Thursday, June 13, 2013

Summer's Birth Story

Summer was born Sunday, May 5th at 41 weeks (exactly one week late). I was to be induced Monday, the 6th. Actually, I had a choice between the Friday before or Monday. I chose Monday hoping I would go into labor on my own, and luckily I did. I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for months, but on Saturday evening they became more intense.

Saturday morning was our usual routine of breakfast and playtime. We went to one of our favorite parks/playground to enjoy the gorgeous weather and to spend time as a family before baby girl #2 would arrive. The park has a mile loop so when we arrived I walked a lap. I really wanted some one on one time to collect my thoughts and to enjoy the weather. It was more to relax and less of trying to "walk the baby out." I took this picture (with my new sunglasses) on my walk:

I joined Nick and Ellie at the playground. Ellie has been obsessed with the swings lately, always wanting to go "higher!" We played on the swings and the little slide for a while until we were too hot to stay any longer. Ellie went home with Nick to nap and I had a pedicure appointment. After my appointment I went next door to Corner Bakery and had a delicious salad on their outdoor patio. It was really nice to have some "me" time.

That evening we went to a neighborhood restaurant, West Avenue Grill. I had fish tacos. Note to self: on a chance I could go into labor that night remember to eat a meal with carbohydrates. The fish tacos were yummy, but needless to say, I was starving while in labor. My contractions started at 5:30 that evening at dinner. They came and went- intense, but not a minute long and not five minutes apart. We went home and I put Ellie to bed knowing this could be the night. I had to stop a few times during our book to ride out the contraction. Ellie looked a bit concerned, but she lifted up my shirt to kiss my belly. That's my girl. I snuggled with her a little longer and gave her extra hugs and kisses and told her I loved her more than just a few times.

I worked on a photo album on the computer for a while while noting my contractions were definitely not like the others. This contraction was all over my front and back and was painful. Around 10:15 I decided to watch TV, but at 10:30 I realized this could be the night and I should try to get some sleep. I slept on and off until 2am when I woke up with the most painful contraction yet. I timed them for an hour. They were a minute long and five minutes apart. It was a long sixty seconds. I focused on my breathing. After calling my Doctor and getting the approval to go to Labor and Delivery at the hospital I got dressed and ready to go. I called my Mom. She was our plan to come over and stay with Ellie; however, I knew she was supposed to run the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia that morning. "It was just a run," she said, and wanted to be with Ellie. Phew! No last minute change of plans. Thank you, Mom!

We arrived at the hospital at 4am and I was disappointed to find out I was only 2cm. But, I was in labor and my contractions were unbearable! The nurse suggested I walk for an hour around the floor so I did just that from 4:30-5:30. It wasn't easy. I had to stop for every contraction. And walking around an empty hospital floor is not very exciting. I missed Ellie already. Nick was already complaining of being tired. Seriously?! With 20 minutes left to walk he told me he had to go lay down in the room. I said OK- walking by myself was better than listening to him complain. I wish he could feel my labor pains! We laugh about it now. Typical guy, right?

Well, the walking worked! I was 4cm dilated! Such a relief, especially when I doubted the walking would even help. I was then moved to my delivery room and at 8:15am I received my epidural. I was happy to see that he was not the same guy that gave me the epidural with Ellie. Of course I remembered. My epidural didn't work with Ellie. No way was I going to let the same guy give me the epidural this time around. Fifteen minutes later, at 8:30, I was 5cm and 50% effaced. And, the epidural was working! Little did I know I would endure a horrible side effect (more on that below). I tried to get some sleep. Labor was progressing much quicker than it did with Ellie. At 9:45 I was 7cm and 80% effaced. That's when it all started to happen so quickly. Too quickly! At 10:00am I started feeling a lot of pressure and was nervous that the epidural had started to wear off. The nurse increased the dose. She told me that I could possibly be ready to push. She called the Doctor. At 10:30 I was 10cm and 100% effaced. I was ready to go. The Doctor started her preparation. I was shocked. Already?! I wasn't mentally ready. I mean, I pushed for over 3 hours with Ellie. I assumed it would be just as long or close to it. I told the Doctor I had to send a few texts. One to my Mom and Ellie, one to my Dad (who was driving back from a golf tournament in Maryland), one to my sister (in Texas), and one to my brother and sister-in-law. "Starting to push!" I wrote. My brother later asked me if that was actually me that sent the text. Yes, I replied. I had no idea it would only be for 20 short minutes! At 10:40 I started pushing and at 11:03 Baby Summer was here! I was able to grab her myself and pull her up on my chest. An incredible moment. A moment I will never forget. Just like the moment I first held Ellie. My daughter, my second beautiful daughter.

Ellie was our first visitor. She met her baby sister and was beyond happy. Her words exactly. "Happy," she told me. Tears of happiness. Thank goodness! She held Summer so carefully, touched her cheek, and kissed her head. She said, "aww." Nick and I couldn't stop smiling. She climbed up on my lap and gave me a hug and kiss. I missed her more than I can express. We gave her a special gift. A "congratulations on being a big sister" gift.

Our family then started pouring in. My dad made it back from Maryland after leaving at the first text message he received that morning. The only one missing was my sister, but for good reason. We missed you, Mia! 

It was then that I started feeling a headache come on, which then turned into a migraine. The Motrin didn't help. I figured it was lack of sleep the night before and my body's hard work. The rest of the day (and days) were a blur. My Nana stopped by Sunday night and I couldn't even enjoy her visit. I could hardly eat. I asked my nurse if my migraine could be a result from the epidural. "Only if it was done incorrectly," she said. Well, it worked, but the anesthesiologist did explain that he had to go back in after he had come out the first time. My nurse was adamant that it was not related to the epidural. The only relief I got was laying flat on my back. Every time I moved my bed up on an angle or got out of bed I felt like bricks were hitting against the side of my head. I've had migraines before, but they were nothing like this. And, I had to care for my baby. We sent her to the nursery to sleep during the night and the nurses brought her to me so I could breastfeed. The next morning I met my new nurse for the day, Jen. I told her my symptoms. She was 99% positive that it was a spinal headache, as a result of the epidural. I knew it! The only (temporary) relief of a spinal headache is laying flat on your back, as I had been doing. This applies pressure to the spinal column and stops the spinal fluid from leaking from the brain. She gave me a stronger pain medicine (I declined the Percocet) and suggested I drink a ton of water and caffeine. Check and check. The iced coffee I had Nick go out and get from Starbucks didn't help. She arranged a meeting with the anesthesiologist. After speaking with him I trusted his advice to receive a blood patch, in which they take blood from my arm and put it into the puncture hole from the epidural. The blood patch literally acts like a band aid and seals the hole to stop the spinal fluid from leaking. This is the only treatment. It was the blood patch or wait out the migraines, which could last for months. Knowing I also had a toddler to take care of I opted for the blood patch. I received the blood patch around 3:30 Monday afternoon. I was told that I would have to lay flat for 30 minutes afterwards in order for it to work. Jen, my nurse, stayed with me during the procedure since Nick wasn't allowed. Best nurse ever. She even complimented my pedicure and asked the color (fruit sangria, by Essie, by the way). The resident did the blood patch while being guided (by voice) by the Doctor I spoke with. I had a bad feeling about it when I learned she would be doing the procedure. Another note to self: speak up more often. She lifted my bed after 15 minutes. Wasn't I supposed to lay flat for 30 minutes? She "wanted to see if it was working." Nope, I replied.

I went home on Tuesday morning. Of course, I was trying to enjoy every minute with Summer. I tried to ignore my head as best I could. I put on her "Just Born" sticker I ordered from Etsy and took the usual "Going Home!" pictures. We were welcomed home with balloons and a banner handmade by Summer's cousins, Maeve and Sammy. Such a sweet gesture. The girls are so lucky to have such wonderful cousins.

It was a tough couple of days. I couldn't wait to come home from the hospital and see Ellie and adjust to a family of four. I looked forward to this time of bonding with my new baby. Instead, all I could really do was lay on the couch and nurse Summer. I allowed Ellie to watch "Super Whyy" just so I could snuggle with her on the couch. And me saying yes to TV is a special treat so Ellie was happy, too. Thank you to my Mom who filled our fridge with food and provided me with emotional support. Thank you to my Mom-in-law who took off work to help with Ellie during the day. And, a big thank you to my hubby who took off the week to help with the girls and, most of all, was so helpful and supportive with what I was going through.

I was able to receive a second blood patch on Thursday afternoon. The anethesiologist used X-ray guidance so he was able to see exactly what he was doing. I was very apprehensive that this would work. He told me it would and that I would feel immediate relief. This time I laid flat for an hour. It worked! It was amazing how normal I felt.

I wanted to share my story because I was never aware of the possible spinal headaches as a result of the epidural. It really scared me. I was afraid I would never get better and that I would live with reoccurring migraines for the rest of my life. I could not imagine. It put everything into perspective. It reminded me of the most important things in life- family and health. That Sunday was Mother's Day. I told Nick not to get me a gift this year (usually it's a spa gift card). My gift was our two beautiful and healthy daughters. I wanted to just enjoy our family on Mother's Day.

My Doctor told me that spinal headaches occur in only 5% of the population. That seems like a small number, but there are a lot of babies born everyday. After sharing my story with a few other Moms, I learned that it happened a lot more frequently. A friend of mine suffered from the spinal headache with her first baby and was never even offered a blood patch. This isn't meant to deter anyone from getting an epidural, but to raise awareness.

It's been five weeks since Summer was born and I've been feeling great. The rest of my recovery went well and I'm already back into running (well, just once a week). One of my main concerns with having Summer was Ellie's transition to having a sibling. I heard some awful stories. I heard the transition could take weeks, even months. I worried. It made me sad to think about Ellie's possible change in behavior. She really was a very loving, very happy two year old. Her and I had a very close relationship. I didn't want that to change. Thankfully, it hasn't changed. She is an amazing big sister. She is even more loving and even more happy- if that is even possible. She hasn't shown one ounce of jealousy even as the weeks go by. She loves giving her sister, "Fummer," hugs and kisses. She "shh's" her when she cries and says, "no cry Fummer!" It's funny that Nick and I have adapted this phrase of, "no cry, Summer!" Summer is also a very good baby, which also helps! While she sleeps peacefully during the day, Ellie and I can spend time alone and play. I always include Ellie in everything with Summer. I remind her what a great big sister she is and how much Summer loves her. And, how much her Daddy and I love her. We were right back on our schedule a week after Summer was born. We were at the playground with Summer covered in the stroller when she was one week old. I am very lucky and very thankful that all is going smoothly. I am also so lucky to have such amazing daughters and I love spending every minute of every day with them.

Thank you for reading! 
If you would like to read more about spinal headaches, click here.

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