Morning Star

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Avadya Esther Rose

After all the complications we had with this pregnancy, it was no surprise that we would have one last complication at our 36-week appointment when I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. I had been experiencing bad swelling around my ankles and after I had my blood pressure taken it did not occur to me that this could happen to us. I had been taking such good care of myself, eating well, not staying on my feet too-long with work. Looking back, I really had a hard time accepting that pre-eclampsia was something that just happens to pregnant women and that there wasn't anything I could have done differently. The words bed rest, seizure risk, and possible induction shocked me and after having a short panic of tears, our amazing mid-wives at Morningstar Birth Center took some blood, and sent us home with two giant orange containers in which I was to collect my urine in for 24 hours to be tested for protein. Oh yes, after the snoring and morning sickness, pregnancy remains glamorous!

In the meantime, while I was situated at home in bed later that evening, my mom made me some food, and Scott contacted our doula Ashley and my maternity-leave sub at school as there was now the possibility we would be induced that evening. While trying to calm down to some hypnobaby pregnancy affirmations, we waited anxiously for the results from the blood work. Meanwhile, Rachel, the amazing midwife we had seen that evening contacted Dr. Hartung in Hudson, Wisconsin to see if he would be open to taking me on as a patient despite being so late in the pregnancy. With the likeliness we would not be able to deliver at the birth center anymore, it was time to prepare ourselves for a change in plans, and I knew in my heart if we stayed in the cities, we would most likely end-up with a c-section and run the risk of baby ending up in NICU... NOT what I wanted unless medically necessary for baby and I. Either way, this was not in our plan, but I kept telling myself "healthy mom, healthy baby." I knew that whatever the outcome, things would be OK, and I kept telling myself that. I said many, many prayers to G-d that evening for the safety of baby. My blood work came back completely normal that evening, but the next day the protein level in my 24 hour urine test was over 700 (when 300 is the normal limit). It was time to transfer our care: I did indeed have pre-eclampsia.

I called Dr. Hartung's office the next morning (which was Thursday), and we were able to get in to see him that afternoon. Despite it being safe to deliver baby at any point, Dr. Hartung felt it would be best to keep baby on the inside for as long as possible. I was put on complete bed rest with the only exception to use the bathroom/shower. While my blood pressure remained high, we were able to keep it below the danger-zone and we were scheduled to come back for a follow-up the next Monday to see where we were at. I was able to focus on resting, but by Sunday evening, I began having blurry vision in my left eye and no matter how relaxed I remained with the use of my yoga-breathing and hypnobabies skills, I could not keep my blood pressure below 140/90. We called Dr. Hartung, and decided to hold off until our appointment in the morning unless my blood pressure rose some more, or if I developed any other symptoms, in which case we were to promptly head in.

As we headed to the Monday appointment, part of me knew that we would be induced that Monday, and yet, I was mentally in denial about it. It was the first night of Passover, and despite joking about having a Pesach baby with our family for the entire pregnancy, part of me felt like we couldn't have our baby yet since it was Passover... clearly very logical! Dr. Hartung monitored baby's heartbeat for 20 minutes. Baby's head was engaged, I was 1 cm dilated, and 75% effaced; all great signs for a successful induction. After our appointment on Monday, March 25, Dr. Hartung sent us directly to the birth center to be induced.

Passover was about to begin in a few short hours, I hadn't eaten since that morning, the "bag" of birth stuff we packed still remained in the car, and... well, so much going on at once! When we got to the birth center, there were 3-4 nurses talking to me, taking my blood pressure, taking blood, etc. at any given time for the next two hours. While Scott called our families, Ashley our Doula, and Rachel our Midwife to let them know I was being induced as we spoke, I was just trying not to have an anxiety attack from all that was happening at once... I was feeling quite overwhelmed. By the time Ashley arrived I had been put on a monitor, and as it turns out, I had began having a few contractions on my own. I had also been put on an IV with Pitocin (to start labor), Magnesium Sulfate (to prevent me from having a life-threatening seizure), and a fluid drip. I felt a little like Captain Picard when he was turned into a borg.

Not much happened for a long time. I was definitely having contractions, but I was able to talk through them... they were not bad. The headache I had from pre-eclampsia was worse than the contractions I was having. I also had my Hypnobaby-skills and with the Hypnobaby CD playing in the background, it was very easy for me to go to my happy place and relax. That night, since it was clear there would not be a baby for awhile, the nurse gave me something to help me sleep so I could get as much rest as possible to help my body prepare for the rest of labor.

The next morning around 8:30, I was only 1.5 cm dilated, so Dr. Hartung broke my water to try to speed up labor. I was a bit sad about this, as I really wanted my water to break on its own, but my blood pressure was definitely not going down any time soon and it was time to speed up labor. My contractions became much stronger and I was starting to feel nausea from the Magnesium Sulfate. (More on that below). Despite it being Passover, the only thing that sounded good to me to eat was toast, so Scott fed me little pieces of toast with some jam between contractions. What a sweet husband to cut up little pieces of toast for his wife to eat! After getting two pieces of toast down, I headed back into "labor land" and hunkered down with my hypnobaby CD. I was able to relax enough to fall asleep between contractions. Scott and Ashley later said I was even snoring between contractions! By afternoon, my contractions were turning into back labor and were much more intense. Scott was placing lots of counter-pressure on my lower back while Ashley was talking me through contractions. I started to become frustrated and anxious because I was not allowed to leave the bed due to the Magnesium Sulfate... contractions were so much worse having to lie down!

This was the hardest part of labor for me: the Magnesium Sulfate. It was such a blessing and a curse at the same time. On one hand, without the Magnesium Sulfate, it wouldn't have been safe for me to deliver naturally due to the risk of having a seizure from pre-eclampsia. On the other hand, Magnesium Sulfate is basically a muscle-relaxer and I was not allowed to leave the bed unless I had to go to the bathroom and I was assisted by a nurse. I felt very trapped in bed. In addition to the hypnobabies, I had counted on being able to move around and to use the shower/bathtub/birth ball to deal with pain.

By 26 hours in labor I was absolutely exhausted and feeling defeated. I knew if I wasn't able to get some rest or be allowed to move around outside of bed, I would not make it to the other side of birth. At this point, due to the exhaustion, I greatly considered an epidural. This was NOT in my birth plan in any way shape or form, especially since I have a spinal injury and an epidural could cause permanent damage to my spine and nerves. Furthermore, I was also contracting very strongly, but not dilating, which was not helping my blood pressure, nor serving as productive contractions... this is common with Pitocin. The anesthesiologist came down and said she could do a low-lumbar epidural, which would be far away from the injury in my neck. After talking it through with the anesthesiologist, Ashley, Scott, and my nurse, I was sad about it, but decided an epidural was the best decision at that point.

Since I had been on Pitocin for more than 24 hours at that point, the nurse turned off the IV to allow my uterus to rest and so I could eat something before the epidural. I also sat up for awhile which felt SO GOOD. I was still having back labor between bites of food, but Scott would run over and put pressure on my back. I remember having conversations with Scott and the nurse and having to stop talking to focus on contractions at that point too. From what I remember of getting the epidural, it wasn't that bad. I was also extremely out of it from having been on Magnesium Sulfate and exhausted from more than 24 hours of labor.

Once I was all settled again in bed, Ashley went home for a bit to get some rest and Scott called Rachel and our families to give an update. I slept for a few hours with the nurse checking in every 30-minutes or so to check/adjust the pitocin and check my vitals. Around 2:30am the nurse checked to see how dilated I was... she had a funny look on her face and said "Let me check that again..." Turns out, I was fully dilated, and baby's head was all the way down! After such a long induction, she had another nurse come in and check to make sure I was indeed fully dilated since she was in disbelief. The nurses then told me to do a "test push". As soon as I tried the test push, the nurses said very quickly to stop, not to push at all because baby was rarin' and ready to go, and that they'd better go call Dr. Hartung. Scott also called both Ashley and Rachel... I recall there being some disbelief about having gone from 1.5cm to fully dilated/ready to push while I rested!

By this point, between the exhaustion and Magnesium Sulfate, I had no concept of time anymore and things became kind of blurry at this point. Things were surprisingly calm, and in what seemed like the blink of an eye much like the Wizard of Oz, everyone was there... Dr. Hartung, Ashley, and Rachel had all arrived. I also remember being put on an oxygen mask in between contractions. I do remember feeling anxious about pushing at first since I couldn't even curl my hands into a fist from being on the Magnesium Sulfate for almost 40 hours at this point, but everyone was super supportive and encouraging... it almost felt like a birthing party! I pushed for about an hour... I had contractions about every 10 minutes. Dr. Hartung could see the head and could tell baby had a head full of hair! At one point the nurse held up a mirror for me so I could see too! Things seemed to be moving slow at this point so Dr. Hartung left to get a cup of coffee. When he came back, I felt another contraction, so he came over to check it out while I pushed and at 5:18am baby came flying out in one push! Dr. Hartung didn't even get a chance to put on his gloves when he caught her! Baby was promptly handed to me, and placed right on my chest... by far the best feeling in the world: fresh, warm baby right on your chest! She was so alert with her big, blue eyes wide open. Scott said she cried a lot right when she was born... but I don't remember that at all... I was pretty out of it! I delivered the placenta with the next contraction and very much enjoyed getting to see where baby had been residing for the past 9 months!

After Scott and I got a chance to meet her, we named her Avadya Esther Rose...I think that's when she became a little person with a personality, when we named her. We named her Avadya after my grandfather, who had passed away the day after we found out we were pregnant, and his birthday was the day before her original due date. Esther after Scott's grandmother Emma, and Rose after my cousin Rebecca who had passed away shortly after her 17th birthday. Because there wasn't enough B'sheret to go around, we later learned Avadya was also born on my other grandfather's birthday, who had also passed away less than 2 months earlier. We said the "Shehecheyanu" with Rachel (a prayer to celebrate special occasions) and Rachel also knew the words for the blessing for a daughter, so as warm and fresh baby Avadya lay on my chest, Rachel helped Scott and I recited the blessing for Avadya, our beautiful daughter! These were my favorite moments from her birth and I felt the most blessed I have ever felt in my life. Avadya weighed 5 pounds 11 ounces, and was 19 inches long... a little peanut!

The next few hours are also extremely blurry. I was so exhausted after her birth, I fell asleep when Ashley was having a conversation with me! After Scott, Baby, and I slept a bit, I ate something (I think) and one of the nurses helped me so I could take a bath. We called our families to share the good news and we moved from the birth room to the hospital room down the hall. The day seemed so separated from the 40 hours of labor... Dr. Hartung lowered the Magnesium Sulfate so I could actually move easier. I still couldn't pick-up Avadya, but I could hold her to my heart's content! I was incredibly swollen still from pre-eclampsia and I was in disbelief when 2 weeks after I had given birth I had lost 42 pounds... mostly from fluid. That evening our parents and siblings came to meet Avadya for the first time! How wonderful it was to see everyone meet their new family member and next generation!

Despite our birth going in no way we had originally planned, I feel everything worked out just as it should. Everything was OK, and it is with deepest gratitude Scott and I have to Dr. Hartung/Hudson Hospital, Ashley our Doula, Rachel and the rest of the Morningstar Birth Center Midwives, and the entire labor and delivery nurses (whom over the course of 40 hours I had met almost all of them!) We received the best care I could have ever imagined despite the situation, and we are so blessed to have Avadya safe and healthy! 

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