The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Well, it's time for a little more soul-searching. Part II in the drama of the birth of [Kid 3]. When last we left our heroine, she had just been admitted into the high risk hospital on Christmas Eve. Her own life, and that of her infant daughter's at stake, consumed by fear and ignorance and guilt, she began the journey of a lifetime. Come along now, as we continue with this week's installment of Flashback Friday!

In the past, when I'd heard of a pregnant woman being put on bedrest, there was some small part of me that thought "how sad"...and another part of me that said "I wish". Kind of like foolishly wishing for a month-long bout of anorexia that would clear up after you've lost the weight. I'd imagine these women lying in a big, comfy bed, laden with pillows. Magazines, a phone and the remote control at the ready. A cool drink sitting on the bedside table and someone to keep everything in her life running while she took a little rest.

I never truly believed it was like that, but my imagination wanted it to be that way. Of course, in my imagination life and death were never hanging in the balance, either. Boy, does that ever jack up the relaxing part. Also, when they say 'bedrest', they mean you don't get up. At all.

Completely unlike the bedrest I'd dreamed up, I was in a hospital bed. (Which are not built for comfort.) I was poked and prodded every hour or two by nurses and residents and occasionally even my actual neonatal specialist himself. There was no puffy comforter and piles of pillows. My excitement every day was the ten minute shower I was allowed to take each morning, and the infrequent bathroom breaks during the day. The rest of the time, I was to lie on my side to keep my blood pressure down and to keep the stress to the baby minimized. Let me tell you, laying in one position for hours on hours gets pretty uncomfortable in pretty short order. But this was the life I would have until the baby came. And the baby would come when I could no longer hold on.

Christmas came and went. Baron wrapped the few final gifts and handled putting things out from Santa for the girls. Later, they brought gifts to me in my hospital bed, and shared with me their excitement for various gifts they'd received that year. Waking up on Christmas morning, alone, in a hospital bed, knowing that your family is elsewhere and wanting DESPERATELY to be with them, is something I don't wish on any of you.

It was only one of the first emotionally wrenching things I'd go through in this experience. But it was a bad one. One I'd certainly have liked to have avoided. Sadly, though, it was just the beginning.

For the next several days, my blood pressure continued to climb. I was on a mag sulfate drip and taking five blood pressure pills each day as the docs tried to keep me from having a stroke. Each morning, I was awakened by a nurse (I called her the vampire, because she'd come before daylight to take my blood) making feeble attempts to find a vein. Now, on a good day, I have bad veins. (By that I mean hard to find, harder to hit...as they roll...) But one of the side effects of pre-eclampsia is that you swell. Which, of course, makes finding veins even tougher.

Both of my arms and hands were covered with huge black and purple bruises within days of my admission. The result of having blood drawn to monitor, among other things, my platelet count.

The protein level in my urine continued to be monitored and, though slowly, it continued to elevate. Much to my doctor's dismay. However, the first day, I received a course of steroids. Steroids intended to speed the respiratory development of my unborn child. Knowing absolutely nothing about this stuff, I wasn't sure the protocol. I'd assumed they'd give me steroids every day until I had to deliver. Bulking the baby up as much as possible. Giving her a fighting chance.

That's not the way it works, though. The baby could only be rushed so much. Steroids can only be administered in weekly courses. At least that's the way it was nearly seven years ago. I would not be surprised in the least to learn that things had changed in that regard. This is an area of medical science that advances in hypersonic bounds.

The millenium New Year was fast approaching and while I still wasn't hurting, I was well over thinking bedrest sounded relaxing. Once upon a time, I'd fantasized about spending the millenium New Year in the huge crowds in Times Square. The chances of that had been slim before I took this turn, but now, it looked certain that I'd be ringing in 2000 sideways from a hospital bed.

[Kid 1] was sounding "croupy" on the phone and the next time I saw her, it sounded more like a wheeze. I told Baron to take her to the pediatrician, because something definitely was not right. It was then that she first developed asthma. I have been told it can be brought on by stress. Certainly, [Kid 1] and [Kid 2] were dealing with their own emotions during this time. Afraid for their baby sister, more afraid for me. I hate that it manifested itself this way. Even moreso, that [Kid 1], to this day, still deals with it.

It was during this time that (likely because of boredom, loneliness, fear and the seemingly inexhaustible supply of meds) I began to fantasize about Gordon Elliott showing up at my house. Is anyone else out there familiar with a show called "Door Knock Dinners"? Watching several episodes while in the hospital had me hooked. In fact, this is the show that made me a fan of the Food Network.

But I digress.

Baron helped ease the pain of celebrating the New Year in a hospital room, by bringing a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling juice and my girls (equipped with funny hats and noisemakers) to the hospital to ring in the New Year with me. I hadn't asked him to do it. I never even imagined it, but it was the most wonderful gift he could have given me. And I deeply appreciate it to this day. The nurses on the floor let them all stay until after midnight (against hospital rules).

As it was, because Baron had to work every day, it was difficult for him to have time to stop in and see me every day, in addition to taking care of our older girls, and keep the house running. So, to have that time with my family was a most precious thing for me.

In any event, as the days wore on, my platelet count continued to drop, my kidney function continued to worsen, and my blood pressure, even with all the meds and bedrest, was a battle.

My baby wasn't due until March 31st, but the doctors were warning me that she wouldn't make it that long. That my platelet count was getting entirely too low for comfort and that it wouldn't be much longer. The second course of steroids was administered at the 27 week point.

It became a challenge, a struggle to make it to 28 weeks. Twenty eight weeks was a critical point. The odds of having a "normal" healthy baby jumped to 86%. At 32 weeks, it would be 94%. So every day, every week, that I could add to the "cooking time", improved my baby's chances.

So, she cooked. My very little one. I would talk to her and beg her and promise her the moon before she was ever born. I cried thinking of not having her. Tried to imagine what she'd look like and what medical problems she might have. I felt as though this situation must be something I had done and while the doctors reassured me, repeatedly, I still wrapped myself in the guilt.

On January 5th, after the seventh ultrasound of the pregnancy, we finally learned we were having another daughter. In all the previous ones she'd turned her bottom away from us, or straddled the umbilical cord, or something...ANYthing...to keep us from sexing her. A minx from the get-go, that one. That day, though, after two courses of steroids, the technician told me the baby was looking good. That she was developing well. I asked about size and was told that she looked to be about two pounds.

It seemed inconceivable and I tried to imagine what a two pound baby would look like. My previous two had been 6 lbs. 1/2 oz. and 9 lbs. even, respectively. But when my doctor came for a visit that afternoon, and notified me that my platelet count had dropped to a level that was critical, it became apparent that this baby would be far smaller than her sisters had been. My doctor sat on the edge of my bed and told me that if the platelet level dropped again, I would be delivered immediately. That the concern was that, without adequate platelets, I would bleed out during delivery. It was a risk they were not willing to fool around with. However, as soon as the baby was delivered, I would start getting better. My liver and kidneys would, fairly quickly, return to their normal state, my blood pressure would start decreasing on it's own, my platelets would jump back up, and I'd start shrinking...at least where the swelling was concerned.

He also told me, based on my history over the previous couple weeks, that he expected the platelets to drop to the critical point the next day. He held my hand and told me not to worry. He told me that because of the size of the baby, she would be delivered by c-section. Particularly frightening to me because I'd never really had any type of procedure where I'd been cut into like that. He told me not to expect to hear my baby cry when she was born. That one was difficult to take. He pointed out that, unlike my previous deliveries where hearing the screaming baby is the noise of success, this baby would be unable to breathe on her own and would be taken immediately to a respirator to help her breathe. That she would be assessed and then taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in the children's hospital across the pedway.

The NICU department head also came to see me and reassure me that they had the very best team and that everything would be done to improve my child's survival rate.

January 6th marked 28 weeks and so, it was with some measure of relief that I was notified at 9AM that my platelet count had dropped to the point where I needed to be delivered immediately. I called Baron and told him it would be in an hour or so. I called my mother, too. Very shortly, thereafter, I was wheeled from the high-risk area to the delivery rooms.

Thoughts of all the things that could go wrong were jockeying for first position in my brain, crowding out anything remotely like hope. As if I weren't scared enough, the woman who delivered immediately before me (and who was in similar shape with the same condition) had died on the delivery table. Her family was visibly upset as their doctor broke the news to them. All, unfortunately, within my sight and earshot.

Baron, my mother and my sister arrived pretty timely and the anesthesiologist came by to prep me on what she would be doing very shortly. She and I had an interesting chat. I may have mentioned before that I'm a big chicken when it comes to seeing blood. But if you've skipped over that, let me just point out that I'll pass out. Yep. One of those. So, when the anesthesiologist advised me that she'd be giving me an epidural and some other meds to keep me from feeling the pain of having an, albeit tiny, child surgically removed from my womb, I was on board with the plan. All the way up to the point where she insisted I would be awake through the surgery.

Whoa...oah...oah...there!! Watching someone cut open my abdomen and pull things out of it was DEFINITELY not something I felt I could do. Consequently, I begged...and I mean that literally...her to put me to sleep. Bad enough that I'd wake with a stitched up place, but there'd be no memory of it haunting me for the rest of my life. She kept refusing, insisting it would be okay. I kept escalating, threatening her with freaking out in the delivery room.

Until she pulled the trump card on me. "Listen, I hate to put it this way, but I can't put you to sleep for this surgery, because, honestly, I don't know if I can wake you back up if I do."

Hmmm, well, there's that, I guess. Talk about shutting me right the fuck up, too. Much as I wanted to sleep through it, the part about waking up again was definitely involved in my plan.

For the first time, Baron told me he simply didn't think he could be present in the delivery room. He'd been there with me the first two times, but this one was a little different. I completely understood. Frankly, had it not been crucial that I be there, I'd have eagerly bowed out myself. My mom didn't know if she could do it, either. And, so, in the end, my sister, not wanting me to be alone in there, said she would go with me.I wouldn't have blamed her if she'd opted out, too. But she didn't. She sat at my left shoulder and held my hand. Talking to me through the entire thing.

The entire thing consisted of a drape being set up to block my view of my abdomen. An excellent plan if I do say so myself. As my sister tells me (and is eagerly awaiting the day to share the gory details with my daughter), they then removed my uterus from the opening they'd cut and opened it enough to get [Kid 3] out, removing the cord that had, by this point, become wrapped around her neck (another bullet she dodged). Through my haze, I remember my sister talking to me. I remember the doctors and nurses running around and talking. I remember seeing various equipment. And, yes, oh yes, I remember the sound of my very tiny daughter crying when she was born.

I'd thought, at first, that I was hallucinating. The drugs really were that good. But my sister confirmed that the noise I was hearing was, indeed, my mighty lunged girl making her presence known. At 1 lb. 15 oz. she had a long way to go, but she clearly had the attitude to get there. So comforted was I in that most reassuring sound, that I knew we'd be okay. Both of us.

While I could stop here, anyone who has gone through anything remotely like this knows that this is not where the story ends. This story is no different. So, I'll throw one more installment, Part III, at you guys next Friday, in an attempt to better wrap up the Flashback.

In the meantime, I wish all of you a most excellent weekend. More than that, I wish all of you peace and prosperity in 2007.

A most Happy New Year to you all!!

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think I have the words for this whole thing, so I'm going to just take small shots at bits and pieces.

First, let me say that I too am prone to konk out at the dight of blood, especially my own. I can't even watch it being drawn.

Even knowing how this has/had to end, reading about hearing her cry was...well, it was something, but again, no words for it.

Peace, love, and joy to you and yours. I am glad the both of you made it, you;ve made the world a far better place for Highlander directly, and me to no small measure. I'm happy when my friends are happy.

Thanks for that. And feel free to keep doing it long after I'm gone. (Not that I'm planning on going anywhere, I'm just saying.)

12/29/2006 10:10 PM  
Blogger Handsome said...

Baby,

I don't know what to say, except I'm so happy you and Super Adorable Kid came through all this as well as you have, and I have never liked, loved, respected, or admired you more than after I finished reading this.

1/02/2007 7:50 AM  

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