Out & About: Kaiser Rooftop Garden & Canyon Park Trail

It was another gorgeous summer day here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We spent the afternoon listening to live music in downtown Oakland at the Kaiser Rooftop Garden and then at Canyon Park Trail in El Cerrito for some nature time. The garden is a jewel near Lake Merritt and the free weekly summer concert series there every year is wonderful. We were just there last week, too. The only downside is parking is a bit hard to find if you need a street spot since it’s near downtown.

Here I am breastfeeding my sons because, well, that’s what they do.

[Tandem breastfeeding my toddler and preemie. Facebook]

I can’t go all day without nursing my preemie and my toddler isn’t anywhere near finished at two-and-a-half and he helps keep my supply up for my baby, so why not?

After we finished listening to music and chatting with our friends that came, we went to another great spot twenty minutes away, Canyon Trail Park. It’s definitely a great park for kids because it has lots of climbing trees, a pond to catch frogs and tadpoles in, hillsides to scale, and a structure for those that want that, too. We usually park at the top where the structure is so mine play on it on the way in and out of the park but spend the majority of their time in the trees or in the stream. It also has a large grassy field for running around, playing sports or fetch with dogs.

Here are some of our photos from the day.

Can you see my daughter? She climbed to the top of a tree and asked, “Can you see me, Mama?”
 Here she is coming down from it.

[Facebook]

Another tree for good measure.

 The group of homeschoolers we met here spent a couple hours climbing trees, catching frogs, exploring, and have a wonderful time together. They did team work for certain things and it was really nice to see kind kids learning and playing together.

Here’s part of the play structure for those looking for a photo of that.

Have you been to the Kaiser Rooftop Garden or Canyon Park Trail? 

Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, or comment below!

**Update**

A reader asked me about my daughter’s bare feet in one of the photos above.

Q: “Just wondering, does it help her balance better without shoes? I would’ve been a bit nervous about something she could step on, even a splinter. How do you calm your worries as a mom while watching & even admiring her doing that? I ask, because I hope to get to this level of unschooling, but find I must first unschool myself on so many levels.”

A: Hi! Children definitely climb better, more efficiently, safer, barefoot. Unless the bark is painful, then they might want to wear shoes. But then it would likely hurt their hands, too, and they wouldn’t climb it. Bare feet can mold and grip in a way not possible with shoes. Shoes actually create danger because they can slip off a branch pretty easily. Feet grip. I don’t worry too much about tree climbing because I remember that I climbed the highest trees I could find as a child and I was in control. My parents didn’t watch me. My daughter is in control of her body. You’ll get there! Trust takes time or you can just let go.

She has never come to me with a splinter from climbing, by the way. They happen once a year or so, with all the barefoot playing they do! My toddler gets stickers on his feet and just reaches down and pulls them off and keeps playing!

A good video for parents and kids to watch if they’re feeling hesitant about bare feet.

 

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Breastfeeding in the pool

It was a sweltering day in Northern California today. Or at least it felt like it. We visited a friend and went to their pool to have some fun and cool off. My feet burned poolside.

I went with my whole family and of course my little one, one month old adjusted age, needed to nurse off and on for the whole time we were there.

[Breastfeeding my preemie in the pool while playing with my toddler]

I can’t even imagine hauling all four of my children out of the water to sit in changing room or a bathroom while my baby cluster nursed for an hour. And then we’d get back in and he’d want to do it again. Umm…no thanks. 

NIP with pride, mamas!

Does your local pool support the law, support breastfeeding families?

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Our week in pictures

I hope everyone is having a sweet weekend. Some people wonder how I manage to stay home with four kids full time. I actually really enjoy it and our time together. I can’t see our life any other way. We just keep busy snuggling, reading books, exploring, having fun, learning, taking care of each other and the house, chores and whatnot, and that’s it. If we stay home too much, too many days in a row, people get a bit cranky, so I like to have them out by noon for a few hours at least, most days of the week.

Here are some photos from our week.

Monday

We spent 4th of July watching a parade and BBQing with my husband’s side of the family and all of their cousins.

I took 4 week photos of Evar and shared one on my other post. Here’s one of Evar’s huuuge yawn I think is adorable.

I have found out that strapless dresses are my new staple because I can definitely nurse in them.

Tuesday

Tuesday was a home day for me since we spent all weekend and Monday being busy and social. My girls drew some dinosaurs and they said Quint helped color in one of them. They were pretty proud of themselves.

I’ve always been a shower a day or two kind of lady (growing up playing sports, living in the Texas heat) and thankfully, all of my babies have enjoyed the white noise of the shower and getting wet. Evar loves hanging out next to me in towels while I take a shower. Then I pick him up and get him rinsed with water, too.

I wrote Evar’s birth story and my nanny came for three hours in the afternoon so I could rest with my baby. If I’m not out and about with the kids, I’m resting in bed, skin to skin. And I don’t feel too guilty doing that when the nanny is here. I never had paid help before he was born (okay, we did hire a babysitter for my birthday dinner a few years back) but after he was born, I needed to go to the NICU every day, as much as possible, and the kids couldn’t come with me all the time. She’s a friend of a friend and the kids have a blast with her. She takes them out to the library, swimming, biking, or to play in nature. I met them at the library when it was time for her to leave so we could stay late, reading and checking out books.

Wednesday

My eldest made me breakfast in bed, a bagel with egg, so sweet, and we spent the day at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley with friends. My girls packed everything up, got themselves dressed, did their chores around the house and then we went. I don’t actually call them chores but you know, the things that need to be done. There is a list of things we need to do, not a paper list, just looking around the house, and they just pick which ones they want to do and we all work until everything is finished. The reward for them on Wednesday was going out and having fun all day.

Nursing Evar in my ring sling.

As I was breastfeeding my baby, a boy of around 7 or 8 came over and asked me a few questions about Evar. He wanted to know how old he was and seemed fascinated by how he was being held in my sling. He then noticed that he was facing me and asked what he was doing. I said he was eating. He looked surprised, as if he had no idea what breastfeeding was, paused to think, and then asked, “How?” I said very simply that he was nursing on my boob. He walked around me to see Evar nursing from another angle, looking puzzled. I continued, because, well, he looked so confused. I said some moms feed their babies from their boobs and some moms feed them bottles. I think that satisfied his curiosity. He ran away to play and that was that.

I also did some tandeming elsewhere in the garden. My 2-year-old is definitely a hummingbird nurser.

Thursday

We went to one of our favorite parks in Berkeley, Codornices Park. Here is my eldest climbing a tree there.

My eldest daughter craves climbing, just as I did as a child, so I don’t stop her. She climbs what she can and feels out her own boundaries. I know her heart is soaring and she feels peace when she’s up in a tree.

It’s a great park because it has lots of nature areas to explore, a stream and ungroomed hills with trees, as well as things my toddler likes, the swings and slide and whatnot, and I have not lost him there yet.

Friday

We went to two free outdoor music concerts on Friday, one at noon and one into the evening, both of which I NIP’d my preemie without fear. My kids explored the beautiful rooftop garden in Oakland where one was held, danced, climbed trees, watched a mama duck with her four ducklings.

Here we are at the free outdoor music concert in Point Richmond on Friday evening, where of course I NIP’d my preemie in my ring sling. I can’t even count how many people peered into my sling to look at him after coming over to chat with me about him (because people all think he’s a newborn) and then said, “Oh! He’s eating.” Well, yes. He’s a baby and that’s what they do. Sleep and eat. Thankfully, no one was rude about it and I got nothing but smiles.

Saturday

I stayed home and rested on Saturday and my middle daughter wanted to hold Evar all day. Her new thing is asking to change his diapers whenever she sees me doing one.

Sunday

My eldest and my youngest <3

I tried out my new kinderpack (a gift from a friend) on a short hike with my family this afternoon. It was pretty comfy! My son wanted to watch the trains go by and him and my four year old daughter wanted to play in the water for a bit.

And now we’re back home, recovering from the heat. I am so thankful to be out and about again, not living the nicu life like I had been with my preemie for the last few months. I nearly cried with joy and appreciation a few times. It’s like a dream come true, really. Oh, I guess I didn’t cover what most of our meals look like but when we’re out, we just pack a bag of fresh fruit and veggies, whatever leftovers we have, or pick up some takeout to eat together.

What does your week look like?

 

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My hospital freebirth of my 24 week preemie

It’s been four and a half months since my son was born at 24 weeks, weighing 1lb 6oz. He’s doing well, is a solid 8lbs 2oz today, and we’re both home now, soaking up our sweet babymoon. He’s on my chest, skin to skin, sleeping peacefully for the moment while my other children and husband are asleep as well.

Now that we’re out of the woods, I think it’s a good time to finally share his birth story.

And since I’m sharing, I guess it’s a good time to tell you his name. Evariste. Evar, pronounced Ever, for short. When I gave birth to Evar back in February and in the weeks following, I was unable to envision us here now. I tried but I couldn’t believe it would happen. I just burst into tears and wept whenever I thought about the future we might not have. I had too much fear. I tried to hope more and more as the days went on and put a brave face on for everyone because I couldn’t be dragged down with sympathies but it was a soul crushing time. Imagine giving birth but not being able to hold your baby for 30 days. You had to look at him through thick, foggy plastic for months. That touching his skin, stroking it, would tear it. And being told you had a decent likelihood of losing him or dealing with moderate to severe health problems if he made it home four or more months later.

Looking back on my experience, spending four days before birth in the hospital, birthing by myself and catching my sweet baby in my hands alone, then spending three and a half months in the NICU with him while my husband and others cared for my three children at home, there are a few things I’d have done differently but it felt so out of my control at the time and I’m really quite thankful for how I was able to navigate it all and make it through to the other side in one piece.

My 4th Pregnancy

I knew at some point last year that our family was missing someone. Evar was conceived in September and my due date was June 11th. Everyone was so excited about a new sibling. My big girls, 4 and almost 6, were over the moon. The first few months of pregnancy were blissfully normal. I was exhausted and cranky and my nipples hurt like hell when my 20 month old toddler nursed but I didn’t have any nausea or anything going on to worry about. I carried on with my three active children as I normally would, going on little outdoor adventures and exploring all that the San Francisco Bay Area has to offer nearly every day. Until one day in December when I was 14 weeks along. I had what seemed to be an all day Braxton Hicks contraction, quite painful if anything bumped my belly, that ended in a gush of blood as I walked up my stairs at the end of the day. Bright red blood out of no where was worrisome. I thought maybe it was the two really long hikes I did in the last week, carrying my 4 year old and toddler for a good mile when my daughter refused to walk a bit of our 4 mile hike. Maybe my body was telling me to slow down, not carry extra weight, rest more. I wasn’t sure what to do except rest in bed until my (first and only planned) ultrasound that was already scheduled in less than two days. So, I that’s what I did. I tried not to nurse my toddler as much as usual, as well. But when the bleeding repeated itself once more the following day, I reached out to my birthy friends and took a tincture a trusted ex-midwife friend of mine suggested, drank lots of tea, and then all was fine.

I went to my ultrasound at 15 weeks worried but the baby was perfect and we were thrilled to find out we were having another boy. We’d have two girls and two boys. Could we get any luckier? The girls play so well together, I was looking forward to that same bond between brothers. Or whatever dynamic they all decided to come up with would of course be just wonderful as well. But two of each seemed really great. 

As the weeks went on, I continued my life as normal and slowed down whenever I had bleeding.

I felt my baby kick, watched my belly grow, and I waited for birth dreams like I’d had with my third child. His were so strong and spot on to what would happen, how I would birth. This time, however, I was secretly slightly apprehensive about my upcoming birth, that something was not going to go well. I wasn’t able to envision a sweet home freebirth like my last one. I felt deep down that wasn’t in the cards, but I couldn’t guess what happen. I just knew something might happen. I still hoped for the best, even as I bled occasionally. It wasn’t serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital until I had a larger gush than usual. At 22 weeks, I went to get an ultrasound at the hospital to attempt to diagnose the source of the bleed to give me some peace of mind. Being in a hospital for the first time this pregnancy, in two actually, felt unnatural. I didn’t like being treated like just another number. I didn’t like being reminded of my first birth experience in a hospital. I didn’t like the florescent lights, strangers that hardly made eye contact, the chilly doctor wasn’t soothing at all, didn’t put her hand on my skin, on my belly once while I was there for a couple hours, just touched me with tools and sent me to get an ultrasound. I also came during dinner time and no one offered an obviously pregnant woman anything to eat or drink. Not even a snack like they had sitting around. I guess I should have thought about it before hand but I almost fainted so I swiped some juice and yogurt from the fridge to settle myself.

I was told I had a subchronic hematoma but not to worry, that it would likely resolve itself and I didn’t need to restrict myself in any way, just eat some more iron rich foods to replace my lost blood. So I left thankful, while rattled at the whole hospital experience, but I followed my intuition and took it easy anyway. I didn’t feel right getting out and about 100% with my kids. Whenever I was too active, I felt tired and would bleed. It was about like a period though. I kept losing more blood over the week and a half.

By my 23rd week, I was feeling tired, pale, and wanted to rest all the time. I went out once that week with my kids to sit in nature and enjoy some time with our friends but the walk back felt troubling. 

Labor

It was Wednesday, February 17th, and I was 23 weeks and 3 days along. After a stressful phone conversation with a manager in San Francisco about how it was illegal to discriminate against a breastfeeding mother a child in a public city office, I hung up and I had a huge gush of blood. I knew it was serious so I darted to the bathroom a few feet away and sure enough, I passed a medium sized blood clot and kept bleeding. I got into bed and tried to relax. I called my husband and asked him to come home.

As I was relaxing in bed, I had a huge gush of blood around 4pm that bled through my pants, undies, overnight pad, stained the mattress through the sheets, trailed to the bathroom…It was a big mess. In the bathroom, I passed a smaller clot and lots of little clots. I was hoping the clots were all that needed to pass and my body was healing itself. Too much to hope, I guess. While I was cleaning myself up in the shower I nearly fainted. I quickly sat down and my body lost feeling except for a strong tingling, especially my shoulders, as feeling was coming back. I lost my hearing as well. Then I heard ringing in both ears, dull to other sounds, as my hearing slowly came back but ringing persisted for over 5 minutes, as did the tingling. I stood up after a minute to open window for cold air and eventually got back in bed. At this point, I considered calling an ambulance but I called my husband again and asked where he was. (The commute from his work to home can take an hour or two.)

When he got home, he kept all the kids away from me and fed me in bed. Unfortunately, by that evening I was having regular Braxton like contractions every two to three minutes. I started to write them down. I told my husband but hoped they’d just go away after I relaxed enough.

5:34 Braxton, then gushing feeling, like I’m peeing myself. Blood.
5:39
541
544 felt kicking then hardened
546 more kicking at 546, then hardened again, trickling feeling
549
551 trickling
553 drinking juice
6:00
604 kicking
607
609
611
613
616
617
620
622
624
627
629
631

I stopped tracking to get up to pee and sit downstairs.

642
649 Sort of painful feeling for the first time, sitting in chair

back in bed
658 painful-ish contraction, laying down on side
702
704 painful-ish
707
709
711

eating

724 quick painful ish
727 same. WTH. AM I IN REAL LABOR?
731
733
738
740
missed tracking one
747

This continued through the night but I fell asleep. I woke up at 2am to pee and I gushed more blood going to bathroom, then I had a liquid bowel movement. I thought about the diarrhea I had like that in labor with my second child. I hoped it wasn’t a sign of real labor as I showered and cleaned myself up, feeling pale and drained.

While I was in the shower, I assessed myself and considered my situation. In addition to the painful, regular contractions and bleeding, felt my cervix opening up from when I checked a few hours earlier. I decided it was time at least speak to a nurse. I dried off and went in to snuggle with my husband while I thought about it. I was hoping he would wake when I caressed him, I needed to be comforted, but he didn’t wake and I didn’t want to wake him up purposefully. I paused through contractions as I got dressed and snuck out to my car to speak to nurse at the hospital in Labor and Delivery. She wasn’t terribly helpful after I described my situation, just told me to come in “if I felt like it” and they’d monitor baby. I wondered what to do with my sleeping family. I decided that after taking them to the hospital with me for the ultrasound, them spending spending hours outside with my husband stressed out and exhausted when they could have just stayed home, I was going let everyone sleep until the morning. By then, I hoped I would be given labor stop drugs and all would be fine.

I started driving to the hospital with a NICU 25 minutes away and kept tracking contractions.

304am contraction
307
310
313
316
319

328ish parked
334 hospital check-in

I could hardly form sentences to tell the woman while checking in what was going on. I think there wasn’t enough blood going to my brain at that point. I had to tell her to hold on a minute while I gathered myself. I probably looked like a pale, exhausted mess, but perhaps a little too sane to be in real labor. I told her I was 23 and 4, contracting every 2-3 minutes, they were painful, I was dilating, I was bleeding heavily, I had a SCH, I could feel the baby kicking fine, and I was there to get some labor stopping drugs. She had me fill out paperwork, put some plastic name tags on my wrist, and sat me down in a triage room and I gushed more blood, waiting to see someone. I wasn’t treated with urgency or offered any water, juice, or anything.

More contractions

340
343

I kept bleeding, passing small clots, as I sat there but wasn’t feeling that bad besides contractions and feeling hungry and tired. A nurse said they couldn’t feed me anything until they knew what was going on. Bullshit. Why are they starving the anemic pregnant lady who hadn’t eaten in hours? I always have a middle of the night snack at home. I had thought about stopping to eat first but Whole Foods across from the hospital was closed on my way in. I should have stopped at some awful fast food place if I’d thought they were going to withhold nutrients. I drank a juice from their fridge while they weren’t looking because I really needed something.

A nurse put a monitor on the baby, said he was fine and kicking, and confirmed what I’d said, that I was contracting. The nurse said their computers were down, couldn’t see my ultrasound file from last weekend. She asked lots of questions then said she get the doc. She came back a while later to say both doctors were in surgery right then, apologized that they were not available, and commented that “I’m really going at it” referring to my contractions. There’s a photo of my contractions on paper.

Mind you, I had no plans to count contractions for this baby until my premature labor started. I didn’t want or need to the last birth, or my second one either, just listened to my body, not a clock or timing things. I was unhappy with where this pregnancy and labor was going. It was so much more medicalized than I wanted.

At 4:30am, an hour after arriving, the doctor on call finally arrived. She had a gruff beside manner, zero warmth. She shoved a couple of gloved fingers in me and confirmed what I’d been telling them, that I was dilated a couple centimeters. She said I was 80% effaced and she was going to start me on magnesium to stop labor. Oh and my baby was breech.

It was quite agitating to tell everyone exactly what was going on only to have to wait an hour or more while contracting for them to figure it out themselves, to have their machines and gloved hands prove it to them.

At this point, I took off my own clothes and put an awful teal green backless hospital gown on. I knew I wasn’t leaving soon but I didn’t think I’d be staying for four days. I typed up everything to send my husband as soon as he woke.

By 6am, my husband got my message and I was given the first of two steroid shots, betamethasone, to mature my baby’s lungs in case he was born early and was started on magnesium sulfate intravenously with an IV drip to hopefully stop my labor. Thankfully, my labor slowed and then eventually stopped. The mag made me feel slow and hot. I felt guilty about these new random things I was taking, being absorbed by my baby. I had avoided everything I could during pregnancy and now I was taking whatever might keep him in longer because the damage and risk coming out this early was greater than a possible drug reaction. My husband came to join me in the morning after dropping off our kids with a friend. It was so wonderful to see his loving green eyes after a night of strangers.

By noon on Thursday, I was given 3 pints of blood. Apparently, I was only at 20% blood volume when I walked in. I was given 2 more pints in the next day to bring me back into the normal range. I was moved from L&D to antepartum by 6pm. I still wasn’t allowed to eat and this continued for 18 hours after my arrival, in case they wanted to give me a c-section or something. They only allowed ice chips. I had to fight to eat, telling them repeatedly that I was not going to have a CS at 23 weeks (my body, my baby, my choice), and I was pregnant and starving, that I needed to eat. Withholding food was unacceptable.

Antepartum was much more relaxed than L&D. I was left alone and wasn’t hassled for monitoring every hour. I had barely slept at all, maybe an hour or two in the last day, because of how often I was being poked and woken up. Just before midnight on Thursday, my nurse did vitals and a blood draw. My body didn’t like being touched and monitored. Sure enough, soon after, I started contracting regularly again. I was pissed at the nurse and the hospital for their routine policies that didn’t give a shit about patient needs, how I had to beg to be left alone to sleep, for them to couple their checks or put off the unnecessary ones, to not monitor me when I knew I wasn’t contracting and leave my sensitive belly alone when I could tell if my baby was kicking. I finally slept for a couple hours until 3:23am on Friday when I had a really painful contraction that woke me up. I went into steady labor again. I couldn’t sleep and I felt awful. I needed a shower. I wrapped up my IV and line ridden arm with a plastic bag and some tape that I found and rinsed off in the shower. I gently felt that I’d dilated another 2 cm and told my nurse so I could get started on mag again. My hopes of going home now were dashed. I went back on mag for another day and my contractions went away. I was given a second shot of betamethasone.

The doctor on call scolded me for checking myself and told me to keep my hands out of my vagina. I’m pretty sure I gave them the “eff off” eyes because it was my body,  I had made sure my hands were clean, and I knew I was more gentle with myself than they were.

That night I had a birth dream while sleeping on that lumpy hospital bed.  I dreamed of waking up to go to the bathroom with my husband sleeping near, birthing by myself in the hospital bathroom, bare and free, and welcoming my baby, and a team of nurses running in to help my baby after I held him.

It felt comforting and peaceful for what it was. It was my first birth dream of this pregnancy.

During the day while my contractions were gone, I wondered if I was going to go home and have a normal birth or if I was going to have to stay for weeks in the hospital on bed rest or what was going to happen. I just lived hour to hour. Something was always going on, a new nurse, a new doctor. I continued being checked and prodded all day, all night. I had bruises on my arms for too many bad blood draw and IV attempts. I had to convince each new doctor and nurse that I didn’t want continuous fetal monitoring and I wasn’t going to have a c-section, that I could continue to eat. It was a constant fight to be listened to and left alone. It felt like it was all about control and slowly breaking me. I couldn’t believe this was standard care, that women were treated this way. Where was the respect? 

I put on a brave face for my kids when they came to visit me. They asked when I was coming home. I didn’t know.

Besides family or those watching our kids, I kept mum about what was going with me. I couldn’t handle any outside stress. I had to focus on myself and my baby and I had nothing else to give. I felt guilty not telling a few people but I hoped they’d understand later.

A doctor came in to try to confirm my dates and to tell me the dismal statics for preemies born at 23, 24, and 25 weeks, giving me handouts to read about how awful my baby’s life was likely to be, if he even survived. It was depressing. Another doctor popped in to report that my blood results came back from the blood mixing screening and there haven’t been any fetal blood cells and my blood, so they didn’t need to give me Rhogam.

My husband spent his time with me or taking the kids back and forth between friends and relatives or staying home with them. I really wanted him with me 24 hours a day but he couldn’t. He did bring me some things from home to help me feel better, like a couple dresses and flip flops. I was able to take a hot bath and relax.

The next night, Saturday night, I had the same birth dream again.

Sunday, February 21st

I woke up in my antepartum room feeling hopeful. I didn’t have contractions or bleeding and I had a sweet, soothing nurse that told me I should have hope that I’d go home and carry this baby to term. It was a possibility. She confided that she was a midwife decades before but didn’t tell staff there her background because they didn’t believe in natural birth. She’d delivered hundreds of babies, had her own at home, was the kindest, most soothing person I could have met there. She was just what I needed to feel a little better about feeling like an animal trapped in a cage. She said she couldn’t work in L&D anymore because the control, monitors, the lack of staff trust in our bodies…It was too depressing for her. I agreed. It was depressing. But I was thankful she was there with me. I had met other nurses there during my stay that told me their birth stories or the best, most natural ones from their work, like delivering a breech baby in the ER waiting room. That nurse told me her mother was bullied into a CS for her breech baby 30 years before, that she and her mother felt scared by it, that her mother had always felt regret about how she was coerced into it. When the nurse, the daughter, told her mother about her breech delivery, it seemed like they both healed a little bit.

The docs decided to switched me to an oral muscle relaxer, Nifedipine, on Sunday because they said magnesium isn’t safe for the baby past a few days. I was hopeful the new drug would stop my uterus from kicking back into gear and I could go home the next day.

At this point, I asked the doctor of the day if I could eat outside because I was craving the outside world. He denied my request. I ignored the doctor’s orders on Sunday evening and went outside into the garden and ate my dinner outside before sunset with my husband.

It was the first time since Thursday early morning, driving to the hospital and checking in, that I’d felt the sun and air on my body. I felt so trapped there, hands with needles stuck in them covered in plastic, wearing an uncomfortable gown and mesh undies for days, confined to my room, unable to walk outside, put my toes in the grass, see the stars, breath the outside air, take a shower without an IV. 

On Sunday night, I was told I hadn’t pooped enough for them, maybe it’d been a day or two, and they needed me to produce a bowel movement. Makes sense that I hadn’t gone since I was given strange hospital food, iron supplements, other drugs, and couldn’t walk around to get things moving. So a nurse gave me a couple cups of prune juice and something else, a pill to help me go I can’t remember the name of. I joked about pooping out a baby with the amount of prune juice they had me drink.

By 8:30, I had enough. I took out my IV lines (nothing was being pumped into them at that point anyway) and my hospital bracelet. I wanted to take a shower with both arms free of junk. I figured they could put that crap back on me if it was an emergency but I needed to feel like myself again. (Did I mention they tracked and measured everything that came out of my body?) By 10pm, my body started going in to labor again. My husband was going to sleep and asked me if was okay. I said I just felt pushy, like I needed to poop. I blamed the start of a new round of contractions on the prune juice, them feeling like they needed to get me to poop and mess with my body. I went to the bathroom while he fell asleep on the fold out chair in the room. He was exhausted.

After a shower and sitting on the toilet a couple trying to poop, I realized I was in labor. I thought about my options as I sat in the bathroom. I’d been told my body only needed to open to 5 or 6 centimeters until my baby would come out because he was so small. I knew I was almost there already and tonight was the night. I definitely felt guilty, felt terrible knowing my body was kicking my baby out to protect itself, to stop the bleeding, and I couldn’t stop it. But I was in a state of calm acceptance and had to figure out what was best for my baby.

Option 1. Call the nurses and either be prodded while birthing right there or be wheeled in for an emergency CS.

Option 2. Wake my husband and labor with him secretly but then I knew he’d lose his cool and call for help.

Option 3. Labor by myself with my baby, just us, and I’d birth him and catch him and then call for help.

Obviously, I went for option 3. It seemed like the safest thing for my baby and myself at the time. The studies I’d read didn’t report benefits for a c-section for babies of his age, that vaginal would have been safer, and I knew getting drugged up and controlled by strangers was going to make things dangerous for us. After a couple of painful contractions by the toilet, I laid out a couple of chux pads to catch the blood and crap I was sure was coming.

The birth

I was alone, naked in the bathroom, losing myself to the contractions. I was so thankful no one was there telling me what to do, no pressure from anyone to get in the “convenient” birth position for them (when I asked a day earlier about positions while birthing my preemie, they made it clear I’d have to be on the bed, likely lithotomy), when to push, no monitors or lines trapping me. No pressure for a CS. I did not push, I just let my body move him down like I’d done with my last birth. I felt the ring of fire. My body slid Evar out, everything else, too, placenta and all in one contraction as I knelt down on the chux pads. I caught my baby boy and his bag of water broke as it hit my hands. I admired him and felt the relief of everything coming out. He looked perfect, though tiny, healthy, eyes closed but breathing, and I heard him cry. It was so fast.

It was 11:05 pm.

I felt exhausted but good, not like I was going to faint. I saw the huge clots with my placenta, knew my body needed to get them out, so finally there was mental peace instead of fear. I knew I was going to be okay now. And as soon as he was born, I held him to my body, said hello, watched him for a sweet moment.

Then I yelled for my husband. “The baby’s here!” He jolted awake, ran out of the door to the nurses station at the corner to call for help. He said they were shocked and took a moment to move. An ALS nurse came in a minute later and assessed Evar. He asked if we wanted to save him. We asked how he thought he was doing based on his professional opinion. He said he looked good and we said yes. (Babies born before 25 weeks are not saved unless the parents request it.) He milked the cord to give him more blood and then cut it. I was thankful it wasn’t too rushed but I wished he had carried the placenta up with the baby instead of cutting it. A team of nurses arrived as he was squatting with me in the bathroom. He took Evar from my hands and lifted him to the incubator table surrounded by nurses.

It couldn’t have gone any better under the circumstances.

I had an unassisted freebirth, en caul just like my last baby, except in the hospital where I felt safe to have the baby receive immediate help for him.

After the birth

I stood at the table with my baby, naked and covered in shit and blood, as they cared for him. I don’t recall exactly what was going on. I guess they were doing APGAR and giving him oxygen. They told me later APGAR scores were 5, 3, 7. A couple of nurses tried to get me to sit down and put an IV in. She looked surprised when she turned my hand over and saw that I didn’t have a line in. I declined. I think someone covered me in a blanket. I was focused on my baby and watching him. I wasn’t sure if he’d die then or make it but I wasn’t going to miss those minutes being separated.

They said they were ready to take him upstairs and asked if I wanted my husband to go up or stay. I was confused on why they didn’t just assume we were both going up. Why couldn’t I go up? I told my husband to go upstairs with the baby and CAT team. The baby was doing well so far, and I had to fight a new strange doctor to let me go, sign paperwork that I refused his immediate vaginal exam, IV. I was pretty pissed that I had to spend that time with him, a rude doctor, was being pressured to follow their policies, when all that mattered to me was being with my baby. They were taking that time away from me with BS. I wanted to tell him and everyone to leave me the fuck alone, to eff off. But I was as polite as I could be, kept repeating, “No, thank you” to whatever request they threw at me that seemed unnecessary. A few minutes later, I was on my way up to the NICU being wheeled up by a nurse the former midwife nurse had said she’d know I’d love, a doula that supported home birth and women and babies naturally. She was so kind, smiled, looked into my eyes. We shared a couple of laughs about how I just pooped by baby out and was perfectly fine.

When I arrived in the NICU, it was blur. It was my first time there and it was an odd place.

My baby was in a strange bright room with people around him. I was thankful my husband was there. I asked the charge nurse when I could hold him again because I was worried he would die. Later, she said, but I don’t recall what else. It was hard to leave him a couple hours later but I needed to sleep and I couldn’t sleep next to him. There wasn’t room. It felt cruel to leave him, to not have me near after months of us being together.

We spent the next day watching him, “compassionate care” touching him, having the kids meet him.

He was so tiny and red. He stretched, twitched, wiggled. He couldn’t cry with a tube down his throat.

I attempted to rest during the short periods I was away from him, pumping in postpartum, which was thankfully on the same floor. I waited to hold him again. It seemed to be my life goal at the moment. I rushed down the hall to his bed every couple hours and asked to hold him. The nurse kept pushing me off, telling me to ask again in a little bit. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t hold him. What if he died and I never got to hold him alive again. That day without holding him felt like my heart was being ripped out. They gave me a scent doll to hold and sleep with. I wished it was him and I bawled.

I wished I was still pregnant, really, that I hadn’t failed to keep him inside and safe until he was strong and plump like all of my other babies. So many emotions, guilt, anger, happiness, love, fear. Finally, I was able to hold him again on Tuesday at 7:30am. I wept with joy when they put him on my chest.

Holding Evar was wonderful. He was impossibly small and wiggly, just over a pound. I cried as I heard his breathing, felt his hand wrap around my finger. His hand was the size of my fingernail up to my first knuckle. They said he was big for his age but definitely a 24 weeker. He peed on me while I held him.

It was still awkward and a bit uncomfortable though because he was covered in wires, tape, and tubes and I had to have thing taped to me and they were itchy against my skin. When he was first born, he was naked and free, smooth and perfect. If I hadn’t held him that first minute, I would have felt so lost, devastated, without that memory to help me through. I will keep it my whole life, I’m sure, his weight in my hands, against my body, the sound of his cry.

As the days went on, I was so thankful he made it, was able to be saved, but so worried he wouldn’t make it, that something awful would happen. I battled emotions that it was all my fault for not being able to keep him inside. (I feel much better about this now, by the way. Preemie births like this are not the mom’s fault. We do the best we can in the face of a frightening situation.)

But our NICU journey over the next three and a half months is a whole different story. I’ll save that for another day.

I am enjoying where we are now, living a life full of sunshine and love without fear.

Did your baby have to stay in the NICU? Did you have a micropreemie? Share your story! 

Join the conversation on TwitterFacebook, or comment below.

If you’re in the NICU now, have hope. You will bring your baby home. 

 

My posts on my 4th pregnancy, my son’s birth, our time in the NICU, and breastfeeding:

Evar at 4 weeks old

[4th of July with my baby <3 ]

Can I just say how thankful I am? I have four wonderful, healthy children. After giving birth at 24 weeks, I was too scared for quite a long time to have hope that he’d make it. After spending 3.5 months in the NICU, he’s been home 4 weeks now and life couldn’t be sweeter.

We’re new to the actual vs adjusted due date game so I guess he’s almost 4 weeks old, going by his due date of June 11th. But since he came home on June 6th and it was such a momentous day and so close to his due date, we’re going by that date.

Now we’re off to spend the day with family. I promise I’ll get to my birth story soon!

 

My posts on my 4th pregnancy, my son’s birth, our time in the NICU, and breastfeeding:

Exploding with joy

You know, I never shared a photo of my baby boy after his birth because I was worried every day would be his last. It’s was an awful, sinking, drowning feeling and it lasted for a long time. I took photos of him everyday, every time I saw him, just in case he didn’t make it to the next day, the next time I saw him. Well, I think I’m ready to share because he’s home and I’m no longer living with that weight on my shoulders.

Here he was on his birthday at 1lb 6oz, born at 24 weeks and 1 day in February, and this was yesterday, being held by his big (2-year-old) brother who was exploding with joy, holding him for the first time. So many months were spent in fear and finally, there is bliss.

This is how tiny his feet were.

Of course I have photos of each of my children meeting and holding their brother for the first time and they’re all special to me but I just thought with all the sadness in the world right now, my son’s pure happiness could brighten the darkness a little. 

I will share his birth story soon, too.

 

My posts on my 4th pregnancy, my son’s birth, our time in the NICU, and breastfeeding:

My new normal: Breastfeeding my toddler, trying SNS with my preemie, living life

Twenty days. I can’t believe I’ve been home with my preemie for 20 whole days already. It’s been a bit crazy, adjusting to four kids, learning how to bottle fed, wash bottles, pump, and nurse 24/7, feed everyone and myself, try to keep up with the housework, starting potty training with my toddler, getting outside, and everything else.

Here we are on our first nature day since we got home.

And another fun afternoon…

Northern California is gorgeous right now, even though there hasn’t been any rain lately and the hills are golden instead of green.

Breastfeeding hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, though.

Before we left the NICU, I tried exclusive breastfeeding with E for a couple of days but he wasn’t extracting well and lost weight. Then I tried an at breast supplementor, or a supplemental nursing system, with my pumped breast milk but he didn’t really do well with it before we left, was only able to get a few milliliters out each nursing session even though he was supposed to be taking in over 50mL. So I just opted for bottles to supplement his breastfeeding sessions to get him gaining, to bring him home. Now that he’s home and I’m so over bottles, I’m giving this SNS a whirl for the first time in a month or so. I’m just using whatever free one I was given at the hospital.

It’s so frustrating, getting everything just right quickly because my little guy can escalate from sleeping to screaming with hunger instantly. And skin to skin with an SNS is a little tricky! There’s nothing to clip the bottle on to except my hair! So I’ve just been propping it on my shoulder like you can see in the photo.

I can’t believe how far he’s come since his first time latching on months ago at 31 weeks when he was in the two pound range. He’s not quite 8 pounds yet but getting closer. He’s gained 6 solid pounds since birth! (He was only 1lb 6oz in case you’re new to our story.)

We’re getting our babymoon that we couldn’t have when he was first born. It’s perfect. Slow. Peaceful. I love hanging out with him at home, skin to skin, all day.

Except when we go out, of course. But he’s still in my arms or in a sling.

It’s been beyond wonderful to get out with my whole family, sunshine and fresh air. No more hospital beeps and NICU drama. No more special approval to go outside. Of course I most definitely appreciated the staff and my favorite doctors and nurses for saving his life, but I’m glad that part of our life is behind us. Three and a half months was enough!

Here we are the other day at lunch using a lovely ring sling my friend Perli Po gave me.

I’m still getting the technique just right so please be kind.

This is what my mornings look like right before my two-year-old toddler asks for milk, of course.

My toddler asks to nurse in his own adorable way (he says “nilk meez!”) a thousand times a day. He’s still adjusting to his baby brother, mostly pretty well, but sometimes he has a hard time sharing “his” milk.

I can’t get over how huge he looks compared to his baby brother, much less my big girls who are 4 and 6. I can’t even believe I’m a mom of four children. The time has just flown by. I am one lucky mama to have them in my life.

My boys are both in diapers, a compostable kind we use with a local composting service. I cannot wait for my older son to get motivated to use the potty all the time. He’s not there yet though, unless I bribe him with milk. Then he’ll go run and squat on the potty and come back for milk. Better than bribing him with chocolate chips, right?

Sleeping

Things could be better or worse in the sleep department. Here we are, sleeping together in my huge king bed. We do have five beds in the house but of course, they like to fall asleep with me.

I can’t believe I made all of those little people!

I always make sure I’m the only one next to the baby though, he’s at the very top of the bed, and that the blankets are not covering him.

Sometimes I’ll slip out with the baby and go sleep in a queen guest room bed and leave the kids with their dad. Other nights, I’ll put them all in their beds, or at least in one bed in their room, and they’ll stay in that bed. Or one will come back in the middle of the night. And sometimes they stay asleep in their beds all night. It’s musical beds here. I’m fine with that. As long as we’re all sleeping enough. Don’t even get me started on my toddler needing to drop his nap though.

I have to wake up every 2-3 hours to breastfeed E and now I think it’s even more often with the SNS since he’s not taking as much as he was with the bottle.

Okay, goodnight!

**6.29 Update** We did the SNS for a solid day, quit because I couldn’t hack it. I was getting so frustrated and so was E. Then we did a nipple shield for a day and it was much easier and now we’re on day two of breastfeeding on cue all day and night, no shield or SNS, but supplementing with a bottle or two a day if he can’t get settled on the breast. If he measures gains for a few days, I’ll drop the bottle. I’m waiting for my appointment with a lactation consultant to see if that’s a good plan.

[Breastfeeding at 3 weeks old adjusted / 4 months old]

Did you have a preemie or did you use an at breast supplementer or a nipple shield? How’d it go for you? Were you able to do exclusive nursing or what worked for you?

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