Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease: Not Fun!

 I thought there might be some Mommies out there who have never seen the hand, foot, and mouth virus and would want to know how it goes.  There are two distinct types:  The spots on the body and the sores in the mouth.  I've had two different children get this illness and react in those two completely different ways but the fever/ fussiness pattern remained the same:  my toddler was fussy and didn't want to eat the first day, had a high fever days 2-4, seemed a little better day 5, was a miserable, fussy baby day 6, popped out with a several tiny spots on her hands and feet or in her mouth on day 7, and had the full blown spots climbing up her arms and ankles or screamed in pain at the open wounds in her mouth on day 8. She kept a low-grade fever days 5-10 and was pretty miserable and fussy. The spots are definitely painful.  But both times they got better right around day 10 or 11.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Experience: Medicated vs. Natural Birth

I feel like I learned a lot about different options during labor and delivery and hope this post might help some future Moms make wise choices and avoid some mistakes I made. With my first delivery, I opted to take the epidural and super pain meds they gave me after delivery (you can read about it HERE). After much research and reading, I decided that it would be better for the baby and for myself if I gave birth naturally the second time. I’m not going to go into all those reasons right now; I’m not trying to persuade anyone. (Mainly because I don't want you cursing my name when you go through transition, ha, ha:) It has to be a decision you make on your own; not because someone else did it. I would just encourage you to do your own reading. Some books that I found helpful: THIS one and THIS one. THIS website was very helpful as well as I searched about specific issues and was writing my birth plan

The major differences:

1. I will admit up front that the epidural made the last part of my first birth a very nice experience. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect after the meds kicked in and thought that pushing was actually enjoyable and so exciting! In contrast, without the epidural, I was pushing more out of desperation, to get the pain to end! Also, the first time it took them an hour to sew me up because I had a 4th degree tear. I was enjoying my new baby and didn’t even know they were giving me stitches until I heard my Mom asked the doc how many stitches she was giving me. This time, I only got a 2nd degree tear, but it was extremely uncomfortable and painful while they were stitching me up. (I did receive localized numbing after the birth where they were stitching, but it still hurt!) But other than the huge pain issue, which I think anyone can manage to survive if I did :) , going naturally was a far better experience in every way.

2. Although many will say that an epidural will not slow down labor, I definitely don’t agree. I went from a 15 hour labor the first time to a 6 hour labor the 2nd time. I know that much of that was due to this being my second baby and my body knowing more what to do, but I really think it would have been a longer labor had I taken the epidural. Also, with the epidural I would not have been able to walk, and when I walked the halls I went from 4 cm to 8cm in 45 min. I think I would have stalled at 4cm for who knows how long if I hadn’t been able to walk!

3. I really think that being able to control my pushing more helped me to tear less the second time. The first time, my doc actually told me not to push hard that last push, but I couldn’t feel how hard I was pushing! But this time (after the initial shock of how powerful the contractions were) I was able to control my pushing and I didn’t tear as much.

4. I cannot tell you how much easier the recovery was without the epidural! I could walk immediately (versus not even be able to feel my legs.) I took a shower within a couple of hours (versus the next day) which made me feel so much better!!! I could actually feel when I needed to go to the bathroom (which was a huge issue for me last time – the epidural and super pain meds I received the first time totally stopped me up for over a week!) And believe it or not, I think going naturally actually made me lose more weight at the hospital: I gained about 20 pounds both pregnancies. The first time, I lost 10 at the hospital and the other 10 later. This time I lost all 20 at the hospital. I had read previously that some women actually gain weight at the hospital because of all the fluids they receive. I really think it was because I didn’t have that IV pumping fluids into me the whole time that I lost so much weight immediately. And because I was able to be more mobile more quickly. Lastly, with my first birth I experienced an unbelievable pressure headache about a week after Karis was born that lasted almost a week. Every time I leaned over the slightest bit, I thought my head was going to explode! It was bad enough that I almost passed out in Walmart when I bent down to pick up a can of food. After reading about epidurals, I really think the headache came from that. I didn't get any pressure headache this time at all since I wasn't on any pain meds!

Some tips I learned if you want to give birth naturally:

1. Do your research! You have to be fully convinced that this is the only way or you will give in when the pain hits. If you know you definitely want to give birth naturally, read THIS book. It was a little weird in parts, but really helps you believe that giving birth is a natural process and that every woman can do it. Half of the book is devoted to stories of women who gave birth naturally and it is just so interesting and encouraging! And if you are like me and your birth plan opts out of some routine shots and drops for your baby, bring a copy of your reasons to the hospital with you. I was seriously confronted on my birth plan AFTER delivery. Come on, I could hardly remember my own birthday after all that sleep deprivation, hard work, and excruciating pain, let alone my research! I was confronted immediately after birth and also woken up around 6:30 am the next morning by a phone call from the pediatrician’s office asking why I had refused normal shots and drops. Give me a break! I finally had to say, “I’m sorry; I am so tired that I honestly don’t remember exactly why I decided to forgo those drops, but I know I did my research and had my reasons so I am going to stick with my birth plan.” It would definitely have been easier if I had brought copies of my research with me.

2. Talk about it. Tell everyone you plan to do it naturally. If you are like me (not the least bit brave, but a good bit prideful and stubborn :), this really works. I actually talked about it so much that in my mind, pain meds were simply not an option. I can honestly say that I never even once considered asking for pain meds. Even when going through the incredible pain of transition, asking for meds never even ran through my head.

3. Consider hiring a doula. Yes, they are expensive – try to find a friend or a doula-in-training who will give you a lower price. I was lucky enough to find a certified doula who would give me a break in price because I opted out of the pre-labor visits and post-partum visit, and because it was my 2nd birth so she knew it wouldn’t take as long. Instead of the normal $550, she only charged me $250. Was she worth it? Every penny! My husband was not keen on shelling out that much money at first, but afterwards he said over and over how glad he was that she was there. (Especially since he pretty much zonked out when I went through transition and was on the floor with smelling salts the whole time I was pushing! lol :) And my Mom, who got there right before I went through transition, said she was amazed at how much more calm and relaxed I was than with my first labor. The main thing that the doula did was to help me relax. Which might not sound like much, but it was amazing the difference it made in the pain! It wasn't any weird relaxation technique -- she basically would just tell me which body parts she saw me tensing up. Usually, my shoulders made the most difference. As soon as she would tell me to relax my shoulders, and I did, I would feel intense relief. She also taught me how to breathe though the contractions like they were waves. Which does sound weird, I know, but once again, it helped somehow. I can't really explain it, but it was a huge difference from when I tried to do it by myself with Karis. And she showed Mark how to massage my back muscles that were tense from the contractions. I know these may sound like little things, but when you are in that much pain, they help a great deal! Now we probably won’t hire a doula again, since she taught Mark how to do it all, but for the first time, it was well worth the money.

4. Lastly, I would greatly recommend that you give birth at a birthing center that utilizes midwives or just do a home birth with a midwife. This is definitely going to be my plan next time and here are some examples of why:

A midwife will encourage a natural birth rather than discourage it: When I arrived at the hospital, they asked me to give my pain level a number, with ten being the highest. (I hate that question, by the way :) I had labored at home as long as possible and was honestly in more pain than ever in my life, so I said 9. The nurse (who had just read my birth plan) looked at me and said, “Well if it’s a 9 now, then you ought to go ahead and take the epidural right now because there is no way you are going to make it without pain meds because its going to get a whole lot worse!” Not very encouraging for someone who honestly didn’t know how she could handle much more pain!

I believe that the nurses and doctors would rather you be medicated because you are a lot easier to handle. When I first told the various doctors at my OB office that I wanted to go naturally, they all tried to talk me out of it! I couldn’t understand why until I was in the delivery room. When I had the epidural, I was calm and could follow their directions easily. In fact, my OB was helping another lady give birth so I did the majority of my pushing with the nurse. When Karis’ head crested, the nurse instructed me to stop and wait for the doc to come in. It was about 10 minutes before she was there and I could continue. There is no way in the world I would have been able to wait for the doc without the epidural! It was hard enough to wait for the next contraction because I was so desperate to get her out so the pain would end! And this time, it took me quite a while to even hear what they were telling me to do once I went through transition. I was so overcome with the pain at first that I tensed up and let out my breath in little spurts instead of holding it. And it really took a couple of minutes before I could even hear what they wanted me to do, let alone be able to follow it! I remember saying “I’m sorry” several times because I knew they were giving me directions but I couldn’t focus enough to follow. It just took me a while to get myself together to be able to push. So I understand why it is easier for the hospital staff if you are medicated.

A midwife is also more experienced and comfortable with different laboring positions. Did you know that lying on your back with your feet up in the air is one of the most painful positions possible for a woman in labor? My baby was turned slightly so to make her go the right way, they helped me to a hands and knees position. It worked, and (after the pain of getting there) I actually felt a lot more comfortable in that position. My doctor let me try pushing in that position for one or two contractions, but then she said that she just couldn’t help me as much in that position. So I pushed the rest of the time in the “normal” position. I really think a mid-wife would have been comfortable with me in other positions and I would have been way more comfortable as well!

Finally, no matter what kind of birth you want to have, my biggest advice is to pray about it. Pray specifically about every single detail you are concerned with. One of my biggest concerns actually had nothing to do with the actual birth – it was about my toddler. Her grandparents (who are really the only ones who ever babysit) live 3 hours away. I was so worried that my water would break again and we would have to rush to the hospital and drop her off with someone that had never taken care of her. I prayed about the timing of this birth pretty much every day. And it was amazing the way God worked it out. I was so sick the day I went into labor that her grandparents came down to help out, not even knowing I was going to the hospital that night! So they were already there when we left! Isn’t God amazing the way he answers prayers! Another example of God's goodness: that discouraging nurse who told me I ought to just take the epidural changed shifts right before I went through transition. And the new nurse was absolutely wonderful! God knew I definitely needed someone nice and encouraging through the most painful part. I may not have had everything go exactly as I had planned and hoped, but I definitely saw God’s faithfulness and provision throughout my labor and delivery.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My 2nd Birth Story

Several of you have asked about how this labor and delivery compared to my first, since I did it naturally without any pain meds this time. So I decided to just write out exactly what happened this time, and then tomorrow, I will give my thoughts on the two births. Just a warning: this is a birth story and not for the faint-hearted. And its pretty long. If you are a guy, just skip this post and scroll down to the pics.

On Friday, January 16th, I woke up feeling completely normal. I walked into the kitchen to get breakfast, and I immediately started feeling sick to my stomach. I tried to continue on with my day, taking Karis to soccer. While there, my nausea continued and my Braxton Hicks contractions (which I had been having for the past 3 weeks) seemed stronger. But I started feeling achy and having chills like I had a flu virus or something, so I really thought I was just getting sick. (Keep in mind that with Karis’ birth, my labor began with my water breaking rather than normal signs of labor, so I really didn’t know what my body’s signs of labor were). Karis was 5 days overdue and I was still a week before my due date, so I really didn't think that I would go into labor soon. By lunchtime, I realized that I simply could not take care of Karis by myself -- I just felt so achy and nauseous. I got her down for a nap and called Mark to come home early from work because I just couldn't keep up with her. He called his parents to come down to help me with Karis the next day because on the weekends he works all night long and has to sleep all day Saturday.

That afternoon, I only felt worse and my contractions seemed to grow much stronger, but they weren't consistent enough to make me think it was labor. It crossed my mind, but I was actually praying that it wasn't time yet because I didn't want to go into labor all weak and sick, especially since I was determined to do it without the epidural! I really thought I was coming down with the flu because I couldn't even walk around without feeling light-headed.

I went to bed about 8:00 and actually slept a little, but soon the contractions started waking me up. I finally just gave up and got out of bed at 10 pm when Mark's folks got here. I knew the contractions were definitely stronger and hurt my back way more than the Braxton hicks, but I was still afraid to tell Mark to stay home from work. (So silly!) So he left at 10:30 pm and I tried to get some sleep. Impossible! These contractions were getting stronger and closer together. I was kicking myself for telling Mark to go onto work.

I gave up on sleep, and just tried to distract myself by fooling around on the computer and gathering everything on my list for the hospital. And the weird thing was, all my flu-like symptoms had magically disappeared. I had the energy to walk around and bounce around on my birthing ball! Around 2:00 am the contractions were so close and strong that I knew we would be going to hospital soon. I had really wanted to labor as long as possible at home, but Mark was working about 30 minutes away, right near the hospital. I wanted so badly to be with him, but it would be silly for him to drive back to the house since I would be leaving for the hospital so soon. Luckily, Mark's Mom woke up and kept me company and timed my contractions for me. Around 3:30, Mark's Mom started getting worried that if I waited any longer, I would be having the baby in the car (ha, ha, I wish it had happened that fast! :), so we decided that Mark's Dad would take me on to the hospital and Mark and my doula would meet us there.

When I got to the hospital, I was having a contraction when the nurse came to take me to triage. She took one look at me and decided to go ahead and put me in a birthing room instead. I was disappointed, though, to find that I was only at 4 cm. I wanted to get up and walk, but they wanted me hooked up to everything initially to make sure everything was fine. This is where I got frustrated. I had given them my birth plan which clearly stated how I wanted to move freely about, but every time I asked to be unhooked, they had some excuse for needing to continue to monitor me. Plus, I was GBS positive, so I had to have that antibiotic IV for an hour. So things were not quite what I had hoped, but I knew God was in control and it would all work out.

For whatever (I think ridiculous) reasons, it was at least 2 hours before the nurses finally unhooked me and I could walk around to try to speed things up. They warned me to stay within sight of them because the baby was so low that they were afraid she would just come right out while walking. I wish it had been that easy, ha, ha! I speed walked in between contractions and Mark held me up while I endured the contractions. My doula helped a great deal throughout my labor, but I’ll write more about that in my post tomorrow.

After about 45 minutes of walking, the nurses wanted to check me again and I was 8 cm!They were excited, but I was utterly exhausted and had hoped it was time to push. The doctor came in and said that I was so close and if she broke my water, she was sure I would go to 10 immediately. I thought about it for a couple of minutes because originally I had not wanted them to break my water. But the main reason for that was because once my water breaks, the hospital staff usually only gives you 12 hours before demanding to give you pitocin, which I did not want! (With Karis, they told me I had one more hour to progress or they would give me the pitocin. We all prayed and when they came back to give it to me, I was at 10!) But it didn’t sound like there was any chance of me being in labor that long this time, so I agreed to let her break my water.

Immediately, I hit the transition phase and I cannot describe to you the intense power of the contractions at that point. Definitely pain, but even more so, power. It was unbelievable. I remember thinking that next time we should definitely just adopt and moaning, “I have to push! I have to push!” The nurses told me not to, but the urge to push was overwhelming.They checked me and I was at 9. The nurse said she felt Karlie’s ear and she was turned slightly wrong so I needed to change positions to make her turn. Somehow we managed to move me around and immediately she turned and it was time to push!
Karlie Sue DeLong finally arrived at 8:04 am and as soon as she was in my arms I knew I wanted to do this again. And again. And perhaps and again and again! Even though I was in serious pain as the doc was stitching me up, holding her in my arms made it all worthwhile!Its amazing how much a person can love a tiny little baby at first sight!