Along Comes Mabel: A Baby Story
When I chose Reborn as my Word of the Year, little did I know that it would be the truest word I’ve ever selected in my annual series. As we enter February, my whole world feels like it’s truly been born. I’m thrilled to announce that we welcomed our daughter, Mabel Josephine, on January 21st.
The out pour of support has been overwhelming. Many have asked how my birthing experience went. It was nothing like I’d planned, yet a phenomenally positive experience. Mabel may only be going on three weeks old, yet has already taught me one of the biggest lessons I’ve ever learned. That is, to not assume you know what you want when you’ve never experienced it!
The week of January 18th was BAD. I was a complete wreck and dreading my Wednesday appointment with the Doctor. While we’d had a terrific low-invasive birth plan, the last few appointments had shown her that may need to go out the window. Mabel’s weight was not rising and her fat reserves were reduced to three percent. Add in my blood sugars being funky (oddly, as a Type One Diabetic, you want to see more insulin resistance and raise your needs. Me? I’d suffered a lot of lows, and not too necessary to adjust my insulin rates) and the placenta looking iffy, everything was pointing to induction. Something I’d been gung-ho I was not doing since I’d found out I was pregnant. The reason I’d decided against an OB and so desperately wanted a midwife.
As January 20th arrived, I went to the appointment prepared to decline the tentatively scheduled induction for that day. I was afraid. I felt alone and tired. I’d pumped myself up with nothing but fear for nine long months as I read everything I possibly could and joined all of the Facebook pregnancy groups. Inducing is the worst pain of your life! Pitocin is the Devil! Doctors are only in it for the money! Birth at home with nobody! You get the idea. Often, all of the connections and resources of social media can be an absolute curse for an already anxious individual.
As usual, I was reminded for the millionth time just how wonderful my MFM (Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist) is. She layed down how everything was looking (good….for now) and explained all of the risk factors should I stall an induction. Hearing I hadn’t dilated at ALL didn’t sound too promising for Mabel’s due date of January 24rth to come to fruition, and I already knew I wouldn’t be allowed to go past 41 weeks. Basically, at this rate, I was just avoiding the inevitable of an induction. We left the Doctor’s appointment with an hour to spare before our check-in at Labor and Delivery. Knowing the “unknown” of delivering a baby was about to happen, I was terrified.
We’d packed our bags and had navigated where to park. Mike and I decided to grab some food at the cafeteria. Usually, I’m eager to check in anywhere, but today? Not so much. We cracked some jokes like pretending to treat the hospital stay as my latest hotel review. As four o’clock loomed, up we went to the Mattel Children’s Ward of UCLA. We were immediately greeted by extremely friendly nurses and thus began our check-in. It was slow; a few nurses did nurse things like take my vitals and ask lengthy questions. I expected to immediately be shoved with a foley bulb or Pitocin, but not at all.
A few hours later, we met one of the Resident Doctors who would be overseeing my care. She seemed straight off a TV show like ER, and we laughed at how old she made us feel compared to her youthful appearance. First up? A cervix ripener to hopefully get things moving. Mind you, a labor induction doesn’t imply you get some meds and out comes baby. Inductions, especially for a first child, can be days. One of the many reasons I’d been avoiding it like the plague. I cross my fingers for some results from the first attempt, and Mike keeps me occupied with Netflix on his laptop. Funny enough, I’ve watched Catch Me if You Can during some significant times in my life, and am always reminded it’s one of my most favorite films. We watched it this night and I cannot think of a more significant moment. Coincidence?
Following movie time, the Doctor returns, and much to my surprise, I’m contracting and have progressed to three centimeters dilated. I take this as a good sign as even the nurse marvels that the medicine is actually doing its job.
At this time, the Doctor recommends we insert the foley bulb catheter. Something I’m not too keen on, especially since I want to try and get some rest. When she leaves the room, I’m extremely thankful our nurse gives us the low down that this thing is going to hurt and be uncomfortable. She recommends I see what happens with the cervix ripener alone and hold off on this bulb. I couldn’t agree more. Despite the Doctor returning to explain to us how important it is to get this show on the road given all of my circumstances, I trust my gut and the nurse. I hold off on the bulb insertion and take a nap.
The Big Guns
A few hours later, it turns out the nurse steered me just RIGHT! I’m now five centimeters dilated, which means too much so for the foley bulb. Woo hoo! The next step is my biggest fear of labor…a little word called Pitocin. Pitocin is a synthetic hormone of OxyTocin which is what triggers your hormones to start contractions and get you eventually (hopefully) into active labor. All I have heard from friends and reading is that it’s the most intense pain they’ve experienced and an epidural is unavoidable. Determined to stay Miss Holistic and All-Natural, I begin doing affirmations and trying to breathe through any sign of pain. It’s actually not so bad, and I continue to think I can get through this. Then, some not-so-good-news.
Mabel’s heart rate is dropping. A lot and often. Should this keep up, an emergency c-section may have to be performed. The team advises me to consider the epidural as that would serve as anesthesia during the procedure. I’d be awake and Mike could stay with me. Should I decline it and need the surgery? They put me under and Mike can not stay with us. Crap. I’m still too leery of an epidural and fight it. We’re at five units in my IV of Pitocin and I’m confidant Mabel and I will get through this.
Nevertheless, the UCLA Anesthesiology Department pay us a visit. Something I have loved thus far during our stay is the amount of physicians and medical professionals that stop by our room. Everyone is so reassuring and extremely respectful of my “all-natural” wishes. The anesthesiologists give me a through account of just what the epidural is, the process, risks. I feel bad as I ask ten thousand questions and scenarios yet they never make me feel stupid. They answer everything and certainly know how to sell it. Yet, I still decline.
Then, we reach eight units of Pitocin.
Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Or Opiods)
I’m finally understanding the pain other moms have described to me. While it’s reminding me of some of my worst menstrual days, mornings when I’ve fainted from cramping, I begin to think long and hard. Do I want this kind of pain for God knows how long? On those monthly cramp days, I pop prescription painkillers or Ibuprofen. I know the pain will be relieved in an hour or two. I have no idea how long I’ll be enduring it this time, and let’s not forget those cervical checks. Oh, yeah, and that I have a six-plus pound baby to push out. And, her heart rate is still not great. C-section is not ruled out.
All the way around, I’m dying. By now, we’ve been told we’re moving into a Labor room. While it’s only across the hallway, I can barely walk to it I’m in such pain. It’s decided: Bring in the nice anesthesiologists and poke my back with a catheter. To quote Fiona Apple, “Fetch the bolt cutters.”
After years of saying I’ll never get an epidural, let alone give birth in a hospital, here we are. The process takes about 15 minutes, and in another 15, my relief is unbelievable. I’m chatting with our Nurse about my travel blogging life and our shared love of the Pacific Northwest.
About another hour later, and we’re still dealing with Mabel’s ever dropping heart rate. I’m asked to wear an oxygen mask. It seems to help some, and somewhere in between all of this, I take the most heavenly nap. I feel completely numb and my legs are Jell-O.
More outtakes from our Valentines shoot. (c) Mary Farah
All Systems GO
It’s now six PM and I’m awoken by a nice lead OB who gives me the most exciting news I’ve heard since our arrival. I’m ten centimeters dilated and the bed is soaked from my water breaking. Get ready to start pushing! Mabel is ready to make her appearance! Or, so we think.
With reasons not yet known to us, the baby is struggling to get past my pelvic bone. I push to eternity for hours, yet she gets close and goes back up. As we approach the four-hour mark, our Resident OB’s warn me that a c-section may be needed if she keeps teasing. There’s also the option of a suction vacuum. This would be put on the baby’s head as she crowns to help get her down once and for all. Sounds simple enough, right? Sure. If you overlook the fact that I may get a four-degree vaginal tear. I start cursing in my mind and talking to Mabel. We are NOT doing the C-section, and we’re NOT having Mommy tear that much. We gotta PUSH and we gotta push HARD.
This is one con among my many pros to getting the epidural. It’s extremely difficult for me to push. As I said, I’m so numb and feel like complete Jell-o in my legs. I have a very cheery and eager Nurse counting to 10 and screaming PUSH, yet despite giving it all I’ve got, it feels like we’re leading to nowhere.
Welcome, Baby Mabel
As we pass the four-hour mark of active labor, Mabel is so close that I’m allowed to keep going. Something shifts, and as she gets close once and for all, I begin crying. She’s coming. I can feel it physically and emotionally. When the moment finally arrives, I suddenly have a little angel placed on my chest. Mabel at last is in my arms.
Amidst all of the chaos and disbelief, one of the amazing OBs comes over to me. She asks if I want to keep my placenta. After having considered turning it into capsules to aid postpartum and menopause, I’d decided against it. Sure, they can keep it, but why? Well, remember all of my issues and woes with my umbilical cord? Turns out Mabel was struggling to get past my pelvic bone as the cord was wrapped around her like a feather boa…and not attached anymore to the placenta. The OB wants to send it to the Pathology Department to study. It just doesn’t stop with how odd this pregnancy has been.
Despite the drama, Mabel is an overall healthy little girl. We’ve had more obstacles postpartum (breastfeeding isn’t for the faint of heart) but I’m so elated that this pregnancy is over with and she’s finally here. Postpartum is already a hundred times more tolerable than my pregnancy, which I absolutely loathed.
Stay tuned as more baby posts are sure to arise. In the meantime, it’s time for some snuggles and a diaper check. xo