Sweet Pea’s Birth Story – Part II

See Part I of our story here.

It was nothing like I’d imagined, those first moments.  I’d pictured her being laid on my chest, all gooey and pinky-purple, crying from consternation at being shoved out of her first bedroom, and hopefully nursing immediately.  Seeing her face, marveling at her with Hubs by my side.

Instead, she was in an isolette several floors away, and I was in recovery. . .waiting.  Waiting for my legs to get some feeling back (crazy weird, by the way).  Waiting to hear what the cardiologist could see, now that I wasn’t getting in the way of her imaging tests.  Waiting until I could just see her again.

I don’t really remember where Hubs was at this point.  I think he went with her?  I don’t know.  It’s all a blur already, just 6 months ago.

The the doctor came in, and confirmed her earlier diagnosis.  She mentioned a couple of genetic disorders that could be the cause.  Two of the possibilities are fatal.  For some reason, those didn’t scare me.  Maybe I couldn’t absorb one more piece of terrifying news by then?  I don’t know.  I do remember thinking that I wasn’t going to tell Hubs about that until later, if/when it came up again.  That was a mistake, and not one I’ll repeat.  He is capable – more than me, for sure – of handling these difficult things.

Finally, I was cleared to go upstairs.  Only three were allowed at once, so Hubs, my mom and I went in.  Oh, she was tiny.  I reached over from the gurney as far as I could, to touch her.  So warm!  Such a soft, mewling cry.  There’s no sound in the world like a preemie cry.  It’s just like a little lamb bleating (my brother later nicknamed her a velociraptor because of it – haha!). I wanted to pick her up so badly.  But I’d just had major surgery, and so the nurses said I had to leave.  Hubs & Mom stayed, and my Dad joined them.  I’m glad they were there for those first moments/hours.

Then I was in my room.  I asked to start trying to breastfeed right away, so the nurse brought in a breastpump (best one ever, by the way – get a Medela if you can!  I’m convinced it played a role in keeping my milk up with an infant who can’t/won’t nurse).  Wow, did that hurt!  And there was nothing coming out.  I’d get a few drops of colostrum and celebrate!  Hubs came back.  We knew she would be transferred to another hopsital as soon as possible – one with a better cardiac department.  That happened at 2:30 am.  They brought her to my room on the way out, so I could see her one more time.  I got to touch her again, through the isolette arm holes.  Hubs and Dad followed the ambulance, and Mom and I tried to sleep.  Apparently it took hours for her to get set up in the NICU at the new place, so Hubs and Dad didn’t sleep at all.  That NICU is set up in bays, so you could only have 2 people back with her at a time. . .and only one chair.  I don’t know what all went on, but Hubs has told me it was awful.

Hubs spent the next few days going back and forth between Sweet Pea & me.  He brought pictures and videos, which made it a little easier to be stuck away from her.  He got to hold her for the first time during a bedding change.  He looked so happy in the picture Dad got of that moment!  Also, a bit awkward – haha.

I was finally released on the same day that Sweet Pea was moved down to the cardiac ICU.  Hubs and I moved in to her room, and spent the next six weeks by her side as much as possible.  He had to go back to work just days later, and so I was the one sending him pictures.  It was so hard for him to walk out the door every morning.

I wish I could convey just how exhausting it was.  Daily labs & xrays at 4 AM, surgical rounds at 7 AM, medical rounds at 9 AM, pumping every three hours, watching her roll down the hall to her first open heart surgery, seeing her chemically paralyzed and on a ventilator, watching as drainage tubes are pulled out and as sutures are removed, the constant flow of doctors (residents, fellows, attendings and surgeons), nurses, nurse practitioners, therapists, physician assistants, technicians, social workers and child life developers. . . not to mention the incredible flood of visitors we received from our family, friends and church.  And the learning.  Oh my word, it was like the crash course in medical school I never planned to take.  I had more than one meltdown, for sure.

But all that is what happened after her birth story.  It’s her life story, and ours.  We’ve walked with her through two heart surgeries, and are likely facing a third – for her skull this time.  Becoming a parent changes your life in ways you never anticipated.

Becoming her parent changed our lives in ways we never could have anticipated.  And I’m so thankful to be her mother.

Walking

When you have an infant, it’s really easy to fall into a routine that doesn’t involve leaving the house.  When you have an infant literally tethered to the wall by an oxygen tube. . .it’s even easier to stay inside.

That’s what I’ve been doing lately.  It’s 7:15 pm, and (yet again) I’ve been outside the house for a grand total of 1.5 minutes.  I went to check the mail, and I brought a DME (durable medical equipment) company delivery inside.  Whoopee!

It is absolutely gorgeous outside.  Hot, since it’s summertime in TX, but still beautiful!  Hubs has been spending most of every evening outside, doing one thing or another.  And yet, here I sit.  In front of the computer screen.  With a stiff back and a hurting tailbone (bad computer chair).

No longer!  I will go outside this evening.  I’ll hook Sweet Pea up to her portable tank, and take her out back.  I’ll borrow Hubs’s phone and snap a few pictures, even.

Then maybe, just maybe, tomorrow won’t look to bleak.  I’ll be more productive, more motivated.

With any luck, my hair will be lighter by the end of the summer, too.  :-)

Sweet Pea’s Birth Story – Part I

I know this is just another story in a  virtual ocean of people’s experiences, but I feel the need to tell it.  I had little to no preparation for what we’ve faced.  Before we were pregnant, even, I devoured birth stories.  I had no clue what to expect!  Clinical descriptions in pregnancy books helped, but I was looking for more.  I went to the blogosphere and found some amazing stories.  But still, I was unprepared.

Maybe this will help you in your preparations.  Maybe not.  Either way, I need to tell it.  It’s our story.

Everything in my pregnancy seemed to be going well.  It was like I was living a charmed life:  little nausea and no vomiting in the first trimester (though I was a bit hormonally crazy!), minimal weight gain, all my levels/stats were great, minimal back pain, we could hear Sweet Pea’s heartbeat, strong and steady. . .all signs pointed toward a normal, healthy baby.

At 35 weeks, I was headed to my OB/GYN for my weekly appointment.  I was running late, and my poor doctor was feeling awful (food poisoning).  We were both a little off-kilter that afternoon.  I told her that I hadn’t felt the baby kicking as much over the past couple of days, and my blood pressure was elevated.  So, we did a sonogram.  My amniotic fluid was low, and it looked like our girl was measuring small for her gestational age.

I can’t stress this enough, ladies – trust your instincts!!

My unflappable doctor sent me to a specialist – and asked them to stay late, no less – where we had two more sonograms.  These were some crazy intense ones, though – those machines must be worth a million dollars or so!  That’s when reality started to hit.  They saw several things that concerned them, and started throwing out terms I’d never heard of before (though now they’re part of my every-day vocabulary).

“It’s the baby’s heart,” they said.  “But we can’t be sure until after the birth.  We need to do a sonogram without you in the way.”  It didn’t hit me how serious it actually was until they, very kindly and with great compassion, told me that we needed to deliver that night.  Like, immediately.

I had to call my husband and give him the news. . .but I was barely coherent by this point.  The amazing nurse told him the specifics, and he dropped everything and started driving.  He was almost an hour away.  I drove the 2 minutes back to the hospital and checked myself into Labor & Delivery, praying the entire time.   Hubs called my parents, texted his (they live overseas), and let the rest of our family and church know on the way.  He made it to the hospital in record time!

Random side note:  we’d just squeezed in a childbirth prep class the weekend before.  Otherwise he’d not have even known which hospital to go to, never mind where L&D was!  God has taken care of us in so many ways.

My parents and Hubs’s best friend came.  So did most of Hubs’s extended family, and half of our church group.  We were completely surrounded by prayer, love and support that night.

I’d been dragging my feet a little, finishing all the paperwork, to make sure that Hubs could make it before I went into surgery.  Sweet Pea’s vitals were fine, so the nurses were fine with waiting for him.  It wasn’t long after he arrived that they walked us to the surgery room.  I laid down on the bed, and then got an epidural.  I wanted to be awake the entire time.  They put up a blue cloth at chest level so I couldn’t see anything, and got to work.  It was very strange.  I could feel pressure when they cut me open – a tugging sensation, but no pain.  Really strange.  Hubs kept me talking the whole time – making me laugh and keeping me from freaking out.  He was texting family throughout, too – haha!  We hadn’t even chosen names yet!  We made our choices literally as delivery was happening.  The doctor asked if Hubs wanted to watch as they pulled her out, and he did. . .though he said it was an awful thing to see his wife cut open like that.

Our first child. . .she was born at 9:05 pm.  “It’s a girl!”  My husband got to reveal that to me – he’d predicted it, even though I thought it was a boy.

I didn’t get to see her right away.  Her team of nurses & doctors took her to an adjacent room and did a number of things.  If we ever have to go through this again, I want to be in the same room.  I’m not so easily unnerved, now.  And I have stronger opinions, now.

Once she was stable, they brought her back into my surgery room.  I’d been getting stitched up in the mean time – closing took way longer than the delivery part.  She was in an isolette already.  I couldn’t touch her – she was too far away.  But I could hear her cry.  I could see her face.  Her tiny, tiny face.

Hubs went to see her; he took pictures for me.  They sent her to NICU and me to recovery.  Where friends and family came to see me, 3 at a time.  I wasn’t alone for a single moment.  They brought Hubs supper, and gave us quarters for the hospital vending machines.  They talked with me, prayed over me, laughed with me.

And that was the beginning.

2014 Bucket List: #19 (Part I)

#19. Make Gramma’s angel food cake & homemade strawberry jam.

Date accomplished:  6/20/2014

Mom came and spent the day with Sweet Pea & me yesterday.  It was absolutely wonderful!  I love seeing my mother in Gramma mode.  It reminds me of her mom and my time with her.  I still think of her all the time, and really really miss her.  I wish I could describe how incredible a woman she was, but I know I couldn’t do her justice.  She’s been my role model for as long as I can remember.  She showed me (and everyone else she knew) what love means.  She was our matriarch, our teacher, our confidant.  And she made a mean angel food cake!

However, that’s what I’ll be making in Part II of this bucket list item.  Yesterday, Mom and I made strawberry jam!  Or is it jelly?  Probably jam.  I haven’t learned the difference yet, though I know there is one.

Yup – just checked the interwebs.  Definitely jam.

Anyway, Mom has made this strawberry jam since I was a kid.  It’s the same recipe that Gramma used, I believe.  It’s your basic Sure-Jell freezer jam recipe.  Talk about simple!  I’d always been intimidated by jam, for some reason.  Now that i know it’s just fruit, sugar, pectin & timing, I’ll not go back to store-bought.  Plus it’s waaaaaay more cost-effective to make your own.  Next, I’d like to learn to can cherries.  That was Mom’s favorite winter-time dessert when we were growing up.  She said it’s a bit more difficult, since it involves a pressure cooker.  Still, I’m excited!  I do need to find a good deal on a pressure cooker soon, though – cherry season won’t last much longer.

strawberry jam 2014

Further Up and Further In!

I feel like an idiot

Since Sweet Pea was born, I can’t count the number of unsolicited phone calls I’ve received. . . doctors, hospitals, labs, therapists, insurance companies, billing departments. . .on and on it goes. When we changed our health insurance plan, I started getting calls from the “new” company, or so I thought. And I gave them information. Personal medical information. Turns out, they’re a consultant for the insurance company, and are tasked with helping determine our likely cost to them, since the new healthcare laws mean they can’t screen members for much, and nothing medical.

Goodness, gracious, I feel like an idiot.  It’s worse than scammers calling for banking information, and I just gave it to them.  Ugh.  Be forewarned – say you’ll have to call them back, and then look everything up before doing so. Lesson learned.  I hope I’ve not messed anything up for our girl. Our coverage is what it is, so it should be ok, but. . .they can be so difficult to deal with. And I’ve just given them time to research and decide what they want to fight.

I feel like a complete and total idiot.

2014 Bucket List: #9

#9. Take a trip with Hubs. . . and not to visit family!

Date accomplished:  06/01/2014

Hubs and I went to the beautiful state of Colorado this past weekend.  It was for a friend’s wedding, which isn’t exactly what I had in mind for this list item, but it’s probably as close as we’re going to get this year – hahaha.  Sweet Pea took up all our vacation/expendable income for 2014!  The wedding was beautiful; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a bride and groom more joyful.

The mountains were gorgeous!  We were able to drive around a bit, between wedding events, though I didn’t get many pictures.  We saw a lot of elk – they were everywhere!  We left for home very early Monday morning, and even saw some on the roads.  Hopefully we’ll be able to go back and enjoy the national park another time. . .do some hiking and camping.

If you’re ever looking for accommodations near Estes Park, I’d highly recommend the Saddle & Surrey.  Barbara (one of the owners) is absolutely wonderful!!  Our room was so clean and comfortable, the shower was amazing, and the breakfast (pastries) was delicious.  We’ll definitely be staying there again, when we go back!

P1010838

P1010852

P1010859

Trapped? Not so much.

Today has been crazy.  A good kind of crazy, but. . .it’s only 2 PM, and I’m exhausted!  I had a mole removed this morning, had Sweet Pea’s MDCP initial home visit (which I was ridiculously nervous about – gotta love that fear of the unknown and/or messing up), and am trying to help out with the office stuff.

That makes for a busy day, yes, but not a crazy one.  Sweet Pea brought the Crazy.  My girl is very very upset today.  She’s just cranky.  Gassy, probably.  She won’t tolerate being not-in-my-arms.  I finally got her to sleep about 30 minutes ago.  Normally, she’s about to start her second nap of the day!

Plan for the afternoon is to work. . .gotta get those thank you’s recorded and written, and Sweet Pea’s room is a disaster area right now.  Don’t worry – nothing hazardous, just messy.  But, we’re making it a point to get outside when it cools down this evening!

It’s so easy to get trapped in your own home with an infant, especially one with extra cords & tubes attached.  Hubs has helped me remember that there’s a lot more to the world than what’s inside these four walls.  And that’s critical to my mental and emotional health!  Yet another reason I’m thankful for that man.

Nothing more than an update today.  Further Up and Further In!