We welcomed our first child, Ellis Jerome, to the world on January 21st. It goes without saying that things have been rather hectic around these parts for a few weeks, but I also was unsure about sharing this story. However, ultimately it felt worth it to share my own experiences, as a type one diabetic giving birth, for others who may also be dealing with the complications of a chronic disease while pregnant.
For someone as into plans as I am, this was actually a comfort. There was a clear plan on what to do, and, because it was planned, our regular OB would deliver the baby. We were told that I needed to rest on Friday and after dinner to come into the hospital. So, I ate a bland but protein heavy meal (you don't eat during labor, a fact that scared this diabetic since that's a big way the disease is managed), we repacked our hospital bags and went in. In all the haste, I left my phone, so The Boy had to get me to our room and immediately left again to retrieve it, while I quietly waited in this room where the biggest change of our lives was about to take place.
I was induced around 8 that night, but before that I was hooked up to an IV with a sugar drip. One doesn't typically eat during labor, as the body usually can't keep food down, but as a diabetic, they needed to insure I wouldn't become hypoglycemic. Induced labor also typically has much more intense contractions. I did sleep through the night thanks to sleeping pills, but the next morning I was in so much pain. There are a lot of different things they try having you do to encourage your body to dilate more. They put you in different positions, have you walk the hallways, even use a jacuzzi tub. But by about 10 or 11, I really couldn't stand it and asked for an epidural. I'd held off on that, worried it would slow down the process. Agreeing to get the epidural was a relief to both the nurses and my husband, who were worried about how my body was handling the pain. Throughout the day, I'd been sick several times and was eventually put on oxygen as well. These days you get what is called a "walking epidural" (though you can't actually walk when you have one. Your legs are totally numb) where you can't feel the pain but you can feel pressure. This allows you to feel the pressure of the contractions without the pain.
By six that evening, I still wasn't fully dilated on one side, but they were getting nervous that it wouldn't do anymore on its own, so they had me start pushing. You hear that word with pregnancy a lot- "pushing." And everyone just says, "Oh, you'll know when to push." Maybe for some people pushing feels really natural; not me. Still, with the nurses' help, I pushed for about 2 hours when it became clear from the baby's heart rate that he was becoming tired. They were worried that he would stop trying and become stuck there. So, they gave us the choice of having our doctor use a vacuum or forceps to help pull the baby out in conjunction with my pushing. As it sounds, a vacuum uses suction pressure; as for forceps- think salad tongs, only they go around a baby's head instead of cabbage. Ultimately, I told the doctor to choose what she was more comfortable with, and she grabbed ahold of the head with forceps. In addition to being tired, it also turned out the baby was at an odd angle, so she twisted him around and pulled while I pushed.
At 8:01 our 8 lb. 1 oz. baby came into the world. The minute he was out, they shoved him in my arms. Now, they did this for two reasons. It turned out the birth had been very hard on my body and they just didn't want me to freak out; they wanted me distracted while they took care of any trauma to my body . It is also really beneficial to have "skin on skin" time with Baby and Mom right away. Certainly the distraction worked! Ellis was screaming- practicing using his lungs as a nurse put it- and over and over all I could say was "You're perfect." It was the most amazing things to be holding this tiny person in my arms, to be seeing him after all that. That warm baby skin, impossibly small fingers and eyes that were already so alert- all of it was perfect.
Most birth stories end here, but our hospital stay was just beginning as it turned out. Since I am diabetic, Ellis was at some risk several things. His body had grown use to managing the high amount of glucose my body provided, but now that he was born he wasn't getting such large doses of glucose. There was a danger his body could go into hypoglycemia. This was the most serious worry. So every few hours for much of the night, his heel was poked and blood tested. Similarly, My body's change in hormones also meant I was at risk for becoming either hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. I'd also lost a lot of blood, so they wanted to keep an eye on that as well.
We were set to be discharged the next day, except a test came back that showed I'd lost a lot of blood. Not at the birth (though, yes, there too), but afterward. A CAT scan and two blood transfusions later though, they felt more confident about letting me go home. So, we ended up 4 days (Friday to Tuesday) in the hospital. The funny thing was, Ellis was discharged before I was!
Being a mom is strange, but wonderful (if occasionally very frustrating.) I write to our son in his baby book, imagining he might look back as an adult, perhaps when his own family starts growing, and this is how I told him those first days or parenthood struck The Boy and I:
"In the days since, there have been tears. We've had to learn to be patient with you, as you have had to learn to be patient with your new parents. But the first words I said to you still stand- you are perfect- a perfect fit for our family."