Monday, April 24, 2017

"The first night is the hardest"

Tomorrow marks 1 month since my HunnyBee made his arrival and those 10 long days in the NICU almost seem like a lifetime ago. However, I promised to share, especially because I want to encourage DiversAble Models out there to be fighters and to always do what you know is best.

2 hours after my boy was born and we had just been transferred to our recovery room, the nurse came in to check my vitals. I was in pretty stable condition. At 35 weeks gestation, the hospital checks things on babies they normally don't check for, thank God. In the delivery room, HunnyBee's sugar level was tested and was at 38. I didn't know how to interpret this number at the time, but I was encouraged to breastfeed him as soon as I could. I tried, but because breastfeeding is quite the mission for me (another post for another time), I wasn't very successful. Back in the recovery room, my boy's sugar had gone from 38 to 24 and I saw the nurse race to get one of the doctors. His face looked panicked, he ran to make a call (I believe he was a resident and called the attending physician). He raced into my room, picked up the baby and said he had to be rushed to the NICU. He said his sugar was way too low and this could cause seizures. Though surrounded by my family, I lost it. I started crying as I sat in the hospital bed feeling more helpless than I had in a long time. The doctor held my little one out to my face so I could kiss him and then swept him away, promising to return and explain everything.

It seemed like hours had passed by the time the doctor returned, but when he did, he explained that a normal sugar level for a newborn is above 50! He said the NICU is one of the best and that I could visit and/or call any time. By this time, visiting hours for my family had ended and the doctor said I should wait until morning before visiting my son. All I remember of that night are the feelings of shock, anxiety, and emptiness.

I was up most of the night and decided to get out of bed and into my chair to go downstairs to the NICU as soon as the nurse did her morning rounds. Everything hurt! I felt pain all over my body, especially my pelvis and my back, where the epidural had been. I had bruises and marks everywhere from the countless attempts doctors made to get an IV in me and/or draw blood. However, I also had a determination and strength in me that I can only attribute to my Lord. My husband pushed me downstairs to these 2 huge double doors. We had to ring a bell and be buzzed in. As we entered, I noticed the space was decorated and there was effort made on the staff's part to make the area look more cheerful and child-friendly...at least in the waiting room. We approached the front desk and after showing our hospital bracelets, we were guided through another door, where the atmosphere went from cute and child-friendly to the sterile and cold space I had come to expect in hospitals. My boy was in Room 2, apparently where the "moderately" sick babies go. As we approached that room, my heart raced and I had no idea what to expect...

We entered and our baby was the first one near the door in a room filled with about 18 little ones. He was in an Isolete, or what my husband soon deemed "The Box." I again broke down in tears as I spoke to my baby through the window we could open on his box. I remember feeling angry as I began to notice the tubes and IV he was attached to. As someone who is an incredibly difficult stick, I just kept imagining my fragile little boy screaming in pain without me there the previous night. Although he seemed peaceful, I was anything but. We were greeted by his nurse and I will admit, all the staff were pretty kind and understanding. I was able to hold my baby by laying him on his nursing pillow. I felt a little more at ease with his warm, soft body against me.

I was scheduled to go home the next day. It was the most confused feeling I had, wanting to roll as fast as possible out of that hospital, to rest and get back to my Little Bear, yet having an innate desire, almost need, to stay and care for my HunnyBee. I went to the NICU and stayed until my discharge papers were ready and then I cried. I remember my son's nurse that day hugging me, a genuine hug filled with compassion, and promising to take care of him. I was heartbroken leaving. I remember being in a daze and all I kept feeling was empty. I got home, and though I was actually happy to see my Little Bear, I couldn't help feeling disconnected from him. I felt disconnected from everything and everyone. As I was leaving the NICU that day with tears streaming down my cheeks, the charge nurse looked right at me and said, "The first night is the hardest." She wasn't kidding!

Since this post is already quite long, I'll end here, but will post more on my 10 day journey as soon as possible!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Behind the Scenes

The last month or so has been a whirlwind, filled with tears...joy, pain, sadness, and many emotions in between. If you've been following my Facebook posts, you've been on the journey with me, but when I started writing about my pregnancy, I really wanted to focus on the uniqueness of having a baby as a person with Diverse Abilities. This post is intended to get back to that focus, which obviously includes the emotion, but can't ignore the more practical things.

At 32 weeks and 5 days gestation, I had a regular appointment scheduled with my high risk OB/GYN. That morning I woke up not feeling well and had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for over a week. That all to familiar heavy feeling in my pelvis, the one that caused me hip pain that never went away during my first pregnancy, was back with a vengeance. I went to my appointment and she decided to do an internal pelvic exam. I was only 1 cm dilated, but the baby's head was a bit low and my doctor felt I should go to the hospital to be on the safe side. I wasn't surprised, as I am small in stature and my first boy started to outgrow my body around the same time. Although I was upset at the idea of having to go into the hospital, I did.

By the time I got there, about 25 minutes later, I started having more regular contractions and had dilated to 2-3cm. The poking and prodding began. Probably because of the limited use of my arms, my veins are very hard to get. They are small and tend to roll. I immediately requested that an anesthesiologist be called, as they often have better luck drawing blood and getting an IV in me. Like most nurses, my nurse insisted she was skilled and promised to only attempt to get the IV in if she was confident in the vein. As usual, she tried and failed, at which point, the anesthesiologist was called and met with success. I was then taken to the Labor & Delivery section of the hospital where I quickly learned that the plan was to stop any possibility of me going into labor that day. Through the IV I was given Magnesium, which is supposed to slow the contractions. It did make my eyes feel like they were out of focus, but the contractions continued. I was then told that since the IV didn't work, I would need to begin taking a pill that is usually used to manage high blood pressure, but would also slow my contractions. Since this pill needed to be taken multiple times over 48 hours, I knew I had to stay in the hospital for a few days. After the 48 hour treatment, my contractions had slowed to one every hour or so. Though still uncomfortable, it was manageable and since I wasn't dilating any more, the contractions were considered Braxton-Hicks again and I was sent home.

At 34 weeks and 5 days, I went back to my regularly scheduled OB/GYN appointment knowing I would ask her to do another internal exam because my contractions had been going on since leaving the hospital. She checked my cervix and I had dilated to 3-4cm. I told her I didn't want to go to the hospital again unless she believed I was in labor. She felt I could go in that day, but understood my desire and agreed I could go home with the promise that I would get to the hospital as soon as anything changed. My husband asked for her prediction on when I may go into active labor and she said she wouldn't be surprised if I gave birth that week. She was clearly on her doctor game!

The day I became 35 weeks pregnant, 2 days after my appointment,  I started having uncomfortable contractions around 1:30am. Now I'll admit, I'm sensitive to pain,but I was uncomfortable enough that I couldn't sleep for almost 3 hours. I was in bed trying to convince myself that what I was feeling was in my head. That I was just having more Braxton-Hicks contractions. I doubted myself because I didn't want to be doubted by others. I didn't want to have a big hospital ordeal again to just be sent home and told that I wasn't really in labor. I didn't want to force my husband out of bed and to sleep uncomfortably in the hospital for several nights for no reason. I didn't want to leave my 3 year old with his limited understanding of why mommy and daddy kept disappearing. I doubted myself, but my husband didn't doubt me!

At 4:00am that morning, I told my husband my doubts and fears and he told me he trusted me. He said I'm so often right about my body that he believed I was in labor if I did. We called my father-in-law to watch #LittleBear and took an Uber to the hospital. We arrived around 5:30am, after getting ready and waiting for my father-in-law to arrive. When examined, I was 4-5 cm dilated and considered to be in active labor. The next 12 hours are a blur of needle sticks, painful contractions, doctors, nurses, and pushes. I do remember a major difference between #HunnyBee's delivery process vs. #LittleBear. The difference was that the hospital staff, doctors and nurses, were much more willing to listen to me and trust my judgement. Maybe they looked through my record and realized things would have been much easier the first time around had they listened, or maybe they were just so nervous that they decided to trust me because I know my body. Either way, I said I need my water broken, and they listened. I said no central line through my neck because I could push and wouldn't need a c-section and they listened. I said I'm super sensitive to the epidural meds and they monitored me closely. In fact, unlike the first time, they actually had 2 nurses in the room with me at all times. I have to add here that my L&D nurses were quite amazing!

The takeaway is that you need to know your body, trust yourself, and don't be afraid to advocate!! This holds true for everyone, but is especially important for people with Diverse Abilities. I went into the hospital this time with an authority over my body and my baby that I didn't have the first time around. Often times, doctors try to make it seem like you have to accept the treatment they offer, but you don't! As long as you are capable, you have the right to refuse any treatment. Don't be bullied!!

There's obviously more to follow the story, but this is all for today. My next post will pick up with my experience as a DiversAble mother with a baby in the NICU.