Saturday, December 16, 2006

Silent Night

Ok, after much debate, and in response to Thordora's contest, I am going to try to write out Kiddo's birth story. I have been thinking about it for a couple of days now, and it still brings up so many emotions for me, I don't know if I can do it.

Warning: This is LONG. I just can't describe his birth without recounting the events before and after. It may not be the best or the most well written story, but I can pretty much guarantee it will be the longest!

My first pregnancy. Such an exciting time. Finding out on Christmas day was the best gift anyone could ask for. Of course, my "present" was presented in the form of heaving over the toilet all morning, and a very unstable 4 hour car ride to my parents house. Though it was joked about by my loving family, I never truly thought I was pregnant until a test confirmed it several days after Christmas. Hubby and I were in shock, and I must admit, my reaction was not the best. We hadn't been trying; this was truly God's plan for us, and we were not prepared. Hubby took it all in stride, switching into survival mode and started making plans. I just tried to not throw up every day and conceal my exhaustion and nausea from my coworkers.

Over the next few months we were able to save a bit of money, buy a house, move into it, and get prepared for this amazing life I carried. Despite being fired from my job a few days before my 30th birthday (after my employer found out I was pregnant I was labeled "not a team player") we knew we would be alright financially.

At my 20 week appointment, my ob noticed some swelling in my ankles and feet. Summer was fast approaching and he wrote it off as a side effect of the climbing temperatures and the fact that if something wasn't swimming in salt, I wouldn't eat it! At the next appointment he told me to lay off the salt because my legs were swollen all the way to my hips. By then, my salt cravings had pretty much passed, but I trusted he knew what he was talking about. At 32 weeks, I began to have vision problems. A kaleidoscope pattern would begin developing on one side of my focal range and wash over my eyes until I could see nothing but the geometric shapes it created. A couple of times it caught me as I was driving and though I managed to get off the road before I was blinded, it scared the crap out of me. On one such occasion, I was with my pregnant friend at her ob's office. As my friend guided me down the hallway (because I couldn't see) she asked her nurse what could be wrong with me and she said it was probably seasonal allergies! My ob told me what I was having was a form of migraine headache, and that it was common for pregnant women to have them and not to worry. Again, I trusted his logic.

The amount of swelling I experienced left me looking much like the Michelin Man and by the 40 week mark I no longer had definition in my toes or joints. Because I was pregnant in the Texas heat of August, no one thought it might be anything serious; my blood pressure was always fine and urine samples tested clean. A couple of days before my due date, I began having contractions. Suddenly my dreams of having a natural birth were approaching reality. I had a normal pregnancy and there was really no reason why I shouldn't be able to deliver drug free. At my weekly Wednesday appointment, I told the nurse practitioner I had been having contractions regularly for a couple of days. She kind of blew me off; in that "oh you're a first time mom, you don't know anything" sort of way, but she was concerned that my blood pressure was a bit elevated so she sent me off for 2 hours to walk and see if I could get myself to progress any. My wonderful, pregnant friend was with me as I was afraid to drive while having contractions. We decided to go to the mall together to have lunch and let me walk. Did I mention she was 7 months pregnant with twins? Oh, well maybe I should add that in.

So there we were, my gigantically pregnant friend and my gigantically swollen self, eating Chick-fil-a at the mall. I freaked out the cashier when I had to stoop over for a moment and breathe through a contraction, assuring all the surrounding customers I was not about to give birth right there in the food court. My friend and I joked that we should rent a wheelchair and I could push her around the mall (she was supposed to be on bed rest!). She opted to sit in the book store instead and I did laps around each floor; receiving knowing looks from female sales clerks when I stopped for the contractions.

Two hours later I returned, no progress was made, my blood pressure was elevated but not serious so they sent me home. The np told me that if the contractions (that were every 3 minutes now) began to last for a minute or longer to call the ob on call (my regular ob conveniently went on vacation the day before). I reluctantly went home and began cleaning house; swaying through the contractions as I loaded and unloaded the dishwasher. I could do this. The contractions were not bad at all, and as long as I focused everything went smoothly. That evening they had progressed to every 3 minutes and lasting for over a minute so I called the on-call ob. Again, I was treated like the brainless first time mom and she told me I was probably in pre labor or false labor and that if I absolutely thought it was necessary I could go to L&D to be checked and she would write me a prescription for a sleeping pill. Hubby and I hadn't had dinner yet, so we decided to swing by the hospital on the way to eat.

As I'm sure you can guess, I did not go home that night. The nurse took my blood pressure and ordered me to sit down. Then she tested my urine and after reading the results yelled at me to lie down. I had full on pre-eclampsia and she was not letting me go anywhere! We were shocked, of course, and as I watched the staff hook me up to the monitors and the magnesium drip my visions of a drug free labor were fading. They wouldn't let me walk because of the magnesium. They wanted to monitor the baby for signs of distress. My blood pressure was off the charts. I was soooo hungry and they wouldn't let me eat. I thought for sure they were going to tell me they wanted to take him asap. Thankfully, the ob listened to my pleas and allowed me to rest through the night before any decisions were made. My contractions were still tolerable, I was staying calm and relaxed and trying not to panic. The night afforded me very little sleep. The nurses seemed to come every 30 minutes or so, drawing blood, putting in a catheter, hooking me up to all kinds of things, and the dreaded blood pressure machine put the squeeze on my arm every five minutes. The nurses tried to be quiet but really only one succeeded. I called her Stealth because she managed to draw blood without waking me up! Only 2 or 3 contractions were painful enough to wake me - they induced the flight response; making me wake up as I was trying to crab-crawl backwards, away from the pain and out of the bed. By morning I had only progressed to about 3cm and the ob discussed starting pitocin. I resisted, begging her to wait as long as possible, and she tried to oblige me until Kiddo's heart rate started dropping with the contractions. We agreed that breaking my water would be a good compromise and she left to get the dreaded hook.

In that moment, I panicked. I suddenly remembered my friends warning me that once your water breaks the contractions become unbearable. Several weeks before I had made a deal with myself that if I ever felt I couldn't take it anymore I would ask for the epi; and there would be no shame in that. At that moment though, I really wanted to go without, but my fear was taking over. I asked Hubby if I should get the epi, hoping he had listened to me in the past and would talk me out of it. Unfortunately, he was trying to be sweet and told me to do what I thought was best. Even though I was already dilated to a 7, I got the epidural.

When the drugs kicked in, I finally realized just how much pain I had been in. A strange euphoria set in, causing me to giggle and laugh and talk much more than usual. I experienced tremendous relief; I finally felt like I could breathe and all was good with the world. I called my parents, already in route, and told them something (I don't really remember what it was exactly) that made them laugh hysterically at me. Things seemed to be going well. They broke my water, Pitocin was administered and the contractions came faster and stronger. Before I knew it, and without warning the doctor came in and started putting me in the stirrups. The baby was showing signs of distress, my water had merconium in it and they wanted him to come out NOW. I remember saying something to Hubby like - "I guess we're pushing now" and he seemed as startled as I was.

I pushed for about 35 minutes before his head crowned. The ob asked me if I wanted to feel his head, so they took off my oxygen mask and let me reach down. I will never forget the soft, squishiness of his head, and trying desperately to envision exactly what it was I was feeling. A couple more rounds of pushing and 45 minutes after I started he emerged. Silent....Purple.... And all I heard was the doctor say "uh oh", and they whisked him away.

When she had pulled him up he was facing me. I saw his face; all cheeks and forehead. I remember thinking he looked huge and chubby; though he only weighed in at 8 lbs 14 oz. I was expecting much heavier. They took him over to the warming box to clean him and try to get him to breathe. I kept listening for his cry. The moment seemed endless. The doctor is shouting to nurses to go and get something because I was bleeding too much. It was chaos. I tried desperately to see my baby across the room. Hubby didn't know what to do and I finally sent him over to be with the baby. I stopped bleeding on my own, delivered the placenta and a small tear was sewn. Doctor after doctor came in and looked at my child. I heard them say things like "I don't know what that is. " and "I've never seen anything like that." and I began to think I had birthed something unreal. Then, after what seemed like hours, he cried. So sweet and pure and LOUD! He was mad and letting us know! I kept asking the doctor if I could see him - it was as if in a dream when you are trying to shout and all that comes out is a whisper. They weren't listening to me, ignoring me really, and all I could see was this endless trail of doctors coming in and out to see the baby I still couldn't see. I was on the other side of the room, all by myself. Hello? Um hello? Can I see my baby? What's wrong?

Finally, they wrapped him up and brought him to me. He was beautiful, perfect, alert, and as I thought, all cheeks! And the cause of all the questions - he was covered in what looked like abrasions all over his face. And people pondered...could the merconium have burned his skin? What would cause something like that? Was it a rash? a birthmark? Every one had a different theory. I was able to breathe him in and gaze at him for only a few minutes when the doctor came back in. The results of his blood tests came back - his blood platelet counts were critical, his liver was inflamed and his sugars were all off. He would have to go to NICU for monitoring. The nurse came to get my baby. I could tell it was the worst part of her job; taking babies from loving arms and breaking a new mother's heart. She looked at me with the most sincere look of sympathy, and hesitated to take him. I didn't want to give him up - I had just gotten him. We still needed to get to know each other... but I knew he was better off in NICU and so I reluctantly handed him over. I saw the nurses eyes welling. I knew she was hurting too - he was full term, alert; it seemed so unfair. They took him away from me.

The nurses were sympathetic, but they wanted me to stay in my room. I couldn't see him. Maybe at 11pm they said. Then maybe at midnight. Then, we don't know when, we'll let you know. I lost it. The door closed behind the nurse and I broke down, wailing and sobbing and crying so much I couldn't breathe. All I could think about was my poor baby, all alone, without me in that room. He must have been hooked up to monitors and IVs., he must have been scared. I was terrified. We didn't know what was wrong with him, no one else knew either, and they couldn't even tell us if he was going to make it because his platelets were so low. I felt like such a failure. My Hubby didn't deserve this. He deserved to have a perfectly healthy child, a perfectly healthy wife, and it was all my fault he was having to go through this. Between sobs I apologized to my husband. Bless his heart, he didn't know what to do. I thought my heart had been ripped out of my chest. I was hollow, empty, sad and so guilty. Maybe it was because I used blemish cream while I was pregnant. Maybe it was because I insisted on my daily Dr. Pepper fix. Maybe because I broke that mirror all of this was happening. I was lost.

I cried for so long there was nothing left. Totally dehydrated and exhausted, I collapsed into a traumatic, fitful sleep. The nurses had heard my cries. At 1am they came to get me to see my son. They wheeled me in the wheelchair up to NICU and placed me in front of his station. Just as I'd suspected - wires, needles, IVs - it was all there; invading my poor little one's body to the extent that he could only lie there. They wouldn't let me hold him. They were giving him massive amounts of antibiotics, sugar water and fluids. He could have an infection, he could be contagious, too much stimulation could hurt him; please don't touch him. I ignored them and held his little arm in my fingers. He was so calm, so peaceful - I just couldn't comprehend how anything could be wrong with him.

2 days and about 15 "specialists" later, they still didn't know what was wrong. My friend called me at the hospital. She had been researching on the Internet and wanted to know if I had Lupus. No, I don't think so, but my grandmother does... She had found a reference to a rare disorder called Neonatal Lupus and the symptoms were almost exactly what my boy had. That day the pediatrician came to see him. He suggested they test me for Lupus. We had found our answer. Thankfully, the disease is carried in the mother's antibodies. The rash on his face would heal and in 6 months he would be completely free of it. Completely normal. Healthy.

He stayed in NICU for 4 days. We finally convinced the doctors his platelets would dramatically improve if he was allowed to be with me. We were right. As soon as he was released to my care, his count more than doubled every day. My boy needed his momma as much as I needed him, and we have been practically inseparable ever since.Here he is one month later. Still all cheeks and forehead!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.


D :)


karrie said...

Whoa...what a ride. I'm so glad he is ok now.

Need to remember to keep tissues handy while reading these stories....

Cheshire said...

Wow, Dawn. I'm so glad he's ok now.

I remember that feeling when Lucy was taken to NICU that somehow I broke her when she was in utero, and I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy.

The Chik-fil-a part cracked me up though :)

You're a brave woman for dealing with Texas heat while pregnant. I barely survived NYC winter without sweating to death!
What's Your Name Mommy

Jessica said...

Wow, I'm so glad he is OK. I too need to remember the tissue.

kat said...

*sniff* Dawn, you read mine with the twins so you know I really know that empty cold feeling of having your child in the NICU. That incredibly helpless feeling.

thordora said...

The thought of two huge pregnant women circling eachother in a food court as all the men have that look on their face got me.

what a journey. Thank you for sharing this.

Peggy said...

I did not know about your birth story. I always get sad when I read about a traumatic birth story. Like ours, it makes me sad when a parent is robbed of that amazing experience it should be. Even with a great end result, it's so hard to remember that day and all of that fear. I wish that no parent ever had to go through that.

So glad that all turned out fine and I agree... love the image of the two pg ladies eating the Chick-a-Fil!

tub said...

hihi, i experienced EXACTLY the same thing when my daughter was born. it took us a week to diagnose the condition. I, too, felt lost, guilty and totally heart broken. my hospital stay was filled with tears too. my daughter has some depression on her forehead. she is 8 months. does your sons have this? will it eventually heal and close up? thanks dear.

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