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Sunday, February 24, 2013

A FitSyracuse Birth Story

Hey everyone, it's Mike's Wife, Andrea. I wanted to share our birth story with everyone. I also think it's important to record it while it is still fresh in my memory! I wrote in detail about our wedding and often like to go back and read it, and this will be no different! It's good to reflect on the event and I want to be able to account for all the things that happened that I didn't plan for. I mean, how can you really plan for something you have never experienced? In a way our birth experience was a lot like a WOD (workout of the day) because it is truly the unknown and unknowable. We went in, *sort of* prepared for one thing and the exact opposite happened. But it's ok because we had each other and the help of our wonderful doctors and nurses to support us.  I like to think that CrossFit helped prepare me both mentally and physically for the adventure that began at 3:30AM, Friday February 1, 2013. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, like I often did, with the urge to go to the bathroom. So I went and tried, but nothing happened. So I crawled back into bed, and quickly began experiencing what felt like mild menstrual cramping. Which I guess is normal for pregnancy, but it was the first time I had felt them. At first I didn't really think anything of it and tried to go back to sleep. But they kept happening, consistently and for about the same amount of time. I was 39 weeks pregnant so I was thinking perhaps this was it! So I decided to download a contraction ap to my iphone that I had heard about. It's called Full Term Contraction Ap [view details here]
My early contractions - 2/1/13
Kinda looked like a Jeopardy! Buzzer
It is a great Ap and it's free! I highly recommend it. It's easy to use and very intuitive. It doesn't take much thinking, which is nice for the kind of situation you're in! So I kept track a bit and by then it was 4:30ish and my restlessness had woken up Mike. So I told him what was going on and he perked right up! He of course got super excited and was really interested in hearing about my contractions, how far apart they were and how intense. It helped to talk about it and think about what was about to happen! It took me a while to really accept that these were the real thing. Mike had to tell me several times that I was not going to work and neither was he. I decided to text my Mom and tell her what was going on. She had 5 kids so I wanted her opinion on what I was feeling. I had read so much online about people's birth experiences (a blessing and a curse to read so much!) and so many people had said they they'd had mild contractions like this for days, and that it's important to be patient and not get too antsy for things to progress. So I stayed patient. Maybe too patient! Around 7am I decided to email my boss finally and tell him I wasn't coming in. I also thought that since I had my 39 week doc's appointment anyway that day, I'd call them as soon as the opened and ask if I could get in for an exam earlier in case this was truly the day. So at 8am, I called the office and they said I could come in ASAP. I guess when you mention that you may be in labor, they get a little excited. So we headed out the door and it was blizzarding out! Figures, right? We ended up being a bit late, but they were ok with that. They got me right in, and hooked me up to the monitor.

Monitoring my contractions
It's where they fasten 2 belts to your belly to monitor the baby's heart beat and your contractions. They also give you this buzzer thing and have you click it every time you feel movement. This is called a non-stress test. So I laid on the table, while Mike sat next to me and we watched the screen. It was cool because every time I had a contraction, the line would go up, and then according to what was going on, would go up, plateau or go down. I could feel the contractions while I watched the line move.

Pretty neat. This was cool because I could see that these truly were contractions! When you've never experienced this before, it's easy to 2nd guess what is going on. Next the Doctor came in and checked my cervix. I was 3-4 cm dialated. 10cm is when labor starts. But, since I've read so many birth stories, I know that some women could go a week while 4cm dialated, or they could go an hour. But I was trying to be realistic and knew that my contractions really weren't so serious that labor was around the corner. The doc gave us the option of going straight to the hospital, or going home and laboring there. Usually they won't admit you until you are 6cm, but she said they would make an exception because of the bad weather. We decided since we live so close to the hospital (15min tops), that we would go home and wait it out. My mom met us at home and we just hung out all day. It was fun, with the exception of the cramps every couple of minutes. It gave me a chance to hang out with my mom and grill her on her labor experiences. She had 5 kids, all basically without drugs. That was my plan and I thought since she had done it 5 times, I could do it once. We watched TV, fantasized about the baby, joked, paced, it was truly a day to remember and would only get more interesting!

This is me just before my water broke!
We hung out at my house for the whole day, mostly vegged out on the couch in the basement living room waiting for something to happen. Around 3:45 pm my Dad called to ask me how I was doing. I told him nothing much was going on, and I would let him know if anything changed. Just as I was hanging up with him, I felt a slight pop and then a gush of warm water. Did I pee myself? Nope, my water broke! I yelled to Mike and he lept of the couch. It was go time! There was a frantic rush as everyone gathered up their stuff and I made sure we had everything we needed for our hospital stay. I giggled to myself as I thought about how we calmly vegged out all day waiting for my water to break, and as soon as it did, we scrambled to gather up our things as if it was happening out of the blue! We hopped in the truck and braved the winter weather. It had been snowing all day and the roads were still pretty bad. The 15 min ride to the hospital felt like an eternity. It seemed like Mike wasn't driving as aggressive as he could have. I was in labor for god's sake! He dropped me off at the front door and I muttered to the guys at the hospital's security desk "I'm uh... I'm in labor.." And of course they waived me through. I was carrying a bunch of bags and the walk up to the maternity floor felt like 25 miles! I reached the desk at the maternity ward and the woman gave me a bunch of paperwork to fill out. By then my contractions were pretty intense and I was pretty annoyed of all this paperwork. Everything was foggy and I just wanted Mike to get here (he was parking the truck). She sent me into the triage room where they gave me a gown to put on. It felt like every move I made was a struggle. It hurt to walk, breathe and just exist at that point. They put me into my own little area in triage and I laid on the bed. Lots of nurses were in and out, hooking me up to monitors and machines. It all felt so routine. My contractions were getting to be pretty bad and every time they hit, I grabbed Mike's hand and leaned my head back. Even screaming seemed like it would make it hurt more. My mom arrived and joined us. Every time I had a contraction, I could see my mom in the corner cringing. I felt bad that she felt bad! A resident doctor from my OB/GYN practice came in to examine me. She said she wanted to make sure my water truly broke. I told her it was all over my couch if she wanted to check. She said they had to do a few tests to my fluid. The last thing I wanted them to do was perform some tests on me at this point. I just wanted the baby out! She also needed to check my cervix. Again, having someone shove their fingers inside me while I was contracting was not too appealing, but I really had no choice. She lubed up her gloved hand (sorry for the graphic details!) and began checking to see how dilated I was. It seemed like she was taking a while. The other nurses there kind of had the same thought as I did. "Why is this resident taking so long to examine me?? Does she know what she's doing??" Then all of a sudden after what seemed like 10 minutes of her poking around in there, she said... "I think I feel a butt. I think this baby is breech." I felt the four letters of the word "FUCK" roll off my tongue. I knew what breech meant. The nurse next to me assured me that the Doctor would be in soon for a second opinion. Meanwhile, the resident appeared again with a portable sonogram machine. Sure enough, my little buddy was sitting up right. The doctor confirmed her findings and broke the news to us -- "I'm going to be blunt with you - you're having a C-Section and you're having it now." Turns out I was 10cm dilated and the baby wanted out. The C-Section had to happen quickly or the baby would start to descend down the birth canal breech, which would pose a whole slew of risks I wasn't even going to mess with. For example, the risk of him getting stuck inside me and complicating the delivery even more.

The nurses taking care of me were from the birth place. The "natural" area of the maternity ward where I wouldn't be going to afterall, after so much anticipation and planning for a natural and drug free birth. I took a few seconds to mourn that loss and moved on. I just wanted to have a healthy complication free birth, whatever it took. I honestly didn't care about going drug free at that point and actually found myself asking them how quickly I could have the drugs. My thought was that I could tough out the contractions if they had a purpose but after I found out I was having a C-Section, I knew that the contractions were just a nuisance. I do believe that all of the reading I did during my pregnancy about how the contractions had purpose and how it was my body's way of naturally laboring helped me through the pain. I don't regret reading so much about natural birth, but I do sort of regret not taking time to read a bit about a c-section. I always skipped those parts, and didn't even really include that part in my birth plan. I never once considered the possibility of having one. Just proof that anything can happen and you have to be ready for it.

One article that really left an impression on me regarding a natural birth is [this one].
Ecstatic Birth: The Hormonal Blueprint of Labor
By Sarah J. Buckley
Four major hormonal systems are active during labor and birth. These involve:
1. oxytocin, the hormone of love;
2. endorphins, hormones of pleasure and transcendence;
3. epinephrine 
and norepinephrine, hormones of excitement;
4. prolactin, the mothering hormone

These systems are common to all mammals and originate in our mammalian or middle
brain, also known as the limbic system. 

For birth to proceed optimally, this part of the brain must take precedence over the neocortex, or rational brain. 

This shift can be helped by an atmosphere of quiet and privacy, with, for example, dim lighting and little conversation, and no expectation of rationality from the laboring woman. Under such conditions a woman intuitively will choose the movements, sounds, breathing, and positions that will birth her baby most easily. This is her genetic and hormonal blueprint All of these systems are adversely affected by current birth practices. Hospital environments and routines are not conducive to the shift in consciousness that giving birth naturally requires. A woman's hormonal physiology is further disturbed by practices such as induction, the use of painkillers and epidurals, caesarean surgery, and separation of mother and baby after birth.
I love how it explains why each hormone is released and how important each is in the labor process. I do believe that since I did labor for 12+ hours, my body released those hormones, even though I ended up having a c-section. I am proud of myself for toughing it out through the contractions, and that in a way has helped me better accept that I had to have a c-section. I am a bit annoyed that throughout my pregnancy and all of the monthly, bi-weekly and eventually weekly check-ups no one noticed that he was breech. I always said my exams were way too quick and were almost a waste of my time. Which was solidified when it was discovered that Chase was breech and it went undetected. I do realize that position can be hard to confirm, especially when they have a round plump butt. But they could have spent a little more time checking me. I want to think that maybe they will use me as a learning experience, and take a bit more time on people next time but I have a feeling they probably won't. That practice is so large, and I am sure no one even thought anything of it. They probably don't even remember examining me. I am pretty out spoken, and I'm quite surprised at myself for not calling them out on it. I think what is keeping me from being mad is a couple of things. 1. Chase is healthy and we are all happy and 2. If I knew I was having a c- section ahead of time, I would have googled the crap out of it and freaked myself out reading all of the cons and complications of a c-section and psyched myself out. Also, they probably would have wanted to schedule the procedure, meaning I wouldn't have labored and Chase wouldn't have come out on his own accord. I am a big believer in "everything happening for a reason" which is a great way to live if you ask me!

Anyway, back to my experience. After they discovered that Chase was breech, they immediately ordered a c-section. My nurses seemed to be a little frantic and had trouble getting the IV into my veins. It took two different nurses to finally get it in. I think because they were birth place nurses who weren't used to working in an intense birth environment. I think I have pretty easy veins to work with! They also inserted a catheter it my bladder since I was about to be numbed from the belly down and wouldn't be able to get up to go to the bathroom for a few hours. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe because I was also having contractions at the same time and those hurt more. Of course the catheter was uncomfortable, but it seemed to be the least of my problems. I also knew that once the morphine I was about to get into my spine took effect, I wouldn't feel it anymore. Once the IV and catheter were set, they wheeled me into the operating room and the anesthesiologist hooked me up with an awesome injection of morphine directly into my spine. Under normal circumstances, the thought of that would scare the poop out of me, but I couldn't wait! I knew the pain of the contractions, the urge to push and the uncomfortableness of the catheter would soon be gone! Before I could ask them how soon the morphine would take effect, my legs and butt got really warm, as if I had just gone waist deep into a nice warm jacuzzi tub. It felt good! They put a sheet up in front of my face to make a "Sterile environment" around my abdomen and got to work on getting that baby out.
Laying there while they opened me up!

I don't know if it was the excitement of the baby, or the drugs but as calm as I look in the picture, was exactly how I was feeling! I was feeling really, really good. If it wasn't for all of the drugs, I'd recommend a c-section to everyone! I am still a proponent of a natural birth, however if you are faced with having to get a c-section believe me, it is not the end of the world. And quite frankly, it was quick, easy and believe it or not, painless! Even my recovery was relatively painless. Anyway, the procedure took all of about 15 minutes, from start to finish. It was unbelievable. And at 6:10pm on February 1, 2013, Chase Gary Elliott was born!

I remember the nurse saying "oh look at him, he's so handsome!" And I joked with her saying "oh you probably say that about all the babies!" And of course she said "oh no I don't!" and I proceeded to make a few more jokes that made everyone laugh.

Mike took this, and yes the doc. had him by the neck!

Because they had to stitch me up, I couldn't immediately hold him. Had I known I was having a c-section ahead of time, this would have bothered me tremendously but instead, I asked Mike if he would hold him skin to skin (kangaroo care) because I couldn't, and he obligated. The operating staff thought we were nuts (they don't see "birth place"-type people too often!) They got a kick out of it. Mike was issued scrubs and was allowed to be in the room during the operation. I remember I kept asking for him, but they couldn't allow him to come in until they got me all situated and they had the sterile environment established (after all, they were opening up my abdomen! Wouldn't want a junior mint to fall into my body cavity!-- sorry, Seinfeld reference). He said the time he spent in the hallway waiting to be let into the room felt like an eternity. He's such a great daddy and husband!

After they cleaned him all up and had me pretty well stitched up, I finally got to hold my little guy! I honestly don't remember that moment, probably from all the drugs and craziness, but I do have this beautiful picture to look back at. We are so thankful for the doctors who reminded Mike to go back and grab his camera! Or else we wouldn't have had all these amazing pictures!

Holding and seeing my little baby boy for the first time!
Like I said, the procedure probably lasted about 15 minutes. From the time they injected me with morphine until they stitched the last stitch. How nuts is that? Major surgery, so routine. I am amazed by modern medicine, as much as I say I hate it. It's a blessing when it comes to making sure a birth happens without any serious complications. 50 years ago, Chase would have likely been born vaginally, where we would have to deal with many risks during birth, and possibly death. 100 years ago, the risk of death would have been even higher. But in 2013 a team of 10 or so doctors got him out in 15 minutes, and I felt no pain. Unbelievable. After the morphine wore off, the catheter they had inserted into my incision started to drip some sort of pain medication for about a day. Then it slowly weaned me off of it until it was empty, which was enough time for me to heal a bit so that all I needed was a little ibuprophen and oxycodone for a few days. Oxycodone is serious stuff, but the fact that is all I needed every 4 hours to deal with the pain of major surgery, says a lot about the surgery. I cannot thank my doctors and nurses enough. My experience at St. Joseph's Hospital was nothing short of amazing. Every single staff member there treated us like VIP. I can't say enough great things about the nursing staff there who, each time they came into my room, treated me as if I was their one and only patient. Which I wasn't because it was super busy! Our room was beautiful, spacious, private, clean and updated. We had everything in our little "bubble" that we needed for our 3 day extended stay. Mike even got a little fold out bed, which is more than they offer at most other hospitals. During our stay, the nurses taught me so much. They also helped me recuperate from the surgery and I basically felt no pain. Aside from a little tenderness and lack of muscle strength. The only trouble I had was getting in and out of bed, sitting up was a huge challenge. It made getting up in the middle of the night to tend to a crying baby quite difficult, but I managed. My primary nurse, Debbie was amazing. She was so patient and attentive to us. I can't thank her enough for helping me through it all. During my laboring at home, I had my mom to go to for advice on a natural birth, and in the hospital, I had Debbie to go to with my questions on c-sections since she had 5 of them!  Before this experience, if you had asked me my thoughts on a C-section, I would have a totally different answer than I do now. I am amazed at how quickly I recovered and have CrossFit to thank. Having worked out until about week 36 helped to strengthen my muscles and tissue so that I was healthy enough to recover quickly. It also helped that the rest of my body was strong so I could make up for the loss of my abdominal muscles for 6+ weeks!

My amazing nurse Debbie giving Chase his first bath
We were in the hospital from Friday night until Monday morning. Had I known before hand we would have been in the hospital so long, it would have bothered me, but I enjoyed our time there. I learned so much from my nurses, got to relax and had everything we needed right in the room. I didn't even so much as step into the hallway of the hospital the entire weekend. We even got to watch the superbowl in the room, on the flat screen! Mike got to watch the SU game and the superbowl with his brand new son!

Throughout the weekend we had a pretty good stream of friends and family who visited us. We couldn't be more thankful for the love and support we were showered with! It really brightened our days to see familiar, proud faces pop in and out of the room.  It was truly a weekend I will never forget!  Nothing could have prepared me for the experience and it truly exceeded all of my expectations!
The "Real Houswives of CrossFit Syracuse!"

Grandma & Grandpa Elliott, Daddy & Aunt Lisa

Chase & His CrossFit Coaches
Aunt Julie, Grandma Mary & Uncle Richard
I'd have to say that the first few weeks of being a mother were much more difficult than the labor process! During my pregnancy, I probably googled the birth process a thousand times. I had an idea what it would be like (aside from the whole c-section thing), but I was not prepared for the huge change motherhood would bring. I definitely became another person, likely due to all of the hormones I was oozing. I was very emotional, cried a lot and at the drop of a hat. What got me the most was leaving the hospital. I was a wreck! They wheel you down in a wheelchair while your husband waits in the car out front for you, and I remember just being in a huge fog. A mix of emotions, for sure! I was actually quite sad to be leaving the "hospital bubble" I had gotten so used to! It was all I knew, and soon I would be home with this little person. With no nurse to turn to with a question. It scared the crap out of me! But I had Mike and Mike didn't have any of the hormones raging through his body like I did. So he was level headed, confident and kept me from jumping off a cliff! He reassured me a 100 times how great I was doing.

And now our little guy is 3 weeks old and I think I got this Mom thing under control. Nothing can prepare you for motherhood and nothing compares to it!!


Enjoyed your brought back memories of my "unplanned" c-section with Emily. So happy when I heard that Chase had arrived. Hope that the nursing is going's the best for baby and you (and so much easier). Take care, Carole


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