Saturday, August 18, 2012

Size Matters

I graduated from BYU's law school in 2009. I have a fancy diploma to prove it. Well, it's not as fancy as it could be. Since I graduated, BYU has upped the fanciness factor of their diplomas. Mine is 8 1/2 x 11 inches, the same size as my undergraduate diploma, or a typical sheet of computer paper for that matter. Nathaniel, who graduated three years later, bears a diploma that is a whopping 11 x 14 inches. Apparently someone decided that BYU Law grads who graduated after 2009 deserve diplomas just as big and stately as law graduates at pretty much every other university.

This is good for Nathaniel, I guess, who doesn't have to resort to bigger matting to look like he actually graduated from law school. But it's a little lame for me. I'm not sure where our degrees will find a home, but if it's in the same room it won't look like we have an equivalent education. I imagine that we will have a house someday with an office where our diplomas are framed, and an acquaintance asks for a tour. And I'll say, "This is the office, and here are our diplomas." And all eyes will immediately go to the biggest one, and they will admire all of Nathaniel's accomplishments. And if I point out that we have identical degrees from identical universities, I will look like the poor insecure kid who doesn't get enough attention and lives her life pointing out her good qualities to anyone who will listen.

This imaginary scenario worried me until last week when Nathaniel got a piece of mail from BYU, with the words "MINI DIPLOMA ENCLOSED" stamped in red. Sure enough, enclosed was a diploma the size of a credit card. So now I know what is going on the wall of our imaginary office:

By the way, congrats Nathaniel. I am very proud of you.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Henry's Birth Story

Okay, I have been a bad blogger. But you know what? There are worse things in life. I could be a bad neighbor. Or a bad diaper changer. Or a bad deodorant putter-on-er. Aren't you glad I'm just a bad blogger?

I wrote this less than a week after Henry was born, so the sentiments are kind of old. Why didn't I post it before? I don't know. I blame, um, life. Well, and honestly, I've become a bit more introverted. I now wonder why anyone would be interested in reading my birth story - really, it's not that interesting. But I loved reading others when I was pregnant, so here you go. Enjoy. Or not.

Having a baby has got to be the point in life with the highest highs and the lowest lows, and not just because a mother’s hormones are a bit out of whack. I’m elated and frustrated and excited and overwhelmed all at once. Birth is the best of times and the worst of times in so many ways. Anyway, here is Henry’s birth story. I’m on a good dose of Percocet so please have low expectations.

First, for those who don’t remember, Summer was born by c-section at 38 weeks. I was having major back pain, so I went to the hospital and learned that she was blocking the path from my kidney to my bladder so I had major hydronephrosis (enlarged kidney). I never even got close to going into labor.

So with Henry, I really wanted a VBAC. I really wanted to go into real labor, to feel a real contraction, to have that exciting moment when you rush around getting everything ready for the hospital, saying goodbye to your kid and letting her know that she’d be a big sister soon. I really wanted someone to tell me I was dilating. I really wanted to push and have everyone tell me that they believed in me and that I was doing a great job. I wanted to be one of the first things the baby saw and felt, maybe even have the chance to look into his eyes within minutes of being born and welcome him into the world.

But I have Crohn’s disease, and from what we can tell, labor and Crohn’s don’t mix.

Two days before my due date, I went to the hospital with a few labor symptoms, but mostly symptoms of a terrible Crohn’s flair. My stomach felt like it did that one time I had a Crohn’s flare and almost died. So. Much. Pain. And then I was having contractions, but at the hospital they checked me and learned that the contractions weren’t actually making me dilate and seemed to be exacerbating the Crohn’s symptoms. The nurse told me I wasn’t dilated at all. “Well, Dr. Watabe said that I was a fingertip dilated at the six week appointment.”

“Gee, that was nice of him,” she replied. She was funny.

After a while, I felt a little better, so we thought we might just go home. But then I felt worse, so they sent us to the ER. No one really knew what to do with me. They decided to perform a CT scan on me to check for a bowl perforation. I felt okay with this – I mean, they do it all the time on women who are 9 months pregnant. And then I didn’t feel okay with a CT scan at all – all that radiation on my little baby?!? I called my dad, who is also my favorite obstetrician and fellow Crohn’s disease sufferer. Although he is very pro-VBAC, he said that he would do a c-section on me and then see how my Crohn’s symptoms felt after that. So Nathaniel and I thought about it and asked the ER doctor if that would be okay. It was sad to abandon my unmedicated VBAC dreams, but I didn’t want the flare to get worse and the contractions weren’t going away. The ER called the obstetrician on call, and a cesarean was okay with her. She even came down to the ER at 2 in the morning to chat with us and see about doing a c-section with my regular OB the next morning.

Everything gets pretty fuzzy after that. I remember that Nathaniel was very happy to have a bed to sleep on there. I remember feeling a lot calmer the next morning when I saw Dr. Watabe, my OB, who was very happy that I had decided to have a c-section instead of waiting to see how things played out with the Crohn’s. I remember getting in serious trouble when I had Nathaniel sneak me a mint before we went to the OR. I remember the blue sheet going up and wondering, under the glare of all the lights and white sterility, if this was all a mistake – if my dream birth would have been possible if we had just waited another day.

I have already forgotten a lot about this little guy’s birth, but one image I hope I’ll never forget is the look on Nathaniel’s face after the baby cried for the first time. At that point nothing mattered. We had a son and everything was perfect. I was in heaven.

When Summer was born, I just saw her for a brief moment before Nathaniel carried her away. This time, Nathaniel brought her to me and I got to feel him and nuzzle him and just be with him. We weren’t rushed. We were just together. That little bit of touch made all the pain I felt, all the pain I was going to feel, all the morning sickness and the fatigue and everything so worth it.

After Nathaniel and Henry went to the nursery, the surgeon checked out my intestines and I’m happy to report that they looked great! Then I went into recovery, which is basically just where I sat with Annette, my mother-in-law, while we waited for a convenient time for them to take me downstairs to my baby. I was not pleased with this part of the experience. An hour of separation was really unnecessary.

Henry wasn’t too pleased either, because apparently he had just been crying and fussing in the nursery the whole time we waited. Finally we got to be together and he seemed a lot happier. I immediately took off the blanket and the stuff they had him in and nursed him. You guys, why didn’t anyone tell me breastfeeding was so much easier the second time around? He did amazing! The bummer was that he was awake-ish after birth for over an hour, but then he nursed and decided he was ready for a nap, totally thwarting my plan to stare dreamily into his eyes forever. “He is content now that he’s with you,” Nathaniel said. Okay, no dreamy eye stares, but that was nice.

So for a while, we just sat there, the three of us, in awe at the newness of it all. I didn’t think it could get any better but a few hours later Summer joined us. The first thing she did was ask if she could kiss him, and since them has showered this guy with little bits of love. She always wants to look at his tiny little feet and touch his tiny little head. She is an amazing big sister.

I wouldn’t recommend a c-section. I am very disappointed I didn’t get to experience the birth I’d been visualizing and hoping for. I wish those first few hours with Henry weren’t mostly lost to a drug-induced haze.  I wish I had the opportunity to deal with the pain of childbirth before the baby came, instead of having to cope with it along with a newborn. I wish I could know what normal labor feels like, rather than having another “I went to the hospital with excruciating abnormal pain and got a c-section” experience.

But mostly, I was hoping an unmedicated birth, or even just a VBAC, would help restore my faith in my body. Having Crohn’s disease makes me feel a bit like my body is broken. Well, my immune system attacks my digestive system on occasion so I guess my body really is broken. Without modern medicine I would certainly be dead. I thought that maybe birth would be the chance to witness what amazing things my body could do on its own. But once again, my body couldn’t do it and medical intervention was necessary (probably). It’s so discouraging to know that, for the second time, I was laughably far away from an unmedicated birth.

When I was almost out of the hospital, a nurse re-checked the incision. “It looks great!” she said merrily. “You know, when you came in here everyone thought you were going to hemorrhage because of your red hair.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah. Red-heads always bleed more. So good job!”

I know this is just a silly anecdotal observation but I take heart in it. My body might be defective in some ways, but in other ways it rocks. Not only have both c-section incisions stayed closed, but I had the nurses remove my catheter the same day I had the c-section. (For those who are unaware, getting up to go to the bathroom after a major abdominal surgery is excruciating, so most prefer to keep the catheter in longer. I am the valedvictorian of catheter removal!!) After three major abdominal surgeries (one bowl resection and two c-sections) I might have a really scarred stomach but I am a champion healer. Plus, you know, I can get pregnant. So I am very grateful.

And overall, the birth experience was great. The doctors and nurses were wonderful, like the anesthesiologist  who held my arm and told me what was happening when the surgeon was checking out my innards. I got to see my daughter become a big sister, giving him little kisses and always asking me how he is doing. Nathaniel has been an exemplary husband, taking care of literally everything except breastfeeding so I can recuperate as quickly as possible. And we got a baby, who is really amazing to cuddle and, knock on wood, easy so far. Maybe it was just the spinal, but the birth itself was so amazing that immediately after Henry was born I thought to myself that I wanted to have that experience again and again and again.

Anyway, recovery is no fun but we are all so happy Henry is here.