Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A baby that doesn't feel like mine

I visited Alexa every day that she was in the NICU, a grand total of 27 days. Although to some of the mommies of micro preemies and preemies with other serious health issues this may not seem like that long, but for me it was a lifetime. That many more days feeling distant, apart, and strangely detached from her. The nurses really only wanted us to hold her during feeding time, once every 3 hours, for about 20 minutes. So we would come to the hospital for at least 2 feedings a day. Usually spending about six hours there, sitting on the couch, watching her sleep in her incubator, and later, her crib.

During my OB rotation in nursing school I never understood those women that demanded their babies be immediately handed to them, still dripping with blood and birth goo, cord still dangling, to be held skin to skin and begin the bond. To be quite frank I thought it was horrendous, I mean for God sake wipe the thing off or something first. But as I sat there in the NICU, looking as this little baby from across the room I just felt like she belonged to someone else. I had not bonded with her at all, I felt like she was stolen from me, held captive. I hardly even saw my baby after she was born, a split second, then the window was shut. I got to hold this baby, my baby, for less than an hour a day and that's only when my husband or family didn't want to sneak in on the chance. She was tied to the wall by an entourage of tubes and monitors. You couldn't go further than the rocking chair by her crib.

When we were not at the hospital my husband and I lived pretty normally, like we had no baby at all. My husband was laid off at the time, and I was on maternity leave, so there we were baby less parents. Oh yeah and I kept pumping.

Another way a new mom bonds with her baby is through breastfeeding. My baby wad being fed breast milk with added formula for extra calories to help her gain weight via a tube through her nose. So that was out of the question. Everything that you read encourages what they call "kangaroo care" or "skin to skin" holding of your baby but whenever we tried that there seemed to be a problem. The nurses would ONLY let me hold her during feeding times and she had horrible reflux. This being said it took a long time to get her pj's on and off with all the monitors she had and they did not want her to be moved around after her feeding or she would spit it up. So the closest I ever really got was being able to unswaddle her and hold her pjs to skin, still for 20 minutes or less, once every three hours.

The baby I was looking at was not my own. She belonged to someone else. Some one else was meeting all of her needs and I was useless to her. Just another face, just another visitor.

Did that really happen, did I have a baby?

The labor itself went so fast. It was relatively comfortable compared to what I expected. I progressed from 4-10 cm in 10 minutes after I got an epidural, then I was rushed to the operating room. Although the plan had been a vaginal birth from the beginning and my OB was onboard we agreed that I would have the baby in the OR so they could pass her through this this little window, which looks exactly like a McDonalds drive thru, I swear, I'll post a pic, directly into the NICU when she was born.

After just a couple of minutes of pushing the baby came. "The little gray alien," as my husband calls her. She was very cyanotic, blue, when she was born. She cried and breathed shortly thereafter. The doctor held her up for a split second and that was it. My husband was escorted to the NICU to be with the baby while I sat in an OR finishing giving birth. It was so quiet, so lonely, no one would say anything about how she was doing even though they could see through the window. Her crying had stopped, I knew that much and I heard a bunch of people yelling, then someone shut the window.

I was wheeled back into my L&D room, still alone, and the nurse handed me the tv remote and my call button and left. I sat there for a split second, trying to figure out what the hell just happend. Watch tv, are you kidding me? I have no idea if my baby is alive or dead, I know she was fighting. I called the nurse right back when I realized that our families and a couple close friends were in the waiting room and asked for them to be brought in. No one had even bothered to tell them I had the baby yet. We called them to come to the hospital when my water broke but that was less than an hour ago so they were not expecting me to be all done and settled back in my room.

The NICU ARNP on call that night came to talk to me after not to long and told me about what was going on with the baby. My husband was still by her side and although she was requiring some help breathing, she looked pretty good.

I was able to see her after about and hour. Once my legs worked well enough to get up and use the restroom. They wheeled me over to the NICU and there she was. Perfect and beautiful, covered in monitors, I could hardly see her past her snorkel (CPAP) breathing machine, but I was able to touch her hands. All I remember feeling is guilt. I felt so guilty that she was supposed to still be safely in my belly growing and developing for another almost two months, but instead she was here, not able to breathe on her own, struggling to keep herself alive. That was supposed to be my job, to cook her in my belly until she was safely ready to be born. I cried. I had failed her.

My new job as a full time incubator

At 27 weeks with all of the complications I was officially demoted to human incubation status, or as some people call it, bedrest. My new full time job was to lay on the couch or in bed on my left side, drink 2 gallons of water per day, take pills every four hours, shower every two days, two doctors appointments per week, and keep the baby in my belly. For those who know me, I am not a stationary person, not at all. Before I got pregnant I worked two jobs, one just for fun and extra spending money, went to school working on my masters degree, and trained for and ran half marathons. So bedrest was close enough to a death sentence for me as a firing squad.

This bedrest was of course only at home when I wasn't in active labor. I was hospitalized 4 times during my bedrest, usually staying for between 3 days and a week getting hard core drugs pumped through me to stop active labor. My body was like a ticking time bomb, trying as hard as possible to evict my daughter.

Every week they told me, I was doing a great job, just try to make it another week. Yeah like I can control that.

At 33 weeks I was more than 4cm dilated and went into the hospital on mothers day with severe back pain. The doctor who examined me said the bag of water was hanging out, this was it, my baby would be born today.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When life gives you.... whatever the f it wants, my background story

Last year I got pregnant. That is where my journey here begins... well to be fair it began when I got pregnant before over and over again but I couldn't seem to carry fast the first couple weeks, but I'm sure I'll reflect back to that someday. Anyways, my pregnancy was seemingly doomed from the beginning.  So  after a year of trying, I though for sure I was pregnant but after spending a small fortune on pregnancy tests I was frustrated by the fact that I was like 3 weeks late now but not pregnant so I went to the doctor. She took a urine sample and shocker, it came back negative. I tried to protest the urine test there because after I asked if it was more accurate than the home ones she told me no. But I reluctantly peed on yet another stick. She did take blood to check too and that came back positive. I didn't tell anyone but my husband for many weeks and I tried really hard to emotionally separate myself from the idea that this positive would turn into an actual baby. I had been disappointed before so from the beginning my armor was up. From the first day, rather than celebrate, I began to lay down the bricks building a wall between me and my future daughter.

 Although the "morning" sickness reminded me constantly that I was pregnant, I still told myself that it wasn't going to last. By the way what idiot named it morning sickness. I was so sick, all day, all night, at work, at home, I could hardly peel myself of the couch for nearly 12 weeks. It didn't make it any better that at my first midwives appointment at about 10 weeks they couldn't hear the heart on doppler. She didn't look any further and said it was ok and normal but I was pissed. I was convinced that I was being sent home to incubate a dead baby for 2 more weeks until my first ultrasound. By this time most of our family and friends knew we were pregnant. They kept asking me if I was excited and I would try to smile and say yes but they could see right through it. More bricks...

My 12 week ultrasound was amazing. To my surprise there was a baby there. It even looked like a baby, and I got to watch her dance roll and move on the screen. It was beautiful, she was beautiful, she was there, a real baby with a heartbeat! By that point my morning sickness was starting to let up and I was settling into this whole pregnancy thing and though that things were going pretty good.

I was not showing at 20 weeks. My midwife constantly reassured me that my fundus was in the right spot and the baby was still growing well. I just looked/felt fat. None of my clothes fit. Not the pre-pregnancy stuff or the maternity stuff. At my 18 week US we found out the gender and could not be more thrilled. Could it be? Was I finally starting to take down my wall?

I was having a lot of contractions the following week and went into the midwife to be seen. She assured me things looked good and the monitor did not show anything to worry about but she did a cervical exam just to be safe and found that my cervix wasn't right. I was only 20 weeks, this shouldn't happen until 35-40 weeks. She sent me to a specialist for a special kind of ultrasound to measure the length of my cervix. They could not get me in for a couple days so I waited. I was sure something was wrong. On the day of the appointment my husband had to work so I went by myself. I sat in the seat as the tech put a giant plastic condom on a freaky looking anal probe and informed me that this ultrasound is going to be done from the inside. She begins the exam talking me through it, things are looking good, she's making conversation, takes a couple of measurements, then says, that can't be right, re takes measurements, then doesn't say another word for the rest of the exam. She leaves me for what feels like eternity while I sit there and prepare for the worst.

The doctor came in with news and two new diagnoses incompetent cervix, and polyhydramnios. The first means that my cervix is not holding up to the demands of pregnancy and it is critically "thinning." The way mine measured at that point the doctor told me that I would not make it to my due date. The new goal for me would be 35 weeks. I was destined for medications, bedrest, weekly ultrasounds, and possible fetal loss. The other diagnosis meant that I had more amniotic fluid than was normal. Babies drink the amniotic fluid for nutrients and then they excrete into it to make more so your fluid leves should remain fairly constant. They had no reason that they could see as to why I had so much. They gave me statistics about what could cause this, since I already aced my glucose test that ruled out the most likely culprit. That left idiopathic (we have know idea why) or serious genetic or structural disease not previosly seen on US (about 10% chance). But the other problem was that all of this excess fluid was filling up my uterus putting even more pressure on my fragile cervix. So I went home with a book full of pamphlets about these new changes and I was ordered to take it easy for now. All I heard was high risk for fetal loss and 1 in 10 chance of severe genetic disease. I couldn't rush fast enough to begin building that wall again.

I continued to go for weekly ultrasounds and my cervix got worse and worse. Then at one appointment she did a cervical check. I was dilated 1cm at 27 weeks. She wanted me to go to the birth center for some medicine. Meanwhile she hooked me to the monitor just to see what was going on. I was having contractions every 3 minutes. This could be it, I was in labor.