This post is divided into two parts.
Part One = the first part of week 37, when I anticipated a week 38 and 39 of pregnancy.
Part Two = the second part of week 37, when we all realized that 37 weeks was as far as I’d get in this pregnancy.
We are officially out of the pre-term phase of pregnancy, people.
Which means baby can come out anytime now and have excellent chances of being 100% healthy.
So, come out now, Baby.
First things first: stats.
At 37 weeks, baby is the size of a…
Here’s the size of her hand:
So, because of my cholestasis scare, I have been doing nothing but staying awake all night and begging this child to come out of me.
Cholestasis can lead to stillbirth, and for some reason I have this immense fear that I’m going to lose Baby Girl before she can make her debut into the world.
Seriously, everyone, the anxiety is crippling. I spend all day and night worrying. I’m coming undone. I don’t know WHY I am freaking out so much, but I can’t help it. I can feel panic attacks just floating below the surface of my being at all times.
JUST START CONTRACTING, UTERUS!!!!
JUST START COMING OUT, BABY!!!!!!
I just have this feeling that she will be infinitely safer in the world than in my uterus. I don’t know why! I just have this GUT-WRENCHING feeling that that is the case!!!!!
I found out at my first 37-week appointment (yeah, I had TWO this week) that I am still 50% effaced, BUT! I am officially dilated 1 cm!
My body is slowly progressing toward labor.
I’ve been having a ton of Braxton Hicks contractions, but nothing that leads me to think I am actually going into labor, unfortunately.
I spend my days awake, scratching my skin, and I spend my nights awake, petting baby Rucker, scratching my skin, and researching ways to shove my body into labor.
Unfortunately, I seem to have discovered everything there is to know about natural induction methods, so……..no additional hope of encouraging Baby’s entrance into this world has surfaced.
Remember? I stopped Evening Primrose Oil and Red Raspberry Leaf Tea because of the crazy itchiness I’ve been experiencing. I needed to see if it died down after I ceased consuming those supplements. It has NOT ceased. But I am still holding off on taking them, since I don’t know for sure if anything is wrong with my blood right now and I’m waiting for the labs to come back telling me whether it is.
I have never been so stressed out in my life. It can’t be good for Baby, but I can’t help it.
I would DIE. I would simply shrivel up and perish if something happened to my baby girl and WE COULD HAVE JUST TAKEN HER OUT A LITTLE EARLIER TO PREVENT ANYTHING FROM HAPPENING.
I am going to do whatever I can to get these doctors to push up my induction. I need this baby out. I just need to see her little chest rise and fall with my own eyes.
Anyway, at my appointment, the doctors couldn’t determine if I had cholestasis without running blood tests, so they took three different vials of my blood to test for cholestasis and gall bladder things and other things. There were three vials being sent off to the lab.
My OB put a rush on all of the tests (she wasn’t sure if the cholestasis test would be back by Thursday). She then told me she wanted me to return to see her in two days (instead of a week later, like I’d usually do).
(I also had an ultrasound at my Tuesday appointment to obtain a biophysical profile of Baby to make sure she’s okay. Everything looked good.)
MY concern after that appointment (besides my general sense of crippling Baby’s Survival Anxiety) was that Baby Girl was measuring 37 weeks via fundal height this time. AGAIN. She’s measured 37 weeks for THREE WEEKS IN A ROW.
Apparently, this isn’t a big deal?
I made sure to ask about 7 times to confirm. And the doctors reassured me that, because Baby Girl has dropped low into my pelvis, this throws off measurements moving forward.
Also a concern of mine? I lost 2 pounds since my last appointment.
Why am I not getting fatter?
Another concern of mine?
THE ITCHY, ITCHY HANDS I HAD WHEN I RETURNED HOME FROM THE OB.
It wasn’t just my hands. It was all over.
I was crawling out of my skin, so I hopped in the shower and slathered lotion all over when I emerged. It helped for a little bit.
Anyway, before I left my first 37-week appointment, my OB told me this:
“If at any point between now and Thursday you feel less fetal movement, go straight to the hospital. Enter through the ER. And, if at any point you even sense that something is off, that is what we like to call ‘mama’s intuition,’ and it’s the strongest, most reliable tool you’ve got right now, so you head straight to the hospital. We will just take her right out if anything’s awry. She’s 37 weeks, so she is ready to come out.”
So I left that Tuesday appointment feeling confident about skyrocketing myself to the hospital if necessary, and I left feeling more anxious in my entire life to keep my infant as safe as possible with incessant shaking to monitor her movement.
I got home and I was so stressed out, my mom told me, “48 hours. You just have to make it through 48 hours.”
I decided that, when I went back to my OB two days later, if my cholestasis test results weren’t in, I was going to insist that they take this child out sooner rather than later and see what my OB had to say.
I also decided that, if she wasn’t so willing to bump my induction date up, that I would insist she do a membrane sweep at 37 weeks.
Now, I know many of you are sitting in your chairs/standing in your shoes frowning at me for forcing Mother Nature’s hand and possibly endangering my baby by demanding things before Baby is “ready to come out.” I can just tell you right now that I am far too stressed out to deal with anyone telling me what to do, so keep your admonitions to yourself for now, please!!!
If my doctor agrees to do something, then I trust that it’s an OKAY thing to do. Don’t tell me otherwise!!!!!
Clearly, I am not in a stable place right now, so just bear with me!
On Wednesday, things seemed pretty good. I was really tired from not sleeping, since I was awake all night shaking my infant to guarantee a response, but I was awake. I did feel like garbage, though.
Nauseous, tired, lots of bathroom trips. You know the drill. Just a general feeling of crap.
But no itch!
Then, night hit.
And my god, did I want to crawl out of my skin and leave it in a pile to burn forever.
I was trying to be so still in the bed and just GO TO SLEEP, but I couldn’t, because my FEET itched and my WRISTS itched and my ANKLES itched and my NECK itched and every time I felt like I had scratched to the point of relief, I would feel another prick on my foot that said ITCH ME FURIOUSLY.
It was awful. And it only got worse as the night progressed. Eventually, I fell asleep around 11:30PM, but I woke up at 12:30PM for a bathroom break, which is like the Dagger of Death to a itchy person.
I was up itching for TWO HOURS before I finally resigned myself to the couch in hopes that Husband could get some shuteye without my annoying itching disturbing his mattress.
I WAS LOSING MY MIND.
IT WAS LIKE TORTURE.
AHHHHHHH IT WAS SO AWFUL. Lotions didn’t help. I contemplated hopping in the shower at 3AM just for some relief! It was so, so terrible.
Finally, at 5:30AM, I fell asleep.
And when I woke up at 7 to get ready for my OB appointment, I was an absolute wreck.
I just couldn’t take it anymore. The stress of not knowing what was happening to Reese PLUS the stress of the itching PLUS the stress of wondering if it was all in my head was just shriveling me up like a miserable raisin.
I warned Husband that I had been up all night itching, just so he knew that we might get some unexpected news at the OB and need to adjust our schedules accordingly.
While driving to my OB and itching my wrists, I decided that I was going to INSIST they induce me. Mentally and emotionally, I was just drained, and I couldn’t take the responsibility of shaking Baby Girl awake all night long for one more day. I was going to crack and crumble into a million pieces soon. I just had to get that baby out of me. I just HAD to.
When they took me back for my blood pressure reading, it was 158/98. Usually, my BP is 117/80 (or something in that range).
Also, I lost ANOTHER pound.
So, there I was, sitting in that little office waiting for the doctor to come in, and trying to calm down.
She did come in, and she checked my cervix (I was dilated half a centimeter more than I had been on Tuesday, so 1.5 cm – but I was still 50% effaced).
Then, she told me she was going to get my actual OB (I see a PA and my real OB when I attend appointments) and bring her into the room to discuss my labs.
I told her that my itchiness had only gotten worse, and that the night prior I only got about 3 hours of sleep because I couldn’t stop itching my skin all over.
She left the room and came back 10 minutes later.
“I talked to Dr. Voss, and she wants to send you to Labor and Delivery.”
“Yes. Your liver enzymes came back elevated in your blood, and that can be a sign of cholestasis, so we want to send you to the hospital for fetal monitoring and for more tests.”
That’s the point when I started to cry. With fear and relief.
FINALLY, I would be going to the hospital where they could take great care of my baby girl and make sure she survived.
FINALLY, I wouldn’t have to spend another sleepless night at my house shaking my belly in the middle of the night and panicking because it takes over 5 minutes to get a response.
FINALLY, I had proof that there was something going on with my body, and the risks were great enough to admit me to L&D, which is exactly what I wanted.
So I cried some more because I hadn’t been sleeping so I was tired and because I was nervous to go to the hospital, and then I went to the E.R. down the road.
The woman behind the desk who checked me in was SO NICE. She was charming and she was making lots of jokes because it was clear that I was very anxious and in distress and trying very hard not to cry.
Then, I was wheeled to a beautiful room. Seriously, it was so spacious and it was filled with a delivery bed for me and lots of furniture for guests and a TV and a bathroom and lots of privacy.
I changed into my hospital gown.
That picture is the last picture I took of my pregnant side profile.
A very nice nurse came in and took about 5 vials of blood from me before strapping monitors onto my belly to monitor for contractions and to monitor Baby’s heart rate.
And then she left.
And I sat there on the bed, listening to my daughter’s heart rate and taking deep breaths and assuring Husband that he didn’t need to leave flight school to come to the hospital right away.
Naturally, everyone in my family and Husband’s family was concerned. But, really, I was okay. I wasn’t in any pain, and I was just lying on the bed having my blood drawn and an IV put in my wrist and waiting to hear some news about my labs.
I didn’t have to wait long.
Dr. Torrence (another doctor at my OB) came in and told me that my liver enzyme levels were even higher than they were when my OB drew my blood on Tuesday, so they were going to induce me that evening.
I was terrified and overjoyed all at once. I just knew Baby Girl needed to come out. I just knew it. And now, I was in a safe place where she and I were both being monitored, and soon, she would enter this world and leave my potentially hazardous body.
Husband arrived to the hospital around 4PM, and man, was I relieved to have someone with me.
He brought some things I asked for (since I had nothing, since I had no plans to deliver a baby that day/weekend), and then he brought a million other things I didn’t ask for but definitely needed.
I cannot even believe how fortunate I am to have the husband I do. He is the most incredible person. I want to cry just thinking about how lucky I am to have him. He’s so supportive and he’s my perfect companion.
At 7PM, they started Cervidil. I did some googling on the hospital bed and found out that, in some cases, Cervidil alone sends women into labor. That was my hope.
At 9PM, I started to have some real contractions. They really weren’t that painful, though. Husband waited around with me to see if they intensified to the point of sending me into labor, but eventually they died down for a while, so I sent him home to tend to our cute little Rucker puppy. Husband would be returning the next day as soon as it looked like Go Time, because he’s in flight school and if he misses any days, he could potentially get pushed back a class and have to retake an entire portion. So, of course, I wanted him to be in school when it wasn’t imperative he be at the hospital (imperative = baby is coming).
As soon as Husband left, my contractions returned. Tenfold. Holy crap.
For the next five hours, I experienced excruciating back labor accompanied by painful contractions that came every 2-5 minutes. Sometimes they hurt worse, sometimes they hurt less, but they were consistently AWFUL and I couldn’t even lie down on the bed, my back hurt so bad.
So, after nights of not sleeping because I was worried about the welfare of my infant, I spent the night in the hospital trying to walk through contractions, bending over the chair to breathe through them, and listening to music in attempt to distract myself from the incredible pain. The PAIN. I don’t know why, but I always thought that being induced = less pain. This was not the case for me.
I told the nurse that I was really struggling (to the point of crying), and she offered me IV pain meds. This was at 12PM. She told me if she gave them to me that I wouldn’t be able to shower before they started Pitocin in the morning. I really wanted that shower, but more than that, I really didn’t want to receive anything that might affect the 37-week-old baby inside me. She was doing so well on the monitors, and I didn’t want to make her sluggish or impact her resiliency any more than necessary before she made her debut into this world.
At 2AM, the nurse came back, and I was bent over a chair trying to breathe through a contraction. With tears in my eyes, I asked her if they gave me an epidural as soon as they started the Pitocin. I had heard horror stories about how Pitocin gave women VERY INTENSE and VERY PAINFUL contractions, and I was so exhausted and in so much pain, that epidural was the only thing keeping me going.
“Unfortunately, no, we don’t start it right away. We need to establish a labor pattern with contractions that are noticeably dilating your cervix before we can start the epidural.”
My heart dropped straight out of me and splattered on the floor and panic filled its gaping hole. I had to endure MORE contractions that were going to be WORSE than these ones before I would have relief? I had ZERO sleep and I was freaking out about having enough energy to make it through labor!
She could see the panic in my eyes, and she offered to remove the Cervidil from my cervix at 3:30AM instead of 4:30AM (Pitocin was scheduled for 5AM), and she said that, sometimes, when you remove it, the contractions die down. And maybe I would be able to get some rest. And I could have my shower sooner.
I said YES.
So, at 3:30, she removed the Cervidil way too quickly which was very unpleasant, and then she helped me to the shower.
Let me tell you, that was one of the best showers of my life. I stood under the water with the stream pounding into my lower back, and the relief was so incredible I didn’t want to get out. But I had to, because she specifically told me that I needed to be back in bed by 4:30AM.
Slowly, I got out of the shower and dressed and carefully walked back to the bed.
Unfortunately, the contractions never stopped. At some point, exhaustion overtook me, and I fell asleep for 20 minutes before the nurse came in to start my Pitocin at 6AM.
I was SO NERVOUS.
I watched her hook that devil stuff up to my IV, and I watched it drip into my bag, and I waited.
And nothing happened.
And, really, nothing happened. My Cervidil contractions had died down by that point.
So, for the first time since 10:15PM the night prior, only my back hurt. I wasn’t having any contractions. I was so relieved. I WAS SO HAPPY.
I was like, “Pitocin is awesome!”
I even texted this ludicrous sentiment to my mom and sister.
What a fool.
By 7AM, the contractions started back up, but they had a slow start, and mild peak, and a noticeable descent. So I was still feeling awesome.
When Dr. Torrence came in to break my water at 9AM, the contractions were getting stronger, but still, NOTHING compared to those terrible Cervidil contractions. The nurse kept coming in and cranking up my Pitocin.
Anyway, Dr. Torrence warned me that sometimes, when the waters are broken, the contractions REALLY start and the woman’s body jumps right into active labor.
She checked my cervix (which was still at a disappointing 1 cm despite ALL OF THOSE CONTRACTIONS ALL NIGHT LONG). She said that I was a little more effaced, though, (70-80%), which meant the Cervidil did its job, because apparently Cervidil doesn’t dilate you, it just effaces you.
While checking my Cervix, she “helped me along” by trying to stretch it out. Friends I cannot even describe the force of will I exerted to prevent a scream when she did this. Cervidil all night long = raw cervix. GAH.
Then, she broke my water with a little hook which was painless. Gush everywhere.
She cleaned up and left and the nurse followed her out, and that’s when the most terrible pain I’ve ever experienced happened.
IN A ROW, I had FIVE HUGE, unstoppable, high peak contractions.
I couldn’t breathe.
A lab tech came in to take more blood, and I couldn’t even talk to her.
I couldn’t BREATHE.
Oh my GOD, the pain.
Tears in my eyes. My pelvis was filled with shards of glass that were shooting around all over and ripping me in half.
FINALLY, the fifth one happened, and I had some relief for 2 minutes before the next one started.
AND IT WAS WORSE.
The nurse came back, and I asked her through labored breaths when we could start the Epidural.
And she said she would get the process started right away!
Right away wasn’t fast enough.
The contractions continued to strengthen. I squirmed in that bed while we waited for a bag of fluids to enter my system. Once they had, we just needed the anesthesiologist to come in.
The nurse sat with me the entire time we waited and helped me breathe through the pain. She kept telling me to relax my shoulders and breathe through the contractions, but if you’ve ever had a contraction, you know that all you want to do is hold your breath and squeeze your whole body until the disastrous pain passes.
FINALLY, the anesthesiologist came into my room. I say finally, but really, from the time those five crazy contractions hit me to the time he came to my room, I think a half hour had passed. Very fast response.
I had to sit on the edge of the bed hunched over while he worked. And he was going to work through my contractions. Which meant I had to sit very still while my pelvis and back cracked into a million pieces and tore themselves from my body.
That’s when I started to sob.
The nurse said, “Are you crying because you’re in pain?”
And I shook my head.
“Are you crying because you’re overwhelmed?”
And I nodded.
It was just that I was all alone in that hospital experiencing the worst pain I had ever endured and going through an experience I had only dreamt about while receiving procedures I was unfamiliar with and the whole time, I was just trying to keep it together.
That wonderful nurse Debbie, she held my shoulders through the contractions while the anesthesiologist worked, and she talked me through the pain, and, finally, the anesthesiologist was finished.
And a contraction came back, and I panicked.
And that amazing nurse Debbie, she told me I would still feel a few more before it kicked it.
Eventually, the pain subsided, and I asked her if I was still having contractions, and she pointed to the monitor and said, “You’re having one right now!”
And I almost cried tears of relief because I watched that contraction come and go, and all I felt was a tiny bit of pressure at the very top of my uterus.
I forgot to mention that Husband and I told my mom she needed to fly to Alabama ASAP to get there for the birth.
So, she did. Because she’s the best mom ever.
And she arrived at the hospital at 11AM, which was about 45 minutes after Husband got there.
After the epidural was set up, nurse Debbie checked my cervix again and said, “Wow! You’re dilated to 4 cm now, and you’re 100% effaced!”
I was shocked and elated.
She said, “There, at least you know that the intense contractions you just endured actually did something!”
No kidding! Excruciating pain = effective pain.
The next few hours were a blur.
Every time nurse Debbie checked me, I was dilated a centimeter further.
Husband was going to return to class, but nurse Debbie grew increasingly concerned that this baby was going to shoot out of me before he would have time to return for the birth.
She told him she would check me before he left for his 1PM class, just to give him an idea of whether he would be able to make it back in time.
When she did, I was at a 7-8.
She said, “I really don’t think you have time.”
So, he stayed!
Then, nurse Debbie brought in a peanut ball (like a yoga ball shaped like a peanut), helped me turn to the side, and put it between my legs.
I told her 10 minutes into the peanut ball that I felt like the baby was in my vagina.
She checked me, and, sure enough, I was at a 9.
We removed the peanut ball and she set up the labor stirrups and told Dr. Torrence that the time was nearing.
She checked me after I told her I was feeling lots of pressure down below, and I was at a 10.
Seriously, this was all happening at 10 minute intervals.
Dr. Torrence finally arrived around 2PM, and they set everything up, and when it was time to push, I pushed.
Six pushes later, Reese Cameron McInnis popped out into this world at 6 pounds 15.5 oz (rounded up to 7 lbs.) and 20″ long.
(This is me, pushing. It doesn’t look like I’m pushing. Apparently this is how I look giving birth. I assure you that I thought my face would be covered with broken blood vessels when I was through.)
I was expecting to be consumed with love and ecstasy when she came out, but honestly, I was just 100% bewildered. I just stared at that little infant trying to comprehend what just happened and what she was and where I was. It was like the twilight zone.
Slowly, the ooze of love started to fill me, and it came on fast and quick and next thing I knew, all I could think about was how, if anyone ever tried to take this baby from me, I would literally commit murder. Happily. I would wipe out entire civilizations to protect this infant. She was suddenly the most incredible thing about this world, and every moment before she arrived was totally irrelevant. Nothing mattered. She mattered and that was IT.
Look at my family. My beautiful family.
As soon as Reese (man, it feels good to finally type her name!) showed signs of hunger, nurse Debbie showed me how to get her to latch, and that incredible 37-weeks-and-2-days baby latched right onto my boob and sucked away.
And we have had ZERO issues breastfeeding ever since. She’s an incredible feeder. She’s just perfect.
So, since this is turning into the world’s longest blog post, I am going to start summarizing.
The hospital stay
About Reese: she was perfect. She received 9s on her initial and 5-minute APGAR tests post-birth. She had zero issues breathing (I received two steroid shots in my butt during my hospital stay to help her lungs along). She was alert, happy, and feeding well. Her entire hospital stay, she was a happy, calm baby.
About Brooke: the reason I delivered her early is because of my liver enzyme levels. They were still elevated while I was in the hospital, and they wanted to run more labs and do an ultrasound of my liver and gallbladder. Finally, my numbers went down slightly on Saturday. Sunday, they did the ultrasound. I had “sludge” in my gallbladder, which is normal for pregnancy because of the pressure the uterus puts on the gallbladder, but my liver looked fine. The GI doctor told me that he suspects it’s Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. My liver doesn’t respond as well as other pregnant women’s livers do to pregnancy hormones. So, it was good that we removed Reese when we did. The cure to Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy is completion of the pregnancy.
On Sunday, my numbers were slightly higher than the day before, but since I had zero pain, itching, fever, blood pressure issues, or nausea, the GI doctor told me he was going to release me. He said my numbers would SLOWLY go back down, so he just wanted me to return to his office a week after the birth to run my blood again and make sure they were still going down. Obviously if any symptoms popped up, I would need to report them and possibly go back into the hospital.
(So far, no symptoms have returned. Hopefully my numbers are back down at my appointment next week.)
Because I lost a few pounds toward the end of my pregnancy due to stress, my total weight gain was 22 pounds. Yeehaw! After my swelling went down and my milk came in, my weight has settled at 6 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. I cannot BELIEVE that this is where I’m at. I definitely tried to take care of myself and keep my weight reasonable throughout my pregnancy with diet and exercise, and that struggle was TOTALLY worth it. I feel like my labor went quickly because 1. Reese was ready to be born (the doctors and nurses all said that I wouldn’t have progressed so favorably if my body wasn’t ready to give birth) and 2. because I was in shape and ready to power that baby out of me.
This is my belly 6 hours after I had Reese (compared to a week before I had her):
So, we left the hospital on Sunday at 5PM and settled in at home. Baby Rucker was all about sniffing the daylights out of his new sister.
We had an appointment with the Pediatrician on Tuesday morning.
Until then, I fed Reese and changed her and held her and my mom helped me with everything while Husband was at flight school all day. Thank GOD my mom has been here.
We’ve reached the part of my birth story that I am going to have a hard time writing.
I am literally sitting here with cortisol coursing through my veins just thinking about having to recount this for you.
I think it started the night I returned with Reese to my house, because that night, I had my first sobbing moment. I just sobbed and sobbed. The nurse had warned me about baby blues, so I assumed it was normal.
The next day (Monday), I sobbed some more. At random times, for reasons and for no reason, I would just cry and cry. I couldn’t even hold Reese or look at her without feeling the worst panic I had ever felt. I truly felt like my emotions toward her were so intense I couldn’t handle them. I loved her SO MUCH and at the same time, the idea of taking care of her overwhelmed me so significantly that I had to give her to my mom to hold because I just couldn’t. And the worst part of all of it was the guilt, because I HATED feeling that way toward my baby.
Tuesday morning, we took Reese to the pediatrician, Dr. Ernest. The nurse checked Reese’s jaundice level, and when Dr. Ernest came in, she told me that Reese’s level was so high they would have to draw blood and send it to the labs to be tested that day. Then she looked at me and told me that, if the blood levels were above 16.9 (the light flash test showed 17.1), Reese would have to be readmitted to the hospital.
I was already having tons of anxiety about her, and when I heard that she might have to go to the hospital, I sobbed. Right there in the office.
The nurse collected a vial of her blood and my mom and I drove it (and Reese) to a nearby hospital to have it tested STAT.
Taking Reese anywhere gave me HUGE anxiety. So there I was, driving in an unfamiliar area with my infant PRAYING she didn’t start crying while I was driving because that was the WORST trigger for my angst, and I was doing all of this to see if we needed to take her back to the hospital.
It was just an awful, awful morning.
We got back to the house with Reese, and we received a call from the doctor.
“You need to take Reese to the hospital. We are on the phone with the ER to let them know you’re coming. You can start heading that way now.”
Devastation. Devastation consumed me and I sobbed and sobbed in my kitchen.
That amazing mother of mine held my baby and me and she told me tons of calming things like how Reese would be put under noninvasive lights and how we would be in good hands and everything would be okay.
She helped me pack a diaper bag and put Reese in her carseat.
I think I cried on the way to the hospital. I think I cried in the hospital. I think I never stopped crying.
We arrived and were admitted and the pediatrician came in and told us that he really wasn’t that concerned. Apparently her level was high but not TOO high. He was confident the lights would work and we would leave the next morning.
Interestingly, once we were in the hospital and Reese was under the lights, I finally calmed down.
Reese was under those lights for 12 hours. She really started to squirm and kept knocking her protective goggles off, so Mom and I took her out and held her for the last hour.
They came in and took more blood to test her jaundice levels again.
***I should mention that the only way babies get rid of jaundice is by pooping it out. So it was important that I feed her as much as possible – NO LONGER THAN THREE HOURS BETWEEN FEEDINGS – so she could poo as much as possible. Reese did phenomenally. I fed her almost every 2 hours and she pooed a whole lot.
While we waited for Reese’s labs to come back that night, so did Reese. She waited with us.
This baby was ALERT.
Honestly, she was alarmingly alert.
WAYYYYY too alert for a newborn.
I don’t know how I knew, but I said to my mom, “I have a bad feeling about tonight.”
The thing about jaundice is that it makes babies sleepy.
So…by cooking the jaundice out of her…the real Reese was coming back to us. Not sleepy Reese. She was gone.
The labs came back, and her levels were down to 10.something! Which was amazing! The lights were so effective that they turned them off and told us we would wait until morning and test her again to make sure they didn’t go back up, and if they didn’t we would be discharged in the morning.
So, after this baby stared around the room for TWO HOURS, she exhibited signs of sleepiness, and I swaddled her, put her in her bassinet, and my mom and I closed our eyes.
Minutes later, Reese was SCREAMING.
RED PINCHED FACE, EAR-PIERCING, WAKE UP THE WHOLE HOSPITAL SCREAMING.
The nurse came in, the screaming was so loud. She probably thought we were torturing Reese in there. Nope!
We were NOT torturing her. We were bouncing her and patting her and rocking her and trying to give her the boob and swaddling her and walking her around and burping her and NOTHING WAS CALMING THIS BABY DOWN.
It was terrifying. I literally thought that we had fixed the jaundice and that THIS was my real baby. This was the real Reese. Now that she wasn’t lethargic, this is how she was going to be forever. I just mentally prepared myself and tried desperately to shove a pacifier in her mouth which she rejected through screams.
The nurse returned AGAIN (that’s how long Reese screamed for), and asked if I was willing to try a pacifier. I looked at her with desperation in my eyes and said, “I tried to give her one that we brought, but she wouldn’t take it. Do you have another option?”
She did, and she brought us this glorious little pacifier that Reese TOOK. And it calmed Reese down.
And THEN. THEN she told us that, sometimes, babies come out from under those jaundice lights and they are little monsters.
SHE WAITED UNTIL I WAS CONVINCED I HAD A DEMON BABY ON MY HANDS TO TELL ME THIS.
Finally, finally, I swaddled a (now calm) Reese and put her in her bassinet and she fell asleep (and so did I).
I woke up 2.5 hours later and she was making her cute little grunty noises that indicate hunger is near, so I picked her up and tried to put her on my boob (pacifier had fallen out at some point), and she wouldn’t latch.
She would latch, and then she’d stop sucking. Or just drop my boob.
I tried for ten minutes to get her to latch, and the panic started building in me (I couldn’t catch a break from the panic!). I was like, oh no, the pacifier ruined the breastfeeding. Now she won’t latch ever again. How am I supposed to feed her?!?!?!?!?!?!?
I called the nurse.
She came in, and it took everything in me for me to explain without crying that I couldn’t get her to latch and that (at that point it had been three hours) Reese wasn’t feeding and IT WAS SO IMPORTANT THAT SHE FEED BECAUSE THAT’S HOW WE GET RID OF JAUNDICE.
The nurse summoned another nurse from the Nursery who came in to help me. At that point, Reese was a little screamy.
That Nursery nurse massaged Reese’s tummy to get things flowing, just in case Reese had gas. And then she helped me encourage Reese to take my boob, and then REESE TOOK MY BOOB!
The nurses left and I fed my girl and we both went back to sleep.
The next day, I was officially running on the least sleep I had ever gotten in my life, and the doctors ran Reese’s blood and her levels were great so we were discharged.
I was so glad to leave. This was Wednesday.
We were going to go to the store after we left the hospital because my house desperately needed groceries, but I started to have a panic attack in the backseat of my car (I was back there because I just needed to be able to calm Reese if she started crying, and my mom happy to drive).
Sometimes, my blood sugar just plummets and throws me into a panic. I think that’s what happened in the car. So I put my feet up and ate sugar and waited to calm down. We ended up skipping the store and going straight home.
Once we were home and I had calmed down, we decided to go to the grocery store.
I wrapped Reese in my Moby wrap and my mom and I headed into the store.
I should have known I was pushing myself too far.
The whole time I was in that store, I was experiencing wave after wave of panic. I kept telling my mom that we needed to go just a little bit faster.
Every time someone said something about my baby, I totally ignored them. I probably seemed like the world’s biggest yotch, but I didn’t care. No one was going to touch my baby and I just needed to get through that trip and get out of there.
My mom put all the items in the cart and pushed the cart and unloaded the cart and loaded the car and the whole time I just held my baby. How did I get a mother like this?
At one point, a woman shrieked, “OH MY GOD A BABY!” and she literally ran after me and tried to grab my shoulder to stop me, and I can’t even describe to you the animalistic surge that flew through my veins.
I walked right out of her grasp and totally ignored her and kept walking because I was like, leave me the f*#k alone, lady!!!!!! This is my baby and you back off right now or I will kill you. I will KILL YOU.
Who the hell approaches a mom like that?
Especially a mom who is struggling to breathe normally because she needs to get the hell out of that store?
The lady at checkout cooed at Reese and I seriously just covered Reese’s face and walked back toward my mom.
I hated everyone and I needed to get out of there so bad. My nether regions were pulsing with pain and I felt woozy from the cortisol flowing through my veins.
My mom got me home, and I cried. Because that’s all I could do.
I regret that trip so much and I just need to let it go. But I just hated everything about it and I’m never taking my irresistibly cute baby there ever again because STRANGERS think it’s okay to CHASE YOU DOWN THE AISLES and try to touch your baby.
That night, I cried and cried. I could feel anxiety pulsing from the center of my heart all the way down my arms into my hands. I spent the whole evening trying to breathe calmly and feeding Reese when she needed it and handing her right back to my mom and SOBBING because I just wanted to be happy and WANT to hold my little girl. I just wanted to be normal.
The next day was Thursday.
Thursday, I made a Facebook post about my baby blues/postpartum anxiety. Because I woke up feeling anxious and it wasn’t dissipating, and I just needed some help.
I received TONS of responses and all of them made me feel better. Apparently lots of moms suffer the same way I was after birth.
They said encouraging things like:
Baby blues last 2 weeks.
Everyone experiences them.
Call your doctor.
Ask your doctor about Zoloft because it worked for me.
I was riding an emotional high after that, totally reassured that my experience was normal and that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
It didn’t last.
Eventually, I was sitting on my couch, holding Reese, and I just started sobbing. I handed her to my mom and decided to call my doctor.
I had to leave a voicemail, and that voicemail was 80% sobbing and 20% explaining my situation.
I received a call-back at 4PM telling me that they were going to call in a prescription to my pharmacy for Zoloft.
I was SO RELIEVED.
And then I wasn’t.
The anxiety, it’s so hard to describe. Sometimes I would see something or think about something that would trigger it, and other times, I would be sitting on the couch minding my own business when I would feel that cool chill of angst ooze through my arms and chest, and all of it was sending me into panics.
That night was the worst.
I couldn’t calm down. My body was freaking out on me. Stupid hormones. Surge after surge of anxiety. Usually it would die down, but for some reason on Thursday, it was full-force blowing me over, and I couldn’t even CRY, I was so anxious.
I tried to go to bed to sleep it off, but I just lay there, panting in my bed and trying not to throw up.
It was torture.
I have never gone through something as difficult as this. I’ve never struggled so much or been so emotionally unwell. It was soul-crushing. I’m usually very put-together, and before Reese’s birth, I was the most relaxed version of myself I’d ever been. Which is what made my extreme postpartum angst even WORSE.
I was not anticipating the struggle. I had no idea it would be so bad. I couldn’t even function. If my mom wasn’t beside me 24/7, the panic would return. I was such a sad, crippled version of my former self, and it was all because of HORMONES.
Friday, we went back to the pediatrician who confirmed Reese’s excellently low jaundice levels (yay!).
After that, we went straight to the pharmacy to pick up my Zoloft. I took one right away. I was feeling pretty good that day anyway knowing relief was in sight, so we left Reese with Husband and my mom and I went to lunch.
That night, I found myself crying and anxious again. It took me a while to fall asleep. Of course, all of these terrible symptoms were exacerbated by the fact that I was not sleeping at all because I was so anxious and because I had a newborn whose adorable face required feeding throughout the night.
I love her so much.
On Saturday, I woke up and took another Zoloft pill (25 mg a day). I felt really great when I woke up – no anxiety at all.
As the day progressed, I could really feel the Zoloft kick in, which surprised me since everyone told me it would take a few weeks to start working.
Zoloft (to me) felt like waves of chemical happiness.
I honestly felt stoned, at first.
But then, the waves started to get really strong, and I felt really weird. My head felt heavy and light at the same time, and I could feel some cortisol coursing through my veins, but I was sort of numb to it. I started to cry from angst at one point, but I quickly recovered.
The surges got stronger and I felt so unlike myself that the way the Zoloft was making me feel made me more anxious.
I honestly couldn’t wait for it to stop. I just sat there trying to remain calm while I was all floaty and loopy and dumb.
Eventually it did stop, but I told my mom that I was going to try to NOT take a pill the next day and see how I did.
I just had a feeling that I wouldn’t have needed the pill all day long if I wasn’t on it.
I had a feeling that my crazy postpartum hormones were leveling out a little bit, and that I didn’t need a constantly working pill to keep me stable.
Of course, I couldn’t confirm this theory without testing it.
Which is where we are today!
Today, I feel AWESOME.
I have had a bunch of little surges of anxiety, but they have all been very manageable because THEY GO AWAY.
Of course, it’s ALWAYS worse at night, but I am going to see how I do. Worst case, I’ll take another Zoloft. But I’m really going to try to hold off if I can. What’s important is that I feel like I can hold off. Before today, I felt like I was going to die if I didn’t get some prescription-strength relief.
I AM SO HOPEFUL THAT MY HORMONES ARE WANING AND I AM LEVELING OUT.
I am also very sad. I look back on those dark, dark days and I could cry all over again thinking about how I was unable to enjoy and hold and snuggle my daughter because of how I was feeling. I am mourning that time I lost with her. It’s really hard to keep from getting sucked into a pit of despair when I think about it, so I try to remind myself that I sought help as soon as I thought I should, and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it or make it go away sooner.
Thankfully, I feel (more) capable of taking care of Reese HAPPILY and in a CAREFREE manner. I could always take care of her, even in my darkest moments – it was just that I would have to do so while breathing deeply and trying not to cry.
I’m still in the thick of it, and I am not sure if it will get worse and/or if I will need to try a different drug, but for the first time since the baby blues hit me, I really feel like myself. Especially now that the Zoloft is out of my system.
I now hold and snuggle my darling baby girl and love on her like I WANT to. She’s so amazing. I had no idea I was capable of such ferocious love.
Here’s what I look like now.
My one-week-post-birth figure is due in large part to the terrible anxiety I’ve been having, so that’s my secret. Postpartum hormones. They do wonders for the waistline.
Thank goodness I’m breastfeeding, because if I didn’t have the motivation to eat for Reese’s milk supply, I wouldn’t have eaten at all.
I am hopeful the worst is over.
SO, THIS IS MY LAST POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yes, I’m still going back to school to be a nurse.
I can’t really think about it without panicking right now, but I am still going to set myself up to return to school this winter. Reese will be with her wonderful, wonderful Grammy when I am at school/doing homework, and my mom is so incredible that I feel 98% as good when Reese is in my mom’s arms as I do when she’s in mine. I wouldn’t be able to return to school without my mom’s help.
Thank you so much for sharing this (TWO YEAR) journey with me. What a whirlwind. Maybe I’ll be back in the blogging world when life calms down and I’m a nurse and I have a few more babies.
Until then, I wish you the very best. Thank you for hanging out with me every week and letting me share my life with you. I’ve grown in many ways through this blog, and I attribute that growth to YOU.
Until we meet again! ♥