THROW YOUR LABOR AND DELIVERY PLAN OUT THE WINDOW!

As mothers, we like to prepare for almost anything and everything that could ever happen in the history of the world, especially if you have a Type A personality like me, which includes over-competitiveness, always feeling like you’re racing against the clock, and a lack of patience.  We were told to prepare for labor and delivery with a plan that we and our doctor, doula, or midwife could follow. Let’s call this my L&D plan for short. The birth plan is supposed to be something you prepare in advance that includes what your wishes are during the labor and delivery process, such as whether or not you want any anesthesia or to have a natural birth. You can then share this plan with your doctor to make sure they understand your requests.

            My OBGYN recommended we watch all our prenatal courses before making our birth plan, that way we would be well informed on all our options. Since my husband and I were pregnant during the Covid-19 pandemic, we were unable to attend any prenatal classes in person. We had to watch all the scheduled courses online from the hospital we chose to deliver at.

            After watching every required prenatal course we could find through the hospital, I began to draw up my desired L&D plan. I had so many requests and expectations for how I wanted my labor and delivery to pan out. Little did I know that my plan would be shot to hell, and nothing would go as I wanted. Some of my requests included having both my husband and mother present during my labor and delivery process. I wanted my friends and family there after my delivery to come in the room and celebrate the birth of our baby girl. I for sure knew I wanted an epidural, and no way was I going to let anyone make me feel bad about that or try and be a hero. I wanted to be able to have a relaxing environment by wearing my own clothes, listen to music, and watch TV. I wanted to be able to walk around up until the epidural, of course, to help speed up the process. Being a foodie, I knew I wanted to be able to eat and drink throughout as well. I did not want any other pain management medications other than the epidural. I didn’t want to induce labor or contractions or have a C-Section, instead preferring to let it happen naturally.

My wishes were not the only ones to be taken into consideration, though. My husband also had some wishes that he wanted, such as being able to cut the cord after birth. I wanted her to be placed on my stomach immediately after delivery and able to breast feed right after, to get her acclimated. What took us both by surprise though, was that the doctor offered my husband to be able to pull her out once her head and shoulders were free. His face lit up like it was Christmas morning, and he was so excited! To be able to share that story with our little girl when she’s older is going to be an amazing experience, to know that her father was able to assist with her being brought into this world. We knew we were going to need help from the nursery because we were first time parents, so we were expecting to be able to get some good, quality rest in the meantime. Again, our “plans” would not come to fruition.

            As time drew closer, the dominos started to fall; we found out through our OBGYN that we would not be able to have my mom present for the labor and delivery process. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, patients were only allowed one person of support during labor and delivery. Strike 1. We were hoping this would change since we had expected my mother to be present during the birth for a long time. Then, we were told the hospital had closed the waiting rooms, which meant that none of our family and friends could be present at the hospital after the birth. Strike 2. This was so sad for everyone, but especially for my husband and I, who were counting on having the support of our family and friends there for this important and joyous day. Strike 3.

            I was now down to weekly routine appointments being so close to my due date. I went in Friday morning for my appointment. I told my OBGYN I had been having bad migraines for the last 4 days and they would not go away. I also informed him I was taking a shower the previous night and kept seeing sparkles of light flashing and it continued throughout the night. He took my blood pressure, and it was a lot higher than it usually is, which caused some mild panic to shoot through me. He checked my reflexes, which turned out to have slowed. He was concerned with the swelling and stated I had significant signs of pre-eclampsia and was worried about me having seizures, that I needed to be induced and deliver my baby today. I was 37 weeks, 6 days pregnant. It was not in my birth plan to be induced. I wanted to wait until she was ready to come into this world. He said I could not wait and risk seizures or something happening to me or the baby.

Luckily, my husband was waiting for me in the parking lot. We had our bag for the hospital already packed and the car seat installed for when the time came. I called my husband to let him know I was going to be emitted to the hospital and induced. He was so nervous and excited all at the same time. So began the marathon of that weekend. We waited for what seemed like forever before finally obtaining a room after waiting 5 hours. I had not eaten because we had an early appointment and we had planned on getting breakfast after the appointment. I found out they would not let me eat anything because of the high blood pressure and didn’t know how the delivery was going to go. I was given magnesium sulfate to prevent a seizure from occurring. Then, probably the worst of it all hit us like a ton of bricks; the doctor who was supposed to deliver my baby would not be able to deliver because he wasn’t on schedule and one of the other doctors for the office was on call.

He had put in an order for Pitocin to start contractions, but the on call doctor decided to insert Cervidil because she felt like it would be more natural for my body and cervix to gradually soften and thin on its own. Since fetal heart rate was doing well and my blood pressure was being controlled, I was finally allowed to eat something. After the insertion, which hurt like all hell, everything happened so quickly that I did not get to change into what I had brought to wear to deliver in. I ended up wearing the hospital gown. Again, this was not what we had planned. I asked for the epidural when I was 2 centimeters dilated, but I had to endure the contractions until I was 5 centimeters dilated because there was only one anesthesiologist working in the hospital that early morning, and he was currently with another patient. He said he was the best upon entering the room and said he would be in and out. Well, apparently, he didn’t get the memo, because he ended up having to stick me twice because he didn’t get it right the first time. With all the things going differently than the birth plan, it was nice that some wishes did end up happening. My husband was able to cut the cord and place our baby girl on my stomach after being delivered.

            Later that night after our daughter had been born in the afternoon, we were moved to the next floor for mothers and the nursery. The nurses had asked us if we were going to want the nursery to take her for the night so we could get some rest. We had agreed to let the nursery care for her since we were exhausted and had not slept for two days. They took her for an hour and brought her back while we were trying to sleep. The nurse told us she was the loudest baby in the nursery and was waking the other babies. The nurse said if we really needed their help to call and they would come back and get her. We couldn’t get any sleep. We tried for two hours alternating every 5 minutes to comfort her but decided to call the nurse to take her back to the nursery. In the meantime, my husband told me to get some sleep, and he pulled up a chair next to our daughter to care for her while I got some rest. Well I’d be damned, because nobody ever came! The shift had changed at 7 am and the new nurse came in and said “I heard you have the loudest baby on the floor!” The hospital was no help and tried to keep us there another night and we were NOT having it after everything that happened up to this point. Thankfully, both my daughter and I’s test came back good, and we were allowed to leave, not that we would have it any other way, mind you. It took several hours, but we finally got discharged from the hospital and were able to go home with our newborn baby girl.

            What can you take from my story? That you can have a plan for how you want your labor and delivery to go, but in the end birth is unpredictable. I’m not saying your birth plan won’t go as planned, but don’t be surprised when it doesn’t. As long as you and your baby are healthy, you won’t be disappointed when that labor and delivery plan you spent time on doesn’t pan out and you get to hold that precious gift in your arms for the first time. It truly is a miracle that cannot ever be outmatched.

WE’RE PREGNANT! NOW THE COUNTRY IS ON LOCKDOWN…

When we mention our daughter being born in 2020, everyone keeps saying, “Oh you had a pandemic baby!” No, we just got pregnant before Covid-19 came to the United States. My husband and I have been married for 4 years, and finally decided we were ready to expand our family. We both knew we always wanted kids one day but never happened to be on the same page of when we wanted children. When we first got married, my husband was ready to have kids right away and I was not. He wanted to grow the family right from the start, but I wanted to take our time to travel and see new things. Instead, a year later after visiting our niece, we decided to adopt a furry baby and got a 1 year old “puppy” who already looked full-grown. Then, a year after getting our dog, I decided that I was ready to start trying to have a baby. Flip-flopped, he was not. Something was always holding us back from being on the same page having children. Whether it was feeling like I was too young or still wanting to be able to pick up and travel anytime we wanted, or him feeling it wasn’t the right time in his career or for financial reasons, we always seemed to be out of sync.

Finally, after 3 years of marriage and a constant battering of questions from our family, we were both on the same page. We’ve all heard those questions. “So when are you going to have kids?” “Can we be expecting any babies in the future?” In November 2019, we began to start trying. After a few weeks, I kept having this feeling like I was pregnant and kept taking pregnancy tests, but they continued to come back negative! I began to get very frustrated because my menstrual cycle started and thought we would have to wait even longer. It was very light, spotted, and only lasted a day. I still believed I was pregnant. My breasts were enlarged, I was craving things I would not normally eat, like tofu, and I was exceptionally emotional. Yet elusive as always, the test were still coming back negative.  

I thought I would take one more test because at this point, my body was feeling so different to the point of being unrecognizable. The night after Christmas Eve, at exactly 9:10pm, I finally saw what we had been working so hard for. The test had finally come back positive! I was so relieved and ecstatic, not being able to stop staring down at the little pink plus sign that would change our lives forever. I called for my husband to tell him the good news. He couldn’t believe it! We were so overwhelmed with happiness that we both started to cry. We couldn’t wait to start this journey together and bring about a wonderful new addition to our growing family with the now growing bud inside my belly.

Little did we know that a monster would be rearing its ugly head and spread to the United States, causing not only our lives, but everyone’s to get a lot more complicated.

We decided to invite both our families over for a New Years Eve celebration to deliver the great news! After blessing was said and before dinner, my husband and I faced our loved ones, unable to keep down the emotion and suspense any longer, and finally informed everyone of the news: we were 7 weeks pregnant!! Every face was lit up with surprise and joy. Some let out a cry of happiness, while others were quick to say “I knew it!” While we shared the evening together in happiness and merriment, no one had any idea what was to come or the struggles we were going to have to go through while being pregnant through Covid-19. Things were about to get a whole lot worse.

My husband and mother had attended every doctor’s appointment with me up to this point. My mother was so thrilled! This was going to be her first grandchild, and she didn’t want to miss anything of it. My husband would race across town to every appointment after getting off work because he wanted to be there for everything as well. Neither of them was prepared to miss a moment of this little nugget’s growth. 

March came around and this is where everything started to take a turn for the worse. One day, I received a generic email from my gynecologist’s office stating no one would be allowed to go to any appointments with me anymore due to the Covid-19 pandemic now spreading across the country.  While this email looked like it went out to a lot of people, I didn’t think this pertained to pregnant women. How could it? I remember thinking ‘Why would they not let at least the husband go to the appointments? He’s just as much a part of this as I am.’ My appointment came around at the end of the month and I was told my husband could not go to the appointment, that he would have to wait out in the car. 

He was devastated with this being his firstborn child. He wanted to be able to participate in everything! He wanted to be by my side at every appointment and watching the growth of our little nugget, but he couldn’t. The doctor said he could only come to one appointment and that was our twenty-week sonogram where we found out the sex of our baby-to-be. Any other mid-point sonograms and appointments were restricted to the patient, and only the patient.

As our due date was starting to loom closer and closer, we started to feel extremely nervous because articles started popping up everywhere online about how families were unable to visit their loved ones in the hospital, especially the ones who had Covid-19. Even pregnant women had to face delivery alone, not being able to bring in their spouse, partner, or a family member. Fortunately, that remained up north in the country, because later we discovered that we were only allowed to have one person in the room during and after delivery. We had hopes that this would soon not be the case, because my mother desperately wanted to be there with my husband and I, and I wanted her there with me as well.

As time got closer, the visitor’s policy did not change for labor and delivery unit, so I would only be able to have one person there with me. While I was fortunate to have someone there with me, this broke my mother’s heart because she wanted to be there so bad for the birth of her first grandchild, but she also didn’t want my husband to miss out on the birth of our daughter. Her own mom was with her during the delivery of both my sister and I, and she wanted to be there for her own grandchildren. Not to mention, I also had extended family who wanted to be there on the day of delivery to at least wait in the waiting room, who were denied by the hospital staff due to concerns over the coronavirus. It was extremely disheartening that nobody could come with us to celebrate the birth of our little girl. 

Once at the hospital, we were informed that we would have to be tested for Covid-19. I was scared because if a pregnant mother had Covid-19, she could not only pass it down to her newborn child, but the hospital would have to keep the baby in quarantine for two entire weeks while the mother recovered, and I couldn’t bear the thought at being apart from my daughter for an hour, much less two weeks. My husband and I said quick prayers and crossed our fingers. To our relief, the tests came back negative, so we were given the green light. My mom drove to the hospital to attempt at getting in somehow, but to no avail. The doctors and nurses said that whoever went in with me had to be the one who stayed with me the whole time, so they couldn’t even tag each other in. Once inside, my husband had to stay with me, lest risk not being able to get back in and I deliver alone. 

During labor and delivery, I was asked to wear my mask throughout the entire time even though I had already been tested for Covid-19 and it came back negative. Since my mother knew she would most likely not be able to be present during my labor and delivery, she bought us a camera stand that could hold our phone so she could be there the whole time. Of course, I wouldn’t let it be anywhere but on my face! We had just finished getting the stand all set up when the nurse came in and said we would have to turn FaceTime off every time a staff member comes in the room because we would have to get a signed waiver of every worker if we have them on the screen. I told her we were not recording, and that it was just FaceTime. She said it did not matter, since it was for the privacy of the staff and hospital procedures. This was extremely depressing because we all thought we had found a way to overcome our family members not being present for the birth of our daughter!

Reluctantly, we agreed to shut it off every time someone came in the room. Not all hope was lost though, because after talking with my husband, when it came time to actually deliver, I had my husband call my mom and sister and instead of FaceTime, I told him to turn the phone upside down so none of the staff would know they were on the phone, so they were able to listen, but not see. My mother told me that this was scary for her because she couldn’t see my face or talk me through it. She joked later that she had to listen to my husband barking out orders like a football coach, which we all agreed on and laughed about. Hey, you have to find things to laugh at, especially during difficult times.

Being pregnant and having a baby during the Covid-19 pandemic was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do. We overcame not only not being able to do some traditional events, such as a baby shower and a gender reveal party, but also not having the support team we thought we would have at the hospital on the day of delivery. I wanted to share my story with hope that anyone who went through something similar to this knows that you are not alone! I know that it seems like you’ll be all alone, but there is always light in the darkest darkness. Talk with your family and your spouse or partner. Figure out a plan, and then come up with a backup plan in case the original plan doesn’t work. Heck, come up with a third plan if necessary! This pandemic has thrown us all for curves and loops that we would never have expected, but with each other, our families, and the grace of God, we prevailed and are now the parents of a beautiful baby girl. Hold your head up high, keep smiling, and you can go farther than you ever thought possible!

FRIENDS BEFORE POLITICS

Growing up, there was not a lot of talk about politics. We were unaware of our parents’, teachers’, preachers’, pastors’, or priests’ points of view. Nobody was very vocal about who they were voting for. Your political affiliations were a private conversation with yourself and not meant to be shared. Today’s society is quite different with people not being afraid to share who they view as the best candidate for our country.

I had four extremely close friends growing up, friends that I consider like family. We became friends before any of us knew what politics were. Instead, we bonded and became friends over common interests and personality traits that were akin to our own, and we called ourselves sisters.

Obviously, times have changed, and the past is almost unrecognizable. Society is now extremely vocal, not afraid to voice their opinions to anyone and everyone within earshot concerning who they are voting for. We have our political status plastered all over social media, in the front yards of our homes, and even on our vehicles! Often, coworkers now brazenly discuss politics in the workplace like it’s an everyday conversation. Others can’t believe the audacity they have to speak openly about their opinions while keeping their own close to their chest. Do you believe your own political views should be kept private and not discussed with others, or do you enjoy conversations about such a sensitive subject?

The friends I grew up with all share the same political views, with me being the only one to hold a different opinion. Fortunately, even while having opposing perspectives, we have still managed to stay friends after all these years. When we grew older, finally understanding what politics were exactly, we all made a pact to leave politics out of our friendship and remember why we became friends. We proved that people with such different viewpoints can still remain friends, because we value each other’s opinions. We see each other for more than who they vote for. We refused to let outside forces try and tell us that we can’t be friends. If someone chooses not to be my friend simply because I have different views than them, then that isn’t someone I would want to call a friend. Society needs to have more respect for one another, no matter your political status. We are all human beings and none of us is perfect. We need to come together to value others for their thoughts, not shame them for it. Choose to look past who someone votes for at the polling booths. Come to terms with each other that even though we were all created different, we are still equal.

THE TRUTH NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT PREGNANCY

The day after Christmas, two pink lines on a stick forever changed us. Our hearts soared and a jolt of excitement shot from head to toe! We couldn’t wait to expand our family with a baby. We got in touch with our families and brought them together at our home on New Year’s Eve to announce the great news! Everyone was elated and shared our excitement as we celebrated through the night.

            Then on January 2nd I came down with a cold and the morning sickness hit me like a truck. I was okay with the nausea and random bouts of vomiting, as I knew it would come with being pregnant and go away in the second trimester like everyone had told me. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case in the slightest.

            I am not one to miss work just because I’m sick. I always try to power through any illness I might have and save vacation days for just that, vacation. I started to miss so much work because I wasn’t sleeping well, due to the nausea waking me up throughout the entire night. I could not keep down any food or drinks. I would even throw up crushed ice! That’s how I knew it was really severe. I would go days without moving from my bed or keeping anything down. I was in so much pain from the dehydration, I kept feeling like I was going to die. I know you are probably thinking dramatic, right? Well I am not.

            Now in February, I was so pale with body pain, and powerful headaches made it nearly impossible to do anything. I was convinced by my husband and family members to go to the hospital after trying to push through the pain. We did not want to risk anything happening to our baby, so I went to the hospital and discovered I was severely dehydrated. I was then diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I had never heard of this until the doctor told us.

            For those of you who have never heard of this before either, it is a condition where you have consistent vomiting during pregnancy. It can lead to additional issues like weight loss and dehydration. My doctor informed me it was rare and only 2% of women have been diagnosed during their pregnancy. I was treated for dehydration that day and was told the condition should go away after 13 weeks, and to combat the nausea, she gave me a prescription for Reglan.

            The Reglan helped for about a week and a half before I was back to throwing up everything and feeling like I couldn’t get through my usual daily activities. I went to my OBGYN at the time and was given Unisom and B6 to help me sleep and take away the nausea. This medicine lasted less than the Reglan, and I was still throwing up consistently. It was starting to seem like nothing would help ease the condition.

            Still unable to keep down any food and now having lost 20 pounds, I was so miserable and didn’t think I could go anymore. The headaches and body pains from throwing up so much were awful. Once again, my family had convinced me to go to the hospital again to be treated.

            Off to the hospital for the second time. I was only 19 weeks pregnant and in so much pain! I felt envious of all the women who told me I would love being pregnant. I wanted the pregnancies they had and the glow I was told I would have in the second trimester. I was so worried about my baby getting the proper nutrients because I had not been able to keep food or water down for days. Fortunately, the doctor told us the baby can actually survive on less than 100 calories a day, and body fat can provide needed calories to the baby if necessary. The doctors treated me for dehydration once again. I advised the staff I was told that the Hyperemesis Gravidarum would be gone after weeks. They began to tell me that is usually true for some women, but there is a .5% chance you will have it your entire pregnancy. So not only did I fall into the 2% category of having HG, but also had the extremely rare situation of having to deal with it for 10 months. I felt like I should have gotten a lottery ticket by that point. I was given dissolvable Zofran for the days and a Promethazine suppository at night: two different medications that could not be thrown up.

            Being prescribed these medicines was the greatest thing that could have happened. I still continued to throw up and have nausea, but not nearly as much as I was before. I was able to eat again, and after not being able to keep anything down, this was definitely the best part! Unfortunately, HG decided to follow me like a shadow and I was throwing up to the point that I delivered my sweet baby girl. I was in active labor and still had nurses bringing me bags to throw up into. Definitely not fun.

            With all this being said and everything that I had been through, I had family saying they didn’t understand why I was still throwing up and I needed to control it. It was sad because they did not understand that this was sporadic and unpredictable, being a medical condition beyond my control. The doctors couldn’t even tell me what causes Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I was informed the reason could be different for every woman and is extremely rare. I was also told by family members that they were scared I wasn’t going to want anything to do with my baby because of the way I felt during pregnancy. This was all so disheartening to hear. I know I didn’t have a blissful pregnancy and was counting down the days for my baby girl to be here so I wouldn’t have to be in pain all the time, but all I wanted more than anything was to hold our little miracle in my arms.

             I hope anyone going through a difficult pregnancy will read this and know its okay to feel the way you do, because you are not alone. This doesn’t mean you will love your baby any less because you are not enjoying your pregnancy. It isn’t always “glowing” for everyone. Sometimes it’s difficult and you may seem like giving up hope, but just remember that your body is unique in its own way. Find a support person to check in on you, whether it be your spouse/partner, family member, or a close friend. Having that person to talk to and listen means the world. Just know that there are others like you out there. I’ve been where you are now, and this will only make you stronger. You will get through! Hang in there and always keep in mind what is coming your way soon!