Warning--this is super long and took me forever to write! There are probably several errors as I've been writing this over several days (weeks even) and I'm sleep deprived and distracted, but it will have to work for now. I've got to get this out!
This update is long overdue. It's been a busy time to say the least! Our beautiful baby girl is here! In fact, she arrived the evening of my last post (2/15)--it's very funny to read that now! Our birth story is long and emotional and I'm going to do my best to sum it all up, but before I get to that, would you like to see a picture of our sweet Gracie?
|She's pretty adorable.|
So on the evening of February 15th, I finished my blogging and was working on other projects on my laptop. My mom came to spend the night at the hospital so Corey could have a night of rest at home and we were planning to work on getting my taxes done and other projects. Corey came by to see me on his way home from work, and then my Dad stopped by to see us on his way home. My best friend Meredith was on her way to come visit. At about 7, Corey was just about to head home when Dr. O came by again unexpectedly. She said that she had talked to the perinatologist that I had seen the week before and he was concerned about my platelet count being so low. She said that he recommended delivering as soon as possible to avoid possible complications. She said that they would do an urgent check of my platelet count, but that she thought we would be delivering that night. I immediately started shaking. I was so worried.
I couldn't believe it. Earlier that same day she had said that I would probably be delivering at 37 weeks and now we were going to deliver that night (at 35 weeks, 1 day)?
The platelet count came back 30 higher than they had been earlier that day, but the train was already moving, and when I asked if there was anyway we could wait until the next morning, I was quickly redirected.
People were soon buzzing around me like bees. I was getting asked questions by the nurses like "what are you allergic to?" and "have you been shaved?" (sorry, TMI, I know), signing papers that pretty much said they could kill me and that would be okay and being talked to by the anesthesiologist all at the same time.
My best friend Meredith showed up while the doctor was in the room telling me that I was going to deliver that night. When she came in the room after that set in, we talked and she told me with tears in her eyes that in the way over to the hospital, she noticed that the sky was pink and she thought it was for Gracie (my sister Meredith said the exact same thing back in October on the morning we found out we were having a girl). She was a very calming presence to have around and I'm glad she was there. My mom called my sister and she and my brother in law came over and were there for a few minutes before I went back.
Corey brought her over to me, and the male anaesthesiology nurse took our first family photos. I couldn't get over how beautiful she was or how much she looked like her Daddy. Corey went with her and Dr. O instructed them to take the baby down the hall past my family (this is apparently not standard protocol). I'm grateful for that.
After she was born and Corey left with her, there was a period of loneliness and then I was really freaking scared. They put me back together, which seemed to take forever, all the while chatting away. Dr. O went on and on about how she couldn't believe I have a baby and have been married for 5 years (she has been my gynecologist for years). I couldn't focus on anything other than Grace. I wanted to see her. I wanted to hold her as soon as possible. Was she still okay? Had my parents seen her yet?
Eventually, my nurse took pity on me and asked her supervisor if they could roll me down the hallway to NICU and have me see the baby. They rolled me on down. It was amazing--even though I was in a drugged haze, that is one of my most vivid memories ever. I could barely see her under her heating lamp, so I just rubbed her foot.
The NICU nurse looked at me holding onto her foot and I must have looked pretty pitiful, because she took Grace out of the bassinet and laid her next to me in my bed. I held onto her, all bundled up, and felt overwhelmed with emotion.
It was a long road to get there, but we finally had our baby. She was in the NICU, but she seemed remarkably healthy. And she was teeny, but absolutely beautiful. They rolled me back to my room, and I cried the whole way. I hadn't cried the whole time I was in the operating room. Sometimes experiences are just too overwhelming for me to cry during, you know?
I laid awake for hours after my visit to the NICU. My mind was racing, and I don't think the meds helped much. I finally requested Benadryl at about 4 and slept for an hour and a half. I continued to ask my poor nurse (Ms. Margaret, the same nurse who had gone with me to my C-Section and who requested my trip to the NICU) about Gracie everytime she visited.
|Signing my life away|
|Corey getting ready for the c-section|
|That is definitely fear in my eyes.|
Let me just say, there is a lot about my birth experience that I'm not thrilled with. It's not as if I had my heart set on a birth plan or anything like that. I had already resigned myself to the fact that I was having a C-section since she was frank breech. I wasn't expecting the birth experience to be a dream-come-true, pleasurable experience. I just wish that I had been more assertive about asking to delay until the next morning. I also wish that I had insisted on the opinion of another perinatologist. I wish I had had more than a moment to say goodbye to my pregnant body. I wish that I hadn't felt like I was on a death march on my way to the operating room.
But, that didn't happen and we are both okay. That is what matters. A lot of my inability to ask those questions or be insistent on those things was motivated by fear of the unknown. My doctor had tried to explain to me and my family why it was important for us to go ahead and deliver and the explanation involved the placenta detaching and worries about mortality. So although I was so worried about her being delivered at 35 weeks, 1 day, the alternative was too scary to think about.
As I already mentioned, the walk to the operating room felt like a death march. I was so worried about what was going to happen. Would my baby cry when she was born? Would the anesthesia work? (I've had some issues with anesthesia in the past) Would Gracie have to go to the NICU? Would we get to leave the hospital with her or would we be coming to visit her there for weeks? The uncertainty was overwhelming.
I sat up on the table and Dr. O held me forward while the anesthesiologist did the injection in my back (which seemed to take Forever). I was shaking and told her "I don't feel ready for this." She said "Nobody ever is."
Corey finally got to come back and join me after what seemed like an hour, and even though I felt super cold and shaky, he made me feel so much better. He held my hand. I felt completely numb from the chest down.
The crew of nurses and doctors were wonderful and reassuring as well. There was a wonderful male anaesthesiology nurse who stayed by my head the whole time, and a lot of the time leading up to Corey's arrival, and he was so calming and helped make sure I was okay and comfortable. Maybe I'm crazy, but I have never done any research on any of the details of what happens on the other side of that blue sheet during a c-section. I just think there are some things I don't need to know. But the whole group of people working on me down there were great about not letting on if they were taking out any of my organs and/or seeing my guts.
It wasn't long before Dr. O said "we're almost there." Then suddenly, at 8:10 PM, she said "Oh, Elizabeth, here she is! She looks just like your husband!" She also said "Oh, she's a fighter"--apparently my daughter started grabbing their instruments on her way out of the womb. That's my girl! The nurses and doctors said, "Dad, look, look!" He looked, and he swears to me that he didn't notice any of the gross stuff, because all he saw was his daughter. He immediately said "Oh, Lizzie, she is so pretty! She's so pretty! It's a girl! She's so pretty!" (He knows me well. I'm going to be honest. Up until the day she was born I was certain that we were going to end up with a surprise boy since I wanted a girl so bad. It was also reassuring to know that she is pretty).
A second later, I heard the most beautiful sound I have ever heard--a loud screech! Our baby girl's lungs were working! Then, another second later, they held Grace's face over the blue sheet and my world changed instantly. She was beautiful--her face was all scrunched up and wrinkly, and she was sticking her tongue out and screaming at the top of her lungs, but she was pink and wiggly and had lots of hair and just absolutely perfect. There are no words to capture the emotion in that moment.
They whisked her over to the side and weighed her--4 pounds and 11 ounces--we didn't quite get to 5 pounds, but I felt like it was respectable for 5 weeks early and a pre-eclampsia pregnancy. She was 17 1/4 inches long. She scored 8 and 9 on the APGAR. They had to use a little bit of oxygen at that point and said they were going to take her to NICU. I was surprised to find that I was relieved that they were taking her there. Once I met her, I couldn't stand the idea of her not being monitored constantly to make sure she was okay, so NICU sounded good to me in that moment.
|Gracie crying while she gets weighed.|
|Our first family photo!|
|Our beautiful girl|
|Holding onto her Daddy's finger.|
Eventually, they rolled me back down the hall to my room, past my mom and dad, Meredith and Cam, and my friends Meredith and Lindsey. The nurses were doing lots of wrap up paperwork so they closed the door so I stayed in the room by myself with them. All I wanted was to see my family and ask them how Grace was doing and what they thought, but the nurses told me that I needed to spend a few minutes alone first. I worried that meant something was wrong.
Finally, I insisted that they bring someone in my family back there--I told them that I knew my parents would be worried that they couldn't see me. The nurses were really nice and let me have them come in, and from then on I had people come back two at a time. My parents came back and talked about seeing her and how beautiful she is. They had gone back to NICU to see her, and let me know that she was doing well. They also mentioned that because it is flu season they only allow parents and grandparents back to see babies in NICU. My sister and Cam came back and talked with me after that. Lindsey and Meredith came back and talked with me as well. I found out later that Cam and Lindsey missed seeing her when they rolled her down the hall.
Eventually, Corey came back and showed me pictures of her. She was so gorgeous. The whole time, in between visitors, I was asking the nurses if they could check on how Grace was doing. Poor Corey felt obligated to spend time with me and her. My instructions were for him to spend as much time as possible with her.
|My parents visiting Grace in the NICU|
|Rubbing her foot|
|Not the best picture, but as you can see, lots of emotion going on here!|
|This is a sweet moment-Corey, my dad and Cam toasting Gracie's arrival.|
The next morning, one of my many regular nurses came in and started talking to me about breast feeding. She got a breast pump and we got started. I already was able to pump a little bit which I thought was promising. Then Corey got to take me down to the NICU in a wheelchair and I got to see her again. She was so amazingly beautiful and was doing really well.
From the beginning, they said that her lungs were doing so great they hadn't had to use any support since in the operating room. They still had her in the warmer but said soon they would see if she could mantain body temperature on her own. The main other factor was to see how she could feed. They had her on an IV of sugar water. I tried to feed her immediately, and she seemed to latch. We worked with the fabulous lactation consultants the whole time we were in the hospital and they were truly a big help. The majority of the NICU nurses were amazing.
|This picture was taken when she was one day old. I look so tired and so drugged.|
|Gracie in the NICU|
|Gracie and I bonding and healing.|
Minor digression--we started a pattern of going to the NICU every three hours to feed Grace. Breastfeeding has been a continued issue and we are still supplementing a bit with formula, which we started doing two days after she was born. We "triple feed" which means we start with breastfeeding, then feed her a bottle full of expressed milk, and then feed her formula to supplement whatever else she needs. I think we are on the road to it getting better, but it has been a process--in part because of her being premature and not having fully developed jaw muscles (it makes it harder for her to feed) and possibly because of nipple confusion. She also may have been hindered a little bit by having an attached frenulum (i.e.--tongue tied) which we just got clipped this past Friday.
Back to the days right after her birh--they flew by in a blur of feedings in the middle of the night and throughout the day. I was discharged from the hospital on Sunday, February 19th--it was torture for us to think about leaving the hospital without her, but I will admit to feeling a little bit of cabin fever after 10 days in the hospital, 6 of which were on bedrest. Gracie was doing so well, and the nurses and doctors in NICU said that it seemed like she would be discharged in the next couple of days. She had done great with being taken off the warmer and was eating like a champ after an inital pretty steep weight loss in those first couple of days. She had been taken off of the IV during the night on Saturday.
Our hospital NICU has an amazing "rooming in" program from NICU parents. It is a program where as parents, you can stay in the hospital for free in a special room they have set up next to the NICU (it looks like a hotel room). They allow parents to stay in that room for up to three days so that the baby can stay in the room with them and be near the NICU. That way, if any questions or worries come up during the night, the parents can call the NICU staff. They can also come in a couple of times during the night to check vital signs and get the baby's weight. We were absolutely thrilled when they encouraged us to stay that night and told us we might be able to bring her home on Monday or Tuesday. I prayed and prayed that would happen.
So that Sunday, after I had been discharged, I went out for a couple of hours with my family. We went back to our house, I put together a bag for us to take back to the hospital, we went out to a mexican restaurant and had a bite to eat. It felt amazing to do "normal" things for a little bit. Then Corey and I went back to the hospital and went to the NICU and brought her back to our "hotel room". My sister and Cam, who hadn't gotten to hold her yet, came to visit and spent some time getting to know their neice. It was really magical!
|Meredith and Cam holding Grace|
|Gracie and me sleeping on our "rooming in" night|
|Gracie in her going home outfit|
The nurse practioner had left the hospital and we were left waiting for hours for her to sign off on the paperwork to go home. We had a nurse we had never dealt with before who wore clown-ish makeup. She was very little help and had zero suggestions for a way to speed things up. At a certain point, I just broke down. I was so tired and all I wanted was to bring my baby home. I couldn't believe that we had gotten this close and were still having to wait.
It was honestly a combination of those wonderful postpartum hormones, sleep deprivation and the emotional upheaval of all that we had gone through in those weeks. I went into the NICU unit and asked what was taking so long (and got reprimanded for taking my daughter into the unit in my arms instead of her bassinet. Really? So. Stupid. Especially since we had matching bracelets). Then I went back to our room and just cried and cried about the injustice of it all and picked a fight with Corey. Because that's how I roll (just kidding). I think it's pretty amazing that I made it that far without having that kind of breakdown, but apparently 11 days and 6 hours is my limit and after that my patience expires and I lose it.
Anyway, the nurse practioner magically appeared within minutes and after a few minutes of minor details and paperwork said "Mom, is everything okay?" I wanted to say "No, you left the hospital for hours and we've been waiting to go home and now we have to go home in rush hour traffic and if we get into an accident I'm going to sue you" (very rational, I know), but instead I said "Oh yeah, I'm fine, just a little emotional." That kind of sums it up, I guess.
Anyway, we finally got to leave and bring our baby home. It was a magical feeling.
My mom and sister came to help take pictures and video of the occasion. Corey drove like an old man and I sat in the back with my beautiful baby girl in the seat and gazed at her.
It's amazing all of the firsts--her first time riding in a car--her first time outside! Her first time in the home! Meeting her kitty sister and brother! It's a really beautiful thing to create a tiny person and see their life begin.
|Getting in the car to go home!|
|Holding Grace's hand.|
|Bringing her in the house!|
|Our little family at our little home.|
|Official Daddy's Girl|
I'm going to do my best to keep updating this blog along the way. We've also started a family blog to share pictures and videos. We just posted some of our newborn shots that were taken by a great photographer Rachel Parkhurst last week, but I will leave you with just a few of my favorites.
Grace was in all her steps,
heaven in her eye,
in every gesture dignity and love.
heaven in her eye,
in every gesture dignity and love.
|Our happy family|
Elizabeth, aka Grace's Mommy