Sunday, May 13, 2012

Luca's Birth Story- Happy Mother's Day!

Here's the post I've been meaning to write for... five months? No way my baby is five months. I thought it might be fitting to finish it today, my first mother's day!

A quick recap (click here and here for the whole summary): I was having a somewhat uneventful pregnancy, but my Dr. was worried about an incompetent cervix and I was being followed pretty carefully for that, so I had steroid injections at 30 weeks and after. Around 35 weeks I started to get really, super swollen (like more than just normal pregnancy swollen), and my Dr. had my collect my urine for 24 hours to see how much protein was in it. The day that I was collecting my urine, we had our maternity photos scheduled with my friend Amanda of Doubly Happy Photography. I'm so glad we did, because I had no idea it would be the last full day before I went into labor.
The next morning after the 24 hour collection, we headed to the hospital to drop it off and to get some blood work. Hubs suggested we snap a few photos "just in case today was the day", and I laughed a little but humored him by posing in front of our tree and in Luca's (unfinished) nursery.

Max had no idea how his life was going to change- he loves Luca, but still doesn't always understand that he's one of 2 little men now:)

Luca's nursery before my MIL made us the perfect crib skirt and valances and before we hung any wall art. I'll be posting about this later- if you can't tell it's a safari theme!

So we snapped the photos and I felt a little silly because I honestly thought I was going to go in, give them my urine, and head home. Funny story about the whole urine collection- I sort of spaced it and planned our dinner that night with asparagus. I went to pee in my collecting jug and realized what I had done. I'm so so sorry to the lab technician who had to process my urine- I swear I didn't do it on purpose!
Ok so we dropped off the urine and we were told that the lab needed a few hours to process it, so I would need to be set up to some monitors to monitor my blood pressure, and I would have to give some blood so they could test my platelet level. I still thought I was headed home.

Prior to my pregnancy I always had really really low blood pressure. It wasn't unheard of for my blood pressure to to be around 90/50, so when my Dr. checked it around 33 weeks and it had creeped up to 120/80 (the normal range) she wasn't too worried, but wasn't going to just ignore it. The day we came into the hospital it was still only 145/90 and even when I saw that it didn't phase me as a huge deal. But the attending Dr. from my doctors group wasn't very happy about it, and when my platelet levels and urine protein amount came back, I was told I would be immediately induced.

Platelets are an important part of the clotting process. They circulate in our blood, and if platelet levels are too low excessive bleeding can occur. A normal platelet count in a healthy person is between 150,000 and 450,000 per microliter of blood, and when platelets are below 150,00 it's termed thrombocytopenia and it occurs in about 7-8% of normal pregnancies. When we came into the hospital my platelet level was 80,000 and it dropped to 60,000 before I gave birth to Luca.

So the low platelet levels, elevated blood pressure, and insane amount of protein in my urine meant I had developed a condition called HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome occurs in about 0.2 to 0.6 percent of all pregnancies. In comparison, preeclampsia occurs in 5 to 7 percent of pregnancies. The H stands for hemolysis, or the breakdown of red blood cells, EL stands for elevated liver enzymes, and LP stands for low platelet count (sorry, I'm a science geek and have to include this part!). The immediate treatment is to deliver the baby, and for me that meant an induction, something I hadn't really prepared myself for. I still sort of hoped I would be able to go home.
I was pretty emotional at the thought of having to be induced, and all I cared about was that Luca was ok. I really didn't know how serious my condition was, and the Drs were sort of hush hush about it with me, but they were pretty vocal to hubs. I now know that up to 25% of women can die because of HELLP syndrome, and they kept quiet to prevent me from having a seizure. Within hours I was hooked up to pitocin and magnesium.

 I had heard horror stories about being induced with pitocin, but I can honestly say that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and I'm sure that's because this was my only experience with labor, and I had nothing to compare it with.  Hubs headed home to get our hospital bags and birth ball, and when he got back I had pulled myself together after calling my family. My mom hopped on a red eye flight, and hoped to make it for Luca's birth.
I even had some time to read up on how to take care of a newborn! We were actually signed up for a newborn essentials class the night Luca was born, but for obvious reasons we didn't go:)

After about 12 hours I was feeling alright, but weak. Magnesium lowers your blood pressure and can slow labor, so the pitocin had to be bumped up. I wasn't allowed to walk around, but they did let me roll around on my birth ball next to my bed. I'm hoping the next time I give birth I'll be able to use it more, because it distracted me a little bit and felt pretty good.

Because I was on mag, I had a nurse in the room the whole time. She was so sweet, and when I begged for food, they let me order a meal- such relief!

I'm not exactly sure what time it was, but maybe around midnight something happened to my IV. Hubs was sleeping in the chair next to me and woke up to a pool of blood below my bed. I won't really go into details, but there was quite a bit of blood and a hustle to get the bleeding to stop. Hubs was freaked out, and I was watched really closely after that.

I came into the hospital around 3-4 cm dilated, and overnight on pitocin I dilated to 6cm. Around 10 in the morning my mom walked into our room and I was so happy to see her, but things were really starting to pick up. The doctors broke my water, and within an hour I was pushing. I don't really need to tell you how intense the contractions were if you've ever given birth, but they were exactly what I thought they would be- period cramps on steroids. I asked for the anesthesiologist, but I was already told I would be pushing. My original plan was to have an epidural, but when we arrived at the hospital and they found my platelet levels were low they told me the only way I could have an epidural was to have the catheter inserted right then and they would turn on the epidural when I needed it. So I had that thing in my back all night and when I asked they turn it on it was already time to push. They tried, but only my left butt cheek was numb-whoopty doo. In retrospect I'm so thankful it didn't work, because I was able to move my legs, and that really helped me effectively push. I don't plan on an epidural for any future pregnancy because of this.

Pushing for me wasn't what I expected. I thought it would be push, rest and wait for a contraction, and then push again. But all I wanted to do was push- even between contractions. Within a half hour, at 12:30 in the afternoon, Luca was born and my life changed forever...

Little peanut weighed 5lbs 13oz.

 I had planned to invite both my mom and MIL into the room when Luca was born, but they were asked to leave just before I started pushing, and by the time I thought to invite them back, Luca was already on his way. So after he was born my mom  and mother-in-law saw their grandson, and I was so happy they were both there.

I might be a bit of a sap right now because I'm writing this on Mother's Day, but I can't express the love and light Luca has brought to my life. I see things differently, and life seems so much better now that he's here. And just when I thought I couldn't love my husband any more, I do. He was amazing during my labor, and I couldn't have done it without him there.
The only real side effect I felt from the magnesium during my labor was that I was SO THIRSTY. The nurses had to limit my liquids because of how they affect blood pressure, but they did let me have a few popsicles! My big mistake, though? Eating a purple popsicle right before Luca was born- my mouth is purple in the photos!

Exactly a year ago on mother's day, hubs and I told our parents we were pregnant. We gave each mom a Mother's day card for grandma, and we were so excited to share the news. This Mother's Day, I'm holding my little man as I type this and feeling so incredibly blessed.
I love you, little Luca. I'm so lucky I'm your mom...

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms- I now know this incredible love, and how special it feels to be a mother.


  1. What a beautiful birth story Kate! So happy both you and Luca were healthy after the HELLP scare.

  2. Thanks Kayti! I love reading other people's birth stories- just wish I remembered more, you know?!