Friday, February 5, 2010


As I laid there getting sewn up, the pediatrician came over to talk to me.  "Mommy, your baby is having a little trouble breathing.  We're going to take her the NICU to get her in better shape."

One of the main reasons I wanted to have a homebirth was so that stranger wouldn't call me "mommy".  It seems kind of petty, but I want adults to call me by name.  How long does it take to check my chart?  People called me "mommy" throughout our stay in the hospital.  It just gave me a creepy, dominatrix-type feeling.  I'm not your mommy! Ew!

Joan took Coleen down to the NICU and I got wheeled into recovery.  I chatted with the nurse.  As I laid there, numb from the waist down, all I could think was, "I want a do-over."  It was 1 hour after the birth of Hazel and I was already thinking about the next baby.  To say I was sad about having a c-section is an understatement.  It was a supreme disappointment.  We had spent so many hours talking and dreaming about a calm, private birth in our living room and I ended up with an alien abduction.

Coleen and Joan came back to recovery and gave me the update on the baby - they put her on c-pap machine to help her breathe.  Honestly, I was still in shock that she was a "she".  I was SURE we were having a boy.  Three other women at my work were pregnant and all of them were having girls.  Statistically the chances were so low (what, 6%?) that all four of us would be having girls.  But, it was a bit of a relief.  When we first arrived, the resident asked us if the baby was a boy were we going to have him circumcised.  Yet another decision we thought we had more time to make!

Joan explained that at St. Vincent's, to get a private room, you have to pay for it.  $350 a night.  With a shared bathroom.  But, if we didn't get a private room Coleen would have to leave every night at 10pm and not come back until 10am.  We opted for the private room.  Joan also assured us that the baby was fine.  She told us that for a 35-weeker she was big and breathing well.  She thought the baby wouldn't be in hospital for long.

After Coleen went and paid, we were set up in our private room - which had an incredible view of Greenwich Village.  For $350 a night, Coleen got a bed that looked like this and we would have had to pay extra to turn on the TV (we did not).  Since Hazel's birth, it's been announced that St. Vincent's is going out of business.  After charging us $55,000 for my c-section, $45,000 for Hazel's stay, and $1,500 for a crappy room how is this possible?!  But, I digress.  Once in our room I rested and Coleen started making phone calls to family and friends.

Later that day the lactation consultant came in to talk to me.  Because the baby was still on c-pap, she suggested that I start pumping every 2 hours.  We could take the colostrum down to the NICU and they would feed it to her.  She got me set up with a breast pump kit and showed me how to work the machine.

Coleen wheeled me down to the NICU where we got to see the baby again.  Because of the swine flu we had to wear gowns and latex gloves every time we went to see her.  She was in an isolette with a million tubes going in and out of her.  I took a picture and sent it to family and friends.  Thank goodness I had just gotten a new phone with a camera and internet!  All I saw when I looked at the baby, was her perfect face and full head of hair and I didn't realize that the picture would probably stress people out.

Those three days I spent in the hospital are kind of a blur.  Here are some of my strongest memories:

I set my phone to wake me up every 2 hours to pump.  I was exhausted and I was only semi-conscious.  Waking up Coleen during that first night.  I NEEDED to see the baby.  She wheeled me down at 2AM.  Why would you put the NICU on a different floor from Postpartum?

On the second day Coleen left to go home and get our stuff.  Since Hazel was so early and we were planning a homebirth, we had no bag packed.  She was gone for 7 hours.  Four hours were spent at home.  What were the other 3 hours?  Looking for parking.  Seriously.  Only in New York does a hospital not have a parking lot.

While Coleen was gone, I asked one of the nurses to take me down to the NICU so I could deliver the colostrum I pumped.  Each day in the NICU, Hazel had a different nurse.  I took this as a sign of her good health!  When I got down to the NICU, the nurse introduced herself - Sandra.  I gave her my colostrum (about 20mL) and she said, "That's it?  You know the baby has to eat, right?"  Of course I started to cry.  I had just spent the entire night pumping and having the colostrum delivered.  My baby was not with me.  And this woman was berating me for not making enough colostrum.

When Coleen got back to the room, she told me that they let her hold the baby!  They had taken her off the c-pap after a few hours and now she was off oxygen too!  So, I hobbled to the elevator and I finally got to hold her.  they pulled her out of the isolette, but she was still tethered to the machines by 5 different wire.  Just being with her made be pour buckets of sweat - Joan said it was hormonal.  It was so hard not to be able to touch her skin to skin.  When the nurses weren't watching I would sneak touches.  The lactation consultant had suggested pumping in the NICU with the baby.

When we got down there, I was still feeling upset about the colostrum incident so I told Coleen what happened.  The NICU is a pretty quiet place, but Coleen started getting loud.  She asked Sandra where the pump was.  Sandra said it was broken.  I asked if we could bring the pump down from my room.  "No, because of contamination."  I started to cry again.  Coleen said, "So she's not allowed to pump in the NICU?"  Coleen walked away and asked another nurse to help us.  She explained that the pump wasn't broken, I just didn't bring down the right parts.  We then watched her be completely nice and pleasant to the straight couple across the room.  Was Sandra a homophobe or just a terrible person?

Later that day, I was finally allowed to put her to my breast.  That chest to chest and skin to was so wonderful.  It was 24 hours after I wanted it to happen, but I finally felt like I had a baby.

I gradually got better and the Postpartum nurses were awesome.  It became clear that I would be checking out of the hospital and Hazel would be staying.  We checked out Wednesday and my mom was arriving on Friday.

Leaving Hazel in the hospital is the worst, hardest thing I've ever done.  As I sat in the lobby, waiting for Coleen to bring the car, I watched a teenage mom with her new baby in a carseat.  It all seemed so unfair.  I had done everything right during my pregnancy.  Exercised, ate right.  I was still biking to work the week before she was born!  Here I was going home with no baby and that girl got to take her baby home.  I just sat there in the lobby crying.  The only word I can think of is desolation.

After getting home, Coleen and I got into a system.  We would wake up and go to the hospital and spend all day there.  I would feed Hazel and then go pump, Coleen would hold her until the nurses made us put her down.  Repeat every 3 hours.  We usually got there around 9AM and left at 9PM.  At night I was still waking up and pumping.  We were both delirious.  When we weren't there we called to check in.  The first time I called, "Hi, this is Bethany Mills, Hazel's mom."  I was someone's mom!

There were two other babies in Hazel's area and they had both been in the NICU for months.  Honestly, I don't don't know how those parents did it.  Being home and not pregnant, but also not having a baby.  Part of me was surgically removed and living somewhere else.  I felt like a zombie.

Things got so much better once my mom arrived.  She made sure we were eating and helped Coleen clean the house.  And when Coleen had to go back to work the Monday, my mom took over Coleen's role in the nurse, pump, hold routine.

The last day Hazel was in the hospital, Coleen didn't get off work until 10pm.  They called me that morning and asked, "Would you like to take your daughter home?"  The night nurses were pissed that they had to do a discharge so we got the bum-rush.  But, that night Hazel and I were sitting in that same hospital lobby waiting for Coleen to pull the car around.  We had our baby!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hazel's Birth Story...

I've been teasing people for month now, saying I would start a blog. Well finally, here it is! My blog is going to start with a post about the biggest thing that's happened to us - Hazel's birth.

November 21st was a lazy, lazy day. I was finally starting to feel BIG and uncomfortable. Our friend Ashley (proprietor of NYCrochet) came over for brunch that morning. For the rest of the day we did NOTHING. Seriously, nothing. We took a 3-hour nap. I left the apartment to take Maggie to pee. We didn't even make dinner - we ordered out. We went to bed around 11PM.

Around 1AM I woke up to pee. At this point in my pregnancy I was waking up 3-4 times a night to pee, so this was no surprise. What was surprising was when I stood up and pee started to run down my legs. Anyone who's been pregnant can tell you that accidents happen. I would be lying if I said that in the 8 months I was pregnant I never peed my pants. But, previous pee incidents always involved a sneeze, a cough, a laugh, something like that. And it was usually a little pee leak. Not the gush that was running down my legs. With every step to the bathroom a little more leaked out. I left a trail of drops across the kitchen floor.

At this point I was starting to think, "Hm, this may not be pee." But, we had just finished a 5-session homebirth class and the instructor was very clear...if you think it's labor, it's probably not. Go back to sleep. Not to mention, I was 5 weeks away from my due date. So, I went and laid down again, but I couldn't go back to sleep. In a few minutes I had to "pee" again. This time when I got up to "pee" I made a puddle on the bedroom rug. And when I went to the bathroom, there was my mucous plug. At this point, Maggie (our dog) had started freaking out and sniffing the puddle. I decided to wake up Coleen. Coleen reminded me about going back to sleep, but I decided to call our midwife, Joan, just to be safe.

I explained the situation to Joan, whose response was, "Well, shit." She told us to go to the hospital and call when we got there. I knew the baby was breech, and as we got dressed I started to cry as I told Coleen I didn't want a c-section. On Friday Joan had told me not to worry about the breech position because we had weeks for the baby to move. I started to realize that we probably had days. Coleen took Maggie to backyard. I brought a towel to sit on in the car, because I was still leaking.

On the way to St. Vincent's (in Manhattan) I started to feel what felt like period cramps. Uh-oh. Contractions. They weren't strong. I checked the clock in the car and they were about 10 minutes apart. On the way over Coleen and I talked about what due date to tell them in the emergency room. I ovulate around Day 12 of my cycle - which is earlier than the classic Day 14. Based on my last period, my due date was calculated to be Jan. 3. We knew the date of conception, which would give me a due date of Dec. 28. The midwife stuck with the Jan. 3 date, so we'd have a little more time before they would need to induce me. Obviously that was not a problem anymore!

We found a spot right outside the hospital - which still impresses me. It was 1:30AM on a Sunday! I realized we came in through the wrong door when we met a security guard. I said, "I'm 35 weeks pregnant and I think my water broke. My midwife told us to come here." His response, "Huh?" 

This time I spoke r e a l l y s l o w l y, "I'm 35 weeks pregnant and I think my water broke. My midwife told us to come here." I think Coleen was surprised by my tone, but c'mon. I know we came in through the wrong door, but this is a g.d. hospital, man! A page was called and I got put in a wheelchair.

The page was a Eastern European lady, bright red brassy hair, in her mid-40's. She starts wheeling me and it quickly becomes clear that she doesn't know where Labor & Delivery is. She asks 2 or 3 people and then we are on an elevator. Once we're off the elevator she starts wheeling me down a VERY STEEP INCLINE and clearly almost loses control of my wheelchair. If I wasn't in labor already, I would have been after that! I was inches away from hitting the wall at the end of incline!

They got me set up in a room and the resident came in. She looked about 24 - a very tiny woman. Now, I look young too, so I'm not going to hold that against her. She was a very capable practitioner. But, she was wearing a hoodie over her scrubs which made her look even younger. She did a few tests and confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid. She did a sonogram and the baby was fine. (Phew!) But, I had lost so much fluid that they were not able to do an external version. I was definitely having a c-section.

In childbirth class they told us to ask a few questions about interventions - "is this necessary?" and "can it wait?" The answers were, "Yes, it's necessary." (Oh, Ina May - how I wished I was on The Farm at that moment!) and "Yes, it can wait. But, you're going to get a c-section whether or not we wait."

One of the nurses came in and told me the Joan was trying to get a hold of us. Apparently, I had turned the ringer down on my phone before we went to bed the night before. We told Joan what was going on, and she told us to wait to go into surgery until she got there. We started calling family and letting them know that the baby was coming.

The nurse (who was not very nice, I must say!) started my IV. My contractions were now 4 minutes apart. I was rolling onto my side during each contraction and vocalizing. I joked that it was really unfair to have contractions, seeing as I wasn't even going to get the birth I wanted. Joan arrived and explained to us what was going on. It made me feel so much better to have her tell us the c-section was medically necessary. She got Coleen set up with scrubs and in about 15 minutes I was getting an epidural.  

The epidural was one of the weirdest sensations of my life.  I kept thinking about two things - the first was alien abductions.  Laying there under the bright lights, completely numb to what was happening to the lower half of my body was surreal.  Five hours earlier I was in bed asleep and then here we were.  The baby was coming NOW.  My second thought was - why wasn't I feeling more emotional?  I kept thinking about this episode of RadioLab.  In it they talk about how paraplegics have less intensity of feeling.  That the sensations your body feels affect your emotions.  I told the anesthesiologist about RadioLab.  Seriously.  Either I am a giant nerd or I was in shock.  Probably a little of both.

Coleen could see the reflection of the surgery in a window in operating room.  An when the resident said, "Can you please hand me the bladder?" we were both thoroughly grossed out.  :)  We got a lot of mileage out of that story until Joan told us that a "bladder" is a bladder retractor, not my actual bladder.  Oh well.

When you watch a births on TV, you can see visible relief on the parents' faces when they hear the baby cry for the first time.  I can personally attest that Hazel's first cry was one of the sweetest sounds I've ever heard.  At that moment it hit me - our baby was 5 weeks early.  And her lungs worked.

Joan called Coleen over to meet the baby while I was getting sewn up.  They laid her down on the table and both her feet over her head.  She peed.  Her bladder worked too!  :)  Finally they wrapped her up and brought her over and laid her on my chest.  She was so tiny but her eyes were open.   All the emotions that I hadn't been feeling came on full force.  Our little baby was here.

My first day of parenting and I had already learned a great, big lesson: you can plan all you want, but you're no longer the one calling the shots.