Sunday, March 31, 2013

Becoming Parents

This is a post I've been working on for awhile now. It's basically a novel describing the events leading up to Klair's birth, the actual big day itself, and up to about 2 weeks after it. It's full of lengthy text and pictures for photographic relief, and it has been a labor of love (albeit an overdue one). Here we go:

Klair was born on Thursday November 29th at 3:57 p.m. In the weeks leading up to it, I began to be more tired, but I was able to get around just fine and I never had any complications. Really the only difference was that my belly was bigger and people stared at me more when we would go out. I'll admit that once I hit the 37 week "full term" safety mark I was hopeful she would come sooner rather than later, but as time went on it became fairly clear to me that this wouldn't be the case. (At one point there was even a big storm that I thought might get labor going, but not even barometric pressure could convince Klair to come.)

At each of my weekly appointments starting at 36 weeks the doctor informed me that I had not dilated yet. Each time she said this, I felt extremely disappointed. I was so anxious to be done and to meet my baby. This trend became most concerning the day before Thanksgiving, the 21st (my original due date) because I realized that I would likely need to be induced unless I randomly went into spontaneous labor. They indicated that the soonest my doctor could do it (and still abide my hospital's rule of healthy elective inductions being at least 41 weeks) was Tuesday December 4th. I was very tired by that point, and so ready to meet my little girl that going 9 days over--waiting until December--seemed impossible and downright cruel. The nurse indicated that there might be a way to be induced earlier if they could come up with a medical reason. She told me my doctor could say that I had "psycho-social" reasons for needing to be induced before the 41 week mark, "wink, wink." Although the nurse actually said "wink wink" I felt as though I really WOULD have psycho-social reasons to need to be induced sooner. A mental melt-down didn't seem all that far-fetched. At any rate, the nurse said she would talk to Dr. Anders about it.

Because of the long holiday weekend I had to wait until Monday to find out if my doctor would be willing to pull some strings for me. I called in and the nurse told me that my doctor would need to see me at my appointment for that week before she could decide on anything. The problem was, my appointment wasn't until Thursday and my doctor was leaving to go out of town the next day. I asked the nurse if my appointment could possibly be moved up and she indicated it was likely an impossible request because my doctor was only seeing patients Tuesday and Thursday that week. I had a feeling that I should just call the appointment desk anyway and give it a try, so I did. To my surprise they had a cancellation for the next day (Tuesday) at 10:40. Obviously I took the appointment, and promptly said a prayer of gratitude for God's tender mercy.

I went in the next day with my sweet husband by my side. The nurse had mentioned that it was possible the doctor might just tell me to stay and start the induction that day if I had dilated. I was so convinced that I had dilated at least a little that we made sure our bags were packed and took them with us. After all, I had done all the tricks that are supposed to make things happen. We went on walks, ate spicy food, I didn't hold back when cleaning the house or running errands, I drank nasty raspberry tea.... essentially I did everything I was told to short of drinking castor oil. I had been feeling contractions randomly, sometimes stronger than others, and I imagined this meant I had at least dilated to a one. I was wrong. My OB informed me I was close, but still not even dilated to a one. She said that based on this information it would be unwise to induce me sooner than the already scheduled date of December 4th. She said she wanted to run the routine stress tests just to be sure, but that if everything was fine all signs pointed to a December baby. When she left, I cried. My poor husband tried to console me.

We went into a waiting room where I tried to conceal my tear stained face, and they called us back into a room to do an ultrasound. The technician was great, and in addition to checking the amniotic fluid (which was fine) she also looked at the size of the baby. She took the measurements, and seemed baffled. Looking incredulously at my belly she said that the computer had calculated a baby in the 99th percentile. We both gave her puzzled looks and she further elaborated that our baby was measuring around 9 pounds 11 ounces. She shook her head and said she would try the measurements again--certain that I couldn't be hiding such a big baby in my belly. She tried it three times and got the exact same results. I was apparently going to have a baby close to 10 pounds. I started crying again. She tried to reassure me by telling me that it could be 10% off, so my baby could be 10% smaller... or 10% bigger. I started crying again. The last thing I had expected to hear was that my 5'2" frame was expected to deliver a 10 pound baby. In fact, the thought of such large offspring had never even crossed my mind. December the 4th seemed forever away and the thought of my 9 pound 11 ounce baby having one more week to grow was overwhelming. (My doctor later told me the margin of error is more like 20% in either direction... can you guess what I did when I heard this news? Psycho-social was sounding more and more likely). A c-section, something I hadn't put any thought into, had now become not only a possibility, but a likelihood.

They did one more test on that fateful Tuesday. They strapped me to a machine that measured her heart beats and my contractions.

I laid there, trying to process the information I had just learned, while Sam attempted to decipher the meaning of the data that the monitors were spewing out. He of course also held my hand and tried to reassure me (he is the sweetest husband ever). He also took this picture of me strapped to the machine and although I didn't want him to, he reassured me that I was beautiful. As awful as it sounds, we were both hopeful in a way that some stress might be determined by the machine and that they would decide to induce sooner. Dr. Anders came in, glanced at the data, and informed us everything looked great. She then looked at me with my tear streaked face, and indicated she had just learned about the giant-baby prediction. I told her I was scared, and she told me she would schedule me to come in on Wednesday night to start the induction process and that on Thursday morning she would then break my water, start me on pitocin, and see if it was possible to have a regular delivery. If not (meaning if the baby didn't fit) they would take her through cesarean section. Either way, I'd have a baby girl on Thursday. My heart leapt at the news. Even though I was terrified, I knew my doctor had taken pity on me and there was now a light at the end of the tunnel. One way or another, I was going to have a baby in just two days!

Prior to the appointment, I made the mistake of telling everyone about it and the possibility of moving up my induction date. For the past few days since my due date (Sunday the 25th) had passed, family had been calling non-stop to see if I was in labor. As nice as it was that they cared, it was becoming harder to tell them that nothing was happening. So when the possibility of having her sooner was made available, I foolishly told everyone. After my appointment the phones started ringing. And, although I was excited to have a new induction date, the news of a potentially huge baby was still ringing in my ears. I was shaken up, to say the least and the last thing I wanted to do was tell everyone about it. Luckily I have an amazing husband, and this was the beginning of him taking on the role of newscaster to all of our friends and family so that I didn't have to.

On Wednesday I cleaned the house and did every last minute thing I could think of to get ready. We were told to call the hospital around 4:30 in the afternoon and if there was a bed we would be checked in at 5:00. Sam came home from work early that afternoon and we attempted to prepare ourselves--something I realize now is pretty impossible. I don't think we could ever have truly prepared ourselves, but we tried.

 At 4:30 I called, and they said they were slammed with spontaneous labors and hopefully a bed would open up in the next few hours. I called back a couple hours later, and the lady quite frankly told me that they would call me. By this time, the suspense was killing us. I started crying around 9:00 pm, scared that they wouldn't get me in and that with my doctor going out of town Friday I'd have to wait until Tuesday the 4th after all. Sam comforted me and said a prayer, and within a few minutes they called and told me to come in. Another tender mercy. We hurried in, and they got me settled in the delivery room. It was large and spacious and my nurse was great:

Sam even had a comfy chair. Here he is looking very fatherly while awaiting the arrival of his daughter: 

It took about an hour before they got me on the drug to dilate me, and at that point I started having a lot of contractions--many of which were pretty painful. They gave me painkillers that made me pretty high (apparently my tendency when I'm high is to tell Sam over and over again how great he is and how much I love him...I guess it could be a lot worse). The drugs would then put me to sleep for about 40 minutes at a time, and then they'd come and give me more. Thus, I got into a cycle of 40 minutes of sleep, 20 minutes of pain, and then it would start over again. My frazzled mom stopped by to make sure I was okay and calm her nerves, and Sam and I tried to watch movies on his laptop.  Unfortunately I was either so out of it or in so much pain that we quickly realized how useless it was. We resigned to trying to sleep but it was basically a pretty restless night for both of us with nurses constantly coming in and out to administer medicine and check on me.

Around 9:00 am when the doctor came in I was dilated to a 1. Finally! Although it wasn't much, it was enough to break my water and get me started on pitocin to really get labor going. When Dr. Anders broke my water I was surprised at how warm the amniotic fluid was. I was also shocked at how I immediately felt my belly go much flatter. It was an odd sensation to say the least. (After having felt how warm the amniotic fluid was, I understand why Klair loves warmth and hates the cold so much). One the petocin started my already painful contractions became much more intense. After a few hours of it my nurse came in and indicated that I better get my epidural right then or it would be a few hours before they could give it to me due to the high demand for them. I agreed, and the anesthesiologist came in and gave it to me. Honestly, it wasn't bad at all. I think the IV they put in my hand hurt worse than the epidural in my back. And, of course,  the effects were wonderful. My husband and I watched on the monitors as my contractions hit new highs while I couldn't feel a thing. Thank heavens for modern medicine!

They came to check me a few hours later and I was dilated to a 3. My mom and sister both came to visit, and Sam and I also attempted to watch episodes of Lost to pass the time. My sister came around 3, and wanted to wait until they checked me again but ended up needing to leave. Before she left she said I was probably going to be dilated to a 5 or 6 and, being the pessimist about my dilation that I had become, I laughed. Well, when they checked me about 10 minutes later I was dilated to a 9. Smiling at our shocked faces, my nurse indicated that I would be pushing within the hour. At this point she and some other hospital staff began readying the room and transforming my bed for labor. My nurse proved to be a wonderful labor coach. And, with my sweet husband by my side holding my hand and supporting me, I only had to push for about 25 minutes before meeting Klair for the first time.

On that last push when I felt Klair come out, it was such a strange sensation. Suddenly she left me. The baby I had been carrying for 10 months was no longer inside me, but I didn't feel empty. Instead, I felt a rush of emotions that left me feeling filled to the brim with gratitude. In fact, my cup was overflowing. I saw her tiny, beautiful body, and they quickly handed her to me. I was so overwhelmed that all I could do was cry. I hadn't cried yet. I had been so focused on pushing, but now the emotion hit me and it hit me like a ton of bricks. This was my child. I was finally holding her delicate, precious body in my arms. Bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh, all the pain, discomfort, and sacrifice was more than worth it. This little, perfect soul was brought into mortality by my husband and me. Our love for each other had created life, and I was the vessel that brought her here. Right along side the moment I was sealed to my husband and consequently my future children in the temple, it was the most spiritual experience of my life. For a tiny moment it was as if the veil between heaven and earth had been parted and I could see in my daughter the grand vastness of eternity, the purpose of existence.

Here are the first photos taken of our little Klair Marie and those who love her most. She was born at 3:57 pm, weighed in at 8 lbs 3 oz and was 22 inches long. Additionally, she was born wide-eyed, alert, and smiling. I would later learn that this was very indicative of her personality. 
 She also came into this world looking like a miniature version of her dad. At first we thought her hair was pretty dark, but then on closer inspection we realized how golden it was. Her eyes looked very much like here Papa Russ's, but have since rounded out a little more to look like her mine. She inherited her daddy's wide smile, but my lips. Her daddy's nose, and her mom's face shape. She also has Sam's length of body, feet, fingers, and complexion.

First Kisses.

 Happy Little Family.

 My Little Thinker

 My mom (grandma Roxy), myself, Sam and our sweet little angel 
(and a teddy bear my in-laws gave Klair)

Klair and her Grandma Jeannie.

Klair and her two grandmas. How sweet is this? I'm so glad they are friends!

The Duke family.
 Three generations of women :)

My Girl.

Sharydon and Klair (this blog post wouldn't be completed without mentioning the fact that Sharydon kindly became our designated photographer and took all the photos for us. It was so nice to have her there and helping!) 

So Beautiful, So new.

Chubby Baby!

 Skin-to-skin time. She loved this time and would position herself like a little frog with her legs folded under her and her bum in the air on my chest. She would then nestle in and fall asleep. The first time a nurse tried to move her from skin-to-skin time, she screamed. It was so sad, yet also extraordinarily sweet. Maybe that moment resonated with me so much because when they took her from me, I wanted to scream too. She needed me, and I needed her. 

(Notice the ring on a chain? Yeah, my fingers were too swollen for my new band Sam got me for our anniversary. Up until then I had been wearing it because it hadn't been sized yet and, unlike my wedding ring, it fit me. During this time in the hospital, however, not even the size 7 ring--2 sizes bigger than my normal size--fit me. Thus, I wore it around my neck.)

The next couple of days were spent in the hospital "recovering." I use quotation marks because it wasn't the most restful stay I've ever had, and I don't think I did a whole lot of healing while I was there. Don't get me wrong, the staff of the hospital was great, it's just hard to get better when your sleep is interrupted every 2 hours. It also didn't help that my poor husband woke up the next day with a sore throat and ended up beginning a battle with the rhinovirus. Also, as wonderful as the epidural was to have, once it wore off I realized the extent of the damage that had been done to my body. I went from pure bliss to agonizing pain and discomfort in a very short time, and the realization set in that this discomfort wouldn't be going away anytime soon. I was finally beginning to understand why they say it takes 4 to 6 weeks to recover. Childbirth isn't for the faint of heart, even with modern medicine.

I think one of the hardest experiences I had during our hospital stay was the painful yet necessary separation from my child. I hadn't slept much for two days, and the nurses insisted that I let them take Klair to the nursery so Sam and I could sleep between feedings. Although I knew I needed the sleep, the thought of being separated from her was physically painful. She had been with me constantly for almost 10 months--we had been inseparable, literally! Not to mention she had been all mine. Not once during my pregnancy did I have to share her with anyone. Now, they wanted to take her out of my sight. I wouldn't even be able to hear her cry. I cried. In the end, however, it really was a good thing. I was able to get some much needed rest, and I had overcome the milestone of being apart from my little Klair Marie.

Between visits from friends, family and the nurses Sam and I found ourselves with a little bit of down time during our hospital stay. My favorite way to pass the time was to play dress up and take photos of Klair. I didn't realize how big the headband would look on her tiny little newborn head.

Once we got home my sweet husband immediately started taking care of me. I had been slightly afraid to go home--away from the beck and call care of the nurses--but there was no reason for this fear. Sam set me up nicely in our bed and attended to my every need despite the fact that he was sick himself. He truly was an angel to me and I feel so blessed to have such a caring, devoted husband who also happens to be a very loving and doting father. I am so grateful he was able to stay home for what ended up being a month once we factored in the time he spent home over the holidays. I feel like little Klair has really been able to bond with her daddy in a way that most babies are unable to do.

My love and gratitude for my husband manifested itself rather strongly in the weeks after I gave birth. As the pregnancy hormones began to drop out, I became an emotional mess. I hadn't been especially teary during my pregnancy, but now the smallest thing could set me off. Several times simply looking at my baby brought me to tears, and just thinking about how much I loved my husband was enough to bring on the waterworks. At one point I turned to him in the car, told him I loved him, and then cried for awhile. It was over the top, yes, but I really couldn't help it.

On the first Sunday after we left the hospital I was feeling church deprived so I asked Sam if we could watch some conference to try and fill the void in some way. The first few talks were uplifting, and then it happened. One of the seventies began talking about the death of his infant son. The baby had apparently asphyxiated on a piece of chalk and died. After telling this tragic story he said "I'd like to talk to you about losing a child." I lost it. I couldn't handle the thought of losing my little Klair, so I made Sam turn it off and then proceeded to cry for awhile, expressing my fear to Sam of something bad happening to Klair. It was the first time that I realized how vulnerable I felt. During pregnancy if I took care of myself, I took care of Klair. If I was safe, so was she. Now she was subject to this cruel world on a whole new level. She was so much more fragile, and so was I. The problem with allowing your heart to expand and loving someone more than words can say is that you end up taking a risk. Your heart cannot be hidden, but must be worn on your sleeve. I can't help but feel insecure at times in my new role as a mom. I want to protect her from everything, shield her from this world--but I can't. She will get hurt. Bad things will happen to her. She will feel pain and suffering and, consequently, so will I. All I can do is love her completely and do my best to help her feel this. A good friend recently articulated what I've known for awhile to be true--the only way to truly protect my child is to stay close to God and the Holy Ghost and rely on them for inspiration guidance. I am so grateful to have the gift of the Holy Ghost, and I have already been the recipient of promptings that have made me a better mother.

Alright, back to the timeline of events. Two days after we came home (on that Monday) I needed to take Klair back in to see her pediatrician. We had picked out a different pediatrician on Halloween by conducting an interview, but he was unable to come to my hospital to check on her (apparently it was not one of his hospitals he can go to). So we figured we would just let her see a pediatrician at the hospital and then go to our guy for her first appointment. When the hospital assigned pediatrician came in we were surprised at how much we liked him. In fact, he even checked Sam out for free and was able to tell us that Sam's sickness (unfortunately) wasn't bacterial. We were hoping it was strep because babies can't contract it, and Sam could get on an antibiotic and be on his way to good health. Unfortunately it was the common cold so he had to be very careful around Klair (he wore a mask and worst of all couldn't kiss his new baby) and it took awhile for him to recover. We liked the hospital pediatrician so much after our encounters with him that we decided to simply make him Klair's doctor.

After birth little Klair had lost a slightly alarming amount of weight--about 10 ounces. Dr. Blackburn had asked to see her that Monday. My sick husband opted to stay home, and my mother-in-law drove Klair and I to the appointment. At the appointment we found out Klair had regained all of her weight in just two days, and that she was in the 98th percentile for height and a correspondingly high percentile for weight. Apparently Klair knew about the prediction that she would be big and she decided to prove to us that she could, in fact, do it.

In the hospital she was a perfect little angel--occasionally smiling, hardly ever crying (and when she did it was so cute and quiet that no one really minded). In fact, for the first two weeks or so she was extremely easy to take care of. She would just sleep in our arms, cuddle close during skin to skin time with her mommy and daddy, and she let anyone hold her. I'm not sure she really even fussed during this time, except to politely tell us she was hungry or had some other need. Around the two week mark reality set in, and we realized that she was in fact a real baby. Now this isn't to say that she was extremely hard, but she started acting like the stereotypical baby. Her fussiness increased, and it wasn't always easy to discern what she needed to stop her cries. It made sense to me why the photographer that did her newborn pictures wanted them done before the two week mark. For some reason this age was truly a turning point.

Speaking of newborn photos, these were taken when she was 5 days old by Mary Clark over at DMC photography. If you live in the Salt Lake area she is an amazing photographer and I highly recommend her. 

And this is the birth announcement that my talented husband created with her photo: 

On the day that we did the newborn photos Sam was sick and didn't want to spread his germs in the photographer's studio where newborns and babies were sure to be. Thus, my good friend Sharydon volunteered to take Klair and me (I wasn't well enough to drive myself). Mary had a studio in her basement fully equipped with hundreds of props and costumes for baby photos. It was almost overwhelming how many headbands, leggings, and other cute props she had to choose from. I was grateful to have Sharydon's help. I couldn't have been more pleased with how they turned out.

Unfortunately the fact that Sam wasn't there put a damper on some of my photo plans. For months I had been pinning photo ideas on Pinterest of shots to take with newborns. I loved the idea of Sam holding her in his hands, and there was also a guitar picture that I found particularly inspiring. So instead of having the professional photographer take these photos, Sam and I were forced to attempt them on our own. These were taken when she was exactly two weeks old and I'm happy with how they turned out.

Our First Family Outing

It took about one week before I felt well enough to leave the house. Our first adventure was to Target to get some groceries and to find my friend a birthday present:

She was great for us. She slept in the car and in her stroller. We were even able to go out to breakfast a few days later and she simply slept in her car seat the whole time. Getting out of the house was a much needed reprieve for me. Sleepy-pre-two-week-newborns are the best :)

And, that's all for now, Folks.

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