Sunday, January 25, 2015

Oberon's Birth Story

This post is written by Elizabeth, because obviously.

I struggled for a while on whether I wanted to write this post.  Before we knew the extent of Oberon's problems, I couldn't wait to write about how he came into the world.  After... it didn't seem that important.  How could I celebrate his appearance when everyone knows the story ends so tragically?  It turns out, I want to celebrate everything about Obie all the time.  I get lost in pictures and videos, and Chris and I love imitating his little wiggles and facial expressions.  He is our son, and I want to celebrate him.  So, here is the story of how he came into our lives on the outside.

Proceed with caution - while this post doesn't get too graphic, it does inherently discuss bodily functions and personal things.  Can't say I didn't warn you.

November 23, 2014 was supposed to be my baby shower here in California.  I was excited to spend time with dear friends and thrilled to see what silly (and crafty) things Kelly, Meredith, and Christina had devised for the party.  For those of you who know me, you already know I was curious to see what people did with the theme (1920s).  I wanted to take more preggo pictures, especially with a big feather fascinator on my head and gloves on my arms.  I also had a surprise I was working on with Chris that would've been hilarious.

I woke up around 5 a.m., which wasn't at all unusual.  I was waking up between one and three times a night to pee at that point.  This time, it was a little different and I started wondering if I was getting some third trimester incontinence as I waddled to the bathroom.  Waddled very quickly since it felt like I was leaking (or had leaked) a little already.  I relieved myself, but the trickling didn't stop.  At this point I was still thinking that I just didn't have as much control as normal, so I put a pad on and was going to go back to sleep.  The pad was soaked by the time I washed my hands, so I went back over to the toilet and tried not to completely freak out.

I yelled to Chris that I was pretty sure my water broke.  I was afraid he wouldn't hear my because the fan was on and Chris is quite a heavy sleeper.  Luckily, he not only heard me but also got out of bed and into the bathroom quickly.  We called Kaiser and they told us to come in (of course).

Chris grabbed our semi-packed hospital bag, and I tried to find some clothes to wear to the hospital.  I was smart enough to have old towels in the car, but it wasn't that bad on the drive over.  Thankfully, no traffic on a Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m.  We had to go to the emergency entrance since it was so early.

I was one day shy of 34 weeks and not nearly as freaked out as I thought I would be.  I was only one week removed from labor and delivery class.  I kept telling Chris that I bet we were the least far along in that class, and probably the first ones to deliver.  They sat me on puppy pads since I was still leaking like crazy while they checked me out and confirmed the obvious.

Once I was officially admitted, they moved us to a delivery suite.  The nurses and delivery doctor told me they'd monitor for infection and try to keep the baby in another week.  They told me half of women go into labor within 24 hours of their water breaking, so half don't.  Of course, I could go into labor at any time.  I wasn't feeling any contractions, but the sensors strapped around my belly were picking some up.

They gave me an option of which arm for the IV.  I picked the right because it was on the side of the bed away from visitors, so it was easier for Chris to get close.  Seemed like a good plan until I went to the bathroom.  FYI - it is ridiculously difficult to use a restroom that has the TP and no extra room on the right side of the toilet when your right hand has an IV and is dragging a tree of tubes with you.  If they give you a choice... check the bathroom setup first.

I'd told the girls hosting the shower about the situation, and they came to visit (because they're awesome).  They were there for one of the most awkward moments.  One of the neonatologists walked in, announced himself as a baby doctor (complete with thick Russian accent), and asked us if we had any questions.  Um... no?  Oh wait, yes... why are you here?  Once the conversation got going, Dr. K told us about the common complications with preterm babies.  We were already prepared for immediate admission to the NICU for the omphalocele, so we weren't as freaked out with the early delivery.  I guess the way to say it is that our concern was already topped out, and we already knew how the NICU worked.

Banner that was supposed to be for the baby shower, but instead decorated the L&D suite.

The nurses told me I was on "bed rest with bathroom privileges", which meant I had to stay strapped into sensors on the bed, but I could remove them and walk to the bathroom on my own as needed.  Once things seemed relatively stable, Chris went home to get more stuff we needed (including things to occupy us since we weren't sure how long I would be laid up).  The girls kept me company.  They also got to see an ultrasound.  The doctor tried to estimate the baby's size from the ultrasound, and was laughably off.  She measured him at 4.5 pounds or so, and as you probably know Obie came in at over 6.  The whole time she was measuring she kept repeating how inaccurate it was and how she doesn't even normally do this (it's usually an ultrasound tech, I guess).  I was pretty sure he didn't go from the 90th percentile to the 27th in size in 3 weeks, so I never really trusted her 4.5 pounds thing.

At some point I was cleared to eat.  The girls got us food and left once Chris returned.  It was around this time that we decided on the baby's name, Oberon Christopher.  We had been trying it out for a few days, but didn't make a commitment until then.  Chris kept saying once we told people we couldn't change it, and I kept saying I was 90% sure and that was as good as it would get.  Later, Chris and I watched TV shows on the iPad and eventually wound down enough to get some sleep at around 11:30 p.m.  I thought I was in the clear for the time being.

I woke up an hour later to pee again.  When I got back in the bed I could not find a position where my low back didn't hurt really bad.  While I was flipping side to side, the nurse showed up and asked how I was feeling.  I told her my back was hurting and she said that made sense since I was in active labor.  It didn't feel anything like what I thought a contraction would feel like, it was only extreme low back pain.  The nurse said she was sure I'd have the baby before her shift ended at 7 a.m.  I woke Chris up at 12:45.

Things happened pretty quickly then.  The first time the nurse (or doctor, I can't remember now) checked me I was 4 cm dilated.  She also told me that the baby had great hair.  The next time I was 7.  They asked me if I wanted drugs or an epidural and I said yes, please to both.  The IV drugs were awesome.  Anything to take the edge off was awesome.  The epidural was even better.  The back pain was gone (and so was most of the feeling in my legs).  I was able to rest for a bit.  The nurses prepped me for the possibility of an emergency C section since Obie's heart rate had dipped a bit earlier on, and if it happened again they might operate.

They checked my dilation again and it was 9 cm.  A bunch of people were bustling around the far side of the suite and the doctor tried to introduce me to people.  I didn't have my glasses on and I told her everyone was a dark haired blob so it was kind of a waste of time.  Pretty soon after that they had me start pushing.  I wasn't looking at the clock at this point, but Chris insists I was only pushing for about 20 minutes.  I couldn't feel the contractions at all so they had to tell me when to push.  Apparently, I'm really good at pushing.  The doctor and the nurses said so during the process, and the NICU nurses brought it up again days later.  The doctor thought I'd have bruises on my legs from holding on so tight, but she was totally wrong.  That didn't happen at all.

Oberon was officially born at 4:55 a.m., so from start to finish the labor labor part was just over 4 hours.  I am thankful that Obie didn't try to make it longer than that.  He started crying almost immediately and was impressively loud, especially for a preemie.  Being stuck on the bed delivering the placenta, getting stitches, and having completely asleep legs anyway was very difficult.  Chris and a team of doctors and nurses were all huddled around Obie and an isolette.  I couldn't really see him, just lots of scrubs and a couple white coats.  After what seemed like an hour, they brought Obie over to me and I got to hold him for about 10 seconds before they whisked him away.

Obie, who may or may not be crying in this picture.

 Drive by hold.  There are no pictures without this gloved arm.

I kept telling myself I'd get to hold him for hours and hours later to keep from getting pissed. The room had gone from loud and crazy to nearly silent in the blink of an eye.  The doctor finished my stitches, and then it was just me and the nurse.  Chris (awesome husband that he is) had reached out to the girls to get someone to keep me company (thanks, Christina!).  With Chris and Obie out of reach, it didn't feel like I'd just had a baby.  It didn't feel like I had a son.  It was a very weird and surreal sensation.

It took almost an hour for Chris to come back.  He was so obviously in love with Obie and kept saying how amazing he was.  It was one of the sweetest moments of my life.

The nurse appeared and told me she was going to get me the last private room, so we moved pretty fast.  I was all set up in my new room by shift change (7 a.m.), just like she said.  The new room was much smaller than the delivery suite.  There was a dry erase board with care instructions and check boxes, but it was all crossed out and just had "NICU" written on it.  I was prepared for a non-typical delivery, but I wasn't prepared for the constant reminders that Obie was having a harder time than most babies.

I hadn't felt cold in months, but I felt cold in that room.  It was one of the first things that felt really different.

I wasn't allowed to go visit Obie until I peed.  I'm convinced that half of being pregnant and having a baby is just about pee.  If I didn't pee enough within a certain time frame they would put in a catheter, and then I REALLY couldn't go see Obie any time soon.  One of the nurses was all ready to do it when her trainee convinced her to give me another 30 minutes.  That was all it took and then I was able to get over to the NICU (in a painfully slow wheelchair).  

First visit with Obie, before his surgery.

The other thing I remember clearly is how ridiculous the pumping guidance I got was.  Every nurse had her own ideas around how I should pump, and so did every lactation consultant.  I got different answers from everyone for everything so I won't even bother sharing any of it here.  If your curious about how pumping went for me in the hospital and out, drop me a line I'm happy to share.

I can't remember all my pastpartum nurses, but there was one who drove me bananas.  I don't know whether it was my hormones or she really was that difficult, but she really rubbed me the wrong way.  She said things like, "he's doing good, right?" or "he's getting better, right?" and I wanted to punch her in the face.  This was only for the first couple days, so it was during the omphalocele surgery and waiting for him to poop.  And he was having apnea events and turning purple.  You'd think nurses would be better able to handle NICU moms, but it seemed like some of them had never dealt with one before.  Of course, this was the nurse who wheeled me out when I was discharged and waited with me while Chris got the car.  "You have family who lives nearby, right?"  So.  Awkward.

Physically, Obie's delivery wasn't terribly difficult.  I only had minor tearing, and I was walking up and down stairs within a couple days.  The biggest things, figurative and literally, were my abdomen and my feet.  My feet were gargantuan for a few days.  So much so I couldn't tighten my tennis shoe laces at all.

This is what Instgram is for, right?

It felt like there were pools of water under my foot skin.  Not painful, but not pleasant.

I knew I'd still be big, but I wasn't prepared for how different the bigness felt.  When I was pregnant, foldover pants and stretchy waistbands were just fine.  Not those first couple weeks post-delivery.  Instead of a solid belly, I had a squishy belly.  Any pressure from elastic pants was really bad for comfort and digestion.  I didn't have the right wardrobe for pumping and not having tight stuff on my belly.  My dresses didn't have easy access tops and my comfy pants weren't low enough (or were so low they dragged, so I couldn't wear them to the hospital).  Now I know why maternity sweatpants exist.

Cuddle train with maternity sweatpants.  I'm definitely not wearing them right now, no-siree-bob.

Now, some two months later, the things I notice most besides my belly are my ankles and fingers.  My ankles feel weak and slidy, and my finger joints are almost as sore as they were when I was pregnant.  I also realized I'm terrible at guessing how much I weigh.  I didn't think I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, but I felt closer than I am.  I don't feel big anymore, at least not like I did before.  My legs feel really long.  I'm not sure why, but my leg bones seem comically long.  Maybe because I hadn't seen them in a while.

So there you have it.  How Obie was born, plus some random information on how my body changed.  As always, the best part of the story is that Obie was born, so here's one more picture of him from his birthday.


  1. Dear Elizabeth and Chris,
    Thank you so much for sharing your sweet Oberon's birth day and the events leading up to his birth! You are both incredible parents and a very strong, loving couple!! Love the pictures you have posted and the framed pictures in your home, too!

  2. Thank you for sharing your birth story! I had a similar experience as my preemie son was whisked away to the NICU very quickly after birth. I still had to birth 2 stillborn babies so I didn't see my son really until 12 hours after birth. But like Chris, my husband was in the NICU too falling in love with our son. And pumping in the NICU...yeah that's tough.

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