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.


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.