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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

a birth story - by Christine Coutu

Oh, how I adore this new momma! Christine Coutu is my old co-worker. She's one of the sweetest people I've ever known, and she's even more wonderful being a new mommy to baby Olivia. I am so happy she shared her birth story. I teared up, of course! I love her honesty about what was difficult and what she'll remember always. 

Congrats, brand new mommy, what a beautiful birth experience! 

All photos from Christine Coutu

1.What happened the day your baby was born? What was your C-section like? How did you feel preparing to have a surgery birth?
I never really planned on having a C-section when I got pregnant.  I don’t think many women do. However, our daughter had different plans.  Since I was a high risk pregnancy, I was monitored very closely - going to the OB office weekly for ultrasounds and check ups the last trimester and half of my pregnancy.  At one of these appointments, the ultrasound tech told us that the baby was breech.  Okay.  No biggie.  Then - she didn’t move.  At each following appointment, it was the same thing.  My husband Ryan and I even joked with the techs that they had a script all prepared because it literally was the same thing.  “Baby looks good and healthy.  Fluid is on the low-normal range. Baby is still breech. Placenta looks great.  Blood flow through the umbilical cord is good and strong”.  So it came as no surprise that we had to schedule a C-section date. Though I was still convinced our baby girl would flip, she never did.  So our date was scheduled for March 13th - my mother in law’s birthday.

March 12th there was supposed to be a big snow storm.  A few days prior, my aunt called me and graciously offered to pay for Ryan and I to stay in a hotel room that night so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving up to the hospital in the snow.  It was SO wonderful.  I would absolutely 100% recommend doing this if you have a scheduled c-section.  It was amazing to be away from the house where I would have been running around doing things for the 3rd and 4th time!  Ryan and I went out to dinner and grabbed some sparkling cider and treats at the supermarket.  We then went back to the hotel room and I took a nice long bath.  We ate our treats, watched tv and stayed up late.  The c-section was scheduled for late morning and the last thing I wanted was to wake up early and not be able to eat for several hours…..I would have died!  So we chose to stay up until midnight instead and just sleep in.

At 7am the hospital called and asked if we could come in right then - so much for sleeping in late!  There was a C-section that ended up not happening or something and they could put me on the schedule earlier.  We were still in bed so had to completely shift our plans not to mention our mindset!  So we got up, got dressed and headed over, feeling a bit emotional as we had planned for all of this to be taking place much later in the day.  My best friend, mom and dad met us at the hospital and we hugged and chatted before Ryan and I went into the room where I was prepped and ready to go.  Everyone came in one more time for some laughs and words of encouragement, then I was on my way. 

Once in the operating room, they sat me up on the table and started to prep me.  

I was SO worried about the epidural.  It really made me nervous - I had heard too many horror stories.  So, I spent a lot of time praying.  Honestly, it hurt more to get my IV placed than the epidural.  It was nothing.  I remember literally asking the nurse and doctors “wait, that’s it?!”

Normally during a C-section, the woman receives a spinal.  It’s the same medication as an epidural, it’s just given at a much faster rate, all at once.  This immediately numbs the area and they are able to start the surgery shortly thereafter.  However, this method also tends to drop your blood pressure quickly.  I was born with a congenital heart condition and a rapid drop in blood pressure can be very dangerous for me.  It was safer to do the epidural instead.  Thus, it took a REALLY long time for the meds to kick in fully.  Which meant that I got to lay on the table without my husband for much longer than I had wanted to.  Oh - I also had the pleasure of feeling the catheter insertion too - NOT fun.  So, as I waited for my body from the chest down to go numb, I continued to pray.  I prayed for the surgery to go well and for our baby to be okay, but mostly I prayed for peace.  I felt alone and anxious.  I just wanted Ryan with me.

About 15 minutes after the epidural my anesthesiologist asked “how does your stomach feel, Christine?”  “Fine” I replied.  I wasn’t feeling nauseous or hungry (too much adrenaline for that!).  “Good she said, Dr. Dersch just pinched you pretty hard with one of her tools here and since you didn’t feel it, we can begin, let’s get your husband in here!”  Wait what!? I thought.  “Oh that - no I felt that!”  I said.  “I’m sorry I thought you meant was I feeling sick. No, that pinching I felt!”.  “OH! she said, “well, let’s turn this medication up then and wait a few more minutes!”. Ugh.  I really didn’t want to wait any longer, why couldn’t they just bring my husband in now?! Finally after what felt like an hour, the medication kicked in and they went and got Ryan.

I’m a pretty patient person but I have got to say that I have NEVER been more impatient for anything in my entire life.  Getting my daughter out of my belly was the longest process EVER.  Ryan and I just kept making small talk and smiling at each other.  Honestly, it was so surreal I don’t think either of us knew what else to do or say.

Finally, Dr. Dersch said she was about to pull the baby out, that I was going to feel some pulling and tugging and pressure.  I did and it wasn’t bad at all.  Then - all of a sudden, there she was!  Our baby!  It was amazing.  I couldn’t believe it. 

Since she had been in the “frank breech” position, her bum had been wedged in my pelvis and her legs folded up by her head.  So when she came out - her legs stuck straight up in the air.  One of my favorite pictures from those first few moments is this one Ryan took from where we were seated.  It was of her with her legs up in the air like that.

Ryan stayed by me for several minutes after Olivia was born.  I think he didn’t know what to do.  He wanted to go and see her but he was also aware of what I was going through and wanted to be there for me too. I told him to go over and take some pictures, that I would be fine.

Things seemed to be taking forever for them to get her cleaned up to bring her to me.  I thought they were going to bring her right over and put her on my chest.  They didn’t.  Instead, they kept her over in the warmer for a lot longer than usual.  When I asked what was going on, they said that she had a bit more gunk in her mouth and lungs than normal and they had to help her get it out. 

When they brought her to me at last, I couldn’t believe it.  There was my baby, my miracle for real.  In the flesh.  It was an amazing feeling.  

I was also frustrated because I couldn’t just wrap my arms around her and hold her like I wanted to since my arms were outstretched with IV’s and blood pressure cuffs attached.  On top of that, because they numbed me from my chest down, my arms and hands were tingly and so I didn’t trust myself to hold onto my precious new baby - I thought I was going to drop her.  I remember feeling so angry that I couldn’t just hold her.  It also seemed like I was hanging upside down so I couldn’t get a good look at her, nor at my husband and his face. 

While Ryan and I stared at our baby and took pictures, we waited for them to put me back together.  This was another part of the process that took FOREVER.  I really started to get impatient.  Then, at one point, I was holding Olivia and I suddenly felt incredibly nauseous.  I told Ryan to take the baby.  I honestly thought I was going to vomit all over her, right then and there.  Ryan told the doctor what was going on and she said that it is that particular layer of skin, fat, I don’t know “insides”, I guess, that for some reason makes a lot of women feel sick like that when they are working on sewing it back together.  Ugh.  They gave me a cool cloth for my head and I just breathed until it was over.  The feeling left as quickly as it hit me.

Finally! I was all patched back up and they put Olivia on my chest and we were wheeled back into the room where they prepped me.  Here is where Ryan and I stayed for an extended period of time because they wanted to monitor my heart and make sure I was stable enough to go to the mother-baby floor.  The nurse cleaned me up and after a few minutes, left Ryan and I alone with our new baby.

It was the first time the three of us were alone together. We couldn’t take our eyes off of her.  We prayed over our new baby girl, thanking God for such a miracle and asking Him to watch over her and help us be the kind of parents she needs in order to grow into the young woman she is meant to be.  After a short time, the nurse came in and asked us what we chose for a name.  We looked at each other and just knew.  “Olivia Grace” I said. 

2. What did you pack in your hospital bag? What did you forget to pack that you recommend pregnant moms to be pack in theirs?
I packed a LOT in my hospital bag...and used less than half of it.  I don’t think I forgot anything.  I would recommend slippers, a nursing nightgown (I got mine at Motherhood and it came with a robe), a pair of VERY stretchy and comfy pants and a zip up sweatshirt or hoodie for the ride home.  I know I packed a lot more t shirts etc than I ended up using.  I thought I would not want to be in the hospital gown as much as I was.  Honestly, I spent the majority of my stay nearly naked because I was working on learning how to nurse and spending a lot of time skin to skin with my baby (she barely wore much more than a diaper and a blanket the entire time too).  The nursing nightgown was the only other thing I wore besides the hospital gown.  

Make sure to bring your own toiletries with you!  Also - SNACKS.  Especially if you’re going to labor.  We packed snacks for after my surgery during our stay so Ryan didn’t have to spend a lot of money in the cafe or vending machine.  We brought granola bars, nuts, dried fruit and even some individual oatmeals for Ryan to cook for a quick breakfast.

3. What was the best part about your hospital stay (besides meeting your little one of course)?
This is going to sound crazy but the best part of my hospital stay was the big jug of a water bottle that they gave me.  I LOVE that thing.  For some reason, ice cold water was the most amazing thing and I eagerly obliged anytime a nurse or CNA would offer to fill my water bottle up.  

The other best thing was the angel of a CNA who helped me learn how to nurse the final night of our hospital stay.  I was having SUCH a difficult time figuring it out and Livvie was struggling with how to latch.  The last night I was in tears because I knew we had to go home the following day and I had no clue how to feed my baby.  The CNA on duty (I wish I could remember her name!) came in and spent almost an hour literally man-handling both me and my baby until we got it right.  I thanked God for her because without her I felt completely hopeless.

4. What was the worst part about your hospital stay (besides the labor of course)?
The worst part of my hospital stay was honestly all the interruptions.  Since I was high risk, we got extra monitoring immediately after the birth of our daughter and throughout the rest of our stay.  Thus, I felt like we didn’t really get a lot of down time together.  

Also - the drugs.  They had me on a pretty big regiment of oxycodone/acetaminophen/ibuprofen.  I was taking so much, I was literally falling asleep mid sentence.  I thought it was just part of recovery and being sleep deprived until I started putting two and two together.  Then, when we went home, they put me on a pain management regiment that dropped my oxycodone dosage drastically.  When we were leaving the hospital, it was shift change and the nurse on duty was pushing us out the door without actually doing so by making comments like “you’re my last patient” and coming in a number of times to make sure we were “all set and packed”.  So while my husband scrambled to pack up the car, the nurse ran through all the discharge paperwork with me.  Remember, I’m still on high dosage pain killers here.  So, I didn’t pay close attention to what she was saying and when I got home continued the same schedule they had me on in the hospital.  After blowing through half my oxycodone bottle within the first 2 days, I looked at the discharge papers and realized that they had cut my dosage drastically. Part of this is my fault, I should have read things a bit more closely or listened to the nurse more intently when we were leaving.  However, I wish I had known that they were going to do this.  If so, I would have absolutely started to wean myself from the medication in the hospital.  I have a pretty high pain tolerance but I dropped my dosage down way too fast since I blew through so many pills, and I was in quite a bit of pain for about a week after delivery.  Next time, I know better.

5. What is your advice for new parents for surviving the hospital stay and making it more comfortable?
Keep company to a minimum.  I know that this might sound harsh, and you want all your family and friends to come and visit.  I have to tell you though, as much as I love my family - at times I wanted to scratch my eyeballs out if I saw one more person walk through that door!!  

I wish Ryan and I had been more firm about who could visit and how often they could visit.  Between nurses coming in every three hours to give medication and check vitals, the baby needing attending, people coming to bring lunch or dinner, and doctors to listen to my heart or check my incision site, it was ALL too much.   

Just when we thought we could have 10 minutes together of peace and quiet, there would be another knock on the door.  

There was even some lady who wanted to sell us newborn pictures who came twice to give us materials to look at and then again to see if we had had a chance to look at the brochures (ha! of course, with all the time we had on our hands) and if we had any interest in (spending a trillion dollars) and getting some pictures taken (again, because we had tons of time to do that!)  

The morning of our last day there we had to wait to make sure we could really go home because Livvie had lost a lot of weight and was pretty jaundice.  They did another heel prick test to check the level and we were in our room waiting for the doctor to come in.  There was yet another knock at the door and it was the cleaning lady who wanted to come in and clean our room - the room we weren’t even out of yet!  My husband tried being polite and explained the situation but when she persisted he kind of lost it. He didn’t yell or scream but made it very clear that she was not going to come in and clean our room and too bad if it was an inconvenience to her.  We kind of felt bad but at that point, we had had it.

 6. How soon after you got home after the hospital stay did you feel back to *slightly normal*?
I think I’m at that “feeling normal” point now - about three to four months.  I know it seems like a long time for those who are expectant moms and yes, it is.  

I’m not going to lie.  It’s hard work figuring out how to “do life” with a little one in the mix for the first time.  I have to re-learn everything I already do to include an infant, seriously.  We’re talking loading and unloading the dishwasher, folding laundry, going to the grocery store, pumping gas, “running into” Target or Walmart “for a second”, “stopping” at Panera to “quickly grab” a salad or sandwich.  All these things are totally different with a baby.  They require different logistics.  

You might not get done unloading the dishwasher before the baby is up and needing to eat again (didn’t I just feed you?!)  Honestly, I didn’t have the energy or the brain power to attempt some of these tasks for a few weeks, others like running into Walmart or Target are things I’m just now getting a system down for.  (side note and tip:  if you have a stroller with a little storage bay underneath and only have a few things to pick up in the grocery store - click that carseat into the stroller and use it as your cart.  Throw your things in the under carrier of your stroller and BAM - instant grocery cart! HA! The things you learn...)

7. What was it like the first moment you saw your baby or held your baby?
I have to say, I didn’t mind having a C-section like I thought I would.  However, that part, the part where I first met and held my baby, the first time the three of us were together as a family was the part of the process I hated the most.  I hated not being able to have my baby right there, naked on my chest.  I hated not being able to hold her the way I wanted.

I had a whole lot of emotions.  Besides being amazed and slightly frustrated because I couldn’t hold her the way I wanted, I will admit I felt a sudden slap in the face of reality.  As happy as I was to (finally) be a mom, I honestly thought “holy crap what did we just do?!?!”  I was freaking out.  Were we really ready for this!?  I don’t want to do this! I can’t do this mom thing!! Can I?!?"  

Overall yes, I was ecstatic to be a mom, it was a dream come true and such a blessing.  I also wouldn’t trade it for the world, I’m absolutely in love with my daughter.  However, in the back of my mind, I definitely had an “oh sh*$” moment! haha

8. Anything you would do differently?
I think the only thing I would have done differently would have been to monitor the visitors a little better.  I think my husband and I would have to discuss how we would want to do this if we have another baby, but I definitely would want to have more quiet time as a family.  I also would start pulling back on my meds earlier if I had a C-section again.  I would want to be almost completely weaned off them if I could before leaving the hospital.  I hated being so comatose.  I literally fell asleep while changing the t.v. channel more than once, and again while talking to some friends.

9. What is your advice to moms headed for labor soon?
Since I didn’t go through much of the labor process I don’t have much to say in that respect.  However, I will say this - in these last few weeks and days, spend time with your hubby.  You need it, he needs it.  The rearranging of the nursery (again) can wait - it’s fine, I promise!  

The best thing that Ryan and I did was stay in the hotel the night before my C-section.  Now, I know that not everyone can do that because most don’t have a specific day they are going to give birth but maybe even if it’s just going to a local hotel for an overnight the weekend before your due date (somewhere near your hospital of course), or having a date night in; it will do wonders for decreasing the stress level and increasing the connection between you and your spouse.  

These are going to be difficult, wonderful, emotional, trying and unbelievable weeks ahead of you, it is SO important that you go into them connected to your spouse. 

If you aren’t married, I really encourage you to do this with someone who is going to be there for you during this whole experience.  Whether it’s your mom, best friend, sister whomever - do the same thing.  Connecting with whomever is going to be there for the birth of your baby and who will serve as a support for you when you are home is vital to not only your recovery but to your baby’s health and wellbeing as well!

10. Anything you want to add?

I cannot stress how I'mportant it is for you to trust your “mommy and daddy instinct”, even right from the get - go.  You may feel like you don’t know your baby and in some ways, you’re right.  However, if something in your gut says that you shouldn’t do something or that something is wrong - go with it.  DO NOT question yourself. 

Livvie lost 13% of her body weight and the doctor was pretty concerned because she was born pretty small to begin with.  She was down to 5 pounds 11 ounces at her lowest.  We went to visit a lactation consultant who told us to feed our baby by doing some crazy feeding schedule.  Essentially I was supposed to breastfeed her for 20 minutes, pump for 10 and then my husband was to feed her what I had pumped in those 10 minutes to her by using a pipette.  We were instructed to do this every 2.5-3 hours.  We did it twice….then found that Olivia literally slept for almost an entire day.  I tried rousing her to feed her - she wanted nothing to do with it.  After a VERY big, messy and yucky colored poop and a bit of research, we discovered that we had overfed our poor little peanut.  We knew when the lactation consultant told us to do this that it sounded crazy, and I didn’t feel comfortable.  However, I didn’t want to have to start supplementing with formula or anything so tried to follow what the “experts” were telling us.  

Once we stopped the crazy regiment and followed what our guts told us, to feed on demand, Olivia perked up and started gaining weight.  Obviously, there are things that you will need to listen to your doctor about but at the end of the day, you DO know your baby best.  Olivia was not even a week old when all of this was happening, Ryan and I knew that what we were being told to do was way too much for her little tummy to handle. However, because we weren’t experts and new to this whole parenting thing - we did what we were told.  At the end of the day, we knew best - we knew our daughter better, end of story and a very important lesson learned.

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