Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Welcoming Walter! --his birth story.

Hello again!
 I suppose the birth of a baby is  a good reason to update our blog. I've never been a huge blogger and I can't promise how things will go in the future, but I hope to at least write some of the major events in our lives.

How do I even begin? Baby Walter is the sweetest and most wonderful thing to happen in our lives. We are so blessed!

Walter was hoped for and prayed for and planned for. Ulises and I planned to have our first baby in the summer  of 2014 right as he was finishing his Masters degree here in Spain. We got pregnant right away and our due date was June 7th. (a little earlier than his last day of school). My pregnancy was pretty uneventful. Nausea was almost absent and I felt absolutely great the majority of the time. I was tired the first trimester but that was about it. I continued going to the gym, running and exercising up through my 7th month of pregnancy. I continued with a full work load till the very end as well. Because things were going so well I had no reason to believe that my plan for a natural unmedicated childbirth would be hindered. I got signed up for the hospital of my choice with a birthing pool and natural child birth protocols. Everything was going so well! 

But then at the third ultrasound baby boy was still in a breech position. I looked up so many methods to flip him. I tried spinning babies ( and regret that I hadn't been doing it the whole time!) and went to a chiropractor. I did moxibuston (Chinese medicine) and went to the swimming pool and stood on my head. On May 16th I had an appointment scheduled at the hospital to see if the baby had turned vertex. If he hadn't, then they would do an External version which is basically the doctor putting his hands on my belly and trying to grab the baby's bum and head and manually flip him!

On May 16th I went to the doctor to see how baby was, and they confirmed that he was still breech. But more than that, they said that he hadn't grown very much from my last ultrasound and that my amniotic fluid was dangerously low. It was so low they asked if my water had broken or started leaking. Because of the low fluid the External Version was completely out of the question. And they recommended that I check myself into the Emergency Room (that sounds serious but don't worry) and get a second opinion. So Ulises and I went upstairs and waited in the ER. 

While we were waiting I called my mom and said that the doctors wanted to perform a c-section that day or the following day because of the baby's growth and low fluid. I was a bit teary because everything was going so fast and I wasn't prepared for any of it. I was only 36 weeks pregnant. My mom who spent more than 30 years as a labor and delivery nurse told me that the baby would be small, but that there shouldn't be any big problems. She told me to go meet with the doctor and that I should call her back with more information.

Well I was checked by the ER doctor and OBGYN and they recommended delivering the baby...right then! Ulises was really excited and said " today we get to be parents!" and I was still a little in shock. They put me in a hospital gown, got me on an IV and started to monitor the baby. His heartbeat was a little irregular due to my nerves but everything else was fine. The only time we weren't rushing was when they gave me some medicine to make sure I didn't vomit my breakfast up when they gave me anesthesia. So I had 20 minutes to digest that gross stuff before they wheeled me into the operating room and cut that  baby out of me!

Did I mention I wanted an unmedicated, natural birth?

Within 2 hours of going into the hospital on the morning of May 16th I was suddenly a mom! Walter was delivered by c-section at 1:30 PM in Barcelona Spain on May 16th. Ulises was by  my side in the operating room. As they pulled the baby out Ulises could see and was giving me a play by play. "I see his feet, his bum...I see his head! He's got HAIR!" (my consolation prize I guess) They took him to the other room to clean his lungs etc. As the nurse walked past I saw a TINY little head cradled in her hand (with hair) and couldn't believe it was my son! I told Ulises to follow her and he was in the other room with baby Walter and I heard him cry from the Operating room. It was a beautiful sound! They quickly brought him back into the room and put the blue little baby on my chest and I just kept saying "I love you son, I love you, I love you!" I investigated his little body as best I could in that awkward position. I held his little hands, counted his little fingers and stroked his sticky cheeks. He was so small!

I don't know how long I got to hold him but it wasn't too long (probably until they finished stitching me up) and they took him to get checked out. They took me to a post operating room where they let the anesthesia wear off. I got the shakes really bad which I guess is normal. Ulises came back and said they were checking Walter out and that they would be bringing him to me shortly. It seemed like an eternity but they brought the baby back to me and laid him on my chest. The idea was for him to stay with me. But as I was holding him his breathing became quite irregular and they decided they needed to monitor his heart rate and get him on Oxygen. I didn't know that this would be the last moment I saw him for the rest of the day. So--they took my baby boy and Ulises followed him and I sat there watching "The Simpsons" in Spanish on the recovery room TV....joy.

When Ulises got back he told me that Walter would have to stay under observation for a while and that I couldn't see him until I could physically walk down ( or be wheeled down) to the NICU. At this point the lower half of my body was still completely numb..... 

I took this time to call my  mom. She was waiting for my call but was surprised when instead of telling her what the plan was, I told her that she "had another grandson!" When I told her she laughed with surprise and joy. I told her that I didn't have time to call and tell her before but that they just performed the C-section and that I was a mom! At the time I was on the phone with her, my dad called her cell phone. He was out of the house and called because he needed my mom to drive and pick him up. So I heard her answer her cell phone and say "Merrill, Mary just had her baby!" and she continued to laugh on the phone with my dad. I ended the phone call rather quickly, promising to call back soon, and was wheeled into my hospital room.

Once there, Ulises and I called his family. It was quite interesting. The night before, May 15th, Ulises' sister had given birth to her daughter, Guadalupe, 5 days past her due date. So everyone was at the hospital enjoying the new little granddaughter. When we called to tell them about Walter, you can understand why Ulises dad didn't believe us at first. He thought it was a joke because I wasn't due for another 4 weeks or so. But once Ulises started to tell details and tell them why the External Version didn't work and how they delivered the baby instead, they believed us! But wow. The first two grandchildren on Ulises side of the family were born within 17 hours of each other. Ulises mom got on the phone with me and kept saying :why didn't you call me! why didn't you call!" Well-- we didn't have time basically! It wasn't like Ulises sister who called several days before to let everyone know she started to have regular contractions. It all happened so fast!

So Ulises family came to visit and with Ulises each of his parents got to go see Walter from the incubator as I stayed upstairs trying to recover from a c-section ( no one tells you about the gas in your shoulders by the way. It's painful and strange!) I was a little jealous. Each 3 hours that passed Ulises got to go down and see Walter as I stayed upstairs. Ulises would take videos of him and bring me updates about his condition. They told us that he weighed 2800 grams ( that's about 6 lbs) and was 47 cm long (that's about 18 inches). He was recovering from some fluid in his lungs but they expected to move him out of the intensive section of the NICU into the more stable section within a day. And they did! And within 24 hours I had forced myself to get verticle and waddle down to the NICU and see my baby. I cried! He was beautiful! He was covered in some wires and a CPAP but he was still beautiful. I couldn't hold him but I could place my hands on him. And it was that way for another day or so. But soon when he was off the CPAP I was able to hold him. 

Ulises and I would go down every 3 hours to hold our baby and feed him. He lost some weight ( which is normal) and went down to about 5.5 lbs. It was a really stressful time trying to get him healthy enough to go home.The days kept dragging on. We were at the hospital for 5 days until they released him-- but in the end we got to take home a beautiful, small, healthy baby boy.

My recovery has been wonderful and horrible at the same time. The first few days after the c-section were quite painful. Ulises felt helpless that he couldn't ease my pain. He helped me walk and sit and stand and get in and out of bed. That was the worst. ( and the gas in the shoulders....) But within a few days it was manageable. And by the time we left the hospital I had recovered quite completely to be honest. I know that that is seldom the case so I should be grateful. But I felt quite whole. Just an incision and some staples to take care of. I haven't needed to take any type of pain medication whatsoever after I checked out of the hospital. I can do cartwheels!

My emotional recovery has been a little more difficult. I am learning to see my role as mother in a different light. I sometimes feel like I cheated in some way. Here I am a mother who has never felt a single contraction or labor pain. Feeding my child and caring for a premature infant and trying to overcome all the challenges that our extended separation had caused has been incredibly, incredibly challenging for me. My body didn't experience birth nor its natural extensions as I had expected, and it has been something very difficult to accept. 

To overcome some of these feelings of inadequacy I savor every moment I have to bond with my baby in additional ways. Maybe I didn't get those "love hormones" from a natural birth. Maybe I didn't get the 1 hour of uninterrupted skin to skin contact that I wanted. Maybe breastfeeding isn't an option for us.  But I CAN stare deeply into my baby boys' eyes and sing him lullabies. I CAN massage his little feet and hands as I feed him during those quiet morning hours. I CAN rock him to sleep and soothe him with my voice--a voice he knows and recognizes. I CAN rush to his aid and be the first responder and best comforter when he is uncomfortable, hungry, or restless. And I CAN and WILL do many more things over the next couple decades as he grows up, to more than compensate for some of these experiences I feel I missed out on.

Will I try for a natural birth for future pregnancies? You bet. Will I let whatever my experience is define me? Not at all!

I love little Walter. He is a blessing and light in our lives. I call him my angel baby. He hardly wakes crying and is so easy to please. He lets us sleep a good amount of time and is so happy sitting in our arms. He is fattening up and is making the cutest faces. He has his own spirit and personality in that little body. I stare at his face whether awake or asleep and I think "Wow, this little person was INSIDE me!" I see his face and think that he is part of me-- that I contributed to his existence. Part of Ulises is in him to! yet he is his own person with his own special gifts and abilities that we can't wait to discover as he grows.  ( BTW, no one told me how much I would mourn every single day that passes as he 'grows' up. The day I discovered that his eyelashes finally grew in felt like I was sending him off to college)

Walter isn't out of the woods yet. He still has some mild and treatable health 'problems' that the doctors are addressing. But the reality is he will be just fine. he is Wonderful. Perfect!

I can't wait for my mom and dad and all my siblings to meet him. It's been hard having a life experience like this so far away from my own family. A girl misses her own mom a lot when she becomes a mom! So right now I am hoping that little Walter won't grow TOO big before we go to the USA for my family to meet him. But at the same time I am so happy that he is finally eating well, putting on some weight and becoming a little more fleshy. He was so skinny at first but  now when I look at his rosy round face, I feel so happy and blessed.

Walter is our little angel. We love him so much and when you meet him, I am sure you will too!

Thanks to you all for your thoughts, prayers and congratulations you have extended! We appreciate it so much.

and now? PICTURES!

My first time really holding Walter

Look how small his head is in Ulises hands!

Walter and his cousin!!

In premature clothing. It no longer fits him!

In his dad's (Ulises) premature sweater that his Grandpa (Daniel) knitted when Ulises was a premature baby.

Newborn clothes are a bit big

First Bath

He was so skinny! Don't worry, He's fattened up!

He sleeps like this a lot. And it's how he was in utero.