Friday, August 18, 2006

The First Month...

...was spent in the NICU at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. BB3 and I were transferred there, if you remember, because our local NICU couldn't handle babies smaller than 32 weeks.

According to the nurses and Neonatologists, most 30 week preemies can be expected to be in the NICU until right before their due date. This means that, had it been true for us, BB3 would have been in there for 2 months and one week, or 10 weeks. Instead, she was in there for 27 days. The first 8 days were spent in the actualy intensive care unit, and the next 19 days were spent in the Satellite Nursery, which is where babies are sent to learn to eat and gain weight. Only the most stable of babies get to be there, and it means that going home is imminent.

When she was born, she immediately breathed on her own, and kept doing so for the entirety of her stay in the NICU. She never received any help breathing, or any blood transfusions to solve apnea of prematurity, as is so common. She had a little bit of apnea, mostly while eating or trying to nurse, and a few bradychardic episodes, but for the most part just needed to grow.

Right after she was born, PB followed her down to the NICU and saw her get all tucked in to her space, and watched while she was weighed and measured again and her second Apgar was taken. Meanwhile, I was dealing with the incredibly fun afterbirth portion of my morning, and two doctors who were talking each other through the process of sewing me up. Seriously, I had been so trusting of their abilities up until that point, but the whole "Okay, so I put a stitch here, right?" just threw that out the window.

When PB came back and the "team" had all cleared out and left us alone, I didn't feel like I'd had a baby. I mean, I knew I'd delivered a baby, I knew I'd been through labor, I just didn't feel like I deserved to be honored with the title of "mother" in this instance, because I honestly couldn't believe that I had a baby. PB went to see her several times that morning, and I stayed in my room, feigning exhaustion after being up for almost 3 days straight. In all actuality though, I didn't want to see her, and have only recently admitted that to PB. I didn't feel like I deserved it, and I also felt that if I got in the wheelchair and allowed PB to take me to the NICU, I would be admitting to myself and everyone else that I had failed. Most importantly, I didn't want BB3 to know that I had failed before we even got a chance to know each other.

I still have a huge amount of guilt and anger towards myself and our experience, and sometimes when I look at her and remember how tiny and helpless she was in the beginning, I can't help but break down, because I STILL feel like I somehow caused this. Somehow, I did something along the way to cause my perfectly normal, uneventful pregnancy to go terribly, terribly wrong. Believe me, I'm not saying I'm not grateful, because I am. I know how lucky we are that I didn't have to have a c-section, and she never needed major medical treatment, and was home in four weeks, and that she's growing like a weed. I just wish there was an easy way to get over all of these emotions. I mean, for crying out loud, I feel guilty for feeling guilty, because I know our situation could have been so much worse.

They say having a baby is like watching your heart walk around in someone else's body. When BB3 was born, and immediately taken away from me, and then I saw her in that plastic box, so tiny and defenseless and covered in monitors and IVs, I felt like my heart was gone. I didn't recognize my own child, and that killed me. All I wanted to do was hug her sisters, because I knew that I couldn't screw them up. That even though I didn't get to give birth to them, they were safe with me, and I couldn't hurt them. I felt like all I could do was hurt BB3, because my body rejected her so early.

Clearly, after 4 months, I'm not over it. I probably never will be. Having a preemie, and/or being a NICU parent is something that will forever shape my life and influence my decisions when it comes to taking care of my kids. I know now exactly how precious life is. It really puts it in perspective when you see that your spouse's wedding band could be a bangle bracelet on your child.

No wonder so many preemie moms and dads end up with post traumatic stress disorder. It truly is hell on earth, and even coming through it with a healthy child doesn't help, because you saw so many parents who left the hospital without their children, or were trying to plan funeral arrangements for one twin while silently rejoicing that the other was still with them. If only therapy were covered by insurance. I could probably use some. Instead, I kiss my daughter and rub my stomach and promise to be better next time. Even though I know it's a promise I could never keep.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Samantha's Birth Story

Labor, Take 1, Monday April 3:
I went to work that morning and noticed while sitting at my desk that I could time my contractions (I thought they were Braxton Hicks) and they were about every 5-6 minutes apart. I called my OB who suggested I go home and lie down, and then called me back when I was on my way home and said he'd rather I stop by just in case. I got to the office, was checked, and the OB sat up, patted my knees and said, "Sweetie, I'm so sorry, but you're in labor. You're going to the hospital." I was given a shot of something I can't remember the name of to stop my contractions, and then was taken to the hospital by one of the nurse midwives in the practice. On the way, I called Papa Bear and Portia, as well as my parents and SIL to let them know what was going on. I was 27w6d pregnant, which was WAY too soon. Once at the hospital an IV was started with magnesium sulfate, which, for those of you who have never experienced it, is like liquid evil. It is a full body muscle relaxant, but more than that, it just makes you sore and nauseous. Your entire body aches from head to toe while on the garbage. Anyway, PB showed up with a bag full of clothes (turns out he just emptied a drawer of my dresser, not realizing I keep my tops and bottoms in separate drawers. All I had was one pair of pants and 8 shirts.) and some food, as I hadn't eaten since 7am, and then we waited for word about the ambulance transport. I had to be moved to the University of Maryland Medical Center because our local hospital could not handle babies born before 32 weeks. I was given a shot of steroids for BB3's lungs, and was told the shot would be repeated again in the next 24 hours. Once at UMC, I was finally admitted to a bed and settled in. I was on the magnesium for 48 hours, until I had been contraction/dilation free for 24 hours. At that point, they stopped the mag, observed me a little longer, and proclaimed me fit to go home on bedrest with bathroom priviledges. While in the hospital for three days, I missed BB2's birthday.

Labor, Take 2, Thursday April 13:
29w2d now. I went in for my normal checkup and was found to have dialated another centimeter while on bedrest, even though I'd had no contractions in the week I'd been home. The bag of waters was also now ballooning out of my cervix, and I was told it could break at any time. Back to the local hospital I went, hooked up to the mag IV again, except this time I was flying solo. PB was in a meeting in the next city over and I couldn't get ahold of him. I left him a message and he met me at the hospital. Instead of waiting for an ambulance this time, they decided to just put me in the helicopter and fly me over to the hospital, just in case my water broke en route. They wanted it to take half and hour to get there instead of close to an hour and a half, I guess. Once at the hospital, I was met by the same nurses who discharged me a week previously, and ushered in to a huge room on the postpartum/antepartum floor. It's tough to hear healthy newborns crying to be fed as their wheeled from the nursery to their mom's rooms, while you're laying there praying that your baby survives outside the womb. This is also the floor most hospitals put women who have just had miscarriages. But I digress. I was told in no uncertain terms that I would be in the hospital until I delivered, hopefully not for at least 2 more weeks so that I could at least be transferred home. Another 48 hours on the mag, and then 12 hours fighting for my right to use the restroom. When the attending OB finally came in one morning, I said, "Look...I understand you're trying to keep me prone as much as possible to prevent exertion that would push me in to labor, right?" "Right." "Then explain to me how much sense it makes for me to be climbing on and off this damn bedpan to relieve myself, which by the way is about every 2 hours given the amount of water I'm being told to drink." "Oh. Good point...*scribble scribble* right! All done...feel free to use the restroom as much as you want. You can even shower!" "Thanks." My labor had stopped for the time being. This time, I missed Easter while in the hospital.

Labor, Take 3, Tuesday April 18:
I had gone a whole 5 days with no contractions, so the "team" decided it would be a good idea to test me for gestational diabetes. You know, because it would matter a whole hell of a lot, what with me being in the hospital and all. So, they brought the glucose solution for me to drink (another tool of Satan) and BAM! within three minutes of ingesting the god-awful stuff, I was in hard, fast, active labor. The words "I'm in labor" bring TONS of people running in a hospital! Even better than "FIRE!" in a movie theater, I'd imagine. The nurses wheeled me downstairs to the labor and delivery floor while I called my mother to let her know that I would not be in my room when she got there for her scheduled visit. I was put back on the mag AGAIN to try and stop my labor for the last time. I was already 5cm by the time the doc got through the hubbub to check me, and was 100% effaced with a 0 station. At 11am Wednesday the contractions had still not stopped (although they'd slowed) so they turned the mag off and just let me go. I called PB, who got out of a sales meeting (yay!) and headed over.

PB got there around 1pm and we settled in. I had been flat on my back for close to 48 hours, and was in a lot of pain, but was not allowed out of bed for fear my water would, hello? I'm in labor anyway, isn't the water breaking kind of the point? Things progressed fairly quickly, and the jerk anesthesiologist kept coming in to ask if I wanted to "give up this silly natural labor idea and get an epidural. After all, labor is really hard, and I just don't think you can do it." It was all I could do to not tell the twit to bite me and watch.

At hour 31 I hadn't slept in two days and was nearing my breaking point, and was also nearing transition. I was 7cm and progressing fast, and asked for something to take the edge off so that I could doze off between contractions. I was given one miligram of Stadol, which really did just take the edge off (thankfully immediately) and then stopped working with a jolt about 20 mintues later. That 20 minutes got me from 7-9cm. At about 2:45am Thursday, I was fully effaced and dialated, and my water still hadn't broken. The OB said she was going to break my water and then come back to check on me in about 10 minutes. She broke my water, turned around to put the hook down, turned back around to stand up, and screamed "HEAD!" out the door. The team came running in to get down to business. Our nurse (totally fantastic, btw) said, "Sarah honey, how you feeling?" "I'm in labor, and I'm starving. How you feelin?" At which point she called me a smartass and got down to business. On the next contraction, my body pushed (even though they were screaming at me not to while they rushed to get gloves and gowns on) and BB3 was here. It took both docs to catch her.

The NICU team rushed in and grabbed her, and PB ran after them to take pictures and keep an eye on her. She weighed in at a safe 3lb, 5oz and was 17" with Apgar scores of 9 and 9. She was born at 30weeks, 2 days, and was breathing on her own from the very beginning.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm back!

I know it's been a ridiculously long time since I updated, and for the two of you who read this blog anyway, I'm sorry. There's just been a bit going on.

Since I stopped posting in mid-March, several things have happened...
1) I delivered BB3 10 weeks early on 4/20/06 and she subsequently spent 27 days in the NICU 90 miles from home
2) My brother moved in to our house for the summer in order to work and save money for school/his apartment
3) I had to quit my job and have been desperately searching for work from home ever since. Just when we hit absolute rock bottom, I got a job!
4) We got pregnant again. Yes, again. We got pregnant four weeks after BB3 was born, and are due on 2/22/07, so we will have a 7 year old, a 4 year old, a 10 month old, and a newborn. Multi-tasking, here we come!

I promise I will update more frequently and get you caught up on pictures, and all the various goings-on around here. Really! Hopefully I'll be posting BB3's birth story some time tomorrow.