Monday, January 24, 2011

And then there were three...

Labor? and Delivery

It happened on a Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010.

After suffering a cold throughout the week (a cold bad enough for me to actually leave my office and work from home one day), I found out from my doctor that I was actually already in labor, as well, for perhaps two days. Inactive, beginning stages up until that Wednesday. Labor that would turn into birth on that Thursday.

Checking into the hospital just after noon.
On Thursday, we were instructed to head to the hospital. I had purchased a Cinnabon the night before with plans to eat it sometime on Thursday, but the move from doctor to hospital admission came with instructions not to eat, so the Cinnabon sat in the car.

We checked in at around half past noon and spent the next 7 hours waiting, breathing through contractions that inevitably led to the decision to have an epidural around 4 and the final instructions on "how to push" around 7:20 pm, followed finally by the birth of our 8 pound 3 ounce, 19 inch-long baby girl at 7:53 pm. When the summary of how many minutes it took to push out our girl was given to me, I wanted to find and tell the nurse who had told me just as I started to push that it'd probably take somewhere between 1-2 or more hours to get our baby out. "First mothers just about always take somewhere between 1-2, usually more, hours to push their babies out." So hunker down, is essentially the tone she gave me as she and a few other cast members shuffled around the room setting things up. Thirty-three minutes later, the doctor wasn't completely in her attire for the delivery, but the baby was mostly out and the nurse advised her to get on with the birthing while she (the nurse) finished tying her (the doctor) into her birthing gear.

And then she was here. Avonlie Michael (though it took us around 17 hours to come up with her name!)

She was a swollen, blue mass of fleshy wrinkles. Silent and observant. We didn't hear her make a peep for the first few minutes after her birth, but her grandparents (my parents and D's mom) cried from the distance beside her as they weighed her and looked her over carefully (ordinarily, they would have given her directly to me, but they found meconium--stool--in the amniotic fluid so they had to have a NICU dr. there to check her out thoroughly when she was delivered to make sure she didn't have any of it in her system and all throughout labor, they ran a saline solution flush into my uterus to clean out the meconium as best they could). So I didn't get to see or hold her until they were sure she was ok. Since I didn't get to see her and my dr. was still stitching me up, I sent D over, who was reluctant to leave me and even more hesitant to see our baby for the first time without me. I insisted he "needed" to go..."They're all saying how beautiful she is, D. They might be lying. Go see if our daughter is really as beautiful as they say. Lots of babies are born ugly. Go find out for real if she's one of them."

Of course I was mostly kidding. It's true that some babies are born super ugly, but I wouldn't have cared if she was one of them or not. I just wanted one of us to get over there to see her and since I couldn't, he had to!

So he went and she was. Beautiful, that is. See for yourself:

A Pledge and Some Observations

My brother, sister-in-law, my niece and nephew came in to see her soon after. Jacob, my nephew/godson, is only two years-old so he and Avonlie are ideally separated age-wise (in my estimation, that is, since my brother and sister and I are separated by two years and all seemed to work out nicely for us!). He was thrilled to be a new "big brother" even though, at first, he cried when they told him Avonlie was a girl, but there were no signs of those tears when he came in to meet her. Nothing but smiles. He was so solemn when he pledged himself to care for her as a big brother. Genevieve was shyer, which I expected, but both were thrilled to have a new cousin/sister.

Baby Girl celebration cake for me and Dustin!
Truth be told, I was totally surprised Avonlie was a girl. The entire pregnancy everyone insisted she'd be a boy and I was the first one to say it in the beginning. But Dustin was tried and true to his feelings: girl. He just knew it and it turns out he was right. The hospital brought us a tiny little cake to celebrate her birth when we made our way to the maternity ward. Avonlie stayed with us both nights in the hospital and all day long, only leaving our sights to be taken to the nursery for a bath, a hepatitis B vaccination and some check-ups. Otherwise, babe had on a security bracelet that would've locked down the whole hospital if someone had tried to take her out of our ward. Each time they took her, they checked her bracelets against ours for an identical identifying number all of our bracelets were branded with.

Identifying tags on her ankles (see the huge security one!?!) and her adorable little baby feet!
The First Night

Our daughter, who throughout that first night and most of the next day remained nameless, ate immediately following her birth until she fell asleep. The nurses swaddled her and put her in a clear, giant tupperware version of a bassinette that then resided directly next to me in the hospital room. They found a "cozy" cot for Dustin to sleep on and we were set for the night. "You might want to set an alarm for 3 a.m. or so," the nurse advised when setting us up for the night. "She should eat every 2-3 hours and will probably be very sleepy tonight and need to be woken. Also, someone will be in every hour to check your vitals."

They weren't kidding. Every hour, they were in to check me and the baby. I didn't need an alarm to wake me at 3 because the nurse did to take my vitals, which she then insisted were too low and had to be taken again. When my blood pressure and heart rate were "still low" (bp: 88/60; hr: 45) she had me get out of the bed to perform a few minor circus tricks ("Stretch your arms and walk around a bit..."). Let me just say that 1-getting out of bed after the epidural-numbness wore off was not fun or painless, nor were the tricks I was asked to perform and 2-even after performing them my blood pressure remained low (which I explained was not actually "low" but "normal" for me) and so did my heart rate (we got it up to 55, but my resting heart rate is ordinarily around 60). I tried to explain that these numbers were not out of the ordinary, but she was concerned and seemed to come back even more often throughout the night. No matter, Avonlie was also awake and no amount of feeding her sufficed. That babe was ANGRY and remained so for the majority of our stay in the hospital and our first night home.


Having not swaddled anything since my sister was an infant when I learned to swaddle the baby doll Mom gave me in lieu of allowing me to "have" my sister, (as had been the promise when they told me I was going to "have a little brother or sister," the baby doll being a disappointing substitution for the sister I was promised--a promise I would try to insist they make good on in the year or two following Sara's birth, to no avail. A promise that would inevitably end in me ripping my baby sister's arm out of her socket in her toddler years in my attempt to pull (aka-drag) her around by the arm since I had been trained to handle her on a doll instead of on the actual infant--a clear injustice to my child-self and, of course, my sister), I was out of practice. The way I thought we should swaddle was not sufficient and the blanket bunched in a mess around our daughter. She wailed more angrily with each failed attempt, as if lamenting the parents she'd been born to--parents who didn't know crap about swaddling an infant. Dustin and I looked at each other knowing she was right on this one.

Note the sleeping baby under the nurse's expert swaddle.
Finally, he asked one of the influx of nurses to teach us how to swaddle. She showed us twice, and magically Avonlie stopped crying immediately after she finished. "Do it again!" We were in awe of her magical swaddling prowess. She'd unwrap the baby, who would then cry, and slowly, step-by-step demonstrate and verbally explain how to swaddle our infant.

We felt confident we, too, could do this. After all, we are smart, educated people. Over-educated, some might say. We are both artists. We work with our hands to paint, draw, photograph, cook, write, sketch, and so on...all skills that require us to use our hands in various ways. We are comfortable with this ability. Generally, we are capable. But swaddling was not our forte and the blanket crumpled around her in anguish that reflected our daughter's feelings on being given up to our care.

Note the hand, making its way out of the swaddle, even as she slept.
It turned out, on some level, this was ok. Avonlie, its safe to say, quickly changed her mind about her feelings on swaddling as she flailed her little arms around when swaddled and found ways of maneuvering them out of the swaddle, liberating us from our swaddling obligations within the first 24-48 hours of taking her home from the hospital. She wanted those arms free to flail about and no amount of swaddling was going to stop her from getting them that way. "She's like a little Houdini," Dustin remarked in awe as we watched our mostly swaddled daughter turn bright red and scream bloody murder while ripping her arms out from the swaddle's vice grip. We eventually gave in and resorted to swaddling her from the chest down.