The Natural Bud

Blossoming into a Healthier Lifestyle


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A Time to Celebrate

Day Before Discharge

Day Before Discharge

It’s late Tuesday morning when I make my daily phone call to the NICU. I’m always nervous to call; I want to know how he is doing, but I don’t want to hear bad news over the phone either.

“NICU Seventh Tower,” the nurse answers, “This is Michelle.”  I haven’t met Michelle yet.
“Hello, this is Laurelyn Rosenberger, Benjamin’s mom.”
“Hi!  He’s doing very well […] The surgeons just did their rounds and […] he can come home this afternoon…”

Whoa.  What?  We weren’t prepared for that news.  I feel more panic than excitement at first. Michelle gives us a list of things to do before he can be discharged so that we’ll be prepared when we arrive at the hospital.

At the hospital, there is more prep to do for his homecoming.  A member of the surgical team shows us how to change the dressing on Benjamin’s chest wound*.  The nurses review a few other things and give us the list of follow-up appointments they’ve made so far….

That was 3 1/2 weeks ago.  Benjamin is home and doing well overall.  Jonathan loves being a big brother too!

Benjamin's Homecoming  Tuesday August 26

Benjamin’s Homecoming
Tuesday August 26

I wouldn’t quite say we are back to normal yet – a “new normal,” perhaps.  The first week in the NICU, when we were concerned about the initial fluctuations in Benjamin’s heart rate, Clarence (the nurse) said, “It’s normal.”  Then she corrected herself – “It’s not normal, but it’s expected after the surgery.”  That expresses our life pretty well – not normal, but expected.

Some of the best advice I received throughout this pregnancy was to focus on the positive.  As Jason and I were driving home from one of our many appointments – so far we have eight specialists to see over the next three months** – we were discussing the then-overwhelming road ahead. Jason commented, “I will say this.  I am in no way feeling ‘woe is me.’  There are people who have gone through so much [harder …] We have a lot to be thankful for.”

We certainly do.  The grace of God is written all over Benjamin’s face.  We are enjoying having him home and watching new developments each week. 🙂

I’ll share some specific blessings later, but we are overwhelmed by God’s mercy, and grateful for the help and encouragement from so many of you.

Benjamin 4 1/2 weeks old Over 9 lbs.

Benjamin 4 1/2 weeks old
Over 9 lbs. (born 6 lb 12 oz)

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*Clarification: his “chest wound” is a scar from his right side close to the middle of his back.  They did not go through his chest for surgery.
**Since writing this, we’ve seen three of the eight specialists (actually, four, counting the weekly casting appointments for his clubbed feet).  We are thankful and feeling slightly less overwhelmed now.  

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An Operation Of Priorities

First Day

Benjamin’s Birth Day

On Saturday, August 9 Benjamin Paul Rosenberger was born.

 Two days later he was scheduled for an emergency surgery.  Here is what the surgeons explained to us the day before:

Diagram Dr. Chiweshe drew - TEF

Diagram Dr. Chiweshe drew – TEF

“It’s an operation of priorities,” Dr. Angela Kadenhe-Chiweshe said.  The surgery involves two steps:

1) Disconnect the fistula. This is top priority: the longer the esophagus is connected to the windpipe, the more chance the baby has of getting stomach acid into the lungs, which can lead to many possible problems like pneumonia.

2) Reconnect the bottom of the esophagus to the top. Benjamin was already being fed nutrition through his vein and would still be fed TPN through a PICC line after surgery until he healed enough to drink milk.

Ideally both procedures are done during one surgery, but not all babies handle the procedure well. Depending on Benjamin’s response, they may have to do two separate surgeries.  Since Benjamin was born at full-term they expected he would do well, but wanted us to be aware of all the possibilities. Dr. Kadenhe-Chiweshe also explained a few “side-effects” that almost all TEF babies have (e.g. acid reflux; Tracheomalacia – i.e. barking cough, high-pitched breathing).

Early Monday afternoon he went for his 4 hour + surgery.  When we arrived at the NICU before his surgery, they were putting the breathing tube in. We had to wait in the family lounge.  Another couple was in there also; the mother was crying over the phone. I prayed their baby was ok. Jason read a psalm and prayed with me while we waited.

As we watched them wheel him to the surgery room, I thought, this must be how Jason felt watching them take us for the c-section.  Our tiny vulnerable baby – the one we were given to protect – and there’s not a thing we could do to help.  It’s times like those that I’m thankful for a loving Heavenly Father and for the many who are praying for us; and certainly the skilled, compassionate doctors who do what we can’t.

Day 3: Surgery

Day 3: Surgery

I cried as we left our baby.  It was hard to see him like that… and hard not to think about what if… but we couldn’t focus on that.  As Jason wheeled me back to our room, I decided, if he didn’t make it – I would thank God for the time I already had with him and the precious memories we made in that first day.  (Easier to say that now, I know.)  Besides that, I wasn’t going to think about that possibility anymore.

After supper, the surgeons came into our room to tell us Benjamin was out of surgery!  They were able to complete the entire process in one surgery, as they had hoped.  Thank the LORD.


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It’s Around the Corner

 

 “Well, this is the calm before the storm.”

Calm Before the Storm Photocredit: timbeaux.com

Calm Before the Storm
Photocredit: timbeaux.com

As of Friday, August 1, I’m 37 weeks pregnant.  Technically full-term.  Our next appointment with the OBGYN is this Friday.  If I don’t deliver by then, we will further discuss the possibilities surrounding induction.  God has provided several ways for us to begin feeling more prepared for Benjamin’s arrival.

Honestly, I don’t know if you can ever feel completely prepared … but here are several of the little undeserved blessings God has poured out on us….

Tours & Consultations 

We had four appointments between Thursday, July 31 and Friday, August 1.  All three doctors we met commented that reaching 37 weeks is quite an accomplishment, in light of the polyhydramniosis.  (Polyhydramniosis: Since our baby isn’t practicing swallowing, there is more amniotic fluid around him than usual.  Mine measured 37; normal is below 25.)

 

Photo credit: Food Matters

Photo credit: Food Matters

In the past two weeks, we’ve finished consultations with several specialists.  Two weeks ago, we met with a neonatologist (a sweet Italian lady) and toured the NICU.  The NICU is far more attractive than I had imagined, and it helps to have a picture of where our baby will be the first several weeks of his life.  We weren’t able to get a tour of the labor and delivery rooms, but a friend who used to work at the hospital sent me a video tour of them.  They are beautiful also.

Last Thursday, we had a fetal echocardiogram and met with a cardiologist (no serious concerns as of now; they will look again after he is born).  She asked if I was still sleeping well at night.  Later in the day, we met with the pediatric surgeon, Dr. Middlesworth, to discuss common scenarios and what he would likely do.  Dr. Middlesworth stood out as more a grandfather-type than a doctor.  He sat down with us and explained everything very softly and slowly, using simple terms.

Waiting Room for Prenatal Visits

Waiting Room for Prenatal Visits

We haven’t met a single doctor who has seemed in a rush to get to the next appointment.  Each of them sits down, asks us what we already know about the baby, and proceeds from there.  When they finish talking, they sit quietly and wait for us to ask all of our questions.  The ultrasound techs and doctors who look at our sonograms laugh as they watch Benjamin move around – like they see him as an adorable baby, not just part of their job.  Each of the specialists – the neonatologist, the cardiologist, and the surgeon – has drawn a diagram for us so that they can explain scenarios more clearly.  We couldn’t have asked for better care.

 

Family Picture after Church

Family Picture after Church

A Place to Retreat 

The hospital in Manhattan is an hour from where we live in Staten Island.  A church in New Jersey graciously agreed to let us use their mission home for the month, which is only 15-20 minutes from the hospital.  This alone significantly reduces the stress involved with planning to get to the hospital.  It’s a beautiful, fully-furnished house, so we’ve only brought a few living necessities for the month.  My sister, a certified professional midwife, is also staying with us for a few weeks.  With the extra help and reduced distractions, we’ve been able to focus more on resting, growing in our marriage, and preparing for Benjamin.  I’m not supposed to pick up Jonathan (our toddler), so I’m even more thankful for the extra help.  My sister has helped tremendously with meals, etc., and I’ve been free to play with Jonathan every day, read, and journal.  Jonathan is having a blast here, playing all day and going outside with daddy in the evenings.

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Birth Story: A Few Reflections

In my birth story there wasn’t space to share the resources that helped us to prepare mentally, physically and spiritually for this marathon!  So I thought I’d share those here.

1) Bradley Class- the Bradley class was one of the biggest influences on us in deciding what birth we wanted.  (I appreciate that our instructor, Regina Paleau, knows the balance as her first baby was born naturally and the second required a C-section).  Just knowing how my body works really helped mentally during labor.  It was also a tremendous blessing as my husband had learned ways that he could be more helpful.

2) Dancing for Birth- Physically this was a huge help.  I took the first class because it sounded like fun, a great way to meet new ladies, and it was free.  I developed a friendship with the dance instructor, Dana Caulkins, and she was a great help, teaching why certain positions are more effective, the importance of exercise during pregnancy, etc.  However, during labor, I was surprised how much those dance moves really helped to ease the pain of contractions!

3) Essential Oils – I had been using essential oils before I became pregnant, and when I first became pregnant, I stopped everything because I didn’t know what was safe.  However, I was very excited to learn that there were several that I could use.  I have a book called Essential Oils for Pregnancy, Birth, & Babies by midwife Stefanie Fritz.  She outlines several of the ways she uses essential oils in her practice and shares testimonials from many of her patients.  Of course, I recommend that every woman does her own research, uses caution and talks to her medical caregiver with concerns.

By far, my faith was the biggest help during labor.  The freedom to call out to God and know that He hears and helps me, as well as comforting passages from Scripture, were a huge help.  My family and those supportive people around me were another tremendous blessing.  I’m so thankful for how God has blessed me with such supportive and encouraging people.


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Home Birth Part 3: Baby Arrives

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Stage 4: Push

Eventually I asked them when it was okay to push – Aunt Joan said push whenever I felt like it. She also said if I wanted to, I could try to feel for the head. I felt something – round and rubbery – “that’s not the head, is it?” (I thought it would feel harder; I guess it felt soft because the amniotic sac was still around it.) “Yes, it probably is.” So Aunt Joan came to check, and said it was the head.

Contractions were getting more painful and I was ready to push. I had already started pushing during contractions because they had become more intense and it relieved the pain a little. But at this point they were actively coaching and helping me with pushing. Jason and my mom got on each side of me, and Aunt Joan was in front of me to see the progress of the baby moving down. Whenever a contraction would start, they would encourage me, “Push.” I was standing up and squatting, with my hands on my knees. (The position with most pressure on thighs – apparently a lot on your arm muscles, too, as I found out in the next few days 🙂 Jason and my mom were also supporting me from each side.

I was groaning loudly as I pushed, which I thought helped. Aunt Joan said, “Push.” They were all telling me that I really needed to push during contractions. I felt so frustrated – “I thought I was pushing!”

“It’s okay, you can do it.” Aunt Joan explained that instead of letting the air out in a groan, I should keep the air in and use it to help me push. (She explained later that a lot of women do that during pushing – let air out in a shallow groan – where they expend energy that doesn’t help.)  My mom was saying to use the air to push down.

Soon I started holding my breath so I could push better – then my mom was saying “breathe,” but I was thinking, I have to hold my breath to push the right way. If I took the time to breathe I would just be groaning – which they told me wasn’t actually pushing. I did breathe after the contraction though.

“You’re doing good. That’s it.” Eventually, Aunt Joan said I could look down and see the head if I wanted.

Jason: “There’s the head. I see the head. I see the head!” (so cute)

It gave hope to see his head. I could only see part of his head, so it looked like his head was really small – too small for a body; it occurred to me – that is definitely not his whole head. We must’ve pushed for at least 30 minutes that way, because Aunt Joan said I pushed 30-45 minutes. Finally, Aunt Joan said to squat down (what she called the “high squat”? in her letter to Aunt Laurie). I knew I’d be more likely to tear if I delivered from that position, but I had also practiced that squat a lot during pregnancy. I knew I could stay in that position more easily… and I really wanted the baby to come out! It had started to feel like he would never come out (especially at the point where they were all telling me to push when I thought I WAS pushing). So I squatted down and pushed. Aunt Joan said, “You’re doing good. Just two more pushes.” That gave me hope!

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A few more contractions/pushing, and Jonathan slid right out. I know Aunt Joan was holding and maneuvering him before she set him on the floor, but I didn’t notice any of that. All I remember is this baby suddenly in front of me, lying on his back, flailing his arms and screaming. I immediately noticed that his lip quivers when he cries. Among my numb first thoughts was, Please help him to get cuter. But I knew we’d have to love and take care of him anyway; and we would love him – he was ours. As it turns out, besides being all wet, he was just puffy from birth!

I stared at him, not sure what I was supposed to do. Then I guessed I should pick him up, so I reached for him. Aunt Joan: “Careful with the cord.” Oh yeah, he was still attached to the placenta. I held him against me. I tried to nurse him, but he was screaming too much and didn’t care about nursing then. His lip was quivering; I thought he was cold. Someone covered us both with a towel (his lip was still quivering).

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After I held him a little, Aunt Joan had me set him back down so she could cut the cord. She asked Jason, “Do you want to cut the cord?” It was curly and a really pale shade of yellow, with some deep blue lines through it (looked kind of like an old-fashioned telephone cord). I only vaguely remember seeing Jason cut it – I remember hearing everything more than seeing it. Maybe I leaned back and closed my eyes for that part. Then Aunt Joan sat on the side of the tub, and gave Jonathan his first bath 🙂 Someone video taped it. After that, everyone left with the baby, except Aunt Joan.  She coached me how to deliver the placenta.

Eventually Jason and Aunt Joan helped me get to the bed.  I had a small tear so they brought Jonathan to distract me while Aunt Joan sewed me up.  He was upset so it helped to focus on comforting my new baby.  I finally could eat some soup and then slept.  It was only two hours before Jonathan needed to nurse but it was the best two hours of sleep I’ve ever had!

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Home Birth Part 2: Active Labor & Transition

Stage 2: Active Labor

By around 1 p.m., Aunt Joan stayed in the bathroom most of the time. At one point, I asked if they wanted to watch a movie (thinking it would help distract me), but then when Jason went to look for a movie on his phone I didn’t feel like watching anything. During active labor, Jason was using his “contraction app” on his iphone, and he would ask if my contraction had started – when I started groaning. Finally after one contraction, I said (nicely :), “If I’m groaning, I’m having a contraction.” Aunt Joan laughed, and reminded him that when I don’t want to talk/joke anymore, it’s getting into active labor (although at that point I still was able to laugh about it – between contractions).

My mom was in and out for a while – bringing me food and water, and doing whatever was needed. I got in and out of the tub – some of the time I would get out and do more sway/dance moves, then get back in. After one contraction, I felt nauseous again and actually did vomit. It was a relief. I prayed for strength and told God I didn’t think I could handle contractions back to back, I was so tired. He was so gracious. For a long time, I was able to sleep in the 7 minutes between contractions. Even though I was groaning and yelling, and in pain, throughout the labor I thought it didn’t seem bad for a first labor – progressing quickly, able to sleep in between contractions, etc.

Stage 3: Transition

Finally around 4-5 p.m., I started saying, “I can’t do this anymore.” Aunt Joan said, “this is good.” I knew it meant I should be getting close.
Some of the comments I made during/after contractions: “let’s adopt the rest.”
As I got toward transition, I kept saying… “I can’t do this anymore.”
Jason: “Yes you can, your body was made for this.”
Me: “Pray for me.”
Mom: “We’ve been praying for you, but we’ll pray out loud.” At this point I was out of the tub, leaning against her, doing some of the dance/sway moves. She prayed out loud for me.
Me: “God, help me.” (or just “help me.”) “How can I do this?”
Jason: “Your body was made for this”
Me: “I don’t know how I can do this.”
Aunt Joan: “I know this spot, this is a rough spot.”
Mom: “It’s okay, the baby’s coming soon”

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Since I was apparently in transition, we decided to get Lois on FaceTime (my younger sister, who was in the Philippines studying midwifery). (My cousins Ruth & Hannah were watching, too, but they stayed out of the screen most of the time); Lois muted her phone because she didn’t want us to be distracted by their commentary. (I was kind of curious to hear them though!) Once in a while I would look at her and smile (not during contractions). She only unmated it to say I was doing a good job. 🙂
I was in the tub most of the time (kept getting in and out). They had said near the end you can’t get comfortable. Anyway, the hot water and dance moves helped. I completely forgot about Bradley visualizations and quoting Scripture (I’m sure that would’ve helped!). I tried to help Jason remember how to massage my muscles (big strokes). Anyway, he was sweet – doing everything he knew to help and encourage me. He told us later that he felt bad because he was saying, “You can do it!” and in his mind he was wondering, can she do it? is this deceptive? But he knew they needed to bump up the cheerleading.