Quite a bit has happened since my last post! I made it through a relatively uneventful third trimester and delivered baby Alice 10 days early on July 21, 2015. She clocked in at 6 lbs 11oz, 18.5 inches. I was so busy, sometimes tired, and generally caught up in life during the second half of the pregnancy that I really neglected blogging any updates. See below for a bit of a retrospective on the pregnancy, as well as how we’re all doing now that we are a party of three 🙂
My third trimester progressed normally, and my lack of a stomach (thankfully) caused no complications. Toward the end, keeping food down was a challenge. As some of my stomachless friends can attest, something about not having a stomach makes the esophagus more sensitive and likely to randomly ‘reject’ bites of food. Sometimes its happens when you don’t chew enough, eat too quickly, etc.. sometimes it seems to happen for no reason at all. The ‘no reason at all’ esophageal spasms seemed to considerably increase as Alice grew and took up more and more space, but it didn’t make eating or weight gain impossible. By the end of the pregnancy, I was avoiding dry bread or tougher proteins (think steak, chicken breast, etc.) entirely. This went away entirely after she was born.
In the last 2 months of my pregnancy, I felt like I was constantly back and forth to the doctor’s office- either the OBGYN or my GI specialist. My Iron and B12 levels stayed in the high healthy range for the duration of my pregnancy with normal oral supplementation- no needles or infusions necessary! Even though the extra doctor’s appointments were a major hassle for my schedule, I got a lot of peace of mind out of knowing that while my lack of a stomach made my situation special, there was absolutely nothing abnormal or concerning about my pregnancy or about Alice . All of us TG-ers have diverse recovery stories, but for me, going into this pregnancy fully recovered, healthy and in decent shape, I was able to avoid being categorized as high risk or referred to maternal-fetal medicine practice at any time during the pregnancy. Being able to go to my normal OB practice and see normal OB’s and midwives throughout the duration of the pregnancy did a lot to keep my stress and worry level down.
My labor and delivery was fairly textbook. I started having contractions in the middle of the night (why is it always the middle of the night?!) and labored at home until about 4AM. We made the drive into Burlington where they did an exam, waited a couple of hours, and sent me home at around 7AM since I wasn’t really progressing quickly. When we got back home I took some tylenol and did whatever i could to take my mind off of the contractions. This included taking walks, trying unsuccessfully to nap, and firing off a few last emails for work before putting up my out of office and checking out for maternity leave. At around 7PM the contractions got more intense and we headed back into the hospital in the hopes that I could be admitted. I have to say, the Big Guy was an excellent coach through the entire process. Cheering me on walking laps around the back yard, keeping me hydrated, and just generally staying cool, calm, and collected.
When we got to the hospital for round 2, they determined that I was dilated enough to stay at the hospital. At this point I had slept maybe one hour in the previous 24. My OB practice works as a team so any of the 6 doctors or midwives could have been on call when we went in – luckily my favorite one was on call for us, which I took to be a sign of good things to come. She is extremely relaxed and calming and made us go watch the sunset from the waiting lounge of the labor and delivery floor while I was still in early labor. Strange as it sounds, it was actually quite calming and gave me something to focus on during contractions!
I didn’t go into this with any kind of birth plan. For me, I am actually anti-birth plan (that said, if having a birth plan makes you feel more comfortable, I am the last person to judge! You do you.) This is probably surprising considering my type-A nature, and my usual desire to plan everything. But in this case my feeling was, I’m not in control, any number of things could happen and (aside from Drew) I am the least experienced person in the room. My doctors, midwives and the nurses were more than capable of thoughtfully supporting and guiding the process along and presenting options should any complications arise. In that moment, I needed to trust them rather than view them in any kind of adversarial light.
Once the sun had set, the nurses made Drew go to the cafeteria and get me a light meal to eat- once an epidural goes in, they restrict you to clear liquids and since I hadn’t eaten anything all day they wanted to get a some food in me in case my labor slowed after placing the epidural. Once I had some food and had decided I had enough of these contractions, they placed the epidural. I knew what I was in for because I had an epidural when I had the Total Gastrectomy, but sitting perfectly still while having a contraction with a needle in your spine takes it to a whole other level! Once it was in, I basically slept for the next 4 hours with little breaks when they came to check vitals and such. On the last of the checks the nurse just said ‘Oh! Better get the doctor. You’re having a baby!’
10 minutes later… our baby entered the world and things have not been the same since!
Alice is a handful- like any new baby! We are getting sleep when we can, and she is healthy and continues to gain weight. Drew and I are surprised at what can be accomplished on little sleep. At 4.5 weeks old, she is gifting us with the occasional 6 hour stretch of sleep at night- something that I hope will only become more frequent as time goes on.
Feeding a baby without a stomach
It is true what they say- once you become a mother you never eat a hot meal again. Babies have an uncanny ability for sensing the moment you are sitting down to a meal, and deciding that is the perfect time to start crying! My biggest complaint most days is that I routinely have to skip meals and snacks, and its virtually impossible for me to make up missed meals later in the day. Since the calorie needs for breastfeeding are even more than that of supporting a healthy pregnancy, this is definitely a source of stress for me.
When I was pregnant I had every intention of breastfeeding- you know what they say, ‘breast is best’ etc. etc. In the few days after her birth, Alice dropped nearly 20% of her body weight. Almost all babies lose some weight, but any more than 10% and everyone starts to get concerned. At our pediatrician’s recommendation, we began supplementing with formula to help get her weight back up as my milk came in. The supplementation did the trick- she gained her weight back, and I gained some peace of mind. I am still able to breastfeed and she gets all the nutritional and emotional benefits of nursing, but having the extra caloric intake from the formula has been key to keeping her healthy and keeping me sane. She usually sleeps a bit deeper and longer after a formula feeding, so we tend to favor using formula before bedtime to help encourage a consistent night time routine.
I want to be open about my experience with breast (and bottle) feeding because I feel that with all of the campaigns to educate women about the benefits of breastfeeding, we unfortunately slip into a narrative of shaming women who don’t breastfeed or who choose for various, legitimate reasons to supplement with formula. Yes, breast is best, and in a perfect situation every child would be exclusively breastfed until 6 months just like the World Health Organization recommends. But, life rarely presents us with perfect situations and we’ve all got to make the best decisions for our given circumstances.
That’s all for now- I’ll try to check back in and update when I can, but when presented with the choice to take a nap or write a blog post.. I think I’ll pick nap every time for the foreseeable future 😉