Back in December, in a conversation with my mom, I realized I never told the story of Catalina’s birth. I won’t go into super gory details but I want to write it down before all of the details fade. Eventually, I hope this blog serves as a timeline/memory book for Catalina to look back on.

A little back story:
We found out we were pregnant on March 4, 2011. The first part of my pregnancy was great. I never had morning sickness (I think I got nauseous maybe 2 times during the pregnancy – and that stopped once I changed to gummy chewable prenatal vitamins). We had lots of ultrasounds early on to make sure my cervix was doing its job of holding baby in (I’d had 2 LEEP procedures about 3 years before which can compromise the integrity and ability to sustain a pregnancy). I gained about 8lbs up to about 6 months along. At 26 weeks, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. When I went on the GD diet and pricking my finger 4x daily, I lost all that weight pretty quickly. On top of that, I had high blood pressure which was being controlled by medication.

At 29 weeks, Catalina was measuring 2 lbs 13oz – 30th percentile for that gestational age, mainly because her arms and legs were measuring a week behind. But her head and stomach/body were measuring right on track.

On Monday Sept 26, she measured at 30 weeks and I was 33 weeks along. In 4 weeks, she’d only shown 1 weeks worth of growth. At our follow up appointment, it showed that Catalina was in the 3rd percentile and about 3 1/2 lbs. This caused major concern and I was put on bed rest. Her head and limbs were measuring 1 week behind but her abdominal area was measuring 3 weeks behind. I’d have another ultrasound in 2 weeks, along with bi-weekly NSTs, AFIs and umbilical dopplers.

On my 28th birthday (the day of the follow up ultrasound), at 1:53am, while I was lying in bed, my water broke. I leaned over and told Rico, “I don’t want to freak you out, but I think my water just broke.” It wasn’t the huge gush that you see on tv. I heard a slight pop and felt a little trickle. I told Rico not to worry because it would probably be hours before we have to go to the hospital. He put his mask back on and went back to sleep. At 2:02am, the contractions started. First about 10 minutes apart, then they gradually got shorter to about 7 minutes apart. I had my contraction timer on my phone which helped me keep track. I got up and walked around. I tried lying down in between but it didn’t feel good so I kept moving. The trickle got heavier and finally I called the hospital to tell them my symptoms. The charge nurse said that it sounded like labor and that I should come in. I woke Rico up (who’d only had about 45 mins of sleep at this point) and told him “I think it’s time to go to the hospital.” His response? “Seriously??” He groggily got up and changed clothes and tossed his camera and video camera into his bag and got ready to go. We were out of the house in about 15 minutes. The contractions were probably a 4 on the pain scale and I could still talk through them. Rico was great. He helped me keep track of my breathing, by doing the hee-hee-hoos with me.

When we first found out our due date of Nov 13, we thought it would be cool to have the baby on 11.11.11. Then when we found out she might come early due to pregnancy complications, we thought maybe we can hold off until Halloween. Never did we ever consider that she would come on my birthday.

At that time of night, there was no traffic so we made it to the hospital in record time and got there about 4:15. We parked at the ER entrance and Rico wheeled me up to Triage. While I was getting checked in and the monitors put on me, Rico went and moved the car and brought all of our bags in. I’d had my suitcase packed for a few weeks now so I’m sure Rico looked like he was moving in when he came with my rolling suitcase (wheels are so much easier than a duffel bag for pregnant women, let me tell you!), his Diaper Dude bag and my purse.

They put me on the contraction monitor with a blood pressure cuff and did the litmus test to see if my water had broken or if I just couldn’t hold my bladder any longer. The paper turned blue immediately so it was definitely amniotic fluid. I was kind of relieved to know that I wasn’t wrong about this. The contractions continued between 5-9 minutes apart. My blood pressure was high, so they put me on my left side and started an IV and got us set up in our room. They also had me change how I was breathing. Apparently the hee-hee-hoos were making Catalina’s vitals go crazy. Instead they had me do deep even breaths which seemed to work better for both me and Catalina.

Once there, the nurse checked me and said I was maybe 1 cm dilated and to expect to be here a while since this was my first pregnancy. At that point, Rico made the call to all the grandparents and we made the official Facebook announcement:

“Looks like Miss Catalina wants to share my birthday 🙂 water broke at 1:53 this morning! — with Rico Lopez at Valley Medical Birth Center.”

Around 7am, Nana Erika arrived. The nurse offered a little pain medicine which I gladly accepted. They gave me half a dose to make sure it wouldn’t make me sick. After 20 mins, they could give me the other half. The doctor came in not too soon after that and suggested we start Pitocin to speed up the contractions since I wasn’t progressing. While they ordered the Pitocin, Rico and Erika went to grab a quick bite to eat. The pain meds had just kicked in when Rico and Erika got back. They made me a little loopy but it took the edge off the contractions. Then they started the Pitocin. It took about 20 mins for the Pitocin to kick in but when it did, holy cow! I went from about a 7 or 8 on the pain scale contractions to writhing on the bed, unable to breathe painful. Rico and the nurse both had to remind me to breathe and hold me down so that the monitors for Catalina would work. But the contractions wouldn’t stop. That’s when the nurse stopped the Pitocin. I don’t remember a whole lot after that. I know I was breathing very fast because I couldn’t stand the pain. I could hear Rico trying to get my attention to remind me to breathe so Catalina wouldn’t go into distress. They put an oxygen mask on me because I was hyperventilating from breathing too fast. Rico later told me my eyes were rolling around like a crazy person.

All of a sudden I had to push and I said so. Then the room went crazy. I heard the nurse calling for help. I heard nurses calling through the speakers on the bed, asking if we still needed help. In my head, I kept thinking I was accidentally pushing the call button that was attached to the bed and all I wanted to tell the lady was “Yes, get help, just shut up!” The NICU team was called in. They checked me and said I was ready to go. I went from a “maybe” 1 cm dilated to 10 in about an hour. They tried to get me to hold on a minute so the doctor could get into place but that wasn’t happening. The pushing was actually a relief. It felt like I was accomplishing something, whereas the contractions were just painful. After 4 pushes, Catalina arrived. The pain was instantly gone.

All I saw was her purple legs dangling over the doctor’s arm as he took her immediately over to the NICU team. She wasn’t crying. I heard Rico beside me saying “That’s our baby girl.” I was still kind of out it and asked him if he’d seen her. I think I thought he’d already gone over to the table to see her. It was a long minute but then we heard her cry. She sounded like a kitten meowing. They cleaned her up and had Rico go over and take pictures and watch the process, while I got cleaned up. Rico brought Catalina over for me to meet her for the first time. She was all wrapped up and all I could see was her face. She was so tiny.

They didn’t weigh her or measure her in the room (that would happen in the NICU). I only got to see her for a minute before the doctor said I had to let her go so they could take her to the NICU. I asked if I could breastfeed her but NICU doctor said no, at least not yet because she was so tiny and it would wear her out.

Catalina weighed 4lbs .4oz, 16.1 inches long and had a full head of black hair, born at 9:42am.

My first NICU visit

First family photo

My birth plan pretty much flew out the window the moment we got to the hospital. I wanted a natural birth, to have a birth photographer and I wanted to breastfeed immediately. We’d cancelled the birth photographer earlier because of money but afterwards, we talked about it, and with all the drama of the day, we wouldn’t have known when to call her anyway so that was a good thing.

I look at Catalina now that she’s over 9lbs and I wonder how in the world I would have pushed her out if she were that big at birth. I’m not sure I could!

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