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"Addie’s heart rate dropped with every contraction"

Adelaide was born on Valentine's Day, but that's not when my birth story starts. The most emotionally trying time of my life began on Nov. 7 when I was visiting my military provider for my 24-week checkup, and she expressed concern about the small size of the baby. We were prepared to leave the next day on our Hawaiian babymoon, and she told me to eat anything I wanted on this trip and to cut back on exercise (I had just completed a sprint triathlon and 15K in first trimester). Gladly, I thought! But no matter how many delicious Big Island beef burgers and Maui malasadas I consumed - and maintained a big appetite when I returned - Baby A continued to slump below the weight curve of her gestational peers, between 0-3 percent. The next two and a half months were spent attending up to four appointments per week at my regular doc and new specialist (who wore beautiful designer shoes under her white coat), which was not conducive to my work schedule. I was constantly anxious and worried that something was wrong, even though the doctors’ tests for certain conditions were all negative. It all came down to the fact that my placenta and body were not giving my baby the nutrients she needed. And nothing I could control but to wait it out. My specialist ordered for me to be induced two weeks before my due date, at 38 weeks on Feb. 13. I stopped working after Feb. 3, as my back pain was getting intolerable during my daily hour-long commute. Induction morning finally came, and we arrived at the hospital at 10:30 a.m. We got settled in our spacious birthing suite (surprising for a military hospital) and I had the first dose of drugs that would dilate my cervix. I remember watching college gymnastics all morning and eating delicious free food that was delivered to my room each meal! As my body took well to the initial drug, they gave me the second dose early in the afternoon. My contractions began, but I wasn’t in much pain. By 3:30 p.m., I was in active labor, with bigger contractions that were inconsistent. Still, the pain was tolerable. The third dose of drugs came to increase the contractions and hopefully encourage my water to break. I finally felt contractions that took my breath away. By 9 p.m., my cervix still had halfway to go before it was time to deliver (needs to be 8-10 cm wide), so the nurses decided to break my water. But first, it was epidural time. “Epidural Don” was name of my technician, who would be sticking a gigantic needle into my spine to relieve pain from the contractions before and during birth. Apparently, he had been doing this for 30 years, which made me more relaxed. I’ll admit, I was still terrified. My husband, Rhett, had to hold me steady as I stood to receive the shot, which didn’t hurt too badly but was just scary. I began shaking uncontrollably after the epidural and thought I was dying. It was incredibly terrifying, although the nurses said it was normal. (What?! Why did no one tell me this??) The numbness took over my body, from my toes up to right below my chest, which seemed a little too close to my heart, in my nonprofessional opinion, but the nurses said it was perfect. For the next four hours, I tried to sleep, but the nurses had to turn my numb, limp lower body over every 30 minutes because Addie’s heart rate would drop with every contraction. They grew so powerful from the drug that my own body took over, and the nurses took me off the drugs. Her heartbeat grew stable. I slept in peace from 2-4 a.m., then woke up nauseous and threw up everywhere. Then, I felt like I had to go no. 2 - a sign that I was about to give birth!! We alarmed the nurses, and they taught me how to breathe and push at the same time. After just a few minutes, the doctor and nurse already saw the crown of Addie’s head! They told me to push with less force. After 15 minutes, the medical team pulled her out - and her strong little lungs let out the sweetest cry that I will never forget. They placed her on my chest, and we immediately did skin to skin bonding. I had never felt so happy in my life. Adelaide Naia, my favorite Valentine ever, was absolutely perfect: 5 lbs, 8 oz. – small but mighty. The nurses pressured me right away to nurse, which unnerved me a bit - I just wanted to hold my baby! But after a few tries, Addie latched on, and we continued to perfect our technique over the coming days. The doctors were still mildly concerned about her low birthweight, so we ended up supplementing nursing with a special formula until she caught up to her peers. Today, she is 13 months old, walking like a champ, and in the 60th percentile for her height and weight! In sum, I had a very easy “birth” near the end of the process, but the months, even hours leading up to the “pushing phase” were very stressful!

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