surreal, everyone around us were going about life as normal.  Nothing much had changed since we went in to the hospital four days earlier, but for us everything had changed!

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