Nice to meet you, I am Vahan

by meleeneh on July 10, 2019

Nice to meet you, I am Vahan Mateos DerHartunian, born 16 June 2019 at 12:21 AM, right in time for Father’s Day. Vahan (Va-hahn) means “shield” in Armenian (I did manage to shield my face in every ultrasound picture except one) and Mateos (Mah-teh-ohs) is Armenian for Matthew.

My original due date was 11 June, but being I was the third son and that my older brother Emin arrived 10 days before his due date, everyone anticipated my early arrival as well. Repeatedly, Mama did what she thought was her “last” load of laundry, prenatal yoga class, car wash, manicure/pedicure, grocery shopping, and meal prep, but I kept her and everyone else waiting. At her 40 week appointment, Mama was 2 cm dilated and showed no signs of labor. Dr. Sharon Nelson scheduled an induction at Huntington Hospital for 17th of June. Once this date was set, Mama made it her personal mission to avoid induction and start the labor as naturally as possible. You name it, she did it: eat dates, take long walks in the foothills of La Canada and morning hikes at Descanso Gardens, do acupuncture, get a prenatal massage, and exercise. She even (embarrassingly) drove to Studio City and bought “The Salad” from Caiote Café, which was rumored to induce labor. Still no sign of labor…

On June 14, Mama suspected that her mucus plug had released in the morning, but still, no other sign of labor. The next morning was Mihran’s End of Year school performance. Mama wanted to attend with all of her heart and cheer him on, but the morning of the performance, Mama noticed that some fluid had leaked while she was asleep in bed, possibly her bag of water breaking. The situation was very similar to what she experienced when she went into labor with Emin, and she knew that if, in fact, her bag of water released, she had 12-24 hours to deliver the baby. Adamant to see Mihran’s performance, Mama decided she would go to the hospital after the performance and a family lunch at Byblos. Even when she got home from the festivities, she still went for a long walk with Papa and got an iced tea from Constellation Café. On their walk back to the house, she noticed more fluid leaking, so she knew it was time to head to the hospital.

At 4:30PM, the nurses confirmed that Mama was in labor, even though she showed no strong contractions. The doctor, the laborist at the hospital, explained the risk of infection of waiting for a long time after the bag of water released and insisted that she start Pitocin to induce the labor. Knowing she had 12-24 hours, Mama asked for more time and a chance to induce the labor naturally without pharmaceutical intervention. Once she was admitted into the Labor and Delivery unit, dressed in her hospital gown, and briefly monitored for my heart rate, she and Papa went outside to the courtyard of the hospital (it was a warm evening) and started walking. As a result, contractions grew stronger and stronger so she headed back to her room and spent most of the time laboring on a birth ball (along with lavender essential oil for calmness, a moist towel on her forehead, and an eye mask to allow her to focus and be in a state of zen). The greatest relief other than the birth ball was that Papa would press very firmly into Mama’s back with each contraction. The contractions were less than 3 minutes apart at this point.

By 7:30PM, there was a shift change nurses and we met Kathy, who was previously employed at CPMC in San Francisco (yay for the Bay!), and active labor had begun (without any intervention, contractions about 1 minute apart). Mama’s body severely shook between each contraction, and only by smelling lemon essential oil was her shaking calmed. Similar to both of my brothers’ labors, back labor struck in full force at the same time (I was in the occiput posterior position). Because of the severe impact it was having on Mama’s already fragile back, Mama opted for an epidural and Dr. Katz (the anesthesiologist) arrived just in time. At this point, Mama was 5 cm dilated, but within minutes of the epidural taking effect, she became 8 cm dilated, and close to midnight she was 10 cm dilated. During this time, several expectant moms arrived in the hospital and let their presence be known with shrieks and screams in the hallway (similar to what you would see in the movies). Nurse Kathy praised Mama for her focus, zen, and concentration among the chaos from outside.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the epidural numbing effect was very strong, making Mama’s legs feel like heavy tree trunks and making it difficult for her to feel the pushing sensation. When it was time to push, Nurse Kathy instructed Mama to use her muscle memory to push, and with all her might, Mama did. The laborist soon arrived, and after 20 minutes of pushing, I arrived as 12:21 AM, at 40 weeks and 5 days, and on Father’s Day! Similar to my brother Emin, I had a full head of hair, but was also born with some meconium. As a result, the fantastic NICU team that was standing by in the room quickly cleaned me up as my Papa watched in awe and handed me over to Mama soon afterward for some much needed skin-to-skin time. During this time, the laborist was busy extracting cord blood from my umbilical cord for cord blood banking, repairing Mama’s 2nd degree tear, and carefully handling the placenta for encapsulation.

After about 2 hours of skin-to-skin time, initial nursing attempts, and bonding, we were transported to a new postpartum room where we spent the next 2 days. During that time, Mama worked closely with the lactation consultants (who were fantastic!) to establish best practices for breastfeeding. I also met my brothers, who gifted me with my own Fox stuffed animal and sang me to sleep while patting my back. <3

My parents and I were relieved to go home on an early release from the hospital after the pediatricians and OBs agreed.  We were reunited as a family and since then, have been on the journey of establishing a new normal in the household. My brothers have been extremely loving and patient and are very willing to share their toys with me, even though I can’t grab or hold them (yet). My parents are learning how to spend time with each one of us individually and as a whole, trying their best to make sure every family (including themselves) get the love, care, and attention that he/she needs. My grandparents have been helpful in coming to visit and care for me and my brothers. My parents feel extremely blessed to have such family support and love nearby.

I write my first blog shy of my 4 week/1 month birthday. I have already surpassed my birth weight and my newborn size clothes and diapers and am wearing 0-3 months clothing. I love that my parents bought me a wipe warmer, which makes diaper changes at all hours of the day and night much more tolerable. I love that my older brothers are so curious about me, like to bring me their toys, and help push me in my swing. I also love snuggles and to fall asleep on someone’s chest.

For now, I am staying home for 40 days before I start exploring and having adventures outside of the house. I can’t wait (and either can my family)!



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