Friday, March 30, 2012

Postpartum and the NICU

To say that we weren't really prepared for this experience would be an understatement. After all, we thought that we had five more weeks to prepare for baby! With that said, having a "late pre-term baby" is an even more intense experience. We were fortunate that when our son was delivered, all of his systems were working normally, and there were no major issues right off the bat.

Our hospital has a standard rule that late pre-term babies must be observed for at least six hours after delivery. The first hour is spent with us in the room, and then the rest of the time is spent in the special care nursery / NICU. Since I was less than mobile (due to the C-section) and still on medication (including that darn Magnesium!), I still don't remember much of what happened. Although, I do remember the super-cool hovercraft like mattress that they used to move me from the operating room table to my rolling bed. (It was quite the trip!) Nonetheless, I was moved to a new room on the delivery wing, and Matthew got to join us in the room for a little bit. 

After an hour or so, Lennie escorted our son down to the NICU for testing, and I got to begin recovering from surgery. When Lennie returned from the NICU, he said that they were going to keep our baby for observation, since he had decided that he didn't want to eat. (Apparently this is normal for early babies.) Everything else was okay, he simply didn't want to eat. In addition, with the room being kept so cold (again because of the Magnesium hot flashes I was having), they decided that it wasn't the best place for our baby. 

As visitors began to arrive, we would spend some time in my room, and then Lennie would escort them back to see our new addition in the NICU. We're especially grateful that one of our church's pastors and one of our great friends were able to visit with us and talk about what had just transpired. Our friend's husband even delivered dinner to Lennie -- which I think he really needed!

My parents were finally able to arrive from Phoenix around 10 that night. They checked on me, and then were whisked back to the NICU to meet their newest grandson. Unfortunately, Matthew was still not eating, and the NICU staff had to insert a feeding tube through Matthew's nose so that he could eat. This was heart wrenching news, but I knew that our son was in good hands. 

Since I was still in the throes of recovering from surgery, I wasn't able to go to the NICU to visit or hold my son until late the next morning. Once I was finally up and able to walk (only a little bit, so I had to take a wheelchair with me), I was finally able to visit my son. At this point, Lennie was an 'old pro' at visiting our son, so he was able to show me the ropes.

He was sooo little!

After I was (thankfully!) taken off of the Magnesium, I was moved to a postpartum room on Saturday afternoon. While it was farther from the NICU, it was a nice room. Everything had still been swirling around me, but I'd say that the hardest times were on Saturday and Sunday for me. The postpartum room was surrounded by rooms with healthy babies who were in with their new parents. I didn't sleep at all on Saturday night, and was incredibly frustrated that I couldn't go down and visit my son without it being an ordeal (pushing wheelchairs, coordinating with others, etc.). The crying babies on either side of me definitely did not help the situation!

A note for new moms here: if you can't sleep or are uncomfortable, speak up and tell your nurses about it. Repeat after me: Ambien. After I was clued in to this opportunity on Sunday, I had one of the best nights of sleep, and was able to get my whits about me again. (Although, this did come after everything finally hit me and I had a really good breakdown/cry session.)

I was checked out of the hospital on Monday morning, but our son continued to need a feeding tube and was "right on the edge" of needing to be under the lights for being jaundiced. (Fortunately, his numbers never got into the range where he'd need that treatment.) I thought that it would be difficult to leave the hospital without my son, but at the same time I was completely at peace with it because I knew that he was in good hands. We stayed at my parent's house for the night since it was closer to the hospital, and Lennie was able to go back to work on Tuesday. I got to go and visit the NICU, so all was well.

On Tuesday afternoon, I met Lennie after work at the NICU for our son's evening feeding. When we walked in, the nurse said "I'm sorry that I had to feed him early, but go and take a look at your son!" When we walked over to his area, we discovered that our headstrong son had removed his feeding tube on his own, and was sleeping peacefully. What an amazing turn of events! We got to sit and hold him, and as we left the nurses said that he would probably be going home in 48 hours if he continued on the path that he was on!

Lennie and I returned to our house for the first time on Tuesday night, and it was an almost surreal experience. It had been over a week since I had been in my own home, and our friend Alycia had scurried around behind the scenes getting us "baby ready" at home. It was amazing to see all of the work that she had done!

On Wednesday morning, Lennie had decided to drop by the hospital before going to work. That's when I go the craziest call from Lennie -- our son was going home that day! Lennie told me with a big smile in his voice that I needed to bring clothes and the car seat to the hospital with me so that our son could do the "car seat test" (where he has to sit in the car seat for 45 minutes without any distress) and then possibly be discharged. To say that I was out of bed in a flash would be an understatement!

My mom and I went to the hospital in a daze, clothing and car seat in hand, and joyfully learned that my son had turned the corner and was eating like a champ. The day was filled with education from the nurses, nerves from me, and utter joy as my son passed the car seat test without blinking an eye. (And my Mom took 100 photos along the way -- thanks Mom!)

When you get discharged from the hospital with your new baby, the nurse escorts you down to your car. She inspected our car seat (and gave us some great pointers), and then sent us on our way. My Mom and Dad drove us out of the hospital parking lot with my son by our side. As we drove along, my Mom was chuckling saying, "my how things have changed since I took you home from the hospital! I think that I had you in my lap for the few miles home!"

Yes, how things have changed. How they have changed indeed!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Welcome Baby!

During our stint on bed rest in the hospital, I feel like we were taking things minute-by-minute and test-by-test. Lennie was a trooper, sleeping on a less than comfortable fold-out bed/chair in my hospital room, experiencing everything with me throughout the week. After a very long night on Thursday night where the nurse had to literally stand over me for over an hour in order to keep our little one on the monitor, we awoke less than rested and still feeling less than stellar. My obstetrician, Dr. Otto, came in for morning rounds to check on us and to have a discussion. Based upon my morning test results and the troubles with the monitors, she advised us that we needed to be monitored longer that morning, and that it was possible that we were going to deliver that day. Baby was most likely on the way -- 4+ weeks early. We immediately got on the phone with my parents, who were wintering in Phoenix, and told them that they needed to get on a plane because we might be going to the delivery room that evening.

I'd had breakfast that morning, a delicious combination of cream of wheat and grapes (which, oddly, I'd been craving while in the hospital), so that presented us with a bit of a problem. The doctor and anesthesiologist conferred / argued about the timing of the day's events, and eventually came to the conclusion that it was go time. Once the decision was made, we went from having two people in the room to what seemed like a swarm of people. It was craziness!

As the craziness unfolded around us, I observed to a nurse that I needed to go to the restroom. As I was finishing up,  I noticed some clear fluid on my leg. I thought that perhaps we were having plumbing problems in the room! When I walked out with a confused look on my face, I told the nurse about it and she said "Actually, I think that your water broke!" It seems that our little bundle of joy agreed with the decision to be born that day, and was exercising some impatience!

The craziness continued, and we were prepped to go to the operating room for a C-section delivery. (Between my exhaustion and our son's distress, it was determined that we wouldn't be able to successfully deliver any other way.) Our dear friend Alycia arrived to say hello, and she snapped some photos to commemorate the day. (Alycia, you're right: I do appreciate these photos now!)
Being wheeled down the hall and into the OR was a surreal experience for me. First, I was going down a hall that I had only hoped to be able to walk down for the last four or so days. Second, I was about to become a mother! As we were being brought into the OR, one of my favorite nurses ran over to me and leaned down and said that God had a plan for me and that everything would work out. She said a little prayer, and her words were exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. (Isn't it amazing how God provides in your time of need!)

When the doors opened to the operating room, I immediately wished that we had been able to take that hospital tour earlier (we were supposed to take the tour the next day!). The OR had all of these things hanging from the ceiling (were those chains!?), and all that I could think was that it looked like a torture chamber. Scary moments, but we survived!

Again, everything becomes a blur. I got onto the operating table using a step stool, and I remember working with our anesthesiologist to begin the surgery prep. (Now that I think back on the experience, the spinal tap is the one thing that scares and amazes me at the same time!) Once the drugs were on board, she used this really cool (literally) spray stuff to check to see that the drugs were working appropriately. Nurses buzzed about and two doctors worked around me, but again it's all a blur.

At one point, I remember looking up and realizing that I could see where they were working reflected in one of the surgical lights. I also remember looking at Lennie and saying "I don't want to see the reflection, so I'm going to look at you instead!" When they say that all that you will feel during the surgery is tugging and pulling, they are completely right (at least in my case!). I remember giggling at the feeling of them hitting one of my muscles -- it felt like rubber bands springing in my stomach.

Lennie, by the way, is still one of the heroes in this story. He sat in his appointed spot by my left hand and my head and was completely mesmerized by the process while also being attentive to me. It was awesome. The nurses made sure that Lennie had his camera ready, and when the time came, the anesthesiologist even took some family photos for us!

After all of this adventure, we had our son -- a healthy 5 pound 12 ounce, 18" long bouncing baby boy. Lennie and I had narrowed down the list of names to a handful, and when he came out we both simultaneously looked at him and then at each other and said "Matthew." It just felt right, and it was.

Next time: our time in the NICU.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"What Does That Mean!?"

Everyone has a unique birth story, all of which deserve to be told. We are no different, so I thought that I would chronicle our unique birth story starting with this post.

First, I thought that I had my Tuesday afternoon and night planned out. Lennie and I left work early so that we could go to my specialist appointment, my weekly OB/pregnancy appointment, and then we were going to be off to our church to help bake cupcakes for a local school and then attend a church group meeting. All of this seemed reasonable, as we had 4-5 weeks left to go in our pregnancy. Life, it seems, had a different plan.

I had been battling rising blood pressure in the last part of my pregnancy, and was put on blood pressure medication the previous Thursday. When I went to the first specialist appointment, I was pleased to hear that my BP had dropped to a low normal range. Between appointments, Lennie and I dropped by the local Babies R Us to pick up a few baby essentials -- like bottles -- to help us get prepared for the baby that we thought we were having 4 to 5 weeks down the line. Then, we went to our regularly scheduled OB appointment. When we got to our OB appointment, we were shocked to hear that my blood pressure was still quite high. After 4 separate readings, my doctor returned to our exam room and said "You're going over to Labor & Delivery tonight." I did a double-take and said "Um, what does that mean?!?" Seems that we were getting the fast pass to be monitored at the Overlake Hospital labor and delivery unit.

It all seems like a blur after that... Lennie and I returned to our car in a daze, and then quickly began making calls to rearrange our plans for the night as well as let my parents know what was happening. I know that I was feeling a little numb, and my head was swimming as I drove us the half a mile to the hospital. Once we arrived at the hospital, I was hooked up to machines for monitoring. The baby monitor made a gentle swooshing noise, which the nurse told us meant that our baby was quite active in the womb. What a reassuring sound as we were taking in all of the latest developments in our pregnancy journey.

After a very short stint in the triage area of the Women's Center, we were checked in for overnight observation at the hospital. Moving through this experience, I kept thinking that we would be let out of the hospital still pregnant and be put on bed rest at home.... seems that our son had other ideas! Tuesday night enabled us to meet the first of many wonderful nurses and caregivers as we settled into what would be our home away from home for nearly a week.

It was snowing as we got into our room overlooking 405 in Bellevue. I'm not sure why this is one of the few things that I remember, but it's worth noting because snow in the Seattle area can be an experience. Lennie couldn't drive, since he was recovering from lasik surgery a few days earlier, so a dear friend picked him up at the hospital and took him back to the house to pack an overnight bag for the two (actually, three) of us. I got treated to IV medications, dinner, and some prime time television. One of the drugs that I was on, magnesium, came with side effects like intense hot flashes and a foggy head, so everything is a little blurry for me after the IV got started. While Lennie was back at the house, a nurse from the NICU came in to brief me on what would happen if and when I delivered our son. The discussion is very blurry to me, but I remember thinking, "Why are we having this conversation? I'm not having a preemie!" How wrong I was!

The next few days both flew by and dragged on for both of us. I was very focused on two goals: 1. not having a Leap Year baby and 2. getting off of the Magnesium, which made me feel yucky. While on hospital mandated bed rest, I feel like I took things minute-by-minute and test by test. The worst part of bed rest was that I was going crazy in the hospital room... other than getting off of the Magnesium, I desperately wanted to take a short walk down the hallway. Seems that neither were options for quite some time!

I'm told that both Lennie and I had very positive, 'go with the flow' attitudes throughout this experience. For the first day and a half, I felt great (other than the side effects of the medication). On Thursday morning, however, I distinctly remember feeling like I had turned the corner and I commented to both Lennie and my nurse that I didn't feel well. Even though my test results started to look better, I generally felt like a piece of chewed gum. It was the first time that I felt okay about being in the hospital. One thing is for sure: there is nothing restful about bed rest, especially when you're in the hospital and nurses and other caregivers are dropping in on you every two hours throughout the day!

Throughout the hospital stay, our son was elusive on the monitors. This was exceptionally true early Friday morning. One dear nurse had to stand over me with her hand on the monitor from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. just to get accurate readings. God bless her for having such patience, because it was not a very glamorous or exciting moment for any of us!

Next time: the delivery and welcoming baby.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Our New Addition

It's been a whirlwind for us over the last two weeks (all of which is content for another post), but I'm happy to announce the arrival of our son, Matthew Kennedy. He turned a week old today, and we're still trying to figure out which end is 'up' in our lives, but we're very happy to have Matthew in our lives.

There hasn't been much time to communicate with the outside world, but I did finally get some photos uploaded. Here are a few previews: