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Monday, October 11, 2010

The First Three Weeks at Home

I just realized last night that today marks three weeks that Jenna has been home from the hospital...Wednesday will be 4 weeks since she was born and Friday will be one month since her birth.  How quickly time passes and escapes us!!  I am feeling a like Friday might be a little bitter-sweet....we will certainly have a somewhat larger than usual case of Gracie-on-the-brain since it is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, but it will be so nice to mark Jenna's first month of life on the outside.

Here are a few pictures of our beautiful girl for those who have not seen them in any other forum.

 About 2 hours old - getting ready for her first bath after lots of skin to skin time with mommy and daddy

Note the orange raccoon mask from wearing the eye shields during her time under the bili-lights.  The expression on her face absolutely matches her personality!

   Taking another break from the bili-lights...a.k.a. the tanning bed

 Second day home; still with a little bit of the orange coloring around her eyes.  Under the blanket hides the bili-blanket that she had at home for 2 weeks. 

By far her favorite sleeping position when she is not swaddled.

10 days old...getting ready to do the Share Walk for Hope and Remembrance in honor of her big sister.  Wearing the special rainbow outfit that Debbie gave her (the rainbows might be hard to see in the picture, but they are there!)

Her first visit to her big sister's resting place.  Sadly, the first of many trips to this sacred place.

The first three weeks have flown by!  Jenna has had two appointments with the doctor to follow up on the jaundice.  At her two week check up she was 7 lbs, 2 oz...so she is growing like a weed!  We did heel sticks to check her bilirubin levels for the first three days after she came home, and once the levels were down in the high normal range, we were able to stop the heel sticks and just stick with the bili-blanket for a total of two weeks.  She is now a nice shade of pink instead of pumpkin orange.  Unfortunately, because of the relative incompatibility of my blood type and the hubby's blood type, we will likely go through this with each subsequent child, and would likely have gone through it with Gracie.

I have had lots of questions about Miss Jenna over the last 3 weeks, many of which I haven't really had a chance to answer adequately.  I am going to attempt to take out lots of birds with one stone and answer most of those here for those who are still curious.

"How did they induce you?"
For those who missed it in the post announcing her birth, we were actually able to skip induction.  Induction was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. the day after she was born.  The plan was to start by using a balloon catheter before thinking about chemical assistance.  As it turned out, we didn't have to think about any of it.  I worked until 7:00 p.m. the night before the scheduled induction and had my first contraction less than an hour later at 7:50.

"More birth story details, please!"
The first 3 or 4 contractions were very hard and painful and reminded me very much of the contractions that I had during the transition phase of labor with Gracie; they were nothing like the early labor contractions that I had with Gracie and they were nothing like the Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been having for most of this pregnancy.  (I started having BH contractions around 16 or 17 weeks, and had them daily for the duration of the pregnancy.  The midwives told me during both pregnancies that my uterus was an overachiever.  They also told me that I would develop a consistent pattern with them when I was actually starting labor, and that I would know for sure when it was the real deal.  Wrong.  So very, very wrong.  I had two periods of very regular and patterned contractions in the week before Jenna was born - one for 18 hours and one for about 11 or 12 hours overnight - and neither led to anything...not even further dilation or effacement.  There was nothing different about the BH contractions during the day that I went into labor...)  

After 5 or 6 of these contractions within 15 minutes, Jeff and I decided that perhaps we should think about heading to the hospital...but first he needed a haircut, shower and a shave.  That's right, ladies, he gave himself a haircut (and asked me to help!), got a shower and then shaved his face (because he couldn't go to the hospital with a freshly shaved head and whiskers on his face...that would make him look 'scurfy') before we left!!  We left the house an hour and a half after my first contraction, and pulled into the hospital about 20 minutes later.  It took about 10 minutes to walk from the car up to L&D.  I walked instead of riding in a wheelchair because standing/walking was much more comfortable than sitting.  The answering service for our OB's office never made contact with the midwife covering L&D to let her know that we were on our way, so they were completely surprised when we walked in!  Although I truly didn't want it, in the moment I wanted and asked for a shot of Demerol to take the edge off.  (The original plan was to go med-less and use self-hypnosis for pain control.  What I didn't plan for was everything happening so quickly that I didn't have time to get into a self-hypnosis zone.  There was NO self-hypnosis the night Jenna was born....just shameless begging for a shot of Demerol.)   The midwife told me that she couldn't give me anything until she checked me.  She checked me standing up next to the bed, since I refused to get on the bed at that point because of positional comfort.  Much to everyone's surprise, I was 10 cm and +1 station.  To quote my midwife, "Oh, Honey, there's no time for any medication at this point.  It's not safe and it won't work anyway.  You're 10 cm.  You need to get undressed and get on that bed.  It's time to push.  It's time to have a baby."  It was happening so quickly that she wasn't sure that they would have her instrument tray set up before it was over.  I pushed for about 15 minutes (begging for Demerol the whole time!) and that was it.  They flopped her up on my chest and my first words were 'Is she alive?' because she wasn't doing much.  About half an hour later I passed her off for some skin to skin time with Dad while I got in the shower and cleaned up a little bit.  This is not at all what anyone was expecting based on the fact that one week earlier my midwife was expressing concern about the shape of my pelvis inhibiting safe passage of the baby.

"Any complications?"
Not really.  No episiotomy and no tearing, which can be a common problem in precipitous labors.  The cord was loosely looped around Jenna's neck one time, but it was easily moved and did not appear to be constricting.  Jenna's speed in moving through my pelvis pretty much (temporarily) killed my pelvic floor, but we are working on that.  Kegel, Kegel, Kegel.  Overall, Jenna's jaundice was the biggest problem/complication.

"Why did she have to be under lights?  My son had some jaundice and didn't have to be under lights."  
The jaundice color started to become apparent about 18 hours after she was born, and her bilirubin level was first checked about 15 hours later.  Her bilirubin was pretty high...on the doorstep of the level that they become concerned about cognitive delays...but it was not as severe as it could have been.  If it had not responded to the light therapy and change in feeding, or had her bilirubin levels risen, we could have been looking at blood transfusion.  So it certainly could have been worse.  At this point I am pretty certain that it was the result of ABO incompatibility.  A slight inconvenience for a couple of weeks, but all is well now.  I would absolutely much rather deal with a few days of the bili-light than have a baby all tied up in tubes and wires in the NICU.

"What is the story behind her name, and why was it a secret?"
The only reason it was secret was just so we could maintain some element of surprise.  We already knew that she was a girl, and we shared that with everyone.  We will never reveal the names that we pick for our kids until they are born, just so there is something unknown for people to look forward to.  The name is more or less the surprise.  With Jenna, the other surprise was whether or not she had Down Syndrome, since the screen was so high, and we are 99% certain that Gracie also had D.S.  (For the record, she does not have D.S.)

As for the story behind her name, there really isn't a story.  I more or less held the cards in picking Gracie's name.  Jeff gave me no arguments and allowed me to have my way.  I wanted to give him as much opportunity as I could to bond with this baby before she was born, simply because he was so afraid and so pensive...so insisted that he be the one to pick her name (as long as it wasn't hideous).  I threw 300-400 different suggestions at him, and we finally ended up with a short list of about 8 single names.  From there, he moved to Jenna Nicole and didn't move away from it.

"Because of what I have read and been told, I am excited, but really apprehensive about bringing this (rainbow) baby home.  How was your experience?  Are you having any problems making the transition or bonding with Jenna?"
I was actually really concerned about this prior to her birth, especially after hearing other BLM's stories of how hard it was to bring their rainbows home, especially since I am dealing with another girl.  That said, I think I am doing pretty well.  I do think about the things that we missed with Gracie...simple things like changing her diapers, putting her in the swing, cuddling with her, seeing her facial expressions...but these thoughts haven't become overwhelming at this point.  I am absolutely in love with Jenna.  Absolutely in love.  I personally don't think she looks like Gracie, so I don't see Gracie every time I look at her; perhaps it would be different if she more closely resembled Gracie.  I don't know.  At this point, there is definite separation between the two, and I am glad that there is.  

I am having a harder time seeing all of the babies we know (via photographs or in person) that were born within the 3 months before or after Gracie was born....there are about 10 of them all together.  I look at them and see how big they are getting...how much they really look like little people now...and at all the things they are doing and getting into, and I am having a really tough time with that.  I think about what Gracie would look like now, and what she would be doing.  I wonder if / how much the Down Syndrome would be affecting her skill development.

Despite the fact that we have finally been blessed with a perfect, beautiful, living, breathing baby to bring home, I think that I will probably still have weird reactions to pregnant women or people who take their kids for granted.  I am fortunate enough to not have infertility issues like some women in our community, but I understand exactly how fragile the balance is and how quickly everything can change and turn life upside down. 

"How is your family coping with Jenna's arrival?"
Our family is elated.  She is the first biological grandchild (there are some steps) on my side of the family and she is the second biological grandchild on Jeff's side (there are 3 adopted on his side), so the grandparents are just over the moon.  My cousin and his wife also had their first baby about 17 1/2 hours after Jenna was born, so it was a very joy-filled 24 hour period.  Neither of us knew about the other until everything was said and done.  My sister, who is stationed in Namibia, Africa with the Peace Corps is so anxious to meet Jenna that she has decided that she won't be able to wait until her assignment is over in December 2011...she will be coming home for a few weeks this December to meet her.

Sadly, Jenna arrived just one week before (almost to the hour) my BIL's wife suffered an ultimately fatal head injury.  In the storm of her passing, Jenna has been a huge ray of light.  She had no idea how uplifting she has been or how much emotional weight has been on her shoulders over the last few weeks.

"What are you enjoying most about her?"
Honestly, just the fact that she is alive and here with us.  But I am also enjoying how animated her expressions are.  She has a much wider range of facial expressions than I could have ever imagined, and she uses her hands almost like accessories to her facial expressions.  Unfortunately, she goes through them so quickly that I haven't been able to catch many of them on camera.

She received a gift that included a hat that says "I was worth the wait."  Nothing at all in my life was worth Gracie's death, so please don't interpret this statement as such...but every minute that I have spent since Gracie's death...every minute that I have spent waiting for Jenna was sooooo worth the wait.  Bringing home a living, breathing baby was worth every minute that I waited for it to happen.  So ladies out there who also lost baby number one and are expecting their rainbow, parenthood as the rest of the world knows it is simply amazing.  And to anyone expecting a rainbow, regardless of how many living children you might have, while it is certainly not without its inherent and unique challenges, I can tell you that life over the rainbow is good!! (Thanks, Deb, for the wonderful phrasing!) 

"Has the nickname Jellybean stuck?"   
As a matter of fact, it has.  She gets lots of variations...Jenna Bean, Jenna McBean, Beanie, Beanie Wienie, Beanie McWienie...and my dad still calls her plain old Jellybean.  :-)

"Do you plan to tell her about Gracie?"
Absolutely.  Gracie has a wall in the living room where some of her mementos and pictures are displayed.  There are no plans to take those things down, so they will be readily visible as Jenna grows up.  Although we will have to do it in a way that doesn't create a complex for her, she will know that the baby in the pictures is her older sister who lives in heaven.  Details will probably come out as she gets older and starts to ask questions.  The same will hold true for any other little ones that come along.  

I think that's most of the questions that I have received.  If I missed any big ones, I apologize.  Just an FYI...due to recent happenings with some family members, and the very real potential for some people to start digging, snooping and e-stalking me, I am considering making Gracie's blog and Jenna's blog private.  I suppose that because my blogs are technically 'public' I don't have the right to complain too much, but I haven't shared these blogs with people that I know in real life for specific reasons.  Sadly enough, some people just cannot respect the privacy of others and leave well enough alone.  I am hoping to avoid privatization, but I have not made a concrete decision yet.  Stay tuned...


Holly said...

Jenna is so precious!! I'm glad you had your unmedicated birth. :) I think there were a few moments while pushing that I wished I had an epidural but I'm so glad I did it naturally. I'm so sorry about your BIL's wife. :(

Radiant Readhead said...

i am so glad everything went so well!! i have been looking for updates on the rainbow baby for weeks now...and am glad you finally did one! she is soooo precious, and has such an amazing family! Gracie definitely picked a good sibling for you to raise...congrats again!

Melissa said...

Congrats, she is so adorable I love the pics.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to hear that all is well with Jenna :)

Thinking of your family after the loss of your sil (hugs)

Maggie said...

I adore those pictures and am so very happy for you and your husband. Still thinking of you and your family after such a terrible loss. ((((HUGS))))

Lori said...

I know I've already said it, but doggone it--those are the sweetest cheeks on that girl!!!!!

I really appreciate you being so honest and frank in your answers to some of those questions. Really, questions I even think about, but yet, when seen in print and then your answers, was feeling like, "Oh, yeah--of course, that would make sense..." or "Hmmm..didn't think about that, but good to know..."

Just very relatable....so I thank you for that!
Lots of love!

Mrs. Mother said...

Oh, she is so beautiful. Thanks for being so honest. I think it helps so many people. I am sorry about your SIL. Hugs to you.

Megan said...


Big Love, Big Acceptance - or so I say said...

Thanks for sharing SO much. I love all the questions you answered - again, thanks for being so honest and sharing so much. It is a good guide for me as I journey through my rainbow baby pregnancy.

Jenna is BEAUTIFUL! Can't wait to see more pictures as you have time to post. :)

So much love!!!

Supposed to be... "Mama G"... said...

Jenna is such a joy for you(s)! and this makes me smile :) As I am sure any rainbow is a joy! Thanks for the reminder about this post. I read it right after it was written, but didn't leave a comment. Jenna is gorgeous, and Gracie would be so proud of all of you. I'll likely send you a note in a bit...and seek your advice on another issue. Thanks!

Becky Baker said...

Thank you for sharing so much with all of us! I am sure I can speak for many fellow BLM's when I say we all appreciate it! I have questions too! Was your HTN a real issue in either of the pregnancies??