Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lexi's birth story

I haven't posted her birth story yet. I wrote most of it out right after she was born (during that long week I was still in the hospital). Here is the first installment!

Alexandra Simone is here!!

I am overjoyed to announce the SAFE arrival of our beautiful baby girl Alexandra Simone. She was born on Friday, September 25th at 8:26pm. She was a whopping 6 pounds, 13 ounces and 50.5cm long. We heard her beautiful cry moments after her caesarean section birth. It was the best sound we have ever heard.

It has been a VERY long week; a fitting end to a VERY long 38 weeks. Here’s how the week went…

Thursday, September 24th - This was the first day that I was on the induction list. We were not all that hopeful that I would get a call telling me to come in. I dropped Jackson off at daycare like usual and went home to tidy up the house, planning to watch a Baby Story marathon for the rest of that morning. Then I had to pick up Jackson at 1pm. But all that was to change. At 10:45am I got a call from the hospital. I had made it to #1 on the induction list!! I was to come in as soon as safely possible! I ran around the house for the next 20 minutes grabbing stuff for my hospital bag, grabbing other things I thought I might want for the potentially long stretch of hospital induction ahead of me. Then I had to run next door to make sure Jackson could stay at daycare for the rest of the day. Then off to work to pick up Brian and head in to the hospital!

I got there and they immediately put me into L&D Room #2 (never even a question as to whether I would go into room #1 or not!). They hooked me up to the fetal monitors and found Thumper’s heart beat right away; nice and strong. After a little while a resident doctor came in and examined me. On Tuesday at my doctor appointment I had been a fingertip dilated so I was hoping to have made it to at least 1-2cm (I’d been crampy all week). This doctor examined me and announced that I was closed up tight. Ummm… So apparently not only did my body not know I was full term but it was also actively denying it! So with that the resident inserted the Cervidil and hooked me back up to the fetal monitors. I had to remain lying down for 30minutes with the monitors on so they could ensure that the Cervidil didn’t negatively affect the baby.

Once I was able to move they brought me over to my room on Antepartum. I had been worried that they would place me in Room #6 and that would be just too difficult to be so close to Room #7 (the room where moms are placed who are having stillbirths). Those two rooms share a bathroom and I would have such a hard time fighting the urge to go next door to offer any comfort I could to any mom in that room. Luckily I was placed in Room #5, close but not too close. I had a roommate who was in for preterm labour at 29 weeks. She was a very nice woman with an adorable 3 year old son. We had a lot of nice friendly chats and talked about fearing for our baby’s lives. It was nice to have someone to talk to during that time who sort of knew the emotions I was going through.

All through Thursday I was still having the cramps that I normally had, but nothing implying labour was imminent. I went to sleep that night (with the help of a sleeping pill) assuming labour was not going to happen any time soon. I started believing that I would be sent home either the next afternoon or on Saturday to wait and come back in next week some time.

Friday, September 25th – I woke up that morning and still wasn’t feeling labour starting up. In the evening I was hooked up to the monitors by one of my favourite nurses; Mary. She was working Antepartum when I had Benjamin and was one of the two nurses that I remember the most. She had sat with me during that time and talked to me and hugged me and made things a little easier. When I saw her this day I was so happy to see someone that was such an important part of that time. She remembered me and sat with me for a little while chatting again. She hooked up the monitor early in the morning and said “if baby is ready to be born I’ll find the heart beat right here” and put the monitor on the lower left side of my belly. Sure enough, there was the heart beat, nice and strong. I decided that I was going to be a little more proactive this day and went for a nice long walk outside (well, as long a walk as I could waddle). After my first walk around 11am I mentioned to the nurse that I wanted to be hooked up to the monitors for a bit. I hadn’t felt the baby moving too much and was getting a little worried about it. A nurse came into the room and put the monitor on my belly, where the baby’s heart beat was always found right away. The monitor was silent. I immediately started crying and thinking the worst. All I could think was “I cannot go through this again; I cannot lose another child”. After a little while and a lot of searching we were able to find the heartbeat on the lower right side of my belly. The baby had shifted to the other side and must have been with her back closer to my back for the heart beat to be so faint. But there was a heart beat, and that’s all that mattered.

At 1:30 I went to the bathroom and realized that the Cervidil was not in place anymore. I was due to get my next dose at 2:30 anyways so the nurses called my doctor to come and check me and insert another Cervidil. In the meantime they hooked me up to the monitors again because I had mentioned that on my last walk I had been feeling a lot of regular cramping so I wanted to be hooked up just to see if anything was happening. I was also feeling a little anxious about Thumper’s movements again. They hooked me up to the monitors and I was having contractions. They were quite mild but were actually very regular, about 3-4 minutes apart. When my doctor came to the room to check me we found out that I was about 1-2cm dilated now. That, along with the regular contractions, made my doctor decide not to insert any more Cervidil but instead to move me to Labour and Delivery and start Pitocin.

I was put in L&D Room #3. That was the same room that I had Jackson in so I felt it was a good sign. When we all got into the room my doctor informed me that she was also going to break my water. She had spoken to my high risk OB and he had told her to rupture my membranes. When she went to check me and break my water she decided that the baby’s head was too high still and she was not comfortable breaking the water. She decided instead to call the OB and have him come check me and he could break my water if he was comfortable doing it. In the end my OB wasn’t on call anymore so we had another OB come. He came in and checked me. Right away he said that he was not comfortable breaking my water either. He felt that the baby’s head was too high and he thought she had a hand up by her head. He brought in the ultrasound machine to see what we were dealing with. We saw one of the last things any of us were expecting. Thumper had turned breech. It happened at some point between the morning when Mary hooked me up to the monitors and that moment. It was a sobering coincidence: when I was induced with Benjamin he was head down but when he was born he had flipped and was head up. Same thing was happening again. When they first induced me Thumper was head down but now that it was time for the birth she had flipped and was head up. To make it even more surreal she was footling breech; the same rare type of breech that Benjamin had been.

Right away the OB and my doctor started telling us that I would need to have a caesarean section. A breech delivery was just too risky. Because it was already after normal hospital hours we would not have access to a high detail ultrasound machine that would tell us the exact positioning of the baby and if the baby would safely be able to fit through the birth canal. I was devastated. I did NOT want a c-section. It was one thing I had been trying to avoid the entire pregnancy. I had researched the likelihood of every induction method ending in a c-section. I had even researched vaginal birth of breech babies. I knew it could be done! But in the end Brian and I decided that there were just too many ‘what ifs’ involved in going through with ‘trying’ to vaginally birth Thumper. I could not stop thinking about the fact that I had vaginally birthed Benjamin and he was basically full term and breech. I knew my body could do it, so maybe we should try to have the birth that I wanted (vaginal). While we were in the L&D room discussing our options and trying to come to terms with having a c-section Mary came in to talk to me. She put it in a very blunt way that totally rang true to Brian and I. She said “With Benjamin there was nothing to salvage, with this baby there is everything in the world to salvage. Look at it as a chance to make this an entirely new experience just for this baby.” Once she said that the decision to have the c-section was much easier. I knew that it was much more risky to birth Thumper this way than it was for Benjamin since we didn’t have to worry about his health. I could not take the chances with Thumper’s health just to get ‘my birth experience’. The most important thing was definitely her health and safety. So we told the nurses to let the doctors know we wanted to do the c-section, and we wanted it done as soon as possible.

Around 8pm the nurses brought me into the operating room. I was a little nervous since I didn’t know what to expect. I had never had any major surgery (just my wisdom teeth out when I was a teenager). I knew I was going to have to have a spinal (like an epidural) and the idea of that made me uncomfortable. The main reason I never wanted an epidural during labour was because I don’t want the recovery from one, I don’t want the loss of feeling and movement and control. So I got up on the operating room table and had to hunch over so that the anaesthesiologist could locate the right spot and inject the meds into my spinal column. Talk about uncomfortable! Here I am, hunching over in a ball around a 38 week baby while having contractions. Just to make sure it was a horrible experience the anaesthesiologist could not find the proper spot and ended up making 6 or 7 attempts before finally getting it. I have no idea how long it took. All I know was he had to inject some freezing medicine in first and then follow through with a bigger needle to make sure he got the right spot. Every single poke hurt. By the end of it I was sobbing. As soon as he stopped I sat back up and almost instantly my left leg started getting very warm. They helped me lay down on the table and got to work setting up the operating room. The spinal had taken full effect and everyone was in position so they brought Brian in.

I should mention here that there were two L&D nurses in the operating room with us. One was Cindy, who was a younger woman and very very nice. She explained things to me and was very calming and compassionate. She was the one standing holding my shoulders when the spinal was being put in. The other nurse was Jen. As soon as I saw her I knew that I recognized her. She was the ‘Young pretty nurse’ from my stay on Antepartum when I had Benjamin. She was the nurse that took Benjamin from me the last time and did so with such compassion and love that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. She was the last person I saw holding my sweet baby boy. The fact that she was there for the birth of my next baby, my daughter, meant the world to me. It was just so right.

During the delivery Jen stayed up around my head a lot and talked me through some of what was going on. When they were pulling the baby’s head out it took them a long time and Brian and I started getting a little concerned. I kept asking him what they were doing and why it was taking so long. I finally asked him if the doctors looked worried. At that point Jen told us that it was all normal and nothing was wrong. That was a relief to hear.

When the baby was pulled out she didn’t give the big full-bodied cry like I so desperately wanted to hear and I think both Brian and I held our breath until we heard any sort of a cry from her. She let out a little squawk, but there was no big cry. That was okay though because that cry said everything we needed to hear anyways. The OB held her up for us to get a quick peek and then took her over to the exam table so that the paediatrician and the student doctor could give her a full exam to make sure everything was okay with her. She scored a 9 and a 10 on her apgars and all of her reflexes were working how they should be. It felt like they were taking forever to examine her and I started worrying that there must be something wrong with her and they just weren’t telling us yet. I asked Brian a million times why they were taking so long and what was wrong. I know my voice started getting a little panicky and Jen quickly came over to reassure me that everything was okay; they were just thoroughly checking her over. Then she went over to the paediatrician and told him “we have a very anxious mom here” and he promptly finished the exam, wrapped her up and brought her over to us.

I was so happy when they brought her over and we got to see her opening her eyes, looking around, making little grunting noises. Just being so alive. I hated that I was strapped down to the table and couldn’t hold her and have skin to skin contact with her right away. I hated that I couldn’t nurse her immediately. But she was here and we could touch her and feel her warm skin and her little squirms. She was perfect.

While the doctors were finishing the c-section Brian and the baby were taken to the recovery room where they would wait for me. I was brought in shortly after and was cleaned up and my vitals were taken and all that usual stuff. During this time I got to really look at the baby and finally got to nurse her. She latched on right away and instinctively knew what to do. It was one of the moments that I had been waiting for, and it was perfect. Around this time Jen and Cindy noticed that the baby was feeling a little cold so they decided that she should have a little time in the warmer to try to help her regulate her body temperature a little bit. While she was in there Brian stood beside her just marvelling at her. It was a very touching sight. I know how anxious he was to get her here alive and healthy and you could just see the love for her on his face. During this time Brian and I decided to finalize the name. We decided on Alexandra Simone. We chose Alexandra because we just really liked the name and we like the name Ally. We chose Simone after Brian’s dad, Simon. Now Jackson is named after my dad, Alexandra is named after Brian’s dad, and Benjamin is named after both sides of our family.

We were transferred to the Mother and Babe Unit once Alexandra’s body temperature regulated and I was all ready to be moved. We were brought to a double room that didn’t have anyone else in it so Brian was able to stay that first night. Good thing too since half of me was still pretty much useless! I was able to shimmy myself off the OR bed and onto my Mother/Babe bed, so I was feeling okay about the whole loss of control issue with the spinal. That first night I did not get any sleep. Brian, on the other hand, slept like a champ, snoring away! Alexandra slept through most of the night too, making sweet little grunts and sighs the entire time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Random Acts of Kindness

Yesterday was a good day for our family. I thought it would be a hard day, but it was surprisingly a happy day. We didn't do anything overly special, but we did make sure to spend the entire day just being a family and enjoying our time together. Brian and I were able to talk quite a bit about Benjamin and how he changed us and our family. It was a good day.

We ended up buying a cake from the grocery store. And let me tell you, it was the yummiest cake I have ever bought. Seriously good. We still have tons left in the fridge and I am using some serious restraint not to eat it for breakfast. Jackson blew out the candle and even said 'happy birthday ben'. Very sweet.

For our Random Acts of Kindness here's what we did:
- We donated two HUGE garbage bags of clothes, bedding, etc to the clothing exchange here in town. These were clothes that we don't wear anymore, but all of them were in great condition and most of them were cooler weather clothes, so I'm sure they'll get snatched up right away.
- I finished three Benjamin boxes and got them to the hospital in time for his birthday. So now the next mom that loses a baby at our hospital will have one of the comfort boxes.
- I delivered thank you cards with letters to the two nurses at the hospital that helped me in ways they will never fully comprehend. They weren't on shift when I was there so they will either get them yesterday or today.
- We donated a package of diapers, a can of formula, 3 cans of tuna, 3 cans of veggies, and 3 containers of soup to our local food bank.

That's everything that we did. We also decided last night that every time we go grocery shopping from now on we are going to buy one extra thing and leave it in the donation box at our grocery store. If every one bought just one extra thing those bins would be full every day. And it really doesn't cost too much, but it helps so much.

I've received a bunch of emails from people who have done nice things for others in memory of Benjamin. I am putting them all together in a list so that I can print it off and put it in his book. I don't want to miss any, so if you haven't let me know what you did, you can put it in the comments on here.

Thank you to everyone who took part in this. Yesterday could have been a very hard day but whenever I started getting sad I was able to think about all the nice things that were happening because of him. All the people who were doing just one simple act of kindness in his memory. It truly made the day a happy celebration of his life, not just a sad day about his passing. So thank you for that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Benjamin

Dear Benjamin,

It doesn’t seem right that an entire year has passed since you were born. It honestly feels like just yesterday I was still pregnant with you, still wondering how you being here would change our little family. I wish so badly to be able to go back to those days.

When they told me you had died I was devastated. I could not bring myself to believe that you had actually died. That we wouldn’t get to bring you home and watch you grow up. It was just too painful, too unfair. But that’s what happened. Your life was the 36 weeks you spent nestled inside me. These days I like to tell myself that all you ever knew was love. That you never had to feel pain, feel sadness, feel hatred, or feel alone. You were always with me and I believe you knew how much I loved you. I believe you heard your daddy and your brother and knew how much they loved you too. I think you knew your family.

This year has been an interesting one. When I think back to the day you were born it feels like just yesterday, but when I think of how much has happened this year it feels like these 12 months were actually 3 years. So much has changed. YOU have changed so much in this family, and in this world. How can one little baby that never got to take a breath of air change so much? By the love that so many people felt for him, by the impact that his death had on so many people. And you know what Benjamin? So many people did love you and were so saddened by your death; people that we know and people that we don’t even know. Your little life touched people all across the world. So many people know who you are.

I don’t know what I believe happened to you when you died. I don’t believe in heaven and hell and all of that. But I don’t believe in reincarnation either. I certainly don’t believe that you just ceased to exist once you died. I guess I believe you are still around somehow, still watching over us. I find I talk to you sometimes, mostly when I am alone in the car. That’s our special time and I can talk to you and cry for you. I don’t cry as much as I used to. That definitely does not mean that I don’t miss you anymore though. It just means that I have accepted the unfairness of your death. I know you had to die.

How I wish that you were here to blow out the candle on your cake tonight. One of my happiest memories of Jackson was watching him demolish his first birthday cake. My heart actually aches right now thinking about how I won’t get to watch you do that. I am going to bake you a cake anyway. Jackson is going to blow out your candle and then we’ll all have some of it. We won’t use forks and we’ll try to make a mess for you.

I love you Benjamin; just as much today as I did a year ago. That love will never go away and will never diminish. I could go on to have twenty more children and none of them will take any of my love for you away. But each and every one of them would know they have a sweet baby brother named Benjamin.

So if you are around, watching over us, please make this day easy for your daddy and I. Please give us ways to think of you with a smile and a happy heart. Don’t let us dwell on the pain and unfairness of losing you. Remind us that even though you are not physically here with us you will always live on in our hearts and in the laughs of your brother and sister. Please know that tonight when I kiss Jackson goodnight I’m giving him an extra kiss for you. And when I cuddle Lexi while she sleeps please know I’m cuddling her extra lovingly for you. I love you sweetie and I miss you so much.

Happy Birthday Honeybun.


Monday, November 9, 2009

One year ago

One year ago today, basically to the minute, is when we found out Benjamin had died. It's a hard day today.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The closer it gets...

I don't know how to refer to the day. Is November 11th Benjamin's birthday? I guess, technically, it is, but it just doesn't feel right to call it that. I know a lot of people refer to the day a stillborn baby is born as their angelversary, but I am not religious and don't believe that he is an angel, so that doesn't fit either. For simplicity sake I have been referring to the day as his birthday. I mean, he was born on that day after all. But really it should just be Benjamin's day. A day to celebrate him and all that he was and all that he could have been.

As the day gets closer it seems to be taking up more and more of my thoughts. It doesn't help that every where I look I am reminded of the fact that November 11th is almost here. For anyone not familiar with the Canadian Remembrance Day, it is a day that is spent honouring war vetrans and people wear a poppy for days leading up to November 11th. I am so much more aware of them this year, it seems that they are out in an abundance. I see them on everyone's lapels, I see them in bins by the register in stores, I see them scattered on the ground (those pins never do stay in your coat!). They are just everywhere. I'm not sure how I feel about this. Some days it makes me sad to see them, some days it makes me happy, some days it makes me angry. Sad because it's a reminder of how close it is to a year since Benjamin was born. Happy because it makes me think about him. And angry because I want the day to just be about Benjamin. I don't want his birthday to fall on such a somber day. It doesn't feel fair to me that so many other people will be sad on his birthday. I want that all to myself. I know it's irrational, but it's how I feel.

I just spent some time working on Benjamin Boxes. I compiled a resource list of websites that are useful to bereaved parents. I also wrote a letter about why I have made the boxes. In doing all of this I also went back and read some of the stuff I wrote after he was born. Some of it is posted on here, some of it isn't. It opened up some wounds that I thought had healed. But in a way it felt good to revisit those emotions.

I hope some of you are thinking of things to do in Benjamin's memory on Wednesday. I have heard from some people that they are planning on doing something and that means a lot to me. Thank you.