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Monday, November 29, 2010

Mommy Has a New Camera!

Thanks to some snazzy 5am Black Friday shopping, I finally have a camera to take good pictures of Charlie! My last camera was okay, but the flash was completely over powering and made taking pictures of him nearly impossible. I would either blind him with the flash or the picture would be blurry without it. Anyway, today we had a little photo shoot and I really like how they turned out!

I foresee taking thousands of pictures of this cute little boy. He's just too cute!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day! On tap for our Thanksgiving was the norm - eat lots of yummy food, watch the parade and then football, put up the Christmas tree and decorations, then get to bed early for some Black Friday shopping! I will be at Best Buy at 5am, if you're wondering to get myself a new digital camera.

May you all get your fill of food, family, and football! And for those of you going out tomorrow morning, may the shopping gods be with you. :-P For those of you not going out, enjoy sleeping in!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Night and Day

I always thought the concept of night and day was an internal clock kind of thing. I was sort of right. Charlie has the whole sleep for a while and then get up for a while thing down....just backwards. I'm not sure why he is all mixed up, but I sure know when it started! For the past few days, he has been more active at night (wanting to eat every 90 minutes or so), fussy in the morning, and then sleeps almost all day long in 4 hour stretches. I've had to practically torture the poor kid to eat during the day! Typically, babies are fussy in the evening (for some reason), sleep longer stretches at night, and then are more active during the day. Now, the question do we fix this poor kid's messed up rhythm?! Don't ask me...I've been up since 4am. :-P

So far, the days at home with Charlie have seemed to fly by. Even though he's been sleeping quite a bit during the day, by the time he gets woken up, fed, changed, and settled back down, there isn't much time to get things done or nap. That's another thing. Charlie's internal clock may be backwards, but mine seems to be iron clad. Its very good advice to sleep when the baby sleeps, but I can't seem to! Once I'm up for the day, that seems to be it for me. Maybe I'll grab a nap here and there, but mostly I end up trying to clean up and do some laundry or dishes (because there always seems to be some to do!) All things considered, I can't complain; I feel pretty good and not any more tired than I was when I was pregnant. The thing I need to work on is remembering to eat and drink enough water. Funny how that happens! Its a combination of lack of free time and being so darn comfy with a sleepy baby on my chest that I don't want to get up. Cuddling with a sleepy baby is a wonderful way to pass the time, by the way. I am absolutely in love with being home with him and don't even want to think about going back to work and sending him to daycare. :-( I hope the next nine weeks take their sweet time.

Speaking of time, I can't believe that November is almost over already. I guess spending two weeks away will do that to you. I'm excited for Charlie's first Thanksgiving and have an adorable outfit for him to wear (pictures will surely follow). More so, I'm excited for Charlie's first Black Friday. Mwahaha! Don't worry, he won't be going shopping with me due to the mobs of crazy people out there, but most of the things on my list are for him (Christmas presents, a glider for the nursery, a new digital camera to document his every move, etc.) Good thing I'm investing in a new camera, too. My current one sucks and this kid is getting big fast. He'll will be a month old on Sunday, which blows my mind completely. I know people say that they grow up fast, but I had no idea.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

One Week at Home

(Lets see how long this will take to type with my one free hand...)

Charlie has been home for (almost) a whole week! I can't believe it - time has flown by. Things have been going very well thus far and while we're not exactly on a recognizable schedule yet, Charlie is eating well and we're all, surprisingly, getting enough sleep.
Charlie loves napping in his Boppy pillow.
This past Tuesday was Charlie's first doctor's appointment and he weighed in at 6 lbs. 2 oz. - back at his birth weight! Woo hoo!! The doctor was very happy with his growth thus far and how he was doing. He did order another bilirubin test just to be sure, so unfortunately, Charlie got poked again. His bilirubin was up a little bit (11.3 to 11.9), but with his current size, the doctor wasn't going to worry about it until it was back up at 15 or so. It was suggested that we put him in a sunny window, so we may be spending some time up in one of the study lounges sun bathing. We're scheduled to go back next week for a weight check and then the following week for his one month check up and starting some vaccinations. Aside from being a very gassy little man, he's 100% healthy.

Now that we're getting established at home, we can work on our two big goals for Charlie; to breastfeed him for at least 6 months (hopefully a year) and to use cloth diapers to both save money and be a little more earth friendly. The breastfeeding has been going much better now that we're at home. He only really gets bottles (of breast milk) at night when Jeff helps feed him. The cloth diapers, however? Not going so well thus far...
I'm pretty sure you can fit two of him in there. The cloth diapers we have (BumGenius 3.0) are meant to fit babies about 10 lbs to 30 lbs. Too bad he's a tiny string bean and preemie diapers almost slide off of his non existent butt! Pictured above is the diaper on the smallest setting. Looks like we're going to have to wait a bit before using them! Oh well - disposables it is for the time being. Good thing we got all those diaper cakes!

Despite it only being a week, there have already been quite a few lessons learned. Some of these include:
- Napping is a glorious thing that should be done regularly.
- Have baby gas drops on hand BEFORE you need them.
- A Keurig coffee maker is wonderful for boiling hot water quickly to heat bottles at 4am.
- Make it a point to eat breakfast and take a shower in the morning or you never will.
- Keep track of how many diapers you have left so you don't reach into an empty bag.
- Laying on the couch and snuggling is the perfect utilization of an afternoon.

And I'm sure there will be many, many more lessons to come.

(If you're wondering, it took about 40 minutes.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Let the Games Begin!

Once we got the okay for Charlie to come home, Saturday seemed to drag on. Jeff didn't get off of work until 4:30pm, so he wouldn't get out to Roanoke until closer to 5:30pm. That's okay - Charlie still needed to get a final examination and his hearing rechecked. Thankfully, Devin came to visit us in the afternoon and hung out while we waited. When Jeff got to the hospital and we checked out of the Ronald McDonald House it was like I couldn't get Charlie dressed and ready to go fast enough! The nurses gave us a cart to get all of his stuff out of there and helped us pack the car.

Ready to go in his duckie outfit!
After we were all packed up, it was time to go! He looked so tiny all snuggled up in his car seat. I rode in the back seat with him and the whole time I couldn't believe we were actually taking him home. After spending two weeks in what basically felt like an alternate life, it was so strange to be coming back to campus to begin a new one. It finally hit me - things were never going to be the same! :-)

Our first night home went much better than I thought it would. Charlie slept really well and basically stayed on the schedule we had at the hospital (9pm, 12am, 3am, 6am, etc.) The only problem was that normally, the nurses did the 12am - 6am feedings! Not me! We hung in there and got a decent amount of sleep considering the circumstances. Our first day, Charlie and I just hung out in bed and watched TV and napped. It was wonderful! He really is such a good baby. Last night was a little better and he slept for a little longer between feedings. Originally, I wanted to go with a cue based feeding schedule (when the baby is hungry, you feed them) rather than waking him up to eat on a schedule, but so far he's not very good at waking himself up to eat. By the time he cries to eat, he's starving - so starving that he's too frantic to nurse properly. Last night I resorted to bottle feeding him breast milk, but I'd rather nurse him if I can. Now, if only these hot/cold flashes would stop (stupid postpartum hormones!) I could really get some sleep in between feedings! 

He loves being swaddled...from the armpits down.
Regardless of how much sleep I get, I'm just happy to have him home so we can get on with our lives. Now, the real adventure begins!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lucky Number Thirteen

After two days of good weight gain, good eating, and lower bilirubin levels, Charlie can come home today!!! The doctor just gave us the thumbs up. All he needs to do is get his hearing checked and a few other discharge type things. And here's a little something I realized about my sweet boy...

Leave it to the boy born on Halloween to be born on the 13th floor after 13 hours of labor and to be going home after 13 days in the NICU on November 13th weighing 5 lbs. and 13 ounces. Looks like we know what his lucky number is!

Charlie passed his car seat test with flying colors! :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Heavy Weight Champ

Charlie gained 2 ounces yesterday! Not 2 grams...2 OUNCES! The doctor couldn't believe it and weighed him three times. He went from 2568 grams (5 lbs. 10.6 ounces) to 2626 grams (5 lbs. 12.6 ounces). We were thrilled! The best part was that we didn't need to supplement his feedings with the tube once; he guzzled at least 50 ml at each bottle feeding and 25-30 minutes at each breast feeding (he's been making the switch back and forth without a problem). Here's hoping today is another successful day!

Still no official word on when he'll be released, but the current guesstimate is Sunday or Monday.

Our little Houdini busted himself out of a 2 blanket swaddle to be more comfy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Moving in the Right Direction...Sort Of

Tuesday night, I flagged down one of Charlie's doctors to talk to her about his weight issues. Charlie gets weighed every night at 9pm and for the past several days, his weight has teetered around 2560-2580 grams, mostly towards the low end. He should be putting on weight every day, not losing or maintaining. The doctor explained that a feeding tube may be the answer for him - it would help him get the calories he needed and get him over the hump. With a weight gain, his bilirubin levels would go down as well. If his weight stagnates, so will his bili level. When he was admitted at birth, he weighted 2776 grams meaning he's lost about 226 grams (about 8 ounces). To put it in perspective, she asked me how much I weighed and told me that if I would have lost the same percentage, I would have lost almost 12 lbs. within a few days. Then it sounded much more serious. I had made peace with the fact that he may need a feeding tube.

Wednesday morning when I returned for his 9am feeding, the nurse told me that his bilirubin level dropped from 10.3 to 9.2 - which was wonderful to hear! The doctor took him off the photo therapy and since his temperatures are good, had the nurse put him back into an open crib. We could even bring in some clothes for him now since he didn't need the lights on his bare skin for the jaundice!!

As a side note, my poor child will not have anything to wear for the first few weeks! Haha He's about 2 inches too long for preemie clothes and about 2 inches too short and a pound too small for newborn clothes! Right now he's in a onesie and the crotch snaps are almost at his knees. Its actually pretty darn adorable. Its amazing - putting clothes on him makes him look more like a baby...if that makes any sense.

Anyway, also on the list of Wednesday's milestones include his umbilical cord falling off and nursing for all of his feedings. He did really well; staying awake and eating until he was satisfied. This afternoon, he's even signed up for his first bath (and us signed up for the baby bath class) now that his IV is out and he's done with the bili lights.

Unfortunately, there was a downside to accompany yesterday's triumphs. When 9pm rolled around, I anxiously waited for the nurse to bring in the scale. 2568 grams...another 2 grams lost. In the grand scheme of things, 2 grams is nothing, but after a few days of losing "just a few grams" it adds up. Even though he's eating as much as he wants, he's just not putting on weight - a common preemie issue. The doctor on call stopped by and said that they were indeed going to put in a feeding tube, but merely as a supplemental thing; I can still breast feed him or bottle feed him, but the tube gives us the ability to top him off if he doesn't take enough.

This morning, he was awake and hungry, with a thin orange tube up his little nose, when I arrived at 9am. He had been eating well all night and hadn't needed the tube just yet, which is good. His bilirubin levels rebounded a bit today, but he's a day older and according to their magical little formula, he's still in good standing and doesn't need to go back under the lights. Despite the slight feeding setback, the doctor and nurses still think he could go home this weekend. They really want to get him out of here since he's otherwise healthy - they just need to make sure he's on a good path with his weight before they're allowed to release him. It all depends on how the next 24 hours go!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lactation Consultants Need Halos

Yesterday, I met an the form of the NICU lactation consultant. Not only was she knowledgeable, but she was incredibly patient and kind. Her name was Tracey and she worked with Charlie and I for about an hour during his 3 o'clock care time. Before we started, she asked me about his eating habits and what his issues were. She also asked me how I was feeling about his progress and how I was taking care of myself. This surprised me, but it was incredibly helpful to talk to someone about my concerns. I told her his short history of sleepy eating, his need for phototherapy, and the various and conflicting recommendations we'd been getting from different nurses. I also assured her that I wasn't living in the NICU and did get out for sleep and meals. :-)

She next took Charlie and tested his sucking - she let him suck on a gloved finger so she could feel how he was moving his tounge. Through this she discovered two things; Charlie has a very high pallet (like me and the rest of the Simon kids) and that he has an uncoordinated suck (like many preemies). These two issues put together made it so he wasn't causing a suction between his pallet and tounge in a way that moved milk into his mouth. She was surprised and slightly upset that he didn't get a feeding tube when he was born like most preemies do. She confirmed my belief that because he weighed more than the average 34 weeker, that it was probably assessed (or assumed) that he could do more. With a feeding tube, most preemies get a jump start in energy to learn to feed. Charlie struggled a bit with feeding at first, causing him to fall more behind. That's okay though! We've figured out his problem and are working on fixing it. With some "suck training," Charlie should be able to continue becoming a stronger eater as the weeks go on. Normally, babies learn to suck/swallow/breathe during the 33rd - 35th weeks in the womb. Charlie just has to learn it out here.

Another huge accomplishment for my little man was finally figuring out nursing!! With the help of a few new holding positions, a breast shield, and a little patience, he latched for the first time and nursed for the whole feeding session! It was like magic. I'd heard about having "ah-ha!" moments with lactation consultants before, but I didn't believe it until I saw it. Now, my guy is eating like a little piggy - about 45-50 ml or 30 minutes breast feeding per session. His bilirubin levels and weight are holding steady at the moment, but if these new eating habits hold up, hopefully bili will go down and weight will go up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Ups and The Downs

As of yesterday, Charlie is a whole week old!! I can't believe it. Its been a long 8 days for sure, but things are getting better bit by bit. Last night, Charlie weighed in at 5lbs. 10oz. (down from his birth weight of 6lbs. 1oz., but holding steady for the past 72 hours) and this morning his bilirubin levels came back at about 10.5, which is slightly down from yesterday. Though he's been holding his own weight wise, the doctor is still concerned that he's not getting enough calories and therefore not gaining. Currently, he's up to about 35-40 ml per feeding (a little over an ounce), but should be up near 45-50 ml per serving. He's still getting tired out half way through a bottle, leaving us to practically torture him to stay awake for the last 15 ml or so. Whatever works, I suppose. We were told, however, that if his eating takes a dive (like it did this morning when he only ate 20 ml) and stays there, he may need an NG tube to feed him....and I would really like to avoid that. In other news, we've got a meeting with the NICU lactation consultant this afternoon to give breast feeding another shot. He's been getting milk via bottle, but I would really like for him to nurse (and not to pump a thousand times a day for the next year). A sleepy baby is not a good nurser though, so we'll see how things go. I keep hearing that as preemies get closer to their due dates, they develop more stamina for nursing (which is more difficult than drinking from a bottle).

When it comes to things like nursing stamina, I'm finding that his weight is deceiving. Most babies born at 34 weeks are 3-4 lbs, not 6lbs, so when people see him, they assume he's got the strength of a full term baby since he's about the size of a full term baby. Unfortunately, that's not true. Developmentally, he's still a preemie with common preemie issues and we just need to be patient with him as he learns and grows.

The good news of the past 24 hours is that since his eating habits have gotten a little better, he has less need for IV fluids to more IV! I was so excited to come in yesterday and see all that tape off of his little head. He's still got the velcro dots on his temples for his bili light shades, but that's okay. One step at a time.

Here he is napping with his Daddy after a long day. I just love that little face of his. I could look at it all day long. :-)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bonding with a Wired Baby

If I haven't said it yet, the nurses here are absolutely amazing. They are patient, kind, have fantastically helpful advice, and actually allow us to work with Charlie as if we're at our own home. When we come in for Care Time, we say hello to his nurse (sometimes its someone we know and sometimes its someone new - depends on the shift) and go about taking care of him. One of our first nurses taught us how to control his heat bed, where all the supplies were, and what needed to be done. We even take his temperature for his chart - he hates having the probe under his arm, but its got to happen! If we need help or have questions, they are right there, but otherwise we can just spend time with him.

One major concern we've had since the beginning is bonding with him. If we were at home, we could hold him whenever we wanted and just be with him. Here, its a little tougher - especially with the bili light treatment that requires him to be in his bed for most of the day. Last night, our nurse asked us if we had a scent baby. Based on our facial expressions, she realized we hadn't even heard of it. She told us she'd be right back and returned with two flat, flannel cloths shaped like ginger bread men. The idea is for parents to wear the cloth under their clothes somehow (I've been wearing mine under my postpartum belt against my stomach) for a few hours until their scent transfers to the fabric. The cloth is then put with the baby so they can have the smell of their parents with them. Volunteers at a local church have been sewing them and sending them to the NICU for a while now, she said. It was so kind of her to bring these to us - its a small thing, but makes me feel better about leaving him here.

Another thing we're doing to bond is something called Kangaroo Mother Care; spending time skin to skin (baby laying on their Mother's bare chest) and just resting. Another one of our nurses suggested this and, in my Mommy opinion, he does so much better on the days we get skin to skin contact. I'm not doing too shabby either as a result - you've never been so relaxed in your life as you are with a sleepy baby keeping you warm and snuggling with you.

All in all, I just really can't wait to get Charlie home. Sometimes, I almost feel like I'm baby sitting or borrowing someone else's kid. Hopefully, the next few days will go well and we'll be home before the weekend.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Quick Update for a Busy Friday

Things have been pretty busy today, but its a good busy. Charlie is still making progress towards the doctor's weight, feeding, and bilirubin level goals and has kept himself out of an incubator with consistent body temperatures. Yay! Yesterday, all of his feedings were at least 20 ml, so today's goal was to get at least 30 ml (one ounce) per feeding. So far, so good! Unfortunately, he lost another 2 ounces yesterday and the doctor is slightly concerned. He's about 5lbs. 12oz. at the moment, which isn't terrible, just less than he weighed at birth. She told us today that if he cannot eat 30 ml (or more) consistently or doesn't start trending towards weight gain, he'll need a feeding tube to provide more calories. I know its just a simple thing to help him, but it sounds ridiculously scary to me. My heart breaks seeing him with all of the wires and monitors - a feeding tube isn't going to help that picture. I keep wondering what it'll be like to hold him without all the wires.

In other news, Jeff and I were able to get back home today to run a few errands, do some laundry, turn in my maternity leave requests, and get Charlie set up under my health insurance. It was a lot of running around, but we accomplished a lot for a 3 hour time span! Tonight, Jeff has class (its right down the street, actually) so Mr. Charlie and I are going to have a date night; some good eatin' and cuddling. The best kind of date night!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dear Jaundice, You Suck.

Charlie has been doing wonderfully this week and is very healthy for a 34 week preemie. His current battle, however? Keeping his body temperature up and his bilirubin levels down. Yesterday, he was moved from the warmer bed to an open crib, but needed to be moved back to the warmer this morning when he couldn't keep his temperature up throughout the night (even with a sleep sack and blankets). That's okay - he's still little. We'll just have to keep an eye on him to make sure he stays cozy. His bilirubin levels are another story. Since Sunday, his levels have continued climbing as a result of nothing more than him being a preemie. Its a very common condition with an easy fix, but takes time and patience to get through.

Bilirubin is the product of red blood cells as they naturally break down (its what makes bruises turn yellow/green as they heal). In babies (especially premature ones), they have trouble getting rid of the excess bilirubin in their body, so they turn yellow or orange (a nice spray tan orange in Charlie's case) as it backs up. The result is a very sleepy baby and an increased risk of other medical issues. In infants, bilirubin is typically expelled when they poop, which inevitably happens once they start eating consistently. For Charlie, one of his problems is that he is so sleepy from the bilirubin that he only has a good 5-10 minutes of energy to eat each time we get him up (about every 3 hours). When we hold him, he wants to snuggle up and falls asleep. While ridiculously adorable, it doesn't do much for his caloric intake. When he doesn't eat well, not only is his weight affected, but he's not pooping as much. Less poop = less chance for bilirubin to get out = sleepy baby = less eating....and so on. We're working now to break this cycle and help him to eat more consistently. Right now, he's often too sleepy to latch for breast feeding, but luckily pumping has been working well. Seen as we can only hold him for 30 minutes at a time (every 3 hours) so he can otherwise get his jaundice light treatment, being able to at least provide milk for him is keeping this new Mom from going over the edge.

In the grand scheme of things that could affect a preemie, a bad case of jaundice ranks pretty low on the worst case scenario list - something we're thankful for. We now know why NICU nurses don't give guesses on how long babies will be there - because that's not what is important. Patience and health are important. Charlie will be ready to go home when he's ready (and not orange) and that's good enough for me!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We are Truly Blessed

While I was standing in the NICU this morning washing my hands to scrub in for what felt like the hundreth time I realized something. It wasn't nearly the hundreth time I've washed my hands to come visit Charlie - maybe the twentieth. Looking around the room, I noticed just how many incubators were occupied by teeny tiny babies working hard every day for every ounce they gained and every breath they took. Then, I looked at Charlie. Only three days old and already in an open crib and completely unassisted. I've never felt so lucky in my life.

One of the many things this experience has taught me (aside from the importance of being flexible!) is a tremendous respect for the families of premature infants. We've only been at this for a few days, but already, we are pretty physically and emotionally exhausted. We can't stay with him all the time, but are instead encouraged to come during his "care times." Every three hours, we can come change, feed, and generally bond with him before he goes back into his crib for some much needed rest and a light treatment for a bit of jaundice. This leaves two hour blocks in between for us to eat, run any errands we need to, and rest. I've never been so tired in my life, but at the same time, I've also never felt so strong and willing to sacrifice. I never realized how much having a baby could change you and I couldn't even attempt to put it into words.

While we're here, we've been fortunate enough to be accepted to stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Virginia. Growing up, I remember helping my Mom and Aunt (both nurses) do various charity projects for RMH and conducted a few myself throughout college and graduate school, but I never thought I'd be benefiting from this wonderful organization. If you're unfamiliar with RMH - for the past 36 years, Ronald McDonald House has been providing families of ill children the ability to stay close to the hospital where their child is admitted for low or no cost. The houses are like a hotel, but with a homier feel to them; there are individual rooms for families like a hotel, but there are also large public common spaces that are used and maintained by the guests (i.e. you can use the kitchen, just be sure to wash your dishes). They are mostly staffed by volunteers and funded by charity donations. Though we are only an hour away from the hospital, this week has been made infinitely easier by being able to stay next door to rest and grab a shower rather than commuting back and forth (especially with such little time between care times). How do you even begin to say thank you for a gift like that?

If you're interested in finding the Ronald McDonald house near you, there are constantly numerous volunteer opportunities available. Their website is

Ronald McDonald House of Southwest Virginia

Monday, November 1, 2010

Our Anniversary Treat

For those of you who don't know, Sunday was J and my first wedding anniversary. I was thrilled that he actually had the day off and we had the whole day planned - finishing up baby shopping, a movie, dinner...stuff we hadn't done together in weeks. Our little one, however, had other plans...
(Warning, there are some details in here, but nothing nitty gritty.)

Saturday night I slept like crap. There's no other way to put it. I tossed and turned every half hour or so and was incredibly uncomfortable. I wasn't sure why at the time, but it all makes sense now. At about 7:30am, I rolled over and realized that if I got up to go to the bathroom then, I'd be able to sleep in until about 9:30am. Sweet! I moved the pillow fort I'd been sleeping with and hopped out of bed. Instantly, a trickle of water ran down my leg. I seriously thought I had wet myself! I walked to the bathroom and the minute my foot hit tile... GOOSH. It was that mythical gush of water breaking that you only see in movies. I called for Jeff, who jumped out of bed like it was on fire and came running. Being only 34 weeks, I hadn't yet had the labor talk with my doctor and had no idea what to do. Off to the Birthing Center we went.

When we got there, the nurses called the OB on call who came in to check me out. I had met her through the practice I go to and she, needless to say, she was pretty shocked to see me. They confirmed that my water had ruptured and that I was 1 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Unfortunately, the Birthing Center (and adjoining hospital) did not have a NICU and needed to transfer us to the large area hospital about 50 minutes away. The thought was that since the baby was premature (before 35 weeks), it would be easier to transfer me now then to transfer just the baby later on if there was a problem. There went my small, quiet birth experience! An ambulance ride later, we were getting checked into L&D.

As a side note, I was nervous at first to transfer to such a large teaching hospital, but I was so wrong. EVERYONE was incredibly nice and introduced themselves (all the way up to the head attending) to us before actually needing to be in there. Every shift change went like this and I felt so comfortable with all of the doctors, nurses, and interns.

After getting checked in, the doctor came in to check me out. In about 90 minutes I had moved to 2 - 3 cm dilated and about 75% effaced. Things were seriously looking speedy! The doctor said that her team would let me labor on my own and at my own pace. When I needed pain meds, they would give them to me, but otherwise, would check me every once in a while and let things progress. Music to my ears!

We hung out and watched some football until about 3pm when the doctor came back to check me. A few hours had passed, but my contractions were still 4 minutes apart and I was still between 2 and 3 cm dilated. They began a pitocin drip (a synthetic version of the natural labor hormone) around 4pm to get things moving again. Well, the pitocin hit me like a Mack Truck. Within ten minutes of starting the drip, my contractions were stronger and lasted longer. I tried some different positions, J did some massage, and we tried the birthing ball. I did what I could, but eventually wondered, "Why am I doing this to myself? I can't concentrate on anything with all this pain." At about 6pm, I was done and called for an epidural. No joke...five minutes later, the anesthesiologist was in the room prepping me. Thank you big hospital! And, just for the record, epidural = AMAZING. Trying to sit still through mind blowing contractions 2 minutes apart while you're getting said epidural...not so amazing. Oh well, no pain no gain.

Once the epidural set in I felt so much better. I knew when the contractions were happening, but they no longer hurt. At around 7pm, I was checked again and was 5cm and 90% effaced. Okay, back on track. The nurses came in and gave me a ton of pillows to make me comfortable and position me so the baby could descend properly (he was pretty high up in my pelvis up until this point). To my shock, at about 8:30pm, I was 10 cm and 100% effaced. Almost ready to go! 

Now to just get the little guy in position. They put me in a position they called "Penny Position" (after author/speaker Penny Simpkin). They basically used enough pillows where I could lay on my stomach with one knee pulled up at a 45 degree angle. Now, before getting pregnant, this is how I always slept, so between that and the epidural, I passed out and took a fabulous nap. At 10:30pm, the doctor came back in to check me and it was time to push!! WHAT?! J looked at me and said, " this is getting real." Glad you're on board, Dad. Haha

The doctor got me in position (which was fun with two completely numb legs) and the room flooded with the NICU team and every curious intern on the floor. Whatever...I just wanted to meet this baby! The doctor warned me that it could take a few hours of pushing, especially for a fist time Mom. Apparently, I took this on as a personal challenge. Four contractions/pushes later...IT'S A BOY! Charlie was here!! The NICU team was amazed at how big he was for his age (6 lbs. 1 oz) and gave him fantastic APGAR scores (somewhere between 7 and 8). Unfortunately, due to some breathing retraction, Charlie needed to go right upstairs and I didn't get to see him until I went up stairs a few hours later. When I did get to see him though, wow. He is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I was in awe.

I needed a quick stitch or two, but wasn't in any pain at all. The epidural did exactly what it was supposed to - I could feel my contractions existed so I could push, but felt absolutely no pain. Even today, I'm a little crampy, swollen, and sore, but Motrin is doing a good job of taking the edge off.

Charlie is amazing and doing better than anyone could have expected. In his first 24 hours, he's only lost .4 ounces and no longer needs oxygen and warming assistance. He's basically in the NICU on a technicality that he was born 3 days before their cut off age of 35 weeks. He's a bit of a fussy eater and would rather snuggle and sleep, but hopefully that'll change soon so he get put on some weight (the last key to him getting home this week). I still can't believe that he's here already. Our little Christmas present has turned into our little Halloween treat. Funny how life happens, but we couldn't be happier!

My amazing husband did not, however, forget our anniversary. After Charlie was born and safely resting in the NICU, he drove the hour home to grab all the of things we needed for our short hospital stay; toiletries, some playing cards, my favorite pillow....oh, and a big ol' slice of our wedding cake topper. I cried. I couldn't help it; it was by far the most romantic gesture I could have ever imagined. In all the hustle and bustle he remembered our anniversary cake. Though it was a day late, we sat in my hospital room and ate our cake, together.