Thursday, May 16

Welcome JJ

Our little JJ arrived late on January 31, almost a February baby. She was 10 days past her due date and we were more than ready to meet our babe. As the doctors talked induction, I resisted the idea. I had just spent nine months preparing for a birth, and Nick and I had spent a lot of time discussing my preference for a drug-free delivery. I was sure that if I went ahead with induction, I would end up with an epidural. The doctors were keeping a close eye on us as we soared past our due date of Jan 19. We had ultrasounds and non-stress tests galore. We went for a special ultrasound to check babies fluid levels. The tech was sure they were fine. Just two days later during our non-stress test at the Sturgeon hospital babies heart rate was abnormal. She just didn't seem to be as active in there as she had been before.

The OB strongly recommended we go ahead with the induction. We went home for lunch, grabbed our stuff, and then headed back to the hospital. They put us back on the fetal heart rate monitor. Babies heart rate continued to be abnormal for about three hours, and they wouldn't start me on Pitocin until they had a better idea of what was going on. We had been keeping in contact with our doula throughout the day. Poor Kayla (of Transition Doula Collective) was on call for that evening and had been planning on a skiing trip out of town that afternoon if nothing happened with her clients. She was sticking around until we knew if our induction would proceed. She recommended something called a "trail of labour" and to our relief, the on call OB recommended the same thing. They would start us on Pitocin and increase it rapidly over the course of an hour to see what babies heart rate did. If she didn't tolerate it well, we would know that she wouldn't tolerate real labour either. About a half hour into the Pitocin drip, I started to experience some contractions. At the end of the hour, the OB took one look at the readout from the heart rate monitor and told us we were having a cesarean birth! Definitely not something I had ever planned on. I was lucky that both my doulas and my own reading had prepared me somewhat for what to expect.

With that decision made, they started to prep me for surgery. At this point my contractions had become more painful and, knowing I would be getting pain meds anyway, I wanted them ASAP! I was so, so lucky that everyone who we came into contact with was amazing. The OB on call that night, Dr. Lacasse, was an absolute dream. She made me feel heard when she offered the trail of labour instead of jumping to the cesarean, and she stressed that no matter what happened it would be a celebration when this baby arrived. Even if she didn't come the way we planned. She made the atmosphere as we went into surgery very upbeat. She was joking with the nurses, complimenting me on my pom-pom slippers, and just generally making me feel at ease. I was so, so grateful for her (and of course her expertise!). If you're looking for an OB in Edmonton, I strongly recommend Dr. Michelle Laccasse out of the Sturgeon hospital in St. Albert.

My anesthesiologist was also amazing. He really put me at ease. They gave me a spinal block instead of an epidural, and he stayed by my head and chatted with me the whole time I was in surgery. The only thing I didn't expect before going in was that the medicine started to move upwards and made my lower chest feel numb. As a result, it felt like I was short of breath. I told the doctor and he reassured me I was breathing fine and tipped my bed so that the fluid was leveled out.

As the surgery progressed, Dr. Lacasse commented on the fact that there was no fluid left around the baby. She was all dried out! She told me later that she exchanged a look with the NICU nurse at one point and they both mouthed "where's the fluid??". Baby was whisked off for cleaning and weighing and I soon heard her cry. Nick went to take a look at her and he told me she was just six pounds even. I couldn't believe she was so small after being two weeks late! They placed her on my upper chest while they closed me up and I couldn't see her face, but I could hear her blowing bubbles and making little noises. Her tiny, wet breaths warmed my neck and I held onto her with my one free had, terrified she would slip away.

As we were wheeled into the recovery area, I was shivering from the medications and they kept covering us with warmed blankets. After about ten minutes the nurses encouraged me to start nursing and one of them helped me latch her. They wheeled us after to our room where our doula and Nick were waiting. They again helped me latch the baby, and she continued to nurse. Her latch seemed shallow to our doula, but I was never in any discomfort. Everyone who examined the baby commented on her small size and her tongue tie! Luckily, it hasn't caused any problems so far and as she gets bigger it seems to have stretched out on its own.

The first night in the hospital I held JJ while she slept. Nick dozed next to the bed on a fold-out chair. The light was dim and the room was quiet. We never ended up with roommates despite being in a shared room. Nick was playing soft music on his Bluetooth speaker, a playlist I made called "Like a Lullaby" of soft acoustic music and songs written about having children. Whenever the nurses visited they asked if I wanted to put her in the bassinet, but I didn't want to put her down. I didn't feel tired. I just wanted to look at her. They cautioned me not to fall asleep holding her so I didn't, I stayed awake all night instead. I couldn't wait for my family to visit the next day so I could show her off. I remember trying to soak everything in about those perfect, wee morning hours.

Our families visited in the morning and it was magical. I have a picture of my grandparents holding me in the hospital with the pink curtain behind them and as my dad held JJ, talking baby talk to her and rocking in front of the pink curtain, I felt overwhelmed with happiness.

That day they did a few tests and told us the baby had a touch of jaundice. They wanted her under the blue light for 24 hours. That was a rough 24 hours. About the roughest we've had. She hated being in there, naked but for her diaper and with the little blindfold on. She wanted to be held and all I wanted in the world was to hold her. She cried the full 24 hours and Nick and I didn't sleep a wink. We were completely exhausted the next day and I cried when they told us we could take her home. The only hitch, she still didn't have a name!

We had picked out names years ago, before we even were married, but I was having cold feet! It's silly, but it bothered me that our chosen name was in the top ten most popular for girls born in 2018 -- I wanted something more unique, and I wanted to save our daughter from having three other girls in her class with the same name (as was always my fate as a Kaitlyn). Poor Nick eventually gave in and we gave our daughter the controversial name I had picked out just weeks before -- Juniper. With that decided, we agonized over a middle name and eventually decided she didn't need one. Her middle name is my maiden name. Nick is a big fan of the nickname JJ, as those are her initials.

These pictures are from when JJ was ten days old. We were still recovering big time, both from the surgery and the sleepless nights at the hospital. Now that we were home, I was sleeping a bit, but still not enough. JJ gave us four or five hours of un-interrupted sleep right from the beginning, but I was finding it hard to turn off my hypervigilance and allow my mind and body rest. I would often have to wake up JJ to feed her, as she was attempting to sleep through the night but was too small! Of course, that passed in a few weeks and she resumed a more normal sleep schedule of a five-hour stretch, a half hour nursing session, and then a three-hour stretch.

At ten days in, the internet kept reminding me that baby photos should ideally be taken at ten days when baby is the most 'poseable'. I pulled out some props (a blanket? a winter hat? lol) and made an attempt. JJ was not very posable at all. In fact, she was chilly, hungry, and kinda annoyed. My favourite pictures are the ones I asked Nick to take of us while I nursed her on the bedroom floor. Intimate and real. I barely felt human at the time, and she barely was human. This tiny, dependent little thing so wholly new and ours.

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