Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mikala's Birth Story

Our son, Mikala Kamea'oli Keali'ikumalama Young Gun Graham was born on Wed. Sept. 14, 2016 at 6:35 pm.  He weighed 7 lbs 10.8 oz and was 20.5 inches long.

Despite my struggles to conceive my baby, I was blessed with a very normal, healthy pregnancy. There was a little scare in the beginning when doctors found a small subchorionic hematoma at my 8 week ultrasound.  Basically I had a bit of internal bleeding during the implantation phase of pregnancy.  They said it could increase my chances of miscarriage should it continue to bleed, but also said many many women go on to have normal, healthy pregnancies.  I was truly blessed to be one of those women.

Before I begin, I just want to say that my whole life up until now, I was completely terrified of childbirth. I mean there was even one point when I was struggling with infertility that I had the passing thought of, "At least I probably won't have to endure the pain of childbirth.." And yeah, it is a crazy experience and yes, pain is involved. But I truly believe that the mind has power over this, and you can overcome any fear of childbirth with focused, positive thinking! My fear of childbirth has been replaced with a feeling of amazement at what the body can do and just the sacredness of the whole experience.

The night before my due date (Sept. 7) Josh and I decided to go out to a really fancy restaurant as kind of our last hurrah as a couple before we became a family of 3.  We went to 53 by the Sea thanks to my mom for buying us a gift card for that place.  We felt totally out of place because we are usually acting/looking pretty goofy and laidback, but this restaurant was the type where you felt like people were judging you or would want to kick you out if you showed up in a t-shirt, shorts, and slippers haha.  It was fun though! We pretended to be able to afford eating at a place like that, we felt fancy.  We actually both cracked a lot of jokes about being all proper and fancy. Another funny thing was we showed up to the restaurant in our Scion, which is a 10-year old car that has definitely seen better days and was covered in bird doodoo....I wonder what the valet guy was thinking when we pulled up...like are these people lost?!

Anyway, getting back on track here. During dinner I started having some painful contractions.  I ignored it because I was trying to savor every moment of this special date with my husband, and every bite of this very expensive but very delicious food.  When we were driving home, the bumpy potholey roads of town made my contractions hurt even worse and they were coming every 5 minutes.  We both got excited thinking, this is it!!! Little did we know, it most definitely was NOT it and wouldn't be for a whole extra week...

Everyday from my 40 week mark to my 41 week mark was full of regular and irregular painful contractions. There were many days I seriously considered telling Josh, "Let's go!" but something always told me, wait a little longer to see if the contractions get worse...and sure enough, every time, they would start to space apart and eventually stop. I was so frustrated! I Googled so many things throughout that week and discovered something called Prodromal Labor. It was terrible experiencing that. But I kept trying to reassure myself that if my body is spending so much time "practicing" for labor and delivery, things should go smoothly when the "real" day actually arrives.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13 I had an appointment to do non-stress testing. Basically, once you pass your due date, doctors want to monitor you and baby to make sure the placenta is still doing its job in taking care of baby.  I was strapped up to 2 monitors, one to measure any contractions I might've had and one to measure fetal heartrate. His heart rate was supposed to speed up a little during movement or contractions and it did, so he passed.  However, when they did an ultrasound to check amniotic fluid levels, they only measured a 4.  Normal fluid levels are supposed to be between 8-20, so it was definitely low.  The doctor on duty told me, it's not an emergency, but it is cause for concern so you have two doors you can choose from here. Option A is get induced TODAY, or Option B, wait another day and check tomorrow to see if fluid levels went up. Of course, I chose induction.  I felt baby was ready to be born and I was worried about the fluid levels thing. So we scheduled it for 8 pm that night.

I was texting Josh during that appointment and when I told him I was going to be induced, he thought I meant RIGHT NOW!! So he rushed over to the hospital and I was walking out with my papers in hand for instructions on the induction, and he was surprised we were leaving. So we went home around 1 and got to spend time resting and calmly getting things ready for the hospital.  I was feeling really nervous and kind of guilty that I was being induced.  However, that morning I distinctly remember waking up and getting the strong impression that I would be having the baby today.  It felt right.

We had our "last supper" with our good friends Mark & Megan Serrao at CPK to support their son's fundraiser for his preschool. Here was my last date night outfit and last baby bump pic of my pregnancy before dinner at 40 weeks 6 days pregnant:

It was really fun!  As we ate, again I was having painful contractions, but after a week of this I just ignored it and assumed it was my body "practicing" again.  The drive to the hospital was really peaceful, not at all how I expected or how the movies make it seem with all the hurrying and stress. I guess that is one pro to getting induced. We showed up to the hospital for my induction, but when they strapped me to all the monitors, they said I was already in labor! I was 4 cm dilated and 50% effaced. No need for induction! Yay!

My midwife was Linda Chong-Tim and she was completely amazing. Around 1 am my contractions began to space apart just a little, so they gave me a tiny dose of Pitocin to augment my labor. Those contractions were painful! But I got through them by controlling my breathing, telling myself positive affirmations given to me by my friend Suzie Bell, and I also bounced on the big yoga ball. That helped a ton with my terrible back labor. I tried to handle those contractions for another hour and a half before I got exhausted and said, okay, if I'm going to get any sleep at all to save energy for the pushing stage, I'm gonna need to get the epidural. Once I got it I was in heaven (Josh said I started acting loopy and kept smiling) and slept while I labored for the next 12 hours or so, waiting to be fully dilated and ready to push. It was a slow process! Each time I was woken up by being able to feel a contraction due to the epidural starting to wear off, I pushed the magic button to add another dosage and fell back asleep. Finally, my water broke on its own and a few hours later the midwife checked me and said I was 9 cm and 100% effaced. Finally! At this point, the nurse recommended I stop pushing the magic button, to which I got a little nervous about the idea of feeling my childbirth. But I listened, and some sensation and feeling started to come back in my legs and on my belly.

At 5:30 the pushing began, and at first I had a hard time figuring it out. Then the midwife suggested we use the squat bar with a towel tied to the bar so I could pull on it during each push, like a tug of war. So I rested my legs on each side of the bar while Josh supported my neck and head and encouraged me with each push. He was such an amazing coach, it came so naturally to him. This worked really well for me and we progressed really quickly. I was grateful that the midwife let me pace out the pushing on my own, she didn't control when I pushed, she just said, "Let us know when you feel a contraction starting and we will all support you!" In between pushes, the nurse, midwife, and Josh were all talking and having a conversation nonchalantly, as if I wasn't in the middle of giving birth. This actually helped to keep me calm. She asked if Josh and I met at school and he told her I went to Kamehameha, then we made the connection that her daughter was my team mate in cross country, and her husband was my coach! What a small world! At one point, the midwife brought out the mirror and said sometimes this helps! At first I was like ew! I don't want to see that! But she wheeled it out anyway and as soon as I looked at the mirror I saw my baby's head and just melted. I could even feel the baby's head! I had a new surge of energy and motivation knowing he was so close. I did a few more big hard pushes and as his head was almost out the midwife told me to now do short, slower pushes to ease him out so that I wouldn't tear. That was the most painful part, because the biggest part of his head was crowning and I had to just deal with the pain and resist the temptation to just force him out with one big push to end my pain! This is the only part where I got kind of loud haha, it hurt! His head and shoulders came out and to my surprise she said, "Okay now reach down and grab your baby!" So I scooped him up and out and onto my chest and just broke down crying saying over and over, "My baby, my sweet baby!" Josh cried with me as we cherished those first moments meeting our son we waited so long for.

Mikala started coughing up some amniotic fluid (so that's where all my fluid went, he was drinking it all!) and immediately began crying. Boy was his cry strong and loud! Then we took this pic documenting how pissed off he was at the world for being forced out of his snug, warm home:

I really wanted to donate some cord blood, but I guess because my placenta was starting to give out, there wasn't much to give and I didn't have enough to meet the donation requirement. That's okay though. Then Josh cut the cord.

I barely had an hour of skin to skin time with my baby before my family showed up. They were super excited I guess...my brother even showed up to the hospital in the middle of me pushing so he had to wait outside awhile. Like I said, my family was SUPER excited hahaha. Finally the nurse weighed him. Here he is, still pissed off at the world hehe. All joking aside, I think he cried so much when he first came out because his head was a little swollen and it probably hurt him :(.

Because my family got there so soon and all wanted to hold him, Josh didn't get to hold him until they all left and he was feeling kind of disconnected to baby, after all I'm the one who carried baby for 9 months and got the immediate bonding time for an hour after he was born. So I suggested he take off his shirt and hold baby against his skin and he said he immediately felt better. It was so adorable watching the two of them.


Mikala is officially one week old today, and it has been a crazy ride of utter happiness and overwhelming stress since he was born. Nobody tells you how LITTLE sleep you get in the hospital, due to the nurses CONSTANTLY checking on you and baby and wanting to take him away for vaccinations and tests...I cried a lot in the hospital hahaha. Sleep deprivation is real.  But we survived the first week! And each day gets just a little easier and a whole lot better. I'm recovering really quickly and I almost feel back to normal. I can't wait to continue to watch baby Mikala grow. We love this little miracle so very much.


(This pic was taken after zero sleep and crying a lot! But I'm posting it because it shows the true, raw emotions of being brand new parents.)


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