Editor's Note: This story was written soon after Annika's birth several years ago. Annika is now a proud sister of a little sister! There is more than just the birth story and I felt the experiences were an important aspect of giving birth and becoming a mother. Thank you Sharon for sharing your story.
On Friday 12/8, I went to the hospital for a routine fetal non-stress test. This is done on mothers past their due dates (I was 4 days past at this point). They want to make sure the placenta (a temporary organ) is still doing its job providing oxygen and nutrients to the baby. Sometimes placentas deteriorate and stop functioning at full capacity. So, the test showed the baby's heart rate was decelerating slightly with minor contractions I was having. The nurse was concerned that my placenta was not doing well and asked a doctor to study my results. The doctor said he was concerned about the baby's heart rate, and wanted to admit me right away and start inducing labor. I immediately broke into tears (as most of you know, we were trying for a natural birth and induction certainly wasn't in the plans). After calling Phil and updating him on the situation, I was admitted to my labor and delivery room, or what soon became known as my jail cell...
I was started on pitocin, a synthetic form of the hormone your body naturally produces to begin contractions. The doctors chose this method because its dosage could be controlled and its administration could be stopped at any time if the baby's heart rate got worse. I was hooked up to an IV for the pitocin and fluids. I was also hooked up to a monitor for the baby's heart rate and contractions. Her heart rate would steady over time, but jumped down on occasion. After about 10 hours on pitocin, I was barely 1 cm dilated. At this point, the doctors put me on cervidil , a vaginal suppository to hopefully soften my cervix. I was on this for 2 doses, lasting 12 hours each. At the end of the 24 hours, I was no further dilated. Argh! At this point, I had been having relatively minor contractions from 5-10 minutes apart.
On Saturday night, they put me back on pitocin and started really amping up the dosage. Thus, I started active labor early Sat. morning, with STRONG contractions 2-3 minutes apart. It felt really good to sit in the rocking chair, bounce on the birthing ball, or stand during the contractions. However, baby's heart rate started decelerating more, so they would often stop my movements and confine me to the bed on my left side, with an oxygen mask on (NOT a good way to deal with contractions). However, at 4:15am my water broke and I lost my mucous plug shortly thereafter. Phil and I were very excited that my labor was finally progressing!
By Sunday (12/10) early noon, I was barely 2 cm dilated and the baby was still high up in my pelvis (-2 station). I was NOT progressing. Baby's heart rate was not looking so good. A doctor came in to talk to us and said he was concerned that the baby was in distress. I was barely progressing, and would probably need at least 10 hours of more labor (I had been going for 50 hours at this point). He suggested a c-section. He didn't know why the heart rate was decelerating, and wouldn't be able to tell until after baby was born, but he wanted to err on the safe side. Additionally, the pattern of the decelerations was increasing. He said that I could easily go 10 more hours of laboring and wind up with baby's heart rate dropping lower and ending up with an emergency surgery. If I continued laboring, I would have to do it in the bed with the mask the whole time. Obviously, our baby's safety was and is our primary concern, so within 2 minutes of talking it over, Phil and I agreed to the surgery.
From this point, life moved into overdrive. Within moments, a team of people came into the room. They ordered Phil to pack up our things (we had practically moved in after 3 days there) and put on scrubs. I was wheeled into the operating room, a brightly lit place with masked people moving all around me. I was still contracting and had started shaking uncontrollably (due to the hormones). Within moments, I was given a spinal epidural and felt my body go numb. Phil was there quickly, in his purple scrubs, holding my hand. Several minutes later, I asked if I was open yet, and they said that I was and baby would be pulled out any moment. Sure enough, they told Phil to stand up and he took a picture of baby being pulled out. He announced, "It's a girl!" They then held her over the screen so I could peek at my new daughter, and then whisked her away.
While I was being stitched up, they cleaned and assessed the baby across the room. I could not see her, but could hear her strong, healthy wails. Then Phil carried her over to me and brought her to my face so I could kiss her. We were both streaming tears, and I am doing it again, just writing this today. I was then taken to post-op recovery, and thanks to our birth plan requests and a terrific nurse, they did not take the baby away to the nursery as they usually do. Instead she stayed with me and nursed for a healthy 40 minutes! We were then taken to my post-partum recovery room and baby got her first sponge bath.
The next few days were a haze. I slowly recovered feeling in my body and became more able to move around and care for my baby. She had some difficulty nursing, so we got some special help. As the lactation nurse put it, our baby is 'a drama queen' and wants instant gratification when she nurses. If she doesn't get something right away, she quits sucking and SCREAMS. We got lots of help, learned many cool tricks, and have been experiencing better nursing with every day. We don't know where she inherited her hot temper and impatience....?
I was released from the hospital on Wed. 12/13, after SIX days in the hospital, only to discover that my car had been stolen from the hospital parking lot. It was a nightmare. We had to file a missing vehicle report with hospital security and SDPD. We had to beg a nurse to teach us how to install the car seat carrier without the base into Phil's car (My car had the base already installed, and even inspected by the sheriff's dept.). In my car had also been our fancy new stroller, and our house key and home alarm control. So, the past few days have been spent changing locks, deactivating the alarm controller, and calling insurance companies. The good news is that we finally got the baby home and have been recovering ever since. We are completely sleep deprived but otherwise doing well. We lost meaningless material things, and instead came home with an amazing miracle.
In the end, we found out that the baby was being pushed through the birth canal at an angle (asynclytic) rather than straight through. Even though she was not far down, she was born with a major side sloping cone head (getting rounder every day!) It turns out my strong contractions were shoving her down a hole she couldn't fit through, thus stressing her body and her tiny heart. The doctor said that she never would have been delivered naturally. This made us feel better, knowing our decision was the best one for our baby. The best news is that she is healthy and not impacted by the stress cause to her.
And now, introducing: Annika Story. Born 12/10/06 at 2:23pm. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces, and measured 21.5 inches (long baby!). Initially, we planned that if we had a girl, her name would be Annika (pronounced like Monica, without the M) Tenzin. However, Saturday night, the night before she was born, Phil was catnapping and had a dream that we had a girl and named her Annika Story. When he awoke and told me, I was blown away and loved the name. Of course, we wouldn't know we were having a girl until the next day, but then it was pretty clear that Phil's foreshadowing dream would come true, and we would have a daughter named Annika Story.
She is a beautiful angel, and we are deeply in love with her. Annika's doggy brother and sister love her too, and greatly enjoy sniffing and trying to lick her. When Annika cries, they come running and want to make sure she is okay. We are a VERY happy and blessed family.
Today marks one week that we've been home from the hospital. It also commemorates the toughest week of our entire lives. You heard the first part of our 'Story', it only gets better....
Annika's nursing was greatly improving by last weekend. She was latching on and suckling like a champ. However, we knew something strange was going on by Sunday evening when she was extremely fussy, having difficulty eating and sleeping. We visited with the lactation consultant on Monday morning (she's our 'breast friend') and she did a quick physical inspection of Annika (who had gained 5 ounces over the weekend!!!). She noticed that her nipples, particularly her left one, looked quite swollen and red. She took us over to see our pediatrician, who then determined that Annika has neo-natal mastitis. Mastitis is a condition that nursing women often get, when their milk becomes backed up in their breasts and an infection begins. It is quite painful. Sometimes babies get this condition because they are receiving the same hormones that their lactating mothers are producing. So, this causes their poor baby breasts to try to produce milk, which cannot be expressed, gets stuck, and causes an infection. It is quite uncomfortable and requires 10 days of antibiotics. Apparently this is a rare thing to see in babies, and even less common in females (males tend to be more sensitive to estrogen from their mothers). However, Annika was our pediatrician's 3rd case of neo-natal mastitis this week! Poor baby is now on antibiotics that she has to take through a syringe twice a day. She is such a trooper, and chugs along to make herself better. We give her warm compresses throughout the day to relieve the discomfort. Unfortunately the meds are making her sleepy, causing more difficulty with feeding.
As if mastitis wasn't enough for our family, we had yet another challenge. I have been feeling some tightness in my chest/shortness of breath since we got home from the hospital. I called Kaiser and was asked to go in and be seen. We went in yesterday morning at 11, and the doctor decided she wanted me to have a CAT scan. Apparently my symptoms were similar to those I might experience if I were having a pulmonary embolism, some sort of blood clot that can be caused by abdominal surgery. So, I was sent to ER for hours. We freaked out, not wanting Annika in the ER with all those germs, but not wanting to separate from her. On top of this, I had to be injected with iodine for the CAT scan, and could not nurse Annika for 24 hours, until I flushed it out of my system. So, Auntie Rachel to the rescue! She met Phil at home and took over care for Annika, bottle feeding her, changing, snuggling, etc. In the meantime, Phil came back to the hospital to keep me company while waiting for my test and results. I had some major blood work done and a chest xray in addition to my CAT scan. The hardest part was being away from Annika, we missed her so much. Thankfully Auntie Rachel was taking good care of her, cradling her while she slept in her arms. After 6 hours in ER, we finally got the results we were eagerly hoping for. I had no embolism! They did find a cyst on my liver and my spleen was enlarged, so I have to follow up with my regular doctor on Friday. We rushed home and couldn't get Annika back in our arms fast enough. She's been taking the bottle decently, but doesn't love it, which is good because she should hopefully get back to breastfeeding well by tonight. I can't wait!
Another strange event: Phil spent 4 hours in the Kaiser Hospital security office last week watching 6 days' worth of grainy surveillance video. Through grueling hours of rewinding and fast forwarding, he was able to find the spot where my car was stolen. He had to sit and watch the video of two men stealing the car, one acting as the lookout while the other popped the hood and got it running. They took off within five minutes. We are working with the PD to hopefully get this figured out.
We had a follow up pediatrician appt today to check on Annika's mastitis. The doctor said she's looking better, with less redness. The doctor squeezed her poor baby nipple and actually expressed a few drops of milk. It was the strangest and saddest thing, and made Annika quite uncomfortable. The doctor thinks she's healing and will re-check her in a week. In the meantime, we're continuing antibiotics and warm compresses.
Editor's Note: Annika is healthy and will not be producing milk until she is a mother in the far future, but not too far, she shouldn't make her mother wait forever to become a grandmother.
7 pounds, 11 ounces