halfway through maternal-newborn

Back when I started this blog years ago, I assumed that once I was in nursing school I would be able to document my everyday life as a student nurse. HA! There are just far too many other things on my plate to worry about and this blog, and writing about what I have been up to, is the least of my worries. However, I still want to be present here. It is not going to be enough, but it will be something.

Since June, I have been in maternal-newborn/OB classes and it has been wonderful! The learning and labs have been so fun and truly light up my soul with passion as I have learned so many new things. A few people (seasoned nurses) have gently tried to tell me that *maybe* I will change my mind about becoming a labor nurse and midwife someday. I kindly tell them that my passion grows daily for women’s health and that has not changed in the least. If anything, being in the area I am passionate about has only made me more excited and hopeful for my future as a nurse.

Despite my strong passion and excitement for this class, the last month and a half have been pretty insane. I had to take a med calc exam THREE times. We only get 3 chances and the mistakes I made the 2nd time were so silly. Three chances was all we are given and thank GOD I passed the exam on Thursday! Focusing on that exam and on the second exam for the class (yesterday) eat up any free time I have outside of family time and work. I truly felt a huge weight fall off my shoulders as I passed that med calc exam. I feel like I can really focus and enjoy the class more. The stress surrounding that was so bad my migraines and other physical pains resurfaced. And there is nothing like pain to make you want to curl up under the covers despite how much work there is to be done.

Nursing school is just as hard as I expected it to be. There was not a moment leading up to starting nursing school over a year ago where I thought “Nah, this won’t be THAT hard…” Nope. It’s hard. Getting through it requires so much self-discipline, focus, and support. My support comes straight from God, my family and very close friends. Self-care has been incredibly difficult for me to make a priority. I know that sounds bad. How can I possibly take care of others if I am not taking care of myself?! Trust me, this is a huge work-in-progress. In fact, writing here is one of the things I cam doing for myself. I know that I will wish I had spent more time documenting nursing school, so better late than never. 😉

On Monday, I start 4 weeks of maternal-newborn clinicals in the hospital. I am so excited! I cannot wait to put my hands on a pregnant belly, feel for positioning and contractions and connect with a family as they welcome their baby! I’ve been to several births, but only has an observer and never as the nurse. This week is going to be epic!

Breast MRI

In case you’re new here….here is a little background on why I need breast MRIs at the ripe young age of 31:

My mom was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer a year ago October. She, however, is not the only female in my family that has had to hear such terrible news. My paternal aunt, and several other great aunts have also had breast cancer. After speaking with my midwife and a genetics counselor, it was determined that I needed to be screened every six months. That screening started a year ago with a mammogram. I have very dense breasts and density is pretty hard to see through on a mammo. It’s not impossible, but further screening with an MRI is even better than a mammo.

I had my first MRI last June. That was horrible. I cannot even recall if I wrote about it–I don’t think I did. The worst part was laying prone (face down) in a tube for 45 minutes. I did take some medication to help me relax but it did not work very well. The sound alone was terrible and that first time, I was not offered any music.

This time, I had music and different medication to help me relax. I was also able to rest my arms in a different position which was more comfortable. Also, my mom came with me. Knowing that she was there and waiting for me made me feel so much better. She was able to go with me to get my IV for the contrast and waited until it was time for me to go back.

The rest of the day I was very tired from the meds, but I am so thankful for how well this last time went. And the best part? The results are normal! They had me do this 2nd MRI so they could monitor some nodules that may have been worrisome and and no worrying is necessary! I am so thankful for this news and even more thankful to the amazing team of medical professionals I have behind me, encouraging me to screen more often. I am also so grateful for my family. I could not have done any of this without their support and love.

I Had My Placenta Encapsulated

I have a pretty awesome friend who left Colorado (TEARS!) and moved back to her home state a few years back. Despite the distance, we keep in touch and she happens to have just had baby numero dos. Here, she writes about encapsulating her placenta. There are so many things to say about this. First, I think the idea behind doing this is awesome. If there is a way to prevent postpartum depression/anxiety, increase milk supply, decrease bleeding…why not? The idea of eating ones placenta, however, is not appetizing so I am grateful for the amazing women who have figured out a way to make them into vitamin-like capsules. I will write a more detailed post about this with more research and links at a later time. For now, enjoy reading about a personal experience.

I Had My Placenta Encapsulated.

The Birth of Theodore Atticus…It’s a Boy!

I am SOOOOOO excited to share this birth story with you all. I have been following Sally and her little family since way back when I still used blogger and had a different blog name. This birth of her third boy is beautiful, but it involves a pretty scary postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). I irony in reading her story this weekend was that last week I had a patient have a PPH. It does not happen very often but when it does, it sticks with you. I find myself reflecting on every moment, each little step we made to help the patient feel calm, safe, and stop the bleeding. As Sally mentions in her post below, the care a patient receives at any time is critical but especially so when something scary happens. Feeling like you’re going to die after giving birth is probably one of the scariest thoughts anyone can have. Thank you, Sally, for allowing me to share Theodore’s birth story.

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Theodore Atticus (Teddy) arrived on Wednesday morning at 11:13AM after almost twenty-four hours of labor. I want to go ahead and give the heads up that, much like my other two births, this labor and delivery did not go exactly as planned. If you’re looking for a natural birth story where every thing goes to a T, you should probably skip this one. However, unlike the others, I had such a better experience when it came to feeling supported and listened to during my experience. My hospital staff was absolutely incredible. My nurses were amazing. The OB who delivered Teddy was perfection. Here’s our story:

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Monday was Memorial Day. At our CrossFit box, the gym was running a hero work out known as “Murph.” Taylor and I got there with the boys around 10:30AM to cheer on the athletes and get a little work out in ourselves. I headed to the squat rack and started doing a slow triplet of three squats, three pull ups, two sled pushes. I added a little weight every round, and I had just done my second squat at 115lbs when I felt a thump. I stood back up, and water gushed down my legs like someone had turned on a bath tub faucet. I racked the weight, turned to look at Taylor, and said, “Um, Tay, my water broke…we need to go.” He started laughing, and we gathered up the boys while I waddled to the car with a towel between my legs.

We were supposed to show our house that morning, but obviously, that wasn’t going to happen. I hopped in the shower while Taylor fed the boys. We made calls to the people who were coming to help watch Sully and Arlo while we were at the hospital and before our families arrived. I went back and forth between the birth ball and sitting on the toilet trying to get some contractions going. They were there, but very mild and not at all consistent. At about 2:30PM, we decided to head on to the hospital. I was GBS+ again, and honestly, being at home was far from relaxing between the kids and the dog. Our good friends arrived to watch the boys, and we made our way.

When we checked in, I was still not having any contractions and was at about 2cm. I walked and walked some more, bounced on the ball some more, and four hours later, still nothing. At this point, I agreed to being put on the lowest level of pitocin in order to hopefully get contractions going. The nurses and OB were all absolutely fine with me walking around, taking a shower, doing whatever I could to try to get things moving. Eventually, the contractions picked up. They became incredibly uncomfortable, but they still were not regular. After about six hours on pitocin, they took me off and checked me again. I was at 3cm. We decided to let me try to labor on my own for awhile off the pitocin to see if I could try to progress some more. For several more hours, I labored in the shower, on the ball, in the bed, whatever I could try to do. The contractions were steady, and I would say they were very painful. It was intense pressure with each wave and very little rest in between. I asked to be checked again, convinced I had to be close. I was only 3.5cm. After being in labor this long, looking at the middle of the night, and recognizing that I just wasn’t progressing like I wanted, I asked for the epidural. I needed rest, and my mom and Taylor were exhausted, too. I hoped an epidural would bring some relief and let me sleep. I honestly could have kissed the anesthesiologist. I told him my epidurals before had never really worked, and I always ended up with “hot spots.” He had to place it twice, but he finally got it working, and I could rest.

I expected to be disappointed by this choice. After all, I really wanted to go naturally. But after having been in labor for so long with no change, I felt like I was only torturing myself. Labor should an experience where you feel in control and on top of all the decisions made. I truly feel like I was in control this time. Every decision made was passed by me and approved by me, and the nurses and OB were so amazing at ensuring my experience was the best possible one for me. I laid down and rested and by 10:30AM, I had a little lip of cervix between me and baby. The anesthesiologist had to do another dose of medicine when I started getting hot spots, but it fixed the problem. My epidural was light enough that I could feel all the contractions and pressure, and I could move my legs, but I was no longer fighting against the contractions. When it came time to push, three pushes, and Teddy joined us, screaming and pink.
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Now, here’s the hard part. My labor and delivery went so well. I had one tiny tear that required a few stitches, and I was able to get up and walk around almost immediately after Teddy was born. He latched like a champ and took to nursing right away. About six hours after delivery, while we were settled into our recovery room and after my shower, I got up to use the bathroom. As I walked into the bathroom, I felt a ton of pressure and cramping. Suddenly, blood gushed everywhere. Huge clots covered the floor, and the walls looked like a horror film. I yelled to Taylor to get the nurse, and more blood gushed again. I stood there completely shocked, and the nurses rushed in. They put me in the bed, where the gushes kept happening. Soon, my room was filled with nurses and my OB. They gave me percocet, a shot of some of sort, and cytotec to try to stop the bleeding. The OB then explained to me she would have to do a manual extraction, where she would have to reach up into my uterus to pull out the massive clots that were preventing my uterus from contracting back to normal size and containing the bleeding like it should have.

I have never had anything done that felt so horrific. I was screaming and crying and begging for them to stop, but they were pulling out baseball sized clots of blood, and I knew it had to be done. I think this was the point where I honestly thought I might die. I’ve never seen so much blood in my life, and I have certainly never seen so much blood come out of someone and them still live. The OB explained that if they couldn’t stop the bleeding, I would have to go under anesthesia for an emergency D&C and then possibly a hysterectomy if it continued. Once the manual extraction was over, they began a blood transfusion. I received four pints of blood because it was estimated I had lost about two liters (the human body generally has 4.7-5 liters of blood). They pumped me full of fluids. This part is pretty hazy, but I remember being cold and not being able to stop shaking. They kept asking me how I felt and random questions to keep me alert. Poor Taylor and Teddy had to be there the whole time.

Once they had me stabilized, they inserted a postpartum balloon. It was basically a massive balloon that they filled with water to put pressure on my uterus and hopefully help the blood vessels seal. They kept it in overnight, and in the morning, they removed it. I had no more clotting, so I was asked to stay in bed twelve more hours before I started moving around. They kept me another couple of days, but I was finally in the clear.

They speculate that my long labor exhausted my uterus, and when it was time to contract back to normal size, it was contracting but not shrinking. Blood vessels never sealed, and it started a vicious cycle of clotting, releasing the clots, and clotting again. There is no real way of knowing WHY this happened.
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I can tell you a few things about this experience:

1) Teddy was our last baby. I can’t risk something like this happening again. Thinking I was about to die was the most terrifying thing in this entire world, and while he is so, so, worth it, I want to be here for Taylor and my babies.

2) I appreciate my little family so much more.

3) I am so incredibly grateful for my medical team. Had I given birth at home or had I been released earlier than 24 hours, I would have bled to death. An ambulance would not have made it in time for me to survive. Which means, if I had birthed anywhere but the hospital, I wouldn’t be here today. That does not mean that I am against home or birth center births, but this experience made me realize how grateful I am that I personally did not chose that path.

4) Having a good hospital staff and OB makes an absolute world of difference. My labor and delivery could not have been more precious to me. My OB that had privatized me the entire pregnancy was actually out of town. I ended up with another female OB, Dr. Jones, who is my new best friend. She was so incredible, and I am so grateful I had her. My nurses handled our labor and following emergency so well. No one panicked or made me feel like they were not in control. Even at the worst moment, Taylor says he did not really think he would lose me because everyone was so competent.

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We are home and settled now. I feel pretty rough, but I guess that is to be expected. Teddy is nursing so well, and the big boys are loving him. Teddy has a little jaundice, but we are staying on top of it, and his numbers are lower today, so we feel better about that. I am so grateful things turned out the way they did, and now we are just hunkering down to enjoy this newborn phase.

I Love my Fat Body by Katie

Friends, I am honored to share this beautiful woman with you today. Katie is a fellow coworker and friend of mine. She works nights; I work days. We say good morning and good night to each other as our shifts change. A few days ago, she wrote this beautiful post about body confidence and, after wiping away the tears from my smiling face, I asked her if I could share her words here. I was struck with so much love and joy I couldn’t help but cry. Katie eloquently expresses the beauty that is her body and the love she has for herself. Every woman, girl, child–needs to possess this kind of self-love. Many years ago, someone wise told me that you cannot love someone else if you don’t love yourself first. I found this to be true just before I met and fell in love with my now husband. Please share this story and message with every woman you know. Share it with your mother, your daughter, your sister.

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I love my fat body.

And why wouldn’t I? My fat body carries me through 12+ hour nursing shifts, allowing me the privilege of taking care of people when their bodies and minds are vulnerable. My fat body takes me on adventures, exploring new treasures that this world has to offer. My fat body allows for me to feel the pleasure of my senses. My fat body includes a brain that has developed who I am, a mind whose delicate dance of neurotransmitters and electrical impulses enables me to feel love, sadness, anger, and joy.

So what’s so wrong with my fat body? After more than a decade spent in and out of therapist’s and nutritionist’s offices, I have finally come to an answer: nothing.

Few people seem to be aware of this, though. Last year I went to my health care provider for a yearly exam, without any health concerns. The office visit went through its normal paces, and as we were wrapping up, she said, “Katie, you know there’s one more thing to talk about: your weight.” I nodded my head in agreement, knowing that I had gained weight. She proceeded to tell me the ways in which I could lose weight (eat less meat, exercise more, eat more fruits and veggies) and rattled off the risks of being “overweight.” Again, my head nodded in agreement. I was holding back tears the whole time, feeling shameful and defeated. This was all stuff I knew, and she knew it.

I got to my car and burst into tears. I cried the whole way home, and then started getting angry. I was angry because, now removed from the moment, I was able to see that I had just been a victim of body(fat)-shaming and fat-phobia. As I ran the conversation through my head, I realized that outside of weight gain, there were no indications that I wasn’t doing any of those things she had suggested, that I was unhealthy. At the time, I was about a month away from calling myself an official vegetarian, but was only eating meat about 2-3 times per month (eat less meat: already done). Between my job and personal activities, I was moving my body enough to not be considered sedentary (exercise more: partially there – I admit I could respect my body with more frequent purposeful movement). And as a near-vegetarian, and now as a full-vegetarian, I’m sure you can guess what I fill my diet with (eat more fruits and veggies: check). What made me angry was the assumption that I was unhealthy and the implication that fat people cannot be healthy, no exceptions. I wasn’t even asked about my level of exercise, my diet, or ways that I keep healthy. Never mind that my blood pressures consistently run 110’s/70’s. Never mind the fact that my body can run and jump and bend and lift. Never mind the fact that I didn’t come in with any health concerns, much less any which would specifically indicate a weigh-related diagnoses. Never mind the fact that I’m healthier now as a fat person than at any other time in my life. The number on the scale superseded all of the other data.

Needless to say, I have since stopped going to that care provider.

It has taken me a long time to learn how to love and accept my fat body (and it wasn’t without support from a phenomenal partner, dear friends, and loving parents). And it certainly wasn’t without the privilege of healthcare—an excellent nutritionist and skilled therapists—and the privilege of education. I have finally gotten to a place where I love my body for no other reason than that it is mine, all mine. I have one life to live and this is the body I have, so I had better treat it right (which includes loving it unconditionally and celebrating it in all of its fat glory).

I have wasted entirely too much time, too much of my short existence, hating my body for how it looks, while never appreciating it for what it does (note: even one second spent hating one’s body is too much time). No more. While it’s difficult to break free of our cultural indoctrination of body shaming self and others, and I still catch myself doing things that are not kind to my body (sucking in my belly when trying on clothes, taking pictures in a way that my body looks most “acceptable”, etc.), I am making a conscious decision to love my body every day no matter how it looks.

I can’t even begin to explain the freedom that has come with this. My entire life I have been self-conscious of my tummy, no matter what state it’s in. Last week I broke through that lifetime of trying to hide it and wore fatkinis all over Cozumel, Mexico, flaunting my back rolls, stretch marks, and belly. And it felt so. god. damn. good. It was unbelievably freeing to wear the adorable retro swimsuits I have been eyeing for years but never bought because I was “too fat.” Rather than wearing the prescribed fat woman swim dress that covers as much as possible (not that there’s anything wrong with that; if someone is most comfortable in it, more power to them! I, however, would not be true to myself and my style if I wore one), I wore a nautical, high-waisted bikini bottom with a bright red bikini top. I accessorized the shit out of it, because I’m a grown-up who still likes to play dress up. And I felt more confident than I ever have in any swimsuit.

As I continue on my journey of health, I look forward to loving and respecting my body more and more every day. I’m excited to provide it with more movement, give it the nourishment it needs to continue to carry me through this life, and share with others the joy I have found in body appreciation.

Making Home Birth Safer

I never sign these things. I am not one to get all up in arms about petitions and change and such–unless I feel strongly about it. And maybe there just hasn’t been a petition out there that has stirred me so much, until now. The Coalition for Safer Home Birth was started on Change.org to encourage our legislatures to recognize the safety standards that are lacking in home birth. The coalition does a wonderful job summarizing exactly where the issues in home birth safety rest which largely is in the hands of the home birth midwife who is lacking a certain level of education. I feel that it is best for me to leave you to read what the coalition has written as I could not have said it any better so I won’t even try.

And maybe, if you feel moved enough, if you want to see change, sign the petition.

Protect Mother’s and Babies: The Coalition for Safer Home Birth

half way

The semester is already almost half way over! And I just started a new class on Monday. It’s an accelerated Microbiology class that is 100% online. My A&P class is also totally online. I love doing my classes this way, though it makes for a very busy schedule as I have to lay everything out so that I can complete assignments and exams on time. Both classes are covering the same thing right now so studying is actually easier and more effective because I am learning it twice in two different formats. After these classes end in December, I will be applying for nursing school! Truly cannot believe this day is nearing. Wow!

In other news, work is going great. I feel like almost every day I can learn something new. I experienced my first postpartum hemorrhage about a month ago. As far as PPH goes, it was a rather atypical situation and I’m glad I was able to experience one that would not normally present the way that it did. The amazing part was that, though it was scary, I did everything I was supposed to. I work with such a great team of nurses that we all flowed together to get control of the situation and treat the patient. It was amazing to watch and experience. The adrenaline rush was overwhelming. And the best part? It didn’t scare me away from this profession! In fact, it only made me want it more. I bonded with my patient as we helped her out of a scary situation and it only made me want midwifery even more.

Have a great weekend! I am still taking submissions for birth stories. None on the board right now so send them along!

Sarah