Thursday, March 19, 2015

Coping mechanisms and family pictures.

It's been a long day.

I had a number of projects for school due today, and I was working up till the last minute for all of them. Most of the week has felt like I'm running to play catch up, which is ironic considering last week was spring break.

One of my coping mechanisms is busyness. I realized the first morning I came home from the hospital that I would probably be falling into one of two extremes: 1) never getting out of bed, or 2) running myself into the ground. I didn't want to get trapped in either of them though, and I have done my best to stay more in the "middle" and not run from the emotions.

Tonight I discovered that I haven't been doing as well as I thought when I started thinking through my day tomorrow and felt a mild sense of panic when I couldn't think of a whole lot of things to put on a to do list. Oh well.

Anyway, I said I'd write about going to see Miracle, and post some pictures of our time together.

Miracle weighed 2.5 ounces and was 6 inches long when she was born. She was so small, but absolutely perfect.

I was discharged from the hospital on a Thursday morning. On Friday morning, I got to go back and hold my baby. We took along a camera, since this would be our only chance to get some family pictures. I remember wanting to look nice (I hadn't cared much about that for the past few days)...that I didn't get the chance to show her I loved her, but that was something small I could do.

We got to the hospital, and the lady from the maternity ward had a private room ready for us, and told us to take all the time we needed.

While I was still in the hospital, Josh and I talked a lot about the things we were going to miss about Miracle's life. At one point Josh realized how sad he was that he was never going to get to dance with her. So we put on some music, and he got to dance with his daughter. I'm starting to cry now remembering was such a special moment.

The few hours we got to spend with her were the happiest and saddest of my life, all at the same time. We were able to take a lot of pictures, and I treasure them now. We left that day feeling so much more peace. Still more pain than I had ever imagined....but not quite so hopeless.

One more note about the hospital...I can't say enough about how well we were treated there. The ER nurse was so kind. She went out of her way to take care of us in so many little ways. The doctor who delivered Miracle was really great. My night nurse Alex was wonderful...and I'll never forget Millie, one of the techs. She downright pampered me. I usually couldn't think of anything I needed, and she still figured out things she could do for me. The maternity staff that we dealt with were so really felt like they cared about us as individuals. They all made a nightmarish few days a little more manageable.

I feel like she looks like a Landis in this one...

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I guess we start from the beginning.

This blog is the story of my baby girl. I'm mostly writing it for myself. I want to remember. But I know there are others out there who might benefit from reading it, so here goes.

I've wanted a baby for a long time. My husband was a little behind me on the baby fever thing (seems normal). We decided in the fall of 2013 that we would go back to school the following year to finish our degrees. We also decided that would be the perfect time to have a baby. For me personally, having a baby while going to school seemed more manageable than having a baby while working. We planned to time it so I would have the baby shortly after finals and have the summer to adjust before starting classes again. So we moved in August of 2014, and a month later I was pregnant. Telling Josh was one of the most special moments I think we've ever had. It was so much fun to tell our family and a few close friends. When I reached 12 weeks in November, we made it public and posted this picture on Facebook. I think I felt like it was safe at that point...most miscarriages happen in the first trimester, and I had made it through.

On Monday, December 15, 2014, I woke up in our hotel room around 5am soaking wet. We were in New York City with Josh's parents. It was my first time there.

I woke Josh up and we both did some Googling. Turns out there are a lot of women out there who have had experiences that seemed like their water breaking, but it was just random and nothing. After calling my midwife, we decided to go to the hospital and get checked out...just in case. I was over 16 weeks, so the ER directed us right up to Labor & Delivery. It was so surreal, walking through this strange hospital in NYC. When we arrived at L&D, I had to explain again what was going on. That was the first time I cried. I think up until that point I had been able to convince myself that I wasn't worried. They took me back to a bed. A young (very kind) OBGYN got a sample of the fluid to test and see if it was amniotic. She came back a few minutes later and said that it did seem like my water had broken, so they were going to do an ultrasound. We hadn't had one yet (we had only just gotten to listen to the baby's heartbeat about a week before), so I was actually a little excited. I even wondered if they'd be able to tell the baby's gender.

The ultrasound was so surreal (any parents will know what I'm talking about here). We could even see the flutter of her little heart beating. Josh says that was the first moment where he felt the reality of being a dad. Then the doctor told us I had lost almost all the amniotic fluid. We didn't really know what that meant...I was just prepared to do whatever I needed to do for that little person. The first doctor got another one to confirm her opinion. Then they sat down to give us the "options." They told us babies that early can't survive without the amniotic fluid, and it doesn't naturally replenish itself. Even if they survive a few more weeks, their lungs and other body parts wouldn't be able to develop properly. I remember her specifically using the words "inevitable miscarriage." And I broke down.

They left us alone, and after a few minutes Josh and I were able to talk. We decided that we weren't going to give up. We believed (and still believe) that our God is active and works miracles. As long as our baby's heart was beating, we had hope no matter what the doctors said. So we told them we just wanted to go home. They agreed, and insisted that I be seen by my doctor as soon as possible. So we went back to the hotel. I was packed and ready to go in about 5 minutes. We called my midwife, who made a doctor's appointment for me the next morning at 8:30am. Then I laid down in the hotel and tried to get warm.....I was freezing (I didn't notice it as significant then, but I probably already had a fever). That was around 11am.

We finally got home after 3pm Monday afternoon following a very miserable car ride for me. I got in bed right away and just tried to rest (I was still freezing). I felt pretty rough most of the afternoon. It finally occurred to me to take my temperature, which was when I discovered I had a fever. I took some Tylenol, left a message with my midwife, and piled on the blankets in hopes that it would break. My midwife called me back later, shortly after the fever had broken. She was extremely concerned that my temperature had been up, and I could tell she wanted me to go to the ER. But since it had broken on its own, she said that I could just keep an eye on it. If it came back, I was to go to the ER immediately. If not, I could just keep my doctor's appointment for the next morning, and be sure to tell him I had a fever.

By then, a lot of people were praying for us. I had posted a status on Facebook that I shared with our church's prayer group. Josh's parents sent the prayer request to their church in Pittsburgh. We must have gotten hundreds of texts, comments, and messages from people who were believing with us for a total miracle. It was really amazing, and faith building.

At some point that day (or the next, I can't remember) mom suggested that we try to pick names as a kind of declaration of faith. It was then we decided that if our baby was a girl, we were going to name her Miracle. I could see myself with a daughter years down the road, telling her how her life was a miracle.

The next morning we got up early to get to my appointment. It was really strange, to be honest. It was a very small office. It's hard to explain exactly why it was strange....but it definitely was. The nurses (or assistants or whatever) had me get ready in one of the rooms to be examined, only to come back a little while later and say the doctor was just going to talk to me in his office. They took some blood to check my white count. He basically said the same thing the doctor in NYC said. He told me he could recommend someone in Philadelphia if I wanted to "take care" of it right away...which kind of made me want to throw up. We explained repeatedly that we were not going to do anything as long as there was hope that the baby could survive. He said that I could go on being pregnant for a good many more weeks, but he still considered it inevitable that I would miscarry. He talked about what we'd need to do "after," felt my stomach, and let us go. The whole morning just felt a little bizarre. He also reiterated that if I started to run a fever again, I needed to go to the hospital immediately. I was in danger of getting an infection that could be serious...but he seemed less worried about it than the doctors in NYC had been.

We went home and I got back in bed. Josh's parents came to say goodbye before they headed back to Pittsburgh. Almost immediately after they left I got this really strange and intense pain. I had kind of felt like I was constipated all morning (sorry if that's too much information...but if it is, you should probably stop reading now)...but going to the bathroom didn't help. It lasted awhile and then faded. I tried to just relax, and was able to go to sleep for a little. I woke up a little less than an hour later to more pain. I called my midwife again. She asked me if I was having contractions. Funny question, because how would I know? I had never had them before, and all of the descriptions I'd heard of them usually involved having a really big stomach. From what I've been able to figure out since, I was probably in labor at that point. But I was still totally not letting myself think about what might be happening. Finally around 4pm (Tuesday) when things hadn't gotten better, we decided to go to the ER.

The ER was very busy, and I wasn't far enough along according to their policy to be sent to L&D. So we waited while I tried desperately to find some way to sit down that wasn't incredibly painful. A nurse came out to get my vital signs in a small waiting room for kids off the main one, saying she wanted to get me started to hopefully move the process along a little faster. When she came a little later to take me back, she said she had really pushed them to make some room for me...I was so grateful. All of the ER staff were so kind to us. They hooked me up to an IV to get fluids in me (I felt pretty dehydrated, even though I had been trying to drink enough water) and a bunch of other wires to monitor just about everything you can monitor. I'm not sure how long we waited. They had sent for the on-call OBGYN and put me in line to get an ultrasound. At that point I was feeling so much better, and not really in any pain.

When it was finally my turn to get an ultrasound, they wheeled my bed to that department. The technician explained that she was only there to do the ultrasound, and couldn't give us any information. I watched the screen as she paused at different places, taking pictures. It was the strangest thing trying so hard to see anything that looked like my baby...but it didn't look the same as the ultrasound the day before. She must have seen me wince, because she asked if the sensor hurt when it pressed against my stomach, which it did. I asked her if she could tell us whether she picked up a heartbeat, but she said she wasn't able to say and that a doctor would come talk to me after they looked at the ultrasound.

Back in the ER, the nurse came in and said she was going to give me some antibiotics. I asked if they were sure that was a good idea....the doctor I saw that morning had said that any antibiotics given to me to prevent an infection would be a risk to the baby at that point. She paused, asked if I'd like a doctor to come explain it to me, and I said yes. The PA who had been with me earlier came back and knelt down to be at eye level with me. She said that the ultrasound had not picked up a heartbeat, and that I was actively miscarrying. I was running a fever again and my white blood cell count was elevated, so they needed to give me antibiotics to keep the infection away. I would say I started crying again, which I guess I did...but it seems like I had barely stopped crying since the morning before.

Soon the OB (Dr. Kakarla) got there, and things started moving a lot more quickly. She asked the nurse to bring a whole bunch of things, and called up to L&D for more things that sounded pretty scary. Then she asked me to push. I remember briefly feeling confused because even though I kind of knew what was going on, I just hadn't expected or prepared for that.

At 7:50pm, I delivered our beautiful little baby girl. I remember seeing her incredibly tiny toes. It felt so surreal.

The room was pretty chaotic...I don't remember who all was there, and it seemed like people kept coming and going. They were trying to get me to deliver the placenta, but it wasn't happening. Dr. Kakarla talked to the OR. They were able to push things around so that we could come right away, or we'd have to wait another 4-5 hours. After another whirlwind of activity (getting me unhooked from some of the monitors and an anesthesiologist coming in to ask me a lot of questions), they took me to the ER. I remember when we had to leave Josh in the hallway. I think that would have been a lot more upsetting if things hadn't been moving so quickly. During the very brief time I was awake in the OR, I remember thinking it was so cold. Then someone else was talking to me, and telling me I was in the recovery room. The nurse there *finally* gave me ice chips, which felt amazing...I hadn't been allowed to drink anything since they took me back from the waiting room in the ER.

They took me up to a hospital room, and I found out I was being admitted. They wanted to give me antibiotics and have me there without a fever for 24 hours. I think it was down to a normal temperature by midnight or shortly after that night. The next day or so was an attempt to focus on small victories...getting through the treatment of pitocin without too much pain, normal vital signs, being able to pee without being catheterized (thank God), etc. We had some really kind hospital staff, especially our night nurse Alex and the morning tech Millie. My mom called off work and came to be with us for a few days. It was so good to have her there.

The next night is when I really started to grieve. I started crying when I was getting ready for bed....I mean the uncontrollable hyperventilating kind of crying....and pretty much didn't stop all night. I barely slept, and in the morning my eyes were so red and puffy it looked like I had had a serious allergic reaction.

I was discharged Thursday morning. The day before some people from the OB's office had come with various resources for dealing with miscarriages, and a box with some memorabilia to take home. I hadn't looked at it at all in the hospital. I remember getting home and not being able to imagine ever getting out of bed or talking to people again. That night I picked up a book the hospital had given us, and noticed a chapter called "decisions you'll have to make right away" or something like that. I started to read it, and realized that we could have had our baby with us in the hospital the whole time. We could have spent more time with her and held her. I felt almost cheated, and so upset with myself for not having asked for her...even though I didn't know it was an option. But I couldn't stop thinking about it, and decided to call the hospital just in case she hadn't been picked up by the funeral home yet. That was around 9:30pm. After being on hold for a few minutes, I got in touch with someone who had actually been working when Miracle was born and remembered us. She said she'd try to find out if they still had her, and said that we could absolutely come in to see her if they did. We got dressed and ready to go while we waited for her to call back, just in case. She finally called back close to midnight and said that she was still there, and suggested we come the next morning. I remember vividly being so excited...I went from feeling so hopeless about the future to having something to look forward to. What a difference it made.

Well, that's about all I can handle right now. Soon I'll write about going to see her, and post some pictures.