23 August 2011

Leaving a Piece of my Heart Behind

In previous posts, I told the story of our first and second pregnancies, and the birth of Abigail at 33 weeks gestation. To continue...

On her second day of life, Abigail was moved out of the high-risk area to the low-risk area of the NICU. We were already feeling better about her status there.

Over the next couple of days, I spent as much time in the NICU with my baby as possible. On the 3rd day, Abigail had elevated bilirubin and had to be put in a jaundice bed the day we left as well. So she was laying under a bright blue light with foam goggles on, and I wasn't able to hold her as much that day. Later that day, I had to check out of the hospital. My doctor had already given me an extra day by justifying it to my insurance company with my blood pressure and the magnesium drip. But I had reached my max. The hospital was very lenient with me by letting me stay until around 8PM.

I know many women who have had to leave the hospital without their baby(ies), and for those of you who have been lucky enough to have never gone through this, it is a surprising and indescribable feeling. Throughout the pregnancy, every time I walked into that hospital, I would see one or more women being transported to their car with a car seat on the transport cart and the baby in their arms. That is what I had envisioned for myself. But that was not my reality. I had to say goodbye to my baby, and get transported down to my car without a baby in my arms.

I was so afraid of that moment, and I had known it was coming for a few days. As we were loading my stuff on the cart, and my husband was driving the car from the parking garage to the pick-up area, I felt that feeling of forgetting something. And I was embarrassed to be wheeled down with my pink baby celebration stuff and no baby. I felt like a piece of me was being about to be torn away. She was inside of me for 8 months, and now I had to sleep across town from her.

We left the room, and I started to cry. The lady who wheeled me down to the car told me the story of her daughter's stay in the NICU. She showed me a picture of her school-age, healthy daughter, and God used her to keep me from bawling the whole way to the car. I did cry most of the way home though.  It was so hard leaving Abigail behind. I knew she would be ok, but it was still difficult.

Leaving your baby at the hospital is like leaving a piece of yourself at the hospital. It is unbelievably difficult. It's like cutting out your heart and leaving it behind. I cry still when I think about it.

19 August 2011

Is this my child?

In previous posts, I described the loss of our first child, Angel, and the birth of our first-born, Abigail. To continue ...

When Abigail was born, almost 5 years after we started trying to have children, I was overwhelmed with joy. She was born at 33 weeks, so they took her away from us pretty quickly after she was born. I got to spend about 2 minutes with her before they wheeled her incubator away at around 4 PM on January 3, 2010. The NICU doctors told my husband that they needed about 45 minutes to get her set up in her NICU area before anyone could go see her. So around 5 PM, my husband went to visit with her.

Because I had an epidural, I wasn't allowed to get up until my legs worked and I had been transferred to a recovery room. So while my princess was laying up in the NICU, I was getting placed in a postpartum room and getting loaned a breast pump so I could hopefully make some milk for her (more on that later).

I was ready at about 6:45, but when we called up to the NICU, they told me to wait until 7:30 because it was almost shift change and we would be thrown out at 7 anyway. After several delays, it was about 8PM before I finally got to go into the NICU to see my baby girl. We had been separated for 4 hours.

Now, here is where things got painful. When my husband rolled me into the 'Rabbit' room, where Abigail was located, there were 6 or 7 babies in the room, and I felt no magnetic draw toward any of them. I didn't have any idea which one was mine. I was so embarrassed. I had to ask which baby was ours. Feelings of shame overwhelmed me because I didn't just KNOW which child was mine. She had been in my womb for 7 months. Shouldn't I feel some magical link to her?

When we located her, I looked into the incubator, and she did not look as healthy as when she was wrapped in a baby blanket and all I could see was her sweet little face. She had a tube taped in her mouth, an IV in her foot, and cords hanging off of her. She was sprawled out in the incubator with her eyes closed, ribs sticking out, skin a little orange, and her chest heaving. She was so tiny. So fragile. So scary.

Once we had been there for a few minutes, the nurse practitioner asked if I would like to hold her. First, they had me move from the wheel chair to a more sturdy chair, and then she wrapped the baby up and transferred her from the incubator to my arms. I looked down at this tiny baby that they said was mine, but I felt nothing but fear and confusion. Again, I was so ashamed. Shouldn't I feel some type of connection with this child? She was, after all my child, wasn't she? Was this the right baby? My fears of being a bad mother came again very strong at that point. A good mother would have a melty feeling of love when she looked at her baby, even if she had been separated for 4 hours.

I was afraid that something was wrong or that maybe the time apart had destroyed our bond. I wasn't sure what to do to fix it, but it had to be fixed.

Over the next couple of days, as I cared for her and showed her off to my parents and our pastors, the feelings began to grow. I don't pretend to understand the way that hormones may have played a part in that initial feeling of ...well ...of nothing really toward my child. But as I began to spend more time with her, I found myself being very protective of Abigail, and I started noticing little things about her that were like my husband. And my love for her grew exponentially from there. By her third day, I felt so much love for her, I would almost cry just looking at her little face. I didn't want to be away from her for more than a couple of hours.

16 August 2011

From 2 to 3

In previous posts, I described our first pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and our second pregnancy. To continue...

The morning or January 3, 2010, came early and with no sleep! I was lying in the delivery room, 33 weeks and 5 days pregnant with my blood pressure elevated. The doctor put me on Magnesium to reduce the possibility of me having a seizure, so I was very warm and a little loopy. The Magnesium made me feel like I had been drinking all night.

According to the nurse, I was having contractions all night, but I never felt them at all. I was just awake, wondering what delivery would be like and how beautiful and wonderful our tiny baby would be. I had spent the past 33 weeks trying to keep our baby inside my womb, and now we were trying to get her out. My womb had become an unsafe place for our baby, and the situation had become pretty dangerous for me as well.

At a little after 6AM, the nurse started a pitocin drip in my IV. I started to feel the contractions just a slight bit, but still not strong, and not very painful at all. This was not the horrible pain of labor that had been described to me so many times. If this was it, I was going to be fine.
Amniohooks AKA giant crochet chopsticks

Then around 8AM, my doctor checked me, and since I was only 4 cm dilated, she increased the pitocin and said she needed to break my water. She then proceeded to pull out an alarmingly long plastic thing that looked like an oversized chop stick with a crochet hook at the end. I began to panic for my child! "Isn't her head right against my cervix? Are you going to poke her in the head with that thing? Is this safe for her?" were the questions that I asked my doctor as she prepared to stick the giant crochet chop stick into me! But fortunately, my doctor knew what she was doing, and moments later I felt like I had just peed all over the place...

Then I felt my first REAL contraction. It was a little more painful than before, but still very tolerable. My plan from the start was to do the whole thing as naturally as possible without any pain management. That was my plan. But it was also my plan to have a full-term pregnancy and to attend classes on natural birth during my late second trimester. MY PLAN was NOT working out the way I had planned it. So, high on Magnesium, and against my husband's better judgement, I decided to rethink my pain management decision. To be fair, I recall my thought process through that decision, and it was very logical:
  1. The pain was not that bad, but it was causing me to fight each contraction. An epidural might help me relax a little more and let the contractions actually do what they were supposed to do.
  2. An epidural would not get into the baby's system at all.
  3. They had been threatening a C-Section because of my blood pressure and the concern that I could have a seizure. If I got rushed into an emergency C-section without an epidural in place, they would have put me completely out.
  4. I didn't need to prove anything to anyone.
  5. The medical benefits of natural birth would be almost completely overridden by delivering as early as I was delivering. And we had already gone completely off plan by letting them induce.
  6. I was already high as a kite on Magnesium, and so the very slim risk of paralysis didn't sound so terrible at the moment.
  7. I was already high as a kite on Magnesium ....
I got the epidural at around 10AM, and I do not regret that decision for this delivery. I think it helped move things along much faster since I didn't have the opportunity to learn how to manage pain through delivery while on bed rest. Before and after the epidural was in place, I played card games with my husband and mom. Again, this was not the nightmarish labor I was anticipating.

Then suddenly, I began to panic. I started crying. I was so afraid that I was not going to be a good mother. What if after all of this, I was just simply a bad mom? What if I didn't love my baby enough? My sweet nurse assured me that the women who worry about being a bad mom are the ones who turn out to be the best moms.

At around 2:30PM, my doctor came in and checked me, and I was only 8 cm. She told me to lay on my right side to help my cervix dilate more evenly. Unfortunately, they couldn't get a good reading on the baby's heart rate when I lay on my right because she was stuck in the right side of my funky uterus. So with the nurse's help I rolled in the bed for about 30 minutes trying to get on my right side with the monitor still on the baby. Toward the end of that failed attempt, my pain changed. It was not that dull pressure of a contraction as felt through an epidural. It was a sharper, harsher pain. So the nurse abandoned attempts to keep me on my right side and checked me again.

TA DA! 10 cm and ready for the doctor. Except, the doctor had just left to go home until I was ready. The nurse said, "Whatever you do, don't push!"

Oh my goodness! That was an incredibly scary 30 minute wait for the doctor and the room to be set up for delivery. The room had a button to press to call up the NICU docs before the baby was delivered. And I must have asked the nurse about 10 times during that wait to press the button. After several hours of trying to get the baby to come out, I was terrified that she would just fall out before her docs were there. I even asked my husband to go press the button while I lay there, legs crossed, clinching like I was trying not to soil the bed with a really bad stomach flu.

I was SO relieved when my doctor came in. They pressed the button and told me it was time to push. That was right after 3:30PM. After about 3 rounds of pushing, the doctor told me to put my hand down and feel the baby's head. It was SO squishy! It felt like a fuzzy water balloon sticking out of me. That put some more urgency into my pushing because I was afraid she couldn't breath in that position. (And yes, I am aware of how irrational that fear was.) With the next push, she was out.... 3:53PM

The next few minutes were a blur. The OB cut the cord before my husband even had a chance and passed the baby to the neonatologist. I was holding my breath and staring at her waiting for her to cry. She opened her mouth and out came a tiny little wail. And I exhaled.

My heart exploded with love. They rushed her into a little side room where all of the baby equipment was, and my husband followed them with a video camera. Click to view short video of her getting her hat put on her by the NICU docs.

1st family photo of the 3 of us
My doctor told me to keep pushing, but I was barely paying attention to her. All I could do is listen to that tiny little cry. I watched my husband's face to see his reaction to what they were doing to our baby.

A short time after, it could have been 1 minute or 10, one of the doctors brought my precious little baby girl to me to look at, kiss and hold for a minute.

When they wheeled her away in an incubator to the NICU, my husband went with her as far as he was allowed. She was doing well enough that they wheeled her through the lobby so my parents and friends in the waiting room could meet her. My dad, who had arrived just a few minutes before we started pushing, took some pictures.

She was tiny. Less than 4 pounds, but she was HERE and breathing on her own. Her skin was very thin, and her body lacked the fat that develops in the last few weeks of gestation. But I didn't see any of that. I just saw my daughter. My own child. Finally, after 4+ years of praying for her, she was here. My Abigail Nola, named after one of my favorite women in the Bible and my mamaw.

I was told I would never have children, and here was my miracle. Here was proof that God is faithful.

11 August 2011

Pregnancy #2

In my previous posts, I talked about our first pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and using Clomid to get pregnant again. To continue...

As I suspected, because of my crazy craving of my least favorite food, eggs, I was pregnant. I was not hopeful that we would get pregnant that cycle because I had messed up the fertility medicine. So when I saw the positive result on the pregnancy test, I was surprised.

For anyone who hasn't been through this, a pregnancy after a pregnancy loss is not as exciting, innocent, and joyful as a first pregnancy. Don't get me wrong, I was excited, overjoyed, and unable to sleep that night, but I was also afraid. There was a fear that I didn't want to admit I had. A fear that we would lose another baby. I was ashamed to feel that way, and I prayed a lot. But my husband said from the start  that we would trust God with this baby completely, and if something happened, it was on God's shoulders alone. When he made that statement, I wondered what he was feeling, but I didn't ask. I understand now that he was trusting God, and imposing that trust on me. If anything happened, we couldn't blame ourselves. I couldn't blame myself. So we trusted God .....
And I was still scared, some days terrified ....
Because I had trusted God with Angel as well.
7 weeks

When we went in at what we thought was 7 weeks, we found that we were actually only 5 weeks. I was so scared because we didn't see a heart beat. The doctor assured me that everything was fine and rescheduled me for a second ultrasound in a couple of weeks. At 7 weeks we saw what looked like a little seahorse with a VERY strong heart beat. I was confident that everything was going to be fine, but I was also still afraid. We had seen a heartbeat with Angel as well.

Because of my bicornuate uterus diagnosis, I knew that there was a possibility of early labor, uterine rupture, and possibly a very premature baby. So I researched how early a baby could survive and I prayed that God would give us a healthy, full-term pregnancy.

There were three major benchmarks for me as far as release of my fear:
1. When I felt the baby move at around 13 weeks
2. At 21 weeks, when the chances of survival were not so dismal
3. At 32 weeks, when the chances of breathing assistance and long-term effects were greatly decreased.

9 weeks
The pregnancy in general was not a pleasant experience, but it was much more pleasant than the previous pregnancy. I was super grateful to be pregnant and wouldn't have traded the experience for ANYTHING. We moved when I was about 8 weeks, and I found a new, wonderful OB. I threw up all day long for the first 6 months of the pregnancy and actually lost about 30 pounds before I ever gained. The doctor called it hyperemesis, but I called it my daily confirmation that I was pregnant and all was well. HA! At about 5 or 6 months, my blood pressure started to increase a little bit. And at 24 weeks, the premature labor began.

I never felt any contractions with my premature labor, but I did feel the baby's head pounding into my cervix every 30 seconds. She was incredibly active in the womb, and it was clear when she was sleeping and when she was awake. Because of the shape of my uterus, she was stuck in the right half of my uterus with less space than a baby normally has. My belly even looked lopsided!

30 weeks pregnant
So when they determined I was 1 cm dilated at 24 weeks, I was not entirely surprised, but I was pretty scared. I had to spend a couple nights in the hospital and then bed-rest and a contraction monitor at home. My birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were all handled by my husband while I laid in bed. He showed so much love for me and our unborn child. Then at 32 weeks, the day after Christmas, I had to go back to the hospital because my blood pressure shot up to 200/90.

My husband and mom were alternating shifts with me at the hospital to keep me company, and some ladies from our new church came by to visit with me and pray for me. I was not terribly upset or concerned about being at the hospital because at 32 weeks, if my baby was born early, she may have to spend some time in the NICU, but she should live! And I should be a mom soon!

On Jan 2, 2011, (at 33 weeks and 4 days) my doctor came in and told me: "Tomorrow is going to be a birthday." My blood pressure was just out of control, and it was unhealthy for both of us. We were so excited and so nervous. I was already 2.5-3 cm that evening, and they moved me into the labor and delivery room with a plan to induce at 6AM.

My dreams were about to come true! God was answering our prayers for a child, and he was giving us the first installment of his promise. The joy that night waiting was overwhelming. I stayed up all night while my husband slept on the couch in the room, and my mom stayed at our house.

06 August 2011


In my previous posts, I told the story of our first pregnancy and pregnancy loss. To Continue...

After we lost our first child, Angel, at 12 weeks, I was very anxious to get pregnant. I felt like I couldn't move forward without giving birth to a child. The pain of being a mother but not having a child to pour my love into was paralyzing.

So many people do not understand what it feels like to be childless or the pain of losing a child you have never met. Many people encouraged me to get pregnant quickly so I could 'replace' the child we lost. You cannot replace a child no matter how early into the pregnancy or how early after birth you have lost that child.

My doctor encouraged me to start trying as soon as I had recovered from the D&C, which was after one full cycle. In fact, she wrote me a prescription for 'Sex every other day as needed'. I was super encouraged and ready to get pregnant again.

After 3 full months of trying to get pregnant without help, we were not pregnant. After praying, crying, and talking to my doctor a lot, we made the decision to pursue fertility treatments.

There are a lot of Christians and religious people who do not believe in seeking medical help for infertility. And I completely understand where those people are coming from. However, I believe that God can use different methods for helping people. Many churches are fine with diabetics using medicine to keep them alive, and while having a baby is not a necessity for surviving, there are still significant medical issues that cause infertility.

I believe it comes down to each person's relationship with God and the level of peace that He gives you on the subject of fertility treatment. We prayed about it, and felt peace about pursuing medical help to resolve our infertility.

We did not go through all of the diagnostic testing initially because we already suspected that my ovulation issues were causing the problem. I was already diagnosed with Polycycstic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and a bicornuate uterus (heart-shaped uterus). Based on my diagnostic history, my OBGYN prescribed a drug called Clomid to try to stimulate my ovulation. They did un-monitored cycles with 50mg of Clomid to try to help my body do what it was designed to do.

The first cycle did not go well. I don't think I ovulated at all, and I had to take progesterone to stimulate a period after 5 weeks. The second cycle went a little better because we didn't need to force a period, but I still wasn't pregnant. So on the third cycle, we went up to 100mg of Clomid.

I clearly remember how the whole month went because we had A LOT going on that month. We had just found out that we would be moving to the Houston area for my husband's job. At that point, I was totally focused on the move, and I was not really paying much attention to our goal of getting pregnant. I was taking Clomid during our house-hunting trip in the Houston area, and I actually messed up taking the medicine by missing a dose and taking it a day later.  Once I realized that I had messed up the medicine, I wrote the cycle off completely and just planned to get moved before we tried again.

But then, something amazing happened.

I hate eggs. Hate is actually not a strong enough word. I would rather eat anything than an egg. But one day, as I was driving from a job site 6 hours away from our home in South Carolina (and about the time I should be having a period), I became extremely hungry for EGGS. All I wanted was a scrambled egg (or a dozen), but I knew I would have to cover it with ketchup to get it down. I stopped at a Cracker Barrel off the interstate and ordered scrambled eggs with a lot of ketchup. When my food came out, there was no ketchup, so I asked the server to bring me some. By the time he got back, I had eaten my scrambled eggs completely without any condiments.

That's when I suspected that I was pregnant. So I held my bladder ALL the way home, which was 4 hours away, and I took a pregnancy test as soon as I got there.