Sunday, February 15, 2015

Everything Changes


I have officially been a mom for one week. That looks as insane written as it feels to think/say/believe.

Obviously we knew we were going to be parents and I had 7 months to prepare myself for being a mom but that isn't the same thing as BEING a mom. Especially when you're supposed to have 2 more months to get use to the idea. And more time to register for the baby classes. And to finish reading the book. And to clear out the spare bedroom. And to build the crib.

I was lucky in that I had about 6.5 months of a relatively uneventful pregnancy. Some back pain, some strange pins and needles feelings in my arm... but nothing that stayed too long. And then the swelling came. It started the middle of January and I went to my trusty pregnancy website/app and read causes, cures, and worst case scenarios. The causes, like most everything else that's happened to my body since August, was attributed to pregnancy/hormones/immune system fluctuations with a simple cure of time or waiting for the kid to pop out (which I guess it also time). It was the worst case scenario that caught my attention - "life threatening", "permanent damage", etc. I messaged my doctor's office to let them know what was going on and they said if my symptoms continued to let them know. Well I was letting them know, and I said I'd already had my symptoms for a week so how much longer was I supposed to wait? I had a regular appointment about a week after I called so I decided to wait until then  to say anything else and hope for the best in the mean time.

The swelling in my hands, and a bit in my face, got worse but it was nothing compared to the swelling in my legs. In three weeks, I had gained over 15 pounds and most of it was not baby bump. I went to my appointment the first week in February asking for answers, concerned about the Worst Case Scenario, the swelling, the what-the-heck-is-happening-to-my-body feeling and was told that there was no real concern, to buy some compression tights and come back in 2 weeks. I bought the stupid $70 tights and saw no difference in the amount of edema in my legs. I decided to take the weekend off the stupid tights as they hurt to put on, to wear, and to remove.

Then I woke up last Saturday with a face so swollen I could barely open  my eyes. It took almost 3 hours for the swelling to go down a enough for me to feel mildly normal. I figured it was just part of the fun. I pulled myself together and went to yoga telling myself the discomfort would be eased and this too shall pass. I spent the afternoon feeling a bit off but just sucking it up and helping get stuff done around the house. We went to Home Depot and that's when the downhill started. I'd had a few episodes previously of flashing spots in my eyeballs but this round was so intense I couldn't read the shelf signs and walked myself out to the car and waited for Chris. Back at home I sat on the couch with what was the most INTENSE headache I'd had in a while. Chris, busy searching WebMD said the number of symptoms I was developing for Worst Case Scenario were increasing and we should go t o CVS to measure my blood pressure.

So we went, and it was HIGH - like crazy high - and I used my fancy medical group app to see what it was when I was at the doctors on Tuesday and it was high then but had gone up about 20 points from Tuesday to now. And what was this? It was up about 20 points on Tuesday from what it had been at every doctor's appointment since August. WTH?! Trying to figure out what to do, we went to grab something to eat and I just couldn't think about food, but I thought about my friend B who delivered her little man about a month early after going in for something unsuspecting and I say aloud "how crazy would that be?" And we go back to the house and I can't get over the nagging feeling that Chris is right and we need to go in and he's trying to make me feel better saying we will go back to CVS to test again in the am and I turn to FB - silly perhaps, but I have high school friends who are doctors and I harass one and I share numbers and symptoms and pictures and she says GO NOW.

We had been to the triage at the Women's Hospital once before back in October so that made it familiar yet just as scary. We quickly got seen by a nurse and the ball started rolling. At this point I'd say my concept of time and sequence got a bit off but I will try my best. We probably checked in around 8pm. The nurse measured my BP again and made a list of my symptoms. My blood pressure had gone up almost another 30 points (!) and now there was no question, it was Worse Case Scenario. WCS would be something called preeclampsia: caused by pregnancy and cured by delivery. If the diagnosis was immediate, the solution was the very next breath and the nurse and the on-call doctor from my OBGYN said they were going to "take the baby". I would need an emergency C-section. We'd be parents within the hour. My life was at risk. The baby had to come out. Chris' response was something along the lines of "but we didn't take the lamaze classes yet" and mine was "the baby isn't done cooking". I think they call this part shock.

They immediately started prepping me for surgery and put me on anti-seizure medicine (among others) as my blood pressure was shooting through the roof and they were worried what could happen before we were able to get into an operating room. Chris called our families and they gave him a full body suit to wear in the operating room. I called Jhanna and tried not to totally lose it. I thought of all my friends who had been through scary baby delivery situations and tried to channel their strength. We took all the advice, wisdom, and soothing that my nurses would offer up. It was too early. The baby wasn't ready. We didn't even have a name picked out! (The nurses were great and had something to say for every new thing we freaked out about).

I had heard that walking into the delivery room for a c-section is super scary - I don't think being wheeled in made it any better. My first thought was "what creepy back area of the hospital are they taking me to?" and my next thought was "this isn't how anything looks on Grey's Anatomy!"While they continued their surgery prep, one of the nurses from before stayed with me. She held my hands and wiped my tears and convinced me everything was going to be just fine. I was scared and it seemed like forever before Chris was there but as soon as he was they started the surgery and all I kept thinking was that the baby wasn't ready and that it needed to be okay.

Once they got her out, Chris saw that it was a girl and she cried out and it was relieving and scary and awesome. While they finished with me, Chris went with the baby as she was cleaned up and assessed. The best news at this point was that she was okay - 31 weeks of growing was all she had under her belt, but she was okay. She was born just after 11pm and I went through the end of surgery, post-surgery care, and waiting (with Chris) so I didn't get to see her for the first time until almost 3am. From my hospital bed, barely able to feel my lower half, still on so many drugs, my first sight of her was in the NICU craning my neck to try to see her through the top half of my bed and into her incubator. I think I could make out the side of her head and an arm.

We all spent the next 4 days at the hospital. Now that she was out, the immediate threat to my heath was gone but my elevated blood pressure was still an issue. I was able to really see her the one time I was able to make it down to the NICU on Sunday. A million different hospital staff came and went making sure we had resources, knew what was going on, and that we were okay. Friends and family sent flowers, food, gifts, their love, positive vibes, and so much more. The love we felt in those days was the best kind of overwhelming I have ever experienced. With the aid of a wheel chair Chris was able to take me down to see her a few times each day and we could both stare at her in awe. We were parents. She was here. She was ours.

For the first few days we could only touch her through her bed - a temporary cooking device. Her progress is typical for her gestational age (they still count as if she was in the uterus) and they told us that she'll most likely be in the NICU until her expected due date in April. We went back and forth a bit but quickly picked Abigail as her first name (the only name we had both liked immediately)  but we took until my discharge on Wednesday to settle on a middle name, Kay. Right now, as she's being forced to mature before she was ready, she has a lot of hoses and wires and while we are taking pictures of her every day like the crazy new parents we are (I KNOW that was a smile! Did you see how cute her ears are? OMG, she just grabbed my finger!!) we are choosing to not share those pictures of her with the masses. Thank you for understanding our need for privacy and desire to protect our daughter from  everything we can.

The day before I was discharged we were able to help the nurses do what they call "touch time" where they take her temperature, change her diaper, and clean her up as needed. The day after I was discharged (Thursday) I was able to hold her - directly up with just 2 hands stretched out from me - as they changed her bedding. We knew we'd have to wait to hold her until XYZ happened and the BEST news was that those things happened way before we thought they would and on Friday we were both able to hold her to us for the first time. Words cannot adequately describe what that feeling was like even if you're a parent and you've been there before - let's just say it was epically indescribable.

Now our day-to-day as a family consists of me trying to heal from being cut in half (c-sections are no joke) and us being able to get ourselves into the NICU as much as possible (they're only closed 2 hours a day) to see, touch, and hold our daughter. The love we've continued to feel from friends and family from meals, dog walks, hugs, and kind words have been such an amazing part of this whole experience - thank you all. We will of course continue to keep everyone posted on Abigail's progress and hope that the closer we get to April, the closer we get to bringing her home with us.

So quickly everything changes. Thus begins our greatest adventure.