Snapshots from 28 days Post-Partum: Our First Few Weeks at Home

Our new normal...
Here is my second post about my post-partum recovery. Click here for the first...

Home. Some women want to stay at the hospital for as long as possible and I can see why. Meals and pain meds appear magically and help is available at the push of a button. But I was anxious to get home. Going home meant no more nights interrupted by nurses and doctors, but more so it meant comfort and getting to see Kiara and beginning to settle in to the new normal of life as a family of four.

Days 3-5: My sister, Yukiko, and Dad stayed with us for these first few days which was an incredible help. Yukiko cooked and cleaned and held baby. Dad held baby too and although having him there reminded me of the loss and absence of Mom, his presence also reminded me of the preciousness of this time together. In terms of healing, I alternated taking ibuprofen and NorCo every three hours. I continued bleeding but not very heavily. My incision area felt numb but there was no bleeding. It was a challenge lifting myself out of bed or up from the couch with no abdominal strength, but I somehow figured out how to roll out of bed for late-night feedings. Baby-boy had his first check-up on day 5 and was putting on weight so we were looking good.

Kiko: best post-partum-helper ever!!!
Days 6-7: That first weekend home, exhaustion and possible postpartum depression started to seep in around the edges of my recovery. Lots of visitors, very little sleep, and nipple soreness had me cranky and wanting to be left alone. Nursing was easier the second time around only in that I knew what it required. It was still painful, particularly those first moments getting latched, but I knew i just had to get through this part and it would get easier. I started moving a little more efficiently with my compromised abs and at some point in here I weighed myself: 22 pounds heavier than I was when I got pregnant. Ugh.

Day 8: Baby-boy turned one week old and things quieted down a little. My sister and Dad flew back to Portland leaving David home to help. Kiara spent her days at daycare so I was able to get lots of rest which helped me feel less overwhelmed. After days of stool-softener and coffee the pipes moved! I can't say they were flowing freely, but we had movement that clogged the toilet.

Day 9: I walked half-a-block to get coffee on day nine and although I have no idea if there was a connection, I started bleeding from my incision that afternoon along with heavier bleeding (which had subsided to nearly nothing the previous two days). I called a nurse for advice and she wasn't too concerned but she told me if I developed a fever or redness and worsening to go to the ER.

Day 10: The next morning the bleeding was worse so I called the nurse back and scheduled an appointment to see an ObGyn that afternoon. The doctor checked out the incision, removed the surgical tape that remained and irrigated the wound. He collected a sample for the lab and sent me on my way.

Days 11-13: I tried to take it easy for the next couple of days to let the incision heal. I finished the NorCo and the ibuprofen alone was fine for pain management.

Day 14: After a nice walk to the farmer's market in the morning and feeling like I was doing better, my doctor called to let me know I had an infection and started me on antibiotics. Booooo.

Days 15-17: My incision was still bleeding and I still had some bleeding (last of the lochia?) but finally things started clearing up. Finally! Thankfully breastfeeding was going well and was less painful or I would have been a mess. David went back to work so Gabe and I settled into quiet days at home, nursing and binge-watching tv. I tried to write and read a little each day, but sleep usually won out over creativity.

Day 18-25: I tried to continue to take it easy even though I was feeling restless. Nursing sessions started stretching to two-hours apart and Baby-boy started sleeping more at night. I finished the antibiotics and figured I was back on track.

Day 26: Mysterious itchiness! I hadn't eaten anything different or used any new products but that night I started itching. It started at my knees, belly, and back. Itchy, itchy all night and the next day it got worse. I figured it was just hormone changes but who knows. The worse came when these hives hit my mouth and I looked like I'd had bad botox. I was convinced this baby had ruined my body and I'd be itchy for the rest of my life.

Day 27-28: The hives continued through the next day, but by evening my face returned to normal and the itching subsided. I was no longer bleeding. From anywhere. Yay! My milk production was good and Gabe started taking a bottle when needed so pumping allowed me to get a break from being the sole provider of nutrition which was a big relief.

So, after four weeks, I finally felt like I had my body back. Although it seemed like forever with that infection and a touch of the baby blues, overall my recovery was smooth but it only feels that way because it's over.


Snapshots from 28 days Post-Partum: The Hospital Stay

There is so much out there about birth stories, and pregnancy, and parenting but there is so little about the early days postpartum and the recovery for women. It probably has a little to do with the fact that new mothers are too exhausted, too caught up in day-to-day survival to take note of what those early days are like. And let's be honest, much of it is quite unpleasant to experience so looking back on it is no treat. But, while it's fairly fresh in my mind and body, I thought I'd try to capture my experience this go around. This first post is about the hospital stay and the next will be about those early days at home.

These posts are not for everyone. They will contain descriptions of bodily functions so proceed if you'd like. Here are a few snapshots from the first four weeks after the birth of Baby-boy.

Day 1: The immediate recovery after my early-morning scheduled c-section was all about getting Baby-Boy to latch and regaining feeling below the waist from the spinal anesthesia. Baby seemed to know what to do and latched naturally even though it was awkward to hold him because I couldn't sit up. Thankfully hospital beds prop up.

I was tired, but the adrenaline of the new baby and a steady stream of visitors kept me from sleep.

Initially my legs were completely numb, but feeling returned slowly after a couple of hours starting with tingling and then, suddenly, I could move them again. Nurses applied legs compressors to help with circulation. The IV kept pain meds flowing so I was comfortable and a little groggy.

 I was able to capture this moment from my hospital bed...
before getting sick.  
The rest of the day involved continuing to nurse and waiting for my appetite to return. I started slowly with water and then jello. Nurses took my vitals every two hours and I was able to stay awake and greet friends and family who stopped by to meet the boy.

A lactation consultant came in and gave me the latest advice for getting newborns to latch. Gabe found his way after a while and I was able to nurse in a pretty relaxed position for the rest of the day and night.

Apparantly, I wasn't ready for food. Twice that first day I threw up. The second time I managed to projectile vomit bright red liquid jello all over David (perfectly timed when the room was full of visitors, including Kiara). Awesome.

By the end of the day I was able to hold down crackers and juice. David tried to get some sleep, but with nurses in and out all night and baby-boy nursing most of the night, I was recovering but we were both pretty tired.

Day 2: The next morning a nurse removed the catheter and shortly thereafter I got out of bed for the first time post-op. After my first c-section, when I first stood up, I was caught off guard by the rush of blood. I didn't know anything about lochia shedding. This go around there was no rush of blood like I'd experience before and in general, my bleeding was considerable lighter.

Next, I made my way to the bathroom to start getting all of the water off that they pumped in me for the surgery. The bathroom was stocked with lovely mesh undies, pads, and chucks for me to where to soak up all the blood. I definitely needed all of it last time, but this time, not as much.

That morning the doctor removed the dressing from my incision and inspected the wound. For my first c-section, they'd used staples and this time they used surgical tape. She said things looked good.

For the rest of the day, I continued to nurse and get that skin-to-skin contact with Baby-Boy. My appetite returned and by the end of the day, I was ready to find out what needed to happen to get out of there and head home.

That evening I switched to oral pain relief, ibuprofen to start, and then NorCo which helped me get  some sleep that night.

Days 3: I wanted to get home on that third day and a handy chart on the wall let me know what needed to happen. These steps included things like lactation consult, hearing test, baby physical, and discharge orders. We took care of the paperwork for the baby and I continued on the ibuprofen and Norco for pain management. That morning, David and I walked with baby through the hall.

After a long discharge conversation with a nurse who gave us way more information than we needed about SIDS and baby care in general, we managed to get all of our items checked off. David picked up my prescriptions and transportation wheeled me to the car. My orders: take it easy, take pain meds as needed, don't lift anything heavier than ten pounds, and take care of that baby (which really means keep nursing so he gains weight). With that, I gingerly climbed into our truck and winced over every bump as we made our way home.


Gabe's Birth Story

Game time!
Kiara's birth story took me three posts.

Gabe's story, much like his birth, was much shorter and easier.

After a night of contractions that kept me up that night and started coming stronger and closer, we dropped off Kiara at daycare and made our way to the hospital for our scheduled c-section.

We arrived a little before eight in the morning on the Monday after Superbowl Sunday so everyone was talking about the game, about Seattle's questionable goal-line play-call, and Missy Elliot stealing the halftime show. As the first patient of the week, the staff was ready to go. The nurses completed my intake survey and the anesthesiologists talked with me about the flaws in pain management from my last c-section.

Hello there, Baby Gabe!
By 9:00, I was walking casually toward the operating room, so different from the emergency c-section last time. I sat on the table, and tried to relax for the spinal anesthetic. As the doctors and nurses busily prepared, the anesthesiologist talked with me about breathing and her favorite HGTV shows. As voices floated around me I realized all my nurses and doctors were women, and although nearly everything felt different this time around, my all-female team put me the most at ease. The spinal went in flawlessly and I relaxed onto the table and into the hands of my providers.

Once I was prepped a nurse brought David into the room. I think we joked about the game like the morning sports-radio hosts had on our drive to the hospital: about it being "The best Superbowl game ever!" and that we'd be "Talking about this game for the rest of our lives."

They started the procedure and the biggest difference between this and my first c-section was this time there was no pain. There was a little discomfort, and a little stress on my part, but at 9:38 the
doctor lifted my baby up over the curtain. He was here. He cried and I smiled. The anesthesiologist ordered David to take pictures, which he did, and a few short moments later, they brought little Gabe over to meet me. I gazed at his perfect little face, so thankful that this c-section had gone so well, and increasingly disturbed by how terrible the first had been.

They finished up and then David, baby and I made our way into recovery where we snuggled, and nursed, and introduced Baby-Gabe to my sister and dad. David sent out word to the world, at 9:38 on February 2, the same birthday as my cousin Traci's, we welcomed Gabe Ichiro Nakada-Gantt into the world, all seven pounds, ten ounces of bouncing baby boy!

A Letter to Our First Born...

February 1, 2015

Dearest Kiara,
I am cherishing these last days with you, not because I won’t be with you any longer, but I know in ways you are likely to never remember: that you are our first, our favorite, our beloved only daughter.

Hopefully, you will feel that forever, just how special you are, how much love and laughter you have brought into our lives, so before the new baby joins us and completes our little family, I want you to know how precious these first years of motherhood have been with you.

You entered our world and have stayed so incredibly agreeable. Even though my expectations for how you would join us were unmet, you didn’t seem to mind being cut and pulled from my womb. You cried a little, the air a shock to your little lungs, your mother shivering on the table as your father held you, not knowing how to comfort either of his two women.

I looked for you, couldn’t wait to hold you, as they bathed you and struggled to take my blood pressure for what felt like forever when all I wanted was to feel you against my skin. And when they finally placed you in my arms, I couldn’t believe the love I felt immediately for this little girl. For my Kiara.

And in those early hours, when I didn’t wake you to feed you, when I slept and hoped I was doing it right, when, really, you needed to eat, and I wasn’t doing it right, you ate when I did bring you to the breast and you slept and responded to our shushes and swaddles.

And then I fed you, in a marathon of milk, when they told us you weren’t gaining weight, that I wasn’t doing it right, that it wasn’t about the milk production, it was just that I needed to wake you up and feed you every couple of hours. Even then you went along and you gained the weight and you and I, mother and daughter, fell into that unique space reserved for new mothers and their babies.

There was the exhaustion, the dawn feedings, the afternoon sessions, the evenings, when the day was nearly done and you figured out days and nights and started sleeping for longer stretches.

We traveled up to Oregon that summer to introduce you to my family, and to Bend, where I grew up. You traveled well and won the hearts of all of your cousins, your aunties and uncles, your grandparents.

You adjusted beautifully to daycare, where you made your first friends and we learned how to trust professionals who knew better than we did, who had done this so many times before.

And then, just as you were crawling, I tore my Achilles. And then the dog bit your ear forcing us to the decision we should have made long before: to re-home our dog and simplify our lives.

You turned one. You thrived. You started to walk and talk and you haven’t stopped since. You jump and hop and run. Your babbles have become words, phrases, and tall tales. I have loved hearing about what is going on in that head of yours.

You have been excited about the little brother about to enter the world. You gently tap my belly to say hello, apply little kisses, and imagine baby brother wants to dance and sing and play with you. You have already decided that your Super Sister t-shirt is your favorite and anxiously await Baby Gabe's arrival just like we do.

But in these last days that you are our precious only child, I will breathe in your energy and enthusiasm and hold on to my absolute and boundless love for you, my favorite little girl in the world.


The End of Our Fertility Journey

The crazy thing about fertility/infertility, is that when you're dealing with it, it is both all-consuming and invisible. It colors everything, but it's translucent. It is everywhere and nowhere.

When David and I first tried to start a family, I over-shared on this blog (which had only a handful of readers at the time). It's been an eight-year journey and now that it's come to a conclusion, I can look back and reflect, but it's impossible to capture the intensity of being in it. There was the worry that we would never have kids like we envisioned, that I was sterile, that he was sterile, that we waited too long in life, or waited too long in this cycle, that we were being selfish wanting kids of our own with so many kids in the world needing loving homes. There were just so many long-term doubts and worries. But then there was the hope, "Maybe we're pregnant this time!" tempered with "Don't get your hopes up" and "Things happen when they are supposed to" and "We can adopt or foster."

I wrote about the journey from inside and now that I'm on the outside, and even though I can't quite capture the chaotic confusion that is trying-to-get-pregnant, the links to previous blogs capture some of it. I'm exploring the journey more in my work in progress, Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop, so there is more to come. But for now, this is my journey, reflected on from the other side but with links to posts from when I was in it.

David and I had been married six years when we decide we're ready to start our family and stop using birth control.

A year later we still aren't pregnant, and although we wonder if parenthood is for us, we look for help. I start the process with my healthcare
provider, but about halfway through their protocol (blood work, exams) the reality of the financial expense makes us decide to change health plans. This change means treatment will be more affordable, but it also means another round of blood work, exams, and this time a dye test that leaves me ill for days.

That summer, we finally start our first cycle with fertility meds and artificial insemination. Even though my body doesn't really respond to the meds, we get lucky and are pregnant with our daughter Kiara.

We always imagined a family of four, so David and I decide to try again. We head back to the same doctor hoping to get the same results. Healthcare coverage changes make it more expensive, but we get to avoid all of the blood work, exams, and the dye test. On the first round, I respond well to the meds and there are several eggs ready for insemination. But while I'm on vacation in Oregon, I start my period. There's still time that summer for one more cycle, but that round doesn't take either. With our pockets considerably lighter, we wonder if baby number two will ever happen.

We decide not to try fertility treatments again, but hope to get lucky and in the summer of 2014, I'm late. I tracked my cycle and felt like we might have timed things right. I'm up in Portland and there is a positive test. As the pregnancy progresses, we know this baby is it for us. We discuss permanent birth control options and decide to get my tubes tied during my scheduled c-section. I come to the slow realization that our fertility journey is over. It was not short or easy, but it was uniquely ours. I'm so glad it's over. So, for anyone who is still on this ride, I wish you only the best. It can be a complicated, expensive, and emotional journey, but it is yours alone and someday you too will be on the other side.