Wednesday, July 25, 2012

{ Miss Peanut's Story, Part I }

Today Lainie is four weeks old--Happy Four-Week Birthday, Lainie Rae! Where do I even begin recounting this story of amazing grace?

The weekend Amaryah took maternity photos, Mike said that I looked "so pregnant" that he was giving me a week and a half, tops, before Lainie was born. "Really?" I countered. "You realize that means she would be born on June 26 or 27, right?" {Mike will be discouraged from making predictions on the birthdates of future children, by the way.}

I spent Tuesday, June 26 running errands: stocking up on snacks for the hospital and groceries for the week, taking the cushions from our craigslisted glider to the dry cleaner, getting a massage. A day or two before I had made a list of all the things I wanted to get done around the house before her birth--terribly important things like dust the baseboards and clean the refrigerator--as well as a list of specific prayer requests for Lainie's birth and hospitalization to share with my women's Bible study group, which meets on Wednesdays. Here is that list:
~ That she will have normal lung function before and after surgery
~ That her GI tract will function normally
~ That the surgery will be successful and there won't be any complications
~ That she will learn to breastfeed quickly
~ That there won't be long-term lung or digestive problems
~ That I will go into labor on my own and not get an induction or a C-section
~ That our attending physician will be Dr. J {the only neonatologist we had met, out of 11 or so who could be on call when Lainie was born}

So when I got up from my laptop to make a cup of tea and my water broke, I freaked. 5:03pm. June 26. I'm only 37 weeks and 4 days. This isn't supposed to happen now. This isn't supposed to happen for weeks. I'm not ready for this to start...this crazy scary huge train is leaving the station, and I'm not ready. I called Mike, the doula, my mom, the Bible study host to let her know I, um, wouldn't be at group tomorrow. Thank God I caught Mike as he was walking into a meeting, which he promptly ditched.

When Mike got home, we finished packing for the hospital, went out to dinner at our favorite local Thai restaurant, and tried to get some sleep. I had continual cramp-like sensations throughout the night, but nothing more. While Mike slept like a rock, I only dozed a couple times. At 3am, the alarm went off--our compromise: Mike was willing to wait it out at home for awhile, but if labor didn't start during the night, he wanted to leave for the hospital by 4am.

I did have the presence of mind to have Mike snap one last maternity photo:

:: 37 weeks, 5 days ::

I realized that, regardless of how it happened, it would happen today: Lainie would be born, we'd go to Children's Hospital...this whole crazy chain of unknowns had really started and we would really meet Lainie today. It was so unreal, almost like an out-of-body experience.

At the hospital, once they'd confirmed my water broke, I was admitted. Much to my disappointment, I wasn't dilated at all and the fetal monitor didn't pick up any contractions. We got settled in my room, met my *amazing* nurse Caren, and ordered breakfast. A couple doctors came in while Mike was at the cafeteria and tried to convince me that I needed to let them start a Pitocin IV to get labor started, since my water had broken more than 12 hours before and I wasn't in active labor. They were polite but quite firm that I was risking intrauterine infection and jeopardizing my baby, who was already high-risk, if I chose not to use Pitocin. Mike and I knew a natural birth was the best option for Lainie, if it was at all possible: Induction leads to longer, stronger contractions and thus increases the risk that the baby will go into distress and need respiratory support after birth {or a C-section because the stronger contractions can cause oxygen deprivation}. I was equally firm that I wanted some time to try other methods of starting labor. And what if my mom's labors are an indication of what mine would be like: long periods of "nothing" after her water broke {22 hours when she was pregnant with me}, followed by short labors {only two hours of contractions before I was born}? The same two doctors came back a couple hours later, when active labor still hadn't started, but again we asked for more time.

At some point that morning, Dr. J came in to see how things were going. It was Wednesday, high-risk clinic day, so she was at the hospital already. She said she'd check back in a few hours. Our doula, Serena, arrived around 11, and at her suggestion we walked...and walked...around the unit. Active labor started around noon, and things get kind of blurry after that. The only reason I have any idea what time anything happened is because Serena took notes! Be it known that Mike was amazing. I could not have done this without him. He was my rock.

At 1:30pm I was already 6cm dilated and 100% effaced. I remember being shocked by the intensity of the contractions, and how unspeakably luxurious the breaks between felt. Awhile after that I was going to get in the tub because that sounded like it would feel good, but nurse Caren got concerned because I was sounding "grunty" and asked me to wait till she could get a doctor to check me again. At 3:00 I was 9.5cm with an anterior cervical lip {no tub for Nikki!}, so they asked me not to push even though I was involuntarily pushing with each contraction...and that was awful. I finally got the okay to push at 4:00. Pushing seemed to last forever. I was aware of people filling the room. Lots of sterile gowns, the newborn isolette being pulled out of its cubby, a palpable thrum of activity. Everyone was very focused. At some point I realized Dr. J was next to the bed. I had figured that since she had appointments with clinic patients all day, she wouldn't be able to come up unless Lainie was born after hours, and I was really glad she was there.

At 5:03pm, 24 hours to the minute after my water broke, Miss Peanut was born. They put her on my chest, purple and vernix-covered, with the longest fingers and dark eyes that looked right at Mike and me when we talked to her. She breathed on her own after a few seconds; then tiny little kitten-like whimpers. It was probably only 20-30 seconds before they whisked her to another room to be assessed. Mike went with her. A few minutes later, Dr. J came back and said they didn't need to intubate her; she was screaming up a storm, with her oxygen saturation at 99-100%, all on her own! A little later they wheeled her in, a tiny pink thing in the isolette, surrounded by staff in sterile gowns and masks and hats, so I could see her before they took her to the NICU. I petted her face and talked to her for a few minutes. I thought Mike's face was going to split open, he was grinning so huge. I've never seen him so happy before!

:: family photo ::

When they were done cleaning me up, I was beyond exhausted and so relaxed, I didn't think I could move if my life depended on it. It's done! Lainie was born, free of induction and interventions, and she can breathe on her own! Serena stayed with me for a couple of hours. Mike's parents and sister and our friend Lisa from our Bible study group came to see me. Mike took them to the NICU to see Lainie. I ordered macaroni and cheese for dinner, but didn't eat insides had no idea what had just happened to them.

Isn't God amazing? Look at what I hoped for: That I'd go into labor naturally; that I could have an intervention-free birth and avoid drugs that might compromise Lainie's respiratory function; that Dr. J would attend the birth; that Lainie would have normal lung function and we could hold her after she was born. Every single one of those things seemed to me like pie in the sky wishful thinking at some point. I mean, really, what more could I ask for--what more could I hope for--than a healthy baby at the end of the day, regardless of how exactly she was born? Yet God poured out grace on her birthday, showered us with the gifts I'd hardly dared ask for because they seemed so presumptuous in the face of her possibly huge medical problems:
I went into labor naturally.
No induction, no drugs, no interventions.
Dr. J was present.
Lainie didn't need oxygen at all--not only did they put her on my chest when she was born, I actually got to HOLD her a few hours later!
Grace. Amazing grace.

Everyone was so nice--my nurses, the doctors, Lainie's NICU nurse. I was on track to be discharged at 9pm, and Lainie was scheduled to be transferred to Children's at 9:30. Our friends Luke and Joanna came by as I was packing up, and we all went to the NICU. It was the first time I'd seen Baby Bug since the photo above. Her transfer to Children's kept being delayed because there were other, sicker kids who needed the ambulance more. Eventually Luke and Jo headed home; Lainie's nurse got me a recliner and let me hold Lainie for the first time. That was sweet.

:: tiny little Bug with a suction tube going into her stomach ::

:: transport nurse and Lainie just before her ambulance ride ::

It was after midnight by the time Lainie left for Children's, just a mile from the hospital where she was born. The transport people were so kind and gentle with her. She looked so tiny and fragile, little stomach tube and IV hooked up to her, bundled up in all those blankets in the incubator-on-wheels. Mike took me downstairs in a wheelchair and parked me outside the front entrance while he went to get the car. It was a really warm, balmy night--I could tell it had been a lovely day outside--and it was completely surreal to be sitting in a wheelchair, my lap piled high with discharge paraphernalia, knowing I'd just given birth, waiting for Mike to pick me up and take us to Children's, watching security guards make their rounds and hoping the shady characters who walked by wouldn't try to mug me. I saw Lainie's ambulance leave just before Mike pulled up. As we pulled out of the hospital roundabout, Mike said, "So, whaddaya think? Still wanna do four in four?" {referring to his joke about having four kids in four years}. I responded that at this point, we are probably adopting the rest of our children, thankyouverymuch! 

In the Children's NICU, the nurse let Mike hold Lainie for the first time. He kept falling asleep, so we stumbled upstairs to the parent sleeping room we'd been assigned and slept like the dead, even though it was a double bed with no pillows and I had yet to shower after having given birth. {In case you are wondering, that was by far the longest, most exhausting day of my life.} At 4am I stepped out to use the restroom and came back to find Mike, in the pitch black, talking on the phone and clearly not 100% awake. It was a surgeon, saying he wanted us to come down to the NICU and sign consent forms because they wanted to take Lainie to surgery "tomorrow," which, since it was now Thursday, Mike interpreted to mean Friday. Mike told him we'd sign the forms when we came down for rounds at 8am and we both fell fast asleep for another couple of hours.

to be continued...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

{ Three Years }

{Note: Contrary to appearances, I did *not* write the previous blog post while in labor! I was at the hospital at the time it was published, but I'd written that post, and this one, a few days earlier. I assumed on our anniversary we'd be at Children's Hospital with Lainie, so I'd better get an anniversary post pre-written! I also made a list of all the posts I wanted to write before the baby arrived: baby showers, the nursery, etc. And then my water broke, 17 days before her due date, and 24 hours later--exactly to the minute!!--Lainie was born, and all my blog-writing aspirations dissipated like the morning dew. I'll be back, with lots of pictures and details, someday...but for now, I'm just trying to sleep when I can and snuggle my baby.}

Dearest Mike,

On a balmy July day exactly three years ago, we were all grins and excitement and wedding-day-butterflies.

We dreamed about babies and what the future held.

I probably hoped that by the time our third anniversary rolled around, we'd be a little family of three.

When we found out I was pregnant last November, it looked like the chances were pretty good that we might end up sharing our anniversary with our baby's birthday--my due date was only five days before our anniversary!

Then, when we found out about Elaina's diaphragmatic hernia in May, we began to prepare ourselves for a long summer at Children's Hospital with our sick little daughter. Neither of us ever imagined we'd spend our third anniversary at Children's Hospital, but now it looked like that was inevitable. 

But my love, no matter where we are, there are no people I'd rather spend our anniversary with than you and Lainie. 
And by sheer grace from God, not only are we not in the hospital on our special day, Lainie was discharged 13 days ago! Not only was she born early...not only was she able to breathe on her own from the moment she was born...not only was she far beyond every best case scenario the doctors ever predicted...she was discharged from the hospital when she was only 8 days old!

I'm sure we'll steal a few kisses today when Lainie isn't lookin...and thank Jesus for the innumerable graces He has lavished on us in our three years as Mr. & Mrs.

I love you!