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Sharing your bed with a toddler

27 May

I seriously don’t understand how people co-sleep.

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How giving birth was secondary to the real issue. (part two)

19 Oct

(fair warning, there is gross medical detail ahead)

I remember waking up. Sort of. I remember waking up to someone trying to put an IV into my foot. I tried to see what time it was, it was either 8 or 10. I passed out again.

The next time I woke up, I was told I was being wheeled to the ICU, shocked, I asked why. “For observation” I was angry, I thought they were overreacting.

A nurse said, “You’re never wearing a bikini again!” The incision was from pubic bone to belly button. I asked if the baby was ok. “Oh, yeah, baby’s fine!” Good. At some point Horrible came along and said, “she’s got your hands and feet!” DAMNIT IS SHE OKAY?! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!

Princess Petit Four. Born 10/19/09, 5:34pm. 6lbs, 2oz. She was sent up to the NICU and was put on precautionary antibiotics. She caught none of my sepsis, thank God.

As for what happened, I only know what I was told. My surgeon hung out for the c-section part, though he didn’t need to be there, yet. He doesn’t get to see babies born that often. He told me later that when they cut into me, my uterus was basically floating in a sea of puss. My bowel had ruptured in a bad, bad way. He said once you got the uterus out of the way, it looked like a grenade had gone off. Petit Four was born with an APGAR of 2, and then 8. When she came out, she was knocked out by the anesthesia as well, she didn’t breathe on her own for 4 minutes. They got her to the isolette, gave her oxygen, reversed the effects of the narcotics, and wheeled her up for the NICU to take care of and Horrible got to see her fairly soon after.  Thank God, she was ok.

As for me, I had severe peritonitis (a very dangerous infection of the abdominal wall) and had around three-and-a-half feet of small bowel removed, the ileocecal valve that connects the small and large intestine, and a few inches of large intestine.

Back in the ICU, Horrible brought down some pictures of Petit Four that a helpful nurse had taken and printed out, with “Get well soon, Mommy!” across the bottom. They put her stats on the white board in my room so I’d see them, along with the pictures. I noted my much-deflated belly, and the wrongness of not having the baby with me. At some point my in-laws got there, and my mom. I didn’t realize, at the time, what bad shape I was in. My kidney function sucked, I had a constant fever, an NG tube, several IVs, my heart was racing out of control. It went on like that for four days.

And the pain. My god. I had a morphine pump and it still barely dulled the pain.

I didn’t meet Petit Four until Wednesday. They wheeled me up to the NICU, into a vacant room, bed and all, two nurses with me, and handed her to me. I wish someone would have gotten a picture of the audience I had for this intimate moment. Looking at the video, I’m almost angry. Aside from my husband, there was my mom, his parents, two ICU nurses, two NICU nurses, a couple of curious wandering medical personel, and I don’t know who else. I didn’t cry. I took the binky from her mouth so I could hear her cry, and know that she was real. The nurses, bless them, had put her into a little dress with cartoon snails on it. She was so small, and they policed my efforts while I gave her a tiny bottle, I think it was only her second or third feeding, she wasn’t very good at it. That’s what eventually bought her a feeding tube and kept her in the NICU nine days. I couldn’t bend enough or lift her up or move my NG tube out of the way to be able to kiss her.

All my vital alarms were going off. I was given maybe 45 minutes with my daughter, and then they wheeled me back down where I could be stabilized again. I clutched the blanket they swaddled her in so that I could smell her. At this point they gave me a breast pump, too. They told me not to be a hero. Breastfeeding was a totally shit idea, by the way, in this case.

The next day or two in ICU is fuzzy. Horrible and my mom have both reported to me in that time that the fight went out of me. I had given up, and I have a vague recollection of that. I didn’t really want to go on. My mom forced me to move, to turn over, to look at pictures of Petit Four even when I refused. I asked the anesthesiologist how much time he thought I had when they went in and saw what they saw, before the sepsis would have been too bad to beat. He said probably a few hours. I asked the surgeon the same question and he simply said, “God is good”.

My OB saw my decline and promptly got my baby down to me. This time, she was brought down to the ICU in a covered isolette, and I only got to hold her for 15 or so minutes before she was gone again. I guess that would have been Thursday.

It should go without saying that my husband was incredible during this time and somehow managed to parent the hell out of that little baby and be with me a reasonable amount of time as well.

Later on Thursday, I was well enough to go to a step-down unit. By well enough, I mean they could almost bring the fever back to normal and I wasn’t quite so tachycardic. I didn’t need constant oxygen. I was standing here and there. By Friday I was in a regular room, and by Saturday I fully had my fight back and pointed out gently to the OB on call that I hadn’t seen my baby since, um, Thursday? And I was losing my mind? Within half an hour, she had me up in the NICU, though I could never stay long because of a strict regimen of IV antibiotics every couple of hours.

I breastfed. I held her, rocked her, changed a diaper or two in the next several days. We discussed rooming-in if she ended up having to stay longer than I did. See, letting me go home with her was a complicated request. I was on a surgical floor, needing the constant supervision, instead of on the mother-and-baby floor. The NICU and surgical staff nurses snuck Petit Four into my room so that Horrible and I could have a “trial run” at parenting her on our own. I got to eat that day for the first time in over a week AND have the baby with us. It was great, and we passed the test. Finally, we were ready to go home.

We had a lot of help. And it was a good thing, because the story doesn’t end there.

I actually don’t remember much of coming home, probably because of the raging infection I still had and all of the painkillers.

It was really only the beginning of the fight.

How giving birth was secondary to the real issue. (part one)

19 Oct

I feel like I can finally write out the story of my daughter’s birth.

I did everything right before deciding to get pregnant, I saw everyone and got them to all agree that it was a good time to get pregnant because my Crohn’s was in remission and the timing was right. Got pregnant right away.

It wasn’t what I would call an easy pregnancy, but it wasn’t awful, either. Between my OB/GYN, perinatologist and gastroenterologist, there were a lot of appointments to keep. I wasn’t even high-risk because of Crohn’s, but for a blood-clotting disorder (then diagnosed as APLS, but is really Lupus Anticoagulant). Crohn’s was the least of my concerns, the clotting thing being the Much Bigger Deal.

I was told to be prepared to go any time after 32 weeks, if the bio-physical profiles showed any distress. I scheduled my induction for 38 weeks and some change, so that I would be off the blood-thinners long enough to get an epidural. Toward the end, I complained that her kicking me really hurt. In retrospect, I should have recognized it as punches of flare pain, but I was otherwise symptom-free as far as Crohn’s was concerned, and the Humira appeared to be working. We all attributed it to the area being sensistive anyway from general inflammation and/or my pain tolerance was lower because of pregnancy.

At 32 weeks, I went to the hospital with a high, high fever at the height of the H1N1 epidemic. They found no cause for the fever and the baby wasn’t in distress so I was sent home, and it was attributed to a virus. I was told to take it easy for the duration and to stay out of crowds.

At 36 weeks, I was cocky. They had my shower at work on Friday and I assumed I would be there for the big annual gala the following Thursday, I was going to make it to my induction date! All of this panic and monitoring has been for naught! GOD WHY AM I SUCH A HYPOCHONDRIAC?!

Ha. Ha.

Sunday afternoon I was cleaning like a madwoman. The kicking that had stopped me in my tracks several times a day had subsided. We bought a new Dyson the day before and I was having the time of my life using it. I was making dinner, tortellini soup, and was buttering garlic bread when BAM! the mother of all kicks, and the pain wasn’t going away. I shouted, doubled over, and my husband (for blog purposes, let’s call him Dr. Horrible. He has a PhD in Horribleness) practically carried me to the couch. I couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t lay down, sit up, stand up, move, think. My husband called the nurse line, who told us the obvious: Get to the hospital pronto.

Knowing this was It, I had Horrible pack the rest of my bag, like my makeup and important things like that, and had him finish vacuuming the living room. Yes, really. I knew I wasn’t going to be the next one back here and BY GOD my house wasn’t going to look sloppy!

I hobbled out to the car while Horrible ran around me like Lassie with news of a barn fire. He deposited me in the car and I was in too much pain to even reach over to close the door, so he had to run back around and shut the door, spraining his ankle in the process. We’re a graceful lot.

The ride to the hospital hurt. A lot. Every bump and every turn sent a new stab of pain. I tried to keep my panic under contol because I couldn’t feel her moving through the pain and prayed to God and every saint I could think of that she would be ok.

We got to the hospital and waited no less than 15 minutes for a damned wheelchair, it took a few PA announcements to get some back down to the ER. Patients hoard wheelchairs since they’re so scarce. After that it gets fuzzy.

They started an IV, took blood work, checked me for labor (I wasn’t in labor, wasn’t even remotely dialated), and put a monitor on so that they could make sure the baby was ok. And she was. So was I, for that matter. Other than the excruciating pain that made me unable to move, my bloodwork was fine. I had no fever. I was urinating. I repeated a hundred times that the last thing I ate was teddy grahams and milk.  They gave me dilaudid and kept watch.

We didn’t really call anyone. At one point, Horrible called my mom and said I was in the hospital but we had no information. He ordered a pizza for himself and the nurse got him ice for his ankle. We both caught bits of sleep in the spacious labor and delivery room until the next morning. At that point, when it became clear that natural childbirth was likely not in the cards, I was moved to a different room so that someone having a normal pregnancy could use it. My belly started growing upwards, and I couldn’t be on one side at all. I was still in a lot of pain, even with the pain medication.

Around 5pm, a lot of things happened at once. The gastroenterologist came in to see me, someone I didn’t know but was in my doctor’s practice. My bloodwork started going weird, with my white blood cell count skyrocketing. My OB came in with a general surgeon and an anesthesiologist. They wanted to go in and take the baby out and do some exploratory surgery. They suspected my appendix, maybe a bowel perforation, though no one had ever seen that. They gave me the futile option of doing a CT scan or some other imaging before going in, but they warned they would probably not see anything and would need to go in anyway. It’s a good thing I agreed, there wasn’t time to waste.

My entire birth plan was exactly one request: That I was not put under general anesthesia when my baby was born.

Never make a birth plan of any kind.

We called everyone that would need to travel. My mom talked to the anesthesiologist on the phone. My OB stood at the back of the room, her face trying to conceal worry, as she apologized that she couldn’t be there. I understood, it was 5, she wasn’t on call, and she had kids at home. One of her partners breezed into this Situation Room and took my hands and shrieked “OK! Are we ready to have a BABY!” Her perkiness was comical, compared to the otherwise somber mood in the room.  It remains one of the most absurd moments of my life.

It didn’t occur to me until I was being wheeled out of the room and down to the OR that my life might be in danger. Suddenly the maternal mortality statistic popped into my head. It occured to me to pray, though it was hard through the fog and madness. I vaguely remember Dr. Horrible kissing me goodbye, looking more calm than necessary. I vaguely remember the elevator.

I remember being in too much pain to help with the transfer of my whale-like frame from the gurney to the operating table. I remember there being an isolette on the other end of the room, and men in brightly-colored scrub hats from the NICU introducing themselves. I remember making a Michael Jackson joke as the anesthesiologist announced that he was injecting the propofol.

I remember waking up.